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.
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.
- Franken Stein from Soul Eater 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!
- Dio Brando from Jojos Bizarre Adventure was abused by his alcoholic father as a child. Eventually Dio denies that this ever bothered him and even goes as far as saying hes glad his father abused him.
- 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 aknowledges 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 retorted 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.
- 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's was lying to 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 behaviour 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 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 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, 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?.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- String Theory: 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- From The Simpsons:
- 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 one episode, 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!"
- Homer has this to say on the issue:
- 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?"