Awful Truth

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"What I'm about to tell you, you might not want to know. Even so, you absolutely must hear it. [...] Given who you are and how you've lived, what I have to say may tear at your hearts..."

Leder, Mother 3

You Do NOT Want to Know what the Awful Truth is. Now, I know you really, really want an answer, but trust me, it'd be really, really bad if you knew who you really are, who I really am, what hidden or forgotten powers you have, what the world is really like, and especially who your real father is. At best, you'd completely Freak-Out. At worst, you'd Go Mad from the Revelation! Just trust me, young one: ignorance is bliss.

Convenient excuse to keep vital information from the hero(es). Alternatively, a mocking cry by the jaded Anti-Hero to illustrate his belief that the main hero is too innocent/pampered/naive to be trusted with the truth about the mission or about people that he's grown to trust or care about.

Compare You Are Not Ready and Forbidden Fruit. Contrast You Didn't Ask. If they're being obnoxious about it, it's Figure It Out Yourself. See also These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know for when you really shouldn't know. Can also be a case of You Do NOT Want to Know. Compare Heel Realization, which is an awful truth, but not one anyone else kept from you. Often invokes Schmuck Bait.

As this is a Spoiler Trope, expect plenty of unmarked spoilers. Read with discretion.

Examples of Awful Truth include:

Anime and Manga

  • Himeno Awayuki of Prétear was told that she "doesn't need to know" the Backstory, but forced the Leafe Knights to reveal it anyway—specifically, that their enemy is the previous Pretear, who turned evil because of her unrequited love for Hayate, and that she herself may end up turning evil as well. Cue Heroic BSOD. In the anime version, the consequences were even worse.
    • In the manga, her stepmother unleashes another one on Himeno: Himeno's late mother died because her frail body couldn't handle the strain of pregnancy and childbirth. In other words, Himeno killed her own mother.
  • In the manga version of Chrono Crusade, part of what inspires Aion's Evil Plan is the Awful Truth he found out about his origins (that is, that the demons are really aliens, and the current Hive Queen was a human woman pregnant with twins (Chrono and Aion) before she was turned into a demon). He also goes to great lengths to hide the truth from Chrono, saying he "doesn't need to know"—but Chrono finds out in the end and takes it rather well, actually.
  • In Detective Conan, Ai keeps insisting to Conan that if Ran were to know the truth about the Black Organization and Shinichi being Conan, then she will not smile. She will be burdened by the truth.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Dr. Marco refuses to tell Ed how the philosophers stones are made from using live humans.
  • In Naruto, the reason why the villagers hate Naruto is that he's the can of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox which killed many of them and destroyed a good part of the Leaf Village.
    • Sasuke was far happier thinking his brother just went around killing family members because he was bored than when he found out that he had really been acting under orders from Konoha. He was a lot saner then, too.
  • In Bokurano, the main characters were originally told what was going on was a game to ensure they would fight in and against giant mecha. The prospect of defeating the enemy was a lot easier when they didn't know doing so would kill them regardless of success. And when they thought the enemies were aliens instead of alternate dimensional humans, and that they killed 10 billion people with each win. They were, however, told what failure meant, though the general public was mostly out of the loop.
  • Anyone who wants to become a Magical Girl in Puella Magi Madoka Magica must know one thing: upon making the contract to become a magical girl, your soul gets sucked into the Soul Gem that you use to transform into your magical girl form, and if it's not within 100 meters of you, your body becomes an Empty Shell. This essentially turns you into a Lich.
    • Two things, as of Episode 8. The warning that Kyubey gave the girls about needing to keep their Soul Gems clean by charging them with Grief Seeds? If they don't regularly purify the corrupted gem and it darkens completely, it becomes a Grief Seed and then explodes, transforming them into a Witch. Just in case that wasn't horrifying enough, this is apparently inevitable. Ultimately the gem will darken completely no matter what the girls do, and every magical girl is doomed to become one of the Eldritch Abominations that she and others like her fight. And the only way to avoid this horrible fate? Die before it can happen.
      • And just to make things even worse? Apart from witches created from former familiars that grew their own Grief Seeds after their parent witch was killed, every single witch that the magical girls have fought was once a magical girl herself. Every magical girl became a magical girl through making a contract with Kyubey. This basically means that Kyubey creates witches, and that all the bad shit witches do to people and all the horrible things magical girls have to go through to stop them are ultimately Kyubey's fault. There's a REASON that a lot of people despise the little fucker.
      • To top it all off, the reason Kyubey is doing all of this? The entire universe is dying.
      • Madoka eventually provides an out of sorts for this by using her wish to destroy The Corruption and ensure that no Magical Girl has to become a Witch, past, present, or future. Unfortunately they just disappear instead - being a magical girl still sucks. Madoka herself Ascended to A Higher Plane of Existence (basically becoming a concept) because her wish turned her into a witch...which she then erased because of her wish. The paradox caused her to be Ret-Gone from reality - only two people know she ever existed.
  • A Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann example: Continued use of Spiral Power will eventually lead to an event called the Spiral Nemisis, which will give birth to a super-galaxy that will rip the universe apart.
  • Inuyasha: Just as Sesshoumaru's finally getting used to the idea that Tetsusaiga was meant for Inuyasha and Tenseiga was meant for him, he learns the truth: Tenseiga is merely a cast-off piece of Tetsusaiga, separated from Tetsusaiga so that Sesshoumaru could master the Meidou Zangetsuha technique and then transfer it back to Tetsusaiga, meaning that the attack form he earned due to his compassion for Kagura's death isn't his to keep - it's destined for Inuyasha's use. Sesshoumaru takes the news badly, concluding it's proof he was the outcast son and that his father was training Inuyasha to kill him. Even Inuyasha and his friends think this was far too cruel. Sesshoumaru does eventually calm down enough to realise his father's true intention was for him to guide Inuyasha not be killed by him, and therefore decides to sacrifice his claim to both swords forever as part of a Hidden Purpose Test to see if Inuyasha is strong enough to handle the technique.
  • In The Secret Agreement, Kyuusai reveals to Yuuichi that he is from a powerful clan that steals other people's life force, and that neither he nor his boyfriend actually love each other, it's just an implanted delusion between predator and prey that makes it easier for Yuuichi to steal Iori's life. Yuuichi is horrified.

Comic Books


Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col. Jessep: You can't handle the truth!

    • And parodied by Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons ("No truth handler you! Pah -- I deride your truth-handling abilities!")
      • Also on Third Rock: "You want the truth? You want the truth? Well, I can't handle the truth!"
  • NSA agent Patellis' excuse for their secrecy in The Forgotten.

Ash Correll: Tell us the truth.
Agent Patellis: The truth? The goddamn truth won't fit in your brain.

  • Men in Black II, Agent J asks Agent K why he didn't tell him that his new girlfriend was the key to stopping an interstellar war and had to leave. K's response: "Would you have let her go?"
    • On a larger scale, this was part of the point of the Masquerade in the first place. Something about constant threat of The End of the World as We Know It being a bit much for most people to handle.
    • Probably nothing to do with this whole article, but one of the Men In Black video games had a weapon called "Awful Truth."
    • And in the original movie there was this gem from K:

K: There's always an alien battle cruiser, or a Corellian death ray, or an intergalactic plague intended to wipe out life on this miserable little planet. The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do. Not. Know about it!

  • In the Korean movie Oldboy, Dae-su is kidnapped, imprisoned for 15 years, and then released with no explanation. After finding and confronting the man responsible, Dae-su finds out the Awful Truth isn't "Why he was imprisoned" but "Why he was released." He goes mad from the revelation and cuts his own tongue off with scissors.


  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when Harry asks Dumbledore why Voldemort wanted to kill him in the first place, Dumbledore's response is more or less that Harry is not yet ready to hear the Awful Truth, but at least makes clear that he has the intentions to tell him some day. Intentions being the key word here, as Dumbledore puts this off until the fifth book and only tells Harry then because Dumbledore's keeping the truth from Harry backfired rather badly, leading to Sirius's death. Dumbledore, to his credit, does at least acknowledge that this was pretty dumb. This isn't the only instance, but probably the most significant as much of the plot revolves around adults trying to protect Harry from the awful truth.
    • This also plays a rather large role in the third book. First with Cornelius Fudge's insistence that no one tell Harry that Sirius Black is out to get them because it might scare him. Proving that not all adults are complete idiots, Mr. Weasley planned on telling Harry anyway, telling Harry to be careful and warns him not to go looking for Black. But he also falls into this trope by refusing to answer when Harry asks why would he be stupid enough to looking for someone who wants to kill him. Harry finds out anyway, but proves Mr. Weasley's fears correct because the Awful Truth in fact makes him want to kill Black. However, in this case, the Awful Truth isn't even the Truth at all because Peter Pettigrew, not Sirius Black is responsible for his parents deaths and Sirius escaped Azkaban to kill Peter Pettigrew, not Harry.
    • The Awful Truth is in fact so awful that Dumbledore only reveals it in fragments; first, at the end of Order Of The Phoenix, he tells 15-year old Harry he'll have to kill Voldemort personally. Then, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he tells Harry that Voldemort is immortal unless five random objects, each anywhere in the world, are destroyed. Finally, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry learns that he, himself, is actually the sixth object (yep, there is one bonus) that need to be destroyed. In other words,he has to let Voldemort kill him, or Voldemort will remain invincible. Of course, He gets better, but as he didn't know that, it was still pretty Awful.
      • Of course, this was all necessary for Dumbledore's plan to work. In the first place, he wasn't even sure that Harry would survive, though he had guessed Harry might due to events in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and as he himself has said, his guesses are usually right. But even if he had hard evidence that Harry would be able to survive, he couldn't have told him, because if Harry didn't think he was going to die, how could he sacrifice himself for everyone in the castle? So in this case, it was more revealing the Awful Truth while hiding the Wonderful Truth that accompanied it.
  • The Prayer Of Miriam Cohen by Rudyard Kipling unfolds this trope. Not in very flattering way, though.
  • In Catherine Asaro's The Misted Cliffs Backstory, Dancer left her husband with her son to return to her abusive father, who battered both her and her son, Cobalt. When he was grown, Cobalt rescued his father and found him to be a loving and affectionate man, but his mother refuses to explain. At the end of the book, Dancer explains to her son's wife, Mel, that there is reason to think that her son is not her husband's but his half-brother's child, and under the law, they would have executed her and her lover and her son. And they can not tell Cobalt because it would break him.
    • In the sequel The Dawn Star, his dying grandfather tells Cobalt a secret. Throughout the book, Mel is terrified that the grandfather guessed and told him. At the end, Cobalt reveals that he had said that Dancer was not, in fact, his daughter.
  • Sort of inverted in Silverfall: mentor desperately wishes her [in]subordinate could understand.

Qilue: If you doubt me, curl yourself around the Ladystone to sleep tonight, pray to Eilistraee for judgment upon me, and learn your answer. [...] Yes, do that. [...] Learn the truth.
Thalaera: Will I be maimed?
Qilue: Hurt, perhaps; maimed, no.
Thalaera: Hurt?
Qilue: Truths have sharp edges. Learning the truth often hurts.

  • Overlapped with You Do NOT Want to Know in the X Wing Series. When Donos found out, his first impulse, which he acted on, was to try to kill Lara. And anyone else in the way.
  • In Oedipus Rex the title character is warned by the soothsayer Tiresias that he really doesn't want to know the truth, but tragic pride gives Oedipus the persistence to find out.
  • In The Dresden Files, this is played in several different ways. First, anytime Harry has to let people in on the Masquerade, he tells them straight up that they're probably never going to sleep well again. Also, when Harry confronts his mentor, Ebenezer, and Ebenezer tells Harry that he's the Blackstaff.
    • Notably used with Murphy, as that's what led to his realization that some times people need to be told the truth. For the first three books, she's wary of him because he's so ambiguous all the time and nearly gets herself killed on a number of occasions—not to mention that she's always almost-arresting Harry. He finally explains everything to her in Summer Knight, which leads to a much closer friendship and a couple levels of badass on Murphy's part.
  • German philosopher Oswald Spengler's non-fiction book The Decline of the West is full of them and culminates in "optimism is cowardice."
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 book Grey Knights, renegade inquisitor Valinov seems to refer to Chaos as the Awful Truth:

'There is not enough room in your head to under­stand what I could tell you. I have seen the forces that really hold this universe together, and it isn't your Emperor. All you Imperial vermin devote your lives to crushing the spirits of mankind until not one man or woman could survive knowing the truth.'

    • The Grey Knights themselves are an example. Any average Imperial citizen who learns of their existence is killed out of hand. Even Space Marines who learn about the Knights without authorization are mind-scrubbed to remove the truth.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga novel The Warrior's Apprentice, Elena searches for her long lost mother. She finally learns her mother's identity when said mother takes bloody revenge on Elena's father for repeatedly raping her when she was a prisoner of war. Likewise, the main plot of The Vor Game is triggered by Gregor learning that his late father was a rapist, a murderer and generally a Complete Monster.
  • In the Ender's Game book Shadow of the Hegemon, Bean learns from a posthumous letter the Awful Truth about his own birth: That his increased intellect has a side effect in that he will never ever stop growing, and will ultimately die young of the Square-Cube Law because either his heart will not be able to maintain a body his size or his huge body will crush his spine.
  • Speaking of Ender's Game, the fact that Ender was not playing a game but committing genocide is a prime example.
  • In the Spellsinger spinoff, Son of Spellsinger, the Grand Veritable is a magical, sentient lie detector that can not stop declaring the truth. Fun ensues as it wrecks relationships across the Bellwoods.
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", a child is brutally tortured to maintain the prosperity of the eponymous city. At some point in their lives every citizen of Omelas sees the child and learns of the connection between the child's suffering and the city's wellbeing. The title refers to the people who can't live with the Awful Truth anymore and leave Omelas forever.
  • Even aside from the substantial amount of philosophical musings on this trope (where it is nearly referenced by name), Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch has more than its fair share of examples. Early on, for instance, the protagonist Anton runs into a seemingly random cursed woman on the metro who he tries to help out. Soon, the events at the beginning of the plot which seemed to be important are discarded to focus on her. In the end, however, it turns out that literally everything that happened was part of a plot to recruit the woman, who turns out to be a future Great Sorceress, that is a magician of immense power, into the Night Watch. Including the (twice!) attempted murder of a child, and the possible deaths of every member of the Night Watch in Moscow.

Live Action TV

  • The 80s revival of The Twilight Zone did an episode titled "The Need To Know," in which this trope is deployed quite literally; a man returns to his small town bearing the Truth of Existence, a short phrase which drives anyone who hears it instantly insane.
  • Battlestar Galactica plays this straight when Kara attempts to figure out how she came back from the dead and when, in the Season 3 finale, Colonel Tigh keeps trying to figure out what the Terrible Ticking is all about. Turns out, they did not want to know. They got better. Averted when Kara finally discovers the meaning of the prophecy that she will "lead them all to their end."
  • Dexter is essentially a Thirty Awful Truth Pileup, both for the eponymous character and those close to him. In season one he discovers that the reason he is being singled out by the Icetruck Killer is that the two are brothers. Which wouldn't be terrible in and of itself, but it comes with the realization that Harry Morgan didn't quite tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth: Dexter watched his mother die. Also, Harry's a liar. The Big Bads of seasons two and three get awful truth reveals, usually coinciding with their crossing of the Moral Event Horizon. In season four, Debra finally finds out the truth about Harry.
  • Ashes to Ashes: The big reveal(s) at the end of the programme could qualify as The Awful Truth to the character(s) it applies to.
  • King Uther's refusal to tell Arthur the truth about his magical birth and the death of his mother(s) in Merlin. Arthur seemed to find out in the episode "Sins of the Father", but came to believe Merlin's statement that Morgause lied to him completely instead of only partially.
  • The eponymous event in The Event is apparently a truth so awful that the CIA director didn't want to tell the president, much less the viewers.

Director Sterling: "Information about this has always been on a 'need to know' basis."
President Martinez: "I'm the president. I need to know!"

  • This is a major plot point of The X-Files. The tagline for the show is "the truth is out there", and Mulder spends nearly a decade trying to uncover it. When he does, he finds out why it's been kept hidden from society for sixty years. He was reluctant to even tell Scully, as the Truth is aliens are invading the world in 2012 to colonize it, and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.
    • Subverted earlier with the truth about his sister, Samantha. The quest to find his sister was the reason Mulder got started on the X-Files, and a when not trying to find out The Truth, he is trying to find out what happened to her. After an extremely confusing plotline, we find out Samantha died in her early teens after years of medical experimentation. It is classified as an awful truth, but Mulder is simply satisfied to finally know what happened to her. The episode is aptly named "Closure", and when Scully asks him at the end of the episode how he is dealing with it, he replies "I'm free."
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Beast Below" all subjects of Starship UK are required to "vote" when they turn 16 and every five years thereafter. The are taken to a room were there shown a video then allowed to either protest, or forgot that their civilization is Powered by a Forsaken Child. Everyone seems to choose the mindwipe, and the few that do protest are fed to the star whale.
  • Poor, poor Phillip of Kamen Rider Double. First he found out that his family is really the mafia providing people the Transformation Trinkets needed to transform into the Monsters of the Week, then he found out that he's Dead All Along.
    • Not to mention Terui Ryu, who finds out that the person who gave him the gear needed for him to be Kamen Rider Accel also gave the Weather Memory to Isaka, the man who killed his family. Then he finds out why she did that.

Music Videos

  • The music video for the song "Just" by Radiohead. A man lies down in the middle of the street, refusing to get up or tell anyone why, because if they knew, they would to the same.

Newspaper Comics

Jason: How'd you know where to press?
Roger: I used to wear one when the movies came out.
Jason: You mean, you were a fan before I was?
Roger: Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

Tabletop Games

  • The fact that the New World of Darkness is, well, a World of Darkness is a secret desperately kept from ordinary humans in the eponymous setting. It's an odd example, though, because the books state that a large part of why all the separate Masquerades are in place is for self-preservation: if all of humanity knew the truth, humanity would fight and the supernaturals would lose. The Hunters cause enough problems as it is.
  • BattleTech: As the Inner Sphere is getting mauled by the technologically superior Clans some believe that the descendants of General Kerensky's Star League Defense Forces (who fled into unknown space centuries ago to avoid getting caught in a civil war and being forced to fight those they swore to protect) will come back to assist them in their darkest hour. A certain mercenary leader... refutes this theory.

Jaime Wolf: "Don't you see? Kerensky's people have returned. They are the Clans.

  • Warhammer 40,000. Hoo boy... let's just say that the Imperium has a good reason for its proverb "Ignorance is a virtue."
    • Chaos is the prime example of the Awful Truth. The Inquisition is quite willing to sterilize and relocate anyone who might have learned about it to forced labor camps for the rest of their lives. If this isn't practical, the Inquisition will just kill everyone. This policy can be applied to entire worlds with billions of people on them, and is still considered the humane solution compared to what might happen otherwise.

