When the going gets tough the tough get going, leaving behind a motley band of wet rags and shaking leaves. Not cowards as such, just people smart enough to know which end of the stick they’d be handed if they followed suit, or at least with enough wit to be concerned about the endless array of terrifying possibilities.
As the tough vanish behind the hills and into adventure, we round up those who have lost their nerve, those with a little too much on their mind, and those who are far too worried about the future to care where they land on the list of Top 10 Nervous Characters.
#10 Butters – South Park
Everyone who knows Eric Cartman should live in fear, but gullible little Butters Stotch has far more reason to fear than anyone else. Butters just wants to be helpful, but his fear of grounding and his parents being mad at him have left him terrified of the repercussions of his actions, and generally afraid of the world at large, personality quirks that leave him vulnerable to the manipulative, the cruel, and the morbidly obese.
Scapegoat and right hand man, now that Kenny seems to have gotten pretty sick of Cartman’s plots and schemes, Butters is often dragged along for the ride against his will. Most recently he was forced to go through all of Cartman’s social media by the brutal PC Principle, oh and also Steven Seagal, Vin Diesel and Demi Lovato, filtering through all of the hate to give them only positive reinforcement, and much like any filter he is rapidly left stained by the hatred and bile until it starts to kill him. Anyone would be left with a horrible disposition after that, but Butters gentle mind started pretty frail.
He is a broken child that has already turned to supervillainy, and even then he can’t do that with confidence.
#9 Dogen Boole – Psychonauts
The power to kill everyone nearby with your mind is no easy burden to bear, especially not for a young psychic desperately trying to learn how to control his incredible abilities. Dogen wears a tinfoil hat to protect others from his own brainwaves, a habit the local squirrels seem to want to talk him out of, or so he believes.
Nothing quite relaxes him as much as having his brain plucked out, in fact he is the first to be lobotomised as part of [redacted]’s diabolical plot (there’s a sequel coming out, it’s a big spoiler for any of you who haven’t played yet) and the poor disturbed little guy is turned out into the world again barely able to blow out a candle, let alone blow up a squirrel. Still, an experience like that? I think he’s allowed to be a little skittish.
#8 Krillin – DragonBall Z Abridged
Coupled with the infamous “Owned counter”, DragonBall Z Abridged was keen to make sure that Krillin wasn’t portrayed as he was in the original series. DragonBall Z Abridged is a parody of DragonBall Z, showing off some of the strangeness of the series, as well as rewriting some of the characters. Krillin went from a brave (if over his head) warrior, to a worrying, bumbling fool…. And they couldn’t have re-written him better.
Constantly second-guessing his own abilities and waiting for Goku to just save him and their friends, Krillin would literally rather see Goku do all the work, because nobody can beat Goku, right? Riiight? Also, he was so afraid to fight some of the enemies in the series, that he’d end up more or less using defensive maneuvers, such as the Solar Flare. Whilst this was true in the original series, it was used to bide time. In this series, it was used to allow Krillin to escape and go hide behind his buddies… Even a then-child Gohan, or their bitter enemy Vegeta!
#7 Crona – Soul Eater
When you are the child of Medusa Gorgon, you know you’re in for a bad ride. Crona is a genderless character, (at least their gender is never explained), who is one of the series ongoing antagonists. Known as a Demon Sword Master and being partnered with the Demon Sword Ragnarok, Crona is constantly at war with their mother and their partner weapon.
See, in the world of Soul Eater, weapons have souls and people go to collect souls. In this case, Crona is under the forceful rule of Medusa to go and collect souls. Meanwhile, the spirit of Ragnarok keeps Crona in line, by being a bully and forcing them to do its bidding. Jumpy at even the slightest of things, although constantly negative due to the abhorrent childhood they had, it’s clear to see that Crona isn’t really all that bad – Just heavily misunderstood and used. A truly twitchy character!
#6 Rex – Toy Story
“ROAAAARRRR! Were you scared? Tell me honestly!”
Rex is a fun one. He’s a dinosaur (at least in toy form) who is basically suffering a kind of inferiority complex. However, as part of this, he’s constantly looking to impress the other toys with his ferocious and bold he can be. He’s forever trying to psych himself out, by getting other toys to at least flinch at his aggressive roaring… But this is all a front.
He’s doing this just so he can say he is what he was made to be; a dinosaur. Having heard so many great, powerful, fascinating things about dinosaurs, Rex believes it’s up to him to be as great as the beast he’s modelled after. After all, since Woody is a great leader, Rex is always trying to get the adulation of Woody, as if the leader is impressed, surely everyone will be… Right? Guys?
#5 Neville Longbottom – Harry Potter
Neville is a perfect example of a nervous character – Right until the final battle against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named that is. Neville was born to rather poor wealth, but he is an incredibly kind soul. He was mostly terrified of Severus Snape, although Neville was prone to being nervous about just about everything; from grades, things that go boom and even his grandmother. He later went on to become a professor of Herbology at Hogwarts, proving that even the most introverted characters can have a massive impact on a franchise.
A great example of the nervousness of Neville is when he was sorted into his house. When the sorting hat was placed on his head, the hat shouted out what house he belonged in. When this happened, Neville took off, with the hat still on his head, running across the great hall with it. Whilst Neville has a heart of gold, sometimes he should really learn to take a chill pill. It’s a wonder he got anything done in a world where minor bangs happened on a daily basis!
#4 White Rabbit – Alice in Wonderland
Punctuality is not the only thing to concern oneself with when dealing with someone who decapitates at the drop of a hat. When your boss demands her roses be red even if her minions have to paint each petal themselves, it’s little wonder that you’d feel the ever-pressing need to be attentive and flawless in every matter.
Whilst the Rabbit has become a metaphor for exploring the unknown or the deeply complex, it’s really none of his concern, his neck is on the line and he must keep up his pace. Exactly what the White Rabbit was doing to have made him as late as he was is uncertain, and how Alice kept pace with him despite the shenanigans she stumbled into, are neither fully explained, nor entirely necessary to consider. Time, is after all a factor here, and we’re late, we’re late, for a very important date!
#3 Shinji Ikari – Neon Genesis Evangelion
Alright so let’s just get something straight here – Shinji really doesn’t have much say in the matter of what happens through the series. Losing his mother at an early age, witnessing the event and subjected to trauma because of this, Shinji had a bad start to life and because of that, he’s quite the nervous character.
Now, there’s more to be said than just him having had a bad start. I mean this youngster was thrust right into the action, having to take out an angel in the very first episode. He was reluctant, but because he’s kind hearted, he couldn’t see someone else get hurt in his place. Getting beat up for events that wasn’t his fault, being thrust into the centre of conflict and generally being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Shinji never catches a break through this whole highly-confusing series.
#2 Dies Horribly – Goblins
In this picture, spot the goblin named “Dies Horribly”. I’ll even give you three guesses.
There’s an ancient and somewhat old-fashioned habit of allowing oracles to name goblin children when they’re born based on traits or achievements they will discover in life. While Chief and Kills a Werebear have names to be proud of, Big Ears, Fumbles, and Complains of Names have some very reasonable objections. Saves a Fox has less cause to grumble but she is on a mission to fight a destiny she has already fulfilled, a fact that breaks her heart, not only because she knows she has failed, but because when she learns the truth she was trying to cheer up a goblin called Dies Horribly.
Dies Horribly trembles constantly, and has lived a life of abject fear of every pointy object, suspicious foodstuff, and mildly threatening situation he’s ever been in. In fact Dies has lived a life of thrilling adventure that would leave anyone else joyous and full of boastful tales, his hand is made of purest energy, and he shares a soul with an ancient and powerful race. Still he is burdened with a terrible fate, and one that he’s reminded of every time someone wants his attention.
#1. Piglet – Winnie the Pooh
Yes, at number one it can only be the adorable Piglet, a character who is so synonymous with shakiness that you’d think he was a newborn all the time. I guess technically, since he’s just a piglet, he is a newborn, but that’s besides the point. He had been around long enough to not be a newborn, but what did this adorable pink piglet have to be so nervous about all the time?
Not a lot, actually. That’s why he’s such a good nervous character – He’s naturally just nervous. Unlike all of the above characters, Piglets reasons for being nervous are just deep within his nature, a psychological issue that was caused not by someone moulding him as such, but by him simply not feeling like he could contribute enough to anything. He gets nervous whenever his friend Pooh bear gets stuck up trees, or in honey pots, or even during sleepovers, because there’s nothing more terrifying than your friends judging you by how small you are. No pun intended, guys!
What mercy for the fearful, the doubting, and the afraid? A list in which to be celebrated and ranked? And of those left out, are we to leave them even more insecure than they were before? No! All people of a nervous disposition should be recognised if ever they are to shake off their burdens and become the strong-willed, confident people they are supposed to be.
But we don’t have that kind of time or space. Just room enough for a couple more, I guess the rest just have to suffer in quiet silence and hope nobody notices.
Woody Allen is an American actor and comedian, who has been on our screens since the 70s and is still acting and providing voice overs today. The first time I encountered this man’s works was in the animated film Antz, in which he played Z, a rather timid worker ant (if a little bit ambitious). I loved Antz!
We realise Woody Allen is a strange choice here, but thinking about about this actors legacy, he was renowned for the nervous characters he portrayed – But even more so for his stand-up comedy where he maintained said nervous persona. Shaky Woody Allen, but I guess you would be nervous too if you were still working at 80 years old!
Helga Pataki – Hey Arnold!
Interesting piece of trivia, Helga’s voice actor appears twice in this list, as Nika Futterman also played Dogen Boole in Psychonauts, but that doesn’t make her nervous, surely? Nor does bullying our protagonist, antagonising anyone who comes too close except for her one and only loyal minion Phoebe. Or yelling constantly, or communicating with her fists, or any of her better known habits that build one excellent villain to Arnold’s virtuous earnestness.
Well opposites do attract, and children of her age tend to miscommunicate their emotions in a rather clichéd and obvious manor. If only her beating heart could profess in full voice what her pen spills forth upon paper, what her trembling hand sculpts in discarded gum and snippets of hair. Nervousness can be contextual, and coping mechanisms vary, and can often be damaging, and keep us far, far away from all we truly desire.
And with that our list is done for another week, and we can retreat back to the safety of places where nobody looks at us, talks to us or challenges us to tasks that make us feel uncomfortable. Did you like this week’s Top 10? It’s fine if you didn’t, that’s ok I guess, it’s just we worked really hard at it. Look, I’m sorry to ask but now that you’re here could you vote on next weeks? There’s a poll just there…
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