Unlikable

In the past couple of days, I’ve read a lot of reviews and reactions to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Some positive, some negative. But one thing I’ve noticed is a lot of dislike for the character of Tina Goldstein.

“Annoying”. “Unlikable”. “Selfish”. Why do those words sound so familiar? Because they’re used so often to criticize female characters who are complicated and flawed. I’m just waiting for someone to call her “whiney”, and I’m sure someone has. Women who put their own problems before the male hero’s tend to be seen that way.

Why do we judge women for things we find sympathetic in men? Would we like Sirius Black so much if he were a restless, impulsive woman who ran away from a miserable home life and escaped from prison after serving 13 years for a crime she didn’t commit? Would we still see Harry’s parents the same way if Lily was the heroic but flawed former bully and James the kind and selfless one? Would a female Snape be seen as a complex, morally ambiguous hero, or just hated for being “unlikable”? Would a female Credence Barebone be a tragic victim of an awful childhood, or a whiney, selfish girl who hurt people and should have known better than to trust Graves? Somehow, I think we all know the answers.

Tina Goldstein has exactly the sort of internal conflict that people love in male heroes. She is torn between her career ambitions and her determination to do the right thing. Having followed her heart in the past and been punished for it, she tries to impress the people who hold power over her, but soon realizes that she can’t, and that doing so is less important than doing what she knows is right. Should she immediately throw away her own aspirations to help a man she’s just met? No real person, man or woman, would. But goodness knows a female character, especially the hero’s love interest, should have no goals of her own and no role but to further his story.

Usually, the edgy “bad boy” hero falls in love with a good girl, but Newt and Tina are something of the opposite. While they’re both undoubtedly good people, Tina is a bit jaded and cynical, with a good heart that doesn’t show itself until she starts to fall for kind, gentle Newt Scamander. I liked it. But I think having a female love interest be arguably more flawed than the male hero might be hard to take for some people.

Personally, I like my characters with realistic flaws. Newt’s social ineptitude is as endearing to me as his fascination with magical creatures. Hermione’s bossiness and know-it-all attitude are just as important as her intelligence and courage. And Tina Goldstein is more interesting for her selfishness and annoying refusal to be “likable”. I’d rather see compelling, believable female characters than ones that are merely easy to like.

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4 thoughts on “Unlikable

  1. Tina is my favourite of the four main characters, because she is flawed.

    That said: “Would a female Credence Barebone be a tragic victim of an awful childhood, or a whiney, selfish girl who hurt people and should have known better than to trust Graves?”

    I think the closest to a female Credence in the Harry Potter series is Merope Gaunt, and the vast majority sees her as a tragic victim.

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    • Hi, and thanks for your feedback!

      Good point about Merope, I hadn’t thought of her, although I would say she wasn’t in focus nearly as long, we only see a brief glimpse of her life.

      I’ve seen a lot more hate for Tina coming from casual viewers, on places like Reddit, than hardcore fans. So that’s something, at least. No character is going to be universally popular. But it does bother me when it seems like there’s a double standard.

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  2. Don’t think the hate towards her has anything to do with being flawed. It’s because her motives are unclear and her context is foregone. As a result, when she does intercede in the story it’s a bit of Deus ex machina.

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    • I actually think her motives are conflicted rather than unclear. She wants more than one thing: she wants her job as an auror back, but her instinct is to protect people, such as Credence and later Newt, even when that comes into conflict with her goal of being an auror. She ends up choosing to follow her intuition. That’s not a deus ex machina in my opinion, just a character choosing between two opposing desires.

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