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This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

From YKTTW


Whogus The Whatsler: Once again I find myself in possession of a very real trope yet can't think of any television examples. It's the thing where 'homicidal mania' is a surprisingly common side effect of any drug, or any scientific process whatsoever. You know, like in the old Invisible Man movies, the Spider-Man movies, etc, how they're always like "This formula grants the patient powers X, Y and Z...and what the hell, sends him crazy too".

LTR This one definitely exsists, it's what causes people who've recently been super-powered to start thinking A God Am I - like thoughts all the time. There were examples of this in Justice League , Batman Beyond, Superman, just about every Super Hero show that I've ever seen. CowboyBebop did it in Pierre Le Fou , a government test subject, given superhuman assassin skills, and then goes crazy as a side-effect. Side Effects Include Mayhem ?

Gus: With Great Power Comes Great Insanity is my nomination. Craziness as a random side-effect of scientific processes is a rich lode. It especially tends to show up in horror movies - remember "Hollow Man"?

Gus I say we throw it open for Horror Tropes, and let the evidence fall where it may.

Ungvichian: Non-horror, non-exact example: Kids Next Door, "Dogfight", where The Kid (a No Name Given) is person X.


Idle Dandy: This entry makes me think of the "Eve" episode of The X-Files (my first ep of that show.) Eve 6 talked about the clones in the project: heightened intelligence, heightened this and that, heightened psychosis. Does this sound like an example?

Tabby: Oh, definitely. I'd call it textbook. *just watched that episode last week*


Viewer: Cain in Robocop2 is another example.

Seth Wasn't he nuts before?

Jordan: Does this trope also count things like the One Ring, Eleric's sword, Stormbringer, and Spiderman's black suit which have a corrupting power the longer one uses them?

Lale: Sounds like Artifact of Doom or Evil Feels Good.

Jordan: I knew I had seen those before. I wonder now if they are just the fantasy versions of this trope.

Jordan: I was wondering about a subtype like the invisible man tv show example, where using the power makes you crazy the longer you use it, but a heroic character is able to stay in control. Angua in the Discworld books comes to mind, compared with the other werewolves in her family. A better example might be in Animorphs how one could be stuck in animal form forever and/or choose a form which took away humanity.

Lale: That doesn't sound like a sub-type to me, just another piece of this trope that should be mentioned.


Scrounge: So why is it that power brings madness so often, and far less freaquent is the plot "madness seeks power"?

Lale: Cause the insane aren't sentient/aware enough to seek power?

Ununnilium: Really? A Mad Scientist can't seek power? ``


Shire Nomad: I added Light from Death Note but on second reading I'm not sure if he counts, since there's no science (pseudo or otherwise) involved. On the one hand, Ryuk did grant him power in a style not entirely different from a scientist creating a supersoldier... on the other, it may just be the Artifact of Doom effect.

Citizen: It was light himself who went off the deep end once he obtained power, the Death Note doesn't have direct psychological effects.
Clockworkchaos: Actually the invisibility corrupts appeared far earlier than "The Invisible Man", Ring of Gyges mentioned in Plato's "The Republic" contained the same plot, making this Older Than They Think.
RobMandeville: I would think that the Hulk is the ur-example. Or am I missing something?

Jordan: A question on the Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell edit- I probably didn't read the book closely enough, but my recollection was that Strange's self-inflicted insanity coupled with all of the Gentleman's attempts to drive him to suicide caused him to Take An A Level In Badass- I remember the scene where he meets up with one of the fops, I forget which one and is really frightening and exudes power, something his character didn't previously. I think that I misread Strange as seeking power to bring back his wife from the dead, when as you note he specifically wanted to contact a fairy.


Kizor: Err, could you please help make sense of these?

