Created By: Nemmington on June 23, 2012 Last Edited By: StarSword on May 9, 2014
Troped

Historical Rap Sheet

A fictional character was responsible for historical crimes or disasters.

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The crimes of the villain(s) date back long before our grandfathers were born. Historical events that hurt many people are attributed to a single organization or person, usually more than one. Even if there isn't technically a law against causing earthquakes or eruptions, the events are used to show how dangerous the criminal is by placing wars, economic struggles, assassinations, and other pivotal events in their past.

These crimes can be committed by a group, like the Ancient Conspiracy, or a single person, like We Didn't Start The Führer. Those tropes cover the actual villains, this trope is about the "crimes".

Note that this doesn't necessarily have to apply to a villain: i.e. an Idiot Hero Reality Warper could've caused a natural disaster through clumsiness.

Essentially the evil twin of The Gump. Compare Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, Julius Beethoven da Vinci and Historical Villain Upgrade. Subtrope to Been There, Shaped History and often a form of List of Transgressions. Often an example of Offstage Villainy.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman Family #165 we learn that Superman's dog Krypto accidentally caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. You can read it here.
  • Immortal criminal Vandal Savage from The DCU claims to have been many historical figures including Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Blackbeard and Jack the Ripper. He was also an advisor to many famous conquering, and may have either been Julius Caesar or participated in Caesar's murder, depending on which version of the story you believe.

    Fan Works 
  • Day of the Barney Trilogy has Barney responsible for, among others, the extinction of the dinosaurs, Caligula's depravity, the Black Death, the rise of Hitler and betraying Anne Frank.
  • Reimagined Enterprise repurposes several real-world wars of the 1990s as the Eugenics Wars. For example, Khan Noonien Singh's people were the real reason the UN sent a military expedition into Somalia in 1992.

    Film — Animated 
  • In The Castle of Cagliostro, the Cagliostro family's centuries-old counterfeiting operation caused the collapse of the Bourbon dynasty, financed Napoleon and brought about the Wall Street Crash.
  • DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp shows that the villain Merlock was responsible for the sinking of Atlantis and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

     Film — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • In The Pariah by Graham Masterton the death of the Toltecs, the atrocities of Caligula, the Black Death and the Salem witch trials are all attributed to the demonic antagonist.
  • Incarnations of Immortality: Satan engineered the Black Plague by tricking Gaia. He later regretted how far it went, and the experience taught him his responsibility as the Incarnation of Evil. Inverted later as he tricks Chronos into averting the holocaust and World War II as a favor to YHWH though this costs him his friendship with subsequent Incarnations of Time who till then were the only ones friendly to him.
  • Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon short story "Unnatural Causes". A team of alien Krundai are responsible for many harmful acts in Earth's history, including: starting riots, wars and revolutions, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, assassinations, promoting drug use and the Holocaust. Their ultimate aim is to cause humanity to destroy itself so they can feast on our bodies.
  • A Running Gag in Good Omens involves Crowley, the demon who was responsible for the original Temptation in the Garden of Eden, frequently receiving the congratulations of Hell whenever they notice something like the Spanish Inquisition has popped up in the human world. They inevitably leap to the conclusion that Crowley was responsible for getting it started. He frequently protests to the sympathetic Angel Aziraphale that he had nothing to do with it whatsoever: the human race thought of new ideas to be beastly to each other all on their own.

     Live-Action TV 

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Old World of Darkness averted this in one specific instance. Anything else was free to be a vampire/werewolf/mage plot, but the Holocaust was required to remain a purely human atrocity.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • In Everyman HYBRID, HABIT claims that Josef Mengele was one of his possessed victims.
  • Hardly Working: Over the course of the show, the Phantom of the Office has taken responsibility for the Black Plague, the extinction of the dodo bird, and most shockingly, the death of Jesus Christ.

     Western Animation 
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • In an early episode it's revealed that once every few millennia fairies have to be evil for 24 hours. During Wanda's stint she killed the dinosaurs.
    • Though not villainous in intent, Cosmo accidentally sank Atlantis and destroyed Pompeii.
  • In Yoohoo and Friends, Father Time was responsible for starting the Salem Witch Trials after trying to help three women carrying heavy buckets of water... by enchanting brooms to carry them. Thankfully he managed to save their skins shortly afterwards.
  • The Simpsons: Charles Montgomery Burns has done many atrocities during his long life, including such monstrosities as being the one who made Amelia Earhart disappear, collaborating with the Nazis, and stealing a Trillion Dollar Bill that would have helped fund reparations on Europe after World War II (and thus made the French hate America from then on).

Indices: Alternate History Tropes, Crime and Punishment Tropes, Historical In-Joke, Speculative Fiction Tropes

Community Feedback Replies: 50
  • June 23, 2012
    Antigone3
    I believe that old World of Darkness averted this in one specific instance -- anything else was free to be a vampire/werewolf/mage plot, but the Holocaust was required to remain a purely human atrocity.
  • June 23, 2012
    CobraPrime
    • Incarnations Of Immortality: Satan engineered the Black Plague by tricking Gaia. He later regretted how far it went, and the experience taught him his responsibility as the Incarnation of Evil. Inverted later as he tricks Chronos into averting the holocaust and World War II as a favor to YHWH though this costs him his friendship with subsequent Incarnations of Time who till then were the only ones friendly to him.
  • June 23, 2012
    Duncan
    The "Single Immortal" aspect is covered by We Didn't Start The Fuhrer.
  • September 26, 2013
    Tuomas
    Bump.
  • September 26, 2013
    Alucard
    Played For Laughs in Black Butler's anime, where before being tortured, Sebastian says in a light-hearted manner, "I admit it, I started the black plague." Considering what he is, he probably wasn't kidding.
  • September 26, 2013
    Snicka
    A non-villainous example: the Doctor from Doctor Who was involved in the destruction of Pompeii, and probably in other disasters too.
  • September 26, 2013
    dalek955
    Compare Arc Welding.
  • September 26, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    In an early Fairly Odd Parents episode it's revealed that once every few millennium fairies have to be evil for 24 hours. During Wanda's stint she killed the dinosaurs.

    In Zoolander brainwashed male models set in motion by an evil council of fashion designers have had a hand in every major assassination attempt, beginning with Lincoln and on up through JFK. It Makes Sense In Context. Kind of.
  • September 27, 2013
    DAN004
    Does it have to be fictional villains or real life historical people?
  • September 27, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    The crimes of X date back long before our grandfathers were born. Historical events that hurt many people are attributed to a single organization or person, usually more than one. Even if there isn't technically a law against causing earthquakes or eruptions, the events are used to show how dangerous the criminal is by placing wars, economic struggles, assassinations, and other pivotal events in their past.

    These crimes can be committed by a group, like the Ancient Conspiracy, or a single person, like We Didnt Start The Furher. Those tropes cover the actual villains, this troper is about the "crimes".
  • September 27, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Star Trek: In "Wolf in the Fold" it is discovered that Redjac is a noncorporeal lifeform which has been a serial killer on several planets, including Earth where it was Jack The Ripper as well as a few other unnamed killers (in China in 1952 and Kiev in 1974).
  • September 27, 2013
    paycheckgurl
  • April 27, 2014
    astaroth
    • Criminal mastermind Lord Kane in Evil Genius is alleged to have had a hand in every major crime of the 20th century, from starting the fire that crashed the Hindenburg to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He insists that his greatest atrocity was the result of a minion mishearing his statement "A bit of light panic, I think eh?" as "That ship, the Titanic, sink her".
  • April 27, 2014
    DAN004
    ...can somebody explain what this trope's about? AFAICT this is "real life historical tragedy caused by fictional people"...
  • April 27, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Yep
  • April 27, 2014
    DAN004
    Lots of examples can be mined from Historical In Joke.
  • April 28, 2014
    Arivne
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
    • Examples section formatting.
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Blue Linked media section titles(s).
      • Changed Television to Live Action TV.
    • Namespaced work name(s) and a Creator name.
    • Blue Links: Changed double curly braces to Wiki Word(s).
    • Moved Manga example under Anime and Manga.
    • Corrected spelling (millennium -> millennia).
  • April 28, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Captain America 1990 has the Nebulous Evil Organization that Red Skull works for being responsible of such things as the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassination. Captain America The Winter Soldier features the resurrected HYDRA as having been responsible of pretty much most (if not every) major terrorist event done since WWII, as part of their "force people to give away their freedoms" Evil Plan.
  • April 28, 2014
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon short story "Unnatural Causes". A team of alien Krundai are responsible for many harmful acts in Earth's history, including: starting riots, wars and revolutions, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, assassinations, promoting drug use and the Holocaust. Their ultimate aim is to cause humanity to destroy itself so they can feast on our bodies.
  • April 28, 2014
    TrustBen
    This sounds a lot like Been There Shaped History. Might be a subtrope.
  • April 28, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    I think you're right.
  • April 29, 2014
    Chabal2
    Day Of The Barney Trilogy has Barney responsible for, among others, the extinction of the dinosaurs, Caligula's depravity, the Black Death, the rise of Hitler and betraying Anne Frank.
  • May 1, 2014
    AgProv
    A running joke in Good Omens involves Crowley, the demon who was responsible for the original Temptation in the Garden of Eden, frequently receiving the congratulations of Hell whenever they notice something like the Spanish Inquisition has popped up in the human world. They inevitably leap to the conclusion that Crowley was responsible for getting it started. He frequently protests to the sympathetic Angel Aziraphale that he had nothing to do with it whatsoever - the human race thought of new ideas to be beastly to each other all on their own.
  • May 3, 2014
    randomsurfer
    The X Files: According to the Day In The Limelight episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", the CSM was personally responsible for the assasinations of JFK and MLK, and made sure that the Buffalo Bills never won the Super Bowl.
  • May 3, 2014
    HellKillUsAll
  • May 4, 2014
    StarSword
    Made a link fix in the draft.

