(Reposting this since it got launched way too early, and didn't have enough examples.)
Needs a Better Name
(Might still change the Name, but for now it's Cynicism Is Weakness
A character is incredibly cynical. They are sporting a nice pair of Jade-Colored Glasses
, and when the Wide-Eyed Idealist
calls them out on it, they are quick to say I Did What I Had to Do
, or Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!
. They are convinced their attitude is more realistic, and that anyone without it is too childish to accomplish anything.
They are wrong. It turns out that their overly cynical attitude can blind them just as easily as an overly idealistic or optimistic attitude can. They missed golden opportunities due to their attitude and prove themselves to be just as blind and childish as they think
the more idealistic characters are. He or she is summarily called out for his blindness, often by the people that he/she had regarded as fools. It can also happen when a character tries too hard to be what they think an adult is, like a Perpetual Frowner
This trope is the Inversion
of Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!
, showing that being more cynical is not necessarily better. In fact, it can be seen as being just as childish and called out just as easily. This is to show that The Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
does not always stick to one end, but tends to lie somewhere in the middle, and that you need a bit of both to really see the world for what it is. Can be a trait of The Anti-Nihilist
See also Grumpy Bear
, or Sour Supporter
for character types that can fall into this.
- In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth's cynical outlook on life allows Wickham to completely dupe her about Darcy's true nature. The irony is that she acted this way in order to avoid being played for a fool, but it just happened in a different way.
- In the Green Sky Trilogy, the cynical Neric tells Raamo that Genaa cannot be trusted and is too stepped in Ol-Zhaan privledge to be sympathetic to their plans. Not only does Neric turn out wrong, but Genaa turns out to be the one with the tactical savvy to pull off their scheme.
- This is what happens to the dwarves at the end of Last Battle -- they end up in Aslan's country with everybody else, but they're too cynical to believe it, and manage to delude themselves into believing they're still locked in a dark stable eating rotten food.
- Somewhat common in Discworld, especially with Rincewind. The guy would be so obviously right in his cynicism...but Twoflower would come out fine anyway, leaving Rincewind looking like an idiot.
- This is part of the entire point of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit. At the end of the story, it's implied that the main characters could leave at any time they wished to, but their own character flaws and lack of empathy with each other prevent them from doing so.
- In Animorphs, the team cynic Marco notes this to Rachel while Jake is out of commission. They need a fast, straightforward plan for a high-risk rescue, and he explains that that's not his territory -- his cynicism makes him too cautious to address that situation, so she needs to lead.
- In Mass Effect, the more cynical Renegade decisions the PC can make tend to go badly.
- Fear Effect: Royce Glas is the cynical one. Hana Tzu-Vachel is the idealistic one. Glas is treated as the Butt Monkey and The Lancer. Hana is treated as the Iron Woobie and The Hero. It probably won't surprise you that the best ending in the first game essentially has Hana winning out without having to shoot Glas.
- F Inal Fantasy VIII: Squall is a pretty great example of this. In fact, he seems aware that his dark attitude denies him opportunities for (what he thinks would be) brief moments of happiness, but he does it to avoid feeling further pain as a result of the loss of those moments.
- In Oracle Of Tao, Ambrosia at the end of the First Disc (so to speak) heads off for the second world. Unless she bothered to do the romance sidequest (or can get past the Beef Gate of skipping a key romantic scene and heading directly through the entrance without stopping at the vacation town first), the plot requires you to visit Nevras at his castle. If you decide not to, or if you didn't get the memo, the story suddenly gets much darker, most notably in the endings. Basically, the point is, because Ambrosia decided her love life with Nevras was doomed, things got a whole lot worse for her.
- Gunnerkrigg Court in Chapter 29 has Paz (of all people) setting straight Kat, at the moment quite disenchanted with the Court after stumbling upon some of its old secrets.
- Ian Starshine (and to a lesser extent, Haley as well -- she veered off from this just in time) from The Order of the Stick. Choosing to remain in prison because you think your little girl is being hoodwinked by a calculating, nefarious, deeply undercover mole linked to an Evil Overlord (Elan?!? The Chaotic Good Cloud Cuckoolander?!? You're serious, right?) is this. In spades. Even having met the guy.
- By repute, this was also the case for Properly Paranoid Girard Draketooth. Possibly. Rogue-like types are subject to this, it seems.
- Basically the point of Existentialism. Sartre, the key thinker of the movement writes that "Existence precedes essence." Basically, you are born, and then you are defined. You are what you make of yourself. If you are a villain, you were not doomed to villainy,your choices made you so. If you are a hero, you were not destined for greatness, it was the combination of your choices that made you that way. Under this philosophy, great heroism and great villiany are both possible by choice. Thus, if you choose to be a Cynic, it proves you do not hav the strength to be a hero. Sartre however, did not always live up to his ideals.