"Who roots for the cops in a heist movie, anyway?"Where the villains of a series become more popular than the good guys. The heroes start to rub the fans the wrong way, and a notable proportion of the fandom now dislikes and actively bashes the main characters. For these fans they can almost become a Hatedom, yet they call themselves fans and continue to read/watch/play the source material because they like the bad guys. Rooting for the Empire is fairly common in a story with a Villain Protagonist, due to the natural tendency for audiences to bond with the viewpoint character of any story: but there are many other reasons for this attitude to take hold. Having their conflict be against other (sometimes even worse) bad guys rather than heroic antagonists tends to cause either this or Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. It also often happens in works with a Designated Hero and/or Designated Villain. There's usually a turning point in canon that leads to this, sometimes irrational and sometimes rational: Irrational reasons for this include: fans gaining too much Sympathy for the Devil. The villain getting a subplot that's more interesting than what the main cast is doing. The villains are considered cooler than the heroes. The villain is so incompetent that the fans think they should win just for once. The villains attacked The Scrappy and/or Creator's Pet. The fans want to be on the strongest side, for once. The series runs on White and Grey Morality, and the viewers may tire of having a hero never able to make a tough decision and revels in rooting for someone who does. Rational reasons include: the evilness of the villains being an Informed Attribute, while the "heroes" repeatedly Kick the Dog and act unpleasant. The villain constantly makes good points. The series uses Grey and Gray Morality or Black and Gray Morality so Rooting For The Empire is an Intended Audience Reaction. Tends to occur when the source material has jumped the shark and started to lose its focus, but sometimes Just for Fun or for reasons of the fans' own. It can also be a response to Writer Revolt or a perceived slight to the fans. Jerkass Dissonance often plays a part. Unlike the Misaimed Fandom, the character roles are working out as they're supposed to, but the audience willingly cheers on the enemy. Hate toward the actor can also be involved in this, when the hated actor is playing a good guy. Some sociologists have pointed out that, as irrational as it sounds, many people, both when it comes to fiction and real life, will root for whichever side reminds them the most of themselves, even when that side is thoroughly immoral, totally unlikable or both. As simple as it is to always want to see people of your own ethnic group, religion, or social or political class - or who simply have the same goals or aspirations as yourself - triumph, it is understandable, because it's easy to convince yourself that if they lose, you will lose too. Common manifestations of the trope include:
— Feng Shui: Friends of the Dragon
- The Caper. Like the Feng Shui quote on the quotes page said, who roots for the cops? The writers often try to avoid this through a Caper Rationalization.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster . Massive audience sympathy for "villains" such as Rico Bandello in Little Caesar, Tony Camonte in Scarface (1932), and Tom Powers in The Public Enemy was one of the main reasons for The Hays Code and nearly forty years of film censorship. This didn't stop Cody Jarrett from being the sympathetic one in White Heat in 1949.
- Almost every Slasher Movie invokes this by making the victims as horribly unlikable as possible, to the point where it has its own trope: Developing Doomed Characters.
- British people watching films about the American War of Independence tend to have a reaction slightly like this - the films often try to paint the British in the worst possible light, which American audiences might not have a problem with, but historians (and the British) might.
- Any time the villain is the victim of a bully, as bullies tend to make such good asshole victims.
- In a combination of this trope and Values Dissonance, many older Westerns lead to modern audiences siding with the Native Americans who serve as the Designated Villains. Conversely, newer Westerns might put non-Indians on the moral defensive, especially if the Indians are Noble Savages.
- The fans are themselves villains - or at least see themselves as such due to rejection by society and/or a guilt complex.
- The rooter is, quite frankly, nothing more than a malcontent who just wants to gain notoriety and/or piss everyone off, in order to make everyone as miserable as him/her.
Real Life Examples:
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- In the Apple-produced "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" commercials, many viewers tended to side with the PC, which came across as more of a likable everyman, while the Mac seemed like a smug tosser. They also tried to dismiss the PC advantages as boring stuff and push how great Macs are for artistic types, but the way they presented it came off as "the PC is better unless you're a professional artist".
- Who doesn't root for the Lucky Charms leprechaun? He's only trying to protect what's his. Thankfully, later commercials have him steal it back by the end.
- There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who want the Trix Rabbit to put a hurting on some smart-assed kids and take their cereal. General Mills has actually played this to their advantage by holding voting contests asking kids if the Trix rabbit should get to have some cereal; the results in three of the contests in 1976, 1980, and 1991, was an overwhelming victory for the "Yes" side.
- Completing the cereal-ad trifecta, many ads for Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles feature ostensible-protagonist Barney stealing ostensible-antagonist Fred's cereal to shouts of "BARNEY! My PEBBLES!" Fred may be overreacting, but once you realize why the thieving little Tyrion Lannister wannabe doesn't just buy his own damn cereal, it's hard not to sympathize with Fred.
- It's easy to root for the Dark Egg Legion in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog. They do take orders from Eggman, but they aren't completely evil, and most of their members seem to be regular Mobians, bar the cybernetics. Given that the heroes are headed by Sonic, who can be a bit of a jerkass, and the Kingdom of Acorn, an incredibly ineffectual monarchy that can barely function, it's no wonder. And they're the only group in the world who don't actively despise technology. A great example is the Great Desert DEL. They were turned into mindless Robian mooks thanks to Unwilling Roboticisation and forced to fight the Sand Blasters, an extremist group of Freedom Fighters. After being turned back into Mobians, they tried to make peace with the Sand Blasters, but where instead hit with Fantastic Racism for being former Robians. In order to survive, they went to Eggman for help, who legionized them. When The Baron, leader of the Great Desert DEL, was confronted about this by his niece, hero Bunnie Rabbot D'Coolette, he responded that being in the DEL isn't so bad. Being legionized means cybernetic upgrades, which in turn make for an awesome health plan, as The Baron pointed out, when he thanked legionization for fixing his "bum knee". He also mentioned something about D'Coolette's being oppressors, which insinuates Fantastic Racism within the Kingdom, making them look even worse.
- Doctor Doom has gotten this in a big way, and partly due to his Memetic Badass status in the fandom, and neither one is all that unjustified; Doom usually is that badass, and Reed Richards has a notorious history of being a total prick rather frequently. Warren Ellis gave Marvel 2099 a grand send-off by letting Doom take over the USA. It worked... right up until the politicians broke out the WMDs they had previously been too scared to use. Ellis points out that the basis of Doom's megalomania is that he truly believes that the world would be better off under his rule so he could protect and provide for it with the fruits of his genius without interference. And in canon Marvel, Doom has turned Latveria into a Gothic Dubai while Reed Richards Is Useless.
- Fables does a pretty decent job of openly asking whether those in Fabletown should have been rooting for the empire; Gepetto committed horrifying atrocities but ruled an empire where most inhabitants lived in peace and also imprisoned a lot of frightfully powerful evil beings that as of the fall of his reign have begun to escape. On the other hand, it seems pretty clear that us mundies would definitely be getting the short end of the genocidal stick if Gepetto had taken over our world.
- Cobra from G.I. Joe and to a lesser extent Hydra from Marvel Comics. Both present modern society as corrupt and self-serving and should be fought against. They do make good points except both organizations are much, much worse. Join or die was Cobra SOP at one point.
- Sinestro in Green Lantern has been getting some attention in this manner recently, mainly due to him being a very charismatic villain and his arguments against the Guardians being too involved with their mysteries and prophecies to do an effective job policing the cosmos.
- Grant Morrison once discussed how it's easy to do this for Lex Luthor in an interview:
"It's essential to find yourself rooting for Lex, at least a little bit, when he goes up against a man-god armed only with his bloody-minded arrogance and cleverness."
- Magneto is prone to this also, given his genuine concern for the future of all mutants and his experiences in Auschwitz, and how often humanity is shown to treat mutants absolutely horribly; when written well, you almost want the X-Men to lose, if only just this once. The same cannot be said for the Ultimate Marvel version; it doesn't take long to wish for the bastard's head on a pike.
- In the larger Marvel Universe, while fans may sympathize with the heroes and still want to see them succeed, the All of the Other Reindeer way the ordinary citizens treat their heroes has rubbed so many readers the wrong way that they almost want to see the Ungrateful Bastards get killed by the villains for being such dicks to the people who keep risking their lives for them. One issue features Cyclops, possessed by the Phoenix and in the process of going quite mad, giving a little "Why do we even bother saving these people?" speech, and while the intent of the scene was to show his slowly-deteriorating mental state numerous fans found themselves nodding along with him. During a JLA/Avengers crossover The Avengers find themselves in Metropolis, stop a crime, and are mobbed by people wanting their autographs, cheering and thanking them. They are stunned when this happens and can't believe ordinary people would treat superheroes as, well, heroes and are suspicious that the JLA are overlords and the people are Rooting for Their Empire out of fear.
- Star Wars: Legacy plays with this, due to its Black and Gray Morality. For the most part the two main Big Bads, the Sith and The Empire have made major reforms. The Sith, while still quite evil, have abandoned many of their old ways in favor of working together as one (one even saves another's life after spending the whole issue arguing, because "We are Sith"), plus they have Evil Is Sexy on their side. While The Empire is now a force of good in the Galaxy and most of its anti-nonhuman ways are behind them. The Republic has been reduced to a handful of planets and ships whose only act in the comics have been a stealing a Sith Super Prototype which the Empire had already rigged with bombs so it would look like a malfunction causing the Sith to blame the Mon Calamari (who aided the Republic) and declare war (meaning genocide). The Jedi, while still good, are back to being a Hidden Elf Village to a point where they refused to aid the Mon Calamari. The main character, last of the Skywalkers, is a total Jerkass just looking out for himself (and abusing his powers) as a result of being sick of all the But Thou Must his family (as Force ghosts) and fellow Jedi have been ramming down his throat.
- The Exile of Super Dinosaur has a sympathetic backstory, and though he does intend to conquer the world, it is to save his people from his brothers tyranny and forced isolation, rather than a lust for power. Then you get the obnoxious Kid Hero not only rubbing out his shot at liberating his people, but smugly taunting him about it.
- In Superior Spider-Man, quite a lot of fans are starting to root for any supervillain who's against Spider-Man ( aka. Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man's body, which he has stolen) due to his increasingly amoral behavior. At first this was just the fans, but as the comic continues it seems to be intentional. Helped by the fact that most of said supervillains are of the Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain variety or are really cool. This has ultimately boiled down to watching the Goblin King and his army tearing down everything Otto had built up.
- The Marvel event World War Hulk had most readers rooting for the Hulk, mainly because of all the crap The Illuminati put him through. It even happened in the story with many bystanders siding with the Hulk. Another major factor was the events of Civil War. It's hard to root for the heroes when they've forced all superhumans to work solely for the government, enslaving, imprisoning, and killing everyone who disobeys. It even leaked into Secret Invasion, with some readers hoping that the Skrulls would manage to conquer Earth and enslave the muggle population to teach them a thing or two about freedom. While the Skrulls didn't win, this led to Dark Reign with Norman Osborn as head cop, with some fans rooting for Osborn and his Dark Avengers, which was even Marvel's top selling book month after month during its run.
- The Conversion Bureau: Even though the Human Liberation Front are often depicted as terrorists, the deck being so stacked against them and the blatant Moral Myopia of the ponies makes the HLF easy to sympathise with. They're xenocidal racists, but so are their enemies.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami:
- An interesting, and averted case for Mercury. Nearly all the forces of good fear and hate the Dark Empress, who is actually an outside context hero with phenomenally poor public relations.
- Keeper Mukrezar, Ami's foil, plays this trope very straight: he's hammy, he's funny, he's as inventive and fast-thinking as Mercury and it's tons of fun watching him backstab and manipulate his own 'allies'.
- In Event Horizon: Storm of Magic, The Company™ is a powerful, ruthless, opportunistic, and manipulative organization, but most readers still support them or at least consider them a Villain Protagonist at worst. They do, after all, bring positive social change and technological progress to worlds locked in Medieval Stasis like Westeros, as well as fighting on humanity's side against the more omnicidal factions like Mordor and the Forces Of Chaos.
