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Passion Is Evil

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Peace is a lie. The Force shall set me free.

"There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force."
The Jedi Code, Star Wars

In Speculative Fiction, whenever there are two innate forces at work (usually Black-and-White Morality or Order Versus Chaos), the "Light" side (that is, the heroic side) will be transcendent, calm, and rational; the "Dark" side (the antagonistic side) will be passionate, impulsive and chaotic. Rarely are the two inverted, with the good side being the emotional one and the evil side being the enlightened.

Related to Villains Act, Heroes React, although that particular trope is more about how the events of the story are motivated by the villain's actions. Also, do not confuse with Ambition Is Evil, in which you can tell the good guys from the bad guys because the bad guys are the ones who want to change the Status Quo. This trope is specifically about when there are two metaphysical forces in opposition and one of them motivates through passion and emotion and the other through peace and enlightenment.

This trope is more common in Eastern works than Western ones thanks to the influence of Buddhism, where passion is linked to obsession and therefore, a temptation to be avoided. Meanwhile in Western works, a lack of passion tends to be linked to a lack of value for life and as such, a villainous trait.

Tends to be a common trait for a Strawman Emotional. May invoke a Superpowered Evil Side and, inversely, a Helpless Good Side. This trope can also be considered the opposite of Order Is Not Good because order (as in, discipline and self-restraint) is important for keeping passion in check and prevent going to The Dark Side.

Compare Emotions vs. Stoicism and Harmony Versus Discipline. Compare also The Power of Apathy, an inverse of this which is often comedic and based around apathy's relationship with defiance.

Contrast Straw Vulcan, Japanese Spirit.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Naruto, it is later revealed that the Kyuubi (Nine-Tails) gains his power from Naruto's hatred and despair. Or rather, those emotions make it easier for him to take control. Even later, it's revealed that strong emotions are the "curse" of the Uchiha clan, and that feeling strong emotions, then suddenly losing them, is what creates the Sharingan.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: Several Face Heel Turns are caused by emotional overload throughout the series—but the most shining example is the Dark Phoenix. This is the explanation for Dark Phoenix—the result of the Hellfire Club feeding decadent and hedonistic desires to the Phoenix Force.
  • A frequent theme in the Green Lantern mythos. Especially when the Guardians became despotic and started condemning emotions and the other Lantern Corps turned up as Foils. Essentially, the Green Lanterns are in the "center" of the light spectrum (Willpower) and so they're the most stoic. Red Lanterns and Star Sapphires represent Rage and Love, specifically, and since their colors are on the far ends, their emotions control them. The more powerful the emotion, the more it controls the Lantern.

  • Star Wars, of course. The Light and Dark sides of the force tend to play this trope completely straight, although how true this plays out is a case of Depending on the Writer. According to several sources (including George Lucas himself), the Light Side is not merely dull apathy and cold indifference; it's supposed to be all positive synergy and symbiosis that makes the galaxy a better place. Things like love, romance, friendship, and peaceful ambitions are supposed to embody the Light Side just as much as hatred, lust, competition, and violence embody the Dark. This is not how it plays out, normally. One of the main reasons the old Jedi Order fell was because they played this a little too straight, leading to a lot of conflicted feelings in their Chosen One who had let himself fall in love despite it being against the Code and the Order's complete inability to pick up on the signs or help him in any meaningful way. At the end, even Yoda decided that their flawed teachings needed to go. It's no coincidence that a lot of their views seem inspired from Buddhism (however, the latter remains committed to the idea of non-attachment).
  • The Skeksis of The Dark Crystal. They inherited the hedonism and violence of the urSkeks, but also their passion, ambition, and general thirst for life.

  • The rage-filled Honored Matres from Dune who manipulate others with sex and lust, as opposed to the highly disciplined Bene Gesserit and their calculated, patient eugenics programs. The Bene Gesserit aren't necessarily a "good" counterpoint though—this is more a case of Black-and-Gray Morality.
  • In The Sorceress's Orc, the orcs firmly believe that anger gets in the way of effective fighting. As a result, when the hero befriends an orc, she is way more angry at the racism he is confronted with on a daily basis than he is. Their enemies, all human, are rather more emotional than the orcs.

    Live-Action TV  
  • Vulcans in Star Trek definitely believe this. Their race happens to have vast emotions which they must completely clamp down, lest they all become raging psychotics. The Romulans are Vulcans who rejected this idea. While antagonistic, they aren't particularly psychotic presumably because they don't bottle up their emotions like their Vulcan cousins.

  • In Buddhism, "Dukkha" (suffering) is directly linked to passions such as greed, physical lust, and anger. One of the Four Noble Truths is to recognize these as the causes of suffering and take proper action (meditation, moderation, and moral behavior) to correct them.
  • Zoroastrianism is a complex case, certainly helped by thousands of years of texts. On one hand, it prommotes an Enlightened Self-Interest and Ethical Slut lifestyle, as the world must be enjoyed and loved. But on the other, good thoughts are a cardinal tenet and so anger and hatred are titanic no-nos. Some scholars in particular note a distinction between Abrahamic and Zoroastrian religious literature in how they handle anger: in the Bible and Qu'ran God's wrath is justified, but in Zoroastrian philosophy this is a borderline alien concept.
  • The cases of both Dharmic faith (Hinduism and Buddhism) and Zoroastrianism is best exemplified by how both religions revere and demonize the exact opposite deities. In Zoroastrians, the Ashura are considered children of Ahura Mazda, who exemplify personal responsibility: what you choose to do is up to you, as long as you are prepared to reap the consequences. In Dharmic faith, the Ashura are the embodiment of decadence and The Hedonist. Likewise, Dharmic faiths praise the Deva for their purity and guidance toward discipline and enlightenment; in Zoroastrianism, however, the Deva were vilified as creatures which seek to cage the Ashura and mislead humans with false promises. No one is quite sure exactly when this philosophical split between the two religions occurred, but it likely began with distinct tribes with a "My god is better than your god!" rivalry, and still remains intact to this day.
  • In the tradition of Christianity - especially, but not only, Orthodox Christianity - the passions are something to be conquered and defeated by the believer. Although it should be noted that "passion" in this context has a specific meaning as putting the reverence you should feel to God towards earthly things and letting these control you. Much of Christian asceticism is devoted to putting the passions to death (fasting to combat gluttony, chastity to combat lust, etc.), and it is believed that the passions originated from Original Sin. It should be noted that passions aren't the same thing as sins, but they are what cause people to commit sins.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000: The Chaos Gods are the sum of every sentient being's rage, hope, lust, and despair. Worshiped via mass slaughter and warfare, mutation and Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, rape and torture, and spreading disease and pestilence like a demented Santa Claus. The only workable alternative is to cut off the emotions, either by turning the entire world undead (which was one vampire's plan in Warhammer) or by killing everything down to the last bacterium (the Necrons in 40K).
  • In its early days, Magic: The Gathering pitted the wise, intellectual Blue and the orderly and moral White colors with the passionate and excessively aggressive Red. Nowadays, while Red still suffers from depictions as a bully, it is definitely by far depicted more heroically thanks to its positive attributes like empathy, creativity, and freedom becoming more prominent, while Blue's sociopathic and deceptive traits and White's dogmatic and tyrannical side are both played up. Notably, in the case of New Phyrexia, the Red leader Urabrask is actually the Token Good Teammate because the passion and individualism of Red allows him to resist the tyrannical collectivism of the Phyrexians.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Spirits and demons are attracted to extraordinary persons, places, things, and ideas. They can take interest in a particular person, or group of people, if they demonstrate powerful or complex emotions or take interesting actions. It's noted, also, that personal passions, dreams, and desires both attract and create demons.
  • In the Street Fighter universe, the Dark Hadou (or Satsui no Hadou in original Japanese) is the surge of violent emotion that drives the nameless martial art used by Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Dan, and Gouken. The more fiercely and passionately one fights, the easier it is to become lost to the Satsui no Hadou. According to some sources, merely attempting to use the Raging Demon (Shun Goku Satsu) forever alters the personality of the user and drives them insane. Akuma is the first and only known person to use it and remain some lucidity (although not completely unchanged).
    • Discussed by Jean Grey in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, when she defeats Akuma.
      "We're more alike than I'd like to admit."
  • In the EverQuest series, each god rules over a different physical or emotional domain, and all are clearly defined as Good, Evil, or Neutral. Among the evil gods are Cazic Thule and his daughter Terris Thule, who controls fear and nightmares, and Tholux Paells, the Demi-god of Lust. Among the good gods are Erollisi Marr is the goddess of Love and Quellious the god of Peace and Tranquility. An interesting note is that the extremely evil Rallos Zek, god of War, created Sullon Zek, Demi-goddess of rage and anger. Sullon herself and her domain are considered neutral.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, the primary deities are the Aedra and Daedra. Though both groups are technically beings Above Good and Evil who operate on their own scale of Blue-and-Orange Morality beyond mortal comprehension, the actions of the Aedra toward mortals are usually benevolent, and they are near-universally considered "good" throughout Tamriel. The Aedra embody aspects such as Time, Life, Beauty, Air, etc. - all natural things which have little to do with emotions. The Daedra, for the most part, tend to be much more malevolent toward mortals, and are thus near-universally considered "evil". (Even the more benevolent Daedric Princes, such as Azura and Merida, tend to be Not Nice and do not care about collateral damage in accomplishing their goals.) The Daedra tend to embody ideas like Deceit, Desire, Destruction, Corruption, Ambition, Manipulation, Madness, etc. - things sparked or perpetuated by emotions.