Smiting Evil Feels Good

Judge Chavez: Salvador, for the murders of the men known as Bluntcrack, Craw, Friday, and Spitstain, you will now be hanged by the neck until dead. Have you last words in your defence?
Salvador: They were bandits! They tried to kill mi abuela!
Judge Chavez: Yes, yes, yes. You have attempted to convince your fellow villagers of this many times. Anything else to say regarding the murder of these men?
Salvador: Uh... it was fun?
Judge Chavez: [disgusted] Come again? Killing those men was fun?
Salvador: Killing bad guys is always fun!

Sometimes Evil Feels Good. Sometimes Good Feels Good. And then there's this strange thing in the middle, where good people feel good when they hurt evil: Smiting Evil Feels Good.

This is a hero who feels enjoyment, elation, and great satisfaction, when they kill or beat up the bad guys. They may be otherwise strictly moral, well-intentioned, and selfless, but when they've decided you're better off dead than alive, they'll kill you with a smile on their face, and may even take additional satisfaction in ending you in sadistic ways. They're not a Blood Knight, though; they never lose track of their purpose, and they don't seek villain-killing on their own, they just enjoy it when it happens.

Some heroes tend to break down when they find themselves doing this or when someone else points this out, especially if they feel it somehow implies that their motivation is not high righteousness, but base blood-lust. It's in fact a very common topic of Not So Different speeches.

How can one be good if one enjoys doing evil? Is it okay to enjoy hurting others? Is it degrading? Is all the heroing just an excuse to get one's kicks in a socially acceptable manner? Am I really Not So Different from that villain? Am I a self-righteous hypocrite? Does it matter?

Other heroes decide that what matters is that the outcome of their actions is globally good, or that the methods they follow are virtuous, and leave it to others to worry about introspective stuff like motivations and hypocrisy and so on.

Fairly common in the Action Hero, especially in the Eighties. If they've dropped a Bond One-Liner, even with a straight face, you know they fit here. See also Serial-Killer Killer; Wife-Basher Basher. Sub-Trope of Blood Knight though not all blood knights limit themselves to "smiting" only evil people, and In Harm's Way for those who merely like the feeling of being in constant danger.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, protagonist Eren Jaeger hates Titans to such an extreme that he dons a Slasher Smile on his face while slaughtering them in Titan form. Ironically, though, it's revealed that the only difference between shifters like himself and ordinary Titans is that he hasn't been absorbed into his Titan, but overusing his power, or becoming too lost to bloodlust, will cause the absorption to start.
  • Saeko Busujima of High School Of The Dead is a sadist who gets off on killing zombies and when young, enjoyed nearly killing a would-be rapist.
  • Dragon Ball: During the original series, Goku really enjoyed beating up and even killing the bad guys. This can be seen when he mercilessly beats up Mercenary Tao for killing Bora, chases down Officer Black when he was retreating, beats Tambourine senseless, stops just short of killing him just to drag out his pain, and then vaporizes him as he tries to flee, and smiles he beats on King Piccolo; in the dub, King Piccolo even states that he and Goku both delight in causing pain to their enemies. He gets over this trait from the Piccolo Jr. Saga onwards, showing mercy and even sympathy to his enemies.
  • One would suspect Kenshiro, Hero Protagonist of Fist of the North Star, of having traces of this. While he's The Stoic and will never smile at a villain, he goes out of his way to murder them in gruesome ways, and delays the effect for maximum despair on their part, or to allow them to showcase their arrogance and foolishness to the last extremity. All this, when he could easily instakill them in one touch. They are, however, as deserving as that treatment as a human can be; the entire principle behind the manga seems to be "show people be gruesome, sadistic monsters unfit to be alive, then have Kenshiro execute them for the catharsis of the audience, who have their cruelty thus satisfied in a guilt-free manner."
  • Though it crosses over with Blood Knight, Shinya Kogami of Psycho-Pass enjoys killing criminals despite being a Nice Guy off duty. This behaviour comes from a Despair Event Horizon due to Makishima killing his partner in the backstory and it drives Shinya to kill Makishima for revenge at the end of the first season, despite the fact that doing so makes him a fugitive from the Sibyl System.

    Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, Hooded Justice went through a Heroic B.S.O.D. when another taunted him that he hadn't joined up so much for fighting crime as just having a legal excuse to beat the crap out of people. Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre take great enjoyment in heroics, but it's unclear whether "beating up the bad guys" is what thrills them, or just the danger. Rorschach acts like it's his moral obligation to make bad guys suffer, but it's unclear whether he derives pleasure from it besides the satisfaction of accomplished duty. As for the Comedian, he takes this trope so far that he crossed the "not actually a good guy anymore" line.
  • In Sin City, both Dwight and Marv, in their respective stories, talk about how good it feels to torture and kill bad guys. As one might expect, these guys tend very much toward Anti-Heroes.
  • Hunter S. Thompson Fictional Counterpart Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan is a shameless sadist who gets off on seeing people humiliated. Luckily, he lives in a world run and populated by lots and lots of lying, scheming bastards who don't give a damn about the Truth. So he gets lots of opportunities to justifiably ruin people's lives with his articles. Including the god-damned President of the United States!
  • One interpretation of John Constantine's motivation; he constantly rails against the injustices of the world, blaming those that rule it - the rich, the powerful, even God Himself. Some of his acquaintances believe he's not a champion of the oppressed so much as an adrenaline junkie who uses powerful and amoral opponents as a source of schadenfreude.
    Clarice: Sticking your hand in something nasty, getting good and pissed off, getting the blood flowing—vintage John Constantine.

    Fan Works 
  • In Fallout: Equestria, Littlepip, the protagonist, has an unfortunate violent streak when it comes to people who morally outrage her. If you're a serial rapist slaver Torture Technician, she will enjoy pumping shotgun pellets up your fleeing arse.
  • Just An Unorthodox Thief seems to be working on an inversion with respect to Kirei Kotomine. Since summoning the Assassin who was known as Lupin the Third, Lupin has been talking to Kirei about how he has fun being more important than why he has fun. Kirei considers himself a very sinful man, not a hero like the trope description expects. But Lupin is widely admired and impressive, partly for who he targets. Lupin seems to be slowly teaching Kirei that imitating him will lead Kirei to an enjoyable lifestyle, as long as he would Pay Evil unto Evil. It doesn't matter if Kirei enjoys killing people, so long as the people he's killing are people that deserve to be killed.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Elliot Stabler, while not outright killing bad guys (if not accidentally... or is it?), ostensibly loves beating the shit out of rapists, pedophiles, etc. (and the other detectives are that close too).
  • In Burn Notice, both Michael and Fi have Berserk Buttons for villains who hurt children. Fi particularly chomps at the bit to kill such people (or recurring villains who've been troublesome Manipulative Bastards to Michael in the who-burned-me arc), although she'll defer to Michael's judgment if such would be tactically unwise (or detrimental to Michael getting answers he needs) at the time. But if she does get the green light, she'll smile when she does it.
  • The Unit, about an elite military team tasked with assassinations and other "wet jobs", has one character address the morality of what they do in one episode, having a crisis of conscience, before coming to the realization - supported by his commanding officer - that he enjoys killing people.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Sara Lance has this tendency, though it disturbs her greatly (in the series it's described as being a side-effect of having been brought back to life). Although she works hard to avoid killing unless necessary (and treats it as serious business when it does happen), she still clearly enjoys beating the tar out of people.

    Literature 
  • Ky Vatta in Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series discovers early on that she derives a near-sadistic pleasure from killing her enemies, who tend to be pure evil, face-to-face (as opposed to from a starship bridge). She is too moral to kill someone unless forced to, and is too horrified about the secret pleasure she takes in killing to tell others about it, but she can't deny that she gets an odd pleasure of doing it when forced to.
  • Animorphs goes into some detail regarding this. The bad guys are an alien race of brain slugs, basically, and after one of the animorphs, Jake, sends thousands of them to their deaths by dumping their regeneration pool into space, he has a minor breakdown about how much he enjoyed doing so. Another animorph, Rachel (who has no such qualms) tells him he has to separate the feeling from the action: "doing what has to be done" is not immoral, nor is "enjoying winning". It's deconstructed as that side of them leads to doing some horrible acts and almost leads Rachel to accept a deal with the devil. In that same book she looks at that part of her with disgust.
  • James Bond: Thoroughly averted by Ian Fleming. Although the film version of the character might variably fall under the trope (depending on the film), Fleming's Bond clearly takes no pleasure from killing people and several books (including Goldfinger and the short story "The Living Daylights") have Bond ruminating about the morality of his work.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry feels this way, in comparison to his allies and Foils the Knights of the Cross (who genuinely seek the redemption of all of their foes). He explicitly considers the latter to be better people than himself, although the Knight Michael muses that destructive types like Harry also have their place in God's plan and supports him in incapacitating Cassius when the situation calls for it.
    "But here's something for you to think about, at least. What goes around comes around. And sometimes you get what's coming around." He paused for a moment, frowning faintly, pursing his lips. "And sometimes you are what's coming around."
  • The Count of Monte Cristo feels satisfied by doing "God's will", as he puts it, and genuinely remorseful when he wrongfully judges (i.e, punishes) an innocent person. In one case, the absence of this satisfaction leads him to realize what he already knew subconsciously: that Edouard did not deserve to be murdered.

    Music 
  • Angel of Light by power metal band Dreamtale.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is something of a common trait among the Space Marines of Warhammer 40,000, though this is easily thanks to the conditioning their chapters and the Imperium as a whole gives them, forming this bias against the Xenos and Forces of Chaos that dare invade the Imperium of Man.

    Video Games 
  • From Borderlands 2:
    • Salvador, who believes that "Killing bad guys is always fun!". Detailed more in the hidden ECHO recordings found in Thousand Cuts. You can listen to them here, starting at 0:49 (Warning, contains spoilers about Angel working for Jack).
    • Krieg, the second DLC character, loves killing bandits. Downplayed in that his "psycho" side actually loves killing full stop, innocent or guilty. It's his former personality/conscience which forces him to only kill people who deserve it.
    • Handsome Jack is convinced this applies to him, unaware that he's both the Big Bad and, more notably, a sadistic asshole. At one point he bursts out laughing while telling you over ECHO about blinding a man with a spoon in front of that man's children.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Snake angsts over the fact that he genuinely enjoys killing enemy soldiers.
  • Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon has a notable instance from Princess Zelda after she deals a mortal blow to Hectan.
  • Sanger Zonvolt of Super Robot Wars is greatly known for proclaiming himself to be 'The Sword That Smites Evil', and the sheer amount of confidence and badassery when he recited those speaks in volumes on how he really has a good satisfaction in smiting evil bastards that threaten the peace of the galaxy.
  • Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden. Killing evil/bad guys would grant him "karma" that would enhance his strength. Thus, not only his sense of justice drives him to slay evil whenever he sees one, he does get something good out of it along with "satisfaction".
  • The Zero Escape character Akane invests major amounts of money and time into not only exposing the people who murdered her as a child, but making their punishment as psychologically torturous as possible. In the third game, this leads her into conflict with Junpei (who will kill to survive and do so eagerly, hence their united purpose in the incinerator scene but never for any other reason) and Carlos (who she is tricked into believing killed her Love Interest).

    Western Animation 


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