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Wicked Pretentious

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Wanda: But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it.

A villain whose air of cultured good breeding serves to enhance their evilness, but they only put it on as an act. A Wicked Cultured villain is genuinely educated, refined, and well-mannered; this guy is crass with mere delusions of class. Perhaps the soft spoken "respectable" businessman never got out of the habit of carrying a switchblade, or the ruthless Rich Bitch social climber keeps can't help but drop cues as to her humble upbringing. Sometimes this can be explained as lack of culture driving the character to villainy, as they can't find acceptance among high society and so decide to say Then Let Me Be Evil.


Compare and contrast with Wicked Cultured, of course, and with Lower-Class Lout; Nouveau Riche characters who are outright evil are usually this trope, but nothing's stopping old money from also fitting it. See also Delusions of Eloquence, Delusions of Local Grandeur, Feigning Intelligence, Inferiority Superiority Complex.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Penguin from Batman is from an upper class family but is also a brutal gangster. Several stories show that he just doesn't fit in among Gotham's social elite despite his best attempts. This is Depending on the Writer though as sometimes he is shown as genuinely Wicked Cultured and sometimes even moro refined (if also more murderous) than the elite he hobbles with.
    • In the comic book series based on the animated series, one of the first things the Penguin is shown doing is to encourage his personal gang to learn new words on their own, then — as an encouraging teacher — show that he's ahead of them by defining whatever they bring up... even if he doesn't actually know and has to make something up.
  • In Starman, Simon Culp is a violent racketeer, cultist and murderer, delighting in taking his revenge on society, which has ostracized him for his proclivities and dwarfism. He makes it a point to dress immaculately and very much prefers to limit himself to talking in French, especially since he feels his own native Cockney makes him look vulgar.
  • Likewise, Wilson Fisk actively cultivates his image as a Self-Made Man and a philanthropist with refined tastes, hiding from the public at large the violent mobster he truly is.
  • Burt Schlubb and Douglas Klump from Sin City, who are described as having "Delusions of Eloquence", and who are nearly incapable of not peppering every sentence with pretentious twenty-dollar words delivered in the most stilted, wordy ways possible. This in spite of the fact that they're two no-name thugs who get no respect from anyone, least of all the story.

  • An American Tail: Warren T. Rat pretends to be quite cultured, quoting Shakespeare and playing the violin...neither of which he's able to do correctly.
  • Coco: Ernesto de la Cruz. He's a musician, singer, and actor who's proficient with folk songs like "La Llorona" as well as modern ones, and he takes the time to admire Miguel's performance. However, he has no genuine appreciation for whatever art form he performs. Everything he does, he does to attract attention to himself.
  • The Great Mouse Detective has Professor Padraic Rattigan, a Moriarty Expy who tries to pass himself off as a Mouse of Wealth and Taste, but his Berserk Button, coupled with his Villainous Breakdown, only serve to show the audience how classless he really is.

     Film-Live Action 
  • In Batman Returns, the Penguin was born deformed due to inbreeding and his parents, to avoid scandal, quietly disposed of him. Growing up as a carnival freak, he returns to Gotham but doesn't fit in among the upper crust because of his atrocious manners.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: Richmond Valentine, who rolls in high-class circles but is an upstart tech mogul who dresses poorly and serves fast food at meetings. This contrasts with the protagonist, Eggsy, who is generally regarded as a street thug but whose journey is all about finding his own variety of class.
  • A Fish Called Wanda: Otto is a violent thug who thinks reading Nietzsche makes him much more intelligent and cultured than he really is.
  • Django Unchained's antagonist Calvin Candie. He thinks he is charming, intelligent and cultured; he is actually cruel, petty, stupid and disgusting (albeit genuinely Affably Evil within his Villainous Friendship circle). The greatest challenge facing Schulz and Django is flattering and playing along with him without revealing their disgust.
  • The titular thief Albert Spica from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is a mafia boss that has taken control of the La Hollandais restaurant were he dines every day with his wife and crew. He fancies himself an intellectual and elite, ordering French food (while mispronouncing the words), musing about philosophy and shaming his group for using improper utensils. In reality, he is a gross, abusive, heartless man. He tortures and kills people he believes have crossed him (regardless of whether they actually did it or if it warranted the punishment), publicly brutalizes his wife and various patrons at the restaurant, harasses Michael for reading while at the dinner table, and this is just what we see on screen. He is so bad, that both the kitchen staff and his own men turn on him by the end of the film.


  • James Bond villains get this treatment a lot. The average Bond villain is Nouveau Riche, vulgarly showy with his wealth, adorns himself with attractive female assistants a fraction of his age, has notable deformities that he calls attention to by trying to hide, and one or two of them even cheat at "gentlemen's" games.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Tywin Lannister is a variation; he makes a big deal about maintaining regal composure in public, but he can stray into hypocrisy sometimes, like when he arranges for his enemies to be killed over dinner, something that's the epitome of bad taste in the Sacred Hospitality culture of Westeros; plus, despite calling it unfitting, he's apparently been seeing whores secretly for some time. However, he ensures the former is carried out by another house (who do indeed get ostracised by their peers,) and he is so discreet about the latter that his own family are shocked to discover it, so unlike most examples on this page he is smart enough to both maintain appearances and avoid the backlash when convenience requires him to play dirty. His understanding of the pretenses necessary to stay in power fully fit with his reputation as "the king who never wore a crown."
  • The Godfather: it's noted that the oldest and most experienced wiseguys try to seem the most respectable but also wear the cheapest suits. This is deliberate on their part; they want you to know they are accustomed to getting their hands dirty and respectability hasn't changed that.
  • Patrick Bateman, the yuppie serial killer from American Psycho, makes a pretense at being an aficionado of fine food, clothing, and music. Close inspection will reveal that he's only interested in these things because they're popular fads, and actually has little understanding of any of the subjects.
  • Chrysler Peavy in Mortal Engines is a pirate leader who began having delusions of being a respectable mayor after seizing control of the suburb Tunbridge Wheels and now plans to turn it into the world's first respectable pirate suburb... a task which he utterly fails at since none of his crew share any of his ambitions, and he himself is still a ruthless pirate at heart.
  • The Hound Of The Durbervilles makes Colonel Moran out to be a strange inversion. Despite being raised in a good family and famed for his distinguished military career, he just doesn't give a damn about his reputation and is quite happy living as a thug and a murderer who only feels at peace when his life is in danger.
  • Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter like any good paparazzi uses a very flowery vocabulary in her writings that does nothing however to hide either the gossipy nature of them or the cheap, petty mean-spiritedness that they possess.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • In the Batman: Arkham Series, everything about Penguin is an inversion of the classic gentleman, from the beer bottle monocle to the guttural East End accent.
  • Bully: The prep clique are all like this. They come from privileged backgrounds and speak in fake "posh" accents, but are all thuggish brutes.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Genesis Rhapsodos has this as a defining feature of his personality. He's one of the world's leading scholars on LOVELESS and is implied to have published writings about his theories to its meaning due to his obsession with it. Normally, this may make him come across as Wicked Cultured, but as his condition and sanity deteriorate and his desperation for a cure intensifies, he starts drawing parallels between the events of Crisis Core and LOVELESS, and becomes convinced it is some sort of holy prophecy or legend that he must fulfill, making him less cultured and more crazy.

     Western Animation 
  • Still more Penguin:
    • Batman: The Animated Series: Especially in the episode where, after a recent release from prison, he befriends a wealthy young socialite, only to learn that the whole thing was a Prank Date and her friends were laughing at his crass mannerisms the whole time. This leaves him so embittered and humiliated that he gets back into crime on the spot.
      • Then totally flipped around after the retool; not only did he lose any similarity to the deformed Burton version, but as a fence and nightclub owner, he was a lot more Wicked Cultured, and lost any interest in avenging himself on high society. Although, in his words:
      "Living well is the best revenge."
    • The Batman: His Establishing Character Moment involves him crashing a gala he wasn't invited to, quickly making a spectacle of himself with bad manners, feigning offense when he's asked to pay the cover charge (which he can't really afford) and then sneaking off with the silverware. He has a Freudian Excuse; his family used to be eminent and influential in Gotham before the Waynes started overshadowing them.
  • One-off villain Mad Dog from Courage the Cowardly Dog is a crude, unsophisticated, low-class thug who does dirty jobs for quick pay, yet nevertheless he has a high opinion of himself and his lifestyle.
  • South Park gives us Gerald Broflovski. As a lawyer, Gerald likes drink A Glass of Chianti and acts smug and sophisticated. However Season 20 reveals that Gerald is nothing more than an immature man, who trolls women on the internet for his own twisted amusement.


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