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Heel-Face Brainwashing
"What greater weapon is there than to turn an enemy to your cause, to use their own knowledge against them?"

Someone is Brainwashed or Mind Controlled into a Heel-Face Turn. Yes, that's right, a Heel Face Turn (a bad guy turning good).

This is most notable when it's considered inherently different, or better, than when the heels do the Brainwashing. Then it sends the classic "the ends justify the means" Family-Unfriendly Aesop.

In-universe, the Godzilla Threshold can justify almost anything, but on a meta level, when this happens, it means that either the morality is Black and Grey Morality (or Grey and Gray Morality), or there is serious Values Dissonance going on, or maybe just thoughtless Moral Dissonance. Occasionally, the heroes ask first, and the villain figures that he's stronger than whatever they will do, and accepts, only for it to work.

Someone who breaks the brainwashing that put him in a Heel Face Mind Screw, if he doesn't decide on his own to stay good (the Power of Friendship is powerful) similar to Amnesiac Dissonance, will likely be a more formidable enemy than before out of righteous indignation. If they have some special powers, it's much more likely that they'll break the brainwashing after exhibiting said powers.

On occasion, happens as part of a Memory Gambit. May be induced with a Mirror Morality Machine. The brainwashing can sometimes involve Mind Rape or (oddly) a Care Bear Stare, though not always. However, if it does involve Mind Rape, expect even more Black and Grey Morality. Compare Brainwashing for the Greater Good and Deprogramming and contrast Face Monster Turn.

It should be noted that if any kind of brainwashing is successful in turning a person from one side to the opposing side, the brainwashee will automatically consider the change (by virtue of the brainwashing itself) to be a Heel-Face Turn, no matter what the real case is.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • In Death Note, Light did this to himself in a Memory Gambit, although he merely intended to "prove" his innocence by helping to catch the "real" Kira. He planned to provide himself with a way to reverse his Laser-Guided Amnesia after he had earned the good guys' trust
  • In Code Geass R2, Lelouch Geasses a lot of people into accepting him as Emperor. Since by this point in the story the Black and Gray Morality has turned into a soupy mess, whether this is a Heel-Face Turn, a Face-Heel Turn, a Mook-Face Turn, or what is up for a lot of interpretation. Before that point, the most he'd done was Mind Control people into doing specific tasks for him, not actually compel them to switch sides against their will.
    • Earlier in season 1, when Lelouch learned that his best friend Suzaku was the pilot of the perpetual Spanner in the Works mecha Lancelot, his partner C.C. suggested he just brainwash Suzaku into joining him. Lelouch refuses for a number of reasons, such as personal pride and disgust at the idea of destroying someone's free will; the fact that these are no longer a concern shows how far he's fallen in the second season.
    • Less morally ambiguously, this happens to Viletta Nu who develops Laser-Guided Amnesia and is taken in by a nice guy (who happens to be a rebel) who does his best to take care of her.
  • In Dragon Ball Z this happens... sort of... when Goku has Buu resurrected as a good person, though technically he's not actually being controlled. He's simply been reincarnated with all of the power retained, but all the evil cleansed from his soul between lives.
  • Anri in Durarara!! can do this using the demon-blade Saika, as part of the character being Bad Powers, Good People. For instance, in one scene a mind-controlled thug is told to go home and lead a good life.
  • Fairy Tail has the superweapon Nirvana, which can deal these out en masse (as well as making good guys evil). While it's used by the villlains (and a bunch of people spontaneously changing their alignment is recognized as a bad thing), one of the villains is hit by accident, and no one sees the brainwashing as wrong. It helps that it was an accident, the heroes weren't actually involved, and the villain was revealed to be a Fallen Hero anyway.
  • The titular protagonist of Kajika has the ability to literally punch the evil out of people, which he does to a few villains who offend him. A couple of secondary characters who get caught up in the events see him do this, and he politely asks if they want him to help them get rid of their evil, too, but they nervously turn down the offer.
  • In Naruto, Itachi does this to himself using the chakra-crow he implanted in Naruto. That was an accident, though. It was intended for Sasuke as an absolute last resort. Itachi didn't count on being revived as a mind-controlled zombie. And since It Only Works Once, his first plan was ruined.
  • In Medaka Box, when Medaka counter-brainwashes her own forced Face-Heel Turn.
  • Done, sort of, in the anime of Zero no Tsukaima with Louise drinking a Love Potion (by accident) and becoming much nicer (and much more clingy) in the process towards Saito, who attempts to turn her back to her old self. Despite everyone else warning him from doing it. Oh yeah he succeeds, but Louise remembers the whole ordeal and hands out quite some punishment.
  • Initially thought to be what happened to the amnesiac main character of JoJolion when he's identified as Yoshikage Kira which leads to Yasuho questioning her trust in him. Later it's revealed that, instead of having lost his memories, the main character is a partial clone of Kira created by the Wall Eyes mixing the DNA of him and another person. The main character's lack of memories are therefore not a result of amnesia but simply him being a new person who hasn't experienced anything yet.

