Follow TV Tropes


Playing With / Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil

Go To

Basic Trope: An in-universe belief that betrayal is a particularly vile action.
  • Straight: Tom has committed a few murders, but his most heinous crime is considered to be betraying The Good Kingdom to The Empire.
  • Exaggerated:
  • Downplayed:
    • When The Good Kingdom is occupied by The Empire, The Quislings and their fellow collaborators are slightly more despised than the actual occupiers.
    • The maximum punishment for treason is 21 years in jail. The maximum punishment for other felonies is 20 years.
    • There's an unwritten rule that rightfully convicted traitors are never pardoned and never have their sentences commuted. However, treason is one out of four crimes to get this treatment, with the other three being rape, slavery and poison murder.
  • Justified:
    • Tom's treason could, directly or indirectly, lead to the deaths of many of his fellow citizens in war. It could also contribute to the takeover of The Good Kingdom by The Empire, which is not exactly interested in the well-being of Tom's countrymen. Therefore it makes sense to view Tom's treason as worse than murder.
    • Advertisement:
    • The Empire, knowing that Tom is a traitor, fears that he wouldn't hesitate to turn against them later on.
    • The work is set in a feudally organized culture, where loyalty placed much, much higher in the hierarchy of virtues than in modern western society.
  • Inverted:
    • Betrayal is considered heroic.
    • Tom betrays The Good Kingdom, and angrily explains that "sticking it to that dumb king" is in no way comparable with murder, which he would never commit.
  • Subverted:
    • Treason is the only crime punishable by death. However, in practice, most traitors get jail sentences no worse than those of any other criminals.
    • Tom is initially considered unforgivable for betraying The Good Kingdom to The Empire. Then the heroes learn that a Government Conspiracy within the Kingdom sought to have him murdered because He Knows Too Much, and grudgingly admit he had no choice but to side with the only group who wasn't actively trying to kill him.
  • Advertisement:
  • Double Subverted: While most ex-convicts are left alone after serving their sentence, traitors are usually lynched within days of being freed. The police deliberately turn a blind eye to this.
  • Parodied:
    • Emperor Evulz has committed genocide, but the time he "betrayed" a childhood friend by forgetting to invite her for his birthday party when he was 10 is treated as his ultimate crime.
    • Traitors are sentenced to thousands of years in jail. Murderers "only" get a hundred years.
  • Zig Zagged: Traitors from The Good Kingdom are treated as evil. Traitors from The Empire are sometimes sympathetic, depending on their motivation.
  • Averted:
    • Tom's treason is treated as morally reprehensible, but no more or less so than the numerous acts of murder and torture he has previously engaged in.
    • Emperor Evulz is treacherous, while Empress Belladonna isn't. The conflict between the two is treated as Order Versus Chaos Evil vs. Evil, and Belladonna's reliability does not get her portrayed as A Lighter Shade of Black.
  • Enforced: The writer lives in a country with an oppressive government that loves punishing "traitors" for trivial offences like criticizing their politics. Said oppressive government forces the writer to push the idea that "treason" is the worst crime there is.
  • Lampshaded: Two random citizens of The Good Kingdom talk about how weird it is that you'd have to commit genocide to get the same punishment as a traitor.
  • Invoked: A character argues to Emperor Evulz that he shouldn't betray his Mooks because that would cross the Moral Event Horizon, even though he's had dozens of people killed so far. Evulz agrees.
  • Exploited:
  • Defied: The heroes refuse to hold Tom's betrayal in particular contempt over his other crimes.
  • Discussed: Several characters discuss whether Tom's treason warrants a death sentence.
  • Conversed: "Man, our friends are really pissed about Tom's betrayal. Not really focusing on his murders, are they?"
  • Implied: Tom the traitor is only criminal shown to be executed.
  • Deconstructed:
    • Tom murders dozens of his fellow citizens to cover up his treason. A traitor is already considered irredeemably evil, so why hold back?
    • The hatred for and paranoia about traitors lead to a Witch Hunt in which the alleged traitors - most of whom are innocent - are brutally punished.
  • Reconstructed:
  • Played For Laughs: Tom is subjected to the harshest punishment The Good Kingdom has to offer, which is reserved for traitors. It's a two-year soap opera marathon.
  • Played For Drama: Tom lives in The Empire and hates it, but if he tries to join The Good Kingdom instead, everyone will see him as a vile traitor.

Back to Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: