After a little time spent thinking about it, it's not too surprising that heroes can often sympathize with certain villains
. When you have heroes like The Messiah
around, they're always looking to redeem and relate to anyone, and heroes that have a Dark and Troubled Past
can surely understand how sometimes those experiences can put someone down a path to villainy.
What's more surprising is when villains, morally grey characters, or ordinary Innocent Bystander
who are not famous or admired look at the hero, and say "Man, it sucks to be him." Sometimes these people see how Being Good Sucks
and No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
, and it causes them to feel genuine sympathy and pity for what the hero goes through in being heroic.
This can easily serve as a lead in to a villain making a Not So Different
speech, offering to rule together
, or, more darkly, trying to Break Them By Talking
Compare It Sucks To Be The Chosen One
and Antagonist In Mourning
. When the villain sees the hero going through so much shit and cannot understand how they can still be heroic after that, it's often because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good
. Compare and
contrast Baddie Flattery
. Sympathy for the Devil
is the inverse, when the heroes are sympathizing with the villain. See also Hurting Hero
, which is often what leads to this.
Remember, please keep all examples In-Universe
only, this is not a YMMV or Audience Reaction
trope like The Woobie
or Unintentionally Sympathetic
open/close all folders
- During the Kindly Ones volume of The Sandman, Lucifer notes that while he once swore to destroy Dream (over a fairly trivial matter) he now feels almost sorry for him when he sees the mess that Dream has gotten into.
- There's a scene in The Prophecy where Satan briefly commiserates and shows sympathy to Detective Daggett, (a cop who years earlier lost his faith just before he was set to become a Catholic priest) about how hard it is to believe and keep faith.
- Villain Protagonist Yuri Orlov shows a grudging respect and admiration for Hero Antagonist Agent Valentine several times in Lord Of War. Specifically, Yuri goes out of his way to point out Valentine's honesty and integrity, and Yuri seems to be showing some sympathy when Valentine is about to be betrayed by the system he has risked his life defending.
- In the 2003 film version of Peter Pan, Hook uses a Breaking Lecture on Peter to take away Pan's flight and distract him. Throughout it Hook talks about how Wendy will grow up, and move on, leaving Peter to die alone, forgotten, and unloved. At the end he suddenly looks tremendously sad and adds "Just like me".
- Spider-Man 2: After Spider-Man saves the train from falling off the tracks, he's exhausted and almost falls off the train. The people in the train pull him back in and lay him on the floor. Peter's lost his mask in the fight, so everyone in the train can see how young he is. One man notes with sympathy "He's... just a kid. No older than my son." One young bystander gives Peter back his mask, and they promise to keep his secret. Then when Doc Oc returns, they all vow to protect him. Unfortunately Doc Oc doesn't have a problem with that.
- The Joker often tries to relate to Batman throughout the course of The Dark Knight, especially in expressing how they're both freaks on the margin of society. At the very end he even grudgingly praises the fact that Batman is incorruptible, and cannot be made to break his moral laws.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, The Spymaster Varys berates Mr. Honor Before Reason himself, Ned Stark, for the various huge political mistakes that Ned made in attempting to be The Good Chancellor until Ned says that it was all in attempt to be merciful to innocent children. At that point Varys makes a statement that both admires Ned's integrity and weighs the cost of those mistakes, (Ned is injured and feverish while Locked In The Dungeon, his best friend was murdered, one of his daughters taken captive by his enemies, all of his men killed, etc.) where he basically concludes that no wonder other people don't try to be a hero like Ned.
- The A Song of Ice and Fire tv adaption Game of Thrones has Jaime Lannister expressing a moment of admiration for Ned Stark instead of Varys. "Poor Ned Stark. Brave man, terrible judgement."
- Near the end of the Harry Turtledove series World War, Nazi commando Otto Skorzeny has a moment where he both admires the bravery and skills of a couple of Polish sharpshooters sent after him. (He mentions even complementing one on his marksmanship while handing the guy his trigger finger.) He also has a moment of pity for the city full of Jews and Poles that he is about to blow up.
- In The Bible, Pontius Pilate only reluctantly allows Jesus' execution, acknowledging that he had done no wrong by Roman laws. This has carried over to numerous portrayals of Pilate.
- In Gor book Outlaw of Gor, when Tarl returns to Gor he finds that his city has been reduced to rubble by the Priest-Kings, and a mind-altered representative of the Priest-Kings shows up to inform him that it's all Tarl's fault. But Tarl sees that the man who is being used as a puppet by the Priest-Kings is crying for him - he feels pity for Tarl, the one emotion that's forbidden in Gorean custom.
- In the novelization of the Mortal Kombat movie, Goro sadly tells Johnny Cage's friend Art that Art fought well just before killing him at Shang Tsung's command.
Live Action TV
- In one X-Files episode that takes place in a carnival, a member of the freak show wonders how Mulder can bear to be so perfectly normal in appearance.
- This was the central idea for the song Superman by Five For Fighting. John Ondrasik said the inspiration was thinking about how Superman is missing out on living because of his Chronic Hero Syndrome.
- In Cyrano De Bergerac, De Guiche, initially a villainous character, comes to feel great respect for Cyrano. He recognizes that Cyrano doesn't prosper because he never sacrifices his principles, and he (De Guiche) lives a life of prosperity because he does, and part of him wishes he had Cyrano's moral courage.
- In Antony And Cleopatra, Octavius Caesar spends most of the play bringing Antony down, but still seems to feel sorry for him; though the "Poor Antony" line can come across as either sincere or mocking depending on the direction, his open and indisputable grief when he hears of Antony's death suggests he was sincere.