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Alternative Character Interpretation: Live-Action TV

The following has been moved to a subpage due to length;


  • Absolutely Fabulous: The whole cast. Saffron, dogged good guy or generic university socialist who sponges off her mother? Edina, crazy new age retro hippy and Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist or resourceful modern woman who likes to have fun and has to put up with a zoo of people with weird quirks, including family who sponge off her? Mother, dealing with the problems or later life or was never quite right(She held Edina with Rubber Kitchen Gloves at birth.)?
  • The Systems Commonwealth in Andromeda: beneficent, Federation-esqe near-utopian, intergalactic civilization? Or bungling, incompetent, bloated, brutal, elitist and imperialistic civilization headed by a bunch of full-of-themselves jackasses who viewed the non-Vedrans as cannon fodder and abandoned the galaxies when they were needed the most, and whom the galaxies are better off without? (Inspired by The Cynic's Corner.)
  • From Angel, there is Jasmine. Is she good or evil? Just look at the Headscratchers section for her.
    • Wesley: Romantic, intelligent guy who's made some questionable decisions, or Too Dumb to Live obsessive stalker?
    • Connor: Ax-Crazy with a serious case of Oedipus Complex, or unable to overcome his distrust from being trained to hate Angel from infancy and clinging to the only person in his life who's nice to him?
    • Holtz: Obsessed manipulative villain willing to drag everyone down with him or a noble man driven to violence by Angelus? Despite being a villain, Holtz is often portrayed as having perfectly valid points that not even Angel can argue with. What happened to him was heinous and unforgivable. Angel knows that better than anyone. His concern often seems to be with innocents and he never deceives his followers about his intentions. He doesn't use Violence unless he has to, and he is well aware of the shades of grey involved in what he is doing.
  • Howling Mad Murdock of The A-Team: Genuinely crazy to the point of institutionalization, or a talented, eccentric actor with a guaranteed meal ticket? Interestingly enough, the film portrays him as perfectly sane during the trial, and the next time we see him, it's in a mental institution. So he was deemed fit to stand trail, but is suddenly unfit during sentencing? Curious.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • Many viewers seem to think Bill Adama is an incredible leader whose history is one long string of Crowning Moments Of Awesome. Another theory is that he's an asshole. Let's see: this man lied to everyone about knowing where Earth was. (Oh sure, it was to give them hope. How long could it possibly have lasted, and how much worse did it make the inevitable discovery?) He's frequently threatened violence against people under his command, most often a woman half his age. He's committed what was, depending on how the Colonial government works this week, a military coup. He's forced a man under his command to beat him up and then used it to make everyone in the room feel guilty for a mistake that he made! Adama is no great leader — though he may be a Magnificent Bastard for getting everyone to think so. The funny thing is that the show makes him out to be a great leader and a jerk.
    • Helo — his decision to sabotage the plan to wipe out the Cylons. Was he a moral paragon of humanity keeping his friends from doing something they regret, or an arrogant prick who put his personal pride above the survival of the human race? The question becomes muddier once one realizes that all but two deaths from that point on are a direct result of that choice and therefore Helo's fault.
    • Gaius Baltar: Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds? Or Karma Houdini?
    • Laura Roslin is an in-universe example. Gaius Baltar think's she's the devil incarnate, Adama's in love with her, and everyone else basically thinks she's a either a total bitch or mildly crazy.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Sheldon Cooper seems to have Asperger's Syndrome, despite the creators denying this. He displays the usual signs of Asperger's: heightened vocabulary, lack of caring towards people's feelings, monologue-like speeches, difficulty in understanding social norms, obsessions, altered brain chemicals with coffee, etc. He could be "Clark Kenting" to what he thinks all geniuses should be, copying a professor/doctor/whatever who had Autism whom he idolized when he was growing up in a highly religious part of Texas. Now he has become the mask. He has stated twice that his mother had him tested for insanity; signs of being on the autistic spectrum should've popped up, and so he might not have autism. On the other hand, a personality disorder is not "insanity" - and given that Sheldon is extremely Literal-Minded he may be just reacting to the terms "insane" or "crazy" only. Also, his mother mentioned (in S05E06 "The Rhinitis Revelation") after confirming that she had him tested as a child and he's fine:
    "Although, I do regret not following up with that specialist in Houston."
    • The entire male cast shows many of the very same tendencies, just to a lesser degree. Leonard is the most socially savvy and has a vast understanding of human psychological conditioning, but that doesn't make him any less awkward than the other guys in a social setting.
    • Given that, according to Sheldon, his mother had him tested, and that this presumably occurred when he was a child, it is possible that he has a personality disorder that cannot be diagnosed in children and that would not have shown up until he was an adult.
      • Or he was successfully diagnosed with autism as a child and, quite simply, no one feels the need to bring it up on any regular basis.
      • There have been lots of hints (some subtle, some not so subtle) that Sheldon's family life was not exactly ideal: his father was an abusive drunk and his mother uses religion as a form of denial. Losing his father no doubt added to the trauma. And then there was the analogy Sheldon once drew between schmoozing wealthy university donors for grant funding to being molested in the back of a van...which was probably a little ''too'' descriptive for the otherwise overly literal Sheldon to be making an extended metaphor. One gets the impression that Sheldon's childhood was horror even leaving aside the bullying he experienced as a result of his obnoxious personality. Combined with at least three severe emotional breakdowns we've seen him have, Sheldon's arrogance and aloofness may well be a defense mechanism which is breaking down over time.
      • Another aspect of his home life that might be affecting his social ability: Sheldon is extremely logical and scientific. His mother is The Fundamentalist. He was raised by someone who, from his perspective, believes in irrational superstitions that there is no evidence for. He would have been terrified at living with and being raised by a person who went around talking about, or even to, a being that doesn't exist; imagine hearing the story of Abraham (almost) sacrificing his son, and worrying that your own mother will act this out on you.
      • It gets worse when Sheldon talks about how his grandfather was the only one in the family who ever encouraged him to pursue science, and how his father and siblings treated him. Sheldon's mom is usually played as nice, but some of her comments, which border on racist, if unwitting, really show she's not all that better from Leonard's mom, just on the other side of the spectrum(Science vs. Religion). She's a fundamentalist who seems to have a very old-fashioned and limited view on the world, which she took just to compensate for her husband's cheating and uses it as a crutch to keep going. She could be just ignorant, but sometimes she seems like an unbuilt form of Dolores Umbridge. Everyone just tends to look the other way because she's nicer than Leonard's mom and tends to put a leash on Sheldon's antics, but she may very well BE the reason for Sheldon's antics. She's once described him as "one of God's special children", so she thinks, or at least once thought, he was retarded or insane, and seemingly preached this idea to Sheldon's sister. Sheldon's slightly autistic behavior could be the result of being treated as one, despite and because of his genius intellect.
    • Asperger's Syndrome only got added to the DSM-IV in 1994, so if Sheldon was tested earlier in time...
      • In at least a few parts of the world, it was not recognised until the last few years.
      • Perhaps with a bit of Fridge Brilliance - he claims "I'm not insane, my mother had me tested" - well, a personality disorder is not insanity - strictly speaking.
    • Considering the overwhelming majority of Epileptic Trees insists that Sheldon—along with nearly every other intelligent, eccentric character in fiction—has Aspergers, the notion that he doesn't may well be the Alternative Character Interpretation.
      • It's worth noting that just as Autistics have varying levels of intellectual functionality, Aspergics also have varying levels of social functionality - some can limp along with encouragement, and some, like Sheldon, can be almost crippled by their literal thinking.
    • Completely alternate Sheldon interpretation: He's a genuinely nice person. He's genuinely concerned when he thinks Penny's been hurt, runs to get her and takes her to hospital. Rather than just telling Leonard that he wouldn't cover for him sleeping with Priya, he constructed an elaborate and detailed cover to help him. When Leonard lied to Penny about her singing, Sheldon could again have simply said he didn't care and told the truth, but instead chose to follow through and help. He went to great extremes to get Howard's forgiveness when he'd ruined his chances of getting security clearance. When he felt that it would be construed as disloyal to have dinner with Penny, he almost killed himself trying to keep both she and Leonard happy. He couldn't ignore the possibility that Amy was hurt when he didn't hear from her. As much as he may pretend otherwise, he actually cares about his friends. When given the option of being trapped in one of the coldest parts of the planet with anyone, he chose his three friends. He maybe even values their friendship more than any of the rest of them and, even if it may be seen as condescending, is the least frequent to ever intentionally insult any of them (try watching an episode and counting the number of insults Sheldon gives that would actually be considered an insult to his mind, then compare them against those Leonard makes).
    • The relationship of Penny and Leonard: Romantic Plot Tumor or a romance hindered by best intentions? for the tumorness, see the first season finale. Leonard badgered her to go out with him around the end. And then she dumps him in the second episode and with someone else by the ep after that. And in the third season they get together and seem happy until they break up over Penny not being able to say "I love you" to Leonard and Leonard badgering her over the span of the ep. Is Penny just a Satellite Love Interest who just goes on about how Leonard thinks of her as stupid whenever they argue to win a fight or really new to dating intelligent guys? And is Leonard a whiner who really can't be in relationships because he never really learned love from his mother?
    • In the episode of Bernadette wanting Howard to move in, was Howard pulling a Batman Gambit? He knew Bernadette would keep bugging him about moving in but he wasn't ready (possibly to save money on his engagement ring) so he had to make a plan. Move in, piss her off by his neediness and make her stop. Notice that in his explanation he said he wrote an email to his mother about moving out and her saying she never reads email since she doesn't know how to properly work a computer.
  • From Big Brother, Brendon is either a naive fool who fell in love with a bad girl (Rachel) or a Woobie because he is going to be stuck dealing with Rachel, an uber diva, for the rest of his life.
  • We're supposed to see the main character of The Big C as an uptight woman who becomes liberated by her impending death by incurable cancer; unfortunately quite a few critics see her as a selfish woman who cares so little about her family (Man Child husband and Jerk Ass teen son; she doesn't have any friends) that she doesn't bother to explain her abrupt change in character. Everyone else is justified in thinking she's just an incredibly rude person.
  • Big Time Rush: Is Gustavo Rocque a flat out Jerkass who doesn't give a flying fuck about the boys, thinks they can't do anything right and always thinks what he does is best? Or is he a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who wants to make things better for them and improve them?
  • The first Blackadder is either a power-hungry cowardly usurper or a simple nobleman that wants respect from his father
  • Blake's 7: Dear God...everyone is up for debate. Is Servalan just trying to keep the only stable government for billions of citizens intact, morality be damned? Is Blake actually fighting for justice, or is he an Omnicidal Maniac who doesn't give a damn who gets hurt as long as the Federation burns? Is Avon even sane by Season 4? And who betrayed who in the Bolivian Army Ending - did Blake betray Avon, did Avon betray Blake, or did they betray each other? Dayna - Action Girl or Faux Action Girl? Is Villa truly a stupid coward or Dangerously Genre Savvy and playing dumb in order to keep out of Blake and Avon's suicidal plans?
  • Bones: Asperger's Syndrome, while not mentioned in the show itself, would explain an awful lot about the behavior of both Zach and, to a lesser degree, Bones herself. Zach appears to be a textbook case of a moderate-functioning Aspie (at least, before his revelation in the Gormagon story arc). Tempe "Bones" Brennan appears to be a high-functioning Aspie, combined with the sort of Ivory Tower mentality common to professional academics. If tested, both would be found to have Asperger's, though Zach would have more markers of having the disorder. Both also are locked in the empiric mindset of scientists, rejecting almost all outside stimulus as irrelevant to how they should act towards others, especially those "unequal" to themselves, as well as anything not recorded and accepted as fact or definite to science. Word of God confirmed that for Zach and implied for Brennen. From series creator Hart Hanson: "If we were on cable, we would have said from the beginning that Brennan has Asperger´┐Żs. Instead, it being a network, we decided not to label a main character, for good or for bad. But those elements are in there."
