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Unintentionally Unsympathetic Cleanup

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Feb 23rd 2018 at 3:57:57 PM

The criteria for Unintentionally Unsympathetic says:

"When a character's supposed insecurities or embarrassing quirks are supposed to inspire sympathy, but fail to impress the audience because they're mishandled or plain written badly. It can be made even worse if they have to learn a lesson. Without being at least somewhat invested in the characters, the audience might have passed the point of caring when the character finally comes around."

This is the basic criteria of the trope. There is more after but I am not sure what was present from the start and what was edited in afterwords to expand the definition. This trope is becoming more popular, with the page starting to be split-off into sub pages and such. And like all popular YMMV tropes this is causing an influx of bad examples that are probably just one-sided complaining, shoehorning, and bashing which is not in the spirit of this wiki. You can see this is causing issues just by looking at the pages discussion thread. I felt that the trope needed a dedicated cleanup thread. This way edits can be done without causing edit wars and getting people banned.

Some guidelines if a character or event is Unintentionally Unsympathetic.

1. It has to be unintentional on the authors part. It is in the title. All examples that were intentional on the author's part are disqualified by definition.

2. The example should state exactly why the author or narrative intended the subject to have been sympathetic and why it failed to resonate with the audience. If the example can not clearly state these two points, it is a bad example and needs to at minimum be rewritten.

3. Neutral tone: No insults. I know it is fun to complain about stuff but complaining is not in the spirit of the wiki. So long as one side isn't promoting hate speech examples should be written without taking a side. Examples that are heavily favoring one side or insulting the other side are probably not valid examples.

4. There should be a wide accepted disagreement between the audience and the author to be a valid example. By that I mean that there should be large consensus in the audience disagreeing with the author over why the character is unsympathetic instead of sympathetic. If the audience is too divided and one section thinks agrees with the author and the other doesn't, the example could be a pet peeve of a single person, which isn’t noteworthy.

Lastly, always consider Square Peg, Round Trope and be mindful if the example may fit better under a different trope such as Base-Breaking Character, Broken Base, and The Scrappy. Please visit other cleanup threads if you have questions about tropes that do not involve Unintentionally Unsympathetic.

Feel free to help if you spot some bad examples or can point out more rules for the trope. Or argue with me over the definitions, this is a cleanup thread after all.

Edited by DocJamore on Mar 9th 2021 at 11:10:06 AM

Crossover-Enthusiast Miss! from quarantine (send Red Lobster biscuits) Relationship Status: Chocolate!
Feb 23rd 2018 at 4:40:32 PM

How about a rule against examples that are general or try to cram multiple examples into one bullet? Like this one from YMMV.Steven Universe:

  • All the characters have moments of this to some extent. Particular shout outs to: Amethyst in "Too Far" in essentially encouraging/getting Peridot to insult others only to get angry when she herself was the aim of said jokes, and Pearl during the Week of Sardonyx who hurts Garnet in a deeply emotional way and then has multiple episodes that focus on why we should feel bad for Pearl and Garnet the one she hurt should forgive her.
That last bit about the Sardonyx arc is also misinformation.

It is no longer Pico Day.
Feb 23rd 2018 at 5:17:05 PM

I can add something about groups not being able to qualify. Other cleanup threads have came to that conclusion before. This is a wiki that whose job it is to lists things. Not just say "everyone counts so I won't list them but take my word for it."

Misinformation on nearly any trope on this site should be deleted under the Repair, Don't Respond policy. Unless it causes an edit war, in that case come here to the forums so we can sort it out without anyone getting banned.

Unintentionaly Sympathic seems to have been a "problem child" trope from the start since it is an "audience vs the author" trope which invites vitriol. And vitriol invites Complaining About Shows You Don't Like and Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch. Misinformation thrives in these kinds of environments.

Any more examples?

edited 23rd Feb '18 5:40:35 PM by DocJamore

Crossover-Enthusiast Miss! from quarantine (send Red Lobster biscuits) Relationship Status: Chocolate!
Feb 23rd 2018 at 6:17:59 PM

Here's the rest of the examples from YMMV.Steven Universe:

  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Ronaldo when he's not painted as the Butt-Monkey. He sees no problem with ignoring a person's personal liberties or feelings to validate his conspiracies. While this can be put down to being a Cloud Cuckoo Lander and as such just unaware of how his actions affect someone he will still do so despite knowing how they feel about his actions.
    • Onion in "Onion Trade". Sure, he misses his father and he barely sees him. But to pass the time waiting for him, he steals, dupes Steven, is perfectly willing to crash a motorcycle for no good reason, and nearly destroyed the town. If anything, Onion came across as a psychopathic child.
    • All the characters have moments of this to some extent. Particular shout outs to: Amethyst in "Too Far" in essentially encouraging/getting Peridot to insult others only to get angry when she herself was the aim of said jokes, and Pearl during the Week of Sardonyx who hurts Garnet in a deeply emotional way and then has multiple episodes that focus on why we should feel bad for Pearl and Garnet the one she hurt should forgive her.
      • "Three Gems and A Baby" didn't help, starting with the fact that the three Gems kidnapped baby Steven when his gem start glowing (believing it's Rose inside there calling for help), Pearl almost ripping off Steven's gem in a misguided attempt to "free" Rose, and neither Garnet or Amethyst stopping her. Thankfully, Pearl doesn't go through with it, and all three of them realize that Rose wanted to have a baby. Even if they don't truly understand why, they were willing to respect her wish in the end.
    • To some fans, Steven can fall into this whenever he tries to make people happy, but his attempts can come across as condescension then actual compassion.

I believe the Ronaldo example can be kept, though it should be rewritten a bit.

I also tried to put the "Too Far" section into its own example. How does this sound?

  • In "Too Far", Amethyst gets furious with Peridot after she calls her defective and says she came out wrong. However, Amethyst had been egging Peridot on to make cracks at the other Gems, including Steven, who was with them and could hear everything they said.

It is no longer Pico Day.
Feb 24th 2018 at 5:06:31 PM

I haven't seen the show but your edits seem fine to me. Some of those examples definitely seem more like complaining by a Vocal Minority rather than being valid examples of the trope. They should be at least rewritten to be tone-neutral. And feel free to delete any examples fall under Intended Audience Reaction. The "unintentional" title exists for a reason.

I think at least for now this thread should tackle complaining until more people show interest in the thread.

edited 24th Feb '18 5:31:52 PM by DocJamore

Apr 28th 2018 at 8:14:15 PM

There's a duplicated example in Informed Wrongness and Unintentionally Unsympathetic for Scrubs - the episode where Elliot goes into private practice.

  • Occurs in Scrubs when The Janitor, after losing a bet to Dr. Cox, has to watch his van being crashed into a wall, and the viewer is meant to feel sorry for him. Except that The Janitor has in the past done a number of similar actions, and many that were worse and show outright lack of regard for people that might get hurt and gotten away with them, with the only difference being that his actions were Played for Laughs.
    • It's obvious from the way her stories tend to end that the writers think Elliot is supposed to be sympathised with. All the viewers see is Elliot acting like a jerk to others, and then those others have to apologise to her. Of special note is when she goes into private practice, acts like a jerk about it to everyone and is then insulted when they 'suddenly' change their behaviour towards her. In the end, JD says it's because they're all jealous of Elliot's new job. In the end, even the writers noticed they had taken this too far with Elliot and Keith's relationship, where she's practically just using and abusing him, breaks up with him when they are engaged and then laughs it off at work - they had her give a big apology to Keith a few episodes afterwards but to many viewers it was too little, too late.
      • Note that Elliot's actress also had this happen to her character on How I Met Your Mother, where the audience tends to view Stella a lot less favourably than the writers do.

The Janitor example can stay, in my opinion, because Characterization Marches On, and he was portrayed as a psycho on the early episodes (plus the episode mentioned deals with him being in love), but saying that "All the viewers see is Elliot acting like a jerk to others" sounds to me like bashing the character. Especially because the character is always super self-conscious and cries all the time, except in the episodes where she's just there so someone else can learn An Aesop. And adding another suspicious example from another show just makes it look like the writer has a problem with the actress.

Apr 28th 2018 at 8:37:09 PM


If you believe that bashing is happening, go ahead and delete the example or rewrite it to be more neutral. An example that excessively takes one side seems to be an symptom of the trope being used as an excuse to complain.

AnotherDuck No, the other one. from Stockholm Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
Apr 29th 2018 at 12:52:58 AM

[up][up]Yeah, that Elliot example sounds like complaining to me.

In the Janitor example, my take wasn't so much that we're supposed to feel sympathy for him as we're supposed to think that Dr. Cox is an arse. Which he is.

Check out my fanfiction!
May 6th 2018 at 5:26:22 PM

From UnintentionallyUnsympathetic.Western Animation:

  • Opal was a fairly popular character when she first appeared in Season 3. However, in Season 4 she acts like an abrasive Jerkass towards Bolin for most of the season when Bolin is trying to help the Earth Kingdom stabilize. She treats him joining Kuvira as a personal betrayal when he is unaware of her darker actions and only sees her giving food and military assistance to villages being attacked by bandits. Thus her anger comes off as highly disproportionate and maybe even mean-spirited. This isn't helped when Bolin returns to the heroes' side, as she shuns him until he grovels at her feet for a good two episodes.

I see a case for Bolin being Unintentionally Sympathetic. Opal, she had warned him repeatedly, but I don't recall if she gave him tangible reason to distrust Kuvira, which would make her anger justifiable.

As written it sounds more like complaining about a previously sympathetic character being unsympathetic than this trope.

May 7th 2018 at 5:56:10 AM


That entire post is downright misinformative. The whole post is just complaining and the last sentence is bashing. If I remember the the show right it is not just Opal who dislikes Kuvira, it is also her mom, family, and her whole hometown. It sounds like "How dare Bolin's girlfriend not support him working for the Big Bad! Lets put her on the UU page to bash her because that is allowed!"

Plus isn't she a minor character? "Bolin's girlfriend" basically sums her up. I think we should be cautious when in comes to making minor characters UU because it lets people spread misinformation like that and no one seems to care enough or know the source material well enough to check.

edited 7th May '18 8:08:32 AM by DocJamore

keyblade333 Weeb who makes too many mistakes. from In the void between worlds. Relationship Status: GAR for Archer
Weeb who makes too many mistakes.
May 7th 2018 at 8:46:40 AM

Someone added this to the Fire Emblem Fates page so I wanted to bring it up here.

  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Peri ended up being one of the most divisive characters in the game for this reason. For many people, the implications of her being a serial killer, her Freudian Excuse, and her sympathetic traits weren't explored enough to make her status as a Sympathetic Murderer effective. This is in large part because her character is Played for Laughs far more often than not, and in all but a couple of her pairing outcomes, her Character Development is not actually shown to the player and is only mentioned in her ending as having happened off screen after the war ended.

Give me Muramasa
May 7th 2018 at 2:56:49 PM


"For many people" can be just a shorthand for "just me and my Vocal Minority". Other than that I am not sure. If all that is true, then it is an OK example. Is it true? I do not play the game but I have seen Fates repeatedly come up on other cleanup threads.

dragonfire5000 from Where gods fear to tread
May 7th 2018 at 3:03:31 PM

I've seen quite a bit of people express sympathy to the character since some of her dialogue with other playable characters do give a reason why she ended up the way she did. Obviously some people also don't sympathize with her even with that knowledge, but they always seemed like a Vocal Minority to me.

May 7th 2018 at 8:22:54 PM

[up][up][up] Cut. The entry mentions that Peri is a divisive character, so fans are too divided on the issue for her to qualify.

Yumil Mad Archivist
Mad Archivist
May 8th 2018 at 7:24:02 AM

Yeah cut, the one who wrote this is obviously trying to relocate his complaining after ti was axed from the scrappy entry.

"when you stare too long into the abyss, Xehanort takes advantage of the distraction to break into your house and steal all your shit."
May 8th 2018 at 10:52:38 AM

From YMMV.Archie Comics Sonic The Hedgehog:

  • A lot of Sally's moments of weakness are empathised with as forgivable or uncontrollable, with her regularly portrayed as the team's Straight Man and overall Nice Girl. However in many cases Sally bases detrimental actions on high emotion and at times can be outright reckless, complacent and standoffish, often the very traits she relentlessly pontificates Sonic or other members for having. Ironically the first time another member called out Sally on being reckless in the "Spark of Life", they were made to face a Hypocrisy Nod, something Sally herself never underwent throughout the 20+ year run.

Sally's a controversial enough character that it should include, or be limited to, specific examples. Hard to say if it's accurate otherwise.

May 10th 2018 at 8:42:15 AM


If that's legitimate, it may fall under Broken Base or BBC better than UU since it is a series that has gone on for 20 years.

My recommendation for cases like that is it a "Major Enough Issue" to cause fan backlash at the author or narrative? Do many people think that, or its it the opinion of just the editor who added it there? And of course look through the edit history and see if the example was listed under the Scrappy Broken Base or something like that and got moved to UU after being rejected, like we had in the Fates example. If that is the case just nuke it.

edited 10th May '18 8:55:09 AM by DocJamore

May 10th 2018 at 12:16:09 PM

[up] I can't find any agenda from their edits, so keep for now.

I deleted the following from YMMV.Avengers Infinity War:

  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: While Star-Lord's motivation for beating up Thanos is understandable since he is revealed to have killed Gamora (remorsefully, but Star-Lord didn’t know), the fact that they were mere seconds into defeating Thanos and the fact that Star-Lord refused to hold his patience until after they got the Gauntlet off (Tony even tells him to hold his patience, but Peter just flat-out ignores him) makes him across as unlikable for some viewers here, especially since the Downer Ending is legitimately his fault. Even when he gets disintegrated along with everyone else (and even seems to show legitimate guilt whilst this happens), some see this as Laser-Guided Karma for botching up the team’s plan into defeating Thanos.

The last part suggests it's intentional, invalidating it. In fact, nothing suggests it's unintentional. He doesn't get any in-universe sympathy from the heroes for it does he?

I want to add this to Square Peg, Round Trope which I think sums up the misuse:

  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic is use as a complaint against normally sympathetic character doing unsympathetic things. This trope only applies to those who are supposed to be sympathetic in context. If they're treated as in the wrong (unless they get off too easily) or neutrally in context, this trope is not in effect.

May 10th 2018 at 12:23:08 PM

[up] Star Lord's entry is a prime example of people using Unintentionally Unsympathetic for character bashing, even if the character isn't treated as sympathetic within the work.

May 10th 2018 at 4:48:55 PM

From YMMV.My Little Pony Equestria Girls Forgotten Friendship:

The Trixie part didn't happen until after the Big Bad carried out their plan. And their anger isn't misplaced, it's due to jealousy of Sunset for having friends despite her sordid past while she remained ignored. Her rational that she thought Sunset hadn't really changed given how she treated her I'm not sure if it's treated as a mitigating factor, as she never views herself as a Well-Intentioned Extremist for it, and the harm caused is why she's the villain. We've previously cut the claim her being ignored was their own fault due to her erasing everyones memories of her as she was ignored before that and when she did't do so, leaving the self-inflicedness overly speculative.

I understand some seeing her as too Easily Forgiven, but as written the Unintentionally Unsympathetic entry is based on incorrect or contestable facts. Cut?

May 14th 2018 at 7:27:00 AM

Any example that uses "a few fans" is probability not a legitimate example. If it it is not arguing for the sake of wanting a "spot" on the YMMV page to complain, than it is shoehorning in an example that only the editor has with the work.

Any example that has that kind of language should be rewritten or cut under the Repair, Don't Respond rule.

edited 14th May '18 7:27:45 AM by DocJamore

May 19th 2018 at 10:50:39 AM

This was added back to YMMV.My Little Pony Equestria Girls Forgotten Friendship:

  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:Wallflower Blush is sick of people not noticing her, so she ruins all of a person's friendships that they worked hard for, potentially permanently, then attempts to ruin all of several people's good memories and friendships for the last few years. Seems...reasonable.

I deleted it because it fails to explain why it's unintentional. It needs an objective reason why her intended reasons for sympathy don't work (others have been through as bad or worse without becoming as bad, cruelty unconnected to intended mitigating factors, ex.) She supposed to be unsympathetic as the villain and gets anger from the heroes (Sunset to a fault) until Wallflower admits and shows regret about going too far. Should I add a note not to add her back without this threads approval?

Jun 23rd 2018 at 1:55:54 PM

Unintentionally Unsympathetic examples from Pokémon:

  • Though Mewtwo is indeed portrayed as a villain in Pokémon the First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back, it tries to mitigate by saying that he was driven to villainy by the revelation that he was an artificial being and is Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life. However, his first violent act is blowing up the laboratory where he was created, killing all of the people there, after a conversation which lasts for no more than five minutes. His creator may be a bit of a jerk by rather callously brushing off his questions, but there is no indication that the scientists were actually mistreating Mewtwo or were going to do so in the future,note  thereby making him come off as a Manchild whining about how his life sucks because he never asked to be born.
    • A scene that was removed from the Western release shows Mewtwo talking with the other clone experiments via psychic connection, who then disappear one by one. Mewtwo eventually realizes that the clones are being discarded as failures. So he effectively had to watch his only friends die one by one.
  • Pokémon: The Movie 2000: The Power of One has Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres become this thanks to Early Installment Weirdness. When the movie premiered, the anime portrayed most Pokémon as just animals with superpowers, so it could be assumed that the legendary birds just didn't have the capability of higher thought and were acting on instinct. But as the show went on, more and more Pokémon, especially Legendaries, were given fully developed personalities and were implied to have human intelligence, retroactively making the birds so selfish that they're willing to wipe out all life on Earth just because they don't want to be around one another. Pretty much every Fan Fic that translates Pokémon Speak and references this movie has Lugia rip into them for their behavior.
  • Kyurem may have had a point in Pokémon: Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice when he attacks Keldeo as punishment for the latter's arrogance in challenging him when not remotely ready and lying about being a Sword of Justice, but that doesn't excuse Kyurem chasing him miles out of the arena and attacking a train and then a city populated entirely by people and Pokémon who don't have the slightest knowledge of their quarrel, just because Keldeo is there. He is never called out for this.

Mewtwo now violates Repair, Don't Respond, and they and Kyurem are villains because there actions are excessive and I don't belvice they're treated sympathetically for it (for Mewtwo, until they realize there wrongness and stop). Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres are also not treaded sympathetically admitted to not being an example at the time, making it seem more like Continuity Drift or Franchise Original Sin than this? Thoughts on removing?

I'll just remove it unless I hear back from anyone.

edited 23rd Jun '18 1:56:09 PM by Ferot_Dreadnaught

Jul 1st 2018 at 1:17:40 PM

Bringing up this example from Fantastic Four (2005):

  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: As The Agony Booth recap insists, all of the heroes. They do little more than fight with each other, examine their powers and solve problems that they themselves caused. Doom becomes a villain because Reed was incompetent at his job and miscalculated the cosmic storm's speed. The traffic jam on the bridge was the result of Ben destroying a semi when saving a suicide jumper, and the explosion soon afterwards is caused by Sue making a distraction. When escaping Doom's heat seeking missile Johnny sets a garbage barge on fire, likely killing or at least endangering whoever was driving it, and in the climactic street battle Doom is only at street level, where large amounts of civilians are located, because Ben knocked him down there.

Jul 9th 2018 at 9:39:32 AM

[up]So it's been 8 days, any chance I could get a response to the example I brought up above.

Total posts: 879

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