Created By: Xzenu on March 2, 2011 Last Edited By: Routerie on February 23, 2012

Evil Empire Of Good People

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Trope
Rolling Updates * Needs More Examples

So, we have The Empire. Its evil enough. But it turns out that it's people is not. And we're not merely talking about the poor oppressed conquered areas here. Nope, the core of the empire is populated by nice friendly people. Some of them are oblivious to the evils of their nation. Others know but remain loyal anyway, often as a Minion with an F in Evil or reluctant sycophant. In a way, this is Punch Clock Villain applied to entire populations rather than individuals and small groups.

Of course, the leaders of the country is still either outright evil or severely misguided in one way or another.

Compare Rousseau Was Right. Contrast Always Chaotic Evil.


Examples

Literature
  • Tom Clancy, no fan of Communism, still manages to portray most Russians in the Soviet Union as being basically descent, sympathetic characters. At best they were hard working, honorable patriots and at worse they are lazy drunks because because of the defects in their political-economic system. Even senior KGB and Communist Party officials that are depicted the least sympathetically tend to be depicted as merely self-interested or misguided rather than Complete Monster's.

Live-Action TV
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The characters from the Cardassian empire are divided into military (including assassins in civilian disguise) and civilians. The former are creepy at best, while the later are good - often with heroic tendencies - and represent the real population of Cardassia.
    • As a player in galactic politics, the nation Cardassia is pretty much stuck in the Face Heel Revolving Door as it shifts back and forth between democracy and military dictatorship. It's a good nation during it's democratic times and an evil nation during it's dictatorship times.

Western Animation
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the team have a really great time infiltrating the evil fire nation. Seems pretty much everyone there is a nice guy... except for those in a position of authority. (Interestingly enough, the other nations presented earlier in the series was done in the same way with fine citizens and a lot of jerkasses in various positions of authority.)

Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • March 2, 2011
    RodrigoVega
    Well techically The Galactic Empire from Star Wars. The galactic citizens are not evil in any way, in fact they all celebrate when the empire falls.
  • March 2, 2011
    Xzenu
    Hmm, that example technically fit the current description, but that might mean that the current definition is too wide. I'll give it some thought.
  • March 2, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Not sure if these count, since Your Mileage May Vary:
    • In Code Geass, many characters on the Imperial payroll (most notably Suzaku and Euphie) are arguably no less caring and honorable than those who oppose The Empire.
    • Possibly Dune; However, the least evil Imperials, such as Dr. Liet-Kynes and Princess Irulan, are not exactly in - step with The Empire's tune.
    • Star Wars: While The Emperor, Grand Moff Tarkin, etc. were decidedly on the nastier side, in the Expanded Universe many "villains" were not exactly evil with a capitol E.
  • March 2, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Inheritance Cycle: absolutely everybody not in the government is anti-the government.
  • March 2, 2011
    SakurazakiSetsuna
    The People's Republic of Haven from David Weber's Honor Harrington books is very much this.

  • March 2, 2011
    FrustratedRocka
    Real Life Most opressive states are like this. Nazi Germany is notable for being an exception.
  • March 2, 2011
    Grandy
    @Frustratedrocka That's not entirely true, a great deal of german citizens risked their own lives offering shelter for jews and gypsies.

    Also

  • March 2, 2011
    Xzenu
    A lot of non-resistance people in Nazi Germany was good normal people who didn't harm anyone. Most adults didn't even vote for Hitler, and those who did only got to vote before he got totally out of hand.

    Most civilians in Nazi Germany was Innocent Bystander or Minion With An F In Evil.

    My main concern right now is if we should use a wide or narrow trope definition. Should we include "evil nation with good population - regardless of narrative viewpoint", or limit it to cases where the protagonists are enemies of the nation?

    There's a big narrative difference between "our govermnment sucks" and "that people sucks... oh, wait, no they doesn't, it's just their government that sucks".

    I originally envisioned the second definition, but I'm leaning towards including the first definition as well.

    Speaking of Star Wars expanded universe... With the first version, the SPOCK song "The Stormtrooper" implies that even the imperial army despise the empire.

    Anyway, the people does not have to dislike their evil government for this trope to come into effect. Ofthen they have been told that the government is doing the right thing, and believed in it. Insufficient level of paranoia doesn't make one evil. Well, not automatically anyway.
  • March 2, 2011
    Sikon
    I don't think Code Geass counts. The racist doctrines of Britannia have evidently caught on among the general population. People like Suzaku and Euphemia are exceptions and are treated as such -- at best, coldly.
  • March 3, 2011
    Xzenu
    I gave it some more thought, and I'm definitely going with the wider definition. Especially since examples of the narrow version can morph into examples of the wider version. I got the idea from Avatar The Last Airbender. I'm currently watching the third season, and well... The Fire Nation conquered the world at the end of second season, and the ragtag counterstrike failed miserably at the middle of third season. I don't know yet how this is gonna end, but it might be that the only people that is still powerful enough to save the world from the Fire Nation is... the Fire Nation. :-)

    Adding the examples.

