Created By: gravityhomer on May 23, 2010 Last Edited By: Sen on May 25, 2010
Troped

Hate Sink

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Trope
Rolling Updates are in process as I go through the replies, bear with me.

This character is typically found in stories that do not contain a really evil villain that the audience can channel their dislike toward. Examples include disaster stories where there literally is no villain behind it all and certain action movies where the villains are just too cool to hate.

This character is not the main villain and is usually not a villain at all. They are not causing the struggle the heroes must overcome, although their actions always make the heroes job more difficult. Their list of character traits usually include selfishness, stubbornness, greed, holier-than-though contempt, and simply the inexhaustible ability to make bad decisions. Basically, they exist to be hated. Every action they perform and every piece of dialogue they utter, is designed to incite rage in the audience. They usually get their comeuppance in a very audience satisfying scene.

I want to make sure that people realize this trope differs from the Jerk Ass and the Designated Villain. The key here is in the story that the character comes from. The writers are giving you someone to hate simply for the sake of it, because they were probably sitting around thinking, well we need someone for the audience to say, "I hate that guy." But the character is sort of an afterthought to the actual plot. If you see my examples, they are not really necessary to tell the story. If you had only 30 seconds to describe the story you probably wouldn't even mention their names. So in this way I am trying to imply the characters are one dimensional. But if enough people provide examples where characters are more complex yet still fit this role, I think the one dimensional part could be relaxed.

Examples:

  • Titanic: Billy Zane's character, Cal. Let's face it, you cant be pissed at the boat sinking, because you secretly can't wait to digest every detail of it. But you can hate this guy. He is designed to be hated. He is the anti-Jack. He disparages the Picasso paintings; he verbally and physically abuses Rose; he tries to have Jack killed; is exposed to care more about money than Rose; and finally cowardly escapes on a lifeboat using a small child. Although he survives, he is deprived of Rose in the end and loses his money through bad investments and that is the audiences consolation.
  • Independence Day: The Secretary of Defense. You are kind of rooting for the aliens because you want to see them blow everything up. This guy knows about the aliens ahead of time but stays silent to give the President "plausible deniability". He continually pushes the use of nukes that are ineffective. He cockily celebrates victory too soon only to immediately be shown to be wrong. Finally he is the only person to disagree with the final plan that ends up working. His comeuppance is being fired.
  • Aliens: Paul Reiser's company guy, Carter Burke. The aliens are already High Octane Nightmare Fuel so the filmmakers are hedging their bets by offering Burke as the weaselly company guy that only cares about money and fame. He knows about the aliens ahead of time and sends the colonists to investigate. He disagrees with nuking the site from orbit. He tries to impregnate Newt and Ripley with alien embryos with a plan to sabotage and kill the other heroes. Finally he cowardly retreats behind a door locking the other heroes out, where he is deliciously killed by an alien.
  • Die Hard: The reporter. The German terrorists/bank robbers have awesome accents and their leader is the perfect villain to love, he is intelligent and compassionate to the hostages, but swift and deadly toward the authorities and driven by greed. So who do you hate? The annoying reporter that ends up exposing who John Mc Lane really is and that his wife is one of the hostages. Possibly the greatest comeuppance example: he is punched by Holly Mc Lane at the end.
  • Ghostbusters: Walter Peck, the bureaucrat. You can't hate ghosts. But this pencil pusher is pissed that someone has the audacity to be as cool as the ghost busters. So he shuts their containment system down causing the climax of the movie.
  • Twister: Cary Elwes plays the corporate backed Scientist. You can't rage at the tornadoes, right? They inspire awe in the heroes and give them purpose. But this guy "sold-out" and got corporate funding (why would a scientist ever want funding?). He's a hack that doesn't know the true science and just copies the heroes or relies too much on the instruments rather than the clairvoyant way that Helen Hunt just stares at the storm and knows which way it will go. Ultimately his whole team is sucked into the storm when he arrogantly ignores the heroes' warnings.
Community Feedback Replies: 44
  • May 14, 2010
    Farmelle
    Doesn't this fall under The Rival or Jerk Ass or similar?
  • May 14, 2010
    Assistant
    No, it really doesn't and gravityhomer described it quite well.
  • May 14, 2010
    Generality
    I've always assumed there was a page for this somewhere, but never looked. This character type is usually an Obstructive Bureaucrat or Knight Templar who thinks he's acting for the best.

    Another example: That one guy (can't remember his name) in Final Fantasy The Spirits Within who opposes all of the heroes' plans, scoffs at their Gaia theory, and willingly sacrifices himself to fire the Zeus Cannon over and over again in a misguided attempt to destroy the alien infestation.
  • May 14, 2010
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • He's usually the mayor or other figure who doesn't listen to The Jor El in a disaster movie, too.
      • In Volcano, there are two: the guy who didn't want to stop the subway, and the husband who scolds his wife the doctor for helping the lava victims in the poor part of town.
      • In Dantes Peak, he's Harry's boss at the USGS with backup from somebody, but not the mayor, since she's Harry's Love Interest.
      • In 2012 it's the Russian guy and his annoying twin boys.
      • In Bolt, it's the agent for the little girl, who is always discounting her feelings with "Let's put a pin in it!"
      • In Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, it's The Mayor.

    ...@ Macroscopic, does that remark refer to me? I'm not sure I understand if it does.

  • May 14, 2010
    macroscopic
    ^^^ *Cough Cough*

    I kid of course. Though the handle isn't helping.
  • May 14, 2010
    TheBigSock
    I propose a new, shorter title: Lightning Rod of Hate. It's from Whos line is it anyway and seems to fit this trope's description.
  • May 14, 2010
    gravityhomer
    Thanks for the comments. I read the Jerk Ass very thoroughly because I was trying to see if it described the trope I was thinking of, but I think it does not. When I read the Jerk Ass, it made me think of Charles Winchester from MASH, later replaced by Burns. Or Fraiser when he first appeared on Cheers, he was later a much better character and his wife Lilith became the incredibly annoying character.

    The key to this trope is that the person is not really a villain, there just isn't another villain in the movie for people to hate. So it's as if, the writer created this character in order for the audience to direct that hate and then get some relief by having this character get screwed over later. The other thing, is that the character needs to be pretty 1 dimensional. Any movie that has good character development, will not have this trope.

    I like 'Lightning Rod of Hate', that's pretty cool. I could not really think of a good title. Another one I was considering was 'The Audience Rage Target', eh.

    In 2012, I would say that the main character to fit this role is Oliver Platt. He becomes the ranking person for the US and he becomes the character to hate at the end of the movie, but even he is less 1 dimensional than the characters I listed above.

    Another trope that I was thinking could be close is the Designated Villain. But that does not work for the reporter in Diehard or the pencil pusher in Ghostbusters or the Secretary of Defense in Independence Day.
  • May 15, 2010
    Chabal2

  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    • Billy Zane's character in Titanic doesn't just lose his money, he "put a pistol in his mouth" in 1929 after losing his wealth, a perfect Disney Death. Also don't forget that he frames Jack as well.
  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Sauron in the movie Lord of the Rings. All complexity and symbolism is gone, he's now just a gigantic red eyeball that sit atop an evil black tower.

    Same with Denethor: since an evil red eyeball isn't much to hate, the official leader of the free world becomes the world's most despicable cad imaginable in the movie.

  • May 15, 2010
    JoveHack
    Good description. Good examples.

    Note that few actors are willing to play that kind of role, and almost no stars.

    Hate Sink, if you want a really short name.

    JSYK, the reporter in Die Hard and the bureaucrat in Ghostbusters were played by the same actor, William Atherton.

    • Frank Burns, in M*A*S*H, may qualify. Played to perfection by Larry Linville.
  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    It's interesting-- and telling of Hollywood ego's-- that few stars are willing to play this type of role. Humphrey Bogart, Charles Laughton and Edward G. Robinson are notable exceptions... as well as admirable, and indicate the difference between truly great actors, and simply famous ones.
  • May 15, 2010
    gravityhomer
    Unknown Troper, yes, thanks for the reminder on Billy Zane's character shooting himself. I was being too lazy in not looking it up. Now I remember the old woman's voice saying those exact words.

    JH, Hate Sink is pretty good. Brevity is always better.

    I'm new to tvtropes. I don't know the etiquette, how does this work? Do I take people's suggestions and then edit the original article? Or do other users just edit it themsleves?

    Also, I'm not feeling Sauron. He doesn't capture the essence of this trope. I see Sauron as the Big Bad, or Designated Villain, or even really a Mac Guffin (as in he does nothing other than in flash backs and has no personality). I think the trope is for a 1D character that writers want you to hate. Sauron is a 0D character and he just sort of exists, I don't ever get the impression that Tolkien really wanted me to hate him.
  • May 15, 2010
    JoveHack
    @gravityhomer

    Feel free to add in examples to the entry. Just put Rolling Updates early in the entry. So people will know.

    Other frequently used tags are Needs A Better Title, and Do We Have This.
  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Tolkien didn't want you to hate anyone, since this didn't fit his theme of overall Catholicism; I was commenting solely on the movie. Also note that I did add Denethor from the movie.
  • May 15, 2010
    Arutema
    The first chapter of Final Fantasy Tactics is a bit vague on who the heroes and villains are. Argath/Algus however is a completely unlikeable bigoted Jerkass despite nominally being on your side. It's quite satisfying when he turns out to be the end-of-chapter Boss Battle.
  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Truth In Television: before Franklin invented the lightning-rod, people assumed that anyone struck by lightning had done something to anger the gods.
  • May 15, 2010
    bluepenguin
    That's more like Truth In Titles Taken Far More Literally Than Intended. (Anyway, I'm sure there's another trope for gods smiting people with lightning... if there isn't, there should be.)
  • May 15, 2010
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Not sure if these count:
    • In The Mummy (1999), though there is a Big Bad (Imhotep), Beni is clearly the annoying, cowardly Jerk Ass. The character's hate value is limited by the fact that his role is lampshaded and Played For Laughs.
      Rick: Well if it ain't my little buddy Beni. I think I'll kill you.
      Beni: Think of my children.
      Rick: You don't have any children.
      Beni: Someday I might.
    • In Drowtales, Word Of God states that there are no villains, however, readers looking for a character to dislike have numerous choices. A fair number of characters, including the protagonist, have been involved in either murder, attempted murder or rape, child abuse, or schemes worthy of a Big Bad in a more idealistic, Black And White Morality setting. Most of them are either more than 1D or open to Alternate Character Interpretation, however.
      • Judicator Sek'kyou got a fair amount of reader hatred simply for suggesting that the tenderhearted (and thus comparitively pacifist) leader of the fanatical Kyorl clan be removed for political reasons.
  • May 15, 2010
    DragonQuestZ
    The Umbridge is often this trope, although the Trope Namer was this trope accidentally. That reminds me, I need to revise my ykttw about "Moral Scrappy", which is basically the accidental version of this trope.
  • May 15, 2010
    whereismytea
    Hate Sink is a lot clearer than "Lightning Rod of Hate" (if not as cool), so I'm putting my vote in for that.
  • May 15, 2010
    Mozgwsloiku
    Asshole Victim will always be that
  • May 15, 2010
    truteal
  • May 16, 2010
    gravityhomer
    okay what's with text getting dropped off the bottom as I add edits? Have I hit some character limit in this section?
  • May 16, 2010
    DragonQuestZ
    You have. YKTTW allows only so much text in OP boxes.
  • May 16, 2010
    Assistant
    Is this a recently added character limit? I remember YKTTW allowing for far longer texts.
  • May 16, 2010
    Chabal2
    Mentioned in the live action 101Dalmatians movie: the computer programmer asks the tester kid if it would be improved by adding "a villain you could really hate".
  • May 16, 2010
    RossN
  • May 16, 2010
    LuxExterior
    • Harry Cooper from both the original Nightofthe Living Dead (1968) and Tom Savini's remake (1990) might fall under this category. The villains of the movie are, of course, the walking corpses, but Cooper is probably the biggest pain-in-the-ass in the movie. He is even more deliberately so in the 1990 remake.
  • May 17, 2010
    JoveHack
    @chabal2

