->''"Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?"''
-->-- '''Glinda''', ''Wicked''

Sometimes your villain isn't the MadScientist who wants to poison the city, or the CorruptCorporateExecutive who wants to control the world, or the greedy bank robber who's on a crime spree. Sometimes, your villain's just an average guy who's brought into villainy against their own will or control. This isn't MindControl or possession, it's because they've been warped by events around them, and forced into villainy by forces outside their control. A broken shell of a human being, the only thing left is insanity.

To alter an old saying: "Some people are born into insanity, others have insanity thrust upon them." While their villainous actions have no excuse, their cause for becoming villains was entirely (or mostly) out of their hands.

It's rare to find a villain who is ''truly'' blameless in their origin, though it does happen. Even origins that lament the cruelty of fate, like The Joker's in ''The Killing Joke'', eventually reveal that the origin is still largely due to the character's ''choices''. Indeed, a villain who is fed up with [[ButtMonkey abuse by others]] or out for revenge is ''still'' making the active choice to be villainous, and if it is still clear that the villain made the choice to be evil themselves rather than have it made for them, then they're not exactly broken, just enraged to the point of vengeance.

However, the trend seems to be that, the more arbitrary their fall into villainy seems to be, the more psychotic they become, as those screwed by the world become angry at the world, and seek to inflict their new madness on everyone. The end result of being DrivenToVillainy '''is not''' a good person forced to do evil, but a legitimately evil villain, tragically warped by things they never had any control over.

A SubTrope of AntiVillain. Compare FreudianExcuse and ThenLetMeBeEvil. Contrast TrappedInVillainy. Such a character may become a WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds. See also FromNobodyToNightmare. The more mundane version of this trope would be SocietyIsToBlame.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Quite a few examples in ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', whose author Kishimoto has turned traumatic childhoods into a fine art.
** Gaara comes to mind - upon birth, a demon was sealed inside him, with his mother becoming a sacrifice, so that he could become his ninja village's ultimate weapon. But said demon also makes everyone in the village terrified of him, and he grows up reviled as a monster. Finally, his own father (who arranged the whole thing in the first place), finding him growing unstable, sends assassins to kill him. The first assassin is his beloved uncle, the only one who seems to care for him, who reveals that he's actually secretly hated him all these years for killing his sister (Gaara's mom, the one who was sacrificed to make him what he was), and that his mother had died cursing the village and hoped that Gaara killed them all - his name, given by her, means "The Demon who loves only himself". Naturally, he finally snaps, and spends the next few years killing everyone he runs across as a way of proving that he exists. Oh, and the demon in question prevents him from sleeping, less it starts eating away at his mind.
** Sasuke is an even more literal example, as from a certain point of view his entire life has been orchestrated by at least two major villains for the purpose of making him evil, for their own ends, [[spoiler: namely, Orochimaru and Madara; Itachi is either an anti-hero or a third major villain, depending on your POV and to what degree Madara is telling the truth; Danzou might qualify as yet another villain guilty of this, except that he didn't really care about Sasuke and saw him as collateral damage at best for his plans]]. The massacre of his entire family and clan by his beloved older brother (who brutalized him, and told him to hate more and murder his best friend), at the age of 8, was only the beginning of that. At present, [[spoiler: the plan is working quite well indeed]].
* Hayate Yagami from ''MagicalGirlLyricalNanoha A's''? She is ''de jure'' the BigBad, since all the fighting takes place for her sake but ''de facto'' she doesn't even know that her servants (whom she considers her family) are committing crimes for her and joins Team Nanoha immediately after TheReveal. Also, very much an example of WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds.
* Johan Liebert from ''{{Anime/Monster}}''. No, really. Hard as it is to imagine, he was once a frightened little boy clinging to his mother's leg before he was systematically warped by secret psychological torture [[spoiler:that actually happened to his ''sister'', and that he managed to accidentally create as a false memory for himself]] and then even more brainwashing to become the perfect little East German super-soldier. While he was already a full-on EnfantTerrible by age 6 or 7, he wasn't born that way, and would not have become how he ended up without these traumas.
** [[spoiler: It's implied that what actually broke him was, at the age of six, realizing that his mother favored one of the children more than the other when she willingly handed one over to Bonaparta. The knowledge that people were inherently different and that favouritism could drive people to do things like that]]
* Mao, from ''CodeGeass''. A Yandere who shoots C.C. and proposes taking a chainsaw to her in order to make her 'compact' for a trip to Australia, as well as attempting to blow up Nunnally. Also adept at BreakingSpeech-slash-MindRape, which he uses twice. However, he is also completely barmy because he cannot shut off the thoughts of others, thus mitigating his moral culpability for his above acts, as C.C. hints at before blowing his brains out.
