Lightkiller: Yeah, yeah, right. So being able to plunge the world into complete darkness is an ideal power for a good guy, right?
"You Could Have Used Your Powers For Good / Evil" is a sentiment often expressed to the Worthy Opponent. Hero Bob wonders why Villain Alice, with her immense power, chose to do evil rather than good. If the evildoer is a recurring character, rather than a one-shot, this usually comes followed by a conversation about how they're Not So Different and a HeelFace Turn would make her feel much better about her life.note
Of course, the reverse can also occur, with Alice questioning why Bob bothers to protect these ungrateful weaklings when he could just use his powers to take whatever he wants. If Alice succeeds in convincing him that Evil Feels Good, Bob may become a Fallen Hero.
As the page quote illustrates, this is more appropriate for some villains than others. Usually they need to have "good" powers yet use them for evil. Of course it's not impossible for a Bob to try to convince Alice that even with "bad" powers she has a great responsibility and she can be a good person. If Alice is a Mad Scientist, cutting her a check while commenting how all her evil inventions are useless can have this effect.
Compare Recruiting the Criminal, Win Your Freedom and Boxed Crook, where a villain is forced into acting for good; also Cut Lex Luthor a Check, where acting good would have obvious monetary benefits. If the character listens to this advice, they're a Moral Pragmatist.
Contrast: Then Let Me Be Evil, where villains attempt to use their powers for good, only for their treatment by others to cause them to turn to evil; also Comes Great Responsibility, With Great Power Comes Great Insanity, and With Great Power Comes Great Perks, where power changes a character's disposition all by itself. Also, the Stock Phrase: "Aren't you glad I use my powers for good than evil?", often humorously, and often for a mundane skill rather than an actual superpower.
- In Gundam ZZ, Judau Ashta says this almost word-for-word about the dying Haman Karn: "Why didn't you use your power in a better way?!"
- In Gundam SEED Destiny, after fleeing from ZAFT, all of Athrun's fights with Shinn have him trying to convince Shinn to make a HeelFace Turn. This culminates in causing Shinn to suffer a Heroic BSoD in the last episode, enabling him to disable the Destiny.
- In Tiger & Bunny, this is why Jake Martinez has contempt for the NEXT heroes of HeroTV despite being a NEXT supremacist: in his eyes, they've turned themselves into dancing monkeys for the people that used to subjugate them, and are thus no better.
- In the manga-only Jinchu Arc of Rurouni Kenshin, we have Gein who fights using giant puppets controlled from within. Kenshin tells him he should use his technological skills for good, to which his opponent retorts that that would be a waste of his talents, and that Kenshin might as well tell a master blacksmith to make shaving razors instead of swords. note
- In A Certain Magical Index, Touma often asks the bad guys, if they're relying on a Dark and Troubled Past or Freudian Excuse to justify their actions, why they don't use their talents to make the world a happier place instead of lashing out at it.
- Dragon Ball Z:
- When Goku notices Captain Ginyu has a sense of honor, he tries to convince him to fight for goodness, but Ginyu refuses, saying that hurting and lording over anybody weaker than him is what makes him happy.
- Piccolo severs Dr. Gero's arm (Dr. Gero being an android at this point) and crushes it, saying "It's a darn shame. You could've put this hand to good use! What a waste of technology!"
- In Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F, Goku notes Freeza would make a perfect sparring partner and considers his obsession with revenge and world domination a waste of talent. Freeza retorts that this attitude is what makes Goku's mere existence intolerable for him.
- In Dragon Ball Super, Caulifla points out that Saiyans were a natural fit for galactic heroes in their galaxy due to their talents, using this trope to contrast against the more barbaric approach of Vegeta, Nappa and their ilk.
- In the final Full Metal Panic! novel, Sōsuke thinks this towards the corpse of Leonard Testarossa: "Why couldn't you have done something else when you had so much power? You should have been able to find other options..."
- In Fairy Tail, Makarov praises the power of fellow Wizard Saint Jose Porla as they duel at the climax of the Phantom Lord arc, noting that despite his youth he was very much worthy of the title the Magic Council granted him and that he could have been an incredible role model for the youth and Magic world rather than the bad one he chose to become. Jose, overcome by his pride, jealousy and hatred of Fairy Tail, and own greed, can only see Makarov's words as an insult and lecture, refusing to surrender to Makarov until Makarov stops holding back and takes him and his Shade army out with Fairy Law, stating that the Magic Council will deal with his transgressions. Jose ultimately loses his guild and title as a result of instigating a guild war.
- After Superman returns during Superman: Up, Up and Away!, he chides Lex Luthor that, despite having said he could solve all the world's problems if Supes weren't around, he spent the year he was absent doing little of worth.
- This has been a recurring theme in Superman's ongoing feud with Luthor, even back in the Pre-Crisis universe:
Superman: My arch-enemy, Luthor, might have been the world's greatest benefactor!
- The most extreme version of this might be in the climax of The Black Ring. Luthor gains the powers of a god and manages to create a state of universal peace and happiness... with the caveat that he cannot use his powers to harm people. Superman is standing right there, telling him how good a thing this is, and that if Luthor just gave up his vendetta against him, Luthor could be the greatest hero of all time. Guess what happens. No, go on. I'll wait.
- In "The Reign of the Superman," Jerry Siegel's and Joe Shuster's illustrated short story (Science Fiction, January 1933), the depowered villain — an early version of Superman's original archnemesis the Ultra-Humanite — says at the end:
"I see, now, how wrong I was. If I had worked for the good of humanity, my name would have gone down in history with a blessing — instead of a curse."
- In one issue, Spidey tells Green Goblin that with his intelligence he "could have cured cancer by now if [he] hadn't been wasting time with this Green Goblin crap!" Gobby's response? "I don't give a rat's ass." The tragedy is that once upon a time, when Norman was a good (or at least less evil) man, he fought desperately to cure his beloved wife's illness. By the time he finally had the money, tech and know-how to make a real difference in the world, he had already let his callousness and greed take him over. And that was before he had an experimental serum blow up in his face and drive him completely insane...
- During "Dark Reign" it is revealed Norman Osborn has discovered the cure for cancer... when he weaponises it in an attempt to kill Deadpool.
- Parodied in Spider-Man and the X-Men (as seen in the page picture):
Sauron: With the DNA we liberated from the grave desecration you call a museum, I have perfected the saurianization process. You rice paper puppets will be given forms befitting Earth's dominant species.
Spider-Man: You can rewrite DNA on the fly, and you're using it to turn people into dinosaurs? But with tech like that, you could cure cancer!
Sauron: But I don't want to cure cancer. I want to turn people into dinosaurs.
- Volume 6 of Atomic Robo has the protagonist facing off against an automatic intelligence like him named Alan, who had vast computing power and the ability to predict outcomes and determined that he could use the Cold War to build himself an Orion class spaceship. He did, but this made Robo realize something — with this ability and success, Alan could have used his power to stop the Cold War, to bring about a more stable and peaceful world.
Robo: You could have helped them.
ALAN: I don't understand. Why?
- In "The Human Flea" storyline in a Batman comic. A guy running a flea circus along with his grandfather is struggling financially. He ends up going off to rob various places to make ends meet using a flea costume, and a resin he created to allow him to leap great distances and evade both the police and Batman. When Batman finally catches him and listens to his story, Batman points out he could have patented the resin, sold it to the military, and made a fortune. He never thought of that.
- Deconstructed in a The Conversion Bureau story called A Beacon of Hope. The Newfoal known as Socrates the Wise was a philosophy teacher with the ability to convince groups of people easily who preached against Equestrian values because of their Condescending Compassion, when Celestia ponified him and asked him to use his talents for the good of Equestria he suffered a breakdown and founded his own nation based on Deliberate Values Dissonance. Compare that to Starlight Glimmer below and you've got someone who is inherently immune to this argument.
- My Mirror, Sword and Shield: A lot of people in Japanese side are extremely disappointed by Suzaku, who is the first Japanese person to become a Knight of Round and is part of the Emperors inner circle. A lot of people were hoping that Suzaku would be an Internal Reformist and advocate for Japanese rights or be a Reverse Mole for the Japanese resistance. To their disappointment, Suzaku is genuinely is loyal to the Emperor and doesnt do anything because as a time traveler, he knows that they will work it out on their own.
- In A Glad Day, Bulma tries to convince Jeiyce to let go of his hatred for the Saiyans and start a new family on another world. Jeiyce is similarly perplexed as to why Bulma has so much sympathy for the Saiyans and wonders why she didn't use her great intelligence to destroy them.
- In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl tells her old enemy Blackstarr she could have used her vast cosmic powers to help people instead of hurting them. Blackstarr replies she doesn't believe she is capable of making a difference.
Supergirl: Youve got powers that even I and Kal cant command. Youre part of one of the greatest heritages on our planet, whether you admit it or not. You could use your abilities to help, rather than hurt. Instead of wasting them in this stupid battle... you could do something with them that could make your mother proud. And you could be a heroine.
Blackstarr: No. That would be futile. All it would give us is the same inefficiency. The same world, divided among hundreds of worthless governments. The same disunity, and the same inability to bring man forward, into Overman.
- The Elites in Dear Diary note how Blair's skill and determined ambition could have made him a great trainer, had he not taken the path he did.
- Megamind: Megamind is outraged when he finds out that Titan has turned to petty crime after being granted the power of a superhero. The irony is lost on him. Though Megamind has a good reason for being a villain, while Titan is given every chance to take a path of good and rejects it. By the end of the movie, Megamind has understood this and actually does start using his abilities for good.
Megamind: I can't believe you. All your gifts, all your powers and you squander them for your own personal gain!
- In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi laments to Anakin Skywalker when the latter turns to The Dark Side, stating that he was supposed to destroy the Sith, not join them. Then again, this is Obi-Wan misinterpreting the prophecy, which merely suggested that Anakin would bring the Force back into balance. This can have any number of interpretations.note It also didn't say when he would do that or that the Dark Side wouldn't then come back anyway.
- In Scanners II: The New Order, David Kellum says this to evil psychic Peter Drak when the latter attacks him telekinetically.
David: We can all work together! Protect each other. Put our powers to some decent use.
Drak: I like this use.
- The Big Bad in The Famous Jett Jackson TV movie is told that, with his Voluntary Shapeshifting technology, he could make a killing in the beauty market. The guy merely gets angry at this and points out that he has decided to create his own world instead (by stealing famous cities from all across the globe).
- Harry Potter:
- Voldemort can't understand why Dumbledore chose to use his powers for good. He considers Dumbledore to be weak and a fool for not taking what was his.
- This can also apply to Draco Malfoy, but regarding Harry — and at first not regarding magical power, but regarding potential social status, which the Malfoy family tradition dictated should be used for putting others down to highlight one's own supposed excellence. In regards to magic, this is a stereotypical Slytherin's like Malfoy's attitude towards the school, which only teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts.
- What Jesus pretty much tells the Antichrist in His "The Reason You Suck" Speech to him in the Left Behind book Glorious Appearing. This was a point of contention for certain readers since Jesus pretty much berated him for what God destined him to function as.
- Played with in Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad. Granny Weatherwax despises her sister for being evil... because it meant she had to be good! And she would have been much, much better at evil than her sister ever was... Her sister Lily, meanwhile, thinks she is using her powers for good. Which is one of the reasons Granny thinks she'd be better at it — at least she'd realize she was evil and could have had fun with it.
- Fëanor from The Silmarillion. He was the mightiest, most skilled, most puissant of all the Elven race... and the source of their greatest woes. His Pride, Hot-Blooded nature, and stubbornness lead to unimaginable tragedy. Manwë wept to think that he had fallen and didn't repent, no less than he wept for the Two Trees.
- In the final book of The Wheel of Time, Rand doesn't get to say this to his previous incarnation's Rival Turned Evil Demandred to his face, but he does reflect sadly on how Demandred could—and should—have been a great hero rather than the Shadow's most feared general, and feels a certain amount of guilt over encouraging their rivalry and playing a part in driving Demandred to evil.
- In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Final Problem", Holmes meditates on the career of one Professor James Moriarty, a wunderkind who wrote an acclaimed thesis which earned him a mathematics chair at his university, all at age 21. However, his tenure was marred by such vile rumors that he resigned in disgrace and wound up eking out a living as a tutor. This later proved to be an ideal front, as no one would have suspected this wizened old math teacher was involved in London's most intricate crime ring—much less the head of it. Later stories expanded on Moriarty's prestige, specifically his ground-breaking book Dynamics of an Asteroid, which should have squared him away in terms of fame and capital. Holmes took this story as proof that intelligence does not alter the potential for sadistic behavior; a similar observation is made with regard to Charles Augustus Milverton, a rich aristocrat who spends his days blackmailing people for vast sums, only to spill the secrets anyway once they've gone broke.
- In one of Mercedes Lackey's Free Bards novels, a free bard and a guild bard both take this perspective: "it's a shame your talent is wasted complying with guild rules" vs "it's a shame your talent is wasted playing for commoners with no taste". Compared to most free/guild interactions, this is a show of respect.
- Gary Seven tries to make Khan into an agent in Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars. Khan's murderous tendencies, unpredictable nature and ego shoot this down spectacularly.
- Doctor Who uses this a lot. The Doctor's most common target is probably the Master, but the Rani and any number of villains of the week get it as well.
"You're a genius, you're stone-cold brilliant, you are, I swear, you really are. But you could be so much more. You could be beautiful."
- Get Smart used this explicitly a time or two, often as part of The Stinger. "If only he would have used his [whatever] for niceness, instead of rottenness."
