Created By: Unknown Troper on November 13, 2009
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used to be a sweet kid

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Do We Have This One?? Am fairly certain we must, as it's not unusual: the idea is that a villain/other big(ish) bad used to be a nice person, or at least someone who would never do really horrible things, while a child, before exposed to whatever/whoever moved them past the Moral Event Horizon. May be invoked as part of a Freudian Excuse, failed or successful.

Often related to From Nobody to Nightmare, though the character may be of some prominence from an early age, or even from birth: Caligula, TropeNamer for The Caligula, was a minor celebrity even as a child, when he was apparently quite a sweet-natured creature, and only went malignly bonkers later. This subset of the trope can be particularly heart-breaking, as when a long-awaited Chosen One turns bad.

Proposed alternative title: Kid Heel Turn

Sometimes, the "used to be nice" stage may be revealed only retrospectively, usually by a third party, and the character himself/herself may treat the "sweet kid" stage as an Old Shame that undermines their villain cred.

Often the precursor to Break the Cutie and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.

Aversions will usually be notable here, given expectations that Children Are Innocent, or that there's at least some Ambiguous Innocence even when Kids Are Cruel, so people will tend to assume a Start of Darkness must have happened, and that there will be a Freudian Excuse that will explain (if not excuse) all. By extension, applies through subversion, inversion etc. where an Enfant Terrible, Creepy Child, or Axe Crazy junior initially manages to get past everyone's radar but is actually a little horror from the start. ("And he seemed like such a nice kid"). Often, it is not clear which a character fits under.

When played straight, tends towards Rousseau Was Right, as in Not Born Evil.

Rolling Updates, unless people turn out not to think it's tropable

Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Jotaro Kujo from Jojos Bizarre Adventure. First we see him in past as an little boy playing with mom and as an model student, and on the next page he's in cell, terrorizing fellow prisoners and telling his mother to shut up.
  • While he isn't exactly an Anti-Hero as we know him, Ichigo from Bleach was a clingy mummy's boy before said mummy was killed by a hollow, whereupon he became the Perpetual Frowner he is by the series starts. With the exception of when he's upset.
  • Roberto, The Dragon from Monster, is retrospectively revealed to have been a sweet kid (gave up his cup of hot chocolate to give it to a sick friend, liked to collect bugs, but would always let them go because he couldn't bring himself to kill them). Then the Orphanage of Fear really got to him - and as for the later character he shows in the story proper, let's just say "wouldn't hurt a fly" is not the phrase that leaps to mind.
  • Michio Yuki from OsamuTezuka's MW is a sweet-natured, rather shy kid till the age of nine when he gets, in short order, taken hostage, molested, and exposed to potentially lethal neurotoxins. After that, he goes a bit off the rails.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, one side story focusing on Sousuke and Kalinin's backstory showed that Sousuke was this. During his childhood, when he was rescued by Kalinin and they spent time together, Kalinin was shown to love Sousuke and grow so attached to "that sweet and gentle boy" to the point where he really wanted to adopt him as his own. Then, of course, they got separated, and the next time they meet, they met as enemies, with Sousuke becoming the Nietzsche Wannabe Stoic that we know today.

ComicBooks

Film

Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • September 13, 2009
    Amazingly Enough
    In Jonathan Carroll's novel Bones of the Moon, the main character's husband comments that the boy who lived in the apartment above them, dubbed "The Axe Boy", was always such a good boy before he was arrested for chopping up his mother and sister.
    "He seemed like a good kid, didn't he Cullen? 'Axe Boy'? Jesus, what a thing to call someone!"
    "Danny, our young friend 'Axe Boy' Alvin Willians chopped his mother and sister into pieces exactly one floor above our apartment. A good boy he is not."

    Found the quote, because it's what I thought of immediately when I saw the title.
  • September 13, 2009
    Lee M
    Song: Alice Cooper, "No More Mr. Nice Guy". First person, too.
  • September 13, 2009
    Shellsh0cker
    Possible page quote:

    Player Two is red. He's a quiet sort of lunatic. The type everyone always says "was such a nice kid" after they find like, twenty human faces in his freezer.
    --Player Two character bio, Ctrl+Alt+Del
  • September 13, 2009
    kyzzi
    Music: Only a Lad by Oingo Boingo
  • September 13, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Ben Linus from Lost gets a story arc showing him as an innocent kid who was abused by his father. Also includes the Moral Event Horizon.
  • September 13, 2009
    Kayube
    Possible title: Kid Heel Turn.
  • September 13, 2009
    Amazingly Enough
    The Lost example has a good quote. From season five, the cast has gone back in time to the days of the Dharma Initiative, where Sayid meets young Ben:
    Sawyer: (to Sayid) How are you doing?
    Sayid: A twelve year-old Benjamin Linus just brought me a chicken salad sandwich. How do you think I'm doing?
    Sawyer: Sweet kid, huh?

    Although Ben was sorta creepy even as a kid.

    Oh, and this trope is related to From Nobody To Nightmare.
  • September 14, 2009
    Unknown Troper
  • September 14, 2009
    Bisected8
    While he isn't exactly an Anti Hero as we know him, Ichigo from Bleach was a clingy mummy's boy before said mummy was killed by a hollow, whereupon he became the Perpetual Frowner he is by the series starts. With the exception of when he's upset.
  • September 14, 2009
    hordriss
    Eddie from The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a song about it.
  • September 14, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Eddie as in "From the day he vas born, he vas trouble/he vas the thorn in his Mutter's side"? It's been a while since I saw it, so there may be lyrical, uh, nuances in "Hot Patootie" that I've forgotten, but unless von Scott is being grossly unfair, I'm not sure Eddie quite fits...
  • September 14, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Averted by Tom Riddle in Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince, who is already twisted at age 11.
  • September 14, 2009
    Dick Richardson
  • September 15, 2009
    Primo Victoria
    Jotaro Kujo from Jojos Bizarre Adventure. First we see him in past as an little boy playing with mom and as an model student, and on the next page he's in cell, terrorizing fellowprisoners and telling his mother to shut up.

    • Red Skull from infaumous Captain America movie. Before super-soldier experiment - nice kid playing on piano. Years after experiment - crazy natzi with super-strenght who wants to rule the world.
  • September 16, 2009
    Lee M
    Harry Enfield's Kevin was a well-behaved, if hyperactive, boy until he turned thirteen, at which point his hormones kicked in and turned him into the teenage horror we all know and love.
  • September 20, 2009
    TB Tabby
    Often the precursor to Break The Cutie and Woobie Destroyer Of Worlds.

    Monty Burns on The Simpsons was depicted as one in "Rosebud." A flashback showed him happily playing with his teddy bear Bobo, and being referred to by his parents as "Happy." He immediately abandons them, however, to live with a "twisted, loveless billionaie."
  • September 21, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Given some of the suggestions, we probably want to go easy on the real-life examples here...
  • September 23, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    And Vernon Scannel's poem "Incendiary" - so is this launchable yet?
  • September 23, 2009
    Genuine

  • September 24, 2009
    Seikai
    • In Full Metal Panic, one side story focusing on Sousuke and Kalinin's backstory showed that Sousuke was this. During his childhood, when he was rescued by Kalinin and they spent time together, Kalinin was shown to love Sousuke and grow so attached to "that sweet and gentle boy" to the point where he really wanted to adopt him as his own. Then, of course, they got separated, and the next time they meet, they met as enemies, with Sousuke becoming the Nietzsche Wannabe Stoic that we know today.
  • September 24, 2009
    BlackMageJ
    Very deliberately averted in the case of Xykon from The Order Of The Stick- the whole point of the ''Start Of Darkness' prequel book was to show that he had no redeeming features whatsoever, and never did- in the creator's words, not only is he thoroughly evil, he's also sort of a dick.
  • September 24, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Aversions may also be generally notable here, given expectations that Children Are Innocent, or that there's at least some Ambiguous Innocence even when Kids Are Cruel, so people will tend to assume a Start Of Darkness must have happened, and that there will be a Freudian Excuse that will explain (if not excuse) all.
  • September 25, 2009
    random surfer
    Selden in Hound Of The Baskervilles, not Sedden.
  • September 27, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Had some problems making edits without losing large chunks of the text (anyone know why this would happen?), but will make the edit if this makes it to the launch stage
  • September 30, 2009
    deuxhero
    One of Neal Boortz's (many) pet peaves is the family of criminals claiming this.
  • September 30, 2009
    Known Unknown
    I don't know if there's any examples of the The Joker being shown as a kid, just as an adult right before his fateful acid bath. And Depending On The Writer, he might be sweet... or not so sweet.

    Another Batman example would be the more recent villain, Hush, who was, briefly, a good kid, at least we can assume we was before he plotted to kill his parents; A few other villains have had special comics show their lives since childhood as well.

    I'm suggesting something like Nobody Is Born Evil as a title.
  • September 30, 2009
    random surfer
    There's a Chick Tract about a nice kid who turns monstorusly evil when he finds out there's no Santa Claus. He ends up on Death Row.
  • October 2, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Isn't Nobody Is Born Evil mostly covered by Rousseau Was Right? This trope is more on the lines of this character was not born evil (or malignly insane, or both), and given the frequent subversions (seemed like a good kid until s/he went Ax Crazy or similar/worse, but may just have been Wolf In Sheeps Clothing)...
  • October 2, 2009
    GALX
    The Indian Prince's boy from Faerie Tale, who we are told was once a nice boy.
  • October 2, 2009
    Known Unknown
    Nobody Is Born Evil would imply that, even if someone was a villain, they weren't always that way.
  • October 2, 2009
    Unknown Troper
  • October 9, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Again, this one is not supposed to be fixed by agreement with Rousseau Was Right - it's got room for more individual cases. That said, it can be left to not get launched if it seems too unworkable, but it seems like it does raise a point, so Up For Grabs, at the very least?
  • November 6, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Bump, for what it's worth
  • November 13, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Incredibles: as an adolescent, Syndrome aka Buddy Pine was an adoring fan of Mr. Incredible until he was seemingly brushed away by his idol.
  • November 14, 2009
    Shini
    Alice Cooper's No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • December 10, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    bump - may move to launch unless anyone gives objections to this being tropable in the next few days
  • December 10, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Pain was a nice but troubled and unlucky kid before his Start Of Darkness.
  • December 10, 2009
    Some Guy
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