You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good
aka: You Could Have Used Your Powers For Evil
She-Force: You should use your powers for good.
"You Could Have Used Your Powers For Good / Evil"
is a sentiment often expressed to the Worthy Opponent
. Hero Bob wonders why Villain Alice, with her immense power, chose to do evil rather than good. If the evildoer is a recurring character
, rather than a one-shot, this usually comes followed by a conversation about how they're Not So Different
and a Heel-Face Turn
would make her feel much better
about her life.note
Of course, the reverse can also occur, with Alice questioning why
Bob bothers to protect these ungrateful weaklings
when he could just use his powers to take whatever he wants
. If Alice succeeds in convincing him that Evil Feels Good
, Bob may become a Fallen Hero
As the page quote illustrates, this is more appropriate for some villains than others. Usually they need to have "good" powers yet use them for evil
. Of course it's not impossible for a Bob to try to convince Alice that even with "bad" powers
she has a great responsibility
and she can be a good person. If Alice is a Mad Scientist
, cutting her a check
while commenting how all her evil inventions are useless
can have this effect.
Compare: Recruiting the Criminal
; Win Your Freedom
and Boxed Crook
, where a villain is forced
into acting for good; Cut Lex Luthor a Check
, where acting good would have obvious monetary benefits.
Contrast: Then Let Me Be Evil
, where villains attempt
to use their powers for good, only for their treatment by others to cause them to turn to evil; Comes Great Responsibility
, Comes Great Insanity
, and Comes Great Perks
, where power changes a character's disposition all by itself.
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Anime and Manga
- In Gundam ZZ, Judau Ashta says this almost word-for-word about the dying Haman Karn: "Why didn't you use your power in a better way?!"
- In Tiger & Bunny, this is why Jake Martinez has contempt for the NEXT heroes of HeroTV despite being a NEXT supremacist: in his eyes, they've turned themselves into dancing monkeys for the people that used to subjugate them, and are thus no better.
- In the manga-only Jinchu Arc of Rurouni Kenshin, we have Gein who fights using giant puppets controlled from within. Kenshin tells him he should use his technological skills for good, to which his opponent retorts that that would be a waste of his talents, and that Kenshin might as well tell a master blacksmith to make shaving razors instead of swords.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Touma often asks the bad guys, if they're relying on a Dark and Troubled Past or Freudian Excuse to justify their actions, why they don't use their talents to make the world a happier place instead of lashing out at it.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Piccolo severs Dr Gero's arm (Dr Gero being an android at this point) and crushes it, saying "It's a darn shame. You could've put this hand to good use! What a waste of technology!".
- In the final Full Metal Panic! novel, Sosuke thinks this towards the corpse of Leonard Testarossa: "Why couldn't you have done something else when you had so much power? You should have been able to find other options..."
- After Superman returns in the aftermath of 52, he chides Lex Luthor that, despite having said he could solve all the world's problems if Supes weren't around, he spent the year he was absent doing little of worth.
- This has been a recurring theme in Superman's ongoing feud with Luthor, even back when Luthor's motivation for opposing Superman was kind of stupid:
- The most extreme version of this might be in the climax of The Black Ring. Luther gains the powers of a god and manages to create a state of temporary world peace...with the caveat that he cannot use them to harm people. Superman is standing right there, telling him how good of a thing this is, and that if Luthor just gave up his vendetta against him, Luthor could be the greatest hero of all time. Guess what happens. No, go on. I'll wait.
- In "The Reign of the Superman," Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's illustrated short story (Science Fiction, January 1933), the depowered villain—an early version of what became the familiar heroic Superman—says at the end:
I see, now, how wrong I was. If I had worked for the good of humanity, my name would have gone down in history with a blessing—instead of a curse.
- In one issue of Spider-Man, Spidey tells Green Goblin that with his intelligence he "could have cured cancer by now if [he] hadn't been wasting time with this Green Goblin crap!". Gobby's response? "I don't give a rat's ass."
- Volume 6 of Atomic Robo has Our titular robot facing off against A automatic intelligence like him named Alan. Who had vast computing power and the ability to predict outcomes and determined that he could use the cold war to build himself a orion class spaceship. He did, but this made Robo realize something, with this ability and success, Alan could have used his power to stop the cold war, to bring about a more stable and peaceful world, when confronted, Alan only has one response, "I don't understand, why?"
- In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi laments to Anakin Skywalker when the latter turns to The Dark Side, stating that he was supposed to destroy the Sith, not join them.
- Megamind is outraged when he finds out that Titan has turned to petty crime after being granted the power of a superhero. The irony is lost on him.
Megamind: I can't believe you. All your gifts, all your powers and you squander them for your own personal gain!
- In Scanners II: The New Order, David Kellum says this to evil psychic Peter Drak when the latter attacks him telekinetically.
David: We can all work together! Protect each other. Put our powers to some decent use.
- This gets inverted in the Harry Potter series, where Voldemort can't understand why Dumbledore chose to use his powers for good. He considers Dumbledore to be weak and a fool for not taking what was his.
- This can also apply to Draco Malfoy, but regarding Harry — and at first not regarding magical power, but regarding potential social status, which the Malfoy family tradition dictated should be used for putting others down to highlight one's own supposed excellence. In regards to magic, this is a stereotypical Slytherin's like Malfoy's attitude towards the school, which only teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts.
- What Jesus pretty much tells the Antichrist in His "The Reason You Suck" Speech to him in the Left Behind book Glorious Appearing. This was a point of contention by certain readers since Jesus pretty much berated him from what God destined him to function as.
- Played with in Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad. Granny Weatherwax despises her sister for being evil...because it meant she had to be good! And she would have been much, much better at evil than her sister ever was...
- Fëanor from The Silmarillion. He was the mightiest, most skilled, most puissant of all the Elven race... and the source of their greatest woes. His Pride, Hot-Blooded nature, and stubbornness lead to unimaginable tragedy. Manwë wept to think that he had fallen and didn't repent, no less than he wept for the Two Trees.
- In the final book of The Wheel of Time, Rand doesn't get to say this to his previous incarnation's Rival Turned Evil Demandred to his face, but he does reflect sadly on how Demandred could- and should- have been a great hero rather than the Shadow's most feared general, and feels a certain amount of guilt over encouraging their rivalry and playing a part in driving Demandred to evil.
- In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Final Problem", Holmes meditates on the career of one Professor James Moriarty, a wunderkind who wrote an acclaimed thesis which earned him a mathematics chair at his university, all at age 21. However, his tenure was marred by such vile rumors that he resigned in disgrace and wound up eking out a living as a tutor. This later proved to be an ideal front, as no one would have suspected this wizened old math teacher was involved in London's most intricate crime ring — much less the head of it. Later stories expanded on Moriarty's prestige, specifically his ground-breaking book Dynamics of an Asteroid, which should have squared him away in terms of fame and capital. Holmes took this story as proof that intelligence does not alter the potential for sadistic behavior; a similar observation is made with regard to Charles Augustus Milverton, a rich aristocrat who spends his days blackmailing people for vast sums, only to spill the secrets anyway once they've gone broke.
- In one of Mercedes Lackey's Free Bards novels, a free bard and a guild bard both take this perspective: "it's a shame your talent is wasted complying with guild rules" vs "it's a shame your talent is wasted playing for commoners with no taste". Compared to most free/guild interactions, this is a show of respect.
- Doctor Who uses this a lot. The Doctor's most common target is probably the Master, but the Rani and any number of villains of the week get it as well.
"You're a genius, you're stone-cold brilliant, you are, I swear, you really are. But you could be so much more. You could be beautiful.
- Get Smart used this explicitly a time or two, often as part of The Stinger. "If only he would have used his [whatever] for niceness, instead of rottenness."
- As the page quote shows, this is attempted in No Heroics, although the recipient, Lightkiller, seems to be a believer in Bad Powers, Bad People.
- One of the Breakout Kings is Lloyd, a Living Lie Detector behaviorist who despite his talent, has poor people skills. After accepting a deal to become a Boxed Crook, he calls his mother to explain the deal to her. Her only response is a sigh and "You could have been so much more..."
- In an early episode of Farscape, upon witnessing a particularly impressive example of Peacekeeper engineering, Crichton expresses regret that the Peacekeepers couldn't have used their knowledge to do good instead of mercenary service- or, as Aeryn puts it, "To fulfill your vision of who we should be?" Of course, by the time Aeryn and the other members of the crew are inclined to listen to a word he says, Crichton's idealism has well and truly disappeared.
- Played for laughs with in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, at the end of "Ted".
Buffy: Willow, tell me you didn't keep any parts.
Willow: Not any... big ones.
Buffy: Oh, Will, you're supposed to use your powers for good.
- Coming right after a discussed example, when Willow comments on how tragic it is that the original Ted's brilliance was turned to evil. Though this isn't addressed to the villain, and it's a might-have-been uttered when it's far too late for him.
- Takatora says this to Micchy during their fight.
: Why did you only learn from the dark parts of me? You could have shone brighter
than I ever could!
- Often found in Light Side vs. Dark Side fights in Star Wars, such as in Knights of the Old Republic, when Light Side Revan apologizes to Darth Malak for leading him on the path to the Dark Side, but reminds him that it was Malak who chose to follow that path to the end.
- And Kreia delivers a somewhat twisted version of this trope to a Dark Side Exile during the climax, in a combination with You Have Failed Me, What the Hell, Hero? and "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Notably, it's not so much because you could have followed the Light Side instead of the dark side so much as the whole part that you have severed yourself from the Force, made a comeback, and still not realized any of the implications behind it. If the Exile is Light Side the speech gets delivered to the Jedi Council instead — just before she kills them all for sticking to their outdated dogmas even in the face of evidence that life without the Force is possible and they are wrong.
- In SaGa Frontier, after the final battle with Metal Black, Alkaiser says to the defeated villain that he could have used his powers for good.
- In Jade Empire, you can tell this to the Big Bad. He responds by claiming that he would find that a waste of his talents.
- Members of the various evil teams in the Pokémon games will often comment how the player's skill and strength could have made him/her a powerful ranking member of their organization.
- In The Force Unleashed, the mortally wounded Shaak-Ti tells Starkiller, "You are Vader's slave, but your power is wasted with him. You could be so much more." Starkiller eventually does pull a Heel-Face Turn.
- In Mass Effect 3, a Commander Shepard who follows the Paragon route invokes this whenever they talk to the Illusive Man (the Renegade options have the same gist, they're just blunter). In the Citadel DLC, the Mysterious Figure aka Shepard's evil clone gets similar treatment.
- Far Cry 3: In an inversion: Hoyt claims that, as Jason has spent most of the game butchering and sabotaging his way across the Rook Islands for the sake of the Rakyat, he could have just joined Hoyt's mercenaries and have made a profit doing so. AKA, You Could Have Used Your Powers For PROFITABLE Evil. Jason, after seeing what Hoyt turned Vaas into AND what happened to his brothers and an entire populated Yacht, flips off Hoyt. Hoyt cuts off a finger. It's implied, during the ending, that Hoyt believed based on his knowledge of the "natives" that they were pirates under a twisted cult centered around Rook's royalty. He may have been right.
- If you contact Otacon after defeating Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid, he laments that Mantis could have used his exceptional psychic powers for good if he didn't have the shitty life that made him Ax-Crazy.
- Florence from Free Fall knows enough electrical engineering to bypass most security systems. And she's honest. What a waste of talent, as Sam puts it.
- In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Henry Pym says this to Graviton upon his defeat. Made ironic because Graviton is a possible case of Then Let Me Be Evil.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spidey asks the Sandman why he chooses to do evil when he could just as easily be a superhero. At the end of the episode, Sandman ends up changing sides and making a Heroic Sacrifice.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): When He-Man and Skeletor are forced to work together, He-Man asks Skeletor if he's ever considered using his great power for good. Skeletor retorts by asking him if he's ever considered using his great power for evil.
- In ThunderCats, after Lion-O narrowly defeats The Demolisher, Lion-O tries to persuade Demolisher to join the good guys and put his great strength and skill to use doing good instead of pointless fights (The Demolisher fights any strong opponent, not caring about their alignment). Demolisher gets very offended and leaves the planet. Lion-O comments that it is a shame that such a fine warrior would waste his talents like that.
You could have used your troping powers for good, but what did you make?
Something even better.