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In fiction, it's not uncommon for a given franchise to have a very uneven ratio of male to female characters, particularly when it comes to the Villain of the Week, but even among many franchises with a more even mix, the mix of genders within various character roles may also vary wildly from role to role. For example, a gang of villains might contain several male and several female villains, but where most of the male villains are of the card carrying variety, the female villains are all noble demons who were forced into a life of crime.

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That's where this trope comes in. In franchises that adhere to this trope, female villains will generally fall into one of two categories:

In either case, the essence of this trope is the suggestion that, while male villains can be evil by nature or by choice, such depths of evil are not natural for women, and so, if a female character has truly evil thoughts, a man must be ultimately responsible for putting them there, even if her actions and behavior don't hint at it. Thus, when facing In-Universe justice, she is more likely to receive a less severe fate for the same crimes as a male villain might- assuming she is not just Easily Forgiven and let off completely. Murder-mysteries have a related phenomenon: generally, if the murder victim is a female, she is more likely to be portrayed sympathetically, as an innocent victim who was Too Good for This Sinful Earth; whereas the vast majority of Asshole Victims are male.

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A long-running franchise might occasionally depict a woman who is maliciously evil, or motivated by money, greed, fame, intimidation, jealousy, power, or because they enjoy it. However, they will be extremely few and far between. A good indication that this trope is in force is if you can count the number of leading female villains on the show in the last three years on one hand.

This trope might be related to the "Double Deviance" theory that women are naturally passive/ineffective/"pure" and therefore a female criminal isn't just deviant against society, but against her sex and its "natural" passivity. Here there are two ways to interpret the vicious character of a woman who really is doing bad things because of her own character, not because of the influence of those evil men: You could portray her such that she's still female and innocent, therefore not as bad as a man; or you could also say that she is even worse because men have the excuse of I'm a Man; I Can't Help It while a woman would have to be motivated by her own willpower—and therefore she has a more evil will than most men.

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It's likely that this trope originated in the Victorian Era, when women were considered so delicate and frail that they should be shielded from the world's ills — treated like slightly bigger children, in fact. The flip side of this was that once a woman fell into sin, she was a depraved and godless individual who would think nothing of any crime, no matter how hideous. Then along came writers such as Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens, whose idea of balancing this was by having "fallen" women whose very innocence had made them easy prey for cruel and heartless men. The influence of this wicked man never pierced the pure soul beneath, however, and the sinner would always happily return to the straight and narrow if she could bring herself to accept it.

Needless to say, the idea that women cannot commit crimes, enact violence, inflict abuse, or perpetrate evil acts of their own volition is not Truth in Television. note 

Compare All Abusers Are Male, High-Heel–Face Turn, Men Are the Expendable Gender, The Unfair Sex and Women Are Wiser. Contrast More Deadly Than the Male and Lady Macbeth.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Mai-HiME zigzags this. The series, as a Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction, has very few male characters to begin with; however, at least half of the ones that are there are villains. The cruelest and most manipulative villains are almost all male, while the female villains are almost all Anti Villains.
    • In the Mai-HiME anime continuity, there are plenty of female antagonists like Nao Yuuki, Alyssa Sears, and Shizuru Fujino, but all of them are sympathetic and, to some extent, driven by love; and while there are good-hearted males like Yuuichi Tate and Takumi Tokiha, the three most evil villains (Nagi Homura, Wataru Ishigami, and the Obsidian Lord/Prince) are all male.
    • In the Mai-HiME manga continuity, Natuski's mother Satsuki/Saeko is a major Arc Villain, and a cruel parent, but is still working for a male boss and a secondary threat to the Obsidian Lord; and the Cosmo Beauties are straight-up villains but merely the Obisidan Lord's Co-Dragons who get betrayed by him to show how evil he is.
    • In the Mai-Otome anime continuity, the Big Bads in each series are either male (Grand Duke Nagi, John Smith I) or genderless (Yuna), and they usually send male monsters of the week to fight the heroines. John Smith II, leader of the Schwarz and helper of Nagi who is depicted as equally evil as him, is male as well. All the evil heads of state are male, while the good ones, with the sole exception of King Nguyen, are female. It is true they all have female soldiers, but they are Just Following Orders. The main male in the series is Sergay Wang, who is a father figure of protagonist Arika and Nina, and also The Dragon and completely loyal to his master (until much later). The only 100% good men are the captain of the guard who is the Royal Brat queen's Butt-Monkey, a one-off prince (Takumi), and the Satellite Love Interest of a secondary character (Kazuya). There are a few female antagonists, but almost all of them are shown to actually be good people and are redeemed by the end. There is an exception in Tomoe Marguerite, who is depicted as pure evil and has no redeeming qualities, but she is still ultimately a second apple to Nagi, and she becomes a Karma Houdini, unlike the male villains who are punished for their crimes.
    • Mai-Otome manga continuity:
  • In the Pet Shop of Horrors manga, although there aren't really "villains" per se, the guys who screw up their contracts normally do so out of greed or ambition (the Chinese mob boss who murders a little girl to obtain her tiger, the drifter whose pursuit of success makes a kitten cry) The women screw up out of more sympathetic emotional weakness (a mother who spoils her daughter, a girl who wants her pet bird to be happy).
  • Sailor Moon Zig-Zagged this trope. Both the manga and the original anime had female villains who were just one-dimensional bad guys. However, others were manipulated or misguided and portrayed more sympathetically.
  • Pretty Cure takes this trope and runs with it. The trope description, which states that "a good indication that this trope is in force is if you can count the number of leading female villains on the show in the last three years on one hand", sums up the issue. Despite being a female-led Magical Girl Warrior series, the vast majority of the villains the heroines face are male, while female villains are practically guaranteed to join the heroines and become a PreCure. The Big Bad is almost always male as well, while the few female main villains all adhere to this trope in some way, usually having a tragic backstory and turning out to be a pawn of a male servant, after which they join the heroines:
    • In Yes! Pretty Cure 5, Despariah is technically the main villain, but her male secretary Kawarino is the personal threat to the heroines with all the screentime and is depicted as much more evil, and in the end winds up being the real Big Bad when Desparaiah, of all people, turns good.
    • Similarly, Happiness Charge Pretty Cure has Queen Mirage as the main villain, but she is given a sympathetic backstory involving lost love, and eventually turns good, while her male servant, Deep Mirror/Red, is revealed as the real villain controlling her and given no sympathetic qualities.
    • The Movie Crispy! The Memory of Mille-feuille! has Cook as the villainess, but she is also motivated by love, and turns good in the end, though there is no male villain controlling her, at least.
    • The Movie New Stage 3 has Maamu be the villain, but she is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who only traps children in dreams so her daughter can have friends, and she turns good when her (technically genderless) servant Akumu goes out of control.
    • The Movie Singing With Everyone Miraculous Magic has Solcielle be the villain, but she just wants to resurrect her dead teacher, and she turns good when her male butler Trauuma turns out to be a demon using her.
    • Overall, the only instances that come close to an aversion are the Witch, the villain of one movie (the very first one, in fact) who still serves as a minion of the male Jakku King, and Lady Dyspear of Go! Princess Pretty Cure, who is Made of Evil and more of a force of nature than an actual character.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, Yui enters the Universe of the Four Gods with Miaka, and not returned with Miaka, who goes back looking for her. Yui is attacked by thugs, rescued by Nakago who allows her to believe she was raped, and he convinces her that Miaka had just abandoned her to her fate. Yui doesn't believe him at first, but is convinced that Miaka didn't really come back for her when she sees Miaka and Tamahome (whom Yui also has a feeling for) kissing. This spurs Yui to become the Priestess of Seiryuu and enemy to Miaka.
    • Also in the Eikoden OVA, it's played with. Mayo enters the book, spurns all attempts to get her back home, spreads vicious rumors about Miaka and tries to steal Tamahome away from Miaka. She does that stuff all on her own. But she is motivated by a male demon posing as Suzaku to pray for the destruction of Konan, in order to save herself from a Traumatic C-Section and get to be with Tamahome.
  • In Parasyte, Reiko Tamura is the only important "female" Parasite on the mayor's side, and though The Heavy, she gets more character development than the other villains, because Motherhood Is Superior; she's also the only one who (eventually) chooses not to eat humans. Averted, however, with the Parasite who kills and takes over Shinichi's mom.
  • All the Claymores in Claymore are women because all of the male Claymores would Awaken almost immediately.
  • Zigzagged in Queen's Blade and its nearly all-female cast. Though women in the series can be both good and evil, almost all of the evil ones get at least something approaching a Pet the Dog moment or a Morality Pet. Meanwhile, there are some benevolent male characters, but most of the men are usually faceless outlines and crow-fodder, or evil and lecherous assholes. In particular, Dogura, the only male minion of the Swamp Witch, is also the vilest one by far, being a Dirty Old Man who gets his kicks from torturing women, while the female Big Bad Aldra turns out to be a pawn of the male demon Delmore. On the other hand, the Swamp Witch herself is the Overarching Villain and by far the evilest character in the series, while Delmore is ultimately a pawn of her, and is actually female in both the English version of the original anime and the Unlimited Alternate Continuity.
  • There are two female Espada in Bleach, past and current. note  Apart from Starrk, they're the only nice ones. They're also stronger with only two Espada stronger and Harribel is the last Espada defeated, taken down personally by Aizen. And the two female Espada seem to be the only ones that actually get to live.
  • Overlaps with Designated Villain in Blue Gender. Humans Are the Real Monsters who brought on the Blue with technology and overpopulation, and run Second Earth as a dictatorship, but it's mainly the men (like the intended Big Bad Chairman Victor) who are given this treatment. Women, like Marlene, are innocent victims who have been separated from the goodness of nature. Alicia Whistle does a Face–Heel Turn, but only due to the influence of the male Tony, and the one female member of the High Council, Lu, is also the only one spared and repents along with Su. And in the end, Gaia, the personification of the planet and intended Big Good, is referred to as female.
  • In Silent Möbius, all of the heroes in the AMP are female, and the only visibly female Lucifer Hawk, Rosa Cheyenne, is a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds who is only evil because of persecution by humans; in addition, minor antagonist Anne turned to killing because of her treatment by the researchers who raised her; and both of them redeem themselves before they die. When Katsumi does a Face–Heel Turn later on, it is only because she lost her boyfriend, and she turns back to the side of good by the end. Meanwhile, all the Lucifer Hawks besides Rosa appear to be male and are not given any characterization beyond generic Monster of the Week stuff, and the male Ganossa Maximilian is the Big Bad, a total Hate Sink, and the one who manipulated Rosa and Katsumi into joining him in the first place.
  • Every female villain in Speed Grapher is given a sympathetic backstory to explain their reasons for joining the Roppongi Club. Kaoru Koganei is addicted to diamonds, and is shown to have truly loved her late husband, but the cutthroat world convinced her that love is about material things. Miharu Shirumaku was abused and almost killed as a child (admittedly, by her Stage Mom). Kikukawa, despite being a higher-up of the club, is never shown doing anything evil (or much of anything) and ends up happily marrying Niihari. Most egregiously are Hibari Ginza and Shinzen Tennouzu; the former, though not a member of the club, is nevertheless a violent Cowboy Cop who sells out Kagura to the club and outright rapes Saiga while he’s unconscious, yet she is supposed to be pitiable and sympathetic, while the latter is the Big Bad and an abusive Evil Matriarch to Kagura, yet is treated as sympathetic because she was a failed actress who was abandoned by her husband while she was pregnant, and is losing her looks, abusing Kagura out of jealously- and she isn't the real Big Bad, but a pawn of her lover, the male Suitengu (who himself is portrayed sympathetically). Meanwhile, all the male Euphorics and politicians (except Suitengu and his Terrible Trio) are straight villains, and the worst, most evil Euphorics are all men, especially Prime Minister Kamiya, who is the root of Japan’s corruption.
  • Cross Ange, being an Ecchi show, has mostly female characters (including The Heroine Ange), all of whom are portrayed either heroically or sympathetically. Meanwhile, there are a grand total of three male characters, and only one (Tusk, the Love Interest) is good. The other two, Julio and Embryo, are the pure evil beings who are solely meant to be hated, and pretty much every female villain/antagonist is shown to be a victim of their machinations. Hilda merely wants to reunite with her mother after Julio's men separated them, and her two flunkies follow her out of love; Ersha, Chris and Salia make a Face–Heel Turn only because Embryo charms them; Zola and Jill, the former of whom rapes Ange and the latter of whom tries to sacrifice allies to win the war, are both simply "doing what they need" to get revenge on Embryo; the female DRAGONs were only fighting to rescue their mother from Embryo; Liza was a Well-Intentioned Extremist trying to accomplish the mission of her fellow DRAGONs; and even Sylvia, the Decoy Damsel who betrays Ange, tries to have her executed, tortures Liza in her spare time, and is hateful towards Norma, does so only because Julio and Embryo told her to and have convinced her that it is the right thing. By the end, with the exception of Zola who was killed, all of them have made a Heel–Face Turn, while Julio and Embryo die unmourned. This even extends to Super Robot Wars V, where Embryo is the direct mastermind behind all the crossover events and is depicted as pure evil (with Embryo attempting Gratuitous Rape of all the heroines), while the female System Nevanlinna is depicted as a Well-Intentioned Extremist at worst (who even has a My God, What Have I Done? moment).
  • Not only are all the heroes in Sound of the Sky, the 1121st Platoon, female, in addition to a lot of the good soldiers, but the infamous Witch of Helvetica, who is known for having destroyed three cities and killed all the people in them by unleashing the “Invisible Reaper” biological weapon, was manipulated into doing so by a man and is forgiven and accepted as Noel, a member of the platoon. Meanwhile, the man who tricked her, Colonel Hopkins, is the Big Bad and a generic warmonger with no redeeming qualities, while his evil Mooks are all male.
  • The later parts of Bee Train's Girls with Guns trilogy adhere to this.
  • In Blood+, the Big Bad, Diva, is a Psychopathic Womanchild who kills tons of innocent people and, most infamously, rapes and kills Riku, a thirteen year old boy. Yet despite this, she is treated as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, and everything she did is blamed on the evil men who used her as a lab rat, especially Amshel Goldsmith, who is not only presented as more evil than her but turns out to be the real villain who twisted her to become who she is. When The Heroine Saya finally defeats Diva and kills her, she cries for her and feels immense sympathy for her tragic past, even after she raped and killed Riku, Saya's own adoptive brother, while Amshel gets no such backstory to justify his actions and zero pity from Saya.
  • Tokyo ESP: Of the two ARES executives, Claudia Kuroi is a cruel Evil Matriarch who kills her husbands, abandons her daughter, and goes so far as to torture one of them while getting off on it, and tries to kill tons of innocent people. Despite this, the ending paints her as a tragic woman who just wanted a family (even though she pushed away her family in the first place). Meanwhile, Hephaistos, the Machine Duke and her fellow executive, appears to be a little girl but is actually an evil Dirty Old Man with no such sympathetic moments.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin ran for five decades, and in that time Tintin only met one female villain, who was aiding her husband (and both were quite insignificant even in the book they were in). Of course, Tintin has almost no female characters to begin with.
    • The movies added another female villain, who merely spied on the heroes for the Big Bad.
  • Of the most famous Batman villainesses, Catwoman varies between being an Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain (and her villainy in Batman Returns is caused by an evil man trying to kill her), Harley Quinn is a sympathetic abuse victim of a far more evil man, Talia al Ghul was reared by an evil father and is noticeably more sympathetic than him. Poison Ivy was less sympathetic but even her origin story has her being experimented on by an evil man, and in recent years even she has gotten the Anti-Hero treatment.
  • Judge Dredd does this in a couple of ways. There have been all manner of criminals across a whole spectrum of sympatheticness, but only four major villains have been women. Of these, only half were truly evil: the Sisters of Death, creators of the Dark Judges, were bloodthirsty psychopaths; Judge Bachmann, who tried to overthrow Chief Judge Hershey, just wanted power; the others were Judge Edgar, who was a knight templar, and America Jara, a hero antagonist with a tragic backstory. Within Justice Department, there is a tendency for women to be more sympathetic and kind as foils to Dredd himself, most notably Anderson, Hershey, and more recently Beeny.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Zigzagged in the Saw film series. The only "original" villains are John Kramer and Hoffman, who are both male. The only woman who can seriously be counted as a villain is Amanda Young, who only became John Kramer's apprentice because she was "rehabilitated" by him and sincerely believed that the experience "helped" her. On the other hand, many of the female victims were Jerkasses including a thief, a loan shark, a woman who pimped out younger girls, and several con artists.
  • The Bourne Series enthusiastically embraces this trope. To date no female character has been portrayed as truly villainous; at worst they are simply misled by evil male superiors about the true nature of Bourne and Treadstone.
  • In Flatliners, medical students putting themselves through Near Death Experiences to try and glimpse the afterlife are tormented by the vengeful spirits of the people they have wronged in their lives; they can only stop them by Crossing the Burnt Bridge. All the men in the group have to deal with some pretty serious sins, while the only woman in the group's only sin is having a veteran drug addict father who committed suicide out of shame when she as a little girl walked in on him hitting up, through no fault of her own. In the original script, her character actually had an affair with her college professor; when she was caught out, she villainised him and claimed he was sexually abusing her.
  • The Baroness's film incarnation's sins in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra are apparently all attributable to brainwashing.
  • V for Vendetta features a long series of definitely awful male villains for whom V has no sympathy at all, plus one completely repentant female minion whom he treats almost tenderly.
    • However, the original work does feature the power-hungry, treacherous, manipulative, heartless and completely rotten to the core Helen Heyer, Conrad Heyer's horrible wife, whose goal is taking over Norsefire as the power behind the throne by using her husband as a puppet. She's presented as a serious threat on her own, so much so that V himself feels he needs to put her out of commission for good, lest his own plans be ruined. And while he doesn't kill her, he eventually has her reduced to a homeless street hooker. which is quite the humiliation for a former Rich Bitch Socialite. But the trope is still in play since she's presented as being unnaturally evil compared to all the other evil men around her and, without these men, she's nothing.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • Of all the traitors in Gordon's unit in The Dark Knight, the only one with a sympathetic motive is Anna Ramirez who was on the take because she needed money for her mother's hospital bills, and she is the one who lucks out and survives Two-Face's judgement.
    • Played straight again in The Dark Knight Rises with Selina Kyle, but averted with Talia. Selina royally screws Bruce Wayne out of his wealth and throws him to the wolves, yet he forgives her. Talia tried to nuke Gotham City, and he wound up inadvertently killing her.
  • Subverted in Escape From Planet Earth—the female villain, Lena, is manipulated by her fiancée Shanker, and the movie seems to set her up for a High-Heel–Face Turn. When push comes to shove, though, she refuses (either refusing to believing that Shanker is tricking her or just planning to take over the galaxy without him), and Kira stops trying to help her and takes her down instead.
  • Inverted in Basic Instinct. All female characters in the film are either sociopathic, homicidal, manipulative, obsessed, or some combinations of the above. There are no truly evil male characters, while the protagonist is duped by the main villainess depite his better judgment.
  • Noah is set in a world where humanity has grown so thoroughly wicked that God has decided to destroy it all and start over. Noah himself witnesses the cruelty of humanity, and comes to believe that all humans are too evil to be redeemed. However, all the atrocities seen in the film are committed by men, while women are present only as victims of massacre or rape. Additionally, when Noah cites his family's own sins as proof that they too are evil, the worst he can come up for the women is that they would do anything to protect their children.
  • Act of Valor sets up a group of suicide bombers intending to sneak into the United States. Out of 14 men and three women, the men are casually shot down while the women are given lingering closeups and scenes of themselves looking regretful, including one's tragic backstory of wanting to reunite with her husband.
  • Maleficent plays this straight. The Villain Protagonist is revealed to be evil because the king cut off her wings and on top of that, she's reformed by Aurora and forgiven for all of her crimes. She also rarely actually kills anyone, and her curse on Aurora is just a sleeping one instead of death.
    • Averted in the sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. While Maleficent herself remains heroic, her adversary is the evil queen Ingrith, who is vicious unlike her charitable son and husband. She claims to have a Freudian Excuse of her brother being killed by a fae like Maleficent, but nobody takes that seriously. She’s also accompanied by a female Dragon, who takes glee in attacking the woodland heroes.
  • Played straight in Blackk Klansman with the KKK terrorist lady, who is implied to only be a racist bitch because her husband has convinced her they'll be happier when all the black people are dead. In reality of course, many women were active instigators of racist violence: sometimes for no other reason than they were bored teenagers.

    Literature 
  • The Trope Codifier would probably be Sherlock Holmes, who never brought any woman to justice. He would always either allow her to escape or make sure no charges were filed against her. He would also come up with sometimes ludicrous explanations on why it was not her fault, like something must have hit her hand, causing the load stone of a structure to collapse, killing her ex-fiancé and she just took the money because she might be pregnant. This courtesy was sometimes extended to men if they had a female accomplice.
  • Jo speaks against this trope in Little Women where the men in the boarding house are discussing whether women should receive the vote. One of the men invokes this trope in favor of giving women the vote, while Jo says that women should not vote "because they are angels" but because it is their right as human beings.
  • In Oliver Twist, most of the women are wholesome, decent people (special mention goes to The Ingenue Rose), save for Nancy, who is a Love Martyr for Bill Sykes, someone who is less than pleasant.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: The only reason the Kthonian knights want to wipe out all the men in the world is because they were horrifically abused by men and so they think all of them are evil. Even Ktonia herself fits this trope; Jihadain, her daughter, attacks Daniar, Kalak's wife, and is killed by him for it. Ktonia watches this happen and thinks everything is Kalak's fault.
  • This is constantly used as an argument as to why women need to be shielded from the vices of the world in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Helen vehemently argues against this idea, knowing from experience that keeping women innocent will only set them up for future problems.
  • There are no male Confessors in Sword of Truth because they would inevitably abuse their powers. Male babies a confessor bears are killed shortly after birth.
  • In Masks of Aygrima, The Lady of Pain and Fire, though seemingly an ally of The Heroine Mara, is a Manipulative Bitch who plots to take over Aygrima, and to that end kills hundreds of innocent people and Mara's boyfriend Keitan. Yet despite this, she is treated as a victim of the Autarch, the male Big Bad who killed her father, and he is depicted as much worse than her despite both using essentially the same tactics.
  • In Warrior Cats, villains are almost always male:
    • This trope is really present in The Prophecies Begin arc, in which nameless bad guy cats are always, or almost always, toms. The named villains are also overwhelmingly male. Tigerstar and Scourge are the main villains of series one, and both of their chief henchcats, Darkstripe and Bone respectively, are toms as well, as is Brokenstar, the villain of early series one. Blackfoot, who later becomes Blackstar, is at his most villainous in this arc as well.
    • In The New Prophecy the villain is Hawkfrost, and also Mudclaw, who plots to overtake WindClan. Sharptooth, the cougar who preys on the Tribe, is also male, although not really a character so much as a monster.
    • The Power of Three has Sol, who wants to destroy the Clans, and Ashfur, who tries to murder three of his Clanmates. The closest thing to a female villain in this arc is Hollyleaf, who kills Ashfur. Of the Tribe invaders, half are toms and half she-cats.
    • In Omen of the Stars, most of the villains reused from previous series are male, although some female villains finally get introduced. Mapleshade is the biggest female villain, and introduced in this series (after fans pointed out that most villains so far were dark brown tabby toms). Also appearing in the Dark Forest is the minor female character Sparrowfeather. Ivypool may also qualify, before she realizes that the Dark Forest wants to destroy the Clans.
    • Dawn of the Clans has the male cats Clear Sky and later One-Eye as chief villains, but also the she-cat Star Flower, although she later undergoes a Face–Heel Turn.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Coronation Street: Any male character that isn't a gormless twat or a henpecked husband, or has any type of backbone, is some kind of villain, be it a wife beater, serial killer, con artist, womanizer or just your average Jerkass. In affair storylines, the woman will almost always be the sympathetic one.
  • Doctor Who ran for a quarter century and had a large number of Big Bads, yet in that time period only about 10 were women, and only one or two of them appeared in the show's first 15 seasons. The revival series is starting to subvert it with more frequent female villains.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is an interesting case as they have had enough bad women that you would think that it is not the case. However, they continually subscribe to this theory, and look for anything that will get a woman who attacked a man off for her actions.
  • In Terra Nova, It turns out that the female sixer leader Mira is working for associates of Lucas Taylor, and has more or less been coerced into the role in much the same way as another female "villain", sixer spy Skye Tate. Lucas Taylor, on the other hand, causes trouble for the colony largely out of a sense of Disproportionate Retribution for his father's decision years earlier that led to his mother's death, and the associates are doing it out of pure greed.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Marla McGivers of the episode "Space Seed" is perhaps the prototypical example of this. The episode's writers clearly want us to see her as a weak, innocent victim of Khan and maybe the audiences of 1967 saw her that way. To modern audiences, however, she often comes off as more of a Dirty Coward.
    • Dr. Janice Lester of "Turnabout Intruder" is a power-hungry psycho who, among other things, murders her entire research party and shows no sign of remorse for it. She should be considered a serious criminal, but the episode ends with the main characters regarding her with condescending pity. Granted, she's clearly mentally ill, so she could be legitimately pitied for that. However, the pity expressed for her was definitely more along the lines of, "Poor silly girl got too uppity."
  • This trend isn't rare in traditional sitcoms utilizing a Women Are Wiser dynamic. Even when it is time for the more rational female character to act Not So Above It All it will still often be heavily provoked by their more bumbling male costar's stupidity or arrogance.
  • In the pilot of Supernatural, Sam tries to explain the actions of the woman in white by saying the woman was temporarily insane because of her husband's infidelity when she killed her children.
  • Averted in Investigation Discovery series Deadly Women. As the title suggests, the show is all about female killers who usually have no sympathetic or justifiable motivation for their crimes.
  • Bones averts this with the The Reveal of Heather Taffet as the Gravedigger.
  • Callisto from Xena: Warrior Princess is an aversion. She became a warlady because she believed Xena killed her parents.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Females playing this straight include Regina - who was once kind and good but was purposefully corrupted to become the Evil Queen by Rumpelstiltskin, and eventually undergoes a Heel–Face Turn. Her sister Zelena followed suit as the show went on. Additionally Ursula the Sea Witch was once good but became evil after years of abuse from her father, and Captain Hook stealing her voice was the last straw. She too gets redeemed. Ingrid the Snow Queen is a borderline case as although she had a sympathetic backstory, she was still presented as evil. She likewise got Redemption Equals Death. Cora, Regina and Zelena's mother, was horrifically evil in life, and yet died a tragic death and ended up finding redemption in the Underworld later on.
    • Completely avoided with Cruella - who is shown to have been rotten to the core ever since childhood, the Black Fairy who is considered the Ultimate Evil despite her sympathetic traits, and Mother Gothel, whose tragic backstory is not used to justify her evil (especially given how long ago it transpired), and she is ultimately proven to be too far gone for any sort of redemption and thus Killed Off for Real in the end.
    • The spin-off Once Upon a Time in Wonderland plays it very straight. There are two female villains - Anastasia and Amara. Both have sympathetic reasons for their evil deeds and both get redeemed. This is in contrast to Jafar, who is shown as irredeemably evil. Likewise, the Jabberwocky switches sides and attempts a Heel–Face Turn (that doesn't happen due to getting sealed away again). Also, Alice's stepmother is presented as something of an antagonist but appears to be redeemed by the finale.
  • Played straight in Hanna in sharp contrast to the original film. Originally, CIA operative Marissa Wiegler was the pure evil Big Bad, committing evil actions in pursuit of the title heroine and running a horrifying Tyke-Bomb project. In the series, she is portrayed much more sympathetically and is not even the real villain anymore, instead working for male villain Jerome Sawyer, and all her atrocities and original sociopathic personality are given to him instead.
  • In Mr. Robot, Corrupt Bueraucrat Whiterose/Zhi Zhang, the Big Bad, is initially depicted as a psychopath who is willing to kill thousands, but in season 4, she is revealed as being motivated by the love of her boyfriend Chen and the intolerance of the world towards transgender and LGBT+ individuals like her. By contrast, Fernando Vera, who becomes a major villain in that season, is depicted as pure evil, and his much worse Freudian Excuse, being sexually abused in childhood, is not treated sympathetically at all since its invalidated by him being a rapist as well.
  • In 13 Reasons Why, not only is Hannah Baker portrayed as a blameless victim who was Driven to Suicide by bullying and sexual harassment, even though she repeatedly makes idiotic decisions and pushes people away from her (like Clay and Mr. Porter) for no good reason, but of the 13 people she blames on her tapes for her suicide, the women are treated as less at fault than the men:
    • Jessica slapped Hannah and ended their friendship over a misunderstanding, Sheri merely knocked down a stop sign while driving drunk and may have killed Jeff as a result, by complete accident, and even Courtney was only trying to protect herself from homophobia. Courtney and Jessica get fully redeemed in Season 2, but then again, so do Alex, Justin and Zach.
    • By contrast, not only are most of the offenders men, but they are given far less sympathy- Justin took a naughty picture of Hannah that got spread around and left Jessica to be raped, Alex added her to a “hot-or-not” list, Tyler was a creep who secretly took pictures of her and almost shoots up the school in the season 2 finale, Zach steals kind notes from her classmates and is blamed for not leaving Hannah alone even though he was just trying to console her, Ryan published a poem she had without her consent, Mr Porter is blamed for not properly consoling her even though she was being extremely vague and unhelpful, and Clay was told by her to leave before she got mad at him for not staying.
    • The three worst offenders, and the primary “villains” of the show, are all male; Marcus, who nearly sexually assaulted Hannah and only cares about protecting his reputation; Bryce, who did rape her and is depicted as the worst of the worst; and Monty, who protects Bryce and is an Ax-Crazy Jerk Jock.
    • Season 2 did have the litigator on Hannah's trial be female - and devote her time to trying to destroy Hannah's reputation and paint her as a lying, manipulative slut. Not once was she given a justification for her behaviour, and in the 'Me Too' inspired sequence of female characters confessing their abuse she is not included. But the series has never had an outright female 'villain'.

    Music 
  • In the song "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels", the lyrics state "From the start most every heart that's ever been broken/has because there always was a man to blame". It was written as a response song to "The Wild Side of Life", a song about a man who's fiancee left him for a man she met at a roadhouse
  • The song "Daughters" by John Mayer is about a man who is rejected by a girl and so admonishes fathers to treat their daughters well because it will influence how she falls in love later in life - as if the only reason she could have rejected him is because her father was cold or abusive. Becomes a Double Standard in the bridge, which states you can "break" boys and they'll be fine, but don't you dare even raise your voice to a girl or she might turn someone down one day.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Modern versions of King Arthur legend seem to follow this trope very much. Most of the important female villains in Merlin have sympathetic backstories and are Well-Intentioned Extremist types; Morgana gets several Being Evil Sucks scenes. Likewise, in Camelot, Morgan gets a rather more sympathetic treatment than King Uther who is just a brutal warlord.
    • Debatable as Merlin goes on; not only is there an overwhelming number of evil magical women on the show (compared to good magical men), but the likes of Morgana and Morgause are portrayed as consistently more one-dimensional, whilst King Uther grows considerably more sympathetic.
  • Classical Mythology averts this quite a bit.
    • Apate is the goddess of deceit who helped kill a mortal princess on another goddess' orders.
    • Kakia is the goddess of vice and immorality who tried to tempt Hercules away from his heroic path.
    • Nemesis is the goddess of retribution who exists solely to punish those who succumb to hubris.
    • Eris is the goddess of chaos and she started the Trojan War just because she wasn't invited to a wedding.
    • Keres are goddesses of death who search the battlefield for wounded and dying men they can feed upon.
    • The myth of Pandora is basically an illustration as to how the greeks viewed women as evil incarnate.
  • In Norse Mythology the "evil" female figures are almost always less evil than the men on their side. Hel is the least dangerous of Loki's offspring, and the female giants are always innocent. The only exception might be the giantess that didn't weep for Baldr (which would make her contextually the most evil and miserable character in the myths), which was most likely a shape-shifted Loki anyways.

    Video Games 
  • In the Yakuza games, the only female enemy is an optional encounter in the first game.
  • The female antagonists in Dragon Age: Origins follow this trope. Even among the demons, the female "Broodmothers" are ultimately seen as victims, abducted, raped and transformed into Mook Makers. Much the same holds true for many male Darkspawn, but excepting one instance in the Dalish Elf origin, this isn't stressed as much.
    • Subverted with Anora. Among all the possible candidates for the throne, she is presented as a Reasonable Authority Figure unless she betrays the warden to Ser Cauthrien or suspects she won't get her way at the Landsmeet. Of course, shrewd doesn't equal innocent.
    • Flemmeth can be this depending on who's story you believe. If you believe Lelianna's story, she started out a winsome young bride who escaped an arranged marriage to be with her one true love. If you believe Morrigan's story, she was a shrewd dealer who got screwed over and did what she had to do to survive.
  • Valkyria Chronicles Selvaria's body count is in the hundreds of thousands, but it's made very clear that all the bad things she does are Maximilian's fault. All the other generals under him are male; the only one who isn't portrayed as utterly evil is Jaeger, and even he's at least responsible for the actions he takes under duress. Selvaria is presented as a tragic character who, despite being by and large the most powerful being in the game, is doomed by Maximilian's mishandling of her; this is reinforced in her DLC mission, where all she wants to do to thank one of her subordinates is cook a meal for him.
  • In the latest Fire Emblem games, truly villainous female bosses have become very rare and are usually depicted as an abused pawn of the real male villain. Women Mooks are also nearly never seen, but that's another trope.
    • Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem: Both of the female villains in the remake's subplot are depicted as tragic pawns of the male villain, the teenager Clarisse being raised from birth as an assassin and the adult woman, who raised her, Eremiya being magically corrupted by a male villain. Both get tragic cutscenes on their deathbed. Conversely, the male assassins, Legion, die with much less fanfare despite having the same Freudian Excuse as Clarisse.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening seems to only have one truly evil woman throughout the game, with any other women merely being antagonists and/or mooks. But if you receive the SpotPass chapters you suddenly find out that she was mind controlled for the entire game, she then joins your team. To compare, King Gangrel was a genuinely messed up individual, with a long list of atrocities to his name; he joins too, but he actually has to bear responsibility for his actions, instead of shifting the blame to someone else. In the Japanese version, Sissy Villain Excellus is depicted as a Trans woman, but this is an an example of Acceptable Targets.
    • Fire Emblem Fates has Arete's death played for tragedy, complete with a Dying as Yourself moment as she Came Back Wrong by a male dragon. Her similarly possessed husband, Garon, simply dies without any moment with his children, despite it being shown in Birthright's endgame that he still remembers his children.
    • Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, the Remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, unlike the original, emphasizes that all the female witch enemies were sacrificed against their will by wicked men, causing an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole about the existence of independent witches acting as bandits. The female boss, Nuibaba, in addition to being giving the Adaptational Attractiveness treatment, gets a backstory in supplementary sources about how she was Forced into Evil because the man she loved abused and betrayed her. None of the male bosses or enemies get such backstories.
    • Double Subverted in Fire Emblem Heroes. The Big Bad, for a change, is a princess, Veronica. However it’s made clear from the start that she is a tragic character, and it is implied that she’s being manipulated by a voice that’s telling her to kill. Eventually she starts working with Loki, who herself is working under the King Surtr, who mistreats his daughters (both of whom are portrayed sympathetically), betrays Veronica, and turns out to be the biggest threat.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you would think that with the main trio of Lords presented in the game, Edelgard, the only female of the three, is more heroic than Dimitri or Claude. Edelgard is pretty much one of the instigators of the chaos engulfing Fodlan on her own volition, albeit for the sake of creating a better world that is free of the Crest system, and Edelgard was shaped by her horrific past caused by her power hungry uncles and other male nobles.
  • The first official translation for Final Fantasy VI describes Defector from Decadence Celes Chere as having "a spirit as pure as snow" even though her in-universe claim to fame is being the war criminal who burned a city. Celes is a good person (being as she joins the party out of distaste for Kefka's even worse tactics) but the retranslation's character blurb does not repeat the odd assertion that she somehow had Incorruptible Pure Pureness while committing atrocities for The Empire.
  • Starting from the third entry onward, the Persona series started to adopt this mindset with its villains. While male villains often are pretty vile or extreme with few exceptions, the female ones are treated either as tragic characters who end up villains due to circumstances beyond their control, or as in the case with Izanami, ultimately well-intentioned but misguided.
    • The fifth game has a large variety of minor antagonists with all manner of crimes to their names, whom the protagonists reform by stealing their hearts. These people include members of both genders, but not only are two of the more sympathetic targets female- Futabanote  and Sae Niijimanote - but while many of the other females you target are terrible people, they aren't nearly as monstrous as the worst of the males.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog, female Big Bads are few and far between, even when Dr. Eggman is being usurped from his usual position by various eldritch monsters or other more "normal" villains. The most noticeable one, Merlina from Sonic and the Black Knight, also has the honor of being an Anti-Villain and a Well-Intentioned Extremist, something almost no other villain can claim to be.
  • The original Gears of War averted this with Queen Myrrah, the Big Bad who was pure evil. Then Gears Of War 5 gives her a Belated Backstory that fully exemplifies this trope, pretty much blaming all her actions (and the actions of the New Queen Reyna) on the male Niles Sampson, who abused both of them until they went insane.
  • Pokémon has few female villains that aren't minions of the Big Bad, and the first female Big Bad, Lusamine from Pokémon Sun and Moon, has a Freudian Excuse, an offscreen Heel–Face Turn, and is Easily Forgiven even when her crimes surpassed the male Anti Villains Archie and Maxie. Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon took this even further, as Lusamine is less evil and is usurped as main villain by Necrozma, is more clearly forgiven and understands her mistakes, and is kidnapped by Diabolical Mastermind Giovanni and needs to be rescued in the Rainbow Rocket episode.
  • Honkai Impact 3rd: While the heroes are all female, the Big Bad currently in control of Schicksal is the son of the Grand Overseer, Otto Apocalypse. Pretty much all the Herrschers, only one of whom is male, are shown to have become evil from the experiments done by the Grand Overseer and male scientists of Schicksal, in addition to being controlled by the genderless Honkai God, while every other female villain has at least one redeeming quality.
  • Senran Kagura, being a Panty Fighter, has a largely female cast anyway, but the series gives a Freudian Excuse to explain why each of the antagonist girls became villainous or antagonistic, and they are all Anti Villains at worst. Even Orochi and the other yoma are made of the suffering spirits of female shinobi. By contrast, the Big Bad for much of the series, and the only major villain who is meant to be hated without being given any kind of justification for his actions, is the male Dogen, who is just a self-centered, wannabe world conqueror with no redeeming qualities. And by the end of the series, all the “evil” girls team up with the heroines in a Enemy Mine situation against him. This also extends to the girls’ backstories, as many of them involve being victimized by men (Ikaruga by her brother Murasame, Homura by her mentor Komichi, Haruka indirectly by her father) who, with the eventual exception of Murasame, are also not given any characterization beyond one-dimensional abusers, and aside from that, Ikaruga and Haruka’s fathers are shown to be terrible, greedy people.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Subverted in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations. At first, Dahlia's tendencies date back to being neglected as a child. But not only was she horrible even as a child (sending her twin sister Iris to a monastery just so she can be center of attention) but her issues go back to the turmoil within the women of the Fey Clan. And the abuser was her mother.
    • The series in general plays with this, as while most female murderers are just as petty and greedy as the male murderers, they are much, much less common than the male ones, at a ratio of roughly 4 or 5 to 1. Of those relative few, only 2 are the Big Bad in their game. And Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies has no female culprits as well as more female defendants wrongly accused, although it is the only game in the series to do so.
  • Subverted in Sunrider. The heroes, the crew of the titular ship, are all female with the exception of Kayto. Meanwhile, the Big Bad is the masked dictator Veniczar Arcadius, and the local Evil Empire, PACT, has two other leaders/Veniczars, both of whom are male. The sole female among Arcadius’ cohorts isn’t even an official leader, but a space pirate hired by PACT. She’s also the most sympathetic, as her backstory involves her being born on a nigh-inhospitable planet and forced to drink dirty water just to live. She comes across as a prime candidate for a High-Heel–Face Turn, but she has to be forced into one. Veniczar Kuushana, the official female Veniczar, eventually left PACT due to being disgusted with Arcadius’ actions. And the Greater-Scope Villain (Crow Harbor) is a male. However, this is turned on it’s head by The Reveal that Arcadius is a woman by the name of Alice Ashada, and the commander of an all-female Hive Mind known as the Prototypes. The Hive Queen is also a girl, called Alpha. Finally, working with the Prototypes is Claude, the female doctor of the Sunrider; she is actually a powerful Jerkass God who’s primary motivation is amusement. Add in Lynn, Chigara’s manipulative Evil Twin, and the female villains actually outnumber the male ones.
  • Rose Guns Days has not a single female villain among its extensive cast of both males and females. All the villains are male, while the only antagonistic woman, Amanda, is revealed to be Good All Along. It’s rather odd since Ryukishi07’s other two works are known for their Cute and Psycho female villains.
  • Akai Ito and Aoi Shiro are Girls' Love visual novels so most of the characters are female, yet none of them are true villains while the Big Bad in each is male. The former has female Creepy Twins Nozomi and Mikage, but they are both pawns working for the male Big Bad Nishi. KEI-kun, the only other major male character, gets possessed by Nishi. In the latter, the only major male character is the Big Bad Ba Rouryuu.
  • In Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, while the mastermind behind the murder plot is a girl(who's also the first victim), most of the males are less sympathetic than the females. Hiro is an arrogant Jerkass who doesn't even treat his own girlfriend Momoko well, and his womanizing ways end up driving her to murder. Kotoba is a notorious pervert that only his best friend Taiko can stand, and when it turns out that he not only was manipulated into becoming Momoko's accomplice, but had also been stalking her, Taiko can't defend him anymore. Even Taiko, despite usually being a Nice Guy, becomes somewhat more hostile and quick to point fingers after Kotoba dies or is badly burned. As for the girls, even Kamen, the biggest jerk out of all of them, as well as the prime suspect for the murder, becomes a much more sympathetic character once her backstory is revealed at the end, and even Momoko, the murderer, is ultimately a tragic figure.

    Western Animation 
  • Inverted in Ed, Edd n Eddy where out of the five female characters in the Minimalist Cast, only one is a consistent Nice Girl while out of the seven males, four get the consistent Nice Guy treatment.
    • The three Kanker Sisters are almost Always Chaotic Evil in their portrayals, being bullies to the kids and each other, alongside their consistent sexual harassment of the Eds. Sarah is a spoiled Bratty Half-Pint that terrorizes her brother, knowing her mother favors her over Ed, and attacks the Eds even when they haven't done anything wrong. By contrast, only Nazz is sympathetic in her motives and actions.
    • As for the males, Ed and Edd are examples of Dumb Is Good and Token Good Teammate, their questionable actions never exceeding Eddy's and only done via his influence. Jonny too falls under Dumb Is Good and tries to be a superhero at one point to protect the kids from the Eds' scams, but even then can get along with the Eds with the situation calls for it. Rolf meanwhile tries to be civil to the Eds, his negative moments only arising when people intentionally or unintentionally insult him and his culture. By contrast, Eddy and Kevin are The Napoleon and Jerk Jock. Even then, Eddy doesn't always go out of his way to harm others, and his influences are the result of his Big Brother Bully. Kevin also isn't entirely unjustified whenever he attacks unprovoked, given that Eddy is generally always trying to scam him, with it being hinted that he'd get along fine with Edd if he ditched his leader. Jimmy fluctuates between innocent and potentially eviler than Eddy depending on the situation, using his reputation to get what he wants.
      • However, the most irredeemable character on the show is likey Eddy's Brother who is a major tyrant and Big Brother Bully that is responsible for Eddy's worse behaviour. Even then he may still only share his spot with the Kankers given that the Kankers don't seem to have actually learned their lesson that sexual harassment is wrong by the end of the movie.
  • In "The Most Dangerous Game Show", the third-to-last episode of Ben 10: Omniverse, almost the entirety of the females in Ben's Rogues Gallery help save him when he's in a pinch as a way to return the favor of him helping them. It's highly unlikely many of the male villains would have done the same.
  • Family Guy sometimes invokes this when it comes to Lois' flawed behavior. A lot of her more self righteous or aggressive bouts are shown to be provoked by Peter's selfish or obnoxious antics, even if many of her reactions are disproportionate. Later episodes just skip the formalities and just make Lois an even bigger Jerkass than Peter, even if her losing it as a result of his behavior isn't that unlikely.
  • The Karate Kid, "Homecoming": Tina helps her jerk boyfriend Brick steal the shrine, but she clearly doesn't like doing it and tries to keep him from hurting Daniel in the process.
  • Frequently played with or subverted in Justice League:
    • In the first episode, while watching a riot that resulted from the alien invasion, Wonder Woman remarks on how savage "man's world" is (comparing it to her all-female home of Themyscira). J'onn immediately tells her not to judge them so harshly because "they're scared", and points out that amid the rioting an equal number of people are rushing to the help of others and digging victims from the rubble.
    • Subverted with Tala, who longed for affection, would obsessively cling to whichever man was in charge, and obediently follow his orders. She gets no sympathy from anyone: she's depicted as pathetic more than anything, it's made quite clear she's a bad person regardless, and she ends up shackled into Lex Luthor's machine and brutally electrocuted to death.

    Other 
  • The infamy of one Lizzie Borden is largely due to this trope. In 1892, this trope was widely accepted and thus the public was shocked by the very idea of an upper-class lady committing such a violent crime against her own parents. This helped in securing her acquittal, despite a firm case for her guilt, while even feminist groups of the time backed Borden through disbelief that a women was capable of such brutal murders.
  • Male betta fish are very territorial and will not hesitate to attack another male betta (and other showy fish, such as male guppies) that's placed in their tank. But what a lot of people don't realize is that although it's certainly possible to keep female bettas together, it's very difficult because they too are territorial (remember, bettas are not schooling fish). The first week is often the worst, as they fight to figure out a pecking order. Some can't even handle being with other fish and need to be kept separate, just like males. If you want to attempt a sorority tank, it's best to have a large tank, with lots of plants and other places for the fish to escape to.
  • This trope is a reason why female suicide bombers tend to gain particular notoriety. They can bypass security more easier, dress themselves in a way to conceal their equipment and many are hesitant to perform body searches, making them Beneath Suspicion. Female suicide bombers are also statistically shown to receive more coverage and sympathy than their male counterparts, as well as being used by the group associated with them to highlight that the Godzilla Threshold has been crossed and now even the women have to fight. There have even been pregnant suicide bombers, taking this Up to Eleven, since few people could imagine such a thing.

Alternative Title(s): Women Are Pure

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