The Most Absolutely Hopeless Heroes of Fiction


As I prepare for Mud’s launch, I’ve been thinking a lot about the story’s protagonist, Adem, the golem.

He tries awfully hard, the poor guy. His little mud-made heart is in the right place, but he just keeps mucking things up every chance he’s got. He’s just totally hopeless.

Head in Hands

But Adem’s not alone in the Hopeless Heroes Club. In fact, the most hopeless heroes can be some of the most interesting, and the most prone to muster up real strong emotions (whether that be hate, rage, or loving sympathy really just depends on the character).

So let’s dig them up. Presenting some of the most facepalm-worthy heroes of fiction, list from from most beloved to most despised (SPOILERS AHEAD):

Annie, The Family Fang
The Fangs are, indisputeably, the most dysfunctional non-abusive family ever. And they have my undying love for that. But to say Annie and her brother Buster made it to adulthood without a few scars wouldn’t just be an understatement, it would be a blatant lie.

But for all her aimlessness and bad choices, Annie sees her parents for what they are. In the end, this incredible feat is what sets her free. I love this character as much for her terrible, quirky life decisions as I do her strength.

Meg, A Wrinkle In Time
The very nerdiest brand of teen, Meg is a victim of her own highstrung emotions and insecurities. But then, haven’t we all at some point? As a character, these faults, plus her brilliance and loyalty, make her a huge win for readers.

And sure, the Mrs. W’s, Charles Wallace, and Calvin get their crew of misfits through the most of the story, but Meg’s tidal wave emotions are what pulls them through in that true clench moment.

Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
This guy. Good heart, no motivation. The only things Scott Pilgrim is good at are guitar and video games. Jobs? Nah. Adulting? Nah. Girls? Definitely not. The kid sleeps on a mattress right on the floor of his friend’s apartment.

So Scott Pilgrim would not be #1 on anyone’s list to defeat a slew of Evil Exes and win a girl’s heart. Which makes watching him beat the odds so much more fun.

Mr. Bingley, Pride & Prejudice
Mr. Bingley's a good guy. He's sweet, unassuming, and rich. Which matters, for a romantic hero in in the early 1800s. And he's a hopeless blob of putty in his sisters' manipulative hands.

For all his kindness and generosity, Mr. Bingley is undeniably hopeless. He can't even stand up to his best friend.

Nick Dunne, Gone Girl
There are reasons it was so easy to believe Nick killed his wife, and it wasn’t just Amy’s brilliant setup. It was because 1) Nick is a true sleaze, and 2) Nick keeps making one terrible choice after another. You know, like breaking into crime scenes. Having an affair with a college student. Stuff like that.

Despite his sleaze factor, you do end up feeling for Nick, though. It does seem that Amy may be overreacting to the situation. And once Nick pieces together what’s going on, he’s got no way to prove it to anyone or take any actually helpful action. It basically just keeps unfolding around him, and he sinks deeper and deeper into Amy’s plot, until Amy changes her mind. Womp.

This guy deserves to be lower on this list but, ugh, he actually is kind of charming.

Jonathan Harker, Dracula
This guy you actually do feel bad for. He’s trapped in a haunted house with some kind of monster that climbs walls, indulges in debauchery, and sucks blood … also, turns your true love into a vampire.

In the end, though, the guy gets it together, hunting down an obscure expert and taking down vampires. Attaboy.

Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby
Does this guy do anything besides mooch, and silently judge those he mooches from? Oh right, he also goes along with dating a girl who just sorta-kinda tolerates him, because, whatever, they’re both there.

Bill, True Blood
Filed under “Terrible Good Vampires.” Theoretically an enlightened vampire who is ready to embrace a peaceful coexistence with humans. Bill Compton always seems to be at least one shade of sketchy, and at some point throws aside his “romantic hero” cap altogether and goes villainous instead.

Also, what kind of boyfriend asks you to use the VERY LAST beam of your fairy powers to put him out of his misery? Come on, Bill.

Who would you add?

Is it a coincidence that the only two hopeless heroines are at the top of this list? I mean. Who’s to say*. I don’t write them, I just call them like I see them.

Now obviously, these are not the only hopeless heroes in literature. Worthlessness runs deep in world of fiction. These are just the ones I love most, and love to hate.

What are your favorite and most hated worthless heroes? Share then in the comments!


*It’s very likely that women are not given the same leeway to be both a protagonist and unlikeable with the same freedom that male characters are allowed. But that’s a rabbit hole to jump in another day.

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