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Hero with Bad Publicity

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"What is he up to now?" Well, it appears that despicable ne'er-do-well is right at this moment SAVING YOU INGRATES!note 

"I don't have time to justify myself to your viewers. I have a galaxy to save."

Being a Superhero isn't all it's cracked up to be. The heroes' lives and those of their loved ones are constantly in danger from their archnemeses — and sometimes from their own powers, too. Sometimes someone else takes credit for their heroic efforts. But perhaps the most hurtful and confusing drawback comes when the people they've sworn to protect hate their guts.

This could arise for any number of reasons:

But whatever the reason, public sentiment is against these heroes, and there's usually nothing they can do about it. Sorry - you can't please everyone.

Usually serves as the grass-roots support for a Super Registration Act. Can be a reason that Hilarity Sues. Especially ironic when it happens to the Slave to PR. Think of it as a tamer situation than Beware the Superman, where the only people who are acting like the supers are the ones to be feared are individuals and not society. The permanent version of the Untrusting Community. When the hero's problems are evident only to intimates, is No Hero to His Valet. A bad guy that people like is a Villain with Good Publicity. A character who can do no wrong in the public eye has 100% Heroism Rating. When the hero is pushed too far and concludes that being a hero for this undeserving society is up to no good, he might as well become evil... Contrast Karmic Shunning, in which a character is deserving of their pariah status.

As it is highly subjective to call someone a hero in real life, No Real Life Examples, Please! noreallife

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    Films — Animation 
  • Esmeralda from The Hunchbackof Notre Dame Disney is a beautiful, young Romani performer and activist who constantly rebels against Frollo trying to protect her people from being persecuted and exterminated because of his tyrannical reign over Paris. After seeing the public humiliate Quasimodo via Produce Pelting, much to Frollo's joy after his status as a hunchback has made his presence known to everyone at the Festival of Fools, Esmeralda runs up to the stage and defends Quasimodo before angrily calling out Frollo for abusing him the same way he does the same to the Romani. Unfortunately, this also results in Frollo developing an obsession with Esmeralda and starts lusting after her, threatening to have her executed by being burned at the stake if she refuses to join him in his bed.
  • In The Incredibles, all supers have Bad Publicity after they're sued for causing damage while saving lives. The result is that using superpowers becomes illegal and they all have to go into the "Superhero Protection Program." By the end of the movie, this all ends after Mr. Incredible, his family, and Frozone save everyone from the Omnidroid and Syndrome.
    • The sequel dials it up a notch when the Screenslaver starts brainwashing the supers into behaving like jerks and flaunting their superiority over everyone else, to ensure that the resurgence from the first movie doesn't stick.
  • The Lion King (1994): Simba very briefly, when Scar accuses him of being responsible for Mufasa's death, until he forces Scar to admit the truth to the rest of the pride.
    • In the sequel, after Zira sets up her ambush, and Simba banishes him, every animal in the Pride Lands tries to attack Kovu to ensure he leaves their home.
  • Zig-zagged in The Powerpuff Girls Movie. Before becoming heroes, their game of tag renders Townsville asunder ("Bug-eyed Girls Destroy Townsville" reads the headline of the Townsville Times). Even when they attempt to do something good, they are seen as pariahs.
  • Ratatouille: Despite his intelligence and culinary skill, Rémy is still a rat and is treated as vermin whenever humans see him. The only people who treat him as a chef are Linguini and (eventually) Colette and Ego.
  • Shrek is this in the first two movies, because he's an ogre and most people are fully prepared to assume the worst of ogres. Not to forget that Shrek hand-made and put up posters warning people to beware of him because he derives pleasure from humans screaming then running away in fear of him. By Shrek the Third onwards, this has changed, and the public not only accepts him but views him as a local hero and role model. Forever After shows that Shrek misses getting to scare humans which he hasn't been able to do in a long time, leading to his signing a contract for a wish that triggered the plot of the fourth movie.
  • The Simpsons become this in their theatrical movie as after Homer contaminated Springfield's lake with his pet pig's feces (plus his own) inside a huge silo, the town is sealed in a dome because of President Arnold Schwarzenegger's negligent strategic thinking. The townspeople angrily go after them with Torches and Pitchforks, but they escape just in time and retreat to live in exile in Alaska.
  • Averted for once in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. None of the seven Spider-Men in the movie seem to have bad publicity in their home universes: in fact, two of them are beloved enough to have merchandising deals. Pause the movie at the right time and you can read The Daily Bugle, of all things, calling Peter B Parker a hero while they're panning his restaurant. Miles Morales is briefly wanted by the police after getting implicated in his uncle's death, but they're back on good terms by the end, with grateful citizens applauding him and clapping him on the back.

