Red Mage: That had not escaped me.
Thief: Of course, leaving the body would be even better for us.
Red Mage: That had not escaped me.
Things tend to go wrong in drama; this is how drama persists. And when something goes wrong, it's usually the fault of The Millstone.
The Millstone is the character, usually The Ditz, who is specifically responsible for the failure of every plan that the heroes carry out. It's not just that the Millstone isn't helpful; it's that they manage to make things worse for their side than if they'd done nothing at all. It's because of them that Failure Is the Only Option. For some reason, they're usually given the linchpin of this week's plan... which they will then botch, forcing the heroes to try again next week. If the main characters could just get rid of the Millstone, they'd be home free... but then the show would be over; see Just Eat Gilligan. Can border on the character being The Scrappy depending how much they get away with week after week.
Frequently, the villains have a Millstone on their side as well, which is how the heroes can stand their own against them. Odd if the same villains invoke You Have Failed Me to other people but not the Millstone.
The trope name comes from the phrase "millstone around my neck". For those not versed in agriculture, a millstone is a large stone disc (often two or three feet in diameter and weighing several hundred pounds) used by mills to render things well pulverized, such as grinding grain into flour. Imagine carrying one of those around your neck — you'd be hard-pressed to do much of anything. The expression originates from Matthew 18:6 ("...whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea"), which in turn may be a reference to a form of capital punishment practiced at the time.
Compare to The Load, who doesn't cause failure but is still of little or no worth, and is not quite as entertaining. Leeroy Jenkins is a subtrope of this. General Failure is when the guy who's supposed to be in charge suffers from this. The Mole is when a traitor infiltrates the team and intentionally sabotages them. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero is when a good character causes a problem once but doesn't cause them regularly. Such a character could also turn out to be the Spanner in the Works or Unwitting Instigator of Doom. A common additional flaw of this character is to be The Klutz or even a Lethal Klutz. They are also frequently Too Dumb to Live or Lethally Stupid. Compare and contrast Damsel Scrappy. A Black Sheep Hit would be this for musicians. May be The Friend Nobody Likes.
- Excel Excel from Excel Saga is an example. Granted, most of Il Palazzo's plans are rather silly to begin with, but she ensures that they have no chance of success.
- Near the end of the anime series, Il Palazzo realizes this and fires her by shooting her through the chest and leaving her to die; he conquers the city two episodes later (though the city's destruction might have helped with that a little).
- In the manga Excel is so much of a millstone that when Il Palazzo finally gets off his ass and does something (such as exploring outside of the lair), he only rescues Elgala and Hyatt, and leaves Excel behind, replacing her with a disguised Roppomatsu 1 he also captured, and almost immediately succeeds in taking over the city. Interestingly, manga Excel is considerably more intelligent than her anime counterpart, even though her hyperactive attitude tends to make it hard to tell. Il Palazzo's success doesn't seem to be so much due to Excel's absence than it is from memory and competence returning to him — which was also the reason he ditched Excel.
- In Hetalia: Axis Powers, comically ditzy Italy spends most of his time dragging down the Axis powers.
- Reborn! (2004) has the protagonist, Tsunayoshi Sawada, at least in terms of sports. Any team that picks him for a game loses. He does take a level, though.
- Tonpa in Hunter × Hunter actively tries to be one during one part of the Hunter Exam when he's forced to team up with the main characters, voting opposite the others whenever they're forced to take a vote, immediately forfeiting his match in a best 3-out-of-5 battle, and encouraging dissent between the other members of the group. He even states that he has no desire to pass the exam, and only took it so he could crush the hopes of everyone else taking it.
- Ironically, Tonpa forfeiting his match actually helped the main characters. The convicts they were up against were encouraged to delay the group for as long as possible until the time limit ran out, getting a year off their sentence for every hour they succeeded in doing so. Kurapika points out that if Tonpa hadn't forfeited, his opponent probably would've crushed his trachea so he couldn't speak and then just tortured him for the remainder of the time limit.
- Pokémon: The Series:
- The anime has a villainous example in Team Rocket. In any episode where they are not the primary antagonists, they will do something to screw up the other villain's plan. Somewhat ironically they usually subvert this on the heroic side. Not only are they usually far more efficient doing good than bad, but a lot of their bumbling schemes ultimately end up resolving a crisis or personal conflict between the current cast.
- A number of the heroes' Pokémon apply as well: examples include Misty's Togepi, Misty's Psyduck, Iris's Axew, and Goh's Grookey. Each of them has a very bad habit of causing trouble in various ways, while being too weak or incompetent in battle to fix the problems they cause.
- In Sailor Moon, the brainwashed Prince Endymion is this to Kunzite. He's a Noble Demon and goes out of his way to sabotage Kunzite's cunning, unethical schemes, but Kunzite can't just leave him behind because Queen Beryl wants Endymion out there doing stuff.
- The second season of Shirobako introduces one in the form of Shinsuke Chazawa, the editor for the In-Universe Third Aerial Girls' Squad manga that the main characters are trying to adapt to an anime. Given the lengths he goes to hinder MusuAni in producing the series, up to deliberately doing everything he can to prevent the director from communicating with the manga's author, it'd be understandable for a viewer to think that he was deliberately being paid to sabotage production (he's not; he's just resentful of anything that gets in the way of his leisure time). A conservative estimate would be that at least half of all the problems in the second season are his fault.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) has Silver be steadfast in his efforts to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by tracking down and stopping a traitor in the Freedom Fighters. To this end, he's accused Rotor, Antoine, and Sonic of being said traitor at separate points, every time with little evidence to go on. Silver later began to suspect Bunnie of being the traitor, which causes Sonic to dish out a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, telling Silver there is no traitor. Sonic finally orders Silver to go home because all he's doing is screwing things up; upon discovering that Silver is Trapped in the Past, Sonic tells Silver to Get Out! instead.
- Averted in Sonic Universe. In Mobius: 30 Years Later, his intervention in Light Mobius saved Sonic and Sally from being killed and helped stop Tikhaos, but despite hints that his future was the future of Light Mobius during Tikhaos' rampage, his actions had no effect on the timeline, so he fell back to his plan to find the traitor in the Freedom Fighters. In The Silver Saga story, he manages to save Dark Mobius from its Enerjak, resolving a Bad Future that had been briefly touched years earlier and not mentioned up until this point.
- Chase Stein is often a millstone to the other Runaways. His Leeroy Jenkins tendencies often end up making things harder for the rest of the team. Case in point: on two occasions, the Runaways have tried to flee from more powerful or better-trained opponents, and in both cases, Chase decided to lay down covering fire, compromising the stealth advantage conferred by the Leapfrog's cloaking systems.
- In the 2017 series, Gert has become this. Unable to adjust to a world where her friends have nearly all grown up while she is still largely the same person she was before her death, she pushed them into reuniting. The consequences of this include Karolina getting dumped by her girlfriend and getting distracted from her schoolwork, Victor being resurrected against his will with his Superpowered Evil Side restored, and Molly losing two best friends and becoming estranged from her grandmother in the space of a few months. For added milling, Gert has lost her control over Old Lace, she is out of shape, and her base of knowledge is two years out of date, and thus she is poorly equipped to help her friends deal with the situations that have arisen as a result of her return.
- The Running Gag of Charlie Brown losing baseball game after baseball game is possible only because his team doesn't know better. Even a 51-50 loss after being up 50-0 never stopped him from pitching. (Indeed, there's a sub-Running Gag that the team wins when Charlie Brown is at camp or some such.)
- Lucy could easily be considered one as well. Even from left field, her bungling has ruined more games for Charlie Brown than seems statistically plausible. Of course, Charlie Brown always gets blamed. (That, or Lucy keeps reverting to her stock excuse of "The [X] got in my eyes!")
- Around the time Peanuts ended, MAD ran their ideas for the final strip, one of which was the revelation that Charlie Brown had been taking bribes to throw all the baseball games.
- Foxtrot: Peter Fox is very bad at sports despite his continually trying out for them (if he's on the team, it's only to show how bad he is). It leads to an unpleasant discovery one year where he didn't.
Peter: What are you looking at?
Steve: The list of players cut from the football team.
Steve: I hate to tell you this, Pete, but you're right at the top.
Peter: But I didn't even try out this year.
Steve: I really hate to tell you this, Pete, but...
Peter: MY NAME IS PRE-PRINTED ON THESE?!
Steve: Looks like you were cut from girls' gymnastics, too.
Peter: How could they cut me from varsity football when I didn't even try out? Was I THAT bad last year?! Was I THAT awful?! Am I such a pariah that they want to be SURE I'm not on the squad?!
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act VI has one in the form of Arial Kuyumaya. While she does help Moka and the gang escape from captivity in the HDA, due to her stubborn obsession with Dark, as well as the yandere tendencies that come with said obsession, the group openly state on more than one occasion that Arial has caused nothing but trouble since she met up with them.
- While Danzo Shimura had some shades of this in canon, Son of the Sannin has him become a more active version, especially during the Shippuden timeframe. Case in point, he willingly leaks Konoha's intel to Akatsuki, which results in several failed missions to retrieve the jinchuriki before they are captured and have their Tailed Beasts forcibly extracted. When he's confronted about it, he replies that he was planning on letting Akatsuki gather all of the Tailed Beasts and then wipe them out to take all beasts for Konoha at once. Although it's later revealed that this plan was a result of him being brainwashed by Obito.
- Morgan in Total Drama Legacy. In "Here Come The Sons And Daughters", she doesn't put in any work for her team during the statue-building challenge, and ends up hindering them instead. Is it any wonder that she gets Voted Off the Island first?
- In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Friendship Games, Twilight Sparkle excels in the academic portion of the titular Games, but she's useless in the athletic portion. She faceplants after trying to do a simple jump, takes ages to swing on a rope across a small pit, and misses every shot with her arrows in archery. It takes one of Twilight's rivals from the other team giving her advice before Twilight finally hits the archery target, and by then, Twilight's team is hopelessly behind.
