If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten
Wait a minute... Something smells fishy here. I don't think you guys are
villains! The Tick:
Oh no, we're- We're bad! Arthur:
Yeah, the worst! The Forehead:
Okay, if you guys are so evil, why don't you just... Eat this kitten!
The Bad Guys challenge someone (usually the hero pretending to be a Bad Guy
) to do something evil
to prove his evilness
. While the trope name suggests Cartoonish Supervillainy
this can equally apply to more serious stories, where this trope could be named If You're So Evil Shoot This Cop
. Basically, any test to demonstrate the willingness of a person to do immoral deeds, either to demonstrate the individual isn't the hero in disguise, or to just prove that the character isn't going to be afraid of dirty work.
Sometimes it's inverted for comic effect, where the person being challenged is genuinely evil and does the evil deed without hesitation. Sometimes the inversion is even exaggerated, where the person not only does the evil deed, but even does it in such a way to make the challengers themselves wince
Sometimes it's played straight for maximum angst, when the evil deed means hurting or killing another good character
In almost all circumstances, the hero either Takes A Third Option
or fails this particular test.
Note that in Real Life
this very rarely happens, since even sincere recruits would likely be turned away by such a "test." If someone's only joining a gang to make a living and get some allies
, as many criminals do, committing murder on the first day is probably a lot further than they're willing to go.
In anime and manga this is frequently called a fumi-e
from the analogy with the historical practice of making people step on Christian religious symbols to prove they were not Christians.
Shoot Your Mate
is a subtrope. Related to Deadly Graduation
, where the victorious 'kitten' is the one who eats the rest of the litter. Contrast Secret Test of Character
, God Test
, and Even Evil Has Standards
. Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand
is an inversion (Bob gives Alice a chance to kill him, forcing her to reveal that she's still too good a person to go through with it). The Initiation Ceremony
can be a far milder version of this trope, although certain subtropes, such as the Gang Initiation Fight
, may not be so mild.
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Anime and Manga
- Code Geass had "If you're so evil, shoot this Britannian!" and "If you're so evil, murder the innocents!" as tests for Suzaku. Not to mention "If you're so evil, execute your childhood mentor!" He disobeyed orders on the first, then lucked out the rest of the time when someone interrupted.
- In the Unknow Zanpakutou Tales arc of Bleach, Senbonzakura is distrustful of Byakuya joining the zanpakutou side of the war, so he makes him a challenge to prove his loyalty. That challenge is to murder Sode no Shirayuki, Rukia's zanpakutou, and hand the broken remains to her afterward. Of course, Senbonzakura wasn't expecting Byakuya to actually pull it off. His reaction afterward is simply priceless.
- Also used in Dangaioh, when Garimoth defies Pai Thunder aka Barius, his daughter to kill Roll in front of him. Miya and Lamda intervene, though, and Pai rejects her evil father.
- Early in Kurau Phantom Memory, Kurau is asked to shoot her (incognito) friend to prove she's not with him. She pulls the trigger, but surreptitiously uses her powers to make the gun misfire.
- In Gunsmith Cats, bounty hunter Rally Vincent is asked to shoot a hostage with a gun with one bullet to prove she's in with the bad guys. She uses that one bullet to sever the ropes holding the hostage and shoot one of the hostage-takers in the leg. Originally, the gun wasn't loaded at all, and she's such a gun expert that she knew it from the weight and called the bad guys out on it, that's when they gave her one bullet. It helped that she was not on particularly good terms with the hostage.
- Subverted in Naruto: Sasuke tells Sakura to do this by killing his teammate Karin (who had outlived her usefulness as far as he was concerned), when she claims she wants to join him. She wasn't going to do either, it was just a ploy to kill him. Before she can do either, he tries to stab her in the back, as that was just a ploy to kill her.
- Inverted in Blade of the Immortal when Shira feeds Rin a dog she befriended (without her knowing) and tells her the equivalent of: "You ate the dog, you must be evil".
- One Piece:
- An early story had Nami stabbing Usopp and pushing him into the water in order to prove her loyalty to Arlong. Of course, she was only pretending to do it, and stabbed her own hand to help with the ruse.
- Even before that, Zoro did a non-verbal one on her to see if Nami is truly as cold-blooded as Arlong claims by throwing himself into the pool while tied up. Nami leaps after him without hesitation.
- She was also told to shoot Luffy even earlier to prove her loyalty to Buggy. Short story shorter, she failed the test that time - lucky for the next 500 chapters or so.
- Hordy Jones' men force the people of Fishman Island to step on a picture of their beloved, assassinated Queen Otohime to prove their acceptance of Jones over the old monarchy. Somewhat subverted, in that Hordy Jones plans to kill those who had signed Otohime's petition even if they did go through the Fumi-e.
- During the American Tour arc, Kin goes Charlie Brown from Outta Town to infiltrate an organization of evil Choujin. When the World Choujin Federation suspect 'Chanelman' of being Kin, they put out a picture of Mayumi, as part of a Fumi-e. Kinnikuman gladly stomps on the photo, to which Meat silently remarks that this sort of test is easy for Kinnikuman, who has the least respect for his father.
- Later, it's revealed that the WCF has something similar as their normal entrance test - to join them, you must bring in the severed head of a heroic Choujin. Two of the applicants try to fake it and are kicked out, while one passes by bringing the head of a rival company's former champion.
- In Gundam Wing, Trowa infiltrates OZ by posing as a volunteer pilot from the colonies. When he demonstrates skill above and beyond the rest of the recruits, Lady Une instantly suspects that he's a Gundam Pilot trying to infiltrate OZ. To test him, she brings out the Gundam Deathscythe (captured and badly damaged but still intact) and orders him to finish the job. Trowa does so without hesitation, but is surprised to discover that doing so made him cry.
- Used in Maria-sama ga Miteru (of all things). Noriko denies that a string of Buddhist prayer beads belongs to her, so the other girls counter with "Then you should have no problem if they're destroyed then." Noriko balks, which makes Shimako (who lent them to her) confess that they're hers. It's all a big act to make Shimako realize her 'secret' of belonging to a Buddhist family while attending a Catholic school is really not an issue.
- Inverted in YuYu Hakusho: When Kuwabara has his cat taken hostage by another student (who was possessed), he's ordered to steal some comics (paying for them wasn't enough) because the demon possessing the student thinks this will make Kuwabara evil.
- Early in the Mega Man X manga, a maverick attempts to convince X to kill a human girl to prove he's a not a "traitor" to the reploid race. X is not pleased.
- In The Batman Adventures comic, Batman goes undercover in Black Mask's organization, which then captures Batgirl. As Black Mask suspects a traitor in the group, he has each member step forward and turn a wheel, filling a tank containing Batgirl 1/7 full of water. There are seven mooks being tested, including Batman.
- The Death Of Captain America: When Bucky Barnes pretends to be brainwashed under Doctor Faustus's control, Faustus tests his loyalty by ordering him to kill Sharon Carter. Bucky uses the chance to instead shoot Faustus, but to no avail since the gun is filled with blanks.
- The Punisher:
- In an early issue, Frank Castle is attempting to infiltrate a drug cartel. He is given a gun with one bullet and told to shoot a narcotics agent the cartel had captured. He is also surrounded by several heavily armed thugs just in case he decides to use the bullet on someone else.
- A later Punisher story had him infiltrating a white supremacist organization, and being told to prove his loyalty by killing a Latina reporter who'd been nosing around the group's hideout (who also happened to be his current tech guy's girlfriend). The twist is that the villain of the piece employs technology that enhances the aggression and anger of those exposed to it, which causes Frank to actually do it. He doesn't respond well to the tragic - if unintentional - lapse in his moral code.
- An early story featured Bats and Green Lantern attempting to infiltrate an evil group of fascists, but getting caught almost immediately. Batman is put through brainwashing while Green Lantern watches helplessly (devoid of his ring), and afterward, the final "test" to see if Batman truly has been brainwashed, is to hand him a gun and ask him to shoot Green Lantern. Which he does — but the gun isn't loaded, fortunately. As soon as the villain relaxes his guard, however, the heroes turns the tables on him and escape. Batman hadn't been brainwashed after all; he just knew that the gun wouldn't be loaded, since the villain wouldn't want to risk having Batman shoot HIM instead.
- People tend to forget that though Batman Does Not Like Guns, he knows near everything about them. In less effed-up situations, he always knows when the Mooks need to reload - and in that particular one, he would have instantly known the gun was empty due to its weight.
- In the first Deadshot miniseries, Deadshot is infiltrating a drug cartel for the Suicide Squad; he's asked to shoot a man they claim is an undercover FBI agent—and immediately does just that, to the dismay of his field commander Rick Flag. The FBI agent assigned to the case assures Flag that they didn't have an agent inside, but Flag points out that Deadshot didn't know that and in any case wouldn't have cared.
- In one issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, Shang-Chi is applying undercover for the job of the Kingpin's bodyguard. Unfortunately, he fails the 'randomly kill that guy' test.
- Played with in one New Gods comic that shows the origin of Granny Goodness. She was trained alongside a dog, who she bonded with. To graduate, her trainer ordered her to kill it. Instead, she turns around and kills him. Darkseid demands an explanation, so Granny responds that the dog was more useful, since it would obey her first, but Darkseid foremost. Darkseid commands the dog to attack her, and she kills it in self-defense. Impressed, Darkseid promotes her to her current status.
- During one arc of Captain Britain and MI-13, part vampire superhero Spitfire is being mentally controlled by Dracula. To test if she really is under his control or working as a mole for the good guys she is ordered to kill an innocent prisoner. She does. Even though she's not actually under Dracula's mental control.
- When reincarnated as his child self with no memory of his evil ways, Loki of The Mighty Thor kept trying to convince the people whose help he needed to save Thor and Earth that he was still the evil manipulator who is totally on their level (and lampshades it to his companions)
Loki: "More to fear than me"! Oh Tyr, how fun this villainous talk is! (issue 625)
Loki: And the Tongue will give it to us, or else I'll tear it out at its bloody root. *turns to Ikol* That's the sort of thing I'm meant to say, yes? (issue 624)
- In one of Alan Moore's Future Shocks, a mild-mannered repairman who has fallen on hard times decides on a new career as a supervillain. At the villain training school, the applicants are required to demonstrate their evilness by taking candy from a baby.
- After his training was completed, Red Skull received his first order: kill a Nazi officer who had failed Hitler. He critically wounded the man (Hitler noted that the bullet blew off all the buttons on the guy's jacket), but left him clinging to life, explaining that a dead officer is useless, but an officer who survives and knows what you'll do to him if he fails again is an asset.
- This Good Omens fanfic contains this bit of dialogue:
Aziraphale: I once watched with my own eyes as he helped a little old lady cross the street, and he regularly rescues kittens stuck in impossible places. Practically the patron saint of trapped kittens, he is.
Crowley: Well, I ate enough of them in my day, I thought it was time for something new.
Adam: Kittens or old ladies?
Crowley: Both, though truth be told, the kittens were tastier.
- In the Death Note AU Fever Dreams Light does this as part of his Batman Gambit when he has Rem wipe the memories of all the police officers by tricking them into accepting and giving up ownership of the notebook. He does this in order to ensure that none of them will keep the notebook-if any of them try to keep it Rem is to tell them that they passed the test of bravery and that she had selected them to be the next Kira, and if they would just slaughter their families and fifty additional innocent people then they could have the power of Kira.
- In No Gods, Only Guns, Roland is forced by his commanding officer to prove he is a Sociopathic Soldier who is loyal to the Crimson Lance by ordering him to execute unarmed Hyperion scientists, or be summarily executed himself by the majority of his squad.
- In the Freedom City fic Olympus Delendam Est!, OC Overpower has a public brawl with the Freedom League and is taken into the Crime League HQ, where she's asked to kill a bound prisoner. She does this without any hesitation ... much to the annoyance of Gimmick, who has to teleport the prisoner away and an LMD into his place without anyone noticing, and would have appreciated a little more time to do it in.
- Done over and over again in The Departed.
- Donnie Brasco. Johnny Depp's character must prove his worth and trustworthiness to the bad guys by killing the son of an enemy mobster. The FBI instead decides to terminate the operation at the last hour and arrest the mobsters.
- All of Training Day until close to the end. It's a series of If You're So Badass Eat This Kitten tests meant to show if the new guy is up to the task of being an undercover drug cop. Or so it seems. What he's actually doing is laying a trail of "reckless" decisions to steal money from a criminal and frame the new guy for his murder.
- In xXx, the main character shoots a cop to get in to Anarchy 99. He uses a fake bullet that's essentially a tranquillizer and red dye, and said cop was his fellow agent. Unfortunately this influences that agent's Face-Heel Turn. And delays the girl's Heel-Face Turn.
- In New Jack City, Nino Brown relates a tale from his youth: His gang initiation involved killing someone, but it couldn't be a rival gang member ("too easy"). He ends up shooting a schoolteacher on the street in broad daylight. Unfortunately for Nino, the person he relates this tale to is undercover cop Scotty, the schoolteacher's son.
- In High School High, Jon Lovitz tries to infiltrate some heroin dealers. They notice that he has no needle marks on his arms, which he explains by saying that he usually takes his drugs "in the ass". They suspect his story and tell him to shoot up. He tries but doesn't know how, and ends up snapping the rubber hose in one of the thugs' face.
- Nikolai in Eastern Promises is implied to have done a variety of nasty things to get where he is.
- In The Negotiator, Samuel L. Jackson plays a hostage negotiator who is framed for a crime. He knows most of his precinct is corrupt and probably in on it, so he takes hostages himself in order to attract the involvement of another precinct's negotiator, who he knows to be honest. In order to keep up the charade, he seems to execute an officer who came after him. Even the audience doesn't learn until much later that the man is still alive, merely bound and gagged out of sight.
- The Dark Knight Saga:
- Downplayed in Batman Begins, when Henri Ducard and Ra's Al Ghul instructs Bruce Wayne to execute a criminal in order to complete his initiation into the League of Shadows (naturally, Bruce refuses). The League is not challenging him to prove that he's evil—they are asking him to prove his commitment to a cause they think is right.
- Played straighter in The Dark Knight; after the Joker kills a mobster and takes over his operation, he forces the mobster's former mooks to duel each other to the death to see which of them he'll recruit into his own gang of thugs. Also a case of Deadly Graduation.
- An unusual example in Traffic: Catherine Zeta-Jones' character is asked to take a hit of the cocaine she's selling to prove it's real. She refuses on the grounds that she's eight months pregnant, and walks out—the guy she's selling stops her, and takes the cocaine himself, as he thinks her refusal was quite reasonable.
- In Deep Cover, Laurence Fishburne's character is a cop working undercover as a drug dealer. When it becomes necessary to take out a competing drug dealer, he actually goes ahead & kills him.
- Blue Streak:
- In the prologue to In the Line of Fire, Frank is meeting with his forger, Mendoza, who tells him that he had Frank's partner Al followed, and discovered that he was actually with the Secret Service. Mendoza asks him to shoot Al to prove he isn't also undercover, which Frank does - but the gun is empty. Frank immediately shoots Mendoza's two accomplices and arrests Mendoza himself: He was undercover. Later, Al asks how Frank knew the gun was empty, whether he could tell by the weight of the pistol that it was unloaded. Frank says yes, but when pressed, he admits "Well...there might have been one bullet."
- In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, there happens to be a monster disguised as an old lady who Hellboy and Co are trying to get info out of by pretending to be non-good monsters. However, when Hellboy finds out her diet is kittens as she moves to start eating one, Hellboy immediately blows his cover by stopping her. By knocking her out cool and across the room.
- In Enter the Dragon, Han tests Roper's moral limits with a near-literal example of this by placing his own cat in a guillotine. Roper balks. It turns out the guillotine was fake.
- In The Parallax View, Joe Frady (played by Warren Beatty)—a reporter investigating a political assassination—notices all the witnesses are dying. After narrowly escaping an attempt on his life, he decides to allow people to assume he's dead (so he can go undercover). He finds a clue to the shadowy conspiracy in documents from The Parallax Corporation, some of which are a psychological test. With expert assistance Frady answers all the questions the way a sociopath would, and voila he's recruited as an assassin himself. From there, things only get murkier and more frightening...
- In Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne is ordered to shoot a complete stranger at the end of his training. This is less to prove his evilness than to show that he's accepted absolute obedience to orders, no matter whether the target was known to be bad, or not, or totally innocent. But mostly the principle is the same. He accepts it, because he's tortured by waterboarding when he refuses.
- Related to the Child Soldiers in Real Life, Blood Diamond has this done with Solomon's son, Dia, who was brainwashed to the point of hating his father and ratting him out when he was about to be rescued from the army. The reason was then made clear later on - that Dia believed that, after what he had done, he didn't deserve to lead a normal, happy life.
- In Trade, Kevin Kline's character infiltrates an auction where a 13-year-old girl is being sold as a sex slave. When he wins the auction and goes to pick her up, her captors won't allow him to leave with her until he's taken her virginity. But since they don't insist on watching, he simply has the girl break her own hymen, so that when the captors check the bedroom and see the blood on the bed, they'll assume he had sex with her.
- In The Battle of Algiers, when Ali-La-Pointe first joins the Algerian resistance, he's given a gun and assigned to shoot a policeman. He tries, but the gun is empty, and he has to run away to avoid arrest; later he's told that it was a test; if he had been a spy, the French might have let him kill an Algerian, but not a cop. Of course, whether this is a test of evil or good or something else isn't a question the movie really lets you answer. Amusingly, the test goes badly because he was too committed to the cause. He was ordered to sneak up behind a policeman and shoot him in the back. Instead, he angrily confronts the policeman and pulls the trigger of an empty gun.
- In Inside Man, the lead detective (Denzel Washington) believes that the bank robbers are not murderers and therefore won't go through with any hostage executions. While inside the bank to check on the hostages, he insults the lead bank robber and attacks him specifically trying to provoke him into shooting him. When he leaves, he's convinced that he's proven his point... until they shoot a hostage in retaliation for his behavior. In the end he was right. They faked the whole thing just to make him believe they would eat kittens.
- In a variant from Dog Soldiers, one of the troopers washes out of training as a commando because he refused to kill the tracker dog sent to pursue him in a field operation. Not an infiltration, but a similar moral quandry that his commander berates him for shying away from.
- In Queen of the Damned, when the other Ancients rejects Akasha's plans to subject the world again, she demands that Lestat kill Jesse to prove his loyalty to her. He does feed on Jesse, but fails to kill her, and then attacks Akasha.
- Lampshaded in Hope And Glory where the hero proves his worthiness to join a boy's club by his knowledge of real swear words.
- In the Russian WW2 film Ballada o Bombere (2011), Linko has to denounce, then shoot a fellow prisoner before he's allowed to join a collaborationist police unit. The German officer in charge says it's the first time he ever saw one of them not hesitate to kill a man for a bowl of soup (the unit gets better rations than the other Soviet POW's).
- In The Lego Movie, President Business demonstrates his superweapon, the Kragle, by forcing Bad Cop to use it upon his parents. He initially refuses, thanks to his good cop side, before President Business removes his Good Cop persona (with a Q-tip and nail polish remover). He is then perfectly willing to go through with the deed.
- The Iceman. A Mafia underboss tells Kuklinski to kill a homeless bum he's picked at random to see if Kuklinski has what it takes to be a Professional Killer.
- In the Andrew Vachss Batman novel The Ultimate Evil, a pedophile organization requires new members to have sex with a child before being shown any of the group's operations, in order to weed out undercover cops.
- John D. MacDonald's novel The Green Ripper. Travis McGee tries to join the Church of the Apocrypha, a terrorist religious cult. As part of his Kitten Eating Test he is ordered to shoot someone.
- In the Modesty Blaise novel The Night of Morningstar, a CIA agent is trying to infiltrate a terrorist organization that has a murder-the-helpless-teenage-girl type Kitten Eating Test. After some internal struggle, he goes through with it to preserve his cover — and then they tell him that they already knew he was CIA, and made him do the test anyway just to mess with him.
- George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Jon Snow actually does eat the kitten more than once. Of course, it's getting harder and harder to tell who the kitten is. At least one of those kittens his superior officer Qorin Halfhand specifically orders Jon to do whatever is asked of him - the first thing being to kill him - so that Jon could infiltrate the wildlings.
- In the same series, the Unsullied, at the end of their Training from Hell are required to kill a baby. At an earlier point in the training, they also had to strangle a dog they received as a puppy. It's explicitly noted that more fail the "kill your dog" test than the "kill a baby" test. (Those that fail to kill the dog are killed themselves... and then fed to the surviving dogs as an example to the surviving Unsullied.)
- In Warrior Cats, Ivypaw goes undercover in the Dark Forest after finding out they're using her., only to find out that she's up to her final loyal Dark warrior test- murder Flametail. Made funny by the fact that Flametail is an actual CAT, albeit not a kitten.
- Not as evil as some of these, but in First Lensman Virgil Samms is infiltrating one of Boskone's drug rings and is required to take thionite as a test.
- Later in Gray Lensman, Kimball Kinnisson needs to create a cover story so he can roam seedy mining colonies unnoticed. To that end, he decides, though it disgusts him, to start drinking and taking drugs. However, he approaches this very scientifically, studying his tolerances and behaviors as he prepares himself so that he never completely loses his mental capacity (which in the Lensman universe is your best weapon). He also avoids thionite as too dangerous and instead chooses a more-common and less-dangerous drug (a chewing tobacco-like substance called bentlam) as his apparent vice. His over-the-top violent reaction when offered thionite (it's fake, but "Wild Bill" shouldn't have known that) actually helps convince them he's NOT a patrolman, since they were expecting someone under cover to try to make plausible-sounding excuses, not deck a debutante.
- In a non-evil variant, an investigator in the (awful) horror novel Creepers poses as a destitute New York City tunnel-dweller. To prove his identity and grit to the head of an underground homeless enclave, he has to eat a fire-roasted rat, guts and all.
- In The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Torak takes the place of an apprentice Soul Eater, in order to infiltrate them and save Wolf. He has to help them with a ceremony that involves killing one of each of hunting animals: A bear, a lynx, an eagle, a wolverine, a wolf, an otter, an owl and a human. The Soul Eaters are planning on Torak being the human. In the book's society, killing a hunter is seen as extremely dishonorable and evil. He's asked to kill the owl, and for Wolf's sake, he does.
- In the back-story of the Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear, the narrator describes being inducted into a Molly Maguires-type gang, including going along with them on criminal activities, including one raid in which a man is killed. At the end, he is revealed to have been a Pinkerton detective who infiltrated the gang.
- In one of the Able Team novels, Carl Lyons pretends he's defected to the Unomondo organization. To test him they use Carl for the assassination of a US senator. A junkie is to rob, then shoot the senator, whereupon Carl will fire a second bullet into the senator's head to ensure his death. Carl works himself up to kill the senator, only to have the junkie (who's wired up and bouncing around) jump into the line of fire and get shot instead.
- In Jonathan Coe's What a Carve Up! a journalist infiltrates an arms-dealing organization looking to do an expose; he's with some of them in a bar in a Middle Eastern country where they force the waitresses to take part in a "William Tell" game. They expect him to do it too, his target being a waitress he's made friends with. He does.
- Most of the plot of Shusaku Endo's novel Silence and many of his other works centers around the treading of the fumie.
- That Hideous Strength, the final part of C. S. Lewis's Ransom Trilogy features, near the climax, one of the heroes, Mark Studdock, being tested to see whether he truly considers himself part of the evil anti-Christian organization N.I.C.E. How? By ordering him to deface an ancient crucifix. He finally refuses; fortunately, his interrogator is distracted by the sudden invasion of the institute by Merlin (yes, that one). He even pointed out that to rational men like themselves such a symbolic act is completely pointless. This example is interesting because Mark isn't really an undercover "hero" so much as an Everyman who's been ingratiating himself with NICE because it's been good for his career. He's nominally Christian, but regards it as more of a country club than something to actually believe in (he's actually embarrassed about the fact that his wife has recently begun taking it seriously). Also, as he's just pointed out, from a "rationalist" viewpoint the requested act is both meaningless and considerably less "evil" than some things he's already done.
- Played completely straight in one of Phillip Jose Farmer's Riverworld novels—taken prisoner by a group run by a Nazi, the heroes have the Sadistic Choice of being enslaved or killing another prisoner. Surprisingly, one of the heroes actually does it. (Two ameliorating factors: the hero in question was a caveman, and Death Is Cheap in Riverworld.)
- In Sharpe's Tiger, Sharpe and Lawford are infiltrating the enemy by pretending to be deserters. To prove they're truly deserters, Sharpe's ordered to fire on a captured British prisoner (the same one they are supposed to be rescuing). He does so without hesitation because he knew the gun had no powder. Although he later assures him that he still would have done it without hesitation even if the gun had been loaded.
- From the Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- In Iron Fist, the second Wraith Squadron novel, Face, Kell and Dia, impersonating pirates to gain the trust of Warlord Zsinj, are invited aboard the titular Star Destroyer to meet with him. In the middle of the meeting, Castin Donn, a fellow Wraith that had snuck aboard and been captured without the other Wraiths knowing anything about it, is brought into the room and Zsinj, suspecting that Castin is one of theirs, orders them to execute him as a proof of loyalty. Face tries to talk his way out of it (claiming to have a twisted moral code that does not allow him to kill anyone unless he will make money from it) and Kell prepares himself for action in case Face's bluff fails, but Dia promptly takes the blaster offered by the Warlord and explains that she has no such moral code. Face thinks this means that she has some sort of plan and prepares for a dramatic escape, only to be shocked and horrified when Dia shoots Castin in the throat. It is revealed afterward that he was probably already dead, but it is left somewhat ambiguous even to the reader and Dia was still pretty shaken up about it.
- Darth Bane had this as his first test of Zannah's dedication to the dark side in the second novel of the Darth Bane Trilogy. She slowly gained the confidence of a local creature, coming to think of it almost as a pet. She then gets it to follow her back to camp, where Bane snaps its neck and tells her to throw it in the pot, it's now dinner.
- Harry Potter:
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, this gets subverted, played straight, then subverted again when it comes to the murder of Albus Dumbledore. Draco Malfoy was sent to do the deed, but "his soul was not yet so damaged" as to accomplish it, and so failed. In the end, Severus Snape ended up doing it, thus "proving his loyalty" to the Big Bad. This appears to be played straight, until the end of the 7th Book, when it was revealed that Snape had killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore's orders, since he was dying anyway.
- There's a slight example of this in Deathly Hallows. Right at the beginning, Voldemort and the Death Eaters are sitting at a table with a teacher being magically restrained floating on top of it. Voldemort doesn't command anyone to kill her, since he's the one who does it, but she begs Snape to help her, and he does nothing to stop the murder, even scoffing when Voldy asks him if he remembers her. He clearly doesn't want her dead, but he can't do anything to stop it without blowing his cover. The internal struggle the character is suffering at the moment is masterfully represented in the film adaptation by actor Alan Rickman, with just a gaze.
- In Wen Spencer's Bitter Waters one of the characters is captured by a cult who think they are fighting a holy war against demons. They lock him in a room with a kitten. Their rationale is that if he eats the kitten he's evil, if he starves to death he's okay. They named the kitten Schrodinger 4.
- In The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross, the Nyar lath-Hotep cultists, believing Bob to be the monster that they're attempting to summon (It Makes Sense in Context), bring out the sacrificial infant intended for said monster. Painfully aware of what would happen (both to him personally and to the world in general) if the cult found out that they don't have the real monster, Bob gives non-specific background exposition as to the perceived roles of infants in the rituals of othered cults before informing the reader that Evil Tastes Good.
- In Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series; the final stage of Mord Sith training requires them to torture their own parents to death. Those who are unable to do so don't survive long.
- In the book version of The Godfather, former cop Al Neri is not fully accepted into the Mafia until after he has "made his bones"; in other words, committed a murder for the organization. A similar demand is made of rising mobster Rocco Lampone. Unlike many examples of this trope, Neri and Lampone seemingly don't have too much angst about this.
- The final test to become an assassin in the Discworld, very appropriately given the nature of the business, is to travel to a certain location and kill the person you find there. The person you kill is not a real person, just a dummy, but it's to make sure you aren't squeamish about killing another person.
- There is a scene in Someone Else's War where Lieutenant Panga, who has infiltrated the Lord's Resistance Army, has to "discipline" one of the child soldiers in front of a commanding officer because not doing so would look suspicious. He breaks the poor boy's ribs.
- The Specialist by Gayle Rivers. Rivers is training Iraqi special forces during the first Gulf War, and notes that their commander had a technique for weeding out anyone he didn't think had what it took to be in the unit. He'd hand a gun to a candidate and invite them to fire it out the doorway, while at the same time inviting another dubious candidate to walk down the corridor and take the random chance of being shot. If either person refused to walk or fire, he was thrown out of the unit.
- An article in The Onion on new regulations of the stock market mentioned requiring brokers to pass a "Kitten-and-Hammer Ethics Test".
- In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance it turns out that the hired killers sent after Tej and Rish had been contracted by a Barrayaran deep cover agent to protect his op. The same agent recruited Ivan to invite Tej on a date to make sure that the assassin and Tej didn't cross paths.
- In the Star Trek: The Fall novel The Crimson Shadow, a working-class Cardassian who's got mixed up with an anti-Federation group is asked to come along as muscle when they teach some "collaborators" a lesson, and realises this is at least partly a test of how far he would go for the cause. He's actually a Cardassian military officer, seconded to the Enterprise, officially on leave and working undercover for Garak. He does go along with it, since the alternative is breaking cover, although he's deeply disturbed by what he was part of.
- In Christian Nation, the person in charge of the POW camp in the new theocratic America wants those who are "born again" to prove their status by stoning Sanjay without any reluctance.
- In Shadow of her Sins Bloody Margo tells Alinadar to gouge out Lady Sallivera's natural eye to prove that she's sincere about wanting to come back to her crew. Instead Ali stalls long enough for her brother to line up a shot at Margo.
- In an episode of the delightfully campy live action Batman, when Robin is offered a cigarette when he tries to blend in with some rough types.
- This happens in the episode "Power Play" in a rare example where the hero passes the test by actually eating "the kitten", or rather, the warrior of good. He isn't turning evil again, nor is he going Knight Templar like his team assumed. He had no idea this would happen going in and refusing would mean that the Circle would kill both of them anyway. Also, the goal of this infiltration was to stop the Apocalypse.
- Previously, Angel had been given a similar ultimatum by his girlfriend, Darla. She noticed that after getting his soul back, he would only prey on murderers, rapists, and other lowlifes and evildoers, so she challenged him to kill a baby. He refused and decided to run away and bring the baby to safety instead.
- In an earlier episode, in order to infiltrate a group of racist 'pure' demons (who look down on humans and hybrids, like vampire and werewolves) Angel snaps Doyle's neck. However, it's revealed that Doyle, who is half demon, comes from a species that can actually survive this.
- An accidental (and fairly inoffensive) version occurs in "Guise Will Be Guise" where Wesley, pretending to be Angel, is handed a glass of blood. He tries to explain he doesn't usually drink blood in front of people but his host insists that he not mind them, and he reluctantly drinks it down.
- A meta example occurs in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Innocence", where Angelus commits murder before the opening credits. In the DVD Commentary, Joss Whedon says that he didn't want anyone in the audience thinking it was a fake-out.
- In the one season '80s show Outlaws, the heroic time-traveling wild west outlaws with hearts of gold who are super rich from antique pocket money attempt to infiltrate an Evil Construction Company and are "invited" essentially to rape two serving girls to seal the deal. Upon their righteous refusal the Big Bad of the episode says something like "Betrayed by their own morals, here you have them, folks, the Good Guys!" (This is a bit weird because the only villainy they were attempting to impersonate was the Corporate Evil kind, and could have reasonably at least tried to fake squeamishness about violent assault.)
- Walker, Texas Ranger had a version where to get in to a group, a pair of undercover cops have to go with the gang to town to commit a crime. They're able to avoid causing real trouble by having a cop stop them and pretending to kill him, which is good enough.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- A great (funny) example comes from the episode "Doppelgangland": When Willow is impersonating her vampire self and is asked to "prove it" she says, "I'm a bloodsucking fiend! Look at my outfit!" Later, when challenged again, she comes up with a way to signal her friends.
Oh yeah? Could a human do this [screams her head off] Anya:
Sure. Head Vampire
: Yeah, I think, yeah. Anya:
Humans do that. [the Scooby Gang storms in]
- An earlier scene plays the trope seriously. Faith has told the Mayor that Willow is trying to hack into his computer files, so the Mayor decides that Willow must be killed. When Faith looks upset, the Mayor assures Faith that it's too early in her Face-Heel Turn to expect that of her, and says he'll send a couple of vampires to do the job instead.
- Spoofed in the episode "Life Serial". Clem and his completely harmless demon buddies play poker for kittens, literally. The reason, according to to Clem? "They're delicious!"
- On 24, Jack Bauer is frequently subjected to kitten-eating tests:
- Season 3: To further validate his deep-cover identity in a drug cartel, Jack gets a gang tattoo and a heroin addiction. The heroin was really a bonus for Jack, who had already earned the cartel's trust by that point.
- Season 3 (again): The Salazars order Jack to kill his partner, Chase (who has no idea what's going on). Jack pulls the trigger, but the gun is empty.
- Another Season 3 example, Nina decides to see if Jack has gone rogue or if he's still a government agent (and plotting her death), ... by making out with him? This is the test he actually fails, he returns the kiss, but she can tell he's faking it. Which is a nice bit of Conviction by Counterfactual Clue, since all that proved is that he still (justifiably) loathed her.
- Season 4: Marwan gives the test to Dina Araz, ordering her to shoot Jack. She fails and tries to shoot Marwan instead. The gun is empty. Oops. Possibly an homage to The Battle of Algiers.
- In short: Jack Bauer's real superpower is that half the time, he'll eat that kitten.
- In CSI: Miami, a woman working with an undercover agent ends up murdered because 1) she refuses to take her dealer's heroin (she was pregnant) and 2) her handler refused to step in when she gave him the code phrase for "I want out".
- The Shield
- One of these tests is given (off screen) to a Federal mole in the Salvadorian mafia. We are later shown the carved up remains of the guy he was ordered to kill, showing that he "passed."
- On another episode, Tina and Julian go undercover as an aspiring porn star and her boyfriend. When the director/drug dealer they were meeting with demands a blow job right there in his office, Tina manages to stall him until he implicates himself.
- An episode of The Cleaner had Arnie infiltrating a biker gang. Unfortunately for him, they force him to smoke meth, his drug of choice before he got clean, to prove he's not a cop. Things... don't end well.
- In season one, deep cover agent Vincent Terranova is instructed to murder a federal agent to gain mobster Sonny Steelgrave's trust. He compliantly goes to the agent's house and shoots him ... or rather, shoots the bulletproof vest Vinny covertly warned his fellow fed to don.
- Vinnie has another test later in the first season when he's infiltrating a different organization. Mel Profitt gets annoyed with one of the guests on his yacht and orders Vinnie to throw her overboard. Vinnie refuses. But it works out because Mel respects Vinnie for standing up to him.
- Oz. Undercover cop Desmond Mobay uses various tricks to appear to be a user, such as palming or only partially snorting the drug. Unfortunately the inmates are wise to these tricks and force him to snort several lines of cocaine while they surround him. They insist on witnessing one of his drug deals; Mobray gets round this by selling to another undercover cop, so no law is being broken. Later they tell Mobay that to join their gang he must kill someone. Mobay, who now has a serious drug habit, murders a corrupt cop who's threatened to expose him. He eventually confesses to the crime when it sinks in how far he's strayed.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
- Stabler faces this when he goes undercover as a suburban drug dealer. The drug syndicate he's "contracting" with to be his new suppliers tries to get him to sample some of his own product. Stabler hotly refuses, saying that his day job runs random drug tests. It works.
- In another episode, Stabler, having gone undercover to gain the trust of a serial rapist, has to rape a woman that the real rapist kidnapped. Fortunately, he's able to worm his way out of it by telling the rapist that he doesn't like doing it in front of another guy, so the rapist obliges and leaves the room. Stabler then tells the victim that he's a cop, and she needs to scream convincingly. It works.
- In a first season episode of Babylon 5, Sinclair is put in this situation, having infiltrated a fanatical pro-Earth group, and is asked to prove his sincerity by killing an alien (and one he met previously at that). Defied—Sinclair and Ivanova start a firefight instead; Garibaldi and security soon locate them and secure the scene.
- Done in Season 2 of A Touch Of Cloth, after Macratty begins to suspect Jack is an undercover cop. He gives him a gun and orders him to shoot Twitch. Jack duly pulls the trigger (it helps that this is the man who killed Todd Carty), but the gun isn't loaded. Convinced Jack isn't a cop, Macratty kills Twitch himself for good measure.
- Also in one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, where the former Maquis crew members were forced to begin rebelling again by hypnotic suggestion, with the only one unaffected being Tuvok. He's handed a phaser and told to kill Captain Janeway. Tuvok presses the trigger and nothing happens. When Janeway asks him about this later, he answers, "They would not have given a person they were suspicious of an active weapon." Janeway finds this bit of logic to be... less than ironclad.
- In an episode of Miami Vice, Detective Gina Calabrese is attempting to infiltrate a crime lord's organization by going undercover as a prostitute. The crime lord insists she has sex with him. To protect her cover, Gina agrees.
- In an episode of Seinfeld, to avoid harassment by a street gang George claims to be a former member. They don't believe him so to "prove it" he has to mug somebody on the street. Jerry's parents walk by and George tries to get them to pretend he's robbing them but they dismiss him.
George: Shhh! Listen, you gotta do me a favor. Give me your wallet. I'll give it back to you later.
Morty Seinfeld: How're your folks?
George: Eh, they're trying to pick out a new couch - you don't want to know. [remembering watching the Van Buren Boys] Give me your wallet, or I'll spill your guts right here on the street!
Morty: What did you say?
George: Come on, hurry up, old man! I'm an animal!
Helen: You're being very rude. Come on, Morty.
George: Please, please, they're gonna hit me! [attempts to grab Helen's purse, she starts hitting George defensively, he backs off]
Morty: Tell your parents we said 'Hi!'
- Subverted amusingly in one episode of Veronica Mars. Veronica actually tries to do this when she thinks she has found an Animal Wrongs Group by advocating outright terroristic tactics, but it doesn't work out because the activists are the sensible, law-abiding sort who don't believe in extreme methods.
- Burn Notice:
- Used preemptively in an episode. Sam, in his cover as a crooked cop, pulls the bad guy of the week over, hops into his passenger seat, and snorts a pinch of white powder before introducing himself. One of the show's signature voice-overs informs the audience that snorting a crushed-up lactase tablet isn't comfortable, but goes a long way toward establishing criminal credibility.
- Not just Sam, but the whole crew use this trope frequently to maintain their cover identities with the bad guys. During the course of the show, they've yelled at, threatened, punched, and even shot at each other to prove whatever various identity they were under at the moment. Michael even mentions over voice-over how much skill/training it requires to shoot and deliberately miss but make it look like you're trying to hit.
- Averted in White Collar when an undercover-as-a-hooker Diana has to pick up a client to prove her worth and Neal steps in to play the part of her john:
Neal: What were you going to do if I hadn't come in?
Diana: Well, I'd have put this strawberry in that guy's mouth, taken him up to my room, put a gun between his ribs and told him to shut up and sit tight, or I'd arrest him for solicitation.
- In the Criminal Minds episode "The Internet Is Forever" (5x22), in order to get accepted to the UnSub's online club, which provides access to live footage of him killing people, prospective members have to download child porn onto their computers.
- Caprica: Daniel Graystone's order to the U-87 to shoot his dog. He wasn't testing for evil so much as total amorality (or, more accurately, he hoped to see otherwise, indicating Zoe was inside). Zoe later says that she knew the gun was unloaded. If it hadn't been, she might have instead shot Daniel Graystone himself (her father).
- In 30 Rock, Jack insists that anyone he mentors be truly ambitious, not just trying to get closer to him out of love and admiration. Thus, "if you're so ambitious, cut off my pinkie."
- When MacGyver tries to join a pack of terrorists as a mole, he is given a gun and asked to kill another terrorist to prove his loyalty. Being a Technical Pacifist, he doesn't, saying that he despises leaders who are so eager to lose their men. It works.
- A variant occurs in an episode of Human Target: the head villain of the episode doesn't know Chance snatched the actual hitman and is now pretending to be him. Still, this otherwise plays out fairly straight: Chance, undercover, is given the order to kill a prisoner... which he does. Then, when the boss leaves the room, he improvises a defibrillator and recuscitates the guy.
- This happens a couple of times on Chuck.
- Jarod on The Pretender would face this kind of challenge when he went undercover as a shady occupation like hitman or bank robber. He'd always find a way to finesse the issue until he could bring the actual criminals to justice.
- On Charmed, the episode "Wrestling With Demons" is about a demonic academy whose graduation ritual is killing an innocent.
- Borderline example: In another episode, Piper and Leo are infiltrating a group of demons who are after the innocent of the week. The pair of demons guarding the hideout asks for a password, and Piper- having no idea what it could be- blows one of them up. The other responds that that actually was the password and lets them in. It works on the same principle of ensuring anyone who enters is evil enough to kill, even if it wasn't an initiation test per say.
- Scarecrow and Mrs. King: In one episode Lee infiltrates a group recruiting burned-out agents to do their dirty work, who lure Amanda to their base and tell him to shoot her to prove he's genuine. He seemingly goes through with it; however it turns out that he'd purposefully missed and she'd had the foresight to fling herself into the ditch and play dead (allowing her to wait until they'd left and fetch help). The scene is used to highlight the trust and unspoken communication that has developed between the pair by this point in the series.
- On LOST, Benjamin Linus has to participate in the Purge perpetrated by the group later known as the Others, so as to become one of them for good (or, should we say, for evil) ; which means helping to murder the entirety of the DHARMA Initiative people with gas poison, including his own father (whom Ben kills himself inside a van in a remote area – he later brags about killing all the people in the pit but he didn't do it all alone, and he didn't even give the order, which probably came from the leader, advised by Richard Alpert).
- In the fourth finale of The Mentalist, Jane is asked to bring Lisbon's dead body to Red John as proof of his change of heart and willingness to join him.
- The Colbert Report:
- An episode literally invokes this trope when Colbert asks Kentucky representative John Yarmuth his opinion on the topic of putting kittens in woodchippers...and Yarmuth plays straight-man in advocating the use of woodchippers in reducing the kitten overpopulation problem.
- Made even more hilarious by the fact that at the time, John Yarmuth himself was showing commercials (parodying some very negative advertising by the Other Team) that had such statements as "John Yarmuth goes golfing with Saddam Hussein! John Yarmuth kicks puppies! This is what happens when you get the main editor-slash-humour-columnist for the major "alternative" newspaper in Louisville running for public office.
- In the Starsky & Hutch episode "The Committee", Starsky is a Fake Defector trying to infiltrate a group of murderous vigilante cops. As his initiation ritual they tell him to kill a slimy defense lawyer; Starsky just grabs the guy and runs. (He gets away with it mainly because his partner picks that moment to show up with backup.)
- In the Grand Finale of Blade The Series, Blade's sidekick/Voice with an Internet Connection Shen is captured by Marcus van Sciver. Van Sciver tells Krista to torture Shen for information, given her past as a soldier in Iraq. Krista replies that she never tortured anyone, and Marcus simply says that she must have seen torture or the results of it. Shen secretly nods her to go ahead, and Krista mouths "I'm sorry" before she starts pulling out his fingernails. When even that is not enough to make Shen talk, she pretends to break his finger, except she breaks her own finger, knowing it'll heal, and Shen makes a pained sound.
- Not done as a test, but in The Movie of Kamen Rider Fourze, the catsuit-wearing Action Girl Inga Blink is revealed to be a good guy when she refuses to shoot Tomoko in the back. This is the point where Ryusei actually stops to listen to her and discovers that the real villains were manipulating the Kamen Rider Club the whole time.
- Arrow: In "Vertigo", The Mafiya boss will only introduce Oliver to the Count if he kills an underling who has displeased him. Oliver appears to strangle him, but actually just renders him unconscious and temporarily stops his heart. Oliver carries the 'corpse' outside, then tells Diggle to get him out of town and set him up in a new identity.
- The X-Files: In season five episode The Pine Bluff Variant, Mulder is forced to participate in a bank robbery when undercover with a terrorist group and is ordered to kill one of the hostages. He aims his gun but hesitates until one of the other members of the group sends him away and kills the hostage himself.
- In Spartacus: War Of The Damned, Julius Caesar infiltrates the rebels by pretending to be an escaped slave who wants to join them. Nemetes tests him by presenting a captured Roman woman named Fabia whom Nemetes had raped several times and orders Caesar to rape her. Instead, Caesar gives her a Mercy Kill. Nemetes is impressed, thinking he did it because he really hates the Romans.
- A season 6 episode of Castle has Beckett forced to pretend to be a woman who she discovers is a hired assassin. Her "boss" requires her to prove she's the woman she's claiming to be, in the obvious way, and she appears to do just that. (Several minutes into the episode later, it's revealed that she improvised some prop blood in the victim's kitchen, then told him to play dead. Beckett is awesome.)
- A Get Smart episode had Max infiltrating KAOS by pretending to go bad and getting fired from CONTROL, where they'd hire him. Once in, they give him his first assignment - to kill 99, who they'd just captured. It turns out, however, that this nest of KAOS agents was made entirely of good-guy agents from different agencies who'd infiltrated.
- The Dr. Dre song "187 (Deep Cover)" opens with Snoop Dogg forcing a guy to hit off a crack pipe to prove he isn't a cop.
- Dance With The Devil by Immortal Technique. In order to join a gang, as an initiation, a guy jumps way over the Moral Event Horizon. He rapes and kills his mum
- In DJ Kintaro's "FREE", the Culture Police make people step on a vinyl record (vinyl being outlawed). The one who can't do it is hauled away.
- One Far Side strip, in which a jungle researcher's attempt to go undercover is met with: "So, you're a gorilla, huh? Well, then you wouldn't mind eating these grubs. In fact, we wanna to see you chug 'em."
- Dungeons & Dragons
- The final test to join the Chaotic Evil Ravagers is to sacrifice an innocent to Erythnul, the god of slaughter. This serves as a means of weeding out good-aligned infiltrators seeking to destroy the Ravagers from within.
- One default prerequisite for a character to take up the Assassin prestige class is that they must commit a murder for no other reason than to be accepted into the class.
- In Alara Unbroken, the tie-in novel for Magic: The Gathering's Shards of Alara block, Rakka Mar offers to lead Ajani Goldmane to Nicol Bolas... if he'll slaughter all the friends he brought to help him search.
- In The Legend Of Anne Bunny, which is very loosely based on real history, Anne is told she can't join the pirates until she kills someone. She claims to have already done it, and at least one pirate believes her. Later she confesses otherwise, but they decide she's cool off to have around anyway. Heck, they elect her captain after the mutiny.
- Fluble parodies this in a scene where Mack The tells Fluble that women will only date scum. When Fluble insists that he can be scum, Mack The challenges him to eat a puppy. Fluble falters, Mack The eats the puppy and is immediately surrounded by women.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog:
- "He rides across the nation, the thoroughbred of sin. He got the application that you just sent in. It needs evaluation, so let the games begin. A heinous crime, a show of force, a murder would be nice of course..."
- And more so later: "So now assassination is just the only way. There will be blood, it might be yours, so go kill someone. Signed Bad Horse."
- There's a discussion between Moist and Horrible where Moist mentions someone named "Hourglass" (presumably with some kind of time-based powers) knows a kid who's going to grow up to be President, and suggests that Horrible could kill the kid. Or that he could smother an old lady.
- Team SMASK (a Doctor Who macro fanfic), to test John to see if he wants to enter the league of evil characters, he is told to shag the Racnoss. He complies.
- A dramatic example in Equestria Chronicles; Icarus, established as a kind and loving pony, is told to execute a prisoner in front of the entire city. On penalty of death. While his Dad looks on. He's given five minutes to prepare.
- Axe Cop: In comic #137, Axe Cop and Dinosaur Soldier try to enter the villains' secret lair, which is guarded by a giant evil head. They decide to go undercover as bad guys to get in, but the head demands that they kill a good guy to prove their badness. Luckily for them, Mr. Stocker, the useless superhero with no powers, shows up... and Axe Cop, being written by a young child, isn't one for moral dilemmas. (They can always have Uni-Man bring Mr. Stocker back to life if they need him again.)
- In The Order of the Stick, Belkar's test to multi-class as a barbarian is to choose from one of three other barbarians to fight. Belkar chooses to kill all three. Subverted when the recruiter informs him that the fights weren't supposed to be to the death.
- The Cracked article 5 Insane Things I Learned About Drugs As An Undercover Agent discusses this trope. As it turns out most criminals, real or not, aren't very interested in getting a murder rap just to test someone's loyalty. The article even links to this very page.