Stories About Unlikeable People

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Emily Perper is a word-writing human working at a small publishing company. She blogs about her favorite longreads at Diet Coker.

Last Thursday, the NBC series “Community” returned with its creator and original showrunner, Dan Harmon, at the helm. I like “Community.” I do. It’s warm and dark and funny and self-referential. In spite of its absurdity—perhaps because of its absurdity—it is human; its characters are far from perfect. In this list, I wanted to include unlikeable people who are just that: people. People who do more than they thought they could do, who survive despite heartbreak and prejudice, who show us our truest selves and what we could be and, as T.S. Eliot wrote, “to care and not to care.”

1. “‘Community’ Two: Electric Boogaloo.” (Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker, January 2014)

The characters of “Community” are beloved, sure, but that doesn’t make them likable. Chevy Chase/Pierce Hawthorne was booted off the show for Harmon’s sake. His character was the worst human ever and probably the most human of all “Community” characters, but that’s neither here nor there. Nevertheless, the show is back, Jeff Winger is making ethically questionable decisions again, and we get to watch friendship avert the darkest timeline—hopefully.

2. “Enjoy the Show.” (Pixie, Rookie, December 2013)

A short story about falling in love and placeholders and Christmas gifts and when people you like do things you hate.

3. “Not Here To Make Friends.” (Roxane Gay, BuzzFeed, January 2014)

Gay ponders why it feels important to like the characters in the books we read, and why we feel revulsion to those who don’t immediately endear themselves. She approaches several novels written by women and explores what makes their characters unlikeable and therefore worthwhile: ”Perhaps, then, unlikable characters, the ones who are the most human, are also the ones who are the most alive. Perhaps this intimacy makes us uncomfortable because we don’t dare be so alive.”

4. “I Used to Love the Bride.” (Anna Pulley, Salon, April 2013)

“You have no idea what kindnesses you’re capable of,” Anna writes, because Anna loves Ellie. They were going to get married, but it fell apart, and now Ellie’s engaged to someone else. Anna’s going to be in the wedding.

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Emily Perper
Emily Perper is a word-writing human working at a small publishing company. She blogs about her favorite longreads at Diet Coker.
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