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Deliberately Bad Example

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You should see what Deadpool does to little old ladies...

Sometimes, especially when writing a story or a script about a highly unusual situation, you find that you've just loaded up your protagonist or some other fairly important character with lots of potentially Unfortunate Implications. Alas, trying to have your character explain to everybody why this is Not What It Looks Like is likely to ruin the flow of the plot, and will probably just make your audience even more suspicious. What can you do?

Fortunately, there's an excellent — if not perfect — solution to your problems: the Deliberately Bad Example. The Deliberately Bad Example is everything your morally wholesome and upstanding protagonist is not. If you present this depraved buffoon's perversity comically enough, you won't have to say anything about your protagonist's motives at all. Your viewers will understand that since your protagonist is not at all like this Deliberately Bad Example, he must not be a bad guy.


There are lots of variants. For example, rather than the protagonist, the Deliberately Bad Example may be serving as the backdrop to an important secondary character. Pointing out the differences or similarities between the behavior of the two characters may also serve to raise suspicions rather than allay them. (If the Jerk Ass doesn't behave like the worst kind of villain, how do we know he isn't really a closeted warm-and-fuzzy type? If he does, how do we know he isn't The Mole?)

Deliberately Bad Examples do of course tend to be rather one-dimensional in their usual roles as the Butt-Monkey or worst villain, but need not always be so. Quite often, if a story lasts long enough and they get enough face time, they may go on to develop personalities of their own and maybe even become a Breakout Character.


This is a sub-trope of the Foil. Compare the more PSA-oriented version of this character-as-a-device, the Anti-Role Model, where the character's purpose is to be an example of what the people in the audience aren't supposed to do. Often a trait of the Card-Carrying Villain. The Wrong Way in the Right Way/Wrong Way Pair may be this, especially if the "right" and "wrong" ways are being contrasted morally. See also Black and Gray Morality and A Lighter Shade of Black.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Mori Kouji and Toufukuji from I My Me! Strawberry Eggs, of course. See how these guys behave? Amawa Hibiki is nothing like them!
  • Love Hina's Shirai and Haitani are definitely this to Keitaro, though all the girls in the dormitory fail to see the difference.
  • Odagiri from Koi Kaze: he's the raving pervert with a fetish for high school girls who's pining away for a younger sister, not Koshiro.
  • Parodied with the character Matagu from Please Teacher!: although he's definitely Hot for Teacher and has always wanted to marry a space alien, he's not really necessary. It's already pretty well established from the beginning that the protagonist Kei is nothing like him—which doesn't stop Kei from getting jealous and bad-mouthing him to Mizuho anyway.
  • s-CRY-ed is practically littered with examples. Many of Ryuhou's associates from HOLY serve to emphasize that he really does believe in what he's doing as a Knight Templar by showing what people with less noble motives might do with their powers. The way a number of Kazuma's fellow alter-users behave also indicates that his noble behavior as the Anti-Hero is more the exception than the rule out where he lives.
  • From the Tournament Arc in Fairy Tail, Sabertooth is this to the Fairy Tail guild after they force Yukino to strip before kicking her out for losing a fight. And then you see Raven Tail who makes Sabertooth look like a mild case of Good Is Not Nice in comparison, initially.
  • Seo of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is hired by sports clubs because she has zero sportsmanship, and as a result it reforms their teamwork and such.
  • Rosario + Vampire: Nagare Kano, a perverted Camera Fiend who stoops to such lengths as blackmailing and stalking Kurumu, is a living example of how perverts in the series shouldn't act.
  • Danganronpa 3: Both arcs have a "leader" character that shows how the franchise's archetypal protagonist shouldn't act:
    • Side: Future has Munakata, who frequently takes matters into his own hands, doesn't double-check his convictions, and decides his verdicts violently.
    • Side: Despair has Murasame, who despite being designated leader has no charisma to keep his fellow council members in line. When the game begins, he's all but forgotten about following his introduction.

     Comic Books  

  • Deadpool (pictured above) is this for a lot of characters in the Marvel Universe.
  • In the long-running strip "Goofus and Gallant" in Highlights for Children magazine, Goofus is always a perfect example of how not to behave in any situation. A prime example of this trope, and its long existence and the sheer amount of parody around it make it a good candidate for Trope Codifier.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Dredd is an authoritarian Judge, Jury, and Executioner, but his arch-nemesis Judge Death is the same type of Judge, Jury, and Executioner who reasoned that since crime is only committed by the living, life itself must be punished with death. Yes, even for someone as ruthless as Dredd, there is a far worse alternative.
  • Venom started out as an antagonist for Spider-Man, hoping to kill Spidey for losing him his job, but when he became more of an Anti-Hero he was given his own "worse version" in the form of Carnage, who possesses the same powers as Venom, but bonded to the mind of a sociopathic Serial Killer.


