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Playing With: Sympathetic Criminal
Basic Trope: A character performs criminal actions but is given sympathetic and understandable motives for doing so.
  • Straight: Dave robs a bank; it's revealed that he's only doing this out of desperation to get money for his daughter Alice's much-needed surgery.
  • Exaggerated: Dave has become a criminal mastermind purely so that he can discover a cure not only for his daughter Alice, but for everyone else suffering her condition.
  • Downplayed: Dave is just unemployed and having trouble making rent.
  • Justified: Criminals are people too; just because they break the law doesn't mean they aren't sometimes worthy of sympathy and/or don't have genuine problems that are causing them to do act as they do out of desperation.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted: Dave is lying about his daughter; he's robbing the bank out of pure greed.
  • Double Subverted: Dave is lying about his daughter; it's actually his son who needs the operation, but Dave is lying to make sure his actions cannot be connected back to his family.
  • Parodied: Dave's daughter stubs her toe, which prompts Dave to rob a bank in order to pay for Band-Aids.
  • Zig Zagged: Dave has sympathetic motives, but he's kind of a Jerk Ass, except he has a heart of gold... or does he?
  • Averted:
    • Dave is not presented sympathetically in breaking the law.
    • Dave finds other means than breaking the law to help with his problems.
  • Enforced: "It's going to be hard for the audience to sympathize with a criminal as the protagonist. Give him a sick daughter or something."
  • Lampshaded: "I know it may not seem like it right now, but I'm not a bad man, I promise you..."
  • Invoked: Before robbing the bank, Dave videotapes a confession outlining exactly why he did what he did which he then forwards to the police and the media.
  • Exploited: The Big Bad promises to fund Dave's daughter's medical bills if Dave robs banks for him, knowing that Dave's sympathetic motive will keep the heroes from digging too deeply and discovering his involvement.
  • Defied: Dave is seen practicing sympathetic stories he can use to manipulate his way out of trouble before robbing the bank.
  • Discussed: "I kind of feel bad for this bank robber; on the news it said he had a sick kid he was trying to help."
  • Conversed: "This show's Villain of the Week is a sympathetic one, something of a relief after the last three were all in Complete Monster territory."
  • Deconstructed: Dave's actions do not change the fact that he is breaking the law, and that innocent people outside of his own sphere might suffer as a consequence of his actions. His motives might be noble in intent, but that does not mean that he is righteous or that he does not deserve punishment.
  • Reconstructed: However, the other characters — and the audience — are prompted to feel sorry for him, and his desperate circumstances are factored into his punishment. Dave himself acknowledges that he is not doing the right thing, but can see no other alternative.

I'm sorry I'm forcing you to go back to Sympathetic Criminal — I'm not a bad person, really...

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