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Card-Carrying Jerkass

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Senior sales representative Mark Seversen, already notorious at Aqua-Dek Water Filtration Systems for being an asshole, made the ultimate asshole move Monday when he triumphantly admitted to being an asshole.

"Look, I know you all think I'm an asshole," Seversen, 32, told a roomful of fellow employees. "Well, that may be true, but I moved more units for this company last year than any three of you combined. News flash: Nice guys finish last."

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"So I'm an asshole," Seversen added. "Deal with it."

Jerkasses come in all shapes and sizes, and run the gamut of motivations. They may be The Friend Nobody Likes, or they may be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold (even if that heart is very well hidden), or they may be a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk. They may have an Inciting Incident that made them this way, they may be a hero with reason to act like a belligerent boor, or they may just be insecure, bitter, lonely, angry or confused, and are lashing out at other people as a form of release. Some may not even realize how they come across to others, and feel remorseful when made aware of their jerkassery (and may even realize it themselves).

And then there's this asshole.

The Card-Carrying Jerkass doesn't need to be told that they're a nasty piece of work; they're self-aware enough to know it already. The problem isn't that they're ignorant of their jerkassery, it's that they're proud of it, or at least unrepentant. This character actually considers "being a jerk" a part of their identity, and sees no reason to change — or, at least, doesn't care enough to change. Even so, it's important to remember that the Card-Carrying Jerkass is not incapable of kindness or doing what's right, nor do they necessarily go out of their way to screw other people over. This trope is about the jerk's attitude towards their own behavior, not necessarily the nature, frequency, or severity of their dickish deeds.

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This trope can be played in a number of different ways. It's mostly used as comic relief, especially in its more exaggerated forms, or used deliberately to make the audience hate a specific character. Exploring this trope can also be used to add nuance or depth to an underdeveloped character: for example, a character may be a Card-Carrying Jerkass because they genuinely believe that everyone is secretly mean and nasty inside, and they're one of the few willing to openly cop to it.

Compare Card-Carrying Villain, who takes a similar attitude towards being evil but isn't necessarily a jerk. For an Internet-specific form of this trope, see Troll. For a downplayed version of this trope whose motivation is being funny and sees a difference between it and being cruel, see The Gadfly. See also It Amused Me, for characters whose motivation for jerkassery is personal amusement.

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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Big Bill Hell's: The advertiser openly admits that their business is run by scummy people, stating that they are home to "the meanest sons of bitches in the state of Maryland".

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man: In high school, Carl King was an even more vicious bully to Peter Parker than Flash Thompson; in the present, he revels in the memory of how much he made Peter's life miserable and freely admits he was a "rotten kid." As the Thousand, he's crossed the thin line into Card-Carrying Villain.

    Comedy 
  • Perhaps no comedian embodies this trope more than the stand-up persona of one Andrew "Dice" Clay. Clay's greaser persona spouted all manner of sexist, racist, homophobic, misanthropic, and downright nasty banter while on stage, and was absolutely, unrepentantly proud of it. His insistence on never publicly breaking character ended up damaging his career, as most people assumed his "Diceman" character was a real guy.
  • This is Tucker Max's entire gimmick as a comedian; his first two books were titled I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First, and consisted mainly of stories about frat-boy drunkenness, promiscuity, and douchebaggery.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Denis Leary's character "Edgar Friendly" in Demolition Man is proudly both a jerk and one of the closest things to a criminal in San Angeles...but he's not actually evil as he's just fighting for the right to eat real food, have real sex, and have something resembling free will. He also delivers a speech that is very similar to the rant in the middle of Leary's song "Asshole."
  • Downsizing has Dusan Mirkovic, who admits, "Okay, maybe sometimes I'm a little bit asshole, but the world needs assholes. Otherwise where would shit go out?"

    Literature 
  • In James and the Giant Peach, the centipede is proud of being a "pest"— this partly refers to his being a pest species, but also to his arrogant attitude. For instance, when the other bugs were talking about beneficial things their species do, the centipede gloats that his species does nothing good and he's a pest.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The titular character of House will remind other characters that he is a jerk, in an Insult Backfire to their list of his flaws. He believes that his intelligence and skill means his attitude is justified.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia gives us this trope cranked Up to Eleven and multiplied by FIVE: the main characters (Mac, Charlie, Dennis, Sweet Dee and Frank, collectively known as The Gang), are rude, vulgar, obnoxious, loud, greedy, self-destructive, occasionally racist, misanthropic jerks who consistently view themselves as better than everyone else. Realistically, they are each others' only friends, as their behavior alienates pretty much everyone they meet.
  • Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation is a humanoid Reality Warper with a fixation on the Enterprise in general, and on Captain Jean-Luc Picard in particular. He is purposefully thorny, brash and difficult, yet he manages to teach important lessons to the Enterprise crew. In the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint", Q put them on trial for the past murderous savagery of the human race, tested them by forcing them to decide whether to kill one of the creatures that was attacking Deneb 4, and later exposed them to the Borg collective. As Captain Picard notes: "[Q] gave us a kick in our collective complacency."

    Music 
  • Adam Sandler's song "Steve Polychronopolous" is a first-person manifesto of a guy who likes to be a dick to everyone for nothing more than the love of being a dick.
  • Denis Leary's song, "Asshole" is about how he likes to do things which annoy people, such as deliberately peeing on toilet seats and driving slowly in the fast lane, simply because he's an asshole and he's proud of it.

    Theatre 
  • Avenue Q: Mrs. Thistletwat, when called a "crabby old bitch", replies "Crabby Old Bitches are the bedrock of this nation!"

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Ryder is the rudest member of the Grove Street Families gang and proudly shows off his gangster attitude during most missions he participates in. Even after he betrays you, he still calls himself a "motherfucking genius".
  • Characters from Nippon Ichi games to tend this, Card Carrying Villains, or Noble Demons. Helps that most of the time, they're so self-aware that they know they're in a video game.
  • Tohru Adachi of Persona 4 is well known for being a complete asshole and revels in it. He spares no opportunity to mock the Investigation Team time and again. Even in a crossover video game like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, he acts like a dick, even to beings far more powerful than him.

    Web Animation 
  • Inanimate Insanity has Knife who proudly takes the moniker of "The Jerk" by being a bit of a bully, and states it clear to Trophy that Trophy's the Jock, and he's the Jerk. He's ultimately more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, though.

    Web Comics 
  • In Achewood, Lyle is a Registered Asshole in the state of California.
  • Mike Warner, a recurring character from the comics of David Willis, is some degree of this in every story he appears in. However, his characterization has varied from title to title; in It's Walky!, he was canonically the biggest Jerkass alive for no particular reason. In Dumbing of Age, however, Mike more closely embodies the Jerkass Has a Point trope, as he regularly forces characters to acknowledge hypocrisies or stop avoiding difficult situations.
  • The Order of the Stick has many Card Carrying Villains, but only one evil character who is a self-proclaimed Jerkass; Belkar Bitterleaf. Even when he's trying to help his team, he has to do it the nastiest way possible. In his own words, "Hurting people is the only thing I am good at."
  • xkcd has a recurring character, discernible by his black hat, who exists for the sole reason of showcasing Comedic Sociopathy in every panel he appears in. When another character expresses awe at Hat Guy's offensive ingenuity, the latter feels flattered and explains that he aspires to be more than a simple asshole - he seeks to be a classy asshole, or "classhole".

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Roger openly takes great delight in messing with others for his own enjoyment, although his antics often go well beyond "Jerkass" and well into some pretty extreme sociopathy played for laughs. He's even gone so far as to bury Francine alive and take a dump into someone's open chest cavity during a surgery.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In his earliest incarnations, Bugs Bunny really was a Card-Carrying Jerkass, and he would torment whoever his nemesis was for virtually no reason, as in Elmer's Pet Rabbit. Before long, though, his personality was toned down into a much more likable (and marketable) character. note 
      • Even in later cartoons, Bugs sometimes invokes this by wryly saying "Ain't I a stinker?". In most cases, however, his jerkassery is usually provoked by the antagonist's attempts to kill him.
    • Daffy Duck also started off as a rather extreme hyperactive Cloudcuckoolander with a cruel streak. While his obnoxiousness and cruelty would vary from time to time, he never completely lost his tendency towards being selfish and mean; in fact, today he's most famous for being the openly conniving (if ineffective) Foil for Bugs Bunny.
      Daffy: Oh, sure, I know I'm a louse. But I'm a live louse.
  • Dan Vs.: The entire show is based around Dan exacting revenge on various things that have wronged him, or just happen to be annoying him at the time. While Dan's wrath is occasionally somewhat justified, as often as not, he's just being a dick. Interestingly for a kid's property, the show never attempts to redeem Dan, nor treat him as anything other than a proud jerk — it's even printed on his T-shirt.
  • The Garfield Show has a minor villain in Egomaniac Hunter Dirk Dinkum, who openly prides himself in being a horrible person and even gets a song about it titled "Go Away" in the "Lion Queen" special.
  • Gravity Falls: Stan is actually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but even on his best day, he's a Consummate Liar and a shameless scam artist, and at worst, he will gleefully prioritize profits over people. (Though he does have limits in that regard; he's perfectly happy to force his niece and nephew to work in his shop and do humiliating stunts to make more money, but he'd never actually allow them to be hurt.) He freely admits he's a criminal and total sleaze, though he bristles at being called a genuinely bad guy.
    Stan: That's right, I'm a jerk.
    • Flim and Flam are a pair of Con Artist brothers who shamelessly swindle other ponies for a living, and generally act as Smug Snakes to those who try to stop their scams, gleefully taunting them about their successes. In "Viva Las Pegasus", they worked together with the good guys to get rid of another villain, then rejected all notions of turning over a new leaf and went right back to conning others.
  • Angelica Pickles of Rugrats often takes pleasure in bragging about what a rotten brat she is. In the Christmas Special this comes back to bite her, however, since shortly after she boasts about playing an especially cruel trick on Phil and Lil ("I'm bad, Cynthia, real bad!") she hears the stipulations of what Santa delivers to bad little kids.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Mr. Krabs is well aware of what a cheap, penny-pinching miser he is, and takes open pride in it. In "The Play's the Thing," when Squidward laments being underpaid during his play, Krabs laughs and remarks, "It's funny 'cause it's true!"
  • In Total Drama, Duncan started out as a Lovable Rogue and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but in later seasons got flanderized to the point where he remorselessly bullies other contestants, brags about cheating on his girlfriend, and overall is so desperate to be seen as a rebellious badass that he's deeply embarrassed to find out that he's actually capable of being nice.

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