You can't spell sympathetic without pathetic!
In many shows, mostly comedies and children's programs, a protagonist or another major character is an ugly, incompetent, lazy, and near illiterate ditz. This is supposed to allow the audience (i.e., you) — say for insecurities or arrogance in the face of one's flaws either way — to identify with the character or protagonist. Ergo, the loser protagonist is you. This also allows for more room for Character Development, a lot of Character Development... or none at all. This also makes it easier for writers to come up with the Idiot Plot of the week.
An alternate theory is that the protagonist is made so dumb so that you feel superior to him, no matter how dumb you might be. Both of these could be true at the same time.
Note that this same person's friends are all clever, athletic, highly competent, and, above all, cool. Why such an implausible situation? It's because, while the protagonist sucks just like a lot of people watching should, at least he has friends that are just the kind of people they wish they or maybe you knew. Which is supposed to make you identify with him even more. At least, that's what the network executives seem to think. As far as they're concerned, Viewers Are Morons.
Paradoxically, applying This Loser Is You too accurately or too inaccurately can make the fandom riot to a far greater degree than anything you actually put in the storyline. After all, no one likes it when you imply (or outright state) that he's a loser.
This Loser Is You may lead to Good Is Dumb when the morality of this sort of main character is portrayed as inversely proportional to their capability (especially on an intellectual level). A partial sub-trope of Audience Surrogate. Not to be confused with Take That!, when someone openly expresses his hatred for something, often in a witty manner. Also not to be confused with A Winner Is You, which is something else entirely.
In short, this is where the everyman character or Audience Surrogate is a "typical" loser like half the audience is imagined to be. This is usually intended to make them endearing. A sub-trope is Loser Protagonist.
This trope pops up a lot in Magical Girl shows where the protagonist is described as having been an ordinary girl prior to getting powers and is thus lazy, childish, selfish, etc.
This isn't about, say, a work outright saying that the audience or viewer sucks. Also, this trope is not about hostility toward the audience. For that, see You Bastard!, Viewers Are Morons, and/or Take That, Audience!. Also is rarely justified with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, despite what you might think.
- The 1990s commercials for Auto Insurance World (a local South Florida company) depicted their target customer as a nerd in a bizarre go-kart who breaks through a police roadblock and somehow ends up in a tree. The accompanying rap just underlined the insult. Presumably they were trying to convey that they would insure anyone, but it didn't come off that way.
"He ain't got no problems ... 'xcept with girls."
- Comedy Central got in a bit of trouble with the fans with a Mystery Science Theater 3000 commercial showing a pair of redneck stereotypes nerding it up over the show, implying that the network saw the whole fanbase as such. They didn't help themselves by opening another commercial about the show's return after a long hiatus by literally saying "Quit your bellyaching!"
- One ad that became infamous for pissing off its target audience this way was for the Dead or Alive fighting games. Two ridiculously stereotypical gamer nerds go on about the technical sophistication involved in the visuals and gameplay, while they seem barely able to resist touching themselves over the boobalicious female characters prominently shown in the ad. As one editorial put it, the previous ten years of video games maturing as a medium were completely undone with one line:
"She kicks high."
- A new line of DirecTV commercials starring Rob Lowe as both himself and some sort of targetable stereotype go pretty deep into this, as they actually do seem more intended to directly insult customers of the competing companies than to win them over to this brand.
- Ben Elton has referred to the characters who perform this function in advertisements as "The Farty" or "Farties".
- The commercials for esurance.com have the company's sales representative helping its customers, who are depicted as being really dumb. The first guy is trying to break up the street with a baseball bat. She hands him a jackhammer. The next guy is painting a wall by throwing the paint onto the wall. She gives him a brush. The third guy is trying to send a message by using smoke signals. She gives him a cell phone. The intended message is that signing up for their insurance is really easy. The perceived message is that their customers are really dumb.
- While everyone seems to love Progressive's bubbly mascot Flo, few notice that the people she helps are often amazingly dorky and uncool (one wears a man purse ["It Was a Gift."] and another is implied to still live with mom at age 40).
- This varies from one commercial to the next. Some are fools (the guys mentioned above), some are cool (mostly in the motorcycle insurance ones), others are normal (like in "Big Money").
- While everyone seems to love Progressive's bubbly mascot Flo, few notice that the people she helps are often amazingly dorky and uncool (one wears a man purse ["It Was a Gift."] and another is implied to still live with mom at age 40).
- Hardee's/Carl's Jr. commercials seem to be pushing the envelope on just how vile, depraved, and wretched they believe their customers are, always depicting some sleazy, unlikable young man in his daily routine, while an incredibly bored voice rambles about something entirely unrelated. Such examples include "having three girlfriends is great...sometimes" while a man paints over the word "cheater" carved into his car, or a group of men watching football until one brings a tray of biscuits into the room, offering them, where they all stare at him as if he had two heads while the voice says "guys don't bake". Perhaps the most alienating, however, has to be "Don't want chili fries with your burger? Too bad, you get them anyway", as a man tries to scrape chili off a counter with his fries. The message seems to be "Are you the slimiest stain on the bottom of society's shoe? So are we. Eat at Hardee's."
- Hyundai recently began airing commercials featuring a teenager ramming a wall in Crazy Taxi and a group of teenagers on a giant slingshot, with the emphasis being that teenagers are crazy and don't know how to drive, so you should get a Hyundai to protect yourself from them. Keep in mind, that for most of their history, the vast majority of Hyundai's consumers were young drivers...
- Jack Link's has an advertising campaign entitled "Messin' With Sasquatch," which features a number of Jack Links-loving hikers playing various cruel jokes on Sasquatch, only to be beaten up by him. Because apparently people who eat Jack Link's Jerky are moronic little twits who take sadistic pleasure in tormenting someone who had done nothing to them, and who get the crap justifiably beaten out of them on a regular basis. Which may be why they've started to switch to "Snacking with Sasquatch", where the Jack Links-eating people are voluntarily sharing said jerky with Sasquatch whilst performing various activities with him (which go awry due to Sasquatch's unusual sense of humor).
- Vince Offer: "Stop having a boring tuna, stop having a boring life!"
- There's this ad for a site apparently called poor decisions, in which an unshaven man sits on the side of his rumpled bed, holding a cigarette and looking like he's contemplating suicide. There's a blow-up doll behind him. The ad text reads "Does this look like your morning?"
- Restivo Laser Eye Surgery has an ad that depicts their prospective customer as a despicably sleazy cross between Martin Shkreli and Mr. Magoo.
- The advertisement for Sakuracon 2009 caused much controversy amongst anime fans, many of which were offended by the depiction of their fandom. A discussion about the commercial can be read here.
- Sony obviously feels this way about their customer base, considering their "All I Want For Christmas" marketing campaign. The rap can be found here. If you turn on the "translate captions" feature, the first thing he says is, "Uh...monies." It really helps drive the point home.
- State Farm has been running a series of commercials that is equal parts this and Take That! to a rival insurance company that claims they'll set you up over a fifteen minute phone call. The earlier commercials saw State Farm taking aim at the rival company and claiming their coverage was of lesser quality, but the recent commercials also stereotype the type of person that would use their rival's service. Most notably, this series of commercials stars a Drives Like Crazy fool who tries to weasel his way back into his previous agent's good graces after getting into an over-the-top accident.
- Despite a persistent false urban legend that the Finnish government banned him because he doesn't wear pants, Donald Duck is actually adored in Finland to the point many children (and adults) distinctly remember learning to read from Carl Barks' Donald Duck comics, which remains the most read weekly magazine in the country. Mickey Mouse doesn't get much fandom because of his goody-goodiness, Donald is loved precisely for his utter loser status and for his guts that rarely allow him to give up.
- The same is true in Germany, where Donald's loser status, yet willingness to work hard, hit a positive nerve with the country who were trying to rebuild themselves after World War Two.
- Gaston Lagaffe: An employee who is clumsy, naïve, lazy and causes more trouble to his fellow co-workers than any other colleagues, but who always means well.
- Since Infinite Crisis, Superboy-Prime has been an unsubtle jab at fanboys and people who hate change, and because of it was a unique villain. His ultimate fate, however, was something of a kick in the balls as he ended up on Earth-Prime (our Earth), reduced to typing angry posts on the DC Comics forums from his parents' basement.
- Marvel always tries to sell their characters as "relatable" heroes, and some feel they sometimes goes too far in that direction. Every unambiguous good guy in the New Avengers, for instance, either has Joss Whedon levels of "issues" or is just a bit of a jerk.
- While Spider-Man is considered an archetypal Everyman superhero, he's usually not an example of this trope as he has above-average intelligence and just enough luck with girls to get caught in Love Triangles. Usually. Sometimes the old Parker luck hits him a little too hard. The One More Day storyline is a prime example, as it infamously tried to make him more appealing to a younger audience by having his marriage magically annulled and moving him back into Aunt May's basement, even though he's no longer the fifteen-year-old he was when he started. Editor Joe Quesada even said an ideal Spidey story would involve him trying to download porn without Aunt May finding out.
- Mark Millar
- Wanted has Wesley Gibson, an Eminem look-a-like who is saddled with a dead end job, and an annoying, cheating girlfriend, bullied by assorted townfolk, and in general is shown to be practically spineless in regards to his life. Of course, afterward he breaks the fourth wall to tell you that you suck even more than he does. The idea is that Gibson is one of the people making life actively worse for anyone who isn't a super-villain - and yet the structure of the story encourages you to root for him as the underdog hero. He's reminding you, metatextually, that he's the bad guy.
- Kick-Ass is not subtle about this. The story is about a pathetic, sometimes egotistical, American comic book nerd trying to be a superhero, and follows as he starts off getting his ass kicked, constantly humiliates himself and only manages by sheer luck and the intervention of the more successful heroes, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. His crush only pays attention to him because she thinks he's gay, and when she finds out he's not, she tosses him aside, after he gets beat up by her boyfriend and left with a picture of her going down on said boyfriend for him to wake up to. The story is designed as a deconstruction on the teen superhero concept, but it crosses realistic and goes into mean spirited with how it is in making the Dave as 'normal' as it can. His friends, who're also comic fans, aren't shown any better, and even Big Daddy, revealed to be a comic book fan himself instead of being an ex cop, is depicted as a pathetic loser who decided to become a superhero and train his daughter to be one after his marriage broke down.
- The issue 3 bonus comic of the My Little Pony Micro Series focuses on a character named Hayseed Turnip Truck, a redneck window washer who is in love with Rarity but somehow screws up every time he tries to confess his feelings. He moves to the city and starts a successful business in hopes of impressing her. He is finally going to ask Rarity out, when Spike shows up and tells Hayseed that she's already got a fiancee. Hayseed leaves heartbroken, while Spike takes his discarded flowers and tickets so he can give them to Rarity.
- Nero: An egotistical, greedy, dumb, naïve and vain man, yet also noble of heart.
- Scott Pilgrim:
- On the one hand, he's a jobless college dropout who lives in a windowless hole in the wall where he has to share a bed with his gay roommate. . On the other hand, he plays bass in a Garage Band, has a pretty good circle of friends and is a pretty good guy who just made mistakes and wasn't able to learn his lessons from them until later on.
- In a subtle example of Take That!, the author has mentioned this was his hypothesis why some fans wanted Kim Pine to end up with Scott instead of Ramona, they saw themselves in the 'outwardly misanthropic, plain and somewhat washedout' Kim.
- All of Scott's friends are this, barring Wallace Wells and a few others. However, its also played with in that compared to the more successful Evil Exes, they are genuinely good people and real while the Evil Exes are pretentious with nothing of value (or perhaps sinister) underneath (except possibly for Lucas Lee).
- Suske en Wiske: Wiske and Lambik are the most popular characters, precisely because they are so much more human than other characters. Wiske is jealous, vain, temperful and too curious for her own good. Lambik is idle, arrogant, clumsy and stupid. Yet despite all their bad character traits they have a heart of gold.
- Captain Haddock of Tintin fame is an overly verbose, recovering alcoholic, amazingly clumsy disaster magnet. The Castafiore Emerald in particular seems to be Herge running through the many ways he can possibly torment him. More than anything, he represents how everyday people suck- and the readers love him for it. Primarily because he's the only person to ever get away with using the phrase "Ten thousand blistering barnacles in a thundering typhoon!" without looking like a maniac. Much. The good Captain also showed some moments of competence and actually contributed to the action, such as in The Red Sea Sharks and The Crab With the Golden Claws. Although on the latter occasion he was already drunk off the fumes emanating from some broken wine barrels...
- Dick Dastardly lost constantly on Wacky Races, and in issue #2 of the Gold Key comic, the narrator duly lampshades it.
Narrator: Let's face it, Dick...you're just a born loser! You've got nothing!
Muttley: Snaffacrassin frassin...(Translated: "What do you mean 'nothing'? He's got me, hasn't he?")
Dick: That's exactly what the man meant!
- Brutus Thornapple, the protagonist of Art Sansom's The Born Loser, could make Charlie Brown look like a winner, although in some cases Brutus invokes losing on himself. In one strip, his boss sees him in his chair sleeping as a spider slowly descends from a strand of its web toward his open mouth. Boss: "Poetic justice!"
- Cathy is meant to be relatable to the reader because of how she struggles with workplace frustration, low self image, emotional insecurity, overeating, poor impulse control, an overbearing mom, and a hapless romantic life.
- Dilbert is stuck in a meaningless, dead-end job for an incompetent and unethical corporation. Also, he's fat and ugly, and women find him dull and disgusting. Dilbert also has an example where the audience did it to themselves. In the 7th anniversary book, Scott Adams tells about how he considered having Dilbert lose his virginity to his then-girlfriend Liz, and polled the readers of his newsletter for opinions. The female readers almost unanimously wanted it to happen, while most male readers said, in effect, "I don't think Dilbert should get lucky until I do", which made Adams realize they were using Dilbert's love life as a measuring stick for their own. (If you're curious, the storyline had an Ambiguous Ending so readers could decide for themselves if Dilbert and Liz had done it or not.)
- The Dinette Set depicts the misadventures of a group of vapid, boorish, self-absorbed, materialistic, overweight, middle-aged clods as representative of contemporary suburban Middle America. It's telling that the comic was initially published under the title Suburban Torture.
- The title character is depicted as lazy, sloppy, jealous, clingy, angry, vindictive, dimwitted, and horribly insecure on a regular basis.
- Her friend Bernice and older brother Brad are worse. Bernice is relatively unattractive, constantly puts down Luann, looks down her nose at everyone around her, and even got jealous when Luann became too close to her long-lost older brother. Brad used to be lazy and antagonistic towards his sister; he then Took a Level in Badass and became a firefighter, but then became supremely unconfident about his disproportionally attractive girlfriend Toni ("Is it me or Santa she's kissing?"). That aspect of his personality has been toned down lately, though.
- Wonderfully done in Peanuts, where Charlie Brown's particular negative traits are indecisiveness and self-loathing. Although usually rejecting complaints he was cruel to Chuck, Charles Schulz admits properly balancing This Loser Is You is difficult: "You feel sympathy, but you can imagine him being tiresome to other people." Oddly enough, Schulz seemed to get just as many complaints about Peppermint Patty's troubles. Schulz explained that was probably because she was a rather inoffensive character, but admits that removing these traits simply makes her not funny anymore.
- Pluggers, a Funny Animal comic about rural working-class America, is a strange case, as the traits depicted are supplied by readers of the comic. It may be thought of, perhaps, as Self-Deprecation.
- It's more of a "working-class hero" comic, but one which (unintentionally) makes the "pluggers" look rather pathetic to people already dismissive of Flyover Country.
- Monty Montahue in Robotman and Monty is a bumbling nerd who is socially awkward and failing in both love and work.
- Ruben Bolling parodies this with the recurring character of "Dinkle, the UnLovable Loser" strips in his comic, Tom the Dancing Bug, wherein Dinkle portrayed as not just a loser, but also a rude, racist, vaguely sociopathic alcoholic and narcotics abuser with extremely bad personal hygiene, and is in addition implied to also be violently mentally ill, a kidnapper, and an arsonist. It is probably for the best that he never wins.
- The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Mario and Luigi start out living with their parents, are social outcasts, and find themselves out of their depth when it comes to the crunch, traits commonly associated with video game enthusiasts. Fittingly enough, their room is full of posters and memorabilia from other Nintendo franchises; Mario is shown playing Kid Icarus (1986) on an NES after storming off from dinner.
