NEET Protagonists & Sympathetic Side Characters
May 4, 2020 1:24 PM   Subscribe

My adult daughter is enamored of the Midnight Gospel cartoon show. Part of what she loves is that the protagonist is apparently a NEET - no serious job, no higher education (that we know of), no amazing badass skills (and can be pretty clueless sometimes), but he's not treated as a pathetic loser. What other shows have similar characters?

I'm looking for characters who are not:
  • Minors (so: no high school students)
  • In college or other educational setting
  • Employed at a "real job" (even part-time) or about to get one
  • A ninja, spy, mage, mutant with exotic powers, etc.
  • Super-rich, royalty, or otherwise possessed of means that excuse them from "why don't you get a job" reactions
  • Married, seeking marriage, or otherwise romantically attached to someone who supports them
  • Treated as pathetic or "that horrible loser/deadbeat who's just taking up space that could be given to someone important."
It's okay if they're sometimes the punchline, but that can't be their whole purpose on the show. They have to be a respected member of their family/community, even if they're acknowledged as having some flaws.

Not particularly looking for historicals, but they'd be okay too. I'm trying to think of some 70s or 80s shows with "the brother-in-law who lives in the guest room" or "oldest daughter who still lives at home" or similar, but other than Jane's older siblings in Daria, I am drawing a blank. Non-English origin (sub or dub) is also fine. Animated or real life; movies, tv shows, maybe even manga or books; almost any genre.

Very much not looking for romance stories, but I won't mind if those get shared as they may remind people (including me) of other movies/tv shows with similar characters.
posted by ErisLordFreedom to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sarah Manning from Orphan Black would seem to meet most-to-all of your requirements.
posted by bfranklin at 1:33 PM on May 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Bee and Puppycat is a short, sweet animated series about a 22-year-old who pays the rent by doing temp jobs in a bizarre psychedelic universe. It's from the same visual universe as Midnight Gospel, too (the creator is an Adventure Time alumna). The whole thing is on Youtube: pilot episode and entire 10-episode first season. (More is apparently coming, eventually?)
posted by theodolite at 1:43 PM on May 4, 2020 [8 favorites]

If goofy science fiction TV is okay, Red Dwarf.

I was going to suggest The Young Ones... but, I guess they're actually all students, so it doesn't work. And it might also fail the punchline test. It's been a while.

In film, The Bicycle Thief, Night on Earth, and Amélie spring to mind, depending on your definition of a "real job.". (And, actually, pretty much every other Jeramush and Jeunet film, with some caveats about exotic powers and romance.)
posted by eotvos at 1:55 PM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This listing/definition over on TV Tropes might help point you in the right direction.
posted by Fizz at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2020

Best answer: Princess Jellyfish is a slice-of-life series about nerdy women living in a rundown apartment building. I haven't read the manga, so I have no idea if it takes a turn for the terrible, but the series is pretty enjoyable.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Todd Chavez, a side character on BoJack Horseman, meets a lot of what you're looking for.

some 70s or 80s shows with "the brother-in-law who lives in the guest room" or "oldest daughter who still lives at home" or similar

Maybe J.T. Lambert on Step by Step? (Though the last time I watched this show was almost thirty years ago, so you may want to double-check this answer.)
posted by box at 2:10 PM on May 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would suggest Tuca from Tuca & Bertie. She does have financial support from a relative, but her tension around that person is a major plot point, it's not just waved away, and she's not ever really a punchline. I think it shows really thoughtfully the way that Bertie ("real" job, getting adult shit together, anxious) and Tuca (odd jobs, weird hijinks, relaxed) respect and love each other and grow together and apart, and help each other out.
posted by cpatterson at 2:15 PM on May 4, 2020 [7 favorites]

Maybe (Pat) Schneider from the recent One Day at a Time. He doesn't quite fit because he's "rich" (he owns the building the family lives in but he also doesn't have much of a relationship with his father/parents). He may have gone to some college (I'm not really that clear here) but I don't think he graduated. He ... vaguely does stuff around the building but is mostly portrayed as someone who just hangs out, mostly. He's ~40 on the show.

He's shown to be a kind, loving and loyal friend, though, and is basically another family member to the Alvarezes. He's a goofball but that's not all he is.
posted by darksong at 2:48 PM on May 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

He's not the main character, but Greg Universe, the father of Steven Universe on Steven Universe, fits the bill.
posted by Anonymous at 3:23 PM on May 4, 2020

Might like Broad City. The two characters go between various odd jobs to pay rent, but don't really take them seriously.
posted by bleep at 3:38 PM on May 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Jellyfish Princess is mentioned earlier as they all live together in a shared housing situation but no one except for 1 character has a job. There is an awkward love triangle that exists and never is resolved well at the end of the story. I liked the anime and I read the completed manga series too.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 3:46 PM on May 4, 2020

Best answer: Arthur from The Tick seems to fit the bill.
posted by duoshao at 4:36 PM on May 4, 2020

Kramer from Seinfeld!
posted by duoshao at 4:50 PM on May 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Dead Like Me - Main character Georgia before and after her death was working temp jobs. There's a bit of strife in the beginning where the mother is introduced via mainly the emotional "You should be doing so much better" vibe, but very early on it's shown that the mom just cared for George and didn't look down on her. Heck, all of the characters except possibly Rube and Roxy fit the bill of neet.

The Good Place - the main character is Eleanor, and she's got no upper level education/skills/etc. There is a certain amount of looking down on her / her station, which might not be too much. But there is significant lookong down on the Florida Guy, Jason. The more main theme is on her self improvement, with some help with other flawed individuals.

In the Dark - main character is blind and a bit of a mess.

This might not work, but "Dead Pixels" - British show about some gamers. In theory there could be some "loser"-ness interpreted, but I didn't see it as such. Only one british series (i.e. 6 episodes), but it's renewed for at least one more.

If Dead Pixels works, then likely "The Guild" will also work - it's a web series, but I seem to recall it's on netflix.

For secondary Characters, both Todd and Amanda in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency I seem to recall had no special skills/education.
posted by nobeagle at 9:16 AM on May 5, 2020

posted by Balthamos at 9:26 AM on May 5, 2020

Several characters on Mr Robot might fit into this, including Shayla and Darlene - depending on whether or not drug dealers (Shayla) and hackers (Darlene) break the "ninja, spy, mage, mutant with exotic powers, etc." rule.

Maybe Hector on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. He's a well-liked character who doesn't seem to have a job that we know of and lives with his mom (until the very end of the series).
posted by lunasol at 12:35 PM on May 5, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks all! We're looking into all of these.

While we love Greg Universe, he is very employed - he owns a car wash! Likewise, David Lister in Red Dwarf is employed. Sure, his employer's been defunct for three million years or so, but the point is, his room & board is theoretically paid because he does a job.

After some discussion, daughter and I realized that Fester Addams from the original TV series would count. And maybe Grandmama, but we're not sure if "presumably retired and living on savings" counts.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:32 PM on May 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Recovery of an MMO Junkie is the quintessential example of this. (With possible penalties for being a little too nail-on-the-head; iirc the other characters don't really care about the protagonist's NEEThood, but she gives herself grief for it all the time.)
posted by queen anne's remorse at 9:37 AM on May 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

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