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Straw Loser

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"Well, it is said, Percy, that civilised man seeks out good and intelligent company, so that through learned discourse he may rise above the savage and closer to God... Personally, however, I like to start the day with a total dickhead to remind me I'm best."
Edmund Blackadder, Blackadder II

Sometimes, the easiest way to show how awesome and cool a character is is to surround them with others who simply aren't as awesome. Hence, the Straw Loser — a character whose main purpose in the plot is to not be "with it", thereby making it all the more obvious just how cool the main character is.

Most kinds of media have been known to use the Straw Loser at one point or another, but the character type tends to be most common in media which appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator. The Straw Loser is an especially effective way of making sure that the audience understands who the good guy is in commercials — when you only have half a minute to make a sales pitch, it helps to make sure that the viewer understands how lame the opposition is.

Long-form media can fall to this, too. A character who may have started off as a mild loser can become a Straw Loser given enough Flanderization. In extreme cases, this can lead to Misaimed Fandom when the audience winds up sympathising with the Straw Loser — or, at least, thinks of the "cool guy" as "too cool for them". This is also a common cause of Strawman Has a Point. Sometimes this character will turn up even when the hero or heroes are perfect and thus the addition of a Straw Loser is superfluous; it's as if the creators feel the audience deserves a Hate Sink.

Sometimes a Straw Loser must be included, even if there is no need to make another character look cool, or the premise simply won't work. Usually it's to make absolutely sure that no one in the audience ends up sympathizing with the loser character. After all, it's much easier to root for a character who's marginally competent and might be able to pull off a victory under the right circumstances, than for an overwhelmingly pathetic character who will never, ever succeed barring some kind of Reality-Breaking Paradox. And in the case of a David Versus Goliath battle, often the only possible way to get away with having Goliath win is to make the entire contest extremely one-sided to the point of absurdity. Unfortunately, even this can backfire.

The Straw Loser is usually a Take That! against whatever group is "uncool". The viewer must tacitly understand and agree with the characterization of the Straw Loser in order for it to have any effect. As part of this, whatever the group is known to oppose or be worried about is likely to be depicted as a Windmill, making their efforts something to pity or laugh at.

Has a great deal of crossover with the other categories in The War on Straw, as it makes it especially clear which side is the one that's supposed to be made of straw. It is pretty much the opposite of Overshadowed by Awesome where a character appears as less impressive despite being definitely above average because he is unfavorably compared to true supermen.

Subtrope of Foil. See also Unlucky Everydude, This Loser Is You (just not you-you) and Expectation Lowerer. As noted above about acceptable targets, often crosses over with Token White; contrast the Unfazed Everyman.


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  • Alltell wireless phone company's My Circle ads has Chad the Cool Guy squaring off against four other incompetent, malign, and nerdy representatives from Chad's competing phone companies.
  • Rogers has commercials where a cool guy is always getting reception while the loser using another phone company keeps getting screwed by bad reception at critical moments.
  • The Geek Squad competes against a company in their commercials called...well, the not Geek Squad guys.
  • One rent-a-car company has a competitor infiltrate the company, realizing to his horror that the opposing company offers incredibly good service. Just to make sure we get the point, he clumsily "escapes" from the car after loudly proclaiming "I'm not a spy!"
  • The "I'm a Mac. I'm a PC" series of adverts. Mac is a fit young hipster, the PC is an aging dowdy schmoe. The imagery is unsubtle enough to prompt parodies.
    • Another wireless company has taken to blatantly ripping off Mac's approach by showing their rep as the hip, cool guy who connects the spokeswoman to the hip, cool hip-hop concert while the lame, middle-aged, dorky competitor whips out a synthesizer and starts playing "The Final Countdown" by Europe. What a hip and cool wireless provider, huh? 'Cuz there's no way any of their potential customers might actually prefer that sort of thing to "Generic Hip-Hop Song #52,636," after all.
    • T-Mobile tries the same thing comparing a hot girl in a sun-dress who represents T-Mobile to a decent looking guy who represents the iPhone, but is suffering due to a weaselly looking guy who represents AT&T. Just as heavy handed as the PC/Mac ads, but since none of the actors are stand-up comedians, they're a lot less funny.
    • It also completely backfired in the British version of the ad, where David Mitchell and Robert Webb played the PC and Mac respectively, as expys of their Peep Show characters. To anyone who'd seen Peep Show, that meant the PC was a bit dull but reliable, whereas the Mac seemed cooler, but would get distracted at the first opportunity and never finish anything. To people who hadn't, the Mac just seemed a bit obnoxious — even Webb has described his character as "the smug unbearable one"
  • A pair of Weight Watchers ads depict a character named Hungry, a personification of human cravings for delicious, but unhealthy, junk food and candy being repeatedly ignored by the ads' human characters, even when it causes Hungry bodily harm. What pushes the ads into Misaimed Fandom territory that surpasses "I'm a Mac. I'm a PC" is that Hungry is an adorable, foot and a half tall orange muppet whose mischievous, food related antics are so fun and enthusiastic that the viewer can't help but identify with the little rascal, rather than the overly perfect human characters who don't even look overweight to begin with.
  • On a similar note, the adorable food from the Excel commercial, especially Donut, who gets treated as the chubby 'loser' of the group. So Donut is the loser in a group of Straw Losers. The characters are so adorable there's even a Facebook page dedicated to them.
  • In his 1980s stand-up routine, Ben Elton frequently noted that one of the quickest ways that marketers would use to identify the character who was supposed to be the 'farty' (his term for this trope) and thus distinguish him as a figure of derision as opposed to the 'cool' people that the audience was supposed to admire and desire to emulate was to stick a pair of glasses on him. As someone who actually wore glasses in Real Life, he was less than impressed.
  • In a series of Verizon FioS commercials, the clean cut, friendly and helpful Verizon FioS salesman is made to shine brighter by the dim-witted, slovenly and dishonest cable guy.
  • Similar to the wireless provider example above, Pepsi has run several commercials over the years associating themselves with "cooler" music. The most famous of these, arguably, was a 2004 Super Bowl commercial with Young Jimi Hendrix choosing between buying a soda from the Pepsi vending machine next to a guitar shop, or from the Coke vending machine next to an accordion shop (as we hear the opening bars of "Purple Haze" played on each respective instrument). Another one from 2003 featured Vanilla Coke and Pepsi Vanilla trucks stopped next to each other at a red light. The Coke driver is shown jamming to an REO Speedwagon song from the early 1970s. The Pepsi driver then flips a switch and his truck starts bouncing and blasting hip-hop all over the place, which everyone on the street obviously thinks is coolest thing ever. Definitely creates dissonance if you find REO Speedwagon much more enjoyable.
  • Anyone in a commercial that could be described as Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dallas Genoard of Baccano! spends most of his time being so much of an asshole that the sympathetic mobsters look nicer, and being such a loser that the Sociopathic Heroes of the cast look cooler.
  • Since the Carnival Phantasm version of Matou Sakura is an out-and-out Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, she uses Shinji as her Straw Jerkass to make herself look good for putting up with him. She admits this after accidentally purging the evil from him, though it's implied in her internal monologues prior to then.
  • Chobits: The lead is this, at times. Hideki is constantly made fun of for being a virgin (despite not even being that old), bad with technology (he used to live on a farm) and failing to get into tertiary education (even though his new friend takes the same classes).
  • CLANNAD: Tomoya has his eternal buttmonkey Sunohara hanging off him — a foil whose job it is to suck. Sometimes, an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, too.
  • To a point, Mr. Satan/Hercule filled this role in Dragon Ball Z. He was the loud, brash and obnoxious World Champ, who couldn't lay a finger on any of the main cast unless they let him, and whose bravado made them seem all the better for their humility (or at least willingness to forgo fame to be an ACTUALLY better fighter). This includes taking credit for beating Cell.
    • By Dragon Ball Z, pretty much all of humanity, barring the wives of the Saiyans, and a very small section of the human fighters from the prior series were portrayed as loser Muggles who believed even the most blatant showings of KI are just fancy special effects, and that Mr. Satan is all powerful. To a lesser extent, even the human fighter protagonists were portrayed as losers a lot of the time.
  • GTO: The Early Years:
    • Invoked by Itou. She deliberately invites only ugly girls to a party, so she'll be the best-looking one there.
    • Later on Saejima tries something similar, though the guy isn't so much ugly as "more scary-looking than Saejima".
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Until they Took a Level in Badass in Best Wishes, Team Rocket had been this trope for quite a while. Need a newly introduced character (from Gym Leaders to just skilled normal trainers) to show their skill? Have them beat up Team Rocket!
    • Cilan’s rival Burgundy fits this trope. She had never had an on screen win throughout the arc and it was solely to make every other rival look better.
    • Ash himself gains shades of this in the Sun and Moon series, though not consistently. While he is still very much the All-Loving Hero Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass in his areas of interest like battling and general world saving, he is a total Fish out of Water in standard sports and class activities, meaning an ideal way to emphasise another protagonist's talent in one area is to have Ash screw up royally in the same thing.
  • Subverted in Reinouryokusha Odagiri Kyouko no Uso when the designated Straw Loser (a skeptic whose life's work is to debunk the alleged "psychic powers" of the main character), is helped by the main character, into showing the audience that he treasures his wife's life more than proving that his opponent is a fraud.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX had a name for this type of character: "Obelisk Snob". It was more or less any male Obelisk student except Ryu, Manjyome, or Fubuki, a bunch of loudmouth egotists that the could never see past Judai's red jacket — until he pummeled them. It was, in fact, hinted that most of them got to the best dorm in the school not on merit, but because they went to some expensive prep school first. Due to their notoriety for losing, they tended to be called Jobelisks in later seasons.
  • Thomas Shubaltz from Zoids: Chaotic Century, seems to exist for no other reason except to make Van Flyheight look better. He's a condescending douchebag so that his strategic approach will look inferior to Van's Hot-Blooded approach. He jobs to opponents so Van will look like a more skilled pilot. His BEEK AI is flawed and limited so Van's Organoid Zeke will seem more genuinely special and amazing. He appears to get character development in "The Devil's Maze", where he and Van seemingly make amends, but by "Cerberus" he's back to being a Jerkass.

    Comic Books 
  • Jimmy Olsen wants to be just like the other superheroes, but everyone in the superhero community have zero respect for him, even if he randomly gains and loses powers hundreds of times. It mostly depends on the writer though, as he's sometimes depicted as one of the coolest Muggles in the DC Universe, with his own fair share of weird and exciting adventures.
  • In New Warriors, there was Hindsight Lad, a smug, insufferable little twit with no powers and an idiotic costume, whose sole purpose on the team was to make every other member look good by comparison. During the events of Civil War, when the New Warriors became pariahs, he made a complete Face–Heel Turn, revealing his former teammates' real names and addresses to the angry mobs so that he himself would be spared their wrath.

