Thief: Yeah, so?
Black Mage: So shouldn't you, y'know, quit stealing stuff?
When a character is revealed to have had an actual reason for his apparently villainous actions, it frames their actions in a better light. However, sometimes, the behavior continues even when the justification no longer applies. That's this trope.
For example, a villain who robs banks to pay for his sick daughter's medical treatment might be reasonable, but it becomes completely irrational when the daughter isn't even sick anymore.
Sometimes justified when the character has got himself so deep into whatever he was doing that it's no longer possible for him to leave, or if he's fallen prey to The Dark Side Will Make You Forget.
In some cases this trope keeps the Conflict Ball rolling—we wouldn't have much of a character, after all, if we could solve his problems by just giving him whatever reasonable thing it is he wants. Other times it's a simple character quirk, or a poorly-thought-through excuse intended to make a villain sympathetic but ultimately just inviting more Fridge Logic. In some cases, it's played for comedy, revealing that the character... kind of exaggerated how necessary their actions were.
A subtrope of Motive Decay. Compare Chronic Villainy. Can turn into You Keep Telling Yourself That if someone calls them out on it. Compare Cut Lex Luthor a Check, which doesn't require that the villain ever had an excuse for his unrepentant villainy.
- One Piece:
- Usopp: at first he lied to cheer up his dying mother, then he lied to cheer up his sick girlfriend, and since then he's mainly lied out of habit.
- Nami is also a classic example: she steals to buy back her hometown from Arlong. Once that's no longer an issue, she steals because money is good. Nami, at least, was shown stealing from a bookstore as a child because her family was poor. Apparently, it was already a habit by the time Arlong came along.
- Blue from Pokémon Adventures. She steals and cons her way throughout the first arc, going after both money and rare Pokémon. Though it's never outright stated, it's pretty obvious that she's doing it to gain resources to eventually go up against the man who kidnapped her as a child. After her goal is reached, it turns out her fingers are still as quick as ever, as she easily filches one of Kimberly's special rings without the old lady even noticing it until it was pointed out to her.
- In Spider-Man, the Green Goblin / Norman Osborne goes on at length about how "Spider-Man is the only one who could stop us now!" ...Stop you from doing what, exactly? At this point in the film he's already killed everyone he set out to get revenge on, and he seemingly goes after Spider-Man just because. Helps that he's kuh-RAZY.
- Discussed in Dragon Bones: Ward has been Obfuscating Stupidity to make himself less of a target for his abusive father. He doesn't drop the act immediately when his father dies, which causes him some problems in the long run. Later on, he makes an effort to tell a possible ally immediately that and why he pretended to be stupid, as this potential ally doesn't like liars, and would distrust him ever after if he continued the pretending after the reason for it is gone. (His father believes in Klingon Promotion, so this was a good reason to pretend to be a harmless idiot.)
- Examined in Breaking Bad. After Walter White's initial efforts at starting a meth business end up in catastrophe, some of his former colleagues and friends offer to financially support him through his cancer treatment. He refuses their offer due to his Pride and lingering resentment towards them. Later on, when Walt succeeds at his meth business and makes enough money to support his family after his death, he still cannot quit because he's too tied up in the underworld to get out cleanly — and because he's getting to like the power a quiet suburban life doesn't give him. By the midpoint of the final season, there are no more threats to his "empire" and he's made more money than he could spend in a lifetime. Faced with the fact that Victory Is Boring, he finally decides to get out of the game for his family...just as, unbeknownst to him, Hank has discovered his secret.
- Amanda on Highlander started stealing over 1,000 years ago because she was a poor orphan struggling to survive in a plague-infested town. Unfortunately she hasnt been able to stop stealing since then.
- Nancy on Weeds started selling marijuana as a way to make extra money so she can maintain her family's suburban lifestyle. However, when she actually burns down her house to get away from the suburbs it becomes apparent that she likes the excitement of being a drug dealer and she will keep doing it no matter how much money she has and what state her family is in.
- Thief from 8-Bit Theater. His stealing is explained to be for the purpose of buying medicine for his dying father but after it's shown to be part of this elaborate con and take over plan, he keeps on stealing despite being in fact very rich. Of course that could just be how he got rich, not to mention he does have no morals and is an Impossible Thief who steals, cons and lies to Magnificent Bastard levels.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Possibly Haley. Initially, The Reveal suggests that she hordes wealth only to save her father (she steals it because that is her skill set). In a flashback in the prequel book, she states that she's doing it to get 10% of his future income for the rest of his life (which makes it sort of a retroactive version). Later on, it's clearer she enjoys money for its own sake as well — polishing and singing to her gold. Now that she finally has enough money, she so far hasn't made any particular attempts to accumulate more, but that may be due to lack of opportunity. Haley's plan to hand over the ransom money and then steal it back is either this, or Pay Evil unto Evil.
- Almost certainly Redcloak, though the full ramifications of this haven't been brought to bear yet. As was explained in a prequel book, his function as Bearer of the Crimson Mantle is to shepherd and assist the goblin people, a goal he works toward by attempting to gain control of the Gates. But after failing to secure Azure City's gate, he works to create the city-state of Gobotopia as a homeland for the goblins and gain it international recognition. And there lies the problem — Redcloak could work much more effectively to better the position of the Goblin people by empowering Gobotopia, but he's too invested in the initial Gates plan to give it up. The fact that Xykon would be not happy if Redcloak tried to back out gives him a further excuse. As is the fact that it's not so much Redcloak's plan as his god's plan.
- When Vaarsuvius explains to their mate that the Deal with the Devil was necessary to achieve the arcane power to defeat a vengeful and very powerful dragon that was threatening V's family, Inkyrius points out that the goal has been accomplished but V still hasn't relinquished the power. Inky offers an ultimatum: give up the power and they have a chance to reconnect as a family, or keep hanging onto the power and prove that it is what V has really wanted all along. Unfortunately, Vaarsuvius has several other important goals that could be achieved with said power, and uses that as justification to apologetically teleport away instead. About half a story arc later, Inkyrius files for divorce.
- Mr. Freeze from the DC Animated Universe was originally motivated entirely by trying to save his cryogenically frozen wife; after she's saved, he goes on a crime spree. Played for tragedy, as by the time his wife is saved, his condition has taken most of his body away, and he can't be with her: the crime spree is so that others can share his despair.
In the comic book version (based on The DCAU, as before Freeze was just a typical villain), Freeze accidentally kills his wife, firing his cold ray into her stasis tube by mistake while fighting Batman and shattering her. At first he blames Batman for this and wants revenge, but over time he became just another criminal. Eventually he has her resurrected with a Lazarus Pit, but that just causes her to become a villain named Lazara, who blames her husband for what happened to her.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, the Rhino turns out to be a kid using a LEGO Genetics Super Serum to take revenge on Jerk Jock Flash Thompson for all of his bullying. Well, that explains his first episode, in which he indeed targets Flash. It doesn't explain any of his later appearances, where in a very rapid and very egregious case of Motive Decay, he is a mainstay of the Sinister Six and attacks Spidey alongside them for no reason that's ever been explored, and his origin never comes up.
- Subverted in Steven Universe: the episode "Tiger Millionaire" establishes that Amethyst moonlights as a wrestler as a way to vent her insecurities. Four seasons worth of Character Development later, the episode "Tiger Philanthropist" kicks off with Amethyst quitting wrestling since, now that she's more at peace with herself, she no longer needs that outlet.