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Evil Cannot Comprehend Good / Western Animation

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  • Aladdin: The Series: Quite a few members of Aladdin's Rogues Gallery suffer from this:
    • From the minute they first meet, Mozenrath is genuinely surprised that Aladdin would choose to help people for their own sake rather than for personal profit. He's smart enough to quickly learn from that encounter, and every attempt to manipulate Aladdin afterwards went much more smoothly.
    • And then there's Mirage. She's firmly convinced that she can ruin Aladdin and Jasmine's relationship by transforming Jasmine into a hideous snake woman and then destroying the only antidote. Aladdin's response is to transform himself into a hideous snake man in order to be with Jasmine, which was the last thing Mirage ever expected.
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    • In another episode, Sadira (who isn't quite evil, but doesn't understand the first thing about healthy relationships) uses a magic sand to make everyone in the kingdom believe she's the princess and Jasmine is just a commoner (including Jasmine herself). She believes this will make Aladdin love her. She's thrown when Aladdin is somehow able to recognize Jasmine and break the spell, not understanding that Aladdin loves Jasmine for herself, not for her royal title.
  • Roger of American Dad!, due to his species practically being Made of Evil, is completely unfamiliar with the idea of feeling for anyone other than himself. In fact, in "The One That Got Away," actually feeling guilty for one of his atrocities was such a shock to his mindset that he developed a Split Personality just to cope.
  • Archie's Weird Mysteries:
    • Mega-Mall of Horrors: Mr. Avericci preys on teenage greed, but his plan failed because he didn't expect Jughead's loyalty to the Chocklit Shoppe was too strong.
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    • The Vampire Arc: Medlock fails to understand the concept of friendship when he betrays his most loyal servant, who ends up turning against him.
    • Little Chocklit Shoppe of Horrors: An example of Logic Cannot Comprehend Emotion. The Stanley 9000 doesn't understand why Pop values personal attention and people's safety over efficiency. This leads to its Start of Darkness, causing it to believe that humans are inefficient and must be destroyed.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • This is one of Azula's Fatal Flaws:
      • Being the resident "people person", and chessmaster, she finds herself completely bewildered when her sidekick Mai risks her life to help the Turn Coat Zuko escape The Alcatraz.
        Azula: The thing I don't understand is why. Why would you do it? You know the consequences.
        Mai: I guess you just don't know people as well as you think you do. You miscalculated. I love Zuko more than I fear you.
        Azula: No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!
      • This moment of her inability to comprehend that love can trump self-preservation and loyalty born of intimidation has limits, flying in the face of her philosophy that "fear is the only reliable way" to control people, is actually the first step down the road towards her epic Villainous Breakdown. However, she's at least able to learn from this mistake and apply it to her strategy in the Grand Finale (while she was in the middle of said breakdown no less).
      • In episode "The Beach," Mai, Ty Lee, Zuko, and Azula all take turns confessing their problems, and helping each other talk through their issues. When it's over, Zuko and Mai have reconciled over an argument they had and Ty Lee feels cleansed. Azula compliments them on their great "acting", treating the entire thing like it was a show. It's obvious she's using sarcasm as a defense mechanism.
      • The comics have this continue for her. In The Search, Azula can't fathom why her mother would want her because of her long-standing cruel streak. Smoke and Shadow plays with this differently in that she thinks like she did in the old ways, that of fear and terror being the only way to rule; yet hasn't pursued revenge against the friends that betrayed her or her brother who claimed the throne (going as far to say she supports her own twisted way of support).
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    • Just like Azula, daddy Fire Lord Ozai has this Fatal Flaw. He often thought of empathy or compassion as weaknesses, and ridiculed those who followed such idealistic principles. Being an apathetic and sociopathic tyrant, these things don't register in his head. For example:
      • During the final battle, he's baffled as to why Aang would hesitate to kill and takes every advantage of his mercy. Same after Zuko tells him that Aang is the one who should kill Ozai, not him.
      • Subverted in The Promise, where he has a better understanding of Earth King Kuei, without ever even meeting the man, than the members of Team Avatar do just by knowing the politics involved. note 
    • This becomes something of a running theme for Mai. In the comic Rebound, her father is confident she'll want to join his movement to overthrow Zuko after she breaks up with him. He never expected his freedom fighters would be Mai's terrorists and miscalculates her response as badly as Azula did.
  • In one episode of the Battletech animated series, Mechwarrior Ciro forces a jumpship captain at gunpoint to record a message to Adam Steiner, saying that he knows where Adam's missing-in-action brother is, in an effort to lure Adam into a trap. Nicolai Malthus asks why Adam would respond to such a message, and Ciro replies that Adam would do anything to help his brother. It's a reaction Malthus finds impossible to understand. This is fully understandable, however, in that Clan Mechwarriors don't have families, they have sibkin — other Clan Mechwarriors who were created by scientists and incubated in artificial wombs. Though the bond between sibkin is stronger than the average bond between two different members of the same clan, they still view one another as only allies at best, and frequently as rivals competing for status and a limited number of choice assignments. To earn their status as Mechwarriors, they have to begin by emerging victorious in duels — and the losers get crap assignments or even demoted to a lesser caste! While many of them would understand the idea of complete and blind loyalty to another, few of them would feel it; and Nicolai is not exactly the most well-adjusted Clanner to begin with.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • When the Mad Hatter imprisons Batman in a fake world where his parents were never killed and he's engaged to Selina Kyle, who isn't a criminal. It's practically a paradise. When the Mad Hatter asks him why he chose to escape, he responds with "Because it's not REAL." Really a variation: the villain is all too willing to live in whatever fantasy he can escape into, no matter how fake it is. This was his Start of Darkness, being so desperate for love that he mind-controlled the woman he was obsessed with into acting like she was in love with him. He can't understand why anyone wouldn't just choose to not peek behind the curtain.
    • Ra's al Ghul doesn't understand why Batman is horrified by his Utopia Justifies the Means plan by murdering lots of people. Of course, it doesn't help that what Ghul wants isn't actually a Utopia, but basically just a society-wide cult revolving around worshipping him, but it wouldn't have mattered if he truly did intend to make a real utopia.
    • After Harley is let out of Arkham, she is caught up in a misunderstanding, and almost throws away her chance to reform. Batman tries to defuse the situation while it's still salvagable. Back at Arkham (but with some hope of getting out again), Harley asks Batman why he would put himself at risk for "somebody who's never given you anything but trouble". He explains that he knows everybody has bad days, even him, and it seems to get through.
    • After Batman rescues him from being run over by a train, the Sewer King frantically asks "Why?" Batman tells him that he leaves judgment and punishment to the law, but tells him that, having seen the nature of his crimes, he was sorely tempted to make an exception.
  • General Zhal from Batman: The Brave and the Bold is left completely stunned after he kills the Doom Patrol and the entire world chants "We are the Doom Patrol", showing that instead of making everyone see them as frauds, they see them as bigger heroes than before. Zhal is unable to even react to being arrested out of shock because he can't understand how a Heroic Sacrifice increases people's faith in the sacrificer.
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Squirrel, Interrupted", when Bitsy reveals her plans to buy Central Park to her brother's family, none of them take her seriously, except for Brendan. When Brendan tries to confront Bitsy over her plans for Central Park, asking if what she's doing will make a lot of people unhappy and mad with her, she's glad someone gets the impression she was going for in gloating about her plan.
  • Code Lyoko:
    • In Season 1, XANA's flawed understanding of human behavior, including things like courage and friendship, is his major flaw. In one episode, he traps the team in a virtual Matrix-style copy of the school, forcing Jérémie to virtualize himself to warn them. This leads to a Spot the Imposter scene where XANA (disguised as Jérémie) tries to convince the others how Jérémie's story can't be true:
      XANA: Everyone knows that the real Jérémie wouldn't step foot in the scanner. He'd be much too frightened!
      Odd: [after a pause] And I'm sure he would go into the scanner... if his friends were in danger.
      Ulrich: No doubt about it.
      Yumi: Absolutely none.
      XANA: But it's not logical! Don't you see? He's much too scared to even try... I—I'm much too scared! If not, then why haven't I already done it?
      Jérémie: I told you why. Because he's not infallible. XANA's knowledge of people is only approximative.
      Odd: And when it comes to friendship, it's not approximative. It's double zero. Good to see you again, Einstein.
      [Jérémie smiles]
      XANA: No, it's not logical! NOOO! NOT! LOGICAL! NOT! LOGICAL!
    • However, XANA is an interesting case in that unlike many villains, he actually learns from this defeat; in later seasons, he actually anticipates both Aelita and Franz Hopper making Heroic Sacrifices and takes advantage of it to pull Batman Gambits.
  • In an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, Nigel wakes up in a world where he's an adult and president and his teammates are all part of his cabinet. The Alternate Hoagie eventually realizes what's going on and agrees to send him home if he'll sign the bill that would destroy their world's Kids Next Door. Nigel refuses, even when threatened. Hoagie doesn't get why, since he'll never see the kids he's sacrificing again and it won't affect his world.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog:
    • In the episode, "Mega Muriel the Magnificent", the Computer possesses Muriel's body and performs various dangerous stunts on live TV to show Courage and the world how brave he is compared to organics. When Courage repeatedly tries to stop him, the Computer is baffled by why Courage would constantly risk his life to stop him even though he is scared of everything. The Computer erroneously believes that courage means having no fear when in reality, courage is the ability to overcome one's fear. That said, the Computer isn't evil so much as he's severely misguided.
    Computer: I just don't understand you. You're afraid of your own shadow, yet you feel the need to risk your life to try to stop me. People are such puzzles.
    • In the episode, "Cabaret Courage", Courage and the family are forced to be the entertainment for a creature's Hollywood cabaret, who promises them great prizes if he likes their performances. Muriel and Eustace quickly succumb to their greed and are nearly digested by the creature's stomach acid. But when it's Courage's turn to perform, the creature is stunned when Courage rejects his prizes and demands his family back. He's even more stunned when Courage nearly risks his life to save Eustace and Muriel. The creature had been surrounded by greed and avarice for so long, he never thought he would encounter an individual who was driven by more than their selfish desires. Ultimately, it's when Courage saves the creature himself from having a heart attack does he finally realize there are people who care for others and not just themselves.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • In "Maternal Instincts", Vlad confesses his love for Maddie as well as admitting he hates Jack for "stealing" her. He asks her to dump Jack and be with him. She naturally refuses and spends the rest of the series having a rather sour opinion of him. Despite wanting to be loved, Vlad doesn't understand how it works.
    • A case of Evil Forgetting How To Comprehend Good, in "The Ultimate Enemy". Having purged his human side, Dark Danny mocks his younger, current self for wanting to prevent the deaths of his loved ones. Being an evil monster so long, the cleansing of his former human side has rendered Dark Danny incapable of feeling anything other than seeking sadistic pleasure from his enemies.
  • Darkwing Duck: When profiling the psyche of a person, Taurus Bulba notably considers their selfish possible motivations first rather than their altruistic ones. He immediately sees Darkwing for the Glory Hound that he is, but also clearly believes that he wouldn't kill Gosalyn only out of a need to protect his reputation instead of having qualms about murder (or even getting attached to her). When presented with evidence to the contrary however, he easily takes advantage of the situation.
  • Two animated incarnations of Dr. Doom have this as their Fatal Flaw.
    • Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes: Lampshaded and subverted in "Doom's Word Is Law". Doctor Doom at first thinks that kidnapping Reed and Susan will make defeating them easier as he believes Ben and Johnny to be too stupid to stop him without their help and is baffled that they are able to power through his defenses through luck and with Bruiser's help. But then he reveals he had a failsafe for Bruiser pulling a Heel–Face Turn.
      Reed: Don't you understand, Victor? [Ben and Johnny] don't care how great your science is; they just care about rescuing us.
      Dr. Doom: What are you blathering on about?
      Susan: You'll never stop them, Doom, because you don't know how to fight them.
    • In the Avengers Assemble episode "Planet Doom", Doom's plan was to go back in time and stop the Avengers from forming by preventing the events that made each of them heroes, firmly believing that they only became heroes due to whatever fateful event that gave them their powers. However, while he rules the Bad Future with an iron fist, it also gave rise to new heroes who formed a team right under his nose with Thor's help. In other words, his inability to understand the fundamentally innate good and heroism within people doomed his plan to failure before it even began.
      • He further demonstrated this trope when he attempted to control Tony Stark and Bruce Banner by altering their backstories and preventing them from being superheroes, in addition to serving Doom with their scientific know-how. However, their natural good natures resurfaced with a little outside assistance, proving deep down they were still heroes, something that completely blind-sided Doom (as well as ruined his plans).
  • The Fairly OddParents: Part of Vicky's Flanderization, as shown in "Frenemy Mine", is she cannot understand love, to the point where she cannot comprehend her feelings after Timmy saves her.
  • Gargoyles:
    • Both subverts and plays this straight with the relationship between David Xanatos and Fox. Though there are signs of their affection as early as Season 2's "Leader of the Pack", Xanatos doesn't initially believe their attraction and compatibility could actually be called love because "two people such as ourselves are [not fully] capable of that emotion."... until "Eye of the Beholder" has him going through plan after plan to get the woman he loves back after she has a bad experience with the Eye of Odin.
      Xanatos: So now you know my weakness.
      Goliath: Only you would regard love as a weakness.
    • Duncan, Demona, and Tony Dracon also play the trope straight; Duncan's and Demona's treacherous natures led them to suspect that the loyal, honest Macbeth was equally treacherous in "City of Stone" Part 3 (in Duncan's case) and Part 4 (in Demona's case), while Dracon suspected the same of Elisa in "Protection."
    • Oberon doesn't seem to realize how everyone would fight him to keep him from taking away Xanatos and Fox's child. Given the implication that Titania (who put the idea in Oberon's head to kidnap the baby) did the entire thing to get Fox to tap her fey powers in anger, it's suggested that Titania did.
    • Lampshaded in "Protection", after Elisa nails Tony Dracon by pretending to be crooked. Goliath wonders why Dracon would think Elisa of all people would turn bad, and Elisa comments that the corrupt find it easy to believe that everyone else can be corrupted.
    • Hakon's plan to drain Goliath's life force so he and the Captain could live again fails because of this. Hakon knew that Goliath and the Captain were once friends and that the Captain's plan to betray Castle Wyvern was designed to help the gargoyles. Still, it never occurred to Hakon that the two friends could reconcile.
