"WHY AM I SO BAD AT BEING GOOD?"
A specific type of Sympathetic Villain
, or even a Villain Protagonist
. A character who simply cannot become liked or even viewed by the other inhabitants of their world as basically good
, no matter what they do. If they kick a soccer ball to a child who lost it, it will instantly morph into a puppy
before the poor kid's very eyes just to retroactively force evil on this villain. If they have a love interest, almost all other characters (and possibly even the viewer) will think of their affections as Stalker with a Crush
material. This character is often the object not merely of bad luck or karma but of active stereotyping, with the world at large openly calling their lifestyle, deeds, or existence
(in the case of those with powers
) things like "criminal", "wrong", or "abomination against [insert god here
Generally treated by the author as either a figure of comedy or of tragedy. A comedic mandatory-villain will generally keep on trying throughout the entire series or story to make themselves good, and will generally keep their spirits up despite the misfortune visited upon them. On the other hand, a tragic mandatory-villain will sometimes become so fed up with their lot in life that they decide to deliberately cross
the Moral Event Horizon
into genuine villainy, and doing so may be treated either as a sign of the character's deep inner pain, as a sign that You Can't Fight Fate
, or as a sign that the character was too morally weak. When stereotyping is the thing that forces the villainy, there will sometimes be a stated or implied Aesop
that all the suffering could have been avoided but for the type-casting committed by the less sympathetic characters.
Compare with Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds
for the tragic version and with Reformed but Rejected
for those who actually started out as villains at some point. Contrast with Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain
for the comedic — with the difference being the intended morality at which the comedic character fails. Compare Hero with an F in Good
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Anime & Manga
- Lelouch from Code Geass R2 gets it pretty badly, but he manages to handle it.
- On the rare occasions that Team Rocket from Pokémon are acting good, the protagonists don't usually buy it, even if they were being sincere.
- Oddly, the weaker their disguise is when doing actual crime the more likely they are to fool Ash and friends. It seems they only really notice them out-of-uniform if they're doing anything other than evil.
- Team Rocket jumping to their death so Ash and Lugia live, and no one even mentioning it.
- That was a weird example. At the end of the movie (they survived), they were complaining about how no one noticed their good deeds. Slowking then broke the Fourth Wall when he told them that lots of people (the audience) knew what they did.
- Everything the good guy of Angel Densetsu says and does reeks of villainous Double Entendre.
- Ichiban Ushiro No Daimaou: The main character, Sai Akuto, IS this trope. It's the core of the entire show, really.
- The title character of the manga Ratman often fits this troop. Despite this "hero" working for a villainous organization. Especially towards a girl he likes.
- Magneto's origin story in some versions of the X-Men comes from this. He survives the Holocaust and comes to view humanity as fundamentally intolerant to those different from themselves. Still tries to live a normal life. Then an angry peasant mob kills his wife and one of his daughters. He therefore decides, upon realizing his mutant powers, to build a mutant empire.
- It's even worse than that. The mob is more-or-less responsible for his daughter's death. When he was prevented from saving her, Magnus's powers manifest uncontrollably and kill the mob. His wife, who has survived all of this, calls him a monster and runs from him.
- Marv in Sin City. Dwight says in a different era he would've been worshipped as a hero and had his choice of women. Instead everyone treats him as dumb muscle.
- Both Tyrion and Jaime Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire. Tyrion is a fundamentally decent guy who actively tries to help the people of King's Landing while serving as Hand of the King. However, the deck is stacked against him because he's a dwarf; most of his family hates him and the common people regard him as a monster. Being mutilated doesn't make him much popular either. His brother Jaime, on the other hand, is regarded as an oath-breaker for killing King Aerys, even though he secretly saved the lives of a city's worth of people doing it. Even as he tries to redeem himself and become a better knight, his name becomes associated with treachery due to circumstances beyond his control. An especially striking example of this trope for him: he threatens to send a baby to its death in a trebuchet to prevent a bloody siege of Riverrun castle. He'd previously made an oath not to raise his sword against House Tully, and this helped solve the situation without bloodshed - but everyone in listening distance got the impression that he was evil.
- This trope is both invoked and subverted, and having an inversion of that at the same time, early on in Plato's Republic, making it (kind of) Older Than Feudalism. In a Devil's Advocate attempt to present injustice as more profitable than justice by contrasting the perfectly just man (who appears to be this trope, but isn't because he's actually The Hero) with the perfectly unjust man, who is the exact opposite. It Makes Sense in Context.
Live Action TV
- Sometimes Dr. Kelso from Scrubs appeared to be suffering from the effects of a mandatory Villain Ball.
- Probably the most notable case of this was in "His Story 4." He has actually built up a modest level of appreciation from the other doctors by instituting an employee discount at the hospital's coffee shop. However, when the dangerous topic of the most recent war comes up and the doctors are fighting and ignoring each other, Dr. Kelso realizes the only way to get them unified again (and less likely to accidentally hurt a patient through lack of information) is actively become the target of their aggression. He takes away the discount.
- Vampire Aiden from Syfy's Being Human (Remake) is doing everything in his power to be a better person. Except every single thing he does blows up in his face in a way that either makes everything he does look worse in retrospect or leaves him with no choice but to Shoot the Dog.
- In H.M.S. Pinafore, everyone is prejudiced against Dick Deadeye simply because of his looks and his Unfortunate Name; as a result, everything he says, no matter how sensible, is perceived as utterly shocking.
- In X-Men: Evolution, Avalanche became this, if only for one episode. Tired of failing, being pushed around by Mystique, and generally being unliked by people he respected (Scott) and liked (Kitty) Avalanche defects to the X-men. However, Scott and several of the others don't trust him, and when something goes wrong, immediately blame him. The younger X-Men even start taking advantage of this, doing extremely risky things that Avalanche gets blamed for. At the end, Scott admits he was wrong, and Kitty kisses him, but because Status Quo Is God, he still decides the whole thing is too much effort, and heads back to the Brotherhood.
- Zuko from around season 2 to the middle of season 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, experiences this. Whenever he tries honestly to help people in general, it is usually twisted in some way to become worse. He also gave the page quote when accidentally injuring someone who was sticking up for him.
- The Penguin reformed in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, but his past deeds made him the target of suspicion for Batman and the target for mean spirited pranks for the social elite. He turns back to evil by the end of the episode, though it's implied that with a little more patience he would have been accepted back into society.
- His return to evil seemed to have a LOT to do with finding out that the one woman he thought was looking beyond his unfortunate appearance and sinister past was only hanging around him as a prank. That she had begun to develop some genuine affection for him by the time he finds out about the "joke" just makes it all the more tragic.
- The Urpneys hold the ball to ludicrous levels in The Dreamstone. While most of them are cowardly Punchclock Villains who only serve Zordrak out of fear for their life, they are consistently viewed as irredeemable scum by the otherwise messianic Land of Dreams, for trying to give them nightmares no less. Their only willing attempt to truce with the Urpneys was by Heel Face Brainwashing them. Ironically between the two, the heroes actually performed the nearest to a genuine Villain Ball (the Urpneys pull Idiot Balls by the thousand, but rarely Kick the Dog outside orders), getting humiliated by the Urpneys during a couple of instances after taking their retribution to too gratuitous a level.
- This gets Played for Laughs with Brian and Quagmire in Family Guy. Under normal circumstances, Quagmire is a complete sexaholic who routinely drugs women and is into all sorts of kinks. Of course, the one time Brian tries to relate to Quagmire about his relationship with a woman, it turns out to be Quagmire's sister who had been horribly beaten by her husband. Another time, Brian tries to strike up a conversation with Quagmire and Quagmire's "nephew" while in line to meet a mall Santa. Quagmire's nephew is actually his niece who has brain cancer so her hair fell out from the chemo. Granted, sometimes Brian is purposely a jerk, but he also can't catch a break where Quagmire is involved. The feud reached a climax where, after one too many outbursts from Quagmire, Brian bites back and decides to hit a very personal blow for revenge. Since then, the animosity has not reappeared outside a couple far more passive aggressive moments.