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Kick the Morality Pet
The Flash: Can't [kill me], can you? I'm the last piece of your conscience. That's the one thing you'll never do.
Lord Superman: I've done a lot of things I thought I'd never do these last two years. One more won't hurt.
Justice League — "A Better World (part 2)"

The Hero has been taking a turn for the Anti lately, exploring The Dark Side with the help of an Evil Mentor, learning anger, or generally indulging in less than heroic behavior or abilities.

On the way, their friends will try to stop them, but the hero will ignore them because they're enjoying themselves too much. They're this close to Jumping Off the Slippery Slope thanks to Evil Feels Good and assorted perks to lapsing their morality, and just when it looks like they're about to Kick the Son of a Bitch and give him what's coming to him, they either miss the intended target and hurt an ally by accident, or abruptly realize they're being an abject Jerk Ass and attacking someone who's trying to help them for no good reason.

They've just hit the nadir of this downward spiral and the start of their return to the straight and narrow. By hurting their friend, possibly the Morality Pet, Love Interest, or The Chick for extra oomph, they do the one thing capable of prompting a Heel Realization before they do a full Face-Heel Turn (or cement the turn, at least). Cue cries of "What Have I Done?!" and "What Have I Become?!?" while shedding Tears of Remorse and Cradling Their Kill, they'll say they're sorry and try their hardest to resuscitate the dog they've just kicked.

If they weren't evil beforehand, whoever was inducing them to this behavior will quickly prove it by not turning back like the hero just has. They'll likely scold the hero for chickening out, and remark that evil does not spend its time petting bunnies (well, not during weekdays anyway). If powers are involved, expect them to go Drunk On The Darkside and/or One-Winged Angel.

Compare Villainous BSOD. Also, some may be too far gone for this trope to pull them back to their senses, which will result in either an Ignored Epiphany or the character displacing the guilt onto someone else. See also Minor Insult Meltdown and Moment of Weakness. Not to be confused with kicking a dog that was too dangerous to kick, or kicking the son of a bitch.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Chapter 95: Roy is taking brutal revenge on Envy when Ed, Scar, and Riza step in to stop him. Roy asks Riza what she plans to do after she shoots him. The answer? Kill herself. He backs down immediately.
    • Greed, after killing a member of his old True Companions.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi goes on a Black Magic fueled rage, he indiscriminately attacked everyone around him. It was only after he came within inches of killing one of his own (defenseless) students that he snapped out of it.
  • Happens to Agnes in Zero no Tsukaima (at least in the novels), when Saito, Louise and everyone is fleeing the country to save Tabatha who is about to meet a Fate Worse than Death at the hands of her uncle, the King of Galia. Anies had orders to only arrest the group and no intention of harming them, but as soon as she sees her lifelong nemesis Colbert responsible for her Doomed Hometown, whom she thought was dead, she snaps and opens fire. The shock from the realization she nearly killed Saito in the process, whom she trained and considered as a friend, has her realize that even if she killed her nemesis, other people would hate her in turn, so hatred and revenge are meaningless and that someone has to take it on himself to end the hatred here and now. She didn't forgive him, but is at least able, now, to look at his face without feeling murderous urges.
    • Or at the very least, not act on them.
  • Kanaka in Narue No Sekai. A victim of Time Dilation, she's missed a couple of decades. After she realizes that everyone she knew is now completely different, she freaks out and tries to run off. Narue, determined to befriend her (technically older) sister, runs after her. Kanaka pulls a laser gun to try to frighten Narue off, and after a brief tussle, Kanaka completely unintentionally shoots her. Fortunately it was a non-lethal gun to begin with, but it's still enough to get Kanaka to thoroughly regret her actions. Well, that and some manly tears from Kazu.
  • In GUN×SWORD, Michael, who has become a loyal minion of the Claw meets up with his sister, Wendy, one of the heroes. Wendy ends up shooting him in the arm to try and stop him, and he starts strangling her. Then, her pet turtle bites his finger and he snaps out of it, realizes what he's doing, and saves Wendy when the lair starts to collapse. While the series implies a Heel Face Door Slam for Michael and his lover Fasalina, who likewise snapped out of her loyalty to the Claw both appear to be crushed under rocks and averting Just A Fleshwound, Wendy's shot is implied to be fatal, supplemental materials go for Redemption Earns Life.
  • In the Sands of Destruction manga, Morte finished her job in a city where the beastmen were eating humans. After berating Kyrie of doing something reckless, she blows up the entire city that they just saved for the fun of it. This action causes Kyrie to snap at her and he leaves the group which causes the group to split up (with Toppi and Naja going with him and Agan staying with Morte.) When he comes back, he throws the gun that she gave him to defend himself on the ground telling her that he doesn't need it anymore since he's not coming back. Cue, she snaps and attacks him proving Kyrie's point why he can't stay with her. Thankfully Toppi and Naja stopped her attack.
  • Happens in Nabari No Ou when Gau throws himself in front of Raikou's attack to stop him from killing his own little sister, Raimei. Complete with Raikou cradling Gau and crying. They both get better.
  • In Elfen Lied, Lucy brutally kills Kouta's sister Kanae in the middle of what's basically a mix of a psychotic breakdown and a hissy-fit of jealousy. While she's still murderous after that due to other unrelated events, quite a bit of guilt over said incident remains in her heart.
  • Subverted in Durarara!!. Everyone assumes that Izaya did this to Shinra in middle school for no reason whatsoever. Turns out, he told Shinra to tell everyone that he stabbed him so he can use this opportunity to ruin Nakura who even dare hurt his only friend. Naturally, it's implied that Izaya also did this so no one will find that how close he is with Shinra.
  • When Sakura sees Naruto's fox form for the first time, she tries to talk him out of it. Problem was that Naruto wasn't Naruto anymore; he was controlled by the Kyuubi, resulting in a horrifying 4-tailed state. To simply put it, he tail-slapped Sakura on the shoulder (badly) and tried to kill her while she was down.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, as Sayaka begins her downward spiral, she ends up upsetting Madoka when she angrily lashes out at her for not using her incredible potential as a Magical Girl to aid her in the fight against witches. Unfortunately, this only makes Sayaka feel even worse, and she even rejects Homura's offer of a Grief Seed, given with the sole intent of preventing Madoka from being hurt by Sayaka turning into a witch.
  • In Girls und Panzer, this is an unfortunate result of Maho adopting a Jerkass Façade toward her younger sister Miho, doing everything that is expected of her as heiress so that Miho can live her life her own way. When Miho confronts her about shooting an enemy flag tank that was trying to save her own team, Maho coldly dismisses her, leaving her in tears. When Miho against her typical nature, confronts her mother to ask her the same question, Maho realizes how much she has upset Miho and apologizes.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, the Chimera Ant King has an epiphany re-affirming his identity as an apex predator. Deciding he no longer needs the distraction provided by Komugi, the blind girl he can't beat at a board game, he heads to her room to kill her. When he enters the room, he sees that Komugi has injured herself again...and immediately becomes concerned and tries to help her, all the while wondering why he is acting this way.
  • In Attack on Titan, Reiner uses the massive strength of his Titan form to begin hurling Titans at the escaping soldiers and nearly kills several of his former friends in the process. It's used to illustrate just how far over the Despair Event Horizon he's gone and reaffirming his claims that I've Come Too Far. Armin even responds in shock, wondering aloud whether he even cares anymore about the danger of Eren being devoured by Titans. Hange later theorizes that killing Eren was his actual goal in doing this, having given up on simply kidnapping him.

    Comicbooks 
  • In Villains United, Cheshire was blackmailed into joining the Secret Six with threats that a bomb was implanted in the back of her daughter's head. By the end of the miniseries Cheshire conceived a replacement child via seducing Catman. Neither Lian or her father Roy ever learned about this, which allowed Cheshire to continue her emotional manipulation of Roy long after Lian's death.

    Film 
  • Just like in the Animated Series, Spider-Man 3 has Peter Parker turn into a douchenozzle thanks to the alien symbiote turning him aggressive. He eventually goes on a date with Gwen Stacy (after getting dumped by Mary Jane), walks into the bar MJ is working at and proceeds to enter a song and dance meant to humiliate her. Finally the bouncer gets fed up and tries to throw him out. Peter easily deflects him, but also instinctively knocks MJ down when she tries to grab him. Peter suddenly realizes the symbiote is controlling him and tries to get rid of it.
  • Parodied in both Ace Ventura and The Naked Gun: The protagonist is trying to convince the others that the Reasonable Authority Figure is actually a villain in disguise and Crosses the Line Twice while trying to prove it. In the case of Ace Ventura, he's actually right.
  • Blade: Trinity starts with the vampires arranging a Kick The Wrong Dog moment for Blade: The "vampire" that he was chasing simply had fake teeth.
  • At the end of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker force chokes Padmé Amidala nearly to death when she tries to convince him what he's doing is evil. Unfortunately, the incident doesn't prompt him to stop, instead he just blames Obi-Wan Kenobi for turning her against him.
  • X-Men: First Class includes a dramatic confrontation where Magneto is deflecting bullets from Moira MacTaggert trying to stop him from destroying the US and Soviet fleets. One of the bullets flies off and hits Charles in the spine. For a moment, there's a look of pure horror and guilt on Erik's face, then he decides it was Moira's fault. Xavier vocally disagrees and talks him down by playing on the other man's guilt.

    Literature 
  • This is Albus Dumbledore's backstory in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He was dangerously close to joining with Grindelwald and becoming a Big Bad when his sister was accidently killed during an argument. At that point he came to his senses and instead became the Big Good that he is known as.
    • Also the story for Regulus Black. He was a loyal Voldemort supporter, proud to offer the use of his beloved House Elf...until he finds out that Voldemort wanted the elf to test the defenses around his horcrux, which involved the elf being horribly tortured and left to die. After he found out about that, he gave his life to try to bring Voldemort down.
    • And Severus Snape's. When he found out the information he provided would lead directly to Lily Potter's death, he switched sides. Pity she died anyway...
  • In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean steals from a little boy from force of habit after the bishop pardons him. While the child wasn't someone he knew, how monstrous the act was, especially since it came immediately after the bishop had pardoned him, was what prompted his Heel Realization and finalized his transformation into a Messiah.
  • In Gone, Caine's love/obsession for Diana was his one redeeming quality. But, in book four, he lies to her, uses her for sex, and brags about this to the entire town. This upset the fangirls more than when he sicced coyotes on preschoolers.
    • This becomes Subverted in LIGHT, when he abdicates the throne to rescue her, apologises to her, saves her from a life in prison and dies defending her.
  • Nathaniel is much more innocent at the start of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, but a Cynicism Catalyst in a world of Black and Gray Morality soon leads him to leave that behind. By the third book he is Not So Different from the original villain. It's only when Kitty Jones is injured that he starts to see the implications of his actions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel does this (sorta) with Gunn and Wesley fighting over Fred, but when Gunn goes to hit Wesley, he accidentally hits Fred instead. Whoops!
  • Whilst elsewhere in the Buffyverse, Willow's downward spiral of magic addiction is brought to a halt when she crashes her car with Dawn in the passenger seat while under the influencenote . Her manipulative friend Amy, who has been encouraging her magic abuse, is hurt by Willow's decision to quit magic and eventually becomes a Big Bad in the Season 8 comics.
  • In the Year Inside, Hour Outside series finale of Stargate SG-1, Daniel, having gotten fed up with what he thinks are Vala's intentionally shallow attempts at flirting and seducing him, lashes out with a nearly minute-long rant about her shortcomings that reduces Vala, who actually is genuinely attracted to him, to tears. It's especially shocking coming from Daniel of all people, but a close listen as his rant goes on reveals that he shifts from disparaging her actions to voicing his own insecurities and hesitancy about them having a relationship. And when a disturbed Daniel realizes both this and how badly he's hurt her, he quickly lets Vala know that he does return her feelings. They then decide to see if they can sustain a relationship, and you can guess what happens next. And considering that except for Vala's having a miscarriage , they spend the next fifty years together with no problems before Sam reverses time, apparently they work out any remaining issues.
  • In the Saved by the Bell precursor show, Good Morning, Miss Bliss, one episode features Zack trying to join a club of popular jerks called the Rigmas. They tell him to start bullying his friends as part of his initiation. The biggest Kick the Morality Pet moment comes when he yells at Screech "Why would I want to be seen with a nothing like you?!" Thankfully, Zack later realized the error of his ways, and his friends forgave him. They together spend the last few minutes of the episode remarking on how stupid people often act in order to fit in with various groups. The episode ends with Zack symbolically dumping the bullies club membership jacket in the garbage while his friends give him the thumbs up.
  • In the climax of Power Rangers Time Force, the Big Bad Ransik has trashed the rangers and is getting ready to finish them of, when his daughter Nadira (having gained an appreciation for human life after helping deliever a baby) tries to talk him down. He ignores her, and during the fight she gets caught in one of his blasts. Horrified at having nearly killed his own daughter, Ransik voluntarily surrenders himself to the rangers.
  • In Breaking Bad, as Walt goes further and further towards/past the Moral Event Horizon, he starts to doing this more and more. By Season Five, only his children are safe.

    Multiple Media 
  • Subverted in BIONICLE. When Vakama turns evil and Matau attempts to turn him back, Vakama has no problem beating him up and almost killing him. Despite Matau's efforts and heartfelt speech, Vakama couldn't bring himself to believe that Matau had gone through Character Development, and thought he was the same Jerk Ass he had been when they last met, so he felt no remorse after hurting him. That is, until Matau managed to prove to him then and there that he has truly changed.

    Videogames 
  • Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World: In the "bad" ending, Emil fakes his Superpowered Evil Side like he does on the other endings, but goes too far in his fight with Lloyd and Marta, and wins the fight, killing Marta. Raine rushes over to heal Marta. Emil promptly admits it was all an act, and in an act to redeem himself, he kills himself. Oops.
  • Experienced at least twice by Kratos, when he murders his wife and child prior to the start of the series, and kills Athena while fighting Zeus at the climax of God of War 2.
  • In Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, this trope is invoked in the final duel of the game. As Mara Jade, you must holster your lightsaber and stop attacking Kyle in order to force him to have to kill you unarmed if he wants to reach his goal, thus snapping him out of it.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep has Terra experience this after nearly killing Master Eraqus while trying to protect Ven. Not at all helped by Master Xehanort finishing off the weakened Master Eraqus, who was also in the midst of a Heroic BSOD for raising his Keyblade against his students.

    Webcomics 
  • Drowtales: Ariel was heading toward the Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain grey area, but after accidentally killing a slave she became more of an Emotionless Girl, and more recently more of a Plucky Girl type. Because of this she ended up sparing an enemy and avoided directly killing someone else, though given the Crapsack World of the setting both of those choices may come back to bite her.
  • Happens in the Webcomic Zap!, with the protagonist learning to use his forgotten Psychic Powers to control people.
  • In the Secretary arc in Nature of Nature's Art, XZ "breaks up" with SV by quitting the college, and he goes into an Unstoppable Rage and kills her. Whether he did a Heel-Face Turn before he also died is up for debate.
  • In Collar 6, Butterfly, aka Evita Kappel has one of these moments when she lashes out at her slave Gunther because he worries about her mental state. She immediately regrets it. Though she'd already been established as a villain, this also serves to back up Gunther's theory that her use of her husband's "black books" has started affecting her personality.

    Web Originals 
  • It was this sort of moment, when she recklessly injures one of her teammates in a drunken stupor, that convinces the heroic Swallowtail of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe to seek help for her alcoholism.
  • A strange mixture of in-universe and out-of-universe examples: in Twitch Plays Pokémon Crystal, the Mob accidentally releasing Togepi instead of LazerGator caused them to take stock of themselves, eventually leading to its new and distinct themes and plot.

    Western Animation 
  • Aang has a similar experience in Avatar: The Last Airbender . When Aang starts learning Firebending he proves his immense talent by turning a smoldering leaf into a ring of fire. Katara's hands get burned badly in the resulting blast, Sokka gets immensely pissed off at Aang for hurting his sister, and Aang, in shock, says he's sorry. Fortunately this is when Katara discovers she has (self) Healing Hands, but Aang ends up jumping to the conclusion that Firebending is strictly Bad Powers, Bad People, and resolves not to learn it. It would take two seasons for the cast to realize Firebending is not evil, and in fact life-affirming.
    • A Reformed, but Rejected Zuko wants to join Aang's True Companions. He goes to Toph, as she is the only one willing to consider letting him in, and then accidentally burns the soles of her feet, which she needs to see.
    • There's also an event that took years to build up. Katara inadvertently ends up learning "blood bending", controlling the water in someone's very bloodstream to turn them into a puppet. Realizing the horrible possibilities of this kind of talent, especially when she's forced to use it to stop the twisted old lady who taught her the technique, she vows never to use it again... Until Zuko leads her on the path of the one that led the raids that took all the water benders from the Southern Tribe and killed her mother. After years of sorrow and mourning, cue one Roaring Rampage of Revenge, that ends with her using blood bending to almost make the man responsible kill himself. Then she finds out, this guy is that admiral's REPLACEMENT. The actual admiral is now an old, retired man, leading a miserable life in his mom's house. She finally lets go of the hate; he'd rather she just kill him. Or his mom. "That's fair! Right?"
  • Happened on an episode of Static Shock where a kid being remorselessly tormented by bullies brings a gun to school. Just as the kid was about to give up the gun the bully's idiot friends tackled him which made him accidentally squeeze the trigger and he winds up shooting Richie, one of the few people who had tried to be nice to him. The kid suffers a massive My God, What Have I Done?.
  • A few episodes of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Heloise backing out of whatever evil she was doing because it was hurting Jimmy.
  • In an episode of Transformers Animated, an upgraded Prowl beats (clone) Starscream. Unfortunately there's a lot of collateral damage - including a torn down tree and broken bird eggs that he earlier made an effort to protect. Seeing these, Prowl realizes what a total asshole he's being.
  • Happened in The Spectacular Spider-Man and Spider-Man: The Animated Series while he wore the black suit.
  • Kevin from Ben 10 tends to do this whenever he goes insane due to absorbing alien energy. In the original series, Ben shew him kindness twice, and both times his reaction was to attempt to backstab him. Later, after reforming over the course of Alien Force, he gradually turns insane again, resulting in him hurting both Ben and Gwen, who have become his friends (and in Gwen's case, his Love Interest) at this point. 10-year-old Ben calls him out for it:
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Discord has always had an utter disregard for the feelings of anyone else, and doesn't get snapped out of it until Fluttershy basically makes herself his Morality Pet by actually treating him as a friend. It's not until he realizes that his antics are driving her away that he finally grows some empathy.
    • He did it again in the Season 4 finale, when he betrays Fluttershy to join Lord Tirek. Then he realizes how betrayed Fluttershy feels.


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alternative title(s): Kick The Wrong Dog
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