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Oppose What You Suffered

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Morality Trope, potentially overlapping with Race Tropes. A character who has experienced some form of oppression or injustice in the past or has a background that makes it likely they or their family have suffered such a fate will not stand idly by when others are subjected to the same form of oppression or injustice, often making witnessing such mistreatment hit close to home and a special form of Berserk Button for this character and motivating them to become the Bully Hunter or liberate the slaves, or creating/joining a La Résistance group.

Sometimes it is merely implied by the character's (or actor's) race that they may have had personal experience with or knowledge of that kind of oppression, even if such experiences are not actually portrayed in the story or, sometimes, even part of the setting, potentially also making this a case of Unfortunate Implications (though usually in an at least somewhat positive fashion, as a character who is this trope is heroic rather than monstrous or villainous) or Values Dissonance.

A heroic character who fights any form of injustice or oppression isn't necessarily this — in order to be considered this trope, it must be specifically the same form of injustice that you suffered that you fight, or at least initially so, as such an occasion could also serve as the call that starts the character on a true hero's journey. May lead to a Heel–Face Turn if an initially antagonistic character decides to take the moral high road, and may also become a case of Evil Versus Evil if a villainous character does fight injustice but resorts to less than heroic means to do so. If an antagonist does not reform, at least expect a Pet the Dog moment.

A character being this trope differs from being a Defector from Decadence or The Atoner in that the character did not use to perpetrate, espouse or tolerate the kinds of injustice they are now fighting, but used to actually suffer them (e.g. a slaveholder who starts fighting slavery is not this trope, and neither would be a character who neither was a slave themselves nor had members of their family enslaved, but a former slave or one of their descendants would be). This also makes this trope a (usually heroic) inversion of the Freudian Excuse in that the abuse you suffer does not lead to you inflicting abuse on others but to you protecting others from suffering the same fate.

Contrast Pay Evil unto Evil, The Chain of Harm, and Revenge.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fabricant 100: Ashibi wants to destroy all Fabricants more so that nobody would suffer the loss of their family like he did, than out of revenge.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka. In that series, he suplexes the vice principal for calling wayward students "trash". He also has at least one horrible Sadist Teacher, which informs his actions in the sequel series.
  • Fate Testarossa from Lyrical Nanoha is a failed mad science experiment that survived rather horrific parental abuse as a child. Upon growing up, she makes it her life's mission to save abused and ostracized children, especially those whom most people wouldn't even consider human.
  • One Piece: Having suffered from starvation in the past, Sanji will help anyone close to him who's hungry, even potential enemies.
  • Spy X Family: During Loid Forger's Dark and Troubled Past, it was shown that he lost his parents at a young age due to Ostania bombing his home, and he lost his friends due to the ineptitude of one of Westalis generals. After meeting Franky and joining WISE, Loid readily picked up becoming a spy so that other Westalis and Ostanian families don't suffer as he did, and to ensure that the ineptitude that killed his friends doesn't repeat again.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Subverted in The Best Of All Possible Worlds. Algarotti thinks Voltaire opposes the Catholic Church because he suffered under it as a victim of a Pedophile Priest. Voltaire is infuriated by this, emphasizing he opposes the Church for different reasons.
    Voltaire: I am not to be explained, to be brushed away, merely as someone fighting an injustice for no other reason than because I was a victim of said injustice.
  • Comet vs The Forces of Evil: Marcia sympathizes with the Fantastic Racism that monsters face due to how her family has been treated by those who despise them simply for having Mexican heritage.
  • Daymare: After hiding his Quirk for years due to being afraid and ashamed of it, Izuku empathizes with how Shouto has struggled under Endeavor's abuse, encouraging him to speak out about it:
    Izuku: I-I know it's hard, t-to... to reach out. W-when you're in pain, when you... h-have a secret, you think 'it's better that nobody knows'. You c-convince yourself you're in c-control, and you're... p-preventing a worst-case s-scenario. You build it up s-so big in your head that j-just thinking about it hurts, l-let alone talking about it. B-but... keeping it inside i-is just going to hurt you more. I-I'm not saying you h-have to tell someone, e-even though I think you s-should. B-but... if it's e-ever too much to carry... y-y-you can talk to m-me. I-I promise I'll always listen.
  • Dear Diary:
    • Cenn opposes N's plans to forcibly separate Pokémon from humans and release them all back into the wild due to how much he suffered while growing up out there:
      Cenn: I grew up in the wild. Did you even consider that some of us want to be caught? I willingly joined Blair. And given the choice, knowing the sort of man he is, I would do so again. The forest where I lived was hell. I suffered things you can't even understand. And our friend who died? She died at the hands of wild pokémon. So don’t act as though you're making some grand utopia by forcing us back into a world of eat-or-be-eaten—especially not when you just ordered the murder of one of my good friends!
    • On the flip side, Laguna hates Blair and other abusive trainers due to how she was taken from her home and family and suffered at the hands of humans. Part of her Character Development is realizing that she doesn't have to automatically side with anyone who opposes what she went through, even if they're causing different kinds of harm in the process, and moving more towards not wanting anyone to be hurt.
  • Doofenshmirtz Hero Incorporated!: Doof's Hilariously Abusive Childhood spurs him to take the well-being of his charges at U.A. very seriously, as he works to help them with their various psychological problems and other issues.
  • In The Emperor And The Goddess, Edelgard's hatred of the Crest system stems from the deaths of her siblings from the Crest experiments inflicted upon them. When she comes out of the ordeal as the Sole Survivor, she vows never to let anyone else be victimized for want of a Crest, even if it means challenging the Goddess Herself.
  • Raise Your Voice Against Liars: An unintentional Aversion of this gets Played for Drama. While the Phantom Thieves recognized that Gabriel was a Control Freak, they don't attempt to target him and change his heart right away, due to having other targets that needed to be dealt with. Once they learn that he's Hawkmoth, they set their sights on him. When Adrien learns all of this, he complains that none of them cared about his safety, bitterly remarking that clearly none of them know what it's like to live with somebody like that. This causes a good chunk of the Phantom Thieves to wince, as many of them do have personal experience with abusive guardians.

