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"While most great powers come with great responsibilities, the power of invisibility isn't one of them. In fact, shirking responsibility is sort of the point of owning an invisibility suit in the first place."
Soren Bowie, Cracked

Characters who gain the power of Invisibility have a startling tendency to become jerks, if not outright homicidal maniacs, within fairly short order. Sometimes this is a result of power that makes the character invisible but more often it seems to be a natural side effect of invisibility itself. After all, you can't be punished for your actions if nobody even knows you're there.

Not related to the trope What You Are in the Dark, but related to the saying it comes from. See also Villain Teleportation, Invisible Streaker. See GIFT for the equivalent result when applied to anonymity on the internet.

Examples of Invisible Jerkass include:


Anime and Manga

  • Absalom from One Piece uses his power to molest Nami. Sanji is upset for that and because he also wanted that power, but only to ogle women.
  • Sakurai Tomoki from Sora no Otoshimono does this in an early chapter/episode when he asks Ikaros to make him invisible. He then used his invisibility to sneak into the home of his friend Sohara while she was changing and "punished" her by groping her breasts.
  • Lucy makes use of this in Fairy Tail. Though initially just looking for help undoing the invisibility magic on her, when she hears the guild joking about her behind her back she proceeds to make them all fight one another.

Comic Books

  • Griffin from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is introduced when he is caught raping a bunch of college girls, and he murders several people for arbitrary reasons. This is very much in keeping with his portrayal in H.G Wells' book.
  • The Hood.
  • If you believe that "Not Me" of The Family Circus is a real being, he might qualify as one.
  • Milo Manara's Butterscotch is a porn comic, so you can probably guess what the invisible man in it uses his power for. That's right, to watch a beautiful woman he's been in love with since they were children but was too shy to ever contact; and he gets quite indignant at the suggestion that he may abuse his power to peek at her in the shower or something like that; he just wants to be near her. His Secret Keeper, a woman named Honey (who keeps appearing in other Manara comics) calls him a "poor wimp" because "any real man who found out how to be invisible would have gone out and robbed a bank, layed all the most gorgeous chicks..." and eventually he ends up going nuts, stripping innocent women for no reason, and relaying his voyeuristic experiences. And then another invisible man shows up to rape Honey. Yeah, everyone is a complete jerk in that comic.

Film

  • The whole point of Hollow Man.
  • Played straight and subverted in the film adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where the new Invisible Man is a thief who used his invisibility to steal and molest women. He's the most obvious suspect as The Mole, and is shown spying on the other members of the League. However, he turns out that he was spying to learn who the real mole is. He also has his moments of heroism toward the end of the film.
  • Spoofed in Amazon Women on the Moon in which the Son of the Invisible Man states that he's taken the invisibility potion despite that fact that it turned his father into a raving madman. He then proves this by running around with no clothes on, playing tricks on unimpressed patrons at his hotel, unaware that he's not invisible at all.

Literature

  • In Plato's story the Ring of Gyges, Gyges seduces the queen and kills several people.
    • It's worth pointing out that, as always, Plato made up this story but wrote it in such a way that pretended it was hundreds of years old and a commonly-heard myth. People unfamiliar with Plato's habit of doing this took his later claims of a lost island of Atlantis at face value.
  • H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man goes famously crazy. He's got an ego problem to start with, but by the end he's running around nutty as a circus with plans to start what he calls the "Reign Of Terror: The First Year of the Invisible Man the First."
  • Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man analyzes this in a different way. He isn't literally transparent; it's simply that as a black man no one cares about him. He even attacks a man at random, knowing that the only thing his target will remember will be his ethnicity.
  • In Lord of the Rings, when Gollum first acquired the Ring, he used it to sneak around his village, listening to secrets and stealing things.
    • Bilbo has elements of this in The Hobbit, once he gets the Ring, nicking food from the Elvenking and making a Running Gag out of sneaking past guards only to snark at them for not seeing him. His cheap trick at his birthday party in The Lord of the Rings counts too.
  • Averted in the obscure Swedish YA novel Trollstenen. The magic stone in the title has a failsafe spell on it that means it stops working if used for selfish ends. How it determines what is selfish is not revealed.
  • There a short sci-fi story (anybody knows the name?) which is a borderline example: The protagonist isn't exactly invisible, but can move sixty times faster than other people, to the same effect. He uses his skill for all kinds of pranks, including ruining the career of a politician by opening the latter's fly during a big speech.
    • Probably The Six Fingers of Time by R. A. Lafferty.
  • In Diana Wynne Jones' The Ogre Downstairs, one of the boys in a blended family turns himself invisible during an extremely tense period with his stepfather, and fairly shortly he goes over the line from angry to homicidal. The stepfather suggests that it's the effect of becoming "all thoughts."

Live Action TV

  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Gone" involves a few Jerkass moments from Buffy herself, apparently motivated by nothing but the power of invisibility.
    • That wasn't the only thing that caused it--the point was that she had so much stress and depression going on at the time that she felt trapped and powerless. The invisibility just let her get away with doing the things she wanted to do anyway, without having to take any responsibility for her actions--as Spike points out, she's pretending that she isn't really "there" as she does it.
    • There was also the girl in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight," who became a psychopath after turning invisible. Again, it was problems she had beforehand compounded by With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
  • Claude Rains on Heroes is an invisible Jerkass with a heart of gold, being rude and misanthropic, yet at the same time willing to mentor Peter Petrelli and unwilling to let Manhattan get nuked. (Of course, how he mentors Peter...)
  • The main character from the Sci Fi Channel's TV series The Invisible Man had to deal with the nasty side effect that overusing his invisibility gland would trigger a homicidal rage. However, even under normal circumstances he wasn't especially scrupulous about how he used his invisibility, from spying on his co-workers to making his legs invisible so he could park in a disabled spot.
    • Averted in the 1970s series of the same name starring David McCallum. The title character maintains his composure and sense of ethics throughout the show.
  • Mocked, as was everything else, in the infamous Stargate SG-1 episode "200".
  • In the "Wishing Well" episode of Supernatural, a boy wishes to become invisible so he can spy on women in the shower. It fails, due to the kid's complete lack of reflex and agility.
  • In The X-Files episode "Je Souhaite," a guy is talking to a genie about what he wants for his last wish, and it's pretty clear that he's going to be an invisible jerkass.

 Anson Stokes: I wish that I could turn invisible... at will.

Jenn: You're kidding.

Anson Stokes: No, no. This is perfect. Yeah, I could have an advantage that nobody else on earth can have. I can, um, you know, spy and learn secret information, pick up stock tips.

Jenn: Sneak into a women's locker room.

Anson Stokes: Not just that, okay? I'm talking about James Bond type stuff. You know?

Music

  • The Barnes and Barnes song, "The Invisible Maniac".
  • Clay Aiken's "Invisible" is rather explicitly about how the singer would use the power of invisibility to stalk the person he is addressing.

Radio

  • Episode 178 of the radio show This American Life notes that in an informal survey, most people who would choose the power of invisibility over flight would use it to commit crimes or other mischief they think it would help them get away with. It also says that some people who choose flight may just be lying because of this fact.

Video Games

  • In Team Fortress 2, we have the Spy, with an invisibility watch that he uses to get behind enemy lines and wreak havoc. This, combined with his ability to disguise as the enemy, and his insta-kill backstab makes for a very deadly combination. It helps that he's a Jerkass even without the watch.
  • Reading some interoffice e-mail in Fallout: New Vegas reveals that this happened at the REPCONN test site, which accidentally received a shipment of Stealth Boys: "In light of yesterday's upsetting events all employees are hereby directed to give a thorough reading to REPCONN's sexual harassment and workplace behavior policies. Also, while it is not explicitly stated in the Employee Handbook, unauthorized use of military hardware against fellow employees is ground for immediate termination."

Web Animation

  • Homestar Runner: Strong Bad claims in one email that, if he were invisible, he'd just keep doing exactly the same sort of stuff he already does: Stealing snacks from Bubs, punching Homestar and eating junk food while watching TV. Being Strong Bad, of course, his point is undermined in that of the activities listed, the last one is the only one we see Strong Bad doing with any frequency outside this cartoon.
  • Similarly, Grif of Red vs. Blue is also already a Jerkass, so his greatest ambition involving invisibility is to take uninterruptable naps on a whim.

Web Comics

Live Comedy

Western Animation

  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob and Patrick once bought invisible paint and made themselves invisible so that they could scare everybody else in Bikini Bottom.
  • The Fairly Odd Parents: Timmy Turner once wished to be invisible to avoid being beaten up, but then went on to scare everyone in the school. Episode 9 Season 2.
  • In the Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Invisible Mouse", Jerry dipped himself in invisible ink and would then continue to torment Tom. But then again, what else is new? This plot was used twice more, in "The Vanishing Duck" and "Of Feline Bondage".
  • Patches, Imaginary Friend from a Powerpuff Girls episode, was invisible to anyone except the boy who created him. He was using this state to bully all kids' friends.
  • In Danny Phantom, Danny has been known to use his invisibility/intangibility to spy in the girls' bathroom, cheat at bowling/mini golf, and spy on Sam while she was on dates with a Hungarian exchange student.
    • Also Tucker briefly when he gained ghost powers where he mostly used it to play pranks.
  • The Replacements: One of the last episodes had Todd finding a hat that rendered him (but not his clothes) invisible, and he used it to get revenge for an embarrassing YouTube FleemTube video of him. It didn't work out.
  • In one Donkey Kong Country episode had Diddy Kong becoming invisible thanks to the Crystal Coconut's power. He immediately uses his new stealth to play pranks, most of which get blamed on DK, the only other ape to know what's going on.

 Diddy: I'm having fun with everyone, when I disappear! Playing tricks on people while pretending I'm not there!

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