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Eccentric Exterminator

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"Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to."
Bill Lee, Naked Lunch

In Real Life, a practitioner of pest control is much like any trained professional. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it, and those who do are mostly ordinary people. Some even show ethical concern for pests, and attempt to minimize suffering or harm caused by removing them.

In fiction, this is not the case. Perhaps it is the morbid or sometimes-disgusting nature of the work, or that it is not a job conducive to making friendships, but there's something in the image of the exterminator that makes them ripe for caricature. These depictions turn a quirky profession into an eldritch terror for pests.

Exterminators in fiction are often portrayed as sadistic or unstable individuals who enjoy killing animals. They might give an Evil Laugh while fumigating a house for insects, or drive around in a truck with a giant sculpture of a dead bug on top. From their perspective, they are a Hunter of Monsters, and those monsters scurry behind every wall and crawl under every floorboard. In short, they are the slightly more eccentric and benign version of the Egomaniac Hunter.

They are usually Played for Laughs. Unfortunately for their prey, insects and rats are not typically considered cute, so the prospect of them getting killed in over-the-top ways can be Black Comedy Animal Cruelty. More importantly, there is nothing brave or heroic about exterminating small creatures that cannot fight back, so the idea that this character considers themself some sort of Great White Hunter is ridiculous. If the character unexpectedly faces Big Creepy-Crawlies, maybe they prove their mettle. Or maybe not.

Sister Trope to Diabolical Dog Catcher, who thinks dogs and cats are pests to be exterminated. Not to be confused with Pest Controller. Compare/contrast The Great Exterminator, which is someone who wipes out an entire species and becomes famous for it (though crossover is possible).


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    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Ant Bully has exterminator Stan Beals as the villain. He basically bullies Lucas (a 10-year-old kid) into illegally signing a contract with him for exterminating the ants and wasps in the backyard, clearly takes a lot of pleasure out of his job, and is overall a jerk.
  • Over the Hedge gives us the Verminator, Dwayne LaFontant, whose personality puts the "Terminator" in "exterminator". Although a bit jumpy (he shoots the heads off plastic flamingos, as he keeps mistaking them for real birds), he has an innate ability to detect which animals have recently been in the area — a skill acquired while studying for an associate's degree from VermTech — and sells Homeowner's Association president Gladys Sharp a "Depelter Turbo", a supercharged (as in, it can kill satellites) animal trap that is illegal in every state (except Texas).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Seth in American History X. The quirk is that he's a Neo-Nazi. While driving his exterminator car he even sings along with a song on the radio that is so profoundly racist that it need not be repeated here.
  • Delbert McClintock in Arachnophobia has various quirks but seems like a nice guy. He also has a bit of an inflated opinion of himself, but he does walk the walk when he kills most of the drone spiders at the end.
  • Big Ass Spider!: Mostly averted by the protagonist Alex. He's obsessed with pests of all kinds to the point he can rattle off information about them in the blink of an eye, but is pretty professional regardless.
  • Jeff in The Borrowers (1997) is a mild case of this. His cheerful demeanor annoys Potter to no end, which he completely fails to pick up on, and his sniffer dog suffers from chronic flatulence and apparently lives on a steady diet of cheese. And even after learning to his fascination that his quarry is not rodents but a family of tiny people, he carries on with the task of trying to kill them.
  • Ghostbusters: A central joke is that the eponymous Ghostbusters resemble supernatural exterminators. They are Blue Collar Warlocks who remove ghosts from Haunted Houses as if they were an infestation, all with a comedic lack of mysticism.
  • Graveyard Shift has Brad Dourif give a memorable turn as Tucker Cleveland, a Shell-Shocked Veteran who has a personal grudge against rats after watching the Viet Cong use them to eat prisoners alive while serving in Vietnam, and thus takes way too much joy in killing them. He also has a dog he bred specifically to hunt rats and keeps on a strict diet of whiskey, and occasionally uses a gun to dispatch particularly aggressive rats.
  • Men in Black gives us Ed, who is a pretty normal guy (or as normal as someone played by Vincent D'Onofrio can be) until a giant bug from outer space uses his body as a disguise and steals an exterminator's van, giving us quite a bit of this vibe.
  • Ceasar from MouseHunt, played by Christopher Walken, of all people. He has an almost supernatural intuition about his prey and maintains an overly dramatic log report about his work. He's eventually Driven to Madness by the mouse he's trying to catch.
  • The protagonist from Naked Lunch, making this Truth in Television in the case of William S. Burroughs. He is chronically addicted to the bug powder he uses in his line of work as a poor man's drug, and even gets his wife hooked on to the stuff.

