Sadly, the Mary Sue's aura of awesome does not extend out of the pages she's written on, and that "sympathetic" teen genius Wesley and "adorable" feisty pup Scrappy aren't exceptions either. Even the "cool" plot twist can go awry. What's an author to do? There's always the option of Putting Them on a Bus, or hoping to succeed with an Author's Saving Throw, but this character, for various reasons, just can't be done away with like that.
Well, there's only one thing left to do... get them Rescued From TheScrappyHeap.
In a nutshell, this is a reinterpretation of the character or idea, be it in the form of Character Development, a Retool, a Time Skip making the character mature a bit, or giving the actor acting lessons. In any event, they get fleshed out in a way that wins over bitter fans and breathes new life into the series.
A few series can even do this intentionally, and have an otherwise unlikable Smug Snakeevolve into a more human, three-dimensional character.
Not to be confused with Took a Level in Badass, which, while capable of being a step in the right direction, is about a wimp becoming a badass. This is about a hated character becoming a much less hated character. To illustrate the difference:
If Scrappy Doo were able to fight the monsters on a roughly equal footing, then he'd have Taken A Level In Badass. It'd be a step in the right direction, but he'd still be a somewhat disliked character, however.
If Scrappy Doo were to grow up a little, and stop trying to fight monsters all the time and doing all his other stuff that irritates fans (while keeping his lack of monster-fighting skill), that'd be this trope.
Green as a color. Its creatures have been powered up and cheapened over the years (compare Terra Stomper to Force of Nature, for example). In Rise of the Eldrazi, it has an affinity-like ability where Khalni Hydra gets cheaper for each green creature you control.
Defender, or not attacking. Rise of the Eldrazi gave a lot of creatures with defender that count creatures with defender.
Big creatures. Normally they don't come out until you're dead. Shards of Alara made an exception, with Naya's "five-power matters" rule. Also, Rise of the Eldrazi again.
Lands. You either don't have enough or have too many. Zendikar (and Worldwake and Rise of the Eldrazi) made them relevant with the landfall ability, which triggers whenever a land comes into play.
Poison. The entire purpose of Scars of Mirrodin, Mirrodin Besieged, and New Phyrexia. Instead of "When CARDNAME damages a player, that player gets a poison counter.", infect creatures do damage equal to their power in poison counters, making it mutable, and more deadly. Although this has caused a bit of a Broken Base in the Magic community, as there are plenty of people who absolutely hate the powerful Infect creatures running about Standard.
Lifegain. Historically seen as weak, but lifelink creatures and equipment, and cards where lifegain is a side effect made it playable. Life payment made it useful.
In the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, the Elemental Heroes were hated for a long time for numerous reasons - in the anime, because Judai's obsession with using the same monsters over and over. In the card game itself, due to the near-uselessness of the cards and the fact that they flooded every single set through almost two years. When the Yu-Gi-Oh GX manga kicked in, though, it introduced two new additions, which greatly boosted the popularity of the Archetype:
The "Omni-Heroes", six Elemental Heroes that work by fusing any Hero with any Attribute monster, which not only managed to make them much more powerful, but allowed clever deck-building by combining multiple Archetypes.
The "Masked Heroes", which revived a long-favorite mechanic (Fusing with a single monster, introduced with the now-banned Metamorphosis) and made it relevant again.
Skull Servant was originally a useless normal monster and the butt of many jokes until Konami started releasing a series of cards that made the card into a semi-viable deck type.
Deepest Descent by Succubus Yuri is a Kingdom Hearts story on Fanfiction.net. He (I'm sure the writer's a "he") made Kairi more than just a girlfriend to the main character. She actually uses her new Keyblade in real combat. Though she still lacks in personality, she isn't afraid to take hits from dangerous foes. There are other good stories where she does have a developed personality, but this story has managed to turn her into a force to be reckoned with.
Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams and Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light both deliberately emphasize this trope. Heroes and villains alike who are typically C-List Fodder in the official comics are given the spotlight, as the author very deliberately subverts the traditional pecking order of the Marvel Universe. In this universe, characters like Sleepwalker and Darkhawk take center stage away from the likes of Wolverine and the Punisher, while villains like 8-Ball, the Dreadknight, Jack O' Lantern and Firebrand are just as dangerous as the likes of the Green Goblin or Bullseye.
The Pony POV Series does a combination of this and Alas, Poor Scrappy with the entire G3 world. The biggest complaint about G3 were the characters were bland and seemed to all have the same personality and stuck so close to the model it was hard to tell them apart. So how does the fic do this? The End of the World as We Know It. Their universe begins to die because the spell used to make their world "perfect" violates the laws of magic and the laws of the universe to the point it begins to break, and threaten to take the timeline with it. The only way to stop this is with a Cosmic Retcon by the Alicorns and Draconequi, essentially erasing the timeline, and its inhabitants, from existence so the timeline can be saved. As their world dies, the characters Take a Level in Badass and undergrow character growth in response to what they're faced with, becoming complex and likable characters...which makes it that much of a Tear Jerker when they ultimately fail to save their world in the end, resulting in the creation of the G4 timeline.
A rather complicated (and completely intentional) version occurred in The Chronicles Of Narnia with Edmund Pevensie. In the beginning of the series he was...well...kindadetestable, but by the end of the first book he made a complete turn around and showed in later books that he had definitely changed for the better. A lot of people never read any further than the first book and so by the time Prince Caspian came out their hatred for Edmund was pretty deep seated. Needless to say, many people were completely blown away by seeing "bratty" Edmund behaving so maturely. The many crowning moments of awesome he got probably didn't hurt, either.
Peter David made Captain Harriman, a.k.a. the indecisive idiot who got Kirk killed, a lot more tolerable in his tie-in novel "The Captain's Daughter".
A one shot comic did the same thing: after a talk from McCoy telling him to get his act together, Harriman, when the ship was caught in a Klingon ambush and had no chance of winning, pulls off the same con Kirk did in Star Trek III. Only his surrender involved beaming his ship's entire load of torpedo warheads on to the Klingon ship. He gains a great deal of self-confidence and the respect of his crew.
Erickson in Saw VI. In the standard year-long wait between Saw films, Erickson had become something of an in-joke with the fanbase for his ever-present bluetooth headset, as well as what was seen as his "unfortunate status" of being the last good guy still standing (and seeming to blindly play his role in The Chessmaster's latest plan, at that). VI... changed that, and to say how without spoilers is impossible. The first scene Erickson appears in in Saw VI's present timeline has him revealing that he had helped fake a fellow FBI agent's demise for the sake of effectively putting her out of harm's way, so the two of them would have the time and evidence necessary to convict Jigsaw's living apprentice. Granted, he kills both of them, but he has to Take a Level in Badass to do so, and they make him sweat heavily in the process.
Although opinions of Michael Bay's Transformers series varies amongst fans, it inarguably saved the franchise from the Dork Age that was the Unicron Trilogy. It got so bad that Target was the only major chain that actually stocked toys for the first movie, as Wal-mart and the others were convinced the whole franchise was dead.
Mark Ruffalo's portrayal of Bruce Banner in The Avengers made the character the film's Ensemble Dark Horse. Shortly before the film's release it was flatly stated there were no plans for any more Hulk movies; shortly after it was announced a Hulk movie may be in development for 2015 and the actor had signed on for six more films.
In fact Zjins was stated as being perhaps the most powerful third party in the galaxy, after the Empire and the New Republic. This means he was considered more powerful than the Hutts (massive criminal empire), The Hapes Consortium (high tech amazon royalty), and Kuat (a group of planets that's essentially a MASSIVE shipyard). His biggest problem was his inability to properly administer his sector, he was a military officer not a good politician.
For clarity, this was more in terms of threat assessment. The Hutts and Kuat have no real military forces. The Hapes Consortium has a significant military force, but is militant over their neutrality. Zjinj was clever, has enough forces to be a valid threat, and had a goal that could make his an actual threat.
It also helps that several more clever and dangerous Imperial officers turned Warlords were wiped out by the Imperials or Rebels prior to Zjinj's appearance.
According to Word Of God, Lily Bart of House Of Mirth was intentionally made to be as unlikeable as possible specifically so that she could be redeemed in the latter part of the novel. Readers vary as to whether or not this was successful.
Getting your warrior name is apparently a pretty good way to be rescued—Cloudtail and Squirrelflight are both significantly less annoying than they were as apprentices. Berrynose shows that this doesn't always work, though.
Also inverted with Poppyfrost who became a scrappy in the fifth book of Omen of the Stars due to obsessing over her kits.
Apparently this was the original idea behind Jane Austen's Emma. She wrote Emma as someone who was originally unlikable and slowly redeemed her through the book. Risky literary experiment, I'll tell you that.
Edmund and Eustace in The Chronicles Of Narnia both had this effect built into their Character Development, starting off obnoxious and unlikeable but turning around thanks to their experiences in Narnia, and filling much more sympathetic roles in later books.
Lampshaded in The Silver Chair as Eustace confides on Jill Pole that he really regrets having been a jerk in school (he was taken into Narnia during vacation) and Jill first listens to his self-hating rant, then says "well, you were a jerk, you know."
Mat in The Wheel of Time spends most of the first two books either being possessed or recovering from being possessed and is generally The Load and many peoples' least favorite character. Starting with the third book, where the lingering effects of the possesion are cured and he promptly Takes a Level in Badass, setting himself on the way to becoming a Badass NormalLoveable Rogue and Guile Hero, he morphed into a substantial portion of the fanbase's favorite character.
Balthamos from His Dark Materials. You'd expect the death of his lover to win him some sympathy points, but the fact that his portrayal of grief is to moan and wail extremely loudly until the twelve year old that he's travelling with is forced to tell him: "dude, calm down, you're going to attract the attention of the people who are trying to kill us" and that he abandons said twelve year old as soon as their enemies turn up throws him firmly on The Scrappy pile. However, by the end of the book he returns as a Chekhov's Gunman and kills the fanatical Father Gomez, thereby preventing him from killing the children about to save all the worlds in existence.
Kiina from Bionicle. Many fans disliked her brash, impatient Genki Girl personality and her tendency to shout "WOOHOO!!!" at the top of her lungs as per her portrayal in The Legend Reborn. However, in more recent Bionicle media, she seems to have undergone some Character Development, being more sensible and thinking before she acts, as well as displaying a more gentle side — but without being any less Bad Ass in battle. The novelization of said movie also retroactively justified her personality therein, explaining that she actively forced herself to appear joyful, fearing that otherwise The Hero (who she hoped would save her people) would have bailed.
Megadeth released Risk which garnered a similar hatred as Metallica's St. Anger, though for different reasons; St Anger was hated for it's ghastly production quality and for the drums that made it sound like Lars Ulrich was banging on trash cans, while Risk had decent production but represented a drastic change in style. Risk was however saved by hardcore Megadeth fans who argue that if you judge the album as just an album and not as a "thrash metal" album that the songs are quite well written, evoke genuine heartfelt emotion, and are actually quite catchy.
Swedish Death Metal band Hypocrisy has gone through several stylistic changes throughout the career and experimented with a number of different sounds. Generally, they were very well received...except for the Nu-metalish album ''Catch 22" which was almost universally panned by their fans. As an apology of sorts to the fans, the band re-recorded the album with much better vocals, more powerful drumming, and remastered production. The re-recording was much better received by fans.
Blaze Bayley was the Replacement Scrappy in Iron Maiden, but that doesn't stop his solo career from being arguably the best received of the three singers (the guy he replace also had some success, but unlike Blaze people didn't hate his guts).
The guy he replaced being Bruce Dickinson, who had a couple of false starts but has made three albums widely regarded as classics in a row since Accident of Birth, Blaze's solo career being more successful is very debatable.
In 2005, electronic musicians Daft Punk released Human After All, which was a great disappointment to critics and fans alike; the songs were criticized as being boring and tedious, particularly when compared to the vibrancy of the duo's two previous albums. Three years later, most of those same songs were performed on their live tour, and they are awesome.
After their first return in 1985, cult Post Punk group Wire drew much ire from much of their fanbase by releasing a string of poppy, overproduced records, culminating in the critical disaster that was 1991's Manscape. Live, however, the songs often took on a very different character, though Wire, being the contrarians that they were, never released a proper live album from this period... Until 2010, with the inception of their "Legal Download Bootleg Series", one of the first of which was an 1988 performance from the Astoria in London. To summarise the average fan reaction: Hotdamn.
Or, somewhat earlier, their revival of various '80s numbers on their 2000 comeback tour.
To an extent, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. His last album with the Floyd, The Final Cut, was an Anvilicious, dark, Love It or Hate It album and a slow seller, and he carried the Wangst and Control Freak tendencies well into his solo albums. He gained a certain amount of bad press over the lawsuits and public arguments over the rights to the name "Pink Floyd", as David Gilmour's Lighter and Softer Floyd gained success in the late 1980's and early 1990's. By the end of The Nineties, his feelings over Pink Floyd and the media cooled and he started performing Floyd-like arena shows with heavy emphasis over his former band's works, to the delight of many, with full performances of The Dark Side Of The Moon and later, The Wall, and slowly patched things up with his old bandmates. This culminated in the Floyd's reunion show for Live 8 in 2005, and since then he has had great success and better press lately, and his full-scale performance of The Wall is a massive success.
Whenever Kanye West releases an album it almost makes you forget that he's a douche. Almost...
Whenever a One Hit Wonder releases a new single that becomes a hit, this happens. Examples include Billy Ray Cyrus with "Ready, Set, Don't Go" (16 years after "Achy Breaky Heart"note although he did have a few Top 10 hits on country radio in between, these are pretty much the only two songs anyone knows him for) and Jason Mraz with "I'm Yours" .
Half-Elfs and Half-Orcs in 3.5 were some of the worst race options a player could pick (outside of Diplomacy maximizing for Half-Elfs), with only some minor boosts to skills and immunity to sleep effects that high level characters are immune to anyways (Half Elfs) or the only race feature to make up for their unbalanced racial modifersnote a net -2 with the norm +0 being Darkvision, which other races have anyways (Half-Orc) compared to a Human's bonus feat and extra skill points. In Pathfinder both races get to pick +2 to any attribute with no penalties. Half-Elfs can pick any Skill Focus or Weapon Proficiency feat for freenote neither all that great on their own, but common requirements for worthwhile things, can pick two favored classes and have the best Bard and Summoner favored class alternatives. Half-Orcs have actual racial features and a decent range of alternate features to customize themself with.
The Necrons in Warhammer 40,000 were criticized for the Story Breaker Power technology, boring play style, and lack of unique characterization. After the newest Necron codex, their technology was tweaked and they were given a distinctly different motivations along with a variety of different viable strategies.
The Dark Eldar were also unpopular because of their ugly models and lack of good story material. The new Dark Eldar line of models fixed most of the problems, leading to a surge in popularity.
The Chaos Spawn which is often seen as the worst unit in the whole game recently got a nice buff.
The Ultramarines have enjoyed some nice and rare fan acclaim in their Horus Heresy appearances. It helps that they got two of 40k's best regarded authors, Dan Abnett and Aaron Dembski Bowden, to write books concerning them: In Abnett's Know No Fear the Ultramarines fight through what is the 40k equivalent of Pearl Harbor, only worse, and manage to fend off a massive sneak attack by the forces of Chaos. Their Primarch, Roboute Guilliman (oft mocked as Rawbutt/Rowboat Girlyman) distinguishes himself by A: showing his mortal enemy who is the better man - Lorgar is furious and baffled when he finds that Guilliman does not hate him, and B: remaining uncorrupted by the same Anathame blade that cause Horus's fall. In ADB'sBetrayer, Guilliman comes straight back at Lorgar, not only shrugging off a cracked skull from Lorgar's Crozius Arcanum, but also taking on Lorgan and Angron, possibly the most Bad Ass of the traitor Primarchs, on his own. Sure, he loses, but the Chaos dialogue makes it very clear that fighting the Ultramarines is emphatically not fun, easy, or bloodless. He was outnumbered badly too.
Darths & Droids turns Jar Jar Binks into a likable character...by making him the imaginative product (and character) of a nine-year-old girl playing an RPG. Sadly, by their own admission, they may be throwing R2-D2 onto The Scrappy heap in his stead (making him the character of an annoying Munchkin).
An in-story example of this can be found in The Order of the Stick, where one of the marks of Roy's Character Development is how his feelings change about the Spoony Bard Elan: originally, he thinks of him as an annoying, worthless member of the party, but eventually, he considers him a true friend (at least to the "will rescue him from a gang of bandits" level). It helps that Elan himself learns to make himself more useful.
In the Empire of Blood storyline, Elan has become the main character, with everyone else taking a backseat.
Chris Hazelton, author of Misfile, lampshades fan reaction to the comic's resident Scrappy, Missi's, rescue from the heap in this strip.
Mike from Something Positive. While still quite prone to forays into dumbass territory, he has become a much wiser, more mature, and more decent person than he was in his first appearance. He has handled the pressures of being a family man with amazingly few missteps, and he was depicted as dealing with a stint working fast food with surprising grace. When you consider that most of the strip's antagonistic characters either stay antagonistic or sink to new lows, his evolution as a character is remarkable.
Similarly, Kharisma, whose self-absorption, vanity, and contempt for others had her squarely in the scrappy zone from her first appearance. She's suffered quite a bit since then, but in the process she's gained quite a lot of sympathy from the readers. As the author put it: "I have to say I'm surprised by how many people actually look forward to Kharisma strips and more stunned it's not to see her suffer."
Lyonel from Samurai Princess was introduced in such a way ( Giving a well liked character a Traumatic Haircut) that he was doomed from the start. He is now becoming a more likable and enjoyable character.
Melissa from El Goonish Shive was introduced as a Clingy Jealous Girl and Stalker with a Crush who betrayed Justin's trust by publicly outing him, insisted his homosexuality was "just a phase," and constantly hounded him for dates, refusing to take no for an answer. The New and Old Flames story arc toned down her psychotic tendencies and revealed a surprisingly compelling backstory, even giving her a few genuinely badass moments.
Happens from time to time in Survival of the Fittest, usually because of Character Development and/or Characterization Marches On. The most classic example would be v1's Nanami Nishida who was universally considered annoying by most handlers when she was alive. Sometime after her death, though, handlers started to realize just how much her life sucked. Likewise, in v4 Liz Polanski and Raidon Naoko had many handlers skeptical when their profiles first came up (the former being a Broken Bird drug dealer, the latter being a Japanese immigrant whose father was a member of the Yakuza). Once they officially made their first appearances on the island and turned out to be a Crazy AwesomeTrickster Archetype and Anti-VillainPhilosopher respectively, however, many handlers changed their minds and adored them. There are countless other examples that it's impossible to name them all.
In Sim Brother Network's "Sim Big Brother USA", Maya. Week 2, she gets in a huge physical fight with Shantel and becomes disliked. Only reason people voted to evict Shantel over her? Because Maya would make drama. However, Alex and Nicola became the new antagonists as they broke Duncan's Heart and rubbed it in his face after a night of drinking. When Duncan was near the Despair Event Horizon, Maya said that what Alex and Nicola did was despicable and was there for Duncan, especially after Big Brother asked her to. She then proceeded to become a "hero" for the rest of the season with Duncan as The Woobie and finished in second.