  • In the Christian-based cartoon God Rocks a robot kept on trying to ruin the God Rocks concert to raise money for a good cause, and he didn't understand that even after he stole their instruments they still desired to play.
  • Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls didn't believe Mabel would feel remorse after treating Dipper like crap throughout the episode, Sock Opera. Which is probably why his "The Reason You Suck" Speech towards her not only fails, but backfires spectacularly.
    Bill Cipher: I mean, who would sacrifice everything they've worked for just for their dumb sibling?
    Mabel: ...Dipper would.
    • He's eventually done in by the classic 'can't comprehend a heroic sacrifice' mistake, when he's tricked into entering Stan's mind just before the others erase it with the memory gun. Bill spends quite a bit of time spluttering in confusion over Stan being willing to have his own mind erased, and then futilely tries to offer Stan money and power even after Stan's made it clear that his only concern is protecting his family.
  • Ragnar of Green Lantern: The Animated Series worshiped the Green Lantern of his planet. Believing himself to be worthy of becoming a Green Lantern, he poisoned the one from his sector and attempted to claim his ring. Instead, his sister, Queen Iolande, was chosen as his replacement. His envy and feelings of betrayal lead him into becoming a Red Lantern. It never occurred to him that his murdering of a Green Lantern and his desire to abuse the power of the ring were the very reasons he was rejected.
  • In an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), where He-Man and Skeletor are forced into an Enemy Mine situation in order to save Eternia, Skeletor is amazed to find He-Man brushing himself off and continuing to help him defeat Evilseed after another one of Skeletor's attempts at betrayal.
    Skeletor: "Don't you get awfully tired of being a hero all the time? Don't you ever feel like doing something evil?
    He-Man: "Don't you ever feel like doing something good?
  • In Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: The Collector is unable to understand why the Hulks would rather have the real world than the Lotus-Eater Machine he put them in.
  • In an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, three criminals reveal their plan to use magic to dry up the Ganges River, allowing them to access treasures on the river bed. Jackie is appropriately horrified because millions of people would die of thirst without the river, but they don't understand why he would care.
  • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything" (based on a story from the comics), Mongul imagines that Superman's greatest desire being shown to him by the Black Mercy is of him ruling the galaxy. Instead, he's living peacefully on a farm on Krypton, married to a woman who resembles both Lana and Lois, and has a son.
    Mongul: I wonder where he thinks he is? Sitting on a throne, ruling the universe... All you human garbage fawning at his feet. More honest, don't you think, than this pretense of being a "selfless hero"? (Diana proceeds to bash Mongul's head in)
    • This is actually a change from the original comic, where in addition to the world conquest idea, Mongul wonders if he's dreaming of "whatever blissful backwater he was raised in". He was still wrong, but it's a bit closer to Superman's motivations.
  • Kevin Spencer, being an emotionless, violent sociopath, is completely caught off-guard when anyone shows him a form of kindness (such as a man giving him money when he finds out Kevin was a runaway). Kevin's eventual response to these situations is to violently attack the person, or just steal their money. Allan himself is surprised by this, and mused that the kindness of others could put his faith back in humanity.
  • The Lion Guard: Scar would never understand things like The Power of Friendship or empathy in general.
    • As discussed by Mufasa in the episode "Never Roar Again." While Simba and Kion are aware the power of the Roar of the Elders and try to regulate its use, Scar saw it as a tool to seize power and tried to kill Mufasa using it, not realizing he would lose it permanently if used for evil purposes, as he used the Roar to destroy his own Lion Guard when they refused to support him in his plot to assassinate Mufasa. Also in the same episode, Mufasa brings up Scar's sociopathy: being too selfish and egotistical, Scar would have trouble realizing family isn't something you can discard like trash. Of course, Mufasa still didn't recognize Scar would remain a major threat even after being depowered until it was too late.
    • This is also why Kion doesn't selfishly abuse the Roar's powers like Scar did, as it's again bought up in the episode "The Scorpion's Sting." While Scar's entire plan relied on trapping Kion at the volcano so he'll be unable to use the Roar without causing an eruption, he didn't ponder on the idea that the Roar can be used responsibly.
    • Even as the leader of the Lion Guard, Scar always had an entitlement mentality, as he believed that he should have been given a hero's welcome for killing the strange lion, completely ignoring that the fact that his job was protecting the Pride Lands, which meant he shouldn't have expected that treatment for doing his job.
    • During the final battle in the Season 3 opener, he is utterly astonished that Kion forgives him, and openly cannot comprehend that Kion showing empathy. His last words is that the Roar is a curse, calling him out for his naivety.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The biggest weakness of Discord is his inability to truly understand how strong the bond between the mane cast truly is. He's taken completely off-guard when he discovers that they've reforged their friendship after he seemingly broke it apart leading to his defeat. He also gets very frustrated when Fluttershy proves too kind and accepting of her own faults to fall for his attempt to convince her her friends think she's weak and helpless and thus she should be mad at them. This makes sense when one considers he's the polar opposite of the Elements of Harmony, which run on the Power of Friendship.
      • In Discord's second appearance, he seems to recognize the idea of friendship by the end of it, in that doing whatever he wants doesn't actually make him any happier because he actually cared about Fluttershy thought about him. However, Season 4 makes it pretty clear that Discord still didn't understand friendship, seeing it as something that made him happy. He did enjoy the company of others, but he still didn't understand camaraderie, and as far as he was concerned, it was all about him. This makes him easy prey for Lord Tirek in the Season 4 finale, who plays on the same idea that friendship is all about what you get out of it. Discord shows some signs of loyalty to Fluttershy (and Fluttershy alone) but still doesn't understand friendship until, after Discord betrays his friends, allowing Lord Tirek to steal their magic, Lord Tirek proves himself to be Eviler Than Thou and drains Discord's magic as well. Only when Twilight Sparkle frees him despite all the things he did does he really understand friendship, giving Twilight the final key to unlock the chest and the full, unmitigated power of The Power of Friendship.
    • Queen Chrysalis, the Big Bad of the second Season Finale, is a sadistic, shapeshifting, succubus-like Hive Queen who stole Princess Cadance's identity to feed off the love her husband to be had for her. In the end, she doesn't once think that this same power could be turned against her. To her, it was just food and she never fully understood its true power.
      • Chrysalis suffers even worse from this in the Season 6 finale, where she believes that love is something that is taken, not given. When Thorax gives it freely, he attains a pure and powerful form, and his fellow changelings go along. Chrysalis then rejects Starlight's offer of peace, even though she lost everything.
    • King Sombra, the Big Bad of the Season 3 premiere, believes in slavery rather friendship, as he considers this as the true method for ruling the Crystal Empire.
    • In "Twilight's Kingdom -- Part 1", during his Breaking Speech to Discord, Lord Tirek dismisses his brother's befriending ponies so many years ago as a sign of a weak mind. More generally, he considers friendship just a form of imprisonment.
      • In "Twilight's Kingdom -- Part 2", Tirek disregards friendship, and is shocked when Twilight demands Discord's release after he betrayed them. It is this mistake that leads to his defeat and re-imprisonment for eternity.
    • Starlight Glimmer, from the Season 5 premiere, has an interesting variation on this. It's not that she doesn't understand friendship at all, but she has a seeming inability to even consider any other idea of how friendship might work besides her own, which states that friendship is impossible if friends have different talents or different opinions, leading to her trying to make everypony "equal". When Twilight tries to explain that differences make friendships better, she dismisses it as "sentimental nonsense". This belief is the main reason why Fluttershy's Fake Defector move works, as she believed that the Mane Six's friendship would be easily broken due to their differences.
    • There's the villain of Season 8, Cozy Glow, who takes The Power of Friendship literally, seeing it as nothing but a weapon that you gain by convincing anyone you're their friend. Even after she is defeated and exposed, she doesn't show any repentance, and utterly believes that if she just had more "friends" she would become powerful.
    • Averted by the villain of Season 9, Grogar, who at least does seem to understand that the heroes have consistently managed to win over them thanks to their bonds of friendship. Unlike Cozy Glow, he knows that friendship isn't just a magic weapon to be used at will. Which is why he decides to form a Legion of Doom with several of the previous villains so they can use it to their own advantage, even if he has to force them along.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • This is frequently where Him's plans go wrong. Every time he creates a situation to exploit something like their fear, he's shocked at how sisterly love helps them overcome it.
    • Not as much as with HIM, but still a reason some of Mojo Jojo's schemes get foiled. He manipulates some of the Powerpuff Girls' classmates into defeating them by giving them Chemical X, but does not consider that they would regret it and revive the girls. Similarly, when Mojo infiltrates the girls' slumber party and blasts them with Antidote X, removing their powers, he rants about how the other girls are too weak and powerless to do anything about it, never considering the other girls would fight back the best they could.
    • After she's defeated at the end of "Stuck Up, Up, and Away," Princess Morbucks asks why the Powerpuff Girls won't let her be one, to which Blossom tells that it's her Spoiled Brat behavior that's preventing her from becoming such. Blossom continues by saying that it's not about flaunting her wealth or being powerful, but about how Morbucks could use her wealth to genuinely help people.
      • On a bigger note, being that she's a self-centered and snobbish glory hog who envies and resents the Powerpuff Girls for being adored by everyone in Townsville, it never dawned on Morbucks' mind that she could strike out on her own and become good, instead of wasting her time and gadgetry on fighting the PPG. Her penchant for evil is entirely fueled by her desire to be better than the PPG. Or rather, that the girls won't let her be one, and with good reason. She's a glory hog, has no powers of her own, and almost got herself killed when she tried to make her debut. Morbucks even provides the trope image for Driven by Envy.
    • This is the reason why Dick Hardly gets defeated at the end of "Knock It Off." While Utonium loves and treasures his three creations, Dick saw the Powerpuff Girls Xtreme as money-making objects. As lampshaded by Utonium himself: "Old Dick may have gotten the formula right, but the only ingredient he forgot was love."
  • In The Real Ghostbusters episode "The Devil to Pay", the heroes were conned by a demon named Dib Devlin into competing in a game show with their souls on the line. Dib clearly had no faith in human nature, and set up the final round as a Death Trap that could be escaped if one of them admitted to doing something bad. He was dead wrong, as they all thought of something bad they had done and confessed to it. (Although it took Ray — the intended one — the longest to admit it, that he had eaten a cookie that Slimer had gotten slime all over, but he eventually did, grossing out even the demonic studio audience.)
  • This shows up occasionally in Rocky and Bullwinkle. For example:
    Natasha: Boris, how could you let them sail away with the mooseberry bush?
    Boris: Bush was disguised as old man. Did I know they would help old man into lifeboat? I wouldn't!
  • Aku from Samurai Jack is Made of Evil, and has a dim understanding of the concept of "good" (about the closest he can get is "Free beef jerky for everyone"). He thought that sending Jack to the future would crush his spirit, but Jack ended up being a rallying point for the abused masses of Aku's reign. Additionally, other things that are lost on him are "respect" and "teamwork", as he has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder to the highest degree and has actually screwed himself over time and again because he cannot help but betray his allies in some form or another, even when he's trying really hard not to. His inability to comprehend hope and love is ultimately his undoing, as the former results in his Public Execution of Jack being derailed, eventually allowing his daughter Ashi to break free of his control and turn his own power against him, sending Jack back in time to kill Past-Aku once and for all.
    • The Daughters of Aku in the fifth season have the same problem, owing to the abusive training and indoctrination they received from their mother from the get-go. They were indoctrinated in Social Darwinism, rendering them incapable of understanding compassion or love. When they see a male deer approach his mate, they assume he's a minion of Aku that will devour the female deer, only to be utterly confused when the two start nuzzling with affection. This is also what ultimately gets almost all of them killed; because they were taught "survival of the fittest," they do nothing to assist or defend each other during their assault on Jacknote , leaving him free to pick them off one by one. They only got as close as they did to killing him through sheer brute force and dumb luck. Imagine if they had believed in teamwork. However, as big of a threat they are to Jack, the first episode makes it clear that they're Tragic Villains, as they were born to an Aku-worshiping cult leader who raised them from birth to be how they are, complete with brutal punishments and beatings. They never had any choice from the moment they were born.
    • Despite her claims of Aku's benevolence, it's painfully obvious that, much like her god, the leader of the Cult of Aku has no actual understanding of what real love, kindness, and justice are like. Therefore, she never considers that Jack would show Ashi love and kindness and break through her brainwashing; when the Priestess tries to blame Jack for the deaths of Ashi's sisters, Ashi rightly backfires that the Priestess got them killed by brainwashing them with hateful lies and sending them on a suicide mission.
  • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: In "Decoy For A Dognapper", the Mystery Inc gang captures the villain, a dognapper. As he is arrested, he angrily asks why they interfered with his operation and why they didn't mind their own business. Fred retorts, "Catching dognappers is our business. After all, Scooby-Doo is a dog, and we love him very much."
  • Also played straight in an episode of She-Ra: Princess of Power. Forced to work together, She-Ra and Hordak get directions from a local in exchange for some fruit that's trivial for them to get, but impossible for the local to reach. Hordak starts to go the other way from the directions, saying the local had what he wanted, and thus no reason to genuinely help them.
    She-Ra: Your problem, Hordak, is that you lie all the time, so you assume everyone else does the same, even though you depend on most people keeping their word.
  • Sometimes done on The Simpsons:
    • Mr. Burns' moral compass is so far off kilter that even when he tries do something good, he's actually more evil than he normally is. Lisa even lampshades it:
      Lisa: You're evil... and when you try to be good, you're even more evil!
    • In "Last Exit to Springfield", Mr. Burns cuts the power to the town during a strike, and is shocked that the union doesn't break.
    • After learning about recycling from Lisa in "The Old Man and the Lisa", Mr. Burns takes it to its extreme by recycling living sea creatures into a multipurpose slurry. He doesn't understand why Lisa is horrified by this, since, as he sees it, he is giving people what they need without wasting a single sea creature.
    • Happens with Jessica Lovejoy in "Bart's Girlfriend" after she was caught framing Bart Simpson and stealing the church collection plate money. When she saw Bart approach her while doing her punishment of washing the church steps, she assumed Bart was going to laugh at her. He instead confessed how their small relationship taught him not to be naive around girls. Jessica, however, confessed that she learned she could make boys do whatever she wanted and proves it by asking Bart to finish the job while she runs off with another boy. Bart claims he sees through her deception but then says "wait until she sees the second-rate job I do on these stairs".
  • In an episode of The Smurfs, Smurfette meets a very greedy troll who has a hard time understanding why anyone would give something of theirs away; this happens on her birthday, when the other smurfs are giving her gifts (he proceeds to steal them all, and Smurfette herself). After being rescued, Smurfette proves to be a lot more generous (not to mention forgiving) than he is, and he starts to learn his lesson after she shares with him.
  • Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants often has trouble understanding basic concepts of goodness, such as having fun. In The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water, not only does he struggle to understand the concept of teamwork, he can't even pronounce it properly ("Te-am work? Tie-am? Time bomb... work?"). He also believes that SpongeBob helping him is really a front for a plot to steal the formula for himself, and is shocked to learn he really doesn't know it.
  • South Park:
    • Played straight in the "Toilet Paper" episode. Cartman is simply incapable of comprehending why the other boys feel guilt about Butters getting busted for what they did, to the point that trying to wrap his brain around it starts giving him a headache. He later confesses, but only in hopes of either getting lighter punishment, avoiding punishment, and looking good to the adults. Depressingly, because the adults are ignorant of Cartman's mental state the ruse works.
    • On the other hand, it shows to the viewer that yes, coming clean sooner is good for you; it's just that this time the wrong person came clean for the wrong reasons. This extends to the point that Cartman actually believes he did learn a valuable life lesson and tries very awkwardly to deliver An Aesop, much to the exasperation of Kyle.
      Cartman: I've learnt that while you might not get in trouble first, you can later.
      Kyle: [Face Palm] Oh god...
      Cartman: At first I didn't feel bad but now I feel terrible.
      Kyle: You just feel bad for yourself because you got put in detention!
      Cartman: Right, so I guess what I learnt today is...
      Kyle: Oh stop it, Cartman. You didn't learn anything! Not a Goddamn thing!
      Cartman: [looks thoughtful] ...hmmm.
    • The "Coon and Friends" trilogy demonstrates this with a short dialogue between "The Coon" (Cartman) and Mysterion (Kenny). (And the debate with the Ayn Rand Foundation begins...).
      The Coon: It's not my fault you guys turned evil, Kenny.
      Mysterion: You are the bad guy, Cartman. You!
      The Coon: I'm making the world a better place!
      Mysterion: FOR YOU! You're making it a better place for you!
      The Coon: [Beat] Riiight. That's what superheroes do.
    • Possibly subverted in "How to Eat With Your Butt". Cartman loses his ability to laugh after seeing the Thompsons, people with a condition that makes their faces resemble buttocks. The other boys claim this is because he feels genuinely sorry for them because they lost their son, but Cartman insists the sight was so funny he merely "blew a funny fuse". When their son (Ben Affleck) is reunited with them, the sight of them "kissing" him causes him to laugh again. He says it is so hilarious that it fixed him, but again the others tell him it's because he is happy they are back together. The subversion depends on whether or not he really felt sympathy for them (and was merely unable to comprehend why), or he didn't (and couldn't understand why he should).
    • In "Casa Bonita", Cartman tries to be nice so that Kyle will take him to the title restaurant. Due to this trope, Cartman's attempt to "be nice" was really just him putting on a nice sweater and changing nothing else. When Kyle points this out, Cartman has no clue what he means.
    • In "The Ring", the boys are incensed at how the Jonas Brothers' purity ring pitch have turned Kenny dull and angrily protest. Mickey Mouse, who is portrayed as a sadistic Corrupt Corporate Executive, thinks they are trying to sabotage him on behalf of Dreamworks.
  • In Steven Universe, Jasper has this problem. She thinks of fusion as strictly a combat maneuver meant to increase a gem's power, when the real way to get the best results is by treating it as the personification of the component gems' relationship with each other, and harnessing The Power of Love between them. She's also unable to realize that Lapis Lazuli would value protecting Steven, her only friend, over revenge against the Crystal Gems. Combine both, and you get the mistake that took her out of action for over a season. She decided to strong-arm Lapis Lazuli into fusing with her, creating Malachite. Lapis agreed, but instead of going along with Jasper's plans, took control of the fusion and dragged them both down to the bottom of the ocean.
  • Superman: The Animated Series:
    • In "Apokolips... Now!", Darkseid believed that after subduing Superman, the people of Earth wouldn't have the will to face him and would readily surrender to avoid annihilation. So when the people of Metropolis, led by one Dan Turpin, continue to fight back regardless, Darkseid is genuinely surprised and utterly baffled. Supes spells it out for him:
      Superman: You hear that, Darkseid? The people of Earth aren't like your slaves on Apokolips. They don't take kindly to dictators.
      Darkseid: If they resist, I will not hesitate to destroy them. (...) Don't they know this is suicide?
      Superman: Better a quick death in battle than a slow one under your heel.
    • However, Darkseid is notable in that he learns from this trope. In the series finale, he kidnaps Superman and brainwashes him into thinking he's his son, then "rewards" him by having him conquer Earth, deducing that even if Supes is freed from his control, the damage he'll cause will turn the people of Earth against him. And he's proven correct as his actions have lasting ramifications that continue to haunt Superman.
    • Quickly subverted with Lobo. At first, Lobo doesn't understand why Superman tries to catch one of his rockets to prevent collateral damage instead of just avoiding it, but quickly realizes that Superman actually cares about humans.
  • Teen Titans (2003):
    • As noted by Rob Hoegee in a feature on the Third Season DVD, this trope is Slade's Achilles' Heel. His inability to understand Robin's willingness to sacrifice himself for his friends at the end of the first season or Terra's residual loyalty to the team in the second proved to be his undoing. It's worth noting that when his opponent is Trigon, the literal embodiment of evil, Slade's plan really goes off without a hitch, largely because Trigon acts in exactly the ways he predicts.
    • Trigon has the exact same weakness. Trigon couldn't understand why, against all odds, with the world literally having ended, the Titans continue to fight him and why Raven, despite him being her creator, stands up against him. This is ultimately his downfall as well.
  • Nightmare from Ultimate Spider-Man has this as his Fatal Flaw. His defeats at Spider-Man's hands are always the result of his crippling inability to understand Spidey's motivations. Being the master of nightmares means nothing if you're unable or unwilling to properly understand how your opponent operates.
    • In "Strange Days", Nightmare forces everyone on Earth to be trapped in a permanent dream facing their worst fears. In the end, Spider-Man is the last to be forced to face his deepest fear, by making him face disappointment from his Uncle Ben over his death. Instead, the dream-version of his uncle greets him with a smile. Spidey then talks back at the confused Nightmare, saying he lives with what happened everyday and instead of letting it get to him, he lets it encourage him to be Spider-Man everyday. This in turn is what starts Nightmare's plan to fall apart because it never occurred to him someone has the will to overcome or accept their fears.
    • In "Nightmare on Christmas", a twisted parody of A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life, Nightmare tries to trick Spider-Man into giving up being a hero by showing him how people never appreciate his heroic acts, and sending him to a future where he could be as happy and famous as Tony Stark, firmly believing the unappreciated Spidey would gladly hang up his mask. However, in that future, Spidey's absence allowed the Green Goblin to take over New York, causing Spider-Man to reject his offer, saying he became a hero to do the right thing, not for fame. At the end of the episode, Nightmare remains baffled that Spider-Man would so freely pass up a chance for a new life.
      Nightmare: You could have had everything, yet you threw it away for nothing!
  • Black Hat from Villainous is a Downplayed example — while he acknowledges The Power of Love and The Power of Friendship as legitimately being effective against villains, his methods to get around them show that he fails to understand just how they work. Namely, he assumes just attaching a flower to a person that causes them to perceive whatever they love as something they hate would be enough to get around these powers, failing to realize that people who are truly friends/in love would look past physical appearances(not to mention, the flower is pretty easy to spot and rip off). This doesn't really come up much in the series, though, because Black Hat is such an Invincible Villain that it's doubtful even these powers would do more than tickle him.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: Emperor Zarkon believes that Black Lion will still obey him, the previous Paladin, because they value power, dismissing Shiro stating that it's about trust between it and its Paladin. Shiro is immediately proven right, the Black Lion immediately severs its link with Zarkon, starting his Villainous Breakdown.
  • In the Grand Finale of Wander over Yonder, Lord Dominator doesn't understand why Wander saves her when her ship explodes.
  • On Yin Yang Yo!, the Night Master accurately assesses that the titular trio have a lot of undesirable, un-heroic qualities. However, he scoffs at the idea that they could rise above them and become better people. He also clearly wasn't expecting Coop to accept Yin's apology and turn on him.
  • Yogi's Gang: After cheating Yogi out of his ark, Peter D. Cheater learns about the gang's treasure map and, believing it to be real, offers to trade the ark back to Yogi for the map. When Yogi tells Peter the map is fake, Peter assumes it's a trick to keep him away from the treasure and makes the trade anyway. Yogi later states that people who cheat a lot end up expecting others to do the same.
  • Young Justice (2010)
    • Psimon was under the impression that Miss Martian's true form would cause the rest of the team to reject her, and cost her Superboy's hand. Instead, the team accepts her with open arms when she reveals her White Martian form. For bonus points, Superboy knew she was a White Martian even before they started dating.
    • Also happens to the Light in the same episode. They never thought that Artemis, Miss Martian, and Superboy would willingly reveal their Dark Secrets to the rest of the team, and that the team would fully accept them. Because of this, the Light gets Out-Gambitted.