Top 5 Wednesdays: Top 5 Problematic Favourites

I’ve written before about my issue with the term “problematic” (in a post here), and how we are sometimes very quick to label books or characters as problematic. When I first saw this week’s topic, I was a bit stuck on which books to write about. There seems to be an assumption that as soon as a book or character is labelled problematic, we should immediately write them off and feel guilty for liking them. I completely disagree with this. I don’t think there is anything wrong with reading books and being entertained by them or about liking certain characters who may be problematic, as long as we recognize and acknowledge that there might be problems with them. As readers, it is our job to be critical and think about what we are reading, not just take it all at face value.

Some of my favourite characters are the most complex and possibly problematic. For example, Loki was one of the best parts of the Thor/Avengers movies. I’ve also always been a huge fan of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who has definitely had many problematic moments, but also shows a lot of loyalty to those he cares about. These kinds of characters are often the most interesting, and get some truly fascinating story arcs.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Will Traynor (Me Before You by JoJo Moyes)

me-before-you-jojo-moyes-cover-195x300Controversial opinion time: I don’t have a problem with the representation in this book. I understand that people take issue with Will’s attitude toward his new life following the accident that causes him to become quadriplegic. A central issue in this book is that Will wishes to go to an assisted suicide facility to end his life, which he no longer believes is worth living. Many people have complained that this book perpetuates a ableist view that disabled lives have no value, however my impression of it was very different. To me, this book was centered on the idea of choice and Will’s power to make his own decisions in his life, even when other kinds of independence were stripped away. Will was an arrogant jerk with a lot of anger, but he quickly became one of my favourite characters anyway because he was so powerfully written. I really struggle with the idea that this book puts forward the view that disability is and should be a death sentence, especially because I think the book did acknowledge and explore both sides of the topic.

2) Sirius Black (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling)

5I don’t know what it was about Sirius Black, but he became one of my favourite characters almost from the moment he was mentioned. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite Harry Potter book, followed closely by Order of the Phoenix, both of which were very Sirius Black-heavy. When we are first introduced to Sirius, he has recently escaped Azkaban and seems to be on a mission to attack Harry. We soon learn that there is a lot more to him than we realized, and he becomes an essential part of the series.  Sirius is reckless and impulsive, but also a loyal and devoted friend. He takes his role as Harry’s godfather very seriously, but struggles not to confuse his relationship with Harry for his past friendship with James Potter. He is devoted to Dumbledore, but frustrated with being kept hidden away at home. Sirius is a very complex and interesting character, and definitely not without his problems.

3) Rhysand (A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas)

16096824I feel like I’ve been bringing this one up a lot lately, but that might just be because I read it fairly recently. While I liked the book well enough in the beginning, it really took off for me as soon as Rhysand was introduced. I have only read the first book, so I don’t know his full story arc or how his character develops later on. In the first book, Rhysand is arrogant and manipulative, but also protective of Feyre and thinks quickly to make sure she is kept safe. There is definitely a lot of problematic behaviour on his part throughout the book, including violence, lies and manipulation to get what he wants. Rhysand is by far the most interesting character in the series so far, and his horrible behaviour is only further complicated by all his work to help Feyre. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

4) Erik (The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux)

480204This is a story that I’ve known quite well for most of my life, in a variety of versions. Even back in second grade, my best friend was absolutely obsessed with the musical and told me all about the general storyline. I had the opportunity to see the show (first the movie, and then the stage version not long after) for myself in high school and I was absolutely blown away! I soon decided to try the book, and immediately discovered that it was quite different from the musical so it threw me off. I tried it again last year, and I loved it! Erik, also known as the Phantom, is such a fascinating character but definitely a favourite. His obsession with Christine leads to a lot of violent and terrifying behaviour on his part, even going so far as to capture Christine to keep her as his bride. Despite this, especially in the movie and the play, you almost can’t help but feel sympathy for him and the difficult life he had…not that it excuses violence and kidnapping, but it is hard to hate him.

5) Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)

10210I’ve mentioned a few times that Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics, and one that I adored almost as soon as I started reading it. Mr. Rochester was a great character and I loved his relationship with Jane, but he is definitely problematic! He comes across as very harsh and rude, and it really shouldn’t be so easy to overlook the whole ex-wife in the attic issue, yet somehow it works well enough in this book that you still root for him and Jane to get together. Mr. Rochester seems like he’s always on the border of violence and he treats Jane quite harshly at first, but the power dynamic and banter between them is so interesting to read. I think this is a book that I will need to re-read at some point soon!


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