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World of Jerkass

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Donut: Why is everyone so freakin' rude in this canyon?

So, you want to create a story where terrible things regularly happen to people, but without the audience feeling too sad about their fates? Simple: make everyone a jerk!

All the citizens are apathetic and stupid, most of the humor is sadism-based, and your average Joe punts a few puppies before breakfast. In the more extreme examples, Ax-Crazy killers are allowed to roam free, Blood Sports are common, and no one even notices atrocities because they're too selfish to care. Expect It's All About Me to be the modus operandi of virtually everyone who lives there.

This trope becomes more likely the closer you get to the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. It's also more often than not Played for Laughs and used to facilitate Black Comedy. After all, it's much easier to laugh at the dogs being kicked if they all had it coming. Satirists are also fond of it, especially when they can use different types of jerkassery to represent social problems. It's very frequently used to justify video games' cruelty potentials.

Played straight, it's often the signature of a very cynical writer, or even a sign of a Creator Breakdown, reflecting the way they've come to see Real Life. In cases where it is expected from the audience to root for the characters despite it all, it also runs a high risk of inducing Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy or causing viewers to utter the Eight Deadly Words if there are no nicer characters to make the world seem worth caring about.

A Sister Trope to the Crapsack World and they can overlap, but differentiated by the fact that the only thing that definitely makes it a bad place is that the author's written an unusual number of bad people into it - there's nothing necessarily wrong with the environment, the government, or the living conditions. In fact, it can look perfectly lovely from the outside. Also related to Humans Are Bastards, except that that trope refers to stories where the message is that humans in general are inherently bad or evil, where this one simply describes any plot or setting containing a disproportionate number of jerkasses ... and they don't have to be humans, either.

Also worth noting that not every single character has to be a jerk, just the overwhelming majority. Those characters who aren't jerkasses will often be idiots because their lack of understanding would be the only reason that they get along with the others, losers, or fail at everything they try in order to add to the cynicism of the setting. It can show how bad the rest of the cast are if they mistreat them and also that only losers would want to hang out with them.

Contrast World of Badass, World of Snark. Also compare Dysfunction Junction, Jerk with a Heart of Jerk and Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist

Definitely not Truth in Television, so In-Universe Examples Only!

In-Universe Examples Only:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Expect almost any anime in a fantasy setting with snot-nosed nobles to be this.
  • Nyoron Churuya-san. Everyone who isn't Super-Deformed is a jerk (yes, this includes the animals). It's Played for Laughs.
  • In Hellsing, Seras, Walter, and Integra are the only characters who aren't Ax-Crazy, sociopathic, mass murdering jerkasses. Pretty much every other named character, from hero to villain, are assholes who crave for bloodlust.
  • Classroom of the Elite has this on both an overall scale and a more personal scale. On the overall scale, the series' Central Theme is that equality is an illusion and that the world is vastly unfair. On the personal scale, the central setting of Class 1-F is home to the most "defective" students in the school, who all have some sort of Fatal Flaw that makes them broken human beings. Part of the show's intrigue lies both in figuring out what is wrong with each character (even the ones who seem perfectly nice) and in seeing how they overcome the discrimination from the other classes for being the "worst" in the school.
  • The School Days anime, since it dials up Makoto's Jerkass qualities, while making every other character pretty horrible as well.
  • When Ghost Stories got its famous dub, some liberties had to be taken to make the series sell after it flopped hard in Japan. And by liberties we mean make the characters act like absolute dicks to one another. Absolutely none of the characters have a kind bone in them, not even Momoko who went from a sweet young lady to a fundamentalist who says that everyone is going to burn in Hell because they're all heathens. Hell, even the Ghosts of the Week come off as even more dickish than they were in the Japanese subs. On the plus side, it makes the show all the funnier.
  • One-Punch Man to a T. Aside from several Ungrateful Bastards among civilians, there are only a few amount of legitimate heroes that you can count on your hands. The others are egotistical jerks who are slaves to their public image, another top-ranked hero who is willing to kill any monster even if they surrender, and the second strongest hero who is a Bratty Half-Pint who uses her Psychic Powers to bully and intimidate anyone she views as weak and/or annoying.
  • Killing Bites: Most characters are violent, selfish, power-hungry, greedy, sadistic, sexually deviant or some combination of the above, and they are put in a fight where they can indulge in their bloodlust. There are very few genuinely benevolent characters in the setting, and most of the time they live under the thumb of the evil characters.
  • Prison School is this in spades, due to having very few characters who are remotely likable. From Kiyoshi's selfishness to Mari's sadistic hatred of boys, there isn't much to root for. It all reaches the apex in the final arc when it hits its logical conclusion: no one gets their happy ending.
  • Just how bad is the world of Franken Fran? Really bad if the nicest, most morally outstanding character out of everyone else is an assassin.

    Comic Books 
  • The Ultimate Marvel universe has almost every known superhero turned into an Adaptational Jerkass in one way or another. Spider-Man is one of the few heroes who was still a Nice Guy, so much so that he was almost the Big Good of that universe.
    • The mainstream Marvel universe, while lacking in the Jerkass department compared to its Ultimate counterpart, doesn't fare much better. In JLA/Avengers when both teams are swapped in the universe of the other, the Justice League see first hand how the denizens hate, bully, and smear their heroes. Superman was appalled by all this, not because the people are just that dickish, but because he thinks the Avengers are not dong enough to help the people. In contrast, the Avengers see how much positive attention and praises the heroes of that world get. Captain America comes to the conclusion that the JLA are power hungry tyrants that are subjecting citizens and demanding worship.
  • Beautiful Darkness: Literally all of the fairies except Aurora are idiots, self-centered Jerkasses and bullies. Not one of them seems to care as they die one-by-one in various horrible ways, either by dying of their own stupidity or killing each other over petty shit. The audience feels no sympathy for the victims of the Kill 'em All plot.
  • The Wicked + The Divine has elements of this. Many of the characters tend to be rude, selfish, and occasionally inconsiderate, and there are even some murderers among them. Even the author has said the book stars ''problematic people doing problematic things." Only exceptions are Dionysus and Minerva, who count as Token Good Teammate. And it turns out even Minerva can't be trusted.
  • Empowered, especially for the first volume or so. Emp is a Failure Hero surrounded by jerkass "heroes" who are usually just as unpleasant as the villains they fight. They treat her as a Butt-Monkey of the group and admit they only let her in for diversity. The citizens are apathetic and tend to stand around and laugh when Emp gets defeated by a villain. Eventually, Emp meets Thugboy and Ninjette, who are fairly likable, and some of the other heroes get more sympathetic.
  • Iznogoud: Baghdad, especially from the Tabary era onwards, but already in the Goscinny era. Not only is it governed by the oblivious Caliph and the evil Iznogoud, but Humans Are Bastards in that city, and most citizens are hypocrites who complain all the time about Iznogoud's ruthlessness but are willing to help him for a few bucks, despite knowing the consequences if he's ever successful. In "Chop and Change", after Iznogoud becomes the Caliph for a short time by changing bodies with him and starts unleashing his tyranny, one guy berates the wizard who helped him, but the latter doesn't seem to regret it.

    Fan Works 
  • Underfell is an Under Tale Alternate Universe where everyone will try to kill the protagonist the moment they fall down into the underground. The characters have sociopathic tendencies such as Toriel with the intent of burning them beneath that maternal appearance, Papyrus constantly bullying Sans, and Alphys as a Mad Scientist with a homicidal robot in her room. The only good monster who can help you get out is Flowey. It's up to the protagonist to befriend the monsters or kill them like in the base game with a twist. Killing them all has a gameplay akin to the Pacifist route, and befriending has the other way around.
  • Aesir: Cross Wars: Aside from Thor and Azrael, pretty much everyone is a massive asshole. For instance, Azazel is the general arrogant Jerk Jock, Freya is a mild Tsundere for Azrael, Uriel is an Insufferable Genius, and Forseti is a Troll.

  • This is practically a trademark of slasher movies, and "body count" horror films in general, the logic being that if the person dying on screen is an asshole, you'll feel a lot less guilty about enjoying it. There's a reason why the Developing Doomed Characters trope was originally called "Twenty Minutes With Jerks", and why the most likable characters in these films typically make it to the end.
  • Cannibal Holocaust: Both sides, the explorers and the native cannibals, are completely unsympathetic, and the audience is supposed to enjoy watching them slaughter each other. Only a couple of characters are remotely nice people, and they die too.
  • Pink Flamingos, as befits a story where the characters are competing over the title of "filthiest person alive".
  • The Transformers films increasingly slide into this as time goes on. By the time of Dark of the Moon, Sam is a whiny entitled jerk who has learned approximately nothing over his experiences, the other humans (especially the government) are ungrateful, useless, or incompetent, a good chunk of the Autobots are mostly Heroic Sociopaths of various stripes, and pretty much the only voice of morality is Optimus Prime, who is also borderline Ax-Crazy. And these are the good guys...


    Live Action TV 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Due to its name and the Darker and Edgier content it presents, the WWE's Attitude Era was full of this. A majority of wrestlers, whether face or heel, are conveyed as either abrasive, egotistical, or brutal. They always engage in Trash Talk, they beat up those who piss them off the slightest, and they even harass and intimidate non-wrestlers (interviewers, commentators, etc.)

    Video Games 
  • Everyone is a jerkass in Divinity: Original Sin II. The Magisters are jerks. The Black Ring are jerks. The dwarf queen is a jerk. The dwarf rebels are jerks. The Void is definitely a jerk. The gods are jerks. The Divine is a jerk. The elf Mother Tree is a jerk. The Sourcerers are jerks. Even most of the playable characters are jerks to one extent or another. While there may be individuals that have good intentions, every single organization you encounter is responsible for atrocities. The one exception to this is the Paladins - where this is reversed; as a whole they are generally good but are (secretly) led by a monster. Despite the game's bright design and playful narration, the setting is actually incredibly bleak with most people inflicting or being subjected to an incredible amount of suffering and torture.
  • The whole Grand Theft Auto series is probably the most famous example. Not only are the games filled with criminals (violent or otherwise), but Rockstar manages to make even the Innocent Bystanders seem like jerks via the snatches of dialogue we get to hear from them.
  • The Saints Row runs on the trope as well; thought it takes in a more comedy-based, somewhat absurdist direction than Grand Theft Auto; while the average citizens are apathetic jerks, every named character is more often than not a large-than-life, cartoonishly evil villain. It even acknowledges the amorality of the Villain Protagonist Player Character, by having other characters frequently accusing them of being a sociopath, to which the Player Character always retort that they like to think of themselves as more of a "puckish rogue".
  • The world of BlazBlue is not a place for friendly characters. Those few truly kind characters are usually portrayed as Butt Monkeys at best and Cosmic Playthings at worst. They suffer constant abuse at the hands of the much more unsympathetic characters, get screwed over constantly, and are traumatized in horrific ways. Even the Jerk with a Heart of Gold Ragna occasionally gets kicked around by people worse than him.
  • Randal's Monday: Murray is perhaps the only character who remains good for the whole game. Most other characters already start being complete jerks and show it during the occasional Kick the Dog moment. Even characters who start sympathetic stop being so by the end of the game: Elaine progressively becomes more arrogant and smug as the history gets rewritten and she becomes more attractive, and Sally outright pulls a Face–Heel Turn when she gets the ring.
  • Persona 5: This is the reason why the Phantom Thieves of Hearts exist. Society is run by corrupt and greedy people who walk over others who can't or won't defend themselves, and it's shown to almost always end in tragic results. The Phantom Thieves steal their hearts little by little to overturn the seedy world.
  • Postal: AND HOW! The Postal Dude is a Deadpan Snarker who's not above making death threats over things like getting his petition signed, and could easily be a Villain Protagonist with the right playstyle. Meanwhile, everyone he meets is either some kind of jerkass that is either just rude, actively makes his daily errands difficult in some manner, or worse off, decides that Murder Is the Best Solution regarding whatever group or place he happens to be visiting, be it the game development studio he's collecting a paycheck from or the library he's returning a book at.
  • Golf Story could well be renamed to Asshole Golf. Your coach makes his introduction by refusing to give you the time of day and gives you the challenge to prove your skill only to shit-talk you even though you shot better than all of his students. His students aren't much better, trying to lord their apparently-superior skills, and even after one of them, Lara, warms up to you, she still has an excessively competitive mindset with you. When you finally compete in a tournament, your wife is there to shame you and seriously hope you fail at your efforts, and when you do win, the camera crew is focused entirely on the two runner-ups and well over half of your winnings go towards your wife, your coach, and various others. It's a wonder the protagonist simply just doesn't pull a Postal at some point.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising is a world of Jerkass Gods. The gods harp about how much Humans Are Bastards and how they always destroy everything they touch, except we only ever see two humans in the game and they are shown to be very decent. As for the gods themselves, they aren't nearly as nice. One god sank a city into the ocean just to teach humans a lesson, a goddess plots to erase humans completely to make way for an organic paradice, another god pretty much betrays his breathen to a hive-mind alien race, and the Big Bad just likes to ruin everyone's day. Even Palutena, the game's Big Good, sees being an asshole at times is part of her duties as a goddess. The one who suffers from all of this is Pit, who the gods enjoy making jokes of.

  • Two Guys and Guy: the main trio is an Ax-Crazy mad scientist, a sociopath, and a Jerkass loser. It seems the closer you get to the heroes the worse of a person you are- there are a few normal-to-nice one-off characters, but most of the regulars are sociopaths at best.
  • Suicide for Hire: Our protagonists are psychotic murderers who will never be punished, their clients are usually monsters who have no chance to be redeemed because they always die, and the rest of the planet is full of assholes.
  • In God Of Martial Arts 99% of the noble/martial artist population is made of sociopathic jerks who don't give a damn at killing other peoples simply because they annoy them or are weak, which is one of the reasons(albeit not a major one the hero decided early to not go gentle

    Web Orginal 
  • Cobra Kai: Things have not improved since the trilogy. Bullying is still a major problem and the authorities are impotent to stop it. The only teenager who isn't a jerkass (and never becomes a jerkass) is Sam, Daniel's daughter. Daniel himself takes a few levels in jerkass once the bane of his teen years goes back into business, and the bullied teens go down the path of bullying themselves thanks to Johnny's well-meaning but twisted guidance. And if John Kreese's sudden appearance in the Season 1 finale is any indication, it's only going to get worse.

    Western Animation