Follow TV Tropes

Following

Privilege Makes You Evil

Go To

"Men who look upon themselves as born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance, and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions."
Thomas Paine
Advertisement:

For some villains, they have a good reason to be evil. Maybe they had a terrible upbringing. Maybe they snapped after they watched somebody they care about die. Maybe they were victims of prejudice and decided to fight back.

However, some villains had everything in life handed to them, and yet they still chose to be evil. Like how "power corrupts", so does privilege[note]As an interesting note [/note].

Characters common of this trope include:

Compare Screw the Rules, I Have Money! and Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!, as well as Entitled to Have You. Contrast Misery Builds Character, Freudian Excuse, and Spoiled Sweet. Also, Ambition Is Evil is not the same as this trope, but can coincide. Also, a character doesn’t have to have been born into privilege to qualify so long as they are privileged now.

Advertisement:

No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill!: Syura, the son of Prime Minister Honest, abuses his father's power maliciously. He torments the citizens of the empire, knowing full well that if anybody tried anything, they'd have to deal with Honest.
  • Assassination Classroom:
    • The students in Class-A, particularly the Elite 5, are intelligent and they don't hesitate to brag about it and bully the students in Class-E.
    • Principal Asano is wealthy enough to have built the school himself, and he employs a system that discriminates the less-intelligent students. However, it's later revealed that he was once a Cool Teacher, but became cruel after a former student of his committed suicide from being bullied.
    • God of Death lived in a big fancy house and had a wealthy family. He was also a sociopath that didn't care that his father was murdered and even bagged his father's killer to train him.
  • Blue Exorcist: Reiji Shiratori, the bully from the first episode, comes from a rich family and only got in to True Cross Academy because of his connections. When Rin confronts him for killing birds for fun, he tries to bribe him so that his family's reputation doesn't get threatened. When Rin refused, he tried to brand him. This leads to him getting possessed by Astaroth.
  • Death Note: Light Yagami is popular with the ladies, gets praised for his intellect, and has some of the kindest parents. And yet, when he finds the Death Note, he uses it to be viewed as a god.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Freeza is the heir to an intergalactic empire. His father, King Cold, is overly doting, and as Cooler implies, he spoiled him rotten. He's also a mass-murdering sociopath that has destroyed many planets.
    • Beerus used his power as God of Destruction to bully planets into giving him finer foods.
    • Who can forget Vegeta? Being the Prince of a Proud Warrior Race whom worked under Freeza and shows no remorse with his slaughtering. All with a huge ego to boot. He has mellowed out after his Heel–Face Turn to a degree.
    • Subverted in Resurrection F. After Freeza gets wished back, the Pilaf gang steals the second wish for money. When Pilaf questions why they didn't wish for money, Shu points out that if they ever had kids one day, they'd grow up to be jerks because of their wealth.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure:
    • Flip-flopped with Dio Brando. He lived a life of poverty and abuse from his alcoholic father, but his evil colors started to show when he was taken in by the wealthy Joestar family.
    • Also flip-flopped with Yoshikage Kira. On the one hand, he had overly loving parents, but on the other, he deliberately avoided privilege and praise so that he could fall under the radar.
    • J. Geil (or "Centerfold" in the dub) is a sadistic serial killer and a rapist. However, his mother, Enya, spoiled him rotten, never held him accountable for his crimes, and treated him like he was a kind saint even after his death.
  • One episode of Kill la Kill had Mako becoming a club president and through her hard work and dedication escalating through the Star ranks of the student class. While this brought up some appreciated benefits (such as her family living in increasingly-better housing), it also made her increasingly more of a jerk, culminating with getting in a fight (which was going to be to the death, but thankfully The Power of Friendship was able to snap her out of it in a crucial moment) with Ryuko because the latter was getting concerned about her. She ended up deciding that her friendship was not worth it, and quit her post.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Katsuki Bakugou gets blessed with a really powerful Quirk at a young age, leading many to praise him. This causes him to develop a huge superiority complex and become The Bully.
  • Shadow Star: Aki Honda is an Academic Alpha Bitch who torments a girl named Hiromi just for getting better grades than her and many are too scared to stand up to her. One of her offenses includes raping Hiromi with a test tube.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Sakyo admits that he had a great childhood raised by his loving parents and became filthy rich because of his talents for gambling. In spite of that, he chose to be a crime lord that hires demons and gambles in death games.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted with Harry Osborn. While he was raised by a wealthy family, and his father is the Green Goblin of all people, he didn't turn evil until after his father died.
  • Kick-Ass: Red-Mist came from a wealthy mafia family and he has plants in the police force that turn a blind eye to his actions.
  • Lex Luthor, depending on the author, is either this (his Smallville version in particular) or the opposite trope. Either way, almost all interpretations agree that it's his enormous ego that typically brings about his downfall, regardless of initial wealth.

    Fan Works 
  • Hongqi from Foxfire is the son of a kind and wealthy Upper Ring merchant. Due to his privilege and entitlement, he takes a Lower Ring woman as a mistress and starts a family with her. When he gotten bored of her and sought to marry a noblewoman, he dumps her. But Hongqi doesn't want his ex-mistress to dare to move on from him. So he disfigures his mistress and drove her to suicide by taking her children. But when he needed to hide his illegitimate children from his potential noble in-laws, he horrifically murders said children by locking them into a kiln to be slowly burned alive.
  • Lan Xichen from Impenetrable Walls is genuinely well-meaning and sweet-tempered. However, he has been spoiled rotten since his birth, every single wish of his granted by the Imperial Palace's servants, so when he becomes Emperor he naturally believes he can do anything he pleases. It includes abducting the man his baby brother is crushing on and turning him into a Sex Slave for the prince, and he actually thinks Wei Wuxian will be happy with his fate.
  • Explored in The Karma of Lies through Adrien and Chloe:
    • Adrien believes himself to be a Nice Guy, but his actions (and inactions) tell a different story, as he prioritizes his own personal comfort over everything else. Lila's scamming his classmates? Who cares; anything she steals can easily be replaced, right? Even though most of his friends aren't wealthy like him, he blows off the idea that they won't be able to afford replacements, or that anything might have value beyond the material. He's also incredibly entitled, expecting everything to go the way he wants without having to work for it or actually do anything good — to his mind, just being a 'good person' is good enough, and he ignores all evidence to the contrary.
    • Chloe grew up as a Spoiled Brat, always throwing temper tantrums to get her way. However, she has a Heel Realization when faced with a situation she can't use her family's money and connections to 'solve'. Unlike Adrien, she decides that she wants to become a better person even if it proves hard or challenging, and her efforts eventually pay off.
  • Yue Qingyuan from SV Wishes was once Yue Qi, Shen Jiu's fellow ex-slave. They both worked tirelessly to ascend the social ladder from the original position from the bottom of society. Shen Jiu and Yue Qi, then Shen Qingqiu and Yue Qingyuan reach the highest rank of their society through Yue Qingyuan's legitimization by his lord father, become respected and cultured immortal cultivators and have a loving and faithful marriage. Then Yue Qingyuan lets the privileges and power of his newfound noble rank go to his head. He starts to believe in the gossip decrying Shen Qingqiu as a possessive viper and that as a Lord, Yue Qingyuan deserved more. That Yue Qingyuan should act like the Lord he is and get more noble and richer spouses instead of being faithful to the nobody commoner he's with. Despite promising Shen Qingqiu to be faithful to him, Yue Qingyuan begins to think himself entitled to a harem like his fellow lords have. He cheats on Shen Qingqiu, doesn't fight for him when the Emperor has Shen Qinqiu demoted to Second Husband, marries his paramour and expects Shen Qingqiu to accept it and obey the new First Husband. In the original timeline, almost everyone involved died or became a worse person for it. The good timeline only happens when Yue Qingyuan faces meaningful consequence of Shen Qingqiu leaving him for another man.
Advertisement:

    Film 
  • The Goonies: Troy is a Jerk Jock and the son of a wealthy industrialist. He also drags Brand while on a bike with his car and pushes him off the road, which could have killed him.

    Literature 
  • Carrie: Chris Hargensen is a sadistic bully, and her lawyer father always finds loopholes to get her out of trouble. However, she takes matters into her own hands when her father isn't able to convince the staff to let her go to prom.
  • Circe:This trope serves as an explanation for a characters personality shift if we include an Unreliable Narrator explaining the shift.
    • Glaucus was polite and revered Circe when he was a mortal, thanked her for helping him and even at one point expressed a desire to wish he was a god to marry her. However, it becomes clear later on that this is less out of genuine love or care and more out of him trying to be respectful to Circe for her godly status and making his life easier. Once he's made a god, he becomes just as vain, self-centered, egotistical and arrogant as the rest. He completely tosses Circe aside now that he no longer has to rely on her (or beg for every scrap as he puts it) and chooses any of the much prettier nymphs over her. Circe recounts how Glaucus lost everything good in him and became a metaphorical monster at the end of the story, but this discounts another interpretation that Glaucus was always like that under his weak human demeanor and Circe elevating him to god status and removing his infirmities simply gave him permission to release his negative emotions.
  • Robson Parke Westerfield from Daddy's Little Girl could well be the poster boy. While it's entirely possible he was born with a predisposition for sociopathic traits, his extremely privileged upbringing clearly exacerbated and reinforced this. Due to his family's prominence and wealth, he grew up thinking he was above everyone else and that consequences don't apply to him, especially as his family use their wealth and influence to bail him out whenever he gets into trouble. Even spending two decades in prison for murder has done little to temper his arrogance, although he's gotten better at hiding his nastier traits in public.
  • Flip-flopped with Penny from Gone. Despite having a father who sexually abused her sisters, she was the only one he never touched. If anything, she was more upset that he didn't give her that kind of attention. When people started sympathizing with her sisters, she poisoned one of them out of jealousy. When she gains a power that has its heroic uses, she uses it to torture the people in the FAYZ.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Dudley Dursley, Harry's cousin, gets spoiled rotten by his parents and his bullying behavior is slightly enabled, especially to Harry. When he was forced to go on a diet, he starts to gain muscle and starts beating up kids younger than him. Dumbledore actually lampshades this when he notes that Dudley was screwed up by his parents. Dudley does start making amends after Harry saves him from a Dementor attack and the Dementor put Dudley through hell (or rather, made him relieve his life on an outsiders' view), giving him a Jerkass Realization. He and Harry make up in the last book and remain on amicable if awkward terms as adults.
    • Draco Malfoy comes from an incredibly wealthy family, being old money. He's also a bully, a card-carrying racist, and later joins the Death Eaters. Of course, his behavior comes to bite him and he realizes Being Evil Sucks during his tenure in the Death Eaters.
    • Really, the Death Eaters in general are this trope, since almost all of them come from similar backgrounds to Malfoy (and many are his immediate family). The exceptions are Voldemort himself, who grew up in an orphanage, and Snape, who winds up becoming a double agent for the good guys anyway. None of the Death Eaters seem to realize that, by virtue of being a cult that tortures and murders wantonly, they have far less right to be considered “civilized” than their victims.
  • Let the Right One In: Jonny sadistically bullies the protagonist, Oskar. He threatens to leave him on the train tracks, push him in ice, and tried to drown him when he fought back. However, it's implied that he was raised by loving parents.
  • Michael Vey: Dr. Hatch tries to deliberately make it happen with the Glows. With the hopes of making them his loyal killers, he showers them with expensive gifts and constantly reminds them that their powers make them superior to humans.
  • Percy Jackson: A natural given since villains in this series are either gods or the offspring of gods.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Joffrey Baratheon is a spoiled prince and one of the cruelest characters in the series.

    Live Action TV 
  • Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones (the adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire) is a shining example of this. All his life, Joffrey has rarely been told the word 'no' and been raised to believe that he is better than everyone else and entitled to just about everything, because he's the crown prince of the Seven Kingdoms and a Lannister on his mother's side and his father's side too, as it turns out. As a result, Joffrey rarely has to face the negative consequences of his actions or learn from them, expects everyone to serve his whims and lacks empathy for others. This is deconstructed over the course of the series, as Joffrey's bratty behavior and impulsively cruel actions do start to catch up to him, culminating in him being assassinated at his own wedding. The masterminds of his death straight up admit that the main reason they killed him was because of his Stupid Evil tendencies.
  • While everybody in the gang in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are vile, reprehensible people, Dennis Reynolds might actually be the worst out of all of them. He is shown to be a manipulative sociopath, a Narcissist dolling out Disproportionate Retribution for minor insults, acts as a twisted subversion of the "Only Sane Man" trope found in most sitcoms, and his actions cluing in that he may be a serial rapist and a murderer. His Freudian Excuse can be traced after his Gold Digger mother Barbara, who's an unapologetic Rich Bitch Jerkass who's Parental Favoritism towards Dennis made a poor example for his upbringing.
  • Ilithyia from Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The root cause of her selfish sense of entitlement and lack of empathy is the fact she was raised by a wealthy and powerful father who let her have anything she wanted, and she never had to face negative consequences for her actions.
  • Stranger Things: Troy, the bully from season 1, has a mother that spoils him rotten and never holds him accountable for anything. He also tried to stab Dustin if Mike didn't jump off a cliff (and the result was that he pissed Eleven off big time).

    Video Games 
  • Bully: The Prep clique consists of rich Jerkasses that torment the lower class. However, Mr. Hattrick proves to be worse than all of them. He comes from an Old Money family and lives in a nice mansion. Despite having no financial need to be a teacher at Bullworth, he signed up anyway so that he could torment his students.
  • Life Is Strange: Nathan Prescott always uses his father's connections to get him out of trouble. One example is shown in the prequel, where if depending on how you played, he severely injures a girl named Samantha who had a crush on him. Sean Prescott can be overheard at the hospital convincing Samantha's mother not to press charges. In the main game, he works with his teacher and famous photographer, Mark Jefferson, to abduct classmates of his, drug them, and have Jefferson take photos of them.
  • Horizon Forbidden West: The new antagonists, Far Zenith, are an elitist cabal of Old-World billionaires and geniuses who fled Earth before the apocalypse. They spent hundreds of years building a psychopathic paradise on Sirius, where they could live in VR worlds and torment artificial intelligences for eternity. Then they created and tortured an A.I. until it went mad and hacked Sirius to death. When Zenith needs to flee back to Earth, they don't ask for help or collaborate with the tribes, they just use the natives as target practice for kicks until they can flee once more and leave Earth to an even worse tyrant.
  • Persona 5: Many of the antagonists the Phantom Thieves face embody this. Many of them are prolific individuals whose high lot directly or indirectly influence their actions (namely, the loss of their position makes them go to heinous lengths.)
    • Suguru Kamoshida is a former Olympic Gold Medalist-turned-Gym Teacher who uses his past fame to get away with physically abusing his male students and sexually assaulting his female students. He's a variation since the entire thing is an ego trip as a result of no longer being in the limelight (he ran the track team to the ground and dismantled it since he saw it as a threat to his success, especially Ryuji.)
    • Ichiryusai Madarame is a famous artist who started suffering from Artists Block, so he began stealing his students art projects to pass off as his own. One of his former students committed suicide, and he deliberately let another student, Yusuke's mother, die from a seizure so he can get away with selling her painting.
    • Kunikazu Okumura is the Corrupt Corporate Executive of a food business that went into fast food. He combines this with Ambition Is Evil since we learn he's motivated by his impoverished childhood and a desire to be the opposite of his father (a kind-hearted businessman who was not very successful.) He achieves his success by running his workers to the ground with minimal breaks and tries to achieve political power by marrying off his daughter Haru to the son of a prominent senator.
    • Subverted with Goro Akechi. While he's a celebrity with legions of fangirls, it's revealed he's also the bastard child of Masayoshi Shido. His mother committed suicide after years of Slut-Shaming (remember that being a bastard child is viewed much worse in the East than in the West) and he got bounced around through various foster homes.
    • Masayoshi Shido is a Corrupt Politician who uses his connections to get away with atrocities including murder and rape. When the Protagonist caught him trying to have his way with a woman and he ended up tripping on his own feet, he pressed charges against the Protagonist, an act that would ultimately come back to haunt him.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: Junko Enoshima, the Big Bad of the series, is also a famous fashion model.
    • Danganronpa 3: Natsumi, Fuyuhiko's sister, is revealed to be a Spoiled Brat who used her father's Yakuza power to bully her way into Hope's Peak Academy as a Reserve Course Student. She was unsatisfied with her class and often threatened Mahiru so that she can be a full Ultimate Student. This leads to her getting killed by Mahiru's friend.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In the episode The Terrible Trio, the titular antagonists are a group of rich kids who go around committing crimes simply because they think their wealth can let them get away with it. One of them even tries killing his girlfriend when she finds out what he's been doing.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug episode "Antibug", Spoiled Brat Hate Sink daughter of the mayor Chloé Bourgeois ends up akumatized by Hawk Moth and gets upgraded into the titular Antibug, an Evil Knockoff of Ladybug with a burning desire to take revenge on the heroine for calling her a liar and a Mill Stone during their confrontation with Vanisher. Keep in mind that Vanisher wouldn't have even existed if Chloé didn't try to alienate her only friend over an honest mistake. Come to think of it, most people Hawk Moth has akumatized were the result of Chloé's own petty attitude, something he himself lampshades in a Batman Gambit in "Despair Bear."
  • Princess Morbucks from The Powerpuff Girls (1998) is a Spoiled Brat who becomes a supervillain when the Powerpuff girls refuse her admittance into their group, completely ignorant of the fact that her utter disregard for other people makes a poor hero. She spends the rest of the series either trying to stage (ironically) morally bankrupt means of proving herself (like convincing a friend of theirs to shoplift just so she could arrest her), enacting petty revenge on them using her wealth to buy a means to do so (like making all crime legal in Townsville) to just flat-out attacking them with advanced, highly-expensive weaponry.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Mr. Burns willingly abandoned his loving parents (and his favorite teddy bear, Bobo) so he can be raised by a wealthier family, leading him to becoming the Corrupt Corporate Executive that he is.
    • Homer invokes this in A Star is Torn, by becoming the manger of a rival of Lisa's and revamping him into "Johnny Rainbow", a rich kid singing a boastful song about how he uses his wealth to make his life better than everyone else's. It works, and the kid is immediately rejected by the audience.

Top