This is the desperate cry of those who have looked in the mirror
and see a broken mask
. A case of post human panic
at discovering they always were, or have been transformed
into a creature that is less
... and more
, than human.
The inhuman bombshell can be of any nature, a hero can be transformed
against their will via mystical, cybernetic, or genetic means, or discover they've always been a monster... or rather: were never human.
Likely candidates for "What Have I Become" are the Vampire Refugee
, a genetically altered Half-Human Hybrid
, and Cyborgs
, though freakish Frankensteins Monsters
are also popular. This can be especially horrifying if the transformation also affects the character's mind, giving them animal instincts
, removing their emotions
, or giving them a thirst for blood
. For extra pathos, the transformation will usually be into a creature that the character hates
, usually because one killed a loved one of theirs, their friends, and/or Love Interest
. Now everyone can Wangst together!
If the above seems a bit glib it's because the revelation will cause a viewers reaction to oscillate between "That's harsh"
and "So what?"
, since some settings are very helpful
in providing avenues for the moral Friendly Neighborhood Vampires
to thrive, while others are genuinely cruel
to those so changed. That said, change is what you make of it, and most protagonists find life as a non-human... whatever
doesn't have to be that bad or morally debased... unless you're already evil.
If they're Genre Savvy
, they know they've gone down a notch in the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
thanks to What Measure Is a Non-Human?
. Expect them to break mirrors
Not related to My God, What Have I Done?
, although the two tropes may overlap sometimes for the metaphorical value. Opposite to Transhuman Treachery
. Usually precedes the Trial Balloon Question
. Often followed by I Am a Monster
. Well-adjusted victims
may decide that I Am What I Am
which, assuming that they're permanently transformed, is probably the best result. Occasionally happens after being a Sheep In Wolf's Clothing
. Their friends may disagree with them, telling them to drop the Freakiness Shame
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Blood+ has Saya, a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire by virtue of being raised among humans and "fed" blood intravenously. By season three, her rock solid relationship with her family is being consistently torpedoed by both friends and foes because she "isn't human" or "chiroptera and humans can not live together". When, for all intents and purposes, she, Riku and Kai are a happy family unit. Then again, outside pressure has been the end of a good many relationships.
- By season three, Riku is turned into a Chevalier in extenuating circumstances by Saya. Other than the tragedy that he can't age into adulthood, everyone treats him like a ticking timebomb, and Saya thinks she was unjustified in saving him.
- Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z combines this with What Have I Done after he thinks Majin Buu killed Gohan.
- Embalming: The Another Tale of Frankenstein, by the guy who did Rurouni Kenshin and Busou Renkin. Four of the major characters in the series at large are Frankensteins Monsters. Two don't remember their human lives, and one of them doesn't even remember his original identity, but neither of them seem to care. Two do remember, but one was already unhinged before gaining freakish strength and revels in his new body. The fourth guy is the only one with What Have I Become, and is determined to kill all Frankensteins — yet other than that, he might be the nicest of the four.
- Greed from Fullmetal Alchemist has a reaction like this after he uses Bido's relaxed guard as an opening to kill him, as soon as he dies, Greed begins to have mental flashes back to his first life and his comrades and begins trembling uncontrollably. Admittedly, it's a little more like a What Have I Done moment.
- Ling, whose body was changed into the homunculus Greed for Greed 2 is still conscious and contributes to this process by shouting at him inside his head about right and wrong. He has a weird mind and does not feel any guilt for anything Greed does with his body, or apparently even a twinge of Body Horror.
- Hakuoro from Utawarerumono goes through this Upon learning that he is some sort of God-like beast and not a human
- It's played down in the anime version of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, but Ange-Beatrice did have a version of this after Lambda let her know that she wasn't real. It's complicated. Bern met Ange and made her a deal that if she would come with Bern, she could try to save her brother from Rokkenjima. What Bern did then was, according to Lambda, split Ange in two - a real Ange in the year 1998 and a false one that was exactly like Ange in every way, except that she is Bern's piece, and her existence was tied to the gameboard. And then, thanks to Time Travel confusion, there's also the one in 1986 who is still six at the time. The point is that the Ange who is helping Battler exists only as long as Battler is playing the game - she will never get her brother back even though she is the one taking the most direct actions to save him. So yeah.
- Negi of Mahou Sensei Negima! has a relatively minor one after his Black Magic-fueled Superpowered Evil Side came within inches of intentionally killing an innocent bystander, and one of his students, at that. His student helps snap him out of it with "But you didn't, right?"
- Despite people frequently changing into monsters called "Awakened Beings" in Claymore, this moment happens only once with the character Ophelia. While originally having a lust for slaying said demons (Because one killed her family), Ophelia becomes obviously distraught when she discovers that she has become what she hates. She then surprisingly composes herself and pulls a Redemption Equals Death for Clare rather than give into her growing monstrous desires.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: This is the driving force behind Sayaka's fall.
- Ben Grimm in the Ultimate Fantastic Four actually attempted suicide after his transformation, but his rock hard skin made it impossible. To date, all version of The Thing have this to some degree... at best, they learn to live with it. The point even has a back and forth, since Reed Richards Is Useless will mean either Reed is deeply ashamed he can't find a cure, or that he hasn't devoted enough effort to do it. He is occasionally depicted as having mental blocks about being restored as well... that Reed does not see fit to reveal to him.
- He didn't take it much better in the original comics, either. In fact, for the first few years, his transformation hadn't quite "set in", and he would randomly turn back into normal Ben Grimm for a few minutes at a time before changing back. This only added to his despair. Oh, and all his old friends abandoned him after he became the Thing.
- Notably subverted in the origin story of Cassidy from Preacher: at first, he has no idea what he's become (a vampire), but once he's figured out the basic limitations and powers, decides it's actually really cool. When a friend later lends him a copy of Dracula, he realizes what he actually is... and figures it's even cooler. Also notable in that no one ever actually says "vampire" - neither in his origin story nor main storyline - although it's extremely obvious that's what he is.
- It is played straight at first, though the only regret he seems to have is that he can't see his family again because of his change.
- In Teen Titans comics, Victor Stone hated his father for saving his life by turning him into Cyborg — for many reasons, particularly because it destroyed his prospective athletic career. He'd really rather have died. He never truly got over that resentment and was suicidal for a long time, even after he joined the Titans, where his temperament made him a loose cannon and a poor team player.
- Cliff Steele of the Doom Patrol after his brain was transplanted into a robot body by Niles Caulder, turning him into Robotman. At first, he couldn't feel any sensation at all, which nearly drove him mad. He tried to kill himself, but his body was too strong. He completely freaked out when it turned out Caulder was the one responsible for the accident that necessitated his brain transplant in the first place.
- Every member of the Doom Patrol, really. Negative Man's body is so radioactive, it would kill anyone he came close to if he weren't covered with specially treated bandages, and his Hour of Power lasts for one minute... if he doesn't return to his body in time, he dies. Elasti-Girl's acting career was ruined when she gained her powers, as she was blacklisted as a freak, etc.
- And yeah, Caulder's responsible for all of their Blessed with Suck (not really Blessed in any sense really) conditions too. He apparently created others like them who eventually became the Brotherhood of Evil in revenge.
- Subverted in a 1990s Spider-Man comic after Spidey is knocked out in a fight with the Sinister Six and wakes up in a SHIELD hospital with what seems like a metallic arm in place of his normal one. He's horrified at the thought that he's become a cyborg, until the doctor who's treating his injuries comes in and explains that the metal "arm" is in fact just a highly advanced cybernetic cast that's healing the fractures of his flesh and blood arm while also protecting it from further injury. The cast is eventually destroyed in another battle with the Six, but when it falls to pieces Spider-Man's real arm is as good as new.
- For a very, very negative version of this: Marvel Zombies. In case you were curious, they've become zombies.
