Created By: MadAnthony94 on December 24, 2016 Last Edited By: MadAnthony94 on October 8, 2017
Troped

Wicked Pretentious

The bad guy only thinks he's got class

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Wanda: But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it.

A villain whose air of cultured good breeding serves to enhance their evilness, but they only put it on as an act. A Wicked Cultured villain is genuinely educated, refined, and well-mannered; this guy is crass with mere delusions of class. Perhaps the soft spoken "respectable" businessman never got out of the habit of carrying a switchblade, or the ruthless Rich Bitch social climber keeps can't help but drop cues as to her humble upbringing. Sometimes this can be explained as lack of culture driving the character to villainy, as they can't find acceptance among high society and so decide to say Then Let Me Be Evil.

Compare and contrast with Wicked Cultured, of course, and with Lower-Class Lout; Nouveau Riche characters who are outright evil are usually this trope, but nothing's stopping old money from also fitting it. See also Delusions of Eloquence, Delusions of Local Grandeur, Inferiority Superiority Complex.


Examples:

    Comic Books 
  • The Penguin from Batman is from an upper class family but is also a brutal gangster. Several stories show that he just doesn't fit in among Gotham's social elite despite his best attempts.

     Film-Animation 

     Film-Live Action 
  • James Bond villains get this treatment a lot. The average Bond villain is Nouveau Riche, vulgarly showy with his wealth, adorns himself with attractive female assistants a fraction of his age, has notable deformities that he calls attention to by trying to hide, and one or two of them even cheat at "gentlemen's" games.
  • In Batman Returns, the Penguin was born deformed due to inbreeding and his parents, to avoid scandal, quietly disposed of him. Growing up as a carnival freak, he returns to Gotham but doesn't fit in among the upper crust because of his atrocious manners.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: Richmond Valentine, who rolls in high-class circles but is an upstart tech mogul who dresses poorly and serves fast food at meetings. This contrasts with the protagonist, Eggsy, who is generally regarded as a street thug but whose journey is all about finding his own variety of class.
  • A Fish Called Wanda: Otto is a violent thug who thinks reading Nietzsche makes him much more intelligent and cultured than he really is. Best illustrated by the page quote.
  • Django Unchained's antagonist Calvin Candie. He thinks he is charming, intelligent and cultured; he is actually cruel, petty, stupid and disgusting. The greatest challenge facing Schulz and Django is flattering and playing along with him without revealing their disgust.
  • The titular thief Albert Spica from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is a mafia boss that has taken control of the La Hollandais restaurant were he dines every day with his wife and crew. He fancies himself an intellectual and elite, ordering French food (while mispronouncing the words), musing about philosophy and shaming his group for using improper utensils. In reality, he is a gross, abusive, heartless man. He tortures and kills people he believes have crossed him (regardless of whether they actually did it or if it warranted the punishment), publicly brutalizes his wife and various patrons at the restaurant, harasses Michael for reading while at the dinner table, and this is just what we see on screen. He is so bad, that both the kitchen staff and his own men turn on him by the end of the film.

    Literature 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Tywin Lannister makes a big deal about maintaining regal composure in public, but he can stray into hypocrisy sometimes, like when he arranged for his enemies to be killed over dinner, something that's the epitome of bad taste in Westeros; plus, despite calling it unfitting, he's apparently been seeing whores secretly for some time.
  • The Godfather: it's noted that the oldest and most experienced wiseguys try to seem the most respectable but also wear the cheapest suits. This is deliberate on their part; they want you to know they are accustomed to getting their hands dirty and respectability hasn't changed that.
  • Patrick Bateman, the yuppie serial killer from American Psycho makes a pretense at being an aficionado of fine food, clothing, and music. Close inspection will reveal that he's only interested in these things because they're popular fads, and actually has little understanding of any of the subjects.
  • Chrysler Peavy in Mortal Engines is a pirate leader who began having delusions of being a respectable mayor after seizing control of the suburb Tunbridge Wheels and now plans to turn it into the world's first respectable pirate suburb... a task which he utterly fails at since none of his crew share any of his ambitions, and he himself is still a ruthless pirate at heart.
  • The Hound Of The D Urbervilles makes Colonel Moran out to be a strange inversion. Despite being raised in a good family and famed for his distinguished military career, he just doesn't give a damn about his reputation and is quite happy living as a thug and a murderer who only feels at peace when his life is in danger.

    Video Games 
  • In the Arkham Asylum games, everything about Penguin is an inversion of the classic gentleman, from the beer bottle monocle to the guttural East End accent.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Genesis Rhapsodos has this as a defining feature of his personality. To quote a description of him from his TV Tropes character entry: "Wicked Cultured: More like Wicked Pretentious, but he still qualifies. He's one of the world's leading scholars on LOVELESS and is implied to have published writings about his theories to its meaning."
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • December 24, 2016
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Added media section titles.
      • Alphabetized media sections.
      • Put examples in correct media sections.
      • Namespaced work names.
      • Added punctuation (commas).
  • December 24, 2016
    marcoasalazarm
    The Sting: Lonnegan is a mob boss who tries to show himself as presentable such as for example by playing Golf on high class country clubs. From his very first scene we find out that he is a murderous brute with a love for Disproportionate Retribution.
  • March 26, 2017
    Getta
    I thought there's a more general trope of "delusions of class", about people who want to look more classy than he actually is. Especially important for feudal settings with lots of nobles running around.
  • March 26, 2017
    WaterBlap
    I think these could be mentioned in the description: Delusions Of Eloquence, Delusions Of Local Grandeur, Inferiority Superiority Complex.
  • September 24, 2017
    MetaFour
    Often overlaps with Nouveau Riche.
  • September 24, 2017
    LavonPapillon1
    • The titular thief Albert Spica from The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover is a mafia boss that has taken control of the La Hollandais restaurant were he dines every day with his wife and crew. He fancies himself an intellectual and elite, ordering French food (while mispronouncing the words), musing about philosophy and shaming his group for using improper utensils. In reality, he is a gross, abusive, heartless man. He tortures and kills people he believes have crossed him (regardless of whether they actually did it or if it warranted the punishment), publicly brutalizes his wife and various patrons at the restaurant, harasses Michael for reading while at the dinner table, and this is just what we see on screen. He is so bad, that both the kitchen staff and his own men turn on him by the end of the film.
  • September 24, 2017
    Astaroth
    @Getta: Is the trope you're tinking of Fake Aristocrat?

    • Chrysler Peavy in Mortal Engines is a pirate leader who began having delusions of being a respectable mayor after seizing control of the suburb Tunbridge Wheels and now plans to turn it into the world's first respectable pirate suburb... a task which he utterly fails at since none of his crew share any of his ambitions, and he himself is still a ruthless pirate at heart.
  • September 24, 2017
    JoeG
    • A Fish Called Wanda: Otto is a violent thug who has delusions of being much more intelligent and cultured than he really is. The following exchange between him and his girlfriend Wanda could be the page quote:
      Wanda: But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
      Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
      Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it.
  • September 24, 2017
    JesseMB27
    To the OP, there is one example that maybe of interest to you from Final Fantasy VII (and its spinoffs).

    Video Games
    • Final Fantasy VII: Genesis Rhapsodos has this as a defining feature of his personality. To quote a description of him from his TV Tropes character entry: "Wicked Cultured: More like Wicked Pretentious, but he still qualifies. He's one of the world's leading scholars on LOVELESS and is implied to have published writings about his theories to its meaning."
  • September 25, 2017
    epoxy
    Django Unchained's antagonist Calvin Candie. He thinks he is charming, intelligent and cultured; he is actually cruel, petty, stupid and disgusting. The greatest challenge facing Schulz and Django is flattering and playing along with him without revealing their disgust.
  • September 25, 2017
    MetaFour
    "Wicked Cultured: More like Wicked Pretentious, but he still qualifies. He's one of the world's leading scholars on LOVELESS and is implied to have published writings about his theories to its meaning."

    I almost think Wicked Pretentious might be a better title for this trope...
  • September 26, 2017
    longWriter
    An American Tail: Warren T. Rat pretends to be quite cultured, quoting Shakespeare and playing the violin...neither of which he's able to do correctly.
  • September 28, 2017
    Rytex
    The Great Mouse Detective has Professor Padraic Rattigan, a Moriarty Expy who tries to pass himself off as a Mouse of Wealth and Taste, but his Berserk Button, coupled with his Villainous Breakdown, only serve to show the audience how classless he really is.
  • October 5, 2017
    MadAnthony94
    Does anyone else agree with Wicked Pretentious? @Astaroth Do you think Fake Aristocrat covers this trope well enough?
  • October 6, 2017
    JoeG
    I vote for "Wicked Pretentious". The problem with "Faux Wicked Cultured" is that it is unclear whether "Faux" goes with "Wicked" or "Cultured".
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