In movies and television sometimes you get a morally ambiguous character whose journey is a fascinating deconstruction of the heroes’ journey, taking them on a path of redemption or damnation. Characters like Avatar’s Prince Zuko or Walter White come to mind; characters whose moral ambiguity serves to shine a light into our own motivations and morality, giving us insight into the human condition…
…and then there are these turds.
Tom “Iceman” Kazanski –Top Gun
I’m not an expert on aerial combat in any shape or form so feel free to take this with as many grains of salt as you deem appropriate, but Iceman is absolutely an unrepentant murderer. Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s primary rival at Naval Fighter Weapons School (or the titular Top Gun if you prefer) is smug and antagonistic from the word go; ridiculing Maverick’s attitude, his piloting and his volleyball skills. But it’s during a crucial training exercise when his petty crap proves lethal. Iceman not only cuts off Maverick to acquire a target, but when he can’t get a shot he angrily breaks off causing Maverick to fly through his jet wash –leading to the engine flameout that caused the death of Mav’s radio intercept officer and best friend Goose, and the dude totally gets away with it! Maverick is found to not be at fault for the crash, but nobody even thinks to pin any responsibility on Iceman at all. He then has the brass stones to question Maverick’s competency as a pilot to his CAG right before a real mission in which Maverick has to save him from a squadron of Mig28s. His response to having to be rescued by the guy he’s been a jerk to the whole movie?
Screw you Iceman. You’re the worst.
Fridge – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Even before a magic board game digivolves into a video game and transforms high school football jock Fridge into Kevin Hart for 90 minutes, he’s a complete turd blossom. Fridge uses his estranged friendship with eager-to-please nerd Spencer to get him to do his homework for him and then ditches him as soon he has the work in hand. When he’s caught for cheating he doesn’t assume any responsibility and actually angrily blames *Spencer* for getting him in trouble. After the two are transported into the jungles of Jumanji and Spencer is inhabiting the pecs of the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, Fridge’s self-absortion mutates into bullying as he not only berates Spencer and says they aren’t really friends, but then literally straight up murders him by pushing him off a cliff (Spencer has three lives but come on, dick move).
Throughout the movie Fridge whines incessantly, makes one mistake after another and when he finally does *one thing* right (defanging a snake using skills he only has because the game gave them to him) he will. Not. Shut up about it. Still riding on the high of managing to not screw up for thirty seconds Fridge then gets drunk and drops the mcguffin needed to beat the game and get them all home…off a helicopter…into a rhino stampede. He then complains when Spencer throws him after it, costing him a life. Really Fridge? You pushed Spencer off *a cliff* for no reason at all, and you’re gonna be a tool about having to fix your own mistakes? All this could be forgiven if at any point Fridge has a moment where he realizes what a jerk he’s been and apologizes, but that moment never comes. The film, and the people he’s been torturing with his awful personality, give him a pass. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is still great and Kevin Hart is hilarious in the part, but Fridge is a terrible person and the writers of the movie really should have written an epilogue in which Spencer comes in and orders Fridge around at a fast food restaurant serving only rhino-meat where he now has to work after being expelled for cheating.
Jonathan Kent- Man of Steel
One of the defining characteristics of Clark Kent and his alter ego “Underwear-Outside-the-Pants-Man”, is his unwillingness to ever let innocent bystanders be met with harm, to the point it was viewed as an exploitable weakness by the inexplicably British leather fetishists he was fighting in Superman 2. And even though we had still had the bad taste in our mouths from Superman Returns’ depiction of the character as a deadbeat dad creepily x-ray stalking his baby mama and who frustratingly never actually punches anything in the movie’s entire runtime, we were eager to see this new treatment of the only superhero regularly associated with the Boy Scouts of America. Then we were introduced to an a-hole with super powers who destroys a man’s livelihood for being rude to him, wrecks an $11 million government drone and fails to keep Metropolis from getting Roland Emmerich’d off the map. But Cavillman shouldn’t be blamed for this inept handling of a character known for his kindness and humanitarianism. No, the blame instead falls squarely on the shoulders of sociopath Jonathan Kent, as played by the dead guy from The Big Chill. When a young Clark saves a busload of kids from drowning, Jonathan Kent Chastises him for risking exposure and suggests that *maybe he should have let them die*. When a hurricane strikes and Clark can save his dad from dying in it, Jonathan throws him a forbidding look and walks into the twister…to save a dog. He dies. At every stage Jonathan Kent pounds into his son that he must never use his powers in public for fear that a species that presents literally no threat to him whatsoever might…I dunno…not like him? No wonder he goes all grimdark, which by the way, as anyone who saw Superman 3 is painfully aware, when it comes to Superman *you never go full grimdark*.
Severus Snape – The Harry Potter series
I’m going to be blunt here. If you’re of the opinion that Severus Snape was in any way at all a decent human being you might want to get out here since you’ll be rage-quitting a few lines down. There’s a reason that Scarhead, Ginger and Know-it-all always suspect Snape is up to no good, and that’s because he is a legitimately terrible person who gives everyone who comes into contact with him reason to despise his parents for ever procreating. Snape is the definition of petty, refusing to ever rise above his circumstances and learn how to get through life without sneering. He actively hates an eleven-year-old for having the temerity to be born to someone he didn’t like. He responds to the high school bullying he endured by relentlessly bullying his students to the point where one of them sees *him* when a boggart approaches. His idea of teaching is demanding students do things he has yet to teach them and then mocking them when they can’t. Snape is so terrible that the lice in his hair tell people they’re from Neville’s pubes because they don’t want anyone to know what a crappy neighborhood they live in. I know some of you are defending Snape right now, citing his tragically doomed love for Harry’s mom and painting him as some kind of romantic hero…
…but seriously, no. If the best thing anyone can say about you is that you eventually realized that you shouldn’t be associating yourself with murderous metaphors for white supremacy, and you came to that realization only after they targeted your eight grade crush who you hurled a racial slur at when she friend-zoned you even though you’re such a “nice” guy, yeah, you’re a garbage human. I’m not saying Snape was beyond redemption; I’m just saying that he put the absolute bare minimum of effort into it.
Andrea Harrison – The Walking Dead
From the moment Andrea first showed up in the second episode of The Walking Dead clumsily wielding a pistol with the safety on at series protagonist Rick, we knew this hapless special-needs case wasn’t long for this world. It was then with a growing sense of irritation and mounting incredulity that we watched Andrea not only survive, but take an admirable run at the world record for most consecutive bad decisions made during the zombie apocalypse. Whether it was nearly shooting Darryl due to not being able to distinguish a walker from a regular person, endangering everyone in the camp by refusing to let anyone finish off her bitten sister until she turned, her morbid whining at Dale for saving her life, her sad tough-girl posturing, her petulance when she was denied a firearm on Hershel’s farm, or when she walked out of Beth’s room when she was supposed to be on suicide watch, allowing her to slit her wrists, Andrea relentlessly displayed a lack of self-awareness coupled with a delusional entitlement. Shane? The Governor? If the season has an antagonist, Andrea’s going to ignore the deluge of red flags slapping her in the face and sleep with him. She’s the type of girl who will ignore the advice of the woman who saved her and kept her alive for months in order to shack up with a psychopath who keeps zombie heads in fish tanks and keeps his zombified daughter on a chain. All this is made that much more frustrating when you read the comics and see how awesome Comic-Andrea (a sharpshooting badass who ends up with Rick) is.
The final straw came when she repeatedly failed to kill the Governor despite knowing he was an unbalanced murderer and having the opportunity to stop him and save lives time and again. When this finally lead to her death it was almost certainly for the best. If she was still around she’d be arguing with Rick about how her new boyfriend Negan is right and really just a big teddy bear on the inside five minutes after he turned Glen’s brains into a modern art installation.
Cdr. Joanne Galloway – A Few Good Men
At first glimpse Jo Galloway may appear to be a capable, strong professional lawyer and officer with a passion for justice. It also doesn’t hurt that she looks like Demi Moore, but just a few minutes into A Few Good Men she displays an alarming lack of ability to read the room. When her superior officer subtly dismisses her she fails to pick up on it until he literally has to explain to her that he’s asking her to leave so they can talk about her behind her back. When a case she’s campaigning for (a murder trial of two corporals whose defense is that they were ordered to attack a Private as a disciplinary exercise) gets handed over to naval litigator Daniel Kaffee, Galloway makes no secret of her unrelenting disdain (and as we’ve established earlier it’s not a good look to cast aspersions on a character played by Tom Cruise–the guy himself, yeah, but not a guy he’s playing). Her condescension is palpable as she shakes her head at Kaffee’s repeated attempts to take a plea deal and you know, keep his clients from going to jail forever. During the trial, Danny is cross-examining a Doctor he suspects is lying –and actually doing a pretty good job, but Jo is squirrelly. Then suddenly the trial of two marines accused of murder becomes the audience’s window into one woman’s descent into madness. She angrily objects to the Doctor’s testimony, which the judge has already overruled when Danny objected minutes earlier. When the judge points this out, this psycho mc-crazypants will not drop it. She *strenuously* objects.
She moves to reconsider, she does everything short of falling on the floor and throwing a full-on tantrum. This supposedly law-school trained defender steadfastly refuses to take no for an answer. The look on Danny’s face, as his cross-examination is intricately dismantled by *his co-counsel*, is one of barely contained rage coupled with abject bewilderment. The trial continues to go south as one of the accused is destroyed on the stand because Jo, while prepping her witness for months, managed to miss the minute detail that he wasn’t even present for the order. Later she pushes Danny into a courtroom confrontation with professional scariest man alive Jack Nicholson which, if he doesn’t admit wrongdoing, will mean a perjury charge for their client and a court martial for Danny. Then right before Nicholson is set to testify Jo takes Danny aside and we get this delightful exchange:
“ Listen. Danny. When you’re out there, if it’s not gonna happen, if you feel like he’s not going to say it, don’t go for it. You could get in trouble. I’m with internal affairs, and I’m telling you. You could get in a lot of trouble.”
Yeah he knows. You might remember back to the previous scene when he literally screamed in your face that he could get court-martialed and that calling the general to testify was “Galactically stupid”. Thanks for the pep talk, though, Jo. You’re a monster.
Peter Parker – Amazing Spider-man series
Put aside for a second when previous un-athletic, unpopular geek Peter Parker, played by athletic, classically handsome Andrew Garfield starts demolishing back boards with power dunks and throwing a football hard enough to bend a goalpost (you do know you have a secret identity, right?) Garfield’s stuttering Peter Parker is just a complete disaster, and as Spider-Man he’s worse. There were more than a few problems with the two Amazing movies that managed to get made before someone at Sony came to their senses and handed Peter Parker over to the MCU before any more damage could be done. The films were plagued with a stupid backstory involving Peter’s parents, a superfluous origin story and the usual lazy writing of every single villain having a personal connection to Peter Parker (which, knock it off already). The worst part was having to deal with Spider-man as an arrogant toolbag, concerned not with helping people but rather seeking revenge on his uncle’s murderer. But the moment when he crosses over from obnoxious millennial to full blown psychopath comes at the end of the first film. After a grueling CGI battle with the kicker from The Replacements has done what seven seasons of Rescue Me couldn’t do and claimed the life of Dennis Leary, with his dying breath he makes Peter promise to break up with his daughter Gwen, to avoid endangering her life. At first Peter lives up to his promise, friend-zoning Gwen and going about his spidery days. But then his “spider-sense” starts tingling (if you know what I mean) and he remembers that his would-be girlfriend is Emma Stone so he completely reneges on the promise he made to a dying man and we are treated to this little gem:
Miss Ritter: Mr. Parker! Tardy again?
Peter Parker: Sorry Miss Ritter! It won’t happen again, I promise.
Miss Ritter: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Peter Parker: (whispering to Gwen) Yeah but those are the best kind.
Anyone even remotely familiar with Spider-man gets a chill at that scene as we know for a fact Peter basically just murdered her.
Poe Dameron – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It hurts to have to include this one, because Poe’s introduction in Force Awakens coupled with his epic bromance with Finn was one of the highlights of the movie. But in The Last Jedi, from the word go Poe Dameron is an unmitigated disaster. Poe’s attempts to play hero come with such an avoidable body count that Harry Potter stopped and did a slow clap. First, Poe is responsible for the disastrous attempt to blow up the First Order dreadnought, which was actually a success –as long as you don’t factor in the hundreds of lost lives and the destruction of the entire resistance bomber fleet. You’d think the hero of the story would have the decency to mourn the lost lives he’s directly responsible for, or at least have it fresh in his mind that the last time he was allowed to make a decision a quarter of the Resistance blew up. But Poe Dameron doesn’t have time for things like humility or self-realization. He’s got a job to do and he’s going to ignore the hell out of common sense to do it
When Admiral Ellie Sadler of the Jurassic system assumes command of the fleet, Poe gives attitude like a millennial denied avocados. Despite the aforementioned disastrous offensive, getting demoted and then getting slapped by none other than Princess Leia herself, Poe still think he’s know what’s best for the resistance. He disobeys direct orders, sends his friends on a suicide mission and tries to stage a coup, which kind of explains why there are only like twelve resistance members left by the end of the movie. Then later when he’s stuck on a plane full of convicts, he decides to stay on the plane even though if he had just stayed on the ground when they stopped to refuel the bad guys would have just…
Okay, I’ve just been informed that that was actually Cameron Poe, the hero of the awesome Nicolas Cage action vehicle Con Air. My bad.
Troy Dwyer and Lelaina Pierce – Reality Bites
A two-for-one bonus of jerkitude here folks. One is a disarmingly handsome, verbally abusive, perpetually unemployed nightmare utterly convinced of his own superiority. The other is an ethereally beautiful, pretentious “artist” remarkably lacking in any self-awareness with the added perk of a persecution complex. Only mid-nineties Ben Stiller could make these two worst examples of Gen-X entitlement likable. I say he “could” because yeah, I guess he kind of forgot. Troy is a smarmy slacker utterly in love with his own eloquence who mocks people with loser clichés like “degrees” and “gainful employment”. Lelaina is someone who thinks herself so high above her station that she humiliates her condescending boss on live TV, getting herself fired from a job in the field she supposedly wants to work in. Then, when her best friend graciously offers her a temporary job at The Gap where she’s the manager, Lelaina haughtily refuses because she’s totally an artist and retail is so beneath her.
It soon seems as though we’re watching a contest to see which of these two can be the most terrible. Lelaina takes advantage of her father’s generosity by maxing out the gas station card he gave her, racks up a ludicrous phone bill calling psychics while unemployed and contributing nothing, and then freaks out on well-intentioned Michael when her crappy documentary undergoes some edits. Troy counters by smugly harassing Michael and mocking his intelligence despite the fact that between the two of them he’s the dropout who can’t hold down a job. He then takes a hard veer into crappy boyfriend territory when he sleeps with Lelaina and then vanishes in the morning, only to reappear later to try and keep her away from Michael who is obviously better for her. At the end, when Troy and Lelaina finally get together the audience is only cheering because these two terrible people clearly deserve each other.
Dean Forrester – Gilmore Girls
Okay look, I know this a hot take. Some of you are reading this and wondering why I’m picking on poor Dean when Logan is right there, just begging to have his smug rich-boy persona mercilessly mocked. Some of you might even think Jess is a worthier target, but I can’t deal with that level of wrong-headed insanity. Sorry, but as wrong as Logan was for Rory, ultimately he had moments of sincerity and growth. Dean on the other hand, when viewed through the lens of maturity, was just a tool from the get-go. Dean was angry, possessive and insecure; demanding constant validation and throwing tantrums when he didn’t get it. Even his grand gestures like building Rory a car reeked of overcompensation. Logan outgrew his partying playboy persona, and Jess rose above the difficulties of a rough upbringing and an absentee father to become a pretty cool, well put together guy. Dean not only steadfastly refused to grow up, he actually got *more* awful as time went by. He got jealous constantly, tried to fight anyone who looked in Rory’s direction, refused to give her any space, and had a thing for publicly dumping her when he got too threatened by her ambition.
By the time he was marrying Lindsey, who he didn’t love, and emotionally abusing her throughout their marriage before cheating on her with Rory without even the slightest bit of hesitation, we were quietly saying a prayer for Dean to be eaten alive by hissing cockroaches. From the inside.
“Then we were introduced to an a-hole with super powers who destroys a man’s livelihood for being rude to him, wrecks an $11 million government drone and fails to keep Metropolis from getting Roland Emmerich’d off the map.”
God, what movie were you watching? Clark destroyed the man’s truck because he was A SEXUAL HARASSER trying to start a fight. He wrecked the drone because he doesn’t want the government spying on him (would you like it if the gov’t was spying on you?) and he “failed” at saving Metropolis because he was a novice up against an actual warrior who was bred and trained to be a fighter. It’s like people are sympathizing with the villains of the movie which reveals a lot about their mentality. I don’t get the hate MOS gets and the way it gets constantly compared to the overrated Chris Reeves movies which couldn’t decided whether they wanted to be in the 70s or the 30s. Compared to the Batman movies, MOS was a tea party and I’ll take MOS over the misogynistic “Watchmen” comic any day of the week.