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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..."

Being honest and forthright is not always a good thing. Some truths are so frustrating and traumatizing that it is treated as something to keep from becoming general knowledge, as they are deemed a serious threat to the mental stability of certain characters or would result in rioting in the streets. 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. In short, when something seems Too Good to Be True, this is what the actual truth will probably turn out to be.

This is a supertrope to a number of other concepts:

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.

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk:
    • The Awful Truth of the 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.
  • Black Clover:
    • Rhya 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.
    • Ichika learns that was given the demon soul pill, the Yami clan's secret drug that spiked up her bloodlust and latent yoryoku, leading her to massacre the clan. Ichika repressed the memory, with Ryuya keeping the truth from her. The result is her older brother Sukehiro, made the scapegoat and spent years hating him for nothing.
  • In Blue Reflection Ray, Niina reveals that Hiori succumbing to despair and ultimately dying in the original timeline is what broke her sister's resolve and led her on the path to becoming a villainous Red Reflector. Hiori doesn't take this well, blaming herself for everything that happened to her sister.
  • 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.
  • In Case Closed, 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 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 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.
  • In Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Tanaka Sr. offers to reinstate David into Arasaka Academy not because of his previously strong academic performance, but rather because he has high tolerance for cybernetics. As the director of the cyberskeleton project, Tanaka planned to use David to serve as his test subject. This discovery horrifies Lucy, to the point of her killing Tanaka and deliberately deleting all of the information related to David and the cyberskeleton. Then, after the Time Skip, she actively hunts down any Arasaka netrunner looking to retrieve the deleted data to protect David.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist:
  • Late in Future Diary, Yukiteru decides to finally stoop to the level of the other Diary users as a Well-Intentioned Extremist due to being tricked that he could revive his parents once he became God. Needless to say, it's a false hope that Yuno realized far too late in her original timeline — All Deaths Are Final. His denial of this fact when his friends tell him have horrible consequences.
  • Future Robot Daltanious: Kloppen is Prince Harlin's clone. When he was a child, Dr. Namil brought him to Dolmen so that he could groom the boy into being his successor. Because he wanted the Emperor to accept him into his services, Namil helped Dolmen groom him and reinforced the lie that he was the actual Prince by telling him the Imperial Cross on his arm was proof of his heritage. He raised the boy into following Dolmen's footsteps and being a warrior for the Zaal Empire. After he had grown into an adult, Namil had a change of heart and exposed the truth to everyone. In his pre-recorded video, he admitted there was a way to differentiate clones from their prototypes — clones, when exposed to UV radiation, will experience deterioration in their skin. Kloppen is hit with a UV ray and his skin deteriorates — and then he realizes that his entire life has been a lie.
  • 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.
  • Hello! Sandybell: Wanting to get close to Mark, Kitty pays well-respected artist Clive Lemmerich to stay at her estate and work as Mark's tutor. Though he gives compliments to the boy regularly, that night, Sandybell hears a very drunk Clive rant to Kitty that he's sick of pretending to like them all and he's only doing it because her father paid him to, to which Kitty replies that if her father hadn't sponsored him when he was young and struggling, he wouldn't have a career in the first place. The next morning, when Clive continues the Sickeningly Sweet act to Mark, Sandybell snaps and tells them the truth. Clive laughs and admits it's true, and then thanks Sandybell for letting him free of her...after telling Mark that his art is worthless and he'll never make it.
  • 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.
  • Honoo no Alpen Rose: Hélène Dunant was blinded as a result of a plane accident. Her mother Christine, who never approved of the man she married, deliberately kept her from him. To hide the fact that her daughter Alicia was missing, Christine involves Michel Toulonchamp in a scheme to pretend that his daughter, Mathilda, is Alicia, helped by Mathilda's ability to imitate voices. Michel and Mathilda crave the wealth of the Dunant family, so they have been slipping poison in Hélène's tea hoping she'll die and they can claim her inheritance.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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... and that the Uchiha clan had been planning a coup against the Leaf Village, with Sasuke just about the only survivor because of his brother's intercession. He was a lot saner then, too.
  • One Piece: When Vegapunk is killed during the Egghead arc, a video broadcast he rigged to start when his heart stopped beating begins transmitting across the planet, in which he gives the receivers ten minutes to prepare their own equipment in order to relay the transmission to everyone else in their home countries, promising to share "the truth of the world" after preparations are complete. Once the ten minutes end, Vegapunk quickly shares that the fact they are receiving this message means he is dead, and that the truth he wants to share is that the entire world will sink beneath the ocean one day. Most people believe Vegapunk is just trying to sow chaos with a ridiculous lie, or that he was off his meds when he recorded the message, but they shut up when Vegapunk shares a second prediction about the worldwide earthquake that took place that very morning, following which sea levels rose by one meter everywhere (both of which were a consequence of Imu and the Five Elders using the Mother Flame to wipe out the Lulusia Kingdom a few days ago). The people then realize that there must be some merit to Vegapunk's words if he really did record the message a few days ago.
  • 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.
  • 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 mother.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. When this is desperately called a lie, the Anti-Spiral retorts that anyone with sufficient Spiral Power, like Simon, instinctively knows that this is the inescapable truth.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Angel: 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.
  • Captain America: In Captain America: Winter Soldier, there's the classic, horrible reveal that the infamous Winter Soldier is Bucky Barnes.
  • Democracy: Leander 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.
  • Enigma: The Truth 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.
  • Eternals: In the 2021 series, the core cast discover that the Resurrective Immortality the 1,000,000 year old Eternals treat so casually is fuelled by Human Resources, with someone dying to power each Eternal revival. And they’ve been caught in an Amnesia Loop when they previously uncovered this.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Sentry: In Age of the Sentry, this is referenced by Cranio when he begins narrating to Sentry about the true nature of their universe: "As he divulged his secrets, I began the journey that would undo us all. Listen closely, Robert Reynolds, for this is how the man with the tri-level mind became the man who learned too much."
