When a character's supposed insecurities or embarrassing quirks are supposed to inspire sympathy, but fail to impress the audience because they're mishandled or plain written badly.
This is generally reserved for unpopular traits such as being overweight or being a nerd, both of which tend to be grossly exaggerated on television (see Hollywood Pudgy and Hollywood Nerd) and usually have nothing to do with anyone who might have such problems.
Sometimes these are humorous things in a character's past dredged up to embarrass them. This is supposed to make the character more human without affecting their present "perfection."
Can even go for villains, and here it's an especially easy trap to fall into: Sometimes one is meant to be more complex or gray-area, but their Freudian Excuse just doesn't cover the acts they go on to commit. Yeah, we're sorry your little sister died in that building the superhero battle knocked over, but that doesn't make you not a sociopath for trying to blow up the hero's entire planet. Note in this case that the "unintentionally" is an important part of this trope: if the excuse the villain makes is flimsy on purpose, it's likely not this trope.
Often a problem with The Scrappy and some varieties of Mary Sue. Also Designated Hero.
This is the opposite of Unintentionally Sympathetic, and can be the result for those who are opposing characters who are more sympathetic than the author intended.
See also Law of Disproportionate Response.
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One series of Hoover ads portray their new vacuum as a reward for neat freaks. Except the neat freaks depicted seem to have mild OCD or Molysmophobianote The abnormal fear of infection or contamination. An Australian run of hand sanitizer ads makes the same mistake, marketing the Dettol hand sanitizer to the 'signing a credit card slip with your elbows' market.
Ditto for that newfangled no-touch soap dispenser. Right, so's you don't contaminate your hands with any icky germs just before you, y'know, wash them. Anyone that unreasonably terrified of germs doesn't need to be catered to with a no-touch soap pump; they need professional therapy to help overcome an apparently Howard Hughes-level case of germophobia.
I'm a Mac... and I'm a PC. Aside from being basically a smear campaign against the PC, the Mac comes across more as a smug yuppie than anything next to the poor put upon everyman playing the PC.
Some commercials for the Toyota Highlander featured a kid bragging about how his parents are cool and not embarrassing now that they bought the Highlander. But he comes off as a smug little bastard, and we're supposed to sympathize with the other kids whose parents don't drive Highlanders. Being a nice, loving parent just isn't good enough, oh no, if you don't drive the right car your kid has every right to hate you!
Even worse, once they buy the Highlander, he's seen not only pitying his friends whose parents didn't buy one, but, to make his parents "cooler", makes them throw out everything in the house he doesn't like, including their family portrait.
Anime and Manga
GE - Good Ending has Yuki, one of the main protagonists in the series. A good part of the manga is spent trying to get Utsumi, the protagonist, help her deal with her Broken Bird issues, only to have her throw everything out the window by asking him to rape her, in order to overwrite the bad memories she had with her previous boyfriend. Utsumi calls her out on it, so she dumps him because he's always too nice to her.
The main character of Haruhi Suzumiya had this in The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya. Nagaru Tanigawa wants you to fell sorry for her after Kyon scolded her, but take it into account that the reason Kyon lashed out at her in the first place was because she spiked Mikuru's drink for a scene in a movie, kept hitting her, and said "Mikuru is my toy." This is probably the only time she ever gets called out for her Jerk Ass behavior.
Several of the Naruto characters fall into this sometimes as well.
Sasuke seems to be meant to be seen as a morally gray character being led down the wrong path by his obsession with revenge, but to a number of fans his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, recent descent into mass murder of Samurai he could have easily defeated non-lethally, and callous disregard for how many people have to suffer for his own emotional satisfaction has caused a number of fans to think he does not deserve Naruto's goodwill.
Itachi as well, for his Mind Rape of Sasuke, kicked him down the slippery slope. All because he "loved" and wanted to "protect" his "precious" little brother. It got worse when he was turned into a Creator's Pet in the Fourth World war arc.
Danzo as well. The story claims he wants to protect the village. While turning kids into his personal soldiers, creating one of the most twisted individuals in the process. He also decides to ignore the village in its Darkest Hour.
Pain/Nagato, for many readers it was impossible to sympathize with someone who killed Jiraiya and Kakashi, leveled Konoha and stabbed Hinata right after she confessed her love to Naruto, mostly because his Belated Backstory wasn't any worse than other characters', like Haku's or Gaara's who didn't do anything that bad.
Obito Uchiha is even worse than Nagato as not only did he orchestrate the nine-tails attack on Konoha but also caused Minato and his wife's death, made Naruto's life miserable and created the fourth shinobi world war which caused thousands of people to die. Yet he is meant to be sympathetic character who claims to just want to run away from his problems and why did he became evil? It's all because Rin died
Asuka Langley Soryu. Her traumatic backstory was obviously meant to illicit a sympathetic responce from the audience,but at that point in the series she had behaved like such an abrasive brat and was downright antagonistic towards the other characters that some fans felt that her Freudian Excuse just didn't cut it.
Kyousuke Kamijou from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. He is meant to be sympathetic because he's a violin prodigy who's hospitalized because of an accident that broke his left arm and left him unable to play again. Unfortunately, he comes off as an aloof boy who's ignorant of Sayaka Miki's feelings, because he dislikes her for playing music which he's unable to play. She visits him numerous times in the hospital, but he doesn't even talk to her after he gets out and blithely starts going out with Hitomi instead, sending Sayaka past the Despair Event Horizon.
Gen Urobuchi stated that even if Sayaka had hooked up with him, he would've stood her up on dates in favor of practicing his violin. In The Movie, he does, in fact, turn down a date with Hitomi to practice violin (the second time he's accidentally spawned a Lovecraftian monstrosity by ignoring a girl), so this may be Ascended Fanon.
Shaman King has Hao Asakura (the manga version). He is supposed to come off as a sympathetic tragicAnti-Villain, but due to being overpowered, hypocritical, having a arrogant social Darwinist type attitude, and a Karma Houdini, it falls flat. Even with his back story in mind, there are fans that feel it does not excuse Hao's actions. This is averted in the anime adaption since he gets less back story and is played straight as a villain and avoids being the Karma Houdini.
This is part of the reason why many fans dislike Chris Thorndyke from Sonic X. Near the end of season two, Sonic and his friends needed to return back to their home planet to prevent time from freezing. Enjoying his adventures, Chris obviously didn't want them to leave. Many fans found Chris to be selfish since he was okay with Earth's time never going forward just so he can have Sonic and the others with him forever. The same fans were also disgusted when he turned off the machine to send the others home right when Sonic was about to go through it and ran off with Sonic.
Tenchi Muyo!: Haruna from Tenchi Forever is supposed to be a sympathetic Anti-Villain; a woman dead before she can live her romance with the man she loves and whose soul feels so alone, than she is trying to recreate this love story with the grandson of her former lover. What many viewers see is a bitch who kidnaps, brainwashes and rapes a teenage boy.
The Avengers as a whole, but mostly Captain America and Wolverine, during Avengers vs. X-Men; since the story quickly takes their side of the conflict, and any X-Man or Woman who defects is seen as heroic, they're clearly who is supposed to be sympathized with. In the end, Cap chews out Cyclops and tries to make him feel as bad as he can for what he did, yet, during the conflict every single problem is directly their fault:
The original punch out came from Wolverine informing the Avengers biased information that painted a terrible picture of both the Phoenix and Hope (as well as framing Scott as being still hung up on Jean's death), while Cap acts antagonistically and demands they hand over Hope, who is essentially a messiah to them, and refuses to even think about consulting them on how to deal with it, despite the fact the X-Men, especially Scott, are the most experienced with it, while Wolverine ends up believing that the only solution is to kill Hope.
When the Phoenix gets closer, they decide to attack it, resulting in the creation of the Phoenix Five who, upon being antagonized by the Avengers, become insane and corrupted by their power and eventually ends with Xavier's death. The entire conflict and event, right down to the destruction of Wakanda, comes down to the Avengers refusing to even think of cooperating with the X-Men, who, by the way, turn out to be right about the Phoenix, showing that if they just let them deal with it, this whole mess would have been avoided.
While the X-Men aren't completely blameless (Scott could have been more open to a compromise, but Cap was hardly asking for one), the Phoenix Five at least have the excuse of being possessed by a damaged and corrupted God, twisting their perceptions and morals (The Phoenix is a force that requires complete mental stability to keep it in line; something that is hard to keep when you're being harassed by Cap and his friends, or when your Messiah is kidnapped by the 'good guys'; it doesn't help that the five X-Men who become the P5 themselves are also mentally unstable to different examples, with one being possessed by another godly force at the time), and making them a threat, all of which was the fault of Wolverine, Captain America, and Iron Man. The day that Captain America becomes an unsympathetic character does not speak well of Marvel's competence level. Granted, no one looked good in a story that was basically one big Idiot Plot.
Was also a problem with Marvel's controversial Civil War where, depending on the writer, the level of sympathy one could feel for the characters at any given time wavered greatly. Sympathy for Iron Man in particular took a big hit when he and the other Pro-Registration Heroes started throwing the Anti-Registration Heroes into an extra-dimensional prison without trial(s). Again, all suffered due to the Idiot Plot.
This proved to be a huge problem with the character Magog in DC Comics. When introduced in Kingdom Come he was a caricature of the worst part of 90's heroes, and was fairly popular for it, as he seemed so pathetic and remorseful. When he was brought into the main DC Universe he was given a huge push and eventually added to the Justice Society of America and later given his own series. He was shown to be a war veteran with PTSD, but proved to be so unlikable and mean to his teammates that he was eventually killed off in Justice League Generation Lost.
Otto Octavius is supposed to be the protagonist of Superior Spider-Man, being a Darker and EdgierAnti-Hero. To most, he comes off as a Villain Sue. Most of the fans despise him and the series for various different reasons. The behaviour of Dan Slott has not helped in the slightest.
Given that the character is in fact a supervillain who essentially murdered the real Spider-Man and took over his life, completely obsessed with outdoing him, this is likely intentional. Not that it makes him any nicer to focus on.
The dragon queen, T'mat from Gold Digger. Gold Digger operates on Rousseau Was Right and everyone is given a second chance. However, it's hard to sweep T'mat's actions under the rug. T'mat was tortured and raped by her former best friend Dreadwing during his rampage 1000 years ago and suffers from PSTD from the incident and sought revenge from two elves who inadvertently helped Dreadwing gain power and threatened death on anyone who tried to stop. This led her to have the elves captured and imprisoned for her to torment at her leisure. When the elves' friends came to rescue them, T'mat went on an assault of violence and murder, all the while ranting like a self-righteous maniac. It only ended because Summoner began to threaten revenge on her for killing Tirant and T'mat saw the error of her ways and was saved by the same elves she was trying to torture. Later, she would try and enslave Britanny for her power to paralyze Dreadwing and would injure a political leader in rage. Naturally, no one's shown any umbrage at her actions.
Frigid Winds And Burning Hearts claims to be even-handed when it comes to Princess Luna vs. Princess Celestia, but swiftly comes down on Luna's side. Even as it reveals she was perfectly willing to have all of Equestria collapse into riots and civil war if it meant she could leave. Even as she bullies, lies, and manipulates every other pony she meets to have her way.
In How I Became Yours, Prince Zuko, upon finding out that Mai hid his letters to Katara, hits her, divorces her and runs off to go to Katara. He's meant to be motivated by love and reacting to Mai's betrayal, but he comes off as an abusive husband and irresponsible ruler. Similarly, Katara is portrayed as grieving over her baby's death, but comes off as selfish by inexplicably emphasizing that her unborn son died a day before her birthday, and the morality of her decision to kill Mai with bloodbending instead of taking her in alive comes off as fairly questionable.
My Immortal: According to the author, you are supposed to like Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way . For those who don't know, Ebony is basically every negative stereotype about goths made manifest, in the vessel of a self-centered sociopath.
In The End Of Ends, Beast Boy is this, even before he becomes Count Logan and starts destroying entire worlds. His whining over Terra wanting a normal life, even one away from him, easily qualifies as Wangst, he essentially stalks Terra, and resigns from the Titans because after they call him out on beating up Terra's friends, he's convinced none of them like or appreciate him.
Despite Cori Falls going out of her way to make them sympathetic woobies, her versions of Jessie, James and Meowth become very unsympathetic as her stories go on; not only in their brutal treatment of characters like Ash, but in their self-righteous behavior and constant whining about their bad lot in life.
Peter Parker, in the 2012 reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, is clearly meant to be someone we are meant to sympathize with given the tragedies in his life and the twists and turns he goes through, but a lot of audiences tend to instead see him come off as an unlikable prat. While he is grieving for half the film following his uncle's death, a lot of audiences don't see that as justifying enough, primarily with breaking his promise to George Stacy right after his death.
Many viewers saw the Na'vi as arrogant, xenophobic hypocrites who were Not So Different from the human antagonists. For example, they hold themselves above humans because they always mate for life, but when Neytiri finds out Jake's true mission, she leaves him to die.
Furthermore, while we don't know who fired the first shot originally, the first time the audience sees Neytiri she's shown planning to shoot Jake with an arrow coated with a neutrotoxin, simply for the crime of walking in their territory. Furthermore, the RDA machinery are covered in spears coated with the same neurotoxin, meaning that the Na'vi are just as guilty of attacking the Humans and are indeed, actively doing so throughout the film.
Jake himself, the movie's main hero, spends months dicking around with the Na'vi and enjoying having legs again while feeding intel to Quaritch, instead of warning them about their imminent destruction. Supposedly they won't listen to him until he passes his manhood ritual, but when he finally does pass, does he tell them about the invasion that will be arriving to wipe out their home tomorrow? Nope, he goes and bones the Chief's daughter instead.
In The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, the Kids are obviously intended to be depicted as the innocent, sympathetic victims of prejudice in a story about how people should be judged for their personalities rather than their appearances. Fair enough, except they have almost no personality outside of being incredibly disgusting. Between extremely gross and/or uninteresting pointless shenanigans and frequently breaking the law, they come off more as Humanoid Abominations than The Grotesque. Let's just say you know its sad when you find yourself rooting for an institute literally called "The State Home for the Ugly" that is heavily implied to brutally murder ugly people.
In the Christian propaganda film Rock: It's Your Decision, the main character is meant to come off as a good Christian trying to steer clear from the "sins" of rock and roll and save others from it, but instead he comes off as a closed-minded and bigoted jerkass to anyone who doesn't share the same values and interpretations of Christianity as the protagonist (and even then in some cases, as many Christians have no difficulty reconciling their faith and an enjoyment of secular entertainment).
At the beginning of the movie he was basically a normal guy until he found out about all the dangers of rock music, and then he became a walking stereotype.
He even turns against his own mother, who brought the youth pastor in to get him to quit rock music in the first place, when he decides that the soap operas she always watches are evil, too.
In Star Trek: Insurrection, theBa'ku were supposed to come off as innocent victims of an under-the-table Federation and the devious Son'a (who are actually exiled Ba'ku), but instead, they came off as selfish/self-righteous pricks who won't share (or tolerate anyone of their own who wants to share) their planet's amazing healing powers, leaving the rest of the galaxy to die of ailments they themselves easily overcame. There's only a few hundred of them, so the vast majority of the planet is uninhabited. It's worth noting that Picard's argument that moving them violated the Prime Directive doesn't even hold up, since they were an non-indigenous group of Luddites, so they had just as valid a claim to the planet as the Federation colonists.
Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker from the prequel trilogy. He is meant to be seen as a sympathetic Tragic Hero whose fall to The Dark Side was due to his love for Padmé Amidala (his wife) and the fear of her dying in childbirth. Unfortunately, he comes off as a WangstingJerkass who feels that he's entitled to be a Jedi Master.
In Unstoppable, main character Will Colson's wife has a restraining order against him keeping him from being able to see his son. The reason for the restraining order is because he suspected his wife was cheating on him, then gets upset when she won't submit to his spot check of her cell phone, grabs her violently, pulls a gun on a police officer and friend of his because he suspects he's sleeping with his wife, and she's not even cheating on him. Because he one of the heroes of the movie, we're meant to sympathize with him and want him to get back together with his wife, despite the fact that he could easily be the villain in a Lifetime Movie of the Week.
A Clockwork Orange, the main character Alex to people who didn't like the movie. While the audience is meant to sympathize with him as a victim of a cruel society that is no better than he is and is punishing him for not conforming, his actions in the film which include assaulting and leaving a man a cripple, while raping his wife right in front of him, caused many people to lose sympathy for him a long time back. Not helped that the authority figures like the police and the prison warden that are supposed to be worse than him come off as too silly, being authority figures that are evil for no reason besides suiting the film's message, to be taken seriously.
Seb. It starts well enough, with his genuine regret for his bullying of Jamie, which is even revealed to be because he's an Armored Closet Gay who was terrified of his attraction to him. But then he's revealed to be a magician, despite which we're still supposed to think he's a nice guy whose eventual Heel-Face Turn was inevitable. Just one problem: before that turn there are not one but two scenes where the other magicians, in his presence, threaten to kill a little kid, and he doesn't raise a single word of protest. It doesn't even come off as him being too scared to speak up; his presence is simply ignored.
Helen. She's supposed to be seen as a Worthy Opponent who simply sides with the magicians out of pragmatism. Except at the end of book 2 she murders Annabel without a second thought, and despite her posing no real threat. This makes her Heel-Face Turn come off more as a Karma Houdini who's still just as evil, and just biding her time until she can show her true colors again.
One of the reasons Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is so polarizing was Harry's characterization. We're supposed to feel sorry for Harry because he witnessed Cedric's death and nobody believed him about neither Voldemort nor the Dementor incident, but he comes off as incredibly wangsty when he complains about it, especially since this was thethird time Harry was accused of something, but handled the first two with better maturity. Then there's his breakup with Cho. Harry of all people should have known that she was still grieving for Cedric, but still decided to date her anyway. Then there's Harry pretty much dumping her because she called out Hermione for disfiguring her friend, and she had every right to.
Zoey and her friends, in the The House of Night series. The group as a whole are supposed to be outcasts known as "the nerd herd", but it's hard to see them as that when all of them are given extra-special powers directly from the vampire goddess. All of them have a tendency to be pretty rude to each other (most often it being the Twins constantly making gay jokes at the expense of Damien and Jack), which is meant as friendly ribbing but doesn't really come across as such. Zoey herself is extremely judgmental, dubbing many female characters (including ones we never even see in the series) as "sluts" and "hos", constantly making disparaging comments about the behaviors or appearances of people in various groups (this includes, but is not limited to, goths, emos, chess club members, cheerleaders, people who use too much eyeliner, people who smoke marijuana, women who give blowjobs, people with bright red hair, girls who take dance class, and homeless people). She's incredibly shallow, constantly focusing on outward appearance first and foremost. She constantly complains about suffering stress from the various hardships she has to deal with, but she herself does virtually nothing to solve the problems herself. Instead, she waits until the end of the book, when Nyx magically tells her what to do and gives her the powers to do it. We're also supposed to pity her terrible home life, except that ridiculous stepfather aside, her complaints about her siblings are that her sister is having lots of sex, and her little brother plays violent video games. When we see her meeting her mother on her birthday, she constantly reacts in a condescending manner, and makes no effort at all to reach her mother halfway on any attempts made to bond with her.
Patch, from Hush, Hush. We're meant to feel sorry for him for losing his status as a well-respected archangel and the mortal woman he loved, as well as pity him for lacking the ability to feel things. Trouble is, he chose to abandon his job and home for a girl he hardly knew. Upon losing his wings, he sought out a Nephilim and forced the poor guy to be his slave for eternity, stealing his body for two weeks out of the year (and with the Nephilim able to feel everything). In other words, his situation is entirely his fault, but he never really acknowledges it. Oh, and his ultimate plan to become human and fix his problems centers around murdering an unsuspecting girl. He doesn't go through with it, but he doeslure her to a motel room and hold her on the bed while threatening her, which is supposed to be steamy but comes across as something else entirely.
Janie from Their Eyes Were Watching God . Her first husband spends the first few months of their marriage waiting on her hand and foot, but when he eventually starts expecting her to pull her weight around the farm she runs off with the first young hottie she sees. She even tells her grandmother that Husband #1 is completely incapable of ever being loved by anyone...because he's ugly. Her issues with Husband #2 are more legit (he hits her at one point), but even then it's hard to sympathize—unlike Husband #1, he doesn't want her to work much, but she just complains more about being bored and how the little work she has watching the store is too much math for her poor little head. Then she tells him off on his deathbed and at one point blames all her problems on her dead grandma, who told her not to run off with Husband #2 in the first place. Jeez!
It's easy for Okonkwo, protagonist of Things Fall Apart to come off this way. He's meant to illustrate a rich native culture that is destroyed by the European colonists. Unfortunately, he's also a racist, sexist control freak who savagely beats his own son after his son converts to Christianity. The finale of the book, meant to elicit despair, can instead come across as justice being served.
In Trixie and Dan's interactions in the Trixie Belden book The Black Jacket Mystery, neither of them are portrayed as completely innocent. Trixie, however, is the main character, and it is obvious from the narration that the audience is supposed to side with her. But that's difficult to do considering these factors, especially during re-reads:
Trixie lives in a sheltered small town, with an intact, stable family, in nice farmhouse with farm property. Her father is the bank manager, her mother is a homemaker. The family is said to be poor, but they never face any financial difficulties or shortage of food or clothing, and they can afford to give four teenagers five dollars a week each (This was established in 1951. With inflation, that's over forty dollars per teen each week). Her closest friends are exceedingly wealthy for their time. Trixie is thirteen.
In contrast, Dan lived through the death of his father, and later on, the death of his mother, lived on the streets of New York City for a time, joined a street gang to survive, was arrested in a gang fight, and shipped off to live with his uncle, who he didn't know at all. The uncle, embarrassed to be associated with him, denied relationship to him, and shipped Dan off to live with a hermit-like gamekeeper who lived in the middle of the woods. Not only did this mean Dan was isolated from diverse human contact, but we later see that he was forced to walk long distances to reach the school bus stop (or get to anywhere) and was not equipped with the proper gear for rough terrain in winter, nor did he actually know the way. Why this arrangement was allowed is anyone's guess. Dan is somewhere between fourteen to sixteen when this is taking place. Granted, Trixie only knows about where Dan is living, not why, until the book's ending.
The very moment Trixie sees Dan, she points and laughs with her wealthy friends, mocking his clothing. He notices this and takes offense, and doesn't make any effort to impress them when they are introduced, which irritates Trixie. However, not only is understandable to be cold toward a person who was openly mocking you, but on re-reads, the audience realizes that Dan probably did not have much other clothing to wear. Basic logic guarantees his urban-style clothing would be viewed differently in a small suburban town.
When Trixie and her wealthy friend Honey go horseback riding, they notice Dan wandering around the game preserve where he works, attempting to walk home from school, wearing clothing that isn't adequate for winter of wilderness. Honey offers to help him, while Trixie stares at Dan judgmentally, but Dan sullenly refuses Honey's help, expressing reservation about associating with the daughter of his employers (Again, understandable in his situation). Trixie is angered by Dan's unfriendliness, and insults him to Honey as though Dan isn't there. This incident begins bad blood and verbal battles between Trixie and Dan for the rest of the book, including her falsely accusing him of theft and vandalism based solely on circumstantial evidence, which brings Dan's uncle to dislike him even more (though Trixie isn't aware of this). All of this is in spite of three people- Honey, another wealthy friend, and family friend whom Trixie believes is Dan's grandfather (he's not)- asking Trixie to make more of an effort to be nicer to Dan, at which she only gives a single, half-hearted attempt.
Trixie's actions and opinions unintentionally isolate Dan from his uncle, his guardian, and the few people who live within five miles of him, which includes Trixie's close friends. Some of this is Dan's fault due to his surliness in regard to Trixie and her friends, but he wouldn't have acted that way had she not begun deriding him the moment she laid eyes on him. However, if he had had someone to confide in with his problems, most, if not all, of the damage that took place during the story could have been avoided, and the villain certainly would have been caught sooner.
Basically, looking at the book from Dan's perspective, a sheltered, spoiled, wealthy girl who is loved by all continually belittles and insults him, destroys his chances of turning over a new leaf, temporarily ruins his relationship with his uncle, and makes false accusations against him, and leads to a dangerous criminal being able to go undetected. It's a wonder why Dan bothered becoming friends with Trixie afterward, let alone saving her and her younger brother's life at the end of the book.
Bella Swan from Twilight, whose helplessness, constant whining, frequent disdain for other people, and lack of any real problems cause many to regard her as an Anti-Sue. Ditto for her love, Edward, who is so smug and perfect that it's hard to care about any emotional issues.
The Cullens in general could count. They are held up as the epitome of generosity and goodness. Even so, they generally are cold and anti-social to anyone who isn't another vampire or Bella, they are hostile towards the werewolves even though some (for example, Alice) never even met the werewolves before, and they are perfectly fine with letting vampires that do drink human blood hang around the area. Apparently their desire to protect humans only counts as long as they themselves are killing, and so long as the human isn't Bella. Also, every one of them except for Carlisle has killed at least once in their past, and recollections of said murders are generally treated as embarrassing incidents that are swept aside.
From the latter half of New Moon and on, Jacob generally becomes this. His endless pining after Bella, even though it's obvious she'll always choose Edward over him, makes him come across as pretty dense (and also raises the question of what he finds so great about her that he constantly returns for more abuse). In Eclipse we're meant to feel sorry for him for being rejected, but he becomes unlikable when he continuously guilt-trips Bella into showing affection for him. This reaches its peak when, upon finding out she got engaged to Edward, he basically threatens to let himself die in battle if she doesn't kiss him... and then complains mid-makeout session that she's not putting her all into it. Any sympathy Jacob still has is lost in Breaking Dawn, where it's revealed he is a pedophile and is grooming an infant for sex. This is portrayed as no less romantic, because she looks 17.
Joane Walker from The Walker Papers. While, admittedly having a metric ton of very good reason be sullen, cynical, and unwilling to take up herintended calling of Shaman, the way she was written comes off as bitchy, idiotically immature, and obstinate out of spite towards the world, and her redeeming qualities are there just to artificially induce sympathy.
Sam and Astrid from Gone, for a lot of friends. Their character arcs weren't bad, exactly, it's just that they were both kind of Mary Sues, and a lot of fans felt they got too much focus compared to the far more interesting secondary cast.
Caine, for a lot of the series, particularly in Plague. You're supposed to see him as a misguided and twisted person, but ultimately understandable. But it's hard to feel sorry for him when he takes advantage of and abuses Diana, the only person who actually cares about him. This was fixed in Light for a lot of fans, though.
Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey. We're supposed to feel sorry for him because he was hungry as a child, his mother was, in his words, "a crack whore" who died when he was small, and her pimp was abusive. All of these things are supposed to have resulted in a man who is Troubled, but Cute. He despises his young mother, Ella (whom his subs all strongly resemble), for having been an impoverished and addicted prostitute, saying that she was "harsh" and unloving and that she did not protect him from her pimp. However, he also remembers that she made him a birthday cake and that she was abused by the pimp as well, even when she was asleep or unconscious. Furthermore, his hatred of blonde women stems not from his statutory rape by and sexual enslavement to an adult woman named Elena Lincoln from age 15 to age 22—which everyone but Ana treats as a good thing until the end of the second book and which is ignored thereafter—but from a blonde female cop who removed four-year-old Christian from the room where his mother's corpse had lain for four days. Toddler!Christian thought that his mother was sleeping (thus indicating that her body didn't reek or rot, which suggests that Ella was a saint) and was outraged at being taken away from Ella...which doesn't mesh well with the notion that he wasn't close to her. And to top it all off, the series itself emphasizes that Grey remembers very little of his mother or of the abuse; most of what he "knows" is hearsay from his adoptive parents and supposition (based on that hearsay and on Christian's nightmares) by his current psychiatrist.
Somehow, these four years of barely recollected hunger are supposed to woobify him, despite having, for the next twenty-four years, a rich family that clearly adores him. And, when you combine his canonical dislike of surprises and change with his lack of progress with any psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor, it's clear that he doesn't want to change and get past his issues. He likes having the excuse to hit and screw "little brown-haired girls" who look like his mother.
And despite his being hungry as a toddler, he never thinks about helping the 15.9 million American kids who suffer from hunger every year. He invests in the odd agricultural program to help people in developing countries, but he does nothing to fight hunger in his own country. Instead, he uses it to guilt-trip Ana. Every time she's insufficiently sympathetic, he hammers home the point that he was soooo hungry as a four-year-old. It never occurs to Ana that he hasn't been hungry since.
Many of the older alien races in the Stargate Verse are meant to be seen in a sympathetic light, but come bit short.
The Nox, an ancient race who were once members of the Four Great Races, who keep to themselves in modern times. They claim to have an advanced pacifist philosophy due to their stance of never fighting anyone even to defend themselves. Oh course they have the ability to render themselves invisible and revive the dead but never offer these wonders to those countless innocents suffering under the Goa'uld every day makes them come across as selfish at best. Many of them claim that the earthlings policy "the strong defend the weak" as self-righteous and stupid, often calling them "very young". At the end of their introductory episode it comes across as extremely hypocritical when their leader tells the team that "their ways not the only way".
The Tollan were an advanced race who made some mistakes during their first ever "first contact". After the neighboring aliens used the technology given to them to blow themselves all up, the Tollan's decided to strictly adhere to a policy of never sharing any advanced technology with any alien race less advanced than their own. This came back to bite them hard when this policy (combined with their lack of upgrading their defensive technology) led to them being blackmailed and later wiped out as a whole.
When Tony Almeida underwent a Face-Heel Turn in 24 he was clearly supposed to be seen as some sort of Tragic Villain who has had his family violently taken from him. But it's so quickly thrown in out of the blue that he doesn't come off sympathetic at all. It also doesn't help that the same season that had said event that would drive him to said Face Heel Turn portrayed him as drastically different: although he was of course devastated by the loss even though he did contemplate taking revenge on one of the killers he still threw the chance for revenge away because he knew it was morally wrong. So it just comes off as a nasty case of Character Derailment.
It also doesn't look much better when you compare it to Jack Bauer's Face-Heel Turn period in the final season. Both of them endangered innocent people, but in completely different ways. Jack did become a danger to others during his attacks, but only because at this point they had become so reckless that innocent people were now running the risk of getting harmed in the crossfire - the only people he directly tried to harm were enemyagents the whole time. Tony on the other hand had no qualms about killing anyone and everyone to further his goals, at one point even being willing to infect a crowd of innocent men, women and children in a subway station with a lethal virus.
The main protagonists of Charmed slowly become this in later series, turning from the Big Good into a bunch of selfish heroes-in-name-only that are more concerned with their own petty lives, than actually saving the world. The Avatar arc of Series 7 had them ultimately agree to a plan to end the battle between good and evil once and for all. Except, their reasons for agreeing was not because they'd hit the Godzilla Threshold where the apocalypse was looming and evil was in danger of winning, but because they were simply too lazy to continue fighting!
Phoebe, who the show insisted was the victim of Cole's actions, despite being technically responsible for his descent into insanity and even preventing him from attempting a Heroic Suicide at least twice, because he felt he was in danger of becoming evil again. We're meant to sympathise with her, but the large majority of the audience felt that she was the bigger villain.
Assorted guest characters on Cold Case, often of the Unwitting Instigator of Doom flavor; this person may not be the murderer, but they're still, however indirectly, responsible for the victim's death.
Leah in "Wishing." She allowed an autistic classmate with a crush on her to kiss her, then cried rape when caught by her Jerkass boyfriend. This gets the poor kid committed as a "sexual risk," and things only go downhill from there, culminating in a Mercy Kill.
The victim's mother in "Time to Crime," who began an affair with an obviously-untrustworthy arms smuggler and was inevitably cheated on herself, and yes still tried to get him back. Had she not attempted this, her daughter would still be alive.
The victim's Fat Bastard best friend Butch in "Kensington." He was intended to be shown as a man broken by the loss of his job, but just came off as a dick. Unlike the others, however, he is actually punished; as he witnessed the murder and did nothing, the cops arrest him as accessory.
Desperate Housewives gave us Katherine Mayfair, who, after being dumped by Mike Delfino, went insane and delusional. She then orchestrated a plot in which Mike was framed for attacking her (complete with her pointing to him as the ambulance arrived, getting him arrested.) Later, the women, including Susan, Mike's wife, are all shown as forgiving her, and we're supposed to take their side, but what happened is treated as water under the bridge, she never once apologizes to Mike or shows any regret for her actions. She came off more as a sociopath, and we were still supposed to like her.
Monica in Friends was portrayed as being overweight and weird during her teenage years. The audience is supposed to feel bad for Monica who grew up being a virgin for a long time and had very few friends but it's hard to sympathize when past Monica is always referenced to eating a lot or breaking stuff with her size while her present self is neurotic and OCD over being clean. In fact, this was handled so badly that this trope used to be called Fat Monica.
And Rachel, who we're meant to feel sorry for because she keeps losing Ross and has to watch him date other women...except she's the one who broke up with him (and refused to take him back), malevolently manipulates The Unfair Sex and back stabs any woman he tries to move on with.
We're also meant to sympathise with her 'empowering' journey of getting over her spoiled upbringing and breaking into the fashion industry. That works early on when she's vulnerable and hard-working but not much later when she's unprofessional, lazy and 'empowering' equals taking Ross's daughter to a different continent from him. It doesn't help that Monica is clearly more hard-working, Chandler more capable and Ross more intelligent in their respective jobs but she's still the 'Career' character.
However it should be noted that, both Ross and Rachel have been called out on several occasions throughout the show for their shortcomings and refusal to take fault, arguably more spectacularly and exceptionally than the others. While maybe not proportionately to their actions, there are times they are intentionally played as Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists.
Thanks to its penchant for Unfortunate Implications, lots of characters in Glee have a tendency for falling into this. One particularly notable one is its Designated Hero, Will Schuester. His supposed virtue is that he is a compassionate teacher who genuinely cares for and puts all of his students first. But it's a bit hard to see him as the sweet teacher he's made out to be after he planted drugs in a student's locker to blackmail him to join Glee Club. And after he blatantly favors a select handful of students within his group (namely the only two white, heterosexual, non-disabled students in the group). And after he abandons his students on their competition day to pursue a personal audition. And after watching him let open acts of bullying of his own students go unreported, even when it lands one of them in the hospital.
Megan Ramsey from “Repression” is a great example due to just convenient her situation turned out. Megan was a unrepentant drug addict who was cut off. She goes to therapy and recalls her childhood molestation by her father, she reports the incest hoping it would spare her younger sisters from suffering the same fate, and the threat of this seems credible because her middle sister implies she may have walked in on her father just after molesting the youngest. In the end, the middle sister accidentally shoots the father shortly after falsifying evidence of molestation against him, and we find out that Megan's memories were falsely coached by her therapist and the father was innocent; the therapist is arrested for reckless endangerment, but Megan gets exactly what she wanted from the beginning: to be allowed back in her rich parents' house with her mother taking care of her, despite the fact that this means that her drug addiction had nothing to do with any childhood trauma on her part.
In "Influence", a teenage girl falsely accuses two classmates of rape, makes advances on a third, and hits nine pedestrians in a car crash, killing one. Medical tests reveal that she recently stopped taking her medication for bipolar disorder, but since the Hollywood Psychology presentation of bipolar disorder includes following a consistent pattern of behavior to avoid responsibility, it makes her look more like a sociopath using the media circus surrounding her case to get away with it.
The basic premise of "Transitions" has a trans girl (born male, identifies female) being constantly, violently angry, but only against females, particularly a group of girls who didn't want her to use the girls' bathroom, and proudly declare she beat her (entirely supportive) mother in order to "strike a blow for her freedom" after being caught sneaking into the house at two in the morning. She also has a host of other mental problems, a history of self-harm, attempted suicide, virulent hatred of her father, and generally having serious anger issues that, while exacerbated by the stress of being an transgender adolescent, had nothing to do with her actually being transgender. And this all served to be an attempt to justify the attempted murder of her father by her school counselor, who is also a transwoman, and who tried to kill him in order to get some kind of displaced revenge for hate crimes she had experienced when she was younger. The writers at least seemed to realize this as Greyleck stated not every person that has been a victim can have am automatic get out of jail free card when they go looking for retribution. The end result is that the episode tried to show the plight of transgender people by making one of them insane and the other one a murderer, who both want a man dead essentially because he's not as supportive as they think he ought to be.
One episode had a full grown adult who pretended to be a high school student for years, essentially to avoid having to grow up, and in the process, had enough "high school sweethearts" she manipulated and slept with to fill a calendar. She was still seen as the victim for not being able to adjust to adult life, with her arrest for statutory rape being more of a legal formality with the victim's complaint not about being personally violated as much as being embarrassed for sleeping with an old bag. Although the ending seems to imply she's also batshit, it tends to fall in line with The Unfair Sex stance the show often takes.
In The George Lopez Show, During Benny's trial, George brought in Benny's mother to the stand and try and make Benny sympathetic to the jurors. While on the stand, she proceed to mock Benny and shows how bad a mother she was to Benny. This was done to make Benny seem like a Jerkass Woobie at the most since how bad she grew up in a broken home and being a single mother. The problem was that Benny was just as bad at raising George. Being emotional and physically abusive to him, being neglectful of his feeling, disregarding his learning disability, unsupported of his goals, and lying to him constantly. And as an adult she still a Jerkass to him and his family. It pretty hard to sympathize with her.
Nellie in The Office (US). Something of a Creator's Pet from the get-go, she was given "tragic" elements of her past to make her more sympathetic. Unfortunately, all of these elements were entirely self-inflicted, leading to this trope.
On the same show, the death of Kate's brother did not carry the emotional weight it should have done thanks to Kate's refusal to utilize common sense in her repeated attempts to rescue him. The writers were going for "headstrong" and "impulsive" in their characterization of Kate — unfortunately, all they really managed was "stupid." The ridiculous swinging between Wangst and trying to romance Robin didn't help her either.
And the cherry on top is the fact that Kate's brother was killed by Guy, resulting in a scene in which the audience has no reason to care about anyone involved.
And the cherry on top of that cherry is that depending on how you see it, Kate is at fault as well for the murder. He died because she got captured trying to get him out of the army and he died trying to save her. Some fans wonder if he might have survived had she just left him in the army.
The page quote comes from Linkara discussing Ransik from Power Rangers Time Force. Specifically, while Ransik's backstory involves mass Fantastic Racism against mutants like himself, he actually refused every offer of help he was given and attacked and left for dead a human who gave him a serum to protect him from a deadly poison. He also takes his vendetta a thousand years into the past and attacks people who are entirely innocent, and his focus seems to be more about gaining power than improving conditions for mutants. This isn't helped by every mutant bar one being portrayed as Always Chaotic Evil.
Going back a ways here, but this occurs quite a few times in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, where guest characters will have sympathetic backstories but will be utterly unlikeable, either due to bad acting or bad writing. One particular example is in Hercules season 4 ep 7 ("Blind Faith"), when a blind teenager is on an epic journey to find his sister. Despite his sympathetic backstory and plight, he is so insufferably defensive and full of irrational and unreasonable hate of the Amazons to the point of saying his own sister would be better off dead if she were one of them that you lose all sympathy for him very fast. In fact, it's the villains of the episode who come across as more sympathetic, in an example of Strawman Has a Point, then the villain of the episode has to be portrayed badly so Run is in the right at least for her.
Occurs in Scrubs when The Janitor, after losing a bet to Dr. Cox, has to watch his van being crashed into a wall, and the viewer is meant to feel sorry for him. Except that The Janitor has in the past done a number of similar actions, and many that were worse and show outright lack of regard for people that might get hurt and gotten away with them, with the only difference being that his actions were Played for Laughs.
30 Rock: Liz Lemon can come off as this a lot of the time, as she can be a pretty terrible person who takes out all of her problems on her staff and makes her problems sound bigger than they are, a lot of her problems are her fault and treats people pretty terribly.
Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, came off this way in the failed 2011 pilot. We're supposed to feel sorry for her because she had to leave her boyfriend for his own safety, and her life as an ordinary person is limited. That sympathy doesn't last long in the face of what she does during her superhero work: namely, torturing hospitalized suspects, bullying policemen, slandering rivals with no proof, and even killing security guards who are just workers for hire and otherwise uninvolved in the villain's plot.
Anthony from For Better or for Worse, so very very much. You're supposed to feel sympathy for him because his wife doesn't want their baby and he "doesn't have a home," but not only is it irritating, it rubs in the fact that he harassed her into have a child she didn't want in the first place. He lost even more ground when it came to light that he even promised that he would stay home with the kid, but had no intention of keeping that promise because he expected the magic of motherhood to kick in and somehow make his wife want to quit her job (which was heavily implied to make more than his did) and raise the kid anyways. But she's supposed to be the bad guy for wanting him to keep his promise and because she's not maternal.
Recently, everyone in the strip has begun to qualify. They're bitchy, selfish, and utterly unlikeable.
Rotor was introduced by Atton Rand in an attempt to undo his earlier Demonization of realists with a sympathetic realist character. At first, Rotor wasn't so bad. Even when he made it clear that he was willing to exploit Kate Bishop as a means to getting to Wallace Bishop, who seemed to be the most dangerous enemy on the island at the time, it was an understandably realist outlook on being willing to do what must be done. And then, he's scolding his T-1 Typhoon crew for not being willing to do what must be done; okay, fair enough, Greybeard's done it before... wait a second, is he ordering his own men to be executed by firing squad by means of Kangaroo Court? And now he's torturing prisoners, with a heavy dose of subtext that he doesn't even believe that they have the info he seeks; he might just be doing it For the Evulz? We're supposed to like this guy? He's no better than any of the previous realists Atton Rand introduced!
Fortunately, Rotor finally regained some sympathy when he started to clean up his act. That, and the fact that the two following Unintentionally Unsympathetic characters were introduced and made him look sympathetic in comparison...
Atton Rand had, to a certain extent, intended Trigger to be a sort of Spiritual Successor to Dust, inspired by his popularity to attempt to write an anti-hero of his own. Unfortunately he had the opposite reception which Atton had intended. He did attempt to salvage some dignity by at least giving Trigger a memorable death scene, but whether that succeeded is debatable.
Snake is a similar deal, as like his namesake he was intended to be likeable despite being an uncaring anti-hero. This backfired horrendously, especially when he was meant to look honorable in comparison to Plastic Serpent, who, to add insult to injury, became Unintentionally Sympathetic instead.
The main characters themselves from Romeo and Juliet can seem this way. Granted, they were Star-Crossed Lovers whose lives ends in suicide, due to their bad luck and the situation they were in being caused by their Feuding Families. But it can be hard to feel sorry for them at the end of the play, due to the fact that their misery is caused by their own impulsive actions.
This was, of course, the entire point of the play. Shakespeare didn't believe teens could find true love and fully intended for the characters to be impulsive and shallow (the fact that their entire romance happened over three days with Romeo getting married to her the same night he meets her is just further proof).
Bonus points if you call Rose after hearing their backstories. She basically tries to tell you to feel bad for them by saying "They had terrible upbringings. And That's Terrible". Snake's response to her opinions are harsh and to the point, he always reminds her that no matter what you've been through in life you always have a choice to do the right thing. The implication being that Snake, who has been through pretty horrific things in his own right, is living proof of that fact.
Within the Neptunia series, the games generally did a good job portraying the heroes as heroes and the villains as villains. The third game, Neptunia Victory, had a lot of problems with this matter.
The eponymous main character Neptune has become even lazier than she was in Mk2, spending YEARS without doing anything and being an ass to anyone who calls her out on her laziness. Even worse, she treats her beloved sister VERY badly, especially in the Good Ending (Spoiler: No, this ending isn't much of an ending at all...)
Of course, we have Base Breaker Plutia, with one side of the fandom loving her endearing laziness and her HDD mode as sadistic Iris Heart, and the other side thinking that her normal form is a lazy Anti-Sue and her HDD form an overpowered and bitchy Jerk Sue whose only reason for existing is to rape everybody.
This has the side effect of making the villains Unintentionally Sympathetic, as not only are THEY the ones going up against insurmountable odds (seven random people who aren't the most united working together against Physical Gods), their motivations of overthrowing the CPUs (who can be lazy, arrogant, sore losers and pretty illogical) can be pretty sound.
However, ONE villain has this problem. Rei, normally, is sympathetic. However, like Iris Heart, her HDD mode kills her character, making her an intolerable hypocrite unwilling to acknowledge her mistakes and actually DESERVING her ten thousand years of loneliness.
Adam Malkovitch from Metroid: Other M is supposed to be a stern but fair leader who geniously cares about the protagonist Samus Aran and a competent leader. However his actions on screen show him treating Samus with a mixture of condescending rudeness and cold indifference. Despite the fact that at this point she has a successful career as a bounty hunter and as a mercenary for the Federation who destroyed the entire base of the pirates, he still doesn't consider her as his equal and allows her to join his crew on the Bottle Station only if she strictly follows his orders. Which leads to the infamous Authorization System. Samus cannot use any of her equipment, even her defensive gears, until Adam says she can. At one point of the game, Adam asks you to go to a lava-filled area without the Varia Suit (a suit that protects you from deadly heat and convection). Eventually Adam does something heroic when he saves Samus from a metroid...by shooting in her back! For those reasons, many players were apathetic during his death scene.
Hazel from Girls with Slingshots: The author, Danielle Corsetto, has said that she deliberately writes her as a flawed character to make her more believable and relatable. However many times this crosses into Hazel being downright unlikable.
Celia from The Order of the Stick, for some readers. She serves as a moral foil for Belkar and Haley after the Azure City arc, but she's not an adventurer herself, so she spent most of her time being more of a hindrance than a help; her constant finger-waving at Haley while proving herself utterly ignorant didn't win her any fans, either.
Arthur: D.W. in the infamous "Arthur's Big Hit". The audience is supposed to feel sorry for her because Arthur Read hit her, but the problem is, she loses any sympathy she may have received by a) repeatedly bothering Arthur when he is trying to build his model plane (even ruining the paint job after she had been told not to touch anything), b) throwing the model out of the window, even though she has absolutely no right whatsoever to touch it, c) blaming Arthur for building a plane that can't fly, instead of apologising for her actions. To make matters worse, the parents punish only Arthur, instead of doing the sensible thing and punish both of them, and thus make D.W. a Karma Houdini.
Danny Phantom: In "Double Cross My Heart," a guy named Gregor shows interest in Sam Manson, while the hero Danny is suspicious of him. Sam calls him out for being suspicious and spying on them and yells at him, but this completely neglects that a) she did the same thing in the previous episode and received no criticism for it, b) this had happened before to someone else (Danny's sister), and c) Danny ended up being right for the wrong reasons (Gregor wasn't a bad guy, just an egotistical brat).
Unlike when Sam spied on Danny, Danny actually had a legitimate reason to spy on them: they knew nothing about Gregor so he may as well be a spy, he just didn't know he was jealous at the time. Sam spied on him solely out of jealousy.
Daria Morgendorffer from Daria was often treated by the show as being in the right for acting anti-social and not being a joiner. The other people she is shown to interact with range from total idiots to the outright bizarre. There are times when she acts wrongly and is called out for it, albeit mildly. However, in the series finale, she bombs her college interview, while her boyfriend aces his. When she is rejected from the college, she immediately bases the decision on the fact that he was a legacy student. And the show takes her side, in fact, Tom has to agree with her about it.
Ironically, when Glenn Quagmire called him out on everything in one episode, he became unintentionally unsympathetic to half the fanbase (the other half seeing it as a neat Take That, Scrappy!), as many found it hypocritical for Quagmire to be saying these things to Brian and felt he had no right to. That his hatred for Brian got flanderized since then, with Brian coming out more sympathetic in their encounters, hasn't helped.
Badly beating Brian for unknowingly sleeping with Quagmire's post sex change father and you know, being a huge sex-maniac, implied pedophile and more TRY to take the moral high ground hard doesn't help his case.
This reached its height in "Tiegs For Two", after a feud over dating, the two take part in a heated Escalating War where they are both portrayed as equally vindictive and petty towards the other. Quagmire's grudge with Brian has not been refered to since.
The Looney Tunes series of animated cartoons could sometimes fall victim to this (not that it made them any less funny, of course!):
"Canned Feud": Are we actually supposed to root for the mouse that pointlessly torments Sylvester left and right (with the intent of starving him to death no less)? Mind you, Sylvester had no intention of hurting him.
Also "Gonzales Tomales" where, angered by Speedy stealing their girls, the male mice trick Sylvester into thinking he's called him out for a fight. Sylvester dares him to just try it, upon which he gladly beats him to a pulp. Sylvester, the supposed villain of the story, was the only sympathetic character of the bunch (among Speedy's home wrecker tendencies and the rest of the mouse population resorting to murderous measures of revenge), yet still ended up the sole loser.
"Long-Haired Hare": While nobody would argue that Giovanni Jones is anything more than a violent hot-head and pompous Jerkass, the rather extreme measures Bugs Bunny takes to exact revenge on him (the ending borders on murder!) make it very hard to root for him.
In fact, this trope is what led to the creation of Yosemite Sam. Elmer Fudd was so pathetic that Bugs came off as more mean spirited, so the animators needed an even bigger and more belligerent Jerkass to be Bugs' victim.
"Mexican Cat Dance": Speedy, despite being the supposed "good guy" in this cartoon, is little more than a bully. Constantly tormenting and humiliating Sylvester for no reason other than sheer entertainment.
Benson from Regular Show is supposed to be sympathetic because he always has to deal with Mordecai and Rigby's antics, but he doesn't really handle the situations professionally. He berates them to their faces by often calling them idiots, puts them under harsh working conditions with little instruction, and can be an Ungrateful Bastard when the two save his life on multiple occasions, and yet still threatens to fire them. The last one was eventually lampshaded in A Bunch of Full Grown Geese when the mother calls him out for his ungratefulness.
South Park parodies this numerous times. For instance, when Eric Cartman contracts HIV he constantly reminds people of it for sympathy, and any time something bad happens to Cartman, he attempts to milk sympathy and fails.
Cartman: I'm not just sure: I'm HIV positive.
The second half of Tom and Jerry sometimes gets flak for this. While he is often the defending character being chased or victimized by Tom, this is often due to taking the role of thief, with Tom merely acting as a house cat ordered to prevent Jerry from stealing food. In addition Jerry could occasionally be sadistic, attacking Tom with minimal or no provocation whatsoever. Allegedly, MGM recieved fan letters siding with Tom over Jerry so began to moderate the formula with Laser-Guided Karma, with Tom usually acting more vindictive, and actually allowed to get the last laugh on Jerry whenever the latter took his offense to an unsympathetic level.
Total Drama Island: While it's true that Courtney has been through a lot of crap, including losing the first season unfairly and finding out Duncan cheated on her with Gwen, her actions make it difficult for some fans to sympathize with her. Not only is she willing to put others in danger to further her own goals, she is extremely abusive towards her (now ex) boyfriend Duncan, who she regularly hits and screams at.
Trent in Action. We were suppose to feel sorry for him after Gwen dumped him, but this was after his affection for her went from sweet and endearing to creepy and obsessive. He also had some petty jealously towards Duncan even though Duncan and Gwen (at least at the time) were just friends
The "Breakdown" episode that deals with Cyclops's origins on Wolverine and the X-Men. Though meant to gain the viewer's sympathy by showing what a tragic and awkward life he's suffered all the episode really does is kill what little credibility Cyclops was meant to have by portraying him first as an incompetent idiot who couldn't do anything right without Jean Grey there to hold his hand and then portraying him as a petty, insecure boyfriend who completely lost control of himself when Wolverine started hitting on Jean. True, Wolverine was being a jerk but Cyclops's reaction was way out of line.
Of course, that may be the point: Wolverine's Canon Sue tendencies are taken Up to Eleven in that series, and Cyclops is the main character you have to teardown to make a series like this.
And yet, in classic Double Standard fashion, it's perfectly okay for Jean to rough up Emma Frost when she sees the blonde getting too friendly with Cyclops.
In X-Men: Evolution, Lance's romantic subplot with Kitty starts with him saving her life — from an accident that he caused. He had also previously attempted to attack Kitty, and due to the nature of his powers, he tends to cause a lot of collateral damage (sometimes near schools populated by children who are never confirmed to have gotten out alive). To some people, all this makes it kind of hard to believe that Kitty would want him for a boyfriend. This also puts him in the somewhat unusual situation of being a common victim of both Ron the Death Eater AND Draco in Leather Pants.
A weird inversion actually happens because of this. The time Avalanche did attempt a Heel-Face Turn, Scott doesn't buy it and proceeds to mistrust him. This is made out to be wrong of Scott, except, he is completely justified in mistrusting him: Lance was actually his biggest rival and had pulled crap on him and others before. While we (as the audience) knew that Lance was trying to do good things for Kitty's sake, Scott simply lacked such knowledge since Lance had given him reason to be antagonistic, and thus it's understandable to have him not trust Lance off the bat, and it would've been Out of Character otherwise.
The fact that Lance doesn't try very hard to convince Scott otherwise doesn't help him either. And the fact that Lance rejects Scott's heartfelt apology (after Scott found out that he had been wrong about Lance) and goes back to the Brotherhood really doesn't help.
Frank Grimes from The Simpsons episode "Homer's Enemy". To explain, one of the main premises of this episode was the concept of a real person having to put up with Homer Simpson. But Frank is far from a "real" person in that his life is just exaggerated misery after misery, such as his parents abandoning him and waving goodbye all the way to losing a sweet position in the power plant to a dog. And Homer's annoying tendencies and stupidity were amped up a lot more than he usually was as if the writers were specifically trying to make Homer so obnoxious the viewers would have no choice but to sympathize with Frank. But it's hard to feel sympathy when Frank is overly wound up already. The episode falls more into Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy.
Adding to the problem is that Homer actually invites Frank into his house and makes an attempt at being friendly, and Frank outright rejects this out of rage over seeing how much better Homer's living conditions are than his. Add to that only Mr Burns' treatment of Frank is all that callous (dooming him into a dead end job after losing interesting in him and blaming him for mistakes Homer makes), the other residents of Springfield are generally friendly to him, just his contempt for Homer goes over their heads. The coldest thing they do to him (laugh at Homer's antics during his funeral) is after he's been put out of his misery.
Any pity you have for Skinner about his mother is quickly gone when you remember that he choice her over marrying Ms Kradapple. It’s the same thing for both him and Homer having to constantly deal with Bart’s antics. In Lisa’s Sax Homer outright said screw Bart in favor of Lisa and Skinner only showed up when Bart said Screw it and started acting out.
Burns: So, what do you think of today's popular music scene?
Lisa: I think it distracts people from more important social issues.
Burns: My God, are you always on?
Lisa: How can you stand around being kids when serious things are happening?!
Young Justice fell into this trap a few times without even realizing it. Neither Superboy nor his designated mentor Superman come off being particularly sympathetic, albeit for different reasons. We're obviously meant to sympathize with Superboy because Superman refuses to spend any time with him because he's creeped out by the fact that someone cloned him without him knowing it, but Superboy is such a rage prone whiner that after awhile it's hard to feel bad for him. Superman, meanwhile, is characterized as a shallow, superficial Dirty Coward and Jerkass for refusing to overcome his personal issues to help the obviously troubled Superboy... and the show does absolutely NOTHING to actually develop a relationship between them outside of a cheap "good job kid" moment at the end of season one and then doing a time skip to avoid doing any actual character development, making their "brotherly" interactions in season 2 look inherently false.
Then there's Roy Harper, AKA: Speedy, AKA: Red Arrow, AKA: Arsenal, both of them. We're obviously meant to feel bad for the first Roy we're introduced to when he learns that he's actually a clone who was used as an infiltrator against the heroes, but he spends so much of the show being a nasty, belligerent little asshole mistreating everyone around him that it's impossible to feel bad for him. The real Roy isn't much better.
Wally West, AKA: Kid Flash, was often a spazzy, unfunny little jerk, and his character development was... erratic to put it nicely. Most of the sympathy over his death in the series finale probably stems less from what few merits he had in the show and more from the fact that he was a long standing DC character and was actually the primary Flash for 20 some years, an honor he was strangely denied.