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Cynical Mentor

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Portinari: You are a cynical old bastard.
The Dealey Lama: That's right. Cynical and cold and without an ounce of human compassion. The only thing to be said for me is that I always happen to be right.

A cousin to the Trickster Mentor and the Sink or Swim Mentor, the Cynical Mentor doesn't really care whether The Hero succeeds or fails, and they often believe it will be the latter. Unlike the Sink or Swim Mentor, there will be training, and it's usually Training from Hell. This particular brand of mentor uses their cynicism to anger the hero and get them to fight harder for what they want and/or believe in. This mentor helps the hero very, very grudgingly (most likely because they were bored or had nothing better to do). Never gives encouragement or compliments, except maybe right before the hero's final battle, and even then it might be a longshot.

There's a fair to good chance that said mentor either is a Knight in Sour Armor or Retired Badass.

Compare Sour Supporter, Zen Survivor; contrast Mentor in Sour Armor who is like this, but has a soft side deep down. May result from A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Gambino from Berserk once told his adopted son Guts that he should trust nothing but his own brains and brawn since people are ruthless bastards who will do anything to survive or for the sake of ambition. Gambino even told Guts that he shouldn't trust him. This was one of the only times Gambino acted remotely fatherly to him.
  • Saul Ranasinghe from The Case Files of Jeweler Richard. While he does seem to be very fond of Richard, he mostly calls him an idiot and if Richard hadn't blossomed with the potential he saw in Richard, it seems clear he would've abandoned him as useless.
  • Evangeline from Negima! Magister Negi Magi, to a frightening degree. Training from Hell aside (of which there is much), one of her major lessons for the main lead is that no act in this world can be completely good like he thinks/hopes, and that being evil comes naturally as a part of living. She also treats him like crap. Of course, she turns out to be partially right in that during Mahorafest Negi admits that he can't really justify fighting Chao, and that he might just be the bad guy this time around. Despite this, Eva still seems to be sliding into Anti-Villain territory, and has to convince herself that she's still evil, which Negi isn't buying. Seems like Negi and Eva are starting to rub off on each other.
  • Hijikata from Peacemaker Kurogane towards Tetsunosuke. He appears pretty strict and cynical towards Tetsunosuke (not really directly teaching Tetsunosuke fighting, and mainly having Tetsunosuke serve him tea). However, deep down, it's suggested numerous times that he does care about Tetsunosuke.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • By the time of Fractured in the Seta Suzume The Hunger Games fanfiction universe, District 5's eldest victor, Shy Everett, is a downplayed version.
    People thought she wasn't doing enough to save their tributes. Well, it wasn't enough most of the time, but it wasn't like she was purposely holding back. She did what she could. She brought back Valse, hadn't she? You couldn't win them all. You couldn't win most of them. It was intended that way, and Shy wasn't going to break herself over impossibilities like Pal (earth accept his weary body and sky his weary soul).
  • Sugar Plums: Zabuza is this to, well everyone honestly, but especially to Ume which is saying something since she's already incredibly cynical to begin with. This leads to a lot of funny exchanges between the two of them.

    Film — Animated 
  • Hercules: Phil is initially reluctant to train Hercules, since all the heroes he trained before eventually suffered humiliating defeats and fell out of public favor.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Shifu does not think that Po is the Dragon Warrior and doesn't want him in the Jade Palace, but he puts up with him, tricking Po for a while with Training from Hell. Then, he finally starts training him correctly using food as the motivator, and even then it seems a bit cruel. But that's when he (like Mick) gets upgraded to Cool Old Guy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Midshipman Lieutenant 1st Class Matthew Cole in Annapolis tells the protagonist Jake Huard from the beginning that Jake is not good enough to serve in the Navy and is determined to kick out anyone who, in his mind, is not worthy to wear the uniform. Naturally, he becomes Drill Sergeant Nasty. By the end, Jake wins Cole's respect by nearly besting him in the boxing ring (Cole only wins by points). The final scene has Cole raising the bar on Jake by daring him to join the Marine Corps.
  • The Guardian (2006): Senior Chief Randall. He seems determined to get Jake Fischer to quit and go home.
  • ''Head Office': Max is the only person consistently giving Jack honest advice and help during his early days at the company. Most of his advice boils down to not caring too much.
  • Jimmy Dugan, Tom Hanks' character in A League of Their Own, is a cross of this and the Obsolete Mentor.
  • Clint Eastwood's character from Million Dollar Baby. Oh so much. "I'll try to forget you're a girl."
  • Mishima A Life In Four Chapters: Kashiwagi is this to Mizoguchi in the Beauty segment of the movie.
  • Mick, Rocky's trainer from the Rocky film series, at least in the first movie. He constantly mocks Rocky until towards the end, when he finally comes around and gets upgrade to Cool Old Guy, which is where he remains until he dies in Rocky III.
  • Star Wars: Mace Windu is quite cynical in his view of galactic affairs, compared to many of the other Jedi, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi; he also doesn't seem to like Anakin much at all and he opposed little Anakin's training from the start because he thought the boy was too old to begin training. It's implied in the Revenge of the Sith Novelisation some of this is down to him watching his beloved Republic crumble.

  • Discworld:
    • The Disc's very own Old Master Almighty Janitor, Lu-Tze, who acts as The Mentor to Lobsang in Thief of Time. It is, of course, lampshaded:
      Yeah, but I have years of experience and cynicism! You're just talented!
    • The Great God Om, incarnated as a tortoise in Small Gods, is a mentor to Brutha, his only actual believer, while making it quite clear he would much rather his only believer was almost anyone else. Also lampshaded, when Om explains the reason he's cynical is that The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body:
      Om: Tortoises are cynics. They always expect the worst.
      Brutha: Why?
      Om: Because it usually happens to them.
  • The Hearts We Sold: The Daemon qualifies. He's a Knight in Sour Armor to the nth degree, looks down on humanity as a whole, and is mostly just interested in getting his job done — which shows in his interactions with the heartless troop, whom he mainly treats as particularly unruly employees. He gives them the bare minimum of information and help so they don't die, but is very, very "hands-off," to put it lightly, though Dee suspects he does care about them, at least a little bit.
  • The Hunger Games has a slightly-milder example in Haymitch Abernathy. It's only after Katniss gets fed up with his pessimistic attitude that he even considers helping her and Peeta, but after that he becomes a lot more helpful and supportive then most Cynical Mentors, though he's still a sarcastic jerk.
  • The Dealey Lama, A.K.A Gruad Greyface from The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
    • You can't exactly blame the man. He invented Good and Evil 50,000 years ago, and then watched people misunderstand and screw up his ideas. He's been trying to destroy his creation and myth ever since. He made himself the Devil-figure of all the world's religions in order to get people to renounce him, yet there are still people who would follow at the footsteps of the monster he made himself to be.
  • Asher in Someone Else's War, despite being only two years older than the main character.
  • Spy School: Murray Hill serves as one to Ben in the first book, showing him some of the ropes while advising him about the realties of the spy game and advocating a desk job over going into the field.
  • Ash-dan in Warchild is this to Jos, his older brother's student. How he treats his own student, Hadu, is never addressed, but he likely wasn't as cynical.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Stick is cynical to the point that he considers Matt Murdock's idealism and belief things can get better to be a character flaw.
    • As a seasoned reporter, Ben Urich admits to Karen that he's a lot more cynical these days compared to when he first started out, trying to discourage her from making the mistakes he did.
  • Captain Malcolm Reynolds acts this way towards Simon and River Tam in the first few episodes of Firefly. He lets them stay on Serenity so that the Alliance doesn't catch them, but he doesn't want much to do with them as long as they don't get in the way, and when he does talk to them, he's pretty cynical.
  • Gordon Ramsay on Hell's Kitchen, who sarcastically berates and insults the chefs for any slip-up, to the point where a viewer might wonder why anyone can stand the man. But when people do meet his standards, or honestly impress him with their talent or passion, his Jerk with a Heart of Gold shines through, as seen when he paid to send Waffle House chef Julia to culinary school in Season 3, and praising Ji in Season 5 for her talent, passion, and courage after she was forced to withdraw.
    • Not to mention there was one contestant who mentioned that Ramsay was a totally nice guy outside of the kitchen, so it's pretty likely that the guy is only a cynical mentor while working in the kitchen.
    • One of his old shows from the UK, a cooking challenge pitting him against other world class chefs, showed that he's a very nice guy even in the kitchen if he's dealing with someone he respects. One notable episode has him joking around with an American chef and laughing when the guy accidentally dips his long hair into a custard he (the American) was making.
  • Claude Rains, the invisible hobo on Heroes, as mentioned above. He appears to despise Peter and uses their "training sessions" as chances to beat the crap out of him. He also has several other quotes about the general unreliability and undesirable qualities of humanity, and he pushed Peter Petrelli off a 30-story building.
  • House: Dr. House has taken on this role in several episodes in addition to being a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Dr. Cox to J.D. in Scrubs. He is J.D.'s guide of sorts, but he is completely sarcastic and seems to detest J.D..
  • Colonel Kira takes on this role for Legate Damar during the final arc of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, putting him and his soldiers through hell and back to ensure they'd come out of the war with a free Cardassia prepared to avoid the mistakes of the past.

  • Mina becomes this to the main characters in The Fallen Gods due to her plan to save the gods failing time and time again, and having to fall back on the backup to the backup to the backup plan in the form of the game's party. After they dunk on her by claiming her plan is both complicated and boring, and constantly moaning about not wanting to have to follow all her demands in fulfilling their so-called destiny, she quickly becomes fed up with them and only helps them if absolutely necessary.

    Video Games 
  • By the time Dragon Age: Inquisition rolls around Leliana is burnt out and distressed over the threat and upset over Justinia's death, and her grooming of The Inquisitor leans towards the ruthless to the point where threatening assassination of their family is legitimate tactics. She can also be asked about being a bard: Leliana offers to train you which mainly consists of non too subtle hints not to take this path.
  • Renius, the gladiator who trains the two lead characters in Conn Iggulden's Emperor series. He goes as far as having their final exam be a battle to the death between him and Gaius.''
  • Samos from the Jak and Daxter games.
  • Xaldin for Roxas in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (contrast with Axel).
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords has Kreia, the ex-Jedi ex-Sith who takes the Exile under her wing, and is as cynical as they come.
  • Averted with Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in regards to Raiden, since at this point in the series he's recovered from his trauma-induced cynicism and unretired with a much more idealistic outlook (if grim and jaded from age and experience), and then played straight with Raiden in regards to Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, in which a traumatized, jaded and cynical Raiden teaches Snake the basics of tracking.

  • On a good day, Master Fei of How I Killed Your Master is one of these. Mostly, he's a Jerkass, but he has recently taken to giving Wong some Training from Hell.
  • Javanshin in Overlordof Ravenfell is a sarcastic bastard that has his doubts as to whether Razin can actually become a competent Overlord, a fact he often decides to point out.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Meti ten Ryo, Maya's (long-dead) sword teacher, was a Cynic philosopher and also quite cynical in outlook: Her teachings were intentionally self-contradictory and mostly boiled down to "trying to solve problems with a sword makes you an idiot". Her highest hope for her student appears to have been to annoy her sufficiently into quitting the sword altogether and becoming a noodle vendor, and deliberately picked a power-hungry sociopath as her other apprentice in order to show Maya what not to do with a sword. Maya, at the present stage in her life, seems to have taken up Meti's outlook and is annoyed she didn't listen: She mainly seems to stay a wandering swordmaster simply on the off chance it lets her encounter and kill Incubus.

    Western Animation 
  • Toph Beifong is this to both Avatar Aang and his successor Avatar Korra.
  • Wildcat in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, originally towards Batman and then to the Outsiders.
  • Azmuth of the Ben 10 franchise is openly very displeased that his Chosen One Missed the Call and only grudgingly allows his incredibly powerful invention to remain with a kid/teenager. Just because he knows the Omnitrix is best off with Ben doesn't mean he has to like it.
  • Rick and Morty: Rick Sanchez is this to his grandson Morty, naturally. There actually is well-meaning behind some of it, such as him advising Morty to not get involved with love, and instead focus on science, wanting to spare Morty heartache.


Video Example(s):


Strowen, Morrel & Griant

They give a sort-of orientation to new arrivals, though it mainly boils down to "You suck and your (un)life will be a failure."

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Main / CynicalMentor

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