The Snape; Yo-Yo Alignment
A character who is tough to classify as good or bad until they are finally revealed, potentially very late in the series.


(permanent link) added: 2011-12-25 20:09:41 sponsor: Tails_155 (last reply: 2011-12-27 06:20:06)

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A case where a character is so easy to hate and does things so questionable or outright wrong that the reader or viewer could easily cast them as a villain. In reality, it's much more complicated, and the character is either torn between two goals, or just generally bad at being good.

The character may be abusive to a person they are protecting, surrender the good guys to the bad guys with no sign of duress or other motive that is clear, they may be sadistic, or they could just do things that are generally off the Moral Event Horizon, yet still be on the side of good, somehow.

NOTE: This is NOT a Heel-Face Turn or Face-Heel Turn event, however some examples can appear to be pretty similar depending on whether there's one bounce or multiple bounces. This is something where the character seems to have been calculating his or her moves specifically to a certain outcome, whatever that may be. It also cannot be considered a What the Hell, Hero? or Nice Job Breaking It, Hero if unwitting. This must be deliberate.


  • Get Smart - Agent 23, not to out of place for a double agent, I suppose, but very fitting, nonetheless.

  • [[Hancock]] - Mary, she originally seems to be just a normal person who is skeptical of her husband's ventures, then she turns into a pretty dangerous character, then it turns out she's just trying to protect Hancock.

  • Harry Potter - Your Mileage May Vary: Delores Jane Umbridge: on this one, but she seems at first to be concerned with the health of the kids, though that vanishes rather quickly, substituting instead is a concern for the order, which seem alright at first... but by the end she comes across as a Complete Monster.
    • Trope Namer: Sevrus Snape - his bitter hatred for James, like whom Harry looks, causes him to be very very harsh on the boy who is his love's son. While he does things that seem totally awful: Killing Dumbledore, setting fire to Hagrid's hut with Fang still inside, allowing the Carrows to teach at Hogwarts, trying to get the students to surrender Harry to the Death Eaters, the whole time he is trying to keep Harry as safe as possible in a world where if he gave his true colors up everything could fall to pieces.

  • Law Abiding Citizen - While unbelievably terrible in his actions, Clyde starts out seeming like a man out for vengeance against a corrupt system, however he goes way past revenge.

  • Legally Blonde: Until the middle of the trial, Callahan seems to have a reasonable interest in Elle, until it turns out he's interested in more than her legal talent.

  • Marble Hornets: WMG: [[Spoiler: Tim/Masky is a questionable character who to this day, two seasons in, is still unable to have a proven "side." He could be out to get Alex and Jay, out to get Alex, protecting Jay from The Operator and Alex, or something else entirely.]]
    • Alex Kralie, he seems to be an okay guy at the start, and whether it's paranoia or corruption that causes him to become what he is is still up to dispute. However, if his actions are wholly deliberate and of his own mind, he may possibly fit this.

  • Miss Congeniality - The pageant director originally seems very concerned with the events that are unfolding, however she comes across as a Complete Monster once The Reveal happens.

  • Paradise Lost - Satan is a _very_ difficult character to place until he does what he does. If the reader doesn't place the original context on the character, he doesn't really appear to be that bad until closer to the end. Your Mileage May Vary

  • [[Saw]] - Amanda, while arguably a Face-Heel Turn, could also be seen as a hazy character in the first place. She may put herself in the middle of more pain in order to carry out the games, but she ends up corrupting Jigsaw's goal, and is ultimately killed for it
    • Jigsaw, for that matter. No one is saying he is absolutely good, but he carries out his "games" on people who (Your Mileage May Vary, I certainly disagree with a few victims' placements) have done something to "deserve" their punishment. He's not totally random, he's very calculated and seems to know pretty well exactly what he's doing.

  • Scott Pilgrim: Scott, he is the "protagonist," however, there are a _lot_ of things he does that are outright questionable.

  • Toy Story 3: Lotso appears to be genuinely good, then genuinely bad, then appears to try to help the crew, only to throw them under the bus.
    • In a strange, more literal way, Buzz across the series has multiple alignment shifts as he starts, seeming arrogant and taking the spotlight without conforming to the society in which he's placed. Later he becomes a genuinely good character, only to be reset and become evil, until he is reset again and becomes good once more, then returns to his normal self later on down the line.
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