One of my favorite television series is Newsradio--it makes me happy and I can watch the entire series repeatedly--but I swear if one more character refer to Matthew as a "sweet guy" I'm going to chuck one of my prized DVDs out the window. Matthew, the resident Weird Guy in the office, the low man on the totem pole so to speak is NOT a sweet guy. He's a fucking hyena.
In several episodes, Matthew momentarily gets the upper hand and starts to act like a complete asshole. Like when he punches Bill and suddenly gets Alpha Male Syndrome, or when Max shows up and Matthew enters a power struggle with him, or when Matthew suddenly becomes smart and condescending as hell, or any of the numerous moments when the punchline is Matthew suddenly saying something cutthroat or mean. And whenever this happens one of the other characters gets concerned that sweet but annoying Matthew is acting so unlike himself and tries to talk him down.
And the thing is, I've seen this behavior in real life. I've seen it at school, I've seen it in the military, I've seen it on the internet. For example, we had a guy in my last office office who got picked on. At first I would tell the guys to lay off him, and defend him when I thought things were overboard. Then came the day someone on shift let someone embarrassing slip and garnered the mockery of the entire office. And GUESS WHO was the one who went too far trying to cement himself as Not The Lowest Ranking In The Room. He failed because the other guy's embarrassment was fleeting, but we all got an ugly glimpse into his true nature. The process seemed to repeat itself whenever someone new became the butt of the day's joke. And almost always, due to his overdoing it, he would be the butt of the day's jokes again before the shift was over. In trying to leave the shitty social role he kept digging his way into it, because everyone quickly realized that if they didn't assert themselves over him they'd be in for ruthless teasing rather than the normal maintenance-world joking.
And the thing I started to perceive about this guy, and other guys who display the same behavior pattern is that they look at the social order like a wolf pack. The Matthews of the world figure there's a bottom and they are it, but there's a chance they can seize on someone else and not be the most put upon person in the room. And so he is very nice and deferential and self-effacing around the other members of the office because he knows they can and will kick his ass. But the second he sees the slightest bit of weakness he tries to exploit it.
And this is the sort of person that Matthew in Newsradio is patterned after. And the thing about this character type is that everyone assumes that--because they act sweet when trying to ingratiate themselves to the rest of the group--they are sweet kind people who can't cut a break. But the real nature shows through NOT when the social order offers you the least power, but when the social order offers you enough power to act out what you really want.
So characters like Matthew, created to be sweet sympathetic people? They aren't. It would be one thing, I suppose, if the guy acted sweet and deferential once he got the upper hand but Matthew (and the guy in my old office, and the guy from my old school and a thousand other "sweet guys" scattered across the internet) does not. He's an asshole just waiting for the opportunity to be an asshole. That's the punchline of at least a third of his jokes. That's why we enjoy watching the other characters push him around.
And why does seeing that the characters are fooled by Matthews sweet facade piss me off so much? Because of all the real-life Matthews who've managed to sell themselves as sweet guys, and all the fiction dedicated to selling this personality type as a sweet guy and because I just plain don't like people who put up a false front and succeed at it. Bastards.