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I'm gonna be what they want.

I'm gonna be what they say.

Hey world, I'll do it your way!

You're lookin' for a monster, well it's your lucky day!
Shrek, "Gonna Build a Wall," Shrek the Musical

Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst a cause;

But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs.

Sometimes the "forces of good" in a story treat an "evil" character badly enough, for long enough, that the "evil" character just says "Screw it. You think I'm evil? Then let me be evil." Prolonged exposure to the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism has conditioned this character to accept the fact that Humans Are Bastards, and if he wants to get anywhere in the world, he has to be every bit as dirty and cruel as they are.

The villain normally gets to this point by being rejected by the resident morality enforcers and treated to assumptive behaviour. Whether it's due to being of a different nationality, hailing from a stereotypically Always Chaotic Evil species, or having had a few evil moments in the past, they just cannot get a break; even if they try to do good deeds, it will only lead to being horrifically punished for them. The point is, there is absolutely no way they can change anyone's mind that they're not a Complete Monster, so why bother?

Once this trope has been declared, unlike a lot of Ambiguously Evil characters, they won't be redeemed in spite of their sympathetic traits -- this is largely because it took a lot of work to turn him evil in the first place. Interestingly, in spite of all this, he doesn't look for excuses to kick puppies -- he still has morals, he just exercises a (much) more cynical variant of The Golden Rule.

The trope can be played to be more or less convincing for the audience depending on what point the writer wants to make. You can have the statement come across like a cheap Freudian Excuse such that it feels just like the villain is not truly owning up to their own part in their villainy. You could have it come across as a genuine explanation, but still not an excuse. And then again, it could be used as a genuine exposure of mistakes the hero has made, or even an outright exposure and commentary of the other characters' hypocrisy.

At that last point, you might start wondering who the villain really is, and have fun arguing with people over the authorial intent.

Related to Internalized Categorism, He Who Fights Monsters, Reformed but Rejected, Cycle of Revenge, Not Helping Your Case, Interrupted Cooldown Hug, and Who's Laughing Now?.

See also Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.

Examples of Then Let Me Be Evil include:


Anime and Manga

  • Gaara of Naruto was originally a sad, lonely boy who simply wanted a friend. But the villagers feared his power, and hated him because of its source. Finally, after Yashimaru tried to kill him, on orders of Gaara's father no less, Gaara becomes exactly what Yashimaru and the villagers had always said he was: A monster that loved only itself. Fortunately Defeat Means Friendship, and after fighting Naruto and losing Gaara eventually regains his sanity and learns to trust and love other people again. He later even becomes the new Kazekage, and is now revered by the villagers as a hero.
    • In recent chapters, Gaara's father, the 4th Kazekage, has been brought Back From the Dead...and revealed that Yashamaru never believed a word of his Hannibal Lecture. He only told Gaara that nobody ever loved him, and that even his own mother hated him, because they thought the shock would make him easier to kill, an order given only because they thought he was too unstable because of the demon placed within him. When the Kazekage sees all that his son has accomplished in spite of all this, he tells him that both Yashamaru and his mother always loved him, that he's sorry for ruining his life, and that he's never been prouder of him and should have had the faith in him that his mother did.
      • It was always obvious to a disinterested observer that either some really bad writing had taken place, or Yashamaru didn't completely believe what he was saying, but the Confetti Zombie explanation is equally inconsistent with the actual material, since an actual assassination attempt by the kid's primary caretaker ought to have involved poisoned food, and he kept up the delivery even as he died--though that last at least may have been to soften the kid up for the suicide bomb. So maybe it was bad writing. Oh well.
        • Yashamaru might just not be that good with poisons. Or maybe, whether he meant it or not, he never hated Gaara so much that he would resort to that, since ninja or no assassinating your nephew by poison is pretty low, and at least that way Gaara had a fighting chance. Or, more likely, maybe poison wouldn't be effective for some reason (decent chance it might have caused Gaara to accidently set the Shukaku demon free; few poisons are instantaneous, and merely falling asleep would be enough to release it). So no, not bad writing.
        • Also he wanted to test him to see if ,after that,he could contain his hatred,which would prove that he was of no danger of releasing the Shukaku demon.By ordering,or allowing him to use poison he would blow his son's last chance of proving him wrong by containing his hatred.
  • As a child Lucy from Elfen Lied is bullied / persecuted mercilessly for being a Diclonius, a horned, superpowered girl who may one day destroy the human race... Yeah. Nice going there.
  • Played with by Lelouch of Code Geass, especially towards the end after things pretty much entirely go south for him. He pretty much says this after the death of Euphemia.
    • Pretty much his entire mindset when he begins his scheming. He is willing to commit evil if it means taking out greater evil in so doing. Ultimately, he plays it to the hilt and allows himself to become the most despised person in the world...so that the world would focus all their hatred on him...so that his death would remove that hatred and provide a chance for the world to rebuild more positively.
  • Lilu in Watashi no Messiah-sama. It's made a bit worse by the fact that she was in fact originally supposed to be the Priestess of Salvation but because of a wish Haruna made, she had the position stolen from her and forced into the role of Priestess of Domination. Said wish was made by her best friend, the original Priestess of Domination, and forced her into a life of horrible treatment at the end of which she just snapped.
  • Trigun's Livio seems to have reached this point due to the confluence of a Super-Powered Evil Side that got him rejected everywhere and...uh...torturous retooling at the hands of a Murder, Inc.. It took murdering his childhood friend repeatedly as he burned his body out regenerating the damage while giving him a Shut UP, Hannibal for a volume and a half to get him to Heel Face Turn again. And then Wolfwood was dead, and Livio and Vash ate spaghetti.
  • During the climax of Devilman Lady, Asuka has transformed into a godlike being, brainwashing most of the world into loving her. Meanwhile, protagonist Jun has been cast into a giant (possibly metaphorical) pit, but she manages to rally her strength and declares that if Asuka is "God," then Jun will become the Devil to destroy her!

