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Hypocrite

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"Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue."
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People — particularly those with authority, be it moral or political — are expected to act in accordance with the ideals they espouse. That is to say, they should practice what they preach.

Those who don't are hypocrites. The dichotomy here is that they may fervently and honestly believe what they say is right and good... they just don't have the moral strength or willpower to consistently live up to their own high standards. (Unless, of course, they're outright liars with no intention of living up to said standards.) They might believe that Utopia Justifies the Means and that they aren't worthy of it — or that only they can be entrusted to use those means because they're so enlightened (ie. better than everyone else). Maybe they're deeply in denial or have a severe lack of self-awareness, and justify their hypocrisy as either necessary or dismiss it with a simple, "That's different." In other cases, they might find the lure of Forbidden Fruit impossible to resist. Or maybe they think the rules should only apply to others.

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Frequently, they will be found out, be it in an Engineered Public Confession or through investigation. The Hero may have the choice of either exposing them as a fraud and discrediting them before their followers, or keeping their secret and blackmailing them into cleaning up their act or helping in another matter. How this turns out depends on how sympathetic or "Jerkass-ic" they are, and how humanizing their "vice" is, whether it be a diet guru eating donuts (probably OK), an eco-businessman clear-cutting forests (probably not OK) or a moral crusader outright molesting children (most certainly not OK). If a villain finds a friend of the hero's Fatal Flaw this way (or worse, the hero's own), they might use Flaw Exploitation to torment and control them.

If found out and/or exposed, the hypocrite will have the chance to mend their ways and do a Heel–Face Turn in one of two forms: either loosen their standards (and cut everyone else the same slack they give themselves), or tighten their belt (and actually live up to their espoused ideals). Failure to do either is usually enough for either a mental breakdown (heroic or villainous, depending on the character) or a full-on Face–Heel Turn as they reject their morality and embrace their vice. Alternatively, because they are feigning what they claim to be, they may find they are Becoming the Mask.

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Heroes are often accused of hypocrisy by villains who want to believe they're not that different and brag At Least I Admit It. Heroes who actually are hypocrites tend to hear "What the Hell, Hero?" quite a lot. (Unless they don't.) Hypocrites, be they heroes or villains, often find themselves hated by the audience (intentionally or not) even more than the Card-Carrying Villain, chiefly because they lied about their convictions, while those evil villains come off as being pretty honest in what they do. This is usually because of the Holier Than Thou implications that someone who publicly preaches about good things is signaling to other people that they are a good person (or are at least better than some others), and people feel cheated when that does not end up being the case; Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil, after all, and a Hypocrite's actions betray their words, preaching, and supposedly good proposals. Remember also, however, that the Hypocrite Has a Point; just because someone is being hypocritical does not also mean that they are wrong.

An Entitled Bastard is often guilty of hypocrisy; because of their inflated sense of self-importance, they genuinely believe that they are deserving of gratitude, respect, love, etc. from others, even if they treat others with no such dignity (which is often the case). They will disregard the rights of others without shame, yet be genuinely offended at how "unfair" it is for those same people to not like them.

However, like mentioned above, it's possible to be hypocritical and a good person at the same time, whether that would be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or a full-blown Nice Guy, and it depends on how severe the hypocrisy is (and the hypocrite's level of self-awareness). This in return, is what makes hypocrisy mainly considered to be a minor form of jerkassery by default.

It depends on whether this is intentional or not. One writer would do this intentionally so the character would go through a Jerkass Realization. Hypocritical Humor is a minor degree of this, when Played for Laughs. Another writer may make a character or do something but then forgot about it later on, then making them do things that contrast with earlier claims. It usually takes fans or other writers to point them out, and it’s up to the writer to fix it or leave it like that.

Hypocrite is NOT a YMMV trope. Please don't add it to YMMV pages. A character is a Hypocrite in-universe or isn't one at all.

The word "Hypocrisy" redirects to this page. For the Swedish Melodic Death Metal band, see Hypocrisy.


