You have a character who acts poorly. A parent who's harsh to their child, or a jerk/villain who does bad things. They do so presumably because of a harsh upbringing. But when brought up or called out on it? They'll think it didn't hurt them, that Misery Builds Character and not realize the harshness they went through.
This trope usually applies to a harsh or abusive parent in terms of how they treat their kid. Maybe they grew up in a time where their harshness was acceptable. Perhaps their own parents were just plain harsh/abusive and they don't know better because of that, or they had a Hilariously Abusive Childhood.
With jerks and villains, they may not have a Freudian Excuse and people just assume or hope they did, so they get annoyed when people claim they did. Or while they had a troubled childhood, they believe that Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse and don't want to use their past to justify their actions. Maybe they care for their parents, harsh or not, and feel offended by being told they have a Freudian Excuse.
This trope frequently shows up as a display of intergenerational gaps and the Values Dissonance involved therein. More often than not the character arguing this was clearly influenced for the worse by whatever experience is discussed, and the topic is often Corporal Punishment or Free-Range Children. On rare occasions, it turns out that the person objecting to the analysis is correct there's a different cause involved.
Contrast Freudian Excuse, where the person on whom the method is used thinks that the experience certainly did influence them. Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse is when the character says that they had a harsh upbringing, but it doesn't justify or make up for their actions. Can possibly overlap if the character itself doesn't believe in the justification either.
- How Not to Summon a Demon Lord: The celebrated Paladin, Batutta, reveals he was Evil All Along and kidnaps Lumachina and Rem. When he reveals his truly sickening plan, Lumachina asks what could have happened to him to make him be this way. Batutta says that he lost his family and his soldiers then immediately says he was making that up and he has no excuse for his actions other than he enjoys them.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Dio Brando was abused by his alcoholic father as a child. For the first couple of chapters, Dio used this as an excuse for his heinous behavior. However, once Speedwagon calls him out on this, saying that Dio's been evil since the day he was born, Dio stops making excuses and fully embraces being a Card-Carrying Villain.
- In One Piece, Hody Jones is a fanatically racist fishman who wants nothing more than to wipe out humanity as punishment for their own racism towards fishmen, preaching that the heavens have granted him and his officers the power to do so. By the time we meet him, however, he's crossed one too many lines, which leads prince Fukaboshi to flat out ask him what the hell humans did to him to make Hody hate them so damn much. Hody's answer? "Nothing". He was simply raised to hate humans without ever actually experiencing their racism himself. This puts him in contrast with his idol, Arlong, who did experience the racism yet is vastly more subdued in how he deals with humans.
- In Overlord, one of Clementine's hapless victims asks her how she became such a twisted killer. Clementine rattles off a series of generic Freudian Excuses then admits that she made them all up and that she just loves making people suffer.
- Soul Eater: Franken Stein emphasizes and lampshades the trope when he recounts his own sociopathy from childhood as being a result of his own choice to be a Mad Scientist who likes to cut things and people open to see how they tick instead of some traumatic event or horrible incident that made him a monstrous person like many doctors tried to find when they examined him.
Franken Stein: A long time ago, I was analyzed by a group of foolish doctors who feared my violent tendencies and what they considered my selfish attitude. They seemed elated while they were studying me. As if they were solving a crime in a mystery novel, they theorized for hours. Wondering if something had traumatized me in my past or if some terrible influence had come into my life. That was all nonsense though. I've loved tearing things apart from the very beginning!
- In one episode of Paul Merton: The Series, Paul describes increasingly horrific punishments supposedly inflicted on him by his parents, ending each one with "but it never did me any harm!" Finally he acknowledges that he's become a hate-filled maniac, but still concludes it never did him any harm.
- Anderson: Psi-Division: Judge Anderson once visited the memories of Judge Death during her Adventures in Comaland. She felt pity to see him being beaten up by a bunch of school bullies, but he simply told her that it helped "build character" and made him more convinced of his "mission". He later rigged a bunch of electrical equipment during a pop concert to murder them.
- In Hack/Slash, Cassie Hack thinks this by the time of Closer, in regards to the reason she became a Serial-Killer Killer in the first place.
Cassie: All for the wrong reasons. I was pissed at my mom. Pissed at myself. I turned myself into a weapon. A bullet aimed at my mom, which would eventually come around and get me, too. But I watched my mom die again. Finally met my dad, and watched him die, too. There's nothing else for me to do this for. No one but me. I don't even know who I am. All that's left is the weapon.
- The Killing Joke: Despite the Joker claiming he had "one bad day" that drove him crazy, he admits that he's not sure what exactly happened, and is fine with constantly remembering it in more ways than one.
- Nemesis: Nemesis states that he's the son of criminals that Blake Morrow busted, supposedly the reason why he becomes a super-villain. When Blake confronts him about it, Nemesis admits he was lying just to screw with him. He has no reason for what he does, he's just rich and bored.
- In one issue from the nineties, Venom kills two men who, thinking he was just some hobo, tried to set him on fire. Venom says that such behavior often is blamed on violent movies and video games, but that he doesn't believe it, since he turned out just fine while in the process of murdering them brutally.
- Wolverine: On himself, Contagion clearly states he doesn't have any abusive childhood or skeletons in his past to explain his actions, nor any "ends justifies the means" reasoning or even sociopathy for what he does. He simply chooses evil over good, and sees himself as the villain of his own story.
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Goku suggests that Vegeta became evil because of the Dark and Troubled Past he suffered thanks to Frieza. Vegeta quickly sets the record straight.
- In Danganronpa: Last Hurrah, Jirou Katashi claims to have been driven by a desire to become the Ultimate Scholar due to his parents ignoring him in favor of his brother after being outed as the second murderer. Much later, after Jirou turns out to have survived his execution and is revealed as the mastermind, he admits that he didn't actually care about his parents ignoring him.
Nao: Was your story about your family real?
Jirou: Of course, it was real. But, I am not affected by it. I am not that shallow. I don't care if my parents don't give me as much attention as my brother. I don't need them to take care of myself.
- The Codot Verse: Oh, Edward by no means denies that he was horrifically abused his father, but during his Calling the Old Man Out speech he claims that he became The Riddler because he wants to rather than because of his father, refusing to give him credit for who he is today.
- Valen from Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series was unjustly sent to a harsh juvenile prison for years on end, and had to repeatedly fight with his life on the line. However, he denies that this caused him to become a villain, and even admits that his organizations all of humanity is evil thing is pretty ridiculous. So why is he helping Dartz wipe out humanity anyway?note
Valen: Simple, mate. I just f**king hate people!
- In 8mm, "Machine" (The Brute of the tale, a violent rapist who killed a woman in a Snuff Film, starting the whole plot) is finally unmasked by the protagonist, who's struck by how very normal and non-threatening the guy looks in person. Noticing this reaction, he ups the ante by making clear that he wasn't abused, or molested, or traumatized in any way. He does what he does because he likes it.
- In Austin Powers, Dr. Evil describes his childhood thus:
Dr. Evil: The details of my life are quite inconsequential. [...] Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds. Pretty standard, really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Wilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum. It's breathtaking, I suggest you try it.
- Return to Cabin by the Lake: Alison wonders if there was some reason that drove Stanley Caldwell to become a Serial Killer, such as a bad childhood or his writing talent never having been recognized. He rejects the idea, admitting that he's just a sick asshole.
There's a little Stanley in all of us.
- A version appears in Sheriff Ed Tom Bell's opening monologue in No Country for Old Men. Ed Tom tells of arresting a young man for murdering a teenage girl. Though the newspapers call it a crime of passion, the boy tells Ed Tom he'd wanted to kill someone his whole life, and if released he'd simply do it again.
- Dr. Robotnik in Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) grew up orphaned, with no friends and a burdensome power, much like Sonic. Unlike Sonic, he decided to embrace the loneliness by retreating into his ego, deciding he was superior to the rest of humanity and that friends would only drag him down, and used his power for his own irresponsible self-benefit rather than to help anyone. In the present day, he gladly boasts about his troubled childhood as having helped him become the "superior" person that he is now.
- While the Steven Spielberg film adaptation of Catch Me If You Can suggests that the divorce of Frank's parents drove him to a life of crime, the memoir on which it was based avoids it. In the book, Abagnale says he had a hard time when his parents divorced, but he also says more than once that it's no excuse for his crimes, and most other children from "broken homes" don't become con artists (including Frank's own siblings, who were Adapted Out in the film).
- Romsca in Pearls of Lutra tells Abbot Durral that she became a corsair because she likes it, and while she had a hard life, she will not use it to excuse her choices in life.
- Doctor Martin Ellingham of Doc Martin is an aloof Dr. Jerk who has trouble relating to people. His parents were emotionally abusive and didn't even want to have a child. Describing the situation, Martin comments, "I was locked in the cupboard under the stairs as a child, and it never did me any harm."
- In the Made-for-TV film Intensity (based on the Dean Koontz novel), the sadistic, sociopathic Spree Killer Edgler Vess, after being accused of abuse causing his current state of mind, proudly proclaims that his parents were extremely loving and that he was truly a sadistic person from the start (in fact he murdered his loving parents).
- Kaamelott: Léodagan claims his father's brutal upbringing worked wonders on him. He's a borderline Sociopathic Soldier for whom Violence Really Is the Answer, and fails to see why his own son is a Dumbass Teenage Son (it's not entirely his fault, since the show is a major Dysfunction Junction).
- Subverted in Mad Men, when Don, after Betty asks him to spank their kids, explains that his dad used to beat the hell out of him and all it ever did was make him want to kill his old man.
- In Malcolm in the Middle, when Hal is asked by Lois why he is so bad at decision-making, he gets a flashback to his childhood birthday party. He chose to have both a clown and a petting zoo for the party, resulting in the clown being suffocated by a snake, possibly to death. Cut back to the present and Hal denies it and says there was probably no reason, and that she might as well try to explain his fear of clowns and snakes.
- In NewsRadio, Bill McNeal occasionally reminisces about his terribly dysfunctional family, but talks about his parents' abusive behavior as if it's the sort of thing most people would find humorous.
"You wouldn't know 'tough love' if it stripped you to your shorts and made you stand in the rain all night!"
- On the Israeli version of The Office (UK), Lavi, the localised version of Lee, acts like an ignorant arsehole throughout the whole series, cheating on Dana (localised Dawn) and even raping a company employee, and telling his friend he intends to get her pregnant as soon as they're married to kick all those career dreams of hers out of her head. In season 2 he mentions off-handedly being physically abused by his father and claims he came out alright. Cue brief awkward silence.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ezri tries tapping into Garak's childhood to treat his claustrophobia; his father used to lock him in the closet as punishment. He dismisses it. (In this case, he's actually right because his attacks are caused by an ongoing case of My God, What Have I Done?.)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Kivas Fajo from "The Most Toys" acts like he's playing this card when he tells Data of his poor youth, growing up on the streets... and when Data tells him that his past misfortunes don't excuse his criminal actions, he admits that it's all bullshit, as his father was a wealthy Gentleman Thief.
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Cletus Kasady is a nihilistic Serial Killer who is noted to have an abusive childhood. When talking to his therapist in an unlockable file, however, Kasady rebukes that his childhood made him what he is, pointing out a lot of other people had it even worse than him and turned out just fine.
- In Fate/Grand Order during Mordred's second Interlude, Mash jokes that Jekyll cares so much for Mordred that it's like he's her mom. Mordred retorts that mothers don't care about their child, causing everyone to turn silent. She probably never knew about the experience of having a mother beyond Morgan le Fay, who regarded her child as more of a tool, and it probably contributed in part to her "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl tendencies towards her father.
- Far Cry 4: Pagan Min claims that the murder of his baby daughter, Ajay's half-sister, drove him over the edge Only to immediately admit that while his grief was real, he used it as a pretext to commit atrocities he wanted to do anyway.
- Neverwinter Nights 2: Chaotic Evil party member Bishop has a tragic backstorynote , but he flat-out says when queried on it that he just hates people in general. His FaceHeel Turn is something of an inversion: he's having trouble dealing with the fact that he's actually come to care for the Player Character.
- In Persona 5, Yusuke Kitagawa initially denies that his adopted father Madarame was abusive to the point of starving the artists working under him and passing their work off as his own. But when the Phantom Thieves expose Madarame for who he is, both in the real world and in Madarame's cognitive world, Yusuke finally realizes what they said is true, calls out Madarame for all the crap he put him and others through, and joins the Thieves as an official member of their group.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, "Tourette" was repeatedly raped by her father as a child, developing a Split Personality as a coping mechanism. Both of them assert that it was consensual, with Therese claiming Jeanette is just jealous of their "love" and Jeanette claiming that Therese killed him out of jealousy after catching him in bed with her "sister". No matter what she says, Therese insists their father was a saint and even keeps a massive portrait of him in her office.
- String Theory (2009): Played for Black Comedy when Dr. Schtein, a Functional Addict supervillain in the making, with many and varied personal problems, tries to rationalize why he abandoned his own daughter.
"Look, I didn't have a dad either, and I turned out..." [Beat Panel] "Yeah, I don't know where I was going with that."
- Joueur du Grenier: After playing a Barney & Friends game where you can't die, nothing hurts you and it automatically plays itself it it detects no input, Fred says that playing Nintendo Hard games while growing up made him the mentally healthy, well-balanced man he is today thanks to finishing the games being more rewarding. Cue Critical Annoyance sound from offscreen, which Fred shoots with a Hand Cannon without looking, staring fixedly into the camera.
- Amphibia: King Andrias implicitly inflicts this on himself when he learns his millennium-long hatred of Leif, and his belief that his father and the Core were right about his friendships' worthlessness, were all for nothing. He flat-out admits that regardless of the rather tragic reasons he had for becoming the evil tyrant, he's caused far too much suffering (to all of Amphibia and to a girl who genuinely cared about him) and has crossed too many moral boundaries to just be forgiven.
- Carmen Sandiego: Gray seems to think Carmen must have had some reason to defect and betray all of V.I.L.E, and seems genuinely concerned while planning to hand her over to Brunt and the other V.I.L.E. agents she betrayed. Carmen tells Gray that she had a lovely childhood, and her reasons for defecting were not because of any abuse no one was allowed to hurt her or because of Shadow-san failing her on purpose. She couldn't abide that her family was willing to kill people to steal, and treating it like a game.
- In a Dan Vs. episode, Dan laments that parents these days aren't rearing their children correctly, then mentions off-handedly that his parents just left him to watch TV and play video games all day, every day. Chris and Elise think that might be why Dan wound up as an unemployed, violent, nearly-friendless misanthrope, but Dan insists he turned out awesome!
- Final Space: In Season 3, when it's revealed that Avocato betrayed and assassinated the King and Queen of Ventrexia when he first allied with the Lord Commander in his past, Ash points out that the Lord Commander gaslit him into it — Avocato calmly retorts that that still doesn't make what he did with his own hands any better, and declares that he's never forgiven himself for it and he feels they shouldn't either.
- Harley Quinn (2019): At first, it's made look like Harleen was a perfectly sane and respectable person until the Joker's manipulation and abuse transformed her into a psychotic and murderous villainess. However, Being Harley Quinn has her go on a Journey to the Center of the Mind, which reveals that Harley has had Ax-Crazy tendencies ever since she was a child, long before Joker ever got to her; her attempts at playing with dolls involved a wife murdering a husband for cheating, she stalked her Celeb Crush to the point legal actions needed to be taken, and she may have killed a girl at her camp for spreading humiliating rumors about her. The final memory reveals that Harley in fact jumped into the chemical vat of her own volition, but repressed that part since it had always been easier to give agency to the Joker and blame him for her turn to villainy. In the end, the Joker didn't corrupt her so much as reawaken what was already there and Harley acknowledges that she is responsible for her own life and had a choice every step of the way. Neither the Joker nor her "fucked up parents" made Harleen Quinzel into Harley Quinn; she made herself.
- Metalocalypse: Subverted in "Rehabklok". Pickles initially claims he drinks because "it's cool" and "it tastes good" but when pressed, he reveals his Freudian Excuse: he started drinking after his brother Seth burned the garage and blamed it on him.
- In the Mike, Lu & Og episode "Fathers and Pies", Maregery urges Alfred to spend more time with Og. He protests, saying "I barely spent time with my father, and look at me now". Margery just sternly stares at him.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Lord Tirek does not take it well when Discord calls him out for being a "Well Done, Son" Guy and immediately responds by hurling attacks:
Discord: You're right. "Cretin" is too polite. How about "pathetic centaur who uses magic to compensate for the fact that deep down he's afraid he'll never be enough to please dear old dad, King Vorak?"
- From The Simpsons:
- Parodied in "Behind The Laughter", as Homer has this to say on the issue:
Homer: Then we figured out we could park them in front of the TV. That's how I was raised, and I turned out TV.
- In "Lisa's First Word", Homer claims that his cousin Frank turned out OK in spite of sharing his parents' bed until he was 21. He then adds that Frank had a sex change and became Francine in 1976, joined a cult and now answers to the name Mother Shabubu.
- In "Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy", Lisa is upset that the Malibu Stacy doll is saying sexist things when it was supposed to be a role model for girls. Marge tries to comfort her by saying, "I had a Malibu Stacy when I was little, and I turned out all right." However, what she says next is repeated by Lisa's Stacy doll: "Now let's forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream!"
- Parodied in "Behind The Laughter", as Homer has this to say on the issue: