Movies and TV shows released in the past 100 years are replete with men who look good but are toxic on the inside.
It's no wonder many iconic characters are being reassessed in light of the progress we’ve seen in ethics in recent decades. It's a most helpful exercise as not only does it help us to finally do away with the Mr. Nice Guy stereotype, but it also prevents us from jumping to conclusions about people and labelling them in real life.
We’re taking a look at seven male characters who were once regarded as nice guys but who in today’s world might very well qualify as villains.
1. Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
In the first two Harry Potter movies, the headmaster of Hogwarts is introduced as a wise and fair wizard, the only one capable of confronting evil. So, naturally, he was regarded as a good guy for a long time.
However, towards the end of the series, it transpires that Dumbledore has been manipulating Harry Potter all along, using him to attain his ultimate objective of destroying Voldemort. Sure, Dumbeldore's intentions are good, but the methods he resorts to are very questionable indeed.
2. Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)
One of the most iconic sitcoms, alas, has not aged very well. These days, most of the jokes in How I Met Your Mother fall flat or are downright offensive.
Barney Stinson, played by Neil Patrick Harris, quickly lost all of his charisma: he now comes across as a raging sexist and a pathological liar, and the way he talks about women's looks is outright disgusting. Today it's hard to imagine anyone would ever fall for his antiques. And yet, on How I Met Your Mother, Barney is a pick-up artist extraordinaire, and women are falling all over themselves to date him, including Robin Scherbatsky. But then again, Robin could give Barney a run for his money when it comes to toxicity.
3. Xander Harris (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Today, it should probably come as no surprise that the character of Xander Harris, one of Buffy's bosom friends, was based on the show's creator, Joss Whedon, who recently got cancelled after several actors spoke out about his abusive and disrespectful behaviour on set.
Xander's conduct in the series is often just as questionable. He's clearly got narcissistic tendencies, especially in his dealings with the opposite sex. He's a loser, so his attempts to come between Buffy and Angel and then Buffy and Spike are pathetic and fail miserably, but the fact remains he wants to have Buffy all to himself. To add insult to injury, Xander always tries to score points for himself at the expense of his girlfriends (Cordelia, Anya, and even Willow) instead of being useful in his own right.
4. J.D. (Scrubs)
Scrubs' J.D. is so cute, it's impossible not to love him, but the personality that hides behind the Bamby facade is far from pleasant and can sometimes be outright ugly.
He is practically incapable of admitting his own mistakes; he's only too happy to throw people closest to him under the bus, including Elliot, who's supposedly the love of his life, to achieve his goals. And to add insult to injury, J.D. is always blaming others for his own screwups. The guy's infantile and barely able to maintain healthy relationships.
5. Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard (The Big Bang Theory)
This bunch are walking-talking caricatures that treat their partners like crap. They're always complaining that girls don't share in their appreciation of video games, board games and graphic novels, as if that were something women were supposed to do.
Leonard, Howard, and Raj constantly sexually objectify Penny, seeing her as some kind of a coveted prize but in no way a living person. Sheldon Cooper seems basically devoid of empathy and has clear sociopathic tendencies, with the people closest to him, Amy and Leonard, suffering the most because of it. Raj is more or less normal until he starts drinking, and Howard seems to have stopped maturing at around age 13.
6. Ross Geller (Friends)
Ross Geller is best described as a narcissistic loser.
In the first ten episodes, Ross is either rubbing everyone's nose in his superiority or complaining about how miserable he is. As a kid, his parents pampered him, so now, as an adult, he can hardly cope with the brutal reality of not being the centre of everyone's universe anymore. Despite being ultra-cerebral, Ross can't escape the trappings of toxic masculinity, constantly sneering at his ex-wife's female partner, trying to forbid his son to play with dolls, and struggling to accept that a man can be a babysitter.
On top of all that, Ross is prone to possessive tendencies, for which there is ample evidence in his complicated relationship with Rachel.
7. Philip J. Fry (Futurama)
The protagonist of the animated series Futurama seems perfectly relatable. By and large, he's just a regular guy who occasionally suffers from various issues and who, like a typical millennial, doesn't want to grow up.
And yet, he sometimes tends to overreact: like when he criticises Leela's relationship and tries to force his opinions on others. He always thinks he knows best, but that's not how the real world works. Everyone gets to decide how to live their own life. And the most frustrating thing about this character is that he never changes, preferring to stick to his self-righteous ignorance.