* Aion in the manga version of ''ChronoCrusade'' was badly psychologically damaged after discovering the AwfulTruth--so badly that it even had a [[LockedIntoStrangeness marked physical effect]] on him. That event warped him into the WellIntentionedExtremist we see him as in the series.
* Ken Ichijouji from ''Anime/{{Digimon Adventure 02}}'' wished his older brother would [[NeverSayDie disappear]], and eventually had to cope with [[BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor his death in a car wreck]]. A CompellingVoice brought him into AnotherDimension and he finally lost it, becoming The Digimon Emporer.
* Almost all of the ''Manga/BlackLagoon'' cast not in major leadership positions. Hansel and Gretel are a particularly sad example.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Perhaps the best example of this trope is Max Eisenhardt aka {{Magneto}} from the ComicBook/{{X-Men}}. His origin story is enough to drive anyone to villainy, and yet, throughout the comics (and the movies) he is shown as not fueled by revenge, blind hate against humanity, or the desire to do evil. His ultimate motivation is to fight for his own kind - the Mutants - which he sees as persecuted by the common humans for being different and perceived as dangerous.
* {{Spider-Man}} is loaded with these: The Lizard is another example, as long as you don't count that time where they implied that Conners was in control the whole time (neither the [[FanonDisContinuity fandom]] or [[CanonDisContinuity writers]] do, however). Norman Osborn has gone so far as to feign that [[BlatantLies this is the cause for all his crimes]].
** In the ''Spider-Man'' comics, the Hobgoblin from the year 2211 is revealed to be this. She's the daughter of that years' time traveling Spider-Man, who is forced to arrest her due to crimes that she would commit in the future, and placed in a virtual reality prison, which is programmed into her brain to keep her in a fantasy world. Her boyfriend tries to free her with a computer virus, which instead adversely effects the fantasy, warps her mind and drives her completely insane. True to form, her imprisonment is [[SelfFulfillingProphecy what caused her insane criminal spree in the first place]]. She uses her knowledge as an inter-dimensional researcher to create time traveling equipment and goes on a history-erasing rampage through time.
* Before it was retconned that he had actually been possessed the whole time, [[GreenLantern Hal Jordan's]] FaceHeelTurn into the KnightTemplar supervillain Parallax was portrayed as this, having gone insane with grief over the annihilation of his hometown of Coast City.
* The Homelander in ''ComicBook/TheBoys'' was never a saint, but he was driven to become a monster because he believed he was already hopelessly murderously insane when he saw images of himself committing horrible crimes (like baby eating) that he didn't remember. [[spoiler:His clone Black Noir dressed up as him and framed him for his crimes to drive Homelander crazy so he could fulfill his purpose: to kill Homelander.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* {{Magneto}} from the Film/{{X-Men}}. See Comic Books entry above.
* ''Film/TheDarkKnight'''s Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Given that he got his new worldview from The Joker while lying medicated in a hospital bed recovering from both a disfiguring injury and a horrible tragedy, you feel sorry for the guy as he performs his horrible acts throughout the rest of the film. Though there was some {{foreshadowing}} that he was walking along the slippery slope before the Joker gave him the push.
* Francis Dolarhyde out of the Hannibal Lecter film ''Film/{{Manhunter}}'':
--> '''Will Graham''': As a child, my heart bleeds for him. Someone took a [[FreudianExcuse little boy and turned him into a monster.]] But as an adult... as an adult, he's irredeemable. He butchers whole families to fulfill some sick fantasy. As an adult, I think someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks.
* In the ''Film/SpiderManTrilogy'', both the Green Goblin and Doc Ock had elements of this. The former was driven insane by gas and the other by [[AIIsACrapshoot an AI]] and a FailSafeFailure.
* In ''Film/PainAndGain'', Paul objects to Daniel's kidnapping plan from the start and only goes along with it after he's promised that they won't physically hurt anyone. From there he gets progressively dragged further into the scheme and is eventually urged to kill the victim. His ensuing addiction to cocaine makes him spiral further out of control [[spoiler:until he atones for his crimes and professes his guilt to the authorities.]]

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* The prequel to ''ComicBook/TheWalkingDead'', ''[[Literature/TheWalkingDeadRiseOfTheGovernor The Rise of the Governor]]'' reveals the backstory of what was a monster in the comics and makes him out to be a TragicVillain.
* In the prequels to ''Literature/TheBelgariad'', it is revealed that Zedar's FaceHeelTurn was not a voluntary action of joining Torak, but rather a case of Torak incurably [[MindRape mind raping]] him.
* VCAndrews has this in the more infamous big bad's in the series. The tragic past of the main villain is usually revealed in a prequel.
* Kissin' Kate Barlow in ''{{Holes}}'' by Louis Sachar was a sweet schoolteacher until the town she taught in [[spoiler: lynched the man she loved because he'd kissed her, and they were different races.]]
* In ''[[AuntDimity Aunt Dimity Goes West]]'', it is revealed that an infamous local mine disaster was due to sabotage caused by a disgruntled employee who had owned the claim originally, sold it for a pittance ($5,000.00), and later learned it contained a rich vein of gold (worth $200 million!). It also turns out that [[spoiler: his wife committed suicide, his son was sent to an orphanage, and his great-grandson later reopened the mine and set a bomb in it to destroy the house built on the site by the owner's descendants]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Smallville}}''
** A character in an early episode was mutated by a combination of Kryptonite and hypothermia. In order to prevent freezing to death, he had to drain people of their body heat (which, if he waited too long to do it, would result in their deaths) in order to survive, and a case could be made that he wasn't truly villainous, and was forced to kill people in order to survive. However the guy was made such a self-centered, vindictive psychopathic JerkAss that [[HandWave the point became moot]].
** Another episode had a girl who had to regularly ''[[IAmAHumanitarian eat human flesh]]'' to keep from starving to death (regular food didn't work). She never actually killed anyone, just left them near death from the damage to their bodies. This was clearly a case of HorrorHunger, and in at least one instance, she urged a potential victim to run away.
** For real tragedy, see Davis Bloome in Season 8. A NiceGuy paramedic, Davis suffers from constant black outs and discovers that he has alien SerialKiller and PersonOfMassDestruction Doomsday trapped inside him, and that the only way to keep the monster from taking over and slaughtering dozens of people is to kill individual victims. He thus becomes a PayEvilUntoEvil-type AntiHero, murdering those he considers to be deserving of it in order to keep his inner monster trapped. This eventually drives him completely insane, and results in his descent into true villainy.
* In the ''Series/CriminalMinds'' episode "True Night", we see a comic book artist become a serial killer after he survived an attack which killed his (pregnant) fiancee, with his inability to protect her being the root of his villainy.
* The Queen from ''Series/OnceUponATime''. She did many horrible things, but they were done because she crossed the DespairEventHorizon after her mother ripped her boyfriend's heart out in front of her. It was also kind of Snow White's fault, though she didn't do it on purpose.
** Rumplestiltskin was one of the main villains of the series. He committed many terrible crimes and screwed people over, but the reason he became the Dark One in the first place was to save his son. His son would have been forcefully recruited to fight a losing war against ogres on his fourteenth birthday (the reason kids were fighting is because so many people were killed that they were running low on troops). He was manipulated into becoming the Dark One by the previous one, who was tired of doing the job himself. The power was implied to be corrupting Rumplestiltskin.
* Many criminals from ''Series/TheWire'' are born into unrelenting and abject poverty, have no positive figures such as caring parents or role models around them, and the societal systems that are supposed to help them (schools, police, social services) are crumbling or being outright dismantled by {{Sleazy Politician}}s and the like. Is it any wonder many of them turn to theft and drug dealing?
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Fou-lu in ''BreathOfFire IV''. [[spoiler: He is a PhysicalGod who is also the KingInTheMountain for the country he founded as a GodEmperor (after being summoned there by a VestigialEmpire--who buggered up the summoning leading to aforementioned PhysicalGod developing a LiteralSplitPersonality that ends up displaced 600 years in the future). Unfortunately, said empire has become TheEmpire over six hundred years of hibernation, TheEmperor doesn't want to give up his seat, one of TheEmperor's main assistants is MadScientist [[KarmaHoudini Yuna]] who convinces him he can kill a ''god'', and this ends up in increasingly more extreme methods by TheEmpire to kill Fou-lu (eventually culminating in the use of a FantasticNuke which runs on nightmares and created the the ColdBloodedTorture and HumanSacrifice of people with very close connections to the target...with Fou-lu's ''girlfriend'' used as the [[HumanResources Thermonuclear Country Girl]] because aforementioned FantasticNuke ''also'' works on the principle of LoveHurts). This cascading Pain Train [[BreakTheCutie Breaks The Cutie]] to the point Fou-lu ends up a WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Prototype}}'' has Alex Mercer, who [[WakingUpAtTheMorgue wakes up in a morgue]] to find out that he has EasyAmnesia and has been turned into a [[BodyHorror horrifying]] VoluntaryShapeshifter. Cue RoaringRampageOfRevenge. This is played straight, subverted, and then ''inverted'': [[spoiler:Upon waking, Alex does horrible things like [[strike:eat]] [[ImAHumanitarian consume people]] [[ItMakesSenseInContext in order to]] [[EasyAmnesia figure out what is going on]]. It's hard to blame him ''too'' much for being [[AxCrazy batshit crazy]], though, considering he's been turned into a ''living virus'' and has no memory of who he is or what happened to bring him to this point and people have been trying to brutally murder him since he woke up.]] That's the played straight. It's then subverted when [[TheReveal it's revealed]] that [[spoiler:''Alex himself'' is the one who released the [[TheVirus deadly virus]], dubbed "Blacklight", that turned him into a monster and is currently ''decimating'' New York state. Flashbacks show you that Alex is a sociopath who deliberately engineered an already deadly virus to become ''ten times more dangerous'', and then stole a sample and unleashed it upon the general populace when he was shot dead with the mindset of "If I'm going down, I'm TakingYouWithMe."]] That's the subversion. Now the ''inversion'' shows up in this way: [[spoiler:It turns out that Alex isn't the one who released the Blacklight Virus. Well, he ''is'', but the twist is this: The Alex you've been controlling isn't the ''real'' Alex Mercer. When he was shot dead, he was actually [[KilledOffForReal killed off for real]]. Turns out that the Alex you know isn't even human; he's ''the Blacklight Virus itself'' in a human avatar. The reason this is an inversion is because it/he goes from originally being the MadScientist that the real Alex was, to a SociopathicHero, to a person who becomes empathetic enough over the course of the game to actually express disgust over who the real Alex was and risk its life to save Manhattan from being [[NukeEm nuked]]]].
* [[{{Myst}} Myst III: Exile]] has Saveedro, who's entire homeworld was apparently destroyed and who now wants to force the man he blames to see what happened, so he steals a book from him. When he finds out the player isn't the person he's looking for, [[spoiler:he kills you if he gets the opprotunity]].
* Keiichi, Shmion, Rena, and, to an extent, [[spoiler: Satoko]] in ''HigurashiNoNakuKoroNi''. They don't choose to become villains when they do start killing people, as it's caused by a combination of [[spoiler:the HatePlague, Hinamizawa Syndrome]] and some overall bad shit that happens to them.
* [[spoiler:Bernkastel]] in ''UminekoNoNakuKoroNi.'' She's essentially an [[spoiler:incarnation of [[FallenHero all of the Rikas who died]] [[HigurashiNoNakuKoroNi in Hinamizawa]] as [[HatePlague her friends went insane and killed each other]] and [[DoomedHometown the entire village was destroyed]]]]. Well, it's no wonder that the combination of all of that had some mental damage. It's the "having the [[RealityWarper power]] to screw around with [[spoiler:[[AlternateUniverse other worlds]]]]" part that causes the problems.
* Isair and Madae, the {{Big Bad}}s of ''IcewindDale II''. While their origins -- half-demon half-elves shunned and misunderstood or manipulated by everyone, whose mother committed suicide when she first saw them -- are undeniably tragic, it's very clear they've crossed the line into choosing villainy at the point the Legion of the Chimera started burning and looting the Ten Towns.
* Kael'Thas Sunstrider in WorldOfWarcraft. His homeland was wrecked, his people's allies in the Alliance turned on them, and long term exposure to the Sunwell followed by its' removal had given his people addictions to magic. The only way to escape the Alliance general hunting him was to flee to Outland, and the only place to get large amounts of magic in Outland is to absorb it from demons. Tragically, Fel energy is even more addictive than normal magic and makes one DrunkOnTheDarkSide, to the point where Kael is willing to align with the same Demon Lord who ordered his homeland destroyed in the first place to get more power.
** Kael's boss Illidan a debatable example. His entire life consists of WellIntentionedExtremist actions and being punished for them until he finally flees Azeroth altogether and bulids an empire in Outland in an attempt to escape the Burning Legion's ire. Like Kael, the [[DrunkOnTheDarkSide influence of Fel magic]] made him more and more willing to enslave and slaughter anyone who didn't fall in line.
** The Zandalari trolls maintained strict neutrality for millennia until the Cataclysm caused their homeland to begin slowly sinking into the ocean. Realizing that the other troll civilizations were on the verge of extinction as well, they rallied the tribes in an attempt to build a new troll empire. They even allied with the Mogu and [[LawfulEvil the Thunder King]] in hopes of finding a new homeland in Pandaria.
