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Brainwash Residue

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All the goodness of Mind Rape... with the bitter aftertaste!

When somebody is Brainwashed and gets better, but somehow part of the programming sticks and it shows by the character acquiring new personality traits, tics, and/or quirks. For example, Alice is a mind controller who casts a spell on Bob to make him fall in love with her. Bob somehow breaks the spell, but whenever he looks at Alice now, he blushes and can't quite explain why. Maybe he's falling in love for real, but who knows for sure?

This can be used as a Plot Device to show that the character hasn't quite fully recovered from his brainwashing. Maybe he has, but the idea of being somebody Not Himself makes him change... probably for the better.

Also comes in other flavors:

Compare and contrast with More than Mind Control, where the character more or less knows that he is/was being manipulated, but goes along anyway. See Cartesian Karma for when the residue may or may not have resided, but the consequences of their brain-washed actions are still quite valid, and Wistful Amnesia, where a memory-wiped character retains sentiments of the memories they lost.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In R.O.D the TV, Anita becomes a bookworm like her sisters after she gets a part of The Gentleman's memories. Take note, Anita used to hate books.
  • All of the girls Keima "conquers" in The World God Only Knows show signs of this. They just can't explain why they blush whenever the geeky otaku walks by.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny:
    • Stella, an Earth Alliance Extended who is brainwashed so she freezes up whenever anyone says "die" and absolutely trusts anyone who says "protect". Due to her memories not being properly wiped between missions, her programming leads her to associate Shinn with protection, thus allowing her to remember who he is.
    • Neo Roanoke has the amnesia-type: his original identity, that of Mu La Flaga, begins to re-emerge after he's brought aboard the Archangel. He finds Murrue inexplicably familiar, instinctively remembers the ship's communication codes, and eventually begins experiencing flashes of Mu's memories and using his old Catchphrase.
  • In Sket Dance, Tsubaki took some time to get rid of cat traits.
  • In the manga of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Miu, a kind-hearted and talented martial artist girl, gets captured by the Blood Knight Evil Mentor Silkwat Junazard and gets a combination of amnesia and brainwashing that conditions her into extreme aggression and bloodlust. Even upon being rescued and her memory restored, her bloodlust and aggression still lie subconsciously, often triggering when her emotions run high or when exerting significant effort in martial arts, even during a simple and safe training exercise. Part of this is because the bloodlust and aggression had always been a part of Miu. It's the main reason Junazard wanted her to be his disciple in the first place. Miu's grandfather trained her from an early age specifically to help her control it.
  • Played for Laughs in Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink. The second story involves a ghost accidentally possessing a girl and using the time to tell her crush, the school nurse, how she felt in life. When she leaves, the possessed girl ends up with similar feelings.

    Comic Books 
  • In Star Wars Legends, this happens to Mara Jade when Palpatine dies. Moments prior to Darth Vader killing him in Return of the Jedi, the Emperor sent a modified version of his death to Mara, along with the compulsion YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER. She was already loyal to Palpatine, but this event leaves her unwilling to disappear into the galaxy at large. However, she is able to overcome the compulsion by killing an evil clone of Luke.
  • This was the reason Bronze Tiger always declined to lead the Suicide Squad: he was afraid the brainwashing he received at the hands of the League of Assassins could kick in any time. Much later, Rick Flag consulted him on how to prevent the brainwashing he suspected he'd been subjected to from kicking in. As a result, some time later, Wade Eiling's gambit against Amanda Waller fails and he finds himself missing half a brain.
  • Judge Dredd: After Judge Kraken is captured following his participation in the Judda incursion, he undergoes extensive deprogramming to counter the brainwashing used by Morton Judd. However, some traces of his Judda past still remain, which is later used by the Sisters of Death to bring Kraken under their own control.
  • Grouchy Smurf in The Smurfs owes his grumpiness to this: In The Black Smurfs he was the first Black Smurf, who are notoriously belligerent, and because he was a Black Smurf the longest he remained grumpy after being cured. This isn't the case for the animated version, though.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has several examples:
    • The Winter Soldier in his 'James' persona, which was built out of a mixture of the Winter Soldier's programming and experiences and remnants of the Bucky personality, remains vulnerable to being shut down by trigger words, as chapter 72 of the first book shows with his apparent HeelĖFace Door-Slam. Once he's de-programmed and his memories are completely restored, he retains all the skills of the Winter Soldier, including a quieter and softer spoken presence that allows him to blend in with the wallpaper when he wants to. He can also tap into something like the robotic and ruthless Winter Soldier persona when he wants to for additional focus and efficiency, though it's a last resort as it's hinted to be difficult to get out of again.
    • Harry, after being Mind Raped into the Red Son, the Winter Soldier's Superior Successor, initially has most of the memories locked away as the stress was driving him insane. As it is, he ends up with a significant amount of trauma, a less patient, more ruthless, and eventually rather philosophical personality, as well as fluency in several languages - in the case of Russian, enough to pass for a native. Once he taps into them again out of desperation, he regains the combat skills and a far worse case of PTSD.
  • O'Malley boasts of his canon ability to do this to a therapist while possessing Pinkie Pie in I Against I, Me Against You. Caboose later shows Pinkie how to weaponize it as he does during the final battle against The Meta.
    O'Malley!Pinkie Pie: "Even after Iím gone, those that Iíve been in still have a piece of me left!"
  • The Immortal Game: Even after Rainbow Dash is freed from the Insanity, she still feels subconsciously compelled to obey Twilight Sparkle, whose Superpowered Evil Side was the one to cast the spell on her in the first place.
  • TRON fanon often plays this up in post-TRON: Legacy scenarios with Tron and that Rinzler programming. The residue ranges from massive guilt issues, VerbalTics, bizarre thought patterns, or even fits of madness where he attacks his allies.
  • Between Exiled and Gatecrash Taylor was kidnapped and brainwashed by Heartbreaker as part of his plan to kidnap Dinah. Even after using her jealousy to kill him, Taylor still loved him. The stress of dealing with her conflicting feelings makes up a good chunk of her character arc, ending when the Rachni Queen helps purge his influence.
  • Becomes a Plot Point in His Honor, The Mayor, Drew Lipsky. Kim is a Dented Iron after saving the world so many times and sometimes enters a fugue state due to all the Brainwash Residue building up in her head, turns out one of her repressed memories is actually important.
  • The Return:
    • Nabiki and Akane still have a significant amount of mental contamination after being enslaved and Mind Raped by Alexia and it takes a lot of work to salvage any of their original selves.
    • Misako (Ryouga) had her previous identity completely lost and is, for all intents and purposes, a new person whose personality is based on nothing but Brainwash Residue.
  • 5 Years Later uses this as the explanation for the characterization of Ben 10 villain Eon. While a Chronian as told in the movie Ben 10: Race Against Time, he ended up taking over the bodies of so many alternate Ben Tennysons as he traveled the multiverse and burned out his body that when he was encountered in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien and Ben 10: Omniverse he believed himself to be an alternate Ben Tennyson. By the events of Five Years Later, he's regained his sense of who he actually is and is planning accordingly.
  • Addressed in Harry and the Shipgirls. After Ginny Weasley was freed from the influence of the Diary Horcrux, Haru Ono, with the permission of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, performed a ritual to make sure there was no contamination left, just to be sure she was actually free.

    Films — Animated 
  • Toy Story 3: Buzz gets his mind changed several times over the course of the movie, first by being reset to demo mode, then to Spanish mode, and finally back to normal for the climax. However, even after being snapped out of Spanish mode, a scene during the credits montage reveals Buzz still involuntarily dances when exposed to Spanish music, much to his confusion. Jessie tells him to "go with it".

    Films — Live Action 
  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the Baroness is kept under supervision because they can't remove the mind-controlling nanomites just yet. Prior to that, she is shown to have retained some of her "training" by being able to operate a gun pod.
  • The main plot point of Inception uses a planted "idea" to change a person's outlook in life. This could be for the better (Robert Fischer views his father in a better light and avoids a possible energy monopoly with his company) or worse (Mal commits suicide thinking the reality she's living in is still a dream).
  • Total Recall (1990): After Quaid breaks Melina out of the constraints of one of the Recall machines, it seems just a bit of the Housewife programming made it through but not by much.
    Quaid: Are you all right? Are you still you?
    Melina: I'm not sure, dear.
  • Captain America: Civil War: Due to Cartesian Karma, the Avengers are essentially the only people who aren't afraid of the Winter Soldier after the events of the previous movie. And if they were right not to be, they might not have torn themselves in half, but it turns out the reason Bucky's been in hiding ever since is that he knows he has brainwash residue. The Big Bad finds out the Trigger Phrase and uses it (over Bucky pleading with him to stop) to send him on a rampage, turning the Avengers' divisive but previously only philosophical argument over the Sokovia Accords into an active crisis.
  • In Black Widow (2021) although Natasha was largely deprogrammed by Clint and S.H.I.E.L.D. the climax reveals that she's physically unable to attack the Big Bad as long as she can smell him.

  • Animorphs a disturbing variation due to the Puppeteer Parasite Yeerks' biology: If a Yeerk is near death, it will try to unwrap itself from the host's brain and emerge via the ear. This is not a pleasant process, and the Animorphs witness a Controller suddenly shout like a lunatic as the control is lifted and get killed by another Controller before his behavior draws attention. Visser One's former partner Essam 293 also died before he could fully exit his host, who became a Crazy Homeless Person because, to quote Visser one herself:
    He was not the same human. Bits of Essam still stuck to his brain. Dead nerve endings were tied into his. Some of his neurons fired through dead Yeerk tissue.
  • Discworld:
    • The shapeshifting flavour happens with "Borrowing", although it isn't involuntary, and Granny Weatherwax only "Borrows" an animal's body for some purpose, sharing it with the real animal for a short time. But after she's exited the animal's body, she still retains impulses from whatever shape she borrowed. For example, she stopped using owls to see at night because "You ends up for days trying to twist your head right round," and after she's borrowed an entire beehive, she declares, "I wantzzz a bunzzch of flowerzz, a pot of honey, and someone to szzzting."
    • It's also noted that at least one of the people she made think they had been turned into a frog still enjoy swimming in a pond long after the spell wore off. He was grateful for getting a new hobby.
  • In the Deryni works, Sean Lord Derry suffers from this, referring to nightmares he had after his captivity and torture at the hands of Wencit of Torenth. He reluctantly admits the nightmares returned years later in anticipation of Kelson's trip to Torenth for Liam-Lajos's investiture in King Kelson's Bride. This foreshadows Morag's reasserting control over his mind, control which is taken and used by Teymuraz.
  • In the New Jedi Order, after Tahiri is rescued from an attempt to brainwash her into believing she was a Yuuzhan Vong, it became a running subplot for several books that she retained most of the false memories subconsciously and under moments of extreme stress would adopt Vong mannerisms or even spout the Vong language. It was eventually revealed that the brainwashing had failed to overwrite Tahiri's original personality but had succeeded in creating a Yuuzhan Vong personality, Riina, who was almost totally independent of Tahiri's own mind. They ended up combining into a third personality to avoid going incurably insane.
  • In Everworld, Senna's power over David is a blend of this and More than Mind Control—he's attracted to her without any love spell, and he desperately wants to prove himself by "saving" her, so even when she's not actively enchanting him he's never very objective about her.
  • A variant in Wereling (2009): Philippa spends most of the second book possessed by the Necrotroph, and seems to be the only person to ever remain alive and sane afterwards. The experience seems to have altered her brain in some way, as she can now see the things that are usually Invisible to Normals and has a mental link with the Necrotroph in particular.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens in Warehouse 13 after Leena is saved from being brainwashed by McPhearson.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Nth Degree", Lt. Barclay gets a brain upgrade by some aliens, which goes away after it is no longer needed. Later, he and Troi are in Ten-Forward and he sees a chess game, moves a piece, and says "Checkmate in three moves."
    Troi: Reg, I didn't know you play chess.
    Barclay: I don't.
  • Crichton from Farscape has Scorpius residue for ages after getting his chip removed (overlaps with Imaginary Enemy).
  • In the original V (1983) miniseries, Diana has attempted to brainwash Julie Parish into becoming The Quisling. She fights off the brainwashing, mostly successfully, but occasionally catches herself using the wrong hand. In V: The Final Battle, Diana telepathically commands Julie and she has flashbacks to the brainwashing. Julie doesn't quite give in, but the internal struggle gives Diana a chance to escape.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In the season two Halloween Episode, Xander was turned into the soldier that he was dressed as for Halloween, complete with military training. Afterwards, Xander still retains some of that knowledge, which comes in handy in later episodes (such as when he sneaks into a military base to steal a rocket launcher).
    • Also, after Dracula Renfield-ised Xander in season five, Xander still referred to Dracula as "Master" several episodes later and in the Season 8 comics.
  • Falling Skies has a lot of this with the rescued teens. The harnesses are removed, but the spikes can't be removed without killing the kids. Between that and the unknown effects of the ordeal, Ben, Karen, and a few others are experiencing this.
  • Power Rangers has a couple of examples.
  • Fringe has Olivia retaining the expert (as in Olympic medal-winning) marksmanship of the person she was brainwashed into believing she was even after she regains her own memories.
  • Echo shows signs of this in early episodes of Dollhouse, remembering details of each personality she is imprinted with after they are supposed to have been wiped. Eventually, they evolve into a Mind Hive personality distinct from each individual one as well as Caroline, her body's original occupant.
  • After Team Coulson escapes the Framework in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the agents who were plugged in with their memories rewritten retained knowledge from their previous lives. Phil Coulson gained an almost encyclopedic knowledge of history due to being a history teacher, and Mack's skills in the Spanish language were improved by helping his virtual daughter with her homework. Unfortunately, not all of these changes were for the better. Case in point: Leo Fitz, who emerged with a full-on split personality in the form of the Doctor, his sadistic alter-ego in the Framework.
  • Doctor Who: In "The War Games", the Doctor and his companions turn up in what appears to be World War One and get arrested under suspicion of being German spies by a British officer. Turns out they're not even on Earth and aliens are using brainwashed humans to train an army. While Dressing as the Enemy, the Doctor sees the British officer being brainwashed again with apparent success...except he suddenly accuses the Doctor of being a German spy again. Fortunately, the Doctor then uses this to convince the brainwashing expert that he has to completely wipe the brainwashing first before starting over again...

    Video Games 
  • NieR decides to save Kainé at the cost of his own existence in the final ending. When she comes to, she starts crying when she finds the flower Nier gave her, but can't remember who it was from.
  • In The King of Fighters XIII, Ash sacrifices his existence to prevent the entire Ash Saga from happening. None of the other characters remember him, except for Elisabeth, due to having his Tragic Keepsake.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Even after Cloud, who absorbed and/or assimilated Zack's memories, regains his real memories, he retains Zack's fighting style and some of his mannerisms. Although he reverts to his real personality and becomes more comfortable with showing his insecurities, he occasionally still puts on Zack's cocky act in front of the others.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops
    • Funnily enough, the first game plays with some brainwash residue. When Mason escapes from the Soviet Union and gets back to the US, he experiences flashes, seeing and hearing numbers, seeing a hallucination of Reznov despite him being dead and even what looks like scenes of drawing a gun on the president, really the brainwashing hasn't worn off yet.
    • This extends to Call of Duty: Black Ops II - at the end of the second 1980s level, Mason encounters Lev Kravchenko, previously presumed dead in Vietnam. During the next scene, he has to actively suppress an urge to execute him on the spot so that Woods can get some useful information out of him.
  • Star Control Origins has the Free Trandals, a subset of the Trandals who have freed themselves from the mind-controlling AI known as Overmind. They frequently say things that Overmind might say out of habit, before hurriedly correcting themselves.
    Player: Ok, we'll be going now.
    Free Trandal: Not in that state, husks! First we must— ah, um, s-sorry. Sorry. Farewell, friends.

    Web Animation 
  • This is a side-effect of O'Malley's infection in Red vs. Blue. Anyone who has him in their head (except the Red Team, who he only infected for a few minutes at most) keeps some of his personality after he leaves: he was originally implanted into Agent Texas to make her meaner and she continues to be something of a Jerkass after he leaves her head, his possession of Caboose left the latter with the ability to enter a berserk state where he shouts mean-spirited Badass Boasts like "My name is Michael J. Caboose and I hate babies!" or "I will eat your unhappiness!", and Doc (who he possessed for the longest on-screen time) became more comfortable with Blood Gulch's typical amount of violence and swearing and eventually manifested a Split Personality identical to O'Malley.

  • In Chapter 34 of Gunnerkrigg Court Jack claims to be in love with Zimmy, and attributes it to a remnant of his possession by a ghostly spider obsessed with Zimmy which tried to take control of his mind. This doesn't seem to worry him.
  • In Squid Ops, main character Mui brainwashes her sister using some hypnotic squid ink (yes, It Makes Sense in Context) that makes people obedient to her. The first thing she tells her to do is to answer with "Yes, Mui. I obey." whenever Mui gives her a command. Later, after the effects of the ink wear off, Mui brings her sister some lunch and says "Take it and don't be mad, okay?" Lena reflexively replies "Yes, Mui. I obey."
  • Galaxion: After spending a couple of hours breaking out of Miesti control, Zandarin and Aria seem to have acquired telepathy. He copes, but she's freaked out.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force, Albedo is a villain who copied Ben's appearance and Omnitrix. He also gained some of Ben's characteristics, like eating junk food (especially chili fries). After having his Omnitrix broken, stuck with Ben's color-swapped form, and taken to prison, he shouts, "BRING ME CHILI FRIES!!!" Word of God says this is actually Albedo in denial and he does genuinely like them but finds the idea appalling nonetheless.
  • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Tim Drake still has aftereffects of his last encounter with The Joker (of the 'uncontrollable shaking and bad dreams' kind) after 40 years. Given what The Joker put him through, that's really not that surprising. Albeit some of that can be clarified as the Joker's mind chip on him. For example, his disdain and regret for being Robin was a result of the Joker's chip beginning to affect him. Once it's gone, so is any disdain toward his past. He actually didn't blame Bruce or Barbara and did enjoy being Robin.
  • A variant in Gargoyles—in one episode, Broadway and Angela are willingly possessed by the ghostly lovers "Othello" and "Desdemona"; not long after, the two become an Official Couple. Word of God notes that it's open to interpretation if the possession kick-started their attraction to each other.

Alternative Title(s): Brainwashing Residue