Designated Monkey

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Designated Monkey is an unintentional Butt Monkey. They constantly find themselves in horrible situations; the author appears to intend this to be karmic punishment, but the audience (or a significant subgroup of it) thinks that it's out of proportion and will treat them as The Woobie. This can create Moral Dissonance or Values Dissonance in the work, or it could mean that the fandom is misaimed. The audience may even begin to wonder whether the author is deliberately misrepresenting this character to prevent us from sympathizing with them. Or write Revenge Fics on their behalf.

A variant of this can happen to an intentional Butt Monkey or Cosmic Plaything if the rules of the universe are rewritten to punish them.

Common traits of such characters:

Legitimate characters being turned into Designated Monkeys may be a sign that the fans are Running the Asylum.

Compare Unpopular Popular Character. Contrast Creator's Pet.

Examples of Designated Monkey include:


  • The Trix Rabbit. Is it so much to ask to let the cute rabbit have some cereal? He's tried hard enough, hasn't he? Now, try to find someone except the ad creators who doesn't think he deserves it.
    • They actually conducted a survey asking America if he should be allowed to get any. Twice. Voters said yes both times.
      • Once, he actually just went out and bought some, with his own money. Then some kids came along and took it away, apparently just because they're assholes.
      • Another commercial has the Rabbit win a box of it in a figure skating contest. Sure enough, the kids come by and take his Trix and the trophy he won (even though he entered the contest and competed fair and square).
  • A number of mascots are designated monkeys in this regard (see also Cereal Vice Reward). Lucky the Leprechaun always has kids steal his Lucky Charms (go buy some, you brats!); Sonny always goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and the Quik rabbit always loses his self-control when Nestle Quik is involved. Clearly, advertising agencies are sadistic.

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Batman in comics written by Geoff Johns falls into this occasionally. Johns claims to like Batman, but considering how many times he's humiliated/beaten up/put in the Designated Villain role in his comics, a lot of fans feel differently.
  • Frank Miller's treatment of Superman is up there with Johns' efforts on Batman. How many times does Big Blue have to come out looking like a complete moron, anyway? He treats them both as idiots in All-Star Batman And Robin, though. ASBAR, is, however, quite possibly a Stealth Parody (or so everyone hopes).
    • And when Supes isn't written as an outright moron, he's a pathetic pawn of the government. Not to mention Miller's complete dismissal of Green Lantern as being a pathetic hero. One issue of ASBAR had Dick Grayson, age 12, steal Hal's ring and give him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Many fans assume that this was Miller's Take That for the aforementioned Geoff Johns example.
      • Miller seems to give Plastic Man a fair amount of respect from Batman himself in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, though. "He could kill us all... For him, it'd be easy..." This is surprising since other writers have used Plas as a Butt Monkey for comedic purposes,
  • Dave Sim did this a lot as Cerebus went on. It tied in with his Creator Breakdown. Due to his rising misogyny, he hated pretty much all his female characters and generally wrote them out to replace them with Straw Feminist shrews. This, however, is nothing compared to the titlular character. A good part of one trade paperback is devoted to Dave directly addressing said character and explaining to him what an asshole he is and how totally unfit he is for human company. Pretty much the entire comic from that point on (about 100 issues or so, depending on where you think this begins) details Cerebus' slow and gradual self-destruction.
  • The Civil War at Marvel was this to the anti-registration side, at least for the main focus issues. The writers wrote that side as having faults that a lot of readers didn't see.
  • With the exception of Superman, Garth Ennis has a serious mad-on for superheroes. Whenever they appear in his comic, they are depicted as either Jerk Jocks or complete imbeciles, and their usual role is to get knocked around and make the Badass Normals look good. It's frustrating for readers who've seen his work on Punisher MAX and Preacher (Comic Book), and know that he's a genuinely good writer when he's not writing what amounts to glorified Revenge Fic.
  • In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books, Michelangelo may be an unintentional example as he was not given an especially large role in Volumes 1 and 2, did little to advance the plot, and was often not portrayed as an especially skilled fighter. This was most likely due to the need to establish Leonardo's role as a "leader" along with the fact that Donatello and Raphael were Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman's favorite turtles respectively.


  • Mundungus Fletcher from Harry Potter is portrayed as oddly unsympathetic despite the relatively minor nature of his crimes.
    • He's a coward among brave men, and a thief among heroes. He might not be the worst criminal of all time, but his behavior can get quite annoying (and is, well, illegal). Well, the heroes get away with a lot, yes, but this man in particular does nothing to compensate for his misdeeds and gets counted with the heroes. Hell - he even calls them irrational.
    • There's also that one of his 'minor' acts of evil ultimately cost the Trio their safe house and arguably delayed the destruction of Voldemort by months. How much trouble could have been avoided if he hadn't stolen the locket horcrux and sold it to Umbridge?
    • His cowardice also cost the heroes the lives of one of their own - Mad-Eye Moody - at a time when they really could have used him.
  • Marcus Brutus in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series of historical novels. He isn't a Butt Monkey or Chew Toy because he is a historical figure, but the writer goes out of her way to show her disdain for him. Brutus is portrayed in a deeply unsympathetic way as a coward, completely under the heel of his mother, a boring pseudointellectual, and both miserly and greedy when it comes to money. He is allowed a few moments of likability but is otherwise entirely contemptible, largely because of his role in killing Julius Caesar (who is essentially a Canon Sue in McCullough's novels).
  • Finding Judas states, "The original Judas Iscariot is often considered to have had unselfish intentions; perhaps he wanted to goad Jesus into all-out war with the Romans to liberate the Jews. And the apocryphal Gnostic Gospel of Judas actually claims that Jesus ordered him to do it." Yet traditionally, Judas is one of the most hated figures in Christendom. The Bible doesn't say what finally happened to any specific apostle (or ex-apostle) except Judas.
  • In The Dresden Files novels, especially the early ones, Harry sometimes screws up, but he also tends to end up taking heat for other people's screw-ups, and blaming himself irrationally for things that were, by any reasonable standard, not his fault. On at least one occasion, he heavily blames himself for another hero's massive moment of stupidity, for which she didn't apologize for, for about another five books. (To say nothing of the fact that in so doing, she was engaging in several major felonies herself. Did I mentioned that it was a cop who engaged in the stupidity?) Not that his girlfriend was any better about this: when someone tells you that vampires aren't really very nice, you should listen, Susan. No matter how cool an article it would make. He's been getting more realistic about what is and is not his fault, though.
    • Not, of course, that it stops him from being kicked around more and more over the course of the series. All the time. Poor Harry. Being Good Sucks.
    • Lampshaded to a ridiculous extent in the RPG, to the point where it's the explanation for a mechanic. You get fate points whenever roleplaying gets your character in trouble, which you need to use to help you along.
  • In Twilight, the character Leah Clearwater was punished by being rendered infertile, for being bitter about her fiance being brainwashed into falling in love with her cousin. And for being nasty to the main character, Bella Swan. However, she remains one of the most sensible and likeable characters on the show, and a vast majority of the anti-fanbase cheers her on and supports her.
    • Similarly, Rosalie Hale was rendered infertile, for being jealous of the main character and for once being attracted to the male lead. She was redeemed in the third book, where she reveals that she has an obsession about babies, and is willing to become a baby-sitter for free for Bella, because that was her ultimate ambition as a human. Before this was revealed, Rosalie was one of the most popular Cullens, and was very popular with the anti-fanbase, as well.

Live-Action TV

  • Ross Geller from Friends.
  • The titular character of Everybody Loves Raymond became this trope more and more as the show went on. His wife, Debra, sometimes got this treatment at the hands of Marie, but at least in those cases, the show made it clear that the audience was supposed to side with Debra over Marie. When Ray became the Designated Monkey at Debra's hands, it was often for very shoddy reasons, yet it seemed like the show wanted the audience to root for Debra (at the very least, the studio audience seemed to be rooting for her, even when she made Ray a Butt Monkey).
  • Colin Mochrie from Whose Line Is It Anyway? is an unusual example due to the fact he is absolutely capable of defending himself against the writers, the comedians and Drew Carey. Several times when he's the butt of a joke, a percentage of the audience will cry out in favour of him and he'll often act innocent to get more sympathy.
  • J.D. from Scrubs became this in season six. The writers put him through an incredible amount of torment (losing his girlfriend, losing his unborn baby, becoming homeless, getting a DUI on a technicality, and getting a disease that causes him to pass out frequently, which is to say nothing of the innumerable times he's been tormented and abused by people around him) and made it very clear that they had no sympathy for his plight (the storyline ends with him learning to not complain so much to his jerkass friends). This reached breaking point when the season ended with the girlfriend who left him revealing she lied about the miscarriage to escape their relationship and the show playing it entirely on HER side, admonishing J.D. for being rightfully spiteful. Needless to say, this was when a lot of fans, including this troper, abandoned the series.
  • From her introduction Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is this. A seemingly cool character who steals Buffy's friends, tries to take over her role as slayer, and sneaks her food. It turns out Faith's life sucks which she covers up through sex and partying, in contrast to Buffy's better upbringing. She correctly feels she never fits in, then tries to kill Angel, thinking he was evil. This causes such a rift that Faith is very much on the outside.
    • She then sleeps with Xander, the resident Butt Monkey, and at the time it's Played for Laughs before Willow finds out and it's Played for Drama. When Xander tries to help Faith after she accidently kills someone it becomes Nightmare Fuel. During this time Faith becomes evil, not just evil but frightening. The writers have her commit one evil act after another to portray her as a vicious, sadistic character, foregoing their original plan to have Faith so distraught over what she'd done that she's Driven to Suicide.
    • Later on its revealed that Faith's attempt to cross the Moral Event Horizon was actually an attempt to commit Suicide By Slayer (or Angel). Faith is talked out of her suicidal despair by Angel, willingly goes to jail in contrition for her crimes, then this trope is averted in Angel season 4 where she returns to save the rest of the cast from Angelus and in general be completely awesome and save the day...
      • ... only to get dumped right back into this trope head-over-heels as soon as that story arc finishes and she transfers back to Buffy season 7, where despite being one of the most humane and level-headed people in the cast (at least by comparison) everything she does turns out wrong, while Buffy (who is, quite frankly, being a total Jerkass this season) has everything she does turn up roses, even to the point of 'Hey, let's repeat the exact same plan that went disastrously wrong last time, and that Faith suggested we do the opposite of this time, but have her idea completely flop and my idea unaccountably work!'

Newspaper Comics

  • Towards the end of its original run, For Better or For Worse‍'‍s April became the author's Unfavorite.
    • And John gets attempts at character assassinations in the comic's "Reruns" in an attempt to make Elly look better. Many fans don't quite agree with the author's assessment.
  • Luann - Tiffany the "popular" girl is constantly denigrated in-universe by basically everybody, all the time, even her alleged friends, and out-of-universe by author Greg Evans. While she's certainly shallow, immature, and a ditz, she doesn't really seem any worse than Designated Hero Luann, aside from being openly self-absorbed instead of being all passive-aggressive about it...

Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer 40,000 the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter are atoning for an ancient sin committed by half their brethren 10,000 years ago. In order to pursue the surviving perpetrators of this crime, they often abandon their main mission and leave other Imperial forces to be destroyed. This is considered highly suspicious behaviour and treated as a serious problem in the background material. However, almost every other Space Marine Chapter treats normal humans with total contempt too and displays signs of deviance and autonomy that are tolerated only because The Imperium aren't in a position to do anything about it. It's not clear what makes the Dark Angels' relatively minor disobedience so awful.
    • Could be Deliberate Values Dissonance in action. The "ancient sin committed by half their brethren" was to betray the Emperor and almost destroy the Legion (not yet separated into Chapters) in their own civil war while the Imperium as a whole was being torn apart by the Horus Heresy. Considering the other Legions that did so were declared heretics with orders to kill on sight, the Dark Angels justifiably fear that if the knowledge of so many of the Legion being traitors was to become widely known, they would suffer the same fate, and so their efforts to eliminate the remnants of those traitors results in erratic, unexplained behavior that makes them appear suspicious; other Space Marines Chapters follow their own agendas, but at least they're relatively open about what they're doing.

Video Games

Web Comics

  • Boxbot from Gunnerkrigg Court is a Played for Laughs example, a small robot that doesn't do anything except be called terrible by other characters. But he is a bit of a Woobie terrible.
    • Boxbot, is that you? Are you trying to exact pity from these good tropers? You're an embarrassment. I'm so disappointed in you.
      • Robox is totally awesome though. Everyone loves having him around.
  • Yafien from Drowtales, who is a Nerd in a world where everyone else is a Proud Warrior Race Guy, does what any sane, unarmed person would do when three knife-wielding, demon-possessed people go after the girl you met three seconds ago: run away. He is also one of the few characters in his dystopian world who has never killed, raped, robbed, etc., and is viewed in-story as a treacherous coward due to Deliberate Values Dissonance.
    • Syphile had a terrible childhood where she was put down, abused, and beaten pretty much constantly, and is guilty of abusing Ariel and killing her kitten in a fit of rage. She was forcing Ariel to memorize a dictionary, and basically had no idea how to teach, and took out the problems on the child, who unsurprisingly grew to hate her. She does get a pretty killer Hannibal Lecture, pointing this out, and Ariel simply refuses to listen. Also, she gets to give one to her own mother. And promptly die, but it may have influenced said mother...
  • There's plenty of them in Something*Positive, but Kharisma, in particular, represents this. A horribly shallow, self absorbed character who has received so damn much punishment (her face being set on fire, being sent to prison for a crime she [technically] didn't commit), it is getting harder and harder to feel schadenfreude at her.
    • Before his Character Development lead to him becoming a better person, Mike was treated like crap by the main cast. The fact that he was the walking incarnation of Fan Dumb often paled in comparison to the Comedic Sociopathy of the main cast, but they were inevitably forgiven and he was shunned.

Web Original

  • Strong Sad from Homestar Runner is an odd case of a Woobie who is also a Butt Monkey: we do genuinely pity him most of the time, but that doesn't prevent us from laughing at his expense from time to time.
  • The Nostalgia Critic. He is a git and does deserve what he gets most of the time, but he's an epic Jerkass Woobie and fans have said that it would be kinda nice if he actually won for a change.
  • In SuperMarioGlitchy4, the Koopalings may be seen as this. They don't appear often in the series, but when they do, they tend to be Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains who get on the receiving end of a Curb Stomp Battle. What's worse is that they always have a kind-of legitimate reason to go up against Designated Hero Mario, who isn't any better himself and often the worse Jerkass.
    • Bowser Jr. also qualifies, to a lesser extent. He has a few more appearances, not all of them being this. (Mario even cares for him once in R64: Son of a Bowser, from the closely related series Retarded 64.)
    • In Bowser loses custody of his children, it is revealed that Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings get routinely neglected by their (adoptive?) father Bowser. He also seems to favor Bowser Jr. over the rest.
    • Wendy seems to get the overall harshest treatment. Just look how she gets insta-curb-stomped in Stupid Mario World, and senselessly battered (and apparently killed) by Designated Hero Meggy in The Mario Mafia.
    • Melony qualifies in Mario has a BBQ but he's not invited, which is just after her transformation from a sentinent water melon to a human. Nobody really empathizes with her. After spending her time trapped in the body of a fruit, she goes Berserk whenever anyone tries to cut or eat fruit in her presence, as she assumes they are sentinent "friends". Of course, nobody cares for this, and everyone just wonders when she goes postal for "no reason", instead she gets fought off and framed as a Designated Villain.
      • She got better since then - in one later sequel she even becomes a deity. No comparison to poor Wendy O. Koopa above, so far.
  • The above happens to the Koopalings in other fan works, too. For example, ericfortesTV has an episode called Bowser's beach vacation where Bowser, Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings are having fun at the beach of a remote island while Bowser is planning to destroy that beach later in order to build a port for his new Empire. In the middle of it, Mario suddenly appears, destroys Bowser's airships and then attacks him and his family, although they haven't done anything wrong yet. While trying to defeat Mario, the Koopalings accidentally knock each other over, and when Mario receives a Mega Mushroom by chance, they are finally ripe for a Curb Stomp Battle. After defeating the whole Koopa family, Mario relaxes on the beach, saying "That was a lot of fun!". This episode got many comments about "Mario being such a jerk" because the Koopalings "haven't done anything yet". Especially Larry quickly became The Woobie because he didn't do anything except building sand castles that got destroyed again and again.
    • Interestingly, these responses seem to have sparked several later episodes where the Koopalings are major characters, including The Larry Network, where Larry becomes a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, and a scene of Revenge Fic where Bowser ruins Mario's and Luigi's holidays.
  • Darwin Awards: All publicly announced winners and almost-winners may be considered Real Life examples of the Designated Monkey. (With some possible exceptions, depending on your viewpoint.) After all, they have made a few grotesque misjudgements which have led to their death or (self-)mutilation, and then they get framed in public as being a general waste of life. Although it's humorous, one can be certain that not everybody involved will understand it this way. Most "winners" are dead, so they naturally can no longer defend against a bad reputation, and those who are still alive are often crippled as a consequence of their Idiot Ball, and ridiculing them in public is basically Kick Them While They Are Down. There is even more Fridge Horror when you think about mourning friends and relatives who may or may not find this funny, and how the organizers behind the website want to rule out mental illness in their "candidates". (In theory, serious mental illness at the time of the incident is a disqualifier, but in some cases this is hard to prove or disprove.)
    • There is a heavy dose of Your Mileage May Vary in this example.
    • Not to forget, there are actually a few people who strive for getting a DA. Possible that some survivors have nominated themselves. In this case, it becomes hard to really pity them. (Although it could be argued that this would be the ultimate act of stupidity.)

Western Animation

  • Donald Duck is often portrayed as a Jerkass who deserves his bad luck, but sometimes, he obviously didn't do anything wrong. Clearly, this is Played for Laughs.
    • Which is why the Italians created his vindicator/superhero secret identity: Paperinik.
  • Similarly, Daffy Duck of Looney Tunes; for the most part, Daffy does deserve what he gets, because of his jealousy and his undiscriminating screwyness. It is still very much played for laughs, though, and in some cases, it definitely seems like he's being unjustly punished (as in Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a Half Century or My Little Duckeroo, where he was actually on the losing end against a villain).
    • A lot of Daffy's sympathy may have arisen from his rather different persona beforehand.
    • Daffy, and the large majority of Looney Tunes antagonists for that matter, may often seem to invoke this due to their often pitiful malice which proves little challenge for protagonists such as Bugs and Speedy, thus the horrible pain they endure seems somewhat disproportionate to what little provocation they make, no matter how cruel their intentions were (it's obvious who was meant to be the most sympathetic character between Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner).
      • Elmer Fudd was actually an example self-confessed by director Friz Freleng, who was convinced that Bugs looked too much of a 'bully' when pitted against him and thus made him into a more pro-active hero against the meaner-spirited outlaw, Yosemite Sam.
      • Sylvester may be another key example, given that his intentions were usually never outside the natural instincts of a normal cat. The repeated physical and verbal assaults he received for trying to eat 'a sweet, innocent, little bird' and the equally brutal punishment he received for failing to do the same to a mouse (though granted, Sylvester was often placed in Butt Monkey roles, be it provoked or not) certainly didn't help.
  • Due to the (hilariously) warped moral perspective on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Master Shake is both a Designated Monkey and a Karma Houdini. When Shake is actively being a jerk and hurting people, he tends to get away with it. But his biggest Humiliation Congas come from his well-intentioned (for him, anyway) stupidity and/or him being an unrelated victim.
  • Meg Griffin of Family Guy seems to be a somewhat intentional example - often abused, ignored, or mocked by everyone in the show's universe for little known reason, especially as the Comedic Sociopathy humor in the series increased, with even straight men like Lois and Brian acting equally callous to Meg, as well as Jerkass characters like Peter (though granted, this may not be as emphasised in later seasons, where Flanderization has led nearly every character to become sociopathic and self-centered with Meg's abuse actually seeming petty to that invoked and suffered by most of the cast). The fanbase seems divided as to whether Meg's treatment is hilarious or outright cruel.
  • Tommy Pickles from All Grown Up! becomes this in his preteen years, whenever his friends make him the scapegoat of their fury, whenever they're in a tight situation. This is done episodes like "Truth or Consequences", "Dude, Where's My Horse?", "All Broke Up", and "Brothers Grimm"
    • In "All Broke Up", Tommy especially gets the bitter end of this where not only are his friends mad at him for lying to them, but when both Rachel (his girlfriend who had just moved away) and Anita (a girl who Tommy met a few days ago) shows at the same time, both of them reject Tommy, publicly humiliating him in front of everyone and breaking his heart.
  • Henry of KaBlam!! fits this trope to a T. He's often getting hurt for no apparent reason, though only two people in the show seem to care about him (his over-doting mom and his best friend/secret admirer June on some occasions).
  • Mr. Bump from The Mr. Men Show is pretty much this.
  • Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants is becoming one of these, largely due to his increasingly pitiful malice and his adversary Mr. Krabs becoming almost as callous and even reverting to torturing Plankton unprovoked in a similar fashion.
  • Pete in Goof Troop. His character has always been a villain or an antagonist, but the more "mundane" setting of the show means that he's more of a petty Jerkass than truly evil, which makes the usually over-the-top abuse he receives seem a little out of proportion a lot of the time. And then there are the times when he didn't do anything.
  • Ezekiel from Total Drama World Tour. Apparently, being really determined to win qualifies him to devolve into Gollum.
  • Fifi LaFume from Tiny Toon Adventures, who usually gets abused for no reason and is usually ignored by all of the other characters. Just look at how she gets treated in the movie!
  • Scrat from the Ice Age movies. He's an intentional Butt Monkey, but sometimes his endless bad luck is outright painful, given that all he wants is a few hazelnuts and a safe place to bury them.