"Wake up, will ya! You're living in some kind of fantasy world! Here's a dose of reality for ya. You're a weakling. You're never gonna be strong no matter how hard ya try. You're a loser! You're always gonna be a loser and guys like me are gonna step on ya for the rest of your worthless life!"
The basis for more commercials than can probably be counted. As counterintuitive as it may seem, ads depicting the intended consumers of the company's product as drooling imbeciles are becoming more and more popular, to the point that it would be folly to point out all but the most egregious offenders here.
Ben Elton referred to the characters who performed this function in advertisements as "The Farty" or "Farties".
One ad that became infamous for pissing off its target audience this way was for the Dead or Alive fighting games. Two ridiculously stereotypical gamer nerds go on about the technical sophistication involved in the visuals and gameplay, while they seem barely able to resist touching themselves over the boobalicious female characters prominently shown in the ad. As one editorial put it, the previous ten years of video games maturing as a medium were completely undone with one line:
"She kicks high."
Vince Offer: "Stop having a boring tuna, stop having a boring life!"
Comedy Central got in a bit of trouble with the fans with a Mystery Science Theater 3000 commercial showing a pair of redneck stereotypes nerding it up over the show, implying that the network saw the whole fanbase as such. They didn't help themselves by opening another commercial about the show's return after a long hiatus by literally saying "Quit your bellyaching!"
Sony obviously feels this way about their customer base, considering their "All I Want For Christmas" marketing campaign. The rap can be found here.
If you turn on the "translate captions" feature, the first thing he says is, "Uh...monies." It really helps drive the point home.
There's a Web advertisement that says, "Beach Bum makes $237,000 from Laptop! Click Here!"
And going by these ads, you are almost certainly a local mom who knows absolutely everything! It's really amazing, how these local moms are always figuring out $5 miracle cures in their spare time that not even Pfizer can come up with. All kidding aside, though: the only web ads that actually show any respect for the viewer's intelligence are the ones that do not exist.
Jack Link's has an advertising campaign entitled "Messin' With Sasquatch," which features a number of Jack Links-loving hikers playing various cruel jokes on Sasquatch, only to be beaten up by him. Because apparently people who eat Jack Link's Jerky are moronic little twits who take sadistic pleasure in tormenting someone who had done nothing to them, and who get the crap justifiably beaten out of them on a regular basis. Which may be why they've started to switch to "Snacking with Sasquatch", where the Jack Links-eating people are voluntarily sharing said jerky with Sasquatch whilst performing various activities with him (which go awry due to Sasquatch's unusual sense of humor).
The advertisement for Sakuracon 2009 caused much controversy amongst anime fans, many of which were offended by the depiction of their fandom. A discussion about the commercial can be read here.
The commercials for esurance.com have the company's sales representative helping its customers, who are depicted as being really dumb. The first guy is trying to break up the street with a baseball bat. She hands him a jackhammer. The next guy is painting a wall by throwing the paint onto the wall. She gives him a brush. The third guy is trying to send a message by using smoke signals. She gives him a cell phone. The intended message is that signing up for their insurance is really easy. The perceived message is that their customers are really dumb.
This varies from one commercial to the next. Some are fools (the guys mentioned above), some are cool (mostly in the motorcycle insurance ones), others are normal (like in "Big Money").
Hyundai recently began airing commercials featuring a teenager ramming a wall in Crazy Taxi and a group of teenagers on a giant slingshot, with the emphasis being that teenagers are crazy and don't know how to drive, so you should get a Hyundai to protect yourself from them. Keep in mind, that for most of their history, the vast majority of Hyundai's consumers were young drivers...
There's this ad for a site apparently called poor decisions, in which an unshaven man sits on the side of his rumpled bed, holding a cigarette and looking like he's contemplating suicide. There's a blow-up doll behind him. The ad text reads "Does this look like your morning?"
Hardees commercials seem to be pushing the envelope on just how vile, depraved, and wretched they believe their customers are, always depicting some sleazy, unlikable young man in his daily routine, while an incredibly bored voice rambles about something entirely unrelated. Such examples include "having three girlfriends is great...sometimes" while a man paints over the word "cheater" carved into his car, or a group of men watching football until one brings a tray of biscuits into the room, offering them, where they all stare at him as if he had two heads while the voice says "guys don't bake". Perhaps the most alienating, however, has to be "Don't want chili fries with your burger? Too bad, you get them anyway", as a man tries to scrape chili off a counter with his fries. The message seems to be "Are you the slimiest stain on the bottom of society's shoe? So are we. Eat at Hardees."
The title character of Ojamajo Doremi gets terrible grades, constantly screws up spells, is an athletic failure, is greedy and self-centered, and just is an all-around Ditz. So naturally the Queen entrusts her with the newborn next heir to the witch kingdom. In contrast, her five-year-old sister is prodigiously competent and mature, and her friends include a lovable, rich genius, an athletic prodigy, and an Idol Singer. It gets better as the series goes on with Doremi learning to be more mature with both her magic and personal life.
This is the point of Doraemon. Doraemon is sent back in time to change Nobita's life — namely, he turns out to be such a loser that his entire family tree is ruined because of it. Contrast with his good friend Shizuka, who is a smart and kind young girl; Takeshi, while a bully, never hesitates to help Nobita out when he's in trouble; and Suneo, who while overly proud of himself, is a genuinely talented artist and designer, as well as being fairly good at science. And then there's Dekisugi, who is really good at science (for his age) and is the future husband of Shizuka— if Time Travel isn't included in the equation.
This is probably The Artifact of the extremely long series; Doraemon's antics were partly a commentary that Japanese people in the 1970s were becoming lazy and over-reliant on technology.
It must be noted that while the nature of the "future" depicted changed from time to time, most often Nobita became a responsible salaryman, devoted husband, and cool dad. He also managed to bag Shizuka somewhere along the line.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket ends on a very famous quote that can easily come across as the director complaining that fans enjoy the robot fights in the series' tragic war dramas too much for him.
The titular character in Sailor Moon is one of the more well known examples. This seems purely an effect of being the lead; Usagi is Minako's Expy, the latter which became much more capable when she wasn't the lead in a story anymore.
And as the anime went on and Usagi became more competent Minako actually regressed back into comic relief.
Manga Usagi is surprisingly A LOT more competent and intelligent than her anime equivalent. She suffers more from naiveté than actual stupidity. It's just the anime kept resetting her character growth every season while the manga left it intact.
Interestingly, the creator of the series has said she based Usagi off herself. This Loser Is Me?
Kinnikuman, and his son Mantaro Kinniku, from the manga Kinnikuman are extreme examples of this; at the beginning of their respective adventures, they are both impossibly stupid, hideous and pathetic in almost every way, only ever succeeding through dumb luck. However, due to Cerebus Syndrome this is slowly peeled away to reveal competent, yet silly, characters.
Tsuna Sawada, protagonist of Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, is regularly mocked by his peers for being a loser in just about every endeavor. He does get several moments of awesomeness, but only when he gets "touched" by Reborn's Magic Bullets. And then things begin to get weird. Of course, as the series goes on, he becomes less of a living incarnation of This Loser Is You and more of a typical optimistic, naive Shōnen hero. Though, he still shows signs of this trope at times.
Also, Kozato Enma.
Yumi from Maria-sama Ga Miteru is described as being a plain, non-athletic girl of average intelligence, who berates herself constantly for being insignificant. Still, she has one of the most popular girls of her school chase after her and drag her into the Absurdly Powerful Student Council. She befriends most everyone there, which even culminates in a declaration of love of sorts from one of the coolest persons in the series. Later she is shown to have pretty good people skills, but that still doesn't convincingly explain why everybody chases her.
Pokémon, with its Idiot Hero Ash. Initially, he's completely incompetent in basically every way, with most of his "victories" being the result of either dumb luck or his opponents having pity on him. Ash gets better eventually; now his wins (occasional Deus ex Machina notwithstanding) are almost always legitimate (especially if there's another character to screw up instead) and sometimes even the results are pretty clever tactics on his part. Which is all well and good, right up until he regresses to a freaking novice at the start of each new region. The fact that he leaves all but Pikachu at the start of each region does very little to justify this. Though he's fortunately nowhere near as bad as when he started out, it's still patently inexcusable that Ash could be beaten by novice trainers so easily.
You cannot forget Dawn! She lost three contests in a row before she went out of it for a good 4 or 5 episodes.
Naruto started off as overconfident in his abilities, obnoxious, a poor student and having few usable jutsus. He gradually matures, broadens his arsenal and becomes able to use his abilities better.
Sakura and RockLee are rare non-main character examples, as Word of God even stated that they were suppose to embody human weakness (at least pre-Time Skip). Oddly enough, Rock Lee is arguably a successful example, as he manages to be quite popular despite his general lack of success.
Initial D's Itsuki, not the protagonist but his tolerated sidekick, is an uncontrollably emotional, self-aggrandizing, insecure, lustful, remarkably ugly Everyteen.
Love Hina: While Keitaro is, as mentioned above, undeniably of the "loser everyman protagonist" type, it's pretty evident from day one that everyone else at the Hinata Inn is a mess of problems, and the series is as about much their Character Development as it is Keitaro's.
Jiro "Roji" Kusano, half of the titular Muhyo And Roji, despite being assistant to genius executor Muhyo, starts out as a Second Clerk who failed his application exams to the Magical Law School, and is often unable to understand basic texts on Magical Law (he did not even know the difference between Magical Law and Magic). However, he has a large amount of tempering, and as time goes on, becomes very good at using magical seals in desperate situations.
Also, Muhyo chose Roji because Roji actually cared about spirits, as opposed to other candidates who saw the assistant position as a way to improve their resume.
Yuuto of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu is an average everyday dude with average aspects and almost zero personality, till he meets cute Otaku Haruka...
Simon in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, as a mild version. Basically, in the world of AWESOME that the show is, Simon is initially the only normal person, who also happens to have backstory Wangst. This lasts, like what, half an episode? Rossiu is pretty close to this before the time skip as well.
The message here would be "You suck, but you can learn to stop sucking and start being insanely awesome."
Manaka Junpei from Ichigo100% seems to be good for nothing. Low grades, not that athletic and he even fails at moviemaking once (which is his one passion). On the other hand, he is good at making girls fall for him. Panties first.
Mayo Sakaki of the Fushigi Yuugi: Eikoden OVA. She was intended as a surrogate for fans who wanted to go into the Universe of the Four Gods, and therefore was designed as an ordinary girl with human weaknesses. Instead she became one of the most widely reviled characters in the FY universe, probably because she went way the hell beyond "human weaknesses," crossed the Moral Event Horizon, and went straight into unintended Villain Protagonist / Anti-Sue territory. To the further fury of the fans, she pretty much got away with it all because all the other characters felt sorry for her.
Ginta from Märchen Awakens Romance at the beginning but quickly grows out of it around episode 10 (volume 3 of the manga).
The titular Karin of Kamichama Karin. Her ONLY good feature is her fairly-cute looks. She's TERRIBLE academically, routinely scoring a flat 0 on tests, and celebrating wildly when she got through a test as the 30th-worst in the school (after weeks of Study From Hell). She's also terrible at athletics, including combat-training. And yes, even when she summons the unlimited power of the Goddess Athena, she continues to suck at using it. She's not even good at making friends - before the story started, her only friend was her cat. Arguably, the only reason why she's the central character is that the antagonists wants a Goddess Ring, and she's by far the easiest target. Even towards the end, she never really recovers from her suckitude - she wields The Power of Love, but What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway??
Turned up to 11 in End of Evangelion, so much so that quite much of hate he gets can actually be sourced to that movie alone. Hospital scene at the beginning, Anno being mad at otaku fapping over these 14 year old characters. Do the math.
Kensuke Aida is a more direct parody of otaku, Anno himself included (Anno is a military geek, same as Kensuke).
ARIA's protagonist, Akari Mizunashi, feels this way about herself, but she's actually very skilled and personable and suffering from a lack of self-confidence. Character Development and lots of training and practice with her friends snap her out of it by the end.
Axis Powers Hetalia features personified countries, and most of these countries are made fun of a lot, so it could count as this to anyone from any of the featured countries.
Saji Crossroad during season 1 of Gundam 00 only cares about getting a happy life of his own, ignorant of the large causes of the world - hell! He even blindly hates the Gundams after first Nena Trinity blasted an arm out of his girlfriend, and then his sister Kinue, in her quest for getting info about Gundam, was killed by Ali Al-Saachez. It is not until Tieria Erde delivers him a Bright Slap in season 2 does he gets better.
In Cardfight!! Vanguard, Aichi has actually lost more matches than he has won. However, this trope has officially come into effect as of episode 32. Not only does Team Q4 get knocked out of the nationals, but Team AL4's leader Ren Sugimori proceeds to rub it in his face (and possibly starting him on the path to Wangst). Then in the next episode, Team Q4 has to watch as Team AL4 completely devastates the other Teams...
