Badass Decay

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"You're a bloody puppet!"

"I was once a badass vampire. But love, and a pesky curse, defanged me. Now I'm just a big fluffy puppy with bad teeth."

Spike speaking of Angel in an inadvertent prophecy of what was to become of him later on down the road, Angel

The process by which a Badass becomes less of a badass.

A belief persists among many writers that if the audience takes a liking to a real Badass who fears nothing, has infinite confidence and even carries off defeat with panache, it must mean that what they most want to see is that character reveal a vulnerable side and all manner of inner demons.

It is either that belief or the natural result of Character Development, where extra dimensions are added to an existing character to flesh them out and keep them fresh. Either way, the character starts out badass, and becomes less so over time.

Most often this happens through Ensemble Darkhorse tendencies, they appear so often and are so popular that any attempt to give them greater depths results in them losing what made them so effective in the first place.

Contrast with Took a Level in Badass. Compare with Menace Decay, Motive Decay, Villain Decay, and The Worf Effect. Compare and contrast Bait the Dog and Moral Event Horizon, where a Badass character loses their cool as a result of dog kicking.

Chickification is a gender-specific variant. Wimpification is a Boys Love and Slash Fic specific variant. Someone who undergoes physical Badass Decay may become a Perilous Old Fool.

Also note that this trope applies when a badass decays within a single continuity. If an absolute badass in your favorite book is portrayed as somewhat less awesome in The Film of the Book, that's not this trope.

A reminder from your friendly neighborhood watch: Tropes Are Not Bad. In fact many of the characters on this page Took a Level in Badass as a result of their Badass Decay, such as Vegeta and Bowser.

Examples of Badass Decay include:

Anime and Manga

  • Both Vegeta from Dragonball Z and Hiei from Yu Yu Hakusho start out as evil and downright sadistic badasses but as time went on and their number of friends increased, so did their overall morality (more so with Vegeta than Hiei, even though it is arguable with both characters). Even Vegeta seemed to realize he'd been defanged and had made a much better villain than a hero, and purposefully had one of the later villains try to turn him evil again. It didn't seem to quite take; after killing a nameless crowd and brawling a little with Goku, he was back to fighting baddies and topped it off with a Heroic Sacrifice. Of course he got better. This is Dragonball Z, almost nobody of importance dies - permanently.
    • This is actually evident with most reformed villains in Shonen shows. Sticking with Dragon Ball, Yamcha was once a feared bandit who rivaled Goku in martial arts prowess. He then spends the rest of the series doing absolutely nothing of importance.
    • In Piccolo's introduction to the series, he easily wipes the floor with Goku while in the weakest state he is ever in. He also nearly manages to take over/destroy the world. By the end of DBZ, he is relegated to teaching small children a magical dance, and later basically plays the straight man in a comic duo (him and Gotenks).
    • Tienshinhan. He was once one of the most powerful characters and was one of the few humans who could defeat Goku in combat and fight toe to toe with King Piccolo. After he lost to Nappa, however, he got his ass kicked again and again.
    • Hell, even Gohan suffers this, although not in as direct a path as Vegeta. At the beginning of Dragon Ball Z, he's implied to have great 'hidden power' and this is shown repeatedly throughout the Saiyan and Namek sagas, with him injuring or even fighting evenly with much more powerful opponents for short times. He fades from prominence in the Android and Cell sagas, but all the buildup eventually culminates in him becoming the most powerful character in the series in the Cell Games. By the time the Buu saga rolls around, however, he's a glorified punching bag, and though he eventually makes an attempted return to glory, it lasts about three episodes before he goes back to getting thoroughly destroyed. Kid just could not fill the old man's shoes.
    • The character who suffers from this the most is without a doubt Uub. Dragon Ball Z ends with him being built up to being the one to take Goku's place as protector of Earth. He even merges with Buu to regain the full power of Majin Buu, the strongest villain in the previous series, and yet after all that still gets used as a punching bag. In the end his greatest achievement was killing a few undead Saibamen and a revived General Rildo.
    • Master Roshi suffers from this in the original Dragonball anime. At the start of the series he is one of the strongest people on the planet, even stronger than the protagonist Goku. By the Piccolo Jr. arc he is little more than comic relief.
  • Nearly the entire cast of Yu-Gi-Oh suffered from this when the eighth volume began, and the series began centering around card games. In the original seven volumes, Joey/Jonouchi and Tristan/Honda being former gang members was a lot more obvious, as they delivered quite a few beatings to kids their age and even full-grown adults. Yami Yugi himself was not someone to mess with, as he had a tendency to play shadow games with anyone who pissed him off, which usually ended with the loser insane, grievously hurt, or dead. Even Tea could throw an Armor-Piercing Slap once in a while, and not just for dramatic effect, either. Then the card game rolled around, and suddenly Yugi and Joey are settling all their problems with Duel Monsters, while Tristan and Tea are reduced to cheerleaders.
    • Kaiba was also greatly reduced in badassery during his transition from manga to anime, where he spends more time standing around being The Stoic than he does doing actual badass feats. He did have a few good moments in the first season and in the occasional anime fillers that focus on him, but even those were a step down from trapping Yugi and his friends in a theme park designed specifically to make them die horrific deaths.
    • Weevil Underwood and Rex Raptor were once lauded as regional champions, and to be feared. However, after their not one, but two defeats at the hands of the protagonists, they became nothing more than comic relief. That is, until they got the superpowered Seal...
    • Jun Manjoume in Yu-Gi-Oh GX suffers from this in Season 3, but gets better in Season 4.
    • Aki Izayoi has unambiguously become much less threatening, dangerous, impressive, or actually interesting as a character as the series has progressed.
      • Not to mention Jack Atlas, who started out the series as the serious Rival but deteriorated to the point in which he contributed little more to the series than to provide Comic Relief with his incessant bickering with Crow and with his suddenly acquired love for cup ramen that he cried over.
  • This possibly happened to Tokiya Mikagami, who was at first a completely ruthless man driven for revenge, and in the Ura Butou Satsujin, he manages to give out many great performances. Come to the latter arcs of the manga, however, although time by time, he did awesomely, he also often became the recipient of Distress Ball, turning into him into the Dude in Distress TWICE.
    • Mikagami never really decayed, he evolved into a more interesting and complete person. His whole character arc never robbed him of his power or cool head but granted him a truly memorable opponent who actually not only defeated him but changed him. The perception of badass decay comes from the flanderization of his stoicism in the anime. In the manga he was one of the funniest characters as he was the ultimate straight man, whereas the anime showed him as a personality challenged bishonen.
    • However, despite evolving into a more interesting, the fact that after the tournament, his record of fighting consist of either getting an off-screen beat up and being a Dude in Distress still counts as a Badass Decay. It was his Badassery that decayed, not his character overall.
  • Quite a few members of the Ikki Tousen cast display this over the period of the third Great Guardians season. Most notably Kan'u Unchou suffers from Flanderization so badly that it cripples her Badass status and she becomes mostly unrecognizable for the first few episodes. See also Ryofu Housen's display of this through Loss of Identity. Thankfully they "get better" later in the season.
  • A rare "objective" take on this in Angel Densetsu: Ogisu thinks he's suffering from this (his genre savvyness, unfortunately, is off mark, and ends there too).
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Manga Gendo makes for a debatable case, as he's much more emo and pathetic compared to his anime version but also much more cynical, cruel and insane. The same charge has been laid over his confession that he's a pile of self-hate with a social phobia in the end. Some view Asuka's descent into madness as Badass Decay too, as she was established as an incredibly assertive and combative character, but then again, it also helped make her one of the show's biggest Woobies.
  • Nanael from Queens Blade seems to have gotten this treatment. Ever The Ditz, she one time surprisingly decides to take on three major demons all by herself, easily defeating them. Later she loses all too easily against one of them in battle.
  • In Pokémon, Ash could be said to suffer from this himself once per generation. At the end of each region or so, the guy's at the top of his game, taking down fully evolved Pokémon with ease and even singlehandedly taking on a legendary on one occasion. Then Ash dumps his entire team (and apparently Pikachu's levels) with Oak. Pikachu then goes on to having a hard time dealing with baby Pokémon.
    • Ash's Buizel started out being able to take out Dawn's Piplup, Zoey's Glameow, and Ash's Pikachu one after the other, and showing a sort of joy in beating them. Now, it's a run-of-the-mill Lightning Bruiser that, while still enjoying a good scrap, doesn't seem anywhere near as strong as it did in its debut episode.
    • Brock went through this. When introduced, he was a Gym Leader and a genuine threat. After joining Ash and Misty, his character became more and more softened and his battling became less and less frequent. Just by looking at his previous most used Pokémon (Onix) and one of his last teams (Happiny and Bonsly), one can start to notice the difference.
    • Team Rocket also qualifies. In the second episode, they were a viable threat, and were even wanted by the police. After that... As of Black and White, however, they've taken a level in badass, and have again become a viable threat.
    • Jessie's Lickitung. It was one of the most powerful Pokemon they ever owned; it easily defeated Ash's Bulbasaur, Brock's Vulpix, Ash's Squirtle, Pikachu, and quite a few others before it was eventually defeated by Misty's Psyduck. In later appearances it was defeated easily by Ash's Pokemon, especially Pikachu, who previously couldn't even harm it.
    • Even Gary Oak is an offender. In the first season, Gary was always three steps ahead of Ash, rolling around the region in a Corvette with teenage cheerleaders, acting like a total jerk to Ash whenever they met, flaunting his superiority. Then one day, he loses a match, big time, and it's assumed to be a Break the Haughty moment, and after that, Gary is far more modest and humble out of nowhere, and only lightly teases Ash. Many fans were outraged.
  • In the first season of Digimon Adventure, Angemon was easily the most powerful fighter on the hero's side, able to take out enemies who were at higher stages than himself. His next stage had a one hit kill, healing moves and he never reached his highest stage for the sake of conflict. In most later Digimon media, Angemon suffers the Worf Effect. New mons aren't stronger, Angemon just sucked all the sudden. He gets all sorts of new stages that all get beaten anticlimactically. The only exception is the card game.
    • Also, at the end of the first season Angemon fought the strongest mon by himself while taking care of all the other protagonists, also during a scene in the second season he makes a brief appearance (which also doubles as genre savviness for both him and Takeru for coming up with the idea) to one-hit several mooks and at the same time showing off his then rival how far behind his league he was.
    • In the first Digimon movie, Omnimon wipes out an army of Diaboromon. In the second Digimon movie, Omnimon can't handle a swarm of Kuramon. Not only is Kuramon Diaboromon's weaker, unevolved form, there were fewer Kuramon than there were Diaboromon, the entire scene makes no sense unless you look at it as the writers fumbling to bring out a brand new form.
  • Slayers: Lina's three allies seem to get progressively weaker in later seasons, whereas she maintains her relatively powerful Squishy Wizard status. Zelgadis is the worst offender, having balanced magic and swordplay combined with stone skin; he's usually the one who gets taken down or brushed off first later on; earlier he was genuinely threatening. Gourry the swordsman could provide in a pinch before; later on he becomes more or less a plot coupon because he happens to be wielding a very powerful Forgotten Superweapon. The novels averts Gourry's decay by giving him a new sword and maintaining his Badass Normal status, however.
    • Amelia was always weaker than her companions, but she went the other way, surprisingly; so did healer Sylphiel.
  • Kon from Bleach, upon introduction, was a genuine problem and was actually considered a threat to the main characters. Cue the end of this episode and he was reduced to a Joke Character in almost every single appearance afterward.
    • Hell even Ichigo went through this, he ends the Soul Society arc being able to beat Captains, he blocks Yami's punch by holding up his sword then slices clean through his arm. Mere episodes later he can't even defeat a mook. Then he gets better and then ends up being able to destroy the strongest espada. Then manages to scratch another with his strongest attack. Maybe he's just bad-ass inconsistency...
      • Ichigo's case is rather justified because his power fluctuates greatly (It literally goes to Hero to Zero and back), and its based on how focused he is and how serious he's taking the situation.
  • Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon also had this problem but mostly in the anime. In the first season he basically starts out as Sailor Moon's personal Deus Ex Machina, but as the Sailor Team gathers and begins to grow stronger, he starts to fall under this trope, being the only one not to receive power-ups on a regular basis. His manga self, on the other hand, performs the inverse, as in that continuity he starts out with no real powers, but manages to get a normal semi-powerful attack spell during the second series.
    • Kunzite is a particularly menacing and dangerous presence in the Dark Kingdom arc of the anime, forming shrewd plans to deal with his enemies and providing a more seasoned and experienced source of aid to his younger partner, Zoisite. After Zoisite dies, he attacks the Sailor Senshi and they just barely survive his onslaught. Then directly after this happens, Kunzite suddenly becomes the "main villain" for an arc and all this goes out the window. He comes up with particularly brainless plans to root out Sailor Moon's identity, all of which target seemingly random traits of women that naturally just cause him to zero in on the wrong girl. He also frequently gets outshone by the evil Endymion/Tuxedo Mask (and that is saying something). Though he does return to being competent for a few episodes once Endymion is put out of commission.
  • Lampshaded in Jubei Chan season 2, with shiro pointing out that in the first season that he could hold his own again jiyu's enemies to some new ones, who promptly mop the floor with him
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force does this rather early on to Lady of War Signum, regarded as one of the more Badass characters in the series. Cypha of Huckebein became the first to decisively defeat her, and gave a rather brutal finishing to boot. It's a bit early to say whether this trope is really in effect currently as Signum has not really been seen since and the incident could be a sort of Darker and Edgier version of Nanoha and Fate being defeated (and having their Linker Cores stolen) in A's.
    • Signum has finally shown up again waking up at the hospital with Hayate, Rein, and Agito worried about her and generally having a sweet reunion with Hayate telling Signum that it's too early to join Reinforce Eins in heaven. While it's not the badass reappearance that many fans probably wanted, Signum still retains her credentials as she completely thrashed Cypha before she "Reacted" and pretty much the entire rest of the cast was defeated far worse (Nanoha and Fate were largely unscathed but poor Hayate was impaled completely out of nowhere by Huckebein's leader, who hadn't been seen until then, before she one-shotted Erio and Vita). It seems like a case of this for the main cast combined with absurdly broken villains and faulty new weapons...though there are now hints of a conspiracy involving the company that made those weapons so things are likely more than they seem for now.
  • Tokiko Tsumura in Busou Renkin started out as a badass Lady of War, capable of holding her own even with a homunculus embryo slowly turning her into a homunculus herself and causing her severe pain whenever she uses her kakugane. And then she defeats Jinnai, and that's her last major victory for a long, long time, and after that she's seemingly delegated to emotional support for Kazuki and chopping up minor mooks. Granted, this wouldn't be as bad, but it definitely reaches its lowest point during the Re-Extermination Arc when she's caught in a massive explosion that splits the group up and is injured and has to be defended from another enemy, while not even trying to defend herself when said enemy suddenly turns around and attacks her. Fortunately, the next fight she's in she finally manages to reverse this trope and pull out another major victory.
  • In-Universe example: The center theme of one episode of Gundam Evolve is Char Aznable, after having used his "Quattro Bajeena" alias for a while, beginning to realize he's lost his edge. He has this realization during a training mission where his top-of-the-line, fully loaded Rick Dias is defeated handily by combat data of his old self in a Zaku II armed with just a Heat Hawk. This episode addresses the fact that Quattro in Zeta Gundam isn't pulling off insane tricks and inducing pants-wetting at the mere mention of his name like he did in the original series. Probably has something to do with Redemption Demotion.

Comic Books

  • Bane went through a lot of this. After Knightfall, he pretty much went from defeating Batman to losing to everyone from Azrael to Judomaster's SON. Gail Simone has been reversing most of this in Secret Six.
  • Something similar happened to Doomsday. After all, they were both an "accomplishment villain": a villain created with the sole purpose of defeating the hero to raise sales. The problem with this kind of villain is that the fans will want to get more stories with him, and writers have to depower him so that the stories are not prone to Fridge Logic (if he could kill Superman once, why can't he do it again?)
  • Thorn started off as a pretty baddass (if gimmicky) feminist vigilante who went around kicking ass and teaming up with the likes of Lois Lane and Green Arrow. By the time the year 2000 rolled in, she had become an ineffectual joke who appeared as a recurring thorn in the side (pun intended) to Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy. It became something of a running joke where the duo would be attacked by Thorn while committing a crime, only to easily defeat her and leave her bound and gagged. A couple years later Gail Simone revived the character and made her into a cunning antiheroine who fought the Birds of Prey.
  • Ragamuffin from Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl is depicted as being a Complete Monster and he is shown to eat a woman alive in the first issue. Due to his transformation in a rag doll, he dropped from a Magnificent Bastard Vampire to a cuddly toy, used to entertain the titular Lenore. Not to mention that, after he reverts back to his vampire form in issue 12, he is totally devoted to her and his sole purpose is her protection.
  • A rather insignificant example of this is when it turns out Abe Sapien from Hellboy gets seasick in Drums of the Dead. Abe remarks, "Being in the water is different from being on the water" or somesuch.
  • Nicky Cavella's first introduction paints him as a suave, Affably Evil badass who smooth talks his partners and generally acts like a pretty decent guy (until he gets down to business), yet the mobsters of New York are terrified of him and he's done something to put him in charge of the two most dangerously psychotic killers in the mob. When his plans come crashing down around him, he isn't so cocky and smooth anymore and runs away while using the man he conned into helping him as a meat shield. Even so, he still seems like a pretty dangerous and effective villain (not least because he subverted Bond Villain Stupidity). But in his next (and last) appearance, he is the complete opposite of everything that he was in the first comic. He's whiny, stupid, smug snakeish and just creepy and weird. Readers do get to see his origin story, and one part of it is horrifyingly cool, but overall his badass credentials seem to have been left in his other pair of pants.
  • In the original stories of Paperinik (aka Duck Avanger), Paperinik was the alter-ego that Donald Duck used for punishing those who would annoy him. His victims were mostly his own relatives and others like them. He was a shameless outlaw who was hunted down by the police and never had a motive to help others, unless he'd get a reward out of it. Also he reserved his right to steal and openly disliked the police. Now, in the later versions, including Paperinik New Adventures, he has turned into a superhero who fights crime and unconditionally helps the authorities.
  • Let's take a look at The Juggernaut, shall we? For the first three decades of publication history, he was a literally physically unstoppable villain empowered by the deity Cyttorak. Some of the notable feats include withstanding Thor's "godforce" unharmed, an attack that was earlier shown capable of severely injuring Galactus. Then during Onslaught the Juggernaut gets a taste of The Worf Effect, as he is knocked clean across two states and ends up comatose for several days just to show how badass Onslaught is. Things went further downhill as Chuck Austen wrote him as part of the X-Men. Juggernaut, who before had been capable of going for weeks if not years without air, food, or water, can suddenly drown in Austen's first story featuring him. There was absolutely no explanation for why the Juggernaut was suddenly very stoppable, and later authors have scrambled for a Retcon to explain that. The latest line comes from Fear Itself: The Worthy, which says that Juggernaut's power goes "up and down on Cyttorak's whim". That is something that has never happened before, even when the Juggernaut went dimension-hopping with Doctor Strange and tried to kill Cyttorak when coming face to face with him. Or when the Juggernaut screwed up a bet between Cyttorak and other deities in The Eight Day, he was confirmed to still possess unstoppable strength from Cyttorak's enchantments in the follow-up story The Ninth Day.
  • In his original appearance, Roberto Rastapopoulos was portrayed as an actually threatening villain, being a Magnificent Bastard who led a whole drug traffic in the first story arc in the whole serie, almost succeeded in killing Tintin at several points and display some degree of Genre Savvyness. In Fly 714 for Sydney, he is turned into a comical villain who ends up accidentally revealing his whole plan under the effect of a truth serum and get heavily ridiculized, even failing to crush a spider. Might be intentionnal, however, as Hergé's purpose when writing this book was to deconstruct the adventure genre.


  • According to Roger Ebert, all famous movie villains run the lifespan of going from scary to camp to self-parody. You name the classic to modern villain, it runs this course, from Dracula and Frankenstein meeting Abbott and Costello to Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees.
  • Alison Drake's (Ruth Chatterton) character towards the end of Female (1933). Sadly, this is a common set-up for pre-Code films, mostly those featuring strong or amoral female characters. Another example would be Lily Powers (Barbara Stanwyck) in Baby Face (1933).
  • The Star Wars prequel trilogy did this to Darth Vader...sort of. He only shows up properly at the very end, once "Anakin Skywalker" is done and over with, but the one time he's there features one of the most infamous Narm moments ever that really makes him seem less impressive.
    • General Grievous gets this in an odd way. In Star Wars: Clone Wars he was a badass unstoppable Jedi killer. However, at the end of the series, his few remaining internal organs were severely mangled by Mace Windu, resulting in him gaining a chronic cough and seeming much weaker in episode three, as he was intended to become a Fallen Hero and a precursor of sorts to Vader.
    • Han shot first! Han Solo suffers from a rare case of retroactive Badass Decay, as the controversial bowdlerisation occurred in the 1997 re-release of the original trilogy.
  • James Bond tends to attract this accusation depending on actor and audience interpretation. Let's just leave it at that.
  • Godzilla went from an unstoppable force of sheer destruction to a lovable kids' hero during the 1960s-1970s.
    • Most modern interpretations try to split the difference, making Godzilla a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Mostly keeps to the sea or Monster Island if left alone. If humans piss him off, he will fuck up a few cities. If any other monsters step up, though, he'll gladly stomp their face into a few mountains. Basically, he's just like the Incredible Hulk, but bigger and charcoal gray instead of green (Though, Godzilla is sometimes green in a few depictions).
    • How does becoming a superhero give Godzilla Badass Decay anyway? If anything he became even more badass, overcoming his weakness to electricity, handily taking down both King Ghidorah (an opponent it initially took the combined forces of Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan incredible difficulty to merely chase away) and Gigan almost single handedly, and while he was this big bad villain he spent his battles getting his ass kicked by King Ghidorah (he needed plenty of help to stop him) King Kong, some geek with an eyepatch, electricity, King Ghidorah again, and some baby silk-spraying worms. As a hero he crushed far more powerful opponents and rarely suffered a defeat- and when he was defeated he'd return quickly, this time renewed to bash his foe's face in with previously unseen Kung Fu. If anything this is more Took a Level in Badass or Let's Get Dangerous.
    • King Ghidorah may be one of the fastest examples of Badass Decay in film history. He went from being the ultimate evil in his film debut (Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster) to being, quite literally, The Dragon in the very next film. Also, he went from being a genuine threat that took three monsters to defeat and over six to kill in the Showa era to being easily dispatched by Godzilla alone with a single blast.
  • Pintel and Ragetti from Pirates of the Caribbean might count. While they were always comic relief, they had no problem with murder in the first film. In the two sequels they are just mischievous at worst.
    • This was even given an in-story justification: After losing their immortality at the end of the first film, they were deliberately trying to avoid provoking people into doing things like shooting them. Also, Ragetti had become religious and was worried about his eventual fate.
  • The Scarecrow from The Dark Knight Saga. He starts off as the Big Bad of the first movie, only to be quickly demoted to The Dragon once the real villain shows up. That's not all that bad except the climax of the first movie sees him getting tasered by the main character's love interest within seconds of showing up. The next movie begins with him as a lowly drug dealer where he is taken down in the Batman Cold Open.
    • It makes some sense, though; he's a scrawny little psychologist with no physical prowess or weapon skills. In the beginning of the first movie, all he really has are connections, fear gas (which he only obtained in part through those connections), and a lack of morality (which isn't exactly rare in the Batman universe). When the League of Shadows and the mob went down and he lost his position at the Asylum, he lost most of what made him a threat in the first place.
  • Kevin Flynn in Tron: Legacy is noticeably less proactive when compared with his incarnation in the first Tron movie. This is mostly the result of having spent a prolonged period waging a Hopeless War against his own creation Clu, which has left him jaded, burnt-out, and despairing. Later in the movie, however, Kevin steps back up and exhibits some of the old badassery that characterized him in the first film.
  • Megatron started to suffer from this in Revenge of the Fallen, where he became less of a threat than in the first movie and was shown to be slavishly following orders from The Fallen[1] Also Invoked Trope in the sequel, Dark of the Moon. Megatron sustains his brutal injuries from the previous film's final battle, resulting in him being in a weakened state (both physically and psychologically). He hardly fights at all (instead commanding his Mooks and trying to find peace), and when he does fight, it's because a human girl manages to strike a blow to his ego, and while he does play a part in defeating Sentinel, Optimus rips Megs' head out in a matter of seconds. Of course, this is averted in the novelizations for both sequels, where he remains a legitimate threat with his own motives and (in DOTM) a worthwhile ally for Optimus in the final battle.
  • In Ip Man the eponymous character was nearly untouchable; only the Four-Star Badass Big Bad landed any real blows. Not so much in the sequel. That the Old Master could fight him to a draw, fans could accept. A boxer punk managing to knock him down multiple times didn't get accepted as readily.
  • This happens to the hitman Vincent in Collateral. He goes through most of the movie as a cold blooded killer who shoots down enemies in seconds. When it comes time for the climax, he is gunned down by the cabbie hero who had never picked up a gun in his life.
  • The T-Rex in Jurassic Park III. He is easily defeated by the Spinosaurus and gets no screen time other than their fight, essentially being replaced by the Spinosaurus.


  • In The Antithesis Qaira Eltruan begins Arc II as a genuine 'badass', who is cold and ruthless and devoid of all mercy and feelings. As the story goes on it is shown that he does have a heart, and his disguise as a ruthless unmerciful bastard is the result of terrible past experiences involving the death of his mother and other traumatic things he was forced to do as a militant leader. With Leid's help, Qaira slowly begins to feel compassion again, hence the decay of his badassness.
  • Happened to Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal and Hannibal Rising. It has been observed that he "wins" in Hannibal, and, of course, eats that one guy's brain, but he also falls in love and wangsts over his newly added Freudian Excuse in the form of a Dead Little Sister.
  • Count Dracula has been steadily humanized since his appearance in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel. In the book, he is a cold, ruthless monster with no redeeming qualities. Since then, he's been softened in each new appearance, going from a vile, diabolical arch-fiend to a Large Ham in a cape and tux, tragically searching the oceans of time for his lost love by biting the necks of fainting, gasping, and all-too-willing females. Counting down...
    • Nosferatu, depicted chillingly as the monstrous 'Orlok' by Max Shreck.
    • Dracula with Bela Lugosi, light on the horror but still magnificently evil.
    • Horror of Dracula with Christopher Lee, perfectly vicious but now with the sexual element—his victims want him.
    • The 1973 TV production of Dracula has Jack Palance as a fierce-looking vampire, but prefers to play up the "tragic figure searching for his lost love" angle.
    • Dracula with Frank Langella, continuing his transformation from monster to lover, a tragic figure (with poofy 70's hair and a partly-open poet's shirt) searching for his lost love.
    • Bram Stokers Dracula with Gary Oldman starts with Dracula's tragic history to create sympathy. Though he spends most of the film as a monstrous villain, all of his scenes with Mina heavily characterize him as a tragic romantic.
    • Comedies such as Dracula: Dead and Loving It with Leslie Nielsen and Love at First Bite play Dracula purely for comedy, and sometimes even as the hero.
    • Hellsing takes an interesting route in making Dracula an anti-hero who is thoroughly evil and yet fighting for the good guys. Alucard is characterized as a fairly honorable Blood Knight who is more interested in finding challenging opponents to fight than doing harm to regular people.
    • A Fred Saberhagen novel, The Dracula Tape, comically subverts the Dracula story by having the Count show up and insist that he was the good guy all along and everyone else in the classic tale was a nut or actually in love with him.
    • In the holiday special The Halloween That Almost Wasn't aka The Night Dracula Saved The World, Dracula ends up saving Halloween (what else?). To really drive the stake in further, he was played by none other than Judd Hirsch.
    • Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf, where he is no more menacing that Gomez Addams; The Drak Pack, where he is the creator of a group of superheroes; and Los Vampiros las Prefieren Gorditas, where he has to put with Olmedo and Porcel's antics.
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer plays it both ways by lampooning Dracula's cliche mannerisms, but still making him far more powerful than the typical vampire. In the comics, Dracula becomes basically pathetic and kept Xander brainwashed for a while because he was lonely.
    • Blade: Trinity plays Dracula as a straight villain as well as the first and more powerful vampire. However, he's much less evil than the other modern vampires. Rather than a sadistic monster, he's an honorable warrior who prizes strength and is driven to create a powerful bloodline. Ultimately before he dies he sees Blade as a worthy descendant and helps him escape capture.
    • In Planetary, Elijah Snow freezes Dracula completely in a matter of seconds and proceeds to kick out his entire crotch.
    • Of course, the trope is often averted and Dracula is played as a powerful, menacing villain with no redeeming characteristics. When teamed up with other classic monsters, Dracula is often the most dangerous one of the bunch.
  • The titular character of Artemis Fowl. Although thankfully this one has not yet fallen into Wangst. Foaly has, however, kept what badassery he did have, and has yet to be as Anvilicious as any of our heroes. The elves were parodies of other rather more anvilicious interpretations of the fairy folk.
    • Possibly spoofed in the most recent book, in which he travels back in time to match wits with... well.... himself. One exchange later and he's left stranded on a telephone pole with nothing more than the line "I hate me."
  • Count Olaf, although not Woobie-fied, is less and less scary as the books go on, and more and more ludicrous. How much of this was deliberate is unknown.
  • Vampires as a whole are a victim of this. What were once seen as undead creatures who fed on the blood of the living have completely turned into wangsty, emasculated, leather pants wearing pretty-boys as the object of desire for rebellious teenage girls. Most recent examples are The Vampire Chronicles and Twilight, both of which were pure Mr. Fanservice.
    • Vampires have been portrayed as conflicted and used to explore themes of sexuality since before Bram Stoker. The gothic horror tradition is rife with these themes: Varney the Vampire was angsting over his vampiric nature 200 years before Edward Cullen was thought of, and Carmilla's entire hat was Evil Is Sexy. Even in Anne Rice's works, they're still thoroughly portrayed as monstrous, even the sympathetic ones (which is where their angst comes from). If anything, vampires suffer more from Flanderization than this trope.
    • Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.
  • Kisten from the The Hollows novels suffers from a classic example of this. First presented as the scion of the most powerful vampire in Cincinnati bent on dangerously seducing the main character he decays Spike-style over the series to becoming simply her romantic interest and then he suffers Redemption Equals Death
  • Some fans insist that this is what happened to Han Solo in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Although that may be a failure to realize that he still does as much stuff (if not more) than what he does in the movies, but he's occasionally useless compared to his wife, children, and brother-in-law, all of who are extremely gifted in the Force. It would probably be more accurate to say that they all Took a Level in Badass while he did not.
  • Kannwar, the immortal God-Emperor of an entire continent and the Big Bad of the Right Hand Of God trilogy, gets this big time in the sequel trilogy. At the conclusion of the first trilogy he is only stopped in his war of conquest when the creator of the Universe personally intervenes, shooting off his remaining hand with an arrow. By the end of the second trilogy he's spent a lot of time wangsting with the girl he turned immortal in the first trilogy and been blown up and revived several times, more or less for laughs.

Live-Action TV

  • Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer began the series as a straight villain who was set up to be killed off. Prior to this, he did things like kill the Annoited One, lead three powerful demon bounty hunters, and (once it was decided not to kill him off) betray Angelus behind his back and help save the world for his own selfish benefit. As the character became popular and got strung along throughout the rest of the show's run, he gradually became more and more sympathetic and cuddly. The change was so infamous that this trope was once called Spikeification. Despite his decay, the character would occasionally receive a few awesome moments to keep him interesting, and he wound up becoming somewhat badass again on Angel. The decay probably began around the season three episode when he stumbles back to town a heartbroken drunk after Drusilla broke up with him for not being evil enough. Thankfully, by the end of the episode, he realizes that all he needs to do to win her back is go back to being the person he was, i.e. a complete badass with a healthy dose of sociopathy.
  • To an extent, Irina Derevko from Alias. Even Sark from that show showed hints of humanity, but Derevko was given the Villain Ball in season 5. Sark at least stayed believably unredeemed.
  • Lionel Luthor from Smallville, who was once the Magnificent Bastard.
  • Arthur Fonzarelli, "The Fonzie" from Happy Days, is first flanderized and then decayed through the course of the series, but especially after it Jumps The Shark (literally). He ends up being more like a Boys' Club leader than the aloof, antisocial cool guy he started the show as.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Cylons in general have avoided badass decay, but Caprica-Six seems to have suffered rather badly. She went from baby mercy-killing in the miniseries to pining for Baltar and desiring co-existence with humans in Downloaded, though it was clear she cared about Baltar in the miniseries and she wasn't seen again until Downloaded anyway, so its not as if we had much evidence of badassery on her part anyway. That at least led to the scary occupation of New Caprica. After that, unfortunately, she was eventually reduced to surrendering along with Baltar, and sitting in Galactica's brig getting hardly any screen time. It's well-written legitimate character development, up until late season 3 where the writers almost forgot she existed for a time.
  • Although never exactly a badass, Norman Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine began the long-running series as an acerbic philosopher with a dry and pointed sense of humour (as well as functioning as the Ego of the series' Power Trio). As time has gone on, however, he has become a total wimp: scared stiff of driving cars, terrified of the various female characters (especially Auntie Wainright) and increasingly resigned to whatever madcap scheme his current "leader" has in mind. One of many ways in which the series has jumped the shark.
  • Lord Zedd in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers began life as the "Emperor Of Evil": a genuinely terrifying villain who quickly banished the comical Rita Repulsa and proved his magnificence by almost destroying the Rangers' zords, finally stripping Tommy of his Green Ranger powers, and creating his own highly kick-ass zord Serpentera, which towered above the Rangers' own Megazord. Then near the end of the 2nd season he got married to Rita, becoming a more comical villain as the show went on and by the third season the transformation had become complete and he was a Jaded Washout type character. By next season in Zeo he along with the rest of the Morphin baddies are run off by the Machine Empire (His voice actor confirms "Zedd scared small children, so they invoked this trope".) Ironically, he seems to do better in season three, as he pulls off more evil schemes which may convince the audience that he might even win. How? One of his plans climaxed in entering the Command Center, throne and all.
    • In the first season of Power Rangers, Goldar was The Dragon and more than a match for the entire team of 5. Jason was capable of trading blows with Goldar, but that was it. But with season two more about Tommy than any other cast member, Goldar's character suffered dreadfully. Tommy began to defeat Goldar singlehandedly, but it wasn't just that Tommy's skills were growing. In one episode, Billy was able to kick Goldar around, unmorphed, and that's when it got depressing. One might expect he'd be furious and try to regain his honor, but instead he just turned into a bungling nincompoop.
    • Sixth Rangers tend to decay in time to being jobbers for the villains.
  • Toyed with and retconned several times in Heroes with Sylar. Several storylines make it look like he's becoming a more sympathetic character until the arc is Aborted Arc and he snaps back to being a psychopath.
  • When the Time Lords first show up in Doctor Who at the end of the Second Doctor's run, they were mysterious, powerful, and threatening to the Doctor. They forced him to regenerate and banished his regenerated self to Earth. Over time, the portrayal of Time Lords changed into that of a stagnant society in decline, who had largely forgotten much of their former power and morality. The downgrading of the Time Lords happened first accidentally and then deliberately. In "The Three Doctors" they appeared as more Human Alien than god-like. Then when they re-appeared in "The Deadly Assassin" they fell prey to deliberate Take That Retcon by writer/script editor Robert Holmes, Armed with Canon. Fandom at the time complained about Holmes' story, but it established the trend which later writers took and ran with.
    • Similarly, the Brigadier, when he first appeared in the late 1960s (real time) took no guff from anyone and the stories portrayed UNIT, the force he led, as an elite team of defenders against Alien Invasion. He got gradually more comedic and less impressive, though he would regain his reputation later. As did UNIT itself.
  • The Daleks, especially over the course of the new series. In the first episode, a single Dalek on near future Earth was presented as likely to START by killing everyone in the nearest city, should it escape. A Dalek army required the intervention of a being with powers little short of God-like. One of the cult of Skaro confidently predicted that five million Cybermen could be destroyed by a single Dalek. Later, they emasculate themselves by merging with humans. By 2010, Daleks serve tea when undercover, and when not undercover their ship's weaponry is successfully disabled by three human-piloted Spitfires, albeit ones with Dalek guns.
    • The ship was nearly drained of power at the time. In their first ever appearance, First Doctor serial The Daleks (1963–64), they serve meals to the Doctor and his companions when they're not undercover, but in control - the good guys are their prisoners. True, there's an evil plot afoot - but it's a remarkably subtle plot by Dalek standards, and taking prisoners at all is out of character. They only go undercover in Victory of the Daleks because there's no other way to ensure the survival of their race.
  • In the fourth season of 24 Curtis Manning was a pure badass, so much that he was called Black Bauer. In the fifth season he was mostly a doormat compared to Bauer, in the sixth season he was ineffectual until he got killed by Bauer.
  • Tyr Anasazi of Andromeda went from being one of the show's best Magnificent Bastards and the only mortal being in the universe that Dylan Hunt couldn't take in a fight to a driveling short-sighted idiot that ended up losing fights to all and sundry, and was ignominiously shot in the back and dropped off a cliff. Some viewers believe that Kevin Sorbo (who played Dylan Hunt) becoming executive producer might have had something to do with this.
  • Dexter almost succumbed to this in season two, even going so far as planning to turn himself in as the Bay Harbour Butcher, but thankfully changed his mind.
    • It's arguable that as the series has gone on, Dexter has suffered from this anyway. After all, each season charts a new step of emotional development for Dexter, as he discovers that he's not quite as inhuman as his adoptive father led him to believe. As a result, the Dexter at the end of Season 5 is not nearly as dark as his Season 1 counterpart.
  • The Borg from Star Trek. In their first appearance they started carving the Enterprise like a turkey and Borg drones had a personal energy shield that would adapt to enemy weapons fire after other drones would fall. A single Borg ship (with Picard assimilated) was powerful enough to destroy 39 Federation spaceships in the battle at Wolf 359, break through the Solar System's defense grid and reach Earth orbit. Early on, writers realized that because the original Borg concept was so single-minded they needed to modify some concepts to make for more story potential. The Borg turned to assimilating both people and technology, instead of being their own unique race. Star Trek: First Contact introduced the concept of Borg "queens," which while effective for that movie the Queen inherently humanized them, making it capable of deceiving them.
    • By the end of Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg's bad-assness had decayed so badly that Janeway routinely blew up whole Borg cubes with just a mean stare.
    • However, the Borg did roar back to badass level in the post-Nemesis novel continuity. How badass? Well, let's just say eating fucking Pluto was just the beginning.
  • In the 60s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., heroes Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are sometimes subject to plot dependent Badass Decay. E.g., in the third act of the third season episode, "The Five Daughters Affair, Part II", Solo and Kuryakin fight THRUSH's "karate killers" ( who despite that name (as given in the credits) do very little actual killing in the episode) for about the sixth time in the two-part adventure. Despite holding their own in several earlier fights with the karate killers, Solo and Kuryakin lose whatever fighting skills they've demonstrated, and are straightway handed their asses by the THRUSH "killers". This is necessary, of course, to set up the fourth act's climax and resolution (therefore "plot dependent").
  • Michael Caffee of Brotherhood goes from Badass Punisher-like Ear-cutting Irish Mob vigilante to brain damaged bagman then paranoid drugged mob-boss
  • The titular House suffered from this in Season 6. Where once there was a badass, sarcastic, biting floating brain, there now stands a love-sick puppy that spouts "emotionally healthy" psychobabble. Most notable in his relationship with Cuddy, which went from mutual messing to confessions of love. Confessions. Of love. From House.
  • Lost had some serious decay with the Others. What started as a mysterious group of rogue jungle ninjas was soon revealed to be little more than a bunch of commune dwelling nobodies that played football and had a flare for the dramatic. Although shining the spotlight on anything scary will quickly reveal that it's just a branch scratching against a window. See Nothing Is Scarier.
  • Morgause from Merlin was simply too intelligent for her own good. In her first appearance she storms into Camelot, takes down several guards, challenges Prince Arthur to a duel, beats him, drops a bombshell about his mother, makes him chase her across the countryside for answers, shows him what may or may not be a real apparition of his mother who tells him that his father was responsible for her death, and then watches from a crystal as he goes storming back to Camelot to kill King Uther in a fit of rage. However, in a show that seems almost pathologically dependent on Status Quo Is God and pressing the Reset Button, Morgause is reduced in season three to a completely ineffectual and one-dimensional villain who plots to overthrow the kingdom with a range of increasingly convoluted plans. If she had been allowed to retain the intelligence and subtlety she had displayed in the second season, she would have been running the place in two seconds flat.
  • Barnabas Collins of the original Dark Shadows was intended to be the latest villain when he first appeared. His first victim was Willie Loomis (who was looking for jewels supposedly buried in the family crypt), turned into his slave. Jason McGuire, who had come to Collinwood to blackmail Elizabeth Stoddard, was one of his first on-screen kills (Jason had brought Loomis with him, and become interested in the jewels Willie sold for Barnabas). He kidnapped and tormented Maggie Evans in an effort to make her into a version of his first love, Josette; killed anyone who got in his way; manipulated Dr. Hoffmann's affection for him, and generally caused mayhem. Then audiences fell in love with him, leading to his transformation into a heroic character.
  • Eric of True Blood started as a fetishy ruthless powerful vampire with a certain human streak. Of course, Badass Decay was basically predetermined. He managed to stay Badass three seasons. At season 4 he's been cursed by a group of hobby esoterics, lost his memory along with his personality and has taken to making angsty confessions to Sookie.
    • Mind you, it's hardly surprising that Viking Spike got Spikeified.
    • He seems to have gotten back his badassery by the end of the season, when he decapitates three heavily-armed guards in the space of a second, while Bill stakes the vamp who put him in power.
  • Young Blades: Pointed out in-universe when D'Artagnan discovers that his famous Musketeer father has been reduced to performing for money and selling action figures of himself.
  • Entourage had Ari Gold go from a hyper-ambitious, foul-mouthed, ruthless agent for Hollywood's A-list to a guy whose main accomplishment was securing a Hallmark movie-of-the-week role for a washed up TV actor.


GANGSTALICIOUS: You know who my favorite rapper was when I was your age? Ice Cube.
RILEY: The dude that makes family movies? He was a gangsta rapper?
GANGSTALICIOUS: He was so gangsta. I used to have dreams that Ice Cube came to my house and killed my whole family.
The Boondocks

  • The Misfits went from singing songs called "Die, Die My Darling" and "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" to covering songs by 50s teen idol Paul Anka and 60s soul band The Drifters.
  • In 1967, this person was part of a certain band that, according to many, was one of the pioneers of Heavy Metal. In the eighties, he started out a solo career and was called "The Prince Of Darkness". But, somehow, he ended up in the Scary Musician, Harmless Music page. That man is Ozzy Osbourne.

Newspaper Comics

  • Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts, who went from an ebullient ball of aggressive energy to a rather neutered figure in the later years. The biography Schulz and Peanuts claims that Lucy was largely based on the author's first wife Joyce; after they divorced, Lucy lost her powers.

