"Gentlemen," said Aramis, "the principal question is not to know which of our four lackeys is the most discreet, the most strong, the most clever, or the most brave; the principal thing is to know which loves money the best."
Heroes have moral standards; villains exploit that. Villains have no concept of loyalty
; heroes abuse that. Sometimes, villains have standards
; both heroes and worse villains can use that. Flaw Exploitation
is the action of either a Hero, Villain
, or even Innocent Bystander
to take advantage of the inherent flaws (or to be more charitable, character) of their opponent in order to win.
This is similar to the Hero Ball
and Villain Ball
in that both deal with the inherent limits heroes and villains have or place on themselves, but differs in that the former deals with the two tripping themselves up, whereas Flaw Exploitation is someone else doing so. Neither the hero nor the villain need to make mistakes for Flaw Exploitation to occur, just act in character.
A Smug Snake
abusing a hero's Lawful Good
morality to avoid getting punched in the face would count. Said hero being Lawful Stupid
wouldn't. A villain's henchmen being talked into doing a Mook-Face Turn
in the face of their bosses' policy on failure
would count, but a villain doing a Revealing Coverup
Most villains will do this by snatching some completely random Innocent Bystander
off the street to use as a hostage, because the hero just can't Shoot the Hostage
, no matter how many million lives are at stake. Bonus points if it's a woman
, a child
, or for the 4X multiplier, a little girl. But if it's the Old Master
Exploiting an opponent's character and flaws is a tactic as old as time and thus Truth in Television
. There's a deeper level to this in literature. In some settings this means that evil is fundamentally flawed and incapable of long term gains, since a competent hero can use its very nature to defeat it. On the other hand, a clever villain can make a hero set for destruction because his ethical code and a Moral Dilemma
are in violent opposition
, creating a Tragic Hero
It's worth noting that neither the hero or villain would see the flaws exploited as, well, flaws,
but as character traits. Character traits of such importance you cease to be a Knight in Shining Armor
or a stylish Card-Carrying Villain
if you change them. If they do recognize them as weaknesses that can be abused, they'd all the same see them as inherent to being good/evil and necessary.
If they don't, say "Hello Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain!"
When used against a hero, will often lead to a Sadistic Choice
. The Manipulative Bastard
finds this easy as breathing, while the Guile Hero
will have to utilize this out of necessity. The Fettered
is a type of character that can frequently find their self-imposed limits exploited - and by contrast, one of the reasons The Unfettered
is so terrifying is that it's nearly impossible to do this to him.
Feed the Mole
runs on this. Batman Gambit
is based on this. Xanatos Gambit
is arranged to work regardless of the mark giving in to the flaw or not. Fantastic Fragility
relates to magical weaknesses. See also Complexity Addiction
open/close all folders
- In The Fantastic Four, Reed periodically is able to bait Doom into getting careless by playing to his overwhelming ego.
- In the Batman/The Punisher Cross Over, The Joker is cornered by the Punisher, and tries to use Batman's usual "flaw" of not killing his foes. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't know how Frank operates, and his realization of "You're really going to do it" as Frank puts a gun to his head is among the most awesome Oh, Crap moments ever.
- Part of Doctor Strange's bag of tricks, particularly when dealing with massively overpowered enemies. Dimension Lord Dormammu, for example, wants to beat Strange in a way which gratifies his pride, so Strange can usually trick him into fighting 'fair' (when he could annihilate Strange with a single glance).
- In the DCU, this is the villain Prometheus's shtick. In his first appearance, he used it to take down every single member of the Justice League of America, with the exception of Superman, who was going through his "Superman Blue" phase. Since he was immune even to kryptonite, Prometheus threatened to kill several hundred innocent bystanders unless Superman committed suicide.
- Prometheus took this trope into overdrive when he was used as the main villain for the 2010 miniseries Cry for Justice. The sixth issue features him infiltrating the Watchtower and effortlessly taking down half the League all by himself. By this time he's refined his technology to the point where his helmet can effortlessly pinpoint the weaknesses for each Leaguer he faces and which he then capitalizes on - shooting Supergirl with an Amazon-forged bullet, silencing Zatanna before she can use her magic, and so on.