- About Schmidt : Warren Schmidt's situation in life is quite relatable to many individuals who achieved outward success materially but completely failed to find much meaning in what they did and who wound up completely alienated from family members and (alleged) friends due to a lack of genuine personal connections.
- American Beauty shows a man who has an awful job, awful wife and a daughter who doesn't respect him. Yet he has a sympathetic appeal to him, because we can all imagine how bad such a life can be.
- The main character in Cha Cha Real Smooth, Andrew, is twenty-two years old and works at two different low-paying jobs, so he still lives with his mother and step-father. He has a habit of over exaggerating certain aspects of himself and thinks he knows more than he actually does, and he also has a mindset of believing he is the one can help people the most, which is why he spends so much time with a divorced mother whom he has a crush on and her autistic daughter despite the fact that the former has a fiancé.
- Crimes and Misdemeanors: Cliff is the stereotype of the idealistic artist whose misplaced ideals have made it impossible for him to be gainfully employed.
- The live-action Netflix adaptation of Death Note has protagonist Light portrayed this way. Yes, THAT Light. There's a reason the series has a Broken Base.
- Fanboys: The fanboys are depicted as a bunch of childish losers who have nothing to work for and put their love of Star Wars above everything.
- Fight Club: This trope is the reason is that the nameless narrator is never named — he's too damned average to have such a distinguishing feature as a name. At least, he is at first.
- The Forbidden Kingdom: Features a subtle example of the trope. The plot originally featured an Asian main character learning about his roots. Jackie Chan suggested the change to a white character whose only experience with Asian culture comes from the wuxia movies he watches since this was more reflective of the type of audience the movie would attract.
- Gang-du from The Host (2006) is an absent-minded, clumsy everyman who gets thrown into conflict, practically by accident. What makes him stand out, however, is his tremendous physical strength and unshakeable determination to make sure his life goes back to being ordinary and unremarkable.
- Idiocracy, another gem by Mike Judge that openly targets its audience.
- The King of Comedy: while Rupert Pupkin and Masha take their celebrity stalking to criminal extremes, they differ in degree rather than substance from the millions of other people who are preoccupied with celebrities and fame. This is highlighted throughout the film by showing that Rupert and Masha aren't the only ones obsessing over Jerry Langford, they simply take their obsession further than most.
- Neighbors: Teddy. As Pete points out, Teddy has no real plans post-college, none of the frat's accomplishments were real, and he accuses Teddy of starting the war out of fear that he'll end up like Mac.
- No Holds Barred was ostensibly made to appease wrestling fans and create new ones. However, wrestling fans within the film are almost exclusively portrayed as cartoonishly disgusting hicks, degenerates and psychopaths. This also happened in Ready to Rumble, where the two main characters are portrayed as idiotic manchildren who believe that wrestling is real (though their hero Jimmy King was legitimately screwed out of his world title and fired).
- Save Yourselves!: Su and Jack are meant to be somewhat of a mockery of the film's target audience, being a millennial couple who is addicted to technology and is awkwardly unskilled when it comes to performing various tasks that don’t involve technology, such as chopping wood.
- Tim Avery from Son of the Mask. The guy's adversary is his own infant son.
- Sucker Punch doesn't quite follow this trope, because it isn't the protagonist (necessarily) that is the loser. It's various other characters, and the audience, itself. Bob Chipman did a very good job of putting it into layman's terms.
They're basic literal live-action recreations of the sub genre of anime, video games, and fantasy art that drop heavily fetishized female characters into archetypal sci-fi action scenarios wherein the male gaze exploitation of said characters is to be excused by how "empowered" they are. [...] The movie takes it to a whole-nother level, not only criticizing the genre, but explicitly criticizing its target audience. Whenever the movie cuts back from the metaphoric dream sequences to the guys drooling over Babydoll's dancing, those guys are awful. Rotten, disgusting, boorish, slimy, evil monsters. The worst possible human beings. Think about that. What is the movie saying here? [...] Its target audience is the male geek culture. [...] The movie is saying, or at least attempting to say, "Hey, hey you. Yeah, the one sitting there and gawking at girls in little outfits? Well, this is you. This is what we think of you. And you know how those slimy disgusting dudes are getting robbed and subverted while they're busy slobbering over Babydoll? Yeah, that's me — the movie — getting you into the theater just to look at the girls so I could mock you to your face for doing it."
- The Toxic Avenger takes this to such an extreme, one suspects it's parodying the trope. The protagonist, Melvin, is described as "A 98 pound weakling". The announcer forgets to mention the fact that he also seems to be somewhat mentally disabled. He's bullied by literally everyone in the health club he works at, to the point where he's chased out the second story window and into a barrel of chemical waste that causes him to burst into flames. Apparently he's so reviled that the people continue to laugh at him for this. Then he turns into a suave (if nightmarishly ugly) mutant monster and becomes beloved by everyone in the town after he rips criminals limb from limb. It's about at this point that the message becomes somewhat garbled.
- Transformers: Sam Witwicky is supposed to be the "everyman" in the Transformers movies, but he's entitled, unsympathetic and self-centered, and intended to be an Audience Surrogate.
