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"A woman came up to me and said,
'I'd like to poison your mind,
With wrong ideas that appeal to you,
Though I am not unkind.'"
They Might Be Giants, "Whistling in the Dark"
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Mind Control is an effective weapon, but your garden-variety brainwashing or hypnosis is too mundane for some viewers, too predictable for some plots, too weak for some heroes, and too unambitious for some villains. Also, outright controlling someone's mind tends to require either magic or technology, and depending on the nature of the story, the villain might not have access to either of those.

To that end, mind control in some cases requires a lot of foreplay, independent of magic influence, on the part of the villain. You can't force someone to reject The Power of Friendship until you pick away at their jealousy and convince them they want to turn on their friends. You can't overcome the Power of Trust until you get them to doubt their own perception of reality and make them want to believe you're the Only Sane Man. You can't erase someone's memories until you talk them through the most painful ones and convince them they want to forget everything. You can't make someone join you without convincing them their current life is worthless and they don't want to continue with it. It's essentially mind control, yes, but it's more than mind control.

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What makes this "more than mind control" rather than simple manipulation is that this can still be assisted by magic or technology. Magic forces may be at work, but it's really the despair, trickery, lies, and sometimes even carefully-selected truths, that are thrown in that successfully break the victim's spirit. Instead of the villain forcing a victim to do something against their will, the villain changes the victim's will. It's Deal with the Devil meets Break Them by Talking. This can even be justified depending on the setting; a very common limitation on mind control across many different works (for example Vampire: The Masquerade) is that the would-be-controller simply cannot induce an idea or a command into the victim that is either completely alien to their mind or goes against their base instincts. Much like a body's immune system will fight against a virus or a bacteria, the mind in-question will recognize the thought as a foreign object and will resist or even completely reject it.

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So, if you have to talk someone into mind control, what's the point of using magic or high tech at all? Creating illusions can help make your case. Isolation is key, so magically cutting them off from support is effective. Maybe science or sorcery is just needed to accelerate the effects. In extreme cases, outright Mind Rape is utilized. This type of brainwashing, called Stockholm Syndrome in the real world, supposedly requires a minimum of 72 hours, but with a sci-fi or sorcerous catalyst, it can be achieved in less than 72 seconds.

Also, it can overlap directly with actual mind control. In many instances, More Than Mind Control is simply a method of making the process of the takeover easier, because by removing their resistance to your ideas, you remove the struggle in taking control of their thoughts. By having them submit to you, they essentially hand their free will over to you, making your spell or device much more effective on them. It also makes it harder for them to revert, because they now have an active resistance towards their own original beliefs.

More Than Mind Control requires charisma, finesse, and a lot of patience, but villains usually don't mind because they find it so much more satisfying. They also get a great deal of amusement out of telling the victim's friends, "I didn't force him to do anything he didn't want to do." It's also more resistant to the powers of friendship and love. Plus, it's just a lot cooler to watch. Villains don't even necessarily need special powers to do it, if they can goad the hero into doing something they'll regret by pushing the right buttons. The Corrupter in particular is a master of the art.

Sometimes, the villain will try this on the whole team at once; they're usually saved by the Badass Normal, The Chick/The Heart, or the All-Loving Hero, who will point out the ways that the villain is distorting the truth. Usually accompanied by a Kirk Summation to the culprit, or something more violent.

This is a favorite technique of Manipulative Bastards. Victims may or may not exhibit Mind-Control Eyes. It also frequently comes with a creepy voice change, which is probably as a Shout-Out to Darth Vader of Star Wars.

It's popular with anime villains and in the West, too. Indeed, it's been around much longer than television. This form of mind manipulation was, for example, a standard talent of personifications of despair in Renaissance British literature like The Faerie Queene and Pilgrim's Progress.

Occasionally, the victim's friends will have a standard counterspell, anti-psionic technique, or other fantastic means of quickly canceling vanilla mind control common to the setting. Expect them to try it on the More Than Mind Controlled character, only to react in dismay as they realize: "He's acting of his own free will!"

This is an example of Truth in Television, because real-life hypnosis requires that the person subconsciously want to do whatever they're doing. Even more so in that there does not appear to be any true mind control that works in real life, only more and more extreme versions of More Than Mind Control that can in extreme cases appear like straight brainwashing to third parties. The general term for this is coercive persuasion, and it is used by most cults, including the Church of Happyology. Svengali mentors will use this. Psychopaths, or at least the intelligent ones, are also very good at using this in real life to make their way up in the world and get girls. Social Engineering is a milder (but no less nefarious) form often employed by shady types like con artists and spies in persuading their victims to turn over passwords or sensitive information, to trick them into paying for fraudulent goods or services, or even gain access to restricted areas. Oftentimes this takes the form of phishing, a real-life tactic used by cyber-criminals to gain access to the computers and accounts of unwitting victims by convincing them to install spyware or computer viruses, or even to suck their bank accounts dry by participating in costly scams.

Compare The Heartless, Face–Heel Turn, Being Tortured Makes You Evil. Overlaps with Jedi Mind Trick and Brainwashing for the Greater Good. Contrast Fighting from the Inside, though it can happen after More Than Mind Control if it's rushed or botched. May overlap with Living Doll Collector and Glamour. It usually takes hard core Deprogramming to remove, unless the controller asks the wrong thing.