- A major part of the Firebird Trilogy of Harry Potter stories. This heavy AU world features two antagonists; Voldemort and the Sabbat. Voldemort, who is worse than he is in canon (Prone to messing with Harry's head with images of possible, happy homes he could have had, turning Cedric into a human bomb, being an immense He-Man Woman Hater) has a ton of fans who want Harry to join him. This is less because he is a nice guy and more because the other bad guys, the Sabbat, are far, far worse, and actually ended up creating Voldemort.
- My Little Unicorn: The story is meant as a revenge fic against My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, centering around ponies in another dimension and/or in space, fighting off an evil sorcerer without The Power of Friendship and therefore being superior to the cast of the original show. Many readers actually wished to see the bad guy win, just so that the main characters (consisting of one dimensional Mary Sues) get their asses kicked.
- The natural consequence of most Mary Sue stories (with the obvious exception of Villain Sue) is this trope. Even if the bad guy eats babies, readers tend to root for them out of sheer spite, on the off-chance that Moonbeam Potter Swan might get her stupid face punched in. And if they don't eat babies, then hoo boy...
- In Pages Of Harmony Twilight Sparkle, like Light Yagami, becomes a Knight Templar who believes that Utopia Justifies the Means. Despite her crossing the Moral Event Horizon in order to try to attain her goal of complete Harmony, it reached a point where there were almost more people wanting to see Twilight win, despite her killing her friends and wanting to eliminate anyone without the right traits.
- The writer for The Storm Dragons series is definitely rooting for the Empire in the Inheritance Cycle, as the two separate story arcs describe in detail the backgrounds of two of the main villains, one which is an elder black dragon and the other is Galbatorix, plus multiple Anti-Villains on the side.
- In the North Korean propaganda-fest that is Squirrel and Hedgehog (although the animation was done by a foreign company, probably Chinese), the creators went a little too far in making the Americans (as Savage Wolves no less) badass. Just... take a look. A YouTube commenter summed it up pretty well:
Protip: When attempting to make effective propaganda, having your arch enemy appear as a badass wolf with glowing eyes, sinister voice and his own laser techno-plane while having your troops look like effeminate squirrels and ducks that constantly cry is not a good idea. Hey, did those wolves just fire laser machineguns?! AWESOME.
- It's worth noting that unlike most fascist propaganda, which generally extolls the strength of its people, North Korean propaganda tends to sell how weak and helpless the North Korean people are - and thus how they need the Kim dynasty to protect them. Not that this makes the American wolves any less cool.
Films — Animated
- Many FernGully watchers sympathize with Hexxus, who for the record is the incarnation of pollution in a heavily Anvilicious cartoon about how life is precious and pollution evil. Yet viewers seem to forget he's an abomination whose end game is to kill all life including humans, but that's what you get for casting Tim Curry as your main villain and utterly forgettable main characters otherwise (save for comic relief Batty who has fans and people who cheer for him and want him to win).
- It's hard to root for the titular character of Hercules, simply because the protagonists are so whitebread. Hades, by contrast, is one of the best Disney villains ever and the most entertaining character in the movie, and fans of the original mythology would likely root for him even harder.
- A few viewers of Disney's The Little Mermaid found the sly, manipulative Ursula a lot more likable than the naive, impulsive protagonist Ariel, or her overprotective, human-hating father King Triton, and were rooting for her to actually win the deal and conquer Atlantica. It helps that she's been shown as a Benevolent Boss to her minions Flotsam and Jetsam (in the movie, at least), and was none too happy when they were eradicated.
- In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the reason Frollo was made into such a monster was because Disney was trying to avoid this trope (it had happened so many times before.) Didn't work.
- A good number of people prefer Captain Hook over the main protagonist in Peter Pan. This is probably due to the fact that, unlike other Disney villains, Captain Hook has an understandable reason to want and destroy his nemises. That and the abuses he continually suffers from seems more undeserved than anything, putting him straight into Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain territory. Where he crosses the line, of course, is by lashing out at perfectly innocent people in his quest to get at Peter, even if he thinks that's the only way he can succeed. It should also be noted that his own crew hates him because they never get to do fun pirate stuff, but have to constantly aid and abet a revenge quest they don't give a rat's ass about.
- While it wasn't always this way, Gaston has gotten quite popular over the years, arguably more so than either of the protagonists in Beauty and the Beast. This is probably due to viewers finding his ego oddly charming than obnoxious (as intended), his ridiculously exaggerated but still catchy and lively song and for being a straight up Large Ham.
- Many viewers of A Troll in Central Park find the antagonists, Queen Gnorga and Llort, far more likable than the largely cloying protagonists Stanley, Gus and Rosie, thanks in part to how hammy and over the top their acting is.
- Deliberately Invoked in Wreck-It Ralph as a central theme to the film. The antagonists of various video games are presented as Punch Clock Villains who participate in an AA-style support group to help one another with the daily realities of being reviled as evil. The titular character is a 30 year industry veteran who is treated as a pariah in his own game and has gotten sick of being relegated to living in a dump and ignored while the other characters of the game celebrate with one another.
- Played straight with the movie's actual villain, Turbo, thanks mainly to his being Laughably Evil.
- The Aristocats has Edgar, a butler who has loyally served Madame Adelaide Bonfamille and is angered to discover her inheritance is going to her cats instead of him. His actions merely portray him as an Anti-Villain and fans who sympathize with him claim he has justifiable reasons for abducting the cats. (And anyway, they're just cats.)
- Dan Dare doesn't know it, but Bernie Taupin and Elton John like the Mekon.
Mythology and Religion
- Classical Mythology:
- The Amazons were villains whose intended purpose was to demonstrate the dangers in allowing women any power whatsoever, and were conquered by Heracles to show that women are always weaker than men. In later times, especially with the rise of feminism, they have been portrayed with increasing sympathy, most prominently with a certain very popular heroine.
- A number of people support the Titans over the Olympians. A case of Grey and Gray Morality, Cronus ate his kids, but is recorded as ruling over a Golden Age for mankind where humans lived without the need for toil, disease, or war. Then Zeus and a bunch of other Jerk Ass Gods came along, ended the Golden Age and introduced every cruelty they could think of. Many modern adaptions have to villainize the Titans (including often designing them as monsters) so you sympathize with the Olympians. The story of Prometheus is pretty much the prime example for this. Even most modern adeptions of Greek Mythology can't get around making him sympathic and portraying him as human looking.
