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Creator Career Self-Deprecation

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Stan: You see, Mabel, those monsters are just tiny clay figures moved around one frame at a time by an anti-social shut-in.
Soos: Those people are called "animators".

The author wants to portray their character as a loser but doesn't want to offend people in any particular occupation. So they make the character's occupation their own. This allows for a lot of Self-Deprecation, which is probably the whole point. It also means that the parody will be much better informed than one from someone who knows less about the profession — being on the inside means they include anecdotes and details that other scientists or teachers or priests or whatever will find greater recognition and (hopefully) humour in.

The loser cartoonist can't draw, the writer has an obviously Mary-Sue version of him/herself, or some other type of Stylistic Suck. These characters may also be prone to extreme Writer's Block, which can justify the times that they aren't working/don't have a job.

This must be where a character's career is the same as the author of the work. A hack novelist main character in a novel would be an example, but a hack novelist in an animated show or a cartoonist in a novel would not be.

Compare Acceptable Targets, Self-Deprecation, Write What You Know, and especially Writers Suck.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The two protagonists in Bakuman。 start off not so much as losers but as utterly normal high schoolers. Mashiro's uncle, who is dead when the story starts, fits this trope a lot more.
  • The main lead of Takama-ga-hara is so bad at creating manga that it makes people who read it physically ill.
  • One of the main characters (Harima) of School Rumble is an amateur manga artist whose work was once featured in a weekly magazine a la Shonen Jump. His manga is... satisfactory, but people prefer his classmate Karasuma's comic which is also published in said magazine.
  • Izumi Tsubaki is an established shoujo manga artist and in Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun she takes light-hearted jabs at her own profession. Nozaki making all his male characters look alike pokes fun at her own tendency to reuse the same character designs in her manga, with Nozaki's character design itself being one that shows up prominently in Ore-sama Teacher and Magic Touch.
  • In Gintama, the gorilla author is portrayed as a total loser, and the non-anthropomorphic gorillas working at Jump are shown to be overworked and throwing every cliche they can think of at the series they're writing.
  • Kirby Of The Stars the anime has an episode dedicated to how animations are made; the whole cast then tries to make an anime episode, and it ends up being based on the show's usual episodes, only with Dedede in Kirby's role and lots of bad drawing and lines.
  • While Comic Girls is a seinen series, its author Kaori Hanzawa previously wrote for the Shōjo demographic. The cast of Comic Girls has Koyume, a Shōjo manga artist, which pokes fun at some of Hanzawa's own idiosyncracies as a shōjo author. For example, their common inability to draw men and having to resort to passing bifauxnen for a Pretty Boy.

  • Jon Arbuckle, Garfield's owner. Over time, the loser aspect completely overshadowed the fact that he even had a job. In fact, the only times Jon was mentioned as being a cartoonist were in the first strip, these two strips that began the Christmas 1984 Story Arc, and this 2010 Sunday Strip.
  • Stephen Pastis, the cartoonist responsible for Pearls Before Swine, frequently inserts himself into the strip as a 40-year-old smoking loser cartoonist who often gets abused by the other characters, especially Rat. See this strip for an example.
    • Usually this is after a bad pun it took a whole Sunday strip to set up. One had Rat not liking a poster of Mia Hamm or a two-tone green Texas A&M flag. Why? "Because I Do Not Like Green Aggs and Hamm!" he screams in exasperation.
    • He also does some Creator Former Career Self-Deprecation, as he started the cartoon after he quit his job as a lawyer. Yes, there are evil lawyer jokes.
  • Darby Connley was portrayed as an extreme one of these in thesethree strips of his own Get Fuzzy.
  • A great many Franco-Belgian Comics portray comic authors and artists as wretched slaves toiling away to produce art under the iron rule of a heartless, evil editor obsessed with productivity.
  • In one Belgian Clifton comic, the bad guys capture a second boy along with their rich kid mark. The boss hopes for a second ransom, until he learns that the boy's father makes comic books.
  • Alan Moore's run on Supreme includes the character of Billy Friday, not just a comic book writer but specifically an egotistical English writer of American superhero comics with a penchant for Darker and Edgier revamps of old characters. For some, however, Billy Friday is more of a parody of Grant Morrison than a self-parody.
  • Popeye recreates Noah's Ark in one comic storyline. With a somewhat confused grasp of biology, he decides to embark "Two pigs, two cows, two plumbers, two milkmen..." and so on. He end the list with "... and one cartoonist, because I don't want them to reproduce".
  • Inverted in Foxtrot, which frequently has characters holding newspapers with headlines like "Cartoonist Dates Supermodel", "Cartoonist Addresses U.N.", "Cartoonist Awarded Nobel Prize", etc.