Comics

  • This is one of the motivations behind the Plutonian's Face Heel Turn in Irredeemable. In his mind, if the world is just going to fear him like a giant ticking bomb after all that he's done for them, then why not give them what they expect?
  • Loki from The Mighty Thor fits, Depending on the Writer. Of course, it's almost always more that Loki THOUGHT that the Asgardians didn't trust him and that he was The Unfavorite compared to Thor (combined in some continuities with the reveal that he's a Frost Giant, an Always Chaotic Evil race) that caused his Start of Darkness, not that he was actually disliked/hated. Thor, years later after fighting as the hero to his villain, still cares enough about him to get him reincarnated after Loki engineered the near fall of Asgard and helped save it in a last-ditch Heroic Sacrifice. Enemy Mine has been a recurring thing for Loki when the threat gets too great for a long, long time.
    • Also, there might have been a bit of Because Destiny Says So, since according to some writers the Ragnarok cycle, while it existed, contained the prophecies of the Norns that wrote the fates of the Asgardians and those around them. Loki might have been dealing with the knowledge that it said he'd be evil.
      • The seriousness with which the mythological factors are treated in the Mighty Thor materials varies a lot, but it's always going to be...off when it comes to Thor-and-Loki because it requires them to be a set of good and evil brothers, which is categorically wrong in every particular way. Although Thor does seem to have been considered the safest of the Aesir to petition.
  • Magneto has generally been written as a Well-Intentioned Extremist for a few decades now, which makes the name of his old supervillain group, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, seem a little strange. It has, therefore, been stated that the name invokes this trope. If humans are going to be afraid of mutants, he's going to give them something to be afraid of.
    • In Earth X, Uatu the Watcher (who knows a thing or two about human behavior) implies that the opposite is also true: Magneto forces Xavier to be the "good guy," and therefore saddle himself with all the limitations heroes must operate under.
  • Marv wonders if he is unknowingly following this trope in both the film and comic version of Sin City. All his life, people told him that he would grow up to be "a psycho killer" and he contemplates whether or not it's happening.
  • In the Mexican comic Memin (about a poor Black boy) a story had some bullies convince him that Black people never go to Heaven, no matter how good they are (claiming that the fact there are no pictures of Black angels proves it). Memin is so angry that he swears that if he's going to Hell, he'll rule it by being the most evil kid in the world! (of course, being a preteen his idea of evil acts are things like disrespecting his mother.) His friends hatch a plan to reform him by painting one of the angels in a Church (with the clergy's permission) Black and then show it to him. It worked.
  • During a visit to Hell, Bane of the Secret Six discovered that despite being a Noble Demon (at least what he thought was one) he was still damned. He figures that since he's beyond redemption anyway, he might as well stop trying to be a half-assed antihero and embraces villainy. First order of business? Settle the score with Batman once and for all.
  • While it never actually happens, Spider-Man comics have repeatedly teased the reader with the possiblity of Spider-Man becoming a menace due to the All of the Other Reindeer mentality of the world around him. In the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, Nick Fury was particularly worried that all of the tragedy and bad publicity in Peter's life would drive him to villainy -- and given the combination of Peter's intelligence, determination, and superpowers, that would be a very bad thing.

Fanfiction

  • A fair share of Naruto fanfics had him becoming evil because of this trope.


Film

  • The Creature from the Black Lagoon is given this treatment in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 spoofed sequel Revenge of the Creature. A science team is sent to Black Lagoon to capture the Creature and bring him back for scientific study. Said "scientific study" seems to mainly involve whacking him with underwater cattle prods for reasons which are never explained. After watching the Creature be harassed and brutalized for no apparent reason in the first half of the movie, a modern viewer may have mixed feelings upon the Creature's escape, where he does, in fact, kill people, but at this point "man, Humans Are the Real Monsters" seems to be an appropriate response.
  • Megamind's reason for being a villain.

  Megamind: "No matter how hard I tried, I was always the last one picked. The screw-up. The bad boy. [...] Then it hit me: if I was the "bad boy", then I was going to be the baddest boy of them all!"

 "Then let my heart be hardened,

And never mind how high the cost may grow

This will still be so:

I will never let your people go!"


Literature

  • The titular Outcast of Redwall has elements of this. A foundling infant from one of the Always Chaotic Evil vermin races is raised in the Abbey and grows to be quite the troublemaker as a child. Even so, he is treated with little more than suspicion and prejudice by most of the local populace, and rarely, if ever, given the benefit of the doubt, even for his motivations (backfired attempts to do good are still punished without consideration). Ultimately, the message boils down to him still being responsible for making his own immoral choices; but he at least got more sympathy than any other vermin character when one considers what a slim "chance" the Redwallers ever gave him.
    • Not to mention that his surrogate mother, who never gave up on him, ultimately decides he was entirely evil all along after he dies saving her life (his only real successful good action). Depriving him of even Redemption Equals Death.
  • Huckleberry Finn, sick of being treated as a "wicked" boy who will never amount to anything, eventually declares "All right, I'll go to hell!" and "take[s] up wickedness" by... helping a man escape from slavery. (Well, he thought he was doing something bad, anyway.)
    • It's actually better than that--he isn't fed up with being treated as wicked; he just has a low opinion of himself but has been encouraged by the widow etc. to believe he has the potential to be a 'good boy' and live within the rules and be taken care of. But in the end he faces the moral quandary of being 'good' or keeping faith with Jim, and finds himself unable to countenance the former if it is exclusive of the latter. He believes he's 'bad' because he's defying the rules and will be punished , because he's coping with higher morality on an emotional level but completely lacks the vocabulary to deal with it mentally.
  • Frankenstein abandoned his newly-made monster in disgust, and everyone else who ever saw the monster reacted with horror. Is it any wonder he became Ax Crazy?
    • He became marvelously eloquent first, though. Just from overhearing someone read aloud. Nineteenth century writers believed books could do anything.
      • It didn't hurt that the family was also teaching a runaway Arabian noblewoman English. No, really.
  • C.S. Lewis uses this in a speech given by Senior Tempter Screwtape in an epilogue to The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape comments that one of the results of the "You're no better than me" school of thought will be to turn anyone even remotely different from the mass public against them. If I will be called a fascist or a monster, I may as well be hanged for a ram as for a lamb, and become one in reality.
  • The titular Space Brat, Blork, from Bruce Coville's series. He was labelled as a brat soon after hatching from his egg, all due to his having a piece of shell stuck behind his antenna. Since then, he was the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and constantly marked as an easy person to stick the blame on. After putting up with it for a while, he winds up throwing a temper tantrum at how unfair it all was, which was unheard of for his species. Which then gives him a very easy out for whenever he gets blamed for something from then on, leading to this trope.
  • Harry Dresden gets villains pointing this out to him, and, once or twice, almost considers it. But he's too stubbornly good to be evil, though Jumping Off the Slippery Slope is occasionally a concern
  • While it's hardly the only factor, this is one of the main reasons why Jaime Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire became the cynical and amoral monster he is at the start of the series: The entire kingdom looked down on him for breaking his oath and killing the Mad King Aerys, giving him the mocking name of Kingslayer and an undeserved reputation as a scheming, treacherous backstabber- even though Aerys was about to have all of King's Landing (the capitol city, with a population of about 500,000 people) burned down out of spite. After years of being called a monster for what he rightly considers his "finest act," it's not hard to see why he eventually became one. Recently, it seems like he might finally be turning his life back around, eschewing his family's toxic influence and taking a newfound pride in his honor as a knight.
    • Jaime's younger brother Tyrion seems to be heading down this road too.