  • In The Protomen, Dr. Light is very much this. He created the machines to benefit mankind, but Dr. Wily stole them and used one to kill Light's girlfriend, Emily. Wily blamed Light for the murder, and the angered citizens tried to lynch him.
    • This is even lampshaded by Willy when he states that it doesn't even matter if he's telling the truth or that his arguments don't really make sense, the very fact that he pointed his finger at Light caused the crowd to blindly hate him.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Hades/Pluto is frequently portrayed as a Hellenistic analogue to Satan in modern media. This portrayal of him is entirely unfair. He was certainly a Jerkass by modern standards, but most of the Hellenistic gods were. If the Hellenes had a Satan-type, it would have been Ate, the personification of ruin, folly, and destruction who causes... well, ruin, folly and destruction For the Evulz. Of course, this would serve as an inversion for those who believe he is evil... To clarify, unlike Satan who was cast into Hell for defying God, Hades pretty much got the job of ruling the afterlife because his younger brothers screwed him over. Zeus claimed the Earth and the Heavens, Poseidon the Sea, meaning the Underworld was all that was left for Hades. He didn't like the job, but he wasn't overly cruel about it (at least, not in comparison to some of the other gods). And since his realm included the entire afterlife, including the Gardens of Elysium, he was essentially the ruler of both Heaven and Hell.
  • Some strands of Abrahamic thought hold that Satan is simply in charge of God's judicial system, and doesn't deserve all the hate that is thrown at him - he has a damn dirty job, but Someone Has to Do It. The proto-Evil Lawyer Joke if you will. This seems to be more the case in the pre-Christian tradition. Which would hold his original Hebrew name, "Ha-Satan", "the accuser."
  • The Bible:
    • Jesus Christ is this during His preaching days. It kinda led to his death (depending on which translation you read). He also warns his disciples that the world will hate them.
    • Thomas is the only disciple to volunteer to die with Jesus in John 11:16, one of the few people in the Gospels to explicitly call Jesus God, and, according to Church tradition, traveled all the way to India to preach Christianity. Even so, most people only know him as the guy who didn't believe that Jesus had really come back. "Doubting Thomas" is a common nickname for a skeptic.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Glacier was this during the Blood Runs Cold storyline in WCW in 1997. He was a Face but not a particularly popular one.
  • John Cena is this today and has been so for several years in WWE. He is the top Face in wrestling but try convincing someone who normally gives him bad reviews or says bad things about him that he or she is wrong. Being that he's often a Designated Hero with ridiculous degrees of Protagonist-Centered Morality about him...

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • The destruction done to the school during the Mass Super-Empowering Event is pinned on a few select students who weren't responsible for it (part of the destruction was the event itself, the other part was a different student who had temporarily lost his senses after receiving his power). It's later subverted when it's revealed that the entire thing is a set-up, but Finn's speech as they're being accused highlights how many of them are social misfits who could easily serve as fall guys for events they had no involvement with.
    • In a broader sense, various flashes of the Bad Future have shown that the public grows increasingly antagonistic to the people with superpowers, first forcing them under a curfew and then escalating to the government actively hunting them down. The superpowered individuals in question aren't shown to have done anything wrong, instead getting lumped in with one or two supervillains.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is a common problem for Solar and Lunar Exalted, since they've been branded as psychotically evil demons by the main religion of the setting.
  • In the Forgotten Realms, Helm has become considerably less popular due to his killing Mystra during the Time Of Troubles.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Lamenters Chapter of Space Marines are often considered the most unquestioningly noble, heroic, and compassionate of all Chapters (most of whom range from Anti-Hero to straight Villain Protagonist). However, they're also considered "cursed" by most of their cousin Marines and the Imperium at large, due to being a product of the infamous "Cursed 13th" founding. A large number of Chapters formed in this founding were known to either fall to Chaos, or possess horrific mutations that forced them to be purged, though the Lamenters are neither. Worse still, the Lamenters had the ill luck to be on the wrong side of the Badab War, a civil war that they joined for legitimate and noble reasons (defiance of the High Lords of Terra), in which one of their ally chapters also fell to Chaos. These two associations have led to one of the most heroic Chapters being regarded as borderline-heretics and little better than traitors.

