Follow TV Tropes


It Gets Easier

Go To

"You could not even guess at the things that I have done. Awful, evil, obscene. The telling of them alone could make you puke...They nag at me from time to time, but I tell myself I had good reasons. The years pass, the unimaginable becomes everyday, the hideous becomes tedious, the unbearable becomes routine. I push it all into the dark corners of my mind. And it's incredible; the room back there. Amazing. What one can live with."
Inquisitor Glokta, Before They Are Hanged

Murder, mayhem, and destruction are not things that the average person would readily consider. But if you listen to the average fallen hero, jaded soldier or brutal knight, he'll tell you that it gets easier with time. After that first act of destruction and the attendant wave of revulsion and psychological trauma passes, it becomes easier to stand doing it again, and eventually it becomes second nature. Heck, you may even forget why you braced yourself to do it in the first place.

This trope is often used to segue a character from your average guy to a cold blooded killer; the more he's had to kill, the less he cares each time he's done it. It's also usually part of the backstory for a Hitman with a Heart. Occasionally it also is invoked in crime dramas in storylines where use of deadly force by police officers becomes part of the story (most notably the Dirty Harry films), wherein idealistic characters (often newbie cadets who have had to end a life for the first time) express fear of this trope. A first kill scenario often occurs in films and TV series involving newbie officers/agents, with "it gets easier" often implied if the character proceeds to amass a body count as the film/series goes on without any apparent ill effects.

If a work goes out of its way to show that a character never had this problem for their first kill, that is usually a hint that they are Ax-Crazy, sociopathic, or something similar. On the other side of the coin, beware a character who lets it get too easy, because then it's just a stone's throw from doing something that makes even other jaded characters balk.

Most stories about The Mafia have this plot line in it, mostly for the main character, who starts out unwilling to kill people, and eventually having no problem killing people when necessary.

The main exception is The Coroner character, a vital medical professional whose very profession involves dealing with death and circumstances surrounding it with utter casual dispassion to provide the vital information the police need.

This works in Real Life, folks. At least the boot camp has to take a whole year to prepare you to the possibility of killing someone. And they've gotten better at doing it as well, though it must be noted that there are always some people who, despite training, have a mental block that keeps them from pulling the trigger. And sometimes, there are people who never have anything resembling a block, even during their first time.

Compare Gaining the Will to Kill. Contrast the more idealistic It Never Gets Any Easier. Closely related to He Who Fights Monsters.

Not to be confused with video games that are difficult in the first few levels and get easier later on (that would be Early Game Hell). No relation to Slow-Paced Beginning, which is about a work becoming more engaging after a slow, expository build-up.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Code Geass:
    • Lelouch fits this to a T. He discovers the results of his actions, goes crazy for a bit, does even worse things, and, eventually, has to bluff through his own emotional pain to do the worst/best thing possible.
    • Suzaku protested about using violence and other extreme measures at first. Not any more.
  • Specifically referenced by Andrew Waltfeld in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, and implied to be the case with Mu La Flaga as well, in a deliberate aversion of It Never Gets Any Easier. Waltfeld tells Kira that the first time he had to kill in battle, it made him sick, but after a while he got used to it just as he'd been told he would. And the reason he brought it up was to suggest that WMDs are the same way.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ritsuko tells her younger, more idealistic assistant Maya these exact words when she voices moral objections to the Mad Science they are currently involved in. The result varies by continuity; In the classic series, Maya never really hardens and just gets progressively more freaked out by the apocalyptic horrors she has to witness, in ANIMA, she eventually takes over Ritsuko's position as the technical division's leader without discarding her ethics, while the Rebuild movies show her having become a hardened, abrasive Broken Bird after the Time Skip, acting even colder than Ritsuko, who interestingly became a bit less cynical over the years, but still has no qualms about killing an innocent boy who just happens to be the resident Apocalypse Maiden. After a catastrophe that practically rendered the planet uninhabitable, most of the cast has come to share her attitude...
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist, you see this happen with Bradley in his flashback Cry for the Devil moment. As a young man, he accidentally stabs a friend during fencing practice and is horrified, but is congratulated by his superiors for killing his friend. By the time of the series and following his transformation into a homunculus you have a man who kills without a shred of remorse.
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Ed is upset over having to kill Greed, although he does mention that he accidentally killed minor villain Majahal much earlier in the series. He has no problem with using lethal force against homunculi from this point on, even (or maybe especially) against Sloth, who was created when he tried to bring back his mother, and assumes her likeness.
  • In Death Note, Light is horrified after realizing that he actually killed his first two victims (which is emphasized more in the manga than the anime), but finds killing everyone else easier after resolving to change the world even if it is extremely painful for him. Eventually, he doesn't care if he has to kill all the people around him as long as it doesn't hinder his goals. It's implied some of this might the effect of the Death Note (as during his Memory Gambit Light is almost a different person, horrified by the idea that he could have been Kira), but other characters claim it's a natural result of Light's extreme personality being given such a dangerous item.
  • In Simoun, the Sibyllae are originally very clear that they are priestesses, not soldiers. They are not "fighting," they are "inscribing Ri Maajon." They are not engaged in a "sortie," they are "offering prayers to Tempus Spatium." However, by the time we get halfway through the series, when their country has been at war on multiple fronts for several episodes, they are "on patrol" and "in battle." The newest Sibyllae are fine with that, since they only joined after the war had begun, but for the original members, it is something of a shock once it is pointed out how much things have changed since the beginning.
  • Fortis of Hückebein from Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force tells this to Tohma when he was trying to convince him to join their group of criminals since, as fellow infected, they are his best chance to survive. Touma disagrees.
    Fortis: You may resist with the mindset that murder is a crime. However, you'll get used to it. We did too.
  • Discussed and played with to various effects in Attack on Titan.
    • Torture Technician Djel Sanes explains that it was difficult to torture people at first, but over time he came to enjoy making other people suffer. He reassures the heroes it will be the same for them.
    • Averted with Annie Leonhart, Reiner Braun, and Bertolt Hoover. Once their identities are exposed, it becomes quite clear that while they are for the most point able to kill without mercy in the moment, doing so has left them deeply traumatized. Rather than getting easier, for these Tyke Bombs it has become harder as they've come to understand the reality of their actions.
    • After killing to save a comrade, Armin is shown throwing up repeatedly in the woods. When Mikasa is asked whether she or Eren felt that way after the first time they killed, the audience is not shown her response to this question. Levi reassures that shooting was the right thing to do, but falls short of invoking this trope.
  • This is probably the Central Theme of The Garden of Sinners: Shiki is a perfect killer, who can destroy pretty much anything and anyone, and some parts of her psyche desperately want her to embrace her murderous nature, but knowing better than anyone how slippery that slope is, she repeatedly refrains from killing other humans (non-human and superhuman entities are fair game) even when she thinks they really deserve to die. The final chapter even drops the explicit Aesop that when a person murders another person, they basically destroy themselves, as well. Ironically, Shiki kills another human for the first time in the same movie. This is also presumably a core component of why Shiki's grandfather's philosophy is that a human can only ever kill one other person - the act of murder irrevocably changes the murderer into something slightly less than human.
  • In Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, David initially passes on guns and his first kill is hindered by his own inner conflict between his old life with Gloria and his new life as an edgerunner. However, by the end of the series, he guns down targets without hesitation and utilizes heavier weapons to annihilate those in his path. He admits to Lucy that he lost track of the accumulated body count.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Warrior Cats graphic novel Warrior Cats: The Rise of Scourge, it is shown that Scourge, the leader of BloodClan, started innocent but found it easier to kill as time went on.
  • This is one of the many reasons Batman doesn't kill. If he resorts to the one first kill (he says is often all too easy to fall into it), he may become jaded to humanity and not be able to stop. note 
    • The Batman example is also an in-universe tactic. In Knightfall, Robin points out that Batman scares the crooks, but doesn't actually hurt them — Batman is quick to point out that he uses it as a psychological weapon, in that the crook thinks he's not worth the effort. Whenever he needs that extra "oomf", Batman always lets drop that there are a lot of unsolved murders in Gotham, so who's to say he doesn't kill...
    • From Bruce Wayne: Fugitive:
      Checkmate Operative: We have no evidence of Batman ever having killed.
      Batman: I fail to see why you think I'd leave any.
  • In Identity Crisis, a JLA comic, Jean Loring, the Atom's ex-wife, attempts to put the Elongated Man's wife, Sue Dibny, into fake danger so that all heroes, including her ex-husband, would come closer to their loved ones. After she accidentally kills her, she goes completely nuts and has no problem with putting others in mortal danger. Through this, she indirectly causes two more deaths, and even more indirectly causes the death of Firestorm. (Alternately, Jean is lying about it being an accident; she clearly meant from the beginning to kill Sue (no one "just happens" to be carrying a flamethrower) and one or two other people to cover her tracks. Mind, Jean's still clearly nuts, and her first kill visibly shook her more than the ones she arranged later.)
  • In Y: The Last Man, 355 gets more and more trigger-happy as the series progresses. And she hates herself for it.
  • The Invisibles has King Mob, quipping about how after the fifth time, it doesn't feel like murder anymore.
  • Watchmen: Rorschach is depicted as a Batman-like character who frightens villains rather than killing them, until he crosses the line by slaughtering a child-killer, after which Rorschach routinely kills bad guys justifying it by referring to them as "dogs that need to be put down". The film version of the comic also implies this with regards to Silk Spectre II and Nite Owl who are shown slaughtering a group of attackers without blinking an eye.
  • Eat the Rich (2021): Astor's stepmother Kitty was once like Joey, a working-class girl who married into a Crestfall Bluffs family. She tries to advise Joey on the ritual murder and cannibalism, telling her it gets easier to accept.

