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The Exalted Torturer is usually someone who considers using the JackBauerInterrogationTechnique, PerpSweating to the degree of outright PoliceBrutality, war crimes and similar atrocities, and/or other actions like most people consider using periods. But he's not portrayed as evil or in a negative way.

He's the ''Hero.''

In a nutshell, the Exalted Torturer is:
* Viewed as heroic and admirable when his actions are things villains in other (or even the same) media would do. Which at extremes can be extreme DesignatedHero territory in line with acting ForTheEvulz, where the character will do things that would make "villains" or "antagonists" flinch.
* Someone who uses ColdBloodedTorture , the JackBauerInterrogationTechnique, the MaximumFunChamber, PoliceBrutality, extreme PerpSweating, [[RapePortrayedAsRedemption rape]] and/or some combination thereof to achieve his goals. Usually frequently.
* As such, the combination of DesignatedHero with elements of the TortureTechnician, wrapped up in an IdealHero KnightInShiningArmor package, and stuck on the "whiter" side of the local morality chain at least from the point of view of their side.

The reasons for this and how it comes about this vary wildly, but Exalted Torturers share those base traits but fall into one of two main categories.

* The UnscrupulousHero or WellIntentionedExtremist who resorts to these methods because they feel that they're "necessary" for a noble cause. Given [[CrapsackWorld the worlds they tend]] [[AWorldHalfFull to live in]] the narrative tends to [[TheExtremistWasRight agree with them]] (possibly with or without the audience). Examples can include [[Franchise/{{Batman}} Batman]], Film/JamesBond, [[Series/TwentyFour Jack Bauer]], [[VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlertSeries Tanya Adams]], and [[Film/ZeroDarkThirty Maya.]] They generally:
** Try and be fairly good people. They at least try to have decent morals, try to do the right thing, and acknowledge on some level that some of what they do is [[NecessarilyEvil unpleasant]] but are doing it only for the sake of [[UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans a good higher purpose]].
** Generally try to avoid employing the methods that earned them a spot on this page, [[Series/TwentyFour though their efforts to avoid resorting to it might not be the most dedicated.]] Unless they believe the situation has crossed a GodzillaThreshold that requires it, they will try "softer" and less ugly methods.
** Refrain from doing more harm than necessary (or that they think is necessary), do not engage in prolonged torture, and generally outright don't use methods like rape altogether.
** [[PayEvilUntoEvil Normally limit their uses of it to villains or "bad people".]] Cases where they do this to an innocent or good person are nigh on nonexistent, and most of those tend to have some sort of justification (which can still [[DesignatedHero fall flat if handled wrong).]]

They generally exist as good guys of TheFederation or TheGoodKingdom in fiction where the "Black" in the local Black-and-White or Black and Grey morality is ''Very'' Black even in comparison to any greys, and you can see the GodzillaThreshold just looking over your shoulder. Though in some cases they can show signs of enjoying it toooo much, they usually don't let it override their moral compass.

* The SociopathicHero and/or {{Sadist}} who decides to say "screw that" and does it at any opportunity and with any possible justification, or even none at all. Beyond simply brutal, these characters tend to openly enjoy causing suffering and pain, [[VillainBall often to the detriment of what the torture was supposed to accomplish in the first place.]] Examples include ''Rapeman'', [[VideoGame/JustCause Rico Rodriguez, and Bolo Santosi]], and most of the main characters in Manga/DeathNote. In general these characters:
** Have moral compasses severely off kilter at ''best''; at worst they never really had them to begin with.
** Frequently resort to gratuitous and unnecessary torture.
** Tend to do it primarily because [[ForTheEvulz they enjoy it]] above all other reasons.
** Are far less discriminating with who they do and do not torture or attack.
** Tend to rely far more heavily on DesignatedHero and ProtagonistCenteredMorality in order to make them sympathetic.

This group tends to inhabit the "revenge fantasy" and goresploitation genres, tending towards being either amoral vigilantes or ruthless [[RabidCop cops]] and [[SociopathicSoldier soldiers]]. Alternatively, they can be simply people who are taking brutal action against [[AuthorAppeal groups the Author thinks they should be allowed to do.]]

When Exalted Torturer status is invoked (where they are exalted in-universe by some but ''definitely not'' by the narrative) for this category, they tend to be the TortureTechnician of TheEmpire, [[TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized nightmarish revolutions]], [[YourTerroristsAreOurFreedomFighters ambiguously labeled anti-government forces]], some other bloody minded but "respectable" group.

While these two categories seem as Black and White as the fiction this character often appears in, there are gray areas between the two. Sometimes the sympathetic [[WellIntentionedExtremist Extremist]] might enjoy it a biiit too much while the SociopathicHero [[KnightTemplar thinks]] he is doing his heinous actions on behalf of some (supposedly) noble cause like ''Rapeman'' or ''Film/HanzoTheRazor'', the issue being that the former is usually still capable of sympathy because their restraint and morality outweigh any sadistic tendencies; the latter's behavior is sympathetic only by coincidence and generally repulsive no matter how much he believes in the cause.

There are also a few characters that defy easy categorization between those two, with one character falling more into the first for some while another group might view him as the latter. Even beyond that, there are characters like ThePunisher who can flip between categories DependingOnTheWriter. So at best this is a highly simplified look.

But in general most Exalted Torturers lean towards one category or the other, being [[GoodIsNotNice "someone you're glad isn't on the side of evil"]] to [[DesignatedHero "someone you can't believe isn't evil regardless of side."]]

The Exalted Torturer is ''almost'' AlwaysMale, possibly due to ValuesDissonance in how a woman would be handled -- though several female examples can be found for both categories.

How and why this character comes about can vary almost as frequently as their portrayal. They could be anything from TheHero of a dark and serious work to examine GoodIsNotNice and if it can afford to be any other way, the DesignatedHero either by [[AuthorAvatar the]] [[AuthorAppeal author]], or even someone author doesn't ''originally'' intend to somehow make heroic only for MisaimedFandom to [[{{Flanderization}} play up his torture and abuse as "good" or heroic.]]

This character can be a major BaseBreakingCharacter and cause [[FlameBait massive conflicts]] not just in his fictional world, but he can also possibly in real life. On one extreme side extremist defenders might hold them up as a cause celebre and [[UnfortunateImplications defend real life instances of torture, police brutality or whatever form of atrocity he's inflicting upon his victims]] because they're AcceptableTargets, because he's the DesignatedHero, or both. On the other extreme, you can have people who will group together everyone from the most remorseful and reluctant to the most unhinged and sociopathic and claim [[BlackAndWhiteInsanity that they're all insane and any portrayals of them in any remotely positive light are inexcusable apologia]], and who generally feel justified to ignore or condemn any in-universe or RealLife ShootTheDog moments or DirtyBusiness regardless of merit.

Compare to PathOfInspiration, which is a rough institutional parallel since they glorify things that are dubious at best and have good press. However, Paths of Inspiration tend to be more unambiguously antagonistic and evil and generally far less sincere than even some of [[TheSociopath most psychopathic]] Exalted Torturers are in their righteousness. That being said, it is also a very convenient venue where an Exalted Torturer can find work if they're not being lionized.

Compare and contrast CowboyCop, MoralDissonance, ValuesDissonance, VillainWithGoodPublicity, and especially the TortureTechnician.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Rapeman''. While the manga and anime are arguably {{satire}} featuring BlackComedyRape, that doesn't stop some people from blaming the rape victims for their rapes, believing rape is an okay punishment, and somehow seeing Rapeman as a righteous hero rather than CrossingTheLineTwice BlackHumor in an EvilVersusEvil world.
* Ibiki Morino from ''Franchise/{{Naruto}}'', who is actually one of the good guys. Despite his reputation though, his methods are largely psychological.
* Saito Hajime of ''Manga/RurouniKenshin'' does believe in justice, but it's hard to deny that [[NobleDemon he really likes brutally killing people]]. While he doesn't torture on-screen, at one point, he dissuades a boy from taking revenge on his parents' murderer by telling the boy that the murderer will undoubtedly have information tortured out of him before being gruesomely executed, and thus letting him be arrested would be the better revenge.
* ''Manga/DeathNote'' has HeroAntagonist L, who would be better described as an AntiHero, and whose methods of heroic behavior strictly reinforce the series' BlackAndGreyMorality. The trope is played with; L views himself this way, but is actually NotSoDifferent from his opponent.
* ''Manga/ShamanKing'' features Iron Maiden Jeanne, who inevitably becomes this by using the [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Babylonian God of Justice Shamash]] as the spirit for her [[ImaginationBasedSuperpower Over Soul]].


[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/SinCity'''s Marv not only does this to criminals, but he loves it. There is an entire monologue in his first story about how much he enjoys what he's doing.
* ComicBook/TheSpectre is known for torturing villains before killing them [[DeathByIrony in ironic ways]]. However, it's frequently brought up in-universe that [[WhatTheHellHero most other superheroes disagree with his methods]] and he's normally presented in a morally ambiguous light.

[[folder: Fan Works]]
* A ReformedButNotTamed Loki serves as this in ''Fanfic/ChildOfTheStorm'', serving as both the head of Asgard's Secret Service, and as Thor's shadow, doing the things that Thor can't, or won't. This equally applies to the Avengers, with him, Natasha, and to a lesser extent, Clint, doing things that the others can't, or won't. This includes torture, as graphically demonstrated on Sabretooth (who isn't particularly fazed by the physical torture... then Loki says ''something'' to him that cracks him like an egg. WordOfGod is vague on what exactly it was, but suggests that a couple of illusions were involved). However, the other more heroic characters are visibly disturbed by his actions, and it is made clear that it's a case of DirtyBusiness.


[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/DirtyHarry'', possibly the TropeMaker for film depictions in the US, and something of an UnbuiltTrope, at that. He gets an admission of guilt out of the Scorpio Killer by stomping on his injured leg, but Harry is informed by his superiors that [[DeconstructedTrope the confession can't be used in court because he obtained it through illegal interrogation means (the superiors even use the term "police torture" to describe Harry's actions), and Scorpio has to be set free.]]
* The protagonist of the ''Film/HanzoTheRazor'' films. The same as the Rapeman example, except ''not'' played as satire and BlackComedy. Instead, he's played straight as a "good cop" who investigates his cases by raping his suspects into submission.
* ''Film/TheDarkKnightSaga'' sets the following baseline for Batman: If you are a SmugSnake of a dirty cop, he won't hesitate to traumatize you and scare you half to death as a form of interrogation. If you're a crime lord holding out information on a madman going on a destructive rampage through his city, he will go even farther. If you ''are'' said madman and the clock is ticking on people's lives, he will '''start''' at bodily harm and beat you within an inch of your life if that's what it takes. The Joker sees all this and, with mixed awe and annoyance, declares him "incorruptible" (because he has only one rule, "no killing", and he won't break it).
* An in-movie example in the 1939 ''Film/TheHunchbackOfNotreDame'': the official flogger who publicly whips Quasimodo is cheered like a sports hero.
* ''{{Film/Prisoners}}'' has a father resort to this, over the whole film, by torturing the main suspect to reveal where his missing daughter is being held. [[spoiler:The BigBad is hoping he'll do this, as part of her sick, twisted scheme to take revenge on God.]]
* Dan from ''Film/ZeroDarkThirty'' was one for the first part of the movie, though he eventually had enough and left to work at Langley.
* BOPE from ''Film/TheEliteSquad'' frequently torture criminals for information.
* In the {{Film/Hellraiser}} film series, [[AntiHero Pinhead]] and the cenobites are leather clad torturers who are usually portrayed as more sympathetic compared to the human antagonists [[PayEvilUntoEvil they gruesomely tear to pieces.]]


[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Jack Bauer of ''Series/TwentyFour'' and [[TropeNamers trope namer]] of the JackBauerInterrogationTechnique.
* Elliot Stabler of ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit''. While he faces some in-show consequences, said consequences do nothing to stop him, his conduct crosses the line into PoliceBrutality, and a disturbingly large portion of fans of the show in RealLife assume that RealLife police are justified in engaging in such conduct with suspects [[SarcasmMode because when the accusation is vile enough, there's no such thing as innocent until proven guilty]].
** While Stabler is the usual offender, when Rollins gets wounded and the son of Finn's former supervisor gets killed by an unknown assassin, it's treated as perfectly justified when Finn and Amaro go to a prison and torture the drug kingpin they suspect of ordering the hit, to the point of Finn being about [[EyeScream to gouge his eyes out]]...and the only thing that stops them is when the warden shows up to inform them that the drug dealer's wife was just killed by the same assassin. They then move on like nothing had happened. In other words, [[SarcasmMode it's perfectly fine to torture somebody over a crime he didn't even commit, because he actually did commit a whole bunch of other crimes before that]].
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'' has a couple of examples:
** Wesley Wyndham-Pryce probably falls into this trope when he tortures Justine in early season 4, having kept her as a slave in his closet for a few months after season 3. He also does this later in the season to get information about Angelus.
** Drogyn The Battlebrand, an immortal warrior on the side of good who acts as jailer to The Old Ones, casually admits he tortured a demon who attacked him late in season 5. This was to find out who sent it, and the demon was from a race of assassins, so it's not considered an immoral act on Drogyn's part.[[spoiler:InvokedTrope as the employer was Angel, who was pretending to be evil, knew Drogyn would both defeat and torture the demon for the information, and wanted the information passed to his friends.]]
* Sayid from ''Series/{{Lost}}'', who used to be a professional torturer. He, like a number of other characters, spends time on both the Black and White sides of morality and pretty much everywhere in between, but he spends most of his time on the lighter side of grey.
* Jarod from ''Series/ThePretender'' does some pretty dark things to the people who hurt the blameless victim of the week. These often involve making them believe they will die painfully.
* ''Series/{{Battlestar Galactica|2003}}'' has Starbuck in her interrogation of Leoben.
* Guerrero from ''Series/HumanTarget'', whose torture of enemies is occasionally even PlayedForLaughs.
* Wonder Woman of the ''Series/WonderWoman2011Pilot'' is one of the few women who could qualify. And she doesn't have entire cities at risk, she just deals with drug dealers who sell drugs with dangerous side effects.
* ''Series/XenaWarriorPrincess'' used to torture random low-level enemies by paralyzing them and threatening their life (by metaphorically slitting their veins and withholding help until they talk.) this was never presented as ethically problematic in any way.
--> '''Xena''': I've just stopped the blood flow to your brain. You have 10 seconds to tell me...
* ''Series/{{Killjoys}}'' started out relatively 'normal', with Dutch (the main heroine) tying up and starving/dehydrating a most likely innocent random guy for days, and roughing him up as well, just to find out why her mentor had sent her to assassinate him. This was probably meant to show that her mentor almost succeded in making her a sociopath by training her to kill from an early age, and she does hate that part of herself in general, even if she doesn't angst about this incident in particular. And in an episode where it turns out that an interplanetary military force, which Dav'in once proudly served, routinely (and horrifically) tortures prisoners, the team of heroes seems appalled by this, though not surprised. And Dutch seems to disapprove when she finds out that the local police force has beaten one of her friends (who the police thinks is a terrorist) to get information on his resistance organisation. But then the "good guys" bring in some villain mooks (who've been turned psychopathic and inhuman, but most likely ''not'' voluntarily) to one of their allies to be tortured for information as well. Said ally is presented as a bit of a jerk, but honest and morally more decent than most people in their CrapsackWorld. And Pree (gay man; best friend of the heroes) stabs a bully through his hand in order to intimidate him enough that he'll stop trying to take over Pree's bar. This is presented as perfectly okay and not DisproportionateRetribution (one of the heroes had also broken the guy's leg earlier), and the bully becomes a much more well-adjusted human being as a result, as well as falling in love with Pree. And then there was the scene in which Dav'in and said ex-bully torture a fellow killjoy (who was doing a perfectly legitimate job - which involved arresting Dav'in's brother Johnny - and who is later characterized as a pretty decent guy) by repeatedly dropping him on his head, in order to find out where the killjoy was supposed to deliver Johnny. This last is presented like it's ''funny''...
* The titular heroine in ''Series/WynonnaEarp'' has zero scruples torturing revenants (read: undead criminals who are slowly turning into demons; some of them are truly awful, but others are people who just got in whith the wrong crowd and don't want to go back to Hell were Wyatt Earp's curse sent them to) - in fact, she's downright cheerful about it. And yet, we're not supposed to see her as a HeroicSociopath. [[SubvertedTrope In a subversion]], it's her friend/superior with the actual military / law enforcement training who makes it clear to her that torture does not result in "actionable intelligence". However, when Wynonna tries to beat information out of someone, she [[ZigZaggedTrope generally succeeds.]]
* The heroes in ''Series/RipperStreet'' often engage in PoliceBrutality against suspects, due to historical ValuesDissonance. For the most part, this is not supposed to be seen as okay by the audience, and at least Drake develops scruples about this over the course of the first couple of seasons. After that, they mostly rely on threats of violence, or torture {{Asshole Victim}}s. (For example, Reid - who is normally presented as very civil and unusually "modern" for his time - half-drowns a young teenage boy who'd been pimping and raping underage girls, including Reid's daughter.) But still, even near the end of the show, Reid cruelly withholds morphine from a long-term [[AssholeVictim adversary]] of his who's suffering from terminal brain cancer and is in extreme pain. It's not so much sadism as vengefulness and rage issues that make up kind of a persistant character flaw for this normally very mild-mannered and empathetic police officer.

* In the ''Ksin'' saga, the royal torturer is that. He is a true master in causing pain and does his worst when he works -- but he also exemplifies HonorBeforeReason. Even though he knows that some things he does are unreasonable, he considers it a must in his position -- a torturer must be a paragon of honor or else he will be worse than a beast.
* [[SubvertedTrope Subverted]] in Gene Wolfe's ''Literature/BookOfTheNewSun''. [[DesignatedHero Severian]] at first believes this, but then comes to later realize that [[ColdBloodedTorture torture]] [[SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped is]] '''bad'''. As Autarch, Severian tries to outlaw the Torturers' Guild, saying "It is intolerable that good men should spend their lives dispensing pain." The Grandmaster responds that "It MUST be done by good men," implying that, like the ''Ksin'' example above, that torture can either be done by good men or by those who would take pleasure in it.
* Depending on who you ask, {{God}} or {{Satan}} ([[TakeAThirdOption or both]]) in Literature/TheBible. The book of Job is an example, where an innocent victim is tortured solely to prove his faithfulness.
* In the ''Literature/LeftBehind'' series, it's God who's propped up as the Exalted Torturer. Not that God or Jesus Christ enjoy it, as Jesus sadly watches the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and all those who rejected Him throughout the ages go to their appointed doom. To quote Jesus speaking to Ashtaroth, Baal, and Cankerworm in the Dramatic Audio:
-->''"Like My Father, with whom I am One, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but justice must be served, and death is your sentence."''
* While no details are given as to what exactly Butcher Brakespeare of the ''Literature/FloraSegunda'' books did during the war, her reputation as her country's greatest war criminal makes it clear that it was not very nice. But apparently she thought very hard about it and while it was difficult for her to do, it was the only way. So ''that's'' all right then. (Meanwhile, the other side's equally-vague war crimes are treated as completely unjustified and horrible.)
* In the ''Literature/{{Lensman}}'' universe, Worsel of Velantia and Nadreck of Palain VII both unleash the torture instruments of the Delgonian Overlords upon their former masters in the search for vital information. In Worsel's case, the other Lensmen let him do it because his own species was for countless centuries subject to the Overlords' depredations (basically a combination of MindRape, torture and a kind of telepathic sadism, and concluding with snuff and the consumption of the dying victim's life energies), while Nadreck is a member of a species which literally cannot comprehend such concepts as suffering without years of study, and even then can't ''feel'' it.
* Pulp detective character Literature/MikeHammer did a fair amount of beating and killing perps. Notably, while this was depicted as praiseworthy in the novels, one of the notable films based on the series, ''Kiss Me Deadly'' is something of a StealthParody making him a VillainProtagonist.
* Andrei Koscuisko of the ''Jurisdiction'' series by Susan R. Matthews is both a TortureTechnician and an Exalted Torturer. His job is necessary and he's good at it. And, much to his unending horror, he enjoys it.
* Terry Thorncove of the novel ''Inner Dark'' by Zhenmei Li is a complicated case. He started out as a TortureTechnician, became TheAtoner, found the side he switched to was willing to use him for 'special' interrogations, is viewed by the higher ups as a great hero but by his friends as the TokenEvilTeammate, is portrayed as a noble man resisting a dark urge in the narrative, continually invokes DrowningMySorrows over his actions and by the end is more or less dead inside.
* ''Literature/{{Victoria}}'' has a somewhat downplayed example with protagonist John Rumford, who doesn't torture anyone himself, but approves and even attends the torture of the Delta Force operators who murdered Governor Adams. This is treated very much as DirtyBusiness, but still portrayed as [[IDidWhatIHadToDo right]].

[[folder: Mythology and Religion]]
* Often, {{Satan}} is described this way, getting his jollies off by tormenting people (and lesser demons) in {{Hell}}. Sometimes, he is even described as playing a pivotal role in the actual judgment process, as more of a VillainProtagonist. In fact, the name derives from an old Hebrew word, ''ha-satan,'' which translates as "The Prosecutor."

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'':
** The Gray Guard PrestigeClass/Paragon Path was supposed to allow paladins the ability to go all Film/DirtyHarry on potential perpetrators without losing their alignment.
** The ''Book of Exalted Deeds'' has features that edge disturbingly close to this. Torturing an evildoer would be wrong, of course; but [[YourSoulIsMine tearing out their soul]], trapping it in a CrystalPrison, and magically twisting it until its CharacterAlignment matches yours in a bizarre inversion of BeingTorturedMakesYouEvil? Capital-G Good.
* The Inquisition of TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}} passes off as this trope (amongst other things... a ''LOT'' of other things) simply because the universe in question utilizes BlackAndGreyMorality rather than BlackAndWhiteMorality.

* Played with in KGB founder Dzerzhinsky as depicted in Robert Bolt's ''State of Revolution''. When he objects to a career as the ideological garbageman, Lenin asks "Should it be done by someone with an appetite for garbage?" Later when he is grilling Lunacharsky, he retorts "It was you more than anyone else who persuaded me to take the position."

[[folder:Video Games]]
* A [[KarmaMeter Renegade]] Commander Shepard in ''Franchise/MassEffect''. Hell, sometimes even [[GoodIsNotNice Paragon Shepard.]]
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'': During the quest "Inside Job", [[PlayerCharacter Hawke]] can torture a miner and have him killed. In his/her own home.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' is a special case. While most of the torturers in game (Torturer Lecraft and such) are NOT this trope because they are antagonists to both factions, there are characters that do meet this trope because at least one faction considers them non-antagonist (Sergeant Kanren in Falconwing Square is a Horde example, Interrogator Khan in Telaar an Alliance one), and there's a class (Death Knight, at least in the beginning) and quests for both Horde and Alliance that can make [[YouSuck your]] [[PlayerPunch character]] [[WhatTheHellHero become]] an Exalted Torturer.]
* Joel from ''VideoGame/TheLastOfUs'' won't hesitate to brutally torture {{Mooks}} for information after [[spoiler:Ellie gets imprisoned by David's gang]]. It's heavily implied he's quite experienced in the JackBauerInterrogationTechnique. To quote his longtime partner:
--> '''Tess:''' "Guess what, we're shitty people, Joel."