Created By: Bisected8January 29, 2013 Last Edited By: Bisected8February 20, 2013
Nuked

Villainous Guilt Reassurance

A character says something to reassure the characters and audience that the villain's still responsible for their own actions

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"S/He knew it was wrong, s/he just didn't care."
--Law And Order assures us that being a sociopath isn't an excuse.

This trope covers situations where writers have a character clarify that a villain is still responsible for their villainy. It usually comes up in cases where the villain in question was being manipulated in some way, but still had enough free will to do the right thing and chose not to. This can include cases of More Than Mind Control (even if unnatural means were used to control them, they were still inclined that way), someone being an Unwitting Pawn (even if they were mislead, they still had a choice on what the best course of action was) or mental illness (or rather characters with predispositions to violence; characters with specific disorders like schizophrenia tend to be treated more sympathetically). If the villain tries to justify themselves then the statement might be directed towards them instead as a Shut Up Hannibal. If the hero is trying to talk the villain down it might also be a Kirk Summation.

When this trope is done well, it avoids being a case of Designated Villain and just serves to sum up what the audience can infer from other evidence. The main purpose is to make sure that it's clear that the villain is in the wrong so that the scene comes across as the writer intended (Tropes Are Not Bad). Of course, if this isn't shown enough elsewhere, it may just come across as a case of And Thats Terrible and only further emphasise Black And White Morality or No Sympathy on the part of the heroes.

This trope may be applied to the Anti Villain or a Villain With Good Publicity (since they tend to come with positive traits that might make the audience root for them if the writer isn't careful). Compare Tragic Monster and Tragic Villain (who genuinely do have reasons for their behaviour and might fall into this trope depending on how sympathetic they are meant to be, but are more likely to avert it).

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Applied in Rave Master, as the Rave Warriors have learned that Sympathy For The Devil shouldn't stop them from fighting the Big Bad for as long as they intend to remain the Big Bad.
    Haru Glory: We have to fight anyone who inflicts pain upon the innocent. That's the path we've chosen.

Live Action Television
  • In the Castle episode "Tick, Tick, Tick..." FBI profiler Jordan Shaw mentions to Beckett that in the Serial Killer's mind, he's directly challenging her and she failed. Beckett feels a little guilty, but Shaw reassures her:
    "I'm profiling. I'm not agreeing with him. The guy's a friggin' nutbar! Don't let him get to you."
  • This comes up throughout the Law And Order franchise. Most notably in Law And Order SVU, where Agent Wong often invokes this trope or puts in a good word, depending on the case.
  • CSI also uses this trope. Most notably at the end of an episode which followed a fairly sympathetic crook (who killed a former junkie who'd ratted him out and a girl who had the misfortune to crash into him when he was making his getaway). At the end of the episode, Grissom reminds him (and the audience) he still murdered two people (one of whom was completely innocent).

Literature
  • The third Harry Potter book has the "you had a choice" version, when Sirius and Lupin are confronting Wormtail (who tries to argue that he would have been killed if he hadn't sold out Harry's parents).

Video Games
  • In Persona 4, after Adachi is defeated and it's made clear that he was being manipulated, Naoto sums up that he would probably have done what he did with little prompting ( the true ending reveals that the Big Bad only gave him a "push" in the same way as the main character; he decided to bully and kill people with his new powers himself).
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • January 30, 2013
    Psi001
    If the trope is done poorly or unspecific enough, it may just lean as a generic And Thats Terrible and only further enthasise the Black And White Morality or No Sympathy from the heroes.
  • January 31, 2013
    StarSword
    TV:
    • In the Castle episode "Tick, Tick, Tick..." FBI profiler Jordan Shaw mentions to Beckett that in the Serial Killer's mind, he's directly challenging her and she failed. Beckett feels a little guilty, but Shaw reassures her:
      "I'm profiling. I'm not agreeing with him. The guy's a friggin' nutbar! Don' let him get to you."
  • January 31, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    Sometimes appears on the CSI franchise to underline that, no matter how sympathetic, the Crook Of The Week did just went out and murdered/robbed/scammed/drove to suicide/other heinous crime'd one or more people.

    "You're a crazed killer. You enjoy death. I hope you enjoy your own."

    (Ok, not the best quote-but the bad guy who got that one was a spree killer sniper. Maybe it WAS better off not knowing why he just decided to grab a rifle and blow away a half dozen people other than 'I wanted a challenge').
  • February 2, 2013
    sgamer82
    • Applied in Rave Master, as the Rave Warriors have learned that Sympathy For The Devil shouldn't stop them from fighting the Big Bad for as long as they intend to remain the Big Bad.
      Haru Glory: We have to fight anyone who inflicts pain upon the innocent. That's the path we've chosen.
  • February 2, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    My suguesstion would be "It's Not Your Fault, It's The Villain's"
  • February 2, 2013
    Bisected8
    That's probably too close to dialogue....
  • February 2, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Yeah. Villainous Guilt Reassurance isn't as snappy, but it also doesn't violate No New Stock Phrases.

    In other news, fixed a typo in the Castle example (my fault).
  • February 2, 2013
    Bisected8
    My fault for not catching it. =P

    How does everyone feel about Designating The Villain? I'm worried it might be too easily mixed up with Designated Villain though.
  • February 4, 2013
    Earnest
    ^ Seconding that, it's too easy to confuse. How about Condemning Ambiguous Villainy, Reviling Defensible Villainy or Freudian Inexcusable? (I know we aren't supposed to do snowclones, but I thought it might help someone else with ideas).
  • February 5, 2013
    Bisected8
    None of those are bad, the problem is they're like the placeholder; just dry descriptions...
  • February 5, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Played with in an episode of Bones: after the Half Arc Season's Big Bad kills Mr. Vincent Nigel-Murray because Booth had him answer a cell phone (giving the BB Booth's precise location), everyone assures Booth that it wasn't his fault, it was the Big Bad's. Booth already knows this. Brennan says "you have blood on your hands," but she is speaking literally - Booth still had the vicitm's blood on his hands from when he tried to save him.
  • February 5, 2013
    Bisected8
    I'm not sure that's an example. The point of this trope is to make it clear that the villain is...villainous. That seemed more about a character not blaming themselves?
  • February 5, 2013
    Earnest
    Hmm... okay, how about alliterating? Condemn Unclear Culpability.
  • February 6, 2013
    Bisected8
    Well it sounds better, but I don't know if it gets the trope across clearly....
  • February 7, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^^^It seems to me basically the same as the Castle example - but I don't watch Castle so I don't know anything about it other than what it says here. Perhaps I didn't explain it well.
  • February 7, 2013
    Bisected8
    The main difference is that in the Bones example the self blaming wasn't deflecting blame from the villain, since he was clearly looking to kill the victim anyway and Booth just allowed him to find them in a "I screwed up and got someone killed" kind of way (which doesn't make the villain appear any less culpable), while the villain in the Castle example leans more towards the idea of "I expect to be foiled it's your fault for not stopping me" which could be seen as absolving the villain (I might have misunderstood you though, since I don't know much about either show...). The important factor is the blame being put on the villain, basically.
  • February 15, 2013
    Bisected8
    So, no more title suggestions?

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