It seems literally impossible to give an opinion on the Internet (and trust me, I am as guilty of this as everyone else) without acknowledging that the thing that you are talking about…wait for it:
"…was just too flawed for me to enjoy it.”
"…was problematic, but it really spoke to me on a personal level, so I like it anyway.”
YES, [insert work of your choice here] is flawed. In other news, the sky is blue, I breathe air, and more research is needed.
I haven’t had a chance to finish reading this yet, but I started it and loved what I’ve read so far—and Jill is awesome—so go check it out.
In the spirit of this author’s explicit request for criticism, I would point out that this post conflates character flaws (presumably put into the work deliberately) with creative flaws (presumably due to a failure in the creator’s imagination), which is totally unfair.
Ah, excellent! (And helpful, thank you.) :)
So let me try to unravel my conflation, and put it like this:
1. Character flaws are essential, but still often complained about.
2. Story flaws are inevitable. And one woman’s flaw is another woman’s endearing quirk, so there’s no way to make something flawless and please everyone. If I knew how, though, I would, and then I’d make All The Money, it’d be great.
The reason that I lumped them together in this context (with the exception of the ‘things that flaws do good’ section) is that I see statements like ”I found this character very flawed” used in the same kind of context as “I found this creative work flawed”.
And it’s frustrating, because it can mean anything. And sometimes what it means isn’t actually that there is a problem with the work, but merely that the work is not to the person’s particular taste.
I will now attempt illustrative examples of what people can mean when they say “this character is flawed”:
- I didn’t like the character as a person
- I thought the character’s personality/strengths/weaknesses were stupid.
- I thought the character’s flaws were trite/overdone/stereotypical
- I do not like the character in the context of this story
- the character’s motivation is unclear
- this character is a misogynist dinosaur and the narrative rewards them for it; this is not the sort of story/person I am likely to enjoy/cheer for, because…ew.
All of which are completely different issues. In the sense of creative flaws, you get “I found it very flawed” which can mean:
- the dialogue is fecking terrible
- the plot is nonexistent
- the stakes are unclear
- none of the people in this work act how I expect human beings to act
- there are sexist/racist/homophobic statements in this work
- there are sexist/racist/homophobic implications in this work
and so on. I guess those ones can be divided still further into ‘technical’ and ‘thematic’ problems, but that’s a whole other post.
I know that character flaws are essential, and indeed deliberate. And I know that story or creative flaws are just inevitable.
But mostly I just want people to stop telling me that things are “flawed” and then leaving it right there like that tells me anything other than “I do not like this”.
Anyway, thank you again, and hopefully I’ll be able to fix the original post (after sleep, anyway) so it makes that clearer.