- As the page quote shows, this is attempted in No Heroics, although the recipient, Lightkiller, seems to be a believer in Bad Powers, Bad People.
- One of the Breakout Kings is Lloyd, a Living Lie Detector behaviorist who despite his talent, has poor people skills. After accepting a deal to become a Boxed Crook, he calls his mother to explain the deal to her. Her only response is a sigh and "You could have been so much more..."
- In an early episode of Farscape, upon witnessing a particularly impressive example of Peacekeeper engineering, Crichton expresses regret that the Peacekeepers couldn't have used their knowledge to do good instead of mercenary service- or, as Aeryn puts it, "To fulfill your vision of who we should be?" Of course, by the time Aeryn and the other members of the crew are inclined to listen to a word he says, Crichton's idealism has well and truly disappeared.
- Played for laughs in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, at the end of "Ted". Coming right after a discussed example, when Willow comments on how tragic it is that the original Ted's brilliance was turned to evil. Though this isn't addressed to the villain, and it's a might-have-been uttered when it's far too late for him.
Buffy: Willow, tell me you didn't keep any parts.
Willow: Not any... big ones.
Buffy: Oh, Will, you're supposed to use your powers for good.
- Kamen Rider Gaim:
- Takatora says this to Micchy during their fight.
Takatora: Why did you only learn from the dark parts of me? You could have shone brighter than I ever could!
- Ryoma gives advice to Kouta that's also along these lines.
Ryoma: Abandon your captured family. Give up on the friend who betrayed you. Feel no guilt for the murder of your friend. If you could find the will to be ruthless, then you'd be freed from all your stress in an instant.
- Takatora says this to Micchy during their fight.
- In Jessica Jones the Big Bad, Kilgrave, has the ability to compel anyone do anything he says. In one episode we briefly get a glimpse of the potential he could have had as a hero when he effortlessly stops a man taking his family hostage with a simple word and then commands him to hand himself over to the police. Jessica briefly muses over the fact she has a slim chance to teach him to use his powers to do an incredible amount of good in the world. However she quickly dismisses this notion and knows that Kilgrave is too far gone at this point.
- When Mon-El on Supergirl has the chance to be a hero like her, since they come from sister worlds.
- Often found in Light Side vs. Dark Side fights in Star Wars.
- Such as in Knights of the Old Republic, when Light Side Revan apologizes to Darth Malak for leading him on the path to the Dark Side, but reminds him that it was Malak who chose to follow that path to the end.
- And Kreia delivers a somewhat twisted version of this trope to a Dark Side Exile during the climax, in a combination with You Have Failed Me, What the Hell, Hero? and "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Notably, it's not so much because you could have followed the Light Side instead of the dark side so much as the whole part that you have severed yourself from the Force, made a comeback, and still not realized any of the implications behind it. If the Exile is Light Side the speech gets delivered to the Jedi Council instead — just before she kills them all for sticking to their outdated dogmas even in the face of evidence that life without the Force is possible and they are wrong.
- In SaGa Frontier, after the final battle with Metal Black, Alkaiser says to the defeated villain that he could have used his powers for good.
- In Jade Empire, you can tell this to the Big Bad. He responds by claiming that he would find that a waste of his talents.
The Player Character: You were a great teacher. Your skill was wasted on evil ambition.
Master Li: I am not satisfied with helping others surpass me. I quickly tired of elevating my brother, and I will not learn to serve you.
- Members of the various evil teams in the Pokémon games will often comment how the player's skill and strength could have made him/her a powerful ranking member of their organization.
- In The Force Unleashed, the mortally wounded Shaak-Ti tells Starkiller, "You are Vader's slave, but your power is wasted with him. You could be so much more." Starkiller eventually does pull a HeelFace Turn.
- In Mass Effect 3, a Commander Shepard who follows the Paragon route invokes this whenever they talk to the Illusive Man (the Renegade options have the same gist, they're just blunter). In the Citadel DLC, the Mysterious Figure aka Shepard's evil clone gets similar treatment.
- Far Cry 3: Hoyt claims that, as Jason has spent most of the game butchering and sabotaging his way across the Rook Islands for the sake of the Rakyat, he could have just joined Hoyt's mercenaries and have made a profit doing so. AKA, You Could Have Used Your Powers For PROFITABLE Evil. Jason, after seeing what Hoyt turned Vaas into AND what happened to his brothers and an entire populated Yacht, flips off Hoyt. Hoyt cuts off a finger. It's implied, during the ending, that Hoyt believed based on his knowledge of the "natives" that they were pirates under a twisted cult centered around Rook's royalty. He may have been right.
