Follow TV Tropes

Following

Freudian Excuse is No Excuse

Go To

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 trope 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. In essence, this is the sum of two Stock Aesops: "take responsibility for your actions" and "two wrongs don't make a right".

Advertisement:

This trope only happens when there's an In-Universe acknowledgment of this. A character has to receive a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, a speech on why they're wrong, or voice an acknowledgment that their past doesn't justify their current actions. One way to accomplish this is a small round of Misery Poker, specifically by pointing out others who have suffered just the same, if not more, and still chose not to commit the same misdeeds as the accused. (Bonus points if that very suffering is caused, directly or otherwise, of the accused's wrongdoings.)

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.

Advertisement:

Related to Freudian Excuse and Dark and Troubled Past. Often present if a character is He Who Fights Monsters, a Troubled Abuser, or another link in The Chain of Harm. Compare Kirk Summation, Playing the Victim Card, and Shut Up, Hannibal!.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Testament of Sister New Devil: The Hero Clan has it out for Basera Tojo and repeatedly call him out over the Brynhildr incident which resulted in the deaths of many friends and family. Takashi is the biggest offender, constantly angsting over how much he's lost and Basara's so-called betrayal. Mio, getting fed up of hearing the same thing for the umpteenth time, angrily lays everything straight to Takashi and points out that Basera went through the same tragedy he did but instead of wallowing in his anger and self-pity he tries to make himself a better man from it and so Takashi has absolutely no room to complain— and that came from someone who watched her foster parents get murdered.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Sherry Cromwell is a girl from the Magic Side who befriended Ellis Warrior, a boy from the Science Side. Ellis participated in an experiment to try to make him both an esper and a magician, but it failed and his body was ravaged, then several Magic Side enforcers executed him after he sacrificed himself so she could escape. Sherry then attempts to trigger a war between the two sides by assassinating key figures, so that the two sides will be separated forever and the tragedy she went through will never happen again. Touma Kamijou angrily points out her tragedy doesn't excuse the fact that her plan will cause a lot more people than just Ellis to die, and the people she's trying to assassinate have nothing to do with Ellis' death. Touma then points out that two of the people she's trying to assassinate, Hyouka Kazakiri and Index, are friends from the Science and Magic Sides respectively, and she'll put them through her same tragedy if she kills them.
    • Vento of the Front 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 (they had a very rare blood type, and with no donors on hand, her brother told the doctors to give her his blood), 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 of 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 accountably or became evil because of it.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Deconstructed. During the Buu Saga, Majin Buu kills because he has the mind of a child and 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. He is soon proven wrong when Hercule, of all people, ultimately manages to end up befriending Buu because of Buu's child-like nature and very nearly manages to convince him to stop his killing ways. This means that if the Z-Fighters had taken the time to try and explain things to Buu instead of trying to deal with him the same way they did with every other enemy they fought beforehand, they very likely could have avoided a lot of the bloodshed of this arc. Of course, then some vigilantes had the bright idea to try and take matters into their own hands...
  • Scar in Fullmetal Alchemist becomes a Vigilante Man who targets State Alchemists because many of them had to do with the genocide of his people. When Roy Mustang (a State Alchemist himself) tells Ed that his quest for vengeance is justified, the latter rebukes it, claiming that he's still involving innocent people for the sake of his revenge and that he's just candy-coating it by acting self-righteous and calling himself "an instrument of God".
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Taken Up to Eleven. Urumi Kanzaki's vendetta against teachers and "classroom terrorism" is all because in the past, a favorite teacher of hers revealed a secret she asked him to keep: that she was a test tube baby and doesn't know who her birth father is. When Onizuka finds out, he tells her how ridiculous she's acting and introduces her to some of his old friends - people who've grown up with prostitutes for mothers, had to sell drugs to buy food, were raped and beaten up as children or spent years in prison before ever finishing high school - putting her own problems in perspective; with this, Urumi finally realizes how insane her actions have been and stops her revenge games.
  • The Villain Protagonist of Happy Sugar Life is Satou Matsuzaka, a high schooler who is obsessively in love with a young girl named Shio. The manga lightly touches on her backstory where it is revealed that after losing her parents at a young age, she was raised by her sadomasochistic aunt who carelessly exposed her hedonistic lifestyle to her, thus making her responsible for Satou's sociopathic tendencies. Despite this, Satou tries to use this excuse to force her aunt to help her in her plan of disposing of incriminating evidence by burning the apartment room and Shouko's corpse, claiming that she owed her for tainting her view on love. Additionally, Satou's aunt calls her out for always aimlessly going into situations in spite of the consequences.
  • 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. In a slight twist Shouto, isn't doing anything outright villainous, he's just intentionally handicapping (and stopping himself from ever achieving his full potential) purely out of spite.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • During the manga version of 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.
    • During the anime's Virtual World arc, Noah rants about how much he suffered and that he is taking what he deserves, but Yami Yugi points out that's no excuse for how he treated them.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • Vassago Cassals / PoH has nothing but hatred for East Asians because his biological father, a Korean, had abandoned his mother after impregnating her. Furthermore, both he and his mother were bought by the CEO of a Japanese trade company and were subsequently shipped to Japan. He starts the Laughing Coffin guild just so he could see East Asians kill each other. That said, this isn't treated as sympathetic or redeeming, and he is never shown to have loved his mother.
    • Eiji, one of the villains of Ordinal Scale, was Driven to Villainy over the loss of his love, Yuna. However, this does not justify most of his actions, which are unnecessarily cruel and verge on sadism in the enjoyment he derives from beating down his fellow players. It's no wonder that despite their similar pasts, Kirito has absolutely No Sympathy for Eiji.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle
    • Hayes Vi Arcadia is the third princess of the ancient Holy Arcadia Empire, but being born last means she has the least importance among her siblings, causing their maid to prioritize saving her older sisters during a coup against their empire. The shock of nearly being killed along with her inferiority complex drove her to become a psychotic and sadistic villain, but this isn't presented as a sympathetic excuse for her misplaced and disproportionate vengeance against modern day civilization. At one point, Rosa Granhide states that Hayes is just venting her anger and trying to delude herself into feeling superior to others.
    • The Dragon Marauder leaders were all victims of persecution, with Drakkhen being a former ace soldier who was betrayed by her superiors and subjected to torture, Vines being a fallen prince who barely survived an assassination, and Gatouhan being a member of an indigenous tribe that experienced racism. They believe that society is so cruel that their only option to survive is to become Drag-ride bandits and that Virtue Is Weakness. Lisha, who experienced torture and slavery at the hands of the Old Arcadia Empire, rejects their reasoning and points out that with their combat and leadership skills, they could have found a more respectable path rather than seek power and revenge. Unlike Hayes, Gatouhan admits the error of his ways and dies regretting his actions.
  • Accel World Seiji Nomi had a fairly difficult childhood growing up under the thumb of his Big Brother Bully, Yuichi, who exploited Seiji and forced him to turn over his points on a regular basis. Seiji ultimately became strong enough to kill his brother's Duel Avatar repeatedly until Yuichi was driven off Brain Burst, then later became a similar bully himself when he began extorting Haru the same way. The most sympathy Haru has for him after learning of his backstory is expressing his belief that they could have been friends if they'd met as normal Burst Linkers (and he isn't too put out when Seiji laughs it off), and considering that all other Burst Linkers derive their special abilities from various trauma, Seiji isn't the only Burst Linker with a tragic past.
  • Naruto
    • During the Land of Vegetables filler arc, Naruto hears about the princess' backstory- that she was sent away as a hostage, and only brought back once her life was in danger. He sympathizes with her, but says it doesn't excuse her callous personality, including not caring about one of her loyal bodyguards' deaths, and putting a group of merchants in danger by hiding among them, and gives her a brief "The Reason You Suck" Speech saying that he wouldn't want to live in a country ruled by someone like her.
    • During his match with Neji, Naruto points out that while Neji's had a hard life, he's not the only one to have suffered. He also points out that Neji's brutally beating and nearly killing Hinata, the heiress to the main family, is proof that Neji hasn't simply accepted his "fate" to be a slave to the main branch of the Hyuga clan.
    • Upon hearing Obito's life story, Naruto, despite realizing that they're Not So Different, argues that it doesn't justify what he's done, and insists that Obito be punished for his crimes. That never happens, but Obito does manage to achieve Redemption Equals Death.
  • In Bleach while Ichigo admits that he wasn't completely paying attention to Uryu's story- that his grandfather wanted the Quincies and Soul Reapers to cooperate, but the Soul Reapers let him die- he says that doesn't explain why Uryu would be so obsessed with Quincies outdoing the Soul Reapers that he'd intentionally draw in Hollows for a competition, thereby putting the town in danger. Despite Ichigo being angry about what Uryu did, he suggests that they fight together against the Hollows, and Uryu ultimately saves Ichigo's life.
  • In Fairy Tail, the dark guild Eisenwald was formerly a legal guild before they were made unaccredited by order of the Magic Council, and now they're basically viewed as outcasts by society and find it much harder to make a decent living. For this reason, they're willing to take the lives of people who have it so much better than they do and ultimately plan to murder the ones they view as most responsible with forbidden death magic. Lucy not only calls them out on this, but also points out the reason they were unaccredited in the first place was because they kept committing crimes (such as assassinations) even after said crimes were declared as such by the Council.

    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 (Magneto is a Holocaust survivor, and takes his hatred of the Nazis who killed his family and ruined his life out on others). Occasionally, he listens.
  • Spider-Man: The second Venom, Angelo Fortunato, was bullied and ridiculed his whole life, as well as abused by his father, who bought the Venom symbiote from Eddie Brock and gave it to his son in the hopes of getting him to man up. During his fight with Spider-Man, he ends up killing a cosplayer dressed like the web-slinger, to which Spidey decides to stop holding back and give him a verbal beatdown, rebuking Angelo's crappy past and pointing out he himself was a bully magnet but didn't become a killer.
    Spider-Man: You weren't bullied any more than I was, Angelo. You weren't punched or kicked or spat upon any more than me. You were given great powers and you used them to kill people, you little freak.
  • In Green Lantern Amon Sur was son of the legendary Green Lantern Abin Sur. He grew up to be a leader of Black Circle Crime Syndicate. It was implied he was trying to live up to his father accomplishments and angry that his father was not around to raise him. He dug up his father's body with Hal Jordan and he goes on to say how he should have been different and how his father was never there for him, and it the Green Lantern Corp fault. Hal Jordan had No Sympathy and points out not having a father did not excuse his crimes.
    Amon Sur Things should have been different. I should have been different. My father was never there for me. He was never there because of the damn Green Lantern Corps. What I become for so long was their fault.
    Hal Jordan You got to be kidding me. You don't get a free pass because your father wasn't there. No one else did.
  • Irredeemable: The Plutonian, well on the one hand, he got tossed from one foster home to another after his families discovered his powers. Several rejected him out of fear, and one mother even killed herself. And then there are the circumstances of his birth - he was originally an alien probe that took on a human baby's form after reacting to the powerful emotions of a insane woman who had killed her child, which might have corrupted him from the start. He also lived in the woods as a feral child, known as the Wolf Boy. But he also got a few good lucky breaks, such as a caring foster father who genuinely wanted to teach him right from wrong, a girlfriend, and the love of at least 90% of the human race, but it wasn't enough. However, he was already severely psychologically damaged by the time things began looking up for it. Furthermore, having good things in life does not negate nor heal any of the damage he went through prior and it's very likely he did not go to therapy (which probably would've done him alot of good.) Regardless though, his biological parents even tell him to his face that the treatment he endured doesn't justify any of his atrocities.
  • The family of Jake Gallows, the Punisher in 2099, was killed in a completely random, senseless act of violence. He finds their killer and is treated to the tale of his tragic upbringing: Kron Stone claims his parents, though rich, never loved him. They were never home and left a robot to care for him but never bothered to program it, causing it to default to veterinarian mode. Jake is not sympathetic.
    Kron: Do you know what it's like to be fitted with a collar, live in a kennel, and be fed on dog meat?!
    The Punisher: No, but I know what it's like to have your family butchered by a crazy with a sob story.
Advertisement:

    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. Mercury even calls her out on this when he catches her abusing Emerald.
    “You know, it just amuses me that you talk about how terrible your mom was, but you seem to be a lot more like her than you think.”
  • Pokémon: 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: ‘Poor Sunset’? 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 aren’t total assholes. Taking out your problems on other people is a coward’s way of dealing with them, instead of facing them!
    Rarity: Rainbow Dash!
    Rainbow Dash: I’m just making a point! If she really wants my pity or sympathy, then she has to earn it!
  • In Pony POV Series, this trope is practically a major theme: a Freudian Excuse can explain a villain's actions, but it doesn't come close to justifying them at all.
    • Discord loves to excuse his behavior as being the fault of literally anyone except himself, especially Fate herself, but it's made clear ultimately his evil is no one's fault but his own with Celestia describing it as him discovering his Sadism. Something Discord eventually realizes himself.
    • Queen Chrysalis has a pretty tragic backstory, including being Made a Slave and accidentally draining her parents into an Empty Shell state, but she is under no delusion she's anything but a monster and is proud of it. She knows she's going to Hell and has every intention of trying to take it over when she gets there. One major bit of development for Sweetie Belle (after Chrysalis comes to care for her but not enough to stop) is realizing that no matter what Chrysalis told her, she was a bad person.
    • Nightmare Eclipse and her Gallery have all suffered horrific tragedies having gone through the Dark World and all the suffering Twilight and her friends have, in some cases more, but the only one under the delusion this justifies their behavior is Eclipse herself. Even Nightmare Mirror openly admits the six of them are monsters and intended to drag all of them to Hell herself in the end. Rota Fortuna even gives Eclipse a "The Reason You Suck" Speech pointing out that it's gotten to the point Eclipse herself is the one doing everything Discord did to her onto others and thus she has zero moral high-ground left.
    • Nightmares in general are, more often than not, spawned from a tragedy, in fact, their Catchphrase that often accompanies the transformation is some variation on the phrase 'the world isn't fair. I'll make it fair.' Despite this, Celestia and especially Luna make it clear to any purified Nightmares that tragedy doesn't excuse anything they did, something Luna holds herself to as well. Most of the now sane Nightmares agree.

    Films — Animated 
  • Toy Story 3: Lots-o'-Huggin' 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. His owner didn't abandon him so much as he abandoned her, and the fact that she replaced him actually shows how much she cared for him.
  • ParaNorman: Norman calls the witch out on her behavior when they confront each other. She excuses her own actions by remembering that the zombies wrongfully sentenced her to death for the crime of witchcraft in life, but Norman says 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!
  • Moana has a rare subtle one where the character himself acknowledges he has no excuse. Maui has a very tragic past explaining his theft of the Heart of Te Fiti, but when brought forth to apologize to the goddess after Moana has Set Right What Once Went Wrong, his only words were "What I did was wrong. There's no excuse." This may be why Te Fiti returns his magic fishhook to him as a token of forgiveness.

    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 arch-nemesis' 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 Alec’s mom, then himself out of survivor's guilt. But James Bond calls him out on this, stating that "mad little" Alec’s 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 make sense: 006 appears to have faithfully served the British Government for years before faking his death.
  • Falling Down: William Foster has been fired from his job, is divorced from his wife due to his Hair-Trigger Temper, and is stuck in traffic with no AC on the hottest day of the year in Los Angeles. Foster's ensuing destructive journey to attend his daughter's birthday party initially portrays him as a type of Anti-Hero, especially since most of his victims are asking for it. It's subverted at the end, when Detective Prendergast makes it clear to Foster that none of the bad things that have happened in his life justify his going on a rampage.
    Foster: I'm...the bad guy? [Beat] How did that happen?
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Avengers: When Loki is talking about living in his brother's shadow, Thor points out that sorting out family issues and seeking recompense for imagined slights is a slim excuse for conquering a planet.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy: Drax admits to Rocket that his thoughtless actions on Knowhere in which he sends Ronan to the planet, getting the Infinity Stone and getting everyone else killed and hurt along the process, was just to cover the loss of his family to the hands of Ronan. However, Rocket calls him out on the fact that, even though he understands what he is going through, his endangerment of everyone else's lives was still inexcusable of itself:
      Rocket: EVERYBODY'S got dead people! It's no excuse to get everybody else dead along the way!
    • Captain America: Civil War: Helmut Zemo lost his family and his home due to the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Feeling that the Avengers got off too easy for the incident, he orchestrates a long plan to destroy them from the inside, resulting in a lot of deaths, destruction, and broken friendships. While T'Challa sympathizes with what he went through, he points out that he still must answer to a lot of people who's lives he destroyed.

    Literature 
  • This is an unspoken yet clear element of A Christmas Carol and its many retellings. While the Spirit of Christmas Past reveals that it took a lot of undue loneliness and pain to warp Ebeneezer into the greedy miser he is today, the Spirit of Christmas Present makes it clear that his selfish ways end up inflicting a similarly unnecessary sorrow on those even less fortunate, and the Spirit of Christmas Future shows him the legacy of misery he will leave behind unless he changes his ways.
  • Harry Potter: While Lord Voldemort has a Freudian Excuse that grants him in-universe sympathy, the point is made that Harry Potter didn't fall to villainy despite their similar backgrounds.
  • In "Nackles", Susie tries to justify her husband's behavior by saying that it's the stress of having to be an insurance salesman when he'd really rather be back on the football field. The narrator observes to the reader that he sells cars and would like to be president, but he doesn't hit women because of it.
  • Red Dragon: The titular character had an appalling childhood, being bullied by other children for his cleft palate and abused in pretty much every way by his grandmother. Doesn’t change the fact that he killed entire families.
    Will Graham: As a child, my heart goes out to him. As an adult, he's irredeemable.

    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.
  • Agents Of Shield has the team's arch-foe, Grant Ward. Even before being revealed to be evil, Ward's tragic past as a victim of abuse (from both his parents and elder brother) was referenced more than once. He is eventually outed as a bad guy towards the end of season one and spends the rest of the series as Team Coulson's most persistent and reoccurring enemy. Despite this, he likes to constantly tell others (and himself) that his actions are either not his fault or are completely justified due to his terrible childhood, but the other main characters constantly make it a point to call him out on his actions and even say that in his anger towards his family, he's become something worse than them.
  • 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 has a Face–Heel Turn 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.
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Billy is a bully that constantly pesters Sabrina's friend Susie, who is struggling with her gender identity. At one point, he tries to bully her in a bookshop, but is stopped by Sabrina's aunt, Hilda, who is able to read his mind and tells him that what he has been through was awful, hinting at a terrible thing that was done to him when he was 11 and at summer camp and nobody would believe him, she shows sympathy for his pain, but tells him that the fact something awful happened to him gives him no right to bully someone else, especially someone so much smaller than him.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Rebecca herself gets to this conclusion by the Season 3 finale "Nathaniel is Irrelevant", when she realizes that she has been being too much of a Karma Houdini and wants to be held accountable for her actions, mentioning that she had previously looked for ways to blame her parents' lousy parenting or any other reason, but this time she wants to deal with the consequences of what she has done.
  • The Flash (2014): 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 a 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.
    • In an earlier episode, Barry and Iris find Captain Cold in their house, who warns Barry that the Weather Wizard and the Trickster are after him. When Iris asks what he's doing there, this exchange happens:
    Captain Cold: Didn't you hear? I had a rough childhood.
    Iris: Everyone in this room had a rough childhood, get over it!
    • Barry himself falls into this at the end of Season 2 and beginning of Season 3 when he is so distraught over his father's death that he goes back in time and saves his mother, something he almost did in the Season 1 finale, and creates a very different timeline. When things start to go wrong, he lets his mother get killed in the past again, only to find that the seemingly restored timeline isn't quite the same. He tries to change it again, only to be stopped by Jay Garrick, who tells him that attempting to do so will only make things worse, and he shouldn't abuse his powers just because of his traumatic past.
  • 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."
    • Jessica herself is on the receiving end of this in the second season when her mother debunks her claims that her abrasive and cynical demeanor is a response to the tragedy by pointing out that she was just as anti-social and needlessly hostile as a child before anything happened to her.
  • 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" behavior 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. That’s all. That’s reality.
    Dean: Why don’t you shut your mouth?
    Henriksen: Well, guess what. Life sucks, get a helmet. ‘Cause everybody’s 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 effect 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. However, when this possibility is suggested to God, he rejects it and says that Lucifer was always like this, and that while the Mark may have made him worse it didn't make him the way he was, and Lucifer further actively tries to blame the Mark for his misdeeds while also saying that they are no excuse for being cast out. While God is presented as something of an insensitive jerk, Lucifer is still handwaving his own atrocities and even resents God for still controlling him when he stops Lucifer from murdering Dean on a whim. God does later concede that he thought Lucifer would have been strong enough to contain the Mark and was aghast when he too failed, but since Lucifer ends up going right back to trying to kill, conquer and enslave everyone once God is out of the picture later on, it's fair to say that the Mark (which he hasn't had for millennia) is only part of the problem at best, the bigger part being Lucifer himself.
  • The BAU in Criminal Minds have to figure out why the serial killers they hunt down are killing people the way they are, often going into their tragic and traumatic backstories. However, they only really 'sympathize' so that they can track down the killers next move and talk them down from hurting their latest target, and are under no illusions about how they are still psychopaths and murderers who need to be brought down. This is spectacularly highlighted by JJ in 'The Longest Night':
    Look, I'm supposed to emphasize with you. Sympathize. Understand. But I can't. That would be a lie. The truth is, I don't understand what you've done. I don't sympathize with you killing people all these years, and I especially don't understand you taking Ellie. What I can do is tell you what a mother should tell you - that you can't take away your pain by hurting someone else. That it doesn't make all the nights you spent alone any better if you scare someone else the way you're scaring Ellie. What happened to you, it isn't fair, but what you're doing to her isn't fair either. And if anyone understands what that feels like, it's YOU.

    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, Titus has chosen to "be an anti-depressant" instead of dwelling on his past or whining about it. As such, his personal Berserk Button is people who refuse to make their own lives better, regularly tearing into them and deconstructing their mindsets as pointlessly self-destructive.
    Here, let me flip this around for you. There! See? Now your past is behind you. Why don't you climb down off the cross, use the wood to build a bridge, and get over it!?

    Video Games 
  • 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.
    • The culprit of the third case in Justice For All accidentally killed his benefactor and mentor while aiming to kill the man's daughter, who'd been responsible for pulling a Deadly Prank that resulted in him being confined to a wheelchair and his brother going into a coma, while not understanding what she'd done. The judge asks if the killer is actually a victim, at which point Acro tearfully says that he's just a murderer.
  • The Amazing Spider Man 2: Cletus Kasady is a nihilistic Serial Killer who is noted to have an abusive childhood. Notably, Kasady himself 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.
  • Dying Light: Rais had a younger brother, who always advocated for peace when Rais himself would speak of war. He is described as the only person Rais ever loved, and whose death was one of the reasons why Rais went off the deep end. That being said, the survivor who tells Crane of this openly says that his brother's demise does not excuse the atrocities Rais commits.
  • 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.
  • In Fire Emblem Fates, Laslow is shocked to hear about Peri killing her servants, and asks if she has any idea what the people close to her victims feel like when losing a loved one. After hearing her backstory- that her mother was murdered by a servant, and she ended up killing other servants who reminded her of the murderer- Laslow regrets saying that Peri doesn't understand the feeling of losing someone she loves, but insists that she think about that before she kills someone.
  • 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.
  • In Octopath Traveler, the first boss of H'aanit's story is the Ghisarma, a ferocious beast that was acting so violent because it was driven out of its old home by another beast. However, H'aanit doesn't believe it justifies its actions and points out that it could have learned to live in its new home without taking out its anger and pain on creatures that weren't responsible for its plight.
  • Oxenfree: The Sunken are the ghosts of people who were teleported to another dimension when the submarine they were in was destroyed and eventually lost sense of self and sanity. Alex acknowledges this is terrible and even tries to help them get over it, but very firmly states that it won't justify what they have done to her friends, or their attempt to take over their bodies. It's implied that The Sunken agree with what Alex is saying, but are so desperate for their plans to succeed that they don't care about the morality of their actions anymore.
    Alex: That is no excuse!
    The Sunken: It's the only excuse you're going to get.
  • Persona 5: Several of the targets claim in their Motive Rants that whatever they did wasn't really their fault; society made them gain distorted desires and create Palaces. Ranging from unrealistic expectations due to previous accomplishments (Kamoshida won a gold medal in the Olympics), to their horrible past (Kaneshiro and Okumura used to be desperately poor but are now fabulously wealthy), and believing themselves to be better than others. Even the Traitor of the party blames how society treated them for being an illegitimate child and having big-time Bastard Angst as a result of a father who wouldn't pay attention. The Phantom Thieves always hold the belief that this never excuses the actions of their targets, especially if one recalls how badly society has treated the Thieves themselves, and none of them chose to shrug their shoulders and just blame someone else.
    • Kaneshiro especially stands out, considering how flabbergasted the party is that his desire for "a place to belong" led him to become a Yakuza boss who blackmails high schoolers with drug money. Makoto, who was in danger of being sold into sex slavery, venomously tells Kaneshiro that he'll have a place to "belong" for the rest of his life: prison.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us: Before the Final Boss battle, Superman calls out on his Alternate Self, stating that while what The Joker did to him was horrible, namely tricking his Alternate Self into killing his wife Lois Lane and nuking Metropolis, it still doesn't absolve him of the evil deeds he committed as the Regime's High Councilor.
  • Pyre: Is the Reader talks with Volfred about the previous Nightwings, he'll mention that what caused the group's fallout was that one of their members, motivated by her past traumas and anger, betrayed them. Volfred says that years later reflecting about her actions, he has come to pity her, though he clearly states that her past, while sad, does not make what she did right or acceptable.
  • 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. Interestingly enough, Garrosh had previously mocked Thrall as a poor excuse of a Warchief and was glad to have replaced him.

    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.
    • Season Four reveals that Beatrice Horseman, BoJack's abusive mom, didn't have such a great childhood herself. Her older brother was Killed In Action during World War Two, which led to her mother becoming depressed and emotionally unstable, and her father was an insensitive sexist jerk who refused to deal with his wife’s emotions and eventually had her lobotomized. Thanks to the lobotomy, her mother didn't notice that Beatrice contracted scarlet fever, which led to her father, after showcasing he still treats his wife like crap despite her mental state, traumatically burning all of Beatrice's possessions while offhandedly mentioning that she might need to get lobotomized as well if she kept crying. He then proceeded to take a much greater role in her life, trying to steer her down the path of dutiful housewife to an heir to a company that would make a good business partner, including criticizing her weight (along with the popular girls at school), as he takes gratitude in the fact that her swollen throat from scarlet fever can help her loose weight, which leads Beatrice to become severely weight conscious as an adult that she takes weight loss pills in order to keep her slim figure (and to complain about how pregnancy “ruined” her beauty and figure after she has BoJack]). Then when she met Butterscotch, she had a rebellous one night stand resulting in the pregnancy that would become [=BoJack. Beatrice refused to abort the baby, and the two of them eloped to California, their marriage soon fell apart in part because of his inability to make money through his writing. However, it's made perfectly clear that nothing that she went through justifies being the shitty parent that she was.
  • 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, along with several racist white men during his work. 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 even though she suffered a mentally abusive relationship with Cartman, it doesn't mean she can become a horrible person because of it, which leads to her decision to break up with Cartman.
  • 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. Though when he sees Nox is legitimately sad, he lets him give up after he leaves, Yugo only being left with a vague impression as to what his motives were.
    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.
  • Weirdly both played straight and subverted in God, the Devil and Bob. When Bob's abusive father dies, he's openly upset that he wound up going to heaven despite the things he did to Bob during their lives. When God points out that his Dad was abused himself, Bob scoffs at it, pointing out that it didn't excuse the way he treated his own kids. Unusually, God fully agrees with this, acknowledging that Bob has every right to hate his father and never forgive him, but He has to take a person's past and full actions into account, and commends his father's attempts to pass on a softer punch.
    "It's not your job to forgive him. It's mine."

Top