Hattie Durham: Provocative woman who deserved her fate? Or sympathetic victim?
Irene Steele: Loving, caring Christian who only wants the best for her family? Or selfish, self-righteous fanatic who gets antsy when people don't believe in what she believes?
The Other Light members: Deluded fools who want Satan to defeat God, helpless pawns of fate since they are prophesied to do that (and lose), or heroic freedom fighters?
Angst? What Angst?: You'd think that the complete eradication of all kids under the age of ten would at the very least be a bit depressing, but people seem to take it in stride. Given how much disruption this would have on the global population, this approaches Cosy Catastrophe levels.
Critic-Proof: While the series has received mixed to mediocre reviews at best in the mainstream media, it is also extremely successful commercially, with some 80 million copies sold as of the author's death in 2016 and all of the books still in print.
Cry for the Devil: Lucifer-Satan can invoke this reaction from some readers, depending on how much of an Unreliable Expositor one reads him as. (It's he who tells his own story, after all, and he is famously the Father of Lies. But most of what he says here agrees with traditional Christian theology, so those bits at least are probably meant to be taken as true.) As it goes, his rebellion against God was a revolt against God's decree that the angels should be a Servant Race for humanity for all eternity. Lucifer thought the angels should be free, and that even God had no right to force servitude on them — and that made him question the legitimacy of God's entire order of things. While he gets plenty of Kick the Dog moments throughout the series (Tim LaHaye probably didn't want to risk repeating Milton's mistake of accidentally writing him as too sympathetic), his backstory and motives can tend to make him at least somewhat tragic.
Lucifer-Satan: He said he had created humans in his own image and that we were to serve them. Had I been there first, I could have told him that I had created him, and that it was he who would serve me by ministering to my other creations. (...) He called himself the creator God, the originator of life. He took the favored position. He demanded that the whole universe worship and obey him. I had the audacity to ask why.
Buck and Rayford. Most of their behaviour goes beyond even the standards of a Sociopathic Hero. Even when they're not being violent, holier-than-thou jerks, they are utterly failing to accomplish anything heroic - even when they both have cushy jobs working for Carpathia, i.e. the ideal position to sabotage his whole operation. When the literal Antichrist both offers them jobs, they immediately take him up on his offer because, uh... it was God's will that they do so? Sure, they probably both assumed that Carpathia would promptly have them executed if they said no, but then again, this is obviously a sign of resisting temptation at incredible odds, and both of them know for a fact that God is real and they will at the very least go to Heaven for being His faithful servants. The only reason that the forces of good win in the end is because the resolution is preordained. Buck and Rayford ultimately contribute nothing to the Lord's Victory beyond mildly annoying Carpathia a few times when they're in a position to do serious damage to him. One could argue they're supposed to be newly-converted Antiheroes, but this doesn't hold up since they never do anything for anybody.
Jesus himself. After all, everything that is happening to the Earth during the Rapture and the Tribulation is directly caused by him opening up seals in Heaven, everything including the rise of the Antichrist.
Ending Fatigue: The last several books of the Left Behind series suffer from this problem. After the Antichrist comes back from the dead, kills people with fiery pillars from the sky, and desecrates the Temple in Jerusalem, there just isn't anything more evil for him to do. And that's Book Eight of a 13-book series (not counting the three prequels). It doesn't help that anyone who will read that particular series through Book Eight already knows the ending (spoiler: Satan loses) and is just slogging along to see exactly how they're going to get there.
Ensemble Dark Horse: A unique case: Outside of the target audience, any character with a significant fanbase arguably stands out.
T. Mark Delanty from books 5/6/7 is also notable for two reasons. One, he called Rayford out on being a total jerkass and got the man to admit he was wrong. Two, he's one of the few people in the books who actually comes off as genuinely good.
Jonathan Stonagal, a supporting antagonist who doesn't survive the first book, is surprisingly widely regarded as having had a great deal of wasted potential. It doesn't hurt that in the film adaptation, his character is actually played up something fierce, to the point that he comes off as a serious contender for the "Antichrist" position.
Loretta, the only person at the church seen to get things done while Bruce the pastor builds a hole in the ground to hide in with only his "inner circle."
Cendrillon Jospin. For a Posthumous Character who only exists as an example of a good person who goes to Hell anyway due to not being a believer, she sure shows up a lot in fanfics.
First Installment Wins: The first book is the best-selling and most famous, as well as the one the whole series ended up being named after.
Ho Yay: Given what branch of Christianity is responsible for this series, we are talking very, very unintentional. The proliferation of names like Steele, Buck, and Plank doesn't help.
Just Here for Godzilla: Epic demon armies and plagues wracking the Earth? Skip to those and ignore the unsympathetic characters.
Mary Suetopia: Jesus Christ's Millennial Reign in Kingdom Come is a utopia for "naturals" as long as they obey God's laws. They have all the amenities of the technological world (Sort of: the book was written in 2007, but with a few exceptions the tech level is firmly stuck in the mid-90s, when the series began), have eternal life, perpetual sunshine, no war or violence. Even non-believers can live for a hundred years in perfect health.
Misaimed Fandom: One common complaint against the Left Behind series by secularists is that the bloody divine judgments against the evil atheists (which, to be fair, are taken straight from the Bible) can be read as a sort of revenge fantasy on the part of Christians for alleged or real oppression by the atheists in real life. In fact, according to the authors, some readers do seem to read it that way. However, they go on to say that this is a misunderstanding of what they are trying to present. To them, it's an immense tragedy when untold millions of people are smitten or condemned to Hell, and we are supposed to consider their fates with charity and empathy. In an interview, co-author Jerry Jenkins says it "should break our hearts" when people misread his and LaHaye's books that way.
Moral Event Horizon: Nicolae crosses this when he was still a child by conspiring with Viv Ivins to kill his mother. Although to the rest of the world, this crossing the horizon happens when Nicolae Carpathia desecrates the Jewish Temple and demands total worship of himself at all times.
Quite a bit of it, but Carpathia's speech to the U.N. stands out, considering it's essentially a 4th grader's class report on what the U.N. is, followed by an alphabetical list of the nations that are members. One possible interpretation is that this is an Intended Audience Reaction, to emphasize his supernatural ability to win people over. He could read the entire contents of a telephone book to the assembled people of the U.N. and they would still be falling on their faces for him. Problem is, if that's the case then it still fails since you get the impression that the authors intended the speech to be good.
You know it's bad when one of the people in the comments section is able to write a more convincing version off the top of their head (written by one Calum Cameron).note Carpathia becomes more and more addicted to the fact that even when just reciting country names, people are cheering and applauding, and his control makes him feel like a god.
People are raptured without their clothes — thus, the raptured leave behind piles of empty clothing. So the first sign of the end of the world was a field of underpants.
In the Book of Revelation, the Two Witnesses are said to destroy any who threaten them with fire from their mouths. When they show up in this series, people who threaten them... collapse dead from heart attacks. The antifans have taken to calling them "the Trip-and-Fall Guys".
The first book features a pretty genuinely scary moment where a pregnant woman having an ultrasound together with her husband see their baby disappear from her womb. The scene could have left it there and wound up with some decent Adult FearNightmare Fuel — but the wind completely goes out of it when the wife immediately afterwards proceeds to tell her husband she's divorcing him.
The handshake in the second film. There's a strange shrieking sound, coupled with CGI seeming to pinch at Carpathia's lower cheeks, and coloring his eyes straight black. All it amounts to is a jump scare with a red-tinted negative effect, and some sloppy editing that looks jarringly out of place.
Newer Than They Think: The doctrine of the Rapture as presented in the series really only came into being 2 centuries ago at most.
The description of the final fate of Carpathia and Fortunato after 1,000 years in the Lake of Fire (writhing in torment in fire and brimstone and continuously crying "Jesus is Lord" over and over) with the understanding that they will spend eternity like that, not to mention all the unbelievers who are doomed to join them.
When Steele had a handshake with Carpathia. You don't want to see the latter's face.
Padding: For those with Bile Fascination looking for a cheesy book to enjoy, they're usually shocked at how much nothing goes on, especially some of the middle books.
Periphery Demographic: Many — if not most — of the books' readers were just mainstream agnostic Americans looking for a good supernatural thriller, like The Stand or The Langoliers. The first book even has a very similar setup to The Langoliers, where people on an airplane awakening to find many passengers missing. Furthermore, according to the research the publisher, Tyndale House, carried out to identify their target audience, the books were actually more popular with Jews, atheists and agnostics than mainline Protestants.
