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Awful Truth

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"What I'm about to tell you, you might not want to know. Even so, you absolutely must hear it. [...] Given who you are and how you've lived, what I have to say may tear at your hearts..."

Truth is not always a good thing. Some truths are so awful that they must be kept from the players/characters, as they are deemed a serious threat to their mental stability. That, or this is a mocking cry by the jaded Anti-Hero to illustrate his belief that the main hero is too naive to be trusted with the truth.


Compare You Are Not Ready and Forbidden Fruit. Contrast You Didn't Ask. If they're being obnoxious about it, it's Figure It Out Yourself. See also These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know for when you really shouldn't know. Can also be a case of You Do NOT Want To Know. May lead to a case of Lying to Protect Your Feelings. Compare Heel Realization, which is an awful truth, but not one anyone else kept from you. Often invokes Schmuck Bait. If the truth is about the character's own nature (and doesn't involve Easy Amnesia) they may be a Tomato in the Mirror. If it's not so much hidden as an unyielding fact of life, see tropes such as Humans Are Bastards, Crapsack World or its real life counterparts Hobbes Was Right and Realpolitik, video games with branching plots whose best and/or canon ending is bittersweet or some types of You Are Too Late or Downer Ending.


In short, when something seems Too Good to Be True, this is what the actual truth will probably turn out to be.

Despite the similar names, this has nothing to do with the movie The Awful Truth.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Rhya in Black Clover knew that Lumiere didn't betray the elves, but didn't tell the others because of his desire for revenge against the humans and to see Licht again. When he gets a hole in his gut courtesy of Zagred, the true perpetrator, he wonders if it's the price for lying.
  • Prétear:
    • Himeno Awayuki was told that she "doesn't need to know" the Backstory, but forced the Leafe Knights to reveal it anyway — specifically, that their enemy is the previous Pretear, who turned evil because of her unrequited love for Hayate, and that Himeno herself may end up turning evil as well. Cue Heroic BSoD. In the anime version, the consequences were even worse.
    • In the manga, her stepmother Natsue unleashes another one on Himeno: Himeno's late mother died because her frail body couldn't handle the strain of pregnancy and childbirth. In other words, Himeno unknowingly killed her own mother.
  • The heroine of Phantom Thief Jeanne is a Magical Girl on a mission from God. About halfway through the series (or towards the end, in the anime), she finds out that she's been working for Satan all along, her Mentor Mascot is a fallen angel who was in on the whole thing, and the two have been conspiring to break her — in Satan's case, he's been doing it since she was an infant.
  • In the manga version of Chrono Crusade, part of what inspires Aion's Evil Plan is the Awful Truth he found out about his origins (that is, that the demons are really aliens, and the current Hive Queen was a human woman pregnant with twins (Chrono and Aion) before she was turned into a demon). He also goes to great lengths to hide the truth from Chrono, saying he "doesn't need to know"—but Chrono finds out in the end and takes it rather well, actually.
  • In Detective Conan, Ai keeps insisting to Conan that if Ran were to know the truth about the Black Organization and Shinichi being Conan, then she will not smile. She will be burdened by the truth.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Dr. Marco refuses to tell Ed how the philosophers stones are made from using live humans.
  • In Naruto:
    • The reason why most of the villagers hate Naruto is that he's the can of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox which killed many of them and destroyed a good part of the Leaf Village.
    • Sasuke was far happier thinking his brother killed their family because he was bored than when he found out that he had really been acting under orders from Konoha. He was a lot saner then, too.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth starts out as a fairly standard story about three teens who get Trapped in Another World and tasked with rescuing a princess. Just as they're getting close to their goal, they find out that their real mission is to kill the princess because she wants to die.
  • In Bokurano, the main characters were originally told what was going on was a game to ensure they would fight in and against giant mecha. The prospect of defeating the enemy was a lot easier when they didn't know doing so would kill them regardless of success. And when they thought the enemies were aliens instead of alternate dimensional humans, and that they killed 10 billion people with each win. They were, however, told what failure meant, though the general public was mostly out of the loop.
  • Anyone who wants to become a Magical Girl in Puella Magi Madoka Magica must know one thing: upon making the contract to become a magical girl, your soul gets sucked into the Soul Gem that you use to transform into your magical girl form, and if it's not within 100 meters of you, your body becomes an Empty Shell. This essentially turns you into a Lich.
    • Two things, as of Episode 8. The warning that Kyubey gave the girls about needing to keep their Soul Gems clean by charging them with Grief Seeds? If they don't regularly purify the corrupted gem and it darkens completely, it becomes a Grief Seed and then explodes, transforming them into a Witch. Just in case that wasn't horrifying enough, this is apparently inevitable. Ultimately the gem will darken completely no matter what the girls do, and every magical girl is doomed to become one of the Eldritch Abominations that she and others like her fight. And the only way to avoid this horrible fate? Die before it can happen. This one was so awful that in one timeline of Homura's "Groundhog Day" Loop, it drove Mami, who survived in this timeline, to try to kill the other Magical Girls to save them from becoming witches before turning her gun on herself, killing Kyouko and almost killing Homura before she was stopped by Madoka. And in the Magica Record timeline, this knowledge causes Mami to pull a Face–Heel Turn by joining the Wings of Magius in the hopes of freeing all Magical Girls from their contract.
      • And just to make things even worse? Apart from witches created from former familiars that grew their own Grief Seeds after their parent witch was killed, every single witch that the magical girls have fought was once a magical girl herself. Every magical girl became a magical girl through making a contract with Kyubey. This means that Kyubey creates witches, meaning that all the bad things that witches do to people and all the horrible things that magical girls have to go through to stop them are ultimately Kyubey's fault. There's a REASON that a lot of people despise the little fucker.
      • To top it all off, the reason Kyubey is doing all of this? The entire universe is dying.
      • Madoka eventually provides an out of sorts for this by using her wish to destroy The Corruption and ensure that no Magical Girl has to become a Witch, past, present, or future. Unfortunately they just disappear instead - being a magical girl still sucks. Madoka herself Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence (becoming a concept) because her wish turned her into a witch...which she then erased because of her wish. The paradox caused her to be Ret-Gone from reality - only two people know she ever existed, and Word of God says that the one of them (Madoka's younger brother, Tatsuya) will lose those memories as he gets older.
    • Homura has one in Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion when she realizes that somehow, despite Madoka's wish, a witch still exists. It's worse when she realizes she is the witch.
  • The second episode (and the latter part of the first) of Shakugan no Shana, Shana explains that people get eaten from existence, between the space of seconds, and it is such a regular occurrence that replacement humans are needed to keep the universe from destabilizing.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Continued use of Spiral Power will eventually lead to an event called the Spiral Nemesis, which will give birth to a super-galaxy that will rip the universe apart.
  • Inuyasha: Just as Sesshoumaru's finally getting used to the idea that Tessaiga was meant for Inuyasha and Tenseiga was meant for him, he learns the truth. The revelation shocks even Inuyasha and his companions, who think Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha's father has been far too cruel. Sesshoumaru takes the news badly, concluding it's proof he was the outcast son and that his father was training Inuyasha to kill him. Tenseiga is merely a cast-off piece of Tessaiga, separated from Tessaiga so that Sesshoumaru could master the Meidou Zangetsuha technique and then transfer it back to Tessaiga, meaning that the attack form he earned due to his compassion for Kagura's death isn't his to keep - it's destined for Inuyasha's use. Sesshoumaru does eventually calm down enough to realise his father's true intention was for him to guide Inuyasha not be killed by him. He therefore decides to sacrifice his claim to both swords forever as part of a Hidden Purpose Test to see if Inuyasha is strong enough to handle the technique. Once he sacrifices his dependence on the two swords, Sesshoumaru is finally able to achieve the level of wisdom and compassion required to unlock the true power his father knew he possessed and finally obtain a sword that is truly his own.
  • In The Secret Agreement, Kyuusai reveals to Yuuichi that he is from a powerful clan that steals other people's life force, and that neither he nor his boyfriend actually love each other, it's just an implanted delusion between predator and prey that makes it easier for Yuuichi to steal Iori's life. Yuuichi is horrified.
  • In Madlax, the fact that a very young Margaret had to kill her Brainwashed and Crazy father Richard when he tried to kill her after a plane crash is a truth so awful... that she created two alternate personalities (Madlax herself and Laetitia) to escape it. And she doesn't admit it to herself until the penultimate episode of the anime.
  • Tripeace: In the chapter with this title we learn that not only did peace-loving Idiot Hero Nana flee from Ares (or possibly Hades) — a group that deliberately incites conflicts because "conflicts will always exist" vs the anti-war TriPeace organization's goal of ending all conflicts forever — he's their founder.
  • Saki:
    • In Saki Achiga-hen, Kirame overhears a conversation between her school's mahjong club president and her best friend that she wasn't chosen to be on the team for her skill, but because she never falls below 0 points, enabling her to stay in the game no matter how strong the vanguard player is, while her teammates recover the points in the following rounds. She doesn't get upset, but is instead happy that someone has a use for her talent.
    • In the main series, Saki's primary goal is to reconnect with her sister; due to an only vaguely glimpsed at event that was most likely related to their parents separating, Teru is refusing to speak with Saki. Saki is quite disturbed to hear, third-hand, that Teru is denying that she has a sister. While Saki expected Teru to say something like that, she wonders if they can ever possibly reconcile.
  • In Girls und Panzer, during the prequel manga, Little Army, Miho learns that her sister Maho, whom she looked up to, won the tournament by firing on the enemy flag tank when it was going to rescue one of her team's tanks. This causes a temporary rift between Miho and Maho when Maho begins acting coldly around Miho around the time of their mother's return, when she's confronted about this, but while their relationship is mended, it causes Miho to realize just what the Nishizumi style expects of those who pursue it, and thus causes her to seek out her own way of tankery.
  • In Berserk, the Awful Truth of the Berserk setting is revealed in the 83rd chapter that was never reprinted because the author thought it gave away too much of the plot: The worst part isn't that God Is Evil, nor is it that You Can't Fight Fate. The Awful Truth is that humanity wouldn't have it any other way. They need an evil "god" to dictate their lives because the alternative is worse: that their suffering is meaningless and they have no one to blame for it but themselves. They needed it so badly that they subconsciously willed it into existence.
    • Theresia, the daughter of the Count, was told that seven years ago that her mother was taken hostage by heretics and killed by them as a human sacrifice when her father refused their demands. This was when her father began to change, and started persecuting his people with no regard for guilt or innocence. The first awful truth comes when she sees her father's true form as an Apostle which he had hidden from her for all those years, which in itself might have been enough to break her. The worst is yet to come, however, as Theresia finds out the truth of what happened to her mother: she betrayed her husband the Count by participating in pagan orgies, and in order to escape from his despair he sacrificed her to the Godhand in exchange for becoming a monster who would never feel pain or grief.
  • Several for the Hero System in Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Every time a Hero uses her Mankai, she gains a physical disability as a sacrifice to the Shinju. Heroes are also caught in a Forever War against the Vertexes — that have destroyed everything on Earth except Shikoku — once recruited.
  • In So I'm a Spider, So What? reaching Level 10 Taboo reveals the forbidden knowledge of the world: It explains how humanity nearly destroyed the world in the past and are now reliant on the eternally suffering Goddess to survive. The skill system recycles souls and their energy to provide skills and XP, distorting the souls in the process. Due to centuries of incompetent management and MA generators continuing to damage the world, newly-born souls are on the verge of collapsing.
  • Vampire Knight: Zero doesn't take the revelation of Yuuki being a pureblood vampire all along rather well.
  • In WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us? it’s eventually revealed that the 17 Beasts were originally human. Or so we were led to believe. It turns out that the Beasts were the original inhabitants of the world who were unwillingly transformed into humans and other races by the extraterrestrial Visitors. The “curse” keeping humans from reverting to their original form simply failed over time, resulting in the Beasts re emerging 500 years prior to the main story. Their anger at what the Visitors had done to their home twisted them into violent monsters with an insatiable urge to destroy all non Beast life, which they viewed as a blight on their once beautiful world.
  • Played for Laughs in My Dad's the Queen of All VTubers?!. Takashi has been fawning over the Virtual Celebrity Kizuke Yai, until one day he walks into his dad's room and finds out that his dad is Kizuke Yai. He wishes he can forget this ever happened, as every time he sees Kizuke Yai now, he can only see his dad's face.
  • In Heavy Object Louisiana Honeysuckle reveals to Qwenthur the truth she discovered on reaching the apex of Object design: The incredible forces unleashed during Object battles have begun disrupting the Earth's axis, which may soon render the planet uninhabitable.

    Comic Books 
  • In the TV series, Connor had already regained the memories of his real life, but in Angel: After the Fall, his personal side effect of being in Hell is remembering everything. EVERYTHING, in crystal clarity. As in, vividly remembering having sex with a woman at the same time you remember her changing your diapers. Plus betrayal of a loving father.
  • In Captain America: Winter Soldier, there's the classic, horrible reveal that the infamous Winter Soldier is Bucky Barnes.
  • In Gotham City Garage, Barbara Gordon is told her sister Kara murdered her father. Upon interrogating a rebel, though, she learns Kara didn't kill anybody and their father actually helped her escape from their hellhole of a city. Barbara sets out to ascertain the truth and discovers her mentor murdered James Gordon and framed her sister. And her father had taken very drastic measures in order to protect his new daughter:
    Barbara: I wish that was true, Kara, I really do, but this goes so much deeper than either of us. They framed you because the truth is insane. If people in The Garden knew...
    Kara: If they knew what?
    Barbara: I... rghh... Dad was working on... a project for Governor Luthor. Something... deep in the Lexes. Top secret. An alien. Luthor wanted it... controlled. He wanted to... harness its power... Gahhhh... I don't know why. But dad... He couldn't let it happen. He hacked his ridealongs. Kept the alien off the grid. Changed her memories. Changed my memories. That was ten years ago. That's the day we became sisters.
  • Supergirl:
    • Demon Spawn Nightflame steals the titular heroine's soul and carries it to a hellish place inhabited by legions of horrible demons called the Innerverse. Then Nightflame reveals that world and its demons are a manifestation of Kara's own evil. As Kara faces a cyclopean, wrinkled demon, she doesn't want to believe it.
      Nightflame: Peer into your soul, Supergirl, and see what you have never faced... your own evil!
      Supergirl: Wha-? This... This thing exists within my own body! No, it can't be! Nothing as evil as all this could be part of me!
      Nightflame: Yes, it is part of you... and of all mortals.
    • In a classic Supergirl story, the titular heroine tells an amnesiac doppelganger of hers that she is a clone.
  • In Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, Abby goes into a Heroic BSoD after realizing that her husband has been possessed by her uncle Anton Arcane. This is exactly as squicky as it sounds.
  • The conclusion of Watchmen: Ozymandias schemed a gigantic plot to have a fake 'alien' kill millions in New York in order to unite humanity against a perceived common enemy and stop nuclear escalation. And after all that, the Doomsday Clock confirms that it only worked temporarily.
  • Enigma features a villain called The Truth who has the power to look someone in the eye and strip away every single comforting lie they tell themselves. Most of them either commit suicide immediately after, or else go on a killing spree.
  • While Wonder Woman uses the lasso of truth to lay the truth bare in ways that do horrify most villains she does so very carefully, when Genocide gets ahold of if it in Wonder Woman (2006) Diana knows that she intends to use it to brutally reveal truths to people that will make them kill themselves.
  • In Kick-Ass, Big Daddy is not an ex-cop whose wife got killed. In fact, he was an accountant whose wife hated him so much that he decided to run off with his baby daughter and start a new life as a superhero.
  • The Incredible Hulk: For the longest time, Bruce Banner was in denial about what really happened to his parents; his mother Rebecca was killed by her abusive husband Brian, and Brian was killed by Bruce himself (by accident) 15 years later when the two got into a physical fight on Rebecca's grave. The Hulk is really just a manifestation of Bruce's guilt and trauma.
  • Leander from Democracy finds out that the reason why Harmodius and Aristogeiton killed Hipparchus was, not because they were sick of the tyranny (as he originally thought), but because they were lovers and he tried to separate them. Needless to say, he didn't take it well.
  • The big thing Skids blocked out in his memory from The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: When he was imprisoned in Grindcore, Skids accepted a deal with the warden to repair the teleport systems in exchange for the lives of 50 prisoners, himself included. Except there were no teleporters, Skids had actually been tricked into repairing a giant incinerator, and was Forced to Watch all of the imprisoned bots burn to death. To really twist the knife, one of those bots was his cellmate Quark, whom he gave up his spot for.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In Child of the Storm, as per usual, there's the fact that Bucky Barnes is the Winter Soldier, to Steve, and to the Soldier himself, the reverse. In Steve's case, his best friend is a lethal Living Legend assassin, currently being controlled by HYDRA. In the Soldier's, he finds out that he's basically been living a lie. Unusually, in the both cases, after a brief Heroic BSoD, it just galvanises them to keep fighting/undermine HYDRA from within. And for a while, it works.
    • In the sequel, Ghosts of the Past, it's revealed that Maddie who everyone - including her - had assumed was an Artificial Human/Clone of Jean Grey raised as a superpowered Tyke Bomb, that she had been created by Sinister. Not so as chapter 9 reveals, with Fury explicitly noting that the Avengers theories about Maddie being a cloned Tyke Bomb are wrong and that the truth is 'much worse': Maddie is in fact Rachel Grey, Jean's twin sister, stolen and replaced the night she was born by Sinister, who was only narrowly thwarted by Strange from taking Jean as well. When she does find out in chapter 14, she's unable to stand, the shock leaving her in a Heroic BSoD which recurs periodically, to one extent or another, throughout the rest of the story.
  • In the Death Note AU Monster L learns, to his horror that before he lost his memories he was Kira's accomplice and lover. Though it's slowly revealed that it's slightly more complicated than that...
  • Destiny Is A Hazy Thing: Kushina learns (from Naruto) that Minato put in a brainwashing function in Naruto's seal that would've turned him into the optimistic (Idiot Hero) messiah we see in canon had the seal not been messed with. Doubly tragic because Kushina thought Naruto was lied to and sided with Minato.
  • Adventure Time fanfic has it with Alex: she's the reason Marceline and Princess Bubblegum hate each other as she started their falling out.
  • The Awful Truth Elly Patterson kept from her family because she feared ostracism in The New Retcons is she has an illegitimate daughter she gave up for adoption. Elizabeth and April took it rather well. Michael and John did not.
    • Michael had an additional Awful Truth he didn't take well. John isn't his biological father.
    • And then Anthony has one. His father killed his mother. He managed to rationalize it though by realizing that it was probably Accidental Murder, since his MO would be to wait until she cheated and stiff her on alimony and child support.
  • Naruto:Asunder; Minato and Kushina are still alive and expect Naruto to be happy about it. They find out he wants nothing to do with them and that their excuses to justify turning him into a jinchuuriki aren't gonna cut it.
  • In Legacy of the Rasengan, Sakura learns what Naruto really thinks about her after she steals something personal from him and he confronts her about it.
    Naruto: "THAT'S THE PROBLEM! YOU DIDN'T THINK! Too busy caught up in your FANTASIES chasing after a teme who doesn't barely give you the time of day, to stop to consider how OTHER PEOPLE will feel when you decide to find some way of IMPRESSING that teme! I'm glad you never went on a date with me! Now I realize that you never were the type of girl I'd have wanted to have a relationship with!"
  • The Danny Phantom/Tales of Symphonia crossover fic Netherworld Nightmare has the Big Bad constantly messing with Danny's head by dropping hints about the Awful Truth Caleb has been hiding for aeons. Caleb is the technical reincarnation of Mithos Yggdrasill, the Big Bad of Tales of Symphonia.
  • In Team 8, Kurenai tells Naruto that no matter what he does and even if he becomes Hokage, there will still be people in the village who will hate him because of the Kyuubi.
  • A few examples crop up in The Lion King Adventures:
    • Hago is Nala's father, as revealed in The Return of Hago.
    • Mufasa and Sarabi have been dead for months after their souls were consumed by alien parasites the Vimelea.
    • Everyone is a character in a story created by the Writer.
  • In The Legend of Total Drama Island, one contestant suffers brain damage after she "dies" and has to be resuscitated, and the other contestants reach an unspoken agreement to keep the victim ignorant of her condition because her symptoms are mild enough to allow this.
  • The awful truth Papa Smurf was trying to keep from Empath until his 150th birthday in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf? Empath is Papa Smurf's only biological son, and Papa Smurf had purposely sent Empath away to Psychelia because he feared how his son would be treated by his fellow Smurfs because of his telepathic and telekinetic powers.
  • In Shatterheart, Syaoran tells Kurogane that his wish enabled Fei Wong Reed's plans, one of which caused the destruction of Suwa and the death of Kurogane's parents in a failed attempt to recruit him. Kurogane gets so angry that he abandons Syaoran so he wouldn't be tempted to harm the boy.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act VI: For several chapters, Mizore and the others try to keep Dark from finding out that Arial, his longtime guardian angel, is a stubborn, temperamental Yandere who is infatuated with him, very nearly killed Mizore in a jealous rage, and stole Mizore's wedding ring right off her finger. They ultimately have no choice but to tell Dark after a Designated Girl Fight between Mizore and Arial ends with Mizore beating Arial within an inch of her life right in front of Dark, and when he finds out, Dark has a major Heroic BSoD. The chapter in which they tell him is fittingly titled "Painful Truth."
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist For Want of a Nail fanfic build your wings on the way down The price Edward paid for Al's soul was his arm and his ignorance. Ed has to live with the fact that alchemy is powered by death, alchemy's darkest abuses and the resources needed to make a Philosopher's Stone. Ed is absolutely horrified by this and is burdened by the truth. He would have kept it a secret if it wasn't for Al pushing the subject.
    • Al is horrified when Ed tells him to the point of wanting to give up alchemy and forget about restoring his body.
  • In Thousand Shinji, The Keeper of Secrets showed Misato that she was attracted to her surrogate son Shinji to torture her.
  • Children of an Elder God: In chapter 22, Asuka demands to know the truth behind her parents' deaths, and Gendo tells her: her mother Kyoko volunteered to get a genetically modified fetus implanted in her womb. Unfortunately the fetus hurt her, and in the resulting chaos, the lab went up in flames, and Asuka’s parents died.
  • In With This Ring, this is how most Martians with the knowledge of their origins regard the matter of being altered by the Guardians.
  • In the The Loud House fanfic Stories and Tales from Dimension 63, Luke and Lars note  learn that not only has their sister has swapped bodies with Lincoln from the canon dimension, but Luke also knows that unlike Lincoln, she doesn't show signs of wanting to go back home anytime soon.
  • Harry Potter eventually figures out in For Love of Magic that, statistically speaking, there's no such thing as Muggleborns. The odds of two parents with no magic having a magic using child are calculated as being roughly ten million to one. In reality, aurors never bother investigating muggle women who've been raped by magicals; instead, they simply obliviate them of the event and drop them off somewhere in the muggle world. So functionally every muggleborn ever was actually a case of Child by Rape.
    • A case of Writers Cannot Do Math as ~130 million children are born each year so one in ten million would result in ~13 "true" muggleborns every single year.
  • In The Raven's Plan, Jon Snow's true heritage as Rhaegar and Lyanna's trueborn son is this for Aliser Thorne and Catelyn Stark. For the former, it means he (a diehard Targareyn loyalist) murdered his rightful king. For the latter, it means she treated him like crap his whole life for absolutely no reason, and that he now has the power and status to make her life a living hell in turn.
  • The Self-Insert Fic Dial has several:
    • Leo Fitz doesn't take the reveal that Grant Ward was always HYDRA well, and one of the first things he asks Mahmoud when he meets him is if the Hercules app made a mistake.
    • Letha delivers this fact to the Maximoff twins about the truth of their employer HYDRA and their grudge against Tony Stark.
      Letha: We need to tell you something, about Strucker. About HYDRA, and their role in Sokovia. Because after all this time being pissed at the blacksmith for making a sword, you've worked with the knight who wielded it.
  • In Weight of the World Silver Eyes make Silver-Eyed Warriors go berserk and attack anyone near them. Attack as in disintegrate them from the limbs inward with their Eyes. Ozpin insists that Yang not tell Ruby the truth but she overhears the conversation.
  • From Kiryuuin Chronicles: What Satsuki finds out from her mother's diary wasn't nice and it causes her Freak Out. Yeah, finding out your mother was forced to marry an abusive asshole because she was pregnant with you can do a number.
  • In A Prize for Three Empires, Carol Danvers is told that a Guardsman whom she killed during the Shi'ar Civil War was her friend Raza's brother. She takes that reveal as well as you'd expect.
  • I Hope You Have Unlimited Text Messaging:
    • Steve grew up believing that his father died in World War I. When he first got out of the ice, S.H.I.E.L.D. gave him a dossier on all his associates — which is how Steve learned he had a seventy-eight year old younger half-sister living in Nevada. His father, meanwhile, did not die in World War I; he actually died in the 50s, shanked by his fellow inmates in prison after they learned he liked to hit his second wife and daughter. This is what led to Steve killing his first punching bag.
    • Tony learns a similarly heartbreaking truth thanks to Steve's suspicion: his aunt Ana Jarvis did not die via a lightbulb replacement attempt gone wrong. Instead, she got stuck in the crossfire of an assassination attempt on Howard Stark, who himself only survived due to an experimental bulletproof vest.
    • Stemming from that, Tony also learns that this was the third of the ten assassination attempts made on Howard throughout his life, with the last (successful) attempt being the Winter Soldier. Considering this was happening when he was a kid and Tony is currently in his forties right now, he's understandably pissed to realize how long it took for him to learn about this, especially since it confirms that his dad was going to die by HYDRA's hands no matter what happened.
  • Common People: In Chapter Twelve, Jason learns that Catherine Todd isn't his biological mother. His actual mother, Sheila Haywood, abandoned him at the hotel Catherine was working at with a note for Bruce. Catherine took Jason with her and raised him herself instead of giving him to Bruce like she was supposed to, and only introduced him to his father when she realized that her inability to take care of him was forcing him into a life of crime — a life he didn't have to live.
  • Dewey basically believes he'd have to face this in the DuckTales (2017) fic "LOST" when he's forced to return to Duckburg after leaving the city three years ago because he was in love with Webby and convinced she didn't feel the same way. He's certain that his old friends and family would all be angry at him for leaving and prefers to avoid them so that he can just imagine they'd be happy he was back rather than face what he believes to be reality (unaware that Webby realised his feelings and that she was in love with him herself after his last goodbye).
  • Ennea Series: The Voices work hard to keep Endeavor's abusive actions from Hawks because they realize learning the truth about his idol could break him. This backfires as he catches on that something is wrong and begins investigating Endeavor himself. He figures out the truth on his own and handles it badly until he resolves to help the Todorokis escape Endeavor.
  • Doctor Ghemor, I Presume?: Julian Bashir refuses to solve his identity crisis as either he would be forced into exile from Deep Space Nine, or he would be stuck with Abusive Parents who refuse to value him. Then he's definitely established as human, and promptly breaks down over the realization the man he happily called his father for two years isn't related to him at all.
  • In On the breeding of Direwolves, Dragons Stags and Lions (rewrite), the truth about Jon Snow's true parentage is this for Catelyn Stark. The realization that she treated the boy like dirt for no real reason at all (plus other issues associated with Ned claiming Jon as his bastard son) is enough to break her and make her ask for a divorce.
  • Blackened Skies: After Chapter 1 closes with Chiaki showing her a video indicating that she didn't actually kill Rantarou, Kaede fears that they're being set up for one of these. Monokuma did announce that one of the videos was fake, after all, and if they let themselves believe otherwise, they can then be blindsided by a painful reality. On the other hand, if the video is real, then it means that she was successfully framed by the mastermind, and their game could have ended much sooner if they hadn't fallen for it. Which is a painful possibility in its own right.
  • In The Varangian Guard, a young Magnus Chase is raised at Camp Half-Blood and quickly grows to love the place and the friends he finds there. So when several hints about him probably belonging to a rival pantheon start to emerge, he's rightfully devastated.

    Films — Animation 
  • ParaNorman: After an hour of being essentially an action-comedy, it is revealed that the Witch is actually a young girl named Agatha Prenderghast, who was wrongfully executed by the townsfolk 300 years ago, after which the movie takes on a significantly more somber and melancholic tone.
  • In The Prince of Egypt, Moses sees his biological brother and sister in the Hebrew village, but he barely recognizes them. Miriam tells him the truth about his heritage, but Moses refuses to believe it. Miriam then sings the lullaby her mother sang to Moses when he was a baby. Moses recognizes it and begins to wonder about his identity. He finds out about the truth about his foster father via a dream he had and the hieroglyphic painting that proves it. His father committed genocide on all the newborn Hebrew boys by having his guards dump them in the crocodile-infested Nile river. Pharaoh Seti comes to Moses and tells him he did it because he feared the Hebrews would rebel against him and were growing too numerous in population.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Babe, the piglet All-Loving Hero finds out the horrible truth that pigs are kept by humans to be eaten, and his mother and all his siblings probably had this fate, and it causes him to suffer a nearly fatal Heroic BSoD.
  • Christopher Nolan movies are fond of this trope:
    • The big secret of Memento is that Leonard has essentially become a Serial Killer because his original vengeance against his wife's murderer didn't bring him the needed closure, and thus he is rewriting his own history just to give himself a meaning in life.
    • Batman and Gordon decide at the end of The Dark Knight not to let the public know about Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face so that the people of Gotham do not lose hope. Unfortunately, this Awful Truth gets revealed by Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
    • In Interstellar, it turns out that Professor Brand's Plan A — mass evacuation of the human race and establishing space colonies — is a sham, and that his true plan is Plan B — use the frozen human ova aboard the Endurance to populate a new world beyond the wormhole and leave Earth's population to die. Brand could not solve the gravity problem that made Plan A unfeasible, and just gave up. Murph would eventually solve it, resulting in humanity's salvation.
  • A large part of the premise of The Matrix. And thanks to the technology available, they can actually unlearn the awful truth.
  • Most famously invoked by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men:
    Col. Jessep: You want answers?
    Kaffee: I want the truth!
    Col. Jessep: You can't handle the truth!
  • NSA agent Patellis' excuse for their secrecy in The Forgotten.
    Ash Correll: Tell us the truth.
    Agent Patellis: The truth? The goddamn truth won't fit in your brain.
  • The Men in Black films:
    • Agent J asks Agent K why he didn't tell him that his new girlfriend was the key to stopping an interstellar war and had to leave. K's response: "Would you have let her go?"
    • On a larger scale, this was part of the point of the Masquerade in the first place. Something about constant threat of The End of the World as We Know It being a bit much for most people to handle.
    • And in the original movie there was this gem from K:
      K: There's always an alien battle cruiser, or a Corellian death ray, or an intergalactic plague intended to wipe out life on this miserable little planet. The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do. Not. Know about it!
  • In the Korean movie Oldboy (2003), Dae-su is kidnapped, imprisoned for 15 years, and then released with no explanation. After finding and confronting the man responsible, Dae-su finds out the Awful Truth isn't "Why he was imprisoned" but "Why he was released." He goes mad from the revelation and cuts his own tongue off with scissors.
  • Soylent Green: Soylent Green is made of people. The oceans are dead, so there's actually no other food left to feed the people.
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back: Luke finally learns the truth about what happened to his father — namely that he is Darth Vader, right hand of the Emperor, having fallen from grace as a Jedi Knight and embraced the Dark Side of the Force. This one especially stings because Luke originally became The Hero to emulate his father.
  • In Self/Less, the process of shedding doesn't use artificially-grown bodies. The bodies customers are transferred to actually were pre-existing people, with lives and families. Damien learns that he's now living in the body of a man who died for his family. Madeline learns that her husband let himself die so their daughter can live, and the man she thought was her husband is a total stranger. This truth is kept from people undergoing the process so they aren't aware of the ethical issues, nor of the fact that not taking the medication and letting their minds fade away will let the original inhabitants of the body return.
  • In The Big Short, even after investing heavily in the collapse of the American economy, Mark Baum doesn't realize until witnessing firsthand just how corrupt, stupid and deeply screwed the entire financial system is.
  • In Crooklyn, after spending the summer with Aunt Song and her family, Troy finds out that her mother, Carolyn, is sick with cancer, asking, "Why didn't anyone tell me?"

    Light Novel 
  • Tsuyokute New Saga: Many of Kail's friends from his previous timeline turn out to have had problems in their pasts that he was never aware of that painfully clash with his memories of them. Zentos was responsible for assassinating the princess, Maizar is plotting to use him for his own purposes, Minagi can't handle her money and went off on her own with little experience as an assassin (which to be fair in the original timeline worked out but only due to her natural talent and a TON of luck which is lampshaded in story as irresponsible), Luctera was deathly ill for a long time with a complicated love life involving a dark elf that resulted in a child to boot, and Kail's master and Seren's mother Lelia worships the universe's Goddess of Darkness. Outside of his circle of friends King Remonas, who Kail though was an good ruler, is revealed to have caused most of the problems the human race faced diplomatically, leading up to the demon invasion.

  • In All Our Yesterdays, Marina is devastated to learn that James, who she loves, becomes a monster. The James in the present is similarly horrified, especially when he learns his future self justifies killing his own brother.
  • Animorphs
    • A major motif in this series is the fact that there are some things that you just can't unlearn. The kids can't, although they desperately want to, forget about the Yeerks and go on living their lives, because they now know they'd be dooming the entire planet to enslavement; to quote a Megamorphs back cover, "You can't close your eyes to the truth you know is out there".
    • Subverted in one instance, when Jake strikes a deal with Crayak to return them to the moment where they chose not to walk through the construction site (where they met Elfangor and learned of the invasion). The kids walked home the safe way and consequently they had no knowledge of the Yeerks or the invasion. But, true to the theme of the series, the kids eventually have to confront the reality they didn't even know was there (made even cooler because now they don't have any powers).
  • In the dénouement of Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday, Derek's cousin Simon and his father finally tell him that his mother died of cancer, and that she wanted it kept from him (Derek was seven at the time) because the disease and its treatment had a drastic effect on her appearance. The Earl says: "She lost her hair, her fingernails, her teeth. Her skin turned gray, her body shriveled. You were her darling child, the only one she would ever have.. She didn't want you to remember her that way. She wouldn't let me tell you...." Derek grew up believing his father had alienated his mother ("My mother spent the last year of her life in London because my father was a heartless swine. I vowed then and there that I would never be like him."). He took the dismissal of his beloved nanny who showed signs of insanity and was having an affair with the Earl's valet as further evidence of his father's cruel nature, and he changed his name and avoided his father for twenty years.
  • In H. Beam Piper's novel The Cosmic Computer, the rumored Master Computer that had directed strategy in a recent war is found. Its existence had been covered up because it had predicted that 1)The Federation was irreversibly decaying and 2)widespread knowledge of the previous prediction would make the collapse much faster and more severe.
  • The Dark Tower
    • In The Gunslinger, the first novel of The Dark Tower, when the Walter makes the town drunk return from the dead, Walter says "If you tell him the number 19, he will tell you what lies beyond death." When one woman does this, despite Roland's urging, she Goes Mad From The Revelation and begs Roland to kill her.
    • In the final book, Roland learns one about himself: He's already tried and failed in his quest countless times, and is doomed to start it all over again. There's some hope that the next time, he might actually succeed.
  • German philosopher Oswald Spengler's non-fiction book The Decline of the West is full of them and culminates in "optimism is cowardice".
  • In The Dresden Files, this is played in several different ways.
    • First, anytime Harry has to let people in on the masquerade, he tells them straight up that they're probably never going to sleep well again.
    • When Harry confronts his mentor, Ebenezar, and Ebenezar tells Harry that he's the Blackstaff. He sees it as a hypocrisy that the man who took him in and taught him about what it means to truly respect and live by the Laws of Magic is the personal assassin of the White Council and has free range to break the Laws when he sees fit.
    • Used with Murphy, as that's what led to his realization that some times people need to be told the truth. For the first three books, she's wary of him because he's so ambiguous all the time and nearly gets herself killed on a number of occasions — and she's always almost-arresting Harry. He finally explains everything to her in Summer Knight, which leads to a much closer friendship and a couple levels of badass on Murphy's part.
    • In Changes Harry receives a very harsh truth when he goes to Queen Mab, Fae Queen of the Winter Court, a dangerous evil being who would give tutorials to all the villains of literature. He needs her aid and support on his quest to save his kidnapped daughter who he just learned existed not a few days ago. Her price is for Harry to kill a man who betrayed her and in turn, tormented him to the point of driving the murderous rapist to insanity, and to take his place as Winter Knight and now lays defenseless on a stretcher. When Harry hesitates at this request, Mab shows him a live image of the one he needs to save in horrific conditions. She swears on her name and power this image is the truth and actual current condition of the person, and, as she Cannot Tell a Lie, Harry believes her. He then wonders if this isn't some false manipulation, as it is the complete truth, then it could be enlightenment.
  • At the end of Ender's Game, the revelation that Ender was not playing a game but committing genocide.
  • Forgotten Realms: Sort of inverted in Silverfall: mentor desperately wishes her [in]subordinate could understand.
    Qilue: If you doubt me, curl yourself around the Ladystone to sleep tonight, pray to Eilistraee for judgment upon me, and learn your answer. [...] Yes, do that. [...] Learn the truth.
    Thalaera: Will I be maimed?
    Qilue: Hurt, perhaps; maimed, no.
    Thalaera: Hurt?
    Qilue: Truths have sharp edges. Learning the truth often hurts.
  • In For Love of Evil, the demon Lilith does a magnificent job corrupting Parry through lust and uses these to destroy his ego, such as "You will do what we need, solely because of your animal lust. And you will rue this one decision the rest of your days."
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when Harry asks Dumbledore why Voldemort wanted to kill him in the first place, Dumbledore's response is more or less that Harry is not yet ready to hear the Awful Truth, but at least makes clear that he has the intentions to tell him some day. Intentions being the key word here, as Dumbledore puts this off until the fifth book and only tells Harry then because Dumbledore's keeping the truth from Harry backfired rather badly, leading to Sirius's death. Dumbledore, to his credit, does at least acknowledge that this was pretty dumb. This isn't the only instance, but probably the most significant as much of the plot revolves around adults trying to protect Harry from the awful truth.
    • This also plays a rather large role in the third book. First with Cornelius Fudge's insistence that no one tell Harry that Sirius Black is out to get them because it might scare him. Proving that not all adults are complete idiots, Mr. Weasley planned on telling Harry anyway, telling Harry to be careful and warns him not to go looking for Black. But he also falls into this trope by refusing to answer when Harry asks why would he be stupid enough to looking for someone who wants to kill him. Harry finds out anyway, but proves Mr. Weasley's fears correct because the Awful Truth in fact makes him want to kill Black. However, in this case, the Awful Truth isn't even the Truth at all because Peter Pettigrew, not Sirius Black is responsible for his parents deaths and Sirius escaped Azkaban to kill Peter Pettigrew, not Harry.
    • The Awful Truth is in fact so awful that Dumbledore only reveals it in fragments; first, at the end of Order Of The Phoenix, he tells 15-year old Harry he'll have to kill Voldemort personally. Then, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he tells Harry that Voldemort is immortal unless five random objects, each anywhere in the world, are destroyed. Finally, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry learns that he, himself, is actually the sixth object (yep, there is one bonus) that need to be destroyed. In other words, he has to let Voldemort kill him, or Voldemort will remain invincible. He gets better, but as he didn't know that, it was still pretty Awful. This was all necessary for Dumbledore's plan to work. In the first place, he wasn't even sure that Harry would survive, though he had guessed Harry might due to events in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and as he himself has said, his guesses are usually right. But even if he had hard evidence that Harry would be able to survive, he couldn't have told him, because if Harry didn't think he was going to die, how could he sacrifice himself for everyone in the castle? So in this case, it was more revealing the Awful Truth while hiding the Wonderful Truth that accompanied it.
  • Hurog: In Dragon Bones, local Friendly Ghost and Genius Loci Oreg tells Ward pretty early on that one of Ward's ancestors had him whipped as punishment for writing a curse/prophecy on the wall, after said ancestors betrayed the dragons. Ward always knew that he had unsavoury ancestors, so he can cope with that. However, later on, he accidentally, while Oreg suffers from a flashback, learns that the ancestor Ward hero-worshipped and wanted to be like was the very same one who betrayed the dragons and tortured Oreg. It is likely that Oreg intentionally sheltered Ward from that awful truth.
  • Catherine Asaro's The Misted Cliffs: In the Backstory, Dancer left her husband with her son to return to her abusive father, who battered both her and her son, Cobalt. When he was grown, Cobalt rescued his father and found him to be a loving and affectionate man, but his mother refuses to explain. At the end of the book, Dancer explains to her son's wife, Mel, that there is reason to think that her son is not her husband's but his half-brother's child, and under the law, they would have executed her and her lover and her son. And they can not tell Cobalt because it would break him.
    • In The Dawn Star, Cobalt's dying grandfather tells him the secret. Throughout the book, Mel is terrified that the grandfather guessed and told him. At the end, Cobalt reveals that he had said that Dancer was not, in fact, his daughter.
  • There are two awful truths in The Night Gardener:
    • The tree and its malevolent guardian are causing the Windsors (and Molly) to waste away, and the only way to deal with it is to stop hoping things will get better and get away from it (or destroy it).
    • Molly and Kip's parents put them in the last lifeboat after the crew of the ship they had booked passage on left them to die in the middle of a storm. Most likely they drowned when the ship went down. Molly personally considers this an awful truth — she knows the likelihood of it from the beginning, but her brother was feverish when it happened and didn't see it, and she couldn't bear to tell him. Then the tree begins giving her letters from them...
  • Even aside from the substantial amount of philosophical musings on this trope (where it is nearly referenced by name), Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch (Series) has more than its fair share of examples. Early on, for instance, the protagonist Anton runs into a seemingly random cursed woman on the metro who he tries to help out. Soon, the events at the beginning of the plot which seemed to be important are discarded to focus on her. In the end, however, it turns out that everything that happened was part of a plot to recruit the woman, who turns out to be a future Great Sorceress, that is a magician of immense power, into the Night Watch. Including the (twice!) attempted murder of a child, and the possible deaths of every member of the Night Watch in Moscow.
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", a child is brutally tortured to maintain the prosperity of the eponymous city. At some point in their lives every citizen of Omelas sees the child and learns of the connection between the child's suffering and the city's well being. The title refers to the people who can't live with the Awful Truth anymore and leave Omelas forever.
  • In the Poseidon's Children trilogy by Alastair Reynolds, mankind finds the Mandala, a vast Big Dumb Object on the surface of a distant world built by some unknown Pre Cursors. In the final book of the trilogy, it is revealed to be part of a transport system, centered on a much larger big dumb object that blasts anything approaching that lacks sapience. On the surface of the object, one can find out why the precursors aren't there with a soul-crushing warning: They killed themselves because nothing matters. The universe exists in a false vacuum state, and when the meta-stability event inevitably occurs, nothing will survive the energy state transition; every great work, deed and atrocity will be wiped from existence as the new laws of physics spreads at the speed of light. It takes all of the characters' willpower to simply continue existing with that fact.
  • Secrets Not Meant to be Kept: In this novel, the protagonist, seventeen-year-old Adri, has a three-year-old sister, Becky, who attends Treehouse, a preschool with a sterling reputation, which Adri herself attended as a toddler. Over the course of the novel, as Becky's behavior changes and Adri experiences disturbing flashbacks, Adri comes to realize that Treehouse is a toddler sex ring, where preschoolers — including Adri and now Becky — have been molested and exploited for child pornography for nearly twenty years.
  • In Shadow of the Hegemon, Bean learns from a posthumous letter the Awful Truth about his own birth: That his increased intellect has a side effect in that he will never ever stop growing, and will ultimately die young of the Square-Cube Law because either his heart will not be able to maintain a body his size or his huge body will crush his spine.
  • In the Spellsinger spinoff Son of Spellsinger, the Grand Veritable is a magical, sentient lie detector that can not stop declaring the truth. Fun ensues as it wrecks relationships across the Bellwoods.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Overlapped with You Do NOT Want To Know in the X-Wing Series. When Donos found out, his first impulse, which he acted on, was to try to kill Lara. And anyone else in the way.
    • Galaxy of Fear has the revelation about Hoole, who for the first several books has some secret which his niece and nephew only get to see the edges of. When Tash and Zak find out what he was hiding, they rage at and abandon him, though they come back later.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • In The Warrior's Apprentice, Elena searches for her long lost mother. She finally learns her mother's identity when said mother takes bloody revenge on Elena's father for repeatedly raping her when she was a prisoner of war.
    • The main plot of The Vor Game is triggered by Gregor learning that his late father was a rapist and murderer.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 book Grey Knights, renegade inquisitor Valinov seems to refer to Chaos as the Awful Truth:
    'There is not enough room in your head to under­stand what I could tell you. I have seen the forces that really hold this universe together, and it isn't your Emperor. All you Imperial vermin devote your lives to crushing the spirits of mankind until not one man or woman could survive knowing the truth.'
    • The Grey Knights themselves are an example. Any average Imperial citizen who learns of their existence is killed out of hand. Even Space Marines who learn about the Knights without authorization are mind-scrubbed to remove the truth.
  • In the The Wheel of Time, members of the Aiel who either wish to become Clan Chiefs or have the potential to be Wise Ones (sometimes against their wishes) must go to the somewhat cursed city of Rhuidean to learn the history of their people. A distressing number of entrants are unable to handle the knowledge that their feared, mighty, proud, and disciplined culture are not the "real" Aiel, and are in fact, descendants of a splinter group who were exiled by the "real" Aiel for violating their Actual Pacifist way of life, and either commit suicide outright or lethally mutilate themselves. Rand is not very affected by these visions because he never really identified as an Aiel, and is more intrigued and saddened by his new knowledge of who he originally thought was a race of almost enviably unassailable and unflappable warriors.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 has more than a few:
    • Captain Sheridan believes his wife Anna died on an expedition to Z'Ha'Dum. She didn't, but it probably would have been better if she had.
    • Londo Mollari believes that his lover was poisoned by Lord Refa. Mr. Morden arranged Adira's murder to drive Londo back into the Shadows' employ
    • G'Kar believes that the Security Council was practicing Head-in-the-Sand Management when they refused to believe his claims that the Shadows had returned. He was actually the last to know, and they all had their own reasons to feign ignorance. His homeworld was conquered because nobody would help fight off the Shadow-backed Centauri invasion.
  • Battlestar Galactica plays this straight when Kara attempts to figure out how she came back from the dead and when, in the Season 3 finale, Colonel Tigh keeps trying to figure out what the Terrible Ticking is all about. Turns out, they did not want to know. They got better. Averted when Kara finally discovers the meaning of the prophecy that she will "lead them all to their end."
  • Dexter is essentially a Thirty Awful Truth Pileup, both for the eponymous character and those close to him. In Season 1 he discovers that the reason he is being singled out by the Ice Truck Killer is that the two are brothers. Which wouldn't be terrible in and of itself, but it comes with the realization that Harry Morgan didn't quite tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth: Dexter watched his mother die. Also, Harry's a liar. The Big Bads of Seasons 2 and 3 get awful truth reveals, usually coinciding with their crossing of the Moral Event Horizon. In Season 4, Debra finally finds out the truth about Harry.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Beast Below": All subjects of Starship UK are required to "vote" when they turn 16 and every five years thereafter. They are taken to a room where they're shown a video, then allowed to either protest, or forget that their civilization is Powered by a Forsaken Space Whale. Everyone seems to choose the mind wipe, and the few that do protest are fed to the star whale. Queen Elizabeth X has her own version of the vote: continue to control the star whale (and forgetting that she did so) or "abdicate", freeing the star whale and presumably dooming her people. What she didn't realize, but Amy does, is that the star whale volunteered to help them; when Amy gets Liz Ten to abdicate, the star whale starts going faster.
    • Series 12 premiere "Spyfall" ends on The Reveal that the Master discovered a long-buried truth about the history and origin of the Time Lords that horrified him so badly that he wiped the other Time Lords out and razed Gallifrey. This sets up the season's Story Arc, as the Doctor has to find out what exactly it is the Master knows, since he's certainly not explaining.
  • The eponymous event in The Event is apparently a truth so awful that the CIA director didn't want to tell the president, much less the viewers.
    Director Sterling: Information about this has always been on a "need to know" basis.
    President Martinez: I'm the president. I need to know!
  • Game of Thrones:
    • When Bran realizes his accidental warging of Hodor in the past lobotomized Hodor of higher thought processes, he is horrified and can't bring himself to look away for the rest of the episode.
    • Daenerys learning from Ser Barristan and later Tyrion that her father was really the bad guy during the "War of the Usurper". She takes a while to come to terms with it:
      Daenerys: I know what my father was, what he did. I know that the Mad King earned his name.
    • Jon learns perhaps the biggest one in Season 8. Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark were his parents. That means that a) Ned Stark, the father he looked up for all his life was actually his uncle, b) he dealt with his Bastard Angst for all his life but he wasn't a bastard actually, c) his mother was Dead All Along and buried under his feet, d) the woman he loves is actually his aunt. D'oh.
  • Poor, poor Phillip of Kamen Rider Double. First he found out that his family is really the mafia providing people the Transformation Trinkets needed to transform into the Monsters of the Week, then he found out that he's Dead All Along.
    • Terui Ryu finds out that the person who gave him the gear needed for him to be Kamen Rider Accel also gave the Weather Memory to Isaka, the man who killed his family. Then he finds out why she did that.
  • The Japanese drama Mendol Ikemen has an outright weird one. The manager who has presumably until episode 11 been a lesbian is actually a guy.
  • King Uther's refusal to tell Arthur the truth about his magical birth and the death of his mother in Merlin. Arthur seemed to find out in the episode "Sins of the Father", and promptly tried to kill Uther - partly for being indirectly responsible for his mother's death, but mostly for starting the Purge and painting magic as evil not out of genuine conviction but hypocritical revenge. The only reason he didn't kill Uther is because he came to believe Merlin's statement that Morgause lied to him completely instead of only partially.
    • Morgana revealing herself as the traitor in season 3 is such an Awful Truth that Uther never fully recovers.
  • Supernatural: The finale to Season 4 is a definite example of this: Dean learns that the "Upper Management" of Heaven has no intention of stopping Lucifer's return. In fact, they want the Apocalypse to happen so that they can finally destroy Lucifer once and for all (which will also lead to the deaths of billions of innocent people who get caught in the crossfire, but it's not like they really give a damn about that part). Made worse in Season 5 when the Winchesters realize their whole family was engineered for them to be the perfect vessels and all tragedies that happened were because of an angelic-driven destiny.
  • The 80's revival of The Twilight Zone did an episode titled "The Need To Know", in which this trope is deployed; a man returns to his small town bearing the Truth of Existence, a short phrase which drives anyone who hears it instantly insane.
  • This is a major plot point of The X-Files. The tagline for the show is "the truth is out there", and Mulder spends nearly a decade trying to uncover it. When he does, he finds out why it's been kept hidden from society for sixty years. He was reluctant to even tell Scully, as the Truth is aliens are invading the world in 2012 to colonize it, and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.
    • Subverted earlier with the truth about his sister, Samantha. The quest to find his sister was the reason Mulder got started on the X-Files, and a when not trying to find out The Truth, he is trying to find out what happened to her. After an extremely confusing plotline, we find out Samantha died in her early teens after years of medical experimentation. It is classified as an awful truth, but Mulder is simply satisfied to finally know what happened to her. The episode is aptly named "Closure", and when Scully asks him at the end of the episode how he is dealing with it, he replies "I'm free."
  • War of the Worlds (2019): Sacha's paternity is one for him. He's actually the result of his mother being raped by her brother.

