Books, Character Analysis, Harry Potter, Movies, The Mind of a Character

Dolores Umbridge: The Pros and Cons of Introducing An Easily Hated Character

Yes, I have been watching Harry Potter movies again. Yes, you can expect another review very soon. Yes, that has everything to do with this article.

Dolores Umbridge is one of the most infamous fictional characters of recent years. No Harry Potter character and few characters in all of fiction have inspired as much pure, untampered hatred as she has. Positive traits? Redeemable qualities? Who needs those? Certainly not Umbridge! The more the audience hates her, the better!

We all know her. We all hate her. And her list of loathsome qualities and crimes is long. Tortures kids? Check. Takes away the freedom of the students? Check. Casual racism? Check. Tries to kick people with no where else to go out of their only homes? Check; actually, double check on that one. Does it all with a pleasant smile? Check, double check, and triple check! The list just goes on and on!

Clearly, she-who-must-not-be-named-for-being-a-transphobic-bitch-who-just-so-happened-to-create-something-good wanted to make her audience hate Umbridge. And clearly, she succeeded! People hate this chick more than they hate Voldemort himself!

Which is equal parts good and bad.

On one hand, it makes it easy to root for our protagonists. Umbridge is such an overwhelming force of loathsome evil that you can’t help it. You hate her so much that you want nothing more than to see Harry and friends overcome all the trials she sets on their path. Hell, you’d root for anyone so long as they weren’t her.

That’s where the problem comes in. Because… well, there’s another bad guy that you kind of need to hate more than her. You might have heard of him. His name is Voldemort.

By all logic, the audience should hate Voldemort as much as Umbridge. He murdered Harry’s parents, tortured people for fun, was a wizard racist, so on and so forth. The dude was magic Hitler. An easy antagonist to hate.

But which do you hate more? Voldemort? Or Umbridge?

You know the answer to that as well as I do.

See, the problem is that you don’t often get to see Voldemort actually doing that shit. We’re told about it a lot and we see him doing some stuff. But we never see the worst of his crimes. Most of his Death Eaters do worse stuff than he does while they’re on-screen! The worst he himself does on-screen is the occasional bit of torture and a murder or two.

Now, I’d hope I don’t have to tell you that that stuff is certainly bad. If children understand that, then I’m sure you do. But that’s stuff that we expect from a character like Voldemort. Hell, from any fantasy antagonist. Anyone even remotely familiar with the genre will be so numb to it that they might not even notice.

That, or I’m a sociopath. Which isn’t the case. At least not last time I checked.

If Umbridge were an overarching villain that lasted the entire story, it wouldn’t be as bad. Problem is: she’s only really in one story. Sure, she comes back in Deathly Hallows. But more as a callback than as an actual antagonist. It’s more like “Oh hey, it’s the bitch again!” rather than the proper reintroduction of a villain.

Like, imagine if Umbridge teamed up with Voldemort! If he discovered how horrible she was and actually kind of respected it? And she, out of a mixture of fear and insanity, enlisted with him? Can you imagine a version of Harry Potter where Voldemort is advised by Dolores Umbridge?! It would make Voldemort all the more threatening, as he’s the only one who can control her. Not to mention more loathsome, as suddenly he’s getting tips on the subject from the queen of hated characters herself!

Oh well. That’s hardly the first bit of missed potential in this series.

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