    There's definitely a limit on characters in a YKTTW when using Firefox browser. Someone said there's no limit when using Internet Explorer to edit, but I haven't tested it.
  • May 17, 2010
    JoveHack
    Video Games
    • Resident Evil 2 - Police Chief Brian Irons. He's a complete monster, but in a game that's filled with real monsters. He serves no other purpose than to give the player a human to hate.
  • May 17, 2010
    JoveHack
    @Ross N,

    I'd say Villain Who Doesnt Do Anything should be incorporated into this trope. Since Hate Sink provides a motivation for what seems to be a frequently used trope.
  • May 17, 2010
    Jordan
    Malvolio from Twelfth Night could qualify as an early example. Similarly, Squidward in Spongebob Squarepants and Sam the Eagle on The Muppet Show- they're all this kind of stuck-up character who is the cast punching-bag.
  • May 17, 2010
    221b
    This sounds like a supertrope of every villain trope or 'jerk ass as annoying obstruction' plot device that isn't the ultimate evil. Draco Malfoy fits this perfectly in the early books.
  • May 18, 2010
    JoveHack
    @221b

    I think you're on to something. Stories need someone to cheer for, and someone to boo. Usually the audience cheers for the hero, and boos the villain. The Hate Sink is there to be booed at when the real villain of the piece doesn't work that way.

    Burke (Paul Reiser's character) in Aliens is a perfect example. The audience doesn't boo the Aliens. They're too inhumanly scary. But there's so much tension that someone to hate allows some release of that feeling.

    I've seen the The Criminologist (Charles Gray) booed exuberantly at live showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I don't think he's an intentional Hate Sink, but he's the only real candidate in the movie. So,

    Film
    • Rocky Horror Picture Show - The Criminologist (Charles Gray). Despite not being much of a Hate Sink, he gets extensively booed at live showings. There being no better alternative.
  • May 19, 2010
    sunksunk
    • Wayne Knight's character in Jurassic Park qualifies, I think. The dinosaurs are just too awesome to hate.
  • May 19, 2010
    Dcoetzee
    There was an attempt at this in another YKTTW that mentioned the Twister example, but there was some trouble delineating its boundaries. This is a good write-up.
  • May 19, 2010
    Doug S. Machina
    @Unknown Troper 71.205.248.44 "It's interesting-- and telling of Hollywood ego's-- that few stars are willing to play this type of role."

    This might have been one cause for the rise of the Evil Brit, as British actors took those roles, and knocked them out of the park (in a cross-cultural kludge of metaphors.)
  • May 21, 2010
    Chabal2
    @Jove Hack: What?
  • May 22, 2010
    gravityhomer
    okay, I'm not going to try to edit this thing here as I keep losing text and I don't have IE, so I'm probably just going to start it up and then let the editing sort it out. So I just hit this here launch button? what happens?
  • May 22, 2010
    bbofun
    The Mayor in [[Jaws][], and the person who takes on that role in all the [[Jaws]] rip-offs-uhh, homages. (Pirahna, Pirahna2, the upcoming Pirahna 3D, Grizzly, etc.)
  • May 23, 2010
    Sen
    Edited it a bit, hope ya don't mind. Also, Selfridge from Avatar is an Expy of Burke from Aliens, is he not?

    Or is it just my bizarre belief that many of the characters from the former movie are Expies of ones from the latter?
  • May 24, 2010
    bbofun
    Sen- not just your bizarre belief. I wondered why they didn't just have the character be played by Paul Reiser.
  • May 25, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    I knew it wasn't just me! :D

    (note: yeah, Sen here. I'm just using a different computer and I'm too lazy to get known)

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=nyjacwgucy21sq21olq1in2a