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Sugary Malice

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Character behavior that looks or sounds sweet but is just as hurtful and cruel as a direct attack — perhaps more.

Characters such as Magnificent Bastard, Devil in Plain Sight, Enfant Terrible, Deliberately Cute Child, Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, and some Alpha Bitches are all likely to pull off acts of Sugary Malice. A Wounded Gazelle Gambit is in itself merely malicious, but the fake victim can make it sugary by for example gently "forgiving" the "abuser". Nothing Nice About Sugar and Spice is this trope on a villainess or an anti-heroine. As you might guess, Passive-Aggressive Kombat is a very common tactic.


A character who is Obliviously Evil, Totalitarian Utilitarian, Principles Zealot, Well-Intentioned Extremist, or similar might also pull off this kind of behaviour — sometimes without even realizing that their actions are in fact malicious. Such characters might cheerfully murder innocents, figuring that they have a good reason for doing it — maybe that the good outweighs the bad or even that their victims are better off dead. Or they might commit Black Comedy Rape or Romanticized Abuse in some misguided belief that it is okay... maybe inspired by a Marital Rape License or a Scary Amoral Religion. However, in any case, the characters must understand that their actions are abuse or murder or whatever it is they are doing, and still actively choose to do it, otherwise it's Obliviously Evil, not Sugary Malice.


Very likely to fall into Love to Hate territory. Compare Faux Affably Evil. Do not confuse with Sinister Sweet Tooth.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Films — Animated 
  • In Tangled, Mother Gothel's song "Mother knows best" and her Dark Reprise are a masterclass in this trope: Insulting and gaslighting The Pawn Rapunzel while treating her like a baby.
  • Madame Medusa from The Rescuers pretends to be sweet on Penny when she’s really trying to get the girl to participate in a dangerous quest for a valuable diamond. During their first on-screen conversation, Penny asks to return to the orphanage once she gets Medusa her diamond only for Medusa, still feigning a nice attitude with her, to laugh and ask who would want to adopt a homely-looking girl like her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In God Bless America the big difference between Chloe and Roxy is that Chloe is open about being a jerk, while Roxy is sweet and sort of polite about her utterly depraved psychopathy. Especially when she's trying to sweet-talk Frank into murdering people more or less at random.
  • Never Let Me Go:
    • Ruth has a bit of this, fueled by her fear of being left alone.
    • Far worse, however, is the polite kindness that the system shows its victims while pushing them down into despair and death.
  • The Camp Chippewah counselors in Addams Family Values actually seem to enjoy tormenting Wednesday, Pugsley, and the other "weird" kids like this. It's extra disturbing given that, from their perspective, their victims are Acceptable Targets. After all, the Addams kids (and the other outcasts) CHOOSE to be weird and not fit the mold of normal! (Yes, that apparently includes people born with funny names, that have a disability, or that are simply different ethnicities. They really should try harder to just fit in with the good, properly white, and preppy kids!)
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge embodies sweetness and gentleness as a thin veneer over a sadistic desire for control — much like in the book. However, Imelda Staunton's Umbridge is a slightly different character — in the book, either Harry or the narrator finds Umbridge repulsive from the get-go, while in the film, Umbridge seems significantly more likeable and, well, grandmotherly — at least, in a very superficial way. She's still terrible, but now more credible as someone who would rise to a high government office.

  • In Dragon Bones, high king Jakoven, when talking to Garranon, about the first time they met manages to put a facade of pity and affection over an "I know where your family lives" threat. It makes it all even creepier.
  • James H. Schmitz's Telzey Amberdon short story "Novice". Telzey's Aunt Halet cloaked her malicious intent behind a pleasant façade.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dolores Umbridge tortures students — but she's very polite about it, in a grandmotherly way. And just look at all those cute little kittens!
  • Two short Goosebumps stories veer into this territory. The first, "Please Don't Feed The Bears," is about a girl who gets dragged to a cutesy teddy bear theme park until she realizes that the workers actually are living teddy bears and try to turn her into one as well. The second, "A Holly Jolly Holiday," is about an evil videotape that turns people into the diabetes-inducing Christmas-themed heroine Susie Snowflake.
  • The Just William stories by Richmal Crompton had William's archenemy Hubert Lane who oozed a kind of offensive, oily, condescending politeness.
  • Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice is constantly delivering condescending put-downs and backhanded compliments drenched in a sugary, faux-pleasant tone. She uses it mainly on Jane Bennet, who is too genuinely sweet and naive to pick up on it, but she will also use it on Elizabeth Bennet (whom she otherwise displays less regard for) if the situation means she can't get away with more obvious nastiness. Elizabeth, who is a lot savvier than her sister, isn't fooled for a second.
  • The Hunger Games: Effie Trinket's character in the first novel. She'd undergone some Character Development by the second one.
  • Vidia from Disney Fairies has a Verbal Tic of referring to everyone with terms like "darling" and "dear" despite being a jerk.
  • Smoke: After Freddie destroys the doctors' vacation home during an attempt to trap them, their friends make a show of acting gracious and amused by the whole affair even as their eyes make it clear that the doctors are never being invited back again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Community: Annie and Shirley often bury their judgmental or condescending comments in sugar, to the point that even Abed notices it:
    Annie: [sweetly condescending] Are you sure she [Frankie] wasn't just being sweetly condescending?
    Abed: [deadpan] No, I've actually learned to pick up on that one.
  • Daredevil (2015): James Wesley, who always speaks in a rather measured way of talking and also functions as Wilson Fisk's right-hand enforcer.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond. Marie often made insulting comments to Debra while pretending to give friendly advice...though Debra increasingly began employing it as well. However, when it came to her interactions with Ray, Debra delivered the malice sugar-free.
    • Later seasons implied it wasn't just Debra who got this treatment — everyone Marie met was subject to her "polite" criticism. When she and Frank briefly move into a retirement community, it's promptly lampshaded: the woman running the place comments that Marie has a habit of saying that sound like compliments but are really personal attacks.
  • Fargo: Mike Milligan in Season 2 definitely qualifies. He never raises his voice and always seems to talk to people with a polite tone. However, he's still a vicious enforcer for the Kansas City Mafia and won't hesitate to kill those who get in his way.
  • Joan Crawford in Feud generally speaks in a sweet and pleasant tone of voice but the meaning of her words are anything but.
  • Gilmore Girls: Something of a signature move from Emily Gilmore. The first time Luke is over for dinner, he points out that he felt insulted all evening, even though Emily never actually said anything rude.
    Luke: What is this feeling in my chest? This overwhelming rage mixed with weakness?
    Lorelai: You've been Gilmore'd.
  • In the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Gazebo in the Maze Affair", the villain's wife, Edith Partridge, initially appears to be a sweet, if not-entirely-there, old lady who is oblivious to her husband's evil. It soon becomes apparent that she's pulling many of the strings, and she tortures the heroes — and gives her husband instructions on how to torture them "properly" — without ever changing her sweet manner.
  • In Person of Interest Root often comes across like this. Amy Acker has such a naturally sweet disposition that one forgets that the character is a murderous psychopath at times. She keeps up this disposition even as she is threatening someone with a hot iron or participating in a shootout with government agents.
  • On Shadowhunters, when Isabelle lends Clary a rather low-cut dress to wear at a party, her comment to Clary has some of this:
    You're lucky to have such a flat chest. I could never wear that without a bra!
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Near everything Kai Winn says is in the gentlest way, but wrapped up in such smug, contemptuous and holier-than-thou attitude it's clear just how little she thinks of everyone around her. And sometimes even the "sugar" gets left out.
  • Two and a Half Men: Rose appears to be such a sweet well put together woman until she starts gluing Charlie's testicles to his thigh and murders him when she catches him cheating on her on their honeymoon.
  • Anna in the V (2009) remake is pretty much the poster child for this. So sweet and innocent. And of course she is of peace, always. Even when she incites civil unrest, has people tortured to death, and generally plots the destruction of mankind. Especially when she does those things.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Thebaid: Juno's objection to Jupiter is reverent, sure, yet its pretty suspicious that she mentions five different women Jupiter cheated on her with. Even as Juno calls her husband "Most Just of the Divinities," she finds a way to make it clear that she is tired of him punishing evil while never addressing his own sluttiness.

  • Arsenic and Old Lace centers on a certain pair of sweet old ladies who are inviting gentlemen over to drink homemade wine and then poisoning them. However, this is not done out of malice, but out of genuine mental illness much like one of their nephews believes he is Teddy Roosevelt. Subverted with another one of their nephews, who was a malicious murderer.

    Video Games 
  • In The King of Fighters XIII, the best example is Mature. She speaks softly and in a borderline flirty way to her upcoming rivals, and it's almost immediately followed by a very aggressive quip about her wanting to see them bathed in blood after she kills them.
  • Kanata of Ensemble Stars! is typically a childish, carefree Cloud Cuckoo Lander, but he's not always as sweet as he looks, and is capable of being outright sadistic without a single change to his smile or cute way of speaking.
  • Pilgrim (RPG Maker): Master Alice always talks like a sweet little girl, even as she torments and taunts her victims of the horrible things she will do to them (like stealing their souls and sentencing them to eternal torment).

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Daemon from ReBoot, though she honestly doesn't see her actions as malicious.
  • Any time Ned Flanders is portrayed as evil in The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween episodes, he'll take these traits, e.g. in the "Treehouse of Horror V" story "Time and Punishment", when Flanders is shown as the supreme leader of the world in an alternate timeline.
    Flanders: In case all that smiling didn't cheer you up, there's one thing that never fails — A nice glass of warm milk, a little nap and a total frontal lobotomy.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Navy maintains her sweet personality when revealing herself as a Soft-Spoken Sadist.
    • White Diamond embodies this trope. Both Blue and Yellow Diamond — the 50-foot tall leaders of Homeworld who possess incredible powers and strike fear into the hearts of even the strongest Gems — talk about her with dread in their voices. For all that, White speaks in the politest of tones, calls Steven/Pink Diamond "Starlight", and treats the entire war for Earth (which resulted in the corruption of hundreds of Gems and millennia of grief and pain for everyone involved) like a "game" that Pink was playing. There's something decidedly off-putting about her smiling, serene demeanor, especially when she's completely ignoring the wishes of others and deciding what's "best" for them regardless of their input.
  • Mother May-Eye from Teen Titans (2003), a Reality Warper with a side-order of mind-control, is by far the scariest of all the minor villains the Titans faced (not that it's an area of great competition).


Video Example(s):


Dolores Umbridge

Dolores Umbridge; synonymous with "poisoned honey."

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