Jaded Washout

Al Bundy at work.

Cynical, jaded and world-weary, disrespected by family and friends, underpaid, struggling to achieve basic goals and recognition. Lives on past glories.

He may often be heard complaining about not getting justly rewarded for all the effort he puts into his work, though closer inspection will show him to be a profoundly uninspired if not outright lazy worker.

Compare with Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist; This Loser Is You; I Coulda Been a Contender; Future Loser; Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight. The Jerk Jock has a particular tendency to evolve into one of these (as does the Alpha Bitch, on those rare occasions when the example is female). Contrast Small Name, Big Ego.


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    Anime and Manga 

  • Donald Duck in some Disney Comics.
  • Monica Rambeau/Captain Marvel of Nextwave. Did you know she used to lead The Avengers?
  • To some extent Peter Parker, Spiderman falls into this, at least in earlier stories. He has great skills and ambitions but he is not able to apply himself out of his responsibility as a superhero, as a family man and is often regarded skeptically by his friends for not always being there.

  • Bob Parr from The Incredibles, post Super Registration Act. No wonder he Jumps at the Call. His family life, while a bit a shaky, is stable compared to the other examples of this trope.
  • Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.
  • Walt in Gran Torino is a subversion. He's genuinely Bad Ass, and while his family doesn't pay him much attention or respect, the rest of his neighbourhood certainly does.
    • Another interpretation is that everyone knows Walt is a Jaded Washout except himself: His wife asked their priest to watch after him after her death because she knows that he has no connection to his sons. Everyone thinks he is an old crazy man. Only after Walt realizes his racism is a flimsy excuse to feel better at the expense of others can he be a hero.
  • Trip McNeely in Can't Hardly Wait. Mike Dexter is also on his way to becoming this, as shown by the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • Sonny Koufax (Adam Sandler) in Big Daddy appears to be heading in this direction, as at the beginning of the movie he's a law-school graduate who never took his bar exam and leads a semi-slacker lifestyle thanks to a cash settlement he received when a taxicab ran over his foot. He eventually does get his act together and is admitted to the bar.
  • Female example: Mavis Gary in Young Adult is a former Alpha Bitch prom queen who's now in her thirties, divorced, and ghostwrites teen-lit novels in order to recreate her high school Glory Days.
  • The future Marty McFly in Back to the Future: Part II is very miserable, having given up on his rock'n'roll dreams after injuring his hand in a serious auto accident in 1985 because he got called "chicken", and is in an unhappy marriage to his girlfriend Jennifer working a menial job, which he gets fired from after getting called "chicken" once again. In Part III, Marty avoids getting into the auto accident, thereby erasing this Bad Future and putting a better future in play.
  • To hear her tell it, Ms. Hannigan from Annie (2014). She was apparently part of C+C Music Factory and almost part of Hootie & the Blowfish but they kicked her out before she could become a star.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Happens to Wesley in slow motion. Wesley is basically the same guy from before the Watcher's Council fired him. On the other hand, he's not eager to rejoin those officious windbags, even when bribed. Over the course of years, he grows so detached from his old values that the demolition of the Council building doesn't even upset him.
  • Former Trope Namer Al Bundy, from Married... with Children. Once Polk High's most notable player ("...scored four touchdowns in one game"), now a pathetic shoe salesman married to another Jaded Washout—a former mean girl and high school bicycle Peggy Wanker—with two hell-raising children and a shiftless dog. Although anyone who has worked in a degrading, low-paying, miserable, menial, service-industry job may find him less of an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist than people who haven't. (Work a job where you are regularly abused by customers for a few years and Al Bundy will be your patron saint.) Although a chauvinist, a loud mouth, and a loser, Al Bundy himself isn't without his virtues. He genuinely loves his wife and family though he won't admit it outright, regularly sacrificed for his children and his wife, and would never cheat on his lazy, bonbon-eating, whiny, sex-starved wife Peg (though he does go to the nudie bar and reads porno mags like Playboy and Big Uns).
  • Jack Malloy, from the MWC-inspired sitcom Unhappily Ever After. A used car salesman divorced from his wife and living with a rabbit doll that talks to him.
  • Pete Hornberger from 30 Rock is implied to be this at home. However, 30 Rock is a Work Com, not a Dom Com, so we never actually see Pete at home, and don't see much of his wife, either.
  • Wil Wheaton plays a version of himself that straddles this and Former Child Star in The Big Bang Theory, in one episode he claims to suffer recurring bouts of crippling depression, and is ecstatic to get a callback for a bit part in Sharknado 2
  • Due to the complaints of parents groups and his marriage to Rita Repulsa, by the end of the second season of Power Rangers this has happened to Lord Zedd of all people. Right down to his father-in-law's evil empire stated to be conquering Zedd's former territories in a throwaway line.
  • Ray Drecker from Hung became this without even realizing it.
  • Ben from My Family includes aspects of this—although not the "underpaid" part, being a dentist.
  • The Mighty Boosh: Howard Moon. Only without the "past glories" part. Any time he makes reference to any kind of former triumph, you get the distinct impression he's either wildly exaggerating, or just lying outright.
    • Making Howard a bizarre combination of the Jaded Washout and Small Name, Big Ego, since he varies between thinking he's a smooth-talking, artistic, dark, brooding genius, with understanding that he's utterly pathetic.
  • Georg Bjarnfredarson from Naeturvaktin clings desperately to his memories of the happy young adult life he had in a Swedish leftist commune and routinely trots out his five university degrees as proof of his superiority. He is a sad middle-aged man with serious personality flaws that make him unemployable in anything above the most menial positions.
  • Jay Pritchett (no-so-incidentally played by Ed O'Neill) of Modern Family is an interesting subversion. He's very wealthy—and otherwise plays this trope straight-up. He often comes off as very jaded, constantly ignored and disrespected by his friends and family, or at least constantly worries about it (especially regarding his current wife), and in spite of his wealth feels he falls short of achieving his goals and recognition. He's also been shown on more than one occasion to overly rely on past glories (or attempt to revel in current glories, namely, again, his current wife). A lot of fans consider him either a more financially-successful Expy or Alternate Character Interpretation of Al Bundy.
  • Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones. The only part of his character that doesn't quite fit is the fact that he rules the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

  • Debbie, the protagonist of the song "1985" by SR-71 (later covered by Bowling for Soup), is a rare female example.
    Her dreams went out the door
    When she turned twenty-four
    Only been with one man
    What happened to her plan?
  • The titular character of "Skipper Dan" by "Weird Al" Yankovic is a former up-and-coming Broadway star whose dreams of fame and fortune passed him by—he's now relegated to working at Disneyland as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise ride.
  • Multiple characters in Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days."
  • Lou Barlow casts himself as this quite a bit.


    Video Games 
  • Michael from Grand Theft Auto V plays it straight, at least in the beginning of the game. His life of excitement is over after one bad job, and he's stuck with a wife who cheats on him and two kids he can't connect with. Eventually he meets Franklin and gets his spark back when he realizes here is someone he can teach his skills to and pass on a legacy.

    Web Originals 
  • The Nostalgia Chick knows she's a waste of space deep down. When Dark Nella is about to end her pitiful, nerdy, judgmental, shut-in existence, she's only really upset at being called nerdy.
    • The Nostalgia Critic had a year-long Story Arc where he was getting more and more miserable about his job, involving bitching at other contributors for doing it better than him and trying to invade a country because he was desperate for some kind of power.
    • With Ask That Guy with the Glasses's ongoing Humiliation Conga, we get to watch the process of how someone can go from cool and collected to almost completely pitiful.
  • Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation likes to portray himself as one.

    Western Animation 
  • In some episodes of The Simpsons, Homer exhibits this trope—particularly in the spoof of the 49up series of documentaries, in which Homer was dissatisfied with his life in general. At other times, of course, Homer seems to invert this trope.
    • At times this is played semi-sympathetically, as when flashbacks reveal Homer to have been an accomplished gymnast in high school and such, but that his father's cynical comments about him destroyed his confidence.
    • Homer has plenty to regret in life, but is usually just too lighthearted to let it get him down. He always admits at the end that he also has a lot to be proud of.
  • Charlie Brown has, time after time, been portrayed with at least some of the descriptions given by this trope. In fact, there are some who had speculated that he will grow up to become Homer Simpson.
  • Duckman.
  • Simon Trent, the typecast actor who played the Gray Ghost, years after the show was cancelled, in Batman: The Animated Series. It's a more sympathetic portrayal than most, however, and he eventually does get out of his slump.
  • Family Guy:
  • The Small Name, Big Ego page mentions a couple of high-school-jock types (Dash from Danny Phantom, the Bradster from American Dragon Jake Long) who are actually prototypical Jaded Washouts—completely aware that, lacking any real redeeming features, these are their Glory Days, and they're keen to milk the time for all it's worth, before they flunk out of college and spend the rest of their lives pining for a time they spent making sure the unpopular kids would be too resentful to show up to the high school reunion.
  • The Venture Bros.: Rusty Venture was a Former Child Star, these days he's a bitter, cynical, pill-addicted has-been— thanks in no small part to his amazingly-traumatic childhood.
    • Most every adult character on The Venture Bros. qualifies to some degree. The creators have called the show their tribute to "glorious failure".
  • The protagonist of Bojack Horseman, as described by the credits song, was in a very famous TV show in the 90's. Now he's simply a washed-up actor obsessed with his older success and stuck bumming around with his deadbeat roommate. However, by the end of the first season things start looking up for him as the tell-all book about him revitalises his career as well as getting his dream role.

Alternative Title(s):

Al Bundy, The Al Bundy, Washout, The Washout