For as there are misanthropists or haters of men, there are also misologists or haters of ideas, and both spring from the same cause, which is ignorance of the world. Misanthropy arises out of the too great confidence of inexperience;—you trust a man and think him altogether true and sound and faithful, and then in a little while he turns out to be false and knavish; and then another and another, and when this has happened several times to a man, especially when it happens among those whom he deems to be his own most trusted and familiar friends, and he has often quarreled with them, he at last hates all men, and believes that no one has any good in him at all.
—Socrates, in Plato's Phaedo
Have you ever been so annoyed with life you just want to forget about "civilized" culture and become A Darker Me? or a different you? The kind of person who couldn't care less about social conventions and went about exacting Disproportionate (but poetic) Retribution?
Well in fiction, some characters do get that bothered.
Start with a Nice Guy, maybe even a Deadpan Snarker, or any character who plays by society's rules. Mix with frustration, add a dash of romantic rejection, put in the oven to 300 degrees Angstius for a few years, months, weeks, or in some cases days (Indeed, the time to completion varies a lot by the main ingredient's willpower) and voilá! You now have a man or woman who has been maddened into misanthropy.
What comes next is usually pretty fun. They will systematically deconstruct the parts of modern living, culture, work, and their own life that they dislike, and rebuild these relationships from their end into something workable (again, for them). They will reject conventions like white lies, saying exactly what they feel and think. They will not dress to expectation, going unkempt, wearing only things that are comfortable, or switching to a highly unique personal style. If someone annoys them, they won't bother acknowledging their presence. If they try to pester the misanthrope they won't hesitate to tell them exactly how much of a Scrappy they are. If the misanthrope dislikes them enough or outright hates them, they will use threats or slapstick level physical comedy to subdue or chase them off. They won't kill anyone, but likely because they now have such an efficient way of venting their anger they either don't get that angry anymore, or don't stay angry long enough to cause them stress.
It's not all an ego trip, though. They may act like a Jerkass, but they'll often be just as unrestrained in their positive impulses and aspects, seeing no reason not to do a nice thing for someone they like, such as helping them to release their own inner fears and limitations, or even "teaching them" that they can ignore social convention every once in a while. If they have been pining for someone, they will now proceed to confidently and unconventionally romance them.
Interestingly, they will only get mildly rejected for this behavior. Lifelong friends will be weirded out by the change, but nonetheless happy for their friend's newfound assertiveness and happiness. Of course, since they don't usually cause stress they will avoid the sharp end of this knife. Love interests who are shrewish will be horrified away, while those who were oblivious to them now take notice. While the Pointy-Haired Boss will want to fire them, his bosses will find his attitude refreshing and promote him up against the annoying middle-manager's wishes.
They do seem to temper this anti-social behavior some by movie's end, though often never completely. One thing is certain, they now live life without regrets.
Related to Beneath the Mask. Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds is usually less fun than this. Compare the Mirror Morality Machine. Has nothing to do with Madden NFL. Well, at least not for most of us... See also Did You Think I Can't Feel?
- A Deconstruction of this happens in the 2000's version of Supreme Power with Mark, albeit he goes more to the Ubermensch side of the scale.
- Batman, particularly in The Dark Knight Returns
- Wanted (both the film and comic) has Fox systematically madden and train Wesley into a badass who has zero regard for playing by the rules that made his pre-fraternity life miserable. Amazingly for a career killer, he handles the breakup with his girlfriend by casually breezing into and out of their apartment, much to her anger and confusion. The comic has Wesley brutally beaten weekly (only to later let him free to have a go at hurting his 'trainer'). The film adds a nice Shut UP, Hannibal confrontation with his former boss, and a keyboard comeuppance to the friend who was cheating with his girlfriend.
- This is Captain Nero's Backstory in Star Trek Countdown. He started off as a hard-working family man, but then his wife died and his planet blew up, so he shaved his head and became the silent, tattooed psychopath we all know and love.
- Magneto had this happen to him twice: once when he was driven into his supervillainous status by his experiences in the Holocaust, the death of his daughter Anya, and the abandonment of his wife Magda, and a second time after losing two of his students and being tortured almost to the breaking point by someone trying to steal his powers.
- How To Lose Friends And Alienate People.
- A very dark variant in Falling Down. The lead is fired, divorced, and stuck in traffic. Already mentally unstable and prone to violent outbursts, he decides his mission is to spend the day with his daughter on her birthday, no matter what.
- Turns out, he always had a dark side...and was fired a WHILE back, only to keep commuting. And had a restraining order against him...
- Office Space has the lead hypnotized into vanishing his stresses, but the hypnotist dies before "waking" him up. He begins ignoring his boss, showing up to work to play Tetris, and wooing the female lead. It wears off halfway through the movie, but the female lead is eventually driven to a natural point on this when she flips off her boss.
- Elisabet in Persona (the Ingmar Bergman film, not the game) is an extreme version of this. She refuses to talk to anyone because she's sick of telling white lies. In a partial aversion, she's considered somewhat nuts, and a nurse is sent to take care of her.
- Yes-Man has a variant where the perennially negative lead simply always agrees to everything, leading to a much more exciting life.
- All of Danny Wallace's books (including Yes Man) have something of this, though you would wouldn't call him "misanthropic".