Professional Wrestling

  • Professional Wrestling has a most bizarre example in John Cena. In 2004, he was a street-wise thug (who happened to be a white rapper) who never backed down from a challenge, and fought rich bastard John Bradshaw Layfield while espousing "battle raps" which basically mocked anyone in a 15-mile radius. In 2005 and 2006, his overwhelming popularity led the writers to turn him into a Hoganesque superhuman with an inferiority complex who openly admitted he was inferior as a technical wrestler, therefore taking away everything that made him popular in the first place. It eventually got to the point where fans would cheer his opponent out of spite, no matter how evil that person was. Fortunately, the release of his movie The Marine allowed him to get back his never-say-die attitude, and he appears to be recovering from the setback. Slowly. The fact that WWE seems to be implying that he really is a marine based on his role in the movie doesn't help matters. In fact, most heels who became anti-heroic faces in the Attitude Era generally fall under this trope.
    • More so when you consider said anti-heroes tended to have their most popular traits exaggerated when they become faces (Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn't a full-blown redneck until his turn, and The Rock didn't rely as much on his "sing-along" catchphrases).
    • Note that Cena's Self-Deprecation was largely a very mishandled attempt to appeal to the fans who had turned on him; additionally, it was mostly during his feud with Triple H, who is the head writer's husband and has had many feuds in which his opponent has sung his praises. Thankfully, this aspect of his character was dropped after Cena was given a clean victory over Trips.
  • WCW 2001. Hulk Hogan was put in a feud with midcard wrestler Billy Kidman. Their matches usually consisted of Hogan whaling on Kidman to the point that it resembled child abuse, then something happening to enable Kidman to pick up a fluke win. This was badass decay for BOTH men. Kidman previously was a very popular midcard wrestler, and Hogan was of course Hogan. Now Kidman resembled a whipping boy, and the Boring Invincible Hero Hogan became a boring almost invincible hero.
  • Without a doubt, Kane from the WWE. From the very beginning, Kane made his debut in the then-WWF as an unstoppable monster who destroyed everyone in his path. His badass decay began in the early 2000s when the writers tried to lighten his character up a bit by having him do comical imitations of other wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Booker T. His character became considerably lightened up when he tag-teamed with the likes of the Hurricane and Rob Van Dam. Lightening up a wrestler in itself should not destroy their career but Kane's decline was more of a gradual process than something that happened overnight. He soon began jobbing to newly debuting monster heels like Batista and losing some of the menace that once made him a force to be reckoned with. Despite that, Kane still carried on as a high-ranking mid-card wrestler at worst, a powerful entity very few wrestlers could defeat without some sort of cheating tactic. Then the shit hit the fan when Triple H accused Kane of being a murderer and a necrophiliac, leading to an awkward and disgusting storyline involving Triple H in a Kane mask having sex with a mannequin corpse in a funeral home. Eventually, Kane was made to finally unmask on live-television in a second feud with Triple H and Evolution. It was downhill from there. Nowadays, Kane can be seen jobbing to various wrestlers that he would've demolished back in his masked Big Red Machine days (Edge, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Rey Mysterio, Jr., etc.)
    • Kane's been getting better. In an angle where someone has put The Undertaker in a vegetative state and Kane going out for revenge, he's been demolishing main eventers on a weekly basis; beating the hell out of Jack Swagger (heavyweight champ at the time), The Big Show, Rey Mysterio, and CM Punk. Including taking on C.M. Punk's entire stable, the Straight Edge Society, three on one, and dominating them, and sending Punk running from the arena. All of this without Kane being directly involved in the title picture. Then he won the World Heavyweight Championship from Rey Mysterio out of nowhere. Then it was revealed that he was the one who put The Undertaker in a vegetative state out of bitterness at being in his brother's shadow all his career. Then he would respond to The Undertaker's return by Tombstone Piledriving him and getting the best of him at every opportunity. Then he would pin The Undertaker easily at Night of Champions. Then he would do it again in a Hell In A Cell match, setting up Paul Bearer to backstab him in the process!
    • After his remasking in late 2011, he completely got better.
  • The Undertaker lost a lot of his aura when after his feuds with Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Jake Roberts, he feuded with nothing but sloppy big men such as Kamala, Giant Gonzales, Kama the Supreme Fighting Machine, and King Mabel. It took both Diesel and Mankind beating some badass back into 'Taker to finally get that back.
  • Tazz (or Taz). Initially one of the toughest, most brutal wrestlers in ECW, Tazz made his debut in the then-WWF by giving Kurt Angle his first ever official loss. Very soon, however, Tazz's badass decay began when he began feuding with the announcers, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. After that was over, he became a glorified jobber. Though he did make a small comeback later on by winning the tag team titles with Spike Dudley, it was a little too late by then. After losing the tag team titles, Tazz pretty much stopped wrestling and joined the announce team with Michael Cole.
    • Stone Cold Steve Austin mentioned in interviews that his talking down to Tazz wasn't right, but Tazz's decline was otherwise justified in that he did have a jacked-up neck that was getting worse over the years, after all he was part of the original ECW.
  • Chris Jericho has undergone a lot of badass decay over the years. One may not notice nowadays with Jericho being pinned left and right by a number of younger generation superstars like John Cena, Evan Bourne, CM Punk, and Jack Swagger, but there used to be a time when Chris Jericho was one of the most dominant wrestlers in the WWE who could take down any wrestler who stood in his path, only coming up short against the really big superstars such as The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, and maybe Triple H. During the Attitude Era, he was known for his incredible mic skills and memorable feuds against Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, The Rock, Chris Benoit, and Kurt Angle. His badass decay most likely began after Triple H defeated him and took the Undisputed Championship away from him. These days Jericho has been toned down incredibly by both the PG Era and restrictive ringwork by the injury-conscious WWE. Even wrestlers he could defeat with no problem in the past such as Edge or Christian are now pinning him cleanly and making him look like a chump. True he's won the world title a few more times in recent years but it just doesn't feel like it's as big of a deal now as opposed to if he had won them during the height of his career from 1999 to 2001.
  • As a general trend, the WWE's decision to rebrand their TV shows from TV-14 to PG in order to add family appeal has unfortunately resulted in some of this. In order to reach a PG rating, the WWE had to cut back on mature content: scanty clothing, innuendo, weapon use, blood, and especially swearing. Since there are fewer options available for faces and heels to emphasize Badass characteristics during a feud, decay is more likely to happen across the board.
  • In TNA, this trope is very common:
    • Abyss has gone from Kane clone, to a hybrid of Kane and Mankind, to a geek who asks if having Jacqueline on his lap makes him not a virgin anymore, back to indestructible badass, and now he's basically a 6'8" 300+ version of Dave Sullivan.
    • Samoa Joe, twice. The first was after losing to Kurt Angle at Hard Justice 2007 when Karen Angle predictably turned on Joe. The fans saw that turn two miles away, so they cheered for Kurt and Karen and booed Joe. The real damage didn't come until Joe cut a promo on Scott Hall at Turning Point, leading to his rebellion against TNA management. Unfortunately, he came off as whiny, leading the fans to boo him even more. Not to mention, he was losing left and right. Eventually, at Lockdown 2008, he got his badass cred back after beating Angle for the TNA Title.
    • Alas, that didn't last long, did it? After losing the title to Sting (when Nash turned on him), Joe formed the TNA Front Line along with AJ Styles to counter Sting's new group: the Main Event Mafia. During that feud, the Front Line lost nearly EVERY SINGLE MATCH against the Mafia, with the exception of Lethal Lockdown. It was also during this feud where Joe became a member of the "Nation of Violence," which saw him torture Sheik Abdul Bashir for no reason whatsoever and threaten to kill Scott Steiner. Again, the fans looked at Joe as a complete psychopath, and not the badass he once was. Then, he turned on the Front Line and became just another lackey for Kurt Angle.
    • Jay Lethal had a stretch where he pinned TNA Champion Kurt Angle clean, won the X-Division Title, and saved the aforementioned X-Division from Team 3D. The latter, he did ALL BY HIMSELF. During all of this, he was getting the attention of So Cal Val. Immediately after he got the girl, saved the X-Division, and got his title back, Sonjay Dutt wooed Val away from him. That was the beginning. Val remained undecided on who to shack up with, until she turned on Lethal, killing him for good.
    • Just like Abyss and Kane, AJ Styles goes up and down the badass roller coaster frequently. With him playing second fiddle to the retired Ric Flair, AS THE WORLD CHAMPION, NO LESS, it's safe to say he's on the down slope.
    • While it's rare to see this happen to so many people at once, the entire Knockouts Division had this happen to them. While they started out as huge ratings draws, being a bunch of badass Action Girls who could actually wrestle, which was a rarity on the wrestling scene, the corporate changes at TNA focused less on their abilities, and used them as Fan Service more and more often. Several incidents happened, ultimately leading up to many Knockouts leaving the company. Now, there are fewer and fewer actual wrestlers in the Knockouts Division, and they've basically become the poor man's WWE Divas.
    • While Nigel McGuinness was a force to be reckoned with in Ring of Honor, his stint as Desmond Wolfe in TNA - after a very promising start in which he brutalized Kurt Angle - led to one humiliation after the other.
  • Ring of Honor had a rather abominable case of this with BJ Whitmer. He spent 2006 on the cusp of stardom, proving himself as a Badass Determinator who bled for ROH and stood victorious after a barbed wire match with the infamous Necro Butcher. But then, after losing to his longtime archenemy Jimmy Jacobs, Whitmer went on a losing streak that completely nullified the entire year of Badass cred that he had acquired. It didn't help that he came out of the losing streak by aligning with Smug Snake Adam Pearce, who nobody bought as a major threat; thus, Whitmer went from an independent and awesome hero to the thug of a weak and cowardly villain.
    • For that matter, Jimmy Jacobs and his Age of the Fall stable had this kick in very quickly. They debuted by hanging Jay Briscoe upside down and letting his blood rain on the ring, but were quickly reduced to Dirty Cowards in subsequent confrontations with the Brisco Brothers. They constantly ping-ponged between pathetic cowards and evil Determinators, but they completely lost their credibility in many fans' eyes when they began making Contemplate Our Navels Wangst video segments.
    • Of all people, there was a case with Davey Richards. As soon as Rocky Romero joined the No Remorse Corps, Richards became the ass of many jokes between Romero and Roderick Strong.
  • Batista's badass decay ultimately turned him into the poster child for memes in professional wrestling. There's too many to mention here, so you can see the respective pages.
  • Mickie James' badass decay started when she lost her WWE Women's Championship to Lita in late August 2006, who would then lose it to a retiring Trish Stratus. Once Trish retired, Mickie was eventually given Trish's character, thus losing her Loony Fan/Psycho Lesbian/Ascended Fangirl character in the process.
  • Mick Foley lampshaded in his autobiography how his Mankind character went from insane pain-lover to doofy goofball in near-record time. He didn't mind as both interpretations were wildly popular, but he had to admit it ended up a lot different that he envisioned.
  • Almost everyone from The Ministry of Darkness bar The Undertaker and John Bradshaw Layfield. Dennis Knight went from the deranged Mideon to the comedic Naked Mideon and "Bogus Mankind"; Nelson Frazier Jr. went from Mabel, King of the Ring, to Viscera, servant of The Undertaker, to Viscera, "The World's Largest Love Machine;" Ron Simmons went from tough world heavyweight champion (in WCW) to leader of the Nation of Domination to tag-team champion with JBL in the Acolytes, to beer-drinking redneck in APA, to some guy that walks around saying "Damn!"
    • Viscera did come back with the terrifying new image of Big Daddy V. He now let most of his tattoos show and was pretty much unstoppable for a little. Of course you also had his much clearer Jiggle Physics in this persona.
    • The Acolytes/APA were actually pretty over as Stone Cold-like tough guy faces and were usually on the fringes of the top feuds at any given time in 1999 and 2000. Mideon might not really count since he was pretty much a joke from the start.
  • The Hell in a Cell match was once the Gimmick Matches where the most vicious of feuds went to end in a bang. However, around 2006, the Cell was built to be bigger, ensuring nobody was to try the spots on the top of the Cell such as the ones in HBK vs Undertaker, Mankind vs Undertaker, or Cactus Jack vs Triple H. The matches nonetheless remained intense and bloody until the Hell in a Cell PPV was created in 2009. This not only meant that the feuds in a Hell in a Cell match usually now lacked the history of intensity of past matches but that the new PG rating meant that all the viciousness of past matches would be gone, essentially just making the match a standard no-DQ match with a big cage obstructing the audience's view. While Hell in a Cell used to be a truly special match used maybe once or twice a year to cap off a really big feud, it's since become just another gimmick match with no real specialness to it.
  • Sheamus went through this after awhile. After starting off strong, and winning the WWE championship in his first PPV match, he went down the card a little, but was still Badass and even netted another (albeit short), championship reign. Then came the 2010 King of the Ring tournament; despite winning said tourney, after becoming "King Sheamus" he started losing frequently (although to guys like Randy Orton & John Morrison, but still). Fortunately, he dumped the king regalia [2] and has gotten much better. Since turning face in the summer of 2011, though, he's becoming even more bad-ass, going on one hell of a roll from that point on.[3]
  • In a slightly tragic real life example, Ken Shamrock went through this. The first UFC Superfight (now Heavyweight) champion, Shamrock was once known as "The Worlds Most Dangerous Man", and was signed to the then-WWF, where among other things, he was at one point considered as a candidate to win the WWF Championship from the departing Bret Hart, defeated The Rock at Wrestlemania to win the Intercontinental Championship (the decision would be reversed when Shamrock refused to release the Ankle Lock) and even won the prestigious King Of The Ring tournament. However, he would go on to sustain a serious neck injury at the hands of a debuting Chris Jericho, and was never the same. He would try to return to MMA, and while his old self briefly shined through, he just didn't have it any more. To this day he has refused to retire, despite the heavy toll steroids have taken on his body and losing far more matches than he's won (and on one of those occasions where he won, it was overturned afterwards when he tested positive for steroids after the match), and usually ending the fights as a bloody mess, a mere shell of the man he once was.

Tabletop Games

  • This inevitably happens in many card games due to a phenomenon known as "power creep," where R&D overpowers their new cards so much that older sets become laughably weak in comparison. Remember how powerful Base Set Charizard was in the Pokemon TCG? Nowhere near the title holder for HP or damage output now.
  • The entire drow race in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting. First they were sexy, intelligent, heavily matriarchal and Exclusively Evil insane badasses with a small pantheon. Then we got the hero Drizzt (a fugitive from his culture). Due to the Dungeons and Dragons rules discouraging evil players, some players want to be drow because they're cool... but good-aligned and without the severe social stigma, despite drow being nearly always evil and Drizzt being a considerably-developed unique example of a good-aligned drow. Then we got the good aligned deity Eilistraee, and her entire clutch of (mostly) female drow worshippers who, naturally, danced naked at night. (Their chief priestess, Qilue, has a magic dress of invisibility. No, it doesn't make Qilue herself invisible...)
    • Drizzt himself in the 2nd edition had rules written solely to make him more dangerous, such as, despite being in a Hit Point/Critical Existence Failure based combat system, having a flat chance of killing anyone in a single shot. It was a low chance, but he had a better chance of killing someone with a normal attack than he did of scoring a critical hit. In 3rd edition, he is a less than optimal build with very few special rules. This may or may not be a good thing.
  • Another Forgotten Realms example: the Red Wizards of Thay. They used to be an extremely powerful and influential organization of (mostly) amoral/evil wizards. Now they are band of loosely connected merchant arcanists who make a, admittedly profitable, living trading magical items. This is a justified case: their own leader launched a coup in their homeland of Thay that his lieutenants the zulkirs did not want. When they rebelled against him he unleashed the Spellplague against his own followers. The last of the zulkirs then sacrificed themselves to prevent their treacherous leader's ascension to godhood. Without their leaders, and beset on all sides by their many enemies, the Red Wizards were forced to disband their once powerful organization and focus solely on their front business of magical item trading to survive.
  • The Necrons of Warhammer 40,000 and their C'Tan gods began as a supremely enigmatic group of Eldritch Abominations with ultimately unknown designs for the galaxy in general and mankind in particular. They had few unit selections and no real characters because the vast majority of their forces simply had not awakened yet, or at least had left no survivors to report their existence, and ended up with a reputation for being Creator's Pets due to their implication of being ultimately unstoppable, despite two other major factions being just as doomsday-ish. Then, starting with the Fifth Edition, they started getting development and have been subjected to a nonstop Worf effect by everyone with no end in sight.
    • This example is based primarily off the author's POV. Since the C'tan are omnipotent star gods and the necron race managed not only to engage and imprison them, it would stand to reason that the race in general has in face averted the worf effect, whilst simultaneously worfing the star gods themselves.
    • Any army with a Codex or Army Book designed in a previous edition will end up undergoing this as time marches on and they become less and less effective, to the point of being totally unusable, on the tabletop.
  • From Vampire: The Masquerade, we get the Sabbat. Initially portrayed as something like The Lost Boys, they get watered down slightly in that, indeed, they do have their own rules after all. An odd case, though, goes to the Tzimisce, the resident Body Horror masters. A poorly-received book posited that their powers were really an Eldritch Abomination plague, and this actually made them less awesome somehow. Later books ignored this in general.
  • This trope is inherent to virtually any campaign that actually gives stats to its gods. Some settings avert this by having enemies above a certain power level being unstatted, but killable if the players come up with a plausible means to do so. Others do their level best to spend five hundred to a thousand words saying "You lose" in attribute and skill form. Justifiable in some settings more than others -- Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk have gods dying to mortals be rare, but not unheard of events, but there's no excuse for statting up Cthulhu in D&D.

Video Games

  • Silver Surfer gets hit with this in one of the most ludicrous examples ever done, in his infamous NES game—he goes from being a borderline invincible, ultra powerful cosmic being, to a character who dies in one hit from touching anything, including rubber ducks.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Naesala takes advantage of the Begnion senators' greed by looting their ships and selling the swag to the others. He also sells his best friend for a nice sum. Whether or not he's being truthful when he says he planned to rescue him is up to you. In the sequel Radiant Dawn, it turns out Naesala is just the poor victim of the blood pact. It is never explained how he was able to swindle the senators while being forced to obey their will. Notably, he gets ordered around by a thirteen-year-old girl.
  • Bowser goes back and forth between this and taking a level in badass. He varies between a genuine threat to the Mushroom Kingdom and a Big Bad Wannabe that pines for Peach's love or a harmless villain that go-karts with Mario. Generally, the main platformer series portray him as the former, while the spinoffs portray him as the latter.
  • Axel and Riku from the Kingdom Hearts series. Many suspect that the popularity of these characters and their expanded roles as a result are chiefly to blame for this.
    • In the first game his ambition, Riku's independence and pro-activity firmly cast him as an awesome Anti-Hero/Villain dedicated to saving Kairi no matter what the cost. That doesn't really work out. Thanks also in due part by the Reverse/Rebirth mode of Chain of Memories, in which he is pressured by an enigmatic and morally ambiguous Stealth Mentor into accepting the darkness in his heart which makes him more powerful but much less determined and proactive as a result, his independent spirit is all but absent in the sequel, where for the vast majority of the game he is content to play the role of the Black Cloak-wearing Mysterious Protector and wait for Sora to do the real hero work. He fully regains his badassness along with his rightful body at the end of the game...too bad it took him this long, though.
    • Axel was a cocky Manipulative Bastard, Magnificent Bastard in Chain of Memories and in Kingdom Hearts II, became a wimp who got his ass handed to him easily, failed to really think things through despite previously showcased to be capable of extensive planning, and had an unhealthy obsession with a fifteen-year-old boy. Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days thankfully helps justify a lot of this behavior and showcases genuine Character Development for Axel, but prior to this game, fans were wondering what the heck happened to him, and even afterwards, the decay is still disappointing.
  • Kain from Final Fantasy IV. Originally he was a dark, brooding Dragoon who was content to be The Lancer to Cecil and quietly fought his temptation Murder the Hypotenuse and steal Cecil's lover Rosa for himself. Then in the game's sequel The After Years, Kain upgrades to a Prestige Class, and goes from wearing dark blue and purple armor to shining light blue and white armor. This also shows his face and hair revealing him to be a Long-Haired Pretty Boy, when previously his face and hair were unseen and mysterious. Fortunately for his legacy though Kain hasn't fallen all that far and is still quite popular and very badass.
    • Kain was already a Long-Haired Pretty Boy in the original release of IV/II. In the epilogue, he proclaims that he cannot attend Cecil and Rosa's wedding because of the guilt he feels for his unintentional treacheries throughout the game; all the while with his helmet off and golden locks flowing in the 16 bit wind of Mount Ordeals. His face, though, is obscured, as he is looking into the distance off the mountainside.
  • Mannimarco from The Elder Scrolls is a particularly tragic example. When you first meet him in Daggerfall, he's a fierce and powerful lich lord of no small ability who commands armies of necromancers and is a strong political power, not to mention becomes godlike in the end and is still badass despite being an Expy of Kyuss from World of Greyhawk. Fast forward two games, and we arrive at Oblivion, where Mannimarco returns as...a skinny, wrinkly old man who sits around in a cave in the middle of nowhere and doesn't look menacing at all. He may still be a worthy opponent, but anyone who goes from this to this [dead link] isn't going to be taken seriously any more.
    • The Elder Scrolls wiki attempts to justify this by making mention of a Timey-Wimey Ball that happened in Daggerfall...apparently it split Mannimarco into two beings: the King of Worms from Oblivion and the God of Worms from the previous game.
  • In the original Backyard Sports games, Pete Wheeler could master everything with his blazing speed. He eventually degraded into being the same as the other characters, thanks to the pros. He also Took a Level In Dumbass.
  • The Resident Evil series sort of accidentally did this in reverse to Rebecca Chambers, by giving her a badass upgrade in the prequel, where she's a player character and therefore pretty competent. Some time between then and running into Chris in the original game, she apparently snapped from the sheer horror around her and lost all her zombie-killing skills. Not that you can really blame her, though.
  • There is a particularly ridiculous and instantaneous example of this in The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass. In The Wind Waker, Tetra is a Badass pirate who can certainly take care of herself and is secretly Princess Zelda, who fights alongside Link in the final battle against Ganon. In the sequel, she is put out of commission at the very start of the game, and at the end when she's freed, does nothing to contribute to the final battle.
  • Justified in the Crash Bandicoot series: Crunch Bandicoot made his debut as a gruff and cocky villain working under Doctor Cortex. After being knocked out of Doctor Cortex's control and joining the Bandicoot family, Crunch became The Atoner and softened his ways considerably in an attempt to be a positive role model to children.
  • Cobra from Silent Scope fell hard in just two games. In the first, you had to kill him while chasing him in a moving vehicle, with his hostage just inches away...whereupon he hijacks a trailer and comes after you again. (The only way to avoid this was to take him down in the stadium, which itself is at least the second hardest boss fight in the game.) In the second game, while he's still a tough nut, you only need to kill him once, and he's an absolute coward who hides behind a hostage the entire battle ( the fact that he's fighting two guys at once). In the third game, he's nothing but an afterthought you obliterate in the first mission.
  • A common criticism of StarCraft II is that this happens to the Queen of Blades herself at the ending. Dropping from one of the most powerful characters and queen bitch of the universe to a Damsel in Distress in one scene? The fans did not enjoy this at all. Fortunately it looks like this will be reversed come the next part of the game.
  • Poor Mr. Cash. Not only a total Badass Normal, but the triumphant hero of Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. Then the Arkham Asylum video game came along and turned Aaron into little more than a foul mouthed Damsel in Distress...
  • Played for Laughs in Viewtiful Joe with Alastor. In both games starts out relatively badass, dying in some tragic way by the end of his appearance...and then after that he'll start whining and complaining about his part being over already and begging to be given more screentime.
  • A Guild Wars 2 official short story available on this website digs into Rytlock Brimstone's past and successfully turns him from the big stoic Badass and paragon of Charr virtue he was known for (albeit a temperamental and at times obnoxious one) to a weakling with negligible self-esteem and former victim of repeated bullying who got his hands on Sohothin in a big stroke of luck and used it as a crutch to feel stronger than he really was and stroke his own ego.

