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Playing With / Ambition Is Evil

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Basic Trope: Personal ambition often trumps morality.

  • Straight: Alice is very ambitious and isn't above doing morally corrupt deeds to get what she wants.
  • Exaggerated:
  • Downplayed: Alice is very competitive and cares a lot about her grades—which makes her rather unpopular among her classmates.
  • Justified:
    • It's a Crapsack World where in order to get ahead in life, one needs to throw away any moral compass they may have had and unapologetically delve into corruption and evildoing. .
    • Alice shows a callous willingness to step on others without hesitation if it can help her reach her goals faster and she is also unapologetic about this behavior to boot, and as a result has earned her a reputation as a shameless backstabber and social climber, which makes reasonable people avoid interacting with her.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted:
    • Characters dislike a company and assume that its CEO, Alice, must be evil. But when they meet her, she is a sweet person with a strict ethical code she lives by.
    • Seeking any sort of advancement is bashed as evil by the The Empire as they don't want their oppressed people to get uppity and want them complacent. The heroes are thus shunned by Les Collaborateurs for making something of themselves.
  • Double Subverted:
    • ...only, that's all an act. She turns out to be a Straw Hypocrite and a Corrupt Corporate Executive.
    • Alternatively, Alice is Affably Evil. She's still greedy and manipulative, she's just not mean.
  • Parodied: Alice harbours "wild" dreams of getting a slightly larger office or a more comfortable chair or some other minor thing and goes to ridiculously bizarre and evil lengths to achieve this ambition. So instead of just saving up money for a new chair or waiting until next year where she is up for promotion to senior accountant, she instantly decides that Murder Is the Best Solution and she must "remove Bob from the picture" in order to take his chair and/or his position and accompanying office for herself. The frequent Humiliation Congas she gets from this would seem excessive if she wasn't an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Her failure to expand her office (complete with actually getting her office shrunk one time) becomes a Running Gag.
  • Zig Zagged: Alice starts out as being ambitious, and this is presented as evil as it corrupts her, causing her to do evil things to try to get ahead. However, after getting a few promotions this way, she reforms, using only honest means to advance her career from there on. However, she finds that Being Good Sucks and is stuck in middle management, and finds her previous deeds are coming back to haunt her. She cracks under the pressure and goes back to evil scheming again.
  • Averted: Personal Ambition is never brought as a motivation for doing evil.
  • Enforced: "We have to make the ambitious co-worker an amoral sociopath, willing to backstab anyone to get what he wants. He will exist as a constrast to Alice who is ambitious too but honest and hardworking instead."
    • The writers are opposed to social mobility, and make Alice ambitious to make rising in the world look bad.
  • Lampshaded: "You know, it would be nice if we could get an ambitious, talented young go-getter who isn't completely evil or insane for once. Why don't we ever get someone like that?"
  • Invoked: The boss of Alice and Bob's workplace has deliberately set things up so that only the most ruthless and amoral people will get to the top. Its all part of the system.
  • Exploited: Alice gets lured by the secretly envious Vivian who serves Alice's goals and schemes loyally and fuels her vices by plying her with call-boys and drugs, until she gets Alice in a vulnerable position, murders her and claims all of her possessions, status and achievements for herself.
  • Defied: Alice is really determined to get a promotion, but refuses to compromise her morals to get it.
  • Discussed: "Keep an eye on that Alice girl. Anyone that eager to get to the top of the pile will do anything to get what they want."
  • Conversed: "Jeez Alice, from watching the shows you're into you'd think that wanting to get a promotion is a fair indication that you also want to eat newborn children."
  • Deconstructed:
    • Lonely at the Top
    • No matter how ruthless, conniving and amoral Alice gets in her pursuit of her dream to rise to the top, she finds out the hard way that there's Always a Bigger Fish as she runs into the even crueler and more evil Bob. Bob easily takes away all her possessions and makes her his personal Sex Slave until he grows tired of her and kills her casually.
    • Alice's goal-oriented approach means crossing the Moral Event Horizon is never beneficial to her. She ends up never going beyond Pragmatic Villainy, and is well-liked by the heroes.
  • Reconstructed:
    • Alice eventually has a Heel Realization and takes a good hard look at what she has become. While she doesn't give up on her dreams and ambitions, she lets go of her amoral ways and starts making amends for all the discord and destruction she has caused, builds back the bridges she once burnt and becomes a much more relatable and admired person as a result.
  • Implied: Alice is both ambitious and evil, but no connection between these two traits is shown. May additionally be further muddied by other villains who lack vision and by heroic figures who still have high ambitions.
  • Played For Laughs: Protest groups burn self-help books.
  • Played For Drama: As Alice works her way up the ranks, she becomes increasingly ruthless and callous in her treatment of others until she alienates everyone she cared about. She comes to realize that power and position is not everything, and tries to make things right.
  • Plotted A Good Waste: Alice acting on her ambitions at the expense of other people makes her look like a selfish Jerkass, which ultimately feeds back into an Aesop about how to treat other people.

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