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Villainous Demotivator

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Intendant: Execute them! I think you'll find that random and unprovoked executions will keep your entire workforce alert and motivated.
Garak: I bow to your brilliance. Though I do hope your mood improves before we run out of workers.

Bad guys have a lot of problems keeping a Nebulous Evil Organisation running. There's high turnover due to heroic raids, lack of professionalism in the Evil Minions, and motivating the surviving personnel. This last one is especially difficult because just as Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, it also can't understand positive reinforcement.

When a minion or even their Number Two (The Dragon) performs well, they won't so much praise their effort or reward their good results as warn them "do not outlive your usefulness". Kind of hard to go to work with a smile with that hanging over your head.

Another demotivator is the Big Bad's reaction when their minion(s) lose to the hero. Assuming they don't shoot the fellow then and there (which is, again, not exactly good for morale no matter what Machiavelli said) they will likely yell "You Have Failed Me!" and use their Agony Beam on the poor sap. After the poor minion is done screaming his guts out (hopefully not literally) their boss will say "Do not fail me again! For I shall not show you such mercy a second time." Whether they actually follow through depends on how dark the show is. In kid's media, even the Terrible Trio or the Quirky Miniboss Squad will get off with minimal verbal abuse, but others... not so much.

The Villainous Demotivator can be any threat that a Big Bad or The Dragon makes towards a lower ranking minion that they will be hurt or killed if they fail to perform their job. Assuming their skills will always be needed in his plots (and thus he would need to take the trouble of finding a replacement if he kills the Evil Minion), this makes sense as a negative motivational tool, and a nice little Kick the Dog that can fuel a Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal, a Mook–Face Turn, or (horrors!) a High-Heel–Face Turn. Other instances of this trope can happen without the villain ever meaning to demotivate their minions. He might do something so vile it reminds them of their ethics, or admit his plan will kill one of their loved ones.

May come back to haunt him as an explanation why a minion won't Give Me a Sword. Often results in Screw This, I'm Outta Here or The Dog Bites Back.


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  • Deconstructed in Attack on Titan. Threatening to execute deserters for cowardice doesn't work if they're more afraid of getting eaten than getting shot. It's also heavily implied that any attempt to carry this out on the demoralized troops prior to the Trost counterattack (who are all on the verge of Screw This, I'm Out of Here!) would have started a chaotic bloodbath, which was the last thing humanity needed. Pixis instead opts for a more positive motivation: everyone is free to go if they want to, but only if they can stand the thought of their loved ones getting eaten and sharing their fear. All of them stay.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, when Rui, the Arc Villain of the Mount Natagomo arc, gets impatient with how long it's taking for his "mother" to kill the Demon Slayers, he threatens to report her to his "father." At that point, his "mother," who'd been relatively calm and in control of the situation, becomes a quivering, desperate mess.
  • Fist of the North Star: Amiba (masquerading as Toki) loudly speaks of his brilliance and talks down to his minions. This means that when Kenshiro reveals that he's an impostor, his soldiers immediately abandon him, even releasing their hostage Lynn to spite him.
  • We don't see him threaten them, but Kimblee of Fullmetal Alchemist seems to have taken this approach with his chimeras. In fact, one of them claims there's no point in the heroes showing them mercy because of this. Doing so anyway works out rather well, since another of these chimeras is eventually responsible for Kimblee's death.
  • in Gate, when the Yellow Rose Knightly order, have to fight their comrades, the Imperial soldiers rightly question why they are fighting loyal knights, obeying the last few orders of the Emperor. They only go through because they fear their families would be killed if they didn't fight them. Because of this, the Knights of around 300 fend off over a thousand soldiers for presumably days. In the end, you feel particularly sad for the Imperial Soldiers who got caught up in it all.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Lordgenome treats his Quirky Miniboss Squad in this manner. Most blatantly, when Adiane withdraws from a battle with the heroes to avoid harming Lordgenome's own daughter, he scolds her because said daughter had been abandoned - and when Adiane remarks that she was never TOLD that, he responds with even more threats. In fact, the only one of the Miniboss Squad who doesn't seem to be affected by this is Guame, who is assumed to be Lordgenome's Nonhuman Sidekick from his time as a Spiral Warrior. Guame was Lordgenome's Boota!

    Comic Books 
  • In Bone, the Lord of Locusts says this to the Hooded One.
  • In Black Panther: the Man Without Fear, Big Bad Vlad the Impaler tries to avert this, treating his minions fairly and giving even the ones that betray him a second chance (just the one, mind — if they betray him again, their ass is toast). It works pretty well for a while, but after Black Panther's interference with his business starts getting on his nerves, his patience for failure grows markedly shorter, hinting at his eventual Villainous Breakdown.
  • Doctor Doom: Unsurprisingly, Doctor Doom is a Bad Boss. While he acts like a benevolent overlord to the peasants of Latveria, those who actually work under him as bureaucrats, scientists and soldiers understandably have much to fear from his wrath note . This also extends to outside contractors: in one comic Doom hired a group of ne'er do wells to help quietly excavate a destroyed A.I.M. base when one of them clumsily dropped a piece of equipment. Doom prepared to kill him but then stayed his hand, considering the negative effect this would have on the morale of the remaining goons. He atomised the guy anyway after concluding that the improved efficiency from fear would make up for the reduced morale.
  • Judge Dredd: When the Dark Judges took over Deadworld and declared all life illegal, their idea of building morale among the mortal Judges was to incinerate, rip apart, or melt anyone who didn't assist in executing the general population, only to kill their more agreeable minions when they had no more use for them.
  • In Supergirl story Adventure Comics issue #423, alien conqueror Gur executes his Communications Officer for one small error and tells his crewmen to "take heed".
    Gur: A task I shall never hesitate to perform upon a crewman... who is negligent in his duties! So take heed, all of you witless, blundering fools...
  • From various Transformers comics:
    • In The Transformers (Marvel), Megatron rarely if ever praises anyone. Threats, on the other hand, he delivers in spades. At one point, he crushes the Combaticon Brawl's head for talking back to him (Brawl was trying to shake Megatron out of a funk by pointing out that with Optimus Prime dead, why didn't the Decepticons just run roughshod over the Autobots and humans?).
    • Transformers: Shattered Glass: Optimus Prime has quite a few threats he throws at his minions to keep them in line. He might threaten them with an "upgrade" session with Ratchet, a trip to the Agonizing Rehabilitation Chambers, or simply execute them. Rodimus tried to punish Goldbug with a trip to the Chamber once, but "mysteriously" it had suffered a malfunction.
    • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Tarn starts out as an aversion - a sadistic, depraved killer who nevertheless runs his hit squad relatively well and generally enjoys their loyalty in return. Then his Villainous Breakdown moves into high gear and the dynamics start to change as he becomes more and more obsessed with killing Megatron no matter what it takes or who has to die. Between his increasing willingness to sacrifice people he'd promised to spare and his brutal murder of one of the DJD for being too compassionate, even the DJD's medic ends up withdrawing alongside the survivors of Deathsaurus's troops at the touch of a guilt-based Emotion Bomb, leaving the remnants of the DJD with nobody to back them up as a furious Megatron stops holding back.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Jinnai constantly threatens his subordinates with getting them or their families executed if they underperform or act in a way that is less than perfectly loyal to him. After learning that Asuka -whom he had used like a toy for two years- and Shinji got together he warned her that he had shot a traitor, raised a still smoking gun as citing "'Ultima ratio regnum', mm, Sohryu?", and shortly after he exploded and declared he would sell her into slavery for not pleasing him.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: Kluge mistreats, threatens, blackmails and manipulates his henchmen, subordinates and pawns the whole time. Ergo, they’re not loyal at all and several of them turn against him.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, Phobos' insanity and cruelty eventually reach the point where his entire inner circle are either plotting against him or have outright abandoned him.
  • Inverted in Chapter 22 of R1 of Code Prime, Megatron beats the crap out of the Seekers and Airachnid before ordering them to work together, with the added threat that if any of them screw over the Decepticons in any way, all of them will be terminated. Notably, Megatron is actually aware of positive reinforcement, it's just that the lackeys in question are spineless backstabbers who have their own motivations for fighting the Autobots and Black Knights.
  • Invoked in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, where Voldemort admits he was just role-playing an Evil Overlord and didn't mind the inefficiency of his fear-driven organization. Eventually, Tom Riddle found that he enjoyed the "Voldemort" persona and decided to rule Britain as an over-the-top villain: it may not be intellectually stimulating, but it's a lot of fun.
    Voldemort: Killing idiots is my great joy in life, and I'll thank you not to speak ill of it until you've tried it for yourself.

  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Thanos is a pretty terrible guy to work for, with most of his minions working under the knowledge that hideous punishment will ensue if they fail. Nebula alone is a living demonstration of what Thanos does to failures. Consequently, Thanos gets betrayed a lot.
    • The Avengers (2012): Loki is shown to be terrified of Thanos, with the Other promising unspecified violent retribution if he doesn't bring the Tesseract.
      The Other: You think you know pain? He will make you long for something as sweet as pain.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): The first time we get a full glimpse of Thanos, it's getting fed up of Ronan's lip (and provoking his favorite kid into pulling a Heel–Face Turn) and telling him in no uncertain terms what happens if he comes back empty handed.
      Thanos: I will honor our agreement, Kree, if you bring the Orb. Fail, and I will bathe the starways in your blood.
      Nebula: Thanks, dad. Sounds fair.
  • Star Wars
    • In A New Hope, we get the aforementioned windpipe-crushing.
      Motti: Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fortress- (Vader curls his fingers and Motti abruptly stops talking)
      Vader: I find your lack of faith disturbing.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader says, "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further." According to the DVD commentary, it's implied it'll just keeping getting worse and worse if Lando continues working under him.
    • In Return of the Jedi, Vader tells a subordinate, "I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am." This from a guy prone to crushing windpipes for minor irritation.
    • While Snoke mostly avoids this in The Force Awakens, he starts berating both Kylo Ren and General Hux for their failures in The Last Jedi. Averted with Ren, though: Kylo prefers to take out his anger issues on inanimate objects by, for example, tearing up a room with his lightsaber. When Snoke pushes his luck a little too far and Kylo kills him and takes his stuff, Kylo starts his own demotivational approach, ensuring Hux's obedience by applying a Force-based beating whenever the General starts back-sassing him.
  • In Live and Let Die, James Bond has stolen a boat from the villains and raced off into the Louisiana bayou.
    Adam (over the radio, addressing the mooks): Bond ripped off one of our boats. He's headed for the Irish bayou. The man who gets him stays alive. Now MOVE, you mother—!
    (cut to the various mooks scrambling towards speedboats of their own to begin the chase).

  • Star Wars Legends:
    • We find out exactly what the Emperor does to people who displease him, and it's no idle threat. He had Bevel Lemelisk, one of the original designers of the Death Star, killed horribly, resurrected in a clone body, and killed again each time he screwed up after that (for a total of 6), always ensuring that each clone remembers the experience of the last death. Horribly as in:
      1. Eaten by piranha beetles, and then the clone was shown the remains.
      2. Blown out an airlock
      3. Lowered inch by inch into a vat of molten copper ("It was what the smelter used that day.")
      4. Chained in a drive tube while the engine was slowly powered up
      5. Among others. When the New Republic finally got a hold of him and sentenced him to death, his request to the firing squad was that they "do it right this time."
    • Subverted in the third Star Wars Legends novel, The Last Command. Grand Admiral Thrawn confronts the officer who failed to stop Luke Skywalker from escaping, and the poor sap expects a Vader-style execution like the ones quoted above. Indeed, an officer who'd failed in the same thing and then tried to pass the blame had been killed, so everyone believes this one is out of luck. Instead, Thrawn promotes him, praising his creative attempt even though it failed.
      [Pellaeon] stood there beside the newly minted lieutenant, feeling the stunned awe pervading the bridge as he watched Thrawn leave. Yesterday, the Chimaera's crew had trusted and respected the Grand Admiral. After today, they would be ready to die for him.
    • Darth Vader shows up several times in the novel Death Star; partly for this trope, partly to help ferret out actual saboteurs and discourage potential ones.
  • Despite his pop-cultural portrayal, Niccolò Machiavelli was aware of this trope. In his Discourses on Livy he cites examples of rulers who punished their military leaders for failures with death or exile. He concludes that such measures drastically decreased the army's enthusiasm and willingness to risk, so he severely discouraged use of You Have Failed Me tactic.
  • Even though Shang Yang was cynical and ruthless enough to make Machiavelli look like a hippie, he understood and discussed this problem. Shang explained that unreasonably cruel and chaotic use of punishments and executions by a ruler can ruin a kingdom just as easily as him being excessively merciful, so he describes in great details how and when you must punish your minions. Yang also inverted this trope, stressing the importance of reward and promotion for efficient and loyal subordinates.
  • In 1984, anyone who spoke out against or betrayed The Party and Big Brother had a tendency to disappear without a trace, along with all evidence that they ever existed in the first place. One of the reasons for Winston Smith's rebellion is that he's one of the Party employees responsible for deleting the records, so he doesn't have the same ability to turn a blind eye as an average member of the population.
  • Harry Potter: Voldemort is about as much fun to work for as Darth Vader or Visser Three. He has no understanding of compassion and makes it no secret that most of his followers are expendable (Psycho Supporter Bellatrix is a rare exception). It's because of this that the Malfoys give him misinformation that Harry is dead, which leads to his downfall.
  • Played for laughs in Good Omens, when Crowley decides to keep a number of potted plants. Every so often, he would go over to the group of potted plants, notice that one was not as big or as green as its fellows, and deliberately pick up that one specimen, leave the room with it, and return with an empty pot, which he would then display for the other plants as an example. Needless to say, his indoor garden boasted the largest and greenest plants around.
  • Animorphs:
    • Visser Three has this as his predominant character trait— his reputation for cruelty, megalomania, and ambition are dwarfed among his own kind by his reputation for being absolutely ruthless to his subordinates. The penalty for failure, incompetence, or low morale is instant decapitation. The penalty for completely pissing him off? Morphing into the Yeerks' natural predator and devouring them straight out of the host's head.
    • During one operation, Marco is interrogated undercover by a patrol squad, asking where a set of dispatched Controllers have gone. Marco stumbles through a lie, saying the Visser had executed them on the spot for incompetence. As he's mentally kicking himself for telling such a bad lie, the Yeerks accept this as not only completely plausible but a more likely explanation than anything else.
  • Martín Fierro: When the conscripted soldiers arrived at the Frontier, none of the old recruits are relieved. One of them complains, and he is promptly tortured. Then an official told the new recruits that anyone who tries to desert will get five hundred strokes, and so he could count himself as dead. And from then on, things will only get worse.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In A Clash of Kings, while trying to hire the blacksmiths of King's Landing to forge a gargantuan chain across the city's harbour to impede Stannis Baratheon's invasion fleet, Tyrion is informed by one smith that Queen Cersei has hired the smiths to forge weapons and armour for her soldiers...and threatened any smith who doesn't meet their quota will have their hands smashed on their own anvil. An exasperated Tyrion has to promise the smiths he won't let Cersei do anything so dramatic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Revolution: Monroe. He keeps losing good commanding officers. His habit of killing anyone (including families) who might have possibly betrayed him tends to leave people... uncomfortable. And dead. Episode 8 had him getting rid of Colonel John Faber. Episode 13 had Tom and Julia Neville packing up and running for it to avoid being killed off by Monroe. Episode 14 had Monroe kill off a captain who worked for Tom Neville out of paranoia. Episode 17 had Monroe kill off Captain Jeremy Baker because he thought the guy tried to assassinate him... only to find out later that he killed the wrong person. Episode 19 and the first season finale results in Tom Neville successfully becoming the new head of the Monroe Republic because he made an Exploited Trope out of this.
  • Star Trek: Pretty much every single officer in the Mirror Universe.
    • In the main universe, the Dominion have a fine line in this. While it at least makes a kind of twisted sense with the Vorta and Jem'hadar, who are pretty much programmed on a genetic level to view the Founders as gods, the Vorta and Founders then go on to apply this to Damar and the Cardassians, who are well aware the Founders are just shape-shifting aliens. Weyoun, in particular, manages to shoot himself in the foot quite impressively by sacrificing half a million Cardassians to tie up the Klingons, then berating and threatening Damar when he isn't particularly happy about this. This comes back to bite them pretty damn hard.
    • In the series finale, the Founder in overall command of Dominon forces in the Alpha Quadrant (who was admittedly having a Villainous Breakdown at the time) gets the bright idea of blowing up a Cardassian city with Orbital Bombardment to suppress a burgeoning rebellion... just as a massive Federation and Klingon invasion fleet engaged the forces defending Cardassia Prime. This works about as well as you'd expect it to.
  • A Running Gag with Major Neuheim in Private Schulz.
    • "You should look upon yourselves as sewerage being recycled in the national interest. Naturally I want you to put your hearts and souls into this work for your country."
    • "I am most concerned for the welfare of your men...out of the way you swine!"
    • After Schultz returns from his spy mission to England. "How dare you come back alive!"
  • Kingdom Adventure: The evil wizard (and local devil-analog) Zordock uses a magical Agony Beam on minions who fail, or even annoy him. His underlings are thusly terrified of disappointing him.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The company in Dilbert. The strip has gone so far as to at times portray Catbert actually trying to lower morale on purpose, apparently just For the Evulz.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Commissars have a very Voltairian way of motivating their men. But surprisingly, in gameplay terms it tends to work. And there's never any shortage of troops, since one thing the Imperium has in abundance is manpower. It also helps that you can selectively choose when you want to use his ability to reroll failed tests, especially with the new random chance that you lose your only anti tank soldier, when a tank is about to run you over.
    • Unless said men are from Catachan. The old Catachan list actually had a rule where Commissars had a chance of getting inconveniently shanked before the battle.
    • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! refrains from this manner of motivation, citing a number of suspicious Commissarial demises. He prefers to lead his men by making them think he leads by example, and let the old human instinct for showing off take over. It has proven very effective. Of course, a large chunk of the readership (and a few characters in on the secret) think it's a big lie and he's a genuine hero. He does seem to "retreat" screaming, straight at the biggest and nastiest thing in the battle, a lot.
    • Ork Nobz are fond of this kind of approach as well. If a squad fails a morale check, a Nob with a Bosspole can "break a few heads" to restore order.
    • Chaos Lords can also get in on this, particularly Abaddon the Despoiler, whose ship fires on any ally to fail a command check. They mostly get away with it, for the simple reason that they are more sadistically violent than most of their minions.
  • In The Dark Eye, Borbarad told the inmates of a prison "All of you will follow me. I merely asked, who wants to do so alive."
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 had the Dread Pirate prestige class, which if you were evil would give the "Motivate the Scum" ability, allowing you to kill a minion in order to grant all nearby minions who saw and heard it happen a temporary bonus to their combat abilities.
  • In the Axis & Allies Miniatures game, the Commissar, a Soviet infantry piece, had the ability to destroy another Soviet infantry piece near it, which granted a one-round bonus to attack for all other nearby Soviet infantry. Given that the Soviets had a lot of really cheap (and therefore easily expendable) infantry at their disposal, this turned out to be incredibly broken and its ability was quickly changed into instead granting nearby infantry immunity from the disrupted condition.

    Video Games 
  • Alice: Madness Returns: On top of being tortured and forced to run on wheels to power the clockwork domain, the dodos also have to put up with the March Hare's mantra over the loudspeaker on repeat:
    "A good worker is a live worker! Paid to live and work! A bad worker, is a dead worker; and vice versa! Don't be a bad worker, bad workers are slaves! And dead! Payday for good workers has been suspended indefinitely! Payday for bad workers is CANCELED!"
  • Over the course of Batman: Arkham Asylum, The Joker will send orders over the loudspeakers to his minions, telling them not to screw up or he'll have them (and sometimes, their loved ones) killed. Of course, The Joker says most of these while the mooks are trapped in a room with Batman, so there's not much hope for them in the first place.
    • Not to mention, as Batman takes them down one after the other, taunting his mooks that Batman is making mincemeat out of them and wondering how long the remainder will last.
    • Harley Quinn picks up the habit in Batman: Arkham Knight.
  • Late in Iji, high ranking aliens are threatening their men into killing (or better, capturing) the titular "human anomaly", with lines such as:
    "If you're more afraid of her than of ME, you're a traitor."
  • Used humorously in the game The Operative: No One Lives Forever. The Dragon has put a notice to the henchmen outside a minefield, asking them to please avoid crossing it, as finding suitable replacement henchmen is hard and annoying. He then mentions that he will personally execute any henchman that crosses the minefield and somehow survives as an example to the others on not disobeying orders.
  • Ishida Mitsunari in Sengoku Basara is so used to blind loyalty that he assumes the same from everyone else, and is rather poor at employee relations as a result. One of his attempts at reaffirming his stance with an ally (Saika Magoichi) involves baring a blade in her face and threatening her with a hundred curses should she betray him, which is more or less his way of saying "I deeply value you as an employee and hope you will see this through with me."
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, during his ritual to release Demise from his seal 999 years early, Ghirahim summons a horde of Bokoblins and sends them screaming after Link, making it painfully obvious that he doesn't care if they bleed on the Master Sword so long as they slow him down. And then he caps it off with this line:
    "Don't fear him... fear my wrath if you fail me!!"
  • During The Curse of Monkey Island, one of the Zombie Pirate LeChuck's minions describes the series of motivational tools provided to the crew. The highlights include "Get back to work, or I'll beat you with your own legs!" and "Flogging the inner child". Or the provided audio-books, which can be "returned as often as desired; keep them all and live!"
  • The fate of Joshua Graham in Fallout: New Vegas. He was the co-founder and legate of Caesar's Legion, but after his humiliating defeat at the battle of Boulder City Caesar had him covered in pitch, set on fire and thrown into the Grand Canyon as an example that even high-ranked members were not safe from the consequences of failure.
    • As for the rest of the Legion, they are infamous for their utter devotion to Caesar; not just because of mental conditioning and slavery but also because the punishment for failure is steep. Being crucified and displayed is one of the most common methods, along with being hacked to death or torn apart by legion hounds. This is why it's very rare to capture a legion soldier alive; they would rather kill themselves than retreat and face Caesar's wrath.
  • "You mean nothing to us" is a pretty standard message in the Canned Orders over Loudspeaker played on Hyperion bases in Borderlands 2. They'll even play such messages directed to Loaders, which are explicitly prohibited from developing self-awareness. Of course, the head of Hyperion is the Big Bad, and upper corporate culture has come to idolise his, sometimes literally, cut-throat approach to business.
    Be careful when unloading slag barrels. The life you save may be more monetarily valuable than your own.
  • Dawn of War: Par for the course of a 40K game, just about the only people who don't use some kind of threat to their underlings are the Tau, Eldar, and Necrons (who can't speak). Individual voicelines include gems like "You boys follow me, or I'll give ya a thump." (Big Mek), "I will whip the first of you who retreats!" (Imperial priest), "Last one there gets a beatin'!" (Kaptinn Bluddflagg), and of course, "Fear me, but follow!", "On charges of cowardice, you are sentenced to death!", "If you will not serve in combat, then you will serve on the firing line!", and "Flee at your own peril, and fight!" from the Imperial Commissar.

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Grime from Amphibia treats his soldiers like garbage, which does nothing to fix their incompetence. Once Sasha teaches him how to manipulate them with positive reinforcement they improve drastically.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Azula has this problem with keeping Ty Lee and Mai loyal. She initially pressures Ty Lee into leaving the circus by setting loose all the animals and setting her trapeze net on fire! Later on, when Mai betrays her out of love for Zuko, it's explicitly because Mai loves Zuko more than she fears her. Of course, at this point Ty Lee also betrays her upon seeing Azula threaten Mai with lifelong imprisonment, winding up to put a bolt of lightning into Mai for it. What gets worse is that this is how Azula treats people she likes.
  • In Stormhawks, this happened pretty much every episode one of Master Cyclonis' minions failed in their missions. She did eventually fire one of them, and does have ample Agony Beams to use on the rest though.
  • The Simpsons: In "And Maggie Makes Three", Burns puts a literal Villainous Demotivator ("Don't Forget: You're Here Forever") in front of Homer's workstation after he's forced to go back to working at the power plant. Homer selectively covers it with pictures of Maggie until what's left is "Do_i_t For___ Her".
  • In the Thunder Cats 2011 episode "Ratilla's Curse," Ratar-O abuses his minions as badly as they in turn abuse the cats they've enslaved. This backfires spectacularly when his right-hand rat finally questions why he was treated better at Lion-O's hands than his own master's and not only deserts him in his time of need, but tosses Lion-O the Sword of Omens so he can take Ratar-O down.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • Explored and deconstructed. The Monarch inflicts harsh "discipline" upon his henchmen, threatening and intimidating them to bolster his Villain Cred. He wants no doubt that he is evil - which, in his mind seems to mean Stupid Evil. Accordingly, his tyrannical attitude doesn't work in at all: his henchmen are not merely stressed and depressed, they are utterly and hilariously incompetent. This is one of many ways The Monarch's efforts to be taken seriously as a Card-Carrying Villain instead make him an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
    • Further explored and inverted when The Monarch employs Dr. Henry Killinger as an Enigmatic Minion. He decries The Monarch's methods as "far too draconian." In contrast, Killinger adopts the role of therapist/coach/mentor to the henchmen. Soon, his well-groomed henchmen are not merely happier and healthier, but terrifyingly competent and effective. The Monarch, dumbass that he is, quickly rejects Killinger's reforms and is once again Surrounded by Idiots.
    • A similar tyrannical attitude is expressed by Baron Ünderbheit, with similar results. He is the Evil Overlord of Ünderland and mercilessly abuses the whole nation; though they might be cowed into submission, they don't like him a bit. At one point, a stand-off between his and The Monarch's Mooks is derailed as they all commiserate about how much their jobs (and bosses) suck.
  • Wander over Yonder explores this trope in "The Gift" in which Lord Hater becomes absolutely frustrated with the stupidity of the Watchdogs. Meanwhile, Wander gives each Watchdog a gift (It's the equivalent of Christmas or the holiday season) and for the first time ever, they experience what it's like to be happy. Their competence skyyrockets and they create an organized team to "Rescue " Hater (Who had been trying to avoid getting a gift from Wander and Sylvia.). After they secure Hater, he congratulates them on a job well done. The Watchdogs respond by thanking him for all the gifts he bought them, causing him to realize that Wander signed Hater's name to the gift tags instead of his own. This trope is really driven home in "The Gift 2: The Giftening" as well because in it we learn that the watchdogs have never been happy and that their boss quite literally treats happiness like a disease as well as frequently zaps anything that angers him with loads of green lightning.
  • The gem empire in Steven Universe is built upon a heavily enforced caste system where any perceived defects or failures are punished harshly, with the worst offenders being shattered or reverted. This of course backfires spectacularly when it turns out that most of the minions sent to defeat the Crystal Gems realize they'd rather just be free instead and are thus easily talked out of any serious confrontation. This is ultimately taken to the extreme when even the diamonds have a Heel Realization once it's pointed out how terrible they are to each other, let alone their subjects, and they resolve to just peaceably reform their civilization instead of continuing in this way. By the final season of the show the only main character who isn't affected by this is Jasper who is simply too angry and proud to stop fighting for the empire, even after that empire ceases to exist. Nearly ever other gem in the universe realized that Good Feels Good and settled down into better lives.


Video Example(s):


Colonel Tan-Sun Moon

Colonel Tan-Sun Moon is introduced to the audience while beating on a punching bag to work out some frustrations, then the punching bag is unzipped, revealing that he'd stuffed his anger management therapist in there.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / WorkingOutTheirEmotions

Media sources: