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I'm not infected, I just want to kill you!
In a world where getting Brainwashed
by evil Applied Phlebotinum
is a common occurence, what's worse than seeing a teammate taken over by The Virus
, subjected to some Demonic Possession
, be Not Himself
or act all Brainwashed and Crazy
Finding out that they're not
actually brainwashed (or crazy); they've genuinely joined The Dark Side
by their own volition, or had a legitimate Freak Out
and their personality is as real as it is new. And you just can't bring them back the same way as you could with anyone else who was
brainwashed, assuming you can bring them back at all
This is often held back as a dramatic (and tragic) reveal after a long montage (or whole episode) of the heroes performing all manner of attempts
to break whatever control the Big Bad
has over this character. The reason it doesn't work? Because the Big Bad
doesn't actually have
any control over them to begin with; they insist they are Not Brainwashed
, and they're right.
There's also the comedy option, where a character, having gone into a seemingly dangerous situation, finds out that it's actually not what it appears, while their allies (who haven't realized it) attempt to rescue them from the "brainwashing."
Having one person out of a million Not Brainwashed
is becoming more and more common. Not so much a subversion
as the natural cycle
of the trope.
Related to More Than Mind Control
. Contrast with Pretend To Be Brainwashed
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Anime and Manga
- In Magical Project S, turns out Pixy Misa wasn't a brainwashed persona, but the repressed aspects of Misao's personality.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta falls under Babidi's Majin control, which brings out the evil of whoever is placed under it and brings them under his control. After Goku tries to get him to snap out of it, Vegeta reveals that he's not truly under Babidi's control; he let himself be affected because he felt he was going soft, and knew Babidi could bring out his evil side and allow him to finally surpass Goku (however, this implies that he is at least partially under Babidi's influence, and when Babidi puts some effort into exercising it Vegeta has to muster a lot of his will to successfully resist it).
- In Bleach, Aizen's Zanpaktou can cast illusions that can fool anyone, if they have ever seen the sword using its power. However, Tousen is blind, thus unable to see the sword. It is then revealed that he joined Aizen of his own will.
- Kaiser in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. He's a champion of a game notorious for causing Split Personalities and Superpowered Evil Sides in players, and his Freak Out and Evil Costume Switch take place during the More Than Mind Control arc, but in his case, he really just snapped after a humiliating loss. He tells his mentor, his best friend, and his brother that when they try to "cure" him by dueling him since Defeat Means Friendship: "There's no darkness inside me. I am not captured by darkness. I just want to know what brings out the power to win!" Originally, he was still a cold, aloof loner, but at least he had a strong sense of respect for his opponent. He gets better
- G Gundam had Domon's mentor, Master Asia, turn against him. Domon didn't give this much thought at first, since he had seen many people become Brainwashed by the Devil Gundam before then, and was mighty displeased to discover that Master Asia was serving the Devil Gundam purely by choice.
- This trope appears in the last story arc of the live-action adaptation Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Queen Beryl, who up until this point has been brainwashing her four lieutenants, resigns herself to certain death and releases Jaedite from her spell, so he can escape. His personality doesn't change at all: he reveals that he's always been her willing servant, and he intends to remain by her side no matter what.
- In InuYasha, Sango's brother Kohaku is brought Back from the Dead with Easy Amnesia to work for Naraku. He kills women and children while under Naraku's influence, but then regains his faculties. His sister's attempts to "break" his brainwashing at this point convince him that the best way to protect her (and make up for what he's done) is to continue working for Naraku in order to find a way to permanently destroy him.
- Hellsing, Battle Butler Walter is seen de-aged and on the side of the Nazi Vampires. When Alucard fights him, everyone assumes that he's been brainwashed. While it's left slightly ambiguous, it's heavily implied that not only was he doing it all of his own free will, but he had also been the cause of various security breaches earlier in the series.
- In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, woobie Alone is chosen as the vessel for Hades and subsequently begins to kill everyone, planning to end all life on Earth. Turns out this has nothing to do with the influence of Hades, as he was never possessed; being chosen as the vessel for Hades simply gave him the power to execute a plan that was his own from the very beginning.
- In Duall Kazuki assumes that Mitsuki Sanada has been hypnotized to fight him since the same thing had happened to Mitsuki Rara earlier. Turns out that she had willingly agreed to help the Rara army so that they would help her and Kazuki return to their own world. Once she realizes how close she came to killing Kazuki and how dumb her choice was she keeps the truth to herself.
- The Teen Titans Judas Contract Arc: Moreso in the comics than the cartoon, Beast Boy/Changeling initially hoped Terra was being brainwashed or manipulated somehow by Deathstroke/Slade before he could accept that her alliance with Slade was completely voluntary. In the cartoon, while she is manipulated by Slade, she is very voluntary about doing his dirty work for him. Having his own traumatic experience with Slade, Robin shares the hope that Slade's forcing her into it, and Terra has to spell it out for him: "I DON'T NEED SAVING! I'm not some sad little girl who's waiting to be rescued! I wanted to be this way! I wanted to go with Slade! I wanted to annihilate you and your pathetic friends!"
- In the 90s, when Colossus abandoned the X-Men for Magneto's Acolytes, his team-mates — specifically Wolverine—wanted to believe that he was under mind-control; Colossus immediately denied it and for a while it was the official explanation that he was not being compelled. Eventually Professor X decided that Colossus had committed this Face-Heel Turn because of an undiagnosed brain injury (he had a huge dent in his head at the time and was trapped in his armored form. This led to an Excalibur issue where Xavier has Colossus's ex-girlfriend trick him into coming back to Earth so they can abduct him, then treats the injury. It was specifically asked by one of the characters, "what do we do if he still wants to go back to the Acolytes after we heal him?" The answer turned out to be "we let him go back" and that's exactly what Colossus did. It was kind of refreshing. He remained an Anti-Villain with the Acolytes for a few years, real-time.
- Not quite brainwashing, but Quicksilver had underwent a Face-Heel Turn (to Well-Intentioned Extremist) during- and served as the Big Bad of-House of M, and followed it up with a lot of, if not outright villainous, morally questionable and inherently selfish actions, such as stealing and unleashing the Terrigen Mists on the Earth in an effort to restore the powers of de-powered mutants. After Secret Invasion, when it emerged that several heroes and villains had been replaced by shape-shifting Skrulls, Quicksilver explained his previous actions by claiming that he has been replaced as well- cue a private moment with his Inhuman daughter, Luna, who points out that she is a Living Lie Detector and tells him she knows he is making it all up, and is guilty as sin.
- The Pony POV Series has this turn out to be the case with Rainbow Dash, who really did take Discord's Sadistic Choice. She only pretended to be Discorded and try to run from the others because Discord just drove Cloudsdale insane when she got there and she could bare to face the others. Applejack eventually finds out and acts as her Secret Keeper for awhile. Eventually, the guilt of it nearly causes her to go nightmare (and in one Alternate Universe, actually do so and become Nightmare Manacle) before the others snap her out of it and calm her down.
- Turns out to be the case with the Valeyard in Dark World. He's not the Discorded Doctor, he's a pure evil regeneration of him. The Doctor was Discorded, however, and Twilight's Memory Spell reverses it, allowing the Doctor to regenerate when they eventually kill off the Valeyard incarnation.
- Inverted with Dark World!Fluttercruel. It turns out she was born Discorded, something not even her father Discord was aware of. When she Body Surfs into Sparkler's body, Sparkler's memories of Derpy break the Discording, causing her to be capable of actually starting to think about whether or not her actions are wrong. She doesn't take this well.
- Double Subverted in that, after her brainwashing is broken, she continues to protect her father.
- In Faith and Doubt, after finding out the same source that turned Luna into NightMare Moon is behind Twilight's new aggressive behavior, the others assume he's brainwashed Twilight. It turns out this is pulled double. Not only is Twilight not brainwashed, neither was Luna. Allowing the eternal night to occur was against Doubt's wishes, and as such he abandoned her just before her battle with Celestia.
- D. Gray-man. Pretty much every Noah!Allen fanfiction in existence.
- Often used to bash the character who believes him to be an example of this trope.
- Or, to make said character appear to be naive or in denial.
- Used to the point that it's slowly becoming cliche.
- In The Rise Of Darth Vulcan, the eponymous character (whose real name is Ted) ends up in Equestria and is empowered by the Alicorn Amulet. After a fight with Rainbow Dash, the Mane 6 see him with the Amulet, and blast him with the Elements of Harmony, thinking he was corrupted. Since he wasn't corrupted, not only do the Elements not work, but he believes that the Mane 6 were trying to brainwash him, which only serves to fuel his anger.
- In The Shadow movie, Lamont Cranston assumes Dr. Reinhardt's assistant, Farley Claymore, has been telepathically controlled into helping Shiwan Khan, until he tries to snap him out of it and Claymore boasts he is helping Khan of his own free will, hoping to be rewarded with power. Given Cranston's earlier life as the vicious drug lord Yin-Ko, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, and really should have considered that possibility.
- In Trader by Charles de Lint, Max Trader has involuntarily swapped bodies with another character. When his teenage neighbor Nia learns this, then sees her mother kissing another woman, she assumes her mother has been swapped too. Not so. Her mother is really a lesbian and just hasn't come out to her yet.
- Multiple examples in Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife series, due to Lakewalker magic having accidental beguilement as a common side effect.
- Fawn is constantly asked if the sorcerous Dag has beguiled her into marrying him, when they are really just in love.
- In Passage, Alder is not beguiled by the rogue Lakewalker.
- In Horizon, a halfbreed Lakewalker beguiles a farmer into loving and marrying her, only to learn that beguilement wears off over time and her husband is staying with her of his own free will.
- Bujold also plays the comedy situation for dramatics in Shards of Honor. Most of Beta Colony believes that Cordelia has been brainwashed by the Barrayarans, when she's really just in love with Admiral Vorkosigan.
- Kyp Durron in the Star Wars Expanded Universe is a rather ambiguous case. While he wasn't "brainwashed", he was certainly influenced mentally by Exar Kun. But it largely worked because Kun was telling Kyp what he wanted to hear, and it's never 100% clear how much was Kun and how much was Kyp. Using a superweapon to blow up the stars of Imperial-controlled systems as revenge for his life of slavery and the death of his family was all Kyp, though, which leads to some heated in-universe debates when other characters, particularly his mentor Luke Skywalker, point-blank refuse to believe he was responsible despite all the available evidence.
- Horribly subverted in World War Z where "Quislings", humans who pretend to be zombies (to the point of literally believing they are zombies) are just so much more zombie chow.
- Ruthlessly exploited in Harry Potter books: Many of villains got off by pretending to be brainwashed (including the Malfoys). Later Harry cannot believe that Stan the bus driver is not under Mind Control when attacking him. (Stan IS surprisingly blank-eyed, and it's not verified one way or the other.)
- Stan was previously a good-natured but pretty slow bus attendant who claimed he would be the next Minister of Magic when he was trying to chat up some Veelas. That said, he seemed very unlikely as Death Eater material, even if he did decide to join. On the other hand, Harry and his friends believed that Cornelius Fudge was under the Imperius Curse which was why he was stubbornly ignoring signs of Voldemort's return (Dumbledore doesn't think this is true though and Fudge later does accept what's going on, so yeah...) There's also debate as to whether or not Umbridge was possessed by the horcrux locket when she wore it. While Harry figured that it would be impossible to tell since she was already so foul, Rowling stated that the locket saw her as a kindred spirit and aided her rather then hindered her.
- Tarra from The Ancestor Cell, at least in Fitz's conception. He thinks she's led on by Kellen, but it's obvious she's leading the rich kids on and is the Man Behind the Man. Her "first name" is Mother, the title of a Faction Paradox agent, a vicious Cult engaging in Temporal Paradoxes and whose goal is to destroy the structure of time itself.
- In The Dresden Files, the Knights of the Blackened Denarius are a group of Fallen Angels that inhabit thirty pieces of silver. If a human picks up one of the coins, they expose themselves to the Fallen's influence. Most of these people are Mind Raped into submission, but a fair few of the coin holders are working with the Fallen on their own free choice, for various reasons.
- In Animorphs the world is being invaded by Puppeteer Parasites, but it's noted that a fair number of the human hosts actually agreed to be infested voluntarily, either because they're quislings or because they were just so depressed and alone that they would join any group that seemed to offer them kindness. Although it's implied even many of the "voluntary" Controllers didn't really know what they were getting themselves into, like Tobias in "Back to Before."
- In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew Diggory and Polly stumble upon a room of very realistic statues, along with a bell. A poem next to the bell challenges anyone who comes to ring it, and notes that if they don't, they'll have to spend the rest of their lives wondering what would have happened. Diggory rings it over Polly's objections, thus waking up the "statue" of the evil Queen Jadis. He tries to play this off like the poem was magic and forced him to do it, but under Aslan's scolding he admits that he was really just curious.
Live Action TV
- A perfect example is Connor in Angel's fourth season. The demon Jasmine has the power to enthrall anyone who sees her; only contact with her blood can break the spell, at which point the victim sees her true, horrific face. Fred is accidentally freed this way, and she manages to free the rest of the cast one by one. But when they try to cure Connor, he betrays them — turns out that due to their blood relation, he's never been under Jasmine's spell. He's just so tired of fighting and being manipulated that he's willing to go along with her Utopia Justifies the Means thing.
- Another episode involved a boy who was apparently being possessed by a demon. When the demon is finally exorcised, he reveals that the boy was already more evil than he was: he was so evil, in fact, that he was not so much possessed by the demon as imprisoning him.
- After Wesley conspired to kidnap the baby Connor (and got his throat cut for his trouble) Angel visited him in hospital. Angel was at pains to stress that he was still Angel (and not the soul-less Angelus) before proceeding to try to smother him with a pillow.
- Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xander freaked out upon seeing a second Xander wandering around, thinking he was an Evil Twin. It turns out it was just Xander had been split into Awesome and More Awesome and it was all him. His better qualities and worse qualities had been split from one another.
- In a series fraught with Evil Twin and Brainwashed and Crazy Power Rangers, Power Rangers S.P.D. chose to break the chain and give us the A-Squad, a team of "elite" Rangers thought to have been lost in space (no pun intended), but had really faked their disappearance to voluntarily join with the Troobian army, believing it'll eventually crush the SPD and wanted to be on "the winning side" when it happened. All well and good...until a Canon Discontinuity in the Disney Adventures follow-up comic reversed it back to Brainwashed and Crazy...
- This Retcon does illustrate how it can often be hard to tell when somebody's really Not Brainwashed: somebody who really has been brainwashed is rather unlikely to say so, after all. If they did it would mean they were brainwashed really poorly.
- This is debatable as at the start of the season before they were captured, one of the B-Squad Rangers notes something is off about the A-Squad.
- On a lighter note, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers plays with this between Zedd and Rita. At first, she used a love potion. Later, Goldar will use a love potion antidote on Zedd. No effect. Goldar concludes to this trope, although it's possible that the antidote worked only on the love potion displayed in this episode, not on the one used fifteen episodes earlier.
- In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Worf and the legendary Klingon warrior Kor find an ancient heirloom which has the power to create a new golden age for the Klingon Empire. As the episode unfolds, they become increasingly at odds with one another over who should be the one to present it to the Empire, and even who gets to carry it. The fans were expecting some kind of silly tech explanation for this behaviour (i.e. that the artefact was brainwashing them), but no - it was just ordinary jealousy and petty macho posturing. Is this trope therefore Truth in Television, do you think?
- In Vampire Diaries, Stefan believes this is why he and Damon fell for Katherine. Damon disagrees, and tells Stefan he knew she was an evil murderous vampire... but did not know she was having sex with Stefan as well as him.
- In 2011, TNA had a lesbian love triangle storyline where Winter used a Love Potion to make Angelina Love dump Velvet Sky and hook up with her instead, while viciously assaulting Velvet. Eventually, Angelina reveals that she's snapped out of it, but loves Winter anyway and genuinely wants to hurt Velvet.
- In Warcraft III most Orcs believed their enslavement to the Burning Legion was forced on them by Gul'dan. Grom revealed that the chieftains had willingly accepted the Legion's offers of power in exchange for serving them, with Grom being the most eager.
- There is also one in World of Warcraft. The players are sent to assassinate Emperor Dagran Thaurissan, the Evil Emperor of the Dark Iron and rescue the captive Princess Moira Bronzebeard. It however turned out that she took a liking to him and the two were Happily Married with a child on the way, much to the player's surprise.
- In the Stonecore, there's a rock giant that you're tasked by Therazane to kill named Ozruk. At first, she sent agents to free him from whatever magic binds him to this Twilight's Hammer dungeon. "No such magic was placed upon him."
- One theory about Garrosh Hellscream's increasing aggression was some form of mind control, but like his father it turned out to be a simple desire for power and conquest with little thought to the consequences.
- In EarthBound, Ness's "friend" Pokey is often seen with brainwashed humans, even claiming to have been brainwashed and subsequently freed following the Happy Happy Village incident. Halfway through the game, he finally just flat out admits that he is actually working for Giygas of his own volition.
- In Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, much of the early plot revolves around surviving members of the "School" on the opposing side trying to "save" one of your pilots from obvious brainwashing. Of course, she's on your side entirely by choice, and they're the ones undergoing brainwashing.
- Kamen Rider Decade; on DiEnd's world it turns out that Junichi is working for the villain and is not under his control as everyone has believed.
- In Suikoden I: The Big Bad of the game has most of the empire's soldiers under her Mind Control, and everyone (including her) thinks she has the king under that power, too. At the very end of the game, though, he reveals that he was never really under her control, and was acting the way he did because he genuinely loved her.
- In Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, this trope was used when Kain - who was repeatedly brainwashed in the first game - insists that he is acting under his own volition when he attacks several of his former allies. It is later discovered that he wasn't brainwashed at all... He was an Enemy Without
- In Mega Man Battle Network 5 a signal that makes people aggresive starts spreading out and the player (immune via Plot Coupon) must shut the signal in each area down, usually meaning he has to fight his teammates first. One of the fights, however (Charlie in Team Protoman, Dusk in Team Colonel) reveals that the character wasn't affected, he just wanted to fight Lan.
- In Xenoblade, while Mumkhar probably was brainwashed (since he was Reforged into a Minion), anything about attacking his former allies and stealing the Monado was redundant. To prove his point, he threatens to kill Fiora a second time, despite the fact that she had been turned into a Face like him, just to torment Dunban.
- In the Assassin's Creed II "Bonfire of the Vanities" DLC, Ezio must assassinate a number of Savonarola's assistants who shout his propaganda from rooftops and high walls. One of them turns out to be a true believer without the influence of the Apple. He laughs at Ezio for thinking that the Apple is the only way to make people believe something.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom has several of Yugi's actual friends brainwashed into enemy roles in the in-universe video game. Bakura attacks under similar circumstances... and turns out to be his evil alter ego. Act surprised.
- Michalis of Fire Emblem Akaneia killed his own father, took the throne of Macedon and ruled as a power-hungry tyrant. When his sister Minerva finds him Not Quite Dead in the sequel, she assumes he was brainwashed by Gharnef. (And since Gharnef brainwashed at least two other characters into being evil, she's right to be suspicious) Turns out he was a case of this trope, Gharnef had in fact used More Than Mind Control, playing on his ambition and desire to improve Macedon's standing in the world. The Face-Heel Turn was completley genuine. Of course, this also means he's able to pull a genuine Heel-Face Turn later.
- This is basically the biggest plot twist of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones if you choose to follow Ephraim's path. Turns out Lyon was never possessed by the Demon King. He simply summoned his soul by using dark magic, drew power from it and then pretended to have been possessed in order to easily control his followers. Of course, at the very end, upon Lyon's defeat, the Demon King's soul does end up truly taking over, and implying that he let Lyon get away with what he was doing because it was good for his plans too. None of this happens if you choose to follow Eirika's path. In this latter version, Lyon really was possessed the whole time.
- In Macross 30 The Voice That Connects The Galaxy, a number of heroic characters are found to be brainwashed to fight for the Big Bad. It's therefore a surprise to see that Shin Kudo is not. He's fighting for the enemy of his own will. His reasons turn out to be because the Big Bad told him what happens to Earth at the end of the Zentraedi War, and he's desperate to prevent that from happening. Understandable that he'd feel this way: he's the only heroic pilot from before the Zentraedi War, and thus the only one who never imagined such a thing could happen, while for everyone else it's simply a fact of history.
- The Dresden Files, when Bob the Skull tries to get Harry to let him out for a night:
Harry Dresden: No way. Last time I let you out, you got into a frat party and started an orgy.
Bob the Skull: I didn't do anything another couple of kegs of beer wouldn't have done!
- The Angry Beavers "Zooing Time": The supposedly brainwashed Norbert is genuinely disappointed at being rescued from a zoo, because he actually likes it, but Daggett thinks that he's saying that because he was brainwashed. (And he's taking responsibility for getting Norb sent to the zoo to begin with.)
- Same goes in Kids Next Door, "Operation: C.O.L.L.E.G.E.", with Nigel participating in snow cone research.
- In the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "HunkaHunka", Lilo's friend Keoni has a crush on Pleakly (in his horrible disguise as a human woman). Lilo, Stitch, and Jumba are quick to blame the Monster of the Week, but no, he actually does have a crush on Pleakly. (For context: Pleakley has green skin, one eye and three legs.)
- On South Park, Henrietta herself believes that she's been brainwashed to turn from a Goth to an Emo (which is totally different!) It turns out to be a prank done by a reality TV show, with Henrietta being suggestible enough to fall for it. Seeing how embarrassed she is, her friends play along with the idea that she really was mind controlled. In the same episode, Firkle turns out to be The Mole rather than even fake-brainwashed, though he wasn't in on the prank either.