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Unintentionally Unsympathetic

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"There's a difference between having a sympathetic backstory and actually being sympathetic."

When a character's purpose is to get sympathy or motivation from the audience which fails because their story or personality is written poorly. It can be made even worse if they have to learn a lesson. Without being at least somewhat invested in the characters, the audience might have passed the point of caring when the character finally comes around.

Just like with Cursed with Awesome, it can be hard to dredge up sad feelings for a character whose life is in every respect more glamorous (or at very least, more interesting) than the audience members'. True unintentional unsympathy is generally reserved for unpopular traits like being overweight or a nerd, both of which tend to be grossly exaggerated on television (see Hollywood Pudgy and Stereotypical Nerd) and usually have nothing to do with anyone who might have such problems.

Sometimes these are humorous things in a character's past dredged up to embarrass them. This is supposed to make the character more human without affecting their present "perfection."

It's an especially easy trap to fall into for villains: sometimes, a villain (or other antagonistic character) is meant to be seen as an Anti-Villain, morally gray, or a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, but their Freudian Excuse just doesn't cover the acts they go on to commit. For example, if the heroes bought the villain’s narrative that their little sister died in that building a superhero battle knocked over, thus somehow causing them to try to blow up the hero's entire planet, that would make them unsympathetic to the audience, despite the narrative claiming the villain as such. (However, if the heroes throw that excuse back at the villain and treat them as a selfish monster, they are intentionally unsympathetic.)

Often a problem with The Scrappy (or at least a Base-Breaking Character), the Designated Hero, or a poorly done Jerkass Woobie. Even a regular Woobie character can fall victim to this if they are overly whiny or overly dramatic (essentially acting more like a Spoiled Brat throwing a temper tantrum than a real victim you can actually sympathize with).

In fact, victim charactersnote  (who are poorly written) in general can become unintentionally unsympathetic just as much as villain characters. This is especially the case if they act like a major Jerkass or Spoiled Brat the entire time but the narrative tries to paint them as a "poor little sweetheart". Also, the audience may find it hard to sympathize with a character who is Too Dumb to Live or grabs an Idiot Ball and decides to taunt Cthulhu or bully a dragon (especially if the said monster was just minding its own business and wouldn't have done anything had the victim minded their own business). Sometimes, the audience is a little lenient on characters who are supposed to be seen as idiots, such as The Ditz or the Dumb Blonde, but even then, they might cry foul if their stupidity lands other characters in danger.

However it's important to note that there are varying degrees of this. For example in one scenario the audience may not sympathize with a character in a particular scene but they can still be overall sympathetic.note  Whereas in another situation it's impossible to sympathize with the character at any point.

Occasionally, Values Dissonance comes into play. A legitimate cause for Angst in the country that it was produced might seem like Wangst to fans abroad, and what might be acceptable behavior in one country might lose a character a great deal of respect from fans in another. In addition, an older work might have a character do something that's seen as normal at the time it was written, but cruel in the present.

This is the opposite of Unintentionally Sympathetic, and can be the result for those who are opposing characters who are more sympathetic than the author intended.

Compare and contrast Hate Sink when a character is purposely made as unsympathetic as possible by the author, and Moral Event Horizon when they do something that's intended to make them too evil to redeem. Also compare Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse (when it's stated In-Universe that their "sympathetic" backstory doesn't justify their wrongdoing), Disappointed by the Motive (same, but pertaining to the reasons for their actions) and Ron the Death Eater (when people view a character as more villainous or jerkish than they are in canon). Also contrast Karma Houdini, who is intentionally portrayed as getting unfairly well-off despite their unrepentant wrongdoing. All these can still overlap with this trope if they're also unsympathetic for different reasons then the narrative intends.

See also Law of Disproportionate Response.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • I'm a Mac... and I'm a PC:
    • Aside from being a smear campaign against the PC, the Mac comes across more as a smug hipster than anything next to the poor put-upon everyman playing the PC.
    • British versions of the ads starred Mitchell and Webb as PC and Mac respectively, in a way that was reminiscent of their Peep Show characters, Mark and Jeremy. In other words, PC is a basically likable and honest, if rather geeky, guy, while Mac is a selfish, irresponsible layabout.
    • The features they chose to highlight had this problem too. All the PC advantages the ads waved off as boring were things most people actually need, while the Mac advantages were all things that are unnecessary or even useless to anyone who isn't a dedicated artist. More than anything, it makes the Mac character come off as someone who doesn't have a job and thinks that's something to be smug about.
  • Commercials for the Toyota Highlander featured a kid bragging about how his parents are cool and not embarrassing now that they bought the Highlander. But he comes off as a smug little bastard, and we're supposed to sympathize with the other kids whose parents don't drive Highlanders, which gives off the message: "Being a nice, loving parent just isn't good enough, oh no, if you don't drive the right car your kid has every right to hate you!". Even worse, once they buy the Highlander, he's seen not only pitying his friends whose parents didn't buy one, but, to make his parents "cooler", makes them throw out everything in the house he doesn't like, including their family portrait.
  • DirecTV's ads portray a man who married a... marionette and had a child with her. Yet he constantly brags about how his TVs have no wires now that he switched to Direct TV, often right in front of his wife, son, or father-in-law. While he attempts to deflect he was talking about the TVs, it all comes off as a man who's hating his own family for being different.
  • This Kia Forte commercial posits the average attention span is 8 seconds and their emergency brake system, lane assist, etc., can all help keep drivers safe. They demonstrate this with a woman who gets so caught up singing along to the radio that she nearly crashes because she wasn't paying attention to the road. While emergency brake systems do have their merits, it's not hard to think a lady who can't sing along to a song and also pay attention to where she's going probably shouldn't be behind the wheel.
  • The woman in this 1994 anti-speeding public information film. While the driver is indeed at fault for what happened (which isn't helped by his attitude) and it is sad she's dead, she's also partially to blame for not bothering to look both ways before crossing the street. The fact that her ghost is trying to shift all the blame for her death on him falls completely flat, especially since another ad by the same company had a teenaged boy that was killed in an accident after a driver struck his father's car who did nothing to cause his death other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Noonbory and the Super 7 episode "Rock and Roll Mamby", the audience is meant to be on Noonbory's side when he chastises Mamby for showing off against the magic rock. However, the magic rock being active in the first place was Noonbory's own fault, as he has been shirking his responsibility of watching it.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin's parents are this. Parents as People is in full effect here (perhaps a little too much so), and Calvin is a Bratty Half-Pint, but his own parents were hardly ever seen interacting with him in a loving way or trying to understand him, even though many 21st century readers see Calvin as having, at the very least, an undiagnosed disorder. There are also several strips where they act like they downright hate or neglect Calvin and consider themselves martyrs for having to put up with him, like when his mother threw Calvin out hours before the school bus arrives so she can get a morning free, or when his father said he'd would rather have raised a dog and considered throwing Calvin into the alligator pit at the zoo. Some strips have them guilt-trip Calvin for giving him food, clothing and shelter — things they're legally obligated to provide him with as his parents, making it look like a textbook case of expecting praise just for doing what they're supposed to be doing, an attitude the strip unambiguously condemns whenever Calvin expresses it. There are some tender moments between Calvin and his parents, but they are few and far between. It would get so bad that Bill Watterson had to address it in a commentary, where he expressed regret that Calvin's parents were mostly seen when they were in a bad mood, but Watterson has also claimed that "they did better than [he] would've" with regards to Calvin. Which tells you a lot...
    • For that matter, Calvin himself. Sure he's a kid, but he's also cost his parents large amounts of money in repair bills, constantly harasses Susie, sprays his mom with the garden hose after she's spent a long time getting dressed up, etc.
  • Crankshaft: A May 2021 arc involved the Valentine Theater facing closure due to the pandemic. But every marquee and promotional poster is for Radio Ranch, the film-length version of the strange 1935 serial The Phantom Empire, which Tom Batiuk is obsessed with. It's obvious why they're not attracting customers.
  • Anthony in For Better or for Worse. You're supposed to feel sympathy for him because his wife, Therese, doesn't want their daughter, and he also feels like he no longer "has a home". But the fact is that he had harassed Therese into getting a baby when she didn't want one in the first place. Anthony lost even more ground when it was revealed that he promised Therese that he would stay home with the baby, but he didn't intend to keep his word for no better reason than because he just expected "the magic of motherhood" to kick in and make Therese want to quit her job (which was even implied to make more than his did) and become a stay-at-home mom. But she is supposed to be the bad spouse simply because she wanted Anthony to actually keep the promise he made as a compromise with her and because she's not the maternal type. Then throw in that after he saves Elizabeth from attempted sexual assault - on the very same night, in fact! - while she's recovering from the shock, Anthony decides that this is the perfect time to confess that he's in love with her and is so terribly lonely... while he still is married to Therese at this point, and even if he had been single, he was pretty much taking advantage of a woman who had just narrowly avoided being raped by a stalker. No words can describe the level of disgust that this garnered from readers.
  • FoxTrot has Andrea during the Christmas storyline in which her mother comes over. Andy spends much of the visit quite upset about her mother's presence, partly because of long-standing bitterness, and partly because her mother actually endears herself to the rest of the family by being significantly nicer and more supportive of their interests than Andy is. The strip essentially treats this as something Andy's mother should feel guilty about, and has her give Andy the credit for getting the kids the presents they really wanted (presents Andy would never have dreamed of giving), thereby making Andy's mother the only one who makes any real effort at reconciling beyond a simple apology.
  • Les Moore, the de facto lead character of Funky Winkerbean, is a clear example of a character who was meant to be sympathetic, and in theory should be. He fell in love with a woman (Lisa), who'd been in some abusive relationships in the past, married her, had a daughter, and then lost her to cancer. After her death he turned his grief into art, writing a graphic novel about his life with Lisa and another about new love with his second wife, Cayla. So what's the problem? He thinks entirely too highly of himself. He thinks Lisa's Story makes him an important writer, when in reality his writing career depends almost entirely on milking personal tragedy. Not helping matters is the fact that as a teacher he seems to be defined by contempt for his students.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Gnarly Pop Production's Life Love And Lady Wrestling decided to have Mercedes Martinez defend the SHIMMER Championship belt as a heel, given Martinez was a heel in SHIMMER. The problem? Her challenger was Jessicka Havok, who is hard enough to a make a face as is, but was most famous for a program with Martinez in WSU, where Havok made racists remarks about people like Martinez, beat Martinez into hospitalization, disrespected an area of worship associated with Martinez's religion and got Brittney Savage to forfeit a match by threatening to kill Martinez with a machete. Despite having an extra segment early in the show to establish Martinez has a heel, to try and get as much sympathy for Havok as possible. Despite Martinez working in one of the most crowd unpleasing manners she ever had, the most vocal parts of the crowd still wound up cheering for Martinez whenever she connect with any remotely effective offense or when Havok seemed close to winning.
  • On SHINE 63, Notorious Nadi cheated to win her match in the Shine Nova Tournament and then cost Candy Cartwright her match against Dementia D'Rose for no reason. The next night at SHINE 64, Candy Cartwright cost Notorious Nadi her match against Avery Taylor in revenge. The problem? Show 63 was in Michigan and show 64 was in Chicago, which meant pretty much none of the live audience had seen what happened the previous night and switched from booing Nadi to booing Candy.
  • In summer 2021, Baron Corbin underwent a Humiliation Conga starting with losing his Cool Crown & status as king to Shinsuke Nakamura, that seemed to be an attempt to have him make a Heel–Face Turn. The problem with this is Corbin's troubles are so over the topnote  that his whole situation borders on the comical. Adding to this is massive Fridge Logic (if he's poor, why does he still appear every week on WWE TV?) and the fact that despite being depicted as a Squidward-level Butt-Monkey, he still gets booed by the fans cause they haven't forgotten how much of a Jerkass he was (which Kevin Owens even pointed out is the main reason people are reluctant to help him).

    Tabletop Games 
  • The entire Mage Species of Witch Girls Adventures, partially courtesy of some really badly handled Black Comedy and transformation-based fetishes, mostly because the game literally portrays Witches as selfish, cruel Reality Warpers who are outright encouraged to bully muggles so long as they don't break the very few rules their society places on them. When the "heroes" of the setting do things like turn people into food and drink to consume them because it's more convenient than getting normal food, or turn people into sapient but immobile clothes, jewelry or other objects, or even straight-up disintegrate them just for laughs... well, the Malleus Maleficarum's viewpoint that you need a Final Solution to protect humanity from them looks like a perfectly sane response.
  • Kender in Dragonlance are meant to be a race of cheerful, innocent, perpetual children who are firmly on the side of the Good races, despite an unfortunate carelessness around other peoples' properties. They have a very vocal hatedom amongst Dungeons & Dragons players as a whole, because they instead come off as annoying, smug little pests. In particular, the fact that kender are insulted by called "thieves" makes it clear that they do understand the concept of "personal property"... but this doesn't stop them from absent-mindedly stealing literally anything they can get their hands on.
  • In a meta sense, the "murder hobo" style of play can come across as this. Adventurers who are ostensibly the "good guys" (and who may even maintain a capital "G" Good alignment depending on the DM) but whose first solution to every problem is kicking down the door and killing everything in sight, regardless of whether or not a non-violent solution would have been possible. Even for the characters that aren't played as omnicidal blood knights it can be hard to necessarily feel sympathetic for them when their life of absurd adventuring catches up to them. What did you think would happen when you jumped into that volcano full of undead and d''emons?
  • Magic: The Gathering: War of the Spark tried to redeem Token Evil Teammate Liliana by having her (at least intend to) sacrifice her life to help defeat Big Bad Nicol Bolas, but it fell flat for a lot of people for several reasons. First, despite being enslaved by Bolas under threat of death, the situation fails to build sympathy by being entirely and predictably Liliana's own fault, being a direct result of her willingly bargaining with demons for her own power and vanity. Second, she only turns against Bolas when she realises how his victory would make her own life suck, making her actions feel more out of pragmatism than a genuine change of heart. Finally, her actions immediately afterward follow the same pattern they always have - fleeing the scene as soon as it's safe and convenient, putting the preservation of her own safety above trying to face and make amends to her victims. This made it hard for players to get on board with her "angsty victim" routine during her next appearance in Strixhaven.

  • Don José in Carmen. He is tragic, yes, but he's still ultimately responsible for his actions due to his own jealousy and possessiveness. Yet the story seems to expect viewers to blame Carmen for everything he does and treats him like a hapless victim rather than his own person. Cristiano Chariot, who oversaw the 2018 Florence production, was concerned that Don José's killing of Carmen would lead to real-life crazy jealous guys to commit similar crimes, which influenced his own take on it.
  • Evan Hansen from, well, Dear Evan Hansen. While it's initially not his fault that Connor's family believes Evan to be their deceased son's best friend, the fact he not only fails to correct their misunderstanding but actively tells more lies, dates the boy's grieving sister (after a frankly somewhat squicky song that manages to veer into Incest Subtext territory as he lies to her about how her dead brother loved her after telling her things he, the boy romantically in love with her, likes about her), and almost accepts money from them, makes it very hard to feel as sorry for him as the show seems to expect. Other characters do criticize Evan's behavior (the entirety of the song "Good For You", for a start), so the show isn't trying to say he did nothing wrong, but at the end of the day, he's still portrayed as a basically good kid who made a mistake because of his bad mental health and desire for love—but his actions are so manipulative, selfish, and callous that it's a hard pill to swallow for many.
  • Jamie from The Last Five Years. The basic conceit of the musical is that Jamie and Cathy both contributed to their marital issues, and in the end, they just weren't right for each other. Cathy and Jamie are both shown as being sympathetic — but much of the fandom finds it hard to feel too bad for Jamie. While his and Cathy's marriage clearly had problems from the start, some of which were her fault, and some of which were nobody's fault, most of the fandom lays the blame mostly on Jamie, since the final straw is him cheating (and he had a wandering eye for years before that). The fact he informs Cathy he's divorcing her via a letter does not help his case, nor does the song "See I'm Smiling," which shows that Cathy is trying to make it work, whereas he's given up by that point. The film adaptation made it even worse, showing Jamie cheating on Cathy with several women (as opposed to just one, like in the stage show), which makes it difficult to argue he genuinely loves his mistress - and they also added a bit of dialogue where he responds to Cathy's (correct) suspicions that he's cheating by telling her she's crazy.
  • The Phantom from Love Never Dies is supposed to be someone who still adores Christine and conspires to bring her back because he misses her. However, his threatening to take Christine's son (who he later learns is really his own) away if she refuses to sing for him quickly ruins that—as does the fact that he dangles the kid off a balcony, implying he Would Hurt a Child. Additionally, it's much harder to sympathize with his quest to not be alone when, rather than being a complete outcast from society as in the original play, the Phantom is an extremely wealthy man with a good-sized social circle and support network. It becomes particularly problematic when one considers that in the original play that Love Never Dies is a sequel to, the Phantom murdered multiple people without remorse, something that Love Never Dies never acknowledges.
  • This is one of the main criticisms of RENT. At best, the heroes—Mark and Roger in particular—are Brilliant, but Lazy and want the adoration that being a respected artist would bring, but have yet to actually produce anything to earn it. At worst, they're spoiled elitist brats who think working a regular job is beneath them and expect to stay in their apartment rent-free as they wait for inspiration to come to them.

