10 Most Controversial Characters of the Decade

It’s been a decade of geek nirvana, with movies and shows producing content faster than you can spell the word “media.” And the thing that gets people talking the most is controversy. There’s nothing creators like more than a character that people are so fervently divided on – it's practically free publicity! I’m listing the top 10 characters, in chronological order, that appeared in any movie or television show in this decade and managed to incite a feud of epic proportions.

Severus Snape: Harry Potter (Movies: 2001 - 2011, Books: 1997 - 2007)

Why people hate him: He was indirectly the cause of Lily’s death and his hatred for Harry was completely unwarranted.

Why people love him: Young Snape was abused and misguided. He is a relatable and dynamic character who has made many mistakes.

My opinion: Snape is a great character who oftentimes gets analysed too pedantically.

Ted Mosby - How I Met Your Mother (2005 - 2014)

Why people hate him: He’s at the centre of the show’s transphobic comment controversy, and is also extremely pretentious.

Why people love him: He’s the protagonist, so while he often does dumb things, his intentions are good.

My opinion: Of the episodes I’ve watched? Meh. The transphobic comments are a reflection of the writers, not the character.

Bella Swan - The Twilight Saga (Movies: 2008 - 2012, Books: 2005 - 2008)

Why people hate her: She is indecisive, has no defining character traits and relies too much on her relationships with Edward and Jacob.

Why people love her: She is an introspective woman with a big heart and just because she is in love doesn’t mean she’s weak.

My opinion: I wish people would give Bella a break. She’s not supposed to be the most compelling character, she is meant as a self-insert for young readers. Her tendency to get attached to people too quickly is a realistic flaw.

Sue Sylvester - Glee (2009 - 2015)

Why people hate her: She’s inconsistent from episode to episode. Every time she experiences personal growth, she regresses back into her old villainous self.

Why people love her: She’s funny and her lines are iconic. Her backstory with her sister is genuinely heart-breaking.

My opinion: I love her. There’s no rational explanation for it, I just do.

Daenerys Targaryen - Game of Thrones (TV: 2011 - 2019, Books: 1996 - 2011+)

Why people hate her: She has no clear arc and never seems to learn from her mistakes as a ruler.

Why people love her: She evolves from a vulnerable teenager to a badass queen with a morally-grey persona.

My opinion: I am ambivalent about her character, but Emilia Clarke is a goddess.

Elsa - Frozen (2013, 2019)

Why people hate her: Elsa is the antagonist of the first movie disguised as a hero. Her recklessness and aloof treatment towards her sister carries over into the second movie.

Why people love her: Like a true anti-hero, Elsa is driven by guilt and anxiety but manages to battle those emotions out of love for her sister.

My opinion: Elsa’s cool, Anna’s better.

Kylo Ren – Star Wars (2015 - 2019)

Why people hate him: He killed his father Han Solo and is prone to fits of emotional rage.

Why people love him: He’s a broken man capable of goodness, is a victim of grooming and the last in line to the Skywalker legacy.

My opinion: I’m a fan. He’s the prince in a space fairy tale and I’m excited about the controversy that will ensue when he inevitably gets redeemed.

Billy Hargrove - Stranger Things (2017 - 2019)

Why people hate him: He’s a triple threat - racist, abusive and misogynistic.

Why people love him: He shows love in a toxic way because it’s the only way he’s been taught.

My opinion: Dacre’s acting sells him as sympathetic, although I’ll never actually forgive him for his previous actions.

Carol Danvers - Captain Marvel (2019)

Why people hate her: Captain Marvel enters the MCU as a character who is naturally better at everything than her pre-established superhero counterparts. Her lack of struggle makes her less compelling.

Why people like her: Carol is a fiercely independent and strong woman who goes on a journey of self-discovery. The great power she possesses does not take away from her inner-strength and resilience.

My opinion: Carol is an okay character in a forgettable movie.

Arthur Fleck - Joker (2019)

Why people hate him: For an origin story, the character isn’t fleshed out enough to justify some of his more drastic actions.

Why people love him: He’s an underdog. Arthur has been a target of society because of his mental illness and justly seeks retribution.

My opinion: I can separate my distaste for this movie and my feelings towards the character; which are that his motivations are understandable although his descent into villainy is a touch hasty.

For as many polarizing characters as there are now, there are probably plenty more to come in the next decade. And if not, the internet will find something new to argue about.