Much like Jaime and Cersei Lannister, we here at The Ringer created a monster.
When picking characters for the Annoying TV Kid Bracket, we included all the names you’d expect to see: Julie Taylor, Carl Grimes, Walt Jr., Kim Bauer. Hell, even Steve Urkel. Truly a murderers’ row of child pests. But we also included an actual murderer: Joffrey Baratheon, the late Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. He’s no one’s idea of a good hang, but he’s better described as tyrannical rather than annoying. It seems that distinction had little bearing here: Young Joff quickly emerged as the ’17 Warriors of this bracket, slicing through worthy opponents like Sally Draper, Manny Delgado, and the legendary Cousin Oliver like the crossbow bolt that sliced through Ros. For our final, the king took down his most formidable challenger yet: the prince of North Jersey, A.J. Soprano.
The thing about A.J.—and my feelings on this are well documented—is that he perfectly exemplified what this bracket was about. He vandalized his school with his dumb friends and got ratted on by a pizza. He couldn’t understand asshole Robert Frost, though he could surely understand the Slipknot song in the background. When he finally picked up a book, it was Howard Zinn. He expertly quoted his favorite philosopher, Nich. He learned exactly one drum fill before he sold the set to pay for his clubbing lifestyle. He lost his eyebrows at the lamest hotel party ever. While his sister chose between being a doctor or a lawyer, he got fired from Blockbuster and never aspired to anything more than event planning. He was a burden on Carmela when Tony was in the hospital, and a burden on Tony for the entire run of The Sopranos. Even after Bobby was killed and Tony told his family they have to lam it for a few days—a relatable problem, for sure—A.J. made it about himself. For all this buffoonery, Anthony Junior failed upward into a cushy job at Little Carmine’s production company, completing the life cycle of the type of lazy, spoiled rich kid we all knew in high school.
Yes, I understand that A.J. is a manifestation of Tony and Carmela’s terrible parenting, and that he does have his sympathetic moments. But this is upper-echelon annoying TV kid behavior! Contrast this with Joffrey, who made a man choose between his fingers and his tongue, forced his would-be bride to stare at the head of her decapitated father, and ordered Robert Baratheon’s bastards murdered. I understand feeling strong emotions toward Joffrey; yes, he was there to be hated, and I’d question your character if you liked him. But his was not annoying behavior. It was evil. His arc was essential to Game of Thrones’ plot, not the ramblings of a depressed 20-something.
Let’s put it another way: When I say these characters’ names, what do you think? For Joffrey, I think of him swaggering around at the Purple Wedding, taunting his uncle and Sansa shortly before he died by poisoning. For A.J., I think of the time he had no idea what gutters are.
But, readers, it seems that a lot of you disagreed. You thought Joffrey’s slappable face deserved to rule over all little shits time immemorial. It’s a testament to Jack Gleeson’s incredible performance (and to Thrones’ popularity) that he dominated a historically tough field. If the royal dunce cap can’t go to my favorite chinstrapped Italian son, it ought to go to an iconic character on the biggest show of this era. Plus: Joffrey thoroughly annoyed us here in the Ringer offices as he marched through the tournament. So perhaps this was a self-fulfilling bracket for the golden-haired nuisance.
Long live the annoying king. May his reign be as mercilessly short as his time on the Iron Throne.