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Reformed, but Rejected
"It's not easy to regain trust once you've lost it."

Turning over a new leaf is hard. Especially when no one believes that you're sincere about it, and won't forgive willingly.

This is the companion trope to the Civilian Villain, who pretends to have reformed, but in reality is only biding his time while he plots his latest nefarious scheme. The hero, however, is not fooled. By contrast, the desire of the Reformed, but Rejected character to leave his evil ways in the past is completely genuine — but the hero still refuses to be "fooled."

Unlike The Atoner, this character was usually not overwhelmingly evil; while he may have done bad things, he hasn't gone completely overboard. His sins are more along the lines of "stole some bread" or "robbed a bank", not "destroyed ten inhabited planets and built pyramids of skulls while laughing wildly." Thus, he is generally not of the opinion that he needs to spend the rest of his life and possibly his afterlife as well trying to make up for his misdeeds, and is in fact due some good karma. All he wants is a chance at a normal honest life. It's getting people to give him that chance that presents a problem.

Often the disinclination to believe that a character has truly become good is not limited to just the hero or heroes, but is the reaction of society in general. The reformed character can find this a bitter pill to swallow, particularly if they have "done their time" in prison, or paid their debt to society in some other way, yet find that society is not prepared to let bygones be bygones.

Things get even more frustrating for the character whose bad reputation is completely unearned, because he was wrongly accused, possibly even convicted, perhaps even made to do the time — but he never actually did the crime. Yet he still faces the exact same rejection as the genuine wrongdoer.

In the best case, the reformed (or genuinely innocent) character finds the strength of will to withstand the scorn and derision of the heroes and/or society at large, and is eventually able to prove themselves truly changed (or is able to maintain the good character they never actually lost) despite the enormous pressure. They succeed in making a place for themselves in honest society, however humble that place may be. (They may even realize that their previous attempts were Buy Them Off and, if not spending the rest of their lives atoning, do more to make up for what they did.)

In the worst case, the pressure is too much and the reformed character's resolve falters and fails. He returns to his old bad ways, often ending up in jail again. Or, if he was originally innocent, he may become so bitter that he will decide he has no choice except to become what reputation has made him. He may even become so despairing that he takes his own life rather than live with non-stop contempt and derision. To rub salt in it, the heroes might take this as proof that he really had never changed at all, and in the case of bad writing this will be how the story interprets it.

This character is prone to attracting the attention of an Inspector Javert, who is convinced that "men like you can never change." Javert is likely to hound the character non-stop, hoping to catch him in a criminal act, or possibly even goad him into committing one.

A character who reforms in a particularly unsubtle way and does not face rejection and scorn afterward, but instead finds the heroes welcoming him with open arms and perhaps a nice cake, has undergone Badass Decay.

The greatest danger for a Reformed, but Rejected character, however, is not Inspector Javert, but bad karma. It might be safer to just stay bad.

A subtrope to Rejected Apology. Contrast The Farmer and the Viper, where someone given the opportunity this reformer seeks turns it against his benefactors or Redemption Rejection where a villain is offered a chance to reform only for the villain to refuse. Also contrast with Easily Forgiven where a formerly villainous character is quickly forgiven for any crimes they may have committed as soon as they start helping the good guys. Compare Heel Face Door Slam, where the villain never even gets to start their journey to redemption (or attempts to but is rebuffed because their old actions really were too far beyond the pale for anything resembling a convincing redemption); and Redemption Failure, where they embark on said journey but are turned around by external forces half-way through. See also Villain Ball Magnet. May result from a Third Act Misunderstanding. If the heroes did forgive him, but still give him this sort of treatment, then it's Forgiven But Not Forgotten.

Like any trope dealing with Heel Face Turns, this page is likely to contain spoilers. Tread carefully.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Fairy Tail, cool metal-dragon mage Gajeel gets this treatment at first when the Master lets him into Fairy Tail after his guild of nasty meanies has been destroyed. General incredulity is quelled after he unexpectedly appears in the talent show in a silly Nice Hat with a guitar and sings a heartwarming song about acceptance, but the main characters remain suspicious despite his total adorableness. Subverted in that just around the time the reader starts to like him, he seemingly betrays them, only to turn out to be a Double Agent who was on their side the entire time.
    • Jellal gets the same treatment. It takes a multiple chapters to convince the only person likely to still have any faith in his ability to turn over a new leaf that he's developed amnesia and believes from the bottom of his heart that he needs to help her cause. Granted, once she accepts him he starts to get a little more slack, until the new council says they don't care that he has amnesia and became good or that Nirvana would still be rampaging were it not for his aid and arrests him anyway.
  • In Digimon Adventure 02, even after Ken lost his Digimon and went into an emotional breakdown after he realized what he had done as the Digimon Emperor, most of the kids (mainly Miyako and Iori) were still very wary of his intentions. This was especially true when he used Wormmon to kill a rampaging Thundermon, rather than calming or trapping it. Then they learn in the next episode that the rogue Thundermon was actually created from a Control Spire and they start trusting him more.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Regius Gaiz rejects Hayate in this manner, but this affects Gaiz more than Hayate since everyone who matters accepts her.
    • Auris notes after Hayate suggests correctly, as it turns out that Gaiz has ties to Scaglietti that while Hayate was a criminal 10 years ago, Gaiz has been serving for 40 years, although this seems mainly motivated by her being offended by the accusation. It's indicated at a few points that Hayate works as hard as she does in order to remove the stigma associated with her being at the center of the Book of Darkness incident.
  • Faust VIII from Shaman King went through this too after his Heel-Face Turn, specially in regards to Yoh's friend Manta Oyamada whom Faust had tortured very painfully in the past. A whole episode in the anime was dedicated to him trying to act more human towards Manta and Manta himself being, very understandably, shit scared of Faust. He only gains Manta's trust when, during his/Ryuu/Yoh's fight with some shamans that Manta had befriended a while ago, he refuses to kill their rivals and tells them to live for the sake of their son.
  • One Piece: Hachi, in his original appearance, was one of Arlong's pirates and got his tail kicked by Zoro. When he reappeared later, he was much nicer, but it took a lot of effort on his part to get Nami (who went easy on him but still made it clear that she didn't trust him at all) to forgive him for the things that he'd done. He had to be shot down by humans and claim that this was fair punishment for the things he'd done to Nami, after she realized that the Arlong Pirates had just been mimicking humans all along.
  • During an arc in Pokémon: Best Wishes, Meowth claims to have been fired from Team Rocket, and Pikachu is suspicious of him much longer than the kids. He turns out to have been lying the whole time to buy time for Jessie and James to carry out their plan in Nimbasa City's subway.
  • Habara from Daily Lives of High School Boys had not been the Enfant Terrible-grade The Bully known as Archdemon for eight years and is more a generically sweet girl... except all the teenage boys in town are still too scared of her old self to approach her, let alone ask her out.
  • Gemini Kanon from Saint Seiya.
  • Starscream in Transformers Armada didn't technically pull a Heel-Face Turn, as he mostly joined up so he'd have a chance to kill Megatron (and because Megatron had tried to kill him). Most of the Autobots didn't accept that he could turn good, which is probably what prompted him to switch back.

    Comic Books 
  • Averted in the Batman comics, where the Penguin reforms, and is incredibly famous with celebrities and rich people wanting to hang around those they feel are "dangerous." Recently, he's legitimately gone straight and is making a killing with his chain of nightclubs.
    • Another old comic had Batman opposing the ruling of the parole board and tracking the Penguin mercilessly. But when Batman cracks down on his suspicious-looking business, he discovers (to his chagrin) that the operation was almost legitimate... except for the security, who were fellow ex-cons that the Penguin had hired as a favour, to help them gain employment. Sadly, though, this violation of parole means that the Penguin has to return to prison... but Batman puts in a good word for him this time. (The Penguin's love interest also happens to be a honest woman.)
  • Rogue suffered from this pretty badly when she first joined the X-Men. Professor X had to guilt-trip the team out of quitting when he took her in (Binary, AKA Carol Danvers, attacked her on sight and did storm off) and it took multiple Heroic Sacrifice moments on her part to actually win them over. Moreover, after she had established herself as a loyal member of the team, Dazzler joined up complete with grudge for yet more drama.
    • Carol Danvers was completely justified, considering what Rogue did to her powers and mind. To this day they don't get along.
    • Things went somewhat easier for Magneto as far as the X-Men themselves were concerned (the transition aided by the end of their last battle and multiple Enemy Mine encounters since), but the treatment by the rest of the world in addition to his own instability kept things from sticking (at least, that was/is the official line).
    • Did no one mention Emma Frost? Kitty is unconvinced due to the past between them. Emma takes advantage of this trope by recruiting her to the "Astonishing X-Men" team so that she'll notice she's not really redeemed after all. This doesn't help out the fact that this is Cassandra Nova's doing of manipulating her belief that she can't redeem herself leading to Kitty nearly killing her if it wasn't for Cyclops reminding her this is exactly what Emma wanted. It doesn't take a while in "Giant Size Astonishing X-Men #1" that they have their moment of reconciliation before Kitty sacrifices her life in phasing the Breakworld's bullet through Earth.
  • In the "Tarnished Angel" arc of Kurt Busiek's Astro City, the former supervillain Steeljack emerges from jail tired of the supervillain life and seeking only to put it behind him and live normally. However, the only work offers he gets are for supervillain jobs. When he uncovers evidence of a truly evil plot, he takes what he has learned to the city's superheroes but is repeatedly rejected, scorned, and attacked. After many difficulties, he eventually manages to stop the actual villain, proving himself capable of true heroism in the process. While this does not make him beloved of the city's heroes or citizens, it earns him enough elbow room from them to start building a new life for himself.
  • Watchmen. Rorschach continually harasses dying ex-supervillain Moloch because he's skeptical about Moloch's claims that he's given up crime. However, by that point the two are really the only two people in the world who truly understand each other and Rorschach seems genuinely disturbed by Moloch's death.
  • The Red King was the Big Bad of Planet Hulk, a despotic tyrant who ruled over his entire planet with a level of ferocity and detached cruelty that seemed incalculable to any of his subjects. He was killed and replaced by the Incredible Hulk. However, after the holocaust that destroyed Crown City, his body was discovered by the roaming wildebots of the plains, who gave him new life as a cyborg and gave him perspective on the harshness of his actions as Emperor. His daughter, Princess Omaka, refuses to recognize him as a changed man; this is partially because he killed her mother and her brother and burned her arms off when he was king. Skaar, the son of Hulk, is much more understanding, but possibly only because he wasn't alive to see the horrors he wrought as planetary leader.
  • The entire premise of Thunderbolts 10 - 70-ish is about this trope. After the team has been outed to be (former) supervillains, they instantly seem to end up on the most wanted list. It takes several heroic moments for them to be somewhat accepted (and not even publicly until either Zemo or Osborn takes care of that).
  • A sad form of this one is the original Tinkerer, a former mad scientist who served as Marvel General Villain (mostly the Fantastic Four), over a decade after he gives up villainy he's arrested for violating the Superhuman Registration Act when he uses some of his old toys to stop a robbery. It turns out he was protecting his two grandchildren that he had been taking to get ice cream.
  • Eddie Brock found himself affected by this at times, as whenever he does try to be a hero nobody trusts him and he usually ends up going back to "eat Spider-Man's brain" mode. But when you're renowned for wearing a malevolent alien parasite with a taste for human flesh, that's understandable. He finally gets his recognition in the Spider-Island arc, where he saves all of New York from being turned to spider-monsters.
  • Les Légendaires plays this trope straight (while mixing it with The Atoner) in the Anathos Cycle with Darkhell's daughter Tenebris when she joined the Legendaries. While most of them were at least tolerating her presence, Shimy was convinced keeping her in the group was a major danger, even going as far as scheming with Gryf in order to kill her when the other wouldn't be looking. Granted, considering Tenebris did commit horrible crimes as a villain and the Legendaries had suffered a case of Sixth Ranger Traitor in the previous book, her reserves were founded, but still...
  • After Civil War, Tony Stark had suffered a Heroic BSOD after Happy Hogan and Captain America, both of whom were very good friends of his, died because of his involvement, and tried to make amends to the superhero community he tore in half. While most Pro-Reg members suffered some stigma, Stark was the one most blamed. He ended up returning to Alcoholism and didn't quite get everyone's trust again until he broke his own brain to stop Norman Osborn getting everyone's identity.
  • Journey into Mystery dealt with this. Kid Loki, who was genuinely determined to be good, was universally distrusted and the general assumption was that it was all a scheme. And the assumption was right. But it wasn't Kid Loki's scheme: he was just its victim.

