The Designated Monkey is an unintentional Butt Monkey
. They constantly find themselves in horrible situations
; the author appears to intend this to be karmic punishment
, but the audience (or a significant subgroup of it) thinks that it's out of proportion and will treat them as The Woobie
. This can create Moral Dissonance
or Values Dissonance
in the work, or it could mean that the fandom is misaimed
. The audience may even begin to wonder whether the author is deliberately misrepresenting this character
to prevent us from sympathizing with them.
A variant of this can happen to an intentional Butt Monkey
or Cosmic Plaything
if the rules of the universe are rewritten to punish them.
Common traits of such characters:
- They are often either attractive or Ugly Cute. Beauty Equals Goodness, right? Even if they're supposed to be ugly, this is often thwarted by Generic Cuteness or Hollywood Homely casting.
- They're guilty of, and punished for, sins which, while they may be serious, would be quickly forgiven in-canon if the hero had committed them or the author thinks they're serious and the audience doesn't. (This covers both some varieties of Draco in Leather Pants and authors punishing characters for things the characters literally cannot help.)
- They're often unrepentant, not because they think what they did was OK, but because they feel they've been punished enough. They want the heroes to apologize before they concede anything more.
- They may feel they deserve the treatment even if they resent it - but canon makes it clear (possibly by accident) that they feel they'd deserve anything that happens.
- If they are repentant, they'll seek to rectify the situation and regain their "rightful place" in society. They will fail. May often come from being a Villain Ball Magnet.
- They may become The Unfavourite not only of a parental figure, but also of over half of the main cast. Either Values Dissonance or Misaimed Fandom will be involved when this happens to a Designated Monkey. Expect comments like You Should Have Died Instead aimed at this character.
- Rarely, they may not have done anything at all. They just get randomly punished for no apparent reason while the story behaves as if they've brought it on themselves.
Legitimate characters being turned into Designated Monkeys may be a sign that the fans
are Running the Asylum
Compare Unpopular Popular Character
and Informed Wrongness
. Contrast Creator's Pet
Anime and Manga
- The Trix Rabbit. Is it so much to ask to let the cute rabbit have some cereal? He's tried hard enough, hasn't he? Now, try to find someone except the ad creators who doesn't think he deserves it. They conducted a survey asking America if he should be allowed to get any. Twice. Voters said yes both times.
- Once, he just went out and bought some, with his own money. Then some kids came along and took it away, apparently just because they're assholes.
- Another commercial has the Rabbit win a box of it in a figure skating contest. Sure enough, the kids come by and take his Trix AND the trophy he won (even though he entered the contest and competed fair and square).
- Double subverted in one commercial. He disguises himself as a human and buys some Trix, gets home, pours it out into a bowl, and goes to grab the milk... and finds out that the carton is empty. It was a Got Milk? commercial.
- Mad Magazine inverted this in a strip where the Trix rabbit is lying in a hospital bed, deathly sick from eating Trix, while a group of kids tell him "See, we told you."
- A number of mascots are designated monkeys in this regard (see also Cereal Vice Reward). Lucky the Leprechaun always has kids steal his Lucky Charms (go buy some, you brats!); Sonny always goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and the Quik rabbit always loses his self-control when Nestle Quik is involved. Clearly, advertising agencies are sadistic.
- Yamcha was already something of a Butt Monkey before in Dragonball, but DBZ took it up to practically Deus Angst Machina levels. He had the most humiliating losses and deaths, realized that he will never become strong, lost his girlfriend of two decades to his own killer, never found anyone else, and was a old Vagabond in his last appearance. Almost makes you think the author had something against him.
- Takagi from Detective Conan.
- Pikachu would fall into this category on random occasions, especially in the post-Johto series. Every time he and Ash arrive in a new region, the electric mouse would temporarily lose his strength, and he went through a few brief Face-Heel Turns, the most notable one in the Orange Islands episode "Pikachu Revolts".
- Sasazuka from Strawberry Marshmallow.
- Lelouch from Code Geass; the show's writers said that they loved him, but his personality (highly intelligent but arrogant) led to him making lots of bad decisions, which came back to haunt him later on. The writers considered these repercussions to be "learning experiences" in their attempts to make him a better person. Of course, just how much of a Woobie he is depends on the individual viewer's opinion, but most will agree that it certainly looks like the universe has it out for him at times.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: If Yugi were to be this, it's often or not Played for Drama. The case would be similar for Jonouchi, who is also a Designated Dueling Monkey Played for Laughs.
- Yukinari from Girls Bravo is this to a nearly ridiculous degree, especially when Kirie is involved.
- Batman falls into this occasionally in comics written by Geoff Johns. Johns claims to like Batman, but considering how many times he's humiliated/beaten up/put in the Designated Villain role in his comics, a lot of fans feel differently.
- Frank Miller's treatment of Superman is up there with Johns's efforts on Batman. How many times does Big Blue have to come out looking like a moron, anyway? He treats them both as idiots in All-Star Batman And Robin, though. ASBAR, is, however, quite possibly a Stealth Parody (or so everyone hopes).
- When Supes isn't written as an outright moron, he's a pathetic pawn of the government. Not to mention Miller's complete dismissal of Green Lantern as being a pathetic hero. One issue of ASBAR had Dick Grayson, age 12, steal Hal's ring and give him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Many fans assume that this was Miller's Take That for the aforementioned Geoff Johns example.
- Miller seems to give Plastic Man a fair amount of respect from Batman himself in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, though. "He could kill us all... For him, it'd be easy..." This is surprising since other writers have used Plas as a Butt Monkey for comedic purposes,
- Dave Sim did this a lot as Cerebus went on. It tied in with his Creator Breakdown. Due to his rising misogyny, he hated pretty much all his female characters and generally wrote them out to replace them with Straw Feminist shrews. This, however, is nothing compared to the titlular character. A good part of one trade paperback is devoted to Dave directly addressing said character and explaining to him what an asshole he is and how totally unfit he is for human company. Pretty much the entire comic from that point on (about 100 issues or so, depending on where you think this begins) details Cerebus' slow and gradual self-destruction.
- The Civil War at Marvel was this to the anti-registration side, at least for the main focus issues. The writers wrote that side as having faults that a lot of readers didn't see.
- With the exception of Superman, Garth Ennis has a serious mad-on for superheroes. Whenever they appear in his comic, they are depicted as either Jerk Jocks or complete imbeciles, and their usual role is to get knocked around and make the Badass Normals look good. It's frustrating for readers who've seen his work on Punisher MAX and Preacher, and know that he's a genuinely good writer when he's not writing what amounts to glorified Revenge Fic.
- In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books, Michelangelo may be an unintentional example as he was not given an especially large role in Volumes 1 and 2, did little to advance the plot, and was often not portrayed as an especially skilled fighter. This was most likely due to the need to establish Leonardo's role as a "leader" along with the fact that Donatello and Raphael were Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman's favorite turtles respectively.
- Stephanie Brown's life at times seems to look like this. She seemed to constantly be tossed around between being accepted by Batman, Oracle, the Birds of Prey, and the rest of the Bat Family, and being rejected by them, sometimes rather harshly, because of her perceived lack-of-skills. As noted by some fans, however, she's not exactly incompetent, even if they try to frame her as such, but rather untrained and showing the same kind of potential all the previous Robins and Batgirls had, making Batman's refusal to train her come off as a rather cold and dickish, especially during her brief stint as Robin where she proved herself rather resourceful and was a big help, but was fired after one mistake while being held at unreasonable standards. Its also noted that her home life seems to be taken out of various PSA specials at times, given she's dealt with teen pregnancy, abuse, poverty, and was retconned to have once nearly been raped. Generally, it seemed that when they wanted to do a Very Special Episode, they'd just pile dirt on Steph's life and write about it. The fact she pushes past this and continues is also part of why her fanbase is so vocally protective of her.
- Mary Jane Watson, as part of being a inverted Creator's Pet, especially in recent years. Since writers and editors feel she ages Peter and limits story-telling possibilities, instead of trying to find creative uses for her character, they decided magical divorce to get rid of her, then complete character assassination to try and turn readers against her. When it didn't work, they settled with making her a Shipper on Deck for Peter and Carlie Cooper, then when THAT just made fans hate Carlie, they tried this. Making her the butt of jokes to establish she's not as smart as Peter and Carlie, making her appear like she can't move on from Peter, making her need rescuing even though she's always been able to defend herself except in bad adaptations of the mythos, generally tormenting her character out of some childish spite. Fans are not amused.
- Cyclops is a similar case, as in recent years characters have became prone to calling him out on being a terrorist or war criminal thanks to his actions during events like Schism and Avengers vs. X-Men. While some fans sided with Captain America and Wolverine in their condemnation of him, an equal number of fans (that has since grown) have protested that their treatment is unfair and hypocritical, especially given he spent half of the latter being corrupted by the Phoenix Force and wasn't harming anyone until they pushed him, and that the whole mess started because of Wolverine telling Cap not to trust Cyclops. A few years prior, when Wolverine and Cyclops argued, fanboys would cheer Wolverine on; now, they comment that Cyclops should just shoot his head off and be done with it. It doesn't help that Cyclops usually just tries to defend himself when they attack him, and when a bigger and more important threat emerges, he'll be the one to suggest leaving the petty squabbling aside while they insist on giving snide remarks.
- Ross Geller from Friends.
- Quinn Fabray from Glee
- The titular character of Everybody Loves Raymond became this trope more and more as the show went on. His wife, Debra, sometimes got this treatment at the hands of Marie, but at least in those cases, the show made it clear that the audience was supposed to side with Debra over Marie. When Ray became the Designated Monkey at Debra's hands, it was often for very shoddy reasons, yet it seemed like the show wanted the audience to root for Debra (at the very least, the studio audience seemed to be rooting for her, even when she made Ray a Butt Monkey).
- Colin Mochrie from Whose Line Is It Anyway? is an unusual example due to the fact he is absolutely capable of defending himself against both the writers, the comedians and Drew Carey. Several times when he's the butt of a joke, a percentage of the audience will cry out in favour of him and he'll often act innocent to get more sympathy.
- J.D. from Scrubs became this in season six. The writers put him through an incredible amount of torment (losing his girlfriend, losing his unborn baby, becoming homeless, getting a DUI on a technicality, and getting a disease that causes him to pass out frequently, which is to say nothing of the innumerable times he's been tormented and abused by people around him) and made it very clear that they had no sympathy for his plight (the storyline ends with him learning to not complain so much to his jerkass friends). This reached breaking point when the season ended with the girlfriend who left him revealing she lied about the miscarriage to escape their relationship and the show playing it entirely on her side, admonishing J.D. for being rightfully spiteful. Needless to say, this was when a lot of fans abandoned the series.
- From her introduction, Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is this. A seemingly cool character who steals Buffy's friends, tries to take over her role as Slayer, and sneaks her food. It turns out Faith's life sucks, which she covers up through sex and partying, in contrast to Buffy's better upbringing. She correctly feels she never fits in, then tries to kill Angel, thinking he was evil. This causes such a rift that Faith is very much on the outside.
- She then sleeps with Xander, the character who first described himself as a Butt Monkey, and when Xander tries to help Faith after she accidentally kills someone, it becomes horrifying. During this time, Faith becomes evil; not just evil, but frightening. The writers have her commit one evil act after another to portray her as a vicious, sadistic character, foregoing their original plan to have Faith so distraught over what she'd done that she's Driven to Suicide. That particular storyline didn't get played out until a season later (and across the sister-show Angel) after she wakes up from a coma and discovers she has lost her (evil) father figure, the only person who ever treated her like she was worth something in and of herself.
- Samantha McCall and Lucky Spencer got this sort of treatment in General Hospital when the show decided to push Jason and Elizabeth as a supercouple. Even though Elizabeth and Jason conceived a child while both were with Lucky and Sam, Lucky and Sam were vilified to make Jason and Elizabeth as a couple look better. Sam got the worst treatment; not only was her con-artist backstory retconned to make her out to be a total slut (she'd originally became a con-artist to support her stepbrother), but she was also made responsible for Jake's kidnapping. In addition, she hired armed thugs to terrorize Elizabeth and her young children as a wake-up call of Jason's lifestyle, and Jason and her shared several ugly moments which made it seem like they would not only never get back together, but they were never even going to be friends again. Even more bizarre is when Sam decided to hook up with Lucky while Lucky was still married to Elizabeth. Even though Elizabeth had already had Jake, and knew Jake was Jason's son and pined for Jason while married to Lucky, she was made out to be the victim during their divorce. As for Lucky, he was mostly portrayed as a narrow-minded simpleton who was incompetent at his police officer job. Any scene where he tried to visit his kids was treated like an intrusion on Elizabeth and Jason's relationship, complete with ominous music for ambiance.
- To the show's credit though, they did properly redeem Sam with time. During dangerous situations Jason and her were often forced into each others company and that helped to repair the rift between the two of them. Then, when Jake was kidnapped by Russian mobsters Sam rushed headlong into battle to save the child herself. Most poignantly, when Sam herself is kidnapped and is delirious from exposure to the cold, she starts hallucinating about Jake's kidnapping and how things could've gone differently. When Jason finally rescues her, she tearfully apologizes and again begs for his forgiveness. Lucky, however, continued to remain much of a Butt Monkey.
- It seems to be widely accepted in the universe of House that Chase is the least intelligent member of the Season 1-3 team. He certainly cops the most flak about it, from pretty much everyone. Yet, despite the fact that he has on average about two lines of dialogue per differential, he has solved more cases individually than either Cameron or Foreman. The one time he does firmly try to tell House that he's in the wrong, poor Chase ends up getting punched in the face.
- For Better or for Worse's April has become the Author's Unfavorite, and John gets attempts at character assassinations in the comic's "Reruns" in an attempt to make Elly look better. Many fans don't quite agree with the author's assessment.
- Luann - Tiffany the "popular" girl is constantly denigrated in-universe by basically everybody, all the time, even her alleged friends, and out-of-universe by author Greg Evans. While she's certainly shallow, immature, and a ditz, she doesn't really seem any worse than Designated Hero Luann, aside from being openly self-absorbed instead of being all passive-aggressive about it...
- After Hulk Hogan came to WCW, Ric Flair was often buried and humiliated. WCW seemed to go out of their way to make sure he looked horrible every time they held a show in his home town of Charlotte.
- In Warhammer 40,000 the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter are atoning for an ancient sin committed by half their brethren 10,000 years ago. In order to pursue the surviving perpetrators of this crime, they often abandon their main mission and leave other Imperial forces to be destroyed. This is considered highly suspicious behaviour and treated as a serious problem in the background material. However, almost every other Space Marine Chapter treats normal humans with total contempt too and displays signs of deviance and autonomy that are tolerated only because The Imperium aren't in a position to do anything about it. It's not clear what makes the Dark Angels' relatively minor disobedience so awful.
- Could be Deliberate Values Dissonance in action. The "ancient sin committed by half their brethren" was to betray the Emperor and almost destroy the Legion (not yet separated into Chapters) in their own civil war while the Imperium as a whole was being torn apart by the Horus Heresy. Considering the other Legions that did so were declared heretics with orders to kill on sight, the Dark Angels justifiably fear that if the knowledge of so many of the Legion being traitors was to become widely known, they would suffer the same fate, and so their efforts to eliminate the remnants of those traitors results in erratic, unexplained behavior that makes them appear suspicious; other Space Marines Chapters follow their own agendas, but at least they're relatively open about what they're doing.
- Boxbot from Gunnerkrigg Court is a Played for Laughs example, a small robot that doesn't do anything except be called terrible by other characters but he is terrible. Boxbot, is that you? Are you trying to exact pity from these good tropers? You're an embarrassment. I'm so disappointed in you.
- Yafien from Drowtales, who is a Nerd in a world where everyone else is a Proud Warrior Race Guy, does what any sane, unarmed person would do when three knife-wielding, demon-possessed people go after the girl you met three seconds ago: run away. He is also one of the few characters in his dystopian world who has never killed, raped, robbed, etc., and is viewed in-story as a treacherous coward due to Deliberate Values Dissonance.
- Syphile had a terrible childhood where she was put down, abused, and beaten pretty much constantly, and is guilty of abusing Ariel and killing her kitten in a fit of rage. She was forcing Ariel to memorize a dictionary, and basically had no idea how to teach, and took out the problems on the child, who unsurprisingly grew to hate her. She does a Breaking Speech, pointing this out, and Ariel simply refuses to listen. Also, she gets to give one to her own mother. And promptly die, but it may have influenced said mother...
- There's plenty of them in Something Positive, but Kharisma, in particular, represents this. A horribly shallow, self absorbed character who has received so damn much punishment (her face being set on fire, being sent to prison for a crime she [technically] didn't commit), it is getting harder and harder to feel schadenfreude at her.
- Before his Character Development lead to him becoming a better person, Mike was treated like crap by the main cast. The fact that he was the walking incarnation of Fan Dumb often paled in comparison to the Comedic Sociopathy of the main cast, but they were inevitably forgiven and he was shunned.
- The Nostalgia Critic. He is a git and does deserve what he gets most of the time, but he's an epic Jerkass Woobie and fans have said that it would be kinda nice if he actually won for a change.
- Donald Duck is often portrayed as a Jerkass who deserves his bad luck, but clearly, this is Played for Laughs.
- Which is why the Italians created his vindicator/superhero secret identity: Paperinik.
- Similarly, Daffy Duck of Looney Tunes; for the most part, Daffy does deserve what he gets, because of his jealousy and his undiscriminating screwyness. It is still very much played for laughs, though, and in some cases, it definitely seems like he's being unjustly punished (as in Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a Half Century or My Little Duckeroo, where he was actually on the losing end against a villain).
- A lot of Daffy's sympathy may have arisen from his rather different persona beforehand.
- Daffy, and the large majority of Looney Tunes antagonists for that matter, may often seem to invoke this due to their often pitiful malice which proves little challenge for protagonists such as Bugs Bunny and Speedy Gonzales, thus the horrible pain they endure seems somewhat disproportionate to what little provocation they make, no matter how cruel their intentions were (it's obvious who was meant to be the most sympathetic character between Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner).
- Elmer Fudd was an example self confessed by director Friz Freleng, who was convinced that Bugs looked too much of a 'bully' when pitted against him and thus made him into a more pro-active hero against the meaner-spirited outlaw, Yosemite Sam.
- Sylvester may be another key example, given that his intentions were usually never outside the natural instincts of a normal cat. The repeated physical and verbal assaults he received for trying to eat 'a sweet, innocent, little bird' and the equally brutal punishment he received for failing to do the same to a mouse (though granted, Sylvester was often placed in Butt Monkey roles, be it provoked or not) certainly didn't help.
- In later episodes of South Park, Stan and Kyle are interchangeable for this role.
- Regarding Stan, for example, in "Douche vs. Turd", he refuses to vote for a new mascot and ends up being hated by everyone and cast out of town on a horse with his jacket ripped to pieces and a bucket on his head.
- In Kyle's case, he's usually one to Cartman compared to Butters' Butt Monkey status. To name an example, in "Crippled Summer", Cartman decides to read his speech about how much he hates Jewish people, making Kyle object, but the doctor forces him to let Cartman finish.
- Due to the (hilariously) warped moral perspective on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Master Shake is both a Designated Monkey and a Karma Houdini. When Shake is actively being a jerk and hurting people, he tends to get away with it. But his biggest Humiliation Congas come from his well-intentioned (for him, anyway) stupidity and/or him being an unrelated victim.
- Meg Griffin of Family Guy seems to be a somewhat intentional example - often abused, ignored, or mocked by everyone in the show's universe for little known reason, especially as the Comedic Sociopathy humor in the series increased, with even straight men like Lois and Brian acting equally callous to Meg, as well as Jerkass characters like Peter (though granted, this may not be as emphasised in later seasons, where Flanderization has led nearly every character to become sociopathic and self centered with Meg's abuse actually seeming petty to that invoked and suffered by most of the cast). The fanbase seems divided as to whether Meg's treatment is hilarious or outright cruel.
- Something interesting about Family Guy, though, is that the writers actually seem to care what the Vocal Minority thinks. At the peak of the fan base's frustration over Meg's Comedic Sociopathy treatment, they Threw The Dog A Bone with "Dial Meg for Murder", a definite Crowning Moment Of Awesome. When we were facepalming over Brian's Author Filibuster Only Sane Man treatment as seen in Not All Dogs Go To Heaven and I Dream of Jesus, Quagmire (of all people) put Brian in his place in Jerome is the New Black, delivering an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how greedy, narcissistic, hypocritical, shallow, selfish, and boring Brian is/has become. Both episodes are Pandering to the Base done right.
- Quagmire's "The Reason You Suck" Speech was the only time he has antagonized Brian for valid, stated reasons, rather than something formed from Kafka Komedy or Comedic Sociopathy (eg. his disturbingly graphic No-Holds-Barred Beatdown for accidentally sleeping with his male-to-female transsexual father). Brian's treatment from the other characters is on similar grounds, especially since, even with his own flaws considered, they are far more callous characters than he is (and get away with it much more in addition). Similar to Meg's Butt Monkey treatment, after being considered a boring character, writers can't seem to make a character sympathetic without making another unlikeable in the process. In season 9 episodes, Brian Took a Level in Jerkass (other characters (besides Quagmire) lampshade how irritating and annoying Brian can be), so at this point, what the writers want to do with Brian is pretty much a mystery.
- Tommy Pickles from All Grown Up! becomes this in his preteen years, whenever his friends make him the scapegoat of their fury, whenever they're in a tight situation. This is done episodes like "Truth or Consequences", "Dude, Where's My Horse?", "All Broke Up", and "Brothers Grimm"
- In "All Broke Up", Tommy especially gets the bitter end of this where not only are his friends mad at him for lying to them, but when both Rachel (his girlfriend who had just moved away) and Anita (a girl who Tommy met a few days ago) shows at the same time, both of them reject Tommy, publicly humiliating him in front of everyone and breaking his heart.
- Angelica would occasionally get punished even when she did nothing to deserve it. In "Chuckie's in Love" she writes an article exposing the school cook's disgusting food and has him instead make normal food, but when the cook screws up by attempting cook the normal food blind-folded and gives all the kids food poisoning, everyone acts like it was Angelica's fault.
- Henry of KaBlam!! fits this trope to a T. He's often getting hurt for no apparent reason, though only two people in the show seem to care about him (his over-doting mom and his best friend/secret admirer June on some occasions).
- Mr. Bump from The Mr. Men Show is pretty much this.
- Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants is becoming one of these, largely due to his increasingly pitiful malice and his adversary Mr. Krabs becoming almost as callous and even reverting to torturing Plankton unprovoked in a similar fashion.
- Ezekiel from Total Drama World Tour. Apparently, being really determined to win qualifies him to devolve into Gollum.
- Fifi LaFume from Tiny Toon Adventures, who usually gets abused for no reason and is usually ignored by all of the other characters. Just look at how she gets treated in the movie!
- Rigby in Regular Show who is kicked around by almost everyone, because he is small and tends to act like an immature twit, and has died like 4 times (he got better each time though).
- The Urpneys of The Dreamstone are perpetual Villain Ball Magnets for the heroes, being treated as scum and falling victim to relentless violent punishments for trying to give the Noops scary dreams, disregarding the fact they are dragged kicking and screaming into each scheme with threat of torture or death by Zordrak if they don't.