They Called Me Mad
Scientists may be open to new ideas, but are not by any means paragons of universal open minded acceptance. This is heavily exaggerated in fiction. What do a peerage of scientists do when presented with amazing or disturbing theories that could seriously change everyone's worldview and/or revolutionize science by one of their fellows? Do they test out the theory themselves, analyze it thoroughly, or interview their fellow scientist in an effort to find any truth in his "wild" theories or disabuse him of them before he goes crackpot?
Of course not! Everyone knows that's not how you do research! They'll mock him, never take a second glance at his theories, and do everything possible to discredit him, bury his ideas, and make him shunned in respectable scientific circles.
The outcomes are usually:
- He will turn into a bona fide Mad Scientist and wreak havoc usually motivated by personal gain or revenge on the scientists who dared to mock him. Parodies and/or extremely cliché examples may spout out lines like "They all laughed at me...but I'LL SHOW THEM! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!! BWAHAHAHAAA!"
- He will become a slightly more tragic version of The Worm Guy, and be involved in a situation where his theories work. If everything goes smoothly, he will usually be accepted back into the community that once shunned him and his detractors forced to eat crow or discredited themselves. If it's related to The Men in Black or the Masquerade, his vindication will be personal, but still uplifting.
- He will become an Ignored Expert if the "wild theory" is a premonition of a disaster. Most (usually all) of his detractors end up dead or recant and he is lauded a hero for preventing bigger casualties. That is, unless he's pragmatic, or world destroying type.
- This occasionally happens in Real Life. Usually, it's because the scientist has been rather...prolific with his wild theories, and this thus becomes more of a case of him happening to (for once) be right. Could you blame people for ignoring the Ignored Expert if he'd been predicting some kind of world-ending disaster annually before he lucked out?
Occasionally, they will be one screw short of becoming a Mad Scientist before this falling out, or have the typical personal tragedy motivating Professor Guinea Pig. In these cases, his peers aren't so much fools as they are (rightly) concerned that his experiments have fallen down the slippery slope of scientific inquiry into grave robbing, God-defying Mad Science.
Anime and Manga
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Professor Takano had been investigating a strange disease called Hinamizawa Syndrome, which could alter one's personality into that of a psychopathic paranoiac. Based on this, he wants to show that a person's personality can be altered or even wholly changed by parasites in the brain. However, at almost every turn, he is refused both funding and consideration for his work -- despite doing careful research, inviting his colleagues to look at his results, and otherwise acting like an actual scientist rather than the alternative. He never got anywhere, and ultimately ended up jumping off the roof of his home but the Scientist's Beautiful Granddaughter, Miyo, well, that's another story...
- Mazinger Z subverted this. Mad Scientist Dr. Hell is not mad because they called him mad. The did not. They called him dumb and useless. THAT is what set him off.
- Subverted in the sixth Pokémon movie. The mad scientist in question, a member of Team Magma, was shunned because his method of resurrecting Groudon didn't work. This leads him to become obsessed with finding a way to do it right, just so he can show them. He ends up succeeding, sort of, though it's definitely not what he expected.
- In Angel Cop, the friendly mad scientist who rebuilt Raiden as a cyborg (no, not that Raiden) gloats that those who once mocked his genius would now be destroyed by it. Raiden makes short work of all the bad guys attacking the facility.
- This is Waver Velvet's motivation for joining the Holy Grail War in Fate/Zero. After Lord El-Melloi tore up his "delusional" thesis, Waver stole the catalyst needed to summon his Servant and entered the war in hopes to prove that his low-birth status didn't hinder his skill in magic.
- Villainous example: Chronos from The DCAU.
- Another villainous example: Dr. Sivana, Captain Marvel's archenemy, in his original version, was a scientist who was mocked because of his theories; this led to the indirect death of his wife, and he swore revenge on society at large as a result.
- In the Blake and Mortimer book The Yellow M, this is the main motivation of the villain Dr. Septimus: he had published under a pseudonym a book detailing his theories about the "Mega Wave", a brain wave that if manipulated could actually control people. However, a group of people had discredited his theories, leading the book's publisher to sue them for libel and lose. This caused Septimus to later kidnap those people and the judge who presided over the case and commit various crimes to prove his theory (even going so far as using the technology to make the judge and the men who discredited him admit they were wrong and that they were complete fools to do so).
- Wheeljack in the Transformers spinoff comic "Shattered Glass" had quite the memorable role as a mad scientist who was mocked for literally everything he did, and was eventually kicked out of the Autobots. He later shows back up with a couple of new friends, aka the Dinobots, though.
I'm not crazy! Everyone else is just blind to my genius! I'll show you I'm not crazy! I'll show every last one of them I'm not a foaming-mad megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur! As soon as I perfect my atomic super-mutant alloygators, you'll all see I wasn't crazy!!!
- In Superman's origin story, Jor-El, Kal-El's father, is the man who finds out that his home planet is about to explode. He tries to present his findings to the Kryptonian Council he once headed, but is not believed. Forced to work alone, he can only build and send off one rocket carrying his infant son to an uncertain fate as the planet starts breaking up all about him.
- Dr. Abner Mellon of Ernest Rides Again, whose screwball theory that the Crown Jewels of England were stolen by a hitherto undocumented Revolutionary War unit who hid them in the barrel of Goliath, the largest cannon ever made, turns out (unsurprisingly) to be absolutely correct. Except that the "barrel" doesn't mean the cannon barrel, but one of its attached gunpowder kegs.
- Dr. Hans Zarkov from Flash Gordon, who becomes an Ignored Expert at the beginning of the movie for predicting... something. Something involving a galactic tyrant playing with volcanoes on Earth.
- Beautifully played with in Mel Brooks' classic parody Young Frankenstein. Frederick Frankenstein is arguably an inversion, but also arguably a Mad Scientist - a tough combo to pull off.
- The documentary Expelled claims that proponents of intelligent design regularly receive this treatment at the hands of the scientific community, which supports Darwinian evolution.
- Dr. Cockroach in Monsters vs. Aliens says the whole Mad Scientist cliche practically word-for-word complete with an evil laugh (he says crazy instead of mad) while working on a way to restore Susan to her normal size. Of course, he did turn himself into a human-cockroach hybrid, but apart from that seems pretty rational.
- Mousehunt: Ernie is bemoaning the accident by which the mayor, dining at his restaurant, happened to eat a cockroach and die. Ernie says the world's turning upon him.
Ernie: The same thing happened to Galileo.
Lars: Really? That's unbelievable. With a cockroach and everything?
- Santo En El Tesoro De Dracula features a rare heroic version. For some reason, Mexico's leading scientists don't take the idea that El Santo, the famed Masked Luchador, has invented a revolutionary new time machine during his downtime from wrestling. Santo gets seriously ticked off by this rejection, and the movie's entire plot is driven by his desire to prove the mainstream scientists wrong by retrieving Dracula's treasure.
- H.P. Lovecraft's character Herbert West, a more villainous, insane example.
- The nameless hero of The Time Machine goes through a bit of this in the first couple chapters.
- Alfred Bester's wonderful short time-travel story The Men Who Murdered Mohammed notes that "The patient reader is too familiar with the conventional mad professor, undersized and over-browed, creating monsters in his laboratory which invariably turn on their maker and menace his lovely daughter. This story isn't about that sort of make-believe man. It is about Henry Hassel, a genuine mad professor..." It goes on to contain one of the best lines from short SF: "In exactly seven and one-half minutes (such was his rage) he put together a time machine (such was his genius)."
- A minor character from the history of the Discworld seems to have had to deal with this trope. Achmed The Mad, Necromancer and compiler of the Necrotelicomnicon, was apparently irked by his most common moniker and preferred to be known as 'Achmed the I Just Get These Headaches'.
- It seems to be rather common among Mad Scientists in Discworld, to the point where its absence is noted by The Igor in Making Money, who comments that he finds it easier to perform his work if his employer is indulging in an Evil Laugh and saying things like "They said I was mad, but this will show them!".
- Doctor Impossible of Soon I Will Be Invincible receives this treatment for his obsession with the Zeta Dimension, though he's also a Super Villain because his vast intellect compels him to be so.
- The astronomer in The Little Prince who discovered Asteroid B-612 got this treatment - not for anything particularly revolutionary in his work, but because he presented it while wearing traditional Turkish costume. A subsequent presentation in western dress was better received.
