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Darkness Induced Audience Apathy / Western Animation

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  • Some have had this complaint with the later seasons of Adventure Time, with the Darker and Edgier tone requiring the characters to have to endure a large quantity of emotional suffering. Granted, they do ultimately get their happy endings (most of the time) but the angst can still be a little difficult to sit through.
  • This trope led to Allen Gregory getting cancelled after just seven episodes. The main character (a pretentious, whiny 7-year-old who falls in love with his elderly principal) and his father (a gay man who forced a straight man to leave his family and have a relationship with him) were both completely unsympathetic. Nearly every character in general was tremendously hard to like, and even those one could sympathize with had unfortunate baggage.
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  • This is one of the reasons why the second season of The Amazing World of Gumball was rather divisive as the Wattersons were gradually flanderized into petty, ungrateful, selfish jerks that there's no one really to root for and, as a result, the show's attempt to be heartwarming comes off feeling forced and unearned. For example, in "The Hero", Gumball and Darwin laugh about how much of a loser their father is with their classmates, which Richard overhears and is wounded by. Instead of explaining how their insensitivity has hurt Richard, Nicole and Anais rage at the boys and decide to refuse them food, starving them into changing their mind for over a week. Darwin realizes the error of his ways while Gumball doubles down on how pathetic he thinks Richard is - verbally tearing into the man with surprising cruelty during the climax, while Richard is in the middle of trying to save his life. It's not an unpopular opinion that the inevitable reconciliation between father and son that happened a minute later felt very unearned and very rushed.
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  • American Dad! abuses Aesop Amnesia so heavily that it makes the characters look like they're just pretending to learn their lesson so that they can get away with everything they did in the episode. Nearly every character has some ulterior motive to get what they want and when they're called out on it, they just apologize and are Easily Forgiven.
  • In Beast Machines, the planet is essentially already dead and taken over before the first episode and the protagonists - the surviving cast of Beast Wars - are so flawed that watching them tends to provoke nihilism rather than attachment.
  • Word of God is that Ben 10: Omniverse being Lighter and Softer is partly due to executive seeing this as an issue with Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: The basic problems were with the first arc, which featured the protagonists being totally unable to do anything to defeat Aggregor until his last appearance... and replaced by an Ax-Crazy mutated Kevin, which results in the characters running into the exact same problems as earlier, but Ben decides, for whatever reason, to kill Kevin. The second season had a little less of this, but many, many subplots and arcs ended without resolution (due to the unfortunate passing of Dwayne McDuffie), which resulted in some characters being worse off than before. Also, we push the limits on just what you can get away with via a Gory Discretion Shot. Human-on-human outright murder, Mind Rape-loving Eldritch Abominations...
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  • Bojack Horseman isn't completely hopeless, but its rather bleak tone, morally ambiguous characters, contrast of the sheer number of good-hearted or at least well-intentioned characters being screwed over by the oppressive, saccharine-masked city of Hollywoo with the more despicable and powerful ones coming on top, detailed exploration of sexism, dementia, self-destruction, addiction, narcissism, nihilism, the very grim nature of depression and fleeting happiness, coupled with the brutally honest depiction of people's change depending on their will and resignation, it genuinely leave some viewers jaded, depressed or empty. However, its flip-side is true as well: so much bleakness often makes people root all the more for the few who try time and time again, even BoJack himself.
  • A few reviews have noted that Brickleberry tries too hard to offend, and as a result quickly desensitizes the viewers to its brand of humor unless they were already a fan of it.
  • One of the main reasons why fans are often divided with CatDog is because of how the main characters, Cat and Dog, are often treated by the other characters. The Greaser Dogs and Rancid Rabbit often bully Cat and Dog in every episode, even though there were times where Cat and Dog didn't do anything wrong. Also, whenever Cat and Dog actually succeed in getting what they want, they always lose everything in the end, no matter what. There are times where it's hard to sympathize with Cat and Dog themselves. Although Cat can be a jerk at timesnote  there would also be times where he gets punished for something whether he deserves it or not. Dog meanwhile is a Manchild too mindless and hyperactive to care about his brother's well being or the endless destruction he causes. Like Ed, Edd n Eddy mentioned below, this was thankfully rectified in the movie.
  • A milder case with The Critic according to Word of God. Jay Sherman was an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist during the first season. Season 2 (with his move to FOX) made him rounder (literally, in fact) and more likeable.
  • The Crumpets (in season 1 at least) can have this effect on audiences. Its central character, a baby named Li'l-One, is very unlikable when considering his motive to get rid of his father and receive all of his mother's love, and sometimes ruin the whole family for that goal. Many other main characters are also unsympathetic to varying degrees, such as Granny who can be selfishly greedy and side with Li'l-One, and Li'l-One's teenage sister Caprice who is a savage at worst, and the remainder may be too flawed or are temporary idiots or jerks. The nicer characters, as well as nearly any animal seen, are usually treated horribly too. The episodes may end with a protagonist or more falling to unluckiness, or is light after all if Li'l-One and/or Granny are viewed as villains.
  • Drawn Together plays this for laughs, but you can still grow to feel bad for the characters. This is also why a lot of episodes focus in some way on Foxxy Love or Xandir, or at least acknowledge them as the voice of reason (or as close to reason as the show allows), as they are the characters that get closest to relatable. Which says a lot about how the rest of the cast is, considering the former is a highly promiscuous Sassy Black Woman and the latter is a scantily-clad highly slutty version of The Twink, and both of them are racist, vulgar, murderous and bigoted.
  • In spite of its saccharine tone, nearly every episode of The Dreamstone focuses so excessively on the Urpneys' ridiculously low tier villainy and eternally miserable lives that it often becomes very hard to root for the over advantaged heroes thrashing them each and every time.
  • While not as extreme as the rest of the examples, Ed, Edd n Eddy can still cause this occasionally. The three main characters often go through a sheer amount of crap by the other kids, who often exclude the Eds from whatever shindig they participate in, and even in episodes where the Eds do nothing wrong, the kids still inflict cruel treatment on them just for the sake of watching them suffer. Also, the most sympathetic character, Double D, gets abused along with his friends anyway even though his only crime was being involved with his friends' antics, and Eddy, the leader of the trio, while not as cruel as Sarah or Kevin, can come off as a douchebag towards his friends at times ("Your Ed Here" has the audience sympathize for Eddy from all the humiliation Kevin puts him through (as well as the kids joining in), only to later have him turn into a jerk by having the kids make fun of Double D's middle name) and even gives the kids a good-enough reason to be pissed at him (such as giving Jimmy a wedgie in "If It Smells Like an Ed"). Needless to say, it's a bit of a mess. The movie at least finally makes everything they've been through amount to something.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Almost every human Timmy knows is a Jerkass who makes his life a living hell; his so-called friends are less than helpful and his parents are selfish jerks who forget his birthday and leave him with a monster of a babysitter. Even fans of the Sadist Show genre find this show to be a bit too harsh sometimes. Butch Hartman's other show, Danny Phantom, can occasionally go into this territory whenever Danny gets unfairly mistreated.
  • This is one of the reasons that the Family Dog series flopped. In the series, the Binsfords constantly fail to take care of their dog to the point that it borders on Black Comedy Animal Cruelty.
  • Family Guy suffered from Flanderization to the point where the main characters were almost unlikable for being overall jerks to each other and other people while getting away with it. The later seasons toned it down, though not by a whole lot; the family are pretty much used to the dysfunction and just roll with it like it's another everyday occurrence. This also has the unfortunate side-effect of making all the show's attempts at being dramatic/emotional either fall flat, come across as hypocritical and insincere, or head straight into narm territory.
  • A surprisingly large number of episodes (particularly from the later seasons) of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends fell under this as they became incredibly mean-spirited for such a light-hearted premise, thanks to the main characters' tendency to become Idiot Ball-carrying Failure Heroes that had a lot of crap piled onto them for no apparent reason and the antagonistic characters frequently screwing the main characters over without consequence.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: When the closest thing your show has to a likeable protagonist is the personification of death, you may have fallen into this trope. It doesn't help that Mandy, who is the most evil of the cast, always wins and almost never suffers any consequences for her actions. Meanwhile Billy, who is supposedly the nice one, is often just as much of a jerk as Mandy, treats his supposed friend Grim like a slave, and isn't above using Grim's death-causing powers as a weapon to get rid of people who annoy him, among other unpleasant things.
  • Invader Zim, if you consider Dib to be the real hero. Neither he nor Zim have any friends or moral support, both suffer from Failure Is the Only Option, but Zim is a Love to Hate nimrod whose SPECTACULAR failures are not only hilarious, but well-deserved. Dib, on the other hand, is trying to save everybody and repeatedly puts himself in harm's way to do so. The fact that the series ended without him getting any real acknowledgement (minus a brief pat-on-the-back moment in one episode) and the rumors that the unproduced Grand Finale would have given him a Kafka-esque fate only make it worse.
  • Kaeloo: The show is horrible to all its characters, everyone (except Mr. Cat) is an idiot and (again, except Mr. Cat and occasionally Pretty) usually gets away with whatever evil deeds they've done (yes, even Stumpy), the nice characters are abused by the not-so-nice characters no matter how nice they are to them, and everyone is completely insane.
  • Kid vs. Kat. Coop almost never catches a break, and he's pretty much treated poorly by everybody in his town, including his family and just barely minus his friends (most of the time). With how much he's constantly treated in the series it's no wonder he can act like a jerkass, and it can be pretty hard to watch for many.
  • The Last Days of Coney Island, if you are not a fan of Ralph Bakshi's typical dark themes and grotesque art style, can become a textbook case of this: Every character is either morally bankrupt or powerless, no one accomplishes anything meaningful except getting other characters and bystanders killed for petty reasons, and the entire film carries a kind of angry, frustrated tone to it. It says something about how pitch-dark this movie is in that it begins with footage of John F. Kennedy's assassination, played over and over.
  • The Loud House can occasionally dip into this territory at times, with main protagonist Lincoln Loud constantly getting hurt, humiliated, or pushed around in virtually every episode (not to mention he acts pretty selfish on a frequent basis). The antics caused by his 10 sisters don't really help, as they each tend to be either ignorant, stupid, or just straight-up jerks to Lincoln and each other.
  • Mr. Pickles. Everyone's stupid and hideous, the title character is a Karma Houdini Villain Protagonist and Devil in Plain Sight, there's blood and gore everywhere, and the "satire" doesn't have enough subtlety to justify any of it. And to top it off, the show doesn't put much effort in to actually make it humorous.
  • Some viewers feel that the biggest problem with My Gym Partner's a Monkey was just how mean-spirited it was to protagonist, Adam Lyon. Everyone in the show is an example of The Ditz and/or Jerk Ass (with the exceptions being Ingrid Giraffe and Windsor Gorilla, but even they had their moments). Nearly every episode is based around a single concept: Adam gets himself into a situation which results in him having to try not to lose his sanity, life, friends, brain cells, etc. to the animal students and staff members. When the conflict is solved, Adam is still treated like crap by everyone because his victory turns out to be a bad thing or he has lost horribly. While the show manages to produce one episode that doesn't give off the sadistic vibe to Adam, they're far too rare to make the show very watchable.
  • Very frequent in The Proud Family, From Penny Proud's so-called "friends" backstabbing her to everyone's poor treatment on her father Oscar. Only a limited number of characters such as Zoey and Trudy are remotely likable, and even then, they have the occasional Jerkass Ball that makes them just as bad as, if not worse than the others.
  • This is one of the main reasons why Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" got canceled after only seven episodes. Most people can agree that the characters' personalities were exaggerated to the point that they are unpleasant. That, and the Comedic Sociopathy, Black Comedy, Kafka Comedy and sadism taken Up to Eleven. This show was so shocking and poorly received that many people, including co-creator Bob Camp, think it forever tainted the series' legacy to the point that Nickelodeon will forever refuse to make a Revival.
  • Rick and Morty comes across this as of the third season premier. Due to the ending's revelation and its Downer Ending it can be rather hard to find any character that is worth rooting for since life will continue to be miserable for any character no matter what. Morty is the closest character the viewer can get emotionally invested in but there has never been an upside for him.
    • Not helping matters is that anyone who isn't the original Rick Sanchez is a Butt-Monkey or Straw Character. It's hard to take any villain or secondary character seriously, when you know they'll end up undignified for comedic purposes. When the series does dabble with other franchises or genres in Season 3, it can often come off as a mean-spirited jab at said source material just to prove Rick's superiority that makes such references come closer to Author Filibuster than anything else.
  • The semi-obscure Canadian cartoon Sidekick had this problem, with people being either appalled by the number of mean-spirited jokes on the show or just becoming indifferent towards them. It doesn't help when nearly everyone is cruel to Eric (to the point of there being a holiday dedicated solely to beating him up) and even he has a nasty streak now and then.