- Lilo & Stitch:
- Lilo tries to get Stitch to be like Elvis with every lesson she teaches him, blowing Nani's latest chance of getting a job after she lost her previous one, which was ALSO a result of her little sister bringing home a pet that looked absolutely nothing like a dog.
- To be fair, Pleakley and Jumba don't help much either as their attempts to apprehend Stitch resulting in Lilo being put in danger and her house getting blown up, which ends with Lilo getting kidnapped by Gantu.
- Zootopia: Nick deliberately tries to be this to Judy at first, purposefully delaying her after she conscripts him to help her track down Mr. Otterton. Thankfully, he cuts it out once he realizes what's at stake.
- In Inside Out, any of the 5 emotions who are not Joy messes up control over Riley one way over the other. Anger is the biggest offender in this regard, as every action he takes to control Riley results in the destruction of her 5 core personality islands. Sadness WAS responsible for interfering with Riley's core memories that caused her and Joy to be sucked out of headquarters, but it was also important to the story as it's revealed that Sadness helps Riley open herself up about her disappointments, which eventually turns into happiness.
- The Minions in Minions want nothing more than to serve the biggest baddest badass there is. Unfortunately, they aren't very good at it. They're klutzy and accident-prone even on good days, and on bad days they're a hazard to life and limb. In the first part depicting their past, the Minions accidentally sent a T-rex into a volcano, got a caveman eaten by a bear, crushed a pharaoh and his subjects with a pyramid, exposed a vampire to sunlight during an ill-planned surprise party, and accidentally shot Napoleon with a cannon. That last one forced the Minions to flee and hide for centuries. They have somewhat better luck in modern times — Scarlet's working relationship with them only falls apart because she mistakenly thought they were traitors (though accidentally dropping a chandelier on her head was the final nail in the coffin), and Gru has (somehow) survived working with them through three movies.
- Flik in A Bug's Life is this to the ant colony at first, more interested in doing things in a Brilliant, but Lazy way, so much so that he never pulls his own weight. He gets better after some character development, as well as showing true bravery by standing up to the grasshopper army.
- Harold in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle would have a much more hassle-free life if Kumar wasn't always looking for weed.
- The plot of the sequel is kicked off when Kumar tries to smoke some weed on an airplane that is heading for Amsterdam. As Harold points out, all Kumar had to do was wait a few hours, and he could have smoked as much as he wanted.
- Shaun of the Dead:
- Ed repeatedly endangers everyone else through simply being Too Dumb to Live. The worst instance occurs when the group is attempting to sneak past dozens of zombies. Ed's cell phone rings, and he answers it and begins cheerfully and loudly talking on it. Later, when they are attempting to hide from the zombies in a pub, he turns on the fruit machine. He also gets a bit too caught up in the excitement of dealing with the zombies violently, thus needlessly endangering everyone else several times for the thrills. Unlike many examples here, however, Shaun actually twigs on and angrily berates Ed for it (thus, rather amusingly, becoming something of a Millstone himself, since his spleen-venting unfortunately occurs right in front of the zombies).
- It's not brought up as much as it is with Ed, but Barbara is a total liability from the minute the group pick her up. She insists on not leaving Phillip behind even though he's already been bitten and is a dead man walking, then when Shaun, Diane and David are stuck with a newly-zombified David at the back of the car, Barbara just stands there until Liz opens the childlocked doors for them and it's strongly implied that when the party pass through the garden of a couple she knows, Barbara opens the sliding door even though she can clearly see they're zombies, thus getting bitten. Then she eventually becomes a zombie herself in the middle of the pub and triggers a Mexican Standoff because she didn't want anybody to worry.
- Mary Goodnight in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, especially while Bond was trying to retrieve the Solex Agitator in Scaramanga's lair. She accidentally hits the giant, candy-like button with her ASS, almost setting off the doomsday thingy while Bond is inside it trying to disable it. Holy crow, maybe not the dumbest Bond girl ever, but a contender.
- Manchild Alan from The Hangover causes every situation he and his friends are in to go from bad to worse. He does, however, come to the rescue in the end of both films.
- Zack Galifianakis's character in Due Date, who not only plagues Peter with his stupidity but eventually reveals that he's had his wallet the whole time and forced him on a cross-country trip due to a desire to be his friend.
- The Big Lebowski: Walter Sobchak is a cross between this and a total asshole. Everything goes completely wrong for the Dude the moment Walter opens his mouth or comes up with a plan. The kicker? Walter was right all along.
- Virtually every bad thing that happens to the main characters in the second half of Dante's Peak can be laid at the feet of Ruth, who endangers everyone. And then, after an attempt to rescue her and everyone else at her place, she heroically sacrifices herself to save everyone from sinking into the acid lake they would never have been on if she'd evacuated when she was supposed to.
- Peregrin Took in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where he's responsible for, among other things: drunkenly revealing Frodo's identity to everybody within earshot, starting a fire at Weathertop that attracts the Ringwraiths, waking up The Watcher which forces the Fellowship to flee into Moria, waking up everything in Moria when they're knee-deep in it by pushing a corpse down a well, and touching a stone which alerts Sauron to his (and thus the Fellowship's) location. He does eventually grow out of it, though.
Gandalf: Fool of a Took! Throw yourself down [the well] next time, and rid us of your stupidity!
- Lockout: The Ax-Crazy Hydell is one for the other villains, in spite of being the one who made their escape possible in the first place. Alex tries and fails to teach him Pragmatic Villainy and is constantly exasperated by how Stupid Evil he is. Hydell's Millstone feats include killing a guy whom Alex was interrogating, shooting down a rescue ship that could have taken everyone to safety, and trying to rape and kill their hostages. When Alex is asked why he doesn't just kill Hydell, he says it's because Hydell is his brother and he loves him.
- Francois Pignon is usually The Millstone or The Load in films by the French director / screenwriter Francis Veber. His first appearance was the title character in A Pain In The Ass.
- Made Man Nicky Santoro is sent to Las Vegas to make sure no-one interferes with the money-"skimming" operation the mob are running in the Tangiers casino-hotel. His psychotically volatile nature and arrogance ends up screwing things up for everyone. The bosses eventually get tired of him throwing his weight around and make an example of him.
- The protagonist "Ace" Rothstein himself is often millstone. He knowingly marries a hooker and hustler and is constantly driven up the wall by her lies and attempts to steal his money to give to her pimp. Ace makes an enemy of the county commissioner by firing an incompetent employee who also happens to be his brother in-law. This ruins Ace's chances of getting a casino license. Then he gets a job as a talk show host in the casino to keep running it, which makes the bosses very nervous because they want to keep the skim operation under the radar and quiet as possible.
- Before Santoro's live burial, the Mafia bosses notice that the profits from the Skim are actually being skimmed, so they send in Artie Piscano to try and get the situation under control. Unfortunately, he's even more disastrous than Nicky: not only is he an incompetent, but he ends up giving the police evidence by keeping detailed financial records of just about everything relating to the Skim.
- Vicki Vale in Batman went from being a fairly competent character to being The Load to finally being this trope. She makes things more difficult for Batman when they flee the museum simply by not running when she had the chance. Some minutes later, she almost gets Batman killed — and then almost publicly unmasked — by lying to him about her weight when he tries using a motorized cord to pull them up to the roof. She does manage to rescue him, but what happened was still her own fault and Batman feels compelled to scold her afterward.
- Pulp Fiction: Vincent Vega makes things worse for himself and everyone around him because of his profound stupidity. Shooting Marvin in the face due to not watching where he was pointing his gun turned a simple escort mission into a long saga of grief and stress for Vincent and Jules. Vincent's stupidity proves to be his undoing when he uses the bathroom in Butch's apartment, leaving his gun outside the bathroom for Butch to find and use on Vincent. To make this extra brainless, the only reason Vincent was alone was because Marcellus had just stepped out to get doughnuts. He'd probably have survived if he'd waited an additional five minutes to use the toilet.
- Every major problem the team faces in Ghostbusters (1984) is caused by Peter Venkman. The Dean at Columbia U specifically cites Venkman's smarmy attitude and freewheeling approach to the scientific method as the reasons for kicking the team off campus. Venkman's overly-forward attempts to hit on Dana almost cost them their first customer, and his antagonizing of EPA agent Walter Peck backfires horribly when Peck turns out to be a petty tyrant who orders their containment grid shut down, freeing hundreds of trapped ghosts and speeding along the Big Bad's plan. Despite this, Venkman can be considered a subversion of the usual Millstone, since it's his cleverness, resourcefulness, and silver tongue that always end up fixing the problems he causes.
- Mina in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Because she is in love with the Count, she serves as a heavy burden to the vampire hunters trying to kill him and they use her psychic connection with him to track him down. She fully transitions to this trope during the climax, when she casts a spell to bring down the sunlight and summon nightfall earlier, which would allow Dracula to come out in full strength and place all the hunters in danger.
- Carter from The Lost World: Jurassic Park comes across as this. In one scene, he's listening to music on his headphones while in a jungle full of dinosaurs, and he doesn't hear his buddy being eaten by a swarm of Compsognathus. Later on, when a Tyrannosaurus rex shows up at the camp while everyone else is asleep, Carter starts shouting at the top of his lungs, triggering a panicked stampede in which he's trampled by his teammates before being squashed by the T. rex itself.
- Tommy, the perpetually-enraged Mafia hitman from Goodfellas, is a pretty transparent example. The guy's job is to be muscle for the mob, so pushing people around and keeping everybody in line is what he's supposed to be doing. The problem is Tommy is an unrepentant, loud-mouthed jackass who flies into a murderous rage at the slightest provocation, which in the long term causes more problems than it solves. Unlike most examples, Tommy's instability winds up getting him killed when his bosses realize he's too much trouble to control.
