"You don't know the power of the Dark Side!"
The Evil Counterpart
, corruption or evil sides of the Sentient Cosmic Force
...and a good number of non-sentient, non-cosmic forces as well. Evil is addictive; the more of its power you rely on, the more evil you become. The Dark Side is when the temptation to fall
has an added oomph.
It's more than just the cumulative result of one's actions; there's a corrupting force that speeds things along
. This is often the Phlebotinum
-powered justification of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope
, which results in the Fallen forgetting why they fell in the first place
. The Dark Side often promises pleasure
Sometimes, the Dark Side even offers itself as the efficacious means to do good, leading to the hero falling to a He Who Fights Monsters
situation. Once it gets you, there's an odd tendency to accessorize accordingly.
Like More Than Mind Control
, it accelerates the more suppressed urges
and wrong choices it has to work with.
May be fueled by an Artifact of Doom
. May grant Black Magic
and work through The Dark Arts
. May result in The Heartless
. Once it starts to taste good
there's no turning back.
The trope is named after the dark side of The Force
from Star Wars
It's a component of Psychoactive Powers
; protective instinct
is harder to tap on demand than righteous fury
, but anger tends to feed on itself, resulting in Power Incontinence
Of course, there are often also social, mental
, and sometimes physical costs
that no amount of subterfuge can fully hide
but by the time these aspects appear, it's too late.
Contrary to what the Well-Intentioned Extremist
and Anti-Hero might say
, you cannot "fight the Dark Side with the Dark Side"
— Heroic Willpower
notwithstanding, the consequences will inevitably lead to the user's Pyrrhic Villainy
Compare With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
. Often leads to displays of Drunk on the Dark Side
and shouts of "Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!
" Also compare Evil Is Not a Toy
, where the danger is not moral, but physical. Opposite The Force
. The Dark Side tends to be, but is not always, associated with Discipline in Harmony Versus Discipline
for its dominating aspects. Contrast Dark Is Not Evil
. The Dark Side comes with its own built-in Aesop
about the ends not justifying the means. See also The Dark Side Will Make You Forget
, a scenario where a once well-meaning good guy uses the dark powers for good ends, and over time becomes a villain in the process.
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Anime & Manga
- Many characters in Yu-Gi-Oh! and GX fall into some Dark Side's trap, usually by trying to use an Artifact of Doom or something Powered by a Forsaken Child (i.e. Marik, Dartz, Akunadin, Saiou, Judai), sometimes with good intentions (Yami Yugi used the Seal of Orichalcos partly to save his Dark Magician Girl, Fubuki used his Superpowered Evil Side to try to save Ryo). They start confident they'll be able to control what they unleash, but inevitably, the power's/object's inherent darkness is controlling them.
- Light can function the same way. A malignant celestial radiance known as the Light of Destruction tried to destroy the world via brainwashing cult in Season 2. Even after its defeat, it continued to be referenced thereafter as one of the most dangerous forces in existence.
- Used straight and subverted in Bleach: gaining Hollow powers raises people's upper power (it is stated that shinigami have a maximum power they can attain) and allows them great spiritual growth. But it also risks giving into your Super-Powered Evil Side for a world-class Freak Out!. The Vizard thoroughly beat their dark sides into submission in order to access the power safely, and teach others in their dilemma how to do the same; however, not all people who gain Hollow powers want to suppress The Dark Side.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! has Negi learning Black Magic so that he'll be able to protect his students, and it's implied that there's a real risk of the power taking control.
- It's also used more humorously, as Evangeline will attempt to "turn Negi to the dark side'' whenever the opportunity presents itself. It hasn't worked yet.
- She touches this with almost everybody she comes into contact with, and has noticeably affected some of them (including Negi) — the catch is that this setting weighs heavily on the side of Dark Is Not Evil. Her version is more aesthetic choice and antisociality with Dark Side corruptive qualities than what the (other?) villains in the series possess.
- This trope — well, its subtrope Clothes Make the Maniac, anyway — was, oddly enough, not actually present in the original Black Costume Spider-Man story, but appears in all adaptations thereof.
- Does appear, however, in an issue of What If...? in which the symbiote latches on to the Punisher after Spider-Man rids himself of it, and attempts to corrupt the Punisher into killing Spider-Man. Subverted, however, in that the Punisher — who is already a pretty dark character anyway — is having none of it, manages to gain control of the symbiote, and informs it that if it ever tries to make him hurt an innocent again, he'll kill them both.
- In Marvel's World War Hulk: X-Men, Cain Marko succumbs to the lure of being an unstoppable force once again, and his own innate desire for destruction, which leads to his return as The Juggernaut of old by fully embracing the power's evil nature.
- In Fear Itself, Colossus, in a desperate bid to save the X-Men from a jacked-up Juggernaut, absorbed the Cyttorak crystal into his own body, becoming the new Juggernaut. He is now struggling to hold on to his humanity and prevent Cyttorak from completely possessing him. Judging from some previews of Avengers vs. X-Men it's going to be a losing battle... All of this turns out to have been his own sister Magick's scheme to make him realize that she isn't his innocent little sister anymore. By allowing him to be Juggernaut for a while (she could have freed him at any time with her own powers), she made Colossus experience firsthand how the Dark Side changes people.
- The Shun Leep martial arts style from Gold Digger is so badass it has its own dark side for those who don't have the self control to master the higher techniques. It's not even a magic-related style! It just makes fighting so euphoric, and actively addictive, you stop caring about little things like 'whether your opponent lives'.
- While his name would not be enough reason to qualify as this trope, Darkseid was certainly one of many beings to successfully tempt Mary Marvel with powers that were sure to corrupt her.
- From Green Lantern, we have several examples.
- Parallax, the living enbodiment of fear, who corrupted Hal Jordan into a maniac, and tried to do the same to Kyle Rayner.
- Sinestro, who was corrupted- not by Parallax, but by trying to bring order to his home planet by creating a fascist rule. He later allied himself with Parallax to try bringing order to the entire universe.
- The Red Lantern Corps, whose rings are powered by the wielder's own rage.
- The Star Sapphires are powered by love, with much the same addictive effects.
- The Orange Lanterns whose powers are derived from greed, and the Black Lanterns the "darkest" of the Lantern Corps in general, being dedicated to death and darkness, with all its members being undead.
- Subverted and averted with the Orange and Black Lanterns respectively. The Orange Lanterns are nothing but energy constructs that take the form of Agent Orange's many victims. Then again, all of them were beings driven by greed in the first place, which is what drew Agent Orange to them, so it still sort of fits. Agent Orange himself is a prisoner of his own power, hopelessly addicted to it and unwilling to ever let go of the Orange Lantern Battery which contains Ophidian the Greed Entity despite the unending hunger it inflicts upon him. The Black Lanterns are nothing but corpses animated by the rings themselves which are all mere extensions of Necron's will. There's no trace of the people that used to be those bodies.
- Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader is by far the most famous Star Wars example, but there are plenty of others in the Expanded Universe. (See also under video games.) According to the source material, the Dark Side is powerfully addictive, since not only does it give you visibly stronger powers (at first), it also is a tremendous rush: it doesn't just feed off of negative emotions, it enhances them to some degree, and the more you use it the more susceptible you are to continued use, like an addict. There's plenty of evidence to show it can be resisted and fought off, but that's like asking a recovering heroin addict to hold onto some heroin for awhile: you ARE taking a chance that he will use it.
- The Dark Side is also shown to be physically destructive to those who use it past a certain point. Using Force Lightning caused Palpatine to be disfigured into the familiar, warped condition of the Emperor from the original trilogy, and Anakin's skin and eyes were severely discolored before his final duel with Obi Wan.
- Anyone who gets near (much less uses) the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. Gollum is the example of how far things can go.
- Violation of the Seven Laws of Magic in The Dresden Files causes this, especially things that harm other people like mind control, Outsider summoning and murder-by-magic. It not only corrupts your soul but eventually drives you insane with power-hunger (assuming that the Wardens don't kill you first - at first you think that's the Wardens being draconian and cruel, but it turns out the laws and their one punishment exist because once you do certain things, you will get worse and worse and it won't matter what your intention was when you started. They don't like the fact that the best way to keep the body count down is to get out the ax when the violator is still a poor kid who broke a law once without knowing about the laws or council or wardens, but it is. The council basically answers "yes" to "knowing what was coming, would you kill Hitler while he was stilll a baby?").
- More personally, Harry is constantly tempted to use Fallen power by Lasciel, who wants him to pick up her coin and become a Denarian. At one point he even quotes Gandalf at her to emphasize why he refuses.
- The Denarians are perfect living examples of falling to The Dark Side. They're evil through and through because of their greed for power, and they live symbiotically with demons from hell (in the literal Christian sense).