  • Any rat catcher in the Discworld novels. It seems that the job is the setting's equivalent to a Red Shirt, by the way, unless you're a gnome of course — and sometimes, it's even better than Red Shirt. At least one of these guys upon dying was greeted with "Squeak!" and... reincarnated. No prize for guessing into what exactly.
  • In Dork Diaries, Nikki's father is this in spades. He drives to the job in a van with a giant roach (affectionately named Max) on top, dances while fumigating his daughter's school, and even once tried to land himself a TV role as an exterminating superhero.
  • The Nature of Predators: The Federation's "Extermination Officers" are tasked with exterminating all predators, plus anything that "looks threatening". Some, like Kalsim, see this as a simple necessity and don't really hate the predators. Many Extermination Officers hate predators, though, and get satisfaction out of burning them alive.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Billy the Exterminator: Besides dressing in goth clothing as a substitute for more practical protection, Billy is perpetually excited about pretty much everything.
  • In Breaking Bad, the anti-heroes use a pest control company as a cover to cook meth while the houses are tented. The actual exterminators aren't much more upstanding, because they use their business as a cover to rob houses.
  • In the Dexter season five episode "Hello, Bandit", the titular Dexter tracks down an exterminator who is also a Serial Killer.
  • The Good Life: In the episode "Whose Fleas Are These?", an outbreak of fleas at the Good house is treated by professional pest expert P.V. Bulstrode, who loves his work so much that Tom and Barbara find him a bit unsettling. He gains entry to the Good house by pretending to be an encyclopedia salesman who particularly likes to draw Tom's attention to the entries under "F" for "fleas", explaining that his customers find it less embarrassing for the neighbours to overhear, and proudly declares that his family have been in the "infestation" business since the bubonic plague was sweeping across Britain.note 
  • Mr. Lance in the Goosebumps (1995) episode "Awesome Ants" is way too into his work, hunting bugs with steely determination and gleeful enjoyment, admiring the ants for their craftiness. He calls the protagonist a liar for claiming the ants from his ant farm grew to 3 inches, larger than any real-life ants. Subverted at the end when everything turns out to be a dream by a man living in a world where giant ants rule the Earth. Mr. Lance reflects how things might have been different for humans, and warns the protagonist not to let the ants know that he dreamed that it was Mr. Lance's job to kill them.
  • Vasily Fet of The Strain (TV series) works for the NYC Health Department and treats his job with a swagger-and-badge attitude more befitting a homicide detective in a 1990s action movie. Fittingly, when the vampire apocalypse begins, that turns out to be an apt description.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: A couple of times in the "Scenes from a Hat" segment, the comedians are asked to be exterminators with weird gimmicks like interrogating the homeowner in Good Cop/Bad Cop fashion about the infestation.
  • The X-Files: In "War of the Coprophages", a cockroach exterminator opens the episode with a heartfelt ode to roaches before finishing it with "But to them, we humans are gods and should act accordingly" and stomping a particularly unlucky specimen on the floor. It doesn't end well for him.


    Western Animation 
  • Gary the Rat: Gary's arch-nemesis, Johnny Bugz, is a pathetic man obsessed with taking out Gary. He also has a very strange relationship with his cat Boots, begging for his approval.
  • Zigzagged with X in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: his eccentricities have less to do with his exterminating of bugs and more of his increasingly failed attempts to exterminate Harvey. In fact, he isn't even really an exterminator... but Debbie had mistaken him for one and put him to work on getting rid of the bugs.
  • Dale Gribble from King of the Hill, if we consider being a Conspiracy Theorist eccentric. He makes mention of doing stuff in order to be a more efficient exterminator like doing his own chemical mixes at home. At one point, he quits the exterminator job and becomes an office drone (with a specialty of being the company's firing guy), but a cockroach infestation gives him the exhilaration he needs to go back to exterminating — he kills the bugs by crawling through the air vents and crushing them all with his body.
  • The Loud House: The unnamed exterminator seen in "Along Came a Sister" takes great joy in his work, even taking a moment to gas two harmless caterpillars on the Louds' front lawn.


Video Example(s):


Dexter the Exterminator

Dexter introduces himself to Lila by letting slip he hunts cats alongside actual vermin. Concerningly, later episodes reveal he had a pet cat.

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