Hero with Bad Publicity

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"What is he up to now?" How about saving your ungrateful lives![1]

Your powerful GDI forces have been emasculated, and you yourself are a killer of children. Now of course it's not true, but the world only believes what the media tells them to believe.... and I tell the media what to believe. It's really quite simple.

As a newsman, I know I should keep my opinions to myself, but I just wanna say: Kenan and Kel, we hate you!

Newsman, Kenan and Kel

Being a Superhero isn't all it's cracked up to be. The heroes' lives and those of their loved ones are constantly in danger from their archnemeses—and sometimes from their own powers, too. Sometimes someone else takes credit for their heroic efforts. But perhaps the most hurtful and confusing drawback comes when the people they've sworn to protect hate their guts.

This could arise for any number of reasons:

But whatever the reason, public sentiment is against these heroes, and there's usually nothing they can do about it. Sorry - you can't please everyone.

Usually serves as the grass-roots support for a Super Registration Act. Can be a reason that Sued for Superheroics. Especially ironic when it happens to the Slave to PR. The permanent version of the Untrusting Community. The inverse, where the hero's problems are evident only to intimates, is No Hero to His Valet, while the complete opposite - a bad guy that people like - is Villain with Good Publicity. Please observe the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement rule when adding Real Life examples, as one person's hero is often another person's villain, and vice versa, especially in politics.

Examples of Hero with Bad Publicity include:

Anime and Manga

  • The titular character of the manga Kinnikuman has this problem early on. In the first chapter, aliens actually cancel their invasion plans rather than fight Kinnikuman, the only hero available at the time. A bit later, the Japanese government allows American superhuman Terry Man to become their resident hero, in spite of the fact he charges for his rescues, because it's still better than being saved by Kinnikuman.
  • Vash from Trigun has a reputation so bad he's viewed as a natural catastrophe. Mostly because people keep trying to kill him and blowing up the nearby towns, blowing up a city himself one time and finally because Knives is trying to kill break him.
  • Lina has a pretty terrible reputation... because she tends to use Dragon Slave in the middle of towns. Plus steal. But she means well manages to do heroic stuff anyway!
    • Revolution cranks it Up to Eleven –- she's nearly arrested and tried for the crime of "being Lina Inverse"! Her own friends regard this as being a valid reason to try and arrest her!
  • In Gaiking: Legend of the Daiku Maryu, this ends up being the case since the heroes essentially take the fight to the enemy's planet very early on. The episode in which the hero Daiya finds this out is actually called "We're the bad guys?!?"
  • Victor Freeman from Blaster Knuckle hunts demons that revert to a human form when killed, and have often taken the forms of women and children. The first issue kicks off with him stomping into a saloon and gunning down a pretty brunette pleading for help (she was actually a demon, but...). Did I mention that this story takes place in the 1880's Deep South, and that Victor is Black?
  • Kenzo Tenma is accused of murder and goes on the run; he is hunted by the police wherever he goes, but in truth, he's Walking the Earth in search of the true perpetrator, an utterly amoral creation of a twisted psychological experiment, while trying to save everyone he comes across - even those who are trying to arrest him for crimes he didn't commit.
  • The Guyver manga features this after the Zoanoids go public and claim that the Guyver and his allies are alien invaders. The recent anime just barely scratches the surface of this plot and is the only non-manga iteration to get up to even that point.
  • Mist from Knights is generally feared and hated because he's black and he's in a Medieval European-esque setting with an overwhelmingly white population.
  • A major plot-point and cause of grief for Hoichi Kano, protagonist from Cannon God Exaxxion. Good part of it comes from the absurd amounts of damage caused by the titular Super Robot, but the Riofaldian defamation campaign on him (which smashes to dust the We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future trope) makes things even more difficult.
  • While the public and the Magic Counsel is grateful that the Fairy Tail guild often solves world-threatening crises, the tendency for its members to cause massive property damage greatly irritates them.
  • Akuto Sai in Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou has a world's worth of factors against him. He's going to become the next Demon King, which his classmates are forcing him towards, willingly or otherwise, because the prophecy said so. Every time he tries to do some good, people assume it's part of his reign of terror. And then there's his name.
  • The title character of Black Jack is a brilliant surgeon who truly cares for his patients, but his outrageous fees and bad attitude give him a bad reputation.
  • This trope seems to disproportionately affect Dark-type and Ghost-type Pokémon. The eponymous Pokémon in Pokémon the Rise of Darkrai is this, and in the Pokémon episode "Ghoul Daze", a Dusknoir suffers being attacked by Pikachu and others when it was actually trying to save them from an actual malevolent ghost.
    • Thankfully, both of the above receive credit once the heroes realise the hastiness of their judgement.
    • Absol also suffers bad publicity. It is known as the Disaster Pokémon, and is able to pre-empt when disasters will happen. It then does the logical thing and tries to warn people of the impending disaster, only to be blamed as the cause of it, since it happens shortly after he appears.
  • Yusei Fudou in the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. Neo Dominoe residents do not take kindly to "Satellite scum" with a criminal mark.
    • They don't take kindly to Satellite people in general...
  • The straw hats of One Piece tend to be treated like this, they do a lot more good than harm, but still get chased out of places due to technically being pirates, and series of bad coincidences.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Roy Mustang more or less cultivates this by appearing to care only about chasing women and promotions. He gets hit with it for real when he is apparently responsible for burning a fugitive woman to death. Subverted in that he's still cultivating it - he fakes the murder and smuggles the woman, who is innocent, to safety in another country, knowing full well that people will hate him but preferring that over leaving her to her fate.
  • In the FRLG saga of Pokémon Special, an ultimatum was set up in that the three Pokedex holders, Red, Green and Blue, must surrender themselves to Team Rocket, or else the evil team's attack on the Sevii Islands will continue until they are captured. This caused the local community to pin the blame on the Pokedex holders, and even trying to hunt them down.
  • Zero and the Black Knights of Code Geass, when it comes to the Britannian Empire.
  • Guts from Berserk, although he's technically an Anti-Hero. Still beats his reincarnated nemesis Griffith, who is the Villain with Good Publicity.
  • Naofumi Iwatani, protagonist of The Rising of the Shield Hero. He spends a lot of time in season 1 as a pariah, due to Malty's Malicious Slander against him.

Comic Books

  • The instigation for the events in Marvel Comics' Civil War crossover is due to a large amount of collateral damage (including a few hundred dead children) from a botched mission that turned public opinion against superheroes. The result is that superheroes are put under government control (a fairly sensible idea that very quickly went horribly wrong), with Iron Man in charge.
    • But Iron Man himself becomes a Hero with Bad Publicity after the heroes almost fail to stop an alien invasion. He's kicked out of office and the new boss is Norman Osborn, the "ex-"Green Goblin. As for the current, this seems to get eventually subverted when Norman caught Tony, brutally beats him, and was caught on TV. And suddenly, the people think Tony is sympathetic again.
  • The anti-mutant prejudice in the X-Men labels probably qualifies, although this can also be seen as a case of Fantastic Racism.
  • Spider-Man gets a lot of undeserved flak, mostly due to the negative PR campaign by his employer, J. Jonah Jameson. Probably the first superhero to have this as his status quo.
    • This is all the more baffling when you consider how little collateral damage Spidey causes compared to most superheroes with super-strength.
    • However, while Spider-Man doesn't do much property damage himself, his Rogues Gallery does more property damage than all other rogue galleries in comics COMBINED. In fact, some of his enemies do so much property damage that it's practically part of their gimmick (Rhino, Sandman, Electro, Green Goblin, Hydro-Man, etc.).
    • Within the first twenty issues it was revealed JJ felt jealous of Spidey's successes. Later revelations included being beaten by his stepfather, a mistrust of superheroes, and JJ's own failure to live up to the high standards he sets for himself.
    • Of course, if he took one look at how Spidey's life normally functions, he'd soon be whistling a different tune.
    • In the 1990's animated series version of JJ he hates Spider-Man because he wears a mask, and his wife was killed by a masked man.
    • There is the fact that Peter began his superhero career as a teenager with no guidance and tended to be a wisecracking jerk who often screwed up and lost, and also tried more than once to draw a paycheck for it (nobody knows he needs the money to take care of his aunt). A bad first impression is hard to shake. Plus, being immature, he tended to egg-on JJ or get angry at him (which could be interpreted as threatening.)
      • However Jamerson first when after him when he was a mere performer, and killed his livelihood.
    • In the Ultimate line of Spider-Man comics, JJ initally only wanted to make headlines. This quickly changed however. It came to a head after The Bugle publicly started to support Sam Bullit, who was running on an anti-vigilante (in other words, superheros) campaign. But later, after an attempt on his life by some of the Kingpin's goons, JJ went to Peter's house (after having fired Peter from his job at the Daily Bugle earlier) and revealed his deeper reasons. He'd launched a smear campaign against Spider-Man because he didn't like the fact that his own son, who had died in a space shuttle accident (a real hero in Jameson's eyes), wasn't thought of as one and didn't get the attention he deserved, while everyday people looked up to a guy swingin' in his underwear.
      • Finally inverted later on, though. After Jameson sees Spider-Man risking his life to save a woman during a flood, he does a total 180, and devotes the Bugle's energies to supporting him.
      • In fact, after the Ultimatum wave, Jameson becomes one of Spider-Man's greatest advocates, leading to multiple crowning moments of heartwarming. For instance, when he discovers Peter's identity, he uses the information to clear Spider-Man's name without revealing his secret identity. He then gives Peter his job back and offers to pay for his college tuition. Eventually, when Spider-Man dies, he attends the funeral and comforts Aunt May in her time of need.
  • Over at The DCU, no matter how hard he tries, Booster Gold goes up against negative public opinion fairly often... usually due to his own screw-ups and glory-hound nature.
  • Richard Wentworth, The Spider, had a habit of killing crooks by the score. While this behavior was justified within the stories, it did make the police and public think of him as a dangerous criminal in his own right.
  • Just about all of the masked vigilantes in Watchmen after they fell out of favor and costumed adventuring was made illegal - except for those who work for the American government. Of course, the only other one still active is Rorschach, and he kinda deserves most of it.
  • The Outsiders' raison d'être is to be the team of superheroes that can do the Dirty Business and know they're going to come out with stains upon their name. Considering that it was funded by Batman, it makes sense, but raises some interesting questions.
    • When Batman took control of the team again, he fired several of the members, pointedly because they weren't suited to that sort of reputation:

Batman: Only criminals operate without constraints anymore, so we're going to cultivate the Outsiders' reputation as a team of outlaws. I didn't think you'd mind sparing Nightwing and Thunder that kind of stigma.

  • Like Iron Man, in the aftermath of Secret Invasion, Spider Woman has attained a very horrible reputation. Even if she is the real Spider Woman, most of the New Avengers (and some normal people) still see her as the Skrull Queen, the orchestrator of the Invasion that captured and impersonated her for years.
  • While this tends to come up at some point in most incarnations of Transformers, it was a particularly strong theme in the original Marvel Comics run, where the humans frequently weren't even aware that there were two factions of Transformers, let alone that one of those factions might be better-intentioned than the other.
  • With the New Krypton storyline, Superman, Supergirl, Nightwing, Flamebird, Valor, and their friends are lumped together with General Zod and the Kandorians in Earth's eyes.
  • Donald Duck's superhero alter ego, Paperinik, suffers from this in Paperinik New Adventures, thanks to Angus Fangus, a low-life reporter who's decided to paint Paperinik as a menace to society for the sake of ratings.
  • The Creeper is often seen as a creep by the public and as an outright criminal by the police/other superheroes, but the twist is that he himself is more than willing to accuse and demonize the Creeper as Jack Ryder, his reporter/talk show host alter ego to lessen any suspicions that they might be connected. And Ryder is seen as an irritating TV menace on his own too.
  • The Green Hornet actually invokes this. Since his day job consists of him being the owner and publisher of a major newspaper, Britt Reed, he constantly has his newspaper run stories about the Green Hornet being a dangerous criminal mastermind so he (as the Green Hornet) can infiltrate criminal gangs who assume he wants a cut of their operation.
  • In a complete 180 of his long held status, Superman in the DC Relaunch universe will start out as one of these (at least in his new backstory which will be covered in Action Comics.) There are indications that he won't have the warmest relationship with the general public even in the new present timeline.
    • He previously had a bit of bad publicity during his Electric Superman phase where losing control of his powers made him dangerous briefly.
    • Before that, there was a storyline a few years after Superman returned from the dead where stories started circulating that Superman had not returned from the dead and that this was another impostor. Seemingly backed up when Superman's body was found in his tomb (turned out to be an illusion from Braniac.)
  • The three main heroes in Sin City:
    • Hartigan was framed for Junior Roarke's murder due to being one of the only clean cops on the force.
    • Marv already had a reputation of being a psychopath but going up against the Roarkes ensured that his name would be mud before execution. In fact, they initially ran afoul of him when they tried to frame him for murder.
    • Dwight is wanted for the murder of an established socialite unlike the other two examples, he actually did it, although he was manipulated into doing so. His reputation was bad enough that he underwent plastic surgery to avoid being recognized.
  • All Fall Down has Siphon suffer from this when she is arrested on the news, for the deaths and injuries her accidental power-stealing caused.
  • In Les Légendaires, the Legendaries, who used to be loved by the people of their fictive world Alysia, became Heroes with Bad publicity after their "final" fight with their Big Bad Darkhell by accidentally breaking a magic stone, causing it to accidentally trap everyone on the planet in the form of a child. The population ends up blaming them for this, and while they gradually get their reputation back, it's only after they saved the world from an Omnicidal Maniac God of Evil that the population seem to have fully forgiven them.
    • This sometimes cause the population of Alysia to be portrayed as horribly ungrateful, seeing how they were quick to forget all the time the Legendaries risked their life (and keep doing so) for them just because of one accident that wasn't even lethal to the population.
  • Batman is being hit hard with this in the new DCU as Batman and as Bruce Wayne. Some people in Gotham actually riot because they think he killed The Joker—yes, The Joker is more sympathetic in the public eye. Bruce's attempts at urban renewal are also not being well received. Some people in Gotham do not see it for the act of goodwill it is and see it as a rich bastard tearing down historical buildings (read: run-down buildings in a high crime area they didn't care about before) to make a new skyscraper.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Following her brainwashing by the Iron Queen, NICOLE becomes a subject of fear to much of New Mobotropolis, particularly Idol Singer Mina Mongoose, who begins a series of musical protests against her. And things are made even worse when Ixis Naugus starts using Mina's music as a conduit for his magic, amplifying the public's distrust of NICOLE into paranoia and hate, in a bid to make himself a Villain with Good Publicity by promising to dispose of NICOLE for them. And it works, leading to a Heroic BSOD on NICOLE's part.
  • ROM Spaceknight had this problem early in his career, at least on Earth. A cyborg tasked with coming to Earth and hunting down his race’s arch enemies, the Dire Wraths (an evolutionary offshoot of Skrulls that had been corrupted by dark magic), he was initially seen as the villain by earthlings, due to lack of foresight on his part. Like regular Skrulls, Dire Wraths are shapechangers who can disguise themselves as humans, and Rom’s method of dealing with them was a Ray Gun that banished them to their home dimension of Limbo. Unfortunately, at first he had no way of communicating with humans, so given what they witnessed, they assumed he was a Killer Robot attacking them with a Disintegrator Ray! Fortunately, after several run-ins with Earth's heroes he managed to manipulate his actions so both Luke Cage and Iron Fist saw the Dire Wraths for what they were, prompting both The Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange to reassess the situation, and Rom was eventually accepted as a hero.

Fan Works

  • In Aselia, a major plotline involves the Tales (series) characters figuring out why their realms and verses merged together, and the bad reputations of certain characters has caused other protagonists to, at best, find them to be the in-story equivalent of side-villains, and at worst, assume that they were responsible for merging the verses in some form. Specific heroes with bad publicity are Asbel Lhant, Jude Mathis, Lloyd Irving, Veigue Lungberg, Senel Coolidge and Yuri Lowell.


  • The movie Hancock starts off with this and the PR agent who volunteers to try to improve his image.
  • The titular hero goes through this during Batman Returns, thanks to the manipulations of the Penguin, the resident Villain with Good Publicity. The mayor hangs a lampshade on this at the end of the movie.
    • Yet another Batman movie example: In The Dark Knight Saga, this seems to be one of the most direct results of the Joker's efforts. Batman deliberately takes this on himself at the end when he convinces Gordon to blame him for the murders committed by Dent. This is part of Batman's Zero-Approval Gambit to get criminals to fear him again, and more importantly, protect Harvey Dent's reputation and legacy.
  • Just about any Cowboy Cop is one of these.
  • The Ghostbusters, who are largely thought to be charlatans while they are saving the city. The sequel shows that many people continue to doubt their legitimacy even after the climax of the first film.
  • Deconstructed in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. Ford's killing of Jesse is clearly cowardly but he tried to play it off like it's heroism. Nobody buys it and Ford is widely villified, and later murdered by a lone gun nut seeking to avange Jesse's death (who, to twist the knife further, is buried as a hero, while Ford's tombstone reads "the coward who killed Jesse James"). The irony is that Jesse was actually a Villain with Good Publicity- while the public at large thought he was a Lovable Rogue, he was actually a violent, brooding, paranoid lunatic who had recently purged several members of his gang because he thought they'd betrayed him. In private Ford confesses that, ultimately, the real reason killed Jesse was that he seriously believed Jesse was going to kill him, and based on the evidence he was Properly Paranoid. To top it off, James is implied to be a Death Seeker and let Ford kill him to escape a miserable life constantly on the run from the law.
  • The Desperado series of TV movies follow Duell McCall, an innocent man framed for one murder who travels from place to place, upholds justice, defeats evil men and inevitably gets blamed for everything that happens in the film so his bounty just keeps getting bigger.
  • The premise of The Green Hornet is this. He posed himself as a villain, but his deeds are actually heroic. Look at the Comic Book example above.
  • Mystery Inc. in Scooby Doo Monsters Unleashed after some vicious slander from a reporter.


  • In The Lord of the Rings and others of Tolkien's writings, Galadriel—the Lady of the Golden Wood—has a bad reputation with the Riders of Rohan, as well as Gondorians.
    • It might have something to do with how uninvited guests rarely survive entering her realm. The elves of Lothlórien are even more xenophobic than their Mirkwood cousins.
    • Most of the time uninvited guests never even manage to enter; her enchantment keeps the land protected and intruders lost. Orcs were deliberately lured inwards so that they could be slaughtered to the last man, however.
  • By the end of the second book in the Warchild Series, Captain Azarcon and his men have acquired this reputation.
  • Harry Potter, despite being the Chosen One, gets this treatment frequently throughout the series, mostly being portrayed as an Attention Whore:
    • In Chamber of Secrets he is suspected of being the Heir of Slytherin due to always being seen with the victims shortly before it happened and being able to speak snake;
    • In Goblet of Fire he is accused of tricking the eponymous goblet into allowing him to participate in the Inevitable Tournament;
    • In Order of The Phoenix, the Daily Prophet convinces the populace that he's a psychotic attention-seeker who is pretending that Voldemort has returned to get himself more Woobieness. However, when Voldemort is seen at the Ministry of Magic, the Prophet not only reverses its position, but also gilds Harry's reputation as a fearlessly determined Cassandra warning the Wizardry community of the threat.
    • In Deathly Hallows, the newly Voldemort-controlled Daily Prophet accuses him of murdering Dumbledore and the anti-Voldemort resistance movement starts to lose faith in Harry because of his sudden disappearance, secretly criticizing him for being a Chosen One Who Doesn't Do Anything. Of course he makes up for it in the end, and all is forgiven.
    • This trope could also apply to Severus Snape. No matter how many times he has demonstrably saved Harry's life, or failed to cause him any harm besides a few detentions and sarcastic remarks when he had plenty of opportunities, Harry continued to hate his guts until the very end. Also, everyone believes him a traitor after book six because he killed Dumbledore (done at Dumbledore's request, but only Snape and Dumbledore knew this). Especially given that Snape had been a Death Eater before (of his own free will,) it was an entirely reasonable conclusion to come to. The fact that Snape was always a Jerkass to Harry doesn't help his case. He was also a Deadpan Snarker to everyone, as well. Except for his chosen Teacher's Pet students. Heck, even them at times.
      • Harry finally gets this when he views Snape's life story and forgives him for his flaws. Not only did he get his second son's middle name from Snape, he even campaigned to have Snape recognised as a legitimate Headmaster and hero of the Wizarding World.
    • Don't forget Sirius Black, who is believed by nearly everyone in the wizarding community to be a murderous psychopath until after his death.
  • The demigod children who form the focus of the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series are usually branded as troublemakers because their heritage causes ADD and dyslexia, but it's even worse for the main character. Percy seems to start every schoolyear by getting into a fight with monsters sent by the Big Bad, destroying them, and then being blamed for all the damage because the Mist obscures the eyes of mortals who witness the event.
  • The Deryni in the novels by Katherine Kurtz suffer for this generally, and Camber of Culdi and Alaric Morgan most particularly.
    • Some Deryni are evil, and a family of them conquered Gwynedd and ruled tyrannically for eight decades. Unfortunately, in the backlash all the Deryni were condemned as evil. Fear, ignorance and imagination soon make them seem nigh on demonically powerful and diabolically clever.
    • Camber of Culdi found the heir of the previous ruling family, engineered his restoration to the throne (and the toppling of the evil Deryni ruler), and for what? Sure he gets sainthood, but quickly loses it. He and many members of his family are outlawed and die untimely deaths, his estates are forfeited, even his family's tombs are destroyed.
    • Alaric Morgan had bad publicity from birth. He chooses to make use of this, cultivating his dangerous reputation as a means of protecting himself; he often wears black and he is open about the fact that he is Deryni, even if he doesn't perform magic openly. Despite this, he serves two kings loyally and effectively, often risking his life in the process. While he reaps many rewards, his reputation precedes him.
  • Arguably, the entire New Jedi Order in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
    • Once again the case in the Fate of the Jedi series. Given Natasi Daala is the incumbent Chief of State for the Galactic Alliance and a major antagonist of the Order (and Force users in general) this is not that surprising.
  • Harry Dresden is pretty much this trope walking. To the "straights" he's at best a quirky man who knows way too much and thus is pretty damned creepy, and at worst they see him as a delusional charlatan who may or may not be conning Chicago PD out of good money. To the White Council, however, he is considered a loose cannon who may or may not be a devious, dangerous schemer at Black Magic. His ostensible allies don't trust him, and the only people he's got on his side are a gaggle of werewolves, the Knights, a few members of the Chicago PD's Special Investigations unit, his half-brother, his teenage apprentice, and a smattering of allies in the Faerie Courts and the White Council.
  • Patrick McLanahan and his team(s) from Dale Brown's books are disliked at best, outright hated at worst by those in the American government who know of their existence. Jason Richter and Task Force TALON get a similar treatment.
  • Subverted in Fate of the Jedi. While the leader of the Galactic Alliance blames Jacen Solo's Face Heel Turn and subsequent reign of terror on Luke Skywalker failing to prevent it and pushes him into a self-imposed exile from the Jedi Order, the Jedi wish him well in his quest for the truth, and his son Ben agrees to help with his father's investigation of the facts.
    • As well as, at his trial, a crowd of Muggle supporters that reminds the reader that no, the entire GA is not against the Jedi, and yes, despite said leader's smear campaign, people in-story still realize that Luke is one of the biggest heroes and forces for good in the GFFA.
  • In The Bible, Jesus warns his disciples that the world will hate them.
  • In Something M.Y.T.H. Inc., we see how Skeeve's well-meant efforts to reform the kingdom of Possiltom in Sweet Myth-tery of Life are mistaken for the actions of a stereotypical "evil wizard" or Dark Lord by the kingdom's more impressionable citizens.
  • In the Knight and Rogue Series Michael develops a tendency to be the prime suspect of the crime he's trying to solve due to being tattooed as an unredeemable criminal, thanks to a spectacular failure on the law's part.
  • Pei Shan-wei of Safehold tried to stop her fellow colony directors from giving in to their A God Am I delusions and forever turning the planet into a Medieval Stasis when the objective is to build back up to full technology. Her Anti-Mutiny is rewarded by her being murdered, along with all her friends and associates, and labeled the Church of God Awaiting's Satan.
  • It also happened to Sherlock Holmes in the Anthony Horowitz story, "The House of Silk."

Live Action TV

  • Buffy is feared and/or disliked by much of the teaching staff at Sunnydale High School. Initially, it was because they'd heard rumors about how she burned down the gym at her old high school, but later she's the focus of a smear campaign directed by her principal.
    • Even more pronounced in the Season Eight comics, where the Slayers are, suffice it to say, controversially heroic, in large part due to there being Vampires With Good Publicity.
      • It's not even entirely unjustified; Buffy's brilliant idea for funding her worldwide Slayer operation was to rob a Swiss bank with the aid of magic and Slayer powers; her justification was that it was probably Nazi gold, anyway.

Willow: "Sweet girl. Not that bright."

  • Buffy is, unfortunately, far from the first Slayer to fit this Trope. The very first Slayer was Sineya, an African tribeswoman in a prehistoric era. Living in a time before the Old Ones were locked away and still free to menace humanity (including possibly Chthulhu itself, given one of the comics' illustrations) she certainly did her job admirably, but her own kinsmen (whom she protected) believed her to be just as much a demon as the creatures she fought, and cast her out. One could say Sineya had it much worse even than Buffy, having nobody to confide in and being truly alone in her task.
  • Narutaki, a self-proclaimed "prophet", spreads rumors across realities about the eponymous Kamen Rider Decade being destined to destroy The Multiverse. To be fair, Narutaki wasn't far from wrong.
  • Starts to happen in Smallville Season 8 and in full force in Season 10.
  • In Doctor Who: a nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies, and what is it? the Doctor. Who, at the time of discovering this, is about to save the entire universe for at least the fourth time.
    • After Martha's departure to travel with The Doctor, her mother is warned that the Doctor is dangerous by the mysterious "Mr Saxon" (later revealed to be The Doctor's fellow Time Lord and old nemesis, The Master )
  • Not superheroes, but Kenan and Kel becomes this in episode, Foul Bull, due to Ron Harper's injury being blamed on them.
  • Surprisingly averted in Power Rangers. The population still trust and love the Rangers, despite the regular rampage of Gundamjacked Zords.
  • In the BBC Sherlock second-series-ender The Reichenbach Fall, this is one of Moriarty's objectives for the titular sleuth. For as-yet-unknown reasons, Sherlock himself seems to go along with it right at the very end, after having resisted throughout the episode. (It doesn't help that he's known for a brusque and cold demeanor.)


  • In The Protomen, Dr. Light is very much this. He created the machines to benefit mankind, but Dr. Wily stole them and used one to kill Light's girlfriend, Emily. Wily blamed Light for the murder, and the angered citizens tried to lynch him.
    • This is even lampshaded by Willy when he states that it doesn't even matter if he's telling the truth or that his arguments don't really make sense, the very fact that he pointed his finger at Light caused the crowd to blindly hate him.

Tabletop Games

  • This is a common problem for Solar and Lunar Exalted, since they've been branded as psychotically evil demons by the main religion of the setting.
  • In the Forgotten Realms, Helm has become considerably less popular due to his killing Mystra during the Time Of Troubles.


  • Elphaba from Wicked probably qualifies as she is definitely engaged in heroic activities saving Animals from the fascist dictator of Oz. However due to the Wizard's efforts to paint her as wicked she rapidly becomes the most hated figure in Oz.

Video Games

  • Marona, Marona, Marona!
  • Everyone calls him a legendary hero, but only a few knows that there's something more benevolent to Zero's "extremist" actions.
  • In the first Command & Conquer at least, GDI. Nod's Greg Burdett, a respected journalist, would help them fabricate news stories about GDI slaughtering villages and burning down orphanages. Nod's mainline troops would also regularly partake in a little bit of the random slaughter, usually so they could make it look like GDI did it. This was also the entire point of the last couple of missions of Nod's campaign, in which you were working to hijack the GDI Ion Cannon to destroy a landmark (you go to pick), framing GDI for the attack.
    • In the GDI campaign, this is played with. It looks like Nod's media campaign has brought UNGDI to the brink of being disawoved by the Security Council, with funding being suspended while investigations are made... and then, when Nod launches a major offensive, it is revealed that it was a trick by the GDI leadership, taking advantage of Nod's media edge to bait the Brotherhood into striking before properly building up its strength. You still have bad publicity, but it wasn't so bad as it looked to you or Kane.
  • Georg Prime of Suikoden fame is frequently accused of committing regicide against the Queen of Falena. It's true, but she WANTED him to do it, as it was the only way to keep her from using the Sun rune (which was driving her insane) to wipe out the entire country.
  • AVALNCHE in Final Fantasy VII is branded as a terrorist group. It's basically true, but the government that labels them so consists almost entirely of Corrupt Corporate Executives.
    • Ramza in Final Fantasy Tactics. He gets branded as a heretic for pretty much telling the bad guys to stop doing bad things, and is STILL remembered as a villian after the game is over. It eventually stops and it's implied he gets the recognition he deserves...five hundred years later.
  • Pretty much everyone wants to arrest and/or kill Yuri Lowell in Tales of Vesperia.
    • Though he really did commit the crimes he's accused of (well, at least most of them; one of them was a misunderstanding).
  • Villain smear campaigning causes Link to suffer this fate in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where the palace guards have the townspeople convinced that he's responsible for Princess Zelda's disappearance. He has to slink around Kakariko Village in order to achieve his objectives; if his neighbors spot him, they send for the guards to kill him.
    • This trope can also happen in Link's Awakening, although in that case, it really is justified. It is triggered if you make Link steal any item from the store by careful manouvering around the shopkeep while carrying one of the items. Should you decide to do it, your game file will be permanently renamed to THIEF, and everybody in the town will treat you accordingly, and if you return to the shop after stealing an item, the shopkeeper uses magic to shock you to death. Yikes. Still, it is pretty hard to resist doing this in-game, since the bow in the game is sold at the ridiculous price of 990 rupees (the rupee cap is at 999), and it takes a looooong time to save up that amount of money.
    • Unless you use the Bonus Dungeon's secret room in the Updated Rerelease.
    • Point to note, the two games actually happen to star the same Link, so this is obviously quite a defining trait for that incarnation. Link is pretty much always a Kleptomaniac Hero, but rare is the case where he actually gets punished for stealing.
    • Wolf Link in Twilight Princess. Outside of the twilight, he's feared as a monster. Inside of it, he's invisible so he gets no credit for his heroic actions. Thankfully, Link also has a human form in which he can be viewed heroically.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog. Not that he seems to care much.
    • Sonic in Sonic Adventure 2, when he is mistaken for Shadow. (Despite being a different colour, much like the Sunshine example below).
  • Subverted in In Famous. The player character starts out with bad publicity because he was the delivery boy who carried the immensely destructive Ray Sphere into the heart of the city, where it exploded, but as time goes on (and if you choose to play the good guy), his publicity gets much better to the point where the guy that's been smearing him throughout the entire game actually gets murdered by the people he works for while screaming "I did what you asked!" for not doing his job well enough.
    • Actually, the Voice of Survival gets killed off regardless of whether you're playing good or evil, though it's easy to miss the cut scene if you don't happen to pass a TV at the right time.
  • Quest for Glory IV starts out like this, due to suspicious townsfolk who are fearful of strangers and especially anything to do with magic, although the hero will gradually win their trust by helping them out.
  • Tassadar has a bit of a publicity problem in StarCraft due to his alliance with the Dark Templar and the Terrans. Arcturus Mengsk used to be one too, back when the Confederacy was in power. Jim Raynor has been one ever since the Dominion rose to power.
  • Marina from Mischief Makers takes flak from the evil double's paper-thin disguise.
  • Archer from Fate/stay night got executed because nobody liked him.
  • Similar to the Transformers example above, Jedi are almost universally hated and hunted during the time of Knights of the Old Republic II because the galaxy percieves the whole Jedi-Sith war that nearly tore apart the Republic as "a religious dispute between two factions of Jedi". Many people refuse to see any distinction between Jedi like the PC (if light side) and the Sith Lords and assassins that seem to follow him/her wherever they go.
  • Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 2, what with the Illusive Man resurrecting and manipulating him/her to save the galaxy with a Cerberus logo on his/her ship, s/he has to deal with this problem throughout the game. On the one hand, the civilians who recognize him/her love Shepard. But those who knew him/her personally range from being leery of his/her new connections to outright enraged that s/he would associate with them.
    • Likely to get much worse for him/her in Mass Effect 3 after the events of "The Arrival" DLC, as Shepard was forced to essentially kill 300,000 batarians which could potentially spark war with the batarians and only Shepard, the Normandy crew, and Admiral Hackett know why. Hackett pretty much tells him/her that s/he'll basically have to face trial for the deaths of those 300,00 batarians and that the rest of the batarians are going to be out for his/her blood.
  • In BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, Noel mistakes Bang for an evildoer after Yukianesa freezes Jin.
  • Mario, of all people, has to deal with this in Super Mario Sunshine. He gets tried by a Kangaroo Court for the actions of a Paper Thin Disguised Bowser Jr.
  • In City of Heroes, there is a Story Arc where you become a Hero with Bad Publicity. You get framed for a crime and have to collect evidence that will clear your name, all the while being chased by the Malta Group and their Demonic Sappers.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's recap of the first two games, what little mention there is of Felix's actions openly casts him in a bad light, and the Fire Clan are never explained at all ( though the latter weren't particularly heroic to common knowledge).
  • Entirely possible in Fallout: New Vegas. Because your karma (how good or evil you are) is factored separately from your reputation (how much people like you) it's very, very possible to end the game with the highest karma possible, and every single faction hating your guts.
    • Although, because of the game, it's actually very hard to end with high karma and everybody hating you, and you must actively peruse this as a goal, because you must do a lot to up your karma, and most karma upping quests are related with one faction are another.
      • If somebody is going through the trouble to be hated by everybody but still be a picture of justice overall, that might be more suspicious than anything else, that or every single person around them is just insane.
  • Alex Mercer in Prototype is treated as a villain. And understandably so: not only is he a carrier of The Virus who runs around Manhattan eating people, he looks like and has the memories of the Complete Monster scientist who released The Virus in the first place. Nevertheless, he's grown a conscience by the end of the game and ultimately performs a genuinely heroic and selfless act.
  • Valkyria Chronicles III: Kurt Irving and The Nameless can give Ramza a run for his money. They are supposed to do the dirty jobs that the official military won't, and at one point was branded traitor (and possibly heretic). But they finally have their name cleared, even if they must live in obscurity for the rest of their life.
    • Depends if you're talking about an individual level or group level. Individually, most are nothing more than people caught in a bad situation or simply got shanghaied into the unit. By comparison; two characters are actually Lanseal graduates (the game's equivalent of West Point), one of which graduated with honors. (And thats not including the volunteers.) As a group, the unit's bad reputation has more to do with the fact that its commanding officers keep them on hand and use them explicitly for wet works than anything they actually do.
  • Janos Audron in the Legacy of Kain series.
  • In Assassin's Creed games the Heralds always speak out against the Assassins even if you do your best to avoid civilian deaths. However, this is easily solved with simple bribes.
  • The new DmC: Devil May Cry game looks to be heading this way as a trailer shows a newscast of a reporter claiming Dante to be a terrorist from his "attacks" when really if just damage cause by the fights in the parallel world carried over to the real one, however humans can't see the monsters so put the blame on Dante.

