Why Do We All Hate Umbridge?

Umbridge is not only the most hated Harry Potter character but also one of the most hated literary characters in general. But why? What is it about Umbridge that makes her so despised, even more so than characters such as Voldemort or Fenrir Greyback? Logically, it makes no sense, given that someone like Voldemort committed far worse crimes than she ever did. But then again, logic rarely dictates emotion.

The hatred of Umbridge is definitely driven by emotion. She evokes a deep visceral response that is difficult to explain. When trying to describe this hatred, it’s less about specific actions or crimes, as it is with Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and more about the way she makes us feel. However, although this deep hatred is difficult to justify through logic, there still is a reason for it.

Voldemort is undeniably evil, but he’s also very much the villain of a fantasy novel. There’s not many of us out there who can really relate to an evil, racist wizard terrorist murdering our parents and then trying to kill us. That’s not to say Voldemort isn’t a good villain, but he’s one that tends to exist on the page or on screen more than in everyday life. The average person won’t be all that familiar with anyone like him.

 

 

Umbridge, on the other hand, is very familiar. Nearly everyone has had one teacher who they just hated because she was so unfair, or because she punished you for no reason, or because she refused to hear any point of view other than her own. Alternatively, someone might have experience with the government worker who seems to exist to make your day that much harder, who seems unable to listen to anything you say because she’s already made up her mind about you. So when Umbridge appears on the page or the screen, all those memories of those people and the frustration, anger, and fear they caused come bubbling up, creating a deep, deep hatred.

 

 

Thus, Umbridge, in terms of her actions, might not be that high on the scale of immorality, but she is the common, everyday evil we have to struggle with our entire lives. Sure, she’s not going to end the world, but people like her cause so much pain and anger, and they are much harder to destroy. There’s no convenient spell or climatic battle against that type of evil. It makes her easy to hate. This is also why seeing Umbridge get her comeuppance is so satisfying. Because while there will always be another like her, seeing Umbridge get carried off by the centaurs is a moment of triumph, knowing that she, at least, won’t be causing trouble for a while.

  • Lisa

    She’s way too one dimensional to hate, IMO. I don’t get why people invest so much energy into despising Umbdrige. It’s kind of like saying you hate Cinderella’s wicked step sisters. She doesn’t feel real to me, she’s like a caricature. It’s much more satisfying to hate characters which have both good and bad in them.

    • Iain Walker

      She’s a caricature, yes, but that doesn’t make her any less realistic. This is the age when the most appalling caricatures can be heads of state, after all.

      (Also, if a character has both good and bad in them, isn’t hating them a rather reductive response? To be fair, though, I do rather despise Lucius Malfoy, even if he does love his family.)

      • Lisa

        Maybe you’re right, I don’t know, she just doesn’t do it for me. It’s kind of like if a character who is written to be evil does evil deeds, I see no reason to hate them because it’s like hating a wall for holding up the ceiling. What gets me is when we’re supposed to love a character and I just don’t see anything to love there. This is why the good guys are more satisfying to hate/dislike than the bad guys.

  • Iain Walker

    The reasons you give for hating Umbridge actually make hating her sound quite rational. The particular combination of sociopathy and Right Wing Authoritarianism that she represents is a real world evil that underpins repressive orders everywhere. If one doesn’t respond negatively to such a person and what they represent, then one might as well give up on human rights altogether.