- Actually, most of the Olympians invoke latent, guilty-pleasure hatred for their extreme injustice toward mortals, especially for offenses that are minor or accidental, or that are not even directed at the gods themselves. And if you dare to think yourself the equal of a god, you are going to die, or at least end up wishing you would die. (Of course, since quite a few mortals did succeed in making monkeys of the Olympians, or even becoming gods themselves, you can't really blame the Olympians for feeling insecure and paranoid.)
- Sputnik Monroe was supposed to be a heel when he wanted to integrate seating in the Memphis territory of the National Wrestling Alliance but ended up being a baby face to kids and the black audience.
- The New World Order were heels invading WCW, but were cool and popular heels that people enjoyed a great deal. Their popularity only lessened—or maybe splintered—when the group was split in two.
- In the example to top all examples, Bret Hart slowly became more and more evil after he returned to wrestling in 1996, feuded with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, brutally beat him in a submission match at WrestleMania XIII, became a heel while Stone Cold became a face, and the entire nation of Canada supported him without hesitation. He was probably more popular in Canada after Wrestlemania XIII than before. His apology to every country but the U.S. after Wrestlemania XIII is one of the most brutally honest, deep promos ever done. And to this day, he's seen as a Canadian hero, the all Canadian face if you will. How strong was this? Until their retirements, Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon were booed in Canada regardless of face heel status because of all the horrible things they did to Bret. It's surprising the man's not on the national flag.
- Lots of WWE fans were rooting for Randy Orton during his long feud with John Cena, even though Orton was portraying an unstable and sadistic sociopath. The reason for this was that Cena had amassed a sizable Hate Dom due to a growing consensus among smarks that he was an Invincible Hero who no-sold moves that he shouldn't have and that he only used five moves. They were sick of seeing Cena win all the time, and they wanted to see him beaten. Soon, there seemed to be as many fans cheering on Orton as there were cheering on Cena. Not surprisingly, Orton soon turned face... sort of. Ironically, Cena himself was this when he was a heel.
- People will often cheer for anyone John Cena faces in a feud. Which would be great if Cena were a heel, but audiences are so bored with his stale gimmick, generic promos, and formulaic matches that almost inevitably culminate in phoned in Five Moves of Doom, and mediocre "psychology", they pretty much default to cheering for whoever he is wrestling against. It doesn't help that he's always feuding with the top heels, who just look so much better than Cena by comparison. Punk was a much better talker with great psychology, Brock Lesnar is a much better worker and has Paul Heyman, God of the Heel Promo, to do his talking for him. Even though Lesnar and Heyman do everything that can to come off as Jerkasses, the audiences are pulling for them because they want to see Cena lose and go away.
- When Chris Jericho, as a heel, feuded with Cena for the WWE Title, he would talk about how he was there to save us from Cena. The crowd didn't know they weren't supposed to WANT to be saved from Cena, and cheered Jericho loudly. Jericho started calling them sycophantic idiots in an attempt to actually get heat, and they cheered Jericho loudly.
- Bray Wyatt, a retooled Husky Harris, came up with his stable, The Wyatt Family, as a smooth talking, somewhat unhinged cult leader going on about Sister Abigail, telling people to follow the vultures, and generally lynching random wrestlers as they saw fit. Combine his charisma, respectable wrestling ability, and very cool entrance, and his mugging of fan favorites, and he was very much over as a heel. Bray and his stable drew heat just like heels should. Then he began a feud with John Cena, and one would have thought he was the company's top face the way the audience agreed with every negative thing he said about Cena, and otherwise alternating cheering everything Bray did with chants of "CENA SUCKS." At this point, there's probably a raise and a medal in it for anyone who can feud with Cena and get heat away from Cena.
- CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy is full of this. The bad guy in this was an anti-drug, straight edge guy who was better than you while the good guy was a guy who was fired from two companies because of his drug problems and lost his spot at the biggest show of the year because he could not keep his hands off the stuff. Overall, though, there was no reason to actually cheer for Jeff Hardy other than finding CM Punk to be an asshole—he was never really sorry for his past drug-abuse issues and he handwaved them off as just being rules that he chose not to follow because he was an "artist" and a "free-spirit." Then, you add that soon after leaving the WWE he was busted for drug trafficking, moved to TNA because of their lack of drug testing, and tried to headline a PPV while stoned out of his gourd, and Punk ends up looking like a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
- An interesting meta-example surrounding Triple H: He's amassed a large amount of X-Pac Heat from sheer nepotism (he's married to the head of Creative Development, who happens to be the boss's daughter). This leads to accusations of Spotlight-Stealing Squad, Creator's Pet, and he frequently gets Mis-blamed as the source of Executive Meddling to further his own self-serving ego. However, rumors are floating out that when he manages the shows instead of Vince McMahon, they're more relaxed and generally more pleasant, and Triple H tends to be more "with-it" in terms of pop culture while Vince thinks it's still The '80s. This has led a lot of fans to (surprisingly) root for Triple H and hope that he begins to take a more involved role behind the scenes. Then he was made head of the talent department, and despite initial fears that he would push nothing but big men, his first acquisitions were the IWC favorite Awesome Kong and Masked Luchador Sin Cara and hyped them up with video packages like the wrestling days of yesteryear. Now many are looking forward to seeing what else Trips has in store for the talent department. On a more conventional level, Trips has always had his fans no matter how overt a Heel he is at the moment, because regardless of the nepotism issues, he's also legitimately talented in the ring and charismatic behind the mic.
- It's further helped Triple H's case that he has full control over WWE's developmental show NXT and a growing number of fans are claiming that show is currently of better quality than Raw, which Trips still has to deal with Vince's meddling in running. It seems likely that support for him will only grow after his recent appearance on Steve Austin's podcast, where he echoed a lot of things that fans have been clamoring for - that if it were all up to him, Raw would go back down to two hours and the women wrestlers would have more prominence.
- In the run up to Wrestlemania 32, where he wrestled Roman Reigns in the main event, Triple H had been systematically trying to destroy any onstage goodwill he may have earned for almost two years at that point, and had made a number of backstage decisions that drew the IWC's ire. Prior to the match itself, Stephanie got up and screamed insults at the audience for almost five minutes. However, the notoriously heel-friendly Wrestlemania crowd still cheered for HHH, while Roman was booed so heavily that the WWE cut the audience mics.
- "The Wrestling Goddess" Athena was jokingly nicknamed "The Biggest Baby Face In SHIMMER" or had puns about her finishing move, O-face, since the audience tended to roar in approval at her victories, no matter how much she antagonized them or how she went about getting to them but especially if she won with O-face. Mercedes Martinez on the other hand was someone whom the crowd seemed to except as "good" even when the promotion tried to show them otherwise, such as an unprovoked post match attack on Leva Bates. Then she faced Athena in what was essentially a Face–Heel Double-Turn, as they finally realized Martinez was no longer good but Athena soon was.
- A lot of the more zealous smarks might just do this out of sheer spite, especially in regards to WWE and if the heel happens to have an indy fanbase. The mindset seems to be that, since it's fake, we can cheer the bad guy and their story because they're a good wrestler, regardless of whether their character is nice or not. One of the biggest examples was probably CM Punk in his feud against John Cena as the new leader of The Nexus. Unlike his feud with Jeff Hardy, Punk showed little to nothing in the way of redeemable qualities (save his willingness to tweak WWE Management in Worked Shoot promos), as his straight edge lifestyle hasn't even been mentioned. Despite this, he still gets cheered because he's one of the better wrestlers, despite doing nothing cheer-worthy.
Then there was the Summer of Punk II in 2011 where Punk was feuding Cena, Vince, and basically the entire company because he was threatening to leave with the WWE Championship on the night his contract expired at the Money in the Bank PPV in his hometown of Chicago. He was technically the Heel, but the infamous "Pipe Bomb" promo on the June 27, 2011 episode of RAW and the magnificent writing of the storyline, along with his awesome mic work made him come off as the Face, to the point that Boston cheered for him over hometown hero John Cena the RAW before the PPV, even after he compared them and said hero to the New York Yankees. Then he won the match (which is now considered one of the greatest matches in WWE history), won the title, evaded a cash-in attempt by Del Rio, and ran off with said title in his hometown crowd, ascending to superstardom in the process.
He once disrespected Paul Bearer's death for the buildup for his WrestleMania match with The Undertaker, stole the urn, released the ashes on Undertaker and slathered them all over his body. That's not even counting the time when he mocked Jerry Lawler's heart attack with Paul Heyman. Yet despite being not only the top Heel, but the best Heel, in the entire company, easily managing to garner massive amounts of heat in minutes, people will cheer for him anyway. Why? Because he's just so good at being bad.
- Kevin Steen's fan song Anti Christ, based on his Ring of Honor theme, referenced this, "The question was never if Steen will, but how loud the fans will be calling 'Kill Steen, Kill!".
- After SHIMMER Volume 60, the biggest baby face in the promotion became Nikki Storm, a rude, vain Violent Glaswegian who the fans can't get enough of despite having few redeeming qualities.
- This happens all the time in Professional Wrestling where a heel's antics end up being entertaining or cool enough that the fans start rooting for them, leading to the promoter either making a Heel–Face Turn or kicking the heel across the Moral Event Horizon to make the fans boo him again. Smarks are more likely to do this than average fans and the smark-filled regions of northeast US and Canada have this in spades. Notable examples include Stone Cold Steve Austin, D-Generation X after Shawn Michaels' injury and, Santino Marella.
- At Chilanga Mask 3. Aniversario, an "ACH" chant broke out over the booing during his three way elimination match against Ricky Marvin and Lio Rush, with a chant for Rush following after it died down. Presumably the audience members doing so wanted to see ACH and Lio go at it and found Marvin to be an unnecessary third wheel. Nothing ACH did could successfully keep them against him, despite him going as far as to scream "USA"!
- The people in the stands usually root for the home team, don't they? Well, not necessarily-some of the people in the stands may in fact be cheering for the away team for any number of reasons. Sometimes the city the team plays in has a lot of expatriates from the away team's city. In the Canadian Football League, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are known for their hardcore fanbase. Many Saskatchewanians have moved to Alberta for various reasons, to the point that Roughriders flags, banners and clothing can be almost as common-if not more so-in the Alberta CFL cities of Edmonton and Calgary as the merchandise of those cities' own teams. But the most common form of someone cheering the away team are fans so devoted to the team that they attend EVERY game, and even travel to the places where their teams away games are.
- Due to Values Dissonance, some people who are appalled by bullfighting might end up cheering for the bull and celebrating whenever the matador gets injured or even killed.
- Fans of historically successful NFL franchises typically get viewed this way by other fans.
- Right from the start, Tonya Harding had a huge fanbase, despite being viewed as an Acceptable Target by pretty much everyone else - which in itself fuels resentment and defiant sympathy on the part of the former group. It helps that even people who are sympathetic to Nancy Kerrigan have admitted that she isn't particularly likable either.
- Shylock from The Merchant of Venice is a Jewish money-lender who is derided, insulted, and generally discriminated against by pretty much everyone. He serves as the main antagonist for the story and is trying to collect on a debt owed by Bassanio, a friend of the protagonist Antonio. Antonio had signed onto the debt as a guarantor and Shylock, who hated Antonio, saw a path to revenge by demanding a pound of Antonio's flesh as a penalty for defaulting on the loan. Thanks to some Rules Lawyering on behalf of the protagonists, Shylock is not only denied his revenge, the debt is annulled, his wealth is taken from him, and he is forced to convert to Christianity. At the time Shylock was considered a highly effective, loathsome villain, and his fate was just comeuppance for his greed. In today's world, the character is received much differently, to the point of being a highly sympathetic character. Modern productions often play Shylock as a tragic villain rather than his traditional "pure evil" role, and his famous "I am a Jew!" speech, with no modification whatsoever, today reads perfectly as the lamentations and frustrations of an oppressed people to discriminatory and dehumanizing treatment from the masses.
- In Les Misérables, some people side strongly with Javert, rejecting the Lawful Stupid interpretation and instead insisting that Valjean, as a thieving, robbing, murdering, treacherous parole-breaker who engages in armed rebellion against the government, is perhaps not undeserving of the law's, and thus Javert's, dedicated attention. This isn't as extreme an example as the others on the page, Javert is ultimately an admirable figure for his commitment to justice, and no character in the play is meant to be outright hated (excluding the Thenardiers).
- The fan base of Phantom of the Opera is often partial toward the sympathetic phantom's side, romanticizing his unhealthy obsession with Christine as "true love" and perceiving him as a tragic villain, sometimes even while demonizing bland rival suitor Raoul in fanfictions.
- Richard III is the smartest man in the room (any room), and much more charismatic and entertaining than any of the milquetoast good guys who surround him. Just try watching a production of the play without wanting him to win. Also the supposed hero of the play, Richmond, only appears at the end so comes across as a very Flat Character.
- Iago from Othello, since he's an extremely charismatic character who turns Refuge in Audacity into an art form. Convincing Othello that his wife is cheating on him IN A SINGLE SCENE doesn't exactly portray the hero in the best light, as well as the rest of the cast having a bad case of Horrible Judge of Character to the point where if they ever just talked to each other, they'd have quickly realised who was pulling all the strings (To be fair, he comes close to winning, and most of the "idiots" who believe him end up dead).
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- In the Forgotten Realms settings, with the canon lore of Drizzt Do'Urden, many fans hate him for his tendency to survive the most ridiculous situations and setting an odd perception to the Drow. While some fans do hate him, they still read the novels because of the detailing of the surrounding world, especially Drizzt's enemies, be it drow, Thay or Jarlaxle and Artemis. The latter even got their own spinoff novel trilogy.
- Plenty of evil figures can fall into this trope, especially the Munchkin-friendly ones. Kobolds in particular tend to receive a very nuanced, sympathetic eye from most fans, who fell in love with the little dog-dragon dudes in spite of their Lawful Evil alignment. Later books would detail this further, describing kobold culture as steeped in martyrdom for the warren, worship of dragons regardless of color, and valuing ingenuity over brute force.
- White Wolf's Exalted ran into this in the first edition and then deliberately invoked it in the second edition. As every Exalt type's splatbook is written from their perspective and to promote their agenda, each type has its partisans. The most literal case is with the Terrestrial and Sidereal Exalted, who run (openly and covertly, respectively) the Scarlet Empire, which is an oppressive dogmatic theocracy that yet is one of the only things standing between many people and numerous horrors from beyond the world. Even the Yozis, the demon lords who were once the ancient titans that treated the world as a plaything, have their apologists.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- Quite a few fans are rather pro-Phyrexian, to the point where one rather prominent fansite is named "Phyrexia.com" (and themed around the plane). As Phyrexians are not so much Always Chaotic Evil as Always Completely Evil (they were created by a man who lived as a nomad visiting various civilisations just so he could release plagues and wipe them all out - in one case just to see what would happen), the level of support they've garnered is almost shocking.
- The Scars of Mirrodin story arc brings the Phyrexians back into the limelight, and Wizards of the Coast being quite adamant on not revealing whether or not they'll win (they did) just contributed to this - just watch the promotional videos on Youtube, often depicting Phyrexians committing Nightmare Fuel atrocities against the Mirrans, then look at all the comments proudly shouting Phyrexian slogans. According to the statistics from when Mirrodin Besieged came out, 51% of players supported the Phyrexians.
- Wizards of the Coast invoked this trope during the Mirrodin Besieged prerelease: those that supported Phyrexia were given several packs containing nothing but Phyrexian cards, while the Mirran side got only Mirran cards.
- Back in the day, Phyrexia was confined to Black, the (usually) "evil" color. As per the New Phyrexia expansion, though, they've branched out into all five colors, and while this has mostly consisted of twisted Phyrexian takes on each color's philosophy, some Phyrexians, most notably those aligned to Red (the color of freedom and passion), are starting to show more sympathetic tendencies.
- For the Old World of Darkness's Mage: The Ascension setting, quite a few players think that the Technocracy's earth is a much safer, freer place than a world where you might be eaten by a troll the second your back is turned. This viewpoint steadily gained canon support through Mage's run. The first few Technocracy books were clearly written to help the Storyteller write better villains, and the Technocrats in those books want to do things like destroy creativity. The later ones realized that, given their history (and the fact that they, you know, create all kinds of shiny new technology), the Technocracy makes more sense as Well Intentioned Extremists on an organizational level. In the "canon" Mage ending, the Traditions and the Technocracy ultimately realize that they are Not So Different as they both wish the best possible future for humanity. They both Earn The Happy Ending when the world comes to a close in the best way possible for everyone. In the other finale, where the Nephandi win, the Technocracy makes a heroic (if futile) last stand to protect mankind, same as the arguable Big Good, the Order of Hermes.
- Some Rifts fans see The Coalition States in a heroic light, as defenders of humanity. This is a nation that's blatantly modeled after Nazi Germany, including the institutionalized genocide, with one of the later books including a commentary reiterating the fact that the Coalition, or at least those in charge of it, really are bad guys. Draco in Leather Pants plays a large role here, as does What Measure Is a Non-Human?; the Coalition's military aesthetic is heavy on black and "Death's Head" skull imagery, making even a common grunt soldier look incredibly Badass.
- Not helped by recent supplements giving the Coalition every lucky break it is possible to have, until they start verging on Canon Sue territory. Much of the fanbase is starting to wonder if Kevin Siembeda himself is Rooting for the Empire.
- The first published Traveller adventures had the players breaking into Imperial research stations, breaking out of Imperial prisons, and helping the rebels. Then the rebels nuke a city, and the players had to help the Imperium in a war. In the last published adventure about the Imperium, the players are Imperial nobles and generals who try to stop it from collapsing.
- While everyone is fairly evil to some extent in Warhammer 40,000, even the most unambiguously evil factions have their fans, and not just for the strength of their army list.
- Chaos are out turn the material universe into an Eldritch Location by permanently merging it with the Warp, and they work for a set of gods who want to kill, rape, mutate and infect everything, things which they are more than willing to perform in their name. Yet they're just so... METAL!
- Nurgle and its followers get this even more than the other Chaos factions. While it is genuinely nice, and unlike the other Chaos gods (or the Emperor, for that matter) deeply cares for its subjects, it expresses its kindness by infecting its followers with every disease ever, to the point that they're in so much pain they can't feel any other pain. Its followers generally don't mind, but it still isn't exactly a pleasant fate.
- Black Crusade does a decent job at presenting the Chaos cultists' case. It admits that the Chaos Gods are cruel masters and that Chaos is anything but cuddly - but embracing Chaos is nonetheless humanity's only hope of surviving in any form. Meanwhile, the Imperium's brutal tyranny and persecution might be justified if there was any chance that it might work, but as it is, the Imperium is beyond saving and so the Adeptus Terra are committing atrocities for the sake of a lost cause.
- The reason that the Imperium is The Empire in the first place is because it is surrounded by unspeakable horrors that Lovecraft would be proud of. Ergo, Rooting For The Empire is, in this case, the only sane choice in an utterly insane galaxy. In the Imperium, there is law and order - even if it is draconian - and not every Imperial world is entirely a hellhole. They also have the largest amount of characters that seem likable and possibly the closest somebody can get to heroes in the setting. Note there is a reason for this.
- The Tau Empire, while not exactly good, they are much less "not exactly good" than the others and actually make alliances and work together with other species. In their initial release, they were considered too "good" and so were given some moral ambiguity to bring them in line with the rest of the universe, becoming more "join us or die" (which is still better than the "die xenos scum!" of everyone else).
- Orks have a lot support, not because they are less evil than other factions (though they are about the most egalitarian race in the setting), but they are by far the most fun, crossing the line so many times they become endearing.
- The Eldar gain much sympathy for how their only interest is in trying to prevent their extinction, being the only faction not interested in conquering/enslaving anyone (except for the militaristic Biel-tan Craftworld), as well as for how Games Workshop have relegated them to Butt Monkey status. They're still entirely incapable of giving a straight answer even if it would benefit them, and while they're often called arrogant and willing to kill millions of non-Eldar to save handfuls of their own, every other faction in the setting thinks the same way.
- Chaos are out turn the material universe into an Eldritch Location by permanently merging it with the Warp, and they work for a set of gods who want to kill, rape, mutate and infect everything, things which they are more than willing to perform in their name. Yet they're just so... METAL!
- This is incredibly common amongst the older part of LEGO's fandom.
- In Cucumber Quest, Rosemaster turned out to be such a compelling and interesting antagonist that numerous readers said they were rooting for her to beat the heroes (or, at least, to somehow not lose).
- Dominic Deegan:
- A lot of readers root for the bad guys due to Dominic and Luna doing some very questionable things while becoming more and more insufferably Sue-ish. Besides, Celesto Morgan is cooler.
- The Hatedom finds Warlord Mustache to be completely awesome for trying to exterminate the Orcs, due to a widely-held disbelief of the official line that the Orcs are really Noble Savages who only live in murderous barbarism because of Mustache. The Orcs also took a year for their storyline, when that time could've been spent introducing fresh things to disparage.
- There is a small but vocal subset of the Homestuck fandom that believes that the Alternian Empire is a fully justified society and that the Condesce is an admirable leader. While a fair portion of them simply don't know any better, there are some that believe that the trolls have every right to do what they do given the situation and some that just flat-out hold neo-fascist beliefs. The fact that troll culture and civilization is easily one of the most richly detailed and interesting parts of the comic doesn't help either.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Miko, whom some believe was in the right with her actions that was supposed to be her Moral Event Horizon. And let's leave it at that.
- Redcloak does have some valid reasons for what he's doing, but that doesn't mean he's not planning with his dark god to hold the world hostage with the threat of an apocalyptic living Continuity Snarl-that-can-permakill-anything unless his demands are met.
- The Patriarchy arc in Sinfest seems to have provoked this reaction due to just how polarizing the Sisterhood (Xanthe in particular) is.
- Sonichu - the supposed good guys are a bunch of self-righteous, morally repugnant, demigod tools with zero likeability.
- Vampire Cheerleaders: The larger part of the comic's fanbase (on Facebook) actually favored Lori and her Coven of vampires, despite their actions, and hated the Paranormal Mystery Squad, who they saw as a group of knights templar that were guilty of committing Van Helsing Hate Crimesnote . So you can imagine how well they reacted to the cheerleaders being casts as the villains (which they always were) during the "Vampire Cheerleaders Must Die!" arc, which ended with them being taken into custody by PETM.
- This girl is rooting for the empire. And a Jedi will guide her to the Siths' Academy.
- This Youtube video. Many of the commenters are rooting for the escapee (thanks to his skill and luck) and deriding the police for putting people's lives at risk during the chase.
- A common phenomenon in the 1999-2002 timeframe on World War II themed forums: a large percent of forum posters rooted for the Wehrmacht, as the side with the coolest tanks, planes, uniforms and dashing war heroes like Wittmann or Hartmann. It died slowly after 2002, most people gained a more balanced and neutral attitude for those involved in the war.
- This trope is present to an extent in the infamous "X Gets Grounded" videos made with GoAnimate. No one will really be surprised if you say that you wish that Caillou, Dora, or the other kids would actually win for once instead of being grounded so much. Helping their case is the fact that the parent characters are ludicrously strict at best, Ax-Crazy abusive sociopaths at worst who ground, torture, or even kill them for the slightest of offenses or even for doing something good or heroic. Even the non-ironic, baby-show-hating fanbase often shows sympathy for them when the parent characters go too far.
- RWBY: Some fans honestly believe that the White Fang are actually good guys. The logic seems to be that since they're a civil rights movement for an oppressed ethnic minority, they just want to be respected and sometimes resort to extreme measures. They wouldn't have so many recruits willing to lay down their lives if they didn't have some merit, right? This requires ignoring the fact that they started as a civil rights movement and became a faunus supremacy terrorist movement, one member of the titular team left it for precisely that reason, another had family members murdered by the the Fangnote , and as of the end of Season 3, they willingly participated in a literal terror attack so bad it that makes 9/11 look like a house of cards fell over.
- In The Boondocks, Huey says he hated the The Patriot so much that he found himself wishing the British would win so he could go home.
- Candorville- Roxanne considers the villain of almost any movie to be the real hero.
- Drabble did an in-story version, with Norman commenting that he realized how very conservative his father was when they saw Star Wars (Episode IV, no less) and Dad was cheering for Darth Vader.
- Jason of FoxTrot also cheers for Darth Vader. He even tried to convince George Lucas to digitally insert him into the Special Edition as "Jason Skywalker", a Jedi who eventually turns to The Dark Side. He also refers to Luke as "a fool" because he doesn't turn to the Dark Side.
- Garfield roots for the monster that ate Tokyo in a movie, because "anything that eats everything can't be all bad".
- When watching the movie "Lassie Crosses the Freeway", Garfield mentions that he's rooting for the trucks.
- As Jon and Garfield watch a film about a man-eating lion, we know who roots for whom. Even when the lion gets killed in the end, Garfield happily notes that he ended with a score of "Villagers: 1 Lion: 42".
- In an Evil Versus Evil example, Garfield goes to the movie theater to see The Sludge Monster Meets Vermin Man no fewer than nine times, always wearing Sludge Monster memorabilia and holding up a sign cheering on the Sludge Monster - even though the Sludge Monster absolutely terrifies him, to the point that he can't sleep at night for fear of being Sludged.
- The Order of the Stick:
Belkar: No, no, no! Don't lean in, he's got a poison tooth!
- Invoked with Tarqin, who explains that he follows all of the Evil Is Cool tropes to a T to provoke this sort of reaction from anyone who hears of the story, thus immortalizing him into a legend.
- A blink-and-you'll-miss-it example from earlier in the same arc; during a run of comics thick with Dune references (including an appearance from a Sand Worm), Belkar can be seen actually reading Dune - and, being Belkar, appears to be rooting for Baron Harkonnen.
- One-Punch Man:
- The primary reason why hero slayer Garou started his rampage. When he was a kid, he always had to play the monster part in his classmates' heroes vs. monsters game which the other kids used to bully him. He therefore started to identify with the monsters rather than with the heroes which he saw as degenerated and arrogant.
- The Nostalgia Chick admits that she sort of wants Hades to win in Hercules, because he (and Megara, who starts as one of his Mooks) are the only characters she finds interesting. Also, being a Child Hater herself, she seems almost perplexed that Matilda presents the Trunchbull as an unsympathetic character.
- The Nostalgia Critic is prone to this when he thinks the hero of a movie needs to be killed quickly (which, given the calibre of the movies he watches, is surprisingly frequent). Best exemplified in The Wiz, when both the Critic and Todd in the Shadows think the few minutes of the Wicked Witch are fun enough that they hope she wins.
- Allison Pregler
- She finds herself siding with the mutant frogs in the Frogtown series.
- For Vampire Assassin, she played the "Lonely Man" music Incredible Hulk show when "Vampire Hulk" gets staked.
- She was actually pulling for Radu for all four films; even as he became less and less violent, and more like an Anne Rice character.
- Radu automatically does this with every film he reviews.
- Gimli coming at Golddigger with a garden hose. (Robot in the Family)
"Yes, YES, kill it!! John Rhys-Davies, you're my hero!"
- Radu interprets Tommy Wiseau as the true demon in The House That Drips Blood on Alex.
- The only person on Sesame Street she can even tolerate is Oscar, who really speaks to her.
- In her Charmed reviews, she considers the Charmed Ones (particularly Phoebe) to be Designated Heroes. It gets to the point where, in Season 4, she says, "It makes you root for the Source of All Evil because he seems nice in comparison." In season 6, during the high school reunion episode, the Alpha Bitch calls Phoebe a selfish whore to her face in as catty a manner as possible, and Lupa can't actually argue against it. In the same season, they're put on trial for misuse of magic. A recurring antagonist, Barbas, prosecutes them so effectively that they're almost convicted... and he's basically just repeating everything Lupa has said through her review of the series.
- In his "Top 15 Characters I Hate In Films I Like" list, Duckyworth admits that, for Wreck-It Ralph, he couldn't stand his personal scrappy, Vanellope Von Schweetz, due to her screeching voice. Hence, he rooted for King Candy/Turbo to crash into the wall and kill her, and when he captured and forced Ralph to "watch [Vanellope] die together" by the cybug swarm, he thought 'Yes... devour that sickly sweet shrieking schmuck, you Cybugs...'.
- Phelous is pretty sure in Crocodile and Crocodile 2 that we're supposed to be rooting for the crocodiles. Or maybe Princess the dog, when he thinks she's constantly luring the humans to the croc on purpose.
- SF Debris: in Star Trek series, Chuck Sonnenberg tends to believe that usually the Strawman Has a Point in bad episodes and/or seasons, and are thus the good guys and he is rooting for them (with double points if their plan succeeding would involve a sudden lack of Neelix). It gets to the point where he has to specify that for "The Measure Of A Man" he has no interest in defending Bruce Maddox as the hero against the early-season TNG cast, because Maddox is just that much of an asshole.
- When Linkara, Film Brain and Nash review the failed Wonder Woman (2011 pilot), they quickly find themselves agreeing with the story antagonists who come across as level-headed and reasonable while Wonder Woman herself is rash, impulsive, openly violent and flaunts her disdain for the law at every possible chance. Her callous murder of a security guard pretty much cements their opinion that the "villains" are merely acting out of self-defense at this point.
- Every single person that has reviewed The Groovenians, which includes Hewy Toonmore, Rowdy C, Mr Enter and The Cartoon Hero, found themselves siding with Norman the Normal and his claim that the Groovenians and their friends can't expect to just party and create art all the time without having to pay for the resources they use.
- Yahtzee has expressed this opinion when reviewing games with unlikable protagonists or in modern military shooters a.k.a. Spunkgargleweewee with a Type 2 Eagle Land.
Yahtzee: Aww, does the mean-old foreigner want to take away your infininte supply of remorseless killdroids? Boo-hoo Dr-frigging-Doom!