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Peer Pressure Makes You Evil

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Homer: The other critics told me to be mean, and you should always give in to peer pressure.
Lisa: But Dad, what if someone bad tells me to—
Homer: (interrupting) Always!

A protagonist has found a new group of "cool" and powerful friends, although their advice/behaviour are detrimental to the protagonist's established relationships. Often the peers will start out just being inexplicably really nice and friendly, encouraging positive virtues for questionable reasons. These new friends begin with encouraging gray morality activities, but the plot usually extends to clearly immoral/illegal activities. The protagonist, under the peer pressure and their hopes of winning more approval, commits more and more questionable acts until An Aesop is learned.

This trope is often used in anvil-laden lessons about not mindlessly following one's peers. Expect scenes to contain a Toxic Friend Influence, "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal, and If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!.

This is the polar opposite of Love Redeems and The Power of Friendship, because the new circle of friends or role models is a bad influence on someone who started out as a good person. Can also be considered the opposite of The Complainer Is Always Wrong in which the Aesop is about how you should go along with the group, as well as an overlapping trope to The Dissenter Is Always Right. Compare Popular Is Evil, which can overlap with this trope because the peers who pressure you are popular, and you go along with them to be popular, too.

If the character is forced to bully, it's the subtrope, Peer-Pressured Bully.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Private Actress, while neither Maki Kouno now Mai Housaka is a peach, it turns out that their Alpha Bitch Kana Juumonji has them completely dominated through fear. When Maki begins to break through and is heading to a Heel–Face Turn thanks to the protagonist Shiho Kobayakawa, Kana convinces Mai to attack her as retaliation.
  • Miyoko Shitou from Shadow Star is a nice girl and kind of a Shrinking Violet. Bad thing, though? One of her closest friends is Aki Honda, Alpha Bitch from Hell, and she and her Girl Posse terrorise Miyoko into helping them bullying the smartest girl of their class, Hiroko Kaizuka.. With FATAL consequences, since Hiroko goes Cute and Psycho on them once the girls cross the Moral Event Horizon in regards to her.

    Films — Animated 
  • Taken to the extreme in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, where the peer pressure is combined with outright blackmail. Already under threat of having her recommendation into a coveted independent study program revoked if she doesn't participate in the titular games to Principal Cinch's satisfaction, Twilight Sparkle is constantly berated during the games by her Crystal Prep peers for not defeating their Canterlot High competition as satisfyingly as they'd like. When Cinch learns about Twilight's magic-collection device, she and the other Crystal Prep students team up for a Villain Song where they demand Twilight weaponize the magic against Canterlot, despite not knowing the potential consequences. When Twilight, feeling she has no other choice, reluctantly complies during the final event of the games, she's transformed into a reality-warping Dark Magical Girl who immediately gets Drunk on the Dark Side and tries to tear apart the universe until she's saved by the intervention of the Canterlot students. Cinch, recognizing her own role in what happened, tries to flee and avoid responsibility, disgusting even her own students.

    Films — Live-Action 


  • Any teen movie where the protagonist starts out as a loser, then makes the wrong choices in an attempt to become part of a popular crowd of Jerk Jocks and rich kids.

By movie:

  • Mitch McDeere in The Firm. Quote from Internet Movie Database:
    "A young lawyer joins a prestigious law firm only to discover that it has a sinister dark side."
  • The Skulls (2000). Quote from the Internet Movie Database:
    "Deep within the hallowed walls of Ivy League's most prominent campus exists a secret society where power and elite are bred. Only a few are chosen to join where Presidents are groomed, wealthy bloodlines bond, and plots thickened. (...) Luke McNamara [played by Joshua Jackson], a college senior from a working-class background joins a secret elitist college fraternity organization called "The Skulls", in hope of gaining acceptance into Harvard Law School. At first seduced by the club's trapping of power and wealth, a series of disturbing incidents, such as his best friend's suicide, leads Luke to investigate the true nature of the organization and the truth behind his friend's supposed suicide. He starts realizing that his future and possibly his life is in danger."
  • Mean Girls (2004), in which the Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse take the No Social Skills protagonist under their collective wing.
  • The Lost Boys, wherein joining a gang makes you evil and a vampire.
  • Clint Eastwood puts a stop to this in Gran Torino.
  • The Basketball Diaries is the epitome of this trope. While Leonardo DiCaprio's character wasn't exactly squeaky clean to begin, he could still be considered a normal teen. Over the course of the movie, he becomes a heroin addict and a prostitute.
  • In the first Scream (1996), Stu makes the feeble claim that he'll blame peer pressure for his and Billy's homicidal rampage if they're caught.
  • In Thirteen (2003), this ends up happening to Tracy when she starts hanging out with Evie, the most popular girl in school and a serial shoplifter. From being an honor roll student, Tracy's life goes way down south, so far she becomes a junkie. Only her self-mutilation habits don't have anything to do with it all.

  • In the teen novel Before I Fall, Samantha Kingston was a shy, introverted nerd. When the most popular girl in school befriends her, she sheds her "nerdy" hobbies she loved (like horseback riding) to fit in with her and gradually becomes the Alpha Bitch she is at the start of the novel.
  • In his Confessions, St. Augustine doubts he would have been brave enough to steal or lust as much as he did in his adolescence if he hadn't associated himself with a group of idiots and brutes who never expressed any moral qualms about their robberies and vandalisms.
  • Good Omens:
    • Strongly hinted as to why Crowley fell— er, "sauntered vaguely downwards".
    • Inverted by Adam who is raised in a quiet village with a solid group of friends. He's weird and powerful but being raised as a human has given him the choice of whether to be good, evil, or neither.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
    • Lupin recalls with shame the times he and his fellow Marauders bullied Snape. Sirius tries to comfort him by reminding Lupin that he never joined in the bullying. Lupin then reminds him that he never tried to stop it either, because he was afraid of alienating his friends.
    • Snape himself may be an example, as it is pointed out that he fell in with a group of fantasy racists early in his school career, which informed his behaviour with other students.
  • In Lauren Myracle's Rhymes with Witches, peer pressure can quite literally make you evil. Jane is willing to do anything to join the Girl Posse that rules her school, the Bitches. They show an interest in her, and she finds out that they use evil witchcraft to maintain their popularity and want her to join them.
  • The Secret History uses this trope for most of the book. Henry may have planned the central murder, but Richard, Charles, Camilla, and Francis were standing at the edge of the cliff as well.
  • The second half of Valley of Fear is a lot like this, though the Scowrers are less amiable than most peer sets. But that's just on the surface. It's a glorious subversion.
  • The first Disney Chills book has Shelly pretend not to care about the environment or its sea creatures and deliberately litter when prompted to out of a desire to keep her popular 'friends' happy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A popular variation is having to commit a felony to get into a group as a type of initiation rite. In Gilmore Girls, Rory is goaded into breaking into the headmaster's office and ringing a bell while reciting some lines about loyalty. When she gets caught, she complains that the only reason she joined the sorority is that the headmaster complained she was a loner. As proof here's the recap of the episode.
  • One episode of Father Ted had Dougal fall in with a bad-influence priest named Father Damian. At one point:
    Ted: Honestly, Dougal, what next? Will he be giving you crack cocaine or something?
    Dougal: Crack cocaine! Now come on, Ted! [Dougal looks away with a hilariously shifty expression.]
  • In the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cordelia befriends Buffy, thinking she's another Alpha Bitch. (Which she was before she became the Slayer). When Buffy sees how mean Cordelia really is when she insults a shy girl (Willow), Buffy befriends Willow instead.
    • However, it's implied it's the reason Cordy is such a bitch to begin with. In the episode Out of Mind, Out of Sight, she tells Buffy how she feels alone even when surrounded by her Cordettes, but "it beats being alone by yourself".
    • Giles also assumes in "The Pack" that this is what's happening to Xander. It turns out to be possession by hyena spirits, however.
  • Among the fandom of The Shield, This trope is the excuse of choice amongst fans of Ronnie Gardocki Curtis "Lem" Lemansky, the show's duo of Draco in Leather Pants.
  • Happens with Jenny on Gossip Girl.
  • Glee, it is pretty clear from Finn very first scene that he doesn't like bullying, but he doesn't stop the bullies either, this happens again in episode 8 and 12.
  • Happens in The George Lopez Show in one episode where Carmen bullies her geeky former best friend in order to become popular.
  • Discussed in an episode of Boy Meets World. After Cory steals a bottle of whiskey from his father and gets himself and Shawn drunk and arrested, Cory's father refuses to believe that Cory chose to drink on his own and accuses Shawn of pressuring Cory into it. Shawn attempts to play into this trope and 'admits' to cajoling Cory into drinking, to get Cory out of trouble, but Cory rejects his attempt to take the rap and impresses on his parents that he chose to drink all on his own due to his own personal problems, and they can't always shift the blame onto his friends.


    Video Games 
  • The Migosp of Undertale is so easily influenced that merely being in the presence of another monster is enough to induce it to taunt and attack you. Conversely, if you get rid of all the other monsters, it immediately replaces its attacks with a friendly dance, admitting that's all it ever really wanted to do and becoming spareable. Its CHECK text spells it out in case you didn't catch on: "It seems evil, but it's just with the wrong crowd..."

    Visual Novels 
  • It's implied in School Days that a good part of Otome's bullying against Kotonoha comes from her Girl Posse encouraging and egging her on. Otome herself is not an innocent dove in all of this (as her bad behavior comes from her envy of Koto's popularity with guys), but depending on you-as-Makoto's actions, she may show a kinder side to her.

  • The captives at the start of morphE react in different ways to being put in an Involuntary Battle to the Death. The one with the glasses and Tyler both accept the concept of murder before the fighting even begins. The second chapter of the comic is lessons from an Evil Mentor attempting to bring out the full potential in the survivors.
  • In Weak Hero, Alex got involved with the wrong crowd in middle school after they appealed to his pent-up anger and pride. Even though Ben pointed out that they're a bad influence on him, Alex ignored him and continued to get into fights. It's because of this that he ended up going against Jimmy Bae, which in turn led to Ben's severe arm injury. Even in the present day, Alex still hasn't forgiven himself for what happened.

    Web Original 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: The titular Villain Protagonist in Joss Whedon's online musical is a wanna-be supervillain and Mad Scientist who is put under pressure from the prestigious Evil League of Evil. After he applies for membership, they demand that he prove by his actions that he is ruthless enough to be admitted into their elite circle... or else. ("Some murder would be nice, of course.", "The Evil League of Evil is watching so beware / The grade that you receive’ll be your last, we swear.") Unfortunately for Billy/Dr. Horrible, he has a genuine aversion to killing, claiming it's not his style. Of course, it's kind of his fault; he sought them out for membership, not the other way around. What did he expect?
    Dr. Horrible: "I deserve to get in, you know I do. But... killing?"
    • Interestingly, he could have gotten in with just an impressive heist. But after that failed, he was told that now the league wouldn't accept less than a murder.
  • There's a parody of anti-drinking peer pressure videos in which all of the dialogue was taken verbatim from Green Eggs and Ham. It's not hard to turn Sam I Am into a pusher.
  • Homestar Runner: Parodied in the Strong Bad Email "being mean", where a sketch by "Coach Z's Nicetown Players" has Marzipan play a high school girl who joins in on teasing a nerd because she "wants to fit in".
  • Nigahiga deconstructs this in How to Be Nerd. The nerd doesn't listen to the guy even to wash his hands or call the hospital.
  • In Worm, Taylor is a young, bullied girl who makes the first friends that she's had in a year with a group of teenaged supervillains, who she joins with the intent of betraying to the authorities, but she eventually decides that she values their friendship more than helping the authorities that abandoned her at every turn and joins them fully.

    Western Animation 
  • While almost half of the plots on The Simpsons are triggered by peer pressure (Springfielders are extremely quick to submit to it, particularly the titular family, and especially Homer), there are few occasions where said pressure causes a character to do something actually terrible.
    • In "The Tell-Tale Head", Bart is pressured by Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney into getting into the movies without paying, and, later, cutting off the head of the Jebediah Springfield statue. After he does cut it, the bullies change their mind, saying that only a monster would do that.
    • In "Marge Be Not Proud", Nelson and Jimbo (as well as Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong and Sonic The Hedgehog in Bart's fantasy) pressure Bart into shoplifting a copy of the Bonestorm video game.
    • In "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?", Homer describes this trope to Lisa upon becoming a Caustic Critic after being chastised by his fellow newspaper critics for always giving rave reviews of restaurants.
    • In "The Hateful Eight-Year-Olds", Lisa's new friend, Addy, is in a group of rich girls who are all pretty nasty personality-wise. However, Addy invited Lisa to her house so that her other friends would make fun of her instead of Addy for a change. It's only after Lisa gets Bart involved that Addy starts acting nicer.
  • In The Emperor's New School episode "Girls Behaving Oddly", 'bad girl' Moxi persuades Kuzco and Kronk (masquerading as girls) to break into Mr. Purutu's office and steal his windchimes.
    • But then, Kronk is continually doing evil things for Yzma, and most of the good things Kuzco does are because his friends call him out.
  • In the 1968 Looney Tunes short "Norman Normal", Norman is a businessman whose boss pressures him to bait a client into signing a contract by getting him drunk. The two even briefly metamorphose into children as Norman's boss puts pressure on him.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "One Bad Apple", Apple Bloom's cousin Babs Seed comes to visit Ponyville. When Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon bully the Cutie Mark Crusaders as usual, Babs gives in to their bullying and turns out to be even worse than them. It is later revealed that she suffered bullying back at Manehatten as well. Babs finally stopped bullying when the Crusaders save her from a trap, which they set up for her before they learned about her troubles.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • In "Dipper vs. Manliness", Dipper falls in with a group of testosterone poisoned minotaurs ("Manotaurs" according to them) who try to teach him how to be a man. The last task is to go out and slay the Multi-Bear, but when Dipper confronts him it turns out the Multi-Bear is a Nice Guy with similar tastes in girly pop music as Dipper. Dipper refuses to kill the bear and goes home, and Stan (of all people) congratulates him on doing the right thing even if no one supported him.
    • Spoofed in one TV short, where Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland do an in-universe PSA on peer pressure. It is ridiculously Anvilicious, as well as Totally Radical.
    "Uh uh no no bippity-bop kazow! I can't be pressured no way no how!"
  • Possibly the darkest example of this trope comes from the Wartime Cartoon Education for Death. Hans' teacher tries to teach him Might Makes Right with a story about how a fox ate a rabbit. Hans, to the teacher's fury, actually feels sorry for the poor rabbit. After some time with a Dunce Cap, Hans comes to believe in crushing the weak.
  • This is the subject for the "Sonic Says" segment at the end of the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Robotnik Jr." In it, Sonic is lured into a trap, and Scratch orders Junior to press the button that activates the trap. Junior refuses and warns Sonic of the trap. After Sonic traps Scratch, he congratulates Junior and explains to him and the viewers that giving in to peer pressure is doing things you think are wrong when other people say it's cool.
  • Downplayed in the Bob's Burgers episode "Y Tu Ga-Ga Tambien". Gene doesn't hate ga-ga ball, and it isn't portrayed as a bad thing; it's the fact that everyone's being pressured into playing it because of the "everyone likes it" rhetoric that he hates.

    Real Life 
  • The Asch Experiments didn't indicate that peer pressure made you evil, necessarily, but it does indicate we are more strongly affected by it than we'd like to think. Participants were shown three lines of different lengths, so different that they were not easily confused, and asked to say whether a line held up by the researcher was the same length as line A, B, or C, and were asked several questions to this effect. In the control group, only one participant answered any of the questions incorrectly, eliminating any kind of vision issue. However, when put into a group where aides deliberately answered incorrectly, 75% of participants answered incorrectly to at least one of the questions by the end of the experiment. Again, it doesn't necessarily indicate peer pressure makes you evil, but it raises the idea that pressure to conform can be strong enough to make people second guess what is plainly obvious to them, or, at the very least, just give in and see no point in resisting, even when they know what they're agreeing with is patently wrong.
  • That said, peer pressure doesn't necessarily have to be bad. If all of your friends pressured you into studying for an exam instead of partying, they would still technically be exerting peer pressure, but to convince you to do a good thing.
    • Of course, "positive" peer pressure is still peer pressure no matter how you look at it, and you probably shouldn't be doing something simply because somebody's pressuring you into doing it. A better method would be providing solid reasoning for why they should probably do something.
  • Subverted with support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous although it takes more than just peer pressure to effect a change.
  • Also subverted with interventions if done properly.
  • Gangs use peer pressure to get new members to let go of their moral qualms about doing evil things.
    • This happened to Saint Augustine, resulting in the infamous pear-stealing caper.
  • "If the question is posed to me why I shot with the others in the first place, I must answer that no one wants to be thought a coward." - Anonymous (Reserve) Order Policeman reflecting on the Józefów massacre of 12/7/1942
  • Among the advice given to recovering alcoholics or drug users is to separate from persons and places you were involved with when addict, because addicts tend to have their lives revolving around their drugs and such persons and places might still be linked to these addictions. For exemple an alcoholic might be advised to not assosiate anymore with the golf club he used to belong to, since he mainly drank booze there.