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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 & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Shadow Mei is Made of Evil, but also a copy of someone who was very kind and cheerful. As a result, they're an upbeat Perpetual Smiler even while threatening and beating foe and friend alike.
  • In Dear Brother, Fukiko is incredibly good at saying something in the sweetest voice and then totally turning it around: a great example is how, in the anime, she invites Aya to the Sorority clubhouse, greets her politely... and then gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and bans her permanently from there.
  • Ibitsu: Most of the Strange Lolita's lines are basically typical Little Sister Heroine lines, only coming from the mouth of a possessive Yandere stalker and Serial Killer.
  • Nui Harime of Kill la Kill is a master at this, never dropping her bright smile and cutesy mannerisms as she does terrible things to people. Until her Villainous Breakdown, anyway.
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, Kyoko is telling the stories of Rei's upcoming opponents as if she actually cares. However, her real intent is to lead Rei to his downfall out of her own interests.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Addams Family: 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 fair game. 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 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.
  • 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, the movie'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.

  • It's a Running Gag in the Discworld series that the more icily polite two witches are to each other, the more daggers there are underneath. Granny Weatherwax and Mrs Earwig are prime examples, with Mrs Earwig even using the phrase "I'm telling you this as a friend", which nobody remotely friendly would use. On the other hand, Granny and Nanny Ogg are friends, so when they disagree about something, they just have a blazing row.
  • Vidia from Disney Fairies has a Verbal Tic of referring to everyone with terms like "darling" and "dear" despite being a jerk.
  • Momo from The Executioner and Her Way of Life tends to be rude, if not outright antagonistic, to anyone who isn't Menou, but she tends not to drop her veil of politeness or cutesy way of speaking even when insulting people. This is best demonstrated when she calls Ashuna "little princess" in a way that makes it very clear that she's being condescending towards her (but Ashuna still likes it and insists on having Momo keep referring to her that way).
  • Federation of the Hub: In "Novice", Telzey Amberdon's Aunt Halet cloaks her malicious intent behind a pleasant façade.
  • Two short Goosebumps stories veer into this territory. The first, "Please Don't Feed the Bears" (from Still More Tales to Give You Goosebumps), 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" (from More & More & More Tales to Give You Goosebumps), is about an evil videotape that turns people into the diabetes-inducing Christmas-themed heroine Susie Snowflake.
  • 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!
  • The Hunger Games: Effie Trinket's character in the first novel. She's undergone some Character Development by the second one.
  • Hurog: 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.
  • The Just William stories have William's archenemy Hubert Lane, who oozes a kind of offensive, oily, condescending politeness.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • Alice in Borderland:
    • In the Jack of Hearts game, there's Urumi, a cute and friendly girl-next-door type who charms the more diffident players into joining her. And her cheerful demeanor rarely falters. Even as she plots to kill a particular player in every round, everyone on her side sticks with her (to a point).
    • The Queen of Hearts herself. She presents herself as lovingly as humanly possible, but screws with her opponents' minds rather than using violence to make them want to quit. After all, she still has to try to win.
  • 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 makes insulting comments to Debra while pretending to give friendly advice... though Debra increasingly begins employing it as well. However, when it comes to her interactions with Ray, Debra delivers the malice sugar-free. In later seasons, it isn't just Debra who gets this treatment — everyone Marie meets is subject to her "polite" criticism. When she and Frank briefly move into a retirement community, the woman running the place comments that Marie has a habit of saying things that sound like compliments but are really personal attacks.
  • Fargo: In Season 2, Mike Milligan 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 is 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.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: In the 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.
  • In 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 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.
  • V (2009): Anna 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.
  • Yellowjackets: Jackie learns that her BFF Shauna slept with Jackie's boyfriend and is pregnant. Instead of calling out Shauna for her actions and lies, Jackie outs Shauna's pregnancy to the group but stops them from asking too many questions. Later, she tells Shauna that she did it for Shauna's sake and the baby's, finishing with "This is not a good time to be keeping secrets."

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Thebaid: Juno's objection to Jupiter is reverent, sure, yet it's 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 lonely old men 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 how one of their nephews believes he is Teddy Roosevelt. Subverted with another one of their nephews, who is a malicious murderer.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

  • Batman: Wayne Family Adventures: In "Just Desserts", Margie (Bruce's nemesis on the PTA) sets Bruce up to bring the wrong items to a class party just so she can look good for "saving the day" with her cupcakes and mockingly blesses his heart for making the attempt. He strikes back by paying a brigade of food trucks to give everyone free ice cream.

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 


Dolores Umbridge

Dolores Umbridge; synonymous with "poisoned honey."

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