    Fan Works 
  • In Seven Little Killers, Canada becomes a killer. He says that it's like smoking. You hate it at first, but grow to enjoy it. It amounts to him asking America if he can just kill everyone, instead of all of their complicated plans.
  • Mocked in Bait and Switch (STO) when an Ensign Newbie gets jitters after her first firefight and Eleya calls her over for a chat.
    Eleya: Iím not going to rely on cliché here: the first battle isnít the hardest, itís just the first. And frankly, as pathetic as that one was, I guarantee the next will be harder.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls: This is the crux of Rarity's fears about herself, as she realizes she has a surprisingly easy time being willing to resort to fatal means of defeating her foes compared to the rest of her friends. She also recounts how she got into a scuffle with a robber and in order to protect Sweetie Belle she stabbed the man through the stomach with his own knife, and what disturbed her was how clinically she did so and how she didn't feel disturbed about the act itself. Coming to terms with this and being willing to choose when to make that choice and own up to the consequences rather than hold herself back or immediately go to that killer instinct is what lets her complete her Fullbring.
  • Cú Chulainn in Fate of the Clans was responsible for the deaths of millions during the course of a mere 20 years or so, most of these occurring during the seven years he fought in The Cattle Raid of Cooley. It's safe to say he's used to killing.
  • Wings to Fly gives it a bit of a zigzag, in which a pilot notes that he's killed a few dozen human opponents, but there are a few he doesn't remember at all and he could only describe the full fight with maybe five or six of them. The memories of his human kills are flat now, the emotion drained from them, as well. On the other hand, he can describe every moment of every fight that lead to his Mobile Doll kills and those memories still have a physical effect on him: they never got any easier because they were never easy to kill.
  • Defied in Incarnation of Legends. When Bell tells Artoria he wishes the pain of killing and committing less than moral acts would go away, she tells him he shouldn't think like that. Feeling guilt when he takes a life means that he can still be 'human', with Bell ultimately coming to accept the burden of it never getting easier instead.
  • Harry eventually learns in For Love of Magic that he's gained a far more blase attitude towards killing after murdering Pettigrew due to the cracks in his soul that let the Dark in.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Night Blade, following his These Hands Have Killed moment, is even more disturbed by the fact that he wasn't as disturbed by it as he should have been. Xvital feels the same way as the battle with Sharp Point's hench-ponies goes on.
  • In Summer Crowns, Jaime is initially disturbed by the Salt the Earth tactics employed by the Dragonhunt against the countryside territories controlled by the Free Cities, but quickly finds himself numbed to it all.
  • In A Brighter Dark, Garon tells this to Corrin after she's just committed her second massacre, in order to help her move past it. He explains that the second time is the worst, because the first time you have justifications that forced it to happen and from the third time onward, you've just come to terms with it and have become numb.
  • The first time Emberpaw hunts prey in Little Fires, she's noticeably unnerved. It's much gorier and less pleasant than she imagined. To make it worse, she swore she heard the mouse say "Not yet" in fear.
  • Sakura lampshades the idea in A Scarecrow's Worst Friends, citing that when she first joined ANBU, the idea of drowning someone in their own vomit seemed nasty. But now, she still giggles when remembering that one time in River Country.
  • Rusty is disgusted and horrified the first time he kills a cat in Blood! Rusty AU. He can't help but feel bad for the cat and his loved ones, even wishing sometimes that he had been the one that died and was left to rot in an alley. This quickly changes as Rusty becomes more engrained with his life as a BloodClan cat. A few weeks later he barely blinks an eye when his half-brother Scourge forces his two siblings to jump into a river.
  • In Mastermind: Strategist for Hire, Izuku goes from nearly having a Heroic BSoD over being responsible for the death of a Pro Hero to planning more murders without a second regard for the victims over the course of a few months.
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Mad-Eye Moody notes that the Killing Curse doesn't damage the soul — rather, it's the act of murder which does that. Later, Quirrel says that to cast the curse once requires that you hate someone enough to end their life without concern, and asks Harry what it would take to be able to cast it at will. The answer is apathy, a disregard for all life. And practice.
  • In ''Supernova, when Luffy accidentally kills a bandit in the beginning of the story, Shanks tells him that it will get easier. Some people will be so easy that Luffy forgets about it the next day. The important thing is that Luffy never enjoy it.
    • Later, Luffy passes this advice on to Chopper after he accidentally kills Wapol.
  • Springaling: Springtrap describes his killing of kids as getting easier for him to achieve over time. While his first kill freaked him out and it took years before he tried again, by the end of his spree it evolved into an urge to off kids and he says he was proud at the time for managing to kill a party of five in one go.
    Springtrap: I didn't get upset anymore. I got better at it. Practice makes perfect.

  • The opening of the 2006 film version of Casino Royale almost spells out this trope:
    Dryden: How did he die?
    Bond: Your contact? Not well.
    Dryden: Made you feel it, did he? Well, you needn't worry. The second is
    Bond: [shoots Dryden] Yes. Considerably.
  • Dredd. Cassandra Anderson, a rookie Judge being assessed in the field by Judge Dredd, has a Thousand-Yard Stare the first time Dredd orders her to execute a criminal. By the climax of the movie, she shoots perps without hesitation.
  • Inverted in The Axe. As the protagonist states, it doesn't keep going as easy as the first time, and he is struggling more with each murder.
  • In the film adaptation of The Crucible, the first hanging has the girls who had falsely accused them flinching and wincing while the rest of the villagers are cheering. But after the second and third and fourth hangings, they are cheering just as happily as the villagers.
  • Dark Blue has a poignant moment after Bobby kills his first suspect. His partner, Eldon, recounts his first kill, and how much it affected him. He says that, even though killing is a normal part of his job now, he still thinks about that first one.
  • Death Wish: Paul is not very comfortable fighting criminals early on in the film. At first, he beats up a mugger with a sock filled with quarters, then goes home, taking a drink of whisky to calm his nerves. Paul also vomits after killing his first criminal. After this, he starts gunning them down without hesitation.
  • A similar thing happens to Erica in The Brave One; already dealing with PTSD after a vicious attack that left her in a coma and her boyfriend dead, she just tries to move on with her life, when she is forced to kill a man during a robbery. She then goes home and takes a Shower of Angst (while still fully clothed). The second time she kills someone, she wonders why her hands don't even shake, and does eventually vomit. After that, she barely has a reaction as her body count rises.
  • Hannie Caulder: Hannie is on a revenge quest to kill the outlaw Clemens brothers who raped her and murdered her husband. She can't bring herself to kill a bandit in her first gunfight, needing Price to do it for her, and she shows clear signs of trauma from witnessing it. She then hesitates to kill Frank Clemens, resulting in her getting shot in the shoulder, but manages to go through with it. She's more stoic and resolute by the time she duels the remaining two brothers.
  • The Hunger Games: Clearly indicated in those tributes who seem to have no difficulty at all in killing people. Referenced by Peeta's concerns before the game begins about becoming a killer. Also, while Katniss is heard stating her uncertainty about shooting something that isn't an animal, by the end she is able to put an arrow into Cato without blinking an eye.
  • This trope is pretty much the source of a lot of internal conflict for the main character in Knockaround Guys after a mob execution his dad had him attend as a kid.
  • In Silver Lode, Ballard references this concept early on when Mitch suggests using violence against McCarty.
    "You kill one man, it's not so hard to kill a second one. Third one's easy."
  • In the Star Wars prequels, Anakin kills dozens of Sand People out of anger, and is consumed by guilt afterward. A few years later, he's hesitant to kill Count Dooku, and eventually does so with reluctance at Palpatine's insistence. Later in the film, he helps kill Mace Windu in a situation of extreme duress, but shrugs it off rather quickly. From there he moves on to watching Palpatine order the deaths of Jedi all over the Galaxy as he himself marches to the Jedi temple to kill everyone inside, including the children. About seventeen years later, Anakin, now badass Sith Lord Darth Vader, has no problem with Grand Moff Tarkin blowing up a planet containing billions of innocent people and is murdering his own subordinates via Force Choke with alarming frequency. A literal case of The Dark Side Will Make You Forget.
    • Implicitly, thanks to his job as top enforcer and commander-in-chief of a galaxy-spanning totalitarian empire, Vader has tons of Offstage Villainy amounting to innumerable atrocities, especially because of this trope and the ease at which he is committing evil in the movies. The Star Wars Expanded Universe confirmed this, for example having a lethal and highly-contagious biological weapon developed on the Falleen homeworld; and when it escaped and started infecting people in the capital city, the entire area was sealed-off and "sterilized", ie. annihilated via turbolaser fire from orbiting Star Destroyers, killing millions of people.
  • The last line of the horror film The Strangers is Pin-Up Girl telling Dollface, "It'll be easier next time."
  • Theresa & Allison: Allison assures Theresa, who is feeling quite guilty about killing humans for blood as a vampire, that this feeling eventually fades. Theresa isn't reassured or happy at this.
  • Tragedy Girls: McKayla reveals to Sadie that when they first killed Jordan's mother, years and years ago, she was an absolute wreck afterwards. By the time of the main film, however, both girls murder hundreds of people without blinking.
  • In True Romance, Virgil the enforcer takes a breather from beating on Alabama to explain his experience with this trope, ending with, "Now I kill 'em just to watch their expressions change." Virgil unforgettably played by James Gandolfini before his big promotion.

  • Zig-zagged in the form of a page quote in the book Necropolis by Dan Abnett. A medic is describing his mindset to survive during his long service to the Imperium.
    The worst campaign, I think, was the first I fought alongside. Since then, I have seen much, much more and things that were far worse, but I have blocked it out. The soul can stand only so much before it shatters.
  • Pick any Baen Books Military Science Fiction novel. Notably, The Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove, where a kid fakes being a soldier but ends up doing the job for real.
  • In the Alex Rider novel Scorpia, Alex goes undercover and fakes an assassination, when he claims he felt nothing when he killed his victim the Affably Evil henchman says that's normal and tells him that eventually he'll start to like it.
  • Mr. Pin in The Truth spells this out when his sanity starts getting away from him because he's realized that the people he's killed are closer than he thinks, and are just itching to get their revenge. Killing one person, that's a Moral Event Horizon; killing twenty is just, well, more of the same.
  • In C. S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, when Orual is about to fight in single combat, the captain of the guard makes her kill a pig to get her first time over with this way.
  • In John Grisham's first novel A Time to Kill, the guy who kills the two guys who raped his kid daughter thinks that it was harder to kill the first Viet Cong fighter.
  • Acheron Hades, in The Eyre Affair, describes murder as "like eating a packet of shortbread" — once you start, there's no reason to stop, since the worst they can do is execute you once.
  • In Tanya Huff's Valor's Choice, Lieutenant Jarret is shaken by having killed someone for the first time, and asks Torin if it ever gets easier. Her response is along the lines of, "yes, sir. I'm sorry to say that it does."
  • Similar to the Batman example, Hercule Poirot gives this as a justification for bringing killers to justice (after they killed once, they will kill again to avoid being discovered, and each kill will be easier than the previous one). This is an important plot point in his final case.
  • In Life of Pi, the main character is introduced as devoutly religious, intelligent and a vegetarian. But when he has to survive, he abandons all morals. Killing becomes easier, and soon he is doing things like sucking fluid from fish eyeballs and eating faeces and human flesh. He explicitly states that he goes from crying over a flying fish that flopped into the lifeboat to exulting in the fact that he managed to hook and kill a dorado - and later on, he grabs and slaughters two meerkats without hesitation, so he can rub his feet in their viscera to cool them after he steps on the acidic surface of the island.
  • In the X-Wing Series, rookie pilot Gavin Darklighter helps out during the Krytos Plague pandemic on Coruscant, trying to find victims to get them treated before it's too late, and call for cleanup teams when it is. In the end stages, the Krytos plague, which was engineered by Imperials, basically liquefies those who contract it. Finding a particularly bad one, someone who'd barricaded himself up when he knew how sick he was getting, makes him vomit, but he pulls himself together, does his job, and confesses to his love interest that a year ago he would have run screaming. He's changing, and it scares him.
    Asyr: It's called maturing, Gavin, and not everyone likes it.
    Gavin: Thanks, but I still have to wonder if it's right that we can see something like that and just continue on.
    Asyr: We continue on, my dear, because we must. [...] Our mission is to fly our X-Wings, to locate and destroy the kind of monsters who would do this kind of thing. Doing that requires all the maturity we can muster.
  • Enforced in the Sword of Truth series, with the titular weapon. The Sword of Truth inflicts guilt on its wielder every time they kill a person. However, the first time a person kills, the sword inflicts significantly more, to acclimate itself to its new wielder. It's a plot point that being very angry insulates someone somewhat to the sword's guilt, but the Mercy Kill mode of the sword insulates the user completely, because the user is inflicting guilt on himself or herself without the help of the sword.
  • Ian Fleming inverted the trope regularly in his James Bond novels. Despite the statement made in the 2006 version of Casino Royale, quoted at top, in the original novels and short stories Bond is often depicted as actively avoiding having to kill more than is necessary, leading to some dangerous scenarios for 007, such as in the short story "From a View to a Kill" in which Bond is nearly killed by a man whom he spared. He had to commit two premeditated duty kills to get his "license to kill", but it's implied that this is demonstrate that Bond can kill in cold blood, rather than that it gets easier to do so.
  • The Last Guardian by Jeff Grubb has this line used by Medivh after he attacks Khadgar and Garona.
  • Deconstructed in A Frozen Heart, a Tie-In Novel of Frozen (2013) which depicts Prince Hans of the Southern Isles' life before the film's events. As a young kid, he was mocked by his family for his unwillingness to murder people, especially since his kingdom is a totalitarian dictatorship. Having had enough of it, Hans decides that if he wants to earn their respect, then he'll have to accept whatever tasks they give him, even if it involves violence against their subjects. However, it also changes him into a cold-hearted man incapable of bonding with others so he doesn't feel disturbed by the killing. Fast forward three years later, by the time he's in Arendelle, he resorts to his family's tactics in order to become its ruler despite vowing not to use them originally.
  • Strongly implied in the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy, wherein Katniss spends much of the first part of the book being concerned about killing people, but once she starts to do so, after a brief moment of self-reflection that mostly focuses on the potential reaction of the family of her victims, she appears to shrug it off and is soon actively planning killing scenarios and, ultimately, putting down Cato without much hesitation, albeit as a mercy kill.
    • In the third book she kills dozens or possibly hundreds of people indiscriminately, including one scene where she gets in a firefight in a crowded street full of civilians. She has to defend herself with automatic weapons fire and admits that she has no idea what she's shooting at. She almost never sets out to murder people (with two prominent exceptions) but War Is Hell.
  • This is how Black Magic works in The Dresden Files. See, magic works via your beliefs and emotions. In order to cast a spell, you have to absolutely believe that you're doing the right thing with it (it's a plot point in Turn Coat that the Plot-Triggering Death victim was not killed by magic despite the suspect being capable of it because the culprit was mind-controlled and so could not believe in the cause). The Laws of Magic are against things like murder, Mind Rape, and Eldritch Abomination summoning. People who break those laws are accepting that these horrible things are right to do, so even if they do have good reason at first (Harry murdering Justin DuMorne with magic because DuMorne was a warlock trying to mind control him and Elaine, Molly altering her pregnant friend's mind to get her off of drugs), not catching them and putting a stop to them really quick tends to lead them to going down the slippery slope fast. This is why the Wardens have a one-strike-you're-out policy unless another wizard puts their life on the line to grant a warlock a second strike; it's really just putting them out of everyone's misery.
  • Sandman Slim notes that by the third murder, killing becomes a routine.
  • Lampshaded in the Cold War thriller An H-Bomb for Alice by Ian Stewart. When The Mole takes several hostages, he warns them not to resist as he's already committed one murder and they say the next one is a lot easier.
  • In The Monk, it takes a long time and a series of life-threatening events for Ambrosio to give into the temptation to have sex with Matilda and the narrator even acknowledges that the amount of temptation he experienced would have been nigh-impossible for any other man to resist too. Once Ambrosio crosses that line, however, it becomes increasingly easier for Matilda to convince him to do more and more sinful acts until he's raping and killing innocent women entirely of his own volition.
  • Played for Drama in Animorphs—Cassie's 10-Minute Retirement in book #19 comes largely from the fact that she's stopped being freaked out by killing, and her fear that she's becoming deadened to emotions in general. In The Andalite Chronicles, Alloran tells Elfangor and Arbron: <It's always hard the first time. And it never gets easy.>
  • A Practical Guide to Evil: When Catherine first meets the Black Knight, he gives her the opportunity to kill two rapists. After that, she asks him if killing becomes easier with time, and he negates that. Scarcely two months later, Catherine is hardened enough towards murder and free enough from qualms that she doesn't hesitate to kill if it befits her goals, and recognizes Black's statement as a lie.
    Catherine: "You know, the first night I met him, he told me it doesn't get any easier." *breaks her interlocutor's neck* "It was a very kind lie."
  • The Queen's Thief
    • Eugenides gets more accustomed to killing as the series goes on in spite of the fact that he refused to join the army specifically because he didn't want to take lives. Still, he tells Phresine in the third book that he still hates it and she needs to keep that a secret because as King, he has to.
    • In the fifth book, Kamet asks Costis how he can kill people. Costis tells him that it becomes easier once you begin to think of it as part of your duties as a soldier, but adds that there's a good reason soldiers get drunk after every battle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mentioned in the closing monologue of "And the Desert Shall Blossom" from Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Tom and Ben eventually graduate from killing desperate criminals to innocent passerbys. This is mostly an excuse for their censor-mandated Offscreen Karma.
  • Bones: Brennan is greatly disturbed when she kills for the first time, yet later asks to be given a gun during another case because she's killed before, and in "The Wannabe in the Weeds" she is comfortable enough with killing to shoot a woman in the throat with no remorse evident. (The woman in question HAD just shot Brennan's partner — aiming for Brennan — so hyper-rational Brennan may not have felt it necessary to express or even acknowledge any feelings of remorse, though in the context of the story there's no actual time for this to occur on screen anyway).
  • Breaking Bad: The first time Walter White directly kills someone, he is left a sobbing mess. As the series goes on, and as the bodies pile up, he doesn't seem to be as disturbed when he kills, and in season 5, starts to be able to even order the deaths of men with little concern.
  • Boardwalk Empire. Jimmy Darmody tells Nucky Thompson this when the latter hesitates before executing him. It turns out to be true, as Nucky does become more ruthless.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy is smart enough that a substantial part of her later character arc is about trying to avert this trope.
    "I can beat up the demons until the cows come home. And then I can beat up the cows. But I'm not sure I like what it's doing to me. [...] To slay, to kill. It means being hard on the inside."
  • Cheers: Invoked, of all places, in one episode. Woody, upset that he has told a lie, worries about the consequences.
    "I've never told a lie before! Wait, that's a lie. It's getting easier! What's next, murder?"
  • The fourth episode of Chernobyl follows a liquidator squad that has been tasked with "animal control", which is shooting animals within the Exclusion Zone so that they won't leave and spread radioactive contamination—and these are mostly pets and livestock. Pavel, a new conscript, has never shot anything before and freezes after shooting a dog but failing to kill it. Bacho, a hardened veteran of the Afghan war, has to finish the job to keep the animal from suffering. Later, he shares the story of the time he first shot a man, being horrified at the thought of being a person who had killed, and then coming to terms with the idea that he could have been that person all along, he just hadn't known it. The important thing is to do the job, and to not let the animals suffer.
  • Chuck: The trope forms part of the rationale behind the "red test" in which an operative must perform his or her first kill before being promoted to agent. Disturbingly, the kills are of the cold-blooded variety: assassinations and murders, rather than kills in the heat of battle. Sarah and Casey's high body count (and both being willing to kill in cold blood when necessary) attest to the clear implication that it gets easier. The actual episode in which Chuck undertakes his test ("Chuck vs. the Final Test") is built around Sarah being reluctant to allow Chuck to cross the line (ultimately, Casey secretly makes the kill instead of Chuck; Chuck's actual first kill occurs much later and is not cold-blooded in nature.)
  • By comparison, Covert Affairs, also set within the CIA, does not require its hero, Annie Walker, into a red test and in fact gives her missions despite her not completing firearm training (she eventually does pull the trigger for the first time).
  • Daredevil (2015): After Karen Page murders James Wesley, she has a nightmare in which she imagines Wilson Fisk telling her this, a manifestation of Karen's fear that after having killed Wesley, killing will get easier and she'll turn into someone like Fisk.
    Wilson Fisk: It's a difficult thing, isn't it? Taking a life. Feeling the weight and responsibility of all the years the person you've murdered has lived ó moments that they've cherished, the dreams that they've struggled towards ó gone, because of you. I want you to know something. Something important that I've learned: that it gets easier the more you do it.
  • Doctor Who: In "The End of Time", we get this exchange.
    Wilf: The Master is going to kill you.
    The Doctor: Yeah.
    Wilf: Then kill him first.
    The Doctor: That's how the Master started. It's not like I'm an innocent. I've taken lives. And I got worse, I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own.
  • Farscape: Alas, poor John Crichton learned to kill in order to survive the Uncharted Territories. He also went pretty crazy, though whether it was the killing, the utter weirdness, the many, many aliens who decided to stick things in his brain and swirl it around a bit, or some combination thereof is anyone's guess.
    • Crichton almost certainly had military training, given that he was former space shuttle pilot and they're nearly always drawn from Air Force or Navy pilot ranks. But in the modern era, air-to-air combat is rare and thus few fighter pilots have actually killed anybody. Thus, this trope still holds true over the course of the series.
    • Crichton went out of his way to avoid killing anyone for most of the first season; his first kill is in episode 18 and was caused by mind control, which caused him considerable distress. After that it was like a switch was flipped in his head, and he dispassionately finished off the surviving enemies at the end of the episode by himself. In later episodes he's just as quick to kill as the professional fighters in the crew.
  • Elinor tells this to her little sister Juliette in First Kill when the latter stresses about taking a life, reminding her that doing so doesn't change who she is but rather "tips the scales" further towards her vampiric lineage. And since they need to feed on blood, death is always a risk, so she needs to be prepared either way.
  • Fringe: In a second-season episode, after Peter is forced to kill someone for the first time, Olivia recalls her first kill and how it took time for her to get over it. But judging by the rather high body count she's amassed, "It Gets Easier" clearly applies.
  • Heroes:
    • In the episode "The Hard Part", Hiro describes his future self in terms of this trope:
      "Future Hiro killed so much, he forgot it should be hard."
    • Sylar goes down that road. After he kills for the first time, he tries to commit suicide (but is stopped by Elle and Noah). We all know how this story continues.
  • Hightown: Osito tells Junior after the latter is traumatized by helping to kill someone that it was the same for him at first. Eventually, however, it stopped bothering him. Since he continues to kill people, the obvious message was that the same thing would happen with Junior.
  • Holocaust: At first, Dorf is unnerved at being involved with mass murders. He gets used to it, though, with the prestige gained by his high position assuaging him.
  • Comedic example: In The Kids in the Hall, Dave Foley plays a character doing a monologue about being a mass murderer. He says the second kill is easy. "The third time you start to get cocky so you gotta be careful. Y'know, you gotta stay humble or you make dumb mistakes."
    • And his somewhat similar "bad doctor" character winds up his monologue by saying he's got to go tell the family his patient didn't make it:
      [sadly] "It's the hardest part of being a doctor... [shrugs] I think."
  • Lady Blue, an obscure 1980s series featuring a female Dirty Harry-like policewoman character who has killed so many people she no longer bats an eyelash when she has to fire her gun. The original pilot TV movie calls this into question when she finds herself at an inquiry over her actions.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Had Father Mulcahy getting used to the messy parts of surgery and noted that one thing that pushed him along was seeing the surgeons unconsciously warming their hands in the steam from the opened up torsos of their patients during really cold weather. As he said, "How can you see that and not be changed?"
    • Most of the unit's staff went through this. One episode revolved around a nurse who was taking longer than usual to go through it. BJ commented on his own adaptation to the horrors of war, saying "when I first got here, I couldn't walk through post-op without being sick to my stomach, and now I can walk through without even looking at them!"
  • Midnight Caller: After Angel commits her first murder, she can't sleep for two days. After that she grows to enjoy killing.
  • NCIS:
    • It is established that in the service's earlier days as "NIS", agents underwent a similar "red test" scenario, carrying out assassinations as a rite of passage. Jenny Shepherd failed her initial assigned kill, though she goes on to commit numerous kills (both hot- and cold-blooded) before the one kill she did not complete years earlier results in her death.
    • Ziva's somewhat blase attitude toward lethal force in her early appearances on the show, reflecting her Mossad career and the influence of her father, also attest to the trope.
  • Nikita: The concept is referenced several times in the 2010 version, with the title character, a Hitman with a Heart, driven to take down the organization called Division in part because they made her a cold-blooded killer. Like Chuck, above, Division recruits are also required to complete a cold-blooded kill before being promoted to field agent status. Alex makes her first kill by accident (they were struggling for the gun and it went off), then executes her former pimp after he tortured her, and is soon getting into pitched gun battles with the best of them.
  • Person of Interest: Averted in episode "Matsya Nyaya". A woman betrays her boyfriend and partner in crime, and shoots him In the Back, then goes to shoot John Reese. John is able to stall her when he says the first time was easier because she's thought about it for a long time and psyched herself up to do it. Sure enough, she cannot kill a tied-up stranger in cold blood, and flees (only to promptly get shot by someone more ruthless).
  • Quantum Leap: Reversed the first time Sam Beckett killed a man. The man in question is a former French Resistance fighter who is said to have killed his own mother during the Second World War. After a scuffle, Sam backs away holding a bloodied knife as the man smiles up at him knowingly, whispers "The next time, it will be easier" and dies.
  • Revolution:
    • Both Charlie and Aaron have demonstrated this, from being hesitant to use deadly force in the episode "Pilot" to both becoming efficient killers by episode 5 (with Charlie killing ''in cold blood' on at least one occasion (episode 2) and agreeing to do so, though she ultimately doesn't go through with it, on another (episode 6)).
    • Neville seems to be the end result of the process, going from his pre-blackout life as a man who lacked the courage to confront his Bad Boss and asshole neighbor to a man who not only is willing to slaughter an entire rebel encampment (including noncombatants) but is excited at the prospect of doing so in episode 11.
  • Stargate SG-1: Jokingly referenced:
    O'Neill: Something wrong?
    Carter: No. I've just never... blown up a star before.
    O'Neill: Well, they say the first one's always the hardest.
  • The Unit built an episode around the trope when a unit member begins to have second thoughts about the fact their job is to kill people. After soul searching and discussions with his commanding officer and a priest, the character not only agrees that it gets easier, but he acknowledges that he actually likes killing, which is described as being pretty much a requirement for the job. The message is delivered with a bit of irony given the mission that sparks the soul-searching - to protect someone from being assassinated by using a sniper rifle capable of killing someone in a crowd with little risk of collateral damage to innocents - doesn't actually fall into the category of cold-blooded murder.

  • "Murder By Numbers" by The Police touches on this idea:
    Now if you have a taste for this experience
    If you're flushed with your very first success
    Then you must try a twosome or a threesome
    You'll find your conscience bothers you much less

    Tabletop RPGs 
  • The Morality systems in The World of Darkness games are based on the notion that doing bad things to others gradually grows easier (although the specifics are different for each gameline), although you can use experience points to buy back morality.
    • Of note, however, is in the God-Machine Chronicle and rules update for the New World of Darkness is that normal playable humans should never get to the point that killing is simple and not a ding on the Morality gauge. Specific types of supernatural being, on the other hand, handle this differently.
  • GURPS suggests, as an optional rule for "realism", representing this by starting the characters out with the Reluctant Killer disadvantage and then letting them buy it off..
  • Breaking the Laws of Magic with Black Magic in The Dresden Files RPG adaptation gives you a bonus to future violations of the same law (assuming you get to live long enough to use it).

  • Downplayed with the title character of Macbeth, as indicated by the page quote. He's a soldier at the outset, true, but he quakes at the cold-blooded murder of his king. Come the later acts and he's sanctioning the murder of innocent children and men who are merely prophesied to do him harm.
  • Parodied in The Mikado. The "Lord High Executioner", Ko-Ko, charmed his way into the position, and since no one's been sentenced to death so far, he's essentially just a figurehead. However, when the time comes for him to make his first kill, Ko-Ko protests, "Why, I never even killed a blue-bottle!"
    ...I'm not ready yet. I don't know how it's done. I'm going to take lessons. I mean to begin with a guinea pig, and work my way through the animal kingdom till I come to a Second Trombone.
  • Discussed in Hamlet, in Act V, Scene 1. Hamlet and Horatio come across a gravedigger and his helper, who are singing and cracking jokes as they prepare a new grave. Hamlet asks what kind of insensitive man could do such a thing, to which Horatio replies "Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness."
  • In The Mario Opera, Mario's doubt and anger at killing the first Goomba soon fades as he realizes how right it felt, and before long he's slinging fireballs and jumping on Koopas with abandon.