Video Games

  • Experienced Shell Shocked Senior Auron from Final Fantasy X intentionally keeps the truth regarding the summoners' journey for the Final Aeon, that it is an ultimately futile effort causing much unneeded sacrifice, from the the rest of the characters. When they finally figure it out on their own and demand an explanation from Auron about this, he simply responds, "Would that have stopped you?
    • The less-obvious reasoning behind this masquerade is that Auron simply saying "Hey, killing Sin the traditional way just perpetuates the circle of violence" wouldn't be enough to change anything, and would more likely result in the party accepting the situation. By only revealing certain key bits of information as the journey continued, Auron was able to direct them on the path he tried to take before: the rejection of tradition and an attempt at a new world. Almost Magnificent Bastard levels, when you think about it.
    • Besides, indiscreet revelations of the Awful Truth behind Spira can backfire spectacularly. Look at what happened to Seymour.
    • He actually outright states that Jecht turned into Sin very early on but it doesn't take because he doesn't explain the story behind it.
    • Before this, the entire rest the party takes quite a long time to reveal to Tidus that Yuna's journey as a summoner is intended to end with her death summoning the Final Aeon. Understandably, Tidus doesn't take it well.

Wakka: We weren't hiding it!
Lulu: It was just... too hard to say.

  • A major component of Xenosaga.
    • Kevin programmed the original KOS-MOS to kill him so he could become the Red Testament. He died in Shion's arms and she was haunted by the memory for years.
    • The fit of agony and rage Shion felt upon her parents' deaths is what summoned the Gnosis into the universe in the first place. Febronia knew this but spent the better part of 3 games slowly guiding her to where she could retrieve this repressed trauma.
  • From the previous page quote, Alex Mercer spends the majority of the game Prototype trying to figure out who was responsible for the viral outbreak which destroyed his memory. The culprit is Doctor Alex Mercer; Mad Scientist and Complete Monster. The player character is really just the mass of viral bio-matter that consumed Alex Mercer and assimilated his identity.

Alex Mercer: I looked for the truth. Found it. Didn't like it. Wish to hell I could forget it.

  • In In Famous, Cole gradually grows to hate the Big Bad, Kessler, as Kessler is both responsible for the event that gave Cole superpowers at the cost of thousands of innocent lives, and eventually kills Cole's girlfriend, all the while spouting rhetoric about how Cole needs to learn what an awful place the world really is instead of pretending it's any better, never offering even a cursory explanation for why he's doing any of it. In the end, just before Kessler dies from wounds Cole inflicts, Kessler reveals via telepathy that he's Cole himself from a Bad Future that exists because he refused to do anything about it when he had the chance, come back in time to literally traumatize himself so that he'll be prepared to make better choices when those hard decisions come.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 pulls a complicated Awful Truth on the protagonist. Solid Snake has started to show indications of accelerated aging; by the time the game starts, he's going on forty-one years old, and looks older than his parents (who should be over eighty by then). Otacon explains that it seems like a classic case of Werner's Syndrome, except the tests for the condition say that Snake doesn't have it. They speculate that it's because Snake isn't "normal," meaning that there must have been some fluke in the cloning process that created him, possibly exacerbated by the nanomachine-based artificial virus he was injected with to assassinate certain people by coming into contact with them. In fact, his brother Liquid even suggested as much, saying that the problem arises from the genetic sample that created them being taken when Big Boss was old himself, in his fifties. When Snake finally finds someone who can figure out what's going on, the truth is much worse than any of the speculation: the premature aging is natural, it's an intentional alteration made during the cloning process to give him an expiration date, which means there is no way to fix it and he will die of old age within six months, probably before turning forty-two. Worse, the nano-virus in his blood is being damaged by Snake's aging, and unless he kills himself long before he dies "naturally," the virus will lose its ability to differentiate between the people it was coded to kill and the people it was not, meaning Snake will cause an epidemic. The second problem is solved so Snake doesn't have to kill himself to stop the epidemic, but the first problem is most assuredly not, and the only reason we don't watch Snake die on-screen is because the ending fades to black instead of fast-forwarding six months.
  • Mass Effect pulls some good ones. First, the set-up; all spacefaring races get into space by use of Element Zero, which, when hit with electricity, alters the mass of matter temporarily (the eponymous mass effect.) Interstellar travel is based on the mass relays, giant mass-effect devices left behind by Precursors who vanished fifty-thousand years ago.
    • Mass Effect: The Precursors found the mass relays just like the current civilizations did, because they were left behind by a race of sentient machines who return to the galaxy every fifty thousand years and destroy all intelligent life. Because interstellar society functions based on the technology they left behind AND CONTROL, they have little trouble in the act and the galaxy is powerless to resist. This is actually a cycle of extinction, and based on evidence dating back millions of years, the cycle has repeated over seven hundred times.
      • The oldest sign of resistance is a corpse of one of these sentient space ships. From 37 million years ago. There is, however, NO SIGN ANYWHERE of the civilization that did it other than the crater left by firing the weapon. To put it in perspective, The Precursors referred to above were only about 50,000 years ago...
    • Mass Effect 2: The cycle of extinction is the Abusive Precursors' reproductive cycle. They build their babies by turning a species they exterminate into genetic paste and using it for building material.
      • Also the species that are not suitable to be turned in Reapers, are turned into mindless slaves. We find this out with the Collectors which are actually Protheans.
    • Mass Effect 3: The Reapers exist to ensure that some organic life (the non-space-faring life they skip during each cycle) will always exist somewhere. They were created with the belief that if any society is allowed to continue existing beyond a certain point after discovering interstellar travel, they will eventually create synthetic life, who in turn will eventually turn on their creators and wipe out organic life. The death they bring and the atrocities they commit is something they believe necessary for organic life to exist at all.
  • In the final chapter of Mother 3, Leder's final role is to tell Lucas the truth about his beloved, idyllic hometown of Tazmily. It was always just a fabrication. A final outpost for humanity, perched on the edge of nothing, populated with the last remnants of humankind, who had been willingly mind-wiped and built a false Arcadia in order to prevent a second Armageddon.
  • Hey, Ange? You know how you're pretty sure that your Ax Crazy aunt killed your beloved parents and brother? Well, it turns out that your aunt just sorta went along with it because she didn't want you to find out that your parents were the Ax Crazy murderers who killed everyone, your brother just about went along with it, and your aunt only killed your parents in what was more or less self-defense. Oh, and they never cared about you. Or Did They? Bernkastel (the one responsible for all your misery) says they didn't, who knows? Hope that cheers you up a little!
  • In Silent Hill 2, after barely making it to the hotel where he and his deceased wife spent so much loving tie together, James finally realizes that he killed her, and that the guilt of whether it was to spare her suffering or to move on with his life has driven him insane, and all the horrors he saw were a combination of his own psyche and the malign forces behind Silent Hill destroying him.
    • Worse yet, given his father's statement in Silent Hill 4 (James didn't return from Silent Hill), it seems that the ending where James kills himself may be the true ending, though given that the law may be less than forgiving for the murder he committed, he may simply have gone into hiding, possibly with his new foster daughter.
  • Subverted in the first Ace Attorney game near the end of case four: Edgeworth reveals to Phoenix the reason he's become so bitter over the years is that he accidentally killed his own father as a child. Phoenix, however, can't believe that, and soon proves the killer was someone else (in fact, it was Edgeworth's adoptive father, making what should have been an Awful Truth for Wright into one for Edgeworth instead.)
  • In CROSS†CHANNEL, this is how Taichi finally breaks Youko down. The awful part wasn't the fact that they killed 14 people at the Shinkawa mansion, it was the fact that Youko didn't kill a single one of them.
  • In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the Jedi Council prevent the other party members—and the player character him/herself from realizing that s/he is an amnesiac Darth Revan with a reprogrammed personality.
  • Corpse Party: Naomi is already in bad shape from Seiko's suicide... Then she finds out that Seiko didn't commit suicide, Naomi herself killed her. We later find out that it was only Seiko's text that kept Naomi from crossing the Despair Event Horizon.


Breya: I... I really want to know, but I think I'm afraid to ask.
Tagon: That means you don't really want to know.

