First, God created Man. Then God thought Man’s existence could use some spicing up, so God created Assholes. And some time later, Man said, “Hey, maybe there’s a place for Assholes in pop culture! They represent all our flaws, force us to laugh at our own follies, and say the things we wish we could say!” And it was good.
An Asshole is not the same thing as a Douchebag. Almost all Douchebags are horrible, offensive, loathsome creatures who should be shipped to a tiny island with no women to date-rape and only enough hair gel for one head. Assholes, on the other hand, can be funny, relatable, and even lovable. Sometimes they’re villains we love to hate, sometimes we’re not-so-secretly rooting for them. Here are my faves!
DANG-BLASTED’S TOP 10 FICTIONAL ASSHOLES
Dilbert is well-populated by jerks, cynics, tools, and morons. Rising to the top of the heap is Dilbert’s pal Dogbert, truly the greatest asshole to ever hit the comics page. It’s almost as if Dogbert was put on this world to test those around him -- can they maintain their sanity in the face of his monumentally selfish, despotic, and borderline-socipathic behavior? The bespectacled canine with the egg-shaped body loves two things, himself and absolute power, and nothing gives him greater satisfaction than to pat the former on the back while abusing the everloving fuck out of the latter. Truly, it takes “man’s best friend” to point out all the reasons why he’s better suited to run the world than the incompetent human race. And then it won’t matter how rich or successful you are. You will be Dogbert’s personal slave. Now quack like a duck.
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: After mastering hypnosis, Dogbert hacks some satellites and takes over the planet. When we complain, he makes us all wear bras over our shirts. And then he gets bored and decides we don’t deserve to be enslaved by him. If only other despotic tyrants could be this full of themselves.
She’s Hansel and Gretel’s nemesis. She turned the Frog Prince froggy. She has existed for millennia, accumulating a godlike degree of power through the murdering of innocent children. And she’s one of the good guys. Yes, Frau Totenkinder from the Fables comic series is definitely someone you want on your side, even if you don’t feel comfortable being in the same room as her. Seated in the rocking chair that somehow follows her everywhere, knitting placidly away, and the whole time, she’s carving and filleting you with her eyes. Her motives are so obtuse that not even a king would dare question them, and the best guess the other Fables can make is that she allied herself with the forces of good because she felt vaguely sorry for them, the poor little lambs. Without spoiling her big character arc, let me just say that Frau Totenkinder kicks more ass than just about anyone in the universe. And, man, is she a gigantic asshole. AND SHE LOVES IT.
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: The sleazy Prince Charming is elected mayor of Fabletown, basing his campaign around the promise of magic spells to humanize the non-human Fables so they can live normally in a modern world. But he doesn’t get to enjoy his inaugural ball, because Frau Totenkinder, wearing the biggest trollface you ever saw, informs him that you can’t just dispense magic like prescription meds, all the stuff he promised will never happen, and maybe he should have consulted her first. Problem?
Chickens are supposed to lay eggs and become delicious when you place them in an oven. Chickens are not supposed to rule half of China, proclaim themselves living gods, and treat women like shit. That’s why General Tsao, one of the bad guys from Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves, is such a glorious mix of funny and repulsive. Some might accuse Sucker Punch of racial stereotyping (note the Fu Manchu facial hair and thick Engrish accent), but come on. It’s a chicken. Named General Tsao. However, all goofiness aside, Tsao is one of the best villains in the Sly universe. Arrogant, delusional, and inflated by hubris, he kidnaps an unwilling young maiden to be his wife, and Sly and the gang vow to get her back. By the end of the caper, they’ve basically decided to punish Tsao as much as possible because he’s that fucking unpleasant. Kudos, Sucker Punch, for creating a character whose picture should be in the dictionary next to “Huge, Raging Asshole From Hades.”
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: After Tsao says that his weeping, terrified bride-to-be doesn’t know what the hell she wants because she’s just a woman, Sly basically informs him, “You’re the worst person I’ve ever met.” To recap, Sly has gone up against a tyrant king who pulverizes villages for fun, a giant spider who brainwashes the innocent while wearing the badge of a police agent, and the group of bastards who MURDERED HIS OWN PARENTS, and he doesn’t think any of them are quite as bad as General Motherclucking Tsao.
So, you’re trapped in a room with an asshole who won’t shut up, only the asshole is a sentient computer who controls everything that happens in the room and is not-so-subtly out of her freaking artificial mind. GLaDOS from the Portal series is one of the best video game villains in human history, largely because she manages to be both menacing and balls-out hilarious. Her voice, intended by her makers to be soothing, makes you want to scream; voice actress Ellen McLain imbues every line with dripping, passive-aggressive contempt. It’s no secret that GLaDOS wants to kill you in all sorts of nasty ways, and yet, in a twisted sense, she depends on you. Like a lot of assholes, she needs constant self-validation, which she attempts to achieve by making you her personal squeaky toy and belittling you at every turn. God, what a bitch. It’s so satisfying to fuck with her plans and so disappointing when the game ends and you can no longer enjoy the pleasures of her smug psychological abuse.
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: She murdered everyone in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center with a deadly neurotoxin. And then she spent the entire game making you believe that you were the bad person.
Every tragic hero needs a nemesis. But how big of a bastard do you have to be to spend decades chasing a guy across France because he jumped parole after serving twenty years for stealing one measly loaf of bread? A Javert-sized bastard, apparently. The main baddie from Les Misérables is so smugly shortsighted, so convinced that Good and Evil are the only states of being, so unwilling to take his moral blinders off, that he elevates being an asshole to an art form. And he sings! He sings about how all criminals are inherently vile, how free thinkers should be stabbed to death, and how the stars remind him of Lucifer! Sound like the kind of guy you want to invite to your clam bake? Javert wins bonus points for his awesome threads. Big buttons and high leather boots are perfect asshole wear -- right, Nazi Germany?
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: His death scene, spoiler alert. Basically, the heroic Jean Valjean, whose life Javert has fucked up for so long, gets Javert at swordpoint -- but forgives him, gives him a condescending pat on the head, and lets him go. Suddenly, Javert is forced to reconsider everything he thought he knew about the nature of humanity and entertain the notion that maybe it’s not just our actions that define us. His narrow little mind can’t cope with this, so he kills himself. That’s right, he’d rather be dead than not be an asshole.
The Looney Tunes
All of them. Every single goddamn Looney Tunes character makes this list. They’re all assholes....bless them. Seriously, show me proof to the contrary. Bugs Bunny’s various antagonists all want to murder the fuck out of him, but Bugs, in his turn, torments them with spiteful glee. Sylvester the Cat is a self-loathing creep and Tweety Bird is a sadistic little shithead. Wile E. Coyote is an arrogant, delusional fool, but the Road Runner clearly enjoys annihilating him over and over. Pepe le Pew is a fucking RAPIST. Marvin the Martian is guilty of PLANET-WIDE GENOCIDE. And then there’s Daffy Duck, about whom encyclopedias of assholery could be written. Even the seemingly innocent ones, like Porky Pig or Sylvester Jr., are handy with the snark and sarcasm. And, c’mon, would we want it any other way? The Looney Tunes are us, with all our flaws on full display. We are all assholes, my friends, and it takes cartoon animals to make us realize it.
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: I could never pick one single moment from a million. But “Ain’t I a stinker?” is up there, as is “Wabbit Season! Duck Season!” I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Master Li Kao
I’m gonna continue doing everything I can to make people notice Barry Hughart’s awesome Chinese fantasy trilogy. Today’s plug is for Master Li, who’s like Sherlock Holmes with seven or eight additional decades and even less ethics. This is a guy who fondly remembers the good old days when he was ninety, who rose to near-sainthood via his intellect and wisdom and then decided humanity was shit and could go to hell. Hughart’s books are basically supernatural detective stories, driven by Master Li’s ability to not only think outside the box, but destroy the box with sledgehammers and piss on the remains. Everywhere he goes, people get killed, fucked over, or (if they deserve it) showered with unexpected fortune via highly illicit methods. He takes nothing seriously, he has nothing to lose, and the naive world is his to corrupt. As Master Li is fond of saying, “there is a slight flaw in my character.” And it’s called giving so few fucks that his fuck-giving exists on a subatomic level.
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: Master Li and his sidekick, Number Ten Ox, accidentally murder a creepy dude who happens to be the boyfriend of a very powerful warden. They have to dispose of the corpse in a way that leaves no room for error. So Master Li carves the dude up, turns him into a series of delicate gourmet dishes, and serves him to his own lover at a feast. And, just to prove how little of a fuck he gives, Master Li joins in the meal. Scrumdiddlyumptious.
Yeah, yeah, it’s Lost again. Today’s token Lost entry is Miles Straume (played by Ken Leung), the conniving ghost whisperer who jumped onboard during the show’s fourth season to inject a dose of dickbaggery into the proceedings. Boy, did I find him welcome. While most of the characters insisted on being earnest about the show’s increasingly ludicrous plot, Miles took one look at the scenario and basically went, “You’re all fucking morons; how can I profit from this?” His utter lack of morals was a much-needed counterpoint to everyone else’s tiresome emotional baggage, and although Miles eventually got a sympathetic backstory, he never lost one bit of his edge. Clearly, he’d struck the right chord; latecomers to the show tended to fare poorly, but not only did Miles survive to the end, he also got away scot free with a stash of buried diamonds. He was rewarded for being an insufferable little shit whom you wanted to punch in the face. Says something about our values.
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: I’d give it to his very first appearance on the show, when he arrived at a grieving woman’s house to ghost-whisper with her dead grandson. Left alone in the grandson’s room, Miles used his ability to uncover a massive wad of drug money, which he pocketed. Then he gave the lady a 50% discount on his usual fee. What a generous guy.
Sam the Eagle
I feel like the Muppets are well-stocked in the asshole department, but some of the funniest assholes of all are those with a misguided moral compass. Every single thing that Sam the Eagle says and does is hilarious for just this reason. Uptight, conservative, and very easily shocked, Sam sees the other Muppets as a festering horde of immoral weirdos whom only he can cure. Some of The Muppet Show’s best material came about when Sam tried, and inevitably failed, to make the show more wholesome. I find Sam oddly poignant; his wretched attempts to uphold political correctness are awfully close to home. I suspect Jim Henson and co. based Sam on some real people they encountered while shopping the Muppets around. Truly, Sam weeps the bitter tears of a clown. I feel for Sam, even as I’m laughing at his failure. He’s the asshole we all need to put life in perspective. Or he’s just a punchline. That works too.
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: Sam hijacks the show when Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev guest-stars, determined to show proper respect. His blatant man-crush only gets more comical as he confuses the dancer with an opera singer (“Culture is culture”), mistakes Nureyev for a bum and throws him out of the theatre, then watches in horror as Nureyev eschews ballet in favor of performing “Top Hat.”
As I mentioned before, Roald Dahl was such a good children’s author because he knew that, more often than not, kids need a boot in the trousers. That’s why one of his most beloved characters -- Willy Wonka, owner of the world’s most safety-inspector-proof chocolate factory -- wins kudos for essentially leading spoiled brats into horrible fates. Wonka is a mentor figure with a twist, a recluse who wants a child to inherit his factory but has little idea how real people actually think. In the original novel, he’s reckless and rude, dragging the other characters into one strange predicament after another. Of course, he’s better known in his movie incarnations: Gene Wilder in the 1971 adaptation, Johnny Depp in the 2005 take. Wilder, with his raving psychosis bubbling beneath his placid surface, is very effective, but I (unlike most people) like Depp’s Wonka a little better. He nails the misanthropic asshole behavior, giving us a man who knows and cares so little about actual human emotions that he might as well be from another planet. You don’t like him, but then, I’m not sure Dahl intended you to. Charlie is the hero and Wonka is the maladjusted sideshow. Sums up the role of the Asshole pretty well, no?
CLASSIC ASSHOLE MOMENT: In all versions of the tale, we love to watch Wonka’s careless, quietly amused reactions as the four brats get what’s coming to them. On Augustus Gloop’s fatal conversion into chocolate bars: “I wouldn’t allow it. The taste would be terrible. Can you imagine Augustus-flavored chocolate-coated Gloop? Ewww. No one would buy it.” On the Salt family falling down the garbage chute: “I think that furnace is only lit every other day, so they have a good sporting chance.” God, I love this man. Let’s send all the brats to him!