"A bully, thought Susan. A very small, very weak, very
dull bully, who doesn't manage any real bullying, because there's hardly anyone smaller or weaker than him, so he just settles for making everyone's life that little bit more difficult..."
Someone who is obsessed with doing everything rigid, proper, and by the book — even (or especially) if it interferes with doing it right.
On TV, a Control Freak is usually not the big boss; they act the way they do because they're stuck in a professional rut and they want out. Most end up as big fish in small ponds, abusing what little authority they have and hopelessly trying to impress the boss by forcing underlings to fill out all forms in triplicate with identical number-two pencils.
Every Control Freak specializes in endless stories about their past achievements, usually involving the military
and usually bogus.
With a bit more power, they're the Obstructive Bureaucrat
. Ten steps beyond that is The Chessmaster
. Often closely related to Pride
and Despotism Justifies the Means
. The Neidermeyer
and the Sadist Teacher
are usually this.
Not all Control Freaks are self serving Glory Hounds
per se, some may have perfectly kind intentions, just their egos drive them to think said kind intentions can only be set out through their
way of doing things and if they are forceful enough in their ideals people will naturally see they are for the best of everyone
. Several realistic mental disorders such Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
can also drive otherwise pleasant people to demand things just so almost subconsciously. Most Rightly Self-Righteous
characters become insufferable to others due to acting like this.
When it's parents that are involved, they're usually either a My Beloved Smother
or Fantasy-Forbidding Father
Not to be confused with the Teen Titans
villain named Control Freak.
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Anime & Manga
- Chiri of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, who, like everyone else in the show, is an extreme exaggeration. Even her Cross-Popping Veins appear neatly and symmetrically.
- In Mirai Nikki Yuno had control-freak parents who measured everything she did from how many hours she got to sleep to how many calories she had a day. They also kept her in a cage and starved her in an effort to raise her to be a model person.
- It is later revealed that this was mostly just her mother. Her father spent most of his time at work and was hardly ever home, so he didn't even realize this was going on.
- In Sherry Belmont's backstory from Zatch Bell!, her mother is shown to be one of these, dictating pretty much how she lived her life, putting her through Training from Hell, and coming inches from sending her over the Despair Event Horizon.
- Bright Noa is one of these early on in Mobile Suit Gundam trying to control the lives of everyone in the crew. Given the stress he's under it's not surprising and he loosens up as the show goes on.
- My Bride Is a Mermaid: Mawari Zenigata is this to the extent that others refer to her as the "demonic" head of the disciplinary committee.
- Gundam SEED Destiny's Big Bad Gilbert Durandal is one, and it becomes his Fatal Flaw. His inability to abide unpredictability causes him to antagonize a number of very powerful people long before he needed to, eventually bringing his plans crashing down.
- Leetah in ElfQuest considers herself one of these: she wants to have complete control over her healing powers, going so far as to stab herself in the stomach to force her powers to surge. Granted, she was reacting to severe emotional trauma at the time, but she's admitted that the attitude extends to her daily life and her family. Often, her first reaction to panic is to take charge, heal everything in sight, fix what can be immediately fixed (even if it's a terrible idea to do so) and have a proper emotional breakdown later.
- Sally Acorn had shades of this in the earlier more comical issues of Sonic the Hedgehog (and it's animated counterpart), usually butting heads with the reckless and free spirited Sonic as a result. This was diluted as the stories matured, the rare occasion she delves back in this trope are more Played for Drama.
- Darkseid is a highly extreme example. He wishes to impose not just his rule, but his will, upon every single sentient being in the universe. He considers free will a threat to him, so he seeks the Anti-Life Equation to eliminate free will and impose only his own will upon the universe. He actually gets to use the Anti-Life Equation in Final Crisis, and he was taking over the Multiverse doing so.
- Brainiac is another extreme example. He travels world to world, stealing technology and culture and then destroying the worlds, keeping one city bottled up for him to remember it by. He hates any situation in which he is not in control, despises developments that are not supervised by him, and would sooner see the universe remain in stasis or be reduced to nothingness than let it change.
- Deathstroke has a warped sense of familial responsibility but also enjoys using drugs to keep control over younger heroes he's "taken" on as proteges. This includes his daughter Rose Wilson, even after her drug induced psychosis made her gouge out an eye, Cassandra Cain in an effort to take revenge on the Bat Family taking Rose from him, one of the explanations as to why the first Terra had a manic breakdown, and later with Roy Harper after his daughter died via getting Roy unknowingly addicted to Bliss.
- Notably, while Paul is a Real Life Control Freak, he doesn't exhibit much of that in With Strings Attached, probably because he's not got a lot of control over his own body, let alone the circumstances the four have been thrust into.
- Leviathan from Avatar Of Victory really doesn't like people touching his things and screwing up his plans. When Shepard frees the Prothean he's using to spawn Collectors, he throws what amounts to a child's temper tantrum and ups his efforts to kill them.
Films — Animated
- Mr. Huph, Bob's boss in The Incredibles is certainly a cut from this mold. Granted, Bob isn't a great employee for an insurance firm (given his conscience won't let him deny any claims), but Huph's pure bullying nature and reactions of offended dignity point to Bob not quite being the problem here. He even gives Bob a pre-planned disciplinary speech much like the "monologues" given by the super-villains Bob used to fight as Mr. Incredible. While cartoonish, his comeuppance is way too satisfying to watch. The commentary on the DVD reveals that director Brad Bird, who had been fired from his first two jobs, had middle-management bosses like Huph.
- President/Lord Business from The LEGO Movie; everything in his city runs on conformity and following the rules, and his Evil Plan is to glue everything down so that no one can mess with his things. The Man Upstairs, whom Lord Business is partially based off, is just as much of a control freak, but he changes his ways when he sees just how creative his son is.
Films — Live-Action
- All the characters in Brazil who are not heroes, love interests, or ninja plumbers are this.
- First Officer Lieutenant Martin Pascal in Down Periscope.
- Abby from The Ugly Truth.
- "Ace" Rothstein in Casino. Such a perfectionist that he insists on an equal number of blueberries in every muffin.
- J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) in Now You See Me. This proves to be a plot point, as the FBI finds out he likes to keep track of his entire crew by making them wear GPS bracelets. The FBI try to use them to spy on the Horsemen, except they manage to slip one of the trackers into a lead agent's pocket, causing him to run around New Orleans chasing himself. However, given The Reveal, it's possible he knew about the tracker in his pocket and was deliberately making a fool of himself to keep the other agents following him and not the Horsemen.
- The Cat in the Hat: Sally is stated to have ended two of her friendships because the friends in question either didn't let her be the head chef while they were baking or because they talked back to her. The Cat's "phunometer" even explicitly labels her a control freak.
- In 1984, the Party are an extreme variant of control freak, and nowhere is this more evident than in the concept of Thoughtcrime — they have made even thinking against the government a crime.
- In Gone, Astrid.
- In Stephen King's The Shining Ullman the hotel manager is like this. Jack Torrance thinks he is an "officious little prick" and this opinion is shared by more than one member of the Overlook's staff.
- Even though most of the staff consider Ullman an officious little prick, they admit that he's good at his job. Watson, the maintenance man, who HATES Ullman admits that Ullman is good at at what he does and definitely earns his salary. Ullman is the first manager of the Overlook who's ever turned a profit for the place.
- From the same author, It gives us Tom Rogan, who micromanages every single aspect of his wife's life and beats her when she doesn't do exactly what he wants. It's not made entirely clear whether he carries this attitude to work with him, or if his wife is the sole victim of it.
- In Pride and Prejudice, there is only one correct way to do things, and that is Lady Catherine de Burgh's way... at least, in her head it is, and she's very fond of loudly and at length explaining to people what they should be doing. And as she's one of the landed gentry, people are very reluctant to disagree with her. This leads to a certain amount of tension when she eventually meets Elizabeth Bennet, who is not the sort of person to let other people push her around and bully her. Especially when one of the things that Lady Catherine believes is the "wrong" way of doing things is Elizabeth getting married to Mr. Darcy...
