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I'm not infected, I just want to kill you!
Ryn Bergerac, Sovisa

Say you're a Genre Savvy character living in a world where being Brainwashed is a common everyday occurrence. Finding out your friends and teammates have been taken over by The Virus or the like no longer surprises you.

Now say your closest friend, or a family member, or your Mentor, or love interest starts acting weird, doing morally questionable things they normally wouldn't do. Smiling evilly, laughing maniacally, having lapses of memory, being unusually quiet and reclusive, kicking small pets, and there's something not quite right with their eyes. Maybe you investigate and find correspondence between them and the Big Bad.

No worries, though. This isn't a Face Heel Turn. They have all the classic signs. They're just Brainwashed like everyone else, right? Right. The secret gets out, and their new boss laughs as he gleefully tells you he isn't forcing them to do anything against their will, but that's to be expected. You two eventually have to fight; they're giving it everything they've got, but you're not because you know they're in there somewhere. They tell you you're wrong and insist they're not Brainwashed, but that's what they all say. You break out your Magic Antidote that's worked on a million victims before and hit it... and nothing happens.

Sorry, but in this one case, they're Not Brainwashed. They've genuinely joined The Dark Side by their own volition, or had a legitimate Freak-Out and now have a new but real personality. And you can't bring them back the way you can to everybody else.

There's also the comedy option, where a character, having gone into a seemingly dangerous situation, finds out that it's actually something pleasant and enjoyable; unfortunately, their allies who stayed behind don't realize this, and attempt to rescue them from the "brainwashing."

Having one person out of a million Not Brainwashed is becoming more and more common. Not so much a subversion as the natural cycle of the trope.

Related to More Than Mind Control.

Examples of Not Brainwashed include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Magical Project S, turns out Pixy Misa wasn't a brainwashed persona, but the repressed aspects of Misao's personality.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta falls under Babidi's Majin control, which brings out the evil of whoever is placed under it and brings them under his control. After Goku tries to get him to snap out of it, Vegeta reveals that he's not truly under Babidi's control; he let himself be affected because he felt he was going soft, and knew Babidi could bring out his evil side and get him fired up to finally fight Goku.
  • In Bleach, Aizen's Zanpaktou can cast illusions that can fool anyone, if they have ever seen the sword using its power. However, Tousen is blind, thus unable to see the sword. It is then revealed that he joined Aizen of his own will.
  • Kaiser in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. He's a champion of a game notorious for causing Split Personalities and Superpowered Evil Sides in players, and his Freak-Out and Evil Costume Switch take place during the More Than Mind Control arc, but in his case, he really just snapped after a humiliating loss. He tells his mentor, his best friend, and his brother that when they try to "cure" him by dueling him since Defeat Means Friendship: "There's no darkness inside me. I am not captured by darkness. I just want to know what brings out the power to win!" Originally, he was still a cold, aloof loner, but at least he had a strong sense of respect for his opponent. He gets better
  • G Gundam had Domon's mentor, Master Asia, turn against him. Domon didn't give this much thought at first, since he had seen many people become Brainwashed by the Devil Gundam before then, and was mighty displeased to discover that Master Asia was serving the Devil Gundam purely by choice.
  • This trope appears in the last story arc of the live-action adaptation Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Queen Beryl, who up until this point has been brainwashing her four lieutenants, resigns herself to certain death and releases Jaedite from her spell, so he can escape. His personality doesn't change at all: he reveals that he's always been her willing servant, and he intends to remain by her side no matter what.
  • In Inuyasha, Sango's brother Kohaku is brought Back From the Dead with Easy Amnesia to work for Naraku. He kills women and children while under Naraku's influence, but then regains his faculties. His sister's attempts to "break" his brainwashing at this point convince him that the best way to protect her (and make up for what he's done) is to continue working for Naraku in order to find a way to permanently destroy him.
  • Hellsing, Battle Butler Walter is seen de-aged and on the side of the Nazi Vampires. When Alucard fights him, everyone assumes that he's been brainwashed. While it's left slightly ambiguous, it's heavily implied that not only was he doing it all of his own free will, but he had also been the cause of various security breaches earlier in the series.
  • In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, Woobie Alone is chosen as the vessel for Hades and subsequently begins to kill everyone, planning to end all life on Earth. Turns out this has nothing to do with the influence of Hades, as he was never possessed; being chosen as the vessel for Hades simply gave him the power to execute a plan that was his own from the very beginning.
  • In Duall Kazuki assumes that Mitsuki Sanada has been hypnotized to fight him since the same thing had happened to Mitsuki Rara earlier. Turns out that she had willingly agreed to help the Rara army so that they would help her and Kazuki return to their own world. Once she realizes how close she came to killing Kazuki and how dumb her choice was she keeps the truth to herself.

Comic Books

  • The Teen Titans Judas Contract Arc: Moreso in the comics than the cartoon, Beast Boy/Changeling initially hoped Terra was being Brainwashed or manipulated somehow by Deathstroke/Slade before he could accept that her alliance with Slade was completely voluntary. In the cartoon, while she is manipulated by Slade, she is very voluntary about doing his dirty work for him. Having his own traumatic experience with Slade, Robin shares the hope that Slade's forcing her into it, and Terra has to spell it out for him: "I DON'T NEED SAVING! I'm not some sad little girl who's waiting to be rescued! I wanted to be this way! I wanted to go with Slade! I wanted to annihilate you and your pathetic friends!"
  • In the 90s, when Colossus abandoned the X-Men for Magneto's Acolytes, his team-mates — specifically Wolverine--wanted to believe that he was under mind-control; Colossus immediately denied it and for a while it was the official explanation that he was not being compelled. Eventually Professor X decided that Colossus had committed this Face Heel Turn because of an undiagnosed brain injury (he had a huge dent in his head at the time and was trapped in his armored form--but even after said injury was treated, Colossus still stayed with the Acolytes. It was kind of refreshing.


  • In The Shadow movie, Lamont Cranston assumes Dr. Reinhardt's assistant, Farley Claymore, has been telepathically controlled into helping Shiwan Khan, until he tries to snap him out of it and Claymore boasts he is helping Khan of his own free will, hoping to be rewarded with power. Given Cranston's earlier life as the vicious drug lord Yin-Ko, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, and really should have considered that possibility.


  • In Trader by Charles de Lint, Max Trader has involuntarily swapped bodies with another character. When his teenage neighbor Nia learns this, then sees her mother kissing another woman, she assumes her mother has been swapped too. Not so. Her mother is really a lesbian and just hasn't come out to her yet.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife series, Fawn is constantly asked if the sorcerous Dag has beguiled her into marrying him, when they are really just in love. Also, in "Passage", Alder is not beguiled by Crane. And in "Horizon", a halfbreed Lakewalker beguiles a farmer into loving and marrying her, only to learn that beguilement wears off over time, and her husband is staying with her of his own free will.
    • Bujold also plays the comedy situation for dramatics in Shards of Honor. Most of Beta Colony believes that Cordelia has been brainwashed by the Barrayarans, when she's really just in love with Admiral Vorkosigan.
  • Kyp Durron in the Star Wars Expanded Universe was definitely Not Brainwashed, though Luke thinks he was. It's the one time Kyp Durron fans agree with Corran on Kyp.
  • Horribly subverted in World War Z where "Quislings", humans who pretend to be zombies (to the point of literally believing they are zombies) are just so much more zombie chow.
  • Ruthlessly exploited in Harry Potter books: Many of villains got off by pretending to be brainwashed (including the Malfoys). Later Harry cannot believe that Stan the bus driver is not under Mind Control when attacking him. (Stan IS surprisingly blank-eyed, and it's not verified one way or the other.)
    • Stan was previously a good-natured but pretty slow bus attendant who claimed he would be the next Minister of Magic when he was trying to chat up some Veelas. That said, he seemed very unlikely as Death Eater material, even if he did decide to join. On the other hand, Harry and his friends believed that Cornelius Fudge was under the Imperius Curse which was why he was stubbornly ignoring signs of Voldemort's return (Dumbledore doesn't think this is true though and Fudge later does accept what's going on, so yeah...) There's also debate as to whether or not Umbridge was possessed by the horcrux locket when she wore it. While Harry figured that it would be impossible to tell since she was already so foul, Rowling stated that the locket saw her as a kindred spirit and aided her rather then hindered her.
  • Tarra from "The Ancestor Cell", at least in Fitz's conception. He thinks she's led on by Kellen, but it's obvious she's leading the rich kids on and is the Man Behind the Man. Her "first name" is Mother, the title of a Faction Paradox agent, a vicious Cult engaging in Temporal Paradoxes and whose goal is to destroy the structure of time itself.

Live Action TV

  • A perfect example is Connor in Angel's fourth season. The demon Jasmine has the power to enthrall anyone who sees her; only contact with her blood can break the spell, at which point the victim sees her true, horrific face. Fred is accidentally freed this way, and she manages to free the rest of the cast one by one. But when they try to cure Connor, he betrays them — turns out that due to their blood relation, he's never been under Jasmine's spell. He's just so tired of fighting and being manipulated that he's willing to go along with her Utopia Justifies the Means thing.
    • Another episode involved a boy who was apparently being possessed by a demon. When the demon is finally exorcised, he reveals that the boy was already more evil than he was: he was so evil, in fact, that he was not so much possessed by the demon as imprisoning him.
    • After Wesley conspired to kidnap the baby Connor (and got his throat cut for his trouble) Angel visited him in hospital. Angel was at pains to stress that he was still Angel (and not the soul-less Angelus) before proceeding to try to smother him with a pillow
  • In a series fraught with Evil Twin and Brainwashed and Crazy Power Rangers, Power Rangers SPD chose to break the chain and give us the A-Squad, a team of "elite" Rangers thought to have been lost in space (no pun intended), but had really faked their disappearance to voluntarily join with the Troobian army, believing it'll eventually crush the SPD and wanted to be on "the winning side" when it happened. All well and good...until a Canon Dis Continuity in the Disney Adventures follow-up comic reversed it back to Brainwashed and Crazy...
    • This Retcon does illustrate how it can often be hard to tell when somebody's really Not Brainwashed: somebody who really has been brainwashed is rather unlikely to say so, after all. If they did it would mean they were brainwashed really poorly.
      • This is debatable as at the start of the season before they were capture, one of the rangers notes something is off about the A-squad.
    • On a lighter note, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers plays with this between Zedd and rita. At first, she used a love potion. Later, Goldar will use a love potion antidote on Zedd. No effect. Goldar concludes to this trope, although it's possible that the antidote worked only on the love potion displayed in this episode, not on the one used 15 episodes earlier.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Worf and the legendary Klingon warrior Kor find an ancient heirloom which has the power to create a new golden age for the Klingon Empire. As the episode unfolds, they become increasingly at odds with one another over who should be the one to present it to the Empire, and even who gets to carry it. The fans were expecting some kind of silly tech explanation for this behaviour (i.e. that the artefact was brainwashing them), but no - it was just ordinary jealousy and petty macho posturing. Is this trope therefore Truth in Television, do you think?
  • In Vampire Diaries, Stefan believes this is why he and Damon fell for Katherine. Damon disagrees, and tells Stefan he knew she was an evil murderous vampire... but did not know she was having sex with Stefan as well as him.
  • Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His best friend Willow thought the Second Xander wandering around was an Evil Twin. It turns out it was just Xander had been split into Awesome and More Awesome and it was all him.
  • The first episode of Loki confirms that the title character was acting entirely of his own accord in The Avengers and was perfectly aware of what he was doing, disproving the Draco in Leather Pants theory that he was Mind Raped by Thanos.

Professional Wrestling

  • In 2011, TNA had a lesbian love triangle storyline where Winter used a Love Potion to make Angelina Love dump Velvet Sky and hook up with her instead, while viciously assaulting Velvet. Eventually, Angelina reveals that she's snapped out of it, but loves Winter anyway and genuinely wants to hurt Velvet.

Video Games

  • In Warcraft III, Thrall is enraged to learn that Grom Hellscream was not brainwashed by the Burning Legion, but instead knowingly led the entire orc race into accepting the Blood Pact. Grom later redeems himself via Heroic Sacrifice.
    • There is also one in World of Warcraft. The players are sent to assassinate Emperor Dagran Thaurissan, the Evil Emperor of the Dark Iron and rescue the captive Princess Moira Bronzebeard. It however turned out that she took a liking to him and Happily Married, much to the player's surprise.
    • In the Stonecore, there's a rock giant that you're tasked by Therazane to kill named Ozruk. At first, she sent agents to free him from whatever magic binds him to this Twilight's Hammer dungeon. "No such magic was placed upon him."
  • In Earthbound, Ness's "friend" Porky is often seen with brainwashed humans, even claiming to have been brainwashed and subsequently freed following the Happy Happy Village incident. Halfway through the game, he finally just flat out admits that he is actually working for Giygas of his own volition.
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2, much of the early plot revolves around surviving members of the "School" on the opposing side trying to "save" one of your pilots from obvious brainwashing. Of course, she's on your side entirely by choice, and they're the ones undergoing brainwashing.
  • Kamen Rider Decade; on DiEnd's world it turns out that Junichi is working for the villain and is not under his control as everyone has believed.
  • In Suikoden I: The Big Bad of the game has most of the empire's soldiers under her Mind Control, and everyone (including her) thinks she has the king under that power, too. At the very end of the game, though, he reveals that he was never really under her control, and was acting the way he did because he genuinely loved her.
  • In Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, this trope was used when Kain - who was repeatedly brainwashed in the first game - insists that he is acting under his own volition when he attacks several of his former allies. It is later discovered that he wasn't brainwashed at all... He was an Evil Twin.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network 5 a signal that makes people aggresive starts spreading out and the player (immune via Plot Coupon) must shut the signal in each area down, usually meaning he has to fight his teammates first. One of the fights, however (Charlie in Team Protoman, Dusk in Team Colonel) reveals that the character wasn't affected, he just wanted to fight Lan.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles, while Mumkhar probably was brainwashed (since he was Reforged Into a Minion), anything about attacking his former allies and stealing the Monado was redundant. To prove his point, he threatens to kill Fiora a second time, despite the fact that she had been turned into a Face like him, just to torment Dunban.

Web Comics

  • It's Walky's final arc deals with several mind-controlled former teammates... and one who, it turns out, switched sides by choice.

 "He wasn't hypnotised, merely disgruntled."

  • In Erfworld, Jillian concludes that Wanda rejects her urging to desert Stanley because she is bound by a loyalty spell. When an ally with spell-detecting abilities informs her that Wanda is not under any loyalty spells, she flatly refuses to believe it. But she comes around for the most part when Wanda tries to kill her, though.
  • In Order of the Stick #640, after Vaarsuvius takes great pleasure in killing an opponent (and their entire extended family) it is revealed that the Deal with the Devil they made had no effect on their alignment or actions-- essentially, the character merely revealed their true self.
    • In fact, the character was told the spell could effect their alignment, with the implication that it was possible and up to them to resist any such effect. This example seems to overlap with More Than Mind Control in that the character was told this in order to facilitate them giving in to their worst impulses (like arrogance, cruelty, and mass-murder).
      • Actually, the ones who said that told their Watson that they had been lying to manipulate Vaarsuvius. It really didn't have an effect on alignment.

Western Animation

  • In the Justice League episode "The Brave and the Bold", Gorilla Grodd uses a mind control helmet as his main weapon. Once it's broken, it turns out that the scientist who was assisting him was in love with him all along.

  Flash: Internet romances huh? Go figure.


 Buzz: But how... of course! Amnesia!

Warp: No.

Buzz: Evil clone.

Warp: No...

Buzz: Android replica!

Warp: No.

  • In American Dragon Jake Long, Spud makes a deal with an evil Gorgon who claims that she will make his cheerleader crush Stacy fall in love with him. And when Stacy does decide she likes Spud, he thinks that it's because of this supposed "love spell," even though she continues to act far more fickle than you'd think someone truly under a love spell would act. In the end, like any other Deal with the Devil, Spud has to break off his alliance with the Gorgon, and prepares himself for Stacy to break up with him now that she's not enchanted anymore. But Spud is relieved to find that there was never a love spell, and Stacy was Not Brainwashed.
  • In Beast Machines, Optimus Primal believes that Megatron has brainwashed Rhinox and turned him into the villainous Tankor. Even after awakening his spark, though, Tankor continues to oppose Optimus, as he has grown disillusioned with him after the failure of the Beast Wars.
    • Although he was actually brainwashed at first.
    • An interesting variation was Silverbolt, who was originally an intensely noble paladin-type and got brainwashed by Megatron into Jetstorm. When he was eventually freed of the brainwashing, however, he was quite upset - he had actually found it liberating to be freed of his own strict code of honor. He decided not to be re-brainwashed when he had the opportunity later, however.
    • And finally comedy-relief punching bag Waspinator got brainwashed into the motorcycle-based Thrust. When he was finally freed of his brainwashing he was quite upset as well, since "biker-bot was cool!" and he liked being cool for a change.
  • Varies between the Spider-Man series, usually involving the character Venom, but special note has to go to The Spectacular Spider-Man incarnation, because, Peter and Eddie were childhood friends, but the actions of both Peter & Spider-Man caused Eddie to genuinely despise both of them, the Symbiote only worsened this when it revealed Spider-Man's identity to Eddie, Peter even tries to tell Eddie to "Fight it", and then, during the fight, Eddie says he is not Peter's brother, saying that his parents died, but Peter got off good with his Aunt and Uncle, after this, Peter realizes that Eddie is not the same friend he knew.
  • Played with in Batman: Under the Red Hood. Given his background, Jason Todd proposes this is what's causing him to cross the line but he himself doesn't seem totally sure, as the Lazarus Pit's influence on his mind could also be to blame (the Pit's side effect is to induce madness in the subject).
    • Batman puts forward that he knew Jason was going to be dangerous someday. That's why Batman made him Robin, to try and keep him on the straight and narrow.

Comedy examples:




 Harry Dresden: No way. Last time I let you out, you got into a frat party and started an orgy.

Bob the Skull: I didn't do anything another couple of kegs of beer wouldn't have done!


Western Animation

  • The Angry Beavers "Zooing Time": The supposedly brainwashed Norbert is genuinely disappointed at being rescued from a zoo, because he actually likes it, but Daggett thinks that he's saying that because he was brainwashed. (And he's taking responsibility for getting Norb sent to the zoo to begin with.)
  • Same goes in Kids Next Door, "Operation: C.O.L.L.E.G.E.", with Nigel participating in snow cone research.
  • Lilo and Stitch: In one episode, Lilo's friend Keoni has a crush on Pleakly (in his horrible disguise as a human woman). Lilo, Stitch, and Jumba are quick to blame the Monster of the Week, but no, he actually does have a crush on Pleakly. (For context: Pleakley has green skin and one eye.)