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Playing With / Deliberately Bad Example

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Basic Trope: This character exists to make others look good by comparison.

  • Straight: The hero's personality and behavior are in danger of giving him a bad reputation with the audience. Therefore, another character with similar traits is introduced that actually deserves such a reputation so the audience can compare and contrast him with the hero.
  • Exaggerated: This bad example provides such a stark contrast with the hero that the whole audience's suspicions about the hero are allayed within five minutes, and they can never possibly doubt the hero is one of the good guys ever again.
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  • Downplayed: Deli Berate is not an outright villain, just a deliberately boring and unattractive rival to The Dashing Hero.
  • Justified: There's just no way the audience could possibly realize the hero's situation is Not What It Looks Like and that he actually has the purest of motives unless the author introduces one of these bad examples to show us what someone with not-so-pure motives would do if he were in that situation.
  • Inverted: The villain's publicity is so good that even the audience is wondering whether the author has identified the wrong guy as the hero. So the author introduces another villain who's not quite as good at concealing how all of his seemingly noble acts actually serve some nefarious purpose.
  • Subverted: The character presented as the hero is actually the villain, and the author introduces one of these bad examples as a Red Herring to keep everyone from realizing what a rotten guy the "hero" is until he can commit some staggeringly evil deed that will leave the whole audience gasping in horror.
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  • Double Subverted: The character presented as the hero is actually an anti-villain, and the bad example brought in to contrast with him is a Red Herring to him as well as to the audience, keeping him from realizing how terrible he is by making him think at least he's not as bad as that other guy.
  • Parodied: The hero finds this character's behavior absolutely appalling, but immediately engages in the same behavior himself; likely to involve a lot of Hypocritical Humor.
  • Zig Zagged: The author plays coy with the audience and keeps us guessing which character is the hero and which the bad example by having each of them do things that make the other look better by comparison from time to time.
  • Averted: A character seems to have been presented to us to make other characters in the story look better by comparison, but the author assures us we're just imagining things.
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  • Enforced: Even once the contrast has been established and he's no longer needed, the bad example can't help himself. He continues to behave in ways that make everyone else seem better by comparison because that's just the way he is.
  • Lampshaded:
    • "You know, if I didn't have to deal with that guy, I'd probably never think so highly of you".
    • "It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others."
  • Invoked: "Once you've seen how this guy treats his employees, you'll come to realize our boss is actually pretty fair-minded even if he is a little strict".
  • Exploited: A cunning villain brings in someone with a worse reputation than himself in order to make himself look better.
  • Defied: "Comparing our boss to that guy is like comparing Stalin to Hitler. What difference does it make to us, really?"
  • Discussed: "In my opinion, some people exist for no purpose but to make all the rest of us look better by comparison".
  • Conversed: "You do look better by comparison to him, but honestly, who wouldn't? That and a dollar might buy you a cup of coffee".
  • Deconstructed: The author brings in a character that seems to make the hero look good by comparison, but through a series of reveals, the hero is shown to be better at seeming heroic than actually being heroic, while the bad example is shown to be better at being heroic than seeming heroic. The audience is left questioning who's the real hero.
  • Reconstructed: While the bad example's capacity for being heroic is shown to be greater than the rather less heroic hero's, reputation is also indicated to be an important part of heroism, and the bad example's bad reputation is shown to spoil the outcome of his heroic deeds. The audience comes to realize both characters would make much better heroes if they had each other's advantages as well as their own.
  • Played For Laughs: This character is a total Butt-Monkey and fate (standing in for the author) regularly torments him for the audience's amusement.
  • Played For Drama: This character is a Complete Monster who makes even the other villains more likable to the audience by comparison; often used to demonstrate that Even Evil Has Standards.

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