- Non-SF example: In Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story "The Dying Detective," Culverton Smith is a skilled amateur scientist—working with diseases—but the scientific community doesn't take him seriously (seeing him not as mad, but just not a serious scientist), which embitters him.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire former Maester Qyburn is a magical version, stripped of his chain by the Citadel for his research into magic and what lies beyond death. While the Citadel does appear to disapprove of magic, the main reason was probably that his research involved vivisecting people. He seems pretty normal most of the time, but it's worth noting that he's had two known jobs since that happened: as a member of a famously vicious band of sellswords who wouldn't care if he cut open the odd screaming prisoner, and as spymaster for someone whose massive paranoia supplied him with ready access to well sound-proofed dungeon cells and people who should never be seen again.
Live Action TV
- One of the most well known examples is Dr. Daniel Jackson from Stargate SG-1. "Aliens having built the pyramids" are words you'd more likely hear from a homeless conspiracy nut, not a respected archeologist. Luckily, it eventually paid off, and now he's a universe traveling Adventurer Archaeologist.
- Literally; he had just been evicted from his apartment before he gave that lecture. Though, to be fair, he never claimed that aliens built the pyramids, just not the Egyptians (though when it turned out he had no idea, everybody walked out).
- In the Alternate Universe episode where the Stargate was never discovered, Jackson had been reduced to teaching English as a Second Language classes.
- This happens to both Daniel Jackson and his grandfather. The man found a crystal skull, said it was made by aliens and was laughed at for 40 years. Even by Daniel, as they laughed at each other. He fell into depression and had himself committed to a mental institution. And later stayed with the aliens.
- Meanwhile, in another corner of the Stargateverse, Dr. Rodney McKay fulfils the same role on Stargate Atlantis. In one episode, he is invited to a symposium by an old rival, and is summarily mocked by the entire theoretical physics community for his lack of (unclassified) output—including Bill Nye the Science Guy and Stephen Hawking—even after he saves the world from behind the scenes. On the plus side, he gets the girl at the end of the episode. On top of all this, his sister is generally considered the smarter one, despite the fact that she retired from physics to become a stay-at-home mom. She occasionally helps out when Rodney or Atlantis is stuck.
- The scent guy in Pushing Daisies.
- Black Books briefly parodies this as Bernard deteriorates under stress into a "Mad Scientist" as he and his friend/BumblingSidekick try to create a replacement for a priceless bottle of wine they have inadvertently drunk.
They'd all laugh at me if they knew what I was trying to do. To create a new strain of superwine in half an hour with a fraction of nature's resources and a fool for an assistant. "Bernard Black - he's mad!" they'd say, "He's insane, he's dangerous!" WELL I'LL SHOW THEM! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!
- Chandra Suresh of Heroes was widely thought to be losing his mind when he started talking about people with supernatural abilities, and his son Mohinder is later told "everyone thinks you're nuts" when he tries to spread his father's theories.
- In one episode of Dinosaurs, the Sinclairs watch a show where a Mad Scientist gives this speech before giving life to a giant... turnip. His Igor declares "You are mad!", at which point the scientist replies, "Well... yes. But mad-angry, not mad-crazy."
- Jim Carrey and Conan O'Brien had fun with this stock phrase when Carrey was on the show.
- Walter Bishop of Fringe owns this trope. Of course, Walter spent the better part of two decades in a psychiatric hospital after having had parts of his brain literally removed by his oldest friend, at his own request. They called him mad because he was mad.
- In SCTV - mad scientist Dr. Tongue, hammily emoting "They laughed at me in Budapest...THEY LAUGHED AT ME IN PRAGUE!!!" - hunchback assistant Bruno chimes in "They laughed at you in Buffalo too."
- Mad Scientist Dr. Mehendri Solon in Dr Who, "The Brain of Morbius." He combines this with fanatical devotion to the defeated evil Time Lord Morbius—his unholy experiments are to give Morbius a new body.
- One episode of Get Smart featured a Control agent who developed a formula that turns people older by being applied to their photographs and later kills those people by having their photographs ripped. The Chief didn't believe the idea. Because of this, the agent decided to sell the formula to Kaos, where he did get a chance to show the formula does work.
- Spoofed in an I'm Sorry Ill Read That Again parody of Doctor Who, with Graeme Garden as "Doctor Why" and Tim Brooke-Taylor as his companion, Peter:
Doctor: They laughed at Galilleo ... They laughed at Newton ... They laughed at Einstein ... Why won't they laugh at me?
Peter: It's partly the lines, but mostly the delivery...
- On the subject of a close relative of "They called me mad", one Far Side comic featured a mad scientist convention, with the special guest being the man who coined the phrase "Fools! I'll destroy them all!"
- One memorable Mother Goose and Grimm single-panel strip had an anthropomorphic cow in a labcoat standing triumphantly over his Frankenstein-cow creation and declaring "Mad? Mad, they say? I'll show them just how mad I am!" The caption? "When mad cow disease goes untreated."
- This is very common in Genius: The Transgression. Of course, Geniuses are mad and their creations are not only scientifically impossible, but obviously so:
If only it were so simple. They laughed because you were mad. They laughed because your inventions crumbled when unveiled and your theories turned to gibberish. You wept when you saw your equations riddled with childish errors.
- One Splat in the game is entirely defined by coming into Genius after being rejected by one's peers: Neid, the Catalyst of Banishment. Needless to say, they end up spending a lot of time trying to show "them."
- Mad science is a bit tricky; prospective researchers could very well end up being called mad themselves. The Masquerade is, sadly, rather self-sustaining.
- The Dwarves of Warhammer Fantasy Battle regularly kick out young mavericks from their engineering guild, to the point where it's practically a rite of passage. Most of them join the human engineering guild until they refine their prototype into a machine that runs with proper Dwarven efficiency, which tends to result in The Empire using the more unreliable weapons on the battlefield before the conservative dwarves cotton to them. It's working out well for the dwarves at least, they've got multi-shot cannons and helicopters.
- Dr. Nefarious in Ratchet and Clank Up Your Arsenal:
- Dr. Cranium in Quest for Glory 4:
Mad? Mad?! They ALL call me mad, but what do they know of madness? I am not mad! A bit perturbed about the world situation and how I get so little respect, perhaps. But certainly not mad!
- Igor chimes in as well.
Doctor nod mad. Doctor insane.
- This was the catalyst of Doctor Neo Cortex's quest for world domination in the Crash Bandicoot series.
- In Pokémon Black and White, this likely applies to the creator of Genesect. Despite being told by N that he should stop making a super-powered cyborg Pokemon, the scientist refused and continued the operation in secret.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Doctor Lucrecia Crescent says that people had laughed at her theory about the final WEAPON Omega and its Harbinger, Chaos. By the end of Dirge of Cerberus, we learn that she was hoisted by her own petard in that the stagnant Lifestream killed her mentor, Doctor Grimoire Valentine. Her guilt over this incident prevented her from responding to Vincent Valentine's advances, pushed her to marry Doctor Hojo, and go through with the JENOVA project.
- It's a little off-putting when you realise that they actually didn't.
- Captain Bram in Skin Horse. I'll teach those Yankees to laugh at me. Yes, they laughed!
- The Institute for the Sane Study of Mad Genius (aka "those fools at the Institute") is, apparently, usually the "they" in the Narboniverse. They have classes in it.
- A Miracle of Science. "They accused me of Science-Related Memetic Disorder!"
- Order of the Stick, here: "NOW who is advancing the cause of environmental preservation?"
- This Absurd Notions strip.
- Girl Genius—See the title on the right book on the second shelf in the second panel here?
- Touched upon with Hannelore's father in Questionable Content.
- Bite Me! has Claire exclaiming this as she goes to work on inciting a riot...with "three tomatoes, a size-nine-and-a-half shoehorn, a bit of string, and a small wooden spoon." Judging by her facial expression as she declares this, it's kind of clear why...
- Slick in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob
Slick: "And for that, they called me... mad! Mad!!
Jean: "Okaaaay... now, uh, Slicky, listen... this is important... You're not mad because of your theory... 'cause it looks like your theory is right... You're mad because you're raving like a loonie!!!
- One Cracked.com article featuring villainous flowcharts had a very simple one for origins.
Did they laugh at you?
No: Lead normal life.
Yes: Show them! Show them all!!
- Dr. Wily from Mega Man used this line as well. Fittingly, it was during one of the sillier second season episodes, "Night of the Living Monster Bots".
Dr. Wily: The world may call me insane, Proto...
Proto Man: Sounds right to me.
- Milo Thatch from Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
- The Simpsons parodies this in "Treehouse of Horror II", when Burns takes on a Mad Scientist role and successfully transplants Homer's brain into a robot:
- Futurama pokes fun at the professor this way every other episode. It doesn't help that he's senile. Fry as well, to an extent.
Farnsworth: Some even call me mad! And why? Because I dared to dream of my own race of atomic monsters? Atomic supermen with octagonal-shaped bodies!
- A Fry example:
Fry: Don't listen to what other people say about you. They all called me stupid, but I proved them!
Gay Hippie: They called me crazy for building this ark.
Other Hippie: You are crazy, you built it with same sex animal couples!
Gay Hippie: Hey! There are parts of the Bible I like and parts I don't like.
- The villain in the Dennis the Menace cartoon (UK) episode 'Mauled' used this (and was the typical mad scientist with robot shopping centre, parasol hat and funny gadgets).
- Parodied in Johnny Bravo: Johnny has been abducted by gorgeous aliens and Carl and Pops start building a machine to get him back. Bizarrely, Pops seems to be doing most of the work...
- Mad Scientist Norton Nimnul of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers often has one of these speeches before revealing to the viewing audience (or as the audience looks over) one of his weird inventions. Given the nature of these inventions, I must say their reactions were understandable, but on the other hand... they do work, thanks to the scientific principle which states: "Anything can happen in a cartoon."
- Spoofed in Darkwing Duck when Megavolt says, "They called me crazy! They called me insane! They called me a LOONEY! ...and boy, were they right."
- And again in another episode when he goes on a similar rant.
Megavolt: They called me mad. They called me insane! [[[Beat]]] They were right. But I'm running things now!
- Dr. Mystico on Freakazoid!
Dr. Mystico: They called me mad! Insane! WENDELL!
Amy: ...I wanted more. To go where no Cuddler had gone before - Life-sized living Cuddle Buddies!
Barkin: That's... quite a leap.
Amy: Not if you're one of the world's foremost biogeneticists! They called me D-N-Amy. They said I was mad at the Cuddle Con! Hee hee! ...Gingersnap?
Dilbert: This is ridiculous. You can't find tiny people with a stick.
Dogbert: That's what they said to Jonas Salk.
Dilbert: Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine!
Dogbert: Yes, but after they told him that he couldn't find tiny people with a stick.
- The mad scientist from the original Superman short cites this as his motivation. They laughed at his ideas! Now he will destroy Metropolis!
- Denzel Crocker from The Fairly OddParents has this line of dialogue after becoming supreme ruler of the world in Abra-Catastrophe:
They called me crazy! AND I AM!!! Crazy like the guy who was right about FAIRIES!!
- Non-scientist example: Family Guy's "Superstore Sucks" episode featured a guy who was only now succeeding at selling tumbleweed spouting "Y'all laughed at me!", now that nearly every other business in town has gone kaput.
- Doctor Octopus got this treatment in Spider-Man: The Animated Series with regards to his cold fusion reactor.
- Animaniacs had a one-shot Mad Scientist character (with Bride of Frankenstein hair and a big butt that was going to make the world fear and obey her.) "In school they called me mad and insane. They also called me All-Toppy-Big-Bottom. I wonder what that meant."
- Spoofed in Sam and Max Freelance Police
Dr. Dysfunctio Cerebri: They laughed at me at the academy! They laughed at me at the institute!
Sam: He must've been a lot funnier then.
- In the Garfield and Friends episode "Robodie II", Dr. Garbanzo Bean not only invoked the trope about himself but mentioned other people who used to be called 'nutty'. First were the Wright Brothers and then Thomas Edison. The last one of them was his uncle, whom Garbanzo admits to be really mad. Dr. Garbanzo Bean then said he wasn't crazy and that he invented the telephone. Sure, he only invented it in 1987 but, how was he supposed to know someone had already invented it before?
- In X Men, Evilutionary Biologist Nathaniel Essex's Darwinist rhetoric elicits a "Good heavens! You're ... you're quite mad!" from Charles Darwin himself.
- The old stage-comedy joke, "When I used to say I was going to be a comedian, people laughed. Well, they're not laughing now."
- Fringe theorists are fond of invoking this trope to suggest that orthodox science rejects their ideas out of hidebound stodginess (rather than because their ideas just don't pass muster when evaluated against the available evidence).
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. --Carl Sagan
- "Delusional" because it attacked the accepted belief that ability in magecraft was determined by lineage and effectively fixed at birth