Designated Hero

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"Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!"
"You are a horrible role model to children!"

A Designated Hero is a character in a story who, despite being presented as heroic, is actually a Jerkass at best and an arguable villain at worst. This is not the same as the deliberately morally ambiguous Anti-Hero. From the praise they receive from other characters and the narrative, it is plain that the audience is expected to like and root for the Designated Hero; instead, they have problems that can even inspire pity or, on rare occasion, sympathy.

They are often mean people with no redeeming qualities aside from some superficial virtues, and they do not undergo appreciable character development. They're generally given a pass by the writers, freeing them from the consequences of their acts.

An extremely common plot associated with this character is their riding the coattails of a misunderstanding or undeserved reward until they finally feel guilty about it—and are allowed to keep it at the end anyway. In so-called 'guy movies', this is sometimes associated with an implausibly attractive woman inexplicably respecting that he came forward with this information and allowing it to wipe away all fault for what he originally did, despite the fact that most reasonable human beings would never want to see him again. But hey, he learned to be a Nice Guy, right?

Note that Values Dissonance can sometimes be a factor with this trope since the exact definition of what constitutes heroism has changed over time; a character that comes across as a Designated Hero to a modern audience might well have been The Paragon when the story was written in Feudal Japan or Ancient Rome.

On the flip side, there's the Designated Villain, who we're supposed to jeer despite the fact that he's pretty much right about everything. This is often because everything he says is accompanied by an annoying smirk. Another inversion would be the Villain Protagonist, who, while presented as the protagonist, is in no way presented as a hero; rather the opposite. (Ironically, a failed attempt at writing a Villain Protagonist can come off as a Designated Hero, if their wholesome charms are played up and their malevolent intentions are obfuscated.) In comedy works, this trope can be a result of Comedic Sociopathy meeting a Dude, Not Funny reaction.

Not to be confused with The Chosen One, though they can occasionally overlap. Also not to be confused with Supporting Protagonist, which is when the story just focuses on a character other than the hero. Pinball Protagonist is for when a character doesn't do much that's "heroic" by dint of the fact that they just don't do much of anything important. Accidental Heroes do accomplish heroic things, but not intentionally. If the character is publicly perceived as a Hero, but is still shown to be villainous within the narrative context of the work, then he's a Villain with Good Publicity. For a character who is an utter Jerkass, but still ultimately heroic, see Good Is Not Nice. For a morally ambiguous character who is intended to be seen as such by the audience, see Anti-Hero and its related subtropes. Can also be related to Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, where a character who seems like a nice person turns out to be a mean person deep down. For a protagonist who fans consider to be less dynamic than the supporting characters but isn't morally ambiguous, see Designated Protagonist Syndrome.

Subtrope of Show, Don't Tell. For something similar on a larger scale, see Rooting for the Empire. Often, but not always, overlaps with Nominal Hero.

Examples of Designated Hero include:


Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Miller Lite beer commercials have a guy enjoying time with his girlfriend; he mentions it's been 30 days and he thinks he's found something special. Just when we think he's talking about his girlfriend, he opens up his refrigerator and reveals the Miller Lite home draft. He even moves her out of the way. (This is a parody of the E-Harmony dating service commercials.)
  • The kids of "Trix are for kids" advertising campaign love to torment that poor rabbit with the fact that he will never ever get to eat the damn cereal. By far the most Egregious example was when the rabbit legitimately purchased some Trix with his own money, only for the kids to take it away when he left the store, essentially mugging him. Nobody points out the sadistic glee the kids seem to take in excluding and denying the rabbit over and over.
    • Both times the Trix rabbit scores some Trix was due to two separate popular votes overwhelmingly supportive of his goal to get the sugary cereal. By that point, even kids were like "just give him the damn cereal you insensitive jerk-offs".
    • This made sense in the early commercials (1950s-60s), where the rabbit was actually trying to steal the Trix from the children. Later commercials lost this, probably as a result of But Not Too Evil.
      • It's gotten to the point where if the Trix Rabbit even DREAMS of enjoying Trix products, the kids come along and steal them away.
  • Much like the kids with the Trix rabbit, we got the kids from the Lucky Charms commercials, who will incessantly hound and chase after Lucky the Leprechaun to take his cereal. It's not as bad as the Trix example since Lucky is clearly toying with them.
  • In some of the commercials for Golden Crisp, mascot Sugar Bear came across as this. He was always pursuing Witch Granny (or whatever her name was) to steal her cereal instead of getting his own, even though she never did anything to him except try to hide from him so she could finish her cereal, and share it with him during the Christmas season.
    • There were numerous Golden Crisp throughout the 90s where the Sugar Crisp bear would actively steal the cereal. One would have him break in the factory at night and rush off with its entire contents, another would have him hijack a delivery truck full of the stuff, all the while singing off his "Can't get enough of that Sugar Crisp" slogan, coming off much more as a Smug Snake addict than anything worth sympathy.
  • Like the above examples, we have Barney, who would constantly come up with scatterbrained schemes, just so he could steal Fred's Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles, instead of buying his own. Some of the earlier commercials even had him break the fourth wall, winking at the audience while bragging how he'd trick Fred and steal his cereal, as though the audience is supposed to find this funny and charming.
  • You know those "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" commercials with the dorky lovable PC and stuck-up Mac? Rumors abound that we are actually supposed to prefer Mac Guy.
    • The ads also cover Straw Man Has a Point. But it's hard to root for a designated hero that completely overlooks the variety of the opposition.
  • The Alltel Wireless commercials have a similar problem. We're supposed to like Chad, even when he doesn't lift a finger to stop his supporters from doing terrible things to the avatars of the other companies. Besides that, Chad adopts a Holier Than Thou personality to humiliate the other guys.
  • The douchebag lies and gets the girl in the Twix "Take Your Time" commercials.
    • One of the newer commercials features a guy staring at a bunch of "hot" women fooling around in the street. The guy's wife, with their presumably newborn daughter, yells at him, and asks what he's doing. The "Need a Moment?" logo comes up, the guy eats one of the bars. He says, "I'm justing looking at... potential babysitters!" The wife then KISSES his cheek, saying, "You are SO sweet!". What?
    • Another has a girl finding the name Terry on her boyfriend's cell phone. After the Twix Time Freeze thing happens, he casually claims that Terry is his boss. The commercial doesn't say that cheating is okay, but doesn't say anything about it being wrong in any way, either.
      • This is only really present in the newer commercials. In the earlier commercials, the guy would just absentmindedly say something stupid or insensitive and then take the moment of eating a Twix to come up with a less offensive explanation or to rephrase what he said into something OK. The later commercials seem to be the higher-ups trying to figure out how far they can push the guy's dickishness without the viewers hating them. They failed.
  • Aussie Haircare has a series of ads where a Funny Animal kangaroo is going about their business when Aussie products fall out of their pouch. Women nearby use them to get better hair. At no point does the 'roo ever get anything more substantial than a "thanks". This includes the meter maid who got the stuff when the 'roo was trying to get more change out to put in a parking meter about to expire. Yes, she basically stole her stuff and still gave her the ticket.
  • Esurance has Frank The Saver, who spends all his screentime bragging about how great he is at saving people money and doing his best to undermine and downplay his coworkers' efforts. After all, who wouldn't want to buy their insurance from somebody who only sees their accounts as another feather in his cap and another reason to rub his success in everyone else's face?
  • The Ad Council is guilty of this. In one commercial, a dentist is going around a store humiliating people who are thinking of buying soda. He then attempts to Scare'Em Straight by showing pictures of one soda users teeth. The message may be clear, but the dentist is treated as the hero, despite his borderline harassment of shoppers.
  • A recent Skittles commercial has one guy eating Skittles from an hourglass that represents his friend's lifetime. The friend comes in as an old man and as he continues to age before the guy's eyes, the guy continues to eat the Skittles. Apparently we're supposed to laugh as the guy is so addicted to candy he's dooming his friend to an early grave.
  • Some of the worst offenders in commercials on the Cracked article 6 Ad Campaigns That Prove Humanity Is Doomed.
  • Some of the latest Hanes commercials has a fan harass Michael Jordan while cruelly insulting another passenger on their plane for his "bacon neck" (basically, a wrinkled collar on his undershirt). The fan is completely insufferable, though Michael Jordan himself regards him vague bemusement, so at least he comes out of this relatively clean (despite the inexplicable Hitler mustache he wears for it).
  • According to their ad campaign, anyone with AT&T's 4G is entitled to act like a total Jerkass to anyone who DARES try to tell them the latest news: "That's SO Xsty seconds ago!" Not that these people ever see fit to share the information when they learn it first; no, it's just an excuse to degrade and insult the 'uninformed masses'.


Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Deconstructed in Fate/Zero. Mages can use Summoning Magic to call heroes from across time and space, so that both can contract together in order to win a tournament and have their greatest wishes granted. The servants' reasons for fighting in the war are perfectly natural judged by the standards of their time. Transplanted into the modern world they are seen at best as naively peculiar and at worst as dangerously sociopathic. Not every team survives the contradiction.
  • Inuyasha can be considered this at beginning of the series. He whines about having to help other people, used Kagome as a bloodhound for the Shikon Jewel for his own selfish purposes, makes his debut by blowing up a shrine to retrieve said jewel.
  • The Hidden Elf Village in Fafner in The Azure Dead Aggressor is absolutely horrendous at first, refusing to help the rest of the world against the Cosmic Horror befalling it, as well as maintaining a Masquerade to fool their own children into not realizing The End Of The World had happened to the outside world. They then pick one of these children to be Humongous Mecha pilots, and aren't sympathetic when they don't react well. Halfway through the series it seemed the writers realized that the viewers were more sympathetic to the Designated Villain, the U.N.-backed "Human Army." Steps were taken to make sure that the audience knew who was "right" and who was "wrong".
  • There really is little quantitative difference between the cops and the crooks in Dominion Tank Police. Both prefer to drive large, destructive vehicles, and both cause massive amounts of collateral damage to life and property; one side merely has the advantage of legal sanction for their acts, while the other's motives are purely mercenary. This is most clearly lampshaded in the sequel series, wherein Anna and Uni are allowed to make a Heel Face Turn without the least change to their personalities; they've reformed because they're tired of being chased by the police and have realized that being cops would allow them to continue blowing stuff up, but also provide a steady source of income.
    • In the first Dominion Tank Police, there is an exchange between squad leader Brenten and Lovelock that illustrates this mentality perfectly. Brenten, probably the next most gung-ho member of the squad besides Leona, and most definitely a dyed in the wool veteran of the squad, suggests to Lovelock that they should quit the force right then, and go off and become criminals, for the action, the money, and the lack of regulations that plague them as Tank Police. From the tone of voice, it's clear that he's saying this in a half joking, half not manner, suggesting that if Lovelock had agreed to this, they would have actually left for a life of crime right then. When Lovelock declines, Brenten immediately recants everything he said, and nothing more is ever said of it again.
  • The title character from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water also qualifies. She's moody, distrustful, bad-tempered, and suspicious about everything. But she's also a Not Good with People sort of person who has never socialized with anyone before except animals. As such, she is unable to recognize how she feels about anyone. As a result of Jean's love, however, she is gradually transformed by the end of the show and even uses the Blue Water's power to resurrect the latter when he is killed by Gargoyle.
  • Fushigi Yuugi's Mayo Sakaki. A Clingy Jealous Girl inflicted with some of the most severe Moral Myopia ever, and walking factory of Kick the Dog and Shoot the Dog moments. Becomes a Karma Houdini because the writer expects us to sympathize with her, despite everything she pulls, and is even thanked by the people she spent all of Eikouden mind controlling or trying to kill. She'd be a Villain Protagonist except that the author insists she's just an ordinary, lovesick girl who didn't understand the circumstances she was in.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 gives us Celestial Being who, in the first season, were essentially unusually well-armed private army who tried to beat the rest of the world into submission on the orders from an Omniscient Council of Vagueness (which was later quietly forgotten). They only targeted military facilities and units, however. In the second season, authors turned the Big Bad into a Stupid Evil Card-Carrying Villain, just so that Celestial Being will appear to be anything short of outright villains.
    • Celestial Being achieved Aeolia Schenberg's plan about bringing the nations of the world together but their priority shifted in between seasons. If you never saw their season one intentions as worthwhile, it made them look like they were trying to redeem their mistakes despite their success, a theme touched on by Setsuna especially. If you did believe in their original ideals, season two merely involves them attempting to remove what they perceived a corrupting influence within their own organization, a kind of extension of the first season's problem.
  • Coyote Ragtime Show has "Mister" and his team, who are the protagonists of the show, even though they are depicted as terrible people who unscrupulously kill innocents or get them killed through their mindlessly violent antics. Many viewers thought that the makers should have focused on Angelica and her assistant Chelsea, since they are much more likable and heroic.
  • Gokudo plays with this. From the beginning, the title character is an unlikable ass who uses anything thrown his way to cheat and steal, but everyone always tells him he's the hero of the land. After the first few episodes, he's tricked into killing the Big Bad. Eventually, he uses his Genie to stop being the Designated Hero and sends the world back In Harm's Way because he finds the happy evilless world exceptionally boring.
  • To hear the other characters of Yu-Gi-Oh GX tell it, Judai Yuki is a brave and noble duelist without peer, whose charisma and presence inspires those around him to be better people. To actually see him, he is a lazy and unmotivated boy, with most of his great victories either being the product of some brand new card that will never see play again,or the opponent forgoing a winning move for no apparent reason. This becomes obvious in season 2, where despite knowing who the Big Bad is, where he is, what his villainous scheme is, how to stop him, and that it is cosmically ordained destiny to do so, he waits until very nearly the end of the season to actively go after him.
    • Well, when you put it that way, it is no wonder he pulled a Face Heel Turn in season 3, and then had to face the consequences of that in both season 3 and season 4.
  • The protagonists from Dragon Pink. The only good character is a put-upon Catgirl Sex Slave.
    • In one scene they encounter a group of "Slave Knights", skeleton warriors who defend themselves by keeping a naked girl hostage in their torso as a human shield. The protagonists say "Sorry!" and slash right through one of them, including the hostage. It really says something when the monster is shocked by their callous behavior.
      • Of course, it is exactly this callousness, selfishness, and sociopathy that makes them the most accurate representation of a party of Dungeons & Dragons "heroes" ever.
  • While many many Soul Reapers in Bleach are what can generously be called Jerkasses of varying degrees, there aren't actually that many who are Designated Heroes, as they are more protagonists than heroes.
  • Dark Schneider of Bastard!!. What's more, he knows that he's the designated hero.
  • Domon Kasshu of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, at least the first half of the series. Up until he obtains enlightenment and masters Meikyou Shisui, Domon's a bitter and angry man, constantly on a quest of vengeance against his brother. He always asks people where his brother was and isn't against getting rough on them. He would go so far as to interrupt a fight between Rose Gundam and a Gundam from Neo-Cuba, taking out the latter just to find his brother.
  • It's arguable that Goku is a bit of this trope. The audience watches him grow up, from the innocent pre-teen to the lovable hero, it's easy to not notice his questionable actions - Goku's decisions could result in anything from; hurting the feelings of his loved ones, to bringing about the end of the world as nothing gets in the way of his fun by; facing off against super powered, evil villains who often are stronger then he is would be admirable, if he wasn't so keen on purposely giving them time and opportunities to prepare and power-up further, simply so he knows he has beaten them at their best. Remember, said evil villain are bent on taking over or destroying the world and Goku is the one everyone is relying on to save the day.
    • And, of course, there's the fight with Cell, where Goku purposefully gave a slightly weakened Cell the means to completely replenish his strength and energy, and then made his own son fight him.
      • Those actions wasn't presented as entirely positive. On one hand, Goku did spend a good portion of his own childhood saving the world, so he assumed the same could be done with Gohan. On the other had, Piccolo (as in the guy who gave Gohan his first Training From Hell) had to yell at Goku pretty hard to emphasize how Gohan didn't like fighting, much less against Cell. Goku hasn't actually directly put the Earth in danger (apart from the aforementioned 'giving Cell a Senzu'), and the "hurting" his loved ones, were the times, he was either dead, or staying away to better control his abilities.
  • Tohru Nishimaki does this by default with his male protagonists as they're supposed to be Trickster Mentors helping their love interests getting over their issues, but Values Dissonance aside they come off as Jerk Sues, rapists that're easily forgiven and in the case of Blue Eyes, which is supposed to be set in the real world (besides the Gag Boobs,) the protagonist is shot dead at point-blank range, realizes it was a premonition, knocks out the blackmailer/intended killer with a kick, impersonates him, then forces his de facto/potential mother-in-law to have sex with him and reveals himself afterwards to which she only gives an "oh you" response since they've had sex before and will again.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Captain America during the Civil War, with Iron Man as the Designated Villain.
    • Although mileage may vary ridiculously; according to the main series writer, there was not supposed to be a "right" or a "wrong" side. Almost nobody went with this, resulting in the designated hero/villain roles being reversed for the Captain and Iron Man in most comics.
    • Through it's very easy to see Captain as the Designated Hero and Tony as Designated Villain
  • Black Panther in some of his more Jerk Sue interpretations.
  • The Goddamned Batman.
  • Sam and Max Freelance Police: Sam and Max are ostensibly peacekeepers, but in practice they're peacekeepers who are only happy if there's no peace to keep, and the latter of the duo is a sociopathic maniac who's more of a mobile and highly unstable weapon than a detective. In Max's words, they save the world. Sometimes on purpose!
    • One of Steve Purcell's rules for writers in other Sam and Max media is that while Sam and Max are sociopaths, they're still HEROIC Sociopaths. Heroic sociopaths with a wing in Hell dedicated to them. That are allowed into Heaven. Make of that what you will.
  • Nemesis the Warlock is supposed to be seen as hero of alien resistance, but is really manipulative, murderous jerk and nobody would root for him, was he fighting somebody less evil than Torquemada. Later the series decides to turn him into one in-universe, revealing some unpleasant things about him most notably, that his motivation is simple boredom and he could have solved the conflict long time ago, but is holding back, therefore prolonging monstrous war, that took a great tool on both sides and caused genocide of countless alien species as well as deaths of his wife and son, for trills. That however makes him lose the status of a hero among both his allies and the readers.
  • Gladstone Gander in The Sign of the Triple Distelfink. Considering the immense lucky streaks he gets every other day of the year, it's hard to feel sorry for him if his Born Lucky status is inverted on a single one. And he accomplishes his goal of getting rid of even that spec on his entitlement to fortune, while beating Donald out of attaining any luck for himself, who can normally barely get by or financially support his nephews.

Fanfic[edit | hide]

  • Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way of My Immortal. She hates anybody who dares have a different opinion than her, swears at teachers, kills people just for bothering her, and has a hissy-fit whenever the attention isn't on her. And we're supposed to love her.
    • While My Immortal was a particularly egregious example, the Harry Potter fandom abounds with Mary Sue characters who all behave exactly this way. Especially with the use of gratuitously disproportionate violence on any character in the series the author doesn't like. Especially Snape and Draco, though the reverse is also frequent when leather pants are involved.
  • Harry himself in Partially Kissed Hero by Jared "Skysaber" Ornstead, who thanks to his moral superiority to his enemies can indulge in Mind Rape, enslavement, and endless Author Tracts about his moral superiority.
  • This is fairly common in poorly written Harry Potter fanfiction in general. The author often seems unable to realize that having her Mary Sue OC (or a suddenly pureblood Hermione) be a complete bitch to everyone, believe in blood purity, and/or side with Voldemort makes her a bad guy!
  • Rose Potter is a particularly egregious example - she belittles and bullies near everyone in the series. She angrily demands to know why she isn't being told anything while they're visiting Arthur Weasley in the hospital, she outright kills Quirrel herself, does absolutely nothing to keep Peter Pettigrew from escaping even though she knows everything about it in advance, spends half of the hearing with the Ministry of Magic belittling the wizarding world for not being as wise and enlightened as the druids, and carves words into Ron Weasley's forehead. The author believed these to be improvements to the canon and to the protagonist.
  • Katara and Zuko are not this in the Avatar: The Last Airbender canon (and in fact, Zuko qualifies as a Hero with an F In Good), but get changed into this in the infamous webcomic How I Became Yours.
    • Katara: In canon she is a kind girl who does what she can to help the Gaang, though she still has quite the temper and risks going off the deep end later. In the webcomic, however, she is presented as vain ("I'm sure that Kuzon will come out quite charming, with me as his mom."), self-absorbed ("[Kuzon] died years ago, a day before my birthday..." emphasis not added), and later as murderous (do we even really need to mention Mai's death again?). Yet she's always right and no one ever questions her stupid, selfish or downright evil actions.
    • Zuko: As mentioned, canon!Zuko is a Hero with an F In Good, a hellish background, and a complex personality. Here, however? He cheats on his wife behind her back AND fathers a baby with the designated heroine mentioned above, physically and emotionally abuses Mai when she confronts him and appropriately mentions the huge political and social consequences his philandering will bring, leaves his struggling and almost destroyed kingdom without any seconds thoughts to get together with his woman-on-the-side—and yet we're supposed to sympathize with him.
  • Latias' Journey has an in-universe example in the Red Ranger. A totally amoral and borderline sociopathic "superhero" is designated as heroic by Mr. Ford.

Latias: So you even denigrate your comrades who fight alongside you. You attack a pair of Pokémon who had done nothing to hurt you without provocation or warning, intend to beat me to a pulp to capture me, and are also assisting a madman with his evil plans. You are no hero.
Red Ranger: Hey, as long as the people of Ever Grande City think I am, and I get paid for my work with money and power by Ford, I don't care what you call me!

    • And the kicker? He's Richie of all people.
  • Ronan Beelzebub of Naruto Veangance Revelaitons. He's abusive to his girlfriend(s), he has people who make "modern music" executed, he beats up anyone who looks at him wrong, and he's sexist and homophobic (but only toward gay men). The only way to identify the antagonists is to see whether they attack him or one of his girls.
  • Naruto Uzumaki is this in A Mothers Love by Lord Ofthe Landof Fire. In contrast to his canon counterpart, who had to work for everything in life, Naruto in A Mother's Love comes off as a Royal Brat at worse, someone with an entitlement complex at best. The likable qualities his canon counterpart had are taken away, making him nothing more than a Sue. Thus, he can get away with killing the entire Uchiha Clan with his bare hands after a few members decided to rise up against him after becoming Properly Paranoid about him (in contrast to canon where they were manipulated by Madara Uchiha into a revolt, which needed to be put down by Itachi.). To add insult to injury, he also forcibly conquers Kumo and Iwa when they resist his 'Alliance' and again, its treated like a good thing since in the epilogue it ushers in 'Pax Konoha'.
    • Don't forget Kushina. Tons of people wished she was dead like in Canon when they read this. Oh, and apparently the whirlpool village invented guns.
    • Nine times out of ten, Naruto will be shown this way if he's in God Mode Sue form.
  • The Fullmetal Alchemist fans in this fanfic. We're supposed to believe they're in the right and be rooting for Edward Elric, when his fans have just laughed at people going into CARDIAC ARREST! That's right folks, Fullmetal Alchemist fans will just point and laugh when you go into cardiac arrest. The reason? Liking something they don't. What.
  • The "heroes" from The Prayer Warriors are self-righteous, racist, homophobic, misogynistic mass-murderers who made Stalin look sympathetic in universe. Even moreso, they are never seen doing anything positive let alone anything heroic. We never see them feeding the poor, healing the sick, or even stopping to Pet the Dog. They get rid of the "villains," and make everyone convert to Christianity, but the Satanists were actually better people than the Prayer Warriors were, and the conversions are almost all coerced thanks to our heroes policy of killing those who refuse.

Films -- Animated[edit | hide]

  • In Pocahontas, Meeko the raccoon and Percy the dog, the Empathy Pets of the main heroine and villain respectively, are meant to be cast in the same positions within their conflict. Yet Meeko steals Percy's food while the latter minds his own business, and continues to do this throughout two movies. And the things that Meeko does would result in bodily harm were his opponent not Made of Iron. To top it all off, the damn raccoon gets away with everything.
  • Sinbad for pretty much the entire animation of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Aside from the obvious fact the only reason he is sent is because he's their only option, the general way he acts almost entire movie makes him little to no different then a villain. Starts the movie trying to rob a ship, not even caring when it's his childhood friend he's robbing. When he's set-up for execution and his friend, who at this point has no reason to trust him besides fact they knew each other 10 years ago, takes his place and puts his faith in his hands. His response? Leave him to die & would of if he hadn't gotten stopped by said friend's love interest. He's an Ungrateful Bastard for her saving their lives from sirens and needs to be pressured to show any gratitude alongside sexist attitude. He then proceeds to steal said girl that best friend is engaged to and has been with for 10 years. Eris even calls him out on this and he proceeds to fail a test based on whether he wanted more to save his friend or steal girl and he fails lying to save friend. He does go back in the end, but it's very hard to see what goodness is in him that others are seeing, though he does go back in the end. Plus, worst of all, he succeeds at getting said girl, her leaving guy she has known and with for 10 years for one she's known for a couple of days.
    • Sinbad is more Villain Protagonist/Jerkass Antihero than Designated Hero. At no point in the film is he ever presented to the audience as a hero. Sinbad also does not in any way "steal" Marina. He did absolutely nothing deliberately to win her favor. She chose him. (And she was never in love with Proteus to begin with, and Proteus was already willing to give her up in the first act, so there was nothing to "steal" anyways.) Finally, he does not "fail" the final test. It was a Batman Gambit on Eris' part to make Sinbad think he had failed the test, when the test was actually still ongoing, so that he would give up and not go back, thinking he had already failed the test, thereby turning it into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (Of course, she might simply not have realised the Fridge Logic of her test). Not only that, but when Marina accuses him of leaving Proteus to die he explicitly states that he doesn't think Proteus's father will let his only son be killed. (He is also correct—the only reason Proteus is even present for his execution is because he deliberately refused to take the free escape attempt his father offered him.)
  • Bebe's Kids. Seriously, they destroy an entire theme park and cause trouble for many innocent people there, yet they never get punished for it. Worse, we're expected not to think badly of them because they have a poor life and have "attitude."
    • In the original stand up routine the movie was based on, they were clearly the antagonists. Robin Harris was criticizing irresponsible parents who were too selfish to raise and discipline their ill-behaved children. Also, Robin Harris' character in the movie ALSO qualifies for this trope; generally acting like a major Jerkass to everyone yet actually being praised as a good guy despite doing nothing good whatsoever.
  • Metro Man from Megamind is this in-universe - he never wanted to be a hero and is doing this only because people are expecting him to.

Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 films:
    • The Puma Man. Given the fact that the "hero" is trying to come into his new superhero persona, he's still incredibly feeble, whiny, and ineffectual. Meanwhile, his wise Aztec sidekick/mentor Vadinho has to hand-hold Puma Man through his heroics, and is shown more than once to do an equal or superior job at whomping bad guy ass without superpowers. Towards the end of the movie on MST3K, Crow thinks it's time to admit that Vadinho is the real hero. And frankly, the movie wouldn't have suffered if Tony weren't in it at all and it was just about Vadinho in the first place.
    • In the episode Beginning of the End, Mike and the Bots make a running gag at getting increasingly angry at how Peter Graves's scientist character is treated as a Science Hero, when in fact, it was his nuclear energy experiments that created the mass-murdering giant grasshopper menace in the first place.

Peter Graves: I can't help but feel partially responsible.
Crow: Partially responsible?!

    • Mitchell. The title character is an alcoholic slob of a cop who behaves like a complete Jerkass most of the time. Sure, he's a little more on the ball than his colleagues (only he suspects that Deaney may not have acted in self defense), but other than that he's a damn lousy cop. When a criminal tries to bribe him by sending him a prostitute, he actually sleeps with her. And then arrests her for possessing marijuana. Nice.
      • Joel even says the line, "Our hero, ladies and gentlemen", when we first see Mitchell.
    • Joe Don's character in Final Justice is a Jerkass Cowboy Cop who ignores every rule in the book - including violating the sovereignty of foreign nations and threatening blameless individuals for information - in order to hunt down criminals. We should probably mention that the word "hunt" is used literally - Geronimo doesn't give a damn about arresting the crooks, instead challenging them to Old West-style gunfights. Oh yeah, and in the end, he kills the main villain by challenging him to a gunfight...and then shooting on "two". Our hero, a dirty cheater.

Servo: Yes, our 'hero': a murderous oaf who threatens women with coat hangers.

    • Escape 2000, while maybe not a perfect example, does have somewhat of a Designated Hero. While Trash is somewhat more justified in his fight against the GC Corporation since they killed his parents, the man he gets to help kidnap the company President, Strike, not so much. He's only involved because once the GC is gone the gangs will be back in control to the dilapidated Bronx. Which means he'll get to go back to being "head of all the big robberies". Neither hero is helped much either by the fact that, even though they're the bad guys, the GC corporation overall wants to build schools and hospitals after they've paved over the now crime infested Bronx. So by rooting for Trash and Strike we're hoping they succeed in keeping the Bronx as a criminal's paradise... yay? To be fair, it's heavily implied that the evil corporation's plans are a lie, and that they are simply exterminating the people they uproot from the Bronx so that they can sell the land for a profit.
    • In the episode Wild Rebels, Joel & The Bots point out the only remotely heroic thing the protagonist does is flash his lights at some cops, which actually only gets the cops killed.

"So, Rod, that's thirteen dead cops, a half dozen dead innocent civillians, and a couple of dead bikers. Good work!"

    • Used as a defense against critics claiming the subject of Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- the Movie, This Island Earth, was "too good" to mock. When Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) was asked about this during filming, he "threw his head back and laughed uproariously," explaining that Kal, the movie's protagonist, goes on a mind-bending journey across the universe but remains utterly unchanged in any way, and his most heroic action in the entire picture is to shout, "Run, Ruth, Run!" when she's being attacked by the mutant.
    • Probably the worst one of the bunch is Adam Chance from Agent for H.A.R.M.. Why? Read the above entries, at least those guys actually did something. Adam? HE DOES NOTHING FOR THE FIRST 45 MINUTES. He spends most of the movie hanging around the beach house, trying to act cool, and failing every single time. What does he do is kill people, and is very nonchalant about it. In fact, he fails the mission entirely: Not finding the antidote to SPORE, couldn't save the man he was assigned to protect, and missed a obvious mole. Mike and the Bots were all over him about this, with them believing that the only thing he did was to call the Archery Convention in Vienna, which revealed who the mole was...and then he reveals he knew all along. Loser.
  • Just about every protagonist in Alien Resurrection. The crew of the Betty are willing to trade human life for a profit. Even whenever they learn of the horrible fate that the people whose lives they sold they express no remorse of any sort for their actions. Even Ripley herself gets this to an extent. Due to her cloning she now is part Xenomorph which makes her much more violent and sympathetic to the titular monsters, but at least she develops past that. The only exception is Call, who was probably only on the Betty so she could get close to Ripley.
  • Jumper is an interesting case, as the director deliberately wanted to spread out the standard super hero origin story over several films... meaning that throughout the first film the main character is almost universally self-centered and, at times, needlessly cruel. Only at the end of the film does he do something truly altruistic; anything he'd done before that point that helped others was just a side-effect of him saving himself.
  • The so-called heroes in Jurassic Park II: The Lost World are directly or indirectly responsible for every death that occurs in the movie. They free the captured dinosaurs from their rightful owners so they can live in their "natural" habitats - despite the fact that the dinosaurs were created by completely unnatural means, and shouldn't even be around anymore to begin with. The dinosaurs then proceed to destroy all the hunting party's equipment, cars, and communications, leaving them stranded on an island full of lethal, genetically-engineered predators. In the end, most of the crewmen end up getting killed by them. This also means that the hunters are forced to bring the T-Rex to San Diego instead of the herbivores they caught in an attempt to recoup their losses. Thus our heroes (and the Corrupt Corporate Executive who organized the hunting party and brought the Rex to San Diego) are responsible for all the deaths and destruction in San Diego as well. However, the "heroes" are never held responsible for their actions, and seem to approve of people being murdered by wild animals rather than having the "villains" completing their "evil" plan of building a theme park.
  • Man's Best Friend, about a mutant killer dog, treats its protagonist, Lori Tanner as the hero of the film. While the film's Mad Scientist takes the heat for the carnage, it's noteworthy that Lori actually trespasses into his lab and "liberates" the killer dog herself, effectively making her responsible for every subsequent murder committed by it. The only person who objects to her actions is her boyfriend; the dog kills him. Go figure.
  • The movie Cheaters was based on the true story about a group of students and their teacher who cheated their way through the United States Academic Decathlon. The cheaters were portrayed as heroes who had no choice except to cheat while the one student who did the right thing in outing them was portrayed as a disgruntled, rat-faced snitch. In addition, the movie also tried to play up the biased assumption that they had cheated because they came from a less than stellar school, regardless of the fact that 1.) They had cheated and 2.) A sudden, unexplained spike in scores would naturally raise a few eyebrows.
  • A frequent criticism raised of the Fantastic Four film was that the heroes were ultimately responsible for all of the problems that arose in the film. Reed is responsible for all of Doom's problems. There's a scene where the Human Torch directs a heat-seeking missile at a garbage boat and blows it up, even though there is apparently a crew aboard. The heroes are also responsible for endangering the lives of the people on the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Yor from Yor, the Hunter from the Future is undoubtedly the protagonist, but he wipes out several mini-civilizations, including one he was trying to save.
  • Nomi Malone from Showgirls really didn't even try to be heroic. The Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope is attempted to be played with her job as a stripper/topless dancer, despite the fact that many of her actions in the movie come off as mildly amoral and a bit of a Sympathetic Sue. She gives what is apparently a lap-dance, but is basically just actual sex while he kept his pants on. She screwed her boss to get higher in the consideration to be Crystal Conner's (the lead dancer) understudy. Then she pushes Crystal down the stairs, which one character mentions resulted in injuries that would keep her out for up to a year. Sure Crystal was a bitch, but Nomi just stooped to the level of the bitchy dancer who purposely injured another dancer because she yelled at her kids. Her best friend Molly is disgusted at Nomi for having done this....for a whole four minutes before she goes back to fangirling over Andrew Carver, who for some reason gang-rapes her. By the end, everybody forgives Nomi and treats her as some angelic force, the girl she pushed down the stairs, her boss, everybody. There's also the fact that her punishment of Andrew Carver, to kick him in the face a few times, really did nothing to prevent him from raping again. Nomi leaves town at the end after threatening Andrew's life. Nomi was a Vegas star, did she think her disappearance would go unnoticed? What's stopping Andrew from attacking Molly again? Pretty much nothing.
  • Done deliberately in Starship Troopers. Humanity in this film is a race of arrogant, jingoistic, xenophobic bastards run by an openly fascist and militaristic People's Republic of Tyranny. Their every action in the war against the Klendathu Arachnids is presented as heroic, embodying the film's intended satire on militarism. Note that the Arachnids are a remorseless race of killer bugs, but most audience members actually found them easier to empathize with.
  • Poppy, the protagonist of Wild Child starts the film by ruining and destroying all of her father's girlfriend's possessions. He calls her out on it but it is treated more as an over the top prank than, you know, criminal behaviour. When she is sent Off to Boarding School, she is obnoxious and rude to everyone until her roommates find out her mother died and decide to help her get expelled out of sympathy. Then Harriet the head girl sends Poppy's roommates an email revealing that she told Ruby from back home that they were all losers and another to the headmistress's son, Freddie, telling him Poppy was using him to get expelled. While playing with her lighter, Poppy accidentally starts a fire but puts it out only to find the whole dorm on fire and Drippy trapped and in need of saving. She is almost expelled until The Reveal that Harriet actually framed Poppy for starting the fire. Harriet is expelled AS SHE SHOULD BE but no one bothers to mention that Poppy's lighter could easily have set the school on fire...or that she did say all of those things about her new friends...or that she did use Freddie (and he forgives her suspiciously quickly). The headmistress is automatically fond of her because she looks like her mother. Poppy undergoes Character Development but it is more along the lines of 'know who your friends are and how great boarding school is' than 'don't be an Ungrateful Bastard.'
  • There is sometimes a criticism about Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz. When the Wicked Witch of the West shows up to claim her now dead sister's magic shoes, she gives them to Dorothy, who was just some random girl who showed up instead of, say, hiding them from her, and this is to assume that WWotW wanted them for some sinister, magic purpose. After she essentially forced a random teenage girl into a tug-of-war between two witches for seemingly no reason, she sent Dorothy to talk to the wizard. When she gets there, the wizard tells them that they need to take the witch's broom before he'll do anything for them. As it was pointed out, they'd need to kill her to do this. After they kill the witch and come back with her broom, the wizard's method of getting Dorothy back to Kansas fails (sort of) and she's left with no way to get home. This is until Glinda shows up and tells Dorothy that at any point she could have just used the slippers to wish herself back. When she's rightfully asked why she didn't tell Dorothy this, she says she wouldn't have believed her. Except, yes, she would have. Dorothy is in a dangerous world with witches and the way out is on her feet. Considering how acid-trippy the place was, would there be anything you wouldn't believe at that point?
    • There is even a Cracked article detailing how she is the best villain in film history.
    • This is Averted Trope in the novel: Dorothy meets a different good witch when she comes to Oz (combined with Glinda in the movie) who simply does not know of the Silver Slippers' power, and there isn't any immediate danger because the second Wicked Witch only shows up later.
  • The movie Conviction has a character played by Sam Rockwell convicted of a murder he didn't commit. This obviously provides sympathy for the character but he's shown early in the movie as being sexist and violent. Case in point: in one of his very first scenes, he brings a baby into a bar. When someone complains, he breaks a beer bottle and threatens to stab the guy. When a female police officer shows up, he makes several sexist comments and doesn't seem to care that a neighbor had been killed (if nothing else, he was being questioned so wouldn't he do the right thing and show a little compassion?). When the cops do arrest him, his sister acts as if the cops were picking on him for no reason. Keep in mind the guy was breaking into houses while in middle school and continued to get arrested for similar reasons well into adulthood. On top of all that there are two moments in which people which question if he actually committed the crime. They are treated as being out of line for suggesting such a thing. Even though he didn't kill anyone, his violent action in the bar and past criminal history might excuse anyone from at least wondering if it was all true. As such, audience members might consider him completely unrelatable.
  • Lady Isabel, the female lead and love interest in Ironclad is a Medieval noblewoman trapped in a loveless political marriage which does make her somewhat sympathetic. However the film almost at once undercuts this by establishing that her much older husband finds the marriage at least as emotional taxing as she does and he isn't interested in having sex with her (which she moans about, despite disliking him), meaning her supposedly intolerable position basically amounts to living in a comfortable castle with servants. When the Chaste Hero shows up she constantly hits on him, uncaring that he is going through a crisis of faith and acting petulant when he (initially) rejects her. Basically she comes across as a selfish Jerkass who is only interested in the hero at all because she finds him hot and wants to have sex.
  • Thadeous in Your Highness. He is the main character of the film and meant to be the film's hero however he only seems to be interested in sex and getting high and spends most of the film getting into trouble rather than saving the day. In fact, much of the film is spent by his accomplices having to save him and his incompetence. Amazingly enough, the lead also was the co-writer and producer of the film.
    • Yes, but Your Highness is a stoner comedy. We're not really supposed to take much of it seriously. The fact that the 'hero' is a guy who wants to bone and get high is what we're supposed to like about him - and that is what the target audience does enjoy.
  • Ferris Buellers Day Off has cut school at least nine times before, covering his tracks by hacking into the school computer to change the records, by blatantly exploiting the good will of everyone around him, including his parents, by weaving a complex web of whatever lies will serve him currently at the moment, and by psychologically bullying his friend Cameron. It's certainly entertaining, but Ferris' surface charm doesn't entirely cover the aspects of his personality that seem, for lack of a better term, manipulatively sociopathic.
  • The female lead Mina in the film Bram Stokers Dracula veers toward this. While the other heroes actually did their part in trying to destroy Dracula, Mina's consistent affection to Dracula puts the team's plan in jeopardy many times. Making Mina more of a Sixth Ranger Traitor than a heroine.
    • And this is even worse for those who've read the original book, where the whole affection for Dracula doesn't exist.
  • Bud and Doyle from Bio-Dome. They are portrayed as the heroes despite that they spent the majority of the movie acting obnoxious, destroying the experiments in the Bio-Dome, and sexually harassing the female scientists.
  • The Matrix is frequently accused of this, due to the willingness of the main characters to kill innocent people in their efforts to destroy the Matrix.
    • During the infamous "girl in the red dress" simulation, Morpheus explicitly states that only people who have been freed via the red pill (and, later, certain rebellious/neutral programs) are true allies, while everyone else is either collateral damage or a potential host for the Agents. This is some very blatant in-universe justification for having immensely destructive gunfights and super-battles in the Matrix world without worrying about things like the dozens of police officers and security guards that die, not to mention the dozens or hundreds of people injured or killed during the freeway battle...
  • As the Film Brain pointed out in his review of Money Train the two main characters are not heroes at all, and yet they are played out to be the morally good guys. They risk the lives of innocent people, rob the eponymous money train (to pay off the debts of one of main's gambling problem) and assaulting an officer (the "villain"). They both get away with it absolutely scott-free and the villain is arrested for risking the lives of innocents—while this is true, the situation would never have arisen had the main duo not tried to rob the train and stop the brakes from working simply so they wouldn't get caught. In any case, the robbery came at the expense of the New York taxpayer! If the film had been done differently the villains could have so easily been the main characters, and the officer in charge of protecting the train could easily be made the hero
  • The Designated Heroes of The Pink Panther were so unsympathetic that many people don't realize they're supposed to be the heroes.
    • To specify, the hero is supposed to be Gentleman Thief The Phantom, who foils the bumbling police, steals the diamond, gets the girl, and gets away with it all. There's a reason Peter Sellers' Closeau took the role later on - viewers thought he was much funnier and more likable.
  • Keanu Reeves's character Johnny in Johnny Mnemonic. Throughout the entire movie, Johnny is completely self-absorbed and unsympathetic and totally unheroic, yet he's supposed to be viewed as a hero protagonist. He constantly whines to other people that they’re not doing enough to solve his problems. He informs the villains of the location of La Résistance's headquarters. He prepares to abandon Jane, his hired bodyguard, and leave her for dead when she gets sick, in spite of how many times she helped him get out of a jam. And, most egregious of all, Johnny never places a higher value on the information in his head (which could save the lives of millions) than on his own life.
    • Though the film was written and filmed as deliberate parody of action movie cliches and standards, subverting or twisting peoples' expectations. Executive Meddling had the film re-edited to be a more traditional action movie... which ends up trying to portray the selfish, unheroic Johnny as a straight film hero.
  • The 2002 film Chicago subverts this trope by using the musical format to humorously portray Roxie Hart as heroic. In reality, she cheats on her husband, murders her lover (he was a liar), temporarily convinces her husband to cop to the murder, fakes a pregnancy, then cons herself off death row. The movie is never anything less than upfront about all of this, making it perfectly clear that any suggestions that Roxie is in any way heroic exist purely as a result of her self-obsession and self-centred delusions.
  • Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) in Safe House. Everything he seems to do (from turning out the surveillance cameras to allow for a waterboarding session to letting Tobin run away several hundred times to allowing himself to be constantly one-upped by other characters) makes everything worse for himself and his job. Even Tobin (the film's decoy antagonist) manages to be more heroic than our actual hero by actually doing something relevant. And don't get started on the ending where Matt basically becomes the mastermind of WikiLeaks.
  • Forrest Taft (Steven Seagal) from On Deadly Ground performs several criminal actions in his defeat the polluting oil companies of the film. When he acquires evidence as to how they've broken the law, he refuses to take it to the police (as his love interest suggests) and instead loads up to attack their oil rig himself. In doing so, he murders everyone inside, not just the armed mercenaries hired to kill him, but the construction workers for the rig as well. When he meets the owner of the oil company he kills him without hesitation, in spite of the fact that the man is unarmed, tied up, and unable to defend himself. At the end of the film, he blows up the oil rig in a clear act of eco-terroism.
    • Not to mention all his actions were actually quite counterproductive, since actually blowing up an oil rig is going to cause a hell of a lot more ecological damage than any oil rig simply running will do, even if it fails to meet environmental protection regulation.
      • The movie explains that by blowing up the oil rig Taft will cause it to fail to meet its legally-mandated launch date, thus invalidating the oil company's lease and returning the entire oil field to its original status as a protected wilderness preserve. Which at least explains why he's trying to sabotage the launch, even if it doesn't explain why he makes no attempt to find a less destructive sabotage method than spreading flaming chunks of the facility all over the zip code. Particularly since Forrest Taft is supposed to be an experienced oil-field disaster control engineer, and thus makes his living figuring out exactly how these things can break and how best to deal with that.
    • We see a shot of the construction workers evacuating. The rest of these objections are valid. Furthermore, the owner had called the FBI and asked for assistance because he was expecting a terrorist attack—while we don't see Taft fight anybody on-screen but the mercenaries, how much outer-perimeter security did he have to disable to get that far, and who were they?
  • Played for laughs in Mystery Men. Captain Amazing is constantly viewed by the residents of Champion City as a great hero, even though he is often rude, inconsiderate, thoughtless, and only interested in making money off his powers. He even brings about the events of the film, unwittingly, by getting his archnemesis released so he can fight someone worthy (and save his sponsorship deals), eventually getting himself killed stupidly in the process. Of course, we're not supposed to like him. Our sympathies instead lie with the title characters, who are basically the underdogs of the superhero world; most of them don't have any actual super powers, and they're respected by next to nobody in the city they've sworn to protect.
  • Sam Witwhicky from the Transformers film series. He is certainly designated in that his great great grandfather had a connection with the All Spark and thus Autobots and Decepticons seek out his glasses while the hero bit a stretch. It seems over the course of three films Sam never really learns to stop being a rude, learn patience and has to overreact and throw a tantrum when something doesn't go his way. He had a hand in saving the Earth but seems to expect everything on a silver platter in the third movie, he might get a job if he weren't so overly aggressive in the interviews, and doesn't seem happy with a super-model girlfriend.
  • Erik, the father in Hanna, is portrayed as a good guy, but several times, he kills innocent government employees. At times, they aren't even a threat to him, like the guy who is going to answer the door in one scene.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Twilight: Edward and the Cullens are the good guys because ... well, they don't eat humans. They let their vampire buddies eat humans, routinely show up the Muggles, use their awesome powers for pure personal gain, and screw up the lives of many a werewolf to get their way, but at least they don't eat humans.
    • Bella gives minimal thought to the innocent people being killed by vampires, unless it's someone she knows, of course. In New Moon, she seriously considers withholding what she knows about vampires from the werewolves because telling them anything would feel like betrayal to the Cullens (even though she knows full well that the Cullens are in no danger from the wolves at all and that helping the wolves learn about the vampires will help them stop Victoria more quickly and thus keep more people from dying).
    • It's a lot harder to sympathize with Bree Tanner when she shows no remorse at all for committing multiple murders and seems under the impression that she is above laws as long as there is no one to hold her to them. There's also the matter of her and Diego suffering from a severe case of Too Dumb to Live.
  • The heroes of Sword of Truth regularly perform deeds of questionable morality, although the circumstances of the plot usually justify their actions (in the oft-criticized slaughter of the strawman pacifists, for example, Richard was left with few other options). Arguably the most inexcusable act they commit is to torture an enemy assassin to death after he gives them the information.
    • In Faith of the Fallen this issue is explored somewhat: Richard refuses to lead the D'Haran forces because they view him as this, not because they're fighting for the cause he's fighting for (freedom).
    • In the same book, Kahlan makes a plausible argument that Ann enabled the entire story (and all its bloodshed) to happen by treating Richard as this. Alternatively: Kahlan's been hanging out with someone with a vehement hate for prophecy, and was in a lot of pain when she called Ann to task.
  • Most Bronze Age heroes lack traits that modern audiences would find heroic due to Values Dissonance. Achilles is a well-known example, since most modern audiences side with the Trojans defending their home and have little sympathy for the pouting, slave-taking Achilles. Jason is another example, whose greatest accomplishments are actually performed by his mistress Medea, whom he promptly dumps when he's done with her. Jason becomes a Fallen Hero for his treachery at the end of his story.
    • Even before he met Medea, Jason didn't really do anything Badass. Prior to seducing Medea, most of the work was done by his much more Badass Crew, which consisted of some of the greatest heroes of Greek Mythology. The only really decent thing he does in the story is to help an old lady across a river.
    • Similarly, when Oedipus the King kills a crazy old man that he meets on the road to Thebes because the guy insulted him, modern readers are likely to consider this Disproportionate Retribution. As a result, the sense that Oedipus is the (mostly) innocent pawn of fate gets somewhat lost in translation when it later turns out that that crazy old man was his sled was his biological father, Laius. Though it depends according to the myth as to whether or not Oedipus was being threatened, whether the King had the right of way, whether someone stepped on his foot, or if Oedipus really did just murder a bunch of guys on the road.
    • Not only to modern readers: in the Middle Ages, Hector was generally a much more popular character than Achilles, largely because he was seen as someone who was defending his home and his people. One popular legend said that Durandal, the sword of Roland, a popular medieval folk hero (based on the very real Roland who was one of Charlemagne's dukes), had been the sword of Hector. Also, in the King Arthur tales, Arthur's adoptive father was named Sir Ector, an alternate spelling of Hector (technically, Hector is an alternate spelling of Ector, but whatever).
  • Karigan G'ladheon in the Green Rider books. She's aggressive to everyone, can't make solid friendships, abuses the people around her, and gets pissed by anything. Even when people save her life, she typically gets mad at them.
  • This is a recurring element in the Inheritance Cycle: Eragon's condition as The Chosen One, his lack of respect towards his master's skills and his lack of regard for the life of his uncle, all add up to a character that's portrayed sympathetically, but behaves like The Load.
    • How about the lack of regard for the life/health/sanity of just about any person? While he'd had his bad moments all through the series, the scene in Brisingr with the slaves was enough to send book sporkers all over the internet into a frothing rage about what an utterly heartless dick this "hero" is.
    • And then there's the scene where he uses Sloan's true name to force him to take an unbreakable oath to make him never see his daughter again. The fact that the Designated Villain had apparently done the exact same thing (which Eragon regarded as reprehensible) never seems to occur to him.
  • Cameron "Buck" Williams, in the Left Behind novels, is referred to as an amazing investigative reporter who has won awards. He almost never files reports or writes anything, and when confronted with an international conspiracy that's already killed two people he knows, he... agrees to bury all the evidence if they'll spare his life. Way to go, hero.
    • Rayford Steele fits this, too. First there's his stringing-along of Hattie Durham; in fairness this was portrayed as bad on his part, but he gets over the guilt pretty darn fast. But what really pushes him into Designated Hero territory is the fact that upon seeing a tarmac covered in crashed airplanes, rescue crews, and injured bodies, it never even occurs to him to help.
    • The series is chock-full of this. The aforementioned Hattie Durham eventually becomes the Big Bad's lover. Even though the heroes know for a fact that the villain has mind control powers, they still discuss Hattie like a fallen woman in their inner monologue. Indeed, in one notorious instance, Buck travels to New York ostensibly to "save" Hattie. Much is made of the risk he's taking by doing this, and how he's doing it out of guilt because he introduced her to said villain. Then he gets there and makes absolutely no attempt to speak to her.
  • Liu Bei from Romance of the Three Kingdoms... who manages to get away with abandoning his wives and children multiple times, dashing his infant son into the ground since a brave warrior risked his life to rescue the boy, eating a hunter's wife, turning on or abandoning certain "allies" at rather opportune moments, and in the end having a Heroic BSOD, all because he's for upholding the "rightful" dynasty.
    • Some of that is Values Dissonance. For example, in the culture of the time, the hunter killing his wife and serving her to Liu Bei was supposed to show how loyal the hunter was, to give up his most valuable "possession" so his lord didn't go hungry.
    • Still, even taking Values Dissonance into account, some of Liu Bei's actions are so over the top that one has to wonder if the authors (who were writing about events taking place several centuries before their own time) were at least on some occasions subversively critiquing those same cultural values by exaggerating them to the point of the ridiculous. Liu Bei does in the end fail rather ignominiously; even taking into account that Liu Bei had to fail because that was what happened in history, the novel does on several occasions seem to subtly emphasize his failure. For example, Zhuge Liang and Pang Tong are hyped up with a prophecy that any leader who obtains the services of either one of them is sure to win ultimate victory: Liu Bei gets both of them, and he still fails.
      • While the death of Pang Tong before he could do much was arguably bad luck, someone should have told Liu Bei that he had to actually follow Zhuge Liang's advice for the prophecy to work. (Ironically, when Zhuge Liang was newly appointed as military advisor, Liu Bei was the only member of their force to believe in him!)
  • Several of Raphael Sabatini's protagonists fit this pretty well, tending to be rather Chaotic Neutral characters. For example, the main character of Scaramouche seeks revenge for the death of his friend by an evil aristocrat and ends up as a high ranking member of the French Revolution government and uses this position to cut a swath through France's aristocracy despite the fact he couldn't give a damn about the ideals of the Revolution.
  • In Beck Beyond the Sea from the Disney Fairies series, Beck not only shirks her duties in Pixie Hollow to follow the Explorer Birds across Neverland, but she does so by using dust that she knows was made from feathers freshly plucked from Mother Dove, one of the cruelest acts known to fairies. Yet at the end of the book, it is Vidia who is punished, for using Beck's absence as a chance to get more fresh feathers. The fact that Beck indirectly caused this is never addressed.
  • The Silver Horde from Discworld personify this trope, as explicitly lampshaded by the Patrician.
    • Better Cohen than Lord Hong. Also, they aren't meant to be 'heroes', just protagonists.
    • Note that Cohen is actually titled Cohen the Barbarian. They are meant to be 'heroes' but only in the same way Conan was.
  • Michael Crichton's Timeline ends with the protagonists drugging the Corrupt Corporate Executive, and sending him to past to die of the Black Plague. While he was a fairly unpleasant individual and was more concerned about using Time Travel to make money than actually giving a chance to learn about the past, he does actively work to prevent the tissue-damage caused to the people who do too many trips through the time-machine/teleporter by forbidding one person from doing too many trips, and all the problems result from those who disobeyed him. But since he's a douchebag, it's all right to murder him horribly.
    • Notably, when The Film of the Book came out his death and circumstances around it were substantially changed.
  • Abdel Adrian from the Baldur's Gate novelisations by Philip Athans. Oh, badness, yes. He's the worst thing in books that are a black hole of awful. The writer wants him to be everything positive, but since his skill level at writing is far below zero, the character ends up being the exact opposite. He's treated as the hero even though without being specifically kicked to it he hasn't even the motivation to do anything but booze, womanise, kill random people and possibly kick puppies. And that description makes it sound far better than it is. It's no wonder people have commented that it's unclear why they should care about what happens to any of the characters in these books or even who wins.
  • The Sheik, from the novel of the same name. He's an abusive rapist who is initially portrayed as negatively as he deserves, but once the protagonist falls in love with him the book suddenly expects us to think of him much more sympathetically.
  • Anita Blake. Killer, rapist, performs the same actions she reviles in others but it's okay when she does them. And apparently the reason all the evil comes to town is that its attracted to her.
    • She didn't start out that bad, though. Initially she was kind of annoying but generally well-intentioned, if narrow-minded. Then she got some power and discovered sex, and suddenly she's an abusive, gun-happy sociopath. Wha?
    • It might actually be her form of characterization. The threats in the book have gone from lone nutcases out on horrific murder sprees to legendary forces of evil out to personally make Anita's life a living hell. At the same time, she's gone from being relatively powerful and moral to sacrificing more and more of her morals in exchange for the extra powers she needs to defend those she loves and/or feels responsible for. Of course, the more power she gets, the more people she has to roll to get it, means more targets and people she feels responsible for, which requires more power, which requires sacrificing more morals...
      • She was already extremely powerful by the first book, her powers were just more Aquaman on dry land at the time.
  • In George Eliot's Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, in the Evangelical novels,

The Orlando of Evangelical literature is the young curate, looked at from the point of view of the middle class, where cambric bands are understood to have as thrilling an effect on the hearts of young ladies as epaulettes have in the classes above and below it. In the ordinary type of these novels, the hero is almost sure to be a young curate, frowned upon, perhaps, by worldly mammas, but carrying captive the hearts of their daughters, who can "never forget that sermon;". . . The young curate always has a background of well-dressed and wealthy, if not fashionable society;–for Evangelical silliness is as snobbish as any other kind of silliness; . . . but in one particular the novels of the White Neck-cloth School are meritoriously realistic,–their favourite hero, the Evangelical young curate is always rather an insipid personage.

  • The heroes of The Turner Diaries are a group of Western Terrorist neo-Nazis.
  • Apparently Patch of Hush, Hush is supposed to be a good guy, or at least an anti-hero we can cheer on. This is the same fellow who apparently uses the Abuser's Handbook as a guide for dating Nora and at one point pins her to the bed and threatens to murder her.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Hoo, boy! The Sisterhood or the Vigilantes have fallen into this territory at least once. Of course, the first seven books were all about the Vigilantes getting Revenge on the people who wronged them, and breaking the law in doing so. That's not supposed to be heroic. Despite this, once it got out what they were doing, they were considered heroes and household items. Reviewers at Amazon.com were quite happy to point out how the Vigilantes' behaviour went into this in the book Under The Radar. In that book, the heroes go to a cult of pedophile polygamists. The heroes acted rather abusively toward the adult women in the cult. In fact, the book spelled out quite clearly that the adult women were Complete Monsters who didn't give a damn about the treatment their own children suffered in the cult and deserved absolutely no sympathy. Reviewers, however, pointed out that the adult women were raised in this cult and brainwashed into believing in the cult all their lives, and that they are actually victims who you should feel sympathy for. With that said, the heroes have the adult women lined up and shave off the hair on their heads. They did this, because the cult leader likes long hair, and they wanted him to look at bald women to spite him. Reviewers pointed out what the Vigilantes did seems to be uncomfortably close to what the Nazis did in those concentration camps!
    • The book Sweet Revenge has this little gem from the thoughts a stand-up male character named Bobby Harcourt: "He stopped at the receptionist's desk for his messages, hating how sleazy the young woman looked. He'd spoken to Rosemary about the receptionist's appearance and all she'd done was cluck her tongue and ask him if he wanted a lawsuit on his hands. It wasn't just the way the young woman looked, it was her stupid name as well. Sasha. No one named their kid Sasha except maybe a Russian mother. This Sasha was from Mud Creek, Mississippi. White trash, all ninety pounds of her. He rather suspected that Rosemary kept her on because Sasha made her look beautiful, which she was, but she was also a cold, relentless, heartless bitch of a woman. He'd found that out as soon as the honeymoon was over, much to his regret." For such a supposedly stand-up guy, Bobby sounds like he hates people who aren't Americans like him, he sounds mean-spirited towards people from the Appalachians, and he apparently judges people based on their appearance and their given name before things like morals or personality.
  • The Gods of Light in the Dragonlance novels for Dungeons and Dragons can feel this way, particularly when the story tends to focus on characters insisting that they aren't to be blamed for abandoning the world, not just once but several times.
  • Gareth in The Rebel Prince. He is told he has to rape the protagonist in order to gain control of her psychic powers, needed to overthrow the evil leaders of the planet. He gets drunk to overcome his reluctance and does so, and feels bad about it afterwords. This is supposed to lead to him finding redemption. Instead, after claiming he is sorry, he continues to insist she is his wife (because they were married against her will) and uses mind control and threats of violence to control her. As well as using mind control to force her to learn pleasurable sex (it's still rape even if she enjoys it). The worst part is she winds up staying with him at the end because he "loves her".


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • iCarly has Carly and Sam. Sam is a bully who would literally get killed for being nice. All she does throughout the series is make Freddie's life a living hell, and admits that she does it for pure enjoyment. Carly because she. Never. Stops her. What kind of friend lets another friend bully her other friends? Then in "iMove Out," when Freddie's mom came on the set to humiliate her son, instead of turning off the camera, she points it at Freddie while he's getting embarrassed.
    • And that's not even getting into Carly's emotional manipulation of Freddie...
  • Tori Vega from Victorious. In the first episode, she gets revenge on the Alpha Bitch by kissing her boyfriend. That wouldn't be too bad if she hadn't done it again in another episode (This time it was actually a good friend of hers). In a recent episode, she left her friend behind at a Sushi bar because she selfishly wanted to return to class. Take note that earlier, he did something nice for her by treating her.
  • Several characters from Lost, but especially Jack and Kate. Aside from the fact that they are Designated Heroes, they are both essentially Jerkass types who meander between helpful-yet-arrogant leader types through to paranoid, secretive, unhelpful, cliquey and murderous asses.
    • Third season Locke was far more reprehensible than even Kate or Sawyer ever were, especially in the last season episode. Jack himself tends to be more unremarkable or just plain capricious than reprehensible.
    • Hindsight has shown that all of Locke's actions up until about mid-season 5 were entirely correct, especially what he did in the third season finale. Meanwhile, season 6 has somewhat redeemed Jack.
  • Star Trek: Voyager Captain "Designated Hero" Janeway - after stranding her crew in the Delta Quadrant due to reasons largely beyond her control, she forgoes several attempts that would have gotten her back to the Alpha Quadrant, kills one of her crew to restore the status quo, and when given the chance to go back in time and save her crew, rather than preventing them from going to the Delta Quadrant in the first place, she opts to save someone they recruited along the way and abandon nearly a third of her crew to die when they get dragged into the Delta Quadrant.
  • Flash Forward 2009's Mark Benford. Many perceive hi to be a major-league Jerkass to his coworkers, his family, and pretty much everyone. See: giving his wife huge amounts of shit for seeing herself sleeping with another man in her Flash Forward, yet lying to her about his own (he was drinking in his); routinely flouting international law and direct orders from his boss, but unlike other Screw The Rules types, he doesn't really accomplish anything by doing so; having his hands superglued to the Idiot Ball (best example: shooting an assassin who has what is obviously a unit tattoo); and as the promo for the post-hiatus episodes shows, accusing Demetri of being a mole.
  • In the early seasons of Smallville Clark Kent could be seen as this, frequently making morally dubious decisions without being called on them. This improved as the show continued, with Clark eventually becoming the moral centre of the Justice League of America, and frequently calling out the likes of Green Arrow on his actions. In contrast, Lana Lang remained one for her entire run. Despite her frequent betrayals of Clark and his friends, she was consistently treated as being in the right until her exit in Season 8. Following this, Chloe Sullivan picked up the Designated Hero ball and ran with it, constantly going behind Clark and Oliver's backs without any explanation, stockpiling Kryptonite weapons, and making very iffy moral choices. Former Big Bad Lionel Luthor, post-Heel Face Turn, is seen as this in-universe: the heroes use him for his resources, but don't trust him any farther than they can throw him.
  • The eponymous characters of Kenan and Kel, especially Kel.
  • Arguably, most of the characters in every iteration of Law and Order, but especially Law and Order Special Victims Unit and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Hardly an episode goes by without an absolutely horrifying instance of breach of protocol, bad judgment, unnecessary hatred for a suspect, or outright lawbreaking on the part of the main cast. Keep in mind that the main cast is made up entirely of law enforcement officers and lawyers. It should be noted that almost every crime drama has this to some extent.
    • Elliot Stabler is this trope personified. While interviewing a suspect (that's SUSPECT - not criminal, SUSPECT) he becomes aggravated and puts the man's head through the one-way glass in the interrogation room. He is not punished for it in any way, because obviously the suspect is an evil criminal and does not have rights.
    • Somebody is talking with Cabot, the prosecuting attorney, and accuses the police department of harming a suspect. Cabot replies that the injuries were sustained during a fight between two suspects. Her conversation partner acknowledges that this is technically correct... because the suspects were intentionally baited, by the police department, into turning on each other. Cabot does not even bother to reply, she just stands there looking smug for the rest of the scene.
    • Stabler and Benson go to a suspect's home, where he lives with his grandfather. They do not have a warrant and cannot enter the house without permission. They tell the suspect something about his grandfather that shocks him and causes him to throw the door closed and run upstairs to confront the grandfather. Stabler puts his hand out to keep the door from closing and the two detectives chase after the suspect, into the house that they do not have permission to enter.
      • Actually, that's justified. If police officers have probable cause to suspect that a crime is in progress or that someone is in immediate danger then the police do not need a warrant to enter a private residence. As they have legitimate reason to suspect a violent confrontation is about to happen it would have been 100% legal for them to break down the door, let alone simply prevent it from fully closing.
    • In one very serious episode, a young man recognizes that he is a pedophile and turns himself in before he harms someone. Specifically, he fears that he will molest a young relative of his and has actually been drinking heavily in an attempt to forestall his actions. When he accepts that he will not be able to stop himself for much longer he turns himself in to he police in the hope that they will be able to keep him from hurting any little kids. Benson explicitly states that up to that point, no pedophile had ever turned themselves in out of an honest desire to reform. Rather than appreciating the selfless efforts of a very confused person who needs help with a legitimate problem, he is despised by the police force and referred to as a "monster."
    • Detective Goren and most of the cast of Law and Order: Criminal Intent are shown to use tactics to get confessions that would have gotten thrown out in court on the original L&O and earned the Designated Hero a What the Hell, Hero? speech faster than you can say "Objection". The most egregious instance is when he told a suspect that he hadn't committed any crime in order to get him to confess to the crime in question (negligent homicide), a blatant Hollywood Law lie that police are explicitly not allowed to use.
    • It doesn't help that the detectives and prosecutors tend to have a smug attitude most of the time. Almost veering into Smug Snake territory.
  • Gleefully parodied by French comedians "Les Inconnus":

Nathalie: Why does he want to hurt me?
Force bleue: Because he's a villain!
Nathalie: But why me?
Force bleue: Because you're one of the good guys!

  • For many fans, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the DH for much of Seasons Six and Seven.
    • Though at least the implications were that Buffy wasn't exactly being herself, being under even more massive pressure than usually, and having gone through several traumatic experiences in a short time.
      • That explains season 6 (although even that one's a Broken Base), but as the end of season 6 is presented as Buffy finally overcoming her trauma to find joy in living again and the beginning half of season 7 shows Buffy back to being as well-adjusted and content as she has been in most prior seasons, her Jerkass turn in the latter half of season 7 still sits poorly.
    • This has been played with several times, from Buffy's temper tantrum that she wasn't allowed to kill Faith and Angel basically telling her to get stuffed, to her being rejected by the potential slayers, to a storyline where a rogue slayer intends to kill Buffy because of how much of a princess she is.
    • Of course, there's also Spike in Season 7. For some reason Buffy and the writers seem to believe Spike is in the right when he tells Robin Wood that he doesn't regret killing his mother, and that she never loved him. And frankly, that's only the worst time by a small degree.
      • The reason we're supposed to agree with Spike saying it is because its happening during a scene where Wood is deliberately torturing Spike to death in a particularly cruel way, after having waited until Spike was already helpless, and during a time period where Spike is not only souled (and he was soulless when he killed Wood's mother) but actually trying to help them. At this point, even many fans agreed that Spike deliberately trying to think of and say the most hurtful thing he can to troll his attempted murderer as he (almost) dies is not exactly the worst thing he's ever done.
      • There's also that Nikki Wood died quickly, cleanly, and in a fair fight—which is pretty much the absolute best a Slayer can hope for.
  • The Office has Jim & Pam, who are supposed to be normal, but are actually kinda pricks. Jim knew he wasn't supposed to upset Andy when he was at Stamford, but he did, and he did it again at Scranton. He basically picked on Andy - someone he knew had anger management issues - enough to make him punch a hole in the wall. He even probably endangered Pam in helping too. Between the two of them, they were basically lusting after each other, regardless of the feelings of the people they were involved with. They also broke company policy in the baby shower ep with the bluetooth and making themselves noticeable enough to warrant investigation. Sometimes Jim's pranks on Dwight go too far (enough to give him a bit of a Heroic BSOD wen regaling). The writers do notice this sometimes, especially in later seasons. A few episode show Jim being embarrassed by his immaturity, and show Dwight as more of a victim. This depiction is closer to the UK version, where Tim and Dawn were often presented as immature bullies, and not just playful jokers.
  • Leonard Hoffstader. The show thinks they've set up a good couple with Penny and Leonard in the third season, but look at the facts; Leonard essentially badgered her when she was upset over breaking up with her boyfriend over posting their sex life in his blog, accidentally gets her to reconcile with said scumbag, then bugs her more when he should've left her alone, all in the span of day for their first official date!! When they hooked up in season 3, he basically let Penny be his reason to not do things he's promised like the deal with Howard he made. And the third season opener was him too horny to care about Sheldon and wanted to make Raj and Howard do it for him. Than in "The Pants Alternative", he basically let Sheldon humiliate himself in front of dozens of esteemed scientists (though none of the others bothered to stop Sheldon either) and he and Penny laughed about it! With those examples, the fact that he stole the girl Howard was set on & sleeping with her and the fact that Sheldon's possibly autistic and is in general just blind to other's emotions, Leonard along with Penny and Howard kinda fill this position. Howard at least gets treated In-Universe like the creep he is, but Leonard is treated like he's a nicer guy than he is ever presented as being.
    • Leonard still lives with Sheldon and hasn't killed him, which in most circles would make him a saint.
    • Plus, some of this can be excused as him being socially inept. Penny gets away with a lot more than anyone else, which the writers have recently noticed and are inevitably deconstructing her, resulting in her becoming a thoroughly unsympathetic bitch. That sounds like an overstatement, but in a recent Season 5 episode she tries to do a good thing and ends up pressuring Bernadette and Amy into helping her steal from charity.
  • The Charmed Ones, in the later seasons, have stopped thinking about saving people and are more about themselves. They cast magic on innocent people and even joined up with a bunch of magical extremists to wipe out free will for the sake of destroying evil. They had faked their deaths and got a new girl to do all the work for them.
  • Serena in Gossip Girl frequently acts far nastier than Blair, and her protests and apologies just make her seem like a huge liar compared to the others.
  • Robin Hood from the BBC's 2006-2008 version of the story kept getting worse as the seasons went on. His "no-kill" policy was chucked out the second season when it became apparent that he was prepared to kill in the name of King Richard (even if it meant shooting unarmed priests and mentally-deranged spies), and by the third season he was shooting guards in the back whilst still insisting that he only killed when he needed to. He also treated his outlaws like crap (especially poor Much), started a relationship with a girl he was barely interested in despite knowing that his best friend liked her, attacked a frightened woman in her own bedroom after she's had to kill a man in self-defence, and shot dead an executioner who was just doing his job (and then having the gall to tell the aforementioned woman that not only is she "a murderer" for killing a man who was threatening to rape/strangle her but that he only kills when he absolutely needs to).
    • The third season also introduced Kate, who was shilled as brave, compassionate and altogether wonderful even though she was never anything but rude, nasty and shrill to everyone around her, and once demanded that a terrified woman be left to be raped and strangled by her sadistic husband, stating that "she doesn't deserve our help."
  • Big Time Rush: The four characters of the eponymous group all have moments that push them into this category, especially in episodes where they're carelessly destructive (i.e. Big Time Mansion, Jobs, etc). Though not all of them are always like this (sometimes it depends on the episode), you get the idea.
  • Memetic Badass though he may be, Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS can definitely be seen as this, with repeatedly assholish behavior to various characters, occasionally bending or even breaking laws he's supposed to be enforcing, and even some instances of hypocrisy regarding investigations with agents/officers from outside his team.
  • Georgia from Ally McBeal is generally described by other characters as a really nice, good hearted person. While she certainly can be nice to some people she can also be petty and a quite mean; e.g., badmouthing Nelle, making it clear that she disliked her and even physically attacking her when she tried to break up a fight between her and Ally for the sole reason that she's jealous of the fact she considers Nelle to be prettier than her
  • Series 2 of The Secret Life of Us turned the character of Gabrielle into a serious Jerkass. She starts an affair with Dominic a married man with two young children and gets him to leave his wife Francesca for her saying that because she loves him so, so much this is all justified. When Francesca shouts at her and calls her selfish she has the barefaced cheek to complain that she is victimizing her and then she breaks up with Dominic for spending too much time trying to comfort his heartbroken children rather than forgetting them and focusing all his time on her. A short time later Dominic, who has tried and failed to make things work with his wife because he can't forget Gabrielle, tries to win her back and she says she has gotten used to being on her own even though she caused all this pain on the grounds that she supposedly loved him so much. Despite this neither Gabrielle or any other character apart from Francesca says anything about how selfish, fickle and destructive her actions are and she is still depicted as a likable character the audience should root for and empathize with
  • Shamaya Taggert from the Touched By an Angel spin off Promised Land. You're supposed to like this character, but she come off ass a bitter self righteous pretentious prick.
  • For some viewers at least, Glee's Rachel and Finn fall very much into this category.
    • Will Schuster too, if not even more so. In the very first episode he plants drugs on a student to blackmail him into joining Glee Club. When said student protests his innocence and frantically promises to take a drug test, Will weasels around that obvious out by reminding the kid that being charged at all will look bad. Seeing as how in the US, a drug conviction of any kind bars kids from applying for student loans, Will essentially threatens a minor's future education to force him to join a failing club.
  • Veronica Mars. It's easy to sympathize with her backstory, which includes Parental Abandonment, rape and subsequent social exile. It's not so easy to actually like her, as she's incredibly manipulative, enables various illegal actions throughout the series (including the kidnapping of a baby), uses her friends as pawns (sometimes putting their lives in danger) and is just outright mean to most people she speaks to on a regular basis. One could make a solid argument that the only difference between Veronica and the popular crowd she was once part of is that fact that she's directing her manipulative tendencies into a profession which ostensibly helps people—notably, her behavior worsens in season three when she has no central mystery to solve.
    • It should be noted that this was partly the result of the show's serious loss in quality after season one. In season one, she genuinely cared about the people she was helping, often to the point where she become emotionally involved with them and their cases to possibly inappropriate degrees. Wallace's claim in the pilot that, under her prickly exterior, she was really just "a marshmallow," was constantly borne out by what we saw on-screen. After season one, that just went by the wayside.
  • In the failed Wonder Woman 2011 pilot, they make the bad guys out to be complete and utter scum who use trafficked humans and underprivileged ghetto kids to test their steroid-type drugs and use their lobbyists to avoid being investigated, and that whatever means that Wonder Woman uses is justified. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman is a brutal, vicious killer who goes after people without any actual evidence, tortures people for information, and uses her contacts with the police to avoid prosecution.
  • The vampires in True Blood. All of them. Bill murdered many people with Lorena and has deliberately murdered people even in the pesent day. Just about every vampire we've met we know for a fact have killed at least one human, and many of these vamps we know have killed more than that. Even "saintly" Godric murdered Eric's 2 best friends before turning Eric into a vamp. And thanks to Jessica killing a man soon after she became a vampire, there's now no vampire we can definitely state has never killed a human. The Authority might be seen as a benevolent influence...except as their Arbiter they appointed a nasty "humans-are-inferior-to-vampires" bigot who regarded the fact Bill killed a vampire to save the life of a human as making Bill's crime of killing the vampire worse, not better, and as punishment had a terrified teenaged girl (Jessica) kidnapped and forcibly turned into a vampire by Bill. And we're supposed to be rooting for the vampires and their integration with humans because why, exactly?

Opera and Theater[edit | hide]

  • Siegfried from Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung.
  • Subverted as early as Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard, their only tragedy. Colonel Fairfax is often treated by other characters as a great hero. There's nothing they wouldn't do for him. The audience is repeatedly told how great he is, but sees little real evidence. At the end, he is revealed to be an absolutely hateful figure. No wonder audiences treat Jack Point sympathetically as The Woobie, despite him being something of a jerk himself.
    • This is partially Values Dissonance to do with Fairfax's views on sanctity of marriage: Having unexpectedly survived, he now has to face the consequences of his scheme to marry a random person and thus prevent his relatives from inheriting. This means he can't let Jack pair up with his wife, even if it was intended as a sham marriage. This doesn't mean Jack isn't terribly screwed by circumstances, but it isn't necessarily anyone's fault. Although it also should be noted that Fairfax is much more of a jerk than he needs to be, getting a bit too familiar with Phoebe in the Act One finale, and pointlessly toying with Elsie in the Act Two finale.
  • In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio was tricked into thinking that his fiance Hero had cheated on him. Instead of asking her about it or even quietly canceling the wedding, he waited until the wedding ceremony was underway then publicly accused her of being a whore. Even after being (falsely) informed that Hero had died of shock afterwards, he showed no remorse. To be fair, other characters do call him on this, to the point of Benedick, at Beatrice's urging, challenging him to a duel. Eventually, Claudio agrees to marry one of Hero's relatives sight unseen as a way of atoning. Of course, the relative turns out to be Hero herself.
    • Credit Kenneth Branagh for noticing this; in his production of Much Ado About Nothing, when Claudio learns of Hero's "death", he is visibly remorseful, even if the dialogue doesn't reflect this.
    • The BBC's Shakespeare Re-Told modern version goes one better by not having "Claudio" and "Hero" end up together, although there's still a possibility at the end that they may work things out.
      • Shakespeare's original scripts were generally sparse on instructions, leaving these sort of things open to interpretation by the actors and directors. The option of portraying Claudio as remorseful in those scenes would have been available from the very beginning.
  • In another Shakespeare example, pretty much all of the Christian characters from The Merchant of Venice can be seen this way, especially Portia, who basically ruins the Designated Villain / Well-Intentioned Extremist Shylock's entire life, then decides to fuck with her fiance apparently just for the lulz with the whole stupid rings subplot.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Warhammer 40000: The Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium might as well be the poster boy of this trope. The only reason the Imperium of Man appears to be good guys is... well... because they are human. Beyond this they are xenophobic fascist anti-progress extremists that have committed just as many atrocities as any other faction. The closest thing the setting comes to actual good guys would be the Tau... or the Salamanders, just because they actually care about the life of civilians.
    • Of course, said humans and superhumans are portrayed more as "very capable in a fight" than Heroes as such. Even the genuinely admirable ones often exhibit extreme cases of xenophobia, a decent chunk of indifference to suffering and an unwillingness to compromise (which makes sense considering that they are brought up in 40k).


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Spoofed in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. Textbook evil Mao concludes that the only way he's going to be able to overthrow his father is by becoming a hero. Of course, being unabashedly evil, he does this by mugging the title of hero from some poor sap and going on his merry way. What he doesn't know is that the Theory of Narrative Causality decides that it's going to remedy this by making him act like a hero - whether he likes it or not.
  • Intentionally played with Luke in Tales of the Abyss for the first third of the game. Our “hero” is a moody, selfish and arrogant White Prince who is eventually told that he is The Chosen One, which does very little to help his already over-inflated sense of entitlement. This is made even worse by the encouragement of his mentor, the only person he truly respects. Things keep heating up until the big What the Hell, Hero? moment alienates nearly all his friends, when…
    • We find out that he’s actually a seven year old kid in a body more than twice his mental age, struggling to keep up with people that expect him to act much older and capable than he could reasonably be. His behaviour is that of boy lashing out in frustration, and his mentor has actually been grooming him to be like that just to make him easier to manipulate like a disposable tool. Not only does he not try to use any of this as an excuse, he spends the rest of the game is a sort of Redemption Quest.
  • Tales of Vesperia plays this trope interestingly: Flynn isn't unsympathetic nor completely ineffectual, it's just that he keeps being lauded for feats and accomplishments that were actually done by Yuri and Brave Vesperia, making it a literal case of "Designated" Hero. His issues over this are what lead to the requisite Tales (series) Duel Boss fight against him.
  • Yggdra Union: With a bit of in-depth analysis, Yggdra. Think about it: Yggdra says she wants peace, but her only concept of that is "a world without borders", ergo, a world Fantasinia controls. At the end of the game, all other world leaders are dead, some by her hand, leading her to claim power over the entire continent. She doesn't even realize she's got the exact expansionist, supremacist mindset her ancestors did. Looks like Kylier was right.
    • It's not that simple. Every nation in Yggdra's world is manipulated by one Fallen Angel to wage wars on each other so that Fallen Angel can power up his blade for his own Rage Against the Heavens; Yggdra's reasoning that all other countries must be defeated to bring peace actually isn't that far off since otherwise Nessiah would keep messing with the world to collect souls for his blade. Also, by the end of the game, she and the royal army know that they are doing exactly the same thing The Empire did and yet proceeds with the invasion anyway because if they don't take advantage of the situation now, The Empire will recover and strike again. After all, The Empire is hardly innocent since they are the ones who invaded and tried to kill Yggdra in the first place. It's the case of Gray and Grey Morality, really.
    • It's even more complicated than that, actually. The reason Gulcasa conquered Fantasinia in the first place was because he believed its king, Ordene, was governing badly and making his civilians miserable--Gulcasa had always intended to conquer the world so as to get rid of the rulers he believed were corrupt and forcefully even out the massive class divide. He was very much mistaken about the rulers--because Gulcasa had never experienced that sovereigns who haven't suffered the same way as the poor could rule well, he assumed that it was the same everywhere--but the minorities throughout the world would definitely agree with his complaints about the class divide. Yggdra, who was sheltered enough to believe that every country was as well-governed as her own Fantasinia, assumed that Gulcasa was nothing more than a tyrant and vilified him for killing her parents. Both sides of the conflict were extremely poorly informed and unwilling to reason with each other, leading to a deadlock that couldn't even be broken once Yggdra realized the truth.
  • Reimu Hakurei of Touhou can definitely fall into this category. Reimu often only saves the day (if you don't let Marisa do it instead) because she's forced to do it, since she's the only one who can (except Marisa), and the one people can pressure into solving problems more easily. Sometimes, however, like Mountain of Faith, Reimu attacks people she knows are not doing anything bad, and are actually goddesses just trying to carve out a niche for themselves. In Undefined Fantastic Object, you can explicitly choose for Reimu to go "investigate" the treasure ship not because she is worried about Gensokyo, but because she wants to loot the treasure.
    • The Cute Witch and The Rival, Marisa Kirisame, falls even more into this trope, as an unabashed Kleptomaniac Hero who often saves the world by accident while trying to loot the final boss's house for valuables. In Imperishable Night, she even outright introduces herself to the Big Bad as a "burglar", much to her partner's dismay (who was actually trying to stop the Big Bad, and talked Marisa into helping her do it).
    • Alternatively in light of events in Sinner In Silent Blue where Reimu and Marisa assist Yukari in her invasion of the Moon for no apparent reason and were soundly beaten it's possible that in the same way all previous villains only dabbled in villainy ZUN intended Reimu and Marisa to be Chaotic Neutral anti-heroes who dabble in both heroism and villainy whenever it suits them and were villain protagonists for both UFO and Sinner In Silent Blue.
  • In some World of Warcraft storylines, you are this trope. Some storylines are well-supported by lore and interwoven into the game in every way possible, but others are just Excuse Plots to loot gear from a new type of enemies in a new setting. For example, in the Mana Tombs dungeon, the enemies that Player Characters fight are simply graverobbers. Players fight them as mercenaries on behalf of a rival trade consortium. Graverobbers are obviously not nice people, but they're hardly the Legions Of Doom players are supposed to be fighting across that ruined world. Meanwhile, the major "good" factions, the Alliance and the Horde, are openly examples of Gray and Grey Morality.
    • It's lampshaded at some point, but then ignored again. You get hunting quests in more than one place from a dwarf called Nesingwary and first his son to kill various kinds of animals for gear rewards. Then in Northrend, Nesingwary's minions are evil poachers who massacre animals and whom you have to kill in turn for some druids. These "loot-crazed" hunters have dialogue indicating that they're trying to collect Twenty Bear Asses to get some new piece of gear as a reward, just like you did. And then you can meet Nesingwary himself again in a different area, and he dismisses all moral questions in passing with one sentence and sends you out on his quests again.
  • Age of Wonders. We're told that the Elves, Halflings and Dwarves are good, and the Orcs, Goblins and Dark Elves evil. While the good races are described briefly as having peaceful wholesome habits and the evil races are supposed to be violent and aggressive, we don't really see any of this in action. In gameplay the difference doesn't show up at all: both sides are equally warlike, and have the option of fighting or buying off neutral races. Furthermore, a central gameplay mechanic is the ability to repopulate captured cities with a population of a friendly race; it's plain cultural imperialism at best and the good and evil races do this with equal impunity.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Depending on how you feel about the "sacrificed him/herself to the dark side to save the Republic" excuse, Revan may count as this in the back story. But Revan definitely counts as this in the sequel if s/he went dark side in the first game. Despite murdering dozens, if not hundreds of people, often for no good reason, people you meet in the second game will still be singing Revan's praises, wishing their lovable murderer would come back.
  • Alphonse Lohrer in Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis in that he works for the evil Lodis Empire that seeks to take control of the island of Ovis even though he does question Rictor's motive of taking the spear Longicolnis for the Empire. He is revealed to be Lancelot Tartare, a main antagonist in the next chapter, Let Us Cling Together.
    • The whole Lodis Empire colonisation is only the first half of The Knight Of Lodis, to be fair. When you have, in the second half, a hero willing to have himself branded a traitor by his family and leaders in an effort to stop a fallen archangel destroying the world, you have an entirely different sort of character. Someone far more like Ramza than a Designated Hero. Just instead of him maybe-dying in stopping the Fallen Angel, which is what happened to Ramza, you have his best friend dying, and his love interest sacrificing herself to stop the Angel, causing Alphonse to break into the bitter and jaded Lans Tartare.
  • Played With in Baten Kaitos. Kalas is a complete Jerkass for a good portion of the game, and he only helps people when it coincides with his interests. Then, a little over halfway through the game, it's revealed that he was Evil All Along. After you fight him, however, he pulls a Heel Face Turn and spends the rest of the game as a much better person.
  • Kratos, at least in God of War III. Kratos, who was previously a Byronic Hero with a reason directing his violence, has become so obsessed with "revenge" that he's willing to kill the gods who are holding the very universe together.
    • To confirm,as far as I can remember he kills the physical emodiments of : "wise"war, the sea, the sun, creativity, TIME, the planet, womenhood, death and the sky. And that's just the ones I remember.

And he gains virtually nothing out of it.

  • The Argon Federation in X3: Albion Prelude. We're apparently supposed to think they're the good guys (maybe because of Status Quo Is God: they were the good guys of the previous five games), even though the Terran Conflict turning into a hot war was entirely their fault: an Argon character from X3: Reunion suicide-bombed Earth's Torus Aeternal, killing millions of Terrans instantly (let alone the people killed by deorbiting debris). This was basically a 30th century equivalent of 9/11 taken Up to Eleven; the Terrans' current Roaring Rampage of Revenge is self-defense.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Ariel from Drowtales. As the narrator and viewpoint character, she considers herself a hero, in a world where nobody can decently be called such. Though the fact that she considers herself a 'hero' is toned down in the remake. She just wants to live, and some of her more dubious actions have been Ret Conned or changed. Her not really mother Quain'taina, is also portrayed as this In-Universe, due to the fact that to the Drow the definition of a great person is capability to great deeds; morality does not enter into the matter. Quain'tana's virtue is in her skills and charisma that allowed her to rise from a homeless street rat to one of the greatest political powers in the city, while the fact that she's a horrifically cruel mother is not particularly important to the drow. She isn't a sociopath, incidentally; it's more of a case of a cycle of abuse.
  • Artax and Yeager in Nodwick are, 90% of the time, high-grade jerks. They were once able to spot that Yeager had been replaced by a doppelganger when confronted with an out-of-reach button; the doppelganger immediately reached for a handy rock, while the real Yeager would have instinctively picked up and thrown Nodwick.
    • This is really a parody of this trope, since it's obvious from the start that the author wanted the audience to consider both Artax and Yeager, but especially the later, to be a Jerkass.
  • Also occurs in the comic Black Tapestries. The main star is pretty much a bitch. Also has Designated Antagonist, who manages to be a villain by a compulsive "Shoot the Dog" reflex.
  • Goblins plays with this by putting the protagonists on the receiving end. A band of adventurers invade their home to clear them out with no other justification than that they were goblins and therefore Exclusively Evil. Most of the tribe gets wiped out and the survivors decide that they are sick of being walking chunks of XP and decide to become adventurers themselves to better protect their homes. Then one of their own gets captured and brought into a human city where so-called "monstrous races" are routinely captured and tortured to better understand how to kill them. While it might seem that they slip into Designated Hero territory when they slaughter guards, they actually use the paladin's ability to detect evil to ensure only evil guards are killed. And Thaco's declaration of his intent to slaughter his way through the human civilians to get to his son is a bluff to scare away said civilians so that they aren't caught in the crossfire.
  • All the "heroes" of Sonichu. All the males are shallow bastards who are only interested in fucking and enforcing Chris' draconian rules; all the females are shallow whores who only want to fuck, shop, and cook; the main character is a Stepford Smiler who uses a psychic hedgehog to spy on his citizens to make sure there are no gay people and shot a guy in the kneecaps after he surrendered. It all comes to a head in Episode 10, where the Asperchu crew is brutally tortured by the main character for murdering Simonla, despite the heroes having just come from murdering at least 100 people. Notable examples include Wild telling his daughter, with the mentality of a fourth grader, to tear a guy apart with a drill, and a guy being shocked to death. And yet you're supposed to root for these characters.
  • Vampire Cheerleaders has this with the main cast of five vampire girls who do some stuff that may cross the line for some viewers. Unfortunately there's a good chunk of Fan Dumb that rages against this, not only unwilling to accept having vampire powers simply means they just get to get away with things like that, but wishing the girls would be made to suffer and die. On the flip side there's the group of fans who accept the girls' hero status, accepts the Butt Monkey the former group wants to rise up and kill the girls is a support cast, and they generally wish they would shut up and remember the MST3K Mantra. Of course, who said that anyone there was a "hero"?..
    • Or, as was said more than once, the problem many have with them is not that they are vampires, but that they are cheerleaders. Then again, between playing with established tropes and gratuitous "fangservice", the work explores pack mentality, ambition, power and responsibility (the take on Stages of Monster Grief alone digs quite a mineshaft). So if it wound up effectively doing so both in and out of the 'verse, this only means these subjects were touched where it actually matters.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Jay Naylor, author of Better Days, actually created a porn series sold online called "Haukaiu the Hero". People have pointed out that the title character hasn't done anything heroic, by either the old use or the current one, but has in fact so far been so blatantly unheroic as to not really care that his brain-damaged mother is being used as a sex toy by the men of the village. It is a porn series, so it's not really supposed to make sense to begin with, and the series are still incomplete, but still...
  • In the Online novel series Tasakeru, Skunk mythology states that their death-goddess loved the male element of the god's love quadangle so much she offered to be sub-dominant to him. The other two, the goddesses of life and time, reacted by infusing her body with poison so whatever she touches dies. They more or less act like horror-movie style sorority bitches, rather than the kind and loving goddesses they're worshipped as.
  • Gordon Freeman is depicted as being like this in Freeman's Mind. Everyone hails him as a great hero, but really he just sort of bumbles around and saves the world by an accident, while at the same time trying to negotiate with enemy soldiers (it doesn't work), looting things around Black Mesa, and trying to find anything he can to get high (such as animal tranquilizers). A good example is episode 19: throughout the last few episodes, he had been randomly wandering around, pressing buttons because they looked shiny and shooting zombies who attacked him. Turns out he accidentally turns on a rocket engine that burns a giant monster to death (that he had avoided being crushed by due to sneaking and sheer dumb luck).
  • Captain Hammer, from Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, is the archnemesis of the eponymous Villain Protagonist. Although nearly everyone in the story regards Captain Hammer as unambiguously heroic, he's actually a Jerk Jock, Smug Super who takes pleasure in humiliating anyone who doesn't measure up to his standards. This includes anyone "nerdy" or "unpopular", both of which describe Dr. Horrible to a tee and, in the backstory, led him to declare Then Let Me Be Evil.
  • The Irate Gamer himself. He blew up a harmless alien mothership because of E.T. on Atari, murdered the Kool-Aid Man for doing what he does... ON CHRISTMAS, casually pals around with Satan, blew up Ubisoft's headquarters because he couldn't get into their E3 conference, and we're supposed to treat him as the hero. If he was just an asshole that would be kind of understandable, except he has an Evil Twin character that hasn't even killed anyone or done anything remotely evil outside of stealing something.
    • Actually his evil twin made an unprovoked attempt at murdering him in his first appearance and then carries out many further attempts.
  • Mutants in the Whateley Universe. A number of the mutant characters seem to hold the opinion that mutants are just another minority, cruelly segregated and persecuted by 'normal' people... which, to be fair, is true, except for the fact that most mutants have powers that could easily kill a baseline, many at the school are living weapons of mass destruction, and even the superheroes can be deadly- for instance, the case of the Flying Bulldozer, who tried to stop his long-time nemesis by throwing cars at him. It worked, while injuring dozens and causing over a million dollars of damages.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Sterling Archer is really just an all around horrible human being, and the only reason that he is considered the protagonist in Archer at all is 1) he's the show's namesake, and 2) occasionally (usually around the season finale) ISIS/Team Archer comes across someone who is honest to goodness evil or insane. That said, he takes advantage of women, abuses and humiliates his coworkers (many of whom, whatever their other faults, would be damn good at playing their positions if it wasn't for Sterling), gets people killed through his incompetence or reckless nonchalance, depending on his characterization this week. In at least 3 seasons, Team Archer went into the red solely because they had to mount search and rescue missions to find him after he went off to pout and do whatever. Granted, he definitely has his Lets Get Dangerous moments, when he saves the day through extreme skill and ability. However, when you tally that up with the number of people he has _directly killed_ or seriously injured, and the number of situations he has made worse, because he was being a jackass, or otherwise venting his wrath, you can see how he earns the title of Designated Hero.
  • Like so many of his fellow prepubescent Nickelodeon protagonists, and despite his scientific mind and regularly learning Aesops, Jimmy Neutron has a glaring inability to learn from his mistakes. As a result, about 90% of the crises that he solves are set in motion by him. Once again, like protagonists on other shows, this notion is somehow justified simply by him feeling really bad about it every time at the very end...all prior to doing it yet again in the very next episode. This was lampshaded within the Made for TV Movie "The Egg-pire Strikes Back", in which Cindy tries to convince the townspeople to listen to Jimmy's pleas that the Egg-pire is still evil by reminding them of his past heroic exploits, swiftly breezing past the fact that "...sure, they were all his fault in the first place."
    • In one episode Jimmy and Cindy were assigned to do a sea life-related project together. Instead of just labeling seashells and getting it over with like Cindy suggested, Jimmy builds a deep sea diving machine and insists on sailing with her, Carl, and Sheen to find some long-lost treasure. Now while at first this may seem like over-achieving and not necessarily wrong, he winds up getting them lost and Cindy takes over and actually finds the freaking treasure, only to be stopped by a scary-looking giant squid. Jimmy actually makes Cindy beg for him to fix the problem and acts incredibly smug for getting them out of the situation, despite the fact that he got them there to begin with and she was getting them out anyway. Karma promptly bites Jimmy back hard time when he discovers that the treasure he discovered was worthless salt water taffy.
      • To be fair, they were quite delicious.
  • Similarly, Timmy Turner of The Fairly Odd Parents uses his wishes to save his hometown and/or the world from impending doom just about as often as he causes it. Granted, the show would end if he were to actually learn that age-old lesson to Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • During the first season of Code Lyoko, before the show completely found its groove, the heroes could be this (Example: In one episode, Sissi tricks Ulrich by writing a note pretending to be Yumi, and that's considered terrible. In a different episode, Ulrich and the gang trick Herve by writing a note pretending to be Sissi, and that's considered perfectly OK!)
    • Jeremie could sometimes be this even past the first season. Many problems in certain episodes were caused directly by him and he usually always has to resort to the Reset Button to clean his mess up. Though to be fair, he usually felt truly sorry for his actions, and the other characters would call him out for his mistakes.
  • The Kids Next Door, particularly in the first season, often come across as self-centered brats more than heroes, most notably when they try to steal the birthday cake of their enemies, the Delightful Children From Down the Lane, apparently because they won't share their cake with anybody else. The first Cake episode actually has the DCFDtL having their party guests tied up and planning to eat the cake in front of them but others just start with the Kids Next Door trying to steal the Delightful Children's birthday cake with no explanation for a new viewer as to why exactly the Delightful Children are supposed to deserve this.
    • This is taken Up to Eleven in the episode "Operation: A.R.C.H.I.V.E.", about the origins of the title organization, which states that children only created adults to be their slaves and generally treating them horribly, and not doing one actual heroic thing the entire episode. Justified Trope because the episode is not canon, but just the ramblings and speculations of Numbuh One, who has no idea what he is talking about.
      • It's left vague, because after the speech the teacher speaks into a mic and says "They know".
  • Quest of World of Quest comes to mind, though he's possibly a parody of this.
  • Tom and Jerry:
    • Sometimes Jerry had reasons to act against Tom, sometimes, however, he was just being mean for the sake of it. The most common scenario seems to be: Tom is sleeping or otherwise doing nothing while Jerry, being a mouse, starts stealing Tom's owner's food. We're expected to support Jerry while Tom is constantly fed to the lions because, after all, Cats Are Mean.
    • There was one episode of the series where Tom was beheaded by his owner for failing to stop Jerry and that little nitwit baby mouse from stealing food set out on the royal banquet table. Not only are Jerry and Nibbles Musketeers in the episode, the food they're stealing is from the king, the person they're supposed to be protecting, with Tom as one of the palace guards designated to keep an eye on the banquet for later that night. Meaning, they're supposed to be on the same damn side, and the mice are still stealing the food. At the end of the episode, as the mice are walking away with their tiny arms loaded with food, we hear a drum roll, and they look up to see the rise and drop of the guillotine. Nibbles, or whatever his name is in this one, swallows the bite of food in his mouth with a momentarily surprised look, says "Pauvre, pauvre pussycat," then casually shrugs his shoulders and says "Ah, well, c'est la guerre!" and they go off happily munching with jaunty theme music in the background.
    • The DtV movies are just as bad about this, with the exception being "The Fast and the Furry". In the others, Tom and Jerry often have to team up to save the day or find the MacGuffin, with Tom proving to be a good guy. But at the end, no matter what, Jerry screws over Tom without fail for no other reason. Which, considering Tom not deserving it beyond being a cat, turns Jerry into a Jerkass bordering on Villain Protagonist.
  • Bugs Bunny was like this in his early shorts, where he was an obnoxious Screwy Squirrel and Karma Houdini. In the later shorts this was rectified, with Bugs becoming a Karmic Trickster who only targeted those who deserved it.
    • Everything said about Bugs Bunny also applies to Woody Woodpecker, except possibly not the "strangely likable" part. Most other Walter Lantz heroes are similar.
  • Vendetta, on the Nicktoons show Making Fiends, is technically the antagonist of the story, since she creates the monsters that keep the rest of the town under her thumb. But when "good girl" Charlotte moves to town, the natural order of things is turned on its head by the fact that she's completely immune to the antics of Vendetta's creations and is completely obnoxious to boot. As she progresses blithely through the series, bringing about her own destruction in the process, the townspeople find her even more terrifying then Vendetta. More than once, Vendetta is forced into the role of hero to undo Charlotte's reign of tyranny. Maybe the evil test was right after all.
  • Chip and Dale whenever they're put up against Donald Duck.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons with The Itchy and Scratchy Show; most of the time Scratchy is doing nothing wrong and Itchy brutally butchers or beats the living hell out of him for no reason. This is lampshaded a few times:

Homer: Which one's the mouse?
Bart: Itchy.
Homer: Itchy's a jerk.

  • In the X-Men Evolution episode "Joyride" Avalanche becomes this while Scott/Cyclops of all people becomes the Designated Villain. To explain the premise of the plot: Lance decides he'd rather be in the X-Men to get closer to Kitty. Scott doesn't trust him. The episode consists of Lance making it as difficult as possible to be trusted (he ruins not one, but two different training exercises for the sake of being the center of attention, taunts Scott about his trashed car, etc) and so when the new recruits take the various X-Vehicles for joyrides Lance gets blamed, not because the kids frame him, but because he outright gives the adults reason to. When the new recruits take the X-Jet out, Lance jumps on with Kitty to stop them. However, when all the chaos ends Lance CONFESSES just to get into Scott's face. When Scott finds out he was innocent he apologizes, but Lance gets insulted by the fact he didn't trust him and quits the X-Men, not because of being blamed, but because he Just. Doesn't. Want. To. Try. We're supposed to have sympathy for Lance even though he did all he could to ruin his chance of freedom.
  • In American Dad most of the cast qualify due to Depending on the Writer as they alter between Heroic Comedic Sociopath and Villain Protagonist in any ep or even within the same episode.
  • Total Drama World Tour makes a big deal that Alejandro is a much more evil version of Heather, the former villain; in the end, that makes Heather the "hero" when they make it into the final two. But if you really compare Heather's actions over the course of the series, she's pretty much done every nasty thing Alejandro did—she was just less effective at it by season three, due to the others' Genre Savviness about her and their perpetual Idiot Ball about how Obviously Evil Al was.
  • The heroes of the show Redakai seem to be having some trouble with how to act heroic.
    • For example, they protect the Great Pyramids of Giza by leaping onto said monument and goading their enemies into firing at it.
    • In another episode, Maya, who is supposed to be The Smart Girl, leads the charge to protect the forest they're in by hurling flames everywhere.
    • One of the shows villain groups, The Imperiaz, are a trio of siblings working for the show's Big Bad reluctantly because he's holding their parents hostage. The heroes are aware of this, but rather than wanting to help or at least showing a little sympathy, they have no remorse making light of the siblings' situation to taunt them.
    • In the show, there exists something called "The Kairu Honor Code." So far, there are three parts of it. The Kairu must be taken from the object by the team that gets the rights to it. The second part is that Kairu Warriors must NEVER attack ordinary people. The third part is that attacking your opponent even after they forfeit is forbidden. Even Lokar can't stand anyone who breaks the code and actually disbands the team that does. Team Stax, the good guys, attack normal people, and not a single scolding because they're the heroes and can get away with it! Why have such a thing in place if the heroes ignore it?
    • Oh yeah, one of those times, Team Stax attacked an ordinary person by stringing him by his ankles to a Pterodactyl. And they're supposed to be portrayed in the right when they do this. Wow...
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Angel Bunny, Fluttershy's pet. He's supposed to be comically sassy and tougher than his meek mistress but still a nice character. It's hard to remember he's meant to be a good guy when he slaps his kindhearted owner in the face and kicks her out of her own house for incorrectly preparing a gourmet salad for him.
    • He Took a Level In Kindness later though, so that could more be Depending on the Writer.
    • Plus, he is clearly in the wrong in that particular episode.
    • Practically everyone in Ponyville became jerkasses during that episode, just so Fluttershy could be depicted as a doormat. It's generally agreed to have been fairly bad writing just to drive the plot.
  • Johnny Test's... well, Johnny Test. He bugs most everyone around him, is pretty okay with being used as a guinea pig by his sisters in return for favors, which by the way, continuously endangers him, his family, and possibly the rest of his town, and... really just being a textbook example of the bratty kid hero. He's also a Karma Houdini most of the time.