While Tom is widely considered by default to be the quote unquote "villain" between the two just because of the whole stereotype of "Cats Being Mean" without any further elaboration or thinking, many post-modern audiences have taken more and more notice to the brutal injuries that Jerry regularly inflicts on him, and sympathize more with Tom. Indeed, Jerry is technically a pest who shouldn't be living in the house, and Tom likewise is simply doing his job as a good pet by trying to get rid of him, and in a number of cases Jerry has arguably been the instigator of conflict. However, these cases are the exception rather than the rule, as both are sometimes shown to be outright antagonistic to each other even for their standards, depending on the episode and whoever writes it.
Usually, though, this is because Jerry has been stealing or pestering the homeowners, causing them to order Tom to either catch him or get kicked out, or to pester Tom as he is minding his own business to get a reaction out of him. This puts the poor cat in a lose-lose situation. Overall, the conflict between the two characters is closer to an equally two-sided, active rivalry than anything else.
In other media beside the original shorts by Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Jerry tends to be less villainous, though not always the case. When Chuck Jones took over the series in the 1960s, he admitted that he didn't understand the characters all that well, and Jerry occasionally committed acts that were uncharacteristically cruel, such as the shorts "The Year of the Mouse" and "Love Me, Love My Mouse," both of which involved Jerry acting almost evil in nature. Even in Jerry's young age, his rivalry with Tom (as a kitten) stayed the same, as seen in the early 1990s show Tom and Jerry Kids.
The popular interpretation of Jerry as a villain has famously been parodied on The Simpsons by Itchy, (the rival of Scratchy) who is shown as a psychotic serial killer who kills the friendly Scratchy as well as nearby civilians and children, in contrast to Jerry's mischief which would never go that far.
Powers and Abilities
Jerry is shown to be a formidable opponent for Tom. Not only cunning, he also has amazing skill to overcome and deactivated any kinds of traps and formulating plans aside using various tools against Tom. Notable example of his amazing skills displayed when he able to grab a piece cheese that attached at the mousetrap without hurt himself (sometimes the trap not triggered at all until Tom check the trap himself for comedic effect).
In some ways, Jerry proved to be foil for Tom: In spite both of them displayed cunning intelligence and skills in various tools and items, Tom's skills in using various items against Jerry proved to be poor that he was more prone to inflict unnecessary destruction over the course of their fights whereas Jerry, who had better skills, able to counteract everything Tom throw at him without inflicting much damage.
Tom, he is more skilled, calculating and less destructive, as every times he had conflict with Tom. Tom often unintentionally destroys everything that gets in his way while Jerry rarely does the same. This may be due less to personality and more to the fact that Jerry weighs about as much as four postage stamps.
- Some shorts open with him tormenting Tom despite never being provoked (sometimes even with Tuffy joining the party).
- Jerry pranks Tom in a variety of episodes, and even tricks the traumatized cat into making him think he himself is dead.
- In a number of episodes, Tom is tasked with doing something (or not doing something) by his owner or he will be kicked out of the house. Jerry would take advantage of this and go out of his way to get Tom into trouble, even when Tom has yet to do anything to him in the episode.
- In "The Framed Cat" and several episodes, Jerry terrorizes Tom by getting Spike (or another animal) to falsely believe Tom doing something he did not do (or based on something that wasn't his fault or him having no idea of) by hitting them to enrage them, or pairing up with that animal (such as a lion, a baby seal, and a baby elephant) to terrorize the cat in the process.
- In "Kitty Foiled", Jerry (with Cuckoo joining the party) traumatizes Tom into making himself think he got shot in the process, then heartlessly celebrate as if he actually died. As Tom wakes up noticing their prank, he and the canary get away with their actions with refusal of shaking hands with him to make up for it, causing the vengeful feline to fight back against the mouse in retaliation to make him realize what it would be like for him to suffer the same fate.
- In "Salt Water Tabby" and numerous other shorts, Jerry can take advantage of Tom by stealing a lot of his food.
- He even harasses Spike in, "What a Pain" and a number of episodes. Jerry (and Tuffy) even causes havoc for Tom, Spike and (surprisingly) Tyke in , "Slinging in the Rain."
- Jerry is shown to be a hypocrite shown in "Posse Cat", where he selfishly steals food from Tom and then expects to get more food from him in return for helping Tom get his dinner, when obviously Jerry was the reason he could not get any dinner and steals the food. Tom was famished to the point that he endangered himself, biting the tail of a bull.
- In "Cat Napping", Jerry takes advantage of Tom by stealing his hammock he planned to take a catnap on for the day, and then rudely gives Spike the hammock for no reason, allowing Tom to hit the wrong target and get attacked without justice.
- In "The Million Dollar Cat", Tom inherited $1 million, but would lose it if he harmed any creature, even a mouse. Jerry brutally exploited this, constantly tormenting Tom and making him utterly miserable solely for his own amusement. Eventually, Tom lost his temper, destroyed the contract and attacked Jerry, remarking (in one of his few speaking roles) "Gee, I'm throwing away a million dollars...BUT I'M HAPPY!!" This is one of the few times where Tom gets the better of Jerry.
- In "The Two Mouseketeers", he and Tuffy try to steal a feast that Tom had to guard. He succeeded and led to Tom to be decapitated because of the failure (which both knew already about) and both showed no pity nor remorse.
- In "Timid Tabby", he repeatedly finds ways to scare Tom's cousin, George, who is deathly afraid of mice. However, he does this because he mistakenly thinks that he is scaring Tom instead (as Tom and George look exactly alike) and is hoping to exact some revenge on him. When Tom finds out about this, he and George retaliate by teaming up against Jerry and scaring him out of the house by pretending to be a monster with four arms, four legs, and two heads and chasing him out the front door while laughing ghoulishly. This causes Jerry to run to a home for mice with nervous breakdowns.
- In "Baby Puss", Jerry witnesses Tom be dressed as a baby and tormented by a little girl. Rather than help Tom, he calls over some neighborhood cats, who then ridicule and bully Tom throughout the short. He does get a minor form of punishment at the end, though: after Tom is force-fed castor oil by the girl (with Jerry forcing Tom's mouth open with a pair of pliers), the bottle tips over and a drop of the oil falls into Jerry's mouth as he laughs at Tom's misfortune, causing him to join his nemesis in vomiting over a railing.
- In "The Cat Concerto", he repeatedly sabotaged Tom's piano recital, eventually forcing the cat to pass out from exhaustion before taking unearned credit for the recital; all this because Tom had disturbed his sleep inside the piano, which was a bad place to take up residence anyway and wasn't Tom's fault.
- In the Chuck Jones short "The Year of the Mouse", to amuse his mouse friend, Jerry torments an innocent Tom asleep on a pillow, leading Tom to believe he's attempting suicide in his sleep by placing in his hand a loaded revolver and a knife covered in ketchup (mimicking blood), and even setting up a noose around his neck. This short may perhaps portray Jerry at his most villainous. Fortunately, Tom gets the better of them in the end, stuffing them in a bottle rigged at gunpoint after discovering the two's presences.
- In another Chuck Jones short "Love Me, Love My Mouse", Jerry frames Tom only to make Toodles come to his "rescue" to sabotage their relationship, with attempts like working his way into Tom's mouth, composed of tickling Tom's foot, hitting it with a mallet and playing a lullaby from a gramophone, enraging Tom to do away with him. Like the previously mentioned Chuck Jones short, Jerry fortunately gets his comeuppance as Toodles finally takes sides with her boyfriend, has a change of heart, and chases after Jerry much leading to his dismay of terror.
- For much of the Gene Deitch era, cartoons like "Down and Outing", "High Steaks", and "Sorry Safari" depicted Jerry relentlessly pestering a passive Tom and going out of his way to get the cat's evil owner angry at Tom.
- In "Tall in the Trap", Jerry is depicted as a cheese-stealing outlaw, leading the shopkeeper instructing the sheriff hiring the "fastest trap in the West" to stop him, turning out to be Tom.
- In "Reward if Lost", he provokes Tom and yet even goes far by slapping a photo of him into the lost and reward-if-found poster to trick people into putting Tom into the neighbor's garden so that the neighbor's dog would assault him.
- Terrorizes an elephant musician in order to repeatedly scare him and sabotage his concert performance, and have Tom abused by him in "Two Stepping Tom".
- In the Game Boy Advance game "Tom and Jerry: Infurnal Escape", he assists Spike to imprison and enslave Tom in a boot camp, and to kidnap Toodles Galore and torment Tom in boiling hot water. He even imprisons and locks up a number of Tom's friends, and possibly family in addition. He quickly redeems himself as Tom comes to the rescue in time for his girlfriend to call out on Jerry for his actions.
- Jerry once wants to take a photo of Tom in embarrassing situation. He eventually forgets to recharge the batteries, but he still pretends to have the photo. Tom becomes afraid that Jerry will show the photo to his friends, so it is easy for Jerry to exploit him as his body guard, causing Tom to get injured or beaten up several times.
- Tom once falls in love with his beautiful neighbor and writes a love letter to her. However, before he can send it, Jerry and Tuffy steal it and threaten Tom to copy it and send it to all his friends.
- When Tom gets cold, Jerry visibly torments him. For example, Jerry lays something (peanuts, etc.) in front of Tom, so when Tom sneezes, his head hits to it strongly.
- Tuffy and Jerry once bake a cake from Tom's apples, although Tom forbids them to. While trying to stop them, Tom is insulted many times. He eventually ends up with burn hands. The mice bandage them the way that Tom's hands are tied up together. At the end, they reveal to him that the cake is actually for him. When excited Tom thanks them, they simply throw the cake at him.
- Many critics feel Jerry was out of character in the Gene Deitch era shorts, with Tom being cast as a hapless victim who was never a threat to Jerry. Deitch himself later said this was due to his lack of understanding of the characters at the time. Notably his last few cartoons depicted a more regular rivalry with the titular duo.
- Both Tom and Jerry, while usually and generally on the good side, can be classified as anti-heroes as both are abusive, cruel, and villainous at times despite being the main protagonists of the series as they typically antagonize each other.
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