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Villain with Good Publicity

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Lucky for the mayor that nobody seems to be listening to him either.
"Villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well-camouflaged."
Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Drumhead"

A Villain with Good Publicity is one of the most frustrating opponents a hero can ever face. On the surface, this villain works within the system and commands a great deal of respect from the average citizen, but behind the scenes, conducts all manners of nastiness. Even the heroes (or the audience!) may be fooled until The Reveal, unaware that The Man Behind the Man is someone so publicly trusted.

Should the heroes know the truth, they're still stymied by the fact that no one else does. Attempts to bust the villain will be met with harassment lawsuits, breaking & entering or assault charges, or bad press. The heroes may even be falsely painted as villains in the public eye. (Some heroes embrace this image and become the Lovable Rogue or the Anti-Hero.) Should the heroes turn up actual evidence that something is up, it'll probably be ripped up by the villain's crack legal team (which Villains With Good Publicity always have), or spun to look like honest behavior.

The Villain With Good Publicity is very good at getting the hero (or other innocents who get too close to the truth) accused of criminal activity. Then again, heroics are 90% based on breaking and entering, stalking, trespassing, assault, battery, and espionage anyway, so they may have a point there.

Worthy Opponents, Enigmatic Minions, Punch Clock Villains and other types of sympathetic antagonists often find themselves working for the well-liked villain, unaware of what their boss is really up to.

In an episodic series, a Villain With Good Publicity is a good way to preserve the status quo; the best the hero can hope to do is foil a particular plot, not bust the actual villain. Although not always legally invincible, often the only way to defeat this foe permanently is to kill them. Heroes in this situation will frequently try to Trash Talk the villain, or tell them they won't get away with it.

If the heroes are really unlucky, they're up against the entire government (or church, depending on the setting). The villain might also be a single person within the government, a corporation head or other public figure with a good PR department, or a religion engineered for this purpose. There's also a good chance that the villain is using copious amounts of bribery to keep their image clean. If things get even worse, the people whom the hero tries to protect will actively assist the villain against the heroes.

This villain's favored weapon is the Propaganda Machine. Or Bread and Circuses.

This villain may be portrayed as a hero (or the hero), and may even think of themself as the hero. Their villainous acts might even be portrayed as heroic, maybe by using Negatives as a Positive. Alternative Character Interpretation may lead to viewing a story's hero as a Villain With Good Publicity. If this villain's been recognized as a good man for so long that they slowly begin to forget about being evil in the first place, it can lead into Becoming the Mask.

If you need to take down a Villain With Good Publicity, send in a Cowboy Cop, Knight in Sour Armor, or anyone else who's prepared to play dirty for the greater good — or perhaps organize an Engineered Public Confession to out them as a Straw Hypocrite. The Ideal Hero and other idealistic heroes, by contrast, have no idea how to deal with these guys. Either way, any hero attempting to take one of these guys on can end up as a Hero with Bad Publicity. A Guile Hero might have some luck setting up an Involuntary Charity Donation to deprive the villain of assets while being unable to retaliate without compromising their good publicity.

Additionally, certain opportunists may take advantage of the villain's pristine reputation to extort them for their personal gain. Depending on how the villain operates, this may end with the extortionist being given "go away money" or whatever they were trying to obtain, or it may end with the extortionist being silenced.

Compare with Falsely Reformed Villain, where a villain puts on short-term pretense of reform. Contrast with most Evil Overlords and Card Carrying Villains who make no attempt to hide their villainy, and the Ancient Conspiracy, which hides its entire existence. The exact opposite is a villain who has a 0% Approval Rating, and a more extreme version is the Devil in Plain Sight (whom no one cares about one way or the other). Can be a form of No Hero to His Valet. Greenwashed Villainy is a common form of this.

In some settings, the villain may actually have a plausible case for being considered a (sorta) good guy. If so, expect the setting to lean towards the "cynical" end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. May use Too Funny to Be Evil as an affable PR tactic. Villains who win over the fans are Rooting for the Empire or Draco in Leather Pants.

This trope is much more common in real life than Card-Carrying Villainy. However, as an "Evil Trope", examples would quickly devolve into complaining, so No Real Life Examples, Please!



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    Anime & Manga 
  • "Friend" from 20th Century Boys. Imagine if the Church of Happyology expanded into a political party and took over Japan and effectively made it into North Korea. Not just that — Imagine the person responsible for killing billions of people with a killer virus being religiously praised as world leader.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Willy Tybur, a charismatic noble who seems to be popular amongst politicians and diplomats from all over. He's is the true leader of the Kingdom of Marley and plans on wiping out every Eldian on the planet by making the rest of the world unite together and declare war on Paradis Island, the Eldia Empire's last stronghold. Of course, given that the series falls under Grey-and-Gray Morality and Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters, his status as a villain is subjective.
    • Eren Yeager is lauded by the Paradis civilians for opposing the government and launching a bold assault on Marley. He has a powerful faction dedicated to installing him as the supreme leader of Eldia. This goes even further when Eren declares his true goal of exterminating life outside Paradis. Even as his friends in the Survey Corps prepare to turn against his genocide, they struggle with the weight of turning against their friend and wonder if his actions are the only way to keep Paradis safe.
  • Battle Angel Alita: Vice Chairman Aga Mbadi acquired an enormous capital in public approval as Captain Mbadi, Protector of Justice, during the Terraforming Wars two centuries back, and still gets interest from it. Subverted in that not only doesn't he try to hide his agenda, the whole Solar System happily supports it. While the heroes do enjoy popular support, they get it mostly for being Lovable Rogues and displaying insane sporting feats, not for their ideas, which most of the population find downright weird. It helps that most of humanity has a chip in their brains that make them unable to disagree with him, no matter how extreme his actions are.
  • Griffith from Berserk following his rebirth reforms the Band of the Hawk into an unstoppable mercenary army composed of humans and demons, and is the only group capable of pushing back the invading Kushan army. His victories lead to more good publicity and net him the hand of Princess Charlotte and the blessing of the Pontiff after some prophetic dreams. Eventually, he uses magic to build Falconia, the only city capable of protecting humans from all the unfriendly demons in the world. What the majority doesn't know is that Griffith gained the power to control his demon army by sacrificing his friends to demons, and is the one responsible for the Pontiff's visions.
  • Bleach has Aizen, who is not only trusted but appears to be loved by many, if not most, in Soul Society. This guy has been sneakily plotting for over a century, and apparently arranged things so that everyone who discovered his evil plan was banished from Soul Society before they could reveal him.
  • Blood+ has a few examples:
  • In the anime version of Chrono Crusade, Aion becomes this when he brainwashes and controls the Holy Maiden, Rosette Christopher. Because she heals and takes care of the people, they begin to believe that the Maiden and anyone related to her are chosen by God to lead them. Aion uses this to his advantage and cultivates his followers into a cult, who attack Chrono and the Order.
  • Code Geass:
    • The Britannian administration of "Area 11" and, by extension, the Emperor himself, at least among the Britannian populace. Of course, this is probably to be expected given the xenophobic level of national pride displayed by many citizens.
    • Another example would be Clovis who, during his ridiculously short screen time, is seemingly well-received, by the Britanians anyway. He was very media savvy if nothing else.
    • The only people who seem to care in-series are Nunnally, Euphemia, and Cornelia. And even Euphemia, who cares greatly for Clovis, is willing to completely forget about him in light of what Clovis actually did — which is implied to be not as important as revenge/justice — and stop Lelouch from hanging out with those naughty friends of his and beating up their mutual sister. Of course, considering the fact that Clovis committing mass murder on the inhabitants of the ghetto is blamed on those same people, his publicity is just standard Britannian policy. The massive turnout for his funeral IS a requirement for all school-goers.
    • Taken to extremes with Schneizel, who always keeps up a good generous front to those he defeats, while still walking away having gained something more important.
  • Death Note: Light is a popular, intelligent, charming ace son of the police chief, revered and admired by the people around him. He also happens to be a batshit crazy Serial Killer who goes by the name of Kira. In spite of being a mass-murdering vigilante, he gradually gains more and more public support, admired by many for reducing crime rates through fear and power as if he were some deity smiting the wicked (which happens to be exactly how he sees himself). During the Time Skip, entire nations announce that they endorse Kira.
  • Doraemon Film Series:
    • Neko-jara from Doraemon: Nobita in the Wan-Nyan Spacetime Odyssey runs the largest amusement park in the country and appears to be a wealthy philantropist and important figure of authority on the surface. But his amusement park is a front for his secret projects to hijack the kingdom's Noradium supply and leave everyone to die in an inevitable cataclysm, besides having anyone who knew his secrets kept as his prisoners.
    • The villains of Doraemon: Nobita and The Space Heroes are the Space Partners, who appears to be space entrepreneurs intending to open a theme park on Planet Pokkoru, in order to improve the planet's economy and livelihood, making themselves powerful and influential community leaders in the process. In secret, their underground base beneath the park is siphoning energy from Planet Pokkoru's core, which could lead to an Earth-Shattering Kaboom once it's completely drained.
  • In the Dragon Ball Super anime, it's revealed that Frost is a Space Pirate like Freeza, but Frost "saves" planets from wars he started himself to get good publicity in his universe. He then buys the war-torn planets to fix them up and sell them for maximum profit. And nobody saw through him until Jaco sees him cheating during his fights with Goku and Piccolo. Beerus also lampshades that it's pretty much the exact same racket as what Freeza pulls, but Freeza doesn't bother with the nice facade.
  • Fabricant 100: Roxy is an acclaimed theater singer, but unbeknownst to the public she's a Fabricant's accomplice who charms people to suicide.
  • In Fairy Tail, the mysterious Emperor Spriggan is feared in Ishgar as the ruthless man of war who conquered an entire continent and merged its 700+ magic guilds into a superpower. In the Albareth Empire itself, he is beloved by his subjects and touted as a Reasonable Authority Figure who keeps his more Hot-Blooded subordinates in line. And most of them have no idea that Spriggan is actually Black Mage Zeref using an alias or that he thinks of them as game pieces (which is why his Curse doesn't activate around them). And the ones that do know don't care because they have that much respect for his power and faith in his ability to lead.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • The Homunculus Wrath's public identity is Führer King Bradley, the leader of all Amestris, as revealed in a Wham Episode during his battle with Greed. The difference between the persona he puts on that the people believe and who he is underneath it all is both vast and amazing. But the real kicker is that his true nature is known to the entire military high command, who are knowingly collaborating with the enigmatic "Father" and his homunculi, and can be found discussing, among other things, possible "human sacrifices". Wrath's public persona is adored by the people of Amestris, so much so that at the end of the series the heroes realize they can't expose his crimes without causing a mass panic. Instead, they pawn them off on the surviving members of Central Command and claim Bradley was killed trying to stop them.
    • Similarly, Pride is posing as the Fuhrer's son and pretends to view Edward as his role model.
    • There's also Father Cornello, who convinces everyone that he's a holy man when he's really a fraud out for power. Edward exposes him using an Engineered Public Confession, but even after this, once the Elrics leave the city, Envy uses his shapeshifting powers to impersonate Cornello, successfully regaining enough followers to plunge the city into civil war, a perfect pretext for Amestrian military intervention.
  • Galaxy Express 999: Virtually every world in two galaxies sees the Machine Empire as the wave of the future. Even the protagonist, who watched his own mother being brutally gunned down by Machine-Humans, simply concludes that if he'd been a Machine-Human himself, he would have been powerful enough to stop them.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man has become a self-propelled pop culture phenomenon in Japan in 2030.
  • The Claw from GUN×SWORD has a positively ridiculous amount of this, and most viewers will probably have to keep reminding themselves that this guy has killed two women in cold blood and his group is behind every evil thing seen throughout the series. This is even crazier when you realize how he got all this support: He was merely a really nice guy who was there for people who needed him!
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The rest of the Earth Sphere may view Gihren Zabi as an evil despot, but within Zeon he's very popular thanks to his rousing speeches, skill at manipulating the masses and Propaganda Machine. His younger brother Garma is this as well, although for him it's because he's a legitimately nice person. When Garma dies, Gihren wastes no time turning it to his advantage by using it to rally support for Zeon's war effort.
    • Muruta Azrael from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is all-but-worshipped by the EA generals, and has the Earth's rulers in his pocket. His successor, Lord Djibril, is regarded as a pale shadow of him, primarily because he has none of his clout (well, that and his ridiculous choice of clothing).
    • Chairman Durandal in Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny is another good example, his smooth-talking ways and self-positioning as a liberator from the evil Earth Alliance gives him great popularity both in PLANT and on Earth. Though it starts to unravel when Lacus Clyne appears on a worldwide broadcast publicly denouncing him, and at the same time exposing that he'd been using a body double to impersonate her.
    • In Season 2 of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Rustal Elion buys himself some good publicity at the end when he crushes Tekkadan and uses his crooked billionaire ally's media connections to make himself out to be the good guy and Tekkadan the villains. He goes on to bolster this by implementing reforms to Gjallarhorn that are really just a way of centralizing power to himself, but nonetheless make him go down as the man who democratically reformed the organization, and by doing gestures such as giving Mars its independence and co-signing a treaty banning Child Soldiers, both of which gave him a good reputation while not having drawbacks in the slightest for himself.
  • After a time jump, the main character of Guyver wakes up to find that the villainous organization Chronos has taken over the world...and the Guyver is a villain.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya gives us a milder version of this in the form of Asakura Ryoko, who is a beloved class representative that cares about everyone and is very sweet and personable. She was also sweet and personable when she tried to turn Kyon into meaty chunks to get Haruhi to react. Despite this, everyone in the class — except Kyon — is saddened by her sudden "move" to Canada. This also applies to the AU, where she's still just as popular, and hating her just cements Kyon's assumed insanity to the rest of his classmates.
  • In Heavy Object Skuld Silent-Third appears to be a harmless girl but is in fact a violently insane Serial Killer who murders civilians, enemies, and her fellow soldiers alike. However, she is skilled enough as an Elite that the higher-ups are willing to allow for a higher rate of "attrition" in her unit. Between them suppressing stories that expose her true character and Skuld's tendency to kill journalists who get too close, Skuld is widely seen as a benevolent, holy maiden.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run: Despite being a very morally ambiguous character who's done more than a few despicable acts during his tenure, President Funny Valentinne manages to be incredibly popular among the American population due to his amazing speaking skills and the fact that he has a series of scars on his back in the design of the American flag. At one point, he's even able to briefly convince Johnny Joestar about the justness of his cause.
    • Stone Ocean: Doubles as Hero with Bad Publicity. Jolyne Cujoh is set up and framed for a much worse crime than she actually commits, landing her in a maximum security prison where she's constantly under scrutiny. Enrico Pucci, the man responsible, is the prison's chaplain. This earns him the respect and admiration of all the guards who abuse her, not to mention free reign to go where he pleases and see whomever he wishes—even requesting security tapes. His repeated attempts to eliminate her only make her reputation worse, as trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes.
  • A mild example, but Manami from Life (2002) is one of the most popular girls in school but also becomes an antagonist.
  • Kaitou Kid in Magic Kaito and Case Closed, a Phantom Thief with an enormous fan following; huge crowds of people often show up to his heists to cheer him on, much to the police's displeasure. He even takes advantage of this to pull his tricks; he will appear next to his target in his Kaitou Kid disguise, then throw a smoke bomb and quick-change into a common bystander and meld into his crowd of admirers so the police can't find him.
  • Maria no Danzai
    • Nozomu Okaya is both the vilest of all the bullies and one of the most popular students in the school.
    • Played straight, but later subverted. Kumiru Shikimi puts up the façade of being a perky and fun-loving high school girl... but since she's spent years having transactional relationships at best with her classmates, no one really likes her or trusts her word anymore. Even when she framed Kiritaka for stealing her gym clothes two years ago, he noted that few of their classmates believed her claims — they were just afraid of ending up the next victims if they called her out. Fast forward to the present day, and her latest claims that there's a pervert in class are met with apathy and accusations of trying her old tricks.
  • Hattori in Nabari no Ou is a popular political critic in front of the world, earning many fans (including Miharu's grandma) because of his charisma. He's not so nice behind the scenes, though...
  • One Piece:
    • The first to do this was Captain Kuro, who first appears as Kaya's loyal, if stuffy, butler Klahadore. As he tells his subordinate Django, the three years he spent Kaya's employ was to build up a good reputation, so that when Kaya dies in the Black Cat Pirates' raid, no one in the village will think twice about Kaya leaving him her fortune- provided Django hypnotizes her into making said will before dying, anyway.
    • Sir Crocodile. Suave, amiable casino-owner by day, devious mastermind by night.
    • This is a theme in the Punk Hazard arc as two separate villains get this treatment. The primary Arc Villain, Caesar Clown, has devoted followers that call him Master, but whom he sees as mere experiment fodder. The second is Marine Vice-Admiral Vergo, who puts up the front of A Father to His Men but is revealed to be in league with the mysterious "Joker." Oddly enough, the character in this arc with the worst reputation actually chooses to ally with the Straw Hats.
    • Donquixote Doflamingo to Dressrosa. To the public, he is a benevolent rightful king who rescued the country from the previous ruler who apparently went insane one day and started indiscriminately killing civilians, and ushered in a new age of peace, wealth, and prosperity. Behind the scenes though, he is a bloodthirsty pirate and underworld crime lord who usurped the throne by using his string powers to puppet the king and his army into committing atrocities. He uses his subordinate, Sugar's ability to turn any troublemakers, criminals, and opponents into subservient toys and mindwipe any memories of them from the world. His approval rating literally falls to 0 once Usopp defeats Sugar and everyone connects the missing pieces, and find out Doflamingo was the one who destroyed the nation in the first place.
    • Kurozumi Orochi to Wano, of the Written by the Winners variety. Orochi became the shogun usurping it from the Kozuki clan, with the help of the Animal Kingdom Pirates; and thanks to propaganda taught even at school, he's believed to be a hero, while the members of the Kozuki clan are considered enemies of the country. This is only the case in the Flower Capital though, while the rest of the inhabitants despise him for having turned Wano into a wasteland.
    • Also the World Government, though this is less having good publicity and more that they cover up anything that could bring them bad publicity. As the story progresses, however, the World Government's ability to cover up their most embarrassing mistakes begins to falter, to the point that the Five Elders acknowledge a "cleansing" may be in order.
  • Overlord (2012):
    • Ainz wants to be this to avoid antagonizing any fellow Yggdrasil players who may have also ended up in the New World as well as anyone else who might be powerful enough to actually defeat him. He has succeeded in this regard with Carne Village, who revere him as their savior and benefactor for very good reasons: he saved them from being massacred by the Sunlight Scripture, he provided Enri with the Horns of the Goblin General that summoned very helpful goblin soldiers, and he also provided them golems to help with construction. He is also this in the Re-Estize Kingdom through his "Momon" adventurer guise, having duped just about everyone in the New World into believing he is humanity's greatest champion, and in the Holy Kingdom, where after saving them from a demihuman invasion (which he engineered in the first place) there is now a significant number of people joining a cult dedicated to him.
    • Princess Reneer the "Golden Princess" is beloved by the Kingdom for being a kind and gentle monarch who pushes for reforms such as abolishing the slave trade. She's actually a very disturbed and intelligent Broken Bird due to growing up feared and hated by everyone around her who thought she was too smart for her own good. She is in truth a psychopath who doesn't really care about anyone else but Climb, the first person to see her as a human. Her idea of "love" is to chain up Climb and use him as her Sex Slave. It's telling that Demiurge of all people considers her to be the only person of interest in the Kingdom.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • First off, Giovanni: to the public, he's the gym leader of Viridian City, but when nobody's looking, he's The Don of Team Rocket. This didn't factor too much in the plot, as Ash and his friends (including another gym leader) ended up accidentally exposing him well before they met each other in person, but it apparently worked, and fans who didn't play the original games were surely surprised of seeing the mysterious Boss of Team Rocket as a gym leader.
    • In a more traditional example, Cyrus appeared multiple times as a legitimate businessman before being revealed as the Big Bad of the Diamond & Pearl series.
    • Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions gives us Grings Kodai, a wealthy philanthropist who is in reality The Sociopath. He kidnaps a baby Pokemon to force its mother to do his bidding, he carries out Cold-Blooded Torture on said baby, and then kills the mother. Fortunately, she gets better. His defeat comes with a Humiliation Conga in which his crimes are broadcast for all to see.
  • Rue/Kraehe in Princess Tutu. She's the school's Prima Ballerina (and was a genuinely decent person before her Cynicism Catalyst), so nobody suspects that she would want to hurt her dreamy boyfriend. Or that she would actually turn him evil. She uses this to her advantage after Fakir has his Jerk-Face Turn.
  • Saki: Teru is featured in mahjong magazines, depicted with a smile and a generic ambitious quote. The effects of this are felt in the first part of the nationals, when a reporter tells another that Nodoka is the only Kiyosumi player worth noting, meaning that people seem to have bought into Teru's lie that she didn't have a sister. While Teru indeed disowned Saki, it never really made it to the news in the main series. Saki only hears about being disowned when Mihoko mentions asking Nishida about Teru and Saki's relationship during Mihoko's own interview.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei gives us Mayo Mitama, a villain with "bad bad" publicity. In that she's a Devil in Plain Sight with the Face of a Thug, but since people are afraid of being accused of being prejudiced and judging her by appearances, they always assume she's innocent. Her name in Japanese, Mitama Mayo, translates to "Exactly what she looks like."
  • From Slayers, Rezo the Red Priest. Upheld far and wide as a powerful do-gooder of nearly messianic proportions, even by his own underlings, nearly every undertaking of his is actually a cover for experiments to cure his blindness, most of which involve scores of unwitting Innocent Bystanders. Some indications in-story point to the possibility that he's a Fallen Hero who long ago fully lived up to his reputation, only resorting to such extreme measures after centuries of unknowing influence from a dead god since birth.
  • Snow White with the Red Hair: Before murdering his father and using his supposed last words as a reason to change his stance on the subject, Touka Bergatt presented himself as the more calm and rational member of the family, who did not take any umbrage with the Royal family taking most of the family's lands from them due to their abuse of their subjects. He managed to keep his old allies with his clever emotional manipulation due to the "tragic" death while gaining his old opponents in a plot he'd been working on from a young age, as he is furious his rightful "possessions" (both the land and the people) were taken from him.
  • Sonic X at one point does this with Eggman, when he claims to have blocked the sun by accident when his "Eggmoon" stops working when he really uses it as an excuse to be a hero and sell his lights for income. His robot lackeys, meanwhile, switch sides more often than football supporters. With the aforementioned sun-blocking via his Eggmoon, Sonic goes about destroying Eggman's towers, and even Sonic's friends perceive him to be the villain until Sonic explicitly tells everybody that the Eggmoon couldn't block out the sun all the time unless Eggman was moving it by himself.
  • Medusa Gorgon in Soul Eater is a well-respected nurse liked by everyone at first, even admired by the heroine, Maka. However, when she is discovered to be a villain, Maka hates her more than anyone else.
  • Tiger & Bunny: Lunatic is a mysterious NEXT who only goes after murderers and criminals and kills them to atone for their sins. After years of seeing idealistic, squeaky clean heroes, fans of HeroTV love him. But after the regular heroes defeat Ouroboros, his popularity is short-lived,
  • Tokyo Ghoul: A lot of the major villains are this, adding to the Crapsack World setting.
  • Yaiba: Onimaru is a demon lord who conquered the whole of Japan by brainwashing the ministers and destroying those who rebelled against him with a huge Wave-Motion Gun from Mount Fuji. Yet the Japanese people seen around aren't too troubled by that.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Seto Kaiba counts as this, mostly in the Toei series and the original manga. Kids adore him and he does everything he can to give to them. However, when Yugi and his friends come into his life, he develops a homicidal rage towards them. He gets better, though.
    • Zigzagged with Kaiba's adoptive father Gozaburo. Originally, he was a very public figure who was thought of as a charitable philanthropist, which was technically the truth, but it was an act to gain PR while he made money from war profiteering. Seto taking over his company caused him to kill himself, where presumably his deeds were exposed.
  • Rex Goodwin in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s. Most residents of Neo Domino saw him as the benign head of Security (meaning he was the head of city government, more or less) and even acted as a benign mentor to the heroes; even some of them started to doubt that his intentions were anything but just until his true plan was revealed at the Season Finale.
  • Mr. Heartland from Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. Technically only The Dragon to the actual villain, he presents a benevolent, generous, and friendly image while serving as the mayor of Heartland, causing nobody to suspect his true motives.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: In "Pastoral", TransGene not only are acquitted of all charges after Roustabout accused them of kidnapping him and others and subjecting them to experiments (of which only he escaped with his life), they get Roustabout convicted of breaking and entering.
  • Batman:
    • Hush is busy impersonating Bruce Wayne when Gotham City Sirens rolls around, and he has managed to lure Harley Quinn to a secluded spot on the roof of a skyscraper, prepared to act horrified and shocked when she completely falls off of her own volition, not in any way pushed by anybody standing near her, when the entire affair is interrupted by an attack of The Joker's mooks. Now, he has the option of gunning down Harley (and Poison Ivy and Catwoman) in the back as they flee and claiming self-defense, or gunning down the attacking zeppelin and becoming an even bigger hero and celebrity to Gotham. He starts gunning the blimp.
    • The animated version of Selina Kyle is an outspoken animal rights activist, and when she was given a suspended sentence at her trial, the assembled press and citizenry cheered her (possibly because in her previous appearance she had helped Batman stop a bioweapon attack on Gotham before he arrested her — a major part of why the judge was willing to grant her probation — and thus could be seen as a hero).
    • The Penguin, as mayor of Gotham City (in The Batman Adventures), has been known to crack down on "vigilantism" (read: Batman). Also sometimes depicts himself as a "reformed legitimate businessman" while actually a crime boss attempting to take over half of Gotham, though nowadays he seems to truly be reformed (it won't last, it never does).
    • In the same series, Bane becomes a hero to the homeless children of Gotham, all the while viewing them only as expendable soldiers. The children themselves do not realize his evil intentions and help him in his capers, because he was nice to them when no one else was.
    • The Riddler has ascended to the high ranks of Gotham society because of his cunning manipulation of the media, and savored the role as Gotham's new "darling detective". Despite his numerous counts of larceny, complete disregard for human life, and the occasional murders of past days, his well-trained media circuits embrace him for his Sherlock Holmes-like method of deduction and flamboyant sense of personal theatrics. Outwitting the Gotham populace had never been so easy.
  • The Reach, the aliens who created the scarab that empowers Blue Beetle, present themselves as benevolent visitors while subverting the populace from within with their Scarab Infiltrators. They do this because, despite their advanced technology, they lack the manpower needed to wage full-scale war with any planet that is worth their interest.
  • Garth Ennis' The Boys portrays the majority of costumed supers as sociopaths, narcissists, perverts, and/or child molesters behind closed doors while being adored by the public eye.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Season 8, vampires and the supernatural end up public knowledge thanks to Harmony being caught on camera biting Andy Dick. Harmony uses it to her advantage to spin vampires as innocent victims, and Slayers as a speciesist group preying on them, capitalized by the fact that many humans experienced a thrill when bitten by vampires; it's to the extent that in early Season 9, Buffy gets arrested by the San Francisco Police Department for dusting one. As Seasons 9 and 10 go on, public opinion against vampires begins to shift, eventually leading to the cops starting a supernatural crimes unit.
  • Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom wavers between this and 0% Approval Rating within Latveria. At least the citizens prefer him to any other ruler they've had, and even most members of the super-hero community will admit he's better than the alternative. As head of state, he enjoys diplomatic immunity during his official visits to the States. On his "unofficial" visits, however...
  • In Flashpoint (1999), Vandal Savage is completely trusted by Barry and the public at large, and it takes a lot of effort to prove he had evil designs on the world.
  • The Ghost Rider villain Deathwatch, as his alter ego Stephan Lords, was a benevolent and generous businessman. He blamed Ghost Rider for the destruction of a homeless shelter that he built underneath one of his office buildings and the deaths of the people inside it — when Deathwatch himself had been planning to use them as a food source to fuel his hunger for the pain of others.
  • Cobra from G.I. Joe. In the Marvel series, they got their own country via diplomacy. In the IDW series, they got a rare burst of good publicity by handing out emergency supplies. They killed the Guardsmen who had them, and Cobra did cause the emergency in the first place...
  • Hardware (1993): Edwin Alva is the leader of an international criminal organization but is viewed by the public as a wealthy and influential philanthropist.
  • Superman:
    • Lex Luthor got himself elected president and proceeded to cause problems for the Justice League. Well before that, he was a classic Teflon-coated Corrupt Corporate Executive, on which absolutely nothing illegal could ever be pinned, no matter how involved he was.
    • In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Lex Luthor is a murderous, megalomaniac, heartless, xenophobic Manipulative Bastard. And yet he is widely regarded as a selfless and brilliant philanthropist, Supergirl thinks he is a very good man, and the Justice Society are proud of calling him their friend and benefactor. When the truth comes out, Supergirl fears that no one would believe her due to the power of his reputation.
    • Superman actually tries to use this angle in The Fall of Metropolis storyline in Action Comics #700. Lois is about to release her exposé on Luthor, exposing his crimes and deceptions throughout the years. Luthor, meanwhile, with all of this, and dying from cancer, felt he had nothing left to lose, as he informed Superman he had several missiles set to go off destroying most of Metropolis, deciding if he was going down, he was going to take most of the city with him, and there was no way Superman could stop them all. Superman then reminds Luthor that most of Metropolis had never even known of his dark side up to that point, and in their minds, he was still the Lex Luthor who built schools, hospitals, funded scholarships, and if he pulled this stunt, in their eyes, he would have officially crossed the Moral Event Horizon, and essentially become the "American Hitler". He then asks Luthor if that's what he really wants. Luthor realizes that Superman is right as he groans, "No, damn you!"
  • In the Secret Empire story arc, Captain America fights and brings down a criminal conspiracy led by an Anonymous Ringer for then-president Richard Nixon.
  • Sin City: Nearly all of the main villains are public figures that are beloved by the media and citizens. This is mostly seen in the Roark family, a family of crime bosses that hold religious and political offices and have had a tight grip over the city for over a century now.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), this status was bestowed on long-time villain Ixis Naugus. Due to a combination of the public's mistrust of NICOLE following her previous brainwashing by the Iron Queen (fueled by Naugus' own Hate Plague magic) and Naugus' own actions to defend New Mobotropolis from both Eggman and the Battle Bird Armada, his support amongst the citizens reaches the point that they gladly appoint him their king. This ended up coming back at him when New Mobotropolis was rescued by NICOLE and Team Freedom (which was comprised of former council member Rotor, Actual Pacifist Cream and Cheese, Gentle Giant Big the Cat, and reformed Badniks Heavy and Bomb), making Naugus look like a fool and allowing Rotor's replacement, Isabella Mongoose (that's Mina's mom), to demand NICOLE's return and sending him on a Villainous Breakdown.
  • In their first run-in with Brother Blood, the villain manipulated the Teen Titans into attacking church members in full view of TV cameras. He then played it off as a terrorist attack by costumed vigilantes and staged his own fake death to put the blame on the Titans. (His priestesses explained that he would rise from the dead, as he had done several times before.) The ploy went a long way to legitimize the Church of Blood within America and made it difficult for the Teen Titans to act against him. Considering that his name is Brother Blood, he has a Satanic wardrobe, and his church is decorated to look like a cross between Hell and Transylvania, how anyone would not see that this is clearly a mustache-twirling villain of the first order is anyone's guess. He's really good at the whole "charismatic cult leader" thing. Even Dick Grayson himself joined the Church of Blood at one point!
  • Around the time of Civil War, the Thunderbolts were ReTooled from villains in disguise Becoming the Mask into a Boxed Crook team led by "ex-" Spider-Man nemesis Norman Osborn, a.k.a. the Green Goblin. They quickly gained public support for hunting down rogue heroes that wouldn't register with the government. In Secret Invasion (2008) and throughout the Dark Reign period, he got promoted to the head of all government superheroes. A large part of the reason he got away with this is that he positioned himself in the media as The Atoner, and he also pointed out that he wasn't the only Green Goblin. He eventually lost his position when he had a major breakdown caught on camera, showing that he hadn't been able to put the Goblin that far behind him. Dark Reign also shows the disadvantages of this trope. The X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Hercules all used Osborn's need to maintain good publicity against him, putting him in compromising positions to the extent that Tony arranged for Osborn to beat him up on live television while Tony was suffering brain damage in a virtually obsolete Iron Man armor. You just know Osborn wishes he could simply pumpkin bomb them like in the good old days.
  • Spider-Man: Norman Osborn managed to pull this off when he publicly returned to life after faking his death following the discovery that his powers as the Goblin included an increased healing factor. Presenting fake evidence that he had never been the Goblin, Osborn was able to take control of the Daily Bugle, gather various mystical artifacts, and even frame Spider-Man for the murder of a small-time crook while also provoking Spider-Man into attacking him on camera (Peter had to resort to providing fake evidence that a pair of criminals had attacked Osborn while disguised as Spider-Man to clear the second charge, even if he was able to prove who really killed the criminal).
  • Omar Ben Salaad in the Tintin book The Crab With the Golden Claws. He's a well-respected trader who uses his reputation as a cover for an opium smuggling ring. In the 3D animated film adaption The Adventures of Tintin (2011), which incorporates plot elements of Crab with the Golden Claws, Ben Salaad is a mere minor character, with the role of villain passed to Sakharine.
  • The Transformers: Monstrosity has the Decepticons as an Aversion. Its prequel gives them the sympathetic public, as they portray themselves as heroes and freedom fighters against an oppressive government. They are not trusted by all the public though, and people rally against them when it becomes clear that they aren't better than the government. Monstrosity has Scorponok blow up an Oil Refinery, which puts a hole in the planet and kills thousands, after that, the Decepticons lose all sympathy and the masses start evacuating.
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise: Starscream successfully cons both the Autobots and Decepticons and turning the far larger neutral population to his side, effectively making him the democratically elected ruler. The comics go on to show how difficult it is to get this trope down. All of his actions are being reported on by the media, and even slight outbursts of anger can end with him getting in trouble, numerous citizens either in his old faction, the Autobots, and even the Neutrals don't trust him, and he's always under scrutiny. During The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye he racks up a considerable amount of goodwill in his speeches and appearances at Megatron's Trial. He manages to get his public opinion up, the only problem is his actions have also led to the Autobots getting recognition and the publicity bringing them almost up to his level. He can sway a crowd, but he has to constantly be on the move to keep the goodwill coming.
  • Senator and later President Callahan, the nemesis of Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan, who has the habit of killing people close to him for sympathy ratings whenever one of his misdeeds becomes public.
  • The Spacemen in Untold Tales of Spider-Man are beloved astronaut hear them tell it, at least. The fact of the matter is that they're ruthless criminals, but their publicity is so good, that J. Jonah Jameson likes them, and he normally hates superheroes. The fact that the Spacemen are allegedly astronauts like JJJ's son, who he considers a real hero, is probably a factor.
  • Ozymandias from Watchmen. He is a public hero and has his own product line, including action figures.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): The Masters present themselves as benevolent to humans, while despising them and forcing those humans who question them to be secretly turned into tigeapes. They're also acting as though they're refugees when in reality they're plotting to enslave a few humans while turning the earth into a Planet Spaceship and then moving it, or what's left of it, into orbit around Neptune for use by the Masters.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): White Magician poses as a hero but is actually part of the chain of supply of the new high tech flooding Boston's streets and is using his knowledge of the tech in question to outright murder criminals even if they're trying to surrender.
    • Veronica Cale's shtick is that she's a prominent scientist and Corrupt Corporate Executive who works hard to keep her petty hatred of Wondy and villainous acts from becoming public knowledge.
  • X-Men:
    • Nimrod catches criminals in public while hunting down and trying to kill Mutants in private. As a result, he was beloved by the public as a hero.
    • ORCHIS gets a huge boost in popularity for fighting The Progenitor right as it chose to repair the damage it did at the cost of its life, to the point that people start selling shirts with their symbol and even balloons shaped like Nimrod.
  • In Magic Powder, Gundel, the leader of the orc clans, is a brutal mobster but is the most-beloved figure in Thesz. It helps that he's a notoriously generous tipper.

    Fan Works 
  • Ace Savvy: A New Hope: Lord Tetherby poses as a respected man that many people love. In actuality, he is a ruthless villain who was behind the death of the original Ace Savvy. Once he is exposed, this doesn't last.
  • All For Luz:
    • Tyler Wittebane leads a conservative mega-church that's popular enough to indoctrinate people in his Fantastic Racism "crusade" against superpowers and other minorities, and has many supporters. This makes it more difficult for Luz to bring him down by legal means. Millie sees him as the Human Realm version of Emperor Belos, another one, as he's so revered by the people that followed him.
    • In the past, All For One presented himself as a freedom fighter for his fellow Quirk users against the Fantastic Racism they all suffered from in his world, alongside the Meta Liberation Army. He was also seen as a hero due to him stealing the Quirks of those who victimized others, taking them Quirks away from those that suffered from them and giving some to the Quirkless to defend themselves. Hell, even 14 years after he lost the war for the Boiling Isles, he still has followers that built an Underground City in his name and await for his return to overthrow The Emperor. However, its all a facade, he always was a megalomaniacal maniac, and they were just be a ploys for him to attract loyal and useful lackeys.
  • Always Visible: Doctor Baselard. In the sixties, he accidentally kills a woodcutter in Gloucester, but this does not stop him many years later from getting a job at Randall Children's Hospital. And to make matters worse, when he eventually escapes Portland back to England, the American police see no point in pursuing him.
  • Ashes of the Past: Giovanni spends quite a bit of time investing in PR for Team Rocket, ensuring that his teams are present and visibly helping Ash save the world on numerous occasions, and that influential people owe him favours. It helps that he legitimately does want the world to remain intact; it's hard to make money in a wasteland.
  • At the epilogue of The Bikini Bottom Horror, SpongeBob SquarePants himself reveals to Sandy and the audience that he was the Greater-Scope Villain of the story. Problem is that he at that point is reputed as the hero who defeated the Tortured One and the owner of a restaurant that advertises vegan food.
  • Can One Change Fix All of RWBY?: Conversely to the heroes after the Fall of Beacon, many of the true villains have set themselves up as heroic huntsmen and academy headmasters who wield a lot of power in the kingdoms, making them beloved by the public for supposedly protecting them against the Creatures of Grimm. This serves to make Team RWBY's and their allies' meandering across Remnant and unwillingness to trust or cooperate with the kingdoms' authority figures after the Fall of Beacon a lot more justified and understandable.
  • The Chaotic Masters: The Chaotic Masters are literally worshipped in Meridian, due to having founded the country after breaking the pirate slavery ring that was operating out of the islands centuries ago and freeing all the slaves.
  • The second season of Children of Time has none other than Professor Moriarty (or, at least, a clone), going by the name Richard Brooke. This forms the plot of the fourth episode, as the Holmeses must prove that the so-called philanthropist is actually a criminal mastermind.
  • Colors and Capes: Xander is mistaken for such by actual supervillains. His costume (a headscarf with eye holes plus whatever he's wearing at the time) and name (Flannel Man) both mock the idea of superheroes; he gets paid to beat up scum even supervillains dislike on top of getting away with beating up a superhero; and in his off time, Xander hangs out with supervillains while dating Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy.
  • crawlersout: Gellert Grindelwald is very popular in magical high society, at least in America. Unusually, his contemporaries like him in spite of the fact that he's a villain — they know he's no saint, but his facade as The Charmer endears him to them anyway. The only people who see through him are Fem!Harry, because of her knowledge of the future, and the Dumbledore brothers (who have yet to appear), who have experienced the true depths of his cruelty firsthand.
  • Death Note Equestria: Twilight/Kira briefly enjoys this in Equestria, before Fluttershy/Second Kira's less-justifiable murders ruin her image. Though according to Discord, she's still universally popular among the griffins.
  • In Descent into Darkness and its sequels, rumor has it that the current head of Robotnik Enterprises is Dr. Eggman, however, there's no legal proof tying the two together.
  • A Devil Amongst Worms, Makima becomes this after defeating Leviathan by sending him to Mercury, quickly becoming the most beloved hero in the world as a result, and receiving enormous donations of money and support from all across the world, with Rachel noting that posters of her placed across pretty much every building in Brockton Bay. This backfires on Makima, as the resulting love and adoration severely weakens her as her powers relies on fear..
  • In Families, Olive Branch and his anti-Celestia propaganda group enjoy this status (in Canterlot, at least; they're not too popular in Ponyville). It doesn't help that he's spreading this propaganda right after a full-out invasion that Celestia, the royal guard, and even the Element Bearers failed to stop.
  • A Future of Friendship, a History of Hate: Megalos Tyrant, in his Secret Identity as Regal Rule, is a member of his nation's royal family, well-liked and respected even in Equestria by many of the elite (including Princess Celestia herself).
  • In Fall of Starfleet, Rebirth of Friendship, Grand Ruler, ruler of United Equestria, is this to the Unicornicopians. They worship him as a god and obey his every word, and he is a Universally Beloved Leader to them for much of the story. The native Equestrians, however, are much less favorable towards him, considering that he unofficially promotes Fantastic Racism against them, favors Unicornicopians in the economy, and has any dissidents arrested.
  • Gravity Falls Rule 63: Bonnie Gleeful is the sweetest person in all of Gravity Falls, always smiling and speaking in a polite tone all the time. Not even Dana suspects she's a crazy mastermind who murders anyone who gets in her way.
  • In The Grinning Snake, Shizuru Fujino retains her status as School Idol even after the end of the Hime Carnival, in which she killed many people. When Konoka Kokuto, the daughter of a First District member Shizuru killed, hears her father name Shizuru as his killer with his dying breaths, Konoka finds it difficult to believe that such a popular and respected girl could be a murderer.
  • In Loved and Lost, an extended retelling of the second season finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Prince Jewelius steals Equestria's throne by destroying the reputations of the heroes (all but Twilight Sparkle) by telling the public half-truths about their failure to prevent the Changeling invasion which he just helped Twilight stop. (And which he started with Queen Chrysalis before double-crossing her). He's then revered as "Holy King Jewelius I" who helped Twilight Sparkle stop the invaders until he himself destroys his PR by single-mindedly chasing the disgraced heroes at the expense of preparing against the renewed Changeling threat and responding poorly to disagreements. It's ultimately zig-zagged; he's not at all popular in Ponyville because he has oppressed the town under the excuse that the home of Twilight's "traitorous" friends needs to be made an example of.
  • Justice League of Equestria: In Mare of Steel, Alexander Silversmith has worked hard to be this. At one point, he instructs his daughter Silver Spoon on the importance of keeping up such a façade in order to get away with anything.
  • Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race has Bass, who had a major publicity boost from the company that made him. However, this is unraveled when he fights mega Man one on one and the public learns who really created him.
  • The Night Unfurls: Vault is an esteemed, charismatic warrior in Eostia, The Leader of the equally renowned Black Dogs, and a favourite of the Seven Shields. His good publicity allows him to secretly gain sponsors from the nobility, plotting behind the scenes to overthrow the Seven Shields, to take over the country, and to build a Sex Slave Empire with himself as king. This trope is panned out differently in both versions of the story.
    • In the original version, Vault's ambitions become public knowledge, with the Rape, Pillage, and Burn going on everywhere, therefore subverting the trope.
    • In the remastered version, Vault is killed by Kyril after revealing his ambitions, but the "good publicity" part doesn't go away because only a small band of people know about said ambitions. People in general are still kept in the dark, Vault's supporters continue to advance his agenda without the knowledge of his demise, and Kyril is distrusted by five of the Seven Shields after Dropping the Bombshell that is Vault's status as a traitor and Vault's murder.
  • Of State: Drago Bludvist, of all people, turns out to be this outside the Barbaric Archipelago. To the Vikings and dragons of Berk, Drago is a murderous conqueror who sought to enslave them all. To the people of Uttland, Drago is known as the hero who rallied together an army to fight the Always Chaotic Evil dragons. This gets taken Up to Eleven in the city of Radvo, where he's seen as something akin to a Folk Hero and the Bludvist family is treated like royalty. His publicity was so good that even Queen Elsa, despite having never met him, had trouble understanding why the Vikings would hold so much hatred towards someone she was led to believe was a great man.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines:
    • As per canon, Giovanni is this. To the outside world, he's just the benevolent, if somewhat demanding, leader of the Viridian Gym. A sidestory reveals that the Pokémon G-Men are aware he's the leader of Team Rocket, but have been unable to find decisive evidence to expose him.
    • Also Lysandre, who has managed to cultivate an image as a Wealthy Philanthropist in Kalos, while secretly planning to remake the world regardless of the methods.
  • The Pony POV Series: in the Epilogue timeline, Discord is this... in Sky Ocean, anyway. While the rest of the world knows what an Evil Overlord Discord is, the Sea Ponies have been fed such a twisted version of history that they view him as a benevolent ruler who saved them from the "evil" Princesses (who are also blamed for the genocide he caused). Played with, as while this was originally the case, Discord's no longer evil and only being forced to act like it by the true Big Bad Nightmare Eclipse.
  • The Powers of Harmony: Cetus and Eclipse become this by benefit of impersonation — Cetus steals Celestia's body, and afterwards has Eclipse implanted in Rarity's. With the rest of the heroes on the run, the two of them are thus free to carry out their plans without suspicion.
  • The renegade hero!!!....Invader Zim?: Due to the rest of the universe misinterpreting Zim's accidental sabotage of Operation Impending Doom as a deliberate act of rebellion, he's treated as a grand hero despite not even really trying to hide his egomania and disdain for non-Irkens.
  • Taylor's gang, the Black Hand, in A Ruinous Gift quickly become popular within their territory as they largely leave people alone and make a point to stomp out any other gangs or troublemakers within their territory, unlike Lung who simply ignored anyone who wasn't challenging him directly. It certainly helps that Taylor aka Psyker made a point of killing the worst of her underlings and "explaining the facts of life" to everyone else. One person remarks that he'd vote for Psyker if she ever ran for mayor.
  • Scarlet Lady is not a good heroine. She's self-centered, petty, and prefers to let Chat do the fighting for her. Unfortunately, she's the only one able to use her Lucky Charm to restore the damage done by akumas and knows how to play to the cameras and work the media. So the public sees her as a savior who saves the day and heals the city with a big, flashy display, while she paints Chat as her needlessly destructive partner who she has to rein in, when in reality, he's the one doing most of the work. However, she slowly loses this status over the course of the series before finally losing it for good come "Prime Queen" where she, unaware or uncaring that the titular akuma is broadcasting the heroes' every move, declares that they should just let Alya die since she could just bring her back to life with the Cure, much to everyone's horror.
  • Shadows over Meridian:
    • Jade reasons that the best way to secure Phobos' new reign is to convince everyone that for all his faults, Elyon is less competent as a ruler since she has no real experience in rulership, has allowed the Rebellion's members to cause trouble with their prejudices towards anyone they believe still supports Phobos, and inadvertently brought upon Meridian the wrath of another world by antagonizing its queen. By contrast, Phobos managed to maintain a real (if admittedly fragile) peace among Meridian's various races, and it's arguable that most of the problems of his original reign were caused by the Rebellion (egged on by Nerissa's manipulations) refusing to accept him as a ruler just because he's a man.
    • On Earth, Cedric and Miranda pose as a father and daughter who befriend the Guardians' loved ones under the pretense that "Melinda" is trying to make amends for getting the girls suspected of Elyon's disappearance. This enables them to make those same loved ones grow suspicious of the Guardians' secret lives.
    • Phobos earns his first PR victory in the village of Riverdeen in the Swamplands, which he saves from corrupt local rebel forces who have been provoking tensions with the local nonhuman races as an excuse to purge them, and as a diversion from their summary arrests of anyone suspected of being a Phobos loyalist. When Phobos defeats and arrests them, the locals cheer him, especially since in the process he saved a young girl who was detained for trying to get a message to the capital about what the rebels have been doing.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Officially Gendo leads NERV, an organization created to save the world from a race of Eldritch Abominations. Unofficially his goal is to commit worldwide genocide. And the citizens of Tokyo-3 are convinced that he's truly trying to protect them.
  • Vaticus Finch in The Tainted Grimoire until the end of the St. Galleria arc.
  • Teen Titans Tokyo: The whole premise of the plot is that Blackfire comes to Tokyo, still reeling in the revelation that Commander Daizo was a fraud, and claims to be an emissary from the Teen Titans sent to found a new branch in Japan to protect them. Secretly, she's hoping to amass her own cabal of teen supers and use them to attack the Teen Titans to avenge her defeats at Starfire's hands.
  • A Thing of Vikings: Because of Henry's Engineered Heroics, the people of Brittany think he's a hero when he's actually the mastermind responsible for the attacks on their nobles.
  • Two Letters: On the surface, the new Ladybug is a perfectly competent hero who's admired by all. However, she also believes that she should be paid for her services - and rather than asking the city at large for wages, she's Blackmailing the richest citizens of Paris into secretly paying her. When Bob Roth stops doing so, she makes a passing comment about him "not supporting her" right after dealing with an akumatized employee of his, causing his reputation to crash and burn.
  • Unlife Is Strange:
    • Starter Villain Cathy Mortimer is a serial domestic abuser, drug addict and associates with drug dealers and sex traffickers. To the public, she is an achieving daughter of a rich family, and a popular social media personality. When a previous ex of hers spoke out against her, Cathy was able to get her followers to hound and bullying her ex into silence. The full extent of her deeds don't become known until after her death.
    • While calling Rachel an outright villain is quite the stretch, this story is not shy about showing her toxic, self destructive and viceful qualities, putting her in the category of a flawed anti-hero. With that said, her father was all too eager to push this narrative to the media that Rachel was the ideal daughter, student and innocent victim; blaming her issues on outside "toxic" influences (Chloe). All this does is make Rachel irritated, and she releases an expose which uncovers her bad habits, and implicitly her father's.
    • Zig-Zagged with Nathan Prescott. While his and Jefferson's crimes were exposed to the world, Nathan ended up with a divided reputation in the following media circus. Even when Sean Prescott fails to spin the narrative, there are people across social media who express nothing but sympathy and compassion for Nathan; downplaying the severity of his crimes and even implying that he was the only real victim in all this. When James Amber did a smear campaign against Chloe, many of Nathan's supporters were quick to highlight her delinquency, almost playing off Nathan's crimes as being no big deal in comparison.

    Films — Animation 
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: Cat R. Waul presents himself as a nice cat in order to lull the mice into a false sense of security and thus easier to catch and eat. As he explains to his mooks;
    Cat R. Waul: We are nice to the mice because it is intelligent to do so. If we talk sweetly, they will come in droves. If we hiss, they will run, and we will have to chase after them, an unwanted expenditure of calories.
  • General Mandible from the DreamWorks Animation film Antz falls into this perfectly. He sends all of the troops who are more loyal to the queen than to him off to battle the termites, an enemy he knows can't be beaten. People cheer him for it as they leave.
  • The Bad Guys (2022): Professor Marmalade appears to be a wealthy and loving philanthropist to the public, but privately he's a twisted Card-Carrying Villain who deliberately plays up the stereotype that guinea pigs are good creatures so he won't be blamed for any of his crimes.
  • Balto: Steele is the champion sled dog of Nome, and every dog in town practically eats out of his hand, admiring his strength and athletic prowess. He also bullies the title character for being half wolf, and when charged with delivering medicine to Nome to deal with a Diptheria epidemic, is more interested in the extra good publicity it will get him than saving children's lives. This comes to a head when Balto comes to rescue his team when he gets it hopelessly lost. Not only does he actually fight Balto when he tries to grab the medicine, but when he finally takes it, Steele responds by sabotaging Balto's trail markers to get him hopelessly lost, dooming both his team and aforementioned children to slow, wasting deaths. When he returns to Nome, he makes up a sob story about how he tried his best to get the medicine through, but that a disaster left him the Sole Survivor of the mess, which, again, the other dogs in Nome eat up. Unlike Gaston, however, he ends up being found out for the monster he is and ultimately shunned by the rest of the town.
  • Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. He's handsome, muscular, an excellent hunter, beloved by everyone in town, and probably the best thing to happen to Belle's village. The problem? He's vain, self-absorbed, only interested in Belle because of her beauty, rude, scheming, and crazy enough to try killing the Beast in the end. Yet, everyone in the village is loyal to him and doesn't question his character whatsoever. That's because no one has more good publicity than Gaston.
  • In the first Cars film, Chick Hicks starts out as this, as he's more aggressive a racer but still has as much fame as Mcqueen (something he milked when Mcqueen disappeared by stealing some of the other racer's fans and kissing up to Dinoco). However, after everyone sees him directly cause the King's crash, Chick loses the respect of the racing community and destroys his own career.
  • In Coco despite being the Big Bad of the film, Ernesto de la Cruz is quite beloved in his home country and in the Land of the Dead. At least until his fraudulent murderous actions are exposed.
  • Prince Hans from Frozen is the living embodiment of this trope, coming off as shocking to the viewer as it is to Anna when he drops the act during The Reveal. He actually exploited her gullibility so he can steal the Arendellian throne right under everyone's noses. With Anna dying from the icy heart curse and useless to him anymore, Hans then puts back on his masquerade so he can advance his scheme of becoming the King of Arendelle. The creators have affirmed that he subverts the Prince Charming trope Disney is known for.
    Prince Hans: Oh Anna, if only there was someone out there who loved you.
  • While Syndrome in The Incredibles never got this far, his plan was to become a beloved superhero to the public. How would he accomplish this? He developed a super-intelligent, highly destructive Killer Robot by creating prototypes, hiring retired heroes to locate and "stop it from rampaging" on their island (killing dozens of heroes in the process). When a hero succeeds, Syndrome collects data from the battle and rebuilds and improves the robot until it succeeds. Once it becomes formidable enough, Syndrome unleashes it onto the populace, lets it destroy the town a little, and then he swoops in and "saves" everybody. At least, that's the plan. Turned out it had gotten so smart it figured out that blasting Syndrome's remote will let it win the battle.
  • In Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Pete is seen as a respected captain of the guards until the end of the movie.
  • Tabaluga: In the 2018 movie, the Big Bad Arktos pretends to be a benevolent ruler and is therefore well-liked by his subjects throughout the movie. Only when he openly tries to kill the titular hero do his subjects realize how evil he truly is.
  • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo: To the public, Uehara Daizo is the respected commander of the Tokyo Troopers, an elite police force which keeps the city safe from monsters and supervillains. But in reality, Daizo is a fraud and a Glory Hound who engages in Engineered Heroics: he enslaved the one supervillain he ever caught, then exploited the villain's Art Initiates Life powers to create fake villains for the Troopers to battle. Heck, even the Troopers themselves are just more of the enslaved villain's creations. The Teen Titans eventually discover Daizo's duplicity and bring him to justice.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Nightmare (1983): Hamilton Blake is considered by many of the city's residents to be an upstanding citizen thanks to being the CEO of a firm that serves as a major employer for the city's population and the head of a charitable organization for abused and endangered children. This makes the eventual revelation that he was engaged in an incestuous affair with his own daughter all the more hard-hitting.
  • Max Shreck in Batman Returns is both this and a Devil in Plain Sight, and later, the Penguin fits the Trope during his mayoral bid, although he was soon brought down by an Engineered Public Confession. This spawns a great piece of dialogue:
    Penguin: Odd as it may seem, Max, you and I have something in common: We're both perceived as monsters. But, somehow, you're a well-respected monster, and I am, to date, not.
    Shreck: Frankly, I feel that's a bum rap.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:
    • Lex Luthor is a benefactor to the construction, agriculture, and fuel industries. He's also third in philanthropic contributions behind Kord Industries and Wayne Enterprises. It is due to the destruction and chaos brought about by the fight between Superman and Zod in Man of Steel that he is able to put his foot in the door and further cultivate a "Nice Guy" image by rebuilding Metropolis from the ground up, as shown in this commercial for Turkish Airlines. Behind the scenes, however, Lex is a complete psychopath who commits all manner of horrible deeds, such as blowing up a Senate hearing and creating Doomsday, an actual threat to humanity, all to kill Superman, who hates just for existing. By the end of the film, however, Lex is outed for the psychopath he really is and thrown in prison.
    • Lex's late father, Alexander Luthor Sr., was much the same. While he managed to endear himself to the public by claiming that LexCorp was named after his son, presenting himself as a savvy businessman and devoted father who rose up from nothing, in reality, he was an abusive parent who beat his son at the very least (Lex at one point mentions suffering "daddy's fists and abominations"). Given that Lex himself kept this facade up even after his death, it's possible that his father's image had become the lynchpin of the company.
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017): As in the original film, Gaston is a narcissistic, sexist prick and makes no effort to hide it, but everyone in Villenevue loves and worships him regardless. It's somewhat more justified here, since this version of Gaston is a war hero, and his overtly villainous qualities are toned down quite a bit until he goes ax-crazy.
  • Beverly Hills Cop III: Ellis DeWald is a beloved philanthropist and manages the day-to-day operations of a popular theme park. Axel Foley knows the kind of man he really is but struggles to prove it. In typical form, the first thing he does when he gets to LA is to publicly accuse DeWald of murder with no evidence and beat the shit out of him. DeWald later turns Axel into a Hero with Bad Publicity by framing him for the attempted murder of the theme park's founder.
  • Boiler Room: The salesmen hired by corrupt brokerage firm J.T. Marlin present themselves as honest businessmen to the public, but are actually white-collar crooks using fraudulent tactics to dupe unsuspecting investors via a "pump-and-dump" scam. The fact that they're paying homage to Gordon Gekko's establishing moment by acting out his parts shows who they really are. Gekko himself is actually a Morally Bankrupt Banker who would throw thousands of people on the street for profit and ultimately gets jailed for securities fraud.
  • Zigzagged in Casino; Sam Rothstein, a bookie associated with the Mafia is assigned to Las Vegas where he obtains entrepreneurial reputation, awards, and social recognition. After a while, things go sour and he gets surrounded by great media controversy regarding his license problems and his connection with a well-known mobster. As a reaction, Sam starts his own talk show to make a stand and defend himself and his image. He gets called on it by his mob associates as his flamboyant crusade draws unwanted attention.
  • In absentia, Two-Face is hailed as Gotham's greatest public servant in The Dark Knight Rises. Also Bane, who took Gotham from the rich and gave it back to the people.
  • In Dudley Do-Right, Alfred Molina's character lampshades this when invading the village of the Kumquats. A mook informs him they've taken the village as he storms through a gaggle of reporters in the style of Patton. Molina, as Whiplash, orders the mook to "Torch the place, burn everything." As the mook rushes off, Molina stops him and says "Wait, that's bad publicity. Have the photographers take pictures of the boys straightening up the place." As the mook rushes off this time Molina breaks the fourth wall by telling the camera to learn from history or repeat it.
  • In Duel, the murderous trucker helps a bus full of kids and exchanges a friendly toot with passing trains. Everyone except the protagonist has every reason to believe he's just a friendly ordinary truck driver.
  • Edward Scissorhands: Jim is Kim's boyfriend and as far as the neighborhood is concerned he's a star athlete and an upstanding young man. But the truth is he's a manipulative sociopath. And a few of the incidents that turn the town against Edward, such as the burglary of Jim's family's home, were actually instigated by Jim but Edward ends up taking the blame for them.
  • A character in End of Days insists that God is actually this. However, given that said character is the villain, none other than Satan, this should be taken with a whole shaker of salt.
    The Man: Let me tell you something about Him. He is the biggest underachiever of all time. He just has a good publicist, that's all. Something good happens, "It's His will." Something bad happens, "He moves in mysterious ways."
  • Enough is strongly implied to be a case of this, as the abusive husband Mitch Hiller is shown to come from a family of much wealth and high social standing, along with the fact that he is very successful and appears to be fairly popular and well known in town, not to mention that a line of dialogue implies that he is more affiliated with the police than just his corrupt friend, which could explain why he was so willing to openly cheat on his wife and commit routine threats and crimes against his wife and her friends. He knows that he has much influence that can work to his advantage to establish his own set of morals for pretty much everyone, especially when they don't know his true nature.
  • Ken Castle from Gamer has managed to get almost everyone to overlook the fact that they're playing deathmatches and Second Life with real people and is said to have exceeded Bill Gates' wealth. He did this by pulling the entire US Prison system back from the verge of bankruptcy, revitalizing the economy, and everybody involved, convict or otherwise, signed up "voluntarily".
  • Despite the events of the G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, COBRA is seen by the world as a highly respected special-ops force, and America's last defense from the terrorists known as the "Joes" in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Quite possibly as a Shout-Out to G.I. Joe: Renegades. COBRA's leader, Cobra Commander, is well-liked by his subordinates despite being a maniacal world-conqueror. When he returns to his headquarters after being broken out of super-high-security prison, several workers say things like "It's good to have you back, Boss!"
  • In both their appearances in the Godzilla series, the Xilians begin their invasions by promising goodwill. First, they want to offer humanity a miracle cure in exchange for borrowing Godzilla and Rodan to beat back King Ghidorah. Turns out they were controlling King Ghidorah and want to capture Earth for its water. The second time, they capture the rampaging monsters that are destroying Earth and offer to help save Earth from a rogue planet en route to destroy it. Turns out they were controlling the monsters to begin with and said planet isn't the threat it seems to be (still is a threat, just not of the world ending version).
  • Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz. In the eyes of almost everyone in Sandford, he can't be evil, because he's a pillar of the community and he runs the local supermarket. Partially subverted when Angel finally publicly accuses him of several murders, only to be proved wrong by a flawless alibi. Which is not a fake. That said, ALL the Sandford "pillars" turn out to be involved in the murders, including Skinner, although his alibi was real and he wasn't the one who dirtied his hands.
  • Human Cargo (1936): Gilbert Fender poses as a productive member of San Francisco society who is friends with the District Attorney in order to cover up his role as ringleader of the Human Traffickers.
  • Mike Morris in The Ides of March. Decorated war hero, popular Pennsylvania governor, and the favorite for the Democratic Presidential ticket. And an unfaithful husband who has an affair with a much-younger intern, leading to her becoming pregnant with his child and be Driven to Suicide.
  • Augustus Steranko in If Looks Could Kill. Despite the fact that his personal emblem is a scary-looking scorpion and he has a private army of machine gun-toting goons for no reason he could possibly justify and generally acts like a jerk to people in public, Steranko has somehow convinced British Intelligence that he is "an ally and a friend."
  • James Bond gets this all the time, to the point where M has pre-emptively sent Bond to investigate some supposedly well-known industrialist/multimillionaire/what have you.
    • Dominic Greene in Quantum of Solace, who's an environmental philanthropist in public, but a greedy schemer in private. Director Mark Forster deliberately avoided make-up or any overt villain characteristics, to symbolise the hidden "evils in society".
  • Frank White of King of New York is a drug lord who sets up multi-million-dollar heroin deals and guns down rival gangsters in cold blood by day, and hobnobs with celebrities and organizes gala fundraisers for hospitals by night.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: Valentine is well-known as a beloved eccentric billionaire philanthropist. He even has a movie about his life coming out. Of course, it's not that hard to get people to love you when you give the world free, unlimited cell coverage.
  • The Last of the Line: Lakota chief Gray Otter's son, Tiah, is a drunken hooligan who dies robbing a stagecoach. Determined that his son not be remembered as a thief, Gray Otter moves Tiah's body into the pile of soldier corpses. He tells the soldiers that Tiah joined the men on the wagon and died protecting it, and the whites bury Tiah's body with full honors.
  • In L.A. Confidential, Captain Dudley Smith is definitely this. He's brought down by a good old-fashioned shotgun, however.
  • The villain in Minority Report, who is brought down by an Engineered Public Confession.
  • Mr. Brooks: Earl Brooks, Portland commerce's man of the year, is a serial killer. However, Brooks's double life is shown to take a toll on his psychological wellbeing, and his positive reputation is (at least for a period of time) exploited by "Smith", who extorts Brooks into letting him tag along on one of the former's excursions.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive Moses Randolph from Motherless Brooklyn is an utterly monstrous excuse for a human being who has still convinced a good portion of New York City that he's a philanthropic man of the people.
    Lionel Essrog: He'd be the most hated guy in the city, he'd piss everybody off.
    Paul Randolph: They love him. That's what makes me so... He flies above it, they revere him.
    Lionel: Why?
    Paul: Because he built the parks. As long as you're the guy that brings people parks, you walk with the angels, you can't lose. The day that Rockaway Beach opened, Moses Randolph became a folk hero in this town. People don't realize how much he hates them. "The man of the public who hates people."
  • Murder in Coweta County: Arrogant Politically Correct Villain John Wallace is a respected figure in Meriwether County, having bought the populace's loyalty with various acts of philanthropy. The people of the neighboring counties, who haven't personally benefited from his actions, are more willing to believe the worst of him, though.
  • The villains in the first two The Naked Gun films are both respected businessmen.
  • In New Jack City, Nino Brown tries to gain the people's support by handing out free meals to the poor and money to the children. The cops Scotty and Peretti openly call his Robin Hood act out as crap, as does an old man whose grandson is among those children. At the same time, Nino has forced entire families out of their homes to build his drug factory and is preying on the poor to sell his drugs. Deconstructed as Nino's empire starts to fall apart, and especially while Scotty beats him to the cheers and encouragement of a crowd, and it's made clear that the people of the neighborhood despise Nino.
  • J.P Valkenheiser in Nothing but Trouble. After making their escape, the heroes inform the state troopers about the Hanging Judge ruling Valkenvania like a dictator and executing anyone he pleases, but when they go back there it turns out that they all love the JP and his methods. They're about to dispose of the heroes instead for having seen too much when an earthquake destroys the town.
  • Okja: The Mirando corporation thanks to Lucy's tireless marketing campaign hailing the superpigs as environment-friendly and. Not so much by the end, when the ALF has exposed the cruel conditions under which Okja and her kind are created. Though we never see the fallout of their reveal and Nancy states that so long as their products are cheap, they'll sell.
  • Billy The Kid in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Although it's the kind of movie where there's no real heroes or villains, Billy is largely presented as a sociopathic murderer and bandit who is nevertheless widely admired by the populace as a folk hero and rebel outlaw.
  • An Exploited Trope in Patriot Games, concerning the IRA. After a crazed member of a rogue splinter group attempts to murder his wife and daughter, Jack Ryan specifically points out how the IRA gets most of its' guns and money from Americans descended from Irish citizens who fled during the Irish Famine who are sympathetic with the IRA's fighting for freedom from an oppressive regime. So, to get information on an assassin working with the splinter group, he goes into an Irish bar filled with IRA supporters and threatens the money handler by detailing precisely how he'll deliver a PR disaster to the IRA and cut their funding — by bringing the press into his daughter's hospital room, detailing precisely how the assassins injured her and his (pregnant) wife and relying on the US' perceptions that Children Are Innocent to deal a massive blow to their operationsnote . He got the information he needed... and a leprechaun doll.
    Jack Ryan: I will fucking destroy you! I will make it my mission in life.
  • Red Rock West: Wayne's rather popular and apparently gave everyone in Red Rock a free drink in order to get elected sheriff. That said, it's suggested his star has already begun to fall by the time Michael arrives in town.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera has the Largo family, who are mostly known for curing the organ failure epidemic and hosting the titular Genetic Opera, a very popular televised event — and who tend to send the Repo Men out after people who bad mouth them anyway. And how convenient was it that Gene Co suddenly showed up to cure all these people dying of mysterious organ failures? Can anyone prove they didn't cause the epidemic?
  • In the Saw franchise, Lieutenant Mark Hoffman is a decorated and highly respected homicide detective with over 20 years' experience and numerous promotions under his belt. Of course, he's also a violent and brutal Corrupt Cop who is secretly an accomplice (and eventual successor) to the infamous 'Jigsaw Killer'.
  • In Scanners II: The New Order, corrupt police officer Commander Forrester tries to use the press to get himself in power and presents himself as an upstanding citizen who wants to end the intensifying crime wave in the cities. They eat into his hand until his real plan to establish order by creating a police state is finally revealed.
  • Scarface (1983): Frank Lopez. He's a friendly-acting, gregarious philanthropist who sponsors a little league baseball team. Too bad that he's also a murderous drug kingpin.
  • Uncle Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt — the apple of his family's eye, local boy made good, deranged Serial Killer.
  • McCarty in Silver Lode gradually turns into this over the course of the movie. The townspeople initially side with Ballard as they know and trust him, being skeptical or outright distrustful of outsider McCarty and his accusations. As further events and details seemingly corroborate McCarty's account, however, they turn on Ballard. By the end, McCarty is leading an angry mob intent on killing Ballard.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Mysterio is seen by everyone as an alternate dimension hero who's trying to save the world from the Elementals, but in reality Mysterio is a fraud who just wants to be seen as Iron Man's successor, and the Elementals were all fakes created by his illusions. He twists the knife further in the mid-credits scene by framing Peter Parker for his death, cementing himself as a martyr who died trying to save the world, and Peter as a madman trying to sabotage it.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: Admiral Marcus is the head of Starfleet. Who would accuse him of warmongering?
  • Star Wars: Chancellor Palpatine in the prequel trilogy, where even the protagonists consider him honorable and trustworthy for the first two movies and are responsible for him rising to the position of chancellor in the first place. This gets reinforced in certain novels.
    • Shatterpoint:
      Mace Windu: A shame he can't touch the Force. He might have made a fine Jedi.
    • Revenge of the Sith:
      Palpatine of Naboo, the most admired man in the galaxy [...] is more than respected. He is loved.
    • The current Expanded Universe goes further, with him being known as the Hero who ended the Clone Wars that the Jedi and the Separatists caused in addition to defeating them, while bringing peace to the Galaxy with his Galactic Empire, a touted-as Superior Successor to the failing Old Galactic Republic, which manages to take down bad guys and corruption faster than the dying democracy could do because of greedy Senators and corporations holding back change. However, the Rebels, led by political opponents Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, expose his Empire’s atrocities to the whole Galaxy, causing them to turn against the Emperor and overthrow him. By the time of the Sequel Trilogy, Palpatine no longer bothers with the facade.
  • Eric Sacks from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), appears to be a clean-cut businessman who publicly opposes the Foot Clan, but in reality, he's not only one of their high-ranking members, but Shredder's own adopted son.
  • Tian Di: Paul Tai is Shanghai's No. 1 philanthropist who had contributed to the construction of roads, bridges, orphanages... and is also secretly a drug-dealing baron who controls the opium trade in the city, who doesn't bat an eye that his drug supplies have ruined the lives of multiple innocents as long as he remains rich and powerful.
  • Touch of Evil: Hank Quinlan has become a very well-respected policeman through careful evidence tampering. In the end, it even turns out that the person he was trying to frame in the film was guilty, giving him the epitaph, "He was a great detective, but a lousy cop."
  • Tragedy Girls: Sadie and McKayla carefully maintain their image as teenage intrepid reporters just trying to solve the serial murders plaguing their town (which they mostly commit themselves). At worst, they get denounced by Mrs. Kent for using this to advance their future careers. By the end of the film, not only has Sadie been awarded for saving Jordan (whom she later killed) but they're hailed for being the survivors of the massacre they actually committed, with a book deal, a film deal, and full rides to college as a result.
  • Wall Street: Gordon Gekko presents himself to the world as a successful businessman and investor, but is actually a Corrupt Corporate Executive solely driven by Greed.

  • Jeff Spearman from All the Sinners Bleed was a beloved teacher on Charon County and respected by both black and white students alike for his charitable nature. In secret, he was a vicious serial killer who tortured numerous black children out of sadism.
  • In Animorphs, the Yeerks can take control of any human. As a result, they choose highly respected members of the community, such as Jake's universally loved brother and the school principal. Their front organization for recruiting new voluntary hosts, the Sharing, pretends to be a Boy Scout/Girl Scout kind of thing that anyone can join. All-American nuclear families, outcasts, rejects...
  • Bazil Broketail: After Relkin is put on trial for murdering Dook, it turns out many people — mainly among the rich and noblemen — are ready to vouch for him, basically painting the bastard as a poor, hard-working merchant who merely tried to honestly earn for a living but got brutally killed by a crazed dragon and his filthy dragonboy.
  • The Berenstain Bears Big Chapter Books: Ralph Ripoff the Con Artist can be seen as this, much to the chagrin of the cubs — despite repeatedly and dishonestly swindling other bears into investing their money into some scheme or another of his, most adults think of him as harmless, in part because he never does anything blatantly illegal that could get him sent to prison. Even the police (who don't like him either) can't actually do anything besides force him to take down the gambling tables he keeps trying to set up on public property. However, he occasionally puts his swindling talents to good purposes, as in The Berenstain Bears and the Galloping Ghost (where he runs a Shell Game table for a fundraiser) and The Berenstain Bears at the Teen Rock Café (where he does a hypnotist's act for the opening night of the titular Café). The closest he ever comes to getting into real trouble is in The Berenstain Bears and the Perfect Crime (Almost), where he's taken in for possession of stolen property.
  • Dale Brown:
    • In the novel Fatal Terrain, the Chinese try to paint themselves as righteously resisting the warmongering of America and actually succeed for a while.
    • In Edge of Battle, drug smuggler Ernesto Fuerza plays on Mexican ultranationalistic sentiment in his "Comandante Veracruz" guise.
  • This was the entire plot of Harlan Ellison's story "The Deathbird", in which God is the villain with good publicity and Satan is the hero with bad publicity.
  • President Pat Buckman in Caliphate got elected shortly after a nuclear strike by Islamic terrorists on American soil and builds his campaign on the promise of retribution due to the administration's weaknesses to fight terrorism. Within three years, he slowly erodes democracy and freedom under the guise of "putting his house in order" and all with the public and senate's unanimous approval since they are too distraught and grieved by their loss to care about what he is doing: He interns all American Muslims under suspicion of being terrorists and evicts them from the USA, then he places his own political rivals in camps "for their own protection" since they'd be his own men. He then perpetrates the biggest mass murder in history by nuking most Muslim-majority countries in the world and decides to invade both Canada and Mexico simultaneously. By the time he is done, Buckman has made himself into dictator for life and turned the United States into the Imperial States of America.
  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society trilogy, the Cloak Society poses as heroes in a desperate time when people are anxious to believe in them. It works.
  • In Dostoyevsky's Demons, both Stavrogin and Petr Stepanovic are highly regarded by the whole town, with the exception of a handful of characters who are either despised by everybody (Satov, Stepan Trofimovic) or too insane/lunatic to care (Kirillov). Petr Stepanovic actually pulls this off on two levels, as he is admired both in the high society he frequents and in his secret terrorist group.
  • The Robber Baron in Devil's Cape is this. While people know he runs organized crime in Devil's Cape, they seem to view him more as a celebrity than a frightening criminal.
  • Count Falk in The Dinosaur Lords maintains an image of a nice, if misguided former rebel with a touching story of Heel–Face Turn and personality crafted to make many young and hot-headed knights follow him. His plan is to manipulate the Empire to do his bidding.
  • The Eric Frank Russell short story "Displaced Person" implies that God Himself may be an example of this trope.
  • In Dunk, Anthony Glover is seen as a very respectable figure, and nobody suspects he does anything wrong. Chad, however, knows that he's a druggie that steals. It's hinted he gets arrested at the end of the book, though.
  • In Er Ist Wieder Da, Adolf Hitler himself comes back to life in the modern world and manages to become a media sensation despite not hiding in the slightest that he is literally Hitler. Everyone just assumes that he is a comedian whose shtick is that he never breaks character.
  • Realm of the Elderlings: In the Farseer Trilogy, Prince Regal is adored by the people. The people who've never met him, at least.
  • The character of Texas Senator Terry Fallon in the novel and later NBC mini-series Favorite Son is eventually revealed to the reader/viewer as one of these. Fallon is introduced as a charismatic hero after making a speech after having been wounded by a sniper who succeeded in assassinating Nicaraguan contra leader Col. Octavio Martinez, instantly making the previously little-known Senator a national figure who is recommended by the staff of President Sam Baker to have Fallon replace incumbent Vice-President Daniel Eastman due to polls suggesting such a move was the only chance Baker had to win re-election. As the book and series go on, it's later revealed that Fallon had not only cheated on his wife; but had habitually maritally raped her and had her committed after she refused a three-way with Fallon and a friendnote , proves to be an avowed fascist (which turns Baker off from picking Fallonnote ) and is implied to have, if not orchestrated, known about the assassination attempt on Col. Martineznote , with his being wounded part of Crain's machinations in hopes of getting him ultimately to the White House. However, Fallon's true nature is not revealed in-universe, as Fallon is assassinated by Crain following a Villainous Breakdown after a network producer friend leaks word that Fallon threw her under the bus by leaking a story about her frequent sexual encounters with other men.
  • Flashman: The titular character is a coward, a bully, a liar, and a serial adulterer among many other things, yet he's viewed by the British public as a national hero for his brave exploits (which in reality mostly consisted of dumb luck, taking credit for someone else's work or having been coerced. However, the downside is that the need to maintain this facade often results in his being pushed into even more dangerous and terrifying adventures.
  • Dick Francis:
    • Maurice Kemp-Lorre in Nerve is seen as a dazzling TV personality and great sport and racing authority, but makes a habit of completely destroying the careers of up-coming jockeys out of simple spite and jealousy.
    • The villain of Slay Ride is a minor national hero due to having been a resistance fighter against the Nazis as a young man.
    • Vic Vincent in Knockdown is considered a very talented, charming, and scrupulous bloodstock agent by all of his clients, the general public, and plenty of trainees, but is always looking to scam some extra money out of his clients and sabotage competitors. His secret employer Pauli Teskla fits this even better, as Vic's fellow agents at least mostly recognize him for who he is, while Pauli is considered as generally scrupulous and above suspicion.
    • Snake Oil Salesman and multiple murderer Calder Jackson in Banker.
    • Maynard Allardeck from Break In and Bolt is seen as a fair and generous racing authority when really he's a Corrupt Corporate Executive and obsessive Social Climber who has an unhealthy vendetta against the Fielding's, loves to sabotage them, and tries to goad his own son into killing someone.
    • Julius Apollo Filmer is seen as pliant social company and just another horse owner by his peers, while the Jockey Club knows him as a man who blackmails and threatens people to get hate eat horses and will kill if his social position is threatened.
    • Carey Hewett in Comeback is seen as a benevolent figure and archetypal Kindly Vet plagued by misfortune when he's really a cold-blooded schemer who's been murdering animals as part of an Insurance Fraud scam and is remorselessly willing to ruin the livelihoods and end the lives of people who see him as a friend in order to cover his tracks.
    • In Driving Force Tigwood is seen as a jerk by people but is respected as a charitable man who provides a valuable service. In fact, he sadistically relishes destroying both horses and people.
    • In Come to Grief Ellis Quint is a well-liked TV show host and ex-jockey who charms everyone around him and does some nice human interest stuff on his TV show. He also has violent urges that lead him to amputate the feet of living horses (which he also covers on his show to get higher ratings) and at one point beat up a man investigating him. although does ultimately draw the line at murder and save the life of a man investigating him at the end of the day.
    • The killer in Under Orders is seen as a pleasant amateur rider and aristocrat.
    • In Crisis, Oliver Chadwick is considered to be a pillar of society and renowned trainer, but he allowed his sons to sexually abuse his daughter for years, and covered it up while at the same time blackmailing them into doing whatever he wanted with that information.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fall of Númenor: Ar-Pharazôn was a brutal warlord who despoiled the Middle-Earth's lands; but he was extremely popular among the Númenoreans because he was very generous with his loot.
  • Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. She spent a good deal of time conversing with the neighbors and making herself seem as likable as possible leading up to her staged disappearance. There's also the fact that her parents based a series of children's books off of her childhood. Ironically, this is what led to her Sanity Slippage in the first place.
  • The Great Greene Heist: Keith's dad is a respected industrialist who acts environmentally conscious. He only cut his carbon footprint to get tax cuts, bribes school officials to get whatever his family wants, and is called "merciless" by Dr. Kelsey.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Lucius Malfoy, even after being sacked as a Hogwarts Governor in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Quite a few former Death Eaters were revealed to have gained good reputations and work in the Ministry after pinky-swearing they were under the Imperious Curse. This was one of the reasons Fudge refused to believe Harry when he was naming followers who returned to Voldemort.
    • Dolores Umbridge, who, as a distinguished and high-ranking Ministry official, is able to get most people to overlook her child abuse in book 5 and Fantastic Racism.
    • Gilderoy Lockhart in book 2, although he only barely qualifies as a villain unless you're one of those whose memories he's erased.
    • Voldemort himself as a student. Only Dumbledore recognized that one of the darkest wizards of all time was right under their noses. It is also implied that he was this during the First Wizarding War to many, that is, until he showed his true colors.
  • In his essay "Historicism", C. S. Lewis creates an example in two lines from a hypothetical work, to show how gaps in a work can change the meaning (the first line he has surviving, the second line not):
    Erimian was the noblest of the brothers ten
    As men believed; so false are the beliefs of men.
  • The Hollows: A well-respected politician, Trenton Aloysius Kalamack's described as "Cincinnati's Most Eligible Bachelor". Turns out, he deals in biodrugs, which are outlawed in the setting, as well as being a murderer. His well-respected status makes him impossible to bring to justice and the protagonist's attempts to do so tend to get her in a lot of trouble. Eventually, he becomes less of this and more Affably Evil. Then he and the protagonist get together, so make of that what you will.
  • One of the central plot points of The House of Night series. Neferet is able to hide her desire to kill all humans for quite a long time, maintaining a respectable appearance.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • Sadistic Corrupt Politician and mass murderer President Snow is seen as a wise and kind figure, at least with the citizens of the Capitol. That goes away by Book 3.
    • Coin is presented as the rebel leader fighting for justice. But the truth about her is much harsher than that and she craves power and commits war crimes.
  • The Hypnotists: Dr. Mako wants to use hypnotism to take over the world, but due to his hypnotic talents, the whole country thinks he is a selfless, trustworthy guy.
  • The Jeremiah School: Lucien Morgenstern, the headmaster of Luciferian Academy (and murderer of Peter Stone's parents) has such good relations with the outside world that he has invited the President of the United States to visit the academy.
  • The unstable homicidal sheriff who is the Villain Protagonist of The Killer Inside Me.
  • In Layer Cake, Edward Ryder (Edward Temple in the film) is a guy known to the public as having risen from his youth as a delinquent into a respected, wealthy businessman and patron of the arts, who has married into the aristocracy. In reality, he is a London Gangster, and after his aristocratic wife turned out to be a drug addict and nymphomaniac, it's heavily implied he had her murdered - the public thinks she ran off with a lover.
  • The Left Behind series: The incredibly charismatic (or so we're told) Nicolae Carpathia is The Antichrist.
  • In The Liveship Traders, Kennit the pirate captain is a shrewd political operator who is Born Lucky. To everyone else, he is a charismatic and fair man who runs a tight ship and cares for the people around him. In his point-of-view scenes, he is a petty, cruel, paranoid and narcissistic man who is skilled at manipulating those around him but can barely keep a lid on his temper. Every time he acts out, however, his luck will ensure that his actions are twisted and viewed in the most positive light possible.
  • Marisi, in the Magic: The Gathering novel Alara Unbroken. He is credited by the Wild Nacatl with founding their society, but he turned them and the Cloud Nacatl against each other as part of Nicol Bolas's plan to create chaos on Alara.
  • Subverted in Malevil. Fulbert is a Sinister Minister with a flock but doesn't have the zealots and fanatics one would expect an evil priest to command. He had their loyalty once and convinced them to accept his rule and entrusted all the food and weapons to his care. Since then, he's been a lazy yet cruel tyrant. They would rebel against him but have no force to do so, and besieging his fortified manor would end with him starving them out.
  • In the Modesty Blaise novel A Taste for Death, the big bad behind the whole plot turns out to be a famous businessman and philanthropist with no criminal record, who is careful to make sure there's no evidence pointing back to him.
  • Godfrey Ablewhite in Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone is a handsome philanthropist and Romantic False Lead who's absolutely adored by charities and female characters everywhere. Then he turns out to be a lying womanizer who's been embezzling from aforementioned charities, and a henchman of the mysterious main villain of the tale.
  • Nadia Stafford: Sebastain Koss is a beloved figure to the Canadian public: a Canadian crown prosecutor who has been instrumental in the pursuit of justice for rape victims and is beloved by both police and rape activists for his work. It is a shame that that's a façade. You see, in reality, Koss himself is a Serial Killer and Serial Rapist of young girls, using his position to gain information to scout for victims. He is a creepy pedophile who preys on young girls, and if they fight back, he kills them.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: Everyone who isn't a thought-criminal worships Big Brother, though he is never seen except on propaganda posters and telescreens.
  • Petaybee: The entire Intergal corporation, which makes sense because it controls all of the media that reaches Petaybee.
  • Lord Henry and Villain Protagonist Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
  • Andy, the grown-up Rosemary's Baby in the sequel, Son of Rosemary is a perfect example of this. He grew up to be the leader of an international peace-keeping organization. One common interpretation has been that the Antichrist is going to bring peace (though of course it will only pave the way for his rule).
  • Martha Plunkett in the YA novel Secrets Not Meant to be Kept. She is a pillar of the community, a churchgoer, and a nonsmoker who, for nearly twenty years, has run a preschool with a sterling reputation. Unfortunately, that preschool is actually a toddler sex ring, where the kids have been molested and exploited for child pornography for as long as the place has been in business.
  • Seven Days in May. General James Mattoon Scott, the most popular, charismatic general in the United States. Oh, he just happens to be plotting to take over the country in a Military Coup, at the end of the week.
  • The Last Don: Jim Losey is a California detective who is considered by journalists to be a fearless defender of law and order, almost a "super detective", and there are plans to make a movie based on some of his cases. But he is actually a corrupt policeman who works for the Clericuzio, as well as being horribly racist.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • Professor Moriarty is a well-respected professor who to, all intents and purposes, seems like a humble, soft-spoken guy. Only Holmes knows that Moriarty is a crime lord, but he can't prove it. (And when Sherlock Holmes can't prove something, you know the bad guy is very good at what he does.)
      Inspector MacDonald: He seems a very respectable, learned, and talented sort of man...when he put his hand on my shoulder as we were parting, it was like a father's blessing before you go out into the cold, cruel world.
    • Moriarty's right-hand man Colonel Moran also counts for this; when Moriarty's gang was rounded up, Moran, who had amassed a good name as an honorable soldier and hunter, was never implicated.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Okay, let's see. The three rapists in Weekend Warriors, who have apparently raped "lots and lots and lots" of women, and almost no one suspects a thing! Senator Webster in Payback, who sure knows how to use the Public Relations machine. Hollywood actor Michael Lyons in Free Fall, who is adored by the public, but is a sexual deviant in private. Lawyer Baron Bell in Deadly Deals, who seems to be such a lovable guy around kids, but actually sells babies! Good thing the Vigilantes have ways to take down such villains!
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tywin Lannister. While ruthless in his war against the Starks and being an all-around jerk, he is known to be a wise ruler who led Westeros into many years of prosperity as the Hand of the King. It helps that this reputation appears to be entirely accurate. He's a terrible father and a vicious enemy, but he is a good ruler. Though that was only when he was The Good Chancellor to the Mad King, his atrocities in his later years, his sacking of King's Landing, the mass murders conducted on his orders by Gregor Clegane and his band of psychopaths have made him disliked as well. Jaime, his son, notes on his father's funeral that aside from some royal guests who are toadying the Lannisters, there are very few mourners because most Kingslanders remember him for his sack and do not like him at all:
    • Joffrey. As a handsome boy-king, many people were willing to blame Lord Varys and the dwarf Tyrion for the problems of the kingdom, believing they'd led him astray. In actuality, Joffrey wanted to shoot peasants with his crossbow, while the other two are doing their best to keep order. This impression seemed to mostly wear off as the situation worsened and rumors about Joffrey's origins spread.
    • Most characters seem to have the same feelings regarding Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish, respecting his intelligence, laughing at his jokes, thinking about him with fondness, and generally viewing him as about as threatening as a cute, little songbird. Few have seen him for what he really is (and they are the ones with even worse PR such as Tyrion and Varys) and fewer know that he is responsible for plunging Westeros into a bloody civil war in the first place.
    • Euron Greyjoy is an interesting case of playing with this trope: he's both hated by his family and feared by the general populace of the Ironmen for his sinister reputation and cruelty, while also being respected as a Shrouded in Myth badass and living legend. When Euron returns from exile, he surprises a lot of characters by becoming King of the Ironmen fairly rather than simply slaughtering his rivals and then gives the Ironmen fresh and unexpected conquests, which is all he needs to get good publicity in a Testosterone Poisoning Blood Knight culture like that of the Ironmen. Euron also acts like a pleasant boss to his men by giving them treasure and gifts but it's only a facade to hide the fact that he cares nothing for them and are completely expendable to him. This makes him probably more dangerous than Ramsay Snow and Gregor Clegane as while he is just as sadistic and psychopathic as them, he can at least keep his sadistic urges in check to make others not suspect what a monster he truly is.
    • Renly Baratheon is one of the most charismatic and powerful nobleman in the Seven Kingdoms, ruling the Stormlands, however, is in private a Sleazy Politician and Corrupt Bureaucrat, and despite being Master of Laws shows little concern for the law. When his brother King Robert dies, he plots to seize power even before Robert is cold and then marries into the powerful Tyrell family to usurp the crown, before he hears the truth of Joffrey's illegitimacy. This sets him up as a foil to the middle Baratheon brother Stannis, who claims the throne out of a sense of duty, as under Westerosi law Robert having no legitimate children makes Stannis his heir, however his strong principles and lack of social skills make him disliked by most of the nobility. Renly, meanwhile, tries claiming the throne largely out of vanity and greed, refusing Stannis' offer to be their heir until Stannis has a son, remain in rule of the Stormlands, and on the Small Council. Renly plans to kill Stannis the next day in battle, citing his larger army as justifying him having a better claim than Stannis. However, Melisandre, a witch who believes Stannis her Messiah, assassinates Renly with blood magic, yet after his death, Renly goes through a Historical Hero Upgrade, as it is believed his ghost helped defeat Stannis' army and save King's Landing at the Battle of the Blackwater, the new Tyrell-backed regime overlooking the fact he was clearly a traitor. Meanwhile, Brienne of Tarth, who was in love with Renly, continues to look at him in a favorable light.
    • The Tyrell family is this as a whole, although their villainy is more ruthlessness than malice. They conspire to marry Margery to four different Baratheon kings to join their family into royalty. The first, King Robert himself, is the only one where they never got their opportunity as they (along with Renly) were planning to try to get Robert smitten with Margaery before revealing the truth of the incest. When Robert dies before this plot is enacted and Renly declares himself king, they join his cause even knowing he is not the legitimate heir. While fighting for Renly's cause, they seize all food heading up towards King's Landing from the Reach, causing mass starvation and violence. When they decide to throw in with the Lannisters, they then give away food to the poor, who don't realize that the Tyrells are the reason why there was a shortage in the first place. After obtaining Sansa's (a shell-shocked 11-year-old) trust, they verify Joffrey's true nature and kill him almost immediately after the ceremony is legalized while also setting up Sansa and Tyrion as patsies. While A Feast for Crows shows Cersei to be awfully delusional and paranoid to the reader, the truth is that the Tyrells really are to blame for some of the bad things that have happened to her, and she doesn't suspect them enough.
  • Duke Roger in the Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce (or in the first 2, anyway). Subversion in that it's only the people at court who believe he's a good guy, except for the heroine and another character. People outside the court who are aware of him don't trust him. (The people at court are most of the main characters.) It turns out that his good publicity is a mix of charisma and magical tricks — not quite full-on brainwashing, but similar.
  • In Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch, Colonel Zenf is well-regarded internationally as a diplomat and philanthropist and has received honors from many nations. This makes things difficult for the protagonists who know he's actually an evil enchanter on the verge of taking over the world.
  • The Spirit Thief likes its villains to have good PR.
    • Prince Renaud, thanks to some shrewd political manipulation, plays the kingdom of Mellinor like a fiddle by his second day in the office.
    • The Immortal Empress is practically worshipped by her subjects.
    • Adela is beloved by people more than her country's rulers, and is practically a celebrity there.
  • In Spock's World, the Big Bad is this until McCoy uncovers the plan and Sarek gives the information to the media.
  • In La Saga de los Confines, by the argentinean Liliana Bodoc, we have Misaianes, The Son of Death, he is the embodiment of Eternal Hatred, which makes him practically an Eldritch Abomination, however he can present himself as a being of enormous wisdom, a master of arcane knowledge (dressed in the finery of the sun) and that allows him to convince many magicians and nobles to join him in his plan to conquer all creation.
    • Molitzmós is another good example, he is a member of the nobility of The Lords of The Sun, someone apparently intelligent, wise and compassionate, especially with the peasants burdened by high taxes. However, in reality he is secretly a traitor and a servant of Misaianes.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Highlord Amaram has a reputation as the most honorable man in Alethkar, to the point where Dalinar appoints him as the leader of the reforged Knights Radiant. Amaram is also behind Kaladin's Start of Darkness: Kaladin was a soldier in his army and saved Amaram's life by killing a Shardbearer. Shardblades are priceless magical swords, and Kaladin legally won that Shardblade, but Amaram decided that a Shardblade would be wasted on a peasant with no training and should go to a noble like him who would save the world. Amaram stole the Shardblade, killed Kaladin's squad to keep the secret from getting out, and sold him into slavery as a deserter. Dalinar's son Adolin believes Kaladin because Amaram's reputation is Too Good to Be True; Dalinar is the most honorable man he knows, but even his record isn't spotless. Adolin concludes that Amaram's perfect reputation is a work of a cover-up.
    • High King Gavilar was considered The Good King for uniting the high princes and forming a united Alethkar. His death led to the princes forming the Vengeance Pact against the culprits and even years later Dalinar won't hear a word said against his brother. As the series goes on it becomes clear that Gavilar was actually a brutal warlord who was emotionally abusing his wife and children while actively trying to trigger a new Desolation so he could become a god. His wife Navani once threatened to expose his cruelty to the world during an argument on the night he died. After he was killed she chose to maintain his reputation out of guilt over wishing for his death.
  • From the second Sapphire Rose trilogy, David Eddings's The Tamuli. Zalasta is the cause of everything wrong, despite being the one to recommend that Sparhawk be called in. Which bites him in the ass later.
  • In The Three Hostages, Dominick Medina is a well-known and respected public figure, explorer, politician, philanthropist, and poet. He's also the Diabolical Mastermind at the head of an international crime syndicate. Even Hannay, the protagonist, doesn't believe it until Medina personally tries to put him out of the way. In the end, though the heroes rescue the hostages and break the crime syndicate, they can't touch Medina personally, and he would have got away clean if he hadn't gone after Hannay in a Post-Climax Confrontation.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: Subverted with Bob Ewell. All of Maycomb knows he is a stupid, selfish, loutish, and untrustworthy hick. The only reason he gets away with beating his daughter along with possible Parental Incest was because the man he accused was black, and the trial only reveals to the town the depths of his cruelty, humiliating him and driving him to various acts of vengeance.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Pre-series Kazebar was Draconica's number 1 humanitarian. To reward his good work Dronor granted his son the power to travel between worlds, believing that if any human deserved this honor it would be Kazebar's family line. Whether he was tempted by this power or if he was Evil All Along is not made clear.
  • The Masters in The Tripods were this trope. They depicted themselves as saving humans from war and violence.
  • The main villain of The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, the White Queen. It goes beyond the usual level of good publicity — she is literally worshipped as a goddess, despite being an Eldritch Abomination who doesn't care about anyone except the main character Kyousuke.
  • In Un Lun Dun, there are two; Brokkenbroll in the abcity and Minister Rawley in the real world.
  • In the first Warrior Cats series, Tigerclaw. He's a highly respected senior warrior, and, by the end of the first book, becomes deputy (second-in-command) of the Clan (and therefore next in line as leader). However, he murdered a previous deputy in order to try and claim the position, which only the young hero Fireheart and his two best friends know. Tigerclaw is such a respected cat in the Clan that nobody suspects him of treachery — even the leader rejected the idea when Fireheart told her his suspicions. Being deputy, Tigerclaw can assign Fireheart punishments in order to keep an eye on him, or order him to perform a life-threatening task, or suggest to the leader that Fireheart should be driven out of the Clan.
  • In the second book of Watchers of the Throne, this is the main goal of the Imperium Eterna faction: to orchestrate a scenario where they deal with a situation that the progress-minded Reform Council cannot, thus legitimizing themselves and their policies in the public eye.
  • In the Indian novel The White Tiger: The Great Socialist.
  • In the Wild Cards books, Puppetman is a sadist who mind-controls people and uses them to torture and kill others for his own pleasure. He's also a well-respected candidate for President of the United States.
  • This trope underpins the plot of The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid; Jacko Vance is a well-respected TV personality and former Olympic athlete who lost an arm rescuing people from a motorway pile-up. This makes it slightly difficult for DI Jordan and her team to investigate him when they realise that he's been kidnapping and torturing young girls for years.
  • In The Wish List, Franco starts out well-liked by the neighborhood, due to nobody knowing about his embarrassing habits or the way he treats his wife and stepdaughter. He loses this status after Meg tricks him into showing his friends a videotape detailing his unhealthy obsession with TV and abuse of her.
  • The Four Horsemen of The Witch Watch are this and use it to good advantage.
  • Within Ruin: Virgil inverts this trope. He is intentionally a ruthless dictator in order to cultivate more dissent so that as many people will die as possible. He wants the bad PR.
  • Queen Arrabel in the short story A Woman's Work is the head of an aggressive empire that ruthlessly conquers others and spreads itself. She orders people killed with a mere gesture (including a princess who refused to marry her son), kills off heroes trying to stop her, and is quite willing to have her son be a target for assassination instead of her. However, since she provides universal education and health care, a sound economy, a healthy population, and employment training, and doles out praise and rewards when it's earned, her people and army absolutely love her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Season 5 of 24, President Logan turns out to be the Big Bad.
  • Accused (2023): In "Jack's Story", Clara didn't tell anyone of being raped by her stepfather at first because, as a seemingly upstanding citizen (he teaches Sunday school), she didn't think anybody, even her mother, would believe it. However, at the end her mom does and he's arrested.
  • Molly Hardy, in The Adventures of Shirley Holmes. Up to the very end, she's got everybody convinced that she's a model student. She was popular, Student President, and winner of several art and academic awards. Only Shirley and Bo see her sociopathic side, initially.
  • Sheriff Lucas Buck of American Gothic (1995). Nowhere is this more obvious than in one episode where he is strolling down the hallway of the town hospital: on every side of him, men tip their hats and women hand him flowers, little old men and women thank him for the charity work that has enabled them to afford their medicines, children smile and wave, and so on. No one in Trinity could possibly believe good ol' boy Buck could have a mean bone in his body, let alone be Evil Incarnate. Gail finds herself working (unsuccessfully) against this mindset when investigating Buck and his connection to her parents' deaths; Dr. Crower is unable to convince anyone the sheriff is pure evil, hence making it easy to lock him up as crazy; and Caleb, who knows right off the bat that something isn't right about the fellow, ends up being taken in by his charisma and accepting him as his true father who's been wrongfully maligned and only wants to help raise him right.
  • Andor: Chief Inspector Hyne attempts to invoke this when he orders Syril to write up a fake report about the deaths of two dirty cops. He instructs Syril to have the report say that they died protecting someone from harm during an "unfortunate calamity", rather than admit they tried to shake down the wrong person at the wrong time.
    Hyne: I suspect they died rushing to aid someone in distress. Nothing too heroic, we don't need a parade. They died being helpful. Something sad but inspiring, in a mundane sort of way.
  • Andromeda: The Knights of Genetic Purity are generally well-regarded among most human polities for being the most powerful and cohesive force fighting the Nietzscheans. Most people also choose to ignore that the Knights are fighting a war of extermination against the Nietzscheans for being genetically impure, and intend to do so against all Human Subspecies and the 92% of baseline humans who don't fit their definition of "true" humanity.
  • Angel:
    • Wolfram and Hart: they are their crack legal team. While many of their clients are rich or powerful, the firm is also known to work some cases pro bono, especially when it has an ulterior interest in the client. Lilah even gave the keynote speech at a public school just to get close to a young telekinetic. Holland's division sponsored a high-profile charity event with the intention of stealing upwards of 95% of the funds raised.
      Holland: Can we really change the world? At Wolfram & Hart, We're Counting On It.™
    • Jasmine takes this trope to the logical extreme with good publicity through Mass Hypnosis.
  • Arrow:
    • Malcolm Merlyn is viewed as a humanitarian and philanthropist, but in actuality is the Big Bad of Season 1, with a plan to "save" the city by killing thousands.
    • Sebastian "Brother" Blood is an alderman who champions the lower classes and is popular enough to run for mayor with a good chance of winning. He's also a Dark Messiah cult leader who intends to create an army of Super Soldiers and wipe out the city's elite. Laurel actually realizes he's a villain fairly early on, but can't get anyone to believe her, in part due to her descent into addiction. Blood then discredits her so thoroughly even she thinks she was wrong.
  • Babylon 5:
    • In the second through fourth seasons, the Earth government stays in power largely by controlling all the media and spinning everything in their favour. It engages in practically every single Trope in the description, including capturing Sheridan and attempting an Engineered Public Confession as a major story arc. Tellingly, during a meeting with an Earth Force Major who reports martial law has been declared and troops are deployed in all Earth's major cities, he notes that martial law has been (officially) met with widespread public approval! And things have never been calmer. Sheridan replies, "Yeah, but it's the peace of the gun". Sheridan then proceeds to use his own guns quite effectively.
    • The Vorlons have manipulated the younger races into perceiving them as angels (and their enemies as demons), and up until the fourth season, the protagonists — especially the Minbari — regard them as the Big Good. In truth, they are not nearly so benevolent.
  • In Batman (1966), the Riddler is pointing a gun at a local citizen, so Batman busts in to arrest him. It turns out that it was a lighter in the shape of a gun, and he was showing it off to the guy. This gives him the ability to sue Batman for false arrest. It didn't exactly improve the villain's publicity though (the charges against Batman were dismissed after his real crime left his whereabouts uncertain, and he never showed up in court to pursue the case.)
  • Blackadder: The Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath & Wells, known and feared across the land and who works as a loan collector for the Black Bank of St. Hereford ("Banking with a Smile and a Stab!"), and who by his own admission is a colossal pervert willing to do anything to anything. Yet despite all this he somehow has a good standing with his parish, who believe he has no greater vice than a "little tipple before evensong". Blackadder is able to ward him and his red-hot poker off by threatening this reputation.
  • Marcus van Sciver in Blade: The Series is one of the most well-known figures in Detroit. He's a big patron of the arts and a major proponent of the cultural revival of the city. The fact that he only shows his face at night doesn't faze anyone in the least. He's also a vicious bloodsucker who kills on a whim and wants to bring down the vampire aristocracy. He's also British.
  • The Boys (2019): The Seven are prime examples of this. The people think they're heroes, but they're actually self-deluded narcissists who just do whatever they please no matter who they hurt (with the exception of Starlight). It's to the point that Homelander can kill a random man in public for insulting his son, and everyone instantly praises him for being a protective father. However it's also a Fatal Flaw that the Boys can exploit; the one thing the Seven care about is their reputation, leaving them open to blackmail.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Gus Fring. On the surface, he is a respectable businessman and a major supporter of local law enforcement agencies. In reality, he has no qualms with murder and other heinous acts just to keep his meth empire going.
    • The protagonist, Walter White, is a High School Chemistry Teacher who beat cancer. This is demonstrated perfectly in a Season 3 episode where his wife, Skylar, calls the cops on him. She ends up looking bad in front of the cops when their son sides with Walt.
  • Camelot: Morgan begins increasingly painting a good image of herself in people's minds to help gain supporters that will turn against Arthur (who she's made look bad by comparison).
  • Parodied in one Chappelle's Show sketch in which the famously friendly and squeaky-clean Wayne Brady is portrayed as secretly being a deranged, sociopathic criminal who performs drive-by shootings, pimps out women, forces Dave Chappelle to take drugs, steals food, and murders a cop for pulling him over on a traffic violation.
  • Alderman Gibbons in The Chicago Code is an obvious one of these, as he manipulates the public, and is able to come out smelling like a rose despite the crap he's involved in.
  • Cobra Kai:
    • John Kreese becomes one of these in Season 3. Knowing how to pay lip-service to social justice culture (earning the respect of a councilman by calling her "councilperson", for instance) and his past as a decorated veteran means he automatically gets a certain amount of respect in the community, even as he steadily escalates his harassment campaign and violence against the Miyagi-Do dojo and Johnny Lawrence. When Kreese speaks at a local political meeting, both Johnny and Daniel are stunned at how easily the abusive, manipulative psychopath can win people over while their own legitimate but poorly phrased/spoken points get ignored.
    • Terry Silver is even better than Kreese. Thanks to his immense wealth and connections, as well as his immense intelligence and manipulation skills, he is able to paint himself as a humble philanthropic karate sensei and keep others in the dark about his true nature. He was even able to fool Amanda La Russo briefly that he was actually better than Kreese as well as briefly turn her against Daniel by acting as if Daniel pushed him harder than he did.
  • One episode of Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa is a Reverse Who Dunnit following the criminal's POV, showing him to be a successful businessman regarded as kind and generous by everyone who knew him. Even the victim loved him deeply before he revealed himself to be a psychopath who murdered her just because he felt like it.
  • CSI: NY: The serial rapist in "Help" is a successful, respected owner of several nightclubs who has expanded his holdings to Brazil.
  • Dead Man's Gun: Several of the more morally bankrupt owners of the gun (such as the eponymous characters in "The Chef" and "Buryin' Sam") are viewed by their communities as affable and trustworthy people who provide essential services.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Mr. Saxon. See President Evil. Like Jasmine, brainwashing is involved.
    • Davros in "Genesis of the Daleks" — at least, before he arranges the Kaled Dome's destruction (and the extermination of his people) to avoid having to cover his tracks.
    • Davros also returns to this in his Sixth Doctor appearance in "Revelation of the Daleks", in which he's credited for helping solve universal hunger. You know, until it's revealed that his food is made of people. Whoops.
    • The Daleks could count as a group of Villains with Good Publicity in "Victory of the Daleks". The Doctor knows what they really are, but they have even Winston Churchill convinced that they are nothing but loyal robots who will fight for England. And serve them tea.
    • The same thing is true in the Second Doctor-era story, "The Power of the Daleks". Everyone in the human colony is convinced that the Daleks are robots that are there to help them in any way possible. This belief is reinforced by the Daleks' seemingly endless mantra of "I. AM. YOUR. SER-VANT."
    • There's also Salamander in "The Enemy of the World".
    • Rassilon, Founder of Time Lord Society, was often portrayed as a benevolent figure by the Time Lords. In "The Five Doctors", he even helps defeat the villain and restore order. However, in the same story, he is implied to be this trope; the Third Doctor says that he put a stop to misuse of time travel, while the Second Doctor says that the official history portrayed him well, but there were rumours that he was a tyrant who was imprisoned in the Dark Tower by his fellow Time Lords. In "The End of Time", he has returned during the Time War to lead the Time Lords and has become an Omnicidal Maniac, willing to bring about the title threat to ensure the Time Lords Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.note 
  • Drake & Josh: Megan. It's just not funny anymore. An adult who did the things she did, including smuggling illegal merchandise, torturing (other) children, and using counterfeit money, would be in jail for years.
  • In The Exorcist, the Friars of Ascension are a Catholic charity organization whose members include many of Chicago's "pillars of society", such as the police superintendent and a businesswoman/philanthropist who is one of the main benefactors of Father Tomas' struggling church. However, they're all also closeted Satanists (several of whom may actually be possessed) who are plotting to assassinate the Pope during his visit to the city.
  • Fear the Walking Dead: Virginia's Pioneers spread around propaganda videotapes pretending to be a charitable society of do-gooders encouraging survivors to seek out their help when in reality they're a pitiless and brutal empire.
  • The Alliance in Firefly (with shades of Knights Templar) is a very good example of this. Most of them think they are being no worse than Kipling-style Imperialists who conquer the unwilling but also build hospitals, ship medicine to the Rim and try to establish Rule of Law. This comes in hard for River and Simon who don't just face exile but the respect with which well-engineered hypocrisy can cover injustice — and it comes especially hard for the inhabitants of places like Miranda...
  • In Flash Gordon (2007), Ming of Mongo goes to great lengths to present himself to his subjects as "The Benevolent Father" (but can never quite live down his old nickname "Ming the Merciless"). He can grant a smuggler's sick daughter extra water rations while ordering his execution in the same breath.
  • The Following: Roderick is the well-liked sheriff of the county where the cult sets up its main headquarters.
  • Game of Thrones: Despite admitting to being a kinslayer without any shame, Euron Greyjoy became king by showing more superior aspirations than taking revenge on the North, and in Season 7, the people of King's Landing cheer on him after he captured Ellaria, Tyene, and Yara and takes them in chains to Cersei. He lampshades this last instance by commenting on how unusual it is for a Greyjoy to be praised by the people of Westeros.
  • Gotham:
    • Theo Galavan in Season 2 secretly staged a mass breakout at Arkham Asylum just so he could thwart the released criminals to gain public reputation. Then he had Penguin assassinate numerous political candidates while also staging a 'failed' assassination on Theo, "convincing" him to run for mayor of Gotham at the urge of his ever-more-adoring fans.
    • Penguin becomes this in Season 3. Despite his well-known criminal reputation, he gains vast public support after calling out the GCPD for their gross incompetence in handling the escaped supervillains from Indian Hill and rallying the populace behind him to handle it the old fashioned way. Afterwards, he's popular enough to run for mayor.
  • In Hannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter actively maintains a reputation as a brilliant and cultured psychiatrist with close friendships with Alana Bloom and Jack Crawford. He even enhances his seeming innocence by framing others for his crimes, such as Will and Chilton. This ends after Season 2 when the facade comes crumbling down.
  • The only recurring villain in Homicide: Life on the Street is Luther Mahoney, a college-educated drug kingpin whose front is a self-proclaimed "community activist" who runs a number of community centers and charities in the slums. No matter what the detectives try to pin on him, he always walks away unscathed and with his reputation intact, causing one detective to remark that he would likely someday be elected Mayor. Eventually, one of the detectives kills him in a questionable shooting, leading to many, many more problems than are solved.
  • Francis Urquhart from the House of Cards (UK) trilogy cheats, connives, blackmails, coerces, and murders his way to the post of Prime Minister of the UK. He effortlessly charms his friends and enemies into doing everything he wants as he stabs them in the back, and he enjoys overwhelming popular support. He ends up ruling longer than Margret Thatcher. Frank Underwood, his American counterpart, is just as much of a political schemer, and just as willing to resort to murder to get what he wants. And he's still considered a personal friend of the (apparently genuinely non-corrupt) President, as well as being quite popular with the public.
  • Impulse (2018): The Boones are well-liked by the community because of how much business they bring in, and the fact Clay is a local hero with the school's basketball team. There's some rumor of their criminal dealings but most seem to see it as a necessary evil, and after his "accident", the entire town rallies behind Clay. Part of the reason Henry never goes public about his Date Rape against her is that the town would probably take his side.
  • In From the Cold: Felipe and Andrés Calero lead a racist terrorist group which kills many people. They're respectively a well-known philanthropist and respected diplomat, which leads to skepticism from Ohana, a chief inspector of the police, about them doing this.
  • Jack Taylor:
    • "The Guards":
      • Trevor Lanpert, an outwardly respectable businessman, is a serial killer who drowns teenage girls and films their demises.
      • Jack's friend Sutton is a seemingly respectable artist, but commits blackmail and eventual murder.
    • In "The Dramatist", Professor Eugene Gorman is a respected professor by day, serial killer of women by night.
  • Law & Order: Organized Crime: Preston Webb is the leader of the Marcy Killers, a powerful Black gang, but is publicly an upstanding successful and legitimate businessman. His mentor, Representative Leon Kilbride, serves as another example, knowing the real business Webb does and also being personally corrupt in other ways, like ordering a construction project be dragged out as long as possible for milking the funding.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Compromised", Damian Darhk, an Evil Sorcerer and head of Nebulous Evil Organisation HIVE has become one of Ronald Reagan's top advisers.
  • His Divine Shadow in Lexx is worshiped in the Light Universe as the guardian of Order who protects his subjects from the Dark Zone (the alternate universe). Only a scant fraction of the Light Universe's population recognizes the Obviously Evil nature of His Shadow and his regime. And no one realizes that His Shadow is in truth the last Insect using humans to defeat themselves.
  • In his Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman incarnation, Lex is a renowned philanthropist, a darling to the press (even Perry White wants to sell him the Daily Planet), and a god to City Hall — this despite operating a monopoly on city services and gouging his customers. He also runs a crime syndicate on the side, ensuring that even the lowliest mugger answers to him.
  • The Mandalorian: Elia Kane managed to make New Republic officials believe that her defection to their side is the result of a genuine change in her values. However, she's actually still a brutal person who tortures Pershing cruelly when left alone with him.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
      • Ian Quinn presents himself as a champion of free business and small government but is actually a textbook Corrupt Corporate Executive working for The Clairvoyant.
      • Jiaying, the leader of the Inhumans, is viewed as a wise and benevolent ruler. However, she turns out to be a totally unhinged War Hawk who has no problem engaging in total war with SHIELD, even knowing it'll cause countless deaths on both sides.
      • Season 3 has Gideon Malick, a philanthropist and former member of the World Security Council who acts as the benefactor for the ATCU. He also turns out to be a member of HYDRA's old guard and leader of the faction dedicated to their true original purpose of worshipping and working to unleash an ancient Inhuman.
    • Daredevil (2015):
      • Wilson Fisk originally subverts this, trying to be a Villain with No Publicity: he goes to great lengths to stay out of the limelight, and uttering his name carelessly will cause him to order a hit on you and everyone you ever cared about as a message to others. Eventually, his new mistress Vanessa Marianna persuades him to call a press conference where he paints himself as a philanthropist in order to get some good publicity in response to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen becoming a pain in his side. This stymies Matt, Karen, and Foggy's efforts to bring him down, though they eventually prevail once they get Carl Hoffman to testify about Fisk's criminal activities.
      • In Season 3, Fisk finds himself having to build himself back up to this, as the press are rightfully villainizing him as a criminal, and protesters are demonstrating outside the hotel he's bought and also bribed the FBI into putting him up in. Fisk's method of regaining the good graces of the press is to have one of the agents guarding him, Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter, put on a Daredevil suit and attack the New York Bulletin to discredit Karen Page and the real Daredevil (Matt Murdock), and more importantly silence Jasper Evans so that he can't go on record about how Fisk paid him to shank him as part of his gambit to manipulate the FBI. When Karen provokes Fisk by revealing that she killed James Wesley, Fisk sends Dex to kill her as revenge, and though Matt and Karen drive him off, Father Lantom and two bystanders are killed during the attack. Subsequently, Fisk uses Dex's bloodshed to call a press conference at the hotel, wherein he finally sways the public back to his side. In an effort to counter this, Nelson & Murdock get Ray Nadeem to testify before a grand jury, with Karen also calling a press conference of her own outside the courthouse while Nadeem is testifying. Fisk gets advanced warning of their plans from Felix Manning and has his men intimidate the grand jury into declining to indict Fisk (after a failed attempt to ambush Nadeem and Matt en route to the courthouse). Between this, Vanessa ordering Nadeem be killed by Dex that very evening (and posthumously framed for the death of another FBI agent that his boss killed), Fisk is back on top and a lot of his new partners and the city's upper crust elite turn out for his and Vanessa's wedding. That is, until Karen and Foggy get the Bulletin to run a video confession Nadeem made before his death, combined with Matt turning Dex against Fisk by revealing to him that Fisk had someone close to him killed.
    • Deconstructed in Luke Cage (2016):
      • In season 1, Mariah Dillard (and Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes to a lesser extent) try to be this, but it takes a lot of effort on their parts to keep their criminal activities out of public consciousness. Except Mariah is very effectively ambushed by a TV reporter during a live interview asking about her ties to her cousin's crime ring (due to Luke's attack on her office at Crispus Attucks), and all Mariah can really do is end the interview immediately and have the reporter and her camera crew removed from the house. From there on, the entire second half of the season sees Mariah trying to regain the good publicity she's lost. Even after managing to get Luke ousted as Carl Lucas and sent back to prison, it's pretty clear it will be a long uphill battle.
      • At the start of season 2, Mariah is still struggling to regain standing, and at her publicist's suggestion, reestablishes a relationship with her estranged daughter Tilda Johnson, and is planning to go legit by selling off her gun dealing ventures in favor of shady stock dealing, and open up several housing complexes. Unfortunately, she's never able to achieve that, as Bushmaster turns up to settle an old score with Mariah over her grandparents' murder of his parents 30 years ago. His opening shots of war are to put the severed heads of three of her associates on pikes in the entryway to her new housing project where they are prominently displayed when Mariah holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Then he kidnaps and kills her stockbroker, bankrupts her, and burns down her brownstone. Mariah's way of retaliating is to go to a restaurant owned by Bushmaster's aunt and uncle and kill everyone inside, and subjecting Bushmaster's uncle Anansi to a particularly agonizing death. Shades and Tilda are disgusted with Mariah and sever all ties with her. Shades cooperates with the police to help them bring down Mariah by implicating her in the death of Bushmaster's uncle and Cottonmouth, while Tilda helps Bushmaster make one last attempt to kill Mariah during a free event she throws at Harlem's Paradise specifically as bait for him. This attempt fails thanks to Luke's intervention, Mariah is arrested, and she's arraigned and locked up in jail to await trial. While locked up, she attempts to order a purge of people who could implicate her in her criminal activities, including her assistant Alex. Which just gets Tilda to discreetly poison Mariah while visiting her at the jail.
  • Morgana of Merlin (2008) is one of these in Series 3 — despite her repeated attempts to murder Uther and take over Camelot, everyone remains blissfully unaware of her treachery. One episode ends with Morgana being praised for foiling her own plot. In later series, it's implied that amongst the opportunists, Morgana does have many loyal followers who believe that she's right in wanting to eradicate the Pendragon family and restore magic to Camelot.
  • Monk: The titular character’s archenemy Dale the Whale is a subverted version of this trope, going to great lengths to ensure no one knows about him by buying newspapers for the sole purpose of keeping his name out of them. While it’s never explained why he does this, it might be related to the fact that he’s an 800-pound man that’s too heavy to get out of bed and too wide to fit through his door. In fact, Monk’s late wife unintentionally started the feud between Dale and her husband by writing an article about him, describing him as the “Genghis Khan of world finance”.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Regina Mills, mayor of Storybrooke and secretly the evil queen of the Snow White Fairy Tale. Some people know she's controlling, a few consider her a Rich Bitch or a Mean Boss, but she gets away with murder because the town just can't imagine she'd ever sink to the depths that she actually spends most of her life in.
    • An even better example is the Red Queen from its spin-off series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, who is generally liked by the population (though some are terrified of her) and listens to the complaints of her subjects. Her popularity is probably helped by the fact that she was preceded by Cora, and that royalty in the OUAT universe tends not to be great in the first place.
  • Pennsatucky in Orange Is the New Black. She went to jail after shooting a nurse at an abortion clinic for "disrespecting her". However, people assumed that she did it as a pro-life statement and they raised money to get her a good lawyer, so she went along with it and pretended she did it as a pro-life statement and eventually believed it herself. While in prison, she gets fan mail from her supporters on a regular basis. Not that everyone supports what Pennsatucky did, but enough to still qualify for this trope.
  • The Power (2023): Mr. Montgomery, Allie's foster father, is an upstanding church member according to his wife and so far as the public overall know. Allie thus clearly realizes that saying he tried to rape her and this is why she killed him won't help, running away instead.
  • Stockwell from Season 3 of Queer as Folk (US). He was chief constable and ran for mayor. The general masses loved him, especially since he promised to make Pittsburgh "family-friendly" if he was elected. Never mind that in order to do so, he practically persecuted the gay population of the city. He put in place a nifty little cover-up when one of the police officers he employed murdered a young gay prostitute.
  • In the TV adaptation of the Raffles stories, Raffles explains that his pursuit of fame as a cricketer is motivated by a desire to be this. As he sees it, by making himself a public figure who is automatically linked in peoples' minds to one thing, he's guaranteed that no one could ever suspect him of being a professional thief. He also voices a theory, based on this premise, that Jack the Ripper was probably a well-known MP whose moral speeches were reported in all the papers along with his crimes.
  • Scandal (2012): Fitz has... enough of a good reputation to be President of the United States.
  • A downplayed example in Scream Queens (2015): Chanel is very popular amongst her 752 Instagram fans for giving them Halloween gifts for "Chanel-o-ween." This makes her look like a caring person and boosts her popularity, despite the fact that she often delivers stealth insults to her fans. Parodied in the second season's Chanel-o-ween video. Chanel doesn't bother with the pretense of trying to be nice; she explicitly says that she's using her video to let her fans know how much she hates them. She sends them real maggots, pus, and body parts she looted from the hospital she works at, along with extremely vicious insults. She even goes to someone's house to tell them that she loathes them. Yet after all this, her fans are shown with Tears of Joy and crying out over how much they love Chanel for what she's done.
  • Danielle Atron in The Secret World of Alex Mack. She is the CEO of Paradise Valley Chemical Plant, who is the biggest sponsor for most events in the series as well as the main employer of most of the town. Little do they know, though, that she is extremely shady and willing to kill an innocent kid just because they were doused with an experimental (and illegal) chemical substance.
  • Smallville:
    • Averted with Lionel Luthor. He's so hated that Lex, learning from his mistakes, determines that love is a more powerful weapon than hate. Before his Heel–Face Turn, Lionel doesn't give a crap about what people thought of him. And he actually encourages their hatred of him, believing that people are at their weakest when angry.
    • In Season 10, Gordon Godfrey is one as well, being a media magnate who is riding high on the wave of anti-vigilante sentiment to gather political power, all while secretly spreading Darkseid's influence on the world.
  • Snowpiercer: Joseph Wilford created the titular ark train mostly just to keep himself alive and comfortable as the world ended in a new ice age, and only let other people on to provide him services. He also deliberately put into places draconian rules specifically designed to keep him in absolute control of everyone onboard. But despite this, most passengers view him as a benevolent benefactor who selflessly saved the last of humanity, to the point that many virtually (and as of Season 2, seemingly literally) worship him.
  • Senator Kinsey in Stargate SG-1. He's such a self-righteous Jerkass, you have to wonder how he manages to function in society without constantly being punched, much less get elected. Kinsey was later an Evil Vice President, but he got fired after the Personable President wised up to him being evil. Again, it's amazing how many people don't figure out he's evil two seconds after meeting him.
    • Over the course of the series, the heroes visit multiple alternate realities in which Kinsey became President. None of them ended well.
    • Ba'al becomes this for an episode when it's revealed that he's secretly on Earth and has become a CEO of a major corporation.
    • The Ori, at least to billions of followers. Then again, while they do have people who genuinely believe in the teachings of Origin, it's more than likely most are simply terrified of being burnt alive.
  • The page quote from Star Trek: The Next Generation refers to the actions of Retired Admiral Norah Satie, a respected member of Starfleet who quickly grows paranoid at the idea that there was a conspiracy on board the Enterprise. Picard is able to expose her by invoking her father, which pisses her right off. Worf, who had been more than willing to follow her, is quite discouraged by the fact that he did so, though Picard tells him the above as a means to reassure him, that it's easy to be swayed by a villain hiding under good intentions.
  • Supernatural:
    • It's uncommon in this series due to most of the villains being monsters that none of the normal humans know about, but the Leviathan leader Dick Roman plays this to the hilt in Season 7. Impersonating an already fairly successful businessman, he rockets the business to new levels of success, leading multiple news organizations to interview him, where he talks about doing good for his fellow man, etc. For bonus points, a couple of Leviathan also impersonate the Winchesters and commit various atrocities on camera to paint them as unstable serial killers.
    • Metatron is this for the angels in Season 9, as he convinces a good number of them that he's benevolent and that Castiel is the villain. In actuality, he's the one who kicked all the angels out of Heaven for his own selfish reasons, and doesn't give a crap about any of his followers, even sending several of them on suicide missions purely for PR purposes.
  • Swamp Thing: Anton Arcane in the 1990 live-action TV series. Arcane also often takes a back seat to the Villain of the Week, many of whom are completely unrelated to his schemes. In others, Arcane might actually work with Swamp Thing against a bigger threat. It also helps that he has the benefit of Adaptational Attractiveness and engages in Pragmatic Villainy, unlike his comics counterpart. At worst, some, like Tressa, are merely annoyed by his constant "hitting on her".
  • In the SWAT universe, Hank St. John- better known as "Saint"- is a pillar of the community who donates to many different charitable causes. Hondo and the LAPD, though, suspect his charity is a cover for a massive drug ring that he's leading, so they're keeping an eye on him in order to get the evidence needed to put him away for good.
  • Invoked by Wilhelmina in Ugly Betty. She gives expensive designer clothes to homeless people, sings to sick children, and makes sure TV cameras happen to be there to let everyone know what a good person she is. It turns out to be All for Nothing when later that night, she slams Betty White's finger in a car door and callously states "I'm Wilhelmina Slater and I don't get wet."
  • The Network, the absurdly powerful cabal of business interests, spies, and politicians in Conspiracy Thriller Utopia. When the protagonists unwittingly stumble upon the plot, they're either assassinated or forced into hiding after being framed for rape, child pornography, and a school massacre.
  • The malevolent alien Visitors in V (1983) begin like this, gaining control of the world's governments by pretending to be Human Aliens who have come to share their great knowledge, thus facilitating their real plan to enslave and devour mankind.
  • The remake V (2009) has them heading down exactly the same path, at least as far as the first part is concerned. As for the second... Anna engages in a constant PR campaign that succeeds in getting the UN and even the Vatican on her side. She also uses the chaos caused by the Fifth Column and the Human Resistance to her advantage, gaining support for her people by making them look like the victims.
  • In order to avoid spoiling anything, suffice it to say Veronica Mars has several of these, although some turn out to be red herrings and not true villains at all.
  • Wild Bill: Oleg Kasanov is a crime boss but he has a good image as he's also heavily involved with charity, being well known as a philanthropist.
  • Clay Davis from The Wire is an excellent example of this Trope. In fact, his publicity is so good that he manages to get acquitted of fraud charges thanks to it — the evidence that he did the things the prosecution said he did is overwhelming, but his publicity is so good that none of the jurors can believe that he was anything worse than a Lovable Rogue.

  • In The Protomen, Dr. Wily is very much this. The people follow his every word, even trying to lynch Dr. Light when he tells them to.
  • The Chad Mitchell Trio has a song making fun of The Klan that has the line, "Yep since we got a lawyer and a Public Relations man, we're your Friendly Liberal Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan."
  • They Might Be Giants' song "Kiss Me, Son of God" is a Villain Song from the perspective of one.
  • GWAR, despite being omnicidal maniacs with a thirst for violence, drugs, and sex, and who have a greedy manager, have a very big fanbase and are quite popular.
  • Gilles de Rais from Macabre's "The Black Knight" was a hero in his homeland before his horrific crimes came to light.
  • The Rage Against the Machine song "Sleep Now in the Fire." The speaker proclaims, "I'm deep inside your children. They'll betray you in my name!"
  • "Model Citizen" by Warren Zevon is about a well-respected member of the community who is nevertheless a Jerkass.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Fabulous Frank. As an emulator of young Jim Cornette, a simple still picture of Frank is exactly what most fans have been conditioned to associate with evil managers and putting one on a jumbotron will instantly cause crowds to start booing. In truth, the fans have never ever trusted Frank. For some reason Frank can always find a new gullible baby face willing to trust him, the state of Florida will not revoke his license and the promotion known as Future Of Wrestling continued to tolerate his presence(outside Florida and FOW Frank's publicity is not universally good).
  • The baby face vs. baby face, Savio Vega vs Dennis Rivera "feud" in The World Wrestling League, where Rivera was convinced Vega was an example of this trope. To be fair, Dennis was totally right at first, it was just that the fans were cheering Vega's efforts to screw Heavyweight Champion Glamour Boy Shane by pitting him against such wrestlers as El Mesias and El Patron Alberto. But then El Patron joined the newly formed Gentlemen's Club and Vega was fired. It turned out Richard Negrin, the World Wrestling League founder, was the bigger villain with better publicity, so Savio was no longer an example when he returned.
  • Veda Scott is an evil lawyer and something of a Dirty Coward\Cowardly Lion to boot, but still gets to join Kevin Kelly during the recaps of Ring of Honor's tours and force Amber Gertner away from SHIMMER's commentary table at will with no repercussions.
  • Act Yasukawa turned heel, took over Wonder Ring Stardom's main Power Stable, Kimura Monster Gun from Kyoko Kimura herself, renaming it Oedo~tai, yet people kept chanting her name as if she was a baby face.
  • Jay Lethal, the cackling, loophole abusing, narcissistic, commissioner assaulting double champion of ROH was given the honor of throwing the first pitches at White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays games. He also did a video on ROH for What Culture where he revealed he was one of the first wrestlers to be getting his own action figure (ensuring he will "Live Forever")
  • Triple H, a Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! Professional Butt-Kisser Manipulative Bastard Karma Houdini Con Man with no restraints who gets to screw people over on and off-screen and who only avoids Complete Monsterhood because of this trope.


  • James Talon, a character from Mass Effect: G.U.A.R.D.I.A.N. roleplay server is an uncaring psychopath, who murdered three prisoners of war, framed one of his teammates for it, and later indirectly killed said teammate. Afterwards, he was promoted, given his own ship, and is currently praised as a hero by pretty much everyone. It might change in the near future.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Delta Green:
    • New Life Fertility is a private company that provides very expensive but completely infallible fertility services to the global elite — with the helping hand of Lac Maternum, or the milk of Shub-Niggurath. The highest leaders, and the oldest New Life children, are devout worshippers of Shub-Niggurath. They are publicly known by the public, having the non-profit NGO New Life foundation, which sponsors a number of social works, and their clientele includes millionaires, celebrities, and royalty. If the players go after New Life, they'll have to fight their large network of supporters, connections, law firms, PR companies, and hired thugs.
    • The Sowers are publicly known as a small and reserved hyper-fundamentalist Christian sect who hide in plain sight due to the "metaphysical innocence" from ritualistic sacrificing Azazel, an avatar of Nyarlathotep, which makes them invisible from the eyes of the public. If the players go after the Sowers, they'll first start using their own resources and personnel; if the players persist, they'll escalate and hire a law firm to harass and bully the players' agents (if identified) and a PR firm to call the attention of the national — and often conservative — media. Reporters will visit the Sowers' compounds, who will sell their image of an innocent church focused on farming, self-sufficiency, and recovering local communities, and that they are being unjustly persecuted by the federal government.
  • Exalted: Desus, one of the signature characters, is one of the most famous and well-liked of the First Age Solars, and has no real enemies. Even those who oppose his faction are convinced of his nobility and good intentions. As for his true character... well, he repeatedly beat his wife, Lilith, until she miscarried, and then brainwashed her into believing that it was all her fault. And that's how he treats the woman he (in his own sick way) loves. You don't even want to know what he does to people he's not attached to... and let's not even think about what he does to people that he actually dislikes. Considering that Lilith was one of the toughest warriors that ever lived out of a race whose entire shtick is "enduring hardship", that hints at just how badly Desus was beating her.
  • Genius: The Transgression: Inverted. One of the benefits of having a high Karma Meter is that people naturally see you as a trustworthy authority figure and have a very hard time believing you're up to anything evil. That said;
    • Some Clockstoppers have the ability to brainwash normal people into Evil Luddites and gain good publicity that way
    • Since obligation measures how much of a connection a genius has with humanity, it's perfectly possible for an evil genius to have high obligation by abusing this trope (an example NPC does so by keeping his hands clean). You don't have to be mad to be evil, after all.
  • In Nomine: While most of the Princes of Hell who affect to compassion, charm or nobilty have a façade that's clearly skin deep, Malphas, the Prince of Factions, is one of the few princes who is actually well-liked, popular with his peers and trusted by his servants. It's no less fake, though — he's one of the biggest sociopaths in a metaphysical pit full of sociopaths, and carefully affects his affable persona to make others easier to manipulate.
  • Rifts: There're a whole lot of these, but the biggest one is probably Emperor Prosek. Within the Coalition States, he is considered to be incapable of doing any wrong. He gave a live televised speech announcing that he was plunging the nation into a series of unprovoked wars, including a Civil War against one of their own states, and he was cheered on for it. Outside his nation, he is regarded as a Jerkass or a Magnificent Bastard, but inside the Coalition States, he's unanimously regarded as the savior of Humanity.
  • Shadowrun: Aztechnology makes this their modus operandi. Formed from three Columbian drug lords, the megacorp has PR as one of their main pillars, and it does it so well that most of the world thinks of them as the angels. Because this is Shadowrun, though, that front hides all the Blood Magic, illegal gengineering, and assorted malfeasance just below the surface. It's so bad that not a single 'runner thinks poorly of Ghostwalker for simply removing them from Denver in the most expedient way.


    Visual Novels 
  • Many Big Bads in the Ace Attorney series work this way:
    • The person who killed Bruce Goodman and Neil Marshall in "Rise from the Ashes" is Damon Gant, the police chief. He's good friends with the judge, making your case even more difficult.
    • Justice For All has Matt Engarde. Rather than dirtying their own hands, he hired professional assassin Shelly de Killer to kill his rival actor, and then had De Killer force a lawyer to save his ass through taking his loved ones hostage, and tried to frame his manager for it. Even if they're not the only Villain With Good Publicity, they are the most notable in the series, especially since his good publicity is the very reason for his villainy and we only have a confirmation that he's a villain midway through the case. Even before they're convicted, their many misdeeds are exposed in court on the last day of the trial, and The Judge tells them that even if he can't convict them, it has become clear that Engarde is a despicable human being.
    • Renowned defense attorney and Apollo's mentor Kristoph Gavin kills Shadi Smith and Drew Misham in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. This contributes to the first case of the game being a Wham Episode.
    • In Investigations we have sweet old Quercus Alba, kind ambassador and decorated war hero. And murderous head of a smuggling ring.
    • The Phantom of Dual Destinies, and killer of Cases 4 and 5, is disguised as Bobby Fulbright, that detective who speaks of justice with pride.
    • Spirit of Justice:
      • The killer in Case 1, Pees'lubn Andistan'dhin, is the head monk of Tehm'pul Temple. He also teaches dahmalan lessons and is respected by the judge.
      • The one who kills Justice Minister Inga in Case 5, and the ultimate villain, is none other than the queen of Khura'in, Ga'ran. This makes it very, very difficult to prove them guilty.
  • Dr. Mitsuhito Amagasaki of Corpse Party: Cross Fear is seen by his coworkers as an excellent psychiatrist with a strong work ethic. Unfortunately, what none of them realize is how much time he actually spends tormenting his patients, taking advantage of them at their most vulnerable.
    • The Heavenly Host saga has Yoshikazu Yanagihori, who was a beloved elementary school teacher known for being kind and friendly... until he kidnapped four of his students, three of whom were gruesomely killed, and the last one was only saved by the arrival of police. Said child, Sachiko, gives the testimony needed to convict Yoshikazu of the crime — needless to say, his reputation plummeted to the point that he hanged himself. His spirit now haunts the remains of the school looking for more children. Subverted, as he was framed; see below.
    • Yuuya Kizami is the Big Man on Campus in Byakuden Senior High School who is loved by all the women; Nano Saenoki is a popular paranormal journalist/researcher; and Sachiko Shinozaki is known as an innocent victim/Sole Survivor of her murderous teacher who bravely gave the testimony that brought him to justice. All three of them are actually psychopathic mass murderers who revel in the despair they sow, and Sachiko in particular merely put away her own unwilling accomplice in her child murders and is actually a vengeful, centuries-old witch queen possessing a youthful body (long story).
  • Yakumo Miroku from Spirit Hunter: NG is celebrated as a best-selling children's author, his adoring fans unaware of the surgical atrocities he inflicts on young girls in his secret attic. His neighbours were aware, but given their high place in society, he was able to buy them off so they wouldn't snitch.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: The woman I.M.P. is hired to take out in "Murder Family" is one of these. To the public, she's a hero who survived a crazy woman's murderous rampage; in private, she knowingly and repeatedly cheats on her husband (including with the aforementioned crazy woman's husband) and is a psychotic, murderous Satanist like the rest of her family.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Season 12 had Locus and Felix, two halves of the same mercenary team. Together, they managed to plunge the planet of Chorus into civil war and sabotaged multiple attempts at peace, each one convincing his side that he hated his "former" partner and maintaining great rapport with his side. Only an Engineered Public Confession by Felix managed to stop the civil war.
    • Even more so is UNSC Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Malcolm Hargrove, who, despite his well-liked status, is the person who hired Locus and Felix in the first place.
  • RWBY: In Volume 5, it's revealed that Adam Taurus himself is seen as a popular symbol amongst the White Fang. Despite the fact that Adam is shown to be cavalier over the loss of Faunus lives in pursuit of Salem's plans, the Vale faction of the White Fang follows him loyally. Adam confirms to Sienna Khan that his Vale followers, and several in Mistral as well, see him as the true High Leader of the White Fang, not Sienna. Indeed, Sienna's own personal bodyguards turn on her and do nothing when Adam kills her. The White Fang finally turns on Adam when he attempts to blow them all up in an attempt to deny Blake victory, and then flat-out bails on them to avoid getting arrested, before slaughtering the few remaining members in Volume 6's first episode.
  • X-Ray & Vav had The Mad King in this position during the second half of Season 2. He's able to take back his company, win the hearts of the city and make X-Ray and Vav look pathetic in front of the mightier Mogar (which isn't really that hard) as well as turn the two against each other and be all-around awesome while initiating a plot to gain amazing powers by making people drink the milk from Mogar's mother, then sap it away for himself. The only thing that stops him is having him have a Villainous Breakdown.
  • Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation states this is how a villain should truly act, and why he thinks moral choice systems are stupid, since often all the evil actions one can choose are, and make you, Obviously Evil.

  • In 8-Bit Theater, the Light Warriors intend to become this after White Mage defeats Chaos by hogging all the credit. However, White Mage instead makes their Harmless Villain Counterparts, the Dark Warriors, this instead.
  • King Radical in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja paints himself as a friendly neighborhood gangster who supposedly helps the community by investing his ill-gotten gains in things like orphanages. In fact, much of the audience wasn't sure he really was a villain until he launched his plan to replace all the world's "boring" people with cool people from his home dimension. And even after he assassinates the president and takes over he's very popular.
  • In Dr. Frost, Seonghyun Moon is a well renowned and respected psychologist. He even has a decent amount of fans. Too bad he's a murderer who has pushed people to commit suicide or has had them killed, either for his experiments or to make a point.
  • Girl Genius:
    • This seems to be the aim of the Xanatos Speed Chess planned by (among others) the Knights of Jove, Prince Aaronev, his son Tarvek of Sturmhalten (though the latter seems to have undergone a Heel–Face Turn), and Zola, with their Storm King and Heterodyne Princess "saving" Europa from Anti-Villain Klaus. Unfortunately for them, their plan has been hampered by a Gambit Pileup and their own side has suffered an epidemic of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
    • There is also Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer!, who has a heroic reputation amongst the common folk of Europa, despite being a spark-killing maniac. Well, let's be fair: it's because he is a spark-killing maniac. Othar is completely mostly harmless to people who are not sparks and their minions, clanks or monsters, and specifically wants to kill all sparks and their creations because of the mess most of them put normal people in. While this is bad news for our protagonists, who are all sparks, it makes him a hero to the rest of the population (who generally don't like sparks much). Aside from this, there's the fact he's also a spark, and completely nuts.
  • Grrl Power's Deus, head of Machina Industries: instigates what is essentially a corporate takeover of a "third world" African country, and has its leader shot (ahead of schedule), since he and his government were corrupt... but also takes the time to show the leader's son how corrupt his father was, and institutes reforms like expanded schooling and health care. According to him, their life expectancy is now more than doubled, and quality of life has increased. All to better help his company's bottom line....
  • In The Letters of the Devil, Rita Carey is portrayed as being an exceptional and charitable businesswoman, which causes roadblocks when Cedric investigates her for fraud.
  • Mechagical Girl Lisa ANT: Pink Flash. It helps that she looks the part of pink-and-frilly warrior of justice, while the real heroine looks like a scout for an upcoming Bug War.
  • Von Gernsbach in Minion Comics hacks into government and private sector files — and got on the cover of Time magazine by portraying himself as a Wikileaks-style freedom of information proponent.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Lord Kobuta is of the opinion that he is one of these, and after being captured for his crimes, he fully intends to exploit it at the trial. Vaarsuvius, however, has other ideas.
    • Thog as the reigning champion gladiator is one of these in the Empire of Blood. To the heroes and General Tarquin, he's a mass-murdering Psychopathic Man Child with no regard for his victims. He is so badass and entertaining in the arena that the citizenry doesn't care and love him anyway. He is so popular that Tarquin can't just have him quietly assassinated in the night.
  • The Souballo Big Bad Duumvirate in Our Little Adventure. Angelo leads a militaristic Path of Inspiration spreading the good word of "his Beautiful Worship", even if it means razing villages, and Brian is a Pragmatic Villain Emperor who makes a point of being personable around his subjects. The Empire also forbids overtly evil actions like consorting with fiends and The Undead, specifically because they're bad for public relations.
  • In a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip, Superman is this: He's actually an alien invader who deluded people into thinking that he was saving them, eventually deluding himself along with his human victims. Another strip (published the previous week) features Superman harming people, hiding his tracks by murdering journalists who are on to him, and then get public support for his noble quest to find the killer.
  • Unsounded: General Bell is viewed as a hero by many in Cresce, to the point where he's more popular with them than Queen Sonorie. Mostly because Sonorie's made controversial decisions in their minds, like marrying an Aldish man and turning down a weapon that could've helped Cresce in their war against Alderode and Bell's horrific actions are unknown to the wider populace because he kills anyone not loyal to him who could spread the news.
  • Your Throne: Crown Prince Eros is beloved by his kingdom as a handsome and kind figure, while in truth he's a horrendous and abusive sociopath who's aiming to have the kingdom bend to his will.

    Web Original 

Alternative Title(s): Villains With Good Publicity


Mayor Joker

Could be worse... he could've called himself Emperor Joker.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainWithGoodPublicity

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