"In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of 'world history' - yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die."The Straw Nihilist is an extreme version of The Cynic and a specific type of The Philosopher who delivers Despair Speeches and Breaking Lectures about Life, The Universe, and Everything (or at least how meaningless it is to fight for any of them), often Chewing the Scenery about how the hero/audience lives on an Insignificant Little Blue Planet and morality never existed in the first place. Often Above Good and Evil, due to the Straw Nihilist's Armor Piercing Questions about "What Is Evil?". This can even be mixed with a belief in a higher meaning in life, where the Nihilist claims that the higher meaning is a reason to neglect the life that he has. The basis for the Straw Nihilist is usually extreme scientific empirical materialism; we're all nothing but matter and energy and eventually the universe is going to die as if we never existed, so what's the point in trying to hope and fantasize in a world full of suffering and destruction where morality is dictated by force. Your consciousness is merely an electrochemical reaction inside a dying chemical reactor called the brain which, out of animalistic instincts to protect itself from pain, creates the illusion of meaning and significance in a reality that has none. Good, evil, morality and thought are nothing but illusions, with no absolute standard in the universe by which to prove their absolute existence as immutable physical laws. These are one of the inhabitants of the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. Their ability to play existential mind games and force the audience into ethical dilemmas make them a popular sage in the Ontological Mystery genre and amoral Crapsack Worlds. Sometimes they serve as Mr. Exposition, while other times, everything they say is a Fauxlosophic Narration or even a Red Herring, or they're a mix of all of them. But if done badly, they can end up looking like a gratuitous scene of Wangst, making people only get puzzled on why they haven't killed themselves yet. The Straw Nihilist's behavior is often expected to be like that of The Hedonist or The Sociopath, since if he doesn't subscribe in morality then he has no restraint in pursuing his instinctual desires. Said hedonism can serve as a justification on why he has not killed himself yet, because he's having too much fun. In more straightforward Science Fiction and Fantasy stories, they are usually villains who are always preaching hate and plotting destruction, and can get really over the top in their behavior. They also often use No Good Deed Goes Unpunished and Being Good Sucks as Freudian Excuses on why they have a nihilistic outlook on life. Note that nihilism is simply the belief that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. This trope is known as "Straw" because it's a stereotype that rarely applies to real nihilists. Compare the Übermensch, The Social Darwinist and The Fatalist. Contrast The Anti-Nihilist, who also thinks life has no inherent meaning yet reaches inverse conclusions about morality and the value of life. See also The Unfettered, what they end up as because of their dedication to their philosophy, and Virtue Is Weakness, who believes that morality is a flaw rather than pointless (though it's not uncommon for many villains to believe both). This trope mostly applies to a negative portrayal of existential nihilism. For an approximation of moral nihilisim, see Above Good and Evil and Blue and Orange Morality.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense
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Anime and Manga
- Nozomu Itoshiki from Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is a parody of the Large Ham version who constantly rants about Despair. When his name is written horizontally it resembles zetsubō (絶望?, "beyond hope" or "despair"), befitting his extremely negative, paranoid and pessimistic attitude. He often shouts "I'm in despair!" and attempts suicide several times. It needed Kafuka, a girl who can only see the positive in life, to complement him and talk him out of suicide. On other occasions, Nozomu challenges his students to think about the negative aspects of something usually considered positive.
- It's worth noting that there's a great deal less reverence or seriousness than this description implies, however. Kafuka's optimism is later revealed to be the result a minor brain defect that gives her dangerously high levels of serotonin, and most of the time Nozomu turns out to have been attention-seeking or being dramatic for the sake of it instead of genuinely suicidal.
- Code Geass: Charles zi Britannia conceals this characteristic under the façade of Social Darwinism alongside his wife, Marianne (they later attempt to reunite the dead with the living and satisfy everyone who's ever existed by destroying the will of humanity; needless to say, it didn't work).
- The Big O: Schwarzwald rants about the insignificance of the human race in a world without a past. He gloats about how only he knows what a cosmic fraud we all live in. Even after he dies, he still manages to show up and narrate all the real big Mind Screw episodes. It turns out that he was right. Everyone is living in a holographic play.
- Shadow from Gate Keepers is another Straw Nihilist, who's in league with the bad guys because he's disgusted with humanity's evils.
- YuYu Hakusho: Sensui, the rogue Spirit Detective. He went on to use the Chapter Black to turn the people that would become his team into Amorally-Nihilistic people as well.
- The Anti-Spirals from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann look like an entire race of these at first with their obsession to impose absolute despair in all Spiral Energy-utilizing races until one realizes that in the end they reveal themselves to be Well Intentioned Extremists who thinks that the Spiral races' reproduction, hopefulness and over-ambitiousness will eventually destroy the universe, hence why they want to crush all the Spirals' hopes. So, their brand of straw-nihilism is more like extreme Malthusianism.
- Rau Le Creuset, the chief antagonist in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. It sends him into Omnicidal Maniac territory.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Chairman Durandal and Rey Za Burrell are interesting variants of this. They're both convinced the world is a cold, terrible place, but are terrified of ending up like Rau. Instead, they become a pair of Well Intentioned Extremists, out to inject meaning into the world no matter what the cost.
- At the end of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Full Frontal is revealed to be this sort of person. He shows Banagher a vision of "the end of time", where there exists nothing but a blank void. He uses this to say that nothing anyone does really matters in the long run, and that hope and possibility are meaningless because it will all inevitably end up in this blackness. He also points to the aftermath of the Axis Shock, where the entire Earth Sphere was bathed in Newtype light and felt "the warmth of the human heart"... and yet went right back to their old, squabbling ways as soon as that light faded.
- Neji Hyuuga is a good example: he constantly talks about how pointless everyone is any how anyone who tries to fight his own fate is doomed to fail. Even more notable, he says this while trying to fight his own fate, as Naruto points out. This trait disappeared following his Morality Adjustment. Apparently, Naruto beat it out of him.
- Pain, leader of Akatsuki also possessed traits of Straw Nihilist, believing that the only way to enforce peace on the world is to make everyone suffer horribly as he did.
- Possibly taking things one step too far, the series Big Bad Tobi/Obito Uchiha revealed in chapter 467 that his ultimate plan is to brainwash the entire world because "There is no such thing as hope!"
- Madara Uchiha is probably the biggest example in the series. He's the one who made Obito this way.
- Fullmetal Alchemist
- Kimblee, and to a certain extent Dante, from the anime, although Dante really just uses it to justify her own abhorrent selfishness. In Kimblee's case, he doesn't even make an exception for himself; all life is worthless, including himself, and everything is allowed because there are no worthy standards.
- Manga Kimblee is more or less the opposite of his anime portrayal, being an Affably Evil Social Darwinist Blood Knight who believes that people are always capable of surprising you and greatly appreciates strong convictions. The Straw Nihilist of the manga would probably be Pride, who believes everything and everyone who is not himself or Father is pointless. He is eventually defeated by Kimblee after the latter becomes disgusted by his lack of convictions.
- Series Big Bad Knives is disgusted by humanity, and feels that the best thing for the universe is for him to exterminate the whole lot before they can spread.
- Knives' Dragon Legato Bluesummers is one. Legato follows Knives because he believes whole-heartedly in Knives' cause. He absolutely detests humanity and finds it to be a waste. He believes human existence to be so pointless that when killing several slavers and saving their slaves he's actually surprised that he did it, add in the fact that he's stark, raving mad, welcomes the day his boss will kill him and that he actually forces Vash to kill him as a final middle finger and way of breaking Vash and you've got yourself one of the more terrifying villains you're bound to meet in anime
- One Piece: Ohm constantly laments about the pointlessness of life and seeks to "save" people from suffering and desire by ending their lives.
- Magic Knight Rayearth: Debonair believes that the world of Cephiro without its Pillar is doomed to fall, and that suits her just fine, as the survivors' continued despair grants her power.
- Diva from Blood+ wants to turn every human on earth into Chiropterans (monstrous vampires), because humans treat her as nothing more than a monster.
- Rokudo Mukuro from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is very jaded like this. Which makes it all the funnier that he actually ends up being one of Tsuna's guardians.
- Black Cat:
- Creed's whole goal is to cleanse the world of weak people that don't have superpowers and rule the remaining people as King with Train as his Queen. Er, partner.
- Leon Elliot. "The good people... the naive people... they die first." Leon is one bleak-minded little jerk, stemming from a history of very grim life experiences. He's not quite Creed yet, but he's getting there.
- Rei and Mitsuki from Doubt believe that the world is full of dirty liars who deserve to die.
- Cowboy Bebop: Vicious is a slightly less over the top and more realistic version of this trope than many, being a nihilistic, ruthless, sociopathic Yakuza who holds that there is nothing in this world to believe in. Vincent, the Big Bad from the movie, also fits.
- Takasugi Shinsuke from Gintama had once fought to drive the Amanto aliens out of Japan, but after his side lost, he grew to believe that Japanese society, having been corrupted by alien influence, needed to be utterly destroyed. Now he lives to destroy. Everything.
- Full Metal Panic!:
- To an extent, Sousuke (at least before he meets Kaname). Especially noticeable during TSR, after he thinks that Kaname is dead and starts going on a very Straw Nihilist-ish rant, saying that humans are just meatbags that die.
- Gauron is a Straw Nihilist as well, albeit less emotionless and more gleefully psychotic.
- Johan Libert from Monster likes to create these but isn't really one himself as he does believe in something bigger. Unfortunately, what Johan believes in is evil.
- The Yagami-esque Villain Protagonist of Lost+Brain finds all of humanity worthless, until he discovers control through hypnotism. One year later, he's gotten a good portion of the school under his control and successfully engineers the death of a member of government; however the biseinen inspector who introduced him to hypnotism in the first place is already on to him.
- Ulquiorra Cifer is a personification of this way of thinking. Throughout the series, he is outspoken in his belief that the bonds and emotions of humans are meaningless, and that nothing can come of their struggling. This philosophy becomes the center of his conflicts with both Kurosaki Ichigo and Inoue Orihime. His character poem in the twenty-second tankoban of the series is themed on the belief that the world and all things living on it are without significance. Also, when Barragan identifies the "ways of death" over which each member of the Espada govern, it is revealed that Ulquiorra is the avatar of nihilism. He subverts this trope with his final epiphany in chapters 353 and 354.
- Nnoitra, a Death Seeker who has no problem with killing anyone who gets in his way and who states that he believes the only point of living is dying (subverted somewhat in that he is very clear and specific about the kind of death he wants to have).
- Black Lagoon:
Rock: "It's not an obligation. And it's got nothing to do with justice. The only reason I wanna do it is because it's my hobby."
- Revy is a genuine nihilist in that she denies the existence of meaning, at least academically. For practical purposes, however, she'll preach the virtues of money and guns over God and love, since this is what she has been able to rely on in her life. She initially has great difficulty dealing with Rock's idealism, threatening to kill him if he ever moralises to her again. Revy herself elaborates that "nothing's worse than being treated like some whore by your companions", but in later chapters, it is suggested by one character that she attacks idealists because their ideology contradicts her assertion that the world is a terrible place.
- By the end of the (anime) series, Rock himself confesses to be a nihilist, just with a positive attitude where the Straw Nihilist is characterized by its decidedly negative attitude, here speaking of saving an innocent girl's life:
Balalaika: In the grand scheme of things, our lives are meaningless. They're light as air...like a candy wrapper.
- In the same conversation, Balalaika reveals herself to be one of these as well, to absolutely no one's surprise.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! has The Lifemaker, the Big Bad that Nagi faced off against. Nagi's response? "SHUT THE HELL UP!"
"...Do you truly believe I am doing this for money?... Ahahah you are such a child. There is no meaning in this world, I seek naught but blood and carnage."
- Fate has also shown these tendencies; claiming that everyone are just soulless puppets, etc. Although he has a basis for this belief, as the Magic World, along with it's native inhabitants, may have been created by Fate's master.
Tsukuyomi was amused by the fact that despite supposedly holding these beliefs, Fate later on starts to experience human qualities like attraction and opinion, unbefitting of a lifeless soldier for a cause he may or may not believe in. The fact that she takes a nearly patronizing stance towards him after finding this out probably makes Tsukuyomi herself the best example in the series. She does believes that life is meaningless aside from the small joys that can be grasped (in her case, causing bloodshed). One of her lines summarizes her worldview:
- Yue Ayase pretty much felt that the world was without meaning following the death of her grandfather, who happened to be a philosopher. Luckily, she got better when she befriended Nodoka, Haruna, and Konoka.
- Fate has also shown these tendencies; claiming that everyone are just soulless puppets, etc. Although he has a basis for this belief, as the Magic World, along with it's native inhabitants, may have been created by Fate's master.
- Soul Eater has a resident Mad Scientist, Franken Stein, who had apparently been one of these for a while — we even got a flashback of Stein telling Spirit "God is dead." It is up for debate if he got better, as Spirit did seem to renew some faith in the human race, but...
- In the Neon Genesis Evangelion movie The End Of Evangelion, Shinji Ikari got a taste of this trope (Rei even gave him a chance to be an Omnicidal Maniac), but rejects it by rejecting Instrumentality.
- Ergo Proxy: Dark Messiah Raul Creed becomes this as he loses his sanity over the course of the show.
- Genkaku from Deadman Wonderland believes that he's saving people by killing them.
- Musashi from Karakuridouji Ultimo has a moment of this trope, responding to Yamato's search for a point with "Facts are all there is. Looking for a point is pointless."
- Baccano!'s Huey Laforet used to be one of these back in 1705. In a bit of jest, Ironic Light Orchestra refers to his misanthropic internal monologues as "surprisingly normal thoughts for a fourteen-year-old."
- The Big Bad of Madlax, Friday Monday, is a Mad Artist who believes in "the Truth": basically that humans are just mindless animals who, if left unchecked, would start slaughtering each other out of basic violent compulsion. His belief is compounded by his possession of the so-called "Words of Truth": a kind of a Brown Note that removes all moral restrictions from any person who hears them, while simultaneously exacerbating their petty enmities to a full-on murderous intent. Monday interprets this as homo homini lupus and plans to unleash the Words on the entire humanity to bring it back to its "natural state", but is ultimately proven wrong by Madlax, a Professional Killer who demonstrates that there is a pretty clear line between hating another person and wanting them dead.
- In InuYasha, Bankotsu does not remember anything between his death and resurrection. He thinks this means there is no afterlife, and thus he can do whatever he feels like, which means killing people, since people don't get punished or rewarded for what they do.
- The graphic novel The Killing Joke created the characterization of the Joker as a Straw Nihilist who will do anything to prove to Batman that life is one big joke and that the only sensible response to it is give into madness.
- Mr. Zsasz becomes a serial killer after having an epiphany that all life is meaningless; that people are nothing more than purposeless "zombies", and killing them is the only way to liberate them from their emptiness (this may be a reference to Real Life Serial Killer Carl Panzram, who described himself as "the man who goes around doing good" because he thought he was doing people a favor by killing them).
- In the Marvel Universe, The "Mad Titan" Thanos usually pulls this archetype off with a spectacular amount of wit and style.
- Carnage from Spider-Man doesn't believe in order and morality, and kills people for fun.
- Watchmen is brimming over with this trope.
- The Comedian wants to be this, having concluded that life is a joke, and the only sane response to cruelty and suffering is to laugh. But he stumbles across a diabolical plot so monstrous that he can't laugh it off, resulting in a Heroic B.S.O.D. (or Villainous B.S.O.D., depending on how you view the character). Said BSOD gets him killed when he blurts out what he knows in a room bugged by the Big Bad.
- Dr. Manhattan fits this trope. His nonlinear view of time convinces him that his own actions are predestined and he is powerless to change the course of events. His godlike perception of reality leaves him unable to see the lives of individual humans as significant. As a result, despite being the most powerful man on the planet he just does whatever the government orders him to, because life is so devoid of meaning he can't see why it matters.
Dr. Manhattan: The newspapers call me a crimefighter, so the Pentagon says I must fight crime. In Moloch's underground vice-den, the sighs turn to screams of terror. The morality of my activities escapes me.
- Later he gets better, and comes to value each human life as unique and precious because of its unlikelihood.
- '' "Chapter VI: The Abyss Gazes Also", skirts around this trope. The focus character, a psychiatrist trying to interview Rorschach, finds himself falling deeper and deeper into nihilism with each session. He hits rock bottom, declaring that man is just a successful virus on a ball of dirt, but he gets better towards the end, when he re-encounters his estranged wife, having decided that helping people is all we have. The chapter title is taken from a Nietzsche quote that appears in full at chapter's end.
- Some might argue that Rorschach's making the psychiatrist "realize" that man is meaningless has made him he no longer care about his career but he now more genuinely wants to help strangers.
- Finally, we have the Big Bad, who only pretends to be this trope. In truth, Ozymandias can't bring himself to view the annihilation of humanity with indifference, and feels compelled to avert the apocalypse even if he has to murder millions of people to do it. In the end, only Dr. Manhattan is in a position to judge him, and in typically detached fashion, he declines to do so.
Dr. Manhattan: But yes, I understand, without condemning or condoning. Human affairs cannot be my concern.
- Lampshaded in The DCU where nihilist Kid Amazo (whose intro features him talking to a Nietzsche bust that talks back to him, just to give you an idea that this is a guy with the combined powers of the Justice League and is completely off his rocker) is preparing to fight the League after a Face–Heel Turn and begins a Straw Nihilist speech to the bust. The bust points out that Kid Amazo is doing things that go against what Nietzsche believed. It's promptly smashed.
- TAO from the WildStorm Universe. As mentioned in Ed Brubaker's Sleeper: "The Tactical Augmented Organism (TAO) looked at life and saw Chaos and Order. Humanity's denial of Chaos appalled him. So he would tear it all down and fill the world with chaos, if only to watch mankind cling to their illusions as they burned around them."
- Stormwatch: Lampshaded with Father, the villain of Warren Ellis's first issue. A Nietzsche-obsessed superhuman murderer created by a neo-nazi Evilutionary Biologist, he had been trapped in a mountain by said creator for having several flaws— for instance, being insane. Upon escaping, he proceeds to kill every person he encounters while quoting butchered Nietzsche at them, and sometimes at their corpses. This is apparently his entire plan. In his mind, he is the Übermensch, and is "bringing joy to the ordinary man by dint of his existence— by destroying them."
- A God Somewhere: This is a possible interpretation of Eric, the main character, who, when confronted about raping his sister-in-law and crippling his brother, says "Wrong is just a word people made up. It has nothing to do with the real world." shortly before breaking out of prison and killing dozens of people for no reason. Near the end of the story, in the wake of his demise, a subculture of people who look up to Eric has apparently developed, and some of them can be seen hanging out on a street corner, where their response to something an old man angrily says to them is "Wrong is just a word people made up, bitch!"
- Grimjack's Uncle Jack. As a Fey he can see into the future and knows how he will die. Not only that it's hinted he has observed the ending of the entire Multiverse. A young grimjack asks why he doesn't change anything if he knows so much. He responds by saying that "nothing we do matters, not in the long run. Nothing we achieve or destroy matters. Love, friendship, family, honor, wisdom, knowledge, power,— none of it really matters, because none of it lasts. It's all mortal, every endeavor, every accomplishment. Even our Gods become food for worms. Some day even the worms will end, and there shall be nothing". It explains why he's still living with his brother's family mooching off and hardly working or doing anything for that matter. He also drinks alot to forget how he will die. Eventually his older brother finds out he slept with his first wife and smashes his face repeatedly on the stone fireplace, one eye popping out, his jaw splitting open falling on the floor.
- In Wanted the Big Bad Mr. Rictus was a devout Christian before he briefly died and encountered no afterlife. He then decided that life itself is meaningless and abandoned all his morals so he could satisfy every sadistic whim he ever had and just commit murder and other atrocities on a daily basis.
- Judge Dredd: Judge Death has come to the conclusion that since only the living commit crimes, life itself is a crime. Therefore, he now seeks to kill everyone.
- Persepolis: One of the members of Marjane's circle of friends during her teenage years in Vienna was Momo, a punk boy who constantly exhorted philosophical gibberish about how life was meaningless and death the answer. Marjane frequently called him out on how stupid this attitude was, having experienced actual suffering up close.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness depicts Hokuto Kaneshiro as one; he outright states that, human or monster, life itself is evil and meaningless, and wants to resurrect Alucard so he can put an end to it all.
Hokuto: You see, I've seen some truly horrible things in life, Moka. You'd be surprised how similar humans and monsters really are. How they both claim they desire peace, yet both destroy everything around them. How they both claim they can love, yet they both hurt and attack everything different. You see, it doesn't matter if you are human or a monster, a life is a life. And all lives are trash. All lives are a waste. Everything that lives only wants to live for the sake of living, and will step on anything to get its wish. Monsters, humans, they all claw at any vain attempt to live on, both killing anything that seems different or strange in fear of its own existence. There is no difference, Moka. All life is evil.
- Immortality Syndrome turns its sufferers into this in The Powerpuff Girls Dark Fic of the same name and its sequels. It's Who Wants to Live Forever? cranked Up to Eleven, caused by coming back wrong and remembering how you died — and what came after.
- Played with in The War of the Worlds fanfic When The Stars Turn To Ashes The character Byron Parris talks like this character type (and the high-minded protagonist dislikes him for it) but is also something of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Tod Barringer in the The Hunger Games fanfic An Unsung Song: The Tale of the 405th Hunger Games.
- In chapter 44 of the Yu-Gi-Oh! story Yu-Gi-Oh! Soul of Silicon, the heroes contend with an Archfiend of Gilfer, who calls himself a Lord of Nothingness, gives several speeches about how life is meaningless, and tries to convert others to Nihilism. Part of the reason he is a nihilist is because the card Archfiend of Gilfer has to die to use its effect. His attitude is reflected in his Clear Deck, in which his cards benefit from the absence of Attributes, high scores, and cards in the hand and punish the opponent for having these. After Ren defeats him, Ren points out that in trying to spread Nihilism, the message that life has no purpose, he has given himself a purpose. Archfiend of Gilfer has a massive Freak Out over this Logic Bomb.
- In Diamond in the Rough (Touhou), Mokou is portrayed as an example of this trope. Since she's immortal, all life lost its meaning to her and does anything to stave off her boredom, from guiding lost people in the forest and incinerating fields. She accidentally killed lots of children whom Yuuka was hiding but decided that they would be replaced in nine months.
- A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies has Wind Whistler increasingly approaching this over time. She eventually decides that all morality is absurd and without base, and the only thing worth doing is to follow her own desires, which happen to be turning Ponyland into a militant, multiverse-conquering empire.
- The Immortal Game: Terra would appear to qualify — she believes that the only thing that matters in life is survival, and that things like friendship and compassion are pointless.
- Pony POV Series:
- Entropy is this. It makes sense because she is literally the Anthropomorphic Personification of nothingness and the end of the universe. While she understands concepts like love and feels them, she says it doesn't matter because everything eventually ends. Ironically, this philosophy still enables her to have standards — as several characters point out, being the embodiment of the end of all things also makes her the end of suffering. As such, she is disgusted by beings who like to torment others in perpetuity.
- During the Day of Chaos, Discord turned Button Mash into one after tricking him into playing a cursed video game where no action or choice he made mattered, everything he did led to his character dying and the world being destroyed. Since Button's life revolves around video games, he then applied it to real life as well, saying things like the sky is an illusion to hide the fact the universe is already dead. He eventually snapped out of it thanks to the love of his mother.
- Diamond Tiara becomes this after becoming a Nightmare, when she concludes that choices don't matter.
- Tsali the Ultimate Weapon from Sonic X: Dark Chaos is one of these until The Reveal in Episode 74. He decides that all morality and compassion is meaningless to him; only revenge has any meaning for him.
- Merrilay from Bad Future Crusaders believes that all emotions and notions like good and evil don't have any meaning because of how easily they can be manipulated via Brainwashing spells, because she was conceived while Big Macintosh and Cheerilee were under the effects of the love poison in "Hearts and Hooves Day".
- In Harmony Theory, villain Max Cash gives a rant claiming that everyone in the whole world, including him, are just puppets controlled by higher powers, meaning nothing they choose matters.
- In The Bridge, Bagan believes life is a fleeting, meaningless mistake and that death is the only thing worth anything. He seeks to "correct" the mistake by exterminating all life in the universe to free all souls from the "prison" of mortal flesh.
- Soul Eater: Troubled Souls:
Cancer:: So naïve to the ways of the world, so full of optimism and hope. I, however, have seen the world for how it truly is. Despair is the only truth in this world of lies and hypocrisy. This world is not worth the dirt we walk upon. Unless it is destroyed and remade properly, it will remain that way, a diseased mire, and everyone – humans, witches, and other creatures alike – shall continue to dance like court jesters to its incomprehensible whims. If you live long enough, you shall see it sooner or later, even if I must be the one to teach you that.
- Cancer Lucrenian is disgusted with the world and her whole motive is to complete Project Omega so it can destroy it. She sees the world as self-destructive and full of lies, discrimination, and injustice. She wants nothing more than to create a new world without these flaws and, especially, one without hope.
- Walena Devilana. She holds the view "The world has neither justice, god, nor order" and sneers that "It's all nothing but wretched extravagance."
Films — Animation
- Lotso in Toy Story 3 feels that he and the other toys are all "just trash waiting to be thrown away!"
- Professor Screweyes from We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story. In a deleted scene, he claims that he believes that the world is senseless and cruel because, when he was a kid, a crow pecked his eye out, and he dedicated his life to scare other people.
- Owlman becomes one in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths after he finds out that there is a multiverse of universes out there, each Earth in each universe representing a different possiblity, and thus decides that choices are ultimately pointless. This actually takes a rather interesting twist in the final battle, where Batman teleports Owlman and his planet-destroying device to a barren, frozen wasteland of a parallel Earth. Owlman frees himself, then looks at the bomb, which is near the end of its countdown, and the Abort button is right there in front of him. Smiling, Owlman says "It doesn't matter." and lets the bomb go off, killing him. Which in fact is no twist at all but only highlighting the conflict between Owlman and Batman. The movie shows one Owlman decline to abort but that is only because it does not show the Owlman who does abort. Does this make every choice meaningless or does it make every choice meaningful?
Films — Live-Action
- Collateral: Sociopathic and deadly assassin Vincent shoves cab driver Max Durocher out of a self-deceptive rut as he forces Max to drive him to various "jobs" one night in L.A. Near the end Max snaps, admits that Vincent was right and fights back, eventually killing his captor.
- Agent Smith in The Matrix sequels. In The Matrix Revolutions he goes into a long rant about why Neo bothers to continue fighting him and that "Only a human mind could come up with something as insipid as love!" and "Why, Mr. Anderson!? Why!? Why do you persist!?" Ironically, Neo's response is something a Nietzschean Ubermensch might actually say: "Because I choose to."
- Subverted in The Big Lebowski with the three evil German "nihilists," who belong to this trope In-Name-Only. They're very enthusiastic about claiming to be nihilists, but that doesn't stop them from whining about how "It's not fair!" when it turns out their attempt to extort money out of the heroes by pretending they've kidnapped a woman when she hasn't even been kidnapped has been rumbled. Walter retorts: "Fair?! WHO ARE THE FUCKING NIHILISTS HERE?!" Ultimately, the "nihilists" here could be considered Straw Hypocrites.
Walter: Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, man, but at least it's an ethos.
- In his Hamlet speech at the end of Withnail & I, it's debatable whether Withnail is talking about his sexuality or confirming an absolute nihilism.
- Match Point-the Villain Protagonist uses his nihilistic philosophy as justification for murder.
- Characters based on Leopold and Loeb (such as the protagonists of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope) are pretty much always portrayed as Straw Nihilists. Somewhat justified in that the real Leopold and Loeb actually did rationalize their crime with Nietzsche's philosophy.
- The main villain of The Genius Club, Armand, rants that humans have no purpose and God doesn't exist, until the dying sage and the genius garbage man both discuss their confrontations with death. In the end, he really just had an identity crisis.
- The Dark Knight Saga:
- Two-Face, who decides the flip of a coin is as good a way to decide life and death as anything.
- The Joker is a total sociopath who enjoys bringing destruction and madness upon Gotham City, just to watch the chaos unfold and to show the world the futility of morality.
- Cube seems to be about the gorn but is really an exposition on different roles that people play representing different philosophies in society. The protagonist's big secret is that he is a nihilist.
- The villainous Clinton Stark of 7 Faces of Dr. Lao claims to be one of these, opining to the film's hero, "There's no such thing as the dignity of man. Man is a base, pathetic, vulgar animal." It's eventually revealed that he secretly doesn't want to believe that, and that he goes into all his evil schemes hoping they will fail, but they never have.
- "Walter" from the German film Sterne, who has recently arrived in Bulgaria after witnessing the horrors of war at Leningrad, and is disturbed by the treatment of prisoners in the nearby concentration camp, but also believes himself incapable of doing anything about it. He opines to Ruth, "It took millions of years for humans to evolve from chimpanzees, yet the chimpanzees are better off than we are."
- In The Wolverine, Viper mentions being a nihilist...of course, she also mentions being a capitalist.
- In The Sunset Limited, White claims to see the world as it truly is "without dreams or illusions" and suggests that anyone who sees the world in the same way should wish to die as soon as possible.
- In A Fish Called Wanda, Otto West, a sociopath and fool, claims humanity is worthless on the basis of his reading 'philosophy', but seems to stick exclusively to Nietzsche.
- In Men, Women & Children, Tim is a teenager going through the typical Straw Nihilist phase: dropping out of his former hobbies, engrossing himself in socially-isolated new ones, constantly droning how nothing matters, the universe is vast and everything we do and are in comparison is inconsequential (he drops Carl Sagan and the Pale Blue Dot speech explicitly). The heavy-handed nature of this becomes mitigated somewhat when we learn that all of this was preceded by Tim's mother up and leaving for a new life (and lover) in California right before the movie started.
- In Fight Club, Tyler Durden likes to use a lot of nihilist-sounding rhetoric:
Tyler Durden: Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.
- Rampage: Bill often rants about how there is no god, people are all slaves to their leaders, modern life in general is meaningless without violence, and humanity is doomed to extinction.
- Dora from The Moth Diaries is not just a Straw Nihilist, she's writing a book about a dialogue between Nietzsche himself and Brahms. She gets into a few arguments over the former's teachings with Ernessa. As to whether the book is completed before her death or not, we never find out. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this detail.
- Fyodor Dostoevsky loved this type of character; in fact, Dostoevsky was a major influence on Nietzsche himself, and the Nietzschean Übermensch has strong similarities to Raskolnikov.
- Ivan Karamazov and Smerdyakov both fit the trope in The Brothers Karamazov. One could make the case that Fyodor Karamazov is also an example, but he's more of a libertine than a nihilist.
- Pretty much all the young radicals in Demons, although Stavrogin and Verkhovensky stand out.
- The famous novella Notes from Underground features a protagonist who rants against the Nihilists, the Straw Nihilists of the time, yet fits the trope pretty well himself.
- And of course, Rodya Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, who justifies himself using examples like Cesare Borgia, saying that strong men do whatever they have to if it fulfills their goals.
- H.P. Lovecraft, pioneer of the Cosmic Horror Story, takes the Straw Nihilist mentality Up to Eleven (without the Omnicidal Maniac sociopathy though), with his stories focusing on the insignificance of human life compared to the indifference of the cosmos as a whole, vast eldritch discoveries and other things man was not meant to know out there. Lovecraft even developed an entire philosophy called Cosmicism.
- In Lovecraft's short story The Silver Key, his Author Avatar Randolph Carter ponders about the matter, and concludes that aesthetics are the only value worth sustaining in a universe without direction or meaning. In a way he fits the Übermensch category better than this one, since he creates his own values after realizing the insignificance of the current ones. Of course he had his best experiences in dreams, and in the end flees the material world completely, making him also a rather extreme lotus eater.
- Cronal, Big Bad of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. He was raised by a cult of darksiders called the Sorcerers of Rhand, who believe that the will of the universe is that entropy and destruction are the only constants, and work to bring this about. At one point Cronal mentally disparages Palpatine for attempting to create when he should have destroyed. All of which means that yes, there are people out there in the galaxy who are nastier than the Sith.
- The Old Man in Whorehouse in Joseph Heller's Catch-22, although he is more of the Hedonist type.
Vetinari: One of nature's wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining on mother and children. And that's when I first learned about evil. It is build into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.
- In Night Watch, the bad guy Carcer is said not to be insane but rather too sane, in that he can do whatever the hell he wants because he knows that laws and things are just arbitrary lines the normal folk draw in the sand to pretend they're safe. Needless to say, Vimes does not take this well.
- Although he channels his cynicism much more constructively than most people on this page, Lord Vetinari also occasionally holds such rants. One occurs at the end of Guards! Guards! when he lectures Sam Vimes, although this is possibly a subversion; after explaining at length why the world is a hopeless mess, Vimes then points out that Vetinari still bothers to get out of bed in the morning and be the most competent and benevolent tyrant their Wretched Hive of a city has ever had. There's also his little anecdote in Unseen Academicals, when he tells about the time he saw an otter and her young devour a still living salmon and the eggs it was carrying.
- In a bit of a subversion, Death maintains that things like justice, mercy and duty are lies, but says that the entire point in believing in those lies is that it's what makes them real.
- The Wheel of Time:
- Although ordinarily he is not of this view, when Rand Al'thor has a long overdue psychotic break and cracks after almost killing his father out of paranoia and misplaced rage he rants about the pointlessness of existence in this fashion, railing against the actions of all being forgotten and then repeated thanks to the series' conceit of reincarnation, and he comes within a few seconds of destroying or at least irrevocably damaging all of reality in a desire to end it all before he talks himself down via a conversation and eventually a Split-Personality Merge with the voice in his head, and can be found in the quotes page of this trope.
- Ishamael/Moridin from the same series, however, gives every sign of being a straight example, being the only one of the God of Evil's minions who not only truly understands its nature, but actually joined it for the express purpose of putting reality out of its misery. It's eventually revealed that Moridin is flat-out suicidal, and his nihilism seems to stem from projecting his own suicidal tendencies on the universe at large.
- M. Herron's thriller Why We Die is built around this philosophy, and begins with the narrator directly lecturing the reader about how people's purpose in life is to die and be buried. It's a bit . . . overblown.
- The Draka conquer the world in the name of their collective sovereign will and genetically engineer themselves into a race of very literal Übermenschen. This is justified within the timeline itself, as Nietzsche emigrated to the colony of Drakia after he was rejected in his homeland and helped shape its philosophy.
- The Iliad: Achilles predates Nietzsche by millennia, but he resembles this form of Straw Nihilist. He gets an absolutely epic rant about how life and the heroic code are meaningless, and they're all going to die and be forgotten anyway. He goes so far as to wish everyone but himself and Patroclus dead in the hope that then, their glory might actually endure. It's incredibly bitter, incredibly powerful, and is this trope all over.
- The father and son encounter a starving one in The Road. The son takes offense at the man's comments and gives him food, apparently as a way to prove the guy wrong.
- The Inner Party from Nineteen Eighty-Four is an entire social caste of Straw Nihilists, and they happen to rule everything. Ingsoc is pretty much the Straw Nihilist political system, being built to completely corrupt The Power of Love (the Eastasian counterpart of Ingsoc's actual ideology is also known as "Obliteration of the Self", which from the name can be easily seen as Nihilism incarnate). The Inner Party is completely amoral (nothing was illegal, since there are no longer any laws) but if they notice a single sign of individuality and love, called "thoughtcrime", they capture the thoughtcriminals but instead of killing them, they torture them and make them literally live their worst nightmares, but all of this is not to interrogate them, but to traumatize them and drop them into despair event horizon. They leave the majority in immutable poverty, the superpowers in perpetual war and the entire world in Despair Event Horizon. You cannot reason with them or express love for them, ever. Why? Simply because their only motivation is "pure power".
O'Brien: "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever."
- Every single Ayn Rand villain holds this worldview, from Ellsworth Toohey of The Fountainhead to Dr. Ferris, Mr. Thompson, and the rest of "the looters" in Atlas Shrugged. They usually only preach it to satisfy their lust for power (as Toohey and John Galt explain, once you've convinced people they're irredeemably evil and have no hope, they'll obey anything you tell them). Toohey uses his nihilist-collectivist logic to break his orphaned niece so thoroughly that, when her former fiancé meets her years later, it's eerily similar to Winston's and Julia's first meeting after they've been through Room 101. Her protagonists on the other hand are essentially Übermensch who create their own meaning.
- A large proportion of Philip Larkin's poetry seems to present this viewpoint; particularly notable is Aubade, which is about the utter futility of life, given the inevitability of death.
- A planet with this for a Hat shows up in Dying of the Light. When the out-worlds decided to Terraform a planet and build cities showcasing their culture, Darkdawn opted to build a city that would work as a wind instrument, playing the same nihilistic song over and over. They also flew a flag of solid black.
- In The Pillars of Reality, the Mages teach their acolytes that nothing is real and that nothing matters. However, even Alain (who starts out pretty indoctrinated) realises that their philosophy has holes. He notes that the senior Mages never seemed to think that failures on the part of their acolytes "didn't matter", for example.
- The Secret Agent: The Professor who believes he is superior to everyone else even if he has little to no accomplishments and is constantly discussing how other people are mediocre compared to himself
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wishverse Buffy is basically every thing Spike says of the death wish of Slayers, having given up on life to become an emotionless killing machine.
- Skins: Tony, a vaguely sociopathic lead character in British drama, is a rare comedy example. He is seen on multiple occasions to be reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra, one of Nietzsche's seminal works. This is reflected in how he manipulates his friends in increasingly cruel ways for his own personal amusement. He's stated in his tie-in blog and videos that the only purpose of anyone is to entertain him.
- Arthur Petrelli believes himself to be an Übermensch that is better than normal people and free from moral constraints. Just to hammer this point home, in series three he is seen reading Nietzsche shortly before telling his son Peter that he is "Better". Ironically subtler villains Linderman and Adam Monroe did a better job of representing this trope than Arthur ever did.
- Adam in particular. He believes he is better, that humankind is worthless and life is pointless. However he also adds a dash of Dark Messiah as he seeks to change the pointlessness of life by forcing mankind to experience a terrible cataclysm and taking the survivors as his followers to build a better world. So he's a fusion of this trope and Knight Templar/Well-Intentioned Extremist
- Dr. Gregory House of House acts this way, and it is implied that the only reason he saves lives is because he likes solving mysteries, not because he cares if the patient lives or dies. He suspects everybody of hiding something or lying to him.
We're never truly sure what his motivations are. Usually he is in it for the challenge, but we're sometimes led to believe that he cares. House tries to subvert this by revealing how selfish he is, but it's pretty ambiguous.
On the other hand, a perfectly valid Alternative Character Interpretation is that he is actually an Übermensch in the making, on the threshold of becoming one but uncertain if he is quite ready to take the leap. As such, he's hidden his actual, personal Blue and Orange Morality behind the mask of somewhat more socially-acceptable nihilism.
- Connor from Angel reached his peak of Straw Nihilist-ness in the Season 4 finale, and gave a rant that still sends chills down the spine.
"There's only one thing that ever changes anything. And that's death. Everything else is just a lie. You can't be saved by a lie... you can't be saved at all."
- Ironically, he was in fact "saved by a lie", with Angel making a deal that wiped everyone's memory and placing Connor in a home with a loving family believing he was their natural-born son.
- The sci-fi series Andromeda has an entire race of folks called Nietzscheans. They were originally humans who decided to live by Nietzsche's writings. They left human territory to found their own colonies, genetically enhanced themselves, separated into clans (called "Prides"), and generally don't like anybody but themselves. However, at least one says they're simply supremacist thugs that have failed to become actual supermen.
- The famous-within-the-fandom 'Death And Dust' speech from Stephen Colbert. Even better because the character is (usually) a die-hard Catholic. Shortly after the 2000 Florida recount, having decided that all the debate and argument is irrelevant and who's President doesn't even matter:
Stephen: You see, nothing means anything. Mankind is just a random collection of self-replicating protoplasm, floating in a godless universe where the stars blindly run and however frantically we may try to deny it, all our efforts amount to nothing more than death... and dust.
Stephen: [cheerful] Oh, and I'm having a Christmas cocktail party...
- Oz. Lemuel Idzik, the mentally-ill murderer of Kareem Said, who he'd met years before in Istanbul. Said (before he converted to Islam) gave a passionate speech about how life was meaningless because the universe would one day end. Lemuel took the lesson to heart and killed him for destroying his sense of meaning, then tried to get himself killed by murdering two more people in Oz-to his dismay he's spared the death sentence because his lawyer didn't give him effective representation.
- Dollhouse has Alpha, who even refers to himself and Echo after he forces her to undergo a composite event as Übermensch, while during the second to last episode one of Boyd's rants pretty much labels his worldview as such.
- Subverted in Red Dwarf: the Inquisitor is a Simulant, a race of psychotic, violence-crazed humanoid robots created to fight wars for humanity, which humanity then attempted to shut down after they proved too sadistic. Equipped with a unique self-repair system of incomparable capability, the Simulant who became the Inquisitor survived until the end of time, and then beyond. Drifting in nothingness, he came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as God, no such thing as an afterlife, and that the purpose of existence is to live a worthwhile life. Constructing a time machine, the Inquisitor now roams existence, meeting and judging each individual person who has ever and will ever live. If they fail to justify the life they have lived, he erases them and replaces them with a parallel version-a sperm that didn't make it, an egg that wasn't fertilized. Of course, if, in due "time," they too prove themselves unworthy of the gift of life, then they too are erased and another parallel version is given existence in their place. The Inquisitor's end-goal is to ensure that the universe is populated only by the worthy, those who truly have made the best of having been born.
- Doctor Who likely has more than can be easily counted, but one of the earliest appears in "Tomb of the Cybermen" in the form of Eric Klieg, who wishes to use the power of the Cybermen to lead the intellectual party to conquer the Earth under his rule. Needless to say, he and his Lady Macbeth wife overestimate his ability to control the Cybermen.
- Simon Munnery's sketch show Attention Scum is a mockery of this trope, by throwing out feeble, nonsensical insults of how the viewer sucks, like "a fast reader" or "parodies of each other", while claiming that your only purpose in life is to... stand in line... and you will die.
- On Burn Notice, Psycho for Hire Larry waves off the immorality of killing people for money (or just for fun) with his mantra of "some people live, some people die."
- Supernatural: Dean Winchester is a rare heroic example of this, although considering the way his life is going, it's not entirely unjustified. The really sad thing is that he's later proven wrong in that there really are higher powers, but they're either apocalyptic extremists (the angels), or completely apathetic to all of Creation (God), bringing him back to square one.
Dean: ''There is no higher power, there's no God. There's just chaos and violence and random, unpredictable evil that comes out of nowhere and rips you to shreds."
- In The Sopranos, Anthony Jr. briefly becomes one in season 2 as part of a teenage rebellion. To his parents' dismay he suddenly starts espousing a nihilistic worldview, questions the purpose of life, name-checks Nietzsche, and declares that God Is Dead.
- On one episode of Seinfeld, Jerry tries not to be funny so that he won't one-up George on his date. Jerry instead starts talking in a Creepy Monotone and acts like a nihilist around George's date.
Jerry: Well, birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and how little we've grown. No matter how desperate we are that, someday, a better self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know that it is not to be. That for the rest of our sad, wretched, pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end, inevitably, irrevocably. Happy birthday? No such thing.
- Captain John Hart on Torchwood. We'll let the man himself explain:
"What a cosmic joke, eye candy. An accident of chemicals and evolution. The jokes, the sex — just to cover the fact that nothing means anything. And the only consolation is money."
- In the British TV series The Fall, the serial murderer/rapist the police are seeking defends his acts by quoting Nietzsche at length (though he does appear to feel somewhat bad about them, but rationalizes away these impulses he cannot control).
- In True Detective, Rust Cohle is one, both in the past and in the present-day scenes.
"This... This is what I'm talking about. This is what I mean when I'm talkin' about time, and death, and futility. All right there are broader ideas at work, mainly what is owed between us as a society for our mutual illusions. 14 straight hours of staring at DB's, these are the things ya think of. You ever done that? You look in their eyes, even in a picture, doesn't matter if they're dead or alive, you can still read 'em. You know what you see? They welcomed it... not at first, but... right there in the last instant. It's an unmistakable relief. See, cause they were afraid, and now they saw for the very first time how easy it was to just... let go. Yeah They saw, in that last nanosecond, they saw... what they were. You, yourself, this whole big drama, it was never more than a jerry rig of presumption and dumb will, and you could just let go. To finally know that you didn't have to hold on so tight. To realize that all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain, it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it."
- In The Musketeers, Lucien Grimaud, the Big Bad of the final season. Seemingly incapable of any positive feeling of any kind, whether towards other people or simple pleasure or happiness, he thinks that the world is an utterly horrible place and his only drive is to amass money and power so that nobody can harm him, and when that fails to cause as much pain and kill as many people as possible. It's demonstrated most clearly when he murders a woman who was a midwife to send a message to Athos, and then says that she deserved to die for bringing children into the world to suffer, not as any kind of "shocking" posturing but simply as a calm statement of fact.
- Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street gives a rousing number, "Epiphany," devoted to the worthlessness of the human race and how we all deserve to die. From which point on he cuts a bloody swath in accordance with those precepts. Accompanied by dramatic chorus about moralizers and hypocrites.
- The operatic version of Woyzeck has The Doctor, who gives us this little gem.
"Haven't I told you that the urethral sphincter is subordinate to the will?"
- The Theatre version of Wicked shows Fiyero trying to act as this sort of nihilist. Unusually, he's fairly upbeat about the complete lack of value in reality, thought, or philosophy, as if a simple Hedonist. And then he has lines like :
If only because dust, is what we come to, nothing matters, but knowing nothing matters~
- Richard in Thrill Me justifies his gradually larger crimes by this ideal-he's superior to everyone else, so why should the normal rules apply to him?
- Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera has Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum, the King of Beggars, who is often taken for a mere miser but who despairs of even money's doing him any good in the end. One of his musical numbers features the chorus (translating from the German) 'You've got it just right/The World is poor, and Man is terrible'; another is titled (translating as per super) "Song of the Futility of All Human Striving".
- In a strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin says, "The problem with people is that they don't look at the big picture. Eventually, we're each going to die, our species will go extinct, the Sun will explode, and the Universe will collapse. Existence isn't only temporary, it's pointless! We're all doomed, and worse, nothing matters!" Of course, he's using this as an excuse to not do his homework.
Calvin: Suppose there's no afterlife. Suppose this life is all you get.Beat as Hobbes looks around.
- Hobbes can usually be counted on to issue a retort to these grumblings:
- Rat in Pearls Before Swine. He constantly sees the worst in others and looks at life as hopeless since the world will end. He was even able to get Pig and Zebra into his "End-o'-the-world" box, where they just get drunk out of beer-drinking hats.
- Raven used to be a happy rich kid but then he fell into depression, believing himself a no good man and that the existence of a hell to be damned to is the best thing he can hope for, since he knows there is nothing that could save him from it. So he goes around antagonizing people he feels are the same way or people who aren't that he resents for not being the same way, either telling them that they should be, or in the case of incorruptible pure pureness, lecturing them on how such a mindset will make them as depressed as him when they realize how rare it is.
Religion And Mythology
- Inverted in most religions which claim there is a higher meaning in existence and because of that the life we have now is meaningless, disdainful and that to abandon all desire is the best anyone can hope for.
- Ironically those teachings are probably responsible for most real life Straw Nihilists-when someone spends their childhood being told that the life we have here is meaningless and later decides that there is no God, they sometimes don't take it too well. Whereas some atheists are nihilists in that they believe that there is no intrinsic meaning to life, but don't really see why that's reason to be all angsty. Friedrich Nietzsche argued these exact points: a) religion led into nihilism, but b) that didn't have to be the case, and people could still create their own values and enjoy life.
- Occurs many places in The Bible, perhaps rather surprisingly, most prominently in the Book of Ecclesiastes:
"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. ... I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
"Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."
- However, he eventually comes to this conclusion:
- Many Christian and Neoplatonist critics of Gnosticism accused it of being fundamentally this, claiming that its beliefs in the world being a lie created by the Demiurge and his archons lead to a disregard of conventional morality and an at best pessimistic world view, dominated by paranoia and hopelessness. Whether Gnosticism is actually this, "conventionally religious moral" (since the idea that at least some humans are inherently divine and that there is a real God out there awaiting for your is kind of a big deal in most Gnostic traditions) or antinihilistic is of course up to the individual, though some surviving texts and statements are indeed the sort of thing you'd expect to see from your stereotypical "the world is meaningless bwahhh!!!" kind of person.
- Norm MacDonald. Imagine if The Joker from The Dark Knight decided not to blow shit up and instead became a stand-up comic. One bit he does involves pointing out everything a serial killer does which leads to them getting caught. He then explains (in a matter of fact manner) what he would do if he intended to kill someone and never get caught. He refers to the actual act as "the thing that makes me feel like God".
- Patton Oswalt parodies this by crossing it with the The Fundamentalist:
- Greyhawk: Tharizdun, the God of Omnicidal Maniacs, has many of these traits; it's just that instead of sitting around preaching about it, he's chained in the Far Realm driving people mad and plotting to destroy everything, everywhere.
- Shar, the goddess of bitterness and oblivion, is the FR goddess of nihilism. Her adherents are not permitted to hope, or to plan for the future without a dispensation from her priesthood.
- Archaon, Chosen of Chaos fits the actual Nietzsche mold fairly closely, believing that human society is irredeemably corrupt, and that a new form of society most be built. Of course, he thinks this should be done by killing everyone and turning the world over to Eldritch Abominations. He also held to the unrelenting pessimism, calling all human gods lies/liars, and believing this to such an extent that he was horrified to discover a Physical God had reincarnated to stop him — despite the fact that he had just won the fight.
- Dark Heresy, the RPG of Warhammer 40,000, has the Pilgrims of Hayte, a cult based around the notion that life is meaningless and thus willing to end it on a scale as large as possible. The outer layers believe that they worship Chaos for its closely fitting ideology while the inner circle knows that Chaos is just as strict, unforgiving and ultimately meaningless a master as the Emperor - and thus, a tool to be used. Which they relatively often get away with, if you consider "despoiling 3/4 of a planet and then abandoning your cult to its fate when the cavalry arrives" to be "getting away with it".
- Warhammer 40,000 is rife with Straw Nihilists in its setting, especially among Chaos, the Necrons, and sometimes a few Imperials. It's obvious why.
- The Bleak Cabal are a subversion, as they are generally nice fellows despite their belief that the universe makes absolutely no sense.
- Furthermore, there's the Doomguard, whose members know that the entropy of everything is inevitable — in fact, the core of Doomguard philosophy is that trying to hinder entropy is inherently futile and some of its more extreme members even try to hasten along the process.
- The Rakdos guild in Magic: The Gathering have spells like Nihilistic Glee. They're also the 'hedonist' and 'sociopath' guild; their general theme is being the life of the party... and, sometimes, its death.
- Many Abyssals in Exalted end up here or somewhere very much like it.
- Anima: Beyond Fantasy has Edamiel, a Beryl that after no emotions were able to fill her, even joy that was what she represented, embraced oblivion.
- Hamlet, despite predating Nietzsche, preaches nihilism with the best of them. The famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy summarizes it, but he eventually subverts actually becoming a straw nihilist by drawing purpose from his father's death.
- Macbeth doesn't start off this way, but by the end? The titular character's soliloquy following Lady Macbeth's death ("Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow") is one of the more eloquent statements of the idea. His motives in the last act are his giving in to this trope, made all the more terrifying because the amoral universe was of his own creation.
- Othello: The operatic version turned Iago, a villain who normally did it For the Evulz, into one of these with his Villain Song "Credo in un Dio crudel" (I believe in a cruel God).
- King Lear: Probably one of the greatest expressions of nihilism in western art. To begin with, only Edgar is this, and most definitely a straw nihilist. The other characters are just varying degrees of stupid or selfish. But by the fourth act... Good god. 'When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools'. Albany is just about the only character who comes out of the play with even the slightest shred of idealism in tact, and he's now most firmly on the cynical end of the spectrum.
- Albedo from the Xenosaga series is a particularly horrifying and sadistic Straw Nihilist, gleefully traumatizing MOMO for no apparent reason and strewing his throne room with the corpses of other little girls. He tends to self-mutilate when he's bored, and talks a lot about how wonderful death is. He totally cracked when he realized he would live on after Nigredo and Rubedo die. I'm practicing so that when they die, I won't cry, anyone?
- Final Fantasy III has Xande, a scholar to Noah who was given the gift of mortality. Fearing death so much, Xande concluded that life in general has no meaning and tried to cover the world in total darkness, freezing it in place forever, as a result.
- His incarnation in Final Fantasy XIV goes down the same road: the ruler of an ancient empire, Xande was resurrected some years after dying, allowing him to continue to pursue his dreams of conquest. However, even the achievement of Xande's goals couldn't erase the scars that death left on him, as he now knew all too well that dying meant losing all that you worked so hard to gain. Eventually, he made a pact with the Cloud of Darkness to reduce the world to nothingness, declaring that if man is inevitably doomed to lose everything upon death, then nothing should exist to lose.
- Kefka from Final Fantasy VI evolved from a Monster Clown with nihilistic tendencies into a fully fledged Straw Nihilist upon becoming the most powerful physical being on the planet halfway through the game.
Why do people insist on creating things that will inevitably be destroyed? Why do people cling to life, knowing that they must someday die? ...Knowing that none of it will have meant anything once they do?
- Seymour from Final Fantasy X, unloved and alone since his mother's death, wants to harness Sin and annihilate all life on Spira to put an end to pointless suffering. Two years later Shuyin from Final Fantasy X-2, eternally enraged and bitter at the world that let his one true love die, wants to harness Vegnagun and annihilate all life on Spira to end the existence of a world that he now sees as a pointless mockery. Clearly a lot of baddies on Spira didn't get enough hugs.note
- The backstory of Dark Matter, a (thankfully defeatable) Eldritch Abomination that serves as the perennial antagonist of the Kirby games, makes it clear that its actions are meant to turn the universe into a place where no one can be happy, so that everyone can share in its sorrow and loneliness. Guess it's kind of hard to make friends when you're a sentient force of pure Black Magic. Ironically, Kirby's best friend technically is one as well.
- Adam, leader of the Delphi cult in Trauma Center, who spread the GUILT plague to give humans the "blessing" of death they "deserve." He may or may not have included himself.
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords:
- Darth Nihilus, an aptly named Sith Lord, pursues the destruction of all life because "all life exists to feed his hunger." At least this is how Visas describes him.
- By contrast, the character Kreia follows Nietzsche's philosophy much more closely; her meditations on pity and suffering are practically a Cliff's Notes version of Daybreak.
- Luca Blight from Suikoden II. Being the genocidal psychopath that he is, he could very well carry out his plan to eradicate humanity by himself. To be fair, he's jumped off the slippery slope some time before the game began.
- Fire Emblem:
- Sephiran manipulated events in two games in order to prove to his patron goddess that the two races of Tellius were unable to live in peace, and thus should be destroyed. Sephiran had attempted to bring the two races to live in harmony for over several centuries, since a previous war between the two was the reason the goddess nearly destroyed the world in a flood. But a nearly genocidal massacre of the Heron branch of the Laguz race and the resulting reprisals decades previous to the game's start convinced him that the situation was unsalvageable, and that he should wake up his goddess so she could pass judgment.spoiler note
- In the 6th game, there's the Big Bad Zephiel, who started out as a "Well Done, Son!" Guy, trying to appease his father and is generally a nice boy. But his father is such a Jerkass that attempted his life so many times, Zephiel finally snapped, killed his father, starts to conclude that humans are evil, since they also bring out the emotions that made his father jealous to him. Thus, he began a campaign of conquering Elibe, and when he does, he planned to surrender the land and the human race to the Dragon race. Of course he failed in the end.
- Persona games
- All of the human villains of Persona 3 fit into this trope. One -does- admit to being in it for the power he'll supposedly be given over the world if he brings about the Fall, but ultimately, because the Fall is the Fall...
- In Persona 4, we have Shadow Teddie, who, being a manifestation of repressed nihilistic feelings and hidden existential dread, fits quite well. His most powerful (well, it would be if it wasn't telegraphed) attack is called Nihil Hand.
- Adachi claimed that all life was troublesome and pointless and that people are better off living as Shadows who are only aware of their own delusions and fantasies.
- Takahisa Kandori from Persona states that life is meaningless after he becomes a God. It's justified in that his DEVA machine contacted Maki Sonomura's thoughts.
- Soul Nomad & the World Eaters
- Gig has this attitude towards humans. And with him being The Grim Reaper, it goes without saying that the world he was responsible for was not having a good time until he got retired.
- In the Demon Path, Shauna becomes this after Trish's suicide.
- Reyva, should you win the final Demon Path battle, destroy reality itself, since It Amused You.
- Metal Gear has its fair share of examples:
- Sniper Wolf of Metal Gear Solid. She was waiting for someone to kill her, killing as many people as possible before then.
- Fortune in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. After losing her parents, husband, and her unborn child of three months, she joins the military, only to find that bullets and bombs can't hurt her. Fortune then goes on with the mission of using Arsenal Gear to use its hydrogen bomb just to kill as many people as possible since no one can kill her.
- Skull Face from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. While he does believe in the concept of hope, he sees it as nothing but a survival skill based on superficial qualities and otherwise dismisses it as unimportant.
- Before his boss fight in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Monsoon openly dismisses free will as a myth and religion as a joke.
- Sargeras in the Warcraft universe was driven insane by the depthless evil of the demons he fought. He came to believe that chaos was the natural state of existence and that the unnatural order imposed by the Titans was responsible for creating the demons. Gathering the demonic races he created the Burning Legion to destroy all order in the universe and return it to chaos. Even after Sargeras was apparently killed (officially he's "absent"), Chris Metzen has stated that the Legion's current commander, Kil'jaeden the Deceiver, still follows his master's philosophy.
- In Tales of the Abyss there's Sync. He's a failed Clone of a Creepy Child (according to the manga: Sync's original likes keeping people as pets) that was thrown alive into a volcano. He Lived. His response? Essentially, he wants to die, and take the whole, meaningless world with him.
- Kerghan from Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura: his Motive Rant says it all. He's a subversion, because he isn't being nihilistic, he's being compassionate in a very warped way. He's proposing a constructive solution to the pain of all living beings. (Yes, "kill the world" is constructive in this sense. It solves the problem he's trying to solve, it's just not a solution that anyone else likes.)
- Ramirez from Skies of Arcadia holds to the view that all of humanity is either corrupt (stating that they are driven by greed, hatred and bigotry) or weak (showing contempt for those who are incapable of defending themselves from him, or of using what power they possess to forcibly change the world), and uses these beliefs to justify attempted (and not-so-attempted) genocide. Curiously, he also holds to a somewhat more accurate Nietzschean philosophy, given that he believes his master, Lord Galcian, to essentially be an Übermensch, stating that Galcian is driven only by the will to power and the desire to use it to change the world, and that only such a man can unlock the world's true potential. He goes fully Straw Nihilist (not to mention Omnicidal Maniac) when Galcian is killed, stating that the heroes have condemned the world by killing the only person who was capable of saving it.
- By extension, the Silvite Elders can be seen as this, and is theorized that the only reason Fina and Ramirez even exist is to call down the Rains of Destruction once again because humanity has become too corrupt... again. Fina even lampshades this after their Heroic Sacrifice by saying they finally believed in the future.
- Cyrus from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl claims that life is meaningless, so it's perfectly acceptable for him to destroy the entire universe and create a new one in which he is a god and little things like emotions and the human soul do not exist: "The incomplete and ugly world we have now can disappear. I am resetting everything to zero. Nothing can remain. It is all for making the ultimate world. A world of complete perfection. Nothing so vague and incomplete as spirit can remain."
- Haer'Dalis from the Baldur's Gate series, as a member of the Doomguard (see Planescape examples above), is a Straw Nihilist, albeit a rather chipper one. At one point he states that he finds all the destruction wrought by the Bhaalspawn to be marvelous.
- The Reason of Shijima in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. Sponsored by the Assembly of Nihilo, with the Übermensch Hikawa as its leader, it seeks to destroy and reconstruct the world as a place of utter, absolute stillness. It is a reality where mankind is subsumed into infinite peace and unity, with no passion, no conflict, and the total eradication of human consciousness and individuality. Should the Demifiend (the player) choose to support this Reason, the game ends with Hikawa congratulating him on an infinite, barren plain of complete silence and the bluest sky you have ever seen.
- The White in Shin Megami Tensei IV. They think that the world will suck regardless of whether Law or Chaos win because the cycle would start anew anyway since the conflict relies on Humans being around, so destroying Humanity's the only way to really win. You can choose to help them out if you wish,note but their arguments are portrayed as moronically silly by all three other sides, and aren't taken seriously.
- Jin Kisaragi is revealed to have this kind of view in Continuum Shift; one translation of his words to Tsubaki in his Arcade mode story contains the line "The only truth in this world is death". However subvert while he believe the world is worthless he refuse to fall prey apathy.
- Hazama wants to destroy the current world because it's filled with "LIES LIES LIES LIES LIES LIES!" Also because he just enjoys it well that and has a serious Grudge against the master unit.
- Izanami ,the Goddess of Death even more so and it's implied that she made Hazama and Nu adopt this mindset.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Mephiles the Dark from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), especially in the Showdown with Mephiles cutscene, where he, in a manner similar to Agent Smith in The Matrix Revolutions, questions why Shadow even attempts to oppose him and defend humanity when he will inevitably be persecuted.
Mephiles: It's futile. The world will betray you. Why fight at all? Why risk your life for those who will persecute you later?
- Zor from Sonic Lost World is even worse - almost nothing makes him happy, he finds no point in doing anything since we're all going to die anyway so none of it matters... in short the stereotypical angst-ridden emo teen.
Zor: Only the Reaper wins in the end.
- Merlina of Sonic and the Black Knight is a more sympathetic example. She loves her world, but upon discovering that her world is doomed to end in ruin and warfare, became depressed and occasionally wondered why they should accomplish anything. Her solution was to try to find a way to make her world eternal.
- Mephiles the Dark from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), especially in the Showdown with Mephiles cutscene, where he, in a manner similar to Agent Smith in The Matrix Revolutions, questions why Shadow even attempts to oppose him and defend humanity when he will inevitably be persecuted.
- Mega Man Zero: Dr. Weil, shortly after explaining his particularly horrific origin for his immortality to Zero, undergoes an immense rant about how justice and freedom are worthless ideals, and then as his opening quote even dismisses ideals themselves as being meaningless or a lie.
Dr. Weil: Justice!? Freedom!? Worthless ideals! You Reploids are just machines, but you started a war a long time ago in the name of freedom! And humans! Look what they did to me! Driving me away while spouting the word "justice!" Zero, would you insist on saving them!? Controlling the Reploids is nothing! The destruction of all mankind is only fleeting! Not quite alive... Not quite dead... Forever, by my side! I'll make you suffer a fate far greater than anything ever experienced before![...]Ideals?! WHAT A LIE!!!
- In Super Paper Mario, Count Bleck is revealed to have become a nihilist after he lost his lover Timpani, so he decided that life was meaningless and wanted to destroy the entire multiverse with the Chaos Heart.
- Downy Reed in Duel Savior Destiny is perfectly okay with destroying the universe due to the death of his little sister and his inability to get revenge for it. Such an unfair world clearly shouldn't exist or something.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony, the protagonist meets a smoking, leather clad frenchman on the street who gives a speech that causes him to qualify as one of these. "I came to fuck and get high, what else is there? ... Family? I had a family once: meaningless. Honour!? Don't make me puke! No, the only thing that matters in this word is getting your rocks off... or getting so out of it that you don't even realise you aren't getting your rocks off."
- In Dota 2, character Leshrac is this based on his backstory and array of responses. To top it, his lore even says how he was once a philosopher.
- Lolo gets this applied in Namco High, and talks at great length about how nothing matters. Turns out she's just upset that friendships have to end, and Cousin is able to help her out of it in her route.
- Count Waltz of Eternal Sonata is this.
All human beings are fragile. Especially those who lack power. They die quite easily. And when you die, it's over. There's just no meaning to it. .... That's why I must have power. Enough absolute power to carve my existence into the very fabric of this world.
- Nihilumbra: Deconstructed. The title of the game should have given away that it would come up at some point.
- In Kid Radd, GI Guy, rather accurately observing that video game sprites like himself are created for the purpose of killing each other, tries to destroy the entire sprite world, and humanity with it. Unlike most cackling madmen, he's convinced this is will be a mercy-kill and that it's in everyone's best interests.
- Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire has Celesto Morgan, who is determined to "cleanse the world" by killing a lot of people he thinks deserve to die, as exemplified in these strips. Dominic hinges on being one for a while in the same story arc, until he is shown a group of people who willingly sacrificed themselves to protect their friends; this shakes him out of the "The world is horrific" viewpoint he was holding.
It is worth noting that he isn't entirely evil — in more recent strips he negotiates with Deegan and tries to make a peace offering. He still tries to kill people, but at least one was a psychopath and another was a crime lord. He's become somewhat of a Knight Templar.
- Jack from Antihero for Hire, as shown here.
- In 8-Bit Theater, Lich von Vampire believes that all life exists to die. The cultists and Black Mage also seem to have a nihilistic philosophy. Possibly played for laughs, seeing as his point of argument was people building their homes where glaciers "would come screaming through" hundreds of thousands of years later.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Galatea started out this way. She's one of the apparently rare cases where the hero successfully convinced her she was wrong, and she lightened up a little.
- In Suppression Samantha Wight delivers a speech to this effect when she first appears, but on that same note believes their efforts to be so pointless that she lets them pass afterward. Which they would have done if Bael's Berserk Button hadn't been pressed a few too many times.
- Homestuck: Jadesprite, after her Unwanted Revival, starts taking this view. Jade ends up calling her out on this.
- Ball And Chain's Nihilist Greg is a reasonably benign example, played for laughs.
- The concept of a Straw Nihilist is parodied in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. The Straw Nihilist obsesses over the very concepts he deems meaningless and complains about it endlessly, while the actual nihilist spends his time amassing as much material wealth as he can.
- The one speaking Worg so far in The Order of the Stick Greyview seems to view life as essentially a meaningless exercise in gathering treats ending in horrible death.
Greyview: Only certainty in life: when icy jaws of death come, you will not have had enough treats.
- Survival of the Fittest:
- Daphne Rudko has a viewpoint that can best be described as this, viewing humanity as nothing but parasites that must be destroyed and life as bleak and torturous, causing her to play not as much out of wanting to live (though that was a big part of it) as wanting everyone else to die. Then again, she's probably one of the few justified straw nihilists out there.
- Keith Christoph is a Deconstruction of this trope, as well as characters who become 'players' right off the bat.
- Spoofed with Meredith Hemmings, who continuously makes statements of this nature. However, it's pretty clear that she's just a poser and wannabe Goth, and that she doesn't believe a word of what she's saying. As a result, many characters tend to be dismissive of her.
- A Prayer To Futility from The Wanderer's Library is written from the perspective of such an individual.
- Miss Bitters from Invader Zim. She's played totally for laughs — but given what happens in a typical episode of the show, she looks like an optimist. Her rants / lessons tend to consist of telling her students how pointless existence is and how they are all doomed, doomed, doomed...
- The "Satan" sequence in The Adventures of Mark Twain (adapted from Twain's novella The Mysterious Stranger) is one of the most frightening and disturbing examples. What's worse is that this was put in a family film.
- The Stunticon Dead End got to be like this at times during the course of the original The Transformers cartoon. It becomes a bit of a joke when you read his character biography, and learn that he is quite vain about his appearance and constantly stays polished and detailed. Because if he's gonna die, he's going to leave behind a nice looking corpse.
Dead End: What does it matter if I meet my fate now, or when my circuits fail?
- Spider-Carnage in the Grand Finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series. An alternate-universe Peter Parker, he was already at the brink of madness due to his version of The Clone Saga - being possessed by the Carnage symbiote sent him to Omnicidal Maniac-level out of the belief that life was meaningless. It took a meeting with an alternate-universe Uncle Ben to make him snap out of it and fight off the symbiote's control.
- Qilby the Traitor in Wakfu sees individual fleeting lives as utterly meaningless after spending millenia trapped in an endless cycle of reincarnation cursed with the inability to forget his past lives, unlike the other original Eliatropes like Yugo who forget their past lives when they are reborn.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: The unmade episode "Life Sucks" would have revealed Ren to be one; the entire episode consists of Ren pounding it into Stimpy that life is nothing but meaningless, horrible, and stupid.
- Nil is an esoteric programming language based around the idea that your computer could interpret programming code as one. The interpreter in this programming language basically splits whole statements into pieces through a process that is known as "atomization". After that is done it determines that each part of the code is essentially meaningless. It then adds up all the meaningless stuff in the code and concludes that the entire operation is meaningless. It is therefore more expressive to implement an interpreter for itself, much more concisely than many 'proper' languages can and is very closely related to human language. Some even managed to process the entire old testament through this thing and it ended up barely comprehending it.