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Somber Backstory Revelation

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Mai: I asked about this before, but why do you want to get back at [District One]?
Natsuki: I'm actually seventeen. I took a whole year off of school when my Mom died in an accident. My mother was part of District One. She was one of the researchers. Thing is, when I think about it now, she must've known about the destiny of a HiME. In order to let me escape, she betrayed the organization. All of a sudden, everything I took for granted was gone for good.

Everyone has a story about themselves. Some happy. Some sad. Not everyone is readily willing to discuss their personal history. They might be The Stoic or Ice Queen, or an Aloof Dark-Haired Girl.

Then there comes one quiet moment, when they decide that the person that they're talking to deserves to know the truth about their past. It could be a Dark and Troubled Past. Or, if not dark, then still a tragic past, involving someone akin to The Lost Lenore. It might involve them talking about their greatest failure. The point is, this character, who was formerly closed off, has chosen to share their history with their friend(s) or Love Interest.

In any case, it's a hallmark of Character Development. If the character in question was a Jerkass, it could mark a scene where they're now regarded as a Jerkass with a Heart of Gold. If they're an antagonist, it could that they're revealing their Freudian Excuse, or the beginings of a Heel–Face Turn.

Sometimes, this character still won't divulge their backstory, and it falls on a third party in the know to tell others what's going on with them.

Often a component of Defrosting Ice Queen, as we learn more about a character who is closed off emotionally from the others, or at least understand how someone might have come to be the Ice Queen in the first place, whether they defrost or not. More often than not, they'll share their story with The Defroster who helped thaw them in the first place.

If the revelation of their past history is shown to the audience, but not told to a character in story, then it is merely Dark and Troubled Past.

While details of their history can be shared to highlight that they've chosen to share, the focus should be on to whom and why they decided to open up in the first place.

Compare and contrast with They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Buso Renkin: In the final chapter, Kazuki asks Tokiko if he can touch her signature scar. Embarrassed, she runs off. When they finally meet up, she explains her past to him. Her school was slaughtered by a homonculous, and she was the Sole Survivor, but with no memory of her past. She was taken in by the Alchemist Warriors, and a Kakugane was placed on her to heal her injuries. The self-same homonculous showed up, trying to take it from her, slashing her face in the attempt. In that moment, her will to fight awakening, she manifested her Valkyrie Skirt for the first time, slaughtering the homonculous before the rest of the Alchemist Warriors arrived. She feels the scar marks her birth as a warrior. After relating the story to him, she gives Kazuki permission to touch her scar.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico: When the crew begin seeing ghosts, we learn the sad truth about Izumi, that her bad puns and lousy jokes are a coping mechanism for the fact that she has lost two fiances over the years, one to disease, and one to the war. For once, Izumi is not laughing as she tries to embrace the illusion of her late fiance, saying that she's ready to join him.
  • Moriarty the Patriot:
    • Moran's Day in the Limelight arc, The Man with the Golden Army reveals his tragic past in the army and his promotion to the rank of Colonel via William writing a letter to Moneypenny to share the details Moran is unlikely to share but has to emotionally deal with.
    • Sherlock is almost uncharacteristically somber when he's talking to Billy about his life before meeting William and how stubborn and alone he felt before William was able to see right though him.
    • Billy eventually tells William and Sherlock of his past with Pat Garrett and how it went sour.
  • My-HiME:
    • After Nagi has revealed the terms of The Festival/Carnival, Mai is determined to try and keep the peace between the HiME. Natsuki tells her she has no intention of playing Nagi's game, revealing to Mai for the first time that she had been fighting District One (Nagi's organization) ever since they caused the untimely death of her mother, and her father ran out on her while she was recovering in the hospital from the self-same car crash.
    • Nao combines this with Motive Rant after she takes Natsuki hostage to draw out Shizuru for a fight. A defiant Natsuki points out Nao's Enjo Kosai routine. Nao states that she never lets the guys touch her, as it would be missing the point. Her actions are revenge for her mother being rendered comatose after a home invasion. She stalks the perverts of the city because the crooks who devastated her family are locked up in a cell with three meals a day, while her relatives dumped her in an orphanage. A stunned Natsuki can only mutter "Geez, Nao!" before Shizuru shows up to settle things.
  • Steins;Gate: Kurisu has a somber moment where she has come to have feelings for Okabe and reveals to him that she and her father used to be very close, and it was because of her father that she pursued the sciences. And then she began demonstrating that she was smarter than he was, knocking down one hypothesis after another of his, causing a rift between the two of them, as Dr. Nakabachi couldn't stand knowing that he'd been surpassed by his own daughter.

    Fan Works 
  • Elementary My Dear Natsuki:
    • In one side story, Shizuru has convinced Natsuki to dress in an elegant kimono. Natsuki says it's like putting a fancy dress on a Whitechapel whore. Shizuru balks, pointing out that it is a part of Natsuki's heritage, and that she looks lovely. She demands to know the real reason Natsuki is protesting. Natsuki quietly explains that while she was the illegitmate daughter of Saeko Kuga and Baron Kruger, after her mother's death she'd been raised in an English boarding school, and all of her social cues, even those she eschews, are those of Victorian England. Wearing a kimono, she explains, only serves to remind her that she is out of touch with her heritage, and why.
  • Inter Nos: Shizuru is determined to learn more about her lover, Natsuki, who serves as an Otomeian captain, but is the last princess of the lost Ortygians. An old Otomeian soldier who was there, and rescued Natsuki, has heard the two had become lovers. When Shizuru explains that she wants to help Natsuki, to understand her, he reluctantly agrees to tell her. Natsuki's people were betrayed by the Mentuleans after offers of peace, and Natsuki had been found alive, but buried under a pile of her dead kinsmen. She had been placed with an Otomeian family, where the son of said family then tried to force himself on her, mistaking her Elective Mute condition for weakness. She'd ended up splitting his head open with a daos in self-defense.

    Films — Animated 
  • Kung Fu Panda: Tigress tells Po the story of how Big Bad Tai Lung was abandoned as a baby and raised by Shifu in the Jade Palace. Shifu treated him like a son, so when Tai Lung is denied the Dragon Scroll and goes on a rampage, Shifu was unable to stop him, so Oogway took him down instead. According to Tigress, Shifu became sterner as a result, unwilling to make himself that vulnerable again- including when teaching Tigress, resulting in her deep-set desire to prove herself to him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Babe: Fly sounds sad and regretful as she shares Rex's backstory, that his hearing was damaged while he tried saving a flock of sheep in a flood, leaving him unable to compete in shows for Farmer Hoggett.
  • Jaws: Quint after a night of drinking together and comparing scars with Hooper, sobers everyone up quickly, by revealing to Brody and Hooper that he was a survivor of the U.S.S. Indianapolisnote , and explaining why he hates sharks and will never again wear a life preserver.
  • In The Legend of Tarzan, Tarzan's ally Captain George Washington Williams admits to Tarzan following an After Action Patch Up where he used termites to treat a shoulder wound that Tarzan's Mangani brother Akut gave him that after he fought in the Civil War, his eagerness for combat made him turn into a Sociopathic Soldier who ended up killing countless native Americans, which makes him feel like he's no better than the Belgian colonialists they're fighting against.
  • One of the plot lines of Saw IV involves John's ex-wife Jill being interrogated by the police and FBI. Over the course of the line, Jill reluctantly tells numerous tragic past events that led to John becoming Jigsaw, adding to John's own claims about his motivation in Saw II.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: The audience has already been told by his girlfriend Delores that Eddie Valiant's hatred of toons is because one killed his brother and partner Teddy. Eddie himself doesn't open up about the event until he's hiding out with Roger at the theater after saving the rabbit from Judge Doom. He tells Roger how he and Teddy used to patrol Toontown and "thought it was a lot of laughs"; then, while chasing a bank robber, they get a piano dropped on them by the culprit, which hurt Eddie's arm and killed Teddy. Eddie remembers the robber laughing at him "with those burning red eyes and that high, squeaky voice." This turns out to be foreshadowing for the reveal of Doom's real identity.
  • Zombieland: Tallahassee eventually reveals to his fellow zombie plague survivors that he did not lose a dog to the zombies, as he previously claimed; he lost a young son. This tragic story is immediately undercut in a Mood Whiplash moment, when he dries his tears with worthless post-apocalypse $100 bills.

  • The Fire's Stone: Aaron finally defrosts and tells Darvish of the tragic loss of his cousin and lover Ruth in the middle of the night after a nightmare, crying into his arms.
  • A Storm of Swords: Everyone already knows that Jaime betrayed and murdered the previous king, with him being known as the Kingslayer. He's frequently mocked or derided for it. However, while he's badly wounded and feverish at Harrenhal, he ends up talking about it in-depth to Brienne, explaining why he did it. It turns out that Mad King Aerys had refused to surrender to Tywin despite Jaime's pleas, resulting in the city being sacked, at which point the king ordered Jaime to kill his father and gave orders to blow up the city with wildfire. Jaime was unable to kill his own father and watch thousands of innocent people be burned alive, so he killed Aerys to protect them. When Brienne asks why he never told anyone this, Jaime says he doubts he would be believed and that everyone already assumed the worst of him, given kingslaying and treachery are considered heinous actions in his culture (even against a king like Aerys). Brienne views Jaime more sympathetically after this and Jaime starts becoming kinder.

    Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Tyrion, Bronn, and Shae are playing a drinking game. It comes up to Shae and Bronn's surprise that he used to be married. Tyrion ends up sharing his sad tale: at sixteen, he encountered a girl named Tysha who had escaped her rapists. After spending the night together, Tyrion bribes a septon to marry them. They were happy together until his father learned about it and forced Jaime to tell the truth: Tywin Lannister hired Tysha because he thought it was time for Tyrion to have a woman. Then he gave her to his guards and forced Tyrion to watch as they had their way with her.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel visits Halbrand in his smithery in Numenor to apologize for using him and to beg him to reclaim his rightful place is king of the Southlands. Halbrand is angry and completely fed up with Galadriel's machinations, demands of her to at least reveal him the reasons she is so adamant about him to return to a place he doesn't want to ever see again and leave his comfortable life in Numenor. Intimidated by Halbrand's questions, Galadriel finally cracks and tells him the tragic end of Finrod at the hands of Sauron. After this scene, Galadriel and Halbrand become close friends.
  • M*A*S*H: In the aptly titled "Fathers and Sons", Hawkeye and Winchester do this mutually, with Hawk worried about his Dad going into the hospital. He tells Winchester how the same thing had happened when his mother died, and how his Father tried to protect him from the reality of what was going on. Winchester, who has always been at arms length with the rest of the 4077, then tells Hawkeye that his own father, though a good and moral man, was a detached and distant father, and that while he had a father, Hawkeye had a Dad.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: Upon conscription, the non-binary M was forced to choose between basic training with women or learning to make weapons with men. With Alder's encouragement, they pursued War College and became coven leader.
  • The NCIS two-part episode "Hiatus" reveals Gibbs' tragic backstory. It turns out that he had a wife and daughter before his three ex-wives — and they were murdered by a Mexican drug dealer. Also becomes Sympathetic Murder Backstory as Gibbs followed the killer back to Mexico and got his revenge.
  • Red Dwarf: For all of Series 1, Rimmer had been portrayed as a Jerkass with little redeeming qualities (although "Me2" had suggested that he had a self-loathing complex). Then comes "Better Than Life", where he finds out that his father is dead. Heading off to the Observation Dome, he reveals to Lister that he had Abusive Parents, to the point that he emancipated himself from them when he was 14. Despite this, he also reveals that he always wanted his father to be happy of something he did. Whilst Rimmer doesn't get kinder afterwards, this does make his character more sympathetic to Jerkass Woobie levels.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Worf has always been The Stoic, especially compared to other Klingons, who are much more the Boisterous Bruiser flavor of Proud Warrior Race Guy. While no less proud of his heritage, Worf has always been focused and thoughtful. When his wife, Jadzia asks him about this (she had been friends with several more outgoing Klingons as Curzon), Worf reveals that it is because as a teenager he accidentally killed another boy during a sporting event. As a result, he'd always made it a point to be mindful of the fragility of the humans he worked with.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Wounded", O'Brien, in the first episode to really flesh out his character beyond a background extra, is talking to a Cardassian observer about his experiences on Setlik III, and how he had been forced, for the first time, to kill someone in the line of duty. It hadn't even been an intentional act. O'Brien had grabbed a phaser to defend himself, not knowing it was on its highest setting and not stun. He'd had to watch as the Cardassian he'd fired on was vaporized in front of him.
    O'Brien: It's not you I hate, Cardassian. It's what I became because of you.

    Video Games 
  • God of War (PS4): Atreus learning about Kratos's Greek past is a staggered one, since Kratos tries his best to shut down every attempt at learning his backstory, as it's not a happy one.
    • Kratos only tells Atreus that he (and Atreus by extension) is a god after Atreus's lack of understanding his own nature made him seriously ill, and the boy had overheard an out-of-context remark that made him think that Kratos despised him for his weakness.
    • In Helheim, Kratos and Atreus are confronted with an illusory recreation of Kratos killing Zeus, something that shocks Kratos into a Heroic BSoD until Atreus lies and says he didn't see it.
    • After the final battle, when Freya brings his past up, he finally gains the courage to sum up his actions in Greece, though he still can't bring himself to talk about killing his own family.

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation!: A fellow elf tells Blay'n that Clewn't didn't used to be bitter and cynical about the "naughtiness" of the children of the world, and that he used to be the best and fastest toymaker in the place.
  • The Raccoons: A few times with Cyril Sneer.
    • In one episode, he reveals to the pigs that he is protecting a statue belonging to a late relative, a Sneer who was charitable and honest, because he respected him, and because he made a promise to look after it. It's one of the earliest indicators that Cyril has some integrity.
    • In one episode, Cyril has a heart to heart conversation with Bentley Raccoon, who was considering running away from home. He all but admits that he, too, ran away from home. And while he became very successful and very rich, he points out to Bentley that there were a lot of hard, lonely years in between that he wouldn't want to repeat, or wish on anyone else.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: "The Boogieman Cometh"; while Egon isn't a Jerk, per se, he is The Stoic and typically more interested in the scientific aspect of everything, rather than any emotional ties. Until he hears the tale of two young children who explain that they're being terrorized nightly by the Boogeyman. After some prompting, Egon reveals to his fellow Ghostbusters that as a child, he himself was terrorized by the Boogeyman, which spurred his interest in the supernatural to begin with.