Created By: MarkThis on May 30, 2012 Last Edited By: sgtpendulum on July 1, 2016

Callous Demonstration Of Power

A character commits evil acts, not for fun, and not out of cruelty, but simply to make a point about how powerful they are.

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Trope
This is the sort of person who will commit extreme atrocities, not because it's funny and it amused them, and not out of cruelty nor genuine enjoyment of the activity itself. No, their depravity is much colder and much less human: they do what they do simply to show and underline and emphasize that they can, and that nobody is able to stop them from doing it. Typical of the Bad Boss and Villain Demotivator, and related to You Have Failed Me. When this trope happens, in universe, the character is trying to prove how much power they have, and may (or may not) be pointlessly villanous in the process.

Compare with Kick the Dog, which is when the creator wants us, the audience, to know that the character is evil, and has them prove it by a pointless act of evilness. Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment: don't add any Real Life examples older than WWII.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Bleach, the reason behind most everything Aizen did, besides sadism and ambition.
Comic Books Film
  • In Hobo with a Shotgun, it's actually the villain's policy to do horrible stuff to scare the populace.
  • In Mulan the film's villain, Shan-Yu, invades China because he saw the building of the Great Wall as a challenge to his strength.
  • In Star Wars A New Hope the destruction of Alderaan was said by Grand Moff Tarkin to be have been done to "...demonstrate the full power of this station." He tells Princess Leia that he intends to "...test this station's destructive power on your home planet of Alderaan." and when she tells him that the Rebel base is on Dantooine, he decides to blow up Alderaan anyway because "Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration." The overall reason he did it was because with the dissolution of the Imperial Senate, "The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station." From a Doylist perspective. From a Watsonian perspective, it was a case of Kick the Dog and establishing how much of a threat the first Death Star was, at least within the context of that film.
Literature
  • Voldemort gave Peter Pettigrew his booby trapped silver hand of awesome as a demonstration of power, largely. A lot of the stuff he does is motivated by either reassuring himself (and the world) of how powerful he is, when it isn't motivated by just enjoying seeing others suffer.
  • Loyso Pondokhva, the most powerful (traditional) mage known to have existed in the Labyrinths of Echo series, nearly destroyed the world because he could (he hated most of the Normal People living in it) and because of a small chance to grow even more powerful by doing so.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Party is a lot more sociopathic than it realistically needs to be because they want to show everyone who's boss, and are willing to go really out of their way to do so.
Video Games
  • An NPC in Quest 64 makes a remark about how King Beigis of Brannoch burned down a town for no reason other than to test his strength.
Other
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • May 30, 2012
    Dacilriel
    In Mulan the film's villain, Shan-Yu, invades China because he saw the building of the Great Wall as a challenge to his strength.

    You may want to make a note about the Rule Of Cautious Editing Judgement since many real life political power struggles involve displays of strength and power. There are plenty of historical examples, but contemporary instances may be best avoided.
  • May 31, 2012
    Koveras
    • Loyso Pondokhva, the most powerful (traditional) mage known to have existed in the Labyrinths Of Echo series, nearly destroyed the world because he could (he hated most of the Normal People living in it) and because of a small chance to grow even more powerful by doing so.
  • May 31, 2012
    DarkConfidant
    An NPC in Quest 64 makes a remark about how King Beigis of Brannoch burned down a town for no reason other than to test his strength.
  • May 31, 2012
    MarkThis
    Screwing the X because they have Y is a typical way of doing this: they screw the X just to prove they have Y. It's also a perfectly legitimate stratagem to preemptively show strength/power in order to dissuade others fom attacking. If you do it with no apparent reason, they may well think you're a little crazy, which, regardless of your actual power level, is always a little intimidating: no-one wants to fight a psycho.
  • May 31, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    Replacing a snowclone with another snowclone isn't the answer here. I'd call it a Prideful Gambit, but the meaning of gambit on this wiki seems to be more along the lines of "infallibly brilliant strategy" instead of "measured risk."
  • May 31, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I forgot was the reason that throw away planet in Star Wars was blown up do to this or dog kicking?
  • May 31, 2012
    Omeganian
  • May 31, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    @captainsandwich: It easily could be both.
  • May 31, 2012
    tryourbreast
    The title seems okay to me.

    However, if a snowclone mustn't be used anyhow, I'll suggest Face My Evil Power
  • June 1, 2012
    TheHandle
    The action doesn't have to be evil per-se, as in the Batman example. Superman just hovering in front of Luthor's office instead of, say, using the door, or the phone, is another example.

    It's not a snowclone, it's simply a variation on "why did you do that?":
    • "for fun/it amused me",
    • "out of sadism/I like to inflict suffering", and I think it's incomplete without
    • "to show you I can/advertise that the rules don't apply to me".

    Unnecessary Action That Demonstrates Power is a bit of a weak title...

    Should we limit this to evil or brutal actions, and get rid of the morally okay ones, such as Batman leaving scenes the way he always does?
  • June 1, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^^^^ The destruction of Alderaan was said by Grand Moff Tarkin to be have been done to "...demonstrate the full power of this station." He tells Princess Leia that he intends to "...test this station's destructive power on your home planet of Alderaan." and when she tells him that the Rebel base is on Dantooine, he decides to blow up Alderaan anyway because "Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration."

    The overall reason he did it was because with the dissolution of the Imperial Senate, "The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station."

    So yes, it was an example of this trope.
  • June 1, 2012
    DracMonster
  • June 5, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    One Polish children book contained a wild west town where the local gang would ride in and kidnap the sheriff once a week. He was never harmed - they just wanted to show they control the town.
  • June 5, 2012
    jkbeta
    "don't add any Real Life examples older than WWII." - I guess this should be the other way round. As a side-note, you should probably move the line quite a bit earlier, since some events in WW 2 (e.g., bombing of certain cities, on both sides) could became Flame Bait.
  • June 5, 2012
    TheHandle
    I think Dresde and Hiroshima/Nagasaki are fairly uncontroversial.

    ^^They have Sheriffs in Poland?
  • June 5, 2012
    jatay3
    Aside from Misplaced Nationalism, the controversy about strategic bombing by the allies(everyone kind of expects bad guys to do it so paradoxically Rotterdam is not controversial), is not whether it was done for this reason but whether or not The Extremist Was Right in that case. Given that, they are very controversial and not every one is even sure of their own opinion in the matter.

    By the way the first bombings were not so much a demonstration of overwhelming power but a demonstration that the British still had power. That is they were done to remind the Germans that the war wasn't over yet. Latter on it was done as a weak sort of way to satisfy the Russians that the allies weren't going to do a Lets You And Him Fight. Only toward the end was it thought of primarily as a way to intimidate the population as such.

  • June 5, 2012
    nitrokitty
    ^ I think No Real Life Examples in general might need to be slapped on this one.
  • June 6, 2012
    MarkThis
    I dunno, I think that's pretty valuable information, and rather interesting, too.

    And maybe the description should include cases where the perpetrator isn't showingoverwhelimg power so much as showing that they have some power and that they can still hurt their opponent. Which is why I think we shouldn't talk about The Arab Israeli Conflict, since it seems violence there is much more about both sides of this trope ("Look what we can do, puny Ismaelites! You only live by our mercy! Cease this folly, and resign yourselves to your fate! Maybe you will be spared."/"Never! I can still fuck you up, you Israelite oppressor, even if I have to die in the process, even if I become a monster! You haven't won yet!").

    Anyway, do you think it will be okay if we simply forbid discussion on whether the extremist was rght or not?
  • June 6, 2012
    jatay3
    I think it would be very much a good idea. Though if there is controversy over whether The Extremist Was Right, the example shouldn't be brought up; it is not fair to give examples that might be considered to have distasteful connotations without allowing a chance of reply. If we don't want the reply and obviously we don't then we really don't want the example in the first place.
  • June 6, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    I don't know about you, but I think a Ways To Kick The Dog index sounds very much in order.
  • June 6, 2012
    Bisected8
    We have Tropey The Wonderdog already.

    Also, as an alternative title/redirect idea; Make An Example Of The Dog
  • June 11, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Wild Wild West. Dr. Arliss Loveless does this twice. He uses his armored railroad car to annihilate the former Confederate soldiers to impress the gathered European leaders so they'll pay him gold to support his schemes. He later destroys a small town with his giant mechanical spider to try to convince President Grant to surrender the United States to him.

  • July 28, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • July 28, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    This might also be related to Prove I Am Not Bluffing.
  • July 28, 2014
    DAN004
    If not for No New Stock Phrases, I'd suggest Because I Can. It's so perfect otherwise.

    Compare For Science
  • July 29, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Comic Books
    • In Marvel Comics' Secret Wars, the Beyonder gathers Earth's mightiest heroes and most powerful villains, and transports them to a remote galaxy. There, the Beyonders sweeps away the entire galaxy, stars and all, leaving only one sun-sized star and one Earth-sized planet. Once everyone has landed on the planet, Galactus flies off to challenge the Beyonder, and gets smacked down hard. Then comes the pronouncement: "Slay your enemies, and all you desire shall be yours. Nothing you can conceive is impossible for me to achieve." Even thunder-god Thor is awed.

    Film
    • Former Police Commissioner Dreyfus from The Pink Panther Strikes Again escapes a mental ward, kidnaps a physicist, and builds a disintegrator ray. Dreyfus demands that the world's secret agents kill Inspector Clouseau. As a taste of his penalty for failure, Dreyfus disintegrates the United Nations Building in Manhattan.
  • July 29, 2014
    DAN004
  • July 29, 2014
    sgtpendulum
    I think Intimidation Demonstration is for scaring foes, this YKTTW is for scaring civilians, lower ranked soldiers and muggles, used by villians.
  • July 29, 2014
    gallium
    Intimidation Demonstration doesn't necessitate evil intent, or doing anything evil. "When someone wants to show off how skilled they are with a weapon, martial arts, acrobatics, or just plain strength."

    Assuming it's OK to reply to posts from two years ago—yes, there is controversy about Dresden, and the Allied bombing campaign in general, and there is a lot of controversy about Hiroshima/Nagasaki. That is, not everyone agrees that those were callous demonstrations of power, especially not the nuclear bombs, as the United States was estimating a million casualties and ten million Japanese casualties in the invasion that was scheduled for November.

    Which is all a really longwinded way of seconding the No Real Life Examples Please suggestion. Real Life examples would be an invitation for flame bait and thread mode.
  • July 29, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ So I guess this is when they cross Moral Event Horizon (or just doing an utterly heinous deed) simply to show that he can? I see... it's a subtrope of ID then.

  • July 29, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Crossing the MEH is one of the most regular example types, but this doesnt exactly merits doing so. This is when the villain does anything evil (but petty, because Evil Is Petty) to show who's boss.

    Example could be Carmine Falcone's speech to Bruce on Batman Begins. He casually brandishes a gun and threatens to shoot Bruce with it, pointing out they are surrounded with powerful people who normally would find fault in Bruce being shot... and they are all afraid of Falcone.
  • July 29, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Film Live Action
    • In A Clockwork Orange, Alex at one point beats the shit out of his own droogs just to reassert his own dominance. Later, after he's been brainwashed so that he throws up at the thought of violence, he discovers that two of his droogs have become cops. Knowing that he can't fight back, they decide to give him a similar demonstration.

    Literature
    • In Island In The Sea Of Time, many of William Walker's actions, like ordering one of his few non-rape-happy underlings to have sex with a woman he's chosen at random, are motivated by a desire to demonstrate that he's the boss.
  • July 29, 2014
    DAN004
    In Mega Man Star Force, Gemini was a villain who's responsible for turning Planet FM desolate, and now is planning to do the same to the Earth just to show that he can.
  • August 11, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • September 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Buuuuuuump
  • September 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Uh...
  • June 30, 2016
    DAN004
    May be done by a Blood Knight and other warrior-style baddie to showcase their power.
  • June 30, 2016
    DAN004
    Compare Kingpin In His Gym, a not-so-callous demonstration of power by the baddies.
  • July 1, 2016
    Koveras
    Doesn't Ramsay Bolton in Game Of Thrones do this, like, all the time? I don't watch the series, but I hear rumors.
  • July 1, 2016
    DAN004
    I heard Cell of Dragon Ballz makes a tournament just to show off his power.
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