He's incapable of emotion, or so he says. Really he's as compassionate and sensitive as the next guy, or more so. In fact he's probably the nicest guy in the series. It's ironic, don't you think?
This often leads to a paradoxical quest to Become a Real Boy, or at least learn emotions. If they didn't have emotions to begin with, how can they desperately feel the need to have them?
It also seems that certain emotions count more than others. Warm fuzzy happiness counts more than anger, frustration or sadness. So someone can be an aggressive wangster but since they can't enjoy the smell of a flower, it's stated they can't feel emotions. The Stoic Woobie hinges on this trope; their character lies in seeming outwardly unemotional, yet still feeling emotions deep down, thus maintaining their woobie status. Perhaps if they were more honest and said they want to be happy instead of just having emotions in general, they'd be more successful.
Refers to the character in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Who, in fact, was prone to Tender Tears, to give the game away entirely. Other unconscious tics, such as destroying whatever is in the character's hands while denying anger, can betray other Tin Men.
Truth in Television: What's usually being depicted here is someone who is out of touch with their emotions, experiencing them without being aware of them. This is not so uncommon in real life! Reasons can include machismo, denial, some mental illnesses (depression!), or certain disabilities (e.g., the autistic spectrum). There's also a personality trait known as alexithymia, which is defined by the mind having great difficulty in identifying feelings, distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal, and in describing feelings to other people. Lastly, anger is controlled by a different part of the brain than other emotions, which can explain why a person can be angry, but not know why they're angry, or lash out in a particular way and unaware that anger is fueling their actions.
The dark flipside of the trope is especially common in Science Fiction or Fantasy, where whole races may be introduced as "logical" and beyond base emotions; and then turns out to be arrogant, harsh, hateful, merciless or borderline unstable, as if they've lost the key to their positive emotions but kept all the negative ones. Apparently, many authors confuse "controlling one's emotions" with "suppressing one's emotions", and the suppressed emotions invariably seem to be those considered "weak", like mercy, empathy, humility, compassion and the ability to see someone else's point of view. Or basic politeness. So instead of a peaceful race that rests comfortably in itself, what we get is a race that can justify extermination of anyone without blinking, because they feel neither shame nor horror.
Compare Frozen Face, where he cannot show the emotions in his face. Not to be confused with the SyFyminiseries.
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Anime and Manga
Mahou Sensei Negima! has the Robot Girl Chachamaru telling everyone this in Spock Speak. Subverted in that nobody believes her as she's one of the friendliest people in the cast from the beginning. Even her own Mad Scientist creator realizes right away that she's different. This is because one of the programmers of her operating system was from a lesser-known work of the writer, AI Love You, where he had designed an artificial intelligence program fully capable of emotions. This is only alluded to in one offhand comment in the manga.
On the opposite side, Fate Averruncus would like to remind you that he's an emotionless doll. Tsukuyomi is not fooled, and manages to trigger a fit of destructive jealousy by threatening to kill Negi herself.
Darker Than Black: made of this trope. Several theories about how Contractors think are brandied about, but the truth seems to be that though they are still able to feel emotions, they do not act on them, instead operating according to logic and without guilt.
Ulquiorra from Bleach. He acts like emotions are meaningless, but the more Ichigo fights him despite being outmatched, the angrier he becomes. Unfortunately he only realizes the value of emotions when he dies.
Now I see. This is it. This thing I feel within my hands is what you humans call... heart.'
Some fans maintain that Yuki Nagato from Suzumiya Haruhi is the conceptual opposite of this trope: rather than a clearly emotional character who either claims or believes to not have emotion, there's evidence that she has a perfectly normal (if subdued) personality, and simply doesn't display outward emotions. This is largely due to her being an artificial life form who wasn't programmed to display the emotions she feels (another artificial construct in the series appears always happy, even when such an emotion is wildly inappropriate).
On the other hand, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya has Yuki becoming so internally frustrated and fatigued at her life - and at Haruhi - that she re-writes reality, removing Haruhi from the picture and giving herself a normal human life as a quiet bookworm with a crush on Kyon. A key plot point is that Yuki never realises that her own emotions are the cause of her actions: she attributes it to "erroneous files accumulated in [her] memory database".
Sai in Naruto considers himself to be without emotions. He's one of the better portrayals too, since he doesn't show negative emotions like anger either.
That's basically all of Root, an organization that trains its soldiers to be emotionless beings.
Maybe? In the single episode I can recall him being a major part of, he was ordered to kill the mind controlling little girl(or whatever she did to peoples heads), near the end he points his gun at her and clicks it stating he is out of ammunitions. Cue the villain of the episode lunging from the pile of collapsed tower that fell on her. Tres Iqus then unloads what appears to be hundreds of round of ammunition into the stupidest vampire in the series. If it wasn't emotions, the it was some contrived loophole logic that kept him from turning the kid into swiss cheese.
Jonah Matsuka in Toward the Terra believes this is the case for Keith Anyan, at one point claiming that in spite of his outwardly cold and machinelike demeanor, Keith's heart is "kinder and more human than anyone's." To what extent Matsuka is simply in denial is open to debate, but especially early in the series, Keith definitely demonstrates capacity for emotions both positive and negative, none of which he seems to understand how to process at all.
Rei's Japanese voice actor has said Rei "Has feelings, but doesn't know what they are".
Kinda a subversion, since that's mostly just because of her rather horrible upbringing then anything else. She basically passes as an awkward shrinking violet that suppresses her emotions otherwise.
In Durarara!! Heiwajima Kasuka's reason for becoming an actor in the Light Novels is because he wanted to feel the emotions that other people feel through his roles. Outside of that he doesn't actually feel emotion.
Heero Yuy gets treated as cold and robotic an awful lot by Fanon, something which can be pinned on the vocal director for the English dub telling Mark Hildreth to play the character that way. However, this runs contrary his own statements and actions: his self-stated life philosophy is "The best way to live your life is by acting on your emotions", and when asked he outright says that kindness isn't needed when you're fighting, but it is the rest of the time. This has been lampshaded by at least one doujinshi in which the Wing cast gets stuck in a virtual reality version of Wizard of Oz and Heero becomes the Tin Man.
Jeremy from A Cruel God Reigns is this with an element of the Stoic Woobie. After not being believed when he admits he was sexually abused and working as a prostitute in Boston, followed by Ian then bringing him back to England, Jeremy actively denies feeling any towards sex, pain, love, or really any emotional attachment. Luckily though he seems to be on the path to recovery.
A Certain Magical Index: A big part of the Sisters' development was outgrowing this mindset. They were "programmed" not to put any kind of value on their own lives and usually carry out their assigned tasks with a deadpan, frozen expression. When they are shown interacting with people outside of their "work", though, it becomes clear that they do have emotions, just as strong as any other human: it's just not immediately obvious (even to themselves) because they never learned how to emote.
Marvel Comics' Livewires miniseries inverts this. Nanomachine construct and massive Woobie Stem Cell is activated with accurate, perfectly-simulated human emotions, being based on a Ridiculously Human Robot Life Model Decoy. By the climax, she's nearly paralyzed with fear and, in a last-ditch effort to finish her mission and save her team, physically hacks her own control system to turn herself into a surreally optimistic robot Bad Ass. The other Livewires constructs had actually already done so in the series backstory.
Also in Marvel Comics, the Avenger's member The Vision started as an "inhuman vision", an android sent to kill the Avengers. And throughout his time with the team, he developed more and more human feelings, to the point where he fell in love, got married, and had kids (too long to explain).
Leading to instances where Vision dramatically bemoans his 'inability to feel' as those around him (including Captain America, notably) give him a "..." kind of look.
Vision would in later appearances often use his "inability" as a blatant excuse to get out of awkward social situations, like his relationship with his ex-wife.
Mind you, he had emotions right from the start—he's possibly the only Avenger to start crying on being accepted into the team.
In Equilibrium, The Dragon, as well as everybody else, takes prozium to control their emotions. This doesn't stop him from admiring, and later, hating the main character.
Let's not forget many characters, including the main character's superior who is revealed to actually be feeling and not taking his prozium dosage regularly exhibit anger and mirth. The dragon is particularly bad for this, spending much of the time smiling and shouting in outrage.
Handwaved: The movie mentions that Prozium only mutes the extremes of emotion, though it doesn't seem to work all that well on the main characters.
Also somewhat justified in the commentary track, where the director says that his intention with The Dragon was to show him using an empty smile like a tool, and the public shaming later on as almost as a form of ritualistic performance for the benefit of the masses. This parallels the scene early in the movie where Preston is talking with his sense-offender partner, who mocks Preston's use of the word 'friend' as "a vestigial word", that their society no longer understands but goes through the motions of using anyway.
Dracula in the film Van Helsing is another villainous Tin Man, going through most of the darker emotions throughout the film.
Including the line "I can't feel sorrow!" [pained gaze into middle distance]
This probably originated in the book, where vampires were essentially soulless demons who mimic human emotions and mannerisms to lure their prey; Dracula himself is described by Van Helsing as a unique exception to this, a vampire with enough self-awareness to concoct an ambitious plan to leave its haunting grounds and invade England. Nonetheless his 'charming host' mannerisms are a thin veneer for his cold, demonic evil, making him a great example of an early literary sociopath.
The T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. He is cybernetic robot assassin who can not feel pain or emotions. However when Sarah and John Connor turn on the T-800's learning chip, he is able to understand the value of a human life and emotions, yet he's doomed to never be able to express them. This can all be sum up in one phrase: "I know now why you cry, but it is something I can never do", as he lovingly hugs John like a father before going to his death.
The Trope Namer from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Nick Chopper was an ordinary Munchkin woodcutter who was trying to earn enough money to run off with his fiancee and be a proper husband. Her family didn't approve of him, so they went to the East Witch and had her curse his axe. He ended up a cyborg as a tinner (who was likely working for the Witch) replaced his mutilated body parts with tin. His entire goal of getting a heart was go go back to his girlfriend. Of course, by the time he does find her not only does he find out that she was seeing another fellow on the side (who was cursed in the same way and acts as a subversion as he's delighted to not have a heart any longer), she's married to a Frankenstein-style creation the tinner made from the parts of both suitors!
Parodied in the The Adventures of Samurai Cat books with a version of the Tin Man that really is cold, heartless, and "pragmatic"—for example, when the heroes find him, they stop him from murdering a baby dingo with his axe to help the mother dingo have enough food. Also, the wise original Scarecrow is parodied as a Cloudcuckoolander of the highest degree.
Paul Redeker of World War Z constantly complained that human emotions were weaknesses, making him the perfect person to design worst-case scenarios for anti-Apartheid Rebellions and ultimately the Zombie Apocalypse. However, having his scenario implemented against the zombie apocalypse - and feeling compassion — breaks his brain. He develops an alternate persona.
Discworld's Death is a genuinely nice guy. However, his attempts to gain a better understanding of humanity generally leave him a bit confused. At one point he claims that he can't feel emotions due to not having any glands. The prose points out that, though, that he can feel emotions—it just takes some work.
Anger was an emotion, and emotions required glands, and Death didn't have much truck with glands and needed a good run at it to get angry.
In Mort it's speculated that even though he can't feel emotions like humans do, he can think emotions quite well, resulting in essentially the same conclusion.
Heck, Death is quite possibly the most compassionate character in the series, What can the harvest hope for if not the care of the Reaper Man?
Even more so when ever he acts outside the role of Death, as he's able to freely save lives. Usually he'll spend it saving the lives of children.
In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Master Mind of Mars, both Ras Thavas and Toonolians appear to have reached this state from excessive desire to be The Stoic. They profess to be above such things as sentiment, but when they manifest it, and Ulysses Paxton calls them on it, they are in complete denial.
Gor Hajus was essentially a man of sentiment, though he would doubtless have run through the heart any who had dared accuse him of it, thus perfectly proving the truth of the other's accusation.
The Medtech in Chrys Cymri's Dragons Can Only Rust and Dragon Reforged is an unsympathetic example. He believes Gonard, a more advanced robot than himself, has a soul, and is determined to prove it to vindicate their creator's vision. But he believes that he himself does not have one. It's debatable whether or not he's right. Maybe if he believed he had one, he'd act like less of a mercilessly pragmatic S.O.B. all the time.
Dexter, although less so than in the TV series. He has an awful lot of angst for someone with no feelings.
Live Action TV
On Star Trek Vulcans (such as Spock) pride themselves on being completely without emotion (that alone says it all, but their friends are too polite to call them on it) but clearly have them, while understated. The truth is more that they work hard to be controlled by logic rather than emotion, lest they turn into Hot-Blooded Psychopaths. However, being the Star Trek universe's answer to elves, they do irritation and pride reeeeeealy well.
Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation often claimed he was incapable of emotion, which was a source of curiosity and debate among both the crew of the ship and the fans of the show. In an instance of him telling the Doctor that he was incapable of giving love to Lal, his child, she looked skeptical and said she found that hard to believe. Not long after, he expressed what appeared to be a subdued form of anger at the idea of the Admiral judging him to be an unfit parent while judging him by different standards from a human. By the end, even Admiral who originally wanted to take the daughter away for study was convinced they shared an emotional connection. When using an emotion chip at one point, he ends up behaving quite poorly while in general, the series supports the idea that perhaps he already has emotions in his own way—for example, he cannot "miss" people, but his subroutines become used to the presence of certain persons and their absence can affect him.
Data: You know I cannot grieve for you. Soong: You will. In your own way.
Dexter constantly, constantly says that he is unable to feel emotions. Some of his actions throughout the series, however, directly contrast this belief (e.g., cutting off a potential victim's rant out of anger when he refers to Dexter's girlfriend as a "cunt", protecting Rita's children).
Well, Dexter is not only supposed to be a trope Sociopathic Hero, but a true sociopath as well. Sociopaths tend to experience a thing called 'low affect', which basically means that they can still experience emotions on some level, but they are much more muted and hollow than what a normal person might feel. Also, related to this, they have a much more difficult time understanding the emotions they do feel. Some think that one of the reason sociopaths might become serial killers is that such extreme actions are one of the few things that provide them with significant emotional stimulation- like someone who barely has a sense of taste left loading their food with the spiciest curry they can find.
Dexter is more likely to be schizoid, which might give another reason why he's different than most serial killers along with the Code of Harry; however, the same thing applies. He does feel, it's just very muted and/or processed differently by his brain, which he perceives as not having emotions.
Wyatt Cain of the Sci-Fi Miniseries Tin Man. The human version of the original Baum character, his heart hardened by his family's deaths and his imprisonment in what is dubbed 'The Tin Suit.' Once released, his one and only goal in life is to take revenge on the man who he blames for the destruction of his life. By the end of the miniseries, he has been reunited with his lost son, who actually wasn't dead.
Torchwood makes use of this when Owen dies. He still manages to be angry though.
The Series 400 mechanoid Kryten from Red Dwarf subverts this trope. When the Inquisitor says that he must be the most selfless person on the ship, Kryten points out that he's simply been programmed that way, and that he could only be a truly 'good' person by developing his own values. Unfortunately the values Kryten most admires are the negative ones, like arrogance and lying — in fact when Kryten does show emotion he tends to act like a complete Jerk Ass, such as his bitchiness towards Kristine Kochanski, and the time he started bullying Dave Lister because Kryten believed (incorrectly) that he was an inferior model of mechanoid.
Cameron of The Sarah Connor Chronicles is an odd variation on this. She outright admits that she is incapable of feeling happiness, but at the same time she expresses behavior indicative of fear and desperation whenever John is in serious danger. At one point she even seems saddened and confused when she puts off a friend she's made at a library, and later on, she becomes deeply concerned with whether or not she'll "go bad" again and actually wires up an explosive to her processor.
Castiel from Supernatural is this. Angels are said not to have emotions or act on them, but there are several times when Castiel has shown emotion. After Dean had seen his mother make a deal with the yellow-eyed demon, Castiel laid a hand on his shoulder, giving him a look of compassion. When speaking to Dean in "It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester", he expressed doubt. In another episode, "Heaven and Hell", he was reluctant and apologetic towards Anna, when he had orders to kill her. And in "The Rapture", he showed gentleness with Jimmy Novak when he got shot by demons.
Gabriel and Lucifer, dear God. Gabriel's blended in with humans since he went AWOL, and even Lucifer, the goddamn Devil, looks distraught after killing his little brother, Gabriel. Mark Pellegrino and Richard Speight Jr broke hearts in that scene
All the angels are constantly showing emotions (mostly spite and annoyance), and the show has rightfully never repeated the claim that they're emotionless after that episode.
Eliot from Leverage is of the more realistic "out-of-touch angry" type, mostly in the first season. He's been gradually thawing out as he gets used to being part of a team.
And yet he's the one with a sense of honor.
Kai, last of the Brunnen-G is quick to respond to nearly every question with "the dead do not _____." Despite claiming to have absolutely no desire for anything whatsoever, to the point of usually refusing to give an opinion, he does have a rigorously thorough intellectual understanding of right and wrong, at least as defined by the people he trusts on such matters. He values his friendship with Stan and Xev, harbors what could be a purely hypothetical attraction to Xev, and on one occasion makes a really, really stupid decision for the sake of a shot at the one thing he admits he wants, a genuine life or death.
The eponymous character of Sherlock claims to be a "high-functioning sociopath," insists that he isn't a hero, and scoffs at the concept of caring about the victims of the crimes he solves (namely, because caring about them won't help him solve the crimes or save lives). However, he is visibly affected in the third episode when the old woman is killed, the child is taken hostage, and John is strapped to a bomb.
Moriarty: If you don't stop prying, I will burn you. I will burn the heart out of you.
Sherlock: I have been reliably informed that I don't have one.
Moriarty: But we both know that's not quite true.
KITT from Knight Rider sometimes claims to have no feelings, but he's quite evidently capable of pride, surprise, offense, affection, and other emotions. Often played for laughs:
KITT: Michael, I have a strange feeling about this. Michael: What are you talking about, you don't have feelings! KITT: I know. That's what so strange about it.
One episode of Community has a bully emotionally devastate Abed ... by taunting him about not having emotions. In general, Abed definitely has feelings, but his ability to express them or relate to the world except through movies and television is highly stunted.
The appropriately titled song Tin Man by the pop-folk duo, The Avett Brothers is about a man who describes the emotions that he misses experiencing with the passion of someone who is obviously still feeling them.
In Promethean: The Created, the Prometheans aren't claiming they have no emotions; what they're claiming is that their emotions aren't real in some way. As artificial creations, they find themselves aping human emotions in an attempt to pass for normal. Their Karma Meter, Humanity, measures how good they are at that; as it slips away, they're less able to keep the facade.
The vampires of Vampire: The Requiem are also stated to not feel genuine emotions so much as remember emotions they had felt in life; the game notes that a vampire embraced young might suffer some awkward moments as they try to experience emotions they never felt before the Embrace. The only emotions a vampire is truly capable of "feeling" are those that come from the vampire's Beast: rage, hunger, and self-preserving fear, all of which manifest in the Unstoppable Rage referred to in the game as "Frenzy."
Dream Drop Distance settles the debate once and for all. At the very least Axel, Roxas and Xion have become canon examples, with Axel, believing to the very end that he had no emotion, being the most obvious one. After experiencing Roxas's memories, Sora concludes that he must have had a heart to grieve for his friends. Xemnas reveals that Nobodies can manifest new hearts, in the same way the puppet Pinocchio did - he just kept this secret so he could work on turning them all into Soul Jars.
The Warrior of Light of Dissidia: Final Fantasy comes across as detached and robotic to both players and some of the characters. But despite how placid and emotionless he appears, he's actually an honorable, caring and highly intuitive young man. While on the surface he does what he can to not give in to negative emotions, even his immaculate countenance can slip occasionally.
In Mass Effect, The Geth teammate Legion has shades of this. Despite having a robotic manner and being an aggregate of 1183 VI programs, he often talks about morality, purpose, and the meaning of life. His opinions on freedom sound suspiciously familiar. Occasionally, his "I'm an emotionless robot" facade cracks, such as when confronted with betrayal or unpleasant revelations, when asked pointed questions about his illogical behavior, or when playing Galaxy of Fantasy.
In Super Robot Wars, Lamia Loveless was made with emotions, but considering her circumstances, she only prioritizes her mission and thinks emotions are useless. Only after various missions with her new friends that she starts discovering that she has emotions and starts valuing them.
Kunzite from Tales of Hearts is a Ridiculously Human Robot who constantly denies that he is like human. He gradually realizes that he wants to serve and protect Richia above and beyond his Guardian Knight programmed loyalty to his master, bonds with Hisui as the latter develops a romance with Richia, and eventually gets the title "Like Human". To be honest, he's like a male version of Lamia above.
The Dragon Incarose also appears to be a cold, emotionless assassinbot on the surface, but as the heroes catch up to her power level, she becomes more and more desperate to fulfill her master's mission, and her True Colors begin showing. Right after the very final showdown, Kunzite himself tells her, "At least your feelings for Creed are genuine."
Canaan from Xenosaga is an android with emotional suppression programming intended to prevent his feelings from interfering with his duties. Regardless he sacrifices his life near the end of the third game to save the people he cares about and make up for deeds that he can't live with having done.
Aigis from Persona 3 fits this trope. She intially acts robotic but she has to have a personality and emotions, otherwise she couldn't summon Personas, which are physical manifestations of emotions and personality traits. She slowly and subtly starts outwardly displaying such emotions over the course of the game and starts asking all the questions that come with realization of such things.
Jon Irenicus, the Big Bad from Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, was punished for his transgressions basically by removing his soul. This left him drained of all almost emotion; he would display arrogance and a bit of incredulity as the story progressed, and shallow bursts of anger, but that was about it. However bad he had been before, his complete lack of empathy for other sentient beings made him even worse. He desired to regain or even remember the love he had once felt, but the ways he went about trying to do this were unsuccesful and extremely creepy.
The game itself in You Find Yourself In A Room is a negative example, being convinced it's incapable of emotions (and that this makes it superior to humanity), despite showing constant hate and anger. Toward the end of the game, you get the opportunity to indirectly point out to it that hate and anger actually are emotions, sending it into a Villainous BSOD. It releases you, finding no meaning in tormenting you any longer if it's not the superior emotionless being it believed, and you win the game.
The Pawns in Dragon's Dogma are a humanoid race who have no ambition/drive beyond protecting the Arisen and have no emotions. Or so we're told by the manual and various human characters in the game. When travelling with Pawns however, you'll soon notice that they can sound scared, angry, concerned, or might remark wistfully on the beauty of the landscape being marred by monsters.
__Jones__ claims that to have no desires or dreams, yet seeks human companionship and seemed a bit sad that despite recently evolving to resemble her, human beings are very different - fragile, short-lived, and emotional.
Also, Red Tornado and his "family" in Young Justice, which frustrates their creator T.O. Morrow to no end.
Beemo from Adventure Time, a living video game console who claimed not supposed to have emotions, but then got angry at the jerk Donny. Beemo also disobey Jake in one episode, showing freewill.
Later episodes show more of this, such as him feeling lonely while Finn and Jake are out and getting upset/uncomfortable when Finn and Jake argue like an old married couple.
In The Simpsons in the episode "Lisa's Wedding," which mostly takes place in the future, featuring robots. A librarian catches Lisa with her fiance-to-be, and questions aloud how two so opposite personalities could ever fall in love. A bystander comments "How would you know, you're a robot?" prompting the robot librarian to shed a single tear... which then causes her to catch fire. Then it happens again when said fiance proposes; the two robots hiding in the bushes to implement plan B also start crying, causing their faces to melt.
Another episode has a robot fleeing from a burning building saying "Why? Why was I programmed to feel pain?"
In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated., Fred thinks that real men don't have feelings, and tries to act accordingly. This doesn't prevent him from repeatedly suffering Heroic BSODs whenever his plans go horribly awry, and struggling to reconcile his feelings for traps — and Daphne. Leading to lines like:
Fred: "Daphne! I've got great news! I'm not a guy anymore!"