Forced Into Evil
aka: Pelagian Villain
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 and Anti-Villain (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, and turn this character into a Regretful Traitor.
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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! 5D's 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.
- The Grey Zone: The Sonderkommandos are Jewish prisoners in the death camps who assisted the extermination process by marching the new victims into the gas chambers and then disposing of the corpses. The only reason they're doing this is because the Nazis literally forced them to at gunpoint, and eliminate the Sonderkommandos themselves at regular intervals. After what the characters have done and seen, most of them simply don't want to live anymore.
- Played with in Dragon Bones: Oreg is a slave, who was Made a Slave by magical means, so he has no way out at all. The fact that he's trained as assassin hints at him having been used as a murder weapon - probably to murder innocent and good people, too. Then there's Garranon, who's quite likeable on his own, but would torture puppies to protect his brother, and antagonizes the protagonist for that reason. The protagonist, Ward, feels forced to make a deal with the villain to protect the lives of those dear to him, at the end. He doesn't go through with it, as Oreg suggests to Take a Third Option, that consists of killing Oreg, which causes castle Hurog to collapse on the villains. Ward feels guilty about that, too, even though he believes it was the right thing to do.
- Xu Shu from Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of Liu Bei's earlier strategist and cornerstone of his survival against Cao Cao's constant attacks. Realizing this, Cao Cao arranges it that Xu Shu's mom gets under his captivity. Being a Momma's Boy, Xu Shu had no choice but to change sides into his enemy. However, as a Wei officer, he ends up being inefficient and faded from the stages of history, and before leaving, he did recommend to Liu Bei someone who's eventually proven to be far better than him as replacement: Zhuge Liang.
- This is either glossed or defied in Dynasty Warriors 8. Xu Shu's mom was omitted so he has no forcing. However, Xu Shu is portrayed as someone pessimistic and lacking 'ambition' that Cao Cao just put him on a minor post because he couldn't find a use on him. However, if extra steps were taken, Xu Shu will be impressed with Cao Cao's ambition and willingly offer his services instead of being forced. And since the series has been decreasing Cao Cao's 'evilness'...
- Subverted with Szeth-son-son-Vallano in The Stormlight Archive. As a Truthless of Shinovar, Szeth must obey any order given by the holder of his Oathstone, except orders to kill himself or surrender his Shardblade, while remaining morally responsible for all of his actions. However, there is absolutely no power except his honour preventing him from just saying no.
Szeth: It is my punishment. To kill, to have no choice, but to bear the sins nonetheless.
- 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 (2003), 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 all but three of the entire cast of Earthrelm's protectors 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. By the time of Mortal Kombat X, a few are freed from Quan Chi's hold, while the rest are forever trapped as revenants following Quan Chi's demise leaving Liu Kang, Katana, and Sindel as potential enemies in the future.
- 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\), 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.
- In Tales of Destiny, Leon Magnus' chief reason of betraying Stahn's party is that his foster mother figure Marian was taken hostage by Hugo Gilchrist. Depending on the version, he either subverts it or plays it straight: In the original, he's already been an incurable nihilist Jerkass, so he's not so much Forced Into Evil, he's just playing along to vent his annoyance to Stahn's party. Then he got dropped with a bridge. In the remake, he genuinely did consider Stahn and co. his True Companions, but then was powerless to ask them for help, therefore playing it straight. Then comes the Heroic Sacrifice.
- In the first Art of Fighting, Mr. Karate's identity is actually Takuma Sakazaki, father and master of the protagonist Ryo and Robert. He only became the Final Boss working with crimelord Mr. Big because they already took his daughter, Ryo's sister, Yuri, as a hostage and blackmailed Takuma to work for them unless he wants Yuri to bite it. By the second game, Takuma returned into being a good Cool Old Guy, and Yuri Took a Level in Badass.
- In Tekken 6, after losing in the 5th tournament and seeing his master dwindle into an even worse state, Eddy Gordo becomes desperate in giving him medical treatment. Cue Jin Kazama, after he himself pulled a Face-Heel Turn into the head of Mishima Zaibatsu, offers him a medication so long as he joins the Zaibatsu. Without much choice, Eddy joins and turns from a model citizen in a soldier involved in many of the Zaibatsu's dirty works. Jin lied about the medication.
- Oracle Of Tao, the Big Bad of the first game (there's also a Playable Epilogue that has a totally different enemy) is basically sent out on an exploration mission for his fellow demons (they're in a Crapsack World and looking to escape). The very first town he visits, all the villagers treat him like a pariah and he is sealed in an urn. Needless to say, he quickly decides to do something not so good not long after, and basically decides he doesn't care enough to spare the world he visited, instead preferring to violently merge the two worlds.
- In the Visual Novel (first game), Kouchuu/Huang Zhong first ends up as Kazuto's enemy because Enshou/Yuan Shao is holding her daughter Riri as a hostage.
- In the animated adaptation, Kouchuu also was found first as a would-be assassin about to kill a high-ranking officer because several bandits (led by the fake Ryuubi) has taken her daughter hostage. For both versions, once the daughter is rescued, she ends up becoming the good guys.
- In Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage Dream Mode, the usually virtuous Rei ends up serving Thouzer as one of the Token Good Teammate since his beloved sister (and later, his lover Mamiya)is planted with a bomb in case he rebels. The other Token Good Teammate (Shew) has no such forcing.
- Nearly everyone in Warriors Orochi were Forced Into Evil when subjugated by Orochi, with many blackmails to follow, be it their people in danger (Tokugawa), their leaders getting held hostage (Shu and Wu), etc. The exceptions include Maeda Keiji (feeling sympathetic on Orochi's true purpose), Sima Yi and Date Masamune (Opportunists, the latter probably got hit in Break the Haughty and lost faith in the constantly warring humanity), Fuuma Kotarou (Chaos-seeking like usual), Lu Bu (looking for good fights, this extends to Achilles later) and Dong Zhuo (because he's a dick)
- And reversed in 3. In order to prevent reuniting with Orochi, Dong Zhuo is forced by Zhuge Liang to serve the force of Good, which makes him 'Forced Into Good'.
- Kukuru in Super Robot Wars Alpha 2. Her first on-screen debut, exclusively in Sanger Zonvolt's route, is... to blow the Earth Cradle to smithereens and even seemingly killed Sophia Nate, sending Sanger into a frenzy. Throughout the game, however, you find out that aside of becoming Sanger's rival, Kukuru used to be a princess of a kingdom and forced into servitude of the Jamatai against her honor and wishes when her kingdom's destroyed. Even if she refused to be pitied, Sanger does not face her with hatred. She's killed before she could turn around for good, but also revealed that she didn't kill Sophia, she just got her captured.
- She's back in Second Super Robot Wars Original Generation, and her backstory is still similar. Her kingdom was destroyed by the Garden of Baral, she was nearly consumed by TouTetsuOh... then Son Ganlong said that if she served the Baral Garden, he promised that he would reunite her parents with her. Near the end, Ganlong gleefully reveals that her parents can't even come back because their souls have been devoured into nothingness by TouTetsuOh, meaning Kukuru has been completely duped. After Sanger saved her, Kukuru finally is able to pull a Heel-Face Turn... then dies after the final battle, because the Baral Garden is destroyed and her life was linked with them. At the very least, she died a heroine now.
- The fourth case in Dangan Ronpa starts with a message from Monokuma that amongst the students, there's a mole working for him. And that mole is... the resident Gentle Giant Lady Looks Like a Dude Sakura Oogami. She has shown disgust on Monokuma, claiming that she won't stand for any other murders of her friends, but gets promptly reminded that Monokuma that he has her whole dojo in hostage and in case a murder doesn't happen, she is to kill someone, causing people to distrust her. She solves this by choosing to murder herself and this action managed to at least stop remaining the students to try to kill each other.
- In World of Warcraft, while most of the Scourge are mindless corpses, some of the more aware members feel like this. Such as Anub'arak.
Kel'thuzad: In return for immortality, you agreed to serve him.Anub'arak: Agreed implies choice.
- 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.
- This is the premise of the webtoon Bastard. The protagonist Jin was forced from a young age to assist his Serial Killer father in committing murder even while knowing that it's wrong, the implication being that the moment he becomes a threat, he'll be killed.
- Regent from Worm was pressured to commit an escalating series of evil acts by his father, Heartbreaker. It's a Discussed Trope as the issue of how morally culpable he is for his previous actions is brought up a couple of times. The issue is further complicated by the fact that Regent's superpower seems to mess with his ability to feel empathy, he was raised in an environment devoid of love or any sort of moral foundation, and his power makes him so scary to the public at large that super-villainy is one of very career options available for him.
- The Urpneys only really seemed bothered about going after The Dreamstone because Zordrak will either turn them into stone or feed them to the Frazznats otherwise, making them essentially all conscripts. Sgt Blob and Urpgor partly go after it for rivalistic sake though.
- Subverted in a later episode, which makes clear even despite their unwillingness, they'd rather stay with Zordrak than get thrown out of Viltheed to fend for themselves.
- Colossus in X-Men: Evolution is working for Magneto solely because his family was kidnapped.
"I am not a lackey! I... I have no choice."
- In Teen Titans, Robin briefly joins forces with Slade because he injected his teammates with lethal nanobots that he could trigger and deactivate at will.
- A Flashback episode of Transformers Generation 1 (told to Optimus Prime by Omega Supreme) revealed that Megatron recruited many of the earliest Decepticons this way, using an insidious device to reprogram citizens of Cybertron. The Constructicons were the only known victims of this device who are still around in the present, and it is not known if any other present-day Decepticons were. When Megatron tried to use the device on Omega Supreme, he managed to destroy it before it completely took hold of him; Megatron was apparently either unwilling or unable to rebuild the device for some reason, so he lost this method of recruitment.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door, the Delightful Children From Down the Lane were originally Kids Next Door Sector Z, who were victims of Father's "Delightfulization" machine, turning them into his minions against their will. Worst of all, when temporarily turned back to normal in "Operation: ZERO", they make it clear that their true personalities have been fully conscious the whole time.
- Sea Rogue in the TUGS episode, "Pirate" was forced to steal cargo for a pair of Green-eyed Pirates so they wouldn't sink his uncle.
- Lawrence the Lab Rat in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Pseudo Sonic" was forced to pilot the titular robot and frame Sonic for various crimes because Robotnik threatened to kill his parents with a surface-to-Sonic missile if he refused.
- This happens to any warrior defeated by the eponymous villain in the Samurai Jack episode "Jack versus Demongo the Soul Collector", although Jack manages to release them all. (And likely give Aku a lot more headaches in the future, seeing as they were all his enemies.)