  • Girl Genius, when Agatha discovers her mother Lucrezia was "The Other" who ruined or zombified about half of Europe. Bonus points for off-handed delivery. Later Agatha herself supplies a few missed memos to an impostor pretending to be her. Right after the only scene when Zola acted nice, at that.
  • Chapter 31 of Gunnerkrigg Court might as well be called 'A Delightful Load of Awful Truths for Annie and Renard', because guess what, Renard? Surma never loved you at all! It was all an act to get you trapped in the Court! And guess what Annie? You're the real reason Surma died, and it's also your fault that no Guide would come to claim her! And everyone knew! And when Annie runs to the forest, she learns that she isn't 100% human, and Surma's fate will fall on her the day she has a child.
  • In Cyanide & Happiness: it's not the tooth fairy!
  • A side story in Jack [1] shows a guy in apparently his dream life: a great apartment, nothing to do but play games, and endless, tailor-made sexual partners. Odd things keep happening and he is driven to find out that he's actually in Hell and that, once he knows this, he can never return to the carefree life he had been living and instead will exist for eternity as a obscene, crippled husk.
    • Worse still, he finds out by running into one of the hundreds of other damned souls whose fate he now shares.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In The Venture Brothers, there are multiple cases of this:
    • Hank discovers that Dermott's sister who he just had sex with, was really his MOTHER, and that Rusty was his dad. Yes, he had sex with his half-brother's mom. Fortunately, Sphinx is right next door with the mindwipe machine! Hank cheats on it a bit by leaving himself a message saying he had sex, but leave out the Dermott's mom part. And makes a Total Recall joke at his own expense.
    • The identity of Hank and Dean's mom is strongly implied to be this.
    • Triana has a portal to an extradimensional realm in her bedroom closet, and gets repeatedly mindwiped by her father every time she forgets.
    • Two-Ton 21 is not really seeing 24's ghost, but is just hallucinating him out of grief and guilt.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Well, there's no point in the characters defeating the Fire Nation before Sozin's Comet since they basically lost the war to them already, right? Cue Zuko informing the Gaang that Ozai is planning to use the comet's power to commit a genocide of the Earth Kingdom people.
    • Not just genocide of the people; the plan was to send a wave of fire over the entire, continent. People, plants, animals, buildings... "scorched Earth policy" taken to an utterly terrifying level.

Real Life

  • People have known and admitted to the issue of bullying and have been hard pressed to stop it for years. Yet when bullying does occur in front of their is quite often shrugged off as "natural".
  • On the Straight Dope forum, several members shared stories of how, when they were children, they'd been told that their mysteriously disappeared pets had been "sent to live on a farm." Cue the inevitable post that went along these lines: "That's a coincidence, because when I was little, I had a dog that was sent to live on a farm.... oh ^#@$% I need to call my parents NOW."
  • Neal Boortz is the self proclaimed "High Priest of the Church of the Painful Truth".
  • Quite possibly apocryphal: the school of Pythagoras was so shocked to discover that the square root of 2 is an irrational number (i.e. cannot be expressed as fractions) that they kept the knowledge a closely guarded secret, and people who leaked it were punished by death.
  • The word Soccer...CAME FROM ENGLAND!
  • The Atheist Experience deconstructed this when a caller asked "What's wrong with a comfortable delusion" by arguing that the trauma isn't caused by finding out the truth, but by discovering you were lied to. How many of these examples would have turned out better if the people telling the lies had just told the truth in the first place?
  • Chances are, you are more likely to be raped by someone you know than a total stranger. 38% of the time it's going to be a friend, someone you already know and trust. There's an also 4-out-of-10 chance that you'll be raped in your home than anywhere else. And guess what? 15 out of 16 rapists will walk free.
  • One reason those who are against corporal punishment give for their position is that supporting corporal punishment enables child abuse. Unfortunately, some actual methods of corporal punishment do carry a risk of serious harm, such as the belt, which is liable to cause bruising and, if the buckle hits the child, actually break the skin. Also, it has been proven that causing physical harm to another person increases the production of endorphins and decreasing the quality of the person's judgement, making it less likely that they'll remember that they swore that they would never do anything more severe than whatever they're doing to the child as well as giving the person a "high", making it more likely that s/he'll escalate the violent behavior in order to maintain or increase this "high".