Trickster Hero Straightlaced Villain Foil
Hero versus villain dynamic of a trickster/unscrupulous hero and an honorable/morally rigid villain
I'd been thinking of this for a while and wonder if there might be a trope to this, separate from Evil Former Friend and Rival Turned Evil, with which it often intersects. So basically, this involves a personality contrast between the protagonist and an antagonist who is the other main character in the work, who serves as their foil. Somewhat at odds with moral expectation, the protagonist will be a trickster and potentially even unscrupulous, whereas the contrasting antagonist has a high emphasis on honor and obeying "the rules". Because the two figures are central to the work, typically the protagonist and antagonist with this contrast will start out as friends, but after that friendship ends, the antagonist will end up as the Evil Former Friend and Rival Turned Evil. Because of the unusual moral framing of the characters, the antagonist generally turns against the protagonist out of a sincere belief that the hero has acted unscrupulously and betrayed them- at odds with the typical dynamic of the Evil Former Friend and Rival Turned Evil tropes. As the mention of evil suggests, the antagonists in this set-up tend to quickly go from a Hero Antagonist to an outright villainous Principles Zealot, and have their moral standards revealed as Black and White Insanity, especially if they don't ultimately end up back on the protagonist's side. Compare with Red Oni, Blue Oni which involves a similar personality contrast but doesn't necessitate the characters being enemies nor that either will be more honorable than the other (although in examples of this trope, the protagonists will almost invariably be Red and the antagonists almost invariably Blue). Contrast with Brains Evil, Brawn Good, as in this case, the more heroic character in the dynamic relies on clever methods whereas the antagonistic character relies on brute force. See also the first type of Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor which tends to play out with these examples, as unsurprisingly, the trickster protagonists will usually have a well-developed sense of humor and the straightlaced antagonist will be The Comically Serious or be totally humorless. Edit- Trying to reword to make the suggestion clearer.
Examples: Anime and Manga
Examples: Anime and Manga
- Code Geass runs on the dynamic between the ruthless scheming Anti-Hero (and arguable Villain Protagonist) Lelouch, who is nonetheless working to help a democratic rebellion defeat a tyrannical empire, with his childhood friend and Hero Antagonist Suzaku, who serves said tyranical empire and acts like a Knight in Shining Armor, although over time, less savory aspects of Suzku's honorable nature become increasingly apparent.
- Naruto contrasts the eponymous mischievous Idiot Hero with his serious Rival Turned Evil deuteroagonist Sasuke, who is motivated by the honorable goal of avenging the slaughter of his clan.
- Scryed'' has this dynamic between its two main characters, the unscrupulous outlaw/rebel hero Kazuma and the Knight Templar Ryu, who is an honorable enforcer of the system which Kazuma rebels against.
- In Doctor Strange, this is the contrast between Strange, the newbie and obviously the hero,, who succeeds through bending and breaking the rules and his friend/ally Mordo, who is all about protecting the world by maintaining those rules. Mordo breaks with Strange by the end of the movie and turns to evil in The Stinger based on a perception that Strange and other Sorcerers threaten the world by messing with power and Mordo can only stop this by making sure he's the only Sorcerer alive.
- The Grace of Kings is based around the Odd Friendship and eventual arch rivalry between Kuni Garu, a Trickster Archetype whose approach to everything is based on pragmatism (of a good natured kind) and the stubbornly honorable Blood Knight Mata Zyndu, who increasingly embraces Black and White Insanity as he comes to believe Kuni is plotting against him. Tellingly, Kuni wants to defeat The Empire and reform it into something which keeps the good points and benefits of uniting people, and gets rid of the oppressive elements, whereas Mata opposes The Empire because of the cruel slaughter of his family and because it gave power to a lot of lowborn riffraff and upended the traditional system of decentralized rule by hereditary aristocrats. Incidentally, the Kuni and Mata are respectively based on (legendary accounts of) Liu Bang and Xiang Yu making this example sort of a Trope Codifier.
- Red Rising has this dynamic between The Unfettered hero Darrow who can be pretty unscrupulous in his quest to bring down the horrendous Society which runs on Social Darwinism, and his friend and later rival/enemy Cassius, who is The Ace and embodies the best of the Society in terms of looks, martial prowess, and honorable mien. Tellingly, even before Cassius finds out that Darrow is infiltrating the Society to destroy it, the two end up as enemies because Cassius recoils at what he sees as dishonorable ruthlessness by Darrow, although over time, this aspect is downplayed as Cassius himself does several dishonorable actions (partly motivated by the slaughter of his family which he's falsely lead to believe was carried out on Darrow's orders). Unlike some other examples, the two ultimately end the series as friends and allies once again.
- Wolf Hall has this dynamic between its main characters Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. Cromwell, the protagonist, is an ambitious and unscrupulous Self-Made Man whose dissatisfied with norms that make life oppressive for people, including in terms of religious persecutions, as well as gender equality, and strives toward power so that he can improve the lives of the English people (and enrich himself while doing it). In contrast, More is an Old Money traditionalist who prides himself on his unwavering moral principles and who likes to torture and burn heretics. While the two are never friends, they both dominate the first novel and to enhance their dynamic, Mantel invents a Forgotten First Meeting in which arrogant young student More was mildly condescending to young servant Cromwell- which is part of what motivates Cromwell to destroy More.
- In an Older Than Feudalism example, The Trojan War as recounted in The Iliad and The Odyssey has this dynamic between the "good guys", the Greeks, who include the cunning Odysseus and the classical hero Achilles and the contrasting character on the "bad guy" Trojan side, Hector, who is the epitome of the good and honorable warrior. Unlike some of the other examples, Hector actually isn't a villain by any stretch and depending on who you ask, the more sympathetic presentation of the Trojans// Achilles being highly unsympathetic may be the intent and not just Values Dissonance.
- William Shakespeare liked doing this:
- Henry IV has the dynamic between the scheming Hal, who pursues a life of revelry as part of Obfuscating Stupidity and his foil the honorable and rather dim and brutish Hotspur, to whom Hal's own father (Henry IV) has the attitude of Why Are You Not My Son?. Notably, in actual history, the two were decades apart in age, and so the idea of there being a dynamic between the two is completely Shakespeare's invention.
- In Julius Caesar written around the same time, the dynamic plays out between the unscrupulous Marc Anthony, whose nonetheless the hero as per "history" and desire to avenge his friend Caesar and the honorable Brutus, who was viewed at the time of writing as one of history's worst traitors. This is most evident during the competing speeches the two give at Caesar's funeral, where Brutus gives a good but not super-persuasive speech justifying his assassination of Caesar, and then because he was stupid enough to allow Antony to speak, Antony gives a manipulative and rhetorically brilliant speech which turns the Roman populace against Brutus and the conspirators.
- In a rare case in which this dynamic doesn't involve physical violence (well, until the end), Hamilton has this dynamic between the protagonist, Alexander Hamilton, and his friend turned arch-enemy Aaron Burr. Hamilton is a Self-Made Man who succeeds through his cleverness and willingness to think outside the box, whereas Burr comes from Old Money and his strategy for political and life success is based around being deliberately indecisive and not making waves/committing to a stance. While starting out as a mentor figure to Hamilton, Burr ends up turning against him due to a combination of seeing Hamilon as unscrupulously overly ambitious and being jealous of Hamilton's greater success and dissatisfied that his own ambitions haven't played out.
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