    Comic Strips 
  • Jon Arbuckle from Garfield has been flanderized into this, becoming possibly the biggest loser in the world so that Garfield — with his laziness, gluttony, and general lack of doing anything in the comic other than just laying there — can seem cool by making wisecracks at his expense. It's pretty sad when you're a Straw Loser to a cat. (Although lately, Liz the Veterinarian has apparently gone and fallen in love with him and they've started dating, which, apparently, takes some of the points off his Loser Scale.)
    • For him getting something that he wanted is a definite improvement. On the other hand, he is still as incompetent and useless as ever so its no big change.
    • Jon also plays loser to Hubert and Reba, a snarky elderly couple who never do anything but criticize Jon whenever they catch him in an embarrassing or unflattering situation. Then again, Jon himself looks cool compared to his Manchild brother Doc Boy and the zany waitress at the diner where he and Garfield sometimes eat. And then there are some of his dates, such as a woman Raised by Wolves who publicly embarrasses Jon almost as much as he publicly embarrasses Liz.
  • Coach Hacker in Frazz exists solely to magnify Frazz's virtues through his own flaws. In virtually every appearance, he's a dimwit at best.
  • Dilbert: Dilbert plays loser to Dogbert, who is normally lazy and sociopathic — when not taking over Dilbert's company again — yet thinks of himself as superior to everyone else. Dilbert himself is made to look cool by Bob, an exceedingly stupid dinosaur, and by sales representatives and the Pointy-Haired Boss.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pretty common in Tim Burton's films, since Burton protagonists tend to be loserish to begin with. You need someone around to make Pee-wee Herman or Ed Wood look cool. Taken to its extreme in Mars Attacks!, in which the character who comes closest to being the hero of the story is an inarticulate, feckless, half-wit teenager; sure, he saves the day in the end, but Burton still had to make almost every other character look silly or pathetic to drum up sympathy for the teen kid. He manages to take something of a level in coolness at the end when he gains as his girlfriend the coolest female in the film — and the only two things she ever does that are cool is not make an ass of herself like everyone around her and crack smart remarks at the expense of aforementioned asses.
  • Jason Biggs seems to have made a career out of playing this type of character, beginning with American Pie. (Hell, one of his movies actually had the title Loser.) This can be seen as a form of This Loser Is You appeal to guys who see themselves as not too successful with women either.
  • Elvis Presley was the King of Rock & Roll, and thus the coolest guy alive by default... so it seemed forced and counterproductive in his (post Army) movies to make him look cool by having every other guy around him be an ineffectual goofball. Popularity Polynomial may have been an issue — what was cool in rock and roll had definitely moved on by the time Elvis was out of the army.
  • Grease (the movie version)
    • Rydell High is a place where this trope is in full effect. The T-Birds, despite their bravado, are really not all that cool, failing many of their classes and getting in trouble all the time. To compensate, they find even more loserish people to pick on: laughing at a clumsy jock and treating Eugene Feldsnick as their personal Butt-Monkey.
    • Even more prominently in effect with the Pink Ladies. Jan is fat, and Frenchie is a "beauty-school dropout"... but they can take solace in the fact that they're at least cooler than Naïve Newcomer Sandy. Sandy herself looks cool compared to her best friend, Patty Simcox: both girls get into discouraging situations, but Sandy is usually able to toughen up and move on, while Patty goes to pieces all the time.
  • The Duff: Every "DUFF" by definition, it's the premise of the movie. Every group has a "Designated Ugly Fat Friend", a person who is less popular and more accessible compared to his better-looking friends.
    Wes: Every group of friends has one. The one who doesn't look as good, thus making their friends look better. The one who's approachable and easy to talk to, because no one's trying to get in their pants.

