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Evil Puppeteer

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"The Puppeteer" by sculptor Thomas Kuebler.

Puppet Chorus: Get in line, stay in time
Kaos called, it's time to shine!
The puppets dance, in her trance!
Mesmeralda: You never really had a chance! I'm the one who pulls your strings!
— Mesmeralda's Villain Song, Skylanders: SWAP Force
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For many years, people have been disturbed by the lifelessness of puppets and dolls, and the fear of these toys coming to life has led to tropes such as Perverse Puppet and Demonic Dummy. In turn, some are fascinated or horrified of the people who control said puppets, and as a result, many puppeteers and ventriloquists in fiction will be bad guys.

Another factor in the negative portrayal of puppeteers is the idea of People Puppets - having another person literally pull you around with strings.

Another reason why puppet masters may be portrayed as bad guys is because of the symbolism that they inspire. The way a puppeteer controls a puppet is easily comparable to someone manipulating others socially. The mastermind behind a gang or conspiracy is often referred to as "the one pulling the strings", and the image of a hand holding a puppet control bar is usually used to indicate power and control.

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If an evil puppeteer is a Funny Animal, then he or she may be a spider, due to a spider's silk resembling a puppet's strings.

May be a Marionette Master or a Living Doll Collector.

Compare Wicked Toymaker, Repulsive Ringmaster, Depraved Kids' Show Host, and Monster Clown.


Examples:

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     Anime & Manga  

  • Naruto: Sasori of the villainous Akatsuki organization fights mainly using special puppets that he controls with chakra strings. He also converted the late Third Kazekage's corpse (who can control iron sand) into his special doll, and it's also revealed that he converted his own body into a puppet, with the only living part of him being his intact heart. He's opposed by his grandmother, Lady Chiyo, a good puppeteer.
  • One Piece: Doflamingo is a thoroughly sadistic person with Razor Floss powers that he mainly use for People Puppets - he can manipulate people's body, usually to harm each other.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Chrollo is this trope whenever he uses the Order Stamp. It's a wooden stamp with a marking that, when stamped onto a puppet's forehead, allows the puppet to be given simple orders by the stamp's wielder, which it will follow until the puppet is destroyed or the ink is removed. Chrollo is shown to be able to control dozens, if not hundreds, of such puppets simultaneously with the Order Stamp.

     Comic Books  

  • Batman villain The Ventriloquist always carries with him a murderous dummy named Scarface. Part of the fear factor in the Ventriloquist's character is that nobody knows for sure who's really controlling who - some speculate that the Ventriloquist's meek behavior is just a facade for his bloodlust, while some think that Scarface is actually alive, and forcing the Ventriloquist to commit crimes. In Batman: The Animated Series, Scarface appears to be a Split Personality of his.

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     Film - Animated  

  • Stromboli from Pinocchio, who has his own circus of puppets and hires Pinocchio, but treats him badly: he underpays him, locks him up in a cage, and threatens to chop him into firewood.

     Live-Action TV  

  • On Heroes there's Eric Doyle (aka The Puppet Master), a creepy ventriloquist whose superpower is to control people like puppets.
  • Zachariah Skull, the villain of The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Puppeteer". He not only uses a regular puppet (armed with a real gun) in a murder attempt, he also has an army of life-sized marionettes at his command which he controls via steam lines. They can serve wine, play music... and kill.

     Literature  

  • Gaspare Grisini from Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz is a famous, beloved puppeteer - who secretly has a criminal background. He kidnapped the two protagonists from an orphanage when they were very young and trained them as assistants for his puppet show.

     Video Games  

  • BlazBlue: Relius, one of the baddies, wields an automaton puppet named Ignis, named after - and powered with the soul of - his late wife. He also put the soul of her daughter Ada into the legendary puppet Nirvana, that ends up being used by his son, Carl, who wants revenge on his dad. Relius is even called the "Mad Puppeteer" for this reason.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location: In the trailer, Funtime Freddy is seen with a Bonnie handpuppet. It's a bit of a zig-zagging trope in the game: when you first met him, you have to use the puppet's voice-cues to keep him away, making him stay away. However, the second time you meet him, then the puppet itself is dangerous.
  • Kirby:
    • In Kirby's Epic Yarn, King Dedede is possessed by a floating puppet control bar that attaches its strings to him and forces him to fight Kirby. To defeat the control bar, you must use its buttons to pull its strings off one by one.
    • Taranza from Kirby: Triple Deluxe, described as the "Master of Puppetry", is a creepy anthropomorphic spider who kidnaps King Dedede, forcing Kirby to save him. He later attaches puppet strings to Dedede, forcing him to fight Kirby once again. However, Taranza turns out to be not as bad as he seems. Once he realizes how cruel his boss, Queen Sectonia, is, he even pulls a Heel–Face Turn to help Kirby defeat her.
  • In LittleBigPlanet Vita, the Puppeteer is the Big Bad, who has an army of Hollows that cause mayhem all across Carnivalia. Subverted when it turns out that the Puppeteer isn't actually evil, he was locked up by the Hollows, who are the true villains.
  • Mesmeralda from Skylanders is a ringmaster/puppeteer spider who runs a circus with her "Puppet Chorus", a bunch of ghostly puppets who follow her every command, and even join in on her Villain Song!

     Web Comics  

  • In Homestuck, while at first Bro's manipulation of puppets via Flash Step and use of them to gaslight and torment Dave is played for comedy, it gradually becomes clear that his raising of Dave crossed the line into severely damaging physical and psychological abuse. Dave (after a long period of denial that anything was wrong or strange about his childhood) eventually acknowledges this.

     Western Animation  

  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "The Great Fusilli", the sound of Creepy Circus Music alerts the Bagges that their house has been visited by a magic stage run by a Wicked Cultured crocodile named Fusilli. Fusilli encourages Muriel, Eustace, and Courage to perform on his stage, eventually convincing them to sign a contract to become full-time actors. Things only get worse when Courage goes backstage and discovers many lifeless puppets - and he and his owners are next! Courage goes back to the stage to warn them, but he's too late - letting out a triumphant Evil Laugh, Fusilli uses his stage to turn Muriel and Eustace into puppets. Fusilli is eventually Hoist by His Own Petard when he falls onto the stage, and his natural showmanship causes him to perform even as he is turned into a puppet himself. This is one of the show's few Downer Endings, however, as Muriel and Eustace are still stuck as puppets.
  • Quackerjack from Darkwing Duck is both a Monster Clown and this: he carries a puppet called Mr. Banana Brain around, and often has conversations with himself through it.
  • Downplayed with Mr. Garrison from South Park. He has his puppet Mr. Hat in the first few seasons, and although he's not exactly evil, he's a major Jerkass.


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