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The Evils of Free Will

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"Our minds are born festering with sin. Some are so blighted, they will never find redemption. The mind must be pulled up from the roots. My children are without blame, without fault — and without choice. For what is the value of will when the spirit is found wanting?"
The Value of Choice, BioShock Infinite voxophone

There is so much suffering in the world, so much hate, inequality, ignorance. And the cause of all this evil is nothing more than humans themselves and their pesky free will. Hobbes Was Right. We are selfish, narcissistic, violent, readily tread on others to better ourselves, and while our love is selective, our Greed knows no bounds. Not to mention the chaos of everyone having different dental hygiene habits. When people are capable of willingly doing so much wrong, isn't removing that free will, by any means available, justified?

The solution may include reeducation camps, a police state, censorship, concentration camps for those who resist the previous—the usual. If there's a Mad Scientist or mutant around, Mass Hypnosis and Mind Control are also handy options to turn everyone (that's left) into obedient Gullible Lemmings for the Big Bad to rule. In extreme cases it will include the destruction of individuality and the creation of a Hive Mind.

A frequent element of Utopia Justifies the Means and a quintessential Evil Plan to Take Over the World. Frequently justified by the Well-Intentioned Extremist, Visionary Villain, or Knight Templar as being a small sacrifice. If it means the end of conflict, a quadruplication of the standard of living, the eradication of inequality, poverty, discrimination, hate... isn't it worth it?

The typical heroic rejoinder is: "I don't want to be told what to do." The hero may even agree at several points at the villain, acknowledging that Humans Are Flawed, they are more likely to gravitate to misuse their own free will for bad deeds. But if it was the flaw that makes them human, they have to take both good and bad. And if the villain decides to eliminate those evils, that doesn't instantly make them good... they'll just look like they lack endurance and faith towards humanity altogether, not wanting to believe the good potential of mankind no matter how small.

Of course, the villain will rarely mention why they deserve to be at the top of this new society as the lone person remaining with free will. If they do, expect them to justify it by saying they’re the best qualified to decide what's best for everyone else. Regardless, if they succeed, they will create an authoritarian Dystopia or become the Hive Queen (or King) of this new society. If, on the other hand, they are genuinely willing to become just another drone in the hive with someone (or something) else that they consider more "worthy" being in control, be VERY afraid...

If this process merges everyone into one being, see Assimilation Plot. If the villain actually succeeds in creating this world, it may become a Villain World and possibly a Crapsaccharine World and World of Silence. See also Happiness Is Mandatory (and its Brainwashed and Crazy variant Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul), Thoughtcrime, Dystopian Edict and Straw Nihilist. Inverted trope of Helping Would Be Killstealing. Hobbes Was Right could be used as another reason to justify this trope. Tends also to show that Order Is Not Good.

Contrast Rousseau Was Right where people are naturally good by their own free will, though if this trope does occur even in a setting like that, the villain advocating for the removal of "free will" is either a Wrong Genre Savvy or firmly believes in Dystopia Justifies the Means. Compare Freedom from Choice, which is value-neutral. Compare and contrast Brainwashing for the Greater Good.


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    Films — Animated 
  • In Trolls World Tour, it's revealed that there are six major tribes of Trolls, each based on a different genre of music: Pop, Rock, Techno, Funk, Classical, and Country. Big Bad Queen Barb, of the Rock Kingdom, genuinely believes that all of the Trolls should be united instead...the trouble is, she thinks that the different genres and freedom to choose are getting in the way of that goal. Barb thus plans to destroy all other music so that only Rock will exist, turning every single Troll into a "rock zombie" with no free will.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The entire premise of The Adjustment Bureau revolves around this, with a mysterious organization of supernatural beings manipulating human history in minor ways (making someone miss a bus, or lose their keys, ect.) For the Greater Good. Unlike most example, however, they're presented as a genuinely benevolent group, albeit staffed by a few Jerkasses. According to one agent, they did stop interfering in history, twice. The first time resulted in the Dark Ages, the second in two World Wars, the Holocaust, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. That said, at the end of the film, The Chairman decides to let the main characters make their own choices rather than following The Plan.
  • This seems to be part of Loki's plan in The Avengers (2012), though it's more or less rhetoric that he uses to justify his own selfish ambitions.
  • The primary objective of HYDRA in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is to force the world to reject free will by worrying them into giving it up for safety. To achieve this objective, they corrupted SHIELD from within and used its resources to shape the world into the era of paranoia it is today.
  • In the Mockumentary, The C.S.A., its stated that runaway slaves suffer from the mental malady of drapetomania, the "freedom illness", in which the afflicted believe that they don't want to be slaves. The Cartwright Institute for the Study of Freedom Illness promises its pupils to be qualified in a few months to treat drapetomania, "rascality," and other "Negro peculiarities". The medicine contrari is marketed to slave owners to as a way to treat drapetomania, though it may actually just drug the victims into mindless compliance. The final montage at the end of the film shows that Dr. Cartwright was an actual person who did cook up drapetomania as another reason to justify slavery.
  • In Dead Poets Society, Keating has the students start to walk at their own pace, which turns into a military march with Keating counting off the cadence. When Dean Nolan asks what Keating was doing, Keating says that it was an exercise to prove the evils of conformity, with Nolan reiterating that Welton's curriculum is tried and true, maintaining that the boys are too young to learn how to think for themselves:
    Keating: I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.
    Nolan: At these boys' age? Not on your life!
  • Though a paradise with no crime and high living standards, Demolition Man has the ultra-PC San Angeles, where everything that isn't good for you, including the traditional method of sex, is illegal. Simon Phoenix put it best to the new society's founder Raymond Cocteau: "You're an evil Mister Rogers."
  • Equilibrium fits this like a Tetragrammaton Cleric's tailored glove. The anti-emotion Dystopian Edict that powers the state of Libria can be boiled down to this trope. Of course, there's no more envy, hate, or war, but humans are just automatons and state-sanctioned murder of thought-criminals is endemic.
  • The Big Bad in The Faculty gives a speech during the climax telling Casey that he could live in a world in which he's no longer bullied, there are no more cliques, and he and all of his classmates get along with each other in perfect harmony... if he surrenders and lets the Puppeteer Parasite take him.
  • Fahrenheit 451 (2018): Beatty tells Montag people are just upset by the ideas that most books contain, especially philosophical ones, since they give conflicting opinions. His solution? One opinion. Better yet, none. Ironically, he uses the debate on free will as an example of one with such upsetting opinions.
  • The basis of the Community's philosophy in The Giver, which the Chief Elder makes clear near the ending.
    Chief Elder: When people have the power to choose, they choose wrong. Every single time.
  • The Invasion: This is discussed in the film, and actually implied to be true. After the aliens take over, they don't actually do anything bad (aside from the control itself, or lessened emotions), but created world peace and universal healthcare. The cure restores things to normal (i.e. all that goes away), and the film leaves it open whether this is really good.
  • The Matrix trilogy is either a subversion or inversion. The Architect, when he designed the Matrix following the Machine victory in the Robot War, did everything in his power to create a perfect fantasy world where every human would be happy, but the program failed because people didn't accept it. So did a second version which brought endless suffering instead. The Oracle realized that humans were hard-wired to desire choice instead of either happiness or hardship, which simply couldn't be eradicated from the program to work.
  • Serenity (2005) has The Alliance, or at least River Tam's interpretation of them, state "We're not telling people what to think. We're just trying to teach them how."
  • This is the antagonist's position in The World's End. They attempt their takeover through seemingly benevolent means, trying to keep the "Blanks" needed to a minimum while they teach and/or bring humanity to the "right" way, and have been doing so for decades; this being a dark comedy, they fail (or at least rationalize (until the heroes point it out)) that their "minimal" need, in one town alone, resulted in only four to six residents (of at least several thousand) not turned into Blanks.

  • Featured at the end of Breaking Benjamin's offical music video for "Dance With the Devil". The Devil, in the form of an old man (priest?), quotes John Milton's Paradise Lost:
    • "Free will; it is a bitch."
  • Devo's "Freedom of Choice" from Freedom of Choice.
    Freedom of choice is what you got, Freedom from Choice is what you want.
  • Nick Cave's song "O' Malley's Bar" from Murder Ballads is about a murderer who justifies his crimes by the fact that he has no free will.
    I blew a hole in Mrs. Richard Holmes
    And her husband stupidly stood up
    As he screamed, "You are an evil man"
    And I paused a while to wonder
    "If I have no free will then how can I
    Be morally culpable, I wonder"
  • A Perfect Circle's "Pet" (and its alternative version, "Counting The Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums"):
    Safe from pain, and truth, and choice, and other poison devils...
  • The Vocaloid song "Creative" is a tribute to Don't Hug Me I'm Scared and features lyrics that sum up this trope quite perfectly:
    "Stop all of your thinking
    And start listening to me!
    Trust me, you'll be set free
    With that, we'll think creatively!
    The TV is truly God
    Don't question me, it's not odd!
    Quit complaining, listen to your heart!
    It was WRONG from the start!"

  • Journey into Space: In The World in Peril, the conditioned Harding tells Jet that it is in Earth's interest to be conquered as all of humanity's societal problems will cease to exist when choice is removed from the equation. The Martian similarly argues that humans are inherently destructive and that conditioning them en masse will be beneficial.

  • The LDS Church believes that Lucifer planned to do this. While Jesus offered himself as an atoning sacrifice to allow those who sinned to be resurrected and have a chance of returning to Heavenly Father, Lucifer offered to ensure that everybody would get back to heaven in return for all of the power and glory. He planned to do this by taking away people's free will and prevent them from being able to sin. When his plan was rejected he and his supporters refused to back down and after the War in Heaven, were banished to the outer darkness, where they continue to try and upset the Plan of Salvation.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Bromion, a Lord of Order present in the official Champions setting, wants to destroy all life on earth because it is confusing and messy and most importantly chaotic.
  • In Exalted this is the motivation of She Who Lives In Her Name, the Principle of Hierarchy: to eradicate free will and everything else in the world that has no place in her ideal hierarchy. After their defeat and imprisonment, the other Yozis seem to be developing tendencies in this direction as well. The main exceptions are Isidoros, who as an incarnation of strength has to understand self-interest; the Ebon Dragon, who finds it more satisfying to shaft and corrupt people if they fall of their own will; and Malfeas, who has trouble grasping that people have it to begin with.
  • Mage: The Awakening: The Seers of the Throne have strains of this. Their goal is to keep the Sleepers from Awakening if they won't throw their lot in with their divine masters, the Exarchs... whose very goal in ascending was to make sure that magic was theirs and theirs alone. As they realise examination of the Fallen World can lead to revelations of the Supernal, and thus Awakening, they strive to make sure that humans don't question their lot in existence. Popular methods involve encouraging anti-scientific attitudes, encouraging highly dogmatic religious thought, and spreading enough paranoia to keep the Sleepers on their toes.
  • This is a very common trope for villainous White in Magic: The Gathering.
  • Pathfinder has this as part of the setting's backstory. The first gods to be born were twin brothers, the Chaotic Good Ihys and the Lawful Evil Asmodeus. They and the gods that followed created mortal life so that they would have servants and worshipers, but Ihys decided to give them free will as well. This horrified Asmodeus, who believed in obedience above all else, and he showed Ihys the destruction that the mortals had caused, causing Ihys a brief My God, What Have I Done? moment. Sarenrae, on the other hand, showed him that mortals were also capable of goodness and beauty, and he stood by his decision. A war between the gods resulted, and ended with the first ever act of treachery, when Asmodeus offered his hand in peace to Ihys, but murdered him with a spear when it was accepted. Sarenrae attacked him, and Asmodeus ran off with his tail between his legs, taking his followers to Hell.
  • The Melissidae bloodline in Vampire: The Requiem owes its creation to a Ventrue being impressed by a woman who believed this so strongly she tried to gather a cult in an attempt to form a human Hive Mind. The resultant vampires still believe it. The setting is not sympathetic to this ideology in the slightest, outright calling it a "perversion of humanity" even before an undead abomination is left as the sole driving will of the hive.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The last goal of the Necrons is to cut away the connection between the Warp and realspace. While this would prevent the Chaos Gods and the daemons from interacting with the mortal world, it would also prevent interstellar travel and communication, and destroy the souls of all sentient beings, depriving them of their free will and turning them to cattle for the Necrons' C'tan stargods.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hatoful Boyfriend: The King of the Holiday Star rules it as a combination of this and an Assimilation Plot. He talks about it as if it's this trope, and when a newcomer arrives and before they inevitably upset him by wanting to leave or disagreeing, it might be.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius:
    • Played for Laughs. Klaus should have known what sort of answer he will get from DuPree.
    • On a more serious note, this appears to be Lucrezia's belief. She claims (key word: claims) to want peace, but every other method has failed, so she's resorting to mind control. She promises that if Klaus joins with her, they can try his way first (which is all about loyalty and the greater good backed by overwhelming force), but she fails to mention that the primary reason his way didn't work is because she was mind-controlling everyone into fighting him.
  • The Legion from MSF High play with this trope. The Legion war ended specifically because the Legion realised they disagreed with this concept, but seemed to be using it.
  • In Planescape Survival Guide, the original conflict of the creator gods stems from the argument of allowing free will into the "perfect", ordered Multiverse.
  • Schlock Mercenary works with this concept via nigh-omnipotent ship AI Petey. On the one hand, he's running around grabbing up villain groups and conscripting them into positions trying to help out innocents and stop bigger villains (kinda reminiscent of The Stainless Steel Rat). On the other hand, he points out that he wants to preserve free will, and in service to that ideal is refusing to take certain steps that would be more efficient than his current methods. He even talks this over with the strip's resident moralist, Theo Fobius.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Megatron the Predacon came to a rather similar conclusion somewhere between the end of Beast Wars and the beginning of Beast Machines.
  • Hazbin Hotel: Lucifer gifted humanity free will and inadvertently allowed evil to creep into the world as a result. He's suitably depressed about how many people abuse his gift to sin.
  • Mega Man: Fully Charged: Hypno Woman was originally a guidance counselor at the local school until she became overwhelmed by trying to solve everyone's problems. Then she decide the only viable solution was hypnotizing everyone to being absolutely happy all the time and stop them from thinking ever again.
  • In Rick and Morty, Unity defends her enslavement of a planet by saying that it was torn apart by war and she's made productive citizens out of everyone. After getting a glimpse of what the planet is like without her influence Summer, who had been expecting free will to involve choices like "picking a phone plan" rather than the re-ignition of a brutal race war based on nipple shape, concludes that Unity is great and her grandfather is a terrible influence on her (making her lose control of people or use them to fulfill his ridiculous sexual fantasies).
  • In The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" story "Time and Punishment", the first alternate timeline Homer arrives in has Ned Flanders ruling the world like this. Those who resist are taken for "Re-Neducation".
    Flanders: Now, 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!
  • Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters: The ultimate goal of the villainous Tech Men is to make Charter City more peaceful by brainwashing the entire populace.
  • White Diamond from Steven Universe believes herself to be the perfect being, and thus when she uses her assimilating Eye Beams on a gem, turning them into literal extensions of herself, she believes she is doing them a service by removing their flaws.

Our Glorious Leader wishes you to enjoy and enhance this page of your own free will. Or Else.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The End Of I


C&C: Yuri's Revenge

In a subliminal broadcast, the psychic Yuri brainwashes his viewers into serving him on the belief that only through his will alone can they be saved from the devastation brought by the war between the Allies and the Soviets.

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Main / TheEvilsOfFreeWill

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