  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto: The title character's father Rodrigo Borgia isn't all that heroic, but his bad reputation isn't all deserved — the other priests at the time were just as corrupt, like his rival Giuliano della Rovere, who tried to get two of Cesare's college classmates to assassinate him, and who inherited a faction that tried to assassinate Lorenzo de'Medici in church during mass. In that Black-and-Grey Morality world, the Borgias weren't the only ones doing whatever it takes to get to the top.
  • In Cross Road, violinist Niccolo Paganini made a Deal with the Devil, and everyone can tell from the way he plays that that's where his genius comes from. He has nuns protesting against him, gets rotten eggs thrown at him, his house graffitied, banished from his hometown, the whole lot.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the song "Good Kid" has Percy lament that he's always tried to be good, but all it has earned him is bad grades, a bad rep, no friends, and no hope.
    Percy: I keep my head down / I keep my chin up / But it ends up all the same / "Pack your bags, Percy. You're always to blame."
  • Similarly, Ja'far from Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, the Team StarKid parody of Aladdin, is actually a kind, honest and hardworking guy, but is hated by almost everyone in the magic kingdom as the truth keeps getting twisted to paint him as a villain. Later in the play it turns out that the same thing happened to several other Disney "villains" in the past- except for Cruella de Vil, who really did just want to make a coat out of puppies.
    • Even Cruella di Vil isn't all that evil in the grand scheme of things because there's an entire industry that raises animals just for their fur.
  • Elphaba from Wicked probably qualifies as she is definitely engaged in heroic activities saving Animals from the fascist dictator of Oz. However, due to the Wizard's efforts to paint her as wicked, she rapidly becomes the most hated figure in Oz.

    Visual Novels 
  • Zigzagged with the protagonist of Double Homework. He caused an avalanche that took twelve lives, and got savaged for it in the press, but it may have happened anyway. However, after he saves six people from a second one, the negative publicity still doesn't completely go away, to say nothing of the allegations on conspiracy websites.
  • Fate/stay night
  • After his cousin is kidnapped, his acquaintance is found dead, and his aunt is found comatose, Akira from Spirit Hunter: NG gets hauled in by the police who start to suspect that he's up to something, and refuse to believe his claim that spirits are behind it all.

    Web Animation 
  • The titular character of Nomad of Nowhere is just a friendly, mute hermit with magical powers, who just wants to have friends. But for reasons yet to be elaborated on, though likely connected to the tendency of his good deeds to backfire, he is seen as a menace by most of the world and was forced into hiding for a hundred years to avoid being hounded by bounty hunters. Heck, Skout didn't even recognize him at first mainly because she couldn't reconcile the almost demonic visage on his wanted poster with the actual guy.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Agent Washington spends the entirety of Season 6 trying to bring down Project Freelancer and stop the Meta, only to wind up arrested and branded as one of the Director's cronies in Season 7. Eventually, he snaps and pulls a Face–Heel Turn, deciding to go after the Reds and Blues and get Epsilon so he'll be pardoned.
    • Subverted hilariously in Season 10. When the Reds and Blues are planning to leave, having decided they don't want to be involved in Carolina's quest for revenge against the Director, Washington convinces them to stick around by claiming the UNSC is likely after them for their involvement in Project Freelancer; he's blatantly bullshitting them, especially since they barely had any involvement in it, were completely Locked Out of the Loop, and were just used as living crash test dummies for Freelancer training exercises. And then Double Subverted when it's revealed he was actually right, much to his own shock; the UNSC actually was after them, though the effort to catch them is so piss poor and incompetent that the Reds and Blues are not only able to escape with ease, but wind up with a Pelican too.
    • Played straight in Season 15, where they get blamed for the Blues and Reds' attack on a UNSC outpost and are branded as terrorists.
  • RWBY
    • After Yang and Mercury's tournament match ends, Cinder's machinations ensure the entire world witnesses Yang suddenly shoot Mercury in the leg for no apparent reason. The stadium crowd's reaction is so ugly it causes a spike in Grimm activity, and Yang's apparently vindictive action doesn't just damage her reputation but also Beacon's and Ozpin's, too. Ironwood is therefore forced to disqualify Team RWBY. Velvet later comments to Ruby that she thinks it's awful what people are saying about Yang; she thinks Yang just experienced stress on the battlefield and most people will never know what that's like to go through; Ironwood took the same position when disqualifying the team.
    • General James Ironwood is desperately trying to protect Atlas and Mantle from attack by Salem while trying to plan a counter-move against her. However, his method of protection involves using his military to place strict controls on the Mantle population's ability to function and to divert essential construction supplies away from Mantle's border protections. Thus, the people of Mantle regard him as no better than a dictator who is harming both their livelihoods and their city defenses. Ironwood is aware of the negative sentiment, but dismisses it as an unfortunate necessity to achieve the greater good. After becoming a full on villain however he rants that everyone is ungrateful to him for all he has done and sacrificed for Remnant indicating that this angered him more then he initially let on.
  • In X-Ray & Vav, the Mad King essentially manipulates the entire city into believing that X-Ray and Vav are nothing but a bunch of Super Zeroes and that Mogar is the hero they really deserve. It doesn't help that he's right — Vav's a nice guy, but not all right in the head and X-Ray suffers from a crippling case of It's All About Me and that's not counting the destruction they've caused by their antics.

