Follow TV Tropes


Affably Evil

Go To

"This is very embarrassing. It seems there is a red box in your car. They can't get to it. They want me to make you unlock the car! I feel like an idiot. I don't know what to say... I am to torture you if you don't do it."
Dr. Kaufman, Tomorrow Never Dies

Traditional villains are evil in thought, word, and deed. They Kick the Dog every day, just because they think it's funny, they can't sympathize with the pain of others, and/or they think suffering is justified when it serves their cause. Alternatively, they may simply be too inscrutable and/or inhuman to inspire anything but dread.

Then there's these guys. There's nothing separating Alice from an ordinary nice person (except that she wants to use an infant's soul to power her Doomsday Machine so she can Take Over the World). And you'd never know it, because you only see her when she invites all the neighbors over for a barbecue in her backyard. A less-developed villain would be the Stepford Smiler or the Bitch in Sheep's Clothing — but she's not: Alice's good humor is a genuine part of her personality. She's the very opposite of Charlie: she's so thoroughly dedicated to Evil that she can be pleasant and kind in her daily life without any risk of slipping to the other side. Alice would Kick the Dog she just petted if it got her closer to her goals, but she won't do evil just for evil's sake. She's devoted to her family, fair to her employees, and she enjoys a good reputation in the community, because being anti-society doesn't mean you have to be anti-social.

If this trope gets exaggerated, Alice will invite Bob the hero out for an afternoon on the lake, offer him a favorite dish, talk to him like he's an old friend, try to appeal to Bob's better nature and convince him that her plan for the world is a cause worth joining. Of course, a villain is still a villain, and Alice has no use for Bob if he won't change his mind. It may or may not involve a Death Trap, depending on how nice she really is when crossed. And Bob would have every reason to be nervous if she invites his mother over for tea instead...

Whether an Affably Evil villain is less scary than the traditional type depends on how the work wants to play it. They can be more relatable and sympathetic than a traditional monster (especially if the work has a 'real' villain as well), and are often used in works intended for children to provide an antagonist without having them be too evil or scary. Conversely, they can be much worse: there's something inherently terrifying about an ordinary, even decent person with a pleasant personality doing horrible things. They are usually Wicked Cultured, charismatic Chessmasters. They are sometimes comedic or a Well-Intentioned Extremist who really believes that they are right. More often than not, they are a form of Anti-Villain because a straight villain wouldn't easily be so genuinely good-natured. Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor is not true for them, and their affability even makes them easy to "compliment" with an Insult Backfire. Captives of an affably evil villain won't be kept in dungeons, but in a Gilded Cage. Even an outright psychopath can be charismatic and funny enough to fit this trope, or at least to convincingly waver between true and false friendliness, since the contrast is explained by their mental instability.

In the event an Affably Evil villain does undergo a Villainous Breakdown, the very traits that make them so pleasant often serve to make their breakdown extremely creepy or outright scary. A kind, friendly man suddenly going into a psychotic rage is so much more frightening than a man who was cackling from the start. If they keep their inviting personality while going Ax-Crazy, they may cross into Faux Affably Evil territory with only skin-deep manners, which is a much more frequent behaviour than a truly kind criminal.



  • Baddie Flattery: The villain says nice things to the hero, but it's only to confuse them or throw them off guard.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mean characters who seem nice until they reveal their true colors. Affably Evil characters are never concealing a rude or petty nature (just an evil one).
  • Complete Monster: A character with no redeeming qualities. They cannot be nice, though they may be able to fake it.
  • Enemy Mine: The villain cooperates with a rival to achieve a common goal, but they feel no need to be nice about it.
  • Evil Is Petty: A villain who is evil at even the smallest level — he'll blow up the world and dock his secretary's pay.
  • Faux Affably Evil: An evil character who merely acts nice. The Affably Evil character will often serve as The Dragon, Evil Minion, or Foil to this type of villain.
  • Good is Not Nice: A character who is cold, rude, and even occasionally cruel without ceasing to be a good person.
  • Good Is Not Soft: A good (and nice) person who is ruthless to those who deserve it.
  • Harmless Villain: The villain isn't scary because he's toothless, not because he's nice.
  • Hate Sink: A character put in specifically to draw the audience's ire. Affably Evil characters are not supposed to be hated.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: A character with no corrupting qualities. They cannot be evil, even if the setting and general characterization leads the audience to believe that 'nice' people are probably hiding something.
  • Lovable Traitor: Clearly untrustworthy, but still someone you'd have a beer with.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: A person who tries to be evil but is just too nice to pull it off.
  • Nice Guy: A genuinely nice person who is also a good person. Affably Evil subverts this trope.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Looks evil but isn't, as opposed to an Affably Evil character who is evil but doesn't look it.
  • Not Me This Time: Is a villain most of the time, just not in this particular instance.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Kind words as a sign that the villain is about to do something especially terrible.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: The hero is dismayed to be seen as the kind of person the villain would respect.

Good is Not Nice is the Inverted Trope, and such good guys are particularly good at giving the Affably Evil a proverbial punch in the nose. When both Good is Not Nice and Affably Evil are used, you may end up with Polite Villains, Rude Heroes, but if done poorly, you might get a case of Jerks Are Worse Than Villains, where the audience hates the heroes for being jerks more than the villain. I'm Not Hungry is often dealing with this villain. A villain will sometimes engage in Too Funny to Be Evil to achieve this effect. No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine is a subtrope in many instances.

Example subpages:

Alternative Title(s): Nice Is Not Good, Evil Is Not Mean, Evil Is Nice


Brother Mouzone

Brother Mouzone is genuinely polite, saying "Good day to you sir" after kicking "Mister" Cheese's ass. He's also a hitman who, according to Proposition Joe, has "more bodies on him than a Chinese cemetery."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / AffablyEvil

Media sources: