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Freudian Excuse is No Excuse

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Jason: Your parents suck.
Eleanor: Yeah. And I've been using their crappy parenting as an excuse for my selfish behavior. But no more.

This trope is a standard Deconstruction of the Freudian Excuse. Sometimes, characters that have gone through something horrible believe that they have the moral high ground or that they are in the right for their actions, no matter how evil they are or who are the targets are. This tropes comes into play when a character or even the narrative itself (possibly even the characters themselves, if they're going through Character Development) acknowledges that their actions are wrong, no matter what they have been put through, one bad action won't justify another.

This trope only happens when there's an acknowledgement of this. A character has to receive a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, a speech on why they're wrong or voice an acknowledgement that their past don't justify their current actions.

It's important here to differentiate "explanation" from "justification" in this trope: If a Freudian Excuse is used as an "explanation", then it's meant to give a reason why a character acts this way, if it's a "justification" it means that the narration is giving the character the right to act that way. This trope never accepts Freudian Excuses as justifications.

Related to Freudian Excuse and Dark and Troubled Past. Often present if a character is a Troubled Abuser. Compare Kirk Summation, Playing the Victim Card and Shut Up, Hannibal!.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Persona 5: The Animation: Kamoshida, after being cornered by the Phantom Thieves, claims that everyone forced their expectations on him and made him stressed out enough to take out his frustrations on his students. Ryuji angrily retorts that it's no excuse for everything he's done.
  • Vento of the Front in A Certain Magical Index despises the Science Side of the world because she and her brother were critically injured in a ride that claimed to be scientifically proven safe and her brother gave up his life so that she could live, so she seeks to destroy Academy City as a form of payback. Touma calls her out on her way of thinking, stating that the doctors did try to save both of them regardless to the limits of what they were able to do and her brother made his choice so that she could continue living, and now she's only taking out her anger on anyone associated with the Science Side for something they had no control over, let alone something they had no knowledge of.
  • Black Clover: When the Big Bad starts bemoaning his tragedies and the people he has lost, Yami quickly parodies his own Dark and Troubled Past, by mentioning that he's suffered a lot to get to where he is, but he never made a big deal out of it, held someone else accountable or became evil because of it.
  • Dragon Ball Z: During the Buu Saga, Majin Buu kills because he doesn't know any better, and it's all he knows, which is why he continues his rampage even without Babidi to order him around. While Goku is somewhat sympathetic, Piccolo rebukes it, declaring outright that one's background does not excuse acts of evil.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood: When Dio Brando is exposed for poisoning his adoptive father, George Joestar, he tries to bring up his past with his abusive biological father to gain sympathy from his adoptive brother, Jonathan. Speedwagon immediately shoots him down, stating that he can smell Dio's malice and that the latter was evil since birth. It doesn't help that Dio was looking for an opportunity to stab Jonathan while shedding crocodile tears.
  • Kiznaiver: At the ending's climax, Nico attempts to rile everyone up to gather together and save Sonozaki. When she is called out on trying to save the one that caused them so much hardship, Nico explains she feels no sympathy for her, and doesn't care for her sad backstory seeing how she basically tortured them psychologically and physically for the entire summer. But since Agata, their friend, is asking to help the girl he loves, they should help him.
  • My Hero Academia: Once Izuku learns about Shouto's abusive childhood, he is sympathetic to it, but when he spends their entire battle calling him out on the fact that, because of his abusive father, Shouto has decided to become the greatest hero by using only half of his powers, which to Izuku is no different than spitting in the face of their peers who are giving it their all to achieve their dream.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: During the Battle City semi-finals, Kaiba talks about how his past was nothing but hatred and anger due to his Knight Templar Parent driving him to be the best, and how that made him determined to only rely on himself and crush everyone in his path. Yami Yugi/Atem calls him out on how he'll never be truly happy this way as he'll just keep seeking someone to hate. Zig-zagged in the anime when the gang have far less knowledge of Kaiba's backstory. This trope also applies to Jonouchi, who is the only member of the gang not to have forgiven Kaiba for the deadly theme park Death-T, and frequently takes the stance they shouldn't team up with Kaiba, though no-one else listens.

