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You have a character who acts poorly. A parent who's harsh to their child, or a jerk/villain who does bad things. They do so presumably because of a harsh upbringing. But when brought up or called out on it? They'll think it didn't hurt them, that it was good for them and not realize the harshness they went through.

This trope usually applies to a harsh or abusive parent in terms of how they treat their kid. Maybe they grew up in a time where their harshness was acceptable. Perhaps their own parents were just plain harsh/abusive and they don't know better because of that, or they had a Hilariously Abusive Childhood.


With jerks and villains, they may not have a Freudian Excuse and people just assume or hope they did, so they get annoyed when people claim they did. Or while they had a troubled childhood, they believe that Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse and don't want to use their past to justify their actions. Maybe they care for their parents, harsh or not, and feel offended by being told they have a Freudian Excuse.

This trope frequently shows up as a display of intergenerational gaps and the Values Dissonance involved therein. More often than not the character arguing this was clearly influenced for the worse by whatever experience is discussed, and the topic is often Corporal Punishment or Free-Range Children.

Contrast Freudian Excuse, where the person on whom the method is used thinks that the experience certainly did influence them. Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse is when the character says that they had a harsh upbringing, but it doesn't justify or make up for their actions.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Franken Stein from Soul Eater emphasizes and lampshades the trope when he recounts his own sociopathy from childhood as being a result of his own choice to be a Mad Scientist who likes to cut things and people open to see how they tick instead of some traumatic event or horrible incident that made him a monstrous person like many doctors tried to find when they examined him.
    Franken Stein: A long time ago, I was analyzed by a group of foolish doctors who feared my violent tendencies and what they considered my selfish attitude. They seemed elated while they were studying me. As if they were solving a crime in a mystery novel, they theorized for hours. Wondering if something had traumatized me in my past or if some terrible influence had come into my life. That was all nonsense though. I've loved tearing things apart from the very beginning!

    Comic Books 
  • Nemesis: Nemesis states that he's the son of criminals that Blake Morrow busted, supposedly the reason why he becomes a super-villain. When Blake confronts him about it, Nemesis admits he's was lying to just to screw with him. He has no reason for what he does, he's just rich and bored.
  • In a comic book from the nineties, Venom kills two men who, thinking he was just some hobo, tried to set him on fire. Venom says that that kind of behaviour often is blamed on violent movies and video games, but that he doesn't believe it, since he turned out just fine. He says this while murdering them brutally.
  • Wolverine: On himself, [[Plaguemaster Contagion]] clearly states he doesn't have any abusive childhood or skeletons in his past to explain his actions, nor any "ends justifies the means" reasoning or even sociopathy for what he does. He simply considers chooses evil over good, and sees him the villain of his story.

  • In Austin Powers, Dr. Evil describes his childhood thus:
    The details of my life are quite inconsequential. [...] Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds. Pretty standard, really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Wilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum. It's breathtaking, I suggest you try it.
  • In 8mm "Machine" (The Brute of the tale, a psychotic violent rapist who killed a woman in a Snuff Film, starting the whole plot) says once confronted by Tom (The Hero) that no, he didn't grew up in an abusive home and he was never beaten by his parents, he is just a psychotic homicidal rapist because he likes it. A combination of this being more monstrous that he hoped it to be, finally becoming fed up with all of the shit he had to deal with to get to Machine, and anger-inducing disappointment makes Tom decide to kill Machine by pistol-whipping him to death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Martin Ellingham of Doc Martin is an aloof Dr. Jerk who has trouble relating to people. His parents were emotionally abusive and didn't even want to have a child. Describing the situation, Martin comments, "I was locked in the cupboard under the stairs as a child, and it never did me any harm."
  • Kaamelott: Leodagan claims his father's brutal upbringing worked wonders on him. He's a borderline Sociopathic Soldier for who Violence Really Is the Answer, and fails to see why his own son is a Dumbass Teenage Son (it's not entirely his fault, since the show is a major Dysfunction Junction).
  • Subverted in Mad Men, when Don, after Betty asks him to spank their kids, explains that his dad used to beat the hell out of him and all it ever did was make him want to kill his old man.
  • In NewsRadio, Bill Mc Neal occasionally reminisces about his terribly dysfunctional family, but talks about his parents' abusive behavior as if it's the sort of thing most people would find humorous.
  • On the Israeli version of The Office, Lavi, the localised version of Lee, acts like an ignorant arsehole throughout the whole series, cheating on Dana (localised Dawn) and even raping a company employee, and telling his friend he intends to get her pregnant as soon as they're married to kick all those career dreams of hers out of her head. In season 2 he mentions off-handedly being physically abused by his father and claims he came out alright. Cue brief awkward silence.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ezri tries tapping into Garaka's childhood to treat his claustrophobia; his father used to lock him in the closet as punishment. He dismisses it. (In this case, he's actually right because his attacks are caused by an ongoing case of My God, What Have I Done?.)

    Stand-up Comedy 
  • In one episode of Paul Merton: The Series, Paul describes increasingly horrific punishments supposedly inflicted on him by his parents, ending each one with "but it never did me any harm!" Finally he aknowledges that he's become a hate-filled maniac, but still concludes it never did him any harm.

String Theory: Played for Black Comedy when Dr. Schtein, a Functional Addict supervillain in the making, with many and varied personal problems tries to rationalize why he abandoned his own daughter.
"Look, I didn't have a dad either, and I turned out... [Beat Panel] Yeah, I don't know where I was going with that."

    Web Videos 
  • Joueur du Grenier: After playing a Barney & Friends game where you can't die, nothing hurts you and it automatically plays itself it it detects no input, Fred says that playing Nintendo Hard games while growing up made him the mentally healthy, well-balanced man he is today thanks to finishing the games being more rewarding. Cue Critical Annoyance sound from offscreen, which Fred shoots with a Hand Cannon without looking, staring fixedly into the camera.

    Western Animation 
  • In a Dan Vs. episode Dan laments that parents these days aren't raising their children correctly, then mentions off-handedly that his parents just left him to watch TV and play videogames all day, every day. Chris and Elise think that might be why Dan wound up as an unemployed, violent, nearly-friendless misanthrope, but Dan insists he turned out awesome!
  • In the Mike, Lu & Og episode "Fathers and Pies", Maregery urges Alfred to spend more time with Og. He protests, saying "I barely spent time with my father, and look at me now". Margery just sternly stares at him.
  • From The Simpsons:
    • Homer has this to say on the issue:
    Then we figured out we could park them in front of the TV. That's how I was raised, and I turned out TV.
    • In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer claims that his cousin Frank turned out OK in spite of sharing his parents' bed until he was 21. He then adds that Frank had a sex change and became Francine in 1971, joined a cult and now answers to the name Mother Shabubu.
    • In "Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy", Lisa is upset that the Malibu Stacy doll is saying sexist things when it was supposed to be a role model for girls. Marge tries to comfort her by saying, "I had a Malibu Stacy when I was little, and I turned out all right". However, what she says next is repeated by Lisa's Stacy doll: "Now let's forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream!"

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