    Films - Animated 
  • Defied by Archibald Snatcher in The Boxtrolls, who, as a "Red-Hat", is of lower social status than the "White-Hats", but is quite willing to step on those who are even lower on the rungs of the social ladder than himself, i.e. the eponymous vilified boxtrolls. Played straight and even lampshaded by the Red-Hats Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles, who have a Heel Realization and, even when faced with failing to obtain a better social status by doing so, decide to aid the oppressed boxtrolls and their human allies Winifred and Eggs.
  • In Corpse Bride, Emily had her happiness stolen from her when she was murdered for her dowry by the man she had eloped with. At the end, she protects Victoria from a similar fate even at the cost of her own happiness, and especially because it would now have been Emily who inflicted such a fate on another bride, because she knows exactly how painful it is.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Invoked and inverted by Erik Killmonger in Black Panther (2018), who has personally experienced racism and discrimination while growing up in the USA and now intends to save other black people around the world from suffering similar fates by arming them with advanced vibranium weapons, at the very least ignoring and probably being fully aware that the people he arms will merely become the new oppressors in turn. There's also the fact that by making himself the ruler of a non-democratic African nation, one that he intends to lead to war with the rest of the world, he will be oppressing black people himself. Ultimately averted, as it's clear Killmonger doesn't oppose what he suffered in the slightest, he just wants to be the one dishing it out.
  • African-American Bruce MacDonald in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is willing to protect Caesar, likely because he knows all about dehumanisation, oppression, and exploitation from his own racial background. He asks Caesar not to act like the humans who enslaved his kind, invoking his slave ancestry while doing so.
  • In the zombie comedy Deadheads, Thomas Jeremiah, who is African-American, hunts the intelligent and quite harmless zombie protagonist for a shady corporation. When it becomes clear that the corporation intends to enslave the zombies, this prompts Jeremiah's Heel–Face Turn and he helps the zombies escape and reach the girl who happens to have become engaged to one of the zombies before he was turned.
  • In District 9, Wikus initially does not seem to mind harassing and even killing the aliens while he is still human. It is only later, when he hasn't only started turning into an alien himself but has also been treated as less than human and even been experimented upon by humans that he starts fighting alongside the aliens, though it is not made clear whether he is truly doing this because he, having suffered the same treatment, now sees it as wrong and fights it for that reason, or because he still believes he needs to protect the aliens so they can turn him human again.
  • In Gattaca, Vincent allows the wind to carry away a genetic sample given to him by Irene when she is clearly afraid he will reject her because of her imperfect genes. Actually having used bought genetic samples to assume another man's identity after having been discriminated against because of his own imperfect genes all his life, Vincent knows exactly how Irene feels.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, pyrokinetic Liz Sherman bursts into flame when a crowd throws a rock at Hellboy, turning the whole situation into a Face-Heel Temptation, but manages to restrain herself and merely launch into a "Reason You Suck" Speech. A flashback in Hellboy (2004) showed that Elizabeth had had rocks thrown at herself, too when she was still a little girl and her powers were manifesting uncontrollably, which then resulted in an explosion that killed several bullying kids.
  • In Iron Sky, James, who is African-American, is pretty much the only decent person in the entire film (apart from the people of Finland). While this isn't difficult when the antagonists are actual Nazis From Space, James also both fights the Nazis with violence as well as by working to deprogram those who just don't know things could be different. Additionally, the fact that the US President deliberately sent James to the moon in a publicity stunt to get the black vote shows that discrimination against African-Americans is a thing in the film's setting that requires patching up, or at least papering over, in the President's eyes.
  • The African mercenary Albert Laurent decides to help the main characters in The Island (2005). Their tattooed numbers, which identify them as clones - their lives to be thrown away for the benefit of their purchasers - remind him of the reason he was branded himself as a child, making him switch sides.
  • In the 1986 film version of Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey II can only tempt everybody's doormat Seymour into committing murder when they watch Audrey being treated the same way.
  • In the 2021 film Old, African-American policeman Mitchel immediately helps Trent and Maddox, no questions asked, when they reveal to him the resort's management runs cruel and ultimately fatal medical experiments on some of the guests. Considering Mitchel's family's likely history of slavery as well as the more recent Tuskegee medical experiments on African-Americans it's not surprising that everybody on the beach having been exploited and effectively enslaved for medical experimentation touches a nerve and prompts Mitchel to quick action.

  • Several cases in Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • In Small Gods, Brutha is used (and abused) as a useful pawn (or sacrifice) by the authorities of the Church of Om, the god Om himself, and even by those opposing the church. Later, once Om has regained his power and instated Brutha as the new head of the church, Brutha works to reform the church as well as his own god to make sure that people are never treated as mere pieces on a chessboard by the church or his god ever again. This has backfired a bit by the time of Carpe Jugulum, but still.
    • In Unseen Academicals, Pepe stands up to the bully Andy when no one else does, both by providing the protagonists with protection against Andy's favoured Groin Attack and by actually cutting Andy with a knife, a treatment Andy is very keen on inflicting on others, and in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Pepe states that he is very familiar with bullies, implicitly from having been bullied himself, potentially about his ambiguous species and sexuality, and will not allow bullies to get away with it anymore.
  • In Frank Herbert's Dune series, the Bene Gesserit struggle to improve humanity because they have inherited all the atrocities humanity has both suffered and inflicted through their Genetic Memory (though it would be argued by the Bene Gesserit themselves that this is more of a case of the Bene Gesserit being the atoners rather than opposing what their genetic ancestors suffered since they only inherit the memories of survivors - which usually means the memories of those who perpetrate atrocities rather than suffer them).
  • In the Harry Potter series, Harry was raised by his abusive aunt and uncle. This contributes to his empathy for others who've been abused, like Dobby the House Elf.
  • Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games trilogy, having survived the eponymous Gladiator Games twice (in consecutive years to boot), is not at all amused with the notion of the game being set up one more time involving the Capitol children, to the point of personally killing Alma Coin for (among other things) coming up with this proposal.
  • Night World: Rashel Jordan eventually fights to protect innocent people, especially kids, from being harmed by dangerous Night People; as a little girl, her family was killed by a vampire and she only narrowly escaped herself.
  • Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain: In the short story Summer of Lob, Evolution (an African-American man in the sixties who normally shapeshifts into an elemental form) comments that Bull is the first person who has seen him in his human form and hasn't had a racist reaction. Bull replies that growing up with stories about the generations of racism Irishmen like him endured in New York left him disinclined to look down on other people because of their ancestry.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys Targaryen opposes slavery, to the point of conquering all of Slaver's Bay to free their slaves, because she herself knows what it's like to be treated like property; her brother Viserys gave her as a wife to Drogo when she was only thirteen in exchange for an army, not caring in the slightest that she didn't want to marry him or how Drogo treated her as long as got what he wanted.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: In 2007, unlike other humorists and late-night talk show hosts, Craig Ferguson notably refused to ridicule Britney Spears while she was suffering her Creator Breakdown, as he sincerely sympathized with her struggles, sharing stories about his own struggles with drug and alcohol abuse when he was younger, culminating with a plan to commit suicide on Christmas Day, which he called off at the last minute when he stepped into a pub for some sherry, and decided he needed help. He did the same thing about Charlie Sheen as he suffered his own breakdown in 2011.
  • Unsurprisingly, several cases in Star Trek:
    • In the second season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Measure of a Man", the android Data's rights are contested, as a scientist argues he should be treated as a machine, rather than a person, and this fact is even demonstrated by Data being taken apart and switched off without his consent. In the season 6 episode "The Quality of Life", Data then goes to extreme lengths to protect an emerging machine life-form from being treated in the same manner before they can fully achieve sentience, even going so far as to risk the life of his own best friend, Geordi La Forge.
    • In the fifth season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Begotten", the former shapeshifter Odo tries to raise an infant shapeshifter. When Odo himself was an infant, he was treated as a mere lab specimen and even subjected to painful experiments before he could convince the scientists he was self-aware, and now he works hard to protect the infant shapeshifter from suffering the same fate, refusing to allow even the man whose experiments helped Odo gain control over his own shapeshifting abilities in the first place to help. Instead, Odo chooses to raise the infant shapeshifter in a very gentle, nurturing manner. Eventually, however, the scientist who raised Odo demonstrates that raising an infant may also require a bit of Tough Love on occasion when Odo's progress hits a wall.
  • Two examples in Wednesday:
    • African-American Mayor Walker initially obstructs exonerating Gomez of murder, but relents when Morticia asks him the Armour-Piercing Question of whether he has ever had experience of not being believed when speaking out.
    • Mayor Walker's son Lucas initially attempts to help his co-bullies sabotage the outcasts' school party, but becomes conflicted about it, and is then visibly horrified when his co-bullies hurl racist abuse at the outcast Enid, prompting Lucas to disassociate from them for good.

    Video Games 
  • Volk from Dragalia Lost exploits (and misappropriates) this trope: The details available on his background show that he came from a life of absolute poverty, struggling to get by and having nothing whatsoever to his name. Blaming others for his deprived youth, he now fights anyone with privilege or in a position of power no matter whether they are responsible for anyone's suffering or not - he is introduced murdering a mayor who has used his influence to help his townspeople prosper.
  • Ensemble Stars!: In a downplayed example, Adonis grew up weak and sickly which led to him being taken advantage of by some stronger people. Now that he's grown up into a fit and strong man, he often repeats a declaration to protect the small and weak, because he knows what it's like to be powerless.
  • When asked about why he so readily helps the Sole Survivor, Teddy Wright, the local doctor of Far Harbor in Fallout 4, explains that his own family was refused acceptance and aid by the residents for generations after their arrival.
  • In Journey (2012), the various cloth creatures you encounter used to be used to power the machinery and engines of war of the Ancients. When you free some of these creatures from the machinery they are trapped in, they will insist on leading you to other entrapped cloth creatures so you can free them as well.
  • Several cases in Knights of the Old Republic:
    • Juhani wanted to become a Jedi knight to fight against awful conditions like those she and her family used to live in when they were fugitives.
    • The villainous Yuthura Ban wants to complete her Sith training to gain the power to free slaves explicitly because she used to be a slave herself, which would also make this a case of Evil Versus Evil - by the time you meet her, she has certainly become a Well-Intentioned Extremist at best and is close to even Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and abandoning her heroic cause entirely.
  • Several instances in the Mass Effect universe:
    • In Mass Effect, the biotic Jack was both a captive and a test subject of Cerberus when she was a child. If she survives the Suicide Mission in Mass Effect 2, Jack later becomes the Mama Bear (if Tough Love-practising) teacher of a group of young biotics in Mass Effect 3, when Cerberus comes back and attempts to abduct them in order to turn them into biotic assassins.
    • Pretty much all the civilisations already wiped out by the Reapers in previous cycles who have been working on the Crucible, a device that is supposed to end the Reaper threat once and for all, count, because they clearly want to make sure the same thing does not happen to other civilisations even if it is too late for themselves. Also counts as Flinging a Light into the Future.
  • Street Fighter: The reason Chun-Li becomes an Interpol agent is to stop the evil organization Shadaloo from ruining more people's lives after they played a part in her Dark and Troubled Past (i.e having her father killed).
  • Tanimura from Yakuza 4 lost his father at a very young age; thus, when he became older, he took to gambling and extortion so that he could provide funds for the Asian Gateway, a group that takes in and supports children who have lost their parents to deportation.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Subtly hinted to be Rex's motivation. Having lost his parents at a young age to the growing land crisis plaguing Alrest either having to feel their dying titan or due to war for land, Rex sought to find Elysium in order to find somewhere where people would no longer have to fight for resources. At the same time, while he was happily taken in by Fonsett Village he goes out of his way to pay them back and even funding the education of other kids in the village to pay them back and ensure everyone was able to live a comfortable life.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, Hideyoshi is especially passionate about Nobunaga's plans to create a more equal world and always does his best to stand up for the lowest members of society because he himself grew up in poverty and specifically, as a member of the Sanka gypsies, a maligned ethnicity and was only saved from that status due to Nobunaga's charity.

    Western Animation 
  • BoJack Horseman: Beatrice had a child out of wedlock, and as a result, she endured a really crappy daily life. As a result, she desperately tries to stop Henrietta from going through the same thing she did in "Time's Arrow" by making her give her baby up for adoption.
  • Trevor Belmont, the last remaining member of the Belmont Family in Castlevania. Following centuries of hunting monsters to protect the people of Walachia, the Belmonts were falsely accused of practicing black magic by corrupt members of the clergy, leading to his ancestral home being burned down and his parents murdered when Trevor was eight years old. Whilst this has left him cynical and jaded towards most of mankind, Trevor also possesses a deep empathy towards those who are unfairly persecuted by the corrupt. Protecting a nomadic group called the Speakers from being scapegoated by a corrupt bishop marks his transition from simply drifting through to actually taking a stand in general.
  • Zigzagged two ways from Sunday in Transformers: Prime: Megatron started out as a nameless transformer slaving away in the mines underneath Bad Bosses, and eventually found his way to the Gladiatorial pits, where he earned his freedom through his victories, taking the name 'Megatronus' after the original Tragic Villain of the mythos in the process, hoping to strike fear into his gladiatorial opponents. After earning his freedom, Megatronus gathered a following of disenfranchised transformers and campaigned for a reformation of the political system of their home planet, Cybertron, to make it more egalitarian than it was at the time... but when he was finally granted an audience with the Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering that ran the planet, he saw the flaws inherent in the political process and demanded that he be named Prime - supreme ruler. When this was refused and one of his long-time friends was given the opportunity instead, his gathering of loyal followers began a Civil War against the rulers of the planet to make — the now-renamed — Megatron ruler, a Civil War that would, after millennia of conflict, eventually render the planet uninhabitable and every single remaining transformer The Remnant, and saw his followers rename themselves the 'Decepticons' as their goals eventually became little more than totalitarian control of everything. The final zig of this zagging comes at the end of the series, where Megatron has been possessed by Unicron, and is Forced to Watch as Unicron uses his body for the purpose of finally killing off the dormant Primus at the center of the recently-restored Cybertron. Whenever Megatron tries to resist, Unicron enacts Cold-Blooded Torture upon his soul - and this leads to Megatron having a Heel Realization. When the possession is lifted, Megatron disbands the Decepticons and leaves for voluntary exile, realizing that his attempts at becoming this trope have utterly failed and that no matter what he does now, his millennia of warfare mean he will always be remembered as an Evil Overlord.

    Real Life 
  • Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), who had himself escaped from slavery, fought for the abolition of slavery as well as against other forms of political discrimination.
  • Elie Wiesel, a survivor of The Holocaust and the author of Night, spent his life after the Holocaust as an advocate against genocide.
  • Emily Lindin, a feminist activist who founded the anti-sexual bullying website The UnSlut Project, did so due to slut-shaming she experienced in middle and high school.
  • Sean Connery was born into a working-class family and had to quit school at age 13 to support his family. He spent much of his later life as an advocate for education, using his paycheck from his final (official) performance as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever to help establish the Scottish International Education Trust, which helps poorer Scottish families with their education costs.
  • English football player Marcus Rashford comes from a poor working-class background and has also been campaigning against children's food poverty because of school holidays and school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic in England in 2020.
  • As a child, Neil Young suffered from polio 3 years before the polio vaccine became available. In 2022, he threatened to withdraw his music catalog from Spotify in protest of the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on the platform, especially by radio host Joe Rogan, an infamous anti-vaxxer.
  • Ireland endured a famine in the 1840s that was so bad its population still hasn't recovered almost two centuries later. However, modern Ireland has become one of the largest food aid donors.
  • In 2018, Paul McCartney participated in a March For Our Lives rally in New York City to protest gun violence. When asked why the cause was important to him, he replied, "One of my best friends was killed by gun violence.", referring to fellow Beatle John Lennon, who was shot to death by a Loony Fan in NYC in 1980.
  • Jewish American film director Lee Hirsch was bullied in his childhood, leading to him filming the 2011 documentary Bully, intending to inspire advocacy, engagement, and empowerment not just in people who are being bullied and in their families, but by those who all too often stand by and do nothing.


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