- In the climax of The Transformers IDW mini-series Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers, human sidekick Verity is confronted by the Ax-Crazy Big Bad Overlord. She figures that Overlord's main motivation is to fight Megatron, so she exploits it by claiming that Megatron is dead. This pushes Overlord into a deep state of depression.
- In the Overlord arc of The Transformers IDW next mini-series Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Chromedome notes of Overlord's fear of defeat (when he's defeated by Megatron on several occasions, and his defeat at the hands of the Wreckers). So, he plants a subliminal phrase during each of Overlord's failures as an insurance policy. After Overlord inevitably escapes, the phrase "Till All are One" is used as a trigger against him to temporarily send him into shock - enough so for the Autobots to get him off their ship.
- Attempted by Phobos in the fourth saga of W.I.T.C.H.: knowing that Will fears remaining alone, he subjects her to illusions of a false future in which she would be left alone by everyone she cares if she didn't surrender the Heart of Kandrakar to him. She believes him... And then nearly electrocutes him to death, sparing him only because he had switched bodies with Endarno and she wished to revert the situation and, once done that, she planned to bring him back to his cell, A Fate Worse Than Death for him.
- In the Bleach fic Winter War, it's established very early on that Aizen won the Fake Karakura Town battle, and Rangiku died of her wounds on the retreat. Gin refuses to believe that she's dead (it helps that the last he heard was that Kira had been able to stabilize her). La Résistance lures him out of his stronghold by having one of their members impersonate Rangiku and allow herself to be seen by some of Gin's men.
- In the MLP fic, You Obey, The interrogator notices that Shadowfax is quite susceptible to pride. Guess how he gets her to spill the beans.
- This is what makes Sixth Ranger Traitor David from Animorphs so deadly. He has the same powers the kids have, far fewer morphs, and a year's less experience. Despite this, he's capable of homing in on each Animorph's respective weaknesses in order to defeat them - luring Jake into a one-one battle between his lion and Jake's tiger, splitting up Ax and Rachel by using Rachel's opinion of him as a crook to trick her, and so on. Ironically, David is himself defeated this way, with Cassie exploiting his ego and need for revenge against Rachel to lure him into a trap. And as the only Animorph he had trusted, David never saw it coming.
- A good example of this is Harry Potter. Half of Harry's triumphs come from the fact that Voldemort has no concept of loyalty to his men; thus, many of them will abandon him the moment there's something better to be loyal to. Dumbledore turned Draco Malfoy in book six, and his father and mother switched sides (his mother being the more important of them) pretty much at a drop of a hat, because a choice between an uncaring vindictive bastard who would likely kill them for their past failures or the life of her son wasn't a hard choice.
- Flipping it right around for another good example: half of Voldemort's triumphs come from the fact that Harry has an especially fierce sense of loyalty, and thus will go to any lengths to help his friends. It's even lampshaded in Book 5'', when Hermione points out to Harry that he's got a "saving people thing", and raises the possibility that Voldemort could be deliberately taking advantage of that. He is.
- Voldemort's problem isn't that he doesn't appreciate true loyalty. He does. He rewards his two most loyal servants, Bellatrix and Severus Snape with his greatest trust. His problem is that he's terrible at creating loyalty. Bellatrix was loyal due to her obsession over Voldemort. Severus was loyal due to a seeming brotherhood with him, through similar shared childhood experiences. Up until Voldemort tries to kill Lily Potter. Then all loyalty goes out the window. At no time does he do anything that a reasonable person would find inspiring of real loyalty. He seems to want people to feel loyalty towards someone who's a raving sociopath and is incapable of returning that loyalty.
- Since some raving sociopaths actually think like that, this may not be a surprise. Plenty of historical rulers were the kind that no sane person would willingly follow... and then railed against the treachery and disloyalty of their followers.
- Sauron in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is defeated because he was incapable of imagining that someone who could wield the One Ring wouldn't want to, and would instead send it away to be destroyed. Thanks to the palantír, Gandalf convinced him Aragorn had the Ring and was headed towards him to buy enough time for Frodo to destroy it. Ironically Sauron was right when the moment came Frodo didn't have enough willpower to destroy the Ring and it was only destroyed when Gollum tried to take it back. So, the Ring was in fact destroyed because of its overwhelming possessive power.
- By the same author in The Silmarillion: The chief god, Manwe, is floating on his own goodness so high above ground level that he is incapable of imagining why others would prefer to be bad. That's why he releases the evil god Morgoth from captivity. Morgoth does not hesitate to exploit this tremendous naivety to the fullest.
- Subverted in Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay. A trio of thieves discovers that the bar they're trying to rob is populated entirely by off-duty members of the Watch. They take hostage a pretty blonde woman, figuring that the others will let them go free as they [The Watch] won't want to risk injuring her. Fortunately, depending on your point of view, she's a werewolf—and a cop—and she can take care of herself.
- Kellhus in Second Apocalypse exploits the flaws of everyone around him. In most cases, this flaw is religion, but he also exploits love several times. His morals aren't exactly in line with the rest of the world.
- This is par for the course in A Song of Ice and Fire. Littlefinger is especially good at Flaw Exploitation, playing on the weaknesses and foibles of pretty much everybody; Eddard Stark (honor), Lysa Arryn (obsessive love), Robert Baratheon (impatience with the mundane issues of running a kingdom), Joffrey Baratheon (wanton cruelty), Tywin Lannister (pride)... and so many, many more. In fact the only person who might be better is Tyrion, who did most of the above as well as handling his sister Cersei (hunger for power,) his brother Jaime (fear of being betrayed by his lover,) Varys the Spider (multiple, delicately-balanced loyalties,) the Dornish royal family (collective thirst for revenge,) Pycelle (greed,) and even Littlefinger himself (reliance on people underestimating him.)
- In the Redwall series, badgers are known to be fiercely (perhaps feverishly) dedicated to Justice and Good in general. Salamandastron has the Big Bad acknowledge this outright:
Ferahgo: I've dealt with big badgers before. Oh, they're fierce fighters, sure enough, but they lack cunning and suffer from silly little things, like honor and conscience.
- Later in the story, the villains capture a pair of the Badger Lord's finest fighters and have fun messing with him over what they want for their hostages before making an impossible demand for the entire mountain fortress. They even give the badger a couple days to give his answer, knowing full well they plan to kill their hostages before the time elapses. Fortunately for the two hostages, the series is prone to softening the consequences of such difficult choices, and they end up surviving anyway. Partially this is because hares are invariably awesome in a pinch.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Encarmine, Inquisitor Stele exploits this when trying to corrupt the Chapter, as they believe they owe him. Fortunately for them, he believes they hold Honor Before Reason a little more strongly than they do; he thinks it forbidden to use the gear of the dead, when it is only forbidden except in the direst circumstances. When a Blood Angel gets off a message with a dead man's gear, he doesn't think to investigate who had access.
- Baron Choard wasn't exactly a hero, but his assistant Disra did spend a long time finding all of his buttons, and influenced his boss into planning to secede violently from the Empire. Disra, as it turned out, was orchestrating all this so he could report the treasonous activity and get promoted. Given that twenty or so years later he's a Moff of no small power, we can assume that he did.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Rime jeers at Gaunt: he's read his files, and knows he won't execute him without proof. Fortunately, he hasn't read Rawne's file.
- In the Dragonlance novels, Kitiara plays Laurana like a fiddle, when she uses Laurana's obsessive love for Tanis Half-Elven to lure her into a trap.
- In Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, Katniss exploits the Capital's need for a victor.
- In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, they know Kevin will come to the convention even when they are gunning for him, and he knows it, because he can't miss the chance to bask in the admiration.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Phoenix on the Sword ", Ascalante gloats at how he will deal with the men who think he is their tool.
by the clay in each, I will crush them when the time comes.
- After technology fails in the Emberverse, history professor and Society for Creative Anachronism member Norman Arminger founds the Portland Protective Association, a society whose motif is based on the 11th-12th centuries. He's described as a "Period Nazi" obsessed with recreating that era accurately. This leaves him unprepared when his enemies start using weapons and methods that, while workable in a non-technological setting, hadn't been created in his chosen period. Arminger's in even more trouble later when Mike Havel uses the PPA's concept of honor (carefully fostered by Arminger himself) to force him into a fight that he might not and doesn't win.
- In Jack Campbell's The Lost Stars novel Tarnished Knight, Drakon poses as over-confident in his ability to protect himself. ISS agents will believe that he doesn't bring his guards out of Pride. Later, he knows Hardrad is bluffing because he is offering a deal, not just using what he's threatening to use; he taunts him with being more familiar with him than he is with Drakon.
- In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, Yasa exploits the Guild's orders to hide from them that she wants to leave the planet for purposes of her own.
- In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, every magical paradigm is vulnerable to another, while a third is vulnerable to it. Exploiting such loopholes is a major plot thread. At one point, Glum is magically keeping Amelia helpless, but because his magic can do whatever he wants — but he has to want it — she suggests that this will not do what he wants. He weakens for a moment, and empowered, Amelia tweaks something to rescue her afterward.
- Played with in the Charlie Parker Series: Amoral assassin Louis has one major redeeming feature: his love for Angel, who acts as his moral compass. Louis is aware of this "flaw", and fears that his enemies may use it against him. However, the one and only time Angel is threatened by an enemy, it is in an attempt to get at Parker, not Louis. Faulker had no idea that by kidnapping Angel, he was bringing Louis' wrath down upon himself.
- A notable example from The Wheel of Time: Cadsuane Sedai is overseeing the interrogation of one of the Forsaken, Semirhage: an extremely powerful, immortal, experienced channeler from the Age of Legends, and a sadistic torturer who was so feared in her own time that prisoners would kill themselves rather than face the smallest part of her wrath. Cadsuane notes that the Aes Sedai who have her under guard are getting nothing from Semirhage, who almost seems to be enjoying herself, and realizes it's because that Semirhage's reputation and power are still things that people in the present time know, fear, and above all respect. She winds up breaking that spell by taking Semirhage over her knee and spanking her like an unruly child, forcing her to eat off of the floor like an animal, and other petty little punishments in order to Break the Haughty in the eyes of her jailors.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who, this is one of the Doctor's main tactics. He is repeatedly underestimated about how dangerous (for those people, who don't know about him) or how ruthless (for some who do) he can be, and he plays on this to Manipulative Bastard levels. That's only if everyone else involved isn't already scared stiff of him...
- In the Firefly episode "Objects In Space," Jubal Early takes advantage of Simon's love for his sister River and his attraction to Kaylee by presenting him with a Sadistic Choice: either he helps Early hunt down River, or Early will kill Simon and then go back to the engine room where he has Kaylee tied up and then rape and kill her.
- In Merlin, it didn't take long for Morgana to pick up on Arthur's devotion to Guinevere and use it to her own advantage on at least two occasions: "The Castle of Fyrien" and "Queen of Hearts". The latest footage from season four suggests that Arthur's enemies aren't done exploiting this weakness.
- In Robin Hood, Marian attempts to use Guy's genuine feelings for her to get information about the Sheriff's evil schemes so that she can pass it on to Robin. It works less often than the shippers would have you believe, and it ultimately costs her her life.
- However, one notable instance is when both Marian and Robin acknowledge Guy's weakness for Marian by executing a perfect Decoy Damsel ploy in order for them to escape a tight situation. Guy falls for it hook, line and sinker.
- Kivas Fajo uses this against Data in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Most Toys", while Data has a disruptor weapon pointed at him, convinced that Data will not fire it because he's programmed with a "fundamental respect for all life, and an inhibition against harming living beings". Subverted in that Data does actually prepare to shoot, reasoning that killing Fajo would save more lives in the long run, and would have done so if he hadn't been beamed out of there in the nick of time. He then tells a near-lie to his commanding officer about it; he suggests that the disruptor may have discharged due to the transport. He never says that this is what happened, only that it is a possible explanation.
Fajo:If only you could feel rage over Varria's death... If only you could feel the need for revenge, then maybe you could fire. But you're...just an android. You can't feel anything, can you? It's just another interesting, intellectual puzzle for you—another of life's curiosities.
- Of course, this was only after Fajo had successfully used this against Data to get him to sit in his assigned chair by, ironically, threatening to kill the aforementioned Varria if he didn't comply, on the same hunch that Data's "fundamental respect for all life" wouldn't even let him allow someone to die, through his inaction. In case the above quote wasn't obvious, it was Fajo's killing of Varria at the end of the episode that prompted the subversion.
- In Warehouse 13 when Sykes puts Myka in the Chess lock chair to make HG give the right answer...if HG fails 3 times the one person she cares about will die.
- The Aquabats! Super Show! episode "Cobraman!" has a Running Gag in which the MC Bat Commander will eagerly take on any bet that is given to him - especially a bet made a long time ago about him not seeing the Cobraman. Later on in the episode, when the Battletram is stolen, the thief, Carl, bets the Commander that he can't beat the Cobraman in a fair fight. If the Commander loses, the team forfeits the Battletram. He beats the Cobraman, but the Cobraman makes a bet to the Commander that he wouldn't let him go, which the Commander loses. The Cobraman plans to return to break Carl out of prison.
- By its very nature, Survivor runs on this trope. For example, "Puppetmaster" Russell Hantz: great at the mechanics, horrible at the core. He had absolutely no idea just how bad he was at that last part. But Natalie White did, and guess what happened.
- In Othello, Iago is the master of this, playing Brabantio's racism and paternalism, Cassio's low alcohol tolerance, Othello's jealousy, and Roderigo's lust (and lack of grey matter) all to his own advantage.
- In The Pirates of Penzance, the titular pirates won't hurt orphans. Everyone seems to know this and use it to escape from them, even Modern Major General Stanley.
Frederic. Then, again, you make a point of never molesting an orphan!
Samuel. Of course: we are orphans ourselves, and know what it is.
Frederic. Yes, but it has got about, and what is the consequence? Every one we capture says he's an orphan. The last three ships we took proved to be manned entirely by orphans, and so we had to let them go. One would think that Great Britain's mercantile navy was recruited solely from her orphan asylums, which we know is not the case.
- That's just the best known one. The entire play is about this trope. For example: Fredric's loyalty (by the pirates), the pirate's patriotism (by the police), Fredric's naivete (by Ruth), Stanley's patriotism (by the pirates)
- In Jade Empire your beloved Master Li strikes the main character/you through a series of holes in your defense that he built into your techniques himself! Glorious Strategist, indeed.
- Injured pride is a great weapon indeed: if you're able to convince the Master from Fallout 1 that his plan for World Domination has or will fail, he will commit suicide.
- In the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Lonesome Road, Ulysses can tell you that if you're going up against Lanius that you can take advantage of his fear of defeat in order to make him back down. Most of the Speech options do involve convincing Lanius that he has no long-term hopes for a campaign after this battle or bluffing him into thinking that he's walking into the kind of trap that felled his predecessor Joshua Graham.
- This is practically a requirement in any Shin Megami Tensei game. Partly because the enemies will exploit your flaws for all they're worth and then some.
- In Radiant Historia one of the side quest has this. The bad guy grabs hostage the inn keepers' daughter.
- The final puzzle in Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Culture Shock turns villain Brady Culture's "It's All About Me" egotism on his head. Brady orders the Brainwashed Soda Poppers to attack Sam; interestingly enough, the Soda Poppers aren't brainwashed to follow Brady specifically, and so Sam can order them around as well. The end result appears to be a stalemate, but if Sam orders the Soda Poppers to "worship me!", Brady petulantly yells at them to "worship me!" instead of ordering them to attack Sam as usual. If Sam then orders the Soda Poppers to "attack me!", Brady's knee-jerk reaction is to scream "no, attack me!" - the last order he's in any condition to give them.
- Ganondorf does this so often that's it's practically one of his defining characteristics. Countless times he's kidnapped Zelda knowing that Link would come rescue her, and in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (and to an extent, Wind Waker) his plans were actually based around the idea that Link and Zelda would try to stop him. And then there's The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, where he exploits Zant's anger and ambition, using him as a tool to free himself from the Twilight Realm and conquer Hyrule.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Thalmor goad Ulfric Stormcloak into seditious acts against the Empire through a combination of his malcontent towards a lopsided "peace" treaty the Empire and Thalmor have, and his own impatience and brashness. They know all his buttons and just which ones to push, thanks to him being a prisoner of war to them. He's not a Manchurian Agent, but still manipulable. The end result is that the Stormcloak Rebellion impedes the Empire's preparations to heat the cold war back up again.
- Subverted mightily in Antihero for Hire, where Shadehawk fully is greatly disappointed to learn a room full of unaffiliated villains did not in fact fight over their treasure at all, though it's immediately Double Subverted as they fight over killing him.
- During the Sluggy Freelance arc "Aylee" Leono is defeated because the same Fantastic Racism that drove him to wipe out humanity means he never suspects a member of his own species would betray him.
- Happens a number of times in The Order of the Stick...
- In The Dreamland Chronicles, the pirates exploit the Power Nullifier of fear, terrifying the children they abduct to keep them from flying off.
- Bob and George: How Mega Man defeats the robots, sometimes by accident. Sometimes on purpose.
- In Impure Blood, Dara wants Mac out of the rigging and down below. So she points out that's where the engine room is.
- In Our Little Adventure, escaping into city limits means a paladin can't just kill you.
- In Sinfest, Slick discovers the sales clerk hates Love. So he throws around the word.
- In Schlock Mercenary, the superior forces don't fire on them because they are not murderous mercenary scum like them. Tagon puts it as they have something to lose: the moral high ground.
- Florence gets Sam out of the ventilation duct he was stuck in by saying "Money." He hops out, looking around for it, even though moments early he had been stuck.
- Then Sam has been known to get food cheap by showing up minutes before the food court closes, knowing they have to throw away what they don't sell; get Florence out of her room by asking if she's more afraid of the mayor than everything that could happen to the robots; and distracts Mr. Kornada from recognizing him by suggesting such recognition should indicate bonus time.
- Max uses Raibert's sense of responsibility against him to help avert a robot armageddon courtesy of Gardener in the Dark, even though it's after midnight for Raibert and he's worn out from earlier activity.
- Encouraging Edge to make his views known. Given his It's All About Me attitude, that would encourage humans to destroy him.
- Backfires on Blunt. The humans find Edge's rude narcissism charming compared to the other more obsequious robots.
- In Rusty and Co.,
- In Doc Rat, take off the pack alpha, and the rest of the wolves will do nothing.
- In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, Quentyn exploits exclusive use of force fields in cells and the integrated computer system to take over the ship.
- In Dragon Mango, Mango exploits how budgets put Cherry to sleep.
- At the Superhero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, there are Combat Finals at the end of the Fall 2006 term. In one chapter of Joe Gunnarson's Call the Thunder, Diamondback finds herself teamed with the Supervillain Hekate, who everyone in the entire school knows will backstab Diamondback first chance she gets (and who is much more powerful magically than Diamondback). Diamond lays a very cunning Batman Gambit that only works if Hekate shafts her as soon as she gets the chance. Hekate grabs the Villain Ball for everything she's worth, leading to a very satisfying demonstration of this trope.
- Double example: In "Boston Brawl 2", power-armored Ironhawk grabs a little girl and holds her at knifepoint to stop the heroes, to exploit the classic hero flaw. It fails horribly because of the second example: the little girl he grabs is Generator. She uses her power (she can animate things if she can touch them and they aren't too big) to take over the control switches for his power armor, and she beats on some of the other villains using Ironhawk like a remote controlled toy.
- In "Ayla and the Great Shoulder Angel Conspiracy", one of the antagonists in the big trap (it's a simulation they can't get out of) is a power mimic. Phase beats him by giving the mimic a copy of his powers and then using Flaw Exploitation to take advantage of the weaknesses of his own powers.
- In Worm, Taylor targets Scion's psychological weak points by reminding him of the death of his counterpart and taking advantage of his inability to deal with loss, driving him past the Despair Event Horizon so that he would allow himself to be killed.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Azula, in "The Beach", has her team concentrate on a single player of the opposing team that she deduced had a childhood knee injury to win a volleyball game.
- In the first season, when Aang is fighting Zhao he uses Zhao's lack of self-control to trick him into setting his own boat on fire, leaving Aang free to escape.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus pegs Spider-Man as "weak" because he's obliged to save Innocent Bystanders. Ock then grabs a nearby damsel and uses her in a Hostage for MacGuffin ploy to get Spider-Man to fork over some desirable Applied Phlebotinum.
- South Park: Cartman's revenge plot against Scott Tenorman relies heavily on this. If Stan and Kyle didn't rat him out to Scott, or Scott himself had reacted differently, the whole plan could have fallen apart.
- The Transformers:
- One episode has Megatron executing a plan to teleport Cybertron (the Transformers' homeworld) into Earth orbit, the presence of which would disrupt Earth's gravity and ultimately destroy the planet. The Autobots try to stop him, but when Optimus finally does prevent Megatron from pressing the button to complete the teleport, Megatron gloats, and insists that Optimus will be the one to push the button — because if he doesn't, the teleport will fail, destroying Cybertron in the process. Optimus, true to form, reluctantly pushes the button, rather than let his homeworld perish. (Which is kind of opposite of other characterization he's had since, where he would sacrifice the rest of his species if it means the Decepticons would not be able to threaten any other sentients ever again.)
- In an earlier episode, Megatron goads Optimus into a one-on-one duel in which the loser's faction will exile themselves forever, knowing the Autobot leader's sense of honor would never allow him to refuse a chance to end their war peacefully. Naturally, he cheats during the competition, but at least he was just Genre Savvy enough to send troops into the Autobot base to disable their computer and prevent the deception from being noticed (and he would've gotten away with it, too, were it not for those meddling Dinobots...).
- Kim Possible:
- Dr. Drakken is known to have exploited Kim's teenager flaws, like making Kim disappear if she's too embarrassed or sending in a perfect boyfriend for Kim to fall in love with.
- Shego takes over the world by exploiting the major flaw that Kim Possible is nowhere near as effective without her sidekick Ron Stoppable, Shego splits them up by offering Ron's mother a new job in Norway.
- Danny Phantom:
- Manipulative Bastard Vlad constantly pulls this on Danny, usually by making him his personal Unwitting Pawn. Danny however, does the same thing against him, too! One example is in "Maternal Instincts" where Danny tricked Vlad by using his desire for the boy as his son. Calling him "new dad", Danny slaps a Power Nullifier on him, then proceeds to beat the crap outta him.
- Technus also used Danny's emotions to keep him busy or enraged in one episode while he worked on his ultimate plan.
- This is Spectra's MO, as she feeds off misery, and thus manipulates people's flaws to make them as miserable as possible.
- Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic uses the mane cast's flaws to break them and turn them against their Elements. It fails on Fluttershy, however, because she knows she has flaws and is perfectly accepting of them so he brainwashes her the old fashion way. Ironically, the heroes do this right back at him to ultimately defeat him, as his ego and inability to truly understand friendship's strength is ultimately what allows them to get the final blow.
- Amazingly, Fluttershy shows some serious Magnificent Bastardness by pulling this on Discord again while Discord thinks he's pulling this on her. He uses her "friendship" as a free ticket to run completely rampant while she sits back and deals with it, thinking he has her wrapped around his little talon. She's aware of his plan, and exploiting it because it's the easiest way to get close to him.
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
Zurg: We need to get him to come out... *to a minion* Target the Planet of Widows and Orphans!
Buzz: You fiend! *flies out*
Zurg: I knew that would get him!
- Chase Young may be a Noble Demon in Xiaolin Showdown, but that doesn't stop him from being Manipulative Bastard as well. Wanting to take the young Omi as his apprentice, he uses Omi's biggest flaws to bring the boy over to his side...his naivity, his over-trusting nature, and then even after his friends save Omi from the dark side...Chase also previously had Omi swear his loyalty to him, knowing Omi would have no choice but to stay, because like Chase, the boy always honors his word.
- Bravestarr once reluctantly agreed to a bargain with Tex Hex, because he knew that Tex was such a compulsive backstabber that he would never honor his own end of the deal, which would then leave Bravestarr free to break it as well.
- As a counterpart to what happened in the comic book, the second season of the animated series of W.I.T.C.H. has Will using Phobos' own arrogance and sense of superiority to manipulate him like a fiddle, also convincing a few Noble Demons among his men to pull an Heel-Face Turn by exposing his lack of honour. Again, it fail, but for different reasons: Phobos did fall for it, but Cedric saw through it and choose the moment before it would have paid off to pull a Starscream...