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  • Avatar: The Last Airbender shows that the villainous Prince Zuko was raised in a nightmarish, back-stabbing court where his sister was always more successful and favored, his once-renowned war hero uncle breaks down after losing his son in battle only to later lose his place on the throne, his mother killed his grandfather the night she disappeared in order to keep her husband from killing Zuko, and his father not only publicly ridiculed him when giving him his trademark scar and banishment from home, but is voiced by Mark Hamill. Let the Star Wars parallels begin! (Even his voice actor couldn't deny it.)
    • And the key motivation of the outburst that got him burned and banished was caring about the common soldiers of his father's army and being morally offended by a general calling new recruits fresh meat. Show traits that could lead you to be a caring leader someday, experience agonizing pain and lose everything you have. Is there such a thing as a Skinnerian Excuse?
    • The series finale gives Azula her Freudian Excuse: due to Ozai's raising of her, her mother was distant from her throughout her childhood, leading Azula to believe that she did't love her and only loved Zuko who, according to her father's teachings, is doing everything wrong and shouldn't be loved. She even lampshades it in the Beach Episode, when all the teen villains' Freudian excuses come out.

  Azula: "My own mother... thought I was a monster." [perks up] "She was right, of course, but it still hurt!"

    • Thus, Azula shuns love and lives life making people fear her instead. But when this ends up failing her, and the one person she thought did love her, her father, turns his back on her despite her doing everything "right", the poor girl snaps.
      • Ty Lee is an incredible flirt and all-around weirdo because she had six other identical sisters and got no attention. Mai grew up a rich only child who had to stay quiet and unemotional so as to not screw up her father's political career.
        • One episode shows that Ozai's father was also terrible, but since Ozai treats his kids even worse and is an all around Complete Monster, it doesn't really garner much sympathy.
    • In Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Amon's Alleged Backstory is one of these. According to him, he was once a simple Farm Boy in a family of non-benders who were bullied and extorted by local firebending criminals, who killed his parents and permanently burned Amon's face after his father tried to stand up to the firebenders.
      • Then there's Hiroshi Sato, whose wife was murdered by a firebender. He truly believes that the world would be better off without benders and therefore follows Amon.
  • Totally Spies has a rather big list of villains who do bad things for something that happened in the past. There was one episode where a lady decided to mind-control all the guys through cologne so that they worshipped her because she was not chosen the prom queen at her high school. Seriously?
  • Clay of Moral Orel had a very complex abusive relationship with his father after he accidentally killed his mother, and he's only an alcoholic in a failing marriage because Bloberta convinced the once-sober Clay to get drunk and tricked him into marriage. After watching these events unfold, it's actually quite difficult to blame Clay for much of his behavior.
  • In Quest for a Heart, when Millie remarks on Footman's disagreeable personality, the other Rollis tell her that he had a hard childhood. She asks for more details, and they say he had to grow up in a Rolli village in the midst of Rollis.
  • Parodied in a Buttons & Mindy short on Animaniacs. Mindy, a curious little toddler, accidentally walks in on a bank robbery...

 Mindy: (to one of the robbers) Whatcha doing, Mr. Man?

Robber: What's it look like? We're robbin' the bank!

Mindy: Why?

Robber: 'Cause we're bank robbers!

Mindy: Why?

Robber: 'Cause that's what bad guys do!

Mindy: Why?

Robber: 'Cause maybe our mothers didn't hug us when we was kids!

  • Subverted in Ruby-Spears' Mega Man, in the first episode: Wily mentions having a less than perfect childhood--then goes right on to working on Protoman, expounding on a different subject. The show never brings it up again, implying that Wily's bid to take over the world is simply due to his villainous nature, not this trope.
  • Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb sometimes has these, played for laughs -- as part of his speech, he'll refer to some unpleasant past event that motivated his current act of villainy. Possibly the most outlandish was his deciding to steal all the lawn gnomes in the Tri-State Area because as a child, he had been forced to take the place of his family's lawn gnome after it was repossessed.
    • He hates birthdays because his parents didn't show up the day he was born.
    • During his school's Science Fairs his machines always lost to a baking soda volcano. So what does he do several decades down the line? He infiltrates an elementary school Science Fair and sets up "The World's Largest Baking Soda Volcano!"
    • He hates swimming pools because his mother didn't let him swim. Humourously accompanied by a very short clip of Doofenshmirtz's mother simply saying to him, 'No.' Doofenshmirtz argues not every backstory has to be dramatic.
    • Other components to his backstory: he had to wear hand-me-up girls' clothing, his mother loved his brother more than him, his father replaced him with a dog named "Only Son", his only friend (a painted balloon) flew away, his artistic masterpiece was destroyed, his girlfriend left him for a whale, and he was raised by ocelots. Yes, all of that.
    • In Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, Doof-2's only reason he's evil(er) is because he lost a toy train once. Doof-1 obviously deconstructs this because of how much more miserable his life was, yet he is less successful. Once Doof-1 gives him the train at the end, he decides to stop being evil.
  • In Danny Phantom, pretty much all of Vlad's evil tendencies were blamed on the pivotal portal experiment in college. But in spite of disfiguring his face, the positives started to pile up after a while. Vlad's insanely rich, and has super powers. What more could you want? The answer: love. Vlad lost the woman he loved to the one who accidentally caused the accident to start with, and Vlad's been bitter and lonely ever since.
    • Also Freakshow uses this troop to give an excuse to all the bad things he does. Everyone in his life, including himself, likes ghosts more than him. Being upstaged by ghosts his whole life messed him up but then again he might very well just be insane. I personally think it's a bit of both.
  • The eponymous Dr. Thaddeus S. 'Rusty' Venture of The Venture Brothers has his horrific upbringing by his father to blame for his Jerkass tendencies, something that the 3rd season goes out of its way several times to point out. Several times, it's hinted that Rusty was forced to murder several people in his childhood by his father. That would screw up anyone.
    • "That's nothing. My father made me kill a man with a house key once. I was ten!"
    • Every single horrifying thing Dr. Rusty Venture has ever done can be traced back to his just as horrifying childhood; more specifically, his complicated relationship with his father, which has left him with some very odd (not to mention neglectful and abusive) notions about how to play father to his own teenage sons. This trope was played with in "The Doctor is Sin," in which Rusty is forced to relive "the moment that his father went from protector to tormentor/rival," and drawn upon even more heavily in "Assisted Suicide," with Dr. Orpheus entering and traversing Rusty's subconscious mind.
  • Drawn Together lampshades this in the song "Who's Afraid of a Bully" from the episode "Requiem for a Reality Show".
  • In Transformers Animated, why Bumblebee would rather work on his own than to learn the value of teamwork could be attributed to what happened in "Autoboot Camp." His first team was consisted of jerks who went as far as unscrewing his legs then locking him inside a locker. It didn't help that his Drill Sergeant Nasty was Sentinel Prime, who took every opportunity to humiliate him. The only ones who didn't treat him like crap were Bulkhead (who he had written off as a hic from the energon farms) and Longarm. Bumblebee eventually warms up to Bulkhead, and even takes the heat for him - which boots him out of Sentinel's good graces and gets him demoted to Space Bridge Repair duty (resulting in his Stingers being downgraded to be useless in combat).
  • In an original story board of Disney's Aladdin they wanted to have Jafar, the villain, have a Freudian Excuse themed song explaining why he was angry and evil. It was later dropped and was replaced with a reprise of Prince Ali to satisfy the staff's wishes to have the voice actor sing, to the delight of most of the audience. Of course, when you think about it, why would Jafar need a Freudian excuse? We already know he's unhappy in his current position (which is sometimes all you need), thinks the sultan is an idiot, is greedy, and has a case of megalomania (thus the last genie wish).
    • The rationale was probably to add depth to Jafar's character and provide an explanation (necessary or not) as to how he became so evil and twisted. As it turned out: No, not necessary, but all the more intriguing by its absence.
    • Incidentally, Jafar's excuse mainly focused on being mocked and unpopular when he was young, and having to live and work underneath the bumbling Sultan in adulthood. The latter of these was clearly shown in the actual film. Sympathey is heavily undercut because Jafar now treats Aladdin as lowly as he himself was treated in childhood. If you're curious, the song and storyboards for it can be seen here.
  • Played with by Demona, one of the two main villains on Gargoyles. She has certainly endured more than her fair share of misery over the centuries, and a lot of it seems to be the fault of the humans (thereby setting up her motivation nicely. Closer inspection, though, reveals that Demona herself directly or indirectly caused all of her own suffering, with the humans sometimes large players, but sometimes just scapegoats. It's implied that Demona is aware of this (and of her own evil) on some level... pity she's the queen of the Ignored Epiphany. This trope is outright averted with the other main villain, Xanatos, who by all accounts had an idyllic childhood but wound up a wealthy Diabolical Mastermind anyway. And yet he's still not entirely unsympathetic.
  • Most, if not all, of Batman's rogues gallery, as well as Terry's. The only two of Terry's that spring to mind is the "skeleton Joker Gang" guy who attacked Max because she scored higher then him on an SAT, making his ice-queen mom very disappointed in him. There's also the geeky technopath student whose Jerk Jock dad didn't care either way about him, even after he stole his construction equipment and later buffed up in prison, although his particular hang-up was over a girl who naturally didn't care about him either.
  • Hilariously inadequate to the point that it was most certainly intentional, the villain of Meet the Robinsons became villainous and lost his mind due to a minor mishap as a child in which he lost his baseball team the game because he fell asleep partway through. It fits in with the moral of the story of moving on, because while his team was upset for a while, they got over it and forgave him, but he focused only on that minor mistake and it ruined his entire life.
  • In South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut, Saddam Hussein tries to use this trope during part of his Villain Song. Note that he's possibly lying, or at the very least, the movie does not imply this justifies his actions:
  • Murdoc Niccals, resident Jerkass of the animated band Gorillaz, suffered a thoroughly unpleasant childhood at the hands of his father, his brother, various school bullies, and (if you believe him) the dinner lady who took his virginity when he was nine.

 "I'm often asked why my behaviour is so crooked now, but it's a lot clearer when you see what manky loins I sprang from. 'Man hands on misery to man', y'know."

  • On Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Pete mentions during his Villain Song that the reason he's so evil is because his mother didn't like him and he wants to impress her be becoming king.
  • In Toy Story 3, Lotso became evil after his first owner lost and replaced him.
    • In the second movie, Stinky Pete is evil because he was an unpopular toy and no child ever played with him.
  • In Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, Eddy's characterization can be summed up as Jerkass. That was because he was trying to emulate and impress his Domestic Abuser older brother. His breakdown and admission to this led to the others accepting him.
  • Played for Laughs in an Adult Party Cartoon episode ofThe Ren and Stimpy Show. Ren is an Ax Crazy Domestic Abuser to Stimpy. He reasons his tendency to be violent with "the first sensation I felt in my life was unspeakable pain. From then on, I wanted to inflict the pain on others!". He was referring to a doctor who slapped him on the butt after his carriage.
  • Virtually every Kim Possible villain there is. Seriously, it would be easier just to list the ones who didn't complain about everyone laughing at them (well, there's Shego, but she still has an excuse: her superhero brothers were all idiots.)
  • Baxter Stockman from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 is shown during a Villainous Breakdown to have deep seated shame at not living up to the potential his mother saw in him.
  • The underlying reason behind Tai Lung's fury in the original Kung Fu Panda. However, after he is told that he had no reason to feel this way, it doesn't matter to him and the years of feeling slighted by Shifu have turned him completely cold.
    • By contrast in Kung Fu Panda 2, Lord Shen's feeling of being rejected by his parents in his youth is completely blown out of proportion in his mind considering they did that only after being horrified at him committing genocide against the Giant Pandas.
  • In previous Scooby Doo incarnations, the villains in the monster costumes had viable reasons for donning their disguises. However, in Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated, any time excuses are given, they are usually always lame and pitiful, which actually makes them more villainous, especially since they are more dangerous.
  • In an episode of the Earthworm Jim, we have this exchange from Professor Monkey-For-A-Head:

  Professor Monkey-for-a-Head : (Sees a fruit cart) Fruit carts?! I hate fruit carts!!! (The monkey fused to his head mumbles something to him) Why?! I'll tell you why! It's because a fruit cart, a STINKING FRUIT CART, killed my pa!!!

  • Regular Show finally explains why Benson has one of the worst Hair Trigger Tempers in the history of Western Animation: One night at the dinner table when he was a boy, his father encouraged him to yell "Pass the salt!".
  • Mr. Burns from The Simpsons has one: Despite being an evil, cruel and heartless businessman who has done a lot of evil things, we find out that in his childhood he was a light-hearted and pleasant child, who was nicknamed "Happy" because of his pleasant nature and had very loving parents, but his own grandfather, twisted and heartless millionaire, lured him away from his loving parents and forcibly adopted Burns. His grandfather is coldhearted businissmen who cared only about greed and power and is directly responsible for transforming Burns from carefree and pleasant boy to miserable and evil old man.
  • Played for Laughs in The Tick, when Big Shot's reaction to running out of bullets after spending the episode (over)acting like a Nineties Anti-Hero is to mournfully ask "...Why didn't you love me, mom?" and break down sobbing on Arthur's shoulder.
  • Played straight and subverted in Voltron: Legendary Defender with foils Keith and Lotor:
    • Lotor was neglected by his mother and emotionally abused by his father. Originally a sweet child who wanted to do good for the world and befriended a planet his father wanted him to subjugate, he turned bitter and eventually over to the dark side after the planet was destroyed and his father exiled him. His parental issues dog him throughout the rest of the series, eventually leading to his downfall.
    • Keith's mother left him when he was a baby, and his father died in the line of duty as a firefighter when Keith was a young child. As a result, Keith ended up untrusting of people and cultivated a Jerkass Facade to keep them at arm's length rather than risk rejection. However, Keith himself acknowledges this as his own doing, his own choice. His vlog has him admit his mother left him, but he fully accepts that his problems are all his own. Fortunately, Keith does get to reunite with his Missing Mom later in the series, and bonding with her allows him to begin healing and letting go of his hangups.
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