It'll get you nowhere in life,
Not like getting anywhere matters.
Although, I guess it does if you care,
Which I don't."
A character, having faced an indifferent world for so long, finally gives up all pretense of trying. He does the bare minimum to try to get his job done and makes no effort of initiative elsewhere. He knows that whatever he tries isn't going to work, so it's just easier to be jaded and cynical (and right) than to be constantly disappointed by plans that never work.
Depressing as that sounds, this trope is almost always played for comedy. This is because the trope is a popular part of Deadpan Snarker mentality. One of the benefits of not caring is that there's nothing stopping you from making cynical, ironic and humorous quips about the world around you. Granted, said character won't be much fun to be around since he makes these jokes at the expense of nearly everyone else, but again, he doesn't care, and it's not like anyone's going to have the guts to actually do something about it since his irritation doesn't go past his passive-aggressive sarcasm.
But sometimes, they stopped caring because it hurt too much.
This should not be confused with a related concept, Professional Slacker, which is when a character makes an aggressive effort to do as little work as possible.
When used seriously, the character has probably crossed the Despair Event Horizon, or overlap with Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!. Compare Giving Up on Logic, Then Let Me Be Evil. When one's descent into cynicism is triggered by a particular event (rather than a gradual grind over time), see Cynicism Catalyst. If a work does this to its audience, it's Eight Deadly Words.
- Played for Drama with Leo from Pandora Hearts. After Elliot's death (of which he blames himself), he pulls a Face–Heel Turn in order to perform his duties as Glen, but he even admits to himself that he hates everything and that "in the end... nothing mattered anymore."
- Played for Drama with Hishigi from Samurai Deeper Kyo. He knows he's dying and that there's no chance of correcting the inherent genetic defect that is killing the Mibu clan. Even as he continues to fight for his one remaining friend, he expresses the fact that he has grown tired and uncaring of the cause he's fighting for.
- Possibly the "rich hottie" in Local #8. He's rich, gorgeous, and considerate, but Megan ends up deciding it "just isn't right" and leaves his bed giving the It's Not You, It's Me line, to which he replies "it never is". Megan sees this as proving that he's secretly a jerk, but alternatively, the poor guy has been through this routine so many times that he's completely indifferent to what she thinks of him now since he knows she's not coming back. It's the easiest explanation for why his doorman "knows the drill". How many Jerkass Casanovas have a doorman who's used to calling a cab for women to go home in the middle of the night?
- Loki's God(dess) of Stories incarnation claimed that their genuine Screw Destiny happened because they did this. Meaning: Falling because of mistreatment or parental favouritism? Trying to show it off to all? etc. These all only mean anything if you give two shits about what they think! And they don't anymore. (They still care about the people, who dare to be their friends... but anybody else, especially Asgard? Nope.)
- In Dilbert, this is an inevitable effect of working for the company with its useless, sadistic, or outright criminal administration; its Pointy Haired Bosses; and its soul-numbing office environment. They call it the numbing, and Professional Slacker Wally is its endpoint. Dilbert himself has managed to escape this fate (except when Rule of Funny says otherwise) by learning to game the system to his own advantage.
- In Doonesbury, this is what's happened to Walden's President King. Frustrated with the (ultimately successful) attempts of students to segregate themselves in the early 1990s, he's since become completely indifferent to his job, allowing Walden to languish into a low-tier party school where students don't even make a pretense of planning for their futures. At one memorable commencement address, he even stated this outright to the students, asking who would ditch his degree right now if he could become a writer for Family Guy. All of the students promptly raised their hands, except for one who was scared of the killer bees that live in California.
- Marla of Retail has long since learned to roll with the punches from her customers and her higher-ups. Even after being promoted to store manager, she still maintains a thick level of snark, even going so far as to openly berate customers who annoy her, and make fun of her boss to his face. She also happens to be the only person capable of keeping her store running, so her Vetinari Job Security does her attitude no favors.
- Winston Payne in Dirty Sympathy, he has a pretty good idea what's going on. But knows that with the personalities he deals with, he shouldn't even bother.
- Warrior Cats: Bluestar does this in the later part of the first series, convinced that her Clan is full of traitors and that StarClan is at war with her Clan.
- It happens to Luke in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor after the villain tries to break him with an involved And I Must Scream session. Very much Played for Drama. He becomes nihilistic, depressive, incapable of believing all those high ideals he'd had... but he goes and consciously acts exactly like he would have before this happened, in hopes of Becoming the Mask.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor stops caring about the universe and retires after the Ponds' death until Clara snaps him out of it.
- Phil Miller in The Last Man on Earth is reduced to this at the start of the series, thinking he is the eponymous individual. Then some other survivors start turning up, and he acquires a whole new set of problems.
- In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Greg can't go to Emory business school, because he has to take care of his sick dad, so he decides to go to extension school instead. However, he slacks off and when he gets a bad grade, he claims it's because of this trope and he simply doesn't care anymore. He could, but he doesn't. He is then promptly called out on this.
- Inverted in Undertale with Sans (but played straight in his backstory). Being aware the whole world can reset at any time has basically driven him to become incredibly lazy and not really care what's going on. That is unless you do the Genocide Run in which case you become such an evil threat he can't possibly not care any longer and decides to give you a bad time... by laying the most brutally hard boss fight on you the entire game has to offer.
- Can happen in Dwarf Fortress. If a dorf suffers enough trauma, they'll get "doesn't really care about anything anymore" permanently added to their profile. And they really don't — unpleasant events will be far less bothersome, and good events will be far less enjoyable. A common Video Game Cruelty Potential in older versions (when dorfs were much more prone to Ax Craziness from bad thoughts) was to do this deliberately.
- Many of the characters in Machinarium just chill and don't do much in their crapsack world, though they do help you out if you help them. For example the robot prison inmate, who helps you in exchange for a cigarette, but then doesn't even care to escape when the cell is unlocked.
- Not displayed, but expected, by Preston Garvey in Fallout 4. If the player character chooses to help him and his charges escape a raider siege, Preston offers them money even though none was requested. If the PC responds that they "didn't do it for the money," he's shocked and apologetic, explaining that since the Minutemen had dwindled, he'd gotten used to everyone he met only being in it for themselves.
- In Mass Effect, the krogan race suffer from this collectively. Due to their high breeding rate, the genophage was used against them, drastically reducing their birth rate. Though it didn't render them completely sterile, the krogan's natural proclivity for violence frustrates most efforts to treat it. As a result, many krogan are fatalistic about their impending extinction, and thus, only live for violence and short-sighted, selfish goals.
- Your krogan squadmate from the first game, Wrex, suffered from his own version of this. In the past, he tried to get the krogan to focus on breeding for a short time, only to be betrayed by his father. Jaded by the realization that the krogan would rather die fighting than work to save their species, he turned his back on his species and, like many other krogan, became a mercenary serving no one but himself. If he survives the events of the game, he'll change his mind.
- In Sinfest, Fuschia's in love. It does not encourage her to do well in the soul-buying business.
- The Simpsons has a couple of examples:
- "In Marge We Trust" reveals that Reverend Lovejoy started out as an eager young minister willing to help his parishioners, but was worn down by Ned Flanders' incessant griping. "Finally, I just stopped caring. Luckily, by then, it was The '80s and no one noticed."
- "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story" revealed that Mrs. Krabappel was a dedicated teacher until she met Bart.
- In "Lisa's Sax", Bart was really enthusiastic about school until he met the worst kindergarten teacher.
- Invader Zim: A problem the writers had with Dib near the end of the show's run was that he was becoming this trope, thus ruining the central conflict of the premise. This is most evident in Zim Eats Waffles wherein after having been humiliated in front of his teammates at the Swollen Eyeball and having his room destroyed by robots, Dib screams only briefly, then simply mumbles "whatever...", and goes to bed.
- Used during a Robot Chicken sketch, when a spurned member of G.I. Joe decides to join Cobra after being mocked, and stuck with the codename "Fumbles". Only for Cobra Commander to give him a bad one as well.
Cobra Commander: My those are some fancy trousers. I shall call you Trouser Snake!
Calvin/Fumbles/Trouser Snake: Heh. I don't even care anymore.
- After getting his scythe stolen over and over again throughout the series, Grim in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy actually says this verbatim when Sperg steals Grim's scythe in the episode "The Super Secret Snake Club vs. P.E." (Played for Laughs, of course.)
Sperg: Gimme that! [steals Grim's scythe]
Grim: I stopped caring like five episodes ago.
- When the Visigoth king Alaric I sacked Rome for the third time in August 410, the citizenry of the severely weakened and demoralized city offered no real resistance. (Historians disagree on whether the famous opening of the Salarian Gate by Roman slaves, to let in Alaric's army, was the city's ultimate expression of this trope, or whether it was a plot in which Visigoth soldiers infiltrated Rome by going undercover as slaves.)
- This is how the Three Kingdoms effectively ended.
- The state of Shu had been in decline for some time due to rampant corruption within the court and the general Jiang Wei's repeated and futile attacks on the much larger state of Wei. When Wei launched a full scale invasion in 263, the soldiers on the frontlines did their duty, but when a crack Wei force managed to make their way to the capital city of Chengdu (after defeating a desperate last stand by what few defenders were available), the city surrendered without much of a fight.
- The fate of the third kingdom Wu was even more pathetic, as the people and the soldiers had become so disillusioned by all the political turmoil followed by the tyrannical rule of their emperor Sun Hao that when Wu was invaded, most soldiers simply threw down their arms and surrendered without a fight, and the common people helpfully pointed out the quickest routes to use for advancing large groups of soldiers.