It is often said that "conflict is the soul of drama." Without some form of conflict to fuel things there's no engine to drive the story and thus little reason to become invested in it. However, we here at TV Tropes would like to propose an amendment to this phrase which includes something important but sadly all-too-often forgotten, as tropes are, after all, tools:
Meaningful conflict is the soul of drama.
Too Bleak, Stopped Caring occurs when a conflict exists that simply lacks any reason for the audience to care about how it is resolved. This permutation of the Eight Deadly Words tends to crop up when the setting is extremely but meaninglessly dark and edgy, or all sides in the conflict are evil (or at least far enough gone that the difference is negligible). Even if the heroes are not only heroic because the authors say they are, stories with sympathetic heroes can still suffer from this trope because the characters lack any agency—if anything good happens to them, it'll be jerked away regardless. Makes it even worse when only sympathetic characters/characters with lighter grey / lighter black morality are killed off for no reason.
In other words, there is nothing really at stake. It might seem like there is, but ultimately, if you're given a choice between supporting one of two equally horrible groups of people, or one of two equally despairing outcomes, then it's a Morton's Fork; there's not really a choice at all, the outcome is going to be awful either way, so who cares who wins? If everyone likes the dark and bleak situation, then it might seem like everyone in the story is a Broken-System Dogmatist.
This reaction is often the result of writers believing that True Art Is Angsty, and going overboard with it.
Compare Angst Dissonance, Eight Deadly Words, Audience-Alienating Premise, Sadist Show, and Only the Author Can Save Them Now, although they can overlap. When this happens to the characters within a show, it can be Safety in Indifference or even Despair Event Horizon.
Contrast Sweetness Aversion, this trope's polar opposite, and also Rooting for the Empire, but only when all sides involved are evil and yet the audience still likes them. Compare and contrast Glurge, which is what happens when you combine the sickeningly sweet and the depressingly dark. See also Too Happy to Live, Too Good for This Sinful Earth, True Love Is Boring and maybe Too Cool to Live.
Not to be confused with Angst Aversion, which is when people avoid a work because they hear that it is too dark or depressing. It is possible for a work to be both, of course.
Note to EditorsThis trope frequently gets misused for any work that is dark, angsty, or depressing. That is just Complaining About Shows You Don't Like. It only applies when there is no meaningful conflict because everyone is awful and the world sucks, and therefore there are no stakes for the audience. If people enjoy the work despite its tone, this trope does not apply.
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- A lot of politically-oriented Mexican comics, like El Santos and Los Miserables, can get pretty bleak: After suffering decades of government censorship, the political comic industry experienced a resurgence during The '90s with its gritty stories and Deadpan Snarker Anti-Hero characters being praised as a welcome reality-grounded change from the rosy picture readers were being fed before; however, more than 20 years later, the Black-and-Gray Morality themes were turned Up to Eleven, and several of their readers got tired of the Crapsack World themes, crude humor, irredeemable Jerkass protagonists and the overall message of This Loser Is You.
- Adam Cadre's Varicella, despite its heavy themes, attempts to give the audience someone to root for by having its Villain Protagonist, while still amoral and self-centered and willing to murder people to claim the Regency, not as evil as his rivals for the Regency, nearly all of whom are truly horrible people who seem to enjoy their acts of abuse and rape. But Varicella is still a short-sighted person who can't foresee just how horrible things become when the prince takes the throne and becomes even worse.
- BattleTech can get quite depressing if you care to check its backstory. The clash of multiple Decadent Courts (a clash which did not even so much as slow down when the Clans invaded) and continuous wars (against the Clans, against the Word of Blake, against each other, etc) that have constantly knocked down the whole Inner Sphere can make the fluff feel to some like A Song of Ice and Fire IN SPACE with Humongous Mecha. There are plenty of sympathetic characters on the canon, but in the end the Inner Sphere is just not going to ever change from being a war-wreaked Crapsack Galaxy, no matter their efforts, so why bother about seeing their success if you know in the long run it will all go to hell again?
The early days of the Mechwarrior: Dark Age series are notable in that they bumped everything ahead by about half a century—not only did this mean that most of the characters that fans had come to know and love were dead (often Killed Offscreen), but the setting had reduced the availability of 'Mechs and made them frustratingly expensive to field, which, while somewhat realistic, is also anathema to pushing the setting's unique selling point, as a Humongous Mecha Space Opera. It did not help that the powers that be set up some thirty-odd preset characters to try and give a sense of stability to the setting (and continuity with the fan-preferred Classic Battletech) and then proceeded to kill off or write out approximately a third of them within six months, including most of the major Clan characters introduced to set up that portion of the universe.
- Curse of Strahd is an adventure module for Dungeons & Dragons that is rather infamous for its bleak nature. With not a lot of likable characters or actual allies, the players are often forced to fend for themselves in an incredibly hostile and increasingly unforgiving setting. The players' achievements and successes are quickly either overwritten or undone by some unforeseen event, with their allies or boon never lasting for long.note Combine with some brutal encounters that make a Total Party Kill frightfully common and it can be a very hard module to push through. Even most of the endings to the campaign, where the PCs successfully beat Strahd, are usually Bittersweet Endings at best, to say nothing of how the module flat out states that even if Strahd falls, he cannot be permanently destroyed, as the Dark Powers will simply revive him to resume ruling over a benighted Barovia once again.
- Dark Sun is a Dungeons & Dragons setting that is known for being very very deadly to player characters, and one of the most crapsack worlds in a game filled with such crapsack worlds. Because of the high turnover rate for player characters as well as one of its unofficial catch-phrases being "What would you do if you were desparate enough?", it's very very easy for players to not feel like they have any real reason to invest in anything. While some players might like having a more personal goal, others don't, which is why Dark Sun is seen as somewhat controversial.
- Dead of Winter can be crushingly bleak, depending how bad the secret objectives are. You could use that medicine to save your friend's survivor, who could really help the community... but if your secret objective requires that you keep the medicine...
- Exalted: In the view of some of the current authors, large chunks of second edition fell into "shitdark", defined by Holden Shearer as "a setting so relentlessly shitty and miserable and hopeless that it becomes impossible to emotionally invest in it or care what happens to it."
- Grim Hollow: Despite being a Dark Fantasy-focused game set in a world explicitly designed to be as much of a Crapsack World as possible, the books repeatedly remind readers (and G Ms) not to focus on the bleak nature of the setting, and instead encourages them to try and Earn Your Happy Ending in spite of the overall darkness of the world.
- GURPS is too diverse a system to qualify generally, but several of its Alternate Universe Earth settings can be quite depressing for gamers; most notably, Reich-5 was retooled into a new villain for crosstime campaigns because your options there consisted of "Nazis, Nazified Americans, Imperial Japanese, and the inevitably doomed resistance". In-Universe in Reich 2; after the British signed a truce with the Nazis, no one in America much cared whether Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin won the war.
- Old World of Darkness: Wraith is the most notable example, but the World of Darkness as a whole tends to qualify. Throughout each game, the main villains tend to be vast unknowable forces that can never be truly defeated: ancient conspiracies, corrupt corporations, secret government organizations, the spiritual force of evil itself, etc. And they're winning. Regardless of the player characters' victories in a campaign, you're unlikely to have any effect on the large-scale machinations at work. A recurring theme throughout each game is that the heroes are fighting a losing battle against the end of the world.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the world is threatened by the Weaver (the cosmic force of order who seeks to lock the cosmos into unchanging stasis) and the Wyrm (the cosmic force of destruction and renewal who has gone insane after being imprisoned in the Weaver's "web" of reality). In best case scenarios, these forces can be restored to sanity and balance, at the cost of billions of human and non-human lives. In worst case scenarios, one of these beings emerges triumphant over the cosmos and proceeds to either destroy it or render it a horrible crapsack world. Meanwhile, their minions are inflicting untold suffering on the world. The Gaia-aligned factions trying to stop the Weaver and Wyrm are often depicted as short-sighted, bigoted, bloodthirsty, and in the case of the Ananasi, outright sociopathic, making it difficult at times to root for them.
- Wraith: The Oblivion is a game where upon death your soul incarnates in H. R. Giger's worst BDSM nightmare, is taken in by a society whose repressiveness would embarrass a fascist, finds that there is no happy afterlife for him, and then must struggle to survive as a mad force of Eldritch Abominations and their howling-mad servants of Oblivion seek to unmake the world. One source book went so far as to deal with the ghosts born of The Holocaust. The bleakness drove it straight into Audience-Alienating Premise and it was definitely one of the less popular games. This is the game where your character's sweater is made out of the soul of another person who is experiencing And I Must Scream.
- Hunter: The Reckoning, at release, was advertised as a World of Darkness game in which the characters would play regular people attempting to take back their streets from the assorted vampires, werewolves, mages etc. that populate the setting. When the book was actually released, though, it was revealed that Hunters themselves also had supernatural powers granted to them by an unknown entity.. and since every powerful unknown force in the setting up to that point was a Big Bad, and "I'm a monster but I have to be to defend you against the other worse monster" being a central theme of all the games, Hunters appeared no longer to be the champions of regular humanity but just another type of supernatural creature.
Additionally, Hunter's art looks like the typical version of the idea "humans fight back the supernatural" concept might convey - namely, the Hunters are artistically depicted as tough, powerful forces smashing down other supernaturals. Unfortunately, the actual power levels of the hunters was underwhelming, and the text itself read more akin to a Cosmic Horror game where the typical Hunter has the lifespan of a mayfly. If the supernatural being itself didn't kill you, the forces of government would - and that government was of course backed by and infiltrated thoroughly by supernatural forces. Hunters would find not only that most supernaturals could take them on, but they could also just call in the SWAT team, and it went as well as you expect. The premise of Hunter as a break from the grimdark of the World of Darkness never was realized.
Ultimately, it was utterly unsurprising when White Wolf decided to Torch the Franchise and Run (or rather, "Torch the Franchise and Start Over") - the last sourcebooks ever released for the original games covered the unavoidable end of the world. And in most of the included stories, the player characters were, to quote one of the games themselves, "Fate's bitch", unable to do anything more than watch everything come to a sudden and permanent end.
- Ravenloft is a Dark Fantasy and Gothic Horror setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Its incarnation for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition explicitly invokes and defies the trope similarly to Grim Hollow, with the core campaign sourcebook declaring that even though the world is an artificial creation ruled over by enigmatic and eldritch beings of unknown intent, it's not a realm of total darkness and suffering — that joy, love, happiness and friendship exist here, that most people live normal lives, and it's world worth fighting for. Quoted is just one of the relevant passages. Its Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition incarnation, on the other hand, tends to evoke this reaction from fans; it doubles down on the "Weekend in Hell" playstyle, amplifying the the artificiality of the Domains, to the point each one now exists as simply a bubble of reality floating in a sea of ethereal mists with no semblance of presenting a coherent world, and explicitly operating on "nightmare logic". This is then combined with the lore carried over from Curse of Strahd about how the efforts of the players are ultimately meaningless and nothing they do matters in the long run.
Ravenloft Campaign Setting, 3rd Edition: Ravenloft is a beautiful land. The forests are lush and gorgeous. The sky is a brilliant, unspoiled blue. The mountains are awe inspiring in their simple majesty. The rivers are clean and refreshing, and the air is crisp and sweet. Ravenloft is a land worth living in. It is a land worth fighting for. Don't surrender it to the night.
- Unhallowed Metropolis is set in a world where a Zombie Apocalypse has warped most of the earth, resulting in barely-surviving societies which are surrounded by blighted, polluted, unholy hellscapes. The default setting, Victorian-esque England, takes inequality to such extremes that for every stuffy noble using the blood of the poor to stay young while enjoying macabre orgies, there are thousands who die for want of a gas mask. Speaking of gas masks, the air is so polluted that one is essential for survival. What few leaders remain are all invariably corrupt and decadent to a level that cannot be exaggerated, while bomb-throwing anarchists and worse are ready to dismantle the system. Anarchy would only lead to a failure of the few systems stopping the ghouls, vampires, mad-scientists, and other evils from visiting horrors on the populous. Nation states have fallen - there is no world system, and all the people of this new society know of other peoples is that France is even worse off. Even the heroes are inherently corrupt, and draw power by accepting further corruption. Finally, all the undeath of this setting is hinted to be a symptom of the world being fundamentally wrong on a far, far more terrible level, as observed through the unspeakable behavior of its human inhabitants.
- Witch Girls Adventures: The titular witch girls have no sense of right and wrong and are perfectly fine with turning people into food and eating them or turning them into still-aware inaminate objects for the pettiest reasons. Their opponents, the Malleus Maleficarum, are so consumed with anti-witch hatred that they will kill any witch they see-even if said witch isn't using her power for selfish purposes.
- The big plot twists of Act 2 of Ebenezer are so dark and cynical it can be hard to care about anything that happens before or afterward, even A Christmas Carol itself. Jacob Marley was in a one-sided love with Scrooge's mother, swore vengeance on the family when she died in childbirth, impregnated and killed Scrooge's sister Fran, concocted a plot to make Scrooge think Emily was cheating on him with Bob Cratchit, and foreclosed her orphanage, killing everyone there while breaking Tiny Tim's leg just to be cruel. The characters repeatedly try and fail to warn Scrooge against Marley to no avail, and it's ultimately revealed Scrooge knew about it all from the start and didn't care, even though he himself attacked Emily viciously and ordered Marley to foreclose her orphanage beforehand. Scrooge's speech detailing this revelation hammers it home.
Scrooge: You must think me a simpleton, sir. Don't you think I've known about everything from the start? Don't you think I've known about Marley's motives all along?
Dickens: Then why have you stayed here?
Scrooge: Because I learned a long time ago that there is no goodness in this world—and whatever goodness there is is extinguished like a sputtering candle.
- Janacek's Jenufa has a very grim story. Steva is a womanizing, sociopathic drunkard who deserts Jenufa as soon as he has gotten into her pants, Jenufa is an extremely naive young woman who falls for Steva's tricks (although she gets better), Kostelnicka murders her stepdaughter's illegitamite child, and Laca is a Base-Breaking Character for slashing Jenufa's face in Act I and then ending up Happily Married to her in Act III.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera in both a musical and the film of the musical. The basic premise is that a company controls the supply of organs needed to live, and they remove them by force if you are late making payments. The characters include an heiress addicted to drugs and surgery, a mass-murdering heir, a man who wears the removed faces of women, a Corrupt Corporate Executive who sends hitmen out to remove the organs of those who fail to pay him, and the titular Repo Man. There's only three characters with a shred of decency - the tragic opera singer, the Incorruptible Pure Pureness Ill Girl, and the grave-robbing, drug-dealing Greek Chorus. It just keeps getting worse.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street pits a barber who murders innocent men and sends them to his Psycho Supporter to be baked into pies, against a corrupt judge who drugged and raped a woman and then holds her daughter hostage with the intent to marry the girl he brought up. There's a Token Romance (or Romantic Plot Tumor) between a couple of flat characters, but other than that it's a revenge story between a mass murderer and the monster who wronged him.
- Titus Andronicus: The protagonist is a horrible person, the antagonist is a horrible person, most of the side characters are horrible people, there's overreactions galore, rape, cannibalism, murder, torture, insanity, but it's so over the top and over done it just ends up unpopular and buried in the back folder of Full Annotated works of Shakespeare. It was probably meant to be a parody of similar revenge dramas, which were very popular at the time, by going ham with the concept.
- The works of Bertolt Brecht are intentionally dark, which he called the Verfremdungseffekt ("alienating effect"). By discouraging the audience from relating to any of the characters (which was dismissed as a form of escapism), the goal was to draw attention away from them and towards the socioeconomic system that shaped them, and by extension, that same system which exists in real life.
- Corpse Party, even in its first incarnation, was pretty bleak, featuring a setting where ordinary high school students are pulled into an alternate version of their school, featuring a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl and other ghosts that all want them dead, along with the Darkening, which turns them into undead monsters if they lose all hope. Even then, the protagonists usually solved the mystery and escaped relatively intact in the first few incarnations of the story. Later adaptions, however, go straight for the "Everybody Dies" Ending. Even the OVA adaptation of the first story kills all but two of the protagonists, one of whom ends up sitting in a rocking chair for the rest of her life, too traumatized to even speak.
- The Danganronpa games. The premise for them is already dark, in that the protagonists are all stuck in a school or on an island and the sadistic Monokuma tells them that, in order to be free, they need to kill each other and get away with it. With that as your beginning aspect, there's not much else one can do to make it even darker, but the game does, by including the revelation that The End of the World as We Know It has occurred outside of the school and the air is tainted, food is scarce and what little of 'society' remains is filled with violence. And the Gaiden Game Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls flips things around and shows how bad things are outside in the world. For a game that started with simply killing students and solving murders, this got dark so fast, it's in absolute darkness.
- In Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls it actually seems to be playing with your apathy by shocking you back into being horrified again and again. What is worse than senseless murder? Senseless murder committed by children. Worse than that? Those children being abused. Near the end the main character temporarily falls into a state of this because she is shown something so horrifying to her that she stops caring about the decision she was supposed to be making, but recovers before the final boss battle soon afterwards.
- Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony reaches new depths of darkness. The events of the first four installments of the series were apparently works of fiction in this universe, and the events of V3 are actually the 53rd season of a reality show spinoff. The students were brainwashed into "real fictional characters" for the show and have no way of reclaiming their original identities. On top of that, only three students survive the game (compared to six in the first game and five in the second), and now have to somehow reintegrate into a world that was enthralled with 53 iterations of a killing game between teenagers. On top of that, all that might not even be true—one of the game's central themes is the power of lies, which mainly manifests as the villainous characters lying so much that the ambiguity is just irritating.
- Diabolik Lovers: A lot of people outside of people with ravishment fetishes find the game overly bleak, this being the main reason the franchise is mostly despised outside Japan. The female lead/player character is trapped in terrible situations without any ways out (and develops Stockholm Syndrome), the romantic options are horrible people with little to no redeeming qualities, there's lots of gross and squicky elements, and most of the game's Multiple Endings are overly cruel or esoterically happy.
- Katawa Shoujo's creators discuss this trope and their efforts to avoid it on their blog. Originally the game included many more alternate bad endings ranging from depressing to absolutely soul-crushingly depressing, but they eventually decided that the game's very premise - a Romance Game where all the character have disabilities - was sad enough as it is, and decided to cut the bad endings down to just one for each route(two for Hanako and Rin). Among the endings cut included several where Hisao dies, ones where Hanako and Misha commit suicide, and an option to rape Hanako.
- Amnesia: Memories can feel overwhelming to some players. The game features a total of 26 endings, with 16 of those being bad endings. This means that Bad Endings outweigh the more positive ones at a ratio of 3:1, and some of the routes require the heroine to perform actions that make it appear like she's holding an Idiot Ball.
- Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, which otherwise doesn't qualify, plays this trope In-Universe with the horror movie the characters watch at their Halloween party. Raiko, the Player Character and the narrator, considers all the characters to be so unlikeable that she doesn't care what happens to them.
- nitro+, which is infamous for Darker and Edgier stories and downer endings, it's not quite surprising for a number of players ended up getting tired of reading or even avoid reading visual novels created by them:
- Hanachirasu: Besides the Black-and-Grey Morality of the characters, nothing good happens in the entire story. And ends with a Downer Ending where all the named characters die (except the ones who are dead already), while Japan retains its fascist government forever.
- Saya no Uta was once popular since the release, it's now despised in some countries and is one of the darkest H-games ever exist. Not just because it's written by Gen Urobuchi himself, but the whole premise is also horrible: The protagonist, who used to have normal eyesight and senses, now has to live with his creepily distorted vision, in which everything he sees and senses becomes Womb Level except Saya, so she's the only one the protagonist who can befriend. Many players who are into H-scenes are turned off by The Reveal that Saya is a malicious Eldritch Abomination whose looks can make everyone Go Mad from the Revelation, but it becomes "inverted" by his distorted vision. All endings are bittersweet at best and downers at worst, either: have your senses repaired, only to be locked out and get separated from Saya forever; become intimate with Saya, after which she will "grow" into a giant blob of flesh to eat the planet whole; or everyone dies, including the protagonist himself, while the only character who survives suffers a Go Mad from the Revelation and might probably commit suicide soon. What's even worse is although the first ending is better than the rest, it's considered as a Bad End.
- Boyfriend To Death: The main premise is already dark: all the male characters that a main character can romance are (almost) irredeemable and there's no other way out. And at least in the first installment, all endings are bad, with the survival endings not much better than the endings where you die.
- Almost certainly one of the reasons Chainmail Bikini didn't work out as opposed to DM of the Rings is that, separated from the connection to Lord of the Rings with its characters and story people were familiar with, the gaming group came off less as a parody/commentary on gaming tropes and bad gaming and more just a group of people being complete dicks to each other.
- Draconia Chronicles is about a genocidal war between two races, Dragons and Tigers, which are full of horrible, horrible people ranging from genocidal madwomen, racist jerks, and just plain incompetent fools. Many of the participants of the war are involved for purely selfish reasons. The madwomen, jerks and fools are constantly rewarded and have good things happen to them, while the few characters who are in any way decent either get broken, die, or get broken then die.
- Goblins: Every time something happens in the comic, more tragedy will result than happiness. The author herself seems to have noticed this, since she eventually started killing off characters less often, though some may still be turned off regardless.
- The Brassmoon arc kicked off because a party member got imprisoned there, through his own idealism no less, and ended with the party recovering him in a catatonic state after he'd been tortured by the sadistic Big Bad. And one of them got half their soul destroyed during the events.
- The Well of Darkness arc started because the characters involved were enslaved and forced to enter a dungeon and retrieve a magical item for the Big Bad. In the aftermath, two are dead, two characters are forced to cut a limb off, and a new terrifying monster has been created.
- In one infamous moment, the romance built up between Minmax and Kin over a long period is absolutely destroyed in two pages. This does get a little better, with Kin showing up in search of Minmax after she Took a Level in Badass by abusing the "Groundhog Day" Loop of the Maze of Many.
- The Half-Quake: Amen webcomic, based on the game of the same name, features a whole bunch of extremely cynical and generally unpleasant characters who are either unpleasant throughout the comic's run, or have most of their screentime dedicated to them suffering, the Victim of Incredible Pain baing a case example of the latter. The viewer is told outright that the main character, The Victim, will never be able to complete his main goal, and will die. Later plots do eventually form, but they're mostly pointless sidequests that serve to inconvenience the protagonist even more. All of the plotlines are eventually rendered poinless by Somos, who manages to kill off whoever was still living near the comic's end in a rather anticlimatic fashion. Top the whole thing off with a almost-complete lack of humuor, or extremely pitch-black and short-lived humour, and you get a comic that gets boring to read through after the first ten-twenty pages.
- Homestuck has lots of well-loved characters and plenty of jokes even in the story's darker turns, but The Homestuck Epilogues are generally considered to be relentlessly downbeat to the point where even people who do like them have difficulty forcing themselves through some parts. Friendships break up, characters are Driven to Suicide or die, Jane in one timeline becomes a fascist dictator and a rapist, Dirk in the other becomes a transphobic asshole who spends his time manipulating his friends' minds, and so on. Notably, in something of an Author's Saving Throw, Homestuck^2 has a quick synopsis of the Epilogues accessible from every page so that people don't have to actually slog through the real thing to get up to date.
- One of the biggest, if not the biggest complaint about Nineteen-Ninety-Something is how jaded and cynical the tone is, in addition to most of the characters being either annoying or downright unlikable. Even after the author set out to amend these concerns, many still found it difficult to care about either the stories or the characters. It got to the point where the author instead did a full-on reboot in 2020, with a comparatively Lighter and Softer tone and the characters being far more likable.
- Prequel's Katia just keeps losing everything, leading to many readers quitting the strip after Sigrid takes almost everything she has.
- The protagonists are unrepentant and hypocritical murderers, there's no point in the people who die learning last-minute lessons (or die for not learning them), and everyone else is apparently so stupid they never put two and two together to figure out the protagonists commit such horrible acts, and so they are never stopped. Congratulations, you just read everything wrong with Suicide for Hire. The only thing it has left is the Black Comedy.
- Survivor: Fan Characters:
- The main reason a lot of people consider Season 8 to be the worst season is that it became hard to root for anyone in the later stages of the game with the most positive character in the finals having devolved into a huge liar and easily-manipulated idiot and the other two finalists being an arrogant, smug Ted Baxter and an emotionless demon who backstabbed her best friend and rubbed many readers the wrong way about how the author and everyone else seemed to practically hand the victory to her. The rest of the cast having a lot of characters that were either one-dimensional caricatures or people who practically exulted in being obnoxious to others didn't help.
- Season 10 went ahead and topped that with an even more unlikable cast. To start off, the author brings back hated characters like Chloe, Frank, Quadratic and Bonnie; former well-liked characters like Jackie, Phil and Ryuia suffer massive Flanderization, when they're not Out of Focus like Emilee or Kris; Bonnie]surviving over much more likable characters, such as Ventious and Starr; and having an overall mean-spirited feel to it.
- Warbot In Accounting is about a war machine sent into a regular human job, only given its inability to speak or perform human motor functions, all his good intentions only end causing pain for himself and others. Brian Clevinger declared the goal of himself and the artist was to have each comic more depressing than the previous one, and while it only lasted 15 strips, they kept true on it!
- Sonic the Comic Online!: When a bad Smear Campaign ruins Sonic's reputation (who here is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing), the entire planet of Mobius, even Sonic's old friends within the Freedom Fighters, turn against him. The only one who doesn't turn against him is Tails, who is now christened Mobius' Ultimate Hero. Sonic attempts to pull a Clear My Name by Walking the Earth in search of a way to prove he's a hero, but with his main source having pulled a Karma Houdini by escaping to another dimension, he has his work cut out for him. Making this worse is that the title suffers from an irregular schedule, so this particular plotline dragged on for years.
- While the Housepets! webcomic doesn't technically fall under Cerebus Syndrome and most of the characters are considered generally likeable, some readers found the Fantastic Racism the sapient anthro characters endure in their world very difficult to ignore or reconcile and have become frustrated and baffled not only by how very little (if any) protests or rebellions against it are demonstrated or how little progress is made to remedy the bigotry by Keene in the comic's lengthy run. But those same readers are also often baffled by how most of the "Pet" animals seem either apathetic or oblivious to the oppression they endure, leaving some readers giving up on reading it with a bad taste in their mouths.
- AlternateHistory.com has a limited tolerance for overtly bleak stories, to the point where, in 2014, it implemented rules against posting scenarios that seem designed purely to fixate on mass death and gratuitous violence, such as "what if the entire population of Russia dropped dead" or "what if every tenth person became a murderous psychopath". Stories that have things like brutal wars and genocides are permitted (they're among the site's most popular stories, in fact), especially if they explore the implications of such, how they happened, and their aftermath, but a work that seems like just an excuse to show lots of people getting killed will likely get locked pretty quickly.
- Bennett the Sage often shows the most vitriol for anime like Genocyber and De:Vadasy that he deems to have no point but to be excessively miserable. His main contention with Grave of the Fireflies is that just because it's a sad story, doesn't mean it's a good story.
- The pixel animation short Elvis & Dimmi got criticism for being too dark. The title characters are jerks who start off mass-murdering a village of goblins and frequently mistreat their servant, Bailey, throughout. They do get some punishment for it when Bailey ends up becoming giant and fights the pair, but it's not considered proportional to the bad things they caused. Not helping matters is how the short teeters from Black Comedy to playing their actions straight, especially in the end where they decide to murder Bailey.
- A number of the infamous "X Gets Grounded" videos made in GoAnimate, for those who don't find the videos to be So Bad, It's Good. All of the kids are constantly making everyone miserable For the Evulz, and the good guys often go above and beyond what anyone would deem necessary to teach them their lesson, either by absurdly long grounding times at best, torture-laden or even fatal "Punishment Days" at worst. Additionally, there's almost nothing the troublesome kids can do that will not end with them grounded outside of the rarest occasions, not even if they do something nice or even heroic like prevent a disaster or crime. A lot of times the good deed will just be outright overridden or ignored, often for some random contrived reason, just so the kids can get grounded. All the "good guys" have the potential to be very mean to the troublemakers (sometimes even without justification) and some of them are just terrible people in general, but are treated as heroes for putting the troublemakers in their place. "Baby show" characters like Caillou that exist in the world that the videos take place in are universally hated by the world simply for being baby show characters, and nothing they can do can change that. With everyone in the videos having some negative qualities about them, it's almost not worth rooting for anyone except Caillou and Dora, who at least manage to be Jerkass Woobies at best.
- The Tokusatsu parody Gun Caliber written and directed by the YouTube channel Garage Hero takes place in an alternate Japan where Superheroes have gone the way of celebrities and have become so insufferably corrupt that the government now regulates them using a ratings system. Heroes are now treated as national pariahs because of this and are all but underground. The story attempts to hammer home the fact that the protagonist is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but at no point does he display any of the positive qualities that make up a hero; instead coming off as a insufferable Heroic Comedic Sociopath who despite having a Dark and Troubled Past that explains their lethargy, does utterly nothing but go on many dates with Rosie Palms and hate everything and everybody else around him the rest of the time. What doesn't help is that eight of the thirteen episodes of this series are dedicated not to world-building (though it is there), but to how unrepentant this supposed hero and his setting is.note By the time Gun Caliber displays any redeeming qualities, the miniseries is almost over and it's too little too late. What doesn't help is that the setting is a Crapsack World inhabited by Jerkasses, Overly-horny fools, or variations of both; and the two sole exceptions to this rule have a combined total of eight lines, tops. The show's attempts to send a Screw Destiny message end up lost amid the sex jokes, stereotypes, unwavering cynicism, and utter lack of conflict. It seems like it's trying its best to be a Kamen Rider parody in the same vein that Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger is to Super Sentai, but instead of actually parodying the source material, it puts way too much focus on the "mature" alcoholic sex humor. As a result, Gun Caliber comes off as a miserable, bleak, depressing mess with a few amazingly-shot combat segments and nice cinematography.
- The Halo Alternate Reality Game HUNT the TRUTH ends with a big Downer Ending during its first season, where Ben Giraud falls for ONI's trap and his whistleblowing is discredited in public, but it adds a note of hope by having his colleague Petra take up his cause. The second season, however, has no such hopeful note, ending with Ben going insane in prison, Petra arrested offscreen, Maya murdered by her best friend, Bostwick Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, Mshak fleeing to never return, and the Office of Naval Intelligence no weaker than ever. Not that it matters because humanity's also got a front row seat to watching the ancient Guardians arise and kill everybody.
- Brought up in I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC: After Hours by the Green Goblin, in which he states that The Joker's plan to make all the superheroes Darker and Edgier Nineties Antiheroes is just plain stupid since without Lighter and Softer heroes for contrast, not only will comics get boring since all the heroes are the same, comics will just get so depressing that the audience might as well just kill themselves.
- Worm (and all Wildbow's stories). Things always get worse, as the series is essentially a long chain of really bad things happening that directly result in even worse things happening. As a general note, it can be tough to have any fun reading a series that's full of characters that do horrible and horrifying things on both sides, and the constant deaths and disturbing content can get too much for many readers. The protagonist, for example, starts off a bullying victim who experiences Adults Are Useless, accidentally joins a gang, and, before long, finds herself committing torture, kidnapping, and murder without blinking. And she's one of the nicer characters. In the end, though, humanity does manage to survive the impending apocalypse and take down the entity responsible for it. It says something about the series, though, that several billion people dying is consider a positive note to end on because humanity isn't outright extinct. The Sequel Series Ward goes to show that it's still absolutely a Crapsack World.
- gen:LOCK might've been a mature Military Science Fiction Mecha cartoon, but was still fairly lighthearted and full of fun character moments. But then the show left Rooster Teeth and went to HBO Max, and season 2 went on a really Darker and Edgier route that started alienating old fans. The world building made clear the setting is a Crapsack World wrecked by destructive Global Warming, where the opposition to the protagonists, the Union, is brutal theocracy spreading widespread death by nanomachines in its crusade for planetary conversion, but their side, the Polity, has plenty of skeletons on their closets (namely having struck first in the war, or how they sell to the populace a lie about having colonies on Mars). And there was also characters becoming unpleasant, increased visceral violence, and unceremonious deaths for prominent cast members.
- Allen Gregory's overwhelmingly cynical attitude led to it getting cancelled after just seven episodes. The main character (a pretentious, whiny 7-year-old who falls in love with his elderly principal and doesn't even sound like a 7-year-old) and his father (a gay man who forces a straight man to leave his family and have a relationship with him) are both completely unsympathetic. Nearly every character in general is tremendously hard to like, and even those one can sympathize with have unfortunate baggage.
- Word of God is that Ben 10: Omniverse being Lighter and Softer is partly due to executive viewing Ben 10: Ultimate Alien as too dark: The basic problems are with the first arc, which features the protagonists being unable to do anything to defeat Aggregor until his last appearance... at which point he is replaced by an Ax-Crazy mutated Kevin, which results in the characters running into the exact same problems as earlier, but Ben decides, for whatever reason, to kill Kevin. The second season has a little less of this, but many, many subplots and arcs end without resolution (due to the unfortunate passing of Dwayne McDuffie), which results in some characters being worse off than before. The show also starts to push the limits on just what you can get away with via a Gory Discretion Shot. Human-on-human outright murder, Mind Rape-loving Eldritch Abominations... even grittier cartoons like, say, Young Justice: Outsiders tell a joke now and again and show the bonds between the characters, but these two seasons of a show that, remember, started out being about the hijinks of a ten-year-old learning to be a better hero, can get unrelentingly dark for too long at a time. It's at its darkest during the Ultimate Kevin arc (all this, and the hero Took a Level in Cynic.)
- A frequent criticism of Brickleberry is that the show tries too hard to be as outrageous and offensive as humanly possible, and as a result quickly desensitizes the viewer to its brand of humor unless they were already a fan of it. Besides that, everyone of the characters are either malicious and/or self-centered jerkasses, punching bags, or racial stereotypes. (Or all three at once.)
- Family Dog flopped, among other reasons, because it was too bleak and cynical. In the series, the Binsfords constantly disregard the well-being of their dog to the point that it borders on Black Comedy Animal Cruelty.
- Family Guy gradually grows darker and more mean-spirited during its long tenure. The characters slowly become entirely heartless caricatures via Flanderization; Lois, originally a wiser foil to Peter with the occasional Not So Above It All moment, becomes increasingly mean and selfish, especially toward Meg—to the point where she once outright tells Meg that she's tired of trying to comfort her and urges her to commit suicide. Meg herself also goes from an unpopular Butt-Monkey to the target of genuine physical and psychological abuse—and the infamous "Seahorse Seashell Party" both lampshades this treatment and then tries to justify it by having Meg realize that her family is so dysfunctional that they need someone to draw all of their negativity and hatred; she "volunteers" to do so and is praised by Brian for it, which comes across as disturbingly close to sanctioning or even glorifying abuse in the name of keeping the peace, a sadly common tactic for actual abuse victims. These changes, plus the addition of more serious episodes like "Brian and Stewie" (which features Brian eating Stewie's feces and frankly admitting suicidal ideation) and "Send In Stewie, Please" (which has almost no jokes and features Stewie delving into his psychoses with a child psychiatrist, then refusing to save that psychiatrist when he has a realistically depicted heart attack, thus committing murder by inaction; the episode ends with Stewie lying in his crib clearly traumatized by the experience) have led to fans and critics alike saying that the show has simply become a series about horrible people doing horrible things to each other with no lasting repercussions. The Status Quo of Status Quo Is God is increasingly bleak and unpleasant, and thus no longer enjoyable or funny.
- My Fair Madeline is considered to have been a Franchise Killer to the Madeline series, in part because it was uncharacteristically dark. Madeline loses her badassery and gets hammered with bad luck, the authorities are dumb enough to think that she was just misbehaving for no reason when she was trying to be a hero, and Dumbella successfully gets her thrown in jail as well. While things do ultimately work out for Madeline in the end, and the plot is more frustrating than bleak, there's a good reason this movie isn't well liked by fans of the franchise.
- Mr. Pickles: Everyone is a complete moron, there's blood and gore everywhere, and the "satire" doesn't have enough subtlety to justify any of it. And to top it off, the show doesn't put much effort in to make it humorous.
- Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" was cancelled after only six episodes because it was simply impossible for any viewer to relate to the characters. Most people can agree that their personalities were exaggerated to the point that they became unpleasant. That, and the Comedic Sociopathy, Black Comedy, Kafka Komedy and sadism are all taken Up to Eleven. This show was so shocking and poorly received that many people, including co-creator Bob Camp, thought it tainted the series' legacy to the point that Nickelodeon would forever refuse to make a revival. (John Kricfalusi's own issues temporarily got the entire franchise Unpersoned, and even when plans for a continuation without any involvement from Kricfalusi whatsoever were made public in 2020, Comedy Central took over hosting duties.)
- One of the biggest criticisms of Santa Inc. is that nearly every character is completely unlikable and selfish that it's hard to root for any of them, with the main character Candy herself being regarded as the worst of them. And the only character that people rooted for is portrayed as the villain. As some reviewers put it, "it's a Christmas series made by people who hate Christmas."
- Tom Goes to the Mayor flopped as hard as it did because of its oppressively cynical atmosphere. Seeing Tom constantly suffer at the hands of every other character is fairly amusing the first few times, but after several episodes of it non-stop it can get incredibly tiring.