Examples:


Sub-tropes:

  • Animal Wrongs Group: Animal rights activists who are portrayed in a negative light, with hypocrisy frequently demonstrated by having them resort to causing harm to other people to end cruelty towards animals. Some may even be guilty of actions that endanger animals themselves.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: A group of people who won't act maliciously towards each other, but will be malicious towards everyone else.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Characters who deal with the strange and bizarre on a regular basis are skeptical when they run into something strange and bizarre.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: A gay person who hates homosexuality.
  • Beg the Dog: Someone beg the ones who they usually bully and expect kindness from those they usually torment and/or completely apathetic to their problems.
  • Bigotry Exception: Someone who feels prejudiced against a whole group of people just arbitrarily decide that one of them is actually decent.
  • Bigot with a Crush: Someone feels romantic and/or sexual attraction to a member of a group of people whom they are normally disgusted by.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Someone feels hatred or contempt for a group of people that they belong to.
  • Broken Aesop: When a story itself doesn't mesh with the ideals it promotes.
  • Churchgoing Villain: Criminals who openly live a very sinful lifestyle, but they can easily be forgiven by praying to God regularly, right?
  • Complaining About Complaining: A character complains about another character complaining.
  • Corrupt Church: Priests and ministers who command their worshipers to live a righteous, sacred lifestyle while they themselves do the exact opposite.
  • Corrupt Politician: A government official who hides behind their political ideology as an excuse for selfishly unethical goals.
  • Crocodile Tears: A character manipulates others by pretending to cry, which is frequently a tactic used by people wanting to look like they're the injured party.
  • The Dictatorship: A government that wants to hold absolute power over everyone, including crushing anyone who would hold even a sliver of power against them.
  • Dirty Cop: A policeman is supposed to enforce and uphold the law, but instead they break it like any other criminal.
  • Disobey This Message: "Pushing individualism" by forming yet another collectivist group.
  • Don't Be Ridiculous: A character dismisses another character's beliefs or observations as being absurd, before giving a correction that's just as (or even more) ludicrous than the other person's statement.
  • Double Standard: For when one person or group would get a free pass of something that another person or group would be completely ridiculed or punished for doing (and vice-versa).
  • Doublethink: AKA cognitive dissonance; when one believes in two mutually exclusive ideas at the same time.
  • Entitled Bastard: Someone with an inflated ego believes that they deserve exclusive treatment and rights, even from the very people they treat poorly.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While this trope is not necessarily about hypocrisy, it can end up becoming an example of such if a villainous character expresses disgust at some sort of evil misdeeds that they have already committed in some other form.
  • False Prophet: Someone claiming to be a messianic figure is actually deceiving their followers.
  • Favouritism Flip-Flop: Changing your opinion of an idea depending on who proposed it (e.g. hating a suggestion by the intern but loving it when hearing it from the boss).
  • Female Misogynist: A woman who dislikes women.
  • Firefighter Arsonist: Firefighters usually aren't supposed to be the ones starting the fire outside of controlled burning.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: A revolution that ends up with the status quo it fought against.
  • Gaslighting: Making an abuse victim look like the "real" abuser by dismissing their grievances as lies or delusions.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: In cases where a character becomes increasingly more like those they fight against while claiming that they still have the moral high ground. See also Knight Templar.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: When a character uses their faith to mask hypocrisy. Very often a fanatical zealot who doesn't even live up to most of what they believe in.
  • The Horseshoe Effect: The extremists on one side aren't that different from the extremists on the other side.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: Acknowledging one's own hypocrisy in a self-aware way.
  • Hypocrite Has a Point: Someone manages to provide valid points on a subject in spite of their hypocrisy.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Protecting someone from abuse because only you have the right to abuse them.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Hypocrisy being Played for Laughs.
  • Hypocritical Singing: Hypocrisy in the form of song.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Saying something, then saying or doing something clearly contradictory to it.
  • Internalized Categorism: A person believes that being part of a group that's discriminated against makes them guilty of the negative stereotypes associated with that group.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: Objecting to an insult in a way that only proves that the accusation is true.
  • Knight Templar: A person who firmly believes their own cause to be just and righteous, even when it isn't.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: A foreigner who claims to hate Western culture, but privately gains or has gained great benefits or enjoyment from some parts of it.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: A human who hates the human species. Double points if they see themselves as an exception.
  • Moral Myopia: When you do bad things to someone, it's justified. When they do the same to you, it's an atrocity.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Fighting for and supporting one's country while disliking its actions.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: If a man has a lot of sex, he's a badass. If a woman has a lot of sex, she's a dirty whore.
  • Never My Fault: A person who blames things on other people... who for added effect may be among the afflicted.
  • Not Like Other Girls: Complimenting a girl or woman by contrasting her against the rest of her gender.
  • No True Scotsman: One makes a general statement, someone calls that person out on it with a counterexample, then that person redefines their original statement such that, by definition, the counterexample no longer counts.
  • Not So Above It All: Believe that you are the Only Sane Straight Man and that you are Surrounded by Idiots; yet share some of those traits of the idiots you criticize, and/or when pushed you actually join them. This trope isn't a case of hypocrisy if the character is really generally normal and doesn't claim to be superior.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: A character remarks on their similarity with their enemy.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: A person claims that their extreme actions are in the service of righting wrongs, when in reality they're just doing it for completely self-serving reasons.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: When parents chastise their children for doing the same things that they themselves did at their age.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: When the dictator of an autocratic country pretends to be running a democratic government.
  • Playing the Victim Card: Bemoaning one's miserable lot while conveniently overlooking many, many wrongdoings one has committed.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Whatever the protagonist does is morally justified and/or anything that harms the protagonist is morally wrong.
  • Psychological Projection: Most (though not all) cases of this trope are a character denying having a problem, and accusing others of having the problem instead.
  • Revenge Myopia: A person taking revenge for something that they or their peers started.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: A villain will punish someone who betrayed a third party for their benefit, even though they accepted the traitor's help in the first place, and by punishing the traitor, betrayed them.
  • Selective Enforcement: Law enforcement will ignore someone doing something major but will punish someone doing something minor.
  • Selective Obliviousness: When a character refuses to comprehend a particular fact that could harm their hypocritical filter if that is the reason.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: A character who thinks Sex Is Evil and who believes that anyone he sexually desires is to blame for having seduced him.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: Claiming to have friends from a certain group, and then make offensive comments about their group when they're not around.
  • Start X to Stop X: To fulfill some goal, the character does its exact opposite.
  • Straw Feminist: A common stereotype when it comes to negative portrayals of feminism is to have them preach about gender equality while demonizing all men as being misogynist jerks who deserve to be treated like trash. Another is to contradict their stated goal of standing up for women's rights by attacking women they see as the enemy for having viewpoints or making decisions they don't approve of.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Not only does this person not even bother to practice what they preach, they only pretend to believe or care about what they say as a cover for their actions.
  • Such a Phony: You talk smack about someone you don't like behind their back, but act nice when they're around.
  • Tautological Templar: Somebody who believes that they are good, and that makes everything they do good by default.
  • Think of the Children!: A Moral Guardian who selfishly blames media for being a poor parent rather than their own mistakes.
  • Two-Faced Aside: When a character says one thing to Person A, but then immediately expresses the opposite sentiment to Person B in an aside.
  • Villainous Parental Instinct: A person will hurt children, but not their own.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A character that has idealistic goals, yet uses cynical methods to achieve it, which would normally be against that mindset. Especially if they start devolving into committing the same kinds of injustices they hate.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Burdening your victim with responsibility for your own abusive behaviour.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Complimenting a member of a given group in a backhanded way that tends to imply prejudice against that group on a more general level.
  • You Are What You Hate: People hating others for the same traits they themselves have or what they would eventually have.
  • You Hate What You Are: An index of tropes where characters hate what they are.

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Alternative Title(s): Hypocrisy, Pot Calling The Kettle Black, The Hypocrite

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I stole that one

Jay, in 1969, is pulled over by two racist cops who obviously believe he stole the flashy car he's driving. He begins lecturing them on stereotyping and says that just because he's black doesn't mean he stole the car...he then admits that he actually did steal it.

How well does it match the trope?

4.64 (11 votes)

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Main / Hypocrite

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