Created By: Wheezy on March 4, 2015 Last Edited By: PistolsAtDawn on September 18, 2017
Troped

World of Jerkass

The author intentionally makes most, if not all, of the characters unsympathetic.

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Its been a couple years so im moving the examples myself unless the original author comes back <3

So, you want to create a story where terrible things regularly happen to people, but without the audience feeling too sad about their fates? Simple: make everyone a jerk!

All the citizens are apathetic and stupid, most of the humor is sadism-based, and your average Joe punts a few puppies before breakfast. In the more extreme examples, Ax-Crazy killers are allowed to roam free, Blood Sports are common, and no one even notices atrocities because they're too selfish to care. Expect It's All About Me to be the modus operandi of virtually everyone who lives there.

This trope becomes more likely the closer you get to the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. It's also more often than not Played for Laughs and used to facilitate Black Comedy. After all, it's much easier to laugh at the dogs being kicked if they all had it coming. Satirists are also fond of it, especially when they can use different types of jerkism to represent social problems. It's very frequently used to justify video games' cruelty potentials.

Played straight, it's often the signature of a very cynical writer, or even a sign of a Creator Breakdown, reflecting the way they've come to see Real Life. It also runs a high risk of inducing Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy or causing viewers to utter the Eight Deadly Words if there are no nicer characters to make the world seem worth caring about.

A Sister Trope to the Crapsack World, but differentiated by the fact that the only thing that makes it a bad place is that the author's written an unusual number of bad people into it - there's nothing necessarily wrong with the environment, the government, or the living conditions. In fact, it can look perfectly lovely from the outside. Also related to Humans Are Bastards, except that that trope refers to stories where the message is that humans are inherently bad or evil, where this one simply describes any plot or setting containing a disproportionate number of jerk asses. ...And they don't have to be human, either.

Also worth noting that not every single character has to be a jerk, just the overwhelming majority. Those characters who aren't jerkasses will often be idiots, losers, or fail at everything they try.

Contrast World of Badass, World of Snark. Also compare Dysfunction Junction, Jerk with a Heart of Jerk and Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Film 
  • Several Rob Zombie films are this way, with 31 and Halloween standing out, as even the protagonists are quite hostile most of the time.
  • Cannibal Holocaust: Both sides, the explorers and the native cannibals, are completely unsympathetic, and the audience is supposed to enjoy watching them slaughter each other. Only a couple of characters are remotely nice people, and they die too.
  • Pink Flamingos, as befits a story where the characters are competing over the title of "filthiest person alive".

     Comic Books 
  • Beautiful Darkness: Literally all of the fairies except Aurora are idiots, self-centered Jerkasses and bullies. Not one of them seems to care as they die one-by-one in various horrible ways, either by dying of their own stupidity or killing each other over petty shit. The audience feels no sympathy for the victims of the Kill 'em All plot.
  • The Wicked + The Divine has elements of this. Many of the characters tend to be rude, selfish, and occasionally inconsiderate, and there are even some murderers among them. Even the author has said the book stars ''problematic people doing problematic things." Only exceptions are Dionysus and Minerva, who count as Token Good Teammate.
  • Empowered, especially for the first volume or so. Emp is a Failure Hero surrounded by jerkass "heroes" who are usually just as unpleasant as the villains they fight. They treat her as a Butt-Monkey of the group and admit they only let her in for diversity. The citizens are apathetic and tend to stand around and laugh when Emp gets defeated by a villain. Eventually Emp meets Thugboy and Ninjette, who are fairly likeable, and some of the other heroes get more sympathetic.
  • Iznogoud: Baghdad, especially from the Tabary era onwards, but already in the Goscinny era. Not only is it governed by the oblivious Caliph and the evil Iznogoud, but Humans Are Bastards in that city, and most citizens are hypocrites who complain all the time about Iznogoud's ruthlessness but are willing to help him for a few bucks, despite knowing the consequences if he's ever successful. In "Chop and Change", after Iznogoud becomes the Caliph for a short time by changing bodies with him and starts unleashing his tyranny, one guy berates the wizard who helped him, but the latter doesn't seem to regret it.

     Literature 

    Live Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • The whole Grand Theft Auto series is probably the most famous example. Not only are the games filled with criminals (violent or otherwise), but Rockstar manages to make even the Innocent Bystanders seem like jerks via the snatches of dialogue we get to hear from them.

    Webcomics 
  • Two Guys and Guy: the main trio are an Ax-Crazy mad scientist, a sociopath, and a Jerkass loser. It seems the closer you get to the heroes the worse of a person you are- there are a few normal-to-nice one-off characters, but most of the regulars are sociopaths at best.

    Western Animation 
  • A literal, in-universe example occurs in an episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, with Jimmy's evil clone creating an evil clone of the Earth and everyone on it.
  • The Simpsons: It seriously varies from episode to episode, but the town of Springfield is so full of Jerkasses who are perfectly willing and able to bully or beat the hell out of anything and anybody that gets in the way of their status quo (or gets in the way of their desire to change their status quo, or just plain ticks them off, no matter how small or realistic the slight) that they are proud to be considered the "meanest town in America".
  • South Park is a Black Comedy and also subsequently a Sadist Show and have the entire cast full of obnoxious jerks, with the main characters being Good Is Not Nice at best and sociopathic Enfante Terrible at worst.
  • Archer is a harsh parody of James Bond and spy stories, where most of the cast are dysfunctional, self-centered, mean and/or stupid.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy is like this, with the kids being cruel to both the Eds and each other at near random, characters holding the Jerkass Ball every episode or so and the adults being either completely missing/apathetic or (in the case of Eddy's brother in the movie), even worse than the other characters.
  • Family Guy: The main characters are huge jerks to each other and get away with it. Even the dog and the baby aren't an exception to the general level of Jerkassery in this world.
  • The world of Rick and Morty is rather heavily populated by jerkasses. To summarize on a faction by faction basis:
    • The titular Rick is an amoral, hedonistic scientist who goes on adventures and has been known to cause chaos. His daughter Beth is a heavily deficient parental figure who almost aborted her daughter Summer, blaming her for not being able to chase her dreams. Beth's now ex-husband, Jerry, is a frequent coward who has attempted to use other people's pity. Morty, who starts out a mild mannered Butt-Monkey, if one with various kinks, develops some serious rage issues after being put through many of Rick's escapades. And then there's his older sister, Summer, who sometimes treats him like crap.
    • The Galactic Federation is an intergalactic organization primarily made of the Gromflomites, spans most of the known universe, occupying numerous planets, and is known for its ridiculous bureaucratic and sometimes tyrannical practices, which Rick is opposed to and has committed acts of terror in his fight against them. His issues are brought to light in the season 3 premiere (as well as the GF website that started in the interim), as the now occupied Earth is turned into a Police State, human rights and ways of life are trampled on by the Gromflomites who have replaced all food and currency with pills, subjected various people without consent to experiments, and replaces the Earth calendar with its own, among other arbitrary changes. While Rick has ended up casually murdering many GF soldiers and operatives, few felt bad for the federation when he ignited its collapse by voiding its unit of currency.
    • And in yet another corner, we have the Council of Ricks, an interdimensional collective of Ricks and Mortys that formed their own government. Naturally, Rick C-137 criticizes them for being extremely un-Rick because of this, and he's right, as they've been presented as Fascist, but Inefficient.

Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • March 4, 2015
    ZuTheSkunk
    I think the description should mention Darkness Induced Audience Apathy.
  • March 4, 2015
    DAN004
  • March 4, 2015
    Kartoonkid95
  • March 4, 2015
    Wheezy
    @Dan004: This is totally different from Humans Are Bastards, though, and that trope shouldn't have been redirected to that.

    Humans Are Bastards is for when the moral is that people are inherently evil. A Jerk World is simply when the author creates a setting where most of the characters are jerks. It can even be comprised of non-humans, like advanced aliens or talking animals.
  • March 4, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    I agree that World Of Jerkass fits this better.
  • March 4, 2015
    Wheezy
    So are you saying change the title or scrap the trope because Humans Are Bastards covers it?
  • March 4, 2015
    DAN004
    Gonna go to Ask The Tropers.
  • March 4, 2015
    SolipSchism
    I like this trope, and I hate to say this when there are only four examples to begin with, but that "Other" example needs to go. Even if it were troping a legitimate work, it's complainy, and it's not troping a legitimate work, it's troping "hate sites", which is a very small step up from troping Real Life, and calls a bunch of people assholes, and violates "Keep It An Example".

    Come to think of it, this trope definitely needs to be No Real Life Examples Please

    I say World Of Jerkass should be the title of this trope, but wait for a consensus on that, because if that's the case, then the World Of Jerkass redirect needs to be cut and wicks cleaned before using the title for this.
  • March 4, 2015
    KyleJacobs
    We do not pothole Complete Monster.
  • March 4, 2015
    SolipSchism
    ^ Just noticed that. I'd actually rephrase the whole first sentence of American Psycho to be less superlative. Try: "The protagonist of American Psycho is an Ax Crazy serial killer, most of the other..."

    • "Writ large" is Word Cruft.
    • "Legendary" is either hyperbole or gushing, and neither is good writing.
    • Complete Monster is just a big ball of Do Not Touch (unless you want to run it through the forums first)
    • Karma Houdini really isn't relevant enough to this trope that it needs to be mentioned, especially if it needs to be spoilered. The general rule on spoiler-tags is "Less is better." If it has to be spoilered, consider whether it needs to be included at all; I see no reason this trope requires that to be mentioned.
  • March 4, 2015
    MorningStar1337
    Eight Deadly Words would probably be related

    As for the anonymous message boards I'm gonna say 5 things:
    • a certain part of that example needs a pothole to Accentuate The Negative
    • with the presence of the GIFT and the fact that people use online handles to avoid getting doxxed, adding to the anonymity, this could apply to the Internet in general
    • In spite of the above, anonymity could also be used to discussed stuff that people aren't comfortable talking about IRL (from thing like fandom to controversial topics such as dissent of the government or other powerful entities to Fetish Fuel)
    • and that also in spite of the 2nd point, That example is probably too broad as it is, so I also propose specifying certain sites (Image Boards like 4chan, 8chan, Danbooru etc.). Or course this seems like the kind of thing that would be NRLEP so the example might be invalid regardless
  • March 4, 2015
    DAN004
    Humans Are Bastards need not be preaching (or even mentioning) about moral either, and can apply to other sapient being so long as they are the only kind of sapient being in a work, or if ALL sapient being (talking animals, living plants, humans) are jerks.
  • March 5, 2015
    TheHandle
    The Great Gatsby: Tom is a Dumb Jerk Josck, an adulterer, and a racist, Nick is Holier Than Thou while being Not So Above It All, Daisy's The Tease, The Bimbo, and a Stepford Smiler Dirty Coward, Jordan's a liar and a cheat, the garage guy's a disgusting loser, his wife's a homebreaking adulterer, and Gatsby himself, while being the most gentle-mannered of the lot, is an epic-scale liar, adulterer, smuggler, and financial frauder. We're still supposed to root for him because he was proactive in seeking upward mobility and couldn't let go of his teenage crush, or something.

  • March 5, 2015
    Gowan
    I never read or watched it, but from what I hear, Game of Thrones is a Jerk World. Sure, the government could be improved and that winter that lasts for several years is crappy, too, but most of the darkness comes from the fact that almost everyone is evil, and those who aren't are killed by those who are. And Middle Earth could be reasonably happy with a monarchy, so that's not the problem.
  • March 10, 2015
    Wheezy
    Made all the recommended changes and added all the examples. ...Except GoT, because I want to wait for that to be confirmed by someone who's watched it.
  • March 10, 2015
    KyleJacobs
    There are good characters in Game of Thrones, which would rule it out here. They don't tend to live long, but they do exist.
  • March 10, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ I believe World Of Jerkass CAN have at most 10% nice characters.
  • March 11, 2015
    Wheezy
    OK. Well, if someone who's seen it wants to write the entry...
  • November 14, 2015
    313Bluestreak
    Can be found in settings of Black And Gray Morality if the heroes are just as much as jerkasses as the villains or Evil Versus Evil where the conflict is between two villains who are jerkasses.
  • November 14, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    In what way does doing this not "bum your audience out too much?" I'd be hella bummed if I was reading a story like this. I know it's nitpicky, but can we just take that sentence out?
  • November 14, 2015
    ClockStopping
    • The main appeal of Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia: the main characters are routinely getting themselves into ridiculous, stupid schemes that backfire on them horribly, but the humor works because the main characters are all such jerks and the misfortunes are typically a direct result of their terrible personalities.
  • November 15, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Literature
    • In Apathy And Other Small Victories, protagonist Shane is an unrepentant asshole, but he's the only one who's honest about it. It soon becomes apparent that almost everyone else in the novel is a jerk as well.
  • November 16, 2015
    Arivne

    The Chris Morris example violates How To Write An Example - Keep it an example. Examples are supposed to be about specific works, not general statements.
  • November 20, 2015
    Wheezy
    Tried to fix that example. However, if possible, I don't want to completely remove the fact that it's Morris's signature, because he uses this trope in everything.
  • July 8, 2017
    313Bluestreak
  • July 9, 2017
    Arivne
  • August 30, 2017
    PistolsAtDawn
    • Beautiful Darkness: Literally all of the fairies except Aurora are idiots, self-centered Jerkasses and bullies. Not one of them seems to care as they die one-by-one in various horrible ways, either by dying of their own stupidity or killing each other over petty shit. The audience feels no sympathy for the victims of the Kill Em All plot.
  • August 30, 2017
    Snowy66
    Anime and manga
    • In Hellsing, Seras, Walter, and Integra are the only characters who aren't Ax Crazy, sociopathic, mass murdering jerkasses. Pretty much every other named character, from hero to villain, are assholes who crave for bloodlust.
  • August 30, 2017
    marcoasalazarm
    The Simpsons: It 'seriously' varies from episode to episode, but the town of Springfield is so full of Jerkasses who are perfectly willing and able to bully or beat the hell out of anything and anybody that gets in the way of their status quo (or gets in the way of their desire to change their status quo, or just plain ticks them off, no matter how small or realistic the slight) that they are proud to be considered the "meanest town in America".
  • August 30, 2017
    marcoasalazarm
    double post
  • August 30, 2017
    PistolsAtDawn
    I dont wach south park but it is like this isnt it?
  • August 30, 2017
    marcoasalazarm
    Yeah, it definitely is.
  • August 31, 2017
    GirlofMassDeconstruction
    • The Wicked And The Divine has elements of this. Many of the characters tend to be rude, selfish, and occasionally inconsiderate, and there are even some murderers among them. Even the author has said the book stars ''problematic people doing problematic things." Only exceptions are Dionysus and Minerva, who count as Token Good Teammate.
  • August 31, 2017
    Gamermaster
  • August 31, 2017
    Prime32
  • September 4, 2017
    PistolsAtDawn
    • Archer is a harsh parody of James Bond and spy stories, where most of the cast are dysfunctional, self-centered, mean and/or stupid.

    Also compare Dysfunction Junction, Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk and Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist
  • September 4, 2017
    SasquatchJim
    Several Rob Zombie films are this way, with 31 and Halloween standing out, as even the protagonists are quite hostile most of the time.
  • September 5, 2017
    TheWarioBros
    Ed Edd N Eddy is like this, with the kids being cruel to both the Eds and each other at near random, characters holding the Jerkass Ball every episode or so and the adults being either completely missing/apathetic or (in the case of Eddy's brother in the movie), even worse than the other characters.
  • September 5, 2017
    AHI-3000
    Is there an index along the lines of "World of X"?
  • September 5, 2017
    Gosicrystal
    Well, there's Setting Gimmicks, which includes the "World of X" tropes.
  • September 6, 2017
    morenohijazo
    This example is already in Iznogoud under Wretched Hive, but I think it would fit better here:

    • Baghdad, especially from the Tabary era onwards, but already in the Goscinny era. Not only is it governed by the oblivious Caliph and the evil Iznogoud, but Humans Are Bastards in that city, and most citizens are hypocrites who complain all the time about Iznogoud's ruthlessness but are willing to help him for a few bucks, despite knowing the consequences if he's ever successful. In "Chop and Change", after Iznogoud becomes the Caliph for a short time by changing bodies with him and starts unleashing his tyranny, one guy berates the wizard who helped him, but the latter doesn't seem to regret it.
  • September 15, 2017
    azul120
    • The world of Rick And Morty is rather heavily populated by jerkasses. To summarize on a faction by faction basis:
      • The titular Rick is an amoral, hedonistic scientist who goes on adventures and has been known to cause chaos. His daughter Beth is a heavily deficient parental figure who almost aborted her daughter Summer, blaming her for not being able to chase her dreams. Beth's now ex-husband, Jerry, is a frequent coward who has attempted to use other people's pity. Morty, who starts out a mild mannered Butt Monkey, if one with various kinks, develops some serious rage issues after being put through many of Rick's escapades. And then there's his older sister, Summer, who sometimes treats him like crap.
      • The Galactic Federation is an intergalactic organization primarily made of the Gromflomites, spans most of the known universe, occupying numerous planets, and is known for its ridiculous bureaucratic and sometimes tyrannical practices, which Rick is opposed to and has committed acts of terror in his fight against them. His issues are brought to light in the season 3 premiere (as well as the GF website that started in the interim), as the now occupied Earth is turned into a Police State, human rights and ways of life are trampled on by the Gromflomites who have replaced all food and currency with pills, subjected various people without consent to experiments, and replaces the Earth calendar with its own, among other arbitrary changes. While Rick has ended up casually murdering many GF soldiers and operatives, few felt bad for the federation when he ignited its collapse by voiding its unit of currency.
      • And in yet another corner, we have the Council of Ricks, an interdimensional collective of Ricks and Mortys that formed their own government. Naturally, Rick C-137 criticizes them for being extremely un-Rick because of this, and he's right, as they've been presented as Fascist But Inefficient.
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