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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(permanent link) added: 2013-01-29 07:07:50 sponsor: Bisected8 (last reply: 2013-02-20 05:46:23)

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"S/He knew it was wrong, s/he just didn't care."
--Law & 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 That's 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 & Order franchise. Most notably in Law & Order: SVU, where Agent Wong often invokes this trope or puts in a good word, depending on the case.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 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).
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