  • In Assassins, the villainous hitman Miguel Bain's rather indiscriminate slaughter of bystanders along with his targets helps establish that although the protagonist Robert Rath is also a hitman, he's a lot more restrained and professional, making his role in the story as a Hitman with a Heart somewhat more believable.
  • Wild Target follows Assassins' lead, making the vicious hitman Dixon a Deliberately Bad Example in order to make his colleague Victor Maynard more sympathetic.
  • The Replacement Killers: The titular assassins are this to Hitman with a Heart John Lee, who Will Not Hurt A Child (which is the reason he's on the run from the Triad) and is precise with his hits, while they just unleash More Dakka and kill their target, anybody unlucky enough to get in the way, aany cops that try to stop them, and have no problem killing a kid as long as they get paid.
  • While Dirty Harry tends to act more like a gunfighter than a police officer (the way a lot of the TV cops these movies were parodying did), a band of lawless vigilante cops in Magnum Force whose idea of community service is coldblooded premeditated murder of the accused (and anybody unlucky enough to be in the way) helps demonstrate that he does at least have some scruples against vigilante justice.
  • Footloose: Principal Dunbar to Reverend Moore, regarding the "no dancing & rock-and-roll" law. Moore is showcased extensively to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist with a sympathetic reason for the "Jumping Off the Slippery Slope" point of view he harbors against these things (he lost a kid to a drunken driver accident). Dunbar, however, is a fascistic fundamentalist jerk that has started to remove other things he deems "unsavory" from town now that the law has given him the necessary toehold to do so.


  • Dolores Umbridge is introduced as such for Snape in the fifth Harry Potter novel. If Severus Snape really were a monster rather than a particularly unkind neutral Anti-Hero, this is who he'd be.
  • In Rafael Sabatini's novel Captain Blood: His Odyssey, Isterling and l'Evaser are both portrayed as monsters so that Peter Blood can retain the image of a noble pirate.
  • In Alexander Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter the author made use of one of these to avoid censorship: The hero Grinev is friends with the anti-Czarist rebel Pugachev, yet remains a positive character, which could have led to the book being banned in Czarist Russia. So Pushkin introduced Shvabrin, a spineless, unscrupulous traitor who sells out everybody; in comparison to this, the hero seems quite loyal and patriotic.
  • The way John Simpson is used in the mass meeting in Grantville in 1632, where the time-displaced Americans for the first time gets to know what has happened and what they will do about it. Basically, he was used to set up one way to react that Stearns could target, and thus quickly be established as the leader. Written that way simply as a halfway realistic way to avoid lots of tedious discussion and drawn-out wrangling. Later in the series, Simpson got more screentime and lots more nuance.
  • Subverted in Lolita of all places. Clare Quilty is a pornographer who has ruined the lives of many young girls. But it's very hard to say he's objectively worse than Humbert Humbert.

     Live Action TV  

  • The Office: The main character usually aggravates his employees with his antics, but he's at least better than the eccentric Dwight Schrute.

     Video Games  

  • Dragon Age II has Meredith Stannard of the Templars, an extremely radical member who will attack and imprison mages at the slightest provocation. She basically serves as a personification of every wrong approach to regulating magic. Her presence makes Hawke's sometimes morally dubious actions seem more sympathetic and justified regardless of what side Hawke takes, because Hawke represents the best available alternative to Meredith's tyrannical and unhinged leadership.
    • Similarly, Sister (later Mother) Petrice, who instigates a war with the Qunari in the city because she sees them as a threat to the Chantry. This is in contrast to Grand Cleric Elthina, who's a Reasonable Authority Figure, although she's a bit too passive.
  • Homefront: Although John Milius is, by his own admission, something of a raving nationalist, he specifically wrote some very nasty survivalists into the game to demonstrate that his being decidedly right-wing doesn't mean he automatically favors every cause considered to be right-wing just because it supposedly matches his alignment.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, there's an NPC in the Gerudo Highlands region who is a Lethal Chef because she insists on putting monster parts or ancient Magitek parts in all her cooking. Her campground is covered in massive piles of burnt and disgusting-looking "food" being swarmed by flies. This serves to demonstrate to any players who haven't yet figured it out that this is always a bad idea. However, using her specific recipes does make failed food that restores more hearts than usual.


  • Amical of morphE is one for the morality and mannerisms of the mage community. Normally in the New World of Darkness a mage would not be able to operate as publically and callously as Amical without facing repercussions. The seedlings do not know this, however, and only have him as a role model.
  • Two of the Troll dancestors from Homestuck are based off of Tumblr's social justice blogs. The rude and petulant Kankri is an extremely hypersensitive, over-the-top Jerkass convinced that Everything Is Racist, and is strongly hinted to be a massive Hypocrite. He's clearly meant to be evocative of everything supporters of various worthy social causes shouldn't be. He is regularly contrasted to the level-headed, polite, and understanding Porrim, whose milder manner represents the way to promote these social causes properly.

     Western Animation  



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