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Moral Event Horizon
: A character commits an act that puts him or her beyond any chance of redemption.
Straight: The villain mutilates and murders an innocent person out of boredom.
Exaggerated: The villain tortures, mind rapes, violates, and ultimately kills the most pure and kindest person in the whole series. And their pet kitten.
Downplayed: Kick the Dog
The vile deed was perfectly pragmatic, and the villain doesn't care what others think of him so long as they fear him.
Due to circumstances, the villain must do whatever it takes to accomplish his goal. Even if he comes off as inhuman, and requires abandoning his own code.
Turns out the villain was forced to do it.
Alternately: He was under Mind Control.
He does something later on that makes the aforementioned Moral Event Horizon a Kick the Dog moment.
It were to seem that everyone has now permanently hated Evulz, but it turns out that they've later forgiven him, albeit grudgingly (and rightfully so).
Even the villain is horrified by this and is wracked with guilt.
Turns out the villain was planning on doing it anyway.
Alternately: He had himself mind controlled for deniability.
It was All Just a Dream; the " Kick the Dog" moment was a Moral Event Horizon after all.
The villain mutilates and murders a major character. However, (much) later he provides a good reason for it — except it turns out to be a lie. The villain seems to loathe himself for doing it, but the heroes have reasons to suspect it's more about selfish reasons. Later, the real reason, which is actually a good one, is discovered. Few are convinced, but the villain is still sympathetic.
The villain kicks and pets the dog repeatedly throughout the series. The poor pooch doesn't know what to make of this.
The villain remains sympathetic throughout.
The villain commits a horrible crime, but the audience doesn't seem to care.
Crossing a boundary doesn't make the character unforgivably evil.
Or alternatively, there is no such thing as an unforgivable crime.
Enforced: "OH SHIT! The villain is experiencing Villain Decay. We have to make him vile and threatening again! Let's have him break the necks of some puppies and slaughter the hero's entire village!"
Invoked: The villain gradually loses his sanity and becomes more inhuman over the course of the story.
Exploited: The hero arranges the villain to do this in public so he can lose his good publicity status.
Defied: Even Evil Has Standards
Discussed: "That evil bastard! I'll never forgive him for what he just pulled!"
Conversed: "That evil bastard! I hope he dies before the season's out!"
The villain only employs people who are as vile as he is, or else are too frightened of him to revolt even over the evilest of acts.
However, the heroes make the case that the villain's motivations for wanting to get slain by them are ambiguous and thus dubious. He could as well have wanted his name immortalized by having fought and died struggling against them. His deed thus is still unsympathetic.
Only the hero and the audience see the villain crossing the Moral Event Horizon; he remains a Villain with Good Publicity to everyone else.
Because the character was remorseful for committing the act, this proves that anyone who has crossed the Moral Event Horizon won't become worse than they are. The character makes a slight turn for the good, but everyone is still unwilling to forgive him for his deed.
Played For Laughs:
Played For Drama:
The villain has murdered millions of children or other innocent things, and all because he wanted to.
A character is advised to never do an evil act, no matter how bad it may be, but temptation has got the better of him as he commits the act anyways. After that, he is willful in committing more evil acts. He's gotten so far until he realizes his errors just right before he is disowned by his family, abandoned by his friends, and exiled by society. He is in the wild dying miserably and regretfully.
Moral Event Horizon
. And don't you ever think you will regain our sympathy when you get back there,