Created By: ThePope on January 12, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on March 30, 2013

Power Is Bad Aesop

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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Trope
A Stock Aesop. The moral of the story is that power isn't something that should be sought after, because it changes and corrupts people (not to mention it tends to drive people nuts). A variation of this moral is that power is unnecessary, and that while it's cool to be a Super, in the end, the hero is just a human being like everyone else, and that something superficial like power shouldn't define them. This is also a lesson in humility, since being able to reject power shows a true inner strength in the character.

Examples

Anime & Manga
  • Probably the best example of this trope would be Death Note. The protagonist starts out a very good, decent person, and by the end of the series, has become a Complete Monster, Ax-Crazy psychopath who eliminates anyone in his way. All because he got a book with the ability to kill anyone whose name is written in it, and became obsessed with playing God.
  • In the end of Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward realizes that he doesn't need alchemy, that he was always just an ordinary human playing god, and that it's his friends that gives his life meaning. This plays into the story's main theme of keeping out of God's domain.

Literature
  • The main theme of The Lord of the Rings is, arguably, that power is bad. The enemy is defeated not by brute force, but by the rejection of power (in this case, the One Ring), and victory is achieved not by the powerful warriors venturing off into battle, but by Hobbits, the most humble of creatures in Middle Earth.
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • January 12, 2012
    SomeRandomMook
    Could The Draka qualify as an example? They're pretty much the worst people to ever exist, and one of them outright says they're conquering and enslaving the world because they can. "The purpose of power is power", anyone?
  • January 12, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    Need more examples, otherwise this runs very close to Ambition Is Evil. Seeking out power is ambition, after all.
  • January 12, 2012
    Higurashiblood98
    [[Anime/Manga]] Probably the best example of this trope would be "Death Note." The protagonist starts out a very good, decent person, and by the end of the series, has become a "Complete Monster", "Ax Crazy" psychopath who eliminates anyone in his way. All because he got a book with the ability to kill anyone whose name is written in it, and became obsessed with playing God.
  • January 12, 2012
    FallenLegend
    Power High may be related when power is a methaphor for drugs
  • January 13, 2012
    ScanVisor
    Meta:
    • Modern political theory typically revolves around giving as many people as little power as possible because of this trope.
  • January 14, 2012
    Arivne
    Compare A God Am I.
  • January 14, 2012
    DracMonster
    I think this is probably Drunk With Power, if not you'll need to define a distinction.
  • January 22, 2012
    roronoapedro
    The protagonist on the comic A God Somewhere definently applies.
  • January 22, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    I generally like Power Corrupts as a trope name for this.
  • January 22, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    As at least one person pointed out in shows, there's a subversion of this one, that says it isn't really the power itself but the desire to seek after it. Which is why we also have Ambition Is Evil.
  • March 28, 2013
    Reflextion
    • A recurring theme throughout the Geneforge series, with varying degrees of finesse, is that Seriously Bad Shit happens when people get too much power too easily. The plot of the series is kicked off by the rediscovery of Lost Technology canisters that can instantly write magic or Shaping abilities into the user, letting them learn in minutes what would normally take years of tightly-controlled study. Unfortunately, said canisters are also intensely addictive, and seriously warp the user's mind and body if overused.
  • March 30, 2013
    Bisected8
    • This is a recurring theme in the Bioshock series (Andrew Ryan ultimate betrayed his principles to hang on to power, Sophia Lamb basically crossed the Moral Event Horizon to give her daughter the power to change the world and the entire conflict of Bioshock Infinite is a power struggle).
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