While most pink-type Pretty Cure leads tend to fall into this, Tsubomi Hanasaki really takes the cake. Shy, introverted, not much of an energetic person, can't do much without her friends/teammates, goes into a panic when things turn south. Both Sasorina and Erika have decried her as "the weakest Precure ever". The series, though, shows her evolution into a much more stronger person and, when we see her next in Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3, she's busy helping Rookie Red RangerHibiki when the teams are scattered.
Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei occasionally makes potshots at society and its readers often making an example out of a one-shot character or someone from the existing cast using their negative traits to describe something you potentially have done.note Example:Meru Otonashi represents Internet trolls: You may be polite and innocent in person but you are probably a malicious Jerkass online.
Though obviously not created for an American audience, Lucky Star possibly has one for American viewers in the form of Patricia, an American exchange student who only understands Japanese culture through what she saw in anime.
The main protagonist of Chaos;Head is a senior high school student who lives in a giant storage crate and is an Otaku who collects female Anime dolls and pretends to have real romantic relationships them, because he doesn't trust "3D" (real) girls. It's so bad that the whole Anime is based on rather what he sees is real, or part of his disillusions.
Marvel always tries to sell their characters as "relatable" heroes, and some feel they sometimes goes too far in that direction. Every unambiguous good guy in the New Avengers, for instance, either has Joss Whedon levels of "issues" or is just a bit of a jerk.
A riff on DC's Superman called, The Sentry (with the Power of a Million Exploding Suns!), despite apparently being the most powerful man on the planet, is pretty much incapable of doing anything without sitting in a corner rambling incoherently for at least 4 issues first.
While Spider-Man is considered an archetypal Everyman superhero, he was originally not an example of this trope (having above-average intelligence and just enough luck with girls to get caught in Love Triangles). But that emphasis is on was. The One More Day storyline infamously tried to make him more appealing to a younger audience by having his marriage magically annulled and moving him back into Aunt May's basement, even though he's no longer the fifteen-year-old he was when he started. Editor Joe Quesada even said an ideal Spidey story would involve him trying to download porn without Aunt May finding out.
The series Wanted has Wesley Gibson, an Eminem look-a-like who is saddled with a dead end job, and an annoying, cheating girlfriend, bullied by assorted townfolk, and in general is shown to be practically spineless in regards to his life. Of course, afterward he breaks the fourth wall to tell you that you suck even more than he does. The idea is that Gibson is one of the people making life actively worse for anyone who isn't a super-villain - and yet the structure of the story encourages you to root for him as the underdog hero. He's reminding you, metatextually, that he's the bad guy.
Mark Millar's other creator owned project, Kick-Ass is more insulting and not as subtle about this. The story is about a comic book fan trying to be a superhero, and follows as he starts off getting his ass kicked, constantly humiliates himself and only manages by sheer luck and the intervention of the more successful heroes, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. His crush only pays attention to him because she thinks he's gay, and when she finds out he's not, she tosses him aside, after he gets beat up by her boyfriend and left with a picture of her going down on said boyfriend for him to wake up to. The story is designed as a deconstruction on the teen superhero concept, but it crosses into this in how mean spirited it is in making the Dave as 'normal' as it can. His friends, who're also comic fans, aren't shown any better, and even Big Daddy, revealed to be a comic book fan himself instead of being an ex cop, is depicted as a pathetic loser who decided to become a superhero and train his daughter to be one after his marriage broke down.
Captain Haddock of Tintin fame is an overly verbose, recovering alcoholic, amazingly clumsy disaster magnet. The Castafiore Emerald in particular seems to be Herge running through the many ways he can possibly torment him. More than anything, he represents how everyday people suck- and the readers love him for it.
Primarily because he's the only person to ever get away with using the phrase "Ten thousand blistering barnacles in a thundering typhoon!" without looking like a maniac. Much.
The good Captain also showed some moments of competence and actually contributed to the action, such as in The Red Sea Sharks and The Crab With the Golden Claws. Although on the latter occasion he was already drunk off the fumes emanating from some broken wine barrels...
Since Infinite Crisis, Superboy-Prime has been an unsubtle jab at fanboys and people who hate change, and because of it was a unique villain. His ultimate fate, however, was something of a kick in the balls as he ended up on Earth-Prime (our Earth), reduced to typing angry posts on the DC Comics forums from his parents' basement.
It has been debated whether or not Scott Pilgrim can be considered a loser. On the one hand, he's a jobless college dropout who lives in a windowless hole in the wall where he has to share a bed with his gay roommate (though if one thinks about it, his friends are marginaly better). On the other hand, he plays bass in a Garage Band, has a pretty good circle of friends and is a pretty good guy who just made mistakes and wasn't able to learn hiselssons from them until later on.
One could consider it a mild Deconstruction.
In a subtle example of Take That, the author has mentioned this was his hypothesis why some fans wanted Kim Pine to end up with Scott isntead of Ramona, they saw themselves in the 'outwardly misanthropic, plain and somewhat washedout' Kim.
Despite a persistent false urban legend that the Finnish government banned him because he doesn't wear pants, Donald Duck is actually adored in Finland to the point many children (and adults) distinctly remember learning to read from Carl Barks' Donald Duck comics, which remains the most read weekly magazine in the country. Mickey Mouse doesn't get much fandom because of his goody-goodiness, Donald is loved precisely for his utter loser status and for his guts that rarely allow him to give up.
The same is true in Germany, where Donald's loser status, yet willingness to work hard, hit a positive nerve with the country who were trying to rebuild themselves after World War Two.
The issue 3 bonus comic of the My Little Pony Micro Series focuses on a character named Hayseed Turnip Truck, a redneck window washer who is in love with Rarity but somehow screws up every time he tries to confess his feelings. He moves to the city and starts a successful business in hopes of impressing her. He is finally going to ask Rarity out, when Spike shows up and tells Hayseed that she's already got a fiancee. Hayseed leaves heartbroken, while Spike takes his discarded flowers and tickets so he can give them to Rarity.
Astérix: Obelix, not the brightest man around, but loveable in his naïvité. His loyalness to Asterix and Idefix is beautiful.
Suske en Wiske: Wiske and Lambik are the most popular characters, precisely because they are so much more human than other characters. Wiske is jealous, vain, temperful and too curious for her own good. Lambik is idle, arrogant, clumsy and stupid. Yet despite all their bad character traits they have a heart of gold.
Nero: An egotistical, greedy, dumb, naïve and vain man, yet also noble of heart.
Gaston Lagaffe: An employee who is clumsy, naïve, lazy and causes more trouble to his fellow co-workers than any other colleagues, but who always means well.
American Beauty shows a man who has an awful job, awful wife and a daughter who doesn't respect him. Yet he has a sympathetic appeal to him, because we can all imagine how bad such a life can be.
Idiocracy, another gem by Mike Judge that openly targets its audience.
The Toxic Avenger takes this to such an extreme, one suspects it's parodying the trope. The protagonist, Melvin, is described as "A 98 pound weakling". The announcer forgets to mention the fact that he also seems to be somewhat mentally disabled. He's bullied by literally everyone in the health club he works at, to the point where he's chased out the second story window and into a barrel of chemical waste that causes him to burst into flames. Apparently he's so reviled that the people continue to laugh at him for this. Then he turns into a suave (if nightmarishly ugly) mutant monster and becomes beloved by everyone in the town after he rips criminals limb from limb. It's about at this point that the message becomes somewhat garbled.
The Forbidden Kingdom: Features a subtle example of the trope. The plot originally featured an Asian main character learning about his roots. Jackie Chan suggested the change to a white character whose only experience with Asian culture comes from the wuxia movies he watches since this was more reflective of the type of audience the movie would attract.
Bob Chipman did a very good job of putting it into layman's terms.
They're basic literal live action recreations of the sub genre of anime, video games, and fantasy art that drop heavily fetishized female characters into archetypal sci-fi action scenarios wherein the male gaze exploitation of said characters is to be excused by how "empowered" they are. (...) The movie takes it to a whole-nother level, not only criticizing the genre, but explicitly criticizing its target audience. Whenever the movie cuts back from the metaphoric dream sequences to the guys drooling over Babydoll's dancing, those guys are awful. Rotten, disgusting, boorish, slimy, evil monsters. The worst possible human beings. Think about that. What is the movie saying here? (...) It's target audience is the male geek culture. (...) The movie is saying, or at least attempting to say, "Hey, hey you. Yeah, the one sitting there and gawking at girls in lilttle outfits? Well, this is you. This is what we think of you. And you know how those slimy disgusting dudes are getting robbed and subverted while they're busy slobbering over Babydoll? Yeah, that's me—the movie—getting you into the theater just to look at the girls so I could mock you to your face for doing it."
Neighbors: Teddy. As Pete points out, Teddy has no real plans post-college, none of the frat's accomplishments were real, and he accuses Teddy of starting the war out of fear that he'll end up like Mac.
An alternative view is that Dill is an idealist who wants to live up to the heroism of his predecessors but is seen as nothing more than a propaganda tool by the church and thus has no training, real world experience or even the freedom to leave his temple, there really is nothing he can do except angst until he's given a chance.
Dr Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame. Watson, originally depicted as Doyle's Author Avatar, is really quite charming, far more human and likable than Holmes. If anyone's the audience identification figure, it's him. Unfortunately, adaptations (and even, later stories in Canon) miss the point and make him out to be a complete doofus.
Many, many romance/chick-lit novels in the vein of Bridget Jones' Diary. Bad at their (dead end) jobs, klutzy, overweight and/or Weight Woe (and cranky about it), ditzy, neurotic...All in the name of allowing the audience to identify. When overdone, it just makes the audience wonder what the hell the perfect hero sees in her.
Bella, from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. The intent was apparently to portray her as someone who thinks of herself as unattractive, uncoordinated and basically less than average (as many teenagers often do), while actually receiving more attention than she herself notices from everyone, including the males in her school. Whether it worked or not is open to much heated debate.
Mildred Hubble, heroine of The Worst Witch, is gangly, funny looking- and no bloody good at anything. Even her cat, the imaginatively named Tabby, is a misfit. One can't help but wonder- if there's an entrance exam to Cackle's Academy, how did she manage to pass?
Older Than Feudalism: Aristotle wrote that the hero of a comedy should be worse than the average and rise up. The second part is often forgotten now.
Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, at least in the earlier books. He spends a good part of the books confused and distressed. Later, however, learns how to fly and even saves the galaxy.
Subverted in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Readers are clearly supposed to identify with Greg Heffley, who is often the passive victim of the torment and ridicule he receives. On the other hand, Greg's friends Rowley and Fregley are even more pathetic.
Protagonists of the various Goosebumps books were often unathletic, dorky, unpopular bully magnets. Rarely if ever was a Goosebumps protagonist either tough or popular.
In Game Slaves, much fun is poked at the kill 'em all kinds of players that populate MMOs.
Lead protagonist Doug in the sitcom King of Queens is also a classic example of this trope. He is shown to have aversion to reading anything other than cereal boxes, watches way too much TV. He avoids healthy food like the plague, and makes fun of people for trying to eat healthy and makes fart noises at anyone trying to say remotely intellectual. Also the finer aspects of this trope apply to the character as he has friends and wife who are much more attractive and cool compared to him.
Ryotaro Nogami from Den-O is perhaps the most egregious example. He is also the Butt Monkey.
Subverted by the series end, or at least once Liner Form was obtained
iCarly is quite fond of making fun of its audience using in-universe Audience Surrogate characters who are fans of the web-show. Gilbert, the guy in the yellow shirt who yells "SEDDIE!" constantly in iStart A Fan War and iLose My Mind is a blatant parody of a specific fan who has had some memorable and not always positive interactions with Dan Schneider in the past and was well known for spamming "SEDDIE!" into every Word of God blog post.
Elliot, too, at least, before she went from annoyingly neurotic to slightly-neurotic, lovable, and pretty hot.
House goes to great lengths to show that aside from his incredible diagnostic skills, House is even more of a loser than most of us: lives alone, has only one real friend, is a drug addict, his sexual encounters limited to prostitutes and masturbation to Internet porn...
The lead character in Red Dwarf was Dave Lister, a crass, uneducated, unintelligent slob who was the lowest ranking crewman on the ship and whose highest ambition in life was to live in Fiji and own a hotdog stand.
Ditto his hologram bunkmate Arnold J. Rimmer (BSC, SSC), second lowest ranking crewman, unable to achieve anything higher, no matter how bad he wants it.
Lister did attempt to outrank Rimmer by passing the Ship's Chef exam, but that was mainly in response to Rimmer's constant harangues and pulling of rank - "It outranks you".
Jim and Pam on The Office (USA) spent a large part of the show acting as the audience surrogates, generally snarking about their situation or at the craziness around them. But beginning with season 5 and especially in season 6, they have been getting rather frequent Kick the Dog moments. It's telling that their UK Spiritual Predecessors, Tim and Dawn, did not have such moments. Certainly related to their much shorter time of exposure but may have a deeper meaning as well.
The Inbetweeners lives on this trope. Four loser teenagers attempting to lose their virginity and failing spectacularly in the process; ring any alarms for anyone?