* The two evil gods in the ''VideoGame/{{Disciples}}'' series didn't get this way on their own. Bethrezen was once an angel of Highfather, and Mortis was once known as Solonielle, the goddess of the elves and the merfolk. However, Bethrezen was misblamed for creating the world of Nevendaar as a CrapsackWorld (the other angels screwed it up out of jealousy and blamed him), and Highfather imprisoned him forever in the molten core of Nevendaar. Naturally, Bethrezen grew to hate Highfather and his own creation, eventually creating a race of demons to free him and destroy the world. Solonielle's lover Gallean was brutally killed by Wotan for daring to suggest that Wotan's dwarves pay for slaughtering innocent elves. Wotan threw Gallean's heart into the sun, and Solonielle managed to catch it, but her flesh was burned off as a result. Thus she became the fleshless goddess Mortis, who massacres a magical people and turns them into her undead minions. After finally reviving Gallean, he takes one look at her and leaves. Basically, [[JerkassGods all gods are jerks]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* {{MAG ISA}}: [[http://mag-isa.thecomicseries.com/comics/266 Kyle]], [[http://mag-isa.thecomicseries.com/comics/276 Alice]], and [[http://mag-isa.thecomicseries.com/comics/271 Chu]] were forced by their tragic childhoods to join the cult known as "The Order".
* In ''WebComic/OrderOfTheStick'', TheDragon Redcloak's race (goblins) was, at least according to his god, created for the sole purpose of being slaughtered for easy XP by the [[FiveRaces PC races]]. In his StartOfDarkness prequel, KnightTemplar good guys destroyed his home, nonchalantly killing noncombatants such as children and old folks, including his entire family except for one of his brothers. So when a vision from his god showed him how he could potentially make the lives of his people better, he took it, despite it having the risk of undoing creation if it fails. As author Rich Burlew says:
-->Some people choose evil, and some are driven to it by what life has forced them to endure. [[BigBad Xykon]] is not one of these. [[WellIntentionedExtremist Redcloak]], however, might be.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Literature/{{Worm}}'', this is the case for many of the villains. [[TheBeastmaster Bitch]] never had an opportunity to be anything more than a villain after she [[TraumaticSuperpowerAwakening killed her abusive foster mother]], [[PeoplePuppets Regent]] was born to a family of villains and forced to commit crimes with them from the moment he got his powers, and [[VillainProtagonist Skitter]] started out as TheMole before being [[spoiler:screwed by Armsmaster and realizing that the system was broken.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* [[PsychoElectro Electro]] is done this way in ''TheSpectacularSpiderman''. While working in Curt Connors' lab, he falls victim to an accident that leaves him charged with electric energy, unable to live safely without a suit covering him at all times. Over the course of the episode, his mentality degrades more an more as he fails to deal with the loss of his humanity and is repeatedly attacked by Spiderman (who doesn't realize the situation), and the cops (who do, but deal with it too harshly). His first criminal act is merely to try to hold Connors hostage until he can come up with a cure, but he eventually goes completely insane and detaches himself completely from [[ThatManIsDead himself]] and his sanity.
** An even better example is John Jameson from the same. After piloting his spaceship safely back to Earth, he is exposed to alien spores, which infect his body and increase his size and strength. His father convinces him to become a superhero, but the spores eventually effect his mind, making him more aggressive and filled with rage, eventually causing an extreme personality change. After Venom, acting as Spiderman, attacks him, he flies into a rage and goes on a rampage to kill Spidey. Though he is ultimately cured, the experience took its toll; the spores had him enough that, with them gone, he is obsessively addicted to them. He's last seen in an insane asylum, with a cell next to Electro, who echoes his position. If he appears again as a villain, the cycle will be complete. This is somewhat more evident as this than Electro, as, in this case, Jameson was one of the more heroic supporting characters in the series.
* Deconstructed with [[BigBad Demona]] from ''{{WesternAnimation/Gargoyles}}''. If you ask her about it, she'd certainly tell you at length about how humans have always [[FantasticRacism hated, feared, and mistreated]] gargoyles and all of her evil actions are justified to protect her race from the human threat, and she has a thousand years of tragic backstory to back it up. A closer examination of said backstory, though, shows that Demona's own track record of phenomenally poor decisions is responsible for at least as much of her suffering as outside agency and that her real motivation is somewhere between revenge and misdirected self-loathing which manifests as FantasticRacism against humans. Ultimately, it is her inability to recognize her own culpability in the suffering of herself and those around her- and as a result, her inability to move on- which is the true tragedy of Demona.
[[/folder]]

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