Created By: Four on July 17, 2012 Last Edited By: DAN004 on April 17, 2015

Inexplicable Villainy

A baddie who has no/inadequate justification/reasoning for their villainy

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
DAN 004 wuz ere takin over ur druft


There are many reasons for someone to be the villain. Maybe they want to change the world for the better, but go too far. Maybe the hero wronged them and they want revenge? Maybe they want money? Maybe they're just completely and violently insane?

This is neither of any of the above.

There are two kinds of inexplicable villainy. First, there is the kind where the character is given insufficient motivation and/or characterization to really explain why they are villainous to any satisfying extent. This is not the same as For the Evulz, where the villain simply does what they do "because they're evil". This kind of villain doesn't even have that much motivation. They, as far as the audience can tell, are simply acting as the villain because the story requires one. See also Generic Doomsday Villain. (Do note that mindless monsters generally are exempt from this, because they often cannot justify their own actions - and even then sometimes there are good reasons for them to do what they did.)

Then there is the second kind, where the villain in question is given motivation, just a motivation that doesn't add up with their actions. Take, for instance, a bully who antagonizes a younger child. The reason for this? The younger individual once happened to buy an ice cream cone before the bully, and thus, the bully did not receive one that day. Despite the fact that numerous other individuals have surely done this, not to mention the fact that the child clearly did not intend to offend the bully, he still antagonizes the child. As no further reason is given, all the audience can assume is that he knew he was in a story, and just wanted to play the role of the bad guy.

This is the consequence of a writer enforcing a Black and White Morality without really putting enough thought into why the villain's motivation would drive them to actually be a villain. Note, this is different from For the Evulz, where the villain considers evil is its own motivation. These kinds of villains can possess a motivation (if they even have one), just one that shouldn't lead to their actions.

Compare Disproportionate Retribution when they have good reason why they become a villain, but then they're taking it too far, as well as The Dark Side Will Make You Forget, a common justification for this. Compare and contrast Stupid Evil when their evil deeds are purposeless and/or obviously detrimental to themselves.


Anime & Manga
  • In Pokémon: The First Movie, Mewtwo wants to destroy the world, apparently because some people were cruel to him. For some unexplained reason, this extends to Pokémon as well, despite him never having been wronged by them.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: The main villain of the second arc, Arukenimon wants to destroy the world, despite the fact that she seems to enjoy being alive fine and showing no signs of being Brainwashed into it. This becomes especially jarring since later on it turns out she was unknowingly working for someone else, someone who most definitely did not want to destroy the world, and her previous actions towards universal destruction were shown to provide zero benefit to his plan. What's even stranger is that immediately after she discovers what he wants, she is all too happy to just help him along, without a single mention of her previous goal ever again.

Film
  • In The Karate Kid, John Kreese tells his students to savagely beat and antagonize the protagonist. Why? No explanation, not even a hint of why he acts so violently. Same thing with his students.

Literature
  • In Harry Potter, most every member we see of Slytherin House is either working with Voldemort, a snobbish jerk, a racist, or some combination of the three. While ambition is their key trait, meaning working with the villain to further their own goals is reasonable, the racism and classism that pervades the house is never given sufficient justification. The best explanation is that the founder of the house preferred those with racist ideals, but how that leads to practically every member of the house being some form of sadist is never really explained.

Tabletop Games
  • In Warhammer40000, Tzeentch is notorious for his/her/its seemingly impossible to decode plans. As the Chaos God of change, Tzeentch is compelled to plot and plan endlessly. Thus while Tzeentch may theoretically have an end goal, actually reaching it would oppose his/her/its entire purpose. Tzeentch has been known to send its own armies to be ambushed, and still claim the event was "All according to plan".

Video Games
  • In Pokémon, most evil team members generally have a reason behind their villainous schemes. Team Rocket is a criminal organization, Team Galactic's leader wants to become a god, Team Plasma's goals would naturally come into conflict with the hero's, and Cipher's actions directly profited the organization. However, some of the villainous teams are given little reason to Kick the Dog as much as they do, with many of their plans having little to do with their ultimate goals..
    • Teams Aqua and Magma plan to preserve the land/sea, respectively. They plan to achieve this by capturing Groudon/Kyogre, and unleashing its powers, which would naturally result in more land/sea. What is odd is that not only are many of their schemes undeniably stupid (Like erupting a landlocked volcano), some of their actions have absolutely nothing to do with their stated goals.
      • For instance, at one point a member of one of the teams (Which team depends on the version) steals a man's pet. This is odd, as the pet in question (A seagull) does not in fact possess the power to expand the sea or land, nor would it contribute towards finding the creatures that do possess said power. Also, at another point, they attempt to steal a package, never explaining how said package benefits them or even if it is actually an object of particular value.
  • Shinra, the evil corporation in Final Fantasy VII, will kills thousands of customers and workforce in a single act, for reasons such as getting rid of one terrorist group that happens to be in that part of the city they destroyed, or because of an accident at the plant which the town they destroyed was paying to use. But subverted since they planned so that people will blame the whole thing on said terrorist group.

Western Animation
  • In the first appearance of Time Commander in The Brave and the Bold comic book, his clearly stated motivation is Clear My Name. He claims his civilian identity was convicted of a crime he did not commit, and escaped jail to prove it. He mentions this motivation several times, including in his private thoughts (though in his thoughts he never specifies that he's innocent, just that he wants his name cleared.) And yet he keeps doing supervillainous things that have absolutely nothing to do with this motivation, forcing Batman and Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan to track him down and defeat Time Commander.
Community Feedback Replies: 41
  • July 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Isn't this For The Evulz? I agree it's a common problem though, especially in JRPGs, and the Tropes Are Not Good aspect of it may not be sufficientcly emphasized here.
  • July 17, 2012
    Four
    I can understand the confusion. For The Evulz is when the villain acts evil because they enjoy it, this is meant to be a villain whose actions don't even make sense in that respect. As in, a villain who torments the protagonist without getting a sadistic glee out of it. What that is is someone who kicks the dog because to them its entertaining, here there isn't even that much motivation.
  • July 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    I dunno, I think the sadistic glee version is It Amused Me, while For The Evulz is this. Not saying which is the better name though.
  • July 17, 2012
    Four
    The difference between this and For The Evulz is the character in question. Characters with For The Evulz lack any real motivation beyond being evil, but at least have an end goal that makes sense with that kind of mentality. These villains do possess a motivation, but their actions are at odds with the motivation in question.
  • July 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Ok, let's see what examples we get. It seems to me that you could always assume a For The Evulz motivation for the gaps in the stated one.
  • July 17, 2012
    Cider
    I think there is potential here. But I can't think of any examples yet.
  • July 17, 2012
    Kiddo
    Wouldn't it be easy to just pile this up with poorly-written Apocalyptic fiction? I mean, no one can really think of any logical reason why every nation in the world would decide to make a New World Order specifically to antagonize Israel, especially regions of the world which are currently allied with Israel or nations which are responsible for Israel being on the map now in the first place.
  • July 17, 2012
    Four
    Are you talking about Left Behind?
  • July 17, 2012
    Kiddo
    Well, I was being vague because I was pretty certain Left Behind wasn't the only example. A lot of televangelists seem to have this same idea about a major event during the Apocalypse being that every nation in the world decides to team up just to try to destroy Israel for what basically amounts to reasons that would make no sense when you consider who the involved parties are, what their histories are, and what they would gain from such an act.
  • July 17, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^^^Maybe you could. I don't see how that diminishes the validity of the article though. However, there may be another trope at work there, a working-backwards, we-have-to-get-there-somehow trope.
  • July 18, 2012
    Waterlily
    I don't think the second type is so weird. Isn't it often like that in real life, a person will hate somebody for petty reasons?

    However this could be an example: A villain on Ghostwriter made it his mission to kill and stuff all kinds of birds (even endangered ones). Why? When he was a kid, a bird flew at the windshield causing his father to lose control of the car. It crashed and his parents were killed. From then on he hated birds.

    Even as a kid, I found that ridiculous.
  • July 18, 2012
    MorganWick
    I have a feeling this is going to attract a swarm of Justifying Edits.
  • July 18, 2012
    Kiddo
    Waterlily: Main problem with that one is that it sounds like it can fit more easily into Disproportionate Retribution.