Web Comics

  • In Girl Genius, the Wulfenbachs suffer a lot from this. OK, they are the despot of Europa and his heir, but Klaus is often accused of being the Other, betraying the Heterodynes, etc. He could probably use a good propaganda service which would only have to use some positive facts. Gil is also accused of having destroyed Dr beetle's lab for no reason (well, actually, he just send a bomb back to the thrower, saving not only his life but an innocent assistant as well).
  • Zig Zagged in Paranormal Mystery Squad, the group are quite famous for the bombastic approach to monster hunting from videos uploaded on the net. But have gotten bad press with law enforcement as well as a PETA-like organization that wish to protect the monsters.

Web Original

  • There are several examples in the Whateley Universe:
    • Battery, whose final battle against his arch-enemy destroyed one of the New York City bridges and injured hundreds,
    • The Flying Bulldozer, who wasn't smart enough to avoid massive collateral damage when fighting evil: one of his recurring villains, Doctor Debt, figured out how to make millions by surrendering to FB and collecting rewards from insurance companies for preventing the incipient damage
    • Tennyo, because she is powerful even by school standards, and (through no fault of her own, other than naivete) is a major trouble magnet.
    • The Lamplighter, Boston's Green Lantern Expy, also gets this. He's powerful and certainly a hero in his own mind, but he's also enough of a loose cannon that the city's police department tends to breathe a collective sigh of relief whenever he doesn't show up while they're trying to deal with a 'situation'.
  • The <3-Verse has the Shadow (no, not that one), a vigilante, shunned for his violent methods against regular crooks.
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the Motor City Marshalls are wanted by the Detroit police for assault, battery, destruction of privacy, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and pretty much every other crime that your everyday, standard superheroic activity can be descrbed as under the law if the local District Attorney thought superheroes were a menace to society.
  • In Sonic the Comic Online, this trope has become Sonic's downfall - the Kane Broadcasting Company uses their footage to convince the population of Mobius that Sonic is actually a villain who might be worse than Robotnik, and the worst part of it is, the footage they have to back up their claims, while very one-sided, is still genuine. Sonic's base can spy on every zone in the world, Sonic himself is a bit of a dick, and his super form is a monster who's already caused havoc before. Not to mention the fact that he created Robotnik...This smear campaign worked so well in conjunction with the Big Bad's evil scheme that Sonic's now a complete outcast, even amongst most of the Freedom Fighters.

Western Animation

  • Ziv Zulander from The BOTS Master has been branded a terrorist by the RM Corp.
  • Danny Phantom for the majority of Season One and the beginnings of Season Two. He gains good publicity eventually. Too much of it actually.
  • Some instances of Batman, such as in The Batman until Gordon becomes the commissioner at the end of the second season.
  • A bit of a problem for the Autobots in season two of Transformers Animated, presumably after the property damage of the first season starts sinking in. In the first season, it's mainly just Bulkhead who has a problem with this, as he's a klutz who's strong enough to throw cars.
    • In Transformers Super God Masterforce, Hydra and Buster attack Ginrai in a populated with the intention of causing considerable enough collateral damage to turn public opinion against the Autobots. They actually succeed for a short while.
    • The G1 two-part episode "Megatron's Master Plan" was all about this, to the point that the Autobots were exiled from Earth and their ship's navigation systems tampered with to send them into the sun.
    • Also, the Stunticons were mistaken for Autobots for the first few weeks of their existence due to conventional wisdom being "cars=Autobots". Oddly, no one ever seemed to think the Aerialbots were Decepticons...
  • The few policemen and civilians who remember Darkwing Duck hate him. In one episode he manages to get Lighter and Softer and everyone loves him...until his Evil Twin Negaduck takes advantage of his non-violent policy.
  • In The Incredibles, all supers have Bad Publicity after they're sued for causing damage while saving lives. The result is that using superpowers becomes illegal and they all have to go into the "Superhero Protection Program."
  • Justice League Unlimited has this build up in the first season, then reach it's peak in the second season when they're framed for using their base defense system to destroy a city.
  • Catman from The Fairly OddParents is a "hero" who's always getting sued, usually because his insanity causes more trouble than it solves. In fact, only Timmy's help keeps him out of jail.
  • The Street Sharks get this constantly, to the point in which one of their friends has to point out to the police that if they were really guilty of one of the crimes they're accused of, they'd have to have been in two places at once. The Big Bad also gets everyone to blame their dad for creating them, so yeah.
  • Gargoyles has... well, the titular gargoyles. Brooklyn even lampshades their "publicity problem" in "Hunter's Moon."
    • Greg Weisman has alluded to that being only temporary. After saving the city a few times, the Clan becomes a branch of the NYPD and eventually, due to Goliath's sacrifice sometime in the future, the United Nations declares the Gargoyle Species a protected race, acknowledges its sentience, and creates a Nation for the Gargoyles to founded.
  • Ben in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien has this when his Secret Identity gets outed. A jerk reporter even breaks out the "threat or menace" false dichotomy:

Ben: Maybe I can do more good as a public superhero than I did in secret. Sure, most people think I'm a menace now.
Julie: Only 26% of adult viewers think you're a menace.
Ben: See? That's not bad.
Julie: 74% think you're a threat.

  • Superman has become this in the series finale of Superman: The Animated Series.
  • Just like in the comics, Spider-Man suffers from this in The Spectacular Spider-Man. Oddly enough, J. Jonah Jameson at first doesn't actually hate Spidey, and simply views him as easy publicity. However, similar to Ultimate Spider-Man, a story about Spider-Man in a rival newspaper outsells the Daily Bugle's own story on his son's heroic landing of a space shuttle. As a result, Jameson finally snaps and begins a smear campaign.
  • A DuckTales (1987) episode featured a reporter named Lawrence Loudmouth who started a smear campaign against Scrooge McDuck and later started to impersonate a new masked hero (who happens to be Scrooge) and then make a smear campaign against the real hero. He was eventually captured and Scrooge gave up the vigilante career.
  • Darkwing Duck parodies this a lot; the titular characters suffers a lot from bad publicity due to his dark look and mannerism, both from civilians and authorities, to the point when he seemingly dies in Dead Duck, he is only granted a cheap burial, and Megavolt, who is believed to be the murderer, not only gets away with it without going to jail, but even becomes famous by writing a book about it. This reach such proportions that Darkwing attempts in one episode to give himself a better image so he'll get better publicity, and almost succeeds until his Arc Enemy Negaduck ruins it (ironically, both the audience and Darkwing end up grateful to Negaduck, as Darkwing realizes his obsession with good image prevented him from focusing on his cases, and the fans found Darkwing new looks ridiculous).
  • Zig-zagged in The Powerpuff Girls Movie. Before becoming heroes, their game of tag renders Townsville asunder ("Bug-eyed Girls Destroy Townsville" reads the headline of the Townsville Times). Even when they attempt to do something good, they are seen as pariahs.
  • The focus of G.I. Joe: Renegades which has most of the team being branded as criminals while trying to expose Cobra's operations who, in this incarnation, are Villains With Good Publicity.
  • Happens to Word Girl almost three or four times.
  • Possibly true of the The Pied Piper of Hamelin, at least in the setting of Miraculous Ladybug. Kind of hard to fathom why the former holder of the Fox Miraculous (which he was in this continuity) would be known for kidnapping children, or if he had, why Trixx would never mention it to Alya or any other holder. At very least, it suggests there was more to the story than most folks know.[2]

Real Life

  • Police K-9 Moto, rescued from abuse and working as a drug detection dog, had to receive special permission to travel to Yakima, WA to get an award. The reason? Pit bulls are banned in Yakima (and Moto is one.)
    • Pitbulls in general get a very bad rap; since they were originally bred for dogfighting, they have a bad reputation, but they've also been bred not to attack humans, to the point where they make terrible guard dogs because they love people so much. Between this and the horrible abuse they're often subjected to, the whole breed is listed on the Real Life subpage of The Woobie for a reason.
  • All too often, whistle-blowers.
    • Julian Assange published several cables from the American military, including illegal base locations and a now famous video of a gunship murdering civilians in cold blood. These were provided by Bradley Manning, a young soldier. Cue the media screaming for their blood, Bradley being imprisoned in inhumane conditions, and cries of 'traitor!' by Americans. Yes, evidently you can betray a country you don't live in. Recently subverted in that both of them have been nominated for the Nobel PeacePrize.
    • Manning does live in America. For a good breakdown of the gunship video, read [1]. The Nobel Peace Prize is a Take That at George W. Bush by the same commitee that awarded the prize to Barack Obama before he was even elected. Also, Wikileaks leaked the names of Coalition informants in Afghanistan and Iraq, who face brutal torture by the insurgents, who also target their husband/wives and children. Assange shrugged this off by saying they deserve it, even their relatives.
  1. Again!
  2. Thomas Astruc's explanation for why the Piper was a Miraculous holder was simply, "Why not?"