- In Tales of the Black Freighter, the in-comic comic in Watchmen, a young mariner's vessel is wrecked by the Black Freighter (a literally hell-sent pirate ship) before it can return to his hometown and warn his wife and children. He ends up Marooned (also the name of that double-issue), and makes a raft out of his shipmate's gas-bloated corpses, which he had buried and then dug back up. The main character eventually gets to his hometown, only to find the Black Freighter had never come and terrorized his hometown, and that he had alienated himself from his family and friends in his (disturbing) efforts to save them from his own fabrication.
- It's worse than that. When he first arrives, he's already convinced himself that the Freighter has already come and killed them all. When he sees a moneylender and the moneylender's wife, he assumes they collaborated with the pirates, so he kills them both.
- Every Batman fan knows the story of how Mr. Freeze is keeping his wife Nora cryogenically frozen until he can find a cure for her. When he finally succeeded and thawed Nora out by dipping her in a Lazarus Pit, she came back as a raving fire-spewing psychopath with the ability to raise the dead. Calling herself "Lazara", Nora Fries blamed her husband for what she'd become, and fled for parts unknown, Mr. Freeze in pursuit.
- In the old The Legend of Zelda comics, Link ends up taking the Triforce of Power and, with it, starts becoming corrupted by it. When Zelda finally confronts him over it, he tries to point out that he's finally gotten rid of Ganon with it. Instead, he's found out he never got rid of Ganon - he became Ganon. Link promptly freaks and tosses the Triforce of Power down a seemingly bottomless pit, the Triforce of Courage restoring him.
- Morbius says these exact words in a flashback in The Amazing Spider-Man 699.1 that shows how he was turned into a living vampire and killed his best friend immediately after.
- Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Amazingly, MEGATRON of all beings says he felt this back during The Transformers IDW, during a conversation he was having with Optimus about the war. Specifically, his claims that he was willing to kill every Autobot alive just for the pleasure, and the realisation that he meant it. Given this version of Megatron started off as a freedom fighter, it shows him how far he'd strayed.
- In Harry Potter and the Curse's Cure Bellatrix Lestrange was forcibly woken from the madness caused by constant rape and degradation and the death of her unborn child, only to break into tears and collapse in Narcissa Malfoy's arms, sobbing "What have I become 'Cissa? What am I now?"
- The progressing division of Kali and Kira in Zenith, Darkness, Reverie is classified as this by Kali. At some point, she accepts it and Kira murders four hundred people.
- Parodied in the Fantastic Four movie. Johnny attempts to incite this in Ben before he turns into a giant rock man. Afterwards, Ben does get rather close to suicide over being rejected by his fiancée. This leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny - as he mulls over his fate while sitting on a bridge, a would-be jumper comes up... and Ben talks him out of it with one sentence: "You think you got problems?"
- Jerry Maguire: "What had I become? Just another shark in a suit?"
- What Have I Become is a theme that turns up now and then in Darkman. Not only is Darkman horribly mutilated, but the medical procedure that saved his life has the side effect of amplifying his emotions.
- Batman: In Burton's 1989 film, the Trope is played with, when Jack first sees himself in the mirror - he moans and groans briefly, and then transforms into maniacal laughter.
- Implied in the film version of V for Vendetta, where the titular V removes his mask and tosses it into a mirror, shattering the glass. Notable because after Becoming the Mask and turning his life into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against The Government and the people who wronged him, this is an expression of his personal frustration at the separation—physical (underneath it his entire body is Covered with Scars from a massive fire) and symbolic—that very mask now places between him, the man and not the idea that he now embodies, and Evey who he has fallen in love with.
- Louis from Interview With A Vampire goes through this after Lestat turns him. Wangst City. He's is composed of this trope and distilled Wangst.
- Alastair Reynolds - Revelation Space's Captain John Brannigan, whose body was ravaged by an alien technological disease, fusing him into his ship, tells his closest friend, Volyova (an insane engineer) that he has become a monster, in Redemption Ark, after suffering a Heroic BSOD
- Derian from Jane Lindskold's Wolf Hunting. After he survives the plague, he finds out that it changed him drastically. He now looks like a horse furry. When he realizes it, he's so ashamed that he hides himself under the covers. The fact that he can now converse with the wise horses as easily as Firekeeper can with wolves is awesome, though.
- In the Invasion block novels of Magic: The Gathering, the leader of the Shivan dragons, Darigaaz, becomes slowly corrupted by the other Primeval dragons, until he completely joins them in their destructive rampage. Another character eventually snaps him out of it, leading to this moment.
- Michael doesn't take it well in the Knight and Rogue Series when he develops magic, something no inteligent human is suposed to have. His initial reaction to the discovery is quickly cast aside horror-he's in a burning building after all-but once the discovery has time to sink in he spends a few moments contemplating death over living the rest of his life as some horrid freak.
- Lionblaze from Warrior Cats says this almost word for word in Eclipse after he nearly kills Crowfeather. Who was also his dad.
- Phosis T'Kar's final moments during the Scouring of Prospero in A Thousand Sons. He slaughters his way through the combined Vlka Fenryka, Custodes and Sisters of Silence force, finally reaching the legendary Constantin Valdor who calls him a monster. T'kar sees his reflection in Valdor's armor and realizes that his lineage's curse, the Flesh Change, has horribly mutated him. Just before Valdor's blade cleaves his chest, he closes his eyes, sheds a tear and replies "I know."
- In Venus Prime, Linda Nagy was transformed against her will into Sparta, the intended "prophet" of the Free Spirit. Throughout the series, she questions whether or not she's still human.
Live Action TV
- Cybermen in Doctor Who. Realising who they are and what they have become causes them to die of shock. Or explode.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Thine Own Self", Data (afflicted with amnesia and believing himself to be one of the locals) reacts with shock when an injury reveals circuitry under his skin.
- The amnesia thing was done previously in the The Six Million Dollar Man episode "Stranger in Broken Fork", friendly locals and all. But with the cruel twist that Steve freaks out for (almost) nothing — he thinks he's all robot when in fact he has just three (superpowered) prosthetic limbs and an eye.
- Poor, poor Owen Harper. Suicide doesn't work if you're dead.
- Four of the Final Five Cylons were revealed at the end of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined). All were ardent resistance members dead set on killing every damn toaster there is. You can imagine how discovering they are what they hate has made them react, knowing that if they reveal themselves to their human friends they'll be lucky to be put in a cell and par for the course to be shoved out an airlock. Even so, they still want to help humanity even though they are no longer human, prompting Tigh to say the page quote. Well, maybe not Tory.
- On Heroes, both Dr. Mohinder Suresh and Peter Petrelli are going through this in Season 3. Mohinder has injected himself with an experimental and flawed superpowers formula, which seems to be turning him into The Fly, while Peter has acquired not only Sylar's ability to understand
the plot how things work, but also Sylar's uncontrollable compulsion to cut open peoples heads and steal their brains.
- As of season 3 episode 24, Sylar's new power of shapeshifting in combination with his ability to pick up past information from objects he touches and emotions from people he touched has worsened his identity crisis by starting to drive him insane. He finds himself involuntarily and uncontrollably shapeshifting, first only in his sleep, later even while awake, triggered he touched the blood on the clothes of his dead mother and absorbed her DNA and memories. Now when alone he alternates between his own form and that of his mother, complete with Gollum-like external monologues/dialogues between the two personalities. To say Sylar's not happy about it is to put it mildly.
- In one episode, the heroes realizing halfway through that they are robots.
- Daniel also has a moment like this after realizing what he's done at the end of Absolute Power. This being the Daniel in the reality where that never happened and was All Just a Dream. The other one knew exactly what he'd become, he just didn't care.
- At the beginning of the second season of Babylon 5, Delenn has just finished transforming inside her chrysalis...and after she emerges, she has this reaction because she thinks the transformation has gone wrong. Thankfully, it turns out there's one final step to the process.
- Breaking Benjamin's song "Diary of Jane" has these lyrics:
Desperate, I will crawl
Waiting for so long
No love, there is no love
Die for anyone
What have I become
- Reign of Kindo's song "The Moments in Between" says it.
- "Hurt," the last song of the Nine Inch Nails album The Downward Spiral, also covered by Johnny Cash.
- Most of Nine Inch Nail's 2013 album, "Hesitation Marks", has lyrics revolving around this - around trying to escape it, accepting it, trying to get someone to tear it out...
- The Evanescence song Bring Me to Life contains a bit of this.
Save me from the nothing I've become
- Averted by Disturbed with the song "Monster". It's actually about "What I Will Not Become"
- However, if the song "Serpentine" is to be considered a continuation of this theme, that same narrator (lead singer David Draiman) is implied to have failed at this.
Damn what I’m becoming / One of them now...
- Africa by Toto.
I seek to cure what's deep inside,
Frightened of this thing that I've become
- Seeing as how a central theme of their games is 'Personal Horror', White Wolf has made this moment standard with nearly every The World of Darkness gameline except Hunter and Mage games (where you remain human), and Promethean: The Created (where you don't start out human). Granted, even in those games, its still quite possible if the Storyteller spins it right.
- This is required in the Werewolf: The Forsaken gameline. One day, you're bitten by a werewolf and one gruesome (and painful) transformation sequence later you realize you always had werewolf blood in you, yearning to get out (the bite did nothing, it just helped your new mentor get your scent so he and his pack could track you down before the First Change and restrain you before you hurt someone during it). Now all those bouts of extreme rage and murderous intent throughout your life is starting to make sense.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse you can start in human or wolf form, but either way you start having bizarre rages and nightmares until one day a traumatic event (such as an attack by monsters or abusive parents) causes you to burst out in your hybrid form and rip somebody (sometimes someone innocent) to bloody bits. If your werewolf relatives find you, you find out that you weren't born human (or wolf) to begin with. If they don't find you, you'll just be confused and alone until you die. Only the Metis (born of two werewolf parents) know from birth more-or-less what they are.
- In the Playable Epilogue of Red Dead Redemption, Jack Marston would often say this if he shoots unarmed innocents and/or loots their bodies. Especially if they're women.
- Both Kalas and Sagi from the Baten Kaitos games have a moment like this.
- In the original God of War Kratos says 'By the gods, what have I become?'
- He is answered in Ghost Of Sparta by the Grave Digger/Zeus with "Death. The Destroyer of Worlds". After killing Thanatos, God of Death, and losing his brother again, this time forever.
- In Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, the prince asks himself this very question after discovering the Shadow Prince within himself. He also doesn't want Farah to see his sand monster form. The Dark Prince sardonically asks if he's worried she'll prefer the new him, and he rather bitterly answers, "Charred skin, glowing eyes, a melted face... what's not to like?"
- in Target Earth/Assault Suits Leynos, Rance Culzus is forced to become a cyborg after a severe defeat to the protagonist (and after explaining that his kind, who started the war against Earth, is actually originated from humans sent on a mission from Earth to discover new worlds to colonize; for some reason, they were forced to call for Earth's help, to no avail, were forced to become cyborg hybrids in order to survive, and now are exacting their revenge against those who had forsaken them. The protagonist then says that he won't allow Earth to become a battlefield, and he replies saying that his kind will never reconcile with the humans), and when they meet again, for the last time, Rance mentions that he has followed the fate of his kind in order to survive.
- One fan theory for why The Witch in Left 4 Dead is always crying.
- In the Final Fantasy VII prequel Crisis Core, Genesis becomes a villain, Angeal a Death Seeker and Sephiroth enlightened with insanity because of this. The only thing that changes with their appearance is a single black or white wing on their back (Sephiroth's wing is seen chronologically much later in the series though) which allows them to fly, and before that they were insanely powerful warriors. The genetic tinkering behind this however also causes Genesis and possibly Angeal as well to slowly degenerate. Which still kinda manages to be Cursed with Awesome (seeing how there were possible cures), although there are more subtle explanations for why they are not exactly happy about the revelation; they aren't angsting about having wings, they're angsting about what the wings are a symptom of.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, it's implied that this was the reason why Revan took off his/her mask in the Rakatan ruins on Lehon, briefly reflecting on their Motive Decay since the end of the Mandalorian Wars.
- In the sequel, Kreia states her belief that on a subconscious level, the Exile always knew what they had become after Malachor V and the reason they ran way was because they were afraid!
- In ''Kings Quest VI'', the Lord of the Dead is reminded by Alexander of how he came from a human life to an eternally damned existence.And this fazes him just enough to make him shed a single tear.Which is still good, considering he grants Alexander his wish to resurrect Cassima's parents.
- The ending monologue of Prototype's Alex Mercer consists of him trying to figure out just what exactly he is. His conclusion is that he ultimately doesn't know.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Adam Jensen never asked for this.
- Several cases, most notably Argilla, suffer from this in Digital Devil Saga. Though, to be fair, having a cannibalistic demon inside you who will never shut up about its Horror Hunger and will never, ever go away, along with unexplained emotion surges, would ruin anyone's day.
- After mercilessly torturing his own brother to maintain his cover, even though it was with his consent, Jason Brody takes a moment to look at his hands and ask himself what he's become.
- Neopets played this for laughs in the Petpet Park plot. You come upon an adorable Cybunny with the options of: A) Become inexplicably hostile, B) Request an autograph, C) Ask, "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?", or D) Bribe it with Neocash. Upon executing any of the options, the Cybunny would turn around to reveal itself to be half-robot. If you chose A, it gets a mirror out of nowhere and says, "ERROR: WHAT HAVE I BECOME?"
- This happens to Taylor of Worm, when she sees a recording of herself assaulting a government facility and observes that she's been using moves that she never taught herself. The fact that she's a one-girl Mook Horror Show doesn't hurt.
- Satirized in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. In the episode "Rule Of Dumb" Patrick becomes king of Bikini Bottom after finding out he is supposedly descended from royalty and later begins to abuse his power. In one scene he looks in the mirror and sees that he's becoming a monster leading him to say the quote word for word.
Mirror: Knock knock.
Patrick: Huh? (with glee) A Knock Knock Joke! Who's there?
Patrick and Mirror:: (confused) I don't get it.
Mirror: I'm you and you are me. (Patrick finally understands)
Patrick and Mirror: (screams) What have I become?!
- Silverbolt in Beast Machines utters this phrase upon being reformatted from a Vehicon. Technorganicness is hard to handle.
- Generation 1 gets in on it when Spike has to be temporarily transferred from his human body to a robotic spare that was made up for this purpose. Did NOT help that Frankenstein was on the TV that day. Oh, and the robot body having issues with sanity.
- In one Gargoyles episode, Genius Cripple Halcyon Renard can't bear with his condition any longer and financially supports a ruthless criminal so that he can steal a magical Golem for him. After Renard uses a ritual to transfer his soul into the Golem he quickly goes mad with power and the ability to walk and feel again. Goliath then asks Renard if he was really willing to trade away everything good about him — his honor and integrity — for a lump of clay. Renard then utters the trope verbatim, returns to his human body, and gives the Golem back to its owner. He thanks Goliath at the end, telling him that he had saved his soul if not his life.
- Fluttershy in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Putting Your Hoof Down.
- Essentially, she wants to become less of a doormat so she takes lessons on assertiveness. It works all too well to the point where Fluttershy sees herself as a menace to her friends, prompting her to lock herself in her own home. This leads to a moment when Fluttershy looks in the mirror and sees herself with devil horns.
- Tarrlok by the end of Season 1 of The Legend of Korra when he realizes that he's become the very tool of vengeance that his father Yakone wanted him to be and that he tried to avoid becoming. Amon may have also had this at the end before Tarrlok kills them both but it's left more ambiguous.
- Gravity Falls: Mabel says this verbatim when she realizes she has begun behaving like Stan.