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Befriending The Enemy
For some stories good and evil is as good as black and white. You have your good guys, and you have those crazy bad guys up there on Death Mountain. Something's just off with those guys. Something's corrupted their heart, or they've done something irredeemable a long time ago, and there's no use negotiating.

This is becoming somewhat of a Dead Horse Trope. While it's still common today many works are shying away from using pure Black and White Morality, as a world view since most of the time it's seen as not realistic or the creator believes it produces Flat Characters.

Instead some characters are asking “Why are we enemies anyway?” Has anyone ever tried talking things out? Does The Dark Lord even have any friends? Maybe if they got to know him a little better he might even turn out to be a decent guy. So they try it out. They Befriend The Enemy.

A character who Befriends The Enemy is basically planning to become something of a Morality Pet to try and make a villain or antagonist change their ways. This has about a 50/50 chance of success since often times the villain really is a loner, or he's suffering from some sort of trauma and he could be redeemed if he had some friends to support him. Just as often though it turns out Status Quo Is God. The good guy is just being naïve, and the villain ends up using the good guy's own gambit against him to deceive him and get what they want. Then again maybe the bad guy can't ever truly make a Heel-Face Turn because evil is just too fun to give up.

Although we've been talking about absolutes like “good and evil” here it's important to note that they don't have to be true “villains”. Heck they don't even have to be the main villain, This trope is just as valid for antagonists and minor good characters. For example a bullying victim attempting to befriend his bully is one way that this comes about. Stories about seeing bullies as more than just "evil" teach an Aesop that bullies are people too, and that they often have their own problems at home that are causing that behavior.

Subtrope of Good Feels Good, and The Power of Friendship. Has some overlap with Talking the Monster to Death, the difference here being the character is just trying to become friends to try to turn them good, not necessarily convince them they're wrong. The opposite of this is Enemy Mine, which is where a villain persuades a good guy to work with them to defeat a common foe, either by pretending they've turned good or through Teeth-Clenched Teamwork. If the friendship sticks it's an Odd Friendship. A villain who stays evil after befriending a hero may be a Token Evil Teammate or The Mole. Compare Defeat Means Friendship, Tastes Like Friendship, and We Used to Be Friends, where the bad guy was originally a friend before he turned. Attempting to romance a villain or antagonist to change them falls under I Can Change My Beloved. See also Friendly Enemy, where the two sides maintain frequent sympathetic interactions despite still warring.


Examples

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     Anime & Manga 

  • DokiDoki! Precure: Regina has been successfully redeemed by Cure Heart and the other Pretty Cures by befriending her more than once. The first time immediately after Cure Heart beats her in a fight. Regina has for various reasons turned back to evil several times, only for the show to to start their friendship over and have her turn good again.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Hercule (Or Mr.Satan depending on which version you watch) knowing he can't beat him in a fight befriends the Obliviously Evil Majin Buu, and eventually makes him realize that turning people into candy and eating them is wrong. This resolution doesn't last long though as a trigger-happy outsider pisses Buu off to the point that Majin Buu's evil side splits from the original Majin Buu and becomes the new villain.
  • Gatchaman Crowds: This is Hajime's solution to a lot of problems. At the beginning of the show after Hajime became a Gatchaman she befriends one of the "MESS". An alien, enemy the Gatchamen are fighting who absorb humans and cause them to disappear. Immediately after Hajime befriends one of them the entire species of MESS stop acting antagonistic towards the Gatchamen and they return all the humans they absorbed safe and unharmed. The other Gatchamen are utterly shocked after seeing how well it worked.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood, Jonathan Joestar attempted this with Dio Brando, very, very hard, but Dio is the ultimate Ungrateful Bastard; being nice to him results in him either thinking you're an idiot to be taken advantage of, or getting really angry and resentful. In Stardust Crusaders, DIO inverts this by inducing fierce loyalty towards him in people who weren't otherwise evil.
  • Soul Eater:
    • This is the origin story for how Liz, Patty and Kid met. Liz and Patty were once petty thieves who would threaten people in alleyways and mug them for money. Then they tried to mug the reaper Death the Kid. This got Kid's attention since he just happened to really want a pair to work with him, and saves them from a group of thugs, and befriends them. They've since put that life of crime behind them, and their friendship helps keep Kid's debilitating eccentricities in check.
    • Maka befriends Crona, who was acting antagonistically toward them under order of the witch Medusa, after realizing that Crona was raised in an environment where nobody ever cared or acted friendly. Maka had to synchronize souls to calm Crona down first because magic blood was making Crona insane, but Crona breaks down crying after being offered friendship and silently accepts Maka's friendship with a hug and a handshake afterward.

    Comic Books 
  • In Birds of Prey, Black Canary attempts this with Lady Shiva. Shiva is interested in Canary because of her rapidly-increasing martial arts skill and wants to face her in a Duel to the Death and later comes to owe her an important debt. Canary tries to use this to befriend and reform Shiva, but Shiva knows this and actively resists.
  • Happens a couple of times in The Powerpuff Girls (DC run). "Presents Of Mine" (issue #57) as Him cajoling Buttercup into using the money she was going to spend on the Professor on herself. But when he sees the Gangreen Gang stealing from a children's charity box, he joins the girls in kicking their butts ("Even I'd never stoop to that!!") In "Micro Managing," (issue #68) Mojo Jojo helps Blossom defeat the Micro-Puffs, who have brainwashed Bubbles and Buttercup into having a Napoleon complex. In "Smart And Smarter" (CN Block Party #59), Bubbles and Buttercup root for Mojo to beat Blossom, who has let being admitted to an advanced school go to her head.

    Literature 
  • This trope is played straight in the Alterien series.
    • Even though Helena was Oberon's enemy after he allowed her friend, Hermia, to die, they later become friends.
    • Oberon does this again with Titania, who initially believed he was ill-suited for his mission.
  • Prose Lancelot: An Older Than Steam example, Sir Lancelot manages to befriend Prince Galehaut of Sorelois, who at the time was at war with King Arthur over a disputed territory, which eventually resulted in a peace settlement between the warring royals.

     Live Action TV 
  • Power Rangers: Due to a growing friendship Bulk and Skull become subtly less antagonistic toward the rangers while they're in civilian mode over time. This becomes more blatant in an episode of Power Rangers Turbo where T.J. not believing Bulk and Skull would steal helps them find the thief who framed them. Afterwards Bulk says "T.J. is pretty cool", and Cassie replies that T.J. thinks the same of them.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has Sisko trying to make peaceful contact with the Dominion. When the Klingons invade Cardissa, Major Kira has to make peace with Dukat. The man who oppressed Bajor. When Dukat joins with the Dominion, Sisko tries to make peace with the Klingons to counter the Dominion.

     Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem Awakening has a variant involving Tastes Like Friendship. Gaius, a Thief, is working for the Plegians in a mission to kill "the Exalt" the Yllissean leader, but he doesn't have the heart to be a part of killing her. If Chrom talks to Gaius he'll offer him sweets, and they instantly become friends and he joins your army.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard can pull this with Jack. Jack is a violent, Ax-Crazy criminal with a Dark and Troubled Past and Shepard can help her deal with her demons in a number of ways. Jack goes through several levels of resistance, first warning Shepard that she knows what s/he is trying to do and that it won't work, followed by (if Shepard is male) propositioning for sex (because she thinks that's the only reason a guy would treat her nicely), followed by acting like a Tsundere. If Jack is romanced in that game, it works. It also works without the romance come the third game, if Jack survived.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: In the main games the player character can befriend demons and make them his allies to summon. Demons are very fickle though. What works to befriend one demon won't work the same way each time, and if they aren't loyal enough to you they won't do what you say. The games follow Grey and Gray Morality so while a demon's alignment might technically be considered "good"... it's really in a Knight Templar sort of way. Demons are always initially antagonistic towards you before they join you, and after you befriend a species of demon the rest of that species will go out of their way to give you gifts and avoid fights with you while telling you to "take care of their friend".
  • Wild Arms 2: Ashley & company develop a friendship this way with Kanon. Kanon, a demon hunter, has made it her mission to assassinate Ashley who is possessed by the ancient demon Lord Blazer who Kanon's ancestor sealed away thousands of years ago. The team reluctantly fight repeated battles with Kanon, until Ashley manages to convince her that he's a good person, and asks her to join the group plus entrusting her with the responsibility of striking him down (and killing Lord Blazer) if he can't control the demon's influence any longer when this moment finally does arrive however she can't bring herself to kill Ashley as she's developed feelings of friendship with him and the other members of ARMS.

    Webcomics 
  • Cucumber Quest Plays this for comedy. Princess Parfait seeing some good in the Nightmare Knight, says “she's happy to have made a new friend” out of him. This is utterly baffling to The Nightmare Knight who is so used to everyone fearing him for being the main villain that it leads to his first Not So Stoic moment in the comic. Parfait mistakenly taking this for meaning he doesn't know what the word friendship means draws up some pictures of them having fun to try and explain to him what friendship is. Then when the Nightmare Knight says he doesn't desire her friendship he ends up doing something friendly for her anyway when he secretly takes her letter that she wanted him to deliver to Carrot.

    Western Animation 
  • The American Dad! episode "Bully For Steve" has Stan take the role of a childhood bully in an egregious attempt to make Steve stand up for himself. An oblivious Francine suggests Steve try to make friends with his new bully. When he attempts to do so, Stan goes along with it...and then continues beating him up, scolding him for not getting the point yet ("You can't reason with a bully!").
  • Hey Arnold!. Some episodes involving Harold, who is a bully to the other kids in his grade are frequently like this. Arnold being an All-Loving Hero befriends Harold in multiple episodes. Even deciding not to rat out on him to the principal in one episode, and helping Harold lose a ton of weight he gained in another episode.
  • Justice League: A variant In the episode Flash and Substance. It's shown that this is how Flash deals with at least one of his "enemies" James Jesse "The Trickster" who Flash has pacified by befriending him. When Batman and Orion threaten James in a bar Flash cuts in and stops them to talk things out. He points out to James he's off his meds again, and that he didn't even realize he was wearing his villain costume. James agrees to admit himself back into the hospital after he finishes his drink if The Flash will visit him and play "soft darts", and then tells The Flash about a plan by the other villains to attack him at the grand opening of the new Flash Museum. This is baffling to Orion who is used to using more violent methods to get information.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: in Keep Calm and Flutter On, Fluttershy's plan for redeeming Discord amounts to treating him like a friend. It works.
  • The Simpsons. Bart's tried to befriend his bully and antagonist. Nelson Mutz, in some episodes. The first time to become popular, which resulted in Bart being bullied even harder when Nelson found out he was being manipulated. In later seasons however, Bart and Nelson have become friends over time, and Bart even calls him “his other best friend” in one episode.
  • Spongebob Squarepants. In the episode F.U.N. Spongebob tries to befriend Plankton and ask him to play with him after seeing how Bikini Bottom treats him badly and calls him “a loser”. Plankton decides to go along with it, and use it as an opportunity to steal the Krabby Patty formula. After sharing a Friendship Song together Plankton does become his friend for a time, but ultimately choses to betray Spongebob and steal a Krabby Patty at the end of the episode because “evil is just too fun”. This kind of scenario has been recycled several times in the show usually with Plankton trying to exploit Spongebob in a new scheme.
  • At the end of a long day of a cat-and-mouse chasing routine, Motormouse will give Autocat a lift home.
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