- Talked about in Around the World in 80 Days where Aouda fears she was Fogg's Millstone delaying him on his trip so he missed the deadline. However, Fogg firmly denies she was any problem and any concerns she may still have are dispelled by the fact that she is then instrumental instead in saving the day.
- The Stephen King novella The Body, later adapted into the film Stand by Me, has the wimpy kid, Vern. He's got no useful skills to help the kids find the body, and seems to be The Friend Nobody Likes among the four boys. On the way, while crossing a railroad bridge high over a river, Vern nearly gets himself and Gordie killed because his fear of heights leads to a staunch refusal to get up and run across the bridge.
Vern: I'm gonna fall!
Gordie: We're gonna die!
- In The Darksword Trilogy, Lovable Traitor Simkin cheerfully ruins his companions' plans at every opportunity. The other heroes scream at Joram to Just Eat Gilligan already, but Joram insists in violation of all reason and common sense on trusting Simkin. In the end, Joram's faith proves to have been the right choice.
- Manny Heffley in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is often shown screwing things up for Greg and sometimes even the entire family across the entire series. This came to a head in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul where he's a hindrance to the family's vacation plans and road trip at many points throughout the book. (Forcing the family to skip several stops they wanted to make because he throws a tantrum whenever his naps are interrupted, constantly trying to run away to find a pig they had won at a fair and were forced to give up, etc.) It isn't until the end of the book that he finally manages to vindicate himself by getting the family out of trouble by way of his surprisingly fluent Spanish...even if it was just to go back to a petting zoo where the Heffleys had left the aforementioned pig.
- In George R.R. Martin's first novel, Dying of the Light, this role could actually be used to describe the protagonist at best, or almost all of the named characters at worst. The plot is largely driven by the main characters inadvertently making things worse for everyone around them as well as themselves, with first place going to the Protagonist, and second place going to his love interest whose jaw-droppingly bad lack of communication sets up their backstory and prolongs the plot. It also doesn't help that there's a character that seems to be an early version of Littlefinger pulling some strings, but at least he's trying to cause issues.
- The titular Don Quixote is a Mad Dreamer who Thinks Like a Romance Novel; he's read a ton of Chivalric Romance books, and is convinced that the world works that way. However, when he tries to live the life of a Knight Errant, he just makes any situation he inserts himself into even worse. He steals a barber's basin because he's convinced it's some kind of magical helmet, he attacks people bringing someone's corpse home because he thinks they killed the guy, and inserts himself into a messy marriage situation with Dorothea and Don Fernando, only to nearly get a bunch of people killed and ruin an entire inn's supply of red wine. It gets to the point that several people encourage Don Quixote's behavior because they think it's funny to watch him fail.
- Legacy of the Dragokin: Benji's over-eagerness combined with his incompetence cause a great deal of trouble. It's his fault that Final Shield was destroyed and its city was invaded.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has so many characters in it, it's unsurprising to find a few Millstones in the lot; some straighter than others.
- Joffrey "Baratheon" is as completely evil as a 13-year-old Royal Brat can be... but this is NOT his family's biggest problem. It's his utter stupidity and cluelessness which first causes a war and then slams constant thorns into the Lannisters' politics. Several times. All of his family members around him, who vary in terms of both intelligence and conscience themselves, spend half of their energy trying to knock if not morality, exactly, then at least some sense of Pragmatic Villainy into him; to no avail. In fact, Joffrey's very life ends because some people finally decide that working around him is simply impossible.
- Cersei picks up where her son left off, and it becomes perfectly clear where he got it from in the first place. While Joffrey at least had Tywin and Tyrion attempting to run interference, Cersei eventually doesn't have anyone keeping her (and her alcoholism) in check. Her tendency to fill her council with Yes Men and her petty feud with her daughter-in-law Margaery Tyrell end up delivering control of King's Landing to armed zealots who lock her up in a cell and the creation of a brand new pirate fleet (consisting of ships she bankrupt the Seven Kingdoms to build). Even Littlefinger is shocked by her incompetence. He fully expected her to run the Seven Kingdoms into the ground, true (and planned around it)... but, not that quickly. He's had to speed things up on the fly.
- Merrett "Muttonhead" Frey is also a wonderful example: almost any venture he's touched hasn't gone well, dating right back to being a young teen (he once tried to bully the Squire, Jaime Lannister — which went as well as you'd expect). As is Ryman Frey... given that he is one of the heirs to the House, it's almost a relief for readers to learn that the vastly more competent and ruthless Black Walder is widely considered by the other Freys as being likely out to kill him (and others) to gain the lordship. Politically smooth and savvy the gormless, stubborn jackass isn't (he's smart enough in his own way, just not a socially acceptable soul by both Westerosi and Freyish standards). Which explains why no other Freys are moving to defend him against Black Walder and/or anybody else within or outside the family.
- Subverted/deconstructed ones come in the shapes of Lord Edmure Tully and Lancel Lannister: others treat them with varying degrees of contempt, having pre-judged them to be Millstones. Which becomes clear is the actual root cause of problems they get blamed for when they are put in situations they just couldn't win even if there were cheat codes available. Blaming them for not acting on things they were not aware of or not thinking of things they couldn't know about or going to people they shouldn't because you never told them important information because you decided they were too dumb to fully trust, yet you still used them to do vitally important things...? Who is actually the Millstone, here?
- The absolute and undisputed star of the Millstones, however, is a Big Fancy Castle rather than a person: Harrenhal. Ever since its fall to the Targaryens, it is reputed to curse the person who commands it and any family that holds it for long. While there appears to be something to this, even if this is just legend, the reputation is enough for cautious men to hand it off as soon as they possibly can. Additionally, being in a fairly strategic location means others will try to bring the current commander to ruin in wartime, so there's that, too. Almost every family and military commander given the castle has gone — often in remarkably over-the-top, horrific ways, even by Westerosi standards. Those that haven't completely died out have become, at best, poor, divested, bit-part players in the Game as a direct result of trying to run the best-used-as-a-quarry-of-ready-dressed-stonework as a going concern.
- The current lord of Harrenhal is Littlefinger: he owns it, but is smart enough to neither stay near it, nor waste resources refurbishing it until he has the gold to tear it down. He is currently staying in the Vale, while letting other people take the immediate fallout.
- Fire & Blood has Aemond "One-Eye" Targaryen, for the Green faction during the Dance of the Dragons, being directly responsible for the outbreak of open war when he kills Lucerys Velaryon, a teenaged ambassador, in revenge for the incident that cost him his eye. He spends much of the war not being much help to his side, either militarily or because he's chasing after his uncle Daemon, who exploits this to keep Aemond away from places he and his dragon could be useful. Much as his mother and brother loved him, they probably did breath a sigh of relief when Aemond bought it, just because he wouldn't be around to screw things up for them any further.
- Meanwhile, the Blacks have Lord Bartimos Celtigar and Mysaria. Between the two of them, with Celtigar's idiotic taxes and Mysaria's pointless cruelty, they manage to completely nuke any support Rhaenyra might've had among the lords and smallfolk.
- The Troublemaker: The last seven ships Sneat served on are now the seven lowest rated ships ships in the fleet. At least one of them was once one of the most popular ships in the fleet but had the entire crew go into debt over late deliveries within a couple of months of hiring Sneat as a cargo-master.
- The Twelve Chairs: Ippolit Matveyevich "Kisa" Vorobyaninov first is an employer to his Magnificent Bastard companion Ostap Bender, then becomes The Load... and then, when they almost buy the titular jewel-stuffed MacGuffin, not only does Kisa get drunk and spend all the cash, he completely screws any possibility of them buying the chairs ever and causes the chairs to be sold separately. Throughout the story, he degrades morally and ends up killing Ostap in his sleep (luckily, he got better) right before going for the final chair, only to discover that the treasure was already found and taken away due to stupidity.
- In Animorphs, it is implied that the main thing holding the Yeerk invasion back is actually Visser 3, thanks to his extreme ego, lack of knowledge about Earth, and tendency to kill anyone who brings him bad news. On several occasions, mooks discovered the Animorphs' secret but deliberately avoided reporting it out of fear of getting eaten. That said, he's still an incredibly dangerous enemy and for the majority of the series the Animorphs are having to repeatedly risk their lives foiling his plans. It's just implied that if Visser 1 had been in charge of the invasion instead, they wouldn't have had a prayer of stopping the Yeerks.
- In The Magicians, Quentin Coldwater is more of a hindrance than a help to his friends throughout the journey to Fillory, not helped by the fact that he's determined to play the hero — despite having next to no instinct for fighting or even doing the right thing. He ends up as the last of the team to be of any use in battle, the most determined to spur them on into progressively more dangerous stakes, and the one to use the magical horn - not only summoning the Beast into their midst, but giving the bastard a quick route to his real goal. If Alice hadn't stepped up, Quentin's blunder would have gotten everyone killed. It ends up costing Alice her humanity and Penny his hands.
- There have been some bad partners throughout the 30-plus seasons of the American version of The Amazing Race, but a season 15 contestant named Mika takes the cake. A partner has never so directly caused a teams elimination the way she did. note They were at a resort in Dubai and had to go down a waterslide. Mika, who was afraid of both heights and water, refused to do it, even though the challenge took about thirty seconds from start to finish and they were in second to last place with a comfortable but not insurmountable lead on the last place team. She pitched a fit before getting floaties and still didn't do it. It took her so long to do it that the last place team got there, giving her a hard time limit of two minutes before she had to get out of the way for them. She had almost worked up the courage when the other team started to try to talk her out of it to (successfully) run the clock out. They jumped in front of Mika who then quit the task and got her and her boyfriend eliminated. He almost broke up with her right then and there, but ultimately waited to do it until they were at the sequester location where the eliminated teams wait until filming stops.