  • The Simpsons
    • "Homer's Enemy" is a dark, bitter Deconstruction of the show's mythology, which was so shocking to fans that some think it forever tainted the series' legacy of being biting but lighthearted, not outright sick and twisted.
      • The episode also suffered from focusing on a character that was basically this trope defined. Grimes' life was portrayed as being difficult from the get-go, being abandoned by his parents, surviving an explosion and working every day of his life to achieve what little he has today. The fact that Grimes was supposed to be seen as a regular, real-life person thrown into the insane world of The Simpsons failed precisely because he did not come across as a regular person but more a definition of this trope without being clear if they were playing it straight or for laughs. It also didn't help that Frank himself came off as something of a pompous, uptight jerk long before he ever met Homer, making him rather unlikable to begin with. To make matters worse, Homer tries to reconcile with Frank by inviting his house over for dinner, only for Frank to reject it all in a jealous rage.
    • "The Boys of Bummer" is an extremely divisive episode for this reason. What with practically 99% of the town's population driving Bart to near-suicide, it was safe to say that nobody on the show excluding the titular family was likable anymore.
    • The Simpsons Movie attempts to address the issue regarding Homer. Homer, as everyone knows, is a bumbling idiot that always causes problems for himself, his family, and the town. When Homer dooms the town to die, Marge takes the kids with her to some place safe after she wonders why she even puts up with him after so many years, Lisa declares she has no father, and Bart finds Ned Flanders, a slightly overbearing religious nice guy, to be a better father to him than Homer ever was. Homer took this event as a wakeup call to change himself and take responsibility for his actions. Of course, Homer goes right back to his usual antics on the television series.
  • 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 Enfantes Terrible at worst. The closest to a completely likable character is Leopold "Butters" Stotch, and even then, he's not a completely good role model. Cartman himself borderlines on the trope. He can be a complete jerk to everyone, including his own mother, but he rarely gets away with his actions. Cartman, however, never learns his lesson.
    • There are two episodes with In-Universe examples. "Douche and Turd" involves Stan Marsh suffering a case of this, refusing to vote in a school mascot election owing to the fact that one is (quite literally) a giant douche and the other is a turd sandwich. The lesson he learns from a member of PETA is that all elections involve either a douche or a turd of some sorts and one must simply choose the lesser evil. This happens again in "Butterballs" where he believes he's trying to do the right thing, but Kyle Broflovski argues that the real right thing to do is to let Butters find the courage to confront his grandmother himself. In the end, Butters tells his grandmother off, which means Kyle was in the right all along, while Stan is the one to learn his lesson the hard way.
  • While not as bad as most examples, Sonic Boom can fall into this for some. Surprisingly few episodes involve Sonic and co doing much more than scuffle with Eggman rather than stop any schemes directed towards the civilians. This at times seems just as well, as the depiction of most of the supporting cast is fairly unsympathetic, most of them either idiotic or self centred and thus rarely showing the heroes much loyalty or gratitude (or in cases such as the Gogobas, outright manipulative Entitled Bastards), with a small division even roots for Eggman while Sonic saves them. At times it's easy to want Sonic to just let them rot.
  • Some episodes of Spongebob Squarepants tend to float around this trope, mostly after Seasonal Rot started taking affect. Episodes focused on the Plankton/Krabs rivalry and episodes focused on Squidward tend to fall into this the most.
    • "Little Yellow Book" is the epitome of this trope as none of the characters are even remotely likable from Squidward being a massive Jerkass to SpongeBob by reading his diary and bragging it towards everyone, the citizens of Bikini bottom giving Squidward a Disproportionate Retribution for reading it and being massive hypocrites throughout the entire episode and SpongeBob being an idiot for leaving his own diary unguarded.
    • "Demolition Doofus" takes this to a disturbing level. When SpongeBob's bad driving injures Mrs. Puff so much that she cannot "puff" anymore and SpongeBob makes a joke about it, she snaps and actually spends the episode trying to kill him. And while it is hard to root for an insane killer (especially considering at which demographic this show is primarily aimed on), SpongeBob doesn't come off much better, as he basically cripples a person (he did it accidentally, but still) and laughs about it.
  • It isn't quite in full-effect, but Star vs. the Forces of Evil dipped into this territory for some people midway through Season 2, which carried on into Season 3. By that point in the series, Cerebus Syndrome was in full-effect, with the characters being put through so much hell and their moralities becoming more and more questionable that its become rather difficult to find anyone that can legit be rooted for.
  • Stressed Eric is a Sadist Show in an extreme sense of the name. It is very hard to sit through because of its sadistic nature towards Eric, who gets tortured, mocked, and robbed of any happiness (to the point that his own stress vein strangles him some times) endlessly throughout each episode.
  • This is the problem a lot of people have with Teen Titans Go!. Four of the five members of the team are selfish, mean-spirited jerks who all screw over each other and the city on a regular basis; a far cry from the original cartoon where they were selfless heroes and clearly the best of friends who would gladly lay down their lives for one another. Starfire, while not a jerk, is a Cloudcuckoolander and a Ditz, sometimes to Lethally Stupid levels. Robin in particular is portrayed as a pathetic Loser Protagonist who is treated horribly by his own teammates even when he doesn't deserve it. Their behavior becomes so deplorable that even the villains of the show are quick to call out this depiction of the Titans for their actions. It got to the point that most fans would sooner root for the villains than the Titans themselves. Although the series is a Black Comedy take on the characters so it is somewhat intentional, for many viewers, especially fans of the previous series, instead of being Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists they're just plain unsympathetic.
  • ThunderCats (2011) sometimes gets this from fans; in the premiere, the Cat society is depicted as being highly prejudiced towards other races, and its downfall is partly due to that. Some fans complain that because the Cats are so bad they don't want to root for them, but in that case they're Completely Missing the Point of the theme of ending the cycle of hatred. The main characters themselves are (mostly) not prejudiced, especially not Lion-O, and a major part of Lion-O's quest is to atone for the actions of his people and not just rebuild their society, but redeem it.
  • Total Drama has gradually fallen victim to this trope because with each progressive season, the negative aspects of each character have been given more focus, Break the Cutie instances have gotten increasingly meaner-spirited and reformed contestants have received little to no forgiveness.
  • This was probably one of the reasons why Tom Goes to the Mayor was such a flop. Seeing Tom constantly suffer at the hands of every other character is fairly amusing the first few times, but after several episodes of it non-stop it can get incredibly tiring.
  • Seasons 1 and 2 of Ultimate Spider-Man can get this reaction by having Spider-Man (a character known for the phrase "With great power comes great responsibility") act incredibly irresponsible to the point one can question if he learned anything from Uncle Ben's death, Nick Fury act more like a Designated Hero, and Nova and White Tiger be complete jackssses to everyone. However, things get worse in Season 4 for a lot of people as the early half of the season sees Peter undergo Trauma Conga Line where he failed to help Vulture, Miles Morales ends up trapped in Peter's universe, both Flash and Harry get hospitalized, Rhino gets brainwashed into helping Ock, and the Scarlet Spider was really The Mole for Ock. Probably also not helping matters is Doctor Octopus working for HYDRA.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men could be accused of this — the world the X-Men live in is so unpleasant and the title characters are either so unlikable or so flat that it's hard to care what happens to them.
  • Young Justice:
    • The first two seasons was said to suffer from this in some circles. While the heroes are definitely likable (some of them anyway), almost nothing they do ever matters. Failure Is the Only Option if they try to do something against the Big Bad (to the point it's almost a Mandatory Twist Ending that The Light got some benefit out of the episode's mess); even the ending of the first season ultimately turned out to make little difference. The show ends with the incredibly strong implication of The Bad Guy Wins even after so much sacrifice. Several members of The Light were captured, but Vandal Savage (the guy who orchestrated the whole thing) just Curb Stomps the Justice League, takes War World, and confirms his pre-existing alliance with Darkseid, while Wally West, the guy who was supposed to be the third Flash, gets killed in the most ineffectual manner imaginable, that it smacks of Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
    • The revival series has also gotten this with Black Lightning accidentally killing a girl with a weak heart who was turned into a monster; Luthor's turn as UN Secretary-General sees him hamstringing the League, which in turn causes a good chunk of the League to resign (later revealed to be a part of a Batman Gambit to circumvent the Light); and said girl's brother becoming the show's version of Plasmus against his will before being shot dead in front of the Outsiders.


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