So Commander Kill 'em All
is a bad buy. A really bad guy. Why is he so bad? Because He says so, and he would know right. He kicks puppies
, drop kicks babies
, and isn't afraid of any Knight in Shining Armor
. He's no Harmless Villain
. He's a potential Big Bad
Except he's not. And when a situation comes up where he proves it, noboby is more surprised than him. That's right. You're actually a good guy.
Whereas Heel Realization
is where a character finally realizes they are in fact, the villain of the story, Face Realization
is the opposite. It's distinct from You Are Better Than You Think You Are
, in that the character realizes it on their own, without anyone needing to tell them, because they prove it with an indisputable act of goodness and heroism.
Why was it so hard for them to see this? Maybe they spent so much time pretending to be a not so nice guy and hiding that golden heart of theirs
that they started to believe it themselves
, or perhaps after after being turned down by the heroes they decide to embrace villainy
on to find that kitten eating doesn't suit them
no matter how pissed they are at the hero. In other cases, Good Feels Good
can creep up on you -- but sometimes it takes a while to sink in past the pretense that it's all a front.
Whatever the case, now that they know what kind of man they truly are, there's no way they'll remain one of the black hats. Being nice may be optional
, but now they're one of the good guys.
See What You Are in the Dark
for when this happens privately, and You Are Better Than You Think You Are
for when this comes from an outside influence. the obvious end result is a Heel-Face Turn
Anime and Manga
- Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z was a murderous, egotistical, power hungry bastard, but after getting married and raising a family, he found it hard to go back to his more villainous (and in his opinion more powerful) self. He had to cut a deal with a evil wizard to make himself evil again, and even then, he was still too good. It finally sinks in that he is no longer the villain he used to be when after asking the Namek Dragon to restore every person on earth who was killed by Majin Buu but the evil ones, and he is brought back to life along with them.
- Played for Laughs with Ikyno from Angel Densetsu, who realizes that rather than 'accidentally' beating up thugs, she is to her surprise, "a lot nicer of a person than [she] thought".
- this also happened with Yuji toward the end of the story. One of his old delinquent friends notes that his delinquent activities with Kitano involve things like studying and community service and no actual delinquent activities at all. Yuji finally realizes that Kitano isn't really a delinquent and that he no longer is one either, and it doesn't bother him.
- Played with by Evangeline in Mahou Sensei Negima!. She insists that she is a Big Bad no matter how much evidence is presented that would disprove it. It may be that she just doesn't want to admit it out loud. That and she's powerful enough that few characters can call her on it, with the exception of Albireo, who relentlessly trolls her.
- Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: Grandis and her two henchmen: Hanson and Sanson. They initially serve as the antagonists, constantly in pursuit of Nadia and her gem. Despite this, it doesn't take long to see they're a Quirky Miniboss Squad, rather than an actual threat. So it came as little surprise to anyone (but themselves) when they turn over a new leaf upon joining the Nautilus crew. Due largely in part to Grandis falling head over heels for Nemo.
- In Thunderbolts, MACH-1, the erstwhile Spiderman foe, ended up fighting beside him against a villain whose crimes had been blamed on Spiderman. Fight over, he gives Spiderman the evidence to clear himself, and explains to Zemo that Spiderman would have realized they weren't heroes if he refused. Back at headquarters, he goes up on the roof and stares out at the horizon because he had lied to Zemo: MACH-1, being a hero, could not fight side by side with a man and then betray him like that -- a great shock to him.
- Most of the rest of the Thunderbolts have the same realization. When Zemo reveals their secret, most of them turn against him. Atlas at first thinks himself still loyal, but when Zemo goes to kill Jolt, he revolts.
- This seems to be used regularly in works by David Gemmel. He would often have a character who because of a tough life thought of himself as a mean bastard who only did things for selfish reason. The character would join the protagonist(s) because it seemed to benefit him. However, at the end he would find that he really is a good person though it often preceded a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Morningstar had the titular character constantly proclaim that he was only doing things to get rich or to save his life. It's only after he becomes a legendary hero revered by a nation that he realizes that he did all of these things because he is a good person.
- Waylander has a scene where known liar, thief and murderer is scanned by a pair of telepathic villians who deem him no threat to their evil plans and proceed on their way. The idea that these mooks would consider him as morally irredeemable as themselves offends him so much that he performs a Heroic Sacrifice just to prove that there is some good in him.
- In the book series " Sisters Grimm", Puck is often seen shouting that he is " a villain of the worst kind", and playing pranks... but when it comes right down to it, he's one of the most heroic characters, to the point of nearly getting killed to save Sabrina's life- more than once! When other characters point out how heroic he is, he flips out and sulks for a while, then trys to prove how evil he is with a prank or two. and then the cycle repeats.
- Jherek from Threat From The Sea trilogy was a hard case. Tried long and hard to convince everyone starting from himself that as a pirate's runaway son he can't possibly be any good, before being forced to admit the painfully obvious (for everyone else) fact that he's a paladin and when he happens to heal someone with a touch, it's not because of some cheap amulet.
- In Terry Pratchett's Going Postal, Moist imagines, at the end, running off and returning to his con-man life. Instead he lets Adorabelle hold his hand and tells him that it's enough that he tells him that he can leave at any time.
- In Xena: Warrior Princess Joxer comes from a long line of warlords and tries his best to be evil, but he just can't do it. He's the White Sheep of the family, and quite embarassed about it.
- In the He Man and She Ra Christmas Special, Skeletor makes a slow Heel-Face Turn thanks to the charms of a robotic puppy and two children. When it comes time to deliver the children to Horde Prime, he instead attacks Horde Prime, and exclaims "I don't know what's come over me!"
- During Avatar's second "Boiling Rock" episode, Mai pulls a You Shall Not Pass to save Zuko. After being captured, she prepares to face Azula's wrath. Which is when Ty Lee surprises everyone, including herself, by blocking Azula's chi to prevent her from killing Mai.