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in Identity Crisis, which used this as a Cerebus Retcon.
    • After Doctor Light's rape of Sue Dibny, the Justice League had Zatanna edit his mind and convert him, not into a hero, but into a Harmless Villain. The majority of the plot is concerned with the ramifications of their decision.
    • It was also revealed that Barry Allen had Zatanna brainwash The Top, after he caught Top vandalizing Iris Allen's grave. The newly heroic Top went on to do the same to other rogues. He also lost his mind, which taught Flash a valuable lesson about this trope.
    • Finally, it was revealed that Catwoman's switch from a criminal to a morally-ambiguous vigilante was also due to a Zatanna brainwashing job. This initially caused her to turn back to crime, but she later decided that vigilantism made her feel better no matter what the original cause had been.
  • X-Men:
    • At the end of Chris Claremont's run on X-Men, Magneto finds out that Moira MacTaggert had a procedure like this done to him after he was turned into a child during one of his many zany schemes for world conquest. Thinking that this was the reason for his Heel-Face Turn, he uses the procedure on one of the X-Men teams for a Face-Heel Turn, but finds out that the use of mutant powers quickly reverse the effects of the procedure. (A matter of minutes.) Then he dies, but he got better, and became a one-dimensional cliched villain again who later uses drugs, because being bad wasn't bad enough. Then he dies again (but it wasn't really him this time) until Claremont finally got a hold of him for some Character Rerailment in the relaunch of Excalibur. He's currently in Anti-Hero mode.
    • Another X-Men example. Magneto kidnapped Xavier. Sadly, the X-Men were disassembled at the time. Jean Grey had to find a new team, and quickly. So she goes around asking for help to former allies and recruiting unknown, inexperienced mutants. Also, she discovers that one of Magneto's lieutenants, Frenzy, has been captured by the US Army. Not only does Jean enter her mind to get the info she needs on Genosha (Magneto's island) and its defenses, but she thinks that having a superpowered guide in that hellhole would be a good idea, so she just rewrites Frenzy's mind and makes her an X-Men enthusiast (so fanatically devoted to the X-Men cause, all of a sudden, that it was creepy).
    • Guess what was the reaction of a character named Frenzy, after she found out that the "good guys" brainwashed her...
  • Ghost Rider's Penance Stare occasionally has this effect, although forcing people to feel all the pain they have inflicted on the innocent is more a punishment than anything else. If a Heel Realization results in a change of heart, it's all you.
  • This, and all of its myriad Unfortunate Implications, was a huge part of Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme series. The Squadron (an Expy of the Justice League) institute brainwashing as the all-purpose punishment for crimes. The Black and Grey Morality of the series shows the brainwashing being a good thing for one character (who was just misguided to begin with and stays a good guy after the brainwashing is undone), and tragic for two others (one of whom becomes irreversibly catatonic after running into a contradiction in her programming).
    • The brainwashing was voluntary in most cases. A convicted criminal or prisoner could opt for the procedure in exchange for immediate parole. But the aforementioned plot important instances were all abuses of the brainwashing device.
  • In Volume 5 of Empowered, we find out that Mind*** did habitually does this... to herself.
  • In an issue of Swedish children's comic Bamse, notorious villain Krösus Sork is given a drink that makes him temporarily kind and generous.
  • In the X-Men Spin-Off Exiles, the reality-altering, body-swapping villain Proteus takes over Morph's body, which doesn't degrade like other bodies Proteus inhabits do. The team manage to use some Applied Phlebotinum (from the world of the Squadron Supreme mentioned above, in fact) in order to brainwash Proteus into thinking he IS Morph. However, the ramifications of this action are explored in future issues. It does help that Proteus WAS planning on making the entire universe his plaything.
  • When J'onn J'onzz undoes a mental block that makes him afraid of fire and unconsciously sends himself into a Face-Heel Turn, one of his first "evil" acts is to use his mental powers to perform this on various criminals. Inmates in high class prisons begin watching Sesame Street, the patients in Arkham are suddenly overcome with grief over their crimes and have to be restrained from committing suicide, KKK members begin lynching themselves, and Lex Luthor (at the time president) is put into a coma.
  • The entire Indigo Lantern Corps. Their rings specifically seek out people who lack compassion for others such as Black Hand and force them to feel it. The rings also use their ability to manipulate other emotions on the emotion spectrum to control the feelings of the Indigo Lanterns (the Indigo entity itself, however, averts this and seeks out hosts who are already compassionate).
    • In Indigo-1's case, she developed genuine compassion and showed true regret about her crimes when the brainwashing was temporarily undone.
  • The Silver Age of Comic Books:
    • Two Silver Age Superman "Imaginary Stories" featured this trope.
    • The first, "Superman-Red and Superman-Blue," had Superman split into the titular super-genius versions of himself. They then create an "Anti-Evil Ray," which they then upload to a bunch of satellites and bombard the planet with. Sure enough, the ray brainwashes everyone into being "good," which leads to a perfect world, free from disease, crime, and war.
    • The second has Luthor get Mind Raped by psychic aliens until all evil is removed from him. He then marries Lois Lane, has a son, and becomes the world's most famous and beloved scientist. That is, until his son grows up, becomes a supervillain, and murders him.
    • A Silver Age non-imaginary event was Superman reprogramming Brainiac to force him to be good. He later forced him back to being evil against his wishes to acquire information and help against a leftover Brainiac super-weapon knowing he couldn't make Brainiac good again. This indirectly lead to Brainiac's transformation from the humanoid form to the more commonly remembered metallic silver shape and flying skullship.
    • Another non-imaginary one from the Silver Age is a World's Finest story where Superman and Batman wind up on an alternate Earth where they were raised as criminals and are now some of the deadliest villains in the world. The duo take down their evil counterparts and brainwash them into becoming good like they are.
  • In Thieves & Kings, Soracia uses this to herself to complete her own Heel Face Turn: She enters the dream of a dragon who dreams of her as a good person which enables her to actually cut off all ties that bind to her dark master.
  • Discussed at the end of Mandrago, an obvious parody of Mandrake The Magician by the Italian Jacovitti. The protagonist, who has acquired limitless magic powers, decides to make the world a perfect place and brainwashes every single inhabitant of Earth into being unable to do evil. When Mandrago overdoes it, loses his powers and the world snaps back to normal, the narrator points out that mankind lost world peace, but regained free will.
  • In the first appearance of the Legion of Super-Villains, Saturn Queen explains her backstory, that she was good while she lived on Titan, and just suddenly became evil after leaving it. Supergirl deduces from this that Saturn's rings emit radiation that keeps Titan natives good, scoops some up, and changes Saturn Queen's alignment so she betrays her allies. She promises to keep a chunk of ring-rock with her at all times so she will stay good forever. None of our heroes is bothered by this in the slightest. This aspect of her character is ignored in every subsequent appearance, thankfully!

    Fan Works 

     Film 
  • In 102 Dalmatians, this is tried on Cruella de Vil. This being a Disney film, it works until it's broken, and then...
  • This is done to Foxy Loxy at the end of Chicken Little, for extra Broken Aesop-ness.
  • Star Wars - Attack of the Clones: "You don't want to sell me deathsticks". "I don't want to sell you deathsticks". "You want to go home and rethink your life". "I want to go home and rethink my life". Granted, all he was made to do was go home and have a good think, it was perfectly within the dude's power afterwards to decide for himself that selling deathsticks is a pretty good gig after all, if that's what he really wanted out of life.
    • He turns up in one of the later Boba Fett books, and guess what? He stills sells deathsticks. And weapons. It's apparently a Heel Face Brainwashing Revolving Door, however, as both between the above two events and after the latter, he legitimately did stop selling illicit substances and illegal weapons, even trying to turn others from that path the second time.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: The eponymous T-800 Model 101 Terminator, the same model as the unstoppable Big Bad of the first movie, was captured by the future Resistance and reprogrammed to protect, not kill John Connor in the past.
  • At the end of The Neverending Story II, Bastian uses his final magic wish to ask that the nearly omnipotent Big Bad gain "a heart". She's so struck with grief at what she's done that she literally explodes and all the evil that she had done to Fantasia is wiped away as if it never happened.
  • Stargate: The Ark of Truth. The Ark is a brainwashing device that's the only way to stop the Ori worshippers from taking over the galaxy. The moral objections are raised, but in the end ignored.
    • The Ancients did refrain from using it because of moral objections, and decided to flee instead; given the trouble caused by the continued existence of the Ori, this was a seriously neglectful act. When it is eventually used, it's a fairly simple case of self-defense.
    • Vala claims the Ark can only be used to make people believe true things, but she may have been bluffing Adria.
  • This was status quo in Demolition Man, where criminals placed in cryoprisons were brainwashed with various "rehabilitation" programs, like an affinity for taking up knitting and such. It was also inverted, as it is discovered that the Big Bad was programmed to be even worse than he already was by Cocteau, who wanted to use him against his enemies.
  • In one of the Garfield Non Serial Movies, Garfield's Pet Force, Vetvix (Dr. Liz Wilson from Another Dimension) ends up like this, satisfying Emperor Jon (Jon's counterpart)'s movie-long desire for a wife.

    Literature 
  • In The Stainless Steel Rat series, the protagonist's future wife starts at as a brilliant but hideously amoral and violent con artist. She is brainwashed in a way that allows her to retain her personality but lose the crazy (except for some Mama Bear and Beware the Nice Ones moments).
    • This operation can be seen as a cure for sociopathy, which contemporary research suggests is more like a cognitive and emotional disability than a character trait. The moral implications of this type of "brainwashing" are probably less negative than most other examples given here.
    • The trope is played straight with a former pawn of Angelina's; his personality is completely stripped away. It was only because Jim knew what caused Angelina to go wrong that they could get at the root of the problem and excise just the sociopathy.
    • Pumping the Family Unfriendliness up a notch is a double subversion of Beauty Equals Goodness: What originally caused Jim to stay his hand upon meeting Angelina was her striking beauty. However, a locket he found strongly implies that her good looks are ALSO entirely the result of surgery. He throws the locket out the window right in front of her.
    • Played straight in A Stainless Steel Rat is Born. Criminals are routinely subjected to brainwashing to reintegrate them into society, at least on Jim's home planet.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, the dark and light elves are the same people, separated by culture and morality. The dark elves live in the frozen north, the light elves in Elvandar, a magical forest created by their Spellweavers. It's possible for a dark elf to hear the "Call of Elvandar" and over a span of years, culminating in a single, sudden switch, convert to the other side. The conversion involves a full-scale Loss of Identity, complete with taking on a different name. Their previous self is explicitly said to be considered dead by all involved. Due to the Protagonist-Centered Morality, however, this more questionable side of the light elves is never explored.
  • A Clockwork Orange is a possible Ur Example and also an Unbuilt Trope - Villain Protagonist Alex is conditioned to have strongly adverse reactions to the mere thought of sex or violence, and it pretty clearly ruins his life.
    • Unusual in that Alex seems to remain the same way he was before the treatment: his brainwashing just prevents him from acting on it. In effect, it's more of a Restraining Bolt.
    • Which was the entire point of the story: if you force someone to be good against their will, then they aren't really a good person.
    • And when Alex does become a Retired Monster (depending on what version of the story you're reading) in the end, it's not because of the conditioning but because he just doesn't find wanton violence fun anymore. Which was the reason the rest of his droogs eventually gave up the life and something that was already starting to happen with Alex even before the brainwashing.
  • In Craig Shaw Gardner's Cineverse Cycle, Captain Crusader (known by various names in the Cineverse's many B-movie worlds) has a habit of spouting vaguely relevant Aesops when encountered. It's eventually discovered by the main cast that hearing these has profound psychological effects on anybody native to the Cineverse, sometimes including the power to instantly convert mooks and minor villains. As all villains in the Cineverse are the card-carrying variety, who get their mooks from Central Casting, the Heel Face Mind Screw is here played as straight as possible.
  • In an instance where the title itself is a spoiler, Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man refers to a future America's use of a punishment along these lines. It involves utterly breaking someone mentally and then rebuilding them into a model citizen. this ends up happening to the Villain Protagonist It's commented that the old punishment of execution is barbaric and pointless when a person could contribute to society if the bad was drained from them.
  • This is pretty much the effect of a Confessor's power in the Sword of Truth series. Said power being to make whoever is Touched love the Confessor so much that they'll do anything for her. So someone could be fanatically devoted to gutting the Confessor one second, then fanatically devoted to saving her the next. This is typically only used in self defense.
    • During the series proper; in the setting prior a Confessor's duties normally included being on call to do this to convicted criminals, prisoners of unknown guilt to be interrogated, and accused people who request this as the only way to conclusively prove their innocence (lie-detector magic doesn't seem to exist). Differing regions had different stances on the practice, but there was evidently steady work for a considerable number of Confessors.
      • This fails spectacularly in an episode of Legend of the Seeker, based on the books. Kahlan confesses a convicted murderer who reveals that he did indeed commit the crime. Turns out the real criminal used a magical artifact to plant the memory of the murder into the patsy's head. Unfortunately, they figured it out after the guy was already executed.
  • In The Farseer Trilogy, this is done to Regal (the morality is admittedly grey anyway.) Frustratingly enough, he is then killed by a rodent in the same (last) chapter, so the reader never gets to actually see good!Regal in action.
  • Doc Savage's Crime School, which bears an uncomfortably close resemblance to lobotomization for modern readers.
    • This is surprisingly common in Utopias before science fiction's Golden Age—as in, so before the Golden Age that they also talk positively of the annihilation of all non-"useful" animal life. It's still used straight as late as the middle of Isaac Asimov's career, although in the short story in question the character advocating the procedure is secretly a robot, who of course would regard mental reprogramming as no different from the reprogramming done to defective robots.
    • Given a Shout-Out in the Whateley Universe story 'Razzle Dazzle', in which the narrating supervillain (who probably isn't entirely honest overall, mind) reminisces about how he basically shut down the setting's Doc Savage Expy hard by blowing the whistle on the massively debilitating long-term consequences of his version of the process...
  • In a supreme irony, a Knight Templar who engages in this behavior in Glasshouse is forced to reprogram herself so she believes it's wrong to change people like this. Decide for yourself whether that's hypocrisy or Karma.
  • In Villains by Necessity, this is the force driving the plot. The Anti-Villain / Anti-Hero main character doesn't want to have his free will stripped away by a do-good Knight Templar priest who has nearly driven all evil from the world using a magic brainwashing staff. However, this is in a Dungeons & Dragons type setting where the Balance Between Good and Evil is imperative, and the world will end when the last evil is wiped away. (The last evil is implied to be within the main party.)
    • Considering that the world ending would be evil (and appears to be viewed as evil In-Universe), it appears that the last evil would never be wiped away. Consequently, problem solved.
  • In a Percy Jackson and the Olympians side story, Percy battles the Titan Iapetus near Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness. Percy dunks himself and Iapetus in the river. Percy, a son of Poseidon, stayed dry, and Iapetus is soaked so he forgets everything. He gets renamed Bob and even helps cure some nasty wounds.
  • In the third book in the Sea Of Trolls series, we meet a dwarf (not the fantasy kind, but a "little person"). He seems decent at first, but we later learn that he's a shady, treacherous Jerk Ass working for the evil king. After his memory is erased, he becomes a perfectly decent guy.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry casts the Imperius Curse on a Death Eater. Granted, he only made the Death Eater play along with the Hermione-is-Bellatrix facade, but still! It could be seen that he had no other option, however—it was either use the Imperius curse or be revealed as imposters. The Order (and later Harry) also give Kreacher orders that are supposed to keep him from betraying them, knowing that he's really on the Death Eaters' side - as a House Elf, he can't help but obey.
    • He's certainly a gray character at best, but Barty Crouch Sr. breaking his son out of Azkaban and then using the Imperius curse to control him could qualify, since his purpose was mainly to keep him from revealing himself and killing people/trying to resurrect Voldemort.
  • Some of Robert A. Heinlein's early works feature The Covenant (No, not that Covenant), a sort of updated super US Constitution. Either you're a peaceful member of society or you're cast into the wilderness with the other reprobates. If you don't want option B, you can get your mind psychologically reconditioned. This is a society in which psychology is like magic and they really can iron out the kinks and turn you into a different person. But they would never do that against your will, hence the wilderness option.
  • Likewise, in C.J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union series, you can be conditioned to make sure you're not a threat. All they do there is give you a phobia about sabotage, though, sometimes, in Downbelow Station a captured Union spy requests a brainwipe after being sexually abused by one of his captors.
  • Captain Underpants revolves around Mr. Krupp, a Jerk Ass principal who was turned into the friendly superhero "Captain Underpants" by a Hypno Ring. He becomes a Manchurian Agent who turns into Captain Underpants when someone snaps their fingers, and reverts back to principal form when someone pours water on his head.
    • The same thing happens to Ms. Ribble in the 5th book.
  • Remoralisation spell in Night Watch.
    • Not really an example, since it's neither heel-face, nor brainwashing in usual sense. First, it doesn't turn people to good, it just forces them to behave according to their morale, so if person in question crossed Moral Event Horizon, it may have no effect at all, or worse. Second, it doesn't change said person's morale or way of thinking at all, and he's free to do anything he pleases when effect wears off.
    • There's more straighr example, though - failed attempt to brainwash Soviet people to communistic ideals, planned and executed and also sabotaged by the Light mages.
  • Played with in the Rebel Force series. A brainwashed Imperial assassin, X-7, has been trying to kill Luke Skywalker, but his continuing failures and time away from his master shake the brainwashing - not much, but enough that he's bothered by stray emotions and fragments of memory with no context to them. He goes rogue in order to search for his obliterated past - the Rebels, aware of this, decide to set things up to convince him that he's the long-lost brother of one of them, in the hopes of turning him against the Empire. It's much milder than what was done to him in the first place, but still harsh. And has very mixed results. The brother in question comes to believe that X-7 used to be his brother, then doubts it again - and the books themselves never quite confirm or deny it.
    • In the next book Luke Skywalker pulls off a much kinder example on a base full of people who'd undergone similar brainwashing. He uses a desperate wide-scale Jedi Mind Trick to undo the Imperial brainwashing, leaving it a base full of people who were confused and didn't know who or where they were - he couldn't restore the memories that had been lost - but didn't think and act as appendages of the Big Bad anymore.
  • In 1984 at the end, Winston Smith "loves Big Brother." The reader sees it as a Downer Ending where The Bad Guy Wins, but Smith himself views the change as Heel-Face Brainwashing.
  • In H. Beam Piper's Paratime series, serious criminals are subjected to "psycho-rehabilitation". The Paratime civilization is generally presented in a benign light, and some of the criminals in question are quite nasty (cross-temporal slave traders and so on), but:
    "Psycho-rehabilitation was a dreadful thing to face. There would be almost a year of unremitting agony, physical and mental, worse than a Khiftan torture rack. There would be the shame of having his innermost secrets poured out of him by the psychotherapists, and, at the end, there would emerge someone who would not be Salgath Trod, or anybody like Salgath Trod, and he would have to learn to know this stranger, and build a new life for him."
  • In The Candy Shop War, the main villain, Mrs. White, is is fed her own memory-wiping candy to defeat her. Since there's no way of keeping her from drinking from a Fountain of Youth and theoretically gaining ultimate power from this, the hero crumbles the candy into the fountain's waters so, although she succeeds in her plan, she loses any memory of why she wanted to become young again in the first place. In the sequel, everyone dances around the issue of telling this memory-wiped former villain of their past. When they eventually find out, they decide to look at the incident as being given a second chance at a good life, and thanks the good guys not only for coming up with this plan, but also for accepting them into their group of friends and trusting them regardless of their origins.
  • A very interesting example happen in Emerald City series. Midgety is a particularly nasty ogre until being hit with a spell that makes him a vegetarian, completely disgusted by eating meat. While he initially retains his ugly personality, he makes a Heel-Face Turn very quickly.

    Live Action TV 
  • The entire first season of Viper.
  • In the final episode of volume 4 of Heroes, Matt Parkman brainwashes Sylar, turning him into Nathan Petrelli... post-Face-Heel-Face Reversion, that is.
    • And before that in volume 3, Ma Petrelli Mind Screws Sylar into trying to be a hero by tricking him into believing she's his real mother.
    • And in the last three episodes of volume 5, Matt traps Sylar inside a hallucination of an empty world. Sylar spends two years alone in there until Peter goes in after him (because apparently, he's The Only One who can save Peter's friend Emma). It takes them another three years to find a way out, by which time Sylar has been thoroughly Heel Face Mind Screwed.
  • Mr. Smith from the The Sarah Jane Adventures got this after being revealed to be the Big Bad of Series 1. Of course, the Earth would've gotten destroyed if Mr. Smith didn't get brainwashed.
  • Babylon 5 used this as an alternative to the death penalty. Heavily inspired by The Demolished Man above, from which it got its idea of telepathic police. One episode is even built around the idea that many people consider the practice too lenient, unable to stand the thought that murderers get to live out their lives despite the fact that the person's original personality is for all intents and purposes dead (hence the practice officially being called "Death of Personality").
    • In that particular episode a Gregorian monk discovers that he used to be a serial killer when a group of his victims' relatives partially undo the mindwipe, in the end he allows one of them to kill him, who is then sentenced to death of personality and ends up becoming a monk with the same name as his victim.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, they capture a Wraith, wipe his memory, turn him into a human, and try to convince him he's one of them. It fails in the end, so of course they promptly try it again on a larger scale?
    • Though at least the plan there was that the Wraiths-turned-human would promptly be killed by other Wraith (who would thus leave the existing humans alone for a while).
    • Refreshingly, this particular case is treated as a monumentally stupid decision on the part of the Atlantis expedition, and recurring villain Micheal (the original test subject) repeatedly calls them out on the immorality of the action.
  • Stargate SG-1 gives us one episode where a recently widowed Daniel Jackson falls in love with the the brilliant young medical researcher and provisional leader of a Mind Wiped and partly depopulated world as they investigate the cause of its people's current state. As it turns out? She's actually Linnea, a seemingly kindly old woman who the heroes broke out from an alien jail with before learning she's a galactically infamous genocidal Mad Scientist in a previous episode. The whole situation is the result of an experiment she was conducting recently which de-aged and Mind Wiped the entire population. The kicker? After she inevitably ends up succumbing to curiosity about her past and uses the memory-restoring plague cure she and Jackson were working on, they manage to get her to re-Mind Wipe herself before she succumbs to her rapidly returning memories. What do they do with this Sealed Evil In A Person? They send her BACK to the one planet in the galaxy where huge numbers of people now secretly know who she is, to help produce and administer the very plague medicine that could turn her into a homicidal maniac at any moment.
  • Farscape has Durka, who established himself as a villain by torturing Rygel and turns up in a later episode having been brainwashed by aliens into a friendly, helpful person incapable of violence. Rygel didn't believe he was really reformed, so he tried to kill Durka, which ironically ended up breaking the mental conditioning and turning him evil again.
  • Star Trek: Voyager had an episode where the EMH accidentally corrected an anatomical defect in the brain of a serial killer on death row, giving the inmate the ability to feel guilt. However, this was more like a cure for sociopathy rather than straight-out brainwashing, and thus not really in the same negative sense as most other examples on this page.
    • There is also an entire planet of telepaths where violent thought is punished by having said thoughts removed. The problem is that the person they want to do it to is B'Ellana Torres, a half-Klingon whose violent thoughts make up a large chunk of her personality.
  • Angel, from Angel, would seem to qualify for this: the most evil vampire in history, he was given a soul by Gypsies against his will, and spent the rest of his life atoning for the horrible deeds he'd done. Except when he went evil again, and then, you guessed it, Roaring Rampage of Revenge (Omnicidal Maniac, even). The difference, of course, being that the Gypsies weren't the good guys - they did it as the worst punishment they could think of, after he killed one of them.
    • They did include the clause "If you ever experience happiness again, you'll lose your soul again". They not only neutered his evil side, but also wanted his morally responsible side to suffer forever. Even going so far as to allow the whole thing to come undone, just so he himself would have to deny himself happiness because he wouldn't want to turn evil again. This occasionally backfires.
    Jenny: Then, if somehow, if... if it's happened... then Angelus is back.
    Enyos: I hoped to stop it. But I realize now it was arranged to be so.
    Jenny: Buffy loves him.
    Enyos: And now she will have to kill him.
    Jenny: Unless he kills her first! Uncle, this is insanity! People are going to die.
    Enyos: Yes. It is not justice we serve. It is vengeance.
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Season 4 gives us Spike's chip which is very much like A Clockwork Orange in that it doesn't change the personality, just makes it impossible to hurt humans. And then later in series, he actually does get his soul back. This does not necessarily make him a nice guy, though.
  • At the end of Dollhouse, the good guys brainwash the Big Bad, Boyd into blowing himself up with his own company. They wanted to just shoot him, but the only gun they had was a mind-wiper.
  • Zordon's purification of the villains in the Power Rangers in Space finale "Countdown to Destruction". Most of the villains are reduced to dust, but Zedd, Rita and Divatox become ordinary people (Karone survives too, but by that point brainwashing was the only thing keeping her evil).
  • In Smallville, Brainiac's final fate is to be captured by the Legion of Super-Heroes and reprogrammed. This series' version of Brainiac 5 is the fifth form of the only Brainiac there is. He's still a little scary, but everything B5 does is, in the end, for the best. Of course, when reprogramming was attempted on Brainiac in the comics, it didn't last and he got his iconic head-ship out of the deal...