Live Action TV

  • "Michael" from Stargate Atlantis was a Wraith who the protagonists forcibly converted into an amnesiac human. His introductory episode has the characters mistreating him for no clear reason, before he realizes that he's a Tomato in the Mirror and breaks out to return to his people... but they won't accept him either, since he's still partly human. He desperately returns to the protagonists and offers valuable aid, just begging them that they don't brainwash him again. They brainwash him again. When he recovers again, he's fed up of saying What the Hell, Hero?, and he snaps completely and becomes an Evilutionary Biologist.
  • Adam Wilson from The Young and the Restless has ended up invoking this trope. It's hard to escape the fact that, before he came to Genoa City, Adam was relatively moral and well-adjusted. It was only after prolonged exposure to the chronic backstabbing and underhanded business dealings of the city that he started his horrific revenge plan -- and even at the end of that, he lapses into a My God, What Have I Done? moment and tries to reform. Then even this is completely undercut when the Newmans and Abbotts confront him in the cabin and treat him like a Complete Monster, even though they don't have any idea what he did -- not to mention how hollow their moral superiority sounds, considering all the crimes they've committed in the past, which Adam and later DA Owen Pomerantz call them out on.
  • When Ashur of Spartacus: Blood and Sand gets berated at for his slimy Manipulative Bastard behaviour, he pulls this line of defense, pointing out that everybody treated him like pig feed and that nearly every git move he pulled benefited his master, doctore, and the ludus, so screw the gladiators and their honour.
  • Deep Space Nine featured an episode in the second-to-last season where Gul Dukat tries to convince Sisko (and himself) that they really were friends all along and that he has always been misunderstood as merely an Anti-Hero, not a true villain. Eventually, with some subtle goading from Sisko to drop his facade, Dukat realizes that he has always been a villain and decides to embrace his role by destroying Bajor and everything Sisko cares about.
    • A variation also occurs in the episode where Sisko goes after the traitor Eddington. He realizes that Eddington sees himself as a hero fighting for a noble cause and decides that he has to embrace his role as the villain in Eddington's mind in order to beat him. He eventually engineers a situation that plays to Eddington's nobler instincts, forcing him to turn himself in to stop Sisko's villainy.
      • To be clear, his villainy consisted of poisoning a Maquis planet in such a way that humans couldn't live there (but Cardassians could), essentially just balancing out the nearby world Eddington had just poisoned to Cardassians but not humans, and then threatening to do so to every Maquis settlement he could find.
  • In Charmed, Cole may have been half-demon, but his love for Phoebe was enough to motivate him not only to wake up his humanity and then to fight the Source for control of his body, but later to amass enough random powers from other vanquished demons to escape hell and return to her after his death. However, no matter how he tried to convince her that he wasn't evil anymore, she and her sisters drove him away, and attempted to kill him, (which turned out to be impossible, even for him when he tried to commit suicide out of grief). All of this eventually drove him insane, and he started committing evil deeds again; sometimes in a misguided bid to reclaim Phoebe, and other times just For the Evulz.
  • A major theme in Smallville. Lex Luthor makes several efforts to do good and often helps Clark and others save the world, but several characters- especially Clark's parents, no less- treat him with suspicion at best because he is the son of local Corrupt Corporate Executive Lionel Luthor, who himself had been trying to mold his son into another ruthless Magnificent Bastard (whilst simultaneously letting Lex know just how much of a disapointment he was). The latter stuff really had put the seed of evil in Lex's heart- Oliver Queen knew Lex at school and saw him beat up his best friend (though Oliver had been a bit of a dick to both of them, mind), and a horrified Lionel covered up the fact that as a boy Lex had murdered his own baby brother though it turned out, Lex only took the fall for his mom, who wanted to spare the child Lex's horrible childhood. There is a lot of tension between Lex's natural bad side and his desire to genuinely do good getting screwed over; he is particularly annoyed that Clark, his best (and only) friend, is obviously hiding stuff from him- Clark, for his part, has thought about revealing his secret to Lex but has been dissuaded by, amongst other things, hallucinations, that make it seem like a bad idea. Not helped by the fact that the two of them are aware of a prophecy about a mortal man fighting a godlike alien and Lex believing that to Beware the Superman might actually be sensible; after all, how can anyone be trusted with that much power?
    • Several episodes are devoted to Lex's own internal struggle. One such story inverts A Christmas Carol- Lex, having been shot at Christmas, meets the ghost of his mother who shows him what happens if he changes his ways: he has a loving and happy marriage with Lana and is finally treated like a friend and family member by the Kents; Clark holds no grudge about the two of them marrying either and is happy for them and remains his best friend. Then Lana gets seriously ill and Lex can't afford it, so he goes back to his dad to ask him to help...and is promptly brushed off, meaning Lana (and their baby) both die because Lex gave up his money and his wicked father's fortune. When he wakes up, Lex decides that money and power are the only things that really matter in life, because then you can protect the people you love.
    • Lionel himself gets some of this. Early in season 4 he is in prison, and tries to escape by swapping bodies with Clark, naturally discovering his secret in the process. Of course, his plan fails and he ends up back in his own body by the end of the episode, but afterwards professes that he is a changed man (and faking amnesia about finding out Clark has powers and the whole body-swap thing) and after getting out of prison on a technicality anyway, tried to convince the rest of the suspicious cast, meeting the most resistance from Lex himself, who is also trying to earn everybody's trust. Things hit a head in one episode when Black Kryptonite splits Lex into his good and evil halves- the good Lex lets his father know he'll trust him and encourages him in his do-goodiness; the bad Lex goads Lionel into assaulting him with a poker, then says that proves he hasn't changed at all. Turns out Lionel really had changed, but by the end of that episode, and never finding out about the whole split-in-two thing, he tells the now whole Lex that he was right- "we're Luthors", and they should embrace the Card-Carrying Villain within, though to his credit Lionel is never quite as evil again and never exposes Clark's secret, generally deciding he'll help him from now on.
      • Eventually Good!Lionel becomes Clark's new father figure, and does all the things for Clark he never did for Lex, leaving by-now-lost-to-the-Dark-Side Lex justifiably frothing at the mouth at the unfairness of the universe.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spike tries to enlist in the good fight after falling in love with Buffy, who regards this Face Heel Turn with suspicion, especially after discovering his true motive. However he gains some trust by protecting Dawn in Season 5 and acting as her confident in Season 6, but when Buffy realizes she's falling for Spike she starts physically and verbally abusing him in order to drive Spike away; when Spike hits back he realizes the chip doesn't work on Buffy. Convinced the chip has failed Spike decides to live down to her expectations and attack a girl in an alley, but fortunately his chip is still working, except on Buffy. As Buffy refuses to show him how to be good, he decides the only way to get Buffy is to drag her down to his level, leading to their Destructive Romance.
    • Though it should be noted, he was a Monster for at least one-hundred years prior to getting the chip and falling in love.

Music

  • This is the ending of Tripod's song "Suicide Bomber"--the falsely accused bomber is awaiting release after repeated torture, and is already planning to blow up a bus.
  • Happens in Adam Warrock's song, "Sad Ultron"-- All the newest incarnation of Hank Pym's Ultron wants is to hang out and be accepted, but because all previous versions of him went all Knight Templar and evil, everyone assumes he'll do the same- thanks to being shunned and hated, he turns evil on principle.

 "Sorry y'all, I tried to be a nice dude, fuckin' human intelligence made me wanna fight too/And that's ironic, isn't it? The fact that human indifference made a robot turn evil and villainous/Fuck it, I'm engaging a plan to kill Hank Pym/ Ask me if I'm one of those nice robots, I'm not him."


Table Top Games

  • It is not uncommon for Storytellers to use this tactic in Hunter: The Reckoning. Since almost all of the mook monsters you meet actually have a measure of humanity and are enslaved to their natures or other, worse monsters, there is already a bit of a gray area to killing them in the first place. Since hunters constantly hound the monsters, cutting off their resources and food supplies, they can eventually get fed up or be driven to desperate acts of violence since their beastly side starts taking over. This could cause a normally nice vampire who only drinks just enough blood to survive, and only from animals, to become a raging beast draining the nearest humans dry. If the monster survives, you can bet he won't care much about keeping his humanity anymore. Expect angry party members who have more forgiving views of the monsters.
    • In the New World of Darkness there's the Refinement of Stannum in Promethean: The Created, which is centered around wrath and getting revenge on the world that scorns you at every turn. Prometheans eventually draw the wrath of humanity and the suffering of nature everywhere they go, and Stannum is about focusing that wrath where it belongs. Each Refinement is a philosophy the Promethean follows during their Pilgrimage, and the various paths usually require some careful study before you can switch over. Stannum, however, can be entered instantly, and is usually entered when some Promethean goes, "Oh, fuck this shit."
      • And a step below that is the path of Centimani, the Refinement of Flux. Flux is a force of dissolution and mutation, and the Centimani themselves are focused on monstrosity rather than rebirth. Prometheans on this path have not only given up on trying to be good, they've given up on trying to be anything resembling a human.

Theatre

  • A former page quote was provided by Shylock from The Merchant of Venice, whose bizarrely sympathetic portrayal has been a recurring fixture in literary studies. As a Jew, he has spent his life being mocked, struck, and spat upon, and then the Christian Antonio (a specific habitual beard-spitter) comes and needs his help as a moneylender, a job he gets hated for. He actually helps, since he says that it may improve things for him. Then his daughter runs off with one of Antonio's friends and takes all his money with her, and the guy flips and pursues his chance to extract a pound of flesh. In the end, Portia comes in and provides an impassioned plea for mercy from him, and when that doesn't work, finds the Pound of Flesh Twist. Shylock then gets forcibly converted, which was Fair for Its Day. Certainly he says, effectively, Then Let Me Be Evil, but the level of criticism it was meant to be at the time is up for argument, as is what that ending was meant to signify.

 "I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace, and it better fits my blood to be disdained of all than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any: in this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain. I am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog; therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage. If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do my liking: in the meantime let me be that I am and seek not to alter me."

    • Similarly, the bastard son Edmund in King Lear laments that he is categorized as base and lowly since he is "illegitimate." Since he is going to be treated unfairly regardless of how well-behaved he is, he resorts to evil to try and increase his standing.
    • Richard III has the titular Villain Protagonist give his motivations in Act 1, Scene 1:

 "And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days."

 Alright, enough! So be it!

So be it then...

Let all Oz be agreed:

I'm wicked through and through.

Since I can not succeed,

Fiyero, saving you.

I promise no good deed

Will I attempt to do again

Ever again

No good deed

Will I do again!

 Shrek: "I'm gonna be what they want

I'm gonna be what they say

Hey world, I'll do it your way!

You're looking for a monster, it's your lucky day

I'll be what you want!"

  Bat Boy: "I don't want to harm you, I only want to KILL!

You shall have your monster, I shall drink my fill!

At last I am embracing my bloody destiny!

Dear Mom and Dad this place will be

The last thing that you ever see!

Revenge will be a home for me!"

Video Games

  • The most commonly-accepted interpretation of Sorceress Ultimecia's motivations in Final Fantasy VIII is that she was discriminated against and persecuted by a society conditioned to assume that any sorceress runs the risk of snapping and trying to take over the world, until - shockingly enough - she snapped and decided to become the evil sorceress that history reviled.
  • Oersted from Live a Live.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, Ramirez's backstory involves a play on this trope. He came to Arcadia as a naive idealist with some lessons to learn from the school of hard knocks, but found one guy who seemed alright as a role-model/mentor. Sadly, he ended up getting played for a fool and humiliated when the guy turned out to be a dirtbag. So, he went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and gave up on his nice ideals. Basically, he was convinced that Humans Are Bastards was a universal truth and decided he might as well join them.
  • In City of Heroes, Leonard "Frostfire" Calhoun (Yes, that is his real name) is explicitly stated to have "succumbed to a 'if you're going to treat me like a villain' mentality" after a botched attempt at vigilanteism. For this reason, Frostfire is one of the more sympathetic villains in the game, even delivering a crude Motive Rant when confronted. He even eventually tries to redeem himself.
  • In Icewind Dale 2, the twin Big Bads Isair and Madae were treated as embodiments of evil their entire lives because they were cambions -- half devil, half elf. After a lifetime of this treatment, with a cruel prank involving cakes baked with holy water as the final straw, they decided they might as well act like embodiments of evil. Iselore the Big Good remembers that he warned their foster mother (the only person who ever loved them) that "they are forged in evil and only evil can come from them" and sadly wonders if he helped make it true.
  • In Dragon Age II, almost all of Kirkwall distrusts the qunari and their leader, the Arishok, due to the qunari's reputation for being heathen conquerors. While the Arishok is by no means a nice guy, he and the rest of the qunari just want to mind their own business and leave Kirkwall as soon as possible. However, after years of unprovoked attacks by those who expect him to act against them, the Arishok finally has enough and tries to conquer Kirkwall.
  • Since the Jedi of Knights of the Old Republic considered any of their members who went off to defend the Republic against the Mandalorians as fallen (see their shoddy treatment of Exile, who did return only to get Reformed but Rejected fron the Council), the fact that Revan went and became Dark Lord of the Sith is a cross of this and Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.

Webcomics

  "'F-Freak?' He shot at me just for what I look like? Yeah? W-Well, if they want a monster, maybe I'll just give them one! Like Shelley's Frankenstein Monster, if I cannot give love to the world, then i will give it wrath! I'll... I'll... Aw, who am I kidding? I haven't got any wrath! Oh Dr. Poule, what am I going to do? Sob!"

Web Original

  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the titular Villain Protagonist was supposedly driven to supervillainy by the smug Jerk Jock attitude that his heroic archnemesis, Captain Hammer, takes toward anyone "nerdy" or "unpopular". Being both of those things, he was persecuted until he gave up on using his intelligence for good and adopted the Dr. Horrible Mad Scientist persona. Even then he's an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain until one too many humiliations from Captain Hammer triggers a Not So Harmless breakout.
    • It doesn't help that he's not exactly getting good publicity because even when he was trying to be explicitly heroic, he was a Hero with an F In Good. He still wants to do long-term good, even as a villain, but he's not that great at it. His plan seems to be, "1. Take over the world. 2. Everything wrong with the world magically fixes itself because I'm in charge."
    • Even then he was something of a Well-Intentioned Extremist who thought that he can fix the world by ruling. However, when his Morality Chain Penny dies in the end, he had nothing keeping him from becoming a true supervillain.

Western Animation

  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Harley's Holiday", former Joker minion Harley Quinn espouses this after violating her parole barely moments out of being released from the asylum ("I tried to be good. I really did. But if that's not good enough, fine!"). However, after having to be rescued by Batman, she seems to reconsider.
    • Subverted in that most of this was Harley assuming people were acting like this to her - a dress she bought still had the tags, so the security guard was trying to take them off for her. She thought he was accusing her of stealing the dress, so she took a generals daughter hostage and ran.
    • Oswald Cobblepot (a.k.a. The Penguin) could put up with Batman not believing he actually reformed, but Veronica Vreeland shouldn't have used him for a pig at a pig party.
  • Similarly in Batman Beyond, Mr. Freeze after having a new body constructed for him, decides to make amends for his previous misdeeds all those decades ago. Not many were convinced, and he even set up a charity to help the victims of his past crimes after one of them tried to kill him. Then his body started failing, and his doctor/girlfriend decides to try and kill him and use his organs to see what went wrong. Fries barely survives, and goes back to revenge again, killing his traitorous girlfriend, and planning to blow up the entire Wayne-Powers compound, threatening to kill hundreds more, with him along with it.
  • This was Jinx's motivation in Teen Titans. Because she had the power to cause bad luck, she thought evil was the only option. Someone eventually snaps her out of it.
  • The Bowler Hat Guy from Meet the Robinsons tries to use this as his Freudian Excuse. In actuality, all of his isolation and misery were self-inflicted.
  • Mojo Jojo in The Powerpuff Girls Rule. When he becomes ruler of all, he uses his new power to make things right and pleasant. It becomes suddenly boring to him, so he reverts to villainy at the end.

Real Life

  • This trope could handily sum up Malcolm Little's transition from model student at age 14 to career criminal at age 18. While there was no villainy to be corrected in the first place, society still wasn't giving him much incentive to be a model citizen. By the time he was 13, his father was (very likely) murdered by the Black Legion, a racist group, his mother placed in a mental institution, and him and his siblings placed in abusive foster homes. Despite being one of the brightest students in school with aspirations for becoming a lawyer, Malcolm dropped out after his own teacher told him being a lawyer was "no realistic goal for a nigger."
  • Also Butch Cassidy's excuse, who started out as a nice Mormon kid but was often a scapegoat. Left home and fell in with cattle rustlers, before becoming a notorious stage coach, bank, and train robber with some minor Just Like Robin Hood tendencies that endeared him to various ranchers and brothels, much to the frustration of his pursuit.
  • Many of the forms of ritual killing and mutilation practiced by "savages" at various points in history started out as slanders but eventually became real practices for the people in question- the Germanic "blood eagle" is only attested to in Viking sources a few times, well after the idea entered the popular body of myth surrounding the bloodthirsty, pagan northmen.
  • Almost the exact words spoken by Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts when he was first press-ganged into joining a pirate crew. "If a pirate I must be, then best to be a commander than a common man." Sure enough, he was elected captain of the same ship that shanghaied him six weeks later.
  • The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, Nevada is a restaurant version of this. You say hamburgers and french fries are unhealthy? Well, how about their special Quadruple Bypass Burger? It's got 4 half-pound beef patties, eight slices of American cheese, a whole tomato, and half an onion, all served on a lard-coated bun. At 8,000 calories, it'll fill you right up! The best part? People who weigh over 350 lbs. eat for free!
  • To some extent, Benedict Arnold. He started out as a very capable American commander during the American Revolution. However, he had made himself powerful enemies (many of whom were in Congress) due to his arrogant manner during the war, and it all ended when they managed to convince the Congress and the upper brass that he would not deserve or need any of the promotions or additional wages for his military service. He was not acknowledged for his role in any early American successes in the war, including Saratoga, which was the battle that convinced France to enter the war on behalf of the Americans and was won almost entirely by Arnold; at the time this was the highest insult to an officer. It came to a head when he was military governor of Philadelphia, he was forced out on trumped-up charges of corruptions and officially reprimanded for it. What he didn't know and was not informed of is that if General Washington had not done so Pennsylvania would have withdrawn their support from the Continental Army. To evade dishonorable consequences, he even attempted to resign, which Washington did not allow. This caused him to feel unappreciated and offered to betray the Americans in return for a hefty sum of money and a generalship in the British army. The rest is history.
  • Just about any small time offender convicted of a crime and incarcerated can exhibit this. Psychologists think it's because they get branded with the "criminal" label, causing them to begin seeing themselves as a criminal, and because criminals commit crimes... You can see where this is going.
    • That, and they associate with far worse criminals and in harsh conditions while imprisoned, which has a bad effect, understandably. Not for nothing are prisons called "schools of crime." Sometimes literally-experienced criminals passing on knowledge to more amateur ones, for instance.
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