->'''Man''': All right, [[StockBritishPhrases it's a fair cop]], but society's to blame.\\
'''Church Policeman''': Right, we'll arrest them instead.
-->-- ''Series/MontyPythonsFlyingCircus'', "Church Police"

The idea that people can be forced into a life of crime through extenuating circumstances. When a person is born into a poor, violent, or disenfranchised social milieu, we should not be surprised when such a person becomes a criminal, nor should we blame him for resorting to criminal activity; all his life, he has been operating at a disadvantage that most AcceptableTargets don't suffer from.

This trope is sort of a crossbreed between InherentInTheSystem and FreudianExcuse. Also known by the fancy name of "social determinism."

The TropeCodifier was the legendary American defense attorney Clarence Darrow (best known for defending John Scopes in the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopes_Trial Scopes Monkey Trial]]), who defended a pair of young StrawNihilist [[ForTheEvulz thrill killers]], [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_and_Loeb Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb]], by arguing that society had twisted their minds. Though everyone expected them to hang, they got off with life sentences.

More mature entertainment will try to make one-dimensional villains more complex and grey by giving them a crappy background to explain (or at least raise questions about) how they became the way they are and how society, [[InTheBlood genetics]] and other predisposing factors can influence antisocial behavior. In crime dramas, many an InsanityDefense is rooted in trying to implicate society's problems but for the most part, it's portrayed as a last-ditch excuse that the audience is not expected to take seriously. Genre fiction or children's writing will just have people doing evil because they are Evil.

In general, this trope is often a cause of UnfortunateImplications because it can come across as painting the poor/downtrodden as being predisposed to criminality or at least minimizes the presence of personal values against crime.

On the other hand, it can also be used as an argument that a particular society is to blame for a social ill, and therefore a justification for rebelling against that society--even if the social ill is common to all human societies and therefore [[MeetTheNewBoss the revolutionary regime will probably have the exact same problem]].

See RousseauWasRight for one cause of this kind of thinking. Contrast TheFarmerAndTheViper, in which the evil ''is'' inherent. DrivenToVillainy is for the more ComicBook-ish kind of [[SuperVillain bad people]].


[[folder: {{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* Invoked in ''Manga/YuruYuri'' by Himawari's hilariously WiseBeyondHerYears (or possibly just precocious) little sister to explain Sakurako's behavior.
* Played with in ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', during a conversation between Naruto and his father about Pain. They agree that while Pain was a natural product of the wars and the Ninja system, he is still fully responsible for his own actions, since his revenge shows no regard for his victims' guilt or innocence.
** Really, this is the backdrop behind pretty much every villain in the series, at least the ones that aren't just plain AxCrazy. Orochimaru was orphaned by the ninja wars, and thus sought ways to conquer death that led him off into inhuman territory. Gaara was a TykeBomb designed by his father who just snapped under the social pressure of being a [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer complete pariah.]] Itachi was really screwed up by torn loyalties, Pain corrupted by the futility of constant war, and even the main villains of the entire series were messed up by clan warfare and the casualties of war. The series does not claim that their actions are justified because of that, but the messed-up system of the shinobi world is shown to be responsible for many of the monstrosities.
* ''Manga/HayateTheCombatButler'''s Hayate uses this trope when trying to explain his reasoning for attempting to kidnap Nagi. Only the fact that he fails, horribly, and then saves her from real kidnappers, getting her to take him on as her butler saves him, and starts the real story.
* ''Anime/{{Rainbow}}'' blames it all on UsefulNotes/WorldWarII--with Japan's economy in ruins, there simply isn't enough to go around, and those who can't survive legally must necessarily steal to survive.
* In ''Manga/OnePiece'', the New Fishman Pirates' IrrationalHatred is explained to be a result of growing up in a culture dominated by racism. Prince Fukaboshi goes on to say that the rest of Fishman Island is to blame, as instead of trying to reform the Fishman District's residents, they just ignored them and hoped things would turn out okay.
* Parodied in ''Webcomic/OnePunchMan'', a criminal organization known as the Paradisers - lead by Hammerhead, go around causing trouble because of an unequal society divided by wealth, and the frustrations of labor. No-one listens to the leader's rants, and they only start paying attention to them when they're beating up heroes or knocking down buildings. Naturally, after running into [[ComicallyInvincibleHero Saitama]], Hammerhead reveals that he's just a LazyBum refusing to work, and as Saitama spares him, [[NotSoDifferent he muses that he could've been like him]] ([[LoserProtagonist himself unemployed]], and [[PunchClockHero only doing hero work for a hobby]]). The anime goes further Saitama listening to the news report [[FunnyBackgroundEvent in the background]] discussing the Paradisers and how they could have arisen. An "expert" interviewed blames [[TheNewRockAndRoll modern pop music]] for corrupting modern youth preventing them from getting "real" jobs like everyone else.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* One ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd'' story plays with this by introducing a group of concerned citizens determined to demonstrate that RousseauWasRight and get criminals to reform by showing them [[ThePowerOfLove kindness]]. Of course, the criminal they try this on turns out to be incorrigible and kidnaps his "rescuer". It's then PlayedForLaughs by having her be [[PityTheKidnapper so obnoxious]] that he begs to go to prison just to get away from her.
* [[spoiler: Eva Lord]] from ''ComicBook/SinCity'' laughs at this trope once she's revealed as the BigBad in ''A Dame To Kill For''. She mentions that, if she were ever caught, people would be reluctant to call her evil. They would simply blame society.
* There was an issue of ''ComicBook/XFactor'', early in the second series, that used this as a RunningGag: one person blamed society for something, then someone who hadn't been in the room came in, joined the conversation, and said, "Personally, I blame society," about something else, the topic having shifted, and then it happened ''at least'' once more.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* ''Disney/{{Aladdin}}'' in the Disney film of the same name has to steal to survive, being an orphan with no education in a difficult time. In [[Disney/AladdinTheReturnOfJafar the 2nd film]], after he's a guest of the palace, he becomes a Myth/RobinHood-esque bandit who steals from criminals but doesn't keep any of the booty for himself, giving it instead to the downtrodden and poor. [[WesternAnimation/AladdinTheSeries The cartoon series]] refines this even further in a flashback scene of Aladdin butting heads with another street rat over his willingness to steal money, whereas Aladdin only steals food.
* The ''WesternAnimation/SouthParkBiggerLongerAndUncut'' movie's [[EarWorm memorable song]], ''Blame Canada!''
-->Should we blame the government?\\
Or blame society?\\
Or should we blame the images on TV?\\
Heck, no!\\
Blame Canada! Blame Canada!\\
We must blame them and cause a fuss\\
[[NeverMyFault Before someone thinks of blaming us!]]
** Also, [[BigBad Saddam Hussein's]] VillainSong "I Can Change," where he blames society for his actions and claims that his parents abused him. {{Satan}} buys it, but it's clear Saddam is just trying to [[ManipulativeBastard manipulate]] him.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* The criminals in ''Film/WestSideStory'' invoke this mockingly in the song and dance number "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq28qCklEHc Gee, Officer Krupke]]". The gang leader plays himself, with other gang members playing a low-ranking police officer who arrests him and various authority figures. These various authority figures have various shallow theories about what the problem is, most of these theories being in SocietyIsToBlame territory. But what they all have in common is that they whack him over the head and send him away to be somebody else's problem. Oh, and they all either insult the lowly policeman or ignore him. It all ends with a mutual rejection: The final authority figure dismisses the gang leader as a bad person period, and the gang concludes that they simply want society out of their lives.
-->"We're not bad/We're really good/We just had a bad childhood..."
** The gang members in ''Theatre/WestSideStory'' eventually reject the theory that society is to blame. After considering possible explanations for their crimes ranging from parental abuse and neglect to psychological problems to unemployment, they eventually settle on the reason: they're just bad.
--->We're no good, we're no good, we're no earthly good\\
Yes, the best of us is just no good.
** The "no earthly good" self-flagellation? Preceded by yet another authority figure's rant, '''not''' hewing to the SocietyIsToBlame trope. After Riff explains to the social worker his resigned attitude ("work" is a four-letter word, strictly for chumps), "she"--play-acted with screeching intensity by A-Rab--adds her caterwauling two-cents:
--->Eek! \\
Officer Krupke, you've done it again \\
This boy don't need a job, he needs a year in The Pen \\
It ain't just a question of misunderstood \\
Deep down inside him, he's no good! \\
(throughout stanza, imagine several exclamation points; even the unadorned lines should be at top-of-lungs volume)
** Followed by, "We're no good" etc. So ''in context'', the (apparent) admission of moral responsibility is merely another way-station along a near-death-march of absurd rationalization and counterreaction: a Chorus provided by "sympathetic liberals" '''and''' the withering disapproval of the (at time of release--of play & film--yet to be named) [[UsefulNotes/RichardNixon Silent Majority]]. All ineffectual; all as prone to whining as are the Jets themselves.
* ''Film/RepoMan'' has the immortal dialogue when punker Duke is gunned down during a robbery:
-->'''Duke:''' The lights are growing dim Otto. I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame society. Society made me what I am.\\
'''Otto:''' That's bullshit. You're a white suburban punk just like me. \\
'''Duke:''' Yeah, but it still hurts. (dies)
* Touched upon in ''Film/BatmanBegins'', where Bruce Wayne begins to sympathize with the criminal element when he encounters people who have to commit crime in order to survive (and, having cut himself off from home, having to do so himself), and then finds himself feeling a thrill when he expands his motivations from survival to profit. This is countered by Ducard, who notes that criminals look for, thrive, and encourage society's tolerance and understanding of their motivations. Bruce eventually settles on something somewhere in the middle, and he tends to restrict his hunts to those who cannot claim it is society's fault.
* The plot of ''Film/MenaceIISociety:'' Caine is a violent gangster who is a product of his crappy upbringing but at the same time he has a chance to rise above his circumstances and everyone who cares about him tells him to make something of his life and get out of the streets.
* ''Film/BoyzNTheHood:'' The only one of the three boys to overcome the pressures of street life is Tre, due to the presence of his father counterbalancing the negative influence of life in Compton.

* Spoofed in ''Literature/AmericaTheBook'', in the chapter on the judicial system. It presents an open-and-shut murder case, which has "this guy is guilty" written on it in big red letters, and then the "verdict" column begins going through possible extenuating circumstances such as marital abuse and fatty foods.
-->''Besides, when society fails one of us, aren't we all guilty?''
* In ''ThePhantomOfTheOpera'' Erik's behavior (killing people) is often attributed to this.
* The classic example would be Myth/RobinHood, where the peasants must resort to crime to survive the impossible taxation inflicted on them to pay for their king's war.
* Philip Pullman's Literature/SallyLockhart series deals with this on several occasions, as the protagonist over the course of several books meets and befriends criminals and vagabonds who commit crime to survive in Victorian England. She often finds that people on the wrong side of the law can be equally moral and good as anyone else.
* {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d but {{defied|Trope}} in ''Literature/CaptainUnderpants Extra Crunchy Book o' Fun''. In the final exam, one question asks what is often to blame for creating monsters, and the first answer is "society." The correct answer, however, is nuclear waste.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Franchise/LawAndOrder'', often, especially ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit''. We wrap up the A plot more quickly than usual, find out that Johnny did it and the jury agrees... but our heroes realize that it's not really Johnny's fault and strike back against the corporate overlord / gang / societal disease that "made him do it".
* ''Series/CriminalMinds'' has quite a few instances of this, with a number of different societal problems being at least partly responsible for the pathologies of the killers. In particular, there's bullying ("Elephant's Memory"), war ("Distress"), gang violence ("True Night"), failures of the foster care system ("Children of the Dark") and the corruption of the business world ("Pleasure Is My Business").
** It does try to present socialization as a factor, rather than a determinant, but it has wildly varying degrees of success. ("Distress" and "True Night" used serious and overwhelming psychological illness as the motivator; "Pleasure is My Business" used almost nothing other than the societal issue.)
* ''Series/ColdCase'' mixes this with an economy sized {{Deconstruction}} of GoodOldWays. Expect at least five episodes a season or more to make the ''era'' of the murder the true villain, particularly when it comes to issues of race or sexuality. The episode "Best Friends," with an interracial female-female romance in the 1920's plays both factors for everything it's worth.
* In ''Series/PowerRangersTimeForce'', the future is a Utopian nightmare where everyone is a [[DesignerBabies gen-engineered bundles of perfection]], and anyone who isn't is thrown in a dumpster and becomes a terrorist.
** The worst part in this whole thing is that they never imply that the main characters have figured it out enough to want to fix it. They're happy to keep putting mutant criminals in prison forever? They don't want to fix things so that society stops creating more?
** Well, DaddysLittleVillain Nadira ''is'' on parole in the next season's team-up, despite the CartoonishSupervillainy, superpowered larceny, and the ''shooting {{Redshirt}}s dead'' in the premiere, so it looks like some changes are being made.
* In ''TheOffice'' episode "Weight Loss"...
-->'''Michael''': Body image. We are here because there is something wrong with society.\\
'''Jim''': See, you're always saying there's something wrong with society, but... maybe there's something wrong with you.\\
'''Michael''': If it's me, then society made me that way.
* On ''Series/{{The 100}}'', Abby is initially horrified that her daughter, Clarke, allowed a missile to hit a friendly village, leaving hundreds of people to die, because saving them would hurt her military strategy. However, Kane points out that Clarke grew up on the Ark, where leaders like him and Abby often denied people access to food or medicine and would routinely execute people for even minor offenses, all in the name of ensuring their species' survival, so they shouldn't be surprised when Clarke, having been given a position of leadership, behaves with the same ruthless pragmatism. As Kane puts it, "She learned what to do from us."
* The ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'' two-parter "Past Tense" sends Sisko, Bashir, and Dax back to [[TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture 2024 America]], where the homeless and unemployed are relocated to "Sanctuary Districts." Theoretically they're given food, shelter, and help finding a job, but in practice they're locked in, overcrowded, and violent residents nicknamed "Ghosts" prey on the weak. The most prominent of these is B.C., a hair-trigger thug who knifed an important historical figure before his time and begins the all-important riots. As the crisis goes on, however, he shows hints that he wouldn't have turned to violence if he hadn't been shoved into the Districts--and in fact those with existing records are not ''allowed'' in, so all of the Ghosts only became dangerous after they were swept under the rug to be forgotten.
-->'''B.C.:''' Why are they acting so surprised? You treat people like animals you're gonna get bit!

* Don Henley had a song about a delinquent, ''Johnny Can't Read'':
-->Is it the teacher's fault? ''(oh no)''\\
Is it his mommy's fault? ''(oh no)''\\
Is it the president's fault? ''(oh no)''\\
Is it Johnny's fault? Oh no!\\
''(This last "oh no" is delivered as a BigNo, such as to suggest it's somehow much less acceptable to imply it's his own fault and much better to blame society.)''
* The lyrics to Music/WithinTemptation's "Angel" include these lines, but then immediately subverts it:
-->This world may have failed you\\
It doesn't give you reason why\\
You could have chosen a different path in life
* Music/OingoBoingo's ''Only A Lad''. See the Quotes page for lyrics.
* Replace "criminal" with "entitled, lazy punk with delusions of grandeur" and you have the reason that ''Music/AmericanIdiot'''s Johnny/"Jesus of Suburbia" acts the way he does. ("And there's nothing wrong with me, this is how I'm supposed to be.") St. Jimmy, too, though he is quite a bit closer to the trope than Johnny is.
-->[Jimmy] says we're fucked up and we're not the same\\
And Mom and Dad are the ones you can blame

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* In one ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'' comic, Calvin tries to pull this excuse on his dad, saying that he's a pawn of unfortunate influences and the culture is to blame. Calvin's dad responds that that means he needs to build more character and [[MiseryBuildsCharacter sends him to shovel the walk.]]
* The most vicious [[StrawmanPolitical subversion]] of this particular trope is a John Callahan single-panel cartoon in which a partially-dismembered mugging victim begs the cops not to punish her attacker: "I think we should look for the root cause of the problem."[[note]]One sociology student who was hit with a brick by a man on the street [[RealityIsUnrealistic really said]] something like this.[[/note]]
* In a ''ComicStrip/{{Peanuts}}'' strip from 1959, Linus chases a toy airplane inside and accidentally breaks a lamp. This exchange ensues:
--> '''Lucy:''' "Ha! Now you've done it! Now you've broken a lamp, and you've got no one to blame it on but yourself!"
--> '''Linus:''' (''[[BeatPanel considers a moment]]'') "Maybe I could blame it on society!

[[folder:Sketch Comedy]]
* Several versions of the Creator/MontyPython "Church Police" sketch quoted above presents an interesting example of how this trope has evolved over the years. the "Society is to blame" line doesn't differ, but the responses certainly do:
** ''Series/MontyPythonsFlyingCircus:'' "Agreed"
** ''Monty Python's Matching Tie and Handkerchief'': "We'll be charging them too."
** ''Monty Python Live at the Hollywoood Bowl'': "All right: we'll arrest them instead."
** Creator/MontyPython also had several sketches/versions of a sketch depicting a trial. In the one performed at the 1976 Secret Policeman's Ball, the defendant, played by Peter Cook, launches into a speech in this vein and is met with a CollectiveGroan, then shot by the judge.

* This seems to be the play's message regarding Jean Valjean and many other people in ''Theater/LesMiserables''. Valjean only stole to feed his sister's family, and got five years in prison. The conditions were so brutal he tried to escape multiple times, with each extending his sentence. When he's paroled at last after ''nineteen'' years, he finds it impossible to find work as a felon. He is so suspicious and hardened that even when someone ''does'' try to assist him (a [[GoodShepherd kindly priest]]) Valjean instead steals his silver. The priest, instead of sending him back to prison when he's caught, instead covers for him, giving Valjean a second chance. Once removed from this state, he becomes a successful businessman and town mayor, but only by breaking parole. Thus he's pursued by {{Inspector Javert}}, who only cares that he broke the law, which leads Valjean into further crime to escape. It's also echoed by Fantine, who's dismissed from her job when it's found out she's an unwed mother, and forced into prostitution to survive. She's arrested for striking a man harassing her, catches a fever and dies. Javert on the other hand firmly believes this is wrong, but rather crime isn't the result of environment ''or'' heredity (especially the latter he's keen to disprove, as both his parents were criminals). When it's finally proven to him that Valjean is a good man, he can't stand the revelation, [[DrivenToSuicide killing himself]].

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Done satirically in ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoSanAndreas''. When the player beats or kills someone or steals a car, CJ will sometimes spout lines like "Don't blame me, blame society!"
* Gurdurr in ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonGatesToInfinity''. He used to be a pride carpenter, but one injury and one malicious client later and he lost all confidence in his skills, which took him down the path of unjust. When confronted about his wrongdoings by the player character and his partner he will say: [] you can't get mad at me. It's just the way this rotten world works.
* Homer sometimes says the same line if you hit someone's car in ''VideoGame/TheSimpsonsHitAndRun''.
* Tommy Vercetti in ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoViceCity'' will sometimes quip: "You can blame my mother. I do."
* ''Franchise/AceAttorney'': Dick Gumshoe rather uselessly claims this when [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsX_RuZUfXE#t=06m27s trying to console Ema Skye.]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheNewAdventuresOfWinnieThePooh'':
-->'''Piglet''': It wasn't me! I was young and foolish! I blame society!
* From ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'':
-->'''Gabriel''': Homer, your problem is simple. You're a fat, selfish buffoon.\\
'''Homer''': Which is society's fault because... \\
'''Gabriel''': It's your fault!
** In 1990, ''The Simpsons'' exploded onto the pop-culture scene. Bart Simpson almost immediately became the most Moral Panic-inducing public figure of the past decade, not the least because of a line of subversive T-shirts with Bart's image that kids of all ages began sporting on the streets. One of the most notorious had Bart casually explaining: "I'm just the product of a society that's lost its good manners, [[TotallyRadical man]]."
** From "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" episode:
-->'''Moe''': You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.
** In one of the early shorts, Bart wants Grampa to tell a scary story. As Grampa starts telling it, he suddenly dies. [[spoiler: Not really. [[TheGadfly He's just pulling Bart's leg]].]]
-->'''Lisa:''' You killed Grampa.
-->'''Bart:''' No way, man! Society killed Grampa!
* In the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' episode "Birds of a Feather", The Penguin looks to go straight once he's gotten out of prison, but when resident RichBitch Veronica Vreeland and her snobby friends decide to make him the butt of an exceptionally cruel joke, he reverts to his criminal ways to exact revenge. In the end, he muses, "I guess it's true; society is to blame. ''High'' society." At least Vreeland had the decency to feel bad about her role in it by the end though.
** Harley Quinn recites this trope as well when [[ReformedButRejected her attempt at a normal life goes awry]] in ''Harley's Holiday'': "I tried to play by the rules, but no, they wouldn't let me go straight! Society is to blame!" Which, unlike the Penguin's, was PlayedForLaughs because her "crime" was having paid for the dress... but neglecting to let the woman remove the security tag, and not letting the store's guard explain the situation to her before overreacting.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'', "Hell is Other Robots":
-->'''Bender:''' "My crimes were only boyish pranks!"\\
'''Robot Devil:''' "You stole from boy scouts, nuns, and banks!"\\
'''Bender:''' "Aw, don't blame me, blame my upbringing!" (Stealing a wallet)\\
'''Robot Devil:''' "Please stop sinning while I'm singing!"
* ''WesternAnimation/BumpInTheNight'': In one episode, Mr. Bumpy [[PaperThinDisguise disguised himself]] as Molly Cuddle to play a prank on Destructo. When he got caught, he tried several desperate ways to divert blame. This trope was included.
* Subverted in a ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' ShowWithinAShow called ''Gumbel 2 Gumbel'', where one of the detectives is interrogating a thief and offers this as an explanation, only for the thief to shut it down.
-->'''Brian Gumbel:''' Purse snatching... society's fault, or one man's cry for help?
-->'''Thief:''' What are you talking about? I wanted her money!
* In one episode of ''WesternAnimation/DudleyDoRight'', Nell defends Snidely Whiplash in court and claims that if society had some sort of program to help people with a compulsive need to tie stuff together, Snidely's habit would never have progressed to the point where he started [[ChainedToARailway tying women to railroad tracks]]. Thanks to the RuleOfFunny, this actually works.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* This can be TruthInTelevision. An infamous example would be ChildSoldiers, who are literally forced to kill.
** Another very common example is being driven to steal food and other necessities because you have no other way to get them. Given the choice of breaking the law, or death, most will prefer to break the law, and society is often responsible for the person's predicament in such situations.