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear:
    • Snake gives this speech to Meryl in the first Metal Gear Solid.
      • Snake's brother Liquid gives a more vitriolic version to Snake in the same game, accusing him of enjoying it. Inverted in Guns of the Patriots: if the player kills an exorbitant amount of enemy soldiers during any one chapter, Snake will have a flashback to the scene with Liquid, and he throws up. For Old Snake, killing gets harder, sort of; more precisely, he gets sick when he realises how easy it's gotten.
    • One of the major plot points in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the PMC's trying to invoke this trope by using the Sons of the Patriots system to regulate soldiers' emotions. Everything is manipulated so that war literally feels like a video game to them. But when SOP is hijacked, reality comes crashing down, and battle fatigue sets in. What's worse, SOP didn't actually get rid of the emotions: it bottled them up so that when the system was interfered with, they all came rushing to the surface at once. Watching the formerly calm soldiers writhe on the ground, bawling hysterically, or laughing uncontrollably as they beat each other to death with their bare hands, is a very disturbing scene to watch, potentially even more so when you know why.
  • Prayer of the Faithless: Playable characters are stuck with the passive, Unbroken, which lowers their stats and EXP gain because of their inexperience with taking another human or Manna life. This passive is removed when they kill a human or Manna for the first time. Commandant Venessa exploits this by making the final round of the Proving ceremony a deathmatch, all to break in the survivors and make them more efficient combatants. This is also to make them more willing to sacrifice people for The Needs of the Many, as shown when Vance insists on killing an injured Parker so that he doesn't slow the rest of the refugees down.
  • Inverted in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines when Jack says, "It's never as sweet as the first time", referring to drinking blood. This is probably a dual reference to drug addiction and the fact that vampires are natural killers. It's also played straight, and used as a gameplay mechanic: killing innocent people causes the player character to lose Humanity points, which makes them more likely to Frenzy and gives them increasingly nasty dialogue options. Jack urges the player to avoid killing innocents whenever possible to avoid sinking too far into their monstrous nature.
  • In Vacant Sky, the main character Auria struggles to cope with the knowledge that she's just killed a human being after panicking and killing the husband of their hostess. Though she shows remorse afterward, the subsequent journal entry combined with the fact that the event song is called "A Farewell to Innocence" implies that it only goes downhill from here.
  • Iji: The titular character starts the game as an Apologetic Attacker and cries things like "I'm sorry!" and "No..." the first few times she kills someone. If you decide to become an instrument of alien genocide, her quotes change to things like "Hah... YOU DIE!" and "AAAARGH!"
  • In the 2nd chapter of The Spirit Engine, one of your team members stops just short of Heroic BSoD when you have to kill a team of thoroughly Jerkass bounty hunters. In the 3rd chapter, s/he's not too happy about having to kill an assassin. In the last one, they're casually slaughtering dozens of soldiers without so much as a sigh. It's similar in the sequel, although not as pronounced.
  • This is the trope Jason Brody's development is based around in Far Cry 3. He starts out as a privileged upper class post grad looking to enjoy the jungle paradise with his friends while trying to ignore his slowly-building feelings of Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life, and ends up getting kidnapped and nearly sold into slavery. In the process of escaping he watches his brother die in his arms, and moments later makes his first kill in self-defense, which nearly causes him to break down were it not for the disastrous circumstances of his escape. He also shows reluctance to even buy a gun knowing he's going to be using it on people, even protesting that he's never actually fired on somebody. As the game goes on though, and he ranks up a body count most military platoons would be jealous of, this trope ends up causing him to devolve into a all-out Blood Knight. In the good ending, he fully recognizes that he has become a monster due to his kill count, while desperately hoping that there is a way for him to come back from the abyss he's fallen into.
    Jason: Hey, I got a crazy question. You won first place at that swimming championship this year, right?
    Daisy: Yeah, the 400 meter.
    Jason: What did it feel like, winning? Not afterward, on the podium. But in the water, when you hit the pad.
    Daisy: Like I was really...present. Like the whole world was me.
    Jason: You know...I never thought I'd be able to kill someone. The first time, it felt wrong. Which is good, right? But now... it feels like winning.
  • Jak mentions something to this effect as a Bond One-Liner to Mizo at the end of Jak X: Combat Racing, after the latter alludes to Jak leaving other important characters to die in the previous two games:
    Mizo: You have a habit of leaving people to die, don't you?
    pause get used to it.
  • In Shadow Complex, protagonist Jason Fleming was trained from a young age by his father to have an easier time when he enlists in the Army...except, much to his father's chagrin, he never enlists, saying that he doesn't want to kill anyone. During the game, he puts the skills his father taught him to good use, as terrorists kidnapping his girlfriend have given him a good reason to kill. Early into the game, he comments that a giant spider-mech is something he can "shoot without feeling guilty," although the driver pops out of the hatch soon after and becomes Jason's next kill. Shortly after that, Jason comments, "Killing's getting easier, not sure if that's a good thing or a bad's a good thing."
  • Surprisingly, Carter Blake from Heavy Rain pulls this trope to comfort Jayden if the player made him shoot Nathaniel.
  • X was supposed to come across this trope after Mega Man X5 after spending his series repeatedly trying to make sure It Never Gets Any Easier, and had it not been the Executive Meddling, he would completed this turn into a Knight Templar villain in Mega Man Zero and forced Zero to put him down. Instead, he recognized this was happening and Took a Third Option to take himself out of the action and hoped others would be able to continue his work. Unfortunately, Copy X had neither the life experiences nor the ethics testing necessary to be the ruler necessary to maintain peace between humans and Reploids, becoming the Knight Templar instead.
  • Walker gets a heavy dose of this in Spec Ops: The Line. At the beginning, he is shocked when he has to kill American soldiers. As the game goes on, he looses his reluctance and later becomes bloodthirsty. Best exemplified after the game's most famous part. After Walker accidentally kills civilians with white phosphorus bombs, he begins to lose more and more of his sanity and hallucinates frequently.
    • It applies to his support team as well. Lugo goes from expressing shock and horror at the viciousness of Walker's actions to casually shooting an unarmed man three times in the head without a second's hesitation, whereas after Lugo gets lynched Adams positively begs Walker to let him fire upon the unarmed civilians who lynched him.
  • In the first game of the Saints Row series, Troy paraphrases this trope on very rare occasions: "It gets easier every time." If you pay attention to what he's doing whenever he says this (killing a cop), you'll get a hint as to his true motivation for joining the Saints
  • Implied in Tomb Raider.
  • Hibiki of The Last Blade 2 is visibly horrified the first five or so times she kills (strictly kills - non-lethal wins don't count) an enemy. After the sixth time (as progressively hinted at by her increasingly unhinged win quotes), her win pose changes to one implying she has come to enjoy the act.
  • Dwarf Fortress has a game mechanic for this: witnessing violent deaths causes a dwarf to grow jaded. Since jaded dwarfs are less likely to cause Disaster Dominoes (a.k.a. "tantrum spirals") players actually try to expose their dwarfs to as many violent deaths as possible. Like by having kittens plummet to their deaths in the middle of the dining hall, so the maximum number of dwarfs see them explode into chunky gore.
  • Played for Laughs and exaggerated in Mass Effect 3's Citadel DLC, where Wrex notes that Liara seems to have grown up a lot as she's not showing any of the worry or emotional concerns before a fight. Liara notes that killing people becomes less troubling after the first few hundred. Wrex agrees.
  • Hotline Miami shows this in the very first mission. Jacket will throw up after killing the homeless guy (this is probably his first kill, while in the game you have already killed other dudes, the timeline's a bit fuzzy.)
    • The sequel muddies this even further by revealing that Jacket was a former Spec-Ops soldier.
    • It's possible that Jacket has this reaction because the hobo he kills was the first relatively innocent person he murdered.
  • This is actually a plot point in Undertale. Specifically, your EXP and LV, or LOVE, actually stands for "Execution Points" and "Level of Violence" respectively. Your attack power gets stronger because, the more enemies you've already killed, the less morally conflicted you become about killing; the less conflicted you become, the more willing you become to go through with killing again, and your HP gets higher because it becomes easier for your SOUL to bear the stress of resorting to uncompromising violence.
  • In Blue Planet, protagonist Noemi Laporte is fearing the effects of this trope, as she was raised in a pacifist culture who are now fighting a war purely out of necessity. The trope is then played with: it doesn't get easier for her to kill other people... because it was never hard in the first place. All of the death and destruction she causes has none of the normal effects on her psyche others suffer. This is even more frightening to her, given what it implies about what kind of person she is...
  • In BioShock Infinite, after Elizabeth gets her first kill and goes through a Heroic BSoD, Booker tells her that the horror does quickly fade away, you never come to terms with who you are as a person because of what you've done.
    Elizabeth: Do you ever get used to it? The killing?
    Booker: Faster than you can imagine.
    Elizabeth: How do you do it? How do you forget? How do you wash away the things you've done?
    Booker: (heavy sigh) You don't. You just learn to live with it.
  • Several examples in Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, Inigo hates the fact that this is the case for him, in contrast to Owain. Previously, they'd only fought Risen, and Owain says it was hard the first time he had to kill an actual person. To Inigo's dismay, however, he's lost count of how many times he's killed, and they've all run together for him.note 
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Many of the units are shaken the first time they kill an opponent, all having a special line of dialogue for that occasion, but don't comment on any later kills. However, some remain an Apologetic Attacker, or otherwise display hesitation in their generic critical hit or kill lines. After the time-skip, most of this hesitation disappears, and characters such as Ignatz who had previously been uncomfortable as soldiers now seem to have gotten used to it.
      • Averted with the Ashen Wolves if you happen to deploy them in the same chapter's mission. They do not have any comments about killing because they had already stained their hands with blood prior.
      • Also averted with Linhardt, though in the opposite direction. Even after the timeskip he never gets over his discomfort with violence and killing and gets queasy at the sight of blood.
  • In Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, a long-running subplot about a serial killer known as "The Ripper" finally culminates with Kenshiro confronting the man in question(who turns out to have been Jagre's coworker and friend Isuka all along), who assumes midway through his motive rant that Kenshiro has this kind of feeling when killing people after getting used to it for so long. Of course, as anyone would know about Kenshiro, he only does his famous kills out of necessity, so he's not amused about hearing this.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us: So much could have been resolved if an alternate version of Superman had just stopped after killing the Joker and explained how he felt after being tricked into killing his wife Lois Lane and nuking Metropolis. Instead, the tie-in comics show that despite his good intentions, he's forced to commit morally gray acts after being confronted by a stream of bad events. Superman did have pangs of regret initially, but eventually, he becomes so completely desensitized that he instead blames others like Batman for his actions. Ironically, the bad deeds Superman did were part of the Joker's long-term plan to see if someone would break and become just as evil as he is from his twisted viewpoint.
  • Killing zombie children in Cataclysm dings your character's morale. As you kill more of them, the penalty gradually goes down until it goes away altogether.
  • Ghost of Tsushima: While Jin is no stranger to killing, he balks at the idea of assassinating his foes, being a Samurai with a strict sense of honor. Toward the beginning of the game, his assassinations are drawn-out, clumsy and noisy, with Jin lying on the ground staring at nothing in the cutscene after the first one. As you upgrade your tanto knife and Jin becomes more and more acclimated to fighting dirty, his assassination style becomes more and more fluid, going from clumsy to mechanical and efficient, before the final upgrade becomes the lethal equivalent of an Offhand Backhand.
  • A sidequest in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 involves the assassination of a prominent politician in Mor Ardain, with Mòrag taking the job of telling the politician's husband what happened. She comments that, as a high-ranking member of the military, she's gotten used to having to deliver news like that.

  • In Drowtales, Ariel's first kill is forced upon her, but her second is not. She is horrified by how easy it was and develops PTSD from the remorse.
  • In College Roomies from Hell!!!, when Roger kills a number of Damascus's henchmen, and when Margaret kills Mrs. Pepitone, they're completely dumbstruck, and may or may not have had ill-advised sex. This is the only time any of the henchmen are given a second thought, even by their own side.
  • In this strip of In Wily's Defense, Megaman refutes this after killing Skull Man.
  • Orca from I Don't Want This Kind of Hero realizes that this has happened to him over the years, as initially he couldn't even stomach anything after seeing a corpse, let alone causing one. Nowadays, while he still has a better moral compass than his comrades and prefers resolving things without murder, he's far more used to death and killing.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the thief Refan gradually stops worrying about the people he's killed as he turns more and more into He Who Fights Monsters who succumbs more and more to his demonic side in order to have revenge on those who have wronged him. At one point he comes to realize how far he's fallen but tries to justify it as being the only course of action to take in order to make sure the people who have hurt his loved ones won't hurt anyone ever again...even if it means abandoning his human side and siding with the demon hordes against humans to get the job done properly.
  • Sonic for Hire started with Sonic actively against hurting people. Early on, Kirby forces him to kill someone or else he'll eat Sonic. Sonic beats the enemy to death while sobbing. From hereon, Sonic became significantly more and more okay with killing until he actively runs a Hockey Team over with a Zamboni. It snowballs from there as he kills nearly everybody he comes across.

    Real Life 
  • There's a psychological condition in real life that is this trope; it's called "Rapid Habituation."
  • Military experience causes this for many. Though it has been noted that some have no initial difficulty whatsoever while not exhibiting any behaviors indicative of mental illness.
  • Snipers in the military have a saying "the hardest shot you will ever make is your first".
  • US Police departments seem to think the opposite, or at least encourage it. Lethal force is without question an absolute last resort and should an officer be forced into that option they are taken off duty for a brief period and receive counseling afterwards (almost) without exception. Most police forces agree that an officer should be able to quickly and efficiently deal with a violent criminal who refuses to be taken in, but that doesn't mean it should be something that's easily brushed off.
    • Furthermore, in most jurisdictions officers also undergo investigation procedures to determine if a kill was righteous or justified, and face career termination or even imprisonment should it be found the killing was not justified. Although fictional, the treatment of a police sniper in the first episode of Flashpoint reflects what officers often experience, even if they discharge their weapon without injury to anyone. Many police officers have over the years been tried for murder or manslaughter, which could be seen as further discouragement of using deadly force unless necessary. (By comparison, in real life a character such as CSI: Miami's Horatio Caine or Dirty Harry would likely be removed from active duty due to their penchant for lethal force.)
    • Also, films and TV shows often give the impression that most veteran cops have killed at least once. In reality, if one takes the total number of police officers in the US or Canada one would find only a small percentage have ever had to use lethal force, and an even smaller number have had to do so more than once (unlike, say, Horatio).
      • Although it is becoming increasingly common for TV and film to lampshade this, mentioning that 95-97% of cops never fire their weapon outside of the shooting range, and that the specific officers we see are the exception. Given that most of these shows deal with one police unit out of cities with tens of thousands of cops, it only starts becoming unbelievable if you're under the impression that all of these shows exist in the same continuity.
  • Despite the growing quality of simulated-dissection software, medical and nursing students are still expected to engage in human or animal dissections as part of their professional education. This isn't just for hands-on skill development; growing accustomed to grisly experiences and the reality of death is as much a part of these exercises as is building anatomical knowledge. Not a killing variant, but same concept: repeated exposure to death makes dealing with it easier in the future.
    • The same deal goes for the equivalent animal-oriented professions. Fifty percent of qualified veterinary technicians in the United States wash out of the profession within five years of qualification due to this trope. Technician students are told up front at the start of their training that you either learn to cope, or you quit. There aren't exceptions.
  • Serious training scenarios for emergency responders (military or civilian) will sometimes use professional makeup artists so the "victims" will have very realistic looking injuries. It's one thing to practice moving someone and pretend they have a broken leg; it's quite another when you see a realistic-looking bone sticking out of what looks like ripped-open flesh from a compound fracture and the victim making an ear-piercing scream if you accidentally touch the wound, combined with litres of realistic blood all over the place.
  • Ernie Pyle describes this in his wartime column, Brave Men, Brave Men:
    The most vivid change is the casual and workshop manner in which they now talk about killing. They have made the psychological transition from the normal belief that taking human life is sinful, over to a new professional outlook where killing is a craft. To them now there is nothing morally wrong about killing. In fact it is an admirable thing.
  • In a more calm sense, life in general. It seems like a lot of tragedies hit people in their teen years, like breakups, disappointments (not getting into your preferred college for example) and they tend to always be a crisis. In general, later in life, people mellow and develop a sense of "I've been through this once, I can do it again."
  • Although the TV series Chuck features operatives of the CIA, which exists in real life, the "red test" requirement for becoming a full agent as featured in that series (committing a cold-blooded murder under orders) is unlikely to exist for real CIA agents (at least, as far as the public knows, although Lindsay Moran, in her memoir Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy, states that she was never required to kill as an agent). The same goes for the real-life Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which in NCIS the TV series evolved from an earlier organization that used a red test-like scenario.)
  • This trope, as well as variations of it, is often cited by critics for why video games are harmful Murder Simulators that cause violence behavior. Given how often modern games explore the moral issues of taking lives, human as well as non-human, it really shouldn't come as a surprise that, so far, no science exists that backs the notion that video games cause any more or less violence than books, and video gamers are no more or less violent or sociopathic than anyone else; it just becomes more of an uproar in media when avid gamers kill people than when passionate quarterbacks do the same.
  • Experiencing death in the family or losing a friend to death is extremely saddening and heartbreaking for everyone that were close with the person that passed on. If the same people lose yet another family member/friend, they may not be as upset as they were with the first death; more so if they can visibly tell that the person in question is going to die.
  • Just as fictional depictions about The Mafia have this plot line in them, real-life mobsters are typically required to do a contract murder in order to "get their button", i.e. be inducted into the secret criminal society. This is done to show that they have no qualms doing the job when asked by the higher-ups, are aware of the risks and dangers involved if they get out of line, and most importantly, it confirms they are NOT an undercover cop (especially after the Donnie Brasco scandal, in which an undercover FBI agent infiltrated one mob crew and almost became a "made man"), since while the cops are permitted to commit crimes undercover, this stops at murders.
  • If someone lasts longer than their first bad call, anyone who works as an emergency medical responder will eventually experience this, as they must in order to function. The same is true of emergency room personnel they deal with. This can sometimes cause a severe case of Values Dissonance: family and friends of a deceased person can get outraged when, as they are grieving, they happen to see personnel joking and laughing or talking casually soon thereafter. For the family, the death of a loved one is a horrible event. For the personnel, it's not the first and won't be the last.
  • A variation of this trope that has nothing to do with death: actors, actresses and fashion models who undertake their first nude and or sexual scenes on camera or pose nude for the first time often report that after a very difficult first time, subsequent occasions become less stressful. A recent example of this is Kim Kardashian, who is on record as having become emotional over posing nude for several magazines back in 2011, most notably W and Playboy (her nervousness was chronicled in the episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians that covered the Playboy shoot).note  Fast-forward to 2015 and she's doing nude spreads (albeit tasteful ones) left, right and centre without batting an eye.
  • This even extends to the animal kingdom to an extent. Predators have to be taught to kill for their own survival, and younger predators in general are more hesitant to kill their prey. This is usually why young predators (especially big cats) will sometimes care for young prey animals (which is their starting prey) and refuse to kill them. Eventually, though, the predator gets used to this part of its lifestyle. It has to, or else it won't survive.

Alternative Title(s): Kill Cherry