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No, they are not saluting that poor policeman

"Waiting. (To put on a black shirt!)
Waiting. (To weed out the weaklings!)
Waiting. (To smash in their windows
And kick in their doors!)
Waiting. (For the Final Solution
To strengthen the strain!)
Waiting. (To follow the worms!)"
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Black Shirts are closet Evil Minions yearning for the day the villain brings about his Empire of Evil. In the meantime, they'll complain about the current "decadent and corrupt" government to anyone who won't roll their eyes and to some people who will. Once the villain starts recruiting, these guys are in line before Les Collaborateurs have finished breakfast.

The threat that Black Shirts represent is a latent one. While they're harmless on their own or in peacetime, they quickly organize into a formidable force in service of the Big Bad. Heroes are nominally obliged not to kill them, but even the Messianic Archetype would be hard-pressed to make them turn to the side of good. What's more, they completely agree with the Evil Overlord's agenda, no matter how cruel, inhuman or insane — even if it means that they'll end up dying themselves by its conclusion (a fact they usually ignore). While Les Collaborateurs are greedy enough that they can be bribed into helping the good guys, Black Shirts do it for fanaticism and can't be swayed by mere money. Against them, only force will ultimately stop them and you'll know they'll show no mercy in a heartbeat if they think they can get away with it, so get ready to get tough with them.

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They frequently serve the fairly useful purpose of explaining just how the villain got so much support overnight (namely, it was always there, the villain just managed to lead them) and, on the other hand, add a bit of Fridge Horror to a happy ending — unless they have been all killed or otherwise had their minds changed, the villain's ideology is still viable in the setting...

Named after the uniform worn by the Italian fascists and by their British imitators. The Nazis did the same thing with brown shirted SA (who then fell out of favor and were purged by the black-clad SS after the Nazis took power, the SS were then favored by the regime until its end), and one American fascist movement wore silver shirts. A variety of other lesser-known fascist movements also copied this pattern of wearing a uniform with a specific color shirt that became the nickname of their followers, such as the blueshirts of the somehow even more ineffectual first attempt at British fascism and the greenshirts of the Romanian Iron Guard (who like the Nazi brownshirts were disposed of or fell out of favor once no longer useful to the fascist dictatorship). Needless to say, this trope is Truth in Television, since every distasteful ideology has always had followers, and of course, uniforms are a very easy way of enforcing conformity, as practically any organized group from store employees to the Boy Scouts to, y'know, armies can attest to.note  Just to make it confusing, black shirts are also a popular choice for anti-fascist groups.

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Also see The Quisling, Day of the Jackboot and Secret Police.

Unrelated to Red Shirt and Mauve Shirt, though legions of Black Shirts can make useful Mooks for Cannon Fodder.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: The Yeagerists are this for Eren Jeager, they are formed by civilian and military members dissatisfied with the current leadership, believing Eren is the only one that can stop the global threat Paradis island faces and usher the New Eldian Empire. They stage a coup against the military junta, do The Purge against disloyal members of the military and gleefully execute foreigners.
  • Death Note:
    • The cult of Kira, who actually appear in the manga after Kira's defeated.
    • Light also thought Matsuda was this. Matsuda is the only person on the task force who regularly suspects that Kira's plans might actually be right, and is the only one to trust Light's judgment completely. Five bullets later, Light is no longer so sure.
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the corrupt administration in The Federation has its own black shirts.
  • Interestingly enough, MÄR manages to pull this one off with a nice Heel–Face Turn at the end of it. Ash has actually joined the Chess Pieces to protect the children he loves and despite Ginta telling him that Phantom just wants to kill everyone, he knows this and it isn't until his strongest ARMs are overpowered and defeated that he finally admits defeat and completes the turn. Letting Ginta know that he's leaving it in the boy's capable hands to protect the kids in his place.

    Comic Books 
  • Doc Savage takes on the Silver Shirt bundists in the first issue of Millennium Comics Doc Savage: Man of Bronze.
  • Pro-Nazi Bunds were a common foe of the Justice Society of America in The Golden Age of Comic Books.
  • Large swaths of the Marvel Universe's general populace. It is surprising when we see Muggles side with mutants and the like... Though they don't show up that often, the Sons of the Serpent are basically Marvel's version of the KKK, and they actively recruit among the ordinary population. Racial or religious minorities, mutants, whoever: they pretty much hate everyone.
  • A good version is seen in Planet Hulk, where the Imperial resistance's morale is bolstered when rumors surface of a mysterious green goliath who put a scar on the Red King's face the first time he entered the ring as a gladiator. The captions put it best, describing how they don't know their peoples' warrior history because those days are long gone, that their fighting streak ended with their fathers' fathers. They don't know how to fight, but all of a sudden... they do.
  • In The Spirit comic strip by Will Eisner, a fake invasion by Nazis brings these guys out of the woodwork.
  • In Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Dr. Aphra is an Adventurer Archaeologist who happens to be a supporter of the Empire and a personal fan of Darth Vader, admiring their ideals (or at least fears them enough to prefer being on their side). She eventually has something of a Heel Realization — while she still believes in a cynical view that strong-handed authority is needed for peace, she's not blind to the horrors the Empire's committed. The fact they repeatedly attempted to kill her even while she was nominally on their side certainly didn't help.
  • In Superman: Birthright, Superman's first foes are Black Shirts working for Luthor, who truly believe Luthor's theory that Superman is an evil alien invader.
  • Therefore, Repent!: The Splitters who side with the psychopathic angels against La Résistance.
  • A Garth Ennis War Story, "Condors", features an Irish Greenshirt, who supports the closest thing Ireland had to a true fascist, Eoin O'Duffy, fighting for Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Noah Vosen from The Bourne Series.
  • Fight Club featured a group of black shirts calling themselves Project Mayhem. One of the film's more obvious clues that these guys are not heroes is their literal black shirts and habit of chanting in unison while Edward Norton is pleading with them to think for themselves.
  • It Happened Here, set in a German-occupied Britain. It's implied Oswald Mosley is in charge, and the Immediate Action Organisation consists of former Blackshirts (at least one of them complains about how the Germans keep "getting in the way" and not letting them run things); in fact, actual British fascists were used for some of the scenes, which caused much controversy as they were allowed to openly express their views.
  • In Osmosis Jones, Thrax recruits a bunch of bacteria gangsters from Frank's armpit after killing their leader. He ends up destroying all of them, too, when they suggest "incubating" for a few days.
  • Star Wars series: Anakin Skywalker. Likewise, Stormtroopers follow this trope mostly, (at least with the Clone Troopers,) since they answer to the emperor. A few clones do oppose the Empire due to the fact their trainer cared for them so much and shown them their Proud Warrior Race Heritage. Some other Clone Troopers are disgusted by that though. This is lampshaded a bit in one of the Tag & Bink comics; a Stormtrooper goes on a little rant about how in a time of war and confusion, the Emperor brought forth peace, order, public safety, health care, and so on. Apparently he didn't know that the Emperor deliberately caused said war and confusion for this very purpose.

    Literature 
  • The various Kuinists from The Chronoliths are just waiting for the day when prophesied world conqueror Kuin will arrive and lead them to victory. One of them, Adam Mills, serves as the de facto Big Bad in Kuin's absence.
  • Discworld:
    • In several novels, small groups of aristocratic characters are portrayed as plotting against Lord Vetinari so that they can restore the monarchy with a puppet and make their interests policy, even though it's hinted this would be disastrous in the long run, which is why most city leaders are against the idea of a monarchy, even those from noble families such as the Rusts and Venturis who are critical of Vetinari personally.
    • The Day Watch and the Palace Guard from Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms, contrasted with the more Jerk with a Heart of Gold-like Night Watch.
  • Everworld: The Sennites. They have a certain gray-eyed witch in mind for the throne of Everworld, and if you get in their way, you'll eat lead.
  • The Greg Mandel Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton is set in a Britain recovering from a Communist dictatorship. Ironically the Blackshirts are extreme left-wing (formerly the Peoples Constables, a militia force used by the government to brutally maintain order) while the Trinities were La Résistance, who copied their tactics of violent political agitation. Both sides still exist as street gangs under the New Conservative government, with the Trinities secretly encouraged to eliminate the Blackshirts who are working with The Remnant to take back power.
  • The Grey Stormtroopers from Hard to Be a God by Strugatsky Brothers.
  • The Harry Potter series provides numerous examples:
  • Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here chronicles the rise of American fascism based on religious fundamentalists (duped, more or less), economic discontent, and hatred of Communists and socialists. President Buzz Windrip's supporters organize themselves into paramilitary Minute Men units complete with blue uniforms.
    • They specifically choose blue to emphasize they are not black-shirted fascist thugs, but all-American boys- then act in exactly the same thuggish manner.
  • P. G. Wodehouse created a rather merciless (and contemporary-to-the-original) savage parody of the Blackshirts — Sir Roderick Spode and his Blackshorts, from the Jeeves and Wooster stories.
    • It is explained that they adopted this because all the shirts were already taken. Bertie takes the chance to sneer at "a handful of halfwits (disfiguring) the London scene by going about in footer bags."
    • Jeeves and Bertie get to hold over Spode the Dark Secret that he designs lingerie under the brand name "Eulalie Soeurs", which would ruin his fascistic aspirations if it got out.
  • From The Lord of the Rings: Bill Ferny, Harry Goatleaf, and the rest of the "ruffians" from Bree, plus the malcontent hobbit Ted Sandyman, who are more than happy to join Lotho Sackville-Baggins as hired thugs when he takes over the Shire with Saruman's help.
  • In the Agatha Christie World War II novel N or M?, Tommy and Tuppence run across a number of characters who admire the Nazis and think it a pity that Britain didn't ally with Germany at the start of the war. It turns out the villain has an entire book full of these: people in power who can be counted on to support the Nazis in case of an invasion. The villain is also an example of one, British by birth but spying for and supporting the Nazis.
  • In the Kim Newman short story "Slow News Day", puppet UK Prime Minister John Major is attending an anniversary celebration of the successful German invasion of Britain. He notes the attendance of a handful of elderly surviving Black Shirts who had been hailed as heroes after the invasion, despite having played almost no part in it. They are often referred to by the sarcastic nickname of 'Dad's Army'.
  • In S.M. Stirling's T2 Trilogy, "Luddite" environmental extremists work for SkyNet because wiping out humanity is a good thing. Even Skynet thinks they're crazy.
  • Timeline-191: Being an Alternate History, Harry Turtledove's series features the SS-counterparts in the form of the Freedom Party Stalwarts. The series also mentions the Silver Shirts, who were organised by Oswald Mosley and Evil Churchill in 1920s Britain (which had lost the First World War). There were real-life Silver Shirts, too.
  • Many rank and file Darkfriends are this in The Wheel of Time. They pledged themselves to the Dark One (usually out of greed or power lust), but they mostly serve as informers, messengers and sleeper agents. They are clearly unpleasant and bad persons but they don't usually do so much harm, at least until a powerful leader (for example a Forsaken) takes charge and actually makes them do something. As the series progresses we are also introduced to a number of Darkfriends who are pretty ordinary people who mostly joined for the perks of belonging to a multinational criminal network/secret society, and are horrified that they might be called on to help bring about the end of the world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: The Night Watch appears to have been almost entirely composed of Black Shirts. And Zack, who gets them all VERY arrested... though Garibaldi does, at least, call out a few of them, whose facial expressions imply they're reluctant.
  • The Boys (2019): Todd, the stepfather of MM's daughter, is presented as this as he relishes Homelander's bad behavior and attends his rallies.
  • Colony: This was apparently the case with the future collaborators, since people in the US government had known the Hosts were on their way to Earth since 1969. However, it is left unclear if most really had enthusiasm for alien conquest so much as a desire to remain in positions of power once they came.
  • Good Omens: The Satanic nuns are an entire order of these, established to help the Antichrist be put in place so he can take over the world in the end times. Until then, they pretend to be regular nuns with a maternity hospital. However, they utterly mess things up with the Antichrist and soon disband as a result of Hastur burning down their convent.
  • Doctor Who: Ratcliffe and his gang of Neo-Nazi thugs who ally themselves with the Daleks in "Remembrance of the Daleks". Ratcliffe even mentions that he had been jailed during World War II for advocating that Britain was on the wrong side (implying that he was an actual Black Shirt).
  • Foyle's War: In "Trespass", a former member of Mosley's Blackshirts was attempting to start up a similar organization in post-war Britain. Although he claims to be in favor of a single European government, in his first speech he reveals it will be a Europe free of Jews, Slavs and other 'undesirables'. He whips a mob into a frenzy where they murder a pair of harmless Polish refugees on the mistaken belief they are Jewish.
  • A French Village: A fair number of French people willing serve the Vichy regime and German occupiers, not just in the more innocuous ways, but eagerly aiding antisemitic persecution. Many express their pleasure that they can now do these things which were prevented before and had been clearly just waiting for an opportunity. Some are even unhappy when the Germans are not brutal enough for them.
  • Parodied in Jeeves and Wooster where Black Shorts (as all shirt colors were taken already) use imagery very similar to one used by German and Italian fascists, but are what all real Blackshirts should not be: incompetent, lazy, fumbling, very low in number, and partial to haphazardly twisted ideas (such as providing all citizens with a British-made bicycle and umbrella). They get dissolved when their leader quits the politics.
  • Legend of the Seeker: Marianna, who was "waiting all her life" to help the Keeper tear the veil.
  • One episode of Lois & Clark, "Super Mann", featured a group of deep-cover Nazis, who had created "all-American" cover personas as a footballer, a model and a country singer. The Daily Planet's new copyboy, in addition to being a rather bitter figure who even Jimmy thought was a bit of a dweeb, was a huge fan of theirs. When they revealed their true colors, of course, he was the first to get a black leather uniform and took over the Planet building.
  • Peaky Blinders' fifth season features the actual blackshirts, the Union of British Fascists, as its main villains.
  • The two V (1983) miniseries had a youth group that followed the Visitors and helped them in their "we're only taking over for your own good, really" approach to humanity. Loosely based on the Real Life Hitler Youth. There is such a group in the re-imagined series as well.

    Music 
  • Subverted in the music video for Eminem's "Mosh". Throughout the song, Eminem engages in a vicious diatribe against then-president George W. Bush on a rain-soaked stage. This inspires scores of disaffected people to put on identical hooded sweatshirts, take to the streets, and fight through a police blockade... so they can line up at a voting station in an orderly fashion.
  • The Men They Couldn't Hang have a song called "The Ghosts of Cable Street", about a real-life skirmish between marchers for the Union of British Fascists and antifascist protesters that happened in London in 1936. The song's sympathies are clearly with the antifascists, and the chorus promises that "With courage, we shall beat those blackshirts down."

    Theatre 
  • In the original stage version of Peter Ustinov's Romanoff And Juliet, one of the bookend guards explains that his movement wears violet shirts - "or would if we could afford them."

    Video Games 
  • JRPGs in general seem fond of this, especially those of the SNES era. If the villain is a leader who's openly belligerent, and you enter his hometown or base of operations, you can expect to find these spouting his praises and talking about how the day where he rises to power and kills all who oppose him is at hand.
  • Deltarune has the "Miniboss for hire (will appear even if unhired)" Rouxls Kaard lament early in Chapter 2 that the main characters' Castle Town lacks an evil ruler to serve. When he arrives in the Cyber World, he leaps at the chance to serve the evil Queen in charge.
  • Else God-Hater in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. She openly despises the official religion of the Septim Empire. Turns out later in the game she's a member of the Mythic Dawn, and ends up dying on the Player Character's blade.
  • The Imperial Defense Force in The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie are an army of this trope as they have no names (in a franchise that gives out names to even the most minor NPCs) but are the main villain force in the game. The reason why they exist is because they are disgruntled at the fact that they had their times wasted when the war in Cold Steel IV only lasted for only a day or two and that The Empire retreated even though the country was winning in terms of the massive technological advantage the empire has over the Calvard Republic. They all seek to restart the world war to prove that the Erebonian military power is the most powerful army in the world and unite the world under its banner.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Fascist rebels in Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun.
  • In the campaign mode of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, the very first mission of the Undead Scourge campaign has the player invading the capital city of Lordaeron to find and recruit acolytes who are hiding amongst the local populace, waiting for the return of the Scourge.
  • In Wolfenstein: The New Order, it was generally shown that the European populations the Nazis conquered almost universally resented their rule. In contrast, in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, a shockingly high proportion of the ordinary American citizenry seem supportive of the new Nazi government. Most of the Americans La Résistance convince to join them over the course of the game are people who were already outcasts even before the Nazis took over, such as Black Panthers and American Communistsnote . The games have at least a couple prominent Author Tracts stating that the Nazis and 1950's America weren't so different.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • World War II: As a documentary series covering the titular conflict, naturally the historic Real Life breeds of this trope crop up. Examples include, in their coverage of the events of 1940: Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, molded after the Italians following Mussolini. The Right Club was an assembly of fascist sympathizers formed by British Member of Parliament Archibald Ramsay. Some of their members were arrested for spying on the Allies.

    Western Animation 
  • Jem: Clash is the Black Shirt in universe — as she's the first Misfits fan we set our eyes on.
  • Kim Possible: When Shego takes over the world in A Sitch in Time, Alpha Bitch Bonnie Rockwaller, Kim's high school arch-enemy, enforces Shego's rule.
  • Reboot: Megabyte's defeat by Matrix frees hundreds of Binomes who he had infected and forced to be his slaves. However, in the film "My Two Bobs," we see a group of former Viral Binomes who actually liked serving Megabyte, since it gave them free rein to bully people. (Plus, it impressed the ladies.) These Black Shirts are reduced to being minor nuisances in the era of prosperity following Megabyte's defeat until said villain returns. They whip themselves into a fairly impressive fighting force despite their limited numbers and ultimately aid Megabyte in gaining control of the Core, which is, unfortunately, the cliffhanger the series ends on.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Jedi General Pong Krell turns against the Jedi Order in hopes of joining Count Dooku as he had a vision of the Jedi Order being torn apart from the inside.


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