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.