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Analysis / Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy

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Some possible causes of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy:

  • Movies and TV shows with Diabolus ex Machina and Kill 'Em All Downer Endings can have this effect for cynical viewers, since it means that all hope for the characters is lost when they were doomed to their fates.
  • Even shows where the heroes win a Pyrrhic Victory can devolve into this, especially if the heroes are whiny, ineffective or too slow to act. Sure the villains get defeated at the end, but their deaths seem small compensation for all of the havoc and death they caused. And if the villains corrupted the heroes or turned them against their ideals during the course of the story, the heroes' victory seems even MORE meaningless.
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  • Works that use Joker Immunity and Cardboard Prison heavily can often fall into this. This is especially the case if every time the villains come back from the dead/break out of jail they kill people. It can make it seem like the hero isn't really making a difference and that the villains will never truly be brought to justice.
  • Throwing in controversial scenes or topics such as rape (either for comedic or dramatic purposes), Cold-Blooded Torture, discrimination (even on the fictional races), genocide, or any form of Fate Worse than Death can also invoke this trope; particularly if the said scenes or topics were gratuitous, executed poorly, or cause a lot of Unfortunate Implications.
  • Abusing the Humans Are Bastards/Humans Are the Real Monsters trope too much can easily result in Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. Aside from the tendency of being overbearing, the end result is just another kind of Evil vs. Evil, and at that without any differentiation between them (since, well, all of those sides act as humans). Even variants with a few sympathetic characters can fall into the trap of making their failure on account of being good a Foregone Conclusion.
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  • In general, Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy was a common criticism with the '90s Anti-Hero craze back in The Dark Age of Comic Books. Many of these "heroes" (particularly the ones from independent publishers) were so evil that it was hard, if not impossible, to care whether they would come out of their adventures alive.
  • Games that provoke this reaction may still get their player base, mostly consisting of players that are perfectly happy to play the game and skip the story. For example, if the game requires the player to pick a faction to play as, they would simply choose sides with no interest other than the technical or aesthetic interest of playing one side or the other (or, such as in MMORPGs, the interest in teaming with real-life friends). However, if this crosses into gameplay, then these games may fall into "It's Hard, So It Sucks!" reactions.
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  • If the work in question is a comedy, it can avoid this trope even if it has Evil vs. Evil; the viewer doesn't have to care too much for the characters to enjoy watching them, and can have a fun experience watching entertaining villains. Weirdly enough, this is a trope that is actually encouraged in the horror genre, particularly in a Cosmic Horror Story. There's a common (though not ubiquitous) school of thought that says that despair is one of the critical components of a horror story. Therefore, giving the protagonists any hope of a happy ending will take away from the essential bleakness, and ruin the entire point of a horror story. That said, this tactic is a double-edged sword because giving up and not caring about the characters sucks a lot out of the fear factor and tension that the genre is based on. Dystopian fiction, particularly of the After the End variety, is another genre that's quite vulnerable to this trope for largely the same reasons.
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