Greed, or avarice, is the desire for large amounts of money and material possessions. While simply attempting to earn more money to make oneself better off is no big deal, greed applies when one attempts to garner ever greater amounts of possessions and money simply for the sake of having more than everyone else.
The thing about Greed is that it's never satisfied - as soon as the thing sought after is obtained, the obtainer starts craving more, and more, and more, ad infinitum. It's an addiction.
Greed is the main motivation of the Corrupt Corporate Executive. It is also a Fatal Flaw of the Miser Advisor and commonly of a Mr. Vice Guy; in the cases of these characters, they usually learn a valuable lesson at some point about what's really important. The Gold Digger is motivated by Greed — as is, often enough, the Black Widow. A character defined by Greed often has a Money Fetish. This trope can be the reason behind characters who are Only in It for the Money.
Greedy villains often try to bribe the hero, a tactic in which they have great confidence. After all, justice and even Revenge aren't shiny, and don't get a very good exchange rate. When The Hero turns down the Briefcase Full of Money, it can be a great shock. Obviously, bribes work great on them.
Villains — and heroes — seemingly afflicted by Greed can be humanized by demonstrating that it is not the money they are after; they need it to buy something of actual value. At the same time, their Greed may threaten to transform their goal into a Tragic Dream. Villains may also want it not for itself but for equally villainous reasons — to effect Revenge, to live the slothful life of the Idle Rich — which changes the motivation without making it less evil.
May lead to Death by Materialism. Gold Fever is a subtrope. Often goes hand in hand with gluttony. Compare Lust, which is desire for abstract concepts and feelings as opposed to material possessions. If a greedy character is featured in a musical, expect a Money Song.
For the less sophisticated, there's Giant Food. Compare Love Hungry.
For the classic silent film on the subject, see Greed. For the Chuck Woolery game show, see Greed.
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Anime and Manga
The third Kira in Death Note uses the notebook to kill off executives of rival companies along with criminals in order to make his own company expand and increase his salary.
Sunwoo Narea from Tower of God climbs the tower for the riches it has to offer and sees moneymaking opportunities at possible corner.
Also, Shiranami. He even stated that the reason he killed his father, who was protecting the expensive forbidden jutsu, was because he's greedy.
Nabiki of Ranma 1/2 — she likes nice things, provided someone else is paying.
Genma accidently knocks his wife off a cliff in his attempts to steal a 20 dollar medal to pawn.
Greed from Fullmetal Alchemist, as his name would imply. However, the positive qualities related to his sin are also inspected: He is so possessive over his minions that it crosses to being actual loyalty and caring. Even Greed himself eventually addresses the fact that while things like wanting money, food, power, etc. seem worlds apart from wanting to protect people, they're also still both forms of desire.
In addition, despite his desire for "Money, food, women, everything!", he's able to keep his desire under enough control that it doesn't ruin him, and he ends up working for the good guys (under the guise that they work for him, of course).
While Ling Yao has nobler beliefs than the previous example, he embodies some of these qualities as well, having goals such as becoming emperor and obtaining immortality, but being absolutely against sacrificing his followers or letting them sacrifice themselves for him. This serves as foreshadowing as to why he ends up becoming the second Greed.
Nami from One Piece started off as treasure obsessed, and would do nearly anything to get large amounts of money, which includes raiding a Marine's base during the confusion of an attack. This is justified a couple arcs in: She wants to use the money for the REAL Greed-monger, her then-captain, so she could buy him off and he'll leave her hometown alone.
The fact that it's a defining characteristic of hers is played with in her in-betweener. Even after Arlong is dealt with, she's still just as greedy.
The original Noah in Soul Eater, as he is the embodiment of Greed.
Lina Inverse of Slayers fame has this as a rather significant personality trait, though it crops up more earlier on. However she is always on the look out to make a bit of cash. It's part of the reason she left home in the first place, having gotten into trouble by selling illusions of her elder sister Luna in the bath.
Viper from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is a baby who cares about nothing but money. He frequently attempts to charge his own team members for favors or just to watch him fight, and he complains if he has to do something for free. His alias, Mammon, even means greed.
Meiko Shimono from Hell Girl is such a selfish Rich Bitch that she first kills her parents for their money, and later murders her baby son to not have to share said wealth.
Reiko Mikami could very well take the crown for this trope. It seems there's nothing she won't do to get a little more money.
Lawrence from Spice and Wolf suffers in episode 10 because of this trope. He ended up trying to buy too much armor on credit, only to find out that the value of armor in the city he was going to sell it in crashed. None of his merchant associates want to help him repay the debt as well because he got greedy.
One of the video games in the Gundam franchise is entitled Gihren's Greed in honour of Mobile Suit Gundam's Big Bad, Gihren Zabi. There is a reason for this. A cold, Machiavellian personality, Gihren's entire goal in life seems to be the accumulation of more wealth, power, and possessions for himself.
Greed is a major motif in Spirited Away, as it affects characters both the human world (Chihiro's parents who consume the food at the carnival without permission) and the Spirit World (the workers of the bathhouse who lust for gold). No-Face becomes powerful, yet insane when he feeds off the greed of the workers.
It runs in the family; his nephew has sinned of this as well.
Pictured above is "Agent Orange". real name Larfleeze, "leader" of the Orange Lantern Corps in The DCU. In the emotional spectrum, Orange represents selfishness and greed, and Agent Orange is the greediest creature to ever live. True to form, he's the only true member of the corps; the others are all spirits of the people he killed in his constant search for more.
Funnily enough, Larfleeze was once referred to in-story as "Scrooge McDuck with a power ring"
Johns has stated one of Larfleeze's inspirations is Daffy Duck.
Later on, Lex Luthor is inducted as a deputy Orange Lantern and becomes so utterly consumed by greed that he turns on the other lanterns, wanting ALL the rings.
Larfleeze to Lex Luthor: Victory is mine! And if you had hair that would be mine, too!
Ironically enough, his last act of the Blackest Night arc was tossing Luthor back to the humans, which Sinestro lampshaded was an act of him giving something to someone. Larfleeze reacts in stunned shock.
He's hanging around on Earth after Blackest Night because he believes Earth caters to greedy bastards like him. After watching commercials he's come to the conclusion that everyone else on Earth shares his neverending desire for more.
The Orange Lantern is always a singular individual because nobody avaricious enough to activate and control the orange light could ever bear the thought of sharing it. This is why the deputy didn't work out: they'd fight each other over the power, cutting their strength to less than half.
As a bit of a Tragic Hero, the top thing Larfleeze wanted was the only thing he really wants, his family.
In the end he gets reunited with them. Then promptly falls back into stealing and hoarding because old habits die hard.
Lex Luthor, who was inducted into the Orange Lantern Corps has long had greed as one of his defining vices. The Orange Ring ends up worsening his greed, leaving him with a yawning gulf inside when he loses it.
In the original Lee-Ditko run of Spider-Man, J. the real reason Jameson hates Spider-Man is that Jameson has always been greedy and he can't understand how Spider-Man can give without any personal gain for himself.
Speaking of Spider-Man, Electro pretty much shouts out a bit from the intro paragraphs verbatim in his first appearance as he gloats over his victory, readily admitting that he's greedy, but he doesn't care. Fitting then that Electro is pretty typically the most greed-driven villain in most incarnations.
Jack Horner of Fables shows how much greed can stab you in the back. After losing a fortune several times in his series, he resigns to never spend the gold he gained from El Dorado, just to ensure he can't lose it. He consequently becomes a dragon as a result of his greed. He spends at least a few years (if not decades) in this state before the last issue. Everyone Dies.
This is The Kingpin's defining vice. He takes and takes and takes, but it's never enough. He'll always want more.
Hansel and Gretel's Wicked Stepmother begrudges her stepchildren their food and has them abandoned so they will not have to feed them. Although sometimes she has the excuse that there is a famine, in some variants, she just resents spending anything on them.
In Tangled, Flynn's motivation — he even, with No Honor Among Thieves, escapes with the goods and without his partners. Only with Character Development does he try to make amends. We also get some Hidden Depths about his childhood dream, inspired by stories of very rich man who could, consequently go anywhere and do anything.
Films — Live-Action
The eponymous villain of Goldfinger, whose ultimate goal is to increase the value of his gold reserves by irradiating all the gold in Fort Knox.
"The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed - for lack of a better word - is good. Greed is right. Greed works."
In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, this is the reason Max turns coat on America and sides with the Soviets. The myths of Akator and legends of streets made of gold start making him think he could be richer than Howard Hughes (a comaprison he makes to Indy himself). He even tries to convince Indy to side with him; he should have know that Indy was more than willing to oppose anyone who thought like this as far as archaeology was concerned.
This is the whole point of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Frank Dobbs starts as a normal guy just trying to get by while constantly being swindled and scammed. Once he starts getting his hands on gold his sanity starts to spiral downhill to the point where he's quite content to torture and then attempt to murder his best friend just so he can make off with everybody's share of the gold as well as his own. This ends up being his undoing, as his eagerness to get away gets him ambushed and murdered by the bandits, which results in the loss of all the gold.
The villain in Ghost Ship uses this sin most of all to lead the people on the Graza to their demise. The crew of the Graza salvaged the gold from the Lorelei and took the villain onboard, and he then drove them insane with desire, causing them to murder the passengers first and then turn on each other. He uses the same prospect of gold and riches on the salvage crews he lures there, and even tries to tempt Epps at the end with other material trappings.
Each of the villains in the Keys to the Kingdom series represents a deadly sin, with Grim Tuesday representing greed. He takes it to rather ridiculous levels, in fact. He turns his entire kingdom into an open-pit mine and risks the destruction of the entire universe in order to obtain more stuff. And he already posseses the power to make anything out of Nothing and a building about the size of a small town filled entirely with treasure.
Miss Minchin in A Little Princess — Miss Amelia's description of her in one of the movie adaptations as "a pitiless, hard-hearted woman who cares for nothing but money!" holds very true in the original book.
As well as the character he is based on - the dragon from Beowulf who has similar ... ummm ... exactly the same hoarding-and-killing tendencies.
In Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, while King Haggard explains that the reason he keeps unicorns is that they are the only thing that makes him happy. Where it becomes greed is that his goal is to collect them all — every unicorn in the world.
"Each time I see the unicorns, MY unicorns, it is like that morning in the woods, and I am truly young, in spite of myself!"
In Julian May's The Rampart Worlds sci-fi trilogy, this is pretty much the main reason the Hundred Concerns start dealing with the Haluk (although Emily Konigsberg started all the trouble through naivete). It turns out that giving technology to a touchy, paranoid race is not a good idea.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Let's see...the Monarch HMO from Payback. The Barristers from The Jury. Rosemary Hershey in Sweet Revenge. Arden Gillespie and Roland Sullivan in Lethal Justice. Maxwell Zenowicz in Fast Track. Baron Bell in Deadly Deals. Owen Orzell and Jason Parker in Home Free. In at least 7 books out of 20, you have Greed as the motive for their terrible actions!
Greed is a major cause of the conflict in Galaxy of Fear: Spore. The miners who Dug Too Deep and found Spore sealed into an asteroid decided to open it in the belief that it was valuable. Spore itself has endless greed, an endless desire to make sentient beings join its Hive Mind, even spending itself to search after the most minor escapees.
The Apprentice Rogue: Falita's greed is set up in the first chapter when she plunders a corpse. As a child and even as an adult she would steal things and then forget about them; she simply wanted to take them.
Five Weeks in a Balloon: Joe falls prey to this vice when he and his companions find rocks with gold deposits deep in Africa. As the rocks are heavy, they take them on board their balloon to act as ballast, but Joe is very reluctant to toss them out so that they can lift off. He gets over it, though.
Live Action TV
One of the primary vices of the mercenary Jayne Cobb of Firefly, though he's usually smart enough not to let this drive him to do stupid things. Unless the money's too good...
The villains of Kamen Rider OOO, the Greeed (sic), are literally made out of desire. The hero Eiji has no desires due to Survivor Guilt, which allows him to use their powers easily. Interestingly, it slowly becomes apparent that having no desires is a bad thing, with the Big Good believing that desire is necessary for life and encouraging his workers to be ambitious as long as they are not prideful.
Parker on Leverage. From the episode "The Nigerian Job": "My money is not in my account. That makes me cry inside... in my special angry place." From "The Homecoming Job": "I don't like stuff.. I like MONEY."
Pick a villain from the show. They're all greedy bastards, with Victor Dubenich (who can't seem to even plan revenge without trying to profit from it) being the worst.
Subverted in the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episode "World Peace," where they argue that greed is the key to world peace, since war is usually bad for profits.
The Ferengi (see above) would disagree vehemently. While "Peace is good for business" is one of the most important Rules of Acquisition, the very next rule is "War is good for business", and they would know
In Star Trek, this is the hat of the Ferengi, who have built an entire society out of greed and avarice. While they even have a codified system of rules governing this behavior, going around said rules if it's for a profitable goal isn't considered a bad thing. Thus, things like theft or piracy are only considered bad if you get caught.
On the bright side, the Ferengi don't practice racism, slavery, or genocide because they consider it bad for business (fewer customers->lower demand->LESS PROFITS)
It's almost a case of Blue and Orange Morality for them, as any action which is not profit-seeking is seen as disgraceful (whether it was acting out of Charity or Revenge, if there's no profit to be made, it's just WRONG).
Illustrated by Liquidator Brunt (Ferengi Commerce Authority) when he accuses Quark of being a "phil-AN-thro-pist!" in much the same tone a human might accuse someone of eating their own children.
In Vocaloid's Seven Deadly Sins series, Kaito, a judge, accepts bribes from customers to make them "innocent". The reason he needs this money is to help his "daughter" Miku and to collect the Seven Deadly Sins in order to restore her condition. Later, he is bribed by a general for mass murder and lets him walk free. This eventually causes a civil war and he is killed in a fire. He is then faced with "the master of this hellish yard" who tells him he can be saved if he gives up his money. He refuses to give his fortune to anyone and is sent to Hell, where he hopes to make the place a utopia for himself and his "daughter" after he collects the sins.
Pooh-Bah: I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable. I can't help it. I was born sneering. But I struggle hard to overcome this defect. I mortify my pride continually. When all the great officers of State resigned in a body because they were too proud to serve under an ex-tailor, did I not unhesitatingly accept all their posts at once? Pish-Tush: And the salaries attached to them? You did.
In In Nomine, Mammon is the Demon Prince of Greed, though lately he's lost a lot of his power and influence, particularly to Haggenti, the Demon Prince of Gluttony. The game describes the difference between the two as while Gluttony wants to consume, Greed just wants to have. Mammon's demons aren't allowed to give away anything...even the time of day.
In Dungeons & Dragons mythos, Greed is often seen as the biggest handicap that dwarves have as a race. They even have a god who embodies the concept called Abbathor, and while their other gods don't like him, they accept him as their own, as he sides with them against traditional enemies of the dwarves, like orcs. This makes it gives dwarves a bad reputation at times, because their gods grudingly accept the embodiment of Greed as one of their own.
In the third chapter of Disgaea, the main characters target someone specifically because they are rich and its the prinny's pay day.
Wa◊rio◊ pretty much exemplifies this, in both the Wario Land and WarioWare series. His motivations for most of the game stories are pretty much to get as much money and treasure as he possibly can, doesn't really pay his 'staff' in WarioWare, ignores the captured damsel in Wario Land: Shake It for the infinite cash purse and manages to subvert the Honest Axe trope.
Greed is basically the reason Pigma Dengar is so repugnant. He sold out the people who were supposed to be his friends to Andross just for the money, and a reward is basically his only motivation for doing anything.
Sector Carina in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. A massive shopping mall, warped by a demonic viewpoint on Humanity's excesses and obscene desire for more possessions. Fittingly, the resident Tyrant, Horkos, is a demon obsessed with devouring everything - food, energy, inanimate objects, people, his own servants... And the worse thing is, when finally confronted, he calls out Humanity on being even more greedy and materialistic than he.
The Goblin race as a whole in World of Warcraftare well known for their greed, though no single goblin fit the archetype more than Trade Prince Gallywix as he masterfully demonstrated in the quote below.
"I never cover up the things I'm proud of. If the world was gonna split in half tomorrow, I’d buy the Dark Portal, slap a toll booth on it, and charge refugees the last of their pocket change, the rings off their fingers, a bite of their sandwiches, and a contractual obligation to build me a rocket palace in the skies of Nagrand. It's the goblin way! Supply and demand! Deal with it!"
Like the other six of the Seven Deadly Sins, Greed is a bss you sometimes fight in The Binding of Isaac. He only appears in Shops and Secret Rooms, implying that if you're greedy enough to look for a free power-up from the Secret Room or a bought power-up from the Shop, you may just be punished for your greed by fighting Greed.
A central component of Morganite ideology in Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri. Morgan even wrote a book "The Ethics of Greed" promoting it.
"Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill."
In Freefall, one of Sam's major motivations is to get rich, ideally to him by way of the path of least resistance.
In Homestuck, Meenah Peixes desires wealth (in addition to power). She really desires it, and will take every opportunity to profit from it. When she's given an entire flash walkabout to herself, she spends much of it picking up items belonging to other characters, with the stated intention of pawning them at the first opportunity. And when one of her friends sets up a booth selling information, it was Meenah getting paid, because said friend really wanted to talk and knew money was the way to get Meenah to sit through it, if not actually listen.
Napster Bad accuses Metallica and the entire music industry of greed in a highly satirical way, with the musicians complaining about how they are getting slightly smaller oodles of money due to online file sharing.
Swindle in Transformers is defined by his greed. In Transformers Generation 1, he sells off parts of his fellow Combaticons to a shady arms dealer to make himself a profit. In Transformers Animated, Megatron comments that he'd sell his own motherboard if the price was enough, and Swindle just laughs and moves on to his sales pitch.
"A good candy taken in greed always turns sour." Greed is a recurring theme in conjunction with candy hunting on Codename: Kids Next Door. Number 5's old-partner-now-rival Heinrich uncovered a tomb of candy but ignored the warning "Share not, and only taste asparagus," which sure enough happened when he refuses to share the candy. When a candy pirate named Black John didn't share the licorice he cut down on an island but hoarded "it all for himself," he and his crew were cursed by being pretty much turned into licorice Gargoyles. The Noodle Incident at Guatemala also turned out to be Heinrich performing a ritual to get perfect caramel that cursed him at the same time; the only way to break the curse is to share the caramel.
"One dollar for eternal happiness? … I'd be happier with the dollar."
In Powerpuff Girls, Princess Morbucks is a Lonely Rich Kid from a family so wealthy, her allowance alone amounts to Impossibly Cool Wealth. However, after the Power Puff Girls reject her application for membership, she decides to become a villain out of jealousy that she can't be a superhero too. Forgetting the fact that she could have just used her wealth to found a superhero group herself.
But, of course, being a superhero wasn't the point. She wanted to be a Powerpuff Girl specifically. She was denied this. And no one denies her.
Lucius on Jimmy Two-Shoes. Not his main sin (that would be Pride) but definitly present, as noted by his demand for more gifts at his birthday and his willingness to marry Beezy off in exchange for a large dowry.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Dragons have greed as a racial weakness. The more they acquire, the larger they get, and the more they want. Spike ends up trapped in this loop in "The Secret of My Excess".
She is the Element of Generosity for a reason. She will freely give her time and services to her friends, but has realistic struggles due to being a bit of a Ms. Vice Gal. She expects to get, well, something, anything for her time.
Scott Boras has a reputation among baseball fans as the most vile agent in the game because of the way he always tries to drive up the price of his clients, which can often lead to them ending up nowhere until the season has almost started when his asking price is too high. After all, since his salary is based on percentage, the more money his clients make, the more money he makes.
Ayn Rand valued greed as a virtue and criticized altruism.
A gross over-simplification, see Useful Notes - Objectivism for the full teachings and context.
Let's see what Mother Nature have to say on this. Pelicans steal fish herded by penguins. Penguins pinch those they can reach in time. Then a pelican stuffs his beak-sack so much that he have problems with lift-off and half of the pack converges to pluck the poor bastard.