Playing the Victim Card
aka: The Victim Card
A character has given a speech about how poor and oppressed he is, that he's a victim of circumstance, and everybody seems to be out to get him. The problem is that the character making all these statements is a villain. This can be played several ways. A Manipulative Bastard will describe a situation to make a third party think that the Manipulative Bastard is a good guy, and the real good guys are mean and evil and out to get him for no good reason. The Jerkass may legitimately believe the grievances - but the audience can usually recognize a pity party over self-inflicted wounds. Whether the other characters believe the crocodile tears also depends on who they are. The naive, ignorant of the current situation, will usually buy it. Characters who were there will know better. When a hoodwinked character realizes that they've been fooled, they will not be happy. On the rare occasion a good guy tries to perform this action, they are usually branded as whiners because Might Makes Right. This may take the form of a Freudian Excuse if the villain legitimately believes what they're saying. See also Wounded Gazelle Gambit. Compare What Is Evil? & Playing Sick. Very often Truth in Television.
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Anime & Manga
- Vandread: During their Kangaroo Court, one of the female pirates says the government is 'playing the victim' when the judge says they are trying to topple the government.
- In the first episode of Darker Than Black, Chiaki discovers that two of her "friends" are Contractor special agents that are hunting her. When she starts running from them, one says that that's not very friendly of her. Given that Contractors are fairly emotionless, this amounts to "just because I'm an emotionless killer doesn't mean I don't have feelings", and thus isn't meant to be taken very seriously.
- Done by Villetta of Code Geass, when she claimed during the final episode that she just wanted somewhere to belong, even though her past was part of the Britannian royal unit and a proud racist. Potentially also when she, alongside Ohgi, testifies against Lelouch on account of Geass leading up to the Black Knights' betrayal, even though she had earlier been keeping surveillance over Lelouch on behalf of Britannia as part of an attempt to keep him from his rebellion alongside the Black Knights, specifically because she couldn't be affected by Geass anymore and may have known more than what she was letting on. Played all too straight with Schneizel that same episode when he claimed he could be under Lelouch's Geass and not know it.
- Also pulled by Yuzuha in the Tenchi Muyo!: Daughter of Darkness movie. Particularly jarring because she does it after cruelly killing her own "daughter", Mayuka, and mocking her friends's grief at her death.
- Used to agitate Medaka in Medaka Box by Kumagawa as after he and Zenkichi appeared to have died after their Student Council battle. However the events that cause their supposed death were due to Zenkichi actions so technically Kumagawa was the victim. Kumagawa made this statement after his powers brought him back though. Also, Zenkicki was brought back by someone else, though he wasn't dead.
- Your average Gundam antagonist faction (usually spaceborne) absolutely loves to play this trope. Nine times out of ten they'll claim the local protagonist (Earth) faction is this tyrannical regime that has pushed them to the breaking pointnote , and that everything the antagonists do in reprisal (up to and including genocide through nukes, poison gas, colony sized BFGs, remote controlled flying blades and motorcycle battleships) is all justified. Also nine times out of ten they'll have a legion of fanboys in RL that will not only agree with all of these claims, but decry the heroes for "daring" to stand against them. Special mention goes to the Principality of Zeon from the original series for not only claiming that they were fighting a war of conquest (as in it involved an Earthside invasion) in the name of "Independence" from Earthnote , but for nobody in-series ever calling them on their BS (much less their invoking this trope) throughout Gundam's thirty plus year long run.
- One of the Star Trek fanfic compilations plays with this with a story where the holographic Ming the Merciless knockoff Dr. Chaotica has been reprogrammed from being a shallow powermonger to a complex "my father never loved me, everyone at school ostracized me" pile of wangst. Paris is infuriated. He wanted to have fun, not worry about motivations.
- Cori Falls's renditions of Terrible Trio Jessie, James and Meowth practically live on this trope. Even after they "go good" they continually describe themselves as "victims of circumstance" to explain away their former lives of crime.
- Caster does a slightly variant of this in Fate Stay Night: Ultimate Master to convince Ben to associate with her: she relates her whole origin story to him, accentuating the victim aspect of her life (which is true), but carefully neglecting some details so he will feel sympathy for her.
- In And Again, Naegi has to deal with this in the first trial he faces: Sayaka acts like he's turned on them and making false accusations, and he struggles to convince the others they're really the murderer without revealing how he knows this.
- In For His Own Sake, Naru uses this tactic when called before the Tokyo University school board to explain why she attacked an innocent man. Specifically, she claims she was acting on instinct because she's so used to defending herself from Keitaro, proceeding to describe him as a shameless pervert who's made her life a living nightmare.
Films — Animated
- Scar tries this in The Lion King after Simba has him on the ropes, blaming the hyenas for leading him astray. It bites him in the ass later. And the rest of his body.
- Ratigan does this in The Great Mouse Detective, lamenting on how, because of Basil, he hasn't had a moment's peace of mind in years. The "insufferable pipsqueak" has ruined his freedom to commit crimes!
Films — Live-Action
- This is Commodus' shtick in Gladiator. If he's not murdering, or ordering people to be murdered, expect him to be whining about how awfully vilified his altruistic self is.
- Regina George pulls this off in Mean Girls when she puts a negative entry in the Burn Book (which she wrote with her friends) about herself and promptly gives it to the principal.
- Willougby of Sense and Sensibility for the second type, trying to justify his behavior with I'm a Man, I Can't Help It, but failing miserably. It might have worked if he had been relating the story to anyone who didn't personally know the people he hurt. The ridiculously rich John Dashwood and his wife also qualify, constantly espousing their apparent poverty to themselves and others to shirk the responsibility of being charitable to John's half-sisters.
- Mrs. Norris of Mansfield Park constantly preaches about all the hard work she does taking care of everyone and all the sacrifices she makes and, like Willoughby, seems to fully believe she's a kind, generous, caring aunt... when she's actually a stingy, vain, pompous, meddling, insufferable know-it-all who spoils one set of nieces and nephews only to make The Unfavorite niece feel more horrible.
- This seems to be a common Jane Austen character — the sociopathic Lady Susan is so sick and tired of people ruining her plots, enlightening others about her lies, and disliking her once they find out how she mentally abuses her daughter and seduces married men. Why can't they just let her manipulate her Unwitting Pawns in peace?
- In A Brother's Price, Keifer Porter was a master of this. We know that Trini thought he was stupid, and she might have told him so, but he managed to pull the "poor me, she provoked me" excuse after knocking her unconscious, chaining her to his bed, and torturing her. He had his eldest wives so wrapped around his little finger that he wasn't punished at all. Fortunately, he died in an explosion before Trini had even recovered from the injuries. His sister Kij got a lot of pity for losing Keifer, her sister Eldest and some mothers in that explosion ... even though her family had placed the bomb there in the first place, and the mothers' death was planned. Eldest and Keifer were accidents, but self-inflicted.
- Satan in Paradise Lost — need we mention the frightening tendency to believe him?
- Cersei Lannister's "confession" to the High Septon in A Song of Ice and Fire is her blaming everyone else for "forcing" her into sin. Not too suprising since she generally blames everyone but herself for all of her problems.
- The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen considers doing this to the Emperor in Dune, thinking "Let him wrong me in that! I could place myself on the throne while still beating my breast over how I'd been wronged"
Live Action TV
- Firefly: Saffron does this to disarm Mal (quite literally) at the end of the episode "Trash". It's strongly implied that she's been carrying that card in her back pocket for a long time—and might even deserve it. Of course, her following actions sort of decrease our sympathy . . .
- In Friends, Phoebe tries using this to get the others to feel bad for her (usually by bringing up her mother's suicide) so she can avoid getting in trouble when she makes a mistake. As the series goes on, they all grow wise to this and refuse to accept it as an excuse for her behavior.
- Oz: The supposed victim? Clayton Hughes. After talking a to inmate Simon Adebisi, a sense of purpose births in Hughes- racial politics. After attempting to kill Governor Devlin, he is sent to the very prison he originally worked at. His defense? He's a political prisoner set up by an unjust system. What happens after that? Well...
- One female serial killer attempted to pull this one in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit by saying that she was raped so many times that she can't remember, but Detective Benson doesn't fall for it. She just makes fun of it by saying "Right, and your mother died, and your dad beat ya".
- Prince Sprocket pulls this on Auric in Power Rangers Zeo to get him to attack the Rangers. Auric realizes he's been had when the Rangers refuse to attack back and tell him they serve under Zordon. Cue Oh, Crap from Sprocket.
- In Jay-Z's song "99 Problems," he relates an incident when he was pulled over, portraying himself as a victim of racial profiling. In the incident in question, however, he was in fact carrying cocaine in a hidden compartment of his car, and only escaped arrest because the drug sniffing K-9 unit was delayed.
- Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Note that most modern critics think Shylock had a point.
- Shylock's famous speech is referenced several times in the film To Be or Not to Be; given that several of the heroic characters are Jewish, the film takes the sympathetic modern interpretation. But at one point, The Quisling argues in a similar manner that "Nazis are people too", and he is definitely not presented as sympathetic.
- Mithos in Tales of Symphonia, especially at the end of the game, right before the Final Boss. Admittedly, his life had been pretty rough, what with his not-quite-dead sister Martel and the racism of people towards half-elves. But, as Zelos says, it doesn't even come close to justifying all the things Mithos has done to save Martel and free the world of oppression, which includes forcing humans to work as slaves into research that would allow him to turn everyone into lifeless beings.
- Xemnas in Kingdom Hearts II laments how he and the rest of Organization XIII had no other choice than to take the actions they did, but Sora, of all people, says otherwise, and Xemnas drops the act and admits the truth.
- In fact Xemnas knows that Nobodies can grow new hearts over time but lied to the other members of Organization XIII as a means to manipulate them.
- It doesn't help his case that most of the other Organization members were turned into nobodies against their will — by Xemnas (or rather, Xehanort) himself!
- Dr. Wily at the end of most Mega Man games.
- The PC's love interest has this played on them in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal Of course, it's done by an undead monster to set up a rather brutal ambush.
- Mikan in Super Dangan Ronpa 2 legitimately thinks that she is a victim, and that nobody will "forgive her existence". This attitude causes the characters to hesitate in a trial when they start finding out that evidence seems to point to her as the culprit, as she has been kind to them and nursed some of them back to health previously. This is a complicated example, as Mikan has been the victim of a lifetime of unjustified abuse at the hands of her peers; this trope comes into play when she uses this past to justify murdering two people.
- A recurring trick for Gaea from Noob. The most frequent form is putting on trademark Puppy-Dog Eyes while telling a sob story that is a Metaphorically True version of reality on a good day. Even people that have spent enough time around her to know better get this treatment, with a response along the lines of "Where did you get the idea that I was such a horrible person ?".
- Megatron in Transformers Animated probably really does think that the Decepticons have been treated unfairly, having been driven from their home like common insects by the Autobots and gives a speech along these lines to turn the Constructicons.
- To be fair to him though, it seems this idea that Decepticons are the victim isn't entirely unfounded, what with Anti-Decepticon paranoia, no Decepticons allowed on Cybertron, and the fact that most of the Autobots are afraid of organic life.
- Cartman does this all the freaking time on South Park. Like when he actually convinced himself that he, rather than Jimmy, invented the "Fishsticks Joke", and proceeded to get mad at Jimmy for trying to claim credit.
- Another example- After making fun of Wendy's breast cancer class report, Cartman went crying to Wendy's parents to keep her from beating the snot out of him. After that he kept it up and got the snot beaten out of him anyway.
- Lex Luthor fits the first type in one Justice League episode where he convinces the Amazo android that he is a victim of a vigilante Justice League- and elicits the android's help, at least temporarily, in bringing the League down. Later, in Justice League Unlimited, he refines his arguments (claiming that though he has made mistakes, they were in pursuance of checking the dangerous power of an out-of-control Justice League) to great success for his presidential campaign.
- The Protester from Legend Of Korra enjoys goading benders, and when they are about to beat him up always shouts about how the benders are oppressing him and other non-benders. He does this at least once when Korra was about to beat him up so he'd tell her and Mako where Bolin might be after he was kidnapped by Chi-Blockers; but he's probably done it more than once
- Of special note is that he is a noted Attention Whore by the creative staff and this is just his latest attempt. So we have no idea how many times he has played the victim card.