Not every TV character can be the perfect leading man or lady, and that’s okay — usually, a show is more interesting if there are some less-than-lovable people on screen. But sometimes, it’s just too much, and a character is so divisive or disliked that they cause an uproar, or even ruin the show.
These are the characters that either changed drastically, started off awful, or simply did something to rub people the wrong way – despite being a character viewers were supposed to like. Here are the most controversial TV characters of all time.
16. Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother
Neil Patrick Harris made his big TV comeback on CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, a major sitcom hit that ran for nine seasons. But while the actor himself is delightful, this made it confusing for people who both liked and hated his character.
Barney Stinson is as much of a bro as it gets, and he’ll happily admit it. He’s a womanizer, a misogynist … the list goes on. The series attempts to rectify this a bit in the later seasons by showing how he became the way he is (he was left by an ex, of course) and showing him grow up and marry Robin. But all of this was undone in the much-maligned series finale, making this character one whose redemptive arc was ultimately pointless.
15. Ross Geller from Friends
Long before BuzzFeed quizzes, people would decide which Friends character each person in their life was life. Some are sarcastic like Chandler, others a little kooky like Phoebe. But the one person no one wanted to be? Ross.
Ross Geller was meant to be a nerd who grew up to finally get the girl of his dreams, but the longer the show went on, the more his true nature was revealed. He slut-shamed Rachel for sleeping with Paolo, he married one woman when he was still in love with another, and he just generally always thought he deserved better than what he got. Though we couldn’t see it for what it was at the time, Ross had a serious case of “nice guy” syndrome.
14. Archie Bunker from All in the Family
Few TV characters in history were as divisive as Archie Bunker. The All in the Family patriarch, played by comedic legend Carroll O’Connor, was the right-wing bigot that, to this day, many still look at and say, “Aw, but he just doesn’t know any better!”
Bunker would fit in nicely with the Trump supporters of today. He hated everyone: Black people, Jewish people, feminists… the list goes on. He was a Christian who showed no tolerance, a vet who looked down on peaceful protests, and a husband who saw no issue telling his wife to “dummy up” (keep quiet). He began to come around a bit toward the end of the series, accepting his Polish-American son-in-law, among others.
13. Piper Chapman from Orange Is the New Black
When Orange Is the New Black premiered, it was the story of a wealthy white woman, Piper Chapman, who was sent to prison after misdeeds from her youth caught up with her. The whole point was that she had to learn to fit in at Litchfield, surrounded by people of all races, classes, etc.
But Piper really just got on everyone’s nerves. She was entitled and bratty, and most of the other inmates didn’t like her. When she finally did try and change, it was unconvincing — but by that point, there were so many other much more likable characters that it didn’t matter. Piper may have been the reason the series started, but let’s be real — no one watches to root for her anymore.
12. Hannah Horvath from Girls
Lena Dunham was basically a complete unknown when she landed the opportunity to team up with Judd Apatow and create and star in her own series, Girls. The HBO dramedy was lauded as the millennials’ Sex and the City, and it got off to an alright start.
But Dunham’s Hannah Horvath was a character you either related to or you hated with a passion. She lived off her parents, thinks she’s “the voice of a generation,” and generally mistreats her friends. While all of the eponymous girls were absolutely flawed, no one was quite as grating as Hannah.
11. Dawn Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Many characters came and went throughout the run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the introduction of the main character’s little sister, Dawn, was intentionally jarring. She entered the lives of both the audience and characters abruptly, and her existence was the focal point of the fifth season, during which time she had to be both normal, bratty preteen and mystic key that could end the world.
Most could accept this, but it was once she was simply a normal teenage girl that the show didn’t really know what to do with her, and audiences grew weary of her whining. Having a teenager hang around with a bunch of young adults was kind of a strange dynamic to begin with, and Dawn just never seemed to find her place.
10. Betty Draper from Mad Men
Betty Draper underwent a lot of ups and downs throughout the run of Mad Men. At first, she’s Don’s cold, seemingly perfect wife, but after she learns of his unfaithful nature, her arc truly begins.
Betty constantly bounces between being a narcissistic, judgmental woman and then, all of a sudden, exhibiting signs of true depth. But just when we think we’re seeing a real, relatable person, she handles a situation the way an upper-class white housewife would – and we’re disappointed all over again.
9. Dexter Morgan from Dexter
If you were looking to define TV antiheroes, Dexter Morgan would undoubtedly come up. As the titular character in Dexter, he battles his dark past and his urge to kill by murdering other murderers — thus making him the serial killer of serial killers. So there’s an internal struggle of the audience to both like the man and hate what he does while questioning if it’s really ~that bad~.
While that’s enough to make a character controversial, Dexter is also just generally annoying at times. He sulks a lot, makes very poor choices (that he somehow always manages to get out of), and lies to everyone in his life, subsequently hurting them and putting their lives on the line. And let’s not even get started on that final season or that ridiculous finale for his character.
8. Logan Huntzberger from Gilmore Girls
By this point, it’s essentially canon that Rory Gilmore has terrible taste in men. Aside from Dean, a “good guy” who turns out to be a jerk, she mostly dates the opposite: Outwardly rude guys that actually have a heart of gold — or, sort of, at least.
But Logan Huntzberger, her college beau, is even worse: He’s a wealthy prick who charms his way into her heart and then reveals he is actually a caring human being… when he’s not abandoning her to do crazy things with his friends, making her choose between him and a career, or cheating on his fiancée with her. So he’s really not that good of a guy after all.
7. A from Pretty Little Liars
For those who didn’t watch Pretty Little Liars, here’s the gist: On and off for several years, a group of girls are tormented by a tech-savvy, wealthy genius who goes by the moniker ‘A,’ after their once-assumed dead friend, Allison. The only problem? Every time they figure out who A is, a new one pops up.
The controversy here stems from who is A at any given time. Once we really learned who Mona was after the fact, she made sense as A (plus it was in the books). The longest A, CeCe Drake (aka Charlotte Drake, fka as Charles DiLaurentis), was inconceivable for a few reasons, but by the time of the reveal, fans were generally just relieved. But the final A (or A.D.), Alex Drake, was a huge jump-the-shark moment for many viewers — the cop-out of an identical twin had been done, and it felt like we deserved better for a series finale.
6. Erlich Bachman from Silicon Valley
In the case of this character, the controversy extends both on and off screen. Focusing on the fictional Erlich Bachman, he is, just generally, an unlikable sidekick. Erlich is rude to almost everyone around him, takes credit for things he had no part of, and, when he does occasionally have a good idea, becomes insufferable and usually messes everything up.
This would already be a character that rubbed viewers the wrong way, but then came the news that his portrayer, T.J. Miller, was accused of violently sexually assaulting a woman in college. However, by the time the news spread, the character had been written off the show, so it was a moot part in that regard. But if you were a fan of Erlich, it puts a sour taste in your mouth.
5. Randy Pearson from That ‘70s Show
Adding a new character a few seasons in is one thing. But essentially trying to replace the leading man in the final season? That’s a bold move, and not one that would likely pan out well. Enter: That ‘70s Show season eight.
Randy Pearson is goofy like Eric Forman, but he was also considered the suave, handsome guy — sort of like Ashton Kutcher’s Kelso. So, in essence, he was hired to be a mashup of two missing characters, as well as Donna’s love interest now that Eric was out of the picture. Fans were not pleased, and probably didn’t even mind that he didn’t get a proper send-off in the series finale, unlike the other characters.
4. Vic Mackey from The Shield
Good cop, bad cop is a common trope, but what about corrupt cop? The Shield’s main character, Vic Mackey, is very much an anti-hero, and one of the first of his kind, as he does whatever it takes to get the bad guys.
The question of Mackey’s morality is called into question multiple times throughout the series, as he employs a “the end justifies the means” philosophy. Additionally, he’s an adulterer, but his redeeming quality is how much he loves his children. Still, the end of the series sees him hated by everyone around him, after admitting to his many crimes.
3. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from The Simpsons
When there’s controversy surrounding a character, a lot of it is aimed at the person portraying him or her. But ultimately, shouldn’t most of the blame fall on the writers and creators? There’s been a mixture of this in the case of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Indian convenience store owner who has brought a lot of renewed attention to the long-running animated comedy, The Simpsons.
As Hollywood begins to recognize the issues surrounding harmful, stereotypical portrayals as well as a lack of diversity both behind-the-scenes and on-camera, Apu has become a perfect example of racism that will no longer be tolerated. While the voice of Apu, Hank Azaria, has acknowledged the issues and says he would be “perfectly willing to step aside” from the gig, Simpsons creator Matt Groening isn’t backing down, saying that “people love to pretend they’re offended.”
2. Danny Rand from Iron Fist
Speaking of racism and the need for diversity, the announcement that Marvel character Danny Rand would be making his debut in his own series, Iron Fist, was met with some hesitation. The internet was soon abuzz with fans proposing that casting a white comic book character with an actor of Asian descent could be a positive change for a character many felt was an appropriation of Asian culture.
However, Netflix and Marvel stuck with tradition, which angered some while pleasing the hardcore fanboys. But regardless of how you feel about his race, Danny Rand is, generally speaking, just another obnoxious rich boy superhero, and that alone is enough to turn off the TV on him.
1. Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl
Few characters have gone back and forth between good and evil as many times as Chuck Bass. The Gossip Girl stud is a cutthroat, yet compelling character, and even when he’s at his worst, he still manages to charm everyone around him.
Among Chuck’s misdeeds are attempted rape, sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend and infamously trading his girlfriend for a hotel — and that’s only in the first few seasons. His love for Blair and their on-again, off-again romance sparks both the good and bad sides in him, but in the end, can you forgive someone after all of the truly terrible things he did?