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"I needed someone who acts like a friend but secretly delights in the misery of all people."

"I've adopted a strategy of pleasantness. It turns out that one can perpetrate all manner of heinous villainy under a cloak of courtesy and good cheer. It seems a man will forfeit all sensible self-interest if he finds you affable enough to share your company over a flagon of ale."
Edmund, Fool
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A villain whose politeness is an act that only serves to enhance their evil. Unlike Affably Evil characters, whose niceness is genuine despite their malice, these villains adopt this pleasant persona. They lack a villainous demeanor, yet they are truly, wholly, and unrepentantly evil regardless. This kind of villain maintains a friendly, courteous mask even as they commit incredibly heinous and horrific acts. An Affably Evil villain will treat The Hero like a friend, genuinely regret having to fight them, and seriously try to win them over. A Faux Affably Evil villain will say, "You know, I always look forward to our little meetings" while gruesomely torturing them for fun.

At heart, they're utterly soulless, but they mask it with a pleasant, polite, "normal" attitude, perhaps because they have social standards to live up to or because their pleasantness reflects their sheer enjoyment of evil. Maybe it's a sign of their severely warped morality, or a form of deception or psychological warfare. Or maybe they're just unbearably full of themselves. It's anyone's guess what this kind of villain will do if they suffer a Villainous Breakdown; maybe they will drop all pretenses and find that they are Not So Above It All or maybe they will fall into a state of Dissonant Serenity, blabbering off-kilter pseudo-mannerisms as they lapse into their final and greatest puppy-murdering spree.

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Do not confuse with Laughably Evil, which is a villain who is funny rather than polite. While many Faux Affably Evil villains are also Laughably Evil, many other villains are one but not the other. Compare and contrast Affably Evil (whose niceness is sincere) and this Trope's opposite, Noble Demon (whose demeanor is evil in contrast to their actions). For the Evulz is a common motivation, though using this trope as a form of Obfuscating Stupidity is also possible. Also see its (possibly) downplayed counterpart Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, where a Jerkass at the best of times, is hiding behind a Nice Guy facade in order to trick people and doesn't necessarily keep it after showing his real face, and Stepford Smiler, when a miserable and/or mentally unstable person is hiding behind a cheery and sweet facade. May also overlap with Bantering Baddie Buddies, Soft-Spoken Sadist, Sugary Malice, Wise Old Folk Façade. This trope may also be a fan of Confound Them with Kindness.

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Contrast with Good Is Not Nice, which is a good character that just isn't polite. Not to be confused with Wicked Cultured, where a cultured façade hides unpleasant behavior. This trope is also one of the defining traits of a sociopath.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • In Dilbert, Catbert, Evil Director of Human Resources, was hired precisely because he possesses this quality. The caption of the page image is a quote from the strip in which he was hired.

    Music 
  • The speaker in the Jonathan Coulton song "Re: Your Brains" is a guy named Bob who has become a zombie during the Zombie Apocalypse. Bob spends the whole song trying to convince a former coworker named Tom to give up and just let the zombie horde go ahead and devour him. (Specifically, his brain.) Bob the zombie does all this in an achingly polite manner, even occasionally praising Tom, but in every stanza of the song there's at least one line that shows that the politeness is a thin disguise, and Bob the zombie is enjoying the thought of getting to slowly and painfully murder his former acquaintance. For example, here's the last stanza of the song:
    I've got another meeting Tom, maybe we could wrap it up
    I know we'll get to common ground somehow
    Meanwhile I'll report back to my colleagues who were chewing on the doors
    I guess we'll table this for now
    I'm glad to see you take constructive criticism well
    Thank you for your time I know we're all busy as hell
    And we'll put this thing to bed
    When I bash your head open!
  • The speaker in Josh Ritter's "The Torch Committee" seems truly affable at first, but then you slowly realize that the Orwellian Torch Committee almost certainly kidnapped the addressee, has been torturing them this whole time, and is threatening to do worse if they don't inform on their friends and family. Even worse, the narrator gives in and becomes part of the Torch Committee.
  • The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" has the literal devil introducing himself as a man of wealth and taste before going into a laundry list of terrible thing's he's done. All while being very polite and demanding the listener do the same or else.
  • "When You're Evil" has a mustache-twirling villain waxing poetic about all the joys of being evil ranging from being a the pebble in your shoe to having the devil tip his hat to him.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • It has been said that Satan doesn't come to you as a scary and intimidating devil, but rather, he will appear to you in a seemingly nice and appealing way. He's known as the Prince of Lies for a reason.
  • Classical Mythology included Procrustes. A blacksmith who would allow travelers to rest in his home for the night and behave extremely polite toward them...until they were asleep. He always offered them a bed. If they were too short to be a perfect fit, he would get out his blacksmith tools and stretch them out (the guests, not the bed). If they were too tall to make it a perfect fit, he'd get out his blacksmith tools and cut off their limbs. If they were a perfect fit, he'd hide the bed and show them another that they didn't fit just perfectly in.

    Podcasts 
  • The Magnus Archives has several of these, mostly servants of various Powers, as any affability is covering up a fundamental desire to terrorize and destroy.
    • Particularly notable are Michael Crew and Simon Fairchild, servants of The Vast. When both give their statements, they are polite and charming self, even taking their losses in good humor. However, both have terrorized at least dozens of innocent people, and make the sadistic joy they take in it perfectly clear.
    • Peter Lukas, a servant of the Lonely, puts on a fake cheerful demeanor to interact with (and manipulate) Martin. Since he spends so little time around other people, it comes off as less than sincere.
  • In Wolf 359, the protagonists discover that their bosses are involved in some sort of evil conspiracy and are almost certainly plotting to kill them. When, we finally meet a member of Mission Command, Mr. Cutter is exceedingly polite, soft-spoken, and personable. In fact, he is all of these things to such an exaggerated degree that it comes across as a bit unnerving. It quickly becomes clear that his friendly demeanor is just a calculated façade he uses to better play his role as a chessmaster corporate executive. And he's very good at his job - by the time he makes his exit, he's played various mind games with the characters, sown seeds of doubt about everything they're doing, and manipulated them into considering killing a person... all while addressing them on a first-name basis, asking about their Christmas celebrations, and telling them how happy he is with the great work they're doing. Since both characters and audience are aware that he is an active and present threat, the fact that he's so overbearingly polite and friendly just makes him feel more unnerving and unpredictable.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, who could sound folksy and charming even while deliberately cheating a little boy out of a chance to win some of his money.
  • Eric Bischoff, his genuine baby face runs are few and far between and he's never the face by default, so he has no real motivation to be nice to anyone other than perhaps to save his own skin. Otherwise he's just stringing you along, don't listen.
  • William Regal during his heel runs. He would often act like a dignified and well-mannered quintessential British gentleman, waving to the crowd, wiping his feet before entering the ring and scolding rudeness on-camera. Beneath that cultured exterior was a man who was quick to anger and not beneath breaking the rules when things weren't going his way during a match, up to and including, but not limited to: chair and title belt shots, grabbing the ropes for leverage during submission holds, and infamously, the use of brass knuckles. His antics outside of matches included insulting the fans, kissing Mr. McMahon's ass (figuratively AND literally), and even an instance of PEEING ON THE BIG SHOW'S LEG.
  • Chris Jericho was this trope while performing his "Anton Chigurh" tribute gimmick from 2008 to 2010.
  • John "Bradshaw" Layfield, especially during his final angle against Rey Mysterio. You have never heard the word amigo delivered with so much dripping sarcasm.
  • Silvie Silver spoke in a patronizing manner to Santana Garrett in Ring Warriors while explaining all the moves she learned in Mexico and how much they would hurt. She dropped the act after Garrett pinned her.
  • Michelle McCool, who was so good at this trope that she called to mind the Uncanny Valley.
  • Raisha Saeed spoke as if she was a reasonable, level headed stoic looking out for the best interests of her clients, such as Awesome Kong. Her actions repeatedly proved her to be a sadist, to the point that sometimes Kong thought she went too far.
  • After being defeated by Mr. 450 at the World Wrestling League's Insurrection event, Sensacional Carlitos wanted a rematch at Navidad Corporativa and insisted he would be healthy by then even though he had a broken jaw at the time. 450 urged him not to do it, saying if Carlitos had no concern for his own health he should think about friends and family.
  • At the first Women Of Honor event, Veda Scott snatched a microphone and called the crowd to give a respectful sendoff to Jenny Rose, who was scheduled to return to the Japan-based Diana promotion. Scott then ended Rose's ROH run on a low note by bludgeoning her with that mic.

    Radio 
  • In Cabin Pressure, when the pilots first meet Gordon Shappey, he comes across as friendly enough, despite what Carolyn and Arthur have been telling them. (Martin even makes the mistake of telling Carolyn "He didn't seem too bad", before hastily amending it to "Didn't seem too bad, but he obviously is awful.") As soon as the actual negotiations start, he shows himself to be utterly vindictive, culminating in a Kick the Dog moment when he throws an extremely nervous Arthur's gift back in his face out of sheer spite.
  • Lord Darkness from BBC Radio's ElvenQuest almost borders on Well-Intentioned Extremist whenever he temporarily forgets that he's evil incarnate, but is always this trope.
  • Sir Gregory Pitkin in BBC's The Men from the Ministry can sometimes be rather friendly toward Mr. Lamb and Lennox-Brown when things go well, but it's just a mask and he'll do a 180 degree turn once things go downhill.
  • Old Harry's Game:
    • Satan is a mix of this trope and Affably Evil. To most people, he's this, often utilizing Exact Words to make people think he's about to give them what they want right before torturing them. To other supernatural beings, and to the handful of humans he respects, he's Affably Evil; he'll still torture them if they become annoying, but when he's not doing so, he's quite friendly and can sometimes even act as a caring presence.
    • Thomas Crimp, a demented murder-rapist whose crimes sicken even Satan. He's nonetheless quite polite until things start going wrong.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Asmodeus. Despite being probably the most evil being in the setting and responsible for countless acts of torture even against his closest allies, he's always portrayed as urbane, unflappable, and chillingly reasonable.
    • Very common with Devils, who are Lawful Evil. In most cases, Devils usually want mortals to make agreements with them of their own free will, but they are an always Evil race for a reason.
    • Glasstaff in "The Lost Mine of Phandelver" is described as being this, referring to murders as "unpleasant little business" and being generally polite.
    • Also fairly common among Ravenloft darklords.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Dark Eldar are surprisingly cheerful and fun-loving for a society based around torturing people and eating their souls. Given that their own souls are involuntarily devoted to an Eldritch Abomination that feeds on sensations, it's probably part of the job.
    • Slaanesh, and his/her underlings, more then any other daemon will act superficially charming and sympathetic to mortals to gain their trust and loyalty, but beneath it all, they are some of the most depraved monsters in the setting, and their facades will vanish as soon as they get what they want.
    • In the Night Lords series, Abaddon the Despoiler is this during his conversation with Talos.
    • Depending on your opinion on the alignment in the setting, Amberley Veil, Inquisitor of Ordo Xenos, is a particular example that might fit with the trope. More generally, any leader of the designated good guysnote  who isn't too busy being an obvious jerk, a Large Ham or a genuine good guy (the later being very rare instance) fits the description as well. note 

    Theatre 
  • In Hangmen Mooney is polite and charming but it doesn't really take much for him to become dangerous.
  • Another Sondheim example would be most of the main characters from Into the Woods. Based on characters from classic fairytales, they're generally friendly, bright, and optimistic... and in acquiring what they most dearly wished for, they ruin (and end) many lives, often including their own. The Witch eventually calls them out on it: 'You're so nice. You're not good, you're not bad, you're just nice'. This is especially true of The Wolf. It's even lampshaded by Little Red Riding Hood's song later: "Nice is not the same as good!"
  • The Thenardiers in Les Misérables are more Laughably Evil to the audience, but in the context of the play, they use their politeness to do their evil - putting on a polite, friendly face while they snatch away your wallet when you aren't looking. The characters who are aware of their deeds seem to think this just makes them more sadistic, and they certainly come off this way to the audience (especially when their only concern during the June Rebellion is what they'll get from looting the corpses even when their daughter is among them) while their silliness still makes them among the most popular characters.
  • William Shakespeare was good at this, with Richard III and Shylock from The Merchant of Venice. And Iago from Othello, who manages to be everyone's favourite character.
  • Spies Are Forever: Baron von Nazi tries to make a point that the Nazis are actually the good guys despite him avoiding all the terrible things they did and threatening to take over the world ... Through song.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The eponymous character himself and Mrs. Lovett, especially in "Have a Little Priest" — they're very droll, even as they make people into meat pies. For context, their first order of business on deciding to murder everybody who comes into Sweeny's barber shop and then make them into meat pies is a Hurricane of Puns about what different people taste like.
    Mrs. Lovett: Here's the politician, so oily it's served with a doily. Have one!
    Sweeney Todd: Put it on a bun. Well, you never know if it's going to run!
  • In Tosca, Scarpia cultivates an image of respectability and even piety as a weak disguise for his essentially cruel and tyrannical nature. When he tries to woo Tosca with superficial politeness before presenting her with the Scarpia Ultimatum, she sees through him and contemptuously asks him what the price will be.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • April May in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney who acts cutesy to make the judge sympathize with her. After Phoenix exposes her lies, she has a Villainous Breakdown and becomes more aggressive.
    • April May's boss, Redd White, also qualifies. Mr. White passes himself off as a quirky and jolly, if egotistical, businessman. His penchant for unusual and sometimes wrongly used vocabulary is also played for laughs. Once Phoenix questions him too much though, his true colours are shown and he's revealed to be a vile blackmailer and murderer who enjoys lording his connections over his enemies.
    • Another example would be Morgan Fey, who acts like a supportive relative of Maya and a kind mother to Pearl. In reality, she's jealous of Maya's side of the family and sees Pearl as a tool in her Sibling Rivalry with Misty Fey.
    • And then there are the main antagonists of the third and fourth games, Dahlia Hawthorne and Kristoph Gavin respectively. Both polite and seeming like genuinely nice people; both are also sociopaths.
    • The killer of the first case, Frank Sawhit, acts nice and friendly during his testimony. In Investigations 2, he acts like he's a fully reformed prisoner, but he's actually an accomplice to the real killer and he still has a habit of angrily throwing his toupee at those who question him too much.
    • Quercus Alba from Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth at first glance looks like a meek, kindly old man, and he's considered a Cordophian hero. Later on, you discover that he was playing silly when he throws his façade; also, he tries to escape Miles's prosecution of him with his extraterritorial rights. Ultimately, he's the head of the Allebahstian smuggling ring, and has killed four people note  .
    • Former Chief Prosecutor Blaise Debeste acts silly, cries crocodile tears upon seeing his juniors work hard, and jokes about "bullying" his fellow prosecutors, but he rivals Ga'ran,von Karma and Galvin as one of most corrupt lawyers in the series by using his connections to cover up the assassination of the real President Huang, among other things. He's also not above intimidating and demeaning his son to prevent the latter from testifying against him.
    • There's also Aristotle Means from Dual Destinies, who remains perfectly polite even when accused of the murder. That is, until Athena insults his "ends justifies the means" philosophy, upon which he completley drops the feigned niceness and becomes, well just plain mean. It's nicely foreshadowed earlier, when after Athena insists on defending Juniper in his place, he gives an outwardly polite but highly condescending dismissal of her ideals.
    • From Dual Destinies also comes The Phantom. He's one evil motherfucker, but, in Blackquill's words, he "cannot talk without another man's face", many of which aren't nearly as bad. Thus, both the affability and quirks of whoever he's impersonating and his own ruthlessness and sociopathy mix and come off like this.
    • Roger Retinz from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice initially tries to suck up to Apollo and Athena because they're lawyers, but quickly changes his tune when he realizes that they're defending the person he's trying to frame. His stage personality, Mr. Reus, is polite and entertaining during cross-examination, but he's also willing to kill his biggest fan just to get revenge on the Gramarye family.
    • Queen Ga'ran Sigatar Khura'in from the same game tries to act like a reasonable ruler, a kind mother to Rayfa, and a Well-Intentioned Extremist who believes that executing defense lawyers when they lose is truly the best way to maintain law and order in her nation. The truth is that she's a tyrant who only cares about making it harder for people to oppose her, especially the lawyer that she framed for killing her sister, the previous queen. She's also emotionally abusive to Rayfa when the latter is too distraught to perform a Divination Seance.
  • Monokuma aka Junko Enoshima from the Danganronpa series is a combination of this trope and Laughably Evil. He acts like a cartoonish stuffed bear who's too funny to be taken seriously as a villain, but he's really an Ax-Crazy despair fetishist Evil Overlord who psychologically torments students via a sick killing game, in which he puts on a wisecracking Game Show Host demeanor as he casually slings insulting jokes towards the helpless participants. As Junko, she speaks and behaves like a cute, bubbly Gyaru Girl/Valley Girl, even as she brutally murdered innocent victims and took pleasure in their suffering, started a despair cult that destroyed most of human civilization, and broadcasted the game live as a sadistic Reality TV show, not to mention how she will even backstab her own allies without a second thought.
  • Dennis from Double Homework is falsely polite to the protagonist both in public and in private, but it’s clear that he’s just yanking his chain by feigning politeness.
  • Zouken Matou in Fate/stay night is rotten and evil to the core, but he seems to enjoy putting on false politeness when tormenting or manipulating his victims. This contrasts him with the actually Affably Evil Kirei Kotomine, who genuinely likes the protagonists but also would not hesitate to kill them.
  • The Big Bads of the Grisaia Series are like this:
    • Both Irisu Kiyoka and Sakaki Michiaki in The Fruit of Grisaia. Kiyoka is polite when it comes to conversation but considering the fact that she peppers her dialogue with either death threats or dickish insults along with her actions, it’s clear that she’s nothing but a petty sociopath. Michiaki seems to be a genuinely nice guy with a calm demeanor and reassuring smile, however he is mostly empty in the inside, only caring to further his corporate interests.
    • Heath Oslo in The Labyrinth of Grisaia and The Eden of Grisaia is polite, well dressed and fairly charming, but he's also an internationally wanted terrorist, a pedophile, and performs experiments on children that give them all cancer or cause them to commit suicide. He also has a nasty temper, but he keeps it bottled up at all times, so it's hard to tell when he's angry.
  • Bolt in SC2VN is capable of being respectful when he's on camera, but he's still a jerk.

Alternative Title(s): Evilly Affable

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