Do we have to like the characters in our fiction?

HBO’s new show “Girls” finally began airing this past Sunday amidst a massive amount of hype. Almost immediately, however, I was struck by the ferocity of attacks against the show. Most of the anger was not directed at the quality of the writing, acting, cinematography, or many of the other things I usually consider standard to reviewing or enjoying a piece of entertainment. Instead, people just seemed pissed off at how insufferable all the main characters were. 

Hipsters are certainly annoying, and a lot of the anger projected into the blogosphere and social media world all struck me as a sort of converse attempt at identity formation to distance oneself from the characters’ more reprehensible qualities. But all that aside, it’s strange to see a story suddenly be lambasted simply because the characters are all annoying. Willa Paskin writes about our collective hand-writing on Salon:

I have to confess that I have enjoyed both the raves and condescending hand-wringing, not because I find the show to be a sexual doomsayer, but because it alleviates my own set of anxieties to have “Girls” taken so seriously. I’ve been worried about “Girls” too. My concern was that “Girls” speaks so specifically and accurately to the experience of me and my census buddies — and to be clear, that’s urban white girls with safety nets; have at us in the comments — that people would either write it off as navel-gazing, snark at the innate privilege undergirding the whole thing, or find it unrelatable. “Girls” is smart, bracing , funny, accurately absurd, confessional yet self-aware, but it is also undeniably about four white chicks with, relatively speaking, no worries in the world. And so, as just such a white chick, I have spent the last few weeks, to paraphrase a question oft asked by bubbes and zeydes, nervously wondering of the show and its high profile, “Is it good for the girls?” 

I can’t answer that question, but I can say that drama about horrendously self-centered and entitled characters is nothing new—without it, how would we have Six Feet Under, Downton Abbey, or the majority of British literature? Furthermore, just because a character might be “bad” in some sense of their inner morals or personality, should that affect a series? I think more critics need to play someGrand Theft AutoorCall of Duty. 

[via Salon]