"My advice would be to bring a friend that has your basic characteristics, but is slightly less attractive."A character that exists to provide a flattering contrast to the audience by being worse than the audience in some specific respect. This trope exists on a sliding scale of scorn; at one end the character simply exists as a flattering contrast to the audience (the Idiot Hero often fits here). At this end of the spectrum, the audience focuses on the "if this character can do x, then I certainly can do x!" On the other end of scorn scale is the harder version, where a character that is made pathetic so the audience can feel better about themselves (via Schadenfreude). The Ditz, a very common trope in Sitcoms, is this (but Played for Laughs). Arguably an Expectation Lowerer is an Inversion of Escapist Character; Escapist Characters allow you to feel good by giving you an Audience Surrogate that you can experience awesomeness through. An Expectation Lowerer makes you feel good in the exact opposite way; you cannot identify with this character and this character, in at least one respect, is worse than you. Not to be confused with This Loser Is You; where a character you identify with is the character that sucks. This Loser Is You basically flings the audience's faults back into their face whereas an Expectation Lowerer allows them to distance themselves from their faults. Compare/Contrast the Mary Sue, a character who (like the Expectation Lowerer) the audience does not identify with, but due to the character's strengths rather than weaknesses. Possibly related to Friedrich Nietzsche and his concept of "Pathos Of Distance" (where one casts that which one does not identify with as the morally wrong).
— Dan Arieli gives dating tips in Predictably Irrational
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- Friedrich Nietzsche and his aforementioned concept of the "pathos of distance" is arguably related to this. Nietzsche argued that moral concepts came about because societies/groups/cliques defined themselves (and a list of traits they allegedly embodied) as "the good" and hence "the unlike us" became "the bad."
- St Thomas Aquinas believed that the righteous in Heaven will be able to observe the torments of the wicked in Hell; the better to enjoy their blessedness. This is probably the harshest demonstration of the second kind of Expectation Lowerer, with gloating and schadenfreude on a celestial level.
- Or, as a demonstration of justice to their persecutors.
- St Thomas was by no means the first person to think this; the early Christian writer Tertullian wrote a remarkably nasty account of how much he was looking forward to seeing the benighted Roman heathens burning in Hell.
Live Action Television
- This is the reason for Bumbling Dad and all other negative portrayals of men on TV; it is not that feminists have taken over TV, it's that the male audience want to see someone who is more pathetic than they are. And, for example, worse at parenting. (Though arguably the Bumbling Dad could be indirectly caused by feminists exerting pressure on men to become better fathers, and the men wanting reassurance that they already are being good fathers in comparison to that loser on TV)
- Every single guest on Jerry Springer, and the UK equivalent Jeremy Kyle.
- Hopeless Auditionees on any TV Talent Show (for instance, American Idol).
- All of the main characters in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
- Studies show that this is literally true of the contestants on reality television; it can actually serve as a mental substitute for self-betterment.
- According to Scott Adams, this was the reason he ended the relationship between Dilbert and Liz. He kept getting e-mails stating essentially "Dilbert shouldn't get lucky before I do."
- This, mixed with Bile Fascination, drives sites like Encyclopedia Dramatica and People of Walmart (among many, many others).
- The Scumbags of the Internet section on A Dose Of Buckley gives us the following catchphrase, which all but invokes this trope:
"So thanks to today's Scumbag of the Internet, [insert name or nickname here], for making us all feel better by knowing no matter what we do in life, we'll always be better than he/she/they is/are."
- Barney Gumble from The Simpsons, is meant to be even more of a Straw Loser than Homer is. Subverted in that Barney makes an effort to get clean and sober (although he does fall Off The Wagon every now and again.) He's been Out of Focus in more recent seasons, because with his recovery efforts, he does not fulfill his Expectation Lowerer role anymore.
- Carl of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Fat, balding, ugly, hairy, a slob, a perverted sleezeball, and beyond.
- SpongeBob SquarePants is not the brightest bulb in the circuit by any means, but compared to Patrick, he looks like a genius.
- Richard Watterson on The Amazing World of Gumball seems to have the sole purpose of saying and doing things so stupid even Loser Protagonist Gumball sees how dumb they are. Notably, Richard, unlike Gumball, is such an idiotic loser that things often actually work around to his advantage precisely because of the fact that no one expects anything of him, so in a way, by making Gumball (and by extension the audience) seem like less of a loser, he makes Gumball look like more of a loser