Something pathetic inspires pity and contempt. Pathetic things are awful or lame.
These days, when you see the word pathetic, it's pretty clear that it's no compliment. This is an insulting word for things that are so bad they bum you out. A sports team losing ten games in a row is pathetic. Someone who constantly lies, even though the lies are obvious, is pathetic. Trying to dunk a basketball and missing by three feet is pathetic. When something is astoundingly lame or awful, people love to say, "Wow. How pathetic."