There is a female villain. She could be a minor crook, or something more impressive like a professional assassin, The Dragon or even a Big Bad in her own right. Either way, she's going about her wicked ways and has every intention of continuing to do so.
And then, completely by accident, she gets pregnant.
All of a sudden, she just can't seek redemption quickly enough. Sure, she's killed and looted for years without a shred of pity for her victims — but now she's going to be a mommy, and she just can't stand the idea of her baby thinking ill of her. Or the coming baby forces her to look back on all she's done and realize that she does not want this for her child, and does not want him or her to become like her.
A variation is that she gives up the child once it is born and continues much the same as before, but we are made to understand that by doing so she squandered her chance — if she had kept the baby, she would have been redeemed.
This does not generally happen to male villains. If they have children, they are more likely to want them to grow up to follow in their evil footsteps.
The prospect of parenthood does occasionally make people straighten their lives out. However, there are also people who have children because they assume that that will make them (or their partners) better people and turn out to be wrong about that, much to the misfortune of those children — making this not quite Truth in Television.
Might be considered a subtrope of Babies Make Everything Better, and definitely a subtrope of High Heel Face Turn.
See also Morality Pet, once the child is born. See also Love Redeems.
If she doesn't pull a Heel Face Turn, but keeps the kid, she is a DarkAction Mom.
Not to be confused with the novel by David Baldacci or the 2006 Academy Award-nominated documentary feature by Amy J. Berg.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
The mangaParasyte plays with this trope: Reiko Tamura ("Tamara Rockford" in the original Mixx adaptation) was a Parasyte who became pregnant; initially, she only plans to bear the (completely human) child out of dispassionate scientific curiosity, and is completely willing to kill it when the time comes. However, by the time the child is born, she's far enough into Anti-Villain territory that, when she's finally killed, she goes out of her way to protect the child. This later happens to nearly all of the Parasytes, too — they become so humanized they forget they're flesh-eating aliens, in a metaphor for cultural assimilation.
Averted in Blood+. While she takes time away from plotting to contemplate her unborn, yet already beloved children, Diva's idea of good motherhood is trying to wipe out most humans so that her daughters grow up as part of the dominant species on the planet. Considering how she went about conceiving them in the first place, however, this is really no surprise.
While not a villain herself, Hotaru Enjouji from Kizuna had ties to the Yakuza. When she got pregnant with the baby of the Yakuza leader she was The Mistress of, she inmediately ran away from him and his group, keeping her child in the dark in regards to the past life. The boy, Kei Enjouji, didn't learn about his dad until Hotaru died of illness and left him a letter where she told him about his heritage. And he was not thrilled.
Avoided with X-Men's Mystique. When she had the child who'd go on to become Nightcrawler, she briefly reverted to her true form and Nightcrawler was obviously inhuman, so her cover was blown. She tossed 'Crawler into the drink, and happily returned to her evil ways. She does genuinely care about her foster daughter, Rogue, but turning away from her evil ways for love of Rogue alone... not gonna happen.
Then there's her OTHER biological son Graydon Creed. The less said about him, the better. No one can blame Mommy for wanting to kill him.
Except that he might not have become the mutant-hating monster he is if his mother hadn't abandoned him, leaving him to be raised by his father, Sabertooth.
Averted in Nexus: Ursula doesn't become a better person when she has Scarlet and Sheena, although since she had them as part of her plot to take over the galaxy, and conceived them in the first place by raping Horatio, this is hardly surprising. Ursula does appear to develop real feelings for Horatio though, but given that these feelings lead her to plot the death of his girlfriend Sundra, it's pretty clear she's still evil.
Subverted with Umar, foe of Doctor Strange. Umar is a pure evil Eldritch Abominationin human form who got stuck in Shapeshifter Mode Lock after giving birth to her daughter, which amongst other things cost her a portion of her power and left her weaker than her just-as-evil twin brother, the Dimension Lord Dormammu. This enraged her and made her even more of a bitch than before (which is really saying something), but it is sometimes implied that she cares for Clea at least a little. Doesn't stop her from using Clea as a pawn in her cosmic games of interdimenisonal domination or frequently plotting- and causing- the deaths of billions throughout the universe for the sake of her diabolical schemes, or even just For the Evulz.
Very common example in Fanfiction is Shego from Kim PossibleFandom. Countless stories have her setting down and having children, with said children often being the cause.
Averted in the Harry Potter fanfic Little Stars, about Bellatrix and Rodolphus's daughter Aquila. The two parents are thrilled when their girl's first word is "Crucio" and are counting down the days until she can torture Muggles with them. Oddly enough, though, her aunt Narcissa plays this trope perfectly straight, feeling guilt about Aquila's nonchalance when it comes to tormenting Neville and trying to convince her it's wrong.
In thisThe Secret Show fanfic, Doctor Doctor, after reforming from villainy due to an unexpected pregnancy, gives birth to twins fathered by Professor Professor.
The Bride from Kill Bill not only made a 180 the moment she discovered she was pregnant, but the woman trying to kill her suddenly agreed to spare her life. Though the fact that the Bride promised to abandon her mission probably helped.
Averted in the movie Willow, where evil Queen Bavmorda wants her daughter Sorsha to follow in her footsteps. Of course, that just means that point 19 of the Evil Overlord List starts to apply for her...
A slightly complicated example appears in the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight; the main character, an assassin, loses her memory shortly before learning that she's pregnant, and lives the next eight or so years of her life as a loving mother. When her memories of being an assassin eventually return and override the "mother" persona, her first instinct is to dump the kid as it's not really "hers" and pick up things where she left off. This instinct lasts right up until her daughter is kidnapped by the bad guys, whereupon she goes Mama Bear.
The Chinese movie A World Without Thieves is about a thieving/extorting couple. The woman gets pregnant and tries to get redemption by convincing her lover to help her protect a naive young man going by train to Beijing with a lot of money.
In the movie Rosemary's Baby almost the opposite of this happens at the end when Rosemary decides to stay and raise her baby, the anti-christ, with the Satanists. It's not clear whether she will become evil or not though.
Lampshaded in The Seed of Chucky wherein Tiffany, upon realizing that she has a child, is determined to give up killing in true twelve-step fashion, even to the point of leaving her hardened killer-doll boyfriend. This does not actually prevent her from killing, even after using Voodoo to first impregnate and then take over actress Jennifer Tilly's body, but those murders are "just a little slip".
The title character in Jennifer Government used to be a greedy corporate climber before she got pregnant with her daughter.
Inverted in the Victorian novel Vanity Fair: Becky Sharp starts out as a somewhat likeable Anti-Hero but then has a major Kick the Dog in her treatment of her son, who she neglects and has no affection for.
Mrs. Coulter from The His Dark Materials trilogy of books becomes a much more sympathetic character once it is revealed that she is a mother and does care about her child, although she doesn't switch sides until the very end.
Her love is shown to be extremely possessive and more than a little unhealthy, but it still motivates her to do some good, eventually.
In the end, it is actually because she is so wicked otherwise that she is able to perform a Heroic Sacrifice for her daughter's sake (by convincing a being which can see her entire life and soul that she is far too self-interested to be willing to perform a Suicide Attack).
Morgause in the novel The Wicked Day averts. She never thought of Mordred, or any of her other sons, as anything more than little tools with which to further her evilness.
In Sandy Mitchell's Warhammer 40000Dark Heresy novel Innocence Means Nothing, Jenie lies to inquistorial agents, claiming she can lead them into the tunnels. After her ruse is discovered, she reveals that she was desperate to escape: as a Gatherer of Diversity, her duties are to whore herself out to passenger and get pregnant, so that her sons will be raised by other castes (to introduce new genes to the gene pool) and her daughters will become Gatherers, too, and she is pregnant and wants better for her daughter. The Knight Templar Kiera is awed at someone going to such efforts to escape her sinful life.
Played with in that Eragon's father is actually Brom, and Selene's Heel Face Turn was a result of her saving her lover's child.
Live Action TV
Darla from Angel. By all means, the fact that her unborn child had a soul meant that technically, so did she for the duration of the pregnancy — but she became a lot nobler than she was for most of the time she possessed a soul of her own. Well apart from craving specifically innocent blood, but that stage passed. Creepiest example of Wacky Cravings ever?
Jace in Dark Angel faints in the middle of a fight with Max and it turns out that she's pregnant. After that, she overcomes ten years of Manticore brainwashing with surprising ease.
In the Birds of Prey TV series, we are told that Catwoman gave up her life of crime when Huntress was born.
Subverted in The Drew Carey Show, where Mimi, Drew's nemesis and all-around-horrible woman that she is, tries to be nice and motherly when her baby is born. However, the baby doesn't recognize this nice, clean-mouthed woman as his mother, and in order to get the baby to stop crying every time she holds him, she goes back to her old ways.
Cylon Number Eight copy Athena in the new Battlestar Galactica turns on her Cylon brethren when she becomes pregnant with Helo's child and falls in love with him. After she loses her child due to its premature birth ...or functionally kidnapping, she doesn't go back to being evil.
A temporary occurrence in Stargate SG-1: While Sha're/Amaunet is pregnant, the Goa'uld suppresses itself to protect the unborn child, and Sha're (a good guy) is in control of herself; as soon as the baby is born, however, Amaunet reasserts control.
The male version of this happens with Sylar in the Bad Future of Season 3 of Heroes. Sylar goes from a brain hungry psychopathic murderer to a cuddly, waffle-baking, more-or-less well adjusted single daddy who has to fight everyday to keep his murderous impulses (or "hunger" as he calls it) under control, all for the sake of his child. And then when his son is killed in a crossfire between him, Peter and the company, Sylar literally goes nuclear and wipes Costa Verde right off the map.
Another Gender Flip version is Jefferson, the Mad Hatter from Once Upon A Time. It turns out he was a major Jerkass and was not above manipulating Regina and drive her mad with despair for Rumplestiltskin in exchange for gold and a passport to travel anywhere he wants. Once he became a father, he quits his original life and retreats to the forest for a quiet life with his daughter. Then Regina, now the Evil Queen, shows up with one last job...
Regina herself might count. Adopting Henry doesn't actually make her a nice person but it does bring out a more human side to her character and in all fairness she does at least try to become a decent person for his sake.
Avoided in Outrageous Fortune, as Loretta gets pregnant and gives birth, showing a few signs of never-before-seen empathy in the process, and everyone expects her to become nice, which is greeted with a resounding "fuck you."
Now that Loretta has married Hayden to fight for custody of Jane, this is beginning to happen in Fan Fiction with alarming frequency.
A minor example occurs with Grayza in The Peacekeeper Wars. She remains pretty evil and uncompromising throughout her pregnancy but when the time comes to either surrender (something she spent pretty much her whole tenure on the show trying to avoid) or condemn her child (and everyone else) to death, she says, while stroking her very pregnant belly, "For the sake of our children, I will agree to a settlement."
One episodes of NCIS featured a number of female North Korean spies. One of them was killing all the others, and Gibbs was the one who figured out she had turned on her country once she became a mother. Of course, a couple of the other spies were also mothers, and that didn't seem to slow them down at all.
In Baldur's Gate II, in her paired ending with the protagonist, it is stated that Viconia became a lot nicer once they had a child.
A partial example in Gargoyles: Demona doesn't exactly turn good when she finds out she has a living daughter, but it does seem that Angela is the one thing in the world she cares more about than her revenge on her enemies.
One of the best Face turns in animation. David Xanatos almost loses his newborn son the day he was born; Oberon of Faerie wants to take him. Though he puts up a ferocious fight to protect him, it rapidly becomes clear that for the first time in his life, David Xanatos is absolutely, completely overmatched. Even with the assistance of his usually hostile (for good reason) father-in-law and the Gargoyles and his own father, plus Puck of Faerie and all his own technological resources, Oberon is just too powerful to defy successfully. In the end it's a stroke of wild luck that saves them, and that was the night that David Xanatos grew up. At the end of the episode, his characteristic adolescent smirk is gone.
Examples of the "gave up the baby, missed her chance" scenario:
This is a possibility for Catwoman, who had her kid and tried raising it, but gave it up because she wanted to give her a normal life. She also seems to have turned her back on being part of the Batman Family.
In Batgirl, Sandra Wu-San's handover of her child (eventually Batgirl III) to David Cain (complete with the execution of the midwife) is Lady Shiva's official Start of Darkness.
Cheshire, a notable villain in Teen Titans was willing to allow her daughter to be raised by the father, Roy Harper, because she thought it would be safer if he raised her. Thanks to recent events it turns out she was wrong...
Visser One from Animorphs is somewhere between this and a subversion of the trope played out in full. She originally had every intention of keeping her twins and being the full Visser famous for conquering Earth, using her status to protect them. The revelation makes her sympathetic, but nowhere near good. Visser One does want her kids to love her, but if they don't... she can always infest them, and they will be forced to love her.
Kitiara from Dragonlance got impregnated by Sturm Brightblade (though to be fair, she seduced him out of anger against her on-again, off-again lover of Tanis Half-Elven) and almost kept the baby. Almost. But she gave her child to a dark knight whom raised him as her own and went right back to her rise to becoming a Dragon Highlord as soon as she could get rid of the kid, though it did seem as if Kit almost had regrets over her decision. Almost.
Live Action TV
Xena: Warrior Princess, whose son was cursed in the womb by Xena's evil adviser Alti to never know the love of either of his parents. Alti wanted Xena to stay bad, and knew that "the light on a child's face" would turn her good.
In Time Trax, Darien's mother — a petty criminal at the time — did not think she was fit to raise him and gave him up for adoption. When she turns up in the show, SELMA tells her that being responsible for a child might have helped her become fit.
In the Jack, it's outright stated that if Fnar's mother hadn't been killed while she was pregnant with him, she would probably have redeemed herself.