Talented, but loathsome: The celebrities we love to hate

We may be jealous of their fame and riches, and we don't really detest anyone. But, honestly, brilliant or not, Ronaldo does irritate rather. Let us know who annoys you at the bottom of the page

Modern life is filled with moral dilemmas for which Aristotle just cannot prepare us. Whether to claim expenses for that bath plug? That moat? Is it wrong to steal your neighbour's wireless connection if your neighbour throws fox muck in your garden? And how can one justify loathing people with more talent than oneself? (You're just jealous, aren't you?)

This conundrum came to a head last week with the record £80m sale of Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Ronaldo, of course, is a great at football but knows it, and shows us he knows it. You know you want to hate him. The best most of us (apart from Man U fans, until last week, anyway) can manage is respect through gritted teeth.

There are many people like Ronaldo: infuriatingly talented while being hard to like. Admiration does not equal adoration. Models don't count, unless being thin is seen as a talent (and in a right-thinking world it is not). Which makes this an area unusually low on women. Are women we hate necessarily untalented? Are they talented in areas that make them cuddly and warm? Are we just grateful that they are not Kate Moss?

Hating people who are good at things is something we have to live with. We know if we met them, we'd probably be charmed, but until then, it remains fundamental to life itself. As the IoS Loathsome List shows, we need Cartesian principles to explain the dilemma: I hate, therefore I am.

Lady Gaga

The song-writing genius who came up with 'Poker Face' and made the lyrics 'wo – oh oh oh oh – oh' the catchiest electropop hook known to man appears to be sullen, arrogant and woefully underdressed. Let's face it, Wagner was probably no life and soul of the party either. But at least he wore trousers.

Jimmy Carr

Making jokes about other peoples' appearance is all very well, Mr Carr, but people who look like funny little ventriloquists' dummies with no necks shouldn't throw stones. Frustratingly, though, he is funnier than the unrelated Alan Carr, who is much the nicer person. There is no justice in the comedy world.

Jonathan Ross

Though his interview technique is the verbal equivalent of creeping up to pretty girls on the street and sticking his hand up their skirts, many people find Ross amusing. His £18m three-year deal – making him 'worth 1,000 BBC journalists' – is another source of friction – especially among BBC journalists.

Julie Burchill

Sharp writing notwithstanding, the newspaper columnist-turned-novelist does herself no favours by never having a nice thing to say about anyone. She largely gets away with it because, supposedly, her prejudices mirror those of her readers, but that doesn't make her any easier to love. Not that she cares.

Zadie Smith

The poor wunderkind author of 'White Teeth' is 'depressed by the cookie-cutter process of contemporary publishing', bored by literary superstardom and told the Orange Prize judges to 'kiss my behind'. If only she didn't write so well she wouldn't win all these awful prizes.

Russell Brand

Some men are charming, funny and dynamite in the sack; others laugh the ladies into bed. Brand must be a funny guy, judging by the procession of lovelies through his grubby sheets, some of whom he then exposes to ridicule on national radio. Chivalry isn't dead; it just needs a good wash.

Anna Wintour

The fur-championing high priestess of US fashion inspires admiration and terror in equal measure. You can't knock her influence, but how can you like someone who is said to hate fat people? How dare she tell Oprah Winfrey she'd never make US Vogue's cover unless she lost some weight?

Gordon Ramsay

Sure, the man can cook. If he can be bothered, that is. No, the crude-mouthed celebrity chef would far rather insult television presenters than actually whisk up your dinner. Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, surely spoke for many when he called Ramsay a 'new form of lowlife'. No one likes a bully, Gordon.

Simon Cowell

The kingpin of pop – on both sides of the Pond – is nobody's fool. Who would have thought talent shows could be so compelling? But there's straight talking and then there's just plain nasty. It's hard to forget the 'American Idol' auditionee who, mocked for her braces, later committed suicide.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The epitome of the loathsome genius, Ronaldo is a legend on the pitch and legendarily off-putting off it. Preening, arrogant, a serial dater of vacuous blondes and incapable of looking after a £200,000 Ferrari without trashing it. A man of whom it can only be said: it's a good job you're pretty.

Martin Amis

A novelist so exceptionally gifted that one suspects he has sold his soul at the crossroads, Amis is nonetheless a bit of a git as a human being. A former girl- friend recently detailed his frequent philandering in print, crediting him with a 'Byronic magnetism' that must just elude the camera's lens.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Although Gwynie and husband Chris Martin ought to appear together (because neither has enough personality to make up an entry on their own), they are devilishly successful. Perhaps an elaborate form of hypnotism is going on.

Mariah Carey

You can't argue with her fans: the pop star has had more US number ones than any other artist and globally has more than 200 million album sales under her designer belt. It's her legendary divaness that gets our goat. Plus, who with any smidgen of a conscience could possibly fly their dog by private jet?

Madonna

Turning up in New York with $35 and asking a cabbie to 'take me to the centre of everything': cool. Multiple reinventions and becoming the most powerful woman in pop: supercool. Using this power to divorce our boys, buy African babies and promote Kabala: so, so not cool, Madonna. A feminist icon gone rotten.

Cherie Booth

Another power couple in the clever-but-nasty category, Cherie and Tony Blair have undoubtedly used their fierce intelligence to get to the top. Ms Booth is a top QC, but has had difficulty arguing her way out of an embarrassing spot. Just like Millwall FC, no one likes them and they don't care.

Liam Gallagher

In his Oasis heyday, the obnoxious, foul-mouthed frontman was as famous for his fights as his music. To some he was a classic rock'n'roll star; to others a childish, arrogant lout who picked fights with anyone he didn't like the look of, from his brother, Noel, to fans who'd paid money to see him sing. Talented, sure, but is he likeable? No way.

And not to be exclusive... Completely loathsome but also talentless

Just in case you think it is unfair to pick on the talented just because they are loathsome, here is a list of people who are appalling without the redeeming quality of talent. Disagree or think there's someone worse?

Jack Tweed Jade Goody's husband won sympathy for his bride dying of cancer, but for their wedding he was out of prison on licence after attacking a 16-year-old with a golf club and had been accused of infidelity by Goody.

Peaches Geldof It's not what you know, but who you know. But even then, you're still meant to know something.

Blake Fielder-Civil What on earth Amy Winehouse ever saw in this trilby-sporting, justice perverting, bar-manager-beating hanger-on is one of life's great mysteries.

Amanda Holden She's the saucy voice of sympathy on Britain's Got Talent. But why Les Dennis's ex should sit in judgement of others, Simon Cowell alone knows.

Peter Andre Most of us would settle for a number one single and move on. Not Pete. His stint on I'm a Celebrity..., public marriage to Jordan and public split from Jordan has given him a new lease of life.

Kerry Katona Briefly a member of all-girl pop group Atomic Kitten, Ms Katona is now famous for, er, shopping at Iceland and falling apart in public.

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