Some heroes have it rough. Not only do they have to fight The Virus, the alien menace spreading it, and vampire accomplices, but also, every step of the way they have to fight everyone else on the planet! People, by and large, think it's somebody else's problem, and that's if they can be bothered to even notice it's a problem. More often than not, humanity at large is Too Dumb to Live and won't even notice when the villain's Paper-Thin Disguise falls off. Heck, the villain may be operating openly, without even the slimmest pretense of a Masquerade!
The breakdown of these folks is almost An Aesop in itself:
Delusional and Apathetic
- Bats: "Nothing's wrong." Bats are so blind that nothing can pierce their self-imposed Masquerade. No proof is strong enough to reveal the truth of the threat. Even if the threat were to expose themselves with a neat Power Point presentation about their plan, Bats would just ask where the cookies are. They'll take one look at the growing horde of evil Mooks and say that they're nothing more than a bunch of dim-witted pranksters, or — if the Mooks in question are very Obviously Evil — they may be simply "a gang on PCP". Comes from the phrase "Blind as a bat".
- Butterflies: "Let's live like there's no tomorrow!" These party animals refuse to take action in the face of imminent disaster, preferring to keep playing around While Rome Burns. Having abandoned the notion of self-preservation, Butterflies resolve to enjoy the fun while they're still alive and kicking.
- Lambs: "The Hero is taking care of it, so I don't have to bother protecting myself or even trying to avoid danger. After all, the hero will save me every time." Bats are blind, but Lambs have 20/20 vision and know the dangers very well. And they walk right into the line of fire anyway, for any number of reasons, but always counting on the heroes to get them out of trouble when they get in over their heads. Saving them is what heroes do, right? This is particularly subversive in that many heroes seem to prefer it this way. Comes from the phrase "Like lambs to the slaughter".
- Mice: "They're too powerful. We may as well give up." Mice are downers, often discouraging the hero from even trying to resist the Big Bad for fear of angering them. Occasionally this because they're also Suicidal Pacifists who abhor violence— even in self-defense! You can expect mice to be snitches for The Empire.
- Ostriches: "If we hide/stay out of it, nothing bad will happen... at least, not to us." Ostriches know there's a problem and that no large group is responding to it, but they believe that ignoring it will make it go away. Yeah, tell that to the zombie of old Mrs. Withers. Comes from the old tale that Ostriches hide their heads in the sand, thinking that if they can't see the danger, it doesn't exist.note
- Reindeer: "Okay, this may be a problem, but do we really expect these freaks to save us?" Reindeer are more concerned about the heroes being their potential rescuers than they are at getting rescued. The heroes are still different from them and making their lives hell for that is what Reindeer live for. Unlike Rudolph, they'll often continue even after the hero saves them, because he's "noble" that way, no matter what they do to impair him. Comes from the behavior of the other reindeer in the Christmas carol "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer".
- Sheep: "Don't worry, I'm sure The Government knows exactly what to do." Sheep know there's a problem, but see no reason not to buy the government line of "it's fine" or to do something themselves. Surely that fiend raising The Legions of Hell can't possibly be a threat to the army. Interestingly, the more of these people there are, the more likely it is that The Government is actively involved in the Evil Plan.
- Turtles: "We can outlast 'em easy from here." Similar to Ostriches, except that Turtles know that the enemy will still be after them once they go into hiding. However, they are confident that their infrastructures will hold and will defend them from the threat. It was always there, so they don't think it's their efforts that are going to save them as the Wolves below think. Also, it's their own safety measures they've inherited, not those put in place by the government. If it were the government, that would make them Sheep. Still, they underestimate The Virus and its capacity for getting to them. Comes from the idea that if a turtle hides inside the shell, he can survive being prey to a crocodile (but not a shark...).
- Peacocks: "You expect me to sleep on the ground, like a commoner?" Peacocks are the spoiled, pampered rich folk who the heroes end up having to take care of for whatever reason. Their lack of practical skills (not to mention common sense) makes them a burden in any dangerous situation, and their endless whining will inevitably try everyone’s patience. In a worst case scenario, a Peacock might turn traitor if they think allying with the villain will help restore their lost wealth and status.
- Guinea Pigs: "…Huh? You say I’m in danger…? I… can’t remember…" On the surface, Guinea Pigs resemble another type of animal (typically Bats), however in their case they literally can’t help it. This is because they’re under the influence of a drug, hypnosis or other form of mind-control that prevents them from understanding the danger they’re in. Perhaps a cult leader has brainwashed them to do his bidding, or perhaps the monsters are simply Invisible to Normals, with them as the “normals”.
- Mules: "Of course this scientific device won't cause the apocalypse!" The scientists who got everyone into the mess in the first place (For Science!!) and refused to listen to any people warning them of the apocalyptic risks. Nearly always either the first or last to die, but it's always a Karmic Death at the hands of what they invented. Intelligent book-wise, but stupid when it comes to common sense (basically the polar opposite of Book Dumb).
- Boars: "Come on, guys, we can take 'em! Let's get out the Torches and Pitchforks and we'll finish them off in a matter of minutes!" These are the brave, foolhardy souls who insist on sacrificing themselves for the greater good, even when they don't actually need to, much less help. Their courage may be admirable, but it usually causes them to get in the way of the competent heroes. Not to mention that it's hard to think rationally about how to defeat a Big Bad when you have an army of Boars squealing for his blood. Worse still is when the Zombie Apocalypse kills off the entire army and promptly turns all of them against the heroes as well.
- Chickens: "Let's get out of here before it's too late!" Chickens' reaction to the mounting disaster is to try to put as much distance between them and it as they can. Chickens are often as selfish as Wolves, concerned only with their own safety and not with helping others escape. Their escape attempts might fail disastrously, and if they do reach their intended destination, they might find that the disaster got there first. Comes from the slang term "chicken" for a cowardly person.
- Rats: "I'm not sick! It'll all be okay if I keep quiet." They know they're sick (though they really don't want to admit it to themselves, let alone anyone else). They know they'll die and infect or kill their friends if they don't go away or bite the bullet. But they stay quiet and doom them all. Rats make The Virus's work easier by acting as plague carriers, much like rats and fleas during The Black Death in Europe.
- Wolves: "I said for years they'd come. Now they're here! What? Get your own shelter! Wait, you're one of them!" Wolves are determined survivors. They not only heeded the Agent Mulder's crazy ramblings, but also took them as gospel and prepared for the worst. Problem is, they're so paranoid and militant that they're likely to see any other survivors as competition and attack them or organize with other Wolves into formidable and hostile packs. They usually have something the Heroes need, but are nearly impossible to persuade to help voluntarily. Ironically, these guys are usually among the first to go in any survival-horror situation.
- Bulls: "That guy just ransacked the hotel... I'm gonna kill him!" The bull is easily angered. If someone provokes him, he will attack, regardless of how bad the situation really is. He starts fights without thinking it through.
- Foxes: "Both sides are idiots! What an excellent opportunity!" Foxes are somewhat akin to Weasels in seeing the opportunities around. However, not only are they unafraid of the villains, but they are also savvy and quick enough to play both sides against each other, morality and ideology be damned. A Fox relies on his wits, his speed, and his charm to get him through, no matter which side wins, and if neither does, well, the Fox will still be on his feet after the dust settles. Unlike most of the others, Foxes can actually be quite useful or even helpful, if you can turn them to your side. Or if the villain betrays them. Or if you can persuade them there's more profit in your side winning. Basically, when in a capital-D Disaster, Foxes are your best bet. At least they're smart. Comes from the phrase "clever like a fox".
- Crows: "All shall perish!" Crows are Obviously Evil types and see the new threat as just making their jobs easier, but are too short-sighted to see it also means their eventual downfall. They don't ever realize that if all the good guys are defeated, there will no longer be a fresh supply of carcasses for them to prey on. They'll be the type to pollute the water supply just to kill off those pesky heroes without considering where they'll be getting a drink from.
- Vultures: "These are my corpses to loot! Get your own!" Vultures are a more passive form of Wolf. They're less of a physical threat, but will steal anything that isn't nailed down or on fire (and they steal crowbars and fire extinguishers for the things that are), hampering The Drifter and other heroes by stealing his kit when he comes to help. Interestingly, vultures make for pretty good Side Kicks and Morality Pets, since one will inevitably be befriended by the hero after being caught stealing. Comes from traditional portrayals of scavengers like Vultures.
- Weasels: "Get your anti-monster spray!" Weasels are just as scared as Mice, but they use the disaster to their benefit. They're the ones selling a gallon of bottled water for $50, cheap "protection from evil" medallions, rainmaking abilities, etc. Comes from the slang term "weasel" for a shifty person.
- Dragons: "No, you can't have any of this, it's mine!" Dragons have a large amount of supplies that they never actually use, and they're too selfish to share it with anyone else. And they will not hesitate to hurt anyone who tries to steal from them.
- Raccoons: "So what if I'm breaking the law, who cares?" Raccoons will do whatever it takes in order to survive, even at the (literal) expense of others. They are willing to resort to stealing and pickpocketing to get supplies.
- Lemmings: "It's them! It's those terrorists the Benevolent Autocrat warned us of! Get 'em!" Lemmings are a special bunch: not only do they eagerly swallow the same load of bull the Sheep do, but they also try as best they can to help the Villain with Good Publicity catch the heroes. While they're less effective than Boars, they nonetheless hamper the hero, since he can't very well kill them, but they'll slow him down and maybe get him caught. You can expect any Love Interests the hero develops to have at least one Lemming for a friend, who promptly turns him in.
- Moles: "Trust me, there's nothing to worry about!" The Mole is, of course, the undercover villain who is not only forcing events along the worst possible path, but who is also likely to be encouraging all the other varieties to live down to their potential. Comes from the slang term "mole" to mean "spy", because this is a villain undercover.
- Jackals: "Finally, we have a strong leader ready to put those people back in their place! Where do I sign up?" Jackals are like Lemmings and Snakes: they eagerly collaborate with the villain because they think his campaign of terror and genocide are just causes. Whether it's out of hate, fanaticism, or willful ignorance, they prefer the villain's despotism to a more benevolent regime. Usually, they're only dangerous to society until the villain is dethroned: once the bad guys aren't in power anymore, Jackals generally slink off to seethe.
- Snakes: "Fight them? What would I get out of that?" Snakes are a special case: they are just as capable as the hero of seeing through the villains' ruse... and wholeheartedly support him anyway. Whether it's for power, riches, sadistic pleasure, or feeling they personally will be safer serving the villain than just keeping their heads down, Snakes will join the biggest alpha predator's pack against the hero and help enslave their weaker fellows. In war movies, Snakes are the opposite of La Résistance. Expect them to abruptly attempt to turn coat once they get word the villain is beaten.
Virtuous but Misguided
- Owls: "We must only observe, not interfere." These are the “otherworldly” characters (aliens, time-travellers, gods etc.) who could use their extraordinary power and/or knowledge to resolve the situation easily, but won’t, due to a policy of non-interference. They will sometimes show up to offer cryptic advice to the heroes or watch them in secret, but don’t expect them to do anything particularly useful. Other stories actually place the heroes in this role, in which case someone will almost always end up breaking the rules for the sake of avoiding a Downer Ending.
- Dogs: "If that is my master’s command, I shall obey." Dogs are all too aware of how evil the villain is and would be happy to join the fight against him… if they hadn’t already sworn to fight for him. They value loyalty above all else, and would rather die than betray their boss, even if said boss is completely unworthy. Knights in the service of a cruel king are sometimes portrayed this way in fantasy, but it crops up in modern settings as well, especially in cases where a once-good leader has become corrupt.
- Doves: "Ours is the way of peace." Doves take the concept of pacifism to its logical conclusion: they will not fight, ever, even to save their own lives. This attitude sometimes comes from religious belief, in which case they may not care about physical death as long as their souls are saved. Occasionally they’ll provide non-military aid to the heroes, but they might instead shun anyone willing to use violence, seeing them all as equally evil.
- Chimeras: "I know he's evil, but he just wants to make the world better. Maybe if we hand over the heroes he'll leave us be." Characters that blend two or more animals of different groups.
In short, these are the people that ensure Failure Is the Only Option for the hero. At best, they'll have a too-late epiphany, as their worst fear stares them in the face (and then eats them). More often than not, the hero will save them despite themselves. Occasionally, they'll toy with just letting the aliens win, and if the Anti-Hero is cynical enough, they'll declare the masses to be too idiotic to be worth saving for and simply leave them to their fate. Then again, maybe the aliens are actually trying to do the galaxy a favor by killing off such a stupid species. Humans Are Bastards, after all.
Often falls into Truth in Television. People are especially likely to behave like this during wartime: for example, An Enemy of the People, was based on a true story.
See also: Apathetic Citizens, Masquerade, Muggles, Paper-Thin Disguise.
Contrast: Fighting for Survival.