Created By: StudiodeKadent on October 2, 2010 Last Edited By: StudiodeKadent on November 1, 2010

Expectation Lowerer

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A character that exists to provide a flattering contrast to the audience by being worse than the audience in some specific respect.

This trope exists on a sliding scale of scorn; at one end the character simply exists as a flattering contrast to the audience (the Idiot Hero often fits here). At this end of the spectrum, the audience focuses on the "if this character can do x, then I certainly can do x!"

On the other end of scorn scale is the harder version, where a character that is made pathetic so the audience can feel better about themselves (via Schadenfreude). The Ditz, a very common trope in Sitcoms, is this (but Played for Laughs).

Arguably an Expectation Lowerer is the Inversion of Escapist Character; Escapist Characters allow you to feel good by giving you an Audience Surrogate that you can experience awesomeness through. An Expectation Lowerer makes you feel good in the exact opposite way; you cannot identify with this character and this character, in at least one respect, is worse than you.

Not to be confused with This Loser Is You; where a character you identify with is the character that sucks. This Loser Is You basically flings the audience's faults back into their face whereas an Expectation Lowerer allows them to distance themselves from their faults.

Possibly related to Friedrich Nietzsche and his concept of "Pathos Of Distance" (where one casts that which one does not identify with as the morally wrong).

Needs More Examples, Rolling Updates

Laconic Definition: You're better than this loser.


  • Friedrich Nietzsche and his aforementioned concept of the "pathos of distance" is arguably related to this. Nietzsche argued that moral concepts came about because societies/groups/cliques defined themselves (and a list of traits they allegedly embodied) as "the good" and hence "the unlike us" became "the bad."
  • St Thomas Aquinas believed that the righteous in Heaven will be able to observe the torments of the wicked in Hell; the better to enjoy their blessedness. This is probably the harshest demonstration of the second kind of Expectation Lowerer, with gloating and schadenfreude on a celestial level.

  • An example of the softer kind of Expectation Lowerer is Ron Jeremy. Jeremy described his appeal as "if that guy can get laid, so can I." In short he makes the audience feel more secure in their sex appeal by showing even people uglier than the (assumed) audience can get a lot of sex.

[[folder:Live-Action Television]] [[/folder]]

Community Feedback Replies: 5
  • October 2, 2010
    I'm calling it.

    This character type is covered by any character with a flaw. Character flaws give a character pathos and allow an audience to see them as real people. You Should Know This Already.

    Or, if you had this a step further in mind, then essentially what you're suggesting is an Anti Sue, a character who is so unbearably unlikable that the audience is supposed to not like them. in fiction, those are called "villains."
  • October 2, 2010
    I disagree. Please allow me to explain why.

    First, it isn't true that any character with flaws will be an Expectation Lowerer. This Loser Is You is a flawed character that the audience identifies with; an Expectation Lowerer is a character who's flaws you cannot identify with.

    Also, many villains contain traits that can be identified with.

    Finally, this trope exists in both softer and harder versions. You need to take this into account.
  • October 3, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Idiot Hero is often a subtrope of this.
  • October 7, 2010
    The Ditz. Seen on almost every Sit Com, they exist to make the audience feel smart. After all, The Ditz is stupider then you are, so that proves you aren't a total idiot, right?

    In the description of The Ditz:

    "One reason you can find The Ditz on so many TV shows is that it gives the audience someone to feel superior to. No matter how stupid you might be, you are smarter than The Ditz."

    (Actually, I think I added that to the description a long time ago:)
  • November 1, 2010
    The funny thing about the Ron Jeremy thing is that, for those who care about getting laid, but aren't, that could probably be more depressing.