A character who exists to provide a flattering contrast to the audience by being worse than them in some specific respect.
This trope exists on a sliding scale of scorn; at one end the character simply exists as a flattering contrast to the audience (the Idiot Hero often fits here). At this end of the spectrum, the audience thinks "if this character can do x, then I certainly can do x!"
On the other end of scorn scale is the harder version, where a character is made pathetic so the audience can feel better about themselves (via Schadenfreude). The Ditz, a very common trope in Sitcoms, is this (but Played for Laughs).
Arguably an Expectation Lowerer is an Inversion of Escapist Character; Escapist Characters allow you to feel good by giving you an Audience Surrogate that you can experience awesomeness through. An Expectation Lowerer makes you feel good in the exact opposite way; you cannot identify with this character because they, in at least one respect, are worse than you.
Not to be confused with This Loser Is You; where a character you identify with is the character that sucks. This Loser Is You basically flings the audience's faults back into their face whereas an Expectation Lowerer allows them to distance themselves from their faults.
Possibly related to Friedrich Nietzsche and his concept of "Pathos Of Distance" (where one casts that which one does not identify with as the morally wrong).
- Friedrich Nietzsche and his aforementioned concept of the "pathos of distance" is arguably related to this. Nietzsche argued that moral concepts came about because societies/groups/cliques defined themselves (and a list of traits they allegedly embodied) as "the good" and hence "the unlike us" became "the bad."
- St Thomas Aquinas believed that the righteous in Heaven will be able to observe the torments of the wicked in Hell; the better to enjoy their blessedness. This is probably the harshest demonstration of the second kind of Expectation Lowerer, with gloating and Schadenfreude on a celestial level.
- Or, as a demonstration of justice to their persecutors.
- St Thomas was by no means the first person to think this; the early Christian writer Tertullian wrote a remarkably nasty account of how much he was looking forward to seeing the benighted Roman heathens burning in Hell.
- This is the reason for many negative character tropes such as the Bumbling Dad.
- Every single guest on The Jerry Springer Show, and the UK equivalent Jeremy Kyle.
- Hopeless Auditionees on any TV Talent Show (for instance, American Idol).
- All of the main characters of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
- Studies show that this is literally true of the contestants on reality television; it can actually serve as a mental substitute for self-betterment.
- Harry Kim's job on Star Trek: Voyager was basically to make everyone else on the USS Voyager look better. Garrett Wang didn't really get to act muchnote , and his character wasn't allowed to accomplish anything, or get what he wanted, or have a love life to speak of, or get promotednote , and even things that would pass without comment on any other Trek series got him into troublenote ; meanwhile, his character's best friend, Tom Paris, was The Ace with skills in literally every field of human endeavour and, by the end of the series, a wife and the beginnings of a family. And even despite this, he still ended up more popular than Neelix, which only goes to show that having someone be dumped on constantly for seven years can still earn a certain measure of sympathy.
- According to Scott Adams, this was the reason he ended the relationship between Dilbert and Liz. He kept getting e-mails stating essentially "Dilbert shouldn't get lucky before I do."
- This, mixed with Bile Fascination, drives sites like Encyclopedia Dramatica and People of Walmart (among many, many others).
- The Scumbags of the Internet section on A Dose of Buckley gives us the following catchphrase, which all but invokes this trope:
"So thanks to today's Scumbag of the Internet, [insert name or nickname here], for making us all feel better by knowing no matter what we do in life, we'll always be better than he/she/they is/are."
- Barney Gumble from The Simpsons, is meant to be even more of a Straw Loser than Homer is. Subverted in that Barney makes an effort to get clean and sober (although he does fall Off the Wagon every now and again.) He's been Out of Focus in more recent seasons, because, with his recovery efforts, he does not fulfill his Expectation Lowerer role anymore.
- Carl of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Fat, balding, ugly, hairy, a slob, a perverted sleazeball, and beyond.
- SpongeBob SquarePants is not the brightest bulb in the circuit by any means, but compared to Patrick, he looks like a genius.
- Richard Watterson on The Amazing World of Gumball seems to have the sole purpose of saying and doing things so stupid even Loser Protagonist Gumball sees how dumb they are. Notably, Richard, unlike Gumball, is such an idiotic loser that things often actually work around to his advantage precisely because of the fact that no one expects anything of him, so in a way, by making Gumball (and by extension the audience) seem like less of a loser, he makes Gumball look like more of a loser.
- Moral Orel has Clay Puppington, an abusive, self-destructive, hypocritical, alcoholic Attention Whore who hates everyone and everything, especially himself. Deconstructed in season 3, when his dysfunction gradually alienates every single person in his life.