Last night I finished watching one of my favorite movies, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, again. It reminded me of one of the common criticisms of it – Ramona and Scott are both basically assholes, and there’s probably not a good future between them. My argument has always been (even before I read the comic where this was a lot more self-evident) that that was rather the point. It’s the story of two assholes who go through a journey of realizing they’re terrible people. It’s not a story about “Scott beating the evil exes for Ramona.” It’s a story about Scott not BECOMING an Evil Ex. Criticizing Scott Pilgrim for the main two for being unlikable is, to me, rather like criticizing Romeo and Juliet for acting like really stupid lovestruck teenagers.
However, I have made the “unlikable” complaint for works before, and I’ve been contemplating exactly when it’s important that the characters are likable. I can’t figure it out. The closest I can come is that it’s when it conflicts with an informed attribute. If all the characters treat and talk about the main character as if they were likable, then it’s offputting if they’re a complete douchebag (with exceptions like deliberate trickery). I can’t decide though – so what say you? When does a character’s likablility add or detract from a work for you?