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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 will openly boast it without the slightest hint of shame, seeing no reason to change — or, at least, not caring enough to change. Despite this, 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.

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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 the 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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This trope is about the jerk's attitude towards their own behavior, not necessarily the nature, frequency, or severity of their dickish deeds. If they do not show any self-awareness towards their jerkish ways, then they're just a plain old Jerkass.


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".

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fruits Basket: "Jerkass" may be pushing it, but Shigure Sohma is nonetheless a sly, selfish Manipulative Bastard and makes no effort to hide it, freely referring to himself as "the dirtiest one of all" and "the worst kind of man."
  • My Hero Academia: All For One is not only narcissistic, megalomaniac and lacking any semblance of empathy; he revels in it. It goes a long way when, in Japanese, he's the only character whom the normally polite All Might refers to with the extremely hostile pronoun kisama.

    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 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 "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 (Motherfucking) 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.
  • Eminem:
    • Em's Slim Shady alter-ego boasts about writing abusive letters to his fans, assaulting people at random, masturbating to barely-legal starlets, gratuitously swearing and using slurs, and brainwashing your kids so they end up just like him.
    • Eminem himself is also proud to be an asshole, because - although he doesn't literally believe everything that Slim says or do what he does - he still takes pleasure in using his evil twin to wind people up. Many of the songs on The Marshall Mathers LP 2 deal with this, particularly "Asshole".

    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, although only after he's revealed as being the killer. 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Dennis from Double Homework doesn’t care if gets called a pervert, or an asshole, or a psychopath. He knows what he wants, and if that makes him anything bad, so be it.

    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.
  • Suction Cup Man. He's loud, he's obnoxious, he'll climb up your tower for shits and giggles, and he revels in every second of it all.

    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 
  • Adventure Time: Magic Man has been this since his debut in "Freak City," when he rewarded Finn for giving him sugar when he was disguised as a hobo by turning him into a giant foot, claiming he will change back when he learns an important lesson: Don't give your sugar to Magic Man, because he's a jerk.
    Finn: I never should've been nice to you, 'cause you're just a big jerk!
    Magic Man: Oh, that's it! You've finally learned your lesson!
  • 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 Elmers 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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Flim and Flam in 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.
  • The Simpsons: virtually the entire population of Springfield is this, to the point where they advertise their town as the "Meanest City in America".
  • 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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