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Heroes have a very large pool of potential foes, and a fair number of them aren't even made of matter. Some are even a part
of the hero, or somehow feeding off his fear, hatred or insecurity. So how exactly is a hero supposed to fight something he can't punch without empowering, or escape an enemy that lives inside him?
By saying, "I'm not afraid of you," or a variation.
The thing is, these villains are literally fueled by the hero, so to fight them requires either denying them the emotional energy they eat
or dispelling them with a forceful affirmation. Yes, you read that right. This enemy can be talked to death
. It's much more awesome than it sounds, really!
There are a few variations on this trope, depending on the nature of the villain:
The imaginary villain may require a series of demotivators, like "The Reason You Suck" Speech
or even just a Shut Up, Hannibal!
. Of course, the villain might end up coming back if the heroes think about him or lose faith in themselves.
Not Afraid of You Anymore
is similar, but deals with an external threat or another person.
As this trope is often about learning a villain's specific Kryptonite Factor
, expect unmarked spoilers below.
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- Tyler Durden from Fight Club, sort of. In the movie version, the hero wills the gun into his own hand away from Tyler.
- Well, it's closer to him realizing he was holding the gun and Tyler is him, and thus being able to control Tyler.
- How about Stephen King's It? In the first half of the story, the Monster Clown disappears when the children prove they aren't afraid of him.
- The Trope Namer is James of James and the Giant Peach, where he faces down the rhinoceros that's been haunting him (It Makes Sense in Context).
- A Nightmare on Elm Street:
- Subverted in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). At the end Nancy says to Freddy "I take back all the power I gave you, Freddy!" and that he's not even real, so she shouldn't be afraid of him. It seems like she defeated him, but he reappears not much later. Of course, since Freddy can resurrect just by someone who thinks about him, it was followed by a dozen sequels.
- The third film suggests it's actually Freddy's belief that trumps this trope:
Freddy: "Sorry, kid. I don't believe in fairy tales.'' (kills D&D geek)
Debbie: "I don't believe in you!"
Freddy: "I believe in you." (breaks her arms)
- The original scene was going to be parodied in an early version of Freddy vs. Jason. Kia repeats Nancy's lines almost word for word, and then turns her back... on Jason. As Freddy put it, right before Kia is killed, "Wrong one, bitch."
- Sarah's 'You Have No Power Over Me' revelation regarding Jareth in Labyrinth.
- Invoked word-for-word in Drop Dead Fred.
- In The Skeleton Key, the protagonist shouts "I don't believe!" while a hoodoo spell is being performed on her since she was earlier told that the spells would have no power unless she believed. It turns out that she really did believe since the antagonists had spent the whole movie ensuring she did so the spell would work.
- In the '80s horror-comedy House, once the protagonist recognizes and stands up to the Big Bad ghost, he becomes immune to the ghost's power and simply lifts his young son out of its grip. The trope title is invoked verbatim, with a capper of: "I beat you! And this stupid house!"
- This is screamed by a character going through drug withdrawal in Cornered!, when he's surrounded by imaginary cockroaches.
- Kevin does this to the creepy basement furnace in Home Alone.
- Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings has Sméagol tell Gollum to "Leave now, and never come back!"
- Harry Potter: There is a monster called a boggart, which takes the form of your worst fear. If you use the 'riddikulus' spell, and imagine a way to make the thing funny (e.g. a spider on rollerblades) then it'll be weakened, as it's hurt by laughter.
- It's an ally rather than an enemy, but Dave discovers that the man who had been interviewing him is dead and his appearance just a result of Dave taking the sauce in John Dies at the End. However since the reason the damn things are there in the first place isn't logical (they are a product of the mind) they promptly disappear, because willing them out of existence isn't logical, either.
- In The Wheel of Time, this is the only way of fighting nightmares in Tel'aran'rhiod.
- Companions on the Road by Tanith Lee: Three mercenaries involved in sacking a castle are pursued by the vengeful spirits of people killed there. The ghosts invade their sleep and kill them in nightmares; but when the last remaining member of the group realizes that he pities the ghosts more than he fears them, they vanish.
- Done awesomely in the Discworld book Carpe Jugulum. "I know who you are. The Count just let you out to torment me, but I've always known. I know who you are now, Esmerelda Weatherwax. You don't scare me no more."
- In A Wizard of Earthsea, Sparrowhawk is liberated from the threat of the shadow creature by discovering its True Name. It's Ged (his own true name).
- In The Graveyard Book, the heroes briefly meet a tattooed ghost called "the Indigo Man." They realize he's just an illusion, and he disappears.
- Played with in R.L. Stine's Night Games Spencer turned out to be a dead person who needed to hate the protagonists in order to exist. The heroes talked him to death by hugging him and telling how much they loved him. This caused him not to be able to hate them, which destroyed him.
- In Patricia A. McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Sybel summons The Rommalb, a creature which destroys all those who fear. She's simply too young and too powerful to understand fear though, so the encounter is harmless.
- In The Dresden Files we encounter phobophages, monsters who literally eat fear. As a correlative to this, none of their defenses or countermagic works against someone who isn't afraid of them.
- In Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart, this is the reason that the titular villain was invulnerable: he can only be hurt by someone who does not fear him. Unfortunately, thanks to his imposed Reign of Terror, the only person alive who fulfills that requirement is himself.
Live Action TV
- Silent Hill 2 treats Pyramid Head as manifestations of James' guilt over killing his wife, and since he has repressed the memory and not dealt with it, Pyramid Head is unbeatable throughout most of the game. By the penultimate boss battle, James had unblocked the memory, and was willing to face the consequences of that action, so for the first time the Pyramid Head has a health bar and can be killed.
- Mind you, even then the two Pyramid Heads you fight only kill themselves at the end of the fight.
- Often said by Bioshock 2 Multiplayer character Naledi Atkins upon seeing a Big Daddy.
- In Mass Effect 2, the Turian Councilor throws a mocking "Ah, yes, Reapers" (even throwing in finger quotes) at you when you try to convince the Council to help Shepard. Prevailing theory in the fandom suggests that, in Mass Effect 3, the Councilor will attempt this at the Reapers, with predictable results. Either that, or they'll get the chance to throw it back in his face.
- Jossed. In Mass Effect 3, the Turian counselor is the first non-human member of the Council to support Shephard.
- In Persona 4, every Persona-user (save the protagonist) must defeat their "shadow" in order to awaken their powers— by accepting that their shadow is a part of them. Noteworthy in that the shadows actually are the Persona-users' repressed desires and emotions, which is why denying them makes them even more powerful.