Whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with...
Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated.
Bands of heroes are generally held together by The Power of Friendship
, or just general loyalty to the hero
. Indeed, The Leader
who acts as a Father to His Men
gains more loyalty from them than one who acts as a tyrant. Bands of villains tend to be held together by fear of the head villain. Eventually, villains often discover to their surprise
that while fear might be easier to establish, love has a lot more staying power
. If the villain is especially unlikeable, this can culminate in a Heel-Face Turn
The trope name comes, obviously, from the popular reputation of Niccolň Machiavelli
's The Prince
, which is often paraphrased as saying that it is better to rule by fear than by love. People (and fictional villains) often forget an important thing Machiavelli pointed out, however - it is preferable to be both feared and
loved, choosing fear over love only when you can't have both, and that in any event it is vital to avoid being hated
, since if you are hated people will be willing to suffer just to oppose you. Best of all is to command obedience through respect
. In essence, it'd be more true to form to say "Machiavelli was right" if not for this popular misunderstanding.
A misunderstanding of this concept is due to the early English translations, which were Blind Idiot Translations
that turned the line "look to the consequences before you act" into "the ends justify the means." Incidentally, it's also worth noting that some scholars think The Prince
was a satire
of the dictatorship since everything else he wrote directly contradicts The Prince
- in other words, Machiavelli Was Joking.
Often used as part of an Aesop
. See also Villainous Demotivator
. Contrast Bread and Circuses
, which Machiavelli actually supported. It may be because Rousseau Was Right
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Anime and Manga
- In Naruto, most of Orochimaru's followers are fanatically loyal to him due to him taking them under his wing when they were vulnerable.
- In Pokémon, evil trainers generally treat their Pokemon cruelly, while good trainers treat them well.
- The most extreme example was the Iron Masked Marauder. He was so abusive to his Pokemon, they left him on their own, something that is usually unheard of.
- Jessie and James are the exception; while they play the role of antagonists (sort of), they get emotionally attached to their Pokemon.
- Inverted with Chizuru Aizawa of Shinryaku! Ika Musume. The reason she can suppress anyone from the titular squid to the series' resident mad scientists is thanks to invoking her role as The Dreaded. That she uses fear to achieve her desired results is never brought up In-Universe, in part because the show is a Slice of Life Comedy, and she is, otherwise, a sweet girl.
- Played with in From Eroica with Love; the antagonist Klaus is both feared and loved by the Alphabets. He is gruff with his men, expecting perfection from them, and is constantly threatening to send them off to Alaska if they fail (and he actually goes though with it at least once), but he also acts like he's the only one allowed to insult them and lets them known that they aren't just Red Shirts, admittedly by yelling at them.
- In One Piece, many pirate crews, such as those of Luffy, Shanks, and Whitebeard, treat their men as family, whereas the Marines rule through fear (namely Akainu, who kills a soldier for trying to run away in the middle of the battle because he has a wife and child to care about; talk about the champion of justice right there). note
- In Liar Game, Akiyama explicitly points out that his and Nao's team runs on trust, while Yokoya's team runs on fear. Guess which team always wins?
- Played with in Fullmetal Alchemist at Briggs Fortress. The soldiers are scared of their commanding officer, Major General Oliver Armstrong, but also extremely proud of 'our Ice Queen'. While she is definitely worthy of that title, she still has a soft spot for her soldiers. As regards to this trope, one could say they love her because she's scary.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, especially in season six with The Trio, but also obvious with some of the season one and two vampire minions.
- In Farscape, Magnificent Bastard Scorpius takes care to reward his useful mooks (most particularly his eventual pseudo-Dragon Braca). Of course, they're still scared of him, because horrible things happen to his enemies and prisoners, but he's the lesser of several evils, and as a result his minions are very loyal indeed.
- Which is exactly what The Prince advises: make it clear that everyone should be very careful to stay on your good side. The key mistake tyrants need to avoid is not having a good side to stay on.
- Discussed in an episode of Due South, when a local Mafia don is going on about the importance of respect, Fraser mentions that he has known many men who thought they were respected, when in fact they were merely feared. And fears can be overcome.
- Mal Reynolds lives and dies by the idea that he can count on his crew and they can count on him.
"You've got all kinds o' learnin' and you made me look the fool without even trying, yet here I am, with a gun to your head. That's 'cause I got people with me. People who trust each other, who do for each other, and ain't always lookin' for the advantage."
- seaQuest DSV invokes this multiple times. At one point, Captain Bridger scolds Lucas Wolenczak for even quoting Machiavelli on his ship.
- Band of Brothers: This is presented by two different leaders. Winters clearly loves his Easy Company, treats his men well, and as such the soldiers respect him and would do anything for him. Speirs develops a reputation for being such a Badass that the soldiers in Easy fear him, but respect him because he gets the job done. Played with in that Speirs knows all about the chatter going on behind his back:
Speirs: You want to know if they're true or not... the stories about me. Did you ever notice with stories like that, everyone says they heard it from someone who was there. But then when you ask that person, they say they heard it from someone who was there. It's nothing new, really. I bet if you went back two thousand years, you'd hear a couple of centurions standing around, yakking about how Tertius lopped off the heads of some Carthaginian prisoners.
Lipton: Well, maybe they kept talking about it because they never heard Tertius deny it.
Speirs: Well, maybe that's because Tertius knew there was some value to the men thinking he was the meanest, toughest son of a bitch in the whole Roman Legion.
- Proved by Captain Sobel who is clearly not loved, but made himself more hated than feared, which Machiavelli warned against.
- Sobel is doubly an example of this trope. Not only is he unnecessarily harsh with his recruits, he's a terrible commander to boot. In his first field training exercise he gets his men lost in a field because he can't read a damn map. So he can't even claim that his jerkass behavior is justified by extreme competence.
- In Breaking Bad Walter decides to stop cooking meth for his distributor Gus Fring, and Fring is asked by Mike why he doesn't directly threaten Walter to continue his work (either with the threat of exposing his identity as 'Heisenberg' to the DEA, or with good old-fashioned violence). Gus responds that fear is not a proper motivator in their business; instead, he finds far more success in playing to Walter's pride. But when Walt turns out to be too unpredictable and arrogant to control in this manner (able to manipulate Gus into a position where he's unable to kill him), Gus is forced to fall back on fear to keep him in line. Played straight all the same; when Gus threatens to murder Walt's family, and his children, it finally makes Walt desperate enough to take extreme measures in getting rid of him, leading to Gus's downfall.
- In Kings, Vesper Abbadon advises Silas that it is better to be feared than loved. Later he tells David that it is better to be loved than feared.
- Used pretty sensibly in City of Heroes with the Alternate Universe Praetorian Earth, in which all the named heroes are instead Machiavellian fascists, and in the America Korps Alternate Universe where the evil twins to the heroes are instead Nazis. The Big Bads Tyrant and Reichsman are individually a perfect match for Big Good Statesman, but the lesser heroes easily overcome their evil counterparts; the Big Bad intentionally sabotaged their training so they didn't become threats to his leadership.
- Taking the Open Palm Path in Jade Empire lets you throw this one right in the face of the Big Bad. Sun Li knocks out your party and traps you in a mind prison. You summon your friends to help fight off the demons of doubt and fear...even Sagacious Zu, who gave his life in a Heroic Sacrifice at the 2/3 mark of the story. After breaking out, Sun Li is left scraping his jaw off the floor - eat it, "Glorious Strategist"
- Although Closed Fist characters deal with the situation just as easily, weakening the example somewhat.
- While the Machiavelli seen in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood never actually states any beliefs like this; outside of mild cynicism, it is shown that the Borgia's reign of oppression has no chance against Ezio's more enlightened perspective.
- He does however openly criticize their methods so they clearly didn't read his book - which may have been due to the fact that it was written fifteen years after the game's start and quite a few events of the game obviously inspire him to turn his worldview around and write the actual The Prince rather than The Theme Park Version.
- Subverted in Total War Shogun 2, where a ruler's ability to rule is determined by the Repression Rating and must enact harsh policies to maintain authorities (such as sword hunts to disarm the rebellious population for example). No bread and circuses here folks or noble in rule traits.
- Played straight in Medieval II Total War. Chivalrous generals (ones that fight fairly, release prisoners, keep taxes low and city happiness high etc) give cities a bonus to happiness and population growth when they're stationed in them, and they give a morale bonus to troops when on the battlefield. Dreaded generals (ones that hire assassins, raises taxes, execute prisoners etc) give a public order bonus in cities, but it's just not as effective.
- Mass Effect 3: Paragon Shepard, who relies upon playing fair, being friendly, earning respect, and giving everyone a fair shake, tends to accumulate a lot more War Assets than Renegade Shepard, who's a down-and-dirty ruthless bastard who tends to default to intimidation and violence. Mostly because gathering War Assets tends to involve ringing up everyone who ever owed you a favor and calling it in, and most of the people Renegade Shepard deals with are laid up with a bad case of dead.
- In Dragon Age II, your companions get bonuses of different kinds depending on whether they like you or not, based on a sliding friendship-rivalry meter. Usually (but not always) the more useful bonus is on the Friendship end of the scale. Also, if you don't get the right companions into the right areas on the meters, you might wind up having to kill some of them in the endgame.
- In the Pokémon games, the cheapest medicinal items, labeled as Bitter, hurt your Pokemon's Happiness points. So much for getting that Espeon (which evolves via level-up during the day only when it is extremely devoted to you), but if you love your Pokémon, you'll pay a bit more money to buy the medicine that doesn't taste bad. (Except for the Max Revive, which can't be bought save for the Bitter variety. Tough call?)
- One attack (Frustration) does more damage the less the mon likes you.
- In the X-Wing Series, Lara turns after realizing that all the important parts of the Empire are just that bad. It's mentioned that TIE pilots are kept in a constant state of paranoia so they can be loosed on the enemy.
- The success of Cyrus the Great is attributed to the fact that (unlike most emperors) he wasn't a dick to the citizenry (the opposite in fact).
- This became a kind of tradition among Persian emperors.
- This can play out in any popular uprising against a dictator who ruled through fear, but becomes more hated than respected. Adding specific examples might lead to excessive debating and much natter.
- Avoided with the books written by the titular Niccolň Machiavelli - unlike characters this trope is about, Machiavelli thought that the most important thing is to avoid hatred, and that the most effective way to remain in power is to use both fear and love - like did most of great rulers. The Prince was mostly about means to avoid assassination, all too common in Italian city-states of the time, assuming it was ever meant to be good advice rather than political satire.
- Frederick The Great actually wrote an essay called the Anti-Machiavel shortly before ascending to the throne of Prussia. He quickly had it translated and then spread throughout Europe as fast as he could. Modern speculation goes that he was concerned with the "arm the loyal peasants" portion of The Prince as Prussia was mostly maintained by the rather thorough oppression of the lower classes.
- During World War I the Italian commander-in-chief Luigi Cadorna ruled his troops with harsh discipline, unnecessary punishments, and the threat of being gunned down from the barrier troops if they didn't attack, the only exception being the Carabinieri (military police, who were acting as said barrier troops) and the Third Army (led by the Duke of Aosta, a relative of the king, second in the line of succession and A Father to His Men). When the Austro-Hungarians broke through at the Battle of Caporetto, the soldiers of the Second Army shot their officers, routed the Carabinieri and started retreating, discussing whether to start the revolution then and there or just return home and transforming the defeat in a Curb-Stomp Battle, with the Third Army forced to retreat before being surrounded. To better drive home the point, when Cadorna was replaced with Armando Diaz (a pupil of the Duke of Aosta, and A Father to His Men like him), the soldiers (who during the retreat had also seen Italian civilians running from the invaders) stopped retreating and stopped the invasion cold, while the First Army, that included forces raised from local populations and was supported by enough artillery to realize Cadorna was a Well-Intentioned Extremist (and was less tormented by the Carabinieri for that), resisted.