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Disappointed by the Motive

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"After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief."
Holly Gennero McClane, Die Hard

In fiction, most bad guys have a Freudian Excuse. Some may even go as far as having a Start of Darkness. Some, however, have neither. Or, at least, not a "good" one, as far as the heroes are concerned.

This trope occurs when the bad guy hits the good guys with a Motive Rant for their actions, and a dumbfounded observer proclaims, "THAT'S your reason?" with unabashed disgust or disappointment. To the bad guy, committing murder, Cold-Blooded Torture, or any other heinous deeds or crimes based on that motive made sense. Or at least, they saw it as a legitimate excuse. The heroes and others who find out the truth, however, are utterly disappointed not only that so much evil happened for such nonsensical reasons, but that this loser has had them running around expecting an epic battle of wills.

This isn't the same as For the Evulz or It Amused Me. The character in question had a reason to do what they did beyond their personal enjoyment, but as far as the good guys are concerned (or even other bad guys), it wasn't a very good reason, at least relative to their actions.

Compare and contrast with Motive Decay, where the initial motive was actually a good one (or at least made more sense) than what it ended up devolving into. Also compare Tragic Dream, where the motivation can be very valid, but is in no way reachable, as well as Disproportionate Retribution and Comically Small Demand.

May overlap with Evil Is Petty and Revenge Before Reason. Often overlaps with Wrong Genre Savvy and Motive Misidentification on the part of either the heroes or the villain in question. See also Anti-Climactic Unmasking, where the identity of the perpetrator is also disappointing, Humble Goal (which can affect hero or villain alike—people's reaction to hearing said goal and expecting something bigger could be this Trope).

NOTE: In-Universe Examples Only. The important part of this trope is other characters' reaction to the motive; the motive itself is secondary. Audiences being disappointed by the motive may fall under Fan-Disliked Explanation.


