So Bad They’re Good Or Just Bad Things Ignored?

Right off the bat let me just say that I am a fan of every series and show that will be mentioned/discussed. I have various criticisms of varying levels concerning each one, but I am an unabashed enthusiast of each one. I have simply always been of the mind that enjoying media should actually encourage discussion and critique of it and that such dialogue in no way diminishes the media. Good? Good.

The international smash hit series Money Heist aka Casa de Papel recently finished. Frankly, beyond the great acting and writing, it is little surprise that the show reached such incredible highs, even after its near premature ending, considering the global political and social climate revolving around affluence and economy of nations and the powerful compared to the common and poor. The enjoyability and wide acceptance of a modern Robin Hood tale sticking it to the rich was about due to be honest. Add the eccentric outlaw characters at the center of the story and easy viewing television was a given. However, that being said, there was one element that I could simply not look past: the character of Berlin.

Now, this show revolves around a group of criminals committing an impossible heist (technically two throughout the entire series, but the point still stands), so obviously the core cast are all morally dubious criminals. They are liars, thieves, killers, etc., but there past criminal activities were still, for the most part, morally grey in the sense of somewhat justifiable and not harming innocent people. However, during the heist of the first season/series, Berlin coerces and essentially rapes a female hostage. To be clear, his actions are in no way justified or comparable to the situation of Denver and Monica as they were two characters that came together through a difficult circumstance because of mutual respect and affection. Furthermore, no other character has that kind of action or past in their backstory. Some are cheaters or have outdated, misogynistic views, but Berlin is the only character to commit such acts except for Arturo who the show portrays as among the worst in the series.

It is just such an odd character choice to make. As well, the attempts to ignore it and retcon his past to make him some sort of Don Juan, debonair, renaissance man falls a bit flat in consideration of the act. What was even more off putting is how the fanbase seemingly chose to also ignore Berlin’s actions as the story progressed because of these retcons and added backstory. While it was, in my view, unfortunate, it was not too surprising as there is a long history of both story and fandoms ignoring character regression and choice simply because they happen to be, or become, a fan favorite.

Now, to be clear, I am not referring to when a character does something or begins to act completely counter to established characterization because of obvious bad writing and lack of planning or talent from the writers and showrunners. I am alluding to when a character has obvious established delinquencies and negative traits, and those are ignored or overlooked by the show, other characters, and/or fandom. Characters like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Walter White from Breaking Bad, half, if not most, of the cast of The Vampire Diaries universe, and so many more come to mind upon which this is applicable to. And yes it should be noted that these allowances predominantly are allowed for characters that tend to be white, male, straight, and of a certain level of (bland) attractiveness. Not ignoring that aspect but that cannot be the sole reason for this phenomenon, right?

Obviously, there have to be examples of non white, non male, non straight terrible, asshole characters who are given the same level of passes and acceptance by both the story and majority of audience, but, for the life of me, I genuinely can only think of maybe two, and even their audience acceptance was more along 60/40 at best. So, what are the traits and characteristics that make audiences root and care for the obviously terrible characters regardless of their choices and actions? Why do some bad characters get a pass while others are immediately vilified? Why are some choices and actions considered one off mistakes or necessary character development while others can only result in retribution and punishment?

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