Designated Hero / Live-Action TV

  • 24 had several occasions where the good guys acted like ruthless Knight Templars and / or just extremely incompetent. CTU has tortured innocent people, including one of their own who was then fired for complaining about it, and frequently succumbs to Tyrant Takes the Helm; their agents- including Jack Bauer- very often let family matters and personal vendettas get in the way of their job (occasionally to the point of treasonous or even terroristic activity); almost every single season involves this premier counter-terrorist agency (or in one season, the FBI) failing to prevent multiple terrorist attacks on American soil. The government is not any better and have done such things as framing a reformed terrorist for the attempted murder of a sitting President (when said ex-terrorist actually saved the Presidents life) to cover up that the actual culprits were extremists within the government (worse still, this becomes an Aborted Arc- hunting these traitors down is NEVER brought up again); much of the drama in several seasons comes from the Cabinet and the President arguing about whether or not to NUKE countries they think, might be guilty before the day is up without planning on organizing a thorough investigation first (with the most frequent excuse being that the don't want the rest of the world to think they are weak- they will kill MILLIONS of people just to look scary)- the Cabinet has been willing to impeach a President for backing out of this. The President Evil on the show is actually one of the saner ones in that regard; all he did was try to kill some proven terrorists and then cover it up when the plan failed (and try and kill Jack, but even good Presidents have attempted that).
  • Ally McBeal: Georgia is generally described by other characters as a really nice, good-hearted person. While she certainly can be nice to some people, she can also be petty and quite mean; e.g., badmouthing Nelle, making it clear that she disliked her, and physically attacking her when she tried to break up a fight between her and Ally, for the sole reason that she's jealous, since she considers Nelle to be prettier than her.
  • American Horror Story:
    • American Horror Story: Coven: the witches the show is centered on are unrepentant murderesses who think nothing of using their powers to suit their whims, not caring about the innocents that get in the way. And we're supposed to see the witch hunters as the villains. Since the hunters are all men and the witches are mostly women (with the one male witch we encounter being a Camp Gay man), the show tries to make it about sexism, the Patriarchy trying to suppress Feminine Power. However, this analogy fails because the witches use their magic to horrible ends pretty much whenever they feel like it, with motives that range from understandable (Madison killing the frat bros who gang-raped her) to downright petty (Queenie horribly maiming an unruly customer at her old job).
    • American Horror Story: Freak Show: Jimmy Darling had no problem murdering a policeman just because he came to the show and asked a very reasonable question about two murder suspects they were hiding, Bette and Dot had homicidal instincts against one another and their mother. Except for Ethel and the intellectually disabled members of the freakshow, none of the performers seemed to have a qualm about taking human life.
    • American Horror Story: Hotel: Everyone was so desensitized to murder that it was hard to call anybody a hero. Of the characters you never see murder anybody for entertainment, there's the desk clerk and bar tender who has no problem with her friends committing murder, the children's doctor who carelessly created a horde of vampire children and then helped arrange for them to be killed just as carelessly, and the fashion designer who doesn't seem to be overly concerned that he spends his afterlife hanging around with a group of serial killers. And yet, it still feels like these characters were supposed to be the good guys.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Leonard, as he has gained a generally jerk demeanor and holier-than-thou attitude over the course of the series.
    • Penny is a whiny, egotistical freeloader who constantly belittles the others, and the audience is supposed to feel sorry for her because she's not a famous actress.
    • Really, depending on your view of things, all of the main cast falls under this trope. They all have character flaws, which would be a good thing if those flaws hadn't been subjected to bizarre quantities of Flanderization through the years, and many one-time fans of the show have lost their affection for the series due to the cast having evolved into being so unlikable.
  • Big Time Rush: The four characters of the eponymous group all have moments that push them into this category, especially in episodes where they're carelessly destructive (i.e. Big Time Mansion, Jobs, etc). Though not all of them are always like this (sometimes it depends on the episode), you get the idea.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • For many fans, Buffy is the DH for much of Seasons Six and Seven. However, there were implications that Buffy wasn't exactly herself, being under even more massive pressure than usual, and having gone through several traumatic experiences in a short time. This has been played with several times, from Buffy's temper tantrum that she wasn't allowed to kill Faith and Angel telling her to get stuffed, to her being rejected by the potential slayers, to a storyline where a rogue slayer intends to kill Buffy because of how much of a princess she is.
    • There's also Spike in Season 7. For some reason Buffy and the writers seem to believe Spike is in the right when he tells Robin Wood that he doesn't regret killing his mother, and that she never loved him. And frankly, that's only the worst time by a small degree.
    • Riley. We're supposed to think he's Buffy's "real shot at love" and everyone treats him like he's the nicest guy ever. Despite the fact that he's a teaching assistant dating one of his students, thinks it's A-OK to torture demons, or "animals" as he calls them (demons are evil, but kill them quickly, don't experiment on them), and whines and complains like a two-year-old when he thinks Buffy isn't giving him enough attention...when she's distracted by her mother being in hospital due to a brain tumour. His way of dealing with the latter is going to a vampire "whorehouse" (to get off on getting bitten by them), thinks Buffy is entirely to blame for his behaviour, and gives her an ultimatum: he's leaving if she doesn't forgive him. What's worse is that, from how it's written, we're supposed to be taking Riley's side, not to mention that Xander calls Buffy out on letting Riley go and Buffy is lead to believe that she was in the wrong. Sickening doesn't even begin to describe this, and the fact that the writers utterly failed to see the implications (and instead blamed fans for liking the vampires Angel and Spike too much) just makes things worse.
      • And then when Riley returns in season 6, he goes around believing his opinion is better than everyone else's, everyone loves him again despite what he did, has married someone below his rank (which is a no-no in the US army) and he makes Buffy (who's suffering from depression, struggling with money and raising a teenager) feel terrible...but she listens to him anyway. It's kind of obvious that the writers wanted to make us think "look what you made Buffy throw away!" but instead made him look like an even bigger jerk than before.
  • Camelot: Merlin kills an innocent man and girl after getting into a stupid fight with the man because Merlin doesn't want to give the smith his rightful credit for Excalibur. He helps Uther Pendragon rape his future wife. He never does anything objectively, unambiguously good in the entire series, but it seems as though the writers want us to see him as a good (if flawed) person simply because he's Arthur's mentor.