Reinforced by how the one of them who has the far most success with the ladies, Neil, is generally considered to be the one who is hardest to identify with because he is just a foolish, surprisingly nice (for a teenage boy) ditz and not lives up to a classical and more realistic teenage stereotype like Will, Simon and Jay do.
In the early 1980s Doctor Who introduced a regular character named Adric, a teenage alien maths prodigy who was meant to be an identification figure for the fanboy audience. (The actor himself was a Promoted Fanboy.) Unfortunately the character wasn't written as an idealised cool genius, but as a socially-inept nerd with frequent flashes of whininess, arrogance and sexism. This led to a fan backlash, and when he was killed off in what was meant to be a shocking tragedy, some fans outright celebrated.
The main cast of Friends goes through several hardships throughout the series. When the series started, Rachel had just ended her engagement, got cut off from her dad's money and was employed as a waitress. Before returning to Days of Our Lives, Joey was frequently low on cash, borrowing money from Chandler, and had to work several part-time jobs. Monica had to work at a diner in between chef jobs, Chandler was unemployed before entering advertising and Ross was fired from the museum because of anger issues.
Lt. Reginald Barclay in Star Trek: The Next Generation was created to give the fans someone to relate to. What's he like? Shy, awkward, socially inept, afraid of transporters, and addicted to fantasies (in the form of the holodeck).
Kenny Powers of Eastbound And Down. A washed out former MLB star pitcher with a heaping helping of narcissism (he constantly listens to the audiobook of his own philosophical/inspirational novel, You're Fucking Out, I'm Fucking In, which he narrates himself), an ego whose size could make any planet feel like Pluto, and is an all-around ignorant bigot who believes himself better, stronger, and sexier than everyone he's ever met, and everyone else, too.
"The Story of an Artist" by Daniel Johnston. If you haven't heard it yet, go listen to it now! It's the most heartbreaking song ever written about struggling artists like you and me.
The music video for Vengaboys' 'Up and Down', which is like an infomercial for some trippy glasses.
Asian guy: Are you sick of your boring life?
Odds are, one of the people mentioned in a given rendition of "I've Got a Little List" from The Mikado will apply to you.
"Online" by Brad Paisley is all about this trope. The main protagonist is a geek who delivers pizzas, drives an old Hyundai and still lives with his parents He's also an asthmatic who stands 5'3" and has "never been to 2nd base".
The main protagonist's boyfriend in "He's Sure The Boy I Love" by The Crystals:
''He doesn't look like a movie star He doesn't drive a Cadillac car He sure ain't the boy I've been dreaming of
But he's sure the boy I love''
By the end of the song, we learn the boyfriend's collecting unemployment.
Wonderfully done in Peanuts, where Charlie Brown's particular negative trait is indecisiveness. Although usually rejecting complaints he was cruel to Chuck, Charles Schulz admits properly balancing This Loser Is You is difficult: "You feel sympathy, but you can imagine him being tiresome to other people."
Oddly enough, Schulz seemed to get just as many complaints about Peppermint Patty's troubles. Schulz explained that was probably because she was a rather inoffensive character, but admits that removing these traits simply makes her not funny anymore.
Pluggers, a Funny Animal comic about rural working-class America, is a strange case, as the traits depicted are supplied by readers of the comic. It may be thought of, perhaps, as Self-Deprecation.
It's more of a "working-class hero" comic, but one which (unintentionally) makes the "pluggers" look rather pathetic to people already dismissive of Flyover Country.
Ruben Bolling parodies this with "Dinkle, the Unlovable Loser" strips in his comic, Tom the Dancing Bug.
Luann features this frequently, as the title character is depicted as lazy, sloppy, jealous, clingy, angry, vindictive and horribly insecure on a regular basis.
Her friend Bernice and older brother Brad are worse. Bernice is relatively unattractive, constantly puts down Luann, and got jealous when Luann became too close to her long-lost older brother. Brad used to be lazy and antagonistic towards his sister; he then Took a Level in Badass and became a firefighter, but is now supremely unconfident about his disproportionally attractive girlfriend Toni ("Is it me or Santa she's kissing?").
Cathy is a post-adolescent, premenopausal Luann. (I'm surprised that nobody's done a parody strip from this idea.)
Dilbert is stuck in a meaningless, dead-end job for an incompetent and unethical corporation. Also, he's fat and ugly, and women find him dull and disgusting.
Monty Montahue in Monty is a bumbling nerd who is socially awkward and failing in both love and work.
Former Ring of Honor World Champion Nigel McGuinness invoked this trope, making "acne-riddled fat boy" Kevin Steen the audience surrogate en route to Steen's three title shots against McGuinness.
WWE has had two characters lately who were originally presented as being big wrestling fans. Santino at least manages to be a legitimately funny guy. Eugene is less... Positively presented.
Dusty Rhodes was always a far more positive portrayal of the archetype.
WWE has also in the past had background characters who were supposed to represent the average wrestling fan, ranging from the irksome Charlie Minn (hyperactive excitable fanboy) to the loathsome Jamison (greasy, repugnant, socially inept nerd)
In the MMO City of Villains, one mission you can get is to kidnap a snitch named Joshua who saw you committing a crime from his apartment while he was "staying up late playing dOs". The Joshua NPC character model is fat, balding, frumpily dressed, and has a decidedly unintelligent-looking face.
And to add injury to insult, his pathfinding sucks, which not only makes him really annoying during the mission, but making him look extra idiotic as every twenty feet you have to go back for him and find him standing there staring around as if he had no clue where you went.
Final Fantasy VII starred Cloud, who started tough and independent but turned out to be the exact opposite of what you thought you were getting. When he was younger, he picked fights with the other kids to hide his insecurities and decided he would join SOLDIER in order to impress the girl he'd had a crush on for years but never had the courage to ask out. When this attempt failed due to his stated insecurities and mental fragility, followed by his hometown being burned down by the man he idolized, followed by his best friend in the world- an actual member of SOLDIER- gunned down before his eyes, he lost his mind and believed he was that best friend, with all his memories and triumphs. The Cloud we play as for most of the game is a shell of a man who believes he is a great hero because that's the only thing keeping his mind intact at all. Many people missed the point of this.
Even though he was hardly angsty or brooding during the game. He was just really serious, even though he did plenty of goofy things during the game, such as cross dressing (albeit unwillingly).** He does face his problems eventually and become the supreme Ascended Fanboy, capable of (sort of) taking Sephiroth one-on-one. It's a positive message overall. It's about admitting you suck and overcoming it to be awesome.
Something similar can been said about Squall, who cynically put, starts out as an antisocial jerk. But he was actually a competent orphan/child soldier
At the beginning of the game Cloud was also pretty uncaring about pretty much everything; when Barret told him the planet was dying Cloud pretty much kept responding with "Whatever"s.
Cloud isn't exactly to blame for his circumstances. He believes himself to be a great hero mainly due to the influence of Sephiroth/Jenova and the treatments he was given. He confuses his past with that of Zack because his memories and mind are being tampered with. One of the Jenova boss fights makes it clear when it tells him "You are just a puppet". Tifa played a role as well: She found him nearly catatonic on a street with a mako glow in his eyes clutching a massive sword. Given that the last time she saw him, he told her he was going to join SOLDIER, she naturally assumed that he had done just that. Nursing him back to health, she likely prompted him with questions about being in SOLDIER, and in his madness, he confabulated, intermixing his own memories with the deeds of the member of SOLDIER he knew the best. While the treatments are what made him lose his grip on sanity, the nature of his dissociative fugue state likely has little to do with Jenova and much to do with Tifa. Sephiroth actually acknowledges Tifa's role in it all when, during the burning Nibelheim illusion, he says to Cloud, "Inside you, JENOVA merged with Tifa's memories, creating you."
"Who wants to play as a weak, pathetic character like this? Wouldn't you rather be a tough guy? Isn't that the whole point of playing a game? To feel empowered? To be someone you're not? I mean, I get it. He's supposed to be a nerd. Well, this nerd makes me look like Charles Bronson. Steve Urkel could beat the shit out of this guy!"
Then again, he slowly evolved into a tough hero towards the end of the game, losing his awkward stance, his fear of creatures, and he even got to use a sword!
The protagonist, Vyse, can become this if you get a low Swashbuckler Rating in Skies of Arcadia. The complete embodiment of this trope is having between zero to five points (and it does take some effort to sink that low) thus earning you the endearing title of "Vyse the Ninny." The result of this will be ridicule from NPCs, higher store prices, and the inability to access certain features, such as crew members (one of them needs a high rating to get).
The absolute lowest is actually implied to be "Vyse the Fallen Pirate," but this is only triggered in the remake via an in-game event and doesn't affect you in the same way the regular ratings do. When you defeat three particular enemies, your rating skyrockets.
Metal Gear Solid's Raiden. While he is beautiful rather than ugly, this is a side-effect of him being made deliberately androgynous so that both sexes identify with him. While he is fairly book-smart, he lacks common sense and does everything extremely by-the-book. He is routinely humiliated, mocked, and has a great sense of smallness and lack of control against the huge Government Conspiracy plot. The coolest man on the planet develops a liking for him, but, even so, hides information from him and says things deliberately to rile him up and humiliate him. His CO patronises him, his girlfriend nags him, and he experiences all manner of humiliating circumstance, such as slipping on bird droppings or getting urinated on by a guard. Word of God has it that all this was designed to make the player identify more with him. Naturally, everyone hated him. One blogger even went so far as to call him Robo-Shinji.
Raiden did EVERYTHING, it's a plot point, Snake did with more emotional baggage. He also had to go through more crap, from being pissed on to watching a young girl die, finding out his enemy is his godfather, discovering his dark past that haunts his PTSD-fueled nightmares, discovering his support team were all AI, he was being manipulated all along, his girlfriend may be faking her love for him, NOTHING MAY BE REAL. He and you, the player end up on the receiving end of an epic Mind Screw. They even spell it out for you at the end, when Raiden looks at the dog tags he was wearing for the whole game, notices that they say your name on them, and throws them to the ground.
Otacon was named after the nutty computer in 2001. He was seduced by his stepmother, which made his father kill himself. He accidentally designed Metal Gear Rex as a tool of the apocalypse. His stepsister died hating him. He named himself after an anime convention. He peed himself in terror when he first met Snake. He wondered aloud if love could bloom on the battlefield. Worst of all, Hideo Kojima designed Otacon as someone that you, the player, could relate to. You are the real loser.
Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes is... well... every negative stereotype of an otaku there is. Suda 51 was not subtle. And then the sequel has him undoing all of that, becoming a character worthy of actual respect... or at least approaching it. And even then he's still way the fuck more of an otaku than most.
And yet, he calls the player out on their perverted love of violence in videogames in the opening to the sequel. And then again after finishing off Alice, he calls them out again.
The second time comes after some much-needed character development, where he starts to realize he's getting sick and tired of mindless killing.
Hell, the gameplay itself is considered to be an allusion to the (stereotypical) player. From the Headscratchers:
No More Heroes is a satire of the outlook one who collects video games would have. Travis represents a gamer, and the assassination missions, with their stylized, hyperviolent nature, represent videogames. The rest of the world, on the other hand, is monotonous and contains dull jobs which Travis is motivated to do only so he can get back to the missions. In other words, it is a satire of the sort of otaku who's only interaction with the outside world are purely for the purpose of acquiring more videogames/anime/etc or more money as to buy more videogames/anime/etc.
Lose enough units to get enough replacement characters in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, and eventually you'll get ones with insulting names. Note that to get the best secret characters, you have to keep your army small, and there will be some times where picking up replacement characters (which happens automatically) will put you over the desired army size.
This is a selling point for Zettai Hero Project: You (as in, you the player) are the most pathetically weak protagonist of all time, and the world's greatest hero has just died and passed on his mantle to you. Better start grinding.
Subverted in the WHAM Episode that reveals that the Heroic Mime actually has a past, and at least one personality trait, upgrading him to Iron Woobie status. His entire family has hated him for his weakness for the past eight years thanks to an incident where, unbeknownst to them, he saved his sister from a cannibal by letting himself get beat up over and over again.
The Secret of Monkey Island has the pathetic Guybrush Threepwood. He knows about piracy about as much as you do, but he does know that he wants to be a pirate. Continued to some extent in Lechuck's Revenge, where Guybrush is apparently a realised pirate, he just doesn't get any respect and is on his way to discover the Big Whoop, an alleged immense treasure to fix that problem.
In Divine Divinity your diary contains some observations on your stats, which were uniformly insulting until you got them fairly high, which took grinding and focusing on only a few. As a starting character, even though you look and act like an average person, your diary paints a portrait of a crippled, bumbling simpleton who gets winded from getting out of bed and has trouble forming sentences longer than three words. Made worse when you realize it's your own diary, meaning the person who wrote those horrible things was you.
World of Warcraft introduced a new quest in the Cataclysm Expansion that consists of the player hopping on an NPC's horse and becoming an actual questgiver while 3 NPC PCs approach to accept a quest. The first is named Dumass and is a perpetual moron who speaks in all caps and behaves like the players everybody loves to make fun of. The second is an fully decked out, high-end raiding warrior who comes looking for stuff to do, and the third is Johnny Awesome, who is that one pompous dirtbag who brags of his awesomeness and everyone wishes would shut up and leans on and occasionally punches holes in the fourth wall. Bonus points for Johnny Awesome actually referencing Twenty Bear Asses.
Inverted and played straight by the quests Mystery of the Infinite and Mystery of the Infinite Redux. The former includes a Future You NPC, and latter a Past You NPC. Both state they are kind of ashamed of you... while looking exactly like you, implying you don't improve at all, and goes about combat in a way that would pretty much be very incompetent if a player actually did that (as in they just run up and and hit stuff).
Pretty much the whole point of Vincent, the weak-willed, cheating protagonist of Catherine.
Takeshis Challenge is a game which involves making a Salaryman get drunk, divorce his wife and quit his job. The game even makes fun of you for actually trying to beat the game pointing out that you have just wasted your time getting trolled.
The actions you commit in Spec Ops: The Line is basically one long string of the game saying, "You suck for buying\renting this game, you suck for playing it, you suck for liking it, you suck for buying\renting other shooter games, you suck for playing them, you suck for liking them..." Word of God is the only way to win is to not play at all.
Played with, at best. Captain Martin Walker is a ruggedly handsome, physically imposing US officer in Delta Force, exactly the kind of character who is normally a projection of a usually male power fantasy. The game uses this trope in a meta way, as Walker's desire to be a hero and quasi-fourth wall breaking certainty that the events going on around him are a Hero's Journey just waiting for him to go through it proves to be his - and the player's - undoing.
Captain Blubber from Banjo-Kazooie can be viewed as this. For one thing, he cries because when he loses his gold in the first game.
Stream from Divekick is a goofy-looking, hate-filled demon in a straight jacket who spends all of his time on the Internet and only derives pleasure from trolling people. He is meant to mock the typical viewer of fighting game streams, known as a stream monster.
Moneybags from the Spyro the Dragon series. He was never treated with respect in the third game.
Everyman Marten Reed from Questionable Content is very likeable but is a chronic under-achiever and self depreciates constantly. Justified in that he started out as author Jeph Jacques' attempt to make fun of himself.
Ethan from Shortpacked!! seems to be shaping up to this. The comic establishes that while he has a moral and up-right character, he's a hopeless nerd trapped in a dead-end job who devotes his life to what's portrayed out as pointless hobbies. When the strip makes it look like he'll pull out of it (by getting a boyfriend, pursuing his dreams) or he has a realization about his life, it's just ignored and he goes on as he always had been. eventually he gets his happy ending/
Ctrl+Alt+Del: Another Ethan is said to be a portrayal/caricature of gamers. The secondary one, Lucas, is much closer to a normal human being. He's somewhatflawed, but he's not nearly as screwed-up as Ethan is, and he's probably closer to what the author thinks gamers really are rather than a Flanderization thereof.
The last panel of thisOriginal Life strip is apparently the main character. Even ignoring the obvious, the one bit of personalization we can see in his room is a Halo poster, whereas the girls have a map and trophies.
Done unintentionally in College Roomies from Hell!!!. Dave was meant to be unsympathetic and expendable but the fandom found him easier to identify with then the rest of the cast. Although he's not nearly as much of a loser as most of the characters he's listed alongside. Kind of a Butt Monkey, but not overwhelmingly terrible or anything.
Ménage à 3 has Gary as probably the most important of its nominal three lead protagonists; although it's probably debatable how far he's supposed to be an audience-identification character, he is a comics-loving geek surrounded by cooler and much more sexually active characters. The comic seems to owe some debt of inspiration to all those "harem" animes, too. Gary is getting better from his initial virginal loser status — his life is certainly a heck of a lot more interesting in later strips, and he's even had sex with a couple of very attractive women — but the writers seem to have some difficulty in getting rid of his painfully passive approach to life.
Ben Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame takes the this to the extreme with the game concept of No Experience Necessary. Where the player character is abducted into a dangerous secret military weapon testing project not because of any special background or skills, but because he wouldn't be missed.
It's fleshed out a bit in the comic books. He wants to become a "villain" (more along the lines of just taking out Hammer), because he wants to show the world that brains are more important than brawn.
SCP Foundation: The writer of SCP-231 seems to have taken this attitude toward reader speculation on "Procedure 110-Montauk". It's the worst thing you can think of...and if you're thinking of it, you are basically doing it to this poor girl yourself. You Bastard.
Also in The Simpsons, Frank Grimes was intended to be an 'ordinary person' in order to demonstrate that an ordinary person would be unable to survive in The Simpsons universe and befriend the likes of Homer Simpson without going crazy. It's also a subtle satire and "screw you" to fans who complain about the show's general lack of realism.
And, of course, Comic Book Guy represents the hyper-critical Simpsons fan that obsesses about continuity or whines about when the show jumped the shark.
Later averted with Fry, who starts out as an occasional Jerkass idiot in his own right, but gradually matures over the course of the series. Nobody'll ever confuse him for his brilliant nephew, but Fry's repeatedly sacrificed everything for his friends and loved ones. At his worst, he's dim and willing to humiliate himself to ingratiate himself with others, but he's probably the least selfish and noblest person on the show, except possibly Zoidberg.
American Dragon Jake Long had its share of This Loser Is You moments. Jake's annoying Jive Turkey talk didn't help either. Many episodes actually featured problems that were a direct result of (or related to) Jake (or on occasion Spud or Trixie) being sucky teenagers.
Though film critic Jay Sherman of The Critic hosts a critically acclaimed though commercially unsuccessful TV series, has won multiple prestigious awards (including two Pulitzer Prizes for criticism, a People's Choice Award, five Golden Globes, an Emmy Award, a PHD in film, and a B'nai B'rith Award), was adopted by upper-class East Coast socialites, and can afford to send his son Martin to the exclusive United Nations International School, his achievements are eventually all irrelevant as he is treated like scum by his coworkers, family, and significant others, and despite his high intelligence, is unexpectedly comparable to Homer Simpson due to his gluttony and overall slobbish mannerisms.
Ron Stoppable is pretty much this in Kim Possible, in various actions including fighting, picking up girly signals from girls who actually like him, his schoolwork, his parents. The times he isn't sucky usually ends up with him having to give up whatever he doesn't suck at (e.g. his job at Bueno Nacho). The titular Miss Possible is occasionally this, usually in relation to boys, and dating.
