Needs a Better Name
"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).
Anime and Manga
Live Action Television
- 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).
- 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).