Anti Role Model

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I'm Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time, and I don't care who gets hurt
I'm Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me

I'll live to be a hundred, and go down in infamy!
Warren Zevon

Similar to Strawman Political, except that the message delivered through this method is usually not of a political nature and is generally geared towards children and what the executives view as moronic viewers. It is used to dissuade children from smoking, get them to eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables while avoiding foods containing fat, cholesterol, sugar, and caffeine, or to convince them not to use drugs. Other Aesops may also be delivered through this method.

How it works is that the character who partakes in the undesirable behavior is portrayed as being rude, crude, possibly ugly, bullying, obnoxious, antisocial, stupid, foolish, misguided, shallow, arrogant, or any combination of these traits. For example, teens who use drugs might be portrayed as juvenile delinquents with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. These characters are almost always one-dimensional, with their portrayals accentuating the negative as much as possible. It's nearly impossible to identify with these characters even if you yourself partake in the undesirable behavior. Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, these juvenile delinquents and gang members might be shown wearing leather jackets, though this stereotype is no longer used since law abiding citizens are now allowed to wear leather jackets as well and it no longer carries the bad boy image that it once did.

The kids who avoid the undesirable behavior are portrayed as innocent, happy, cool, highly intelligent, full of life, and with a healthy level of self-esteem, always being nice and respectful toward each other and everyone else, and having a really good time playing by the rules.

Notice that this is somewhat of an overcorrection from some of the "Smoking Is Cool" advertising that presumably got the kids to think so in the first place. So you've got a fight between the "people who smoke are the epitome of cool" and the "people who smoke are the epitome of lame" sides. (Obviously holds true for any negative cause that had a P.R. campaign before the Media Watchdogs got up in arms about the issue.)

When your own government is presenting you with this character, it's almost always as a part of a Public Service Announcement. May overlap with Scare'Em Straight when the rule-breaking rebels are scary.

When Moral Guardians can't wrap their minds around even this Anvilicious method of delivery, you get But Not Too Evil.

Making the Anti Role Model too charismatic can have various unfortunate consequences.

Compare with Hitler Ate Sugar.

Contrast The Paragon.

Examples of Anti Role Model include:


  • Anti-smoking groups love this trope. In one ad, a teenage girl runs around her neighborhood, licking trash can lids, car tires, and everything else she can find around her, ending with the insinuation that given the chemicals in cigarettes, this is what smokers might as well be doing all the time. Then there was another campaign that would take images of teen smokers and digitally morph the images into monsters, including one where a young male smoker turns into a person with a fish head.
  • PSAs by anti-marijuana groups love to portray pot smokers as slovenly losers and borderline criminals who only want to sit on the couch all day and can't string together a coherent thought unless it involves sucking on a bong. One has to wonder how effective Scare'Em Straight tactics are when the movies of Judd Apatow and Cheech and Chong do the same thing.
    • Plus, there's the whole 'not as bad as those guys' attitude.


  • William Hogarth's moralizing topical paintings/engravings, like A Harlot's Progress. He sometimes did Goofus-and-Gallant style side-by-side comparisons (amusingly, Marriage a-la-mode, his critique of upper-class people who married for money, was supposed to be one of these, but he gave up on the counterpart depicting the lives of a sensible Happily Married couple because it was too boring).

Comic Books

  • Pretty much any non-Christian in Jack Chick's Author Tract comics. They tend to be at best stunningly ignorant ("Who's this 'Jesus' guy?"), and more often hate-crazed and hideous.
    • Chick has even carved out a niche-within-a-niche here: the "repulsive Catholic" (analyzed here, toward the end of the page).
    • This is exemplified by his piece "Somebody Goofed!", which depicts a "debate" between an elderly Christian fundamentalist, and a non-Christian, both fighting for the attention of one of Jack's typical ignorant and gullible non-Christians. Various strawmen are thrown, to the point that the non-Christian SHOVES THE OLD MAN DOWN FOR NO REASON. In the end, it turns out that the non-Christian was actually a demon in disguise.


  • Greyfriars has this in spades. Skinner, Snoop, and Stott happily smoke, gamble, visit pubs, lie, cheat, etc. Oddly enough, they're also poor fighters, terrible at sports, unfetchingly described, and disliked by most of the form. To make it even more shameless, while Vernon-Smith was much the same in his early appearances, his redemption came in hand with an increase in wit, strength, and sporting prowess.
  • Plutarch wrote Parallel Lives, a series of biographies about famous ancient leaders arranged in tandem to educate his readers about morality. When he wrote about Demetrius and Mark Antony, he explained: "I think, we also shall be more eager to observe and imitate the better lives if we are not left without narratives of the blameworthy and the bad."
  • One Geronimo Stilton book has two treasure hunters who are introduced singing a song about how horrible they are, "We lie, we cheat, we steal, and we don't do what we're told!", and then, just in case you didn't get that they're bad guys, they talk about how quickly they'd kill anybody who was overhearing them sing this.
  • A lot of Christian fiction, such as the Left Behind series, depicts non-Christians as unattractive, shallow, or stupid as well as not believing in the right God.

Live Action TV

  • Cookie Monster from Sesame Street used to be a mild case of this—mild enough to still be endearing in his own way, but they decided that cookies were a sometimes food. Despite what you might think though, he was less often one for poor diet as he was for being gluttonous. He probably wouldn't be a good one for diet, because that would require him to actually become less healthy, otherwise the lesson would be lost.
    • There's a chapter from Family Guy, though, where this trope is mixed with I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: One scene shows the Cookie Monster hiding in a bathroom stall, heating cookie dough in a spoon as if it were heroin.
      • This, in fact, is acknowledged in his recent cameo on, of all shows, The Colbert Report, where he notes, "Me have crazy times in seventies and eighties! Me am like, the Robert Downey Jr. of cookies!"
    • Cookie Monster isn't the only Sesame Street example, of course. Oscar's grouchiness is, of course, meant to be a counter-example to children. And early on, Telly Monster wasn't the worry wart he is today; his name is short for "Television Monster", and he was addicted to TV. The Irony was apparently enough to have him changed.
    • There's also Grover. He lousiest waiter around and torments that poor Mr. Johnson.
  • Robbie Rotten from LazyTown is the exact opposite of everything Sportacus teaches the kids to be. He's lazy, unhealthy, and generally unpleasant to be around.
    • And to an extent, everyone else in the town (excluding Stephanie and Sportacus).
  • Mr. Bungle, the Anvilicious ghost character in a series of shorts whom the children try to avoid emulating. Like Goofus and Gallant, the character has a cult following with clips shown on Pee-wee's Playhouse and Mystery Science Theater 3000 . The name was also used for an experimental band headed by Mike Patton.



  • In Eminem's rap song "Role Model", he lists off the stupid and destructive things he does in his life, and asks the children listening "Don't you want to grow up to be just like me?"
  • Take your pick of an unwashed manipulative Satanist, a complete idiot who's addicted to painkillers, a chronic overeater who is currently larger than a whale, or a Japanese guitarist who's been to hell and back recently. Those, dear Tropers, are your choices for role models in Gorillaz. Choose wisely.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • The villains of Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
  • Roger on Nickelodeon's Doug was often used for this purpose, though less so in the Disney version.
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV", where Bender acts like himself on a TV show. Bender is an anti-role model (since he has no redeeming qualities) whom young viewers treat as a role model. At one point on the show, he says, "Try this at home, kids!" (while a brief disclaimer flashes across the bottom of the screen saying not to try it at home), and then he sets himself on fire. Later in the episode, he protests his own presence on TV and the blame placed upon him. Note that the proverbial last straw for Bender here is that the children who emulated his behavior stole his stuff.
    • Leela becomes an in-universe example in the episode "A Leela of Her Own", where she becames the first female ever to play major league Blernsball. She plays horribly (due to having one eye, and thus bad depth perception) but the New New York Mets signs her up, because she's so bad that people find it entertaining. At the end, Jackie Anderson, the first good female player, tells her that she was an inspiration, because she was "so awful that women everywhere set out to prove they don't stink as bad as you."
  • Beavis and Butthead. Unusual, as they're the leads.
  • Captain K'nuckles from The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack defines this trope. Justified due to him having a rough childhood (both hands cut off when a teenager, his father dying in the sewers when he was but a lad).
  • When Roy of Garfield and Friends seeks alternative employment, he gains it in the form of playing Big Bad Buddy Bird, the Anti-Role Model of The Buddy Bears. One episode's lesson is (very nearly literally) Anvilicious, even though the behaviors they were trying to encourage are good; in the other lesson, however, the lesson is on such evils as ordering a different flavor of ice cream from your friends.
  • Bravestarr had Outlaw Skuzz, a cigar-smoking alien comedy relief who would get flak from his fellow villains due to his habit. On one occasion, the guest villain of the week actually said something along the line of, "I may be evil, but even I'm not stupid enough to smoke!"
  • Drinky Crow fits this pretty well, although Uncle Gabby makes even him look good.
  • South Park's Eric Cartman.
  • Eric Tiberius Duckman.
  • The villains of The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog in the Sonic Sez segments.