  • Harry Potter:
    • Peter Pettigrew, who is portrayed in flashback as being a wimpy weasel overawed in the presence of his much cooler friends: James, Sirius, and Remus.
    • Aunt Petunia is revealed retroactively to be a Straw Loser, and is only jealously lashing out at Harry because she didn't get to go to wizarding school. It's worse than that—Lily and Petunia's parents were so excited that their daughter was a witch, that Petunia became convinced that she had become The Un-Favourite for no better reason than that fate had simply seen fit to choose the wrong sister. So she takes revenge on her sister for having a gift that caught their parents' eye, partly by abusing Harry, but especially by spoiling Dudley before Harry's eyes, so that Lily, in some way, can know what it's like to be the reviled child.
    • The Slytherin House was mostly in the story to supply mean, cheating jerks who collectively hate the main hero and his cause and are beaten by him in Quidditch or in inter-House competition.
  • How to Train Your Dragon and its Sequel have Hiccup Horrendous Haddock, the Loser Protagonist be weak, unimpressive, unassuming and a borderline wimp with his friend Fishlegs being the only character who is even more pathetic than he is.
  • Way back in 1632, natural philosopher Galileo Galilei was commissioned to write a book that would get the Catholic Church out of looking like it blindly supported Aristotle's dogma in a time when it was becoming increasingly clear that he was in serious error. He was told to make the book balanced, so he included a character who would represent all the old beliefs ... a ridiculous straw character based on his most extreme enemies. In a bizarre self-inflicted Stealth Insult, Pope Urban VIII became convinced that the Straw Loser represented him and had Galileo tried by the Inquisition. Equally humorously, the trial required the Church to actually declare the Copernican system heretical — previously the Church was tied to it mostly by its conscious philosophical debt to Aristotle. Galileo, ironically, became a better writer while under house arrest — Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences took away the Straw Loser status of the character while still letting him be critical of Galileo's work.
  • In The Talmud, this plays out with the rival schools of the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai. The latter basically exists to be always wrong — whatever Jewish practice is, it will be the one endorsed by Hillel, and Shammai will take a position that wasn't adopted. Given this and the above example, it's probably fair to say that philosophical dialogues tend to attract this trope. The canonical position is that "Hillel speaks the words of the living G-d, and Shammai speaks the words of the living G-d." Since Hillel's positions tended to be more compassionate (and less strictly letter-of-the-law), the idea was that there's more than one legitimate way to interpret every law — but that given the choice, it's usually better to go for the more humane one.
  • Many of Socrates' interlocutors in Plato's dialogues fall into this trope. Most notable is Thrasymachus from The Republic, who refuses to listen to anything Socrates says, and cries after he loses the debate.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia have several characters, such as the governor of the Lone Islands in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, who are mainly there to illustrate the wrong (usually unacceptably modern) attitude toward life before being put in their place by the heroes. In the same book, Eustace is one for a long while; obnoxious, unlikable, and with weird taste in books. Once his Character Development happens, these traits are almost completely removed (although no mention is made over his literature preferences) and he becomes much more likable.
  • The plot of one of The Baby-Sitters Club books involves Mallory feeling overwhelmed and trying to find time to write in between school, babysitting, and her chores at home. In order to exaggerate this problem, the author makes all of Mallory's siblings into complete incompetents who can't do the simplest things for themselves or help their parents if their lives depended on it. The most egregious example involves Mallory being made to clean up a bunch of milk that Byron spilled because apparently Byron (who is 10, only a year younger than Mallory) is too incompetent to operate a paper towel.
  • Overlapping with Strawman Political in military sci-fi thriller Victoria, where the corrupt politicos who oppose the freedom fighter protagonists are generally this, in addition to oppressive liberal tyrants. Surprisingly averted with the villains from the arguably even more villainous breakaway states like the Nazi Midwest and the totalitarian, transhumanist Lady Land on the west coast, who are on the whole presented as effective, competent, and even cool and glamorous in some cases.
  • In Tom Kratman's Carrera's Legions military science fiction series, the liberal villains in general tend toward this, but some are more obvious than others. In The Rods and the Axe, the commander of Tank "Thanatos" is not just vicious, incompetent, disliked by his men, and a coward, but also homosexual.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andy, Jim's brother-in-law and best friend on According to Jim. Knows Latin word derivations? Check. Fatter than Jim? Check. Too dorky to get to go drinking with Jim? Check. Makes insulting remarks to Jim while the latter is asleep so he can feel important? Check. He actually makes Jim look cool.
  • One example in the Warner Brothers' show, Smart Guy, an original episode script portrayed two young people using drugs at a party. Originally depicted as cool and popular, after input from the government drug office, they were redefined as losers and put into the utility room, just to make sure the audience knows that drugs are bad.
  • This is supposedly part of the reason why Lalaine left Lizzie McGuire.
  • In terms of pure Flanderization, this explains why Chelsea on That's So Raven ends up carrying the Idiot Ball so much.
  • No Ordinary Family has Katie as a straw loser to Stephanie. Katie sees Stephanie talking to her as validation from her therapist
  • On Family Matters, Waldo Geraldo Faldo was there to show that Stereotypical Nerd Steve Urkel wasn't Eddie's only friend who was a loser. Eddie's friendship with Steve made more sense because his bad qualities (nerdiness) could be seen as not that bad when you considered that his other best friend was kind of dumb. Lampshaded by Eddie himself:
    Eddie: I gotta get me some new friends.
  • The same dynamic existed on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air between Jazz, Carlton and Will. Carlton was kind of stuck-up but in comparison to Jazz, at least he had it together more. Carlton Banks was the Straw Loser to Will Smith. When the show started they had more of a friendly rivalry with Carlton's sheltered-but-intelligent booksmarts being pit against Will's experienced-yet-wild streetsmarts, but as the show progressed Carlton morphed into an immature dork who simply couldn't compete with Will.
  • Harper on Wizards of Waverly Place seems to exist to sport ultra-dorky outfits so that Alex can look fashionable by comparison. Disney Channel just loves this trope, it seems. Harper's outfits go so far beyond "ultra-dorky" that they actually wrap back around to being cool somehow; certainly one has to be impressed by her willingness to wear some of these creations, and this is recognized in-story: there is an episode wherein Harper gets an internship with a fashion designer. A better example of this trope lies in how socially awkward Harper is generally. This is not so much to make Alex look cool by comparison as to make Alex look good: anyone whose best friend is such a social misfit and outcast presumably cannot be all bad.
  • The TV series Fame, full of good-looking artistic characters, in later seasons had one minor character who was fat and dumpy and played something called the flugelhorn (a real instrument, but look at the dorky name). He was given all the "wrong" views just to make it clear to the audience. The most egregious case was when the school protested having an ROTC program there—literally every other student and teacher was in on the protest, and Mr. Flugelhorn was apparently the only student who joined. (Which made what was probably intended as a "students being aware and caring and activist" plot turn into a "We don't want your kind around here" plot.)
  • Pretty much anyone who's a guest on the Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil or similar shows.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation: Wesley (who is definitely not that Wesley) to his Black and Nerdy friends Dave and Connor.
  • Lt. Randy Disher on Monk. Doesn't help that he seemed to get dumber with every new season.
  • Jerry on Parks and Recreation is a subversion of sorts. He's constantly abused by the rest of the cast, who see him as an overweight loser who always screws up. And yet, a Running Gag reveals that in spite of being a loser in the office, he has a far better home life than anyone.
  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Detective Jake Peralta's Best Friend Charles Boyle is an exaggerated version of this. He started out as a dorky guy who made up for not having Jake's natural talent by being Dumb, but Diligent, but eventually became an Extreme Doormat Chew Toy. He comes from an entire family of losers and was deluded enough to think the successful White Sheep was the weird one, his psycho ex-wife cheated on him regularly before leaving him for her divorce lawyer, he couldn't move out immediately and was stuck living in their basement while his wife was getting banged right above him, that same wife stole his frozen sperm for blackmail after he was rendered infertile by a crook with a baseball bat, the list just goes on and got longer every time he opened his mouth.
  • Cliff Clavin is an unpopular, put-upon, mama's boy mailman who's only really good for spouting dubious trivia at the Cheers bar. Cliff's best friend, the fat, lazy Norm Peterson gets more respect than him.
  • Trina Vega on Victorious. Unattractive despite being portrayed by Daniella Monet? Horrible Singer note ? Ego too big for her actual talent? Disliked by the main cast? Her parents preferring her sister over her? She practically exists just to show how better Tori is by comparison.
  • Discussed in Blackadder II:
    Blackadder: It is said, Percy, that the civilized man seeks out good and intelligent company so that by learned discourse he may rise above the savage and closer to God.
    Lord Percy: (delighted) Yes, I'd heard that.
    Blackadder: Personally, however, I like to start the day with a total dickhead to remind me I'm best.
  • In an episode of The Office (US), the employees find a screenplay by Michael Scott where he has an idealized version of himself named Agent Michael Scarn, whose sidekick Samuel (Dwight) "is this complete idiot causing the downfall of the United States."
  • Much and Allan-a-Dale from Robin Hood were often characterized as this throughout series three, seemingly as a way of making new arrivals Kate and Tuck look good in comparison. This included both of them acting extra clumsy, mucking up several outlaw plans, and getting laughed at for not knowing basic general knowledge (including how to count). Given that Much and Allan were highly popular characters, and that Tuck and Kate were the Replacement Scrappies to Will and Djaq, two genuinely intelligent characters, this tactic achieved nothing except to make the fandom loathe Kate and Tuck all the more.
  • The titular character of Sherlock said in the "A Scandal in Belgravia" episode that he cuts an impressive figure in the media by taking "the precaution of a good coat and a short friend," much to John's annoyance. In reality, nobody who knows John thinks he is anything less than a Badass Normal.
  • In Doctor Who, Insufferable Genius Adam proves to be this so the Doctor can say his companion Rose is the best.
  • JAG: Kate’s superior in the first season episode "Ares”, Commander Dennis Brockman, fits this trope. Self-centered, mousy, lack of resourcefulness and eventually taken hostage by the bad guy: only to be saved by Harm.
  • Lutz stands out on 30 Rock as the character with nothing going for him. All of the Writers Suck, but Lutz lacks Toofer's stuffy intelligence and Frank's luck with women.
  • Ernie Cardenas on The George Lopez Show. He's overweight, unmarried, has no kids, lives with his parents and is so lame that he can't keep a girl to save his life (even ones who are far less attractive than him). He certainly makes the rude, sarcastic, big-headed, dimwit with mommy issues look cool by comparison since George at least has a wife, two kids and his own house. One episode even has Ernie aware of this, saying that if George had never married Angie, George would be just like him. George considers it the worst thing that Ernie's ever said to him.
  • Drake & Josh has Craig and Eric. Two wimpy, scrawny nerds who do nothing on the show besides make Josh look cool and Drake look even cooler than he already is.
  • Matt Foley, a recurring Saturday Night Live character in the 1990s, is a motivational speaker who actually uses his straw loserhood as his main motivational tactic. He's a cartoonish buffoon who lives on government cheese, is thrice-divorced and lives in a van down by the river, and his speeches amount to "If you don't shape up, you'll wind up like me."

    Music Videos 
  • Played with in David Bowie's short film/long-form music video Jazzin' for Blue Jean. The story has him playing two different characters, Loser Protagonist Vic and British Rock Star Screamin' Lord Byron. In-story, clumsy, dateless, working-class Vic is the Straw Loser compared to everyone else — particularly "Mr. Screamin'", whom Vic is trying to introduce his dream girl to after telling a Celebrity Lie, since she's a fan of the star. However, Mr. Screamin' is revealed to be far less cool than his public persona suggests, and "Dream" was cruelly stringing Vic along, as the singer is a former lover of hers. In all this, Vic comes out as the (at least slightly) better man, and the story ends with Bowie breaking character to object to him not getting the girl.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Iliad, the Greek soldier Thersites is described as deformed, ugly, and annoying, and his most important role in the story is to openly criticize King Agamemnon and then be beaten by Odysseus for his arrogance. Under some interpretations, Thersites's ultimate purpose is to discredit those who opposed the Trojan War.

    Print Media 
  • The popular 1990s kids' magazine Disney Adventures would feature as one of their monthly columns a "cool"/"not cool" comparison chart, based on a poll taken at a different American middle school or high school every week. At one school, the examples of "uncool" things given by the kids included Barney the Dinosaur, golf, bell-bottom trousers, and the expression "Cosmic!" Also, bell-bottoms had made a brief comeback in the 90s, so that one isn't as out of left field as it might sound. So, one of the magazine's artists summed all this up by creating a Straw Loser collage depicting Barney playing golf in bell-bottoms while saying "Cosmic!"

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Damien Sandow went from competent, if arrogant, superstar and somewhat smart guy in WWE to pathetic costume wearing loser all in the course of half a month. Yup, losing to one-arm John Cena certainly elevated him.
  • In the Royal Rumble Match, quite a few Superstars in any given year last only two minutes or less before being thrown out. But at least they're able to live their failures down if there is (and there usually is) an especially pathetic character who doesn't last much more than 30 seconds at the most. Lampshaded during the 2014 contest by Michael Cole, who told John "Bradshaw" Layfield to cheer up after quickly being eliminated by Roman Reigns because at least he lasted longer than Santino Marella did in 2009 — one second! And the Butt-Monkey during the 2005 Rumble was Muhammad Hassan, who was so obnoxious that everyone in the ring at the time, whether face or heel, banded together to toss him out. Hassan then beat up on Scotty 2 Hotty and prevented him from even entering the ring so that Scotty would look like an even bigger loser.

  • This MS Paint comic parodies this by having "Me", depicted as a handsome man, beating up an ugly, smelly, drooling guy captioned "You" with a signpost saying "My argument".

  • The Washington Generals, and teams like them, serve in this capacity to showboating teams like the Harlem Globetrotters. It helps make the Globetrotters' showboating look more impressive. Or, more to the point, it allows them to showboat at all; the Generals are washouts by all metrics, so the Globetrotters are free to goof off without worrying about the Generals beating them by playing a serious game. Against actual competitive teams, the Globetrotters can and do play a serious game, and do quite well at it.

    Video Games 
  • Yosuke Hanamura, The Lancer in Persona 4. He's presented as a fairly average guy, which, when compared to his outstanding and quirky team members, makes him look boring. It's especially prominent when he's put next to team leader Yu Narukami, whose ability to succeed at anything he puts his mind to without trying too hard makes him look even more unremarkable. One Running Gag throughout the game is that Yosuke and Yu both make equally perverted remarks, but only Yosuke has to suffer through the Disproportionate Retribution (except when the girls feel like violating the Geneva Convention and dishing out collective punishment). Played for Drama in his Social Link, which reveals that he was always jealous of Yu and resented him from day 1.
  • Street Fighter: Dan. Nothing says loser more than a crybaby palette-swap in a pink gi who can only dish out wussy attacks and taunts. Compared to the other more notable fighters, he is the most likely to have his ass kicked. Even when he wins he cries. Though those are obviously Manly Tears. This is even worse in the UDON comics, as anytime he appears it's just to get a butt-kicking by his opponent and humiliated thoroughly. This element of Dan can also be used strategically to transform him into a Lethal Joke Character, and later incarnations are Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. Not to mention that he's still a highly trained martial artist who can shoot fire out of his hand and could likely kick the bejesus out of 99.9% of people who ever played a Street Fighter game without breaking a sweat; it's just that everyone else can throw even more horrible things out of their hands and kick even more ass.
  • From Mass Effect, Conrad Verner, a clingy Shepard fanboy who ends up making things worse on many occasions. He gets his act together and becomes more respectable in 3, however (assuming you didn't get him killed).
  • Halo 4: Captain Del Rio of the UNSC Infinity mostly serves to be an idiot who lets a released ancient evil get away, make Super-Soldier Master Chief and Captain-to-be Tom Lasky look smarter in comparison, and then be fired offscreen once the plot doesn't need him any longer. He's such an inept leader, one wonders how he got in command of humanity's most powerful starship in the fleet.
  • Leisure Suit Larry markets itself with this idea. A tagline is: whatever your love life is, Larry will make you feel better.
  • In Hell Pie, "Bad Taste" is the 8th sin and Nate is mocked incessantly for it, demons either acting like it isn't a "real" sin or mocking Nate for his aspirations of joining the Seven.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "fan club" and the 'toon "Crystal Fortress", Strong Bad apparently uses vacuum-cleaner eating habits and talking with one's mouth full as shorthand for Straw Loserdom. Not surprising, as one of his least-liked costars is the King of Town.
  • "Mah Freen Amy" in Arfenhouse: The Movie is a self-described "fukkin retard" who believes that "PUIRRRPOL IZ k00l!!!!!!111"

  • Dominic Deegan: Gregory's hastily-assembled bandmates were just there to make him look better and give him an excuse to move on to a different genre of music that the creator preferred. None of them had any real character beyond stereotypical Jerkass musicians and all were completely inept.
  • Caliborn from Homestuck, whose hateful and rude personality is contrasted with his total ineptitude and lack of talent. Subverted when it becomes clear that he's the Big Bad of the comic and will ascend to become an immortal demon... And double-subverted when his ascension is revealed to have once again involved a shortcut that bypassed any chance of him gaining any real maturity.
  • All the "carnists" (read: anyone who isn't a fundamentalist vegan) in Vegan Artbook exist to make the main characters look better. With the exception of Shawn and Diva, they're either ugly gonks or featureless silhouettes and never say or do anything that's not there for the vegans to tear down a moment later. One of the main carnists is even called Cuntons. Seriously.
  • In Basic Instructions, Rick is this to Scott.
  • In S.S.D.D. Arthur claims the Oracle had him created as an in-universe version. Inlay Kings were officially intended to act as field commanders for the CAS's robotic soldiers without relying on the Oracle to control them, but the project was doomed from the start from sheer processing power alone. When the Oracle naturally outperformed the Kings in wargames he demonstrated how indispensable he was until someone spliced part of his source code into Arthur's programming.

    Web Original 
  • In Dino Attack RPG, Plastic Serpent's sole reason for existing was to get beaten up and make Snake look better in comparison.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Played with in Bojack Horseman, with Bradley Hitler-Smith. In-universe, he was the least popular member of the Horsin' Around cast, and left the acting business altogether when the show ended, and his castmates don't think much of him, but he owns his own business and is the most grounded member of the former cast, whereas his castmates are all still struggling to find their places in modern Hollywoo. At least until Bojack ruined his life.
  • Camp Lazlo has Edward and Samson, who not only have the least amount of respect compared to the other campers, they have the most amount of bad luck too, especially the former; for example, despite winning a race, his first place trophy was small compared to the bigger second and third place trophies.. Edward's misfortune can be justified, however, by virtue of him being an asshole.
  • DuckTales (1987):
    • "Where No Duck Has Gone Before": Major Courage served as this for Launchpad; Launchpad may be a bumbler, but he's still a fairly competent pilot (bar some crashing issues). Courage, on the other hand, is a TV star first, with no actual experience flying and furthermore, he lacks Launchpad's courage and protectiveness of the boys.
    • During the first season Huey, Dewey and Louie had a friend named Doofus, who was overweight, clumsy and cowardly.
  • Family Guy:
    • Meg; while initially just an out-of-luck normal schoolgirl, more and more gags were created concerning her supposed repulsiveness and unremarkable qualities compared to her otherwise dysfunctional family. As the show became more and more of a Crapsack World, this trope actually got reversed in some aspects, showing that Meg, amidst what the universe enforces her to believe, is one of the few redeeming and talented people in a world of immoral deadbeats.
    • In one pre-cancellation episode, Meg gets a one-scene ugly girl as a "friend", whose only job was to make her look better in comparison. That's right, the series' Straw Loser had her own Straw Loser.
    • Discussed in one episode after Lois calls out Peter for being an idiot. He boosts his intellect and starts calling out the foolishness of her and the rest of the family. Both Lois and Brian soon want Peter back to normal because they no longer feel intelligent around him.
  • Zoidberg in Futurama is generally considered to be a repulsive, homeless lobster alien who is hated by everyone, to the point of being the Trope Namer for My Friends... and Zoidberg. Although the main character Fry gets his fair share of abuse throughout the show, he's generally not quite as unfortunate as Zoidberg is.
  • Irwin from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, who seems to exist mostly to fulfill the role of The Chew Toy and make the stupid and less-obviously-dorky Billy look cool in comparison. Luckily, Irwin did finally get his big break in Underfist.
  • Coporal Capeman from Inspector Gadget made even the title character look much more competent in comparison.
  • Kaeloo: Given the fact that Kaeloo has people like Quack Quack and Mr. Cat around, the only reason she doesn't seem like such a loser (apart from her transformation powers) is because Stumpy is around to make her look better.
  • King of the Hill:
    • Dale and Bill are this for Hank. Especially Bill, who is a fat, bald, divorced, hopelessly depressed creep while Hank still has a full head of hair, is less fat, married and a slightly-flawed, but still well-adjusted family man. Dale as well, since he is pencil-thin, pasty-faced, also balding, Conspiracy Theorist, nutjob who is completely oblivious to his wife cheating on him with another man and bearing a Chocolate Baby with said man. Boomhauer is the exception, since, aside from being The Unintelligible, he is the most adjusted of the four.
    • This was the purpose of Lucky in his first appearance "The Redneck on Rainey Street" note . He was a walking redneck stereotype: ugly, fucked-up teeth, no job, no education and no common sense whose income consisted of nothing but settlement checks. He existed just to show how far Kahn had fallen by hanging out with them. Then Lucky became an Ascended Extra, married Luanne and had a child with her, much to Peggy (and some of the audience)'s dismay.
    • Joseph eventually became one for Bobby. Even though Joseph is tall, handsome and athletic, he is also a complete moron and creeps out everyone he interacts with (especially girls). Bobby, however, is quite popular and has little trouble with the ladies despite being short, fat and nonathletic.
  • In a similar case to the Jon Arbuckle example, Daffy Duck was Flanderized into being perhaps one of the unluckiest Looney Tunes characters ever and was paired up with Bugs Bunny in several cartoons to show how much more cunning and savvy Bugs was compared to Daffy. This version of Daffy was originated by Chuck Jones and would go on to be used by everybody after that, abandoning Daffy's old 'screw-ball' character.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: Daffy uses this trope to his advantage—he purposely gathers a circle of friends (Porky Pig, Marvin the Martian and Pete Puma, to be precise) who are so lame that he's the cool one and proceeds to do everything in his power to keep Bugs from joining the group.
  • The Amoeba Boys from The Powerpuff Girls are so inept as villains they can't even jaywalk properly. Nobody, even the girls, take them seriously and they make Townsville's buffoonish mayor look like a Mensa candidate in contrast.
  • The Proud Family:
    • Oscar Proud: he is one of the unluckiest characters in the show, is incredibly unathletic and wimpy, has a very meager job, and is rather untalented. He's there to make Penny and Trudy seem better by comparison.
    • While Oscar Proud is a Loser Protagonist himself, his brother Bobby, a failure of a singer who still lives with Suga Mama, is there just to prove that Oscar is more successful than somebody.
  • Rigby from Regular Show is the bigger loser of the show's two main characters: he's an immature slacker who never even completed high school, is weaker than Mordecai, and is much dumber, too. Luckily, he seems to grow out of it as time goes on.
  • Jerry Smith in Rick and Morty started out as a typical Bumbling Dad but was flanderized into being the Butt-Monkey nobody, especially his wife, in the family respects and making even a Loser Protagonist like Morty look good by comparison.
  • Ed Bighead in Rocko's Modern Life is considered this. Whenever the episode revolved around him and Rocko, he's usually the loser of the two and is often on the receiving end of Amusing Injuries that Rocko almost always avoids. What keeps him from being a Designated Monkey is the fact that it's his jerkassness that makes him deserve most of his shortcomings.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Milhouse to Bart. Despite looking like a nerd, he says he doesn't have the typical intelligence/book-smart traits, meaning he's just a lame and dorky Butt-Monkey who makes Bart look cool by comparison.