- Uuno Turhapuro, the "hero" of a Finnish series of films, is a Jerkass and an enormous Lazy Bum. His face always looks like he was badly beaten up, and his clothes look at least as bad. He's not quite as dumb as Homer Simpson and not quite as selfish as Andy Capp, but even those two might look down on him for sheer lack of class. This time, though, the loser is also a winner: Uuno tends to be very successful and get the better of people who are considered better than someone like him (so basically everyone), even though he logically shouldn't, which can mostly attributed to his ability to talk his way into and out of almost any situation he wants to and his and his friends' ability to come up with ridiculously elaborate schemes together to scam his father-in-law out of his vast fortune or just to screw over his lucrative business deals for their own amusement when he's being particularily difficult.
- Older Than Feudalism: Aristotle wrote that the hero of a comedy should be worse than the average and rise up. The second part is often forgotten now.
- Many, many romance/chick-lit novels in the vein of Bridget Jones' Diary. Bad at their (dead end) jobs, klutzy, overweight and/or Weight Woe (and cranky about it), ditzy, neurotic...All in the name of allowing the audience to identify. When overdone, it just makes the audience wonder what the hell the perfect hero sees in her.
- The Catcher in the Rye: In a way, Holden Caulfield is like any other teenager, thinking everything sucks, and he's the Only Sane Man.
- Five words: Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Readers are clearly supposed to identify with Greg Heffley, who is often the passive victim of the torment and ridicule he receives. On the other hand, Greg's friends Rowley and Fregley are even more pathetic.
- The first line of The Divine Comedy makes it clear that the story begins "midway through the journey of our lives," making it clear that the middle-aged protagonist stands in for the audience. And to further show his humanity in the face of his fantastic travels, Dante faints, weeps, kicks the heads of incapacitated shades, and lambastes in the narration things his character self almost immediately does.
- Many of Fyodor Dostoevsky's characters, particularly the narrator of Notes from the Underground and Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, are representative of a common type among young, educated intellectuals of the time - cynical, nihilistic, alienated from mainstream society, and ultimately self-destructive.
- Protagonists of the various Goosebumps books were often unathletic, dorky, bully magnets. Rarely if ever was a Goosebumps protagonist either tough or more capable in their everyday dealings in the human world than they were when they encountered the supernatural.
- In Game Slaves, much fun is poked at the kill 'em all kinds of players that populate MMOs.
- Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, at least in the earlier books. He spends a good part of the books confused and distressed. Later, however, learns how to fly and even saves the galaxy.
- The Hunger Games: The Capitol, on a societal level. Many aspects of the Capitol are satire or social commentary on the contemporary United States.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four has Winston Smith. His name is a mix of "Winston Churchill" and "John Smith", the latter referencing his role as representing the everyman and the fact that even with all his problems, he's what any of us would be like if we lived under the Party.
- Alan Campbell's Scar Night: Dill is an angel, but a really pathetic angel who spends most of the book angsting over his own uselessness. His incompetence even gets him killed. But he comes Back from the Dead.
- An alternative view is that Dill is an idealist who wants to live up to the heroism of his predecessors but is seen as nothing more than a propaganda tool by the church and thus has no training, real world experience or even the freedom to leave his temple, there really is nothing he can do except angst until he's given a chance.
- Averted in the sequels, though, when he winds up in Hell a second time and Takes A Level In Badass from Hasp.
- Dr Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame. Watson, originally depicted as Doyle's Author Avatar, is really quite charming, far more human and likable than Holmes. If anyone's the audience identification figure, it's him. Unfortunately, adaptations (and even later stories in Canon) miss the point and make him out to be a complete doofus.
- Spoofed in this Kate Beaton comic.
- Bella, from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. The intent was apparently to portray her as someone who thinks of herself as unattractive, uncoordinated and basically less than average (as many teenagers often do), while actually receiving more attention than she herself notices from everyone, including the males in her school. Whether it worked or not is open to much heated debate.
- The War of the Worlds (1898) contains the Trope Maker of the Alien Invasion story, where Martians attack Earth in order to exploit its resources, including its people, for their own survival. Wells' story is a scathing allegory of imperialism where industrialized nations ravaged foreign lands for their own gain, with their victims usually unable to fight back. The story turns the tables, as despite Britain being the most advanced nation on the world at the time, it is unable to fight back and becomes a victim of Martian imperialism the same way other peoples fell victim to their own empire. The irony is never lost on the Narrator himself, and notes that his people aren't the moral authority on the subject of invasions at all.
- Mildred Hubble, heroine of The Worst Witch, is gangly, funny looking, and no bloody good at anything. Even her cat, the imaginatively named Tabby, is a misfit. One can't help but wonder: if there's an entrance exam to Cackle's Academy, how did she manage to pass?
- From Almost Live!: This commercial for Loser magazine.
- In the early 1980s Doctor Who introduced a regular character named Adric, a teenage alien maths prodigy who was meant to be an identification figure for the fanboy audience. (The actor himself was a Promoted Fanboy.) Unfortunately the character wasn't written as an idealised cool genius, but as a socially-inept nerd with frequent flashes of whininess, arrogance and sexism. This led to a fan backlash, and when he was killed off in what was meant to be a shocking tragedy, some fans outright celebrated.
- Kenny Powers of Eastbound & Down. A washed out former MLB star pitcher with a heaping helping of narcissism (he constantly listens to the audiobook of his own philosophical/inspirational novel, You're Fucking Out, I'm Fucking In, which he narrates himself), an ego whose size could make any planet feel like Pluto, and is an all-around ignorant bigot who believes himself better, stronger, and sexier than everyone he's ever met, and everyone else, too.
- The main cast of Friends goes through several hardships throughout the series. When the series started, Rachel had just ended her engagement, got cut off from her dad's money and was employed as a waitress. Before returning to Days of Our Lives, Joey was frequently low on cash, borrowing money from Chandler, and had to work several part-time jobs. Monica had to work at a diner in between chef jobs, Chandler was unemployed before entering advertising and Ross was fired from the museum because of anger issues.
- House goes to great lengths to show that aside from his incredible diagnostic skills, House is even more of a loser than most of us: lives alone, has only one real friend, is a drug addict, his sexual encounters limited to prostitutes and masturbation to Internet porn...
- iCarly is quite fond of making fun of its audience using in-universe Audience Surrogate characters who are fans of the web-show. Gilbert, the guy in the yellow shirt who yells "SEDDIE!" constantly in "iStart A Fan War" and "iLose My Mind" is a blatant parody of a specific fan who has had some memorable and not always positive interactions with Dan Schneider in the past and was well known for spamming "SEDDIE!" into every Word of God blog post.
- The Inbetweeners lives on this trope. Four loser teenagers attempting to lose their virginity and failing spectacularly in the process; ring any alarms for anyone?
- Reinforced by how the one of them who has the far most success with the ladies, Neil, is generally considered to be the one who is hardest to identify with because he is just a foolish, surprisingly nice (for a teenage boy) ditz and not lives up to a classical and more realistic teenage stereotype like Will, Simon and Jay do.
- A few Kamen Rider heroes have been like this, including:
- Shinji Kido from Ryuki, to some extent.
- Takumi Inui from 555, a drifting loner who keeps himself away from any relationships as well lacking any confidence or dreams of his own.
- Kenzaki Kazuma from Blade, which actually broke 4th wall in terms of you suck.
- Asumu Adachi from Hibiki.
- Arata Kagami from Kabuto, to some extent.
- Ryotaro Nogami from Den-O is perhaps the most egregious example. He is also the Butt-Monkey.
- Subverted by the series end, or at least once Liner Form was obtained
- Lead protagonist Doug in the sitcom The King of Queens is also a classic example of this trope. He is shown to have aversion to reading anything other than cereal boxes, and watches way too much TV. He avoids healthy food like the plague, and makes fun of people for trying to eat healthy and makes fart noises at anyone trying to say remotely intellectual. Also the finer aspects of this trope apply to the character as he has friends and wife who are much more attractive and cool compared to him.
- Stanley Tweedle from Lexx is a pathetic bureaucrat, slovenly, perverted, sexually frustrated, selfish, and cowardly to the very end. Did we mention he's also meant as the most relatable character?
- Married... with Children's Al Bundy is a Jaded Washout who lives a humdrum life as a working-class slob, still pining for his Glory Days in high school.
- My Lovely Sam-soon: How to make Sam-soon a relatable heroine? Well, make her supposedly too old to get married (even though she's only 30). Make her supposedly overweight (even though she's obviously Hollywood Pudgy and the actress is quite lovely). Then give her a lot of minor flaws, like how she sometimes drinks to excess or is over-emotional or has gauche table manners or occasional flatulence. Presto, you have one everywoman heroine.
- Jim and Pam on The Office (US) spent a large part of the show acting as the audience surrogates, generally snarking about their situation or at the craziness around them. But beginning with season 5 and especially in season 6, they have been getting rather frequent Kick the Dog moments. It's telling that their UK Spiritual Predecessors, Tim and Dawn, did not have such moments. Certainly related to their much shorter time of exposure but may have a deeper meaning as well.
- May also be the changing premise of the show. The British version treated the office as a Crapsack World whereas the American version started out with the audience asking 'why would any sane person work with these people?' but later began to be treated as 'They're unbelievably dysfunctional but they stick together and are a surprisingly successful branch.' What seems like rude but relatable snark in one situation becomes ungrateful, whiny or cruel in the other. And with their prank victims becoming the popular and relatable ones instead, it becomes very plausible to the writers and audience that, for example, a character who thinks nothing of sending someone fake letters from the CIA as a prank would develop into someone who lies about getting a promotion to get it.
- Todd of Outsourced is apparently supposed to reflect how an average American would handle the Culture Clash in India. Apparently, the average American would constantly assume India is exactly like America and learn otherwise repeatedly, all while acting like he's just so tolerant and open-minded.
- Red Dwarf:
- The lead character is Dave Lister, a crass, uneducated, lazy slob who was the lowest ranking crewman on the ship and whose highest ambition in life was to live in Fiji and own a hotdog stand.
- Ditto his hologram bunkmate Arnold J. Rimmer (BSC, SSC), second lowest ranking crewman, unable to achieve anything higher, no matter how bad he wants it.
- JD was written as a representation of most single men in Los Angeles, and some of his quirks, such as his inability (and refusal to learn) to understand sports were based off of his actor's own quirks.
- Elliot in the first two seasons. She was very neurotic, and her insecurities and awkwardness made her relatable. Averted in later seasons after she becomes much more confident and hotter, while still keeping a few of her initial quirks.
- Star Trek:
"The way I see it, humans used to be a lot like Ferengi: greedy, acquisitive, interested only in profit. We're a constant reminder of a part of your past you'd like to forget. ... You're overlooking something. Humans used to be a lot worse than Ferengi: slavery, concentration camps, interstellar war. We have nothing in our past that approaches that kind of barbarism. You see? We're nothing like you... we're better."
- Lt. Reginald Barclay from Star Trek: The Next Generation was created to give the fans someone to relate to. What's he like? Shy, awkward, socially inept, afraid of transporters, and addicted to fantasies (in the form of the holodeck).
- The Ferengi were originally intended to be a reflection of the worst aspects of 20th-century humanity. Once a few of them were introduced as key characters in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine however, a lot more depth was added to them as a race. Quark even discusses this trope at one point and points out its flaws.
- Świat według Kiepskich: A large chunk of the cast represents stereotypical lower-class Polish people: Ferdek is a lazy perpetually unemployed alcoholic, Paździoch is a scummy small-fry entrepreneur and former Dirty Communist, Boczek is a Fat Slob, Waldek is repeating the errors of his parents... On top of that, they're all depicted as not particularly bright.
- Supernatural had many ways of making fun of their audience. One of the biggest examples being Becky Rosen, an avid fangirl of the in-universe Supernatural novels, an erotic Sam/Dean author, and an Abhorrent Admirer of Sam Winchester. It should come as a surprise to no-one that she was designed as a massive Take That! to some of the shows more rabid fangirls.
- Former daytime Talk Show host Charles Perez calls the daytime talk shows that showcase dysfunctionality like his a "mirror of America".
- "I'm a Loser" by The Beatles from the album Beatles For Sale, regarded as the group's weakest album to date for starting off with three downer songs.
- Blues Traveler does this in the music video for their song "Hook." The protagonist (played by game show host Ken Ober) is a schlubby, overweight, unattractive guy sitting alone in his house watching late-night TV. As he mindlessly flips through the channels, he's shown as easily manipulated by the things he sees, including a beauty pageant and political speaker, and then starts rapidly changing the station in an attempt to feel any sort of emotion. It's fitting, as the song mocks the listeners of popular songs as unthinking drones who will pay money for anything with a catchy tune ("the hook brings you back"). Interestingly, though, the video ends with a subversion, as the guy realizes the TV (and by extension the song) is trash and starts reading a book instead.
- The main protagonist's boyfriend in "He's Sure The Boy I Love" by The Crystals:
''He doesn't look like a movie star
He doesn't drive a Cadillac car
He sure ain't the boy I've been dreaming ofBut he's sure the boy I love''
- By the end of the song, we learn the boyfriend's collecting unemployment.
- "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits was made up of quotes that Mark Knopfler overheard from an employee at an appliance store; the racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and otherwise ignorant and loutish statements that the employee was uttering struck Knopfler as being emblematic of everything that he hated about rock fans, and the inclusion of some of the more offensive quotes ("see the little faggot with the earring and the makeup", "look at that mama, she got it stickin' in the camera, man, we could have some fun", "Hawaiian noises", etc.) was intended to hammer home just how much of a boorish loser the man was.
- "The Story of an Artist" by Daniel Johnston. If you haven't heard it yet, go listen to it now! It's the most heartbreaking song ever written about struggling artists like you and me. Johnston also has a song called "Poor You" from Hi, How Are You which is actually about himself, but nevertheless very recognizable.
- "Everyday Normal Guy" by Jon Lajoie.
- Odds are, one of the people mentioned in a given rendition of "I've Got a Little List" from The Mikado will apply to you.
- "Mr. Sheep" by Randy Newman plays with this trope, although Newman says it's about the pity and contempt rock stars feel for their audiences.
- "In Bloom" was aimed at all the assholes who bullied Cobain in high school and later became Nirvana fans. The essential message of the song is "you don't even understand what the lyrics mean and just listen to the music, and the joke's on you because this song is about morons like you".
- "Online" by Brad Paisley is all about this trope. The main protagonist is a geek who delivers pizzas, drives an old Hyundai and still lives with his parents. He's also an asthmatic who stands 5'3" and has "never been to 2nd base".
- The music video for Vengaboys' 'Up and Down', which is like an infomercial for some trippy glasses.
Asian guy: Are you sick of your boring life?
- From Steely Dan's "Deacon Blue", about a nobody trying to expand his mind to better himself:
They've got a name for the winners in the world,
I want a name when I lose.
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide,
Call me Deacon Blues.
- This was a recurring theme in MAD, where the reader was very often directly referred to as a loser, mostly in the stories of George Woodbridge. The most defining example of this is in Woodbridge's and Larry Siegel's book Mad's Cradle to Grave Primer (1973) that had the protagonist - openly a stand-in for the reader - live through a whole life of being a born loser, fully exploring the absurdity and tragedy that comes with this trope though playground, school, work and retirement home to a point where it becomes grotesque.
- Former Ring of Honor World Champion Nigel McGuinness invoked this trope, making "acne-riddled fat boy" Kevin Steen the audience surrogate en route to Steen's three title shots against McGuinness.
- Dusty Rhodes was always a far more positive portrayal of the archetype.
- After ending Joey Janela's CZW Wired Championship reign for the second time, Lio Rush said he doesn't have anything against Janela personally but would be sticking around CZW despite his recently signed ROH contract to prove his superiority to Janela as an extended insult to CZW's fanbase, who he was projecting onto him.
- WWE has had two wrestlers who were originally presented as being big wrestling fans. Santino at least manages to be a legitimately funny guy. Eugene is less... Positively presented.
- WWE has also in the past had background characters who were supposed to represent the average wrestling fan, ranging from the irksome Charlie Minn (hyperactive excitable fanboy) to the loathsome Jamison (greasy, repugnant, socially inept nerd)
- In Red vs. Blue the New Republic tries to recruit the Blood Gluch Crew to their side during the Chrous Civil War trilogy, believing them to be the "galaxy's greatest soldiers" for having taken down Project Freelancer. After they succeed in recruiting Tucker, Caboose, Grif, and Simmons, General Kimball quickly realizes that they aren't the soldiers she thought they were; they're misfits and oddballs. However, this works out even better, because the New Republic soldiers can relate to them and have a major boost in morale because of it. It is implied this also happened to the Federal Army after Agent Washington, Sarge, Donut, and Lopez joined their side in the war, and it becomes a plot point when Felix is gloating that the crew gave the citizens hope, and just made them fight harder and die faster.
