A character, having faced an indifferent world for so long, finally gives up all pretense of trying. He does the bare minimum to try to get his job done and makes no effort of initiative elsewhere. He knows that whatever he tries isn't going to work, so it's just easier to be jaded and cynical, and right than to be constantly disappointed by plans that never work.
Depressing as that sounds, this trope is almost always played for comedy. This is because the trope is a popular part of Deadpan Snarker
mentality. One of the benefits of not caring is that there's nothing stopping you from making cynical, ironic and humorous quips about the world around you. Granted, said character won't be much fun to be around since he makes these jokes at the expense of nearly everyone else, but again, he doesn't care, and it's not like anyone's going to have the guts to actually do something about it since his irritation doesn't go past his passive-aggressive sarcasm.
This should not be confused with a related concept, Professional Slacker
, which is when a character makes an aggressive effort to do as little work as possible.
The meta-counterpart of They Just Didn't Care
. When used seriously, the character has probably crossed the Despair Event Horizon
, or over lap with Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!
. Compare Giving Up On Logic
. If a work does this to its audience, it's Eight Deadly Words
Anime and Manga
- Possibly the "rich hottie" in Local #8. He's rich, gorgeous, and considerate, but Megan ends up deciding it "just isn't right" and leaves his bed giving the It's Not You, It's Me line, to which he replies "it never is". Megan sees this as proving that he's secretly a jerk, but alternatively, the poor guy has been through this routine so many times that he's completely indifferent to what she thinks of him now since he knows she's not coming back. It's the easiest explanation for why his doorman "knows the drill". How many Jerkass Casanovas have a doorman who's used to calling a cab for women to go home in the middle of the night?
- Film/Maleficent: Diaval tells Maleficent that he doesn't even care anymore when she again threatens to turn him into some ugly animal. Subverted in that he does not actually give up on trying to make her see reason.
- In Dilbert, this is an inevitable effect of working for the company with its useless, sadistic, or outright criminal administration; its Pointy Haired Bosses; and its soul-numbing office environment. They call it the numbing, and Professional Slacker Wally is its endpoint. Dilbert himself has managed to escape this fate (except when Rule of Funny says otherwise) by becoming Genre Savvy enough to game the system to his own advantage.
- In Doonesbury, this is what's happened to Walden's President King. Frustrated with the (ultimately successful) attempts of students to segregate themselves in the early 1990s, he's since become completely indifferent to his job, allowing Walden to languish into a low-tier party school where students don't even make a pretense of planning for their futures. At one memorable commencement address, he even stated this outright to the students, asking who would ditch his degree right now if he could become a writer for Family Guy. All of the students promptly raised their hands, except for one who was scared of the killer bees that live in California.
- When the Visigoth king Alaric I sacked Rome for the third time in August 410, the citizenry of the severely weakened and demoralized city offered no real resistance. (Historians disagree on whether the famous opening of the Salarian Gate by Roman slaves, to let in Alaric's army, was the city's ultimate expression of this trope, or whether it was a plot in which Visigoth soldiers infiltrated Rome by going undercover as slaves.)