We all love a good character on TV who appears to be pleasant, charming, and lovable on the surface. However, as we peel back the layers, sometimes we realize these characters are not as sweet as they seem. Here are 20 TV and film characters where the most ubiquitous offenders are playing nice but turn out to be pretty bad people.
1. Jim Halpert
What isn’t there to say about Jim from The Office? He flirted with a married woman, bullied his coworker for doing his job, can’t manage people or actually do the work required of him, and thinks he’s better than everyone else… Shall we go on?
2. Carrie Bradshaw
Either you love Carrie, or you hate Carrie from S-x and the City. The show itself is a staple in pop culture and a must-binge if you haven’t already. However, Carrie gets paid a liveable wage to write on occasion. Honestly, that’s the most insufferable part about her.
3. Andy Sachs’ Friends
We all know Miranda Priestly is the main antagonist as the editor-in-chief of Runway in The Devil Wears Prada. However, she’s not the only one Andy Sachs has to worry about. Andy’s friends initially appear friendly and supportive of Andy’s new job at Runway, which they know she took reluctantly. However, as the story progresses, they become increasingly critical of her job at a fashion magazine. They constantly undermine her career aspirations and belittle her for trying to succeed in a competitive industry. Their jealousy and negativity reveal that they are not as nice as they first appear.
4. Elizabeth James & Nic Parker
Who doesn’t love the Lindsay Lohan classic The Parent Trap (1998)? However, for what’s supposed to be a wholesome Disney family-friendly film, the concept of a pair of twins being intentionally separated at birth by their “loving” parents is appalling. We’re supposed to root for Elizabeth and Nic to reunite and fall in love, but they made selfish decisions affecting their daughter’s lives.
Imagine you had a parent and a twin sister out there somewhere you never knew about because your parents made a deceitful agreement to hide all of this from you so they didn’t have to deal with the inconveniences of co-parenting in a divorce.
5. Emily Cooper
When it was first released, Emily in Paris faced a ton of flack for its pretentious and cliche depictions of Parisians. However, it has built a considerable cult following and fanbase. Emily is a midwestern American who moves to Paris to take a marketing position at a luxury French marketing firm, offering her unique American perspective to the company. Despite her charming exterior, Emily is frequently self-centered and insensitive. She repeatedly ignores her French colleagues’ and friends’ opinions and customs and often tries to impose her American views on them.
6. Jerry in Tom & Jerry
Tom & Jerry is an iconic cartoon classic depicting the literal cat-and-mouse games between rivals Tom, the cat, and Jerry, the mouse. While most people assume Tom to be the villain because of the well-known animosity cats have toward mice, if you watch the show, you’ll notice it’s usually the little mouse Jerry who is the aggressor. Tom is a cat that just wants to chill out but is constantly being provoked by this mouse.
Jerry may seem cute and innocent as the beloved mouse character in the classic cartoon, but he is not as nice as he seems. Jerry is constantly trying to outsmart and harm Tom, the cat, using various tactics that often result in violence and chaos. His ruthless and cunning behavior towards Tom reveals that he is not as innocent as he may first appear.
7. Ted Mosby
Ted Mosby is depicted as a textbook “nice guy” in How I Met Your Mother. We’re supposed to root for him on his quest to find “the one.” Ted is always referred to as a “great guy” who’s a romantic, makes grand gestures, and is thoughtful. However, as we continue to follow Ted’s character development, Ted’s flaws become apparent, and it becomes clear that he is not as nice as he seems.
Ted is often selfish, impulsive, and manipulative in his pursuit of love, constantly prioritizing his own needs over those of others. He tends to idealize his romantic partners and disregards their feelings, leading to failed relationships and hurtful behavior.
8. Grandpa Joe in The Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
Grandpa Joe initially appears as a kind and supportive figure in Charlie’s life, but his actions conflict with this early image of him. He spends years lying in bed, claiming to be too sick to work and help support his family, who live in abject poverty. Once Charlie wins the golden ticket, however, he suddenly can walk and joins Charlie on the factory adventure. Many fans theorize that Grandpa Joe’s selfish behavior proves he’s been taking advantage of his family’s generosity and is not as selfless as he first appears.on
9. Lily Aldrin
Lily is at first portrayed as the sweet and caring best friend of the main character in How I Met Your Mother, but her actions often reveal her manipulative and selfish side. She frequently lies, and schemes to get her way, and her actions often cause harm to her friends’ relationships and lives. Despite her exterior of sweetness, Lily’s manipulative behavior shows that she is not as nice as she initially seems.
When things got hard, she would always run out on Marshall. She is incapable of communicating her emotions and is generally unappreciative of Marshall, leading her to call off their wedding to pursue a career as an artist even though he always supported her.
10. Rory Gilmore
Rory Gilmore probably underwent the most regressive character development in TV history. She began as a bright-eyed, intelligent, studious, hard-working, innocent girl with big dreams. In the early seasons, Rory seems like a model student and a dream child that any parent would be proud of. However, things take a nose dive a few seasons in, as she is revealed to be an entitled, petulant little child.
She is selfish and reckless, walking around breaking everyone’s heart and even having an affair with a married man. She insists that Logan is the privileged one, but she’s blissfully unaware that she’s just like him. She was brought up with a silver spoon in her mouth and was handed everything, but the second she faces rejection, she crumbles.
11. Lorelai Gilmore
We feel a great amount of sympathy for Lorelai from the beginning of Gilmore Girls because of her strained relationship with her mother, life as a single mom due to Christopher abandoning them for another woman, and forming such a loving bond with her daughter Rory. However, while Lorelai acts as though her mother, Emily, is a pretentious elitist, Lorelai displays the same attitude in Stars Hollow on a smaller scale. She’s very disrespectful to her best friend, Sooki.
She doesn’t treat Luke right and even goes back to Christopher when he asks her to marry him. Lorelai also uses people and is self-absorbed. I also think Emily ended up being right about Lorelei. The “mother as your best friend” trope may seem cute when you’re young, but it’s a disaster and a mark of immaturity that damages children, as evidenced by how Rory turned out.
12. Ross Gellar
Ross is a central character in the TV show Friends and initially comes across as a sweet and lovable guy. However, as the show progresses, Ross exhibits possessive and jealous behavior towards his romantic partners and often acts entitled and selfishly. His actions often cause drama and conflicts with his friends and partners.
13. Spongebob Squarepants
SpongeBob is a beloved cartoon character known for his innocent and cheerful nature. However, his actions often border on obsessive and annoying, as he constantly intrudes on his neighbor Squidward’s personal space and ignores his boundaries. SpongeBob’s obliviousness and lack of consideration for Squidward’s feelings reveal immaturity and inconsideration.
What’s worse, he never develops as a character. He remains just as annoying, oblivious, and inconsiderate as always. He never learns lessons, just repeats the same insufferable behavior. While it’s hilarious to watch, I understand why Squidward is so miserable.
14. Phoebe Buffay
Phoebe is a quirky and eccentric character in Friends, known for her offbeat personality. However, her actions often show a lack of empathy and consideration for others. While she’s supposedly a free spirit, she’s honestly just rude and dismissive a lot of the time. While Phoebe is still one of my favorite characters because of her over-the-top goofiness, she simultaneously acts really dumb but also has a huge ego. Some viewers point out that she routinely divulged private information to others and would never apologize when she hurt people.
15. Patrick Star
Patrick is SpongeBob’s best friend in the TV show SpongeBob SquarePants and is often portrayed as naive and simple-minded. However, his actions often lead to chaos and harm to others. Patrick’s recklessness and lack of awareness of consequences reveal that he is not as harmless as he may first appear. In earlier seasons, Patrick was the lovable idiot, but in the later seasons, he became more malicious, manipulative, and obnoxious.
16. Dean Forester
In Gilmore Girls, Dean is initially presented as the perfect boyfriend for Rory. However, as the show progresses, Dean becomes possessive and controlling toward Rory, often acting out of jealousy and anger. The point of no return was when Dean cheated on his wife Lindsay with Rory, which was Rory’s “first time.” Does that sound like a good guy to you?
17. Mary Jane
Mary Jane is a character from Spider-Man and is the love interest of Peter Parker. However, her actions sometimes show a lack of loyalty and emotional manipulation. She often leads Peter on and engages in risky behavior, causing strain in their relationship. Mary Jane’s inconsistent and sometimes manipulative actions reveal that she is a much worse person than Peter realizes. She is constantly cycling through men, getting into relationships with men who are cruel, and acting extremely cold toward Peter when they are together.
18. Severus Snape
Severus Snape is often seen as someone who sacrificed so much for love, but when you really look at his actions, their extremely selfish and problematic. Because he couldn’t get over a girl he loved as a teenager, he insisted on bullying her son his entire time at school and making really controversial choices throughout all of the movies. A lot of people romanticize him, but really, he’s not all that great.
Caillou was a show so many of us watched growing up, but it was only when we got older that we realized just how annoying Caillou was. Caillou never really learns from any of the mistakes he makes and is often not punished for the things he does wrong. When his newborn sister comes home, he’s annoyed and hurts her because she is getting attention. His parents don’t do anything to punish him for this. Plus, throughout the show, he’s helpless and needs everyone to do things for him, despite being a young kid who should have more freedom.
20. Tom Haverford
Tom Haverford does have a good arch in Parks and Recreation, but through much of the show, he’s selfish and materialistic. He does a lot of childish and dumb things, and it’s so frustrating to watch his character. While he’s young, it’s not an excuse for blowing his money on dumb schemes.
Jaimee Marshall is a writer who hails from the suburbs of Philadelphia but has spent the past few years living abroad in Australia. She considers herself a bit of a movie buff with a knack for horror and clever sci-fi flicks. When she isn’t watching or writing about movies, she’s probably either posting political memes, cooking vegan food, or being active. She covers entertainment news, and reviews films and television for Wealth of Geeks. You can also catch her deep dives on sociopolitical issues at Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, and Her Campus or watch her appearance on Popcorned Planet, where she discusses heated issues like due process in our current social climate.