The Scrappy: While it's arguable that many if not all the characters are this, the absolute hated character appears in the first book. He's a medical doctor who helps Buck mend his wounds since he's bored and has nothing to do. He says this while he's at an airport that's filled with burning wreckage and suffering victims.
Spiritual Adaptation: Avengers: Endgame, of all things, comes across as a surprisingly close adaptation of the series, and it's certainly better than any of the actual movie adaptations, if nothing else because it actually explores what it would be like to live in a world where literally half the population disappeared overnight - the only difference being that in Endgame, it's the villain and not the hero who was responsible for the sudden population loss. The movie even has a similar ending to the last book: after bringing all the slain heroes back from the dead, a bearded, self-sacricifing hero character wipes out the enemy's entire army in a single move.
This is a problem with the series of books, as noted in the Slacktivist blog deconstructing it. The main heroes are such jerks that many of the people with whom they argue come off looking much better by comparison. For example, in the first chapter, a drunk Texan wakes up and sees the carnage wrought by the Rapture (plane crashes, etc). He is mocked as a silly drunk by the narrators, but he is the only one to express any sort of horror at the proceedings. In the next book, we are clearly supposed to cheer for the alleged hero as he is insubordinate to his boss — whose main crime seems to be being a woman who does not fawn over him and expects him to do his job.
Verna Zee is constantly presented as a no-fun, uppity woman who thinks Buck is a pompous Jerkass. And she's right.
The "heroes" are supposed to be callous to the suffering at this point, as they have not been "saved" and are still unrepentant sinners. The problem is, even after they are saved and supposedly become model Christians, they still consider others' suffering to be a minor inconvenience. The only notes of genuine regret or contrition come from the supposedly un-saved.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Done right, a story set during a Rapture-like event could have been quite potent character-driven Religious Horror, if the plot, the premise, and its implications were well-thought-out and the characters were sympathetic; see The Rapture for one example. Unfortunately, none of that is the case. Examples of Fix Fic, both intentional and not, include:
The blog "Right Behind" takes some of the lingering queries about the world of Left Behind and explores the implications of the setting to their logical conclusion.
The HBO series The Leftovers also begins with a sizable population of Earth spontaneously disappearing. The series won critical acclaim for realistically delving into the ways society would try to cope with the trauma such an event would cause.
A 4Chan quest appropriately titled Left Beyond, which takes the last 100 years of the Millennial Kingdom and attempts to build a scenario in which The Other Light fight back through Awesomeness by Analysis - given the significant time span, what starts off as a semi-realistic scenario ends with a Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot or two.
As the Spiritual Adaptation entry shows, Avengers: Endgame not only fairly closely follows the plot, but does an infinitely better job of showing the consequences of a large percentage of the population vanishing (especially the emotional reactions of the people who don't vanish, which is particularly noteworthy considering it takes place in a superhero action movie).
The fact that thanks to massive Values Dissonance, God and Satan Are Both Jerks, and like their minions have nearly the exact same goals: Nicolae wants to kill everyone who doesn't worship him, as does Jesus. Nicolae wants to take over the world and establish a one-world religion comprising people who worship him. Jesus also wants this (and gets this in the 13th book in the series, Kingdom Come). The only difference between the two is power-levels, and it is a massive difference. Jesus is really powerful, while Nicolae is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. Rather than choosing Jesus out of moral conviction, it seems quite likely that anybody who joins the "good" side after the Rapture is simply joining the side that cannot lose, which is hardly proof of virtue.
Verna Zee is intended as something of a Butt-Monkey, a shrieking harpy who dislikes Buck whom Buck in turn stands up to and puts her in her place. However, given Buck's opinion of himself and Verna's motivation seeming to simply get him to do his job, Buck's treatment of her can seem rather unjustified and awful.
Carpathia himself to a degree, despite being the Big Bad and the Antichrist. Early in the story he comes across as, at worst, a Well-Intentioned Extremist with emphasis on the "Well Intentioned". A lot of the main cast do a lot of judging of him internally, but given that the judgement has more to do with who he is than with the actions he takes, it can come across as unfair. Even when he's been established as possessing vast amounts of power and evil, we rarely see him succeed at anything at least not without cost. Add to the fact, that at least once in every book we get a scene where the heroes get to play petty pranks on him without repercussions; like when he's desecrating the temple and about to give his big speech to the world that he is god, they just hack his camera and turn off the audio to humiliate him. Or when New Babylon is plunged into darkness, Rayford amuses himself by staying out of sight and taunting Carpathia from the darkness. Newly resurrected and fully possessed by Satan, and David is allowed to vomit on him without being torn apart by Nicolae's followers. Even God gets in on the act, and causes all the GC planes to collapse in a horrific pile when they are giving an airshow in his honor.
Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Irene Steele. '"Can you imagine, Rafe," she exulted. "Jesus coming back to get us before we die?"' She says this knowing that Rayford isn't all that religious a person. It's supposed to show how good a Christian she is, but it just makes her seem like she's trying to show off her faith to feel better than people who don't believe. She seems like the kind of person who says grace in a really loud tone of voice whenever she's at a restaurant just so she can feel superior to the other people there, who either don't say grace at all or do it in a reasonable tone of voice (or even say it silently). When Chloe is planning to go off to college on a scholarship and Irene is adamant that she stay and go to church with her (to the point of threatening to have Ray force Chloe into the car to go,) this is supposed to be a demonstration of Irene's care for her daughter and Chloe's ungratefulness. It comes across as Irene having no respect for her daughter's intelligence and growing independence.
Values Dissonance: The books are written with a particular religious demographic in mind as their intended readership. It has a very particular set of values, which are not necessarily widely shared outside of it. Even within American evangelical Christianity it's far from mainstream.
And then there's everything dealing with Israel and the Jews. The bits that make sense are all kinds of horrible.
Our hero Buck blackmails a woman with the threat of outing her as a lesbian if she reveals certain information that she has, and that she legitimately feels the public has the right to know. His wife Chloe, who used to be a realistic, fairly nice woman before she was 'saved', laughs about the blackmail. The scene plays out exactly like the opening to a standard smear campaign to harass a woman out of her position: Buck brings up, out of nowhere, "Well, what if I go around telling everyone you're a lesbian? How will you like that?" It's not even clear initially that she is a lesbian, since her response is simply to panic at the idea he's going to start spreading the rumor (not that this stops him from taking this as "proof"). Later Buck takes over her office and, when she comes in to demand to know what he's doing, he attempts to kick the door into her face. These are all treated as great heroic actions in the books, and also totally hilarious, even more than blackmailing her.
The blackmail plotline itself reveals even more Values Dissonance between the writers and a large chunk of contemporary society, namely that blackmailing someone about being a lesbian would even work. Even in the mid-1990s, when the series started publishing, most professionals could live openly gay without fear of damaging their careers. A journalist in Boston (which is largely liberal) would almost certainly have nothing to fear. This is even more true in modern times. Today, trying to maliciously out one's superior would ruin your career.
Rayford seems to consider himself a hero for refusing to ride on a bus from his plane to O'Hare Terminal, even though this requires him to walk around plane wrecks and ignore the dead and wounded inside.
Buck discovers an International Conspiracy after it murders his close friend, and then runs right to the head of that conspiracy and trades silence for his life. In reality, brave journalists risk their own lives to expose much smaller crimes and conspiracies. Also in reality, the head of such conspiracies don't take kindly to people trying to play them, and would more likely shoot him AND get his silence just so that they don't have to worry about him asking for more. This one is actually somewhat acknowledged in the second book; Carpathia realized that Buck was such a corrupt pushover that all it would take to get the famous journalist working for him directly (and helping legitimize his lies) was to ask nicely.
The Woobie: Krystall, Nicolae's secretary. She comes across as a nice and kind young woman, who used to believe in Nicolae but became disillusioned with his regime when she saw up close how evil it was. So even though she isn't a Christian, and is suffering and scared in the Judgment of Darkness, she still risks her own life to help Rayford and the others, and in fact ends up killed by the regime because of this. However, since Krystall had already accepted the Mark of the Beast before, she is still damned to Hell nonetheless no matter what she does. She sounds rather pitiable when she talks about this with Rayford.
Krystall: So the statute of limitations ran out on me when I made the big choice.
Rayford: Well, then for sure. Maybe even before that. Who knows the mind of God?
Krystall: I'm starting to, sir.
Rayford: How's that?
Krystall: This hurts. It hurts worse than the pain from the darkness. Just learned it too late, I guess, that you don't mess with God.