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Miss Teschmacher: [after learning that Luthor has sent a nuclear missile heading toward Hackensack] Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack.

[Lex Luthor checks his watch and shakes his head]

Do you remember...the piranha plant you roasted in 5-1? And were you there when his family received the news about their son?

Mooks, Evil Minions and even The Dragon have a family, and can form romantic relationships and friendships just like normal people. On and off the clock. Their Bad Boss however, usually doesn't understand or seriously misjudges the emotional attachment present. Eventually, it results that the Big Bad's Evil Plan calls for the indirect suffering or death of their friend/love interest/family member. Maybe the continent they live on is being targeted with their boss' orbital Death Ray. Perhaps their boss wants to kill all Xes, and the significant other happens to be an X. Or the friend just so happens to be the hero.

Henchie will ask if he can at least save this one person they love... and the boss will refuse. For extra sting the effort needed would be minimal and the boss will rail on the henchman for placing others above his goals. Worse is the variant where the boss puts a gun in their hand and tells them to shoot as a proof of their loyalty. Despite whatever horrible things they've done, the resulting conflicting loyalties nearly always come up on the side of the loved one. As you can guess, this Egregious Villainous Demotivator will cause a Mook Face Turn pretty darn fast, or at least prompt the minion to release someone who can save the loved one... namely, the hero who is in the (actually) inescapable Death Trap.

Often, this is combined with High Heel Face Turn: a Capulet Counterpart or a Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter falls in love with the hero and can't bring herself to harm them.

Of course, if you want to show how really nasty a minion can be, it could be subverted in a Moral Event Horizon where they more than willingly accept the murder of their loved one. Bonus points if they made it slow and painful. Conversely, the hero may hold these loved ones in an inverted Hostage for Macguffin against the baddie.

A minor version of this would have the Hero pondering the fact that we're all somebody's kid, and wondering how the families of the mooks he's offed feel. To make it more powerful, the hero could encounter said loved ones and start a nice long guilt trip.

See also/compare Even Evil Has Loved Ones, Even Evil Has Standards, and Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas. Sub-Trope of Conflicting Loyalty. See also They Were Holding You Back or I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure.

Examples of Even Mooks Have Loved Ones include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Berserk, the Count, the second major Apostle that Guts fights in the manga, became an Apostle by sacrificing his wife, whom he walked in on during a pagan orgy that went down in his very own castle, which drove him over the Despair Event Horizon. But the Count also had a daughter named Theresia, who meant the entire world to him. She is used as a Human Shield by Guts against him in a moment that sparks a What the Hell, Hero? from Puck, Guts's companion who was captured and got to know the little girl. When Guts defeats the Count and he calls on the God Hand in order to avoid death, Femto, a.k.a. Griffith, shows his first sign in the manga of what a Complete Monster he can be by demanding that he sacrifice Theresia (since in order to become an Apostle one has to sacrifice those one most dearly loves in order to surrender oneself to evil) or be dragged off to Hell. The Count ultimately chooses his own death rather than the sacrifice of the only loved one he still has left.
    • Actually, those are the rules. When a Behelit activates, the dying owner is given a choice to either die or sacrifice whatever is most important to them and be reborn as a demon. The Count offers literally anything ELSE when presented with Theresia as the price, but it has to be Theresia because that's the only thing the Count cares about. That "anything" being for the Count to accept death, and since he's already a demon he's obviously going to Hell. Forever.
  • In Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, we are shown the background of real Operation Meteor supposedly carried by Gundam Pilots, they were supposed to do Colony Drop on Earth, and then using the destruction and chaos to use the Gundams to conquer Earth. Naturally, the pilots and the supervisors didn't go along with this, except for the real Trowa Barton, who got shot by a technician who had family on Earth. The current Trowa Barton is a another nameless technician who'd happen to be around, and then tasked by the supervisor to take the Gundam on earth and doing more specified task: make hell on OZ.
  • Believe it or not, a good number of Emperor Souther's men in Fist of the North Star do NOT like beating and killing children; the trouble is that if they don't do so, SOUTHER will kill their children as punishment for their disobedience.

Comic Books

  • In a Captain America issue where Hydra was planning massive destruction across the US. Before launching the attack they had set up safe havens for family of members and had set up a department in charge of moving these people to safety. For an organization that kills its minions with impunity, they showed surprisingly good people skills on this one.
    • Of course there were limits and this makes a Minion do a Face Heel Turn.
      • If you sign to be a minion of Hydra is probably expected that you have a expectancy of life really low, but that doesn't mean your family should have.
  • This shows up in one of the Tom Raney-drawn Stormwatch prequel comics. The Dragon is okay with nuking anyone -but- his family. Lord Helspon didn't care.
  • A mini-series focusing on the Joker was told from the perspective of one of Joker's henchmen, a man named Frost. During the story he is revealed to have a whole basically normal family. This comes back to bite him later when the Joker rapes his wife and when questioned why states that it makes him and Frost even after Joker saved Frost's life during a heist.


  • James Bond tricks Hugo Drax into implying that Jaws' girlfriend will not be one of those be allowed to live according to his master plan in Moonraker in order to get Jaws to do a Heel Face Turn.
  • In Superman, Lex's moll releases Supes after Lex blithely acknowledges his earthquake plot will kill her mother.
    • In Lex's defense, this was Otis's fault. If not for his lack of arm length, Supes would have been killed and San Francisco doomed.
  • Omen III: The Final Conflict. The wife of Damien Thorne's right hand man had a baby at a time that the Christ Child is scheduled to be born. When Thorne orders the death of all the babies born during that time, the aide lies about when the baby was born so he won't have to kill him.
    • Not that it does him any good.
  • A few scenes from the first Austin Powers movie (which were cut from the American release, but included in most international ones) are cutaways about the friends and loved ones of guards Austin kills being informed; one the friends at his bachelor party wondering why he's late, and the other his girlfriend and her son (who considers the guard a substitute father figure). Most likely cut because watching a family crying as their world collapses really isn't funny. It also makes Austin's post-kill quips paint him as a Complete Monster.
  • This Sucker Punch-related animated short kinda employs it: someone is killed, revived and turned into a zombie mook... and just before dying remembers his previous life.


  • Played straight in Harry Potter: Voldemort was going to spare Lily Evans-Potter when Snape asked him to, but as soon as she made it slightly difficult (he would have had to push her out of the way and all) he just decided to kill her too. As a result Snape sacrifices everything to ensure Voldemort's downfall, and the best part is that Voldemort seems completely ignorant that he just gave one of his most promising lieutenants perfect reason to want him dead.
    • Also used with the Malfoy family in Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows - Voldemort punishes Lucius for his various screw-ups by letting Draco join the Death Eaters and putting him on what is essentially a suicide mission. Both Lucius and his wife Narcissa are obviously driven out of their minds with fear by this and Draco makes it pretty apparent by the end of the book that he is only going through with the mission to keep Voldemort from killing his parents. By the last book, it is pretty clear that none of the Malfoys want to serve Voldemort anymore and simply want to all get each other out alive. This clears the way for Narcissa to actually lie to Voldemort's face about whether or not Harry is dead, just so that she and Lucius could find Draco again. Keep in mind that Voldemort is a confirmed expert of Legilimency; lying to him and getting away with it is VERY difficult... and she still did it and got away with it..
  • In Gaunt's Ghosts, Hark had a conversation with another commissar who recommended killing the random hangers on who travel with the imperial guard (including family) to save money. Hark shuts him up by explaining the guard would desert en masse.
  • One of the stories in Poul Anderson's Technic History series ended with Dominic Flandry successfully killing a Merseian agent who'd been stirring up rebellion on a Terran world. Then Flandry wondered if the agent had some children who couldn't understand why their father hadn't come home.
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, one painting come to life pleads with the villain to save another one; although the villain eventually does it, first he taunts him with the possibility of a new version, and the chance to fall in love all over again.
  • In Animorphs, the heroes destroy the city's Earth-based Kandrona, and as a result, numerous Yeerks starve to death. One Controller, however, is furious at Visser Three for deeming a loved one too unimportant to save, and plots with Ax to arrange his assassination.
    • The heroic version shows up in The Departure, when Cassie is confronted by Aftran, the sister of a Yeerk whom she had recently killed in battle.

Live Action TV

  • Maury Parkman's loyalty to Arthur Petrelli (and therefore his life) ended as soon as Arthur decided to have his son Matt killed.
  • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, after Damar does a Heel Face Turn, his old boss has his wife and children murdered, prompting him to ask the rhetorical question "What kind of people give those orders?" and Kira (whose people suffered years of torture and oppression at the hands of Damar's people, with Damar himself and many of his friends doing exactly the kind of pointless violence that his family has now fallen victim to) to answer "Yeah, Damar, what kind of people give those orders?"
  • On Wonder Woman, when a mook discovers that the villain is planning to use a laser to destroy Phoenix, Arizona, he yells that he has family there, and tries to stop him. He fails, but his action gives Wonder Woman time to save the day. And to be fair, it wasn't clear that he knew the villain was planning to do anything criminal.

Tabletop Games

  • If there's a positive Intimacy between an Abyssal Exalted and his or her Lunar mate, almost none of the usual Abyssal rules apply to that person. The Abyssal can fight their Deathlord to protect the Lunar. Bear in mind, usually "fighting your Deathlord" is synonymous with "putting your character sheet into a paper shredder."

Video Games

  • Neverwinter Nights mostly averts this, as its villains are mostly the cackling Omnicidal Maniac sort, but the module-creating community does have some examples.
    • In the HeX coda modules, Poe betrays Lester's doomsday plan because it would put her boyfriend at risk.
  • One of the statistics that Alpha Protocol keeps track of is the number of orphans the player creates when he kills mooks, to the extent that where you are in the world affects how many orphans are created. In China it's only one orphan per man killed, for example.
  • Deus Ex lets you meet the parents of a Majestic 12 troop in a cafe. The mother begs you to spare him, while the father feels he deserves what's coming to him.
  • In Maple Story, the Demon Slayer character rebelled against the Dark Mage for this reason.

Web Comics


Western Animation

  • In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn turns against the Joker when she realizes that his plan to nuke the city will also kill all their "friends" at Arkham, as well as her pet hyenas.
  • Tirac threatening to behead Spike ultimately caused Scorpan to turn on Tirac in the original My Little Pony pilot.