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Evil brings out the best in people. Yes, you read that right. Without true evil to fight, Superman would spend his life getting cats out of trees. If an object did not absorb some of the light that falls on it, and cast no shadow, it would be invisible.
And this is the philosophy of some villains. Yeah, their job is thankless and unpopular - but they press on yet, casting the shadows by which the path of truth is shaped.
- The Joker, especially in the comics, practically defines himself in his opposition to Batman, and feels they need each other, and their eternal struggle of good vs evil, to exist.
- Zoom, the second Reverse-Flash, works on the principle that he's making the heroes greater by giving them tragedy to overcome.
- Inverted when the original Professor Zoom returned. Because his powers came from the Flash, the one thing he could never do was the only thing he wanted to do: kill Barry Allen.
- So long as there is the Sentry, so too must there be the Void.
- The Fifth Element: Zorg's perfect example of the Broken Window Fallacy:
"Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder and chaos. Now take this empty glass. Here it is: peaceful, serene, boring. But if it is destroyed..." (Pushes the glass off the table. It shatter on the floor, and several small machines come out to clean it up) "...Look at all these little things! So busy now! Notice how each one is useful. A lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people, who will be able to feed their children tonight, so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny children of their own, and so on and so forth. Thus, adding to the great chain of life. You see, father, by causing a little destruction, I am in fact encouraging life. In reality, you and I are in the same business."
- Legend. Just before he's apparently destroyed by the light:
Darkness: You think you have won! What is light without dark? What are you without me? I am a part of you all. You can never defeat me. We are brothers... eternal!
- Mihail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita has Professor Woland, an avatar of Satan, schooling Matthew Levi: "You spoke your words as though you denied the very existence of the shadows or of evil. Think, now: where would your good be if there were no evil and what would the world look like without shadow? Shadows are thrown by people and things. There's the shadow of my sword, for instance. But shadows are also cast by trees and living things. Do you want to strip the whole globe by removing every tree and every creature to satisfy your fantasy of a bare world? You're stupid."
- The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge. After being criticized for going on a crime spree, "Slippery Jim" diGriz explains that the government will reimburse the institutions he robbed, and that the crimes provided excitement for the populace, increased the sale of newspapers, provided exercise for the police and the opportunity for field exercises by the military. He suggests that he should be paid for this instead of punished.
- A chapter quote from Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea.
Only in silence the word,bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
—From "The Creation of Ea", an Earthsea poem
- A major theme in Paradise Lost
- Some of the Dragonlance books have a darker take on this. The god of good in this setting is a Well-Intentioned Extremist with impossibly high standards, and he'd like to see all villains redeemed (through brainwashing if necessary), or else slain. If he actually beat the forces of evil, he'd become just as bad.
- In a nutshell, good needs evil to have something to fight against. If no outside targets are forthcoming, some of the good becomes evil to fight against itself.
- This is the entire point of Villains by Necessity.
- It underlies The Lord of the Rings and the rest of Tolkien's world.
Religion and Mythology
- Defied by the apostle Paul in The Bible, against people who rationalized this as an excuse to keep doing things they know are sinful:
Romans 6:1-2: What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
- A different spin on this is pretty standard Christian theology, though: simply put, you can't truly do good if you don't have a choice to do evil. Hence all the bad things in the world--if God got rid of them, he would be taking away our free will so we would be just robots.
- Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice. The entire plot of the game was planned out by the Super Hero Aurum, the greatest hero of mankind, in order to raise Mao into being the Strongest Overlord... because, having defeated the PREVIOUS Strongest Overlord, Mao's father, he found himself bereft of a purpose. At the very end, he gives a whole speech about how the one thing a hero truly NEEDS, is a VILLAIN. Without an evil to fight, a hero is just a man - unimportant and soon forgotten. Because of that, Aurum spent 200 years disguised as a demon, raising Mao to be evil and powerful, and pushing him towards genocidal anger against humanity - just so he'd be able to swoop in in the last second and stop him. In the 'Bad' ending, he actually succeeds on the first part, and Mao invades and attacks the human world - but when Aurum tries to stop him, he unwittingly pushes Mao's Berserk Button by killing off his childhood friend, Raspberyl, sending Mao into a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum. So really, it might be considered an inversion of this trope, though matching nicely with the current name...
- This Sinfest strip, spoofing Mars Needs Women.
- This is a major part of Tarquin's argument as to why it's a good thing that he's evil in Order of the Stick.
- In Interviewing Leather, Leather asserts this philosophy.
- During Satan's song in the South Park movie, he sings "without evil there could be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes".