How do you show somebody is a badass without making them look like a jerkass? Why look, here comes that guy who everybody wants to punch upside the head! Maybe he's a mugger, maybe he's a bully, maybe he's a Slimeball or a Smug Snake, maybe he’s being loudly bigoted, maybe he's acting like a creep to an innocent woman, maybe he's picking on a defenseless bystander. Or maybe he's just a totally annoying jerk. Whatever the reason, something about this guy's face just seems to be begging for a backhand. His role in the story is simple: he just needs to be so unlikeable that even the All-Loving Hero would be tempted to clobber him. Thus when our badass inevitably decides to wipe that smug expression off his face, everybody will cheer and agree he totally had it coming.
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 the (sexist) idea of men being more deserving of violence. Meanwhile, a woman experiencing violence makes audiences feel uncomfortable, even if she did the exact same things that make a male character punch-worthy.
- In Arachnid and its sequels, practically every male civilian in Japan is a rapist who threatens any of the heroines and quickly gets beaten or killed off by them. It's only in volume 6 of Blattodea that one of those, a comically ugly hobo, is convinced by Chiyuri to stop sexually harassing Alice with words alone.
- 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 yakuza 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 didn’t bump into me? You shouldn’t distress us ordinary citizens. Maybe you should pay me as an apology.
- A rare female example with Yasuna Oribe from Kill Me Baby, which revolves entirely around such antics of hers as merits for a 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 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 criminals' fingers if no one punchable is around.
- 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 Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità, an unnamed man harasses Italy with homophobic remarks and then proceeds to attempt to rape him, prompting Germany and Japan (who both have eyes for him) to beat the tar out of him.
- Artemis is introduced in Hinterlands by being accosted by an angry drunken mare, casually beating her up, and throwing her out of the bar. But as Bitterroot points out, she's drawn a lot of attention to herself, something she doesn't want as a bounty hunter, and could've easily avoided it all by stepping aside for a second to let the drunk pass. It's the very first sign that Artemis isn't really a bounty hunter.
- 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".
- The opening scene of the Fire Emblem: Three Houses fanfic The Savior King, the Master Tactician and the Queen of Liberation features an unnamed Church of Seiros soldier shouting racist insults at Claude and Cyril. He doubles and triples down on his belligerence even with Dimitri in hearing distance, and all it takes is one hard punch to the face from Dimitri to shut him up for good, with Dimitri briefly worrying if he overdid it.
- In When Reason Fails, Izuku's first reaction when he meets Neito Monoma is to wish to punch his face. Later on, he uses "monoma" as an adjective for "punchable".
- The Incredibles: Bob’s Mean Boss Mr. Huph is a smarmy, arrogant micromanager who yells at Bob for letting his customers know how to actually get a payout on their insurance claims. When they witness a mugging in progress, Mr. Huph smugly brushes it off by hoping they don’t cover it, and lets the mugger get away. Bob finally snaps and throws him through a wall. (In a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome, though, Huph winds up in the hospital and Bob gets fired.)
- 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 and 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 into 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 one 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, Alzheimer's-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.
- Quigley Down Under opens with a rude settler trying to push his way off the boat in front of an elderly couple— and in front of Matthew Quigley, who boots him in the crotch and lets the old folks disembark first. The punchable settler is last seen nursing his groin, making the most of his chance to get out of the picture once Quigley's Establishing Character Moment is over.
- 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.
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: On meeting Zarniwoop, Zaphod finds his smile so irritating he wants to hit him for it. Sometime later, Zarniwoop makes the smile again. This time, Zaphod hits him.
- Anansi Boys: Grahame Coates is so annoying to his clerk Fat Charlie, normally an easygoing pushover of a guy, that Charlie has to continually talk himself down by reminding himself that he would probably go to jail if he punched his employer.
- In The Wire, Omar observed, "Bird sure do know how to bring it out of people, don't he?" (For context, Bird had spent several minutes heaping sexist and homophobic abuse on Shakima Greggs, until she and her colleagues ran out of patience with it. In a show filled with sympathetic criminals and DirtyCops, it takes a lot to make Police Brutality seem like an understandable course of action.)
- 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".
- Doctor Who: In "Thin Ice," Lord Sutcliffe earns the distinction of getting clobbered in the face by the Doctor within about ten seconds of his introduction. Apparently, Sutcliffe's egregious racism toward Bill flipped the normally reasonable Doctor's Berserk Button.
- The Slap Maxwell Story featured a sportswriter (played by Dabney Coleman) who got his nickname from being such an obnoxious jerk that people, frequently women, would slap him (usually in the episode teaser).
- The titular character in Sherlock. At least according to John Watson
Sherlock (needing to look like he's been in a fight) - "Punch me in the face"John - "Punch you?"Sherlock - "Yes. Punch me. In the face. Didn't you hear me?"John - "I always hear 'punch me in the face' when you're speaking. But it's usually subtext."
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Riften has Grelod the Kind, a rare case of this trope being applied to an elderly woman. She runs the Honorhall Orphanage, and when you visit the orphanage for the first time you'll find her telling the children that she'll never let them be adopted and if they don't work hard enough, they'll get an extra beating. Then she demands that they tell her they love her. The only reason she exists is to be so horrible that the player will have zero qualms about killing her however they see fit, kickstarting the Dark Brotherhood questline. Killing her isn't even a crime, you can do it in broad daylight while all of the orphans watch and the only response they'll have is to cheer.
- 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.
- Genshin Impact
- A rare female example in the form of Hu Tao, due to her prankster behavior who likes to get a rise out of everyone, and her antics has invited many visits from the authorities. Qiqi's story ancedotes even refer to her as someone with a "very punchable face".
- Edwin, the ex-head of the Fontaine Research Institute, has proven himself to be huge jackass; he views himself as superior to those around him, will degrade anyone who don't have the same intellect as he is, and (most glaringly) will shift the blame to the others for the destruction of the primary research facility, despite the fact that there are numerous evidence that point to him being responsible. Needless to say, he is basically inviting anyone to punch him in the face (Lemarq can barely tolerate his attitude and is about to do just that).
- In the Like a Dragon series, street thugs basically exist to be beaten up for pocket change and XP, unless you're playing on high difficulties where they can actually pose a challenge. Given their bullying and extortion of civilians, it is very satisfying to lay out Curb Stomp Battles on them.
- Mass Effect
- Khalisah bint Sinan al-Jilani 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."
- Spyro the Dragon: Moneybags from the PS1 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 spiteful ex Kel, who always hated Leah's artistic ambitions and constantly pushed her to give it up and start 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).
- Parodied in The Order of the Stick when Roy and Belkar have been enslaved as gladiators. The prison warden gives a speech explaining the various Sword and Sandal clichés that the prisoners will play out, then Roy comments that "I think as long as we avoid being the tough-looking guys who get knocked out in the first round to show how strong the champion is, we'll be fine." Belkar, meanwhile, is already stealing a wimpy-looking prisoner's food and another guy is about to intervene.
- 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 Brothers, Doctor Orpheus meets two annoying rednecks in a diner and imprisons their souls in a pair of Homies figurines.
- Brainy in Hey Arnold!, who constantly harassed Helga and always received a punch in the face for it.
- Parodied in "Less than Hero":
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.
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.
- In "When Aliens Attack", Fry and Leela encounter a "professional beach bully", who plays the part of the bad guy in the Charles Atlas scenario, then gets paid to let the skinny guy beat him up to impress his girlfriend, making him a professional Very Punchable Man.
- Parodied in "Less than Hero":
- 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."
- The French tête à claques means literally "a head that calls for slaps."
- 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.