Playing the Victim Card

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
(Redirected from The Victim Card)

A character has given a speech about how poor and oppressed he is, that he's a victim of circumstance, and everybody seems to be out to get him.

The problem is that the character making all these statements is a villain.

This can be played several ways. A Manipulative Bastard will describe a situation to make a third party think that the Manipulative Bastard is a good guy, and the real good guys are mean and evil and out to get him for no good reason. The Jerkass may legitimately believe the grievances - but the audience can usually recognize a pity party over self-inflicted wounds.

Whether the other characters believe the Crocodile Tears also depends on who they are. The naive, ignorant of the current situation, will usually buy it. Characters who were there will know better. When a hoodwinked character realizes that they've been fooled, they will not be happy.

On the rare occasion a good guy tries to perform this action, they are usually branded as whiners because Might Makes Right.

This may take the form of a Freudian Excuse if the villain legitimately believes what they're saying. See also Wounded Gazelle Gambit. Compare What Is Evil?, Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence.

Very often Truth in Television.

Examples of Playing the Victim Card include:

Anime and Manga

  • Vandread: During their Kangaroo Court, one of the female pirates says the government is 'playing the victim' when the judge says they are trying to topple the government.
  • In the first episode of Darker than Black, Chiaki discovers that two of her "friends" are Contractor special agents that are hunting her. When she starts running from them, one says that that's not very friendly of her. Given that Contractors are fairly emotionless, this amounts to "just because I'm an emotionless killer doesn't mean I don't have feelings", and thus isn't meant to be taken very seriously.
  • Done by Villetta of Code Geass, when she claimed during the final episode that she just wanted somewhere to belong, even though her past was part of the Britannian royal unit and a proud racist. Potentially also when she, alongside Ohgi, testifies against Lelouch on account of Geass leading up to the Black Knights' betrayal, even though she had earlier been keeping surveillance over Lelouch on behalf of Britannia as part of an attempt to keep him from his rebellion alongside the Black Knights, specifically because she couldn't be affected by Geass anymore and may have known more than what she was letting on. Played all too straight with Schneizel that same episode when he claimed he could be under Lelouch's Geass and not know it.
  • Also pulled by Yuzuha in the Tenchi Muyo!: Daughter of Darkness movie. Particularly jarring because she does it after cruelly killing her own "daughter", Mayuka, and mocking her friends's grief at her death.
  • Used to agitate Medaka in Medaka Box by Kumagawa as after he and Zenkichi appeared to have died after their Student Council battle. However the events that cause their supposed death were due to Zenkichi actions so technically Kumagawa was the victim. Kumagawa made this statement after his powers brought him back though. Also, Zenkicki was brought back by someone else, though he wasn't dead.

Comic Books

  • Lex Luthor fits the first type in one Justice League episode where he convinces the Amazo android that he is a victim of a vigilante Justice League- and elicits the android's help, at least temporarily, in bringing the League down. Later, in Justice League Unlimited, he refines his arguments (claiming that though he has made mistakes, they were in pursuance of checking the dangerous power of an out-of-control Justice League) to great success for his presidential campaign.

Fan Works

  • One of the Star Trek fanfic compilations plays with this with a story where the holographic Ming the Merciless knockoff Dr. Chaotica has been reprogrammed from being a shallow powermonger to a complex "my father never loved me, everyone at school ostracized me" pile of wangst. Paris is infuriated. He wanted to have fun, not worry about motivations.
  • Cori Falls's renditions of Terrible Trio Jessie, James and Meowth practically live on this trope. Even after they "go good" they continually describe themselves as "victims of circumstance" to explain away their former lives of crime.


  • This is Commodus' shtick in Gladiator. If he's not murdering, or ordering people to be murdered, expect him to be whining about how awfully vilified his altruistic self is.


  • Willougby of Sense and Sensibility for the second type, trying to justify his behavior with I'm a Man, I Can't Help It, but failing miserably. It might have worked if he had been relating the story to anyone who didn't personally know the people he hurt. The ridiculously rich John Dashwood and his wife also qualify, constantly espousing their apparent poverty to themselves and others to shirk the responsibility of being charitable to John's half-sisters.
  • Mrs. Norris of Mansfield Park constantly preaches about all the hard work she does taking care of everyone and all the sacrifices she makes and, like Willoughby, seems to fully believe she's a kind, generous, caring aunt... when she's actually a stingy, vain, pompous, meddling, insufferable know-it-all who spoils one set of nieces and nephews only to make The Unfavorite niece feel more horrible.
  • This seems to be a common Jane Austen character—the sociopathic Lady Susan is so sick and tired of people ruining her plots, enlightening others about her lies, and disliking her once they find out how she mentally abuses her daughter and seduces married men. Why can't they just let her manipulate her Unwitting Pawns in peace?
  • Satan in Paradise Lost—need we mention the frightening tendency to believe him?

Live-Action TV

  • Firefly: Saffron does this to disarm Mal (quite literally) at the end of the episode "Trash". It's strongly implied that she's been carrying that card in her back pocket for a long time—and might even deserve it. Of course, her following actions sort of decrease our sympathy . . .
  • Oz: The supposed victim? Clayton Hughes. After talking a to inmate Simon Adebisi, a sense of purpose births in Hughes- racial politics. After attempting to kill Governor Devlin, he is sent to the very prison he originally worked at. His defense? He's a political prisoner set up by an unjust system. What happens after that? Well...
  • One female serial killer attempted to pull this one in Law and Order Special Victims Unit by saying that she was raped so many times that she can't remember, but Detective Benson doesn't fall for it. She just makes fun of it by saying "Right, and your mother died, and your dad beat ya".
  • Prince Sprocket pulls this on Auric in Power Rangers Zeo to get him to attack the Rangers. Auric realizes he's been had when the Rangers refuse to attack back and tell him they serve under Zordon. Cue Oh Crap from Sprocket.


  • Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Note that most modern critics think Shylock had a point.
    • Shylock's famous speech is referenced several times in the film To Be or Not to Be; given that several of the heroic characters are Jewish, the film takes the sympathetic modern interpretation. But at one point, The Quisling argues in a similar manner that "Nazis are people too", and he is definitely not presented as sympathetic.

Video Games

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Ratigan does this in The Great Mouse Detective, lamenting on how, because of Basil, he hasn't had a moment's peace of mind in years. The "insufferable pipsqueak" has ruined his freedom to commit crimes!
  • Megatron in Transformers Animated probably really does think that the Decepticons have been treated unfairly, having been driven from their home like common insects by the Autobots, but he gives a speech along these lines to turn the Constructicons.
  • Cartman does this all the freaking time on South Park. Like when he actually convinced himself that he, rather than Jimmy, invented the "Fishsticks Joke", and proceeded to get mad at Jimmy for trying to claim credit. After making fun of Wendy's breast cancer class report, Cartman went crying to Wendy's parents to keep her from beating the snot out of him. After that... he kept it up and got the snot beaten out of him anyway.

Real Life

  • When confronted about the obvious illegality of Soulja Boy's bootleg games consoles, the rapper lashed out with a series of tweets, claiming that critics hate and diss at him for being black, stating that people mock at his products because they didn't want to see "a black man get money" and "Why y’all want to see a black man fail so bad smh." This race card approach didn't obviously sit well with the gaming community, with some comparing him unfavourably to fellow rapper-slash-entrepreneur Chamillionaire (who, unlike Soulja Boy, was far more eloquent and professional in his business ventures).
  • Complaining about how he was the victim of any number of people, organizations and conspiracies was the stock-in-trade of Donald Trump when he was President of the United States, and played a major part in his baseless contention that his defeat in the 2020 presidential election was due to massive fraud. And he still grumbles about how Joe Biden handily beat him at the polls to this day.
  • An inevitable reality of politics, both in the US and elsewhere. The right wing, particularly the alt-right subset, frequently accuses liberals of playing the victim card - but true as that may be, they are just as frequently guilty of the same and worse in mentality. And that's all there is to say about it.