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Brainwashing for the Greater Good

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"I'm not saying we take his mind away from him. Maybe Zatanna can just ... clean him up a bit."
Hawkman (about Dr. Light), Identity Crisis

So, the heroes have finally captured Duke Diabolico, yay! ... so now what? He's repeatedly proven he not only doesn't want to reform, but will turn any such attempts into another dastardly scheme by masquerading as reformed, and the Cardboard Prison is looking especially porous right now. Plus, he's proven smart enough to defy being a Self-Disposing Villain. The heroes couldn't just kill him, and even if they weren't too principled against killing, he's also avoided giving the heroes (and other villains) reasons to kill him.


There's another option: to do a Brainwashing ... for the greater good! The way it is done can have varying degrees of squick. Heroes might go the "soft" route and administer Care Bear Stares, use The Power of Love and Friendship, and in conjunction with "motivational" speeches trigger a quasi-voluntary Heel–Face Turn. However, a more extreme villain might require a more extreme method, and perhaps a shot of Laser-Guided Amnesia, a Restraining Bolt, or even a new personality may be in order, or even a Mind Rape to screw him thoroughly. And Voilà! Duke Diabolico, the most evil and theatrical supervillain to grace the Saturday weekend is now a good-hearted codger. Who cares about Mind over Manners, right?

Naturally, this trope involves Grey And Grey or Black-and-Grey Morality at best, because like any brainwashing, it involves compromising the free will of the brainwashee. If done by the heroes, they are probably also running on Black-and-Grey Morality or Grey-and-Grey Morality, otherwise there is probably some serious Values Dissonance going on in the work. If The Antagonist is doing the brainwashing, then it is treated as any regular ol'e Brainwashing, and expect them to be a Lawful Evil character of the Well-Intentioned Extremist or Knight Templar variety justifying it through The Evils of Free Will. If brainwashing is policy, there is also the danger of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope until litterers are brainwashed into creepy all-loving paragons because Utopia Justifies the Means.


The brainwashing has a tendency to be flimsy though, and when it slips the results are often pretty messy. Duke Diabolico may have been helping an old lady cross a street when he just spontaneously relapses and throws her under a semi. His minions or allies may come by and break the brainwashing for him. He still might find himself liking good more than evil and do a Heel–Face Turn on his own accord. He might face a Heroic BSoD as he grapples with a hidden lifetime of evil. but if he doesn't, Oh, Crap!.

The brainwashing doesn't have to specifically be done to change one's moral inclinations; upholding The Masquerade is an example of this. If Muggles were to stumble on the existence of The Masquerade and The Masqueraders have the ethical sense to not erase them from existence, then some Laser-Guided Amnesia is in order to keep them oblivious. Of course, being Muggles, the ethics of this isn't discussed much. This applies especially when it is justified that The World Is Not Ready for the masquerade to be broken, or that it is for their own good.


Compare with Heel–Face Brainwashing when it is applied to turn the Heel from The Dark Side.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Danganronpa 3, this is Kazuo Tengan's ultimate plan to eradicate Despair and end the Tragedy for good by using Ryota Mitarai as a pawn, exploiting his talent in order to brainwash the entire world with Hope. Note the difference between this plot and the Neo World Program in Danganronpa 2: in the latter, the Neo World Program merely removed existing brainwashing and memories, but requires its participants to actively pursue their idea of hope. In the former, Mitarai's video removes entire human natures, and, much like the brainwashing that corrupted Ultimate Despair in the first place, gives them no choice in the matter.
  • In Fairy Tail, it's revealed this was the original reason for existence of the superweapon Nirvana. The Nirvits sought to use it to bring peace to the world by reversing the moralities of warring nations to make peace. It worked out for a time, but what the Nirvits didn't realize was happening was the "darkness" of all those they reversed was being reflected onto themselves until they fell into a war of their own that wiped them out. The last surviving Nirvit realized how foolish they had been to try and forcibly change others "for the greater good" and sealed Nirvana away, his spirit enduring to watch over the site for centuries as atonement until Nirvana is ultimately destroyed in the present.
  • In Himenospia, Himeno gains a wasp-like stinger that works as a Love Potion on the females she stings, and uses it on her abusive mother and her bullies. Her "soldiers" don't lose much autonomy and are made aware of their own flaws, becoming strong-willed and generally kinder as a result. After surviving the massacre of her classmates by the police when they find out about the wasp-girls, Himeno manages to gain enough political influence from stinging women related to the media and the government to turn her hometown into a sort of Feminist Fantasy.
  • Naruto:
    • This is Tobi's and Madara's main goal entitled "The Moon's Eye Plan". They plan to cast a permanent genjutsu on the moon in order to сapture all people in eternal genjutsu and collect all the chakra in all people in order to reach peace in the world, since they believes mankind cannot live peacefully of their own free will. Unfortunately, this is also Kaguya Otsutsuki's plan as well. She too will brainwash the human populace into obeying her while also turning a vast majority of them into White Zetsu soldiers, depriving them of their individuality. She did this before in order to prepare herself for a battle against her own clan and now she wants to add more to her army.
    • This is Itachi's backup plan for Sasuke. To make a long story short, he acquired a specialized Sharingan capable of rewriting Sasuke's mind to be loyal to Konoha in the event he completely betrayed the village. He stored it with Naruto, where it was eventually used to break Kabuto's control over the resurrected Itachi.
    • The other Sharingan belonging to the original owner was used by Danzo in an attempt to make himself leader of the Shinobi Alliance, in the belief that only Danzo could use that position to bring about a lasting peace.
    • Again the original owner of the above Sharingan tried to do this, presumably to Fugaku and the other leading Uchiha in order to stop the looming coup de' etat plotted by the Uchiha clan. Unfortunately for him, Danzo snatched his eye before he could even begin to put the plan into effect.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, it is possible to brainwash EVA pilots into fighting, but this is never actually used (presumably the results would not be pretty).
  • In President Dad, to help Ami combat her stage fright when joining her dad (newly elected as president of South Korea) in addressing the people, Fahrenheit hypnotizes her into seeing the people outside as pumpkins. This is Played for Laughs.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Marik's spell to brainwash Anzu was clearly not for a good purpose. However, after his Superpowered Evil Side dominated him, it quickly became this, as Anzu was now the only way he could communicate with anyone. For as long as he was able to, he controlled her in an attempt to seek help from others, first to tell his sister to keep Rashid hidden, and eventually to plead with the Pharoh not to hesitate to strike his dark side down (which was an issue due to the Sadistic Choice that the villain had forced the Pharaoh into).