  • In Allegro non Troppo, all of the animation is supposedly being made by one lowly cartoonist shackled to his desk.
  • All Is True is a film about William Shakespeare's retirement, directed by and starring Sir Kenneth Branagh. Dropping by to reminisce, Shakespeare's old patron the Earl of Southampton (played by Sir Ian McKellen) complains to Shakespeare that they'll give anyone a knighthood these days.
  • Downton Abbey: A New Era: When Mary agrees to let a film crew use Downton in order to use the money to fix the roof, there is much talk mourning how the great estate is in such dire straights that they have to let actors in (The Downton Abbey series itself filmed in and around the real-life Highclere Castle). Many of the British upper crust characters, all played by highly-regarded British actors, find acting shameful, with the worst offender being Dame Maggie Smith's Violet Crawley, whose actress has the longest and most-lauded acting career of the cast.
  • The Player: A Hollywood movie poking fun at Hollywood, even with collaboration of A-list actors!
  • Deadpool remarks to Colossus that the gigantic X-Mansion seems really empty... as if the film could only afford two X-men. He also comments that he's confused who's supposed to be playing Professor X, and twice makes jokes about his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

  • Agatha Christie: In Real Life Christie had no illusions about her career, calling herself a "sausage machine" churning out a book or more a year. In her books she created an Author Avatar, Ariadne Oliver, an obvious Christie stand-in who made fun of herself and her career.
    • In Death in the Clouds it wasn't Ariadne Oliver, but a one-off character, but the trope was the same. The mystery author complains about how hard it is to write good mystery stories and how he struggles to avoid cliches like The Watson and how he pumps out the same old stuff because his audience demands it.
    • In Mrs. McGinty's Dead Ariadne admits that she screwed up a plot point about a poison dart blowpipe, making the blowpipe only a foot long when they actually need to be four feet long.
    • Ariadne really goes to town in Cards on the Table. She outright calls her many successful novels "tripe" and frequently makes jabs about herself and her writing habits. She admits to recycling plots and sometimes resorting to Never One Murder to stretch out a story that isn't making it to book length. She admits to using Inspector Lestrades ("idiotic police inspectors") to make her detective look good.
    • In The Pale Horse, Ariadne complains about how hard it's getting to come up with new plot twists after writing fifty-odd novels.
    • In Third Girl Ariadne says that she doesn't like her Funny Foreigner detective, who is a Finn, and admits that she knows nothing about Finland and is always making mistakes that readers call her out about. This of course was the same with Christie and her Funny Foreigner Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.
  • Kurt Vonnegut Jr. repeatedly uses the character Kilgore Trout, a failed sci-fi writer, in his novels as an Author Avatar of the self-deprecating variety, though Vonnegut has admitted that Trout is also influenced by Theodore Sturgeon.
  • Repairman Jack: The character P. Frank Winslow, who is an Author Avatar to the author, named F. Paul Wilson. He, as well as authors in general, is described as "needy". His whole character is basically here for this purpose.
  • Isaac Asimov loved this trope; the "George and Azazel" stories almost always start with George dismissing his writer friend's career. (And said writer is Asimov himself.)
  • One of the protagonists in horror writer Brian McNaughton's The Throne of Bones is an eccentric horror writer who pokes fun at his own profession.
  • One of the main characters in The Mark and the Void is a failed literary author and sketchy conman with the same name as the author of the book.
  • The main character of "Final Reward" by Terry Pratchett is a fantasy novelist whose girlfriend claims, with some justification, that he writes fantasy because he can't handle the real world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An extreme example on 30 Rock: Jack directly parodies Alec Baldwin's career. An approximate quotation:
    "And it doesn't matter if you do movies about important things like sick puppies and the Holocaust... the moment you go on TV, nobody will ever take you seriously again."
    • There's also Liz Lemon, who is basically Tina Fey but with a crappy love life and no respect from her peers. The other writers in the show are depicted as frat boys with the maturity of 12-year-olds.
  • On Supernatural, Chuck Shirley, pen name "Carver Edlund" after writer/producers Jeremy Carver and Ben Edlund, is a loser prophet and a writer. Then again, the last episode of the fifth season implies that he could actually be God, so...
  • Seinfeld did this a bit, belittling both Jerry's stand-up act and writing for a sitcom. Another take on ""Seinfeld" Is Unfunny" here.
    • Curb Your Enthusiasm does the same for Larry David's career, with the added bonus that Larry says that his character is very similar to his real life, just that he is slightly less awkward in social situations.
      • In overlap, Jason Alexander said he could not get a good handle on his Seinfeld character, George, until he realized that Larry David had been subconsciously mocking himself.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation Jean-Luc Picard (that is, Patrick Stewart) has commented a few times that he isn't much of an actor.

  • Nerdist Podcast: The antagonist of the Futurama special "Radiorama" is a soundwave-like creature named Klaxxon, voiced by podcast host Chris Hardwick, the result of fifty-eight billion excessive podcasts ("most of which featured Chris Hardwick") being tossed away in the 21st century, who threatens all of Earth by playing all its podcasts at once, even though the force of the sound waves would destroy the world. Earth is more scared about having to listen to podcasts than the destruction.

    Video Games 


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In "A Glitch is a Glitch" (done entirely in 3D CGI by guest animator David O'Reilly), Finn gets tired of trying to do animation on a computer, and complains, "I don't have the patience for this animation junk. Whoever does this must have no life whatsoever." Then he inexplicably punches himself in the face. This joke became even more Hilarious in Hindsight when O'Reilly quit the animation industry out of his own frustrations with the profession.
  • In one episode of Fairly OddParents, Timmy decides to become a film director in order to impress Trixie, and succeeds (albeit accidentally) at winning a Dimmy Award for Best Comedy. Trixie continues to ignore him, however, explaining that "comedy is the lowest form of entertainment—next to animation".
  • Gravity Falls: In the "Clay Day" segment of "Little Gift Shop of Horrors", Mabel has a fear of Stop Motion movie monsters, and Stan tries to explain to her that they're just the work of an animator, whom he calls an "anti-social shut-in". (Bear in mind that Stan is voiced by the show's creator, an animator himself.) When they do meet the Ray Harryhausen-like animator, they discover that he used black magic to make his creatures come to life, and has become enslaved by his creations. He's offended by the very idea that he was ever actually an animator, proclaiming that anyone who puts in that kind of effort is a masochist. The Credits Gag cryptogram confirms that this is true of all forms of animation.
  • Andy from Mission Hill is another example. There was even an episode dedicated to the fact that Andy was broke, couldn't get any of his cartoons published, couldn't even get anyone to understand his cartoons, and was working a dead-end job that barely even put food on the table.
  • In The Simpsons, the creator of The Itchy & Scratchy Show is betrayed and turned into a bum, though a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, eventually. The guy who does the ripping off, Roger Myers Jr., although extremely successful, is shown to be amoral, cruel to his employees (insulting them and sacking them on a whim) and utterly uninterested in the quality of the series as long as ratings and profits are high. The writers are all from Ivy League universities, which gives them attitudes of superiority but are often idle about their work. Other famous "artists" are near-universally egotists or hacks, such as Krusty.
    • In the episode "Homer To The Max": Homer says that networks love animation because they don't have to pay the actors squat. Ned Flanders then comes in with a different voice actor and comments that they could be replaced at any time and no one could tell the difference.
  • Milo Murphy's Law:
    • When the kids are on a bus during Career Day, Milo looks through the jobs listed.
    Milo: Some of these don't even sound like real jobs! Animator? I think it's a typo!
    • One of the later episodes once again has Milo saying, "Wow... I am not a very good actor."