    Music Videos 
  • The music video for the song "Just" by Radiohead. A man lies down in the middle of the street, refusing to get up or tell anyone why, because if they knew, they would do the same. He does and they do.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The fact that the New World of Darkness is, well, a World of Darkness is a secret desperately kept from ordinary humans in the eponymous setting. It's an odd example, though, because the books state that a large part of why all the separate Masquerades are in place is for self-preservation: if all of humanity knew the truth, humanity would fight and the supernaturals would lose. The Hunters cause enough problems as it is.
  • BattleTech: As the Inner Sphere is getting mauled by the technologically superior Clans some believe that the descendants of General Kerensky's Star League Defense Forces (who fled into unknown space centuries ago to avoid getting caught in a civil war and being forced to fight those they swore to protect) will come back to assist them in their darkest hour. A certain mercenary leader... refutes this theory.
    Jaime Wolf: "Don't you see? Kerensky's people have returned. They are the Clans.
  • Warhammer 40,000. Hoo boy... let's just say that the Imperium has a good reason for its proverb "Ignorance is a virtue."
    • Chaos is the prime example of the Awful Truth. The Inquisition is quite willing to sterilize and relocate anyone who might have learned about it to forced labor camps for the rest of their lives. If this isn't practical, the Inquisition will just kill everyone. This policy can be applied to entire worlds with billions of people on them, and is still considered the humane solution compared to what might happen otherwise.
    • Speaking of Chaos: A very large part of the Imperial Creed (everything about the Emperor being a God) was actually written by Lorgar, the Primarch who wanted to worship the Emperor (who'd made atheism the state religion and was very unhappy to learn of Lorgar's teachings) and was the first to fall to Chaos (when it was pointed out there were other gods all too happy to bestow blessings on their worshippers).
    • Roboute Guilliman was one of the few surviving (sort of: he was trapped in stasis) Primarchs, later revived by the Eldar. Not only did he take some getting used to the craptastic state of the Imperium, he went to Terra to meet the Emperor where he realized the Master of Mankind saw him and his brother Primarchs as nothing more than a tool (as opposed to a son). Despite this, Guilliman does what he can to fight for the Emperor's ideals.
    • The Tau's methods of FTL Travel are much slower than Imperials, leaving them blissfuly unaware of just how small their empire is, while the Imperium has trillions of people on billions of planets. They also have no knowledge of the Warp and so believe humans tales of daemons are just madness (to be fair, most Chaos followers are Axe-Crazy) or that daemons are yet another hostile alien to be removed in the name of the Greater Good. Commander Farsight discovered the Ethereals are hiding the Tau's relative weakness from the general population, but instead of rebelling, went into self-imposed exile along with his followers.
    • One formerly Imperial planet was colonized millenia ago but has been forgotten about since, but the inhabitants believe the Emperor will one day return to them and lead them to a new golden age. Chaos troops take sadistic glee in kidnapping them and forcibly showing them just how insignificant and uncared about they are.

  • In Oedipus Rex, the title character is warned by the soothsayer Tiresias that he really doesn't want to know the truth (namely, that he murdered his father on the road and then married his mother) but tragic pride gives Oedipus the persistence to find out. When he finally does learn the truth, it's enough to make him blind himself. Said mother figures it out before he does and promptly hangs herself.

    Video Games 
  • In Bastion, Zulf was an ambassador of the Ura in Caelondia before the Calamity, and was working in an apparently successful effort to promote peace between the two peoples. He was also Happily Married, but then the Calamity happened, which killed his wife and all but destroyed Caelondia. He was almost Driven to Suicide after The End of the World as We Know It, but then you come along, and you and Rucks give him some hope that you might be able to fix things. But then he finds Zia's father's journal, which fleshes out the Calamity's true purpose. The Caelondians built it as a weapon of mass destruction with which to wipe out his people, meaning all of his past work promoting peace was effectively useless. He also finds out that Rucks was one of the people spearheading the project. He promptly flips his shit and does a Face–Heel Turn.
  • BlazBlue centers the development and deconstruction of Noel Vermillion around this trope during Continuum Shift. During her encounter with Terumi in Desperation, Noel goes berserk after realizing he used and tormented Tsubaki, voluntarily lifting the seal on Bolverk with the intention of obliterating him. After feeding off her hatred and pushing her to her limit, Terumi feeds her the history of the Prime Field Devices in graphic detail - up to and including that she is one of them. The relentless input is too much for her to bear, and she promptly breaks down, left prone for tempering into Mu-12.
    • In a surprising use of this trope in a reconstruction, Slight Hope ends with a double serving of it. In addition to learning that Noel is a Prime Field Device amidst a graveyard of her 'predecessors', Makoto learns from Rachel in the very next sentence that beastkin like her were also made by human hands. Unlike Noel, however, Makoto does not break, and in fact uses the experience to strengthen her resolve to save her friends.
  • Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway: You remember that scene in the first game, where a distraught Leggett essentially killed himself by firing at an enemy tank with a pistol while screaming "TAKE ME!!!" until he got blown up? Turns out that Baker indirectly caused that when he attempted to protect Leggett from the others by telling him to keep the secret that Leggett was responsible for Allen's and Garnett's deaths when he caused that fight that alerted the enemy patrol, since the other squad members may have tried to kill Leggett for causing the deaths. The burden of keeping the secret, coupled with the fact that Leggett's telling no one about it made the other squad members think that he hid in the bushes like a coward while Allen and Garnett died, therefore making them hate him anyways, was too much for the poor guy, which is why he charged the tank in the first place.
  • Corpse Party: Naomi is already in bad shape from Seiko's suicide... Then she finds out that Seiko didn't commit suicide, Naomi herself killed her. We later find out that it was only Seiko's text that kept Naomi from crossing the Despair Event Horizon.
  • In CROSS†CHANNEL, this is how Taichi finally breaks Youko down. The awful part wasn't the fact that they killed 14 people at the Shinkawa mansion, it was the fact that Youko didn't kill a single one of them.
  • In Diablo III, Templars of the Templar Order are convicted criminals who are tortured to "cleanse" them of their sins and then mind-wiped so that they can be turned into weapons against the darkness with purpose and clarity. When Kormac, your follower who hails from this order, comes across the journals of Jondar, a turncoat Templar who you help him kill when you recruit him, and reads the "key words" that act to restore his memory, the Awful Truth is revealed. It turns out the Order doesn't really give a damn about the guilt or innocence of its initiates, and will gladly pile false sins upon an innocent, as they did to both Kormac and Jondar, if they deem him to be a worthy asset to the Order.
    • And then it all got worse. It turns out that the real reason Adria wants the souls of all seven of the Great Evils put into the Black Soulstone isn't so that she can destroy them all forever in vengeance for what happened to Tristram — it's because Adria pledged herself to Diablo's service long ago and seeks to bring about the rebirth of her master as the Prime Evil, the embodiment of all seven of the Great Evils in one being, in accordance with Diablo's grand plan. And the vessel that she uses to bring about this rebirth? Her own daughter Leah, whose true father turns out to be none other than Diablo himself by way of the Dark Wanderer, a.k.a. the Warrior from the very first game who got himself possessed by Diablo after sticking the fragment of the demon lord's soulstone into his head.
  • Dino Crisis has an ending path where the team's true objective of their mission is thrown into the open. Apprehending Dr. Kirk was never the team's objective at all. Gail reveals that their true mission is to recover Kirk's research data on the Third Energy so that the government can use it as a weapon before anyone else can. As Gail puts it, securing Kirk was "just a bonus". Regina is understanbly upset and asks why Gail never told them anything. Gail replies that the top officials behind the mission thought Regina and Rick were too soft to accept such a mission, thus Gail was given the true mission to carry out himself. He kept the truth from Regina and Rick because he feared they wouldn't be able to handle the nature of their mission and would have likely refused to go along with it.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The player character and their companions are chosen by the Gods to become the next Divine, so they don't take well to the reveal that the Gods are Abusive Precursors who created the mortal races to devour the souls of the dead. Moreover, the Gods betrayed their own kin and banished them from the world, twisting them into the Voidwoken that now threaten all life.
  • In Dragon Age, the Grey Wardens are all doomed to become Ghouls. Their variation of the Taint just takes a lot longer to change them than the normal version. The reason Grey Wardens are the only ones who can slay the Archdemons and end Blights? An Archdemon can resurrect itself by transferring its soul to the nearest Tainted being, which is normally a soulless Darkspawn. If that being happens to be a Warden instead, the soul of the Warden and the Archdemon will destroy each other. The Wardens don't tell anyone these secrets until after they join the order, since no one in their right mind would join them if they knew.
    • Something similar happens with the origin of golems. It's not just that they are the souls of dwarves encased in molten lyrium while still alive, although that's bad enough; it's that the control rods only came about when Caridin's King was having innocents conscripted and forged into golems. At least the golem you can get as a DLC party member was a volunteer.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition reveals several awful truths, most being about elven history:
      • A recurring story is how the original elven homeland was destroyed by the Tevinter Imperium. It was not. A survivor of that time reveals that the elves destroyed themselves in a civil war. Tevinter just enslaved the survivors out of opportunism. The vallaslin? The markings Dalish elves wear as a mark of adulthood? Arlathan nobles put them on their slaves as tribute to the nobles' patron gods. Last, the elves say that their gods, including Mythal, were imprisoned by Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf. The truth is that Mythal and Fen'Harel were and remain good friends. Mythal was betrayed and murdered by someone else and her remains possessed Flemeth, who Mythal saw as a kindred spirit. Trespasser reveals that their "gods" were just a bunch of very powerful mages who let that power go to their heads and that they were the ones who killed Mythal because she tried to get them to stop abusing their power. Fen'Harel only sealed them away to stop the madness, and in the process stripped the entire elven race of their magic.
      • A major cause of the Mage-Templar War was Templars abusing mages, and their usage of the Rite of Tranquility (which turns mages into emotionless husks unable to use magic) fueling the conflict. The Inquisitor and Cassandra later learn that the original Inquisition created the Rite and their successors, the Seekers of Truth, knew how to cure it for centuries but kept it secret all this time.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Experienced Shell-Shocked Veteran Auron from Final Fantasy X intentionally keeps the truth regarding the summoners' journey for the Final Aeon, that it is an ultimately futile effort causing much unneeded sacrifice, from the the rest of the characters. When they finally figure it out on their own and demand an explanation from Auron about this, he simply responds, "Would that have stopped you?''
      • The less-obvious reasoning behind this masquerade is that Auron simply saying "Hey, killing Sin the traditional way just perpetuates the circle of violence" wouldn't be enough to change anything, and would more likely result in the party accepting the situation. By only revealing certain key bits of information as the journey continued, Auron was able to direct them on the path he tried to take before: the rejection of tradition and an attempt at a new world. Almost Magnificent Bastard levels, when you think about it.
      • Besides, indiscreet revelations of the Awful Truth behind Spira can backfire spectacularly. Look at what happened to Seymour.
      • He actually outright states that Jecht turned into Sin very early on but it doesn't take because he doesn't explain the story behind it.
      • Before this, the entire rest the party takes quite a long time to reveal to Tidus that Yuna's journey as a summoner is intended to end with her death summoning the Final Aeon. Understandably, Tidus doesn't take it well.
      Wakka: We weren't hiding it!
      Lulu: It was just... too hard to say.
      • Tidus in turn doesn't reveal the Awful Truth he learned at the Fayth Cluster to the rest of the party until right before the final battle: that defeating their opponent Yu Yevon will make Tidus disappear, since Tidus is part of Yu Yevon's Summoning of Dream Zanarkand, and killing Yu Yevon will end the Summoning.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV, the nation of Ishgard has been part of the Dragonsong War for over a thousand years, fighting against the wrathful Nidhogg and the Dravanian Horde with all of their being to protect their home and avenge their fallen founder King Thordan. In seeking help from the benign dragon Hraesvelgr, the Ishgardians learn the true origins of the Dragonsong War, uprooting their entire society. That man and dragon had lived together in peace for two hundred years, and that it was King Thordan and his knights who destroyed that peace by killing Hraesvelgr and Nidhogg's sister Ratatoskr in cold blood to steal her magic power for themselves.
  • In Guild Wars 2 Wynne learned in her Dream that her race was created to serve the Elder Dragon Mordremoth. The Pale Tree told her to keep the truth a secret for fear of what would happen to the Sylvari. She chose death rather than letting the psychotic Faolain learn the truth but years later Mordremoth's roar would turn many of the Sylvari against their unprepared allies.
  • In Horizon Zero Dawn, the society before the current one was super advanced in terms of technology. However, a swarm of "peacekeeping" robots created by Faro Industries glitched out. These robots could hack enemy defenses, eat biomass to refuel, and self-replicate, all while being un-hackable themselves. Even as the robots are ravaging the planet, all of humanity is told that the government and Faro are hard at work figuring out a way to shut them down. The awful truth is that there are no ways to do that in the timeframe needed to save humanity. All of the current humans in present-day society were born from a lab.
  • In inFAMOUS, Cole gradually grows to hate the Big Bad, Kessler, as Kessler is both responsible for the event that gave Cole superpowers at the cost of thousands of innocent lives, and eventually kills Cole's girlfriend, all the while spouting rhetoric about how Cole needs to learn what an awful place the world really is instead of pretending it's any better, never offering even a cursory explanation for why he's doing any of it. In the end, just before Kessler dies from wounds Cole inflicts, Kessler reveals via telepathy that he's Cole himself from a Bad Future that exists because he refused to do anything about it when he had the chance, come back in time to traumatize himself so that he'll be prepared to make better choices when those hard decisions come.
  • In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Xemnas and Xigbar reveal to Sora that the Nobodies of the Organization were regaining their hearts all along, and they were lied to and told they had none. On top of that, they thought they were trying to complete Kingdom Hearts to gain their hearts back, but in reality, once they completed it, Xemnas planned to use it to strip them of their new hearts and turn them into Xehanort clones.
  • In Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Raziel comes across the Tomb of the Sarafan, and is horrified to discover that the tomb was designated for him and his brothers, and that Kain revived the Sarafan to serve him as his vampire sons in an ironic, blasphemous joke.
  • Mad Father: Subverted at first; it's no secret that Aya's father is a psychopathic murderer having an affair with his assistant (Aya's narration after the opening cutscene actually starts with "I know father's secret"). But there's another awful truth that she's not aware of, which her mother reveals at the very end as a last resort. It basically sums up as "Well Aya - there's good news and bad news for you. Bad news first: your father's 'research' was all practise so he could eventually turn you into a doll and keep your for himself forever, and he murdered me when I threatened to run away with you. Good news: you're getting a pretty new dress too!
    • Even worse is that Aya is as homicidally insane as her father! At least she's MUCH nicer about it. This is so disturbing that you can only learn about it during the second playthrough - Aya's father was actually disturbed that his daughter was continuing his insanity, and her mother ENCOURAGED it.
  • Mass Effect pulls some good ones. First, the set-up; all spacefaring races get into space by use of Element Zero, which, when hit with electricity, alters the mass of matter temporarily (the eponymous Mass Effect). Interstellar travel is based on the mass relays, giant mass-effect devices left behind by Precursors who vanished fifty-thousand years ago.
    • Mass Effect: The Precursors found the mass relays just like the current civilizations did, because they were left behind by a race of sentient machines who return to the galaxy every fifty thousand years and destroy all intelligent life. Because interstellar society functions based on the technology they left behind AND CONTROL, they have little trouble in the act and the galaxy is powerless to resist. This is actually a cycle of extinction, and based on evidence dating back millions of years, the cycle has repeated over seven hundred times.
      • The oldest sign of resistance is a corpse of one of these sentient space ships. From 37 million years ago. There is, however, NO SIGN ANYWHERE of the civilization that did it other than the crater left by firing the weapon. To put it in perspective, The Precursors referred to above were only about 50,000 years ago... And just to set the tin lid on it, it turns out the Reaper isn't completely dead.
    • Mass Effect 2: The cycle of extinction is the Abusive Precursors' reproductive cycle. They build their babies by turning a species they exterminate into genetic paste and using it for building material.
      • Also the species that are not suitable to be turned in Reapers, are turned into mindless slaves. We find this out with the Collectors which are actually Protheans.
    • Mass Effect 3: The Reapers exist to ensure that some organic life (the non-space-faring life they skip during each cycle) will always exist somewhere. They were created with the belief that if any society is allowed to continue existing beyond a certain point after discovering interstellar travel, they will eventually create synthetic life, who in turn will eventually turn on their creators and wipe out organic life. The death they bring and the atrocities they commit is something they believe necessary for organic life to exist at all.
      • The series' original writer had laid foreshadowing for an entirely different awful truth to be revealed in the third: that the mass-effect is effectively poisonous to the galaxy and causes the stars of populated systems to die long before their time. The Reaper Cycle in this version is a stop-gap measure, slowing the effect to a semi-controlled crawl until a solution could be found.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda takes place in another galaxy altogether, but has its own shocking twists. The kett reproduce by turning other races into themselves, while the Angara were artificially made by an unknown intelligence, the prototype corpses laying around.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 pulls a complicated Awful Truth on the protagonist. Solid Snake has started to show indications of accelerated aging; by the time the game starts, he's going on his early 40's, and looks older than his parents (who should be over 80 by then). Otacon explains that it seems like a classic case of Werner's Syndrome, except the tests for the condition say that Snake doesn't have it. They speculate that it's because Snake isn't "normal," meaning that there must have been some fluke in the cloning process that created him, possibly exacerbated by the nanomachine-based artificial virus he was injected with to assassinate certain people by coming into contact with them. In fact, his brother Liquid even suggested as much, saying that the problem arises from the genetic sample that created them being taken when Big Boss was old himself, in his 50s. When Snake finally finds someone who can figure out what's going on, the truth is much worse than any of the speculation: the premature aging is natural, it's an intentional alteration made during the cloning process to give him an expiration date, which means there is no way to fix it and he will die of old age within six months, probably before turning 42. Worse, the nano-virus in his blood is being damaged by Snake's aging, and unless he kills himself long before he dies "naturally," the virus will lose its ability to differentiate between the people it was coded to kill and the people it was not, meaning Snake will cause an epidemic. The second problem is solved so Snake doesn't have to kill himself to stop the epidemic, but the first problem is most assuredly not, and the only reason we don't watch Snake die on-screen is because the ending fades to black instead of fast-forwarding six months.
  • In the final chapter of Mother 3, Leder's final role is to tell Lucas the truth about his beloved, idyllic hometown of Tazmily. It was always just a fabrication. A final outpost for humanity, perched on the edge of nothing, populated with the last remnants of humankind, who had been willingly mind-wiped and built a false Arcadia in order to prevent a second Armageddon.
  • Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden: Mutants are just the descendants of genetic experiments into a super-soldier project from before the apocalypse that wiped out humanity. The Elder gets so mad about the heroes' efforts to locate Eden because he knows the truth and wants to spare them the pain of finding it out.
  • NieR has several ones revealed throughout multiple playthroughs, but the main one involves the main mooks, which are called Shades. The game is designed in such a way that you'll probably have killed several hundred Shades (it can feel like a lot more than that) by the endgame, and you don't really give it much thought. The main character eventually develops a psychotic fixation in killing them as a response to the tragedies that plague his life. Towards the very end of the game it is revealed that the shades are actually Gestalts, the remnants of the real humans who underwent a process to clone their bodies which were being dissolved due to a mysterious disease, and the people you thought were humans this whole time were just clones of them called Replicants; the main antagonist of the game, the Shadowlord, is actually the original Nier you played in the prologue, who wants the exact same thing you do. It's implied in your first run through the game, and confirmed in subsequent playthroughs, that most Shades are entirely sentient... which basically makes you a mass murderer. Supplementary materials and Word of God also reveal that by the end of the game your actions have doomed the human race.
  • NieR: Automata continues the tradition:
    • The setting's Awful Truth won't be much of a surprise to anyone who played the previous game. The Forever War between the Androids and Machines is entirely pointless; the Machines killed their alien creators long ago, while the humans the Androids are fighting for have been extinct since the time of NieR. The Machines are perpetuating the conflict by intentionally handicapping themselves so they'll never quite win and thus have no purpose to their existence, and the Androids have been keeping up the charade that there's a human colony on the moon by faking broadcasts from a "Council of Humanity" to cheer on the war effort and maintain morale. And to keep themselves from winning the fight, the Androids' current generation of YoRHa units are intended to lose the latest Machine-Android War, and their security systems have been designed with back doors for the Machines to exploit. Oh, and the YoRHa Androids were created from components taken from the Machines, making them Not So Different from their mortal enemies. Learning this causes A2 to defect before the start of the game, and combined with 2B's death, causes 9S to go way off the deep end.
    • On a more personal level, one of the protagonist androids' names isn't 2B, it's 2E, an executioner model designed to kill other YoRHa units... especially Scanner models like fellow protagonist 9S, who tend to be curious and learn things they aren't meant to, like the truth behind the Council of Humanity and YoRHa Command. In fact, 2B has killed 9S several times before the game starts, and been re-assigned as his handler after his memory gets scrubbed. This has been going on for long enough that 9S is aware of the truth on some level.
  • A recurring theme in Pillars of Eternity:
    • An early quest has an expectant mother hiring you to go to a midwife to obtain a potion that will prevent her child from being hollowborn and her consequently being banished from Gilded Vale. When you get to the midwife, she points out that the potion does absolutely nothing. Nothing can prevent a child from being hollowborn, but she argues that as long as it makes the mother feel better then it's worth it. You have to choose whether the mother gets the potion or learns from you that it's all up to luck.
    • Another quest has you searching for a missing boy, only you find out that he was murdered by pirates after he intervened during their attempted rape of a prostitute, and his body was dumped into the canal. You can inform her of Derrin's fate (she'll be crushed, but the word of his last act of heroism will soften the blow a bit), or you can lie and say the boy left on a ship for a new life elsewhere. In either case, you can then track down the killer and avenge his death.
    • The villain of the whole game has dedicated his entire life and all his previous reincarnations, to (violently) silencing the truth about the gods; they are artificial intelligences powered by mortal souls, and before they existed, their creators discovered that the original gods were dead, gone, or just plain never existed. He believes that revealing the truth will plunge the world into endless war. You can be the judge from the games Multiple Endings whether he is right or not.
  • Alex Mercer spends the majority of the game [PROTOTYPE] trying to figure out who was responsible for the viral outbreak which destroyed his memory. The culprit is Doctor Alex Mercer, who did it as a final screw you. The worse truth is that the player character thinks they're Mercer because it's viral biomass that consumed Mercer's body and absorbed his memories and identity.
    Alex Mercer: I looked for the truth. Found it. Didn't like it. Wish to hell I could forget it.
  • In Silent Hill 2, after barely making it to the hotel where he and his deceased wife spent so much loving time together, James finally realizes that he killed her, and that the guilt of whether it was to spare her suffering or to move on with his life has driven him insane, and all the horrors he saw were a combination of his own psyche and the malign forces behind Silent Hill destroying him.
    • Worse yet, given his father's statement in Silent Hill 4 (James didn't return from Silent Hill), it seems that the ending where James kills himself may be the true ending, though given that the law may be less than forgiving for the murder he committed, he may simply have gone into hiding, possibly with his new foster daughter.
  • In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the Jedi Council prevent the other party members — and the player character him/herself from realizing that s/he is an amnesiac Darth Revan with a reprogrammed personality.
    • The sequel has its own awful truth: the player character is a literal wound in the Force- they are literally leeching the life force off others, which explains why their companions are so willing to follow them and how they grow stronger from killing their enemies.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, we discover that Expheres are people! It then gets worse when the truth of the Journey of Salvation is revealed everything Colette went through? It was for nothing more than a mad man's desire to bring his sister Back from the Dead and the whole see-saw between Sylvarant and Tethe'alla in regards to mana could have been avoided the entire time. The main party takes that surprisingly well ie it fuels them in their goal to fix things.
  • Tales of the Abyss ends the first arc with a big double whammy. The Luke fon Fabre that has been considered The Chosen One this entire time is actually a replica of the original and was always nothing more than a disposable tool by the Big Bad who deliberately acted as his Parental Substitute. He doesn't take it well. On top of that, turns out their world has been floating above a sea of miasma and death this entire time, only protected by the passage rings and Sephiroth Trees that lift them above the death zone. Oh and thanks to in part the Big Bad, the whole system is going to fail and destroy the world. All of the spoiler stuff is bad but it saves the worst stuff for later namely that the whole thing was basically predicted from the very beginning and the Big Bad is just speeding things up for his goal of Screwing Destiny. There's a reason that, until recently, Abyss was the darkest of the Tales Series.
  • Tales of Berseria manages to actually top Abyss in regards to horrifying revelations. Not only is Innominat already awakened, Laphicet was a willing Human Sacrifice and Velvet is to be the reborn-as-Innominat Laphicet's meal so that he can be complete and turn everyone in the world into Empty Shells. And everything about Innominat is an Eternal Recurrence because there is no other way to keep the malevolence in the world from destroying it.
  • In Undertale, the monsters along the way tell you a heartbreaking story. Once upon a time, a child climbed Mount Ebott and fell through the barrier between the human world and the underworld. They were rescued by the king's son, Asriel, and happily adopted by his family. One day the child fell sick and, after begging to see the flowers of their village one last time, died, and Asriel in his grief absorbed the child's soul. He broke through the barrier and brought the child's body to the village, but the villagers attacked him out of fear. Asriel refused to fight back and, mortally wounded, returned to the underworld where he too collapsed and died. From then on the king vowed that all humans who fell through the barrier were to be killed, and promised to destroy the barrier once and for all with seven human souls.
    • The truth, which the player/Frisk discovers in the True Laboratory, is even worse: the entire thing was a massive Thanatos Gambit by the Fallen Child. They deliberately killed themselves by eating buttercup flowers and persuaded Asriel to absorb their soul, so that he could go to the surface with the Fallen Child's body and provoke a war with the humans. It's not clear whether the Fallen Child only wanted six souls to break the barrier or wanted humanity wiped out entirely, but Asriel himself says the Fallen Child was "not the nicest person".
  • In World of Final Fantasy, the awful truth that Lann and Reynn discover is that everything wrong with Grymoire is their fault. Their arrogance and carelessness ended up bringing the Big Bad and his forces to the world, which also led to their parents being possessed. They were also careless when it came to their Mirage Keeper powers and let their dangerous Mirages run amok. Lann and Reynn are in fact the "Demon Dyad" that is feared and hated by Grymoire.
  • A major component of Xenosaga.
    • Kevin programmed the original KOS-MOS to kill him so he could become the Red Testament. He died in Shion's arms and she was haunted by the memory for years.
    • The fit of agony and rage Shion felt upon her parents' deaths is what summoned the Gnosis into the universe in the first place. Febronia knew this but spent the better part of 3 games slowly guiding her to where she could retrieve this repressed trauma.
  • Ys Seven has returning Ys hero Adol arrive to Altago and by a series of events, becomes a Dragon Warrior. Simply enough, he goes around the land to visit the shrines and collect the blessings of the Dragons, especially in the growing phenomena that's been happening (giant monsters appearing more commonly, Iskan fever outbreaks, ect.) Two curve-balls come your way though; first is that The Ace Dragon Knight Scias and Innocent Flower Girl Tia are the Big Bads of the story, who framed you for killing the king in the first place. A little later, the Moon Dragon warns you that what he'll reveal if accepting to fight and win, you're not going to like. The fate of Altago is that it always faced a Reset Button whenever the balance of the land was broken. The necessary action to fix all the phenomena is to start anew, which the Iskan Elders are always tasked with. The Dragons select a Dragon Warrior to stop this as a proxy for the life on Altago... but only out of courtesy. It's almost expected/guaranteed that the Dragon Warrior will lose, even with the Dragons' blessings, as it has happened an untold number of times before since Altago was first made.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Subverted in the first game near the end of case four: Edgeworth reveals to Phoenix the reason he's become so bitter over the years is that he accidentally killed his own father as a child. Phoenix, however, can't believe that, and soon proves the killer was someone else (in fact, it was Edgeworth's adoptive father, making what should have been an Awful Truth for Wright into one for Edgeworth instead.)
    • Justice for All:
      • In case 2, the Awful Truth is that Morgan Fey, Mia and Maya's aunt, is scheming to get Maya framed for murder so that her own daughter, Pearl, can become Master of Kurain village (although Morgan herself is not the murderer). This is hard enough on Mia and Maya, who loved their aunt, but it's even worse for Pearl herself; Mia arranges to have Pearl channel her during the second day of Maya's trial so that she won't have to see Morgan being exposed as an accomplice.
      • In the third case, Moe the clown takes Regina to see the trial so that she CAN see the awful truth - that people don't become a star in the sky when they die, and that Acro has held a deep-seated hatred of her for months.
      • In the fourth and final case, the truth is very simple, but devastating: the man you've been forced to defend in court is guilty as sin, and you can't weasel out of defending him of a crime you know he committed.
    • In Dual Destinies, Edgeworth is callous/brave enough to say that the facts of the case point to an Awful Truth for Athena Cykes – that she killed her mother and/or dismembered her dead body by innocently trying to 'fix' her. Everyone reacts in horror when they realize what Edgeworth is about to say, and what makes it worse is that he's partially correct. (Fortunately, the reality isn't quite so bad, but still pretty brutal.)
    • Apollo gets a biggun in Spirit of Justice upon realizing during the final trial (accompanied by appropriately foreboding music that Dhurke has been dead since before Case 5 even started.
  • Little Busters!: In Komari's route, that she had an older brother whom loved her but who died when she was little. In Refrain, that the world the characters are in doesn't exist - it was created after a terrible bus crash left nearly all of them with fatal injuries and was designed specifically to make Riki and Rin strong enough to be able to handle the truth and live on their own afterwards.
  • In Mystic Messenger, this is V's rationale for telling everyone in the RFA that Rika killed herself by throwing herself off the cliff near their house, instead of telling them the truth that the real reason why she vanished without a trace is because she ran off to start her cult. His obsession with Rika's "innocence" led him to believe that the RFA should remember her as a generous, bright person, instead of the Dark Messiah she had turned into. Of course, he can't keep everything secret forever, and you, along with the rest of the RFA, start to suspect him in Another Route as things start to really hit the fan, and his lies are uncovered as you play.
  • Umineko: When They Cry: Hey, Ange-chan? You know how you're pretty sure that your Ax-Crazy aunt killed your beloved parents and brother? Well, it turns out that your aunt just sorta went along with it because she didn't want you to find out that your parents were the Ax-Crazy murderers who killed everyone, and your aunt only killed your parents in what was more or less self-defense. Oh, and they never cared about you. Hope that cheers you up a little!
  • Danganronpa:
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, The Mastermind reveals the outside world has been in a state of devastation for an entire year, the students willingly agreed to seal themselves in Hopes' Peak to survive The Tragedy until their memories were erased.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: Hajime learns everyone on the island are the members of Ultimate Despair, the group Junko created that devastated the world. Along with the revelation, he is Izuru Kamukura, the product of an experiment to gain every talent known, that erased Hajime as well.
    • In the Future Arc of Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School, Munakata had to face the discovery that Chisa Yukizome was a member of Ultimate Despair.
    • A major theme in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony as often times, the "truth" is not what you want it to believe. This is apparent in Chapter 4 where Gonta crossed the Despair Event Horizon by learning the truth of the outside world and the students didn't want to believe that Gonta was the culprit of that case. Chapter 6 pushes Shuichi to the Despair Event Horizon when he finds out that everything they've gone through was just a reality show that's well into its 53rd season.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius, when Agatha discovers her mother Lucrezia was "The Other" who ruined or zombified about half of Europe. Bonus points for off-handed delivery. Later Agatha herself supplies a few missed memos to an impostor pretending to be her. Right after the only scene when Zola acted nice, at that.
  • Chapter 31 of Gunnerkrigg Court might as well be called "A Delightful Load of Awful Truths for Annie and Renard", because guess what, Renard? Surma never loved you at all! It was all an act to get you trapped in the Court! And guess what Annie? You're the real reason Surma died, and it's also your fault that no Guide would come to claim her! And everyone knew! And when Annie runs to the forest, she learns that she isn't 100% human, and Surma's fate will fall on her the day she has a child.
  • Jack:
    • A side story shows a guy in apparently his dream life: a great apartment, nothing to do but play games, and endless, tailor-made sexual partners. Odd things keep happening and he is driven to find out that he's actually in Hell and that, once he knows this, he can never return to the carefree life he had been living and instead will exist for eternity as a obscene, crippled husk. Worse still, he finds out by running into one of the hundreds of other damned souls whose fate he now shares.
    • In the short story "How To Make A Monster", we see how Drip ended up as the Sin of Lust. The final act that dooms him to this role? He's taken back in time and told to kill two people. These people turn out to be Drip's own parents. That's right, the event that doomed Drip to be raised by his grandmother, who sexually abused him for years and would be the catalyst that would send him towards the path of a serial murderer and rapist... was something that he did himself after he'd been condemned to hell. The most terrible part? He didn't realize who he was killing until after he did it.
  • Schlock Mercenary hangs common sense on it:
    Breya: I... I really want to know, but I think I'm afraid to ask.
    Tagon: That means you don't really want to know.
  • Errant Story has its full share of these, and then some.
    • Ian learns that his sister, whom he adored, is dead at the hands of his mother, whom he hated, triggering his descent into The Madness Place.
    • Miyo learns (offstage) that Meji's father, for whom she has carried a torch for eighteen years, wants nothing more to do with her, and as for his daughter ... well ... see under Offing the Offspring.
    • Sarine figures out that the Paedagogusi, emissaries of the ancient gods (whom Sarine still worships despite her estrangement from elven society), are completely crazy ... and worse, that the elves have known it all along.
    • But all of these put together, plus every other example in the strip, can't hold a candle to the entire universe of awful truths inflicted on Meji when she gets Senilisized.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, it had been a Running Gag since the strip's beginning that aliens considered Earth a nature preserve and humans wildlife. The darker implications of this aren't made clear until Jean complains to Voluptua about it. Voluptua reveals Earth has been part of the Nemesite Empire since before humanity evolved, and if they ever actually try to enforce that rule, every Earth nation's sovereignty would become meaningless, probably leading to a horrible war. And simply letting us out of the empire isn't an option because we're practically at the center of it. The "insulting" designation as wildlife is for our own protection, and thanks to our space program, it won't work much longer.
    Bob: Wait... You're saying you're going to conquer the Earth??
    Princess Voluptua: No!! You've already been conquered! Eons ago! I'd like to un-conquer you, but...
  • In The Bikini Bottom Horror, we learn that the Krabby Patty Secret Formula includes starfish meat. Mr. Krabs stole a detatched limb from Patrick, and after it regenerated into a new starfish, he kept it prisoner and harvested its regenerating flesh. This causes Patrick's murderous rampage when he eats an undercooked patty, acquiring his clone's memories in the process.

    Web Original 
  • Everything that's [REDACTED] or [DATA EXPUNGED] on the SCP Foundation is to prevent the general public from learning what they keep locked up. Most of the time, it's for the best (see Procedure 110-Montauk).
    • One notable example. It is implied by some hidden messages that the reason why the Foundation suddenly decided that humanity needed to be destroyed in the timeline SCP-5000 came from is that they discovered that the minds of all of humanity are infected with something terrible.
    • Another SCP is the truth about what happens when you die. There is no heaven or hell. When you die, your soul remains trapped in your corpse forever, feeling nothing but agonizing pain as you rot away.
  • Hirou, the, well, hero of The Sword of Good, does one of these to himself; namely, he comes to the realization that his allies are actually enforcing an oppressive regime trapped in Medieval Stasis, and that the person he thought was the Big Bad is actually doing nothing more than fighting for political liberty, equal rights, and free inquiry. He does not take it well.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In The Venture Bros., there are multiple cases of this:
    • Hank discovers that Dermott's sister, who Hank just had sex with, was really Dermott's mother, and that Rusty was his dad. Yes, he had sex with his half-brother's mom. Fortunately, Sphinx is right next door with the mindwipe machine! Hank cheats on it a bit by leaving himself a message saying he had sex, but leave out the Dermott's mom part. And makes a Total Recall joke at his own expense.
    • The identity of Hank and Dean's mom is strongly implied to be this.
    • Hank and Dean themselves stumble into a lab full of clone-slugs of themselves suspended in vats and drop in a catatonic blackout. Their dad manages to convince them they saw their Christmas presents of an army of robot slaves. In the prequel to Season 5, Dean learns the truth and has a crisis over it.
    • Triana has a portal to an extradimensional realm in her bedroom closet, and gets repeatedly mindwiped by her father every time she forgets.
    • Two-Ton 21 is not really seeing 24's ghost, but is just hallucinating him out of grief and guilt.
  • Played for laughs and subverted in The Simpsons episode "Brother's Little Helper". When Special Guest Mark McGwire admits that Bart was right and Major League Baseball is behind a conspiracy that is watching everyone, and they ask him why, he replies, "Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?" They choose the latter option.
  • Used in-universe in an episode of The Boondocks to show Huey's incredibly cynical view of life. Huey tells Jasmine that the money under her pillow probably came from her parents, not the tooth fairy. When she wonders why her parents would lie to her about that, he explains that the world is full of awful truths, no one gets anything for free, and parents lie to their kids all the time. Of course, Jasmine runs away in tears.
    "...and you know what else? Someday, you and everyone you know are gonna die."
    • Parodied in the very first episode with Huey's fantasy about telling white people "The Truth", that Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the goverment lies about 9/11. In his fantasy, this makes all the white people break down and riot. When he tries it in real life, they couldnt care less about the message, they're just bemused and mildly impressed that a kid could be so eloquent.
  • In Steven Universe, Gem history seems to be about 60% things Pearl doesn't think Steven is ready to hear; naturally, as the viewpoint character, he ends up learning about them anyway. Most notably: the monsters they're fighting are corrupted Gems, the other Gems they're likely to encounter are generally going to be villains, and the reason the Crystal Gems are on Earth is because they led a rebellion against the Homeworld Gems in order to prevent them from destroying the Earth to make more of their kind.
    • The Crystal Gems get their own Awful Truth in Season 3: their fellow Gem Bismuth had been bubbled by Rose Quartz for advocating shattering Gems to the point that she built a weapon for it. Which eventually leads to the Awful Truth that breaks Steven: Rose Quartz had shattered a Gem- Pink Diamond.
    • Season 5 reveals yet another Awful Truth that only Pearl knew: Rose did not shatter Pink Diamond. She was Pink Diamond all along. Pink Diamond and Pearl faked her shattering so she could live a new life as Rose Quartz.
  • The Critic episode "Frankie and Ellie Goes Missing" revolves around Jay and Margo's parents go missing at sea when their plane crashed (their pilot was a penguin and penguins cant fly). Though they're declared dead, Margo spends the episode searching for some sign of them, but make little progress, until Vlada, the owner of Jays favorite restuarant, inexplicably shows up with the black box from the plane. When Margo asks how the hell Vlada got ahold of it, he tells her a bizarre story about the box turning up in a bowl of boulliabaise made from fish from the South Pacific he served to Jay's friend Jeremy Hawke. When Jeremy complained about it, Vlada served him a bowl of water his mother was soaking her feet and stockings in. When a grossed out Margo asked why he told her that last part, Vlada said that "the true story would be too horrible for her to contemplate! Enjoy!"
  • Gravity Falls has this as the main reason for the existence of The Society Of the Blind Eye, a secret group (founded by Old Man McGucket before he went insane) that erases the memories of the town residents so they can remain oblivious to supernatural events surrounding them, meaning they're the ones maintaining The Masquerade surrounding the town. Problem is, repeated use of the Memory Eraser Gun leads to long-term mental issues, explaining the odd behavior of the citizens.
  • Played for Drama in Season 5 of BoJack Horseman with "The Showstopper". BoJack has absolutely no memory of having strangled Gina, and everyone involved tries their best to keep the truth from him so he won't crack under the stress.
    • Played for Laughs earlier in season 5 when Mr. Peanutbutter had believed the old "sent to a nice farm" lie about his parents, because his older brother Captain Peanutbutter couldn't bring himself to tell Mr Peanutbutter that they had died. He had to face this truth twice in the same day because grasping the truth about his mother made him realize that his father had also "gone to the farm".
    Mr Peanutbutter: OH MY GOD, MY MOM/DAD IS DEAD!!

    Real Life 
  • On the Straight Dope forum, several members shared stories of how, when they were children, they'd been told that their mysteriously disappeared pets had been "sent to live on a farm." Cue the inevitable post that went along these lines: "That's a coincidence, because when I was little, I had a dog that was sent to live on a farm.... oh ^#@$% I need to call my parents NOW."
  • Quite possibly apocryphal: the school of Pythagoras was so shocked to discover that the square root of 2 is an irrational number (i.e. cannot be expressed as fractions) that they kept the knowledge a closely guarded secret, and people who leaked it were punished by death.
  • According to an April 2014 study, even recreational cannabis use among youths use may be harmful to the brain.


Video Example(s):


They were only slaves.

After Moses had a nightmare, he finds out the truth about his heritage and discovers that his foster father is not who he thought he was.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / AwfulTruth

Media sources:

Main / AwfulTruth