    Comic Books 
  • In Archie Comics' title Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica, Sabrina the Teenage Witch admits she's lost count of how many times she has made her own friends forget via magic she's a witch.
  • Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam:
  • Doctor Strange on occasion has used Laser-Guided Amnesia to make villains forget the evil magic they have learned — mostly for those who stumbled into it by accident and had no idea what they were doing.
  • One of the Fourth Doctor Magazine Doctor Who Magazine strips involved the Doctor being faced with a dystopic civilization where people are implanted with a brain chip at birth that prevents natural emotions from developing and submits them to a master control. In order to save them, he manipulates the master control to make people feel anger and hate to pump their bodies full of adrenaline, a substance poisonous to the Monster of the Week. Before leaving, he gives the citizens a new emotional profile based on his own — we see later the citizens have covered their dystopia in smiley-face graffiti, are all growing their hair out into curly mops and are running around playing music, eating jelly babies and having a very good time. (The Doctor says the civilization will 'grow out of it', presumably as unchipped children are born... probably for the best, too.)
  • Mindf*** of Empowered habitually uses her psychic powers to do this to herself.
  • In the Exiles comic, at the end of the "World Tour" story arc, Proteus (who had taken over the body of Morph) was brainwashed into thinking he really was Morph.
  • Six words: Fantastic Four. Reed Richards. Skrull Cows.
  • Green Lantern:
    • The Star Sapphires will brainwash criminals, as well as members of other Corps whom they've captured and turn them into servants of Love. While not exactly good-guys, the Sapphires are far from evil and this is easily the most questionable thing they've ever done. However, when former Star Sapphire Fatality was freed from them, she immediately reverted back to her old personality of hating John Stewart. When John states the two of them were in love while she was a Sapphire, Fatality angrily states that it was her ring that loved him, not her. In other words, a Star Sapphire ring can overwrite someone's personality so strongly, that the person can enter a sexual relationship with someone they absolutely hate.
    • Also, the Indigo Tribe is made up of "born again" villains and evildoers whose exposure to coalesced compassion turns them into beings dedicated to helping others. Unfortunately, they all seem a'ok with brainwashing... and it turns out they aren't fun to be around when the brainwashing drops.
  • The Justice League of America has a habit of this.
    • Identity Crisis sees The Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, The Atom, Hawkman, and Zatanna on Dr. Light after he raped the Elongated Man's wife. It opened a floodgate of crap. Later on in the story, it was used on Batman after he caught them mid-mindwipe and objected. The floodgates weren't big enough.
    • Also seen JLA (1997) on the Hyperclan (White Martians) after the Justice League stop their invasion of Earth, as the Martian Manhunter and Aquaman telepathically brainwashed all of them into thinking they're regular humans. This later causes more problems, for example when one of them thinks he's Bruce Wayne.
    • Justice League: Cry for Justice also retconned it that Batman and Martian Manhunter had Prometheus' brain capacity reduced to a mentally disabled state, after Batman sabotaged Prometheus's original helmet during their fight in the "World War III" arc, as his skills and intelligence made it impossible for him to stay in jail for long.
  • The end of My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic #4 mentions that Princess Celestia erased both the nightmares inflicted upon her subjects by Nightmare Moon, but also the illusions that painted herself negatively.
  • Paperinik New Adventures:
    • Donald Duck once revealed to Gyro Gearloose his secret identity of Paperinik and asked for assistance in his heroics. The inventor responded by immediately erasing his own memory with cancelling-caramel candies, and since then they've become a nefarious tool for the hero to maintain his secrets.
    • In another story, a man brainwashes Duckburg into loathing Paperinik out of envy for him. The hero manages to foil his plan and convinces him to influence criminals into becoming good people instead.
  • Nico Minoru of the Runaways is alarmingly fond of this type of thinking, using her magic to wipe the young Geoffrey Wilder's memory of his trip to the modern day, forcing the Yorkes to live out the rest of their lives knowing they'd be betrayed by their own offspring, and casually transforming the Yorkes' ally Maneater into a vegan. While the first two cases were probably justified, as Wilder and the Yorkes might have otherwise been able to change history for the worse, the vegan spell was just petty. She finally earned a What the Hell, Hero? speech from Molly after using a minor version ("Settle Down") to force Klara to stop crying, for no other reason than because her crying was irritating Chase. Molly compared it to the way her evil parents used to use their mutant mind-control abilities to force her to sleep.
  • In the original run of Marvel's Squadron Supreme, brainwashing villains and other criminals into becoming law-abiding citizens became part of their Utopian project. Unfortunately, this caused a rift in the group, and some of the rebelling heroes joined with villains, one of whom discovered how to reverse the process.
  • Superman:
    • In Superman: Red Son Superman did this, to disturbing effect. The Batman imitators mopping the floor still in their costumes were particularly creepy; of course, President Superman has a lot of reason to hate Batman in this story. Unfortunately, the comic Time Skips over the stage at which Superman decided to start cyberlobotomizing his enemies so as to maintain control without having to kill anybody. We never see the decision making that developed into this, and by the time we see it it's treated as normal — a good drama call, but frustrating.
    • In alternate universe story The Amazing Story Of Superman Red And Superman Blue, Superman decides the best way to eradicate crime is to build a giant brainwashing machine. Supergirl then releases the Phantom Zone immates so they can also be brainwashed into becoming good people.
  • The Institutes of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye serve this purpose in pre-war Cybertronian society, rearranging the personality and outlook of anyone who opposes the senate or the alt mode based caste system. It should be noted that the Senate is completely corrupt during this time. With one exception, whom they pull this on along with the Empurata ritual: Shockwave.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • During the Golden Age Marston either didn't care or didn't realize that having Diana bring back her female villains to reformation island and then essentially brainwashing them into regretting their actions, in at least one case welding a woman permanently into a device that alters her mind and desires, to turn them into good guys might not be terribly heroic since she and the Amazons do so constantly. Her lasso retains elements of this power to this day, as it can force someone to see the horror of taking lives or otherwise permanently alter their personalities if she asks the right questions.
    • The original story featuring Villainy Incorporated showed it was possible for people to openly want the girdles off. When Eviless looks to recruit the prisoners of Transformation Island, several of Wonder Woman's old enemies are shown capable of exclaiming they want revenge too even with the girdles locked onto their bodies.
  • World's Finest #148, Superman and Batman—Outlaws! Our heroes suggest to the good Alternate Universe Lex Luthor that he should brainwash their evil counterparts into becoming good guys. This apparently works, but the brainwashed people are seen only from behind, so one could imagine that their faces told a different story.
  • X-Men:
    • Attempted on Magneto in his many Marvel Universe incarnations. However, due to Personality Powers and Joker Immunity, he reverts to his original mindset. It is also revealed that it had failed very soon after its first use: all the anti-heroic and just plain good things he's done since leaving the Big Bad role behind in The '70s truly was him. (It also means he's as dangerous to piss off now as he was then. He was not happy when he found out what had been done to him, and to this day, Moira remains a sore subject.)
    • In The '60s, erasing the dangerous data from the minds of those who learned too much about the X-Men (or even just of people who rejected his attempts to recruit them to the X-Men!) was a common tactic of Professor X's. Sometimes the memory wipes didn't last, and the victims were understandably pissed.
    • In the second issue Professor X brainwashed the Vanisher into a Dirty Coward because his power set (teleportation with seemingly unlimited range) was "too dangerous". Vanisher never recovered.
    • Like Xavier, Magneto's disciple and Knight Templar psychic Exodus has been known to attempt this when he deems it necessary. At the tail end of the 90's he tried this on the entire population of Genosha in a bid to finally end the Fantastic Racism hostilities there once and for all (it worked, but the X-Men forced him into relinquishing control, resulting in the racial hostilities immediately resuming). Some fifteen years later he tried it again in the pages of Uncanny X-Men (2016), rescuing mutants kidnapped by the Evil, Inc. Someday Corp and then "convincing them" to be foot soldiers in a bid to reignite racial tensions between humans and mutants (a cruel irony in light of his motive back in 1999).

    Comic Strips 
  • One Flash Gordon story centered on a tank-sized ray that could turn entire crowds into happy, good-hearted pacifists. Ming the Merciless takes control of it and use it to subjugate the opposition, until the protagonists manage to turn it on him. Flash even remarks what a swell guy Ming is when he's not evil. Justified since the ray's effect is temporary, and the rebound causes a lot of trouble later on.
  • Snarfquest: It's evil on evil, but Suthaze magically brainwashes an evil dragon into thinking he is a friendly duck named Willie. Snarf breaks the spell temporarily to distract Suthaze, but it is rendered permanent by massive head trauma.

    Fan Works 
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic different kinds of brainwashing do exist, so many fics explore the idea.
    • Many derivative works of The Conversion Bureau explore the concept, both from a positive and negative point of view.
    • There is a world-wide plan of it in Lines and Webs
    • Played with in The Rise of Darth Vulcan, where the protagonist believes this is used regularly and mind-altering spells do exist and are used on occasion. The protagonist... does not approve. Though he still maintains a geas on the Changelings, and hasn't devoted much time to figuring out a way to safely remove it.
  • In the second work of the Ouroboros series, Queen's Gambit, this is proposed by the Gambit!Jedi to use on Gambit!Obi-Wan Kenobi, even after he proved that he wasn't a Dark Jedi. This causes major controversy, and several Jedi — including Quinlan Vos and Ahsoka Tano — end up leaving the Order due to it, after breaking Obi-Wan out of prison.
  • In the fanfiction I'm Here to Help, Emerald believes Neo-Queen Serenity used the Silver Crystal to do this to the entire population of Earth. Given his own mental state and the lack of pagetime the supposedly brainwashed people have, whether or not it's the case is open to interpretation.
  • In Water Aerobics for the Aquaphobic, Lucius Malfoy gets immersed in Jusenkyo's Spring of the Drowned Good Samaritan, and becomes an Incorruptible Pure Pureness good samaritan who is ridiculously nice and gracious and coddles everyone. Because the curse is triggered by cold water and deactivated by hot water, Dumbledore places a compulsion on Lucius that makes him avoid hot water, and sends him off to China to research the Jusenkyo curse and keep him out of his hair and Voldermort's hands.
  • Popular among the Liir in Shepherd Of The Stars, as in Sword of the Stars canon. The other races, especially the Council, are much less okay with it. When the Turians ask them to stop doing this to captured Batarian terrorists, they switch from erasing pain to sharing it, inflicting the memories of former Batarian slaves onto the criminals to force them to change their ways. They see nothing wrong with this, and are somewhat surprised that everyone else does.
  • Reluctant Hero has Long Feng suggesting to wipe the new Avatar's memory clean from everything about the Fire Nation except for his training in firebending. Some amongst the boy's teachers find the idea quite appealing since their pupil is very much struggling with his role, but the youth himself does not agree. Explosively so.
  • Hellsister Trilogy has Supergirl and her adoptive parents attending Clark and Lois' wedding. When Fred Danvers makes a joke about him figuring out the Leaguers' civilian identities, his daughter warns that the Justice Leaguers protect their secret identities by having Green Lantern to mind-wipe busybodies.
  • The Spider-Man fic "The Gwen Stacy Syndrome" features a minor but important example of this when Ana Kravinoff seeks to join Peter's new 'open relationship' with Mary Jane and Felicia Hardy. Having talked with Matt Murdock to assure himself that Ana wants a relationship for the right reasons, Peter takes her to Emma Frost so that Emma (with Ana's permission) can implant a telepathic command in her mind that will ensure Ana can't kill anyone in a fight even if someone tries to force her to do so, although Emma makes it clear that this kind of telepathic command is a very slippery slope and she's only doing it because she's satisfied everyone involved is aware of the risks and consents.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality sees Harry use Obliviate to do this to his good friend Lord Voldemort at the conclusion of the fic.
  • A Force of Four: After the villainous foursome have been taken down, the heroes wipe the knowledge of the Grail from their memories so they can't use it against Earth-Two again.
    Badra thought that, if she ever got loose again, she might consider using whatever she had used against Earth-Two again. The problem was, she couldn't remember just what it was. Neither could the three Kryptonians. The other inmates weren't any help at all. They just laughed at them for having a memory-wipe imposed on them, and let them alone.
  • A Shadow of the Titans: After Jade loses her good chi, leaving just the Queen, the Titans have Raven transfer her some of Starfire's chi, turning her into "Star Chan", a heroine with basically the same personality as Starfire, in what's meant to be a placeholder. By the time that Raven finds Jade's own chi and prepares to transfer it back, Starfire and Beast Boy have decided they prefer Jade this way, the former because she sees her as a sister, and the latter for the pragmatic reason of having one less villain around. Notably, this is thoroughly deconstructed, as Cyborg and even the HIVE find this morally reprehensible, with Cyborg threatening to quit the team if they don't undo it. When Jade is restored, she says that Starfire and Beast Boy don't deserve to be heroes.
  • In A Prize for Three Empires, Jean Grey and Oracle mentally influence the Kree who analyzed Carol Danvers' genetic sampling to convince him that Carol no longer has cosmic powers, ergo they should leave her alone.
  • Skilled Orange Lanterns in With This Ring can place an orange light brand on people, allowing the Lantern to then temporarily or permanently alter the target's desires. The protagonist has permanently rewritten the desires of the demon Mammon, and temporarily made many prisoners cooperative and talkative. It's still kinder than his Renegade alter ego, who doesn't always stop at branding and is much more willing to use the "Identity Theft" ability to permanently turn people into enslaved orange light constructs with no independent will.
  • Flawed Crystals:
    • This forms the central conflict. At the beginning of the story, Steven accidentally mind-wipes Jasper, erasing all her memories of their conflict and making her cooperative instead. As Steven is without allies, he needs to use her help to recover the other gems... but once he does so, that excuse starts running thin, and the question of what to do with her looms larger as the story progresses. You can at several points argue in favor of keeping her mindwiped forever; some gems will call you out on it, but some won't. When she regains her memories, Jasper will demand an apology if you did so at any point. Try to use this excuse, and she won't even let you finish the sentence.
    • This comes up even more blatantly when healing Jasper properly: You are given the choice to purposefully rewrite her personality with Ocean Jasper's, convincing her she is a Crystal Gem and your friend. However, you can't succeed; Connie will call it out as monstrous and stop you.
  • Maybe the Last Archie Story: Hilda and Zelda need Veronica's aid to save their niece Sabrina, so they use a charmed medallion to "convince" the Lodges that their daughter should be entrusted to them for the present, and they shouldn't object, make silly questions or worry about Veronica's safety.
  • A Very Kara Christmas: When Kara realizes her cover might have been blown up, Superman decides to fetch a mind-wiping drug and douse her whole school if necessary. Unwilling to brainwash her schoolmates, though, Kara asks him to let her handle it first.
  • At the end of The Warrior's Daughter, the Z-Fighters ask Shenron to wipe the Earth's people's memories clean from everything about 17 and 18 so both Androids can start over with a clean slate.

    Film — Animated 
  • At the climax of Kubo and the Two Strings, the villainous Moon King is struck by Kubo's musical magic, causing him to lose his powers and have his mind wiped. It's not clear if Kubo intentionally intended this or not (since he openly declared earlier that he would kill the Moon King), but regardless "Grandfather" is left with a blank memory and the villagers tell him that he's a great and generous man.
  • Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw ends with McNasty and his Mooks being put through his Mirror Morality Machine and coming out as nice people. Nobody seems to care that the process can easily be reversed by telling an affected person that you love them (or possibly that you hate them in this case).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Used in Demolition Man by the San Angeles correctional system. Criminals are reprogrammed to be unable to perform the crimes they committed, and have useful skills or hobbies implanted. It's hit-and-miss, though; John Spartan can't stop himself from knitting despite being at best indifferent about it, and while Simon Phoenix can't kill Cocteau, he still really, really wants to, and eventually gets around it by asking one of his mooks to do it.
  • Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. At the end Doc performs one of his personality-altering operations on Captain Seas, who ends up as a member of the Salvation Army.
  • Drop Squad. A group of black Americans kidnaps and deprograms (brainwashes) blacks who act like white people. The intent is to restore their pride in their own race (DROP stands for Deprogramming and Restoration of Pride). The movie justifies this by having the black man who's kidnapped working for a company that acts in an outrageously racist manner that would never be accepted in Real Life. Other kidnap victims include a corrupt politician and a drug dealer.
  • If you count "removing all human emotions, positive and negative" as brainwashing, the dystopian government within the movie Equilibrium uses this. Their justification is that Humans Are Bastards and uncontrolled passions caused all wars, so all citizens must take an emotion-neutralizing drug called Librium.
  • In Men in Black, the organization uses a device called a neuralyzer on people to cause Laser-Guided Amnesia and purge any memories of aliens (which is truly for the best, something that we are repeatedly reminded of). They even use it on their own members who retire.
  • Comes up in Serenity: the Alliance experiments with a bacteriological weapon that makes people placid. It works too well on 99.9% of the population of the test colony, Miranda. It causes a... reaction for the remainder. Somehow, the Alliance then alters all computer records to show that Miranda is -- and always has been -- uninhabitable.
  • The use of the eponymous ark in the Stargate SG-1 movie Stargate: The Ark of Truth to convince the Ori's followers of the error of their ways could be viewed this way. While it is justified in that A) the Ori are dead anyway, and B) the Ori's followers are on the verge of overrunning the Milky Way, it's still brainwashing. Even Daniel, who found the Ark and figure out how to activate it in the first place, isn't happy that they had to use it since it does mess with free will in a disturbing way. Even the fact that the Ark can only make people believe things that are actually true does not make it any less disturbing to them, and actually making use of the Ark is a desperate last resort.
  • Pretty much any Jedi who uses the "Jedi Mind Trick" (used frequently in the Star Wars continuity) to get someone to cooperate is doing this.

  • In the sci-fi short "Between Two Dragons" by Yoon Ha Lee, a brilliant admiral arranges for his own brainwashing, knowing that he's fallen foul of jealous factions in his own government who will order him mind-wiped. By arranging it himself, he hopes to retain his strategic acumen for when his world needs him again. This is exactly what happens, but as the admiral returns to his world in triumph with his fleet, the doctor who did the brainwashing thinks that the old admiral was too loyal to act against those who caused his downfall; the admiral's new personality however...
  • In the fifth Captain Underpants book, the kids do this to Sadist Teacher Ms. Ribble/Wedgie Woman. Note that the first time it went horribly wrong, so the second time they had to be very careful about their wording. When Harold wonders at the end if it was right to hypnotize her into becoming nice, George responds, "Why not? She's happier now. She'll probably live longer!"
  • The "demolishing" process in The Demolished Man might well qualify. The Villain Protagonist's personality is broken down to a primal level with the idea of building him back up so that he retains his intelligence and ambition without the self-serving and criminal aspects.
  • In the original Doc Savage magazine stories, Doc performed "a delicate brain operation" on criminals to cure their criminal tendencies. It also removed all memories of their criminal past. This is a prime example of Values Dissonance and also of Science Marches On — back in the 1930s, it was believed that ongoing criminal behavior was a result of malformation of the brain, essentially a medical problem.
  • Domina: Gets a minor reference. When the entire city is turned into brainwashed zombies for a few days, it is noted after that both property damage and the death rate went down significantly for the duration. The Reasonable Authority Figure admits that mind control keeps people safe, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Besides, they couldn't replicate the event even if they wanted to.
  • Molly Carpenter in The Dresden Files does this in an attempt to stop her friends from using drugs while one of them is pregnant (without consent from either of them.) It does not end well, and she is nearly executed for practicing textbook black magic.
  • In the end of Eon, when Eona is finally able to fully call on the Mirror Dragon, she counters Ido's Mind Control attempt by reversing it and probing into his mind whilst using her new abilities. This results in awakening compassion in his heart enough for him to stop. He still knows full well what's been done to him, but his newfound guilt for everything he's done — and he's done a lot of things over the book — makes him double over in agony and then decide to cover the heroes' escape.
  • In The Gap Cycle, there is a condition called "gap sickness" that afflicts certain people when they are exposed to the rigors of deep-space travel, causing them to go Axe-Crazy. Because ship crews can't afford to kill off violently-insane members, the government has long authorized forcibly implanting gap-sick people with a device that gives the user complete control over the implanted person's nervous system. In the first book, Angus Thermopyle exploits this in order to give Morn Hyland a zone implant so that he can force her to be his sex slave.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Obliviators perform a Laser-Guided Amnesia wipe on Muggles who stumble on the existence of magic to preserve The Masquerade.
    • Hermione does a thorough brainwashing on her parents to make them forget about her existence and then sends them to Australia in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for their protection when The Golden Trio go hunting down Voldermort's remaining Horcruxes. She reverts the brainwashing at the end of the story.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: In Arrow's Flight, Talia uses her Empathy magic to punish a rapist. She forces him into a loop of his victims' memories, so he'll experience all the fear and suffering they went through. He can leave the loop at any time...if he acknowledges that what he did was evil. Which, given his smug claim that he's entitled to rape his daughters before the brainwashing started, will probably be a real long time.
  • Hive England in Hive Mind (2016) seems to not abuse the coercive potential of imprinting, although it is implied that other hives do. However, even with that, Hive England does use imprinting in some coercive ways, which we see most directly in the Strike Team. The Strike Team are all imprinted to sacrifice themselves for the telepath, and that telepaths must never meet.
  • Averted — in fact, treated with revulsion and contempt — in Robert A. Heinlein's "If This Goes On—". The revolutionaries, after overthrowing the Corrupt Church, vote to reject their psych experts' proposal to use Subliminal Seduction to "condition" the people to accept the restoration of democracy (after an old man who "looked like Mark Twain" made an impassioned speech on how "free men aren't 'conditioned'.") Though interestingly, in the first published version of the story it wasn't averted: the revolutionaries agreed to the conditioning program with minimal discussion. Presumably Heinlein later decided this was morally very dubious and inserted the "Mark Twain" Expy as a kind of Take That! against his younger self.
    • Further subverted in Robert A. Heinlein's "Coventry". The society created by those revolutionaries develops a legal system where a criminal is examined by psychiatrists to determine his motivations. If the motivations are such that the person is deemed a danger to society, they are given a choice. They can either have the psychiatrists treat them to correct their anti-social tendencies, an effective form of mental conditioning, or they can chose exile to Coventry, a section of the country walled-off behind a force field. Anybody is allowed to leave Coventry so long as they are willing to have the psychiatrists treat them.
  • InCryptid: The Johrlac are a species of telepathic sociopaths who act as Backstory Invaders and generally use their powers to get whatever they want from other sapient beings. Angela Baker, one of the only non-evil ones, used her powers to excise the latent Ghost Memory that makes Johrlac go evil from her adopted daughter Sarah.
    • In Midnight Blue-Light Special, Sarah gives the Covenant agents Laser-Guided Amnesia to make them forget Verity existed and think Dominic was dead.
    • In Imaginary Numbers, a group of Johrlac kidnap Sarah and force her to go through an Evolution Power-Up into a "Johrlac Queen", who will use Formulaic Magic to teleport their whole species to a new dimension, destroying Earth (and her mind) in the process. Due to interference from Sarah's friends and family, she ends up [[spoiler:wiping the minds of almost every other Johrlac there, turning them into Empty Shells with Horror Hunger.
    • At the climax of the next book, she does the same thing Angela did to her to about a dozen Johrlac children, with their consent. Since the only Johrlac left on Earth after that book are Sarah, Angela, Mark (who didn't have his mind tampered with but somehow turned out okay), and the children, their species may take a turn for the better.
  • In the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy, the planet Grail employs a "rightminding" procedure to eliminate all irrational thoughts and urges. The crew of Jacob's Ladder are somewhat amused to learn that despite this, there is still violent crime on Grail — just by criminals acting for for unimpeachably rational reasons. None are actually keen on undergoing the procedure themselves, with the exception of Cynric, who cheerfully admits that her personality could probably benefit from a bit of amending.
  • In the Lord Darcy story "A Case Of Identity", one suspect is exonerated specifically because he's a homicidal psychopath, but one whose inborn tendency to ruthlessness has been rigidly suppressed via a geas imposed for his own and others' safety. The geas restricts him from using force against others unless ordered to do so by his handler in espionage, and also bars him from ever knowingly giving offense to others who might attack him, since he can't fight back. As the geas was applied by a skilled Healer from a Saintly Church whose expertise is respected, and its subject doesn't comprehend right or wrong enough to raise a moral objection himself, everyone takes the ethics of this in stride.
  • At the end of Agatha Christie's Passenger to Frankfurt, this has become the case. In order to counteract the mass uprising of indoctrinated young people actually working for a neo-Nazi group, a chemical that basically removes any trace of aggression or ill-intent towards another human being is massively released. This is treated as an unadulterated happy ending.
  • In a noncanon Percy Jackson and the Olympians side story, Percy battles the Titan Iapetus near Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness. Percy dunks himself and Iapetus in the river. Percy, being a son of Poseidon stayed dry, and Iapetus is soaked so he forgets everything. He gets renamed Bob and even helps cure some nasty wounds.
    • It is canon, or close enough. The stories have already influenced the canon books. Percy mentions in 5th book that he's seen Persephone in winter (which happened in the same story with Iapetus/Bob), and in The Heroes of Olympus, the kids use the bronze dragon from one of the other stories as transportation for their quest.
    • And with the second to last book of the same series, the "House of Hades", "Bob" helps Percy and Anabeth through Tartarus, along with the giant Damasen, fulfilling the line of the new prophecy "Foes bear arms to the doors of death" making him essential to the story.
  • In the seventh Skulduggery Pleasant novel Kingdom of the Wicked the heroes do this to Walden D'Essai, aka Argeddion, removing his memories of magic and his former life (which will also make him unable to use magic) because he is totally unwilling to admit that he is wrong in his desire to give magic to everybody including psychopaths and the evil, and because he is simply too powerful to be allowed to roam free.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat — and it works, largely successfully. Angelina turned from a murderous psychopath into a loving wife and mother... with occasional psychopathic tendencies, especially if you so much as look at her twins wrong.
  • Confessors from the Sword of Truth series work like this. Unfortunately, the recharge time is anywhere from hours to weeks, and there's usually a lot of angry soldiers between a Confessor and a big bad. This is part of why they usually had a wizard bodyguard. The Confessors were mostly used to get the confession of condemned criminals who were part of conspiracies, but refused to cooperate.
    • The Gone Horribly Wrong is built right in, since their power doesn't actually compel truth but causes the victim to fall hopelessly in love with the confessor, abandoning essentially everything else in their lives and committing suicide immediately (or wasting away if ordered otherwise) upon her leaving them. Even the protagonists, who are high-functioning sociopaths on their least villainous days, get really uncomfortable about the fact that most people who actually request confession are essentially committing personality suicide to prove their innocence.
  • In Tour of the Merrimack, the American colony of Heraclide came down with a Hate Plague that made its victims permanently Axe-Crazy. As per this trope, they're "cured" by brainwashing them sane. Captain Farragut confirms that there's a Heraclide on the ship, but he's not allowed to say whom due to prejudice.
  • Tower and the Hive: This is how the Hiver threat is ultimately ended. The Human/Mrdini alliance discovers a pheromone cocktail that switched the Hivers' temperament from The Swarm to Space Amish. One spate of dusting every Hiver colony they could find with the stuff, no more invading hordes of alien bugs. To be fair, it was the only plan they could think of that didn't involve committing genocide on the Hivers (and every Human and Mrdini attempt at communication failed, even when human telepaths attempted).
  • The wizard Mizzamir invented a spell to do this in Villains by Necessity. The protagonists are utterly horrified at the implications.
  • Done in The Voyage of the Space Beagle — Grosvenor can't convince the rest of the crew to sign onto his (superior) scientific philosophy, so he hypnotizes them through the ship's PA system. This is seen as a heroic action.
  • Averted in The Wheel of Time. Rand, in his confrontation with the Dark One, projects a future without a Dark One. Without his influence, though, everyone in the world was effectively Brainwashed For The Greater Good. The idea sickened Rand so much that he abandoned his plan to kill the Dark One, opting instead to reseal the prison.
  • In the second Wings of Fire series, Kinkajou decides to deal with semi-sympathetic villain Darkstalker this way. He has always insisted that he's not to blame for anything he does- including genocide, torture and murder of the people he calls friends- and it's all his abusive, long-dead father's fault...well, now he gets to prove it. She polymorphed him into an amnesiac baby, with none of the NightWing powers he abused so much in his 'past life', and lets his (genuinely loving) mother take him off into the jungle to Raise Him Right This Time. Since Darkstalker himself liked to claim he did this trope, his punishment comes off as karmic (if slightly hypocritical). And it was the only way to get around that nasty 'immortality' spell he cast on himself...
  • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel "Emerald City of Oz", Ozma decides this is a morally acceptable way to subdue invaders.
  • Used in one of the endings of the Choose Your Own Adventure story, You Are A Monster. In the best possible ending, the wealthy family who takes the narrator in after he's genetically transformed into a monster by a Mad Scientist hires a private detective to track down said scientist bring him in, and force him to change the narrator back. After this is done and everyone is trying to decide how best to punish the scientist, the narrator suggests using his research to forcibly alter his personality so that he's normal. The scientist very much protests the loss of his brilliant mind but it's done anyway. The story ends with the narrator saying that the scientist ended being a salesman.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Angel, Angel becomes the CEO of evil law firm Wolfram & Hart's L.A. branch in exchange for them altering reality to give his son Connor a well-adjusted past with a normal family, and wipe everyone else's memories. Eventually Connor gets his old memories restored... but from his perspective the implanted memories remain and they're the ones that feel "real" to him. The real memories are more like a strange dream from Connor's perspective. Wesley also gets his memories restored and suddenly remembers the role he played in Connor's abduction as an infant and the subsequent fallout.
  • On Babylon 5, instead of the death sentence murderers are punished with "the death of personality", undergoing a process that wipes away their memories and gives them a new personality that will encourage them to help the community they harmed, in essence "killing" them mentally but not physically. In the episode "Passing Through Gethsemane", a character discovers that he is actually a murderer who had this done to him, and his current personality is artificial.
    • In a rather nuanced take on this trope, the character has a mental breakdown, but does NOT immediately revert to being a murderer. His new identity is that of a devout Christian monk and he is horrified not only by his crimes, but also that the state has interfered with his duty to atone for his sins as he had all memory of them removed (this raises an interesting theological question: would he be punished for sins he didn't recall committing?).
      • But then when the brainwashed murderer is killed for revenge over one of his crimes, the killer is given the same treatment and goes on with his life, untroubled by any guilt. Much to the horror of the station commander. The head monk comments how hard forgiveness is.
    • The Vorlons were revealed to have done this on a genetic level to most of the younger races, albeit indirectly: they didn't implant specific moral rules, but they did program them to see Vorlons as angelic beings that should be revered and trusted implicitly. As Vorlons' moral code turns out to consist largely of "Do as your elders/betters say", this qualifies as a "greater good" from their Vorlons-know-better perspective.
  • Brave New World: All New Londoners are "conditioned" for the roles they've been engineered into while children. Those who don't fit in later may be "reconditioned". Both have the goal of social peace and overall happiness.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Keys of Marinus", the characters are on The Quest to collect the Keys to turn on a device called the Conscience Machine, which apparently will cause all the Marinusians to live in peace and harmony by 'deciding for them' what is wrong and right. It had been turned off before the story started because the Voord, Marinusians immune to its effects, were attacking the other Marinusians who were unable to defend themselves as a result of its effects. This is virtually never addressed apart from a couple of lines from the Doctor in the final episode, and arguably Barbara smashing a bunch of monsters for doing virtually the same thing the humans are trying to do in the second episode.
    • In "The Savages", a villain does this to himself by accident, although the First Doctor anticipated it and let it happen. He transfers 'vitality' from the Doctor in the hope of gaining his intellect, but ends up gaining the Doctor's morality in the process, as well as some of his mannerisms and personality quirks.
    • "The Mind of Evil". The Keller Machine removed the impulse to commit evil acts by subjecting its victims to their worst fears. Sometimes those fears would kill the people the machine's inventors intended to cure, which anticipates A Nightmare on Elm Street as well as echoing A Clockwork Orange.
    • In "Underworld", the Minyan "humane" weapon is essentially a (temporary) lobotomy gun. The Doctor, probably thanks to brain-fogging species guilt because the Time Lords uplifted them before they were ready, actually praises them for this.
    • The Doctor does this to the entire human race in "The Day of the Moon" to free them from the Silence, who have been using post-hypnotic suggestion to secretly manipulate humanity for millennia. The Doctor responds by tricking one into uttering the phrase "You should kill us all on sight" whilst being recorded, which he splices into the Moon Landing broadcast, turning every single human being for the rest of time into their (unknowing) assassins.
    • The Cybermen (at least in the reboot era) remove all the emotions of their victims when they cyber-convert them into new Cybermen. Their dialogue strongly implies that they think they're doing you a favour by doing this to you.
      This broadcast is for humankind. Cybermen now occupy every land mass on this planet. But you need not fear. Cybermen will remove fear. Cybermen will remove sex and class and colour and creed. You will become identical, you will become like us.
  • A web series tie-in to Dollhouse shows that one of the scientists who worked on the precursor to Active technology used it to fix her emotionally unstable daughter.
    • In the show itself, it is stated that some of the earliest Actives were exceptionally violent criminals (such as the serial killer serving a life sentence who was Alpha's original personality) who were taken against their will with the intention of forcibly turning them into reformed citizens who could then be released back into society to help with prison overcrowding. Judging by Alpha's case, this plan doesn't seem to have worked very well.
    • It is also hinted that the technology could be used in this way for some positive applications, such as curing mental illnesses. For example, Sierra was taken against her will as a "charity case" because she had schizophrenia (the Dollhouse staff not knowing/believing that she had schizophrenia because a man she rejected was drugging her). Unfortunately, these are vastly overshadowed by the much more dangerous negative applications, most of which fall under some variation of Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • In Farscape, the Nebari ruling body "The Establishment" could subtly modify a person's mind until they no longer had any negative impulses. Unfortunately, along with things like sadism, they considered having any individual desires to be negative qualities, and would happily modify anyone they deemed necessary (aka. most of the known galaxy).
    • It also backfires horribly with Durka in "A Clockwork Nebari." And, of course, the Nebari themselves are unwilling to consider the possibility that the "mind cleansing" could be overcome and cause even greater problems.
    • It's worse. The Nebari are very advanced and very powerful. They deny having any dedicated warships. Instead, one of their "host" ships is fully capable of obliterating a Peacekeeper command carrier. It's heavily implied that they foresee a war between the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans (which does eventually happen) and plan to pick up the pieces by brainwashing everybody.
  • Sylar in Heroes had his mind replaced by that of Nathan Petrelli, the man he had just killed. Because he had a shapeshifting ability, Sylar actually became Nathan. It lasted about six episodes.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, there's a world where everyone is super-polite, super-helpful, and perfectly happy. That's because half have been basically lobotomized into it by having Jashin 14's cells injected into their brains, and the other half is pretending because they're terrified of having it happen to them as well.
  • Misfits: What Virtue Girl apparently believes she's doing with her power. It turns drug-using, sexually promiscuous young people into upstanding, straight-laced Christians.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures, when Mr. Smith is rebooted.
  • Stargate Atlantis: The protagonists figure out a way to turn Wraith (Always Chaotic Evil aliens who suck the life force out of humans) into amnesiac humans. Once they try this with their first subject, Michael, they convince him that he's always been a member of their expedition to see if they really can make good people out of Wraiths. Michael gets suspicious, finds out what happened, escapes, isn't accepted among other Wraith, tries to team up with Atlantis, gets turned human and brainwashed AGAIN, and completely snaps and decides to wipe out both Wraith and Humans.
  • Stargirl (2020): The ISA's plan turns out to involve this. People will be brainwashed to create a better America without homophobia and racism, which fights climate change.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, a ruthless amoral criminal was found to have a faulty brain connection in the part that creates guilt, which was easily repaired. After that, he felt total remorse for everything, but it wasn't enough to convince his planet's justice system to let him go scot-free.
    • May be justified, as his personality isn't changed, he just felt guilty about his actions, essentially curing him of sociopathy. The question of the episode is if he should still be held accountable for the crimes he performed prior to the procedure, or if having his sociopathy cured meant he should be released and no longer treated as a threat to society.
    • Another episode has a planet of psychics where having a violent thought is a crime, because it can spread and make other people act violently. The punishment is "mental surgery" of sorts that removes the offending thoughts from the person. When the local policewoman finds out the Federation puts criminals in "cages", she is horrified. Then B'Elanna Torres (a half-Klingon with a nasty temper) is arrested for having a violent thought and sentenced to the "surgery". Naturally, the crew is worried that there may not be a B'Elanna left after all her violent thoughts are removed.
    • A third episode involves the crew having to do this to one of their own, the Doctornote , after he ends up developing a severely impeding obsession with a past decision over treatment of two critically wounded crewmembers who had an equal chance of survival with his care, but he only had time to treat one. In essence, his decision processing could handle greater-than/less-than, but not equal-to values. He repeatedly demands the blocked memories be restored when he figures out there's blocked memories, and then repeatedly has a nervous breakdown, and the crew repeatedly has to re-block the memory. Just don't ask why they never thought about the limits of having only ONE doctor for the whole ship (especially in combat situations) when they could have set up MULTIPLE holographic bodies for the Doctor to control simultaneously in such situations. Well, maybe the multitasking would have slowed him down.
  • Supergirl (2015): Lena Luthor perceives that one way or another everyone she's loved or trusted has betrayed her, so as of Season 5 she searches for relics and technology that enable her to manipulate people's minds by forcibly removing their ability to hurt others.
  • Happens to the Slayers, the Branaghs and Renfield in the final episode of Season 2 of Young Dracula courtesy of Vlad (though the latter two were accidents; it was the Slayers that were the target). The What the Hell, Hero? occurs four years later in Season 3's The Return when Vlad finds out that the hypnosis he did ended up killing Eric Van Helsing.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The 3.5 Edition "Book of Exalted Deeds" contains the Sanctify the Wicked spell, which has this effect, not only changing an Evil character to Good, but also changing the victim's alignment to Law or Chaos to match the caster's.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, this is the modus operandi of the Selesnya. The Song of the Conclave, for instance, was a plane-wide spell to keep the population docile (keep in mind that it was done with "good" intentions in mind). Predictably, when the guildless found out, they weren't very happy...
  • In Traveller the Zhodani Consulate's psionic Thought Police encourage citizens feeling depressed or dissatisfied with their lot in life to turn themselves in for telepathic "therapy". The result has been the most stable, happy, and well-adjusted human interstellar state in the setting, with close to zero crime. However they also consider non-Zhodani humans to be mentally ill, and their fear of the human-dominated Imperium eventually becoming a threat to them has caused them to fight several wars of conquest and sponsor terrorist groups within the Imperium to slow Imperial expansion.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • It is implied that Ethereal caste of Tau empire is using mind-controlling pheromones to control the rest of the tau species. Pheromones have limited range, so Ethereals also spend a lot of effort to teach their subjects to genuinely believe in Greater Good. Founding religio-philosophical principle of modern Tau society holds that all sentient beings should strive to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of beings in the galaxy under guidance of the Ethereal caste.
    • There was also an instance where the leaders of a new-found sentient species were issued portable translation devices by the Tau. It was implied that said devices also provided mind control. Implied, as in, Imperial scribes say they do. And The Empire is notoriously xenophobic. So there's no way to tell whether it's true or not. The only way to know for sure is to ask an Eldar farseer (who are rumored to have genetically engineered the Tau Ethereal caste) but Eldar being Eldar, they have no reason to tell the truth.
    • The Imperium is also known to do this. Since the galaxy is full of things that can permanently corrupt a man's soul just for looking at them, it occasionally occurs that someone you'd rather not "save" (that is to say, summarily execute) ends up a wee bit mad. The Imperium sorts this out by brainwashing the subject and either putting in fake memories or leaving the person blank. This allows them to continue service without being a risk of heresy. The Inquisition uses this tactic more than other factions.
    • Space Marines, especially Grey Knights are notorious for using mind wipes, hypnosis and brainwashing as part of their training. It results in incredible mental fortitude, loyalty and resistance to Chaos influence, but makes them far less human. The brainwashing of Space Marine recruits is rather necessary, to allow both subliminal training and to indoctrinate the recruits into loyally serving the chapter and the Imperium. This is as much as to make them loyal servants as well as to behave; while recruiting from a Hive, they prefer "recruiting" gangs members since most recruits are chosen because they have psychotic killing instincts and experience with weapons. If Marines decide they would rather strike out on their own, they would either go renegade, or, much worse and more common, fell to temptation and became terrifying Chaos Space Marines. Space Marines' predecessors, the Thunder Warriors, were not brainwashed, and proved to be so physically and mentally unstable that The Emperor had them purged once the conquest of Terra was complete.
    • The process of interfacing with the Throne Mechanicum of an Imperial Knight not only imprints the Noble's personality on the Throne, it also changes the personality of the Noble: instilling strong feelings of honor and duty, a respect for order and hierarchy, and a veneration for one's ancestors. The exact reason for this is unknown, but some believe that it is either an unintended error or a form of mental Restraining Bolt to help stop Nobles from going rogue. Only the Thrones Mechanicum used by House Taranis of Mars are free of this mental conditioning algorithm, something the Nobles of the House believe makes the greatest Knights in the eyes of the Omnissiah.

    Video Games 
  • The Knights Templar in Assassin's Creed believe this is the best way to save all of humankind. The Assassins are quick to disagree with this.
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, the main protagonist "Bell" was once a top agent of Perseus until he was betrayed and left for dead. He was found and brainwashed by Adler and the CIA through Project MK Ultra into thinking he was a Vietnam veteran and a CIA operative.
  • In City of Heroes one of the signature heroes, a psychic called Sister Psyche’ does this all the time with villains she catches, she gets passed the ethical dilemma of this because the effects are temporary and ware off by the time they stand trial.
    • A more significant example of this is her side-kick Malaise, who has dissociative identity disorder and periodically switches to his identity as a mad art thief; As he is also psychic this makes him quite dangerous, so she does the psychic equivalent of shooting him full of anti-psychotics. Unlike other criminals she keeps him like this to help his alternate good personality continually win out during flare-ups.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair revealed that the entire game takes place in a Virtual World that stripped the 16 characters (except Chiaki Nanami) of their memories from the time they were members of Ultimate Despair, and would have replaced them with good memories and ethics. Unfortunately, thanks to the machinations of Izuru Kamakura, a virus was uploaded that allowed a virtual version of Monokuma to hijack the program.
  • In the Dragon Age universe, mages can be made 'Tranquil', robbing them of the chaotic influence of emotions and thus rendering them slavish, robotic, atonal and altogether compliant to The Greater Good.
    • Or for... less savory purposes. Really, how much the Rite of Tranquility falls under this trope depends on the morality of the people using it, and whether the mage in question was willing (or at least beyond saving) or not. The morality issue is brought up frequently, and the ritual remains extremely controversial, both in-universe and out.
  • In Fallout 4, it's stated that this is how the Railroad rehabilitate escaped synths. A doctor they sponsor gives them new memories to help them acclimate to the Wasteland and live normal lives as humans. Though the process is entirely voluntary, it can occasionally backfire spectacularly as the converted synth has no idea of their past lives and why they should care about synth rights. Isn't that right, Paladin Danse?
  • Horizon Zero Dawn has a downplayed example. Most machines aren't sapient, but it's still a bit weird when Aloy "overrides" one and makes it attack the herd it was protecting just a minute ago. Aloy's habit of anthropomorphizing the machines does not help.
"You're coming with me."
  • Revan, a.k.a. the protagonist, in Knights of the Old Republic:
    • It is suggested in the sequel that Revan was never really brainwashed by the Jedi. He just lost his memories and changed methods, but his motivations and goals never really changed. All he really did in the first game was clean up the mess he made by his backstabbing apprentice, then before the start of the second, he left to continue where he left off to find and destroy the true Sith.
      • Seeing as you have every opportunity to turn to the dark side again if you choose, they only wiped the slate clean and hoped to carry out the overarching plan properly i.e. finding the star maps.
      • In the novel Revan, it's a plot point that Revan doesn't actually remember being a Sith lord or meeting The Emperor on Dromund Kaas. After the Exile gives Revan back the Sith mask, it triggers a flood that returns all the memories. Additionally, it increases Revan's power Up to Eleven, allowing him to easily beat a powerful Sith lord. Unfortunately, even that is not enough to beat the Emperor.
  • In Legion's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, the heroes find out a way to turn the Heretic geth against the Reapers by introducing a computer virus into their network, essentially overwriting their thoughts. Given that the 'verse features several villains (including the Reapers) and Well Intentioned Extremists trying or succeeding in doing the same for their less-than-noble purposes, the parallels are made quite clear. Interestingly, this isn't treated like the obvious good option, with several characters pointing out that if you alter the geths' thoughts, you're still "killing" who they used to be. The alternative is to kill all those geth outright, but... it's still a strange moral issue. Legion further makes the point that the geth are not a race of individuals like most other races, but a Hive Mind collective of inter-networked A.I.s. To equate their concept of morality — and attitude to the "brainwashing" option — to that of humanity's could even be considered racist. Their minds work so differently that the human concept of "brainwashing" doesn't really cover exactly what the virus will do to the geth.
    • In Mass Effect 3, the Illusive Man is vocally of the opinion that he a) can and b) should take control of the Reapers, the Big Bad Eldritch Abomination robot capital ships, for the "good of humanity" (or his own good, as Shepard can remark on several occasions). This puts him in conflict with Shepard and the Systems Alliance, who want to Kill 'Em All. As the game progresses, it becomes clear that he only thinks this because he's indoctrinated, and the Reapers want to pit him against Shepard, fracturing the organic defense in the process. However, this turns out to be possible after all — Shepard can choose to take control of the Reapers and end the war by fiat, although his/her corporeal form is destroyed in the process. In fact, if the player's War Assets are low, and they preserved the Collector base in Mass Effect 2, this is their only option. However, it's explained that the Illusive Man, being indoctrinated, could never have taken control for himself.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network 5, the antagonist Dr. Regal gets his memory erased and becomes a nice guy. No repercussions. Less of a What the Hell, Hero? since it was done by Wily and not the heroes.
  • Persona 5 uses this as the modus operandi for the Phantom Thieves. They target evil adults who get away with their crimes because they're too powerful or influential for the law to have any sway, infiltrate those adults' Mental Worlds, and steal all desire that they have to be evil, which leads them to confess their crimes and turn themselves in. And even though there's no real alternative, even though the victims are truly terrible people, the question about whether or not it's the right thing to do is prevalent among the general public and even the Thieves themselves from the beginning.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Royal. With the fall of the God of Control, that should have been the end of the game, and it was in the original. But max out all the right social links and you'll have one last Palace to contend with: Maruki's Laboratory of Sorrow. The final Palace ruler has this as their driving motivation, and unlike anyone previously, he genuinely has no malicious intent; their plan is to overwrite everyone's cognition such that everyone is happy. Like the Thieves, the ruler acknowledges the moral ambiguity of their actions but pursues it because they believe that it's for the best. Even with that, however, the Thieves choose to remain true to their ideals, leaving the true final battle as one gray morality against another.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, this is a central theme in Grieving Mother's past and arc. She's a midwife and powerful cipher who used her powers in various ways to protect and aid the children she helped bring into the world. She accepts it as Dirty Business and can be convinced it should never be done, but argues it well and with full acceptance of the darker aspects, making it a case of Gray-and-Grey Morality. She even asks the Watcher to do it to her — removing certain extremely traumatic memories from her mind so she can have peace. The Watcher can accept or refuse.
  • Happens at the end of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers to Darkrai, though likely not deliberately. After a botched escape plan Palkia informs the party that he has likely suffered from Laser-Guided Amnesia just like the protagonist did. Sure enough, you can later find Darkrai roaming an unimportant dungeon and behaves just like any other Pokemon and is even recruitable, hence the main villain becomes part the of the heroic team. Strangely, no one comments on the fact that a sadistic dictator from the future is hanging out in the cafe without explanation.
  • In Power Pro-kun Pocket 7's Koshien Hero scenario, the Pocket Heroes who seem to uphold the peace actually engineer criminal incidents to justify their own existence and they'll brainwash people into being fans or fellow justice enforcers to keep the Awful Truth from coming out.
  • Played with in Prey (2017). A side effect of neuromods is that if they're ever removed, the subject loses all memories since the neuromod was installed. Late in the game, this can be used to transform an enemy into an ally. Dahl, sent to Leave No Survivors of the incident, gives himself blank neuromods before taking instructions for every job he gets so he can remove them with no memory of his actions later, keeping his conscience clean. If you knock him out instead of killing him, you can remove his neuromod and convince him that his instructions were to evacuate the station, rather than killing everyone on board. He'll help you with no qualms or questions.
  • Psychonauts 2: After Ford Cruller defeated and captured Maligula/Lucrecia Mux, he was still in love with her and couldn't bring himself to kill her, even though she had already accidentally killed so many. So he went down to the Astralathe and used it to alter her psyche and make her think she was Marona Aquato, her dead sister that she accidentally killed. Then he used the Astralathe on her nephew Augustus Aquato so that he'd believe Lucrecia was his mother. After this, Ford used the Astralathe to split his mind apart to make himself forget so that he didn't have to remember the guilt of brainwashing his former girlfriend and her nephew.
  • In Purgatory 2, many of the endings have Ebel or Neun suggest this as an method of combating the corrupt nobles working for the Lobelia Corporation, who have so much control they have even replaced the royal family with meat puppets. Despite how extreme and morally dubious this is, everybody is easily convinced of the plan, showing how truly dire their situation is.
  • Deconstructed in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. When the Chaotic Evil members of Jack's Crew leave the Red Sprite with little choice outside of kill or be killed, Zelenin tries to Take a Third Option by appealing to the angel Mastema for help. He offers to turn her into an angel so her hymn can turn their hearts back to God. It worked extremely well.
    • Later, a demon refuses to let you anywhere near Mother Maya unless you slaughter Jack's Crew. Zelenin offers to use her song to brainwash the demons as well. The problem here is that if you accept the demon's terms, you're killing people who can't really fight back... but the demons are survivors of Jack's Crew's vicious experiments, so they're kind of in the right. The third option? Kill the demon who's sealed off the gateway, and only that demon.
    • Depending on your definition of good, if you choose the Chaos Route Jiminez uses the Delphinus Parasite to make the crew who haven't already taken a side choose Chaos.
    • In the end, the fate of Jack Squad is only foreshadowing the Law faction's true plans: should they have their way, they will end the Eternal Recurrence of the Schwarzwelt once and for all by having you kill its creator, Mother Mem Aleph, while they take over the Schwarzwelt to "eliminate" all unworthy humans and have the survivors brainwashed into the eternal, mindless, God-praising thrall of Zelenin's song. But hey, all the damage mankind has done to Mother Earth will heal, and nature will flourish once again, so that's a good thing, right?
    • The MK Guns are an earlier version of this. It's implied they were designed to force altered states of consciousness. While they are excellent against Demonic Possession, that's not to say there are no repercussions for the higher-ups when they are confronted over the possibilities of what amounts to portable brainwashing equipment and the extent of what they expected the crewmen to do.
  • StarCraft: Much of the Terran military is made up of "resocialized" criminals. The training process of Ghosts involves this as well, though they aren't necessarily criminals; the program will take anyone with enough potential. One would hope this statistic doesn't apply to the higher command. Interestingly, Nova (one of the most powerful, if not THE most powerful, Terran psychics ever) actually chose to have her memory wiped, unable to cope with the memory of her parents being murdered in front of her and living a year as a slave to a psychopath.
  • This is how criminal rehabilitation functions in Startopia. Apart from removing all current criminal impulses from the subject it appears to have no other side-effects and allows the ex-criminal to fully re-enter society (and re-offending is possible if the peep gets enough of a soul hit later), making it one of the less problematic instances of this trope. Besides, you get paid 1000e per rehabilitated subject.
  • The Turing Test: TOM claims it's doing this when Ava complains about TOM mind-controlling her to influence her behaviour.
    TOM: Manipulate is not a dirty word. You manipulate clay to make art. If people are manipulated to make better decisions then that is a good thing.
  • In Xenosaga, criminal justice involves multiple levels "personality reconditioning." Cherenkov was sentenced to and underwent high level "personality reconditioning" thrice — one that saw him stripped of human status and permanently assigned the status of a Realian — for three separate murders.

    Web Comics 
  • Mob Psycho 100: Dimple takes advantage of the Psycho Helmet urban legend to build a Cult of Personality and brainwash the people of Seasoning City into becoming disturbingly peaceful and willing to follow his every order. Mob eventually convinces Dimple he's just getting carried away in his desire to be important and loved, and Dimple is forced to stop anyway because the supernatural giant broccoli he was inhabiting becomes a mighty hostile entity of its own.
  • MSF High:
    • The Legion used to do this. A lot. Or, at least they saw it like that. Most people saw them as the "Heels", at times, and Legion transformations can have this effect, if done unwillingly. One of the reasons people don't like them very much. Generally, they don't do it now, though.
    • Threatened in the forums, to this one guy, Dracon, by a Legion NPC. He HATES said NPC now, with a passion.
  • Perfection Engine:
    • The Eidolon King Animamundi completely transforms his kingdom and his people to strive for perfect morality and society as a form of penance for their Maker. The Eidolons and their King strive for their Maker to return to them, believing she was repulsed by their flaws and imperfections. Society is now peaceful, kind, beautiful, and perfect, one would think...
  • Spinnerette: Sara Nicole Megan drugs her whole town in order to make everything nice there (at least by her standards-no crime, divorce, or gays-including herself.

    Web Original 
  • In the Dingo Doodles "Fool's Gold" campaign the party was trying to save the city of Rascam from its Lawful Evil, drug-dealing ruler the Bearon. When a fight broke out, Sips used a cursed item which randomly changed the Bearon's alignment to Lawful Good. It's not clear whether it was full brainwashing or simply giving him a conscience, but the Bearon has since become a good ruler and an ally of the party.
  • In Effulgence, Aelise believed her world was in danger of being "nuked to a population of one." So she enlisted the help of Chelsa to brainwash everyone into loving each other, figuring that was better then everyone dying.
  • hololive: Calliope Mori attempts to hypnotize Atlus into allowing her to play Persona 3 on stream by repeating her request over and over again for a solid two hours while "Burn My Dread" plays backwards for good measure. It's hard to say if it worked or not...
  • Maven tries to hypnotize The Nostalgia Chick into never thinking about Todd in the Shadows again, but it doesn't even come close to working.
  • In A Practical Guide To Evil if an Angel of Contrition is summoned into Creation, every mortal within forty-nine miles is made contrite - forced to witness every Evil in their life, accept they cannot be forgiven, and made to repent. Those people will then attempt to purge Evil from the world, usually by forming into a crusading army. The Lone Swordsman attempted this during the Battle of Liesse.
  • In The SCP Foundation, there's an SCP, SCP-2000. It's a Reset Button that can recreate humanity in the event of an Apocalypse How. Behavioral and cultural modifications are noted to be possible with this SCP, and there's a suggestion it could be used to tone down the sociopathic and violent tendencies in humanity. They've toned it down as far as they could: to do any more would actually hinder humanity's progress. Think about that.
  • In a Whateley Universe story, "Razzle Dazzle", Mephisto comments on Doc Wilde's claimed "surgical process that ‘excised’ a part of the brain that could work evil" and points out that it was basically a lobotomy.
    Townsend’s eyes glittered, and his grin turned hard. “Simple. You CAN’T. It was brainwashing, plain and simple, accompanied by burning out certain bits of the brain with electric probes inserted directly into the cerebrum. Yeah, they were okay afterwards… mostly… but they got worse, mostly after people stopped paying attention. Now, while I didn’t know all of the guys that he did that to, I DID know a fair number of them. And they were drooling wrecks, who could barely eat off a plate! .... Y’know, before, they’d been pretty sharp guys. Not NICE guys, but…” Townsend tapped his temple, “ enough to be a challenge to Doc Wilde. Then? One of ‘em had to work hard for an hour to tie his shoes!
  • Within the Wires' False Utopia ensures the nonviolence of its citizens in the aftermath of devastating war through a combination of cybernetically-enhanced repression of memories at age ten, and batteries of psychological programming. Season 1's protagonist is a patient, who, after illustrating deviant behavior, is supposedly undergoing a rehabilitative version of the latter during their stay at as an inpatient at a research hospital called the Institute.

    Western Animation 
  • After her Enemy Mine situation with the Maximals in Beast Wars, Blackarachnia hears them discussing removing her Predacon shell program — effectively rewiring her brain to make her think and act like a Maximal — and decides to flee before it can be done to her. It turns out to be something of a misunderstanding. The Maximals were discussing doing this to her, but only if she was okay with it; if Blackarachnia wanted to be left as-is it was always her choice to make.
  • In one episode of the The Daltons the director of the penitentiary wants to make the inmates drink a "vaccine against the virus of criminality" concocted by a very obvious Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Expy: when one of the inmates drank it, he became very uncharacteristically kind.
    • This trope is used in another episode in which the Daltons are subjected to days of being strapped to a machine and seeing a video of a pink rabbit trying to convince them that crime is wrong. The machine also looks like an ECT machine.
  • Used frequently in The Dreamstone, where the heroes could turn the villains docile and friendly with magic or pleasant dreams. In most cases, this was a temporary effect so they would be docile enough to hand them back the Dreamstone, though in at least one case it was intended to be permanent, with the entire Urpney army and the Argorribles remaining subordinate to them until Sgt. Blob and Urpgor broke them out of it.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, the alternate universe Knight Templar Justice League, the Justice Lords, brainwashed dangerous villains like The Joker. Or rather, Superman lobotomized them with his heat vision. (When Doomsday — freaking Doomsday shows up, this makes for a Curb-Stomp Battle with the Justice Lord Superman. Instead of fistfighting to their mutual destruction, brain-fry ensues and it's a done deal. Of course, he got better a couple seasons later, and when the prime Superman is desperate enough to use his darker version's tactic, Doomsday, via his Adaptive Ability, is now immune.) Amusingly, when we get to see the alternate Arkham Asylum and the various lobotomized supervillains, The Ventriloquist has no lobotomy scars, but Mr. Scarface does. note 
  • In an episode of Megas XLR, Coop and the gang land on a planet to ask directions, only to discover that all the worker robots inhabiting it are in fact prisoners of a facility that seemingly removes their free will to make them their slaves. Like usual, Coop demolishes everything, and after getting the directions from the newly-awakened robots and leaves, we see the robots he just "freed" destroying all traces of life on this planet very violently, with the "evil overlord" being in fact the prison warden who had transformed killer robots into docile sheep to rehabilitate them, the episode ending with one robot saying he'll repay Coop by destroying Earth.
  • Though not seen, in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Twilight mentions "reformation spells". If they couldn't convince a character to turn good the old-fashioned way, Twilight had every intent of using it. As the character in question is an unrepentant, Reality-Warping Mad God, her extreme attitude is understandable, though it's not without some Fridge Horror when you sit down and think about it.
    • This is the series that gave us the Want-It-Need-It spell and the love poison. Brainwashing effects canonically exist and even seem rather easy to create, yet at the same time aren't ever taken lightly (except when Starlight Glimmer relapses); that Twilight was ready to use a "reformation spell" as a fallback plan in Discord's case only underscores his potential threat level.
  • In Over the Garden Wall, Auntie Whispers claims to be doing this to Lorna, using a magic bell to make her work constantly so she doesn't "fall into wickedness." It's a legitimate case of this trope — Lorna suffers from Demonic Possession and tries to eat our protagonists when they free her.
  • Bob from ReBoot believes that because viruses are programmed to do harm, one can reprogram them into sprites and benign viruses. When presented with the possibility, Megabyte describes this as "a fate worse than deletion."
  • The very first Ren & Stimpy cartoon, "Stimpy's Invention" had this with the Happy Helmet. Stimpy genuinely believed that Ren needed to be happy and created the helmet to do just that. Once Ren is freed of the helmet, all bets are off.
  • In Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, criminals who are captured are all put in a machine that removes their desire to commit crimes. The series kicks off when a Mad Scientist finds a way to protect himself from this and starts committing crimes again, including cloning Professor Moriarty.
  • In one SpongeBob SquarePants episode, Spongebob and Patrick brainwash Man-Ray into not doing evil stuff anymore, by tickling him when he does. And it works, too.
  • Subverted in one episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where this strategy is used via Jedi Mind Tricks, but tortures the villain so much that he agrees to tell what he knows before the brainwashing actually does its work.
  • In Street Sharks, after the police capture Repteel, Dr. Paradigm says that if they hand him over, he'll brainwash him into being harmless. Of course, given that Repteel's one of his henchmen, this is just an excuse to get the mutant out of prison.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once somehow managed to get Shredder thinking he was Michaelangelo. Cue wrath when the spell is broken.
  • Miss Martian starts too get a little too fond of this technique in Young Justice, and Superboy breaks up with her over it. It comes back to bite her in the butt again when she puts Aqualad into a permanent coma, mistaking his Fake Defection for a real one.

    Real Life 
  • "Moral enhancement", or also called moral bioenhancement, that is, modifying the behavior and temperament of people through neuroscience to make bad people good and normal people morally better, is a growing topic of moral, ethical and philosophical discussion in light of science's ever-growing capabilities to alter the mind and soul. Most envisionings of moral enhancement have it as a voluntary procedure or do not specify, but it invokes this trope when mandatory application is discussed.
    • The issues around moral enhancement can greatly vary depending on the type and way the moral enhancement is carried out. A method that represses the ability to do bad, for example, will have some different ethical and philosophical issues compared to a method that produces genuine goodwill (how authentic is an artificially induced goodwill compared to a "natural" one if they are otherwise subjectively identical is another point of debate). There are many differing approaches suggested: increasing self-control, enhancing prosocial emotions such as empathy and sympathy, applying a Restraining Bolt, or simple cognitive enhancement are among them. Whether it is a voluntary or obligatory procedure definitely also affects the issues to be discussed.
    • The scale of a moral enhancement procedure also affects the issues that surround it. Moral enhancement has been discussed in scales and pervasiveness of application ranging from limited scope therapies for treating criminals with with disorders characterized by moral deficits (The Sociopath for example), to a global application to solve issues caused by Humans Being Bastards that is promoted by Transhumanists.
    • One area of moral enhancement that particularly fits this trope is crime and justice, in particular because this is the area of moral enhancement where involuntary treatment is commonly debated, and because the benefits here are clear-cut. Issues specific to this area include the ethics of involuntary and voluntary treatment on convicts and whether consent to the procedure in exchange for reduced sentences is coercive.
    • Surprisingly, voluntary moral enhancement is also an issue of debate, as in whether moral enhancement procedures should be available at all for people to choose to morally enhance themselves. While involuntary treatment has the ethical qualms that Brainwashing has, voluntary treatment is also opposed on the grounds of Appeal to Nature, effectiveness, differing moral standards, and the greater social impacts of it.
    • Complicating matters is that there is no one moral standard on which to improve. This moral pluralism means that an action that is morally sound in one moral system can be immoral in another, as demonstrated by the thought experiment the Trolley Problem, in which one has to decide between killing one to save 5 or letting 5 die through inaction. Utilitarian philosophy holds the most moral action is the one that saves the most people, but Deontological philosophy contradicts it by regarding the act of killing itself to be immoral, despite being the route that saves more people. There is also the issue that moral enhancement can have side effects. Enhancing empathy, for example, could lead to increased partiality for those we care about at the expense of strangers, while enhancing generosity could allow less scrupulous people to more easily exploit them.
  • Chemical castration, which takes the form injecting hormones to lower androgen levels in the body, is sometimes performed as a voluntary or mandated procedure on convicted child molesters and rapists to lower their sexual desire and reduce the likelihood that they will commit another sexual offense.
    • When homosexuality was still a crime in most Western nations, many gay men were chemically castrated, including Alan Turing. It's commonly believed to have been a factor in his suicide.
      • And others were and are subjected to "conversion therapy" in an attempt to make them heterosexual. The practice is condemned by every reputable mental health association and some jurisdictions have banned it from being performed on minors.
  • Education is generally not regarded as brainwashing (except in places like North Korea), but like parents, the school environment, its conduct and policies, and what is taught there has a really significant impact on the moral development of children, and many teachers consider it their responsibility to make sure for the children's and society's sake that the children they look after grow up into decent people.