Waiting to put on a black shirt.Black Shirts are closet Evil Minions yearning for the day the villain brings about his Empire of Evil. In the meantime, they'll complain about the current "decadent and corrupt" government to anyone who won't roll their eyes and to some people who will. Once the villain starts recruiting, these guys are in line before Les Collaborateurs have finished breakfast. The threat that Black Shirts represent is a latent one. While they're harmless on their own or in peacetime, they quickly organize into a formidable force in service of the Big Bad. Heroes are nominally obliged not to kill them, but even the Messianic Archetype would be hard pressed to make them turn to the side of good. What's more, they completely agree with the Evil Overlord's agenda, no matter how cruel, inhuman or insane — even if it means that they'll end up dying themselves by its conclusion (a fact they usually ignore). While Les Collaborateurs are greedy enough that they can be bribed into helping the good guys, Black Shirts do it for fanaticism and can't be swayed by mere money. Against them, only force will ultimately stop them and you'll know they'll show no mercy in a heartbeat if they think they can get away with it, so get ready to get tough with them. They frequently serve the fairly useful purpose of explaining just how the villain got so much support overnight (namely, it was always there, the villain just managed to lead them) and, on the other hand, add a bit of Nightmare Fuel to a happy ending - unless they have been all killed or otherwise had their minds changed, the villain's ideology is still viable in the setting... Authors with an agenda will often make them into a Strawman Political for whatever ideology they dislike, and top it off by having them led by a Straw Hypocrite. Some character types like the Alpha Bitch or the Jerk Jock can become Black Shirts when presented with the right opportunity. Named after the uniform worn by the Italian fascists and by their ineffectual British imitators. The Nazis did the same thing with brown shirts (who were replaced with the actually black-shirted SS after the Nazis actually took power and the brownshirts had outlived their usefulness), and one American fascist movement wore silver shirts. Needless to say, this trope is Truth in Television, since every distasteful ideology has always had followers, and of course, uniforms are a very easy way of enforcing conformity, as practically any organised group from store employees to the Boy Scouts to, y'know, armies can attest to.note Also see The Quisling, Day of the Jackboot and Secret Police. Unrelated to Red Shirt and Mauve Shirt.
Waiting to weed out the weaklings.
Waiting to smash in their windows
And kick in their doors.
Waiting for the Final Solution
To strengthen the strain.
Waiting to weed out the weaklings.
Waiting to smash in their windows
And kick in their doors.
Waiting for the Final Solution
To strengthen the strain.
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Anime and Manga
- Interestingly enough, MÄR manages to pull this one off with a nice Heel–Face Turn at the end of it. Ash has actually joined the Chess Pieces to protect the children he loves and despite Ginta telling him that Phantom just wants to kill everyone, he knows this and it isn't until his strongest ARMs are overpowered and defeated that he finally admits defeat and completes the turn. Letting Ginta know that he's leaving it in the boy's capable hands to protect the kids in his place.
- In Legend of Galactic Heroes, the corrupt administration in The Federation has its own black shirts.
- The cult of Kira in Death Note, who actually appear in the manga after Kira's defeated.. Light also thought Matsuda was this. Five bullets later, Light was no longer so sure.
- Large swaths of the Marvel Universe's general populace. It is surprising when we see Muggles side with mutants and the like.... Though they don't show up that often, the Sons of the Serpent are basically Marvel's version of the KKK, and they actively recruit among the ordinary population. Racial or religious minorities, mutants, whoever: they pretty much hate everyone.
- Pro-Nazi Bunds were a common foe of the Justice Society of America in The Golden Age of Comic Books.
- In Superman: Birthright, Superman's first foes are Black Shirts working for Luthor, who truly believe Luthor's theory that Superman is an evil alien invader.
- A good version is seen in Planet Hulk, where the Imperial resistance's morale is bolstered when rumors surface of a mysterious green goliath who put a scar on the Red King's face the first time he entered the ring as a gladiator. The captions put it best, describing how they don't know their peoples' warrior history because those days are long gone, that their fighting streak ended with their fathers' fathers. They don't know how to fight, but all of a sudden... they do.
- Therefore, Repent!: The Splitters who side with the psychopathic angels against La Résistance.
- Doc Savage takes on the Silver Shirt bundists in the first issue of Millenium Comics Doc Savage: Man of Bronze.
- In The Spirit comic strip by Will Eisner, a fake invasion by Nazis brings these guys out of the woodwork.
- Star Wars series: Anakin Skywalker. Likewise Stormtroopers follow this trope mostly (at least with the Clone Troopers), they only respond to the emperor and even those who oppose the Empire are only due to the fact their trainer cared for them so much and shown them their Proud Warrior Race Heritage to warrant such a situation. Some other Clone Troopers are disgusted by that though. This is lampshaded a bit in one of the Tag & Bink comics; a Stormtrooper goes on a little rant about how in a time of war and confusion, the Emperor brought forth peace, order, public safety, health care, and so on. Apparently he didn't know that the emperor deliberately caused said war and confusion for this very purpose.
- Noah Vosen from The Bourne Series
- It Happened Here, set in a German-occupied Britain. It's implied Oswald Mosley is in charge, and the Immediate Action Organisation consists of former blackshirts (at least one of them complains about how the Germans keep "getting in the way" and not letting them run things); in fact actual British neo-Nazis were used for some of the scenes, which caused much controversy as they were allowed to openly express their views.
- Fight Club featured a group of black shirts calling themselves Project Mayhem. One of the film's more obvious clues that these guys are not heroes is their literal black shirts and habit of chanting in unison while Edward Norton is pleading with them to think for themselves.
- In Osmosis Jones, Thrax recruits a bunch of bacteria gangsters from Frank's armpit after killing their leader. He ends up destroying all of them, too, when they suggest "incubating" for a few days.
- The Harry Potter series provides numerous examples:
- Filch readily welcomes Dolores Umbridge as Headmistress of Hogwarts during her Tyrant Takes the Helm arc because she gives him free rein in his sadistic disciplinary tactics — in fact, hers surpass his!
- Umbridge herself seems to leap at the chance to upgrade from being a Sadist Teacher to being able to torment the entire muggle-born population after Voldemort takes over in Book 7.
- The Malfoys and other Death Eaters readily lap up Voldemort's views and policies on all non pure-blood Wizards as being inferior, even though Voldemort's pretty contemptuous of all others himself. Voldemort is probably tailoring his message specifically to fit their prejudices.
- Ultimately deconstructed with the Malfoys (especially the bratty teenaged son who never actually lived through the Big Bad's original reign of terror and comes to find that cold blooded murder is quite few steps above harassing your classmates) in that they quickly find that they got way more than they bargained for once he actually returns and reinstates his de facto dictatorship. After learning the hard way that Evil Is Not a Toy, they decide to just grab each other, ditch their Bad Boss, and opt for a strategic withdrawal.
- The entire Slytherin House sides with Voldemort without a second thought during the Final Battle. However, Professor McGonagall suspends most of them before the big battle. Some returned with Slughorn and his reinforcements to fight in the final battle on Harry's side.
- In several novels, small groups of aristocratic characters are portrayed as plotting against Lord Vetinari so that they can restore the monarchy with a puppet and make their interests policy, even though it's hinted this would be disastrous in the long run, which is why most city leaders are against the idea of a monarchy, even those from noble families such as the Rusts and Venturis who are critical of Vetinari personally.
- The Day Watch and the Palace Guard from Guards! Guards!! and Men at Arms, contrasted with the more Jerk with a Heart of Gold-like Night Watch.
- P. G. Wodehouse created a rather merciless (and contemporary-to-the-original) savage parody of the Blackshirts — Sir Roderick Spode and his Blackshorts, from the Jeeves and Wooster stories.
- It is explained that they adopted this because all the shirts were already taken. Bertie takes the chance to sneer at "a handful of halfwits (disfiguring) the London scene by going about in footer bags."
- Jeeves and Bertie get to hold over Spode the Dark Secret that he designs lingerie under the brand name "Eulalie Soeurs", which would ruin his fascistic aspirations if it got out.
- From The Lord of the Rings: Bill Ferny, Harry Goatleaf, and the rest of the "ruffians" from Bree, plus the malcontent hobbit Ted Sandyman, who are more than happy to join Lotho Sackville-Baggins as hired thugs when he takes over the Shire with Saruman's help.
- Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here chronicles the rise of American fascism based on religious fundamentalists (duped, more or less), economic discontent, and hatred of Communists and socialists. President Buzz Windrip's supporters organize themselves into paramilitary Minute Men units complete with blue uniforms
- In S.M. Stirling's T2 Trilogy, "Luddite" environmental extremists work for SkyNet because wiping out humanity is a good thing. Even Skynet thinks they're crazy.
- Timeline-191: Being an Alternate History, Harry Turtledove's series features the SS-counterparts in the form of the Freedom Party Stalwarts. The series also mentions the Silver Shirts, who were organised by Oswald Mosley and Evil Churchill in 1920s Britain (which had lost the First World War).
- There were real-life Silver Shirts, too.
- Everworld: The Sennites. They have a certain gray-eyed witch in mind for the throne of Everworld, and if you get in the way, you'll eat lead.
- The Grey Stormtroopers from Hard to Be a God by Strugatsky Brothers.
- The various Kuinists from The Chronoliths are just waiting for the day when prophesied world conqueror Kuin will arrive and lead them to victory. One of them, Adam Mills, serves as the de facto Big Bad in Kuin's absence.
- Many rank and file Darkfriends are this in Wheel of Time. They pledged themselves to the Dark One (usually out of greed or power lust) but they mostly serve as informers, messengers and sleeper agents. They are clearly unpleasant and bad persons but they don't usually do so much harm, at least until a powerful leader (for example a Forsaken) takes charge and actually makes them do something.
- In the Agatha Christie World War II novel N or M?, Tommy and Tuppence run across a number of characters who admire the Nazis and think it a pity that Britain didn't ally with Germany at the start of the war. It turns out the villain has an entire book full of these: people in power who can be counted on to support the Nazis in case of an invasion. The villain is also an example of one, British by birth but spying for and supporting the Nazis.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5: The Night Watch appears to have been almost entirely composed of Black Shirts. And Zack, who gets them all VERY arrested...though Garibaldi does, at least, call out a few of them, whose facial expressions imply they're reluctant.
- The two V miniseries had a youth group that followed the Visitors and helped them in their "we're only taking over for your own good, really" approach to humanity. Loosely based on the Real Life Hitler Youth. There is such a group in the re-imagined series as well.
- One episode of Lois and Clark, "Super Mann", featured a group of deep-cover Nazis, who had created "all-American" cover personas as a footballer, a model and a country singer. The Daily Planet's new copyboy, in addition to being a rather bitter figure who even Jimmy thought was a bit of a dweeb, was a huge fan of theirs. When they revealed their true colours, of course, he was the first to get a black leather uniform and took over the Planet building.
- Foyle's War: In "Trespass", a former member of Mosley's black shirts was attempting to start up a similar organisation in post-war Britain. Although he claims to be in favour of a single European givernment, in his first speech he reveals it will be a Europe free of Jews, Slavs and other 'undesirables'. He whips a mob into a frenzy where they murder a pair of harmless Polish refugees on the mistaken belief they are Jewish.
- Parodied in Jeeves and Wooster where Black Shorts (as all shirt colours were taken already) use imagery very similar to one used by German and Italian fascists, but are all real Black Shirts should not be: incompetent, lazy, fumbling, very low in number, and partial to haphazardly twisted ideas (such as providing all citizens with a British-made bicycle and umbrella) . They get dissolved when their leader quits the politics.
- Doctor Who: Ratcliffe and his gang of neo-Nazi thugs who ally themselves with the Daleks in "Remembrance of the Daleks". Ratcliffe even mentions that he had been jailed during World War II for advocating that Britain was on the wrong side (implying that he was an actual Black Shirt).
- Subverted in the music video for Eminem's "Mosh". Throughout the song, Eminem engages in a vicious diatribe against then-president George W. Bush on a rain-soaked stage. This inspires scores of disaffected people to put on identical hooded sweatshirts, take to the streets, and fight through a police blockade... so they can line up at a voting station in an orderly fashion.
- In the original stage version of Ustinov's Romanoff And Juliet, one of the bookend guards explains that his movement wears violet shirts - "or would if we could afford them."
- JRP Gs seem fond of this, especially those of the SNES era. If the villain is a leader who's openly belligerent, and you enter his hometown or base of operations, you can expect to find these spouting his praises and talking about how the day where he rises to power and kills all who oppose him is at hand.
- Dark Lord Ghirahim of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword performs rituals to summon the Imprisoned, hoping to resurrect his lord and serves him. Ghirahim is in fact a Living Weapon, his purpose is to literally serve Demise as a sword.
- Fascist rebels in Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun.
- Ilse God-Hater in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. She openly despises the official religion of the Septim Empire. Turns out later in the game she's a member of the Mythic Dawn, and ends up dying on the Player Character's blade.
- In the campaign mode of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, the very first mission of the Undead Scourge campaign has the player invading the capital city of Lordaeron to find and recruit acolytes who are hiding amongst the local populace, waiting for the return of the Scourge.
- MAG ISA — The cult members wear black...
- Concerned: Gordon Frohman (not Freeman, common mistake) in the Half-Life parody comic is the dumbest blackest Black Shirt imaginable. Though not malicious, he is a dim-witted thoroughly pro-Breen and anti-Freeman advocate, doing everything he can to stop the hero and his allies. Thankfully, he's more of a Spanner in the Works who inadvertently helps Freeman at Breen's expense (though he is at least responsible for transforming Ravenholm into the Zombie-infested hellhole it is). He buys into the flimsy propaganda and he can't tell how awful the Combine is, so much so that when he accidentally escapes to Ravenholm he misses living in the oppressive Dystopia so much he makes a spare parts Evil Tower of Ominousness and (inert) Strider.
- In Homestuck, Guy Fieri and Insane Clown Posse work for the Condesce when she invades the Earth.
- Reboot: Megabyte's defeat by Matrix frees hundreds of Binomes who he had infected and forced to be his slaves. However, in the film "My Two Bobs," we see a group of former Viral Binomes who actually liked serving Megabyte, since it gave them free rein to bully people. (Plus, it impressed the ladies.) These Black Shirts are reduced to being minor nuisances in the era of prosperity following Megabyte's defeat until said villain returns. They whip themselves into a fairly impressive fighting force despite their limited numbers and ultimately aid Megabyte in gaining control of the Core, which is unfortunately the cliffhanger the series ends on.
- Kim Possible: Alpha Bitch Bonnie Rockwaller, Kim's high school arch-enemy turns into a Black Shirt when Shego takes over the world.
- Jem: Clash is the Black Shirt in universe — as she's the first Misfits fan we set our eyes on.