  • March 3, 2011
    Xzenu
    On a second thought, hmm. I need to ponder the relationship to Zero Percent Approval Rating a bit more first.
  • June 13, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    Literature
    • Tom Clancy, no fan of Communism, still manages to portray most Russians in the Soviet Union as being basically descent, sympathetic characters. At best they were hard working, honorable patriots and at worse they are lazy drunks because because of the defects in their political-economic system. Even senior KGB and Communist Party officials that are depicted the least sympathetically tend to be depicted as merely self-interested or misguided rather than Complete Monster's.
  • June 13, 2011
    jodabomb24
    "Its" not "it's", Xzenu.
  • June 13, 2011
    Fanra
    This is pretty much People Sit On Chairs. Unless the race is Always Chaotic Evil the majority of people are going to be "nice friendly people". Even people who support slavery and such will be "nice friendly people" to non-slaves. "Southern Hospitality" was famous even before the American Civil War.

    Unless a work makes a point of showing this to make a statement or use it to contrast either the evil of the government or the cultural evil (like slavery), I don't think it is an example. Examples without some kind of special mentioning of this would be People Sit On Chairs.

    For example, the Star Wars example does not count as an example of this trope.

    As far as Nazi Germany is concerned, the German people were wonderfully friendly during those times, as long as you weren't a Jew. Now, if a story made a point of showing how nice and friendly they were and contrasting it with their opinions on Jews, that would be this trope. Otherwise, not worth mentioning.
  • June 13, 2011
    Fanra
    • In Robert A Heinlein's novel Methuselah's Children, a secret organization known as the Howard Families have managed to extend their lifespans (by the 22nd Century, they have a life expectancy of 150 years) by intermarrying among themselves, self selecting for longevity. They have decided to lift their secrecy. In a special meeting some years after going public, they are told that society is starting to hate them and they are at risk of being persecuted, as people believe they have some kind of longevity secret.

    One member says how she can't believe she is at risk, as her neighbors are nice people and would never hurt her and that she knows that people are good. The protagonist tells her that she isn't at risk from her neighbors, as they know her personally. But from other people who don't know her, envy and prejudice can make people do evil things, even "nice" people.
  • June 13, 2011
    Ardiente
    • In many countries the USA is seen as this: while the hegemon itself is stereotyped as a rutheless, war-hungry horde of arrogant bloodswuckers, US citizens on the other hand are renowned for being incredibly polite and welcoming and warm. This is not quite People Sit On Chairs: the French, for instance, are known for being as jerkish as their country, on average, and the English are expected to be rutheless, cunning, and incredibly stiff.
  • June 14, 2011
    fulltimeD
    I would recommend sticking to non-real life examples. Otherwise this will become flame bait very quickly.
  • November 4, 2011
    Xzenu
    Agreed
  • November 4, 2011
    Psi001
  • November 6, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Cardassia, not "Sardassia"
  • February 18, 2012
    Catbert
    Bump
  • February 19, 2012
    Xzenu
    @fulltimeD: Thanks for posting in the thread instead of editing the main page - since the YKTTW main pages doesn't have edit history (yet), it's annoying when people edit them nd one doesn't know exactly what they have done.

    @Catbert: thanks for the bump. :-)
  • February 19, 2012
    Belfagor
    What about a big "No Real Life Examples Please" to avoid Natter, Flame War and Edit War?
  • February 19, 2012
    Xzenu
    Considering the fact that the throe is about how a population is portrayed in a narrative... Real Life examples wouldn't work anyway, but propaganda examples should be okay.
  • February 22, 2012
    Chabal2
    Warhammer 40 K: The Imperium of Man runs on this trope, there still are a few genuinely good people in isolated systems. From what we know of Tau culture, they might b one as well.
  • February 22, 2012
    pawsplay
    Literature
    • The Winkies and Munchkins in Baum's Wizard of Oz.
  • February 22, 2012
    Madcapunlimited
    South Park's 100th episode plays with this a bit as Ben Franklin shows Cartman why America should both support and protest war (because by protesting it makes the people look more compassionate to the rest of the world).
  • February 22, 2012
    FaxModem1
    In Fallout New Vegas, we meet six rather personable members of the Enclave, the villains of Fallout 2 and Fallout 3.
  • February 23, 2012
    fulltimeD
    @Xzenu: no prob. Somebody edited one of my YKTT Ws recently too instead of posting it in the thread.
  • February 23, 2012
    fulltimeD
    @Xzenu:
    "Hmm, that example technically fit the current description, but that might mean that the current definition is too wide. I'll give it some thought."
    Might I suggest that you tweak the description to focus on works where the authors explicitly go out of their way to depict the inhabitants of The Empire this way?

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