  • Alternate Character Interpretation is a given when two shows tackle the same historical characters simultaneously. Case in point Neil Jordan's The Borgias (who tends to paint the titular family sympathetically as Antiheroes With Bad Publicity while giving several shades of villainy to everyone else) and Tom Fontana's Borgia: Faith and Fear (who rums squick Up to Eleven and just makes everyone a terrible person, period), both from 2011:
    • Juan Borgia is an useless, violent coward Jerk Ass in both. In TB this is because he has deep insecurities and an inferiority complex born of his belief that he might not actually be the son of Rodrigo, combined with Middle Child Syndrome and Daddy Issues in general, and serves as an Annoying Younger Sibling to Cesare. In B:F&F, Juan is a Big Brother Bully to Cesare (their order of birth is still disputed among historians, each show going with a different theory) and a bona fide Entitled Bastard who has no doubts about his paternity.
    • In TB, Cesare is the Only Sane Man, bordering on Knight in Sour Armor, and an Aloof Big Brother to Juan. In B:F&F, he is the deeply insecure teenager with Middle Child Syndrome that is plagued by internal demons, and has occasional bursts of stupidity and violence.
    • In TB, Lucrezia is a once pure, innocent child broken by her first marriage during which she endured Marital Rape License, which in turn leads to her gradual evolution into a Manipulative Bitch. In B:F&F, Lucrezia is a na´ve, but self-centered and slutty teenager, and her slip into Manipulative Bitch territory happens gradually from the beginning.
    • Vanozza Cattanei is a Woman Scorned in TB, while in B:F&F she has moved already from her relationship with Rodrigo and is Happily Married to another man.
    • Giulia Farnese is a quiet, passive Trophy Mistress in TB (who still uses her charms to seduce other men when needed, however). In B:F&F, she is an ambitious woman who has no qualms about using her relationship with Rodrigo to better herself and her family and spies actively on Lucrezia.
    • Della Rovere in TB is a Hero Antagonist bordering on Knight Templar that wants to purify Rome by getting rid of the Borgias, and is appalled by the brutality unleashed by the French after he gets them to invade Italy. In B:F&F, he is a (somewhat minor) Jerk Ass that obviously wants the Throne of Saint Peter for himself and an unashamed agent of French imperialism.
    • In TB, Giovanni Sforza is an Entitled Bastard rapist who hates the Borgias but marries one for money, manipulated by Lucrezia and the Pope into declaring himself impotent for additional shame. In B:F&F, he is an insecure Nice Guy that is really impotent, used as a pawn by his wife and family.
    • In TB, Alfonso of Naples is a cackling, nearly hyperactive punk that hams it up. In B:F&F, he is a passive, defeatist oaf.
    • Charles VIII of France already went through Alternate Character Interpretation between seasons in TB. In the first season he is a slightly comical Affably Evil Noble Demon that makes a 180║ after meeting the Pope, but makes another 180║ after taking Naples and thinking that the Pope has tricked him into entering a plague-ridden city, and becomes an outright Complete Monster in the second season. In B:F&F, Charles is a sickly-looking French Jerk with an ever-shaking right hand, clearly not right in the head and possibly bipolar.
  • Boy Meets World has a few of these.
  • Breaking Bad
    • Walt gets a lot of this. For one thing, did he cook meth out of a genuine desire to provide for his family or was it his own personal retaliation against a world he feels never cut him a break? (The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.) Was he a nice person who became the mask of his Heisenberg persona, or was he already hungry for wealth and power as he ultimately became, and the Heisenberg persona is his true self?
    • Was Walt right about his former business partners Elliot and Gretchen all along when they dismiss his role in the founding of Grey Matter on the news? Or were they just simply doing damage control for their company by distancing themselves from a known criminal? Also, did they really betray Walt, or was Walt just simply blaming them for his own failings because of his ego?
    • Is Skyler simply a normal woman thrown into a very stressful and less than ordinary situation that she can't cope with, or a Control Freak looking for any method to put Walt under her thumb out of some form of twisted love?
    • Jesse's parents. Were they Good Parents who were pushed to the edge by Jesse's life choices, or did they just cruelly abandon him while blatantly favoring his little brother Jake?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Joss Whedon himself presented an Alternate Character Interpretation for the series by saying that the ending of sixth season episode "Normal Again" (in which Buffy hallucinates that she's a patient in a mental hospital and has been imagining the entire "vampire slayer" gig) might be the truth. On the other hand, that statement could just be Joss being Joss.
      • Who says it has to be firmly one way or the other? What if it's two worlds, and the Buffy in each hallucinates being the other?
      • Maybe Buffy is actually Joss, who has been imagining himself as a beautiful young blonde who fights vampires. In that episode, the vampires suddenly vanished, but the blonde girl delusion was still in place.
    • Just how stupid is Buffy and how much of her "stupidity" is fake?
    • Was Buffy's season 6 relationship with Spike his taking advantage of her post-heaven depression and manipulating her away from her friends for his own selfish desires, her taking advantage of his helpless romanticism to get a punching bag and sex toy, both at once, or a genuine loving relationship? Fanfic has supported all of these. Everything about them is subject to Alternate Character Interpretation. When did she fall in love with him? Did she fall in love with him? Why did he tell her she didn't? Did he want his soul back to be good enough for her, to say "sorry," or because he wanted to sleep with her again? And let's not go into what he was thinking during the Attempted Rape...
    • Pre-souled Spike: a sensitive romantic too shy to admit to his true feelings, suffering years of cruel physical and mental abuse from Buffy? Or an evil, selfish, violent vampire consumed with a psychotic obsession for Buffy, who should have staked him years ago? James Marsters has said that he played Spike as being attracted to Buffy from the beginning.
    • Willow Rosenberg, card carrying lesbian or in the bi closet?
    • Shortly after he was introduced some viewers were convinced Oz was evil. Joss Whedon personally spoke out against this, saying he didn't understand this interpretation.
    • Kennedy. Is she really The Scrappy or does she get a pass because of her age? Is she really a Jerk Ass or more Jerkass Has a Point? Is she really a Satellite Love Interest or does she have Hidden Depths?
  • Charmed the show, the Charmed Ones, and everything else is the creation of an insane Piper, inspired and encouraged by her roommates.
  • There are two competing alternate theories about Columbo (other than Obfuscating Stupidity). One is that he's a Genius Ditz. The other is that he isn't smart at all. He himself claims in one episode that the main reason he's successful is that he's a professional with years of experience in hunting murderers, while most of the murderers he captures are amateurs who are doing it for the first time and thus making rookie mistakes.
    • Either that, or (as he freely admits) Mrs Columbo solves all the crimes when they talk about it over dinner (which he probably cooks, given that he's shown quite a proficiency and interest in cooking on a number of occasions). Assuming she exists (Falk himself once claimed that Mrs Columbo is Columbo's way of being nice to the criminals with the added get out clause should someone claim conflict of interests that "it's not me, it's my wife who likes them").
    • Is Columbo a Manipulative Bastard? He's overly nice to people in a bloodhound sort of way; he convinces people that he's just a country bumpkin more interested in whatever 'hat' the villain wears than solving the crime, only to reveal in the end a cold detachment and clinical mind that the bumpkin persona allowed free reign. He plays with the feelings of the criminals, making them like him (more often than not) or at least pity him and drop their guard, or he pushes them subtly and continuously to the point where they break.
      • The answers to some of these questions depend on what you consider canon. Core canon is the NBC series, natch. But if you accept the ABC Columbo movies as canon, then Obfuscating Stupidity and Manipulative Bastard are both canon (since we get to see glimpses of them).
      • Peter Falk gives his take in his memoirs "Just One More Thing". In it he says Columbo is absent minded, but that's because he's concentrating all his thoughts on cases he hasn't solved.
      • Sometimes, he looks like a troll — plainly trying to annoy and distract the suspects so they may be provoked into blurting things he would never get via normal investigation.
  • Abed on Community; a Lovable Nerd Woobie who just has problems reading peoples emotions, or Manipulative Bastard who´┐Żs main goal is purposely influencing people around him so they get into all kinds of trouble resembling his favorite movies?
    • Pierce. The show itself goes back and forth on whether he is inherently and fundamentally an unlikeable Jerkass or whether he's just a lonely but socially inept old man who just wants to have friends but doesn't know how to acquire or keep them and who ends up lashing out because people exclude him, or something in between; a running theme is Jeff and Annie debating this very problem, with Jeff taking the former side and Annie taking the latter side. It's worth noting that while Annie is often shown to be overly naive and idealistic at times, Jeff himself has a consistent problem with not treating his friends as well as he should, and can be especially and deliberately cruel to Pierce. It does, however, nevertheless point out that regardless of whether it's one, the other or both, many of Pierce's problems nevertheless remain his own damn fault, and that whichever one is true he still can go way too far with being a jerk (see "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" and "Intermediate Documentary Making" for examples).
  • Yet another Asperger's interpretation that sometimes pops up is Grissom on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, due to his reclusiveness and the way he collects insects and animal stuff in his office. Although if he were one, he likely wouldn't be as severe as some other characters in other series.
  • Bree from Desperate Housewives: two-dimensional right-wing Christian Pleasantville Stepford wife? Or tragic Martha Stewart who lies even to herself so much that appearances are ALL she has? (Oh, and guns! She likes guns, too.) This is particularly interesting since she's the most two-dimensional character on the show, bordering on Strawman Political (including the guns), and yet she's the character who was based on a real person, the creator's mother.
  • Dexter:
    • Is Dexter a good person doing bad things, or a bad person doing good things? Then there's the other controversy. Is Dexter Morgan a genuinely emotionless sociopath doing his best to simulate normal relationships and emotions? Or is it more a case of deep trauma and denial warring with his feelings for friends and family? Or did he start out as the former and is now slowly turning into the latter? Or is he just so good at pretending to be human that he's begun to fool himself?
    • Harry Morgan. Cop who turned a budding serial killer into a force for good, or heartless bastard who ignored the psychological needs of a scarred boy?
  • Dollhouse has a couple of much-debated interpretations:
    • Bennett: Vicious, cruel, cold-blooded torturer who plays with Dolls like toys, and is bent on hurting Caroline? Or tragic, damaged, and mentally-scarred genius who was betrayed by someone she deeply cared about and possibly loved? Or both?
    • Although Topher is usually considered an ur-Woobie, he's the series's most morally culpable character in some interpretations, bordering on monstrous (though hardly completely so). Of all the Dollhouse employees, runs the argument, only Topher has the intellect and imagination to understand the technology's full philosophical implications—and he whole-heartedly embraces them. Even at the end, his brokenness and remorse are wholly based on the technology's this-worldly unexpected consequences.
      • He's only as morally culpable in that universe's events as Einstein and Oppenheimer and the rest of the Manhattan Project were morally culpable in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And indeed, many of the Manhattan Project members did feel a profound sense of guilt over their involvement, just as Topher did, but you'd be hard pressed to find somebody who would refer to any of them as monsters because of it, despite the fact that not only did they have the intellect and imagination to understand the full implications, they in fact knew full well that they were working on a weapon of war.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: Debra: Is she a poor, unfortunate woobie and heroine, or is she a smug, abusive bully who never gets called out on her arrogant, abusive and condescending behavior?
    • Marie: Depending on your POV, she is either: an Evil Matriarch who doesn't care about anyone other than herself OR a person who—while admittedly insensitive—is a genuinely good person whose rude behavior is merely there to mask her deep insecurities OR a concerned mother who sees how her daughter-in-law abuses her son, and is desperately trying to get Ray to realize that he'd be better off without Debra.
  • Father Ted: The show is nice and peaceful and relatively harmless. Or so it seems. Craggy Island is effectively a prison island, to which the characters have been sent by Bishop Brennan, who hates them. Ted was sent there because he stole money from the church, Dougal was sent there for 'the blackrock incident' that involved "irreparable damage" to the lives of several nuns, Jack was sent there for being an alcoholic pervert, and Mrs Doyle was either sent there or escaped there for killing her husband (though this is only hinted at). The characters of Johnny And Mary actually form a sort of metaphor for the series - it's all happy to the general public but behind the scenes, something dark is going on.
  • Firefly:
    • Jayne is suspected of Obfuscating Stupidity - and Obfuscating Disloyalty. It's posited on the WMG that he is completely loyal to Mal, and there is evidence that he only betrayed the Tams because he considered them a threat rather than crew.
    • The fandom is divided over whether Gabriel and Regen Tam are evil parents who knowingly sent their daughter to be Mind Raped at the Academy and then disowned their son when he objected, well-intentioned idiots who did what they thought was best for their daughter and were truly ignorant of the consequences, or one of each. In fanfics that take the third option, Gabriel is usually the evil one, and Regan the oblivious one.
    • River is almost nothing but Alternate Character Interpretation. How much of her actions are taken up by her madness, post-traumatic stress, Mind Rape mental trauma, and her psychic powers? How does she perceive the world around her? How do her Psychic Powers even work? There are also questions and interpretations relating to her murdering her counselor/interrogator in The R. Tam Sessions. Was she doing it because she had been ordered to do so? Was she doing it because she was insane? Or was she lashing out at her torturers in the only way she could?
    • After reading an article about Kaylee on "The Hathor Legacy" and noticing that everyone reflexively leaped to Kaylee's defense upon someone saying that she sympathized more with Simon — and nearly all of Kaylee's defenders said that "Sure, Simon's under a lot of stress, but that doesn't mean he has to be so THOUGHTLESS when he talks to her!" — one wonders if Kaylee's the messiah that everyone treats her as, or a sweet but naive girl that desperately needs to realize—horror of horrors—that Simon doesn't always think before he talks. It's possible that Kaylee might not be as innocent as she seems, apart from being far more experienced than might be thought at first. She might have a very dark streak. In an unfilmed script called "Dead or Alive," Kaylee actually indicates either that someone is hunting her down for something she's done, or that she's entirely capable of taking bloodied revenge if she ever had to.
  • Some Frasier fans suspect that Daphne might have been secretly in love with Niles as long he was secretly in love with her, but repressed and concealed her own attraction better than he did. Certain moments, such as the time she ill-conceivedly sort-of-tried to seduce him in "Daphne Hates Sherry", her behavior towards him in several episodes such as "First Date" and "A Midwinter's Night Dream", and her suspiciously sincere words and actions in "Moon Dance" make it difficult to be sure that her feelings for him were really as innocent as everyone assumed.
    • Martin Crane: Long-suffering but loving down-to-earth father, or emotionally abusive and utterly ungrateful Jerk Ass?
  • Is Maxwell Smart a bungling idiot who gets by entirely by luck, or is he secretly a highly-competent (and somewhat sociopathic) superspy who only acts like an idiot because he enjoys destroying expensive property and annoying the Chief? With his surprising success rate, he knows full-well that CONTROL is never going to fire him.
    • Depends which Max. Don Adams' version is almost certainly a lucky Cloud Cuckoo Lander. Steve Carrell's is an unlucky Genius Ditz.
    • The same question could be asked about Inspector Clouseau.
  • The characters on Gilligan's Island are the manifestation of the Seven Deadly Sins. Supposedly, creator Sherwood Schwartz confirmed this ACI. Generally: Lust = Ginger, Greed = Mr Howell, Sloth = Mrs Howell, Pride = Professor, Envy = Maryann, Wrath = Skipper, and Gluttony = Gilligan, though sometimes Skipper is both Wrath and Sloth or Mrs. Howell is Sloth and Gluttony, leaving Gilligan as the red-clad Satan whose Obfuscating Clumsiness keeps them imprisoned on the island! Another version has Gilligan as Sloth (always sleeping in his hammock) and Mrs. Howell as Gluttony (in the sense of overindulge instead of overeat, hence why she took so many clothes, hats, jewels, etc., for a boat trip.)
  • Interpretation for Gilmore Girls: Lorelai and Rory are self-absorbed and are given a lot of leeway by almost everyone they know and almost the whole town of Stars Hollow. The only exceptions seem to be Lorelai's parents and Jess (of all people). Lorelai styled herself as a young and cool mom, but she gave bad parenting advice, and she came off to some as extremely immature and judgmental. Luke and the whole town are oblivious to this. Dean gave off emotionally abusive vibes in his scenes with Rory, especially considering that he cheated on his wife with her. The only people who got positive character development were Paris and Jess.
    • It's not at all hard to flip the POV and see Emily Gilmore's view of matters. It would take only a very slight adjustment of the storyline to make Emily the voice of sanity, and someone Rory should model herself after rather than her mother.
      • YMMV. Lorelai is clearly intended to be flighty and immature. But she is, without a doubt, a great mother. She encourages Rory when she doubts herself and always makes herself available for help and guidance (ex. Forcing Rory to go to Chilton, being her study partner when Rory gets her first D, helping her decide which college to go to and then encouraging her to go to Yale even though they'd both been at odds with the elder Gilmores over Rory going there). And Lorelai seems to be the only one capable of calling Rory out when she does something wrong or stupid (Sleeping with married Dean, dropping out of Yale). Wordof God has stated that she would sometimes get complaints that Lorelai would do/say things that no mother would do and explained that Lorelai wanted to make sure when she had Rory, that her child always felt respected, loved unconditionally, and free to make her own choices, because that's something that Lorelai felt was lacking in her own childhood. So that could account for her very laid-back attitude towards parenting. She's there when it counts, but for the most part let's Rory do her own thing. Indeed Rory and Lorelai's relationship with one another is, arguably, the most balanced and stable relationship either of them have over the course of the show.
  • Glee has a lot of this due to having a huge fanbase that can either over-identify with characters or completely hate them and there's enough leather pants for everyone. To be fair, the creators seem to purposely encourage the fans to have competing interpretations of the characters. It's just part of the fun of the show.
    • Glee: Is Brittany really just stupid, or is she also delusional? Among other signs, she believes her cat has been reading her diary. With the episode 'Night of Neglect', a common interpretation is that she's a Genius Ditz mixed with a Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
      • Though an episode actually showed her cat (on screen) using a computer mouse, so while we have no confirmation that it read her diary, it's clearly smarter than the average cat.
    • Is Quinn a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or the Alpha Bitch, or The Chessmaster, or even a Smug Snake or Manipulative Bastard?
    • Also, could the same be said for Santana and (to a lesser extent) Rachel?
    • For the relationship of Satanna and Brittney, is Satanna an abusive partner in the making? She seems eager to emotionally sway her to her side of an arguement no matter what said conflict is, and makes her believe she can do no wrong and makes sure she still remains loyal to her.
  • In Goodnight Sweetheart, is Gary Sparrow a genuinely nice guy trying to do the right thing by two women, or he is a heartless jerk having his cake and eating it and manipulating his best friend for his own goals? A Dream Sequence episode shows that Gary seemed to be aware of the latter.
  • Blair, Serena and Chuck on Gossip Girl. Fans disagree wildly on which girl is mature, empathic and "just in a bad place right now", and which one is an immature, selfish bitch. And as for Chuck... Misunderstood, mistreated good guy and just the best boyfriend ever, or sociopathic, deranged attempted rapist? Depends on who you ask.
    • Chuck's attempted rape of the 14(15?) year old wasn't the first time he's committed such an act. If anything, the rape was supposed to be her 'initiation' to the High Schools 'Society' which many of the popular girls have gone through, as in, the complete ordeal without the benefit of being rescued.
      • Yea on the first bit, nay on the second. Blair was the so-called "Queen B" of their school, and she was a virgin until she was 17 incidentally, to the Chuck in question
    • As the show heads into the ending, there will be no character development for the main characters, or at least those from the Upper East Side. Blair will always try to gain shortcuts instead of putting in work, Chuck will never let go of his daddy issues, Serena will always be a Mary Sue who gets everything handed to her on a silver platter and Nate will always have boring plots.
  • Meredith on Grey's Anatomy. Strong feministic character, or selfish, unfeeling bitch?
  • Season 4 of Hannah Montana finds Miley Stewart, now an 18-year-old high school graduate going through personal changes, ruminating on her future, choosing to stabilize her offstage life by abandoning the carefully controlled, glittery, perfect-perfect "Hannah Montana" pop star persona that made her famous since she was a small child, and revealing herself as a human, flawed, less glamorous teenage girl. She is unfairly scrutinized and harassed by the press, her image is somewhat damaged, she finds she cannot lead an ordinary life or escape from the pressure or the paparazzi, many of her longtime fans and their parents are disappointed in her, and she has to learn to perform and conduct herself in this new incarnation. Her fanbase is reluctant to accept her new artistic and personal directions, though Miley decides she alone must go in a direction she feels happiest in regardless of the backlash, and ultimately, she takes time off to begin the next chapter in her life away from the spotlight and her "Hannah" past. Perhaps a metaphor for Miley Cyrus' own career?
  • Peter Wingfield played Methos, the world's oldest Immortal on the Highlander TV show. In an interview given shortly before the end of the series' run, he commented that it would make sense if it were to be revealed that every single thing his character had ever done on the show had been a manipulation to get Duncan MacLeod into a position where he could kill him. Wingfield added that he didn't personally believe this to be the case, but noted that it would fit perfectly with what we know of the character, and that he'd have no problem playing such a scene if the writers decided to go that route. In a seperate interview, one of the staff writers claims that the character of Methos was not originally intended to be quite so dark, that Wingfield played the character as having his own agenda, and the writers decided to run with it.
  • There are good arguments that both Colonel Klink and Sgt Schultz are not as quite as idiotic as they appear. This is especially true for Schultz, who clearly is well aware of some of the activities Hogan's crew is carrying out and actively assists them in some cases.
  • These two nurses from Holby City. One blonde, the other Indian/Portuguese/unknown - are they Dumb Blonde and Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Hospital Hottie or Deadpan Snarker?
  • Horatio Hornblower:
    • Jack Simpson, a sadistic bully who tormented his fellow midshipmen. There are plenty of speculation about the ominous and vague lines other characters say in regards to him ("You don't know half what he's capable of") and the question of what, exactly, he'd been doing with the other midshipmen prior to Horatio's arrival. There is implied sexual abuse in the show's canon anyway. Fans also like to explore why the lieutenants were not effective in dealing with him.
    • In Series Two, there is an Ambiguous Situation resulting in the Riddle for the Ages. It regards the interpretation of how Captain Sawyer fell down the hatchway. The question of whether or not it was an accident leads often enough to the secondary question, whether it was in the nature of any of the characters present to actively push the captain.
    • Captain Pellew is prone to such a treatment. In Series One, he is universally loved, and everybody is impressed and awed by his character and his abilities. He's the definitive Captain and Father to His Men in the show. In Series Two, his reputation suffers a serious blow because of his apparent favoritism and lack of concern for other officers other than his darling Hornblower. Series Three suggests further that honesty might not be an integral part of his character and that his morals might be compromised by the Navy's machinations. Some fics try to find deeper meaning in his lack of concern for other sailors, and many Fix Fics in Alternate Universe try to absolve him and have him explain his intentions, actively help the ones who were damned by the unfair trial or atone for his deeds.
  • House: In "Need To Know", did House leave Stacy because a) he was being self-sacrificing, b) he didn't want to go through the heartbreak of five years ago again, c) he wants to keep being miserable, d) he hadn't forgiven her for what happened with the infarction and wanted to hurt her, or e) all of the above?
    • Another one occasionally brought up in context is whether House honestly cares about his patients and wants to find out what's wrong with them to help them, or if he just sees them as puzzles to be solved, not caring whether he helps or harms them in the process. And then there are all the permutations of the combination of the two, such as "he cares about some but not others", or "he does care but also sees them as something to be solved at all costs."
    • Many fans believe that even though House is a jerk, he does genuinely care about those around him (evidence in the episodes "Euphoria" and "Wilson's Heart") and his patients. On the other hand, we have "Last Resort", when House put Thirteen's and the other hostages' lives at risk by giving the gun back to the disarmed hostage taker just because he wanted to solve a medical mystery and didn't want the SWAT team to interrupt him. Or the way he treated the patient from the episode "Who's Your Daddy?" Apparently the writers of the show don't struggle for consistency here.
      • Maybe House cares only about those whom he's close to, and everyone else is a puzzle.
      • House still showed that he is a decent person in "Who's your Daddy" because he did not reveal to him the girl was not his biological daughter because that revelation would have harmed both that father and the girl. It could be argued that he acted as he did because he was concerned for his friend.
      • Maybe House does genuinely care about people, including his patients, but has one great weakness (puzzles (or vicodin)) that sometimes causes him to mistreat the people he cares about. Like a person!
    • A prominent argument has been created over Dr. Wilson's character. After Wilson practically asked his best friend to sacrifice his life for Wilson's girlfriend and then held said best friend responsible for her death for a while even though he had done what Wilson asked (it was already too late by then), some people feel that he's not as nice as he seems. There are online communities devoted to exploring the darker sides of his character.
      • This could be considered canon if you consider the last developments about his schizophrenic brother and how he constructed his "nice guy" persona as a huge overreaction. As House himself said:
        "You're all persona".
      • Yes, but even then there's still room for interpretation. What's under the persona? Nothing (the literal meaning of House's statement, but likely not what House meant)? A normal human being who is no more and no less bastardly than most of the PPTH staff? A Chessmaster attempting to manipulate everything, including House, for his own personal gain?
      • This was hinted at even earlier, in season three, when he gives advice to Foreman on how to tell a patient she's dying, which includes directions on just when and how to touch a patient's arm so she feels comforted. The scene can be interpreted as Wilson being so practiced at telling people how to die that he's reduced it to a science, or as Wilson being a master of faking sincerity. (Remember, if you can fake that, you can fake anything... It's almost a pity Wilson didn't stick with acting.)
    • About House caring, Wilson claims from the first episode that the real reason House refuses to meet with patients is that, if he does, he'll begin to care about them as human beings, and then he'll hesitate when it comes to ordering the crazy dangerous treatments that are often the only chance to save their lives. About Wilson caring, in the fourth season episode "Frozen," the patient—a psychiatrist trapped in Antarctica and communicating via webcam—remarks on the oddity of Wilson's friendship with House, since the latter has such a bad reputation among his colleagues and the former has "a perfect score." When Wilson asks if she thinks House is secretly a lot nicer than he seems, she replies that she thinks Wilson is secretly a lot less nice than he seems. She qualifies, saying "indiscriminate niceness is overrated," but yeah.
  • House of Anubis has plenty of these, most notably-
    • Nina Martin was sometimes seen as an abusive Jerk Ass to her friends and Fabian, because of how often she would yell at or push her friends around, and these people also tend to see her as a Karma Houdini, because of how she was never called out on what she did. There are also debates as to whether or not her absence in season 3 improved the show, or worsened it. She as also been guilty of being called a Mary Sue, due to her Chosen One status, the way that the show usually paints her as being in the right even when she acts like a jerk, and how she would often have to be saved by her True Companions (usually Fabian), yet never had to really fight for herself before.
    • On the other hand, Nina fans tended to paint Joy as a Jerk Ass instead, due to the way she was obsessed with winning Fabian's affections, which of course meant hurting Nina. By the time she tricked Fabian into kissing her, a large portion of the fandom had made her The Scrappy. There is also another camp that believe that she was always a sympathetic character who actually deserved Fabian more than Nina did, and saw her actions as cries for attention more than anything else.
    • In season 3, was Mara a sympathetic Jerkass Woobie or a formerly sympathetic character who Took a Level in Jerkass and had no right to do what she did to Joy and Jerome? Much of the fandom seemed to lean to the latter, but there are still people who believe the former.
  • Sam Puckett of iCarly displays classic signs of sociopathy such as a lack of empathy and guilt, a parasitic lifestyle (leeching money off Carly and the gang), impulsiveness, poor behavior control (always beating Freddy and everyone else), being manipulative (any time she makes up a plan), being emotionally shallow, a poster child of juvenile delinquency, superficial charm, need for stimulation (the eagerness of her wanting to hurt someone or make them suffer) as a way to relieve boredom. Also Carly could know this already and willing to exploit it as she rarely has qualms about Sam beating Freddie mercilessly on any occasion and the fact that in "ILookalikes" she doesn't bother letting Spencer get beat up and go against his wishes a lot of the time. She could be a two-faced bitch that just manipulates people to get the highest ratings on the internet for her show in a smaller case of sociopathy.
    • The earliest one was that Sam was either Ambigulously Lesbian or Bisexual. Lesbian is probably Jossed as of iOMG.
      • Sam(antha) being in love with Carly, just like Freddie is, and that being the source of their conflict is a very popular Alternative Character Interpretation.
      • The Les Yay on this show is so thick you can cut it with a knife and the entire show can be seen as two girlfriends and their Lez Bro.
    • The fact that Jonah kissed Carly because Sam wouldn't kiss him or put out speaks a lot about Sam's true character: A girl who is brash and mean in public, but doesn't kiss her boyfriend in private, at least until she's gained their trust. Maybe underneath her tough exterior is a very sad, lonely, insecure girl. Or a secret lesbian. Or just a Tsundere.
    • Is Carly the Alpha Bitch of her school? She has Sam as The Dragon and Freddie, a guy who will follow her to the end of the earth as her clique. The trio are treated very differently by the principal than regular students would. Carly also goes out with the hottest guys at the school who other girls want even if she is younger than them, the trio is legitimately famous, all are incredibly beautiful, other girls know she has Freddie wrapped around her fingers, Carly has a massive apartment, loads of money and freedom from typical parental influence. It's easy to see how the less popular students at the school might envy and/or dislike her, Sam and Freddie.
  • I Dream of Jeannie This is the ultimate fantasy about a master and slave, all right... Just who is the master, again? The first episode alone has Jeannie threatening to turn "her master" into a serpent, angrily demanding to know what another woman is doing there, and refusing to leave and release her new boytoy from her clutches. Jeannie's the one holding the proverbial whip — she takes over Tony's life, and there's nothing he can do about it.
    • In traditional Arab fairy tales, being the "master" of a djinn has always been a precarious position to be in, so perhaps this interpretation is more apt than can be told on first blush.
    • This is, perhaps, further supported by one episode where Major Nelson asks her to act more like a Jeannie from Arabian Nights. She reluctantly obeys...and becomes even [i]worse[/i].
    • Jeannie's sister. Homewrecking troublemaker or a bored, unhappy slave whose sister naively rubbed her freedom and her attractive master's lack of demands in her face? Of the two masters of hers who appeared on the show, one was an ugly, ancient chainsmoker who imprisoned her most of the day and threatened to whip her, and one was a brute who was never there and pulled her around by the hair when he was. Having not been freed like Jeannie, she was forced to obey their every command, whenever they could find her. Her malicious streak seems to be a genie trait, not completely a personal one. Jeannie herself did many of the same things on occasion to get what she wanted.
  • The surprisingly large LazyTown fandom is known for its interpretations of character backstories. Fanfiction writers often give Robbie Rotten a tragic past. A few diehards have created interpretations of the mythical "Number Nine", mentioned only in one episode. A lot of fan theories revolve around Nine being Sportacus' father.
    • Another story interpretation is in this thread; Robbie Rotten is a Tragic Hero, and the series actually takes place After the End so his goal to keep the kids inside is actually to protect them from radiation.
  • In Lois and Clark, there is a serial killer under Superman's nose and he never even notices. Jimmy Olsen may seem innocent at first glance, but by the end of the series he has a substantial body count going on. In pretty much every episode, Jimmy is professing his love for a girl and by the end of the episode he'll have won her over only for her to vanish without a trace in the next episode. Even plot armored characters aren't safe from him, Lois's sister goes from a central storyline to never heard from again.
  • The cast of LOST fall under this. To some, Locke is truly special, with a divine reason for doing what he does. To others, he's just overzealous; and he has risked far too much in his attempts to find himself and protect the island, making him a Jerkass. The show loved zig-zagging on this point.
  • There was a common debate in the first three series of The L Word between those who saw Jenny as a faithless, narcissist and those thought of her as a nice girl who made a few mistakes. However after series 4 she was almost universally loathed. Similarly, Bette Porter is viewed by some as a bitch and others as a decent but flawed person.
  • This "Los Angeles Times" article makes a case for Don Draper actually being Satan, "lowering everyone's standards a little at a time".
  • The family on Malcolm in the Middle. Lois is either emotionally distant (often trying to connect with her kids and then reverting to chaos because she's unable to) and strict due to her own tough upbringing, but a loving mother who works hard and tries her best; or horribly abusive and manipulative. The sons are either virtually irredeemable jerks who bring her wrath on themselves or actually pretty good kids who act out in good part because that's the only way they can get a consistent reaction from their mom, and additionally are so emotionally abused/neglected/manipulated by her that they're lucky they're only as screwed up as they are. Hal may be Obfuscating Stupidity because it's easier to let his wife handle things, had a good deal of his spine ripped out by Lois, simply matured from rebellious teen to meeker father on his own, or a mixture of the three.
    • A flashback episode revealed that Hal used to be like Lois, and Lois a passive enabler who became the sort of evil monster after her passive parenting of Francis led to him almost setting himself on fire and her proclaiming that she was going to be different towards him and any future children, "for their own good" as far as protecting them from themselves.
      • Also, several episodes have painted Hal have as having a serious selfish streak (like his skipping work on Fridays for over a decade to go do fun things without the family ruining his good time).
    • The episode where Reese gets his own apartment really points to the latter. When he lives on his own he completely turns around, other than mishandling his money (which had nothing to do with his good school performance) and given his nonchalant attitude about the subject with his parent, it seems to be their fault that they neglected to teach him anything about money management in the first place.
  • It could just be fans over-thinking things, but the LiveJournal consensus on Hawkeye from Mash is that he's either bisexual (flirting with anyone that moves), bipolar (four breakdowns at least and incredibly quick to go from depressed to manic and back again) or both. In the words of Sidney the psychiatrist: "Anger turned inwards is depression. Anger turned sideways is Hawkeye Pierce." This theory is so popular, Futurama has a field day with it in War is the H-Word; Hawkeye as the robot "iHawk", operating and drinking a martini at the same time while hitting on the nurse. Also, he has a switch on his side which changes his mood from irreverent ("Zoidberg has twice as much experience as you do" - "Right, He's a doctor AND a butcher") and maudlin ("When will the killing end?")
    "This isn't a war, it's a murder." * flips switch* "Dis ain't a war, it's a moider!"
    • For a POV switch, the early seasons of M*A*S*H are actually the story of Frank Burns, an already unhappy man to begin with, being driven insane by his off kilter tent mates (Hawkeye Pierce & Trapper John Mac Intyre, and later B.J. Hunnicutt) while trying to survive during his tour of duty in the Korean War, only to be terrorized and bullied by them at every turn, thus acting out against them as a coping mechanism.
  • Patrick Jane in The Mentalist: is he a good guy with a tragic past, or is his charming persona another act as he plots the murder of Red John? Could he be Red John himself?
    • The second is confirmed in the episode "His Red Right Hand" when a dying Bosco asks Jane to promise to kill Red Jack and not simply arrest him; Jane tells him that was always the plan.
    • The third is probably disproven in assorted episodes (including the mentioned one) where Red John is seen doing or known to have done something when Jane isn't physically present, and/or when Jane confronts people who do know who Red John is, or at least what he looks like.
      • Those aren't mutually exclusive. There's the possibility of accomplices, the likelihood that the Red John personality is in disguise, the chance that Jane only thinks that he was off doing something else when Red John was active...
    • The Season Two finale probably confirms the third as false, as Red John and Jane appeared in a scene together. Granted, we didn't actually SEE Red John, but the actions he took confirm his identity.
  • Morgana from Merlin also qualifies: She could easily be seen as a) an innocent girl who was raised by a sociopath, was taught her to hate herself for who she is from an early age, was betrayed by one of her closest friends and denied the readily available help she needed to get better by everyone around her or b) an evil, manipulative bitch whose inevitable spiral happened the first chance she had to show her true colors.
    • Arthur too. Just how does he manage to constantly miss, oh, I don't know, his best friend's a warlock? Does he already know, or does he suspect and is in denial? Maybe he's brain-damaged or enchanted on some level. Or maybe Merlin is constantly drugging him not to notice. The explanation the creators seem to be going with is that Arthur is very unobservant, which is certainly well supported.
    • There's also quite a bit of people who think that the the guards of Camelot are magic sympathizers who are so incompetent purely because they want to help Merlin.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Zordon, a wise sage or using teenagers to fight his battles for his own possibly shady means, likely breaking intergalactic law. As for the Rangers themselves, goody-good role models for the youth of the nineties, or Jerkasses to two people (possibly with learning troubles) perceived to be bullies but only needed friends/find out the rangers' identities.
    • Tommy, Zordon's paladin, or someone who just wants revenge, and doesn't mind throwing his friends under the bus to do it? Does he divorce himself from the Green Ranger?
    • Are Bulk and Skull the typical bumbling "bad guys" you see in kiddie shows and the result of Dawson Casting... or high school students who had to repeat every year multiple times and behave like that because they were harassed by everyone including the Power Rangers?
  • It has been suggested (with varying degrees of seriousness) that Jessica Fletcher, the Amateur Sleuth from Murder, She Wrote, is a clever serial killer who kills people to further her writing career, hides behind the persona of a harmless elderly lady, and manages to cover up her crimes by somehow manipulating other people into confessing to them. Murder She Did? (The German dub is titled "Mord ist ihr Hobby", which would translate back to "her hobby is murder".)
  • NCIS: Is Gibbs a man who's had no luck in relationships since the deaths of his wife and daughter or who's ruined them due to his inability to move on?
    • He ruins them because he never commits to the relationship. This is backed by the fact whenever he is asked about something in his past, he refuses to talk about it.
      • In regards to above, is Gibb's team the family he never got to have (his subordinates as his "kids" and Ducky as a surrogate father-figure) or a crutch he uses to keep from moving on with his life? In his free-time he keeps making those damn boats and that's it. Sure, they're Nakama but they can't be around Gibbs all the time.
  • Dwight in The Office. On the one hand, he's a hopelessly deluded man whose pretensions of Nietzschian grandeur clearly make him a loser. On the other hand, he does what he loves and is very good at it, he had the best love life out of any of the characters for several seasons, and he's always making reference to having regular friends outside of work who he does stuff like play laser tag with. Out of all the characters, Dwight's life is arguably the least sad and depressing. This might not be a case of Alternate Character Interpretation, though — he started as a Butt Monkey, but the writers upgraded Dwight to a more formidable character when they realized that the fans liked him. On the other, other hand, he could be antisocial or dyssocial. He shares no empathy over killing his cousin Mose's pet dog (he thought it had rabies, but it turned out ate some whipped-cream pie. Dwight says he killed it because it was a thief), his ex-girlfriend Angela's cat (it looked like it had died, so he froze it — but it died from freezing to death) and shot a neighbor's dog thinking it was a werewolf. He constantly deceives people (like when he attempted a coup against his boss Michael). He stores weapons like poison darts, nunchucks, knives, cross-bows, etc. all around the office. He is shown fighting and or threatening co-workers. He is a narcissist. He cares for no one else's safety when he LIT THE OFFICE ON FIRE to prove they don't care for fire drills and caused property damage, and gave co-worker Stanley a heart attack during that fiasco.
    • From Dwight's POV, the fire was his idea of proving how much he cared for everyone else's safety, as he hoped it would prove that a more thorough evacuation plan was needed. The same goes for the weapons: he believes that his Crazy Preparedness ultimately makes the office a much safer place to be (he did save Jim from getting his ass beat by Roy). As for his lack of empathy towards animals, if memory serves, Jim tricked him into thinking there was a werewolf, and ended up buying Angela a new cat.
    • Jim tricked Dwight into think Jim was a vampire which, considering the "werewolf" incident, was probably pretty dangerous. Dwight killed the "werewolf" long before that episode.
    • Dwight bought Angela a new cat - and then couldn't understand why she was still upset. He had no comprehension of Angela's emotional connection to her cat. Then there was the time he tricked Angela in marrying him, and couldn't understand why she was upset.
    • Didn't he grow up on a farm? It's only reasonable that he'd think of animals in terms of utility first (she lost her pet, get her a new pet) and sentimentality after. As for the con wedding, he and Michael both live as if they're inside a movie, so to Dwight it would have seemed like the kind of crazy romantic stunt that always works out in movies.
    • A common theory about Michael Scott is that he's a genius in disguise, and all his bumbling and whatnot is a part of the plan. See the episode in which Michael and Jan go to Chili's to meet with a client, where Michael just tells jokes and stories the whole time, which ends up being the perfect strategy for getting the client on-board with them. This leads Jan to develop a crush on Michael. Other characters have also theorized aloud that Michael may be a secret genius.
      • Michael definitely steps up his game when he deals with clients. He has a rolodex of all of his clients, which includes lots of personal information, and topics to avoid and to emphasize. And he tells a good story. But when he's in the office, he's insulting, inconsiderate, and can't tell a joke to save his life.
      • Confirmed by the Michael Scott Paper Company arc. At the end of it, Michael single-handedly negotiates his old job back, as well as getting sales positions for Pam and Ryan, all while knowing full well that if he gets called on his bluff he doesn't have a leg to stand on. It's probably the first time in the series that we actually get to see why Michael made manager in the first place. He's actually really good at his job.
      • Michael's branch is the best preforming branch of the entire company, despite being staffed by a bunch of idiots, so he has to be doing something right.
    • The pilot script for NBC's vs. of The Office was the pilot script for The BBC's vs. of The Office with all the names changed. Once the script-lines diverged, some characters diverged dramatically. David Brent was very different from Michael Scott, for instance.
      • One ACI for both of them is that they were not Bad Bosses until the cameras came and triggered their increasing Small Name, Big Ego moments.
    • Ryan the Temp seems to be "The Only Sane One" but he is actually the most incompetent salesman in the entire company having never made a single sale
      • Also, even though he brags constantly about having women throwing themselves at him, but really the only one who he can really be with is Kelly
      • Is Ryan actually an intelligent guy who knows more about business than Micheal or is he someone who is book smart but has little to no practical knowledge. Having never made a single sale doesn't necessarily make him incompetent since it is Truth in Television that there are some people who can't be salesmen to save their lives but seem otherwise intelligent in Real Life, but his other plans, such as the website, don't work out in the real world the way they did on paper either.
  • The documentary style TV shows like The Office have omnificent camera men. Are the camera men Eldritch Abominations that pry on another universe and influence that world? Or are they people who have no attachment for any of the characters where they could have influence on them? Like any Idiot Plot or horrible consequence they could have stopped. And they won't. Or they simply just not want to.
    • One wonders why few people in the shows ever seem to have actually watch the documentaries which are being made. The Office US has 8 seasons and 175 episodes as of May 2012.
  • Peep Show:
    • Sophie. The actress Olivia Coleman has mentioned in interviews that while other cast members like Sophie she sees her as a detestable character who uses and abuses Mark.
    • We only see Jeff from Peep Show from the point of view of his worst enemy Mark. From Mark's point of view, he appears to be an absolute pillock. But we have seen him in tears over Sophie breaking up with him in series 2, and he is happy to date Sophie and help care for her baby in series 7, so maybe he's a lot nicer when Mark's not around.
  • Power Rangers Mystic Force: Daggeron. The heroic, noble mentor? Or a once kind-hearted warrior who lost his ability to feel for others after his friend turned to evil; reduced to capturing a poor exile and shutting him away inside a self-designed torture device, weaponizing the poor sap's magical powers under the pretext of saving his life, all the while feeling no remorse for pushing five inexperienced wizards to near-death, as if they were pawns, for the sole sake of defeating the enemy?
  • Helen Cutter from Primeval: Incredible Jerk Ass and Nietzsche Wannabe, or Well-Intentioned Extremist who went mad from the revelation that humanity wipes itself out and is caught in a nihilist Heroic BSOD?
  • A large contingent of fans of The Prisoner who believe that when Number Six asks, "Who is Number One", the New Number Two gives a straight and honest answer when he responds, "You are, Number Six." If true, this would make it the Mind Screw to end all Mind Screws.
    • He lives at "No. 1" in the Village.
    • Another is that they know exactly why he resigned, but they want him to tell them. Which would mean that the only person really keeping Number Six in the Village was himself.
  • Red Dwarf has a few. One presented in the show itself is whether Rimmer was acting as he did to genuinely fulfill Holly's brief (that is, keep Lister sane); in that case, when he was offered the chance to become Ace, he let his true personality show. Another, outside the show, is whether the Alternate Universe presented in the episode "Back to Reality" is the "true" one, and they really were playing a total immersion video game. Among fans who believe that those events were true, that was where the series Jumped the Shark.
    • The novelization suggests an alternative reason for Lister being three million years out in deep space: in the show, he was put into stasis for quarantine violation after he was dumb enough to send a photograph of himself with a cat that he'd smuggled onboard to the ship's photo lab, suggesting that his lazy thinking put him in his situation. In the novel, he was sentenced to stasis for the same crime, but he'd committed it and gotten himself caught (and in a way that he calculated would avoid having the cat — whom he had fully vaccinated to avoid endangering the crew — captured and dissected by the science lab) after thoroughly studying the ship's penal code so that he could get himself sentenced to three years stasis to avoid having to actually wait that time for the ship to reach Earth, when his commission would have been complete. In the novel, Lister's meticulous planning (albeit in the service of laziness) put him in his situation.
  • This trope has been invoked on Reno 911!. Characters on the show have claimed that the show's producers purposely edit footage to make the Sheriff's Department look more incompetent and idiotic than they really are.
  • Revenge: While many view Emily as a tragic and deeply flawed Anti-Hero, nobly seeking revenge by questionable means, the sheer amount of Disproportionate Retribution probably makes her more of an Anti-Villain than an Anti-Hero. If taken this way, she is clearly a Big Bad Villain Protagonist while Takeda is the Bigger Bad. This isn't to say that her enemies, the Graysons and the conspiracy that brought down her father are good, only that Emily is A Lighter Shade of Black.
  • Is Sebastian Monroe from Revolution an evil despot or a strong leader dedicated to returning order and civilization to the world?
    • Likewise in the second season, has the tragedy of loosing everything and letting so many people die snapped him back to sanity and he's a genuinely remorseful man trying to make up for his past wrongs, who just has difficulty shaking his acquired dark habits or is he still an evil murderer who is just helping the protagonists because it gives him a better chance of survival against this new great threat? Or alternatively, is he just using all of this as an excuse to allow him to spend time with his best friend once again? He certainly does seem quite a bit happier now that he and Miles are working together once again.
  • In Royal Pains, is the brother Evan an annoying load, or a competent accountant and the only thing keeping his passive doctor brother from starving to death?
  • Cameron from The Sarah Connor Chronicles. We know that she is capable of feeling emotions — she becomes very emotional whenever she becomes Allison Young — but she generally suppresses them whenever she's in her main persona. To make things even more confusing, she is apparently capable of realistically faking any human emotion. Even that can't explain all of her behavior; she sometimes behaves emotionally even when no one is watching. It makes sense to think that she does have emotions, but they are secondary to her primary function: protect John Connor at any cost. Even more complicated yet—a lack of emotional behavior on her part might indicate emotions. In one episode, Cameron displayed flat, monotonous, sincere concern for John's mental health and happiness, contrasted with another Terminator perfectly faking normal, human affection. It is actually up in the air as to whether Cameron truly does care for John's emotional well-being, or if she is simply a cold machine that knowingly manipulates his emotions and feelings in order to keep him safe. Both concepts have their support in canon, as Cameron does seem to care about John, but at the same time there are several scenes which show her using both his feelings for her and his feelings for others to manipulate him.
  • Neil Flynn, the actor playing the Almighty Janitor of Scrubs has said:
    "I think it's possible that he doesn't hate J.D.. Maybe J.D. is as close to a friend as he has. For all we know, he just has poor social skills. I think that the Janitor constantly misreads J.D.'s motives and assumes he's a young punk."
    • Acknowledged in-show when the Janitor, having reached a temporary truce with JD, sarcastically suggests, or so it appears, that they "go to a baseball game and share a big tub of popcorn". As JD turns away in disgust, thinking he's making fun of him, the Janitor begins to proffer two tickets before muttering, "That's the last time I reach out to someone."
      • The Janitor even once actually said that he's tormenting JD for no real reason, and implies that JD isn't even the first person he's done that to.
    • The personality changes of Jordan's sister, Danni, happened after the death of her brother Ben. It's possible that she's just acting out to deal with her grief.
    • One episode is actually built on alternate character interpretation. JD is trying to write a speech honoring Dr. Kelso, but throughout the episode sees no evidence that he's anything other than an amoral Jerkass who shirks responsibility whenever possible. JD never reads the speech, but suggests that Kelso's responsibility as Chief of Medicine requires him to detach himself emotionally to benefit the greatest number of people, accompanied by a shot of Kelso leaving the hospital and exhaling in relief, rather than cheering the end of his duty for the day. Other episodes follow up on this - one is told from Kelso's perspective as he tries to end a harsh streak of infighting between his employees by becoming their common enemy. And after he retires and just stops by to sit in the coffee shop, there's no antagonism left to be seen.
    • When Cox takes over Kelso's job as Chief of Medicine, we learn that Kelso himself recommended Cox to the hospital board. This suggests that as far back as the first season, and probably before, that Kelso had been grooming Cox to take his place for years, which explains why Kelso let Cox get away with so many things and nearly always explained his decisions to Cox.
    • In one episode, after Kelso received complaints about Cox's rude bedside manner, so he decides to try acting as a resident to prove he can pull it off without acting the way Cox does. But when trying to give advice to an overweight woman in her mid twenties, he suggests, dealing with her weight problems through a healthy diet and excessive, and actually expresses shock at her opting for the more dangerous option of surgery (which would make more money for the hospital). He states he was actually trying to help her, but was his attempt motivated by actual compassion, or a desire to prove that he do better bedside manner than Cox? And was his later attempt, where he took up Cox's attitude and became more forceful, motivated out of a desire to help or because he was trying to recover from his wounded pride?
  • Some of this took place behind the scenes of Seinfeld:
    • Jason Alexander relates that he originally thought George was sort of a Woody Allen caricature. During the second season episode "The Revenge" he argued that he thought George returning to work after making a big scene quitting was unrealistic. Showrunner Larry David told him that he did it while writing for Saturday Night Live (and it worked). That's when Jason realized who he was really playing.
    • Frank Costanza was originally written as sort of an older version of George: high-strung and dominated by George's mother Estelle. Jerry Stiller thought one of his first scenes was falling flat, and (trying to avoid being written out like John Randolph) he did a take shouting his lines at an equal volume to Estelle Harris. The cast and crew were so cracked up that it redefined how all three characters were written and acted: instead of George taking after his meek dad, he grew up in a house where anything could blow up into an argument. It arguably also influenced Stiller's later role on The King of Queens, where his character Arthur was also a Large Ham who frequently exclaimed his bizarre thoughts to the other characters.
  • Dave Chappelle's sketch on Sesame Street points out some particularly hilarious ACIs on its various characters that you probably realize when you grow up. For example, Cookie Monster has drug-laced cookies, apparently.
  • Sherlock
    • Is Sherlock really, as he himself claims, a sociopath who finds solving crimes a pleasant diversion from boredom, or does he have some other kind of personality disorder with similar symptoms? In universe, John does bring up the possibility that Sherlock has Asperger's and he simply puts up a Jerk Ass Facade out of force of habit.
      • It's also worth pointing out that sociopathy is a congenital psychological condition that results in an inability to understand or empathize with other people's feelings, and contrary to what the fandom believes, it's not something you can really be "cured" of. Sherlock's genuine admiration for Irene, fondness for Mrs. Hudson, his friendship with John, and his remorse over his callous speech over Molly's Christmas gift make it clear that he does care about other people.
    • Is John really the meek Badass Normal he presents himself as, or is he a man Born in the Wrong Century who hangs around Sherlock out of a psychological need to fight for something or someone? As Mycroft correctly pointed out, he's only truly calm when facing dangerous situations, and didn't hesitate to kill an old man (who was a serial killer) to protect Sherlock.
    • Sherlock's sexuality is forever up for debate; not just in context of this show, but also historically (though in the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories there is really no debating that he's an aromantic asexual). Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the role of Sherlock, claims that his version of the consulting detective is asexual (and by that he most likely means aromantic as well); creator Steven Moffat insists that he is "heterosexual but devoted to celibacy;" Sherlock/Irene fans label him as heteroromantic sapiosexual; Sherlock/Molly fans see him as either heteroromantic heterosexual or heteroromantic asexual; and Sherlock/John fans go with homoromantic asexual or outright homosexual. Since Word of God is gospel, as of now the canon interpretation is heterosexual, though A Scandal in Belgravia, the only episode in which Sherlock shows even the slightest romantic interest in/physical attraction towards anyone, heavily hints at his sapiosexuality — or, alternatively, If It's You, It's Okay where Irene is concerned.
      • Likewise, John in canon is clearly heteroromantic heterosexual, though Sherlock/John fans insist on his being bisexual or biromantic heterosexual; or, again, If It's You, It's Okay for Sherlock.
  • Smallville: Jonathan Kent's ghostly appearances in Series 10. Did he really return from the grave to impart advice? Or was he merely an avatar of Jor-El, who recognized that his own tense relationship with his son might prevent him from adhering to his advice, so chose A Form You Are Comfortable With as "Jonathan" is the only person he knows Clark will listen to?
    • The Luthors: are they cultured badasses and misunderstood woobies, or are they utter bastards whose cultured exteriors are just a thin veneer hiding the complete seediness underneath?
      • Lex: Misunderstood woobie or selfish prick who's way too eager to blame others for his problems?
    • Is Oliver the best or second-best character on the show, or is he just a jerk? You decide!
    • Is Chloe's transformation into a Big Brother-like figure to "protect" Metropolis in Season 9 the result of Post-Traumatic Stress in reaction to Jimmy's death?
  • On the show Special Unit 2, it's specifically said that the Links are the predecessors to mankind — in other words, human. Considering how badly they're treated by the human government — they're murdered, put down, beaten, insulted, and tortured — it's easy to imagine that SU2 is less a story about human cops fighting monsters than about humanoid lifeforms trying to lash out at an unjust system while racist humans kill them for having the nerve to be born anything other than Homo sapiens sapiens. Oh sure, some Links are genuinely dangerous...but even then, some could be merely striking back against an oppressive system. Considering how the humans treat the gnome (calling him scum, insulting him constantly, threatening him if he doesn't help), a part of the audience doesn't blame them!
    • The gnome was doing community service for liquor store robberies.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Anubis isn't evil. He ascended and was genuinely good. Then he saw that the Ancients were Neglectful Precursors. He got just as mad as the main cast at how the Ancients behaved but, unlike the main cast, tried to do something about it. He's just trying to shake the Ancients out of their complacency and get them to do something, anything, to save all that they've created.
    • The Ori might have started out similarly, only wanting to use their powers to heal the plague that had befallen their unascended cousins and perhaps teaching others to do the same (creating the first priors in the process). When the Alterans said "no", the Ori replied "screw you" and took a collective Face-Heel Turn from there. This one is closer to canon than it seems. When we finally meet Merlin/Moros, he compares the Ori to Oma Desala, one of the most benevolent Ascended Ancients in the series.
    • Is Jack O'Neill a goofy, barely-competent but honorable Idiot Hero, with a bit of a dark side, who needs to be shepherded through every adventure by the Smart Guys on his team, but who mysteriously found himself put into a leadership position in the organization charged with protecting Earth from evil parasitical aliens with big space guns? Or is he a Manipulative Bastard who plays dumb to make people underestimate him and cracks jokes to distract friend and foe alike, while he's actually the one holding the reins all along? Or maybe somewhere in between? Well, they did say he was involved in Black Ops. And then there was that odd thing about being on a team with two CIA agents, and those four months in an Iraqi prison, the circumstances of his son's death and the means he chose to attempt suicide, and the habit of almost never volunteering any information... yeah, sure the guy's a ditz.
    • O'Neill's a bit more complicated due to actual [[Flanderization shifting of his characterization]]. Season one O'Neill and season three O'Neill are very hard to reconcile. After it hits its nadir, it sort of yo-yos.
  • The entire main cast of Stargate Atlantis: big damn heroes adventuring and exploring new worlds while trying to make it in the Pegasus galaxy, malicious idiots that leave a trail of death, destruction and imminent doom everywhere they go or humanity's ruthless defense against a new intergalactic, genocidal threat? Dr. Kavanaugh: Strawman Has a Point or The Complainer Is Always Wrong?
  • In Stargate Universe, this seems to be intentional, at least in part, when it comes to Dr. Rush. Is he an Insufferable Genius, a Magnificent Bastard, a Mad Scientist, or some combination of the three? Is his primary motivation self-loathing with a touch of grief for his dead wife, sly political dealings with the Lucian Alliance, or a mad obsession with Ancient technology? Probably intentional, given that the characters can't seem to make up their minds about him; Eli generally thinks he's an Insufferable Genius, the crew in general thinks he's either a Mad Scientist or Magnificent Bastard, and Colonel Young wavers between any and all of these interpretation depending on the situation.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Entire Federation in Star Trek: Utopian, Democratic Post-Scarcity Utopia? Or Incompetent, Lawful Good to Lawful Neutral, conformist, military state? Starfleet has a lot of power, access to all the cool toys, and control of interstellar communications. They try civilians in military courts. Other than the Maquis, most Federation citizens are accepting of this level of control by the military and the few that do not see Starfleet as a pack of holy angels are explicitly pointed to as misfits. On the other hand, their citizens do enjoy a number of freedoms due to the advancements of 24th century technology that we can't possibly dream of, and despite the number of insane admirals promoted by the military meritocracy, is a mostly benevolent organization. There is an argument that Starfleet in general and Picard in particular are lawful evil, because of the consistency with which arbitrary rules are used to justify allowing people, or even entire planetary populations, to die. In "Homeward", people are threatened with utter extinction through natural disaster, and Picard just quotes the Prime Directive. In the real world, when a tsunami hit Asia, nobody suggested we just let the people die to that natural disaster, even considering the thought would be viewed as thoroughly and irredeemably evil. Asia knows we exist. It's possible that Picard was playing Devil's Advocate, knowing what the people above him would say, and wanting to protect his crew, which he can't if he gets cashiered. My personal belief is that the high-ups are afflicted with the same sort of moral decay that results in allowing things like this to happen, mutating a good law (The "don't land on a primitive planet at set up as a god"/"Don't go around Giving Radio to the Romans" Prime Directive) to an excuse for immoral inaction. It's easily hit with "yet another collectivist utopia, viable only thanks to Deus ex Machina". Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger administered beatings to the dead horse ("a real classic, that one") on and on until the author tired and moved on.
    • The 'verse in general. Beneath its veneer of utopian optimism, is terrifying in a vaguely WH40K way. The Alpha Quadrant powers are 'merely' a few hundred to thousand year old interstellar civilizations carefully building over the ruins of countless other bygone sapient races from the past few billion years, occasionally stumbling across a functional doomsday weapon that typically kills billions before it can be stopped. Meanwhile, for the sake of their mutual continued non-extinction, all the nation-states are maintaining the polite fiction that they only need phasers or photon torpedoes to fight wars while stockpiling said ancient weapons and hoarding the Phlebotinum it intentionally 'forgets' [read: suppresses] to avoid a Singularity. Plus everyone's just a single scientific discovering away from accidentally elevating themselves into immature godlings who, typically, are enfant terribles one temper tantrum away from murdering a whole starship/planet so they can have their way with the hot yeoman they're crushing on. And the only people standing between galactic civilization and its own (self-)destruction? Starfleet. Starfleet, from its coup-prone admiralty down to its ignoble redshirts, is fighting to preserve the ultra-pure humanist ideal against any and all forces that would tear it down, doing whatever it takes to prevent a situation arising where the gloves will come off. Because, when everyone else has fallen to their knees, who else is going to ask 'God' why He needs a starship?
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Although it was put forward by the character in a later appearance, but... Scotty's miraculously fast solutions are due as much to blatantly padded estimates as to his personal genius. In the NextGen episode "Relics" Geordi tells Picard in Scotty's hearing how long a certain engineering miracle will take. After that call is hung up, Scotty asks Geordi how long it'll really take. Geordi repeats the same figure and is scolded by Scotty for not exaggerating the time it would take. ("Relics" is a post-Roddenberry episode.) Star Trek III also had Kirk ask him about his tendency to exaggerate things.
      Kirk: Mr. Scott, have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?
      Scotty: Certainly sir; how else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?
    • Perhaps the most famous TOS Alternate Character Interpretation of all: the nature of Kirk and Spock's relation ship By which we mean, they were the love of each others' lives. It's worth noting that Gene Roddenberry all but admitted that was the case. The Ship's Closet is dedicated entirely to proving that this interpretation is the intended interpretation. Britanny even builds a timeline of the relationship - during the events of the show, Kirk and Spock are merely expressing interest in and flirting with one another. They get together as a couple during the first film. McCoy finds the whole thing amusing.
    • Alternate Character Interpretation of James T. Kirk. Lovable, charismatic, all-American good guy? Male chauvinist Mighty Whitey imperialist egomaniac? Or both? Interestingly, Kirk's character has gotten increasingly egotistical over the years. In the original '60s series, he was written as an ultra-serious leader type concerned mainly for the safety of his ship and crew. He tended to come off as somewhat arrogant due to William Shatner's hammy performance and the fact that he ended up breaking Starfleet rules in every other episode, but this appears to be unintentional. Then Star Trek II came along and Deconstructed Kirk's clever Take a Third Option solutions, effectively canonizing hubris as part of his character. By Star Trek VI, a villainous character denounces Kirk as "an insubordinate, unprincipled, career-minded opportunist". Finally, the 2009 film completed the transformation, portraying Academy-era Kirk as an arrogant young hot-shot (implicitly due to growing up without a father). So, Kirk is an example of an Alternative Character Interpretation gradually becoming canon.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • One take on the series holds that the Federation is actually rather amoral, governed by ethically dubious realpolitik rather than the principles it publicly espouses. In this view, the highly principled Picard is not a luminary of Starfleet but something of a naif whose own optimism blinds him to the increasingly horrific actions of his compatriots. This would explain why most admirals on the show are total scumbags.
    • Most of Trek fandom believes that the Traveller interest in Wesley makes him come off as a paedophile. Even Wil Wheaton has lampshaded how creepy this was in retrospect, in the review he did of "Where No One Has Gone Before".
    • Captain Jellico inspires a lot of this. Some see him as a micro-managing jerk who forces through his will just because he can and thereby alienates all who serve him, others see him as a responsible officer who had every right to run the Enterprise as he saw fit, and saved the day through his genuine competence. The funny thing is that neither interpretation is exclusive of the other.
    • Data does have emotions. He's always had them, but they're deliberately bypassed by his programming. This could explain his more human moments, when his programs are working so hard to figure out the situation — such as, say, in a moment involving the death of a comrade — that the program performing the rerouting process gets distracted and doesn't do its job properly, resulting in Data's almost-but-not-quite emotional moments. Data has a computer program in his brain telling him what to do (influenced by Soong's ideas of what should and shouldn't be done) that ignores whatever emotions he has. The addition of his emotion chip doesn't add anything new to Data's programming; it just removes the influence of the program telling him how to behave. This explains several things, including why Lore could manipulate Data into feeling individual (mainly negative) emotions in Descent. Alternatively? Data is in the biggest, most convincing case of Denial ever encountered in an artificial being. Makes sense. How could an emotionless being want to have emotions? Perhaps the emotion chip is just a Magic Feather. If so, then it's one powerful placebo. Lore got something from that chip himself, though neither he nor we know what — and he already had emotions! Perhaps the most likely explanation is that Data only has some simple emotions, like curiosity, the desire for companionship, and the desire to be better. Full on love or rage is beyond him, but it's inaccurate to say he's without feeling. Alternatively yet again, his 'desires' could simply be pre-programmed goals. Data may not feel any actual attachment to his friends, but when an opportunity to make and keep friends comes up, his programming dictates that he chooses that option over others. Or alternatively yet again, he does feel emotions, but he doesn't know that a feeling he has is love, anger, sadness, etc., because he doesn't have any physical or psychological reaction when he feels them. He feels "pure" emotions, rather than emotions plus all the reactions and behavior that accompanies it. And he can't realize this, because he always acts in a calm, logical manner, even if the true motivations for his actions are not logical. Kind of like Spock trying to rationalize caring for Kirk as solely logical interest in the captain's safety (which is perfectly valid), even though it's obvious that the real reason is that he likes/feels affection for Kirk. Except Spock is actively trying to scrounge up a logical excuse for his actions because he doesn't want to admit that he feels emotions, whereas Data can't find any illogical excuse for his actions, because emotions don't make him act illogically. So the emotion chip just allowed Data's body/sensory system to react to his emotions, it didn't actually give them to him. The ST:TNG ep The Most Toys supports this one, particularly at the end. There's no reason for Data to lie about wanting to kill the bad guy, as it would be a way to prevent a man who just committed murder from committing more, which he has promised to do if Dara doesn't submit himself to a life of virtual slavery. Even moreso, when he tells the bad guy at the end 'I feel no emotions at all - I am only an android', it comes off as self-delusion and repression (in terms of his emotions) on a Vulcan level.
    • Is Geordi LaForge merely an unlucky-in-love Gadgeteer Genius, or is there something more to it? Over the course of the series, all of his closest personal relationships have been formed in one way or another with machines. He's chief engineer of a starship, his best friend is an Android, he later befriends a Borg drone, and he once fell in love with the ship's computer in the guise of a computer-generated simulation of the woman who designed the Enterprise. When he finally meets the real her, he finds her lacking; they eventually end up friends, but it's made clear it won't go further... Clearly, his own biomechanical augmentation has isolated him socially from his fellow Human beings, and he tends to relate better to machines. Since most humans in the Star Trek 'verse have severe prejudices against machines and computers, Geordi has to hide his preference behind the facade of doomed brief relationships. Geordi is married by the end of the series in one possible future timeline, and Picard clearly says that her name is Leah—the aforementioned starship designer. Clearly Geordi's luck could turn around at some point. Also, in the episode "Hide and Q," Riker is offered the powers of a Q and he grants Geordi sight. The first thing Geordie does is look at Tasha Yar and exclaim that she's just as beautiful as he'd always imagined her... He was blind from birth. What could his imagination have granted him that the VISOR didn't? Or is Tasha that beautiful? This could be one of those intentionally doomed relationships that he built up in his mind. Perhaps he was so completely in the closet about his robosexual feelings that he had to hide them even from himself. It would even explain why he asked Riker to take back his gift. "Leah Brahms LaForge" is not a complete joss, not once Voyager's EMH gets hold of that tech that lets him leave the true holodecks. That came too late to allow Geordi to intend to go for hologram!Leah canonically, but the topic's open for Epileptic Trees. The main reason Leah and Geordi didn't hit it of when they met in real life is because she was already married at the time. In the novel "Genesis Wave", Leah's husband was killed, and in "Indistinguishable From Magic" Geordi and Leah finally get a Relationship Upgrade.
    • Q. Character development aside, it's easy to look at his seemingly immature meddling and misuse of godlike powers as a Mary Poppins act. There are hundreds of possible interpretations for Q out there; is he a maladjusted Sociopathic Manchild who uses mortals as toys for his amusement, Faux Affably Evil, a harmless childish prankster, a Chaotic Good rebel struggling against his people's repressive society, a supremely alien being following some Blueand Orange Morality only he understands, humanity's self-appointed Trickster Mentor, is he all? None? Is it even possible to give him labels? The appearances he's made throughout the franchise strongly imply that Q is acting as a Trickster Mentor, as he shows up with a purpose of making those he encounters more aware of the world around them and better for it. Rarely does a Q episode not result in this ending.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Weyoun- ingratiating, deceptive snake? Or loyal, selfless Founder dog? One alternative interpretation isn't so much as who he is or what he does, but how he's seen. When you take into consideration that he (along with all the Vorta) is a family-less clone who was never born and had no childhood, but instead was callously created by the Founders with the express purpose of serving them, it's actually kind of heartbreaking. In universe, absolutely nobody likes Weyoun. And he doesn't even seem to be all that aware of this. He's also commented about his lack of aesthetics, stating that no Vorta has any sense of art because the Founders didn't think it was important for them to have it. Still, he has said wistfully, it would be nice to carry a tune... the Vorta (with Weyoun being the most extreme example) would do anything for the Founders, and the Founders are quite apathetic most of the time. Looking at it from this point of view, Weyoun isn't so much the bastard you can't help but hate, but the underdog victim that you can't help but root for.
    • The Founder who was running the Alpha Quadrant theater said that Weyoun was the only solid she truly trusted when they were about to be captured on Cardassia Prime. Her demeanor and the circumstances lead one to believe she was being sincere.
    • Strongly hinted in the show: that the series exists only in the mind of '50s sci-fi writer Benny Russell. Or perhaps Benny Russell is in one universe and seeing visions of another, which he interpets to be sci-fi stories?
  • SFDebris spends half his videos taking the piss out of Trek's values, particularly those of its Captains. Janeway is a none-too-bright but nevertheless despotic would-be conqueror; almost an Adam West Batman villain in space. Archer is a delusional madman who considers his dog an equal member of the crew and insists on being called "Duchess." Picard is a spineless Quisling who resists saving lives until someone prods him into it. Conversely, Kirk and Sisko are Herculean ubermenschen who constantly have to pull the Federation up by a rope (with their teeth) to get it to do anything.
    • A running theme throughout his Opinionated Guides is the utter incompetence and bureaucratic tedium of the Federation. Starfleet is more likely to let a entire planet die than file the paperwork necessary to save it, and The Dilbert Principle ensures that no ship is staffed by anyone remotely qualified.
    • He applies it on a grand scale to Star Trek V, saying the film works beautifully if you take it as a satire of Roddenberry's idea of a socialist utopia, with things like the military having a number of competent people you can count on one hand and a decades-old failed publicity stunt considered important enough to send all of them on. The only problem with that is that Gene Roddenberry was a populist, not a socialist.
  • Supernatural:
    • It's easy to see a level of crush-like attraction in Dean's militaristic, obsessive devotion to his father. Especially since he can't even comprehend disobeying him and almost always loses all backbone when his dad is nearby. That's not the only crush-like behavior on the show. There's brotherly love, and then there are the Winchesters. Y'all can say things like that because you never saw your grandfather rule your father and uncles like John Winchester led his boys. When granddad said do something, it got done. Not a crush—unswerving, dysfunctional loyalty.
    • Dean and Sam's relationship with their father is a direct parallel of the classical Christian relationship with God, with Dean as the dutiful son and Sam as the heretic vying for independence. Not too far off from the Paradise Lost's depictions of Micheal and Lucifer, though that poem is also rife with alternate interpretations. Holy foreshadowing, Batman! That technically is the point of that plot arc though. They were chosen as the vessels for Michael and Lucifer because the relationship they shared with each other and their father was parallel to that shared between Michael, Lucifer, and God.
    • The Amulet-Giving in "A Very Supernatural Christmas": A heartwarming moment where Sam realizes just how awesome Dean is and how crappy his father is in comparison, or a disheartening moment where Dean gets something just because John wasn't there? Depending on how much depression you can take, both options are believable.
    • Dean's devil deal: A heroic sacrifice born out of love for his brother, or the selfish act of a codependent depressive who knows firsthand the emotional devastation it will cause but does it anyway? Characters on the show say it's the latter.
    • John Winchester: A good man who, under difficult circumstances, did the best he could for his kids? Or a pitiful, borderline abusive parent who made too many mistakes and messed up Sam and Dean for life? From what Bobby said about the John/Sam rift in the fourth season finale, maybe he doesn't have that high of an opinion of John's parenting either.
    • Ruby: Before she died along with Dean in the third season finale and came back in the fourth, was she really planning all that stuff in the fourth season with Lilith since the beginning? Or when she died her personality took a 360 in the middle of seasons 3 & 4? And her relationship with Sam; Was she really in love with him or just using him? Or maybe she really did die at the end of season 3 and it was a new demon just pretending to be Ruby.
    • Is Dean the straightest most boob-lovingest man ever to be heterosexual? Or is he overcompensating and in denial about his sexuality? He's straight and overcompensating, canonically. Remember, he has a somewhat inaccurate view of "manliness", and when he does sleep with women, he's a gentle lover, somewhat at odds with his macho-macho act, which would stereotypically hit'em and quit 'em.
    • Archangel Michael -As big a dick as Lucifer and Raphael, or a Well-Intentioned Extremist who can't see eye-to-eye with the protagonists due to Blue and Orange Morality? Unlike many of the other angels, he never expresses any disdain for humanity -only Dean in particular after he refuses to cooperate with Heaven's plan- and his reason for wanting the apocalypse to happen is mostly Because God Says So. Also, from his point of view humanity has nothing to lose, since he's sure he will beat Lucifer, and once he's won the survivors will all live in Paradise Earth while anyone who dies in the battle can go to Heaven.
  • The gang of Eric, Donna, Hyde, Jackie, Michael and Fez of That '70s Show ; Morons who make bad decisions or just people who grew up in crappy families and neglectful/abusive parents and did their best to do the right thing?
    • Hyde, Jackie, & Donna: Neglectful parents. Michael & Eric: Morons. Fez: Fish out of Water who's been trained in US culture by the aforementioned idiots and neglectful-parent-havers.
    • In Eric's case though, Red sure isn't the greatest father, how would you take being called dumbass, overbearing and coddling mother and have a whore of a sister that's favored by your father everyday of your life?
    • One interpretation of Red is that he really cares about Eric, but he's unhappy with his own mediocre life and doesn't want Eric to turn out the way he did. When Eric wanted to marry Donna, Red kept interfering and making his life miserable. When Eric stood up to him, Red told him that it was a test, to see if Eric had the guts to stand on his own.
  • Rachel from This Life: a sneaky manipulator who intentionally winds up Millie? Or a sweet girl who is the object of Millie's paranoia and jealousy?
  • Torchwood:
    • It has Ianto Jones. Meek tea-boy, or a secretive Badass Normal who conned the con man? Ianto was originally intended as a much darker character, how much of this lingers on?
    • Captain Jack can also be seen from an Anti-hero to a borderline monster.
    • The entire team. A group of highly skilled specialists defending the Earth from aliens or a bunch of selfish twits who are the very cause of the dangers they're supposed to be protecting humanity from.
  • True Blood- For a supposedly reformed Friendly Neighbourhood Vampire, Bill sure does kill a lot of people he doesn't necessarily have to, but he's pretty easy to interpret opposed to Sookie. For one, why does somebody that can fight off two hardened criminals with a metal chain need to be rescued so much? Why does she throw herself into so many situations where she needs to be rescued? Most of the time, when Bill ( or Sam, in the first series) come to her aid, does she need it , or is she obfuscating vulnerability? Why did she tell Bill about her paedophile uncle after she knew he'd already killed two people that had threatened her ( the Rattraes)? Did she tell him because she secretly wanted revenge, because she genuinely believed he wouldn't act and it would build trust between them, or because she wasn't sure and wanted to see his reaction? Why did she tell the Vampires that visited Bill's house that the man they were drinking was carrying a vampire disease. She must have known exactly what they would do to him when they found out. She carelessly outed telepathic barhop at the vampire hotel even though she must have known at that point that doing this to an unprotected human with an ability that was useful to the vampires, would most likely be enslaved, manipulated into doing unethical things and risk death. She's not the innocent Southern Belle she imagines herself to be, and that the writers try to present her as.
    • Even in her personal relationships, there's a real question about how innocent and sweet she really is. For example, her treatment of Sam is frequently manipulative and mean. Whether you choose to view Sam as a Dogged Nice Guy ( pun unintended) - or just as a boss with a tendency to sexually harass his female employees - he genuinely cares about Sookie and tries to act in her best interests. In turn, she continually manipulates his romantic feelings in order to achieve a variety of ends: to make Bill jealous,to have a sounding board for her own problems (without reciprocating by being interested in him), to get time off work for her vampire-based escapades and as a free body guard. When he confesses his deepest and most painful secret to her - which he had never told anybody before as its discovery had resulted in familial abandonment- she loses it , because he didn't tell her sooner. It wasn't that she needed to know for any reason, just that she was curious and bored, and felt like she was entitled to the information.
  • Two and a Half Men
  • Elena in The Vampire Diaries has been interpreted as an incredibly self-absorbed Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and an awful friend, despite her "goodness" supposedly being her weakness. Much of this stems from the fact that she deliberately associates with and defends Damon, despite him being an unrepentant mass murderer and rapist, and he has enslaved, tried to kill, or actually killed almost everyone she's supposed to care about for reasons that include "she's a nuisance" and "I'm in a bad mood and he's annoying me".
  • Veronica Mars is schizophrenic. Think about it: in "Kanes and Abel's," she, while fully awake and aware, sees and has an extended conversation with the long-dead Lilly Kane. Seeing things and hearing voices is practically the definition of schizophrenia. And she has at least some of the symptoms of paranoia. Plus, she is in her late teens; that is generally the earliest schizophrenia manifests. Also, consider that schizophrenia can often be an inherited condition, and that her mother was an alcoholic. Maybe Lianne Mars was self-medicating for her own symptoms. Lastly, consider what Aaron Echolls says in the season one finale when he has Veronica trapped in the fridge: he goes on this whole rant about Joan of Arc and how the voices she heard were really symptoms of schizophrenia. Why would that occur to him? What if Veronica is a highly organized, high-functioning schizophrenic?
    • Alternatively, Veronica a full-on Alpha Bitch who's fall from grace only served to give her an excuse to hone her bitchery to new heights of life ruining and that once she won back the few people who's opinion of her actually mattered (IE Logan and Duncan), she was willing to return to her life as one of the popular crowd. Only her morality pet Wallace being framed for drug abuse caused her to return to fighting evil and then, once she got into college, Veronica still wormed her way into all of the right social circles and crusading against the little guy.
    • Sheriff Don Lamb: Is he an insufferable Small Name, Big Ego with delusions of grandeur or simply a good cop who has been made cynical and uncaring? It's quite clear that Neptune lets many of its richer residents get away with crimes up to and including Murder and the Sheriff's department is unable to do anything about it. (When he tried, Keith was ousted from his job). In the first episode, he is coldly dismissive of Veronica's rape claim, but at that time Veronica was still kind part of the popular scene, and we see later that Lamb had good reason to think she was crying wolf. Which is to say nothing of Lamb's backstory: abusive parents and seeing his boss and friend fired for trying to do his job. He does do the right thing when he can (letting Veronica and Duncan go when he saw the abuse in the Manning household) and given Veronica's jerkass tendencies and deliberate flouting of the law, it's easy to see his dislike of her. Under further examination, he comes across more as the Knight in Sour Armor rather than the monster we are clearly supposed to see him as.
  • Victorious:
    • Is Tori sweet, innocent and just trying to be normal without conflict? Or is she a bitchy and unsympathetic Jerk Sue who rivals the likes of Megan Parker, and needs to be taught a lesson? No episode asks this question better than "Prom Wrecker", where Tori's prom renders Jade unable to perform her art project, and when confronted, Tori shows no signs of caring or remorse, while at the end Jade (who tries to destroy the prom as revenge for such) is the only character to receive punishment. This caused an outrage among Tori haters and a few Tori fans themselves. There are some fans who seem to interpret Tori's actions and try to find any possible negative in them:
    • The Birthweek Song: Was Trina really a shallow, Ungrateful Bitch for stating that Tori's performance of a original song (written exclusively for her) didn't qualify as present, or was Tori's performance making herself the center of attention despite supposing to be about Trina?
    • Rex Dies: Was Tori's "revival" of Rex a Heartwarming Moment towards Robbie, or was Jade in the right believing Rex's "death" would improve Robbie's mental health while Tori's actions prevented that?
    • A popular fanfic idea is applying this to her sister. Is Trina really a selfish, jerky Small Name, Big Ego who's so deluded as to think she's the single most talented individual at Hollywood Arts, or is it all a cover-up brought on by the cruel treatment she receives from so many people? Does she belittle others so they can't do it to her first? Is she so dedicated to making it seem real that it's hard for her to snap out of it? Has she received a bad example from watching someone who's both really successful and a complete bastard? Her fans can only wonder...
    • Jade. Is she the cruel AlphaBitch she acts like, and is simply cruel, harsh and undeserving of the relationships and friendships she has, or is it all just a cover-up to hide her insecurities?
    • Andre dating Hope just to get her father to listen to her music: Was Andre stepping into the Ryder Daniels horizon just to get recognized, or was it justified for having to put up with Hope's bitchiness?
    • Does Robbie just joke around with Rex's snarky remarks, or does he use him to vent not only his hatred for his friends who bully him as well as his own self-loathing?
      • Part of the latter might be true. In Slap Fight, Robbie says he hates himself for the way he acted, only for Cat to point out that he's hated himself for years.
      • Or is Robbie really not in control of Rex's words and actions, i.e. Rex is an alternate personality?
      • Much like Alan Harper, is Robbie a Jerk Ass that deserves to be a Butt Monkey, or does the universe constantly screwing him over justify his behavior?
    • Tori and Trina's parents being apathetic towards Tori and borderline abusive towards Trina. They leave town so they don't have to deal with Trina after after surgery, tell her to her face that they are ignoring her, and clearly favor Tori. Mrs. Vega, at least, is not too much better to Tori; flaunting that she made breakfast and telling Tori she has to make it herself, then bragging about how she used up all the ingredients herself so Tori cannot make breakfast after all. She also tells Tori she'll be there for her when Tori is having a crisis, then tells her to close her eyes and leaves.
    • Is Ponnie psychotic or did she genuinely believe that she was kicked out of school in favor of Tori?
    • Some fans speculate that Beck sometimes deliberately invokes Jade's overprotective nature, as mentioned under It Amused Me on Beck's character sheet.
  • The West Wing: President Bartlett was a mediocre president
    • To which Bartlet himself responds at one point.
    • Indeed, given that it's by nature a political show, any action that President Bartlet takes will inevitably be viewed through the individual political lens of each viewer. Fans who are inclined to disagree with Bartlet's policies are free to speculate that the actual results of Bartlet's actions would be far less rosy than he and his staff believe...and since the actual on-the-ground results of his policies are usually only alluded to through the filter of Bartlet's in-universe political staffers and not actually seen most of the time, it's entirely possible that this technically could be true in-universe.
    • Many fans view Josh as an insufferable jerkass who isn't nearly as smart as he believes himself to be, and he's often the one who causes trouble for the Bartlet Administration through his own blundering. Others think of him as The Ace.
  • The Wire is full of these, in no small part due to the complexity of its characters. In particular:
    • Is Detective Jimmy McNulty the Only Sane Man in a city full of police officers who have lost their way, or is he a dangerously unhinged Knight Templar with no regard for the law? For that matter, does he truly care about trying to help the people of Baltimore, or is police work just an ego trip for him?
    • Is Stringer Bell a soulless, Machiavellian criminal mastermind who only cares about profit, or is he a Noble Demon who tries to bring some much-needed dignity and integrity into the criminal underworld that he was born into? In the end, did he meet a Karmic Death after telling one lie too many, or did he meet a tragic death after futilely trying to improve his station in life?
    • Is Omar Little a bona fide modern-day Robin Hood (and the closest thing Baltimore has to a genuine hero) or is he just another crook who profits off of the drug trade and causes chaos for the simple thrill of it?
    • Is Tommy Carcetti a sellout, or is he a well-meaning politician who is forced to make compromises due to events beyond his control?
  • Wizards of Waverly Place's Alex Russo: Noble Demon or Jerk with a Heart of Gold?
    • On the other side of the Russo sibling dynamic, Justin. Socially awkward teacher's pet, or is he more spiteful and Anti-Villain then his sister? And this is without counting Alex's Logo.
    • Stevie: Evil anarchist, Well-Intentioned Extremist or hero bent on tearing apart a cruel system?
  • An unofficial fanguide to The X-Files argues that Mulder and Scully don't actually represent faith versus logic, they represent subjective reality versus objective reality. Scully is the one who really believes that "the truth is out there," and that the logical explanation remains true even if everyone casts it aside for fantasy. (She's just unfortunate enough to be in a setting where there may not be an objective reality.) Mulder, meanwhile, believes that whatever he thinks is the truth must necessarily be the truth. He gets an idea regarding aliens or monsters, and he holds onto it no matter what, baffled that nobody else agrees with him when he's "obviously" right.
    • This one actually goes a long way towards explaining Mulder and Scully's tendency to switch believer-skeptic roles when confronted with cases that have a religious basis (unless we just assume that Mulder's skepticism towards Christianity is a combination of being Ambiguously Jewish and having a Dead Little Sister). One omniscient creator god actually fits much better into Scully's objective reality than it does to Mulder's subjective, anything-weird-goes reality. IIRC, that unofficial fanguide came out long before Agent Doggett showed up, but you could view him as a Subjective Skeptic. Unlike Scully's objective, science-based skepticism, his skepticism is based largely on his personal view of the world combined with his desperate need to believe that he did all he could to save his kidnapped son and calling in psychics wouldn't have helped save his boy's life./ If Doggett's skepticism came across at times as more obnoxious and pig-headed than Scully's, that's because it had a deeper personal base. Unfortunately, the writers didn't take pains to establish Reyes as an objectivist believer, which might really have redeemed the character...
  • 24:
  • Game of Thrones: In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene in "The Lion And The Rose", when Joffrey starts to choke, Tywin Lannister moves across the table and embraces his grandson Tommen. Was this a rare Pet the Dog moment that shows Tywin truly does care for his family as people and not just a name, or merely him being so pragmatic that his response to seeing the King die is to immediately move to protect the next heir?

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