Redheaded Orphans With Issues~ In Which It’s Sometimes Hard To Tell The Difference Between Annoying And A Winning Personality

Hey, folks!

You know how some characters are just…well…on the obnoxious side? Maybe you get why they are obnoxious (insecurities and such, you know) and you have grace for them. Maybe you love them in spite of it. Or maybe they’re just too obnoxious to be lovable, excuses aside.

I have compiled a list of some characters that could be considered obnoxious, to varying degrees…. They also happen to all be orphans with red hair and quite possibly some level of abandonment issues.

This is a trope, yes? The obnoxious-redheaded-orphan-with-abandonment-issues trope? Yes. Of course. The old classic.

There is in fact an old classic on this list. Maybe you can guess.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables (book)

Anne’s parents died when she was just a baby, and she has been moved between orphan asylums and sketchy family situations since. She’s quite a space-cadet and she loves to talk. Both of these things frequently exasperate the people around her. She mainly lives in her own little world, no matter how hard they try to snap her out of it.

When she is sent to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, it’s a dream come true. Until she learns that there was a mistake and they don’t want her. Then it’s a nightmare. At this point she is desperate to earn their love so that they will let her stay. It all turns out in the end of course but also…ouch. Trauma.

Anne is on the milder end of the obnoxious spectrum, and she’s probably more obnoxious to the people in the story than to most readers. Then again, most of them learn to love her fairly quickly. Her story is definitely an idealized form of the trope.

Annie from Annie (1982 movie)

Annie was left by her parents at an orphanage when she was a baby, but they left her a message in a locket. It’s been around ten years since then, but Annie is sure (at least outwardly) that her parents will come back for her one day. She refuses to call herself an orphan. She is determined to take care of herself in the meanwhile, with an aggressively spunky attitude and repeated attempts to escape the orphanage.

Annie is tough and self-reliant out of necessity. She has to be confident that her parents will come for her because she can’t face the alternative: that they abandoned her for good. Deep down she knows it, though, which is why she can’t rely on anyone else. They might abandon her, too.

Though Annie has a personality that could be considered obnoxious, no one except Miss Hannigan really notices this. Everyone else finds her irresistibly lovable. This story is also pretty idealized. There’s a “spunky redhead overcomes tragedy with her winning personality” trope going on here as well.

Anna from Frozen (movie)

…So why are these all derivatives of “Anne” so far? It’s kind of weird.

Anyway. Anna and her sister are best friends, until one day, with no explanation, Elsa starts totally ignoring Anna. Anna isn’t put off that easily, and for years she tries to get Elsa to play with her again, but to no avail. She’s chipper through it all, but there must be that part of her that’s screaming: WHAT DID I DO WRONG? And it’s not like the question goes away as time passes. If anything, it probably just gets louder.

And then, when Anna is a teenager, her parents suddenly die. Even after this tragedy, when they need each other more than ever, Anna fails to reach her sister through that locked door. That would make anyone go a little crazy, don’t you think?

So yes, Anna is obnoxious. Her obnoxiousness goes beyond Anne and Annie’s. She’s been playing NOTICE ME for years now, just like them, but her target is more focused. It’s within sight, just out of reach. That probably makes her more desperate and aggressive. “Family” isn’t this distant longing, it’s right in front of her. There’s just a locked door in the way.

Emma from The Promised Neverland (manga)

I can’t fully explain Emma’s abandonment issues without major spoilers. But she is a redheaded orphan and she’s definitely obnoxious. (Unlike some of the other characters on here, the obnoxious attribute isn’t directly linked to the abandonment issues. It’s just her personality.)

Emma is like Anna (rather than Anne and Annie) in that she has a stable life that is suddenly ripped away through a harsh betrayal. Only there’s not one betrayal. There’s, like…three or four? One by one, the people she relies on the most betray her in one way or another. Someone might even do it twice (what an overachiever, sheesh).

Emma is definitely more obnoxious to readers than to the people in the story. She falls into the “spunky redhead overcomes tragedy with her winning personality” trope…which isn’t actually my favorite. She’d be less obnoxious if everyone didn’t love her so much, you know what I’m saying?

Not all problems can be solved with a winning personality, but no one has told Emma this.

Anya from Spy x Family (anime)

Anya is a baby. I mean, she’s maybe four or five years old. She was experimented on in a lab, causing her to become telepathic, but she escaped and wound up in an orphanage. She was almost adopted multiple times, but every time her prospective parents started noticing signs of her powers they freaked out and sent her back. (THE TRAUMA HERE.)

