Billy Madison, Caddyshack, Final Fantasy X, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Iron Man, jackass, jerk, jerks, merlin's shop of mystical wonders, mystery science theater 3000, Office Space, One Piece, Robocop, The Phantom, trope, tropes
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Apparently, no one ever gave Hollywood the memo. This is a jerk you see coming a mile away. Literally the instant the character walks in the screen and starts talking, you know you’re dealing with a grade A d*bleep*bag. In other words, they might as well be wearing a nametag that reads: “Bob Jackass”. These are jerks of the Smug Snake and Big Bad Wannabe variety as opposed to more malevolent villains. It basically applies where the plot doesn’t technically immediately directly tell the audience the person is a jerk, but it’s a foregone conclusion.
Since comedies are pretty big on establishing characters quick and who to “side with”, as well as making people oversized parodies, this is often used in them. It can also be used in dramas, but usually not well-done ones. It’s usually bad to do in those cases with people who are “good guys” as it’s a clear foreshadowing of an upcoming Face Turn Heel.
I don’t claim credit for the original use of this trope. That goes to Mystery Science Theater 3000, in Season Ten, Episode Three: “Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders”. If you happen to own it, it’s shortly after our resident jerk of the film steps into the titular shop. It’s based off of the accompanying riff by Tom Servo.
Caddyshack – Judge Smalls.
Gremlins – Gerald Hopkins. The thing is, aside from one scene, almost all of Judge Reinhold’s bits got left on the editing room floor. He really drives this one home in the deleted scenes.
Ghostbusters – Walter Peck. (Note the last name Peck.) Possibly Dean Yeager.
Office Space – Bill Lumbergh.
Billy Madison – Eric Gordon. Possibly Billy Madison himself.
The Phantom – Xander Drax. Not a very remarkable or memorable movie aside from being early in Catherine Zeta Jones’ career (BTW, her character Sala is also almost this trope). However, Xander Drax oozes such jerkiness from the second he starts making sounds that he deserves a place on this list. When Hollywood begins and ends your name with the letter ‘X’, that’s pretty much permission to hate you insanely.
Robocop – Dick Jones. (Ah, his first name was Dick.)
The Iron Man movie franchise – In all fairness, if you weren’t familiar with the comic, Obadiah Stane didn’t really meet this condition. He was a jerk, to be sure, but that was only slowly revealed. Justin Hammer in the second movie, on the other hand, was clearly a weasel in a human’s pelt. Although technically the first we saw of Aldrich Killian in the third wasn’t too jerky, I’ll go ahead and say he was one because he might as well have advertised it when he reappeared in the modern day.
One Piece – Pretty much every single major villain, especially the ones that “stay evil” as opposed to do a Heel Turn Face like Bonclay and Hancock. Oda isn’t very discrete.
Final Fantasy X – Maester Seymour.