main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Jerk Justifications
Clementine: You don't have to do this. It's mean.
Michelle: You gotta be mean to keep goin' out here.
Clementine: I'm not mean.
Michelle: Yeah? And who got your gun?

There are certain mentalities that create Jerkasses, or at least allow them to tolerate themselves. They come in many versions, but most of them boil down to one of three statements:

Type 1: Kindness is weakness, and Nice Guys Finish Last. If you want to get ahead in this world, you have to be ruthless, mean, and manipulative.

Type 2: I'm right and all these peasants are wrong, so it's OK to treat them like crap just to hammer my point in. The stock phrase "I'm not a jerk, I just don't suffer fools" may be used in their defense, the implied insult of which only serves to prove the accuser's point.

Type 3: That's just the way I am, and I can't (or don't care to) change. Deal with it.

Nietzsche Wannabes, Manipulative Bastards and jerks of every type will self-righteously spout one of these philosophies whenever called out on their hostility, arrogance, and general pissy behavior.

Just because an author believes this about a character doesn't mean that every sympathetic character in the story should view the character as a justified jerk. In real life, some people have a hard time dealing with people who act abrasively and are unlikely to know why they act like jerks in the first place. Having everyone make excuses for the character in the story itself may result in Jerk Sue.

When the fans do this on their own a Draco in Leather Pants is born. See also What the Hell, Hero?, a frequent response to Jerk Justifications. If a character's Jerk Justifications are the result of painful experience, can result in a Jerkass Woobie.


Type 1
  • Your average Corrupt Corporate Executive, if they got enough Character Development to be called out on their cruelty, will respond with something like this.
  • Niccolň Machiavelli's The Prince is all about this type.
  • Nabiki from Ranma ˝ tends to invoke type one if she gets called on her behaviour (which is rarely).
  • Kreia of Knights of the Old Republic 2 is a variant.
  • Souther of Fist of the North Star. For him, to be ahead in the Crapsack World where he lives, one has to be as ruthless and devoid of compassion as possible.
  • Kratos' justification. Not entirely wrong, since many time he must kill innocent bystanders if he want to survive. The Olympians' justification is more like type 2.
  • Guy of Gisborne from Robin Hood is Type A in regards to his pursuit of his ambition, but also a little Type C in that he is well aware that he has "committed heinous crimes." Only he isn't prepared to do anything about it except to rely on Marian to "wash away his sins." She begs to differ. It does not end well.
  • ''And that's how Sue C's it!"
  • A common justification for cliques, trolls, internet bullies and doxing (fishing for people's personal information or using it against them). Of course, the instant any of this stuff happens to THEM you can expect them to drop their "morality" like a sack of hammers.
  • Absolute Power: Charles Prentiss. He's a bastard because being a bastard works. You might wish it didn't, and he has some sympathy with that viewpoint. But it does.
  • Silver from Pokémon Gold and Silver and its remakes, though he eventually gets over it.
  • In Berserk, Guts, after his horrific ordeal during the Eclipse, adopts this attitude during his vengeance-obsessed Black Swordsman days, considering innocent civilians to be "small fry without the strength to truly live," who he would not lift a finger to help against the ravening demons that are drawn to his Brand of Sacrifice and which he regularly has to fight. Thankfully, he gets over this when he finds Casca again and gathers a new circle of True Companions, though he still has to deal with a very nasty Enemy Within that represents the worst of what he used to be.
  • Galatea ("Golly") from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is raised with nothing but kibble to eat and various Nietzsche-inspired literature to read, so it's no real surprise that she produces these justifications.
  • Lelouch from Code Geass puts on this kind of act as a mask, but does believe some of it (mainly the Nice Guys Finish Last and World Half Empty parts). However, his ultimate goal is to make the world a better place and completely overturn this kind of attitude, and he's willing to take some extreme measures to achieve it.
  • Tywin Lannister (and pretty much every other Jerkass in the series) in A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones: Westeros is a Crapsack World where doing the honorable thing will get not only you but probably everyone around you killed. A little Pragmatic Villainy, on the other hand, can help stabilize the kingdom and make sure that most people can continue on with their lives.
    • As with the series theme, such actions always have a cause and effect, when you ephaized with the latter over the former. By the time Tywin dies, all the fear and hatred against the Lannisters past actions comes back to bite them, as everyone now wants to oust the Lannisters, and their hold over the realm crumbles under Cersei Lannisters reign.

Type 2
  • Every strawman ever.
  • Sentinel Prime.
  • Least I Could Do will twist itself into storytelling pretzels in order to let Rayne be a Jerkass wish fulfillment character and still look like a good guy in the end, usually by pulling a justification out of thin air that leads to everyone apologizing to Rayne and saying he was right all along. In one arc, Rayne's company is hiring but he doesn't tell his jobless friend Issa. When she angrily confronts him and demands to know why he didn't get her a job, he says that she needs to earn it by merit rather than getting it through favoritism — and this is after weeks of comedic backpedaling to avoid telling the truth.
  • Terry Goodkind again, this time with other characters.
  • The Gulag Archipelago has the line, "What can I do with the incorrigible directness of my personality! ... I am compelled to utter reprimands; it disciplines those nearby."