- The only member of the White Council that is allowed to violate the Seven Laws is the Blackstaff. This is because the Blackstaff (magical staff) wielded by the Blackstaff (the position) prevents The Dark Side from corrupting its wielder.
- In The Tennis Shoes Adventure Series, there's a demonic sword, created by an evil king from The Book of Mormon. It would slowly work its way into someone's mind, convincing them they could use it to become powerful. Through the use of Time Travel, Todd Finlay got a hold of it and turned to The Dark Side. Later on, Joshua Hawkins, son of The Hero gets seduced by it as well.
- The so-called True Power of The Wheel of Time is highly addictive. Only the very upper echelon of the Dark One's flunkies are allowed to use it, and only one of them does so on a more than completely desperate basis, as they're all afraid of the side effect: going utterly around the bend (the one who does use it is already nuts and a major nihilist to boot- he doesn't care about the consequences]].
- Saidin, the source of power for male magic users, is also considered to be this in-universe, but that's because the Dark One managed to layer corruption over it, causing anyone who uses it for long to go completely Ax-Crazy and then die a horrible death that's never seen, but described as being essentially rotting while you're still alive. Late in the series, Rand maanges to fix it.
- Oddly enough the phrase "dark side" is used a couple of times in Harry Potter, but it doesn't really have any examples of the trope: Voldemort was evil from the start, as were the Death Eaters. The good guys also use spells considered evil at various points with no repercussions, so apparently magic truly is just a tool, and it all depends on how it's used. Despite this, some branches of magic are clearly classified as "the Dark Arts" and their use is proscribed.
- The creation of Horcruxes may qualify, since it involves the deliberate mutilation of the soul, and consequent loss of humanity/sanity. Of course, the question does then arise of why Voldemort was the only person in history to create multiple horcruxes. More than one fanfic author has ascribed this to Voldemort screwing up the first horcrux, and putting vastly more of his soul into it than he ever intended.
- The Dark Court from Wicked Lovely.
- In the Drizzt novels by R.A. Salvatore, the Crystal Shard is frequently presented as being made of the Dark Side. So too the sentient sword Khazid'Hea. The Crystal Shard is an interesting and somewhat tragic case, since the true source of its corrupting influence isn't from the evil beings that created it (whom it consumed), but from the lingering sorrow and torment of a ruler who tried and failed to protect his kingdom from invaders with the Shard's power.
- In Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy universe, practicing Black Magic for any amount of time will result in this.
- In Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar Universe there are hints that the ancient Big Bad Ma'ar may have started out this way.
- In A.L. Phillips's The Quest of the Unaligned, elemental Darkness is inextricably entangled with each of the four elemental magics, and mages except for the orahs, who "live aligned with light alone" constantly have to fight its pull. Additionally, it is possible under certain extreme circumstances to become a hoshek, a mage aligned with pure darkness. This grants almost unlimited power, at the cost of becoming completely psychotic and utterly evil. The last hoshek to be created destroyed half of Caederan before finally being defeated.
- In Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, Lyman Taggart wanted to use the supercomputer Overmind to end the ongoing war being proliferated by the Biomechs, but was seduced by the seeming perfection of machines, inevitably becoming the infamous Lord Dread and the very thing he was fighting against. His occasional doubts are dissuaded by Overmind, who brainwashes him with the propaganda of their cause.
- The Wraith Enzyme in Stargate Atlantis, though Ford has yet to venture into full-on Darth Vader territory.
- And probably never will, because his character has seemingly been forgotten by characters and writers alike.
- While they Never Found the Body, the implication that Ford died in his last appearance was fairly obvious. They left just enough of an opening for him to be brought back if the writers decided to do so, but they never did.
- Willow in season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when she abandons all restraint from using magic, even Black Magic.
- Subverted in that you have to go through the Dark Side, survive (not explode) and come out the other end to be on the real Light Side.
- Also, in season 3, Angel warns Faith "You don't know the price of evil". Her response: "I hope evil takes MasterCard".
- Angel's conversions to Angelus don't count as they are instant and involuntary. But he goes dark in season 2, in a tantrum over not being able to save Darla. For example, he lets a room full of lawyers get eaten by vampires. That's dark, isn't it? Isn't it?
- The point behind Angel and the gang being recruited to run LA branch of Wolfram and Hart in Season 5 is basically this troope, even if they insist that they did so to do good. It is strongly implied (and occasionally stated more or less explicitly by several characters) that the Senior Partners want Angel (and his friends) to willingly choose the evil side for "good" reasons.
- Spoofed in Season 6 when Spike encourages Buffy to walk with him on the Dark Side — which consists of Spike playing poker for kittens while Buffy gets drunk and makes snarky comments. Things become more serious later on in the season when Spike wrongly assumes (or convinces himself) that Buffy's depression and desire for rough sex means she wants to abandon her life and join him on the Dark Side. His failure to understand the complexity of her emotions has serious consequences for both of them.
- Sam spends about three seasons of Supernatural trying to avoid turning to the Dark Side, even making Dean promise to kill him if he ever goes evil. The fourth season, however, finds him drinking demon blood to fuel his demon-provided powers so he can kill Lilith and prevent the Apocalypse after she kills Dean. By the end of the season, thinking he's The Only One who can do it, Sam leaves his brother to go get even more power and kills Lilith, inadvertently releasing Lucifer and starting the Apocalypse.
- The darker aspect of Delvian mental powers in Farscape, especially in the episodes "That Old Black Magic" and "Rhapsody In Blue". All in all, Delvian priests have a worrying tendency to turn to the Dark Side, for as they train for purity and gain more control over their abilities, they become more vulnerable to darker impulses; if they succumb to these, they will very quickly go insane.
- The Shadows in Babylon 5 start their work by tempting and corrupting powerful people.
- The Secret Society in House of Anubis soon bring in the newest teacher into their ranks (leading to his face heel turn).
- Season 3 has, what the heroes call, Team Evil. They eventually also start corrupting people into their team, by locking them into a sarcophagus and stealing their soul for the god Ammit to devour. They are even worse when you discover they took the soul of one of the Sibuna Members themselves. While this could be considered mind control, the members who had their soul lost openly admit that power feels good and are all glad that they lost their conscience, while the rest of them feel that way anyways.
- New World of Darkness is filled with powers that slowly corrupt and tear into those who call upon them. In many cases, simply being supernatural leads one into temptation — the average Humanity of an elder vampire is around four, which is about the point at which even murder doesn't look like that much of a big deal anymore.
- Sometimes it is more explicit, however: Mage: The Awakening has Abyssal powers offering gifts to mages who serve them, while Promethean: The Created has the eroding force of Flux and the Refinement of Flux, Centimani.
- The Gangrel clan from Vampire: The Requiem get their own special variant. Any vampire can "ride the wave" and give into their Beast, but Gangrel can enter "the Red Surrender," a state where the Beast takes over and they become much more powerful. The downside? It's addictive.
- You can break the addiction though through sheer willpower, and end up becoming a Genius Bruiser you become more connected to your humanity by telling the Beast where to stick it, and get bonuses to mental stats (Called the Red Denial) the downside? It feels about has pleasant as hearing nails on a chalkboard, and chewing tinfoil at the same time. Denying the beast feels AWFUL.
- The Old World of Darkness, of which the above is the Spiritual Successor, is full of Dark Forces that corrupt their users.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the Wyrm, the spiritual embodiment of entropy, death, and necessary destruction. Or rather, that's what it used to be, before it went batshit insane and became an Omnicidal Maniac. Nowadays it's a force of subtle corruption and despair, an army of not-at-all-subtle mutants and sadistic monsters, and a spiritual energy fed and strengthened by every atrocity and act of abuse in the world. Its spirits animate countless tainted objects and places all over the Earth. Every emotion of hate, and every act of destruction and abuse a person commits, slightly erodes their soul and makes them more open to the Urge Wyrms, who push them further towards their master. Werewolves who ally with the Wyrm (willingly or not) become sadistic, insane, mutated, fucked-up Black Spiral Dancers.
- Mage: The Ascension has the various evil forces served by the Nephandi, some of which appear to come from the Wyrm and others of which seem to be Eldritch Abominations from the far edges of the Solar System. Serving them is not healthy for your sanity.
- The Elohim in Demon The Fallen have the Torment: the mark of their estrangement from God and/or Grace. Due to the nature of the setting, it's much easier to gain Torment than to absolve oneself from it. And the more Torment you have, the more likely you are (it's in the gameplay mechanics!) to screw up some benevolent deed and turn it into a crime, earning more Torment in turn...
- Somewhat predictably for the setting, Warhammer 40,000 takes this trope and hurls it screaming over the edge in the form of Chaos. The result? There's no Light Side—only a sort of Gray Side, and the actual Dark Side is sentient. A sentient, extremely intelligent, masterfully manipulative, and very powerful Dark Side that occasionally takes matters into its own hands when mortal pawns aren't getting the job done. However, the greatest defense everybody has against Chaos is itself, since it or its major manifestations will always turn on itself(/each other).
- Happens quite a bit to radical Inquisitors, who feel that using demonic powers or weapons to fight Chaos is a good idea, and don't quite understand that those are in fact good ways to get corrupted by Chaos. Especially because many Radicals have to employ evil methods to acquire such means.
- An excellent example of the power of Chaos, is the Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim. Fulgrim starts out as a Primarch, the settings' equivalent of a human archangel, and a great lover of art of all kinds. In the end, the least of his depravities is creating art with the blood and screams of his victims. Throughout Fulgrim's descent into madness, he never fully realized what was happening, and every step on the way makes absolute, reasonable, bone-chilling sense.
- Tends to happen when you start using spells with the "Evil" descriptor in Dungeons & Dragons. Note: the descriptor is there for a reason.
- The "Evil" descriptor is a bit misleading at times; Spells such as "Phantasmal Killer", which is Mind Rape in everything but name, does not have the descriptor, while spells such as "Deathwatch" which gives you a little timer to tell when the person you cast it on dies, does.
- In Dungeons & Dragons evil isn't just a word but a literal component of existence, which means that evil spells use physical capital-E Evil as an ingredient. Casting Phantasmal Killer against a group of children would still be evil, but since it doesn't actually invoke Evil as a spell component, the spell itself is as morally neutral as a Fireball or Lightning Bolt.
- Like many depictions of Angels, should In Nomine Angels go against their nature too much, they Fall and that Fall changes their very essence into Demons. It is up to the players how easy this is.
- It is in the very nature of Ravenloft, the Demiplane of Dread, to addict and reward whoever acts evil.
- Though it also acts as their prison.
- In fact, Ravenloft doesn't reward evil, it actually punishes it horrifically, by dangling the evil person's greatest desire just out of reach. For all eternity.
- Ebon Dragon Infernal Charms, in Exalted. There are a lot of other morally dubious Charms, spells, and supernatural abilities, but only the Ebon Dragon's Charm trees will steadily impair your ability to act in an honest, moral fashion as you progress along them. (Granted, Infernals are one of the "villainous" factions to begin with, but they're entirely possible to play heroically, and Eclipse Solars and Moonshadow Abyssals can learn their Charms...)
- Blue Rose: Sorcery — meaning most forms of ritual magic, as well as ordinary Inherent Gift magic if used in certain unethical ways — works almost exactly like the classic Star Wars Dark Side.
- Picking up the theme from its literary counterpart above, in the Dresden Files RPG breaking any of the Laws of Magic invites attention from the Wardens and pushes player characters closer to NPC status...but each "Lawbreaker" power (one per Law and automatically acquired upon breaking it) then also provides a bonus towards actions breaking the same Law of Magic again.
- Gwynn from Sluggy Freelance has this with the Book of E-Ville and (formerly) with the demon K'Z'K.
- Subverted with Vaarsuvius in The Order of the Stick and his/her soul splice with the spirits of three psychotic mages in order to stop the black dragon threatening V's mate and children, but also out of pride. Vaarsuvius was told the soul splice would have an effect on alignment, but after the Moral Event Horizon is crossed, this is revealed to be a lie set up to give V an excuse to do something that the elf would have otherwise avoided.
- In Coming Up Violet high school popularity is treated a lot like this. This is made all too evident when Abby tries to convince Violet to usurp the Alpha Bitch's power and ends up sounding very much like Chancellor Palpatine.
- Played for laughs in El Goonish Shive:
"So you're saying you can't make me an army of goo-based hall monitors?"
"Even if I could, I would not give into the dark side so easily."
- In Endstone, Banestone corrupts through this.
- Charmander, after using Rare Candies, becomes a bully Charmeleon and almost aggressively attacks Jigglypuff in 151 Hidden Depths.
- Parodied and subverted in Homestuck. After her mother dies and she learns something about the Horroraterrors Rose goes "grim dark". Although this changes her appearance and prevents her from speaking normally, her personality is seemingly unchanged...though she understandably wants to kill the Reality Warper who killed her mother.
- In Sinfest Satan talks it up after a failure at temptation.
We would be honored if you would join us.