The Dark Side Will Make You Forget
Don't fall for it, Jack. Jack:
Fall for what? Jane:
For the lie we keep telling ourselves. We do the dirty stuff to get the power. It'll give us all the good things we really want. Then we get the power, we can't even remember what goddamn thing what it was we wanted it for in the first place.
— Head Office
The character is an explicit good guy. Either in order to achieve a goal, or by being forced into doing so by someone else, they do what needs to be done
. The By-the-Book Cop
beats a confession out of the serial killer who will go free otherwise. The Paragon
uses their Superpowered Evil Side
to defeat an invincible foe. The White Mage
breaks their oath to never use the power of light as a weapon
Taking such a morally grey action is a technically neutral action, and in theory, it should be possible to use it to achieve the goal in question without permanently crossing the Moral Event Horizon
. But The Dark Side
being The Dark Side, it doesn't work like that. By its very nature, Evil Feels Good
, and there are few highs like being Drunk on the Dark Side
. It Gets Easier
and easier to choose the dark side. The hero begins Slowly Slipping Into Evil
, and eventually, they will be a completely different person than they were before they crossed this line.
The Fallen Hero
starts Kicking The Morality Pet
and Jumping Off the Slippery Slope
. And when called out on this, they may simply embrace their new role as villain
This is a fairly common method of enacting a Face-Heel Turn
or making an evil character sympathetic
— but not too sympathetic— as in a sense it makes the evil character themselves a victim of evil. Sure they had a good reason, at some point. But not anymore. In a particularly bad case, the character might not even remember what their original motive was, and substitute the old goal with explicitly evil ones. The redeemable ones can usually be reminded at the last minute
, or sometimes
they figure it out for themselves
- though they may still keep going
. Often the justification
for Motive Decay
Compare to He Who Fights Monsters
. Related to The Corruption
, Dark Is Evil
and Bad Powers, Bad People
(especially when it starts out as Bad Powers, Good People
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Anime & Manga
- Death Note's Light Yagami originally had good intentions, but as he got more and more drunk on power he lost sight of them in favor of taking over the world. Alternately, he had superego-compatible justifications, which fell by the wayside as he became more and more used to the safety of anonymity and the fact that people who liked Kira liked him for his power more than anything, and that sparring with L was actually a lot more interesting than taking out the trash. Either way his access to dark side powers seduced him to casual evil without his noticing.
- Light's first thought when testing the Death Note was to use it on a group of bullying classmates. He only decided not to because that might lead the police to him. These are not the thoughts of a normal, balanced individual. Moreover, his first attempt to kill L was motivated by rage — rage at being called evil. He also killed investigators whose job it was to stop crime. Though he may have reason to kill those trying to stop them, he was disturbingly satisfied that he outwitted and forced a broken detective to hang herself. The Death Note's effects on Light's sanity became more obvious when Light gave his Death Note away and lost all of his memories. He turned out to be nice and fully convinced that Kira was evil and had to be stopped.
- Although it didn't take long for this to happen, and he doesn't seem to have had far to fall. By the end of the first episode he's already explicitly telling Ryuk that his goal is to rule over the world like a god.
- Sasuke is a poster child for this. While he was always firstly driven by his wish to kill his brother, his time in Konoha made him connect to the members of his team. The lure of revenge was too great, until he decided to break those ties. His motives have rapidly degenerated after joining with Madara. Initially after learning of the truth behind his brother's murder of his clan, Sasuke simply wanted revenge against the Village Elders who manipulated him. Now he won't settle for anything less than the complete genocide of anyone who lives in Konoha. There's some hints that Sasuke is being influenced by something (Madara claims the Uchiha bloodline is The Dark Side), probably an Author's Saving Throw given that during the summit arc he rather suddenly turns into a cardboard villain after gaining Susanoo (amongst other things, he abandoned another set of teammates that he seemed to care about earlier, who in the previous arc had saved him from being killed).
- Orochimaru was revealed to be a victim of this. The horrors of war and realization of his own mortality gradually twisted his dream of living long enough to meet his reincarnated parents into a tangible goal of discovering immortality.
- Possibly Gin Ichimaru from Bleach. It seems he originally started plotting to kill Aizen as revenge for his underlings attacking Rangiku in her youth. Now over a century later he still tried to kill Aizen, but not only he was willing to wound Rangiku to accomplish that, it seems would have continued Aizen's plan to destroy Karakura Town if he had managed to kill him. He seems to have lost track of himself a long time ago. This may be a fusion of The Dark Side Will Make You Forget and Becoming the Mask, though. Hundred years of undercover that's actually pretty fun will do that to you.
- Ralph Werec from Soukou no Strain. Even as he constantly reminds himself of why he defected from the Union, he moves further and further away from his goal of vengeance and closer to being an Omnicidal Maniac, and by the end of the series, he has turned against the very people he was trying to atone to.
- In Claymore, overusing your power will transform you into a monster who forgets that eating human entrails is quite rude. The reason that a Claymore tends to overuse her power is often to protect people from monsters much like these.
- That being said, some of these monsters (called awakened beings in-universe) - particularly if they're powerful or important enough - retain much or most of their knowledge, up to even trying to maintain friendly relationships with their loved ones in some cases (though this only seems to work out when the loved ones in question become awakened beings as well). At least one has established a fatherly connection to younger characters (including a normal human, which seems like the only food awakened beings like) a very long time after his transformation. Even then, though, he continued to be an evil bastard not far from an Omnicidal Maniac including of his own kind.
- In Pretty Sammy, Misao Amano is an evil magical girl aiming to ruin the balance between good and evil. When she transforms into a form concerned with expressing the negative, repressed parts of her personality, however, she simply does things For the Evulz and lose sight of her original goal completely.
- In IDW's Transformers continuity, the Decepticons started out as heroic freedom fighters rebelling against the corrupt Senate. But after they overthrew the Senate, Megatron slowly became convinced that he and only he was right, resulting in the Decepticons becoming conquerers. That coupled with Megatron's bigotry towards organic races and his emotional and mental manipulation of his soldiers, resulted in the Decepticons fighting for the same type of oppression that they were born to overthrow.
- Simba in The Lion King Adventures. He goes from a sweet, mischievous cub to an evil, vicious killer. Initially, he's doing it to try finding a way to bring back the destroyed Pride Lands. However, it soon turns into a desire to become the greatest predator.
- Nightmare Phobia, the Big Bad of the Pony POV Series Chaos Verse, gets hit with this hard. Being that she was created from the remnants of Nightmare Moon's essence, she's naturally driven by a hatred of Celestia/the Mane Six and a desire to rule Equestria. However, as she grows more powerful, her memory becomes corroded, and she starts to forget why she hates the heroes, just that she does, and becomes obsessed with tormenting them, ultimately trying to kill them. And then, when she undergoes her One-Winged Angel transformation by absorbing the Shadows of Oblivion, she goes completely insane and delusional; she becomes convinced the heroes attacked her unprovoked, and that the only logical reaction to this is to kill everything in Equestria.
- The original Pony POV Series has a major example in the Dark World Series. It turns out that Discord has long been trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop by the true Big Bad, Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox, the original Dark World!Twilight, who went Nightmare in order to trap Discord in the time loops in order to torment him forever in an Ironic Hell. The thing is, her original intent before the corruption was to undo all the evil performed by Discord, but she lost sight of that in her obsession to gain revenge on him; by the time she's revealed, she's wiped out Dark World and everything in it several billion times, seeing everyone but Discord and Twilight as nothing but props, becoming far worse than Discord (who himself had a Heel Realization at some point) in the process.
Films — Animation
- BIONICLE 3: Web of Shadows: Roodaka takes advantage of Toa Vakama's mutation into a bestial state and promises to make him the ruler of his former city. After a while, Vakama abandons the "Toa" part of his name (meaning "hero") and forgets why he and his team even came to the city: to rescue its Matoran population. Later still, he becomes Roodaka's pawn and turns into an animalistic underling, until one of his team members hits a nerve in the deepest part of his sense of duty and reminds him of their quest.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker himself from the prequel trilogy joins the Dark Side in Revenge of the Sith in order to save his wife from dying. Then he starts killing younglings and things go downhill from there. When he force-chokes Padmé Amidala, it solidifies him into this trope.
- Star Trek: Generations. Soran. He lost his family to the Borg, and eventually ended up killing hundreds of millions of beings just to enter The Nexus. When Picard tries to use the memory of his family to convince Soran to stop his plan, he pauses and looks distraught... then smirks and replies, "Nice try." This, implying that he knows this trope is in effect and just doesn't care, makes him less sympathetic.
- In the miniseries Merlin, Frik asks Queen Mab if her trick of letting Lancelot's wife Elaine know about Lancelot and Guinevere's affair wasn't unworthy of them. Mordred asks what "unworthy" means, and his mother Morgan has forgotten.
- Affects all the kids in Animorphs to some degree. Rachel in particular, as she can't remember what she was like before the war started.
- The Wheel of Time has an odd example in protagonist Rand Al'Thor. After he channels the True Power, which is derived directly from the Dark One (the series' Ultimate Evil), he undergoes an immediate personality change, becoming incredibly paranoid, very harsh toward anyone who he perceives as threatening or even disagreeing with him, and abandoning his previous refusal to kill or harm a woman. However, the extraordinarily stressful circumstances surrounding his use of the True Power could be considered explanation enough without resorting to this trope — he had been undergoing Sanity Slippage for upwards of six books — and it may even be considered a subversion considering that he pulls a complete 180 back to the side of good after an epiphany later in the same book.
It's outright stated by Rand that the reason he... freezes on the inside is because now he has (against his will, but that doesn't seem to matter to him) lucidly attempted to murder (one of) the woman he loves. The scenario is laid out in this passage(probably to preemptively avert people thinking it was the True Power):
Or..no. That numbness had nothing to do with the power he'd held. He turned around, looking down at Min, who coughed quietly and rubbed her neck. She looked up at him, and seemed afraid. He doubted that she would ever see him the same way again.
He had been wrong; there had indeed been something more that Semirhage could do to him. He had felt himself killing one he loved clearly. Before, when he'd done it as Lews Therin, he had been mad and unable to control himself. He could barely remember slaying Ilyena, as if through a clouded dream. He'd realized what he had done only after Ishamael had awakened him.
Finally, now, he knew precisely what it was like to watch as he killed those he loved.
- Severus Snape from Harry Potter is a good example. He started out as a socially awkward but well-meaning young boy who desperately craved friendship, but due to his increasing bitterness over being bullied by James Potter and his gang, as well as the influence of his highly prejudiced friends, he began to become more accepting of Dark Magic and eventually called Lily Evans (the only person who truly cared for him) a mudblood, alienating her from him, while (according to Wordof God) his desperate desire for friends led him to become a Death Eater.
- The Dresden Files
- The FBI agents in who became hexenwulfen to take down Marcone are described in these terms, their original goal buried under the evil influence of the belts. Harry briefly experiences it for himself when he uses the belt just once.
- Also many of the Denarians.
- In Changes, after Harry takes on the mantle of the Winter Knight, Sanya tells him there is always a way back to the light so long as he doesn't forget what he was fighting for.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf refuses to take the Ring for this reason. During the Council of Elrond, Elrond states that anyone using the Ring to overthrow Sauron would only create a new Dark Lord in his place. This is even implied to happen to Big Bad Morgoth and his lieutenant Sauron: The former started out just wanting to create something of his own, and devolved into wanting to kill everything. The latter felt the world would be a better place with the imposition of his order, and then just wanted the power that came with ruling. As you can see, this is a major theme in Tolkien's works likely due to his own religious views.
- Jacen Solo in Legacy of the Force (part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe) ends up this way as a result of the philosophical growth he goes through that's necessary to save the galaxy without committing genocide. Twice invoked, as another reason he started down that path was because of a vision in which he and Luke fight to the death. Naturally, by the end he no longer cares if Luke dies.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Captain's Honor, this happens to Lucius Sejanus, who, starting as someone merely wanting glory, tries to start the war with M'Dok and is willing to destroy the Enterprise for it.
- In Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, a woman infiltrated a court in order to kill the king. But she worked so hard at the infiltration that when she actually got a chance to kill him, she saved his life, and after that she actively helped him.
- In John Marco's Tyrants and Kings trilogy, this applies to Emperor Arkus and all his top lieutenants. In the beginning of his Black Renaissance they signed on to establish order and civilization on a continent wracked with war and devastation. But decades of conquest and immortality has corrupted them all, to the point everyone realizes they are irredeemable.
- Par for the course when a performer pulls a Face-Heel Turn in Professional Wrestling; invariably, the new heel performer's original reason to turn heel is entirely justifiable based on something that had recently happened to them. Within a month of the turn, however, Motive Decay sets in and they end up generically doing things For the Evulz.
- Many Chaos Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000 originally turned to Chaos because of some noble goal (or for self-preservation); but after thousands of years in the service of the Great Gods of Chaos, they have usually either forgotten all about it or use it as a flimsy justification for the atrocities they commit. Then again, many of the factions of WH40K who haven't fallen to the side of Chaos still uses almost identical justifications to commit horrible atrocities.
- At one point in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the use of necromancy drove you insane, so that no matter why you started practicing it you ended up a would-be world conqueror with an army of the dead. This has been relaxed, with necromancy being dark, creepy, and mostly used by evil people, but it doesn't have to be.
- In Exalted, becoming an Akuma can result in an unusually literal version of this. So, you've made a deal with the Yozis to get the power you need — this calls for a Faustian Rebellion, right? Except that the process of becoming an Akuma excises your ability to do anything, and allows the Yozis to rearrange the inside of your head until it's more to their liking.
- The Forgotten Realms goddess Shar holds both darkness and forgetfulness in her divine portfolio.
- In DemonTheFallen, Demons are able to tap into their Torment and unleash terribly destructive powers against their enemies. Unfortunately, the Tormented powers they use as a weapon leave a stain on their soul that becomes progressively more difficult to remove.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The title character's whole story-arc is motivation decay using this trope. By the time that he finally takes vengeance upon Judge Turpin, Sweeney has gone quite murderously insane, and is so far gone that he fails to recognize his own daughter and tries to kill her. He's only snapped out of it in the end by the realization that the beggar woman he killed just prior to killing Turpin was none other than his wife Lucy, who Sweeney had gone on this whole thing to avenge, because his partner Mrs. Lovett didn't tell him that Lucy was still alive.
- Most versions of Faust have him originally making his Deal with the Devil for at least somewhat decent reasons, but he didn't exactly follow through on them.
- Goethe's Faust, on the other hand, averts this; he is ultimately saved because he doesn't fall into this trope — despite satisfying the Exact Words of the contract that will damn him, he never stops searching for transcendent truth, which was the real reason he made the bargain in the first place.
- In Dreamgirls, both the play and the film, the Dreamettes' manager Curtis' morally questionable actions in the first act were for the betterment of the group in the face of a racist system. Come the 70's, however, much of that racism has faded but he's still shady. At this point it's clear that his only motivation is money and being in control.
- Zouken Matou from Fate/stay night. He originally began his hunt for the Holy Grail as a way to honor the woman he loved, Justica Von Einzbern. But as he grew older and began turning to more and more twisted magic to keep himself alive long enough to accomplish this, his soul began to rot and his mind went with it, leaving him a corrupt, ruthless madman obsessed with immortality.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Miles Edgeworth start out as a child with the idyllic view that defense attorneys protect the innocent (a view shaped by his father, a defense attorney who was the closest the series had to a Big Good). Following said father's murder and an upbringing by prosecutor Manfred Von Karma, Edgeworth forgot his childhood beliefs and began to view defense attorneys as obstacles to be crushed on his way to keeping a perfect record of guilty verdicts. As the series goes on, he remains a prosecutor but remembers what he originally knew law was about, focusing his career on uncovering the truth in every case.
- Vaarsuvius goes through this in The Order of the Stick. He/she accepts a Deal with the Devil to gain the power needed to save his/her family from a dragon with a grudge. After killing the dragon, he/she zombifies what's left of her to make her suffer more. And then, his/her spouse insists she relinquish the power right now, Vaarsuvius refuses and leaves to "fix everything", and ultimately loses the power anyway in an ill-fated attack on the Big Bad. The worst part? The dark side had nothing to do with any of this. Everything Vaarsuvius did was done willingly.
- Trace from TwoKinds tried to resurrect his dead wife before black magic poisoning turned him into a power-hungry dictator. Or at least, that's what a character told him...
- King Lewstrom, the lich necromancer of Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, is revealed to be this. His backstory is eventually told, and involves him turning to a dark goddess in order to gain revenge on those who killed his family. Centuries later he is a lich and remembers none of this. upon finding out, he asks his goddess why she never held up her end of the bargain. She claims she did; he out "lived" all of his enemies.
- While only "evil" in a tongue-in-cheek way, Artefact of Sankaku Complex was not always a depraved anime-yellow-journalist-slash-pornoblogger. His earlier writings were more gushing and humble in tone (in contrasts with his signature witty Deadpan Snarker style), recommending Yotsuba&! for learning Japanese, as well as promoting artists, works, or stores he likes. Compare old titles like "Yotsuba-to! – Ideal manga for learning Japanese?" to the typical "Ichiban Ushiro no Dai-Maoh Bukkake Milking Anime" common nowadays.
- Los Magnificos, the heroic defenders of Mexico City in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, made a deal with the Garodillos crime family to turn a blind eye to certain crimes in exchange for the crime family's assistance in policing the barrios they controlled of its more extreme elements, because the problems faced by those areas were too much for the heroes to handle on their own. And it worked, for a while. Sure, there was still drug-trafficking, but murders and rapes went down. Eventually, however, the members of Los Magnificos were little more than a superhuman enforcement arm for the Mexican mafia.
- As Kasei's Motive Rant in We Are Our Avatars reveals, he was already willing to do heinous things in the name of science, but he soon began to enjoy them more and more until he became little more than a sadist, doing research less to discover things as to gain the power to stop anyone from challenging him.
- Pinky and the Brain
- Sigmund Freud determines through hypnotism that Brain's desire to rule the world was actually created in him subversively and accidentally by the scientists at his lab. What Brain really wanted was to go back to his family, who lived in a can with a picture of the world on it. But his mind was warped by the experimentation to the point that all he could remember was his desire for that image of the world. Brain considers the possibility, but ultimately dismisses it and goes on as planned.
- Also, a combination of Well-Intentioned Extremist and Aesop Amnesia add up to this trope in the episode where Brain turns away from megalomania and vows to spend his life helping the victims of his obsession (first and foremost, Pinky). Despite Brain's best efforts to help prepare him, Pinky (as a tiny, dumb mouse) gets trampled and abused in the real world, prompting Brain to swear that he WILL take over the world, in order to make it a better place that would be fair and kind to people like Pinky. This motivation never comes up again, and Brain is back to abusing Pinky at will in the next episode.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Asajj Ventress spent many of her early years training under a Jedi who treated her with respect and seemed like her happiest days of her life. Then her master gets killed, she goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Dooku recruits her, and she is now his apprentice.
- She and the Nightsisters did this with Savage Opress. They used some sort of Dark Magic, to transform Savage into a monstrous giant, who killed his brother when Asajj ordered him to do so. Earlier he became Asajj's slave willingly, in exchange for said brother's freedom.