Created By: Dacilriel on May 20, 2012 Last Edited By: Dacilriel on July 3, 2012
Nuked

Jerk or Idiot Choice

A female lead has two love interests, neither of whom is a very good choice.

Name Space:
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Page Type:
Trope
Possible Titles:

Jerk or Idiot?

Jerk or Idiot Romantic Choice

Love the Jerk or the Idiot?

This is a YMMV trope.

Love Triangles are very popular. Generally, much of the suspense in a well-written story comes from the fact that both Love Interests are attractive, desirable, and have a lot of good qualities.

Sometimes, however, the question comes down, not to which person is better, but which one is not worse. It is usually a female lead who has to choose between two guys, only both guys have severe flaws which may well outweigh their good qualities. In short, a discerning viewer may well wonder why she's spending time with either one instead of finding someone else entirely or just being single.

Most often, one guy is rude, violent, and insensitive, while the other is nice, but weak and stupid. Interestingly, fans tend to ship the Jerkass while in canon the girl is more likely to end up with the Dogged Nice Guy. There's likely to be a Cock Fight along the way.

These characters often provide wish fulfillment, which does not translate well when viewed practically. All Girls Want Bad Boys because it's a great romantic fantasy and you can make him better, but bad boys don't often make good romantic partners because they're, you know, bad.

This trope is likely to be heavily YMMV, since one person's psychotic Yandere is another person's misunderstood Woobie.

Sub-trope of Love Triangle. See also What Does She See in Him?. A wrong choice may become No Accounting for Taste. Compare Two Guys and a Girl and Betty and Veronica.


Examples

Film:
  • My Fair Lady has Eliza with arrogant, misogynistic Professor Higgins and bland, slightly creepy Freddy. (Less present in the play on which the movie was based as Higgins was not considered a love interest and Freddy was presented more favorably)

Literature:
  • In The Phantom of the Opera Christine is torn between the Phantom who is an obsessive murderer and Raoul who is fairly bland and stupid.
  • In The Twilight Saga Bella spends much time angsting over her choice between a controlling, stalker vampire and a hot-tempered werewolf who tried to force himself on her.

Western Animation:
  • On The Simpsons Marge's mother gets involved in a Love Triangle with Mr Burns and Grandpa Simpson. When the latter crashes her wedding to the former she chooses... neither. For exactly this reason.
Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • May 22, 2012
    Dacilriel
    bump
  • May 23, 2012
    Arivne
  • May 23, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    This sounds like it should be In Universe examples only. Doesn't the Twilight series present both Edward and Jacob as great guys? Any love triangle could come off as this if you look at it subjectively.

    On The Simpsons Marge's mother gets involved in a Love Triangle with Mr Burns and Grandpa Simpson. When the latter crashes her wedding to the former she chooses... neither. For exactly this reason.

    Also, would love triangles where a man has to choose between two women count?
  • May 23, 2012
    Dacilriel
    ^While any love triangle could have people with negative traits, most have characters who appear to be good choices and have only a reasonable number of flaws. This is about love triangles that don't stand up to a subjective view because the characters' flaws (or outright serious issues) are likely to outweigh any good qualities they possess. (If you were in the character's position, would you really give serious consideration to having a murderer or a stalker as a life companion?)

    And yes, if a man is in a love triangle with two women who are both bad choices that would count. It just seemed to me when I was thinking of it that it tends to be a woman in the middle. If I get a lot of man-choosing-between-two-bad-women examples I will change the description accordingly.

    ^^ I like adding in the word "choice;" it makes it clearer. Will change accordingly.
  • May 23, 2012
    Earnest
    You might want to add "love" or "romantic" somewhere in the tile, otherwise it might sound like a character choosing whether to act like a jerk or an idiot.

    See also What Does She See In Him. A wrong choice may become No Accounting For Taste.
  • May 24, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    The only problem with that is that although you or I wouldn't want to choose between the Twilight love interests, thousands of fans love both.
  • May 24, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^ @Earnest wrote: "You might want to add "love" or "romantic" somewhere in the tile, otherwise it might sound like a character choosing whether to act like a jerk or an idiot."

    I agree. Jerk Or Idiot Romantic Choice?
  • May 24, 2012
    Dacilriel
    ^^ That's why this is a YMMV trope.

    Thinking about it, these characters often provide wish fulfillment, which does not translate well when viewed practically. All Girls Want Bad Boys because it's a great romantic fantasy and you can make him better, but bad boys don't often make good romantic partners because they're you know, bad.

    I think I might have to make a list of possible titles, because there's a few ways these words can be combined.
  • May 30, 2012
    Routerie
    Interesting idea, but this shouldn't be YMMV. This should be about a choice where one lover's a jerk and the other's an idiot - like the My Fair Lady example. We don't want a list of men This Tropette doesn't lust after. Twilight definitely shouldn't be there.
  • June 4, 2012
    Dacilriel
    Why do you say Twilight doesn't belong?

    This trope is not about whether the audience lusts after the characters. As I stated above, it needs to be arguable that neither guy is a good choice. Not everyone will agree what constitutes a "good choice" (hence why people ship Eliza with Higgins/Freddy), and that is why I said that it is YMMV.

    Should I expand the description to explain that this is based more in audience reactions than in-universe portrayal? Obviously any guy will be portrayed in a manner that is positive to some degree if he is a canon love interest.
  • June 4, 2012
    Routerie
    Twilight doesn't belong because it's about a girl torn between two desirable suitors. The author described Edward as "the perfect boyfriend." It doesn't matter if you and other rational people would reject both.

    Do not expand the description to say this is based on audience reaction. Instead, clarify that this is only about in-universe portrayal.
  • June 4, 2012
    AngelFaith
    I like the idea of this Trope. Got an example for you from Skins - Effy is caught between Cook (aggressive, violent and unpredictable) and Freddie (whiney, self-centered and dull).
  • June 4, 2012
    Dacilriel
    What medium should I list the Skins example under? I'm not familiar with it.
  • June 4, 2012
    MorganWick
    @/Routerie: I think he wants it to be an audience reaction (I'm too charitable to say "an excuse to bash Twilight"), the problem being that it can be restricted to in-universe only - a woman complaining about the low quality of her romantic suitors, or perhaps her friends having a double What Does She See In Him.
  • June 10, 2012
    Dacilriel
    "In short, a discerning viewer may well wonder why she's spending time with either one"

    "This trope is likely to be heavily YMMV, since one person's psychotic Yandere is another person's misunderstood Woobie. "

    I wrote both of these statements in the original draft of the description and they are still there. Again, if I need to rephrase or expand the description to make it clearer I am perfectly happy to do so, but have stated repeatedly that this is YMMV based in audience reaction, so if the only argument for something not being a valid example is that your reaction does vary, then that is not a reason to remove it.

    I am not looking for an excuse to bash anything. I love My Fair Lady and Phantom Of The Opera. I don't love Twilight, but I don't have any vendetta against it.

    ^ No, you're not too charitable to accuse me of trolling, because you just accused me of trolling.

    I don't want this thread to become a Twilight Flame War, so please, unless you have a valid reason why it is an issue, let's move on and please help me find examples and fine-tune the description. That's what YKKTW is for.
  • June 30, 2012
    planswalker
    if you don't restrict it to in-universe examples, this is Flame Bait, big time. The Twilight example is a prime target. YOU don't think that either one is desirable, but the fans of that work do. As-is, this is as much a subjective Complaining About Shows You Dont Like on the romance side as it is anything. Subjective audience reactions are just too primed to explode. If it's not between two love-interests that are said to be in-universe examples of Jerk Or Idiot Choice, ALL love triangles can qualify.
  • June 30, 2012
    HawktureShorts155
    Many times, the "bad" love interest is both a jerk and an idiot (the Jerk Jock comes to mind), while the "good" one is a nerd or just eccentric. This could just as well be "Jerk or Nerd Choice," "Jock or Nerd Choice," "Cool Guy or Dork Choice," etc.

    Some more examples: Bye Bye Birdie, many '80s and '90s teen comedies.
  • July 1, 2012
    RossN
    I think with some of these the female lead is not actually the character the audience is meant to relate to - the losery guy is, because Most Writers Are Male and This Loser Is You.

    For instance on Futurama the two guys that are consistently into Leela are Fry (Idiot) and Zapp Brannigan (Jerk and Idiot). Now Fry is by far the better choice of the two and is far more sympathetic... but objectively he's still a pretty terrible choice because he's so stupid and immature. However since he (rather than Leela) is the POV character we root for him anyway.

    See also: Homer and Marge Simpson and Peter and Lois Griffin.
  • July 1, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Hawkture Shorts 155: That doesn't sound like an example of this though, that sounds like a relatively clear cut choice. If Love Interest A is shown as really cruel or idiotic whereas Love Interest B is presented just eccentric and nerdy, then of course B is the "correct" choice who we're supposed to root for.

    If, however, you personally as a viewer/reader favour B to A and feel that he is unfairly demonised by other characters... well, that's part of the debate about audience reactions which some people (myself included) feel shouldn't be a part of this trope. Which is to say, maybe you think Love Interest B is clearly the better option, but the author of the book wanted you to dislike both A and B which is why he ended the book with Girl C walking off into the sunset, happy on her own.

    i.e. the inverse of the Twilight situation: instead of dissenting opinions between "these guys are both desirable!" and "neither of these guys are desirable!" we'll end up with "these guys both suck!" versus "this one is actually cool!"
  • July 1, 2012
    LittleLizard
    For a name, we should pick a popular jerk and a popular idiot from the same story. No, i can't contribute to that.
  • July 1, 2012
    reub2000
    • In Thirty Rock episode "Emanuelle Goes to Dinosaur Land" Liz chooses between Dennis (the idiot) and Wesley (the jerk).
  • July 1, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Archie Comics Veronica is sometimes torn between Archie (idiot) and Reggie (jerk).
  • July 2, 2012
    Routerie
  • July 2, 2012
    surgoshan
    • In a Dragon Lance short story, Raistlin is faced with a quest to deal with a ghost's troubled past. She was given in marriage to a Knight of Solamnia, but was in love with a mage of the Red Robes. Dozens of people had tried to deal with her haunting, and their ranks fill a room with ghosts. She asks Raistlin "Would you die for honor or would you die for love?" Raistlin's choice: I would live.
  • July 3, 2012
    planswalker
    if all this is going to be is subjective opinion, it's a waste of a trope.
  • July 3, 2012
    kamai
    would it help clarify this trope/make it less reliant on YMMV if we say it is specifically a choice between an in-universe jerk (i.e. rude, insensitive, arrogant) and an in-universe idiot (i.e. stupid, oblivious, ignorant), and exclude potential beaus who are undesirable for other reasons (obsessive, violent, nerdy, boring, weird etc.)? Arguably 'jerk' and 'idiot' are fairly easy to identify _and_ unequivocally unattractive, in contrast to many other potential-romantic-partner character traits - one girl's 'obsessive' is another girl's 'devoted'; one girl's 'weird' is another girl's 'cool'; one girl's 'violent' is another girl's hot werewolf jailbait(sorry)... you get the idea
  • July 3, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    Comic books: In one issue of Tytus Romek I Atomek, the characters land in Poland in the 30ies and stage a play in a street threatre - a girl is fought over by two boys ( a carriage and car driver. She laments the fact that one smells with horse manure and the other with gasoline ) She ends up marrying the policeman who appears to break up the fight.
  • July 3, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    planswalker: agreed, but I think there's a way of steering it back towards objectivity.

    What if we list possible symptoms of a Jerk Or Idiot Choice? e.g.

    - The story ends with the girl rejecting both her suitors, she would rather be alone than with either of them. - People outside of the Love Triangle make negative comments about what she might see in them. - There is a chance to Take A Third Option, e.g. a sensitive and nice guy pines over the girl who is stuck in the triangle. He's obviously the right guy for her. - The Jerk or Idiot show ridiculously over the top flaws, like stealing, abuse, animal cruelty.

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