I grew up watching the miniseries Centennial, with Richard Chamberlain and Gregory Harrison, Lynn Redgrave and Lois Nettleton–just to name a very, very few. It’s a twelve part series that was made in the late 1970s and based on the epic novel by James Michener. My mother loved it, so she watched it a lot while she was sewing and I was just playing around the house. I didn’t read the book until I was an adult, which was an experience of its own and I spent the whole thing with actors’ voices in my head.
There is a character named Pasquinel. “No Jean-Paul. No Henri. No Monsieur. Just Pasquinel.” He is played in the mini-series by Robert Conrad. This character finds loyalty from everyone he meets, including the women he lies to and the partner he is unkind to. He’s a rather awful little man who lies and leaves people in his wake, and although you can’t help but like him on some levels, I never understood the idolization and loyalty he inspired in people.
Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon a thing in books. I’ve read more than one where a character, often the main character, is really not that likable and yet everyone is willing to bend over backwards until their backs break to please him/her, will jump to their defense even when it’s not really needed or they shouldn’t, and just follow them around like panting dogs. We are told via their actions that the character is worth it, but as a reader, we are never really shown anything to prove it to us.
Typically, our main characters need to be at least somewhat likable and someone we can relate to on some level, so we care about them as we read. If we don’t give a damn what happens to them, what’s the point of reading? Yet when I see these characters and have no reason to like them myself, maybe even reasons to dislike them, but all the characters that I do perhaps like are fawning on them? It’s annoying.
And, it reminds me of Centennial. So, I call it the Pasquinel Syndrome.
No, characters don’t need to be perfect. In fact, it’s just as bad if they are. But they do need redeeming qualities to draw us into them. (Even antiheroes and rogues.) And if you want all the other characters in the book to utterly adore them? Please make sure that the readers get to see the reason or find out why, so we can understand it on some level and not just get annoyed.