POLL: How Much TV Character Stupidity Can You Tolerate?

Cassandra - Z Nation, Maggie, Rick, Negan - The Walking Dead, Madosin - Fear the Walking Dead, Zach and Kelly - The Strain

Human beings, so some say, are inherently flawed. Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, it is a very common opinion that fictional characters are better when they have internal conflicts and personality flaws. If you spend any time reading fan opinions of dramas, you will see what I mean. Most people prefer TV characters to be complicated.

The conundrum comes, however, when those flaws lead to repeated stupid actions on the part of the character. This contributes to possibly unnecessary danger and definitely sticky situations! From my observations of comments, there seems to be a fine line, varying from one person to another, of just how much stupidity is tolerable before a character just becomes completely inane in the eyes of the viewer. Therefore, I decided to take a little poll and see where people fall on this important issue.

Spoiler warning: In my examples below you will find recent episodes of TV shows being mentioned. If you are behind in your viewing and are spoiler sensitive, then tread lightly!

Zero Tolerance

Madison - Fear the Walking Dead

Do you loathe any actions on the part of characters that are illogical?

As examples of dramas where fans are extremely critical of some characters, let me use two shows I enjoy watching and reading about: FX’s The Strain and AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. Both of these programs, which are currently airing new episodes, have some fans who are highly critical of certain characters and their actions. In fact, some characters that were previously viewed positively or neutrally have recently become pariahs.

For instance, Madison, in the most recent episode of Fear the Walking Dead, performed at least two acts of extreme stupidity. Madison has a blind spot the size of a large moon when it comes to Nick, and in a desperate attempt to find him first goes nuts in a gang warehouse and then turns on the neon sign at the (formerly) safe resort where they are living. These actions not only endanger her, but put everyone there at risk.

On The Strain, Zach, who arguably is a child and therefore will not act like an adult, has a similar blind spot for his mom. Despite having seen what the Strigoi are capable of, and knowing that she is one of them, he still thinks it is a good idea to find her! Oh, Zach, I fear for your life!

Moderation in All Things

Maggie, Rick, Carl - The Walking Dead

Are you able to accept a certain level of stupidity?

A counter argument to the impatience fans feel for absurdity is that these very actions create the conflict necessary to drive the plot. Without action, well, TV gets boring, right? In order to provide excitement, the main characters must be placed into dangerous situations. Viewing enjoyment then comes from watching them find a way out of their predicament.

In many cases, it seems that the writers believe that it is necessary to have characters behave in ways that would not be considered very logical by most in order to create these dangerous situations. And, really, for those of us that have never been in a life or death situation, can we really say exactly how we would react? With that in mind, maybe Rick and the Gang allowing themselves to be carefully herded into capture by Negan’s followers on The Walking Dead was not so terribly absurd. After all, hindsight is 20/20, right?

It’s Fiction, Baby!

Cassandra - Z Nation

Are you relaxed and not bothered by illogical actions?

As a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, their theme song sometimes plays through my head. For those of you unfamiliar, the lyrics are, in part, “If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts (la la la), Just repeat to yourself, “It’s just a show, I should really just relax.”” This refrain becomes my mantra when I start hyperventilating over something a character does that makes me scream at the TV.

For me, a good example of this is Z Nation. What happens on that show is sometimes beyond explaining, but it does not purport to be high drama; rather it is a campy, tongue-in-cheek look at a zombie apocalypse. Heck, even the characters comment on the preposterous happenings. This makes it easier to just go with the flow and enjoy the moment!

Are you able to adopt a laissez-faire attitude when viewing TV? Do you just sit back and relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of escapism in your entertainment without thinking too deeply about what you are watching?

I’ll Take the Combo Pack

Strain 17

Do you prefer to use a combination of the approaches mentioned above?

Maybe for some shows that do not matter so much to you, you have a higher tolerance for silliness in character behavior? But then for others, you have a more exacting standard of expectations?


Reflecting carefully on my own stance, I have to choose the combo pack. Depending on the program, there are times I get really upset and do yell at the TV. Why do they not ever listen? And yet, there are other times where I just say, oh well, go with the flow of the plot and don’t sweat the details. I also occasionally recognize the fact that the stupid actions move the plot forward, so take them at face value.

So, now it is your turn to vote! Pick one of the answers below and then tell me why you chose as you did in the comments section below! I love discussing ideas with you guys!