    When I read this trope my interpretation of it was that the "Villainy" is poorly thought out in story, or doesn't actually make any sense. While For The Evulz tends to be assumed in most cases of normal fiction where this happens and this kind of thing is never delved into, the reason I brought up Apocalyptic Fiction is because it sticks out like a sore thumb when you're reading about the supposed representatives of real-life nations, This would also apply pretty well to characters who would gladly Kick the Dog a few times but also have well-established a complex personalities and nuances.

    Probably the best laconic I could think would be "A character acts out-of-character just to provide a villain in the story".

    Probably some other good examples would be in early comic books or early comic book adaptations. Like, say, Magneto doing -anything- anti-semetic or causing Holocaust imagery. How many times did you see:

    1) A bad-guy-team-up where logically the villains would hate each other. (Probably a whole load of old Golden-age Superhero cartoons would have this) 2) A villain focus unusually on a certain heroic character with no apparent personal connection or anything to gain, particularly strange in a world where there's a whole load of heroes and the characters might be countries or ranks apart. 3) A villain use a certain item or weapon they absolutely wouldn't/couldn't use based on their established personality or skills. 4) A villain does a certain horrible act that violates personality traits such as Pragmatic Villainy, Not What I Signed Up For, Even Evil Has Standards, or Rape Is A Special Kind of Evil.

    When you think about it, this would kinda make Derailing Love Interests a subtrope, as that trope is basically inexplicible, out-of-character jerkassness done just to establish that a certain relationship is "wrong".
  • July 18, 2012
    Four
    That's a good point, this should be expanded to include characters who make Face Heel Turns for no real discernable reason. As for the villain team-up thing, can you think of any specific examples?
  • July 18, 2012
    Kiddo
    Unfortunately all I think I recall off of my head is, well.... Golden-age DC Comics animation. Did you ever notice that for no real logical reason the Legion Of Doom from Superfriends stuck together through thick and thin more solidly than basically any other incarnation of a DC Comics villain team-up presented in animation?
  • July 18, 2012
    SKJAM
    Based on I Thought It Meant: In the first appearance of Time Commander in The Brave And The Bold comic book, his clearly stated motivation is Clear My Name. He claims his civilian identity was convicted of a crime he did not commit, and escaped jail to prove it. He mentions this motivation several times, including in his private thoughts (though in his thoughts he never specifies that he's innocent, just that he wants his name cleared.) And yet he keeps doing supervillainous things that have absolutely nothing to do with this motivation, forcing Batman and Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan to track him down and defeat Time Commander.
  • July 25, 2012
    TBeholder
    @Waterlily: a Batman parody?
  • August 11, 2012
    captainsandwich
    the organization called Swords of Liberty in eberron. "This radical and violent organization doesn't see that its methods don't match its message."
  • August 11, 2012
    NoirGrimoir
    That second example just sounds like Misplaced Retribution.
  • October 12, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    In the original Japanese version of the first Pokemon movie, Mewtwo wanted to get back at non-clones who treated him like shit all his life. I think the dub fucked it up somehow but I can't remember how (they did cut out a lot of vital scenes though).
  • October 12, 2014
    DAN004
    The first type of the trope sounds more like Generic Doomsday Villain
  • October 12, 2014
    DAN004
    May be justified with The Dark Side Will Make You Forget.
  • October 12, 2014
    KomodoClassic
    The first thing that comes to mind for me is Shouldnt You Stop Stealing. This doesn't sound like the same thing, but there could definitely be some overlap.
  • October 12, 2014
    DAN004
  • October 13, 2014
    bitemytail
    • In Warhammer40000, Tzeentch is notorious for his/her/its seemingly impossible to decode plans. As the Chaos God of change, Tzeentch is compelled to plot and plan endlessly. Thus while Tzeentch may theoretically have an end goal, actually reaching it would oppose his/her/its entire purpose. Tzeentch has been known to send its own armies to be ambushed, and still claim the event was "All according to plan".
  • October 13, 2014
    DAN004
    Is anybody managing this? Might gonna grab this later.
  • December 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump?
  • December 23, 2014
    DragonQuestZ
    • Sinra, the evil corporation in Final Fantasy VII, will kills thousands of customers and workforce in a single act, for reasons such as getting rid of one terrorist group that happens to be in that part of the city they destroyed, or because of an accident at the plant which the town they destroyed was paying to use.
  • January 13, 2015
    MorningStar1337
  • January 13, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Eh?
  • January 13, 2015
    MorningStar1337
    ^ the draft. The laocnic description looks like it can apply to Straw Hypocrites. So I'm wondering how they are related.

    Also the bully part of the antidote seems pretty close to Revenge, albeit very petty revenge.
  • January 14, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ oh.

    The laconic was a remnant of the old sponsor. Will change it soon.

  • February 3, 2015
    DAN004
    I must remind everyone that this is a Bad Writing trope.
  • February 11, 2015
    randomtroper89
    • Space Buddies: Dr. Finkle mentions that if the mission fails, he will take Pi's place at Vision Enterprises. He is specifically told that Vision Enterprises would be crippled by the bad PR that the mission failure would cause now the media knows there are pet dogs on board the shuttle. Dr. Finkle continues trying to screw everyone over regardless.

    • Terry Silver in The Karate Kid Part III is supposed to be helping avenge his war buddy John Kreese and restore the dignity of the Cobra Kai, but in practice he's far too into it given that it's not his disgrace, seems to be aware that his buddy Kreese is the one who stepped over the line, and is neglecting his multi-million dollar business to get vengeance on a teenager and his elderly mentor. Also, the vengeance is all his idea and is planned and executed by him with Kreese only getting to jump out from behind a cardboard cut-out to scare Daniel in one scene.
  • February 12, 2015
    DAN004
    Related is Hate Sink where they'll often be given Inexplicable Villainy to justify their status.
  • February 12, 2015
    MiinU
    The Final Fantasy VII example doesn't count, since Shinra's motives were explained. Since they didn't know the exact location of AVALANCHE's HQ, they decided to simply drop the entire Sector 5 plate on the Slums, because they knew they were based somewhere in that area.

    Shinra considered the Slums to be an acceptable loss and pinned the blame for the resulting casualties on AVALANCHE, since they were publicly known as an eco-terrorist group. So the people of Midgar bought the story hook, line, and sinker; thinking it was one of AVALANCHE's operations gone wrong.

    Simply put: Shinra killed two birds with one stone. They destroyed their only opposition's base of operations and on the off-chance that any of 'em survived, their already shady reputation would be permanently ruined. And the only lives lost would be the poor and the dregs of society. It was a dick move, but still a win-win for Shinra.
  • February 12, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Perhaps I can write it off as subversion since at first it looks inexplicable, but it turns out that it furthers off the plan.
  • February 12, 2015
    MiinU
    ^@DAN004 - It was never inexplicable. Shinra was a Mega Corp that was all about profit and world domination. They were using the planet's Lifestream to genetically empower their SOLDIERs, which was their private army.

    But —! They weren't aware that their actions were slowly killing the planet. AVALANCHE, on the other hand, was aware of that fact and tried to warn Shinra about what they were doing. Except Shinra didn't buy it, since they couldn't see the immediate effects they were having on the planet, so they dismissed it more pointless opposition. Which is why AVALANCHE started taking matters into their own hands by destroying each of Shinra's Mako reactors.

    Naturally, Shinra wasn't gonna let that fly, so they decided to get rid of AVALANCHE. But since they only had a vague idea of their location, they figured they'd wipe out the entire area and be done with it. The Slums were mainly populated by the poor and homeless, so they weren't losing any paying customers, which is why Shinra considered it acceptable.
  • February 12, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Well, never expected it to be that deep... but then again it's an RPG story. Maybe the op didn't know the context when he wrote that?
  • February 12, 2015
    MiinU
    ^@DAN004 - FF VII's narrative is deep to the point of seeming convoluted, but it Makes Sense In Context if you've played the games, seen the movie, read the Novellas, and the supplemental material. But yeah, the point of Shinra's actions were clearly defined.

    By the time of Advent Children (set 2 years later), AVALANCHE has long since disbanded and the public still believes they were responsible for the destruction of the Slums. However, Rufus Shinra (the deceased president's son) now knows the truth about how they were effecting the planet. So he's trying to make amends for it by searching for an alternative energy source.
  • February 28, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=qx5dux95u0hbeqfsziovgkrj