Enter Twilight, a spy who needs to pretend he has a child for the sake of a mission. Anya attaches herself to him immediately. He is her papa now. She will do anything to help him achieve world peace (though I seriously doubt she has any concept of what that means).

Children of Anya’s age have a tendency towards obnoxiousness anyway, and Anya is unusually starved for love and attention, so you can imagine how this goes. Also Twilight is not used to children of any kind, so he finds her to be rather overwhelming, to say the least.

If he actually tries to ditch her after the mission is over, I will slap him.

Chuuya Nakahara from Bungo Stray Dogs: Storm Bringer (light novel) and Bungo Stray Dogs (anime)

Chuuya is a disaster child. In every sense of the word. (Would you look at that, I managed to fit Chuuya into another post, yay me.)

He grew up on the streets, protecting other orphans by smashing people (using his gravity manipulation powers, naturally). But no one appreciates him like they should. In fact, some betrayal happens. And Chuuya ends up joining the mafia, because that’s what you do when you want to keep protecting your friends even after they abandon you.

The mafia is very wholesome and Chuuya learns valuable life lessons, such as how to become loyal to people that are openly manipulating you (I could write an entire blog post about how much I hate Mori, but I won’t get into that).

Does Chuuya hate Dazai? Sure. Always has. But do you think he felt abandoned when Dazai left the mafia anyway? Do you think it hurt? Well, I do. I very much think this.

Chuuya’s brand of obnoxiousness does not come in the form of aggressive positivity, but rather in the form of…aggressive aggressiveness. Also, grouchiness.  His personality is a far cry from winning, I’ll just say that.

Enel from The Silver Eye (webcomic)

If there was a prize for most obnoxious redheaded orphan on this list, Enel would win it hands down.

Enel grew up in an orphanage. When he’s seven, he starts getting attention from Velvare, the kingdom’s steward, and he becomes the playmate of Velvare’s adopted son. Awkwardly, Velvare seems to prefer Enel to the boy he actually adopted (poor baby Avidan *sniffle*). But it’s not like he’s going to adopt Enel or anything. What a suggestion.

Other people attempt to adopt Enel. Multiple times. But the adoptions fall through. (Who knows why? Possibly Velvare related??) Finally, Enel is adopted. By Marcus. But not until after Marcus has gone all waffle about it and changed his mind a couple times. To Enel’s face. It’s not like that’s a big deal or anything. Nothing traumatizing about that at all.

My point is, when it comes to stability, Enel does not have it. Unfortunately, he has basically everything else. He’s pretty much a spoiled brat. So, obnoxiously clingy + spoiled and lazy = everyone’s least favorite person to be around (except Velvare, of course— and Idony, but she’s just the nicest ever).

So, yeah, Enel is the most obnoxious, but his attempts to pass this off as a winning personality trait don’t go off as well as some of the others on this list. Which, ironically, makes me more endeared to him.

Abandonment issues don’t make people charming. They make people like Enel. Not that you can’t have abandonment issues and deal with them maturely and be charming and all that, but the raw form of the trauma in this story is kind of my jam.

Epilogue

So, through writing this I realized that I prefer “purposely obnoxious” to “aggressively spunky”. It’s much easier for me to love a character if the other characters find them obnoxious, and it’s much easier for me to find a character obnoxious if the other characters are taken with their winning personality. And now you know.

What do you think of this trope? Do you think redheads in fiction are disproportionally obnoxious and/or orphans? (Why is this??) How many of these characters do you find more obnoxious than lovable? What are your thoughts on abandonment issues? Why are there so many derivatives of Anne on this list?

8 thoughts on “Redheaded Orphans With Issues~ In Which It’s Sometimes Hard To Tell The Difference Between Annoying And A Winning Personality

  1. I’m glad to see Enel made the list! I don’t know how purposefully obnoxious works so well, but it does. I suppose it’s because I know I’m free to laugh at the character, or call him a dingbat, without feeling that the author intended something else.

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    1. Enel was one of the first characters I thought of. 🙂 I do love him. Purposefully obnoxious does indeed work, somehow. I think you are right that the author’s intention has a lot to do with it. The character is obnoxious for a reason, not just randomly. It means they’re creating the character well. There’s nothing more annoying than an obnoxious character that the author thinks isn’t obnoxious…

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  2. Okay, I actually found Anne from the first book (Green Gables) so insufferably irritating when I was a kid that I always just started my rereads of the series on the second book. As an adult (ish), I have learned to tolerate Anne, but I can definitely understand how she grates on peoples’ nerves. ESPECIALLY all of her scrapes. Just…girl, pay attention to what you’re doing! XD

    I never thought of Anna as being obnoxious, though. Persistent, yes, but I also have little sisters, so I’m used to that. But I can see how, you’re right, her target being within reach does make her desperate, and that actually drives a fair bit of the story. Hmm. Interesting.

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    1. Huh, really? I always liked Anne as a kid and it wasn’t until later that it occurred to me to think of her as obnoxious. She always came across as this imaginative ideal or something? I’m not sure why absent-mindedness seemed like a desirable trait to me, but somehow that made sense to my ten-year-old self. XD At this point I can see her more from the adults’ perspective, and there is obnoxiousness there. But also trauma, which I suppose I am more interested in, haha. I mean, her dreaminess is kind of a coping mechanism? But I confess I haven’t actually read more than the first Anne book…

      I don’t personally find Anna obnoxious, but I’ve had several friends comment on it. She’s loud and outgoing and extremely persistent, which I can understand people finding obnoxious. But what bugs me as that the friends who called her obnoxious didn’t seem to get her character. There’s a very good reason for her being the way she is. She is suffering just as much as Elsa is, but they respond to it in very different ways. (I find it annoying when people think that Elsa is the hero of Frozen- it’s definitely Anna.) But as far as obnoxiousness goes, it really is kind of subjective, I guess?

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  3. Aha. Yes. Here is that post I know I saw and meant to read and…apparently it was written almost a month ago. How time does fly, to be sure.

    But oh my, Sponge, I LOVE THIS TOPIC. (Also I spent the whole post waiting for Enel to get brought up. Thank you for not failing me.)

    I feel like characters are disproportionately orphans, and you bring up an interesting point with redheads getting the brunt of it. Like do they??? Maybe they do??? Why is this???

    I think I also prefer “purposely obnoxious” to “aggressively winning personality” (and I too deeply love the raw form of the trauma in Enel’s characterization), but at the same time I do like some aggressively happy characters? Like Anne Shirley, or Anna from Frozen (I love her character SO MUCH, actually; she does her best to be mature, so she’s not like Enel, but at the same time she’s very naive through no fault of her own and VERY VERY starved for love, and her abandonment issues play out more in her poor decisions and disregard of personal danger than they do in her personality–because I do think her personality is naturally spunky and bouncy to some extent, just artificially heightened).

    I guess…I don’t like the idealized form of the trope so much. (I hate the movie Annie for multiple reasons. that may be one of them. i don’t know.) (I feel like the mainest main thread of Anne of Green Gables is Anne and Marilla’s relationship, and Anne DOESN’T win over Marilla by her aggressive spunkiness. Marilla comes to love Anne once she realizes the child’s vulnerability and genuine sweetness, and her winning personality almost makes it harder for Marilla to cotton to her. So I really like that.) But I REALLY like the more honest takes on it, like Enel and Anna.

    But also, I feel like I know people in real life who have “winning personalities,” for what reason I don’t necessarily know, not being privy to their exact thoughts and circumstances like a book character, and people often find it annoying and I really hate it. Like. I just feel like, to some extent, being annoyed by a winning personality is judging someone for things that aren’t their fault or even bad (necessarily), and I just REALLY REALLY HATE IT. Like…this person laughs more than you do and looks on the bright side and you think you’re better than them because of that? I HATE IT, HAVE I MENTIONED I HATE IT. (Also they get written off as stupid, which is SO ANNOYING, because do you know the kind of mental discipline it sometimes requires to be kind and cheerful? Well, I guess not, since seemingly you’ve never tried, but still…) [please understand that in these semi-insulting parenthetical asides i am talking to the people who annoy me, not to you lol] So I kind of have a soft spot for characters with winning personalities, just because of my protective fondness for them in real life. But sometimes, granted, it IS a little Much. I am mildly annoyed by Emma just hearing about her, heh.

    Okay. I’m not sure this comment had a point. But I really liked this post.

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    1. Time does fly, doesn’t it? I have been quite abysmal at keeping up on reading blog posts. I do wish for the life of me that I could keep up every once in a while, but eh. *shrugs*

      I love this topic too! (And there was no way Enel wasn’t making this list. Enel practically IS this list. That doesn’t really make sense but pretend that it does.)

      There are a great deal of orphans in literature, it is true. We seem to have something of a fascination with them. Maybe it’s some kind of metaphor. Like, being an orphan is kind of the epitome of being alone and we all kind of feel alone, even if it’s not that extreme? …Or maybe it’s just because authors find it convenient not to have to deal with parents. I don’t know how the redheads figure into it, though. It’s a mystery.

      Your thoughts on “aggressively winning personality” are super interesting! I don’t know if I made it sound like this in the post (I probably did) but I don’t actually dislike characters with aggressively winning personalities. It can be taken too far, and I prefer the purposely obnoxious ones generally, but yeah. I love Anna, though. A lot. I agree with you that her personality is naturally bouncy and spunky. I loved reading all of your thoughts on Anna. Hearing someone talk about her like that is refreshing, because I know people who do not properly appreciate her character. It bothers me when people think Anna is just obnoxious and chipper and Elsa is the only broken one. Because…it’s just so not true. It makes me mad, actually. I mean, for all of the characters in this post, but especially the chipper ones, I think it’s so important not to write off the possibility that they are hurting really badly, just because their response to the hurt isn’t what you might expect it to be. I feel really strongly about this. But I don’t really know how to organize my thoughts right now.

      You make an excellent point about Anne of Green Gables. Marilla is not easily won over and in fact clashes with Anne’s personality. Very true. And I really do love their relationship. It’s been so long since I’ve read or watched Anne of Green Gables.

      I really appreciate your rant on the winning personality thing. It’s definitely not fair to look down on people because you don’t like their personality? That’s just so immature. Ugh. Whether it’s jealousy or cynicism or whatever, it’s just not a good way to behave. I definitely agree.

      I do wonder sometimes if the harsh view I take on characters is reflective of how I view people in real life. I try to use characters as a way to understand people, but when I don’t get a character and decide to bash them horribly, I hope I do not take that same approach to real humans… It’s an interesting thing to think about.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!

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      1. Okay, I wish I had Brain to reply to this comment at length, but I don’t, but:
        1) I like your opinions on Frozen so much. They make me feel Not Alone.
        2) I always think people do the opposite with characters vs humans? Like reading about a character CAN make you have empathy for someone you’d normally loathe in real life, but often people will forgive Actual Murderers in books because they’re understandable but can’t seem to forgive a real human for being mildly insensitive to them once when they were stressed. This depresses me. Also, I think, because we read primarily to be entertained, we can be short with real humans because they don’t entertain us sufficiently or, since we’re not privy to their reasons like a book character’s, we just assume the real world and real people are boring and not as good as books. When it’s actually the other way around. This also depresses me. BUT also there are no stakes to disliking a character; you can hate someone without it being morally wrong like with a real human, so maybe sometimes we’re careful to be understanding with real humans and we work through our frustration with these things through book characters and so it’s actually helpful…which makes me think maybe I can be less depressed about it all.

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      2. (Okay, if this is Sarah without Brain that Sarah with Brain must be a formidable force indeed.)
        1) Same, though.
        2) Ooh, that is quite a good point. And, yes, rather depressing. Sometimes I think books give us the illusion of being more empathetic than we actually are because they are engineered by the author to make us care about the characters, even when they are Actual Murderers (not that this always works, but still). With a book you are handed All the Reasons and Emotions on a silver platter, and that’s not actually how real life works. We have to figure out how to have grace for people and have empathy for them despite the fact that there are always going to be way more gaps we can’t fill in real life than there are in a fictional story. You have to try harder with real people. I still think that fiction can help us become more empathetic, because we can expose ourselves to more ideas and kinds of people and such, but it’s not an automatic thing. Your point about entertainment is really good, too. It can be easy to slip into feeling that fictional characters and stories are more interesting than real life. Which is of course ironic because everything fictional is just a shadow of something even more real. The only reason we care about fictional characters is because we are real and the people who wrote the characters are real. Real life gives fiction context. Without it, it has no point. Real people are sometimes harder to like at first, because you actually have to work at it. The thing about real life is it requires you to participate. I’m working on that. I have an escapist tendency myself, honestly, but I do realize that investing in real relationships is far more rewarding than spending all my time focusing on fictional characters. I haven’t always been great at living that out…but yeah, I’ve been working on it. Preferring characters to real people is rather depressing. On the flipside, though, I liked what you said about using characters to work through frustrations. Sometimes stories can be therapeutic, and help us work through stuff because they’re just removed enough from real life to make it okay. I actually really love that. Sometimes I get a bit depressed about all the negative ways we can interact with stories, especially since I love them so much, but it’s not all depressing. Any good thing can be twisted for evil, but it can be redeemed too, eh? I dunno. I’m just rambling, now. I really appreciated your thoughts on this!

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