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Too Bleak, Stopped Caring
aka: Darkness Induced Audience Apathy

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"People always say they want things dark, but if you don't have a plan to draw people out of that and show how these people overcome it, then you just leave your audience in despair."

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. The quote "Too Bleak, Stopped Caring," a common permutation of the Eight Deadly Words, tends to crop up when the setting is extremely but meaninglessly Darker and Edgier, 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? Even if someone gets a happy ending, they don't deserve it. 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. Keep in mind, however, that a work doesn't necessarily have to be angsty to qualify for this trope. There are plenty of comedies, typically black or Kafka comedies, that tend to be so dark or mean-spirited that audiences will struggle to find anything funny about it. Tends to happen when there are too many negative resolutions.

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 Editors

This 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 grim setting, this trope does not apply; and if people dislike a work because it's too depressing, Angst Aversion applies instead (as mentioned above).

No Real Life Examples, Please!

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    Interactive Fiction 
  • 1983's Infidel received this response upon its release. The main character was a jerkass Villain Protagonist who receives a Karmic Death in the game's ending where he's Buried Alive with the treasure he struggled throughout the entire game to obtain. Infocom received a significant amount of hate mail from disgruntled players upset about being Blamed for Being Railroaded and led to an unsatisfying conclusion, with the famed critic Scorpia refusing to even promote it with a proper review despite having been a fan of Infocom.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • I6: Ravenloft (and by extension its remake 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 GMs) 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 with near-complete impunity; the most the heroes can do is maybe gain a temporary victory.
      Speaking of heroes, the Gaia-aligned factions (the "good" side) are variously short-sighted, bigoted, bloodthirsty, genocidally misanthropic, outright sociopathic (in the case of the Ananasi), or some combination of the above. Particularly of note are the Red Talons, who are bent on exterminating humanity down to pre-Stone Age population levels and use rituals based around Cold-Blooded Torture (just like those of the Wyrm), but are still considered to be heroes. Needless to say, the heroes often being only better morally than the Wyrm/Weaver's creatures makes it quite difficult to root for any side.
    • 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 still alive and at least somewhat conscious of their new state.
    • 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 unremitting 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 a 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 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 populace. 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.
  • Merrily We Roll Along has a Back to Front structure that starts with its Downer Ending. It can be very hard to engage with the story when you already know everything turns out horribly for everyone involved.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera, both the 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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 manga, Corpse Party Musume, treats several of the darker moments of the actual game as if the author has a humiliation fetish but ends basically the same as Ending A of the game... until the kid sister of the protagonist dies while declaring her incestuous love for him, he sacrifices himself to be with her in the afterlife as her lover out of guilt, and his girlfriend gets molested as she's dragged into the pocket dimension the school's curse is centered on to become its new host.
  • 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.
  • 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 plays this 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, has a number of players ended up getting tired of reading or even avoid reading visual novels created by them:
  • Boyfriend To Death: All the male characters that a main character can romance are (almost) irredeemable and there's no other way out.
  • While Eternal Fighter Zero's other source visual novels, AIR, Kanon, and One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e all have anime adaptations, MOON does not. The reason being that MOON has a plot of a hentai and is so dark, disgusting, and graphic that no studio will ever risk making an anime adaptation.

  • Between Failures: Well, the comic is called Between Failures, after all. Nevertheless, the comic’s overall cynical tone and the cast being nothing but snarkers has made the comic a bit of a chore to read for some.
  • 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.
  • Dash Academy is more sad-dark than scary-dark, but it but with all the drama going on - Derpy's pregnancy, Rainbow and Gilda's failing friendship, Billy and his friends being the usual bullies, Rainbow and Firefly keeping their relationship secret (and implications that, after school, they'll have to split up), Gilda's relationship with Billy seeming to be an unhealthy one, the JV Team trying to work through it all - many readers have reached the point of just getting irritated when something else bad happens, rather than shocked, and just want to see the bad guys get their karma and the good guys finally get to relax.
  • 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.
  • Endtown always had an apocalyptic premise, but what really turns some readers away is how nothing ever gets better for long. There's little reason to hope for anyone to have a happy ending.
  • 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: Beyond Canon 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.
  • It's (Not) Your Fault: One of the biggest issues people have with the comic is how overtly dark and melodramatic the story is. The conflict is started when Rusty sabotages Stella and Lincoln's relationship out of spite and petty jealousy that resulted in a messy breakup, which was preceded by Luna and Sam having a spat over a simple music gig that led to Sam becoming mentally unstable when Luna brought up her missing dad. This eventually accumulated in Sam getting drunk off her butt and then forcing herself onto Lincoln. And if that wasn't enough, Sam becomes pregnant with Lincoln's child, so the two secretly decide to raise their kid together and ostracize Luna because of her refusal to accept said child.
  • 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. However, the follow-up to this was one of the most absurdly funny parts of the story. Katia manages to finally use magic consistently and get some help from a soul cairn contract, letting her wash off Sigrid's charisma-enhancing perfume and revealing that it was making Sigrid narcissistic as a result of being affected by it just like everyone else.
  • 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. The most positive character in the finals devolved into a huge liar and easily manipulated idiot, and the other two finalists are an arrogant, smug, self-centered prick and an emotionless demon who backstabbed her best friend; the latter, in particular, rubbed many readers the wrong way with how the author (and everyone else) seemed to practically hand the victory to her. The rest of the cast isn't much better, featuring a lot of characters that are either one-dimensional caricatures or people who practically exult in being obnoxious to others.
    • 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 actually had this as an Intended Audience Reaction (or, at least, an accepted likely reaction), which is why it was only a fifteen-strip experimental comic designed as an endurance test rather than something anyone was seriously expected to invest any significant reading time into. It's 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 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 as 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • It can be legitimately hard to get invested in the Dream SMP. The setting takes place in a Crapsack World where nearly everyone has some form of PTSD and are more than likely to get worse and worse as the series progresses. This is all while characters like Dream can get away scot-free with various acts that nobody on the server would be able to tolerate like ending an entire country or beating a teenager to death in a prison cell while said teenager was trying to achieve closure with him. Even when Dream does get his comeuppance, it's other people who pay the price. The fact that the series ends with a Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies ending means that most of the server basically lived horrible lives (Tommy and Tubbo in particular) and died for it without any redeeming factors, regardless of whether or not they learned something or got a proper conclusion to their 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.
  • 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 a 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.
  • 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 masturbate 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.
  • Hamster's Paradise has multiple dark parts, especially the sapient, sadistic Harmsters. But the original sketches got much darker, as every single sapient species, not just the Harmsters, all meet ignoble ends or die by their own hands. The final species of sophonts, the Mousey Micks, go the furthest, as they not only cause their own extinction via out-of-control industrialisation, but irreversibly damage the atmosphere of the planet itself, leading to unstoppable Global Warming that eventually kills even the simplest life forms on the planet, leaving just a baked, lifeless rock. Even Tribbetherium (creator of both the sketches and the current main project) has regretted the pessimistic tone of the sketches, and has promised to rework it.
  • 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.
  • Musical Hell: Diva's major issue with Pennies from Heaven is that is simply miserable for the sake of being miserable and mistakes that for being profound. She skips her usual verdict towards the filmmakers because because she deems having made the movie was punishment enough, and urges her viewers to go watch something fun.

Alternative Title(s): Darkness Induced Audience Apathy, So Bleak Its Boring, Too Dark To Digest