- Charlie, a middle-manager in the tooth-fairy operation in the Discworld novel Hogfather, and the subject of the above quote. Takes severe pride in his work (making sure the cart-driver signs his paperwork), is quick to make it clear that any problems are someone else's fault, would be on a tropical island if the organisation didn't need him; and has never wondered what happens to the teeth, because that's not his job.
- Brother Jerome in the Brother Cadfael novels and television series.
- Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. This gets even better/worse when she quite obviously doesn't practice what she preaches. She intends on using the torturing spell, the Cruciatus Curse, on Harry to get information on Sirius' location, but Hermione says that it's illegal to use it on another human being (It is.) Umbridge decides to use it anyway since "what Fudge (the Minister of Magic) doesn't know won't hurt him!"
- Vernon and Petunia Dursley are more comedic examples of this. They're quite proud of the totally mundane middle-class life they live, and go to great lengths to keep it up. While they and their son have little trouble with this, this trope comes into play in regards to the strange things that happen because Harry's a wizard. Even seemingly harmless things, like Ron thinking he had to yell through a phone or Mrs. Weasley covering an envelope in stamps because she wasn't sure how many were meant to go on for Muggle post, get the Dursleys angry simply because they hate any magical-related things interfering with their lives.
- In the Descent novelization, this is St. John's largest character flaw. To his credit, he does recognize this after the first book and begins taking steps to tone it down.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has a lot of nobles who are accustomed to total obedience and so come across as this. Tywin Lannister takes the cake, however, as he dictates every little detail of his family's lives, and goes well past the Moral Event Horizon to prevent Tyrion "dishonouring" the family in any way. Even the family members he actually likes get disowned if they defy him, even if they were still loyal to the family.
- The Saga of Seven Suns has Chairman Basil Wenceslas, whose pretensions to Magnificent Bastardry fail because he wastes too much time and effort trying to dominate the teenage king Peter. Even though Peter is The Good King, and would be quite happy to work with Basil for the good of the people, Basil's refusal to accept anything less than subservience from the "intractable" king greatly undermines his own position, and leads him into acts of petty dog-kicking out of simple spite. These tendencies eventually take him past the Moral Event Horizon and into his prolonged Villainous Breakdown, during which he becomes even more controlling, and alienates previously loyal subordinates.
- Alice Cullen of Twilight often comes across as this. She dictates what clothes her family wears and apparently rarely allows them to wear the same things twice. Throughout the series, she also forces Bella to act as a living Barbie, making her put on make-up and dresses Alice approves of and forcing her to go to dances Bella has no interest in attending. When she finds out that Bella simply wants a shotgun wedding without any fancy ceremonies, she promptly guilt-trips Bella into letting her arrange a massive wedding, even though the Cullens periodically re-marry for public appearances and thus there's no shortage of weddings to plan. In one of the outtakes, Alice is so determined to make Bella wear an outfit she approves of that she forces Bella to wear stiletto heels while Bella's in a foot cast and on crutches, has her broken foot be given a pedicure, and gives serious thought to removing the cast early just so Bella can wear matching shoes.
- Curran from Kate Daniels fits this in the extreme. He cares about his people, but it turns out that due to childhood trauma his main motivator is that he is hellbent on keeping his future family safe. Forcing the various shapeshifter Clans to make peace and work together, shaping them into the Pack single-handedly? All so his future mate would never be caught in the crossfire between Clans. Building the Keep, which is a huge sprawling castle designed to be easily defended, and can protect about 1500 shapeshifters? All so his mate and children would have a safe place to live. Unfortunately he didn't count on falling for Kate, who rebels against all authority by nature. Naturally, this causes tension.
- Dennis DeYoung, former keyboardist of the American rock band Styx, because musicals aren't for rock stars.
- Axl Rose. Offend him in the slightest and you'll end up without a job.
- Roger Waters. If David Gilmour is to be believed, his control-freak mode kicked in around 1977's Animals. It got worse with The Wall, which was almost entirely his writing, and culminated in The Final Cut, which infamously had the words "Written by Roger Waters; performed by Pink Floyd" printed on the back cover. Then he left the band and a series of lawsuits ensued involving who had the right to use the Animals pig and whether the rest of the band had the right to use the name "Pink Floyd."
- Paul McCartney, during the final years of The Beatles. Semi-justified though, in that Lennon was preoccupied with his side projects/relationship with Yoko Ono and generally pissing off George Harrison and Ringo Starr off, to such a degree, that McCartney had to literally take over the recording sessions with an iron hand just to keep things going.
- Even after the Beatles broke up. When The Beatles version of Twist and Shout" became a hit again after being in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off'' McCartney was upset because a marching band in the movie was playing horns on it. Never mind the original Isley Brothers version actually did have horns on it!
- Exhibit A: "Let It Be, Naked"
- Noel Gallagher joined Oasis on the condition of taking creative control of the group and becoming its sole songwriter. The rest of the band didn't object, though, since their own songwriting skills were limited. Noel eventually let the others write songs for the band as well.
- John Fogerty
- Don Henley was one; this was a major force in the Eagles' 1980 breakup.
- So was David Byrne. Talking Heads finally broke up when the other members had had enough.
- Lawrence Hayward of Felt. (Actually, he was Felt.) Among other things, he once fired a drummer for having curly hair.
- Ritchie Blackmore. It was bad enough while he was in the band, but Gillan and Lord had enough clout to hold their own. There was no one to keep him in line in Rainbow, however, and it showed.
- Calvin once asked his father what the term meant. The very favorable definition he received ("That's what lazy, slipshod, careless, cut-corner workers call anyone who cares enough to do something right") led Calvin to wonder aloud, "Am I in the presence of their king? Should I kneel?"
- Former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight, also known for his General Ripper tendencies off the court. Of course, when he was actually winning titles, nobody cared about his behavior...
- Exalted: She Who Lives In Her Name is the literal embodiment of control freakishness. Her Charmset has large chunks devoted to stripping those annoying little hairless apes of their free will so they have to do what they're told. There's a reason she's known as the Principle of Hierarchy.
- If you're a villain with The Joker as your mentor in DC Universe Online, he'd comment that Brainiac is a Control Freak that "makes Batman look slightly neurotic".
- One of the female bullies, Meg, from Rule of Rose. Highly intelligent, but inflexible, she holds the third highest spot under the Princess of the Rose.
- Andrew Ryan became this by the time of BioShock as he started implementing more extreme measures to stay in control of Rapture, eventually turning Rapture into an elitist dictatorship, the kind of thing he despised.
- Sophia Lamb also, when she took over rapture she turned most of the splicers into obedient cogs of her so called perfect society, anyone who doesn't fit in or listen to her gets eliminated.
- The Allies in Red Alert 3: Paradox control freak tendencies end up isolating the United States when they take over the government to prevent infiltration.
- By the time of Mass Effect 3, The Illusive Man has gone full Control Freak. He regularly "terminates employment" of scientists whose work has been completed so there's no chance that anyone else can acquire the science, and has partially huskified huge hordes of people to make an obedient private army in short order. In fact, his espoused method of dealing with the Reapers is to attempt to gain control of them.
- From the same series, Miranda Lawson's father not only genetically engineered his children to be perfect, but he uses mercenaries to try to recapture them by force when they defy him. Lair Of The Shadow Broker DLC reveals that Miranda has a neoplasm in her uterus which renders her incapable of getting pregnant. The most likely explanations are that her father deliberately engineered it so that his "dynasty" would only develop along the lines he desired, or that it was the "imperfection" that prompted him to attempt to discard Miranda like he had her older sisters and create an even more perfect child in Oriana.
- Miranda herself also has this as an issue. It's heavily implied that she keeps a constant eye on Shepard's private messages and is overly-concerned about her sister's private life. This is in addition to originally wanting to implant a control chip in Shepard's brain when she brought him/her back to life. What separates her from her father is that her over-concern for her sister is motivated by genuine love and protectiveness, and as for the control chip, she eventually reveals to Shepard how much guilt she feels about it and practically begs him/her for forgiveness.
- Pretty much everything the Templars have been doing since they have existed in Assassin's Creed is to control everyone in the world. The Assassins believe in free will and fight to stop them.
- Elder Elijah, the Big Bad of the Fallout: New Vegas DLC, Dead Money, par excellence. He is a brutally pragmatic man, who thinks people are basically machines and tools to archive his ends; he tells them what to do and they go do it, and he gets increbily angry if they disobey or question him, or merely do things he did not expect them to do. He was once a bit more stable, but a disastrous tenure as Elder of a Brotherhood of Steel chapter cracked the shell off the nut. Now he aims to plunder the treasures of the lost Sierra Madre Casino: Noxious lingering gas cloud, immaterial death ray-shooting hologram soldiers, and bomb collars to ensure compliance of whoever survives.
- YHVH, the Mad God of Order, in the Shin Megami Tensei series. He's the ultimate Knight Templar, seeking to erase The Evils of Free Will from the heart of humanity, so he may reign for all time, unchanging, unending. It's not quite clear if he was always like this, and signs point to "no".
- In Misfile, Ash's father Edward used to be this, to the point that Ash's mother abandoned them both when Ash was three. Edward has since learned from his mistakes, and subscribes to a Hands-Off Parenting approach with Ash.
- Miwa in Never Mind the Gap has tendencies of this kind, especially when aggressively playing matchmaker.
- There are a few in Pacificators, but by far the biggest one is Muneca. Hoo, boy.
- In The Order of the Stick, this (combined with It's All About Me) turns out to be General Tarquin's main weakness. He's so Genre Savvy that he treats everyone as elements in a narrative he's planned out, and leaps at the chance to be his heroic son's Archnemesis Dad. When Elan refuses to take the bait and insists he's a supporting character rather than the real hero, Tarquin tries to force him into the protagonist seat by attacking his friends.
I'm sorry, Elan, but you brought this all on yourself.
I tried to give you a dramatically significant death scene to swear vengeance over, but you seem to prefer this... this disjointed anarchy. There's no unity of theme here at all!
(grabbing Elan, face twisted with rage) Yes, and it didn't go right, so we are DOING IT AGAIN
. And we will CONTINUE to do it until you understand that it is in your best interest to...
- Mr. Herriman, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.
- Hermes Conrad, Futurama is a parody in two ways; first, he knows what he is and revels in it; second, he also has elements of the stereotypical laid-back Jamaican interspersed with his Obstructive Bureaucrat persona.
- Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is usually the straight man and voice of reason, but some of his more pathetic moments approach a Control Freak (especially when he's trying to entertain anyone).
- Mechanicles in Aladdin: The Series, though he was more of an obsessive-compulsive flavour, with dashes of scheduling mania.
- Principal Skinner on The Simpsons has shades of this, though his war stories are never to impress anyone, more to traumatise them. This is the main reason he'll never impress his boss, the more laid-back Superintendent Chalmers, since he gets on Chalmers's nerves.
- Earl of Lemongrab of Adventure Time. He's a failed science experiment, how well would you EXPECT someone like that to rule a kingdom?! Also Goliad, as an evil (and scary) example.
- Princess Bubblegum is a low-key example. Granted her kingdom is full of people who can barely take care of themselves. But she can be rather short-sighted in a few decisions and often go to questionable methods that border on this trope.
- One showed up in the last Courage the Cowardly Dog episode. Courage defeats her when his imperfectness proves to be too much for her to handle.
- Jen from Sixteen, being pretty obviously the Monica of the Friends-based group, gets accused of being this fairly often.
- In American Dad!, Stan Smith is such a Control Freak that the Almighty Himself called him out on it:
God: Stop trying to control everything!
Stan: I don't do that!
God: Stan, you're holding a gun to God's head. I mean, I can't even think of a metaphor that's better than this, and I'm a published poet.
- Though this can also be considered an aversion as Stan actually has very little control over his life. He doesn’t want Haley to date Jeff, he moves in. He doesn't want another baby, Francine tries to rape him. And while Hayley’s actions are usually given the excuse of his harsh rules, they’re usually things like don’t come in pass curfew, don’t drink while underage, don’t steal monkeys and keep them in the house. Its reach the point where the family does the complete opposite of what he says the moment he says it.
- This is perfectly exemplified in “Wiener of Our Discontent” where the Aesop was that Stan doesn't have the right to deny Roger control over all human life just because he felt he didn't have any control over his.
- Played with in TaleSpin with Rebecca Cunningham, the boss of Higher for Hire. While she has a rather shrill attitude and frequently manipulates or bullies Baloo and the others into following her schemes, she fails to have much intimidation over them or take much action against their own incompetent or obnoxious habits, leading her to come off more as a bossy friend than a domineering boss.
- Rabbit of Winnie-the-Pooh whose overattention to detail and zero tolerance for his friends' nonsense often leads to him acting as this. A nightmarish dream sequence in Springtime For Roo portrays his overbearing demeanor as becoming so intolerable that everyone in the Hundred Acre Wood leaves home just to get away from it all.
- Menlo from Recess
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has Ozai and Azula. They both demand total obedience and subservience from their underlings, and the former permanently scarred and banished his son simply for speaking out of turn. The latter is an extreme perfectionist whose "friends" only follow her because they're terrified of disobeying her.
- One could interpret the Warden from Superjail! as being this. Despite his Psychotic Manchild personality and propensity for ridiculous schemes, one should remember that he is still a totalitarian dictator who runs every nook and cranny of his domain with complete disregard for its imprisoned inhabitants. Anyone who disobeys his orders or even question his ideas (I'm looking at you Jared) is either completely ignored, bullied until they comply, or even outright killed if they hinder his "controlled chaos".
- Also happens when he replaces his faithful robot, Jailbot, with a more advanced model named Jailbot 2.0. Said robot was completely dedicated to organizing the prison as much as possible, sterilizing its rowdy and chaotic environment and even disobeying its own creator for the sake of cold-hard efficiency.
- Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic though a low key one at best. Princess Celestia had sent her to Ponyville in the hopes of easing her off of this as well as learning the meaning of friendship. Though it was mostly successful, the other ponies still sometimes have to deal with Twilight's Super OCD tendencies and occasionally pious attitude.
- 3rd season Big Bad of Teen Titans Brother Blood has this, big time. Put bluntly, Blood has mind-control powers, and doesn't like it when his targets break free or resist. This is what leads to his obsession with Cyborg, as noted by the creators on the DVD commentary; Brother Blood has finally met someone who can't be controlled, and it gets under his skin so much that Blood goes to extremes to find out what's causing that.
- Brendon in Home Movies when it comes to having to direct someone else's film. As explored when his musician, Dwanye, asked that he help make a rock opera based on Franz Kafka. You'd think he be honored by this. But nope, Brendon is just a sour puss throughout the whole procedure because it wasn't his script.
- Benson from Regular Show episode "Return of Mordecai and the Rigby"
- Of course, this is also Truth in Television. There are people at school or work who either demand that they tell the rest of the group what to do since they know best or forcibly push their own ideas onto the others without listening to the opinions of the other people, especially when they think that they are faultless.
- Certain co workers tend to freak out if cleaning is done wrong not exactly how they want it
- Whether it's school, college, or business, no matter how "well-intended" the Control Freak's contributions and/or help may be, it never ends well for anyone involved... the controllers themselves included.
- Then again, it is sometimes useful to have someone take charge of the situation, such as in an emergency, if no one else is doing so- assuming that they are prepared to give up control should someone more qualified show up.
- Control freaks can also pop up in cooperative video games. In games where massive teamwork is necessary, there will sometimes be a player who will constantly tell other players what to do and treat them like they never played the game before.
- And more often than not, the people who constantly bark orders are usually the players with the least amount of skill in the team. Bonus points if said "commander" gets into trouble by his own accord and blames the rest of the team for the mishap.
- “Stop Having Fun” Guys and Scrubs fall under this. The former will criticize you for playing the game "wrong" while the latter will yell at you for not playing by their house rules.
- Read about any totalitarian dictator or authoritarian ruler in history and you're likely to get this.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (no, NOT Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) can definitely turn a person into this, in a mentally crippling way.
- Doug Walker admits he's this in products he has a say in, but mixes it with his usual Guilt Complex. He only wants to do all the work by himself so he can freely say It's All My Fault if people don't like it.
- We've all had that friend, either abusive or not, who does this.
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