  • Charmed: The Charmed Ones, in the later seasons, have stopped thinking about saving people and are more about themselves. They cast magic on innocent people, needlessly set up a human criminal up to get killed by demons in their home, and join up with a bunch of magical extremists to wipe out free will for the sake of destroying evil. Then they fake their deaths and get a new girl (played by the same actress as the aforementioned Penny from Big Bang Theory) to do all the work for them. Seriously, the new girl being convinced by her sister to turn heel and the two of them almost being powerful enough to kill the Halliwells (before she got better, anyway) was practically a due backfire.
  • Played with for most of Chris Liley's characters, the most glaring examples being the ones from Summer Heights High:
    • Mr. G is an egomaniac who tried to capitalise on the death of a student, throws a fit when he doesn't get his way and almost got the special needs classrooms shut down so he could have their classrooms.
    • Ja'mie King started a charity under false pretenses, as the money was actually intended to fund a school formal. She also leads on a lesbian classmate just so she can stand out among the couples and when she dates a Year 7 boy she goes through his phone trying to find evidence that he's been cheating on her. In Ja'mie: Private Schoolgirl she sullies her school's reputation because she refused to accept the fact that there's some things she can't control.
    • Jonah Takaluah is a bully who attacks students just for having ginger hair or being overweight. In Jonah from Tonga he has his gang film his attacks and sexually harasses both his art teacher and his cousin.
  • While Detective Scotty Valens of Cold Case always had anger issues, he began to drift into this territory in the show's final season. Granted, he had a good reason for becoming increasingly douchey, namely discovering his mother had become the latest victim of a brutal serial rapist, but he spends most of the season losing his temper, assaulting suspects (when he had previously been revolted by Dirty Cops who did the same in previous seasons) and finally Jumping Off the Slippery Slope by hiring a guy to kill the rapist in the prison shower. Whether he ever got his comeuppance for this is unknown and always will be, as the show was canceled with the very next episode.
  • Criminal Minds: Edward Allen Bernero stated that Jason Gideon was meant to be the central character to the show, even though episodes tended towards ensemble-like setups. Furthermore, Gideon as a character isn't particularly nice to the rest of the team, as he frequently disobeys the chain of command (giving orders to the team when it's supposed to be Hotch's job), being terribly difficult to work with and not being very approachable. Hotch called him out on this in "What Fresh Hell?", telling him that he bought flowers for Garcia (after Gideon proved extremely difficult with her in the previous episode) and said they were from Gideon, explaining, "Jason, people need to know that they're important, and sometimes you forget that."
  • Dawson's Creek: Dawson normally acts like a spoiled, self-centred Jerkass, especially in Season 3. After he himself rejected Joey, he is furious when she falls in love with Pacey. He forces her to choose between their friendship and Pacey, alienates Pacey and tries to win Joey back in an increasingly manipulative, underhand way. (Including almost killing Pacey in a sailing race, lying to Joey about renewing their friendship and tricking Joey to going to the prom with him). All of this is treated as a normal competition to 'win the girl'.
  • Dexter started off his eponymous series as a callous, self-centered serial killer of a Villain Protagonist. However, towards the end of the series, it seems it was intended for him to undergo Character Development and become a more functional and moral hero, based on how every other character shills him to high heaven. In practice, he remained exactly as callous, self-centered, and murderous as he ever was, culminating in the last episode, where he Mercy Kills his sister, steals her body from the hospital, dumps it in the ocean, and fakes his own death, abandoning his son to the care of his murderous girlfriend effectively taking him away from his half-siblings and grandparents while he works as a lumberjack, all while every other character tells us that this is perfectly moral and he deserves to do it.
    • In the later seasons, Deb's intense need to control Dexter and place all of Dexter's problems in term of her own needs, even when Dexter was dealing with a lot of personal issues and could have used her help, meant that a lot of viewers stopped seeing her as one of the heroes.
  • In Doctor Who:
    • In "The Romans", the First Doctor ends up being unintentionally responsible for burning down Rome and this is treated as something to Squee! about. It says a lot about how cleverly-written the episode is that it comes across as a genuine moment of celebration and a turning point for the Doctor's character, but think of all those people who died because of him!
    • The First Doctor wasn't just gruff and miserly, he was often a dangerously reckless man completely at odds with what he would become in later incarnations (although as Ten would point out many years later to Five, despite having the appearance of an old man, he was by Time Lord standards actually a very young man merely playing at being old which does account for a lot). Some of the examples in addition to the above include nearly trying to kill an unarmed and unconscious man in the pilot before being stopped my Ian, intentionally sabotaging the Tardis on Skaro just so he could have an adventure and nearly gets them all killed, and deliberately abandoning Susan without resources or equipment in the wastelands of the 22nd century post Dalek controlled Earth just because he wanted her to settle down with a man that she had only just met.
    • The Second Doctor slips into this in "The Tomb of the Cybermen". He was suspicious about Kleig and Kaftan (who are Obviously Evil), but to confirm his suspicions he gave them the means to revive the Cybermen and even helped the Cybermen out in order to get Kleig where he wanted him. Without his involvement only one person would have died (the luckless archaeologist who grabbed the electrified doors in the accident at the beginning of the story). What's worse, he turns around and blames Toberman for his own Cyber-conversion and tells him he can overcome it if he just believes in himself, despite the fact that Toberman never would have even encountered a Cyberman if the Doctor hadn't helped them. One interpretation of these events is that the Doctor wanted the Cybermen brought out and defeated while he was there, as the humans would probably have eventually got in.
    • The Third Doctor in "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" gets stuck as one due to a Broken Aesop. Throughout the story he attempts to persuade the Well-Intentioned Extremist villains that although their goals are noble, they are trying to achieve them by blowing things up, and there should be another way. But then, instead of actually bothering to find or even propose another way, he just blows the villains up. Notably, the novelisation hangs a lampshade on this by rejigging everything so Sarah Jane is the hero of the story, and having her go What the Hell, Hero? in her internal monologue about much of the Doctor's behaviour.
    • The Sixth Doctor's most famous moment is strangling his companion in his first story, "The Twin Dilemma". Throughout the rest of the serial he acts incredibly cowardly and at one point decides to blame Peri (the above-mentioned companion) for everything; he never apologises or gets called out for any of this. The rest of his time with Peri can not help but invite uncomfortable similarities to an abusive relationship. On top of that he is one of the most violent Doctors. Thankfully the audios fix all these problems.
