Sometimes I park in handicapped spaces while handicapped people make handicapped faces. I'm an asshole!
A Jerkass is a character who is so completely obnoxious that it is unbelievable anyone would willingly interact with him. He may have fans, but in most cases the appeal of his character is that he is walking schadenfreude — you know it'll eventually end badly for him, and you can't wait to see it.
Characters can be Jerkasses in many ways — some are polite, intelligent, charming, handsome and/or brave, but still give off a basic air of arrogant, snobby, sneering, leering prickery that makes them such a nasty little punk that you wonder why nobody's shanked them or busted a cap in their skull yet. Others are more obvious assholes who may be racist, stupid, or just basically unpleasant. Either way, it's usually their status on the team of "good guy" that results in them never being called out on it. After all, if they were an asshole on team "bad guy", they'd just be another villain.
What makes him or her entertaining is the fact that you don't have to deal with them yourself in real life. Usually, the Rule of Funny
enables the people around the person to be able to live under the same roof as them without, y'know, blowing their brains out. Sometimes, the Jerkass is the Plucky Comic Relief
who's stepped off the beam and become The Scrappy
, in which case the Rule of Funny
fades away; they may be okay in the other characters' eyes, but the audience would still love to punch them in the face. Because of this, it's hard to feel sorry for them when something bad does happen to them, and it is often seen as comeuppance.
This is especially disconcerting in any series following a team that needs to be coordinated and would realistically not put up with this kind of behavior. This can also happen with a hardass or grouchy
character who becomes an obstacle to others rather than providing pragmatic, but perhaps unpopular, advice
. In films, they often get their comeuppance in the end, which will be applauded by the audience.
The single factor that pushes a merely annoying character over the line into full-time Jerkass status is their absolute obliviousness to other people's perceptions of them. Nothing they do ever strikes them
as out of proportion
; they never realize that anything they are doing might ever
be considered inappropriate, excessive, or cruel; in fact, they believe they are actually right and everyone around them is in the wrong
. If anyone ever does call them out on their Jerkassery, expect them to just rationalize it or shrug the accusation off
. If the writers don't put it in check and just keep trying to one-up the character's assholishness, it can deteriorate into The Sociopath
Often the result of Flanderization
or Madden Into Misanthropy
On the off chance that something happens to nice-ify or remove
the Jerkass, the other characters will be relieved at first, but will proclaim "We Want Our Jerk Back
" by episode's end.
See The Jerk Index
for variations on different types of Jerks. Contrast with Innocently Insensitive
, who acts
like a jerk because they don't know any better, but will be quick to correct their behavior once it is pointed out to them. The inversion is Nice Guy