    Fan Works:
    • Reimagined Enterprise repurposes several real-world wars of the 1990s as the Eugenics Wars. For example, Khan Noonien Singh's people were the real reason the UN sent a military expedition into Somalia in 1992.

    Video Games:

    Also, this has long ago lapsed into Up For Grabs.
  • May 4, 2014
    DAN004
    So who wanna grab this? :D
  • May 4, 2014
    zarpaulus
    A form of List Of Transgressions.

    • Also in Fairly Odd Parents, though not villainous in intent. Cosmo accidentally sank Atlantis and destroyed Pompeii.
  • May 5, 2014
    StarSword
    ^^Looks like me.

    ^Added.
  • May 6, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Minor live action movie (possible) example: the second Smokin Aces movie implies that the Corrupt Hick Neo-Nazi Tremor family was the real perpetrator of the [[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_11,_2004_Madrid_attacks March 11, 2004 bomb attacks in Madrid]], as part of a world-wide campaign of terror orchestrated by Big Bad "Hal Leuco".

    "Minor" because it's just this one example (other assassinations shown on-screen weren't historically important), but it still is a historic atrocity they committed.
  • May 6, 2014
    Morgenthaler
    • In Near Dark, two vampires in a small pack roaming the Southwestern US committing bloody massacres, Jesse and Severen, reminisce how they started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

    • In Supernatural, the demon lord and Torture Technician Alastair implies that he had a hand in the concentration camps, noting how he hasn't been on Earth since "Poland, '43".

  • May 6, 2014
    StarSword
    Good, good, keep 'em coming. Also, hats? Desc thoughts?
  • May 6, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Babylon Five: A Vorlon "inquisitor"-slash-Torture Technician sent to test the resolve of Delenn and Sheridan mentions that he was abducted back in the Victorian age... and it's well implied that he was Jack The Ripper.
  • May 6, 2014
    Tuomas
    ...
  • May 7, 2014
    foxley
    Immortal criminal Vandal Savage from The DCU claims to have been many historical figures including Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Blackbeard and Jack the Ripper. He was also an advisor to many famous conquering, and may have either been Julius Caesar or participated in Caesar's murder, depending on which version of the story you believe.
  • May 7, 2014
    Tuomas
    Comic Books

    • Not really a crime per se, but in Superman Family #165 we learn that Superman's dog Krypto accidentally caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. You can read it here.
  • May 7, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Arson is a crime.
  • May 7, 2014
    DAN004
    Maybe laconic and description should mention that the fictional person isn't necessarily a villain while the tragedy can be either a crime or a disaster.
  • May 7, 2014
    Megacles
    In Everyman Hybrid, HABIT claims that Josef Mengele was one of his possessed victims.
  • May 8, 2014
    bwburke94
    Re: Doctor Who

    Listing every historical disaster the Doctor caused is going to take a while. Let's just list Pompeii, the Titanic, and the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, and leave it at that.
  • May 8, 2014
    Morgenthaler
    Often an example of Offstage Villainy.
  • May 8, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Men In Black: A small Hyper Destructive Bouncing Ball located within MIB headquarters was the trigger of the 1977 New York blackout.

    J: "A practical joke from the Great Attractor. He thought it was funny as hell".

    (())

    Also, the film Deja Vu mentions that the last time that the Time Machine that is central to the plot was used to actually try to send something into the past instead of just viewing it, the power necessities accidentally caused the Northeast blackout of 2003 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Blackout_of_2003).
  • May 8, 2014
    foxley
    In Yoohoo And Friends, Father Time was responsible for starting the Salem Witch Trials after trying to help three women carrying heavy buckets of water... by enchanting brooms to carry them. Thankfully he managed to save their skins shortly afterwards.
  • May 8, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    The Simpsons: Charles Montgomery Burns has done many atrocities during his long life, including such monstrosities as being the one who made Amelia Earhart disappear, collaborating with the Nazis, and stealing a Trillion Dollar Bill that would have helped fund reparations on Europe after World War Two (and thus made the French hate America from then on).
  • May 8, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • Bewitched: Bumbling Aunt Clara causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 when she tries to use magic on some candles.
    • Quantum Leap: In one of the show's Kisses with History, Sam causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 during an attempt to leap home.
  • May 9, 2014
    TyeDyeWildebeest
    • Hardly Working: Over the course of the show, the Phantom of the Office has taken responsibility for the Black Plague, the extinction of the dodo bird, and most shockingly, the death of Jesus Christ.
  • May 9, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Music example: The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" lists many atrocities that the titular Devil has been part of, such as being a Nazi general during World War Two, being accomplice of the assassination of both Kennedys, and the French and Russian Revolutions.
  • May 9, 2014
    StarSword
    Launching at 5 PM EST.
  • May 9, 2014
    bitemytail
    Hold onto your butts!
  • May 9, 2014
    StarSword
    Ok, more like 8PM. Sue me.
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