Playing With / Freudian Excuse

Basic Trope: A reason in the backstory of a character (or a villain or otherwise unsympathetic character) that doesn't excuse their actions, but does explain why they act the way they do and gives them motivation for their actions.
  • Straight:
    • Alice, a Serial Killer, kills people because she was abused by her parents and bullied by classmates as a child.
    • Alice is a Jerkass, because she lost her parents at age 10 and was bullied until she learned she would be left alone/respected by being a jerk, which has since then become her primary mode of interaction.
  • Exaggerated:
  • Downplayed:
    • While nothing downright traumatizing ever happened to Alice, she grew up in an environment that didn't encourage positive growth. This indirectly affected her attitude growing up.
    • Alice is a Jerkass, because her parents were as well.
    • Cynicism Catalyst.
  • Justified:
  • Inverted:
    • Alice has no excuse; she kills people simply For the Evulz.
    • Alternatively: Alice kills people because it's In the Blood.
    • Alice has a tragic past, but used it as a motivation to help others as opposed to harming them.
    • Alice had a monstrously horrible childhood, to the point that it would be perfectly understandable if she grew up to be an Ax-Crazy Serial Killer; instead she grows up to be a Pollyanna.
    • Alice's life has been easy and she knows nothing of suffering. In an effort to understand it, she inflicts it on others.
    • Alice's life has been extremely easy - leaving her unequipped to deal with hardships in a mature, constructive, effective way.
    • Alice would have grown up to be a horrible, loathsome person, except she suffered a loss, humiliation or something else that got her to change direction onto a virtuous path.
    • Alice was exposed to serial killing as a child, so she bullies others and abuses her kids.
    • Alice learnt to love bullying others, so as an adult she's a really unpleasant individual.
    • Alice spends her life helping elderly people, because an old guy saved her from drowning when Alice was a child.
    • Alice has a tragic past, but instead of making her seem more sympathetic, it makes her current actions seem worse.
    • Alice's childhood was wonderful to the point of being downright saccharine. She got tired of it and decided acting horrifically towards others to be great for a change.
    • Alice's childhood has been incredibly happy as a whole and, according to her self-learnt bizarre train of thought, she thinks unhappy people are better off dead.
    • Same background, more sympathy: Alice had a bad childhood, but this informs her actions in a positive direction, instead, as she determines she needs to be better than the people she knew as a kid.
  • Subverted:
    • Despite having a past that would qualify as a Freudian Excuse, Alice turned out to be a well-adjusted and functioning human being.
    • Alice's story about her Freudian Excuse regularly changes, because she's the goddamn Joker.
    • Alice laughs at the idea that she kills people because of her parents or that people should feel sorry for her because of it.
    • Alice's reaction to the past event is (sometimes hugely) disproportionate, indicating that she was never all that right in the head.
  • Doubly Subverted:
    • Despite appearing well adjusted, her excuse eventually leads her to commit murder.
    • One of her many excuses is revealed to be the truth.
    • Alice's laughter is unconvincing, and she doth protest too much on the subject; even if she chooses not to acknowledge it, she still has issues with her past that inform her actions.
  • Parodied:
    • Alice routinely engages in mass murder and world conquest as an adult, because the expensive bike she got for her sixth birthday was blue and not red as she wanted (or some other similarly trivial, pathetic, and laughable excuse).
    • Bob the Big Bad has to constantly shoo away fangirls or fanboys trying to comfort him, and help him come to terms with a Dark and Troubled Past he never said he had in the first place.
  • Zig Zagged: Alice likes to give numerous excuses for her actions, obscuring which one is the true one. Does she just do it For the Evulz? Or is one of them true? Or none of them?
  • Averted:
    • Alice reveals nothing about her past to us; we know nothing one way or the other.
    • Alternatively: Alice's past was basically normal, and she does what she does either to further her agenda or just because she's a sadistic bastard.
    • Alice simply is oblivious or used to her own Jerkass-behavior.
    • Alice's Dark and Troubled Past explains her motivations and methods, perhaps even how her personality and style of relating to others developed and solidified, but everyone (including Alice herself) agrees that it does not excuse her villainy.
  • Enforced: "We can't have our bad guy be evil just for the hell of it. Something should have happened to her to make her this way."
  • Lampshaded: "There must be something really terrible in her past to make her capable of this..."
  • Invoked: "I want to tell in you in detail why I'm doing this to you... I want to make you understand..."
  • Exploited:
    • Alice uses her excuse to make heroes let their guards down.
    • A hero mocks Alice about her excuse, causing the latter to make a mistake in anger.
    • Alice brings up her excuse to gain sympathy and a claim to moral high ground in order to get heroes off her back.
    • Alice brings up an event from her past to shame someone present, who was involved with that same event.
  • Defied:
    • "I cannot be reduced to a simple, trite motivation."
    • "No, Alice. Your excuse is merely a convenient way of fleeing responsibility."
  • Discussed:
  • Conversed: "Do these writers think that having an awful childhood automatically makes you criminal or something?"
  • Deconstructed:
    • Alice's Freudian Excuse, no matter how convincing or painful, doesn't change or is even unconnected to the fact that she has committed numerous irrational, vile and evil actions all on her own initiative as an adult. While we might feel sympathy for what she went through as a child, she should have resolved it peacefully and had no right to commit such actions as an adult, losing her right to our sympathy once she did so.
    • People with traumatized childhoods are subjected to euthanasia on the presumtion that the trauma will lead them to becoming villains.
  • Reconstructed:
    • Alice decides to look-up for psychological help to get through her flaws, and eventually learn how to move on.
    • In real life, modern theories like operant conditioning and social learning can still explain the effectiveness of a "Freudian" Excuse, while it is shown that neglect does cause lasting brain damage. Who knows, from Alice's perspective she is simply doing her vile actions out of a perceived necessity that was conditioned via receiving punishment/violence for her altruistic behaviour, and is actually good in the inside.
  • Implied:
    • Rousseau Was Right, but Alice is definitely a villain.
    • Alice is a villain with a traumatic past, but it's unknown if the latter caused the former.
  • Played For Laughs: Alice brings up her sad past in the most melodramatic way possible. Charles remarks: So that's why you are so emo!
  • Played For Drama: Alice is pushed to the edge by PTSD. She has trouble believing she could get any better and thinks she and nothing else has no hope. She's considering taking an entire universe with her as she self-terminates and our hero needs to convince her, by any means necessary, that it doesn't have to be.
  • Plotted A Good Waste: The author takes this to emphasize that a Freudian Excuse is an excuse and an excuse only: they may inform Alice's actions in the present, but they in no way justify them. This is done to also avert a Draco in Leather Pants scenario.

Back to Freudian Excuse.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/PlayingWith/FreudianExcuse