"Evil is just a word. Under the skin, it's simple pain."
This is a character who wants to destroy everything and everyone in the story, and is suddenly in a position to do so (on a small or large scale); but in contrast to the Ax-Crazy Omnicidal Maniac
, he/she has some plausible, outright tragic reason to do so. In some cases, the other characters outright sympathize with this one (whether or not the audience does too is out of the equation here), all the while accepting that they must be stopped. Sometimes, the character is even portrayed as likeable
, just... not with the right mindset.
The essential element is that the destroyer has been pushed beyond all reason. This may or may not make them The Woobie
, but either way they are portrayed as having a crappy existence. This is a character who, by definition, is constantly beaten up, kicked around, and lives an all-around miserable life
. Should they lose everything and everyone they trust (be it through betrayal or in other cruel ways)
, and then just so happen
upon the instrument of revenge against the cruel, heartless world
that brought them so much pain, one need not be a genius to figure out whom the character will cast their hateful gaze upon. Think of this person as a Jerkass Woobie
, only with the jerkassery
replaced by insanity (though many characters do fulfill both tropes).
This trope is less about the Sliding Scale of Villain Threat
and more about how much a character has been broken — physically, mentally, and emotionally — before they finally snap and blame the whole world for all the crap they has been through. Of course, they must crack and pose a sudden threat of some
sort, to the characters and/or the setting. And some of them do get their finger on the nuke trigger
. In a few extreme cases, they themselves are the nuke
Not to be confused with Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds
, where a bumbling but otherwise nice person accidentally destroys actual worlds
, leading to What the Hell, Hero?
and Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
This trope is more closely related to Break the Cutie
, Freudian Excuse
, Bullying a Dragon
, Who's Laughing Now?
, and Then Let Me Be Evil
. May have emerged as a deconstruction of the Cosmic Plaything
Not the same as Put Them All Out of My Misery
, which is the trope for characters who rationalize
their destructive behavior by insisting that society, or the earth, must be somehow cleansed or punished for some past injustice, making it the inverse of this trope. Motive Rant
, Cry for the Devil
, and Strawman Has a Point
are more typical of that
trope. For characters, especially villains somewhere in between
this trope and that one
, see Jerkass Woobie
. Also note that overlaps between the two tropes are not impossible.
May overlap with Death Seeker
, if they want to die, but intend to make sure
that everyone else goes first
. Also, be careful about applying this label to someone who did
have a breaking past, and yet let the "destroyer" part override the "woobie" one and crossed the Moral Event Horizon
: that's certainly a huge Draco in Leather Pants
in the making.
And just to be clear, a character does not have to literally destroy worlds to fit this trope.
For actual world-destroying tropes, see Why You Should Destroy the Planet Earth
There are several unmarked spoilers ahead! You have been warned.
Note: This trope is no longer considered YMMV, because not all examples here need to be sympathetic to the audience.