Control Freak

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"A bully, thought Susan. A very small, very weak, very dull bully, who doesn't manage any real bullying, because there's hardly anyone smaller or weaker than him, so he just settles for making everyone's life that little bit more difficult..."

Someone who is obsessed with doing everything rigid, proper, and by the book — even (or especially) if it interferes with doing it right.

On TV, a Control Freak is usually not the big boss; they act the way they do because they're stuck in a professional rut and they want out. Most end up as big fish in small ponds, abusing what little authority they have and hopelessly trying to impress the boss by forcing underlings to fill out all forms in triplicate with identical number-two pencils.

Every Control Freak specializes in endless stories about their past achievements, usually involving the military and usually bogus. (See The Neidermeyer.)

With a bit more power, they're the Obstructive Bureaucrat. Ten steps beyond that is The Chessmaster. Often closely related to Pride.

Not to be confused with the Teen Titans villain named Control Freak.

Examples of Control Freak include:

Anime and Manga

  • Chiri of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, who, like everyone else in the show, is an extreme exaggeration. Even her Cross-Popping Veins appear neatly and symmetrically.
  • In Mirai Nikki Yuno had control-freak parents who measured everything she did from how many hours she got to sleep to how many calories she had a day. They also kept her in a cage and starved her in an effort to raise her to be a model person.
  • In Sherry Belmont's backstory from Zatch Bell, her mother is shown to be one of these, dictating pretty much how she lived her life, putting her through Training from Hell, and coming inches from sending her over the Despair Event Horizon.
    • Not to mention Sherry herself is pretty particular over her friend Koko's state of mind and lifestyle. She eagerly expects Koko to go to a college, and it was stated by Koko that Sherry had persuaded her several times to self-enforce that route so the two can 'find happiness together'. (Despite the fact that she's rich, has connections, and can help her out regardless?) It eventually gets to the point where she forces her sworn enemy to manipulate Koko's personality and memory in ways that Sherry would feel more comfortable with, well later lying to her face about it. Did she learn a little too much from her mother?

Comic Books

  • Leetah in Elf Quest considers herself one of these: she wants to have complete control over her healing powers, going so far as to stab herself in the stomach to force her powers to surge. Granted, she was reacting to severe emotional trauma at the time, but she's admitted that the attitude extends to her daily life and her family. Often, her first reaction to panic is to take charge, heal everything in sight, fix what can be immediately fixed (even if it's a terrible idea to do so) and have a proper emotional breakdown later.
  • Sally Acorn had shades of this in the earlier more comical issues of Sonic the Hedgehog (and it's animated counterpart), usually butting heads with the reckless and free spirited Sonic as a result. This was diluted as the stories matured, the rare occasion she delves back in this trope are more Played for Drama.

Fan Works

  • Notably, while Paul is a Real Life Control Freak, he doesn't exhibit much of that in With Strings Attached, probably because he's not got a lot of control over his own body, let alone the circumstances the four have been thrust into.


  • All the characters in Brazil who are not heroes, love interests, or ninja plumbers are this.
  • First Officer Lieutenant Martin Pascal in Down Periscope.
  • Abby from The Ugly Truth.
  • "Ace" Rothstein in Casino. Such a perfectionist that he insists on an equal number of blueberries in every muffin.


  • In Stephen King's The Shining Ullman the hotel manager is like this. Jack Torrance thinks he is an "officious little prick" and this opinion is shared by more than one member of the Overlook's staff.
    • Even though most of the staff consider Ullman an officious little prick, they admit that he's good at his job. Watson, the maintenance man, who hates Ullman, admits that Ullman is good at at what he does and definitely earns his salary. Ullman is the first manager of the Overlook who's ever turned a profit for the place.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, there is only one correct way to do things, and that is Lady Catherine de Burgh's way... at least, in her head it is, and she's very fond of loudly and at length explaining to people what they should be doing. And as she's one of the landed gentry, people are very reluctant to disagree with her. This leads to a certain amount of tension when she eventually meets Elizabeth Bennet, who is not the sort of person to let other people push her around and bully her. Especially when one of the things that Lady Catherine believes is the "wrong" way of doing things is Elizabeth getting married to Mr. Darcy.
  • Charlie, a middle-manager in the tooth-fairy operation in the Discworld novel Hogfather, and the subject of the above quote. Takes severe pride in his work (making sure the cart-driver signs his paperwork), is quick to make it clear that any problems are someone else's fault, would be on a tropical island if the organisation didn't need him; and has never wondered what happens to the teeth, because that's not his job.
  • Brother Jerome in the Brother Cadfael novels and television series.
  • Dolores. Fucking. Umbridge.
  • In the Descent novelization, this is St. John's largest character flaw. To his credit, he does recognize this after the first book and begins taking steps to tone it down.

Live-Action TV

  • Gareth Keenan, The Office (and his counterpart on the American version of same, Dwight Schrute).
    • So is Angela Martin as the head of the party planning committee.
  • Captain Peacock, Are You Being Served
  • Arnold Rimmer Red Dwarf (example: he insists on meticulously inventorying the ship's massive food stocks, even though there's only two living creatures left on board and he isn't actually one of them).
  • Monica Geller, Friends.
  • Dexter
  • Barney Fife, The Andy Griffith Show
  • Kate Gosselin, Jon and Kate Plus Eight.
  • Kathleen Mead, Degrassi Junior High
  • Liberty Van Zandt, Degrassi the Next Generation
    • Also, Emma Nelson. To the point where she developed anorexia.
    • Holly J for the later seasons.
  • Major Frank Burns, M*A*S*H
  • Mr. G, Summer Heights High.
  • Carlton Lassiter from Psych.
    • And also Henry Spencer, who once informed his son Shawn that Shawn wanted to be a cop. Shawn did not agree.
  • Taylor Doose, perennial Town Selectman (among other things), on Gilmore Girls.
  • Chloe in Smallville.
    • Which is nothing compared to Lex.
  • Lois on Malcolm in the Middle has been called this, but doesn't fit it to a T.
  • Georg Bjarnfredarson in Naeturvaktin is a textbook example.
  • Cindy from Season 19 of The Amazing Race admitted to being one of these, and pretty much confirmed it by controlling her fiance throughout the season. Before the race she made him prepare with her for any possible situation, including studying geography, intensive language courses, and rock climbing
  • Casey McDonald of Life with Derek has these tendencies, exemplified when she was making a documentary about her family for a school project. She actually fired family members from the cast when they wouldn't behave the way she wanted to portray them.

Newspaper Comics

  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin once asked his father what the term meant. The very favorable definition he received (along the lines of "It's what lazy people call someone who cares enough to do the job right") led Calvin to wonder aloud, "Am I in the presence of their king? Should I kneel?"


Tabletop Games

  • Exalted: She Who Lives In Her Name is the literal embodiment of control freakishness. Her Charmset has large chunks devoted to stripping those annoying little hairless apes of their free will so they have to do what they're told. There's a reason she's known as the Principle of Hierarchy.

Video Games

  • If you're a villain with The Joker as your mentor in DC Universe Online, he'd comment that Brainiac is a Control Freak that "makes Batman look slightly neurotic".
  • One of the female bullies, Meg, from Rule of Rose. Highly intelligent, but inflexible, she holds the third highest spot under the Princess of the Rose.
  • Andrew Ryan became this by the time of BioShock (series) 1 as he started implementing more extreme measures to stay in control of Rapture, eventually turning Rapture into an elitist dictatorship, the kind of thing he despised.
  • The Allies in Red Alert 3 Paradox control freak tendencies end up isolating the United States when they take over the government to prevent infiltration.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Mr. Herriman, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.[context?]
  • Hermes Conrad, Futurama is a parody in two ways; first, he knows what he is and revels in it; second, he also has elements of the stereotypical laid-back Jamaican interspersed with his Obstructive Bureaucrat persona.
  • Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is usually the straight man and voice of reason, but some of his more pathetic moments approach a Control Freak (especially when he's trying to entertain anyone).
  • Mechanicles in Aladdin, the animated series; though he was more of an obsessive-compulsive flavour, with dashes of scheduling mania.
  • Principal Skinner on The Simpsons has shades of this, though his war stories are never to impress anyone, more to traumatise them. This is the main reason he'll never impress his boss, the more laid-back Superintendent Chalmers, since he gets on Chalmers' nerves.
  • Mr. Huph, Bob's boss in The Incredibles is certainly a cut from this mold. Granted, Bob isn't a great employee for an insurance firm (given his conscience won't let him deny any claims), but Huff's pure bullying nature and reactions of offended dignity point to Bob not quite being the problem here. He even gives Bob a pre-planned disciplinary speech much like the "monolouges" given by the super-villains Bob used to fight as Mr. Incredible. While cartoonish, his comeuppance is way too satisfying to watch. The commentary on the DVD reveals that director Brad Bird, who had been fired from his first two jobs, had middle-management bosses like Huff.
  • One showed up in the last Courage the Cowardly Dog episode. Courage defeats her when his imperfectness proves to be too much for her to handle.
  • Jen from 6teen, being pretty obviously the Monica of the Friends-based group, gets accused of being this fairly often.
  • Im American Dad, Stan Smith is such a Control Freak that the Almighty Himself called him out on it:

God: Stop trying to control everything!
Stan: I don't do that!
God: Stan, you're holding a gun to God's head. I can't even think of a better metaphor than this!

  • Played with in Tale Spin with Rebecca Cunningham, the boss of Higher for Hire. While she has a rather shrill attitude and frequently manipulates or bullies Baloo and the others into following her schemes, she fails to have much intimidation over them or take much action against their own incompetant or obnoxious habits, leading her to come off more as a bossy friend than a domineering boss.
  • Rabbit of Winnie the Pooh whose overattention to detail and zero tolerance for his friends' nonsense often leads to him acting as this. A Nightmare Fuelish dream sequence in Springtime For Roo portrays his overbearing demeanor as becoming so intolerable that everyone in the Hundred Acre Wood leaves home just to get away from it all.
  • Menlo from Recess

Real Life


  • Dennis DeYoung, former lead singer of the American rock band Styx. He's the reason, ultimately, that the band originally broke up in the early 1980s. When they reunited in the 1990s he started trying to take things over again, resulting in him getting kicked out. These days he tours under his own name, and the rest of the band remains Styx.
  • Axl Rose. Offend him in the slightest and you'll end up without a job.
  • Roger Waters. If David Gilmour is to be believed, his control-freak mode kicked in around 1977's Animals. It Got Worse with The Wall, which was almost entirely his writing, and culminated in The Final Cut, which infamously had the words "Written by Roger Waters; performed by Pink Floyd" printed on the back cover. Then he left the band and a series of lawsuits ensued involving who had the right to use the Animals pig and whether the rest of the band had the right to use the name "Pink Floyd."
  • Paul McCartney, during the final years of The Beatles. Semi-justified though, in that Lennon was preoccupied with his side projects/relationship with Yoko Ono and generally pissing off George Harrison and Ringo Starr off, to such a degree, that McCartney had to literally take over the recording sessions with an iron hand just to keep things going.
    • Even after the Beatles broke up. When The Beatles version of "Twist and Shout" became a hit again after being in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, McCartney was upset because a marching band in the movie was playing horns on it. Never mind the original Isley Brothers version actually did have horns on it!
    • Exhibit A: "Let It Be, Naked"
  • Noel Gallagher joined Oasis on the condition of taking creative control of the group and becoming its sole songwriter.
  • John Fogerty
  • Don Henley was one; this was a major force in the Eagles' 1980 breakup.
  • So was David Byrne. The Talking Heads finally broke up when the other members had had enough.
  • Lawrence Hayward of Felt. (Actually, he was Felt.) Among other things, he once fired a drummer for having curly hair.


  • Former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight, also known for his General Ripper tendencies off the court. Of course, when he was actually winning titles, nobody cared about his behavior...