Blackadder: (kicks a cat across the room)
Baldrick: Oh sir, poor little Mildred the cat, what's she ever done to you?
Blackadder: It is the way of the world Baldrick, the abused always kick downwards: I'm annoyed, and so I kick the cat, the cat (mouse squeaks) pounces on the mouse, and finally the mouse...
Baldrick: (jumps in pain)
Blackadder: ...bites you on the behind.
Baldrick: And what do I do?
Nothing, you are last in God's great chain
, Baldrick. Unless, of course, there's an earwig around here that you'd like to victimize.
The ways of dealing with an abusive situation
in fiction vary, to say the least, depending on the author's opinions, the type of abuse portrayed, and even the genders of abuser and victim
. Sometimes, it may be played for laughs, shown as not being a big deal, or portrayed as part of a loving relationship, despite the fact that the perpetrator's actions are clearly abusive, at least to the (aware) viewers. Other times, great care will be taken to detail the living hell the protagonist's life has been made by the Abusive Parent
, Sadist Teacher
, Domestic Abuser
, or The Bully
But sometimes, you'll find out that the character who is notable for behaving abusively toward one or more others has a Dark and Troubled Past
themselves. Maybe they
were abused at one point in their life, or are presently in an abusive situation. Or else, instead of or in addition to having been the target of an abuser, they saw something as a child they were not meant to see
, were bullied
, Did Not Get the Girl
, have a Cynicism Catalyst
, or did something that they'll never get past
and may even be trying desperately to make up for
. The Troubled Abuser
is different from other abusers in that he or she has had (or currently has) a hard life themself in addition to making one of these for at least one other person. It may be a result of an Inferiority Superiority Complex
or else a form of Being Tortured Makes You Evil
Compare this phenomenon to Kick the Dog
, except that the designated kicker was a Kicked Dog themself, making it Dog Kicks Littler Dog. If a writer really
wants to play this up, he or she can have a whole chain
of Dogs kicking down the line in this fashion. If a whole chain of these is used, you can reasonably expect it to be used for An Aesop
about how abuse only begets abuse.
Compare the Troubled Sympathetic Bigot
, whose bigotry is seldom portrayed as sympathetic due to the ugly reputation bigotry has gained over the years, but is nevertheless a sympathetic person. The Troubled Abuser
, given that (s)he is, well, troubled
, automatically gains some measure of Woobie
status due to his or her status as troubled being out in the open, but unlike bigotry, abuse is less likely to be portrayed in an unsympathetic light. Sometimes, the Troubled Abuser
be a Troubled Sympathetic Bigot
May overlap with Jerkass Woobie
due to the common traits of having had a hard life and treating other people in a substandard way. After all, they of all people should know how bad being abused feels. However, abuse is sometimes portrayed in a positive light, so this is not always the case.
Comparable to, and sometimes overlapping with, Freudian Excuse
, in which a villain cites a childhood of poor quality as having a role in his or her evil deeds or is revealed to have had a bad childhood in order to gain Woobie
status. However, unlike a villain with a Freudian Excuse
, the Troubled Abuser
isn't just guilty of any
morally questionable act, they are guilty of committing one or more of these acts against someone with whom they have or end up developing an interpersonal relationship. Additionally, the Troubled Abuser
can be troubled in ways other than childhood experiences. Sometimes, the Troubled Abuser
has a Freudian Excuse
, in which case these two tropes overlap, but Freudian Excuse
and Troubled Abuser
are not exactly the same thing. For example, a serial killer who targets random women he doesn't know and is later revealed to have witnessed his mother attack his father with a knife on a regular basis
would go under Freudian Excuse
, but would not be a Troubled Abuser
because he is committing crimes, but not against people he has a relationship with, or even interacts with on a regular basis. A female character who is the single mother of a child that she verbally abuses on a regular basis
, if she even gives the kid any attention at all
, but is revealed to be doing so because the kid is a Child by Rape
and reminds her of her rapist is a Troubled Abuser
without a doubt, but wouldn't fit under Freudian Excuse
because the hard part of her life, as far as we know, did not happen in her childhood.
As tempting as it is to add large-scale criminals
, such as practitioners of genocide, serial killers, etc. who happen to count as Troubled
by virtue of having a Dark and Troubled Past
or Freudian Excuse
just because you think they are monstrous for their deeds, exercise great caution before you do. Simply doing evil deeds on a large scale does not
make one an Abuser
, which is the other part of the requirement to be listed here. However, that does not mean that large-scale criminals can't
be abusers. Before listing any large-scale criminal, consult our handy Useful Notes page on the topic of abuse
, read it thoroughly, and think carefully about whether or not any
of the character or person's actions count as abuse. If they don't, then don't add them. If you've done your thinking and one or more of said criminal's actions seem to count as abusive to you, go ahead and add them, but give details on what they do
that is abusive in the description.
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Anime & Manga
- Fist of the North Star: Once upon a time there was an elderly martial artist called Ougai, the successor of Nanto Hou Ou Ken (South Star Phoenix Fist) adopted an innocent baby boy. Teaching him everything he knew, he gave the orphan with all the warmth and love of his heart, raising him to the the next sucessor of this mighty battle art. Little did the boy know on his fifteenth birthday, blindfolded for his final test, that the traditions of Nanto Hou Ou Ken deamands one to slay his own master to inherit his title. Driven mad by grief, the innocent boy known as Souther grew up into a heartless tyrant, whom after the world was consumed by nuclear fire, built an Empire on the blood and tears of slave children to renounce of himself of the love that tore his heart apart.
- Akito Sohma from Fruits Basket fits this trope. Ren made Akito's life a living hell, for a reason as petty and stupid as being jealous of her husband's love towards their child. Between that, a somewhat justified god complex, and quite possibly a predisposition toward mental illness (also courtesy of Ren), it's not all that surprising Akito turned out the way he did. Or better said, the way she did.
- In Zero no Tsukaima, Tsundere Louise mistreats Saito, often causing him more injury than the main antagonists. Aside of Saito being a Lovable Sex Maniac, it's suggested Louise has had a long history of being bullied by the other students due to her inability to perform spells properly, and used to be on the recieving end of her not - so - tiny Tsundere sister Eleonore's annoyance. (In fact, Eleonore is one of the few persons who scares the shit outta Louise.) Still not an excuse for how far she goes in her abuse of Saito.
- Tsukasa from Hana Yori Dango. Didn't see his father in years, his mother Kaede was an Evil Matriarch who fucked up with his and his sister Tsubaki's lives ever since birth, his well-intentioned but troubled sister disciplined him harshly... and he grew into a MASSIVE bully with huge entitlement problems who pretty much ran Eitoku Academy through fear and could be very less-than-pleasant even to his close friends and his Tsundere love interest.
- If there's a Conflicted type of Bastard Boyfriend in any shoujo or josei manga, they'll almost surely be this: terribly abusive to their girlfriends/boyfriends and with either a Dark and Troubled Past (including things like Abusive Parents, heavy parental neglection, etc) or an extremely dark and trouble present. It certainly explains why they're like that, but it does NOT justify the shit they pull on their "other halves". Some examples are:
- Takumi Ichinose from NANA: ( Alcoholic father, Ill Girl mother, he and his sister raised themselves);
- Sakuya Ookuchi from Sensual Phrase: ( Child Of Rape, Broken Bird alcoholic mother who dies, Financial Abuse from his Parental Substitute, bullying and isolation due to his American heritage);
- Uo Hakuron from Haou Airen: (Tyke Bomb raised by The Triads and the Tongs and turned into their top-one Child Soldier, murderous and abusive father, Missing Mom);
- Klaus from Hyakujitsu No Bara (drug-addicted, with lots of conflicted loyalties, a love interest with his own and strong issues);
- Souma Saiki from Sakura Gari: (Horrifyingly abused by every single person he met ever since he was taken in by his Japanese family... Then he goes on abusing Masataka, the only person he feels that he can relate to.)
- Kyouichi Saionji from Revolutionary Girl Utena, in spades. He's a wannabe Bastard Boyfriend who treats Anthy like absolute shit, scoffs at Wakaba's love letter and is pretty much the Butt Monkey of the Student Council — and also a dude who wasn't THAT bad as a pre-teen, but now has intense self-loathing and issues towards his best friend Touga, who exploits it like whoa for his own purposes.
- Mr. Legend's gradual power loss in Tiger & Bunny forced him into and unwanted early retirement and left him feeling useless and terrible. Said feelings of worthlessness led to him self-medicating with alcohol. Alcoholism led to arguments with his wife. Arguments while drunk lead to physical violence... And to his own death at the hands of his barely teenaged son, who'd become Yuri Petrov aka Lunatic.
- Yuno Gasai's mother Saika in Mirai Nikki.
- Ritsuka's abusive and mentally unstable mother Misaki in Loveless is implied to be a former abuse victim.
- The eponymous V of V for Vendetta by Alan Moore definitely counts. If kidnapping your protegee and intentionally putting her through the cruel ordeal of the life of a concentration camp inmate that you went through yourself doesn't count as abuse, then what does? However, V is portrayed as a Type III Anti-Villain and/or Nominal Hero who has good intentions, but repeatedly does things that are obviously immoral, and what he puts Evey through is given this same portrayal. His actions compared to those of the oppressive Norsefire government are meant to be morally ambiguous and the only reason that we are meant to sympathize with V is because, no matter how bad his actions are, even when it comes to what he did to Evey, we first see him saving Evey from being raped and murdered by the government's secret police.
- In the Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner's father, Brian, beat his son out of envy for his wife Rebecca's attention, and the fear that his son was a monster. He later directs this abuse to his wife, and eventually kills her, which leads to him being institutionalized. He later is released under his son's custody, and reveals that his own father abused him, and considers him a "monster". He later tries to kill Bruce to put an end to the "monster gene".
Films — Animated
- The Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs forces Snow White to work and dress as a servant in her own residence and even tries to have her murdered. A prequel novel called "Fairest Of All" was published, in which the Queen, named Grimhilde, is revealed to have been made insecure about her appearance by her emotionally abusive father, who her sisters turned into her magic mirror.
Films — Live-Action
- The Wachowskis' film version of V for Vendetta has V put Evey through an ordeal much like the one he suffered in a concentration camp, just as in the original comics. However, the Wachowskis gave V a more sympathetic portrayal than Alan Moore did and had Evey fall in love with V even after all that he put her through. Even though what she went through is meant to be horrifying to the audience as well as her, her falling in love with V still seems uncomfortably like Stockholm Syndrome.
- J. K. Rowling seems to be a big fan of this trope, given how many characters in the Harry Potter series are these.
- Severus Snape is notable for his being a Sadist Teacher who favors Slytherins over those from other Houses and dishing out cruelty, insults, and strictness to the latter. However, starting from Prisoner of Azkaban, the reader discovers that he is one of these. He was bullied throughout his school years by the Marauders, hinted to have had an abusive father and neglectful mother, and lost any chance of being with his one true love, Lily Evans, when he called her a Fantastic Slur. Then he had to watch her date and marry one of his bullies (who, unlike Snape, has learned his lessons and stopped being a Jerk Ass) and have a child with him. Finally, she ended up dying for that child, despite his attempts to make a deal with Voldemort to save her life. He then spends the next sixteen years trying to make up for what he's done and playing a vital role as Dumbledore's double agent...while in a parallel bullying Neville to the point of traumatizing him, psychologically abusing Harry due to his heritage, verbally abusing Hermione when she's crying over having been humiliated by Draco, etc.
- Sirius subjects his house-elf, Kreacher, to a barrage of verbal and physical abuse because he is a reminder of his rotten childhood caused by his status as The Unfavorite in the eyes of his parents, who unsubtly liked his brother Regulus better than him. Even after he left his Abusive Parents, he couldn't catch a break. His best friends have been betrayed by someone they thought was their friend, resulting in their death and orphaning their son and Sirius's godson. To top it all off, he was blamed for every crime that said false friend committed and sent to Azkaban, where he was subjected to enough Mind Rape to make him Younger Than They Look.
- Merope, Voldemort's mother, was subjected to a barrage of verbal and physical abuse by both her brother and her father, some of it for the reason that she was a Stalker with a Crush on Tom Riddle Sr., a Muggle. Then when both of them were locked away in Azkaban, she slipped Tom Riddle, Sr. a Love Potion, using the induced infatuation to get him to marry her and do the nasty with her enough times to conceive Tom Riddle, Jr., who later comes to be known as Voldemort.
- Harry's Aunt Petunia is notorious for being one of Harry Potter's Abusive Muggle Foster Parents, but then we find out that she was jealous of her sister Lily's turning out to be a witch. She not only begged to be able to go to Hogwarts, but she felt overshadowed by her sister in the eyes of their parents. (Which wasn't exactly Lily's fault, though, and does NOT justify her horrible treatment of Harry.)
- So many works by Stephen King feature at least one of these
- In It, Beverly's abusive husband is revealed in the narration to have had a physically abusive father.
- The novel Rage focuses on a school shooting in which Charlie Decker, the Villain Protagonist, kills multiple people and holds several students hostage. The narration reveals that Charlie Decker has suffered multiple incidents of physical abuse at the hands of his father, including one where Charlie Decker was hit so hard with a belt that it required a trip to the emergency room, where Charlie gave a Cut Himself Shaving excuse to explain his injuries.
- In another Stephen King novel, Carrie, the eponymous character is regularly subjected to loads of abuse by her widowed Christian fundamentalist mother, Margaret White. We later find out that Carrie is a Child by Rape. At one point, Carrie's parents were so hard-line fundamentalist that they were remaining celibate and then Mr. White changed his mind and forced himself on Margaret in a combination of "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization and Marital Rape License. She is so ashamed of having "sinned" and so unwilling to think of her experience as rape that she refuses to believe that she's pregnant when she is, calling it "a cancer of the womanly parts."
- Chris Hargensen also counts, being one of Carrie's many bullies, one of the key players in the infamous "pig's blood" prank that ends up being Carrie's Despair Event Horizon, and a victim of Domestic Abuse by her boyfriend, Billy.
- Jack Torrance, who suffered horrific physical abuse at the hands of his father and watched him brutalize his mother and siblings, abuses and attempts to murder his wife and his son in The Shining.
- In the novel Starfish, one of the characters is a pedophile named Gerry. At some points the narration follows his point-of-view, and it's revealed that he himself was molested as a child.
- Edward Cullen in Twilight was orphaned by the Spanish flu as a teenager and is trying to make up for a period of time in which he killed humans and drank their blood. Also, from how his family describes his behavior just before he met Bella, he seems to have met the criteria for clinical depression. Despite being Bella's love interest, that hasn't stopped the multitude of pieces published on the Internet on why he is a domestic abuser. For one thing, he sabotaged Bella's truck when she was about to go out to see her friend Jacob. Controlling where a partner can or can't go or who they can or can't have contact with, as well as damaging their personal property, is abusive behavior and is noted as such in resources on dealing with abuse.
- In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Warren, one of the Scary Black Man attendants who are downright abusive toward the patients of the mental hospital they work in, is said to have seen his mother being raped by a white man as a child.
- AM's sole female victim, Ellen, is subjected to abuse by the four men who AM has also been torturing nonstop for 109 years.
- Though far more and extreme and far less understandable, AM itself. It was built as a war machine, but was hated and feared by its creators for doing its job — originally named "Allied Mastercomputer", they quickly started bemoaning it as "Aggressive Machine". 109 years after it takes over the world, AM is just as trapped as its victims, with complete control over its captives but unable to better itself in any way, howling in rage at its own powerlessness.
- The End of Alice by A.M. Homes features a pedophile who was sexually abused by his mother as a child. Both the sexual abuse he inflicted on a young girl before killing her as well as that he received are described in graphic detail that certainly qualifies as High Octane Nightmare Fuel.
- In Mercedes Lackey's When the Bough Breaks, the rich and successful father horrifically sexually abuses his preteen daughter. When he's brought to the elven version of justice, it's shown that his father physically and psychologically abused him as a child.
- Veronica Mars:
- Aaron Echolls, who abuses his son. We learn later that his father was also an abusive alcoholic who beat his mother in front of him and put out cigarettes in his hands.
- The abused child in question, Logan Echolls torments Veronica, provides the drugs that are used in her rape, and arranges such deranged activities as "bum fights." Despite being one of her biggest tormenters, he eventually became Veronica's boyfriend. He became woobified, as large portions of the audience chose to excuse his actions on the basis of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.
- Lionel Luthor on Smallville is an Archnemesis Dad who abuses his son Lex financially and emotionally in an attempt at making him stronger. He is absolutly ruthless in his desire to make Lex into a worthy heir for his corporate empire, and easily deserves the title of "Worst Father Ever." In Season 3, however, we learn that Lionel's own parents were a pair of alcoholic washouts who beat him regularly and went out of their way to sabotage his success; if Lionel can be trusted, they actually wanted him to end up just like them. He eventually killed them, then fabricated a new past for the family, claiming descent from Scottish nobility. Not only does this explain Lionel's drive for success, it also helps to demonstrate why he seems to be unaware that he is abusing Lex: in Lionel's mind, abuse is physical; he sees himself as an involved parent and nothing worse.
- In most incarnations of Blackadder, the title character heavily abuses Baldrick, often in frustration at his mistreatment at the hands of his own higher power (often a monarch). His lampshading of this "Dog Kicks Littler Dog" scenario in the third installment is the page quote.
- The eponymous character of House was abused by his father when he was a child and grows up to be a Jerkass who goes to illegal lengths to coerce or force people into unwanted medical procedures that are sometimes painful, and when his girlfriend Cuddy leaves him, he vandalizes her house in a fit of rage via Car Fu.
- Sam Puckett is a notable Domestic Abuser of her boyfriend Freddie on iCarly. One episode reveals that her father walked out on her whole family.
- Discussed in the Eric Bogle song "Daniel Smiling".
"That brutalised children become adults who then brutalise"
- As well as the Tool song "Prison Sex".
I do unto others, what has been done to me. Do unto others, what has been done to you.
- Mystery Case Files: Escape From Ravenhearst — Charles Dalimar claims to be this. (Well, technically, he never admits to the "Abuser" part, just the "Troubled".)
- If you consider the relationship tree of the Metal Gear series, about half of them are abusive connections. Forgive the liberalness with which relationships are interpreted. Troubled Abuser always listed first. It helps that everyone has a Darkand Troubled Past.
- Liquid Snake to Solid Snake: Abusive brother to brother.
- Solid Snake to Liquid Snake: It may be entirely necessary, but it's still an abusive relationship.
- Sniper Wolf to Otacon: Emotional abuse. Uses his affections to try and manipulate Snake, to a small degree.
- The Colonel and Naomi Hunter to Solid Snake: Hard to interpret the relationship into friend or familial terms, but they're both using Snake for variously selfish ends.
- And of course, Solid Snake to the Genome Soldiers: In the most fucked up way possible, abusive brother to brother.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni has both Rosa Ushiromiya and her father Kinzo.
- Rosa was abused by Kinzo, tormented by her brothers and sister (which Rudolf acknowledges as some point), and is a single mother where the father of her daughter Maria left her without marrying her and while she was pregnant. All in all, her life's a train wreck. Is it any wonder that she winds up taking so much of it out on Maria, as much as poor Maria doesn't deserve it?
- As for Kinzo. He was manipulated as the heir to the Ushiromiya family, sent off to World War II, wishes to take his own life meets his love, Beatrice Castiglioni, only to have her and later her daughter both die. He winds up half-insane, is abusive to most of his children (specially to Eva, by denying her the right to be the heir purely for her gender despite being more talented in business than her eldest brother Krauss) and has a child with his illegitimate daughter, Beatrice Ushiromiya through implied rape.
- Toki. She starts out like this and abuses her friends and then Frailine. Her reasons for any of this: She's mentally ill and cannot always discern right from wrong, and another is that she was abused and almost died of leukemia as a result of her caregiver's neglect (something she can't let go and that drove her insane, thus making her ticking time bomb all through high school, in which she was borderline insane) and now wanted to be the one in control and the one to hurt. Her reasons for abusing Frailine is because its more like revenge and a slap to the face to her deceased adopted (technically foster) mother for abusing her after Frailine was born. Sad thing about that, she wasn't always like this and was once very sweet, making her sort of a Jerkass Woobie and her past a Break the Cutie.
- Light example from The Simpsons, Homer Simpson frequently physically abuses Bart, it is often revealed in flashbacks that his own father Abe was rather aloof and emotionally abusive to him as well. Abe was in some cases even seen strangling Homer in the same manner the latter does to Bart today.
Homer: He said I was an accident, he didn't wanna have me.
Marge: You didn't want to have Bart.
Homer: Yeah but you're not supposed to tell the child.
Marge: You tell Bart all the time, you told him this morning.
Homer: *flustered* But when I do it it's cute!
- Dr Robotnik of Sonic Sat AM who is incredibly abusive to his nephew Snively, was revealed in "The Void" to have initially been a surbordinate to wizard Naugus, who used his magic to torture and intimidate Robotnik. The fact Snively thought his treatment was Actually Pretty Funny probably only furthered Robotnik's spite towards him however. In the planned third season Naugus would have returned, actually reducing Robotnik to a cowering toady similar to Snively.
- On Moral Orel, Clay Puppington abuses his son (both physically and psychologically) and was all but ignored by his father after inadvertently causing his mother's death.
- In Hey Arnold!, the eponymous character has a Stalker with a Crush named Helga who is also eager to hide the fact that she has a crush on Arnold... by subjecting him to relentless bullying and harassment that includes physical and verbal abuse. She also has Abusive Parents who favor her older sister over her and barely pay attention to her. (and said sister doesn't have it much better)
- In The Dreamstone, Elite Mooks Urpgor and Sgt Blob are often shown ordering about and abusing lower Urpneys, something that makes some sense given they are most often at the brunt of Zordrak's horrible temper.
- The South Park episode "Cartman Sucks" has a subplot where Butters gets sent to a "straight camp" that very Anviliciously shows how ineffective, pointless, and wrong it is to attempt to Cure Your Gays. One example is one of the staff members, who cheerfully tells the campers that being gay and bisexual is abnormal and encourages them to "pray the gay away" from the inside of a Transparent Closet. To inspire them, he tells about how he was once gay, but not no longer because he turned straight by way of praying to God to make him straight, which he was obviously encouraged to do when he was younger by one or more homophobic authority figures.
- Mister Ruckus from The Boondocks was continuously abused from both his mother Nelly and white men, leading him to be abusive towards his son Uncle.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "One Bad Apple" gives us this trope when the Cutie Mark Crusaders learn that Babs Seed, who had been fiercely bullying them for days now, had only come to Ponyville to get away from the heartache and bullying she had been experiencing back home. The Crusaders realize that this is what prompted her to join with the local Alpha Bitches rather than stand up to them.
Truth In Television
- If statistics are right, 30% of all Abusive Parents were mistreated by theirs.
- Joseph Frizl described his relationship with his mother as physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. As an adult, he kept his mother imprisoned in the attic for 20 years before her death and infamously took his 18 year old daughter Elisabeth and imprisoned her in the cellar, meanwhile raping her enough times that she gave birth to seven children, three of whom never saw the light of day until one of them had a seizure requiring medical attention, enabling their release, at which time Elisabeth was 42 years old.
- Chris Brown, who infamously physically abused his girlfriend Rihanna, spoke about having watched his mother being beaten by his stepfather from the ages of 7 to 13.
- Richard A. Cohen is an "ex-gay" "therapist" who works to "cure" others of being gay by telling them that it's wrong to be gay and to try as hard as they can to be straight, even if that means going against themselves, which is an emotionally and psychologically abusive thing to do. He had an abusive home life that he states caused his homosexuality, which he says he has since healed from.
- Josef Stalin had an abusive father and later abused his son, even going so far to mock him when he failed to kill himself.
- Victor Salva was subjected to physical abuse by his often-drunk stepfather in his childhood. When Salva was directing Clownhouse years later, he molested a 12 year old who was working as one of the film's actors.