"I'm the bad guy! I don't save the day, I don't fly off into the sunset, Evil Is Cool
and I don't get the girl! ...*sigh* I'm going home."
, right? WRONG!
Despite what certain morally ambiguous personages
would have a character to believe, being evil isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. It can destroy the character, their soul, and everyone they love and care about.
While evil may be temporarily satisfying, and man, it sure bakes good cookies
, said cookies are unhealthy and fattening, and once those cookies are gone, what does the character have left once he's given up everything
just for that tasty, tasty murder
, uh, I mean treat
While the character may enjoy themselves for a little while, the consequences will eventually come back to haunt them
in unpleasant ways. Kicking the morality pet
has the unfortunate side effect of making the character lose sleep at night
or consuming them with guilt
over the horrible things they've done. Characters letting their anger rule them
will find it fun and easy until they kick the wrong dog
in their bloodlust. There's also the likely chance that the character will go mad
, which really isn't as cool as it sounds when they're in a straitjacket.
The character will have to realize is that true happiness
can only be achieved through The Power of Love
or the Power of Friendship
can cross the Moral Event Horizon
, but once the character reaches there it looks pretty bleak
. Nobody wants to be the character's friend because they're all terrified that they will kill them in their sleep (or they already have), they've done nothing to better their position except cause more suffering and generally made the world a worse place to live in. And through it all they've nourished so many bad feelings that not even Evil Feels Good
anymore, they don't even remember
what it's like to feel good for a change.
Compare Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain
and This Is Your Brain on Evil
. Contrast Good Feels Good
(which sometimes leads to this Trope, or vice-versa, if one character is able to experience both Good and
Evil in his career). Being evil can be even worse if the character is bad
If the same work also argues that Being Good Sucks
, see Crapsack World
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Anime and Manga
- Watchmen: Ozymandias. His intentions were never entirely evil; he wanted to stop World War III before it started, and he saw killing several million people as the only solution. Regardless of the fact that he sacrificed comparatively few to save everyone (sans Dr. Manhattan) it's obvious that he feels remorse and wishes that there had been another way.
- Spider-Man: The Sandman eventually got sick of all the grief that came of being a criminal, and tried to go straight. He stayed a good guy for twenty years, real world time (just a couple of years, comic book time). Then his old evil teammate the Wizard stuck him in a brainwashing machine to make him evil again, causing him more grief. Poor dude.
- Superhero team the Thunderbolts was founded as a front for a group of supervillains to gain the trust of the world's various peace-keeping forces in preparation for a world domination scheme, by changing their identities and pretending to be heroes. At least half the original team members came to realize that they really liked not being feared and hated and decided to give up on world domination and remain good guys.
- It may never be known what insane reason Priscilla Lyons had to join a bunch of cold-blooded killers who murdered super-villains like the Scourges of the Underworld, but she discovered this Trope was true when given her first mark, that of Daredevil's old enemy the Matador. She simply couldn't bring herself to pull the trigger after seeing that her intended victim was no longer a villain, living in poverty in Los Angeles, trying his hardest to help his sister take care of her children. In fact, this is what brought the organization down, due to their strict Resignations Not Accepted policy; Priscilla was Genre Savvy enough to know they'd be after her; prior to this, every would-be defector (or failure, or even members who were in danger of being caught) had been killed by the others before they could spill any of the groups secrets. But she was smarter than the others, and quickly called the Avengers hotline, and got in contact with the USAgent, and as a result, they both brought the entire organization down.
- Played with in Blizzard Storm, as its questionable just how much Sakido counts as evil, but she clearly still regrets her actions during her time in Hell, which she feels she has failed Darius.
- In the BLoSC Fan Verse of For Good, Warp Darkmatter holds this opinion beneath his front of Evil Pays Better. It's a crucial factor in his eventual Heel-Face Turn.
- Implied in Fred Porlock's conversations with Patterson, Wiggins, and Watson in Mortality. (An offscreen, pre-fic Heel Realization caused him to become The Atoner.
- In the Dark World timeline of the Pony POV Series, both Liarjack and Traitor Dash emphasize this trope. While Angry Pie and Fluttercruel have embraced their new evil and Twilight Tragedy has given up all hope and goes along with Discord's rule because it's all she feels she has left, Liarjack and Traitor Dash (especially Dash) are painfully aware of how Discord's magic has twisted them into monsters, and they hate themselves for it, but there's nothing they can do about it.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- American History X has Derek turning away from his neo-Nazi lifestyle as he realizes how unhappy and crappy it has made his life:
"And I kept asking myself all the time, how did I buy into this shit? It was because I was pissed off, and nothing I ever did ever took that feeling away. I killed two guys, Danny, I killed them. And it didn't make me feel any different. It just got me more lost and I'm tired of being pissed off, Danny. I'm just tired of it."
- This is the lesson Cady learns at the end of Mean Girls.
"Calling someone else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone else stupid doesn't make you smarter. And ruining Regina George's life certainly didn't make mine any happier."
- In Battle Beyond the Stars, Roger Corman's Magnificent 7 In Space, one of the recruits is the galaxy's greatest assassin. He's amassed great wealth, but he muses that he lives alone and bored because he's feared everywhere he goes. The kid promises a home on his planet where no one knows him and where he can be happy if he helps them fight off the slaver.
- D.E.B.S.: has an example with Lucy Diamond. After she falls in love with Amy and realizes that she'll have to give up her life of crime to be with her, she says "Being bad doesn't feel good anymore."
- Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker's turn to The Dark Side in Revenge of the Sith costs him everything and everyone that he loves as well as leaves him locked in a robotic life-support system.
- Essentially this is the Dark Side of the Force in a nutshell. While many Sith Lords truly believe that they're superior to the Jedi (who they see as weak for not taking advantage of their abilities), a few Sith Lords (such as Ajunta Pall, Yuthura Ban, Revan, and one Sith Lord that tried to balance the teachings between the two) have eventually come to realize that such power isn't all that it's cracked up to be when you have to kill your friends, your teachers, your family, and anyone else that could oppose you, leaving you all alone. Then again, this destruction of all the connections you hold dear (and the pain, sorrow, and rage that comes with it) is what powers the Dark Side; the Light Side of the Force is powered by not making said connections in the first place.
- The Godfather: Michael Corleone justifies his descent into mob villainy as being done for the wellbeing of his family, but by the end of the second movie he starts to realize that it has destroyed his family. By the end of the third movie almost all the people he cared for are dead or driven away as a result of his choices.
- Scarface (1983). In spite of its massive Misaimed Fandom for showing that Evil Is Cool, it actually shows that being evil sucks. For all of Tony Montana's conspicuous consumption, he becomes a lonely and miserable person. This is especially evident when he makes a drunken scene at a restaurant.
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: The myth around him has developed to the point where he finds it impossible to escape it and he is constantly reminded of the consequences of what he has done. While he is an unstable bully, he feels genuine remorse for all the lives he has taken and wants nothing more than death. It's beautifully summed up by his line:
I look at my red hands and my mean face, and I wonder about that man that's gone so wrong.
- In Goodfellas, Henry Hill at first admits that "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster," but such a life doesn't turn out as glamorous as he imagined it would. By the end, when he's broke, addicted to drugs, and a marked man, he says "I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook."
- This is clearly evident with the title character in the film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (where he's viewed as a sympathetic character for the most part). He's lonely and full of self-loathing (he uses that term exactly) and tries to make up with the Whoos even before his epic crime by accepting Cindy-Lou's invitation. Unfortunately, the mayor ruins that by giving him an electric razor as a gag gift. Seriously, the whole guy's life sucks, and in this case, it's hard to blame him for hating Christmas.
- Danny Trejo states that the reason that he tends to play villains who always end up getting killed is to show the audience (especially kids) that bad guys always gets what's coming to them. Considering that he's a former convict who went straight, that message is understandable.
- In Lord of War, Yuri realizes how much destruction he caused but can never repair it.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events For the first few books, it seems Count Olaf will always win, but slowly we realize that he alienated the one person he loved and lost practically all his henchman, all on the hopes of getting the Baudelaire fortune. Guess how well that worked out?
- Harry Potter:
- In general, being a Death Eater sucks because they are under the constant threat of being murdered by their boss if they try his patience in any way. Once they're in, they're in for life. If they're caught, they face life in prison with Emotion Eaters.
- Severus Snape: All of his years devoted to the dark side eventually gained him nothing but destroying the one thing he'd ever loved, and indulging in half-breed hatred didn't bring him any happiness.
- Draco Malfoy learns this the hard way near the end of the series. There's a big difference between idolizing a "cool" Evil Overlord from a safe distance and being ordered by said overlord to commit murder (practically a suicide mission) with the threat of having your entire family killed. Draco also finds out that he doesn't have it in him to directly kill a defenseless person right in front of him. In Book 7 he learns that he doesn't enjoy inflicting Cold-Blooded Torture.
- Voldemort himself is completely incapable of feeling love. He is driven solely on ambition and greed, and does everything he can to ensure that he'll live forever, even going so far as to split his soul into horcruxes which take away more and more of his humanity and cause him to gradually develop a very pale, snake-like appearance, and he becomes very paranoid and frantic as Harry and his friends destroy more of them. By the end of the series he suffers a Fate Worse Than Death.
- In Death Star, the gunner who fired the superlaser that destroyed Alderaan, who had always wanted to fire the biggest gun, finds that following orders and getting what he'd wished for led to misery beyond his wildest dreams, a personal Moral Event Horizon. He can't justify it, can't either make it less of a crime or blame someone else, and is unable to sleep for guilt and horrible dreams. When the Death Star is in range of Yavin he stalls desperately, hoping that something would happen and he wouldn't have to pull that trigger again. He got that wish.
He wouldn't be able to walk on a street on any civilized planet in the galaxy; people wouldn't be able to abide his presence.
Nor would he blame them.
He couldn't stop thinking about it. He didn't believe he would ever be able to stop thinking about it. The dead would haunt him, forever.
- Night Watch:While the Dark Ones in use every opportunity to brag about all that freedom, independence and strength The Darkness had given them and to make some lenient remarks on the poor deluded Light Ones who are so very constricted by their rules and who fuss over humans so much... It turns out that vampires are haunted by persistent insatiable Horror Hunger, werewolves have to deal with feats of feral uncontrollable rage once in a while and all the Dark Ones in general live in a world of constant paranoia and distrust towards their own brethren and superiors; Especially superiors who wouldn't even bother notifying that You Have Outlived Your Usefulness before they set up and sacrifice you as a part of their Evil Plan. The one non-Watch dark magician we see is shown enjoying himself in a restaurant with his lovely wife and happy children.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Edmund Pevensie gets captured by the White Witch, he realizes that satisfying his greed wasn't worth the consequences it entailed for Narnia and his siblings.
- Dragonlance Legends trilogy: Raistlin Majere gained so much power and was on the verge of becoming a God only to discover that continuing with his plan would result in the extinction of all life on the planet leaving him on a barren world. The alternative was only marginally better.
- The Lord of the Rings: This is the overarching meta-theme in Middle-Earth. Evil consumes all it touches, leading them to waste their lives before their miserable deaths. This is true from the first Dark Lord Morgoth to mortals to Sauron to Saruman. Everyone who gives in to darkness ends up bitterly regretting it, and that's if they're lucky. If they're not, it's And I Must Scream time.
- In the book version of The Talented Mr Ripley, Ripley gets away with everything. On the other hand, Ripley spends the rest of his life in paranoid fear of the police, wondering if the next cop he sees has figured out what Ripley has done.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has Theon Greyjoy.
- In Paradise Lost, Satan makes a big show of being a epic hero who rails against God for His injustices. To himself, however, he admits that he really hates having fallen and knows that he only has himself to blame. In fact, one of the big themes of the book is that the fallen angels cast themselves out of heaven with their own actions. Thus, hell isn't a punishment, it's a result.
- Soon I Will Be Invincible: The Villain Protagonist spends much of the book demonstrating this. Being a Super Villain is hard work — Failure Is the Only Option, it's Lonely at the Top, and the heroes get all the public adoration.
- The Sorcerers in Rogue Sorcerer are at constant risk of being driven insane by the very spirits they command. There's also the issue of Aiden's death curse which he accidentally places over them, which kills them all off slowly and with a great deal of pain.
- Subverted in Voltaire's song "When You're Evil". The last verse sounds like the singer is bothered by his villainous ways and longs for some human happiness...
It gets so lonely being evil.
What I'd do to see a smile... even for a little while.
And no one loves you when you're evil...
- The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes," which was intended to be a song for the villain of Lifehouse, the album that became Who's Next.
- The Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks On Me" tells the story of a Gangster who rules his 'hood, makes money, drives fancy cars, is feared and respected...and has been driven Batshit Insane by paranoia: he can't sleep at night, he sees betrayal everywhere, and he's haunted by visions of people he's already killed.
- "I Fought The Law" by Sonny Curtis is a song that shows why crime does not pay.
- BIONICLE: Krika realized that he and his Brotherhood have done terrible things, but carried on doing them because he saw himself as doomed anyway, and also partly because he had hoped he could sabotage the plan of his leader by being part of it. All his brethren that had been also opposed to the Brotherhood's corruption were executed.
- The original and most ancient concept of Karma, before later doctrines, meant action. Hence, doing anything inherently created a new 'self' which was different. Grossly oversimplified, the first victim of wrongdoing is yourself, since you've made yourself into something less than you were.
- In Christianity and Islam, the wages of sin are death, a weakening of your relationship with God, and eventual damnation if not repented.
- Satan himself is supposed to be constantly tortured by his decision. The Divine Comedy even has him imprisoned with the rest of the sinners who betrayed their lords.
- In the World of Darkness, you just can't win. Not only does being good suck, but if you decide to go the other way and embrace the dark side, you can look forward to a number of side effects - starting with batshit insanity. Each of the game lines comes with its own drawbacks, lovingly crafted to screw with that particular type of critter.
- Vampires: Stronger predatory instincts and a thinner veneer of humanity, meaning the human prey can sense you want to eat them. This tends to make them want to stay away. You're literally going to devolve into a mindless animal if you do enough evil. Moreover your new society consists of assholes and psychopaths, most of whom are way older and more powerful than you and there is that mutual risk of flipping out and killing each other whenever you first meet another vampire. The original Vampire doesn't let you off the hook lightly either. While meetings between two groups of vampires do not devolve into brawls every time, you're still stuck in the society of manipulative monsters, and the power difference between you and the Powers That Be is much greater.
- Werewolves: The spirits you're trying to police can tell you're out of balance, and they hate you that much more. You have a harder time performing rituals, and it's that much harder to keep from kill-everything-around-you berserker rage. On top of all that, you tend to develop disturbing obsessions - from breaking every third window you pass to taking a bite out of anyone who looks you in the eye. In the original Werewolf you suffer nothing of the sort and can techically do anything you please. There is just that little problem with the Universe-devouring Big Bad who has a Fate Worse Than Death in store for your entire race and you personally, and whose local representatives are generally empowered by evil acts.
- Mages: You know that Abyss that hates your magic? The more evil you become, the harder it can smack you around and the harder it is for you to resist it. In the original, you're free to do as you wish; thing is, there's a horde of Eldritch Abominations seeking to drag reality down into oblivion with them, and their goals are furthered by the spread of evil.
- Prometheans: You know that whole "I wanna be a real boy" thing you've got going on? Your ability to comprehend humanity is judged in part by how much you understand human morals. You can be a mad murdering monster, but good luck ever earning a soul that way. If you want to create a kid/companion like you who'll help you deal with the loneliness, there's a much better chance the process will go horribly wrong and result in the creation of a bunch of cannibalistic aberrations that wish to devour your essence.
- Changelings: A double-dose of insanity; not only do you suffer specific derangements, but your perceptions are more and more skewed by your Fae experiences. Plus, you become more and more like one of the Fae overlords who kidnapped you. Because you'll probably become one if you grow powerful enough.
- Hunters: One trope: He Who Fights Monsters. That goes for the previous game, too.
- Demons: To start, you just spent human history in a Hell far worse than humans comprehend. You get out, but the more evil you behave, the more Torment you accumulate, until you become a creature incapable of hope and compassion. If you're forced into an inanimate host one way or another, it gets worse, as now you lose any anchor to humanity, any way to deal with the darkness within, and become one of the Earthbound.
- Sin-Eaters: You find it harder and harder to enter and navigate the Underworld. Kerberoi and geists can tell you're out of sync with your geist, and become more reluctant to deal with you. You also find it more difficult to perform ceremonies. Hit absolute bottom, and you end up as a Meat Puppet for your geist to drag around.
- Wraiths: Your Shadow, your resident Enemy Within, grows more and more powerful, working against everything you care about. When it's finally able to take over, you become one of the local servants of Oblivion, and now work to the destruction of everything.
- Geniuses: (yes, it's fanmade, but shut up): the you that's actually, you slowly dissipates and your personality is overtaken by some strange, unknown and terrifying will that leads you to horrible acts. Also, the Geniuses who haven't given in to Illumination (likely including your friends and Mentor) will hunt you down and kill you. Granted, at that point it could be considered a mercy to you.
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000: This is the fate of most servants of Chaos. Sure, the lucky few become immortal and godlike Daemon Princes, but the vast majority is doomed to become consumed by their emotions and end up as blood-crazed berserkers who live only to kill and die in battle, jaded hedonists who have to keep doing more and more depraved things simply to feel something, sorcerors who are forever driven to expand their knowledge in an attempt to reach an impossible goal, or disease-ridden husks who are kept alive by supernatural powers despite their bodies rotting away. That is all if you don't simply end up a mindless mass of betentacled gribblyness because of all the mutations you've been receiving, or simply sacrificed, as cannon, as an experiment, to slate the hunger of ravenous daemons, as a sex toy to rapacious daemons, or simply For the Evulz.
- Do enough truly evil stuff in Ravenloft and you'll end up a darklord, along with the requisite powers and your own domain. Sounds fun, right? Except that you're confined to to your realm, you're forever being tormented by the objects of your desire, and the only way to escape is through a Heel Realization. As the sourcebook states, if you were the kind of person to ever have a Heel Realization, you probably wouldn't have become a darklord in the first place.
- Dungeons & Dragons: The Elder Evils sourcebook is full of villains like this. A lot of the mortals who are servants of the Eldritch Abominations featured in the scenarios are only such because they have no choice, and are full of self-loathing as a result. Unfortunately, when they show up in the stories it is far too late for any of them to reconsider and change.
- Asmodeus is the game's Satan analogue, a Fallen Angel who came to rule the Nine Hells and plots to overthrow the deities themselves. He's thoroughly evil, elegant, and supremely confident... and yet anyone who descends to the lowest layer of Hell, and travels down the Serpent's Coil to his citadel, the Fortress Nessus, will find a vast and splendid palace that nevertheless feels empty, melancholy. Its magnificent halls are said to resonate with despair, regret, and the constant sound of soft weeping.
- Several villains in William Shakespeare plays find this out.
- Macbeth and his wife find that killing the king so that you can inherit the throne wasn't worth it, and Claudius also ends up learning that same lesson.
- Richard III, where at the beginning Richard says, "I am determined to prove a villain / And hate the idle pleasures of these days." At the end of the play, after, amongst other ill deeds, having his brother and nephews murdered, he remarks to himself:
What do I fear? myself? there's none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
- In The Ring of the Nibelung Hagen tells his father Alberich he is constantly miserable and hates people being happy.
- Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights turned to the dark side to get vengeance fully understanding that being evil sucks, and counted on the fact that her boss would betray her and kill her because she felt she deserved death for turning in the first place.
- Being evil for Darth Nihilus in Knights of the Old Republic really sucked, as indulging his supernatural hunger ate him away from the inside.
- Choosing the evil alignment in Black & White tends to earn the player far fewer rewards than if they play the good option when attempting challenges and mini-games.
- Super Mario Bros.: Even when he doesn´t do something "evil", Waluigi suffers from this. He is hated by everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom (including himself), he lives at the constant shadow of his partner Wario, everyone despises or is scared of him and nothing ever goes right for him, no matter how hard he tries. In his first appearence, all he ever wanted was to be famous and loved like the Mario Brothers. He trained many years prior to that to become as strong as them.
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, poor Vivian was clearly already starting to realize this at the start of the game. As one of the Shadow Sirens, her sisters treated her like garbage, and always dumped the blame for their mistakes on her. Then, as fate would have it, she met Mario, and because he couldn't tell her his name due to Doopliss' spell, the two formed a brief partnership, and for the first time in her life, someone was treating her decently. When she did find out who he was, the choice was between staying with someone who was treating her nicely or going back to two rotten sisters who were treating her like dirt. What other choice could she make?
- BioWare used to run with this in general. In both Jade Empire and Knights of the Old Republic, taking the dark path means you'll end up having to slaughter most of your party, delivering a Player Punch and making the endgame more difficult.
- In Mass Effect, a hard-core Renegade path can bite you in the ass hard, as it makes your companions less likely to trust you, destroys several assets that would be really useful at the endgame, makes the political negotiations you have to make to get an army against the Reapers harder to accomplish, and usually results in a few dead squadmates.
- Averted with Dragon Age, which is set in such a Crapsack World that taking the "honorable" option usually leaves you and everyone else worse off.
- Beat in The World Ends with You. As a result of his subsequent side-switching, Konishi gives him a few days to live, before he'll fade away.
- Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth has power beyond what anyone can imagine but at the expense of his sanity, memories, emotions and very humanity.
- While in the original Final Fantasy VI, Kefka was painted as a psychopath without remorse, restrains or regrets who actively, and successfully, tried to make every bad situation much, much worse, all of it because he found it entertaining beyond reason, the developers for Dissidia: Final Fantasy decided to run with an Alternative Character Interpretation. There he is instead depicted as a man who's nigh-godlike powers have ruined his ability to feel joy to the point where he can only feel it when destruction is involved. The reprise of his well-known, hateful, nihilistic rant about the futility of the world from the original game takes on the nature of a wistful lament, and even as Kefka dies, he laughs. A sad laugh.
- In Spec Ops: The Line, Colonel John Konrad had to do horrible, sadistic things to try keeping order in the sandstorm-ravaged Dubai. Throughout the game, he repeatedly talks to the main character, Captain Martin Walker, trying to explain the choices he had to make and forcing Walker to make a few of his own. However, it is later revealed that the guilt Konrad felt for his actions led him to kill himself long before the game even began, and the Konrad that has been talking to Walker and the player is actually a hallucination; a manifestation of Walker's guilt for the actions he has done, like using white phosphorus on a refugee camp. This is an interesting variation, as the protagonist of the story thinks he's the hero charging in to save the day, but he subconsciously knows he's done bad things, and this drives him to insanity, reinforcing the game's central themes: an examination of what soldiers go through and how their mental state is affected, and a look at just how far removed modern war shooters are from reality.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: Dwayne Forge describes his experience as a drug-lord in these terms. More specifically, he describes it as "sorta fun and sorta like living in hell," and being a Corrupter to those around him, preying on their flaws to turn them into crack-fiends for reliable business.
- Kotomine in Fate/stay night discovered a long time ago that Being Good Sucks but kept trying anyway. After all, even if it brought him no satisfaction he did have a moral compass. And then his Ill Girl of a wife died and he had a chat with Gilgamesh and decided to be evil instead. By the time the story starts, Being Good Sucks and Being Evil Sucks and it pisses him off so much that he attempts to bring a pseudo-Cosmic Being into the world to get some answers. Basically: If being good is supposed to be a good thing, why doesn't he like it? If he should just be evil, why does that feel wrong to him?
- Trudy of General Protection Fault loves Nick, but her scheming to take over the world and using him in those schemes ultimately drives him to reject her. In the Bad Future, this leads to her killing him, losing her sanity in the process and hunting down the rebels to "avenge" his death. In what actually happens, she tries to kill him, but is unable to go through with it, and ends up on the run, tormented by dreams of guilt about her actions and by Nick's last disappointed look toward her. After Nick and Ki get engaged, she slips past the Despair Event Horizon and once attempts suicide, but meeting Akhilesh enables her to come to terms with herself and work more toward atoning for what she has done.
- Dominic Deegan:
- Alt-Schlock in Sluggy Freelance learned this far far too late after he'd eliminated nearly all of humanity and created a Crapsack World of only one city who's few remaining citizens are living drug addled lives with no memories and that the only way to maintain it will slowly destroy what's left. He finally shuts off the nano machines keeping himself alive because he's lost everything and doesn't even want to live anymore. Schlock prime is heading in the same direction.
- The Order of the Stick prequel book Start of Darkness details the origins of Xykon and Redcloak. Redcloak eventually learns how much being evil sucks after Xykon makes him kill his brother (who had already tried to run away from Xykon's evil scheme twice).
- Xykon himself may have a lot of Evil Is Cool going on, but he also lost the one joy in his life (coffee) when he became a lich. The revelation that he could no longer taste his favorite beverage caused some severe Sanity Slippage, and now the only thing that gives him any pleasure is hurting others.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Zuko realizes after he averted a Heel-Face Turn that despite having everything he ever wanted, he is dissatisfied with the methods he used to get there.
- Zuko's sister Azula learns the hard way that being a Magnificent Bastard may get you all the power and success in the world, but it also means that everyone around you is only there because they're scared of you or were manipulated into it. Unlike Zuko, Azula's pride won't let her admit that she was wrong; the resulting conflict pretty much destroys her mind, though Word of God claims that it's not totally beyond repair.
- The Batman: In the episode "The Apprentice", a kid in Barbara Gordon's class falls in with the Joker. Both have a weird sense of humor, and Joker makes him his sidekick as a mock to Batman and Batgirl. However, when they succeed against the caped duo and the Joker tells him to kill Batgirl, the kid is horrified. He just wanted to make a statement and defy convention, not kill. He wisely bails and the now favorable odds let the heroes beat the Joker.
- In the Batman Beyond episode "Joyride", one Jokerz initiate tags along as another member of the gang hijacks an experimental advanced fighter craft. He becomes increasingly horrified as the hijacker goes mad with power and does things like attacking a rival gang armed with nothing but chains and tasers. When he overhears the guy denouncing the Jokerz as a crutch and ignoring Terry's warnings that the craft's illegal nuclear reactor is going critical that's the last straw. He knocks down the lunatic with a folding chair and leaves the Jokerz forever.
- Beast Wars
- This is essentially the reason for Dinobot switching sides during the first arc. He couldn't stand working for an evil guy like Megatron, and after failing to take leadership from him, jumped to the other team.
- Rampage is an Expy of Hannibal Lecter, but is clearly aware of what a nightmare his life is ("I regret everything, my sweet."). It's implied at the end that he's also a Death Seeker.
- In the Bravestarr episode "Brother's Keeper," Bravestarr captures one of a pair of bandits who are brothers. The bandit admits the life of crime sucked and he's glad it's over, and the only reason he'd kept on with it was to look out for his brother, who is a much more unrepentant low-life.
- South Park,
- in the "Woodland Critter Christmas" episode, Kyle willingly takes the Antichrist's essence into his body, but immediately feels the excruciating pain of "having one's soul on fire". Stan replies with "what did you expect, dude, he's the son of the devil!" "Yeah, but I didn't think it'd be so... dark and evil!" The whole incident was a Christmas story written by Cartman.
- Back in the second season, Satan's son Damien joins the boys' third grade class. For some reason, no matter how much he terrorizes and tortures the other third graders, he just can't get the kids to like him.
- Early on in the second season of Xiaolin Showdown, Raimundo, who had turned on his comrades and subsequently joined Wuya after being denied promotion, has just been rewarded by Wuya for help in restoring her and helping her take over the world with his own personal arcade. He is soon lonely and disappointed that he has no one else to enjoy it with, and pleads his friends when they are captured to join him. Their impending execution finally convinces Raimundo to turn on Wuya.
- Batman: The Animated Series: This is one of the Central Themes for Gotham City villians: Except The Joker and Diabolical Mastermind Ras al Ghul, every villian has Hidden Depths that let him know a life of crime sucks and would attempt redemption. All There in the Manual has a lot of examples or Redemption Failure, and by the time Batman Beyond sets in, all of Batman's Rogues Gallery has died, said Screw This, I'm Outta Here! (Poison Ivy) or even found Redemption (the ventriloquist). Bane and Mr. Freeze's destinies are And I Must Scream, and all the others had been forgotten.
- In "It's Never Too Late", aging mobster Arnold Stromwell's life has become terrible. His marriage is crumbling, and his organization is falling apart due to Rupert Thorne's rise to power. Eventually, Stromwell sees that his own son has become a drug addict as a result of his organization dealing them. At first, he still isn't convinced enough to accept Batman's conditions and make a deal with the police, until his clergyman brother Father Michael (who had saved him from being run over by a train when they were kids, an act that cost him his leg) helps him out of charity one more time, resulting in him finally deciding to retire and turn State's evidence.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Discord is a Physical God with near-infinite power, and certainly seems to enjoy unleashing chaos on the world whenever he gets a chance, but in all the eons he's existed, he has never had a single friend. When he finally gets one, he's astonished to find that she matters to him more than anything else, and chooses to preserve that friendship by agreeing to use his power for good, "most of the time".
- In the Season 4 finale, he falls victim to Lord Tirek's temptation and betrays the ponies, believing that he'll regain the freedom he thinks he needs... only to be betrayed in turn and realize too late that evil has no sense of loyalty. In contrast, despite his betrayal, Twilight Sparkle still considers him her friend, convincing him to take their side again, presumably genuinely this time.
- In the "Fallen Angel" episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003, there was Angel, a young girl from Casey's neighborhood who he tried to be a Big Brother Mentor to, wanted to join the Purple Dragons because she thought Evil Is Cool, despite Casey's attempts to talk her out of it. She changed her mind quickly when his attempts led to him being captured by the Dragons, who obviously intended to kill him in as the finale to their violent initiation rites. Fortunately, Casey told her where to get help.
- By the end of Transformers Prime, both Knock Out and Megatron have come to this. Knock Out genuinely defects to the Autobots as they would treat him decently. For Megatron, it took getting killed, Barred from the Afterlife from his use of Dark Energon he'd been poisoning himself with and being possessed by God of Evil Unicron to make him realize just what kind of a villain he had become.