Edgy

From 1d4chan

"As far as I can make out "edgy" occurs when middlebrow, middle-aged profiteers are looking to suck the energy--not to mention the spending money--out of the "youth culture." So they come up with this fake concept of "seeming to be dangerous when every move they make is the result of market research and a corporate master plan"."

Daria, Episode [3.05] The Lost Girls.

"My name is Not Important; what is important is what I'm going to do. I just fucking hate this world, and the human worms feasting on its carcass. My whole life is just cold, bitter hatred, and I always wanted to die violently. This is the time of vengeance, and no life is worth saving, and I will put in the grave as many as I can. It's time for me to kill and it's time for me to die; my genocide crusade begins... here!"

– Not Important, the player character of Hatred

"Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough but then, for the love of God, tell a joke."

– Joss Whedon giving an option on how to avoid being edgy even while creating a dark world
Unabashed Edginess from the 1990s

Edginess refers to people pushing violent and controversial subject matter in their stories, especially when they're doing it to try and be popular with tragic, violent or controversial stories. This often takes the form of senselessly driving a vague argument, a plotline or a scenario to its darkest possible outcome, all the while openly expressing their disdain for whoever "the establishment" is, rationalizing villains or finding a middle ground in discourses. Like most internet terminology, it has been beaten to death, resurrected hastily, and then beaten some more. Has no relation to Hunter: The Reckoning.

Another far less negative use of the term is to describe something on the 'edge' of what's acceptable, pushing established boundaries of convention. For example, by this definition Batman: The Animated Series was edgy for making an animated series which defied expectations of how true to its base concept and generally well-written a show designed to sell toys could be. Some more examples of this would be Ren and Stimpy (which was crude and vulgar) or Invader Zim (which could get dark in subject matter, and used a fair bit of black humor); in both cases, a decent bit of the comedy was of the "I can't believe that they did THAT on a kid's cartoon show!" variety. A milder version of this was Sonic the Hedgehog in contrast to Mario. In 1989 the Simpsons was the Edgy take on the classic family sitcom archetype and in 1999 Family Guy had slotted itself in as the Edgy version of The Simpsons. For the 1990s and early 2000s Edgy was a favored term of cynical marketing types which drew the attention of the world's sarcastic snarkers and contrarians, many of which came to congregate on sites such as 4chan.

An "edgelord" is someone who essentially is guilty of serial attempts to be edgy, like that guy at your tabletop role playing group who always, without fail, makes a specific type of self insert or wish fulfillment character; brooding, antisocial, militant types with problems with authority and a troubled past - all without the nuance or skill to actually pull it off (with their opponents often being stand-ins for whoever the edgelord considers "The Man™" or representing "the establishment™"). The end result is they makes themselves look silly.

"Art" done by edgelords contain characters who are as dark, brooding and as painfully unhappy as possible, conflicts have zero compromise, institutions are the villains unless the edgelord made them and any conflict of interest will have the worst possible outcome. In writing, edgelords will go out of their way to make the story extra depressing, and subject multiple aspects of it to an increased shock factor when it's clearly illogical to do so. Needless to say, it can drive a perfect idea to make an entertaining story into the shitter, grating the nerves of even the most jaded audience. When commenting, the "edgelord" will simply push any predicament in the artwork to the darkest, deepest, worst outcome, while describing his fantasies. For example: In an adult and/or bondage predicament picture, edgelords can be found describing a paragraph of horrible fate the captive would suffer, *should* suffer because slaves are shit, and *deserve* abuse, even when the picture was of a predicament with nothing in context. Or he will simply fill the comment of any NSFW picture with his own sick fantasies, surely adding "women DESERVE it".

This is not to say that said dark elements like murder, slavery, extremism and rape are bad for literature, but rather that their sloppy execution with no regard to their depth is. As shown above, even the most "edgelord" of concepts can be salvaged and even made bearable with proper handling, especially going by the latter definition - but if you do it enough, the boundaries shift and what was edgy becomes the new norm, and there is always the risk of falling over the edge. This is why the old definition has fallen increasingly out of favor as time has gone on — people began seeing the dross sold under the title of "edgy", and the idea of what it meant thus moved away from the positive connotations marketing execs desired and closer to the qualities described above. Plus, this is the internet, and people would rather a word just be an insult or a compliment to reduce confusion.

The Anatomy of Edginess[edit]

Edginess is in some ways like a cargo cult. During WWII in the Pacific, the US military set up bases on remote, but inhabited islands, bringing with them a lot of stuff like planes and cars and so forth that was quite amazing to the stone age natives, to whom the world had been a few dozen square kilometers of land surrounded by ocean, with hazy stories of other such islands. When the military left, some of the natives took to making coconut and wooden radios and flight towers based off of some vague recollection of the military variants, unaware that making the shape alone does not get you the functional item.

The ultimate apotheosis of an edgelord: All edge, no point.

In that vein, most of what comes to mind when people envision "edgy" artworks tends to be the result of people who wanted to make morally grey characters and subject matter, but lack the maturity/experience/focus/fairness necessary to NOT end up with anything other than a multiple-personality-disordered mess or a power fantasy wrapped in propaganda.

Someone with (at best) mediocre creative abilities sees some fiction that makes good use of melodrama, gritty settings, dark humor and such, made by people who know what the hell they're doing and figures "I can do that!", leading to said person haphazardly applying those elements incorrectly. The results of such efforts are either tiresome, unintentionally funny or just painful.

The stereotypical teenager, especially one with gothic/emo tendencies or problems with authority, commonly embody this - all too eager for "adult" things (eg: violence, sex, etc.) in their limited perception of such, often born of denial. Anyone or anything standing between them and what they want - or that's presumed to do so - will be seen as a terrible "evil" and dealt with as such. Individuals who pander to said demographic, are downright hacks and/or share their mindset will favor this approach over any sense of complexity, subtlety, nuance and some actual understanding of the human condition.

Edgy and Grimdark[edit]

While edginess is frequently associated with invoking grimdark for the sake of it and nothing else, it's important to remember that this alone does not edgy make. As an example, WH40K's Imperium of Man has reasons to be fair and kind when capable: though it has plenty of genocide, xenocide (completely annihilating species even when they are gentle and kind), torture, forced labor (they draw the line at commercialized chattel slavery, but un-unionized indentured servitude is fair game), witch hunts and militarism that would give Hitler a chubby beyond the grave, said horrors have reasonable justifications. Aliens were buying and selling humans like pets and culling them by the billion, operating slaver outposts even in our solar system before the Emperor came into leading humanity into a roaring rampage of revenge. And regarding souls and the universe after the Heresy, any deviation from faith in the Emperor will literally send a human to hell upon death, with their soul becoming dæmon food (and/or sex toys).

Any mistreated machinery will attract foul entities and corruption that will fuck you up seven ways till Monday and chew you out; any ill-coaxed Machine Spirit will jam and blow up in your face; and any laxity will make Chaos cults pop up by the billion in a week. Then there's the genocidal robots from another age, space elves that would murder a planet on the off chance that their Farseer would break a nail otherwise (and they're still the nice space elves despite that, as their webway dwelling cousins are even worse - murdering entire planets just because they like the sound of millions of people screaming), the ambulatory (AND belligerent) fungi that plague the entire galaxy in a series of wars, and extragalactic horrors that intend to eat everyone's face. TL;DR The Imperium acts like an asshole Hitler/Hirohito bastard child because the alternative is much, MUCH worse.

At the level of narrative, the fact that things are very very bad is a core thematic element of this world. As pointed out there are reasons why things are so miserable in this world which flow logically and despite this there can be points of contrast. Imperials still have the same potential to love and be kind like modern real world humans do. The Tau are hopeful despite the evils of this world. Occasionally pragmatism can overcome the deep seeded prejudices to overcome greater evils, if only for a while. And even if it is preformed by Conscript Guardsmen, Commissars or Space Marines, each the product of horrendous military institutions, can fight to achieve acts of genuine (if still typically brutal) heroism.

Now if you want a senselessly edgy story in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, an example would be the now non-canon Khornate Knights.

Who's An Edgelord?[edit]

Who's a cute little Edgelord? Yes, you, you adorable little mass-murderer, you!

"Edgelord" gets applied to two groups: Authors fixated on making edgy material, and the Edgy characters they write. While most of this article assumes the latter definition (as we at least try to avoid authorial mind-reading, though a few are so heavy-handed there's no other word for them), it's quite possible for an Edgelord author to create an edgy work without an Edgelord character[1], and a non-Edgelord author to create an Edgelord character (either unintentionally, satirically, or de-constructively).

Edgy Villains[edit]

There's an important argument to be made about villains and edginess. Frequently, it's necessary to engage in authorial behavior that would be considered edgy in order to properly develop a bad guy. There are a few important questions to ask in this case, the largest ones being "is this a Villain Sue situation, and if so, what kind of Villain Sue are we dealing with?"[2] and "are the author's sympathies clearly with the villain's agenda?"[3]

Edgelords and Mary Sues[edit]

A lot of edgy characters also qualify as Mary Sues. This is because many writers who aim for "edgy" in their works are terrible at writing, and writing a Mary Sue is a common result of terrible writing. Another reason is the "Power Fantasy" route, where the author uses their work and the character in question to attack something or someone from real-life that they oppose. There are a few important questions to ask in this case, the largest ones being "is this a Jerk Sue situation?", "do the villains represent a work the author hates?" and "do the villains represent a real person or thing the author is against?"

Note that not all edgelord characters are Mary Sues/Gary Stus; in particular, minor edgelords in settings with many authors will probably be treated the same as any other character who passes through many hands.

Be on the look out for plot armor, protagonists who not only share their author's values but are not challenged on these views in any way, and the other major Sue factors covered in our Mary Sue article.

"Right Target, Wrong Method" Characters[edit]

One important partial exception: Sometimes authors include a character that can be considered "Edgy" in theory, but in practice, it's clear the author isn't rooting for them because they take things way too far. We're talking "Utopia Justifies the Means, No Matter How Horrific" and "Death Penalty for Jaywalking"-type characters.

While they can degrade into Edgelords quite easily, as long as it's clear that either the author's sympathies are not with them, and/or the story spends a lot of time on the collateral damage they inflict, they can be considered not wish-fulfillment enough to count as Edgelords. Note that such characters tend to degrade into Edgelordery over time (particularly if allowed to be a protagonist or when placed in the hands of a different author), for subtly obvious reasons.

Sidenote: Chunni[edit]

In some Weeb circles, an "Edgelord" is called "Chuuni", short for "Chuunibyou". This delightful Japanese word combines the concepts of "Sophomoric" ("Chuunibyou" literally translated means "Middle [School] 2[nd Year] Syndrome") and "Edgelord", with an optional side note of "I have supernatural powers IRL".

For a simpler explanation, “Chuuni” refers to every middle school edgelord and similar types with overactive imaginations (Don Quixote is perhaps the most famous example of this latter category) - not for the character that they’re playing, but their actual real life self, and all the delusions and anti-social behavior that comes with it. Did you know a kid in school who always wore Hot Topic shit and talked in a monotone about darkness and nihilism and black magic blood rituals? Did he take lots of photos of himself trying to look cool with his mall ninja daggers while posing in a Naruto shirt with some edgy caption like “Never fuck with a Wolfkin Sanguinemancer or I’ll chop your dick off”? Yeah, we all know the type. His persona may be an edgelord, but he himself is Chuuni.

Importantly, the "Stupid and Lame" part is baked right into the word, while "Edgelord" is usually only implies stupidity.

In closing[edit]

There are many paths to success for a storyteller, some of which include going over dark territory in various ways or by innovating and pushing boundaries. However, all of them require care and attention to detail to pull off well. Being dark or pushing boundaries is not profound in and of itself. Shock value, twists and subverting expectations doesn't automatically equal good storytelling. Finally, using these things as an outlet for personal views/grievances is the writing equivalent of walking through a minefield.

How Can I Tell If My Character Is An Edgelord?[edit]

Every edgelord has at least four qualities; skilled at violence, moody, has easy access to weapons and are aggressively contrarian. While alone or even together these traits don't make an edgelord, each "Yes" answer from the list below edges your character toward edgelorddom:

  • Are they either a power fantasy against and/or deliberately written to offend "The Man™" or "the establishment™"? (NOTE: With one exception below, and even if not targeting "the establishment™" by instead going after, for example, criminals[4], a "yes" answer here automatically grants the character edgelord status.)
    • Bonus points if their target is something or someone from real-life that has been so repeatedly made into villains - putting aside questions of whether they deserve it or don't - that it's a cliché (most notably: oil companies, the military-industrial complex, the Catholic Church, God). Again, only counts if it's already a full cliché.
    • The one exception are characters who start out as merely mildly edgy (particularly antagonists of the "right target, wrong methods" variety), and only graduate to full edgelord status if other writers are allowed access to them or the current writer gets carried away.
  • Do they openly mock altruistic traits (like hope and love)? Compromise? faith or the Powers-That-Be? Bonus points if they do so without suffering negative consequences for it.
  • Have they been abused by an authority figure in the backstory (often trotted out as an excuse for their violent contrarianism) and bring this up in every moment they are questioned as an excuse?
  • Are forgiveness and redemption things the character disregards, if not actively despises?
    • Partial credit if they're seeking redemption... but only changing their targets instead of their approach or methods.
  • Do they not care if they live or die? Or do they want to die?
  • Do they have problems with authority? As in a negative attitude towards anyone else telling them what to do?
    • Bonus points if it manifests when the authority figure's giving sound advice or their orders are sensible.
  • Are they heavily scarred individuals? (physical, emotional, whatever...)
  • Do they regularly quote-mine philosophers or works of fiction and spout these quotes to validate their worldview? Bonus points if said quotes are taken out of context or made to say the exact opposite of what they were intended to say.
  • Do they share any of the same beliefs as the work's creator and openly express them? (for example, the protagonists of stories by Ayn Rand or Jack Chick). This often overlaps with the first point on the list. [5]
    • Bonus points if they're "nihilistic", e.g appearing nihilistic in an extremely shallow way.
    • Are these views never challenged or refuted in the story? Or are the challengers clearly strawmen?
    • The Star Trek Captain Exception: If said belief is cleanly confined to one speech towards the end of the story/episode, and the author seems to be legitimately trying to just sum up the message of the story, it usually doesn't count. (Normally not an issue for edgelords, but it has happened occasionally.)
  • Do they always wear sinister-looking attire? Bonus points if the outfit;
    • Includes a cloak or a long trenchcoat (think Neo's from the Matrix films).
    • Has built-in blades or spikes
    • Includes a fedora. Any other excessively Cool Hat counts for half-credit--and yes, this does include Judge Dredd's Helmet.
      • Period Exception: if the story was written in a time period when men routinely wear hats of this sort (1920s to early 1960s), it probably doesn't count (modern works set in this time period may go either way).
    • Is covered in insults, profanities, curses or threats
    • Has a color scheme primarily consisting of red and black
    • Has tailored-on violent, anarchic or sacrilegious imagery
    • Incorporates or is made of others' body parts
    • Includes warpaint.
      • Bonus points if the warpaint is bodily fluids and/or poisonous.
    • Is alive (especially if it's a monster in clothing form or possessed)
    • It also counts if the edgelord dresses in clothing that is wholesome/associated with non-edgelord things. Partial credit if it's done for "irony", full edgelord point if it's done to offend people (such as children's style clothes, a doctor's uniform or peaceful religious attire - so Taliban insignia doesn't count, but the Roman/clerical collar and Buddhist monk robes do count).
  • Do they have body modification, ranging from minor such as tattoos to extreme examples such as horns or wings? Bonus points if the modifications can be weaponized.
  • Do they swear like a drunk pirate with stereotypical Tourette's Syndrome?
  • Does their design aesthetic have more than a dash of fascist iconography?
  • Do they have religious iconography and a fondness for quoting gruesome parts of scriptures?
  • Do they have an "adult" vice such as drinking or smoking (fantastical ones count). Bonus points if its an addiction.
    • This one may also be subject to exemption if the work was written in a time period when it was basically assumed adults drank and smoked.
  • Do they have plot armor? (such as the Punisher being able to go toe-to-toe against superpowered beings, ones who’d mop the floor with him otherwise, like Wolverine)
  • Are they a protagonist or antagonist written by Gav Thorpe, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, George RR Martin, Garth Ennis or Alan Moore?[6] Honorable mentions: Pat Mills and Frank Miller (Note, an edgelord can be written by someone who's none of these people. And Moore and Martin, at least, are capable of writing protagonists and antagonists who aren't Edgelords despite lots of their characters being unnecessarily edgy).
    • Partial credit if they're instead written by an author who's trying (usually too hard) to be one of the above.
  • Are they a misanthrope? Is that a major character trait that is brought up often in the form of speeches about "human nature", "society" and similar ilk?
    • Bonus points if the writing goes out of its way to frame the character's misanthropic worldview and belief that "Humans are Bastards" as objectively right, like the later writers of Werewolf: The Apocalypse.
  • Do they tend toward being a HARD MAN making HARD DECISIONS [7] (while hard)?
    • A word of advice: this can actually work without being edgy. It's just that the decision needs to be hard. It needs to have narrative and emotional weight, and it should have problems in either solution, as opposed to being used as an excuse to wank about how it's a hard world and it's a good thing hard men like the MC exist to make things work. [8]
  • Do they have a tendency toward "makes gratuitously violent choice because pragmatic hurr durr" behaviour?

When you have enough of these points in a character, congratulations (or not), the character is an edgelord. (One or two is fine)

Notable Edgelords[edit]

Comics[edit]

Comic books in general had an edgy period known as the Dark Age of Comic Books. TVTropes has a decent summary of all periods including the Dark Age in which you can find here, recommendation is that you go through chronologically for context. Note that some are defending the Dark Age by calling it the Iron Age but given how badly comic books were being economically mauled in the late 90's, the Iron Age defense is mostly wrong.

  • The Punisher (pictured above), depending on the writer, but especially when it's Garth Ennis. The ultimate example being Ennis' professionally published Hate Fic "Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe".
  • Billy Butcher from "The Boys", a comic series written by the edgelord Punisher author named above. He's a black ops agent opposing knock-offs of Marvel and DC supers in an anti-superhero genre power fantasy, plus Garth Ennis' mouth piece and possibly his most edgelord protagonist. Given Ennis' well-earned reputation as an edgelord's edgelord, that's really saying something. Hint: He sics his dog to rape animals and people for fun, has not-so-consensual sex with the director of CIA for fun whenever he wants and gets away with it and goes genocidal before the end. Ennis possibly named the character after the gang leader William Poole AKA Bill the Butcher.
    • The TV show has a more complicated take. Billy is explicitly and repeatedly self-defeating, and called out on his bullshit, making him less of an edgelord, and more a normal antihero.
  • The Joker, depending on the writer.
    • Batman can be made into an edgelord in an edgy writer's hands (for example, Frank Miller's "All Star Batman And Robin"), although more rarely than you might think, since his respect for at least some parts of the establishment - owning Wayne Enterprises, his unofficial alliance with Gotham's police including his personal friendship with Police Commissioner Gordon - and his "no kill" code usually heads off most of the edgelord tendencies.
      • The Batman Who Laughs is an obnoxious combination of the edgiest aspects of both the Batman and the Joker. By extension, everyone from DC's Dark Multiverse (Negative companions to the actual multiverse that frequently collapse and involve one person's particular worst nightmares) that escapes to reality produces the edgelord version (or multiple, especially Batman or his female variants) of the actual character, BWL being the apex by being edgy Batman and edgy Joker at the same time.
  • Lono from 100 Bullets skirts the edgelord event horizon so much he might have been one, though himself isn't edgy anymore at the end. Does all the things an edgelord does without the grim unhappiness. Starts out quite mellow and cheerful, kills and rapes for fun, then grows darker and brooding until his extremely painful escape and eventual torture and quasi-redemption as the servant of a catholic orphanage with genuinely good intentions.
  • Lord Edgelord, later killed and brought back as Lord Edgegod, from Slackwyrm Keep. He's aware, and he's loving it***CLANG!*** There's no love in edge, only chaos!
  • Adversary from DC Comics (pictured below), as a jab at edgelord characters and perhaps also their fans. In addition to meeting most of the criteria above, he works for a demon named Lord Satanus who gave him his powers and is actually a kid in a wheelchair.
  • The Crossed. Dear God, the Crossed. "Crossed" may be Garth Ennis' most edgy work ever, which is really saying something since his claims to fame are "Preacher" and "The Boys". A virus that makes the recipient a rapist-murderer-constantly furious cannibalistic monstrosity with sadism and cruelty set to eleven twice. And they are capable of staying semi civilized. The only other symptom is a cross-like pattern of boils on the person's face (the reason the infected are called "The Crossed". And because it wouldn't be a Garth Ennis original work without a potshot at Christianity, but this is a drop in the ocean here). Turns out the virus may have been originated from a pre-historic hominid species of...

The Grimderp is strong with this one. Click "Expand" at your peril.

  • "Homo Tortor", the lost evolutionary link in the Crossed series, simultaneously pleasing Khorne and Slaanesh at the same time. A race of red-skinned hominids that have zero restraint concerning anything combined with ultimate cruelty a human brain can dish out. During their arc the Homo Tortor slaughter a village, rape everyone, kill the old, the females and make effigies out of every bodily fluid of the victims before they leave with the young captives of which older ones have their limbs cut off for transportation and limbs eaten. The captives are taken to gigantic ships made of bones with blinded Neanderthals on oars driven by carefully adjusted screams of slaves being skinned alive and whipped, captives being fed shit and meat of the dead to survive. Occasionally some of the captives are used for torture and cannibalism, screams guiding Neanderthal oarsmen, who, again, are each blinded. The ships land and Homo Tortor slowly burn a slave to death and douse him, burning him to near-death and douse them alive for communicating their arrival to their home city as a smoke signal made of constantly burning slaves(at this rate the edge just gets boring-there is wood everywhere to burn-). Taken to a gigantic, absolutely terrifying city made of skulls and bones and sharp stakes, the captives see child slaves herded to be slaughtered, raped and eaten, and limbless adult captives skewered alive to be eaten while being cooked, meat sold for baby teeth as currency by the Homo Tortor. The Homo Tortor vivisect and torture for fun, rape for fun, skin for fun and cannibalise for fun. The city is a jagged rock colony surrounded by sharp bones with a twin monolith of the First Brother and First Sister, twincestuous rulers of Homo Tortor who just had young boy as third ruler, who himself wants to rape some captives for fun, and is slapped for "asking his parents for permission". The captives then are jailed for the night, carefully screened to avoid suicide(because even to die on your own terms would be a big no-no, everything must be for the pleasure of the Homo Tortor, oh god the edgeeee), and next morning are painted with every bodily fluid from human organs and put to an arena to be untied by child slaves who run from them and even kill themselves to deny the captive "gladiators" the glee of revenge and destroy the knives they used to cut them loose with. The co-rulers then turn on their incest child and slowly cook him alive and eat his body for a snack as captives are raped and devoured by wild animals, claiming his entire birth and life was a 14-year old joke that would end his happiness with a horrible turnabout for their pleasure.[9] No other fiction in history has reached such a level, luckily the "Crossed" virus makes the empire of horror collapse on itself in one day; just to drive the edge home, the twin rulers make sure the empire collapses on their terms and make sure none of the escaping rebels survive or take joy of vengeance to the point of risking their lives killing them and unleash a giant god made of mutating, amalgamated bodies which shoots hot semen with pressure enough to tear through bodies. Emperor's Children would be proud. Also one of the captives is raped and eaten by a prehistoric Wombat the size of a bear.

And then, it turns out that they never existed, because the professor who was researching said lost link made up the whole of the evidence surrounding them when he turned Crossed himself so they have a religion that gave them motivation and purpose to keep on killing and raping everybody. In the end, we never find out what did cause the entire spread of the Crossed- only that it occurred in multiple places at once, with several patient zeros around the world.

Film[edit]

  • Jared Leto's Joker in "Suicide Squad (2016)".
    • Compare this to Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight and Joqauin Phoenix's Joker in Joker. Ledger's and Phoenix's portrayals were "edge with a point"; the former was pointed at the consequences of various reactions to terrorism[10], and the latter was pointed at exploring the origins of evil and apathy corrupting a society (both going out of their way to avoid ideological baggage).
  • Tyler Durden from "Fight Club". While he started out as "edge with a point" trying to give men catharsis from, and criticizing, the growing cultural and familial vacuum of the 90s, later in the film he descended into being a full-blown edgelord. Still, the mildest specimen of its kind, with special care to avoid murder.
  • Kylo Ren AKA Krylo Ben AKA Ben Swolo. The writers were doing it on purpose, to play up the First Order's dogmatic North Korea in space schtick, and to that end made Kylo an incredibly unsubtle Darth Vader pastiche. While "Kylo" may be the worst Skywalker ever, there is no denying that the edge is strong in his family. His mom's side are a bunch of crybaby desert backworlders with an incestuous sex drive and his dad was a scruffy, nerf herding spice smuggler - and all were war criminals, some with body counts in the hundred thousands and some with children's blood on their hands... He probably fits the mold better than we'd like to admit. Also, his edge is undermined by the fact that he never won a fight against Mar-Rey Sue Palpatine which doesn’t help things either.
    • Legends had its own offenders, particularly Admiral Daala and basically any Clone Wars veteran Imperial Officer who actually believed Sidious's bullshit.
  • Peter and Paul from "Funny Games". Another "cool psycho gang that tortures, kills and dismembers a family" sort of director's wank which ups to eleven: when the woman in desperation manages to kill one, the other literally turns back time like a manchild with a temper tantrum on cheat mode, and kills her child and husband, THEN tortures, gags, takes her for a boat ride and drowns her for fun, go to the next house and wink at the camera while acting happy and nonchalant, to start the cycle anew. Director Haneke has stated that the film is a reflection and criticism of violence used in media and definitely not getting his rocks off torturing a whitebread white woman with a family and slowly kill her family members under games with an illusion of victory, only to be denied any chance. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight (then again, this is a tame letdown compared to what a hardcore gorehound would watch, with cinematography purposely ruining any payoff. Very messed while also giving a middle finger to Slaanesh Worshipers as no rape occurs in the film). Oh, and he enjoyed it so much he remade HIS OWN MOVIE; after the original 1997 German language version, he made a 2008 English version.
  • "The Strangers" from the 2008 The Strangers film. Literally a bunch of home invaders invade a couple's home, beat, torture and kill the husband, unmask themselves to the wife, act all chill and cute, act cool to a bible tract distributing kid and talk about "it will be easier next time". They are never found, never bested, and simply put, get away with everything in a "cool teenager" attitude. If we didn't know anything better, we would guess it's part of grooming the masses into helplessness.

Live Action TV[edit]

  • Stargate's Sohkar- It's hard to get more edgelord than literally masquerading/cosplaying as Satan.

Video Games[edit]

  • Shadow the Hedgehog for the PS2/XBox/Gamecube. For the unfamiliar: An edgy game about a radical edgelordy cartoon hedgehog shooting enemies, yet ESRB rated for Everyone 10 and up. Contrary to popular belief, though, this game is really main continuity Shadow's only real brush with being an edgelord besides Sonic Adventure 2, where he was a more a straight-ahead villain.
    • The villain Infinite from Sonic Forces, as a parody of edgy Villain Sue characters.
  • Several characters and groups from Blizzard creative properties. Blizzard are big fans of this stereotype of character, it's practically an epidemic. A few (eg; Kerrigan for Starcraft and Illidan for Warcraft) are among the most iconic characters in their respective franchises. Make of that what you will. Examples include;
    • Warcraft (including World of Warcraft)
      • Deathwing; A Titan-empowered dragon who hated his job, and was convinced by Lovecraftian Old Gods to destroy the Titans' works, help them kill his peers and take over the world. His dragonflight was also prone to incest and he planned to make his sisters his breeding slaves - that idea wasn't the Old Gods, that was all him. He got so warped by power, his body had to be literally bolted together with metal plates so he wouldn't fall apart, and he planned to destroy the world if he couldn't rule it. Also, Deathwing was a name he chose, he was originally called Neltharion.
      • Sylvanas Windrunner: Elven general turned into a banshee by a fallen undead prince and forced to fight against her people as his battle trophy (even her origin story is edgy; apart from how she died due to being an archer in belly-baring armor who tried to fight a knight in melee). After being freed from his control and getting her body back, she dedicated herself to revenge against him and built an undead society on vengeance and invasive experimentation. After he died, she took her own life, saw she was heading for a horrible afterlife (maybe shouldn't have gone full Mengele/Saw on prisoners and kidnapped farmers; committing war crimes even the Horde didn't during their demon-worshipping days) and made a dark bargain to escape that. Later went full nihilist, destroyed a city full of elves (oh the irony) after they surrendered and seeks to tear down and rewrite the cosmos because she's afraid of dying due to thinking she doesn't deserve a bad afterlife despite all the horrible things she's done, in a setting where lesser villains get the banhammer from Thrall. She also murdered her lover Nathanos' cousin to give him a hot, new body and excuses it as making him a better champion.
      • Sargeras (pre-retcon): A god-like Titan and their military leader. He was the goodest of boys among the Titans, so traumatized by the evil of the demons he fought... that he became convinced that good was futile and conscripted those same demons into an army called the Burning Legion to destroy the cosmos. Post-retcon he tried to make Azeroth's soul his consort, and stabbed her when it became apparent that would fail. At the very least it is stated that he took control of the Burning Legion to stop the Void Lords, but he's still a huge dickhead when it serves no practical purpose.
      • Zovaal the Jailer: Once the judge of the afterlife, he got dissatisfied with his job and tried to get even more power because he thought The Man the system would fail. After being defeated and eons of imprisonment, he broke free, reverse-engineered mind control magic and used it to enslave damned souls into an army to overthrow the cosmos. Is hyped as a master manipulator and a genius, but is actually a lucky bad planner with tons of plot armor retconned into the game's story. Constantly throwing away his allies when he's done with them, his ultimate plan is either to rewrite reality so everyone serves him... only for the story to pull a "well-intentioned extremist" arc out of thin air at the literal last minute with his dying words.
      • Illidan Stormrage (pictured below): An impatient glory hound who threw away the lives of his troops for victory over the aforementioned Burning Legion, he quit when called out on it and later joined his enemies because of his hunger for magical power, envy of his brother and his childhood crush rejected him (major incel move). He was imprisoned for treason and murder, and after being let out, he consumed so much dark magic that he mutated into a half-demon hybrid. Also founded Demon Hunters, the edgiest class in WoW, nearly half his dialogue in the Legion expansion is angsty 14-year-old one-liners, and he killed an angel-equivalent being that tried to replace his demonic powers with holy power by force. Plus his last name - "Stormrage" - sounds edgy depending on who you ask.
      • There's also edgy groups including the Forsaken, Death Knights and Demon Hunters.
    • Starcraft
      • Arcturus Mengsk from Starcraft: Originally started out as the survivor of a war where he was painted as the villain, he rallied people together then founded an empire to bring the opposing civilization crashing down. Committing increasingly bad war crimes along the way, once he succeeded, Mengsk threw his former allies under the bus and crowned himself Emperor. When there's a major person who resists his tyrannical rule, Mengsk had them vilified in the media eye, just like he was... and STILL there's undertones that Mengsk had a point. Eventually gets killed by Kerrigan, one of the people he threw under the bus (yes, THAT Kerrigan, who toes the line herself as the Zerg Queen AKA Queen of Blades AKA "Queen Bitch of the Universe" - she invented that one).
    • Overwatch
      • Reaper/Gabriel Reyes from Overwatch: He has advanced nercosis, but an experiment meant he constantly regenerates his tissues, so he's basically sort of sci-fi undead. Of course, he blames his former friends from Overwatch and never considers it COULD be some side effect from super soldier genetic modifications he'd received before forming of the Overwatch caused his sorry condition - even when the shady scientist who modified him also joined Talon. As a result he became fixated on revenge and killing. Also, he was super jealous for his best friend, who was getting all the praise, while he was getting his hands dirty and instead of talking about it figured the best solution was walking away and joining their enemies (he was jealous to the point of mimicking his trench coat-over-combat armor style when he became Reaper, as it was pointed out in one fan comic).
  • Caesar's Legion and Caesar himself in Fallout: New Vegas (along with some of their fans and the writer who created them).
  • Not Important aka The Antagonist aka The Crusader from Hatred. Imagine every trope related to nihilistic spree shooters, push them to their uncomfortable extremes, and then plop the result in a monochromatic mess of a game. What you get is the story about a very unlikeable man with dialogue written by less likeable people (including an edgy as fuck death metal band) going around and killing everyone because...fuck you, it's edgy, on the other hand, this edginess does warp back around the scale from edgy as fuck to hilarious as fuck in an ironic sort of way.
  • Postal Dude from the original Postal/Postal Redux. He's basically OG Not Important from Hatred, being obsessed with getting the ones responsible for "Hate Disease" he blamed for everything that was happening to him before game events (mostly eviction from his house), and was allegedly turning town's people against him. Things like the ending of the original game on hard (school shootout) and one-liners in Redux version like 'Only my gun understands me...' give us a perfect example of an edgelord.

Literature[edit]

  • Elric of Melnibone, arguably the first one.
  • Euron Greyjoy, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, and Ramsay Bolton from A Song of Ice and Fire. There are many minor examples as well, notably Tyrion Lannister after he gets fucked over.
  • Hamlet (yes, THAT Hamlet), possibly an example predating Elric. After his father dies dies, he wears black, becomes foreboding, dramatic and revenge obsessed for at least 6 months, monologues with skulls and murders his friends including the harmless father of his girlfriend (though to be fair he thought he was stabbing the man who he suspected killed his father).

Tabletop Games[edit]

  • Blackguards
  • Vlaakith CLVII, the Queen of the Githyanki. On top of being a callous, violent, paranoid tyrannical lich, she hates systems of authority - and religion most of all - but wants to be goddess of her people. She values strength, but kills people who might become powerful enough to challenge her. Textbook edgelord.
  • Lolth from Dungeons and Dragons. Started with trying to overthrow her divine husband because she didn't like her job and it all went downhill from there. For more information, look at the Drow and remember they're like that because her laws require it.
  • Warhammer settings have too many to list them all. Even more of an epidemic than in Blizzard, but usually better written (C.S. Goto excepted);
    • 40k is the worst offender, with groups such as the Black Templars, the Marines Malevolent and most traitor marines.
      • In particular, there's Konrad Curze...
      • ...Fabius Bile...
      • ...and the Dark Eldar, each to such a degree they each deserve a separate bullet point all to themselves.
        • Speaking of Dark Eldar, even among them there's the Haemonculi, like Urien Rakarth. They're edgelords among edgelords, and helped make Fabius Bile even more of an edgelord. Rakarth in particular is comically so. He has died and come back so many times he actually has legitimate interest in new ways to die and what new mutation he will receive afterwards.
    • For Warhammer Fantasy there's Valnir the Reaper, Nagash, Mannfred von Carstein, Drachenfels, Be'lakor (who counts in 40k as well) and most Dark Elves, especially Malekith and Morathi. (None of whom are quite so needlessly edgy as to deserve their own separate bullet points, unlike the 40k Edgelords above.[11])
    • Surprisingly uncommon in Age of Sigmar. The closest examples are Morathi (who's become less Lady Macbeth, more the Warhammer equivalent of Vlaakith CLVII and Lolth), Mannfred, Vhordrai and Volturnos. Nagash likes to think he is still cool and edgy but he is really just a petty asshole.
    • On that note, Malal among the other Ruinous Powers.

Fan Works[edit]

  • Drizzt clones with extreme Alignment leanings, either towards good or evil.
  • Various fan-made Sonic characters, particularly ones based on or inspired by Shadow (who is himself somewhat edgy, though precisely how much is a mildly contentious topic). This is usually the result of the OC-maker resorting to excessively edgy backstories (sometimes outright cribbing from edgy-but-popular characters like Shadow while leaving out on whatever made them good) to cover up for a lack of writing skill or creativity.
  • The protagonist of "Ambience: A Fleet Symphony" and the story itself. A Fallout X KanColle crossover fanfic that thinks it's a regular KanColle fanfic. It revolves around rape, killing, eugenics and an violent, solipsistic protagonist with enough plot armor to make Ciaphas Cain look like a redshirt one day away from retirement. Unsurprisingly, when the story was posted to a forum and scorned, the writer went ballistic against their critics. A mildly entertaining read of the fic exists on the same forum.
  • The whole "*teleports behind you* Nothing personal kid. *stabs you*" meme originated as a parody of edgelord characters.

Anime[edit]

  • Half of the Animu protagonists in existence. Bonus points if the genre is Isekai, triple points if there's a harem involved.
  • As a general trend: Vegeta, of Dragonball Z started a long term trend in Shonen anime and manga for "edgy badboy antagonistic rival" (who usually either starts out or winds up as a full-on (anti)villain) characters who are frequently more popular than the milktoast main character, especially in fanfiction. Examples include Sasuke Uchiha of Naruto, Bakugo from My Hero Academia, and, going further afield, Riku from Kingdom Hearts (/v/, rather than /a/, if a very /a/ shaded /v/), and Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender (a Western example modeled on the type). Note that not all of them qualify for full "Edgelord", as many of them are merely mildly edgy, but it's a frequent enough vein of Edgelords that we need to mention it here. Particular mention should be made of...
    • Bakugo from My Hero Academia, who probably counts as a deconstruction/parody of one. What else do you say about somebody who chooses the codename "King of Explodo-Kills" and later "Great Explosion Murder God Dynamight" while training to be a superhero?
  • Keyaru from Redo of Healer deserves a spot for causing a localized shitstorm involving massive levels of skub in the anime fandom. He's a healing slave who was physically and sexually abused until he finds out a magic loophole allowing him to reset time and fulfill his fantasy. Keyaru believes that since history was reset, he can't take revenge for acts that were not commited; and in a twisted leap of logic, instead of preventing those things from happening, he decides to make sure his abusers actually repeat their wrongdoings (which include several months of sexual abuse while drugged in a filthy cell) so he feels justified when he inflicts his own kind of revenge. Revenge such as: breaking all the fingers of a princess, THEN healing them and start anew, THEN raping her repeatedly, THEN erasing her personality and make her his sex slave; or turn a guard into a little girl, and turns all his men into horny rape zombies, and has him raped to death, while he torches the building to make sure no one survives; or lock an enfeebled knight lady in a room with brainwashed, sex-crazed hungry cannibals, and promises her he will free her if she manages to satisfy them sexually all night long. She gets devoured by midnight. And the list keeps going. Of course, Keyaru will say that hatred is what gets him going and revenge is the best feeling in the world, next to sex and eating. When his whole home village gets razed in retaliation for the princess, he's actually overjoyed to finally have a justification to brutally murder THE WHOLE ARMY; he only manages to save a single boy from his village, but he makes sure the boy holds a grudge on him, because in his words "Only hatred can wash up the sadness of losing all your loved ones". Truly an endgelord among edgelords.

Notable NOT Edgelords[edit]

While being dark is not a magic bullet for storytelling, it is possible to have dark characters, even well-written ones, who come close but never become edgelords. Three common traits of borderline-but-not-edgelord characters are they're not trying to change the world around them to fit their bleak worldview and they're not the author's self-insert or mouthpiece.

  • Cad Bane (Star Wars The Clone Wars): Mostly lone wolf cyborg bounty hunter who'll kidnap babies for experiments, torture teenagers to death and once killed a guy in front of their brother just to get a new fedora ("What are you lookin' at? 's a nice hat."). Not an edgelord because he's not trying to change the world and is perfectly happy to work for the establishment as long as the establishment is the highest bidder.
  • Bronn/Ser Bronn of the Blackwater (A Song of Ice and Fire): Snarky, hedonistic mercenary who would kill a baby in front of their mother for enough money ("Without question? No. I'd ask how much."). Not an edgelord because he can and has worked for the establishment, plus his SOLE focus in life is looking out for number one; he loves life, doesn't want to die and is pretty reasonable when paid and given enough booze. Despite the amorality of said aforementioned baby-killing-willingness, would likely not do that due to how such a thing would risk the wrath of other more righteous sorts, which is too much of a danger in most circumstances.
  • Darion Mograine (World of Warcraft - pictured below): Paladin turned Death knight with a literal hunger for inflicting pain ("For us there is no peace, no rest."). Looks borderline, but is very much not an edgelord because he doesn't oppose love - he in fact became a Death Knight by sacrificing himself to save his father's soul. He also has no problems with faith, altruism or authority - not even his former paladin order - even worked with all the above repeatedly.
  • Rorschach (Watchmen): Uncompromising vigilante with a traumatic childhood, and as close as you can get to edgelord without actually deserving the label[12]. Following a horrifying end to a kidnapping case, Rorschach lives by a set of moral absolutes and would rather watch everything burn than compromise on those absolutes. When Ozymandias destroys most of New York with a fake alien invasion (original story)/then frames Dr Manhattan for it (movie adaptation), Rorschach sees how the lie serves everyone's interests, but still plans to bring the lie down, demanding that Doctor Manhattan kill him if he wants to accept that resolution. Part of what makes him not an Edgelord is that the story of Watchmen runs on moral ambiguity; one of the central questions of the end of Watchmen is whether the antagonist of the work was correct in his calculation that murdering millions of people to save billions was necessary, or would even work as intended.
  • Prince Zuko (Avatar:The Last Airbender): Scarred prince in exile with fire magic and anger issues. Comes extremely close at times, but is not because he only transitions from working against "The Man" after his sister is ordered to hunt him down. While he does have the mold of "extremely angry", his anger stems from his perceived failure and dishonor, a goal he is trying to rectify. There's also lines Zuko won't cross, even at his lowest point (like not stealing food from a pregnant woman to feed himself when starving). He is not mad at all society and humankind, though as stated, he comes very close at times. And having accepted the chance at being healed and friendship by the "Gaang", comes out pretty OK in the end. A depressingly unusual example of character development.

Gallery[edit]

  1. How? Well, just to start with, picture a modern retelling of The Little Match Girl (the one where the title character freezes to death on the street--looking back on it, Hans Christian Andersen was Edgelord as fuck).
  2. For an example of a non-Edgelord Villain Sue, there are plenty of Villain Sues who the author clearly hates, but can't bring themselves to kill off for reasons of marketability. It's usually only when the Doylist definition of Mary Sue comes into play, where the Author sees themselves as the villain and has more sympathy for them than the protagonist, that Edgelordery starts to set in.
  3. Not with the villain himself; plenty of villains clearly have the author's sympathy (what TVTropes might call a "Villain Woobie" or "Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds"); what matters here is does the author believe what the villain believes. That may sound odd, but many cases of "The Bad Guy Was Right" involve characters created by another author, or are (usually bad) parody of such.
  4. Vigilantes are a deep well of Edge, after all.
  5. This item is more a Mary Sue trope, but there is significant overlap between edgelords and Mary Sues.
  6. Yes, we did mention Garth Ennis twice on purpose; man is so edgy he probably belongs in the list three times. In short: Ennis is a fucking edgelord even compared to other edgy authors and some edgelords, so any character he creates will likely be an edgelord, a punching bag for one or both. And the arguments in his original works fall apart because he often attacks strawmen; deliberately making his settings and characters the way they are to try and justify his personal feelings about superheroes/God/religion/armchair survivalists/whatever he wants to rage against.
  7. A character commits horrific but completely ineffectual if not outright harmful decisions "for the Greater Good" (typically disregarding their alternatives and collateral damage), which the narrative presents them as a difficult moral choice where the MC doing the "right thing" that all the other characters are too soft to do. This is often despite a little thought being able to come up with better alternatives, and often goes hand in hand with the author fiating these alternatives into failure.
  8. A good example of this is Pedro Kantor's decision to carry a civilian mother and her children to safety despite knowing they'll slow the Crimson Fists down and put their few survivors at greater risk - rather than take the "hard" decision of listening to his tactical senses and abandoning them to die, he makes the difficult decision to do the morally right thing because his moral senses are going "Your duty is to defend the Emperor's people, including this family. And if it's difficult, so fucking what? You're an Astartes - you were created for this kind of thing." This does indeed cause him problems later on, but that is exactly the point - most "hard decisions" are too easy and consequence-free, with no evidence that the "hard decision" was even all that necessary in the first place.
  9. You may now say, in a shocked tone, "That's a hell of an act. What do you call it?", to which Ennis should reply "The Aristocrats!", but probably won't. Like we said, Ennis is an Edgelord's Edgelord.
  10. From underreaction to bargaining with one to active cooperation to overreactions, the Dark Knight covers a lot of troublesome terrorism reactions. Ledger's performance is there (thematically speaking) mainly to draw out those reactions.
  11. Nagash might come close, but is presented as more "he's just an asshole", compared to the "he might have a point" presentation of Bile or full Tragic Backstory of Curze. A similar point can be made about the Dark Elves (just assholes) compared to the Dark Eldar (who need to feed Slaanesh because if they don't s/he eats them).
  12. In part because many Edgelord authors who came after were heavily inspired by Watchmen, and Rorschach in particular.