     Professional Wrestling 
     Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000, this trope applies to the Space Marines. The Space Marines often recruit Complete Monsters and somewhat more savory gangers, barbarians, war criminals, cannibals and etc. They take the nastiest bastards in the human race, because they're vicious and tough enough to survive in conditions that would drive a normal person insane or dead. But the Marines must first do psychic-surgery and hypnosis on these guys to give them a modicum of conscience or at least make them less likely to commit an atrocity at the drop of a hat. That said after the procedure, the new Battle Brother has no complaints about it and will likely argue for its necessity!
    • It is also heavily implied that the Tau Empire does this to their allies and foes when not using concentration camps.
  • Dungeons & Dragons features an item known as Helm of Opposite Alignment. While it's meant to be a torment to the players, some parties have used one as a portable redemption machine.
    • Perhaps more frighteningly, the Book of Exalted Deeds (the good equivalent to the Book of Vile Darkness) includes a spell (Sanctify the Wicked) only useable by the most pure 'good' casters that imprisons its target in a diamond where the target "reflects on past evils and slowly finds within itself a spark of goodness" which then leads it to becoming a good entity like the caster. Yet oddly enough, if the gem is shattered before a year is up, the target is restored and is amazingly pissed at the caster. Thus there are some who would see this conversion via imprisonment as not unlike a specific use of the evil spell (From the Book of Vile Darkness) Mind Rape. Unlike Redemption, Mind Rape could be used to (in example) remove horrible memories. (Not that anyone who knows it is likely to do so, just that it could be used that way. Well, they technically created a neutral version of this spell called "Programmed Amnesia" that allows you to do anything you wanted, good or bad.)
      • The main advantage of Sanctify the Wicked over Programmed Amnesia is that it is perfectly effective on fiends (devils and demons, who are literally made out of evil). Altering a fiend's alignment with Programmed Amnesia is likely to be temporary, either until it finds a cure or its inherent nature causes its alignment to drift back to its natural state.
  • GURPS has the Crown of Benevolent Rulership in Magic Items 2, it makes whomever wears it into a kindly and benevolent ruler. Personality effects can persist if worn too long, however the compulsion disappears with the removal of the crown. However the blurb about the crown subverts the trope. Evil Overlord Wenceslaus who had the the crown created to lull his neighbors into a false sense of security. (He had obviously read the Evil Overlord List, noting the part about how adhering to the list makes one indistinguishable from a competent good ruler.) However, it's implied that it worked too well and he never did get around to his evil schemes.
  • In Exalted, the various types of Exalted are all capable of learning to be supernaturally persuasive, occasionally to the point of Mind Rape, and often leading to this trope. The books are very much aware of the implications, however. Stuff like this is one of the many reasons the Usurpation happened.

    Video Games 
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, it is eventually revealed that the Big Bad is actually the player, who ends up on the good side after losing his memories. It's Up to You whether The Power of Friendship prevails or not. This is a case where the questionable moral implications are pointed out, and it can be the motivation if you decide to fall back to the Dark Side.
  • Similar to the B5 example above, this is apparently the replacement for capital punishment in Xenosaga. Unfortunately, it doesn't always take & in at least one case wound up making the guy even crazier.
    • Partially because the guy was a Artificial War Realian-type construct left loose in normal society and had no outlet for the soldier-instincts, and that his lawyer/wife was just using him.
  • In Starcraft, Terran criminals that commit particularly brutal crimes undergo "neural resocialization" where their memories are essentially frosted over, and afterwards are usually drafted into the military as now-loyal Marines with a combat life expectancy of under 90 seconds. In the novels one marine regains his memories while aboard a ship. Bad things happen.
    • In another novel, a female marine turns out to have been a serial killer preying on men by seducing them, taking them home then slowly flaying them. Her resocialization programming had problems when she was under heavy stress and when she was caught by Zerglings, it gave out completely: she whipped out a knife and went Ax-Crazy on them. Didn't save her from getting killed off-screen, though.
    • To be fair, the marine in the first example didn't regain his memories on his own or by accident. This was done deliberately by a Protoss Preserver, a powerful psychic. Jake calls her out on it, as many of his friends and colleagues die because of this. On the other hand, this was the only way for Jake and Samara to escape and avoid Jake being vivisected by Mengsk's people.
  • In Mass Effect 2, you have the option of doing this to the geth "heretics," i.e., those who have sided with the Reapers. And yes, the game treats this as the Paragon choice. Then again, since the alternative is genocide...
    • Indeed, while it may be the Paragon choice, it's by no means presented as the "good" choice. The whole thing is treated as a grey area from start to finish (One of your squad members even points out that it's morally equivalent to killing them, since by brainwashing them you're "killing their viewpoint"). Legion, as the representative of the geth present indicates how grey the situation is when its 1000+ individual personalities split almost evenly on what to do. And yes, the only alternative is to kill them.
    • Legion also points out that the concept of Brainwashing may not even apply in this situation, because the geth are a Hive Mind by nature for whom the concept of individuality does not exist. It goes on to argue that imposing human attitudes like "democracy" or "opinions" onto the geth, or "even benign anthropomorphism", could even be considered racist.
    • In Mass Effect 3, the Extended Cut reveals that one of the endings did do this to the Reapers. "Control" has you assuming control of them and forcing them to obey your will. This can be subverted if you were a Renegade, as a Renegade Shepard's narration implies s/he intends to use them to destroy anyone who opposes him/her.
  • In City of Villains, Scirocco does this to his lackey, Ice Mistral, as a prelude to his plan to attempt to do it on a worldwide scale.
    • In this case, mind you, Scirocco is a self-hating villain who sees this as his only chance for redemption. Since it's a villain arc, we never find out what actual heroes would think of this.
    • A similar case within City of Heroes could be the case of Malaise, an insane supervillain who projected his thoughts onto others in the form of intense illusions. He was eventually subdued by the psychic superheroine Sister Psyche, who 'healed' his mind and had him serve as her sidekick while maintaining a Mind Link with him. Of particular, suspicious note however: when the Mind Link was broken, Malaise quickly reverted. And, in any case, he has recently turned evil anyway, joining a conspiracy to depower/kill as many of the most powerful heroes as possible, with a personal interest in Sister Psyche.
  • This is optional to recruit Big Bad Darkrai after the end of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky He developed amnesia thanks to being attacked mid-time-travel after the final battle, and can be found wandering aimlessly through random dungeons like a wild Pokemon; and like a wild Pokemon, he can be recruited to your team.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, Zelenin tries to save the Chaotic Evil members of Jack's crew by transforming herself into an angel whose song could make them all Lawful Good. It worked! Problem? The song is revealed to be a form of Mind Rape, and the men were left as Empty Shells only capable of mindlessly praising Zelenin and the Lord; this is also a Foreshadowing of the Law Faction's plans for the Schwarzwelt. The few men who retained a semblance of free will ended up more like Lawful Evil Knight Templars - and it's possible Zelenin's act only led them to an even worse death.
    • It becomes a point of contention with the crew at an earlier point when it's revealed the MK Guns the Red Sprite carries are essentially brainwashing equipment. These are used as extremely effective weapons against Demonic Possession, but that doesn't mean nobody imagines the implications of a gun designed to induce altered states of consciousness.
  • After the horror of Reverse Hills Building, the four Samurai in Shin Megami Tensei IV return home to the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado for an urgent summons and just off the bat notice there's something wrong - the king and his court have been exiled and no one knows or cares where they went. Everyone received at least a measure of dreams that made them implicity trust in the mysterious, unseen new rulers. The Fantastic Caste System is being abolished and everyone is perfectly accepting of it - no revolts, no attempts at revenge, no nothing. Curiosity and desire to learn have all but faded. Purges and executions are increasingly common. The Four Archangels have seized control, and are attempting to bend humankind to the will of the Law Faction.
  • In Age of Empires II, priests can do this to enemy troops.
  • In Saints Row the Third there is an item that you can use to brainwash anyone to basically fight for you. It may not necessarily be considered this trope if you don't see the Saints(the gang you are leader of) as the good guys.
  • The gynoid WD-40 in Space Quest V: The Next Mutation sent to kill Roger for mail fraud is blown apart by Roger with his patented "Axel Foley" method and then put back together by Cliffy, who reprograms her to be the Eureka's science officer.

    Web Comics 
  • In Sinfest, both Jesus and the Buddha. Most recently the Buddha has enlightened Illuminati drones.
  • The FreakAngels eventually do this to Luke by his request, to end his habit of mind-controlling and raping attractive Muggles because he feels superior to them.

    Web Original 
  • In Fine Structure, it is implied that Mitch Calrus transferred John Zhang's More Than Mind Control-induced loyalty to the Big Bad to himself, using the same power.
  • The Legion in the MSF High setting, which has only come up in the RP, are naturally capable of doing this. They actually consider it very immoral, allowing it only in clear cases of self-defense, since they kinda went overboard with doing it beforehand. To the point where they weren't the 'Face'.
  • The Cleanser in the Sporewiki Fiction Universe is named for his doing this very frequently, in fact, it's essentially his day job.

     Western Animation 

  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: One episode ended with a scene where Sonic hypnotized a generic group of biker pigs into becoming good guys, and this was treated as totally fine when Robotnik had spent the entire episode using the same tactic on others.
    • It's made more complex by the fact that Tails returned Sonic from Robotnik's hypnosis, by hypnotising him again to think he was Sonic the Hedgehog.
    • Also played with in "Snow Problem", Robotnik implants Scratch and Grounder with mind altering chips that turn them into (even more) mindlessly loyal droids. These malfunction and make them loyal to Sonic instead. While the heroes have no deliberate play in this, they get the gist of what's happened and make the two into their servants for the temporary length it lasts. Interestingly the chip is also implanted onto Tails during the episode, turning him into a mindless zombie (in contrast to Scratch and Grounder who act more or less like good versions of their normal sentient selves).
  • Sonic Sat AM has an instance of this in the episode "No Brainer." For most of the episode, Snively, with the help of a "memory scrambler" device, has brainwashed Sonic into working for the bad guys, but by the end, the tables have turned, and Sonic brainwashes Snively. While he doesn't really force Snively into doing anything directly helpful for the good guys, Snively does physically attack Robotnik when he sees him, thanks to Sonic filling his freshly-laundered brain with insults about Robotnik. It doesn't end well for Snively. But then again, for Snively, nothing ever does.
  • This happened in an episode of C.O.P.S., where one of the bad guys was forced by a judge to wear a headset that prevented her from thinking negative thoughts. Unlike most examples on this page, the good guys were very much against it and quite vocal about how immoral it was, citing free will and the fact it would not be true reform but rather something forced on her by a piece of technology (which of course fails at a critical plot point).
  • In the 90s animated version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this once happens to Shredder by accident. He is brainwashed into believing he's Michelangelo as part of his latest scheme to infiltrate the Turtle's home. Except the trigger to turn the brainwashing on and off is the word "Shredder." So, of course, they go into a factory, which just happens to have a cheese shredder in it...
  • In the original Transformers episode "The Core", Optimus and the Autobots suffer a major Out-of-Character Moment when they authorize Chip to use Mind Control Phlebotinum on the Constructicons. In fairness, another episode had revealed that the Constructicons were victims of a Decepticon Mirror Morality Machine and had originally been nice, but Chip's gizmo didn't reverse that, it appeared to be just enslaving them (although it really isn't clear; they don't get many lines during the brief time they're working for the 'Bots). Particularly glaring in light of the fact that the Constructicons' obvious camaraderie in this episode makes them seem downright sympathetic. "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings" indeed!
    • Also, about that episode that says the Constructicons were good once? Two other episodes give two other histories for the Constructicons, each backstory incompatible with the other two. They Just Didn't Care about continuity, so The Core being a followup to the earlier episode - which it didn't reference at all - would be entirely Out of Character for the writers. Odds are, The Core's writer had never even heard of the earlier story. In the episode itself, the decision was presented purely as Chip and the Autobots saying "Ooh, the Constructicons turn into a really strong Combining Mecha! What if it was ours?" and then going and whipping up some "dominator discs."
      • Interestingly Chip is disappointed that the Constructicons remain loyal to Megatron after escaping control, hoping they would learn something from their experience as an Autobot, laying some ambiguity as to whether the device was designed to enslave their mind or merely give them good will.
  • The Venture Bros. does it with Sargent Hatred, when the OSI deletes pedophilia from his brain. Although it doesn't seem to have been 100% effective.
  • Punch Clock Villain and/or Hero with an F in Good Shego from Kim Possible turns into the painfully sweet and kind Ms. Go after getting zapped by the attitudinator.
    • This was, in fact, the second episode to feature the Attitudinator. The first had Drakken get temporarily turned to good.
      • Both episodes also featured a Face-Heel Turn due to the same machine. For Shego's episode, it was Team Go (her former superhero partners). For Drakken, it was Ron.
  • In one episode of The Dreamstone, Zordrak takes a shortcut through some kind of dimensional rift so that he can return to his body before it crumbles to dust. The Narrator is happy to inform the viewers that if he strays off course, his worst fears will come true, and sure enough, Urpgor comes through the vortex at the exact same time, knocking Zordrak off course and causing his worst fear to come true: he comes out the other end as "a very nice person", and stays that way long enough to admonish Blob, Frizz and Nug for stealing the Dreamstone and send Urpgor back to return it (with "an apology and flowers"), along with suggesting a few other changes including a dancefloor and a more colorful refurbishment to his lair. He returns to normal after a piece of rubble lands on his head, and he's not happy when Urpgor triumphantly tells him what he's done...
    • Also done in "Too Hot To Handle" when the Urpneys accidentally get a good dream flashed into their minds by the Dreamstone's magic beams, causing them to becoming extremely kindly and prissy, willingly handing back the stone to the Dream Maker and happily informing Zordrak of their actions...with the expected results.
      • Done intentionally (albeit as a temporary distraction) in "The Moon Of Doom" and "Auntie Again".
    • The Noops do this again in "Argorrible Attack", albeit somewhat obliviously. After being given nightmares, they sneak into the Urpney's victory party and spike their drinks with good dream bubbles, just attempting to see if it would have any positive effect in stopping them. It once again turns them giddy and pleasant, but only for a worthlessly short amount of time, much to the heroes' woe.
    • Done more effectively in the first season finale, with the protagonists using magic to again turn the attacking Urpneys nice (and the Argorribles into cute puffballs!). It seems to have more permanent effect, though it is remedied after Blob and Urpgor evacuate them back to Viltheed the following episode.
    • It should be noted that the Urpneys are actually already low level in villainy, the brainwashing merely exaggerates this to the point they are outright sickly sweet and affectionate, and no longer cowardly enough to follow Zordrak's orders.
  • In Beast Machines, after the Maximals remove Megaton's mental conditioning on Rhinox/Tankor, they are shocked to find that he actually agrees with him. Cheetor orders Rattrap to reprogram him back to their side, but is overruled by Optimus.
  • In a Darker and Edgier alternate universe of Justice League, the villains of Arkham Asylum have become model patients thanks to lobotomies from Superman's laser-eyes.
  • Pulled off both accidentally and in a very mind-screwy manner in Legion Of Superheroes with the added elements of shapeshifting and infiltration.
  • A prison in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command uses technology to effect this change. It's Played for Laughs when the Galactic President muses about its potential in upcoming elections. Unfortunately, the makers of the brainwashing caps apparently decided to include a setting that had the reverse effect.
  • In X-Men: Evolution, Magneto did this to his daughter, Wanda, AKA the Scarlet Witch. Subverted, though, in that all it involved was implanting her with fake memories of a happy childhood with Magneto. She was still the same person, still a bad guy, she just didn't try to destroy Magneto any more.
  • Wizards - an assassin working for the villain is reprogrammed to fight for the good protagonists, later changing his name to "Peace" and proving instrumental in the fate befalling the bad guy.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the mane six use the Elements Of Harmony on Nightmare Moon to turn her good. Justified somewhat, as it was turning her back into her original, sane, Princess Luna persona. When the Elements Of Harmony are used on Discord, who was not originally good, it had a different effect.
    • Inverted by Discord himself, as he flipped the qualities that let five of the Mane Six utilize the Elements of Harmony, rendering them both unable to use their elements and forcing them into a Face-Heel Turn in the process. Of course, this allowed Twilight Sparkle to play this trope completely straight by forcing good memories of their friendships into her corrupted friends to break them of Discord's hold.
    • Later, Twilight plans a spell that will reform Discord by force. Discord, however, is having none of it — and destroys the spell pages by eating them.
  • In episode 11 of the cartoon version of Space Ace, after Kimberly was turned into a baby, Dexter becomes brainwashed by Borf into grabbing Kimberly, so every time Ace turns back into Dexter, the brainwashing process is in effect. However, after turning back into her adult form, Kimberly uses the brainwashing machine to snap Dexter out of his brainwashing state, and destroys the machine using Dexter's gun.
  • Happens to the Hacker at the end of the Cyberchase episode "Harriet Hippo and the Mean Green."
    Wicked: Puppied and clowns, trick or treat
    From now on, you are nice and sweet!!!
  • Beware the Batman: Magpie's backstory is that she was a repentant thief who volunteered to have this done to her. All of her memories were wiped and she was given a new name, past and personality. While this was successful for a time, she eventually developed a deranged, super-villianous Split Personality. The process also somehow removed her ability to feel pain, which made her significantly more dangerous.

     Real Life 
  • Anti-psychotic medication and anti-depressants are as close as humanity has so far come to this trope. The question of exactly how one determines that a patient lacks capacity to refuse treatment is and probably always will be controversial.
    • Which creates the arguably depressive cycle that many on anti-psychotics go through. They will be found unfit and require medication, after which they will get well enough to be able to refuse medication... so then they are no longer fit. All the while, their lives are often spent homeless and destitute and horribly malnourished because they don't know how to take care of themselves.

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