It's What I Do

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Leonard: "You betrayed us for money!"

Sheldon: "I'm a Rogue Night Elf; don't you people read character descriptions?"

Characters are the sum of their tropes. Sometimes the Genre Savvy even recognize this about themselves. When another character makes a comment about their behavior that fits their character, they will usually respond with something like, "It's what I do."

Can be used in several ways:

  1. A comedic "Duh!" moment, which is most often.
  2. A Tear Jerker when they perform a Heroic Sacrifice.
  3. A villain berating the heroes for actually expecting something different from them.
  4. A Jerk Justification

An implication with using this line is that characters need to be consistent in their behavior, not just doing whatever is needed for the plot. But don't be too surprised if characters behave in a way slightly different than you expect, as an Out-of-Character Moment can be the opposite of this.

The underlying implication is that the character doesn't necessarily WANT to do whatever it is they're doing, that it's not a special case just business as usual. It's their nature and they can't help it. Can express a desire for emotional growth, or the lack thereof if "What I Do" is something the character has spent a significant amount of time trying not to do, or angsting over doing it.

Or, in the Type 2 case of a heroic sacrifice, the person being saved is someone who arguably doesn't deserve to be saved. The hero is expressing that it doesn't matter if the victim deserves to be saved; a trademark of someone suffering from Chronic Hero Syndrome. To not be the hero is unthinkable. However, since these heroes are very rarely stabbed in the back immediately after taking the bullet for a nemesis... well, maybe the victim did deserve to be saved. This situation lends itself to many a Heel Face Turn.

Examples of It's What I Do include:

Comic Books

  • Wolverine: "I'm the best there is at what I do. What I do ain't very nice."
    • Deadpool: "Now I'm better at doing whatever it is Wolverine does!"
  • Batman (specifically, Gotham Adventures #60):

Batman:Joker, why?
Joker: Why? Why? Because this is how it is isn't it? I do terrible, crazy things and you act all grim and gritty and stop me. And I go back to Arkham and you go back to doing whatever it is you do when I'm not around. Brooding all by yourself in the dark I suppose. That's just how we are. Or how we've grown to be. And it's never going to change.

    • Detective Comics # 823 has Batman trying to help Poison Ivy, before discovering a recording of people she tortured and killed. When he yells at her for it, she just acts amused that he's angry because he should know who she is by now.

Fan Works


  • In Van Helsing, Igor says this when questioned why he likes torturing things.
  • City of Ember

Main character: "How do you know it will work?!?"
Old power plant worker: "... It's my job!"

Doc Heller: It's what the card says.

Guy de Lusignan: Give me a war.
Reynald: That is what I do.

    • And later, after raiding a peaceful caravan and killing Saladin's sister to provoke the war

Reynald: I am what I am. Someone has to be.

  • The catchphrase of Alfonso de la Pena (played by George Hamilton) in the movie One Upon a Crime.
  • Mal to River in Serenity:

"You understand your part in all this?"
"Do you?"
"It's what I do, darlin'. *beat* It's what I do."

"You still don't get it, do you? He'll find her! That's what he does! It's all he does! You can't stop him! He'll wade through you! He'll reach down her throat and tear her fuckin' heart out!"

Cochran: "So you're all astronauts, on some sort of (Beat) Star Trek."

Will: "You cheated!"
Jack: "Pirate."

  • In the Sci Fi channel TV movie The Fallen Ones, the Big Bad is a fallen angel who wants to destroy mankind with an army of Nephilim giants. The about-to-be-killed The Obi-Wan gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, pointing out that such an event is mentioned nowhere in the Bible or in any prophecy, and the Big Bad's entire plan is doomed to fail. The Big Bad simply replies "I have to try. It's what I do." At the end of the film, in an Ironic Echo, the hero says the same thing to the Big Bad after the Big Bad tells the hero that he couldn't possibly stop him.
  • In Hobo with a Shotgun, Ivan walks around in ice skates to make his kicks deadly. Slick notes, "You're going to ruin your skates." Ivan smiles broadly and replies, "I ruin everything!"


  • Lighter Than Some, a Covenant Engineer in the Halo novel Contact Harvest, was ridiculously friendly. When pressed by a human-made AI on why he was helping her, he would simply reply "Lighter Than Some," which she figured meant "I help because that is who I am."
    • Helps it was also The Atoner because it was the first Covenant to kill a human
  • In Stephen Donaldson's Mordant's Need, one of the heroes keeps getting into duels with the Big Bad's chief swordsman. He pauses to ask the swordsman why he doesn't simply overthrow the Big Bad (who is portrayed as an essentially impotent dupe of his supposed underlyings.) The swordsman replies with this trope.
  • Evil Lord Harry Dread, from The Last Hero, allies himself with his enemies the Silver Horde for one last adventure. Later on he betrays them, but they don't hold it against him, because its tradition.
    • Another Discworld example is Dr. Hix, the head of the department of Post-Mortem Communications, in Making Money and especially in Unseen Academicals. It's his job to be "evil" because of his department, so whenever he does something underhanded or says something nasty he points this out, often indicating his official skull ring. (Most of the things he actually does are poodle-poking at worst.)
    • Lord Vetinari is also known to occasionally remind people that he's the Tyrant when they protest that he "can't do this!"
  • In the fable "The Scorpion and the Frog," the titular scorpion asks the titular frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung, but the scorpion reassures him that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown as well, so that wouldn't be logical. This sounds reasonable to the frog who agrees to take the scorpion. But halfway across the river the scorpion stings the frog anyway, and as they both sink the frog asks why the scorpion did it, and the scorpion replies:

"It's neither reason, nor logic. I'm a scorpion; it's my nature."

      • Alternate quote from the scorpion:

"I've never NOT stung."

    • Averted in the Clan Scorpion Splatbook for the Legend of the Five Rings role-playing game, the scorpion's reply to the frog is, "I can swim."
    • A similar fable involves someone bringing a snake inside, or putting it inside his shirt, to warm it up, only to be bitten by the snake. In some variations the snake talks, and replies to the human's surprise with "You knew I was a snake when you brought me in." It doesn't reflect very well on snakes.
  • In Codex Alera the Vord Queen explains this as her reason for trying to destroy Alera. It appears to be a genetic imperative for the Vord to destroy all other species. She also offers the same excuse to Invidia for betraying her, explaining that not betraying her just isn't in her nature, and she's welcome to keep working for her.
    • Discussed with regard to Invidia, too, to the effect that she can be counted on to betray her rescuers.

Live Action TV

  • From the Doctor Who special "Voyage of the Damned".

Rickston Slade: Hang on a minute. Who put you in charge, and who the hell are you anyway?
The Doctor: I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous. I'm 903 years old and I'm the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?
Rickston Slade: No.
The Doctor: In that case, allons-y.

    • From Nightmare of Eden:

Romana: I don't think we should interfere.
The Doctor: Of course we should interfere! Always do what you're best at, that's what I say.

Dr. Foreman: Why are you riding on me?
House: It's what I do. Has it gotten worse lately?
Dr. Foreman: Yeah. Seems to me.
House: Really? Well, that rules out the race thing. You were just as black last week.

    • And also:

Stacy: Elevate the words all you want, you were just screwing with him. Low even by your standards.
House: Medical screwing. It's what I do.

O'Neill: Baal, It's me. Of course I dare mock you.
Baal: You have one more day.
Gilmore: Is it really wise to provoke him?
O'Neill: It's what I do.

    • In the Show Within a Show Wormhole X-Treme, this is the O'Neill-a-like's signature line, which the actor practices:

Marlowe: Hey, it's what I do. It's what I do. It's what I do.

    • In another episode ("The Other Guys"), SG-1 is trying to escape a Goa'uld, and hesitate when they learn that the Stargate is guarded by a lot of Jaffa. The scientist with them points out, "But you're SG-1!" Though the trope name goes unsaid, the looks on the team's faces clearly imply it. And their actions cement it.
    • Episode "Revelations": O'Neill agrees to help the Asgard while Hammond and Carter still argue over it with the explanation: "It's what we do, isn't it?"
  • Scrubs (JD is talking with a terminally ill patient about what death is like, which annoys Dr. Cox. When he leaves the room in a huff, the patient tells JD, "It's fun to annoy him, huh?" JD replies with a touch of deadpan, "It's what I do.")
    • Turk has been known to say this in more than one occasion: "Well you know I do what I do what I do what I do."
    • One episode featured an online review system for doctors, which was used as a sly dig at fan reactions to the show. With Turk he is shocked at how people dislike his catch phrase.

(reading about himself) "He says 'That's what I'm talking about' too much... but sometimes that is what I'm talking about..."

  • Boy Meets World: Upon warning Corey that Topanga is about to become more beautiful after going to a salon, Shawn tells him that she'll dump Corey and hang out with other beautiful people because "It's what we do."
  • Lost: In the season 5 finale, Ben Linus admits that, when he and Locke were in the cabin and Ben seemed to be having a conversation with Jacob, he was faking it. He says, with some regret, "I Lied. ... It's what I do."
  • Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Kira and Dax are in a runabout trying to secure another that is out of control, and Dax just shot down Kira's more dangerous idea to attempt beaming onto it in warp.

Kira: Have you got a better idea?
Dax: I'm a science officer, it's my job to have a better idea.

    • Star Trek: Voyager had this in a story told by Chakotay "Scorpion" relating to how the Borg can not be trusted in an Enemy Mine situation because "It's my nature."
      • Later in the same episode, both Chakotay and Janeway are shocked to find out that it was the Borg who started the war against Species 8472. Almost as if they expected something else from the one species known to attack and assimilate everything it encounters without exceptions? Duh!
  • CSI: Ecklie, former less-competent CSI and now head administrator, has always been a thorn in the team's side, but as administrator he gets actual moments of respect, like this one: Catherine had a memory card of evidence photos stolen from her and been grilled earlier by Ecklie for it; the photos appear on the television news.

Ecklie: "I'll have our public information officer contact his counterpart at the station. We'll also call Judge Anderson and get a warrant for the memory card, any copies, and the name of their source."
Catherine: (surprised) "Thank you, Conrad."
Ecklie: "It's my job."

Xander: I never said you were gonna die! I implied that you were gonna die. It's totally different.
Buffy: Yeah, OK. Sure...
Xander: Besides, if you die, I'll just bring you back to life. That's what I do.

    • Also:

Teen rescued from vampire: How d'you do that?
Buffy: It's What I Do.
Teen: But... you're just a girl.
Buffy: That's what I keep saying.

Eliot: You're not as useless as you look.
Hardison: I don't even know what you do.
A few scenes later, after taking out four guys by himself in the time it takes a bag Hardison dropped to hit the floor, Eliot turns to Hardison, and smiles.
Eliot: That's what I do.

    • Later, in the season finale, we get:

Maggie: You can't just make somebody do what you want them to do.
Eliot: Whoa!
[everyone starts chuckling]
Hardison: T-That's what we do. I mean...
Parker: [pets Maggie's head] You're adorable.

Captain Dylan Hunt: Are you here to give me advice, Rev?
Rev Bem: It's what I do.

  • MacGyver doesn't actually say it himself, because he's busy doing what he's doing.

Laura Fowler: What's he doing?
Breeze: He's tryin' to get us out of here. Just relax, that's what he does.

Chuck: You can't just touch somebody's life and be done with it!
Ned: Yes I can. That's how I roll.

Deianeira: Look at yourself! Don't you have any self respect?
Waylin: Hey, what do you want? I'm a professional slave. It's what I do!

Carter: Oh, wow! Personal force field! Hardly catastrophic, but very impressive. Except for the not being able to turn it off part.
Allison: Fargo, what are you doing with that?
Fargo: Nothing! I've never seen it before. I found it in my pocket.
Carter: But you did turn it on?
Fargo: Yeah.
Allison: Why?
Fargo: Because it's what I do?

Video Games

Batarian Plague Victim: You helped me...why?
Commander Shepard: It's what I do.

      • Invoked to an extent if you decide to destroy the Collector Base and are a Paragon. The Illusive Man is furious that Shepard did so, forgetting that he wanted to bring Shepard back from the dead exactly as they were.

Shepard We'll fight and win without it. I won't let fear compromise who I am.

    • Mass Effect 3: When you encounter Mordin looking over the Genophage-free female Krogan "Eve" he explains that he had to be the one involved because "Someone else might have gotten it wrong." In one of the multiple ways that story plays out Mordin performs a Heroic Sacrifice ensuring that the cure gets distributed around Tuchanka. As Shepard talked to him over what was going to happen, Mordin shrugged and said "Had to be me, someone else might have gotten it wrong."
  • Knights of the Old Republic II:

Atton Rand: I'm a deserter. It's what I do.

Kariya: Um, Villain? Screwing with you is my job.

Ike: In every battle that mattered in my life, I've always been the one left standing, no matter how slim my chances.