- Far Cry 4 offers a "you could have used your powers for less evil" variant when Pagan Min remarks that rather than "joining the monkeys and throwing one's shit around" you could have simply joined and supported him instead, and succeeded in your quest of delivering your mother's ashes in less than an hour with considerably less bloodshed. Indeed he has one hell of a point: it turns out whichever rebel leader you side with is equally evil to the other and merely a different kind of evil than Min, and sure enough there is an Easter Egg ending found by waiting at the dinner table like Min tells you to... where you promptly go to deliver Ishwari's ashes and join Min in "shooting some goddamned guns".
- If you contact Otacon after defeating Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid, he laments that Mantis could have used his exceptional psychic powers for good if he didn't have the shitty life that made him Ax-Crazy. If his backstory is true, allegedly he was an FBI investigator; that is he did try to use his powers for good, until he got too far into the mind of a killer and became just like him.
- In Half-Life 2, as Gordon Freeman is relentlessly making his way up through the portal reactor chamber to sabotage Dr. Breen's escape attempt, he will be met with the exclamation: "If only you had harnessed your boundless energy for a useful purpose!"
- In GoldenEye, during the finale on the Cradle, Janus delivers the "for evil" version when he chides Bond for choosing to side with "the pen-pushers" instead of joining him.
- In the ending of Megaman Battle Network 3 White And Blue, a data version of Tadashi Hikari respects Dr. Wily's abilities as a scientist while lamenting his FaceHeel Turn. This is justified because they worked on the Soulnet together, so he knows what Wily would be capable of if he used his skills for good. In the NA version of the sixth game, Wily does end up turning back to good to work on improving Internet security.
- In Diablo III, the Demon Vidian uses the evil variant, mocking The Nephalem over the fact that they are powerful enough to conquer and rule Hell... and instead, they protect the weak and serve as a lackey to a Fallen Angel.
- In World of Warcraft, one of the whispers of the Old God Y'Shaarj mocks you for still following other people's orders like a lap dog after all you've done for Azeroth. Its intention is to make you succumb to your pride and feed it.
Y'Shaarj: All that you have accomplished, all that you have won, he he he he. Yet still you lick the boots of kings.
- Florence from Free Fall knows enough electrical engineering to bypass most security systems. And she's honest. What a waste of talent, as Sam puts it.
- Parian and Panacea from Worm get this treatment from both sides because they are attempting to stay neutral.
- In the Episode 60 Epilogue of Dragon Ball Z Abridged Trunks has a brief moment of telling 17 and 18 how they could have ended up so differently, seeing how they ended up making a HeelFace Turn in the 'prime' timeline. 17 and 18 just end up offended that he called them 'androids'.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!:
- As Wasp chases Whirlwind for stealing some scientific equipment, she rattles off some possible ways he could have used his cyclones to help people.
- Henry Pym says this to Graviton upon his defeat. Made ironic because Graviton is a possible case of Then Let Me Be Evil.
- The Batman: Batman doesn't hide how pathetic he thinks Cluemaster is; having obsessed over kidnapping people he wanted revenge on from a game show he lost as a child all because he refuses to admit he gave the wrong answer to a question he insisted on, instead of using his talents and intellect to do some actual good like his former competitor did.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spidey asks the Sandman why he chooses to do evil when he could just as easily be a superhero. At the end of the episode, Sandman ends up changing sides and making a Heroic Sacrifice.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): When He-Man and Skeletor are forced to work together, He-Man asks Skeletor if he's ever considered using his great power for good. Skeletor retorts by asking him if he's ever considered using his great power for evil.
- In ThunderCats, after Lion-O narrowly defeats The Demolisher, Lion-O tries to persuade Demolisher to join the good guys and put his great strength and skill to use doing good instead of pointless fights (The Demolisher fights any strong opponent, not caring about their alignment). Demolisher gets very offended and leaves the planet. Lion-O comments that it is a shame that such a fine warrior would waste his talents like that.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Not mentioned, but the main reason why the Mane Six end up bringing in the HeelFace Turn-inflicted Starlight Glimmer into the fold in the Season 5 finale — despite her misguided ways, she's an incredibly powerful unicorn and with her unhinged and friendless, the Mane Six just couldn't possibly let her go.
- In fact, what with the general theme of redemption through friendship, this has happened repeatedly throughout the series. Notable examples includes Fluttershy being charged with bringing Discord around in Season 3 — they could've just kept him petrified, but if his powers could be used for good, it'd be of great benefit!
- And earlier on in Season 5, even Diamond Tiara demonstrates that when redeemed by friendship, she can use her powers for good — even though that power happens to be a potent talent for manipulation and blackmail. No such thing as Bad Powers Bad Ponies in Equestria!