"While most great powers come with great responsibilities, the power of invisibility isn't one of them. In fact, shirking responsibility is sort of the point of owning an invisibility suit in the first place."
Characters who gain the power of invisibility
have a startling tendency to become jerks, if not outright homicidal maniacs, within fairly short order. Sometimes this is a result of power that makes the character invisible but more often it seems to be a natural side effect of invisibility itself. After all, you can't be punished for your actions if nobody even knows you're there.
Not related to the trope What You Are in the Dark
, but related to the saying it comes from. See also Villain Teleportation
, Invisible Streaker
. See GIFT
for the equivalent result when applied to anonymity on the internet.
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Anime and Manga
- Absalom from One Piece uses his power to molest Nami. Sanji is upset about that though he also wanted that power, but only to ogle women.
- Sakurai Tomoki from Heaven's Lost Property does this in an early chapter/episode when he asks Ikaros to make him invisible. He then used his invisibility to sneak into the home of his friend Sohara while she was changing and "punished" her by groping her breasts.
- Lucy makes use of this in Fairy Tail. Though initially just looking for help undoing the invisibility magic on her, when she hears the guild joking about her behind her back she proceeds to make them all fight one another.
- Bleach has Guenael Lee aka Sternritter V - The Vanishing Point. Not only can he turn invisible, he can also erase people's memories of his existence. He enjoys screwing with people by popping in and out of their sight and memories several times in a row, then eventually stabbing them in the back with his knife.
- If you believe that "Not Me" of The Family Circus is a real being, he might qualify as one.
- Milo Manara's Butterscotch is a porn comic, so you can probably guess what the invisible man in it uses his power for. That's right, to watch a beautiful woman he's been in love with since they were children but was too shy to ever contact; and he gets quite indignant at the suggestion that he may abuse his power to peek at her in the shower or something like that; he just wants to be near her. His Secret Keeper, a woman named Honey (who keeps appearing in other Manara comics) calls him a "poor wimp" because "any real man who found out how to be invisible would have gone out and robbed a bank, layed all the most gorgeous chicks..." and eventually he ends up going nuts, stripping innocent women for no reason, and relaying his voyeuristic experiences. And then another invisible man shows up to rape Honey. Yeah, everyone is a complete jerk in that comic.
- Hollow Man spells this trope out: "You know what, Matt? It's amazing what you can do... when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror any more." It is heavily hinted in the film that the procedure itself turns subjects psychotic, as with the gorilla in the beginning.
- The film adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where the new Invisible Man is a thief who used his invisibility to steal and molest women. He's the most obvious suspect as The Mole, and is shown spying on the other members of the League. However, he turns out that he was spying to learn who the real mole is. He also has his moments of heroism toward the end of the film.
- Spoofed in Amazon Women on the Moon in which the Son of the Invisible Man states that he's taken the invisibility potion despite that fact that it turned his father into a raving madman. He then proves this by running around with no clothes on, playing tricks on unimpressed patrons at his hotel, unaware that he's not invisible at all.
- In Plato's story the Ring of Gyges, Gyges seduces the queen and kills several people. Plato made up this story but wrote it in such a way that pretended it was hundreds of years old and a commonly-heard myth. People unfamiliar with Plato's habit of doing this took his later claims of a lost island of Atlantis at face value.
- H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man deconstructs this trope showing us the real implications of invisibility and how they could affect an individual. To cite Jorge Luis Borges "A postulation of reality" the invisible man...
That character, a solitary student of chemistry at the desperate winter of London- finishes recognizing that the invisible state privileges do not cover the drawbacks
. He has to go barefoot and naked because an overcoat and boots rushed autonomous could disturb the entire city. A revolver in his transparent hand makes concealment impossible. Before being assimilated, so does the food swallowed by him. From dawn, his nominal eyelids cannot stop light, and he should get used to sleeping with open eyes. Useless is also take his ghostly arm over his eyes. On the street, traffic accidents always prefer him and he always lives in fear of being crushed. He has to flee London. He has to take refuge in wigs, in smoked spectacles, faked noses like those used in carnivals, in suspicious beards, in gloves, so they do not see that he is invisible
. Discovered, he begins in a village inland a miserable reign of terror
. He wounds, to inspire respect, a man. Then the sheriff organizes a pack of hounds to track him, cornered him near the station and kill him.
- Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man analyzes this in a different way. He isn't literally transparent; it's simply that as a black man no one cares about him. He even attacks a man at random, knowing that the only thing his target will remember will be his ethnicity.
- In The Lord of the Rings, when Gollum first acquired the Ring, he used it to sneak around his village, listening to secrets and stealing things.
- Bilbo has elements of this in The Hobbit, once he gets the Ring, nicking food from the Elvenking and making a Running Gag out of sneaking past guards only to snark at them for not seeing him. His cheap trick at his birthday party in The Lord of the Rings counts too.
- Averted in the obscure Swedish YA novel Trollstenen. The magic stone in the title has a failsafe spell on it that means it stops working if used for selfish ends. How it determines what is selfish is not revealed.
- The short sci-fi story "The Six Fingers of Time" by R. A. Lafferty is a borderline example: The Protagonist isn't exactly invisible, but can move sixty times faster than other people, to the same effect. He uses his skill for all kinds of pranks, including the creepy one of kissing and fondling a girl he likes.
- In Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs, one of the boys in a blended family turns himself invisible during an extremely tense period with his stepfather, and fairly shortly he goes over the line from angry to homicidal. The stepfather suggests that it's the effect of becoming "all thoughts."
- In Harry Potter, Harry usually uses his Invisibility Cloak for good, for example, to sneak around Hogwarts and solve the current mystery. In the third book, however, he uses it to sneak into Hogsmeade village without permission, and at one point he decides to take revenge on Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle for their constant taunting, and throws mud and sticks and trips them while invisible. He's later chastised by Lupin for such behavior, claiming Harry's parents wouldn't want him "gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks". Which, since Harry was supposedly being pursued by a murderer at the time, makes his actions not only jerkish, but pretty stupid.
- Though since his father used the cloak for stealing food from the kitchens, he probably wouldn't have room to talk.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- episode "Gone" involves a Jerk Ass moments from Buffy herself. The point was that she had so much stress and depression going on at the time that she felt trapped and powerless. The invisibility let her get away with doing the things she wanted to do anyway, without having to take any responsibility for her actions—as Spike points out, she's pretending that she isn't really "there" as she does it.
- There was the girl in "Out of Mind, Out of Sight," who became a psychopath after turning invisible. For her it was a case of Go Mad from the Isolation; everyone treated her like she was invisible so the Hellmouth made her invisible and thereby empowered her to get revenge on others.
- Claude Rains (named for the actor who starred in The Invisible Man movie) on Heroes is an invisible Jerk Ass with a heart of gold, being rude and misanthropic, yet at the same time willing to mentor Peter Petrelli and unwilling to let Manhattan get nuked.
- The main character from the Sci Fi Channel's TV series The Invisible Man had to deal with the nasty side effect that overusing his invisibility gland would trigger a homicidal rage. However, even under normal circumstances he wasn't especially scrupulous about how he used his invisibility, from spying on his co-workers to making his legs invisible so he could park in a disabled spot. Of course he was a thief even before he got his powers, so those are probably more his personality than anything.
- Averted in the 1970s series of the same name starring David McCallum. The title character maintains his composure and sense of ethics throughout the show.
- Mocked, as was everything else, in the Stargate SG-1 episode "200". In a flashback (not seen in the previous episodes), O'Neill becomes invisible due to an alien device. His subsequent pranks include leaving the room so that Carter is left talking to an empty chair, falling asleep and snoring in a room where Daniel is having a meeting, driving up to the base entrance and placing his dog behind the wheel to confuse the soldiers, and spying on Carter when she takes a shower.
- In the "Wishing Well" episode of Supernatural, a boy wishes to become invisible so he can spy on women in the shower. It fails, due to the kid's lack of reflex and agility.
- In The X-Files episode "Je Souhaite," a guy is talking to a genie about what he wants for his last wish, and it's pretty clear that he's going to be an invisible jerkass.
Anson Stokes: I wish that I could turn invisible... at will.
Jenn: You're kidding.
Anson Stokes: No, no. This is perfect. Yeah, I could have an advantage that nobody else on earth can have. I can, um, you know, spy and learn secret information, pick up stock tips.
Jenn: Sneak into a women's locker room.
Anson Stokes: Not just that, okay? I'm talking about James Bond type stuff. You know?
- He's flattened by a truck in a crosswalk because the driver couldn't see him.
- In The New Twilight Zone episode "To See the Invisible Man", Mitchell Chaplin is punished by being given an implant that means others have to ignore him and act as if he was not there. He initially does things like walking into a women's change room. It's a punishment because he soon starts going crazy from loneliness due to nobody talking to him, and everybody ignores him when he gets hit by a car (he survives in agony).
- Lampshaded in LazyTown, the "evil dude" uses a watch to make himself invisible & often kidnap Stephanie or Bill without getting caught.
- Henry Danger: Brad in the aptly titled "Invisible Brad". Brad was made invisible years earlier as a bystander when a shot meant to make Captain Mann invisible instead hit Brad. It is unknown if he was a jerk before he became invisible, but Captain Man is annoyed that he came by. He tried to get Henry to quit after Captain Man agreed to make Brad his sidekick if Henry quits.
- Clay Aiken's "Invisible" is explicit about how the singer would use the power of invisibility to stalk the person he is addressing.
- Episode 178 of the radio show This American Life notes that in an informal survey, most people who would choose the power of invisibility over flight would use it to commit crimes or other mischief they think it would help them get away with. It also says that some people who choose flight may be lying because of this fact.
- Rowan Atkinson has a sketch where he is the victim of an invisible prankster.
- In Team Fortress 2, we have the Spy, with an invisibility watch that he uses to get behind enemy lines and wreak havoc. This, combined with his ability to disguise as the enemy, and his insta-kill backstab makes for a very deadly combination. However, he's a jerkass even without the watch.
- Reading some interoffice e-mail in Fallout: New Vegas reveals that this happened at the REPCONN test site, which accidentally received a shipment of Stealth Boys: "In light of yesterday's upsetting events all employees are hereby directed to give a thorough reading to REPCONN's sexual harassment and workplace behavior policies. Also, while it is not explicitly stated in the Employee Handbook, unauthorized use of military hardware against fellow employees is ground for immediate termination."
- Wild ARMs 4: One member of the villainous organization attacking the protagonists supposedly had the power of invisibility, but was executed by his commanding officer prior to the start of the game for abusing it. Given how said commandiing officier is a pyscho it must have been a serious abuse.
- Homestar Runner: Strong Bad claims in one email that, if he were invisible, he'd do the same sort of stuff he already does: Stealing snacks from Bubs, punching Homestar and eating junk food while watching TV. Being Strong Bad, his point is undermined in that of the activities listed, the last one is the only one we see Strong Bad doing with any frequency outside this cartoon.
- Grif of Red vs. Blue is also already a Jerk Ass, so his greatest ambition involving invisibility is to take uninterruptable naps on a whim.
- Claudia from the SCP Foundation is a kleptomaniac woman who is permanently invisible like the classic Invisible Man. She's more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold than anything and is amicable enough with the Foundation personnel, but struggles with depression and a fiery temper due to trauma, abuse, and homelessness she went through after her powers manifested. She usually doesn't do anything too serious aside from the occasional pickpocketing or prank, though she also Really Gets Around and has used sex to get out of her containment room a few times.