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May 6th 2017 at 6:48:41 AM •••

I really don't think The Joker qualifies in any version, as regardless of his backstory, he is always portrayed as proud of and revelling in his own evilness.

Sep 16th 2014 at 4:36:08 PM •••

Motive. The short, not totally complete answer is: Woobie is a sympathetic character doing evil things, a Tragic Villain is a character doing evil things for sympathetic reasons. Similar, and they can definitely overlap, but still different tropes.

Edited by 173.160.205.2
Aug 24th 2014 at 5:35:52 PM •••

Example moved here because Examples Are Not Arguable. Can someone look at this to see whether it is an example, and rewrite it to cut down the Word Cruft, if it is?


  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gul Dukat presents an especially deep version of this trope. Through the ongoing story it is revealed that the most heinous acts Dukat committed in the past against the Bajorans were done not simply because he was ordered to, nor because he was especially malicious. He carried out his most egregious acts knowing that if he refused to do so, he would be replaced by someone who would. Not only that, but someone who would not make an effort to minimize how much horror they inflicted, but may actually enjoy it enough to do more than is necessary. Even before this Dukat is shown several times as a family man who genuinely cares for his family, and at some points seems to regret his career choice as it takes him away from his children who can't understand why their father is not at special events such as birthdays.

    Later, Dukat loses his family when it is revealed he has a half-bajoran daughter. After that he sees that same daughter who he lost his family over murdered in front of his eyes after she admits to betraying him and his cause. This results in Dukat undergoing a mental breakdown from which he never truly recovers. As a final addition of insult to injury, during his mental breakdown he tries to explain himself to Captain Sisko, but is unaware that Sisko cannot see the hallucinations that he (Dukat) is himself experiencing. As a result, Sisko only hears Dukat seemingly making light of the dreadful things he has done, while missing out on the exposition that if Dukat had not acted as he did; someone who would have done worse would have replaced him leading to even more suffering. Thus Dukat does not even get to keep the respect of his Worthy Opponent, who thereafter views him as a monster.

    He ultimately ends as a subversion, though. Despite his protestations to the contrary, Dukat eventually embraces his villainy when he admits that he always despised the Bajorans, and for rejecting his "sympathy" during his rule on Bajor (read: slave labor quotas are reduced by a generous 50%), he thinks he should have exterminated them all. Thereafter he becomes an Ax-Crazy Omnicidal Maniac.
    • One could argue this is a case of Becoming The Mask, since at this point everyone has for some time painted him as a monster, every good, noble, or merciful thing he has attempted prior exploded in his face, he has lost everything, and has been driven to insanity to boot. What's left but to become the monster everyone said he was?

Nov 10th 2012 at 7:35:54 PM •••

This seems like a real misuse of the word "tragic". The whole point of tragedy is that a character's downfall is their own fault — their mistakes or innate flaws set events in motion which ruin them. Most classic villains are tragic figures, because they set the plot in motion out of their own greed, ambition or hubris, and they're punished for it. For the same reason most films with a Villain Protagonist are tragedies.

The description of this trope suggests it's more to do with how sympathetic their motives are.

Edited by johnnye Hide/Show Replies
Sep 27th 2013 at 12:09:10 PM •••

No, sympathetic motives make more for a Well-Intentioned Extremist. It's tragic because they're evil and there's nothing they can do about it. It may even be their own fault. The tragedy is that they are fully aware, not Obliviously Evil, but instead of wearing their villainy like a badge of honor, they utterly hate themselves (and probably the world they live in) because of it.

Mar 31st 2012 at 12:53:25 AM •••

Michael Dawson IS NOT a Villain. If he is a villain, so are Jack Shephard, James Ford, Kate Austen, John Locke, Mr. Eko, Ana-Lucia Cortez, Sayid Jarrah, Shannon Rutherford, Desmond Hume and many others.

Why on earth did you label Michael as a villain, when other "LOST" characters who were survivors on the island, had committed several crimes themselves. Your label smacks of hypocrisy.

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