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Designated Monkey
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:

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.

Examples:

Advertising
  • 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.

Anime and Manga

Comicbooks
  • 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 the Aardvark 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 titular 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.

Literature
  • Marcus Brutus in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series of historical novels. He isn't a Butt Monkey or Chew Toy because he is a historical figure, but the writer goes out of her way to show her disdain for him. Brutus is portrayed in a deeply unsympathetic way as a coward, completely under the heel of his mother, a boring pseudointellectual, and both miserly and greedy when it comes to money. He is allowed a few moments of likability but is otherwise entirely contemptible, largely because of his role in killing Julius Caesar (who is essentially a Canon Sue in McCullough's novels).
  • Finding Judas states, "The original Judas Iscariot is often considered to have had unselfish intentions; perhaps he wanted to goad Jesus into all-out war with the Romans to liberate the Jews. And the apocryphal Gnostic Gospel of Judas actually claims that Jesus ordered him to do it." Yet traditionally, Judas is one of the most hated figures in Christendom. The Bible doesn't say what finally happened to any specific apostle (or ex-apostle) except Judas.
    • Really, Judas should be revered almost as much as Jesus is. Think about it — Jesus was sent to Earth for the entire purpose of being sacrificed to atone for everyone's sins. People hate Judas for betraying Jesus and causing him to be crucified, but really, by doing that, Judas allowed Jesus to achieve his goal in life and brought salvation for humanity along with it.
  • In The Dresden Files novels, especially the early ones, Harry sometimes screws up, but he also tends to end up taking heat for other people's screw-ups, and blaming himself irrationally for things that were, by any reasonable standard, not his fault. On at least one occasion, he heavily blames himself for another hero's massive moment of stupidity, which she didn't apologize for, for about another five books. (To say nothing of the fact that in so doing, she was engaging in several major felonies herself. Did we mention that it was a cop who engaged in the stupidity?) Not that his girlfriend was any better about this: when someone tells you that vampires aren't really very nice, you should listen, Susan. No matter how cool an article it would make. He's been getting more realistic about what is and is not his fault, though.
    • Not, of course, that it stops him from being kicked around more and more over the course of the series. All the time. Poor Harry. Being Good Sucks.
    • Lampshaded to a ridiculous extent in the RPG, to the point where it's the explanation for a mechanic. You get fate points whenever roleplaying gets your character in trouble, which you need to use to help you along.
    Harry: I demand 23 retroactive fate points.
  • Princess Irulan in Dune is treated quite coldly by her husband, Paul Atreides, as he blames her for their sham marriage - even though he was the one who demanded their union in the first place as terms of her father's surrender. Also, he has a loving and supportive relationship with his concubine Chani, while Irulan has precisely no one to help and comfort her. His behavior is really unnecessarily harsh.

Live-Action TV
  • 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.

Newspaper Comics
  • 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...

Professional Wrestling
  • 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.
  • Stacy Keibler, arguably. Supposedly a fan favorite for most of her career and at one point acknowledged as the most popular Diva on the WWE roster...but she seemed to get put through hell more than any other non-heel Diva. She got only three pinfall victories in her entire career (and two of those were in tag matches while the third was in a singles match where she needed outside interference to win, so they barely even count). She lost every single Bra & Panties Match she ever competed in (and she competed in quite a few), just so the audience could see her in her underwear. She was physically assaulted by men - sometimes much larger men - on at least four occasions, the worst being when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin did it to her while they were both faces and it was treated as comedy. And she was never booked in a single pay-per-view one-on-one match as a face, despite being in the company for four years and a face for three of them (meanwhile, fellow WCW alumnus Torrie Wilson got pushed to the moon for several years and won at WrestleMania twice, despite similarly being a lousy wrestler).

Tabletop Games
  • 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.

Webcomics
  • 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.

Web Video

Western Animation


Cosmic PlaythingLoser ArchetypeExpectation Lowerer
Cosmic PlaythingSliding Scale of Character AppreciationThe Woobie
Villain Forgot to Level GrindNo One Respects the Spanish InquisitionDesignated Villain
Designated HeroYMMVDesignated Villain
Designated HeroYMMV/Home PageDesignated Villain
Dark Magical GirlAnti-VillainDesignated Villain

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