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Cap vs Deadpool

You should see what Deadpool does to little old ladies...

Sometimes, especially when writing a story or a script about a highly unusual situation, you find that you've just loaded up your protagonist or some other fairly important character with lots of potentially Unfortunate Implications. Alas, trying to have your character explain to everybody why this is Not What It Looks Like is likely to be a real show-stopper, and mostly just makes your readers/viewers even more suspicious. What can you do?

Fortunately, there's an excellent--if not perfect--solution to your problems: the Deliberately Bad Example. The Deliberately Bad Example is everything your morally wholesome and upstanding protagonist is not. If you present this depraved buffoon's perversity comically enough, you won't have to say anything about your protagonist's motives at all. Your viewers will understand that since your protagonist is not at all like this Deliberately Bad Example, he must *not* be a bad guy.

There are lots of variants. For example, rather than the protagonist, the Deliberately Bad Example may be serving as the backdrop to an important secondary character. Pointing out the differences or similarities between the behavior of the two characters may also serve to raise suspicions rather than allay them. (If the Jerkass doesn't behave like the Complete Monster, how do we know he isn't really a closeted warm-and-fuzzy type? If he does, how do we know he isn't The Mole?)

Deliberately Bad Examples do of course tend to be rather one-dimensional in their usual roles as the Butt Monkey or Complete Monster, but need not always be so. Quite often, if a story lasts long enough and they get enough face time, they may go on to develop personalities of their own and maybe even become a Draco in Leather Pants or an Ensemble Darkhorse.

This a sub-trope of the Foil. Compare the more PSA-oriented version of this character-as-a-device, the Anti Role Model, where the character's purpose is to be an example of what the people in the audience aren't supposed to do.

Examples of Deliberately Bad Example include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mori Kouji and Toufukuji from I My Me! Strawberry Eggs, of course. See how these guys behave? Amawa Hibiki is nothing like them!
  • Love Hina's Shirai and Haitani are definitely this to Keitaro, though all the girls in the dormitory fail to see the difference.
  • Odagiri from Koi Kaze: he's the raving pervert with a fetish for high school girls who's pining away for a younger sister, not Koshiro.
  • Parodied and Lampshaded with the character Matagu from Please Teacher: although he's definitely Hot for Teacher and has always wanted to marry a space alien, he's not really necessary. It's already pretty well established from the beginning that the protagonist Kei is nothing like him--which doesn't stop Kei from getting jealous and bad-mouthing him to Mizuho anyway.
  • S-Cry-ed is practically littered with examples. Many of Ryuhou's associates from HOLY serve to emphasize that he really does believe in what he's doing as a Knight Templar by showing what people with less noble motives might do with their powers. The way a number of Kazuma's fellow alter-users behave also indicates that his noble behavior as the Anti-Hero is more the exception than the rule out where he lives.
  • From the Tournament Arc in Fairy Tail, Sabertooth seems to be one of the bad guys... until you see Raven Tail. Then you realize that Sabertooth is just a case of Good Is Not Nice.
    • Subverted, forcing a member to strip before kicking them out for losing a fight can hardly be considered good.

Comic Books


  • In Assassins, the villainous hitman and Complete Monster Miguel Bain's rather indiscriminate slaughter of bystanders along with his targets helps establish that although the protagonist Robert Rath is also a hitman, he's a lot more restrained and professional, making his role in the story as a Hitman with a Heart somewhat more believable.
  • Wild Target follows Assassins' lead, making the vicious hitman Dixon a Deliberately Bad Example in order to make his colleague Victor Maynard more sympathetic.
  • While Dirty Harry tends to act more like a gunfighter than a police officer (the way a lot of the TV cops these movies were parodying did), a band of lawless vigilante cops in Magnum Force whose idea of community service is coldblooded premeditated murder of the accused helps demonstrate that he does at least have some scruples against vigilante justice.


  • Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter novels. If Severus Snape really were a Complete Monster, this is who he'd be.
  • In Sabatini's novel about the pirate Peter Blood, Isterling and l'Evaser are both portrayed as Complete Monsters so that Blood can retain the image of a noble pirate.
  • In Alexander Pushkin's "Captain's Daughter" the author made use of one of these to avoid censorship: The hero Grinev is friends with the anti-Czarist rebel Pugachev, yet remains a positive character, which could have led to the book being banned in Czarist Russia. So Pushkin introduced Shwabrin, a spineless, unscrupulous traitor who sells out everybody; in comparison to this, the hero seems quite loyal and patriotic.

Western Animation

  • Wait Till Your Father Gets Home has Ralph playing this as a neighbor to Harry Boyle; Ralph is a paranoid far-right militia type the level-headed conservative Harry is the first to call a nutcase.
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