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Affably Evil

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"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

Usually, villains have a personality or manner that underscores how evil they are. They may kick puppies for giggles, be particularly insensitive and/or fanatically obsessed with their cause, or might just be too unknowable and/or eldritch to be anything but evil.

Then there are villains who are Affably Evil. There is absolutely nothing separating them from being normal, polite people except for the fact that they want to Take Over the World or use human souls to power their Artifact of Doom. They're not the Stepford Smiler or the Bitch in Sheep's Clothing—their affability is a genuine part of their personality, not a mask. And this is what ultimately differentiates them from those tropes and Faux Affably Evil. If they have underlings, expect them to be a Benevolent Boss. In a way, they're the opposite of an Anti-Hero. They may Pet the Dog on occasion, but won't hesitate to kick it with steel-toed boots the next second if it helps them accomplish their Evil Plan. They may well be a Villain with Good Publicity because, after all, being evil doesn't mean you have to be anti-social.


If this trope gets exaggerated, this villain will invite the hero out to tea, offer them a favorite dish, talk friendly, try to appeal to the hero's better nature, and convince the heroes that the villain's plan isn't worth getting involved in or is even worth joining. Of course, if the hero still won't change their mind, the villain will remind them that they are, after all, still a villain. It may or may not involve a Death Trap, depending on how nice the villain really is when crossed. Of course, inviting the hero's mom out to tea might send a stronger message. The friendliness of said villains can serve to humanize these guys. In situations with Evil Versus Evil, they are often A Lighter Shade of Black in this conflict. Alternatively, this can actually be used to make them scarier by playing up the contrast between their normal, friendly personality and their horrible, repulsive crimes.


Usually a Wicked Cultured, charismatic Chessmaster. 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 come off as this if charismatic and funny enough. In fact legitimately insane characters can at times balance this with Faux Affably Evil more easily than sane ones, 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 made all the more scary by the simple fact that he was previously so nice and kind. 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: The character hides a more sinister side behind a nice façade — unlike them, Affably Evil characters are genuinely nice.
  • Complete Monster: A character with no redeeming qualities. They are 0% nice and therefore cannot be affably evil in any sense (though they may be Faux Affably Evil).
  • 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.
  • 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:

Other examples:

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  • Skeletor in the 2014-2015 "Happy Honda Days" commercials is genuinely interested in helping you save money on a new motor vehicle. Now if you can excuse him while he steps out to crush He-Man...

    Asian Animation 
  • Huo Haha from Happy Heroes works for the antagonists Big M. and Little M. and clearly shows interest in helping them find the elemental staffs in Season 8 so that the Supermen can't use them to wake up the president, but he has a heart of gold and will take into account the feelings of others. He often accomplishes this through trivial things such as apologizing for his Evil Laugh since he thinks the Supermen might be scared by it.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: John, the source and avatar of the Hunger, which consumes entire realities, is pleasant and polite, even playing chess with Merle, and enjoying their conversations. He also kills Merle repeatedly, and his goal is to eat all of reality so he can undo the laws of the universe.
  • The Magnus Archives:
    • Michael Crew is a servant of the Vast, and has cheerfully screwed up countless lives in it's service- but when Jon confronts him, he remains a very polite host until he's asked a question he finds prying. And even then, he still answers the question and doesn't make his attack on Jon fatal.
    • Oliver Banks remains pleasant and cordial, even after giving in to his status as an Avatar of the fear of death itself.
    • Helen becomes this, after she replaces her former captor and becomes the new incarnation of the Distortion. She's friendly and sometimes even helpful to Jon and the rest of the Archive's staff- which doesn't mean she won't willingly throw away her humanity and embrace her new status as a part of the Twisting Deceit, trapping and terrifying humans just as she herself once was.
  • In Sequinox, several stars come off like this. Part of it comes off as them trying to awkwardly work human concepts into their conversations despite not understanding how any of them work. Antares is happy that she gets to talk to people instead of just destroying the planet right off the bat. Sargas is very polite when he tells the students of Vertumnus to turn over the Sequinox girls or else he'll kill everyone.
    • During the Gemini arc when the girls land in a gothic horror-themed dimension, Vampire!Ethan is this. He's very cordial to the group, allows Harmony to stay in a wing of his home when she's chased there, and eats as few humans as possible. That being said he mainly allows the group inside because they're monsters, as is Harmony, and he does believe that he's "owed" humans to eat.
  • Welcome to Night Vale: Lauren Mallard, the NVCR program director from StrexCorp. She seems to be a genuinely sweet, bubbly young woman, and Cecil describes her as "a delight" and "the kindest, most gentle manager we have ever had at this station" (although, to be fair, that's not saying much). But she takes a rather sinister interest in knowing the names of Cecil's loved ones, which he becomes wary of.
  • Baron Ragoon in Hello, from the Magic Tavern is the ruler of a minor domain just over the mountains fro Hogsface. He comes across like a small-town mayor with a strong interest in keeping order, expanding infrastructure, increasing employment, and reducing Foon's ridiculously high rate of child mortality. He is unfailingly polite and welcoming, and invites our heroes to live in his pleasant realm. He's also an open, devout supporter of the Dark Lord whose plan to reduce child mortality to have wild animals kidnap children and put them to work, and he found a wife by abducting a woman and killing her fiancée and family. Chunt is surprised that somebody so nice could be so evil; Arnie points out that there's a difference between being nice and being polite.
    • Also, the protagonists' counterparts in the mirror universe are just as friendly and easy-going as the main universe (or more so in Chunt's case), but casually discuss conquering Foon in the name of the Dark Lord over a tasty meal of fresh human flesh.
  • Unwell Podcast: Silas has several polite interactions with Lily, and offers her both advice and brandy at different points, despite being someone Lily's family has been trying to keep at bay for generations, as well as setting his dogs on two campers.
  • Brimstone Valley Mall: All the main characters, save for Misroch, fall under this, being demons working for Hell who nonetheless are fairly likable people. They all also play with Minion with an F in Evil, since most of them view the whole "damning souls" thing as just a job, and not one they're in a particular hurry to do.
    • Hornblas was a Magnetic Hero and an all-around Nice Guy before he went missing; hardly anyone has a single bad word to say about him. As of the first season finale, he's no longer a demon, instead working for Heaven, implying the "affable" won out over the "evil."
    • Asmoraius and Belzagor are fairly friendly and approachable individuals who aren't afraid to pick fights with humans who irritate them, and have no problem killing anyone who finds out they're demons. Stay out of their way, though, and they're generally quite nice.
    • Xaphan is a wide-eyed Naïve Newcomer who is too sweet and enthusiastic to be considered truly evil. She'll lead souls into temptation if she's told to, but she'd much rather play an arcade game or eat a hot dog at the mall.
    • As of the first season finale, the good-natured Perky Goth Trainee has sold her soul and become a demon, but is still clearly the same friendly girl she's always been. She just serves one of the Princes of Hell now.
    • Satan Herself is a Reasonable Authority Figure, at least from what little we see of her in Season One. She even gives the gang some free drink tokens at the Y2K Party.

  • Old Harry's Game:
    • Satan zigzags this trope and Faux Affably Evil. To most people, he's faux affably evil, often utilizing Exact Words or even outright lying to make them think he's about to give them what they want right before torturing them. To other supernatural beings, and the handful of humans he genuinely respects, he's this; he'll still torture them if they become annoying, but when he's not doing so he's fairly friendly and can sometimes even act as a caring presence.
    • Thomas is introduced as a Faux Affably Evil Corrupt Corporate Executive. However, over the course of the series, the Prof and Scumspawn manage to reform him somewhat; he's still evil, but he's closer to this trope.
    • Gary, Satan's initial top demon, is quite polite despite his love of cruelty.
    • God is respectful of those he speaks to, generally willing to listen to reason (provided you don't question whether there are other gods), wishes his angels were more able to lighten up and have a laugh, and frequently sends people to Hell for little to no reason.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: The mileage on whether they're evil varies wildly (often from entry to entry), but the Foundation itself can be considered this, as they are most often portrayed as Well-Intentioned Extremist AntiVillains who often engage in genuinely evil actions for the sake of protecting humanity from the paranormal.
    • Within the Foundation, the Ethics Committee can be considered this; they are the ones who decide what is and isn't ethically acceptable for the Foundation to do on a case-by-case basis. While they do try to be as ethical as they can, "ethical" here is entirely relative to the situation; these are the people who invented Procedure 110-Montauk, after allnote . The Ethics Committee orientation sums this up best; the Foundation isn't evil, but sometimes they have to do evil things, and the Committee has to decide when to be humane and when to be evil.
      Remember this: the Foundation is not evil. We do not torture people "just because". We are against unnecessary cruelty. Which means somebody has to decide when cruelty is necessary. And that somebody is us.
  • Cao Cao in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. He's generally being completely sincere.
  • Bill Seacaster from the Fantasy High campaign of Dimension 20. He's a ruthless pirate who fully admits he'll go straight to Hell when he dies, and has killed and robbed countless people with zero remorse. But he fiercely loves his son, doting on him and encouraging him every step of the way, and is a genuinely outgoing, cheerful kind of guy. He treats his son's friends as part of his family immediately upon meeting them, and takes it upon himself to give them some training when he realizes they don't really know how to fight or defend themselves. He even handles it with good grace (more or less) when Fig politely calls him on some thoughtless (but completely unintentional) sexism.
    Bill: I'm an old dog, but I can learn new tricks. And I speak in a little bit of an archaic vernacular. I appreciate you having the courage to check me on something, that was honestly not alright. AND IF YOU SPEAK OUT OF TURN AGAIN, I'LL SLIT YA LIKE A FISH!
  • Several characters from Six Chances are this. First, there's Francis Foxman, a mafia head, who gladly watches children beat the living crap out of a traitor for vengeance but who also refers to everyone by Mr and Ms. Then there's the pirate captain Maria who gladly welcomes people she's conquered onto her crew with a smile all while saying that they now belong to her.
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible isn't even all that evil at first, and he starts out wanting nothing more than respect.
  • In Pay Me, Bug!, Hu Mavis is a Commodore in service to The Empire of the Radiant Throne. He's also a pretty nice guy when you get to know him. Grif once lamented that they could have been good friends if they weren't on opposite sides of the law.
  • Seiji from Only Villains Do That doesn't actually want to be the Dark Lord. Since he doesn't have much choice however, he can at least be nice about it.


Video Example(s):

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 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / AffablyEvil

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