Created By: TheHandle on October 16, 2012 Last Edited By: reflaxion on September 26, 2013
Troped

Smiting Evil Feels Good

A Hero who enjoys killing extremely despicable, depraved and harmful people.

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Trope
Sometimes Evil Feels Good. Sometimes Good Feels Good. And then there's this strange thing in the middle, where good people feel good when they hurt evil: Smiting Evil Feels Good.

This is a hero who feels enjoyment, elation, and great satisfaction, when they kill or beat up the bad guys. They may be otherwise strictly moral, well-intentioned, and selfless, but when they've decided you're better off dead than alive, they'll kill you with a smile on their face, and may even tak additional satisfaction in ending you in sadistic ways. They're not a Blood Knight, though; they never lose track of their purpose, and they don't seek villain-killing on their own, they just enjoy it when it happens.

Some heroes tend to break down when they find themselves doing this or when someone else points this out, especially if they feel it somehow implies that their motivation is not high righteousness, but base blood-lust. It's in fact a very common topic of Not So Different speeches.

How can one be good if one enjoys doing evil? Is it okay to enjoy hurting others? Is it degrading? Is all the heroing just an excuse to get one's kicks in a socially acceptable manner? Am I really Not So Different from that villain? Am I a self-righteous hypocrite? Does it matter?

Other heroes decide that what matters is that the outcome of their actions is globally good, or that the methods they follow are virtuous, and leave it to others to worry about introspective stuff like motivations and hypocrisy and so on.

Fairly common in the Action Hero, especially in the Eighties, and the Bad Ass. If they've dropped a Bond One-Liner, even with a straight face, you know they fit here.

Examples:

Manga and Anime

Comic Book
  • In Watchmen, Hooded Justice went through a Heroic B.S.O.D. when another taunted him that he hadn't joined up so much for fighting crime as just having a legal excuse to beat the crap out of people. Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre take great enjoyment in heroics, but it's unclear whether "beating up the bad guys" is what thrills them, or just the danger. Rorschach acts like it's his moral obligation to make bad guys suffer, but it's unclear whether he derives pleasure from it besides the satisfaction of accomplished duty.

Fan Fic

Film

Live-Action TV
  • On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Elliot Stabler, while not outright killing bad guys (if not accidentally... or is it?), ostensibly loves beating the shit out of rapists, pedophiles etc. (and the other detectives are the others are that close too).
  • In Burn Notice, both Michael and Fi have Berserk Buttons for villains who hurt children. Fi particularly chomps at the bit to kill such people (or recurring villains who've been troublesome Manipulative Bastards to Michael in the who-burned-me arc), although she'll defer to Michael's judgment if such would be tactically unwise (or detrimental to Michael getting answers he needs) at the time. But if she does get the green light, she'll smile when she does it.

Literature
  • Ky Vatta in Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series discovers early on that she derives a near-sadistic pleasure from killing her enemies, who tend to be Complete Monsters, face-to-face (as opposed to from a starship bridge). She is too moral to kill someone unless forced to, and is too horrified about the secret pleasure she takes in killing to tell others about it, but she can't deny that she gets an odd pleasure of doing it when forced to.
  • Animorphs goes into some detail regarding this. The bad guys are an alien race of brain slugs, basically, and after one of the protagonists, Jake, sends thousands of them to their deaths by dumping their regeneration pool into space, he has a minor breakdown about how much he enjoyed doing so. Another protagonist, Rachel (who has no such qualms) tells him he has to separate the feeling from the action: "doing what has to be done" is not immoral, nor is "enjoying winning".

Tabletop Games
  • This is something of a common trait among the Space Marines of Warhammer 40,000, though this is easily thanks to the conditioning their chapters and the Imperium as a whole gives them, forming this bias against the Xenos and Forces of Chaos that dare invade the Imperium of Man.

Video Game
Community Feedback Replies: 59
  • October 16, 2012
    Chabal2
    See also Serial Killer Killer, Wife Basher Basher.

    • One of the original Watchmen (can't remember who) went through a Heroic BSOD when another taunted him that he hadn't joined up so much for fighting crime as just having a legal excuse to beat the crap out of people.
  • October 16, 2012
    TheCuza
    Salvador in Borderlands2, who believes that "Killing bad guys is always fun!". Detailed more in the hidden ECHO recordings found in Thousand Cuts. You can listen to them here, starting at 0:49 (Warning, contains spoilers about Angel working for Jack).
  • October 16, 2012
    darkclaw
    Saeko Busijima of High School Of The Dead is a sadist who gets off on killing zombies and when young, enjoyed nearly killing a would-be rapist.
  • October 16, 2012
    kimba90
    Cool, but I would add to more examples in the list: - Solid Snake: as pointed out more than once in MGS 1, he likes killing enemy soldiers. - Elliot Stabler: while not outright killing bad guys (if not accidentally.... or is it?), he surely loves beating the shit out of rapists, pedophiles etc. (and the other detectives are the others are that close too). - Every Action Hero of the 80s, seriously. from Rambo to John Matrix to John Mc Lane, this guys seems to love only two things: automatic guns and killing baddies with them .
  • October 16, 2012
    TheHandle
  • October 16, 2012
    MrRuano
    • This is something of a common trait among the Space Marines of Warhammer40000, though this is easily thanks to the conditioning their chapters and the Imperium as a whole gives them, forming this bias against the Xenos and Forces of Chaos that dare invade the Imperium of Man.
  • October 16, 2012
    nielas
    Matrix is from Commando. Cobra is a Stallone flick that probably also fits this.
  • October 16, 2012
    rolranx
    In Elizabeth Moons Vatta War series the protagonist is shocked, and horrified, when she finds she enjoys the sense of power that comes with killing. She is too moral to every choose to kill someone unless forced to, and is so horrified about the secret pleasure she takes in killing to tell others about it, but she can't deny that she gets an odd pleasure of doing it when forced to.
  • October 16, 2012
    ShadowHog
    It's been a while, and I only saw the movie, but I'm pretty sure the Watchmen character the first poster was thinking of was The Comedian (although I don't recall him having any BSO Ds over it).

    Rorschach certainly likes killing those he deems badguys, as I recall.
  • October 16, 2012
    TheHandle
    Nah, he was talking about The Hood, I'm rather sure. Though both Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II are shown to enjoy beating up bad guys; at the very least, they break arms and snap necks without so much as blinking an eye.
  • October 17, 2012
    TheHandle
    Are bumps still a thing?
  • October 17, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    In Burn Notice, both Michael and Fi have Berserk Buttons for villains who hurt children. Fi particularly chomps at the bit to kill such people (or recurring villains who've been troublesome Manipulative Bastards to Michael in the who-burned-me arc), although she'll defer to Michael's judgment if such would be tactically unwise (or detrimental to Michael getting answers he needs) at the time. But if she does get the green light, she'll smile when she does it.
  • October 21, 2012
    TheHandle
    Scar from Full Metal Alchemist is a deconstruction: much like Kenshiro, he wants to "bring justice" over those guilty of the death of many innocent people during the Ishval war. Ed however points out since the beginning that it's only an excuse to brutaly kill all the alchemists he encounters just for the sake of revenge. Eventually Scar gets over it, especially when finding out that the people he killed might as well have loved ones too, just like those he lost during the war.

    EDIT: This example is irrelevant; it's just "For Revenge", which is not the same as "I'm enjoying this". Scar never seems to have much fun doing what he does.
  • December 9, 2012
    Jordan
  • December 9, 2012
    MorganWick
    ^Before anyone claims there's no example overlap (I don't know whether there is or not), I was just about to suggest Dexter and the Punisher.
  • December 9, 2012
    miru
    The original Ninja Turtles
  • December 9, 2012
    JonnyB
    Sgt. Schlock in Schlock Mercenary loves eating the bad guys. At least the ones he doesn't vaporize first with his plasgun.
  • December 9, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    edit: Ok I see it is not exactly those things. But between Protagonist Centered Morality, Blood Knight, Good Is Not Nice, Combat Sadomasochist, Creepy Good, Sociopathic Hero, Anti Hero, and like a dozen other articles, I think it is covered. Something can be a combination of other tropes without being a distinct trope itself.
  • December 9, 2012
    StarSword
    We seem to be destined to forever disagree, rodney. :P

    "Something can be a combination of other tropes without being a distinct trope itself."

    That's true, but there's still plenty of examples of heroes or anti-heroes who get pleasure from killing bad guys. It's a valid characterization trope.

    Literature:
    • Ky Vatta in Elizabeth Moon's Vattas War series discovers early on that she derives a near-sadistic pleasure from killing her enemies, who tend to be Complete Monsters, face-to-face (as opposed to from a starship bridge). In her more sober moments it scares the hell out of her.
  • December 9, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Yes and there are plenty of examples of Magnificent Bastards who are also The Charmer, but those are still two different tropes. "Gets pleasure from killing" and "kills bad guys" are two tropes. A character that fits both is not embodying a third trope. There should not be a separate article for every possible combination of character traits. There are close to a dozen similar articles already, I don't think it's justified to create yet another similar one.

    You are free to disagree of course, but please defend or explain an opinion, instead of just stating it.
  • December 10, 2012
    Arivne
    Italicized, Namespaced and otherwise corrected the examples in the OP.
  • December 10, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Fan Fic
    • In Fallout Equestria, Littlepip, the protagonist, has an unfortunate violent streak when it comes to people who morally outrage her.If you're a serial rapist slaver Torture Technician, she will enjoy pumping shotgun pellets up your fleeing arse.

    ...is not a high-quality example.
  • December 10, 2012
    TheHandle
    It's still an important Establishing Character Moment.
  • December 10, 2012
    DorianMode
    Animorphs goes into some detail regarding this. The bad guys are an alien race of brain slugs, basically, and after one of the protagonists, Jake, sends thousands of them to their deaths by dumping their regeneration pool into space, he has a minor breakdown about how much he enjoyed doing so. Another protagonist, Rachel (who has no such qualms) tells him he has to separate the feeling from the action: "doing what has to be done" is not immoral, nor is "enjoying winning".
  • December 10, 2012
    TheHandle
    Rodney, listen here: the combination of tropes is a trope if, like here, there is a tension and a contradiction from them happening in the same place. The trope for Unscrupulous Hero is about heroes who are mostly in it for the thrills. Pragmatic Hero is about those that do what needs to be done. Heroic Sociopath is about sociopaths. Neither covers the kind of hero who's a perfectly nice person, has lots of moral scruples, sometimes to the point of practicality, and still gets a kick from killing bad guys.
  • December 10, 2012
    StarSword
    Um, we've got two copies of the Vattas War example. (My fault, I'm afraid; didn't realize somebody had already floated it.)
  • December 10, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    The current description exactly outlines the genesis of this: "I couldn't find exactly the idea that I was looking for, so here it is." That is not a good way to generate trope ideas. The fact that it doesn't exist is not a reason that it should.

    The word "rapist" appears three times in the examples so far. Come on.
  • December 10, 2012
    TheHandle
    You prefer "raper"? Or maybe "ravisher"? Is "adventurer" soft enough for you?

    ^^ A suggestion on how to merge them properly?
  • December 10, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Nothing to do with softness or censorship. I prefer nothing at all. Those are symptomatic of this being a bad idea. Clearly you don't understand why ("It's still an important ECM" is a good defense? Heh.) and I don't feel compelled to explain it.
  • December 11, 2012
    TheHandle
    "Trust me, it's a bad idea, don't do it." "Why?" "I don't feel like explaining." Man, why aren't there holler buttons on YKTTW...
  • December 11, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    I explained why I think it's a bad idea. I did not explain why I think nearly a quarter of the examples being about killing rapists makes it seem like a bad idea, because that is futile if you don't already see it.
  • December 11, 2012
    StarSword
    @rodney: I'm not exactly the best at articulating arguments, but TheHandle posted essentially what I was thinking right above my last post. This a nice, good-aligned hero who gets a kick, likely sadistic, out of killing bad guys. We really don't have this, and my opinion is that we should.
  • December 11, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Yes and we don't have "no one, even the main character, is exempt from being killed and also the main character is a bad guy" because that is two different tropes. "We really don't have this" is an answer to someone asking whether we have this, but I didn't ask that.
  • December 12, 2012
    TheHandle
    And we don't have a trope for "enjoys killing", separate from the rest of the character's character. All of the tropes about enjoying killing are part of a general mindset of enjoying cruelty or violence for their own sake. A hero who enjoys killing but is otherwise a hero through and through is, in fact, a trope, and not a combination of two tropes that happen to intersec in one character; it's a contradiction, a tension, a conflict.