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    Comic Books 
  • Fantastic Four: There was a storyline in 2014 where someone goes out of their way to get the team to end, including framing the Thing for murder, using Reed and Sue's son Franklin's powers to create models of old superheroes to attack the real world, and so on. The villain behind all of this is the Quiet Man, who also took the team to court for the collateral damage that they have caused. The Quiet Man reveals that he only did this because he was interested in Sue in college, and was jealous that Reed "stole" her from him. Reed quickly calls this out as both pathetic and insane, pointing out that the Quiet Man wasted his whole life on petty vengeance when all signs show that he's a genius who could have changed the world if he wasn't being so petty and spiteful.
  • In The Flash (Rebirth), Barry is aghast to learn Eobard Thawne's motive for becoming Reverse Flash — he thought he and Barry had bonded over some advice Barry gave him, but when he came back in time to be Barry's partner he overheard him giving Wally the same advice. And if he wasn't the most important person in Barry's life, then clearly Barry's friendship was a lie.
  • Captain America is disappointed to learn Loki tried to murder them all out of petty jealousy in Marvel Adventures: The Avengers Issue #8.
  • In an issue of Monica's Gang set in the real-life theme park based on the franchise, the villain starts paralyzing everyone in the theme park with a weapon he invented. When Monica and Jimmy ask his motivations, the villain reveals he just wants to play with all the rides in the theme park, he couldn't bear all the kids on the rides, and he hated waiting in line. Bonus points for the fact that the villain was an adult, and that the now-closed park was more like a deluxe playground with slides and ball pools, instead of things like rollercoasters and a midway. Of course, Monica and Jimmy don't take this very well.
  • Towards the end of the post-Infinite Crisis Secret Six miniseries, Mad Hatter tried to kill Scandal Savage, because she once swatted his hat. The other members of the Secret Six just get more pissed off when they hear his reason.
  • Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom: When Superman finds out that Maelstrom raided Metropolis, brought one hospital down, injured hundreds and hurt his cousin...just because she is trying to pique Darkseid's interest, he calls her a very sad and disturbed person before throwing her back to Apokolips. Later, Supergirl has a similar "You MUST be joking" reaction.
    Superman: Do you mind telling me why it is you want to kill me?
    Maelstrom: I intend to become the Queen of Apokolips! Darkseid will see the extent of my devotion to him.
    Superman: How demented and sad, but I suppose that's par for the course on Apokolips. I'm not sorry to say that I'm sending you home empty-handed, Maelstrom. You seem like a very disturbed woman.
  • Teen Titans Go!: In Issue #41, Raven is disappointed that Kitten's evil alter egos were just a way to get her father's attention.
  • Issue #4 of Thunderbolts has the titular characters tracking down someone who has been kidnapping orphan children. That someone turns out to be Mad Scientist Arnim Zola, who has been using the children as test subjects for his experiments, resulting in all of them but one being turned into monsters. When they ask who he was working for, he reveals he had no client — he was just doing it to "keep himself busy". Jolt, the girl who wasn't turned into a monster, is understandably infuriated.
  • X-Men: One story features a mysterious new supervillain named Kaga who turns out to be just a bitter old Japanese man in a wheelchair who, as a Hiroshima survivor with deforming, debilitating mutations, was jealous of Mutants for having relatively benign and paranormal mutations (plus many of them looking drop-dead gorgeous, even the allegedly "freakish" Nightcrawler and Beast). He lampshades and defies this trope. Immediately upon learning this, Cyclops lets Kaga have it, more than disgusted with his motivation.
    Kaga: What were you expecting? A master plan? A scheme to turn off the sun? This is the real world. Hatred and disgust are good enough reasons to want to kill people.
    Cyclops: Seriously? There are people who hate us because we're not outcast enough?
    • In Immortal X-Men, Exodus's spotlight issue has him think on learning Apocalypse's true motivation, which was to reunite with his family, he's even more disappointed in the guy than he was already.
  • In Wild's End, schlocky science fiction writer Lewis Cornfelt angrily confronts one of the alien invaders, explaning how for years he'd been desperately trying to write extraterrestrials who were more complicated than the standard Alien Invasion plot. He's hugely disappointed that when he actually does meet genuine aliens, they were just the unspeaking brute invaders after all. Naturally, they kill him, but by that point he doesn't care.

    Films Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker:
    • In a flashback, The Joker finally learns Batman's secret identity by torturing Robin. The Joker isn't impressed with Batman's origin, and proceeds to mock him for it.
      Joker: The dear boy began to share such secrets with me. Secrets that are mine alone to know... Bruce. It's true, Batsy! I know everything. And I must admit, like the kid who peeks at his Christmas presents... sadly anti-climactic. Behind all the sturm und batarangs, you're just a little boy in a playsuit, crying for Mommy and Daddy! It'd be funny if it weren't so pathetic. (Beat) Oh, what the heck! I'll laugh anyway! [mad laughter]
    • Terry throws a similar comment back at the Joker during their final battle as a means to enrage him.
      Terry: You make me laugh... but only because I think you're kinda pathetic. [laughs]
      Joker: Stop that!
      Terry: So you fell in a tank of acid, got your skin bleached and decided to become a supervillain. What, you couldn't find work as a rodeo clown?
  • In the "Movie Magic" section of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Magical Movie Night, movie director Canter Zoom is rather upset when he finds out why the person who had been stealing props, causing trouble, and generally making his movie harder to shoot goes on a Motive Rant. Canter's own niece, Juniper Montage, was angry that she didn't get to play the lead role of Daring Do in the movie. Juniper thus decided that if she couldn't be Daring Do, she'd sabotage the movie so that no-one could be. While Canter is quick to forgive the thief on a personal level, he still kicks them out of the movie studio since he can't trust them around the set anymore.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: Jack Horner, part of the movie's Big Bad Ensemble, is a ruthless factory owner and mob boss, and is after the Wishing Star. At some point, he has a talk with a Captain Ersatz of Jiminy Cricket who attempts to act as his conscience. Since the Ethical Bug believes that nobody can be truly irredeemable, he asks Jack about his childhood and his drive - hoping to find a Freudian Excuse. Jack explains he had a perfectly healthy childhood - with loving parents and financial stability - then, with stars in his eyes, confesses that he wants to wish for the one thing that will make him happy: all the magic in the world, for him only, and nobody gets any. The Ethical Bug can only facepalm, and after Jack carelessly causes the death of most of his mooks and shows no remorse, he declares him irredeemable.
  • Turning Red: According to Rosalie Chiang, when Mei lashes out at Sun Yee over the red panda spirit, she was going to ask why she didn't wish for anything else, including "fame, money, [or] a smokin hot bod".

    Films Live-Action 
  • In 8mm, the motive of the killer is that he simply wanted to because he likes to hurt and kill people. This enrages Tom enough to kill him.
  • Die Hard
    • The first movie has an exchange after The Reveal about the Evil Plan of the terrorists. Hans and his gang kidnapped an office full of workers at their Christmas party, wanted an international criminal let loose in the name of a "revolution" worldwide, killed several people, and caused a massive police response because of everything they'd done. However, the climax of the film shows that all of their terrorism was just cover to buy them enough time to get the building's safe open. The terrorists never really cared about "revolution," the hostages, or the world; they just wanted money. Holly is rather incredulous that Hans went through so much trouble just for money. During the climactic showdown, John has a similar reaction as Holly to the point that he lays into Hans with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech (although John's just stalling for time).
      Holly Gennero McClane: After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief.
      Hans Gruber: I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.
    • All but one of the following films (Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard), upon the reveal that the villains have done so much wanton terrorism in order to get richer (incredibly richer, but still), McClane is experienced enough to not care anymore, while his sidekick of the movie has one big "what?" moment. With a Vengeance even has the villain's henchman react this way to learning the real motive. Die Hard 2 is the odd one out: while all of the bad guys are mercenaries getting paid a hefty amount of money to get The Generalissimo to a country with no extradition, the Big Bad Colonel Stuart has an actual political motive for his actions (he's essentially an Ollie North Captain Ersatz helping a former Cold War ally).
    • Live Free or Die Hard has Matt openly let down when he realizes that Gabriel's entire "revolution" and "bringing down the system" talk and actions were all a cover for him stealing top-secret information to blackmail the government for money.
  • In the movie Falling Down, William Foster has been through a lot: losing his job, his family, and otherwise having things go wrong. But finally, he goes on a rampage around Los Angeles because... he wants to go to his daughter's birthday party (granted it's implied that he was going to do much worse but still); along the way he gets pissed at people for the pettiest reasons. Somewhat justified in that his ex-wife implies he needed professional help. At the climax in the movie, this exchange happens:
    Bill: I'm the bad guy? How did that happen? I did everything they told me to. Did you know I build missiles? I help to protect America. You should be rewarded for that. Instead, they give it to the plastic surgeon. They lied to me.
    Sergeant Prendergast: Is that what this is about? You're angry because you got lied to? Is that why my chicken dinner is drying out in the oven? Listen, pal, they lie to everyone. They lie to the fish. But that doesn't give you any special right to do what you did today.
  • James Bond:
    • Subverted in Goldfinger. Bond openly states "I'm disappointed in you, Goldfinger" as the man's entire plan to rob Fort Knox will never work as it's impossible to remove all the gold in less than two weeks. At which point, Goldfinger smugly replies "whoever mentioned anything about removing it?" Bond realizes Goldfinger's real plan is to detonate a dirty bomb within Fort Knox, rendering the U.S. gold supply worthless for decades which means Goldfinger's own private gold holdings become ten times more valuable.
    Bond: I apologize, Goldfinger. It's an inspired deal.
    • GoldenEye: Bond mocks Janus/ex-00 agent Alec Trevelyan over his plan to electronically rob the Bank of England and then detonate a Golden Eye satellite above London to erase the electronic records, saying it boils down to petty theft. Janus retorts that his plan is less about the money and more about getting revenge on the British government for sending his Lienz Cossack parents to their deaths following World War II. Bond is even less impressed at this motive, saying that Trevelyan is prepared to create a global financial Stone Age and potentially kill millions for the sake of an old grudge.
    Bond: In the end, you're just a bank robber. Nothing more than a common thief.
    Janus/Trevelyan: You always did have a small mind, James. It's not just erasing bank records, it's everything on every computer in Greater London. Tax records, stock market, credit ratings, land registries, criminal records. In 16 minutes and 43, oh, 42 seconds, the United Kingdom will re-enter the Stone Age!
    Bond: A worldwide financial meltdown. And all so mad little Alec can settle a score with the world, fifty years on.
  • Knives Out:
    • In the original film, Benoit deduces the most likely motive for murder was to protect the inheritance which was indeed Ransom's motive. He is however disappointed on learning that Ransom really didn't want the money to fall into the hands of an "outsider" like Marta, with heavy racist undertones. Blanc is galled to realize the murder was driven by petty vanity more than anything.
    • In Glass Onion, Benoit is not so much disappointed by the motive, but by the sloppy execution of the crime: Contrary to his initial theory, the murders of Andi and Duke weren't part of a complicated, carefully planned plot, but a spur-of-the-moment decision by Miles, the most obvious suspect, who made only the barest effort to cover his tracks and didn't even bother to destroy the most incriminating piece of evidence. He becomes downright angry when he realizes midway through his summation that Miles even got the idea for the attempted murder of Helen - his only crime that required any forethought and attention to detail - from none other than Benoit himself during an earlier conversation between them.
      Birdie: It's so dumb it's brilliant!
      Benoit: NO! It's just dumb!
  • In Happy Death Day, Tree Gelbman is trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop where she keeps getting killed by a masked stranger. Eventually, she finds out the killer is her roommate Lori, who hated her for attracting a married man she liked. Tree cannot believe she was being killed over something so petty. Mind you, that's only one reason. The other is "You're a dumb bitch too!"
  • Hot Fuzz. After constructing an elaborate scenario involving a local supermarket-owner murdering various townsfolk to secure land that will soon have an expressway built through it, thus escalating in value, Nicholas Angel learns that Mr. Skinner and his associates actually killed those people for extremely petty reasons, such as having an annoying laugh, being a bad actor, owning a McMansion or repeatedly making grammatical errors in the newspaper. Their ringleader, police chief Frank Butterman, allows this and targets anyone who dissents or stands out, which included the slaughter of a large number of street performers and homeless people (not unsubtle about implying that this latter act involved taking out whole families), in order to win the annual Village of the Year competition. Angel's reaction to the Motive Rant is equal parts dumbfounded and horrified at such pettiness.
  • Played for Laughs in Hot Shots! Part Deux. There's a mole who has provided information to Saddam Hussein, and compromised several prisoner rescue missions already. At the end, it's discovered that the mole is the Girl of the Week Michelle, and that she has a vendetta against the previous Girl of the Week Ramada, which drove Michelle to treason. She gives a very Psycho Lesbian-sadomasochist-Girl on Girl Is Hot-laden Motive Rant to the heroes... which climaxes with Michelle explaining that her grudge is because Ramada stopped going bungee-jumping with her in college because Ramada didn't like how dangerous it was. Everybody else — mostly men getting hot and bothered from the increasing explicitness of the rant — snaps out of it from the sheer pettiness of Michelle selling out her country for such a reason. Ramada further calls Michelle out on her bullshit during the subsequent Designated Girl Fight.
    Ramada: You turned your back on America... for the sake of your own petty jealousy.
  • In Joker (2019), everyone, including Murray Franklin, believes that Arthur Fleck killed three Wayne Enterprises employees as a political statement and out of a desire to start a movement. Murray is disappointed when Arthur admits on live TV that he actually did it because he saw them as awful and that the riots that started in his wake were just circumstance. Of course, the complete truth is even murkier; Fleck killed two of the employees in self-defense and the last For the Evulz.
  • Kill Bill: When the Bride finally gets to Bill, the two talk it out before their final battle. Bill ordered a massacre at her wedding and nearly put a bullet in the Bride's head was upon learning she faked her death to get out of the assassination business. On top of that, even though the Bride survived, she was also pregnant at the time; when she woke up, her then-unborn daughter was long gone. The only explanation Bill gives to why he orchestrated all of her misery is "I overreacted". To say the least, the Bride isn't amused by Bill's answer.
  • A Black-and-Gray Morality version of this Trope occurs on Payback: Porter only wants back his seventy thousand dollars, his share of the heist that Val Resnick stole from him (leaving him for dead). Every single person who hears this (especially the bad guys) can't believe that Porter is willing and able to take on the entire criminal underworld of the city for such a low amount of money (they assume that, at the very least, it would be for the whole $140,000 that the heist paid off. Porter keeps correcting them that it's for just the seventy--a few times violently). And no, it's not that It's the Principle of the Thing or anything similar — he just really wants those damned seventy grand.
  • Red Sonja: When Sonja and Gedren finally face off, Sonja asks Gedren why she had to kill all of her family (she thought that it was only because of the Talisman that they were guarding and that Gedren has used to take over most of the region). Gedren pulls off the mask that she's been wearing all along (a half-face device similar to the one of The Phantom of the Opera) and shows her the tiny scar on her cheek and goes on about how it's a just revenge for such a besmirch. Sonja gets pretty angry at the fact that the people she loved were massacred over such a petty slight.
  • True Lies: While he's about to be tortured, Harry asks Juno why she's helping the terrorists. When she flippantly admits it's just for the pay-off she's going to get and that she doesn't care about the goals of either the Crimson Jihad or those of Harry, he calls her "damaged goods" and a "psychopathic bitch".
  • From Who Framed Roger Rabbit: The villain, Judge Doom, wants to pave over Toon Town to create a long freeway. Eddie is stunned that Doom would go through all the trouble he did, including murder and attempted murder, just for that. When Judge Doom turns out to be a Toon, Eddie isn't surprised, saying "That lamebrain freeway idea could only be cooked up by a toon."
    Judge Doom: Eight lanes of shimmering cement, from here to Pasadena. Smooth, safe, fast. Traffic jams will be a thing of the past.
    Eddie Valiant: So that's why you killed Acme and Maroon? For this freeway? I don't get it.
    Judge Doom: Of course not. You lack vision, but I see a place where people get on and off the freeway. On and off, off and on, all day, all night. Soon, where Toon Town once stood will be a string of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food, tire salons, automobile dealerships, and wonderful, wonderful billboards as far as the eye can see! My God, it'll be beautiful!

  • Artemis Fowl: Holly is not quite disappointed but very surprised when she finds out that the guy who kidnapped a fairy is only doing it to ransom her for a very large quantity of gold. Prior to that, she'd assumed his goal was to spark an interspecies war.
  • Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel: Barry confronts the Big Bad (who works in Wizard/Muddle Relations) and learns that he was prepared to exterminate the entire wizard community just to cut down the amount of paperwork in his job:
    Barry: That's it? No World Domination?
    Big Bad: Nope. That'd be an even bigger hassle. Who needs it? I just want to retire. Do you want an evil cackle or something?
    Barry: It might be nice! This is only the denouement to the entire sodding book! Genocide as a paperwork-reduction method is kind of a letdown, yes!
  • Ciaphas Cain: In "Traitor's Gambit", Tau sympathizers hijack and blow up a ship to take out the Lord General. After Cain discovers that the mastermind was just there to loot the ship, he calls her a common thief, to which she reacts pridefully.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: In Forward the Foundation, the investigators of the murder of Emperor Cleon I are more than a little aghast at discovering that the man who murdered the Emperor and sent the Foundation's plans to hell was his gardener Gruber, who got more than a little impulsive at discovering that the Emperor appointed him, against Gruber's most fervent wishes, to the position of Head Gardener. As Gruber explains, this would mean becoming a Desk Jockey and not being able to tend the gardens anymore, as well as micromanaging his replacements. Though Gruber also admits that this was an incredibly stupid decision.
  • In the Period Piece mystery novel Eater of Souls from the Lord Meren series, an ancient Egyptian serial killer targets people for such "unforgivable crimes" as accidentally spilling his drink or beating him to the punch in hiring a prostitute he'd had his eye on. The sleuths who solve the case are, themselves, taken aback by just how petty the killer's motives had been for several of the murders. It's why they conclude that he hadn't been possessed by the demonic Anut, but was merely acting out his own self-centered vendetta: no self-respecting divine being, even a scary one, would've gone to the trouble of seeking payback for such trivial offenses.
  • Mary Russell: In A Letter of Mary, an archaeologist is murdered shortly after returning from the Holy Land with an ancient letter that has significant historical and theological implications. Sherlock Holmes is pleased to have a case for once that seems to be motivated by ideology instead of boring old greed, and is subsequently very annoyed when it turns out to be a straight-up case of Inheritance Murder unrelated to the contents of the letter.
  • In the story "Totally Trashed" by Roz Kaveney in the second Temps collection, after Lord Orpington is revealed as the evil mastermind behind the robotic attacks on the Marcias, Loric is disappointed to learn that his motive is not the crazed remnants of his love for the mother of the woman they were cloned from, but simply that he's been embezzling their DPR stipend and is worried this might come out.
  • Malia Ngo in Unsong is so disgusted with Dylan Alvarez's Freudian Excuse of being angry at the world for not giving him a Freudian Excuse that she tries to kill him on the spot.
  • In Wings of Fire, the main cast is quite disappointed when they find out why someone tried to kill Tsunami: it was Tsunami's fiancé Whirlpool, who tried to kill Tsunami because he didn't want to marry her. Instead of just calling things off, Whirlpool decided that Murder Is the Best Solution.
  • In the revised version of Nightworld, in which Repairman Jack is upgraded from a supporting character to the co-hero with Glaeken, the pair of them confront arch-villain Rasalom after the Otherness has rewarded its agent with a One-Winged Angel form. Although Rasalom's multi-limbed and taloned form is formidable enough, it strikes Jack as so damn stupid-looking that he ponders aloud how the villain could possibly have thought that becoming that could be worth untold millennia of scheming to destroy the world.


    Visual Novels 
  • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the final killer gets this from both Apollo on the defense and Klavier Gavin on the prosecution. Klavier's brother Kristoph killed two people, traumatized a young girl, made said traumatized girl think she killed her own father, and got Phoenix Wright disbarred from being a lawyer. And all of this was because Kristoph lost a poker game to Shadi Smith, resulting in a bruised ego. But when Kristoph reveals he was actually angry that Shadi Smith chose Phoenix Wright to represent him in court instead of Kristoph, Apollo and Klavier are incredulous. Even the judge starts letting Kristoph have it for how petty and selfish his motive is for murder. (Turns out the poker game was a Secret Test of Character, one that Kristoph failed; and since Kristoph axed him later, Shadi Smith was right to be worried.) The reason the killer gives such a gloating confession in the first place is because they believe that they're untouchable, thanks to Loophole Abuse with the law. Because the killer doesn't outright say that they committed the crime and uses some Exact Words to skate by, the killer responds to Apollo and Klavier's anger with sneering contempt. But thanks to the advent of a trial by jury, it doesn't matter.
  • While most of the murder motives in Danganronpa are treated with a mixture of sympathy and disgust, the third chapter of each game has the killer's motives treated with genuine contempt.
    • Trigger Happy Havoc: Celestia Ludenberg manipulated Hifumi Yamada into murdering Kiyotaka Ishimaru, then murdered Hifumi herself. Celestia did this in order to get the money Monokuma offered so she could purchase a castle with handsome male servants to wait on her hand and foot. Everyone was quite disheartened that Celestia would get two people killed for the sake of money and a selfish desire to be treated like royalty.
    • Goodbye Despair: After Mikan Tsumiki was revealed to be the one who murdered Hiyoko Saionji and Ibuki Mioda, she said she did this out of love. Love for Junko Enoshima. Not that the others knew, but everyone present is quite disturbed that someone would go that far for the Ultimate Despair.
    • Killing Harmony: Korekiyo Shinguji murdered Angie Yonaga and Tenko Chabashira, all to give his deceased sister one hundred friends in the afterlife. Putting aside his rather perverse admiration for his sister, what really makes this vile to the other students is that Korekiyo admitted that he was close to achieving his goal, tacitly admitting that he's killed close to a hundred people. Everyone is disgusted, including Monokuma, if Korekiyo's execution is anything to go by.

    Web Animation 
  • Perfect Kirby: In episode 3, Roy reveals that he started his convoluted plan for world domination to kill Doctor Oblivion for making bad coffee. To say Kirby isn't impressed is an understatement.
    Kirby: That has got to be, by far, the stupidest reason for world domination I have ever heard!
  • Red vs. Blue: At the end of the Freelancer Saga, Church and Carolina find the Director of Project Freelancer, who committed numerous crimes, treated his soldiers as disposable pawns, and tortured the Alpha AI into Fragments. But instead of an evil mastermind, they find a broken man trying to revive his dead wife. Church then rails at the Director for what he's done and why;
    Church: Not all of us got off scot-free, Carolina. He was brilliant, and we trusted him! But he lied to us. He twisted, and tortured us! And used us! Manipulated us for his own purposes! And for what?! For this?! This... shadow!? He needs to pay.
  • RWBY: In the Volume 6 episode "Lost", Emerald and Mercury have an example of mutual disappointment. Emerald asks Mercury what made him want to join Cinder, and he reveals that was really a matter of conveinent timing: he was trained from birth to be an assassin by his abusive father, and Cinder had shown up looking for one just after he killed him. Emerald is stunned by his lack of emotional investment in the situation which prompts Mercury to flip the question back at her. She responds that she thinks of Cinder as a Parental Substitute, which Mercury in turn disparages because it's blatantly obvious that Cinder just sees them as tools and Emerald is in denial about it.

  • DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything: The Dark Brothers want to make everyone black with the Final Die. The spectators nearly interrupt the tournament in outrage before the two elaborate they are victims of discrimination.
  • Played for Drama in this El Goonish Shive strip. As Jerry points out, angst-induced awakenings are supposed to be triggered by things like a loved one betraying you or your family being murdered. That Susan went into one over something as trivial as finding out that the stun hammers were intended to encourage inappropriate comments by giving a harmless outlet to female rage indicates that she's hiding some major psychological trauma.
  • Cebus, a main villain in Kiwi Blitz, has betrayed at least two separate organizations, usurped one of them, has been shown willing and able to kill whoever they need to, and has even gone so far as to manipulate their own young cousin into being a thief on their behalf. When Steffi is confronting Cebus and demands to know just what it's all for, just what the Evil Plan is, Cebus scoffs at the idea that Steffi thinks everyone is playing the same Good vs Evil game as she is. Steffi is shocked to find that Cebus is Only in It for the Money that the Alter gang's access to genetic manipulation can provide.
    Cebus: ...Let me tell you a secret. See, there's these things adults care about. Like money, and the ability to make more of it.
    Steffi: That's it!? Money!?
    Cebus: Yes, that's it! Do you have any idea what this kind of genetic engineering is worth to the right people!? And what these idiots waste it on!?
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The initial reason that Roy is trying to defeat Xykon is because his late father vowed to avenge his master, whom Xykon killed after stealing something from his house. They don't know what was stolen, but presume that it's an artifact of great power. Instead it turns out to be...the little crown that he wears.
      Xykon: Magic? The crown's not magic.
      Roy: What? Then... why steal it? Why kill Master Fyron and his son for it?
      Xykon: Well, because it looks cool, obviously. Here, check it out: [indicates his crownless head] Badass; [puts the crown on] REALLY badass. Am I right or am I right?
      Roy: Oh, My Gods!, I hate you so much!
    • Later on, Bandana is not pleased when she learns that the reason why Andi has so little respect for Bandana's leadership as acting captain that Andi would knock her out and take command, is that Andi's still bitter about taking orders from someone she baby-sat years ago.
      Bandana: Oh for the love of— that's what gets you so teed off, ain't it? You got no respect for me or my command because you used to be my babysitter like a million years ago. This whole thing is 'cause you're salty you gotta take orders from a "kid."
      Andi: Wrong! It's not that at all! It just so happens that all your decisions are wrong, and the other options are right, by default.
      Bandana: If you're gonna tie my hands up, at least have the manners to stop saying stuff that's begging for a facepalm.
  • Spinnerette: One Christmas story arc has Heather discovering that her mother has been possessed by a Wendigo and is responsible for a recent wave of disappearances throughout her hometown. Heather even finds several missing children inside of a freezer in the Brown family's storage unit. When Heather finally confronts the monster, Heather shows a mixture of annoyance and rage when she figures out that the only reason for all of the chaos is "Wendy G" (the aforementioned Wendigo) possessed Betty and turned her into an instrument of supernatural terror because the wendigo is that driven to get ahead at her sales job.

    Web Videos 
  • In the Critical Role Honey Heist spin-off, this is the reaction of the players and their characters when they find out the motivation of the Big Bad of the third installment. This is entirely Played for Laughs as he stalls and the entire dramatic moment being worked up to was completely destroyed.
  • In Heavy is Dead, when Engineer is finally outed as the perpetrator (by accident), he confesses that his entire motive for killing Heavy is because he thinks he's fat and ugly. Heavy is not happy about this reveal and shortly after gets revenge by killing Engineer.
  • The Scott The Woz episode "The Great Mysteries of Gaming" is a Ten Little Murder Victims Halloween Episode in which Scott and a few others attend a dinner party, only for the host to be killed, and the other guests one-by-one soon after. In the end, Scott confronted the killer, who explains to him that he killed the host because the latter did money laundering, and then he killed the guests because he was too shy to admit that he murdered the host. Scott was understandably not impressed.
    Scott: ...really? Five homicides and that's your reason?
  • Solid jj:
    • In "You Choose Spider-Man", after discussing what they should do if they team up, Spider-Man comes to the realization that Green Goblin is ultimately just a guy in a goblin costume who wants to kill people, disappointing him considering Goblin's philosophical speech prior.
    • Subverted in "The Beautiful Simplicity of Rhino". Spider-Man asks Rhino what complex or sympathetic motivation that he has, only for Rhino to explain that he just likes to run into walls. Spidey snarks that it sounds destructive, but follows it up by expressing happiness that a villain he met has a refreshingly simple motive.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged:


Video Example(s):


Doofenshmirtz and Evil Doof

After having the absolute worst backstory imaginable, including but not limited to both his parents failing to show up for his birth, Doofenshmirtz is extremely annoyed that the only thing his successfully evil 2nd dimension self suffered through was losing a toy train.

How well does it match the trope?

4.6 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisappointedByTheMotive

Media sources: