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Male Mallard Headshot

Uh oh, duck!

"Everyone thinks they're such cute little things

Soft downy feathers and nice little wings

But there's a poison I'd like to administer

You think they're cuddly, but I think they're sinister!"

Ducks: the All-Terrain Animal. It's generally agreed that ducks are cute, particularly ducklings. They're also sort of funny, what with the webbed feet, the quacking, and the goofy waddling to and fro. Heck, even the word Duck is funny on its own. But there's also something slightly sinister about them: the beady eyes, the low-pitched quacking, or of course the song about them, "March of the Sinister Ducks". Although rarely outright evil in cartoons (these roles are generally reserved for reptiles, rats, or humans), ducks are rarely heroic either. They might be an Anti-Hero, or The Lancer, or maybe a Trickster, though. They've got knives, you know.

Donald Duck is most likely the Trope Maker. Or maybe Daffy Duck.

This trope can also cover the less-than-friendly geese and swans that the avid bird-watcher might meet in fiction. Or real life.

Named for Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate, who's usually not such a quack.

Examples of Morally-Ambiguous Ducktorate include:


Advertising

  • You know the one. He's not all that sinister, but does have a bit of a temper. He's always trying to get people's attention about something, but we just can't recall what...


Anime and Manga

  • In Ranma ½, Mousse qualifies: he's an antagonist in roughly three quarters of all his appearances, though not necessarily always a duck. He's no less lethal in avian form, however, most notably dropping explosive eggs. Where they come from, exactly, is best left unconsidered.
    • They come from a live chicken he keeps up his sleeve. Also, he doesn't use the explosive eggs in duck form, favoring conventional bombs and throwing daggers instead. Mousse is a master of concealed weaponry, even without clothing to conceal them in. Er, wait...


Comics

  • "Howard the Duck! Trapped in a world he never made! Waaagh!"
  • Rubberduck from Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew is a Captain Ersatz for Elongated Man (not Plastic Man -- same powers, different personalities), and was a true superhero.
  • Ducktor Doom from the Funny Animal version of the Marvel Universe seen in Peter Porker: The Amazing Spider-Ham.
  • Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, after explaining that Zeus took the form of a swan to mate with Leda, shows her four children as having birdlike traits. This trope probably explains why Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon is made so much more horrifying by her having a duckbill.
  • Deadeye Duck of Bucky O'Hare is the team's resident lancer.
  • Lobo the Duck. Well... okay, he's an Anti-Hero, but... um...
  • Herbert the duck in Dungeon is not only morally ambiguous at first--lying his way into a job and proceeding to bungle and philander his way through the rest of the story--but by the start of the third series, he has painted himself black and gained his own evil agenda.
  • In a What's New with Phil and Dixie issue about spy games, one of the spy gadgets identified by a recruit as a trainee test is a rubber duckie. Apparently not a normal one, as he points out that it's capable of killing several people simultaneously (and has a plastic squeaker device in its mouth, too).


Film

  • Hot Fuzz, a swan variant.
  • In Unforgiven, Little Bill misreads a dime novel title as The Duck of Death. When he's corrected that the real title is The Duke of Death, he irritably responds, "Duck, I says."


Literature

  • In the William Butler Yeats poem "Leda and the Swan" Leda is raped by, you know....
    • Cobs (male swans) have no external genitalia. On the other hand, a shape-shifting god can presumably have whatever equipment he likes.
  • The robot duck in Thomas Pynchon's novel Mason & Dixon. Not actually evil, but extremely dangerous.
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog where swans go around impersonating harmless cats, then chase people up trees.
  • In the alternate universe of the Thursday Next series, ducks went extinct long ago. Dodos, on the other hand, are household pets.
  • In the textbook 'Physics Concepts and Connection' (Grade 11) by Irwin Publishing, a number of pictures have a cute duck for generally no concrete reason as to why it had to be a duck.
  • Dave Barry claims to have been in a band in college called the Federal Duck.

  We were originally called The Stomp Jackson Quintet, and then The Guides (don't ask), but we came up with our new and final name one night when we were lying on the bank of the Haverford campus duck pond, and some ducks started waddling toward us in what looked like a purposeful manner, and as we watched them with increasing alarm, the thought struck us that these ducks might be working for the government. And if you are wondering why that particular thought would have struck us, you did not experience the '60s.

 "...there was a hissing noise like a tyre bursting in a nest of cobras, and out of the bushes to my left there popped something so large and white and active that I have ever done in my puff, I rose like a rocketing pheasant ... I was parked up on the roof beside the Right Hon. gazing down at one of the largest and shortest-tempered swans I had ever seen."

  • The Redwall books have a few encounters with swans, notably in Mossflower, where three Mooks try to kill a swan and steal its eggs, thinking the swans will be docile. THEY'RE NOT.
    • The Legend of Luke also has Martin and co. battling a swan.


Live Action TV

  • And Gilmore Girls, where a swan gave Jess a black eye.
    • Some would cite this as an example of cygnine heroism.
  • Well, since you're including that Ducky, why not Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard. He isn't morally ambiguous in the least, but he's had an interesting past that includes torture victims and a guy and his mother who went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge just for him.
  • Some say The Stig is afraid of ducks...and that he knows two facts about ducks and both of them are wrong...

 The Stig [1]: Well, obviously they can't fly...

Jeremy Clarkson: Yeah, they're right, you don't know anything about ducks.

  • Ernie of Sesame Street is so hung up on his rubber duckie that it's a bit sad. If he wants a yellow bird friend so badly, why not go talk to the giant one down the block? Clearly, rubber duckie has some unnerving influence over the guy....
  • In an episode of Perfect Strangers, Larry goes duck hunting with a business associate he wants to impress. To his surprise, Balki agrees to come along, claiming to passionately hate ducks. Yet when the ducks appear, Balki tries to stop the hunt. It turns out that Myposian "ducks" are huge, dangerous, hideous birds, totally unlike normal ducks. Balki describes one, and Larry responds, "Balki, that's not a duck. That's a pterodactyl."
  • On How I Met Your Mother, while everyone else likes ducks, Marshall says, "Have you ever been in a fight with a duck? (...) Ducks are jerks!"


Mythology

  • In Arthurian legend, Lohengrin had a swan as his standard. You think that's a wimpy creature for a knight to emulate? Pah! In the opera, Lohengrin's boat is pulled by a swan. That puts him on par with the guy who rides a bear.
    • The tenor Leo Slezak was once playing the Swan Knight when the mechanical device controlling the boat misfired and the swan perversely took off without him. He turned to the stagehands and asked the celebrated question, „Wann fährt der nächste Schwan?" "What time does the next swan leave?"
  • In Greek Mythology, the god Apollo is occasionally depicted as riding a chariot pulled by swans. Considering that he tends to be a classic example of Light Is Not Good...
  • Somewhat subverted in Finnish Mythology, where the swan is associated with the Tuonella (the Underworld), which is not bad, but still creepy.


Music

  • In Weird Al's "I Want A New Duck," the narrator complains about the ways his duck has acted against him.
  • There was once a rock band called The Sinister Ducks, which had Alan Moore in it. They were the ones responsible for "The March of the Sinister Ducks" mentioned above.


Newspaper Comics


Stand Up Comedy

 God: Oh, I forgot about ducks. Oh, shit.

Evil Swan: Quack, quack, quack.

  • Stewart Lee has a routine about making March of the Mallards, an imaginary counterpart to feelgood nature documentary March Of The Penguins. While penguins are the exemplars of niceness and family spirit, mallards (a type of duck) are pure evil.


Tabletop Games

  • Rune Quest has Ducks (a.k.a. Durulz) as a potential PC race; they're either waterfowl cursed with intelligence and arms, or humans cursed with feathers and bills, nobody really knows. Sure, they look humorous, and sometimes even act humorous ... but watch out for a knife in the night ... It should be noted that they have a special affinity for one of the local death (and truth) gods.
  • The original Munchkin game had the "Duck of Doom!" trap. "You should know better than to pick up a duck in a dungeon."
  • "The Devil Adores A Duck" from card game Misery.
  • Gloom (in which you have to make your own characters miserable, then kill them off) has the death card "Done In By A Duck", which requires a duck marking on the victim. It can be gained by, among a few other things, the event "Molested By A Mallard". These people lead horrible and also strange lives.


Video Games

  • Insomniac's Ratchet and Clank Up Your Arsenal is home to the Qwack-O-Ray, which turns your enemies into ducks. Normal ducks at first, but following the upgrades of the weapon, the ducks become more and more morally ambiguous.
    • To the point of being fanged phoenix ducks from hell. You read that right.
  • Farfetch'd, the Wild Duck Pokémon, is a not very interesting bird, aside from its use of a leek as a weapon. You do have to chase one through Ilex Forest in Gold/Silver/Crystal ("Kwaa!").
    • As a sidenote, in Gold & Silver Farfetch'd was one of the easier-to-get mons that could learn False Swipe, a move that left an opponent Pokemon with 1 HP. Meaning at the time, Farfetch'd was a good choice to capture even legendaries.
    • And never give a Psyduck a headache.
      • Even better example is its evolution Golduck, based on the Japanese Kappa (a race of child-eating water spirits).
    • Magmar is a duck that is on fire.
    • Ducklett seems harmless, but the anime had a trio of mischievous ones that stole Ash's hat (among other things).
  • This trope could be exactly why a crime lord named after a duck (Geese Howard) could be so damn evil and dangerous, not someone you'd take very lightly due to his name.
    • Ducks are not geese, but arguably they're just as morally ambiguous, if not more so. And what about Duck King?
  • In Earthbound, there's an enemy called the Mad Duck. It has the creepiest stare this side of Weegee, and does strange, unique things in its AI Roulette.
  • The Mad Mallard enemies, basically ducks with military helmets, from Legend of Mana.
  • Dink Smallwood (the game, not the character) has something against ducks. They lurk in sinister fashion throughout the game. And then you get to the inescapable violent fast ducks in Hell.
  • In Suikoden III one of the Grassland tribes is made up of anthropomorphic ducks who would fit right in in Howard's universe. While not evil by any stretch, the one you interact with most is a war veteran who puts reason before honor.
  • A random townsperson in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest tells you to "get a silk bag from the graveyard duck to live longer." Although there is no such duck, this is not a mistranslation; the line refers to a waterfowl in the Japanese version as well.
  • King Dedede, the Big Bad in most Kirby games is a duck.
    • Though he looks more like a penguin, however.


Web Comics


Web Original


Western Animation

  • Disney is the main producer of sinister ducks, starting with:
    • Donald Duck, whose song Hangs a Lampshade on how hair-trigger his temper is. He was treated as the Disney stable's resident Butt Monkey for many years.
      • The one-page comic from Hook, Line and Succor here, teaches a valuable lesson: You don't fuck with the duck.
    • Recent portrayals of Daisy Duck are pretty obnoxious. She wants to steal the spotlight from Minnie, or takes unfair advantage of Minnie's friendship. In earlier cartoons, she had a temper just as bad as Donald's from time to time. Or she seems to push Donald a little too hard on minor faults such as his tendency to be The Unintelligible. Carl Barks considered Daisy to be a "Loose Woman" and a "Shrew" and wasn't too fond of her either.
    • Donald's nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie have gone up and down the scale from Bratty Half-Pint to Wise Beyond Their Years.
    • Scrooge McDuck is pretty much the resident Anti-Hero of the Disney crowd. Also, a fair number of the villains in the comics and in DuckTales are ducks, most notably Flintheart Glomgold and Magica de Spell.
    • Launchpad McQuack would be heroic if he wasn't a bumbler.
    • Gizmo Duck is supposed to be a hero, but he's a little too smug and self-satisfied. He's also a bit of a Lord Error-Prone. And then there's Gizmo Duck's alter ego Fenton Crackshell, a accountant who's accomplishments consist of things like accidentally locking Scrooge out of his own money bin, had all of the money in said bin emptied into a nearby lake, and pushing a product which had the side effect of making those who used it float into the air.
    • Darkwing Duck is a hero, admittedly for the bragging rights; but as an Affectionate Parody of The Shadow, he's intentionally a little sinister. He is repeatedly shown to have an ego, seems to frown upon outside assistance aside from Lunchpad (and even including him before their permanent partnership), and is in general shown to be a Hero with Bad Publicity. His Evil Counterpart Negaduck is much more sinister, as the bad guy.
    • Gladstone Gander.
    • Aversion: There's nothing particularly unpleasant about Professor Ludwig Von Drake, though in his original appearance he was immensely arrogant, and every bit of his "wisdom" that Don chose to take for a fact led to loss of money, or humiliation.
    • Subverted with Abagail and Amelia Gabble from The Aristocats. They appear to be a pair of geese who are both very rude, but then they agree to help Thomas O'Malley climb out of the water while rescuing Marie from drowning near the middle of the film.
      • And then their's their Uncle Waldo, who apparantly bit a chef's finger in a restaurant as an attempt to avoid being killed and eaten there!
  • Daffy Duck of Looney Tunes is usually tricky and antagonistic for its own sake as opposed to stablemate Bugs Bunny. Under Chuck Jones, he became a Jerkass Ted Baxter; a portrayal which prevails to this day.
    • Plucky Duck is just like his mentor.
    • Danger Duck is just like his ancestor.
    • Daffy's Alter Ego Duck Dodgers is supposed to be a hero, but is extremely smug and self-satisfied.
    • But he pales in his sinister-ness next to the Duck Nazis and Duck Hitler. Fear "The Ducktators."
    • In Looney Tunes Collector: Alert! for the Game Boy Color, Daffy plots out his motivation on the spot after being defeated by Bugs early in the game and learning what's going on:

 Daffy: You're despicable! I give up, rabbit!

Bugs: Hey doc... your pond won't be worth much soon... Marvin is out to destroy the Earth!

Daffy: Again? Isn't he pestering us in enough cartoons? Must he also do the same video games?! I'm gonna follow this stupid rabbit and pretend to help him. If he wins I'll say I saved the world. I'll go on TV, set up a web site, become a worldwide star! If he fails, I'm smart enough to become Marvin's right hand duck and help him dominate the world! Ha-ha!

Of course, if you played its sister game Martian Revenge, you'd know that Bugs saved the day and Daffy would indeed go on to make a TV movie of his own supposed heroism, infuriating Marvin enough to return to Earth as a Villain Protagonist.
    • One old episode, "What Price Porkey", had the chickens and a farmer squaring off against the ducks in an all-fowl war after the ducks kept stealing their feed. In the end, the last remaining duck is trapped in a large metal cage. However, he gets the last laugh when he (she?) lays a bunch of eggs that hatch into ducklings who run out of the cage, snatch the chicken's victory corn, and bring it back to their parent to gobble up.
  • Hanna-Barbera seems to have a company wide aversion. No nasty ducks at all.
    • Little Quacker, the duckling who turned up now and again in Tom and Jerry, was usually well-mannered, polite, and depended on Jerry to save him from Tom.
    • Yakky Doodle had a tough bulldog pal, Chopper, to protect him from his enemy, Fibber Fox.
      • Yakky Doodle is almost the same character as Hanna-Barbera's earlier Quacker. The name change was mandated because Hanna-Barbera had gone independent from MGM, who still owned Quacker on paper at the time (as part of the Tom and Jerry property, which H-B only later reacquired).
    • Quack-Up from Galaxy Goof-Ups and Yogi's Space Race was, as the name suggests, just an idiot.
  • The Warner Brothers, and their sister, Dot, were originally meant to be ducks, based on the popularity of Plucky Duck of Tiny Toon Adventures fame at the time Spielberg was creating the trio. He apparently decided fairly quickly to change that, as it would be duck overload, turning them into the ambiguously specied characters they now are.
  • Pepper Ann had an episode where Nicki admitted she had an intense phobia of swans and they never managed to find out why or even be able to cure it. Then it was revealed her older sister had the exact same fear. At the end of the episode however, it is revealed to the viewer that their fear comes from an old toy now in their attic of a robotic swan with leering red eyes and a grating "SWANNIE. WANT. TO. PLAYYYYYYY."
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog frequently has trouble with waterfowl:
    • The arguing space duck brothers pretty sinister. They're only trying to save their brother from a mad chef, though.
    • LeQuack, a recurring master criminal duck whose escapes from capture usually involve (implied) slaughtering of policemen and/or blowing up prisons/prison vehicles.
    • The goose god who tries to lure Muriel away from Eustace and Courage so she can be his queen.
    • A duckling imprints on Eustace as his mommy, and tries to remove Muriel as a rival for Eustace's attention. Oddly enough, in that episode, Courage says that he typically likes ducks.
  • Count Duckula is an interesting example: a nice -- if somewhat snarky -- guy who gets feared and loathed because he happens to live in a dark, spooky castle in Transylvania and is technically a vampire...
    • Mind you, some of his 'ancestors' come straight from gothic horror-fiction.
    • He's also a minor villain in Danger Mouse.
      • If memory serves, it isn't the same Count Duckula.
      • It is. As a matter of fact, Count Duckula made his debut as a minor villain in Danger Mouse and was spun off into is own show. Further information can be found on the Internet.
        • It's implied a few times in the Duckula series that Duckula's "ancestors" are just previous incarnations of himself. The spell that returns him to life at the start of the series also changes his personality in a sort of Time Lord like manner.
        • What made his latest incarnation a nice guy is that the folks who revived him used ketchup instead of blood to complete the ritual, so he came back as a vegetarian.
        • His closing theme song was still pants-wettingly terrifying.
  • Duckman is a bit of a morally ambiguous Jerkass.
  • The Mighty Ducks cartoon had a team of anthromorphic alien ducks; most are the true-bred heroes but they have their share of questionable duckiness.
  • In a Dexter's Laboratory episode, Dexter's monkey who is secretly a superhero faces a duck villain, Quackor (owned by Dexter's nemesis Mandark).
  • There's the Duck! episode in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy where a phantom, invisible-to-others duck begins haunting Grim and consecutively all of Endsville. He makes farting noises in public, and the victim is always blamed for it.
  • One duck terrorizes Oscar Proud, but leaves his daughter Penny alone.
  • Why a duck?! Why a DUCK?!
  • Birds in general are dangerous in Happy Tree Friends, but one must be particularly wary around what appear to be man-eating ducks in one of the episodes.
  • Memetically applied to Megatron's Rubber Ducky.
  • The evil Peking Duck of The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat. All his duck underlings were evil, too.


Real Life

  • The University of York had in the early-mid '00s a very formidable-looking swan nicknamed "Notorious G", whose diet was reputed to include other waterfowl, cats and dogs and careless students. Some of the ducks also fit this trope, including the divebombers, the one that half flew and half paddled across the lake and crashed headlong into a bridge, and the one that charged the aforementioned Notorious G (possibly quacking the duck equivalent of "Leeroy Jenkins!").
    • Australia's University of Wollongong is home to several evil ducks, who live on a diet of first-year undergrads.
  • A woman was killed in Poland in 2003 when she drowned during a swan attack.
  • Recent research has shown that both male and female ducks are all chronic philanderers, with sleeping around, cheating, and nest-swapping all part of the norm. Kinda puts a new spin on Donald's three illegitimate "nephews", doesn't it?
    • Duck reproduction appears to be pretty unpleasant for the females. Also, male ducks are, erm, unusually equipped. See more than you ever wanted to know about the subject here
      • How about some Depraved Bisexual? The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae) by C.W. (Kees) Moeliker (page 243-247)
  • This won the Ig Nobel Prize
  • Geese and swans, of course, are ducks with the cute siphoned out. Swans are pure evil in Real Life.
  • The University of Advancing Technology in Phoenix have a pair of resident mallards (affectionately named "Mr and Mrs Duckz0r") that moved in after exceptionally rainy weather flooded parts of the campus and have stayed ever since. They are rumored to be developing a high-end gaming system made of sticks and mud and may actually be Ridiculously Avian Robots.
  • Ladies, gentlemen, and those who are not sure: Bullockornis, the Demon Duck of Doom.
  • Muscovy Ducks. Slightly resembling turkeys, they are extremely aggressive even among other ducks. In Belleview, a group of Muscovy ducks pecked five people, including a 60 year old woman who fell during the attack and broke her hand. Another resident suffering scratches, a fractured hand, and a torn fingernail trying to keep one giant Muscovy duck at bay.
  • Ducks, geese, swans and other waterfowl can be highly territorial, especially around a nest or source of food. Swans and geese have been known to break bones in an attack, and ducks can seriously harm children.
  • The Campus of the University Augsburg in Germany is a really pretty one, with some ponds and a stream... perfect living conditions for ducks. Ducks that are used to the students feeding them. God help you if you're ever stupid enough to eat your pretzel or your sandwich on the pond shore. God help you.
  • Geese used to be very effective house guards and once in a while are still used as such. Pity the idiot trying to break into a house guarded by a goose.

Notes

  1. really Michael Schumacher posing as the Stig
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