This character is someone whom the audience would consider a Villain
in any other story. They Kick the Dog
, they Rape, Pillage, and Burn
, they cross the Moral Event Horizon
time and time again...because someone or something else is making them do it.
This type of character is similar to, but separate from a Necessarily Evil
villain. A Necessarily Evil
villain typically performs their heinous acts of their own free will, because they think an ideal solution isn't possible
or because it's the path that guarantees the most success. Ultimately, they may be right or wrong, but the responsibility rests completely with themselves. They believe their actions will lead to a greater good, and they are carrying out their own will. No one made them do anything.
Not so for this character. These characters are villains because they truly don't have another option (that they know of anyway). Either they, someone they know, or even the world itself is in grave danger if they don't do what they've been told, and there isn't enough time or opportunity to find another way. They know that their actions are evil and will mean inevitable victory for the evil side, but their actions, no matter how horrible, mean the difference between evil winning now
or evil winning later. Another example is that they may have Power Born of Madness
or a Super-Powered Evil Side
, but have no choice but to use it to solve a bigger
problem. Either way, all this person generally needs is to be freed from any external coercion or taught a better solution to their problem.
Given enough time, they may fall prey to Evil Feels Good
, Evil Tastes Good
or Evil Is Easy
and make a full Face-Heel Turn
Character types that are prone to this trope are the Noble Demon
, Friendly Enemy
, Tragic Monster
, Slave Mook
(almost always a Type IV
). Situations like Explosive Leash
, I Have Your Wife
, Please Spare Him, My Liege!
, or An Offer You Can't Refuse
usually turns into this (when The Hero
is the pleading party). Also expect one-sided Teeth-Clenched Teamwork
on the side of the forced, if they're told to fight alongside the evil.
May lead to a Faustian Rebellion
. A character who is trying to fight back may be a Stealth Mentor
for the good guys and/or a Sixth Ranger Traitor
for the villains.
Contrast with Brainwashed
and Face Monster Turn
tropes, where the character is forcefully modified and robbed of free will to be steered into evil, or Mind Rape
where they were wrecked so hard their free will wasn't working straight to steer them into evil. Not so for this character, this character knows what he/she is doing and had their free will intact and straight, but still couldn't do a thing to resist the forcing... for the moment. Also compare with More Than Mind Control
where the character is coerced mentally into believing that the only way available is something that he/she doesn't like, thus being forced to make a free will choice of steering themselves into evil.
May also overlap with Trapped In Villainy
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Kagura from InuYasha only serves the Big Bad Naraku because he holds her heart in his hands and he can kill her at any time.
- Crona in Soul Eater is proven by the heroine, Maka, to be a kind and innocent individual only killing innocent humans because his/her evil mother manipulates him/her into it.
- Yurin L'Ciel in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE allowed herself to get captured and get on a mobile suit used by Desil to empower his mecha through telekinesis... on the basis that if she doesn't comply, she'll never see Flit again. What results is her tragic death, by taking a blow meant for Flit, as well as the cementing of how utterly horrifying and despicable Desil is, as he passes it off like he just lost a toy.
- An interesting case in Brave 10. As revealed, Anastasia served Hanzo in the first place because Hanzo was holding her family heirloom that she has been looking for since childhood and her parents dead, at first playing it straight. Over time, however, she developed into a cold Broken Bird Ice Queen that is nearly as bad as Hanzo himself (though not quite), therefore subverting it. Once Hanzo's dead, however, she actually regretted that her whole life as an evil assassin has been for naught, since she found out that the heirloom was fake, thus making it somewhat of a double subversion.
- Sailor Moon loved this trope, especially during the Dark Kingdom arc, ranging from brainwashed random innocents-of-the-week up to the horrifying brainwashing of Endymion/Mamoru- sure, it didn't take at first, but after the second go he pretty much beat Usagi within an inch of her life before Usagi tearfully reminding him of their history together, holding out their music box locket snapped him out of it. And, according to the manga continuity and a blink-and-you-miss-it reference near the end of the season, the four Dark Generals/Shittenou all suffered this fate, too, being brainwashed by Beryl and Metallia the same way Endymion was. This might suggest some semi-failed brainwashing on the part of Nephrite...
- Carly Nagisa from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds definitely counts. A few other Dark Signers might qualify too. Misty, Kiryu, and Bommer weren't exactly willing recruits, and were tricked into serving the Earthbound Gods. This is the biggest reason why a lot of the Dark Signers ended up having second thoughts, and in two cases, tried to rebel against their masters.
- In Wolverine and the X-Men, the Hellfire Academy student Tin Man has no interest in being a supervillain, but is taken against his will and forced to take classes along with the other students, and later made to battle the X-Men when they attack the Academy. He's unable to resist, or make any attempt to escape, mostly because he's too meek and spineless.
- In the Highlander TV series, at some point Methos is coerced with physical harm or death by Kronos into rejoining his evil old friends. However, this development only lasts a few episodes.
- In Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), Gaius Baltar's bad actions are usually more misguided than actively malicious, but one example from the New Caprica arc definitively fits this trope. Baltar, as the nominal president of the 'Twelve Colonies', is required as a legal rubber stamp by the Cylons to give their occupation of the human settlement some air of legitimacy. They order Baltar to sign a mass execution order for Resistance members, but when he refuses, they shove a gun in his face while yelling at him to sign. He eventually relents after some guidance from Head Six.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, Ep22), Jake is forced to help the Yellow-Eyed Demon who threatens Jake's family.
- In Babylon 5, the Drahk use a parasitic Restraining Bolt to control their operatives, who are aware of their actions but usually unable to control themselves.
- Londo Mollari was a 3-dimensional character who walked a tightrope that made him something of a Heel-Face Revolving Door. By the final series he's mostly settled into being a sympathetic character, which is tragically when the Drakh blackmail him into accepting a Keeper.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, devils have been known to alter a society's culture so that coming-of-age rituals involve acts that will send you to hell (or increase your chance of ending up there).
- There's a spell in The Book of Vile Darkness called Morality Undone which can turn a victim evil against his or her will. (It does not make the victim loyal to the caster in any way or force him to commit evil deeds, but once the spell is cast, the caster may find convincing him to do that easier.) Fortunately, it's temporary, lasting ten minutes per caster level. (Still, being a 5th level spell, a caster needs to be around 10th level to use it, so that's often long enough to get the victim in some rather dangerous situations.)
- In Exalted, many of the Abyssal and Infernal exalted are in situations like this, with their respective undead and demonic masters.
- Any given Sabbat recruit in Vampire: The Masquerade will go through a period of this, assuming the creation rites don't drive them mad from the outset. They're made loyal to their pack through blood bonds, and are kept isolated from humanity and non-Sabbat vampires, so they have no choice but to go along with the pack. This eventually fades as atrocities blend together, and they grow to like evil.
- Sophitia Alexandria from the Soul Series falls into this category during Soulcalibur IV. Her daughter has been captured and bound to the evil Soul Edge, meaning that if the sword is destroyed, so is her daughter's soul. Sophitia is forced to fight on the side of the villains and spill blood to save her daughter's life. The worst part of it is that her proximity to Soul Edge, her despair, her dread of doing something which can never be redeemed, and the overall exhilaration she tries to deny are all pushing her toward a permanent Face-Heel Turn. To rub salt in the wound, she's killed before she's ever got a chance to redeem herself.
- As of Soulcalibur V, her daughter Pyrrha followed in her footsteps. Practically raised by Tira from the young age she was kidnapped at, once she grew old enough to have suitors, Tira killed every single one of them, giving Pyrrha a reputation as "The Bringer of Woe" and people everywhere incentive to kill her. Tira, being Tira, advises her to kill them all. After all, it's self defense, so it's okay. Of course, Tira's true goal is turning Pyrrha into the next host for Soul Edge. She succeeds.
- In Mega Man 4, the benevolent Dr. Cossack has to pose as the Big Bad because Wily is holding his daughter hostage.
- In Mortal Kombat 9 This happens to the ENTIRE cast of Earthrelm's protectors (except Sonya, Johnny Cage, and Raiden, who survive) when they are killed by Sindel, along with Sindel herself and the Outland warriors who allied themselves with the Earthrealm after their souls are stolen by Quan Chi.
- In Final Fantasy XIII, Cid Raines is pushed into villainy by his fal'Cie masters.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the scientists who were kidnapped in the intro are forced into making what's essentially a killswitch for every cyborg on the planet...which also happens to be able to turn them into Technically Living Zombie by causing them to go berserk.
- In BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, the ever-kind and compassionate Hospital Hottie Litchi Faye-Ling ended up in NOL thanks to the consummate troll Hazama/Yuuki Terumi, despite being able to keep her sound mind and resisting Hazama himself TWICE on him preying on her obsession with Arakune (her Fatal Flaw)by offering to cure Arakune. This was largely because of the corruption that she took to save Arakune alone was quickly catching up to her and she only had little time left until she loses her sanity or memory due to the corruption. So even if the decision was extremely questionable (and unfortunately pegs her as idiot because players are savvy enough that Hazama is not going to fulfill his bargain, and Litchi isn't Genre Savvy), she really had no choice but to join NOL except if she wants to just rot down, become a monster and eats the other people she loves.
- Homestuck: A female troll (possessing clockwork majyyks and other powers) was nearly single-handedly responsible for making planet Alternia an antagonistic, caste-warfare-torn hellhole. She rained so much destruction on Alternia that history remembered her only as "The Demoness", and mythology remembered her as Death's right-hand servant. And she did all of this because she was forced into it by a time-traveling, universe-eating demon.