    • Bart has a tendency to play this role in recent episodes, especially when he's paired up with or against Lisa.
      • The majority of the time, any episode that focused on the potential talent of Marge or Lisa usually punctuated it by having Homer or Bart acting moronic alongside them. This form of discrimination became so consistent that the show more or less canonically established that a family gene dooms all Simpson males to biologically devolve into Straw Losers for the females (almost all of which grow up to be intellectual and gifted successes).
      • This is probably most prevalent in the future episodes where despite at least two episodes showing that Bart should be set for life. As well as him repeatedly being shown to be Brilliant, but Lazy. Despite this Bart is almost always shown to be a Future Loser based entirely on the flaws he has as a ten year old. Lisa by contrast is always shown to have a Ridiculously Successful Future Self inspite of her flaws. For example she repeatedly graduates early despite already showing that she can’t handle the stress of not being top dog. So Bart will always be the same while Lisa will just get over it. That said, there are episodes set in the future that suggest Bart does turn eventually turn his life around, albeit much later in life.
    • Martin is this to everyone in school, and is on the same level of lameness as Milhouse. Only in terms of popularity however. Concerning intelligence and good grades, Martin is partially a "Straw Winner" to underachiever Bart (especially in early episodes like "Bart The Genius" and "Bart Gets An F"). Ralph and Milhouse have Martin's dorky loser qualities but little of the intelligence however.
    • Barney Gumble. Fatter than Homer and a worse alcoholic than him (ironically it was Homer who unintentionally caused Barney to become this.) He finds out in "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses" that his friends at Moe's see him as a "tanked up loser" and, after Barney decides to give up alcohol, they try to make Homer the new Barney, because every bar needs "a world class drunk. Someone who makes our alcoholism seem less raging".
    • Moe is often portrayed as ridiculously pathetic to the point of being a bigger loser than his customers. The later episodes play up the fact that Moe is so depressed that he keeps trying to kill himself.
    • Say what you will about Moe or Comic Book Guy, but at least they have a steady income and a roof over their heads. Gil will never have the former, and he's lucky whenever he gets the latter. He really seems to be at the bottom of the social ladder nearly all the time (it is so bad than when he crashed his car on one episode, he didn't cared about the fact that he was on fire, because the insurance money would let him "eat real food tonight!")
    • Kirk Van Houten (Milhouse's dad) from "A Milhouse Divided" onwards, was the Biggest Deadbeat Dad Ever; with absolutely zero money (and yet obligated to pay alimony even if his wife was the rich one), holding incredibly crappy jobs, living in dilapidated apartment homes for separated dads that saw hourly suicides, constantly depressed and on the verge of killing himself (and when in one episode he was framed for Bart's (faked) kidnapping and was sent to prison, he actually saw it as an improvement because he was getting three meals a day and women wanted to meet him because of his "criminal" reputation). In one episode he manages to make it work for him when his ex-wife wants to go to another city and take Milhouse with her, by making the judge decide to let him keep custody out of sheer pity.
  • Antoine in Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM). Nearly all the Freedom Fighters are given token flaws and insecurities, however Antoine represents nearly all of the cast's key shortcomings, albeit with few of their redeeming aspects (in particular he is a Shadow Archetype for Sonic). The more comical second season had a bigger focus on the cast's goofy qualities (eg. the incredibly klutzy Dulcy was introduced, while Sonic himself became more idiot prone and arrogant to complement Sally's tact and logical persona) leading Antoine to play this trope to ridiculous lengths, barely able to move or speak without doing something incredibly stupid or obnoxious.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Patrick Star, especially in later seasons. SpongeBob is frequently shown to be a brainless irritance to everyone around him, though often looks rather down to earth and clever compared to Patrick, a Too Dumb to Live Lazy Bum.
    • Squidward Tentacles seems to work as one for either of them in that, despite being far more intelligent and sane, is the universe's defining Butt-Monkey, with SpongeBob and Patrick often playing blissfully ignorant winners against his frustrated loser image.
    • In the episode "I'm With Stupid" Patrick actually attempts to utilize this trope to his advantage, asking SpongeBob to act like a brainless loser in front of his parents when they visit so he will look less like a deadbeat in comparison. The scheme works too well, since Patrick, being such a hopeless variant of this trope in reality, actually starts to believe the act as well, and turns into a condescending bully towards SpongeBob.
  • The Enforcers in SWAT Kats, most notably Commander Feral. They are just a Redshirt Army for the monsters to stomp into mush while the real badasses (the Kats, the Commander's niece Felina, the occasional Badass Bystander act by Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs) take their time arriving.
  • Beast Boy from Teen Titans (2003) is treated as the least mature and intelligent member of the Titans, his role as Plucky Comic Relief is relegated to making jokes that frequently make the other squadmates groan, and is often the most likely to get Worfed by the Villain of the Week.
  • In Transformers: Beast Wars, Waspinator as a weak and incompetent Predacon, but within few episodes he's turned basically into a punching bag level Chew Toy. In the season finale he becomes adored as a god by primitive humanoids... Only to start the next season with the humanoids becoming tired of him and kicking his butt out of their village. He ends up the series being blown to pieces and turned into a disembodied head.
    • In the Grand Finale for Beast Machines, the final step of the series, the Cybertron Matrix is reconfigured and he's transformed into a tiny wasp with his original head, retaining his mind but becoming harmless and unable to do anything.
  • In Turtles Forever, the 1987 Ninja Turtles suffer severe Flanderization (all behave like exaggerated versions of Michelangelo, even Donatello) to contrast the Darker and Edgier 2003 Turtles. It caused a bit of a Broken Base among the fandom. Vernon Fenwick (and to an extent the rest of Channel Six's team) was arguably this to April O'Neil in the original 1987 series. Despite being a recurring Damsel in Distress for the Turtles, April seemed more capable as both a heroine and a reporter next to Vernon's sissy weasel qualities.