  • The horror movie Hollow Man, essentially a variation on the Invisible Man story, but with Adaptation Decay (differently from any other adaptation, the movie blames the formula used instead of the invisibility itself and/or corrupt human nature).
    • (Or perhaps not. The movie also hints the latter frequently.)
      • Especially with that line "You'd be surprised what you can do when you no longer have to look at yourself in the mirror."
  • Major plot points of all three Spider-Man movies. One wonders why Dr. Octavius felt the need to program an AI into his tentacles, let alone a psychotic one. Also common in the comics, though the "starts out evil and gains power" version was more so.
    • Oscorp said that the Goblin formula had driven insane all test subjects, though how one determines the sanity of a mouse is never explored.
    • Dr. Octavius programmed the AI, but apparently didn't or wasn't able to program it sufficiently that it was capable of comprehending, applying, or caring about human concepts of right or wrong, so it was more sociopathic. To his credit, he did have a control chip to keep the AI from getting out of control. Unfortunately, the accident burned out the control chip that prevented that failing from being a problem.
      • The control chip was mere Phlebotinum. However, expecting four metallic, fully prehensile metal arms to Just Work when grafted into the human nervous system via the spinal cord *without* some artificial intelligence to act as a "device driver" is unrealistic even beyond normal Hollywood standards.
      • The whole idea of using artificial intelligence like this is Phlebotinum. It just doesn't make sense at all. First, reading out the electrical impulses in the spinal cord and translating them into instructions for the tentacles would be a pretty complex piece of programming, but it wouldn't be intelligent. Second, even if it had to be "intelligent" for some lameass reason, there is no way the resulting AI would have any concept of human things like "money" or "show them all!" or even any impulse to act on its own. It would simply be there to wait and act when given the appropriate commands. Third, even if it were, there is no way it could influence the human being it is attached to like it has in the movie - the best it could possibly have done with electrical feedback would have been to make the Doc's arms and legs flail like mad. And finally there is no reason, none at all, that the functions of this "control chip" couldn't have been included in the basic construction of the harness - circuitry that has no way to send information doesn't need a chip to prevent it from sending information.
      • More to the point, he simply forgot to program in Asimov's Three Laws. Whoops.
      • I hate to break it to you, but the Three Laws are the most ludicrous bit of anti-hard SF ever. There's no way you could make a computer understand the meaning of "robot", "may", "harm", "inaction", "human being", or "humanity" on a programming level. (The only realistic aspect, indeed, is "a robot must do as it is told".) In terms of those concepts, Octavius' AI wasn't able to understand them, either - only the task for which he had designed it, which was Get The Fusion Thingy Built.
      • Try to keep in mind that the fundamental part of Asimov's robots is the positronic brain. Since nothing even approacing this has ever been developed (unsurprisingly), it is impossible to determine how it would work, or if it would follow the programming conventions of normal computers. "A robot may not injure a human being" may make perfect sense to a positronic individual.
      • In the books, it is explained that the robot (positronic brain) translate the situation to "positronic differencials" to calculate the best behaviour.
      • Well, that explains everything.
    • Harry Osborn was partially mad with grief, but exacerbated it by taking Goblin formula. Sandman, on the other hand, was not insane. Eddie Brock was just vindictive, and ended up with a symbiote that was likewise vindictive.
  • In Serenity (2005 theatrical sequel to 2002's Firefly TV series), River Tam is revealed to have really nifty fighting abilities, which would probably be pretty swell... if the same experiments that brought it out hadn't also made her schizophrenic.
    • Point of order: It wasn't the experiments that made her nuts. It was "the secret burning out her brain" to phrase the movie.
      • Objection: The brain scan Simon performed in the TV series showed that the part of her brain that allows deliberate control over impulses and emotions had been physically stripped away.
      • Both correct. It seems A Wizard Did It, or Joss Whedon Jossed himself.
      • Or it's a combination of both? She still seems to have some of her bizarre habits post epiphany (like watching people from inside the ceiling)
      • Keep in mind that the "parts of the brain missing" diagnosis was made by her brother, who was a very talented doctor, while the "secret burning out her brain" statement was made by Mal, who isn't.

  • Sylar from Heroes: originally a very ordinary guy who longed to be special, he gets his wish when he realizes he can cut powered people's heads open and do something with their brains that the viewer never sees (references to "eating brains" are everywhere online, but what he does is never seen or referred to onscreen) in order to acquire their special powers. Naturally, he goes psychotically power-hungry. The show even offers an explanation of sorts: he's becoming unstable from messing with his own genetic code too much.
    • One must wonder, though, how stable a guy is to begin with if he decides to go around stealing brains.
      • A season one episode implies his instability was either inherited or caused by his mother, a mousy little woman obsessed with her son being special.
    • It was also revealed in the second season by an agent of the Company that some metahumans develop dissociative identity disorder as a side-effect of having super powers, as is the case with Niki Sanders and her "Jessica" personality and a third personality named "Gina" in the second season, after "Jessica" was conquered by Niki at the conclusion of the previous season.
    • Particularly tragic (or darkly amusing, depending upon one's disposition) is the fact that Sylar's original power, an intuitive understanding of how things work (which allows him to understand how powers work, and thus how to steal powers), would make him perhaps the most useful and special person in the world - research organizations, hospitals, governments and any number of other organizations would kill for someone who could just look at something and tell them how it works, or what's making it not work. He could have been the richest, most beloved person in the world... if he wasn't already a little unbalanced, anyway, and had actually thought of this.

  • Racha: Surely Griffin (the Invisible Man) was disturbed and suffering from delusions of grandeur before he turned invisible?