Carrie had some sort of power, but she was just like me. Like any of you. She had hopes and she had fears, and we pushed her. And you can only push someone so far... before they break.
~ Sue Snell giving a testimony of how Carrie White was bullied into madness.

Villains who although acting for evil goals have understandable and traumatic reasons for their motives; hence audiences can sympathize with them. Most are not in full control of themselves due to being evil not by choice but instead being victims of forces beyond their control. This also applies to Organizations and/or Hostile Species whose members are driven by tragedies.

Villains who are tragic or sympathetic suffer posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD and become Delusional, Insecure and/or Egotists because their experiences twist them towards insanity; many of them can also be Fallen Heroes and/or Vengeful, if not both. Some may even become Addicts because of their experiences.

There are three ways to deem a villain as tragic:

  • Villains with painful backstories giving them negative emotions and shaping them into destructive and hateful beings. However, their broken hearts cause their actions since they were forced into darkness and their unfortunate pasts made them distrustful and misled. This can happen if they were rejected/loners, bullied, scarred, became addicts and/or suicidal, lost loved ones and so on (e.g. Atrocitus, Andrew Detmer, Spinel, Tyrion Lannister, Joker (2019), and Count Bleck).
  • Protective villains committing crimes to save those they care about. They are only looking out for whoever they love or care for the most but use extreme measures to do so and are confronted by heroes or even the ones they are protecting making it more difficult to save them (e.g. most versions of Mr. Freeze, Johnny Klebitz, the Puppet, Cersei Lannister and Walter White).
  • The Possessed and/or Brainwashed controlled, corrupted or indoctronated by an evil presence. Therefore they are not willingly evil but manipulated by the higher powers controlling them (e.g. Cujo, Gollum, Arthas Menethil and Ice King). To these villains frequently death without regaining their memories or their original personalities is considered blessing, should they ever recover only to realize what they have done during their state of being brainwashed/possessed would often shatter their minds and souls. Some who are indoctronated (like Strelnikov ) start off with honorable intentions but start to let power go to their heads.

Tragedies are sympathetic factors for many villains’ villainies and most of the time, some of these villains have a chance/choice to redeem themselves at the end of a story. Often times, sympathetic factors including tragedies can involve a villain being mentally unstable, in love, suffering from immense psychosis on a daily basis or dissociative identity disorders (DID) and being addicts, sympathetic nihilists or suicidal are among examples of being tragic villains as well. Having a very sympathetic backstory or being protective and/or possessed/brainwashed pawns are most common ways a villain can be tragic. Suffering from a horrific and cruel mutilation and had done absolutely nothing to deserve their fates can also make the villain tragic. Being exiled or shunned unjustly is also another factor, but that rarely ever happens.

Tragic villains can cross as many lines as they can and still be tragic if they retain their sympathetic background/nature, empathy and/or their feelings (i.e.: being Faux Affably Evil, having racial or xenophobic views or even having a misanthropic nature and/or being genocidal or cataclysmic). An antisocial villain is hard to qualify as tragic as they lack empathy and feelings, but if they suffered such horrific events in their lives that is so sympathetic to the point it twisted their sanity to make them become such a violent person, they may qualify. Some of these villains can even be anti-villains and/or remorseful, or even Villains by Proxy. Some tragic villains can even be fuelled with hatred and pain from their experiences or they can even become completely dominant with fear if their tragedies scarred them for life with no recovery whatsoever. Sally Williams is a very good example who got murdered by her uncle.

Note: Just because a villain redeemed themselves in the end or is an anti-villain doesn't automatically mean there tragic if they never had a tragic past to begin with.

/!\ Villains that are Pure Evil CAN NEVER be Tragic. Either their so-called “tragedies” would have to be extremely and outrageously logic-defying to even be realistic, or they would simply use it to justify their evil actions and nothing more. Through their actions and lack of feelings, they manage to destroy their own innocence and as a result are no longer sympathetic. Their excuses may be what they deserved and some have faked at least one tragedy (e.g. Jagi, Chairman Drek, Commodus, Scarlet King, Dark Danny and Queen Ingrith). They may also try to present their excuses as tragedies, but end up being LESS sympathetic if their excuses amount to pure jealousy or pettiness (e.g. Viktor Adler, Scar, Syndrome, Miles Axlerod, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Mysterio).

Even if they were given reasons for what they were doing that may indeed involve traumatic experiences, they are FAR PAST it (e.g. Johan Liebert, Herrscher of the Void, Arcturus Mengsk, the Master, Lord Voldemort, Koba, Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear, Isaac Ray Peram Westcott, Donquixote Doflamingo, Dio Brando, Freddy Krueger, Captain Phasma, Lady Van Tassel, Muzan Kibutsuji, Sigma, Sōsuke Aizen, Yhwach, Drago Bludvist, Infinite, Wasp King, Jafar (2019), Carnage, Porky Minch, most versions of the Joker, Ronan the Accuser, Frieza, Griffith, Zamasu, Dr. Weil, Envy, Norman Osborn, Andross, Ozai and Hunter Zolomon). They should go under the Envious and/or Vengeful categories instead.

Being a tragic villain is a sympathetic quality and any character or even a hero are allowed to sympathize with those types of villains, no matter the lines they cross. A Pure Evil villain is not meant to be sympathized with for anything and even if they had an experience that might actually be a genuine tragedy, their villainies are so egregious to the point that whatever tragedies they may have suffered in the past are no longer relevant and they do not match up with their crimes or motives. Should a tragic villain get the help they deserve, they can finally stop their evil ways, have others accept them and move on from the experiences they suffered in their past.

Also, DO NOT add characters like these even if they are not Pure Evil:

This is for characters whose tragedies are not only TRUE AND LEGITIMATE but STILL hold up after crossing the Moral Event Horizon.

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