Mooks, Evil Minions and even The Dragon have a family, and can form romantic relationships and friendships just like normal people. On and off the clock. Their Bad Boss however, usually doesn't understand or seriously misjudges the emotional attachment present. Eventually, it results that the Big Bad's Evil Plan calls for the indirect suffering or death of their friend/love interest/family member. Maybe the continent they live on is being targeted with their boss' orbital Death Ray. Perhaps their boss wants to kill all Xes, and the significant other happens to be an X. Or the friend just so happens to be the hero.
Henchie will ask if he can at least save this one person they love... and the boss will refuse. For extra sting the effort needed would be minimal and the boss will rail on the henchman for placing others above his goals. Worse is the variant where the boss puts a gun in their hand and tells them to shoot as a proof of their loyalty. Despite whatever horrible things they've done, the resulting conflicting loyalties nearly always come up on the side of the loved one. As you can guess, this egregious Villainous Demotivator will cause a Mook–Face Turn pretty darn fast, or at least prompt the minion to release someone who can save the loved one... namely, the hero who is in the (actually) inescapable Death Trap.
Of course, if you want to show how really nasty a minion can be, it could be subverted in a Moral Event Horizon where they more than willingly accept the murder of their loved one. Bonus points if they made it slow and painful. Conversely, the hero may hold these loved ones in an inverted Hostage for MacGuffin against the baddie.
A minor version of this would have the Hero pondering the fact that we're all somebody's kid, and wondering how the families of the mooks he's offed feel. To make it more powerful, the hero could encounter said loved ones and start a nice long guilt trip.
See also/compare Even Evil Has Loved Ones, Even Evil Has Standards, and Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas. Subtrope of Conflicting Loyalty. See also They Were Holding You Back or I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure.
- In Berserk, the Count, the second major Apostle that Guts fights in the manga, became an Apostle by sacrificing his wife, whom he walked in on during a pagan orgy that went down in his very own castle, which drove him over the Despair Event Horizon. But the Count also had a daughter named Theresia, who meant the entire world to him. She is used as a Human Shield by Guts against him in a moment that sparks a What the Hell, Hero? from Puck, Guts's companion who was captured and got to know the little girl. When Guts defeats the Count and he calls on the God Hand in order to avoid death, Femto, a.k.a. Griffith, demands that he sacrifice Theresia (since in order to become an Apostle one has to sacrifice those one most dearly loves in order to surrender oneself to evil) or be dragged off to Hell. The Count ultimately chooses his own death rather than the sacrifice of the only loved one he still has left.
- Actually, those are the rules. When a Behelit activates, the dying owner is given a choice to either die or sacrifice whatever is most important to them and be reborn as a demon. The Count offers anything ELSE when presented with Theresia as the price, but it has to be Theresia because that's the only thing the Count cares about. That "anything" being for the Count to accept death, and since he's already a demon he's obviously going to Hell. Forever.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, we are shown the background of the real Operation Meteor supposedly carried by the Gundam Pilots, they were supposed to do a Colony Drop on Earth, and then use the destruction and chaos to use the Gundams to conquer Earth. Naturally, the pilots and the supervisors didn't go along with this, except for the real Trowa Barton, who got shot by a technician who had family on Earth. The current Trowa Barton is a another nameless technician who'd happened to be around, and then tasked by the supervisor to bring the Gundams to earth and carrying out a more specified task: unleashing absolute hell on the forces of OZ.
- Believe it or not, a good number of Emperor Souther's men in Fist of the North Star do NOT like beating and killing children; the trouble is that if they don't do so, Souther will kill their children as punishment for their disobedience.
- In One Piece during the paramount war, Coby trips over the body of a fallen marine. He finds a locket and opens it to find a picture of the marine's family, something that naturally distresses him a great deal.
- A Brighter Dark: Somewhere near the the beginning, Corrin and company are tasked with capturing a fort, an attack that results in the death of almost everyone in the building. Nothing is really made of it, and only the commander is given any kind of characterization before his untimely demise. Then later one we get to meet the father of one of the people stationed there, without even having any idea of which mook he's the father of, who says that the death of his son motivated him to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Nohr. Ouch.
- In a Captain America issue where Hydra was planning massive destruction across the US. Before launching the attack they had set up safe havens for family of members and had set up a department in charge of moving these people to safety. For an organization that kills its minions with impunity, they showed surprisingly good people skills on this one.
- There were limits and this makes a Minion do a face heel turn.
- If you sign to be a minion of Hydra its probably expected that you have a really low life expectancy, but that doesn't mean your family should too.
- There were limits and this makes a Minion do a face heel turn.
- This shows up in one of the Tom Raney-drawn Stormwatch prequel comics. The Dragon is okay with nuking anyone -but- his family. Lord Helspon didn't care.
- Joker, a mini-series focusing on the Joker is told from the perspective of one of Joker's henchmen, a man named Frost. During the story he is revealed to have a whole normal family. This comes back to bite him later when the Joker rapes his wife and when questioned why states that it makes him and Frost even after Joker saved Frost's life during a heist.
- In a Marvel issue of Scooby-Doo, Scooby chases a phony spook henchman to the beam of an unfinished skyscraper. The henchman is losing his balance and falling off Scooby catches him, reasoning "He may be a mean, rotten dog scarer, but he probably has a mother."
- James Bond tricks Hugo Drax into implying that Jaws' girlfriend will not be one of those allowed to live according to his master plan in Moonraker in order to get Jaws to do a Heel–Face Turn.
- In Superman, Lex's moll releases Supes after Lex blithely acknowledges his earthquake plot will kill her mother.
- Omen III: The Final Conflict. The wife of Damien Thorne's right hand man had a baby at a time that the Christ Child is scheduled to be born. When Thorne orders the death of all the babies born during that time, the aide lies about when the baby was born so he won't have to kill him. Not that it does him any good.
- A few scenes from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (which were cut from the American release, but included in most international ones) are cutaways about the friends and loved ones of guards Austin kills being informed: one with friends at his bachelor party wondering why he's late, and the other his girlfriend and her son (who considers the guard a substitute father figure).
- This Sucker Punch-related animated short kinda employs it: someone is killed, revived and turned into a zombie mook... and just before dying remembers his previous life.
- Early on in The Machine Girl, the title character wipes out a number of gangsters. We then see their grieving parents, whom the Big Bad recruits as a set of Elite Mooks with the promise that they can take revenge for their children.
- The LEGO Movie features a significant scene whereby Lord Business' lieutenant Good Cop Bad Cop is subjected to the punishment of gluing his parents to the floor, after he failed to catch the Special, along with the Piece of Resistance. The important thing is that Lord Business emotionally exploited him throughout his conflict with his job and his parents during this scene, practically targeting one of his main weaknesses by saying it's his fault for not doing his job and that he is Kragling his parents out of his own failure. Despite what he's been doing arresting and torturing Master Builders, it is demonstrated that he is shown to be submissive to a very controlling and abusive figure of authority, a.k.a. Lord Business, this scene being nothing less than Nightmare Fuel and Tear Jerker rolled into one.
- You can't forget the distress in his parents' voices and the looks on their faces when they see what's happening to their son, as Good Cop's face is erased and Bad Cop is unable to get up for a moment or so as he feels for his lost face. Neither the horrified look on his face when Lord Business reveals that he's using his parents, Bad Cop barely able to move either his face or his body out of shock except to say, "Mummy, Daddy, what are you doing here?" in a childlike voice, who have yet to fathom the horror that GCBC has just about realized. The juxtaposition of sadistic pleasure on Lord Business' face and voice in the same frame just twists the knife in the gut even further.
- In Tea with Mussolini one of the Italian guards is very upset to hear Italy had declared war on the United States, since his sister and her children are living in New York City.
- In Dredd, Judge Anderson gets an Oh, Crap! moment when she realizes the woman who just risked her own life to help them is the wife of one of the mooks she recently gunned down.
- Harry Potter:
- Played straight in the backstory - Voldemort was going to spare Lily Evans-Potter when Snape asked him to, but as soon as she made it slightly difficult (he would have had to push her out of the way and all) he just decided to kill her too. As a result, not only does Lily's choice to stay give Harry powerful magical protection, but Snape sacrifices everything to ensure Voldemort's downfall, and the best part is that Voldemort seems completely ignorant that he just gave one of his most promising lieutenants a perfect reason to want him dead.
- Also used with the Malfoy family in Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows - Voldemort punishes Lucius for his various screw-ups by letting Draco join the Death Eaters and putting him on what is essentially a suicide mission. Both Lucius and his wife Narcissa are obviously driven out of their minds with fear by this and Draco makes it pretty apparent by the end of the book that he is only going through with the mission to keep Voldemort from killing his parents. By the last book, it is clear that none of the Malfoys want to serve Voldemort anymore and simply want to all get each other out alive. This clears the way for Narcissa to actually lie to Voldemort's face about whether or not Harry is dead, just so that she and Lucius could find Draco again. Voldemort is a confirmed expert of Legilimency; lying to him and getting away with it is VERY difficult... and she still did it and got away with it.
- In Gaunt's Ghosts, Hark had a conversation with another commissar who recommended killing the random hangers on who travel with the imperial guard (including family) to save money. Hark shuts him up by explaining the guard would desert en masse.
- One of the stories in Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry series ended with Flandry successfully killing a Merseian agent who'd been stirring up rebellion on a Terran world. Then Flandry wondered if the agent had some children who couldn't understand why their father hadn't come home.
- In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, one painting come to life pleads with the villain to save another one; although the villain eventually does it, first he taunts him with the possibility of a new version, and the chance to fall in love all over again.
- When the heroes destroy the city's Earth-based Kandrona, Visser Three rations the Kandrona on the Pool ship, but without enough to go around, many Yeerks die. One Controller is furious that a loved one of his was deemed too unimportant to save, and plots with Ax to arrange the Visser's assassination.
- The heroic version shows up in The Departure, when Cassie is confronted by Aftran, the sister of a Yeerk whom she had recently killed in battle.
- Played straight and very effectively in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. After a battle in which Hawkeye and his companions kill a number of nameless Hurons who for the most part are described without individual traits, the perspective switches to the Hurons and Magua eulogizes them in a speech to the other braves. The reader then learns that the dead have names and that they are and will be mourned by their friends and families, some of whom are also mentioned by name. Later on there is a scene which shows the deep emotional pain felt by the father of another Huron warrior. Because his son was executed for cowardice and disowned by the tribe, the father is forced to publicly deny he is his son and not to show sorrow over his death, but his pain is so palpable that the tribal elders cannot help to feel pity for him.
- Defied in Empire from the Ashes. Achultani Central Computer makes sure that none of his soldiers will be loyal to his girlfriend more than to him, by killing every achultani female as soon as she's achultani equivalent of teenager
- Heroes: Maury Parkman's loyalty to Arthur Petrelli (and therefore his life) ended as soon as Arthur decided to have his son Matt killed.
- Revolution: In the episode "No Quarter", one Monroe militia soldier named Private Richards reveals to Danny Matheson that the soldier who got killed off in the pilot episode is named Templeton. Richards was best friends with the guy, and the guy had a wife named Carol Templeton. Richards is telling Danny this before he gives Danny a beatdown for killing Templeton.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: After Damar does a Heel–Face Turn, his old boss has his wife and children murdered, prompting him to ask the rhetorical question "What kind of people give those orders?" and Kira (whose people suffered years of torture and oppression at the hands of Damar's people, with Damar himself and many of his friends doing exactly the kind of pointless violence that his family has now fallen victim to) to answer "Yeah, Damar, what kind of people give those orders?"
- Wonder Woman: When a mook discovers that the villain is planning to use a laser to destroy Phoenix, Arizona, he yells that he has family there, and tries to stop him. He fails, but his action gives Wonder Woman time to save the day. And it wasn't clear that he knew the villain was planning to do anything criminal.
- In Elementary, the trope comes up in a coded text message to one of Moriarty's mooks that Sherlock decodes too late: "Moran you never told me you had a sister. She dies or you do. Your choice." He chooses the latter.
- Game of Thrones: In the season seven premiere "Dragonstone" the Lannister soldiers Arya meets mention missing their family (in one case, the soldier's wife had a baby he's never seen, the other wishes he were back fishing with his father), emphasizing they're not so bad, along with the fact they invited Arya to share a meal with them. It's apparent they have only recently been conscripted, and haven't been hardened by war.
- If there's a positive Intimacy between an Abyssal Exalted and his or her Lunar mate, almost none of the usual Abyssal rules apply to that person. The Abyssal can fight their Deathlord to protect the Lunar. Usually "fighting your Deathlord" is synonymous with "putting your character sheet into a paper shredder."
- Neverwinter Nights mostly averts this, as its villains are mostly the cackling Omnicidal Maniac sort, but the module-creating community does have some examples.
- In the HeX coda modules, Poe betrays Lester's doomsday plan because it would put her boyfriend at risk.
- One of the statistics that Alpha Protocol keeps track of is the number of orphans the player creates when he kills mooks, to the extent that where you are in the world affects how many orphans are created. In China it's only one orphan per man killed, for example.
- Deus Ex lets you meet the parents of a Majestic 12 troop in a cafe. The mother begs you to spare him, while the father feels he deserves what's coming to him.
- In MapleStory, the Demon Slayer character rebelled against the Dark Mage for this reason.
- While most of the Enemy Chatter paints the mooks in Batman: Arkham Asylum as thoroughly despicable people, there are a couple of exceptions. Early in the game, Joker is heard threatening the family of one of his henchman if he doesn't do his job and stop Batman. Later on, a thug is hesitant about Joker's plan to dump the chemical Titan into the Gotham water supply, because his mother lives near the docks. Subverted in another instant, where one mook mentions that Joker ordered him to kill his sister. When asked if he went through with it, he says "Hell yeah, never liked that bitch anyway."
First Mook: The Joker told me to kill my sister. Told him I didn't have one.
- It only gets worse. Right after the sister comment, another mook brings up his own sister story:
Second Mook: What'd he say?
First Mook: He still told me to kill my sister, so I did. Ran over the first bitch I saw. It didn't matter, Joker seemed to get a kick out of it.
- Arkham Knight gives us mooks who are out town, generally throwing riots, going for joyrides in stolen cars and being trouble in general. Business in Gotham, as usual. But you listen in on the Enemy Chatter enough and you get this:
Mook: Alright, we can go on a riot, but not for long. It's my turn to watch the kids tomorrow.
- There is a form of this in Mass Effect 3. Background chatter between Alliance members, people on your side, has one private confessing that her deadbeat brother joined Cerberus, and she doesn't want to have to kill him. Since all the enemies the player fights in the game are to some extent mindlessly loyal and slavishly dedicated - you can find journal entries that the private's brother made before and after "integration" that prove it - none of them hesitate or switch sides, but people who aren't over the edge can. Rila, a woman falling under indoctrination who just tried to strangle her sister, gains control of herself for long enough to send her away so she can take a lot of Banshees with her.
- Played for Laughs in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. The medieval chapter has a mission where you have to spy on enemy Mooks for information, and said goons constantly talk about their married lives, taking their children to the park, and even ask for advice on how to meet women. What makes it funny is said mooks are clattering wolf robots.
- Brawl in the Family's Ode to Minions mentions this.
- In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn turns against the Joker when she realizes that his plan to nuke the city will also kill all their "friends" at Arkham, as well as her pet hyenas.
- One episode of Batman Beyond has a Kobra operative accidentally warn Batman about an upcoming heist when he warns his brother that his bank is going to be targeted by Kobra.
- Tirac threatening to behead Spike ultimately caused Scorpan to turn on Tirac in the original My Little Pony pilot.
- One of the New Gods (Beautiful Dreamer) poses as a mook's mother in an episode of Young Justice. When the rest of the New Gods (plus Superboy) appear, he actually moves to protect her and tells her to get to safety, until Dreamer drops the disguise.
- Played for Laughs in the first episode of Rick and Morty. Rick informs Morty that the bug-people security guards chasing them are robots and thus Morty can kill them guilt-free. Morty reluctantly tests this by shooting the leg off one.
Alien: Ahh! My leg got shot off!
Other Alien: Glenn's bleeding to death! Someone call his wife and children!
Morty: (horrified) They're not robots, Rick!
Rick: It's a figure of speech, Morty! They're bureaucrats! I don't respect them.