People love to be badass, and people love badasses. But if you try to be a badass when there's no bad around, you're just an ass. You see?
But don't worry, someone will come along any minute now to pick a fight with you, mug you, threaten you, or something like that. It doesn't matter how long you stay manfully stoic in the face of their crap, they'll keep at it until whatever you want to do to them looks completely justified.
Hey, someone's getting beaten up! Why? Because! Clearly, that poor guy isn't as badass as the hero. Have at them!
This is very common in the superhero narrative, where heroes do tend to witness terrible crimes even when they're just wandering around. It can also be used in a casual, less idealistic way when a guy in a bar is obnoxious, and your badass can wipe them out (see the quote above). If you need people to bond over a rescue, a bad guy can provide a handy bit of danger.
It can even be used with a villain, if you think they're a bit too calm and collected to Kick the Dog for no reason.
This trope is typically used with male characters, due to men being seen as inherently more evil, and hitting a women is seen as unwarranted, even if she did the exact same thing that the male character did.
- Nearly every arc in Fist of the North Star has at least one person play this role. Usually the first guy who starts harassing Kenshiro.
- The various gangsters HOMRA beats up in the first few episodes of K. The first group - in the opening scene - were gun dealers who might have supplied the gun used by the murderer of a HOMRA Clansman that the rest of the Clan is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after. The ones in episode 3 are just unlucky enough to have been asking after HOMRA during said rampage... and to underestimate Misaki because he looks like a kid.
- Ramen Fighter Miki presents protagonist Miki as she encounters an unfortunate thief, Lowly Criminal Yakuza, and Japanese Delinquents, all of them only there to harass Miki and give her an excuse to Curb-Stomp Battle them, and then be forgotten.
Hey Missy, are you going to pretend that you didnt bump into me? You shouldnt distress us ordinary citizens. Maybe you should pay me as an apology.
- Yasuna Oribe from Kill Me Baby, which revolves entirely around such antics of hers as merits beating after beating from Sonya.
- Many years ago, The Vision was walking through Central Park one night, lost in thought. He was wearing a trench coat and hat over his costume, so as to not attract attention. A pair of muggers tried to mug him. As the narration put it, "They made the mistake of getting his attention".
- The Human Flame, a villain who once went up against the Martian Manhunter, is very much this: a braggart and thug who thought he was better than Lex flipping Luthor because of this and ended up making a deal Deal with the Devil with Libra —which ultimately saw him enslaved, he ended up on a lot of superheroes' shitlist for his role in Libra's murder of J'onn and gained superpowers only to use them up and turn himself into a statue.
- In the graphic novel Watchmen, Rorschach deals with these kinds of characters by breaking their fingers, or in at least one case, throwing them down an elevator shaft. Though he'll just resort to breaking random criminal's fingers if no one punchable is around.
- In Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità, the homophobe is this to Germany and Japan. They would have beaten the absolute crap out of him for nearly raping their precious Italy had Italy not begged them to stop.
- Mello is this in All You Need Is Love. After his initial appearance, Naomi beats him up in almost every chapter.
- Scuzzo the Monster Clown is included in Cinderjuice specifically for this reason. The author admits that she hated him so much in the source material, she put him in the story just to give Beetlejuice the chance to beat him to a pulp with his bare fists.
- In a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Head Gym Leader Drake mentally refers to Herbert (the Mega Venusaur trainer from the Mega Evolution Specials who looks like Weevil Underwood) as "punchable kid".
- In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, a guy in Mos Eisley threatens Luke and gets his arm cut off by Obi-Wan.
- Men in Black:
- Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio Playing Against Type as a misogynistic wife-beater) appears very briefly at the beginning of Men in Black just to become an alien bug's new outerwear.
- In Men in Black II, a mugger appears attempts to sexually assault the villain the instant she lands on Earth since she's only in a Black Bra and Panties, getting messily devoured as a result.
- In Star Trek (2009), Kirk gets a random bar fight with some Starfleet recruits before he joins. They turn up later as part of the Enterprise's crew and get revenge.
- In the Swedish film of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth gets mugged by some Very Kickable, Punchable, and Bite-able Men. Her laptop doesn't survive, but she does.
- The trucker who picks on a powerless Clark Kent in Superman II. When Superman regains his powers, he pays a return visit to the same guy for revenge.
- A similar character appears on Man of Steel, harassing a waitress at the restaurant Clark is working at. In a subversion, he doesn't actually get punched. When he leaves, however, his truck is wrapped (vertically) around a telephone pole.
- The Way of the Gun successfully pulls off the rare female variant with the "Raving Bitch," a character so unpleasant and nasty that the two main characters are willing to take an ass-kicking from a crowd of onlookers just to blast her in the face.
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes has Douglas Hunsiker, a pilot who lives next door to the Rodmans and exists only to be hatable and to have bad things happen to him. After his introduction, where he threatens Caesar the chimp with a baseball bat for trying to play with his kids' bicycle, he's next shown verbally assaulting the elderly, Alzheimers' riddled Charles Rodman after he gets into Hunsiker's car and damages it — which causes Caesar to attack him in a protective fury and bite off his right index finger. Finally, he verbally assaults Robert Franklin when the latter is trying to get help from the Rodmans, which leads to him becoming the first secondary infectee for the Simian Flu — and instrumental in spreading it across the world and effectively destroying human civilization.
- Miller's Crossing has a protagonist example with Tom Reagan, who spends the film getting beaten up by rival gangsters, loan sharks, and even his own friends, without ever winning a physical fight. He more than makes up for it by nearly always being about three steps ahead of everyone, with him getting his ass kicked sometimes being by design.
- Twilight has Edward swoop in to save Bella from an attempted rape, among other things.
- In the Red Dwarf book Backwards, Ace became one just long enough to give a failing pilot some self-confidence (by letting himself get beat up).
- Jack Woodley in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Solitary Cyclist," who has the bad judgement to pick a bar fight with a Badass Bookworm.
"He ended a string of abuse by a vicious back-hander which I failed to entirely avoid. The next few minutes were delicious. It was a straight left against a slogging ruffian. I emerged as you see me. Mr. Woodley went home in a cart. So ended my country trip, and it must be confessed that, however enjoyable, my day on the Surrey border has not been much more profitable than your own."
- Discussed in the Book of Proverbs:
"The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating." -Proverbs 18:6
- Fergen in Shadow of the Conqueror, a Jerkass whose only role in the story is to briefly show up and get his ass kicked by Daylen.
- In The Wire, Omar observed "Bird sure do know how to bring it out of people, don't he?"
- A sketch on The Kids in the Hall featured a literal Very Punchable Man who was getting divorced from his wife because she abused him. Her defense was that she's not a violent person by nature and he must emit something like a pheromone that makes people want to hit him.
- In one episode of 30 Rock, Jack encounters the TGS writers still in their offices on St. Patrick's Day; Frank explains none of them can go out that day because "we all have faces people naturally want to punch."
- Cobra Kai:
- Brucks, one of Kyler's friends in his bully clique, exists purely to demonstrate his contemptful treatment towards their victims, namely Miguel and Eli (who would later adopt the moniker "Hawk" after he joins Cobra Kai). To see Johnny, Miguel, and Hawk (by way of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown) give him a rightful ass-kicking is satisfying to watch.
- When Johnny joins his old Cobra Kai friends for One Last Field Trip before Tommy succumbs to his terminal illness, they go to a bar and encounter a guy sexually harassing one of the waitresses. If that weren't enough, the guy then refers to sickly Tommy as "The ugliest Make-a-Wish kid" he's ever seen, before inviting them to suck his — at that point, Johnny proceeds to rip out the guy's earpiece and the Cobras proceed to use their old karate skills to make quick work of the jerk and his friends.
- David, a Jerk Jock bully from the '60s, gets a kick out of tormenting Kreese with his friend for no reason other than for the sake of it. Kreese later puts the jock pair in their place after stepping in to defend Betsy, who is being abused by David.
- In season 3 there's Tory's landlord, who tries to take advantage of her poverty and being on probation to force her to have sex with him. Before she goes through with it out of desperation, Kreese steps in, gives him a much-deserved lesson, and "persuades" him into canceling Tory's debt.
- Parks and Recreation:apparently, Jeremy Jamm has been the object of Ron's punching fantasies for many years. eventually, Ron gives in to his rage and punches Jamm in the face on Leslie's wedding day
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: During the Brexit debate, John describes British far-right leader Nigel Farage as "Three times cover for Punchable Face Magazine".
- This is a side effect of having magical ability in Ars Magica. The Gift naturally upsets people and animals, in such a way that mages (or people with the latent ability to be mages) often get in a lot of trouble unless they have their Parma Magica up. Even other mages can be affected by this, to the point the Parma Magica is considered the reason the Order could exist at all. This can be made worse by the "Blatant Gift" flaw (which doubles the penalties) or alleviated with the "Gentle Gift" virtue (which removes them).
- Khalisah bint Sinan al-Jilani in Mass Effect is a rare female example who is not a major villainess, but just that annoying. She makes a lot of false accusations against you that you can respond to by punching her in the face in all three games. The Shadow Broker videos showcase Shepard isn't the only one to have this reaction to her. In Mass Effect 3, it backfires, in two separate ways. First of all, she dodges the punch, and if you don't take another Renegade interrupt to headbutt her, she knocks you out instead. Second of all, you can actually recruit Khalisah as a War Asset worth 10 points... Unless you punched her in either Mass Effect 1 or Mass Effect 2 or both, in which case she's only worth 5 points. Thus, the Very Punchable Man trope is subverted in this case.
- Mass Effect 2 has another, even more blatant case - during Samara's loyalty mission you're in a bar and need to interact with a few characters to advance. One of your possible options is a turian who's drunkenly harassing an asari dancer. If you approach, the interaction prompt says "punch."
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there is Nazeem, a self-absorbed, condescending, wealthy Redguard who wanders around Whiterun, insulting everyone he comes across and acting like he's the most important person in Skyrim. Not only is he one of the people who the Companions can hire you to teach a lesson to, but nobody will miss him if you kill him, though you may have to pay a bounty. Similarly, in Riften there is Grelod the Kind, an incredibly evil old woman who runs an orphanage and who apparently gets off on tormenting the children there. There are zero repercussions for you walking in there and killing her where she stands in any number of hilarious ways aside from being visited by Astrid if you did it on behalf of Aventus Aretino.
- There's also Rolf Stone-fist in Windhelm. You first encounter him as he drunkenly harasses some Dunmer. When confronted, he explains that he hates them because they're elves, and therefore Imperial spies. You then get the chance to beat the tar out of him. Bizarrely enough, he starts to like you after this, and may even show up at your wedding.
- The game files include a Dummied Out NPC named Terek who would be squatting in Breezehome when you first bought it. He's insufferably rude and insulting, refuses to leave, and outright tells you that the only way you're getting rid of him is by killing him. He's not available in the base game, but certain mods bring him back in all his punchable glory.
- Final Fantasy Tactics: The sympathetic antagonists are few and far between, but only Jerkass Algus gets punched by the protagonist in a cutscene.
- Assassin's Creed has the recurring character Duccio in the Ezio Trilogy. In Assassin's Creed II Claudia has Ezio beat him up in Florence for being unfaithful to her. In Brotherhood he's an art dealer in Rome, and Ezio once again beats him up for badmouthing Claudia. Finally in Revelations in a fantastic coincidence, he's in Constantinople when Ezio arrives, and you can beat him up a third time just for grins, for which you get the "Bully" achievement.
- Moneybags from the PS1 Spyro the Dragon games. He frequently blocks Spyro's path, requesting payment (in the form of the gems that the dragon had been collecting in his travels) to open the way forward, whether this be a bridge to be raised, a door to be unlocked, a portal to be activated, and so on. He isn't always honest as to whether his services are actually required, and he often assists the Big Bad of the game if they line his pockets. Naturally, many players love to see him get his comeuppance. In Spyro: Year of the Dragon, he gets attacked by each character he releases from imprisonment (after Spyro pays for their release, of course), and, in the post-game, you can, at long last, chase him down and dole out punishment on him personally after he reveals that he was planning to sell the dragon egg he had found; probably one of the most satisfying things to happen in the entire series.
- In Stardew Valley, if you pursue friendship/romance with Leah, you get to hear about her perfectly delightful ex Kel, who always hated Leah's artistic ambitions and constantly pushed her to give it up and take up a more lucrative career. If you pursue the relationship all the way to ten hearts, Kel finally shows up in person, demanding Leah come back to the city with them now that she's a successful artist. If you don't punch them, Leah will do it herself. (Since Kel changes gender to match the player character, they can be a rare female example.)
- Adventure Time features Marceline's manipulative ex-boyfriend Ash, who debuts in "Memory of a Memory". Marcy and Finn do the trope one better by kicking him in the dirt. And Jake stomping on him in giant form.
- In The Venture Bros., Doctor Orpheus meets two annoying rednecks in a diner and imprisons their souls in a pair of Homies figurines.
- And you know someone's a Very Punchable Man when someone as nice as Dr. Orpheus has to punch them.
- Brainy in Hey Arnold!.
Mugger: Excuse me, hi! Do you have a minute? I live in Jersey City and my car broke down and I need to get back because my aunt's real sick and she needs this medicine, but I need money for the bus. So I'm mugging you. Hand over your wallets.
- Parodied in "Less than Hero":
Leela: I don't believe that story for a second.
Mugger: It doesn't matter; I'm mugging you.
Fry: There's no bus to Jersey City.
- Rick and Morty has Rick and Summer beating the shit out of the Devil, a possible animal abuser, a bully, a neo-Nazi, and a Westboro protester. The last four beatdowns took place during The Stinger.
- The German word Backpfeifengesicht supposedly translates to "A face badly in need of a fist."
- Similarly, the French tête à claques means literally "a head that calls for slaps"
- Allegedly, according to some psychologists, faces with certain physical characteristics may be perceived to lack qualities such as trustworthiness or dominance, which may make them seem more appropriate for a punching. However, they also argue that the phenomenon probably has more to do with projecting their character flaws onto their physical appearance, so that we feel less guilty about our angry response to them.