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Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse

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A character's Freudian Excuse, personal problems or sad backstory cannot be used to justify their current evil or less-than-moral actions.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Arcana4th on Nov 24th 2017 at 8:24:41 PM
Last Edited By:
Arcana4th on Mar 4th 2018 at 9:52:45 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

No! No. Bojack, just... stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you. It's not the alcohol or the drugs or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career or when you were a kid, it's you! Alright? It's you. ...Fuck, man. What else is there to say?
—Todd Chavez, Bojack Horseman

This trope is a standard Deconstruction of the Freudian Excuse. Sometimes, characters that have gone through something horrible believe that they have the moral high ground or that they are in the right for their actions, no matter how evil they are or who are the targets are. This tropes comes into play when a character or even the narrative itself (possibly even the characters themselves, if they're going through Character Development) acknowledges that their actions are wrong, no matter what they have been put through, one bad action won't justify another.

This trope only happens when there's an acknowledgement of this. A character has to receive a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, a speech on why they're wrong or voice an acknowledgement that their past don't justify their current actions.

It's important here to differentiate "explanation" from "justification" in this trope: If a Freudian Excuse is used as an "explanation", then it's meant to give a reason why a character acts this way, if it's a "justification" it means that the narration is giving the character the right to act that way. This trope never accepts Freudian Excuses as justifications.

Related to Freudian Excuse and Dark and Troubled Past. Often present if a character is a Troubled Abuser. Compare Kirk Summation, Playing the Victim Card and Shut Up, Hannibal!.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Clover: When the Big Bad starts bemoaning his tragedies and the people he has lost, Yami quickly parodies his own Dark and Troubled Past, by mentioning that he's suffered a lot to get to where he is, but he never made a big deal out of it, held someone else accountable or became evil because of it.
  • Kiznaiver: At the ending's climax, Nico attempts to rile everyone up to gather together and save Sonozaki. When she is called out on trying to save the one that caused them so much hardship, Nico explains she feels no sympathy for her, and doesn't care for her sad backstory seeing how she basically tortured them psychologically and physically for the entire summer. But since Agata, their friend, is asking to help the girl he loves, they should help him.
  • My Hero Academia: Once Izuku learns about Shouto's abusive childhood, he is sympathetic to it, but when he spends their entire battle calling him out on the fact that, because of his abusive father, Shouto has decided to become the greatest hero by using only half of his powers, which to Izuku is no different than spitting in the face of their peers who are giving it their all to achieve their dream.

  • Paranorman: Norman calls the witch out on her behavior when they confront each other. She excuses her own actions by remembering what the zombies did to her in life, but Norman says she has done just as much, if not even more bad than they ever had, and that her behavior has turned her from a victim to a bully.

    Live Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Jake is a big fan of using his past without his father to justify a lot of his more childish behavior or even to try to gather sympathy. He uses this as an excuse for being a jerk to Santiago when she tries to host a Thanksgiving dinner to the detectives, since his memories of thanksgiving weren't pleasant and again to try to convince Captain Holt to give him half a million dollars to pay for his apartment. It doesn't work on his captain, and he eventually drops it, as a sign of Character Development.
    Holt: I won't give you half a million dollars because of your mildly sad childhood.
  • Flash: In The Flash, Hunter Zolomon/Zoom falls into this. He had Abusive Parents, including watching his father kill his mother, leading to him being put into an orphanage at young age. Zoom is convinced that Barry, who had a similar past of having his mother killed when he was a kid, could easily turn out like him. He tries to prove it by murdering Barry's father in front of him. However, despite this traumatic event, Barry still remains righteous and never succumbs to becoming the sociopath that Zoom is. Ultimately Barry shows that Zoom is rotten to the core, Freudian Excuse or not.
  • The Good Place In one episode, Eleanor briefly mentions how her parent's divorce messed her up. She is then quickly called out when Real Eleanor mentions that she never met her birth parents, then got adopted and both her parents died when she was 8, still managed to be a high achieving lawyer and humanitarian. Trevor calls out the fact that a lot of kids go through what she did and don't become as big of a jerk as she is. In "Mindy St. Clair", it's show that her parents were actually very neglectful and abusive, still this is never used as a justification for her actions, just as an explanation for it, and she accepts that she can't use it anymore.
    Jason: Your parents suck.
    Eleanor: Yeah. And I've been using their crappy parenting as an excuse for my selfish behavior. But no more.
  • How I Met Your Mother: In season 9, Marshall has an imagine spot where he talks with Lily, 7-years-ago Lily, his father and briefly, Robin, about a fight he just had with Lily where he accused her of considering him and their family to be a consolation prize for her failed career and brings up when she left him for a summer 7 years prior. When he attempts to make a point out of her biggest mistake, Marvin calls him out on it.
    Marvin: What's your point? That just because she hurt you, you now get to hurt her? That's not how a marriage works, son.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Lilian uses the death of her husband to justify her animosity towards Artie and why she opposes gentrification so much. He is sympathetic to it... up until he learns that said husband died actually 40 years ago, and Lilian has been resisting to move on and living in the past ever since and he calls her out on it. They start arguing and he calls her out on the fact that when they were young, they were fighting for change, and that change can be something good.

    Video Games 
  • New Dangan Ronpa V3: The chapter 3 killer tries to justify the deaths he caused by saying that all he wants is to send friends to his sister that has already died. It does not works, as even Monokuma finds him and his incestuous love for his sister to be disgusting.
  • Ace Attorney: A recurring thing is that a crime is a crime, no matter what the victim has done to the killer or how much of an Asshole Victim they are, nothing justifies killing someone else, and you'll be arrested for it. The Big Bad of the AAI2 game is a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, who had met nothing but misery in his life, trying to take revenge on the people whom they blamed it for (which they believe all to have deserved their fate). While Edgeworth acknowledges their woobieness, it's still no "Get out of Jail Free" Card and he gets arrested at the end of the game nonetheless, though one can argue this was good for him, as he gets to live with his Parental Substitute Doghen. During their confrontation, he mentions that his actions have made them no different from the people they were trying to get revenge on.

     Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman: Bojack gets seriously called out on the fact he keeps blaming his very Dark and Troubled Past for his faulty behavior, and expects everyone, specially Todd, to just forgive his actions based on it. While his story is bleak and he himself is suffering from depression, Todd (see page quote) is right that having that story doesn't make him unaccountable for the damage he causes to others, no matter how self-destructive he has become because of it.
  • In the The Boondocks episode "The Color Ruckus", we learn that much of Uncle Ruckus' personality (particularly his hatred of other black people) resulted from extremely traumatizing childhood abuse by his hateful father, Mister Ruckus. It later turns out that Mister became the way he is because he was also treated like shit by his own mother, Nelly Ruckus. After Nelly passes away, Mister takes his family to her funeral just to celebrate her demise. However, Uncle finally gains the courage to stand up to his father and call him out for taking out his frustrations on his own family.
    Uncle Ruckus: "No no, that's okay. Keep talking. Keep talking, Daddy. That's the eulogy this woman deserved. She did this to you, and now you're doing it to me. You've been doing it our whole lives, and it's getting old! It's gettin' real old, old man! So get it out yo' system, then sit down AND SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!"

Feedback: 17 replies

Nov 25th 2017 at 12:41:29 AM

  • Examples section
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
    • Corrected illegal Example Indentation.

Nov 25th 2017 at 4:42:20 PM

  • In The Flash, Hunter Zolomon/Zoom falls into this. He had Abusive Parents, including watching his father kill his mother, leading to him being put into an orphanage at young age. Zoom is convinced that Barry, who had a similar past of having his mother killed when he was a kid, could easily turn out like him. He tries to prove it by murdering Barry's father in front of him. However, despite this traumatic event, Barry still remains righteous and never succumbs to becoming the sociopath that Zoom is. Ultimately Barry shows that Zoom is rotten to the core, Freudian Excuse or not.

Nov 28th 2017 at 7:47:40 PM

Considering the potential No New Stock Phrases issue, I wonder if it wouldn't be better to title this "Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse".

Nov 28th 2017 at 10:28:36 PM

I don't know Brooklyn Nine Nine from personal experience, but would the famous-from-GI Fs "Cool motive, still murder" scene also qualify?

Dec 2nd 2017 at 8:50:33 PM

Unlaunched per Crash Rescue thread.

An issue arose in said thread that the description has problems. As it stands, it's unclear and rambling. For example, are the excuses deemed unacceptable In Universe?

Dec 2nd 2017 at 11:15:27 PM

Other issues of note (mentioned in the crash rescue thread):

  1. The name sounds like a stock phrase (sounds like a sentence), and it also relies on readers' knowledge of Freudian Excuse, which could be next to nothing.
  2. Is this The Same But More Specific of Shut Up Hannibal or The Reason You Suck Speech?
  3. Is this just "Freudian Excuse but done poorly"?
  4. The description is not only rambling, but also vague and poorly written "to the point where it's hard to parse what the trope is supposed to be."

Not mentioned in the thread but still an issue imo:

  1. The "related to" and "compare" sections list the related tropes, but the relation between this trope and the others is not explained.

Jan 21st 2018 at 1:25:24 PM

Should be limited to examples where the character is called out for it in-universe, otherwise it will be just complaining about works you don't like featuring Freudian Excuse.

Jan 21st 2018 at 6:40:10 PM

"This trope is for when a character has been using an excuse or justifying their negative behavior, actions or gather sympathy and this is not acceptable in-universe, this trope can vary on whether they are in-universe."

This already sounds like Playing The Victim Card

Jan 21st 2018 at 11:46:50 PM

So... are we still keeping this draft? I just found a trope that might cover this already.

Jan 22nd 2018 at 8:33:50 AM

Fan Works

  • In The Dragon And The Bow, Astrid possesses an irrational hatred towards Merida because her father died in a battle against a Highlander. After realizing that Merida basically saved her life on more than one occasion, she realizes that she was being unfair and apologizes, getting briefly chewed out by Merida before burying the hatchet when Astrid confessed to her.

Mar 3rd 2018 at 9:46:43 AM

Mar 3rd 2018 at 3:39:46 PM

In Toy Story 3, the protagonists and the audience learn that the main antagonist, Lots-O-Huggin' Bear, was lost by his original owner, then almost killed himself to make it back to her house and be reunited, only to find he had been replaced. However, his tragic story does not justify his later actions: imprisoning other toys and forcing them to suffer painful playtimes at the hands of children who are too young to be playing with them, and later trying to have toys that helped him trashed and burned just to prove that toys are meant to be thrown away and replaced.

Mar 4th 2018 at 9:52:45 PM

In Warrior Cats, the villain Scourge from the first series had his backstory explored in depth in his own manga. Among the things he goes through before becoming a dictator over the Twolegplace Rogues is being bullied by his siblings and nearly murdered by Tigerclaw, who was just an apprentice at the time. However, despite his Face Heel Turn being explained as a result of his circumstances and personal desire for strength and vengeance, series author Victoria Holmes pointed out in the beginning of the manga that his backstory doesn't justify his actions.