    Web Animation 
  • Happy Tree Friends: The Ants are meant to come across as sympathetic since they are usually threatened to be devoured by Sniffles. However, they torture Sniffles in such horrific ways that go beyond any excuse of self-defense they ultimately make Sniffles look like the lesser of two evils.
  • GoAnimate "Grounded" videos: The parent characters who are punishing the troublemaking kids, particularly those of "baby show" characters like Caillou and Dora the Explorer. The makers of these videos intend for the viewers to side against Caillou and Dora (who, truth be told, aren't exactly good-natured children like they were in canon themselves) and with their parents. But in all honesty, the measures the parents take to teach Caillou and Dora their lessons often come off as overly cruel. Even so much as hitting a sibling can lead to getting grounded for an incredibly long time or even murdered (directly or indirectly) by their parents. Additionally, sometimes the parents do stuff without Caillou and Dora just to be mean (sometimes even before the kid has even caused any trouble) and, in extreme cases, even tell them to their faces how much they and the world hates them. In the end, the parents frequently come off as incredibly abusive Jerkasses not worth rooting for over the Jerkass Woobies Caillou and Dora.
  • Manga Soprano:
  • RWBY:
    • RWBY, JNR and Qrow's collective actions towards Ozpin when the Awful Truth is revealed in Volume 6. While they may a right to be angry, the depth of their aggression towards him shows no regard for Oscar's innocence as Ozpin's host, or the fact that they've been shown such a personal, tragic back story that Ozpin has been reduced to tears right in front of them: Qrow punches Oscar as he disowns Ozpin; Yang's rage is complicated by the audience not knowing whether she's ever revealed the secret she's keeping about Raven; and Jaune slams Oscar into a wall because he's so angry with Ozpin. They're most angered and disillusioned when Ozpin admits he has no "plan to defeat Salem," but the context makes it surprisingly unclear what Ozpin means by this note , calling the depth or severity of Ozpin's lies and thus righteousness of their anger at him into question. Their behaviour towards Ozpin is exacerbated in Volume 7 when they decide to keep the same secret from Ironwood that Ozpin kept from them, leading to Ironwood eventually turning on them the way they turned on Ozpin.
    • During Volume 4, when Blake ran away to return to Menagerie, Sun was discovered to have followed after her. Following a fight against the Sea Feilong, Blake slaps Sun across the face. At other moments throughout their time at Menagerie, Blake continues yelling at Sun and upon accidentally interrupting a moment between her and Ghira, she slaps Sun numerous times and when he tries showing her a picture on his Scroll of a White Fang member, she throws it into the trees. Even upon waking up after being stabbed by Ilia, Blake yells at him. While her yelling was most likely intended to be Anger Born of Worry, fans felt she came off as rude and unconcerned about Sun possibly dying. It was pointed out how Blake acted like an abuser, with Arryn saying that abuse victims can act like their abusers. Although Sun eventually calls out Blake for her selfish behaviour, some fans don't feel it's enough; they view Blake as an unlikeable character who is as abusive as Adam and undeserving of either Sun or Yang.
    • At the beginning of Volume 8, Yang's argument about how to deal with Atlas and Mantle's plight leaves many fans finding it hard to side with her due to actions she took in Volume 7. When Yang questions Ruby's leadership abilities, she insists on saving Mantle while Ruby opts for completing Amity Tower to warn Remnant about Salem. While both plans are carried out, fans struggled to sympathize with Yang because her and Blake's decision to leak the Amity information to Robyn contributed to Ironwood turning on the heroes; this was done without Ruby's consent, making Yang seem like she's deflecting blame onto Ruby.
  • Turnabout Storm: Some felt this way about Trixie. She acts incredibly smug, arrogant, and condescending throughout the entire series, has no qualms about trying to get Rainbow Dash wrongly prosecuted simply for revenge on Twilight, and repeatedly prioritizes her desire for revenge over the truth. Phoenix at times says Trixie's doing certain things for noble purposes, but virtually every one of these instances is actually explainable by Trixie just serving her own selfish ends. She even savors Rainbow Dash temporarily getting declared guilty, rubbing it in Twilight's face and declaring that she felt on top of the world afterwards. She's meant to get a Cry for the Devil in the form of black Psyche-locks which Twilight describes as "filled with sadness and sorrow", but these are never explained. Trixie never even apologizes or shows remorse for what she did, not even when Phoenix generously helps her out and saves her job. The only really noble thing Trixie ever does — write a secret, reluctant thank-you note to Phoenix — came at no cost to herself whatsoever, and as far as she knew, would not be discovered by anyone else.
  • ACTUALLY HAPPENED story "I Woke To Being 300 Pounds" has a morbidly obese girl, Abby. Aside from the clickbait title (that leads most people to believe the story itself is false), she is supposed to be sympathetic due to being mercilessly bullied at school over her weight, but despite her increasingly poor health,note  the heartbreak of her mother desperately trying to keep her away from junk food, and her 600-pound father eventually DYING due to his weight,note  this does zilch to prompt her to change. Eventually, her health puts her in the hospital, the vomiting ruins her teeth, and she apparently celebrated getting to 300 pounds by the age of 15 while simultaneously dropping out of school and complaining that she'll never be able to work due to having no skills. The comment section for the video (which also touted an alleged part two to the story that never came) mostly sided against the girl, prompting the story to be deleted and reuploaded to the similar My Story Animated... which received a near-identical response. It's now considered a Missing Episode on both channels.
  • Played for Laughs in So This Is Basically... Gravity Falls when Brendan briefly breaks character and goes off on a tangent about Mabel's constant selfish behavior, how she takes several levels of jerk as the series goes on, and ultimately doesn't change much for the better before abruptly cutting to him back in-character describing the show.
    Marvel as the writers take the best character and gradually make her into the worst character by having her learn no lesson for 40 episodes, then watch as Marbles makes Dipstick give up everything so she can have summer free time and boys over and over again! And she's just totally selfish all the time and they bring it up In-Universe and it just never gets resolved like literally the DEVIL CALLS HER OUT ON IT AND— Gravity Falls is the best western cartoon to come out this decade, featuring wonderful writing, morals, visuals and a story and cast that touched our hearts. Seriously though, is Mabel just gonna get away with all that shit?!
  • Dream Come True: The Gypsy Vanners are coddled, rude, entitled, and want nothing to do with Flo, but since the entire point of the Mule Mom Program is to breed more Gypsy Vanners for sale, both the narrative and the stable characters practically worship the ground they trot on.
  • Mike and Melissa: Mike portrays himself as an insecure loner who surrounds himself with a shallow, metalhead friend group, and his lack of a romantic relationship is played for sympathy. However, in the scene where he's waiting at his bus stop, a woman stands next to him, to which we hear him think that she should say hi to him rather than approach her himself, and gets upset when she ignores him and leaves. He also portrays his ex-girlfriend as a monster, making him seem like a Jerkass.

    Web Comics 
  • AGENCY: D.W. Read. The reader is supposed to feel sorry for her because she was kidnapped by The Nine, but both because of what a horrible little bitch she is in her home series and her treatment of fellow kidnapping victim Marcus McCloud (she once threw a book at his head), she comes across more as an Asshole Victim than anything else, and it's hard to not feel angry that Sandy Cheeks and the Pink Panther have to save her.
  • In Doki Doki Literature Girls, there is Sayori. In the Friendship arc, Sayori reveals that she had known that her new friend Ako was infatuated with her, but she opted to be oblivious to it. While she does this as a way of preventing having to break Ako's heart since she was dating Monika, it instead comes off as Sayori being deceitful and playing with Ako's emotions.
  • Hazel from Girls with Slingshots. The author, Danielle Corsetto, has said that she deliberately writes her as a flawed character to make her more believable and relatable. However, many times this crosses into Hazel being downright unlikable. It came to the point where many readers cheered when Zach broke up with her, even though it was portrayed as a very sad thing in the webcomic.
  • A large chunk of the cast of Dominic Deegan come off as this, which is one of the main reasons for the series' rather large hatedom. Luna, Melna, and Dominic himself are probably the biggest offenders, though Melna at least has a Freudian Excuse to explain her behaviour even if it doesn't justify it for many fans.
  • The Order of the Stick
    • Therkla. She's only in the comic briefly, but she's more or less every negative stereotype of modern teenage girls in the form of a half-orc Ninja: she compromises her mission because she has a crush on a boy, she's overly dramatic about her home life (treating the fact that her parents are sickeningly in love on the same level of horrific and disgusting as being a Child by Rape, though at least this is completely Played for Laughs), her primary complaint about the lack of reconciliation between her crush and her mentor (who are on opposite sides of a good-vs-evil conflict) is that it means she never gets her way, and she ends up committing what amounts to a form of suicide because a guy she liked wouldn't dump his girlfriend for her. It's sad that she died young, but she spent most of her time acting like a brat with levels in Ninja. The Giant says that Therkla is meant to represent the neutral in the good vs. evil conflict, but her idea of compromise is basically asking the good guys to let the evil guys (including herself, since she's complicit in the actions of her evil mentor) get away with the murder of dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent people.
    • Celia. She was supposed to come off as the slightly naïve "civilian" of the group, and a pacifist. However, she applies this pacifism in situations where it is very dangerous, like against an opposing army that has no qualms about killing her and the remaining good guys hidden in the caves. The fact that she couldn't even figure this out made her go past naïve and into straight-up stupid.
  • Miyabi Otsuki from The Way to Your Heart. He's clearly supposed to be sympathetic due to how the death of his mother and the way his father withdrew from the family as a result deeply affected him. However, he frequently comes off as a massive Jerkass who overindulges in the wangst. He has friends with whom he's playing in a band that he's the lead singer of and a loving sister whose Number One concern has always been his well being. Plus, said band is very popular and is heading for mainstream stardom. However, he treats his friends like dirt, treats his fans with contempt, and is a total bully towards the school faculty and other students. He bullies the main character Yumi just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time and accuses her of trying to replace his late mother because Yumi coincidentally bears a slight resemblance to her, and then ends up falling for her, which he tries to deal with by leading another girl Yayoi (the daughter of Miyabi's manager and mentor) on and toying with her feelings (Yayoi may be nuts, but no girl deserves that), nearly getting Yumi killed by Yayoi when she gets jealous well as resulting in Yayoi's own Death by Childbirth, leaving her father utterly devastated. And aside from not only never receiving any real punishment for his actions, he's constantly Easily Forgiven by everyone because of his musical talent and Freudian Excuse. While the author Emi did take steps to mitigate this by giving Miyabi some Character Development, for some readers, it's way too little, way too late.
  • The janitor in one two-part strip from Nip and Tuck. He stops a transwoman from going into the women's restroom, pinches her testicles to "prove" that she's male, before bluntly telling her that he doesn't believe in her identifying as a woman and threatening to do worse to her if she tries to go in the women's restroom again. We're meant to think of him as giving a potential sex offender what "he" deserves, but to many commenters who don't share the author's views on transsexuality, the janitor comes off as a transphobic jerk who should have been arrested.
  • From webcomic artist Mallorie Jessica Udischas:
    • A web comic by her depicts her Author Avatar laughing at PewDiePie being burgled, then a new colleague of hers points out The Golden Rule, and she sarcastically responds that they're going to be great friends. While she's probably intended to be an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, many people who read the comic thought her character laughing at someone else's misery made her genuinely awful, and started producing fan-art praising "New Guy" instead.
    • Later in the same year of 2020, she would make another webcomic depicting another one of her characters being portrayed as crafty and endearing for shoplifting inside of an arts store. Her reactions to anyone who disagreed with her views on shoplifting while also fully admitting having shoplifted for years without remorse didn't help matters either. And yes, once again, it would lead to her critics producing fan-art of said shoplifter in a negative light (some even including the return of "New Guy") and many of those art-pieces would go on to earn nearly twice the likes and retweets of the original.
  • Sly Cooper: Thief of Virtue has at least 3 of these; all affiliated with Interpol, all of them conservative, and all of them preachy as hell.
  • In Goblin Hollow, Lily is supposed to be in the right when she reprimands and slaps Penny for being rude to a preacher. Considering said preacher was a Jerkass who had singled out Penny for bullying for no reason at all, and considering not everyone shares Ralph Hayes Jr's belief that religious authorities should be respected no matter how unpleasant they are, to say the readers disagreed would be an Understatement.
  • It's (Not) Your Fault: Despite however how much the author tries to play off Sam's rape of Lincoln as a moment of weakness brought about a bad sequence of events, Sam is still guilty of taking advantage of and forcing herself on a 12-year old boy against his will, traumatizing him for life. Even worse, instead of his family rightfully getting her arrested and the fetus aborted for forced conception, they apparently decided to raise Lina in secret and shun Luna from the family, practically keeping Lina in the dark that she ever existed. All the while, Lincoln is forced to take care of a child he didn't want. But hey, it's still alright because she felt ''really'' bad about it after the act and failed to take any contraceptives.
  • Princess Princess (2012): Amira and Sadie are less sympathetic than intended to some people given how they incessantly mock Vladric, mostly calling him "Butthead" instead of his real name just because he was marginally stuck up, not wanting to be rescued by a girl. It comes off as just slightly like Claire, Sadie's older sister, who cruelly bullies her.
  • In Nineteen-Ninety-Something, Joel is supposed to be viewed as a misunderstood victim of oppression and uses sarcasm to cope with being emotionally beaten down all the time. The problem, however, is the fact that Joel doesn't come off as any better than those who oppress him; he always has a smug or cynical comment to say about everything regardless of whether it was appropriate to do so, constantly dismisses other people's opinions (which is pretty hypocritical since he hates it when people dismiss his own opinions), is incredibly impulsive, and generally acts rude to other people even if they did nothing to provoke it. All-in-all, a lot of readers feel that Joel is just as much of a jerk who brings most of his misery on himself.
  • Jack (David Hopkins): Central is always the first character to whip out the "Oh no, we can't help the people in Hell because of RULES" mantra, yet every single time progress has been made in helping individual souls leave Hell, it's because an angel or Jack has taken the initiative to break the rules. This makes her seem at best an Inspector Javert-type more concerned with the letter of the law than helping people and at worst someone who is remaining willfully blind on how to solve some very big problems. This was finally lampshaded in ''Megan's Run Part 2'' when Arty and Vinci call her out for being more concerned over her precious rules than helping a soul who literally went through Hell to find angels. The fact the ultimate result of this is that Megan gets to see God like she wanted to and Central would have directly prevented that from happening makes her seem willing to break before she'll bend.
  • Penny and Aggie: Aggie often falls into this. Being a Soapbox Sadie in high school is understandable, but she judges Penny by appearance, attempts to subject Lisa to Slut-Shaming when she learns the latter is bisexual, and confesses to Marshall during "Suicide Run", knowing that he's currently happy with Karen (even with No Accounting for Taste being taken into account) and despite the fact that he's dealt with people who were friends with him in hopes of getting with him. She deliberately uses Darren (in a way doing to him what Robespierre cruelly did to Helen in Omega Sisters), then ruins the play she and her friends worked hard on when she learns she won't be able to hook up with him even though she didn't even like him. She later gets upset after seeing Penny happy after having rough sex with her. While wanting peace and stability in a relationship is understandable, her immaturity in regards to expecting her partner to be a "Shangri-La" of some sort was heavily derided as stupid and selfish by much of the fanbase.
  • Las Lindas:
    • Mora in the early comic is quite a piece of work. She does all sorts of questionable things that either go unpunished or downplayed and has severe bouts of anger that eventually get brushed aside whenever she starts crying to elicit sympathy. Rehiring Miles (after having blackmailed and revenge slept with him) is literally the only time she ever manages to "fix" one of her many mistakes, and even then, it was as an apology to Minos instead of the actual victim.
    • Minos feeling hurt by Mora criticizing his artistry is one thing. Entertaining and validating Rachael's feelings for him because of that is another (as it comes off as uncharacteristically petty), especially since he's meant to be the wisest, most mature character in the cast.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • SuperMarioLogan:
    • Rosalina falls into this territory whenever she values the needs of Jeffy, a highly unintelligent kid, over Mario's. Sure, she is more caring towards Jeffy than Mario is, and is quick to call Mario out if he abuses Jeffy in any way, but because many fans find Jeffy's behavior more annoying than funny, they would rather side with Mario. She also tends to take the side of other people besides Mario despite seeing what Mario was really doing. Such examples include "Jeffy's Cellphone!", wherein she believes that Mario called a prostitute and beat him up for allegedly cheating on her, despite the fact that he was watching Star Wars with her the entire time and Jeffy got a iPhone around that time, and "Jeffy's Bad Word!", wherein she witnesses Mario spank Jeffy for repeatedly saying the F-word (The other F-word) and tells Brooklyn T. Guy that Mario likes to hit Jeffy on the butt, very hard, multiple times. Also, in "Happy Merry Christmas!", when Mario shows her a montage of some of the bad things Jeffy did to him to prove he is a bad kid who deserves coalnote , she instead blames Mario for making bad video ideas.

      In "Shrek's Coma", the audience is supposed to feel bad for Rosalina when Mario kicks her out of the house for finding Shrek's new body attractive and think that Mario is overreacting. While something similar did happen in "Jeffy's Parents", that was more justified as Mario and Rosalina both knew what kind of monster Nancy was, so it made sense why she'd be pissed at him in that video. However, considering Rosalina has ALWAYS put both herself and Jeffy before Mario's needs, has gotten him into trouble many times, and in general been a gigantic Jerkass, this makes Mario's break up with her more satisfying than heartbreaking, and it also makes her look like a hypocrite (So Mario looking at porn in "Jeffy's New Toy" is cheating according to Rosalina, but admiring other guys right next to the guy your dating isn't?) But no, in the end, Mario has to apologize to a woman who has almost never done anything nice for him in return.
    • Mr. Goodman in the episode, "The Bet!". The audience is expected to feel sorry for Goodman since he lost to Chef Pee Pee in the Golden Spoon competition, and Bowser puts him through what he puts Chef Pee Pee through on a regular basis. However, the episode begins with him swearing like a sailor while demanding house payments from Mario and boasting about how rich he is, and he loses his entire fortune by betting on himself.note  Even when Mario gives him a job after Chef Pee Pee goes on vacation, Goodman blames Mario for not making his house payments and complains about how he should be making more money than what Chef Pee Pee is paying him. When Bowser sends him to Wal-Mart to get him Cheetos, Goodman takes advantage of a puddle with no Wet Floor sign near it and deliberately slips on it to obfuscate an injury and sue Wal-Mart to get his fortune back.
    • Jeffy gets this during the few times the show tries to make him vulnerable thanks to him mostly being a selfish, temperamental, misbehaved brat. There's also the fact that he remains a bad kid despite promising to Mario that he would be good during the end of "Jeffy's Parents", making that episode in itself an instance of this trope for him. For example, take the end of "Jeffy's Bad Christmas". In it, he, Junior and Cody take many efforts in getting Santa to give Jeffy presents even though Santa already put him on the naughty list. However, Santa eventually manages to escape, leaving Jeffy detected that he didn't get any presents and admitting he doesn't deserve any. Sad music plays over this scene, trying to make us sympathize for him. Jeffy has been extremely and intentionally obnoxious throughout the year (which is even pointed out in the episode itself), and moments of him being good are rare. So chances are you won't feel bad for Jeffy and instead bluntly agree that he indeed doesn't deserve presents.
  • Dragonbored: Jessica, Taylin, and Carl's other friends are meant to be seen as good people who suffer from Carl's laziness and irresponsibility. However, we hear them talk about Carl's flaws far more often than we see him embody them, and while his addiction to video games is a serious problem, not one of them actually thinks to try to help him get over it. Jessica shows concern for Carl at first, but her efforts to snap him out of it make her come across as the stereotypical "nagging housewife", and she eventually gives up and drops Carl like a bag of dirt once Jimbroth comes along. Carl's friends show barely any concern for his wellbeing at all, instead barging into his house to eat his food and drink his liquor without his permission, all the while nagging him about his job at which he is verbally abused by his boss, LeBron. Only Taylin shows genuine concern for Carl, but even then he doesn't do much more than lecture him about his personal habits.
  • Jet Lag: The Game: Ben in Tag EUR It 2, after he hides in the photo booth in Metz to throw off Sam & Adam. There is a rule against hiding in bathrooms, as the chasers searching through one would violate bystanders' privacy. Some fans want this rule to be extended to photo booths, since it would likewise be very rude to interrupt a stranger in one.
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings often lampshades this trope when the Producer and the Screenwriter (neither of whom are supposed to be sympathetic), discuss the latter's pitches.
    • In the Die Hard pitch meeting, the Producer asks whether the tragic part of Powell mistakenly shooting a kid in the backstory is that a kid died or Powell "lost his cop mojo". After hearing that it's the latter, the Producer says "Interesting", and upon hearing that Powell's character arc involves him becoming able to kill people again, flatly says, "Well, good for him."
    • In Unbreakable, the Producer feels more sympathy for the woman on the train who rejects David Dunn (who's trying to cheat on his wife) than he does for David himself, despite the fact that the scene is trying to make the latter more sympathetic.
  • Josh Scorcher's Top Ten Hated Characters We're Supposed To Like has ten characters that the uploader hates even though they were supposed to be liked, plus several honorable examples, some of which can be found on the Video Games page for this trope. It also discusses the trope, saying that many great villains have no sympathetic qualities whatsoever, but these are characters that did not come off as likeable as the creators intended.
  • The Vile Eye: In his Analysing Evil series, the narrator repeatedly deconstructs the villain's lesser of two evils justifications, revenge motives, and Freudian excuses. For characters, like Francis Dolarhyde, Tony Soprano, Max Cady, etc., the narrator repeatedly says there are no justifications and excuses for murder.
    "Francis may not have been born a monster, in fact, no one is. Rather he was conditioned to become one, a boy so heavily mistreated that it was almost an inevitability that he would grow into a horrid adult. For that, we give him sympathy as not a single person should ever be made to suffer such injustices. But neither should anyone be made to suffer the injustices that Francis brought down upon nearly a dozen people, as abuse and trauma are no excuse for murder. So while we can sympathize with the horrendous story of Francis Dolarhyde, we can't excuse the monster he became."

    "People like Tony Soprano are fond of comparing themselves to other people or organisations who commit greater crimes than they. Often arguing that yes, they may have beaten, maimed, and killed a number of people, innocent or not but there are far worse people out there in the legitimate and illegitimate worlds that have committed much worse crimes than they have. But pointing to another man who's killed 10 people and arguing that you only killed 2 is a poor argument to make for why you aren't so bad. And though there's always a greater evil, that doesn't negate the evil you sow or the crimes you commit."


Video Example(s):


Rock: It's Your Decision

The point of Rock: It's Your Decision, was to steer children away from the "evils" of rock music, but instead shows what happens when the youth gets radicalized.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (28 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheFundamentalist

Media sources: