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Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain
Is there nothing sadder than a Batman villain with Puppy-Dog Eyes?

A potential villain who is consistently a failure or never gets the respect that he thinks he deserves, and may even be angry that the heroes don't take him seriously.

He may not necessarily be inept or have a laughably mild idea of what counts as villainy. Villain Decay is usually too simple an explanation. This is sometimes a relative situation, and the hero's Rogues Gallery just happens to include people more showy, better financed, or just plain scarier than him.

This does not mean that he doesn't bear animosity; that's a Punch Clock Villain. He's probably jumping at the opportunity to outdo his rivals and the hero. But there is something about his perseverance or attitude about the whole thing that is just short of sympathetic.

May also be a Determinator out of necessity or overlap with Draco in Leather Pants. If they get even more pathetic in regard to the hero, Unknown Rivalry looms. Just watch out, they may suddenly turn out to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain.

Video Game versions of this trope frequently overlap with the Goldfish Poop Gang if they are just as pathetic in actual battle as they're treated by the story. They may maintain threat status if Conservation of Competence allows them to keep competent supporters.

The Evil Counterpart to Failure Hero. Arguably a subtrope of Boisterous Weakling.


Example subpages


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     Eastern Animation  
  • The South Korean mice in the propaganda-tastic North Korean series Squirrel and Hedgehog. The pair, consisting of domineering Jerkass Mulmangcho and his meeker, one-eared companion Yelipalip, migrate from faction to faction amongst the villains, and are consistently mistreated and abused. All of their efforts to prove their worth, do something evil, and make it higher up in the ranks of whichever group they're currently attached to inevitably fail, miserably and pitifully, usually thanks to the heroes. More than once, the two are actually arrested and imprisoned by their own bosses and almost executed because they got the blame for what the undercover good guys, Geumsagi and Juldarami, did. So far, they have always managed to somehow get out of such situations alive. Although they clearly want to be evil and respected (Mulmangcho more so than Yelipalip), they fail so often and so pitifully it's difficult not to feel bad for them.

    It should also be noted that this was originally an evil trio of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains, but the third guy, Mulsajo, whose distinguishing characteristic was that he wore a pink shirt, was even more ineffectual than his comrades and was blown up with a grenade midway through one of the earlier story arcs, leaving just his two buddies to carry the mantle of constantly failing.

    Fan Works 
  • Most of the so-called "villains" of The Prayer Warriors count, but Grover stands out in "The Evil Gods Part 1". He typically can't do more than threaten or taunt the "heroes", and while it's implied that he played a role in Chiron's off-screen death after converting and returning to Camp Half-Blood to convert the others, in the resulting fight with Percy, he gets defeated and beheaded fairly quickly.

    Theater 
  • Dr. Einstein of Arsenic and Old Lace. At the very least, he's helped Jonathan escape from jail and evade the police. He probably has something to do with the latter's ability to be a contender in the play's Body-Count Competition as well. However, he's clearly motivated by fear and spends a lot of time drunk. This may be the reason for his escape at the end.
  • In Ruddigore, when the protagonist Robin becomes Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, he finds that he can't commit evil deeds if his life depended on it, which is exactly the predicament he's in.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Pretty much every heel in the WWE these days is one of these.
  • Particularly worth mentioning is Simon Dean, the heel version of fitness freak Richard Simmons in WWE in the mid-2000s. He never won a match against a non-jobber. (Of course, Dean wasn't really evil so much as he was very, very annoying, which is enough to make you a heel in WWE.)


Anti-VillainSliding Scale of Character AppreciationMagnificent Bastard
Hidden Heart of GoldAnti-VillainJerkass Woobie
Harmless VillainNo One Respects the Spanish InquisitionLaughably Evil
The Extremist Was RightSliding Scale of Villain EffectivenessNo One Respects the Spanish Inquisition
Harmless VillainSliding Scale of Antagonist VilenessGoldfish Poop Gang
Incidental VillainVillainsInsane Admiral
Industrialized EvilAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!It's All About Me
IdiosyncrazyImageSource/Comic BooksThe Jailer

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