It has taken me longer than everyone else (nothing new there then) but I have finally managed to catch the Game of Thrones bug that has been doing the rounds. I’ve not succumbed to the books yet, but the TV series has me enthralled and asking OH every other minute ‘who is that?’ (the perils of a large male cast who all look the same).
Now I admit that there is plenty of male totty on show (well there was in series one, anyway, until everyone died), but it’s not that which has me coming back for more. My favourite thing about Game of Thrones is….
Yes. It’s Joffrey. Creepy, evil, product-of-incest, weirdly blond, head-on-spike loving Joffrey Baratheon. The boy has not one redeeming feature. Not one. He is shamelessly, unrepentantly nasty, a villain made all the more disturbing by the fact that he’s little more than a child. He isn’t even nice to his mother (not that she deserves it, because she’s pretty horrible too, but even so). There are complexities to the character – the fact that he is a product of incest, the fact that we know, deep down, that Joffrey is incredibly vulnerable, like every spoilt child without boundaries, because one day he will hit a wall and have no idea how to get round it.
Joffrey’s success as a character is entirely down to his dislikeability. Hating Joffrey is fun. As writers, we so often hear about likeability, about how important it is that our hero has redeeming features, that he is sympathetic, that we must get the reader to like him. But fiction is all about eliciting an emotional reaction from the reader, allowing them to feel particular emotions in a safe, fantasy setting. And we don’t just have to feel positive emotions as readers. No-one reads Stephen King to feel happy. They read his books to feel afraid, anxious, scared, because those emotions can be thrilling (not for me. I took Salem’s Lot out of the library 3 times and only got half way through and I still haven’t recovered). Joffrey is a great character because he allows us to experience acute dislike in an acceptable way.
Which characters do you really love to hate?