Web Comics

  • Kevin and Kell's uber-wolf R.L. [1] [dead link]. R.L. begins the strip as the most fearsome predator at Heard Thinners, Inc. He does not lose his hunting skills, but after his medical domestication and marriage to Kevin's ex-wife Angelique, R.L now allows his rabbit wife to keep him collared and leashed. He fears smelly retribution if he fails to be a good father to his twenty skunk step-children.

Western Animation

  • Stewie from Family Guy started the series as an aggressive, psychotic, evil genius plotting to take over the world and kill his mother, but by the fourth season, he became much more effeminate, petty, occasionally overly naive, and immature, seemingly abandoning his evil ways. Now his evil-ness is only occasionally mentioned, for a quick joke. Though this is unlike most examples, as this was probably because they didn't think it would be funny for much longer (of course, many fans think that reducing him to a walking gay joke is even less funny.) The two-parter "Stewie Kills Lois"/"Lois Kills Stewie" addresses this Failure Is the Only Option issue. The ending reveals most of it was a virtual reality simulation he was viewing to see what things would be like if he did decide to commit himself to his ambitions right now. It turns out that though he could pull off world domination, in the end he'd be killed. (There's some funny Lampshade Hanging with Brian's comments on this story thus being a big tease.)
  • Gorgonzola from Chowder. At the beginning, he was more sarcastic and intimidating (to Chowder at least). Now he's a bit of a punching bag for the other characters, frequently getting his ass handed to him. People have said this happened when his master, Stilton, was introduced. To be fair, he wasn't seen in many episodes before that point.
  • Mandy from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy doesn't become less Badass per se, but she does become less villainous, shifting from a not-so-secretly evil Enfant Terrible to a manipulative but ambivalent Only Sane Man Snark Knight who doesn't really care about anything, fights evil merely because she has nothing else to do, and isn't really vindictive unless someone disrespects her first. Of course, like Stewie, she still has her evil moments every once in a while, but it's no longer her defining character trait.
    • Hoss Delgado and Grim also fit this trope. Grim's first appearance in the first episode shows him as a terrifying spirit that collects people when it's their time to die. Starting in his very next appearance, he obeys the every command of Billy and Mandy, and things only get worse from then on. Hoss is more or less a competent badass in his first appearance, but in the TV spin-off Underfist, he lives with his mom in a trailer, is forced to work with several monsters just because Mandy says so, and he also gets beaten up possibly more than any other character in the story. He even admits that he has been wetting his bed for the last thirty years and a marshmallow bunny is the reason he hates monsters so much. A far cry from what he once was.
  • Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, a classic two-dimensional villain with no previous redeeming qualities whatsoever, abruptly turns good for no apparent reason other than "the Spirit of Christmas" in the He-Man and She-Ra Holiday Special. This had no bearing on later evil; it was just something the eighties did, apparently.
  • In Ben 10, the titular hero's nemesis and Evil Counterpart is Kevin 11, suffers this through a toned down version of Redemption Demotion; in the original serie, he was an 11 years old Axe Crazy Creepy Child with some degree of Genre savvyness who could actually stand against Ben of his own. The sequel Ben 10: Alien Force, taking place after a 5 years Time Skip, has him going through a Heel Face Turn and becoming a Anti-Hero. While he remains useful, he was now unable to fully use his abilities which was later explained by the fact it was his powers who caused him to go psychotic when he abused of them, resulting in him becoming ridiculously weak compared to before (just before his Heel Face Turn, he fight Ben and is easily defeated). To sum up, he went from Ben's second most dangerous arc-foe to the weakest of the protagonists.
  • Valtor (or Baltor, depending on the version you get), from season 3 of Winx Club, was a magnitude better Big Bad than his ridiculous predecessor Lord Darkar. Suave, fascinating, cool, powerful, and when he didn't use Mind Control for his deeds, he fought the heroines in first person (also since the Trix were quite ineffective). He blinded Layla, transformed Faragonda into a tree, made Tecna disappear in a black hole - even if all these events were resolved after a few episodes, they showed he was serious menace. At some point, the authors must have realized he was too powerful, and the fairies had to defeat him sooner or later; so, in the last episodes he became an increasingly stupid cardboard villain and, finally, his handsome appearance was revealed to be the disguise of his true form, a big ugly demon. One of the many wasted opportunities of season 3.
  • Skulker in Danny Phantom (Ghost Zone's Greatest Hunter) is able to take down nearly any ghostly beast—big or small—without any fear. He hunts for sports and Danny Phantom is his only real challenge; otherwise, he's competent. Then by the last season, in one episode, it's spurred away: his motivation to hunt Danny is just to impress his one-time girlfriend (who points out how horrible he does said job despite no evidence of such), and despite handling a giant ghost monster in the same episode, is unable to fight back against a regular teeny bird! A later episode had him running away from mutant unicorns instead of combating. Other episodes seem to depict him back to his badass self, but they're often minor.
  • Prince Erik from The Little Mermaid goes from so badass that he does all of the action scenes in the first movie, to not even bothering to lift a sword in the direct-to-video sequel to rescue his infant child. Inversely, Ariel goes from being mostly a Damsel in Distress to taking Erik's sword off his belt while he's wearing it and rescuing said infant daughter while Erik stands back dumb-founded. Apparently it's impossible for both of them to be competent at the same time.
  • Captain Gantu from Liloand Stitch suffers from this. In the original movie, Gantu was a respected captain in the Galactic Federation. He stood 20 feet tall and was trained well in alien martial arts (and to a lesser extent, hula-dancing). Although he ultimately failed his mission to bring Stitch back to the Federation, he came particularly close, and generally left us with the impression that he was an overall competent, and badass character. Fastforward to later sequels and the cartoon series, where he becomes a one-man Team Rocket. Gantu has since been fired, works under the employ of an anthropomorphic hamster, and is foiled on repeated occasions by the titular duo. On one occasion, he failed to succeed in an episode's mission when Stitch was incapacitated. He was foiled by a 6-year old child.
    • Stitch! took him down even further than the series did. He was indeed rather comedic and most often failed, but he was at least dedicated to his duty of capturing experiments, and he would rather spend time attacking the enemies than eating sandwiches. In Stitch!, his first 'formula episode' appearance has him arguing with Reuben over flavours of sandwich, he cries uncontrollably after a sad moment in a television show (and is upset when Hamsterviel switches it off so that he can try to get Gantu to do something), and can hardly ever be said to attack. He doesn't even use his blaster even with it in the holster. But here's the doom sign; when Hamsterviel is the one who's reprimanding Reuben all the time, you know you've fallen pretty dang hard.
  • Brother Blood of Teen Titans is introduced as the suave, charismatic headmaster of the HIVE (a supervillain training center) using a combination of Mind Control and force of personality to make his "students" fanatically loyal and takes his defeat in stride. In his next appearance, he's making sloppy mistakes, cornball puns, and goes into petulant rages at the top of a hat- and now it seems he's also so cruel that no one would willingly work for him without Mind Control. Oddly, he also got to show off new powers and his amazing martial arts skills, so his fighting ability went up even as his competence and cool factor went down.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, a TV character who Homer shares his name with is downgraded from badass to blithering idiot, much to his dismay.
  • Number 4 of Codename: Kids Next Door he started out as a competent badass who enjoyed a good fight every now and then and had some brilliant tactics to his plans, in later episodes he became very whiny, a lot less intelligent, and lost nearly every fight he was involved in.
  • Rampage of Beast Wars, who starts out as a psychotic Mighty Glacier who Megatron barely keeps under control, due to being (among other things) unkillable. He is progressively nerfed after this, becoming one of the Predacon troops (if still psychotic) and gets knocked around by Depth Charge. He even loses his invincibility in the last episode for no apparent reason.
    • That could have something to do with the Energon blades/spikes they were using still being in their raw, unstable state.
  • In The Venture Brothers, Brock Samson's love interest accuses him of going through this when he displays uncharacteristic interest in taking care of the kids rather than just guarding them. He is, however, still plenty badass.
  • Duncan of the Total Drama Island series started out as a bad boy Jerkass from juvie who was able to intimidate most of the other campers. Come the next two seasons, possibly due to a Relationship Upgrade with Courtney, he starts to lose the intimidating aspect of him and occasionally gets his ass handed to him by some of the other campers.
    • Two of which happen to Harold and Cody, the two nerdiest characters in the show. Although Duncan does get some of his badassery back late Season 3, when he teams up with Alejandro and starts acting like a Manipulative Bastard...but he fails at even that in the end.
  • In Star Wars: Clone Wars, General Grievous went from a Badass Jedi-killer that even Mace freakin' Windu, the 'second-baddest person in the universe', could only wound, to a typical General that gets fought off by a certain Padawan in Star Wars the Clone Wars CGI TV show.
    • As of Season 2, he's gotten better.
    • And as of Season 4, he got worse.
  • Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants went from a menacing threat that always came close to get the Krabby Patty formula (and actually succeeds in The Movie) to an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in the later seasons.
  • Within the duration between the first and second season premieres of The Dreamstone, Rufus devolved from a Cloudcuckoolander Badass Adorable with a sword to a generic Useless Meddling Kid. Amberley ended up pretty much the same. In addition they became cheery and innocent enough to make your teeth rot.
  • Megan from My Little Pony in the first special was a rough cowgirl, with a bulky frame (for a 12 year old girl, that's it) and wasn't afraid of fighting barehanded against monsters or diving downstream to rescue a friend, without mentioning how at the end of the first TV special, she kills Complete Monster Tirac. Her second TV special turned her into a feminine Bishoujo girl and her Movie/TV series final redesign turned her into a boney girl who kept being overpowered by dumb enemies or falling for the dumbest traps and was nowhere as rough or competent as the original Megan.
  • Starscream of Transformers Prime, so very, very much. In the pilot, he was a genuinely frightening, comparatively cool-headed Magnificent Bastardly second in command unrivaled by any other Starscream to date as Cliffjumper found out. Later episodes have seen him as a sniveling coward whose fighting style is roughly 90% cheap shots and beating up badly weakened opponents, when he's not getting his ass kicked. Also, he's consistently upstaged and humiliated by Airachnid, not to mention pretty much ruined in "Rock Bottom". Though to be fair he does pretty well in the second half of "Partners," the episode detailing his desertion. He plays Arcee so she doesn't consider him a threat before beating the scrap out of her. Too bad for him she got a Heroic Second Wind...
  • In The Legend of Korra the seventy-year gap between its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra's present-day has seen The Order of the White Lotus change from a tight-knit elite group of Retired Badass Grandpa's to a much more diluted Hero Secret Service charged with protecting Avatar Korra, who spends much of her time chafing under their limits and conspiring ways to Ditch the Bodyguards, often sucessfully.

Real Life

  • Harley-Davidson: Once upon a time the ultimate symbol of All-American rebellion. Nowadays, it's known just as much for its clothing line and restaurant franchises than its motorcycles, of which you're more likely to find a midlife crisis-having executive perched atop than an actual Badass Biker (many of whom will actually go out of their way to avoid Harley products).
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger went from being an awesome action hero to a typically divisive politician, and became slightly out-of-shape in the process.
  • Alan Cunningham conquered Ethiopia from the Italians winning one of the first Allied victories in World War II. Guess who his next opponent was. Guess what happened?
  • Conservative commentator Ann Coulter has been accused of this by fellow conservatives when she endorsed moderate Republican Mitt Romney for the 2012 US Presidential election.


Comic Books

  • Alan Moore's Batman story The Killing Joke could be seen as a cruel parody of this. We are privy to a tragic backstory for The Joker revealed in flashbacks as he tries to drive Commissioner Gordon mad by brutally shooting Barbara and then tormenting him with photos of her suffering. Near the end of the story, however, the Joker says that he doesn't clearly or consistently remember the events that made him what he is, naming the trope Multiple Choice Past in the process. (This story was an inspiration to certain filmmakers.)
    • The same can be said of Going Sane in which the Joker, thinking he killed Batman, regains his sanity, becomes an upstanding citizen, and becomes engaged to a woman, only to return to his old self when Batman is revealed to be alive. Amazingly this story made him even more terrifying. If the Joker's insanity isn't an unchangeable absolute in the DC Universe, nothing is certain. The Joker puts the 'chaotic' in Chaotic Evil. He'd never be as consistent as to be evil all the time.
  • The Daredevil story "Fall of the Kingpin" is an interesting study of this. The story starts out with Daredevil reminding Kingpin of his lost wife, who he genuinely loved but who left him because she didn't approve of his criminal lifestyle. Daredevil then takes down his top enforcer Typhoid Mary and things get worse from there. Fisk ends up running afoul of HYDRA, who blow up all of his business holdings in New York City and drain his financial accounts. Meanwhile, Daredevil has used SHIELD's database to acquire countless evidence of Kingpin's crimes, and turns them over to a federal prosecutor. Normally Kingpin's a man who'd be able to call in favors, but with the loss of his holdings and his current indictment, nobody wants to risk working with him. To top it all of, Daredevil tricks him into having a Freak-Out in public, destroying any doubt of his true character and making it clear that nothing is going to save him from his problems. Kingpin has his bailed paid by an old lackey of his, and at first he's grateful. Then he finds out that the only reason he got him out of jail was so the Kingpin could be HIS lickspittle for awhile, and tells him to go pick up his laundry. A pretty sad end for a man who once owned New York City and tore Daredevil's life apart, huh? Except...that last insult was one too many. Kingpin smashes his crane into the guy's skull so hard the head breaks off. He then impales him with the broken end and lifts him into the air. As his blood runs down the Kingpin's arms, he thanks him, saying that he reminded him of a part of him that he had thought lost forever, remarking that he now feels ...Born again. He walks off with the intent to reclaim everything he had, and even Daredevil feels guilty at how far he went to take him down.

Live-Action TV

  • On Deadwood the Magnificent Bastard Al Swearengen starts off the series by stepping on a woman's throat and ordering the deaths of an entire family of travelers. Throughout the show, however, he reveals a vulnerable side, all manner of inner demons, and develops into something of an anti-hero as he works to build the community, fight the destructive influence of George Hearst, and occasionally Pet the Dog. However, every once in a while a scene pops up to remind the audience what a brutal bastard he is. In one particular scene that seems specifically created to combat the trope, he takes his time torturing a mook while admitting that he has and would kill women and children without hesitation.
  • Shark does everything they can to avoid having this happen to their badass protagonist, like the time he framed a Serial Killer. On the other hand, he gets to Pet the Dog by having meaningful conversations with his teenage daughter. Then again, the first episode showed that he believed in his methods, just that he realized the wrong people were benefiting from them.
  • Inverted with Lilah Morgan on Angel. She started off as a fairly spineless villain, constantly showing fear regarding her superiors as opposed to her counterpart Lindsey McDonald who was calm and casual even when there was a good chance his bosses were going to kill him. When he was put on a bus, Lilah stepped up and became a scheming and manipulative bitch who rarely took insults lying down. At the end of her run on the series she was still scheming and manipulating, despite being dead. The audience sees her more human side through her growing relationship with Wesley and even earns some sympathy when she is brutally and shockingly murdered, while remaining whole-heartedly evil.
  • Subverted in one episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit where the Villain of the Week was played by Robin Williams - not angsty, dramatic Robin Williams, but goofy Robin Williams, complete with funny voices, which he used to pretend to be "Det. Milgram" and talk a woman's male boss into violating her, then got the jury to laugh him back onto the street. At the climax he tries a version of the Milgram experiment with Elliot and Olivia, and when Elliot won't press the button, breaks down crying at how unfair his life is and how "sheep" killed his wife...then he "reveals" it was a Secret Test of Character and goes back to his goofy self. This was played straight many, many times in the Law and Order franchise, however.
  • Subverted awesomely in Primeval. The Gorgonopsid is an incredibly powerful Permian carnivore, serving as the main threat in the first episode and only going down after being hit by a SUV and shot repeatedly with an automatic rifle. In episode 6, the new human-hunting, intelligent baddie, the Future Predator, ends up following our heroes through a Time Portal and into the Permian. A Gorgonopsid appears, and we all wait for the old, "outmoded" creature to be killed by the new monster...except that doesn't happen. Instead, the Gorgonopsid proceeds to teach this future-spawned upstart just what throwing down, Old School really means. Gorgonopsids didn't become extinct because of the evolution of other better predators, but because of the Permian extinction event which also killed almost everything else.
  • Lost is extremely good at averting this, with badass characters remaining as such after we learn about their Freudian Excuse backstory. Especially Benjamin Linus, whose tragic childhood was sort of balanced out by him committing mass murder because of it.
    • It plays with the concept with Locke. When we first see him, he's got an awesome ObiWan sage thing going on, throwing knives at boars and such. In episode three, we discover he was a rather pathetic and needy guy before the crash, and that he was in a wheelchair before the crash. Episodes starring him only went further as the audience discovers exactly how pathetic and needy he is and why he's that pathetic, as his apparent destiny as someone 'special' is Fore Shadowed more and more. In season six, we discover that in the end, Locke was a pathetic failure who was used by everyone for their own ends, up to and including the Big Bad of the whole show. Huh.
    • However, we do discover that Locke was absolutely right about things happening for a reason, and everyone having a special purpose.
  • Damon Salvatore of The Vampire Diaries spends all of Season 1 slowly becoming more human and less evil vampire. By Season 2 he is unquestionably an anti-hero but he has become even more of a badass than before, if that is even possible, such as when he tortured and then killed Mason Lockwood.
    • Katherine was introduced as the Big Bad of season 2, and suffered some decay when Klaus supplanted her in that role. But come season 3, she quite unexpectedly gets back to her Magnificent Bastard self via Heel Face Turn.


  • In contrast to Kitsune, Japanese fox spirits, the Korean Kumiho went from benign and even beneficial to vicious to finally Exclusively Evil (always).

Professional Wrestling

  • Shawn Michaels, aside from a title win in his second back match in 2002, lost the vast majority of his PPV matches for the rest of his career, particularly at Wrestlemania (his trademark show), where he went 3-5 in his final eight years (and 2 of his 3 wins came against opponents on the other side of 60). But, he's Shawn Michaels, so his mic skills and ring-work were still so good that nobody cared. It also helped that he had a habit of getting his wins back sooner or later on regular TV, and dominated the tag-team division as part of DX. He generally did get a big win or two every year (against guys as big as John Cena, even!), but compared to his complete dominance in the late 90s (he lost about three times total between 1996 and 1998, if that)...
  • Mick Foley became known as the violent daredevil Cactus Jack and the insane Mankind. After an injury, he took time off from wrestling matches and became known as commissioner under his real name. He then wrote his autobiography by himself (followed by several other books), as well as raising a young family and is now known as the nicest guy in wrestling.
  • Randy Orton remains, if not excelled in viciousness despite the PG Era since he was simply about being brutal, The Miz got serious as a credible champion instead of another David Arquette/Pacman Jones, and obviously there's The Undertaker, who after twenty years of competing, is still regarded as one of the top men on the WWE roster.
    • Randy Orton was, at one point, the spitting image of this trope. Shortly after his departure from Evolution, Orton was placed in a romantic plot in which he played a significantly softer, babyface character. Fortunately, he got better.

Video Games

  • Agrael in Heroes of Might and Magic 5, starts off as a badass demon lord with a red armor and Spikes of Villainy, although he's clearly a Noble demon from the start, but it didn't stop him from being one of the most badass characters, and the Only Sane Man. He retained this trait even after he reformed and dumped his old armor, revealing him to be quite the Bishonen. He's still the one with the most badass comebacks and Pre Ass Kicking One Liners.

Web Comics

"Writing a story centered around your main antagonist is sort of difficult, because you risk "devillainifying" them. Yes, I just made that word up. What I mean though, is that once an audience has read all about a character's life, with all of their personal struggles and trials and tribulations and such, it's more difficult to see the character as the Big Bad. My challenge here was to tell the story of Xykon's life without making Xykon even slightly sympathetic. I mean, he's wholly and unapologetically Evil, but more to the point, he's kind of a dick."

    • Rich has a similar discussion about Belkar in the foreword for On the Origin of PCs, and states this is one of the reasons why Belkar's backstory pretty much picks up a few hours before the party forms. Although in this case it's more about that giving Belkar a sad backstory would make him rather a sad figure than being a comical one.
    • Belkar has completely turned this trope on its head by learning that he can garner sympathy and influence by pretending to have a case of Badass Decay, after a vivid delusional debate with the only character in the series he's ever given much respect. Pretending to turn over a new (Bitter)leaf, Belkar has risked his life to save Haley Starshine—even though she abandoned him when he was in a similar situation—but only so that he could mock her about it afterward. He also selflessly refused to kill Haley's treacherous former friend, and convinced his companion to do it instead.
    • Occurred in-story with Vaarsuvius, who finally got the long-desired ultimate arcane power... the cost of alienating V's spouse, frightening V's children, getting partially damned, AND being utterly ineffectual. Nothing V did after Taking a Level In Badass changed a thing, other than indirectly freeing O-Chul and giving V's familiar a look at the world of the Snarl... ...and giving V some overdue humility, proving again that Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Parodied with Aram in Men in Hats. (Aram's more of a Jerkass than a Badass, though.)
  • Reynardine from Gunnerkrigg Court was introduced by betraying and nearly killing the protagonist, Antimony. By his very next appearance, he was trapped in a toy, under the thumb of the girl he tried to kill, and unable to do anything more evil than being annoying. At which point, Rey's cuteness and snarkiness made him more popular with the fans than before. And as Rey began (arguably) drifting towards the light side, he's begun showing himself more badass than before, in the service of protecting Annie. And now fans are questioning whether or not Rey was really trying to possess Annie in the first place.

Web Original

  • Paul Smith of Survival of the Fittest fell victim of this towards the end of his run, pretty much laying down and dying and exhibiting little of his former spirit and in general, what made him entertaining. Jarringly, for the rest of his death, he was very in character. However, this is, at least in part, Justified Trope - another handler took over Paul for his death.
  1. the comics and video game explain this quite well, and have Megatron turn against his master at the end.
  2. at a house show where he was scheduled to face Yoshi Tatsu, he attacked him from behind, dropped him with a High Cross, and said "King Sheamus is dead. Long live the Celtic Warrior!" Or So I Heard
  3. He's looked strong, keeps winning cleanly on a regular basis, and has even won the 2012 Royal Rumble.