Given how amazingly prevalent it is in children's entertainment, it's worth noting that it's averted inStatic Shock. Virgil was generally portrayed as intelligent and a good student—one relatively early episode involved him getting into a program for gifted students, and it wasn't in the "Main Character is the dark horse" way—while his friend Richie eventually gains super-intelligence as a superpower. Even despite still being an open comic book geek, Virgil almost virtually never acted the way a stereotypical geek would, instead expressing an impressive amount of street smarts on a regular basis. Hell, in one episode he was mocked by Sharon because a speech he had prepared was too tedious and morose.
In the comic book predecessor, Richie's even more of a subversion — he's not only all of the above, he's also bitterly either in a Transparent Closet or in denial about being gay. Sure, the bad guys got Anvilicious, but Richie acts like any high schooler with an obvious "secret" he's uncomfortable about, without the attendant Aesop.
W.I.T.C.H.'s Will Vandom, like Doremi, is often shown getting terrible grades as well. To make matters worse, the writers of the television series have taken away Will's energy powers, the main perk of her being the Guardians' leader, though it was restored to her later.
Metalocalypse: Dethklok's "Fan Song" is a massive, scathing criticism directed to their very fans. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, considering how hardcore their fans are), they loved it.
GWAR had a similar song, "Bohab". In fact, 'bohab' is an insult the band invented to describe stereotypical basement dwelling, unhygienic metal fans. (The word comes from a guy named Bob who allegedly pronounced his name that way).
King of the Hill largely subverts this. Hank has his flaws, but is a decent, hard-working human being and the Only Sane Man. However, there was an episode where Peggy, Mihn, and Dale decided to play the stock market, and who did they research to find out what the American public wanted? Bill. Fat, bald, ugly, lonely, unlovable Bill, with the overall implication that the things that Bill likes are the things the American populace overall would want. It's an... interesting choice on their part.
Chuck Jones explained many times his interpretation of Daffy Duck defined human characteristics, especially selfishness. Many of his later shorts involved the character being placed in a 'hero' role and being pitted against a villain (usually one Bugs Bunnydefeated several times over without even trying) and getting the stuffing beaten out of him, largely due to the fact he was a pompous, cowardlybumbler with few redeeming aspects, at which point a much more competent true protagonist would take his place. It is worth noting in his autobiography Chuck Amuck Jones explained the use of perspective and one person's incompetence being obscured by another even more bumbling adversary (this would certainly explain Porky's near opposite role in his pairings with Daffy to those with Sylvester during that same period or the two largely different versions of Nasty Canasta used against both Bugs and Daffy). Daffy sucked so much he made other hapless foolslook extremely competent.
It should be noted that in contrast he put heroic, or at least positive, characteristics in Bugs Bunny ("Bugs is what I wish I was; Daffy is what I fear I am.")
Daffy: (leaving a beat-up Taz heaped in the corner) I may be a coward, but I'm a greedy little coward!
It's also worth noting that Daffy's frequently portrayed sympathetically, and unlike Bugs, can actually lose. Daffy may be emblematic of neuroses about failure, but a lot of people find him funnier than Bugs for just that reason.
Amusingly during the odd occasions Bugs lost, his character was inexplicably converted to this, quickly losing all his composure at the premise of someone actually managing to outdo him (perhaps most evident in his rivalry against Cecil Turtle). Daffy was the more consistent loser, but at least that meant he was more accustomed to it than Bugs, who couldn't take it back at all.
Although he has a giant robot car and kicks butt with it, Coop from Megas XLR lives in his mom's basement watching wrestling and playing video games.
And if Coop is not This Loser Is You enough for you, you have Jamie, who is the ultimate slacker, lacking even the limited ambition and drive Coop is shown to have, he is shown to have no talent at anything and to be nothing but an opportunistic waste of space.
One episode of The Powerpuff Girls had a fat, bald nerd obsessed with the Powerpuff girls as the villain, who captures the girls because he's obsessed with his collection. He is defeated when the citizens of Townsville start getting all his toys out of the packages.
The titular Tom from the Tom and Jerry cartoons. Really, who ever rooted for Jerry anyway?
In a similar premise, the Urpneys of The Dreamstone are a result of giving the villains Sympathetic P.O.V. to convey them as fairly normal (but exaggeratedly luckless and incompetent) people who like so many, are just doing a dead end job that they regularly despise, leading them to come off as far more rootable characters compared to the heroes of the privileged, utopian Land Of Dreams.
Some people have gotten public sympathy over how bad or unlucky their lives are/were.
Painter Vincent van Gogh spent his entire life in poverty, only selling one painting in his entire life and only because his rich brother took pity on him. He had trouble with women and suffered with alcoholism and mental illnesses. Years after Vincent's tragic suicide his paintings starting selling in the millions. Every struggling artist can understand his pain.
Ed Wood was nicknamed the "Worst Director of All Time" and his movies are indeed hopelessly and laughably bad in every way of the word. Yet Tim Burton's film Ed Wood (1994) depicted him in a more sympathetic light: someone who just follows his passions and doesn't care whether it's all perfect or not. This is something most of us can relate to.
The French cyclist Raymond Poulidor always ended second in the Tour de France cycling tournament, despite being a really great athlete. As a result he became hugely popular with the general public, who could all relate to someone who just tries very hard, but never manages to reach the very top.
Retired Starcraft Player Hong "Yell0w" Jinho's nickname is "King of Silver". Despite being an excellent player, he continuously finished in 2nd place in Starcraft Tournaments. His appearances on the Korean version of Saturday Night Live (in the GTA parody skits) constantly lampshade his legendary status as "#1 at being #2". Perhaps in this case, never winning made him more endearing and popular to his fans.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil: This documentary shows two fifty year old men working in low-paid ordinary jobs, who once shared the same stage with acts like Slayer and got good reviews but just never made it. Decades after their promising start the duo is still trying to get their big break. Everyone who ever had a garage band, but either gave up or lost a talent course can identify with them.
Robert Crumb: A twisted, sexually frustrated, geeky looking nerd who came from a dysfunctional family and never got over the fact that mean, arrogant high school jocks had more success with sexy women than he did. Despite having more success with women after becoming famous this identifiable loser image remained.
It's also a sobering thought that some of the most groundbreaking activists, scientists, artists never received the major prizes they should have won, according to their immense status. So when you don't get the acknowledgement you deserve it doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong or untalented. The best example is perhaps Orson Welles, whose career literally gradually went downhill after making the acclaimed masterpiece Citizen Kane. Though he still made great movies after that, they all suffered from Executive Meddling or low budgets. Every one of us knows how frustrating it is to be kept down by higher powers and never being able to escape that vicious circle. The fact that even a genius film maker like he could never recover from this makes him all the more identifiable.