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Hero with Bad Publicity
"What is he up to now?" How about saving your ungrateful lives!note 

I don't have time to justify myself to your viewers. I have a galaxy to save.

Being a Superhero isn't all it's cracked up to be. The heroes' lives and those of their loved ones are constantly in danger from their archnemeses—and sometimes from their own powers, too. Sometimes someone else takes credit for their heroic efforts. But perhaps the most hurtful and confusing drawback comes when the people they've sworn to protect hate their guts.

This could arise for any number of reasons:

But whatever the reason, public sentiment is against these heroes, and there's usually nothing they can do about it. Sorry - you can't please everyone.

Usually serves as the grass-roots support for a Super Registration Act. Can be a reason that Hilarity Sues. Especially ironic when it happens to the Slave to PR. Think of it as a tamer situation than Beware the Superman, where the only people who are acting like the supers are the ones to be feared are individuals and not society. The permanent version of the Untrusting Community. The inverse, where the hero's problems are evident only to intimates, is No Hero to His Valet, while the complete opposite - a bad guy that people like - is Villain with Good Publicity.

What one may view as a Hero with Bad Publicity, others feel to be a Villain with Good Publicity, so No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The titular character of Kinnikuman has this problem early on. In the first chapter, aliens actually cancel their invasion plans rather than fight Kinnikuman, the only hero available at the time. A bit later, the Japanese government allows American superhuman Terry Man to become their resident hero, in spite of the fact he charges for his rescues, because it's still better than being saved by Kinnikuman.
  • Vash from Trigun has a reputation so bad he's viewed as a natural catastrophe. Mostly because people keep trying to kill him and blowing up the nearby towns (which he gets blamed for), blowing up a city himself one time (Which was actually Knives' fault) and finally because Knives is trying to break him and convince him once and for all that Humans Are the Real Monsters.
  • Lina has a pretty terrible reputation... because she tends to use Dragon Slave in the middle of towns. Plus steal. But she manages to do heroic stuff anyway!
    • Revolution cranks it Up to Eleven –- she's nearly arrested and tried for the crime of "being Lina Inverse"! Her own friends regard this as being a valid reason to try and arrest her!
  • In Gaiking: Legend of the Daiku Maryu, this ends up being the case since the heroes essentially take the fight to the enemy's planet very early on. The episode in which the hero Daiya finds this out is actually called "We're the bad guys?!?"
  • Victor Freeman from Blaster Knuckle hunts demons that revert to a human form when killed, and have often taken the forms of women and children. The first issue kicks off with him stomping into a saloon and gunning down a pretty brunette pleading for help (she was actually a demon, but...). Did I mention that this story takes place in the 1880's Deep South, and that Victor is Black?
  • Kenzo Tenma is accused of murder and goes on the run; he is hunted by the police wherever he goes, but in truth, he's Walking the Earth in search of the true perpetrator, an utterly amoral creation of a twisted psychological experiment, while trying to save everyone he comes across - even those who are trying to arrest him for crimes he didn't commit.
  • Guyver features this after the Zoanoids go public and claim that the Guyver and his allies are alien invaders. The recent anime just barely scratches the surface of this plot and is the only non-manga iteration to get up to even that point.
  • Mist from Knights is generally feared and hated because he's black and he's in a Medieval European-esque setting with an overwhelmingly white population.
  • A major plot-point and cause of grief for Hoichi Kano, protagonist from Cannon God Exaxxion. Good part of it comes from the absurd amounts of damage caused by the titular Super Robot, but the Riofaldian defamation campaign on him (which smashes to dust the We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future trope) makes things even more difficult.
  • While the public and the Magic Council is grateful that the Fairy Tail guild often solves world-threatening crises, the tendency for its members to cause massive property damage greatly irritates them.
  • Akuto Sai in Ichiban Ushiro No Daimaou has a world's worth of factors against him. He's going to become the next Demon King, which his classmates are forcing him towards, willingly or otherwise, because the prophecy said so. Every time he tries to do some good, people assume it's part of his reign of terror. And then there's his name.
  • The title character of Black Jack is a brilliant surgeon who truly cares for his patients, but his outrageous fees and bad attitude give him a bad reputation.
  • This trope seems to disproportionately affect Dark-type and Ghost-type Pokémon. The eponymous Pokémon in Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai is this, and in the Pokémon episode "Ghoul Daze", a Dusknoir suffers being attacked by Pikachu and others when it was actually trying to save them from an actual malevolent ghost.
    • Thankfully, both of the above receive credit once the heroes realise the hastiness of their judgement.
    • Absol also suffers bad publicity. It is known as the Disaster Pokémon, and is able to pre-empt when disasters will happen. It then does the logical thing and tries to warn people of the impending disaster, only to be blamed as the cause of it, since it happens shortly after he appears.
  • Yusei Fudou in the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds. Neo Dominoe residents do not take kindly to "Satellite scum" with a criminal mark. They don't take kindly to Satellite people in general...
  • The straw hats of One Piece tend to be treated like this, they do a lot more good than harm, but still get chased out of places due to technically being pirates, and series of bad coincidences.
    • This is mostly because the World Government would rather eat their shorts than admit that a band of pirates are more effective than their own forces (Especially since said forces are the villains Luffy's crew typically fight). During the Fishman Island Arc, Luffy outright states he doesn't want to be seen as a hero...for rather off reasons. The Straw Hats don't mind helping people and admire those that do, but they're not that interested in getting good press.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Roy Mustang more or less cultivates this by appearing to care only about chasing women and promotions. He gets hit with it for real when he is apparently responsible for burning a fugitive woman to death. Subverted in that he's still cultivating it - he fakes the murder and smuggles the woman, who is innocent, to safety in another country, knowing full well that people will hate him but preferring that over leaving her to her fate.
  • In the FRLG saga of Pokémon Special, an ultimatum was set up in that the three Pokedex holders, Red, Green and Blue, must surrender themselves to Team Rocket, or else the evil team's attack on the Sevii Islands will continue until they are captured. This caused the local community to pin the blame on the Pokedex holders, and even trying to hunt them down.
  • Zero and the Black Knights of Code Geass, when it comes to the Britannian Empire.
  • Guts from Berserk, although he's technically an Anti-Hero. Still beats his reincarnated nemesis Griffith, who is the Villain with Good Publicity.
  • Arata from Arata Kangatari is a wanted criminal due to having been framed for the attempted murder of Kikuri-hime. By extension, Hinohara is this as well due to swapping places with Arata and having his image in the eyes of other people.
  • Happens to Simon when the war against the Anti-Spirals start. The guy who was just yesterday praised as a hero who defeated Lordgenome is now going to be executed. Doesn't help that the crowd is breaking Kamina's statue, the war was actually declared by Nia and Rossiu is attempting a coup d'état.
  • In Bokurano, Zearth is so destructive it's considered a Kaiju. They even assassinate a kid who claims to be a pilot.

    Comic Books 
  • The instigation for the events in Marvel Comics' Civil War crossover is due to a large amount of collateral damage (including a few hundred dead children) from a botched mission that turned public opinion against superheroes. The result is that superheroes are put under government control (a fairly sensible idea that very quickly went horribly wrong), with Iron Man in charge. But Iron Man himself becomes a Hero with Bad Publicity after the heroes almost fail to stop an alien invasion. He's kicked out of office and the new boss is Villain with Good Publicity Norman Osborn, the "ex-"Green Goblin. This seems to get eventually subverted when Norman caught Tony, brutally beats him, and was caught on TV. And suddenly, the people think Tony is sympathetic again.
    • Said incident which kicked off Civil War also gave this statue to surviving members of the New Warriors. The one member who survived the incident (Speedball) suffered so much psychological damage, both from the incident and his new status as the most hated man in America that he became increasingly dark and masochistic, causing his powers to alter themselves so that he can only use them when he is in pain. Other former members of the New Warriors also faced the unanimous hatred of the general public for years to come which only ended after Nova became very publicly involved with helping the public in the wake of Civil War and Secret Invasion.
  • The anti-mutant prejudice in the X-Men labels probably qualifies, although this can also be seen as a case of Fantastic Racism. Anti-mutant sentiment is so strong that the original X-Factor masqueraded as anti-mutant crusaders to endear themselves to the public.
  • Spider-Man gets a lot of undeserved flak, mostly due to the negative PR campaign by his employer, J. Jonah Jameson. Probably the first superhero to have this as his status quo.
    • Within the first twenty issues it was revealed JJ felt jealous of Spidey's successes. Later revelations included being beaten by his stepfather, a mistrust of superheroes, and JJ's own failure to live up to the high standards he sets for himself. In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, JJ hates Spider-Man because he wears a mask, and his wife was killed by a masked man.
    • Though he is always the first to accuse Spider-Man of crimes, JJ is also usually the first to retract his statement when he is proven wrong, at one point remarking that he believes that claiming Spidey to be a menace prevents him from actually becoming one. Furthermore, regardless of the Daily Bugle's libel, there is enough evidence to suggest that the New Yorkers are not so easily manipulated any more and will rally behind Spider-Man.
    • Jameson eventually became the Mayor of New York City — and as you might expect he constantly leveraged his expanded sphere of influence against Spider-Man.
    • There is the fact that Peter began his superhero career as a teenager with no guidance and tended to be a wisecracking jerk who often screwed up and lost, and also tried more than once to draw a paycheck for it (nobody knows he needs the money to take care of his aunt). A bad first impression is hard to shake. Plus, being immature, he tended to egg-on JJ or get angry at him (which could be interpreted as threatening.)
    • Perhaps one of the biggest reason why Spider Man gets a lot of publicity (particularly the police force) is his total unwillingness to kill the supervillains that he fights against. In fact, in Superior Spider-Man, Otto Octavius inside Peter Parker's body, manages to win public support by killing Massacre. Something that Peter Parker himself is unwilling to do because he's afraid of what he will become. Apparently, the public isn't really happy about Spidy fighting a supervillain, sending the said villain to jail, only to escape again and commit crimes that are worse (something that Otto himself pointed out to Ghost!Peter).
    • In the Ultimate line of Spider-Man comics, JJ initially only wanted to make headlines. This quickly changed however. It came to a head after The Bugle publicly started to support Sam Bullit, who was running on an anti-vigilante (in other words, superheros) campaign. But later, after an attempt on his life by some of the Kingpin's goons, JJ went to Peter's house (after having fired Peter from his job at the Daily Bugle earlier) and revealed his deeper reasons. He'd launched a smear campaign against Spider-Man because he didn't like the fact that his own son, who had died in a space shuttle accident (a real hero in Jameson's eyes), wasn't thought of as one and didn't get the attention he deserved, while everyday people looked up to a guy swingin' in his underwear.
      • Finally inverted later on, though. After Jameson sees Spider-Man risking his life to save a woman during a flood, he does a total 180, and devotes the Bugle's energies to supporting him.
      • In fact, after the Ultimatum wave, Jameson becomes one of Spider-Man's greatest advocates, leading to multiple crowning moments of heartwarming. For instance, when he discovers Peter's identity, he uses the information to clear Spider-Man's name without revealing his secret identity. He then gives Peter his job back and offers to pay for his college tuition. Eventually, when Spider-Man dies, he attends the funeral and comforts Aunt May in her time of need.
    • Humorously, the alternate future of Marvel Comics 2 sees JJJ as a big fan and major supporter of Spider-Girl, the daughter of the hero he had slandered.
    • This is exaggerated in Ultimate Spider-Man where Jameson's smear campaign is not only more effective, but less deserved as he's become an agent of SHIELD and has never egg-on JJ, thus giving less credence to it. The beginning of Season 3 finally averts this. Spidey joining and becoming a successful Avenger results in the general populace of New York loving him.
  • The Incredible Hulk. In fact, due to the damage he's caused in his career, it would be very hard to find someone in the Marvel Universe with worse publicity who could still be considered a hero.
  • Over at The DCU, no matter how hard he tries, Booster Gold goes up against negative public opinion fairly often... usually due to his own screw-ups and glory-hound nature. He's getting better ... but the nature of his time-travel mission means that, in the Present Day, he's maintaining Obfuscating Stupidity and a Jerkass Façade, so he still has bad publicity. Meaning that now he HAS to have bad publicity, as being an infamous screw-up is the ultimate insurance against his enemies (also time travelers) trying to Ret Gone him... But, among his family, he is the greatest hero of all.
  • Richard Wentworth, The Spider, had a habit of killing crooks by the score. While this behavior was justified within the stories, it did make the police and public think of him as a dangerous criminal in his own right.
  • Just about all of the masked vigilantes in Watchmen after they fell out of favor and costumed adventuring was made illegal - except for those who work for the American government. Of course, the only other one still active is Rorschach, and he kinda deserves most of it.
  • The Outsiders' raison d'ętre is to be the team of superheroes that can do the Dirty Business and know they're going to come out with stains upon their name. Considering that it was funded by Batman, it makes sense, but raises some interesting questions.
    • When Batman took control of the team again, he fired several of the members, pointedly because they weren't suited to that sort of reputation:
      Batman: Only criminals operate without constraints anymore, so we're going to cultivate the Outsiders' reputation as a team of outlaws. I didn't think you'd mind sparing Nightwing and Thunder that kind of stigma.
  • Like Iron Man, in the aftermath of Secret Invasion, Spider-Woman has attained a very horrible reputation. Even if she is the real Spider Woman, most of the New Avengers (and some normal people) still see her as the Skrull Queen, the orchestrator of the Invasion that captured and impersonated her for years.
  • While this tends to come up at some point in most incarnations of Transformers, it was a particularly strong theme in the original Marvel Comics run, where the humans frequently weren't even aware that there were two factions of Transformers, let alone that one of those factions might be better-intentioned than the other.
    • In particular, Walter Barnett of the Intelligence and Information Institute, inspired by one of his son's comic books, hired its writer, Donny Finkleberg, to portray "Robot Master", who claimed to be in control of all the robots. When Finkleberg ended up a prisoner of the Decepticons, Megatron decided to keep the charade going, if only because it would invoke this trope for the Autobots. It didn't quite work, though, seeing as how it was kind of hard to explain why a madman bent on Taking Over The World would have two groups of robots under his control fighting each other, but fortunately for Finkleberg, he was able to escape before he outlived his usefulness to Megatron.
    • In the IDW sequel series Regeneration One, the Autobots definitely fall under this on Earth, seeing as how they failed to clean up after themselves when they left for good in 1991, and inadvertently let Megatron nuke the population to near extinction.
  • Transformers Autocracy and its sequel Transformers Monstrosity: Play with this. In the first, the Autobots are considerably hated by the populace, as they are a security force for the corrupt government, and their leader, Zeta, levels a city to stop the Decepticons, who are the oppressed masses forming behind a charismatic leader, Megatron, and numerous citizens sympathize with them. The Protagonists even team up with him to stop their corrupt leader, and the second Megatron blows Zeta's head apart, he turns on the Autobots and the rest of the populace. The Autobots managed to rally the citizens (as well as getting the press on their side), and oust the Decepticons. The sequel continues to play with it, as much of the populace doesn't trust the Autobots, partly because of the old government, but mostly because people don't want to get involved in a war. Dai Atlas uses this distrust to rally people against Prime, but even then a few civilians just consider Atlas's group a bunch of cultists. At the end, the Decepticons have been thoroughly discredited, and despite the good publicity, most Cybertronians just leave rather than join the Autobots.
  • With the New Krypton storyline, Superman, Supergirl, Nightwing, Flamebird, Valor, and their friends are lumped together with General Zod and the Kandorians in Earth's eyes.
  • Donald Duck's superhero alter ego, Paperinik, suffers from this in Paperinik New Adventures, thanks to Angus Fangus, a low-life reporter who's decided to paint Paperinik as a menace to society for the sake of ratings. This mostly happens in his city, Duckburg; he has a pretty good reputation worldwide.
  • The Creeper is often seen as a creep by the public and as an outright criminal by the police/other superheroes, but the twist is that he himself is more than willing to accuse and demonize the Creeper as Jack Ryder, his reporter/talk show host alter ego to lessen any suspicions that they might be connected. And Ryder is seen as an irritating TV menace on his own too.
  • The Green Hornet actually invokes this. Since his day job consists of him being the owner and publisher of a major newspaper, Britt Reed, he constantly has his newspaper run stories about the Green Hornet being a dangerous criminal mastermind so he (as the Green Hornet) can infiltrate criminal gangs who assume he wants a cut of their operation.
  • In a complete 180 of his long held status, Superman in the New 52 starts out as one of these (which is covered in Action Comics.)
    • He previously had a bit of bad publicity during his Electric Superman phase where losing control of his powers made him dangerous briefly.
    • Before that, there was a storyline a few years after Superman returned from the dead where stories started circulating that Superman had not returned from the dead and that this was another impostor. Seemingly backed up when Superman's body was found in his tomb (turned out to be an illusion from Brainiac.)
    • Way back in the very first Superman stories, by way of Early-Installment Weirdness, this happened entirely as a result of his own tendancy for morally questionable actions.
      • He got past it pretty quickly, though, since one of the city's most prominent reporters was in love with him. Being a reporter himself can't have hurt, either.
  • The three main heroes in Sin City:
    • Hartigan was framed for Junior Roarke's murder due to being one of the only clean cops on the force.
    • Marv already had a reputation of being a psychopath but going up against the Roarkes ensured that his name would be mud before execution. In fact, they initially ran afoul of him when they tried to frame him for murder.
    • Dwight is wanted for the murder of an established socialite unlike the other two examples, he actually did it, although he was manipulated into doing so. His reputation was bad enough that he underwent plastic surgery to avoid being recognized.
  • All Fall Down has Siphon suffer from this when she is arrested on the news, for the deaths and injuries her accidental power-stealing caused.
  • In Les Légendaires, the Legendaries, who used to be loved by the people of their fictive world Alysia, became Heroes with Bad publicity after their "final" fight with their Big Bad Darkhell by accidentally breaking a magic stone, causing it to accidentally trap everyone on the planet in the form of a child. The population ends up blaming them for this, and while they gradually get their reputation back, it's only after they saved the world from an Omnicidal Maniac God of Evil that the population seem to have fully forgiven them.
    • This sometimes cause the population of Alysia to be portrayed as horribly ungrateful, seeing how they were quick to forget all the time the Legendaries risked their life (and keep doing so) for them just because of one accident that wasn't even lethal to the population.
  • Batman is being hit hard with this in the new DCU as Batman and as Bruce Wayne. Some people in Gotham actually riot because they think he killed The Joker — yes, The Joker is more sympathetic in the public eye. Bruce's attempts at urban renewal are also not being well received. Some people in Gotham do not see it for the act of goodwill it is and see it as a rich bastard tearing down historical buildings (read: run-down buildings in a high crime area they didn't care about before) to make a new skyscraper.
    • Most versions of Batman actively cultivate this trope, because it lends credit to him being far more ruthless than he truly is, therefore scarier to most criminals.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Following her brainwashing by the Iron Queen, NICOLE becomes a subject of fear to much of New Mobotropolis, particularly Idol Singer Mina Mongoose, who begins a series of musical protests against her. And things are made even worse when Ixis Naugus starts using Mina's music as a conduit for his magic, amplifying the public's distrust of NICOLE into paranoia and hate, in a bid to make himself a Villain with Good Publicity by promising to dispose of NICOLE for them. And it works, leading to a Heroic BSOD on NICOLE's part and a My God, What Have I Done? on Mina's part.
  • Played literally in the 2006 Ms. Marvel series, where Carol Danvers hires a publicist after a D-list villain (Stilt-Man) doesn't recognize her.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Mass Effect Human Revolution: Adam. Even accounting for Udina's distorted views, much of (or at least the most noticeable factions of) humanity consider Adam to be "a walking war crime", despite his actions on Elysium. Also, Tali.
  • The Fallout: Equestria universe has this in the form of Rainbow Dash, to the Grand Pegasus Enclave. After the balefire apocalypse that destroyed the world ended, the pegasi decided to stay up in the clouds instead of going back down to try and help Equestria recover. Rainbow Dash (who during the war and after it was a national hero due to being on the front lines and leading an elite pegasus unit) was sickened by their decision and eventually went back down to the surface to try and help. As this could be a devastating PR blow for the Enclave if one of their own leaders said that they all sucked for their actions, they instead declared that she was a traitor (and she's still thought as one even after two hundred years) and attempted to have her hunted down (by Gilda, no less!) so that her head could be brought back. We never find out whether she lived or died, though after she left, every pegasus that leaves the Enclave is branded with her cutie mark and given the label "Dashite", though many take it as a badge of pride because they're not as selfish and arrogant as the Enclave.
  • Light Yagami/Kougoukan in Sex Note. While many women's groups on the Internet like Kougoukan, the police and a lot of guys do not. Chief Souichiro Yagami assumes that Kougoukan must be a terrorist of the highest order who is out to embarrass the police because their can't be such corruption in his department! Also, like in canon, some people hail Light's alter ego as a savior but since he's not ruling by fear there are even more public dissenters calling Kougoukan's works the work of the devil.
  • Kage: Jade becomes this when she arrives on Meridian, due to a combination of the Guardians and rebels' prejudices and misconceptions, actions by the Queen, and Nerissa's lies.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, as of episode 11, ProtoMan is this, with 68% of New York distrusting him.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Incredibles, all supers have Bad Publicity after they're sued for causing damage while saving lives. The result is that using superpowers becomes illegal and they all have to go into the "Superhero Protection Program." By the end of the movie, this all ends after Mr. Incredible, his family, and Frozone save everyone from the Omnidroid and Syndrome.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hancock starts off with this and the PR agent who volunteers to try to improve his image.
  • The titular hero goes through this during Batman Returns, thanks to the manipulations of the Penguin, the resident Villain with Good Publicity. The mayor hangs a lampshade on this at the end of the movie.
    • Yet another Batman movie example: In The Dark Knight Saga, this seems to be one of the most direct results of the Joker's efforts. Batman deliberately takes this on himself at the end of The Dark Knight when he convinces Gordon to blame him for the murders committed by Dent. This is part of Batman's Zero Approval Gambit to get criminals to fear him again, and more importantly, protect Harvey Dent's reputation and legacy.
  • Just about any Cowboy Cop is one of these.
  • The Ghostbusters, who are largely thought to be charlatans while they are saving the city. The sequel shows that many people continue to doubt their legitimacy even after the climax of the first film.
  • Andy Barclay, The Hero of the Child's Play series, gets kicked out of multiple foster homes and eventually ends up in a military school because he is believed to be insane due to his claims that his doll is alive and a serial killer. Not only that, some people even insinuate that he is responsible for the murders.
  • Deconstructed in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Ford's killing of Jesse is clearly cowardly but he tried to play it off like it's heroism. Nobody buys it and Ford is widely vilified, and later murdered by a lone gun nut seeking to avenge Jesse's death (who, to twist the knife further, is buried as a hero, while Ford's tombstone reads "the coward who killed Jesse James"). The irony is that Jesse was actually a Villain with Good Publicity- while the public at large thought he was a Lovable Rogue, he was actually a violent, brooding, paranoid lunatic who had recently purged several members of his gang because he thought they'd betrayed him. In private Ford confesses that, ultimately, the real reason killed Jesse was that he seriously believed Jesse was going to kill him, and based on the evidence he was Properly Paranoid. To top it off, James is implied to be a Death Seeker and let Ford kill him to escape a miserable life constantly on the run from the law.
  • The Desperado series of TV movies follow Duell McCall, an innocent man framed for one murder who travels from place to place, upholds justice, defeats evil men and inevitably gets blamed for everything that happens in the film so his bounty just keeps getting bigger.
  • The premise of The Green Hornet is this. He posed himself as a villain, but his deeds are actually heroic. Look at the Comic Book example above.
  • Mystery Inc. in Scooby Doo Monsters Unleashed after some vicious slander from a reporter.
  • It's a plot point in The Adjustment Bureau, where the hero unsuccessfully runs for the United States Senate because of a college reunion prank where he exposed his bare backside has been caught on film.

    Literature 
  • In The Lord of the Rings and others of Tolkien's writings, Galadriel — the Lady of the Golden Wood — has a bad reputation with the Riders of Rohan, as well as Gondorians.
    • It might have something to do with how uninvited guests rarely survive entering her realm. The elves of Lothlórien are even more xenophobic than their Mirkwood cousins.
    • Most of the time uninvited guests never even manage to enter; her enchantment keeps the land protected and intruders lost. Orcs were deliberately lured inwards so that they could be slaughtered to the last man, however.
    • Gandalf isn't well thought of in places, either. Some of this is the Enemy manipulating rulers against him, but part of it is that he only shows up when things are about to get really bad (which is why one of his nicknames is Stormcrow).
  • By the end of the second book in the Warchild Series, Captain Azarcon and his men have acquired this reputation.
  • Harry Potter, despite being The Chosen One, gets this treatment frequently throughout the series, mostly being portrayed as an Attention Whore:
    • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets he is suspected of being the Heir of Slytherin due to always being seen with the victims shortly before it happened and being able to speak snake.
    • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire he is accused of tricking the eponymous goblet into allowing him to participate in the Inevitable Tournament.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Daily Prophet convinces the populace that he's a psychotic attention-seeker who is pretending that Voldemort has returned to get himself more Woobieness. However, when Voldemort is seen at the Ministry of Magic, the Prophet not only reverses its position, but also gilds Harry's reputation as a fearlessly determined Cassandra warning the Wizardry community of the threat.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Daily Prophet, having fallen under Death Eater control, accuses him of murdering Dumbledore and the anti-Voldemort resistance movement starts to lose faith in Harry because of his sudden disappearance, secretly criticizing him for being a Chosen One Who Doesn't Do Anything. Of course he wasn't doing nothing, and in the end all is forgiven.
    • This trope could also apply to Severus Snape. No matter how many times he has demonstrably saved Harry's life, or failed to cause him any harm besides a few detentions and sarcastic remarks when he had plenty of opportunities, Harry continued to hate his guts until the very end. Also, everyone believes him a traitor after book six because he killed Dumbledore (done at Dumbledore's request, but only Snape and Dumbledore knew this). Especially given that Snape had been a Death Eater before (of his own free will,) it was an entirely reasonable conclusion to come to. The fact that Snape was always a Jerkass to Harry doesn't help his case. He was also a Deadpan Snarker to everyone, as well. Except for his chosen Teacher's Pet students. Heck, even them at times. Harry finally gets this when he views Snape's life story and forgives him for his flaws. Not only did he get his second son's middle name from Snape, he even campaigned to have Snape recognised as a legitimate Headmaster and hero of the Wizarding World.
    • Sirius Black also qualifies; nearly everyone in the wizarding community believes he is a murderous psychopath until after his death.
  • The demigod children who form the focus of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series are usually branded as troublemakers because their heritage causes ADD and dyslexia, but it's even worse for the main character. Percy seems to start every schoolyear by getting into a fight with monsters sent by the Big Bad, destroying them, and then being blamed for all the damage because the Mist obscures the eyes of mortals who witness the event. Even worse, exactly how mortals see through the mist is determined by what the gods think of Percy at the time. And since he has a habit of pissing off gods or getting framed for things, its almost always bad.
  • The Deryni in the novels by Katherine Kurtz suffer for this generally, and Camber of Culdi and Alaric Morgan most particularly.
    • Some Deryni are evil, and a family of them conquered Gwynedd and ruled tyrannically for eight decades. Unfortunately, in the backlash all the Deryni were condemned as evil. Fear, ignorance and imagination soon make them seem nigh on demonically powerful and diabolically clever.
    • Camber of Culdi found the heir of the previous ruling family, engineered his restoration to the throne (and the toppling of the evil Deryni ruler), and for what? Sure he gets sainthood, but quickly loses it. He and many members of his family are outlawed and die untimely deaths, his estates are forfeited, even his family's tombs are destroyed.
    • Alaric Morgan had bad publicity from birth. He chooses to make use of this, cultivating his dangerous reputation as a means of protecting himself; he often wears black and he is open about the fact that he is Deryni, even if he doesn't perform magic openly. Despite this, he serves two kings loyally and effectively, often risking his life in the process. While he reaps many rewards, his reputation precedes him.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe.
    • Arguably, the entire New Jedi Order.
      • In their initial invasion, the Yuuzhan Vong vanguard quickly learned that the Jedi were (for various reasons) the only force that was both willing and able to oppose them. So their agents set about slandering the Jedi name, implying that the entire invasion was due to some (wholly invented) insult the Jedi had offered the Vong, offering planets amnesty if they took Jedi prisoners and turned them over, etc. Some of it stuck; at the height of their unpopularity, a third of the Senate was willing to vote to basically hand the Jedi over to the Vong, their paramilitary activities were curtailed, and Luke Skywalker was even put under (house) arrest. Although certain political and military leaders (such as General Antilles, General bel Iblis, Talon Karrde, and even Borsk Fey'lya in his way) offered them secret support, the tide of public opinion didn't begin to turn until, ironically, the war hit its lowest point. A series of high-profile victories at Talfaglio, Borleias, and Ebaq Nine, made possible by Jedi support and tactics, finally redeemed their image in the eyes of the public. Still, a certain amount of Jurisdiction Friction continued until (and even beyond) the end of the war.
    • Once again the case in the Fate of the Jedi series. Given Natasi Daala is the incumbent Chief of State for the Galactic Alliance and a major antagonist of the Order (and Force users in general) this is not that surprising. Subverted in that while the leader of the Galactic Alliance blames Jacen Solo's Face-Heel Turn and subsequent reign of terror on Luke Skywalker failing to prevent it and pushes him into a self-imposed exile from the Jedi Order, the Jedi wish him well in his quest for the truth, and his son Ben agrees to help with his father's investigation of the facts. As well as, at his trial, a crowd of Muggle supporters that reminds the reader that no, the entire GA is not against the Jedi, and yes, despite said leader's smear campaign, people in-story still realize that Luke is one of the biggest heroes and forces for good in the GFFA.
  • Harry Dresden might just rival Peter Parker for the hate that gets directed at him in-universe. To the "straights" he's at best a quirky man who knows way too much and thus is pretty damned creepy, and at worst they see him as a delusional charlatan who may or may not be conning Chicago PD out of good money. And so, Internal Affairs rabidly hates him and tried to jail him at least once, while trying to undermine him and everyone connected to him repeatedly. The FBI also doesn't like him considering that one time four FBI agents investigated him and vanished a few days later, and his criminal record suspects him of kidnapping, murder, and at least two cases of arson, and he was recently accused of blowing up another building. To the White Council, however, he is considered a loose cannon who may or may not be a devious, dangerous schemer at Black Magic, and it doesn't help that he caused a war with the Red Court of vampires. His ostensible allies don't trust him, and the only people he's got on his side are a gaggle of werewolves, the Knights, a few members of the Chicago PD's Special Investigations unit, his half-brother, his teenage apprentice, a Foo dog, and a smattering of allies in the Faerie Courts and the White Council. And knowing Harry, being homeless and dead for about a year is going to cause even more problems.
  • Patrick McLanahan and his team(s) from Dale Brown's books are disliked at best, outright hated at worst by those in the American government who know of their existence. Jason Richter and Task Force TALON get a similar treatment.
  • In Something M.Y.T.H. Inc., we see how Skeeve's well-meant efforts to reform the kingdom of Possiltom in Sweet Myth-tery of Life are mistaken for the actions of a stereotypical "evil wizard" or Dark Lord by the kingdom's more impressionable citizens.
  • In the Knight and Rogue Series Michael develops a tendency to be the prime suspect of the crime he's trying to solve due to being tattooed as an unredeemable criminal, thanks to a spectacular failure on the law's part.
  • Pei Shan-wei of Safehold tried to stop her fellow colony directors from giving in to their A God Am I delusions and forever turning the planet into a Medieval Stasis when the objective is to build back up to full technology. Her Anti-Mutiny is rewarded by her being murdered, along with all her friends and associates, and labeled the Church of God Awaiting's Satan.
  • It also happened to Sherlock Holmes in the Anthony Horowitz story, "The House of Silk."
  • Victor Steiner-Davion in the BattleTech expanded universe suffers from this. Of all the House Lords of his generation he's possibly the closest to a "good guy" you can get, he earnestly believes in his ideals and considers making compromises for reasons of statesmanship a necessary evil at best — but between the shadow cast by his father, the obligatory smear campaigns of his enemies, and at times simply rubbing people the wrong way in person, he still has the hardest time catching a break as far as public opinion is concerned. (That his sister Katherine takes advantage of every chance to nudge the media into reporting things her way doesn't exactly help, either.) Which of course ends up contributing straight to the eventual breakup of the Federated Commonwealth and later civil war...
  • Villains Inc. (sequel to Wearing the Cape) finds Astra going through a bit of this. Sure she helped save the President of the United States and took down a big bad super-terrorist, but she's also accused in the sensational media of being underage and having an affair with a much-older Atlas (her mentor and the setting's version of Superman). Add to this that she publicly opposes supherhuman registration—a popular cause after a supervillain-triggered earthquake leveled southern California—and she's not the media-darling that she was.
  • Mesa's gambit in the Honor Harrington book Shadow of Freedom is to invoke this on the Star Empire of Manticore by going to several planets under the thumb of the Solarian League's Office of Frontier Security, offering resistance movements aid in Manticore's name, and letting it appear that Manticore left them in the lurch when the movements are either stopped or take major action thinking Manticore has their backs. It fails, because someone does actually get word to Manticore — and it's not like the Royal Manticoran Navy doesn't practically fetishise initiative, or anything.
  • A post-humous example with Xavier Harkonnen in the Dune prequels, who finds out that Grand Patriarch Iblis Ginjo is secretly endorsing the Tlulaxa organ farms' secret practice of abducting Zensunnis and using them as unwilling organ donors. Realizing that Ginjo will have him quietly "removed", Harkonnen decides to out with a bang by flying the ship carrying him and the Patriarch into Tlulax's sun. Prior to that, he sends a message to his friend Vorian Attreides, letting him know the truth. However, Ginjo's wife and Number Two canonize the Patriarch and villify the "traitor" Harkonnen, causing his entire family to change their name in order to distance themselves from the shame. Vorian eventually reveals the truth to Xavier's grandson Abulurd Butler, who changes his name to Abulurd Harkonnen shortly after that and becomes the founder of the House Harkonnen we know and "love".
  • Ender Wiggin manages to do this to himself quite by accident. At first, he's a great hero who saved Earth from the evil Buggers. However, after writing The Hive Queen under an assumed name, he gets people to sympathize with the Buggers and villify Ender as "Xenocide".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The main character is feared and/or disliked by much of the teaching staff at Sunnydale High School. Initially, it was because they'd heard rumors about how she burned down the gym at her old high school, but later she's the focus of a smear campaign directed by her principal. However, in the prom episode, the entire student body reveals that they knew that she had been protecting her all along and gave her a "Class Protector Award" in gratitude.
      • Even Joyce assumes Buffy is a juvenile delinquent, when she's actually trying to do the right thing.
      • Even more pronounced in the Season Eight comics, where the Slayers are, suffice it to say, controversially heroic, in large part due to there being Vampires With Good Publicity. They've even been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. government, due in part to the fact that Sunnydale was wiped off the map prior to this. (Yeah, the whole purpose of the place was to serve as a buffet for demons and vampires, but few non-residents know that.) It's not even entirely unjustified; Buffy's brilliant idea for funding her worldwide Slayer operation was to rob a Swiss bank with the aid of magic and Slayer powers; her justification was that it was probably Nazi gold, anyway. Meanwhile, the vampires are all a Villain with Good Publicity.
      Willow: "Sweet girl. Not that bright."
      • As of the Season Nine comics, Buffy is pretty much universally despised by the magical community, including the Slayers who used to respect her, for destroying the source of Earth's magic. As for Angel, it's been stated that his image and reputation among them is even worse than Buffy's, due in part to the various atrocities he committed as Twilight.
    • The Scooby Gang as a whole is this as of Season 8. Many people believe them to be a speciesist group preying on vampires.
  • In Teen Wolf, Derek Hale is known as a criminal, but he's actually a decent, if somewhat dark, guy.
  • Narutaki, a self-proclaimed "prophet", spreads rumors across realities about the eponymous Kamen Rider Decade being destined to destroy The Multiverse. To be fair, Narutaki wasn't far from wrong.
  • Starts to happen in Smallville Season 8 and in full force in Season 10.
  • In Doctor Who: a nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies, and what is it? the Doctor. Who, at the time of discovering this, is about to save the entire universe for at least the fourth time.
    • After Martha's departure to travel with The Doctor, her mother is warned that the Doctor is dangerous by the mysterious "Mr Saxon" (later revealed to be The Doctor's fellow Time Lord and old nemesis, The Master.)
  • Not superheroes, but Kenan & Kel becomes this in episode, "Foul Bull", due to Ron Harper's injury being blamed on them.
  • Surprisingly averted in Power Rangers. The population still trust and love the Rangers, despite the regular rampage of hijacked Zords and the general levels of property damage involved when you're engaging in Humongous Mecha battles every week. Impersonators and other such smear campaign plots by villains don't ever get the public turned agianst the heroes for more than that one episode.
  • Sam and Dean Winchester on Supernatural they've repeatedly made the FBI's most wanted list and when that was fixed by a heroic sacrifice on the part of Agent Hendrickson it's undone by Dick Roman and now they're wanted as serial killers. Again. Some more.
  • In the BBC Sherlock second-series-ender "The Reichenbach Fall", this is one of Moriarty's objectives for the titular sleuth. For as-yet-unknown reasons, Sherlock himself seems to go along with it right at the very end, after having resisted throughout the episode. (It doesn't help that he's known for a brusque and cold demeanor.)
  • Merlin would probably out a lot more villains if he didn't spend so much time convincing everyone he's a moron. And on a lesser note, it's mentioned several times that while he's saved the kingdom, Arthur, and everyone on the show at least once, the fact that he's magical will probably get him executed anyway due to all the magicians that attack Camelot.

    Music 
  • In The Protomen, Dr. Light is very much this. He created the machines to benefit mankind, but Dr. Wily stole them and used one to kill Light's girlfriend, Emily. Wily blamed Light for the murder, and the angered citizens tried to lynch him.
    • This is even lampshaded by Willy when he states that it doesn't even matter if he's telling the truth or that his arguments don't really make sense, the very fact that he pointed his finger at Light caused the crowd to blindly hate him.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Hades/Pluto is frequently portrayed as a Hellenistic analogue to Satan in modern media. This portrayal of him is entirely unfair. He was certainly a Jerkass by modern standards, but most of the Hellenistic gods were. If the Hellenes had a Satan-type, it would have been Ate, the personification of ruin, folly and destruction who causes..well, ruin, folly and destruction For the Evulz. Of course, this would serve as an inversion for those who believe he is evil...
    • To clarify, unlike Satan who was cast into Hell for defying God, Hades pretty much got the job of ruling the afterlife because his older brothers screwed him over. Zeus claimed the Earth and the Heavens, Posiedon the Sea, meaning the Underworld was all that was left for Hades. He didn't like the job, but he wasn't overly cruel about it (at least, not in comparison to some of the other gods). And since his realm included the entire afterlife, including the Gardens of Elysium, he was essentially the ruler of both Heaven and Hell.
  • Some strands of Abrahamic thought hold that Satan is simply in charge of God's judicial system, and doesn't deserve all the hate that is thrown at him - he has a damn dirty job, but Someone Has to Do It. The proto-Evil Lawyer Joke if you will. This seems to be more the case in the pre-Christian tradition.
    • Which would hold his original Hebrew name, "Ha-Satan", "the accuser."
  • Jesus Christ was this during His preaching days. It kinda led to his death. He also warns his disciples that the world will hate them.
  • Thomas was the only disciple to volunteer to die with Jesus in John 11:16, was one of the few people in the Gospels to explicitly call Jesus God, and, according to Church tradition, traveled all the way to India to preach Christianity. Even so, most people only know him as the guy who didn't believe that Jesus had really come back. "Doubting Thomas" is a common nickname for a skeptic.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • Glacier was this during the Blood Runs Cold storyline in WCW in 1997. He was a Face but not a particularly popular one.
  • John Cena is this today and has been so for several years in WWE. He is the top Face in wrestling and unfortunately one of the biggest Base Breakers. Try convincing someone who normally gives him bad reviews or says bad things about him that he or she is wrong. Being that he's often a Designated Hero with ridiculous degrees of Protagonist-Centered Morality about him...

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is a common problem for Solar and Lunar Exalted, since they've been branded as psychotically evil demons by the main religion of the setting.
  • In the Forgotten Realms, Helm has become considerably less popular due to his killing Mystra during the Time Of Troubles.

    Theater 
  • Elphaba from Wicked probably qualifies as she is definitely engaged in heroic activities saving Animals from the fascist dictator of Oz. However due to the Wizard's efforts to paint her as wicked she rapidly becomes the most hated figure in Oz.
  • Similarly, Ja'far from Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, the Team StarKid parody of Aladdin, is actually a kind, honest and hardworking guy, but is hated by almost everyone in the magic kingdom as the truth keeps getting twisted to paint him as a villain. Later in the play it turns out that the same thing happened to several other Disney "villains" in the past- except for Cruella di Vil, who really did just want to make a coat out of puppies.

    Troper Works 

    Video Games 
  • Everyone calls him a legendary hero, but only a few know that there's something more benevolent to Zero's "extremist" actions.
  • In the first Command & Conquer at least, GDI. Nod's Greg Burdett, a respected journalist, would help them fabricate news stories about GDI slaughtering villages and burning down orphanages. Nod's mainline troops would also regularly partake in a little bit of the random slaughter, usually so they could make it look like GDI did it. This was also the entire point of the last couple of missions of Nod's campaign, in which you were working to hijack the GDI Ion Cannon to destroy a landmark (you go to pick), framing GDI for the attack.
    • In the GDI campaign, this is played with. It looks like Nod's media campaign has brought UNGDI to the brink of being disavowed by the Security Council, with funding being suspended while investigations are made... and then, when Nod launches a major offensive, it is revealed that it was a trick by the GDI leadership, taking advantage of Nod's media edge to bait the Brotherhood into striking before properly building up its strength. You still have bad publicity, but it wasn't so bad as it looked to you or Kane.
  • Georg Prime of Suikoden fame is frequently accused of committing regicide against the Queen of Falena. It's true, but she WANTED him to do it, as it was the only way to keep her from using the Sun rune (which was driving her insane) to wipe out the entire country.
  • AVALNCHE in Final Fantasy VII is branded as a terrorist group. It's basically true, but the government that labels them so consists almost entirely of Corrupt Corporate Executives.
    • Ramza in Final Fantasy Tactics. He gets branded as a heretic for pretty much telling the bad guys to stop doing bad things, and is STILL remembered as a villain after the game is over. It eventually stops and it's implied he gets the recognition he deserves...five hundred years later.
    • Tidus and later Yuna develops a case of this for not going along with temple traditions.
    Woman: You heathen.
    Old woman: Stay away from the summoner.
    Young girl: You're a bad man!
  • Pretty much everyone wants to arrest and/or kill Yuri Lowell in Tales of Vesperia.
    • Though he really did commit the crimes he's accused of (well, at least most of them; one of them was a misunderstanding).
  • Villain smear campaigning causes Link to suffer this fate in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where the palace guards have the townspeople convinced that he's responsible for Princess Zelda's disappearance. He has to slink around Kakariko Village in order to achieve his objectives; if his neighbors spot him, they send for the guards to kill him.
    • This trope can also happen in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, although in that case, it really is justified. It is triggered if you make Link steal any item from the store by careful manouvering around the shopkeep while carrying one of the items. Should you decide to do it, your game file will be permanently renamed to THIEF, and everybody in the town will treat you accordingly, and if you return to the shop after stealing an item, the shopkeeper uses magic to shock you to death. Yikes. Still, it is pretty hard to resist doing this in-game, since the bow in the game is sold at the ridiculous price of 990 rupees (the rupee cap is at 999), and it takes a looooong time to save up that amount of money.
    • Unless you use the Bonus Dungeon's secret room in the Updated Re-release.
    • Point to note, the two games actually happen to star the same Link, so this is obviously quite a defining trait for that incarnation. Link is pretty much always a Kleptomaniac Hero, but rare is the case where he actually gets punished for stealing.
      • And in the remake, you're encouraged to steal something. The last photo is unlocked this way, making it that Last Lousy Point. This Link just can't win.
    • Wolf Link in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Outside of the twilight, he's feared as a monster. Inside of it, he's invisible so he gets no credit for his heroic actions. Thankfully, Link also has a human form in which he can be viewed heroically.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • Shadow the Hedgehog. Not that he seems to care much.
    • Sonic in Sonic Adventure 2, when he is mistaken for Shadow. (Despite being a different colour, much like the Sunshine example below).
  • Subverted in inFAMOUS. The player character starts out with bad publicity because he was the delivery boy who carried the immensely destructive Ray Sphere into the heart of the city, where it exploded, but as time goes on (and if you choose to play the good guy), his publicity gets much better to the point where the guy that's been smearing him throughout the entire game actually gets murdered by the people he works for while screaming "I did what you asked!" for not doing his job well enough.
    • Actually, the Voice of Survival gets killed off regardless of whether you're playing good or evil, though it's easy to miss the cut scene if you don't happen to pass a TV at the right time.
    • Nonetheless, Cole does retain some bad publicity in InFamous 2 to the extent that a member of La Résistance remarks that he heard rumors that Cole Eats Babies, and in inFAMOUS: Second Son , the Department of Unified Protection made sure that Cole, having been dead for seven years, went down in history as a villain to reinforce their efforts to imprison or kill Conduits.
  • Metal Gear:
  • Quest for Glory IV starts out like this, due to suspicious townsfolk who are fearful of strangers and especially anything to do with magic, although the hero will gradually win their trust by helping them out.
  • Tassadar has a bit of a publicity problem in StarCraft due to his alliance with the Dark Templar and the Terrans. Arcturus Mengsk used to be one too, back when the Confederacy was in power. Jim Raynor has been one ever since the Dominion rose to power.
  • Marina from Mischief Makers takes flak from the evil double's paper-thin disguise.
  • Archer from Fate/stay night got executed because nobody liked him.
  • Similar to the Transformers example above, Jedi are almost universally hated and hunted during the time of Knights of the Old Republic II because the galaxy perceives the whole Jedi-Sith war that nearly tore apart the Republic as "a religious dispute between two factions of Jedi". Many people refuse to see any distinction between Jedi like the PC (if light side) and the Sith Lords and assassins that seem to follow him/her wherever they go.
  • Mass Effect
  • In BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, Noel mistakes Bang for an evildoer after Yukianesa freezes Jin.
  • Mario, of all people, has to deal with this in Super Mario Sunshine. He gets tried by a Kangaroo Court for the actions of a Paper Thin Disguised Bowser Jr.
  • In City of Heroes, there is a Story Arc where you become a Hero with Bad Publicity. You get framed for a crime and have to collect evidence that will clear your name, all the while being chased by the Malta Groupp and their Demonic Sappers.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's recap of the first two games, what little mention there is of Felix's actions openly casts him in a bad light, and the Fire Clan are never explained at all ( though the latter weren't particularly heroic to common knowledge).
  • Entirely possible in Fallout: New Vegas. Because your karma (how good or evil you are) is factored separately from your reputation (how much people like you) it's very, very possible to end the game with the highest karma possible, and every single faction hating your guts.
    • Although, because of the game, it's actually very hard to end with high karma and everybody hating you, and you must actively peruse this as a goal, because you must do a lot to up your karma, and most karma upping quests are related with one faction are another.
      • If somebody is going through the trouble to be hated by everybody but still be a picture of justice overall, that might be more suspicious than anything else, that or every single person around them is just insane.
  • Alex Mercer in Prototype is treated as a villain. And understandably so: not only is he a carrier of The Virus who runs around Manhattan eating people, he looks like and has the memories of the scientist who released The Virus in the first place. Nevertheless, he's grown a conscience by the end of the game and ultimately performs a genuinely heroic and selfless act. That was until Prototype 2 came along.
  • Valkyria Chronicles III: Kurt Irving and The Nameless can give Ramza a run for his money. They are supposed to do the dirty jobs that the official military won't, and at one point was branded traitor (and possibly heretic). But they finally have their name cleared, even if they must live in obscurity for the rest of their life.
    • Depends if you're talking about an individual level or group level. Individually, most are nothing more than people caught in a bad situation or simply got shanghaied into the unit. By comparison; two characters are actually Lanseal graduates (the game's equivalent of West Point), one of which graduated with honors. (And thats not including the volunteers.) As a group, the unit's bad reputation has more to do with the fact that its commanding officers keep them on hand and use them explicitly for wet works than anything they actually do.
  • Janos Audron in the Legacy of Kain series.
  • In Assassin's Creed games the Heralds always speak out against the Assassins even if you do your best to avoid civilian deaths. However, this is easily solved with simple bribes.
  • DmC: Devil May Cry shows a newscast of a reporter claiming Dante to be a terrorist from his "attacks" when really it's just damage caused by the fights in the parallel world, Limbo, carried over to the real one, however humans can't see the monsters so they pin the blame on Dante. Justified since the news network is being run by those same monsters.
  • The Warden, in Dragon Age: Origins, is left with this reputation after the first battle of the game. Loghain spread the rumor that the Grey Wardens abandoned and betrayed everyone in the battle, which in point of fact is what Loghain himself did, and the Grey Wardens themselves were almost obliterated in the fight - only two remain alive in the entire kingdom. The trope is somewhat played with, however, because very few people genuinely believe that the Wardens are guilty.
    • By the end of the events of the second game, Hawke has become a legendary but controversial figure because s/he was at the center of an event that sparked a global conflict.
      • If you choose the Human Noble background, your family's political enemies try to paint our family as rebels and traitors. However, when you visit the Landsmeet the other nobles make it very clear that everyone knows your family are staunch royalists and the bad guys full of crap.
  • Marona, the protagonist of Phantom Brave. She is quite possibly the nicest person in the whole world, but almost everyone fears and hates her and calls her "The Possessed One" because of her ability to communicate with phantoms. People routinely send her nasty letters or write articles in the paper where even the good things she does get nasty spins; she is blamed for things she had nothing to do with, and some of the people who hire her cheat her out of payment for various reasons. She keeps soldiering on, smiling and waiting for the day when everything is going to be okay. Thankfully she does gain friends and respect from some people, and in the end everyone respects her for saving the world, including the nasty columnist in the paper.
  • Jodie Holmes, the protagonist of the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls, has been depicted in various trailers and gameplay videos as being pursued by both local police and the FBI, with one demo claiming that every single cop in the state has been called in to apprehend her.
  • Adam Jensen was hit with this in his backstory. When Adam and his SWAT unit encountered a belligerent teenager with augments, he was ordered to take a kill shot because subduing the kid nonlethally would have been too much trouble thanks to his augments. Adam refused to take the shot and another SWAT commander did it instead. Adam quit the force in disgust. His superiors were upset by this and doctored his psyche profile to make him look like a violent borderline lunatic as payback. In the present there are still rumors that Adam was fired from SWAT for that incident when he actually quit. Fortunately for Adam, the private investigator that David Sarif had look into Adam's background before hiring him read between the lines of the profile and saw it for the fairy tale it was.
  • In the sequel to Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic, the Jedi Exile is subject to this constantly, having been indirectly responsible for the accidental destruction of Peragus II during the prologue. The Exile was also one of the Jedi who joined Revan during the Mandalorian Wars, where they gave the order to detonate a superweapon over Malachor V, wiping out all life on the planet and in orbit and ending the war. When the game begins, the Exile returns from their ten year long self-imposed exile on the Outer Rim, having been banished from the Jedi Order for their actions during the war.
    • The Jedi Order are also subject to this in the second game and have been forced into hiding. It's explained that as a result of the Mandalorian Wars, the Jedi Civil War and Revan and Malak's attempted takeover of the galaxy, most common people consider the Jedi and Sith to indistinguishable from each other and little more than crazed zealots bent on destroying the galaxy over their opposing ideologies.
  • Lemeza Kosugi in La-Mulana 2, thanks to what happened at the end of the first game. He saved humanity, but had to destroy a world heritage site in the process. The public either doesn't know or doesn't believe his reasoning, so he's been on the run from Interpol.

    Web Comics 
  • In Girl Genius, the Wulfenbachs suffer a lot from this. OK, they are the despot of Europa and his heir, but Klaus is often accused of being the Other, betraying the Heterodynes, etc. He could probably use a good propaganda service which would only have to use some positive facts. Gil is also accused of having destroyed Dr beetle's lab for no reason (well, actually, he just send a bomb back to the thrower, saving not only his life but an innocent assistant as well). After the Wulfenbachs' fall during the Time Skip, Europa is in chaos again and quite a few people now think of their rule as a "golden age".
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Paranormal Mystery Squad; the group are quite famous for the bombastic approach to monster hunting from videos uploaded on the net. But have gotten bad press with law enforcement as well as a PETA-like organization that wish to protect the monsters.
  • Saitama in One Punch Man, thanks to the civilians being a bunch of Ungrateful Bastards, other Heroes going out of their way to ruin his reputation out of envy, Saitama himself going out of his way to ruin it to maintain public faith in the other Heroes, Saitama not really caring about publicity, and Saitama only reporting the bare minimum of his deeds to the Hero Organization to stay registered as a Hero. Despite this, his rank is still slowly rising since enough people witness and report his heroic actions anyway.
  • Ballister Blackheart from Nimona, who's mostly just looked down upon for being cast out of the local special knights' institution, and is trying to reveal their schemes for the better of the kingdom.
  • Sonic The Comic Online: This trope has become Sonic's downfall - the Kane Broadcasting Company uses their footage to convince the population of Mobius that Sonic is actually a villain who might be worse than Robotnik, and the worst part of it is, the footage they have to back up their claims, while very one-sided, is still genuine. Sonic's base can spy on every zone in the world, Sonic himself is a bit of a dick, and his super form is a monster who's already caused havoc before. Not to mention the fact that he created Robotnik... This smear campaign worked so well in conjunction with the Big Bad's evil scheme that Sonic is now a complete outcast, loathed and feared worldwide; even the Freedom Fighters (sans Tails) no longer trust him.

    Web Original 
  • In New Vindicators, there are plenty of examples-mostly because all superhumans are pretty much feared and or hated by the public at large, to one extent or another. Magnus Loder (who is a bit of a dick), holds a place on the FBI's most wanted list because he was framed for killing an anti-superhuman Senator who was campaigning for President. Anomaly, for a while, went around killing men who were abusive to their girlfriends, making him a kind of serial killer superhero.
  • There are several examples in the Whateley Universe:
    • Battery, whose final battle against his arch-enemy destroyed one of the New York City bridges and injured hundreds,
    • The Flying Bulldozer, who wasn't smart enough to avoid massive collateral damage when fighting evil: one of his recurring villains, Doctor Debt, figured out how to make millions by surrendering to FB and collecting rewards from insurance companies for preventing the incipient damage
    • Tennyo, because she is powerful even by school standards, and (through no fault of her own, other than naivete) is a major trouble magnet.
    • The Lamplighter, Boston's Green Lantern Expy, also gets this. He's powerful and certainly a hero in his own mind, but he's also enough of a loose cannon that the city's police department tends to breathe a collective sigh of relief whenever he doesn't show up while they're trying to deal with a 'situation'.
  • The <3-Verse has the Shadow (no, not that one), a vigilante, shunned for his violent methods against regular crooks.
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the Motor City Marshalls are wanted by the Detroit police for assault, battery, destruction of privacy, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and pretty much every other crime that your everyday, standard superheroic activity can be described as under the law if the local District Attorney thought superheroes were a menace to society.
  • In Sonic The Comic Online, this trope has become Sonic's downfall - the Kane Broadcasting Company uses their footage to convince the population of Mobius that Sonic is actually a villain who might be worse than Robotnik, and the worst part of it is, the footage they have to back up their claims, while very one-sided, is still genuine. Sonic's base can spy on every zone in the world, Sonic himself is a bit of a dick, and his super form is a monster who's already caused havoc before. He created Robotnik...This smear campaign worked so well in conjunction with the Big Bad's evil scheme that Sonic is now a complete outcast, loathed and feared worldwide; even the Freedom Fighters (sans Tails) no longer trust him.
  • The Graystone Saga is the story of Lady Gray, a woman on a religious quest to defeat and capture twelve demons who escaped into the world in order to restore peace and harmony to the five nations. She's easily the most hated and feared person on the planet, although the exact reason why has yet to be revealed.

    Western Animation 
  • Ziv Zulander from The Bots Master has been branded a terrorist by the RM Corp.
  • Danny Phantom for the majority of Season 1 and the beginnings of Season 2. He gains good publicity eventually. Too much of it actually (plushies).
  • Some instances of Batman, such as in The Batman until Gordon becomes the commissioner at the end of the second season.
  • A bit of a problem for the Autobots in season two of Transformers Animated, presumably after the property damage of the first season starts sinking in. In the first season, it's mainly just Bulkhead who has a problem with this, as he's a klutz who's strong enough to throw cars.
    • In Transformers Super God Masterforce, Hydra and Buster attack Ginrai in a populated with the intention of causing considerable enough collateral damage to turn public opinion against the Autobots. They actually succeed for a short while.
    • The G1 two-part episode "Megatron's Master Plan" was all about this, to the point that the Autobots were exiled from Earth and their ship's navigation systems tampered with to send them into the sun.
    • Also, the Stunticons were mistaken for Autobots for the first few weeks of their existence due to conventional wisdom being "cars=Autobots". Oddly, no one ever seemed to think the Aerialbots were Decepticons...
  • Justice League Unlimited has this build up in the first season, then reach it's peak in the second season when they're framed for using their base defense system to destroy a city.
  • Catman from The Fairly OddParents, and it's mostly, if not completely, justified. He often ends up attacking innocent civilians while letting real criminals like purse-snatchers get away, and constantly causes more trouble than he prevents. In fact, if it weren't for Timmy (and his fairies), he would've ended up in jail a loooong time ago.
  • The Street Sharks get this constantly, to the point in which one of their friends has to point out to the police that if they were really guilty of one of the crimes they're accused of, they'd have to have been in two places at once. The Big Bad also gets everyone to blame their dad for creating them, so yeah.
  • Gargoyles has... well, the titular gargoyles. Brooklyn even lampshades their "publicity problem" in "Hunter's Moon."
    • Greg Weisman has alluded to that being only temporary. After saving the city a few times, the Clan becomes a branch of the NYPD and eventually, due to Goliath's sacrifice sometime in the future, the United Nations declares the Gargoyle Species a protected race, acknowledges its sentience, and creates a Nation for the Gargoyles to founded.
  • Ben in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien has this when his Secret Identity gets outed. Will Harangue, jerk reporter even breaks out the "threat or menace" false dichotomy:
    Ben: Maybe I can do more good as a public superhero than I did in secret. Sure, most people think I'm a menace now.
    Julie: Only 26% of adult viewers think you're a menace.
    Ben: See? That's not bad.
    Julie: 74% think you're a threat.
    • Not to mention the fact that Harangue is going a step above JJ with the hero he smears by actually trying to kill Ben outright at least once.
    • Though actually played with; kids love him, and the government will occasionally collaborate with him.
    • Dwayne McDuffie actually stated that Harangue is despised by many people for his antagonism towards Ben, and his attempts to turn everyone against him are always unsuccessful.
  • Superman has become this in the series finale of Superman: The Animated Series. Thankfully, he salvaged his reputation, but the events of the finale became a precursor to the Cadmus Arc in Justice League Unlimited.
  • Just like in the comics, Spider-Man suffers from this in The Spectacular Spider-Man. Oddly enough, J. Jonah Jameson at first doesn't actually hate Spidey, and simply views him as easy publicity. However, similar to Ultimate Spider-Man, a story about Spider-Man in a rival newspaper outsells the Daily Bugle's own story on his son's heroic landing of a space shuttle. As a result, Jameson finally snaps and begins a smear campaign.
  • A DuckTales episode featured a reporter named Lawrence Loudmouth who started a smear campaign against Scrooge McDuck and later started to impersonate a new masked hero (who happens to be Scrooge) and then make a smear campaign against the real hero. He was eventually captured and Scrooge gave up the vigilante career.
  • Darkwing Duck parodies this a lot; the titular characters suffers a lot from bad publicity due to his dark looks and mannerisms, both from civilians and authorities, to the point when he seemingly dies in "Dead Duck", he is only granted a cheap burial, and Megavolt, who is believed to be the murderer, not only gets away with it without going to jail, but even becomes famous by writing a book about it. This reaches such proportions that Darkwing attempts in one episode to give himself a better image so he'll get better publicity, and almost succeeds until his Arch-Enemy Negaduck ruins it. Ironically, both the audience and Darkwing ended up grateful to Negaduck, as Darkwing realizes his obsession with good image prevented him from focusing on his cases, and the fans found Darkwing's new look ridiculous.
  • Zig-zagged in The Powerpuff Girls Movie. Before becoming heroes, their game of tag renders Townsville asunder ("Bug-eyed Girls Destroy Townsville" reads the headline of the Townsville Times). Even when they attempt to do something good, they are seen as pariahs.
  • The focus of G.I. Joe: Renegades which has most of the team being branded as criminals while trying to expose Cobra's operations who, in this incarnation, are Villains With Good Publicity.
  • Happens to WordGirl almost three or four times.
  • Believe it or not, Captain America was on the receiving end of this following the fallout of the Skrull storyline in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. This thanks to the machinations of the Skrull impersonating Cap, who manipulated the Avengers and told the world to surrender to the Skrull forces.
  • Dib, from Invader Zim, although he receives more contempt than outright hatred.
  • Scooby and the gang in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated are mostly reviled by their townspeople. This is because Crystal Cove enjoys having a bunch of Scooby Doo Hoaxes to attract tourists (mostly not caring about how the bad guys are mostly doing this to steal something), and they don't appreciate a bunch of meddling kids spoiling the extra revenue. Once the mayor is unmasked as a villain, the town officials become much more accepting of the gang, especially once they manage to catch the truly destructive Cry Baby Clown.
  • The Burners in Motorcity, especially Mike Chilton, the leader. Abraham Kane, the leader of Detroit Deluxe is likewise the Villain with Good Publicity.
  • In Young Justice, Justice League popularity starts to take a nose-dive in season 2. At first its mostly fueled by political pundits, but then a group of new, popular aliens (who are actually preparing to take over) manage to make the JL look everything from inept, trigger happy to outright deceitful.
  • Princess Luna of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Her role as Princess of the Night and her love of creepy public display causes most Ponies in her backstory to shun her while loving her sister, which results in her original Face-Heel Turn. After her banishment, return (after a thousand years), defeat and redemption, many Ponies find it hard to believe in her new Heel-Face Turn. Status Quo Is God is averted: eventually (though not before some misunderstandigns), some ponies come to trust her again.


Good Smoking, Evil SmokingQuirky GoodProtagonist-Centered Morality
Gladiator RevoltCivil Unrest TropesIcon of Rebellion
Hero Does Public ServiceSuperhero TropesHeroic Build
Hero with an F in GoodHeroesHollywood Nerd
Hero with an F in GoodHero TropesHeroes Prefer Motorcycles
Glory SeekerFame and Reputation TropesHidden Heart of Gold
Hereditary HairstyleImageSource/Comic BooksI Just Want to Be Normal
Heroic BastardAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Heteronormative Crusader

alternative title(s): Heroine With Bad Publicity; Heroes With Bad Publicity
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