->''"HA, now do you understand why so many people love me, even though I'm the biggest dick in this entire show? It's because I'm Seto frickin' Kaiba! Accept no substitutes."''
-->-- '''Seto Kaiba''', ''WebVideo/YuGiOhTheAbridgedSeries''

So you've created a fictional character. And they are, to be quite frank, a complete asshole. You're absolutely sure that the audience is going to absolutely ''loathe'' them and everything they stand for by the time they read... what's this? A fan website for them? What?!

It seems like in fiction, certain characters can get away with a lot of bad behaviour without losing the loyalty of the audience. Characters whom you would ''think'' would be loathed and hated because of their actions can become the objects of the [[MagnificentBastard admiration]] and even [[DracoInLeatherPants lust]] of the audience. Sometimes [[AntiHero intentional]], [[MisaimedFandom often not]], in either case fictional {{Jerkass}}es get a lot of leeway. A principle behind many a MagnificentBastard, DracoInLeatherPants or MisaimedFandom, Jerkass Dissonance occurs when the audience excuses the behaviour of a fictional character when it would most definitely ''not'' condone similar behaviour in real life.

The dissonance can be best summed up thus; where a fictional jerk may possess an intense and devoted fan-base of admirers and may, in-universe, be surrounded by a loyal (if long-suffering) group of friends and followers, in RealLife people considered to be jerks tend to be ostracized, and few choose to willingly associate with them. People in reality are quite intolerant of {{Jerkass}} behaviour, mostly when directed towards them or those they care about, and being considered a jerk means that people don't actually like you very much. For instance, the DeadpanSnarker may sometimes say rude or hurtful things to people around them, but the viewer eats it up because [[RuleOfFunny they're funny]]. If someone said equally rude or hurtful things to the viewer however, chances are good that the viewer wouldn't be quite as amused.

Of course, the scale varies. [[DeadpanSnarker Snarky put-downs]] or [[EscalatingWar irritating practical jokes]] might be annoying or hurtful, but it's not necessarily unforgivable conduct, in fiction or in real life. The Dissonance really begins to take strange effect when the character who is the subject of the fandom is engaging in conduct which, in RealLife, would see them comfortably identified as one of history's greatest monsters. There's reasons why people such as UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler, UsefulNotes/JosefStalin, [[SerialKiller Jeffrey Dahmer and]] [[MonsterClown John Wayne Gacy]] are considered some of the most hated and evil figures in history, but there are certain fictional characters who can do the same as them and more besides, but no matter how far they dive over the MoralEventHorizon someone, somewhere, will be rushing to add it to the CrowningMomentOfAwesome list on this very site.

Some possible reasons for this phenomenon include:

# Fiction is, on some level, wish-fulfillment; we live vicariously through the characters and their actions. At some level, almost everyone wishes that they were brazen enough to flout society's rules and conventions and tend to latch on to characters who do so in stories, especially if done in a fashion where, regardless of how offensive their behaviour would actually be, [[RefugeInAudacity you can't help but be impressed]]. Similarly, writers and actors tend to have more fun creating and embodying villains than heroes for similar reasons, which can show in the work.
# The reader is not affected by the consequences of the actions depicted. Whereas the behaviour of a real life bastard can have a direct impact on you, in fiction it's happening to someone else, and since they don't really exist it's not really happening to them, either. The behaviour is thus easier to forgive or overlook.
# We tend to empathize more with the characters who are drawn in more detail because, in a way, we get to know them better. We learn about who, say, the world-killing megalomaniac is and why he acts the way he does; we know his FreudianExcuse and motivation. As such, we find ourselves sympathising with him more. Conversely in real life we may not really know the person who was needlessly rude to us on the bus when we asked them for the time or why they felt the need to behave in such a poor way, and as such feel little motivation to sympathise with them.
# Similarly, the {{Jerkass}} may be drawn in more detail than the people he's being a jerk to; we learn a lot about [[Franchise/StarWars Darth Vader]], but [[AMillionIsAStatistic we never meet most of his victims]], so to all intents and purposes they don't ''exist'' in the same way that Darth Vader does for us. Similarly, we tend to find actions they commit against the main characters harder to forgive than actions they commit against minor/background characters, because [[ProtagonistCenteredMorality they're affecting people we care about more]].
# It's said that [[TheHeavy The Villain Makes the Plot]]. That is, the villain is the driving force of the story's conflict; the more interesting and dynamic the villain, the more interesting the story. This has the effect that people can gravitate to the villain, especially if the hero is comparatively less interesting.
# Notice how most of the characters on the DracoInLeatherPants page are described or depicted in the works they appear in as being physically attractive. Not a coincidence. EvilIsSexy and people can be shallow. The 'halo effect' -- the idea that we tend to excuse the conduct of physically attractive people or imbue them with more inherent decency (justifiably or not) ''because'' of their physical attractiveness -- can have a powerful effect in fiction.
# ComedicSociopathy plays a part; {{Jerkass}} behaviour is funny... so long as it's happening to someone else. As Creator/MelBrooks put it:
-->''"Tragedy is when ''I'' cut my finger. Comedy is when ''you'' fall into an open sewer and die."''
# The character may simply be well-written and interesting; people gravitate to such characters, hero or villain.
# In works with a DesignatedHero, the character's behaviour may not actually be any worse than the good guys', leading to a backlash among fans who don't see why they're considered so bad while the heroes get a more-or-less free pass.
# The Jerkass character [[UnintentionallyUnsympathetic may primarily pick on]] [[TakeThatScrappy the character(s) whom no one reading likes anyway.]]

This phenomenon doesn't relate solely to villains; heroes who commit morally dubious actions can also fall here, since we're ''supposed'' to sympathize with them from the start. However, the hero is supposed to reflect the reader's values more than the villains, which means that we hold our heroes to a higher standard and expect them to live up to it more than the villains, and can be harsher to judge them when they cross the line than we would a villain (who, being the villain, is kind of expected to do that anyway). This can, in extreme cases, lead to instances where a villain appears to be liked more than a hero, even if the hero's worst actions do not compare to the villain's. MoralDissonance usually happens when we notice the {{Jerkass}} tendencies of a hero, but the other characters don't appear to. WhatTheHellHero occurs when the writers themselves notice and have other characters call the hero out on it.

!!Tropes affected include:
* AllGirlsWantBadBoys: An in-universe example, in which the Jerkass character is desired by characters of the opposite gender in spite of or even ''because'' of their overt Jerkass tendencies; many of these characters also go on to be [[DracoInLeatherPants desired by the fans]].
* AntiHero
* BastardBoyfriend: Another example of a character who is presented in-universe as desirable despite - or because of - his jerkassness.
* CrossesTheLineTwice
* ADarkerMe: A real-life, online-based variation; people are often more likely to conduct themselves in ways that they would never dream of -- or dare to -- act in RealLife due to the [[{{GIFT}} anonymity]] of the Internet.
* DracoInLeatherPants: When fandom downplays their more undesirable flaws.
* EnsembleDarkhorse: The "darker" character tends to become one of these quicker.
* EvilIsCool
* EvilIsSexy
* FreudianExcuse: Where a lot of this comes from.
* GoodIsNotNice: If being good outweighs being mean.
* InsultComic: Some comedians have made a career out of insulting their audiences.
* {{Jerkass}}
* JerkassWoobie: When the popularity of a {{Jerkass}} is directly proportional to his or her own misery.
* JerkJustifications: If the fans believe them.
* JerkSue: Authors who attempt to invoke this dissonance deliberately -- and, usually, do so badly.
* MagnificentBastard
* MisaimedFandom
* RefugeInAudacity: Making an immoral action more unrealistic and ridiculous can make it seem less unsettling and tragic and make it funnier instead.
** In fact, sometimes a more realistic jerk like a JerkJock or an AlphaBitch can be ''more'' hated than an outright villain, because their actions call up things that the audience might have had happened to them, whereas "a guy is trying to TakeOverTheWorld, let's go stop him!" is more abstract.
* RonTheDeathEater: A curious inversion, wherein a typically non-{{Jerkass}} character is twisted in order to be considered one. This is usually as a result of an attempt to balance a DracoInLeatherPants situation wherein the fandom is downplaying the faults of an actual {{Jerkass}} character who exists in opposition to the former character. It may also simply be because the writer hates the character and wants an excuse to be able to destroy them in the writing.
* RootingForTheEmpire
* SatanIsGood
* {{Tsundere}}: When the "Tsun" side is played up for laughs.
* UnintentionallySympathetic: When the audience feels there are good, legitimate reasons for liking or feeling sorry for the {{Jerkass}} that the author never intended.
* UnsympatheticComedyProtagonist: When the Jerkass is funny.
* ValuesDissonance: Seem like more a {{Jerkass}} in their native country than in the country they've got fans in.
* VillainProtagonist: At least sometimes.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: Where noble enough ideals cancel out most of the villainous deeds.