|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
"I want to be president because I hate you. I want to fuck with you."
—Gary 'the Smiler' Callahan addresses the American people
The third, final, and most despicable trope in the unholy trinity of villainous objectives, Dystopia Justifies The Means is where the goal of the Big Bad is nothing less than the deliberate creation of a Crapsack World, a land, planet, universe or multiverse of perpetual misery and suffering, or some other form of evil.
The villains out to achieve this are usually Complete Monsters of the worst sort, ones who have flown well beyond the Moral Event Horizon long ago. It can occasionally overlap with Utopia Justifies the Means; in such cases, the deluded villain has an idea of a better world that the majority regard as Nightmare Fuel. In general, however, this trope refers to characters who wish to create a Dystopia and have no illusions or expectations that people will be happier or better off under it, and in fact would absolutely enjoy it if people are neither happy nor better off under it.
Contrast with Despotism Justifies the Means, which is where the villain seeks to establish his dominance by any means necessary; thus, they may create a hellish dystopia, but, unless they genuinely prefer that type of world, it exists only to keep the populace down, not as an end in itself. This type of villain will not be satisfied just with obtaining ultimate power; they will desire to use that power towards a particularly vile end - to remake the world into a place of suffering for its own sake.
Media in General
- Most demon lords, eldritch abominations, gods of evil, and cosmic entities ever invented in fiction, come to think of it.
- Darkseid, The Ur Example. Darkseids' ultimate goal is use the Anti-Life equation to rob everyone in the universe of happiness and free will, turning them into nihilistic, despairful mind-slaves whose only purpose in life will be to worship him. Apokolips itself is a kind of hellish space-age Greco-Roman world where the majority of the populace exist as slaves working to build a neverending supply of monuments to him; on the rare occasions when they rebel, Darkseid simply makes those slaves the new slavemasters and due to a lifetime of conditioning they are just as petty and cruel as their predecessors. This is combined with Despotism Justifies the Means, since he wants nothing more or less but total control, though he has a pathological need to make everyone suffer once he gets it. Essentially, he wants to break the spirit of every living thing in Creation and make himself their new God.
- Marvel Comics has Dormammu, the immortal and unstoppable monotheistic god-tyrant of the mystical "Dark Dimension", worshipped as a deity in thousands of other universes, something worse than a demon, older and far more powerful than any elder god, possessor of sufficient might to have defeated cosmic entities such as the Phoenix Force or Eternity in personal combat, able to rewrite entire universes, and creator of kings of hell of the highest order, with the ultimate goal of slaughtering any rival higher powers, assume control of all life and afterlife, and turn both into an inescapable neverending torture camp from birth to death and anything beyond. Arch Enemy of Doctor Strange, and the first classic Dimension Lord. Arguably the most genuinely terrifying absolutely evil recurring villain in the Marvel roster. Think Darkseid taken to a much higher scaled ultimate extreme. Some of his plots stretching billions of years before coming to fruition, but luckily he's usually extremely arrogant and not a particularly inventive schemer. Then again he doesn't need to be, as he is one of the most powerful known EldritchAbominations in existence.
- Apocalypse. His ideal society is a bombed-out radioactive wasteland littered with genocide camps and Nazi-style genetic experimentation labs. Think Benito Mussolini on crack. As the ultimate Social Darwinist, this world exists to weed out the weak and force the strong to earn their right to life by virtue of learning to survive and prosper on what is essentially a Death World.
- The Red Skull. His ideal world varies between a violent Police State and a lawless, chaotic hellhole; in either case he believes that the strong could and should brutalise the weak, commits mass murder on a regular basis , and demands absolute power which he wants to use primarily to oppress and torture people, not simply power for its own sake. And he enjoys it, every minute of it.
- Thanos, when he lords over all of creation, rather than trying to destroy it or is played as a Villain Protagonist.
- Mister Dark
- The Smiler, Big Bad of Transmetropolitan, openly admits to running for President so that he can mess around with America until bits start falling off. He gets his wish. The results aren't pretty.
- The Joker also qualifies, as his crimes generally are conducted to create chaos for its own sake, and many times he also does his crimes with the specific intent to force Batman (or, in some stories, characters like Superman, Commissioner James Gordon, or Harvey Dent) to commit murder and become corrupted to prove himself right that even the most decent people and paragons of Justice can be brought down to his level, even if the person murdered turns out to be himself.
- The Legend of Spyro: Zonoya's Revenge incarnation of Malefor gets this as his ultimate goal after deciding that instead of destroying the world as he originally intended, he will conquer it. We see an Imagine Spot that gives us just a tiny taste of what he intends. That being Spyro's family and friends chained up and suffering horrifically, including the children. Malefor states that all (especially Spyro's friends and family) will be given over to his every whim. Considering this is a guy with a history of Mind Rape (and is implied to have sexually and physically abused Zonoya) and sadism, that is a very terrifying thought.
Films — Live-Action
- The Joker in The Dark Knight, who wishes to create a "world without rules" (or, as Alfred puts it, "watch the world burn"). He believes that, deep down, everyone is just as rotten and evil as he is, and he intends to rip away the "facade" of do-goodiness and create a world where, essentially, everyone acts like a violent criminal.
- Interestingly enough, it almost seems like he's lonely; he can't be like the others, so instead he tries turning others more like himself.
- According to The Essential Guide to Warfare, Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Motti's main motivations in A New Hope were wanting to have the galaxy ruled with fear, feeling that the navy maintaining the galaxy through beliefs such as stability and order has run its course.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four. Specifically, the stated goal of The Party is to perpetuate their own power. But since power is exercised by dominating others, their objective is to make others suffer.
- Morgoth in The Silmarillion. While his Dragon and successor Sauron wanted to create and rule a sustainable empire, Morgoth really just wanted to make those under his power suffer out of pure spite for not getting his own way at the creation.
- The Lord Ruler is Mistborn is an interesting example. He thinks he's operating based on Utopia Justifies the Means, but he's got an omnicidal Eldritch Abomination telepathically linked to him, and it's twisting around his thoughts so his decisions become irrationally destructive and his empire becomes a totalitarian hellscape. Though the Lord Ruler knows he's being messed with by someting very hostile, he seems unaware of the extent of the damage and is even baffled by why the oppressed slave caste keep rebelling (though it doesn't stop him from stamping them down when they do). In the third book, the process gets repeated in miniature with Quellion.
- The Turner Diaries (written by a Neo Nazi) has protagonists who want to take what they consider a Crapsack World (one with private ownership of guns outlawed, minorities having rights and "oppressing" the pure, white people), and they plan to replace that with a world that has everyone but the white people dead and the only survivors will be fanatical white supremacists, but only after they use nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to kill everyone else they don't like, even if it means rendering most of the world uninhabitable.
- Braglob in The Paths of the Perambulator. As Clothahump explains, when you're completely insane you have two options: make yourself sane, or make everyone and everything else as crazy as you are. Braglob goes the latter route, launching a frontal attack on causality.
- Torak in The Belgariad wants a world filled with terrified people bowing down in worship of him, and offering him human sacrifices. Zandramas in The Malloreon has similar objectives. And the Dark Prophecy, which rules them both, seeks nothing more than a stagnant universe of constant failure.
- The King of Hell seeks to destroy both Prophecies, recreating the Universe in his own image, and turning loose the Legions of Hell to feast on all mortal souls.
- Justified for villains Made of Evil, like The First in the Buffy Verse, as they actually feed on the world's malice and misery.
- In Scarred Lands, many followers of the Lawful Evil God Chardun are fighting to create a global Police State where everyone are under the feet of the hierarchy. Then again, they'd be free to be... ambitious, and thus advance in the hierarchy. As an added bonus, they will all go to hell when they die, starting out at the bottom of it's food chain.
- Archaon, the Anti Christ of Warhammer Fantasy, wants to turn the world into a paradise of Chaos. Considering what Chaos is like, such a "paradise" would not be nice.
- Ganondorf, a desert bandit and Evil Sorceror who wishes to conquer the magical land of Hyrule, which he coveted because of the harsh environment he grew up in. Which doesn't mean he doesn't intend to turn it into a Mordor, in reflection of his cruel and sadistic personality.
- Dr. Weil from the Mega Man Zero series. Upon becoming the ruler of Neo Arcadia, he strives upon bringing suffering and despair to its citizens with his iron-fist rule, to take revenge on them because of what they've done to him . He also implies that he truly enjoyed the carnage brought about by the Elf Wars right before siccing Crea and Prea on Zero.
- The radio drama for Mega Man Zero 4 arguably makes him even worse regarding his motive, where he specifically denied trying to conduct his actions out of revenge for humanity, but simply because he thinks that a dying wasteland befits humanity's overall nature as evil.
- Colonel Vindel Mauser from Super Robot Wars Advance believed that dystopia would prevent humanity from becoming complacent and corrupt, as well as making rapid advances in technology.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, this is what Caesar hopes to make. In his eyes, it'll be a world where raiders are exterminated, people are made stronger by the abolishing of medicine and non-destructive technology and his soldiers are united to be fanatically loyal to him. Also, women are now breeding stock at best. Even worse if Lanius succeeds him and rules Vegas, where he plans to "break the weak" with violence and wage war with towns and factions that even Caesar would have just left alone.
- Father Elijah is even worse. His plan, if you let him succeed in it, results in the deaths of 90 % pf the Mojave, and the enslavement of the rest. The remaining population are permanently binded to his service via Explosive Leash, invincible laser shooting holograms kill anyone who comes near, and a poisonous cloud of gas covers the area, rendering much of it unlivable. Elijah and the Courier stay inside the Sierra Madre Casnino, waiting for the world to begin again.
- Most of the villains in Metal Gear, namely Big Boss, Liquid Snake, Revolver Ocelot, and Skull Face, are actively aiming to create dystopia. Unlike most examples, however, these characters are generally portrayed somewhat sympathetically, largely because they simply think a dystopia was ultimately better for humanity to thrive in, and the main antagonists, the Patriots, while coming across as Utopia Justifies the Means, generally being heartless and emotionless.
- Colonel Volgin, however, plays the trope straight, and is also depicted as one of the saga's most evil villains (with only Coldman, Sundowner, and the Patriots AIs coming close to being comparable), especially when he not only is intending to start World War III with the United States and trying to forcibly usurp Khrushchev's position, but Sokolov even implies that he's willing to even engineer rebellions against the USSR via the Shagohod even when it's firmly under his control. He's also scarily realistic in that regard, as several Communist ideologues, even the man who created the ideology, Karl Marx, actively promoted such an horrific outcome and lifestyle.
- Darkrai from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Explorers is a rare case of a villain managing to pull this off... until Grovyle and the player character travel back in time and stop time to stop time from stopping, without knowing that said villain even exists. (Wait, WHAT?)
- Several Final Fantasy villains are like this, but the most notable one is Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy VI: He deliberately intended to ruin the world and leave it into a burning crisp by reviving the Warring Triad and then having them unleash their full power, as well as move the statues out of balance, resulting in millions of deaths. What's worse, even after that, he decides to blow up any remaining pockets of civilization with the Light of Judgment, as well as orphaning the children of at least one town (Mobliz), and it is heavily implied that he does these things solely for his amusement. Heck, its not even the first time that he did this: He also infamously committed what amounts to mass genocide against the Domans by poisoning their river supply, even when the Empire was going to win anyways with little casualties, and he has Thamasa burned to the ground after invading it to acquire the Espers the few times he was actually given command over a major operation. To put it in perspective, several villains who intended to commence this sort of goal (eg, The Emperor) actually voiced disgust towards Kefka's actions at least once in the Dissidia subseries.
- Although the Emperor in Final Fantasy II prior to his death (as well as his characterization in the Dissidia subseries) is technically closer to Despotism Justifies the Means, his Dark Half is definitely this trope due to outright denying any desire to continue ruling the Empire upon his return from Hell or even resuming conquering the world, but instead just desired to slaughter a whole lot of people with his hell-originating powers.
- Plankton is this kind of villain. He temporarily achieves his means-justifying dystopia in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
- Discord from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. He wishes to turn Equestria into a land of mayhem and disharmony, just like it was when he ruled it long ago.
- In first The Fairly Odd Parents movie, Timmy's maniacal teacher Mr. Crocker manages to gain his wish of capturing a fairy godparent by eating a magic muffin that grants whoever eats it one wish, regardless of whether it breaks Da Rules or not. Upon doing so, he takes over the world and turns it into a dystopia in every sense of the word. He also often has the people inflicted with shrimp puffs for his amusement.
- Grandfather of the Kids Next Door wishes to turn the world into a dystopia. He actually succeeded in doing this once before in the distant past, forcing children to work in his tapioca factories due to his gluttony. Nobody dared to oppose him...until his own son came along. Fortunately, the Book of KND encouraged him to put an end to Grandfather by giving him amnesia and taking away his powers. Unfortunately, during the events of Operation: Z.E.R.O., Father brings Grandfather back to power, meaning that there's nothing stopping him from doing it again, which he does. This solidfies him as the most terrifying (but not completely uncomedic) villain on the show.
- Though to be fair, later games such as Skyward Sword imply that this was the result of Demise's influence on him.
- they put him in a suit that could regenerate him, prevented him from aging and dying, and they also converted his memories into data, and then he's left into exile in the barren wasteland he made himself from the events of Elf Wars
- Though that being said, the Patriots' incarnation in Metal Gear Solid 4 depicted them as trying to use war as a new form of business model without rhyme or reason or even loyalty, which technically makes them applicable regarding the trope.
- Specifically, Karl Marx in the has stated in the November 6, 1848 article The Victory of the Counter Revolution in Vienna that "The purposeless massacres perpetrated since the June and October events, the tedious offering of sacrifices since February and March, the very cannibalism of the counterrevolution will convince the nations that there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror." He alongside his fellow co-founder of Marxism, Friedrich Engels, also advocated a violent revolt to pale the 1793 Reign of Terror with the following: "If, up to that time, the English bourgeoisie does not pause to reflect—and to all appearance it certainly will not do so—a revolution will follow with which none hitherto known can be compared. The proletarians, driven to despair, will seize the torch which Stephens has preached to them; the vengeance of the people will come down with a wrath of which the rage of 1793 gives no true idea. The war of the poor against the rich will be the bloodiest ever waged. " and also a similar quote about how they will make no excuses for the terror. Marx also indicated, at least according to Solzhenitzn, in one of his books, that "Once we are at the helm, we shall be obliged to reenact the year 1793. We'll be considered monsters, but we couldn't care less." In addition, Vladimir Lenin also indicated that Robespierre and his 1793 reign of terror were "Bolshevik avant la lettre", and commissioned similar statues dedicated to various figures of the French Revolution, namely Georges Danton , François-Noël Babeuf and Jean-Paul Marat, with Danton being the only one besides Robespierre to ever be completed, and also advocated for permanent revolution. And Leon Trotsky advocated for permanent revolution as well, which essentially entails a continuous riot.