Type 3
  • Most characters with Freudian Excuses for their behavior fall back on this excuse. Apparently, Mommy Issues are more important than self control and common decency.
  • This is usually the justification for the Jerk Sue. In the author's failed attempt to excuse whatever the Jerk Sue does and cast them in a sympathetic or just "assertive," they end up writing it off as this.
  • Sawyer from LOST is type 3, with a little bit of self-loathing and a whole lot of Heart of Gold thrown in. At least, he was in the first seasons. He would usually justify his actions with "I'm not a good person."
  • Gene Simmons and Ted Nugent have used this in Real Life.
  • "Take Me Or Leave Me," from RENT, is essentially an entire song of Type 3 justification. Most of it is on Maureen's part, but Joanne does a lot of justifying and refusing to compromise by the number's end.
  • Organization XIII use this kind of excuse for their actions. Since they're Nobodies, who don't have hearts, it's simply in their nature to screw with the universe and the heroes, but it's clear from the start that 80% of the excuse is of type 2.
    • To be fair, the whole "missing a heart" bit makes them sociopaths by design. It's rather easy to be a jerk when you're completely incapable of empathy.
  • Sam Puckett on iCarly very much this type. Has had another character say outright that it would be weird if she didn't make them miserable, simply because Sam refuses to grow up or act maturely.
    • Could very well be a Freudian Excuse, because in a later episode, it's revealed that Sam's mother, Pam, is exactly the same way.
  • Damon on The Vampire Diaries has used "I'm a vampire" as an excuse for his behavior a few times. It would be a lot more convincing if not for the behavior of several other vampires demonstrating that it really isn't one.
  • Scott Kurtz. In a webcomics weekly podcast with his friends, they actually point out this has caused him to be alienated amongst pro print cartoonists and he responds by saying that other cartoonists are jerks so he should be able to be one as well.
  • The final example on this Cracked article explains why invoking Type 3 typically leads to you being unable to function in society.
  • Don John in Much Ado About Nothing has a speech declaring himself to be this.
  • In Fruits Basket, this is the excuse Shigure gives for being so selfish and manipulative.

  • This is definitely Truth in Television.
  • House, from House, M.D., combines Type 2 and Type 3.
    "Would you rather a doctor who holds your son's hand while he dies or ignores him as he gets better?"
    • Then again, it really is justified. House is an amazing doctor, which is pretty much the only reason he's still working at that hospital, despite being an utter jackass. The above quote exemplifies his commitment to the Good Is Not Nice trope.
  • All three types tend of show up on Survivor, with people saying types 1 and 3 almost verbatim to the Confession Cam. Nobody really wants to own up to type 2, but it's there.
    • Type 2 appears to be the specialty of Russell, from Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains.
  • Sheldon combines Types 2 and 3. Basically, he's House without the Deadpan Snarking or any sort of personality.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Azula, while more Ax-Crazy Magnificent Bastard than Jerkass, claims Types 1 and 3 for herself (during the Beach Episode she says that her mother was right about her being a monster, and a later episode has her frantically claiming that trust is for fools).
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Cyrano combines Type I, II and III.
  • Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother uses Type I, Type II and Type III with great abandon and inconsistency, depending on whichever one will best get him out of a conundrum without admitting he's wrong/non-awesome or showing weakness: when his friends call him out on Type III by saying they're sick of "dealing" with him, he insists upon Type II. When they prove Type II wrong by showing him how much damage his jerkassery causes, he falls back on Type I. When they argue against Type I by demonstrating that they're all happy without being jerks, he seizes on to Type II to dismiss their opinions as signs that they're "lame" and then insists upon Type III, because he's "awesome". And so it begins again.
  • Arguably, Huckebein family from Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force combines Type I, Type II, and Type III.
  • Reynauld de Chatilllon from Kingdom of Heaven. Lampshaded by him at one point when he slaughters one of many of Saladin's camps.
    Reynauld: I am what I am. Someone has to be.
  • For some people, especially if one browses internet forums long enough, hang around trolls and jerkasses long enough and you might start to become a jerk yourself and justify it by saying "everyone else is doing it, so I may well be one as well."

I Was Young and Needed the MoneyExcuse of an IndexJust Following Orders
Jerk JockThe Jerk IndexJerk Sue
Japanese SpiritMorality TropesJust Like Us
Jade-Colored GlassesCynicism TropesJerk with a Heart of Gold
Jerkass Has a PointThe Only Righteous Index of FanaticsLoaded Words
Jerkass Has a PointVillainsJerk Jock

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy