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"I am the guilty one
Ball and chain around my leg
I am the cursed one
Black cloud hangin' overhead
Fill the heart that pumps bad blood
All inside of me."
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, "Killer Wolf"

Sometimes, fictional characters inherit their evilness or immorality from their parents. Even initially good characters like the All-Loving Hero can eventually turn evil thanks to this trope. A Knight in Shining Armor is at risk of going insane or over to The Dark Side, if a parent or grandparent was a Villain by Default or member of an Evil Race. Usually, up until The Reveal, the character had a solid reputation, moral compass, and personality, capable of using Heroic Willpower to resist just about any evil supernatural coercion.

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If it is the hero in fear after this revelation, it may cause an existential crisis as they start to struggle against villainous impulses because they believe that their "evil genes" will inevitably doom them to become as evil as their ancestors. Sometimes, however, it is the other characters that shrink away in fear, and begin treating the hero as if they're already as evil as their ancestor, sometimes provoking a Then Let Me Be Evil response. The inevitable conclusion to all this pointless introspection is either the character going "Screw Destiny!" or a friend slapping some sense into them.

Now, get an Evilutionary Biologist who thinks the same thing, and they'll try and splice together a clone using such donors as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, under the logic that their creation will be "the most evil person alive! Bwahahahaha!" Which, of course, should only produce a clone with a penchant for mustaches, but invariably is pretty evil.

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A pretty common twist for heroes with Muggle Foster Parents is that they are the child of the Big Bad who has been spirited away and raised like an Ordinary High-School Student in the hopes that Nurture can beat out their inherently evil Nature. Amazingly, sometimes it's because Evil Parents Want Good Kids. In extreme cases, this "Nature" can manifest as an Enemy Within or a Super-Powered Evil Side. Naturally, this twist can lead to a Shower of Angst. The parent they get the bad blood from is usually the dad.

A Sub-Trope of In the Blood.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Defied in Black Clover. Gordon Agrippa comes from a lineage of curse mages infamous for bringing misfortune on others, with one of his ancestors making a deal with the devil Megicula, so he ran away from home to avoid falling into this. However, after he returns to learn more about the devils' curses, he finds out his father Nathan is changing the family legacy to use their knowledge for curing curses and healing. This leads him to studying under his father during the six month time skip.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch vi Britannia has become a rebel trying to overthrow his tyrannical father, Emperor Charles. However, his methods rely heavily on manipulation and devious plans, just like his old man's own actions. Also, Charles himself seems to mirror his trope in regards to his twin brother, cult leader V.V. Marianne purposely hid herself from Lelouch and made Nunnally suffer just so they could use Lelouch to draw C.C. out for the Assimilation Plot and create the perfect world where their kids would "live in happiness". Receiving scheming blood from both his parents definitely helps.
  • In the Detective Conan The Phantom of Baker Street Non-Serial Movie, it begins with a social commentary about Japan's hereditary culture but this trope comes around with the revelation that the bad guy is a descendant of Jack the Ripper and he feared the bad reputation it would cause if the public got word of it. At one point his panic overruled his common sense, leading him to murder. It could be about how concentrating on erasing mistakes of one's ancestors can make you repeat them.
  • Actively invoked by the criminal organization "Lucifer" in the Dirty Pair franchise: all of its members are blood relatives, some by an absurdly high degree. Regardless, a regular step in their recruitment drives is to invoke "I Am Your Father" on some poor guy and smooth-talk him into coming aboard while they're reeling from the surprise.
  • Not everyone in The Irregular at Magic High School's Yotsuba Clan is evil as such, but they all share a certain pragmatism. Heroic Yotsuba such as Miyuki 'only' torture their enemies to get information. Villainous Yotsuba Mind Rape children and make Tykebombs out of whatever is left over. This is the main reason the clan hasn't fractured yet; its members all recognize and fear their similarities.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the protagonist of Part V, Giorno Giovanna, is the son of Dio Brando. However, since Dio conceived Giorno after he had stolen Jonathan Joestar's body, Giorno carries Jonathan's DNA and thus is part of the Joestar bloodline. Joseph and Jotaro are initially concerned that he'll turn out like Dio. Fortunately, Giorno is much better than his father, even though he takes over a massive criminal organization and carries on Dio's "WRRRRYYYY!" battle cry and gorgeous blond locks.
  • This is one of Fate's biggest fears in StrikerS, the idea that she'd turn out like Precia. Her fears aren't misplaced since she's incredibly similar to her mother pre-insanity (Married to the Job and never has as much time as she'd like to spend with her kids), but the chance of her ending up that way are incredibly slim since the franchise practically runs on Rousseau Was Right and The Power of Friendship.
  • Being connected to a criminal by blood seems to be quite a stigma in the One Piece world, mainly from the World Government who are afraid that it really is In the Blood. Nico Olvia separated herself as much as she could from her daughter Robin when she set off to be an illegal Adventurer Archaeologist to try and keep Robin from being the "child of a criminal." When the Franky Family are trying to convince the Straw Hats to take Franky with them, one of the reasons used is "he's the son of a pirate, anyway." Most recently, when Vice-Admiral Garp tells Ace that he'd wanted him and his brother Luffy to become great Marines, Ace tells Garp that their fathers' blood assured they could never be Marines. Ace himself was hunted by the Marines even before his birth because they wanted to nip the potential danger of his father's continuing bloodline in the bud. Only an extreme Mama Bear act by his mother prevented him from being found.
  • Jessie from Pokémon ended up involved in Team Rocket, a criminal organization, just like her mother, despite the fact Miyamoto wasn't in her life due to giving her up at a young age.

    Comic Books 
  • In DC One Million, Farris Knight, the Starman of the 843rd century, claims that the Knight family has had as many villains as heroes, and believes that this is because they're descended from Kyle Knight, the son of Jack Knight and his archenemy Nash, the third Mist.
  • Legends of Baldur's Gate: Coran the thief has apparently reformed and ended up a member of parliament, but his son Krydle is a thief following in his footsteps. They both think they're the one who's right.
  • Sabretooth's family seems to have this going, at least with the men. Victor's father is noted in all recaps of Creed's past to be an abusive asshole, chaining Creed to the basement and ripping out his teeth. Victor himself, of course, is just as bad if not worse, delighting in every evil thing he does (and he once ate a baby!). Victor's brother Saul is basically Victor but without as much muscle to back him up. Victor's son Graydon despised his parents for abandoning him and became an anti-mutant activist who also had ties to murderous youth gangs. The only exceptions we've seen to the "Creed = asshole" law is Victor's brother Luther who we barely saw (and who was just a bratty kid when he was killed), his mother who we don't see much of, and Clara, Sabretooth's sister who doesn't demonstrate any of the evil tendencies of her family.
  • The comic version of Wanted features the character Shithead (a Captain Ersatz of Batman villain Clayface), made of the feces of the 666 most evil people in history. Also, Wesley's father was an equally depraved supervillain.
  • Stephanie Brown and, to a lesser extent, Cassandra Cain sometimes get this treatment from Batman because of their parents being supervillains. It depends on the writer. While Cassandra occasionally struggled with this thinking early on due to some issues she had, Stephanie never has, likely because the impetus for her superheroics was to spoil her father's criminal ambitions.
  • In Teen Titans, the usually Fun Personified Superboy fears he will be evil after discovering Lex Luthor is one of his genetic fathers. It worsens to the point of a Heroic BSoD when it turns out that Luthor had implanted the ability to control him, and forced him to attack his friends.Robin points out an even worse possibility than becoming evil: "You could go bald!"

    Fan Works 
  • Jen Black in Black Princess Ascendant might have this problem after she uses a magic ritual to make Bellatrix into her mother. When she starts acting differently than normal, she worries that her new mother's insanity really is hereditary.
  • The Heart Trilogy: It's revealed that all dragons are born with a link to Morgoth due to his meddling and augmentations to their ancestors, which is heavily implied to be the root of their Always Chaotic Evil tendencies. Gandalf wants to see these chains broken in the third story, and Kolstros and Vervenia turn out to be devoid of the other dragons' links to Morgoth.
  • In fics set in the universe of Kingdom Hearts 3: Final Stand, several characters in Radiant Garden believe that bloodlines carry traits such as cruelty. The Insurgos were determined to wipe out the royal family of Radiant Garden because they believed that somewhere along the line, Ansem's descendants would become just as cruel and despotic as his tyrannical parents. On the flip side, which proves that the Insurgos are Not So Different from his parents, Ansem's Jerkass mother Hanako lambasted Ansem for allowing Rimi, his niece and Kairi's birth mother, for allowing her to become engaged to Kaname, explicitly stating that Kaname should be locked up simply for being the son of an Insurgo. As a whole, it's largely subverted, as it's repeatedly shown that Kaname and Ansem are nothing like their parents.
  • Mega Man Reawakened plays this straight with Quentin Emerald, whose father was a terrorist, but subverts it with Dr. Regal, who isn't evil despite his father being Dr. Wily.
  • Jen Black in Black Princess Ascendant might have this problem after she uses a magic ritual to make Bellatrix into her mother. When she starts acting differently than normal, she worries that her new mother's insanity really is hereditary.
  • This is one of Yang's main worries in REMNANTS. She went looking for her deadbeat biological mother and found out that Raven is the most-wanted woman on the entire planet. Her younger half-sister Ruby has a Heroic Lineage through her mother, so Yang worries that she'll take after her own mother. This trope is subverted as Yang's heroic and nice, unlike Raven.
  • Gloria from Pokemon Light AU internalized this feeling. She was Driven to Suicide in part because she felt she was abusive like her father.

    Films - Live Action 
  • In The Bad Seed, Rhoda is the granddaughter of a serial killer and has genetically inherited the inability to feel guilt.
  • Serial Killer Mr. Brooks worries that his daughter has inherited his homicidal urges.
  • Star Wars plays with this, Luke's Final Temptation to join The Dark Side hinges on him being his father's son and heir to his evil. Luckily, he inherited a few traits from his mom too.
    • It was also implied, in A New Hope, as being his aunt and uncle's reason for never discussing his father with him... or at the very least telling Blatant Lies. (Spice freighter navigator my ass!) They feared that Luke would become a Jedi, like his father before him, and go gallivanting across the galaxy to turn evil. That, or just get killed. It's never stated just how much Obi-Wan told them about Anakin. The two always told Luke he'd died offworld.
    • Dark Empire has him turn to The Dark Side when the Emperor returns, in an attempt to bring him down from within. It doesn't exactly work. The parallels with Anakin are made blindingly obvious, though the comic came long before the prequel trilogy. Luke guides a ship far too large and damaged to land into a survivable landing on Coruscant. He constantly ruminates on his father's legacy, wondering why he had turned - ultimately it's the threat to his family that gets him to claim "My father's destiny is my own." The Emperor proceeds to replace his mechanical right hand with a different prosthetic, a "better" one speculated by some fans to be of a model Vader used, and dresses Luke in outfits clearly inspired by his fathers', as can be seen in the page image. Ultimately it's the love of his sister, and his refusal to hurt her or allow her to be killed, that brings Luke back. And unlike his father, Luke manages to remain just good enough not to do anything actively evil; he merely spends time as Palpatine's slave, and indeed does succeed in sabotaging his plans on one occasion.
    • In the pre-Disney Expanded Universe books, his GRANDSON turns for this reason, more or less.
    • In The Force Awakens, we find out that just like in the novels, Anakin's grandson has fallen to the Dark Side. In a twist on the standard good versus evil arc that Anakin and Luke went through, he struggles against the pull of the Light Side of the Force, constantly fighting the heroic urges he inherited from his Skywalker heritage. He rejects an offer of redemption and cements his evil by killing Han.
    • His struggle continues after he forms a Force Bond with Rey in The Last Jedi, which allows them to share their deepest thoughts and conflicts with each other. Ultimately, in The Rise of Skywalker, this enables his mother to use the last of her life force to turn him back to the light, fully cemented when he sacrifices his own life force to bring Rey back to life and becomes one with the Force.
    • In The Rise of Skywalker, the trope is played straight with Rey, who discovers that she is the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. While retrieving the Sith Wayfinder from the second Death Star's vault, she's attacked by a Sith version of herself in a vision, who urges her to embrace her heritage. In her final confrontation with Palpatine, she is tempted by the prospect of taking the Sith throne and ordering the fleet to spare the Resistance, but she ends up refusing him and calls on the spirits of all past Jedi to defeat him for good. Those spirits, regardless of Rey's true parentage, immediately come to her aide and lend their power through the Force. Going one step further, she ultimately adopts the name Skywalker as the spirits of Luke and Leia look on approvingly.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride used this with Nuka, the only son of Scar. He is evil, very ugly, and receives a Disney Villain Death. Ironic, as the film was supposed to be subverting this trope. The film was supposed to have Scar's son as a protagonist, but that wasn't possible for American social standards because it would've made its Romeo and Juliet cousins. Though Nuka is a lot more sympathetic than Scar, since he just wants his mother to be proud of him. A last crazed attempt to earn her pride even gets him killed.

    Literature 
  • The Neanderthal Parallax: Neanderthals strongly believe that violent urges are genetic, and the punishment for crimes of violence is castration. They sterilize the offender's close relatives along with them so it won't be passed on, though it's never made clear if these urges were hereditary. In any case, they admit castration has the second effect of lowering aggression when testosterone has dropped. Further, it's stated that in the past they sterilized people with low intelligence, raising their IQ a standard deviation.
  • Christian and Tasha Ozera from Vampire Academy, are thought to be tainted due to Lucas and Moira Ozera being Strigoi. They were respectively Christian's parents and Tasha's brother and sister-in-law. Tasha turns out to be a villain after all.

    Theatre 
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' The Emperor Constantine, Livia, rejoicing in her husband's death, tells Constantine that her husband was evil, his father was evil, and his daughter, Constantine's wife, ought to be watched.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII: Poor Sephiroth. His career in supervillainy was pretty much cut out for him. Sephiroth, who was directly infused with Jenova's cells in fetal stage, was not told of his origins. His biological father, Professor Hojo, told the young Sephiroth his mother's name was "Jenova" and that she died from giving birth to him. In reality, Jenova was the terminology for an excavated alien being who had tried to destroy the planet thousands of years earlier. Of course, Hojo is a few fries short of a happy meal, himself.
  • Rock Howard from Mark of the Wolves seems to suffer from this. He struggles with his "evil side" inherited from Geese Howard, despite being raised almost entirely by Terry. It is later revealed that the evil influence is not from his father but from his mother's side of the family.
  • Even in the good ending, something sinister happens in Mad Father. Despite getting away from her homicidal father, Aya takes after him in the future. She runs a clinic in the middle of the forest and turns unsuspecting innocent women and teenagers into dolls with Maria by her side. One of the reasons her father wanted to make her into a doll was to keep her from turning out like him when he discovered that she was mutilating small animals like he did in his youth. Her mother was arguably even crazier, since she admired her husband's madness and was happy that Aya was following in his footsteps.
  • In the backstory of Nox, the world of Nox's Legendary Hero wipes out every member of the Always Chaotic Evil Necromancers, but spares the last Necromancer, a mere baby, sending her off to be raised by the primitive but morally neutral Trolls without any knowledge of her true heritage. She grows up to be the game's Big Bad, and inherits not only her ancestors' total evil, but also their raging Goth-ness. (Although the Wizard ending implies she was possessed by the evil spirits of all her evil ancestors, and without being indwelt by them she's actually a pretty decent lady).
  • Played with in Resident Evil 6. After discovering his relationship to the series' previous Big Bad, Jake becomes moody and snappish, certain that he's destined to follow in his father's footsteps. There's some evidence to support it; Jake has an incredibly similar fighting style to his father, instinctively seeks out combat, doesn't really believe in anything bigger than himself, and even inherited Wesker's viral immunity. In the end it's subverted; despite his affinities, Jake ultimately uses them to pursue a completely different path.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • It probably has as much to do with nurture (or lack thereof) as nature, but Dahlia Hawthorne is at least as petty and murderous as her mother Morgan Fey in Trials and Tribulations. Fortunately it seems to have passed over Pearl and Iris.
    • And in Investigations it's all over the place. Both Ernest Amano and his son Lance are no strangers to crime and for Kay Faraday it's noble thievery that runs in the blood. Granted it's also a Take Up My Sword situation, but Faraday was dead before Kay even found out he was the Yatagarasu.
    • The Big Bad of Investigations 2, Simon Keyes, is not only a killer just like his father, Dane Gustavia, but even uses the same method of freezing the body to throw off the time of death without knowing that Gustavia did the same thing in the past. This is despite him suffering from some memory loss which made him grow up mistakenly thinking that the man Gustavia had killed was his father, and despising Gustavia as a result of that.

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, Whateley Academy has an official "club" known commonly as The Bad Seeds. Admission? One or both of your parents must be a supervillain. Some kids take to this like ducks to water, some resist, some don't know what to do, some are pretty clueless even for teenagers. Nacht has a supervillain mother who is constantly trying to get Nacht to use her powers to help mommy commit crimes; Nacht doesn't mind the crime part, but she really doesn't want to spend time with her mother. Jobe is a ruthless, amoral genius bio-devisor who even looks like his supervillain dad; his dad hates that junior doesn't have a flair for mechanical devises instead. Carmilla has Deep Ones in her mother's ancestry, and is the grandchild of Shub-Niggurath on her father's side; she's taking the Screw Destiny approach right now. And so on... It's worth noting that membership in the Bad Seeds does not in itself infer an intention to become a supervillain (some do, some don't, and the setting makes plain that either is no more likely than any other high school career ambition) they're just more-or-less stuck together for mutual protection because everyone else fears that evil is in their blood.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Zuko is a painfully complicated (as usual) case — according to Iroh, his inner conflict and confusion in Season 3 is revealed to be due to inheriting the blemish on his soul from Fire Lord Sozin through his father and a purity of soul from Avatar Roku through his mother: "...[U]nderstanding the struggle between your two great-grandfathers can help you better understand the battle within yourself. Evil and good are always at war inside you, Zuko. It is your nature, your legacy."
    • Azula also shares this trope with her brother, but adopts the more merciless (I.E. Azulon and Ozai) traits of the previous Fire Lords. Whereas Zuko's banishment from the Fire Nation led him to grow and develop and learn more of the world beyond the Fire Nation, Azula pretty much absorbed all of the propaganda from the past, lies and all and is essentially the fourth generation of the Fire Nation's toxic mentality and bloody history. By "Smoke and Shadow", one can see a theme between past and future changes for the Fire Nation between them: With Zuko representing the change for the Fire Nation whereas Azula wants it to stay the same as it was during Sozin's, Azulon's and Ozai's reigns. However, it's worth noting a potential underlying of fear of change in her as well; as it seems like Azula had never fathomed a different path the world would take.
  • Yogi's Space Race: Phantom Phink was described in a Space Race Biography as a descendant of Dr. Jekyll. The narrator said it explains about Phink being a bad guy. (And that's because he doesn't know (or knows but refuses to believe) Captain Good and Phantom Phink are one and the same)

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