Lloyd: ...So you really are our enemy. I kept thinking - hoping - you might be good...but you're not.
Kratos:...I should think that would be obvious at this point.

Web Comics

  • Dominic Deegan, just before Klo Tark sends Dominic off to battle Celesto Morgan at the end of the "Storm of Souls" Story Arc, and conjures up a set of clothes like what he normally wears:

Dominic: read my mind.
Klo Tark: It's what I do.

  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • In the "Oceans Unmoving" story arc, Honest Stu always speaks his mind literally, to the point that he points out the irony that Calix and not he has to Walk the Plank when he could also have been blamed. In the next panel, he's standing next to Calix on the plank.

Calix: You should learn to talk less.
Stu: I gotta be me.

    • And also this:

Gwynn: Let me be the hero for once!
Riff: Sorry ma'am, I'm union. *shoots the huge demon thingy a lot*

Web Original

  • Danielbeast in the Lonelygirl15 episode "Lying Bastards": "I'm going to break into Alex's house. It's all I know how to do really, I guess."
  • The How Superman Should Have Ended ends with Batman and Superman chatting in a cafe:

Batman: I'm Batman.
Superman: I know you are.
Batman: It's what I do.
Superman: I know. You say that a lot.
Batman: I carry things on my belt. 'Cause I'm Batman.

  • In Concrete Giraffes, a parody of Marble Hornets and The Slender Man Mythos, someone asks why he ate all the children he was supposed to be rescuing. He replied with "its what I dooo!"

Western Animation

Omega Supreme: I am programmed to protect, and sacrifice if necessary.

Venture: Oh, that's it, you really know how to push my buttons, don't you?
Monarch: I'm your arch enemy! It's what I do! It's my thing!

Blossom: We're going to fight crime!
Buttercup: That's what we do!
Bubbles: Duh!

  • Buttercup says this when she's dressed as a monster in the rainy day episode of Powerpuff Girls "I'm a monster and I'm eating Joe! I do that."

Truffles: You did it again, honey. You set the house on fire, again!
Mung: It's what I do, woman. It's what I do.

Genie: (laughing) A joke! (pauses) I do that.

  • Spoofed in a Robot Chicken parody of Kill Bill where Jesus takes the place of the Bride. When he takes on the one eyed character of Elle Driver, he jabs her in her bad eye, healing it and returning her sight. She thanks him in surprise, and he smiles and says "It's what I do"... then immediately cuts her in half with his sword.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: When Sokka's trapped in a hole, he says, "Okay, Karma person or thing, whoever's in charge of this stuff. If I can just get out of this situation alive, I will give up meat... and sarcasm. Okay? That's all I got. That's pretty much my whole identity. Sokka, the meat and sarcasm guy."

"But I'm willing to become Sokka the veggies and straight talk fellow. Deal?"

Clockwork: That's the problem with you Observants -- all you do is observe.

  • Teen Titans
    • Smug Snake Slade pulls this off when Robin confronts him over his role in bringing about an apocalypse that's left the world in ruins (don't worry, it gets better)...

Robin: But you played a part. And just like everything else you've ever done, it's made people suffer.
Slade: It's what I do best.

  • One-off enemy The Source, in explaining an utterly pointless invasion scheme to Beast Boy involving kidnapping cows and blowing up the Earth: "It is our way."

Steve: Dad! I can't believe you lied to me!
Stan: Really? Huh. It's kinda my whole bit.

Tso Lan: You dare interrupt me in my moment of triumph?
Jackie: It's what I do.

  • An episode of The Batman saw the Dark Knight fall under the sway of Spellbinder, nearly handing over the episode's MacGuffin and revealing his identity in the process. When Bats is snapped out of it and Bats pulls the MacGuffin away, Spellbinder voices his disbelief that the hero had been faking. Quote the Batman, "It's what I do!" It was quite convincing.
  • In the Tom and Jerry short "That's My Boy!" Spike is teaching his son how to do the things dogs do, starting with burying bones. "Why? I dunno! I can never remember where I buried 'em! But that's what dogs do."

Real Life

  • "Bonnie and Clyde -- We Rob Banks." Spoofed in the Warner Bros. cartoon Bunny & Claude--"We Rob Carrot Patches."
  • Miss Manner recounts how she once asked a small person in her charge, "How can you be so childish?" and had to admit the justice of the answer, "I'm a child."
  • Los Angeles Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, after hitting yet another game-winning three-pointer: "It's what I do."