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Punch-Clock Villain

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"There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do."

Like a mercenary, but with none of the sociopathy.

These are characters who have no real grudge against the heroes, but are simply doing a job for which they are getting paid. After hours, they are totally personable Joes, who go hang out like anyone else. Most Punch-Clock Villains are not even particularly mean. Clear cut cases will not be bad outside their job as it would undermine the existence of this trope.

The trope used to be an odd plot device, but it has become increasingly frequent due to the popularity of the superhero parody genre, where the supposedly Evil Minions are portrayed as sympathetic employees for unreasonable bosses. Sometimes, for additional comedy an evil organization might be portrayed as being a nicer place to work that the one the superheroes work for, with better funding, more days off, or superior healthcare and retirement packages. In addition, nearly all anime series featuring a comedic villain usually have these type of minions, who are frequently cute characters like the Perky Female Minion.

Conversely, if played seriously, the emotional detachment that the Punch-Clock Villain displays when they knowingly contribute to various atrocities can be chilling, and audiences may see them as a monster. Depending on the nature of the story, this trope can make a villain either more relatable to an audience or more hateful. If they are employed in a violent capacity, they may be an Apologetic Attacker, or insist that there is Nothing Personal in what they do.

Many Punch-Clock Villains may execute a Heel–Face Turn at the very, VERY end of the film, should the Big Bad totally lose it.

If they would rather Pet the Dog and don't even willingly participate in any criminal activities, they might instead be the most innocent character on an evil side, the Minion with an F in Evil; if they got into evil because the superhero team fired them for misbehavior, they may be a Hero with an F in Good. People using this trope as an excuse for their crimes, regardless of the truth of their claims, are Just Following Orders; real-world examples should go there.

Related to Villains Out Shopping and Good All Along. May overlap with Churchgoing Villain or Family-Values Villain. Compare Obstructive Bureaucrat. The opposite of Visionary Villain and Psycho for Hire. For the Anti-Hero version, see Punch-Clock Hero and Not in This for Your Revolution. Not at all related to villains who love their clocks, or to villains who punch their clock.

Note: A Complete Monster doesn't qualify as this trope, as their villainy is completely intentional and by choice.

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    Asian Animation 
  • Lamput: Technically speaking, the docs aren't evil at all, and they only chase Lamput since it's a part of their job (Lamput escaped from their laboratory after an experiment went wrong and is probably believed to be a threat of some sort as a result). Lamput and the docs have been known to help each other out on occasions outside of this job and seem to care about each other to some extent.

  • Finnish songwriter and artist Juice Leskinen has depicted this phenomenon chillingly in his song Osapäivänatsi (Part-Time Nazi), where a father takes off his uniform and jackboots after a hard-working day, kisses his wife and plays with his children. He demonstrates how this kind of villains usually are the most dangerous as they are fully able to compartmentalize their ethics and their actions in two neat separate boxes.
  • The music video for "Genghis Khan" features Miike Snow as one of these. The unnamed mastermind postpones killing a dapper spy with a laser beam because at precisely 5 o'clock, the lights go low and it's time for him to go home to his perfectly normal wife and kids.
  • John Mellencamp portrays the repo auctioneer in "Rain On The Scarecrow" as being this way. He tries to tell John that it's Nothing Personal, he's just doing his job, but John tells him that it's no excuse, and that he'll still have to answer for his sins.
  • The song "Henchman" by Kirby Krackle is about a henchman being interviewed for a villain's henchman asking about things like dental/healthcare plan and the hours. He even lists off some of his past experience for working as a henchman.
  • Bill Sutton: Taken quite literally in the "9 to 5 Barbarian" song.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: Tax collectors are among the most disliked members of society. Back then they were considered little more than thieves employed by the government. The Roman Empire often made use of "Tax Farming," the practice of selling the authority to gather tax moneys. The purchaser could squeeze people as hard as they liked under the tax laws, and any extra they got was profit.

  • Mission to Zyxx has the CLINTs, an army of clones raised from birth to do violence in the service of whoever happens to be in charge at the time. One escaped CLINT named AJ proves that if you can get them out from the chain of command then they're happy-go-lucky dummies along for whatever club will have them.

    Visual Novels 
  • Most prosecutors in Ace Attorney. Arguing against you is literally their job, and it's not their fault that the police occasionally arrest and bring to court the wrong person. Outside of court, most prosecutors have cordial relationships with their defense counterparts. The only exceptions are Manfred von Karma (who takes winning his cases very seriously, to the point of murdering the only defense attorney to get him a penalty), Franziska von Karma during Justice for All (who seeks to prove herself against Phoenix specifically), and Godot (who has a personal vendetta against Phoenix).
  • Fate/stay night: Assassin is the least villainous antagonist within the cast.
    • Due to the nature of his summoning, he's bound to guard the Ryuudou Temple's gate and he is not even able to properly participate in the Holy Grail War, since his Master is the fellow Servant Caster and Assassin is literally unable to leave the temple grounds. All he can do is doing his job as a Gate Guardian and even then, he often lets enemies in whenever he feels like. He's only really interested in fighting a strong opponent and he's really honorable on top of that. Even when the enemy leaves the temple through the gate, he doesn't even attempt to assault them and just let them go. To go even further, during the Unlimited Blade Works route, he still keeps guarding the temple gate despite Caster being already killed and the only motivation he has left is keeping his honor by fulfilling the duty his contractor gave him and having one last epic duel against Saber before he runs out of mana and vanishes for good.
    • Amusingly, True Assassin (Hassan of the Cursed Arm) in the Heaven's Feel route also qualifies. He seems, at first glance, to be a horrifying, monstrous servant, and he's working for the inarguable worst person in the entire visual novel... but, realistically speaking, he's not actually that bad of a guy. He didn't choose his master and doesn't particularly approve of him, he just does his bidding because it's his job, and has a noticeably melancholy attitude towards it.
  • The Eiserne Jungefrauen in Umineko: When They Cry are magic-denying witch hunters, but only when they're on the job as Inquisitors. Otherwise, they don't mind innocent magic that is used as an embellishment, as long as it doesn't hide the results of what happens. Dlanor, in particular, has a discussion with Battler, explaining this over tea.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss:
    • All four members of I.M.P. are this to varying degrees. Blitzo outright revels in killing people and puts up a facade of extreme misanthropy, but is shown in C.H.E.R.U.B. to show at least some level of concern for the "why" of their clients paying his company to kill someone, even if he won't necessarily say "no" to a job on the grounds that they've done nothing wrong. Moxxie plays this trope perfectly straight, having a panic attack when he was asked to kill people who he perceived as innocent. Millie borders on this trope and Affably Evil, but it's because she's a Stepford Smiler raised in an environment where your value as a person is primarily determined by how good you are at killing things, and when she discovers that she's good at things outside of killing it causes her to have an identity crisis because all of her self-worth was tied into that one thing. Loona doesn't work for I.M.P. willingly or even join the other members out on missions that often. She just works there as a receptionist because Blitzo is her dad note  and he owns the company.
    • Stolas is introduced as a perverted Abhorrent Admirer to Blitzo and is actively working to help the leaders of Hell Take Over the World. However, he doesn't help them out of malice and doesn't do more than is expected of him as a Prince of the Goetia Family (except in the pilot where he orders a hit on an anti-climate change politician to cause more people to die from global warming, but that doesn't count). Even his perverted behavior towards Blitzo is far more sympathetic than it initially appears, being a well-meaning, but emotionally stunted manchild coercing Blitzo (who, to be fair, let Stolas believe he was fine with it until almost the end of Season One) into being an outlet to cope with his failed arranged marriage and having a My God, What Have I Done? moment when Blitzo tells him point blank that Stolas has objectified him and there was never anything between them other than transactional sex (Blitzo doesn't really believe that second part, but Stolas has given him every reason to).

Psycrow: And remember our motto:"The wages of sin is death. But the hours are good!


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Alternative Title(s): Punch Clock Villains


Zomburger's Crew

Despite threats of murder and acts of violence upon their rival fast food truck crew, the workers at Zomburger insist it's merely part of the intricate act they put on as part of work.

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