    Comic Books 
  • In Seven Soldiers of Victory, Sally Sonic became magically trapped in the form of a teenager for decades, causing her to suffer abuse and degradation at the hands of a failed superhero who had a grudge against her late father. She uses this as an excuse for seducing married men, culminating in her encouraging mentally-unbalanced scientist Lance Harrower to perform dangerous experiments on himself to try and gain superpowers, thinking that if he became a superhero, he and Sally could be together. These experiments ultimately killed Lance and turned his wife Alix into the Bulleteer. When Bulleteer finally confronts Sally about the carnage her selfishness has caused, Sally tries to kill her, all the while insisting that Lance's obsessions were Bulleteer's fault because she failed to please him. Bulleteer finally has enough of Sally's excuses and beats her with an engine block, saying that she doesn't care what kind of shit Sally went through, she had no right to mess with Lance's life or hers.
  • Professor X and the X-Men have given Magneto this speech many times. Occasionally he listens.

    Fan Works 
  • In ...That's It?, Twilight Sparkle is Disappointed by the Motive when Starlight Glimmer reveals that the reason she nearly caused the end of all space-time or dooming Equestria to rule by an evil entity was because Starlight's friend Sunburst got his cutie mark before she did when they were kids, causing him to move away. Twilight is disgusted with the self-righteous behavior, but with just the right Armor-Piercing Question, Twilight manages to convince Starlight to stop her plans.
  • In Ghosts of Evangelion, Ryuko calls her mother out, pointing out that childhood trauma doesn't justify a crappy disposition when you're in your forties. Asuka's reaction is, in fact... hugging her and expressing how proud she is of Ryuko.
    Ryuko: Bullshit! 'The best you can,' you say? Whatever. Today you were fine. I felt like you were an actual parent for a change, and that was nice. But last night? Fuck that noise. Back in the day I guess you could get away with it, since things were really rough for you back then. But now, not so much. We deserve better, father and I, and so do you!
  • In X-Men: The Early Years, Scott Summers' parole officer asks him to go soft on a bully whom she's trying to reform, explaining Bruno's a bully because of his abusive father. Scott replies it doesn't make his behavior okay.
    Carol: Good, now that we're alone. I'm asking you to try to be a little nicer to Bruno, okay? I know it's not an easy task and he's not the most pleasant person you'll ever meet. Bruno's not a bad kid Scott. Yes, I know he's a bully, but he's only acting out what he knows. What his father taught him.
    Scott: So? That makes it okay for him to threaten to hurt Bobby? That makes it okay for him to threaten to hurt someone younger than he is?
    Carol: No, of course not. But Bruno has only threatened, and he actually hasn't made a move to hurt Bobby. That leaves a lot of room for you to let it slide off your back and compromise until he actually tries something. If Bruno tries to hurt Bobby, you won't be the first one to trounce him. Trust me.
  • The Makings of Team CRME: Cinder Fall from RWBY is given a Freudian Excuse in the form of her abusive mother from My Name Is Cinder. However, it only explains why she is such a sociopath. The fact that she becomes exponentially worse than her mother in the show and in CRME nullifies any potential sympathy that she could have.
  • Pokťmon: A Marvelous Journey: Amara's Jerkass behavior all began when her best friend was killed by a rampaging Gyarados, and her actions are because she's lashing out in grief at that. However, in the process, she's stolen Pokemon and Gym Badges, abused several of said Pokemon, and attacked innocent bystanders either by herself or by using her Pokemon. It's made clear in-universe that Amara's grief and pain do not excuse her behavior; Julia herself openly states as such and tells their mother she wants Amara to be arrested.
  • In Stories and Tales from Dimension 63, Linka is revealed to have been physically beaten when three boys invaded the home in search of her older brother Lane. However, when Linka tries to use that excuse at times, other characters point out that she could've asked her family to stop being overly protective of her, and instead of being painted in a sympathetic light, Linka willingly tries to take over Lincoln's life simply because she felt that her own family didn't pamper her enough.
  • In MLDC Firestorm Crisis, the Humane 5 are making assumptions of why Sunset Shimmer is an Alpha Bitch. Then Rainbow Dash speaks up:
    Rainbow Dash: ĎPoor Sunsetí? Really? (The others looked to Rainbow Dash) So what if she did come from a crappy home, is an orphan, or was abused. There are other people who have gone through that and arenít total assholes. Taking out your problems on other people is a cowardís way of dealing with them, instead of facing them!
    Rarity: Rainbow Dash!
    Rainbow Dash: Iím just making a point! If she really wants my pity or sympathy, then she has to earn it!

    Films — Animated 
  • Toy Story 3: Lotso the Hugging Bear was accidentally lost and replaced by his original owner with an identical Lotso, causing him to believe toys are just "trash meant to be thrown away." But as Woody points out, it doesn't excuse him of his crimes, especially as he kept lying to Big Baby about this.
  • ParaNorman: Norman calls the witch out on her behavior when they confront each other. She excuses her own actions by remembering what the zombies did to her in life, but Norman says she has done just as much, if not even more bad than they ever had, and that her behavior has turned her from a victim to a bully.
    The Witch: They hurt me!
    Norman: So you hurt them back?!
    The Witch: I wanted everyone to see how rotten they were!
    Norman You're just like them, Agatha!
    The Witch: No, I'm not!
    Norman: You're a bully!
    The Witch: No I'm NOT!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Scream 3: The Ghostface Killer gives his past rejection by the world as the reason for his murderous rampage during his Motive Rant to Sidney. However, Sidney has heard this story too many times from previous killers to care, and calls Ghostface out by pointing out that it's just an excuse for their own sadism.
  • Towards the beginning of A Wrinkle in Time (2018), Meg loses her temper and throws a ball at her archnemesis' face. When called out on her behavior, she tries to invoke the fact that her father is still missing as an excuse for her acting out. Her principal tells her that having a missing dad only buys her so much sympathy, especially when he's been gone for four years.
  • GoldenEye: Alec Trevelyan/006 is seeking revenge for the betrayal of his family, who were Lienz Cossacks, a group that sympathized with the Nazis against the Russians during World War II. The Cossacks, who believed that they were under British protection near the end of the war, were instead sent back to Stalin, who promptly had them all shot. Trevelyan, needless to say, is pissed about this and seeks to make the British government pay, as these events caused his father (a surviving Cossack) to kill Alecís mom, then himself out of survivor's guilt. But James Bond calls him out on this, stating that "mad little" Alecís Evil Plan of causing a global financial meltdown by breaking into the Bank of England via computer in revenge boils down to "nothing more than petty theft," and believes he is simply in it for the money, with his Freudian Excuse being a lame and flimsy cover for his crimes. Which does makes sense: 006 appears to have faithfully served the British Government for years before faking his death.

    Live Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Jake is a big fan of using his past without his father to justify a lot of his more childish behavior or even to try to gather sympathy. He uses this as an excuse for being a jerk to Santiago when she tries to host a Thanksgiving dinner to the detectives, since his memories of thanksgiving weren't pleasant and again to try to convince Captain Holt to give him half a million dollars to pay for his apartment. It doesn't work on his captain, and he eventually drops it, as a sign of Character Development.
    Holt: I won't give you half a million dollars because of your mildly sad childhood.
    • Ironically, in one episode Jake himself gives us this gem, often used in fandom as a rebuttal towards Draco in Leather Pants:
    Jake: Cool motive! Still murder.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Out of Mind, Out of Sight," Marcie Ross had a Friendless Background and was ignored by everyone, including the teachers, to the extent that the Hellmouth's influence literally turned her invisible. Marcie subsequently becomes a psychotic Invisible Jerkass who takes violent revenge against everyone who scorned and ignored her. Buffy is initially sympathetic to Marcie, but drops it when she realizes just how twisted she's become and how far she's willing to go for payback.
      Buffy: Y'know, I really felt sorry for you. You've suffered. But there's one thing I really didn't factor into all this. You're a thundering loony!
    • In "Lie to Me," Ford is Secretly Dying from brain tumors and wants to become a vampire to escape that fate. To that end, he's willing to sacrifice Buffy and several innocents to Spike in exchange for being turned. While Buffy is sympathetic to Ford's plight when he reveals his brain cancer, she still points out that he's essentially committing mass murder, and nothing will make that okay.
      Buffy: Isn't this exactly how you imagined it? You tell me how you've suffered and I feel sorry for you. Well, I do feel sorry for you, and if those vampires come in here and start feeding, I'll kill you myself!
    • Similarly with Faith in the third season. Buffy explicitly mentions Faith's bad childhood as a reason to give her a second chance when she becomes the rogue Slayer in the third season, but later on when Faith expects Willow to offer her a chance at redeeming herself, Willow denies her that and said she had Buffy and the others supporting her but now she has nothing.
  • Flash: Hunter Zolomon/Zoom falls into this. He had Abusive Parents, including watching his father kill his mother, leading to him being put into an orphanage at young age. Zoom is convinced that Barry, who had a similar past of having his mother killed when he was a kid, could easily turn out like him. He tries to prove it by murdering Barry's father in front of him. However, despite this traumatic event, Barry still remains righteous and never succumbs to becoming the sociopath that Zoom is. Ultimately Barry shows that Zoom is rotten to the core, Freudian Excuse or not.
  • The Good Place: Throughout the first season, Eleanor often mentioned how her terrible upbringing messed her up. She is then quickly called out when the so-called "Real" Eleanor (the good Eleanor that was supposed to go to the Good Place) mentions that she was orphaned twice in her life but still managed to be a high-achieving lawyer and humanitarian and the demon Trevor points out the fact that a lot of people have messed up childhoods but don't become massive jerkasses like Eleanor herself. Then, in the later episodes "Mindy St. Clair" and "Existential Crisis", it's shown that her parents really were every bit as terrible as Eleanor described, but even still this is never used as a justification for her actions, just as an explanation for it, and she accepts that she can't keep invoking that excuse and has to rise above that.
  • How I Met Your Mother: In season 9, Marshall has an imagine spot where he talks with Lily, 7-years-ago Lily, his father and briefly, Robin, about a fight he just had with Lily where he accused her of considering him and their family to be a consolation prize for her failed career and brings up when she left him for a summer 7 years prior. When he attempts to make a point out of her biggest mistake, Marvin calls him out on it.
    Marvin: What's your point? That just because she hurt you, you now get to hurt her? That's not how a marriage works, son.
  • Jessica Jones:
    • The titular character delivers a vicious "The Reason You Suck" Speech in season one to a woman who plots to kill her when, as a way to avenge her mother that died due to the other gifted Destructive Savior of the Marvel Universe.
    • Kilgrave is an even stronger example. As a sociopathic prick who uses his mind controlling powers to kill people and rape women, he repeatedly tries to justify his behavior and blame everyone else. It is later revealed that when he was ten years old, his parents subjected him to frequent, painful experimentation causing Jessica to feel sympathy for him. However it is later revealed that his parents were actually trying to cure his disease. Eventually Jessica realizes he's a monster who just enjoy hurting others and tells him "You're not ten anymore."
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Lilian uses the death of her husband to justify her animosity towards Artie and why she opposes gentrification so much. He is sympathetic to it... up until he learns that said husband actually died 40 years ago, and Lilian has been resisting to move on and living in the past ever since and he calls her out on it. They start arguing and he calls her out on the fact that when they were young, they were fighting for change, and that change can be something good.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017), Charles tries to justify Sir's "prickly" behaviour as the result of him having "a very terrible childhood." Klaus sarcastically responds "I understand. I'm having a very terrible childhood right now."
  • Supernatural:
    • Subverted in "Jus in Bello". After catching a pair of violent Satanic murderers, FBI Agent Henriksen addresses the upbringing they must've had before saying it still doesn't justify their actions... of course, he's saying this to the two heroes of the show, who aren't guilty of (most of) the crimes they're accused of. While their childhood really was bad, he has also figured it to be even worse to rationalize how the brothers came to be as seemingly deranged and delusional as they are. Unlike most examples on this page, all this combined with his borderline Smug Snake behavior in the scene makes him come off more as a Jerk Ass than Genre Savvy, though he still comes out of the episode looking pretty damn heroic thanks to more screentime.
    Henriksen: Oh yeah, I forgot. You fight monsters. Sorry, Dean. Truth is, your daddy brainwashed you with all that Devil talk and no doubt touched you in a bad place. Thatís all. Thatís reality.
    Dean: Why donít you shut your mouth?
    Henriksen: Well, guess what. Life sucks, get a helmet. ĎCause everybodyís got a sob story. But not everybody becomes a killer.
    • Also inverted in the case of Bela from Season 3. Dean is irritated by her behavior and flat-out asks her what happened to make her the way she is, mockingly suggesting her father didn't hug her enough. He later finds out that she killed her parents and when he confronts her on it, she has a flashback indicating that her father sexually abused her - before smiling and telling him that they were "wonderful people" who she only killed for money. It makes her look more despicable than ever to the other characters, but had the strange inverse affect on much of the audience of making them feel incredibly sorry for her when before they'd hated her guts, despite Henriksen having voiced the above take on Freudian Excuses only a few episodes before, because it drove home how deeply damaged and closed-off she is that she refused to make herself vulnerable even to save her own life. Thus playing straight the often intended side effect of Freudian Excuses to make the antagonist sympathetic, which this trope usually subverts.
    • Played straight with Lucifer in Season 5, who strongly believes he was wronged by God when he was ordered to be imprisoned for thousands of years in Hell by his most beloved brother, the Archangel Michael. Lucifer's take on it makes it sound like God did all this just because Lucifer criticized God's beloved humans as flawed and murderous. Word of God (ie Eric Kripke) even agreed that he was a sympathetic, tragic villain. This ignores canon established less than five episodes previous that Lucifer was actually imprisoned after he forcibly transformed a human soul into the first demon (Lilith), which involves massive amounts of spiritual mutilation and torture to the point that the person loses all humanity and memories of their human life, and becomes pure evil. Lucifer tries to convince many other characters of his righteousness, but it works a grand total of once. Every other single character he tries to persuade reject his attempts to get sympathy, treat him with disdain, and even his own brothers call him a Psychopathic Manchild who caused his own problems and drove God away. Funnily enough, his argument suddenly gets stronger in Season 11 as the Mark of Cain is RetConed into the show as an ancient, powerful force of darkness that corrupts everyone who bears it - with God having entrusted it to Lucifer to bear, and influencing him to turn him as evil as he is, taking away Lucifer's responsibility for his own Fallen Hero status. By the time this comes out however, Lucifer's character is written much differently from his Season 5 incarnation, into an overly comedic, thoroughly evil villain who no longer cares about getting the heroes to agree with him and is exactly the kind of Psychopathic Manchild he was described as back in Season 5.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Christopher Titus injects this mindset into all of his work, especially his stand-up comedy routines. Despite having a Hilariously Abusive Childhood with a mentally ill mother and drunk father, plus an adult life that wasn't much better, Tits has chosen to "be an anti-depressant" instead of dwelling on his past or whining about it. As such, he regularly tears into people who refuse to make their own lives better and deconstructs their mindsets as pointlessly self-destructive.
    Why don't you climb down off the cross, use the wood to build a bridge, and get over it!?

    Video Games 
  • New Dangan Ronpa V3: The chapter 3 killer tries to justify the deaths he caused by saying that all he wants is to send friends to his sister that has already died. It does not work, as even Monokuma finds him and his incestuous love for his sister to be disgusting.
  • Ace Attorney: A recurring thing is that a crime is a crime, no matter what the victim has done to the killer or how much of an Asshole Victim they are, nothing justifies killing someone else, and you'll be arrested for it. The Big Bad of the AAI2 game is a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, who had met nothing but misery in his life, trying to take revenge on the people whom they blamed it for (which they believe all to have deserved their fate). While Edgeworth acknowledges their woobieness, it's still no "Get out of Jail Free" Card and he gets arrested at the end of the game nonetheless, though one can argue this was good for him, as he gets to live with his Parental Substitute Doghen. During their confrontation, he mentions that his actions have made them no different from the people they were trying to get revenge on.
  • World of Warcraft: During Garrosh's duel with Thrall, Thrall tells Garrosh that he failed the Horde during his destructive reign as Warchief. Garrosh responds by telling him that Thrall had made him, a man with no experience in leadership, the Horde's Warchief during a severe crisis that he wasn't equipped to deal with, and that it was Thrall who failed him. When Thrall has Garrosh in his death grip, Garrosh states that Thrall was responsible for making him into who he was. Thrall responds by telling him he had chosen his own destiny, and then kills him.
  • At the end of Far Cry 4, an interesting example happens where Big Bad Pagan Min explains his Freudian Excuse, and then he himself admits that he was just using his infant daughter's murder as an excuse to do whatever the hell he wanted to do.

     Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman: Bojack gets seriously called out on the fact he keeps blaming his very Dark and Troubled Past for his faulty behavior, and expects everyone, especially Todd, to just forgive his actions based on it. While his story is bleak and he himself is suffering from depression, Todd is right that having that story doesn't make him unaccountable for the damage he causes to others, no matter how self-destructive he has become because of it.
  • In the The Boondocks episode "The Color Ruckus", we learn that much of Uncle Ruckus' personality (particularly his hatred of other black people) resulted from extremely traumatizing childhood abuse by his hateful father, Mister Ruckus. It later turns out that Mister became the way he is because he was also treated like shit by his own mother, Nelly Ruckus. After Nelly passes away, Mister takes his family to her funeral just to celebrate her demise. However, Uncle finally gains the courage to stand up to his father and call him out for taking out his frustrations on his own family.
    Uncle Ruckus: "No no, that's okay. Keep talking. Keep talking, Daddy. That's the eulogy this woman deserved. She did this to you, and now you're doing it to me. You've been doing it our whole lives, and it's getting old! It's gettin' real old, old man! So get it out yo' system, then sit down AND SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!"
  • South Park:
    • Kyle Broflowski in "Splatty Tomato" who tries to justify his actions to Ike by telling him he's been through a lot in the past few episodes, only for Ike to angrily retort by saying that his actions resulted in the president nuking Canada, Ike's birth country, and causing millions of deaths.
    • Heidi Turner, after hearing Kyle's "The Reason You Suck" Speech from the same episode, realizes that though she suffered a mentally abusive relationship with Cartman, it doesn't mean she can use this as an excuse to become such a horrible person.
  • Wakfu has this as a Recurring Element. All of the Big Bad faced each season have varying degrees of sympathetic reasons and are all Anti Villains, however, every season they're called out for their actions and their justifications at the end of the season:
    • Upon realizing his plan has failed, Nox bemoans the death of his family and states that he was told that he could make time go back, to meet his family again and undo the calamities he caused. When Yugo sees this, he automatically reacts with anger.
    Yugo: So you did all of this because you are crazy?
    • At the end of season 2, Quigly is cornered, and Yugo expands that the fact that he remembers all his past lives is not a reason for him to have done the atrocities he has, including ending several planets and starting a war against his own race.
    • In season 3, it's Amalia who gets to call out Oporo for his actions. Yes, he is a different version of Yugo and has seen everybody else of his race die, but he keeps looking for justifications for his own actions and try to show he is in the right because he is Yugo and aggressively tries to assume his place in the Brotherhood of the Tofu, ignoring those he hurt, blaming Yugo for creating him and causing every tragedy of the series to keep the Stable Time Loop, Amalie tells him in clear terms he and Yugo are nothing alike and that the latter would never dodge guilt and manipulate others like he does.