See also: Blank Slate, Conditioned to Accept Horror, Nurture over Nature, Rousseau Was Right, Stockholm Syndrome, and Then Let Me Be Evil.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman: The Joker does this to Dr. Harleen Quinzel when she is assigned to be his psychiatrist. He explains to her that his father used to beat him constantly, but he always lived for the times when his father treated him kindly. Whether his backstory is true or not is left ambiguous, but it can be inferred that at the very least he was exaggerating the details (according to Batman, the Joker will make minor tweaks to the story every time he shares it). Regardless of its basis in fact, he does eventually manage to get Harley to sympathize with him to the point that she helps break him out of Arkham Asylum and even takes on a new identity as the insanely ruthless Harley Quinn.
  • In Sleepwalker, the monstrous, Ax-Crazy villain Psyko has the power to drive everyone around him insane. Being a resident of the mental plane, Sleepwalker was resistant to this power, but it affected him enough for Psyko to nearly manipulate Sleepwalker into murdering one of his former enemies, which would have permanently driven him insane.
  • The founding members of the modern Guardians of the Galaxy were all asked to join. But they later found out they were under a little bit of mind control — just enough to make them want to join. When they found this out, most of them quit.
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2020), Moondragon doesn't entirely use her telepathy to nudge a hostile and grieving Gamora into going after Rocket's team just so she can have a shot at her alternate reality counterpart. Some of it's just a gamble. Likewise, Heather isn't being controlled by the Dragon of the Moon. It's just using her jealousy and resentment.
  • In a clear reference to The Faerie Queene an entity calling itself a Mind Destroyer, representative of Guilt, tried this on Sir Ystin in Seven Soldiers.
  • New Gods: Mind-control is the entire point of the Anti-Life Equation. It's not just a mind-control formula: it's a logical proof that free will is inherently paradoxical and meaningless, and that the only real meaning in life is to serve Darkseid and his will.
  • The Sandman (1989): The antagonist of A Game of You, "The Cuckoo", accomplishes its goals by magically convincing people to destroy themselves for the Cuckoo's sake. Affected characters completely forget their previous goals and self-interest.
  • In the Supergirl story The Supergirl from Krypton (2004), Darkseid kidnaps and brainwashes Supergirl. After being rescued, Kara fears that her brainwashed, evil self is her real self. Her cousin reassures her, though. Playing mind tricks is Darkseid's child's play. And he trusts her.
    Supergirl: Honestly...? I'm... torn. I remember what Darkseid turned me into—
    Superman: ... We've been over this, Kara. Darkseid lives for manipulation. He has magics at his disposal. Hypnotists. Scientists whose only function is to break your spirit. Ask Barda if you want to hear the horror stories she and Scott suffered through. Darkseid IS evil.
    Supergirl: But... Did he influence me... or bring out a darkness that is already there?
    Superman: I already know that answer.
  • X-Men:
    • Havok, after being brainwashed by the Dark Beast, notes that it's not so easy to break free... because "first you have to want to".
    • Mastermind does this to what he believes to be Jean Grey in The Dark Phoenix Saga. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, Jean and the Phoenix are NOT the same.
    • One of the nastiest monster villains of the Marvel Universe is the Shadow King, a telepath nearly as powerful and skilled as Charles Xavier. He can do lots of nasty things, and does most of them at one time or another, but one of his nastiest tricks is to get into your head telepathically and rearrange things. Not change, just rearrange, amplifying some impulses and desires, suppressing conscience and learned morality. It's still all you, but now what was a suppressed or passing impulse is eagerly indulged, that pesky moral code your parents and church and society taught you disregarded. What makes it so terrible is that even after somebody restores the original balance, you have to live with the fact that whatever murder, rape, incest, torture, adultery, betrayal, etc. that you did, it was you. Not the you that you normally are, but it all was always there in you and it's still there now, even if it's back in the cage.
  • This is strongly implied to be the fate of Black Hand after Blackest Night; the last page has him pleading for help because the Indigo Tribe are slowly destroying his personality as punishment for helping Nekron.
    • This eventually turns out to be what's happened to the entire Indigo Tribe. For the most part, the members of the Tribe were complete sociopaths who only realized what they were doing after getting a giant Care-Bear Stare from the Avatar of Compassion. Most of them are perfectly fine with having a conscience shoved roughly within them.
  • Zemo provides a good example of this in Thunderbolts. To Techno's question "why not just control everyone with the bio-modem? we could do it..." he answers: "Yes, but where is the satisfaction in rulling a planet of automatons, hmm? Better to break their spirits than enslave their minds. Better if they know they have been conquered."
  • Loki subtly influences Norman Osborn's mind all throughout Dark Reign. Osborn's mental state was never too stable, but Loki makes him believe that the Goblin personality is talking to him and makes him doubt his own mind. Then, taking it up yet another notch, Osborn earns the enmity of X-Man, whose Gambit Roulette involves tricking Osborn's X-Men into entering his mind and knocking down the mental barriers that keep the Goblin locked up, and the two personalities interact. Loki even creates another Avengers team to compete with Norman's and manipulates him to storm Asgard. By then, Norman has had enough, and by the end of Siege he experiences a complete mental breakdown.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): This is the Nightmare forces' MO. First, they talk the pony into accepting them, then they get their hooks in. They convinced Luna that, as Nightmare Moon, she could get everypony to respect her through fear. Then they did the same to Rarity, convincing her that while others might eventually abandon her for someone better, they would always want her help.
  • The Mandarin Rings in Iron Man are on a mission to make Tony Stark's life hell. To do that, they seek out people who either hate Tony already or can be easily goaded into blaming Tony for their problems. One ring for example only had to say Tony Stark's name to convince its bearer to blame Tony for his own drunken murderous rampage which Tony failed to stop. Fortunately for the rings, finding people like this isn't very difficult since Tony is very good at pissing people off even by accident.
  • In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, the titular homicidal maniac is doing his thing under the influence of voices in his head that operate like this. Do they have any actual ability to physically influence his actions? No... At least, not at first.
  • Ulic Qel-Droma from Tales of the Jedi was injected with Sith poison when he tried to pull a Fake Defector on dark side adepts Satal and Aleema Keto, which magnified the emotions that lead to turning (namely anger). But Ulic was already heading down that path, as he was primarily motivated by the desire to avenge his master's death—he remains evil long after the poison's effects wear off.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Ixis Naugus is able to generate a Hate Plague to turn people against each other, doing so to drive the Mobians and Robians to civil war, and later to turn the citizens of New Mobotropolis against NICOLE. Naugus himself states that he doesn't create said Hate Plague on its own; he merely amplifies emotions that are already there and blows them out of proportion.
  • Batwoman: Almost immediately after breaking up with Maggie, Kate Kane is hypnotized into an abusive sexual relationship with the vampire Nocturna. Kate has multiple blackouts during this time, implying that she is being raped repeatedly. After Kate is freed of the hypnosis (with the help of Red Alice/Beth Kane, her twin sister), Nocturna claims that Kate subconsciously wanted to have sex with her and gloats about how she (Nocturna) enjoyed it.
    Batwoman: So, none of it was true? You don't... love me?
    Nocturna: Love you? I don't even like you. You were just so easy to snare. All your broken-hearted martyr-complex self-loathing... it was like a neon sign flashing 'Over here!' I couldn't resist.
    Batwoman: You used your powers to make me sleep with you?
    Nocturna: I bet you wish that were true. No, Kate. That was all you. I'm no rapist. You wanted me, so I figured 'I haven't done this since college, so why not? You are sexy, after all. Damaged, yes, but so much fun. You wanted something raw, a lesbian Sid and Nancy thing. Kinky, yes? But that was all yours.
    Batwoman: You... monster.
    Nocturna: Maybe, but all I did was find an open door in your head. All the interior decorating in that room? Yours.
    Batwoman: AAAHH!!!
    Nocturna: What's the matter, Katey? Disgusted by your own subconscious?
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Kobra uses this to turn Deborah Domaine into the new Cheetah (after her aunt, Priscilla Rich, dies), in Wonder Woman #274.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Dr. Psycho is quite annoyed to find that Vanessa Kapatelis can figure out when he is messing with her mind in a more direct approach and throw off his mental control; however, he discoveres her insecurities while doing so. He and Circe later use those insecurities to build and then play on resentment and abandonment issues directed at Wonder Woman in order to turn her into the third Silver Swan.
  • The Avengers: When Morgan Le Fay uses reality warping to make the entire Avengers roster her servants, Cap tries breaking Iron Man out of it early on. It doesn't work, which Hawkeye speculates is because Tony, as a "lord of the manor" type, more easily buys into Morgan's illusion than most.
  • Empyre: Iron Man, again. The event begins with Tony having visions of the Kree's Start of Darkness, meaning when Quoi and the Cotati come along talking about how the Kree and Skrulls are on a rampage, he's more sympathetic, even more so given his bad experiences with both species. At the same time, he notes there's something off about the Cotati's garden that's really getting to him. It turns out Quoi had been putting those visions in his head, to get Tony to take their side and allow the Cotati to kill the Kree and Skrulls and humans.
  • Discussed in Issue #13 of X-Factor (2006). During a therapy session with Dr Samson, Guido talks about how as a kid he once saw a hypnotist make another boy act like a chicken. When Guido asked the hypnotist how he did it, the hypnotist told him that you couldn't make someone do something they didn't really want to do. Guido believes that this is why Tryp was able to turn him into a sleeper agent and make him kill Henry Buchanan, but Samson states that Guido is only saying this because he doesn't want to confront the fact that he was a victim.
  • In the Superman storyline Superman: King of the World, the Big Bad Dominus is able to turn Superman into an authoritarian ruler by playing on Superman's fears and insecurities.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, Forte uses glowing music notes and the Beast's own insecurities and anger to turn him against Belle when she leaves to get a Christmas Tree. Later, he almost succeeds in convincing the Beast to smash the magical rose, but the sight of Belle's Christmas present snaps him out of it.
  • In The Little Mermaid (1989), Flotsam and Jetsam try to convince Ariel to see Ursula, especially since she's in tears after her father destroys the treasures in her grotto, but even then, Ariel is initially reluctant to go. However, when the eels flick the broken face of the statue of Prince Eric, her most prized of her possessions, Ariel is reminded of what had transpired and, now spiteful of her father and the sea he rules, decides that she wants to become human ASAP.
  • Mother Gothel is this toward Rapunzel in Tangled. After kidnapping Rapunzel as a baby, she fills her head with plausible hypothetical scary stories of the outside world so that she will never leave her and stay in her tower forever so she can keep using her hair to retain her youth. After Rapunzel finally does leave the tower, she feels excessively guilty for disobeying Gothel's warning. In the end, even after calling out Gothel for using her all these years upon realizing her true identity, Rapunzel still feels sorry for Gothel after Flynn cuts her hair, rendering her powerless and Gothel rapidly aging until she falls out the tower window and is Reduced to Dust.
  • In Wonder Woman (2009), Ares does this to Persephone, albeit offsceen, to get her to turn against the Amazons. Though later when she fights Hippolyta, Persephone reveals how she joined up with Ares as being on an island of all women, governed purely on warrior tendencies and away from the outside world, denied her any chance to fall in love and raise a family of her own. Making Hippolyta realize that maybe her policies weren't so cut-and-dried after all.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Palpatine's manipulation of Anakin/Vader in the Star Wars movies. However, it doesn't last. And when Luke breaks it...
  • The Borg Queen almost does this to Data in First Contact. He confirms in the end that she had him considering it... for 0.68 seconds, but "for an android, that is nearly an eternity."
  • The Matrix. Agent Smith's monologue while trying to take control of Morpheus' mind.
    • Additionally, the Matrix can only imprison you if you make a choice to allow yourself to be imprisoned. It doesn't have to be a concious choice, and in fact The Matrix can only really exist if most people aren't aware on a concious level what's actually happening, thus the vast majority of the subjects in The Matrix have subconsciously agreed to be imprisoned by it. Only a small handful of people reject the unreality of The Matrix and leave.
  • The eponymous Pushers of Push work this way. They implant whatever memories they like into the victim's mind, and then make simple commands that seem reasonable with those new memories. For example, in the beginning Kira is held captive by Mac and Holden. Kira implants memories to make Mac believe that Holden killed his brother, and is so furious, he shoots Holden in the head, giving Kira a chance to escape. Mac never had a brother. Mac's boss, who is also a Pusher, makes Mac commit suicide by making Mac believe he unloaded the gun, and it'll be perfectly safe. Low-level Pushers need to use words to put thoughts into people's heads. A high-level Pusher like Carver is able to do it with just a look of Black Eyes of Evil (their pupils grow big the more it's used.) In fact, Carver uses this with some falsified documentation to implant false memories into Kira that she is his former partner who went on the run after an accident screwed with her memories. However, she's restored to normal when some lingering doubt has her open the granted envelope and discovers a photo that undoes the Push. She proceeds to make Carver shoot himself.
  • The villain in Se7en likes this mode of operation.
  • Saw is made of this trope. In the earlier movies, Jigsaw pulls this again and again, from the simple and obvious of making people commit heinous acts to save themselves to gradually becoming more complex, in making people commit heinous acts to save others, or to trick them into thinking so (Rigg). He also gains Amanda and Hoffman as apprentices in much this way. Mileage may vary when it comes to the later movies, as it seems to get less cerebral and more violent for no real reason but "giving the fans what they want." Fan Dumb Canon Discontinuity can begin with Saw II, and end really nowhere.
  • In Fright Night (1985), this is how the vampire Jerry Dandridge converts his victims. He can simply kill anyone, but he needs their acquiescence to convert them into vampires. Note particularly the scene in the alley where he seduces Evil Ed.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: En Sabah Nur has superhuman persuasion abilities that he uses on the Horsemen, according to Bryan Singer.
    "He has various abilities and powers, one of them, like [Apocalypse actor Oscar Isaac said during the Comic-Con panel], is the power of persuasion, and part of why that's necessary is he needs other followers to be his Horsemen, and some of them would be hard to persuade—Magneto, Erik being the hardest. It's interesting, what's a little bit, hopefully, complex in the movie, or even ambiguous, is how much he's persuading his followers with a superhuman ability or just he's like any cult leader who is really good at convincing people to follow him, so we don't really ever make that explicit. It's not like he's putting people under a spell, but he is superhumanly persuasive."
  • This is the basic concept behind the titular process in Inception. Just going into someone's dreams and telling them what to do won't work because they will always reject the idea and trace its origin back to you. However, by laying the groundwork and letting them come to their own conclusion, you can make someone do your bidding by effectively making them think they came up with the idea on their own. The "magic" in this case comes from the futuristic dream-sharing technology.
  • Upstream Color: When a person has been infected with a strange parasite, they become extremely susceptible to manipulation. A thief exploits this effect by intentionally infecting victims and them guiding their actions by telling them outlandish things. For example, when he wants to keep a woman confined to the carpeting of her home, he tells her than the tile floor will not support her weight. To keep her from remembering what he looks like, he tells her that his face is made of the same substance as the sun, so she cannot look directly at it.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), Ares tells Diana that although he wants destroy humanity because they are too corrupt to inhabit the earth, he doesn't need to kill them himself. All he has to do is give humanity an inspiration to create a new weapon, or give their leaders an excuse to fight, and they willingly go into a destructive war with one another, and not stop until it ends.
  • The Avengers (2012):
    • Loki's Sceptre, which contains the Mind Stone, is capable of both straight-up mind control and this trope. Simply being in its presence for too long has a Hate Plague-like effect on the Avengers, ramping up the tension between them to the point they nearly come to blows.
    • Loki's reasons for allying with Thanos are open to interpretation, but according to Marvel's official site, "unbeknownst to him, the Scepter was also influencing him, fueling his hatred over his brother Thor and the inhabitants of Earth." So Thanos and the Other used the Mind Stone to amplify his evil tendencies, but the decisions were always his own.

    Literature 
  • The Trials of Apollo: Meg goes through this because of their Abusive Parent Nero, aka the person most likely to be the antichrist referred to in the Bible It's actually quite terrifying given how real the abuse feels like.
  • Middle-Earth:
    • This was one of Saruman's major skills in The Lord of the Rings (book version only). Doesn't work so well with diverse groups, especially when he starts to lose his cool - though he does talk Treebeard into letting him go.
    • Gríma was basically running Rohan by doing this to Théoden. There is some magic involved here, presumably provided by Saruman.
    • This was also how Sauron brought down Númenor in the "Akallabêth". He intentionally let himself be taken prisoner, by Ar-Pharazon and then used the King's distrust of the elves and desire for immortality to corrupt him. It's also how Melkor suborned Fëanor in the The Silmarillion, although his attempts to do this didn't work nearly as well.
    • It's also how the One Ring is able to corrupt people (combined with a dose of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope).
    • In fact, this is the preferred technique of Tolkien villains. Tolkien believed that this was one of the strongest weapons that real life villainy wields. It's also why he thought that Sauron was a far more terrifying villain than Morgoth, despite Morgoth being an Omnicidal Maniac who was literally undefeatable except by the gods themselves. Sauron may have been far weaker, but his power lay in manipulating the pride and evil in men's hearts.
  • Used in The Silver Chair, one of The Chronicles of Narnia, by the Lady of the Green Kirtle, on the four main characters. They're saved by The Eeyore, who notes that, even if what she's saying is true and Narnia really is just a happy fantasy world, he prefers it to the awful truth, at which point the other characters realize that if this dreary underground really was the only world they'd ever known, their imaginations would be stunted and they'd never have been able to invent Narnia. The smell of burning marshwiggle didn't hurt either.
    • In The Magician's Nephew, the Witch's attempt to tempt Digory initially works, when she talks about how disobeying Aslan might save Digory's terminally ill mother. Then she overreaches, saying that Digory could even leave Polly stranded in Narnia. Since that is not something he wants to do on any level, he gets angry and realizes that the Witch is just trying to use him for her own purposes.
  • In High Deryni, Wencit of Torenth uses a variety of tactics against Sean Lord Derry in his effort to establish control over Derry's mind. At one point, he has his minion Rhydoon of Eastmarch summon a tentacled monster called a caradot to menace Derry, who is then tied to a chair. Wencit himself puts a dagger to Derry's throat, and when that elicits no reaction, he begins cutting the leather thongs of Derry's jerkin:
    "Do you know, Derry," cut "I've often wondered what it is about Alaric Morgan which inspires such loyalty in his followers," cut "Or Kelson and those rather strange Haldane powers of his," cut. "Not too many men would sit here as you do," cut "refusing to talk, though they know what unpleasantness awaits them," ''cut "and still remain loyal to a leader who is far away and can never hope to help them out of this, even if he knew."
  • Hannibal. Ooohboy. Hannibal kidnaps, drugs and hypnotizes a disillusioned Clarice and acts as her therapist. Clarice undergoes a major Face–Heel Turn, and when the drugs wear off, Clarice seduces him.
  • Used in Animorphs. There are voluntary Controllers, people who willingly let a Yeerk infest them. Many of them are simply so alone, so desperate to be part of something, that they're willing to give up their free will. The Sharing's main purpose is to find these sort of people and indoctrinate them.
  • In The Amtrak Wars: Death Bringer the protagonists, posing as spirits and using fake 'magic' illusions, fool the sister of the Shogun of the Iron Masters into thinking her brother framed and executed the man she loved.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Molly Carpenter's issue. A wizard with a talent for mental magic and illusion, she first came to the attention of Harry Dresden and The White Council because she tried to make her best friend and her boyfriend (who was also the father of the best friend's unborn child) stop using heroin. Problem: this involved invading their minds and then forcing them to feel fear every time they thought of using. In Dresdenverse terms, meant that she was taking their free will away from them...making it, despite her good intentions, Black Magic. Which, ironically, is highly, HIGHLY addictive. Molly's well-intentioned spell drove her boyfriend insane due to her anger over him affecting the spell — he was so badly damaged by it that he ended up suffering from a form of paranoid schizophrenia... permanently. As of Ghost Story, she is still manipulating people with exceedingly subtle mind control
    • Attempted by Lash who tries to make Harry do a Deal with the Devil. It backfires, he successfully resists her out of sheer spite and stubbornness once his friends help him realize that he was talking to a mental illusion. Lash continues to exert what influence she can on Harry for years, not realizing that Harry is also exerting influence on her, to the extent that eventually she starts helping him, finally sacrificing herself to save his life.
    • Used by The Mole in the White Council, Peabody, with the assistance of some magical drugs to make them more susceptible to his control. He subtly influenced the Council's behavior to make them more aggressive and to perpetuate the war with the vampiric Red Court, all toward unknown ends on behalf of the Black Council.
  • Diana Wynne Jones:
    • Aunt Maria, the titular Maria talks ideas into people's head. She TALKS them into submission, magically.
    • 'Laurel,' the faerie queen from Fire and Hemlock, who also has more literal versions available to her. The power of embarrassment is particularly accentuated here.
    • Also Reigner One in Hexwood, with the conditioning he puts on his Servants, though in their case it starts in childhood. He never made Mordion into an actual bad person, really, but he did make him unable to seriously think actively rebellious thoughts. There was some brain work there, but that mostly seems to have been to short out his magic.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Void Trilogy, the noble houses of Makkathran use their telepathic abilities to subtly change the thoughts of others. Primarily used by Ranalee on both Edeard and later Salrana. He detects her influence and breaks it while Salrana remains influenced by it, ultimately betraying him as far as she knows of her own free will
  • In The Vampire Files, Jack's mind-control power works better and lasts longer if he words his orders so that they seem to mesh with a subject's own motives and desires.
  • In Everworld, Senna uses her powers to control David. Even after Athena forces her to stop, however, April notes that David is still in love with (or at least obsessed with) her, and Senna is more than nasty enough to use this to her advantage. Ultimately it doesn't work, though.
    • She also uses mind control to make Christopher drink some wine with her blood in it, even though he knows witch blood may well kill him. Senna notes that she can't force him to do something he doesn't want to do, but she can take a desire he already has and increase it. Given that he's a borderline alcoholic and, like David, retains a certain level of attraction/obsession with her...
  • The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant: This fable satirizes and mocks the idea that death gives life meaning as this trope. The kingdom wholeheartedly believes that the dragon is inevitable and virtuous, reflecting that most people in the real world have this mentality towards aging and death. The fable deems this mindset archaic and dangerous in the modern world, with genetic engineering to cure aging now on the table.
  • O'Brien in 1984 uses torture (including physical beatings, direct pain stimulation, destroying them in debate over their values and beliefs, starvation, and deliberate inducement of Stockholm Syndrome, and, if necessary, Room 101 itself) to make dissidents want to love Big Brother. Only then, when the former rebel embraces the system and becomes a true believer, will they ever actually execute someone. It's far more elaborate, involved, and time-consuming than is really necessary to maintain control, which is explicitly stated as the point of doing it this way.
  • This is what Susan Mortlake does to Scott in The Power of Five novel Nightrise, to get him to take part in an assasination.
  • Mentioned in passing in Twilight novel Breaking Dawn. Chelsea, a member of the Volturi, has a special ability where she can mess with people's emotional attatchments, both keeping the rest of the Volturi loyal to Aro and using it to help them win more easily against enemies by dividing them.
  • The Horcrux locket in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows did this, to Ron in particular. When wearing it, it basically turns people depressed and messes with their heads a bit, eventually causing Ron to leave Harry and Hermione for a while. Just before Ron destroyed it, the locket tries to do this again to Ron via "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • Voldemort acquired some of his followers the same way before spending a few years being Only Mostly Dead: Snape ended up signing on for them thanks to having his bitterness over being Lily's Unlucky Childhood Friend weaponised against him, and it's not outright confirmed in the text but many fans believe Peter Pettigrew had something similar done to him due to him perceiving himself (maybe correctly, maybe not) as The Friend Nobody Likes.
  • The Wheel of Time: Lanfear's Compulsion is not strong enough to make people do anything, so in order to make Perrin help her kill Moiraine and Nynaeve to prevent Rand from sealing away the Dark One she has to convince him that he hates Moiraine. Lanfear fails anyway.
  • In Elvenborn, this is Aelmarkin's favorite pasttime. He picks his favorite concubine, deliberately picked to be easily duped and manipulated, and tricks them into believing that he is eternally kind, loving, and right... and then uses that belief to deliberately destroy their self-esteem and mental faculties, until they're anorexic-bulimics starving and purging themselves in a desperate attempt to be 'beautiful' even as he pretends to be concerned for their well-being and asking them to eat more. If he's feeling particularly generous, when they're near death he'll memory-wipe them and have them retrained as normal concubines again.
  • Coda has this with the Corp's mind controlling music. Anthem admits to himself that it's addictive, and listening isn't always unwilling.
  • In the The Heroes of Olympus series, it's revealed that this is the key to both charmspeak and the full use of the Mist. Sure, with immense effort you can Mind Control a monster into not killing you, but it's so much more effective to use charmspeak to pull a Batman Gambit (ie by walking them into a trap, sowing division amongst your already paranoid enemies, etc). A sufficiently powerful manipulator of the Mist is essentially a full-scale Reality Warper by making illusions come to life, but the trick is to make people see what they want to see, and then imposing your will to make it so.
  • The Big Bad in Dances on the Snow takes over whole planets by putting everybody to sleep for a few days and making them relive a lifetime of loyal servitude to the Big Bad's regime. When they wake, they have a hard time believing that they have ever been loyal to The Empire.
  • In Those That Wake, Man in Suit's influence amplifies the already existing hopelessness in people's hearts; this is why it's so hard to fight him. Brath falls victim to this.
  • Good Omens: Crowley uses this as part of his way of getting more souls to Hell. He doesn't lead people into evil, he leads them into temptation by looking into their soul and giving them what they really, truly want. Is it really his fault people want such horrible things so often?
  • Journey to Chaos: Prince Lunas Latrot proves the adage "the best ordercrafters don't need ordercraft". He can use charisma and personal insight to control others just as well. Once he's in, the ordercraft merely enhances and reinforces the control.
  • The Traitor Son Cycle: the Big Bad manipulates Thorn by subtly changing his personality and planting new ideas in his mind so that eventually, Thorn does his bidding with no input from the Big Bad's.
  • The Caves of Steel: During his investigation of a murder, Detective Elijah Baley at one point has a partner of the victim discuss a project the victim was working on: encouraging Earth humanity to begin colonizing other worlds again. Elijah continues to muse about both the colonization project and the intrinsic weaknesses of the Mega City Planet Earth has become throughout the rest of the book. Elijah's partner. R(obot) Daneel Olivaw, eventually reveals that the murder victim's partner had surreptitiously given him a dose of a drug that was intended to brainwash him into a fanatical supporter of the project. The drug failed to work because of Elijah's skeptical nature, but it did encourage him to think about the argument enough to become a willing supporter by the end of the novel.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, in order to control Reapers, the Prince uses Hetawa terms and imagery in addition to the jungissa. In Ehiru's case he also uses some well-placed lies and their family bond.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, the Kel formation instinct (which enforces their obedience of the chain of command) is part straight-up brainwashing, but also part arduous training, part propaganda and part the Kel's own desire to belong.
  • The Sister Verse and the Talons of Ruin has this as one of its primary themes. The goal of the villain is to slowly corrupt the protagonist, and it does this by making him think that his actions are solely products of his own decision making.
  • In Renegades, the Renegade Wonder has the ability to make the others notice the beauty of their surroundings, which can cause some of them to hesitate or calm down, although he cannot dictate how they'll respond to it.
  • Curtain has a serial killer known only as X before their identity is revealed. X has never actually killed anyone themselves- instead, they're a master of manipulation, preying on the fears of others and driving them into a state where they decide to kill, but are completely unaware that they're being manipulated to do so.
  • Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns: The Serpent God is responsible for the sadistic fantasies that Xifeng occasionally has- nothing else. It did not make her travel to the Imperial City or kill her court rivals, something it explicitly spells out during the finale.
  • James from Mind Games has Charisma of first 20, then 25 on a scale where 20 is literally as Charismatic as the most Charismatic human being ever to live before System Start and the benefits of his Mesmerist Class Skill Indirect Suggestion, which makes it very, very difficult not to see things his way even if he's not directly trying to make you do something.
  • Soothing and Rioting in Mistborn can be used to manipulate people, but it's not mind control, and it can't be used to make someone do something that they wouldn't already do. The best Soothers and Rioters use their powers alongside sound arguments and previous biases.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, Big Bad Odium can take control of anyone who gives themselves over to him. Why would they do that? Odium is a known God of Evil and a Manipulative Bastard. If someone does something they regret, but blames the Big Bad for forcing their hand instead of accepting responsibility, that counts as giving up their moral culpability, and therefore their free will, to Odium.
    • Highprince Amaram falls victim to Odium because he couldn't accept that he sold Kaladin into slavery for his Shardblade. Amaram stole the Shardblade to fight the coming threat of Odium, and so blames him for making him kill his own men.
    • Highprince Dalinar avoids Odium's control because he acknowledges that the innocent blood he spilled was on his hands. Odium did send the Thrill, which gave Dalinar the power and motivation to kill on the battlefield, but Dalinar accepts that he killed of his own will.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: According to Lilah Morgan, this is how Billy Blim's Hate Plague works. In her words, all men have at least a little bit of Straw Misogynist tendencies, whether they embrace it or try to bury it. Billy's powers just remove their inhibitions and let that part out. Only Angel himself, with unparalleled experience fighting his inner demons, is able to let it just wash over him and shrug it off, explaining that particular primal drive is old hat to him at this point.
  • Babylon 5: Garibaldi was the victim of this in Season 4. PsiCop Alfred Bester used telepathic brainwashing and post-hypnotic suggestions, but he also played on his victim's deep-seated prejudices and paranoia — manipulating him to do what Bester wanted of his own "free" will. In fact, the change in this character is so gradual and believable that Bester's involvement almost seems unnecessary. (The other characters, as distressed as they are, never suspect an outside influence on their friend.)
    • A flashback reveals exactly what Bester had in mind too. A subordinate suggested a complete mind wipe and a new personality be inserted. Bester refused, saying that Garibaldi had all the right personality characteristics already in place: natural suspicion, paranoia, distrust of authority figures, etc. Bester decided that these qualities simply needed to be turned Up to Eleven for the plan to work (and it did).
    • Bester also mentions this in his post-victory gloating, saying that having Garibaldi turn against the protagonists was an unexpected bonus; he only wanted to turn Garibaldi into an unaware mole that could infiltrate the anti-telepath conspiracy.
    • This method is also unsuccessfully applied to Sheridan, and the interrogator even Lampshades it by saying that "We don't want cooperation. We want conversion. We want repentance," to make the public confession speech more believable to the general public and more demoralizing to the co-conspirators, not to mention telepath-proof.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The First Evil. It can't physically interact with anyone or anything, but it knows all about you (especially your dark desires and impulses) and it takes the appearance and demeanor of any dead person it wants while talking with you. A very handy set of skills for driving people mad or evil without ever forcing them to do anything.
    • Mayor Wilkins deserves a mention here too. Faith's Face–Heel Turn is voluntary, but the Mayor cements it by playing on her cynicism, self-loathing, jealousy of Buffy, and yearning for a caring parental figure. Of course, as time goes on it becomes clear that he really does care about her, making this even more complex.
    • Spike himself pulls this off in Season 4, exploiting the existing tensions within the Scooby Gang (Buffy's intense focus on her newfound relationship with Riley, Giles' feelings of uselessness, Xander's lack of direction, and Willow's recent gay relationship with Tara) in order to Divide and Conquer. As he himself points out, he didn't create said tensions, he just brought them to the surface, comparing the situation to how people blame Yoko Ono for breaking up The Beatles; Buffy herself even acknowledges that Spike only stirred up what was already there.
    • Upon being turned, a vampire's personality often draws upon their former self's darker impulses and things they wouldn't normally say or do. When confronted over being Spike's Sensei for Scoundrels in "Destiny," Angel retorts he didn't make Spike a monster; he just opened the door and let the "real him" out. Also, upon being sired, Spike's mother's taunts about his attachment to her were in fact something she feared as a human, but wasn't cruel enough to actually say to him beforehand.
  • The A-Squad Rangers from Power Rangers S.P.D., who wanted to be on "the winning team".
  • Jannu, the Lady of War of the bad guys in Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger. She suffers this fate when, as Mahoro, she gets captured by the invading alien forces and has her spirit broken by an illusion of her lover abandoning her to die. The trauma leaves her vulnerable to infection by the parasitic Big Bad, who pieces her back together as a willing servant driven by revenge on the one who "betrayed" her.
  • In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Dahak, the show's god-slaying Sealed Evil in a Can, spends an unknown, but very large, amount of time trying to convince Iolaus to willingly join forces with him against the Jerkass Gods after Iolaus's spirit accidentally became trapped in the can too. Iolaus eventually agrees, and becomes Dahak's new body on Earth - at which point, of course, Iolaus's soul is instantly relegated to a dark, dungeon-like corner somewhere within Dahak's mind.
  • In the Sword of Truth adaptation Legend of the Seeker, Darken Rahl does this to the hero's sister after she gets amnesia, rewriting her memory from scratch with him as the compassionate hero and her brother as evil. Eventually she recovers from her amnesia enough that she sees through the manipulation, but the bad guy almost wins in that episode because this trope is used so effectively, and it makes for one of the better episodes.
    • In the book, Rahl did it to children in order to gain perfectly loyal followers who can literally take him to Hell and back (after he kills them).
    • There's also the fact that he didn't lie that much. Most of it was half-truth, like the fact that his father Panis Rahl slept with Richard's mother and produced two children. Technically, he said "rape", and many people would agree that disguising yourself as someone else to trick a person to have sex is a form of rape.
  • On Lost, this is Ben's preferred method of manipulation. Ironically, the same method is used successfully against him by Fake Locke, aka Jacob's nemesis, throughout season five.
  • In Stargate SG-1, in the episode "Reckoning Part One", Replicator Sam appears to Daniel as Oma Desala to make the process of mining his subconscious easier for her. She convinces him, using the disguise, that he has the information he wants in his subconscious, and he unwittingly opens it for her.
    • Subverted when Daniel figures it out and starts to collect information from the replicator without her knowing it.
  • Burn Notice lives off this trope, Michel and his friends end up on both sides of it, convincing people to act against their own interests and make it seem reasonable and get convinced to act against their own interests.
  • This is the modus operandi of the demons in the Spanish series Angel o Demonio.
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Sailor Mercury is kidnapped and is thought to be brainwashed when she turns into Dark Mercury, but this is subverted when it turns out she remembers her friendship with the Sailor Senshi and the sadness and resentment she feels due to her friends seemingly discarding her makes her resistant to the Silver Crystal's purifying power.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Master as played by John Simms and his 'wife' Lucy Saxon. Although her role is a Call-Back to his Weak-Willed pawns of The '70s, rather than just look into her eyes and say "I am the Master and you will obey me!" this incarnation uses a combination of Evil Is Sexy, Break the Cutie (showing Lucy the end of the universe), and Pet the Dog ("He was so kind to my father.")
    • For that matter, the Doctor himself. His best weapon isn't his sonic screwdriver or the TARDIS, or whatever nifty device he whipped up, or even his tremendous body of knowledge and doctorates in everything from medicine to basket weaving. It's his ability to manipulate and twist everyone around him into... being greater than they were. Into being smarter, braver, better than they ever believed they could be. The Silence condemns him as "The Man Who Reasons" and "The Man Who Lies," rather than "The Man Who Rides In A Police Box." His companions have a marked tendency to Took a Level in Badass over time. The Eleventh Doctor's companions include Amy Pond, who starts out as a sweet little girl and ends up becoming accustomed to literally ROUTINELY overcoming mental trauma and overwritten memories; Rory eventually proceeds from being a male nurse to earning a title that says it all: The Last Centurion. Davros at one point called out The Doctor on his tendency to make other people into weapons this way, claiming that it's no different from Davros creating the Daleks.
      Doctor: It's not like I'm an innocent. I've taken lives. Then I got worse, I got clever: manipulated people into taking their own.
  • The villain of the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Con-Text" is a manipulative self-help guru who uses this method to make an Unwitting Pawn kill for him. In fact, he does it so well that when the pawn gets caught, he not only takes sole responsibility for the murders, but he's offended when the cops bring up the possibility that someone else got him to do them.
  • Supernatural:
    • Lucifer has used this to successfully gain control of Nick and attempted (but ultimately failed) to recruit Castiel. Initially.
      Lucifer: This is your choice...You people misunderstand me. You call me "Satan" and "devil", but... Do you know my crime? I loved God too much. And for that, he betrayed me — punished me. Just as he's punished you. After all, how could God stand idly by while that man broke into your home and butchered your family in their beds? There are only two rational answers, Nick — either he's sadistic, or he simply doesn't care. You're angry. You have every right to be angry. I am angry, too. That's why I want to find him — hold him accountable for his actions. Just because he created us doesn't mean he can toy with us, like playthings.
      Nick: If I help you...can you bring back my family?
      Lucifer: I'm sorry. I can't. But I can give you the next best thing. God did this to you, Nick. And I can give you justice. Peace.
      (to Castiel) "Castiel. I don't understand why you're fighting me, of all the angels...I rebelled, I was cast out. You rebelled, you were cast out. Almost all of heaven wants to see me dead, and if they succeed, guess what? You're their new Public Enemy Number One. We're on the same side, like it or not, so why not just serve your own best interests? Which in this case just happen to be mine?"
    • What Crowley did for two years to Dean, subtly isolating him from his brother and best friend, making sure he's indispensable w/r/t fighting Abbadon, pointing out the many betrayals of the people closest to him and how Dean keeps helping/loving them despite it and making sure Dean's always in situations where he has to rescue Crowley.
      Demon: You were right, he warned me not to get involved.
      Crowley: I told you. I'm his best friend. And now he's ready.
    • It comes to a head in Season 9 when Dean suicides by battle rather than become a remorseless killing machine. Crowley shows with the one thing that will bring Dean back and when he does, unbeknownst to Sam and Castiel, Dean goes with him, willingly.
  • Bonnie in The Vampire Diaries, her prejudice toward vampires made it that much easier for Esther to sleepwalk her into feeding Alaric to complete his transformation into a vampire meant to destroy all vampires.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Female Changeling does this to Odo during the Dominion occupation of DS9. She plays on his feelings of isolation and her position as a much older and mature member of Changeling society to convince him to linknote  over Kira's objections. Through the link, she's able to convince him that solids are just not worth his time, destroying the resistance's plans and getting Rom shortlisted for execution. Odo only breaks free when the Female Changeling unwisely says that she wants to kill Kira for distracting Odo from his people.
  • In Grimm, the Ziegevolker are goat-like Wesen who have the ability to emit powerful pheromones that get people to do whatever they want. The pheromones can be temporarily boosted by consuming certain rare toads. One episode involves a famous defense attorney who turns out to be a Ziegevolk eating an extremely-potent toad to get witnesses to revise their testimonies (the lawyer actually gets them to remember events differently) and sway the jury. Luckily, Rosalee is able to device a potion that reverses the effects of the toads, causing the lawyer to repel anyone he uses his powers against, just before the closing arguments, meaning he instantly turns the jury against him.
  • In Gotham, this is how a therapist hypnotizes people into becoming the "Spirit of the Goat", a murderer that murders rich and powerful people as according to her EVERYBODY already wants to destroy the rich, she just gives them the push they need.
  • Lucifer:
    • Lucifer doesn't control humans; he simply has the power to get them to reveal the truth to his questions, usually in response to him asking what is their deepest desires, good or evil. Once they've admitted what they are, especially to themselves, some make the choice to actively pursue that desire.
    • When a human holds Azrael's Blade, they are driven inexorably to kill people that the holder thinks has wronged them, however trivially. The initial murder is over a parking space. Dan is nearly driven to kill Lucifer, not for all the verbal abuse he piles on or even the latter's romantic and sexual interest in his ex-wife and mother of his child (he thinks he deserves the ridicule on some level and blames himself for the state of his family), but for eating the pudding that Dan had in the station refrigerator. "It. Was. Labelled!" Dan's remarkable restraint and resistance to the effect actually impress Lucifer quite a bit, he didn't think ANY mortal could actually hold back the way Dan did under it's influence
  • Arrow. In Season 4 many inhabitants of HIVE's Ark aren't under mind-control, despite Damien Darhk having that capability via a yellow pill that his followers take willingly. They're simply people who have nothing in their old lives and therefore no loyalty to keeping things as they are when they're promised the possibility of a fresh start.
  • The serial killer "Mister Scratch" on Criminal Minds uses drugs to cause victims to believe assorted scenarios he comes up which then causes them to be the actual killers. He later gets a list of people suffering Dissociative Identity Disorder and uses the same method to convince them they are someone else in order to carry out whatever his plan is.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Stranded", the neuromuscular enhancer that Tyr'Nar, a telepathic shapeshifter, gives Kevin Buchanan has a mental component as well as giving Kevin Super Strength. It makes Kevin more susceptible to Tyr'Nar's attempts to manipulate him. After Kevin gets into a fight with his bully Nelson Tyler who is badly hurt in the process, he feels very guilty about it until Tyr'Nar convinces him that Nelson got what he deserved. Immediately afterwards, Kevin tells his father Alex as much when he confronts him about Nelson's condition. Later still, Tyr'Nar emerges victorious after his fight with Alex, whose form he assumes. He tells Kevin to keep wearing the enhancer as it will make him stronger but the true reason is that he will make it easier for Tyr'Nar to manipulate him further. It is implied that Kevin is aware that Alex has been replaced by Tyr'Nar.
  • On The 100, the Primes don't strictly need any manipulation to take over someone's body, just a medical procedure to insert their Body Backup Drive. However, Sanctum's laws require that someone must give their consent before their body can be taken, so the Primes turned Sanctum into a cult, where they are worshipped, and all suitable hosts are raised to think giving their bodies to the Primes is a great honor.
  • Treadstone. In 1973 the KGB is trying to forcibly brainwash captured CIA agent John Bentley with little success until Petra Andropov adds sympathy and seduction to break down his defences. This starts a rather unhealthy relationship between them where it's never quite clear who is manipulating who. In the present day, the brainwashing programs developed from these crude early attempts are conducted on willing volunteers and use subliminal programming for better results.

    Podcasts 

    Religion 
  • Orthodox Christianity states this is how demons tempt us into committing sins. Not all of our thoughts are ours. They give us their suggestions, using either directly sinful thoughts (to eat more than we need, not to pray the Lord, to have sinful sex, to be proudful of our deeds, and so on.) or they can be more innocuous... The best way to reject them is a prayer to God (for example, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner"), or simply ignore them. But how many such suggestions do we agree with during a single day?

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, most mind-control spells falter or fail outright when the target is ordered to do something they wouldn't normally do—but there is a specialized spell called Programmed Amnesia which can bypass this rule by changing what the target considers normal behavior. The spell is not inherently evil, but see below.
    • One spell, named Suggestion, fits this trope to a tee - the more reasonable and/or in line with the target's inclination the Suggestion is, the harder it is to resist, even to the point where phrasing it differently can affect things ("Go jump in that vat of acid!" vs. "How about a nice bath?", for example).
    • The Book of Vile Darkness Sourcebook includes a spell called Morality Undone, which flips a character's alignment to its opposite. While they won't immediately turn on their allies, as the book notes, any number of things they wouldn't normally do are now perfectly fine to suggest via other magic...
    • It also contains a quicker, less expensive, and very, very evil version of Programmed Amnesia that's called Mind Rape.
    • The Bluff and Diplomacy skills fit even better than most spells. Both represent perfectly mundane conversation which, with sufficient training, can convince almost anyone to do almost anything, and the only way to counteract them is more bluffing and diplomacy.
  • The forces of Chaos in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 are highly subtle and insidious, able to convince people to join them by, amongst others, making the victim think that he is benefiting the fight for "good" by doing so. This particular case is usually seen where trying to use a Chaos artifact or other power of Chaos against Chaos is seen. Even hardass Knight Templar-ish Inquisitors are not immune.
    • Of all the Chaos Gods, Slaanesh is made out to be the most seductive. Giving in to Slaanesh is giving in by small degrees, small little compromises that eventually lead one to taking joy and pleasure in getting hacked to bits.
    • The first part largely works under Tzeenchian rules (being the master of scheming to the point that he doesn't see the future, he sees ALL POSSIBLE futures and works things to the one that benefit him the most.) Slaanesh is right on as well. Even Papa Nurgle is surprisingly duplicitous: he won't 'cure' the plagues he gives you, he'll just make sure you're happy about it. Khorne on the other hand... Well his followers shout out "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD, SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!!" as they're killing everyone in sight, including each other. Not so subtle.
    • Case in point: Chaos Warmaster Varan the Undefeatable in Ciaphas Cain: Cain's Last Stand. By the time he reached Perlia most of his army was mind-controlled, ranging from Imperial Guard units to an Adepta Sororitas squad that he used as bodyguards.
  • Vampire: The Requiem: This is the classic twofer tactic of Dominate and Majesty. When a vampire has Dominate, he or she has straight mind control, with limited emotional manipulation. Whereas Majesty allows very powerful emotional control with some compulsion as well. Pairing both makes most humans (and quite a few vampires) ridiculously easy to control. Add in the addictive vampire blood vitae and its natural ability to make the drinker obey and love the vampire and... well, let's just say more than a few Empty Shells and mad Renfields have resulted.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade has the Dominate discipline and the blood-bonding properties of vampire vitae, but not the Majesty discipline. The Presence discipline synergizes very well with Social Traits/Skills, and can work on crowds.
  • In Scion there is an Epic Manipulation knack called "God's Honest". The scion gives a statement along with some gesture of sincerity: cross my fingers hope to die/pinkie swear/I give my word. If their legend rating is higher than or equal to the target's then they will believe the speaker without question. Only solid, incontrovertible proof can sway them to believing it is a lie, and even then it has to be a good speaker. On top of that, if the scion uses "God's Honest" to enforce a truth then almost nothing will convince the target that that truth is a lie.
    • There's another knack called "Inspirational Figure" which forces people to stop and pay attention to a speaker as long as he/she is saying something intentionally inspirational. Some GMs allow you to use these knacks together.
  • In Nomine: This is implied to be how possession by the demonic Shedim works. The victim is still present in their own head and unaware of the visitor, eventually coming to believe that the selfish and evil impulses sent by the demon are entirely their own idea. And since each suggestion has to be worse than the last, most of the demonic Band will work slow, easing a person down the road step by step.
  • Pathfinder: In Curse of the Crimson Throne, about halfway through the campaign it is revealed that Queen Ileosa has been possessed by the spirit of an ancient dragon named Kazavon. Except she really hasn't. While many of the other characters think this is the case, in truth Kazavon has very little control over her, and simply encouraged her to go through with the plans that she'd always wanted to execute, but didn't have the power or confidence to go through with. Kazavon doesn't really mind, so long as he can cause misery and destruction.
  • Champions: A simple matter of practicality. A Mind Control roll of the target's Ego+30 can make them do anything, but you have to choose your command before you roll, so you are more likely to succeed the more inclined the target is to do what you're telling them to do.
  • Exalted: Before Shen Aru became a brainwashed pawn of the Sidereals, he was a destitute, homeless preacher at the mercy of The Empire and parents who almost sold him into slavery. Now, he is the nourished, silk-clad figurehead of his religion, which is thriving and respected by thousands of people. The Illuminated sourcebook explicitly says that, even if his mental "leash" was broken, he would probably still obey the Sidereals. And they know that — they just didn't feel like taking the risk.
    Shen Aru's diary: All I know is that I eat better now than ever in my life.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse makes it clear that nobody becomes a fomor just because they drank the wrong energy drink or used the wrong medicine. Rather, the Bane inside these things takes root in the human, preying on their pettiness, their rage, their desire. It's only by giving into these goads that the human becomes fomori.

    Theatre 
  • Little Shop of Horrors. Like Faust, he sells his soul, but gradually. Best evidenced in the song "Feed Me" with an elaborate hard sell. This is an improvement over the original b-movie, which just used flat-out mind control.
  • Othello: Iago uses lies and deception to convince Othello that Desdemona is an unfaithful harlot, and drive him to kill her. There are no magic spells, no potions, just a malevolent trickster (or perhaps a jealous admirer) who is very good at spinning reality, playing the part of a concerned friend.
  • Elisabeth: Varies with each production and particular actors, though the general consensus is that Death exerts this over Rudolf. The difference lies in how much, and whether Rudolf was in full control of himself when he committed suicide. Some productions have Rudolf actively resisting Death during their seduction duet (German), some have him actively pursuing Death (Japan, both Takarazuka and Toho).

    Webcomics 
  • In MAGISA, Lucia convinces Eman to join The Order using sex and philosophy.
  • The Head Alien from It's Walky! is a textbook case of this trope. Although he does "brainwash" his victims with forced repeated viewings of The Sound of Music, his favorite means for messing with their heads is by bringing up things they'd rather not think about, questioning the purity of their motives, and fighting them with their own inner demons.
    • Also, in one of the last storylines, Penelope brainwashes all of Squad 135. Daisy and three Mauve Shirts are freed by a simple dart gun, with which they have trouble breaking Beef's skin. When Guns succeeds, however, he immediately kills her, and Penny explains that he was won over by the existential crisis of having been switched with Sal at birth.
    • The Head Alien's penchant for doing this is subverted in this strip; when he comes against members of the team that he doesn't frequently interact with or taunt (as he tends to mess with Sal's mind in particular), he quickly learns that he doesn't know enough about them to screw with their heads, and what little he does know doesn't bother them in the slightest when he tries to throw it back in their faces. Frustrated, he curses himself for 'playing favourites'.
  • In Erfworld, Wanda Firebaugh — the color-coded Evil Overlord's Croakamancer — uses a suggestion spell and torture (with definite lesbian BDSM overtones) to manipulate Jillian Zamussels, an enemy mercenary leader. It is, indeed, complex.
    • There are several references to Jillian's history of repeated captures and (apparent) escapes, implying that the events of the story are the culmination of an ongoing campaign of psychological manipulation. (That being said, Jillian and Wanda's relationship started out as fucked up and hasn't really improved.)
    • Note also that in the summer text updates, there is a reference to Jillian observing the work of her new Turnamancer, a unit specializing in part in manipulating an enemy unit to serve a new side, but deciding in the end that she "Didn't play right."
    • With Wanda's Arkenpliers, the corpses she "decrypts" genuinely seem to grow a sort of love for her, be it to worship her or think of her as a sister. It seems to warp entire personalities, like Ansom's. There are limits, however; the spell needs something to latch onto, and can't completely override their essential nature. In Ansom's case it twisted his religious zeal from Royalism to Toolism, and he shifted his priorities to match. His honor-obsessed brother was controlled right up until they started using tactics he considered too underhanded, at which point he defected to his original side.
    • The climax of the battle for Gobwin Knob has Parson ordering Wanda and Sizemore to link up in order to uncroak the volcano, which erupts and kills hundreds if not thousands of units. After everyone gets back to Gobwin Knob, Parson asks Maggie if the spell that summoned him forced him to give that order, but she tells him that while the spell did force him to play out all his options, it didn't make him come up with that idea, so, having thought it up, the only conclusion is that at least part of him genuinely wanted to do it.
  • In this The Order of the Stick strip, Nale uses this technique on Elan to trick him into attacking Haley, combining the Suggestion spell with some quite cunning twisting of recent events. Only the fact that Haley regained her capacity for speech at the right moment prevented Nale's plan from working.
    • Xykon and Redcloak manipulate each other to get them to act competently. Xykon preys on Redcloak's Never My Fault insecurities to prevent him from reconsidering his alignment, while Redcloak subtly manipulates Xykon's perception to advance his own plan.
  • Played for Laughs in Sluggy Freelance in that even otherwise seemingly irresistible vampire mind control powers can't make women think Sam is hot, or even pretty cool.
  • Zebra Girl's slow degeneration into a sadistic demon who feeds on terror and nightmares appears to be the consequence of a magical spell which did not so much alter the way she thinks as block her ability to resist the lingering mental effects of her long-completed physical transformation.
  • MSF High's Legion might fit into this trope, at least in Mahou Galaxy and during the Legion War, when they were the bad guys. Being converted into a Legion causes people to be put into a situation where they want to help their sisters because of the 'love' that binds them. Mostly unchanged personality, and the feelings seem to be genuine. But it still seems like this trope, at least for unwilling victims.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. Doc discovers that Sparklelord has been manipulating his mind towards becoming a Knight Templar. The Alt Text makes this very clear—assuming that Chris Hastings isn't being facetious:
    Alt Text: To be fair, Doc always WANTED to blow up helicopters. The bike just gave him the means.
  • In Homestuck, Doc Scratch (omniscient cue ball man) seems to induce Vriska to do violent and self-destructive things by telling her she can't resist the urge to do them.
    • Vriska's own relationship with Tavros is loaded with emotional abuse as well as actual mind control. And attempted seduction. And lasting physical harm. And convincing him he's deserved it all.
    • Vriska's Famous Ancestor Marquise Mindfang has her own version, where she does just enough mind control so the subject doesn't know where Mindfang's influence ends and their own impulses begin:
      Mindfang's journalog: I have masked the line 8etween my puppeteering and her volition exquisitely, and her uncertainty over her own control fuels her fear.
  • In Penny and Aggie, one of the antagonists, Cyndi, successfully performs this on Heel Face Turned victim Charlotte, quite effectively - while restrained and seconds away from being murdered. It goes like this: starting with about here, Charlotte decides to end Cyndi's interference with the protagonists' lives... with drastic measures. Cyndi, tied up and held hostage, responds angrily to Charlotte, at first believing that Charlotte would never attack her. After being proven wrong, Cyndi attempts to explain that she isn't quite that bad, though admittedly a bit of a Bitch. Even to the readers, she comes across as more of a Jerkass Woobie than the villain she's been perceived as for the rest of the series, and you end up hoping she can talk Charlotte down from committing murder - she even seems to counsel Charlotte on dealing with properly directing her bottled-up anger due to her abuse... THEN she suggests Charlotte take a leaf from the Bible's pages to figure out how to atone for the hurtful things she's done before. To the readers, her tone visibly changes. At first, it doesn't look good for Charlotte. Don't worry, though, she DOES get better, and Cyndi DOES get found out before she can do any more harm.
  • Paranormal Mystery Squad captured Leonard guessing he's a thrall of Vampire Cheerleaders and tried to remove the charm. Then Lita explained to Charlotte how this was done and why simple methods aren't going to reverse it.
  • In Knights of Buena Vista, there is a charisma-based ability called "Love at First Sight", which induces love, but isn't charm spell (which also bypasses basic mind control immunity).
  • In Godslave, Anpu's ba seems to be exercising some sort of control over Edith. It's not really full-blown mind-control, but he does manipulate her mind to protect himself.
  • In Earthsong, Beluosus' human is easily able to use his mind-control abilities on Gwendolyn, who is already seething with anger at Earthsong because her error about Beluosus' plan made Gwendolyn believe that she had spent fifteen years being separated from her newborn child for no reason, and what she saw as an increase in frivolity around Willow. When Beluosus invades Haven, Gwendolyn has already been under his influence for some time.
  • In Sam & Fuzzy, Brain used over a decade of work and a combination of psychology and very selective use of Laser-Guided Amnesia to turn Hazel into the perfect partner in his hunt for The Pit. It helped that he first met her at the age of eight and was basically her parental figure for much of her life.
  • In JoJopolis, those who use Butterfly's Dream are manipulated into obeying Reverend Fred due to a brain tumor implanted into them. However, Satch Armstrong actually agrees with Fred's plan, so even after the tumor is removed, he doesn't pull a Heel–Face Turn like the enemies before him.

    Web Original 
  • The magical wards woven through Addergoole stop the new students freaking out at the weirdness or questioning too much what's happening. But it's peer pressure and something resembling Stockholm Syndrome (if you squint) that makes most of them buy into Ellemenhai Society.
  • One of Alice's abilities in A-GENTS. She would work on manipulating a person's emotions over time to make them fanatically loyal to her. Even though she's dead, all of the former slaves that are still alive still have extensive emotional responses even at the mention of her name.
  • Bennett the Sage realizes that maybe he is the devil when he off-handedly tells The Nostalgia Critic to do life-ruining things and the Critic does them instantly.
  • In the Questden story The Family Business, the mind control spell used by Rezans on their slaves is designed to fade away over time; Rezans rely on their fair treatment of slaves, path to citizenship (through military service) and propaganda to ensure it becomes unnecessary faster than it wears off.
  • The Slender Man seemingly prefers to try and get his minions to do this. Some of the crazier ones do. Usually, however..
  • To Boldly Flee has The Cinema Snob turn on the other critics (and even accidently help kill The Last Angry Geek} after the Executor manipulates him into becoming corporate.
  • In Twig, it is eventually revealed that this is the reason for Sylvester's intense loyalty to the Academy of Evil which created him, as they shaped his personality when growing up, providing every single person he cares about or hates, to the extent that he's terrified that if he ever abandons the Academy his entire personality will collapse inwards like a house of cards.
  • In Ward, sequel to the above, a supervillain named Goddess can inflict this on almost any parahuman who sees her... or even sees an image of her (she can do it through camera feeds, at least). They still mostly have free will, but their thought processes are automatically directed to see Goddess as a wise, intelligent person they should obey without question because that's what's best for everyone. The only real drawback seems to be that it explicitly has no effect on non-superpowered people. If this ability sounds overpowered, it is: in the past, she took over an entire planet (Earth Shin) with this power, and was ruling as supreme overlord of all of Earth before Khepri showed up to "recruit" her for the battle with Scion.
  • In the Whateley Universe, this is the favorite approach of Don Sebastiano. He's a powerful telepath, but he only uses the telepathy to sense what he can use against his target. He turned Peppercorn from a belligerent good guy to a belligerent sidekick. He turned Bogus from a friendly shapeshifter into a friendless mental wreck who depends on Don Sebastiano like a crutch and does whatever he asks, no matter how despicable. Sebastiano got his comeuppance, but it looks like he's back on the road to Big Bad-dom.
    • A member of the new villain group, CORE, does this as well. Without the psychic powers.
  • Worm:
    • Jack Slash manages to inflict this trope upon Panacea, driving her to a psychotic breakdown in which her feelings for her adopted sister Glory Girl are driven out of control, causing her to inadvertently turn Glory Girl into pure Body Horror. It's eventually deduced that Jack has a secondary superpower even he is unaware of that allows him to subconsciously understand a parahuman's psychology, and this is how he's been able to keep control over the absolute psychopaths that make up the Slaughterhouse Nine, as well as why he's so good at breaking people psychologically.
    • The Simurgh's power is insidious as she forecasts her target's future and then performs fine manipulation on their brain chemistry to induce specific hallucinations to form or break certain associations. The thought processes are only slightly changed but they're self-reinforcing, slowly reshaping the individual into a Manchurian Agent even as they think they are in complete control.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Barbara Gordon is subject to this in "Eyewitness"; while Spellbinder did cast an illusion on Barbara to make her think that she saw Batman kill Mad Stan in cold blood, when he's found out, he takes the time to gloat right to Barbara's face that it was easy to trick her because she was already fully prepared to believe the worst in Batman anyway.
    Spellbinder: You were so ready to believe the worst, it was easy.
  • Big City Greens:
    • In "Bad Influencer", celebrity internet star Itchaboi uses personal blogs to influence his viewers into becoming "mirabulous" and "negating the hate", to the point of calling anyone who doesn't accept him "haters". This eventually causes Remy to behave like him and is close to living with him on a cruise ship, but hearing Cricket say he'll be his friend either way snaps him out of it.
    • The episode "Wild Side" reveals Cricket gets an urge for the wilderness once a year and unless Bill takes him far into the woods to go camping, he becomes ballistic and feral. He fails to do this, resulting for a backyard campout instead, resulting in Cricket's urge to take its full effect and he runs amok through town. During the course of his rampage, he holds Remy hostage and manipulates him into being feral like him, then he manipulates Bill into doing whatever makes "him" happy, turning him feral as well. By episode's end, the whole family has become feral with no explanation how they got back to normal.
  • Final Space: Invictus tries to manipulate and coerce Ash into willingly joining its Omnicidal Maniac campaign via repeatedly making psychic contact with her and primarily via planting ideas in her head that Gary is the real villain and that he's to blame for killing Fox. At first, Ash resists, but eventually she's pushed over the edge and makes a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Grossology: Ty's transformation into Far-Ty is this. While being forced to breathe methane until his body adapted to it (warping his mind in the process) did most of the work, he's largely driven by the desire to one-up Abby after recent events have left him feeling that she's superior to him in every aspect. Abby telling him You Are Better Than You Think You Are is what finally brings him back to the side of good.
  • In Huntik once a seeker is linked to a titan-summoning amulet there is a constant connection called 'the bond' between the two, which the seeker uses to command the titan. The titan itself is under no obligation to follow these instructions but the constant telepathic contact slowly imprints the seeker's personality and allegiance over its own until the titan is completely devoted to the seeker and his/her cause. The longer a titan is bonded to one seeker, the longer it would take for the titan to become loyal to a new seeker, though this can be reduced for seekers with similar personalities.
  • Gorilla Grodd uses this in an episode of Justice League, using his psychic powers to exacerbate the heroes' latent distrust and jealousy to split them up. When The Flash takes this as an excuse to say none of them meant any of it, Martian Manhunter corrects him - they meant every word, even if they wouldn't normally have said it out loud. It also has the side effect of making John / GL blurt out that he'd give his life for Shayera.
    Hawkgirl: So what do we do?
    Green Lantern: All we can do is say we're sorry, and move on.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: The Big Bad's powers work something like this, targeting people who are feeling extremely angry, sad, or otherwise emotional, and offering them the power to get what they want in return for stealing the Miraculouses, thus turning them into the Villain of the Week. It's not a perfect method though. The villains he creates have been known to ignore or argue with his orders in favor of pursuing their own agendas, and Robostus turns on him outright to try and take the Miraculouses for himself.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: In "Return of the Raggedy Android'', Jenny tries on an updated version of an exoskeleton that makes her look like a beautiful human girl in order to appear normal. The exoskeleton, however, obtains sentience, and is able to play on her desire to be "normal girl", and not enter into a brawl. She breaks out of it when she sees Brad getting pummeled by the villain of the day.
  • Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic provides a subversion. It seems like he does this to most of the mane cast, but the hypnosis is made visibly apparent. This becomes doubly obvious when he tries his More Than Mind Control routine on Fluttershy and she resists without even trying, causing Discord to angrily brainwash her by force. He could have hit her and the rest of the ponies with Mind-Control Eyes right away and they would've been just as powerless; turning their emotional strengths against them first is just more fun whenever he can pull it off.
    • Played straight in the next episode with Twilight. She turns gray after giving up on her friends. Without any brainwashing.
    • Consequently in the Season 5 episode "What about Discord?" Twilight is convinced Discord has brainwashed all her friends into liking him and is genuinely surprised to find out that is not the case at all.
    • Also played straight in "Lesson Zero" when Big Mac wants to keep Smarty Pants for real.
    • Princess Luna's fall to Nightmare Moon is an odd case. Originally according to Word of God this was played straight during Luna's fall and the creation of Nightmare Moon, though after Lauren Faust's departure there has been absolutely no In-Universe mention of any corrupting entity, instead turning Luna into The Atoner who fell purely due to her own jealousy. The the IDW comic series has gone the other direction and had an issue focusing on exactly who was doing the mind control.
    • This was Starlight Glimmer's entire modus operandi, as her cutie mark removal spell only dampened their special talents and some facets of their personality. She had an entire village acting in unison, all with Uncanny Valley grins on their faces, purely by convincing them it was best for them, some intimidation, and some rather brutal real life and mundane brainwashing tactics.
    • Cozy Glow turns out to be the best example of this, to the point that this might be her cutie mark talent. She manipulates the School of Friendship students to turn against Neighsay for the way he treated the non-pony students, then she manipulates them to turn against the Young Six claiming they're a threat, which he believed in the first place. With all this, she even comes within two seconds of having the Young Six sent to another dimension and the students leaving them alone, but the Tree of Harmony's Big Damn Heroes moment snaps them out of it.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In "All Chalked Up", a disguised HIM gives Bubbles magic chalk that allows her drawings to come to life. He manipulates her by reminding her of when Buttercup smashed her old chalk not too long ago and encouraging her to let her anger out by drawing giant monsters, which then come to life and go on a rampage.
    Bubbles: You made me do this!
    HIM: Au contraire. I just provided the chalk. It was you who drew monsters.
  • This is how Adora became Hordak's "daughter" and Tyke Bomb in She-Ra: Princess of Power. Not only did Hordak train her, every time she tried to question him, Shadow Weaver used her magic on her to strengthen her Fake Memories. Fortunately, once He-Man tells her that her "father" is a cruel villain and she's given her sword by the Sorceress (which weakens Shadow Weaver's brainwashing), the mind control breaks and Adora has her Heel–Face Turn, the starting point of the series.
  • Rat King pulls this on Splinter in an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). Using his rodent controlling powers to access Splinter's memories, Rat King makes small, hurtful suggestions to steadily convince Splinter to abandon the turtles.
  • This is Slade's chief weapon on Teen Titans (2003), using a combination of blackmail, Hannibal Lecturing, and emotional manipulation to convince his "apprentices" they have no choice but to serve him- he fails with Robin, but is more successful until the very end, with Terra.
    • In his first appearance Brother Blood does this too, using emotional manipulation and personal charisma to bind his students' loyalties, bringing his Psychic Powers into play to convince them he really can offer what they want. Later episodes, though, flanderized him into a cruel jerkass who nobody would ever want to work for unless they were completely brainwashed.
  • This happens to Elyon Brown aka Princess Elyon of Meridian in W.I.T.C.H., though the villains find the process more annoying than anything.

    Real Life 
  • "In the best cons, the sucker cons himself." To expand, you use their suspension of disbelief (whether denial or ambition) to get them to buy into your Big Lie.
  • In real life, any effective "mind control" usually amounts to this. Nazism, cults, propaganda, advertising, talking heads on the news: if anyone gets you to do anything, it's by convincing you that you want to do it, or have to do it.
  • Abusers often do this to their victims, convincing them that they are Asshole Victims who deserve their mistreatment. They also deny that they are in the wrong, convincing the victim that they're doing wrong instead.
  • Hypnotism only works if the planned subject is willing to go along with being hypnotised, and even when under hypnosis, the subject will only go along with the hypnotist's suggestions if they want to do whatever the hypnotist tries to "make" them do. That said, when in a trance, the subject does become generally more susceptible to suggestions, and if the hypnotist can somehow frame a suggestion in the right context, it is easier to trick the subject into doing something they wouldn't normally do.
    • In the 1950s, an unethical hypnotherapist induced a patient of his to rob a bank in part by convincing him that the take would be used to fight communism.
  • The discoveries made by the field of memetics are often utilized to do this on a widespread scale. A properly-created meme that is funny enough, cute enough, or (the most effective) rage-inducing and argument-provoking enough can cause an idea to 'infect' huge swaths of the population. While Memetic Mutation does make this very unpredictable, the result is essentially mind control on a massive scale. Numerous pervasive cultural artifacts of the modern age, such as the anti-vaccination movement, and Scientology, are believed by some scientists to be products of highly successful memes that have infected large numbers of people, deliberately or otherwise.

 
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Remy Turns Feral

A wild Cricket holds Remy hostage and manages to manipulate him into being feral like him.

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