Iron Man: I don't care. He killed my mom.
Cartesian Karma are consequences a character has to face for actions they technically committed despite not being in full control of their body at the time.
So your characters were previously brainwashed, betrayed the heroes, went on their own sort of rampage and needed saving to return to their ideals. Luckily, the good guys manage to accomplish this through laborious amounts of screaming, fighting them, and friendship power. And now that character is back to normal, yay! Everything should be all strawberries and hotcakes, right? I mean, they've clearly come to their senses and are back on the right of things.
Well unfortunately not always. There are some possible problems with characters regaining their focus that, should they occur, need to be faced.
Simple problems might be that relationships are strained, as other people might not be quite so eager to forget the character's actions off the bat. A brainwashed character who commits actions that would have crossed the Moral Event Horizon had they been freely chosen obviously won't be as easily redeemed, even with the all-forgiving power of friendship. More problematic is that the characters aren't completely back to normal, and traits from their former self may still linger on even after they've overcome their vices. Can this get any worse? It can.
The most problematic issue becomes when a character essentially has to live up to their actions and face the music, thus being dealt Cartesian Karma. After all, sure it's great that they're not trying to eat your soul, kick puppies, or burn down that orphanage any more, so what's the deal?
Tragically in failing that, they still managed to kick a few kittens, and rob the local grocery market. And law enforcement isn't exactly ready to take 'I was brainwashed by a Super-villain/mind-virus' as a valid legal alibi. Also anybody 'normal' seeing you in your altered state might be equally hard to work out, especially if it's not something you could explain without telling too much. The consequences of one's actions simply don't vanish when the mentality causing them does, so even mind-controlled characters have to face some sort of retribution, like it or not. Except when they don't.
What's more, who's to say you were just eating children and playing hopscotch during your brainwashed-existence, and won't have to face any serious danger or genetic experiments? Any damage sustained, bodily changes or physical alterations aren't going to go away just because you've come to your senses. Those are going to have to be faced as well. If your brainwashed self ate a few too many donuts in the baddies' hideout, back-to-normal you is simply going to have to live with his/her sustained diabetes.
Can lead to My God, What Have I Done? moments, even Out, Damned Spot! if the character feels perpetually guilty by their previous actions upon being dealt Karma. A heroic or moral enough character, if determined and truly guilty, will probably try to reconcile with their past actions in order to fix their record and deal with the situation.
Sometimes the narrative itself sees fit to affix responsibility on the character, when the party responsible for the brainwashing should be solely held accountable.
A subtrope of Moral Luck. Compare Alternate Personality Punishment, which is the equivalent with clones/split personalities/etc. Contrast Karma Houdini, which can be justified if this trope is averted.
- Tacitly averted in Zatch Bell! with Koko who was sadistically brainwashed, but is later rescued by Sherry and restored back to her original, kind innocent state. It's a good thing she's not a wanted criminal now or anything and can happily go to college too, especially after (publicly) razing most of her town and kidnapping dozens of people. It would have to be inferred that her savior Sherry has some pretty good connections.
- In the final chapters where the final battle for King is had, it's mentioned that damage to the land and possibly the people is undone (the one communicating would be the book). Considering how the battle for Mamodo King is called the God's Trial, this would explain why a lot of calamities and such were undone.
- Hunter × Hunter:
- Possibly subverted when one of the side characters gets kidnapped by the ants, brainwashed and altered to be one of them. She's eventually comes to her senses, and as Killua points out, her entrusted one Gon is not one to judge, and it helps the Hunter organization itself isn't one to persecute her just because she's now a chimera ant.
- His teacher and role-model Kaito, who is made into a living rag doll for the ants to manipulate that Gon desperately wishes to bring back. The realization that he can't do so, and Kaito truly is 'dead' is what pushes Gon into a Deadly Upgrade.
- Fairy Tail: Jellal is back on the side of the angels after his stint trying to resurrect Zeref with the Tower of Heaven (which he was brainwashed into by Ultear pretending to be Zeref), but the Magic Council (as well as several others he wronged during this time) are not buying it. It especially doesn't help that he can't forgive himself and becomes The Atoner to the point he has a worrying habit of being willing to try and pull off a Heroic Sacrifice or even offer a Please Kill Me If It Satisfies You to the ones he's especially wronged.
- Constantly in Valvrave the Liberator.
- Particularly with Haruto. As the pilot of Unit 1, he sometimes gets possessed by a sort of monster impulse that makes him attack his friends. What happens can range from biting someone and inadvertently body-jacking them, to, well, the incident that the series is infamous for towards the end of season 1. Notable/played with in that most of the retribution for these things comes from his own guilt and fear that he's a monster.
- This is also the case with L-elf, who was body-jacked by Haruto in the beginning - Haruto in his body shot L-elf's friend in the eye and betrayed L-elf's team. Since his teammates don't know about the body-jacking until the end, they blame L-elf for it and wonder what could have made such a loyal soldier turn traitor. He manages to use the situation to his advantage, helping the Ordinary High-School Student JIORans form a decent enough military to defend their town, but you can see the sadness in his eyes throughout...
- In Tales from Earthsea, Arren murders his father, the king of Enlad, at the start of the film and steals his Magic Sword. Later, it is revealed that Lord Cob has been controlling him. Even though he is freed from Cob's influence, Arren decides to go home to answer for the murder.
- After Jean Gray has been brought back from the The Dark Side in The Dark Phoenix Saga, she's found guilty of genocide and sentenced to death by the Shi'ar empire, despite the empress' romantic relationship with Charles Xavier. Unfortunately for everyone, fighting for her life reawakens Marvel Girl's Dark Phoenix side.
- Her beau Cyclops faces similar problems being imprisoned after he took over the world and killed Charles Xavier while under the Phoenix's influence.
- In The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Cyclonus is infamous among the crew of the Lost Light for having fought for Galvatron during the war, and was involved in several atrocities. Most Autobots consider him basically a Decepticon, despite the fact that he is technically unaligned (the purple paint job can't help). In fact, Cyclonus was under the influence of The Darkness when this occurred, and thus unable to resist Galvatron's commands. He seems to not make too much of issue of it however, not caring about the Autobots' approval.
- Thorgal: Thorgal is imprisoned by his wife Aaricia, who refuses to acknowledge him as her husband after he returns from his amnesiac stint as the pirate lord Shaigan the Merciless (which was pushed by Kriss de Valnor, who wants Thorgal all to herself), during which she and her children were branded and exiled. She only forgives him after he singlehandedly takes out a pirate invasion.
- During the Superior Spider-Man arc, Doctor Octopus controlled Spider-Man's body. After Peter gets his body back, many of his prior relationships are strained, especially that with his former lover, Black Cat, who has made a FaceHeel Turn and doesn't believe or care that it was Octavius in Peter's body when she was attacked.
- Captain America: Civil War: Sure, Bucky was under mind-control from HYDRA for all of his career as the Winter Soldier. That hardly means he's off the hook for decades of terrorism and assassinations, forcing him to stay in hiding from the authorities at the start of the movie. Despite his reassurance to Steve that he's no longer doing these kind of things, it's easy for Zemo to cast blame on Bucky for bombing the U.N. building just by wearing a scarf and a prosthetic mask. Only Captain America (and his followers) believe he's innocent, and it's more for emotional than rational reasons. T'Challa doesn't accept the brainwashing argument as an excuse for the death of his father, and pursues Bucky as Black Panther to kill him. Neither does Tony Stark when he finally learns the Winter Soldier is responsible for the murder of his parents. He goes ballistic, and none of Cap's words are enough to calm Iron Man in his attempt to vaporize Bucky.
Bucky: I don't know if I'm worth all this, Steve.Steve: What you did all those years, it wasn't your fault.Bucky: I know... but I did it.
- Bucky himself isn't exactly convinced either.
- The Hangover is about a non-supernatural version of this. The protagonists are a group of guys who throw a monster of a bachelor party in Vegas that they can't remember any of the following morning due to how intoxicated they were,note forcing them to figure out what happened and come face-to-face with all the outrageous things that they did in order to find the missing bachelor and bring him to his wedding.
- The horror-comedy Ava's Possessions is similar, with its protagonist being a young woman who recently endured a Demonic Possession and now has to answer for all the things that the demon made her do, which cost her her job and her friends and may well get her thrown in jail.
- Carrie (2002) subverts this with a change from the original book. Carrie massacres her classmates at the prom after a Deadly Prank is pulled and she unleashes her telekinetic powers on them. In this version, she instead goes into a trance and loses control of her powers, later having no idea what she's done when she comes out of it. This is the only version to give an Adaptational Alternate Ending where Carrie survives, is forgiven by Sue and the two escape to Florida in the hopes the police don't track her down.
- In The Red Vixen Adventures, Ali is arrested for the crimes she committed as a slave, but is acquitted of most, though not all of them.
- Harry Potter:
- An inversion. Many of Voldemort's followers claimed that they were coerced using the Imperius Curse into committing their crimes to avoid prison time. It's actually a very simple bluff to fall back on, since mind control is relatively easy to perform in this universe, and Voldemort's men really did use the Imperius Curse frequently to torment people. The inversion continues after Voldemort's return to power when the Ministry, partly out of fear of this happening again, begins jailing innocent people who just appear vaguely sketchy.
- In Chamber of Secrets, Ginny is terrified of facing punishment after Voldemort has been possessing her into summoning the Basilisk to attack Muggle born students. Heartwarmingly, Dumbledore instantly assures her she did nothing wrong.
- In the Book of Exodus, the pharaoh is punished for refusing to free the Hebrews by having the Ten Plagues continue until the final one kills all the Egyptians' firstborn sons. However, some translations specify God as having made the pharaoh refuse. What this says about free will (or how accurate a translation this was) is a frequent topic of religious scholars.
- Jedi Academy Trilogy: Inverted with Kyp Durron, who, under the influence of The Dark Side and Exar Kun's possession, destroys two solar systems and billions of their inhabitants. The New Republic decides there's No Adequate Punishment and remands him to Luke Skywalker; after Kyp gets some Epiphany Therapy and risks his life to destroy the superweapon he used, Luke simply forgives him. The public reaction to this decision haunts the Jedi Order for decades after.
- Played With in The Stormlight Archive. Big Bad Odium can manipulate people towards a certain outcome, but can only outright control someone if they give up control. Odium does this by manipulating people into performing atrocities that they regret, and then persuading them that they are blameless and it was Odium's fault all along. In other words, not taking responsibility for cases of non-mind control manipulations open the way for real mind control. Amaram, who took this deal to escape blame, is nonetheless considered guilty for all crimes both before and after their loss of control.
- This sort of thing appears to happen a lot in Star Trek. A character is temporarily possessed by a more powerful force or otherwise suborned against their will to perform actions contrary to their own interests or inclinations. But they then carry on in post afterwards with no sanctions once they're free of possession, or can demonstrate that they were not in control of themselves at the time. note The only time this issue appears to have been addressed is when Captain Picard was assimilated into the Borg Collective and is used to co-ordinate their strategy against the Federation. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine opens with a freed Picard ferrying Captain Sisko to his new command. Sisko is one of the very few survivors of the Borg attack that used Picard to plot and lead its strategy. Sisko's command, and his wife, were killed in that offensive. Therefore his attitude to Picard is one of very thinly disguised hostility, loathing and hatred. Picard understands this, realizes this is part of his Cartesian Karma, and allows Sisko to express his deep hostility and bitter resentment.
- Babylon 5: When Michael Garibaldi was brainwashed into betraying Captain Sheridan so he could be turned over to the authorities on Earth, he is declared persona non grata aboard Babylon 5. He ultimately averts this trope by planning and leading Sheridan's rescue himself, with the help of Franklin, Marcus, and the Mars Resistance.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and his own spinoff, this is Angel's main character conflict. After becoming a vampire and losing his soul, the human Liam became Angelus and built a reputation as one of the most vicious and bloodthirsty vampires in history. After getting his soul restored and becoming Angel, he keeps the memories of the atrocities Angelus committed over the centuries, causing him tremendous and unimaginable guilt, even though Angelus is actually a demon who stole Liam's body. He also loses his soul and becomes Angelus again on a couple of occasions, affecting his relationships with his friends, allies, and even his Love Interests, who often find it difficult, if not impossible, to trust him again after he gets his soul back. And then there's Holtz, a vampire hunter and Angelus's Arch-Enemy, who seeks revenge for Angelus murdering his entire family by targeting Angel, despite being completely aware that Angel and Angelus are different people who inhabit the same body.
- Charmed (1998):
- Cole's FaceHeel Turn in Season 4 is brought on by him being tricked by the Seer into becoming the new Source of All Evil. Any evil thing he does is entirely down to being possessed. When he returns from the dead, free from brainwashing, he's treated as though he did everything on his own.
- This is also subverted with Phoebe - who was in fact much more willing in becoming Cole's queen when he was the Source (though she was tricked into getting pregnant with an Enfant Terrible who it's implied corrupted her mind). She is Easily Forgiven by her sisters, at the same time they shun Cole.
- When Paige sees a flashback of Phoebe and Piper torturing a dark priestess and later Leo, she's horrified. Phoebe tries to point out they were under a spell. The same incident is used against them later when they're on trial for misusing their magic.
- Hoo boy Morgana. Her FaceHeel Turn comes about when she's taken away by her evil half-sister Morgause and is kept in hiding for a year - where we never find out exactly what happens. She returns fully evil in Season 3, willing to kill innocent people and torture her former friends. Despite obvious influence from Morgause (and the fact that in their last moment before being kidnapped, Merlin chose to poison Morgananote ) it's treated as though she made a FaceHeel Turn of her own free will.
- Gwen is Mind Raped by Morgana into committing adultery with Lancelot right before her wedding to Arthur and gets banished from the kingdom because of it. The writers proceed to forget this and act as if Gwen had done so willingly because she had a thing for Lancelot in the past. Arthur eventually 'forgives' her, even though there's actually nothing to forgive. He never finds out about the brainwashing either.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch has to enter a challenge to discover whether she or her twin Katrina is the Evil Twin of the pair. They see a recap of each witch's use of magic, and Sabrina loses that round because she's shown using her magic selfishly. One of the clips — turning Libby into a pineapple - happened the day she got her powers and lost control without meaning to cast a spell. Another — torturing Mr Kraft at school — happened when molecular instability gave her the Alpha Bitch's personality.
- Once Upon a Time: Ingrid the Snow Queen exploits this by taunting Elsa that Anna imprisoned her in an urn - as an example of how their family bond is not strong. She failed to mention she used the Spell of Shattered Sight to turn Anna into a Jerkass who wouldn't have done it otherwise.
- Skylar Storm from Mighty Med has only joined forces with the Annihilator at the start of season 2 because he corrupted her powers prior to claiming them. With the exception of Kaz and Oliver in which they're easily forgiving towards her when she's back to fight for the side of good after her powers were removed again, none of the superheroes in the titular hospital were welcoming towards her. There are some who don't know she was being brainwashed at the time, and there are some who know but couldn't care less of it. Alan took advantage of the karma she's getting as a chance for him to get liked. Of course, it didn't last long when he tries to destroy her attempt to make amends that the superheroes stopped turning against her, and that they turned against him once again.
- Supergirl ends up getting this herself for her rampage against National City near the end of season 1. Because the public has no idea that she was infected with red kryptonite at the time as the reason for said rampage, they started treating her like a pariah by the time she's cured, with Alex, Winn, and James the only ones who remain supportive of her because they know the truth.
- Jessica Jones (2015):
- Kilgrave kidnaps Hope Schlottman, and as one final command to her, he makes her shoot her parents after Jessica reunites her with them. Hope is charged with murder and Jessica spends a good portion of the season trying to gather evidence on Kilgrave for use defending Hope at trial.
- A father whose young son was acting up on a drive. While the car was stopped at a light, Kilgrave got in and made the guy drive on. Kilgrave got irritated by the kid's crying, so he made the father abandon his son on the side of the road. The man spent a week as Kilgrave's chauffeur and when he was finally released, he was arrested for child endangerment, his wife left him and he lost his job.
- Even though Jessica was under Kilgrave's control when he made her kill Luke's wife Reva, Luke is still pissed at Jessica, though it's over the fact that she pursued him and slept with him, all while keeping the truth about something so big from him.
- Dungeons & Dragons will sometimes require characters to receive an Atonement from a cleric even for actions that were performed under magical mind-control, due to trickery, or otherwise involuntarily or unwittingly. However, in such a circumstance, the cleric does not have to make the personal sacrifice of experience points normally required by the Atonement spell.
- The Forgotten Realms have a lot of this.
- Including Laeral Silverhand donning a relic of the local evil death-god and catching a bad case of artifact possession. Of course, as a semidivine being herself, she recovered after the crown was destroyed, but people threw suspicious glances for some time. Eventually this died down to lame taunts about bad luck with headgear from a political opponent, though.
- Elminster Ecologies appendix II is narrated by a rather grumpy druid, so the approach is rather simple, and not quite unreasonable:
Bara: ...moldering ancient spells and magical items of great and obnoxious power. More than once have I come upon some mess caused by adventurers only to have them tell me that they couldn't prevent an incident's occurrence because their mage was "under the control of an ancient and malevolent artifact of evil". If you must come to the High Moor and you must hunt treasure there, be careful. Check things for curses before you pick them up and play with them. Being mind-controlled doesn't give you free rein to come in and muck up the region I protect.
- A subtle one in Starcraft I: the main reason Mengsk abandons Kerrigan to the Zerg is that when she was still a literal Confederate puppet, she was one of the Ghosts responsible for the murder of his father, mother and sister. That she has no memory of it or that she hates the Confederacy for their experiments doesn't matter to him, and ends up causing the plot of Brood War and the next two games when she finally gets her revenge on him.
- In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Nanashi can refuse to unseal the Sealed Evil in a Can, but then the being he made a Deal with the Devil with can force him to do it. Many deaths later, he's called to a hearing for his execution. The Reasonable Authority Figure notes that if he's not always under full control over his body, even if his heart's in the right place, he can't be trusted.
- Ace Attorney: In "Turnabout Reunion", Franziska attempts to use this in order to get Maya Fey convicted of murdering Dr. Turner Grey, arguing that she did so while she was channeling the spirit of his dead nurse Mimi Miney. It doesn't help that Maya seems to believe herself guilty for not being able to control the spirit. Thankfully, Phoenix proves that Mimi was never dead to begin with, and there wasn't any spirit possession whatsoever.
- Done so in Homestuck, to a more general sense. After being brainwashed by the Condesce into turning evil, Jade is eventually killed by Aranea, and Paradox Space declares her death just, nullifying her God Tier immortality. It must be noted that Aranea has a hand in that decision, using her abilities as a Sylph of Light to cause a "Lucky 8reak". Shortly after, the same thing happens to Jane, who was also brainwashed; Aranea wasn't directly shown impacting the decision this time, but since her situation was no different from Jade's, it's likely that Aranea's manipul8ion that caused Jade to die simply remained consistent from then on and caused Jane's death, too.
- In Dominic Deegan, Jayden renounced her faith by reciting a Heresy while under mind control and lost her white magic as a result. It takes a while for her magic to return.
- Subverted in DuckTales (2017)'s penultimate Season 1 episode. While Scrooge initially blames Lena for letting Magica De Spell into his home, he does listen to her reasons (Magica is her aunt, who at first coerces and then bodily forces Lena to work for her) and acknowledges his own role in letting things get that far. He then makes her an offer.
Scrooge: Help me get my family back, and you'll have a place in it.
- Family Guy: Both Mayor Adam West and Meg are apparently unwilling sleeper-agent Russian spies, the former of which has been outed. No consequences of this have come up so far, but it's hard to question it when one ponders how someone as suspicious and incompetent as Mayor Adam could have become Mayor in the first place.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the sole truly evil things Trixie has ever done were while she was under the influence of the Alicorn Amulet, which turned her into a megalomaniac. Otherwise, she's just a rather harmless braggart. Nonetheless, the inhabitants of Ponyville (including Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship herself) were still distrustful of her in her next appearance, "No Second Prances", despite the regrets she expressed. Granted, she did go to depths to find the artifact and explicitly use it for revenge which provides some reason, but considering her career was ruined by "being bested by Twilight", she was being actively harassed by Ponyville residents, and besting Twilight in a Magic Duel would (and did) fix all of that, it's hard to blame her even for that. Starlight calls Twilight out on this when she is unsupportive of her befriending Trixie, though as Twilight points out, forgiving her brainwashed antics doesn't excuse Trixie being a Jerkass in her own right.
- The Powerpuff Girls: In "Mime for a Change", after the evil Mister Mime is turned back into Rainbow the Clown, his cheerful song of thanks is interrupted by the Girls beating the snot out of him and Rainbow being taken to jail for all the trouble his alter-ego caused. Though, since he was last seen at the Powerpuff Girls's party it can be assumed that they straightened everything out.
- In Young Justice, the Light manages to take control of the Justice League, and sends some of their strongest members through a Boom Tube to an alien planet called Rimbor to wreak havoc for sixteen hours. As a result, Earth suddenly stops being an Insignificant Little Blue Planet and gets a lot of hostile alien attention, especially in light of this whole "superpower" thing. Furthermore, the League members involved feel obligated to go to Rimbor and try to clear their name, which puts the League at a disadvantage against the Light's new plans.
- In Superman: The Animated Series, Superman is captured and brainwashed by Darkseid into believing that he was his son and attacking Earth, in order to destroy his reputation as a hero, causing many of his former allies (like Professor Hamilton) to turn his back on him. It took the Man of Steel several years to regain people's trust, and even by the time of Justice League many still want to hold him accountable for his actions while under Darkseid's control.