- Shoutan Himei in Sailor Nothing, for always complaining about things not limited to just fighting Yamikos.
- Zero Punctuation: Ben Croshaw invokes this in his Final Fantasy XIII video when talking about Hope Estheim.
"This Hope guy has been established from the start as a whiny, weak, inept, cowardly, socially retarded Mummy's Boy. So presumably, he's the character the audience is meant to project themselves to."
- Done unintentionally in College Roomies from Hell!!!. Dave was meant to be unsympathetic and expendable but the fandom found him easier to identify with then the rest of the cast. Although he's not nearly as much of a loser as most of the characters he's listed alongside. Kind of a Butt-Monkey, but not overwhelmingly terrible or anything.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del: Another Ethan is said to be a portrayal/caricature of gamers. The secondary one, Lucas, is much closer to a normal human being. He's somewhat flawed, but he's not nearly as screwed-up as Ethan is, and he's probably closer to what the author thinks gamers really are rather than a Flanderization thereof.
- Just about every human in Cthulhu Slippers (not to mention some of the Eldritch Abominations) but Mal in particular fits this trope.
- Trevor from EVIL serves as the Audience Surrogate and is a total slacker who isn't very good at being a villain.
- Garfield Minus Garfield takes Garfield strips and removes all the main characters except Jon, making him seem even more pathetic and weird. Often he'll just talk to himself and nothing will happen. Maybe no-one is actually saying people are supposed to identify with such a hopeless loser apparently struggling with depression, but apparently people find their lives resemble his anyway.
- Ménage à 3 has Gary as probably the most important of its nominal three lead protagonists, and as a comics-and-anime-loving geek, he seems set up to be the character with whom many readers will identify. But at the start of the story at least, he's also passive, pliable, severely short on confidence, and a 29-year-old virgin, and surrounded by cooler and much more sexually active characters. (The comic owes a serious debt of inspiration to all those "harem" animes, too.) The writers don't actually seem to have that cynical a view of their audience — Gary has his good points, and the comic isn't entirely seen from his point of view — and he not only eventually has sex with a couple of very attractive women, but some last-volume Character Development eventually makes him a bit more proactive and assertive. Still, the writers seem to have some difficulty in getting rid of his painfully passive approach to life, and geeks who identify with him too much might feel teased.
- No-one-likes-you comics: 
- Used in Not Quite Daily Comic's Magical Girlfriend Story Arc.
- Matthew Inman, the creator of The Oatmeal, is a fitness buff, but he draws his characters as lazy blob-people to be "more relatable" for audiences.
- The last panel of this Original Life strip is apparently the main character. Even ignoring the obvious, the one bit of personalization we can see in his room is a Halo poster, whereas the girls have a map and trophies.
- Everyman Marten Reed from Questionable Content is very likeable but is a chronic under-achiever and self depreciates constantly. Justified in that he started out as author Jeph Jacques' attempt to make fun of himself.
- Ethan from Shortpacked!! seems to be shaping up to this. The comic establishes that while he has a moral and up-right character, he's a hopeless nerd trapped in a dead-end job who devotes his life to what's portrayed out as pointless hobbies. When the strip makes it look like he'll pull out of it (by getting a boyfriend, pursuing his dreams) or he has a realization about his life, it's just ignored and he goes on as he always had been. eventually he gets his happy ending/
- The Virgin vs. Chad memes revolve around comparisons between a wimpy, loser Virgin and a loud, confident Chad. Since the virgin often represents certain behaviors in real life, it can be seen as taking a shot at a certain part of the audience.
- Encyclopedia Dramatica loves this trope.
- The somewhat famous "Imagine a world" image◊.
- SCP Foundation:
- The writer of SCP-231 seems to have taken this attitude toward reader speculation on "Procedure 110-Montauk". It's the worst thing you can think of... and if you're thinking of it, you are basically doing it to this poor girl yourself. You Bastard!.
- SCP-1230 pulls an in-universe example. It's a book that produces an extremely complex dream world where the reader is the main character when they next go to sleep. These dreams are fully immersive adventure settings that are tailored personally for the reader and years or even centuries can pass inside them. However the book (which has a benign consciousness that appears as an old man and talks to the reader) is insistent that while it is happy to provide people with these fantasy dreams, they are not replacements for the real world and readers should not try to pull an I Choose to Stay. One researcher got so enamoured with his fantasy world that he didn't want to leave, so he forced the book to keep it going for two hundred years, until the book couldn't keep going anymore and the researcher immediately went into the bathroom and hung himself on his belt. The book... did not take that well.
- Ben Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame takes the this to the extreme with the game concept of No Experience Necessary. Where the player character is abducted into a dangerous secret military weapon testing project not because of any special background or skills, but because he wouldn't be missed.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Dr. Horrible is a likable nebbish who only wants to be a Card-Carrying Villain to effect some vague "social change." However, he kills the girl he pines for and goes on to become "the most evil villain of all time" (though the last is reported in a biased newspaper within days of the incident). It's fleshed out a bit in the comic books. He wants to become a "villain" (more along the lines of just taking out Hammer), because he wants to show the world that brains are more important than brawn.
- These two parodies of Mass Effect videos.
- The Nostalgia Chick points out how creepy and seriously un-relatable this trope is in her review of Teen Witch.