  • The title character of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja becomes one in the final arc. The Doctor manages to stop King Radical from sacrificing billions of lives, but thanks to King Radical's almost magical charisma, almost no one is grateful for it. Quite the contrary, the entire world goes out for the Doctor's blood.
  • Dear Children: Most of the students, and probably some of the teachers, at Hearthbrook High School assume that the Journalism Club is just an excuse for its members to get wasted and engage in debauchery, mostly because they are misfits. The truth is both far more innocent — and far more ominous — they're investigating reports of the paranormal.
  • In Erfworld, Parson is the main protagonist and The Chosen One, having been chosen by the spirit of the world to kill the Big Bad. But between his unsettling genius, work for an aggressive faction, and his own total lack of honor, just about everyone fears and loathes him.
  • In Girl Genius
    • The Wulfenbachs suffer a lot from this. Yes, they are the despot of Europa and his heir, but Klaus is often accused of being the Other, betraying the Heterodynes, etc. He could probably use a good propaganda service which would only have to highlight the good he really is doing for the common people. Gil is also accused of destroying Dr. Beetle's lab for no reason (well, he deflected a bomb back to the thrower, saving not only his own life but that of an innocent lab assistant as well). After the Wulfenbachs' power breaks during the Time Skip, Europa is in chaos again and quite a few people—even their enemies of a mere two years ago—now think back on their rule as a "golden age".
    • Popular opinion on Agatha herself is quite polarized. Many people see her as the rightful successor to her father's heroism—but there's also no shortage of people who believe she is every bit the monster her ancestors were. Klaus himself tries very hard to contain her before he can be assured of her character—but he becomes convinced that Agatha is a more typical Heterodyne during an unfortunate episode where Agatha's mother possesses her body. Even after he learns about the possession, and even after Agatha's mind is rid of her mother's influence, he still considers the idea of a free, independent Heterodyne to be too big a threat to the peace of Europa to condone. Even in an arc set in the future, many see her as a villain due to her willingness to rehabilitate monsters instead of just putting them down.
  • The Last Adventure: Discord becomes that after everypony learned that it was his fault that Tirek, Queen Chrysalis and Cozy Glow put Equestria in danger ( he never was popular, but now even the Cutie Mark Cruzaders are mad with him). The situation is so dire that he decides to exile in the Everfree Forest, so Fluttershy won't be affected for associating with him and marry someone better. Instead, she goes along with her friends to look for him, unaware there is a new menace lurking around.
  • Mechagical Girl Lisa ANT: Between her alien-ant-robot costume and Pink Flash's propaganda, Lisa's heroic alter ego ANT is perceived as an "alien monster."
  • Metacarpolis: In Emi's flashback, it is revealed that she was a former magical girl who became an idol when her and her group signed up to be stars. However, she finds her career turn sour when she stops a mugger with a gun by... breaking his legs. Let's just say, it goes pretty public.
  • In Nebula, Sun becomes one due to Pluto witnessing what seems like him committing a brutal (as in, ripping the person in half) and unprovoked murder. What Pluto didn't know is that the person Sun killed was torturing innocent people to death at the time with their supernatural abilities, and Sun only resorted to violence to save them when trying to talk them down peacefully failed.
  • Ballister Blackheart from NIMONA, who's mostly just looked down upon for being cast out of the local special knights' institution, and is trying to reveal their schemes for the better of the kingdom.
  • Saitama in One-Punch Man, thanks to the civilians being a bunch of Ungrateful Bastards, other Heroes going out of their way to ruin his reputation out of envy, Saitama himself going out of his way to ruin it to maintain public faith in the other Heroes, Saitama not really caring about publicity, and Saitama only reporting the bare minimum of his deeds to the Hero Organization to stay registered as a Hero. Despite this, his rank is still slowly rising since enough people witness and report his heroic actions anyway.
  • Sonic the Comic – Online!:
    • This trope has become Sonic's downfall — the Kane Broadcasting Company uses their footage to convince the population of Mobius that Sonic is actually a villain who might be worse than Robotnik, and the worst part of it is, the footage they have to back up their claims, while very one-sided, is still genuine. Sonic's base can spy on every zone in the world, Sonic himself is a bit of a dick, and his super form is a monster who's already caused havoc before. Not to mention the fact that in essence, he created Robotnik. As it turns out, Grimer, Robotnik's former Dragon, not only gave the Kane Broadcasting Company the footage and knowledge they needed, but also built a new Voluntary Shapeshifting model of Metallix to frame Sonic for crimes such as bombing the Green Hill Zone with Mega Mack, turning half of it into an uninhabitable wasteland, to get revenge on Sonic for driving Robotnik insane. The plot has succeeded, with Sonic now a wanted fugitive and terrorist, hated and feared worldwide; even the Freedom Fighters (sans Tails) no longer trust him. That being said, Sonic still has some fans; Cream the Rabbit and some of the Drakons have been fans of his since he won his trial by combat (with help from Tails and a door). Sonic spends the next several issues Walking the Earth, fighting villains wherever he goes and trying to find a way to clear his name, and as of Issue 275, he's finally succeeded. After helping Tails finally put an end to the war with Robotnik, as well as helping defeat the Drakon Empire once and for all, Tails gives Kane footage of the battle in exchange for proof that Sonic has been innocent all along. Footage of Sonic fighting the Drakons and the Neo Metallix that set him up is subsequently broadcasted on televisions everyone, restoring Sonic's reputation.
    • In the wake of Sonic's fall from grace, Tails has become the Hero of Mobius in his place. Despite this, he has earned a fair bit of scorn from the public, including the other Freedom Fighters, because even in the wake of the Kane Broadcasting Company's smear campaign, he continues to support and defend Sonic.
  • Vampire Cheerleaders: The Paranormal Mystery Squad are a group of cryptid hunters, who strive to protect humanity. But, as far as the general public's concerned, it's the cryptids who need saving from them, since they believe the PMS's actions are inhumane. And their image is made worse by their leader's flippancy and flagrant disregard for the laws protecting cryptid rights. Which puts them at odds with PETMnote , who eventually takes legal action against them.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Played for Laughs in the Cell Games arc where some poorly thought out comments make the public think Goku is an abusive husband and father, causing the public to hate him.
  • In New Vindicators, there are plenty of examples-mostly because all superhumans are pretty much feared and or hated by the public at large, to one extent or another. Magnus Loder (who is a bit of a dick), holds a place on the FBI's most-wanted list because he was framed for killing an anti-superhuman Senator who was campaigning for President. Anomaly, for a while, went around killing men who were abusive to their girlfriends, making him a kind of serial killer superhero.
  • In The Sword of Good, it turns out that the Lord of Dark wants nothing more than to bring the Age of Enlightenment to a world that is quite feudal in both politics and science. When the prophesied hero shows up, the real villains go to great lengths to demonize him, in an attempt to make the hero perpetuate their stagnant, self-serving regime instead. It doesn't work.
  • There are several examples in the Whateley Universe:
    • Battery, whose final battle against his arch-enemy destroyed one of the New York City bridges and injured hundreds,
    • The Flying Bulldozer, who wasn't smart enough to avoid massive collateral damage when fighting evil: one of his recurring villains, Doctor Debt, figured out how to make millions by surrendering to FB and collecting rewards from insurance companies for preventing the incipient damage
    • Tennyo, because she is powerful even by school standards, and (through no fault of her own, other than naivete) is a major trouble magnet.
    • The Lamplighter, Boston's Green Lantern Expy, also gets this. He's powerful and certainly a hero in his own mind, but he's also enough of a loose cannon that the city's police department tends to breathe a collective sigh of relief whenever he doesn't show up while they're trying to deal with a 'situation'.
  • The <3-Verse has the Shadow (no, not that one), a vigilante, shunned for his violent methods against regular crooks.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Heroine With Bad Publicity, Heroes With Bad Publicity


Spider-Man: Far to No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home picks right up where Far from Home stinger ends: with Peter Parker being revealed as Spider-man!

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4.82 (11 votes)

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