A Designated Hero is a character in a story who, despite being presented as heroic, is actually a Jerkass at best and an arguable villain at worst. This is not the same as the deliberately morally ambiguous Anti-Hero. From the praise they receive from other characters and even the narrative, it is plain that the audience is expected to like and root for the Designated Hero; instead, they have problems that can even inspire pity or, on rare occasion, sympathy.
They are often mean people with no redeeming qualities aside from some superficial virtues, and they do not undergo appreciable character development. They're generally given a pass by the writers, freeing them from the consequences of their acts.
An extremely common plot associated with this character is their riding the coattails of a misunderstanding or undeserved reward until they finally feel guilty about it — and are allowed to keep it at the end anyway. In so-called 'guy movies', this is sometimes associated with an implausibly attractive woman inexplicably respecting that he came forward with this information and allowing it to wipe away all fault for what he originally did, despite the fact that most reasonable human beings would never want to see him again. But hey, he learned to be a Nice Guy, right?
Note that Values Dissonance can sometimes be a factor with this since the exact definition of what constitutes heroism has changed over time; a character that comes across as a Designated Hero to a modern audience might well have been The Paragon when the story was written in Feudal Japan or Ancient Rome. Of course even in modern society people will have different standards of what constitutes heroism.
On the flip side, there's the Designated Villain, who we're supposed to dislike despite the fact that he's pretty much right about everything. This is often because everything he says gets accompanied by an annoying smirk. Another inversion would be the Villain Protagonist, who, while presented as the protagonist, is in no way presented as a hero; rather the opposite. (Ironically, a failed attempt at writing a Villain Protagonist can come off as a Designated Hero, though a work with a sympathetic Villain Protagonist can use this trope to their advantage by making the hero who opposes them this ). Comedy Protagonists are usually given a free pass but this can be a result if one of their jokes comes across as offensive to the audience members.
Not to be confused with The Chosen One, though they can occasionally overlap. Also not to be confused with Supporting Protagonist, which is when the story just focuses on a character other than the hero. Pinball Protagonist is for when a character doesn't do much that's "heroic" by dint of the fact that they just don't do much of anything important. Accidental Heroes do accomplish heroic things, but not intentionally. If the character is publicly perceived as a Hero, but is still shown to be villainous within the narrative context of the work, then he's a Villain with Good Publicity. For a character who is an utter Jerkass, but still ultimately heroic, see Good Is Not Nice. For a morally ambiguous character who is intended to be seen as such by the audience, see antihero and its related subtropes. Can also be related to Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, where a character who seems like a nice person turns out to be a mean person deep down. For a protagonist who fans consider to be less dynamic than the supporting characters but isn't morally ambiguous, see Designated Protagonist Syndrome.
See Show, Don't Tell. Almost always a result of being Unintentionally Unsympathetic. Such a character might inspire Rooting for the Empire when the villains are seen as more likable than the main character.
Often, but not always, overlaps with Nominal Hero.
Note:In-Universe examples or Intentional ones go to Nominal Hero.
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The Miller Lite beer commercials have a guy enjoying time with his girlfriend; he mentions it's been 30 days and he thinks he's found something special. Just when we think he's talking about his girlfriend, he opens up his refrigerator and reveals the Miller Lite home draft. He even moves her out of the way. (This is a parody of the E-Harmony dating service commercials.)
The kids of "Trix are for kids" advertising campaign love to torment that poor rabbit with the fact that he will never ever get to eat the damn cereal. By far the most egregious example was when the rabbit legitimately purchased some Trix with his own money, only for the kids to take it away when he left the store, essentially mugging him. Nobody points out the sadistic glee the kids seem to take in excluding and denying the rabbit over and over.
Both times the Trix rabbit scores some Trix was due to two separate popular votes overwhelmingly supportive of his goal to get the sugary cereal. By that point, even kids were like "just give him the damn cereal you insensitive jerk-offs".
This made sense in the early commercials (1950s-60s), where the rabbit was actually trying to steal the Trix from the children. Later commercials lost this, probably as a result of But Not Too Evil.
It's gotten to the point where if the Trix Rabbit even DREAMS of enjoying Trix products, the kids come along and steal them away.
In some of the commercials for Golden Crisp, mascot Sugar Bear came across as this. He was always pursuing Granny Goodwitch to steal her cereal instead of getting his own, even though she never did anything to him except try to hide from him so she could finish her cereal, and share it with him during the Christmas season.
There were numerous Golden Crisp throughout the 90s where the Sugar Crisp bear would actively steal the cereal. One would have him break in the factory at night and rush off with its entire contents, another would have him hijack a delivery truck full of the stuff, all the while singing off his "Can't get enough of that Sugar Crisp" slogan, coming off much more as a smug addict than anything worth sympathy.
Like the above examples there's Barney, who would constantly come up with scatterbrained schemes, just so he could steal Fred's Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles, instead of buying his own. Some of the earlier commercials even had him break the fourth wall, winking at the audience while bragging how he'd trick Fred and steal his cereal, as though the audience is supposed to find this funny and charming.
In one ad, he went as far as to disguise himself as a villain called the Purple Phantom and told Fred that Barney was being held hostage. That's right, Barney uses the very friendship he has with Fred as a tool to get Fred to hand over a box of cereal. Jackass.
The Alltel Wireless commercials have a similar problem. The audience is supposed to like Chad, even when he doesn't lift a finger to stop his supporters from doing terrible things to the avatars of the other companies. Besides that, Chad adopts a Holier Than Thou personality to humiliate the other guys.
The douchebag lies and gets the girl in the Twix "Take Your Time" commercials.
One of the newer commercials features a guy staring at a bunch of "hot" women fooling around in the street. The guy's wife, with their presumably newborn daughter, yells at him, and asks what he's doing. The "Need a Moment?" logo comes up, the guy eats one of the bars. He says, "I'm just looking at... potential babysitters!" The wife then KISSES his cheek, saying, "You are SO sweet!". What?
Another has a girl finding the name Terry on her boyfriend's cell phone. After the Twix Time Freeze thing happens, he casually claims that Terry is his boss. The commercial doesn't say that cheating is okay, but doesn't say anything about it being wrong in any way, either.
Aussie Haircare has a series of ads where a Funny Animal kangaroo is going about their business when Aussie products fall out of their pouch. Women nearby use them to get better hair. At no point does the 'roo ever get anything more substantial than a "thanks". This includes the meter maid who got the stuff when the 'roo was trying to get more change out to put in a parking meter about to expire. Yes, she stole her stuff and still gave her the ticket.
A Skittles commercial has one guy eating Skittles from an hourglass that represents his friend's lifetime. The friend comes in as an old man and as he continues to age before the guy's eyes, the guy continues to eat the Skittles. Apparently we're supposed to laugh as the guy is so addicted to candy he's dooming his friend to an early grave.
Some of the latest Hanes commercials has a fan harass Michael Jordan while cruelly insulting another passenger on their plane for his "bacon neck" (a wrinkled collar on his undershirt). The fan is completely insufferable, though Michael Jordan himself regards him vague bemusement, so at least he comes out of this relatively clean (despite the inexplicable Hitler mustache he wears for it).
According to their ad campaign, anyone with AT&T's 4G is entitled to act like a total Jerkass to anyone who DARES try to tell them the latest news: "That's SO Xsty seconds ago!" Not that these people ever see fit to share the information when they learn it first; no, it's just an excuse to degrade and insult the 'uninformed masses'.
A commercial for Kraft Mac and Cheese has a kid boasting how he took all the pans from home when he went over to a friends for a sleepover. Why? So he makes sure that his parents don't cook Macaroni and Cheese (Or anything else for that matter) and eat it when he's not there. Makes you want to throttle the smug rat.
There was a similar commercial where a disgustingly bratty kid got their parents taken away/arrested for eating some of their Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
Kagome herself could occasionally play this straight, abusing her control over Inuyasha when she got pissed to legitimately hurt him. In fact, there are several times she keeps forcing him to the ground over minor slights, but we're expecting to laugh because she's a woman who's hurting a man.
The Hidden Elf Village in Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor is absolutely horrendous at first, refusing to help the rest of the world against the monster befalling it, as well as maintaining a Masquerade to fool their own children into not realizing The End Of The World had happened to the outside world. They then pick one of these children to be Humongous Mecha pilots, and aren't sympathetic when they don't react well. Halfway through the series it seemed the writers realized that the viewers were more sympathetic to the Designated Villain, the U.N.-backed "Human Army." Steps were taken to make sure that the audience knew who was "right" and who was "wrong".
Dominion Tank Police: There really is little quantitative difference between the cops and the crooks. Both prefer to drive large, destructive vehicles, and both cause massive amounts of collateral damage to life and property; one side merely has the advantage of legal sanction for their acts, while the other's motives are purely mercenary. This is most clearly lampshaded in the sequel series, wherein Anna and Uni are allowed to make a Heel-Face Turn without the least change to their personalities; they've reformed because they're tired of being chased by the police and have realized that being cops would allow them to continue blowing stuff up, but also provide a steady source of income.
In the first Dominion Tank Police, there is an exchange between squad leader Brenten and Lovelock that illustrates this mentality perfectly. Brenten, probably the next most gung-ho member of the squad besides Leona, and most definitely a dyed in the wool veteran of the squad, suggests to Lovelock that they should quit the force right then, and go off and become criminals, for the action, the money, and the lack of regulations that plague them as Tank Police. From the tone of voice, it's clear that he's saying this in a half joking, half not manner, suggesting that if Lovelock had agreed to this, they would have actually left for a life of crime right then. When Lovelock declines, Brenten immediately recants everything he said, and nothing more is ever said of it again. It should be noted that Dominion is not a serious series, and the fact that the so-called "heroes" are just as bad as the "bad guys" (and sometimes worse) is part of the joke.
The title character from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water also qualifies. She's moody, distrustful, bad-tempered, and suspicious about everything. But she's also a Not Good with People sort of person who has never socialized with anyone before except animals. As such, she is unable to recognize how she feels about anyone. As a result of Jean's love, however, she is gradually transformed by the end of the show and uses the Blue Water's power to resurrect the latter when he is killed by Gargoyle.
Fushigi Yuugi's Mayo Sakaki. A Clingy Jealous Girl inflicted with some of the most severe Moral Myopia ever, and walking factory of Kick the Dog and Shoot the Dog moments. Becomes a Karma Houdini because the writer expects us to sympathize with her, despite everything she pulls, and is even thanked by the people she spent all of Eikouden mind controlling or trying to kill. She'd be a Villain Protagonist except that the author insists she's just an ordinary, lovesick girl who didn't understand the circumstances she was in.
Gundam 00 gives us Celestial Being who, in the first season, were essentially unusually well-armed private army who tried to beat the rest of the world into submission on the orders from an Omniscient Council of Vagueness (which was later quietly forgotten). They only targeted military facilities and units, however. In the second season, authors turned the Big Bad into a Stupid EvilCard-Carrying Villain, just so that Celestial Being will appear to be anything short of outright villains.
Notably, some members of Celestial Being's strike team are aware of this, stage one of their founder's master plan involved them being villains in the eyes of the world, to unite the feuding superpowers against a common enemy. The problem came up when certain members of the aforementioned Council turned out to be said Card Carrying Villains that highjacked the plan during stage two.
Coyote Ragtime Show has "Mister" and his team, who are the protagonists of the show, even though they are depicted as terrible people who unscrupulously kill innocents or get them killed through their mindlessly violent antics. Many viewers thought that the makers should have focused on Angelica and her assistant Chelsea, since they are much more likable and heroic.
Gokudo plays with this. From the beginning, the title character is an unlikable ass who uses anything thrown his way to cheat and steal, but everyone always tells him he's the hero of the land. After the first few episodes, he's tricked into killing the Big Bad. Eventually, he uses his Genie to stop being the Designated Hero and sends the world back In Harm's Way because he finds the happy evilless world exceptionally boring.
The protagonists from Dragon Pink. The only good character is a put-upon Cat GirlSex Slave. In one scene they encounter a group of "Slave Knights", skeleton warriors who defend themselves by keeping a naked girl hostage in their torso as a human shield. The protagonists say "Sorry!" and slash right through one of them, including the hostage. It really says something when the monster is shocked by their callous behavior.
Dark Schneider of Bastard. What's more, he knows that he's the designated hero.
Domon Kasshu of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, at least in the first half of the series. Up until he obtains enlightenment and masters Meikyou Shisui, Domon's a bitter and angry man, constantly on a quest of vengeance against his brother. He always asks people where his brother was and isn't against getting rough on them. He would go so far as to interrupt a fight between Rose Gundam and a Gundam from Neo-Cuba, taking out the latter just to find his brother.
Vulcan, the main character of Lets Bible, who, within 5 pages of his introduction, knocks the female lead unconscious and drags her onto his boat with the intent to rape her. When the two of them get attacked, the only reason he protects her is so that he can have his way with her later. Only sheer amounts of Crazy Awesome and Rule of Funny stop him from being completely unlikable (and the fact that he gets better eventually.)
Kaname from Vampire Knight is presented as an antagonistic character throughout the entire story, but it hits full force when he about halfway through disappears without giving a reason and starts murdering and manipulating other vampires who are in turn presented as victims. Towards the ending however, it's suddenly revealed that he didn't really kill his first victim, which somehow, makes him innocent and heroic for having "merely wanted to push people away", and everything else he did is more or less forgotten about, including having murdered the family of one of the other protagonists.
Iron Man during the Civil War, with Captain America as the Designated Villain, Depending on the Writer. In some issues from that arc, the exact opposite effect occurred: Iron Man appeared to be the Designated Villain (to many, he seemed like a reasonable guy defending normal humans against powerful forces while trying to avert a backlash against superheroes, yet some writers expected us to root against him) and Cap seemed like the Designated Hero (refusing to take seriously Iron Man and Reed Richards' arguments that humans were in danger due to the mega-powerful supers running loose and unaccountable, yet some writers expected us to find Cap to be completely reasonable). The fact that the writers themselves seemed to be fighting over which side was right just added to the confusion; some sources claim that there wasn't actually a single, mutually-agreed version of the letter of the Super Registration Act, which surely cannot have helped.
Perhaps the Aesop was that neither extreme was truly moral. If that's what they were going for, designated heroes were the way to go. Captain America was the Designated Hero more often than not with Iron Man as the Designated Villain. Mainly because the politics associated with Cap's side tended to resonate better with most of the writers. But all in all, it was a case of a complicated issue being "simplified" by having a good guy and a bad guy. Of course, Iron Man and his pro-Registration side all took a big hit in the credibility department when they started tossing anti-Registration heroes into a parallel universe prison without trials.
Another example of Iron Man being the Designated Hero was World War Hulk. To the point where many readers were cheering the Hulk on. (This was, in fact, already happening when Civil War was still going on, with "You're all fucked when the Hulk gets back!" being a common response to Marvel's ad campaign trying to get fans to choose a side in the war.)
There was a lot of this in Avengers Vs X-Men as well. Depending on the Writer, Captain America and the Avengers are a bunch of fascists jerks to the plucky underdog X-Men, or Cyclops and his X-Men are a bunch of religious fanatics and dictators waiting to happen.
The aftermath is just as confusing with regards to this trope. Cyclops is definitely framed as being in the wrong (it was him who killed Professor Xavier, after all), but the validity of this is pretty questionable considering why he killed Xavier and that he was spurred on by the Avengers, but other issues have members of the Avengers calling out Tony Stark over his role in the crisis. The fact that the Avengers were the ones to man up and offer the olive branch to the X-Men just confuses the roles even more.
Throughout the series and aftermath, the only one who seems to be constantly a Designated Hero is Wolverine, who essentially causes the conflict by telling Captain America what essentially amounted to biased accounts on Cyclops' character and the Phoenix as a whole, repeatedly attempts to kill Hope because 'it's the only way' to stop the Phoenix (which would have fucked everything up had he been successful), and afterwards doesn't even try to help the newly appearing, and vulnerable, mutants. He does however, find the time to harass Cyclops at every opportunity when he tries to do so.
Sam and Max are ostensibly peacekeepers, but in practice they're peacekeepers who are only happy if there's no peace to keep, and the latter of the duo is a sociopathic maniac who's more of a mobile and highly unstable weapon than a detective. In Max's words, they save the world. Sometimes on purpose!
One of Steve Purcell's rules for writers in other Sam and Max media is that while Sam and Max are sociopaths, they're still HEROIC Sociopaths. Heroic sociopaths with a wing in Hell dedicated to them. That are allowed into Heaven. Make of that what you will.
Nemesis the Warlock is supposed to be seen as an hero of the alien resistance, but is really a manipulative, murderous jerk and nobody would root for him, was he fighting somebody less evil than Torquemada. Later the series decides to turn him into one in-universe, revealing some unpleasant things about him: most notably, that his motivation is simple boredom and he could have solved the conflict long time ago, but is holding back, therefore prolonging a monstrous war, that took a great toll on both sides and caused the genocide of countless alien species as well as the deaths of his wife and son, for thrills. That however makes him lose the status of a hero among both his allies and the readers.
Gladstone Gander in The Sign of the Triple Distelfink. Considering the immense lucky streaks he gets every other day of the year, it's hard to feel sorry for him if his Born Lucky status is inverted on a single one. And he accomplishes his goal of getting rid of even that blot on his entitlement to fortune, while beating Donald out of attaining any luck for himself, who can normally barely get by or financially support his nephews.
Hard to imagine now, but Superman was like this during his early years (see here).
A common problem with the Nineties Anti-Hero trope is that they might end up this when badly handled.
In Gold Key Comics Star Trek story The Planet of no Return, aka K-G, Planet of Death, Kirk and co. discover a planet with a plant civilization, in an otherwise uninhabited galaxy. Unsurprisingly, the plants view the landing party as prey. To prevent this civilization, which was just sitting there minding its own business, spreading to neighboring uninhabited planets, Spock performs an act of planet-wide genocide. We even get to see the Enterprise phasering sentient trees who burn as they run for their lives across a devastated landscape.
Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way of My Immortal. She hates anybody who dares have a different opinion than her, swears at teachers, kills people just for bothering her, and has a hissy-fit whenever the attention isn't on her. And we're supposed to love her.
While My Immortal was a particularly egregious example, the Harry Potter fandom abounds with Mary Sue characters who all behave exactly this way. Especially with the use of gratuitouslydisproportionateviolence on any character in the series the author doesn't like. Especially Snape and Draco, though the reverse is also frequent when leather pants are involved.
This is fairly common in poorly written Harry Potter fanfiction in general. The author often seems unable to realize that having her Mary Sue OC (or a suddenly pure-blood Hermione) be a complete bitch to everyone, believe in blood purity, and/or side with Voldemort makes her a bad guy!
Rose Potter from the infamous Rose Potter series is a particularly egregious example - she belittles and bullies near everyone in the series. She angrily demands to know why she isn't being told anything while they're visiting Arthur Weasley in the hospital, she outright kills Quirrel herself, does absolutely nothing to keep Peter Pettigrew from escaping even though she knows everything about it in advance, spends half of the hearing with the Ministry of Magic belittling the wizarding world for not being as wise and enlightened as the druids, and carves words into Ron Weasley's forehead. The author believed these to be improvements to the canon and to the protagonist.
Katara: In canon she is a kind girl who does what she can to help the Gaang, though she still has quite the temper and risks going off the deep end later. In the webcomic, however, she is presented as vain ("I'm sure that Kuzon will come out quite charming, with me as his mom."), self-absorbed ("[Kuzon] died years ago, a day before my birthday..." emphasis not added), and later as murderous (do we even really need to mention Mai's death again?). Yet she's always right and no one ever questions her stupid, selfish or downright evil actions.
Zuko: As mentioned, canon!Zuko is a Hero with an F in Good, a hellish background, and a complex personality. Here, however? He cheats on his wife behind her back AND fathers a baby with the designated heroine mentioned above, physically and emotionally abuses Mai when she confronts him and appropriately mentions the huge political and social consequences his philandering will bring, leaves his struggling and almost destroyed kingdom without any seconds thoughts to get together with his woman-on-the-side — and yet we're supposed to sympathize with him.
The Fullmetal Alchemist fans in this fanfic. We're supposed to believe they're in the right and be rooting for Edward Elric, when his fans have just laughed at people going into CARDIAC ARREST! That's right folks, Fullmetal Alchemist fans will just point and laugh when you go into cardiac arrest. The reason? Liking something they don't. What.
The "heroes" from The Prayer Warriors are self-righteous, racist, homophobic, misogynistic mass-murderers who made Stalin look sympathetic in universe. Even more so, they are never seen doing anything positive let alone anything heroic. We never see them feeding the poor, healing the sick, or even stopping to Pet the Dog. They get rid of the "villains," and make everyone convert to Christianity, but the Satanists were actually better people than the Prayer Warriors were, and the conversions are almost all coerced thanks to our heroes policy of killing those who refuse.
Related to this, Princess Luna and Princess Celestia are considered the heroes in most Conversion Bureau fics, despite committing genocide against the human race.
Brought up In-Universe by Joe Dark in Clash of the Elements, who claims that Alex Whiter is getting undeserved treatment as a good guy after some sort of atrocities he committed in the past.
Jenna from My Inner Life does nothing besides fawn over Link, have sex with Link and get fringe benefits and praise for being married to Link. Every character loves her because it's explicitly stated that they do.
Particularly egregious is the king of Hyrule. In short order, Jenna goes from a traveling foreign merchant with a good in at the castle to the king's de facto second daughter. By the middle of the story, it's stated that she effectively has a line to the throne.
Princess Luna in Frigid Winds And Burning Hearts is our main viewpoint character, and the plot of the story is about her learning how her sister smeared her and portrayed her as the monster during her time banished to the Moon. She also constantly refers to everyone around her as "commoners", has no sympathy for any mortal pony, was willing to abandon Equestria to centuries of anarchy and destruction just to get her own way, and outright brainwashes Twilight Sparkle onto her side. 90% of her dialogue is whining about Celestia while she waits for other ponies to fix her problems.
Brolli Diamondback of the Touhou fan series/movie Diamond In The Rough is both a satire on Self-Insert Fic main characters that result in this trope and then a nasty Deconstruction. In the first half of the movie, Brolli treats himself as the hero of his own adventure in Gensokyo, then later believes he is the only one who can save Gensokyo from a disastrous incident, even though he has done no good and everyone else is perfectly capable of handling everything without him. It's obvious to both the residents of Gensokyo and the viewers that Brolli is obviously unprepared and morally skewed. In the second half, Brolli becomes aware he's nothing more than a Designated Hero and then does what he can to actually become a redeemable, likable hero. By this point, however, everyone has become fed up with his actions, even ones that aren't directly his fault, and believe killing him is the only option to save Gensokyo. By the end, the audience and Gensokyo get exactly what they want: Brolli is killed in the most horrific, humiliating, and tragic way imaginable, just after he's done everything he could to redeem himself.
In one particularly egregious fanfic, it's openly stated that L relishes the idea of putting Misa in restraints in case she loses her temper (compare this to his canon counterpart who treats tying up Misa as a necessary evil and shows no evidence of explicitly enjoying doing it) when Light tells her that he loves L and is leaving her; the fact that Light was the one that’d been leading her on up until this point is hardly addressed. When she threatens to commit suicide ("to give him a shock to snap him out of it"), L looks for a window to open so that he may “accommodate her” (again, compare to his canon counterpart who appears visibly shaken about the deaths of Ukita and the FBI agents and has Watari stop Misa from killing herself in confinement by gagging her so she can't bite her tongue). Later when Misa leaves, Light tells L that he knows that he "didn't mean it," but L admits that "the thought was enjoyable, anyway." Somehow this attempt at a “Take That, Scrappy! is supposed to be cute and funny.
Uzumaki Naruto and his mother the Red Death Uzumaki Kushina are this in A Mother's Love. Kushina gets away with literal murder for anyone who even tries entering Namikaze grounds, including those who are lost or just drunk. The Third Hokage lets her get away with it since its "Clan grounds and out of his jurisdiction"...yet the Hyuga, Akimichi, Aburame, Uchiha, hell, even the Senju Clan don't get that preferential treatment. Not only that, she teaches Naruto to be an arrogant dickwad with a entitlement complex and even gives him Lost Technology that would benefit all of Konoha-yet doesn't share since they aren't Uzumaki's. Naruto himself becomes a practical tyrant when he becomes Hokage after being a GodModeSue for the majority of the fic who conquers the entire continent through military force to usher in a Pax Konoha. In any other story, Naruto would be the antagonist and his rival (who he kills in the first half) Sasuke would be the protagonist.
Lord of the Land of Fire normally does this. For example in his A Mother's Love AU, Kushina leaves Konoha in a huff since she can't keep her lifestyle as the 'Namikaze wife', taking an infant Naruto with her and they settle in Sunagakure. No point no one tries stopping her, Hiruzen Sarutobi just lets it happen and the only way Kushina is stopped being portrayed as a Villain Protagonist is by having Fugaku lead a successful coup d'tat against Hiruzen when Itachi of all people chooses the clan over the village.
Cori Falls's Pokémon fanfic saga tries to play like Ash Ketchum is a case of this, but the reality is that her versions of Jessie, James, Meowth and Gary fall into it more than Ash at his worst ever could. The stories make a big deal of what good people they are and how they literally have the souls of angels, even as the trio snark and mock anyone who doesn't live up to their standard of intelligence and brutalize first Domino, then later Ash and Tracey on several occasions.
Awesome de Britannia in Code Geass Awesome Of The Rebellion, whom the narrator repeatedly assures us is a kind, noble and heroic leader and yet he constantly murders any enemies who try to surrender to him, has the biggest ego ever, (at one point his subjects chant that "Awesome is the greatest" to which he "modestly" replies "Thank you, thank you. I know I am.") and by chapter 10 he's just blowing people up for no reason at all.
Films — Animated
In Pocahontas, Meeko the raccoon and Percy the dog, the Empathy Pets of the main heroine and villain respectively, are meant to be cast in the same positions within their conflict. Yet Meeko steals Percy's food while the latter minds his own business, and continues to do this throughout two movies. And the things that Meeko does would result in bodily harm were his opponent not Made of Iron. To top it all off, the damn raccoon gets away with everything.
Sinbad in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Aside from the obvious fact that he is sent because he's their only option, the general way he acts for almost the entire movie makes him little to no different then a villain. He starts the movie trying to rob a ship, not even caring when it's his childhood friend Proteus he's robbing. Sinbad is then set up to be executed for a crime he didn't commit, and Proteus decides to take Sinbad's place in exchange for Sinbad retrieving the Book of Peace. Oh, yes, did we mention that Proteus is a prince who is next in line to inherit the throne? That means his death would result in a Succession Crisis and doom his entire country. Yet despite this overwhelming amount of faith Proteus puts in Sinbad, the pirate responds by leaving him behind to die, something he very well would have gotten away with had it not been for Proteus's fiancee stowing aboard the ship to make sure he keeps his word. When she saves the crew from a Siren attack, Sinbad actually has to be pressured into showing her any gratitude at all. But the two gradually warm up to each other and start to fall in love, despite Marina's prior engagement. Eris even calls Sinbad out on this, saying that even if he's not betraying Proteus by running away, he is stealing Proteus's girl. He does go back in the end, but it's very hard to see what goodness is in him that others are seeing. The worst part? He's the one who ends up with Marina in the end.
Bebe's Kids. Seriously, they destroy a theme park and cause trouble for many innocent people there, yet they never get punished for it. Worse, the audience is expected not to think badly of them because they have a poor life and have "attitude." In the original stand up routine the movie was based on, they were clearly the antagonists. Robin Harris was criticizing irresponsible parents who were too selfish to raise and discipline their ill-behaved children. Also, Robin Harris' character in the movie ALSO qualifies for this trope; generally acting like a major Jerkass to everyone yet actually being praised as a good guy despite doing nothing good whatsoever.
The Puma Man. Given the fact that the "hero" is trying to come into his new superhero persona, he's still incredibly feeble, whiny, and ineffectual at genuine superheroics. Meanwhile, his wise Aztec sidekick/mentor Vadinho has to hand-hold Puma Man through his heroics, and is shown more than once to do an equal or superior job at whomping bad guy ass without superpowers. Towards the end of the movie on MST3K, Crow thinks it's time to admit that Vadinho is the real hero. And frankly, the movie wouldn't have suffered if Tony weren't in it at all and it was about Vadinho in the first place. The movie may be having a go at the idea of a badass superhero in how useless Tony is (it attempts to make some jokes about how silly his superheroism is), but it may have been lost in the translation.
In the episode Beginning of the End, Mike and the Bots make a running gag at getting increasingly angry at how Peter Graves's scientist character is treated as a Science Hero, when in fact, it was his nuclear energy experiments that created the mass-murdering giant grasshopper menace in the first place.
Peter Graves: In a way I feel responsible.
Mike:In a way?!
Mitchell. The title character is an alcoholic slob of a cop who behaves like a complete Jerkass most of the time. Sure, he's a little more on the ball than his colleagues (only he suspects that Deaney may not have acted in self defense), but other than that he's a damn lousy cop. When a criminal tries to bribe him by sending him a prostitute, he actually sleeps with her. And then arrests her for possessing marijuana. Nice. Joel even says the line, "Our hero, ladies and gentlemen", when we first see Mitchell.
Joe Don's character in Final Justice is a Jerkass Cowboy Cop who ignores every rule in the book - including violating the sovereignty of foreign nations and threatening blameless individuals for information - in order to hunt down criminals. We should probably mention that the word "hunt" is used literally - Geronimo doesn't give a damn about arresting the crooks, instead challenging them to Old West-style gunfights. Oh yeah, and in the end, he kills the main villain by challenging him to a gunfight...and then shooting on "two". Our hero, a dirty cheater.
Servo: Yes, our 'hero': a murderous oaf who threatens women with coat hangers.
Escape 2000, while maybe not a perfect example, does have somewhat of a Designated Hero. While Trash is somewhat more justified in his fight against the GC Corporation since they killed his parents, the man he gets to help kidnap the company President, Strike, not so much. He's only involved because once the GC is gone the gangs will be back in control to the dilapidated Bronx. Which means he'll get to go back to being "head of all the big robberies". Neither hero is helped much either by the fact that, even though they're the bad guys, the GC corporation overall wants to build schools and hospitals after they've paved over the now crime infested Bronx. So by rooting for Trash and Strike the audience is hoping they succeed in keeping the Bronx as a criminal's paradise... yay?
In the episode Wild Rebels, Joel & The Bots point out the only remotely heroic thing the protagonist does is flash his lights at some cops, which actually only gets the cops killed.
"So, Rod, that's thirteen dead cops, a half dozen dead innocent civillians, and a couple of dead bikers. Good work!"
Used as a defense against critics claiming the subject of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, This Island Earth, was "too good" to mock. When Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) was asked about this during filming, he "threw his head back and laughed uproariously," explaining that Cal, the movie's protagonist, goes on a mind-bending journey across the universe but remains utterly unchanged in any way, and his most heroic action in the entire picture is to shout, "Run, Ruth, Run!" when she's being attacked by the mutant.
Probably the worst one of the bunch is Adam Chance from Agent for H.A.R.M.. Why? Read the above entries, at least those guys actually did something. Adam? He does nothing for the first 45 minutes. He spends most of the movie hanging around the beach house, trying to act cool, and failing every single time. What does he do is kill people, and is very nonchalant about it. In fact, he fails the mission entirely: Not finding the antidote to SPORE, couldn't save the man he was assigned to protect, and missed an obvious mole. Mike and the Bots were all over him about this, with them believing that the only thing he did was to call the Archery Convention in Vienna, which revealed who the mole was...and then he reveals he knew all along. Loser.
The main character of The Wild World Of Batwoman performs something like two unambiguously heroic deeds in the entire movie. Admittedly, that's not a bad ratio given that she only does five things in the entire movie and two of those are stupid, but two good deeds in more than an hour of film does not a superhero make.
Commander David Ryder of Space Mutiny enters the movie by ejecting from a flaming cockpit while making no effort to save his passenger, who he leaves to die. Then he shows absolutely no sympathy to a grieving colleague of his when she experiences an understandably emotional outburst over his inaction. But this wouldn't inherently be a problem if his first response to every situation wasn't to start gunning down everyone in sight instead of trying to get answers. His crowning moment of heroism is roasting a disabled man alive and watching him burn to death.
Young "Tee" in Quest Of The Delta Knights is built up to be a brilliant strategist and sage - yet his supposed wisdom and powers leads to him constantly getting himself or his allies captured or hurt, getting his father figure killed in a pointless escape attempt, and oh yea, blowing up the lost storehouse that his entire order, including his father figure, fought and died to have him open to save the world. He claims he had to do it to prevent it from being used for evil, but in reality, he accomplished nothing except wasting a lot of people's lives.
Jumper is an interesting case, as the director deliberately wanted to spread out the standard super hero origin story over several films... meaning that throughout the first film the main character is almost universally self-centered and, at times, needlessly cruel. Only at the end of the film does he do something truly altruistic; anything he'd done before that point that helped others was just a side-effect of him saving himself.
The so-called heroes in The Lost World: Jurassic Park are directly or indirectly responsible for every death that occurs in the movie. They free the captured dinosaurs from their rightful owners so they can live in their "natural" habitats - despite the fact that the dinosaurs were created by completely unnatural means, shouldn't even be around anymore to begin with, and are legally the property of InGen. The dinosaurs then proceed to destroy all the In Gen hunting party's equipment, cars, and communications, leaving them stranded on an island full of lethal, genetically-engineered predators. In the end, most of the crewmen end up getting killed by them, after they risk their lives to save them for no benefit. This also means that the hunters are forced to bring the T-Rex to San Diego instead of the herbivores they caught in an attempt to recoup their losses. Thus our heroes (and the Corrupt Corporate Executive who organized the hunting party and brought the Rex to San Diego) are responsible for all the deaths and destruction in San Diego as well. However, the "heroes" are never held responsible for their actions.
Man's Best Friend, about a mutant killer dog, treats its protagonist, Lori Tanner as the hero of the film. While the film's Mad Scientist takes the heat for the carnage, Lori actually trespasses into his lab and "liberates" the killer dog herself, effectively making her responsible for every subsequent murder committed by it. The only person who objects to her actions is her boyfriend; the dog kills him. Go figure.
The movie Cheaters was based on the true story about a group of students and their teacher who cheated their way through the United States Academic Decathlon. The cheaters were portrayed as heroes who had no choice except to cheat while the one student who did the right thing in outing them was portrayed as a disgruntled, rat-faced snitch. In addition, the movie also tried to play up the biased assumption that they had cheated because they came from a less than stellar school, regardless of the fact that 1.) They had cheated and 2.) A sudden, unexplained spike in scores would naturally raise a few eyebrows.
At one point in the Fantastic Four film, the Human Torch directs a heat-seeking missile at a garbage boat and blows it up, even though there is apparently a crew aboard.
Nomi Malone from Showgirlsreally didn't even try to be heroic. The Hooker with a Heart of Gold trope is attempted to be played with her job as a stripper/topless dancer, despite the fact that many of her actions in the movie come off as mildly amoral and a bit of a Sympathetic Sue. She gives what is apparently a lap-dance, but is just actual sex while he kept his pants on. She screwed her boss Zack Carey to get higher in the consideration to be Cristal Conners's (the lead dancer) understudy. Then she pushes Cristal down the stairs, which one character mentions resulted in injuries that would keep her out for up to a year. Sure Cristal was a bitch, but Nomi just stooped to the level of the bitchy dancer who purposely injured another dancer because she yelled at her kids. Her best friend Molly Abrams is disgusted at Nomi for having done this... for a whole four minutes before she goes back to fangirling over Andrew Carver, who for some reason gang-rapes her. By the end, everybody forgives Nomi and treats her as some angelic force, the girl she pushed down the stairs, her boss, everybody. There's also the fact that her punishment of Andrew, to kick him in the face a few times, really did nothing to prevent him from raping again. Nomi leaves town at the end after threatening Andrew's life. Nomi was a Vegas star, did she think her disappearance would go unnoticed? What's stopping Andrew from attacking Molly again? Nothing.
Poppy, the protagonist of Wild Child starts the film by ruining and destroying all of her father's girlfriend's possessions. He calls her out on it but it is treated more as an over the top prank than, you know, criminal behaviour. When she is sent Off to Boarding School, she is obnoxious and rude to everyone until her roommates find out her mother died and decide to help her get expelled out of sympathy. Then Harriet the head girl sends Poppy's roommates an email revealing that she told Ruby from back home that they were all losers and another to the headmistress's son, Freddie, telling him Poppy was using him to get expelled. While playing with her lighter, Poppy accidentally starts a fire but puts it out only to find the whole dorm on fire and Drippy trapped and in need of saving. She is almost expelled until The Reveal that Harriet actually framed Poppy for starting the fire. Harriet is expelled AS SHE SHOULD BE but no one bothers to mention that Poppy's lighter could easily have set the school on fire... or that she did say all of those things about her new friends... or that she did use Freddie (and he forgives her suspiciously quickly). The headmistress is automatically fond of her because she looks like her mother. Poppy undergoes Character Development but it is more along the lines of 'know who your friends are and how great boarding school is' than 'don't be an Ungrateful Bastard.'
There is sometimes a criticism about Glinda the Good Witch. When the Wicked Witch of the West shows up to claim her now dead sister's magic shoes, she gives them to Dorothy, who was just some random girl who showed up instead of, say, hiding them from her, and this is to assume that WWotW wanted them for some sinister, magic purpose. After she essentially forced a random teenage girl into a tug-of-war between two witches for seemingly no reason, she sent Dorothy to talk to the wizard. When she gets there, the wizard tells them that they need to take the witch's broom before he'll do anything for them. As it was pointed out, they'd need to kill her to do this. After they kill the witch and come back with her broom, the wizard's method of getting Dorothy back to Kansas fails (sort of) and she's left with no way to get home. This is until Glinda shows up and tells Dorothy that at any point she could have just used the slippers to wish herself back. When she's rightfully asked why she didn't tell Dorothy this, Glinda attempts to handwave the issue by saying she wouldn't have believed her. Except, yes, she would have. Dorothy is in a dangerous world with witches and the way out is on her feet. Considering how acid-trippy the place was, would there be anything you wouldn't believe at that point?
There is even a Cracked article detailing how she is the best villain in film history, as well as a Mad TV skit in which Dorothy has a far more realistic reaction—utter outrage—to Glinda's actions.
This is averted in the novel: Dorothy meets a different good witch when she comes to Oz (combined with Glinda in the movie) who simply does not know of the Silver Slippers' power, and there isn't any immediate danger because the second Wicked Witch only shows up later.
Lady Isabel, the female lead and love interest in Ironclad is a Medieval noblewoman trapped in a loveless political marriage which does make her somewhat sympathetic. However the film almost at once undercuts this by establishing that her much older husband finds the marriage at least as emotional taxing as she does and he isn't interested in having sex with her (which she moans about, despite disliking him), meaning her supposedly intolerable position amounts to living in a comfortable castle with servants. When the Chaste Hero shows up she constantly hits on him, uncaring that he is going through a crisis of faith and acting petulant when he (initially) rejects her. She comes across as a selfish Jerkass who is only interested in the hero at all because she finds him hot and wants to have sex.
The titular character of Ferris Buellers Day Off has cut school at least nine times before, covering his tracks by hacking into the school computer to change the records, by blatantly exploiting the good will of everyone around him, including his parents, by weaving a complex web of whatever lies will serve him currently at the moment, and by psychologically bullying his friend Cameron. The original script includes scenes Ferris does more immoral things, such as stealing his father's money, but also has more dialogue clarifying Ferris's charitable intentions toward others, such as Cameron.
The female lead Mina in the film Bram Stokers Dracula veers toward this. While the other heroes actually did their part in trying to destroy Dracula, Mina's consistent affection to Dracula puts the team's plan in jeopardy many times. Making Mina more of a Sixth Ranger Traitor than a heroine. This is even worse for those who've read the original book, where the whole affection for Dracula doesn't exist.
Bud (Pauly Shore) and Doyle (Stephen Baldwin) from Bio-Dome. They are portrayed as the heroes despite that they spent the majority of the movie acting obnoxious, destroying the experiments in the Bio-Dome, and sexually harassing the female scientists.
In Money Train the two main characters John (Wesley Snipes) and Charlie (Woody Harrelson) are not heroes at all, and yet they are played out to be the morally good guys. They risk the lives of innocent people, rob the eponymous money train (to pay off the debts of Charlie's gambling problem) and assaulting an officer (the "villain"). They both get away with it absolutely scot-free and the villain is arrested for risking the lives of innocents — while this is true, the situation would never have arisen had the main duo not tried to rob the train and stop the brakes from working simply so they wouldn't get caught. In any case, the robbery came at the expense of the New York City taxpayers! If the film had been done differently the villains could have so easily been the main characters, and the officer in charge of protecting the train could easily be made the hero.
The Designated Heroes of The Pink Panther were so unsympathetic that many people don't realize they're supposed to be the heroes. The hero is supposed to be David Niven as Gentleman Thief The Phantom, who foils the bumbling police, steals the diamond, gets the girl, and gets away with it all. There's a reason Peter Sellers' Closeau took the role later on - viewers thought he was much funnier and more likable.
Keanu Reeves's character Johnny in Johnny Mnemonic. Throughout the movie, Johnny is completely self-absorbed and unsympathetic and unheroic, yet he's supposed to be viewed as a hero protagonist. He constantly whines to other people that they’re not doing enough to solve his problems. He informs the villains of the location of La Résistance's headquarters. He prepares to abandon Jane, his hired bodyguard, and leave her for dead when she gets sick, in spite of how many times she helped him get out of a jam. And, most Egregious of all, Johnny never places a higher value on the information in his head (which could save the lives of millions) than on his own life.
The 2002 film Chicago subverts this trope by using the musical format to humorously portray Roxie Hart as heroic. In reality, she cheats on her husband, murders her lover (he was a liar), temporarily convinces her husband to cop to the murder, fakes a pregnancy, then cons herself off death row. The movie is never anything less than upfront about all of this, making it perfectly clear that any suggestions that Roxie is in any way heroic exist purely as a result of her self-obsession and self-centred delusions.
Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) in Safe House. Everything he seems to do (from turning off the surveillance cameras to allow for a waterboarding session to letting Tobin run away several hundred times to allowing himself to be constantly one-upped by other characters) makes everything worse for himself and his job. Even Tobin (the film's decoy antagonist) manages to be more heroic than our actual hero by actually doing something relevant. And don't get started on the ending where Matt becomes the mastermind of WikiLeaks.
Forrest Taft (Steven Seagal) from On Deadly Ground. He performs several criminal actions in his defeat of the polluting oil companies of the film. When he acquires evidence as to how they've broken the law, he refuses to take it to the police (as his love interest suggests) and instead loads up to attack their oil rig himself. In doing so, he murders everyone inside, not just the armed mercenaries hired to kill him, but the construction workers for the rig as well. When he meets the owner of the oil company he kills him without hesitation, in spite of the fact that the man is unarmed, tied up, and unable to defend himself. At the end of the film, he blows up the oil rig in a clear act of eco-terroism.
Lampshaded and played for laughs in Mystery Men. Captain Amazing is constantly viewed by the residents of Champion City as a great hero, even though he is often rude, inconsiderate, thoughtless, and only interested in making money off his powers. He even brings about the events of the film, unwittingly, by getting his archnemesis released so he can fight someone worthy (and save his sponsorship deals), eventually getting himself killed stupidly in the process. The audience isn't supposed to like him. Their sympathies instead lie with the title characters, who are the underdogs of the superhero world; most of them have crappy superpowers (such as only turning invisible when literally nobody is watching...not even himself), and they're respected by next to nobody in the city they've sworn to protect.
Erik, the father in Hanna, is portrayed as a good guy, but several times, he kills innocent government employees. At times, they aren't even a threat to him, like the guy who is going to answer the door in one scene.
The twins in both the original and the remake version of The Parent Trap. Their parents divorced and decided it would be easier for both of them if each retained custody of just one of their twin children, travelling to separate parts of the world, and never mentioning to their daughters the existence of their sibling, just to make it easier on themselves. They never have to see one another again. And then years later, when their daughters meet by a freak coincidence, the daughters decided to switch places with one another to meet the parent they never knew. The whole time, the mom and the dad both make it clear they don't want to speak about their divorced spouse. The girls continue the charade for as long as possible, trying to push their parents back together. At no point do they get called on it.
All of the protagonists of Itty Bitty Titty Committee could be considered this to a certain extent if you don't share their radical feminist viewpoint, but Sadie and Shulie stand out especially. Our first scene with Sadie has her framing main character Anna for an act of vandalism she herself committed, to keep Anna from calling the police, which is is portrayed as being charming. Throughout the movie Sadie is portrayed as a serial philanderer, emotionally manipulative, self-obsessed, and self-righteous, yet Anna ending up with her (with little to no change aside from breaking up with the girlfriend she was previously cheating on) is viewed as a good thing. Shulie is merely a Jerkass sarcastic misandrist Straw Feminist, but her radical opinions are never countered or challenged.
Neil Shaw in the Art of War films, to more and more of an extent as the series goes on. In the first film he's a competent enough agent, though kind of a Jerkass. In the second film he makes numerous basic errors of logic and judgement, and at the end he casually murders his love interest just in the name of getting the villain to frame himself. The third film takes it Up to Eleven, as he unknowingly takes the bad guy or rather bad girl into his confidence, then ends up killing at least a dozen or so South Korean intelligence agents, before unwittingly facilitating the assassination of South Korea's U.N. representative and nearly getting the Secretary-General of the U.N. herself killed. After all that you'd think the Secretary-General would be only too happy to hand Shaw over to the South Korean authorities and let them hang him out to dry, but she instead ends the film by telling Shaw that he's the only person the U.N. can trust with their lives.
Jeff from the Christian propaganda film Rock: It's Your Decision. He's supposed to be a good Christian youth standing against the evils of rock and roll, but he comes across as a bigoted Jerkass who will verbally attack anyone who doesn't have the exact same beliefs he does, won't tolerate even an instrumental rock song being played in his general vicinity, and cannot even be bothered to do the slightest bit of research on the songs he thinks are so evil. He tries to control his friends, is an asshole to his mom, and is just generally very hypocritical and unlikeable.
Gavin, the atheist protagonist of The Ledge comes off as a huge one. He is intended to be shown as a courageous, rational, tolerant and moral person who refuses to fall for any superstitious beliefs; however the main conflict of the movie is about a Love Triangle between him, Joe (a fundamentalist Christian), and Shana (the latter's wife), and it is clear that the affair did not arise naturally and spontaneously, but was actively pursued by Gavin, which raises a lot of Moral Dissonance here. Joe himself doesn't really do anything villainous other than feel sorry for Gavin because of his "empty life without God" and pitying Gavin's gay roommate. It would be one thing if Shana was legitimately unhappy, but she and Joe are shown to be perfectly happy together, and moreover, Gavin straight out admits and is shown to be emotionally manipulating her to make her fall for him. And the justification Gavin uses for trying to seduce Shana and convince her to leave her husband is basically that he believes that she is too good for her deeply religious husband, and thus he appoints himself as her "savior" from an oppressive life.
Heather from Texas Chainsaw 3D, she actively tries to help save Leatherface and aid him in killing the police even though she knows that he is a cannibalistic serial killer who murdered many people, including her friends. She actively aids a chainsaw wielding maniac, and the audience is supposed to believe that she's in the right.
Dewey Finn from School of Rock mooches off his best friend Ned and acts like he's entitled to live with Ned and his girlfriend in their apartment without paying rent, steals a teaching job from Ned, and cheats his students out of an education so he can make a quick couple hundred dollars.
Man of Steel: Some people thought of Superman as this in regards to the final battle, given that he seems to be more focused on defeating the Kryptonians instead of saving lives. Though, given that he's still inexperienced and is trying to defeat the Kryptonians before they wipe out humanity, most are forgiving of him. This viewpoint is shared between Kevin Smith and Red Letter Media. The Kryptonians are also directly responsible for much more of the damage than Superman is.
Edward and the Cullens are the good guys because ... well, they don't eat humans. They let their vampire buddies eat humans, routinely show up the Muggles, use their awesome powers for pure personal gain, and screw up the lives of many a werewolf to get their way, but at least they don't eat humans.
Bella gives minimal thought to the innocent people being killed by vampires, unless it's someone she knows. In New Moon, she seriously considers withholding what she knows about vampires from the werewolves because telling them anything would feel like betrayal to the Cullens (even though she knows full well that the Cullens are in no danger from the wolves at all and that helping the wolves learn about the vampires will help them stop Victoria more quickly and thus keep more people from dying).
It's a lot harder to sympathize with Bree Tanner when she shows no remorse at all for committing multiple murders and seems under the impression that she is above laws as long as there is no one to hold her to them. There's also the matter of her and Diego suffering from a severe case of Too Dumb to Live.
And in the unfinished manuscript for Midnight Sun, Edward is definitely genocidal, casually mentioning wanting to slaughter the Quilute tribe due to Jacob daring to speak to Bella because as far as he knew they were defenseless. He also comes across as a school killer, plotting the murders of his entire class so he could get to Bella without witnesses, and later plots getting her at her home in a way that comes across as very much like he's planning a rape.
The heroes of Sword of Truth regularly perform deeds of questionable morality, although the circumstances of the plot usually justify their actions (in the oft-criticized slaughter of the strawman pacifists, for example, Richard was left with few other options).
Most Bronze Age heroes lack traits that modern audiences would find heroic due to Values Dissonance.
Achilles is a well-known example, since most modern audiences side with the Trojans defending their home and have little sympathy for the pouting, slave-taking Achilles. Another interpretation is that the Iliad isn't attempting to portray Achilles as a hero, but is rather showing the tragedy that results from a man's unwillingness to compromise in the face of a perceived offense.
Jason is another example, whose greatest accomplishments are actually performed by his mistress Medea, whom he promptly dumps when he's done with her. Jason becomes a Fallen Hero for his treachery at the end of his story. Even before he met Medea, Jason didn't really do anything Badass. Prior to seducing her, most of the work was done by his much more Badass Crew, which consisted of some of the greatest heroes of Greek Mythology. The only really decent thing he does in the story is to help an old lady across a river. Note that this wasn't necessarily a Values Dissonance thing. Euripides produced Medea in 430 BCE-that makes it clear this was how most of the Greeks felt about the character even a bare few centuries after the origin of the (presumed Homeric) legend. Whether the bronze-age heroes were meant to be unironically heroic or whether modern audiences just missing the sarcasm of ancient Greek poetry is still sort of in question.
Similarly, when Oedipus kills a crazy old man that he meets on the road to Thebes because the guy insulted him, modern readers are likely to consider this Disproportionate Retribution. As a result, the sense that Oedipus is the (mostly) innocent pawn of fate gets somewhat lost in translation when it later turns out that that crazy old man was his biological father, Laius. Though it depends according to the myth as to whether or not Oedipus was being threatened, whether the King had the right of way, whether someone stepped on his foot, or if Oedipus really did just murder a bunch of guys on the road.
Not only to modern readers: in the Middle Ages, Hector was generally a much more popular character than Achilles, largely because he was seen as someone who was defending his home and his people. One popular legend said that Durandal, the sword of Roland, a popular medieval folk hero (based on the very real Roland who was one of Charlemagne's dukes), had been the sword of Hector. Also, in the King Arthur tales, Arthur's adoptive father was named Sir Ector, an alternate spelling of Hector (technically, Hector is an alternate spelling of Ector, but whatever).
Perseus. Yay, he killed the horrible monster ... that had been a rape victim and was hiding in a cave in the middle of nowhere so she wouldn't hurt anyone and was asleep at the time. Mainly because the host of a party he went to dared him to. Then he goes around petrifying everyone who annoys him. Slightly mitigated in the versions that include the king threatening to forcibly marry Perseus' mother, but Perseus doesn't ask Athene or Hermes to assist with that matter.
British statesman Lord Chesterfield wrote in Letters to His Son about Achilles: "I dare assert too, in defiance of the favorers of the ancients, that Homer's hero, Achilles, was both a brute and a scoundrel, and consequently an improper character for the hero of an epic poem; he had so little regard for his country, that he would not act in defense of it, because he had quarreled with Agamemnon about a w—-e; and then afterward, animated by private resentment only, he went about killing people basely, I will call it, because he knew himself invulnerable; and yet, invulnerable as he was, he wore the strongest armor in the world; which I humbly apprehend to be a blunder; for a horse-shoe clapped to his vulnerable heel would have been sufficient." (letter 64)
Eragon's condition as The Chosen One, his lack of respect towards his master's skills and his lack of regard for the life of his uncle, all add up to a character that's portrayed sympathetically, but behaves like The Load.
The lack of regard for the life/health/sanity of any person. While he'd had his bad moments all through the series, the scene in Brisingr with the slaves was enough to send book sporkers all over the internet into a frothing rage about what an utterly heartless dick this "hero" is.
And then there's the scene where he uses Sloan's true name to force him to take an unbreakable oath to make him never see his daughter again. The fact that the Designated Villain had apparently done the exact same thing (which Eragon regarded as reprehensible) never seems to occur to him.
Cameron "Buck" Williams is referred to as an amazing investigative reporter who has won awards. He almost never files reports or writes anything, and when confronted with an international conspiracy that's already killed two people he knows, he... agrees to bury all the evidence if they'll spare his life. Way to go, hero.
Rayford Steele fits this, too. First there's his stringing-along of Hattie Durham, but what really pushes him into Designated Hero territory is the fact that upon seeing a tarmac covered in crashed airplanes, rescue crews, and injured bodies, it never even occurs to him to help.
And let's not forget the time when he, as the pilot of the antichrist, knew the antichrist is going to nuke millions of people, including the city he's at, as soon as the plane takes off and gets clear. A hero would face a dilemma in how to stop this: Try to crash the plane during takeoff, which might kill the antichrist but might fail thanks to antichrist powers, or secretly try to remain in range of the nukes, which definitely will kill the antichrist but could be detected, and will result in millions dead but might be worth it. Or assassinate him, or broadcast what he's doing, or something.
Rayford, OTOH, delays the plane so his wife can leave the city before he takes off. Then he takes off so the antichrist can proceed. This is not after some long internal conflict, or for the sake of staying undercover, or because he thinks stopping the nukes will fail. It's just because flying the airplane is his job. Our hero, everyone: Literally an accessory to murdering millions of people.
Both Buck and Rayford, by working very closely with the antichrist, helping him constantly, refusing to inform anyone of who he really is, and not doing a thing to stop him, are well past 'Designated Hero' and into 'Designated Not-The Dragon', which they would be in almost any story.
Then there's Bruce Barnes, who supposedly becomes a model Christian after being skipped by the Rapture, yet when the time comes to make an apocalypse survival plan, it consists of building an underground bunker for himself and three other people, then hiding in it. The notion of helping, or even interacting with, any of his congregation beside the two Author Avatars and Chloe Steele, except on Sunday morning, does not seem to occur to him.
Liu Bei from Romance of the Three Kingdoms... who manages to get away with abandoning his wives and children multiple times, dashing his infant son into the ground since a brave warrior risked his life to rescue the boy, eating a hunter's wife, turning on or abandoning certain "allies" at rather opportune moments, and in the end having a Heroic BSOD, all because he's for upholding the "rightful" dynasty. Some of Liu Bei's actions are so over the top that one has to wonder if the authors (who were writing about events taking place several centuries before their own time) were at least on some occasions subversively critiquing those same cultural values by exaggerating them to the point of the ridiculous. Liu Bei does in the end fail rather ignominiously; even taking into account that Liu Bei had to fail because that was what happened in history, the novel does on several occasions seem to subtly emphasize his failure. For example, Zhuge Liang and Pang Tong are hyped up with a prophecy that any leader who obtains the services of either one of them is sure to win ultimate victory: Liu Bei gets both of them, and he still fails. While the death of Pang Tong before he could do much was arguably bad luck, someone should have told Liu Bei that he had to actually follow Zhuge Liang's advice for the prophecy to work. (Ironically, when Zhuge Liang was newly appointed as military advisor, Liu Bei was the only member of their force to believe in him!)
Several of Rafael Sabatini's protagonists fit this pretty well, tending to be rather Chaotic Neutral characters. For example, the main character of Scaramouche seeks revenge for the death of his friend by an evil aristocrat and ends up as a high ranking member of the French Revolution government and uses this position to cut a swath through France's aristocracy despite the fact he couldn't give a damn about the ideals of the Revolution.
In Beck Beyond the Sea from the Disney Fairies series, Beck not only shirks her duties in Pixie Hollow to follow the Explorer Birds across Neverland, but she does so by using dust that she knows was made from feathers freshly plucked from Mother Dove, one of the cruelest acts known to fairies. Yet at the end of the book, it is Vidia who is punished, for using Beck's absence as a chance to get more fresh feathers. The fact that Beck indirectly caused this is never addressed.
The Silver Horde from Discworld personify this trope, as explicitly lampshaded by the Patrician in The Last Hero.
Cohen is actually titled Cohen the Barbarian. They are meant to be 'heroes' but only in the same way Conan was.
Michael Crichton's Timeline ends with the protagonists drugging the Corrupt Corporate Executive, and sending him to past to die of the Black Plague. While he was a fairly unpleasant individual and was more concerned about using Time Travel to make money than actually giving a chance to learn about the past, he does actively work to prevent the tissue-damage caused to the people who do too many trips through the time-machine/teleporter by forbidding one person from doing too many trips, and all the problems result from those who disobeyed him. But since he's a douchebag, it's all right to murder him horribly. Notably, when The Film of the Book came out his death and circumstances around it were substantially changed.
The Sheik, from the novel of the same name. He's an abusive rapist who is initially portrayed as negatively as he deserves, but once the protagonist falls in love with him the book suddenly expects us to think of him much more sympathetically.
Anita Blake. Killer, rapist, performs the same actions she reviles in others but it's okay when she does them. And apparently the reason all the evil comes to town is that its attracted to her.
The Orlando of Evangelical literature is the young curate, looked at from the point of view of the middle class, where cambric bands are understood to have as thrilling an effect on the hearts of young ladies as epaulettes have in the classes above and below it. In the ordinary type of these novels, the hero is almost sure to be a young curate, frowned upon, perhaps, by worldly mammas, but carrying captive the hearts of their daughters, who can "never forget that sermon;". . . The young curate always has a background of well-dressed and wealthy, if not fashionable society;–for Evangelical silliness is as snobbish as any other kind of silliness; . . . but in one particular the novels of the White Neck-cloth School are meritoriously realistic,–their favourite hero, the Evangelical young curate is always rather an insipid personage.
Apparently Patch of Hush, Hush is supposed to be a good guy, or at least an anti-hero we can cheer on. This is the same fellow who apparently uses the Abuser's Handbook as a guide for dating Nora and at one point pins her to the bed and threatens to murder her.
The Sisterhood or the Vigilantes have fallen into this territory at least once. The first seven books were all about the Vigilantes getting Revenge on the people who wronged them, and breaking the law in doing so. That's not supposed to be heroic. Despite this, once it got out what they were doing, they were considered heroes and household items. Reviewers at Amazon.com were quite happy to point out how the Vigilantes' behaviour went into this in the book Under the Radar. In that book, the heroes go to a cult of pedophile polygamists. The heroes acted rather abusively toward the adult women in the cult. In fact, the book spelled out quite clearly that the adult women didn't care about the treatment their own children suffered in the cult and deserved absolutely no sympathy. Reviewers, however, pointed out that the adult women were raised in this cult and brainwashed into believing in the cult all their lives, and that they are actually victims who you should feel sympathy for. With that said, the heroes have the adult women lined up and shave off the hair on their heads. They did this, because the cult leader likes long hair, and they wanted him to look at bald women to spite him. Reviewers pointed out what the Vigilantes did seems to be uncomfortably close to what the Nazis did in those concentration camps!
The book Sweet Revenge has this little gem from the thoughts of a stand-up male character named Bobby Harcourt: "He stopped at the receptionist's desk for his messages, hating how sleazy the young woman looked. He'd spoken to Rosemary about the receptionist's appearance and all she'd done was cluck her tongue and ask him if he wanted a lawsuit on his hands. It wasn't just the way the young woman looked, it was her stupid name as well. Sasha. No one named their kid Sasha except maybe a Russian mother. This Sasha was from Mud Creek, Mississippi. White trash, all ninety pounds of her. He rather suspected that Rosemary kept her on because Sasha made her look beautiful, which she was, but she was also a cold, relentless, heartless bitch of a woman. He'd found that out as soon as the honeymoon was over, much to his regret." For such a supposedly stand-up guy, Bobby sounds like he hates people who aren't Americans like him, he sounds mean-spirited towards people from the Appalachians, and he apparently judges people based on their appearance and their given name before things like morals or personality.
Gareth in The Rebel Prince. He is told he has to rape the protagonist in order to gain control of her psychic powers, needed to overthrow the evil leaders of the planet. He gets drunk to overcome his reluctance and does so, and feels bad about it afterwords. This is supposed to lead to him finding redemption. Instead, after claiming he is sorry, he continues to insist she is his wife (because they were married against her will) and uses mind control and threats of violence to control her. As well as using mind control to force her to learn pleasurable sex (it's still rape even if she enjoys it). The worst part is she winds up staying with him at the end because he "loves her".
Elizabeth Wakefield of the Sweet Valley High series is constantly presented as the "good" twin—smart, level-headed, kind, etc. But she frequently proves herself to be a hypocrite. She blasts her sister Jessica for being promiscuous while she herself repeatedly cheats on her boyfriends, she goes on and on about how people deserve a second chance, but apparently thinks this only applies to her friends, not Jessica's, and she instantly makes judgments about people without getting to know them, while again criticizing Jessica and her clique for doing the same thing.
Patrick Hennessy/Patricio Carrera in Carrera's Legions. An ex-military officer who uses his wife and children's murder as an excuse to gun down unarmed Muslim civilians (while they were celebrating a pseudo 9/11 attack, admittedly) and apparently take orgasmic pleasure in doing so, then establish a PMC that carries out extreme torture and ultimately nukes a city solely to kill the family of the terrorist ringleader who orchestrated the attack that killed his family. He also establishes a training regimen that gets hundreds of his recruits killed through things like faulty grenade training, use of poor-quality mortar ammunition, and extreme high-risk live-fire training that requires recruits to wear heavy vehicle-door-gunner armor, and responds to all of these deaths with sociopathic apathy. And since he's Tom Kratman's Author Avatar, Henessey/Carrera is repeatedly and at length described as the most incredible strategist and tactician in history, and every callous, sociopathic act of violence, negligence, and murder he engages is in is portrayed as saintly and righteous.
The prologue of the book opens up with a man going by the nickname of "the Blue Djinn" who takes pleasure in being considered outright evil, is portrayed with a savage, demonic light, orders the mass execution of hundreds of his enemies via crucifixion, and sells the wives and teenage daughters of said prisoners into sexual slavery. It isn't until you read further into the book that you realize that the Blue Djinn is Hennessy/Carrera.
The Clave from The Mortal Instruments is an entire group of designated heroes. With their Fantastic Racism, inventive cruelty, and massive arrogance, it's a wonder how the audience is supposed to root for them in the final battle.
Christian Grey of Fifty Shades of Grey is someone that we're supposed to symphathize with, despite him effectively raping the heroine on more than one occasion.
The ONI characters of HaloKilo-Five trilogy. They suppose to be painted as morally superior and paint Dr Halsey as Mrs Mengel for what she did in creating SPARTAN II's. But their plan is to instigate a civil war among the Elites as a means to tip the scales to the UNSC's favor, essentially going behind humanity's only ally weakening them. But in the long run all of their actions only cause more harm, as the rebel Sangheili soon become willing supporters to the Didacts mission in eliminating humanity.
Live Action TV
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: Coven: the witches the show is centered on are unrepentant murderesses who think nothing of using their evil magic to get their way, not caring about the innocents that get in the way. And we're supposed to see the witch hunters as the villains why?
The Big Bang Theory: Leonard, as he has gained a generally jerk demeanor and holier-than-thou attitude as the series went on.
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 being herself, being under even more massive pressure than usually, 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.
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 joined up with a bunch of magical extremists to wipe out free will for the sake of destroying evil. Then they faked their deaths and got 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 hersister 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.
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 wasn'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."
Dawsons Creek: Dawson. He normally acts like a spoilt, 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'.
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.
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.
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 putting stipulations on them getting back together, helping ruin his marriage, 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 even telling Monica and Chandler they have to come to her baby's birthday party, so they can't go away to reconnect after they've discovered they can't have children!
Rachel and Finn fall very much into this category.
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.
BLAINE ANDERSON. A character afflicted by terminal It's All About Me syndrome that got away with ATTEMPTED RAPE, shaming and emotionally abusing his boyfriend, claiming to know what to do about the bully that was tormenting Kurt and instead making the situation (intentionally?) even worse, deciding to propose to him in a grandiose way just so he can't be rejected... the list goes on and on.
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 another 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...
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.
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.
At the risk of advocating Stabler's Jerkass behavior, in that moment, he could have argued that he feared that someone's life was in jeopardy. Exigent circumstances.
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."
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.
LOST: Several characters, especially Jack and Kate. Aside from the fact that they are Designated Heroes, they are both essentially 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.
And on rewatches, 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.
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. Of course, both Abby and Di Nozzo tend to act terrible toward the guy.
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. Between the two of them, they were lusting after each other, regardless of the feelings of the people they were involved with. 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 BSOD when regaling). The writers do notice this sometimes, especially in later seasons. A few episode 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.
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.
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."
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.
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: 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 to die when they get dragged into the Delta Quadrant.
This is demonstrated beautifully in the Episodes "Equinox 1&2". Voyager meets up with another Federation vessel, the titled named Equinox, who not only was in a similar situation as Voyager, it was MANY times worse. They were on the edge of starvation, they didn't have the magic Reset Button to fix all the damage they had sustained, they had lost half their crew. This was all before they got continually assaulted by extra-demensional aliens for weeks on end. It is made very clear that almost everyone Janeway then decided that spending 14 hours to refitting both Voyager and the Equinox with this week's techno-babble wasn't worth the risk (why they couldn't of just dragged around an empty Equinox with the same tractor beam Voyager was using to pull it around isn't brought up). Janeway stops the other Captain's protests by by twisting a regulation meant for fleet combat, that the most combat ready ship gets command in a combat situation. When Janeway finds out that the aliens are attacking because the Equinox found out they could be used as anti-matter fuel, she brings the Captain before her. HE pulls out another regulation, saying a Captain is supposed to do anything to keep his crew alive. She decides that regulation does not protect against mass murder, and will lock the entire, barely sane, shell shock crew even though they were Just Following Orders. Did I mention Janeway once justified letting an ENTIRE SPECIES be assimilated by the Borg was an acceptable way to get home over the objections of her crew?
In the rest of the Star Trek franchise, The Federation often veers into this territory 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.
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?
Note that the later seasons realized this and now there is a War brewing between Humanity and the Vampires with Bill, now a Humanoid Abomination, leading the charge as the Vampire's new god, taking the place of Lillith.
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 that 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.
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.
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.
Subverted as early as Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard, their only tragedy. Colonel Fairfax is often treated by other characters as a great hero. There's nothing they wouldn't do for him. The audience is repeatedly told how great he is, but sees little real evidence. At the end, he is revealed to be an absolutely hateful figure. No wonder audiences treat Jack Point sympathetically as The Woobie, despite him being something of a jerk himself.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio was tricked into thinking that his fianceé Hero had cheated on him. Instead of asking her about it or even quietly canceling the wedding, he waited until the wedding ceremony was underway then publicly accused her of being a whore. Even after being (falsely) informed that Hero had died of shock afterwards, he showed no remorse.
This is probably mostly due to Values Dissonance. Shylock would most probably have originally been seen as the villain by its original audience and Portia and Antonio (who treats Shylock far worse than Portia who at least gave him what would have been a considered a happy ending) as the heroes. Over time this has changed with peoples attitudes as Shylock's portrayal has gone from villainous clown to tragic figure due to changing views of race and racism.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin was a Nineties Anti-Hero during The Attitude Era and it worked because everyone was either a villain or an Anti-Hero, and the villains he faced in particular were into things like corporate corruption, nepotism, and even Hollywood Satanism. Ever since around 2003 he's presented as a face (and is still popular) but hasn't changed his act so he's a straight up jerk. He once stunned Stacy Keibler simply because she didn't like the taste of beer and also Linda McMahon (a middle aged woman who is not a trained wrestler) just for the hell of it. If any other wrestler had done this, Jim Ross on commentary would have villified them but with Stone Cold just said "I may not like it but that's the way he is". He also stunned Booker T at WrestleMania for doing a spinaroonie in the ring (apparently Austin doesn't like the attention being stolen from him) and also Josh Matthews for simply reading a message from the Raw GM that Austin didn't like.
The Bella Twins when they were faces. They would switch with each other to win matches. Yeah that's right - faces would cheat to win. And it was presented as completely okay and their opponents were supposed to have deserved it somehow. This was reversed with their heel turn in 2011 where they continued to use it but commentators and other wrestlers would outline it as wrong.
John Cena frequently. One evening he hurled a hurricane of fat jokes at Vickie Guerrero who admittedly used to be overweight but has since slimmed down considerably. He also frequently bullies his opponents, spins and distorts the truthto get into their heads, and generally acts like a smug prick when he's called on his behavior, but is still presented as a role model and leads the B.A. Star Anti Bullying campaign as well as most (if not all) WWE's charity causes.
Paige from NXT is a subversion. She was a heel in FCW but got insanely popular so appeared as a face on TV without a proper character change. However she was presented as more of a Wild Card and the announcers don't imply that her behaviour is justified (or at least particularly heroic) at all. She appears to treat faces and heels equally.
Brooke Tessmacher in TNA. She unfortunately was pushed as a face but made it clear she wasn't able to portray herself that way. She came across as arrogant and full of herself in her entrance, bratty and bitchy in her promos and unnecessarily brutal in the ring. Hell, in her feud with her best friend Tara she came across as the heel initially until the latter turned heel on her.
Sheamus often comes off as these, and in 2013, had three straight feuds like this.
First, he had a pre-Wrestlemania feud against Wade Barrett, which began when Wade started bragging about a movie he got to appear in. Sheamus, for no apparent reason, came out to answer this bragging by crapping all over the movie and Wade's acting skills. The odd part is that nothing ever came of this, partly because Sheamus was already in feuding with The Shield at the time, so it made his actions seem unnecessarily dickish.
Secondly, he feuded with Mark Henry. This began when Henry attacked Sheamus backstage, during interviews, a couple of times. Sheamus paid these attacks back, then continued harassing him even after he seemed to lose interest in Sheamus. In two cases, Mark Henry challenged Sheamus to non-wrestling physical contests (tug-of-war and arm wrestling), which he clearly outclassed Sheamus in with superior strength alone. Sheamus came off as a massive dick by basically assaulting Henry in the middle of these just to keep himself from losing, or just to get the last laugh.
His third feud is with Damien Sandow, which consisted almost entirely of Sandow expressing intellectual superiority, then Sheamus attacking him for no particular reason. Even in cases where Sandow was legitimately acting like a dick (cheating at the shell game), Sheamus still ended up looking like quite a dick, such as completing the chess challenge by destroying the expensive computer for no apparent reason.
Snake was supposed to be a likeable anti-hero just like his inspiration, but unlike his namesake he didn't have as much of a context to act the way he did (Snake Plissken at least had the excuse of living in a crime-filled post-apocalyptic future). As a result, he ended up coming off as a complete Jerkass. To add insult to injury, the guy who was supposed to be a low-life scumbag in comparison ended up being a Designated Victim, seeing as Snake's motivation for wanting to beat him up seemed incredibly weak.
Trigger is a similar case. He kept being presented as though he was the Only Sane Man, but every other second he was insulting other agents or accusing them of incompetence. The fact that other players' developments kept causing Trigger's "sane" opinions to be proven wrong didn't help.
Dust would apparently be an example of this done right, given that despite his fanbase he spent most of his time in the RPG double-crossing or otherwise getting in the way of everybody.
Firecracker was supposed to be an amusing comic relief. However, it turns out that apparently there's nothing funny about a man whose defining characteristic is an overt obsession with blowing things up.
Duke... oh boy... Duke. This was a guy's primary character (and keep in mind that in this RPG all players are supposed to be on the same side, meaning he was supposed to be a good guy). His role was (thankfully) fairly brief, but the majority of his actions consisted of insane hate crimes against anyone in the team with the slightest idealistic beliefs. It came as quite a relief to players when Duke was finally locked up in a maximum security prison and there was actually a movement to ensure he stayed there.
Warhammer 40,000: The Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium might as well be the poster boy of this trope. The only reason the Imperium of Man appears to be good guys is... well... because they are human. Beyond this they are xenophobic fascist anti-progress extremists that have committed just as many atrocities as any other faction. The closest thing the setting comes to actual good guys would be the Tau... or the Salamanders, just because they actually care about the lives of civilians.
The game's descriptions, however, tend to be self-parodies in many ways: all Warhammer 40,000 fans accept that the setting is a zero-sum Crapsack Cosmos in which the cleverest strategists do not scruple to designate a planet of fluffy bunnies "acceptable losses." (Planets full of fluffy bunnies that breathe fire are a strategic asset, and might be worth defending.)
The Lego Powerminers theme officially involved heroic miners armed with Dynamite and heavy digging equipment fighting rock and lava men deep beneath the earth while collecting valuable crystals. However, the packaging often depicted the the "heros" as imperialists coming to exploit the rock-men's food supply and then dynamiting the rock men when they resisted. The 2nd wave talked about how the miners had gone deeper down, which sort of contradicts the idea they are defending the surface.
Spoofed in Disgaea 3. Textbook evil Mao concludes that the only way he's going to be able to overthrow his father is by becoming a hero. Being unabashedly evil, he does this by mugging the title of hero from some poor sap and going on his merry way. What he doesn't know is that the Theory of Narrative Causality decides that it's going to remedy this by making him act like a hero - whether he likes it or not.
Tales of Vesperia plays this trope interestingly: Flynn isn't unsympathetic nor completely ineffectual, it's just that he keeps being lauded for feats and accomplishments that were actually done by Yuri and Brave Vesperia, making it a literal case of "Designated" Hero. His issues over this are what lead to the requisite Tales SeriesDuel Boss fight against him.
Yuri himself is considered by some to be this: a hero with a bizarre, inconsistent, "it's okay when I do it" moral code; and rarely if every being called out on his inconsistencies. Whether your agree largely seems to depend on whether or not you think the writers did it intentionally or not (or if you handwave his inconsistencies as being incredibly subtle character development).
Reimu Hakurei can definitely fall into this category. Reimu often only saves the day (if you don't let Marisa do it instead) because she's forced to do it, since she's the only one who can (except Marisa), and the one people can pressure into solving problems more easily. Sometimes, however, like Mountain of Faith, Reimu attacks people she knows are not doing anything bad, and are actually goddesses just trying to carve out a niche for themselves. In Undefined Fantastic Object, you can explicitly choose for Reimu to go "investigate" the treasure ship not because she is worried about Gensokyo, but because she wants to loot the treasure.
The Cute Witch and The Rival, Marisa Kirisame, falls even more into this trope, as an unabashed Kleptomaniac Hero who often saves the world by accident while trying to loot the final boss's house for valuables. In Imperishable Night, she even outright introduces herself to the Big Bad as a "burglar", much to her partner's dismay (who was actually trying to stop the Big Bad, and talked Marisa into helping her do it).
Within the context of the games this looks even worse since it appears to be traditional in Gensokyo to solve every minor dispute with a (nonlethal) magical duel and to precede every such duel with some combination of insults and pretending you intend to kill your opponent. And the first two levels of almost every single game see you fighting someone who has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot or the final boss. Many of whom become fan favorites to boot.
Kain is a bloodthirsty vampire warlord bent on restoring the world... so that he can conquer it and put himself and other bloodthirsty vampires in charge. He's only our hero because, well, every other option is worse.
Some storylines are well-supported by lore and interwoven into the game in every way possible, but others are just Excuse Plots to loot gear from a new type of enemies in a new setting. For example, in the Mana Tombs dungeon, the enemies that Player Characters fight are simply graverobbers. Players fight them as mercenaries on behalf of a rival trade consortium. Graverobbers are obviously not nice people, but they're hardly the Legions Of Doom players are supposed to be fighting across that ruined world. Meanwhile, the major "good" factions, the Alliance and the Horde, are openly examples of Gray and Grey Morality.
This is actually lampshaded by a new rare spawn mob in Duskwood, who questions why graverobbers like her are considered absolute scum, while the player character she's fighting has most likely looted the gear and weapons they're wearing right now from a dead body.
It's lampshaded at some point, but then ignored again. You get hunting quests in more than one place from a dwarf called Nesingwary and first his son to kill various kinds of animals for gear rewards. Then in Northrend, Nesingwary's minions are evil poachers who massacre animals and whom you have to kill in turn for some druids. These "loot-crazed" hunters have dialogue indicating that they're trying to collect Twenty Bear Asses to get some new piece of gear as a reward, just like you did. And then you can meet Nesingwary himself again in a different area, and he dismisses all moral questions in passing with one sentence and sends you out on his quests again.
Age of Wonders. We're told that the Elves, Halflings and Dwarves are good, and the Orcs, Goblins and Dark Elves evil. While the good races are described briefly as having peaceful wholesome habits and the evil races are supposed to be violent and aggressive, we don't really see any of this in action. In gameplay the difference doesn't show up at all: both sides are equally warlike, and have the option of fighting or buying off neutral races. Furthermore, a central gameplay mechanic is the ability to repopulate captured cities with a population of a friendly race; it's plain cultural imperialism at best and the good and evil races do this with equal impunity.
Knights of the Old Republic: Depending on how you feel about the "sacrificed him/herself to the dark side to save the Republic" excuse, Revan may count as this in the back story.
Alphonse Lohrer in Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis in that he works for the evil Lodis Empire that seeks to take control of the island of Ovis even though he does question Rictor's motive of taking the spear Longicolnis for the Empire. He is revealed to be Lancelot Tartare, a main antagonist in the next chapter, Let Us Cling Together.
Played With in Baten Kaitos. Kalas is a complete Jerkass for a good portion of the game, and he only helps people when it coincides with his interests. Then, a little over halfway through the game, it's revealed that he was Evil All Along. After you fight him, however, he pulls a Heel-Face Turn and spends the rest of the game as a much better person.
The Argon Federation in X3: Albion Prelude. We're supposed to think they're the good guys, even though, for all the information the game gives us, the Terran Conflict turning into a hot war was entirely their fault: an Argon character from X3: Reunion suicide-bombed Earth's Torus Aeternal, killing millions of Terrans instantly (let alone the people killed by deorbiting debris). This was a 30th century equivalent of 9/11 taken Up to Eleven; the Terrans' current Roaring Rampage of Revenge is self-defense.
A rather extreme case of All There in the Manual turns it into a rather dark shade of Grey and Gray Morality. Over the preceding decade the Terrans deployed a spy network into the Community of Planets with the intent of influencing the future course of their governments. This network was eventually discovered by Argon counterintelligence; the Federation understandably considered it an act of war. The Terrans' edge in military technology forced the Argon to take drastic measures such as artificially intelligent warships in order to give their navy a fighting chance. Since the Torus partly served as a shipyard and orbital defense station for Earth, destroying it opened the way for the Argon to attack Earth directly. It's still an atrocity, but at least it makes military sense.
Purposefully invoked with Kratos in the God of War series. He's a monster outside how he cared for his family, yet the gods and titans are arguably worse. By the end, even he realizes how horrible he is and kills himself to give humanity at least a fighting chance.
While his father, the well-meaning if somewhat hot-blooded Sigurd is more or less the hero of the first half of Genealogy of the Holy War, his son, Celice/Seliph, the hero of the second half, is practically underneath his shadow (and a complete Shrinking Violet). In the ending alone, his redistributing the Jugdrali kingdoms and territories is near-identical to what Arvis had done at the end of Sigurd's half of the game. There's also the fact that by the time we're introduced to Julia, her brother Julius, Julia's history, and hers and Julius' bloodline, Celice becomes peripheral to the plot. It doesn't help either that whereas Sigurd's story was a long and well-made Deconstruction of the plot of the Akaneia games, Celice's story is a straight up reconstruction that brings back the Black and White Morality that was mostly missing from Sigurd's; however, YMMV on that.
Add in to how his presence in Thracia 776 is more or less meant to show how superior he is to his cousin/Lord of that game Leif is...
Sword of Seals: If you go to its YMMV page, humanity as a whole. We learn in this game that they were the ones who disrupted the peace between them and dragons, and that a climate-changing incident that was blamed on the dragons was actually because of the unstable power of the humans' divine weapons. There's no real justification as to why the current state of humans (the majority of the continent) and dragons (living in another dimension) should sustain itself, other than the existence of the village of Arcadia, where they still live in peace. At this point, the dragons could have more than enough justification to roast humanity.
Blazing Sword does its best to paint humanity in a better light, as well as justify the lack of dragons on the continent (if left to their own devices, dragons would destroy just about everything uninhibited), but it still doesn't help much.
Nilin of Remember Me, the noble terrorist who kills her way through Neo-Paris on the word of someone she's never met, even after declaring how much she doesn't like or trust him. She ends the game having released all the stored memories in the Memoreyes database to their owners, declaring that we need our memories, even the painful ones, to be ourselves... except she also declares she has the power to play God by editing people's memories to be whatever she wants, at least one instance of which being implied to result in the bombing of a hospital.
Rufus of Deponia is an intentional example. His main goal of escaping the titular trash planet for Elysium is entirely selfish, he is arrogant, rude and beyond egotistical, and much of the first game is him using, manipulating, and outright backstabbing other people in order to achieve his goals. The "intentional" part comes due to the fact he's actually a Deconstruction. Its made clear that nobody likes Rufus precisely because he's such an asshole, most, if not all of the series' crises are directly his fault, and he is constantly called out for his actions. In fact, in the sequel, Lady Goal abandons the other Goals and all of Deponia to certain doom just so she could get away from Rufus after everything he's done to her.
While Mike Dawson of the first Dark Seed was a competent hero of the game, he has gotten so much worse in the sequel. He is whiny, constantly asking awkward questions, comes of as a Man Child at some parts, starts to act unjustifiably antagonistic near the end of the game (and even has dialogue choices to make him come off as even worse of a human being), and cannot win simple carnival games without cheating! And this is suppose to be the good guy. It's even been theorize that the dev team may have it in for Mike Dawson. To be fair, he does succeed in his quest, but the ending leaves it all ambiguous. Make of that what you will.
Ariel from Drowtales. As the narrator and viewpoint character, she considers herself a hero, in a world where nobody can decently be called such. Though the fact that she considers herself a 'hero' is toned down in the remake. She just wants to live, and some of her more dubious actions have been retconned or changed. Her not really mother Quain'taina, is also portrayed as this in-universe, because to the Drow the definition of a great person is capability to great deeds; morality does not enter into the matter. Quain'tana's virtue is in her skills and charisma that allowed her to rise from a homeless street rat to one of the greatest political powers in the city, while the fact that she's a horrifically cruel mother is not particularly important to the drow. She isn't a sociopath, incidentally; it's more of a case of a cycle of abuse.
Also occurs in the comic Black Tapestries. The main star is a bitch. Also has Designated Antagonist, who manages to be a villain by a compulsive "Shoot the Dog" reflex.
Goblins plays with this by putting the protagonists on the receiving end. A band of adventurers invade their home to clear them out with no other justification than that they were goblins and therefore Always Chaotic Evil. Most of the tribe gets wiped out and the survivors decide that they are sick of being walking chunks of XP and decide to become adventurers themselves to better protect their homes. Then one of their own gets captured and brought into a human city where so-called "monstrous races" are routinely captured and tortured to better understand how to kill them. While it might seem that they slip into Designated Hero territory when they slaughter guards, they actually use the paladin's ability to detect evil to ensure only evil guards are killed. And Thaco's declaration of his intent to slaughter his way through the human civilians to get to his son is a bluff to scare away said civilians so that they aren't caught in the crossfire.
All the "heroes" of Sonichu. Many of the female main protagonists only exist solely for "fanservice", rarely, if ever, do heroics without their significant other and usually focus on shopping and having sex. Everyone takes the title with issue 10 and later All There in the Manual-type questioning. Issue 10 shows the Author Avatar for Christian Weston Chandler eradicating everything he hates - from homosexuality to simple Internet trolls with his fellow castmates cheering him on. Later questioning and written installments turn the characters into something of a private army for the city where they're granted immunity for any actions they've done and one of their more powerful characters is used as a sort of psychic security officer patrolling for anyone "gay". Chris continuously kept backpedaling after people kept complaining, leading to his big Creator Breakdown.
Vampire Cheerleaders has this with the main cast of five vampire girls who do some stuff that may cross the line for some viewers. Fortunately there's a good chunk of the fans that rages against this, not only unwilling to accept that having vampire powers simply means they just get to get away with things like that, but wishing the girls would be made to suffer and die. On the flip side there's the group of fans who accept the girls' good reputation In-Universe.
Rhys from Teahouse is supposed to be a troubled and rude yet somewhat charming prince. Except that he's irresponsible (meaning he would be a terrible person to run the country - his sister points this out several times); he's uncaring (he left his sister, grieving over how their father is slowly dying in front of them (who he showed zero interest in), so he could go to a whorehouse and fuck a whore - there were plenty of people within the palace who he sleeps with so it isn't a matter of needing comfort/escaping his duties); he violently beat up the whore who, supposedly, slept with his sister after he suggested that she should go there; he's repeatedly raped a whore who is technically a slave and not allowed to say no (but he still fought back as much as he could before Rhys overpowered him and tied him down) and he only goes to said whore, who's straight, so afterwards he can mock and victim-shame him - meaning he only does it so he can feel better about himself. Not only is he supposed to be a good guy that whore/prince couple is supposed to be romantic.
Makoto Yosue turned into this by the end of Red String. He started out as an obvious antagonist to the author's originally planned main couple and was a completely rude and unrelentless jerk to Miharu. Despite him knowing she's engaged and him knowing that he's also engaged to marry her cousin, he continues to harrass and pursue her. The closest he ever comes in the comic to acknowledging this is apologizing...for still loving Miharu. However, as the author completely fell in love with him, she drastically changed the story to make him more of a protagonist and derail her original storyline to focus more on Makoto. This led to the original male protagonist getting written out of his own comic and Miharu's only concerns in the storyline being her ability to date Makoto. People in the story constantly tell the reader he's "changed" or blow off his continued bad behavior to everyone around him with handwaves. Other storylines not featuring Makoto rapidly dropped out of the comic as it blew towards its conclusion. The author herself declared him her favorite character because of his "self-sacrifice", a trait he never displays in the entire ten years of the comic's run. Miharu eventually winds up with him because the story expects him to have her. By the end of the story, he'd morphed into a complete Karma Houdini and a Creator's Pet, but never actually a person who the reader would actually want to root for.
To highlight the complete disconnect between Makoto's portrayl in the comic and how the author wants him to be seen, in one of the final scenes of the comic, Makoto insults Kazuo for having an abusive home and for becoming so ill from it that he tried to commit suicide. Kazuo points out that Makoto entered his life by declaring the then-engaged Miharu and her family's business as his property, both of which he'd gotten his hands on with no actual effort, and pointing out that his life has been nothing but one lucky break or parental bail out after another. We are supposed to take Makoto's side. Oh, and his parents do bail him out once again, leaving him in a better position than he was before the argument...so Kazuo was completely correct that Makoto is completely useless as a protagonist.
Miharu devolves into this as well. By the end of the comic, anything about her that indicates she exists to be anything except Makoto's girlfriend has departed the comic and she can't even make the simplest decisions without relying on him to do them for her. Miharu's goal at the start of the comic is eating and being Kazuo's wife. All that changes in the end of the comic? She just intends to be Makoto's wife instead. In the meantime, while the story tries to tell us that she's brave, thoughtful, and spunky, her actions come off as a spoiled bratty teenager that's never been told no. She's kicked out of high school (which is very hard to do in Japan and doubly so at her school in particular) due to her antagonism of her teachers and complete disregard for schoolwork. The story started to show her realizing that she was on her last chance at her new school...then dropped any pretense of showing her ever working on fixing her grades or having any plans beyond marrying the guy that just threw his job away to date her full time and has shown no indication of actually planning on getting another one. In addition, she treats her parents like crap when they rightfully point out her secretly dating Makoto could put her entire family (including Karen's family!) in serious peril if she isn't taking it seriously. Naturally, since Makoto just solved the problem for her, Miharu is never put in a position to admit she's wrong and the last scene of the comic is her mocking her parents. Oh, and Kazuo, the guy she was supposed to marry who she now knows had a physically and emotionally abusive home and who she claimed to still care about and that she'd "always be there for him?" even after his family pressured him (physically) into ending the marriage? Yea, she cuts him off entirely and can't even be arsed to tell him in person. She also seems to think she can magically solve his abusive homelife by manipulating him into participating in cooking contests and then gets angry and offended when he finally realizes she had literally convinced a woman to pretend to love him to convince him to cook. Only in that last scenario is Miharu ever shown to admit she did something wrong. The story still expects us to sympathize only with Miharu and be angry with Kazuo despite the fact that he's absolutely right to be angry with her for treating his problems so flippantly.
Jay Naylor, author of Better Days, actually created a porn series sold online called "Haukaiu the Hero". People have pointed out that the title character hasn't done anything heroic, by either the old use or the current one, but has in fact so far been so blatantly unheroic as to not really care that his brain-damaged mother is being used as a sex toy by the men of the village. It is a porn series, so it's not really supposed to make sense to begin with, and the series are still incomplete, but still...
In the Online novel series Tasakeru, Skunk mythology states that their death-goddess loved the male element of the god's love quadangle so much she offered to be sub-dominant to him. The other two, the goddesses of life and time, reacted by infusing her body with poison so whatever she touches dies. They more or less act like horror-movie style sorority bitches, rather than the kind and loving goddesses they're worshipped as.
Gordon Freeman is depicted as being like this in Freemans Mind. Everyone hails him as a great hero, but really he just sort of bumbles around and saves the world by an accident, while at the same time trying to negotiate with enemy soldiers (it doesn't work), looting things around Black Mesa, and trying to find anything he can to get high (such as animal tranquilizers). A good example is episode 19: throughout the last few episodes, he had been randomly wandering around, pressing buttons because they looked shiny and shooting zombies who attacked him. Turns out he accidentally turns on a rocket engine that burns a giant monster to death (that he had avoided being crushed by due to sneaking and sheer dumb luck).
Captain Hammer, from Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, is the archnemesis of the eponymous Villain Protagonist. Although nearly everyone in the story regards Captain Hammer as unambiguously heroic, he's actually a Jerk Jock, Smug Super who takes pleasure in humiliating anyone who doesn't measure up to his standards. This includes anyone "nerdy" or "unpopular", both of which describe Dr. Horrible to a tee and, in the backstory, led him to declare Then Let Me Be Evil.
An au fan-made prequel, Horrible Turns, claimed that this was his actual super-power.
The Irate Gamer himself. He blew up a harmless alien mothership because of E.T. on Atari, murdered the Kool-Aid Man for doing what he does... ON CHRISTMAS, casually pals around with Satan, blew up Ubisoft's headquarters because he couldn't get into their E3 conference, and we're supposed to treat him as the hero. If he was just an asshole that would be kind of understandable, except he has an Evil Twincharacter that hasn't even killed anyone or done anything remotely evil outside of stealing something.
Mutants in the Whateley Universe. A number of the mutant characters seem to hold the opinion that mutants are just another minority, cruelly segregated and persecuted by 'normal' people... which, to be fair, is true, except for the fact that most mutants have powers that could easily kill a baseline, many at the school are living weapons of mass destruction, and the superheroes can be deadly- for instance, the case of the Flying Bulldozer, who tried to stop his long-time nemesis by throwing cars at him. It worked, while injuring dozens and causing over a million dollars of damages.
Especially the main characters of most stories and any of the school staff.
Similarly, Timmy Turner of The Fairly OddParents uses his wishes to save his hometown and/or the world from impending doom as often as he causes it. Granted, the show would end if he were to actually learn that age-old lesson to Be Careful What You Wish For.
During the first season, before the show completely found its groove, the heroes could be this (Example: In one episode, Sissi tricks Ulrich by writing a note pretending to be Yumi, and that's considered terrible. In a different episode, Ulrich and the gang trick Herve by writing a note pretending to be Sissi, and that's considered perfectly OK!). Later seasons tone down this aspect fortunately.
Jeremie could sometimes be this even past the first season. Many problems in certain episodes were caused directly by him and he usually always has to resort to the Reset Button to clean his mess up.
This is taken Up to Eleven in the episode "Operation: A.R.C.H.I.V.E.", about the origins of the title organization, which states that children only created adults to be their slaves and generally treating them horribly, and not doing one actual heroic thing the entire episode. Justified because the episode is not canon, but just the ramblings and speculations of Numbuh One, who has no idea what he is talking about. Maybe. The episode ends on an ambiguous note (the teacher calls someone and says "They know."), and it may explain the origins of Grandfather.
Sometimes Jerry had reasons to act against Tom, sometimes, however, he was just being mean for the sake of it. The most common scenario seems to be: Tom is sleeping or otherwise doing nothing while Jerry, being a mouse, starts stealing Tom's owner's food. We're expected to support Jerry while Tom is constantly fed to the lions because, after all, Cats Are Mean. Granted the writers weren't utterly oblivious to this, and actually let Jerry lose to Tom a fair few occasions he really crossed the line.
There was one episode of the series where Tom was beheaded by his owner for failing to stop Jerry and that little nitwit baby mouse from stealing food set out on the royal banquet table. Not only are Jerry and Nibbles Musketeers in the episode, the food they're stealing is from the king, the person they're supposed to be protecting, with Tom as one of the palace guards designated to keep an eye on the banquet for later that night. Meaning, they're supposed to be on the same damn side, and the mice are still stealing the food. At the end of the episode, as the mice are walking away with their tiny arms loaded with food, we hear a drum roll, and they look up to see the rise and drop of the guillotine. Nibbles, or whatever his name is in this one, swallows the bite of food in his mouth with a momentarily surprised look, says "Pauvre, pauvre pussycat," then casually shrugs his shoulders and says "Ah, well, c'est la guerre!" and they go off happily munching with jaunty theme music in the background.
The DtV movies are just as bad about this, with the exception being "The Fast and the Furry". In the others, Tom and Jerry often have to team up to save the day or find the MacGuffin, with Tom proving to be a good guy. But at the end, no matter what, Jerry screws over Tom without fail for no other reason. Which, considering Tom not deserving it beyond being a cat, turns Jerry into a Jerkass bordering on Villain Protagonist.
The attitude towards Tom being the villain and Jerry the hero no matter what was probably best shown in Heavenly Puss, where Tom dies and is told by the Gatekeeper he will be sent to hell if he doesn't get Jerry's forgiveness for all the times he's persecuted him. Though it was All Just a Dream, it shows very well who was always the "Good Guy" in the creator's mind.
Much of the Warner Bros. animated stable have these characters as their leads:
Bugs Bunny was like this in his early shorts, where he was an obnoxious Screwy Squirrel and Karma Houdini. In the later shorts this was rectified, with Bugs becoming a Karmic Trickster who only targeted those who deserved it though who "deserved" said retribution was still determined by Protagonist-Centered Morality. Bugs more often than not though was very similar to Yakko and Dot below and works on the basis that Bugs just likes being a jerk, he didn't earn "ain't I a stinker?" as a catchphrase in an ironic sense.
Everything said about Bugs Bunny also applies to Woody Woodpecker, except for the charm. Most other Walter Lantz heroes are similar.
Chester and Spike were always the heroes of their shorts, and we're expected to cheer them on despite their goal in each and every one being to harass, torment and just plain beat the living shit out of poor Sylvester, who is always minding his own business and not doing anything wrong. Did mid-20th century cartoonists just hate cats that much?
Same goes for Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner on Animaniacs. While Wakko might get a pass because he's often portrayed as The Ditz, Yakko and Dot are undeniably aware they're making life a living hell for the people they annoy, even as they try to cover their behavior by playing "innocent children." True, often the target of annoyance will be assigned a Kick the Dog action or just come off as The Scrappy to "justify" the Warners' treatment of him (or, more rarely, her), but most of the time the Warners have no way of knowing this person is the Designated Villain. Also the Warner kids aren't above relying on the old Wounded Gazelle Gambit when a third party shows up (as in "The Big Candy Store").
Also note that these 'kids' at the time of the show were at least 60 years old, so chances are they knew knew exactly what they were doing.
Vendetta, on the Nicktoons show Making Fiends, is technically the antagonist of the story, since she creates the monsters that keep the rest of the town under her thumb. But when "good girl" Charlotte moves to town, the natural order of things is turned on its head by the fact that she's completely immune to the antics of Vendetta's creations and is completely obnoxious to boot. As she progresses blithely through the series, bringing about her own destruction in the process, the townspeople find her even more terrifying then Vendetta. More than once, Vendetta is forced into the role of hero to undo Charlotte's reign of tyranny. Maybe the evil test was right after all.
It's taken to such elaborate measures In-Universe that the show's interpretation of God once sided with Itchy killing Scratchy for fun and sent the latter to burn in the pits of hell.
In the X-Men: Evolution episode "Joyride" Avalanche becomes this while Scott/Cyclops of all people becomes the Designated Villain. To explain the premise of the plot: Lance decides he'd rather be in the X-Men to get closer to Kitty. Scott doesn't trust him. The episode consists of Lance making it as difficult as possible to be trusted (he ruins not one, but two different training exercises for the sake of being the center of attention, taunts Scott about his trashed car, etc) and so when the new recruits take the various X-Vehicles for joyrides Lance gets blamed, not because the kids frame him, but because he outright gives the adults reason to. When the new recruits take the X-Jet out, Lance jumps on with Kitty to stop them. However, when all the chaos ends Lance CONFESSES just to get into Scott's face. When Scott finds out he was innocent he apologizes, but Lance gets insulted by the fact he didn't trust him and quits the X-Men, not because of being blamed, but because he Just. Doesn't. Want. To. Try. We're supposed to have sympathy for Lance even though he did all he could to ruin his chance of freedom.
Total Drama World Tour makes a big deal that Alejandro is a much more evil version of Heather, the former villain; in the end, that makes Heather the "hero" when they make it into the final two. But if you really compare Heather's actions over the course of the series, she's done every nasty thing Alejandro did—she was just less effective at it by season three, due to the others' Genre Savviness about her and their perpetual Idiot Ball about how Obviously Evil Al was.
The heroes of the show Redakai seem to be having some trouble with how to act heroic.
One of the shows villain groups, The Imperiaz, are a trio of siblings working for the show's Big Bad reluctantly because he's holding their parents hostage. The heroes are aware of this, but rather than wanting to help or at least showing a little sympathy, they have no remorse making light of the siblings' situation to taunt them.
In the show, there exists something called "The Kairu Honor Code." So far, there are three parts of it. The Kairu must be taken from the object by the team that gets the rights to it. The second part is that Kairu Warriors must NEVER attack ordinary people. The third part is that attacking your opponent even after they forfeit is forbidden. Even Lokarcan't stand anyone whobreaks the code and actually disbands the team that does. Team Stax, the good guys, attack normal people, and not a single scolding because they're the heroes and can get away with it! Why have such a thing in place if the heroes ignore it?
Oh yeah, one of those times, Team Stax attacked an ordinary person by stringing him by his ankles to a pterodactyl. And they're supposed to be portrayed in the right when they do this. Wow...
Johnny Test. He bugs most everyone around him, is pretty okay with being used as a guinea pig by his sisters in return for favors, which by the way, continuously endangers him, his family, and possibly the rest of his town, and... really just being a textbook example of the bratty kid hero. He's also a Karma Houdini most of the time.
Well, even if he didn't allow himself to be used as a guinea pig, his sisters would simply perform the experiment on him anyways, such as the 'grow your own monster' episode where they had replaced a glass of water with a glass of 'runoff' from a behavior modification liquid behind his back, simply to see what happens should he drink it. And considering it turned one of those 'sponge' toys into a living, breathing monster... At least he's getting something in return by volunteering.
One infamous example of this is when Johnny accidentally(?) zaps his sisters with a ray that lowers their IQ. Rather than immediately trying to find a way to return them back to their genius selves, he takes total advantage of their stupidity for his own amusment. In fact, the only reason he turns them back to normal (with the help of Bling-Bling Boy) is because the school the girls go to would've gone through a nuclear meltdown (Don't ask).
Dukey, despite being the more level-headed one, isn't exempt from this either. While he does point out when Johnny is about to do something stupid and/or irresponsible, he's perfectly willing to join in with his friend's antics (And, if not, he's easily bribed with meat). One episode even had Dukey blatantly distracting Johnny from getting his schoolwork done causing Johnny to have to do extra credit (so he wouldn't have to go to summer school). Not once is Dukey called out or punished for essentially putting Johnny in that situation in the first place (It's also Out of Character for Dukey since he's often the more responsible one of the two).
Another infamous episode featured Dukey acting like a Jerkass dog (Including chewing up the sisters' belts and eating their food) causing said sisters' to invent an obedience collar for him to get him under control. In the end, it's Susan and Mary who end up being punished and Dukey and Johnny mock them for it. Again, Dukey is portrayed as a Karma Houdini here.
Susan and Mary are as likely as Johnny to put themselves, their family, and the world in danger with their inventions, and usually Johnny is the one who ends up fixing it.
King of the Hill: Hank Hill is usually a well-meaning person, but at times he is shown to be laughably old-fashioned compared to a more modern family that it's not even funny. Other times, he shows total disregard to his family and friends (ex. "Texas City Twister", "Pretty Pretty Dresses", etc.).
Also, Peggy. She sees herself as the sensible, long-suffering one, but there are many, many, many reasons she's The Scrappy.
Cotton Hill is an in-universe example. While he (and Hank at times) love to remind everyone he "killed fitty men in WWII", Cotton is also a racist, sexist, bitter old man who treats everyone (except Bobby) with utter disrespect and contempt. It's also shown that he exaggerated many of his "heroic" deeds in the war (Such as him claiming to be in two different battles that took place at the same time).
Rabbit from the short-lived series Skunk Fu! certainly counts. He's supposed to be a hero, yet he spends most of the time acting like an arrogant Jerkass around everyone else. This is the same series in which the Big Bad got his Start of Darkness for being arrogant.
The Heavens themselves could be seen as this despite being the Big Good of the series. It's explained in the official source material of the series that when Dragon asked if he could use his water powers to save the village, The Heavens said nothing. This causes Dragon to use his powers making The Heavens take away his water powers (he originally could control fire and water). Not once did The Heavens simply tell Dragon he couldn't use his powers to save the village (Which, by the way, was dying from a drought). Even worse is that they are said to have punished Dragon for his arrogance. Even if Dragon was acting haughty at the time, causing him to want to essentially destroy the same village he tried to save years ago out of vengence is far from a heroic act.
Sponge Bob Square Pants, Depending on the Writer, is occasionally thrown the Idiot Ball or Jerkass Ball. As much as Squidward is painted as a hopeless pessimist, living next door to a nuisance who repeatedly breaks into his home and destroys his artistic creations means he's earned every bit of his impatience. The only one who can tolerate SpongeBob for any length of time is Patrick...who frequently gets into just as much trouble. However, at least his excuse is that he's an idiot.
The Land Of Dreams in The Dreamstone, at least in early seasons. The Urpneys' biggest offense was usually trying to steal the stone so Zordrak could give the Noops scary dreams. While this was enough to provoke a retaliation, the heroes had a tendancy to take this completely over the top, gleefully beating or playing violent pranks on the Urpneys, who were usually unwilling, pragmatic Mooks only following orders so as to avoid brutal or outright fatal punishments from their Bad Boss. Despite this the Land Of Dreams was usually depicted as a messianic and borderline sickly sweet utopia that only gave the Urpneys exactly what they deserved. Later episodes tried to balance things out, giving Zordrak a genuinely menacing motive for stealing the stone and making the heroes more pragmatic in their retaliations, but they still often came off as disproportionately smarmy and vicious to their unwilling enemies.
An in-universe example on Sidekick is Maxum Man, who is hailed as the greatest hero of all time, even though he mostly just takes credit for the actions of his sidekicks, who are rewarded by being maimed repeatedly, often by him (keep in mind that sidekicks in this universe are generally small children), and many of the villains he faces became supervillains as Disproportionate Retribution for Maxum Man being a jerk to them.'
Benson seems to be becoming this for Regular Show. Two of the worst examples are in "Temp Check", after Mordecai and Rigby mow a field for a frisbee tournament, Benson makes them do it again, because it was a centimetre off, which would have been alright, except that when Rigby understandably complains, Benson says "What's that? Is that the sound of someone who wants to be fired?", and in "Muscle Mentor" where Benson just stands
Sam Manson of Danny Phantom is seen as Danny's true love and is favored by the creator, Butch Hartman. However, many see her as a Hypocrite and no better than any other girl Danny could have been with. In the first episode, she had the entire school menu changed to fit her vegetarian lifestyle despite her being a vegetarian to be different. She enters a beauty pageant solely to make a statement about how it disrespects modern women (and when she won, she simply calls it stupid) despite that the other contestants were competing to actually win. She spies on Danny when he went on a date yet when he did it to her, for more legit reasons, she yelled at him and threatened to end their friendship. In the final episode, she scolds Danny for purposely getting rid of his powers without considering the stress and trouble he was going through.