Dystopia Justifies the Means
"Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy - everything."
The third, final, and most despicable trope in the unholy trinity of villainous objectives, Dystopia Justifies The Means is where the goal of the Big Bad
is nothing less than the deliberate creation of a Dystopia
, a land, planet, universe or multiverse of perpetual misery and suffering, or some other form of evil. The result can be a Crapsack World
, Villain World
, Hell on Earth
, or some combination thereof.
The villains out to achieve this usually have flown well beyond the Moral Event Horizon
long ago. Justified
for villains Made of Evil
, like The First in the Buffyverse
, as they actually feed on the world's malice and misery. Most demon lords
, eldritch abominations
, gods of evil
, evil cosmic entities
, and villains defined by doing evil only for the sake of evil itself
will probably pursue this goal, come to think of it.
This trope can occasionally overlap with Utopia Justifies the Means
; in such cases, the deluded villain has an idea of a "better" world that the majority regard as Nightmare Fuel
. In general, however, this trope refers to characters who wish to create a Dystopia
and have no illusions or expectations that people will be happier or better off under it, and in fact would absolutely enjoy it if people are neither happy nor better off under it.
Compare with Despotism Justifies the Means
, which depicts the dystopia as a mere side effect, not as an end in itself. The type of villain pursuing Dystopia Justifies The Means will not be satisfied just with obtaining ultimate power; they will desire to use that power towards a particularly vile end - to remake the world into a place of suffering for its own sake.
open/close all folders
- Darkseid, the Trope Codifier. Darkseids' ultimate goal is use the Anti-Life equation to rob everyone in the universe of happiness and free will, turning them into nihilistic mind-slaves whose only purpose in life will be to worship him. Apokolips itself is a kind of hellish space-age Greco-Roman world where the majority of the populace exist as slaves working to build a neverending supply of monuments to him; on the rare occasions when they rebel, Darkseid simply makes those slaves the new slavemasters and due to a lifetime of conditioning they are just as petty and cruel as their predecessors. This is combined with Despotism Justifies the Means, since he wants nothing more or less but total control, but has a pathological need to make everyone suffer once he gets it. Essentially, he wants to break the spirit of every living thing in Creation and make himself their new God.
- The Anti-Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths wants to destroy every positive matter universe just so he can use their energy to expand the Anti-Matter universe, a universe of evil beings that he rules absolutely.
- Marvel Comics has Dormammu, the immortal and unstoppable god-tyrant of the mystical "Dark Dimension", worshiped as a deity in thousands of other universes, something worse than a demon, older and far more powerful than any elder god, possessor of sufficient might to have defeated cosmic entities such as the Phoenix Force or Eternity in personal combat, able to rewrite entire universes, and creator of kings of hell of the highest order, with the ultimate goal of slaughtering any rival higher powers, assume control of all life and afterlife, and turn both into an inescapable neverending torture camp from birth to death and anything beyond. Arch-Enemy of Doctor Strange, and the first classic Dimension Lord. Think Darkseid taken to a much higher scaled ultimate extreme. Some of his plots stretching billions of years before coming to fruition, but luckily he's usually extremely arrogant and not a particularly inventive schemer. Then again he doesn't need to be, as he is one of the most powerful known Eldritch Abominations in existence.
- Apocalypse. His ideal society is a bombed-out radioactive wasteland littered with genocide camps and Nazi-style genetic experimentation labs. Think Benito Mussolini on crack. As the ultimate Social Darwinist, this world exists to weed out the weak and force the strong to earn their right to life by virtue of learning to survive and prosper on what is essentially a Death World.
- The Red Skull. His ideal world varies between a violent Police State and a lawless, chaotic hellhole; in either case he believes that the strong could and should brutalise the weak, commits mass murder on a regular basis, and demands absolute power which he wants to use primarily to oppress and torture people, not simply power for its own sake. And he enjoys it, every minute of it.
- Thanos, when he lords over all of creation, rather than trying to destroy it or is played as a Villain Protagonist.
- Fables' Mister Dark falls into the Made of Evil variant of this trope. Since he is the Anthropomorphic Personification of fear of the dark and human depravity, creating a world where everyone is miserable and violent would make him happy and strong.
- The Smiler, Big Bad of Transmetropolitan, openly admits to running for President so that he can mess around with America until bits start falling off. He gets his wish. The results aren't pretty.
- The Court of Owls, a secret Cabal of rich and powerful people who keep Gotham in its crime ridden state simply because they can, and have been doing it for centuries.
- The Legend of Spyro: Zonoya's Revenge incarnation of Malefor gets this as his ultimate goal after deciding that instead of destroying the world as he originally intended, he will conquer it. We see an Imagine Spot that gives us just a tiny taste of what he intends. That being Spyro's family and friends chained up and suffering horrifically, including the children. Malefor states that all (especially Spyro's friends and family) will be given over to his every whim. Considering this is a guy with a history of Mind Rape (and is implied to have sexually and physically abused Zonoya) and sadism, that is a very terrifying thought.
- Schaden, of Chwe Goleadau, has a simple dream, with the cute name "World of Pain". All he wants is to devour all life in Equestria and turn it all into formless, but still feeling biomass which would experience nothing but eternal torture. (Then he decides to do it to everything in the entire multiverse.)
- Ruinate, the Big Bad of A Future of Friendship, A History of Hate, is similar to Schaden. When his people, the Sentiox, created and populated worlds based on their individual views of paradise, Ruinate chose to create the original version of Equestria as a Mordor-like realm of total suffering. And now that he's escaped from the void his people imprisoned him in, he intends to return Equestria to that state before destroying it and everything else.
Films — Live-Action
- The Joker in The Dark Knight, who wishes to create a "world without rules" (or, as Alfred puts it, "watch the world burn"). He believes that, deep down, everyone is just as rotten and evil as he is, and he intends to rip away the "facade" of do-goodiness and create a world where, essentially, everyone acts like a violent criminal.
- Star Wars:
- According to The Essential Guide to Warfare, Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Motti's main motivations in A New Hope were wanting to have the galaxy ruled with fear, feeling that the navy maintaining the galaxy through beliefs such as stability and order has run its course.
- The Emperor in Return of the Jedi is basically a living embodiment of the Dark Side. As such, his only goals appear to be "get a new apprentice" and "make sure everything keeps on being horrible".
- The villain of the first xXx wanted to create a world of anarchy through chemical terrorist attacks on 10 major cities to dismantle all nation-states and their political order, out of revenge for himself and his comrades after being forgotten as soldiers after the Chechen War.
- In Wishmaster, the Dinn's goal is to open the portal to the Djinn dimension so his brethren can enter Earth at will, becoming a virtual god in the process over his new kingdom. Considering that they derive pleasure solely from mutilating and torturing people to death while making their worst nightmares reality, they would turn the Earth into a complete hellworld if they won.
- The Night Slasher in the Stallone action flick Cobra wants to create a nihilistic dog-eat-dog world with his homocidal cult where sadistic murderers kill off the weak and people are indiscriminately hacked up and gunned down on the streets on a daily basis.
- Drug lord Judah Earl of The Crow: City of Angels is convinced that he has visited Hell in the past and liked what he saw. He takes control of Los Angeles and tries to recreate his vision on the entire city, flooding it with dangerous drugs and forcing the people to live in a rundown place filled with vices and in fear of him. He kills one of his dealers for objecting that the amount of addicts who die is hurting their profits, suggesting that he prefers further corruption over money.
- Simon Phoenix from Demolition Man is a Chaotic Evil mass murderer who wants ultimate freedom just so he can destroy, plunder, and rape as much as he wants. This is the primary conflict with his boss Dr. Cocteau, the benevolent dictator of the San Angeles future society, who represents the Utopia Justifies the Means side because he wants to preserve peace by suppressing free will. Phoenix eventually murders and usurps Cocteau's position to give the people his own ideal society of constant death and chaos.
- The Party of 1984. O'Brien tells Winston that the Party seeks power "entirely for its own sake", that "the object of power is power". This sounds like just Despotism Justifies the Means, not Dystopia, until they get onto how one man asserts power over another: "By making him suffer."
- The Fountainhead: Ellsworth Monkton Toohey describes his vision for the future as an empty cycle of slavery and misery built on sacrifice with no one benefiting.
"Now if you were a little more intelligent, youíd ask: What of us, the rulers? What of me, Ellsworth Monkton Toohey ? And Iíd say, Yes, youíre right. Iíll achieve no more than you will. Iíll have no purpose save to keep you contended. To lie, to flatter you, to praise you, to inflate your vanity. To make speeches about the people and the common good. Peter, my poor old friend, Iím the most selfless man youíve ever known. I have less independence than you, whom I just forced to sell your soul. Youíve used people at least for the sake of what you could get from them for yourself. I want nothing for myself. I use people for the sake of what I can do to them. Itís my only function and satisfaction. I have no private purpose. I want power. I want my world of the future. Let all live for all. Let all sacrifice and none profit. Let all suffer and none enjoy. Let progress stop. Let all stagnate. Thereís equality in stagnation. All subjugated to the will of all. Universal slavery Ė without even the dignity of a master. Slavery to slavery. A great circle Ė and a total equality. The world of the future."
- Morgoth in The Silmarillion. While his Dragon and successor Sauron wanted to create and rule a sustainable empire, Morgoth really just wanted to make those under his power suffer out of pure spite for not getting his own way at the creation.
- The Lord Ruler is Mistborn is an interesting example. He thinks he's operating based on the Godzilla Threshold, but he's got an omnicidal Eldritch Abomination telepathically linked to him, and it's twisting around his thoughts so his decisions become irrationally destructive and his empire becomes a way to further said abomination's goals. Though the Lord Ruler knows he's being messed with by someting very hostile, he seems unaware of the extent of the damage and is even baffled why everything turns out even worse than he planned. In the third book, the process gets repeated in miniature with Quellion.
- The Turner Diaries (written by a Neo Nazi) has protagonists who want to take what they consider a Crapsack World (one with private ownership of guns outlawed, minorities having rights and "oppressing" the pure, white people), and they plan to replace that with a world that has everyone but the white people dead and the only survivors will be fanatical white supremacists, but only after they use nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to kill everyone else they don't like, even if it means rendering most of the world uninhabitable.
- Braglob in The Paths of the Perambulator. As Clothahump explains, when you're completely insane you have two options: make yourself sane, or make everyone and everything else as crazy as you are. Braglob goes the latter route, launching a frontal attack on causality.
- Torak in The Belgariad wants a world filled with terrified people bowing down in worship of him, and offering him human sacrifices. Zandramas in The Malloreon has similar objectives. And the Dark Prophecy, which rules them both, seeks nothing more than a stagnant universe of constant failure.
- The King of Hell seeks to destroy both Prophecies, recreating the Universe in his own image, and turning loose the Legions of Hell to feast on all mortal souls.
- Azash of The Elenium has similar objectives to Torak, though his notions of human sacrifice and what constitutes worship are even worse.
- This is the goal of the Otherness in the Repairman Jack and The Adversary Cycle books.
- In Halo: Silentium, this turns out to be the goal of the Flood, or more accurately their former identity the Precursors. They were so angered by their creation the Forerunners defying them by resisting their scheduled extermination, that they vow to create a new universe where they will be able to create and destroy as they see fit.
"Our urge to create is immutable; we must create. But the beings we create shall never again reach out in strength against us. All that is created will suffer. All will be born in suffering, endless greyness shall be their lot. All creation will tailor to failure and pain, and never again shall the offspring of the eternal Fount rise up against their creators. No more will, no more freedom. Nothing but agonizing death, and never good shall come of it. We are the last of those who gave you breath and shape and form, millions of years ago. We are the last of those your kind defied and ruthlessly destroyed. We are the last Precursors. And now we are legion."
- Ganondorf, a desert bandit and Evil Sorceror who wishes to conquer the magical land of Hyrule, which he coveted because of the harsh environment he grew up in. Which doesn't mean he doesn't intend to turn it into a Mordor, in reflection of his cruel and sadistic personality.
- If Skyward Sword is any indication, It might be because he is the reincarnation of the vengeful archnemesis of the godess Hylia or because Demise's curse, vestigial spirit/soul/whatever is messing with his mind thus making him incapable of not harming the country founded by Hylia's mortal reincarnation and her champion.
- Dr. Weil from the Mega Man Zero series. Upon becoming the ruler of Neo Arcadia, he strives upon bringing suffering and despair to its citizens with his iron-fist rule, to take revenge on them because of what they've done to him. note
- Colonel Vindel Mauser from Super Robot Wars Advance believed that dystopia would prevent humanity from becoming complacent and corrupt, as well as making rapid advances in technology. He's absolutely right, but ultimately the heroes refused his offer by claiming that whatever advances it may give will never make up for the loss of human lives.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, this is what Legate Lanius hopes to make if Caesar dies and the Legion wins the battle for Hoover Dam. He essentially wishes to make a land of constant warfare where the weak will be broken by violence and the strong thrive in constant battle. While Caesar planned to establish order (as unforgiving as it is) Lanius only hopes to put the world to the sword.
- Caesar himself planned to create a slightly less nightmarish one. While order and discpline would be paramount he'd create a society where rape is condoned, women are reduced to drones or sex slaves, sadism is promoted as a virtue and eugenics. And this is no tempoary war time meassure; he maintians these standards even after taking Vegas as his treatment of the Khans shows.
- Father Elijah is even worse. His plan, if you let him succeed in it, results in the deaths of 90% of the Mojave. The remaining population is permanently bound to his service via Explosive Leash, invincible laser shooting holograms kill anyone who comes near, and a poisonous cloud of gas covers the area, rendering much of it unlivable. Elijah and the Courier stay inside the Sierra Madre Casino, waiting for the world to begin again.
- Darkrai from Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers is a rare case of a villain managing to pull this off... until Grovyle and the player character travel back in time and stop time to stop time from stopping, without knowing that said villain even exists. (Wait, WHAT?)
- Several Final Fantasy villains are like this, but the most notable one is Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy VI: He deliberately intended to ruin the world and leave it into a burning crisp by reviving the Warring Triad and then having them unleash their full power, as well as move the statues out of balance, resulting in millions of deaths. What's worse, even after that, he decides to blow up any remaining pockets of civilization with the Light of Judgment, as well as orphaning the children of at least one town (Mobliz), and it is heavily implied that he does these things solely for his amusement. It's not even the first time that he did this: He also infamously committed what amounts to mass genocide against the Domans by poisoning their river supply, even when the Empire was going to win anyways with little casualties, and he has Thamasa burned to the ground after invading it to acquire the Espers the few times he was actually given command over a major operation. To put it in perspective, several villains who intended to commence this sort of goal (eg, The Emperor) actually voiced disgust towards Kefka's actions at least once in the Dissidia subseries.
- The Nathrezim of Warcraft thrive on sowing chaos and leading others into corruption. Entire worlds have fallen under their sway and forsaken all concepts of morality. Their efforts are more limited since joining the Legion, as destroying worlds is generally preferred to the slow corruption.
- In Legend of Legaia, this is combined with Utopia Justifies the Means as the reason for the Mist's creation. While it's not stated whether they themselves believe that the world is better this way or whether they are being manipulated by Rogue, most of the main villains say on at least one occasion that "The Mist is Salvation", despite it leading the world into ruin.
- in Dungeon Keeper this is is your goal. At the beginning of the game you look out across a blissful land ruled by good and just rulers, with no trials or tribulations, bar a few aching facial muscles from smiling too much. It's your goal to turn these joyous lands into terrible lands ruled by fear and anthrax.
- Several villains in the Metal Gear franchise are attempting to bring about a world of perpetual warfare and chaos; in a twist, this is actually portrayed somewhat sympathetically, since while their vision is horrifying their motivation is simply to provide a world where soldiers will always be needed, in a world where such soldiers are usually horribly traumatized and treated as tools by callous governments and more sinister forces. By contrast, the other Big Bad of the series, The Philosophers and the Patriots, believe that Utopia Justifies the Means but are shown to be much more cold and heartless partly because the Patriots are actually machines Totalitarian Utilitarians.
- Volgin, from Metal Gear Solid 3, wants to turn the Soviet Union back into a brutal Stalinist dictatorship and use his new weapon, the nuclear-armed tank the Shagohod, to ignite World War III. He's probably the least sympathetic character in the franchise, one of the few portrayed as an outright sociopathic Sadist and driven by a love of power and inflicting pain.
- Hot Coldman, from Peace Walker, is a straight example, too. He tries to wear a fig leaf of justification over it, but it's clear that, deep down, he's just a vicious, jealous power-tripper who enjoys crushing hopes and wreaking havoc.
- Plankton is this kind of villain. He temporarily achieves his means-justifying dystopia in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
- Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. He wishes to turn Equestria into a land of mayhem and disharmony, just like it was when he ruled it long ago.
- Another villain, King Sombra, makes it perfectly clear that he wants the Crystal Ponies as his slaves and that he's going to torment them. In fact, the nature of the Crystal Heart, an artifact which is powered by the emotions of the Crystal Ponies, suggests that instilling fear and hatred in his subjects will literally make him more powerful.
- Tirek provides an even more horrifying example (his goal is more Despotism Justifies the Means, but like Sombra the means lead to this trope). He aims to steal the magic from every pony in Equestria, which would effectively make him a god. Doing this leaves the ponies shells of their former selves, and make the sun, moon, and weather dictated by his whims, along with leaving them too weak to work the land to grow food. He would have full control over every aspect of their lives.
- In first The Fairly Oddparents movie, Timmy's maniacal teacher Mr. Crocker manages to gain his wish of capturing a fairy godparent by eating a magic muffin that grants whoever eats it one rule free wish. Upon doing so, he takes over the world and turns it into a dystopia in every sense of the word. He also often has the people inflicted with shrimp puffs for his amusement.