World of Jerkass

So, you want to create a story where terrible things regularly happen to people, but without the audience feeling too sad about their fates? Simple: make everyone a jerk!

All the citizens are apathetic and stupid, most of the humor is sadism-based, and your average Joe punts a few puppies before breakfast. In the more extreme examples, Ax-Crazy killers are allowed to roam free, Blood Sports are common, and no one even notices atrocities because they're too selfish to care. Expect It's All About Me to be the modus operandi of virtually everyone who lives there.

This trope becomes more likely the closer you get to the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. It's also more often than not Played for Laughs and used to facilitate Black Comedy. After all, it's much easier to laugh at the dogs being kicked if they all had it coming. Satirists are also fond of it, especially when they can use different types of jerkism to represent social problems. It's very frequently used to justify video games' cruelty potentials.

Played straight, it's often the signature of a very cynical writer, or even a sign of a Creator Breakdown, reflecting the way they've come to see Real Life. In cases where it is expected from the audience to root for the characters despite it all, it also runs a high risk of inducing Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy or causing viewers to utter the Eight Deadly Words if there are no nicer characters to make the world seem worth caring about.

A Sister Trope to the Crapsack World and they can overlap, but differentiated by the fact that the only thing that definitely makes it a bad place is that the author's written an unusual number of bad people into it - there's nothing necessarily wrong with the environment, the government, or the living conditions. In fact, it can look perfectly lovely from the outside. Also related to Humans Are Bastards, except that that trope refers to stories where the message is that humans in general are inherently bad or evil, where this one simply describes any plot or setting containing a disproportionate number of jerk asses ... and they don't have to be humans, either.

Also worth noting that not every single character has to be a jerk, just the overwhelming majority. Those characters who aren't jerkasses will often be idiots because their lack of understanding would be the only reason that they get along with the others, losers, or fail at everything they try in order to add to the cynicism of the setting. It can show how bad the rest of the cast are if they mistreat them and also that only losers would want to hang out with them.

Contrast World of Badass, World of Snark. Also compare Dysfunction Junction, Jerk with a Heart of Jerk and Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist


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    Anime and Manga 

     Comic Books 
  • Beautiful Darkness: Literally all of the fairies except Aurora are idiots, self-centered Jerkasses and bullies. Not one of them seems to care as they die one-by-one in various horrible ways, either by dying of their own stupidity or killing each other over petty shit. The audience feels no sympathy for the victims of the Kill 'em All plot.
  • The Wicked + The Divine has elements of this. Many of the characters tend to be rude, selfish, and occasionally inconsiderate, and there are even some murderers among them. Even the author has said the book stars ''problematic people doing problematic things." Only exceptions are Dionysus and Minerva, who count as Token Good Teammate.
  • Empowered, especially for the first volume or so. Emp is a Failure Hero surrounded by jerkass "heroes" who are usually just as unpleasant as the villains they fight. They treat her as a Butt-Monkey of the group and admit they only let her in for diversity. The citizens are apathetic and tend to stand around and laugh when Emp gets defeated by a villain. Eventually Emp meets Thugboy and Ninjette, who are fairly likeable, and some of the other heroes get more sympathetic.
  • Iznogoud: Baghdad, especially from the Tabary era onwards, but already in the Goscinny era. Not only is it governed by the oblivious Caliph and the evil Iznogoud, but Humans Are Bastards in that city, and most citizens are hypocrites who complain all the time about Iznogoud's ruthlessness but are willing to help him for a few bucks, despite knowing the consequences if he's ever successful. In "Chop and Change", after Iznogoud becomes the Caliph for a short time by changing bodies with him and starts unleashing his tyranny, one guy berates the wizard who helped him, but the latter doesn't seem to regret it.

    Fan Works 
  • Underfell is an Under Tale Alternate Universe where everyone will try to kill the protagonist the moment they fall down into the underground. The characters have sociopathic tendencies such as Toriel with the intent of burning them beneath that maternal appearance, Papyrus constantly bullying Sans, and Alphys as a Mad Scientist with a homicidal robot in her room. The only good monster who can help you get out is Flowey. It's up to the protagonist to befriend the monsters or kill them like in the base game with a twist. Killing them all has a gameplay akin to the Pacifist route, and befriending has the other way around.

  • Several Rob Zombie films are this way, with 31 and Halloween standing out, as even the protagonists are quite hostile most of the time.
  • Cannibal Holocaust: Both sides, the explorers and the native cannibals, are completely unsympathetic, and the audience is supposed to enjoy watching them slaughter each other. Only a couple of characters are remotely nice people, and they die too.
  • Pink Flamingos, as befits a story where the characters are competing over the title of "filthiest person alive".


    Live Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • The whole Grand Theft Auto series is probably the most famous example. Not only are the games filled with criminals (violent or otherwise), but Rockstar manages to make even the Innocent Bystanders seem like jerks via the snatches of dialogue we get to hear from them.
  • The Saints Row runs on the trope as well; thought it takes in a more comedy-based, somewhat absurdist direction than Grand Theft Auto; while the average citizens are apathetic jerks, every named character is more often than not a large-than-life, cartoonishly evil villain. It even acknowledges the amorality of the Villain Protagonist Player Character, by having other characters frequently accusing them of being a sociopath, to which the Player Character always retort that they like to think of themselves as more of a "puckish rogue".
  • The world of BlazBlue is not a place for friendly characters. Those few truly kind characters are usually portrayed as Butt Monkeys who suffer constant abuse at the hands of the much more unsympathetic characters, get screwed over constantly, and are traumatized in horrific ways. Even the Jerk with a Heart of Gold Ragna occasionally gets kicked around by people worse than him.

  • Two Guys and Guy: the main trio are an Ax-Crazy mad scientist, a sociopath, and a Jerkass loser. It seems the closer you get to the heroes the worse of a person you are- there are a few normal-to-nice one-off characters, but most of the regulars are sociopaths at best.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: It seriously varies from episode to episode, but the town of Springfield is so full of Jerkasses who are perfectly willing and able to bully or beat the hell out of anything and anybody that gets in the way of their status quo (or gets in the way of their desire to change their status quo, or just plain ticks them off, no matter how small or realistic the slight) that they are proud to be considered the "meanest town in America".
  • South Park is a Black Comedy and also subsequently a Sadist Show and have the entire cast full of obnoxious jerks, with the main characters being Good Is Not Nice at best and sociopathic Enfante Terrible at worst.
  • Archer is a harsh parody of James Bond and spy stories, where most of the cast are dysfunctional, self-centered, mean and/or stupid.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy is like this, with the kids being cruel to both the Eds and each other at near random, characters holding the Jerkass Ball every episode or so and the adults being either completely missing/apathetic or (in the case of Eddy's brother in the movie), even worse than the other characters.
  • Family Guy: The main characters are huge jerks to each other and get away with it. Even the dog and the baby aren't an exception to the general level of Jerkassery in this world.
  • The world of Rick and Morty is rather heavily populated by jerkasses. To summarize on a faction by faction basis:
    • The titular Rick is an amoral, hedonistic scientist who goes on adventures and has been known to cause chaos. His daughter Beth is a heavily deficient parental figure who almost aborted her daughter Summer, blaming her for not being able to chase her dreams. Beth's now ex-husband, Jerry, is a frequent coward who has attempted to use other people's pity. Morty, who starts out a mild mannered Butt-Monkey, if one with various kinks, develops some serious rage issues after being put through many of Rick's escapades. And then there's his older sister, Summer, who sometimes treats him like crap.
    • The Galactic Federation is an intergalactic organization primarily made of the Gromflomites, spans most of the known universe, occupying numerous planets, and is known for its ridiculous bureaucratic and sometimes tyrannical practices, which Rick is opposed to and has committed acts of terror in his fight against them. His issues are brought to light in the season 3 premiere (as well as the GF website that started in the interim), as the now occupied Earth is turned into a Police State, human rights and ways of life are trampled on by the Gromflomites who have replaced all food and currency with pills, subjected various people without consent to experiments, and replaces the Earth calendar with its own, among other arbitrary changes. While Rick has ended up casually murdering many GF soldiers and operatives, few felt bad for the federation when he ignited its collapse by voiding its unit of currency.
    • And in yet another corner, we have the Council of Ricks, an interdimensional collective of Ricks and Mortys that formed their own government. Naturally, Rick C-137 criticizes them for being extremely un-Rick because of this, and he's right, as they've been presented as Fascist, but Inefficient.