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Rooting For The Empire / Live-Action TV

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Examples:

  • As in the Psycho example on the Live Action Film page, Alfred Hitchcock Presents often presented stories in which the bad guy literally gets away with murder. The network made him add outros which indicated Crime Does Not Pay.
  • Attila: While we're ostensibly supposed to sympathize with Attila given that he's the main character, his arch-enemy Flavius Aetius is a much more interesting character to watch given his cunning, charm, and leadership capacities. Also, out of all the Roman characters, he's one of the few who isn't a Smug Snake of some stripe. Attila, by contrast, is a rather bland barbarian/romantic hero.
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  • As mentioned in the film section, one of the things the Batman series is best known for was the large variety of colorful villains. (In fact, some won Emmys.) And you couldn't help but feel sorry for them sometimes, because they lost all the time (within three episodes at the most). Every once in a while, one (Catwoman, usually) would pull off a Karma Houdini, but it didn't happen often enough to make it something worth hoping for.
  • A lot people were rooting for the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica as many found the human cast to be self-serving, self destructive assholes. While the series had Humans Are the Real Monsters pumping through its veins like blood, any portrayal of the humanoid Cylons themselves hinged on their being Not So Different from the humans (in terms of both bastardry and the potential to rise above their petty natures at times).
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  • Cole in Charmed was treated as an outright villain when he returned in season 5 despite wanting to be good. It was just that Phoebe suddenly decided it was his fault for everything bad that had happened to her, ignoring her own mistakes and refusing to take responsibility for her own actions in the previous season. Many fans felt she treated him unfairly and applauded when he punched her in an alternate reality and when she was killed off briefly in another episode. It didn't help that Phoebe got some really heavy Character Shilling in that season.
  • Criminal Minds appears to know this trope well, as it's always careful to give its Sympathetic Murderers at least one genuinely-evil act to drive home the point that, yes, we should be rooting for them to be caught. Often the character is a revenge killer targeting only Asshole Victims who nevertheless kills someone unrelated to their revenge.
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  • This might sometimes happen in some episodes of CSI. Even murderers get some sympathy when from their point of view it's either running away or facing a Bolivian Army Ending. And the often brutal manners used by the police don't gain the "good guys" any extra points.
  • In Deadwood, Seth Bullock is supposedly the main character trying to start a new life, but the show tends to focus on the more interesting Al Swearengen.
  • Doctor Who: Out of all the Doctor's foes, the Daleks have endured for so long because, honestly, who wouldn't want to hop into a Fun Size tank and start zapping all of modern life's troubles away?
  • Fatal Lessons: The Good Teacher. Who are the "heroes" of this popular Lifetime Movie of the Week? Four depressingly bland suburban numbskulls. And who is the villain? Smoking-hot babe Erika Eleniak (Shauni McClain from Baywatch). Evil Is Sexy plays a part, but what makes Eleniak's villain such a tempting character to root for is how astoundingly competent she is at everything. Besides being a goddess in human form, she's very Wicked Cultured, a scientific genius (creating poisons in her own private laboratory), a skilled hand-to-hand fighter... and she's even a better athlete on the ski slopes than anyone in the aforementioned suburban family she befriends (and then stalks). And on top of all that, she's an impressive Manipulative Bitch capable of getting you to believe anything. When she and the Mama Bear of the family finally square off in the end, there's a very good chance that Eleniak will win: she's disconnected the phone, she's tied up and drugged Dad (the only family member physically capable of subduing her), and she's kicking Mom's ass. In the end, she's defeated only by her own carelessness.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Robb Stark is portrayed as a typical heroic noble, who is merely seeking justice for the wrongs committed against his family. Which seems fair enough, since between Cersei, Jamie, and Joffrey, the Lannisters were responsible for the deaths of many people whose only crime seemed to be getting in the way of Lannister plots in season one. But when you step back and really think about it, Robb Stark dragged on a war he was unlikely to win, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Then the Red Wedding happened. One cannot help but feel sympathetic towards Tywin when he points out that murdering a small number of people brought about an early end to a destructive conflict which would have claimed the lives of many more. Robb even admits in season two that he has no endgame thought out. His plan seems to be simply to kill Joffrey and then presumably leave the south in complete chaos whilst he takes his family back home.
    • In a broader sense, there are some fans who want the series to end with the utter destruction of Westeros at the hands of the Others, either because most of their favorite characters have been killed and the ones who are left are all horribly traumatized or corrupt, leaving no one for them to root for, or just because they see it as the logical conclusion to the story's bleak and pointless nature.
    • Stannis Baratheon remains one of the most popular characters in the show despite the writers claiming he'd make a terrible King. Stannis shows himself to be far more meritocratic then most of the corrupt nobility of Westeros and is driven by duty rather then ambition. Even though the writers claim his younger brother Renly would make a better King then him, Renly never really shows any ruling skills outside of publicity and comes across as very unpleasant in the negotiations scene to Stannis, mocking him for his lack of charisma and it is clear he intends to kill Stannis. This rooting is also partially due to the book version of Stannis clearly being one of the most complex characters who becomes very sympathetic when you learn more about him, and many of the fans are angry at the writers for trying to turn him into a stereotypical Principles Zealot and streamlining his character. It doesn't help that even though the writers intended Stannis' defeat and death to seem like retribution for his ambition, their criticisms of him come across as inaccurate to the show, the people who defeat Stannis are the monstrous Boltons who usurped rule of the North by murdering Robb Stark, and Brienne's killing of a wounded Stannis while calling Renly "the rightful King" makes her come across as a hypocrite.
    • The High Sparrow also garnered some popularity due to his total ownage of Cersei and forcing her to walk the streets of King's Landing naked. Granted, he and his goons are still religious radicals who slaughter gay people for being gay, and they still pick on the Tyrells, but it was nice for more than one fan to see common people finally give nobles and royalty a stern kick in the ass for their blatant corruption and their list of crimes against the commonfolk. Not to mention that by the end of the season, King's Landing finally seems to be cleaner and less consumed by vice thanks to the Sparrows cleaning house. The fact that they were ballsy enough to threaten Petyr Baelish in the public streets shows how much they don't fear the upper class, despite the fact that Baelish was the High Lord of the Vale and a member of the King's Small Council.
    • Even after everything she's done, a number of fans who prefer Cersei over Jon and Dany, partly because they are fond of the actress, partly because her storyline tends to be relatively unpredictable, and partly because they feel that Dany and Jon (and to a lesser extent, the entire remaining Stark household) are winning victories too easily and never having the basic morality of their decisions questioned.
    • In "Stormborn" Euron Greyjoy is obviously intended to be seen as the bad guy, but given that he's up against the universally-hated Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, watching him personally slaughter two of them and take the other two hostage was probably a little more cathartic for the audience than intended. He did manage to get the much more likable Yara Greyjoy as well, but most viewers consider that an acceptable loss.
    • Despite her descent of being the "Mad Queen" in the last two episodes of the final season, many fans still side with Daenerys because of the flimsy way on how the story tries to make her as a villain. Prior to the last two episodes, she's portrayed throughout the show as Pragmatic Hero who fought against the White Walkers. Regardless of her heroism in Winterfell, she's still shunned and mistrusted by the people of Westeros and her slow descent to villainy is attributed by several characters who plotted against her.
  • Sylar from Heroes earns this for both Draco in Leather Pants, and being less prone to stupidity than the protagonists (not that he's immune to the Idiot Ball, of course). He is also one of the very few characters in the show who actually takes joy in having freaking super powers.
  • While most of its American audience wouldn't be likely to root for Nazis, it could be said that most memorable and funniest characters in Hogan's Heroes were the antagonist German POW camp staff.
  • Merlin:
    • Quite a few viewers want the magic users who fight against Camelot to win because they have justifiable reasons, and while honorable and sympathetic Arthur arguably does not measure up to what he's promised to be.
    • Morgana and Morgause are curious examples. Morgana was presented as a good-natured and sometimes heroic character for the first two seasons but made an abrupt Face–Heel Turn between seasons 2 and 3, returning essentially as a pantomime villain without a trace of the original Morgana. As such fans rooted for her because a) they hoped she would eventually be redeemed and b) the writers appeared to have forgotten that she was previously good. Morgause got this because she was just so dang cool. Fans also leapt on the season 2 episode where she tried to kill Uther by putting everyone else in Camelot to sleep. However they also forgot that she had attempted to manipulate Arthur into murdering him in her previous appearance and that she was clearly trying to kill Uther for her own selfish desires rather than the good of the kingdom.
    • Cendred, whom Morgause teams up is depicted somewhat sympathetically in the series. He seems to be a decent ruler who (unlike Camelot) can muster a huge army and is willing to retreat when it's clear the battle's lost. His relationship with Morgause is sweet and he only loses because of trusting her. Some fans found that they wished he had won.
    • Mordred in Series 5. Despite everything he does to try and earn Merlin's trust and prove his loyalty to Camelot, Merlin's distrust and treatment of him based on what he's going to do in the future, eventually ends up becoming a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and is part of the reason he's Driven to Villainy. In comparison, Merlin becomes increasingly unsympathetic as a Knight Templar and Well-Intentioned Extremist dedicated to protecting Arthur at any cost, even refusing the chance for magic to return to Camelot to instead try and ensure that Mordred dies.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: With the amount of Designated Heroes they have to watch, the SOL-ites did this a lot:
  • It appears that fans of Once Upon a Time are in agreement that Queen Regina and Rumplestiltskin are the true stars of the show. This may be due to their genuinely sympathetic origins, and that Regina at least is a clear case of Evil Is Sexy.
  • While many Power Rangers villains are ridiculously cool, Time Force's Ransik tends to particularly invite this reaction. Many fans see him as akin to the X-Men's Magneto, as a man violently lashing out against the government for wrongs done to his people, the mutants. The government has some rather creepy qualities, most notably promoting Designer Babies, with mutants being the result of this process going wrong and forced to live as second-class citizens. Also not helping the government's case is that they did actually turn out to be the villains in the source material, a plot point omitted from the adaptation but as such fairly easy for an enterprising fanfic author to write back in.
  • Many Smallville fans rooted for the Luthors, even after Lex performed his inevitable Face–Heel Turn.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Some fans were rooting for the Maquis, seeing the Federation at fault for seceding their Colonies to the Cardassians without informing them first, then expecting the colonists to just up and move from their homes. Of course they were fighting back! Even high-ranking members of Starfleet and the Federation were sympathetic to the Maquis, so it's not like these fans were bucking convention with this.
    • There's a certain group of Trekkies who find the Terran Empire preferable to the Federation. The reasons are standard: the Terran Empire (especially in Star Trek: Enterprise) is more "badass" than its "prime" universe counterpart, with the depicted characters usually being Magnificent Bastards and the ships being full warship variations of the originals (compare the ISS Enterprise (NX-01) to its prime version for an example), while the Empire being human-centric is a neat Shut Up, Kirk! (sorry couldn't resist) to the Federation's constant preaching of universal equality. Obviously none of these redeem the Terran Empire of its evilness, but as Spock put it, there's something refreshing about humans acting "brutal, unprincipled, uncivilized, treacherous" in a series overrun with Aesop morality.
  • In Supernatural, a lot of fans really, really want Crowley to win. In season 6, a lot of fans were hoping he would indeed be the one to control Purgatory instead of angel Castiel. He's also a really good leader, not black and white evil, but still evil (he is the King of Hell), and has admitted several times that he really just wants to be loved. Doesn't stop him from being the very definition of Lawful Evil, though.
    • Season 7 had the unfortunately-named Dick Roman, the leader of the Leviathans. He was suave, sophisticated, and intelligent. He also remains the only villain in the show's 11 year run to kill a main character for good.
  • A lot of Reality TV contestants are loved by the viewers in spite of being (or because they are) manipulative and deceitful. For Survivor Manipulative Editing was used to create heroes and villains, who the audience is supposed to root for and against. It gets laid on so thick (and with so much Glurge) that the more cynical fans rebel. They assume that "what really happened" is the exact opposite of what was shown on-screen. An example is Jerri from Australia, who was portrayed as a Card-Carrying Villain, complete with Evil Laugh. The contrarian fans loved her and said that she was a real person who told it like it was, her enemies were hypocrites, and the editing was smearing her.
  • True Blood:
    • Just about any villain fighting against the vampires usually ends up being cheered on by fans of the show who feel that no matter what they do the vampires are much worse in comparison. The Fellowship of the Sun is played to look like religious fanatic terrorists, but at the same time the Vampires they hate actually do commit heinous murders, torture, and mind control, and do not respect or submit to human authority. Taking a step back from Bill and Godric, the only two vampires in the show with half a soul, and it's very difficult to tell who're the terrorists and who are the freedom fighters.
    • The same held true for the Wiccans in Season 4, since they were basically humans fighting back. It took until Season 6 for the show to develop unambiguously dickish human antagonists.
  • Some people who watch The Vampire Diaries root for Big Bad Klaus and The Dragon Elijah. This is partly because the show runs on Protagonist-Centered Morality to the point where the supposedly "good" characters are sometimes little better than the villains, often leaving the audience to simply side with whichever character entertains them the most. Moreover, antagonists such as Klaus and Katherine, despite being genuinely villainous, are given Freudian excuses and frequent enough Pet the Dog moments for the audience to sympathize with them to some extent.
  • Unsurprisingly in a series called Vikings, the Vikings are portrayed as badass warriors who for two-and-a-half seasons rape and pillage the woefully incompetent Saxons, who get destroyed in every battle. When the Vikings finally faced defeat when they tried to siege Paris, many fans found themselves rooting for the Franks, if only to see the Vikings brought down a peg.
  • In the short-run (8 episodes) Wizards and Warriors series, the good guys were more-or-less the straight men of the ensemble, especially Prince Eric Greystone. His opposite number, Prince Dirk Blackpool, is so deliciously evil that he completely steals the show. It helps that he's played by Duncan Regehr. The evil wizard, Vector, also has a lot more audience appeal than the good wizard.
  • 24 had this in the case of Jack Bauer for the final season. Kind of.
  • 666 Park Avenue: Henry and Jane's characters are... not the best ones on the show, especially Henry.

In-Universe Examples:

  • In The Addams Family, the family wound up having this problem when they enrolled their children in public school. Wednesday came home in tears after the first day after being read a story where a poor, innocent dragon was ruthlessly slaughtered by a sinister knight in cold, gleaming armor. (The example from the Addams Family film above is probably taken from this episode, because Morticia also complains about Hansel and Gretel in it.)
  • In the All in the Family episode "Two's a Crowd", Archie says to Mike: "You're the kind of guy who watches a John Wayne movie and roots for the Indians!". Becomes Harsher in Hindsight when Values Dissonance kicks in, as many people do indeed root for the Native Americans in those films for obvious reasons.
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon identifies with The Grinch ("I was right there with him all the way until he gave in to the Holiday Who Whooey at the end") and according to Leonard roots for the Sun against Frosty the Snowman ("A bit of frozen, supernatural ephemera in a stolen hat)". Another episode reveals that Sheldon actually does root for the Empire.
    Sheldon: Aside from their tendency to build Death Stars, I've always been an Empire man.
  • On The Golden Girls, Rose suggests a local actress for a play they're putting on. Dorothy counters that the actress is bad enough to invoke this trope:
    All through the second act of The Diary of Anne Frank, the audience was yelling "She's in the attic!"
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Barney apparently applies this trope to the majority of movies he's seen. He gets called out on rooting for Johnny in The Karate Kid note , and the rest of the group bring up a plethora of movies, all of which he roots for the villain in them, including Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Clubnote , and Hans in Die Hardnote . It's never been confirmed if he does this for the Trope Namer (though he does consider Luke Skywalker a bad guy), but he does have a life-size stormtrooper in his apartment. Barney also refuses to accept that the characters he roots for are villains.
    Barney: "Hello? It's called The Terminator."
    • Done to an even more hilarious extent when Barney thinks King Joffrey is a wise and fair ruler, despite being one of the most hated and evil characters in Game of Thrones.
  • In Leverage Sophie's terrible acting skills and even worse singing abilities cause a theatre reviewer to invoke this trope.
    Parker: (reading the review) Never before has a production of The Sound of Music made me root for the Nazis.
  • The Orville: An alien is shown Raiders of the Lost Ark and ends up sympathizing with Belloq and the Nazis. Then again, the alien's people are religious fanatics, who believe themselves to be the only true sentient race with all others being little more than animals.

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