Stories in books, movies, and TV are usually framed so that the main character is seen as the hero, but sometimes these "heroes" are a bit less heroic than they might seem at first glance.
Whether they're just generally a jerk to other characters or their whole mission was really bad from the start, these characters are not the good guys they seem to be.
Reddit user u/ThePuzzler13 asked:
"What "hero" is more villainous than the actual villain?"
Steals from honest merchants. Steals a magical artifact and uses it for entirely personal gain up until the very end. When the Sultan suggests rewriting laws so that they can marry, he doesn't even consider amending the law that has children getting their hands cut off that he experienced firsthand.
Ladybug from Miraculous, mostly every single person on that show gets akumatized as a result of Marinette being mean to them or her just doing something plain right dumb. But then she always saves the day as Ladybug and everything is all fine and dandy, like she didn't just cause all that stuff.
Troy Bolton in High School Musical. He gets everything handed to him, and whenever he has to give even the slightest in return, he squirms and squeals and breaks promises to people who are helping him. There's a Film Theory video about it.
Old Testament God is usually more capricious, bloodthirsty, warmongering than Satan.
Patch Adams. I'm sorry, but the way that the fictional Patch Adams acted in that movie was not only unprofessional, but stupid, unfunny, illegal, and sometimes even dangerous. The "evil" school administration trying to stop him that the movie tries to paint as stuffy and uncaring ends up looking reasonable by comparison. No wonder the real Patch Adams hated how he was portrayed.
SpongeBob SquarePants. Whenever something good happens to Squidward, he and Patrick always have to go and ruin it for him.
Jedi are a group of religious zealot megalomaniacs.
If they had just let Anakin rescue his Mom from slavery. But no.
well Qui-Gon could have just bought the kid and the mother
But no pod is worth 2 slaves. To do what you propose one of the obscenely rich characters in the story with seemingly nothing to do all day but stare out windows would have had to go ALL the way back to purchase her. That's like...3 hours in hyperspace.. WHO HAS 3 HOURS TO WASTE ON THAT?!!?!
Anyone ever talked about Goku being inefficient as a hero, like reviving the most dangerous species in the known universe just to see hOw sTrOnG tHeY BeCoMe, although he himself doesn't have a guaranteed way of winning
I always found the Daredevil-Punisher dynamic odd. Especially the Netflix version.
The Punisher kills people who hurt others. He's usually quick about it though, allowing them a mostly painless death. But still, murderer. Villain.
Meanwhile Matt freaking Murdock breaks peoples' spines, paralyzing them and doesn't give a flying crap. He won't kill anyone, but he has no problem making sure they suffer for the rest of their life. He's kind of terrifying for a hero.
The married king in the original sleeping beauty in case you didn't know it goes a little like this.
So basic first bit she gets primed by a spinning wheel and falls asleep but she isn't rescued by a prince she gets "rescued" by a married king. He comes in sees her and does unspeakable things to her and leaves. 9 months later she awakes and gives birth to twins. She find her way to a palace which just happens to be the same king. The king sees her and falls in love with her.
The Queen sees this and is jealous of sleeping beauty so she plots to kill her and give her twins to the cook so she can cook them up and serve them to the king. The plans fall through the kids are saved by the cook and the queen is killed and sleeping beauty and the king are married, The End.
And then Jack chopped down what was the world's last beanstalk, adding murder and ecological terrorism to the theft, enticement, and trespass charges already mentioned, and all the giant's children didn't have a daddy anymore. But he got away with it and lived happily ever after, without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done...which proves that you can be excused for just about anything if you are a hero, because no one asks inconvenient questions.
Hogfather, Sir Terry Pratchett
This is subverted by Fables too, because Jack is such an unrepentant a-hole who's backstory is full of him just doing horrible things for the sake of women, money and power.
Honestly any any protagonist from a Nick Jr cartoon. They always treat the "antagonist" like crap for doing only mildly bad things.
Power Puff Girls
The Power Puff Girls were notorious for this.
Mojo Jojo would, like, be at the grocery store picking up juice and stuff and they'd fly in and kick his butt for no reason
Claire from Jurassic World. Her negligence and poor decision making is directly responsible for the injuries and deaths of many visitors and employees of the park.
Not just that, her characters response to events are supposed to be herioc but in reality she leaves the park managerless to go find her nephews that she couldn't be asked to look after earlier and finally hooks up with the park ranger in the rescue centre despite being the most seniour park manager left, who should be in charge of head counts and organising communication with the mainland extraction teams.
Then in the next film she dosent get punished and decides to push people to risk more human lives to save the assests that she never truly cared about in the first film.
Wedding Crashers' Jeremy and John -- they lie their way into a family's wedding and eventually their home. Then John starts to peel a woman away from her fiance, even going so far as to poison him with Visine.
Jerry from Tom & Jerry. Screw this mouse.
As a kid I thought he was the hero but now I have realized how he was awful to Tom. Tom just wanted to get laid in one episode but Jerry just kept on messing up his chances.
Odysseus in the Odyssey.
While the foreigners are portrayed as the bad guys, he goes around pillaging everyone and expecting tons of lavish gifts.
For us it looks pretty messed up, but for ancient Greeks, it's pretty on brand with their idea of heroism.
SPOILER: THE RUINS
The final girl for the The Ruin. You were supposed to root for the main characters to escape the vine infested pyramid surrounded by locals who have quarantined them because the vines are sentient, flesheating, and world-endingly dangerous. Something that the "protagonists" learn less than halfway through the film.
So essentially they know that they're going to die either way, but they don't care because forget the entire rest of KINGDOM ANIMALIA I'M A TOURIST AND I WANNA GO BACK TO MY HOTEL TO DIE.
I literally spent the last half of the movie rooting for the locals AND the vines because these a-holes were so hellbent on being "patient zero" of the apocalypse plant disease.
Bugs Bunny, I love the show, but that rabbit screws with people and other characters just for fun. Plus, if you're going to take your friend to the beach, get your directions right so you don't end up in the Himalayas, feeding him to an abominable snowman.
Neo, and most of the redpill hackers, are more evil than the machines in the Matrix.
The machines were built by humans. When the AI began to get too smart and some machines went haywire, what was humanity's response? Eradicate them. Total AI genocide. Was it evil for the machines to value and protect their own lives?
And after the war was won, after the machines had dominated mankind and had us on the edge of extinction, did they finish us? No. They preserved humanity. I know, the movie makes it seem like they need us, but some digging into the lore of the Matrix-verse shows that's not true. Even the Architect tells Neo, "There are levels of existence we are prepared to accept.
"Knowing the humans would always try to eradicate machines, the machines devised the best way they could think to preserve us - in a prison that we could never see. They built us a cage infinitely more humane than the ones we keep animals in on Earth. The first Matrix was even designed as a paradise, to give us all we could ever want, and the only reason it didn't stay that way was because the human mind wouldn't accept that reality.
The machines don't kill a human unless they have to for self-defense. Humans who reject the Matrix are a threat to the machines, but they DON'T EVEN KILL THOSE until they become a direct threat. The Oracle herself shelters many children who show signs of rejecting the Matrix. She studies them, their minds, why they make the choices they do, so that the machines can continue to make better Matrices. Indeed, the machines do not view rejection as a fault of humans, they view it as a fault in the Matrix.
Meanwhile, redpill hackers crash into the Matrix on a regular basis and kill lots of innocent people. Think of all the security guards and cops who are killed by the hackers - innocent humans living their blissfully ignorant virtual lives. Sure, Agents could infiltrate those people, and the hackers are doing what they do for the greater good of humanity (or so they think,) but they still kill far more innocents than the machines ever do.
That goomba-murdering, mushroom-addicted, dinosaur head-bashing psychopath MARIO. Just look at what he did to the homes of the Koopalings in SMW!