Joe Syndrome is a trait that many fictional characters posses. Essentially, it is when a particular character is disproportionately adored by the writer or creator of the story they are featured in, and it's made painfully obvious through the explicit or implicit narrative. While in theory, it is generally considered a bad thing, it is in practice very difficult if not impossible to avoid alltogether. Characters with Joe Syndrome are generally blessed with good fortune and unparalleled skill or abilities in their area of expertise.
The standard version of Joe Syndrome and what is usually being referenced when someone says "Joe Syndrome". Total Joe is when a character is presented as being awesome simply because they are that character and the creator or storyteller likes that character. Often, but not always, the reason for the creator's Joe Syndrome is difficult to sympathize with. This will change upon the specific reader's perspective, resulting in either Justified or Unjustified Joe. A Justified Joe is a character who demonstrates interesting and likable traits, and is a "good" or "cool" character, but nonetheless carries with them the obvious unconditional love and approval of their creator. An Unjustified Joe is when a character posses unwarranted worship by their creator, as the character has little or no good traits, and is seen as annoying in nearly every possible perspective, but is nonetheless loved by the storyteller. Unjustified Joe is arguably the worst and least desirable form for a character to have. However, the distinction between Justified and Unjustified Joe is very interpretive, and are thus usually simply referred to as "Joe Syndrome".
Sometimes, a storyteller is aware of the inevitable Joe Syndrome that will follow a character, but constructs the character to have it on purpose. This is called Intentional Joe, as the writer wants the reader or viewer to be aware of the character's Joe syndrome. This can be done for several reasons. Often when the storyteller knows that a portion of their audience likes a certain character a lot, they will intentionally imbue them with frequent Joe Syndrome to please that audience. Another possibilty is for the sake of humor. Because it's hard to take characters with Joe Syndrome seriously, it's often used as a comedic element, and frequently parodies other things which have Joe Syndrome. It can also be used to antagonize a character. Audiences are often annoyed with Joe Syndrome, and therefore when a character that is supposed to be unlikable has it, it sways the audience to root for their enemies.
A rare form of Joe Syndrome, Unintentional Joe is when a character appears to have Joe Syndrome, but is in fact not very well liked or adored by the storyteller. It's uncommon as most creators will like all of their characters.
Arguably the rarest form of Joe is Reverse Joe, which is when a character is created without the intention of having Joe Syndrome. Despite this, the audience will recieve the character particularily well and request that the character gain more "Joe-like" qualities. They often become the subject of fan praise, much to the surprise of the creator. Unlike most forms of Joe Syndrome, Reverse Joe is often seen as a good trait, as the character has more than exceeded their intent. However, unless a storyteller is careful, Reverse Joe eventually often leads to Total Joe.
Note: Defining Joe Syndrome can be very interpretive. These examples are simply to further illustrate how Joe Syndrome may be perceived.
- Jack Bauer: Total Joe
- Boba Fett: Reverse Joe
- Duke Nukem: Intentional Joe
- Draco Malfoy: Unintentional Joe