Fictional Characters Are Not Your Friends


Critics who fault a character’s unlikability cannot necessarily be faulted. They are merely expressing a wider cultural malaise with all things unpleasant, all things that dare to breach the norm of social acceptability.

In a cheekily titled BuzzFeed Books essay, “Not Here to Make Friends,” our essays editor Roxane Gay talks about the knotty issue of “likable characters”—why do they vex so many readers, especially when they’re female characters?

In a search for answers, Gay looks at sources as diverse as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, the Sweet Valley High series of young-adult novels, and—as you may have guessed from the essay’s title—reality TV.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →