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Playing the Victim Card

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"If you always make yourself the victim, you can justify being awful."
Heidi Turner, South Park

A character has given a speech about how poor and oppressed they are, that they’re a victim of circumstance, and everybody seems to be out to get them.

The problem is that the character making all these statements is a villain.

This can be played several ways. A Jerkass Manipulative Bastard will describe a situation to make a third party think that they are an innocent victim, and the real good guys are mean and evil and out to get them for no good reason. They may legitimately believe the grievances - but the heroes can usually recognize a pity party over self-inflicted wounds. Either way, they’ll likely come across as a Dirty Coward for trying to dodge responsibility. However, sometimes the person playing the victim card is neither of those things. Instead they are an actually victimized Designated Villain.


Whether the other characters believe the crocodile tears also depends on who they are. The naive, ignorant of the current situation, will usually buy it. Characters who were there will know better. When a hoodwinked character realizes that they've been fooled, they will not be happy. Or, if it's the designated villain example, the villain will most likely be laughed at, mocked and/or be victimized again.

On the rare occasion a good guy tries to perform this action, they are usually branded as whiners because Might Makes Right.

This may take the form of a Freudian Excuse if the villain legitimately believes what they're saying—see Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse when such cases overlap with this trope. Compare What Is Evil? and Playing Sick. If the fans actually believe the villain, that’s Draco in Leather Pants.


It's also rather common for psychological abusers to combine this with the taboo of victim blaming, simultaneously discrediting their accusers and casting themselves as the real victim in the scenario. This is a common enough ploy that it has been given the Fun with Acronyms nickname DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender. In other words, a slightly more erudite "No, You!"

Very often Truth in Television, sadly. That being said, No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Comic Books 
  • One Batman comic features an obscure villain named Maxie Zeus insisting to the media that Batman is only harassing him because he is of Greek descent.
  • Superman (Brian Michael Bendis): Superman accuses Jor-El of portraying himself as the victim of the Circle's treason, when Jor-El helped them control the fates of countless planets and likely ordered their deaths and now, Jor-El has the gall of feeling betrayed when they turned their backs on Krypton.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Renno is not an actual villain but he slips frequently into unacceptable behavior in his attempts to win Wonder Girl's affections and always plays the victim when she is unimpressed or angry at him for lying to or trying to otherwise trick her.

    Films — Animated 
  • At the beginning of The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco addresses the audience as they watch an image of a crying llama. He tells them that he's that very animal, and proceeds to explain how things got this bad for him. As the movie progresses, though, we see what a self-centered Jerkass and Royal Brat he really is, and that he brought all of his problems on himself. When the film catches up to the same sequence, Narrator!Kuzco comes back and reminds the audience how he is the real victim, and that he did nothing wrong... only for the Kuzco who's actually gone through the story and realized his own terrible traits to tell him to shut up, rejecting the self-pitying narrative.
  • Ratigan does this in The Great Mouse Detective, lamenting on how, because of Basil, he hasn't had a moment's peace of mind in years, and how the "insufferable pipsqueak" has intervened with his plans!
  • Syndrome from The Incredibles does this to Mr. Incredible by claiming he was hurt after his rejection from him as a kid. He completely ignores that he had been nothing but an inconvenience towards Mr. Incredible that night and caused a lot of havoc in the process. Mr. Incredible was also too busy with Bomb Voyage for Buddy's "assistance". For bonus points, in Syndrome's Self-Serving Memory of the event, Bomb Voyage is completely absent.
  • Scar tries this in The Lion King after Simba has him on the ropes, blaming the hyenas for leading him astray. It bites him in the ass later. And the rest of his body.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: Grindelwald consistently portrays all wizards and witches, but followers of his especially, as victims of Muggle persecution. However, most Muggles no longer even know they exist, and so aren't persecuting anyone. He, meanwhile, murders some Muggles simply to take their house, and implies they will be slaves under his rule. When the aurors come, he also tells his followers not to resist, and then portrays one who is killed after going for her wand as a victim (while ruthlessly killing the rest later).
  • This is Commodus' shtick in Gladiator. If he's not murdering, or ordering people to be murdered, expect him to be whining about how awfully vilified his altruistic self is.
  • In The Godfather Part II, Michael Corleone is put on trial. He tells the court how offensive he finds it that a war hero like himself should have his name slandered by accusations of criminal activity. However, the audience knows he's at the head of New York's most powerful mob family.
  • Regina George pulls this off in Mean Girls when she puts a negative entry in the Burn Book (which she wrote with her friends) about herself and promptly gives it to the principal.
  • Taken: Bryan Mills impersonates a corrupt French police officer to ascertain the identities of his daughter's kidnappers under the pretense of visiting the Albanian gang of sex slavers to discuss future bribes. One of the men has the gall to accuse Mills of trying to extort them because they're immigrants. Mills immediately shuts this down:
    Mills: "I'm extorting you because you are breaking the law. You come to this country, take advantage of the system and think because we are tolerant that we are weak and helpless. Your arrogance offends me. And for that the rate just went up 10%. Do you want to keep negotiating, or do we have a deal?"
  • In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort's narration tries to paint himself as an innocent victim who is being targeted by Patrick Denham and the FBI because they are jealous of his life of luxury and don't want him to be successful. However, it's obvious to the audience that the only reason he became successful is because he's a thief who steals money from people through stock fraud and Denham is pursuing him because he's breaking the law.

  • In Jay-Z's song "99 Problems," he relates an incident when he was pulled over, portraying himself as a victim of racial profiling. In the incident in question, however, he was in fact carrying cocaine in a hidden compartment of his car, and only escaped arrest because the drug-sniffing K-9 unit was delayed.

  • In Christopher Durang's Baby with the Bathwater, a Black Comedy extreme, main character Daisy (who's a boy) spends over a decade in college because he can't finish an essay on Huckleberry Finn—his family completely botching his upbringing has pretty much left him a wreck, and he can't stop obsessing over what they did. While the therapist he goes to see is largely sympathetic, there comes a moment when he finally asks a powerful question: why doesn't Daisy just finish the stupid essay and stop blaming his family for everything? Daisy's initially upset, but eventually takes the advice to heart: he writes the paper, includes many lines calling out his parents for their terrible behavior, reads it aloud to them, and cuts them out of his life forever. The play ends with Daisy and his new wife raising a baby of their own and doing a much better job, suggesting Durang's Aesop about coming to terms with your past and letting go of it rather than carrying it around forever.
  • In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock defends his apparently barbaric "pound of flesh" contract with Antonio by enumerating the injustices he has experienced as a Jew in Venetian society. Note that most modern critics think Shylock had a point.
    • Shylock's famous speech is referenced several times in the film To Be or Not to Be; given that several of the heroic characters are Jewish, the film takes the sympathetic modern interpretation. But at one point, The Quisling argues in a similar manner that "Nazis are people too", and he is definitely not presented as sympathetic.
  • The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui: Arturo Ui is introduced moping about how everyone's forgotten about the things he's done. More specifically, the fact that he murdered twenty people.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa]]
    • Mikan in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair legitimately thinks that she is a victim, and that nobody will "forgive her existence". This attitude causes the characters to hesitate in a trial when they start finding out that evidence seems to point to her as the culprit, as she has been kind to them and nursed some of them back to health previously. This is a complicated example, as Mikan has been the victim of a lifetime of unjustified abuse at the hands of her peers, including in the game itself - nobody tries to stop Hiyoko from her vicious bullying of Mikan, not even Mahiru or Hajime; this trope comes into play when she uses this past to justify murdering two people.
    • Kirumi in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a more straightforward example, as when it is revealed they are the culprit, she tries to justify it with The Needs of the Many and accuses Shuichi of having some kind of grudge against her that is making him "warp the narrative" so he can pin the blame on her. She even goes so far as to suggest that she needs to survive more than the other students because she was Prime Minister and the outside world needs her. While some of the more gullible students like Gonta and Tenko are moved by her words, Kaito and Kokichi call her out on how selfish this actually is - the only time in the game they agree on something, mind you.

    Web Animation 
  • FreedomToons:
    • Dr. Mac treats an actual jihadist as a horrible victim because of tweets critical of islam, while denouncing an actual survivor of a terrorist massacre as a horrible islamophobic bigot for suggesting a link between religious scripture and acts of violence perpetrated against non-Muslims.
    • In "Ken and Karen Oppress the Mob", the entire mob bursts into tears when two home-owners try to protect their property against looters. As soon as the husband caves and gives up his rifle, they get beaten up.
  • In RWBY, Weiss plays the card on Blake when she calls her out over her bigotry towards Faunus, attributing the hatred she has to both the White Fang, terrorists who have killed several people in her father's company and her father himself.

    Web Original 
  • A recurring trick for Gaea from Noob. The most frequent form is putting on trademark Puppy-Dog Eyes while telling a sob story that is a Metaphorically True version of reality on a good day. Even people that have spent enough time around her to know better get this treatment, with a response along the lines of "Where did you get the idea that I was such a horrible person?".


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Victim Card



Frasier would like to remind you that he was PUNCHED in the FACE... by a man now DEAD.

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