    • The Tenth Doctor has a tendency to come across as a hypocritical, arrogant and egotistical jerk. His first story has him overthrowing the government because the prime minister blew up a spaceship of aliens whose leader had proven untrustworthy (he tried to kill the Doctor after promising to leave in peace) and would have likely gone on to decimate other planets. This leads to the Master becoming prime minister, followed by a government willing to send ten percent of Earth's children to a Fate Worse Than Death in the spinoff Torchwood: Children of Earth! He also spends most of Series 3 treating Martha as inferior to Rose and whining about losing Rose — and his "no second chances" rule given to many one-off villains is waved for the Master and Davros, who have repeatedly shown to not want redemption. He also called his clone a monster for blowing up the Daleks (i.e. standard operating procedure for handling the Daleks since their first appearance) despite their being capable of slaughtering the universe. Finally, he spends most of his regeneration episode whining about how regenerating is an equivalent to death -- even though no past or future incarnation acts like this or any other Time Lord for that matter. And he gets angry at a man who caused his death because he saved someone else's life!
    • The Eleventh Doctor comes off as this several times in Series 6. In "The Almost People", he murders Amy’s clone to learn the original Amy's location after spending the entire episode berating miners for treating clones as disposable and less important than the originals. In "The Girl Who Waited", he erases an aged Amy from existence after making her believe he could save her.
    • Rose Tyler is meant to be seen as really heroic and loving for crossing dimensions to find the Tenth Doctor in Series 4. Except the Doctor told her that coming back between worlds would destroy both, to which her reaction was "So?" She was able to cross worlds due to the Daleks' Reality Bomb collapsing the barriers between Universe, however her dialogue shows she was trying to come back before this happened. And for risking the destruction of two worlds so she could get to someone she loved, she gets her own, conveniently human, version of him (created by a massive Ass Pull) — she even kisses that human version of the Doctor right in front of the original!
      • All this is even worse in the wake of the final episodes of Series 9, in which the Twelfth Doctor willingly goes through unspeakable hardship and to universe-risking extremes for similar reasons but is not treated as this trope — instead it's constant What the Hell, Hero? reactions, a My God, What Have I Done? realization, and losing not only Clara, but also most of his memories of her. Rose is a Karma Houdini by comparison!
      • In Series One, Rose also treats her boyfriend Mickey like he's invisible and ditches her mom Jackie to run off with the Doctor. And in "The Parting of the Ways", she periodically gives dirty looks to another girl that the Doctor had invited to come with them.
      • In Series 2's "Tooth and Claw" when people are getting torn to pieces by a werewolf, Rose's main priority still seems to be winning a bet with the Doctor that she can get Victoria to say she is not amused. In that episode she can come across as a Nightmare Fetishist and it isn't surprising Victoria gets so angry at Rose and the Doctor for seeming to enjoy the horrific events.
    • Lady Christina de Souza, the Classy Cat-Burglar from "Planet of the Dead". She is meant to be a heroic companion figure, but arguably nothing she does is particularly heroic — only self-preservation. She is introduced stealing a museum artifact and doesn't seem at all unhappy that her possible boyfriend gets arrested. Finally the Doctor helping her escape the police is meant to be seen as a great moment, and McMillian as an Inspector Javert for wanting to arrest her. However he was completely justified in arresting her, in which case Christina is a Karma Houdini. To add insult to injury, in Doctor Who (IDW) she still gets away with committing crimes after leaving Earth.
    • Clara Oswald becomes one toward the end of Series 8. In "Kill the Moon", when the Twelfth Doctor leaves the fate of the Moon Creature — whose birth might destroy Earth — in her and humanity's hands, she overrules the votes of Earth and decides to spare the creature. Fortunately it doesn't destroy all, but she has no reason to think that it wouldn't. She and the episode are busy seeing the Doctor as in the wrong for trusting humanity to save it rather than just doing it himself based on his informed guess about the creature's intentions — an intended gesture of respect that comes off as condescending partially because he has No Social Skills. In "In the Forest of the Night", upon learning that a solar flare will burn the Earth, she rejects the proposition of the Doctor to save herself, her boyfriend Danny and a class of children claiming that she doesn't want to be the last human...without bothering to consult Danny and the children first! (So the Doctor's learned from his "Kill the Moon" experience, but she hasn't!) And while it's not surprising that over time she learns to be a Consummate Liar from the Doctor's example, where he primarily uses lies to put plans into action, she constantly lies to the Doctor and Danny about her relationships with both men simply because she's a Control Freak who wants things both ways. The kicker is the beginning of "Dark Water": after the sudden death of Danny, she attempts to blackmail the Doctor to save him by drugging him and threatening to throw the keys of the TARDIS in a volcano. She is understandably stressed at the time and the Doctor does call her out on her actions, but that's still nasty for someone we're supposed to see as The Woobie — and then the Doctor bends over backwards to help her. Remember, the Ninth Doctor kicked Adam out of the TARDIS for a far lesser crime.
      • Also — she previously traveled with Eleven and was willing to die for him ( and did — perhaps millions of times over) even knowing of many of the horrible deeds of his past (i.e. the Last Great Time War). Then after he spent 1,000 or so years in lonely vigil on Trenzalore and received a last-moment reprieve from the grave that she had a hand in getting him, he regenerates into a Grumpy Old Man who has No Social Skills, a more pragmatic personality — and an identity crisis that he needs her help in working out. Naturally, she's promptly making rude comments about his appearance, slapping him, lying to him, temporarily abandoning him after "Kill the Moon" even though Eleven himself warned her that he desperately needed her friendship and support, and even betraying him. As it's established in "Mummy on the Orient Express" that she's addicted to having wacky adventures and thus can't give him up entirely, it comes off as her using him. She insists she isn't shallow, but she sure frosted up once he was no longer young, pretty, and charming. To make matters worse, while she and Twelve eventually become chaste sweethearts, consider her sendoff in Series 9: She tells him he must let her die and move on for the greater good, but doesn't simply go back to her death once he's been mind-wiped and she leaves him on Earth with his TARDIS — instead she decides to have more adventures in the second stolen TARDIS first.
    • The show's treatment of the Twelfth Doctor usually averts this trope, so when it turns up it's really noticeable.
      • In Series 9's "Before the Flood", he allows the villain to kill a woman simply to test a theory involving the order in which he and other characters seem doomed to die. (He's informed of this by his own ghost, which may be influencing his behavior.) After realising the next person to die is Clara, only then does he decide to step in and save everyone else. He does receive a What the Hell, Hero? speech, and it turns out to be Foreshadowing for him temporarily becoming a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds a few episodes later when she does die but it still feels like the Doctor only intervened when someone he knew was about to die.
      • Later, Series 10's "The Lie of the Land" has him becoming the evil Monks' Propaganda Machine when they Take Over the World, which means he has to take some responsibility for everyone imprisoned and killed over their six-month reign. This turns out to be because he has been deep undercover, with his life forfeit if they realized the truth, and was probably the best choice to make under extreme circumstances. Still, it undercuts his much-professed belief in the value of individual lives even as it's brought up later in the episode as his justification for not simply sacrificing Bill's life to stop the Monks (in fairness, Missy calls him out somewhat, but the people imprisoned by the Monks are not brought up specifically). On top of that, it is deeply psychologically wounding to his companion Bill, who ends up shooting him in rage, not realizing he can heal and that this was a Secret Test of Character, but she seems to easily forgive him when the crisis has passed.
    • Bill Potts at the end of "The Pyramid at the End of the World" and in "The Lie Of The Land". The reason the Monks mentioned above are allowed to invade Earth is because she made a deal with them in exchange for the Doctor's life knowing the Monks invading Earth would be the price and explicitly against the Doctor's wishes. The closest to her getting called out for this would be a Secret Test of Character to establish she is not under the Monks' mind control. She also shoots the Doctor in anger, with intent to kill, when the Doctor tells her why he sided with the Monks, despite being aware they have mind control powers and long before all the other options were used.
  • ER: Mark Greene, who from the very first episode was pushed as the "heart" of the show. Said "heart" was frequently unbearably self-righteous with his friends, often failed to be there for them when they needed his support, was unable to take a stand on anything, blasted others from bending or breaking the rules, then bent or broke them himself, and deliberately withheld treatment from an Asshole Victim patient, resulting in the man's death. There's no denying that the man deserved to die—at the hands of a judge, jury, and executioner, NOT at a doctor betraying the most basic tenets of his profession.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: The title character's wife becomes this in the later seasons, as the show devoted ever-increasing amounts of screentime to the war between her and her mother-in-law, and kept trying to shill her as the heroine. What made it really ridiculous was the fact that her behavior was exactly the same as the mother-in-law's (i.e., bullying other family members, being arrogant and condescending,etc.), which made it really hard to actually root for her, as there seemed to be no real difference between the two characters. In fact, the wife's behavior was arguably even worse than her mother-in-law's, because she physically and emotionally abused her husband in virtually every episode of the mid-to-later seasons.
    • In one episode, she forces her husband to go with her to a couple's therapist in the hopes that the therapist will tell Ray to be more compliant to her demands. Ray is initially reluctant to open up, but then the therapist finds Ray sympathetic during the session. Naturally, Debra is shocked by this, as she expected the session to be all about how Ray is not the man she wants him to be. After all, how could she possibly be anything less than perfect? After the therapist appears to not take Debra's side, Debra refuses to attend any more sessions and is mad at Ray for embarrassing her like that (to reiterate, he did exactly what she wanted him to do - open up). And the show then goes out of its way to portray her as being right.
  • In many ways, the entire main cast of Fear the Walking Dead becomes more and more pragmatic as time passes, to the point that they do dangerous and foolish things (that may cause more collateral damage as opposed to solving the problem) in order to protect their families. This may have been a deliberate choice on the part of the showrunners.
    • Although Madison does tell the Cruz family about the outbreak, she stands back and does absolutely nothing (except tell her children to get away from the window) when the undead Peter Dawson attacks Ms. Cruz on her front lawn. As a result, the walker murders the entire Cruz family, including their daughter. Later on, she never displays any remorse or care about telling her other neighbors about the planned Cobalt protocol, on the grounds that they never bothered to help her family when Nick was taken. They leave the gate to their neighborhood wide open for the walkers to get in, intentionally leaving their neighbors to die just for that.
    • Daniel Salazar. He tortures a US soldier for information, worked as a Torture Technician back in El Salvador under a brutal dictatorship, was implied to have killed helpless civilians, and leads a herd of walkers towards a military base in order to break out his group's friends, which ultimately leads to the death of Liza by mistake. He is also implied to be a war criminal hiding in the US. Nevertheless, we're supposed to root for him anyway.
    • Really, the entire party gets this by the end of the first season. They not only choose to leave the gate to the safezone wide open after passing through it (even though they know there are walkers around, and there are people still alive inside), but they choose to unleash a massive horde on a military base so that they might have a chance to save two people. Although the end result is ultimately successful (they save Nick and Strand, who leads them to a safehouse), the act of doing so results in Liza being bit and having to be mercy-killed by Travis. In the end, countless soldiers and patients are killed thanks to their actions, and the fate of the civilians that were let out of the prison cells inside the base and left to fend for themselves is never addressed.
  • FlashForward (2009): Mark Benford. Many perceive him to be a major-league Jerkass to his coworkers, his family, and everyone. See: giving his wife huge amounts of shit for seeing herself sleeping with another man in her Flash Forward, yet lying to her about his own (he was drinking in his); routinely flouting international law and direct orders from his boss, but unlike other Screw The Rules types, he doesn't really accomplish anything by doing so; having his hands superglued to the Idiot Ball (best example: shooting an assassin who has what is obviously a unit tattoo); and as the promo for the post-hiatus episodes shows, accusing Demetri of being a mole.
  • The Following: Both the main character as well as the FBI are incredibly incompetent and act like idiots. Ryan Hardy, The Hero, thinks that he and only he can take down Serial Killer Joe Carroll and his cult of maniacs, to the point where he ends up getting several police officers and innocent people harmed or killed and getting furious when anyone but him crosses the line to save their loved ones, as well as playing the very role Carroll wants him to play in the first place; on the other hand, the Feds aren't much better, repeatedly underestimating both Hardy and the cult and making many stupid mistakes. Both Hardy and the Feds also fail to consider that if Joe had people watching both his family and his only surviving victim, then he might have had someone watching Ryan as well - this last one gets Hardy stabbed and Claire killed. The only reason the good guys win is that the cult turns out to be just as self-sabotaging themselves in the long run, but at least the cult has the excuse that they are all Ax-Crazy; Hardy and the Feds are just selfish and stupid.
  • Friends: Rachel. She refuses to take Ross back but abuses any girl he tries to date (backstabbing the adorable Julie, shaving Bonnie's head, planning to ruin Emily's wedding and insulting a girl who flirts with him). She emotionally abuses Ross making him break up with girls and then puts stipulations on them getting back together, helps to ruin his marriage and then says he's too 'messed up' to date, and forbidding him from dating her sister. She's also incredibly self-centred, stealing Monica and Chandler's engagement night and wedding day, belittling others' problems, constantly complaining about her own, and telling Monica and Chandler they have to come to her baby's birthday party, so they can't go away after they spent a fortune on a room to reconnect after they've discovered they can't have children!
  • Game of Thrones : The writers might still present her as a wise and just ruler who will unite the seven kingdoms, but an increasingly large part of the fan-base find Daenerys' behaviour deeply unsettling, due to her willingness to set her enemies on fire, regardless of whether or not they seem to have earned such a terrible death. Late in season six, Tyrion calls her out on this and she pays lipservice to the idea of being a better ruler than her father, but leaks from season 7 show her burning an enemy alive (from the looks of it, and enemy whose main crime was to chose the wrong side)). Very few people in universe questions the horrific deaths by crucifixion and immolation she has ordered,(which, admittedly, involved slaveholders who did the same to their slaves but many fans still feel that it is way too easy for her to kill people in horrible ways, and she has far too few qualms against using fire as a weapon in wars involving civilians. More than a few fans also have problems with her being willing to wage any war (let alone one where fire is one of the main weapons ) against peaceful lands because she sees being Queen of a place she can barely remember as her birthright.
  • Glee:
    • Rachel and Finn fall into this category in many episodes. Often, they defy the moral of an episode, commit dubious actions without being called on it, or just act downright nasty, but they get away with it largely by virtue of being the Official Couple.
    • Will Schuster too, if not even more so. In the very first episode he plants drugs on a student to blackmail him into joining Glee Club. When said student protests his innocence and frantically promises to take a drug test, Will weasels around that obvious out by reminding the kid that being charged at all will look bad. Seeing as how in the US, a drug conviction of any kind bars kids from applying for student loans, Will essentially threatens a minor's future education to force him to join a failing club.
    • Kurt became this trope quite a bit due to being an Author Avatar. Showrunner Ryan Murphy essentially based the character on his own experiences growing up a Camp Gay kid in Flyover Country, and as such, Kurt would always be justified in his behavior (particularly in the first two seasons), no matter how ridiculously petty, manipulative, or jealous he was being. His few What the Hell, Hero? moments happened much later, and those scenes were quite blatantly written in response to viewer criticisms.
  • The Goldbergs: Evelyn Silver, depending on her motivations, is this. In a rather glaring Ass Pull, Erica Goldberg and Geoff Schwartz finally get together at the end of "So Swayze It's Crazy", but then break up at the end of the next episode "The Kara-te Kid". It turns out Geoff didn't tell Evelyn, his girlfriend, that he was leaving her for Erica and as a result, everyone views them as the bad guys in the situation because they got together the wrong way. Evelyn being upset is utterly justified, but burning a picture of herself and Geoff with a psychotic stare (even though it's Played for Laughs) causes her to lose any moral high ground given that can be construed as a violent threat and while not putting Erica and Geoff in the right for what they did, gives them legitimate reason to not want to be near Evelyn again.
  • Gossip Girl: Serena frequently acts far nastier than Blair, and her protests and apologies just make her seem like a huge liar compared to the others.
  • iCarly: Carly never stops her Jerkass friend Sam from bullying others. What kind of friend lets one friend bully her other friends? Then in "iMove Out," when Freddie's mom came on the set to humiliate her son, instead of turning off the camera, she points it at Freddie while he's getting embarrassed. And that's not even getting into Carly's emotional manipulation of Freddie...
    • Carly is constantly portrayed as an immature, whiny girl who complains at any instance in which she doesn't get exactly what she wants. In one particular example, Spencer forbids her from going to a genuinely dangerous wrestling arena to film for the website, prompting her to throw an unfunny tantrum, directly disobey him, and be portrayed as if she's in the right.
  • Law & Order:
    • Arguably, most of the characters in every iteration, but especially Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Hardly an episode goes by without an absolutely horrifying instance of breach of protocol, bad judgment, unnecessary hatred for a suspect, or outright lawbreaking on the part of the main cast. The main cast is made up entirely of law enforcement officers and lawyers. Almost every crime drama has this to some extent.
    • Elliot Stabler is this trope personified. While interviewing a suspect (that's SUSPECT - not criminal, SUSPECT) he becomes aggravated and puts the man's head through the one-way glass in the interrogation room. He is not punished for it in any way, because obviously the suspect is an evil criminal and does not have rights.
      • What pushed the line for most viewers was when Elliot intentionally caused a man to have a Psychotic Break so the law can force him to go on medication. And Dr. Huang (the psychiatrist) is treated as a traitor when he rightfully objected and decided to become the defense's expert witness.
    • Somebody is talking with Cabot, the prosecuting attorney, and accuses the police department of harming a suspect. Cabot replies that the injuries were sustained during a fight between two suspects. Her conversation partner acknowledges that this is technically correct... because the suspects were intentionally baited, by the police department, into turning on each other. Cabot does not even bother to reply, she just stands there looking smug for the rest of the scene.
    • Stabler and Benson go to a suspect's home, where he lives with his grandfather. They do not have a warrant and cannot enter the house without permission. They tell the suspect something about his grandfather that shocks him and causes him to throw the door closed and run upstairs to confront the grandfather. Stabler puts his hand out to keep the door from closing and the two detectives chase after the suspect, into the house that they do not have permission to enter.
    • In one very serious episode, a young man recognizes that he is a pedophile and turns himself in before he harms someone. Specifically, he fears that he will molest a young relative of his and has actually been drinking heavily in an attempt to forestall his actions. When he accepts that he will not be able to stop himself for much longer he turns himself in to he police in the hope that they will be able to keep him from hurting any little kids. Benson explicitly states that up to that point, no pedophile had ever turned themselves in out of an honest desire to reform. Rather than appreciating the selfless efforts of a very confused person who needs help with a legitimate problem, he is despised by the police force and referred to as a "monster."
    • Stabler has attempted a flat-out Vigilante Execution at least once, admittedly of a guy who raped toddlers. In the first season finale he was nearly thrown off the squad when a departmental psychologist orders Cragen to conduct a psych evaluation of all his detectives and fire the one least psychologically fit; his job is saved only by one of the Fake Guest Stars admitting to having slept with a suspect, which the shrink deemed worse than anything Stabler did.
    • It doesn't help that the detectives and prosecutors tend to have a smug attitude most of the time, almost veering into Smug Snake territory.
    • In one episode the detectives meet a man who impregnates women by poking holes in condoms. Benson and Stabler immediately declare the women to be victims who are now stuck with children they don't want (regardless of the fact that the sex was consensual and the women did not use any additional form of birth control, or used the morning-after pill after the condom broke, or got an abortion, or gave their children up for adoption). The detectives decided, with no evidence whatsoever, that the man must be a rapist, but their investigation fails to confirm this. When it becomes clear that he committed no crime for which he could be prosecuted, Benson and Stabler bring all the women to the precinct to see him at the same time, essentially forming a lynch mob to deal with a person they knew had committed no crime. Predictably, the man is murdered.
    • Olivia never used to be this, but as the series progressed she slowly evolved into one. She's a feminist Creator's Pet, and the writers expect us to believe she's always in the right. A few good examples include her constantly defending a rape victim who was forever changing her story, despite Barba and Rollins rightfully pointing out the inconsistencies. Her refusal to accept that several police officers shooting an unarmed black suspect was wrong, even though it's obvious that their actions were racially motivated. Ordering her officers to barge into an elderly man's home, then refusing to apologize upon realizing she had the wrong apartment, and her generally sexist attitude towards men, tending to treat any male suspect with disdain before she's even gathered a speck of evidence against him. Again, we're supposed to support her actions.
  • Lost: Several characters, especially Jack and Kate. Both are Jerkass types who meander between helpful-yet-arrogant leader types through to paranoid, secretive, unhelpful, cliquey and murderous asses.
    • Season 3 Locke was far more reprehensible than even Kate or Sawyer ever were, especially in the last season episode. Jack himself tends to be more unremarkable or just plain capricious than reprehensible.
      • Locke's actions even earlier than that come off as quite disturbing when you know he really had no real connection to the island, coming off as a cult leader using violence to brainwash people like Boone into agreeing with him.
      • A bit false, though he counts as a DH. Locke was pretty clearly connected to the island from the very beginning, regardless of his actions. As the final season illustrates, pretty much all the main characters were.
  • NCIS: Memetic Badass though he may be, Leroy Jethro Gibbs can definitely be seen as this, with repeatedly assholish behavior to various characters, occasionally bending or even breaking laws he's supposed to be enforcing, and some instances of hypocrisy regarding investigations with agents/officers from outside his team.
    • He has also put his own agents (especially McGee) into dangerous situations just to save time. Both Abby and DiNozzo tend to act terrible toward the guy.
  • Judge Harry Stone from Night Court was a straight-up hero throughout the entire show, except for a single episode, where a high-class brothel is raided and their records are seized. The madam begs Harry to make the case disappear, since she doesn't want her clients to be swept up in the sting, arguing that they are good men who were nice to the prostitutes and don't deserve the stigma. Nonetheless, they were still visiting prostitutes, many of them were married, and they often shared highly sensitive details of their work with the girls. For some reason Harry agonises over this until he realises that the clients, many of whom were wealthy and powerful men, including politicians and military commanders, have friends in high places that can make it go away for him. So he contacts the Pentagon and an Admiral quickly arrives to take the records in the name of security. This is portrayed as a happy ending; apparently, using political corruption to cover up the adultery and serious security breaches of the country's leaders is okay if said leaders were polite to the prostitutes they visited.
    • What's worse is that this was extremely out of character for Harry, who was consistently portrayed as kind and compassionate to the people he judged, but ultimately a stickler for the law; he often ruled against his friends, family or childhood idols if it was his duty.
  • The Office (US) has Jim & Pam, who are supposed to be normal, but are actually kinda pricks. Jim knew he wasn't supposed to upset Andy when he was at Stamford, but he did, and he did it again at Scranton. He picked on Andy - someone he knew had anger management issues - enough to make him punch a hole in the wall. He even probably endangered Pam in helping too. For a long time, they were lusting after each other, regardless of the feelings of the people with whom they were involved. They also broke company policy in the baby shower ep with the Bluetooth and making themselves noticeable enough to warrant investigation (though considering how lax Michael is with office policy, he probably let it slide). Sometimes Jim's pranks on Dwight go too far (enough to give him a bit of a Heroic B.S.O.D. when regaling). The writers do notice this sometimes, especially in later seasons. A few episodes show Jim being embarrassed by his immaturity, and show Dwight as more of a victim. This depiction is closer to the UK version, where Tim and Dawn were often presented as immature bullies, and not just playful jokers.
  • Pretty Little Liars Lucas Gottesman in the first series is continually making moves on Hanna, despite the face she is dating Sean. Sean is a perfectly nice guy, but because Lucas is [[Adorkable]], our sympathy is supposed to be with him.
  • Promised Land: Shamaya Taggert from the Touched by an Angel spin off. You're supposed to like this character, but she come off as a bitter, self-righteous, pretentious prick.
  • Revolution: Charlie, increasingly. She began as just whiny, but took entirely the wrong lesson from Miles, and ended up deciding that she was better off being jerks to her friends to make them go forward to Danny... who they lag behind because of Motive Decay. Then there's also the fact that, even after learning how bad the deed she is supposed to do in "Sex and Drugs" is, she still decides to go through with it anyway rather than try to get the victim's help, while Miles, her "role model" for getting tough, takes the higher road and tries to go and stop her to Take a Third Option. Fortunately, she has been trying to become a better hero.
  • Robin Hood:
    • Robin Hood from the BBC's 2006-2008 version of the story kept getting worse as the seasons went on. His "no-kill" policy was chucked out the second season when it became apparent that he was prepared to kill in the name of King Richard (even if it meant shooting unarmed priests and mentally-deranged spies), and by the third season he was shooting guards in the back whilst still insisting that he only killed when he needed to. He also treated his outlaws like crap (especially poor Much), started a relationship with a girl he was barely interested in despite knowing that his best friend liked her, attacked a frightened woman in her own bedroom after she's had to kill a man in self-defence, and shot dead an executioner who was just doing his job (and then having the gall to tell the aforementioned woman that not only is she "a murderer" for killing a man who was threatening to rape/strangle her but that he only kills when he absolutely needs to).
    • The third season also introduced Kate, who was shilled as brave, compassionate and altogether wonderful even though she was never anything but rude, nasty and shrill to everyone around her, and once demanded that a terrified woman be left to be raped and strangled by her sadistic husband, stating that "she doesn't deserve our help."
  • Scream Queens (2015):
    • The Chanels are a pretty painful example. They're shown to have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever (particularly Oberlin who, while not the Red Devil, is an attempted murderer herself), show a complete disregard for anyone else, and actively enjoy bullying and belittling others for no reason but the sake of it. They're also homophobic, racist, classist, entitled, cruel, petty, and actively malicious. Yet, somehow, most the fanbase will go to hell and back to argue they aren't actually bad people.
    • The biggest example yet may be in with Grace. She spent most of the season trying to find out a) who was running around killing people; and b) who were the babies born in the bathtub. Only, she was really doing this to prove her theory that she was one of those babies, and kept making the situation about her. In the finale, she finally figured out that Hester was the killer...only to allow Hester to not only get away with it, but also framed Chanel and her friends in the process. In the end, Graced ended up remaking the sorority in the image she wanted, so apparently a psycho killing people that had nothing to do with the death of her mom twenty years ago and framing three people who were NOT the red devil (though, admittedly, they were awful human beings and attempted murderers as well) worked out in her favor.
    • Thanks to her knowing the truth, Zayday also is one, using this to become the president of the sorority.
  • The Secret Life Of Us: Series 2 turned the character of Gabrielle into a serious Jerkass. She starts an affair with Dominic, a married man with two young children, and gets him to leave his wife Francesca for her, saying that because she loves him so, so much this is all justified. When Francesca shouts at Gabrielle and calls her selfish, she has the barefaced cheek to complain that Francesca is victimizing her, and then she breaks up with Dominic for spending too much time trying to comfort his heartbroken children, rather than forgetting them and focusing all his time on her. A short time later Dominic, who has tried and failed to make things work with his wife because he can't forget Gabrielle, tries to win her back, and she says she has gotten used to being on her own, even though she caused all this pain on the grounds that she supposedly loved him so much. Despite this, neither Gabrielle or any other character apart from Francesca says anything about how selfish, fickle and destructive her actions are, and she is still depicted as a likable character the audience should root for and empathize with.
  • Sliders protagonist Quinn Mallory may be well-intentioned, but that hasn't stopped him from causing unforgiveable mass destruction. In the episode "As Time Goes By", he destroys an entire universe. In the episode "Dinoslide", he and the others return to a world they previously visited, only to find that a virus they inadvertently carried over has wiped out the native population who had no immunity to it. And he was the one who accidentally led the Kromagg's to Earth Prime, resulting in its destruction. For all this, on several occasions in Season 3 and 4 he was willing to settle down on certain Earth's, leaving his friend's (who are only in this situation because of him) to fend for themselves, and also did not seem to concerned with finding Wade or saving Earth Prime in Season 4, being more interested in finding his home planet.
    • Part of the problem is Quinn's ability to both dive headlong into danger without thinking through the consequences of his actions and his frequent failure to adapt to any culture that doesn't conform to his late 1990s American suburban morality. Easily the best example of this is on Egypt World where he attacks a couple of the Pharaoh's men without really the first clue as to why they were trying to forcibly detain a woman, nearly gets his friends killed inside of a pyramid they were thrown into as punishment, causes them to miss their slide window potentially trapping them there forever, and then willingly leaves the faulty yet proven original timer behind (it still technically worked, they had just missed the slide window which added another 29 years onto the clock) in favour of a brand new yet completely untested one. For all they knew, this new sliding device (which was designed to slide a single casket one time) may not have had enough power to go anywhere else.
  • Smallville: In the early seasons, Lana Lang evolved from a slightly annoying Distressed Damsel into one of these, and remained one for her entire run. Despite her frequent betrayals of Clark and his friends, she was consistently treated as being in the right until her exit in Season 8; and unlike Clark and others who border on this, her motivation for anything heroic she does do is either 'to get with Clark' or, later, 'to punish Lex'. Former Big Bad Lionel Luthor, post-Heel–Face Turn, is seen as this in-universe: the heroes use him for his resources, but don't trust him any farther than they can throw him.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Federation often veers into this territory Depending on the Writer due to the Prime Directive causing them to routinely let entire species go extinct, despite being in a position to avert such disasters; all whilst touting it as the "Natural Order" and the morally superior thing to do. This is better shown in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, especially the latter as seen below.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: Captain "Designated Hero" Janeway - after stranding her crew in the Delta Quadrant due to reasons largely beyond her control, she forgoes several attempts that would have gotten her back to the Alpha Quadrant, kills one of her crew to restore the status quo, and when given the chance to go back in time and save her crew, rather than preventing them from going to the Delta Quadrant in the first place, she opts to save someone they recruited along the way and abandon nearly a third of her crew who died before Season 7. The "Equinox" two-parter is often seen as the worst because because the Equinox was much worse off than Voyager, and her protests seemed more founded on Federation regulations than the brutality the captain was committing on innocent aliens. Her temporary alliance with the Borg against Species 8472 also got a lot of flack after 8472 were Retconned from Scary Dogmatic Aliens apparently out for The Purge to reasonable people who somehow gave Kes the completely wrong idea while they were Mind Raping her. The series' Status Quo Is God mandate meant that everyone had to come to an accord by the end of the episode, so these issues never got adequately addressed, nor was there ever a middle ground between "always stand by Federation principles" or "screw it we need to get home," resulting in this kind of mess.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise suffered a similar problem by trying to create an flawed captain who was nevertheless always right. Archer's childhood grudge against the Vulcans put two bridge officers at risk when he was reluctant to ask the nearby Vulcans for help, and he once sided with the Andorians over his supposed allies without much examination (and after the Andorians attacked him). He also let a sentient species die out because of the Prime Directive before it even existed, caused a diplomatic incident by taking his dog to a sacred grove of trees, and condemned other ships or cultures for doing things he had done or would do in the space of a few episodes. Meanwhile, the secret agent from the future kept saying Archer would be hailed as one of this era's great figures. (The third season has him committing some acts of dubious morality in the name of protecting Earth, but with more self-awareness of that dubiousness.)
  • Supernatural: After a few seasons, both of the Winchester brothers slaughter hundreds of demons, killing their human hosts in the process - even when they have the knowledge and opportunity to perform an exorcism which would save the host. Unless it's someone they know who's possessed.
    • In their many arguments throughout the series, both brothers have occasionally made selfish or hypocritical decisions that the narrative expects us to support, such as Sam retiring from hunting and not trying to find Dean in season 8, or Dean tricking Sam into letting an angel possess him to save his life. ** Season 8 ends with Sam aborting a ritual to seal all demons away in Hell permanently because it would cost him his life, which Dean refuses to accept.
    • Dean spent Season 10 being driven by the Mark of Cain to increasingly gratuitous acts of violence, before learning that the Mark is a Leaking Can of Evil for the primordial Darkness that brought about Lucifer's fall; in the finale, he kills Death and lets the Darkness escape rather than sacrifice himself and Sam to remove it from Earth permanently. After telling Death that this time it was for real..
    • Season 11 has a pro wrestler the boys liked as children turn out to have murdered the Victim of the Week. He had made a deal with a demon for fame and fortune. Dean even said at the end that he was a good guy and didn't deserve to die by hellhound. Later when Sam was in shock after being shot, Dean pretty much committed suicide to make a deal with Billie the Reaper to save Sammy. She declined.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: The titular twins often cause mayhem in the hotel and even manage to damage a lot of merchandise in the process. And yet Mr. Moseby, the hotel manager, is seen as the antagonist the second he chastises the twins for their recklessness.
  • Survivor had this trope mentioned by Tyson Apostol in Blood vs Water at the Final Tribal, saying he wasn't a villain and that "If you aren't the villain, you have to be the hero"
  • True Blood: The vampires. Bill killed many people with Lorena and has deliberately killed people even in the present day. Every vampire we've met we know for a fact have killed at least one human, and many of these vamps we know have killed more than that. Even "saintly" Godric killed Eric's 2 best friends before turning Eric into a vamp. And thanks to Jessica killing a man soon after she became a vampire, there's now no vampire we can definitely state has never killed a human. The Authority might be seen as a benevolent influence... except as their Arbiter they appointed a nasty "humans-are-inferior-to-vampires" bigot who regarded the fact Bill killed a vampire to save the life of a human as making Bill's crime of killing the vampire worse, not better, and as punishment had a terrified teenaged girl (Jessica) kidnapped and forcibly turned into a vampire by Bill. And we're supposed to be rooting for the vampires and their integration with humans because why, exactly?
    • The later seasons realized this and now there is a War brewing between Humanity and the Vampires with Bill leading the charge as the Vampire's new god, taking the place of Lillith.
    • Then, there's the non-vampires, who often have as little regard for life as the actual vampires and are constantly behaving in questionably moral ways. Sookie is probably the worst offender, since she is willing to ignore as many deaths as she needs to if it interferes with her love life or friends, and even helps Eric in his schemes, which usually involve murdering humans at some point.
  • The Vampire Diaries, increasingly. Their total selfishness and the body count attached to them, which is now in the thousands and includes people killed for reasons ranging from self-defense to Horror Hunger to to gaining advantage over an enemy to just being unhappy and taking it out on other people, can make it pretty difficult to root for them. Notable acts include causing the deaths of thousands of vampires, twice, for pretty dubious reasons, and trapping thousands of souls in limbo, possibly forever, rather than give up a chance to resurrect their friend.
  • Veronica Mars: It's easy to sympathize with her backstory, which includes Parental Abandonment, rape and subsequent social exile. It's not so easy to actually like her, as she's incredibly manipulative, enables various illegal actions throughout the series (including the kidnapping of a baby), uses her friends as pawns (sometimes putting their lives in danger) and is just outright mean to most people she speaks to on a regular basis. One could make a solid argument that the only difference between Veronica and the popular crowd she was once part of is the fact that she's directing her manipulative tendencies into a profession which ostensibly helps people — notably, her behavior worsens in season three when she has no central mystery to solve. It must be pointed out, however, that this was part and parcel of what many fans saw as the show's degeneration after season one. In the first season, Veronica seemed genuinely good and kind under her understandably gruff exterior, and seemed to genuinely care for the people she helped. It was in the subsequent seasons that she really became a hero in name only.
  • Victorious: Tori Vega. In the first episode, she gets revenge on the Alpha Bitch by kissing her boyfriend. That wouldn't be too bad if she hadn't done it again in another episode (This time it was actually a good friend of hers). In one episode, she left her friend behind at a Sushi bar because she selfishly wanted to return to class. Earlier, he did something nice for her by treating her.
  • Rick and his crew from The Walking Dead got a lot of criticism from viewers in Season 6 for what many thought was an unprovoked attack on Negan's group, when they slipped into one of his outposts and murdered several of his men in their sleep. While Negan is certainly not a Designated Villain, it's hard to argue with the fact that he at least kind of has a point when he says Rick and his group brought Negan's wrath upon themselves by striking first.
  • The Wire: Jimmy McNulty, the closest thing this show has to a central character, discusses this trope in-universe with regards to his (oftentimes morally questionable) behavior.
    You start to tell the story, you think you're the hero, and then when you get done talking...
  • Wonder Woman: In the failed 2011 pilot, they make the bad guys out to be complete and utter scum who use trafficked humans and underprivileged ghetto kids to test their steroid-type drugs and use their lobbyists to avoid being investigated, and that whatever means that Wonder Woman uses is justified. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman is a brutal, vicious killer who goes after people without any actual evidence, tortures people for information (while pointing out she has a magic lasso called the Lasso of Truth), and uses her contacts with the police to avoid prosecution. This is very nicely demonstrated when the villain says that Wonder Woman is breaking the law and violating her rights, Wonder Woman rolls her eyes at her like a snotty teenager.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DesignatedHero/LiveActionTV