- Jesse from Breaking Bad, at least for the first few seasons. A lot of early episodes involve his addictions, his carelessness, his recklessness, or his insubordination causing problems. It's probably most evident in "4 Days Out", where the first half is basically nothing but Jesse causing problems (packing nothing but snacks for a desert trip, leaving the keys in the ignition for two days straight until the battery ends up drained, accidentally starting a fire and putting it out with their only water, wasting the remaining power in his cellphone to call an equally incompetent friend for help, who immediately gets lost). Naturally, though, he ends up proving his value later on, given his bloody-minded determination and growing moral compass.
- Community has Pierce, particularly in Season 2. He discovers Jeff and Troy's "secret trampoline" and manages to expose it in a matter of minutes, getting it removed from campus, and breaking both his legs in the process. His ego leads him to go off-script during an anti-drug PSA, getting a room full of middle-schoolers excited for drugs (until Chang fixes it simply by taking his place). The rest of the main cast is occasionally Genre Savvy about this, not inviting him to a Dungeons & Dragons game/suicide intervention due to his insensitive manner (and they are proven right when he crashes the game and nearly short-circuits the whole thing). During one of the paintball episodes, Jeff exploits this in order to use Pierce as a decoy:
Jeff: Hey Pierce, don't come over here, okay?
Pierce: Screw you! I'm comin' over there! [gets shot]
- Doctor Who:
- Dodo, if she's remembered at all, is mostly remembered for all the plans she ruined over her tenure. In "The Ark" she nearly wipes out the remnants of humanity by giving them her cold (which they have no immunity to). In "The Celestial Toymaker" Steven reminds her of what her plan is three or four times and she still forgets it at the crunch time. In "The Gunfighters" she nearly shoots Doc Holliday before the gunfight at the OK Corral.
- Adric qualifies. In the Fifth Doctor's first story, "Castrovalva", he allies himself with the Master after being captured by him, and in "Earthshock", the whole plot is kicked off by him arguing with the Doctor over wanting to return to his home planet, which eventually results in his death.
- "The Long Game": That Adam Mitchell acted as this by attempting to steal secrets on future technology was a prime reason why the Doctor kicked him off the TARDIS at the end of the episode.
- In Drake & Josh, the episodes sometimes play out with the formula of Josh having to suffer because of some scheme of Drake's, and Josh is treated as the Butt-Monkey because of it. However, the later season episode "Josh Is Done" deconstructed this trope by demonstrating how much of millstone Drake really is. Josh is finally pushed past his limit and states that he is "done" with Drake as a brother and firmly cuts him out of his life. Drake isn't too bothered by this initially because he thinks Josh needs him, but as the episode goes on, things in life proceed to improve for Josh while they deteriorate for Drake. Josh's relationship with his boss improves, a stress rash he's had for years suddenly goes away, he starts doing better in school, and has more time for friends and dating. Drake turns into a basket case who is unable to function because it turns out he relied on Josh for a lot of basic necessities in his life, is unable to focus on his music, and starts getting acne. It all culminates in Drake getting humiliated in chemistry class so badly he ends up running out, but not before apologizing to Josh for everything and for being a bad brother, and admitting he needs Josh way more than Josh needs him. Josh accepts Drake back after his apology.
- A typical episode of Ricky Gervais's Extras would involve his character Andy divulging an embarrassing secret to his friend Maggie, who would inevitably spill the beans to someone in a position to humiliate him over it. Yet as Millstone-ish as Maggie could be, it is eventually Andy who is his own worst enemy, considering he never learns to keep his mouth shut.
- Farscape had Rygel, and later, Noranti — both of whom were remarkably likely to cause serious trouble for the crew. The episode "Lava's A Many Splendored Thing", for example, had both of them take turns — Rygel got them trapped by trying to rob the crates, and Noranti repeatedly got them into trouble because she was convinced the bad guys were in fact the noble Tarkan freedom fighters, and nearly got them shot several times. While both of them could be useful in the right circumstances, using their diplomatic skills or potions and illusions respectively, they were also prone to setting off the plots of entire episodes through greed, apparent senility, or other forms of poor decision-making.
- Game of Thrones:
- Played for Drama with Joffrey. He is so utterly incompetent at anything that doesn't involve tormenting people, and so utterly devoted to the latter, that he never really sees the big political picture and ultimately creates problem after problem for the Lannisters who in Cersei and Tywin were trying to rule through him. This is one of the reasons why Tywin has no issue with Margaery trying to manipulate him, at least in the beginning, because then at least somebody is keeping him on a leash.
- A less intentional case of this happened with Tyrion due to his signature trait of high intelligence being stymied by an increasingly magnetic Idiot Ball. A lot of the conflict in the seventh and eighth seasons essentially arose from characters giving him their ear—making alliances they shouldn't have, trusting people who were clearly not trustworthy, setting up battle plans that didn't work, holding off on attacking King's Landing until it was a much harder target, and most pivotally, the baffling expedition to kidnap a wight from beyond the Wall.
- Gilligan's Island
- If the other castaways had resorted to cannibalism and eaten him, they could have gotten off the island the next day. He's so much an embodiment of this trope that it was almost titled "The Gilligan".
- Also, the episodes that didn't center around their latest attempt to get off the island (and these made up about half the series) instead focused around the latest danger on the island, and Gilligan was always the one who saved them in those cases. So no Gilligan and maybe they'd have gotten off the island — or maybe they'd have been fried by the volcano or blown up by the mine that washed ashore.
- In one episode, they find a gold mine on the island, as well as a salvageable life raft from the Minnow. Everybody except Gilligan tries to sneak a bag of gold onto the raft, after being explicitly warned by the Professor not to. The raft sinks as soon as they shove off. Gilligan proceeds to lampshade the fact that he's usually the one to screw these things up.
- Basically, Gilligan goes through life with a near-total lack of self-awareness. When this means that he doesn't think about the consequences of his actions, things turn out bad. When it means that he doesn't worry about his personal safety or waste effort on inconsequential things, things turn out well.
- Though Gilligan was the most consistent example, the rest of the castaways all had their moments of becoming this to one or more of the others as well. (Oftentimes if it wasn't Gilligan, it was either one of the Howells or Ginger.)
- Con man Alexander Fitzhugh in Land of the Giants. He tends to panic and act selfishly and often ends up drawing the attention of the title giants when the humans could have readily escaped notice. Fitting in that he was an attempt to replicate the success of Zachary Smith from Lost in Space.
- Kelly Bundy continually fell into this role on Married... with Children. It's eventually Lampshaded by Peggy in one episode while the Bundys and the D'Arcys are being arrested by the police, when she realizes that it probably wasn't a good idea to let Kelly in on the plan of the week. Later seasons have her repeatedly teaming up with Bud, and her involvement typically turns things into an Epic Fail of Biblical proportions. (Except for that one episode where she invented Bleen.)
- A purer example would be her mother, Peg. Although Kelly does on occasion come through and become successful (only for the Bundy curse or her own stupidity to cause her downfall), Peg is the lazy, snarky, selfish, hope crushing Jerkass that usually ruins things for everyone, especially poor Al. An episode even lampshades her uselessness and calls her the laziest person in the world.
- Inverted in Merlin. Merlin plays this role in his more Genre Savvy moments to keep Arthur's ill-informed plans from going through. For example, Aithusa, where Arthur decides to seek out and smash the last dragon eggnote , Merlin decides to go on ahead and nearly kills himself when the tower collapses, so they can't search through the ruins for it. Well, at least the egg is probably destroyed... or it would be, if it wasn't in Merlin's backpack.
- Played straight by many of the series' Muggles. The show's Drinking Game page goes thusly: take a shot whenever Merlin could solve a problem in five minutes if A) Magic wasn't banned on pain of death, B) They didn't just assume that they can kill anything and that any history that says only magic can kill something is just superstition, and C) They didn't keep ignoring Merlin, despite the fact that he is always right.
- In The Mighty Boosh, Howard and Vince take turns. Which is the true Millstone is too close to call, as they'll occasionally switch in the same episode. (see The Nightmare of Milky Joe) Their millstoning gets more prevalent when they leave the Zooniverse after season one, as Bob Fossil is no longer instigating episodes.
- The Mole is a Reality TV show built entirely around this trope. The players add money to a jackpot by performing tasks, which The Mole tries to sabotage. Somewhat subverted, though: Every so often, there is a quiz that asks about The Mole (which, naturally, The Mole aces every time), and whoever knows the least is eliminated. The players, in order to screw with each other's knowledge and extend their own games, don't always give it their all, and thus the entire team becomes The Millstone.
- Parks and Recreation: While everyone that isn't Leslie Knope can hold back the department in question one way or another, depending on what's happening, Ron Swanson is the clearest example: he's the one that made sure to pick employees that wouldn't achieve much, and he himself only works hard in his position if it's in ways to cut the budget. He's a self-declared case of a millstone around the Parks Department's neck, because he's a hardline libertarian that thinks sandbagging the hell out of government offices is the best way to keep it from doing harm, so he does.
- Kate sabotages the outlaws' plans at least five times on Robin Hood for reasons ranging from "I can do it by myself!" to "I'm in a bad mood today!" to "Robin isn't paying enough attention to me!" to absolutely no logical reason at all. On at least three different occasions, her presence among the outlaws also turns several other characters into Millstones when they mess up the plans after getting distracted by whatever stupid mess she's managed to wander into.
- Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager caused nothing but trouble for Janeway and her crew. He destroyed a diplomatic gift Voyager gave as a way to please some violent natives, the Kazon (causing them to seek revenge and chase Voyager for several seasons), failed to find food and got a crew member killed when he was placed in charge of food gathering (this was by having the crewman do a useless task, collecting sun-dried bones for food use, alone without any thought about his safety) after the crew was marooned (even though Janeway found food in the cave they were sleeping in), since he said he was a survival expert. Poisoning the ship (not the crew, the actual ship) with his cooking. At one point, he even committed bona-fide, premeditated treason, with not even a slap on the wrist. Janeway not only made him morale officer, ship cook, but also a DIPLOMAT.
- Step by Step: Karen seems to fill this role often.
- In one episode of the first season in which the family went camping, Karen says she had found a rock that would make a perfect "pedicure stand". Too bad that rock had been holding the truck they had all ridden to the campsite in place — and it ended up falling into the water.
- In another episode, when the family gets an answering machine, Karen only listens to the first message of two (that was for her) before leaving immediately. The second message is for Frank — telling him to not come to a site, that it would be demolished instead. Frank could have gotten injured — or worse — had he not gotten out in time. If the message had been relayed, this would not have happened.
- This type of character is parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look in the "Get Me Hennimore!" sketches, where Hennimore inevitably screws up after his boss gives him two mutually exclusive and dangerous schemes and fails to properly explain which is which, such as denoting one room with the letter I and another with the number one, rendered as the Roman Numeral I! How can Hennimore possibly misunderstand that?
- Lori and Carl Grimes from The Walking Dead (2010), particularly during the second season. Lori, with eventual shades of Lady Macbeth, serves as the third member of a Love Triangle with Rick and Shane, shows no interest in learning self-defense, and eventually takes out one of the group's cars alone and proceeds to crash it. Carl, meanwhile, frees a zombie that ends up killing Dale. Both are much more competent after the Time Skip at the beginning of season three. It's up for debate as to whether Lori survived long enough to be Rescued from the Scrappy Heap.
- Justin introduced Ol' Joshy and his "coalition of idiots" into the prologue The Adventure Zone: Ethersea specifically because every major project inevitably has someone like this. While most of the community is focusing on building a new society to ensure their survival after the apocalypse, he's starting a school for fighting teleporting sharks... telepathically. And also working as an interior designer. Come the campaign proper, he's still alive and kicking, and still a bit of an idiot who has gets little respect from the citizens as a result, though he's at least not completely useless, as it's known you can go to him for contraband and illicit work, should you need extra money.
- Jin in Dead Island is a complete and utter liability. After reaching Morseby, she steals the truck and threatens you until you agree to gather supplies for everyone, resulting in a number of survivors being killed. Then she gets kidnapped by the gangs when she tries to help them, and you have to go rescue her, resulting in the person who went with her dying. Then, in a rage, she releases Ryder White's infected wife, and he shoots and kills them. But, not before taking the cure which actually transforms him into a monster. All in all, the party might've lasted much longer had Jin not been around.
- Stross from Dead Space 2. He might start off helpful, but aside from one moment of telling Isaac where to find the Marker, he's completely useless. This is thanks to Stross going slowly insane over his refusal to accept responsibility for the deaths of his wife and child, as well as most of the people on his ship when he picked up the Idiot Ball and unleashed a necromorph outbreak. He eventually pulls a FaceHeel Turn by attacking Ellie and taking out one of her eyes with a screwdriver, and then tries to kill Isaac with the same, but Isaac drives the screwdriver into Stross' brain, which finally kills him.
- In the Grand Theft Auto series:
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: Lance Vance. The only helpful thing he ever does is betray you so you can finally shoot his dumb ass. He's somehow even worse in Vice City Stories — most of his brother Vic's problems are due to his screw-ups.
- Hilary King is even worse. You have to beat him in a race for the story to continue, which is extremely hard. Not because he's so fast, but because he keeps getting himself killed due to game bugs that are triggered by his erratic driving. Worse is that his presence in the story is entirely pointless. You recruit him as the getaway driver for a bank robbery, but he won't work with you unless you prove yourself better than him in every way, by beating him in a race where he has a supercar and you have some dinky thing. Then when he finally needs to show his worth in the actual robbery getaway, he immediately gets out of the car, starts shooting at the SWAT team, and is instantly killed when they return fire.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has Jeffrey Cross, better known by his gang name of OG Loc. He thinks he's a rapper, but is not shown to have any quality as a rapper (or any other profession, for that matter). Exactly why he deserves your help is unclear. The missions you get from him (none of which earn you any money, only an increase in CJ's respect stat) involve: helping take revenge on Freddy, a Vago who "supposedly" stole his rhymes as opposed to buggering him in prison and leaving his "macho pride" in shambles; steal the rhyme book from Madd Dogg, an actual rapper, then a van with a sound system at a beach partynote ; kill Madd Dogg's managernote ... and after all this trouble, he just decides to violate his parole so he would go back to jail. In this case, revenge is a dish best served cold: after CJ finds Madd Dogg again and helps the true rap star back to his feet, they crash one of Loc's music video premieres and eventually his whole career.
- Fallout 2 has the Pariah Dog, a random encounter that can join over the party limit, drops your luck to 1, and gives you the Jinxed trait. The only way to fix this is to get the dog killed, but the damn thing has loads of HP and runs away the moment a battle starts.
- The Hanged Man was to be this in Fallout: Van Buren. A tough but evil guy who would piss off almost everyone if he were recruited. In Fallout: New Vegas's Honest Hearts DLC, he became the much nicer "Burned Man" Joshua Graham. The closest thing in New Vegas would be Boone, but only if you planned on allying/being friendly with Caesar's Legion, since his response to them is to shoot on sight. Boone at least will let you know beforehand if you're entering Legion territory and asks if you still want him along or if you need to dismiss him. He'll also mess up the NCR-aligned quest "Silus Treatment" when you try to interrogate a captive Centurion (Centurions are trained to kill themselves before capture to prevent info leaks, but Silus is a huge coward), by barging in and killing the guy before you can get him to talk.
- In the original Mass Effect trilogy, the Council serves as this for Shepard. Despite the fact that Shepard is a Spectre, ostensibly with carte blanche from said Council to break any law and do anything s/he feel is necessary to complete his/her mission, any action Shepard takes is second-guessed by the Council, and vital information or resources are often withheld. At one point in the first game, Shepard has to steal his/her own ship back because the Council put it on lockdown. Even after a galaxy-wide invasion in the third game, the Asari councilor delays telling Shepard about a Prothean beacon until its location is all but overrun with Reapers.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, EVA actually lives up to the quote at the beginning of the page, since knocking her unconscious and dragging her limp body is both possible, and usually preferable to having her follow you while constantly eating up your rations. Also, if you are spotted, she often chooses to stand her ground and engage the limitless army of enemy troops, rather than attempt to hide like a good agent.
- Claptrap from the Borderlands series. His complete inability to do anything right most of the time greatly annoys both the characters and players alike. Exaggerated in the Claptastic Voyage DLC for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, where it reveals his most disastrous accident to date. It's even made into a gameplay mechanic, wherein his ability may cause the other Vault Hunters to start randomly jumping or otherwise lose control.
- Any Escort Mission where a Too Dumb to Live escortee jumps in your line of fire, walks instead of running (or runs so fast you can't catch up with them), or even attacks every enemy in sight to guarantee mission failure and/or loss of points/resources.
- Silent Hill:
- Silent Hill 2 has everyone's favorite manipulative stripper Maria. Not only does she not carry a weapon or help James in any significant way, she seemingly goes out of her damn way to jump in front of your attacks, or stand immediately next to the attacking monster. So, of course, after all that hard work keeping her safe on that great big Escort Mission, she gets herself killed. Three times. Even more fustrating is the fact that Maria's death during gameplay before she's killed in a cutscene results in a Non Standard Game Over. Justified in that she's a manifestation created by the eponymous town for the express purpose of thoroughly screwing with James.
- Not to be outdone, Silent Hill 4 has Eileen Galvin, whom you spend the latter half of the game guarding from danger. If you give her a weapon, she will flail at the nearest enemies, no matter how killable they are. To many a first-time player's chagrin, the more damage Eileen takes, the faster she dies during the final boss battle, and when she dies, you have a greater chance of getting the Downer Ending where Everybody Dies.
- In Ghost Recon, your own teammates tend to get themselves killed, by getting themselves shot by the enemy, moving themselves out in the open, or getting in your line of fire.
- Ben from The Walking Dead shows this to such a degree that he even realizes his status as one.
- First, he made a deal with bandits to trade them supplies in exchange for not hurting his friend — when he realized they didn't have his friend, he continued giving them supplies because they'd threatened to kill him.
- Second, his not confessing to the paranoid Lilly about his guilt winds up getting either Doug or Carley killed, depending on who survived the encounter in the drug store.
- Third, as a result of his pissing off the bandits to such a degree, Duck winds up getting bitten by a walker during a bandit raid, and Katjaa is Driven to Suicide as a result of being unwilling to Mercy Kill Duck.
- Fourth, when he and Clementine are cornered by zombies in Savannah, he runs away rather than stay and help her, which ends up getting Chuck killed when he comes in to save her instead.
- And finally, he removes an axe keeping zombies out from a doorway to use to open another door. Too Dumb to Live barely begins to describe the guy, but lord knows he tries. At least in his defense it's worth noting that the zombies had stopped trying to break through the door he took the axe out of and the windows were completely covered in blood by that point. You actually walk past the doors on your way back to where everyone else is before Ben shows up with the axe that was used to keep the door shut.
- And then there's what happened when the group finally found a boat. It turns out, while everyone else was out doing something else, and Ben was left guarding the boat, another group of survivors, who are essentially made up of a doctor and elderly cancer patients, are able to steal the boat. Everyone else is very rightfully angry at him for this.
- Jane, albeit being a much lesser example than Ben, rudely snatches the torch from his cold dead fingers and runs with it until her own death. She's the one who decides to mug the panicked and vulnerable Arvo, a youth who clearly could not have survived without protection from a group, because she decided she'd like his medicine, and she's the one who decides to "prove" Kenny's instability by harassing him about his dead family, pretending she lost his Son to walkers, and then antagonizing him about that until he snaps. Of course, robbing Arvo causes his friends, armed with AK-47s, to come looking for revenge which results in the ultimate collapse of the group, and the latter very understandably causes Kenny to lose his shit and try to kill her which forces Clementine to decide either to intervene and kill Kenny or let him have at it. She's at least a competent survivor in her own right, very much unlike Ben, but every decision she makes is mind-numbingly stupid, antagonistic for the sake of being antagonistic, and causes nothing but problems.
- Daikatana has your two teammates, who cause a game over if they die, but are unfortunately completely rock-stupid even by dumb AI standards.
- Rico from the Killzone games. Especially the second game in the series, where his actions caused many fans of the series to hate his guts from that point onward.
- Resident Evil Code: Veronica features Steve Burnside, who seems to go out of his way to be either completely useless or an active hindrance in every circumstance.
- Right after you're released from the prison, Steve opens fire on you with a mounted machine gun. (To be fair there, he did think Claire was a zombie.)
- Claire needs some Gold Lugers to open a door, but taking them starts to set off a trap. Putting them back disarms the trap. After leaving the area, Steve tries to take the Gold Lugers, but is too dumb to put them back, forcing Claire to save him. As thanks for saving him, he then keeps the Gold Lugers and refuses to give them to you unless you give him "something fully automatic."
- When Claire finally finds something fully automatic for him, Ashford dumps them into a trap. Steve then uses all the ammo the guns have to kill about ten zombies and shoot a wall.
- Steve pops in when Ashford ambushes Claire, getting shot for his troubles and hitting Ashford with a wild shot. When they close in for the kill, Steve has Ashford at gunpoint for about twenty seconds before Ashford just runs away — and apparently the only reason Steve didn't shoot is because he was weirded out by Ashford being a transvestite.
- Since Ashford got away, he's able to both arm the self-destruct system and release a Tyrant to kill Claire and Steve.
- When that fails, Ashford takes control of the plane Steve's piloting to crash-land into Antarctica.
- While in Antarctica, Steve operates a drill, but gets distracted by Claire's butt. This causes him to lose control of the drill and forces Claire to find a gas mask to continue.
- Finally, Steve gets kidnapped and Claire has to deal with his monstrous form — and she can take any weapons she wants from the item box, forcing Chris to use the leftovers for the real final battle instead of the glorified cutscene battle.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV, your AI partners can be this depending on who you're facing. One good example is the Wake-Up Call Boss fight against the Minotaur. If the AI draws Walter, it's best to reset immediately, as Walter will throw Agi attacks at him, do no damage, and feed him Smirks.
- Dr. Laura Sorkin is a rather obnoxious case of this in Jurassic Park: The Game, owing to her For Science! mentality and her good-intentioned but foolhardy attempts to save the dinosaurs. She's the reason the Troodons were left alive as she chose to study them in secret rather than euthanize them as ordered, she's the reason the survivors didn't leave when they had the chance as she wanted to cure their lysene dependency, her decision to not tell the mercenaries about the Troodons results in them being slaughtered, she ultimately traps the survivors and is killed by the Tylosaurus she releases in an attempt to "bargain" for the lives of the animals, and of course all her actions are directly responsible for causing Billy Yoder to snap under the pressure and turn on the survivors. Literally every death in the game is either directly or indirectly her fault.
- Kane from the Kane & Lynch series, who causes Lynch's life to be turned upside down in both games due to his psychotic tendencies, which have the tendency to make already bad situations worse, such as suffering a psychotic break while they have hostages and gunning them all down in a fit of panic, which loses them their bargaining chips and gets them in even worse trouble.
- The Obstructive Bureaucrats above Lambert in Splinter Cell: Double Agent Version 2 do nothing for Sam but make his job more difficult for him. Because they don't trust Sam or Lambert's plan, they go out of their way to actively hinder him such as calling in a bomb warning to the Cozumel police which puts the entire cruise ship on lock-down and swarming with police when Sam is trying to infiltrate it. This actually forces Sam to make a lot of the morally black choices they're afraid of in the first place.
- The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors: In certain Adventure Mode battles, a single Cucco will keep following you every way you go until your attacks ruffle its feathers to summon its army against your butt. Yes, it follows you and no one else for that one reason, so it makes you think twice about your positioning and using area attacks.
- Doctor Fate from Injustice 2 shows up twice in the game to impede your progress, basically allowing the plot to happen in one scenario and just prolonging it in another, for no real reason other than "something something order or something." Seriously, the guy really needs a hobby. Even the characters In-Universe agree, as best said in a clash between Fate and Green Arrow:
Dr. Fate: Order will prevail!Green Arrow: You really need to get laid!
- In Tales of Symphonia, though he greatly improves and his intelligence does come in very handy later, Genis Sage has one very specific moment of this that has huge consequences. When he and Lloyd attempt to save Marble from being beaten in the Iselia Ranch, the plan is for Lloyd to distract them and run through the forest so they follow him, thus preventing the village from being implicated. But, as Lloyd is doing this, Genis trips and makes enough noise that the Desians hear and begin looking for him, so Lloyd is forced to run back and fight them, thus his face is caught on camera. Once the Desians know of his identity, they also discover Lloyd has an exsphere on him and attack the village as punishment for Lloyd violating the treaty, thus getting Lloyd and Genis banned from Iselia. All because Genis tripped.
- Red vs. Blue:
- Grif from the Red army fits the trope perfectly. Being a conscript, he is unwilling to work, has terrible stamina, and practically is Red Team's Butt-Monkey. More to the point, he regularly shirks his duty — during one battle, he forgot to bring the spare ammo. In another scenario, he sold all the spare ammo to the Blues. In Grif's own defense, he's intentionally The Millstone; he's trying to get discharged by any means possible, up to and including criminal negligence. In the rare occasion when he's actually trying, he's a lot more useful. Still, you begin to understand after a while why Sarge makes a point of trying to get Grif killed when he makes battle plans.
- Donut is arguably worse than Grif in this regard, as evidenced by the time Donut and Grif were sent out on a spying mission together. Donut treated it like a game and wound up getting himself captured almost immediately.
- Caboose is definitely the millstone of the Blue team. He has a tendency to kill his teammates (especially Church, whom he has killed in some fashion at least three times) and is otherwise unable to function in battle (in one scene, he manages to get a grenade stuck to the wall his team is hiding behind). In fact, he is best directed to fight the team's enemies by asking him to help the other side. Luckily (for him), he's lovable enough that he's turned into something of a Team Pet.
- The famous Leeroy Jenkins Video plays this trope for laughs, but actually subverts this on further inspection: in this video, the entire party — or at least the leader — is a Millstone. The overly complicated plan made no sense at all and was not appropriate whatsoever for this encounter. Leeroy did nothing but speed up their demise. He even followed one major part of the plan exactlynote , but it didn't work because the leader of the group apparently did not even read the description for the ability he asked fornote .
- The Order of the Stick:
- Villainous, borderline example: Rich's commentary tells us that Nale often needs Thog because of his sheer power, but his stupidity foils his plans half the time.
- Originally, Roy considered Elan to be this, and when the latter was kidnapped, Roy was hesitant to go and save him. However, he later decided abandoning him would be a jerk move and goes to rescue him. Elan eventually Took a Level in Badass in a class that lets him use his Genre Savvy more efficiently, though he still occasionally had his moments. Combined with (modestly) improved Int, several new skills and spells, and with better ability to use his existing ones, he has become a valuable Face and a reasonable asset in a fight.
- The real Millstone of the Order is certainly Belkar. His sociopathy and frequent refusal to listen to orders ruin the party's planning several times — If it weren't for Belkar, would Miko have reported an imminent hobgoblin invasion in time to prevent it, or would she still have slain the leader while he was conspiring with the apparent allies of those invaders? If he hadn't pursued Miko to torment her over his childish grudge, would Azure City not have fallen and Soon's Gate remain intact? The consequences catch up to him, hard, when the Oracle tricks him into triggering his Mark of Justice - something Lord Shojo gave him to stop him from stabbing everything in sight. This was such a blatant example that Haley kicks him out, with only a bout of Laser-Guided Amnesia causing her to forget it - when she realises what he must have done, she leaves him to suffer from the illness. After a Vision Quest, fake character development, and then some real Character Development, he seems to be growing out of it.
- 8-Bit Theater, providing the current page quote, has Black Mage. Though all the Light Warriors can fill this role, Black Mage's total lack of interest in their objectives, proclivity for pointless violence, extremely bad record with making use of his amazing power, and status as a Squishy Wizard mean that he is the one most likely to derail a plan, whether he intended to or not. His biggest one is probably being the character most responsible for the creation of Sarda.
- Eridan from Homestuck is significantly less helpful to the trolls and kids than he thinks he is. He continually provokes allies, tries to keep the worst parts of their dead civilization alive, kills the angels on his planet in spite of it being difficult and yielding no reward, tries to do everything himself even though the whole point of Sburb is for the players to work together, and constantly hits on people to the point of turning off Equius of all people. His abrasiveness and refusal to help others culminates in an unnecessary duel with Sollux that blinds the latter and leads to Eridan murdering Feferi and Kanaya. Kanaya gets better, but Eridan also destroys the matriorb: the linchpin in the trolls reviving their race.
- The Post-Scratch Kids play with this, especially Jane and Jake. They both have the most powerful abilities among the kids — healing more powerful than any other Life hero shown thus far and the ability to make anything imaginable real by believing in it — but spend a good amount of their session having Teen Drama. Even when Jake's powers are tapped to the fullest, his constant shouting of "corny old man" stock phrases makes him more of a minor nuisance than an asset.
- Darths & Droids: Jim causes pretty much all of the story's plot through his unthinking stupidity, but by Episode V he takes it to extremes. Then it turns out he's deliberately playing Han as an idiot, and later on a treacherous idiot to boot. The others just didn't notice because it's Jim. Through the Rogue One story, he actively goes out of his way to sabotage perfectly sensible plans because they're sensible, which is what leads to the story's Total Party Kill.
- Anecdote of Error: Atshi Sonel, the main character, is this due to her hopelessness with magic. Despite her being the first to fight back against Zeya during the invasion, she is still the same Un-Sorcerer in danger of flunking out of school she was earlier that day, so when her attack backfires, it weakens the locked door enough for Zeya to escape to her targeted room in spite of bringing a knife to an arrintay fight. The MacGuffin is this close to falling into Alemi hands, so Atshi is less than useless.
- Tales abound of the one player in a roleplay group (usually referred to as "that guy") who thinks random actions like "kill the quest-giving NPC" or "betray the party at every turn" are funny. Like the saga of Commander Dumbass.
- Gavin Free of Achievement Hunter can undoubtedly claim this title. While his screwups most of the time only hurt himself, numerous times in team games, his stupidity has cost his team big in too many examples to really list. As such, what's known as his biggest screwup is one of the last few Cops and Crooks videos from their GTA 4 Let's Plays, which actually ended with him getting kicked out of Team Lads for several Let's Plays afterwards after he 1. Actually got out of the escape helicopter and tried to shoot Michael because he thought he'd get more money (leaving Michael to fly off and leave him to be killed by the opposing teams and also causing his team to lose due to them having more deaths), 2. Was too busy fooling around with the escape boat that he didn't pay attention to where he was going and let the other team win because he drove the boat onto the beach, causing them to lose because the getaway vehicle was now unusable, and 3. the last straw being when he drove the car off of a ramp that took them into an enclosed space where there wasn't any space to drive, allowing the other team to simply roll up and hose them with bullets.
- Jack undoubtedly filled this role for Team Gents during the Madden 25 Superbowl Special. As Quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Jack threw seven interceptions note , ensuring that the Broncos never get an offensive play and becoming Team Lads' greatest weapon. Even Gavin, returning from last year as the Lads' Quarterback and retaining his weak grasp of the controls and weaker grasp of American Football in general, outperformed him.
- "Shut The Fuck Up, Carl!" is a meme in which pictures of soldiers doing their jobs are captioned with an idiotic comment (usually the lyrics of Suspiciously Apropos Music) by Carl and the exasperated squadmate's response. "Moon Moon" is a similar concept with dogs/wolves.
- In this Not Always Friendly story, a member of a high school basketball game, who suffered an injury which caused them to be unable to play in the championship games, decides to go to the games with their father out of loyalty to the team. The father, being a Good Samaritan, decides to drive a woman and her young son to the games too. She then takes an agonizingly long time to get moving since she had talked with a friend for a long time, hadnt packed her bags, and didnt even know what her brother's address was, despite the fact that was where she was supposed to stay. It turns out she had pulled the same stunt with the rest of the basketball team and they had refused to carpool with her afterwards.
- Stan Smith of American Dad! This is most prominently shown in the hurricane episode, in which his attempts to save the family just keep making things worse and nearly get everyone killed. Francine even flat-out tells Stan to his face that, while his crisis-based decisions may seem reasonable at first, they always end badly. Unfortunately, after a speech from Klaus, Stan becomes dead set on mindlessly trying to help no matter how much worse it makes things, under the belief that eventually he'll get it right. The episode ends with him accidentally shooting Francine in the arm, after she was just rescued by Buckle from the consequences of his actions.
- Roger is much worse, mostly because he often intentionally causes bad things to happen. In the 200th episode, he even accidentally caused the apocalypse. One episode did in fact have him leave the house and things were actually worse without him.
- About eighty percent of Bob Belcher's problems in Bob's Burgers stem from the rest of his family doing whatever pops into their heads with no forethought, common sense, or respect for him.
- Muttley is usually in this position on Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, as he always wants more medals for catching the pigeon.
- The Tagalong Kid in the Donkey Kong Junior cartoon. In the example linked to here, watch as he screws up Junior's plans quite a few times.
- Duck Dodgers: The title hero is a bit of a subversion. While he often causes the trouble of that particular episode (or makes it worse), he's also usually the one who saves the day in the end, and can be quite competent when he's not screwing up.
- Uni in Dungeons & Dragons (1983). It's sometimes so blatantly obvious that she is the only reason for the heroes' inability to go back home that some crazy theories about the missing last episode depict her as being an evil servant of the Devil himself.
- While all of the Eds of Ed, Edd n Eddy screw things up throughout the series, Eddy seems to fill this role the most often. Many of the Eds' failures come from Eddy's impatience, arrogance, and greed taking the scam far beyond their capabilities. Many of the scams would actually be legitimate business ventures if not for him trying to be dishonest, and there were several times when Eddy's ideas would have been highly successful if he wasn't so obsessed with making as much money as possible.
- Deconstructed, harshly, in The Movie, in which Eddy admits that he is nothing but a selfish loser and that Ed and Edd are pretty much his only friends. All three Eds are eventually accepted by the other kids after they learn that Eddy's behavior stems from being abused by his utterly cruel older brother. In other words, Eddy being The Millstone in the movie is rather important to his Character Development.
- In fail of that, usually Ed's stupidity or clumsiness will end up tearing the whole plan apart. A long overly-elaborate scheme to get an egg is destroyed in one fell swoop by Ed immediately afterwards trying to manually "hatch" the chick inside. In less common instances, Edd's conscience or finickiness will lead him to lose focus or even intentionally hinder a scam.
- And then, every once in a great while, the Eds will do something right without any one of them screwing it up. In those cases, one of the other kids screws it up. Most commonly Kevin, Sarah, or the Kanker Sisters, but Jonny and Rolf do it a lot, too.
- The Fairly OddParents: Timmy tends to be this, to himself. A lot of the wishes he makes that go wrong are actually pretty decent wishes, but usually it's something he does in stupidity that brings out the bad sides of the wishes and sets up the plot of the episode. This is occasionally lampshaded, as some episodes feature Wanda confronting Timmy about his thoughtless, reckless, fundamentally flawed wishes.
- Cosmo, as well. Many of the problems that occur in the series are due to his sheer stupidity. Granted, he is a loving godfather and he means well, but that doesn't excuse the number of problems he's caused, including essentially being the one who caused Mr. Crocker to lose both him and Wanda as a child but also indirectly causing Crocker to become the fairy-obsessed lunatic he is today. Oh, and he does this twice (due to Timmy time-traveling to prevent said incident).
- A whole episode even centers around him helping Timmy with his homework. His "help" includes creating super-intelligent cockroaches that want to take over the world.
- Cosmo, as well. Many of the problems that occur in the series are due to his sheer stupidity. Granted, he is a loving godfather and he means well, but that doesn't excuse the number of problems he's caused, including essentially being the one who caused Mr. Crocker to lose both him and Wanda as a child but also indirectly causing Crocker to become the fairy-obsessed lunatic he is today. Oh, and he does this twice (due to Timmy time-traveling to prevent said incident).
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
- Single episode example: "Berry Scary": Berry convinces Bloo that Mac is The Millstone in his attempts to set a world record at something, and he actually falls for that, even though it's her who's been sabotaging Mac and Bloo's efforts.
- Which is ironic, as Bloo is generally The Millstone for everybody else at Foster's in just about every other episode. That is, for every episode not involving Cheese, the show's resident Ditz.
- Invader Zim:
- Zim being the Millstone on his home planet is actually what sets off the whole plot; his leaders send him into deep space (unwittingly, to Earth) simply to get him out of their antennae. He's such a Millstone to the planet Irk that his introduction has the population literally groaning in horror at his arrival. His tendency to singlehandedly foil entire military ventures is so extreme that the Armada thanks him every time they succeed at something — for "being so far away" while they did it.
- Although he does prove useful now and again, one could wonder why Zim keeps giving GIR crucial roles in his world-conquering plans. Though, when it's not GIR that's the problem it's usually Zim foiling his own plans- to the point that when he turned GIR competent, he was forced to revert it because GIR tried to kill him for being his own biggest obstacle.
- Alexandra in Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. Whenever the group figured out some way to get back to Earth, she'd invariably muck it up, ensuring that they'd have to continue wandering the galaxy and saving the universe one planet at a time.
- Mikey Simon in Kappa Mikey is the source of any number of bizarre and inexplicable predicaments. Of course, he's also wildly popular, and most of his castmates seem rather fond of him, so this one's got a reasonable explanation. It didn't stop a pretty nice Lampshade Hanging, though...
Ozu: You make a good point... Perhaps we should start holding Mikey accountable for his actions?
(brief pause, then Ozu, Guano and Yes Man all burst into riotous laughter)
Ozu: That will be the day...
- Pinky and the Brain
- Pinky always manages to screw up Brain's plans to Take Over the World. This is partly averted in that frequently Brain's plans fail of their own accord or due to bad luck, and not through any fault of Pinky's. The Brain is sometimes too stubborn to listen to the plan's legitimate flaw that Pinky points out, which naturally occurs at the climax.
- Subverted in another episode when Brain builds a device to increase Pinky's intelligence, so that Pinky will no longer impede the success of his plans. Pinky then reviews all of Brain's plans and points out that they were all flawed to begin with. Thus Brain is really his own Millstone.
- Also played for laughs in one episode where Brain gives up and decides to let Pinky make all the decisions for the next plan. This results in actually going through with several of Pinky's crazy comments (opening up a clam petting zoo, requiring everyone to wear shiny pants) which put them much closer in taking over the world through sheer luck (one of the clams had a valuable pearl, the shiny pants blinded a pilot whose famous passenger thought it was a religious breakthrough and proceeded to give everything to Pinky, etc.). Brain realizes that Pinky had just been incorporating elements of his old schemes, and thinks he can handle it from there. The plan almost immediately goes to hell when Brain takes back the reins.
- This gets lampshaded in a WB promo where Pinky admits he's actually not that stupid and instead deliberately sabotages Brain's plans, because if they took over the world, the show would be over.
- Regular Show: Rigby, who is almost always the cause of all the bizarre stuff that happens to everyone, and getting him and Mordecai into trouble. If Rigby is part of something mundane he would slack off, or do something that would escalate it to something beyond weird and life threatening.
- Rocko's Modern Life: Most of Rocko's problems are usually Heffer's fault, who only ends up exacerbating the situation when he tries to help. The most prominent example is the whole episode of "Hair Licked" where Rocko wakes up with a bad hair day and Heffer comes over to fix it, only to butcher it even worse than it already was. So Rocko goes to a hair salon and gets a great hair style right before he and Heffer go to Filburt's trailer for Rocko to get his picture. Filburt snaps a lot of great photos of Rocko, but has to start over because he forgot to fill up the camera. Right when Rocko is about to get a great photo of him snapped, Heffer ends up ruining it when he accidentally causes a fan to fall right on top of Rocko's head.
- Ashi from Season 5 of Samurai Jack is an assassin whose sole purpose in life is to kill Jack. When the two are swallowed by a massive creature, she goes out of her way to push Jack into a position where he can be killed (either by her or an environmental hazard), and when she ends up chained to Jack's back she spends most of her screen time making Jack's life hell by ranting about Aku's glory rather than trying to help them escape. Jack is normally even tempered, even with his enemies, but Ashi's constant annoyances are one of the few times he's ever snapped and yelled at someone.
- Once her HeelFace Turn is complete, she averts this gloriously, from aiding Jack in saving the children to going so far as to snap Jack out of his suicidal despair!
- Subversion: Shaggy and Scooby always botch the plan to catch the Monster of the Week... and in the process of botching it, succeed at catching the monster.
- Daphne is a straighter example, with some Lampshade Hanging from Freddy. She is the one who is constantly tripping traps, or getting kidnapped — usually getting an exasperated "Danger-prone Daphne's at it again!" when it happens. What makes her a Millstone rather then a Distressed Damsel is that it's usually her own vanity that causes problems.
- And, as much as we may want to, we can't forget about Scrappy-Doo. He would constantly make things worse by trying to fight the monsters himself and need Shaggy and Scooby to go back and rescue him.
- In The Simpsons episode that parodies Lord of the Flies, Milhouse. Pretty much every bad thing that happens after they get stranded on the island happens because of Milhouse.
- He's even the primary reason they got into the accident that left them on the island in the first place.
- Homer also invokes this when he's in the jury for Quimby's nephew's trial: he opposes the otherwise unanimous guilty verdict so he can stay for longer at a hotel with all expenses covered. Amusingly, he turns out to be innocent.
- South Park
- In "Crippled Summer", Mimsy is the villainous version of this trope. He screws up all of Nathan's plans, mostly by interpreting the instructions too literally.
- In "I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining", one man constantly holds up the ziplining group, arriving half an hour late to the trip and then constantly asking questions to the guides. The narration makes it very clear that the boys are seriously holding back from telling this guy to go jump off a cliff.
- In South Park: Post Covid, Clyde becomes a Strawman Political for COVID vaccine skeptics and single-handedly causes the town to be placed under martial law over his refusal to even consider getting the vaccine or lie about having it. This leads to him becoming an Unwitting Pawn in Cartman's scheme to sabotage the others and protect his family from their attempt to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. After Cartman sends him back in time to kill Kyle, it's revealed his adamant refusal was the result of a bootstrap paradox, with the "expert" he cited as justification being his own future self.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man: Electro is this for the villains. Every time Doc Ock plans out a clever scheme, Electro is responsible for it falling apart. He's so insane and readily prone to rage that invariably, Spider-Man will piss him off and he'll start recklessly throwing lightning bolts around and will destroy whatever phlebotinum Doc Ock was relying on.
- SpongeBob SquarePants
- Patrick fits more than the usual. Whenever SpongeBob or anyone has a plan, Patrick is sure to screw it up, or do something stupid to make it worse, especially post-movie.
- SpongeBob himself can be this. Mr. Krabs lampshades this in "Krabs vs. Plankton"; when SpongeBob tries to tell Mr. Krabs he can be a good witness, Mr. Krabs tells him he is more of a liability.
- Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog:
- Scratch and Grounder are the villainous variety in this series. The two are so Lethally Stupid that typically, when Robotnik's Evil Plans fail, it's because of their bumbling. Ironically, the two were intended to be super-effective soldiers who could beat Sonic easily, but they turned out to be the exact opposite.
- Coconuts serves as this to Scratch and Grounder near the end of the first episode. In it, Scratch and Grounder actually succeed in capturing both Sonic and Tails. However, Coconuts ties them up in a rope so that he can collect the reward for Sonic's capture for himself. Sonic then tricks Coconuts into locking Scratch and Grounder in the cage he's in by telling him the rope might break. Coconuts falls for Sonic's trick, resulting in Sonic escaping and locking him in the cage with Scratch and Grounder.
- Tails has a habit of being this to Sonic. While still often helping Sonic, his childishness or slowness on the uptake sometimes causes complications. Robotnik and his minions also capture him or use him as a pawn against Sonic on several occasions.
- Chowder: The Title Character tries to be helpful, but whenever he does try, it's almost a guarantee that he'll either screw it up or do something stupid to make the current situation even worse. Most of their problems happen because Chowder is so Lethally Stupid that he constantly ignores Mung Daal's warnings and teachings about the potentially dangerous foods they deal with. It's gotten to the point that Mung has started to blame himself for the trouble that Chowder causes because he should know better than to expect Chowder to listen.
- Bebop and Rocksteady from the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon are a classic example of the villainous variety. While the mutagen transformed them into a rhino and a boar respectively, it also gave them Super Strength and Super Toughness. Too bad for Shredder and Krang that it did nothing for their intelligence. As former street thugs, Rocksteady and Bebop are already in way over their heads helping Shredder, but they deliberately avoid learning even the most basic things about Dimension X or Krang's ultimate goal. This causes the two of them to screw up the villains' plans more times than they advance them. They're bad initially, but they become far worse after the show left syndication and came to CBS due to A) there being more restrictive rules about violence on network television and B) a backlash against violence in cartoons in the early 90s. In later seasons, they were so incompetent that several times they manage to screw things up badly enough that Shredder or Krang's latest scheme would get thwarted without the Turtles even getting involved.
- In the Wacky Races, it is Dick Dastardly (and his Expy, the Phantom Phink from Yogi's Space Race) who is the Millstone; if he had simply driven on without attempting to cheat, he could've easily won all his races.
- Quite a few of the plots in Family Guy stem from Peter doing something incredibly reckless or stupid, ruining things for everyone in the process.
- Archer plays this up whenever he is on a mission with Lana. He will usually do stupid things like leaving their weapons and equipment behind for beer, make outdated assumptions on their objective (he thinks Italy still has a King, and the Swiss Guard actually use halberds instead of MP-5s), or go trigger happy and start shooting everyone wildly.
- Also Cyril when he's promoted to field agent, pulling such stunts as wearing bright orange in the snow (in a misguided application of hunting-safety knowledge, as in this case the bright orange makes him an easier target). And never, ever let him handle a firearm.
- Pam is a total loud mouth who shouts out everyone's secrets, and tells criminals about what they're doing, and where they are. Cheryl is even worse, being directly responsible for the death of Nikolai Jakov.
- In Metalocalypse, Toki and Murderface are often this to Dethklok's recording process, as highlighted in "Dethsiduals". However, their hindrance turns out to be an essential influence on the band's creative process.
- Codename: Kids Next Door: Numbuh 13. So much so that the possibility of him being Soopreme Leader is enough to cause many operatives to forgo their fear of the job and dogpile him immediately (the position was being decided in a game of tag), with someone explicitly shouting out "Anyone but him!"
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: The title character himself tends to cause most of the problems in Retroville as the result of his inventions backfiring. In one episode, it's revealed that most of the Neutron extended family views him as a Black Sheep, pointing out that, while Jimmy may have saved the day quite often, he's typically the one who caused the problem to in the first place.
- In Milo Murphy's Law, the titular character's bad luck tends to be the source of all the conflict in each episode. It's to the point where, in the episode "Sunny Side Up", he helps keep their project intact by not helping.
- Subverted in several episodes of Inspector Gadget. The title character is often an Idiot Hero and Useless Protagonist, but there are multiple examples of his screw-ups either helping his Hypercompetent Sidekicks save the day, or simply destroying the villains' plans outright.
- In recent years, Riddler's position in the Legion of Doom in Superfriends has been described as this. Basically, Riddler's only "power" is leaving puzzles at crime scenes that the Superfriends inevitably figure out, ruining the Legion's current Evil Plan. In the comic books, this is described as a manifestation of his Super OCD and malignant narcissism (he needs to leave riddles to prove that he's smarter than other people—it's how he defines his whole sense of self), but the show never got into the underlying issues, so it seems as though the Riddler's whole purpose is to muck up a perfectly good scheme. It didn't help that he was on a team with no shortage of Evil Geniuses (for a certain definition of "genius"), which made an Evil Genius that also has a bizarre need to handicap himself look even less necessary. Robot Chicken parodied this by showing the Legion voting to detonate a bomb to take out all of the Superfriends at once—with the exception of Riddler, who eagerly announces that he'll send a few cryptic clues about the plan to give the heroes just enough time to defuse the bomb.
- The titular Bojack Horseman inevitably drags his friends into the same misery he constantly experiences. One person justifies leaving Bojack by comparing him to a drowning swimmer who won't be saved, and will drag down anyone who tries to help them.