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Heroic Heelization Speech

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"I did love being a hero. But if this is where it leads... I'm done with it."

Villains have many tools to use against a hero, head games being among the most favored. Whatever the form of Breaking Speech, villains love to use "logic" to convince the hero why they should give up and accept the inevitable, whether it be defeat, destruction, or worse.

Sometimes this goes horribly right.

Enter the Heroic Heelization Speech: the unintended result of a successful attempt to make the heroes question their self-worth, motivation, and goals. On these occasions, the heroes, upon being given the breaking speech, agree with every word the villain has said, that they are acting out a fantasy savior complex, or that the world is otherwise so lost that their actions have no worth anyway. The heroes will then go on to explain how these newfound realizations given to them by their antagonist have shown them that there's no reason why they can't give the villains a healthy taste of their own medicine - with that said, they're now willing to Shoot the Dog. This may take form of I'm Not a Hero, I'm... where they may either deny being a "hero" in the first place, or find out that they're fine not being a "hero" if it means they can do what's necessary with impunity.

The Heroic Heelization Speech is all about two things: a morality shift, and irony. The morality shift occurs when the heroes become sympathetic to the villain's point of view or methods, the irony occurs when the villain becomes a victim of said realization.

A hero giving this speech may slide into Anti-Hero or villain territory: whether the hero goes all the way over to the dark side or not depends on whether the hero is seriously going dark, or is just making a point, and whether or not someone is there to stop him/her. Sometimes, a hero making this speech can have good sense slapped into them by a fellow hero or the people they've saved before reminding the hero of the good the hero has done.

Compare "No More Holding Back" Speech for when a breaking speech results in a hero accessing their true potential in a positive way. See Hannibal Lecture (only when the one causing the realization has been captured by the one having the realization) and Breaking Speech for what can cause this to begin with. Contrast Kirk Summation, which is more about pointing out the flaws/evilness in the villain's Evil Plan.


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    Comic Books 
  • Occasionally random mooks will try to play the "Not So Different" Remark card on Batman. The standard response is for him to point out that if he does decide to go over the edge into killing criminals, the first victim is likely to be the jerk insulting him within arm's reach.
    • Archenemy the Joker loves giving these out as well. Unlike most examples, he wants Batman - or in one instance, Superman - to kill him once they go bad. Getting killed by the very hero he corrupted would just affirm Joker's nihilistic philosophy to him.
  • The Empowered special "PEW! PEW! PEW!" revolves around the eponymous heroine continuing to struggle with the lack of respect she receives while battling several minor supervillains going on shooting sprees for petty reasons — who were all using a specific brand of BFG, TeknoFetish. Emp had noticed that the TeknoFetish user agreement essentially warned that the guns would manipulate their users into "uncontrollable rage episodes", but gets caught by the wreckage of one weapon from a defeated villain. The smartgun then reassembles itself, larger than before, while driving Empowered into a homicidal rage by More than Mind Control. However, Empowered decides that what she's really angry about is the gun trying to use her as a puppet, and blasts it, along with most of the building she's standing on, to pieces before she calms down.
    Empowered: This sh*t will never get better, will it? I'll always be a f-f*king punchline, won't I?
    Smartgun: I can unerringly target everyone who has hurt you — every cape, every civilian
    Empowered: But y'know what really pisses me off?
    Smartgun: Just squeeze the trigger
    Empowered: Y'know what really grinds my f*king gears?
    Smartgun: SQUEEZE -- THE -- TRIGGER
    Empowered: (raises hand to gun, charging up a Hand Blast) The idea that some dumbass smart gun thinks it could possibly play me like this.
    Smartgun: Wait — whatNo — You cannot
  • In What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?, Superman appears to have gone this route. If the world is looking for him to be pushed over the edge by Darker and Edgier heroes, then he'll give them a Darker and Edgier Superman. It's terrifying. This was, in fact, a ruse to make the world realize just how dangerous the Elite's worldview really is.

    Fan Works 
  • Tales of the Canterlot Deportation Agency: Discussed in Divine Intersection. When Joanna accuses Bree of being a demon, Bree casually pins her down, puts her hand to her throat, and points out that if she really is a demon, there's no reason for her to not just squeeze.
    Bree: Except that you're wrong. I know who I am. And when it comes down to what you think, Joanna - I don't care. But if you want to keep arguing? Go ahead. Equestria has free speech; you keep using that for an excuse when someone tells you to shut up. You can argue all you like. Maybe you'll even find the words to convince me you've been right all along.
    If you still feel that would be a good thing.
  • Gadget does this in the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers fanfic Gadget in Chains. After being framed for a crime she didn't commit and thrown in a hellhole of a prison in place of her Evil Twin Lawhiney, an escaping Gadget happens upon Lawhiney on the road. When Gadget figures out who it is she is dealing with, and exactly how big the scam is, that, combined with some of the things she had to do to get out of prison, make her give a speech about how easy it is to not give a damn, before beating the tar out of Lawhiney and trying to kill her.

  • Superman in both Superman vs. the Elite and the comic book source. During their final fight, Superman takes a number of gruesome hits, to lull his opponents into a false sense of security, then uncorks a larger fraction of his full power, using it to present the illusion that he is killing each member of The Elite. When Manchester Black calls him on this, he replies that he finally understands what it is that they've been trying to tell him, and from now on he's going to be fighting crime their way. Unfortunately for them, they're going to be the first people he uses their new philosophy on. Fortunately for them, he was BSing them to make a point.
  • In Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Captain Marvel does this after finally getting the upper hand on Black Adam, who had been taunting him just moments earlier with Marvel's weakness.
    Superman: Easy there. You've got him.
    Black Adam: It changes you, does it not? The power.
    Captain Marvel: It only changes that I can choose my own fate now.
    Black Adam: Like a god, maybe.
    Superman: That's enough.
    Captain Marvel: No, I have to. To protect them.
    Superman: How? By being like him?
    Captain Marvel: By being stronger than him.
    Superman: Then be strong. Be good.

    Film—Live Action 

  • G. K. Chesterton used the trope multiple times:
    • In The Paradoxesof Mr Pond the story "When Doctors Agree" is an extended version of this. Doctor Campbell spends the story destroying his student's Presbyterian faith, in order to get him to agree that it's justifiable to commit murder for the good of society. Once he's convinced his student, he then boasts that he's committed at least one murder in accordance with this philosophy. His student promptly and fatally removes him from society.
    • Chesterton also does a variation on this in his book Manalive. In one of the flashbacks, we see the hero, Innocent Smith, is talking to his mentor, a dreary old professor who believes that life is not worth living. He is so convincing in his arguments that Smith draws a revolver and offers to shoot him (fortunately, this brings the man to his senses and Smith deliberately misses).
  • Deconstructed in Worm with Jack Slash to Scion. Scion was always going to go on a murderous spree, and Jack only caused it to happen about a decade earlier.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine provides two examples.
    • "Our Man Bashir": Dr. Bashir is playing a James Bond-like character in a holodeck program that accidentally assimilated several other crew members. To avoid getting either himself or his friends killed by the malfunctioning programnote , Bashir has his character do a Face–Heel Turn and join the Big Bad, giving a speech mirroring one Garak gave him about how the reward for being a faithful agent was usually an early death. The villain is unconvinced and prepares to shoot Bashir anyway, but is delayed long enough for the program to be deactivated safely.
    • "In the Pale Moonlight": Sisko violently confronts Garak about his scheming and the resulting deaths, and gets a scathing Breaking Speech in response. The episode ends with Sisko finishing his personal log of the episode's events with this trope. It's a little ambiguous whether the sentiment is genuine or if he's just trying to convince himself he's comfortable violating his principles and morality (and covering it up to maintain the ruse) if it means giving The Federation a fighting chance in a Hopeless War. Sisko then deletes the log entry, completing the cover-up of the crimes he and Garak committed together.
      Sisko: And he's right, I can live with it... I can live with it...

  • There is a Vocaloid song called "Boss Death" that focuses on the moral ambiguities between heroes and villains, and the pointlessness of trying to save the day when eventually you will be hated or become the monster you fought. Finally, the hero declares that everything she loved is gone and that she no longer has a heart—all she cares about is killing the villain.

    Video Games 
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin has a particularly nasty one after the previously golden-hearted protagonist, Will, is confronting a Blood Knight disaster scavenger.
    The Beast: Gwar har har! They're all dead, punk! Your pretty little girlfriend too! You couldn't save 'em. How's it taste? Burns, doesn't it?
    Will: WHY? Why did you do that? There was no reason...
    The Beast: Reasons? I don't need reasons! I kill because I can! And now I'm gonna kill the rest so I can hear you cry some more. How's that sound? What's that? I can't HEEEEAAARRR you! C'mon, punk! Don't you have anything to say? I wanna hear you beg!
    Will: I... I want to kill you.
    The Beast: You threatening me, boy?
    Will: You were right. I had no idea what war was really about. But I get it now. It's about anger and fear. It's about hate! My friends weren't looking to fight. They were innocent... You want to live like a beast? Fine! You can die like one, too!
    • Subverted in that this really doesn't change his morality at all in the long run, and he still remains pretty much the most idealistic and heroic character in the entire game aside from Forsythe or Brenner.
    • Later on, he gets a similar taste of this from Waylon, who tries to give Will a dose of "Not So Different" Remark by pointing out that they're both only doing what they do out of a self-serving interest, and that Will's idealism merely comes from a desire to appease himself and feel better. Will agrees, but counters that since it is, in fact, helping people it's 100% worth it. Waylon does not take it well.
  • Mass Effect 3: Renegade Shepard can use this trope as a persuasion tactic to get the Migrant Fleet to stand down during the final battle of the Rannoch storyline. Specifically, they remind the belligerent quarians how Shepard has saved them in Mass Effect and again in a prior mission of 3, then tells them that now they are facing another threat of the same magnitude and that Shepard is done saving them if they cannot just for once listen to reason. This has the intended effect and the quarians stand down, unlocking the Golden Ending.
  • In the Final Boss battle of Mega Man Zero 4, Dr. Weil taunts Zero whether the former - a "hero fighting for justice and humanity" - can harm him, a human. Zero's response is that he never cared about justice or being a hero in the first place - he has only ever fought for those he believed in, and Weil is just another maniac that he has to deal with.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: The bad guys often question Raiden's reason for fighting. Monsoon, in particular, spends most of his introductory cutscene tearing Raiden's ideals apart and trying to make him realize he enjoys killing. Unfortunately for him, and everybody else standing in Raiden's way from that point on, not only does our hero agree with him, he allows himself to tap into the suppressed bloodlust of his "Ripper" side, revealing a far more dangerous psychopath than any of them could have imagined.
  • Section 8: Prejudice has a Reveal halfway through that the reason there are no aliens in the setting is because humans killed them all. At the end, the Big Bad tells Captain Corde that "the Empire is built on the graves of millions". Corde more or less agrees, but as the Big Bad couldn't come up with any better solution than killing an entire colony of civilians pretty much at random...
  • Undertale: Throughout the game, in your various runs, Flowey the Flower will keep taunting, haranguing, and threatening the Player Character in a bid to make them kill more enemies, since he believes the spirit of his dead best friend is inside the PC, and killing will help them break out. Should the player go through a No Mercy route (in which you kill every enemy it's possible to kill in the game), Flowey will show up to congratulate you and cheer you on...only to realise that you don't intend to spare him, either.
    Flowey: Creatures like us...wouldn't hesitate to KILL each other if we got in each other's way. So that''s...why...ha...ha...what's this...feeling? Why am I...shaking? Hey...<Name>...No hard feelings about back then, right? H-Hey, what are you doing!? B-back off!!

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comic 
  • In 8-Bit Theater, White Mage has one (with some prodding from Black Mage) after Onrac is destroyed for the second time and she thinks her efforts at that point are futile. In keeping with the trope, not only does this not get Black Mage what he wanted (deciding to be evil doesn't make White Mage any more willing to overlook Black Mage's laundry list of faults, so he's no closer to sleeping with her), but it also gives the Villain Protagonists of the comic a slightly harder time, because WM determines that her new calling is "precision violence" and gives Red Mage a kicking.
    White Mage: The School of White Magic teaches us that there is a natural order to all things. A place and purpose for every person and event.
    Black Mage: Go on.
    White Mage: Fighting our role in the fate of things is futile.
    Black Mage: C'mon personal epiphany!
    White Mage: It's pretty obvious at this point that I am no great healer. I am not the one that will bring order to a dying and chaotic world.
    Black Mage: Almost there...
    White Mage: There is no point in denying it any longer. I am White Mage, a destroyer of worlds!
    Black Mage: That is so hot. My girlfriend is an armageddon factory!
  • Super Stupor: Discussed. At one point, the supervillain The Anarch explains to Punchline (a hero he had captive) his plan to madden his nemesis, the Cosmic Crusader, into misanthropy by forcing him to trigger a deathtrap that would kill his girlfriend. Punchline is mainly excited about the chance to see a villain commit "suicide by hero."
    Punchline: You're going to try to convince one of the strongest heroes in the galaxy that it's okay to take life... by killing his girlfriend... while you're standing like ten feet away from him.
    The Anarch: Whoa! Who says he'll kill me? He may feel enlightened - maybe thank me and join my side.
    Punchline: Right. Which of these is he more likely to say?
    Cosmic Crusader hand-puppet (on Punchline's right foot): "My one true love is dead. All good and hope is folly! I will now aid her killer in world conquest."
    Punchline: Or...
    Cosmic Crusader hand-puppet (on Punchline's left foot): "Well, fuck. Y'know, I always wanted to see if I could pull a nervous system outta someone without tearing it. And look! A volunteer!"
    (Beat Panel)
    The Anarch: I may have made a slight error in my calculations.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Luthor's Final Lecture

Luthor exposes Superman as his unwitting accomplice, causing Superman to abandon his no-kill rule.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (39 votes)

Example of:

Main / HannibalLecture

Media sources: