Criminals aren't complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he's after. Alfred:
With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that you
don't fully understand, either.
In order to add more drama to a series which has been, up until that moment, lighthearted and comedic in nature,
a villain (or antagonist of some sort) is introduced and is portrayed as a genuine threat, in contrast to the bumbling and comedic villains
the heroes have faced before.
This villain's arrival is usually heralded by a sudden downturn in humor, to show the audience this guy means business. In other words, a catalyst for a drastic change in mood toward the dark and dramatic.
In shows that are generally Lighter and Softer
, said villain may have some light-hearted or comical traits
, but still gives a much higher sense of dread and genuine threat to the heroes than previous adversaries. Some cases of the trope may be harder to define by comparison in a particularly ineffective Rogues Gallery
, though a clear cut example at the very least can actually place the protagonist in real danger compared to the Harmless Villain
that poked his poodle
in a previous arc. A typical symptom of Cerebus Syndrome
A Knight of Cerebus is very likely to be Dangerously Genre Savvy
, but also runs the risk of becoming a Villain Sue
. Arguably a subtrope of Threshold Guardians
. See also Dead Serious
, Not-So-Harmless Villain
. The show may Shoo Out the Clowns
first. Often, this results in a case of Vile Villain, Saccharine Show
. When this kicks off Cerebus Syndrome
, his arrival is a Gut Punch
. Sometimes, this type of character can be a Complete Monster
if they have no redeeming traits and do terrible things by the standards of history in an initially more lighthearted series.
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- Adventures in Odyssey is largely a realistic show about realistic small-town problems, frequently more comedy than drama. It had a few forays into serious territory early on, whether it was an adaptation of a Bible story or a robbery... but when Dr. Blackgaard showed up, things changed.
- Camelot is extremely lighthearted up until Mordred arrives, and then starts building toward a genuine tragedy. This could easily have caused Mood Whiplash, but it's handled extremely well.
- Also in Into the Woods when the female giant shows up in act II, lets just say things go down hill from there.
- Don John from Much Ado About Nothing is definitely a Vile Villain, Saccharine Show and his Evil Plan causes Cerebus Syndrome to kick in.
- Great Britain is initially something of a Black Comedy romp about the poor ethics of the British tabloid press, with Paige Britain using her sex appeal and lack of morals to get further ahead. However, two characters manage to cause Cerebus Syndrome to kick in during the second half:
- The model Stella Stone is at first something of a joke, appearing to be a Brainless Beauty that gets a boob job to sell more photos and get better work on Page 7 of the Free Press. However, come the second act her character arc turns into a depressingly real look into anorexia. Her condition eventually worsens to the point that she cannot recover, one of her family members (it's not revealed who) leaks this to the press, and eventually Paige heartlessly buys the exclusive rights to her death story for £100,000.
- Kieron Mills, a man suspected by some members of the public of either killing his daughters or selling them, is something of a plot device for the first act, with him being used as a joke about the tabloid press going berserk about paedophilia. His being arrested is also a case of Black Comedy due to the absurd headline that he is given. However, the scene where he and Paige talk in the mental institution is not Played for Laughs, where Paige's questioning makes him go berserk. It later turns out that Free Press were completely wrong about him, and that the bodies of his daughters were found far away from where he was suspected to have done things. Of course, by the time they find this out, it is far too late and some fellow inmates have stabbed him to death in a misguided case of Even Evil Has Standards. This kicks off the climax and causes the humour to more or less disappear entirely.
- Makuta from BIONICLE started out menacing enough, but his constant defeats and failures gradually robbed him of his credibility. After the original head of the Story Team left, the character of Makuta underwent a serious retcon, which resulted in him turning into a calculating mastermind who had planned his victory from the start, turned out to be the Bigger Bad behind a lot of former villains, and by the end of the story arc, ended up winning.