Cynical Mentor

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Portinari: You are a cynical old bastard.

The Dealey Lama: That's right. Cynical and cold and without an ounce of human compassion. The only thing to be said for me is that I always happen to be right.

Peter Petrelli: Why are you helping me?

Claude Rains: Well, I'm not much of a "people person," but I can't let you kill 'em all. You seemed pretty sure about that pending apocalypse of yours.

A cousin to the Trickster Mentor and the Sink or Swim Mentor, the Cynical Mentor doesn't really care whether The Hero succeeds or fails, and he/she often believes it will be the latter. Unlike the Sink or Swim Mentor, there will be training, and it's usually Training from Hell. This particular brand of mentor uses his cynicism to anger the hero and get him to fight back/harder for what he wants and/or believes in. This mentor helps the hero very, very grudgingly (most likely because he/she was bored and/or had nothing better to do). never gives encouragement or compliments, except maybe right before the hero's final test/battle, and even then it might be a longshot.

There's a fair to good chance that said mentor either is a Knight in Sour Armor or Retired Badass.

Compare Sour Supporter, Zen Survivor.

Examples of Cynical Mentor include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Evangeline from Mahou Sensei Negima, to a frightening degree. Training from Hell aside (of which there is much), one of her major lessons for the main lead is that no act in this world can be completely good like he thinks/hopes, and that being evil comes naturally as a part of living. She also treats him like crap.
    • Of course, she turns out to be partially right in that during Mahorafest Negi admits that he can't really justify fighting Chao, and that he might just be the bad guy this time around. Despite this, Eva still seems to be sliding into Anti-Villain territory, and has to convince herself that she's still evil, which Negi isn't buying. Seems like Negi and Eva are starting to rub off on each other.
  • Seijuuro Hiko. Oh, so much.
  • Hijikata from Peacemaker Kurogane towards Tetsunosuke. He appears pretty strict and cynical towards Tetsunosuke (not really directly teaching Tetsunosuke fighting, and mainly having Tetsunosuke serve him tea). However, deep down, it's suggested numerous times that he does care about Tetsunosuke.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Mick, Rocky's trainer from the Rocky film series, at least in the first movie. He constantly mocks Rocky until towards the end, when he finally comes around and gets upgrade to Cool Old Guy, which is where he remains until he dies in Rocky III.
  • Clint Eastwood's character from Million Dollar Baby. Oh so much. "I'll try to forget you're a girl."
  • Mace Windu is quite cynical in his view of galactic affairs, compared to many of the other Jedi, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi; he also doesn't seem to like Anakin much at all and he opposed little Anakin's training from the start.
    • It's not dislike, it's policy. Mace shares the Jedi's belief that Jedi training should start at infancy, not age ten. His cynicism, on the other hand, is probably just a sign that he has his eyes open amid the decaying Republic.
  • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters: Kashiwagi is this to Mizoguchi in the Beauty segment of the movie.
  • Senior Chief Randall in The Guardian. He seems determined to get Jake Fischer to quit and go home.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Dealey Lama, A.K.A Gruad Greyface from The Illuminatus Trilogy.
    • You can't exactly blame the man. He invented Good and Evil 50,000 years ago, and then watched people misunderstand and screw up his ideas. He's been trying to destroy his creation and myth ever since. He made himself the Devil-figure of all the world's religions in order to get people to renounce him, yet there are still people who would follow at the footsteps of the monster he made himself to be.
  • Discworld's very own Old Master Almighty Janitor, Lu-Tze, who acts as The Mentor to Lobsang in Thief of Time. It is, of course, lampshaded:

Yeah, but I have years of experience and cynicism! You're just talented!

  • The Hunger Games has a slightly-milder example in Haymitch Abernathy. It's only after Kantiss gets fed up with his pessimistic attitude that he even considers helping her and Peeta, but after that he becomes a lot more helpful and supportive then most Cynical Mentors, though he's still a sarcastic jerk.
  • Asher in Someone Elses War, despite being only two years older than the main character.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Claude Rains, the invisible hobo on Heroes, as mentioned above. He appears to despise Peter and uses their "training sessions" as chances to beat the crap out of him. He also has several other quotes about the general unreliability and undesirable qualities of humanity, and he pushed Peter Petrelli off a 30-story building.
  • Dr. Cox to J.D. in Scrubs. He is J.D. guide of sorts, but he is completely sarcastic and seems to detest J.D..
    • It's an act. He really respects J.D. but he never says anything because of who he is. He also knows J.D. will get emotional on him and getting a hug from a puppy in a man's body is the last thing he wants.
      • Yes. Dr. Cox is actually a decent caring guy. But he knows how hard life can be, and he doesn't think J.D. is tough enough to handle the career he's in, not yet anyway. He thinks J.D. needs a little Tough Love, not nurturing, and he probably has a point.
  • Dr. House has taken on this role in several episodes in addition to being a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Captain Malcolm Reynolds acts this way towards Simon and River Tam in the first few episodes of Firefly. He lets them stay on Serenity so that the Alliance doesn't catch them, but he doesn't want much to do with them as long as they don't get in the way, and when he does talk to them, he's pretty cynical.
  • Gordon Ramsay on Hells Kitchen, who sarcastically berates and insults the chefs for any slip-up, to the point where a viewer might wonder why anyone can stand the man. But when people do meet his standards, or honestly impress him with their talent or passion, his Jerk with a Heart of Gold shines through, as seen when he paid to send Waffle House chef Julia to culinary school in Season 3, and praising Ji in Season 5 for her talent, passion, and courage after she was forced to withdraw.
    • Not to mention there was one contestant who mentioned that Ramsay was a totally nice guy outside of the kitchen, so it's pretty likely that the guy is only a Cynical Mentor while working in the kitchen.
      • One of his old shows from the UK, a cooking challenge pitting him against other world class chefs, showed that he's a very nice guy even in the kitchen if he's dealing with someone he respects. One notable episode has him joking around with an American chef and laughing when the guy accidentally dips his long hair into a custard he (the American) was making.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Samos from the Jak and Daxter games.
  • Kreia, the ex-Jedi ex-Sith but not really who takes the Exile under her wing, is as cynical as they come.
  • Renius, the gladiator who trains the two lead characters in Conn Iggulden's Emperor series. He goes as far as having their final exam be a battle to the death between him and Gaius.
  • Xaldin for Roxas in Kingdom Hearts 358 Days Over 2 (contrast with Axel).


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Master Shi-Fu in Kung Fu Panda. He does not think that Po is the Dragon Warrior and doesn't want him at the Academy, but he puts up with him, tricking Po for a while with Training from Hell. Then, he finally starts training him correctly using food as the target, and even then it seems a bit cruel. But that's when he (like Mick) gets upgraded to Cool Old Guy.
  • Azmuth of the Ben 10 franchise is openly very displeased that his Chosen One Missed the Call and only grudgingly allows his incredibly powerful invention to remain with a kid/teenager. Just because he knows the Omnitrix is best off with Ben doesn't mean he has to like it.
  • Phil from |Hercules starts out as this.