Character Bashing

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Synonyms: Character Hate, hatefic, anti-fic, trashing
See also: Hero Bashing, Anti-Fandom, Grovelfic, One True Character
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Character Bashing occurs when fans are hostile to a particular character and express their dislike through fanfiction, meta, manips, and other fan activities. Any character may be bashed, from the hero to the new addition to a recurring character.

Bashing may be done in fanfic by depicting the character as a terrible person, such as making them extremely dogmatic or cruel when dealing with the author's woobie, sometimes to the point of being physically abusive; or having them otherwise fulfill the potentially OOC role of the villain. The bashed character may also be subjected to blackly comedic deathfics, derogatory nicknames and epithets, and other expressions of hate. Discussion of character-bashing frequently straddles the line between wank and unfunnybusiness, as deep emotional attachment to characters is a core element of fanning, and many fans will take offense at what they see as undeserved bashing.

Some fandoms include character-bashing in their definition of hatefic, which not only includes stories and tirades intent on humiliating specific characters, but entire fandoms:
Also note that some hatefics are intended to express dislike to the entire fandom using any means, including the character death mentioned above. For example, a person who believes that the Harry Potter series promotes the occult will write a hatefic in which the characters promote the occult.[1]
It should not be confused with whumping, in which the writer hurts a beloved character in order to display their physical and emotional vulnerability to best advantage.
"I think it’s safe to say Sakura is the most hated character in the entire Naruto universe and arguably the most hated character in the whole manga/anime universe. Why? Because she is useless. There’s actually no other way to put it. She’s absolutely, 100% useless. -- Before I go any further, I just want to state that this isn’t going to be an article bashing Sakura."[2]

Causes

  • Hero Bashing - Characters who are in the spotlight of a canon are often resented from taking focus away from the supporting cast, at least one of which becomes the fan favorite.
  • Ship Wars - A character perceived as "in the way" of a popular ship ends up being put in their place or taken out of the picture in fan works or discussions.
  • Misogyny in Fandom - Female characters being held to higher standards than males. Women may receive hate for the same things males are given a pass for. A powerful and strong female character or one who's widely liked by the cast is called a Mary Sue, while a similar male character is beloved by the fandom. Women who cry or lose a single fight are called "weak" while men are coddled. Housewives are seen as worthless, while house-husbands are cooed over as progressive.
  • Protective Fans - A character who insults, annoys, or causes problems for the BSO will be treated like an evil villain whose only goal in life is to hurt said BSO. This is common among villain fans, who believe the heroes simply want to hurt their favorites when most of the time they're simply acting in self-defense.
  • Loyalty - Fans may react negatively when a character replaces another who already has a dedicated following (aka Replacement Scrappy syndrome[note 1]). Randy from That 70s Show and Tracey from the Pokémon anime are prime examples.

Policies and Practices

Some fannish spaces may want take steps to prevent bashing and the resulting conflict.

Fan Forums

Many fan forums have policies against character bashing in the interest of maintaining polite discussion and avoiding wank. The Chamber of Secrets policy states:

  1. Many characters are beloved by fans. They are understandably offended by blanket statements implying their favorite characters are complete villains.
  2. MAKE IT CLEAR THAT YOU ARE POSTING YOUR OPINION WHENEVER POSSIBLE. "I think Snape is a bully" reads more friendly than "Snape is a bully". A little effort goes a long way.[3]

Penalties for character bashing range from removal from forums[3] to banning from communities[4].

Some nicknames used frequently in fan forums cross the line between "we only make fun of the ones we love" and a disrespect-bordering-on-hate. Examples include calling John Sheppard on SGA a Pretty Pretty Princess and using Our Ponytailed Hero for Duncan MacLeod.

Other nicknames are clear examples of bashing: Big Dumb Alien (BDA) for Clark Kent, Mary Sue Keller for Jennifer Keller, Ziva Sue (implying a Mary Sue) for Ziva David, "Pansywood" for Eliwood, "The Pink Roach" for Sakura Haruno, and "Whorihime" for Orihime Inoue.

In Fanworks

Expressions of dislike frequently come in the form of death stories, where the character is killed off, sometimes repeatedly, often in a manner intended to be black comedy or darkly humorous.[5] There are communities dedicated to killing disliked characters.[6][7][8][9]

In On the Double #34, Mystery Frank proposed a zine called "Without a Trace":

Have you been watching Forever Knight this season? Have you shuddered at Tracy Vetter, the shallow bimbette of a partner that Nick is forced to work with? Do you long to have sloppy, loveable, always-eating Schanke back again? Do you long to turn back the clock? Do you wish Tracy would meet her end down some long dark alley some night? Then this is the zine for you. I'm looking for kill-Tracy stories in any shape or form. Think of the most horrific, or hysterical, way of doing the blonde-haired commissioner's daughter in, and send me that story. Get as gruesome or as fun as you like-just kill off Tracy! C'mon, you know you wanna...
While some fans point to the omnipresence of female-character bashing as evidence of misogyny within fandom, male characters get bashed as well. One Star Wars link collection that was last updated in 1999 lists 56 Jar Jar Binks hate sites from Ways Jar Jar Binks Should Die to the Kill Jar Jar Binks Game[10] and the fan reaction to the introduction of Joxer in Xena: Warrior Princess (as a potential love interest for one half of the femslash OTP) was so bad that fans repeatedly killed him in fanfiction and created several kill Joxer sites. The actor recalls in an article: "the fans were ready to lynch me! They were saying things like, 'Kill Joxer!' Someone had a column that came out every three days and it would say, 'Here's the 11th way to kill Joxer...' and it was full of these four or five-page diatribes on ways to mutilate and destroy him."[11] Another often bashed male character was Wesley Crusher on Star Trek TNG, who was regarded by many as an egregious Gary Stu, to the point that the actor would be booed at conventions and a Usenet newsgroup called alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die was created.
"The result of either turning a good canon character into a villain or making a villain significantly more evil than in canon is Ron the Death Eater, the inverse of Draco in Leather Pants."[12]

Some fandoms call this variant Anti-Fic. [1]

Character bashing frequently occurs when the hated character is seen as a threat to the fan's preferred ship, either as a third party in a love triangle, or a het love interest to one member of a slash or femslash pairing. One example in The X-Files is Mulder's ex Diana Fowley, for whom an Anti Diana Fowley Archive exists.[13] Pixychelle sends up this bashing cliche in her story How Severus Snape (Didn't) Kill Nymphadora Tonks: "...he learnt that the annoying twit had moved in on his werewolf while he was busy sacrificing for the war effort. Clearly, she needed to die."[14] However, ex-wives, (in The Sentinel, Die Hard IV, Star Trek (movie era), and Starsky & Hutch) who might be seen as less of a threat, are bashed as much or more than current canon girlfriends in those fandoms.

Bashing occurs in anime fandom as well, aimed at such characters as Kikyo from InuYasha and Relena from Gundam Wing. A more light-hearted example is The Chibi Project in Sailor Moon fandom, which documented many attempts to destroy an action figure of the widely disliked character, Chibi-Usa.

Many archives for fan fiction have policies against character bashing. The Stargate Atlantis archive Wraithbait states in its rules:

No character bashing stories. Character bashing includes, but is not limited to, making characters look bad because you think that they are a threat to your OTP or your favourite character; making characters look bad because you think it makes your favourite character look good in comparison; characters acting severely out of character - plotting murder, committing rape, beating the hell out of people - for no good reason that is explained in the story when there is no indication in canon that they would behave in such a way.[15]

Among fans, there is debate as to whether character bashing is a legitimate form of creative expression,[16] or whether it is sloppy writing.[17]

Backlash

image from Bashing the Sakura-Bashers on Hated_Character

Character bashing is heavily frowned upon in many fan circles and a major pet peeve of those who like the characters being bashed. Many even consider it a form of prejudice if the character is a minority, even if the character isn't outwardly bashed on the basis of gender, race, sexuality, or religion.

Communities and blogs were started in response to the trend, created to defend the common targets or debunk the reasons used to bash the characters. Hated Character, started on Livejournal in 2003, was fairly notable among fans of bashed characters back in the old days.

Notable Targets

Further Reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Types of Fan Fiction Accessed January 12, 2009
  2. Why Hinata Should Have Been A Member Of Team 7 Instead Of Sakura by Mizuoni, August 31 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chamber of Secrets (MuggleNet)
  4. The LinkxMidna LiveJournal Community
  5. Comic: How Dr. Elizabeth Weir Died Saving Atlantis by smuffster, based on The Exceedingly Sad And Very Touching Story of How Dr. Elizabeth Weir Died Saving Atlantis by lavvyan. Accessed January 2009.
  6. Kill Dr. Weir community on LJ (Accessed October 24, 2008)
  7. Kill Sam Carter community on LJ (Accessed October 24, 2008)
  8. Die Carter Die community on LJ(Accessed October 24, 2008)
  9. Die Ron Die community on LJ (Accessed October 24, 2008)
  10. Jar Jar Binks Hate Links!, last updated 07 September 1999. (Accessed 12 January 2009)
  11. Joe Nazzaro. Earth's Mightiest Hero, StarLog Yearbook #16, August 1998. (Accessed 12 January 2008)
  12. Ron the Death Eater on TV Tropes
  13. The Anti Diana Fowley Archive (accessed 18 February 2009)
  14. How Severus Snape (Didn't) Kill Nymphadora Tonks (Accessed January 12, 2009)
  15. Wraithbait Rules (accessed 1/2009)
  16. "hating characters: why it's okay to bash" posted by Xparrot, Jan. 25th, 2007 (accessed 1/2009)
  17. Midian: A Hellsing Forum, "Character Bashing in Fan Fiction" comment by Jay FicLover, 12/17/2005 (accessed 1/2009)
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Notes

  1. "A popular character is killed off or otherwise written out and replaced with a new character who fills their previous role. Regardless of what this new character is like, they're likely to end up with a Hatedom directed at them, just because they're not the old favourite. If they'd been there from the start, maybe the fans could have loved this new character, or at least respected them. But no—they’re a replacement." - Replacement Scrappy on TV Tropes
  2. He was hated enough that on TV Tropes he is the Trope Namer for The Scrappy.