    Film 
  • At the end of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Big Bad Sunset Shimmer sees the error of her ways thanks to the Elements of Harmony, and tries to be a better person. The sequel, Rainbow Rocks, shows that she hasn't been so Easily Forgiven by the rest of the school, getting nasty looks and verbal jabs from the rest of the students except the Humane Six. Even Principal Celestia takes a passive-aggressive shot at her, saying that the Battle of the Bands will be "the most exciting event since the Fall Formal," which causes Sunset to slink down out of embarrassment.
  • Raj from Awaara.
  • The entire plot of Kevin Bacon's character in The Woodsman.
  • Norman Bates. Easily Forgiven by his town, but not by the family of Marion Crane in Psycho II. Lila Crane and her daughter eventually play a huge part in driving him back to mania.
  • In Days Of Wine And Roses, after Joe Clay joins Alcoholics Anonymous, becomes sober and tries to make amends to his father-in-law by offering to pay for the damage he did to his greenhouse. His father-in-law, however, is still very angry with him, not over the greenhouse, but because he was the one that introduced his daugher to alcohol (she never drank until she met Joe), and doesn't seem to want to reform. In his mind, Joe may have been willing to pay for the damages he caused, but the real damage couldn't be fixed.

    Literature 
  • Much of the main plot of Les Misérables is bound up with Jean Valjean's attempts to re-enter society after spending a ridiculous amount of time in prison after stealing a loaf of bread. The original Inspector Javert chases after him every step of the way. Eventually, Valjean is able to prove himself a decent — even heroic — individual, causing Javert to commit suicide because he simply can't deal with this concept.
  • Subverted in The Scarlet Letter. Shunned by the Puritans for her adultery, Hester is forced to bear an "A" on her dress. She continues to dwell near the community out on the outskirts out to bear responsibility for her actions (and wait for her lover). The community later commends Hester for her charity work and resuming kindness in the face of her past sin. Double subverted that Hester does not accept being accepted, loathes the idea that the magistrate consider having her remove her A, and looks to cope with her sin on her own. Considering it has plenty to do with the Defiled Forever trope, that's quite impressive.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jaime "Kingslayer" Lannister is first seen as a true villain who attempts to murder an eight-year-old boy in his very first scene. Through Character Development over the course of the next three books, however, he is revealed as more a deeply bitter and disillusioned man than a truly evil one. An encounter with a female knight, plus a personal tragedy, causes him to start re-evaluating his life and his actions, and he begins to try to reclaim the knightly ideals he abandoned as a teenager. His efforts to this point have been met with nothing but jeers and open disbelief on the part of everyone he meets, and whether or not he will succeed in reforming remains to be seen, but his intentions toward that end are genuine.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • In James Swallow's Deus Sanguinius, the Blood Angels decide at the end to execute all those who had followed Arkio. Some even argued for it for Rafen, who had served as their champion against him. Rafen gets their lives as his reward, though they will be subjected to rites of purification. (Mephiston warns him that many will not survive the rites; Rafen says that they will survive.)
    • In Red Fury, Ajir cannot comprehend how Rafen accepted two of these "penitents" into his company, and when one goes to help him, he bitterly rejects it.
  • Xanth, from The Edge Chronicles is an example of someone who actually was that bad before his Heel-Face Turn, but still isn't accepted by anyone except Rook (The Hero) and Magda. They do form a solid Nakama, however.
  • Happens a lot in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
    • Leia refuses to accept Anakin's Heroic Sacrifice as anything other than ten minutes of contrition that doesn't excuse two decades of atrocities. Almost no one other than Cade Skywalker believes that the Yuuzhan Vong are capable of reform.
    • Although Ben's erstwhile girlfriend Vestara and the rest of the Lost Tribe have done a pretty good job showing us that darksiders can be rational, and are not necessarily always outright Axe Crazy evil villains. Though in true Sith fashion, they will do whatever it takes to get power.
  • In one of the St Clare's books, new girl Mirabel is angry at being sent away to school, so she pulls every prank she can to annoy the teachers and hopes that the other girls will enjoy the pranks... which they don't, since she's simply making a nuisance of herself and holding up the classes (and occasionally gets them all punished). Finally, Mirabel realises what an idiot she was and tells the principal, Ms Theobald, that she intends to turn over a new leaf since she was tired of being silly. Ms Theobald gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that goes, "Oh, I see. You haven't really realised the errors of your ways at all, have you? No, you just got tired of having everyone think you're an idiot, so you've decided to play it nice. I really thought you had something more than this in you, but now I see that you're just a total cow, and you're not worth putting any effort into," in response, and Mirabel never gets to explain what she meant.
  • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files often finds himself in this boat with the White Council. He tries his best to live as an honest, if somewhat unusual, wizard but the Council is constantly watching him for a slip-up. They even term it the " Sword Doom of Damocles"; one more mistake and they'll have him eliminated.
    • He's freed of this at the end of the first book in the series; it's just that most members of the White Council of Wizards still think he's a ticking time bomb. And in Proven Guilty, the eighth book in the series, Harry does come under the Doom of Damocles again, indirectly. He takes an apprentice, Molly Carpenter, who is a warlock in the judgment of the White Council, and she is under the Doom; if she again commits an act of black magic, she dies, and Harry dies with her for failing to keep her on the straight and narrow.
  • From The Bible, Paul of Tarsus spent years persecuting the early Christians, but after a trip to Damascus and a case of divine blindness he was converted to the same beliefs of the people he was having killed. Needless to say, the early church was pretty suspicious of him at the beginning, figuring that he was just trying a ruse to infiltrate the community.
  • In The Guardians of Time Trilogy by Marianne Curley, Marduke's trusted helper, Rochelle, suffers this big-time. Only trusted by Arkarian initially, eventually everybody by Ethan comes around, until the end, where he does too, getting together with her as his soulmate—only to be thwarted immediately by a Heroic Sacrifice on her part, and go momentarily bloodthirsty...only to let it go and decide to let the curse placed on anyone who kills her turn the murderer to stone at sunset. The only solace depressed readers have in the face of this possibly Bittersweet Ending-making even, as the trilogy ends right after it, is that at least they can be together in the heavenly realm after he lives out his mortal life.
  • In Theres A Boy In The Girls Bathroom, Bradley starts off as the most feared bully in the school. After a few sessions with Carla, the school psychologist who is the only person to have faith in him being a good person, Bradley vows to turn over a new leaf and be a better person. Unfortunately, his genuine but clumsy attempts to be kinder to his family and peers were chalked up as either more tricks or sarcasm at first. Fortunately everyone eventually accepts that he really is being a nicer person.
  • Vanessa in Fablehaven is distrusted strongly enough by the main characters, partially for their actions as The Mole and partially because their means of doing so was quite insidious. Thus, when they claim to have changed (at least, when allowed out of their absolutely safe prison), including being genuine friends with one of the characters, no one believes them and most of the crew refuses to take them back. Eventually, they do so out of sheer desperation.
  • In A Clockwork Orange, the sociopathic protagonist Alex is released into society after having been subjected to a treatment which acts as a Restraining Bolt; though still evil at heart, he is incapable of committing violent acts and is therefore considered by the state to be reformed. He is turned away from his parents' house, gets attacked by his former victims and subjected to police brutality, unable to defend himself.

    Live Action TV 
  • This is a recurring theme on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. As in Real Life, sex offenders on the show are often unable to leave their pasts behind, even after serving their time. Detective Eliot Stabler also exhibits distinct Javert-like tendencies toward many of the perps on the show.
  • Cole from Charmed, to the point that he was eventually driven back to The Dark Side by his attempts to get back into the good guys' good graces.
    • Probably didn't help that blasted witches couldn't decide whether they wanted to help him or vanquish him.
  • From the point of view of his fans, good ol' Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer certainly qualifies. Even after his attempts at redemption, he is almost never really trusted by the Scoobies, who continually hound him with abuse and scorn. On the other hand, 120 years of him killing for fun. Plus, when he was originally forced to beg for their help, he spent a lot of time telling them how much he hated them and how he was going to kill them all, first chance he got. The abuse and scorn wasn't exactly one-sided. Even when he started trying to be what Buffy wanted, some of his attempts were... off, and the gang knew quite well that he was motivated by feelings for Buffy rather than a genuine desire for redemption. There's a difference. Even if he was planning not to repeat his past evil actions, he didn't actually feel remorse for them. Speaking pre-Season Seven.
    • Also, there's a lot of confusion about just how responsible vampires are for their actions. When soulless Angel kills Ms. Calendar, it's made arguably clear that Angel wasn't responsible, his evil counterpart Angelus was. This line gets a lot more blurred around Spike, because he doesn't even get a soul until the seventh season, by which point he's insane and being manipulated by the Big Bad anyway, so there's even less reason to trust him.
      • Faith is an interesting case in that she seems to have genuinely reformed post coma, being genuinely nice to Buffy in a dream sequence and telling her how to stop the ascension. However after recovering, Faith being haunted by Buffy coming after her and traumatized by her father figure being killed causes her to Freak Out. Her reaction, to swap bodies with Buffy and act like a complete Jerk Ass, is treated as the worst thing that she had ever done.
      • After Faith gets her own body back she runs to LA, where she goes on a rampage, tortures Wesley, in a bid to be killed by Angel. He instead sees it as a cry for help and tries to put her on the path of redemption, however Buffy is having none of that and comes to town, still holding a grudge and intent on killing her.
    • Andrew in the 7th season possibly fits this trope, though most of the heroes just find him really annoying.
  • The Master in the Doctor Who special The Five Doctors. Though his motives are more for personal gain than any kind of reformation, he does genuinely want to help the various Doctors in their current predicament, but none of them believe him. Ultimately, he decides it's easier just to be a villain.
    • Five did admit his own fault and unlike the other Doctors, he showed remorse for disbelieving the Master on this occasion (of course, it's not like the Doctors had good reason to believe him in the first place).
  • High school student Rick from Degrassi. Had anger issues and pushed his girlfriend into a rock by accident, putting her in a coma. Came back a season later, having undergone anger management, but everyone hated him, to the extent that two students dumped a bucket of paint and feathers on him. Rick snapped, took a gun to school, paralyzed one of the students who bullied him previously, then died after a struggle with another student from his own gun. To be fair the hatred of Rick came mostly from the fact that he abused his girlfriend and started stalking her after she finally broke up with him. He wasn't completely rejected, either; he became friends with Toby, who actually came to his funeral.
    • Spinner, who was one of Rick's main tormentors (though not without reason - his anger was justified, considering that Rick put his friend in a coma.) After coming clean about his involvement in the prank that caused Rick to snap in the first place, he was expelled and spent the next season trying to find his way back into his friends' good graces. Jimmy especially wasn't convinced that Spinner had changed, and it took him longer than anyone to forgive Spinner, but eventually the two did make amends.
  • Gilmore Girls: A romantic rather than villanious version with Jess. He started as Jerk Ass (albeit Jerk with a Heart of Gold) who lied to Luke, flunked high school, ran away and broke Rory's heart. Later he turns his life around, having published a book, paid Luke back for everything and convinced Rory to fix her own situation. Despite this Rory kisses him and then leaves him for Smug Snake Logan who was partly responsible for her current screw ups. Neither Lorelai, Stars Hollow, or anyone who despised him acknowledge his efforts and its implied they still view him as the 'young hoodlum'.
  • Boyd Crowder tries to go straight in the first part of S2 of Justified but Raylon thinks he's faking and other criminals try and get him to help them. Eventually he gives up on trying to reform.
  • The Supernatural episode "Metamorphosis" has an unusual case with the character of Jack. Instead of reforming after evil acts, he has yet to do anything wrong when the boys and the Inspector Javert Travis are planning to, um, accuse him, other then slowly becoming a Rugaru against his will. After the boys tell Jack what's happening to him, he makes a genuine effort to fight it, but said Inspector eventually lures him into feeding by threatening his wife, forcing Sam to take care of him.
  • This forms a large part of the premise of Life, wherein Charlie Crews has been framed for murders he didn't commit, imprisoned for 12 years, and then cleared— but people either still think he did it or think he should just take his settlement money and go away. He's also trying to find out who actually committed the murders.
  • Levchenko (former war scout turned gangster) in the Russian film The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed. Winds up doing a Suicide by Cop combined with Redemption Equals Death
  • Lionel Luthor in Season 4 and the start of Season 5 of Smallville. Eventually everyone gets over it.
  • This happened twice to Heroes villain Sylar. His Face-Heel Turn presumably stuck the second time, though.
  • One Tree Hill: Dan Scott killed his brother Keith and framed it on Jimmy Edwards, because he thought Keith tried to kill him. When Dan found out it was Deb, and a witness told Dan's son Luke that Dan killed Keith, he confessed and went to jail for five years before being released for good behavior. He went on to save his grandson Jamie from Nanny Carrie twice, saved his son Nathan's career from getting destroyed, and eventually dies saving him from Russian Assassins. It wasn't until the last one that people finally forgave him. Except Keith, whose spirit tells him how proud he is of the man he became and guides him to heaven.
  • In Days of Our Lives, the residents of Salem had a really hard time believing Jack Deveraux's Heel-Face Turn after falling in love with Jennifer Horton. It didn't help matters that Jack had been a manipulative, sleazy politician, and that he'd committed marital rape against his ex-wife Kayla.
    • Chelsea Brady ran into this same problem too. It didn't help that she'd accidentally killed her half-brother and then lied about it, and tried everything in her power to break up Bo and Hope (including emotionally manipulating her mom Billie). So when she finally realized the harm she'd caused and then tried to redeem herself by revealing that Claire Kiriakis was actually Shawn's daughter and not Philip's absolutely nobody believed she was doing it out of good-will.
  • Brody in Homeland, after he gets broken by the CIA in season 2. Sure he's working for them now, and he's useful, but that doesn't mean they're going to trust him.
  • Don Draper in the season six finale of Mad Men when he finally hits rock bottom. He's already burned too many bridges to make a difference.
  • In Going Straight, the sequel to Porridge. Fletcher is sincere in his efforts to "go straight", but no one really believes him. Additionally, as a middle-aged ex-convict, he is doomed to a life of low-paid menial work and finds the temptation to commit another crime pervasive. Ultimately averted as at the end of Going Straight, he rejects an offer to take part in a robbery. According to the follow-up mockumentary, Norman Stanley Fletcher: Life Beyond the Box, he stayed out of prison thereafter and ended up running a pub with his childhood sweetheart, before earning a Ł250,000 reward for helping the police recover some stolen jewellery.

    Music 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Possible example, as the plot hasn't finished: Luann has Dirk, a Jerk Ass Jerk Jock Testosterone-poisoned Domestic Abuser who was arrested after beating his girlfriend Toni and now works as a garbage man, coincidentally on the same block as his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend Brad (the title character's older brother). He claims he's found Jesus in jail and he'll be leaving, never to return (Brad thinks he's dying; readers think he might be joining the priesthood or simply changing shifts or moving). Toni's response is to threaten him with a creepy phone call he made and Brad has Luanne's classmate pretend Toni moved. Dirk is not convinced but doesn't retaliate; he even rescues Brad's mom after a bookshelf falls on her, causing Brad's parents to refer to him as a "creepy, evil superhero".

    Video Games 
  • In City of Heroes, Julianne Thompson had trouble getting heroes to support her ideas for improving the world because of her criminal record charges... that had been manufactured against her by a crooked politician she was trying to expose. Obviously, at some point she snapped, because she eventually became Countess Crey, one of the game's nastiest enemies. You can meet an alternate version of Thompson in Another Dimension where Nemesis has taken over; there, free of her criminal background, she's one of the leaders of La Résistance.
  • Ghaleon in Lunar: Eternal Blue is attacked by the hero's party whenever he appears — understandably, since he was the Big Bad in the first game (this was a thousand years ago too, so Ghaleon has become the world's legendary symbol of evil). However, this time he is on the heroes' side from the start, although proving this eventually requires... you-know-what.
    • This is a bit different though, as Ghaleon spends nearly the entire game making sure the heroes think he's really The Dragon to the new Big Bad, while covertly training the heroes to beat said Big Bad. He doesn't actually admit to being reformed until the meaningfully named Hiro figures it out on his own, having realized that Ghaleon had passed up multiple opportunities to kill them.
  • In Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song, one of the short stories Broken Bird Schiele tells your hero takes a particularly cruel twist on this: A reformed pirate raises several children he had orphaned, only to have them take out their revenge after reaching adulthood.
  • In Trauma Team, Maria loudly and violently rejects CR-S01's genuine attempts to make amends for the crime he might have committed, driving him into a Heroic BSOD which he has to be talked out of by the agent who captured him. After this, he does manage to convince Maria of his good intentions, but the initial rejection was pretty harsh.
  • A non-villain example in Luke fon Fabre from Tales of the Abyss. Luke begins the game as a selfish, bratty, extremely naive man-child with few feelings of empathy. After his What Have I Done moment, he spends the rest of the game trying to convince the entire world that he's changed his ways. The above quote comes after Jade shows that he clearly doesn't trust Luke after meeting up with him, and Anise has a similar reaction when meeting with Luke again.
  • This happens for a short time in World of Warcraft if you play a Death Knight. After the prologue area, you are teleported to Stormwind or Ogrimmar, and face lynch mobs demanding your death. Thankfully, speaking with Thrall or Varian provides enough reputation so this isn't too much of an issue for death knight players.
    • Later, in Borean Tundra, Thassarian is sent on a Suicide Mission by General Arlos (who is later revealed to have been brainwashed by a Scourge agent).
    • The Forsaken are undead who managed to break free from the Lich King's control through sheer willpower and simply want the right to exist. The fact that their own brothers and sisters want them destroyed has only made them more bitter toward the living.
    • This is also half the reason for the game's overall storyline; the Alliance understandably has a hard time accepting that the new Horde is ideologically opposed to the one that razed their cities to the ground. The fact that they're still a war-like people doesn't help.
  • After getting over the influences of Soul Edge, Siegfried runs into this quite a few times, most often from vengence-seekers searching for Nightmare, the Azure Knight.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins this is a possible fate for the game's first Big Bad, Teryn Loghain Mac Tir. After being beaten in a duel by the Warden, Loghain surrenders peacefully and seems to express genuine remorse for his past actions. The player is then given the option to either execute him on the spot, or offer him a chance at redemption by allowing him to join the Grey Wardens instead. If allowed to join, Loghain is sincere in his desire to redeem himself and will even be willing to sacrifice his life to kill the Archdemon in the Final Battle. However, for many players (and Alistair, for whom Loghain's betrayal at Ostagar was personal) it was far too little far too late, and many players just cut his head off right there.
  • Definitely how Cyan views Celes in Final Fantasy VI, and despite his outward reactions, there's enough of this going on subconsciously that Locke initially believes it when Kefka spins some story about how Celes was a spy planted among the Returners (she wasn't).
  • Happens to Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights even if the player character personally forgave her. Then it happens again before you meet her in Hordes of the Underdark.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening gives us a rare male Broken Bird in the form of King Gangrel...yes, that Gangrel. Should you recruit him in his Spotpass chapter, the player will discover, via supports and quotes, that he regrets all of the actions that he did for the first part of the game on an incredibly deep level, and he has absolutely nothing left to fight for. The Avatar cuts him a break (moreso if a female Avatar marries him), and he even looks out for Emmeryn, the same woman he wanted dead, if she joins your group. Despite most of his actions being unjustifiable, Chrom is never able to forgive him. And Gangrel is painfully aware of how this is a consequence of his own actions — even when he had a massive Dark and Troubled Past, this is not enough of a reason for him to do the horrible things he did. (And Aversa, the other Atoner of the series, at least did the just-as-bad things she did after being brainwashed and "groomed" by Validar for years, unlike Gangrel who did them out of his own will.)
  • Mass Effect lets you do this to various people. Subverted with Elnora, who puts on a facade of being an air-headed repenter, but in fact displays disturbing sociopathy in her Apocalyptic Log.
    • Most characters...Saren, or The Illusive Man, or even Harbinger or Morinth are people Shepard can at least be civil to. Not so with Gavin Archer: Shepard shows utter disgust that he tortured his autistic brother regardless of alignment, and if s\he sees him in the third game s/he treats him like utter shit.
  • The aversion of this trope is notable in the Sith Warrior story in Star Wars: The Old Republic. After the betrayal of Malavai Quinn (in the beta you could kill him as a result but in the final game you can't kill your companions) there isn't even a hint in the conversations that the player character might not trust him because of those events, which would actually be very understandable.
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect: The protagonist Ronan O'Connor is a Reformed Criminal who became a member of the Salem Police Department; regardless, his fellow officer, Baxter, adamantly refused to see him as anything but another crook.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Trudy in General Protection Fault, who planned on a form of Redemption Equals Death by staying behind in a war-torn dimension under alien attack to allow her counterpart to live in the primary dimension, only for her counterpart to switch places with her and send her home instead after fooling the rest of the cast about her identity. She reluctantly accepts this, and Fooker, one of the few people who knows the truth, is highly suspicious of her, reminding her that he knows her identity and he will take action against her if he feels the need to do so.
    • Averted with Fooker. He suspects that his being (falsely) convicted of the shooting that the "Fookinator" performed will make things more difficult in civilian life despite having the charges cleared, because "exonerations make fewer headlines than convictions." While one of his employers at Regional Telecom (one of Dwayne's friends) briefly questions him about it, no one so far has viewed him as a murderer, and three systems administrators don't believe it, instead suggesting that while he was away, his programming skills deteriorated.
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl has Tess, who all the upperclassmen hate thanks to events that the main cast of the comic didn't witness.

    Web Original 
  • Sahar, at Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. A ruthless psychic who took advantage of every person she could find (male or female, since she's a gorgeous bisexual) who had a psychic ability she could learn to copy. But she fell in love with one of her targets, and never recovered... until she decided to try earning such skills with trades, and found one person who would trust her. Most of the school thinks she's just up to another ruthless scam. She's currently trying to make it up to every person she feels she has wronged over the last couple years, and she's got her loved one back.
    • Phase is also a good example. Formerly one of the heirs to the mutant-hating Goodkind family, the fact that his family has disowned him, stripped him of most of his inheritance, and conducted horrifyingly inhumane experiments on him apparently isn't enough for some students of Whateley, who either refuse to associate with him or are actively hostile. (Fortunately for his stability, there are also plenty with the common sense to realize that the above means he has even more reason to resent the Goodkinds and their policies than most mutants.)
  • Lord Darigan from Neopets is a textbook example of this. Despite being an Obviously Evil Bat out of Hell, he was in fact a Well-Intentioned Extremist who was trying to take back from Meridell and their Jerk Ass ruler, King Skarl. However, even though his side won, their land wasn't restored, and he underwent a Face-Heel Turn out of nowhere. Then, when he returned, he defeated Lord Kass and saved Meridell. You'd think he'd be in the Gallery of Heroes now, right? Nope! He's STILL in the Gallery Of Evil and considered a villain! *WHAP WHAP WHAP*

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender , young proto-terrorist Jet decides to start a new life. He goes to the heroes with an offer of assistance, but is immediately attacked by Katara, who continues to be violent toward him even after he drops his weapons, raises his hands, and swears he wants to help. They continue to be mistrustful toward him despite Living Lie Detector Toph insisting that he is telling the truth. Eventually his good intentions are proven, immediately followed by... guess what.
    • Justified by Jet having proven to be an adept liar, manipulator, charmer, and tale-teller in his first appearance and that the last time the Gaang and Jet interacted he tried to trick Katara and Aang into murdering a whole village of innocent people.
    • Later in the same series, this scenario is repeated almost verbatim with a repentant (though hopelessly tongue-tied) Zuko. See this quote:
      Zuko: Hello, Zuko here. But I guess you... probably already know me. Sort of. Uh, so...the thing is, I have a lot of firebending experience, and I'm considered to be pretty good at it. Well, you've seen me... you know, when I was... attacking you. Uh... yeah. I guess I should apologize for that. B-b-but anyway, I'm good now. I mean, I thought I was good before, but now I realize I was bad. But... anyway... I think... it's time I... joined your group and taught the Avatar firebending. (Pull back to show he's talking to a frog.) "WELL? What's your answer?!"
      Frog: (croak)
      Zuko: ...Yeah. That's what I'd say too. How am I supposed to convince these people I'm on their side?
      • Eventually, he comes to them peacefully, even going so far as to kneel before them in surrender, Katara still attacks him and chases him off, suspicious due to his earlier vulnerable moment. Later, thanks in part again to Toph's truth-telling abilities (though hampered when he accidentally attacks her), he is able to win grudging acceptance. Katara remains unconvinced and swears to dog his footsteps and take bloody vengeance if he screws up even slightly.
      • A few episodes later, she does end up forgiving him.
  • Played with in a two-part episode during the 3rd season of Legend Of Korra. Lin Beifong has a little half sister named Suyin Beifong who's the head of a prosperous metal bending city she founded. However in Lin Beifong's eyes, Suyin is still the little delinquent who committed petty crimes in her youth, until their mother, Toph Beifong, had to retire early as the police chief to avoid an embarrassing scandal. Not to mention Suyin was responsible for her scar, though by accident. After disowning her sister, Lin finds it hard to believe Suyin changed into a good person when they meet again 30 years later. However, by the end of the two-part episode, Lin is able to forgive Suyin after the two have a much needed 'talk'.
  • Happened in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, where The Penguin had come out of jail and finally decided to 'go straight'. Batman refused to believe such thing was possible, and hounded him mercilessly... eventually, he does return to his old ways, after being betrayed by a woman he'd fallen for, and Batman has to bring him down. While remaining subtly convinced that he never really reformed.
    • In the episode "Harley's Holiday", Harley Quinn tried to reform. The chain of events that got her sent back to Arkham started with her panicking after setting off a detector in a department store. The clerk never got a chance to explain that they just forgot to remove the security tag on the dress she just bought.
      Harley: They won't even let me keep my new dress! And I actually paid for it!
      • At the end of the episode, as she is being returned to Arkham, Batman gives her the dress, remarking that he had a bad day too, once. She kisses him on the cheek... then smiles, tosses the dress aside and kisses him full on the lips, a move that has both Robin and Poison Ivy looking on in stunned silence.
    • Batman Beyond had Bruce doing this for a revived Mr. Freeze, while Terry thinks the man has honestly changed. He has, but unfortunately when his treatment starts to wear off and his benefactors betray him, Fries decides that he wasn't meant to have a normal life and goes after them, using a modernized version of his old suit.
  • In CodeLyoko, William's attempt to regain his old status with his friends was met with mostly cold shoulders.
  • Similar to Spike in Buffy, Avalanche in X-Men: Evolution once tried to join the good guys to get closer to Kitty, but Logan and Scott end up blaming him for some recent Joyrides. Justified however, in that Avalanche did everything he could to make them not trust him: He failed two tests on purpose for the sake of annoying Scott/showing off to Kitty, taunted Scott after his car was trashed and though he knew who was joyriding, didn't even try to defend himself from the accusations. Considering the way he always acted towards him, Scott's attitude and mild hazing is understandable and, while often forgotten, he did try to give him a chance at first but was put off by the fact that Lance was still fairly antagonistic towards him, and in he end apologized for acting unfairly. Not like the Brotherhood fans will remember that detail. Still, at least Lance did honestly try to help eventually.
    • Rogue inverted this trope in Evolution, refusing to trust the X-Men for most of season 1 for what she thought was a series of attacks on her. These were staged by Mystique.
  • In The Simpsons, Sideshow Bob, after one of his many stints in prison, has legitimately reformed. However, Bart and Lisa don't believe it (with good reason, given past experience), and when Bob's brother's plot is foiled, they both get taken away to jail.
  • In the WordGirl episode "Tobey Goes Good," Tobey appears to have legitimately reformed but is eventually pushed back to the brink of villainy, confirming Word Girl's belief of his insincerity. He later claims "I hadn't changed into a no-good do-gooder! It doesn't pay to be nice!"
  • Hawkg- er, Shayera Hol went through this a little, especially with Wonder Woman, upon her return in Justice League Unlimited after she had turned out to be The Mole for her people, who in turn, almost destroyed the Earth. WW and Shayera eventually came to see eye to eye, though they never exactly became friends again. In a subversion, though, she is not rejected by the League at large (Superman, Flash, and J'onn (or Batman) vote for letting her stay; GL withholds his vote but it's obvious that he trusts her) but she resigns voluntarily before they can announce the result of their vote.
  • A genuinely reformed Yuck from Yin Yang Yo is suspected by the twins (and only them) of actually being a Civilian Villain... and their harsh treatment of him — up to and including beating him senseless and smashing a statue he'd made dedicated to their new friendship in the processfinally drives him back to evil. Nice Job Breaking It, Javerts!
  • In The Apprentice episode of Xiaolin Showdown, no one but Omi believes that Jack is really on the good side. It's revealed later that he didn't think any of the monks, Omi included, believed he could be good, even though his change was genuine, and he returned to being evil because he was afraid he would fail, as per everyone's expectations.
    • When Chase Young used a Shen Gong Wu to induce Omi into becoming Heylin, Kimiko commented, not knowing the truth about the Wu, that she'd expect Raimundo to betray them (as he had done before in Season One). Raimundo didn't take offense.
  • Viper on Jackie Chan Adventures. In her first episode, she was a superthief who (mistakenly) stole the snake talisman from Jackie, double-crossing him after she discovers its power. After giving it back, she goes legit, working as a consultant for a security company, but whenever Jade calls upon her for help, Jackie always dismisses Viper for being a superthief, always prompting Viper to say "EX-superthief".
    • Twice in the series (once in Season 4 and once in Season 5), Finn, Ratso and Chow got themselves on probation and Jackie refused to believe they were reformed for real. Ironically, it was around the time Jackie really started believing them that they revealed that all it took to revert them back into their criminal ways was a chance to score big.
  • After having been the Big Bad for the first two episodes, a reformed version of Nightmare Moon (now Princess Luna), shows up on Nightmare Night in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's second season's Luna Eclipsed. Seeing how the day she appeared on was all about ponies fearing her old, evil persona, her arrival on a black chariot, and her booming, boisterous, echoing voice that she insists all princesses must speak in for their subjects to listen to them speaking in Spock Speak and Royal "We", everypony is too frightened to even give her a chance. (The way her mood warps weather and her hooves can crack the earth don't help either.)
    • Of course, this is because they LIKE being scared. They haven't seen her ever since her attempt to make eternal night, but at the very least word got out she was reformed. They just figured she knew about the holiday and was having fun with it, and presumably future appearances of Luna will have her treated like royalty.
    • Discord, the Big Bad of the season 2 premiere, is "reformed" by Fluttershy in mid-season-3, yet he spends most of season 4 trying to get everyone else to stop giving him the cold shoulder (especially since his aloof, callous attitude really doesn't help his case).
  • Kovu in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride is a complicated example. He saves Kiara from a fire, but the fire was staged by his siblings and mother so that he would have an excuse to join the Pridelanders. He claims to be a rogue, and to want to join Simba's pride, but is actually joining on behest of Zira so that he can have an opportunity to kill Simba and take his place. However, he starts to genuinely turn good, and Simba starts to trust him. That is, until Kovu unintentionally leads him into a trap. The Outsiders attack Simba and try to get Kovu to do the same, but he refuses. Nuka instead leads the attack, and ends up dying. As a result, Kovu is considered a traitor by both sides and rejected by everyone except Kiara.
  • Family Guy had James Woods terrorize most of the town, especially the Griffin family for several episodes. In the episode "And Then There Were Fewer," James Woods invites the Griffins and many other people to his mansion for a dinner in their honor. He claims that his girlfriend converted him to a Christian and he wants to make amends with everyone that he wronged. Naturally, everyone thinks he is lying. No one ever got to see if James Woods was true to his word since Diane Simmons killed him.
  • Jonsey of 6teen, when the Underground Video store was in trouble!
  • The Mask has an example with Peggy in the pilot episode. Despite the fact that she's no longer working with Tyrell in the movie, Stanley is really quite upset on that one.

    Real Life 
  • This was the case when Frank Abagnale was originally released in that he wasn't trusted by anyone. One of his first jobs after being released from prison was at a supermarket. When he was about to be promoted to assistant manager, the store did a background check and immediately fired him. Fortunately for him, he was able to turn this into a career in that he began consulting as a fraud investigator for local businesses. This ultimately turned into an international business for him.
  • Superstar QB Michael Vick, who was the most despised athlete in the country after he was jailed for two years for illegal dogfighting, in which Vick aided in both running a dogfighting circle and in the deaths of some dogs themselves. After his stint, Vick offered remorse in that he said he grew up in a "Dirty South" culture where it was not seen or understood as wrong and promised to use his experience to educate others in that culture about the inhumanity of dogfighting. Many felt he did not deserve a chance to go back into the NFL. Vick has managed to earn back the good graces of a lot of fans due to his cleaned-up behavior and work with the American Humane Society and his improbable revival of his career, becoming an even better QB than he was before jail. However, there is still a contingent of fans (esp. in Atlanta, where Vick's departure sunk the franchise for a few years) who feel Vick will never change and/or does not deserve his second-chance opportunity.
  • In his Il Principe Niccolo Machiavelli explicitly advocated caution towards former opponents who switched sides because 'someone who betrayed trust of his former allies may as well do the same to you'.
  • After WWII, a lot of people still hate Germans or call them Nazis much to the chagrin of people who were never involved with the atrocities. This is true even if their parents and grandparents weren't involved either. Basically, the whole country is trying to put the past behind them and Germans are still embarrassed if their flag is put on display for whatever reason as WWII resulted from national pride.
  • One could make the case that this trope extends to many a felon who has "served his time" in jail. While they are technically free, they will find themselves ineligible or at the bottom of the resume list for a large number of jobs, since with a large pool of applicants, many companies will first whittle the list down by rejecting all ex-cons before an interview is scheduled. The lack of availability of work prospects drives many back to a life of crime.

Redemption RejectionRejection IndexHeel Face Door Slam
Designated VillainNo One Respects the Spanish InquisitionVillain Ball Magnet
Politically Incorrect HeroQuirky GoodHeel Face Door Slam
Redundant ResearcherAdded Alliterative AppealReformed Rakes
Red Oni, Blue OniCharacterization TropesRelationship Writing Fumble
Redemption Equals AfflictionCynicism TropesHeel Face Door Slam
Reformed But Not TamedHeel Face IndexReformed Criminal

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