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"A slayer's life is simple. Want? Take. Have."
—Faith, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Let's face it, in some worlds Humans Are Bastards, and the only reason these Crapsack Worlds have a semblance of civility and law is fear of reprisal. So what happens when your typical misanthrope gets a hold of Phlebotinum, a Ring of Power, is bit by a werewolf or discovers they're a mutant with Stock Super Powers? Blow
up off society and do whatever they want!
Rather than try to be a hero who got The Call, they will use their powers for petty crime. Want a million dollars? Just use your Eye Beams to melt open the bank vault. A lover cheated on you? Super Strength to turn the guy's car into a cube. That beautiful house? Summon up a ghost to scare the owners away and move in once the price drops. "But what if the cops find out?!" Well, with most cases of this trope, the newly empowered criminal will either make short work of them or be totally undetectable. In truly disgusting extremes, they may walk into a restaurant (where they're known as a Super Villain), be rude to the waiter, not pay the bill, and then fight their way through the city's police force for it. And that's assuming the police even try to stop the super-jerk, as it won't take too many public demonstrations before the cops have to admit it's futile.
Most of the time, these villains will be very small time thinkers, at most terrorizing local authorities into making him a sort of king, but when one does see the big picture you can expect them to want to Take Over the World or even, try to enslave humanity!
Compare Drunk with Power, With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. Related to Beneath the Mask because super powers reveal how a person would act without any fear of reprisal.In this trope case that Hidden Self is anything but Lawful Good.
The Supernatural Elite almost definitely have this sentiment.
Anime & Manga
- Magical Project S Subverted by Pretty Sammy when she tried to break the rules, a classmate informs her that even Magical Girls have to abide by the rules.
- Pixy Misa does this all the time. It's no surprise being that she represents what a Misao without moral bounds would do. Even after her Heel Face Turn, she still does things like stealing a NASA space shuttle.
- The first thing almost anybody who gets esper powers in Zettai Karen Children is this. While PANDRA members manage to get away with doing it a lot, most of the other espers end up caught and jailed.
- Taken to an extreme when Kyosuke takes over a country. Why? To give the PANDRA children diplomatic immunity so they can go to school with their friends.
- From Hell Girl, this is tried out by Mikage Yuzuki after she succeeds Ai Enma to send the one who sent her friend to hell... to hell. It doesn't go over too well and even before then, Ichimoku Ren and Honne-Onna leave.
- Narutaru is basically a Deconstruction of your typical Mons series, where the children with powerful critters at their beck and call are quick to abuse that power.
- Sosuke Aizen from Bleach is this trope personified. He could use his powers to serve Soul Society well, but that’s not what he does. Instead, he sells out Soul Society to their hated enemies, the Hollow and the Arrancars, so he can become Soul King. All this so that he can become the most powerful being in existence.
- Pretty much the concept behind both Code Geass and Death Note, with a clever teenager lamenting the state of the world, accidentally obtaining superpowers in the first episode, and immediately going on a world-changing killing spree.
- It's worth noting though, that the two have entirely different motivations and goals, and only vaguely similar tactics.
"Why limit yourself to mortal law when you can outlive those who enforce it?"
- A LOT of supervillains tend to do this.
- Not just typical supervillains either. Some are former heroes...
- Mark Waid and Peter Krause's Irredeemable shows us what happens when a superman-level hero suddenly decides that he's completely sick of humanity and it's infantile whining. During the first few pages we learn that the Plutonian has already killed millions by basically nuking a city and we personally see him incinerate one of his former allies in his own home, killing his wife and children as well. The series takes us along as his former mates try to stop him, but even they fear him as they would an angry god.
- Brian Bendis' Powers also briefly explores this fallen-hero theme (very much like irredeemable, but only on a short story arc).
- This trope gets uttered almost literally in one issue, where a man walks up to a bank teller and tells her simply, "I have powers. Give me all the money."
- And in Mark Millar's classic work Superman Red Son we actually get asked the question - What if a certain last son of a dying planet landed in a field in Soviet Ukraine instead of the middle of Kansas. Some really brilliant writing and plotting on this that explores what a truly good-hearted man will do when raised on the ideals of Lenin, Marx, and Collectivism. Will he "save the world" by essentially enslaving it?
- "Mark Milton", aka Hyperion in Supreme Power gets this revelation along with some basic Ubermensch / The Unfettered philosophy when he learns he's an alien and was lied to since birth to make him a tool of the government.
- U-Go-Girl of X-Men spinoff team X-Statix originally decided to use her teleportation to commit crime, intelligently - stealing tons of petty stuff and not challenging any superheroes. She got bored of it after 15 minutes when she got everything she always wanted and ended up returning it and becoming a superheroine instead.
- The entire story of Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! The more power the Human Flame gets, the more petty his behaviour becomes. (And he was a minor-league supervillain to start with.)
- And note that in the first few issues, he betrays his wife and daughter and sets small dogs on fire. It gets worse from there.
- Pretty much the basic premise of Wanted. The Fraternity were a group of supervillains who had triumphed and actually retconned the superheroes out of their reality. As a result, anyone with super powers was a member of the Fraternity, and anyone wearing a Fraternity badge, or driving a car with Fraternity plates could get away with anything and everything.
- The kids in Runaways pretty much do this, but they only screw SOME rules. Molly Hayes drops out of school in like, fifth grade because she's a mutant. Well, okay, this is sorta pushing it...because they aren't actually breaking EVERY law they think of, just child protection laws, truancy rules, etc. They ARE superheroes after all.
- The Invisible Man from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen uses his invisibility to kill a police officer and steal his clothes because he was cold.
- This is perfectly in character with the original (see under "Literature", below).
- Invincible mentions this during a crossover with The Astounding Wolf Man. When Wolf-Man asks if Invincible will get in trouble for breaking government property and beating up superheroes, Invincible shrugs it off, saying that as long as he's strong enough to save the earth, he gets a pass.
- The Authority, though for their case it might be more of 'Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers - And I Will Make New Rules!'
- Light in The Prince of Death decides to be more of a Jerkass than usual when L is having a meeting with the Kira Taskforce and isn't paying enough attention to him. He regains L's attention by telling the room full of cops he's the original Kira (and instigating a (cat)fight with Naomi by gloating over the fact that he killed her boyfriend) knowing full well that there is absolutely nothing they can do about it now that he has become a literal God of Death:
Light: I was hoping for something a little more entertaining... But I'm bored. This is pointless! You've already caught the Kira that killed her dear boyfriend. Just tell her!
- The main character uses his ability to rob banks in Jumper.
- In the original novel, he also used them to wage a 1-man vigilante antiterrorism campaign. In the 1990s.
- In a moment almost ripped from a buddy comedy, he kidnapped both the terrorist leader, and the NSA agent following him, then left them on an island surrounded by freezing-cold water in a large, sheer-walled pit in the desert.
- In the original novel, he also used them to wage a 1-man vigilante antiterrorism campaign. In the 1990s.
- The telekinetic guy from the movie Sidekick (not to be confused with the trope Sidekick) begins using his powers for little practical jokes and stuff like that, but by the end, he's murdering people left and right.
- Pretty much the entire concept of the dark side in Star Wars.
- A significant part of Hancock's attempt to clean up his act is to convince the public that he doesn't live by this trope and that they can hold him accountable for his actions, willingly serving prison time for instance.
- When Hal gets powers in Megamind, even before going on a destruction spree throughout the city he was using his powers to steal money, bikes, and arcade games. (This was screwing super rules as well, since he was supposed to fight Megamind but didn't bother showing up.)
- The Diana Tregarde novel Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey, a Vain Sorceress uses her magical powers to rule the local high school.
- The title character in The Invisible Man also uses invisibility to steal and tries to plunge England into a reign of terror.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Talent series, in the early days the psychics form a group with a code of behavior in order to try to avert this trope. When a girl more powerful than any other psychic in the world learns how to use her powers (ironically because she saw a public service announcement by the group) she goes on a crime spree which eventually results in murder and her own death. In later books, every Talent of significant strength is brought into the fold early and taught to use their powers responsibly.
- The basic plot of Marlowe's version of Faust. He gains supernatural powers through a Deal with the Devil and decides he can do whatever the heck he wants. After they do that, he grows increasingly petty, stooping to playing pranks on The Pope, amusing the Emperor's court, and eventually just dying alone, realizing how badly he wasted his potential.
- The Kitty Norville books spend a great deal of time thinking about this trope. In one of the earlier books, there's a big discussion on why (and why not) they don't often see supernaturals knocking over banks and the like. Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers is definitely averted with main character Kitty, but she does run in to a lot of people who feel differently, especially as the series progresses.
- In an extreme example, in The Riftwar Cycle novels, the Great Ones of Tsuranuanni were legally outside the law. They could literally do anything unless the Assembly of Magicians (A council formed of all of the Great Ones) ruled that they couldn't (only done once in story - to declare that they could not free slaves). Beyond that, they could arbitrarily declare - and be obeyed - that people shut down their businesses, entire noble clans commit mass suicide, wars be arbitrarily ended, or anything else they could think of.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe discusses this in Fate of the Jedi. It's nice that the Jedi listen to a higher authority nobody else can hear.
- In the Animorphs series, David sees nothing wrong with using his newly acquired powers for casual theft. Fortunately, the other heroes are a bit more moral.
- The other Animorphs might count as well, considering that David gets the idea to use his powers for theft from the heroes in the first place.
- Sliders had a world in which a group that could kill through dreams flagrantly broke the law and killed people right in front of the police with their powers.
- Of course, nobody thought to just arrest the whole group, preventing them from touching you.
- In the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, Gary Mitchell developed superpowers after the Enterprise crossed the energy barrier at the edge of galaxy: he swiftly developed an A God Am I mentality and started killing crew members. Averted when it came to Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, who used hers to stop Mitchell and ended up getting killed in the process.
- Charlie Evans from "Charlie X" was given superpowers by the Thasians after his ship crashed and everyone else was killed. When the Enterprise picks him up, he has obsession with being liked and "removes" people from reality if they piss him off. Eventually the Thasians show up to take him back and repair the damage, but they're too late for a ship he destroyed that was trying to warn the Enterprise. While Charlie repents in the end and promises never to use the powers again, Kirk and the Thasians agree that it's too much of a temptation.
- I don't know if it counts as "Supernatural" but the Doctor uses a combination of advanced technology (psychic paper) and Bavarian Fire Drill / Impersonating an Officer to get past obstacles.
- It's a bit of playing it straight and averting it entirely: He uses his Time Lord knowledge and abilities as his primary tools to thwart his adversaries, but on other occasions he relies on looking like the average human to get by without being noticed.
- Kind of the entire point of most plots - romantic and non - in the first few seasons of Smallville. The meteor freak of the week suffers "Kryptonite Psychosis" and uses their meteor-given powers for their own selfish gain, perfectly willing to commit multiple murders to further their goals before Clark stops them and they get sent to the Belle Reve mental institution. Lampshaded numerous times by characters biased against meteor freaks.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith and, in the episode "Bad Girls", Buffy herself. Also the majority of vampires and demons.
- Ironically, it is slightly justified, as it is done to save the world (again).
- It helps that Sunnydale was made for evil entities to screw around in. The rules are bent for slaughter and games.
- Wizards of Waverly Place is made of this trope. Well, at least in Alex's mind.
- There was an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where a guy would enter people's dreams and do terrible things to them. He enters Dr. Crusher's and Counselor Troi's dreams and rapes them, and he enters Riker's dream and beats him within an inch of his life. When confronted, he claims to see nothing wrong with doing something for fun. Until he tries it again on Troi and Worf comes to her rescue.
- The Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life" is built on this, although six-year old Anthony is convinced that he's just doing good things. Including getting rid of bad people. And of course, only bad people would think that the things he does could be bad...
- Older Than Feudalism: The Greek myth of Gyges (most well known from Plato's The Republic) is about a man who finds a ring of invisibility and uses it to commit all sorts of crimes, culminating in seducing the queen and killing the king.
- Crops up in The World of Darkness gamelines:
- The third quote for Masquerade illustrates a problem with this train of thought. That said, vampires in Vampire: The Requiem (and most supernaturals, for that matter) can get away with a lot considering both the Crapsack World they live in means people just don't care about most crimes, and their Masquerade clean up is top notch. (Provided you have the expertise/pull to have the clean up done for you without getting staked, mind you.)
- Most sourcebooks for The World of Darkness specifically warn Storytellers that this might be the case, and advises them to bring the hammer down if it happens. (A vampire kills a cop? Cop murders never go cold-case, and they might break through the Masquerade if they search enough; cop-killers tend to be left for the sunrise once the Prince finds out.)
- Exalted: How many players think this since you are, after all, the chosen of Gods and superior to normal mortals in every way! If you can cut down mortals with ease, why should you bother with their petty morals? You are a Living God! compared to them!
- Not just players, either. Attitudes like that led to the depravities of the First Age.
- Or yet, sometimes, just the characters. The player himself might not agree with such philosophy, but power corrupts and the exalted are literally more powerful and more important than most gods. Indeed, a character's attempts to avoid this trope can make for a particularly epic storyline within a campaign, regardless of success or failure.
- Player Characters in Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder will try this. Any Game Master worth his or her salt should have a thousand ready tricks to foil them, or else should simply embrace their decent into Sociopathic Hero or even Card-Carrying Villain status.
- Mitchell Calrus/Xio tries this in Fine Structure. He fails in an epic fashion, not by getting caught but by being incredibly obvious and inefficacious. Seph spends several paragraphs afterwards harping about how he is a "terrible, ineffective supervillain".
- This is part of what makes the original Ben 10 so enjoyable, because in a rare protagonist example, Ben does what pretty much any ten year old boy with super powers would do, switching between beating up super villains in the streets, to using his powers to find the prize in a box of cereal without buying it.
- This also gets referenced in Alien Force after his parents find out not only about the Omnitrix, but that Ben had been lying to them for years to cover up his superheroing they very quickly ground him. He actually plays along until he points out that they don't actually have the power to enforce this punishment, transforms, and flies out the window to help his friends. This shows how much Ben has matured since the first series in that he's still willing to break some rules, but only because they were stopping him from doing good and helping people.