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Devious Dolphins

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Villainy is his sole porpoise.
"Never trust a species that grins all the time. It's up to something."

You know about nice, friendly dolphins, right? This guy is basically the exact opposite.

The trope of the Friendly, Playful Dolphin has become so well-known in recent years that it has become popular for writers of various works to subvert it by instead depicting them as cunning, sinister, and even evil animals — in essence, an Alternate Character Interpretation of them as species. This is mostly found in comedy works, much like the similar Hair-Raising Hare trope, which also relies on subverting the audiences expectations of a typically "cute" animal.

Ironically, this trope is actually closer to reality than the one it began as a subversion of, since research has shown that bottlenose dolphins often display behavior that would be considered sociopathic by human standards, including a tendency towards violence and recorded instances of infanticide and aggression towards other cetaceans. Chances are, though, that most of the writers using this trope were not aware of that fact, although some probably are.

Orcas, aka killer whales, also often fall under this trope. While they do not have the violent social interactions of bottlenose dolphins, the fact that they feed on seals, penguins and other dolphins makes them common antagonists in stories about sea animals when sharks aren't being used. And even then orcas will play this on the occasion the shark is a protagonist, due to the fact orcas also eat sharks. However, like "typical" dolphins, they're equally likely to be depicted as cute and friendly even as they are respected as master hunters of the sea.

Contrast Heroic Dolphin and Friendly, Playful Dolphin. Compare Monster Whale for the next step up in monstrous cetaceans, Monstrous Seal and Wily Walrus for other dangerous sea mammals, as well as Maniac Monkeys and Foul Fox for another "evil" take on animals noted for their intelligence.


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  • A series of commercials involve a cabal of dolphin men plotting to make travel too expensive for humans so they can use hotels and resorts to host secret meetings, only to be thwarted by someone using Kayak to find affordable prices.

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert: An early storyline has an exhausted Dilbert almost drowning in the ocean. A dolphin shows up... and deliberately distracts him while his swim trunks are stolen by another dolphin.
  • Pearls Before Swine: One arc featured killer dolphins. Although they were only killers towards the Crocs.

    Fan Works 
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space: The heroes try to contact the Chief Security Officer of an Underwater City. They're told he's a dolphin and may not want to help as his father was turned into tuna bait by Japanese fishermen, and now he's breeding a giant monster to go stomp all over their cities.
  • Prehistoric Earth: While not truly dolphins, the Cymbospondylusnote  prove very territorial and manage to make life difficult for one of the rescue team's female members over the course of efforts to rescue them for the titular Extinct Animal Park.
  • Prehistoric Park Reimagined: An entire pod of hungry Cymbospondylus menacingly swim around Alice's brother Jack and rescue team leader Drew and seemingly prove willing to take a chance with making a small meal out of them before getting distracted by a conveniently thrown down placodont carcass in time to end up sent through the time portal to Prehistoric Park.

    Film — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blackfish, a documentary, points out that captive orcas become more prone to aggression on humans, each other, and themselves, than their wild counterparts due to the stresses that come with being confined to a concrete tank with tank mates who usually aren't even their pod members.
  • Orca: The Killer Whale centered around a violent, unnaturally aggressive bull killer whale seeking revenge for the death of its mate and its unborn calf during a failed live capture attempt. It's depicted as both intelligent and vengeful, playing into the stereotype of dolphins as the animal version of an Evil Genius.
  • In Ticket to Paradise, George Clooney discovers the wrong way that dolphins may look friendly but enjoy violence as one gives him a Groin Attack.

  • Cthulhu Mythos:
    • In H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Temple", the protagonist's submarine is followed/escorted to a mysterious undersea city by a large number of dolphins.
    • In James Wades The Deep Ones, dolphins are minions allies of the Deep Ones and described as "evil servants of evil Old Ones, malevolent, toothy-smiling hypocrites".
  • Killer, a novel by Peter Tonkin, is about an escaped orca that was being trained by the Navy to kill enemy divers which begins taking a disturbing pleasure in its skills.
  • There's a novelization of the aforementioned Orca: The Killer Whale by Arthur Herzog that provides even greater depth to the killer whale's motives.
  • The Revelation Space Series novel Chasm City uses this trope by means of subverting Friendly, Playful Dolphin. The first of the Sky Haussman flashback episode introduces you to children Sky and Constanza who evade their parents' oversight to go visit the dolphins who are kept in the spaceship they live in. That looks very cute and slightly cliché... until you meet the dolphins, who after being used as experimental subjects by a radical transhumanist group and then kept and bred in captivity for centuries, have turned sadistic and totally psychotic.
  • The Scar: Dolphins are an intelligent race in the setting. The main dolphin character in the book, and also the head of the underwater police of the floating city of Armada, is a vicious sadist named Bastard John.
  • The Summer King Chronicles: What little we see of orcas manages to combine this with Friendly, Playful Dolphin. Shard and Hikaru are attacked by a pod of orcas who come off as a race of Psychopathic Manchildren by seeing their actions as "playing" with their food.
  • The Pelk are shapeshifting dragons in The Seadragon's Daughter who pose as dolphins to hunt them near Bimini. A large dolphin they call Notch Fin is able to gather their pods together and resist the Pelk, even killing them with forces of hundreds. When Mowdar, the Pelk leader, loses a battle against land dragons on Peter DelaSangre's private island near Miami, his weakened fighters are immediately massacred by Notch Fin's pod, who secretly followed them from the Bahamas.

    Live-Action TV 

    Myths & Religion 
  • In the mythologies of many of the native peoples of the Amazon Rainforest, the Amazon River dolphins, also called the encantados, are given many characteristics reminiscent of The Fair Folk — while they're not understood as being actively malicious creatures, they're still treated as potentially very dangerous. They are often described as stealing away people they meet on the river shore (or on dry land, as they're also said to be able to take human form), who will be taken to the dolphin's magical realm below the waters and never seen again. In some places, this has resulted in people refusing to go near the river at night or alone. Encantados are also attributed with other harmful powers, such as causing insanity and spreading disease.
    • While not exactly evil, there's a legend in Brazilian Folklore that portray the Amazon river dolphins (known there as "botos") as malicious in a Woman Scorned way. It's said that those dolphins had the power to leave the rivers transformed into extremely handsome men that easily seduced the local women and impregnated them, then going back to the rivers to never been seen again. One speculation is that this legend was a born as an excuse to Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe scenarios.
  • Dolphins are typically not personified in Polynesian myths, being considered basically marine livestock. This is not the case for the Caroline Islands people, which depict them as sexual deviants. Truth in Television to an extent as dolphins have been shown to participate in gang rape.

  • Used as an Animal Metaphor in "People Got A Lotta Nerve" by Neko Case.
    You know, they call them killer whales
    But you seemed surprised when it pinned you down
    To the bottom of the tank where you can't move around
    It took half your leg and both your lungs
    When I craved I ate hearts of sharks, I know you know it

  • Old Harry's Game: In the second series, Satan tries to find a suitable being to be his Number Two. He tries out Chuckles the Dolphin. It's not his real name, but his actual one is unpronounceable out of dolphin. As to why a dolphin's in Hell, he killed several children on the set of the Flipper remake. Ultimately, however, Satan thinks Chuckles is too devious and discorporates him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement Cthulhu Now, adventure "The City in the Sea". While searching for an underwater temple, the Player Characters are attacked by a group of killer dolphins under the control of a Cthulhu Mythos deity named Gloon.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Mystara's Red Steel spin-off setting has "shimmerfish," which look like toothy dolphins with sparkling, glowing bodies. They get their name from their ability to create illusions underwater - four or more shimmerfish swimming close together can make themselves look like golden treasure or glowing humanoid swimmers, a display that can hypnotize sailors into jumping overboard, at which point the shimmerfish shred them with their razor-sharp teeth. Shimmerfish are intelligent enough to have a Neutral Evil alignment, and sadistic enough to draw out their victims' deaths for as long as possible, to savor their terror. They're also known to "rescue" shipwreck victims, bring them heartbreakingly close to shore, and then attack them.
    • The 3rd Edition Frostburn sourcebook includes the Malasnyep, a species of intelligent but typically Chaotic Evil dolphin-like aberrations native to arctic waters. They're the size of killer whales, can sense prey by its body heat, and have Psychic Powers to help them hunt. They are viciously aggressive and will attack anything that cross their path, seemingly doing so entirely out of a compulsion to kill anything that enters their territory.
  • Shadowrun: Storm dolphins are intensely hostile Awakened creatures and invariably aggressive towards humanity. They routinely attack ships, drilling platforms and harbor towns using their electrogenesis and their ability to summon localized storms, and attempt to kill as many people as they can. This hostility is not inborn, however — the storm dolphins are rapidly being driven extinct by the horrid pollution that permeates the Sixth World and are intelligent enough to realize that human civilization is causing this, and lash out as a means of revenge.
  • Transhuman Space: Coak is a Boomerang Bigot uplifted dolphin who runs a ruthless terrorist group dedicated to the eradication of Uplifted Animals.

    Video Games 
  • Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future: The Clan is a group of wicked dolphins who torture and mutilate animals and believe in dolphin superiority, though only for their own faction: they torment Outcast dolphins just as gleefully.
  • In Fallout 4, you can find the corpses of post-apocalyptic dolphins washed up on the shores of the irradiated Atlantic. While their behavior has yet to be documented, they certainly look like this trope, as they've mutated into toothy brutes straight out of the Eocene.
  • Hungry Shark World: The dolphins are sinister creatures who look flat out evil, with sharp teeth, and they will try to eat your shark.
  • In Karin's Skin Diving Diary!, the dolphins aren't exactly devious or violent, per se, but definitely annoying to encounter, as all of the fish you attempt to catch will swim away while a dolphin is onscreen. You're forbidden from catching dolphins, as they will penalize the player by subtracting 20% from their current score. You either have to scare them away with a Fuel Stone (at the risk of scaring away other valuable fish in the process), or catch them anyway to get rid of them and make up for your lost points afterwards. What isn't helping their case is that they're more likely to appear if a squid is onscreen.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: Dolphins are found in ocean zones, and are utter jerks that have a huge tendency to steal items dropped by monsters after a battle. You can get your items back by using a dolphin whistle and beating up that rotten dolphin thief.
  • Plants vs. Zombies has the dolphin that the Dolphin Rider Zombie rides on. The dolphin is also a zombie, aids its owner to get to your house and eat your brains, and can help the rider jump over the first plant it encounters that isn't a Tall-Nut.
  • Kyogre from Pokémon is an Olympus Mons take on this; being the representative of Hoenn's oceans based on an orca, it possesses the mighty will to flood the region into the sea, bringing in many catastrophes. Team Aqua learnt the hard lesson from messing with the Pokémon which almost caused a flooding disaster.
  • Sonic Adventure features an extremely aggressive orca that chases after Sonic in Emerald Coast, destroying a pier in the process. Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) also has a hostile killer whale in Wave Ocean.
  • Wadanohara has Orca/Idate, an orca who seems to delight in menacing sharks and seems to particularly enjoy fighting. Later on, the seemingly Friendly, Playful Dolphin Sal is revealed to be this; though technically a shark disguised as a dolphin for most of the game, said disguise gains red eyes after he reveals his intentions as the traitor and a psychotic rapist (which is accurate as dolphins have been known to rape other dolphins).

    Web Comics 
  • The dolphins of the 70-Seas setting are vicious man-eaters. Mind, this is a planet where the closest thing to land-masses are floating aggregations of coral and most flora/fauna has only a superficial resemblance to Earth life.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Agent Bearclaw used to pretend to be drowning, just so he could kill the dolphins who came to rescue him. So when he falls into the ocean after a real plane crash, and more dolphins show up, he assumes they're here for revenge and panics. But in spite of his fears, the dolphins actually carry him to a nearby island. Relieved, Bearclaw thanks the dolphins for their mercy... and then the dolphins pull out guns and shoot him.
  • In Awful Hospital, dolphins are actually Animalistic Abominations that are so malevolent they terrify every life-form in the multiverse. They're literally the stuff of nightmares in the Perception Range — when one shows up, it's a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut that creatively mutilates its victims and can punch through a steel bulkhead. They also reproduce via Chest Bursting and selectively edit themselves out of people's memories.
  • This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic has a scientist present the thesis that "dolphins are fuckers too."

    Web Original 
  • Cracked had an article on how dolphins have been observed committing rape on each other.
  • Ice Scream has Orca/Idate, who like in Wadanohara example above, enjoys fighting other people, even if he has friends. Considering being set in the same universe as that game, one shouldn't take it as a surprise.
  • Mortasheen: The creator is fully aware of the fact that dolphins are aggressive, often vicious predators who exhibit behaviors that humans would consider cruel, depraved and sadistic, and finds their portrayal in fiction as friendly and heroic beings boring and overused; as a result, whenever you see a Mortasheen monster based on a dolphin, you can immediately expect something extremely cruel, depraved and horrific even by the standards of the setting:
    • Dolfuries, also called the Slaughtering Cacklers, are some of the very few Always Chaotic Evil monsters. They were originally created as human-dolphin chimeras to be guard monsters for the vampires, which resulted in "combining the intelligence and cruelty of both hominid and delfinid". The result were creatures that were unspeakably sadistic, monstrously cruel, borderline sociopathic and easily bored. Their vampiric creators tried to destroy them all out of disgust, but one female escaped with her offspring and they've been plaguing the world ever since.
    • Cacchinnoxes are a kind of Joker — brightly colored, clown-like monsters who live in hives and lead lives of anarchism and destructive "humor" — resembling enormous, eyeless dolphins that move around on dry land by slithering on their lower bodies. They can also tune their squeaks to cause intense pain to their victims. Their sense of humor is cruel even by Joker standards, inevitably focusing on causing physical or emotional harm on whoever is unlucky enough to become the target of the Cacchinnox's comedy, and as a result even other Jokers are forced to keep them contained deep within their hives.
    • Obliviotes are incorporeal psychic parasites that drain the intelligence of their hosts "until the victim is little more than a vegetable". It is essentially a carbon copy of the Thought Eater from Dungeons & Dragons (one of the creator's favorite monsters from that game), palette-swapped from a platypus to a dolphin to crank up the disturbing factor.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-3932-Δ is a civilization of intelligent dolphins who have declared war on the SCP Foundation — and, it's implied, humanity as a whole.

    Web Videos 
  • "Scientifically Accurate", a YouTube series, portrays dolphins as tragic, but sometimes evil, in "Scientifically Accurate Flipper".
  • SuperMarioLogan: The Loan Dolphin is a dolphin whose job is a debt collector. He wears a leather jacket and speaks in a gruff voice, but he's only an antagonist to those who don't pay their debts. In the episode, "Bowser Junior's Lemonade Stand!", when Junior hires the Loan Dolphin to destroy Cody's lemonade stand, he refuses, since he thinks it looks nice.

    Western Animation 
  • The Angry Beavers: "Moby Dopes", has Daggett freeing an orca from a marine park and releasing it into their pond. The orca turns out to be a bloodthirsty eating machine, putting the beavers and everyone else in mortal peril.
  • DuckTales (2017): In "Beaks in the Shell!", Gyro mentions his sea projectile project was cancelled due to dolphins attacking a party boat.
  • Elena of Avalor has the Malandros, which are for all intents and porpoises accurate depictions of the Amazonian boto myth.
  • Glenn Dolphman from Inside Job (2021) was a Flawed Prototype Super-Soldier who underwent a genetic engineering procedure making him half-dolphin. While he's just as Affably Evil as the rest of the cast, he serves as the head of military operations for an Evil, Inc. run by The Illuminati.
  • Kenny the Shark: One episode features an orca named Buster, who acts friendly towards Kat and the other human characters but is a vicious bully towards Kenny due to orcas being predators of sharks. Eventually, Buster turns hostile towards Kat as well, which causes Kenny to lose his fear of the orca and stand up for her.
  • King of the Hill features an episode where Hank takes part in a "dolphin encounter" at a resort and is assaulted by a sexually aroused dolphin. While not exactly common, this does occasionally happen in Real Life.
  • Loonatics Unleashed Season 2 gives us Adolpho, an evil mutant dolphin trying to use sea life to create a tidal wave to drown the nearby city. If you really want to know how evil he is look at his name again
  • My Gym Partner's a Monkey has two dolphin characters, both of whom are mean. Phineas is an Insufferable Genius who bullies anyone who is not his teacher nor part of his posse, and Donna is an Alpha Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: Dr. Blowhole is a recurring antagonist. He is a dolphin with a mechanical right eye who used to work as a performing dolphin in a marine park. He wants revenge on the humans for the humiliation that lead to his path of villainy, and he refers to the Penguins as the "Pen-gyu-ins".
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood", Bart, Homer, Flanders and Flanders' kids remain stranded at sea after getting lost while rafting. They're eventually approached by a trio of dolphins. Flanders is relieved, stating that dolphins always help people lost at sea. Instead, the dolphins merely chitter to each other that the castaways are all going to die, laugh a bit, and then leave them to their fate.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror XI" segment "Night of the Dolphin", an aquarium dolphin named Snorky leads the rest of dolphinkind to rebel against the humans, take back the land for themselves, and force humanity into the sea to die.
  • South Park: Subverted, as it turns out that the reason the Japanese whaling industry (represented by a screaming mob of Japanese people showing up to murder captive dolphins and whales — sorry, dorufins and werrus — with sharp objects) exists is to avenge the atomic bombings of World War II (the American government having released photos that showed both cetaceans piloting the Enola Gay). By the end of the episode, Kyle explains the truth to them: the true people responsible for the bombings are a chicken and a cow.
  • Spliced: Mister Smarty Smarts, the show's resident Ineffectual Sympathetic Evil Genius, combines this trope with Maniac Monkeys.
  • Zig & Sharko: The minor character Insane Dolphin, although not evil per se, is as his name implies severely unhinged. He's apparently a trained military dolphin who mistakes civilian ships and random geographical features for enemy aircraft carriers, and throughout both of the episodes he appears in constantly attempts to sink everything he comes across with the never-ending supply of mines he keeps on his person. Both of his appearances culminate in him sinking the island the main characters live on and sending everyone on it to Fluffy Cloud Heaven.