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW): In the mini-series Imposter Syndrome, Surge and Kit learn the origins of their creation: they're actually two people kidnapped off the streets by Dr. Starline and turned into cyborgs for the express purpose of destroying Sonic and Eggman, their identities stripped away by Starline's brainwashing and no identification as to who they really were before being transformed.
  • 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.
  • Swamp Thing: In Alan Moore's run, 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 Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: The big thing Skids blocked out in his memory. 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.
  • Watchmen: During the conclusion, it is revealed that 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.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (2006): While Diana could use the lasso of truth to lay the truth bare in ways that could horrify most villains, she generally avoids doing this. When Genocide gets her hands on the lasso, Diana knows that she intends to use it to brutally reveal truths to people that will make them kill themselves.
    • Wonder Woman (2011): Diana gets hit with two of these.
      • First is the reveal that she is the product of Hippolyta's affair with Zeus and her origin of being a clay statue made flesh is a lie created to cover up this fact.
      • The second is the reveal that the Amazons regularly go on sex raids on travelling boats where they mate with men and then kill them afterwards. The Amazons who get pregnant from this give up their sons to be raised as slaves in Hephaestus's workshop.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Adventure Time fanfic has it with Alex (MovieVillain): she's the reason Marceline and Princess Bubblegum hate each other as she started their falling out.
  • Blackbird (Arrow):
    • Quentin Lance has been spitting abuse about his daughter Laurel for the past five years, first to her face and then to her sister over the phone after it seems like she abandoned him. Then her ex-boyfriend Oliver is rescued and voices his doubts about Laurel's "departure" to him. Quentin initially dismisses his concerns, but the thought doesn't leave his mind, so he does some investigating himself with his old partner. A few hours later, it becomes clear to him that the daughter he's been verbally abusing didn't abandon him, but was actually kidnapped and has been missing for the past three years.
    • What really happened to Laurel (namely, that she was traded to the League of Assassins by her own mother for Sara's freedom) is this to Oliver, and later to Thea, Tommy, and Moira. It's so bad that no one, not even Laurel herself, has any plans to tell the full truth to Quentin after she's freed, because they know that the guilt will kill him.
  • 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.
  • BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant:
    • Chapter 39 ends with Penny about to tell Noel the truth about who they are, but not before warning her that she will not like the answer. At the start of Chapter 40, she reveals that they are Murakumo Units: Artificial Humans and Living Weapons created for the sole purpose of destroying the world. The revelation leaves Noel shocked and horrified.
      • Then in Chapter 46, she gets another awful revelation: she's a clone of Ragna and Jin's younger sister, Saya, who was tortured and had both her DNA harvested and her soul broken apart to create her and the other Murakumo Units.
    • In Chapter 46, Yang is forced to face the truth that her mother, Raven Branwen, is a bandit queen who killed many innocent people and abandoned others to die to the Grimm.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) What If? 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 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, it's revealed that Maddie is not actually an Artificial Human/Clone of Jean Grey raised as a superpowered Tyke Bomb and created by Sinister. Fury explicitly notes 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.
  • 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.
  • Code Prime: Like in the source, the truth about Marianne vi Britannia, Lelouch and Nunnally's biological mother also being an architect of Ragnarok is something Cera carries through much of the story. It's only uncovered and admitted to right before their planned Final Battle against the decepticons. What makes it so awful is that thanks to Optimus using a geass of absolute hope on her, Marianne actually was starting to grow and become a good person. But in revealing the truth, all her old friends, family, children and even her former most loyal bodyguard turn on her and give her the cold shoulder for the remainder of R2's story.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail zigzags this. Since this takes place during Book 3 of Infinity Train, at this point everyone knows the purpose of the Train...except Grace, Simon and the Apex, who weren't there when One-One started making introduction videos or if they did, they just don't care. It turns out there's another thing that wasn't mentioned: What happens if you die on the train? Answer: Your body is dropped off where the train picked you up, and your soul is reincarnated into a denizen for as long as it's needed for your number to go down. What's worse? One of the Apex kids died by drowning in the lake of the Fog Car...
  • 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 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Raven's Plan
    • Everyone who wakes up remembering the previous timeline but either didn't live long enough to see the Second Long Night or wasn't in on the ritual initially writes it off as just being All Just a Dream or that they've made it to the afterlife before reality sets in for them.
    • Anyone who didn't make it up to the point of seeing the threat they pose finds the revelation of the White Walkers and the coming of the Second Long Night an especially terrifying one.
    • 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 Targaryen 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.
    • Anytime anyone hears about Arya Stark being one of the Faceless Men. Her mother Catelyn especially finds it infuriating that no one will tell her just why various people keep talking to Arya about pies, and when she finds out, she faints from the horror and mental strain.
    • Chapter 44 reveals that due to Gilly and her sisters killing Craster immediately after they woke up remembering their previous lives, Little Sam will never be conceived. Jon is heartbroken and horrified as he realizes the implications of this and wonders how many more people have suffered this same fate.
  • The Matrix fic "Rescue Run" sees Zion get an unexpected ally in the form of Captain Dena Reese, a pilot for the human space fleet that had colonised most of the solar system before life on Earth apparently went extinct. When Reese proposes a means of contacting her people and evacuating the population of Zion, in a meeting with Reese and Zion's ruling council, Commander Jason Lock reveals that, while he won't admit to it in public, in this meeting he will concede that the war with the machines is at best in a deadlock that will continue indefinitely, and Reese's plan is Zion's only true hope.
  • 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."
  • The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong fanfics in which Shen Yuan confesses he's a transmigrator tends to treat the Proud Immortal Demon Way timeline as this. Luo Binghe generally will be the most horrified to learn the details, since he was intended to be a merciless tyrant bent on slaughtering and raping his way to the top, after gruesomely torturing the man he considers the love of his life.
  • 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.
  • After Finn leaves Prismo's time room in Something More after learning about reincarnation from him, the Cosmic Owl states that Prismo should have told Finn an important secret, but Prismo cuts him off by saying Finn's not ready. It's implied that the secret is that Finn and the Lich are brothers.
  • In the The Loud House fanfic Stories and Tales from Dimension 63, Luke and Lars note  learn that not only has their sister 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.
  • Chapter 9 of The Sun Will Come Up And The Seasons Will Change reveals that Dana plans to get Mary sterilized without her consent, which was what was on the blog entry that convinced Mary to run away, even though at the time, Mary thought the word sterilize was another word for murder. When Mary learns what it really means in chapter 12, she is understandably horrified that her mother would think of putting her through that.
  • 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.
  • In Thousand Shinji, The Keeper of Secrets showed Misato that she was attracted to her surrogate son Shinji to torture her.
  • Tyrantly Ever After: Celestia hides one from low-ranking angels like Artina: Angels cannot find eternal rest in Heaven. Nor can they reincarnate as humans, who can potentially go to Heaven if they live well. Any angel who dies either reincarnates as an angel, or, if deemed to have not served God's will well enough, as a demon, who are similarly unable stuck in their own cycle. This serves as a particularly devestating blow to the Angel of Avarice, who's already struggling with a Crisis of Faith.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • With This Ring: The Reveal that the Martians were altered by the Guardians during their early prehistory (they were originally an extremely savage, violent species that the Guardians feared would wreak havoc if they progressed enough to invent space travel). Not only was this a massive violation of their autonomy, it also means that the entire basis of their society and culture, especially the division into White, Green and Red Martians is based on lies - their very minds and souls have been modified to keep them from ever regressing to their original forms. Their primal fear of fire, the Martian Kryptonite Factor, is a direct result of this tampering.
  • In the A Certain Magical Index "Let's Watch Our Show" Plot fanfic Misfortune No One Sees Until Now, the audience, especially Mikoto Misaka, that doesn't already know about it can only react in horror to the knowledge of the Parameter List. As for the Railgun herself, she nearly enters a existential crisis.

    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.
    • Done twice at the end of The Dark Knight; Batman and Gordon decide not to let the public know about Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face so that the people of Gotham do not lose hope, while Alfred burns Rachel Dawes's letter that stated she chose Dent over Bruce prior to her death. Unfortunately, both decisions backfire with heavy consequences in The Dark Knight Rises.
      Alfred: Maybe it's time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day.
    • 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.
  • The first act of The Matrix has Neo trying to uncover what the mysterious "matrix" actually is; the famous "red pill blue pill" scene has Morpheus warning him that learning the truth will change everything he knows. It is indeed horrifying; the real world is a Crapsack World controlled by robots, with humanity grown in pods to serve as batteries. The "matrix" is the fake world Neo lives in, a computer simulation created simply to keep the mind occupied. And thanks to the technology available, they can actually unlearn the awful truth; certain humans defect to the machines just so they can go back to living in ignorance.
  • 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.
  • Men in Black: There's 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!
  • Men in Black II: 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.
  • 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?"
  • Eternals: Played with. Arishem reveals to Sersi that when the intelligent population of a planet reaches a threshold, they are sacrificed to birth a Celestial, which destroys the planet. The Eternals are on Earth to guide humanity until that point. To Sersi and most of her team, who've developed a love for humanity, this is a horrible thing, while to Arishem, it's simply how things work, and he doesn't even realize the Eternals intend to betray him.
  • Guyana: Crime of the Century: During the morning of the day when the murder-suicide happens, the two reporters who have acompanied O'Brien during his visit to Johnsontown try to enter a building that is being guarded by an armed man (who, under Johnson's orders, threatens to kill anyone who tries to enter). A third party persuades the armed man to let the reporters in; once inside, they see several people in bunk beds coughing and suffering in pain. This makes them realize that the reception party Johnson had plotted to make them and O'Brien think everything was fine in the commune was a facade, and the rumors about abuse and tortures were true all along.
  • Minority Report: Anderton and by proxy the audience learn some dark secrets about the Precrime program he works for and has defended.
    • Anderton goes to see Dr. Iris Hineman, one of the people who helped develop the Precrime program and she reveals to him that the precogs are the sole survivors of experiments to test children of neuroin addicts for precognitive abilities.
    • Hineman also reveals that the precogs sometimes see different visions from each other, called a "minority report". These discrepancies are reviewed and purged from the official record, as group precognition agreement is the foundation of the Precrime bylaws. In other words, there is a good chance that some of the people Precrime has put away are potentially innocent. This knowledge greatly distresses Anderton who up until he was accused of murder was a staunch supporter of Precrime.
    • The most damning revelation is the lengths which Precrime founder Lamar Burgess went to in order to validate and maintain the Precrime system. When Anne Lively, the mother of one of the precogs, decided that she wanted her daughter back, Burgess used a weakness in the precogs' visions and murdered her, while making it look like she had in fact been saved from an earlier murder attempt. When Anderton began looking into Anne's disappearance, Burgess used the Precrime system to frame him for murder, even going as far as making Anderton think his supposed predestined victim had killed Anderton's son. With his crimes exposed and Precrime revealed to be less than perfect, Burgess kills himself to avoid being incarcerated and living to see all he worked for destroyed, and the Precrime system is shut down.

  • 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, when 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 Dark Tower (2004), 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".
  • The Divine Cities: After conquering the cities and genocidally slaughtering anyone he could find with divine heritage, the Kaj confronted Jukov after the war's end, was told many secrets about the nature and reality of their conflict, and left the meeting sobbing in grief before turning to alcoholism and dying within a year. Jukov told him that he was Divine himself and that the first person he'd tortured and killed was his own mother.
  • 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. 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.
  • Deconstructed in The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant. The kingdom started by teaching children that nobody wanted the dragon, but it was a harsh truth of life. Over time, the kingdom started teaching that the dragon wasn't awful. Immerse yourself in an awful truth too much, and you may lose sight of chances to eliminate it.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ursala K. Le Guin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" picks apart this trope in the context of the utopia/dystopia dichotomy. The story presents a perfect utopian society in the eponymous city where everyone lives in unconditional peace and prosperity. However, the narrator catches onto the reader's expectations, realizing that nobody would accept the idea of a wholly perfect utopia, and decides to retcon the nature of Omelas to introduce a catch and whet their appetite. Thus, the new version of Omelas is Powered by a Forsaken Child, who must be constantly tortured to maintain the city's current state; those who can't live with the truth leave Omelas forever, hence the title.
  • 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 Precursors. 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.
  • The plot of Scary Stories For Young Foxes: The City is set into motion when O-730 discovers the real reason he and his fellow foxes are being treated so well on The Farm.
  • 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.
  • Small Persons with Wings: The Parvi Pennati have stored the Magica Vera, an old form of magic that lets them see through illusions, inside a moonstone. If someone drops the moonstone into a glass of water and then drinks the water, they learn what everyone really thinks of them and realize every unpleasant fact about themselves that they're in denial about. When Mellie's parents drink it, they realize that their art isn't any good and Mellie doesn't respect them. Mellie reassures them that she does respect them and thinks their art is great, but thanks to the elixir they know she's lying. They spend the rest of the day as sleepy depressives. Later they almost kill themselves because of Fidius "encouraging" them by telling them that Mellie is off endangering herself while they lie in bed, which the elixir allows them to immediately recognize as true.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 
  • Every episode of Adam Ruins Everything starts with either a recurring character, or a one-shot character going about their business, and reciting known "truths." Suddenly Adam Connover uses his Reality Warper powers to pop into the scene and essentially explaining to this victim why "everything you think you know about tonight's subject is completely wrong".
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Making Friends and Influencing People", Fitz discovers the Awful Truth Coulson and the others have been keeping from him - Grant Ward, a HYDRA mole who pretended to befriend him while undercover, only to betray and attempt to murder him (an attempt that has left Fitz emotionally and mentally unstable due to brain damage), is being held in their secret base. Fitz's reaction is to attempt to murder Ward in cold blood, but he ultimately doesn't go through with it.
  • 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 (2003) 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 that he, Sam Anders, Chief Tyrol and Tory Foster keep hearing 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", as she is the one to take the Fleet to Earth.
  • Breaking Bad: To say that Hank does not take it well after learning that the meth kingpin he has devoted everything to chase is his own brother-in-law, Walter White is a massive Understatement.
  • Dark Matter (2015): In the series premiere, the protagonists awaken from stasis aboard their spaceship with no memories and name themselves One through Six in the order they woke up. Traveling to their programmed destination, they find a mining colony where the settlers are in conflict with the corrupt MegaCorp Ferrous Corporation who want to take their land, and fear that Ferrous have hired Dreaded mercenaries rumored to be half-alien called "the Raza" to kill them, but are expecting reinforcements sent by a man named Hrothgar to defend the colony. Since the protagonists' cargo hold is full of weapons and their resident Nice Guy One discovered a sun pendant in his quarters that matches what Hrothgar's people are supposed to have, he assumes he and his crewmates are the promised saviors. Meanwhile, the ship's android has been attempting to recover the wiped databanks onboard: discovering that except for Mysterious Waif Five, the crew are all wanted murderers and Psychos for Hire guilty of everything from kidnapping and piracy to terrorism, there are no aliens, and the Raza is the name of their ship. They have the pendant and the weapons shipment because they intercepted and killed Hrothgar and his people before they could reach the colony. Naturally, the crew are taken aback, and One in particular has a hard time with the idea that he used to be a murderous lowlife criminal. See the Quotes for this trope.
  • The Devil Judge: Elijah accidentally started the fire that killed her parents. Yo-han hides the truth from her for years and doesn't react well when Sun-ah reveals it to everyone.
  • 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. Eventually, the truth comes to light: The regeneration ability that Time Lords possess, long said to be a natural development, is actually artificial; the power was harvested from an entity called the Timeless Child via horrific experiments and spliced into Gallifreyian DNA. Furthermore, the Timeless Child's memory was eventually erased and left as an ordinary Time Lord child. And the current identity of this amnesiac entity? The Doctor.
  • 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!
  • Fallout (2024) has particularly big secrets that shake the central characters to their core, in addition to having sweeping ramifications for the entire series: Vaults 31, 32, and 33 were supposed to be a connected community, but it turns out Vault 31's purpose, as part of Vault-Tec's experiments, was as a storage facility for hand-picked Overseers from Vault-Tec's pre-war upper brass, all kept in cryogenic preservation until needed. When the residents of Vault 32 found this out, they descended headlong into anarchy and bedlam, killing their Overseer before turning on each other and themselves, resulting in the entire Vault being depopulated. Lucy's father, Hank MacLean, was one such Overseer. Vault-Tec also had proprietary information on the secrets of cold fusion, a limitless source of energy, which they kept secret in the hopes of remaining ahead of their competitors. Worse still, to incentivize business partners to invest in Vaults, they conspired to start the Great War, themselves. The wife of the Ghoul was the one who proposed this to begin with.
  • A French Village: Max, a French Communist liberated from a concentration camp by the Red Army, spent time in the Soviet Union before being sent home. All his comrades are very eager to hear about what they believe is a worker's paradise, but he pleads weariness and declines. Later he confesses to Edmond what it's really like-constantly being watched by the secret police, and thousands having been shot in the purges under Stalin. It's clear that he's shaken to the core, given that Western Communists had lionized the Soviet Union and denied such atrocities earlier.
  • In the episode of From the Earth to the Moon that covered Apollo 12, "That's All There Is", after a lightning strike caused havoc during the launch, the flight controllers went over all the systems. Every system was tested, and came out fine—except one of the most important ones: the parachutes. They realized that they had no way of knowing whether or not the pyrotechnics that would deploy the parachutes for splashdown at the end of the mission were disabled by the lightning strike. They ultimately decided to proceed with the mission—and, also, not tell the crew. The given reason was because if the parachutes didn't work, then the crew would be dead whether or not they proceeded with the mission. For the episode, however, the drama of the moment was slightly muted, as splashdown was one of the first scenes of the episode, so the audience already knew they would survive at that point.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • When Bran Stark realizes his accidental warging of adolescent Hodor in the past in a Stable Time Loop is the reason why Hodor has been intellectually disabled the whole time Bran has known him, he is horrified and can't bring himself to look away for the rest of the episode.
    • Daenerys Targaryen 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 Snow 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 to 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) Daenerys, the woman he loves, is actually his aunt. D'oh.
  • Ginny and Georgia: In Season 2, Ginny wrestles with learning that her mom Georgia had killed her last husband.
  • Higher Ground:
    • Shelby's mother at first denies her stepfather had molested her and Jess, but later admits it's true, but she simply didn't want to know that it was happening.
    • Scott's dad later says much the same thing when stating he now believes him that his stepmother raped Scott.
  • Himitsu no Hanazono (2007): The father of the Kataoka brothers, Ryo Kataoka? He's plagiarist and stole all his works from someone else. He was good friends with the painter Minoru Noguchi when he was alive, who also happened to be the true father of Yoh. However, after Noguchi's death, Ryo seizes his paintings and published them as his own. He was so consumed with guilt that he confessed it on his deathbed.
  • Kamen Rider Double:
    • Poor, poor Phillip. 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.
  • Merlin (2008):
    • King Uther's refusal to tell Arthur the truth about his magical birth and the death of his mother. 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.
  • The Power (2023): Roxy slowly learns her mom was not really murdered by random burglars — her dad, whom she loves and wants to impress, ordered it done.
  • 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 finale of Season 14: Sam and Dean learn that God, one of the Winchesters' biggest allies, has been orchestrating everything the brothers suffered throughout the show (including the apocalypse example above) just for entertainment, and has been holding back all this time to preserve drama.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Need to Know", a man returns to his small town bearing the Truth of Existence, a short phrase which drives anyone who hears it instantly insane.
  • The X-Files:
    • This is a major plot point. 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.
  • Zero (2021): Anna discovers that her dad is paying criminals to wreck the Barrio, so its properties will be worth less and he can buy them up cheaply then evict all the residents.

    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; the exact nature of his secret, however, is never disclosed to the viewer.

    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 several thousands 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 
  • Alfred Hitchcock - Vertigo:
    • The first part of the story has Ed learns that his childhood didn't happen as he remembered it: His father, John wasn't a playful dad who hid candies and treats in the house so his son could seek for them, but a compulsive drinker who made him seek for his alcohol behind his mother's back, the latter, tired of John, started dating Nick Reyes and got a child with him, Ed wasn't playing spies with his father when he took a photo of his mother and left it on John's office, the picture he took was actually of her kissing Nick. And when his father learned that, the car crash that killed the mother and little sister wasn't an accident, but a deliberate murder on the part of John, which Ed unwillingly and indirectly caused. While Ed is at first in denial, he learns to accept it as the childhood he had and decides to become the person these events made him to be.
    • For Robert Carrigan, if learning that his adoptive daughter died drunk and falling off a building wasn't awful enough, he has to learn she actually killed her "best friend" and impersonated her, being alive the whole time and on a criminal spree only to die for real eight years later by falling off a bridge.
  • 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 until he got blown up? Turns out that Baker accidentally caused that by ordering Leggett to keep the true nature of Allen's and Garnett's deaths a secret, for fear of reprisals from the rest of the squad. Said secret is that Leggett indirectly caused their deaths by starting a loud argument and brawl with them, the noise of which attracted a German squad. However, as a result, Leggett was alienated by the rest of the squad, as his refusal to speak of the incident made them believe he was a coward who had hidden and allowed Allen and Garnett to die,* which was only compounded by Leggett's own guilt over the incident. The burden of keeping the secret, coupled with the inability to talk to anyone about his side of the story, was too much for the poor guy, which is why he charged the tank in the first place.
  • Bugsnax: For most of its run, the game is a cheery bug-catching adventure where you hunt the titular Bugsnax and then feed them to the townsfolk of Snaktooth Island, slowly transforming their bodies into whatever they've eaten. And then you find out that the reason Bugsnax look like food and are irresistibly delicious is because they reproduce by assimilation. The more you eat, the more you are drawn to keep eating them until you irreversibly turn into snax and are absorbed into the island itself, which turns out to be entirely made of Bugsnax.
  • 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.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: V was dead the moment Dex shot them. Despite the Relic chip bringing them back to life and repairing the damage to their brain, the Relic's own engram implantation protocols changed their brain on the biological level, to the point that it would eventually reject V's engram, and that V would be Living on Borrowed Time even if they opted to return to their body.
    • And an unknown third-party note  has perfected subtle brainwashing for government leaders. It's up to you to decide if the upcoming Mayor Peralez deserves to know his entire life is a lie, but he doesn't take it well.
  • Dawn of War II:
    • This is more or less the reason for Avitus' betrayal (if he's the traitor) in the Chaos Rising expansion, the realization that the chapter he serves - and has shed so much blood for - and its ideals were subverted centuries ago with no one able to stop him.
    • While the player and most of the cast learn in Chaos Rising that Chapter Master Azariah Kyras is actually a Chaos worshipper, Captain Apollo Diomedes refuses to consider it. Only in the Retribution expansion, set a decade later, is he finally given irrefutable proof (witnessing a conversation between a traitor guardsman and Kyras) and undergoes something of a Heroic BSoD from the realization that all the purges and murders he carried out on Kyras' orders might not have been for the good of the Chapter after all.
  • Devil May Cry: Dante doesn't take the revelation of Trish having been created by and working for Mundus all along rather well.
  • Devil May Cry 5: Nero is bent on taking revenge against the mysterious demon who ripped off his Devil Bringer arm from the previous game. He's briefly out of words when that "demon" is actually his half-demon father Vergil. After revealing this, Dante specifically points out that he wanted to keep it a secret so that Nero won't have to kill his old man. It turns out even Trish and Lady knew it as well, and Lady also tries to convince Nero that killing your father isn't something you can recover from (and she would know, having done this to Arkham back in 3). Fortunately, Nero thinks of an alternative option — stop the fight between Dante and Vergil so that neither of them have to die.
  • 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 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:
      • 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.
      • Given that one of the game's major themes is faith, most, if not all core members of the Inquisition faced this trope. Not all of them take the revelations lightly without breaking down as reality forces them to reassess their views.
  • 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.
  • Fishing Vacation: In some ending routes, you begin to piece together what actually happened to the uncle and his family. The first big clue is when you fish up a child-sized shoe with a rotting foot inside (and a cellar key attached), horrifying your friend as they realize it's likely the remains of their cousin. If you get into the cellar, you find notes confirming the uncle murdered his family.
  • GreedFall: The Congregation of Merchants and the Nauts secretly discovered Teer Fradee 200 years prior to the game's events, and the aristocracy of the Congregation became tyrants who ruled with an iron fist until they were all decimated and driven off by the resident eldritch god of the island. The surviving Congregation citizens paid the Nauts to pretend they never discovered Teer Fradee. Except, the Nauts never stopped exploiting the island for slaves to sell to the mainland Congregation - which is where De Sardet came from. To twist the knife further, the Malichor has nothing to do with Teer Fradee; it is actually a result of the uncontrolled pollution caused by reckless industrialization on the mainland, and has little if anything to do with Teer Fradee itself, except that maybe the Eldritch god of the island may have helped it along a little in revenge for the Congregation's pillaging.
  • 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 the climax of Halo 2, the Arbiter is told the truth (known to players) about the Halo rings. They aren't divine instruments that will allow the worthy to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, but weapons of mass destruction that will kill all life in the galaxy. The Forerunners used them to stop the Flood, and died doing so. The look of absolute despair on the Arbiter's face (made even more clear in the Anniversary edition) when he's told this is heartbreaking.
  • Played for laughs in Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- when Ky finally realizes that Sol is the father Dizzy. Since Ky is now married to Dizzy, that makes Sol his father-in-law.
  • In Halo Infinite, UNSC AI The Weapon was created specifically with the task of locking down Cortana for retrieval and deletion, and she was to be deleted herself upon completing said mission. However, she admits to not knowing why she was given this mission, going so far as to ask "What did (Cortana) do that was so wrong?" Towards the end of the game's plot, she gets her answer, and it's so much more than she bargained for. Cortana, having gone rogue, led an AI (or "Created") uprising against the rest of the galaxy, subjugating and destroying entire worlds and murdering billions, if not trillions, of lives along her path of conquest. What's worse is that The Weapon finds out she is an exact copy of Cortana, only without her memories, which was necessary for her to complete her mission. Master Chief drives it home by stating that she is Cortana, if she and Chief had never met. The Weapon's reaction to all this news is.... Not positive.
    The Weapon: I'm her?!
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The society of the Old Ones was super advanced in terms of technology, far more than the primitive tribes that exist in the current world. 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. Humanity's only hope was in Project Zero Dawn, a mysterious superweapon that would shut down the swarm and save the Earth. Millions, if not billions of people signed up for Operation Enduring Victory, fighting the ever-growing swarm with minimal training in a desperate attempt to delay extinction long enough for Zero Dawn. The awful truth is that saving the planet was impossible; there was no way to shut down the swarm before they ate all biomass on Earth, leaving the world nothing but a lifeless rock, filled with several million hibernating robots, "waiting for something to eat." Zero Dawn's true purpose was to calculate the shutdown codes after the swarm had gone into hibernation, then re-terraform the Earth and eventually repopulate it. Every human living in Aloy's time is descended from a human born in a lab. This was bad enough that recruits for Project Zero Dawn had the option of euthanasia (after a forty-eight hour waiting period and therapy) if they couldn't deal with it.
    General Herres: This is the horrible truth behind the lies of Operation: Enduring Victory—my lies—lies designed to inspire millions of innocents to sacrifice themselves in battle.
  • 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.
    • In the second game, he then learns that his human self was a horribly arrogant, racist murderer that used the shield of religion to hunt down the last of the true vampires, Janos Audrin, and kill him because he could.
  • 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 practice so he could eventually turn you into a doll and keep you 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 Protheans 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 Protheans 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:
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Naked Snake's mission is to kill The Boss, his Evil Mentor who defected to Soviet Russia and instigated a nuclear incident in Russia (a good part of it, no less). Then it's revealed by EVA that The Boss only defected to gain Volgin's trust, steal the Philosopher's legacy, and bring the whole can of bank worms back to America. The nukes were a bargaining chip to gain Volgin's trust, but "nobody could have predicted" that Volgin would fire a Davy Crockett on his own base. Because she was the main suspect of Volgin's insanity, to prevent World War III, The Boss had to dieby the hand of her best student. She knew it, and willingly went along with it. Then, in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, it's revealed that Operation Snake Eater was just one of many ploys to get The Boss out of the equation, since they (the CIA) feared her charisma and the powerful connections/fame she made across all nations. Said ploys include denying her support while spying on Russian space-faring development, sending her into space with faulty equipment (and losing the space race in the process), denying her support during the Pig Bay mission, forcing her and The Sorrow (her husband) to fight each other to the death... Did we mention this is all narrated by a psychotic jailbait who threatens to nuke the east coast of the United States just so Big Boss will always be the slave of the Patriots? No wonder Big Boss goes off the deep end.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots 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 40s, 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. Both sides' masterminds are using the world itself as a massive experiment to achieve a new level of sapience for themselves. Oh, and the YoRHa Androids were created from components taken from the Machines, making them not that 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.
  • OMORI has the reason for Sunny's friend group falling apart and why the various Somethings haunt him: Sunny accidentally killed Mari by pushing her down the stairs. Basil, the only other witness to this, came up with the idea to make Mari's death look like a suicide. The guilt and trama resulting from the incident would create the Somethings that haunt Basil and Sunny. Sunny's guilt was so extreme that he shut himself away from his friends for years and created Omori, an emotionless Split Personality dedicated to repressing Sunny's memories of the incident.
  • Outer Wilds:
    • The main story has some big revelations as you explore the Nomai ruins in your solar systems, none of them pleasant. The reason your sun goes nova at the end of each time loop? That's not the Nomai's fault (despite their best efforts), your sun's at the end of its natural life cycle, and there's nothing you can do to stop it from happening. The reason why all the other stars you can see are also going nova? It's Just Before The Natural End of Time, and the universe as a whole is at the end of its natural life cycle.
    • The Echoes of the Eye DLC adds a secondhand one. The Stranger's inhabitants traveled to your star system, following the signal of the Eye of the Universe, well before the Nomai arrived. They were so dedicated to this voyage that they reduced their homeworld to a Polluted Wasteland in the process of building the ringworld they used to cross star systems. But once they reached their destination, they saw a vision that seemed to show the Eye wiping out the entire universe. The aliens used a satellite to block the Eye's signal so that no one else would reach it and cause that to happen, but were in such despair that their great journey was All for Nothing that they razed their temples to the Eye and retreated into a Lotus-Eater Machine's facsimile of their homeworld until their bodies withered away and died.
  • Pedestal (2021): A major theme of the game is that the truth is not necessarily something that will bring closure, but might only open more wounds. This comes into play by the end, when Aoi discovers the truth behind the mystery of Shiori's life and death. It turns out that none other than her own best friend Akari was responsible, as she is The Sociopath who already encouraged her teacher friend to kill herself and ruined Shiori's life to see if she would kill herself too, purely to amuse herself. If Aoi accepts this, she decides she cannot be friends with Akari any longer and is brought to despair herself over discovering this.
  • 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.
  • Planescape: Torment has several of these:
    • Everytime you die, your immortality randomly steals someone else's life in the universe. The downside is having a memory loss.
    • All those people that die in your place? They become shadows and are incapable of moving on to the afterlife. They're obviously not happy about this and hunt you down relentlessly, even thought killing you will not release them from their curse and will only bring more shadows.
    • The multiverse is slowly dying because of your past actions. It was so heinous that even the most vile and despicable of gods refused to answer your prayers.
    • No matter the amount of good you do, even as an immortal, your past actions can't ever be forgiven. Your final death will land you straight in the infernal planes and you'll be a disposable mook in the Blood War.
  • Alex Mercer spends the majority of [PROTOTYPE] trying to figure out who unleashed a deadly virus that got the city quarantined and destroyed his memory. The culprit is Doctor Alex Mercer, who did it as a final screw you to humanity. The worse truth is that the character who thinks they're Alex Mercer is really the virus, who 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.
  • Psychonauts 2: Once Raz finally repairs Ford's fractured mind, Ford tells him the reason why it split apart in the first place: Ford didn't really kill Maligula, but rather brainwashed her into forgetting her days as both a Psychonaut and a mass-murderer, and brainwashed both her and her orphaned nephew into thinking they were mother and son. By the way, Maligula and the boy? Raz's grandmother Nona and his father Augustus repsectively. So he's related to a mass-murderer who not only killed hundreds of her own countrymen, but also killed Raz's real grandparents. After doing that, Ford split his own mind apart because he couldn't handle the guilt that came with Brainwashing for the Greater Good.
  • 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 themself from realizing that they are 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 prosperity see-saw between Sylvarant and Tethe'alla in regards to mana was just self-righteous fascist angels playing god. The main party takes that surprisingly well; i.e., it fuels them to wage war against Heaven.
  • 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 in part to 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.
    • In The Great Ace Attorney:
      • In Case 2-3, just before the trial begins, Sholmes cautions Ryunosuke that a key point to this trial is proving that his client's beloved thesis (a working teleporter) is completely impossible after he and Iris looked over it several times and concludes it cannot be proven practically.
      • The same case also has Doctor Sithe warns Ryunosuke of being on the verge of opening "Pandora's Box". She is actually not referring to this particular case but regarding the Professor case, one that she was involved in, and the true identity of the Professor.
      • In Case 2-5, Lord van Zieks has to confront the truth that his beloved brother was in fact the real Professor.
  • 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 Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls: The whole game was actually Monaca's plan to turn Makoto's sister Komaru into the new Ultimate Despair.
    • 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.
  • Daughter for Dessert:
    • The protagonist doesn’t tell Amanda the whole truth about who her mother was. This backfires, as Cecilia offers answers about Lainie to Amanda, and uses her information to drive a wedge between MC and Amanda.
    • The protagonist doesn’t tell Amanda that their diner is failing, even when he’s contemplating selling the business to a liquidator. She finds out anyway when she catches Kathy looking for another job.
    • After the protagonist and Amanda have sex for the first time, Kathy asks what happened. The best option is to lie, and say that the two of them just talked.
  • Two related ones in Double Homework:
    • Not only did the protagonist and Tamara kill 12 people by causing an avalanche, but they had been warned just before the fact that it could happen. Neither of them tells Johanna in order to protect her, but she eventually finds out from Dennis.
    • When Dennis finds out the protagonist’s and Tamara’s big secret, the protagonist doesn’t immediately tell Tamara, hoping to protect her as well.
  • 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!
    • Battler, meanwhile, learns that Asumu wasn't his biological mother - his stepmother Kyrie was, and his father switched Battler with Asumu's stillborn baby to avoid any issues from his first son being born to a mistress. This means that Battler cutting ties with them for years in protest of Rudolf marrying Kyrie so soon after Asumu's death, which was also a major contributor to the murders, was All for Nothing.
    • Sayo Yasuda gets it even worse. Good news: she isn't really some nobody orphan, but the heir to the Ushiromiya gold! ...because her father, Kinzo, raped her mother, who was his daughter. This also means that she's related to all three of her love interests. And she can't even have children like she always dreamed about, because the injuries she suffered as a baby made her incapable of doing so. Hardly surprising that her reaction is to plan a mass murder-suicide of the entire family.

    Web Animation 

  • 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. According to Satan, every single soul eventually starts digging for the truth, even after being outright told they can't turn back once they know it.
    • 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 detached 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.
    • After everything that happens in the comic, it turns out there is another dark truth: Spongebob is the true mastermind behind everything. He deliberately undercooked one of the Krabby Patties in order to intentionally provoke Patrick, killing off a substantial chunk of Bikini Bottom's population in order to save the day and pretend to be the conquering hero. All so he could take over Bikini Bottom unchallenged as a restauranteer. The sheer evil behind her old friend's actions and her inability to stop him lest he start sending his self-clones after innocent civilians is the Last Straw for Sandy, who ends up leaving Bikini Bottom forever, leaving Squidward unaware of Spongebob's true nature and saddened by her farewell.

    Web Original 
  • Breaking Providence: The truth about the Empire and the source of both its prosperity and its current troubles is known to only a small handful of people. The Job system that involves the Destined Hero having to fight and slay the Dark Lord every twenty years? It was part of a deal made with a powerful magical artifact and the price for the Empire's prosperity was that whoever was named the Destined Hero had to kill the Dark Lord personally every twenty years or they'd be faced with calamity. The so-called "Dark Races" that are hated and persecuted are merely the ones most likely to have one of their kind become the new Dark Lord, which is why the Empire tries to enslave them all. While a number of high ranking people are aware of this, only two (at the start of the series) are aware that the artifact in question broke centuries ago. The Empire's current troubles of famine, bandits, plagues, etc have nothing to do with the previous Destined Hero and Dark Lord not fightingnote  but that the church and government are both incredibly corrupt.
  • 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. And that terrible thing is the reason humanity has emotions in the first place. Humanity in its natural state are cold, stoic, remorseless husks.
    • 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.
    • Yet another SCP, a miracle pill that can cure any disease, has a note that the pills have to be kept away from corpses at all costs, implying that they have some sort of horrific effect on the dead. They actually simply revive them, healthy and with no side effects. The problem is that the revived know what happens when you die - namely, nothing. No heaven, no Hell, and unlike the above SCP, no eternal awareness being trapped in your own corpse, you simply cease to exist. The confirmation that there's no afterlife has driven so many staff members insane from how meaningless life is that the SCP Foundation had to keep the truth secret.
  • 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 a Well-Intentioned Extremist fighting for political liberty, equal rights, and free inquiry. He does not take it well.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In Amphibia, the season 2 finale "True Colors" reveals that Marcy Wu, one of the three girls Trapped in Another World, was not trapped at all. She knew what the music box would do and got both herself and her two best friends trapped in Amphibia on purpose.
  • In The Venture Brothers, 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 into 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 discovers it.
    • 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 "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 Quartz Universe 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 movie and epilogue series go on to explain that Pink Diamond was not immune to Privilege Makes You Evil, and had her own occasional psychotic breaks, which she inflicted on the villain of the movie and her original Pearl.
  • 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 can't 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 Jay's favorite restaurant, 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 bouillabaisse made from fish from the South Pacific he served to Jay's friend Jeremy Hawke. When Jeremy complains about it, Vlada serves 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 "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!!
  • The Owl House: In the episode "Hollow Mind" twice over, the horrible truth about Emperor Belos plans and crimes are revealed.
    • Hunter finds out that not only is he the latest in a long line of of disposable clones, the ideals he dedicated his life to were a complete lie. This reveal completely breaks him, and he suffers a panic attack almost immediately after Eda pulls him and Luz out of Belos' mind.
    • Luz learns that Belos is actually Philip Wittebane and that her trip to the past gave him the tools necessary to both take over the Boiling Isles and put in motion his plans to enact genocide on the population of the Demon Realm. She appears to handle it slightly better, though she's obviously on the edge of tears as the episode ends.
  • Gargoyles has the revelation that the Wyvern massacre occured because of the betrayal of the clan most trusted friend and ally, Robbie. And he wasn't alone in this, Goalith's own mate, Demona was the co-conspirator.

    Real Life 
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Your mother is...

Madeleine Waverly tells Lynn that her mother is dead. Lynn, who up to this point had been told she was gone for work, is shocked to hear it and asks Sarah, Edward and Arthur if Madeleine is lying. She isn't.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / AwfulTruth

Media sources: