"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. ...Achieving power through positive emotions such as love is preferable to using negative emotions such as fear. Worlds that operate on this philosophy often see fear-using villains fail to inspire any loyalty in their subjects, or at the very least inspire inept loyalty because fear is not a good motivating force. Bands of heroes are generally held together by The Power of Friendship, Love, 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. While we're on the subject, it's also worth noting that some scholars think The Prince was a satire of dictatorship since everything else he wrote directly contradicts The Prince — in other words, Machiavelli Was Joking. The misunderstandings are 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." 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.
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."
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."
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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 Pokémon cruelly, while good trainers treat them well.
- The most extreme example was the Iron Masked Marauder. He was so abusive to his Pokémon, 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 Pokémon. In turn, most of them are extremely loyal to them, even refusing to abandon them when they try to evacuate or release them.
- 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). That was what Marines were originally meant for in real life: they served aboard naval vessels and kept the crew from mutiny and desertion. With, like, guns and stuff. (And for Boarding Actions, but that's less important here.) However, it should be noted that in said battle, the power difference between the rank and file soldiers and the pirates they were fighting is like the difference between a farmer and a Greek God. The soldiers were not useful even as Cannon Fodder, so there's no reason to even have them on the battlefield in the first place unless you're trying to kill them.
- Subverted. Red Shirt-s Marines are good for facing non-special threats (like Devil fruit or Haki user) i.e. Brooks' late crew and pacifying where they are stationed i.e. post-Morgan Shells Town. Some Marines' officers use fear, some use love and some use both and some use respect but discipline is mostly still there. Worth noted that pirates and Marines join by their own free will, so there is no reason denying respect to your subordinate while they respect their superior.
- 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.
- Mob Psycho 100, Shigeo Kageyama is a 14 year old boy with psychic powers. He chooses not to hurt others with his psychic powers even his enemies, because it is against his morals. He tries to win a battle with another enemy rationally until he gets pressurized to aggression, but that is rare for him. In battle, the emotions he displays at 100% are mostly positive emotions, like confidence, gratitude, friendship and trust.
- A Brighter Dark: Played straight to the detriment of Ryoma, who tries to use force to keep the self-indulgent and prideful lords under his command in line long enough to win the war against nohr. This comes back to hurt him when 12 of them band together and declare their independence, their total armies out-numbering his own, thus removing his power over them.
- Star Wars uses this as one of the many contrasts between the rebellion and the Empire. In fact, ruling by fear seems to have been codified into Imperial policy as of the construction of the first Death Star:
General Tagge: How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?
Grand Moff Tarkin: The regional governors will now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.
- It's called the Tarkin Doctrine: "Rule through the fear of force, rather than force itself."
- Leia invokes this trope just before Alderaan is destroyed:
The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
- The kicker? The destruction of Alderaan, a pacifist Core World known for artisans and philosophers, probably sealed the Empire's doom. Anger over the atrocity sent a lot of neutral worlds over to the Rebel Alliance. Nascent rebellions on other worlds, instead of being cowed into fear, figured "Screw it, if we're dead anyway, might as well die for a reason!" The fragmented rebellion now had an atrocity to rally behind and unite them, and a ton of pissed off Alderaanian expats signed up, looking to avenge their lost world and families. Nice Job Breaking It, Tarkin!
- Even better; one of those Alderaanians was the head gunner of the Death Star's main weapon.
- In this case, it's a subversion of an invocation. The Empire has the trope written into their laws, but the Empire fell, so it's a subversion. However, Machiavelli's real statement was right, fear of the Death Star might've worked, except it was destroyed, so the fear of the weapon turned to hate about the atrocity, and "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" (or if you prefer, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering"). This perfectly describes how this starts to bite the Empire in the rear, and this leads to a parallel 2 episodes later, before the DS 1, they have a few squadrons of fighters opposing them, when they try to rebuild the Death Star a few years later in episode 6 they find an armada waiting.
- In 101 Dalmatians, Horace and Jasper are reluctant to kidnap and then kill the puppies, and are always asking to get their pay and be done with it, but they cower in fear at the sight of Cruella de Vil (and who could blame them) and go about their grim business. They don't exactly turn against her at the end, but as Cruella rages at her defeat, they dismiss her with an "Aw, shut up!"
- In A Bronx Tale, the question "Is it better to be loved or feared?" is openly discussed between the young protagonist C and his mobster mentor Sonny. Sonny had read Machiavelli during a stint in jail and is well aware that the key thing is to not be hated... Unfortunately for Sonny, killing people tends to lead to their kin developing a hatred for the murderer.
- In the 2010 Alice in Wonderland (2010) the Red Queen debates the question of whether it is better to be feared or loved. She ultimately decides on fear, because love can be used against her. It turns out badly for her, however, because no sooner is the Jabberwock slain and she loses the one thing that lets her cause fear, her entire army refuses to support her any longer.
- In Iron Man, during his demonstration of the Jericho missile, Tony Stark asks whether it is better to be feared or respected, answering his hypothetical question with, "I say, what's wrong with both?" Later, after he escape the Ten Rings with his prototype Iron Man armor (and realizes that his own weapons were being sold to America's enemies), he takes the side of "respect" and makes plans to steer Stark Industries away from the arms business.
- On Halloween, fear is a very common emotion, so much so that the citizens of Halloween Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas dedicate themselves to a simple creed; be scary. For the most part, they are all pretty benign, but when they try and understand something as alien as Christmas, they all completely miss the point and think that Christmas is about the same thing as Halloween. Jack has to say it in a manner that they can understand, and eventually helps Jack make an unnerving Halloweenie-Christmas. Let's just say that it... doesn't go well...
- This quite aptly describes the difference between Vito and Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Vito built his criminal empire with an equal mixture of fear and respect, Michael doesn't quite seem to grasp that fear isn't all a Don needs and ends up in ruins.
- The core message of X-Men: Apocalypse is that ruling through love (as represented by Professor X) is more effective than ruling through fear (as personified by Apocalypse) because the former inspires loyalty while the latter encourages betrayal. The X-Men win the Final Battle because they're united, unlike Apocalypse, who has no one on his side in the end. This even forms the basis of Charles' Badass Boast when Apocalypse is about to "crush" his mind.
Xavier: You will never win.
Apocalypse: And why is that?
Xavier: Because you're alone, and I am NOT!
- A big part of why villains in A Practical Guide To Evil tend to fail. Not only do hated oppressors have a harder time governing, they produce stronger and more numerous Named opponents. While Black is a brilliant tactician and Malicia is an equally brilliant politician, the real reason that they have done as well as they have is because they have worked to improve quality of life rather than just intimidate their followers through force of arms.
- Made blatantly obvious in Harry Potter, and the contrast between Harry and Voldemort. Voldemort also suffers the adverse effects of this.
- A more subtle, yet direct example, would be the Malfoy family, particularly Narcissa, who betrays Voldemort to save her son.
- Played With in Discworld:
- Lord Havelock Vetinari acknowledges that you don't have to be feared or loved... just irreplaceable. Although anyone claiming to be unafraid of him is either lying, insane or Captain Carrot.
- Several villains show that Vetinari Job Security isn't foolproof either: occasionally the ruler will be presented with an adversary who is too stupid to be afraid of him and too stupid to understand the consequences that getting rid of him would have. It is mentioned in Feet of Clay that no one sane has ever tried to kill Vetinari, but a lot of people have tried and keep trying.
- Extensively examined but never explicitly mentioned in The Bartimaeus Trilogy in the relationship between Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, and the contrast between it and the relationship Bartimaeus had with his former master Ptolemy.
- Also near the end their relationship improves significantly, mostly because Nathaniel starts treating him with the respect Bartimaeus deserves. He even compares Nathan to Ptolemy near the end.
- In fact, in the end, Nathaniel sacrifices himself to save Bartimaeus, something unthinkable for most magicians.
- In The Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Leroux's novel, at least), Christine has to choose between Erik, who loves her but uses fear to control her, and Raoul. Love proves a stronger motivator than fear... which means Erik simply has to resort to the Scarpia Ultimatum...
- The musical version emphasizes the differences between Christine's suitors. Compare "Music of the Night", sung by the Phantom, where love is dark and controlling, to Raoul's love song "All I Ask of You", where love is bright and liberating.
- This is actually averted by The Prince itself, especially if one subscribes to the school of thought that sees the work as a scathing satire against monarchical societies masquerading as a guide on how they should be run.
- In Frankenstein, the creature only becomes monstrous after trying unsuccessfully to find someone who will love him.
"If I cannot inspire love I will cause fear"
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Grand Admiral Thrawn understands the distinction, but also adds to it the difference between fear and respect. He doesn't execute underlings for failings that are not their fault; he's lethally stern but not murderous, and he commands his men more through respect than either fear or love. That said, he also is entirely willing to use terror tactics against the Nogrhi, and uses mind control on his own men without remorse.
- Played With in Dune: the Harkonnens clearly ruled Arrakis through fear and Duke Leto capitalized on that by portraying himself as a far kinder ruler to gain the people's love and adoration. Not that it did him any good when his popularity aroused the other Houses' jealousy and the Harkonnens invaded and re-captured the planet. And the Baron's Batman Gambit to pacify the populace of Arrakis after recapturing it—letting his least favorite nephew Rabban rule Arrakis as cruel despot, so that his favorite Feyd would be more welcomed when he takes over—was straight out of The Prince, and might have worked had Paul not provoked the Fremen into going on a Jihad.
- British statesman Lord Chesterfield wrote in Letters to His Son: "a private man who can hurt but few, though he can please many, must endeavor to be loved, for he cannot be feared in general." - "But this truth from long experience I assert, that he who has the most friends and the fewest enemies, is the strongest; will rise the highest with the least envy; and fall, if he does fall, the gentlest, and the most pitied." (letter 181 and 184)
- A Song of Ice and Fire has the Lannisters, who rule primarily by fear, and whom the smallfolk despise. On the other hand, they completely adore the Tyrells, with Margaery at the forefront, who spend time with them, hand out food donations and the like. Sansa also comes to this conclusion after spending time with paranoid queen mother Cersei.
Sansa: If I am ever queen, I will make them love me.
- Then there are the various Northern Houses, who love their liege lords the Starks. They loved the Stark family so such that they, lord and commoner alike, are prepared to march through blizzards or bone-chilling cold in a state of near starvation, or keep on fighting even when all hope is faded, for the sake of the Starks. Even after being usurped by the Boltons, the North would not bend the knee to them, and House Manderly* are conspiring against the Boltons to bring the Starks back as liege lords.
- In Wings of Fire, adult dragons around the main characters are always telling them that dragons have no empathy, especially for other tribes. The dragonets themselves don't follow this, and it leads to them being able to escape from their guardian Kestrel by working together, something she never accounted for. This is also shown in terms of the queens — Burn loses support in the civil war quickly despite being the presumed rightful heir with the largest initial base of support, while Blaze and Glacier's side have no trouble gaining loyal supporters despite their respective flaws.
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.
- Proved by Captain Sobel who is clearly not loved, but made himself more hated than feared, which Machiavelli warned against.
- 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.
- Game of Thrones: This seems to be the general ethos of House Tyrell. Loras thinks Renly would make a good king because the smallfolk like him and he would rule through love and respect rather than through strength and fear, and Margaery tries this in Season 3 with the people of King's Landing by being kind and generous to the poor, causing them to adore her. This makes them a foil to the Lannisters, who are utterly ruthless and will trample over anybody if it meant getting more power for the family, and the Tyrells are quickly growing powerful enough to rival them. By Season 4 they marry into the royal family.
- In Warhammer 40,000, Konrad Curze's philosophy was that terror was the only way to create order and peace, and practiced it on his own homeworld by leaving the disembowelled corpses of gang bosses and corrupt nobles on display. Much to his regret, as soon as he was no longer around to dismember rapists and murderers, Nostramo slipped back into the same Wretched Hive he had fought against. Meanwhile, the Ultramarines under Roboute Guilliman, who wished to be respected and showed their people respect in turn, built a thriving kingdom of proud but good-hearted citizens.
Kurze: There was no other way.
Sevatar: Oh? What other ways did you try?
- 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. In fact, Machiavelli implies that the subject of The Prince is actually Ezio, not Cesare, and exemplifies its true message: while the Borgias are hated tyrants, Ezio is feared and loved by the people of Rome, and welcomes every Assassin recruit with the statement, "The liberation of Rome has begun."
- 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 Pokémon'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 Transformers Prime prequel Transformers: War for Cybertron, Sentinel Prime, Optimus Prime's direct predecessor, is a cold, harsh leader who dismisses Megatron's revolt as insignificant and thinks nothing of throwing troops at the Decepticons despite heavy losses. As a result, Autobot forces will break and run fairly often. In the sequel Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Optimus Prime's A Father to His Men tendencies inspire them to fight to the death for him, some troops even wanting desperately to go back into the fight despite grievous wounds.
- Ironically, despite being a rather Bad Boss (his first cutscene involves him blasting a soldier who questioned him), the Decepticons genuinely admire Megatron for being the sort of leader who will march at the head of his troops into battle.
- Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising Tide has two Relationship Values between other civilizations and yours, Fear and Respect. Respect is gained by doing things the other civilization likes, such as keeping your populace healthy or having a strong trade network, while Fear is gained by having a stronger military and encroaching on the other's territory. A sufficiently high value of either is needed to establish a cooperation agreement or alliance, but a civilization constantly pushed to high Fear levels will eventually snap and declare war.
- In Worm, Skitter's entire approach is based on this trope. She outright tells Charlotte that she doesn't want to be that type of bad guy, and almost all those she recruits are attracted by her unfailing determination to fight for them. (That said, she is, in fact, a living embodiment of "both feared and loved".)
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Azula believes "fear is the only reliable way" to control people, and it always works for her. Then Mai turns around and betrays her because she loves Zuko. Ten seconds later, Ty Lee also betrays her to save Mai from Azula's retribution. Azula considered both Mai and Ty Lee to be her "best friends" (read: the ones most under her control), and their betrayal out of love for others leads directly to her Villainous Breakdown.
Azula: The thing I don't understand is why? Why would you do it? You know the consequences.
Mai: I guess you just don't know people as well as you think you do. You miscalculated. I love Zuko more than I fear you.
Azula: No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!
- Somewhat of a subtle overtone in Beast Wars. While The Power of Love is a huge part of why the Predacon Black Arachnia eventually defects to the heroic Maximals, another major reason was the fact that Megatron (despite being a Magnificent Bastard) is a firm believer in keeping his troops in line through fear. For someone as free-spirited as Black Arachnia, Megatron's desire for absolute control chafed.
- In The Transformers: The Movie: The Autobots show concern, and reverence for Optimus Prime even in his dying moments when he’s a liability to them. This is contrasted with Megatron who when wounded, has to beg his second in command Soundwave just not to leave him behind. When his Decepticon minions realize they could jettison the wounded on AstroTrain to make it go faster, Megatron is Thrown Out the Airlock despite his pleas, no one lifting a finger to help him.
- Transformers Prime plays with this; Megatron's violent insanity and callous disregard for the lives of his own men means he maintains command of the Decepticons almost entirely through fear and Soundwave. However, the problems in this are rife, as the Starscream is only the most prominent The Starscream in his crew; if Soundwave wasn't around or didn't intervene on Megatron's behalf, the rest of the Decepticons would turn on Megatron in an instant if he were ever incapacitated.
- That said, many Decepticons (such as Skyquake and Shockwave) remain loyal to Megatron even after long absences.
- In Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, Eddy tries to "rule" the cul-de-sac with respect, but on occasion he's resorted to fear (see: the episode where he lies and tells everyone that his brother's coming home). It doesn't really work because everyone knows he's a greedy Jerkass, which results in his (as well as the other Eds) being the local punching bags. Eddy's brother is much more successful at this, as shown in the previously mentioned episode, though he's an astronomical Jerkass far beyond anything Eddy ever did. This trope kicks in in the Grand Finale when the kids see how badly Eddy's brother treats him, as well as Eddy apologizing for acting like a jerk, which finally wins him the respect of the other children and sees his brother getting some well-deserved comeuppance.
- Inverted in the "Justice Lords" episodes of Justice League. In the alternate world where the Flash died and the Justice League became an authoritarian force, the populace were in fear of the Justice Lords. Even Hawkgirl brings up the fact that nobody seemed to like them anymore. However, while the world is not exactly paradise, the Justice Lords do have things under control much better than the Justice League. In the end, they are defeated when one of their own, Justice Lord Batman betrays them because they rule through fear and tyranny.
- Star Wars Rebels has Rex, a veteran of the Clone Wars from Star Wars: The Clone Wars dismiss the Stormtroopers as inferior to the Clone Troopers of his era. A big part of that is the fact that the Clones were taught to fight and support each other in battle, while episodes of Rebels establish that Stormtroopers are specifically trained to only care for themselves.
- 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.
- Stalin in the Soviet Union in real life actually pulled this off perfectly, being simultaneously adored via his cult of personality while terrifying those who wielded power under him. Many people executed during the Terror died with Stalin's name on their lips, professing their loyalty (either in the belief this might save them, or in denial that Stalin was actually responsible). Molotov, Stalin's second-in-command who likely was soon to be purged himself (and he knew it), nonetheless wept at Stalin's deathbed.
- There is however a story that indicates it may have backfired on him ultimately: his aides and staff were so scared of earning his ire, nobody was willing to go "wake him up" when he was oversleeping by hours and hours one day. Turns out he had suffered a stroke, one that may not have been fatal if it were caught sooner.
- The success of Cyrus the Great is attributed to the fact that (unlike most emperors, especially the Assyrians whom he conquered) 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 most great rulers did. 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.