- Fight Club: That's pretty much the whole point. (Apart from the "only mildly rejected" part.)
- The Brave One
- Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker has a little of this. His ego and arrogance lead him to believe he's being held back purposely by the Jedi, creating some resentment and giving him a more aggressive, angrier and distant demeanor (for a Jedi). By the time he really starts getting into it though he turns to The Dark Side thanks to the influence of Palpatine.
- Played for laughs in Anger Management, where bringing the timid David Buznik to this point is the goal of the entire movie. It's very strongly implied, without browbeating him into learning a better way to deal with his emotions, he might do something far worse than misanthropy.
- After a few nights of wearing The Mask, Stanley Ipkiss can't stand living a normal life and begins doing things like threatening to call the IRS when his boss attempts to give him a hard time.
- American Beauty: The whole point of this movie, too, ultimately played for tragedy. At least, the implication is that Lester's misanthropy leads him to a much greater understanding and acceptance of himself, up until his homophobic, in-the-closet neighbor shoots him dead after mistaking him for being gay.
- Ash in Evil Dead is a sensitive, fairly average man in the first movie. Then over the course of a weekend which consists of all of his friends and loved ones (even his own hand!) possessed by ancient demons and Mind Rape, he's turned into a callous Badass fountain of one-liners. Though during the adjustment period between the two he's reduced to a gibbering lunatic...
- At the conclusion of Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver sees humans as nothing more than Yahoos who talk and wear clothes. He avoids human contact, including from his own family, as much as possible.
- In Heidi, this happened to the main character's grandfather in the past, after the death of his son Thomas (Heidi's dad) followed soon by Heidi's mother Adelheid kicking the bucket as well. The old man never was one for socializing, but after that he went up the mountains and left everything, until he starts defrosting when Heidi goes live with him. It happens again when she's taken away from him by aunt Dete, apparently becoming even worse than in the past, until Heidi comes back to his side.
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo’s Backstory is not full revealed in this novel, but He declares he has lost all his family because of The Empire, and definitely he shows Angst about it. He never shake hands with Professor Aronnax, he has severed all contact with the “civilized” world and his morality, and creates his own society of people that also had been Madden Into Misanthropy that will become a NGO Superpower. Oh, and he tries to become an Ubermensch. When Aronnax call him out about the cruelty implied in never let them go out the Nautilus, he answers:
"What! We must give up seeing our homeland, friends, and relatives ever again?"
Live Action TV
- Dr. Gregory House
- In an episode of Seinfeld, George, unsatisfied with his lot, decides to take the opposite approach to everything he does, starting by asking a woman out by being honest and saying he's "unemployed and lives with his parents." Everything drastically improves for him from there: he gets the girl, moves out of his parents' apartment, and gets a job with the Yankees!
- Blair attempts this in season two of Gossip Girl. Chuck seems to be heading down this route in season three.
- Koga Saejima, the hero of Garo has this as one reason behind his Tsundere attitude—loosing his father at a young age and assuming the family mantle makes him rather... impatient with anything not to do with hunting Horrors. It also allows him to cut directly to what needs to be done in that hunt.
- The premise of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin is Reggie just getting sick of his pointless job and diving into eccentricity.
- Claudia Donovan in the third season finale of Warehouse13 is suffering an acute version of this, being so angry and hurt over the death of her friend Steve Jinks that she lashes out at the Regents and everyone around her, while simultaneously saving an artifact to try and Set Right What Once Went Wrong against the laws of the organization.
- Timon of Athens. He likes people and people like him, and he gives people money & lavish gifts; then he gets in some financial trouble and his friends won't help him, so he becomes a misanthrope and lives in a cave. His one true friend, an actual misanthrope, berates him for being a copycat.
- After having been experimented on, used as a slave, paralyzed for 30 years in a small village and fully aware the entire time, Shale has NOT come to have any love for "squishy" organic creatures.
- Especially hating the birds for the constant crapping... And the villagers even more for encouraging them—you can see a basket of birdseed right next to Shale.
- The Big Bad of Ace Attorney Investigations 2. And HOW!
- Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender can qualify for this trope. For twelve years, she was locked into a high-class, aristocratic lifestyle that she hated, with overprotective parents who kept her existence a secret from the world. She resented all of this, and secretly became the champion of a sketchy underground Earthbending tournament. After she runs away, she ditches the aristocrat act once and for all. She's a master of trash talking, spitting, fighting large and muscular men, and flaunting her deliberate lack of manners and personal hygiene.
- Metalocalypse: Toki, tired of being thought of as "the nice one", becomes a child-hating demon of venom—until he forms a bond with a dying little girl through her music. And then gets even more broken.
- In an episode of Time Squad, Edgar Allan Poe is shown as an Adult Child, Stepford Smiler and Tastes Like Diabetes Incarnate whose writings were all about Sugar Bowls and other cute, fluffy things. However at the end, the main characters openly criticize a pink cake he baked for them, which eventually drove him into becoming... Well, Edgar Allan Poe.
- The Ren and Stimpy Show has a hilarious, and disturbing, example from the episode "Hermit Ren," in which Ren becomes so infuriated by his best friend's obnoxiousness that he decides to lock himself in a cave, with only the company of his hallucinations.