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 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.
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.
Anime and Manga
Bleach had five years' worth of dealing with the Soul Society as the antagonists during a conspiracy arc, so exposed a lot of the crimes, inequality (deceased humans' souls are regulated to live in slums) and bureaucracy evident in the Soul Society. While the Arrancar aren't exactly a nice bunch, several fans were quite annoyed at the archaic, aristocratic depiction of the supposed afterlife, and it was not uncommon to see fans view disappointment at whenever an Espada lost a fight with a captain. It's easy to feel some sympathy for the Hollows (and, by extension, the Arrancars) who are hunted by the Shinigami, as they need to feed on souls in order to survive, so although they need to be killed because of the threat they pose to humans they themselves see their actions merely as self-preservation, and all of them are just corrupted souls who have forgotten what they originally were, who aren't so much killed as absolved as their sins and allowed to move on to the afterlife naturally. And the author apparently listened to those rooting for the Arrancar, with the Soul Society undergoing a culture change that makes them closer to A Lighter Shade Of Gray, while the Arrancar are going through such a species-wide Break the Haughty moment that they're actually more open to HELPING their former enemies than before.
Code Geass - A number of people supported the Holy Empire of Britannia, some because they began to dislike Lelouch, some because they believed that Britannia actually had sensible (if cut-throat) policies, and others for shallow Evil Is Cool reasons. Then there's the British fans who root for their own country, barely veiled expy though it is.
Gundam has a truly massive amount of Rooting For The Empire, spread across its multiple series. The series' antiwar message makes sure that the villains are never completely evil and have realistic motivations.
Unicorn contains a debatable Lampshade Hanging on the entire concept; Banagher ends up visiting a space colony full of Zeon loyalists who whole-heartedly believe the "Zeon heroes, Feddies evil" idea...completely ignoring that the vast majority of them live in abject squalor so a tiny number of elites can live like kings.
The Titans of the Zeta Gundam era, while nowhere near as popular as the Zeon, and made even worse, also have their fair share of fans. Reflecting this is a number of sidestory manga starring various subfactions that can be described as "Titans, but totally not evil like those other ones". It doesn't help that the real goal of the Titans according to side materials is to engineer a social collapse through the Gryps conflict that will destroy The Federation and force a mass exodus to the colonies with the Titans in charge.
Gundam Wing plays around with this, primarily because individual people matter more than factions. So while OZ might have both good people (like Zechs and Treize) and bad people (like Dermail and Tsubarov), the organization itself is only "bad" because it opposes the Gundam Pilots. In fact, at one point, Relena Peacecraft becomes the head of OZ, making it an erstwhile ally to the G-Team. Likewise, though the Gundam Pilots are the main characters and are supposed to be good guys, they commit morally questionable acts and the series actually discusses if they were needed in the first place.
In Gundam SEED (and especially its sequel), even trying to decide which faction counts as "the empire" for the purposes of this trope can spark Flame Wars. Suffice to say that all sides have their fans, despite the copious amounts of bastardry and/or stupidity displayed by everyone. Fans of the Earth Alliance became such specifically in protest of the fact that the entire faction was portrayed as Card Carrying Villains (in Destiny anyway; they're more morally grey in SEED proper), as part of the general "screw you" attitude many have adopted towards the show's director Mitsuo Fukuda and head writer Chiaki Morosawa (who are husband and wife). Many viewers also ended up rooting for the Earth Alliance due to many of its characters coming off sympathetic and how ZAFT repeatedly slaughtered anybody without Character Shields for the first half of the series.
In season 2 Celestial Being was presented as an almost messianic La Résistance group that was always right in their cause; even the wanton acts they committed in Season 1 were all but completely forgottennote they were brought up once in S2 - by Saji in the first few episodes, and he was looked upon as a Jerkass for doing so, in spite of Celestial Being's interventions being the reason the ESF and the A-Laws came into existence. Setsuna's transformation into an Innovator literally gave him cosmic superpowers (ones that made the psychedelic Newtype stuff from the Universal Century look tame) and a full on messiah complex (such that even supporting characters compare Setsuna to a savior at times). Combine that with the usual Anvilicious writing that plagues any and all Gundam series at the end of their respective runs, and you can see why certain viewers were rooting for whoever was fighting CB at the time.
Once Episode 15 of Gundam Age aired, the number of fans who are cheering for the Unknown Enemy, the Vagan, had grown exponentially. It's easy to sympathize with them as the Earth Federation left the colonists on Mars for dead, causing the said colonists to form their own nation to rival the Earth Federation.
Given the displays of epic incompetence from the humans (namely, Meleagros and Atalantes), cheering for the Silver Tribe in Heroic Age is not hard as it seems.
Legend of Galactic Heroes is the textbook definition of this trope. Even Yang Wen-li, the military leader for the democratic government fighting the Empire, has a mancrush on Reinhard von Lohengramm, the leader of the monarchic Galactic Empire. Yang Wen-li and another wise military leader on the democratic side muse casually about how they would fight for Reinhard without a second thought if they were born in the Empire and seem to fight on behalf of a corrupt democracy with a resigned "what else can we do?" attitude. This show is also the textbook definition of Grey and Gray Morality so Reinhard isn't exactly bad...
Mazinger Z: Dr. Hell is a Large Ham who wanted to Take Over the World to force the whole humankind to bow down to him, but some fans know about his Backstory tend to see him like The Woobie (or a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds) and actually feel sympathetic towards him, thinking it was unfair he worked so hard, scheming complex plans and strategies and crafting incredible scientific breakthroughs only to be defeated, crushed and humiliated over and over and over by a loud-mouthed, Jerkass Idiot Hero teenager with a cool Humongous Mecha. And in Mazinkaiser, it turns out one of the major reasons he wanted to rule humanity was to unite it against the rising menace of the Mykene Empire.
In Medaka Box, Big Bad Kumagawa, to the point where even the characters in story want him to beat Medaka. He has also won every popularity poll since he made his debut.
There are quite a few readers who root for the Akatsuki (and the now-evil Sasuke). It doesn't help that the main character himself is taking his All-Loving Hero traits straight into Too Dumb to Live territory. Though Naruto's gotten better, said fans still take Obito, Sasuke, or Madara over him.
The fans who hate Konoha and want to see it destroyed because of the Uchiha massacre being given the go-ahead, despite all the evidence pointing to the Uchiha not only bringing it upon themselves, but actually turning down the peace attempts that Hiruzen tried, especially with their 'It's All About Me' attitude. While Konoha isn't the worst of the hidden villages when it comes to atrocities - especially given what Sunagakure did to Gaara - it's certainly not faultless either.
Pokémon has this in effect for the Team Rocket Trio Jessie, James, and Meowth. While they can succeed in some of their efforts, they are always defeated by Ash and Co. Ash has so much Plot Armor that you can expect him to win anything that's not a major tournament, and you know that he never loses to Team Rocket unless the plot demands it (remember, waaaaay back in the third episode, James' incredulous "Beaten by a Caterpie?!"). Even then it's usually by trickery rather than a battle. This goes on for so long, with even their most brilliant schemes failing, that you want them to win at least once, just to see them steal someone's Pokemon and get away with it to prove that they are still a threat. They Took a Level in Badass in the Best Wishes series, and were even promoted. Jessie, James, and Meowth are able to pull off museum heists and sneak a train out of a highly monitored subway system with little trouble, but despite this Ash still beats them when it comes down to the wire. This can leave a bad taste after watching them spend 20 episodes preparing for one big event.
The ending of Rebellion is deliberately ambiguous as to whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, but even those who acknowledge that it could be bad find it hard not to side with Akuma Homura, since she won Madoka, brought everyone back to life, and gained full control of Incubator infrastructure.
Record of Lodoss War has some divergences between the OVA, novels and other series but the basic plot stays the same. While at first it might look like your regular band of good guys fighting against an evil empire called Marmo who has set out to conquer all of the continent of Lodoss, it quickly shows to be much deeper. The entire land is cursed from having been the seat of the climatic battle between the Goddess of Creation and the Goddess of Destruction, and a small part of it, Marmo, is twice accursed and plagued with monsters from being the latter Godess's final resting place. Sure, the side looks stereotypically evil, being populated with a few humans and dark elves, with hordes of monsters under it's control. But their king, Beld, was a mercenary from Marmo and one of the legendary heroes who saved Lodoss by defeating the Demon King years prior. Beld claimed the demon's sword, Soulcrusher, as his reward only to be slowly influenced by its dark whisperings. His general, Lord Ashram, despite being introduced as a deadly and cold-hearted killer, proves to be a man of unfailing duty and loyalty to his king, with honor and a heart. Amidst prophecies of doom, attempted resurrections of dormant forces of destruction and a powerful witch who manipulates all factions behind the scenes out of the certitude that any side winning would upset the balance of Lodoss and cause it's doom, we get to realize that things are not so black and white. In the end, internal factions with hidden agendas and manipulative betrayers aside, the people of the Empire of Marmo really just want to get out of the terrible hell-hole that is their land and finally live in peace and safety.
In season 3 of Shakugan no Shana, many fans started supporting the Crimson Denizens instead of the Flame Hazes once war broke out between the two. Considering that the final light novel reveals Snake of the Festival Yuji and his Crimson Denizen followers not only win, but were absolutely right in believing that their dream of a paradise where Denizens and humans coexist could work and would not destroy the world, this is one of those occasions where Rooting For The Empire is supported by canon.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 dips into this territory, showing the Gamilas fleet battling against the Comet Empire (the Big Bads of the original series' second season), and the revelation that Earth fired first in an unprovoked attack. On the other hand, it also shows some total bastards on the Gamilas side, with one episode showing the bombardment of a rebellious planet and the strafing of refugees fleeing population centers.
The anime version of Valkyria Chronicles really makes many of the Imperial characters more likable than the Gallian High Command (i.e. anyone above Varrot save for Cordelia). True, this was present in the game, but the Adaptation Expansion of Selvaria (already a likable Anti-Villain), Jaeger (an even more likable Anti-Villain), and Gregor (still as much of an asshole as ever, but compared to his Gallian counterpart Damon he's actually seen as far more competent and more genuinely deserving of respect by comparison), the Imperials look far better in terms of characterization than the Gallian Regulars, who, much like the game counterparts, treat the real heroes (Welkin Gunther and Squad 7) like crap. This is averted, however, with Maximilian, who is an even more obvious Jerkass than his game counterpart.
Yatterman is better known for the three main villains than it is for the main heroes. In many ways the villains were the more focused part of the show.
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 mundy's 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.
"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 mutanity 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. Except in the Ultimate Universe. 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 Phoenixand 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 DC/Marvel JLA/Avengers crossover has The Avengers, finding 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 Prototypewhich 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 (and by 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 increasinglyamoral 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 everythingOtto 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, whichwas 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 fact that the deck is so stacked against them and the blatant Moral Myopia of the ponies makes the HLF easy to sympathise with.
Dungeon Keeper Ami: An interesting, and aversion 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. However, Keeper Mukrezar, her foil, plays this trope very straight.
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.
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 - and if they don't eat babies, hoo boy...
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.
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. That's what you get for casting Tim Curry as your main villain and utterly forgettable main characters otherwise (save for comic relief Batty).
A few viewers of Disney's The Little Mermaid found the sly, manipulative Ursula a lot more likable than the naive, impulsive protagonist Ariel, and were rooting for her to actually win the deal and conquer Atlantica.
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.
Films — Live-Action
Many of the characters in Alienł were rapists, murderers or generic criminal scum. They were so unlovable that you just didn't care if they lived or died, especially as waves of pre-release criticism meant everyone knew the series was past the point of no return anyway (in the Assembly Cut, an inmate named Junior attempts to rape Ripley with a group of other prisoners, then looks at her sympathetically later when the eponymous creature corners him). It was hard not to whisper "Come on, get 'im!" or "Go on, eat your dinner!" whenever the alien cornered an inmate.
Batman Begins avoided this with the first film since it was promoted as a return to the big screen for Batman while his villains were given little fanfare (and this one technically had four villains from the comics). The Dark Knight invoked this trope considerably due to 1) The Joker returning to the big screen 2) Another actor in the iconic role made famous by Jack Nicholson and Ceaser Romero 3) Heath Ledger passing away shortly after the movie was completed. Ledger became the first actor in history to win an Oscar (albeit posthumously) for playing a character in a film adaptation of a comic, although Al Pacino, Paul Newman, and William Hurt had all previously been nominated.
In Ferris Buellers Day Off, the principal is only trying to prove to the world that Ferris is a truant, pathological liar who neither deserves the endless praise he gets nor should be allowed to skip school whenever he feels like it. Even though the principal goes a bit too far in trying to prove the truth about Bueller, it is easy to sympathize with the man's desire to finally bring a Karma Houdini down. Alternatively it isn't so much rooting for the principal (who is kind of a jerk) as rooting against Ferris (who is just as much of a jerk, and annoyingly smug to boot).
Godzilla in the film GMK was made into a demonic, malevolent force fighting against the "good monsters" Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. Guess who the fans were cheering for the most. However this was the first and only instance of a genuinely evil Godzilla, and he hadn't exactly done anything other, more neutral incarnations hadn't. It didn't help that of the three "Good" monsters, two of them were the villains in their previous appearances. Even when Godzilla is evil, cheering him on against King Ghidorah is instinct.
Man of Steel: Some found Zod to be a much more sympathetic and developed character than Superman himself despite his crossings into the Moral Event Horizon. This could be attributed to Michael Shannon's emotional portrayal of him, showing how dedicated he is to follow his fate as Krypton's top warrior. Especially his justification for his actions- he was literally born to be a warrior and protect Krypton and its citizens, no matter what. His Villainous Breakdown towards the end, where he claims that Superman has taken his soul by destroying any hope of rebuilding Krypton, definitely helped cement this.
Given that they're in the title and all the focus is on them, the fans can be forgiven for cheering for the pirates and wanting them to win. While granted most of them are Lovable Rogues and very little piracy is actually shown, they are still pirates, who weren't exactly cuddly.
There are quite a few people who sympathize with The East India Trading Company. Many of their fans forget that Beckett fighting against pirates wasn't Order Versus Chaos; it was removing the competition, as he did a lot of piracy and murder himself.
The film's writers mention they intentionally wrote Captain Barbossa as an Anti-Hero throughout the first movie, given his singular goal is to end the ten-year-long curse that has plagued him and his crew. Throughout the film they wanted to give the audience the impression that despite being the antagonist, he might not actually be a bad guy. This is why Barbossa's scene where he explains the torment of the curse to Elizabeth was constantly being rewritten and added to by both the writers and Geoffrey Rush to get it perfect. It definitely shows. When he shouts to his crew in a later scene that their punishment has been "disproportionate to [their] crime," it's hard to disagree.
Psycho—Picture the scene and pretend you don't know the big twist ending. Norman Bates has come across his new tenant, dead in the shower. He realizes his crazy mother has gone over the edge and killed someone. So, poor, devoted Norman gathers up the body, places it in the trunk of the woman's car, and tries to sink the vehicle into the swamp beside his run down motel. The audience collectively cringes every time a car drives by as Norman sneaks around,-and gasps in horror with Norman as the car seems to get stuck half-way in the bog...but no, it slowly sinks completely into the mud. Norman has gotten away with it! And a second later, the audience remembers what Norman has gotten away with: hiding a murder victim to protect his deranged mother's murder. Alfred Hitchcock was truly a master of this- he could easily manipulate his audience into Rooting for the Empire, hoping the villain doesn't get caught ... and turn around and slap them back to their senses.
The sequel takes this trope and runs with it, portraying Bates as a man struggling with severe mental illness and genuinely trying to become a better human being.
For people who watch Red Dawn (1984) for comedic (or drunk party) purposes, rooting for the reds naturally follows. John Milius did go to some lengths to humanize many of the villains we see, showing a group of young Russian soldiers goofing off and taking pictures together before the Wolverines ambush them and making the Cuban officers outright sympathetic. Meanwhile, the Wolverines find themselves resorting to increasingly cold-blooded measures as the struggle wears them down. When people complain about the strict "good vs. evil" dichotomy of the movie, it usually means they didn't actually watch it.
Enforced via marketing with Small Soldiers, a film about a robotic squad of toy soldiers (the Commando Elite) gaining sentience and trying to kill a group of equally sentient robotic toy aliens (the Gorgonites)...along with the human family that's protecting them. Unfortunately for the Gorgonites, the film's marketing focused almost entirely on the Commando Elite and how awesome they are even though they're supposed to be the villains. The real life toy line put more of a focus on the Commando Elite as well. This may be a bit of unintentional Fridge Brilliance, since in the movie, the Commando Elite were created to be the good guys and the Gorgonites were an existing concept repurposed to be the villains, before they switched roles early on.
Many fans who watched Stargate Continuum seem to love the idea of Ba'al ruling Earth and secretly wished he'd won, probably because he promised a benevolent governance. It's open for debate how sincere he was. While he certainly didn't want to destroy Earth like all the other Goa'uld, there's a very real possibility he just wanted to covertly take over Earth without having to fight us forever, and he'd make us all slaves in the long run anyway.
Star Trek: Insurrection: The Federation are considered by many (including some members of the cast) to have had very good reasons for trying to force the Bak'u off the planet to study the anomaly, and they were consistently willing to use non-lethal methods to do so.
Despite its writers' Anvilicious attempts to decry militarization and aggression, quite a few people ended up rooting for Alexander Marcus and his goal in militarizing Starfleet for a war against the Klingon Empire. Seemingly, Marcus' only detraction is that he went about it in the manner of a standard General Ripper, to the point that he brought Khan, an infamous genetically engineered warlord that nearly took over the Earth long ago, out of cold storage to utilize as a slave (thinking he could actually control Khan), as well as attempted to purposely start said war with the Klingons (using the oblivious crew of the Enterprise to do so no less, and planning to kill them) as opposed to letting it happen naturally.
On the flipside, John Harrison/Khan gets a lot of this due to his sympathetic motivations to save his crew from Marcus. Throw in Benedict Cumberbatch's charismatic performance, stylishthreads, booming voice and we've got a full blown example here.
With Attack of the Clones, Lucas had this happen intentionally: the movie introduces the sympathetic Clonetroopers, who save the Jedi and rout the movie's villains. Then comes the finale, and the movie reminds that the watchers had been rooting for what will become The Empire by giving them the Imperial March as score.
In the prequels, many fans and writers agree with the Separatists and side with them over the Republic. What we see of the Republic is blindingly ineffectual, horrifically corrupt (Mega Corps have Senators) and apparently not above using Tyke Bombs and Child Soldiers (14-year old Jedi Padawans leading battalions of 10 year oldnote growth accelerated clone troopers), leading to Black and Gray Morality at best. The Opening Narration for Revenge of the Sith outright states that "there are heroes on both sides."
Street Fighter cast Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile and Raul Julia as M. Bison. The first turns in a bland, carbon-cut performance of the typical action film star. Julia, meanwhile, is a wonderfully hammy and entertaining supervillain who's often credited as what makes the film watchable. Who also died shortly after the film was completed. By the end of the film, you want to see him Take Over the World.
Thor: sure, Loki tries to commit genocide - but he's such a Woobie along the way that a lot of people feel sorry for him. It got even more intense when The Avengers rolled around, despite him becoming outright nuts.
This is not helped by the fact that Odin is a Jerk Ass"Well Done, Son" Guy to both of his sons, and his rulership in Thor 2 is arguably not super-effective, leaving his sons (yes, both of them) to need to save the day in an Enemy Mine situation.
In Stephen King's The Dark Tower The Good Man, John Farson, while presented to be the bad guy (and actually turns out to be Randal Flagg at one point- and then, in later books, not) is shown to be leading a proletariat rebellion for democracy against the clearly Feudalistic system Roland and the other gunslingers seem to be rooting for. This is partly a side-effect of Farson being The Ghost in the novels, so we don't really learn a whole lot about him. The comic book prequels go out of their way to subvert this and when we finally meet Farson he is power-hungry but happens to be a popular and charismatic leader, and his free and democractic society is really shaping up to be a People's Republic of Tyranny with himself as dictator.
Some folks actually wouldn't have minded seeing Dracula actually beat the main characters. The book goes out of it way to make vampirism seem like the worst thing in the world. But outside from never seeing the sun again (well the book never really stated that. Drac actually moved around in the daylight, only with limited powers) and the inhuman hunger for blood, receiving the powers of the night and immortality didn't seem like a bad trade-off. Well, at least for themselves; other people might not be so happy with the "being drained of blood" thing.
A lot of fans bash the main characters, and Gryffindor House in general, because of the author's prejudice against Slytherin House, who they view as cultured and urbane in comparison to the crude, bullying Gryffindor jocks. In a slightly different perspective, they recognize most of Slytherin is evil, but criticize the author for making them so, especially considering their defining trait is "ambition", which any normal eleven-year-old would have oodles of ("I wanna be a ninja/astronaut/actor/doctor/lawyer!"). So, to rebel, they generally ignore the fact that Slytherin sucks, and reinterpret them in the fandom to make a more realistic picture of cunning and ambition. In an interview on Mugglenet Rowling defended Slytherin and said "they are literally not all bad [people]". The problem is that they are never shown in the actual books to be anything other than Jerk Asses and Voldemort supporters, which might indicate Rowling has some Rooting For The Empire of her own.
Some people just genuinely wanted the Death Eaters to win the war. Perhaps because they deemed the dark characters to be more interesting, or because the ideology seemed rational, or because they might believe the whole series had an annoyingly Black and White Morality and was a tad too Anvilicious. Or simply because Evil Is Cool.
Dumbledore starts out as Harry's kind, grandfatherly, somewhat cooky mentor, but in the later books, more things about his past and his agenda regarding Harry and the war are revealed, which leaves him more in the Manipulative Bastard category. This has left a lot of fans in the somewhat awkward position of liking Harry just fine and rooting for him, while simultaneously greatly preferring Voldemort over Dumbledore.
The Kingdom becomes The Empire, but are really now The Federation with feudal trappings. The Republic of Haven goes the entire gamut though, from The Empire by any other name to People's Republic of Tyranny under a Reign of Terror to the Restored Republic, giving viewpoint characters to root for and against the entire time. Noticeable in that few civil foes in Manticore get a full viewpoint, while all Haven viewpoint characters, no matter where on the moral line, are given a full viewpoint including motivations. This may have been intentional, as Haven has undergone a slow Heel-Face Turn for some time now. Now that Haven and Manticore have allied against Mesa, Haven are officially the good guys, and rooting for them is expected.
This is also partly due to the authors particular writing style. As a professional military historian he is always careful to portray the tragedy of the war by humanizing both sides, which leads to over all Grey and Gray Morality and sympathetic enemies. When portraying the domestic politics of Manticore, however, he tends to write it as full of straw men for his main character to beat up, causing the Star Kingdom to come off as less sympathetic than the balanced and nuanced Peoples Republic. This only really starts to change around book ten, when readers are introduced to Catherine Montaigne (the first good Liberal we've ever met) and Michael Oversteegen (the first good Conservative we've ever met). From that point on, both parties, which are in opposition to the heroine's Centrist party (and the Crown Royalists, who are basically Centrists because the Queen is), become much more well-rounded, and the heroine herself is able to recognize and respect the validity of many of their points while still disagreeing with them on certain matters.
The Hatedom has a slight tendency to do this with the Solarian League, partly as a counter-reaction to the League's somewhat inconsistent characterization as either a very loose confederation or a nigh-totalitarian bureaucratic empire, and partly as a result just plain finding Manticore's constant development of new warfare-toys that revolutionizes warfare annoying by that point in the series.
The Hunger Games fandom has no shortage of fans who prefer the Career tributes to Katniss and Peeta, finding them equally sympathetic (or even moreso), considering that they have been brainwashed and bred since birth to kill other kids in a horrific child murder reality show.
In the Hush, Hush series, the archangels are written as being extremely unfair, because they threaten to throw Patch into Hell if he pursues a relationship with Nora. The trouble is, Patch is written as an arrogant idiot who spends his days gambling and groping Nora, not showing the slightest inclination to actually do his job. As a result, the archangels come across as trying to get Patch to shoulder some responsibility. Add in the fact that Patch spent almost all of the first book stalking and assaulting Nora and the idea of him facing serious punishment sounds rather nice.
Nűmenor. The lightbearer of the Humanity and Civilization, who crushed the Evil Empire of Sauron and broke the fetters of Valar and showed the Eldar where they can shove their immortality. Until Eru cameand spoiled it all.
In the Mortal Instruments series, the designated heroes, the Shadowhunters, are descended from the angel Raziel—and pretty damn proud of it. They see themselves as above the very people they're supposed to protect: Downworlders (your werewolves, faeries, vampires, and such) and humans, otherwise known to Shadowhunters as Mundanes (or Mundies, if you want to get really ugly). Honestly, with this sort of Fantastic Racism, you'd probably get more love and respect from a demon disemboweling you and dragging your soul straight to Hell; at least demons are supposed to be cruel. To be fair, the Shadowhunters are called out on this all the time by everyone who isn't a Shadowhunter. The moral of the first 3 books is that the Downworlders aren't inherently evil and the Shadowhunters aren't inherently good and that they could save a lot more lives if they got over their differences and helped each other. Indeed, City of Glass ends with the Downworlders agreeing to help the Shadowhunters defeat Valentine in return for the Downworlders getting representation in the Shadowhunter's council.
Satan from Milton's Paradise Lost, and the biggest reason why Satan Is Good exists in Western media. A case of Misaimed Fandom, as Milton was trying to make Satan a self-centred Jerk Ass with charming but hollow self-justifications for his behaviour, which really stemmed from him being an egotistical bastard too proud to accept how badly he screwed himself over. Part of it is that he never gave any reason that defying the wishes of God is bad, assuming his audience would give Him an Omniscient Morality License. The closest he comes is that He is simply unbeatable so rebellion is a waste of time, even though more angels than not joined the rebels.
Looking at the Star Wars Expanded Universe as a whole, despite the various books that portray the Empire as fundamentally evil, there are also books that show that not all of its members are pure evil, and the Republic/Alliance as not all good (especially with all the Democracy Is Bad, Lawful Stupid and/or Obstructive Bureaucrats going around). Timothy Zahn is the most notable of the authors who do this; Grand Admiral Thrawn, while he is decidedly not a good person, is still portrayed as somewhatbetter than his predecessors (which is not that great an accomplishment), and there are fans who think the galaxy might have been better off with him alive. In the Hand of Thrawn duology, the Supreme Commander was reluctantly seeking peace with the New Republic, and by that point Pellaeon really couldn't be called one of the bad guys. Eventually, he became more or less completely Lawful Good, leading his Imperial Remnant into the Galactic Alliance, the government that succeeded the New Republic after the Yuuzhan Vong killed it. He even became supreme commander of their fleet. Which itself eventually became evil and a copy, more or less, of Palpatine's Empire, though Pellaeon realized this before it was too late, but a bridge fell on him before he could do anything about it (not that he didn't try).
In his Sword of Truth book series, Terry Goodkind tries to avert this by making villains as repulsively evil as possible so that the Designated Heroes' tendency to Shoot the Dog doesn't make the audience turn on him. On the one hand, it means that the villains have all the odious habits that the heroes do, including the self-righteousness, and with extra rape (the only crime the heroes are not at some point guilty of) piled on top, but on the other hand, the heroes are the ones whose Kick the Dog moments we always get to see up close, while the villains' are usually just reported from afar.
The three tracker vampires who are trying to kill Bella, which is seen by some as a sympathetic aim. Never mind the fact that each is an Ensemble Darkhorse in their own right.
The books put a lot of emphasis on the Volturi being a power-hungry dictatorship that ruthlessly oppresses the vampire world. The trouble is, the only restriction they apparently put on the vampires is to not be noticed by humans, which is given a reasonable justification (human technology could kill vampires) and very lightly limits the ability for a vampire to kidnap or kill a human. Word of God and the series also show that vampires are more or less animals if left to their own devices, so while their methods may not be lily-white, it makes it difficult to see the Volturi as the dictators the story wants them to be instead of a group of people who are trying to get some sort of order or structure to their world. Meyer tries to make the Volturi corruptness really apparent in Breaking Dawn when it's hammered in that they'll arrive to kill Renesmee and in no way listen to reason... only for them to bring witnesses, reasonably listen to evidence, and leave without killing anyone.
The Dark Court of Wicked Lovely, while not completely evil, is far more loved than any of the others.
Live Action TV
As in the Psycho example above Alfred Hitchcock Presents often presented stories in which the bad guy literally gets away with murder. The network made him add outros which indicated Crime Does Not Pay.
As mentioned in the film section, one of the things the Batman series was best known for was the large variety of colorful villains. (In fact, some of them won Emmys.) And you couldn't hep but feel sorry for them sometimes, because they lost all the time (within three episodes at the most). Every once in a while, one of them (Catwoman, usually) would pull off a Karma Houdini, but it didn't happen often enough to make it something worth hoping for.
A lot people were rooting for the Cylons in the new Battlestar Galactica as many found the human cast to be self-serving, self destructive assholes. While the series had Humans Are the Real Monsters pumping through its veins like blood, any portrayal of the humanoid Cylons themselves hinged on their being Not So Different from the humans (in terms of both bastardry and the potential to rise above their petty natures at times).
The Big Bang Theory: Although not exactly a villain, Sheldon is portrayed as a childish, controlling, and demanding Insufferable Genius who can't address others without a tremendous amount of condescension. It doesn't stop many viewers from sympathizing with him when his friends try to call him out on his behavior. Fan speculation that he has autism, Asperger's, or some other related condition generally helps. (Jim Parsons has stated he plays him as suffering from Asperger's, for what it's worth.)
Cole in Charmed was treated as an outright villain when he returned in season 5 despite wanting to be good. It was just that Phoebe suddenly decided it was his fault for everything bad that had happened to her, ignoring her own mistakes and refusing to take responsibility for her own actions in the previous season. Many fans felt she treated him unfairly and applauded when he punched her in an alternate reality and when she was killed off briefly in another episode. It didn't help that Phoebe got some really heavy Character Shilling in that season.
Criminal Minds appears to know this trope well, as it's always careful to give its Sympathetic Murderers at least one genuinely-evil act to drive home the point that, yes, we should be rooting for them to be caught. Often the character is a revenge killer targeting only Asshole Victims who nevertheless kills someone unrelated to their revenge.
This might sometimes happen in some episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Even murderers get some sympathy when from their point of view it's either running away or facing a Bolivian Army Ending. And the often brutal manners used by the police don't gain the "good guys" any extra points.
Robb Stark is portrayed as a typical heroic noble, who is merely seeking justice for the wrongs committed against his family. Which seems fair enough, since between Cersei, Jamie, and Joffrey, the Lannisters were responsible for the deaths of many people whose only crime seemed to be getting in the way of Lannister plots in season one. But when you step back and really think about it, Robb Stark dragged on a war he was unlikely to win, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Then the Red Wedding happened. One cannot help but feel sympathetic towards Tywin when he points out that murdering a small number of people brought about an early end to a destructive conflict which would have claimed the lives of many more. Robb even admits in season two that he has no endgame thought out. His plan seems to be simply to kill Joffrey and then presumably leave the south in complete chaos whilst he takes his family back home.
Sylar from Heroes earns this for both Draco in Leather Pants, and being less prone to stupidity than the protagonists (not that he's immune to the Idiot Ball, of course). He is also one of the very few characters in the show who actually takes joy in having freaking super powers.
While most of its American audience wouldn't be likely to root for Nazis, it could be said that most memorable and funniest characters in Hogan's Heroes were the antagonist German POW camp staff.
Quite a few viewers want the magic users who fight against Camelot to win because they have justifiable reasons, and while honourable and sympathetic Arthur arguably does not measure up to what he's promised to be.
Morgana and Morgause are curious examples. Morgana was presented as a good-natured and sometimes heroic character for the first two seasons but made an abrupt Face-Heel Turn between seasons 2 and 3, returning essentially as a pantomime villain without a trace of the original Morgana. As such fans rooted for her because a) they hoped she would eventually be redeemed and b) the writers appeared to have forgotten that she was previously good. Morgause got this because she was just so dang cool. Fans also leapt on the season 2 episode where she tried to kill Uther by putting everyone else in Camelot to sleep. However they also forgot that she had attempted to manipulate Arthur into murdering him in her previous appearance and that she was clearly trying to kill Uther for her own selfish desires rather than the good of the kingdom.
Cendred, whom Morgause teams up is depicted some what sympathetically in the series. He seems to be a decent ruler who (unlike Camelot) can muster a huge army and is willing to retreat when it's clear the battle's lost. His relationship with Morgause is sweet and he only loses because of trusting her. Some fans found that they wished he had won.
Mordred in Series 5. Despite everything he does to try and earn Merlin's trust and prove his loyalty to Camelot, Merlin's distrust and treatment of him based on what he's going to do in the future, eventually ends up becoming a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and is part of the reason he's Driven to Villainy. In comparison, Merlin becomes increasingly unsympathetic as a Knight Templar and Well-Intentioned Extremist dedicated to protecting Arthur at any cost, even refusing the chance for magic to return to Camelot to instead try and ensure that Mordred dies.
It appears that fans of Once Upon a Time are in agreement that Queen Regina and Rumplestiltskin are the true stars of the show. This may be due to their genuinely sympatheticorigins, and that Regina at least is a clear case of Evil Is Sexy.
Some fans were rooting for the Maquis, seeing the Federation at fault for seceding their Colonies to the Cardassians without informing them first, then expecting the colonists to just up and move from their homes. Of course they were fighting back! Even high-ranking members of Starfleet and the Federation were sympathetic to the Maquis, so it's not like these fans were bucking convention with this.
A lot of Reality TV contestants are loved by the viewers in spite of being (or because they are) manipulative and deceitful. For SurvivorManipulative Editing was used to create heroes and villains, who the audience is supposed to root for and against. It gets laid on so thick (and with so much Glurge) that the more cynical fans rebel. They assume that "what really happened" is the exact opposite of what was shown on-screen. An example is Jerri from Australia, who was portrayed as a Card-Carrying Villain, complete with Evil Laugh. The contrarian fans loved her and said that she was a real person who told it like it was, her enemies were hypocrites, and the editing was smearing her.
In True Blood just about any villain fighting against the vampires usually ends up being cheered on by fans of the show who feel that no matter what they do the vampires are much worse in comparison.
The Fellowship of the Sun is played to look like religious fanatic terrorists, but at the same time - the Vampires they hate actually do commit heinous murders, torture, and mind control, and do not respect or submit to human authority. Taking a step back from Bill and Godric, the only two vampires in the show with half a soul, and it's very difficult to tell who're the terrorists and who are the freedom fighters.
The same held true for the Wiccans in Season 4, since they were basically humans fighting back. It took until Season 6 for the show to develop unambiguously dickish human antagonists.
Some people who watch The Vampire Diaries root for Big Bad Klaus and The Dragon Elijah. This is partly because the show runs on Protagonist-Centered Morality to the point where the supposedly "good" characters are sometimes little better than the villains, often leaving the audience to simply side with whichever character entertains them the most. Moreover, antagonists such as Klaus and Katherine, despite being genuinely villainous, are given Freudian excuses and frequent enough Pet the Dog moments for the audience to sympathize with them to some extent.
The Amazons were villains whose intended purpose was to demonstrate the dangers in allowingwomen any power whatsoever, and were conquered by Heracles to show that women are always weaker than men. In more recent times, especially with the rise of feminism, they have been portrayed with increasing sympathy.
A number of people support the Titans over the Olympians. A case of Grey and Grey 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 so you sympathize with the Olympians.
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 heelwhile 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.
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 Eighties. 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.
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.
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. The biggest example as of late is 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.
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, more recently, Santino Marella.
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.
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.
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
The Scars of Mirrodin story arc brings the Phyrexians back into the limelight, and that Wizards of the Coast was 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.
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.
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.
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 their their name. Yet they're just so... METAL!
Nurgle and its followers get this even more than the other Chaos factions. While it isgenuinely 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 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, 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, and they'renot in any danger of extinction.
This is incredibly common amongst the older part of LEGO's fandom. Especially seeing as a lot consider the "no nonhuman good guys" (especially prominent when there are no human bad guys) to have Unfortunate Implications.
Batman: Arkham City eventually reveals that the eponymous super-prison was built for the sole purpose of mass-murdering all of the inmates, including a bunch of political prisoners Strange threw in because he didn't like them. Naturally, Batman doesn't like this and the player is forced to stop it... except that the Enemy Chatter of pretty much every mook are either about how much they love murder, torture and rape, or expressions of fear of their even worse bosses. And this is in Gotham, the Trope Codifier for Cardboard Prison, with the previous game and the prequel showing that this has been going on for years, and the sequel having those same inmates turn the whole city into their playground, leaving many players concluding that this plan is the lesser of two evils given the alternative.
There are a truly astonishing number of players who believe the Brotherhood of Nod are the good guys, not GDI. While they admit Nod does some unpleasant things, they justify those by saying that Utopia Justifies the Means and that Nod is fighting fire with fire in a world where Green Rocks are killing everything, presenting themselves as humanity's only hope for survival in the long term. Nod (well, Kane) suckering a group of highly advanced aliens to land on Earth (prematurely) and then kicked them in the teeth and stole their technology probably bolstered their popularity. And then there're those that just like them for their black uniforms, laser guns and overall awesome hi-tech arsenal.
In the third game fans of Nod like to paint GDI as an undemocratic military state while saying Nod never seem to actively contradict their line that they are simply "fighting for the people". In reality, Kane frequently lies to his followers in the game about what his plans are, states he never intended to win the war against GDI, and his plan also involve bringing about the destruction of Eastern Europe and then during the Scrin invasion ordering Nod to not fight back against them while GDI continued to fight. Then in the fourth game Kane actually saves the world and gives his followers the promised power of inter-galactic travel.
Yuri's faction in Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge. Yuri is total monster that wants to Take Over the Worldfor his sake and his sake alone, but many fans still loved him as a villain, his faction, while overpowered and usage in multiplayer is frowned, fans still found fun to play as and were disappointed that it didn't get its own campaign.
A large number of Fallout 3 fans are adamant supporters of the Enclave, with many quite displeased that joining the Enclave was not possible in the game. This is due to the Enclave shifting from their "kill any non-pure human" agenda from Fallout 2 to using the water purifier as a means to rule the Capital Wasteland with an iron fist (mostly anyway, President Eden wants to continue with the genocide idea but Dragon-in-Chief Colonel Autumn and his men do not), along with fans who were introduced to the Fallout series in Fallout 3, so they aren't even aware of the Enclave's earlier atrocities and found them to Designated Villains. They're still ruthless fascists who consider any wastelander sub-human and will slaughter anyone who gets in their way, but since the Capital Wasteland is still such a barely functioning craphole after 200 years, it's argueable that the Enclave could finally bring order and stability. You even meet one of your father's colleagues who switches sides to help the Enclave because they actually have the technology and the means for her do finally do some real good in the wasteland, rather than desperately trying to scrape together some progress back at Rivet City. In Fallout: New Vegas there is a side quest in the game where you can bring together a band of Enclave remnants, and the rewards for doing this are some of the best items in the game.
Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas is a truly inexplicable example of this trope. It's repeatedly stated, and admitted by its leaders and all of its members, that the Legion ideologically endorses conquest, crucifixion and torture, rape, foregoing all modern technology (except certain weapons), enslavement of all women, genocide, genetic cleansing, totalitarian social homogeneity, and survival of the fittest. They also tolerate decimation (the practice of killing every tenth soldier in your own army in order to sustain morale through fear) and cannibalism. It is repeatedly stated by multiple NPCs from every faction that the Legion will fail when Caesar dies, and assuming Caesar doesn't die over the course of the game he still isn't going to live much longer. The Legion's only upsides are that crime is nonexistent in Legion territory (due to the harsh penalties), that they do not tolerate drug usage, alcohol and that the Legion doesn't mindlessly butcher some factions in certain endings to the game. Some of this may be due to a Legion-aligned Courier receiving many perks. Getting in with the Legion provides access to a supply cache that periodically refreshes itself and a safe-house with a Luck-boosting pair of shades. (Luck being one of the hardest stats to boost on the fly.) Additionally, being opposed to the NCR, which is inadvisable for either Independent Vegas runs, allows one to freely kill and loot them, providing a Courier with as much ammo as they could ever want.
Final Fantasy Tactics, the 1st one, featured an initial campaign against the Death Corps (or the Corpse Brigade, depending on the translation), which is run by Wiegraf, a soldier who wishes nothing more than to lead a populist revolt to unseat the corrupt nobility. We see firsthand how corrupt everyone in charge of anything is in this setting, and after the protagonist Ramza is himself on the run from the evil authorities, you're never in a position to help steer Wiegraf towards victory. Even more tragically, Wiegraf sells his soul - first figuratively, then literally - just to get by, derailing him from his original goal.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: A kid named Mewt has magically created a world that makes everyone he knows happier. Another kid, named Marche, controlled by the player, is trying desperately to stop him. Whether the latter is actually correct to do so is not very well explained. Let's leave it at that.
Gears of War: The Locust. Because they are eeeeeevil. And extremely Badass. And they have all the nice shiny monsters and freaky biological transport. And a banging hot chick for a hivequeen. It doesn't help that the COG themselves are portrayed subtly as morally questionable fascists and some of the characters are unlikable bigots. Plus the Locust themselves are only invading the surface because 50% they want to free their homeworld which was devastated by humans for centuries and 50% they're trying to get away from the Lambent, and the COG 'won' the first war by nuking the entire surface of the planet and killing more humans than the Locusts themselves.
The Helghast are just plain more interesting - and much cooler-looking, what with the Jin Roh battle armor and goggles - than their ISA counterparts. Their backstory is at least somewhat sympathetic (essentially a case of The Dog Bites Back on an unprecedented scale), and it doesn't help a bit that the human characters are either flat or actively unlikeable. Jan Templar is as bland as they come. Rico is a belligerent, Book DumbJerk Ass and apparently proud of these defining character traits. The girl is...wait, there was a girl, wasn't there? There has to be a girl - right? The only two characters who make any sort of impression are Helghast bigwig Scolar Visari, who gives a mean speech and is voiced by Brian Cox, and your snarky half-Helghast teammate Colonel Hakha, voiced by Sean Pertwee.
The sequel does it better, but not by much. While the ISA was made more interesting and likable, having the likes of Sev, Garza, Natko and Narville, some moron put Rico in charge, and that goes as well as one would think it would. The Helghast were given a few Kick the Dog moments to try to make them less sympathetic, but their awesomeness far overshadows that, with Visari giving a speech so awesome players are sad they can't play for the other side and the inclusion of the likes of ColonelRadec, also voiced by Sean Pertwee, who comes with less snark, but more badassery. While Killzone Mercenary lets you work with the Helghatst. It also shows there were Helghast who was willing to defect and there were genuinely evil Vektans who weren't Quislings but outright genocidal as the Helghast.
This tends to extend to the multiplayer as well. There's not much story there, of course, but many a player has groaned upon being assigned to the ISA faction, i.e. generic American soldier dudes, instead of the cooler-looking and -sounding Helghast.
Guerrilla seems to be getting the hint, due to some of the events in Shadow Fall, which portray the Helghast in a much more sympathetic light due to the devastation of their home planet in the third game. Then there's the second to last mission, which lets you play as Echo, to assassinate an ISA operative whom has Jumped Off The Slippery Slope. It should also be noted that Echo is the daughter of Hera Visari.
Organization XIII of Kingdom Hearts seems to be much, much more popular among the fandom than the heroes, and even got their own game. They have admirable goals, it's just that Xemnas tricks them all, wanting to use Kingdom Hearts to gain ultimate power. The rest of them were just oblivious, and seemingly got destroyed.
The Turians and their actions during the First Contact War, when the Turians decided the best way to tell the then-unknown race (Humanity) that tampering with a dormant Mass Relay was a violation of Interstellar Law, was to open-fire without warning, follow the surviving vessel back to Shanxi, then repeatedly proceed to rain down space-debris upon the settlement just to take out ground-forces and civilians. Some fans are staunch defenders of their actions, believing they were completely justified and were only upholding interstellar law.
Many fans believe Shepard should have stayed with Cerberus after Mass Effect 2, despite the Illusive Man being a Manipulative Bastard who was simply using Shepard for his own ends. Lampshaded by Joker in the third game, who admits that Cerberus were a lot cooler and easier to root for when they were rebels helping to save the galaxy, rather than the Indoctrinated terrorists - hampering all efforts to fight the Reapers, whilst being as Obviously Evil and Ax-Crazy as possible - they've turned into.
Saren, the villain of the first game is often the subject of this and Draco in Leather Pants from parts of the fandom. The second game reveals this even extends to being the case in-universe, where a gold statue of Saren is seen as a prized gift by wealthy criminals, while a Shadow Broker dossier reveals that there exists more than one documentary portraying Saren as a misunderstood hero.
There is a portion of the Morrowind fandom who thinks Dagoth Ur was really a good guy with morally-grey methods. These fans see him as a courageous rebel against a foreign empire who is only maligned because he was betrayed by his friends, who then became powerful. The game itself leaves his ultimate motives ultimately unknown (though it presents ideas), somewhat encouraging this interpretation. The game design doc was originally written to allow the player to join with him, but sadly time constraints and the much desired Christmas Release doomed that (as well as other story elements).
Space Channel 5 Part 2 has the Rhythm Rogues, a group of villains who want to force the galaxy to dance for them. Their leader Purge is one of the more popular characters in the series, next to Ulala and Pudding. Rumors are going around that the real reason Part 2's getting an HD port is because of the fanbase for these guys.
Starcraft: Brood War has the United Earth Directorate. They are set up as major villains and eventually become the dominant power in the sector, forcing an Enemy Mine situation between Raynor, Fenix, Mengsk and Kerrigan to depose them out of fear they'll enslave or kill everyone regardless of race or allegiance. However... they don't. Their campaign is pretty much an eight-mission long Kick the Son of a Bitch as they spend their time fighting Mengsk and the Zerg. Their evil is All There in the Manual; the larger part of the UED back on Earth is a government of racist facists who banished the original Koprulu refugees to the sector after sparing them from an ethnic cleansing program numbering in the hundreds of millions, but in the game their fleet leaders are shown to mostly be mostly reasonable and pragmatic, and they're not unwilling to make alliances with outsider factions. There is a not inconsiderable number of fans who wanted them to win the Brood War and hope for their return in StarCraft II, even though Word of God has said it's not likely to happen any time soon.
The Heart of the Swarm campaign again has Kerrigan as the protagonist, though whether she is still a Villain Protagonist is up to interpretation. The fact that she wants to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Mengsk for leaving her to the Zerg in the first place has caused a significant portion of the fanbase to start Rooting for the Horde of Alien Locusts.
In Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefront 2 you could begin play as a Stormtrooper, but, if you racked up a high enough score without dying, could control Darth-Freaking-Vader in combat. All that, plus the opportunity to blast Ewoks!!
You can literally root for and play a champion of The Empire in Star Wars: The Old Republic. One estimate says there are twice as many Imperial players as Republic ones on some servers. This is despite the fact that the Emperor is an omnicidal nutcase who wants to devour all life in the galaxy, the place is rife with Fantastic Racism (anyone not human or Sith pureblood is commonly referred to as "thing" or "it"), the whole damn economy is a house of cards built on military tech and slave labor, their military strategy boils down to We Have Reserves, advancement is done via Klingon Promotion (though it's gauche not to be sneaky about it for non-Sith), it's every bit as inefficient and corrupt as the Republic, and the Sith are still marking an art form of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder with everyone else ground beneath their boot heels.
Flight duty as portrayed in Star Wars: TIE Fighter is a fairly cushy job, when compared to the matching duty in the Rebel Alliance, with rapid promotions and secret society membership benefits, both of which lead to better fighters. Indeed, TIE Fighter pilots are expected to fail against superior Alliance fighters, and since most battles take place in Empire-controlled space, recovery after ejection is highly likely. By the time you're in serious missions against rebellion forces, you're in TIE-Advanced Fighters or even TIE Defenders. Much of the time in the game you are not even fighting the rebellion, but doing what seems like legitimate and reasonable policing and military actions, such as taking down pirates, intervening in a civil war to protect the allies to the Empire and going after Imperial traitors
Although the Orcish Horde were the main antagonists (and Villain Protagonists) in the first two Warcraft games they were the more popular of the two factions in those days. They are given a redemption storyline at the end of Warcraft 3.
Although they were initially the minority, the Horde are gradually becoming the more highly populated faction in terms of players, as Blizzard gave them a less "ugly," and more "humanlike," race. (The Blood Elves in TBC) Chris Metzen, the main author of WoW's storyline, is on record as saying that the Horde are the faction that he is emotionally closest to.
Ever since it was announced that Garrosh Hellscream would be the final boss of Mists of Pandaria, there's been a small sect of players who have wanted to forsake the Darkspear Rebellion and side with him, either due to think he's not as bad as he's made out to be or just finding his "evil" Horde more compelling than the "good" one. Ingame players are not given an option, you have to side with the rebellion.
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.
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.
A number of Vampire Cheerleaders readers are actively hoping for the protagonists to be staked. It doesn't help that they feel free to mind-control innocents, the formerly sweet girl sees no problem in gorging herself on the football team to the point of causing them health issues and even treating her old friend like absolute crap alongside the other cheerleaders.
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 andTodd in the Shadows think the few minutes of the Wicked Witch are fun enough that they hope she wins.
Obscurus Lupa 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.
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.
Some fans root for the Fire Nation out of the opinion they're the best candidate to advance technology and bring 'progress' to the world. These fans also believe that the Avatar himself is a symbol of outdated superstitions and supernatural forces holding back humanity from its true potential, and that the 'Balance' the heroes are fighting to restore is merely the forced stagnation of civilization. As for all the people killed or enslaved by the Fire Nation, and for all the other people they were planning to exterminate along with their native cultures, that's apparently a small price to pay for a one-world government and an industrial revolution. (One thing that can be said in their favour is that the other nations have a large Stay in the Kitchen attitude, while Fire Nation military is open to women and no-one batted an eye at Azula becoming Fire Lord.)
On a character level, many Fire Nation character are sympathetic (Zuko, Iroh, Ty Lee, and Mai) or in Azula's case so good at being bad, earning them massive fandoms. The problem is that all the sympathetic characters turn against the Fire Nation and its goals, for various reasons, and that Azula is revealed to be severely disturbed.
In Sequel SeriesThe Legend of Korra fandom, some fans support the Equalists stripping all benders of their abilities as the only way to put all people on a level playing field and end the oppression of non-benders, even if the benders themselves don't consent to the procedure. Debates on whether or not bending is an intrinsic part of a person and the show's civilization/culture, and if what the Equalists are attempting is a fantastical form of mutilation or not, can get quite heated. The show itself is a bit grey on the issue, showing that some benders can be oppressive but also portraying the process of benders being unwillingly stripped of their powers as analogous to rape. It gets much easier to call them bad guys after episode 6, where they bomb the pro-bending arena and in episode 7 where they attack innocent civilians and kidnap the metal bending police. Complicating matters is the fact that some corrupt benders namely representative Tarrlok feel that rounding up all non-bending individuals, Equalist or not, and imprisoning them, is a perfect way to neutralize the threat.
More than a few fans wanted Mr. Freeze to save his wife, even when his plans to do so involved killing other people. It doesn't hurt that each appearance made him more sympathetic, with his canonically final appearance in Batman Beyond being one of the biggest Tear Jerkers in the entire DCAU.
Harley Quinn is the poster-girl for Mad Love and an in-universe proponent of Draco in Leather Pants, who honestly believes that "Mr. J" is a sweet guy and the innocent victim of that mean old bat, and frequently helps in his schemes of murder and mayhem. Many fans claim that if given the opportunity, they would do the exact same thing in her position.
The Penguin. The short, fat, fish-slurping guy everyone in Gotham laughs at. It just gives you such a good feeling on those rare occasions when he gets away with his crimes or kicks some serious ass. Or that occasion in that one episode where he told Batman to his face to get lost, because for once it was the Penguin saving the Distressed Damsel.
There is a subset of Captain Planet fans that cheers for the Ecovillains, just because the show itself makes them Anviliciouslynasty to support its Green Aesop. The writers must have been listening because there was an episode where Lootin did win, and man it was a Downer Ending.
Danny Phantom has a huge number of fans for the villains who are more liked than the main hero.
There were a few Kim Possible fans that at least want Shego to actually beat Kim whenever they have a confrontation, as they find it a bit too much to swallow that Shego keeps being defeated by a teenage spy who shouldn't have been able to take on a superpowered foe hand to hand. Which explains why you have fanfics that say Shego purposely held back in each confrontation they had. For variousreasons.
An incredibly popular version of this is the New Lunar Republic - a LARGE group of fans who resent the reign of supposed "tyrant"Celestia and would rather Luna take the throne. Whether or not this counts as Rooting For The Empire depends on whether they're rooting for Luna or Nightmare Moon. Luna is not an example because she's ultimately good (if only a little impulsive), and the legitimate arguments against her right to the throne are purely political. Those who flat out rooted for Nightmare Moon... play thistrope straight.
Discord enjoys enormous popularity, many of his fans wanting the fun-loving, Laughably EvilTrickster to succeed in his goal of eternal chaos. It didn't hurt that in his introductory episode, one of the main characters (namely Pinkie Pie) seemed perfectly fine with a guy who makes chocolate milk rain from the sky.
The Changelings have their fans, arguing that despite the cruelty of their queen most Changelings just want somethingto eat.
Given his HORRIBLE childhood, it's not hard for Phineas and Ferb fans to want Doofenshmirtz to win just once. It helps that most of his plans are pretty harmless.
Played with X9 in Samurai Jack. The episode he is in focuses on him, showing that he was hunting Jack because Aku was holding the robot's dog hostage. The episode was designed for you to root for the poor robot. Jack cuts him down without a pause; he's just another robot mook to him.
In episodes made after the movie (and some before), Mr. Krabs' schoolyard-bully gloating of Plankton's failure makes Plankton the more sympathetic character to the audience. What doesn't help is that the mass flanderization of both characters has led Krabs to have less redeeming aspects than Plankton. In some cases, Krabs actually goes out of his way to ruin Plankton's rare legitimate efforts or make him miserable in the same ruthless manner as vice versa, and due to their roles, is more likely to succeed (eg. "Plankton's Regular").
Can happen to Spongebob himself, especially in episodes where he goes up against Squidward. He may be a Jerk Ass, but Squidward is also the show's Only Sane Man, Chew Toy, Butt Monkey, andDeadpan Snarker, so he gets sympathy from a lot of fans compared to the obnoxious, inane, callous, and occasionally sociopathic title character. It's different in episodes where Squidward picks on or tricks Spongebob, but often his motivation is just to avoid him and be left alone. Imagine if you had a neighbor like Spongebob, and this becomes a rather understandable desire.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars in general already had this given the Evil Is Cool nature of a number of the villains as the show improved, particularly the regular battle droid, who mostly come off as Punch Clock Villains doing what they're ordered to, never appear especially malevolent, at times descend into Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain territory due to how hilarious they are. But in an interesting case of Evil vs. Evil in the episode "Massacre", this trope can still be applied with outnumbered Asaaj and the Nightsisters taking a much larger droid army led by General Grievous. Grievous, unlike Assaj, has no sympathetic qualities to him, but many viewers were rooting for him and the droids due to Asaaj and the Nightsisters earlier actions during the Nightsister trilogy of episodes, and that he had the battle droids, who came off as more likable than the Nightsisters.
Many Titan Maximum fans want Gibbs to destroy the insufferable main characters. The show was left in limbo with a cliffhanger of Mercury being incinerated by the sun and the heroes have no ship to fly off... so he already has.
A small contingent of Transformers fans feel that the Decepticons are the real good guys, and that the Autobots are evil. Granted, a few continuities show that the Bots aren't perfect paragons of justice, and the Cons had good reasons to rebel, but stories where Decepticons take small children hostage (or killa puppy) show that they are NOT nice mechs.
Given a bit more weight in Transformers Animated in which the Autobots are the ruling empire led by someone who's just a bit too willing to do bad things to achieve victory for comfort while the Decepticons are the scrappy rebels, albeit vicious and ruthless ones.
In the IDW comics the Autobot government was evil (well corrupt at least) and the Decepticons were laid off blue collar workers living in slums until this one miner showed up... (Most of the story is set millions of years later, by which point they're rather less sympathetic.)
One of the movie prequel comics showed one part of the falling out between the Autobots and Decepticons was Prime wouldn't allow Megatron to attack a hostile force on their way to Cybertron, until they arrived and started attacking. Megatron was just trying to protect Cybertron.
In the Transformers: War for Cybertron continuity, Megatron was initially a gladiator who rebelled against an oppressive, caste-based society ruled by the Autobots, so initially it was the Autobots themselves who were the Empire and you should have rooted against. But Megatron became too prideful and ruthless, to the point his ideal of a caste-less society was buried by his desire to rule. Transformers seems to have been moving over the years from "Decepticons evil, Autobots good" to an almost Star Wars-like setup, where Cybertronian society badly needed shaking up but the Cons went too far and the necessities of war turned the Autobots into the casteless society the Decepticons wanted, while the Decepticons became too obsessed to remember their original intentions.
Transformers Prime depicts the Decepticons as having a colorful range of personalities. For some of the less evil ones like Dreadwing and Predaking, it can be hard to not root for them at times.
In The Venture Bros. Daddy Venture commonly forgets about everyone and everything important to him. Anything halfway decent he horribly abuses. The villain, the Monarch, cares about his named henchmen, cares about the emotional health of his prisoners and participates in the 'Scared Straight' program when he spent time in the slammer. If it wasn't for the Monarch's occasional efforts to outright rip apart the Ventures, it'd be hard to tell who was the villain. Many viewers will compensate by rooting for Brock, who's a friendly, cool guy that genuinely cares about the Venture boys as if they were his own sons, and yet over the course of the series racks up a higher body count than Dr. Venture and the Monarch combined. Lampshaded at one point when Dr. Venture is groomed to be a villain, and shown to be a better potential villain than heroic Super Scientist.
Who hasn't wanted Dick Dastardly and Muttley to succeed? Whether it's at winning a race or stopping that pigeon. It helps the two bad guys always got much more screen time then the heroes in their shows, and Dastardly's alleged cheating is often considered legitimate when performed by other supposedly "fair-playing" racers. His one victory was discounted due to him extending his vehicle, something that has been done countless times before by others in the show's run. Then there was that one time he got a ticket for speeding, which makes it look like the universe is deliberately trying to keep him from winning.
X-Men: Evolution: The original Brotherhood members just don't come off as evil to many fans, despite all the horrendous things they did. That they are just the "Bad" in a The Good, the Bad, and the Evil situation lends a certain degree of sympathy, as does how they're constantly abandoned or generally treated horribly by everyone, including their supposed allies.
In Chuck Jones' autobiography Chuck Amuck, he lists ten rules that every Road Runner cartoon had to adhere to, the last of which was "The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote." See The Other Wiki for the full list.
Tom, Donald, Sylvester, and Wile E. Coyote from the Tom and Jerry, Sylvester and Tweety, Disney Shorts and Road Runner'' cartoons respectively, amass a lot of sympathy given their opponents are jerks or Invincible Heroes and reality seems to bend to their will. Tom seems to get the most of it, which is understandable because he's taking abuse from both the mouse who is breaking into his home and often his owners for failing to catch the trespassing mouse, and many episodes make it IMPOSSIBLE to root for Jerry. Jerry sabotaging Tom's attempts to woo a girl cat and ruining his concerto performances, for example, make him downright unlikeable. To compensate in a lot more shorts in the 50s and 60s Tom actually DID win (usually when Jerry acted without provocation).
The retooling of Bugs Bunny. His initial appearances had him as more of a Screwy Squirrel who messed with people because it was fun. The "canon" version only brings the hurt after having been provoked ("Of course you realize, dis' means war!") or deliberately targeted by a predator (The Tasmanian Devil, Wile E. Coyote).
In The Addams Family, we see Morticia reading to a group of preschoolers the story of Hansel and Gretel from the witch's perspective and depicting the main characters as beastly children for shoving her into the oven at the end of the story. The kids she was reading to don't take the story well.
Happens in-universe, sort of, in a couple of the Discworld books, particularly Lords and Ladies and Carpe Jugulum. In both cases it's really only the witches who are willing and able to oppose the elves (in the first) and the Magpyrs (in the second), and even they occasionally struggle with the temptation; if Esme Weatherwax had a will made of some weaker material (like, say, iron) both books could have ended very differently.
In The Addams Family, the family wound up having this problem when they enrolled their children in public school. Wednesday came home in tears after the first day after being read a story where a poor, innocent dragon was ruthlessly slaughtered by a sinister knight in cold, gleaming armor.
On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon identifies with The Grinch ("I was right there with him all the way until he gave in to the Holiday Who Whooey at the end") and according to Leonard roots for the Sun against Frosty the Snowman ("A trivial piece of holiday flotsom in a stolen hat)". Another episode reveals that Sheldon actually does root for the Empire.
Sheldon: Aside from their tendency to build Death Stars, I've always been an Empire man.
Barney from How I Met Your Mother apparently applies this trope to the majority of movies he's seen. He gets called out on rooting for Johnny in The Karate Kid, and the rest of the group bring up a plethora of movies, all of which he roots for the villain in them, including Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club, and Hans in Die Hard. Barney also refuses to accept that the characters he roots for are villains.
Garfield roots for the monster that ate Tokyo in a movie, because "anything that eats everything can't be all bad".
In another strip, 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".
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 readingDune- and, being Belkar, appears to be rooting for Baron Harkonnen.
Belkar: No, no, no! Don't lean in, he's got a poison tooth!
In Garfield and Friends Garfield tries to tell the story of Hansel and Gretel to Nermal, but Nermal ended up feeling bad for the witch at the end of the story, forcing Garfield to try and come up with an ending that gives the witch a much happier ending. It should be noted that Nermal's horrified reaction to the story didn't really stem from him being evil by any stretch of the means, but rather his innocent persona prevented him from really seeing the witch as evil.
In the Rugrats "Passover" episode, Angelica immediately identifies with Pharaoh and feels sorry that she loses.