    How can one be good if one enjoys doing evil? Is it okay to enjoy hurting others? Is it degrading? Is all the heroing just an excuse to get one's kicks in a socially acceptable manner? Am I really Not So Different from that villain? Am I a self-righteous hypocrite? Does it matter?

    I would go so far as saying that the fact that this is a trope is self-evident, that I have already explained why this is a good idea, and that it is futile to explain it to you if you don't already see it. And yet, I tired, in earnest.
  • December 13, 2012
    TheHandle
    • Downplayed in Adventure Time, where Finn and Jake take great pleasure in beating bad guys, and actively seek to be In Harms Way. Justified in that they're really terrible at any other profession than Smiting Evil.
  • December 13, 2012
    m8e
    Also related to He Who Fights Monsters.
  • December 13, 2012
    StarSword
    Fixed namespaces and mated the duplicate Vattas War examples.
  • December 13, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    "And we don't have a trope for 'enjoys killing'" is a worthy point and addresses the criticism.
  • December 13, 2012
    AIR
    The doomguy from Video Games/Doom wears a pretty evil grin when picking up a new weapon.
  • December 14, 2012
    StarSword
    ^What do we know about the Space Marine's personality? Is he a good, decent guy when he isn't massacring the Legions Of Hell?
  • December 14, 2012
    TheHandle
    ^Or is he a murderous prick? Really, we don't know enough about him to extrapolate.

    @Rodney: thank you for acknowledging that.
  • December 14, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Compare In Harms Way.
  • December 14, 2012
    TheHandle
  • December 15, 2012
    TheHandle
    • Spider Man is one of the nicest heroes you'll ever meet, but, as far as one can tell from his combat dialogue, he has a lot of fun beating up villains. Unless you really piss him off. Then he'll be silent. You wouldn't like him when he's silent.
  • September 20, 2013
    Kalaong
    Hunter S Thompson Fictional Counterpart Spider Jerusalem is a shameless sadist who gets off on seeing people humiliated. Luckily, he lives in a world run and populated by lots and lots of lying, scheming bastards who don't give a damn about the Truth. So he gets lots of opportunities to justifiably ruin people's lives with his articles. Including the god-damned President of the United States!
  • September 20, 2013
    DAN004
    Honestly I don't see anything problematic with the trope as it is now. Launch?
  • September 21, 2013
    Morgenthaler
    The Circular Link in the first paragraph needs to be removed first.
  • September 21, 2013
    AP
    • In Sin City, both Dwight and Marv, in their respective stories, talk about how good it feels to torture and kill bad guys. As one might expect, these guys are very much toward Anti Heroes.
  • September 21, 2013
    DAN004
    Compare Sociopathic Hero who doesn't discriminate on who they kill. Often an Unscrupulous Hero (aka Anti Hero Type 4).
  • September 21, 2013
    darkclaw
    Though it crosses over with Blood Knight, Shinya Kogami of Psycho Pass enjoys killing criminals despite being a Nice Guy off duty. This behaviour comes from a Despair Event Horizon due to Makishima killing his partner in the backstory and it drives Shinya to kill Makishima for revenge at the end of the first season, despite the fact that doing so makes him a fugitive from the Sibyl System.
  • September 21, 2013
    Psi001
  • September 22, 2013
    rmctagg09
    Just wondering, what's the main difference between this potential trope and Good Is Not Soft?
  • September 23, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Good Is Not Soft is about goodness not being limited to using harsh methods for good, often when hard-pressed. This one is about a character who founds delight on killing evil creatures. Characters who think Good Is Not Soft may actually be reluctant to do "harder" methods, as opposed to this trope.
  • September 23, 2013
    reflaxion
    Added example. My life is now adding Attack On Titan examples to everything on TV Tropes.
  • September 23, 2013
    azul120
    • Finn and Jake from Adventure Time live on this, as does the Flame Princess, in a more unhinged sense.
  • September 23, 2013
    Bisected8
    • Also from Borderlands 2;
      • Krieg, the second DLC character, loves killing bandits. Downplayed in that his "psycho" side actually loves killing full stop, innocent or guilty. It's his former personality/conscience which forces him to only kill people who deserve it.
  • September 25, 2013
    rmctagg09
    So should we bother launching the trope now?
  • September 26, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch plz.
  • September 26, 2013
    rmctagg09
    Will do.
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