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Evil Reactionary

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"In the world I see, you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty carpool lane of an abandoned superhighway."
Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Ah, nostalgia. The thing that drives salmon to go back to the river where they were born (yeah, it's not nostalgia, but bear with me), drives people to walk 20 miles in snow to get a slice of pizza of a beloved pizzeria that's about to close down for good, and drives salmon-people to remember the good old days when the snow pizza in the river was... You get the idea.

Now. Some people take this a bit too far. Still, they are benign, right? I mean, they are ridiculous and all, but they don't harm anyone in their quest to relive their youths, childhoods, or more innocent times. So, harmless. Right? Riiiight?


Enter this guy. He loves that time/place. A lot. Enough, indeed, that he will do his very best to recreate it. Whether the society around him wants it recreated or not. Usually it doesn't, if only because, if it did, it would recreate said times itself. Sometimes, this guy will also be fixated on some other place, as well, and will try to recreate it on the world around him (so that, say, instead of going to Italy and trying to recreate the Roman times, they will try to recreate the Roman times in New York).


The Evil Reactionary will usually think of himself as a good guy who's trying to prevent the decay of society. In reality, he's trying to bring back the past through any means possible in order to ensure that he never has to set foot outside of his narrow comfort zone ever again. Their efforts are almost always for naught, since the past Utopia they imagine never existed in the first place.

Sometimes the Evil Reactionary is an outright villain. They know that things are better for people as a whole right now, but want to revert things back because the changes didn't benefit themselves or even reduced their standing. And sometimes this character isn't even that old, but has merely internalized nostalgia for a particular period; he might even offend older people who were actually there, and who are as put off by this freakishness as the younger, "modern" people.


Compare Evil Luddite, who resents technological changes rather than societal changes. Though considering they go hand in hand, an overlap is possible. This trope may appear unintentionally in a reactionary fantasy where the protagonist comes across as a Designated Hero. See also Still Fighting the Civil War, which occurs when a character is willing to admit that most things have changed, but a particular sociopolitical issue that most people have put behind them is still relevant. May be what a former hero becomes if the progress of society is too great since the former hero's time in the case of Outdated Hero vs. Improved Society. Contrast The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised for the opposite end of the villain spectrum.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • The world of One Piece is strongly hinted at to be one where such forces, now known as the World Government, had become victorious. The "Void Century" refers to a hundred years of the world's history that has seemingly gone missing. Bits and pieces of what happened during this time have popped up as the series has gone on, including the existence of robot armies, space travel, and technological superweapons. (By contrast, One Piece's modern day weaponry is restricted to cannons, swords, and flintlock pistols, and strongly resembles the 17th and 18th century days of high seas piracy.) The World Government actively hunts down and kills anyone with knowledge of the Void Century, which is why Nico Robin, an Adventurer Archaeologist who can read the Poneglyphs said knowledge is stored upon, has a price on her head.
    • Of course, it's very possible that the World Government kept some of this technology for their own use. (It would likely be impossible to build structures like Impel Down with 21st Century equipment, much less 18th; how it was done was never explained.) If this is true, it would make whoever enacted the change a Straw Hypocrite at best.

     Comic Books  

  • Turner D. Century, a crazed lunatic of a supervillain who wanted to change society back to that of the 1890s.
  • William Burnside, the 1950s version of Captain America turned supervillain, is so horrified by the changed values of 2000s+ America that he will work with absolutely anyone who promises to fight to restore traditional American values, such as making atheism and abortion illegal, forcing women to go back to being housewives, and putting minorities back in their place as a quiet and culturally separate underclass. In his defense, he's also being mentally damaged by his Psycho Serum, but it's been made clear multiple times that his conservative values have simply made him unable — and unwilling — to adjust to the radically different cultural mores he finds himself amongst, in comparison to Steve Rogers and his progressive values.
  • There was a Batman issue where a Mad Bomber was demolishing newer skyscrapers in order to restore Gotham's '30s-era skyline.note 
  • In the Marvel Universe, the Royalist Forces of America are a terrorist organisation (whose leaders are descended from Revolutionary War loyalists) who wish to dissolve America's democracy and re-institute a class system.
  • The Runaways once faced an old man who unleashed a monster on Los Angeles with the power to revert the city to the way it was when his late wife was still alive.
  • Wonder Woman (2006): Alkyone flips her lid and betrays her queen in response to the queen being granted a daughter, which she thinks will destroy the Amazon civilization. Years later after failing to kill the baby and confronted with the evidence that the Amazons are just as strong a people as before she resents the changes caused by Diana's birth and life and deposes the queen in order to try to make things "right" again.

     Film-Live Action 
  • In Fight Club, Tyler Durden believes modernity has robbed men of purpose and their manhood. Project Mayhem (which we don’t talk about) is about destroying the modern financial infrastructure, in order to take society back to more agricultural, frontier ways.
  • In Thor: Ragnarok, Hela takes over Asgard to return it to its conquering, imperialistic roots.

  • In the Young Bond novel Blood Fever, Bond fights a secret society dedicated to recreating the Roman Empire.
  • Discworld
    • In Men at Arms Edward D'Eath wants to bring Ankh-Morpork back to the days of aristocracy. The man who kills him, the head of the Guild of Assassins, takes up the cause because of the power of the Gonne makes him feel impossible to be beaten.
    • The villain in The Fifth Elephant tries to force the new king of the dwarves of Überwald into civil war because they view him as too sympathetic to modern ideals, like socializing with non-Dwarfs and, most heinously trolls, exposing one's self to light (which in a mine could mean a danger while darkness protects), and actually identifying as one specific gender rather than just being a Dwarf. While the main opponent is defeated there, this mentality continue to be major problem for the Low King of the Dwarfs. This mentality leads to the conflicts in Thud! where they try to destroy evidence that the battle of Koom Valley was an attempt to end the dwarf/troll war and Raising Steam, where they complete the transition into religious terrorist expies and try an outright coup against the Low King.
    • There is another character in the same book who is teased as being this, but isn't. Rather, they are a principled conservative and more concerned with the speed at which Rhys is reforming the fairly conservative Dwarf society. By Raising Steam, they are established as Rhys' loyal opposition.
  • Destroyermen: The New British fleet admiral attempts to kills almost everyone ahead of him in succession with a bomb in the capitol building, hoping to become Governor-Emperor so he could cancel all the reforms (especially the ones about women's rights) that were being instituted following contact with The Alliance and the betrayal of the Honorable New Britain Company.
  • The Church, especially the Roman Catholic Church, was being almost universally depicted as this in Soviet educational and edutainment literature, ruthlessly persecuting scientists and repressing new ideas to retain their tyrannical power. Not that they never actually engaged in this, but the portrayals are grossly exaggerated with sweeping generalizations running rampant.
  • General Rumford in Victoria is a heroic example: a political general and Chief of Staff in a mid-21st century state whose take on life, the Universe and everything is best described as that of an early 19th century conservative (atheists should lose their citizenship, women should Stay in the Kitchen, the French Revolution was pure Bolshevism, etc.). He also expends tremendous effort imposing these same values on his country, the Northern Confederation. His craziness actually benefits his nation, however, since the archaic stratagems he employs are never anticipated by the Confederation's modernist, high-tech enemies.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The Republic of Gilead embodies this, not just taking women's rights to vote etc. away but even banning them reading. Anyone who won't practice their religion is publicly hanged, along with the LGBT and others who commit a long number of "offenses" that had been long abolished.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: The Abominators in The Skies of Pern, while primarily Evil Luddites, also qualify for this trope as their efforts to destroy Aivas and anything he restored to Pern are motivated by their desire to keep things as they were before, feeling that any changes will destroy their traditional values and way of life, and that permanently destroying Thread was a bad idea because the threat it posed kept Pern's people working together. As such, they resort to the Evil Luddite method, trying to destroy or prevent the use of anything Aivas shared, in order to turn society back to the way it was before Aivas was discovered. This includes attacking the new Crafthalls founded more recently, since they're based on Aivas' teachings.
  • In Christian Nation, the Sarah Palin and Steve Jordan administrations strip rights away from women, LGBTs, and people of different faiths in America over the course of their terms as President to install a government whose laws are based entirely on Christian fundamentalist interpretations of Scripture. Book Burning and government surveillance become commonplace in this new version of America.

     Live-Action Television  
  • In Game of Thrones, the Sons of the Harpy are a terrorist organization led by aristocratic former slave owners who want to bring back slavery after it is abolished by Daenerys Targaryen.
    • Some of Daenerys' supporters would qualify as well, since they imagine that restoring House Targaryen to the throne will solve all or most of Westeros' many problems.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: As in the book, the Republic of Gilead takes this to an extreme. Their regime explicitly echoes that of the Puritans, from the 1600s.

     Professional Wrestling  

     Tabletop Games  
  • Battletech has had several in its vast setting:
    • The Draconis Combine has the Black Dragon Society: Traditionalists within their military who seek to return the Combine to a 'pure', earlier state based on Honor Before Reason. While they're generally quiet while Takeshi Kurita lead the Combine, they are a thorn in the side of his son Theodore and his heirs, all of whom are seen as too progressive for the Society's taste.
    • The Word of Blake is a fundamentalist splinter sect of ComStar who rise to prominence in reaction to the ongoing secularization of ComStar following the Clan Invasion. They eventually decide that if they can't control the Inner Sphere in accordance to what they see as the original purpose of ComStar, they will see the Inner Sphere destroyed.
    • ilKhan Brett Andrews, who almost completely destroyed Clan society in an attempt to purify the Clans of Inner Sphere 'taint' and return them to a state prior to exposure to the Inner Sphere.
  • This is the shtick (overlapping with Evil Luddite) of the villain Retrograde in the Champions sourcebook High Tech Enemies. His power allows him to transform high-tech items into low-tech, non-functioning equivalents, such as transforming a suit of powered armour into a suit of medieval knight's armour.
  • The Guiding Hand of Feng Shui are this at their absolute worst. They want to return China to an era of "enlightenment", and utterly despise modern technology and thinking.
  • The Jnanamukti in Mage: The Awakening are a movement of Evil Sorcerers who combine this trope, Fantastic Racism and Evil Luddite to Omnicidal Maniac levels. They yearn for the mythical days of Atlantis, when magic ruled all things and mages were far more powerful, before the Abyss was torn into existence and magic became a rare and delicate thing. As far as they're concerned, Sleeper civilization and the technology it has developed (alongside the existence of non-Mage supernatural creatures) is the only thing sustaining the Abyss. So, they reason, if they destroy civilization and technology, the Abyss will heal and Atlantis can be restored. Keep in mind that they have no proof that this is the case, they just hope it is. But are they powerful enough to enact their genocidal plans? Well...
    • Elsewhere in the New World of Darkness, specifically in the fanmade parts, Clockstoppers in Geniusthe Transgression are prone to this. Some reject modern technology so passionately that it stops working.
  • Eclipse Phase is written by a passionately socially progressive, capital-A Anarchist, unapologetically transhumanist company that at one point told Men's Rights Activists to stop being fans of their game, meaning it's probably not surprising that they used this trope in-setting in the form of the Jovian Republic a.k.a. Jovian Junta, a state that limits the level of genetic enhancement available to its citizens, rejects the Body Backup Drive, views people who've been restored from backup as soulless abominations, names things after right-wing dictators and generally doesn't play nicely with the predominantly transhuman population of the Solar System.
  • Freedom City, a tie-in to Mutants & Masterminds, has the super-villain "Sky Lord II", a misguided fan of the Centurion rogue who originally bore the moniker of Sky Lord and who ultimately took up villainy himself to fight the "moral decay" he saw overrunning American society from the 60s to the 2000s. It's unclear just when he wants to turn the clock back to - the 1950s or perhaps earlier, maybe closer to the 1900s - but forcing society to go back to "The Good Old Days" is the foundation of his villainous career.

    Video Games 
  • In Back to the Future: The Game, Edna Strickland. When transported to Hill Valley's founding in the 1800s by accident, the spoilered person is ecstatic to be in such a "pure" era and makes no attempt to leave... until Beauregard Tannen shows up and builds a saloon. (Said character's views on any place that serves alcohol is to Kill It with Fire.) Oddly, one of the first things this character says to Marty (from his own perspective) is that he should not romanticize the past.
  • The Knights Templar in Deus Ex: Invisible War see augmentation as a sin and liberalism as a weakness: They want to return society to a neo-feudal state based on faith and purge the world of AI, nanotech and other advances. Picking their ending leads to pretty much exactly this, with the implication that Alex, being nanomachine-enhanced themselves, didn't live to see the endpoint of their choice.

     Western Animation  

  • Mad Mod, from Teen Titans, wants to impose England on everyone else. Specifically, a historical, romanticized England. He also wants to reclaim America for England, though a version where he's the king (what he intends the actual royal family to do in unspecified).
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, the Brotherhood of Magisters thrived as a ruling secret society during the Dark Ages, and want the UK to revert back to some vaguely Victorian time via magic and alchemy so they can regain their lost influence.
  • There was a New Orleans ghost like this in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. He was a Reality Warper that turned the whole area that surrounded him back into 1930s Jazz-era New Orleans whenever he played.
  • The Pastmaster from SWAT Kats really misses the Dark Ages. So much so that in his debut he tried to bring them back in the present day. The Swat Kats foiled him. In another episode, he decided to just go back in time to the Dark Ages and take over. The Swat Kats foiled him. Eventually, he suffered Motive Decay and messed with the originally happy future of Megakat City and turned it into a Bad Future just to spite the Swat Kats. The Swat Kats foiled him.
  • A couple of examples from The Simpsons:
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Long Feng leads the Secret Police known as the Dai Li and directs them to enforce Medieval Stasis in the city of Ba Sing Se, the capital of the Earth Kingdom, to the point of denying that anything has changed at all in the past hundred years, including the tiny inconvenience that the Earth Kingdom is currently at war with the aggressively imperialistic Fire Nation. He is partially motivated by power, but given that they are losing to the Fire Nation because of his actions (which would eventually result in him losing that power) it is likely he genuinely believes his own justifications- that Ba Sing Se is a perfect society as it is and needs to stay that way, forever.
  • In The Legend of Korra, the Big Bad of Book 2 is Korra's Evil Uncle Unalaq, who is introduced as a hardcore conservative who is very critical of the Water Tribes allowing new technology and ideas into their civilisation, and eventually is revealed to be working at turning the clock back even further than that by breaking down the barriers that separate the physical world from the spirit world which is how the world was thousands of years ago, expecting this to turn the tide against modernity even further and creating a better, more spiritual age...ruled by himself and the evil spirit Vaatu, of course.


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