Villain with Good Publicity
The Villain With Good Publicity is one of the most frustrating opponents our heroes can face. On the surface, this villain works within the system and commands a great deal of respect from the average citizen, but behind the scenes, they conduct all manners of nastiness. Even the heroes (or the audience!) may be fooled until The Reveal, unaware that The Man Behind the Man is someone so publicly trusted.
Should the heroes know the truth, they're still stymied by the fact that no one else does. Attempts to bust the villain will be met with harassment lawsuits, breaking & entering or assault charges, or bad press. The heroes may even be falsely painted as villains in the public eye. (Some heroes embrace this image and become the Loveable Rogue or the Anti-Hero.) Should the heroes turn up actual evidence that something is up, it'll probably be ripped up by the villain's crack legal team (which Villains With Good Publicity always have), or spun to look like honest behavior.
The Villain With Good Publicity is very good at getting the hero (or other innocents who get too close to the truth) accused of criminal activity. Then again, heroics are 90% based on breaking and entering, stalking, trespassing, assault, battery, and espionage anyway, so he may have a point there.
In a TV series, a Villain With Good Publicity is a good way to preserve the status quo; the best the hero can hope to do is foil a particular plot, not bust the actual villain. Although not always legally invincible, often the only way to defeat this foe permanently is to kill him. Heroes in this situation will frequently try to Trash Talk the villain, or tell him he won't get away with it.
If the heroes are really unlucky, they're up against the entire government (or church, depending on the setting). The villain might also be a single person within the government, a corporation or other public figure with a good PR department, or a religion engineered for this purpose. There's also a good chance that he/she is is using copious amounts of bribery to keep his/her image clean. If things get even worse, the public will actively assist the villain against the heroes.
This villain's favored weapon is the Propaganda Machine.
If you need to take down a Villain With Good Publicity, send in a Cowboy Cop, Knight in Sour Armor, or perhaps organize an Engineered Public Confession to out them as a Straw Hypocrite. The Ideal Hero and other idealistic heroes, by contrast, have no idea how to deal with these guys. Either way, any hero attempting to take one of these guys on can end up as a Hero with Bad Publicity.
Contrast with most Evil Overlords, who make no attempt to hide their villainy, and the Ancient Conspiracy, which hides its entire existence. The exact opposite is a villain who has a 0% Approval Rating, and a more extreme version is the Devil in Plain Sight (whom no one cares about one way or the other). Can be a form of No Hero to His Valet.
Related to Hidden Evil. May or may not deserve his reputation as a good guy. If so, expect the setting to lean towards the "cynical" end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. May use Too Funny to Be Evil as an affable PR tactic. Villains who win over the fans are Draco in Leather Pants.
No real life examples, please; no, not even Hitler.
Anime and Manga
- This trope is practically the hat of the Machine Empire in Galaxy Express 999. Virtually every world in two galaxies sees them as the wave of the future. Even the protagonist, who watched his own mother being brutally gunned down by Machine-Humans, simply concludes that if he'd been a Machine-Human himself, he would have been powerful enough to stop them.
- Muruta Azrael from Gundam Seed is all-but-worshipped by the EA generals, has the Earth's rulers in his pocket, and Natarle has heard of him. His sucessor, Lord Djibril, is regarded as a pale shadow of him, primarily because he has none of his clout (well, that and his ridiculous choice of clothing).
- Chairman Durandal in Gundam Seed Destiny is another good example, his smooth-talking ways and self-positioning as a liberator from the evil Earth Alliance gives him great popularity both in PLANT and on Earth.
- The Claw from Gun X Sword has a positively ridiculous amount of this, and most viewers will probably have to keep reminding themselves that this guy has killed two women in cold blood. This is even crazier when you realize how he got all this support: He was merely a really nice guy who was there for people who needed him!
- The Church of Mauser in Scrapped Princess.
- There are a few of these in all factions of the Earth-Jovian war in Martian Successor Nadesico.
- After a time jump, the main character of Guyver wakes up to find that the villainous organization Chronos has taken over the world...and the Guyver is a villain.
- Light in Death Note, as Kira, gradually gains more and more public support. In spite of being a mass murdering vigilante, he is admired by many for reducing crime rates through fear and power as if he were some deity smiting the wicked (which happens to be exactly how he sees himself). During the Time Skip, entire nations announce that they endorse Kira. You know he's doing a good job when even much of the show's audience requires a particularly despicable moment from him mid-series to *realize* he's a bad guy.
- Well, Light is a Villain Protagonist, combined with the fact that up until that point, he'd never gotten much worse than Well-Intentioned Extremist, this may be somewhat understandable. It was at that point that he'd truly Jumped Off the Slippery Slope into Lawful Stupid (it's implied that at some point down the line, he would start killing people just for being lazy). Although, before this, Kira was practically an urban legend, so he would gain support from a bigger audience.
- Sir Crocodile from One Piece. Suave, amiable casino-owner by day, devious mastermind by night.
- Also: the World Government.
- The homunculus Wrath in Fullmetal Alchemist is Fuhrer King Bradley, the leader of all Amestris, as revealed in a Wham! Episode during his battle with Greed. The difference between the persona he puts on that the people believe and who he is underneath it all is both vast and amazing, kind of like the Aizen example below. Think if Aizen was in control of Soul Society. But the real kicker is that his true nature is known to the entire military high command, who are knowingly collaborating with the enigmatic "Father" and his homonculi, and can be found discussing, among other things, possible "human sacrifices".
- Pride is posing as the Fuhrer's son and pretends to view Edward as his role model.
- There's also Father Cornello, who convinces everyone that he's a holy man when he's really a fraud out for power. Edward exposes him using an Engineered Public Confession, but even after this, once the Elrics leave the city, Envy uses his shapeshifting powers to impersonate Cornello, successfully regaining enough followers to plunge the city into civil war, a perfect pretext for Amestrian military intervention. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- In the anime version of Chrono Crusade, Aion becomes this when he brainwashes and controls the Holy Maiden, Rosette Christopher. Because she heals and takes care of the people, they begin to believe that the Maiden and anyone related to her are chosen by God to lead them. Aion uses this to his advantage and cultivates his followers into a cult, who attack Chrono and the Order.
- Griffith from Berserk in the Millennium Falcon arc.
- "Friend" from 20th Century Boys. Imagine if the Church of Happyology expanded into a political party and took over Japan and effectively made it into North Korea.
- Not just that - Imagine the person responsible for killing billions of people with a killer virus being religiously praised as world leader.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei gives us Mayo Mitama, a villain with "bad bad" publicity. In that she looks evil and does evil things, but, since people are afraid of judging by appearances, they always assume she didn't do them. Her name in Japanese, Mitama Mayo, translates to "Exactly what she looks like".
- Bleach has Aizen, who is not only trusted, but appears to be loved by many, if not most, in Soul Society. This guy has been sneakily plotting for over a century, and apparently arranged things so that everyone who discovered his evil plan was banished from Soul Society before they could reveal him.
- Haruhi Suzumiya gives us an arguably milder version of this in the form of Asakura Ryoko, who is a beloved class representative that cares about everyone and is very sweet and personable. She was also sweet and personable when she tried to turn Kyon into meaty chunks to get Haruhi to react. Despite this, everyone in the class - except Kyon - is saddened by her sudden "move" to Canada. This also applies to the AU, where she's still just as popular, and hating her just cements Kyon's assumed insanity to the rest of his classmates.
- Kaitou Kid in Magic Kaito and Detective Conan, a Phantom Thief with an enormous fan following; huge crowds of people often show up to his heists to cheer him on, much to the police's displeasure. He even takes advantage of this to pull his tricks; he will appear next to his target in his Kaitou Kid disguise, then throw a smoke bomb and quick-change into a common bystander and meld into his crowd of admirers so the police can't find him.
- Hattori in Nabari no Ou is a popular political critic in front of the world, earning many fans (including Miharu's grandma) because of his charisma. He's not so nice behind the scenes, though...
- From The Slayers, Rezo the Red Priest. Upheld far and wide as a powerful do-gooder of nearly messianic proportions, even by his own underlings, nearly every undertaking of his is actually a cover for experiments to cure his blindness, most of which involve scores of unwitting Innocent Bystanders. Some indications in-story point to the possibility that he's a Fallen Hero who long ago fully lived up to his reputation, only resorting to such extreme measures after centuries of unknowing influence from a dead god since birth.
- Onimaru is a demon lord who conquered the whole of Japan by brainwashing the ministers and destroying those who rebelled against him with a huge Wave Motion Gun from Mount Fuji. Yet the Japanese people seen around aren't too troubled by that.
- Gaining his good publicity precisely because of his villainy, The Laughing Man has become a self-propelled pop culture phenomenon in Japan in 2030.
- Vice Chairman Aga Mbadi acquired an enormous capital in public approval as Captain Mbadi, Protector of Justice, during the Terraforming Wars two centuries back, and still gets interest from it. Subverted in that not only doesn't he try to hide his agenda, the whole Solar System happily supports it. While the heroes do enjoy popular support, they get it mostly for being Lovable Rogues, and displaying insane sporting feats, not for their ideas, which most of the population find downright weird.
- A mild example, but Manami from Life is one of the most popular girls in school but also becomes an antagonist.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Rex Godwin was, to most, the benevolent head of Sector Security. Even the heroes, while suspicious and untrusting of him, believed his opposed a greater evil. His true nature and omnicidal goals are likely still not known to the general populace of Neo-Domino.
- Hush is busy impersonating Bruce Wayne when Gotham City Sirens rolls around, and he has managed to lure Harley Quinn to a secluded spot on the roof of a skyscraper, prepared to act horrified and shocked when she completely falls off of her own volition, not in any way pushed by anybody standing near her, when the entire affair is interrupted by an attack of The Joker's mooks. Now, he has the option of gunning down Harley (And Poison Ivy and Catwoman) in the back as they flee and claiming self-defense, or gunning down the attacking zeppelin and becoming an even bigger hero and celebrity to Gotham. He starts gunning the blimp.
- While we're at it, the animated version of Selina Kyle is an outspoken animal rights activist, and when she was found not guilty at her trial, the assembled press and citizenry cheered her.
- The Ghost Rider villain Deathwatch, as his alter ego Stephan Lords, was a benevolent and generous businessman. He blamed Ghost Rider for the destruction of a homeless shelter that he built underneath one of his office buildings and the deaths of the people inside it—when Deathwatch himself had been planning to use them as a food source to fuel his hunger for the pain of others.
- In their first run-in with Brother Blood, the villain manipulated the Teen Titans into attacking church members in full view of TV cameras. He then played it off as a terrorist attack by costumed vigilantes, and staged his own fake death to put the blame on the Titans. (His priestesses explained that he would rise from the dead, as he had done several times before.) The ploy went a long way to legitimize the Church of Blood within America, and made it difficult for the Teen Titans to act against him. Considering that his name is Brother Blood, he has a Satanic wardrobe, and his church is decorated to look like a cross between Hell and Transylvania, how anyone would not see that this is clearly a mustache-twirling villain of the first order is anyone's guess.
- Because he's really good at the whole "charismatic cult leader" thing. Even Dick Grayson himself joined the Church of Blood at one point!
- The Penguin of DC Comics, as mayor of Gotham City (in the comic series that spun-off from Batman: The Animated Series), has been known to crack down on "vigilantism" (read: Batman). Also sometimes depicts himself as a "reformed legitimate businessman" while actually a crime boss attempting to take over half of Gotham, though nowadays he seems to truly be reformed (it won't last, it never does).
- Likewise, Lex Luthor got himself elected president and proceeded to cause problems for the Justice League. Well before that, he was a classic Teflon-coated Corrupt Corporate Executive, on which absolutely nothing illegal could ever be pinned, no matter how involved he was.
- Although Lex is Genre Savvy enough to realize that he's living in a world where "it wasn't me, it was a version of my Mind Controlled clone from an Alternate Universe who had me tied up" is a credible legal defense, and has thus kept himself out of jail, the public has recently stopped buying his collective bullshit. Lex has rapidly plummeted into 0% Approval Rating, lost his corporation, and is well on the way to becoming a pure Mad Scientist again.
- In the Secret Empire story arc, Captain America (comics) fights and brings down a criminal conspiracy led by an Anonymous Ringer for then-president Richard Nixon.
- Senator and later President Callahan, the nemesis of Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan, who has the habit of killing people close to him for sympathy ratings, whenever one of his misdeeds becomes public.
- Doctor Doom wavers between this and 0% Approval Rating within Latveria, but as its head of state, enjoys diplomatic immunity during his official visits to the States. On his "unofficial" visits, however...
- The Mighty Avengers, possibly because they are fully licensed agents of the United States government, seem to have had it with Doom. They responded to his latest attack by simply turning right around and invading Latveria to get at him.
- Except it WASN'T him who launched the attack, and the Avengers have been played for fools.
- The Mighty Avengers, possibly because they are fully licensed agents of the United States government, seem to have had it with Doom. They responded to his latest attack by simply turning right around and invading Latveria to get at him.
- Ozymandias from Watchmen. He is a public hero and has his own product line, including action figures.
- Around the time of Civil War, the Thunderbolts were ReTooled from villains in disguise Becoming the Mask into a Boxed Crook team led by "ex-" Spider-Man nemesis Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin. They quickly gained public support for hunting down rogue heroes that wouldn't register with the government. In Secret Invasion and throughout the Dark Reign period, he got promoted to the head of all government superheroes. A large part of the reason he got away with this is because he positioned himself in the media as The Atoner, and he also pointed out that he wasn't the only Green Goblin. He eventually lost his position when he had a major breakdown caught on camera, showing that he hadn't been able to put the Goblin that far behind him.
- The Spacemen in Untold Tales of Spider Man are beloved astronaut heroes...to hear them tell it, at least. The fact of the matter is that they're ruthless criminals, but their publicity is so good, that J. Jonah Jameson likes them.
- Then again J. Jonah Jameson isn't exactly the world's greatest judge of character.
- It's impressive that he likes them because he's typically characterized as disliking superheroes as a rule. The fact that the Spacemen are allegedly astronauts like JJJ's son, who he considers a real hero, is also probably a factor.
- Edwin Alva from Milestone Comics is the leader of an international criminal organization, but is viewed by the public as a wealthy and influential philanthropist.
- Harmony Kendall, who now stars in "Harmony Bites", and other vampires like her in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight. Capitalizing on the fact that vampires don't have to kill their victims, and people who are partially drained tend to get a rush out of it, they portray themselves sympathetically while making the Slayers look like genocidal nuts.
- Though, in a tie-in online comic, it's hinted that Stephen Colbert isn't fooled.
- The Riddler of Gotham fame has ascended to the high ranks of Gotham society because of his cunning manipulation of the media, and savored the role as Gotham's new "darling detective". Despite his numerous counts of larceny, complete disregard for human life, and the occasional murders of past days, his well-trained media circuits embrace him for his Sherlock Holmes-like method of deduction and flamboyant sense of personal theatrics. Outwitting the Gotham populace had never been so easy.
- Cobra from G.I. Joe. In the Marvel series, they got their own country via diplomacy. In the IDW series, they got a rare burst of good publicity by handing out emergency supplies. They killed the Guardsmen who had them, and Cobra did cause the emergency in the first place...
- A major theme in Sin City is that nearly all of the main villains are public figures that are beloved by the media and citizens. This is mostly seen in the Roark family, a family of crimebosses that hold religious and political offices and have had a tight grip over the city for over a century now.
- Omar Ben Salaad in the Tintin book The Crab With the Golden Claws. He's a well-respected trader who uses his reputation as a cover for an opium smuggling ring.
- Recently in the Sonic the Hedgehog comics, this status was bestowed on long-time villain Ixis Naugus. Due to a combination of the public's mistrust of NICOLE following her previous brainwashing by the Iron Queen (fueled by Naugus' own Hate Plague magic) and Naugus' own actions to defend New Mobotropolis from both Eggman and the Battle Bird Armada, his support amongst the citizens reaches the point that they gladly appoint him their king.
- In one comic book adaptation of Justice League, several ice and cold-themed villains - Mr. Freeze, Captain Cold, Snowman, Icicle, Cryonic Man, Killer Frost, and Minister Blizzard - formed a team under the leadership of a new villain called Polar Lord, and led a successful coup in a poverty-stricken African nation. The League had no luck in their first attempt to combat a group seen as saviors to a starving and oppressed citizenry, especially when said "saviors" had access to powerful new weaponry provided by Polar Lord. Of course, this completely fell apart for the villains when "Polar Lord" turned out to be General Eklu, a scout from a warmongering planet preparing an invasion. Of course, it turns out even worse for Eklu when the other villains find out his plans do not involve them...
- Vaticus Finch in The Tainted Grimoire until the end of the St. Galleria arc.
- The villains in the first two Naked Gun films.
- Chancellor Palpatine in Star Wars.
- In the prequel trilogy, he is handed power and, for most of his reign, enjoys popular support from the galaxy. It helps that the heroes don't know he's actually the villain - or that if the series is watched in numerical order, the audience isn't supposed to know, either.
- In the origial trilogy of Star Wars, Emperor Palpatine still isn't considered pure evil by most humans in the heavily populated and prosperous Core worlds—perhaps due to the Empire controlling its own publicity. Non-humans and Outer Rim humans, on the other hand, are positively rebellious...
- He has carefully cultured a public image as an old man: he's either seen as the aging savior of the Galaxy, or a weak-willed coward almost certainly being manipulated behind the scenes. Both are untrue, but that's Palpatine for you.
- The Agents in The Matrix are believed to be legitimate government agents by most, including the cops.
- Although they don't seem entirely popular with those they order around.
- The Fairy Godmother in Shrek II
- Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz. In the eyes of almost everyone in Sandford, he can't be evil, because he's a pillar of the community and he runs the local supermarket. Partially subverted when Angel finally publicly accuses him of several murders, only to be proved wrong by a flawless alibi. Which is not a fake.
- That said, ALL the Sandford "pillars" turn out to be involved in the murders, including Skinner, although his alibi was real and he wasn't the one who dirtied his hands.
- Max Shreck in Batman Returns and, later, the Penguin during his mayoral bid, although he was soon brought down by an Engineered Public Confession.
- This spawns a great piece of dialog. Penguin: "Odd as it may seem, Max, you and I have something in common: We're both perceived as monsters. But, somehow, you're a well-respected monster, and I am, to date, not." Shreck: "Frankly, I feel that's a bum rap."
- The villain in Minority Report, who is brought down by an Engineered Public Confession.
- In Dudley Doright, Alfred Molina's character lampshades this when invading the village of the Kumquats. A mook informs him they've taken the village as he storms through a gaggle of reporters in the style of Patton. Molina, as Whiplash, orders the mook to "Torch the place, burn everything." As the mook rushes off, Molina stops him and says "Wait, that's bad publicity. Have the photographers take pictures of the boys straightening up the place." As the mook rushes off this time Molina breaks the fourth wall by telling the camera to learn from history or repeat it.
- In L.A. Confidential, Captain Dudley Smith is definitely this. He's brought down by a good old-fashioned shotgun, however.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera has the Largo family, who are mostly known for curing the organ failure epidemic and hosting the titular Genetic Opera, a very popular televised event—and who tend to send the Repo Men out after people who bad mouth them anyway.
- And how convenient was it that Gene Co suddenly showed up to cure all these people dying of mysterious organ failures? Can anyone prove they didn't cause the epidemic?
- Hank Quinlan from Touch of Evil, who's become a very well-respected policeman through careful evidence tampering. In the end, it even turns out that the person he was trying to frame in the film was guilty, giving him the epitaph, "He was a great detective, but a lousy cop."
- James Bond gets this all the time, to the point where M has pre-emptively sent Bond to investigate some supposedly well-known industrialist/multimillionaire/what have you.
- General Mandible from the DreamWorks film Antz falls into this perfectly. He sends all of the troops who are more loyal to the queen than to him off to battle the termites, an enemy he knows can't be beaten. People cheer him for it as they leave.
- J.P Valkinheiser in Nothing but Trouble.
- A character in End of Days insists that God is actually this.
The Man: Let me tell you something about Him. He is the biggest underachiever of all time. He just has a good publicist, that's all. Something good happens, "It's His will." Something bad happens, "He moves in mysterious ways."
- Seven Days in May. General James Mattoon Scott, the most popular, charismatic general in the United States. Oh, he just happens to be plotting to take over the country, at the end of the week.
- Frank White of King of New York is a drug lord who sets up multi-million-dollar heroin deals and guns down rival gangsters in cold blood by day, and hobnobs with celebrities and organizes gala fundraisers for hospitals by night.
- Billy The Kid in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid. Although it's the kind of movie where there's no real heroes or villains, Billy is largely presented as a sociopathic murderer and bandit who is nevertheless widely admired by the populace as a folk hero and rebel outlaw.
- In both their appearances in the Godzilla series, the Xilians begin their invasions by promising good will. First, they want to offer humanity a miracle cure in exchange for borrowing Godzilla and Rodan to beat back King Ghidorah. Turns out they were controlling King Ghidorah and want to capture Earth for its water. The second time, they capture the rampaging monsters that are destroying Earth and offer to help save Earth from a rogue planet in route to destroy it. Turns out they were controlling the monsters to begin with and said planet isn't the threat it seems to be (still is a threat, just not of the world ending version).
- Uncle Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt—apple of his family's eye, local boy made good, deranged Serial Killer.
- In Duel, the murderous trucker helps a bus full of kids and exchanges a friendly toot with passing trains. Everyone except the protagonist has every reason to believe he's just a friendly ordinary truck driver.
- Miles Axlerod from Cars 2, but that was before his identity went public.
- Mike Morris in The Ides of March. Decorated war hero, popular Pennsylvania governor, and the favorite for the Democratic Presidential ticket. And unfaithful husband who has an affair with a much-younger intern, leading to her to become pregnant with his child and be Driven to Suicide.
- Augustus Steranko in If Looks Could Kill. Despite the fact his personal emblem is a scary-looking scorpion and he has a private army of machine gun toting goons for no reason he could possibly justify and generally acts like a jerk to people in public, Steranko has somehow convinced British Intelligence that he is "an ally and a friend."
- * Zigzagged in Casino; Sam Rohstein, a bookie associated with the Mafia is assigned to Las Vegas where he obtains entrepreneurial reputation, awards and social recognition. After a while things go sour and he gets surrounded by great media controversy regarding his license problems and his connection with a well-known mobster. As a reaction, Sam starts his own talk-show to make a stand and defend himself and his image. He gets called on it by his mob associates as his flamboyant crusade draws unwanted attention.
- Many depictions of the anti-Christ put him in this category. For instance, the incredibly charismatic (or so we're told) Nicolai Carpathia of the Left Behind series.
- By definition, the Anti-Christ is supposed to be seen as the greatest force for good since Jesus himself (but isn't), not as the antithesis of Christ (which he is).
- The whole modern concept of the Anti-Christ is a kind of Memetic Mutation. As used in the Pauline epistles, an "Antichrist" is somebody who claims to be the Messiah, but who isn't Jesus. ("Even now many antichrists have come."—1 John 2:18) The word Antichrist appears nowhere in the Revelation to John, which the Left Behind series is supposed to be based on.
- Tywin Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire. While ruthless in his war against the Starks and being an all-around jerk, he is known to be a wise ruler who led Westeros into many years of prosperity as the Hand of the King. It helps that this reputation appears to be entirely accurate. He's a terrible father and a vicious enemy, but he is a good ruler.
- Joffrey got this as well. As a handsome boy-king, many people were willing to blame Lord Varys and the dwarf Tyrion for the problems of the kingdom, believing they'd led him astray. In actuality, Joffrey is a Complete Monster who wanted to shoot peasants with his crossbow, while the other two are doing their best to keep order. This impression seemed to mostly wear off as the situation worsened and rumors about Joffrey's origins spread.
- Euron Greyjoy is an interesting case of playing with this trope: he's both hated by his family and feared by the general populace of the Ironmen for his sinister reputation and cruelty, while also being respected as a Shrouded in Myth badass and living legend. When Euron returns from exile, he surprises a lot of characters by becoming King of the Ironmen fairly rather than simply slaughtering his rivals, and then gives the Ironmen fresh and unexpected conquests, which is all he needs to get good publicity in a Testosterone Poisoning Blood Knight culture like that of the Ironmen.
- The Masters in The Tripods were this trope. They depicted themselves as saving humans from war and violence.
- The Queen in the short story A Woman's Work is the head of an aggressive empire that ruthlessly conquers and spreads. She orders people killed with a mere gesture (including a princess who refused to marry her son), kills off heroes trying to stop her, and is quite willing to have her son be a target for assassination instead of her. However, since she provides universal education and health care, a sound economy, a healthy population, and employment training, and doles out praise and rewards when it's earned, her people and army absolutely love her.
- Sir Charles Latrom, aka Lord Boreal, of The Subtle Knife. It takes Lyra a while to realize the implications of his good publicity when she tries to get back her Black Box that he stole: that he is a well-connected pillar of the community while she is a dimension-hopping child who can't actually prove to the authorities that she exists in this particular world, let alone that the alethiometer belongs to her.
- Xan, the Warden of England, in the novel Children of Men.
- From the 2nd Sapphire Rose trilogy, David Eddings' The Tamuli. Zalasta is the cause of everything wrong, despite being the one to recommend that Sparhawk be called in. Which bites him in the ass later.
- Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter.
- Quite a few former Death Eaters were revealed to have gained good reputations and work in the Ministry. This was one of the reasons Fudge refused to believe Harry when he was naming followers who returned to Voldemort.
- Also, Dolores Umbridge, who, as a distinguished and high-ranking Ministry official, is able to get most people to overlook her child abuse and Fantastic Racism.
- In Dostoyevsky's The Possessed, both Stavrogin and Petr Stepanovic are highly regarded by the whole town, with the exception of a handful of characters who are either despised by everybody (Satov, Stepan Trofimovic) or too insane/lunatic to care (Kirillov). Petr Stepanovic actually pulls this off on two levels, as he is admired both in the high society he frequents and in his secret terrorist group.
- Noboru Wataya in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
- In Animorphs, the Yeerks can take control of any human. As a result, they choose highly respected members of the community, such as Jake's universally loved brother and the school principal. Their front organization for recruiting new voluntary hosts, the Sharing, pretends to be a Boy Scout/Girl Scout kind of thing that anyone can join. All-American nuclear families, outcasts, rejects...
- The unstable homicidal sheriff who is the Villain Protagonist of The Killer Inside Me.
- Marisi, in the Magic: The Gathering novel Alara Unbroken. He is credited by the Wild Nacatl with founding their society, but he turned them and the Cloud Nacatl against each other as part of Nicol Bolas' plan to create chaos on Alara.
- In the Wild Cards books, Puppetman is a sadist who mind-controls people and uses them to torture and kill others for his own pleasure. He's also a well-respected candidate for President of the United States.
- In Nineteen Eighty-Four, everyone who isn't a thought-criminal worships Big Brother, though he is never seen except on propaganda posters and telescreens.
- This was the entire plot of Harlan Ellison's story The Deathbird, in which God is the villain with good publicity and Satan is the hero with bad publicity.
- This trope underpins the plot of The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid; Jacko Vance is a well-respected TV personality and former Olympic athlete who lost an arm rescuing people from a motorway pile-up. This makes it slightly difficult for DI Jordan and her team to investigate him when they realise that he's been kidnapping and torturing young girls for years.
- In Layer Cake, Edward Ryder (Edward Temple in the film) is a guy known to the public as having risen from his youth as a delinquent into a respected, wealthy businessman and patron of the arts, who has married into the aristocracy. In reality, he is a London Gangster, and after his aristocratic wife turned out to be a drug addict and nymphomaniac, it's heavily implied he had her murdered - the public thinks she ran off with a lover.
- Professor Moriarty in any of the myriad Sherlock Holmes stories is a good example. He is a well-respected professor who to, all intents and purposes, seems like a good guy. Only Holmes knows that Moriarty is evil, but he can't prove it. (And when Sherlock Holmes can't prove something, you know the bad guy is good at what he does.)
- In the Dale Brown novel Fatal Terrain, the Chinese try to paint themselves as righteously resisting the warmongering of America and actually succeed for a while.
- In Edge of Battle, drug smuggler Ernesto Fuerza plays on Mexican ultranationalistic sentiment in his "Comandante Veracruz" guise.
- William Shakespeare's Iago in Othello is commonly referred to as 'honest Iago'.
- Petaybee: The entire Intergal corporation, which makes sense because it controls all of the media that reaches Petaybee.
- Duke Roger in the Song Of The Lioness books by Tamora Pierce (or in the first 2, anyway). Subversion in that it's only the people at court who believe he's a good guy, except for the heroine and another character. People outside the court who are aware of him don't trust him. (The people at court are most of the main characters.) It turns out that his good publicity is a mix of charisma and magical tricks - not quite full-on brainwashing, but similar.
- In Un Lun Dun, there are two; Brokkenbroll in the abcity and Minister Rawley in the real world.
- Subverted in Malevil. Fulbert is a Sinister Minister with a flock, but doesn't have the zealots and fanatics one would expect an evil priest to command. He had their loyalty once, and convinced them to accept his rule and entrusted all the food and weapons to his care. Since then, he's been a lazy yet cruel tyrant. They would rebel against him, but have no force to do so, and besieging his fortified manor would end with him starving them out.
- In the first Warrior Cats series, Tigerclaw. He's a highly respected senior warrior, and, by the end of the first book, becomes deputy (second-in-command) of the Clan (and therefore next in line as leader). However, he murdered a previous deputy in order to try and claim the position, which only the young hero Fireheart and his two best friends know. Tigerclaw is such a respected cat in the Clan that nobody suspects him of treachery - even the leader rejected the idea when Fireheart told her his suspicions. Being deputy, Tigerclaw can assign Fireheart punishments in order to keep an eye on him, or order him to perform a life-threatening task, or suggest to the leader that Fireheart should be driven out of the Clan.
- Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Okay, let's see. The three rapists in Weekend Warriors, who have apparently raped "lots and lots and lots" of women, and almost no one suspects a thing! Senator Webster in Payback, who sure knows how to use the Public Relations machine. Hollywood actor Michael Lyons in Free Fall, who is adored by the public, but is a sexual deviant and Complete Monster in private. Lawyer Baron Bell in Deadly Deals, who seems to be such a lovable guy around kids, but actually sells babies! Good thing the Vigilantes have ways to take down such villains!
- The Eric Frank Russell short story "Displaced Person" implies that God Himself may be an example of this trope.
- The Four Horsemen of The Witch Watch are this and use it to good advantage.
- Godfrey Ablewhite in Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone is a handsome philanthropist and Romantic False Lead who's absolutely adored by charities and female characters everywhere. Then he turns out to be a lying womanizer who's been embezzling from aforementioned charities, and a henchman of the mysterious main villain of the tale.
Live Action TV
- On Homicide: Life on the Street, the only recurring villain was Luther Mahoney, a college-educated drug kingpin whose front was a self-proclaimed "community activist" who ran a number of community centers and charities in the slums. No matter what the detectives tried to pin on him, he always walked away unscathed and with his reputation intact, causing one detective to remark that he would likely someday be elected Mayor. Eventually, one of the detectives killed him in a questionable shooting, leading to many, many more problems than were solved.
- Wolfram and Hart of Angel: they are their crack legal team.
- Later, in the same series, Jasmine took this trope to the logical extreme with good publicity through mass brainwashing.
- The Alliance in Firefly and Serenity (with shades of Knights Templar).
- The Alliance is a very good example of this. Most of them think they are being no worse then Kipling-style Imperialists who conquer the unwilling but also build hospitals, ship medicine to the Rim, and try to establish Rule of Law. Which comes in hard for River and Simon who don't just face exile but the respect with which well-engineered hypocrisy can cover injustice. And it comes especially hard for the inhabitants of places like Miranda...
- Pick a perp, any perp, on Law and Order Special Victims Unit.
- In season 5 of 24, President Logan turns out to be the Big Bad.
- The conspiracy in the Earth government of Babylon 5 stays in power largely by controlling all the media and spinning everything in their favor.
- Morgan Clark's Regime in Babylon 5 fits this to a tee. His goverment engages in practially every single Trope in the description, including capturing Sheridan and attempting an Engineered Public Confession as a major story arc. Tellingly, during a meeting with a Earth Force Major who reports martial law has been declared and troops are deployed in all Earth's major cities, he notes that martial law has been (officially) met with widespread public approval! And things have never been more calm. Sheridan replies, "Yeah, but it's the peace of the gun". Sheridan then proceeds to use his own guns quite effectively.
- The Psi Corps tries to be this, but a lot of people mistrust them on principle, without even knowing their true villainy. Those Psi Cops don't exactly radiate friendliness.
"We're everywhere, for your convenience."
- Jim Profit on Profit. It helps to have your name in the title.
- In the original 1966 Batman, one Canon Immigrant who qualified was Lord Marmaduke Ffogg; he and his accomplice sister Lady Penelope Peasoup seemed to be typical members of the Londinium aristocracy, Lord Ffogg's crippling gout helping in such a masquerade. Both Commissioner Gordon and the officers at Venerable Ireland Yard were surprised Batman would even suspect him. However, Ffogg's gout was a ruse, and both siblings found their Karma Houdini Warranty expired when they matched wits with the hero.
- Mr. Saxon in Doctor Who. See President Evil. Like Jasmine, brainwashing was involved.
- Davros, in Genesis of the Daleks. At least, before he arranged the Kaled Dome's destruction (and the extermination of his people) to avoid having to cover his tracks.
- Davros also returns to this in his Sixth Doctor appearance in "Revelation of the Daleks," where he's credited for helping solve universal hunger. You know, until it was revealed his food was Made of people. Whoops.
- The Daleks could count as a group of Villains With Good Publicity in "Victory of the Daleks". The Doctor knows what they really are, but they have even Winston Churchill convinced that they are nothing but loyal robots who will fight for England. And serve them tea.
- Davros, in Genesis of the Daleks. At least, before he arranged the Kaled Dome's destruction (and the extermination of his people) to avoid having to cover his tracks.
- In the Sci-Fi Channel's Flash Gordon series, Ming of Mongo goes to great lengths to present himself to his subjects as "The Benevolent Father" (but can never quite live down his old nickname "Ming the Merciless").
- He can grant a smuggler's sick daughter extra water rations while ordering his execution in the same breath.
- Sheriff Lucas Buck of American Gothic. Nowhere is this more obvious than in one episode where he is strolling down the hallway of the town hospital: on every side of him, men tip their hats and women hand him flowers, little old men and women thank him for the charity work that has enabled them to afford their medicines, children smile and wave, and so on. No one in Trinity could possibly believe good ol' boy Buck could have a mean bone in his body, let alone be Evil Incarnate. Gail finds herself working (unsuccessfully) against this mindset when investigating Buck and his connection to her parents' deaths; Dr. Crower is unable to convince anyone the sheriff is pure evil, hence making it easy to lock him up as crazy; and Caleb, who knows right off the bat that something isn't right about the fellow, ends up being taken in by his charisma and accepting him as his true father who's been wrongfully maligned and only wants to help raise him right.
- Francis Urquhart from the House of Cards (British series) trilogy cheats, connives, blackmails, coerces, and murders his way to the post of prime minister of the UK. He effortlessly charms his friends and enemies into doing everything he wants as he stabs them in the back, and he enjoys overwhelming popular support. He ends up ruling longer than Margret Thatcher.
- The malevolent alien Visitors in V begin like this, gaining control of the world's governments by pretending to be Human Aliens who have come to share their great knowledge...thus facilitating their real plan to enslave and devour mankind.
- And from the trailer, it looks like the forthcoming remake has them heading down exactly the same path, at least as far as the first part is concerned. As for the second...
- Drake and Josh: Megan. It's just not funny anymore. An adult who did the things she did, including smuggling illegal merchandise, torturing (other) children, and using counterfeit money, would be in jail for years.
- Senator Kinsey in Stargate SG-1. He's such a self-righteous Jerkass, you have to wonder how he manages to function in society without constantly being punched, much less get elected. Kinsey was later an Evil Vice President, but he got fired after the Personable President wised up to him being evil. Again, it's amazing how many people don't figure out he's evil two seconds after meeting him.
- Over the course of the series, the heros visit multiple alternate realities in which Kinsey became President. None of them ended well.
- Ba'al becomes this for an episode, when it's revealed that he's secretly on Earth and has become a CEO of a major corporation.
- The Ori, at least to billions of followers.
- Stockwell from season 3 of Queer as Folk. He was chief constable and ran for mayor. The general masses loved him, especially since he promised to make Pittsburgh "family friendly" if he was elected. Never mind that in order to do so, he practically persecuted the gay population of the city. He put in place a nifty little cover up when one of the police officers he employed murdered a young gay prostitute.
- Molly Hardy, in The Adventures of Shirley Holmes. Up to the very end, she's got everybody convinced that she's a model student. She was popular, Student President, and winner of several art and academic awards. Only Shirley and Bo see her sociopathic side, initially.
- In order to avoid spoiling anything, suffice it to say Veronica Mars has several of these, although some turn out to be red herrings and not true villains at all.
- Morgana of Merlin is currently one of these - despite her repeated attempts to murder Uther and take over Camelot, she remains blissfully unaware of her treachery - one episode ended with Morgana being praised for foiling her own plot.
- Lionel and Lex Luthor in Smallville. Everyone knows they're a little crooked, but no one realises how much, and there's no concrete evidence. In Season 10, Gordon Godfrey is one as well.
- Alderman Gibbons in Chicago Code is an obvious one of these, as he manipulates the public, and is able to come out smelling like a rose despite the crap he's involved in.
- Clay Davis from The Wire is an excellent example of this Trope. In fact, his publicity is so good that he manages to get acquitted of fraud charges thanks to it.
- Marcus van Sciver in Blade the Series is one of the most well-known figures in Detroit. He's a big patron of the arts and a major proponent of the cultural revival of the city. The fact that he only shows his face at night doesn't faze anyone in the least. He's also a vicious bloodsucker who kills on a whim and wants to bring down the vampire aristocracy. He's also British.
- In the TV adaptation of the Raffles stories, Raffles explains that his pursuit of fame as a cricketer is motivated by a desire to be this. As he sees it, by making himself a public figure who is automatically linked in peoples' minds to one thing, he's guaranteed that no one could ever suspect him of being a professional thief. He also voices a theory, based on this premise, that Jack the Ripper was probably a well-known MP whose moral speeches were reported in all the papers along with his crimes.
- Regina Mills of Once Upon a Time, mayor of Storybrooke and secretly the evil queen of the "Snow White" Fairy Tale. Some people know she's controlling, a few consider her a Rich Bitch or a Mean Boss, but she gets away with murder because the town just can't imagine she'd ever sink to the depths that she actually spends most of her life in.
- Wilson Fisk in the Netflix Daredevil series is very much this once he steps out of the shadows.
- The Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance paints the Sheksis (of all people) as this originally (the series being a prequel), being initially seen as benevolent rulers by the Podlings and the Gelflings. Their greed often caused them to abuse this trust and abuse their subjects, eventually causing the Good Publicity to wane until their genocidal atrocities caused them to pass the Moral Event Horizon and turn them into the fiends they were in the movie.
- In The Protomen, Dr. Wily is very much this. The people follow his every word, even trying to lynch Dr. Light when he tells them to.
- The Chad Mitchell Trio has a song making fun of the KKK that has the line, "Yep since we got a lawyer and a Public Relations man, we're your Friendly Liberal Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan."
- They Might Be Giants' song "Kiss Me, Son of God" is a Villain Song from the perspective of one
- Desus, one of the signature characters of Exalted, is one of the most famous and well-liked of the First Age Solars, and has no real enemies. Even those who oppose his faction are convinced of his nobility and good intentions. As for his true character...Well, the fact that he has no fewer than four paragraphs all to himself on the Complete Monster page really speaks for itself.
- To boil it down, he repeatedly beat his wife, Lilith, until she miscarried, and then brainwashed her into believing that it was all her fault. And that's how he treats the woman he (in his own sick way) loves. You don't even want to know what he does to people he's not attached to...And let's not even think about what he does to people that he actually dislikes.
- Inverted in Genius: The Transgression. One of the benefits of having a high Karma Meter is that people naturally see you as a trustworthy authority figure and have a very hard time believing you're up to anything evil. That said;
- Some Clockstoppers have the ability to brainwash normal people into Evil Luddites and gain good publicity that way
- Since obligaton measures how much of a connection a genius has with humanity, it's perfectly possibly for an evil genius to have high obligation by abusing this trope (an example NPC does so by keeping his hands clean). You don't have to be mad to be evil, after all.
- There's a whole lot of these in Rifts, but the biggest one is probably Emperor Prosek. Within the Coalition States, he is considered to be incapable of doing any wrong. He gave a live televised speech announcing that he was plunging the nation into a series of unprovoked wars, including a Civil War against one of their own states, and he was cheered on for it. Outside his nation, he is regarded as a Jerkass, Magnificent Bastard, or Complete Monster, but inside the Coalition States, he's unanimously regarded as the savior of Humanity.
- Tatsuzou Sudou from Persona 2 Eternal Punishment is QUITE effective at hiding evidence of anything that might darken his good name, as evidenced by the hordes of Dirty Cops and The Triads and the Tongs he has on speed dial.
- The Crey Corporation in City of Heroes is meant to represent this, but is a jarring stretch of Willing Suspension of Disbelief in the process. There are a TON of missions involving Crey conspiracies, several stories that show deep levels of corruption within the company, and hundreds of Crey operatives (wearing outfits with the distinctive Crey logo, nonetheless) in several very public areas that take pot shots at every last hero to pass by while often strongarming civilians. One randomly generated mission even has them attacking a bank to get "frozen assets". One would think that with a rap sheet like this, Crey would have been destroyed with utter impunity as priority number one, but they're still mentioned as having products in nearly every home and a respectable face. It's practically a whole organization Clark Kenting it up.
- That's mainly an attempt to have the plot advance as you level up. High-level arcs involve Crey as nothing but the rogue remnants of their security forces after their Corrupt Corporate Executive faced trial for about a million charges.
- Also from City of Heroes, Westin Phipps. To the general public, he is an unsung hero standing up for the weak and downtrodden against the threat of Arachnos. In truth, he is in the employment of said villainous organization, charged with finding whatever gives the people hope and driving it into the ground.
- The Big Bad of Baten Kaitos, Melodia, was one of the world's most beloved nobles...and puppeteered the 0% Approval Rating Emperor Geldoblame into doing the grunt work.
- Baelheit, and later Verus from Origins work this way as well.
- The Cruxis and the Tethe'allan side of the Church of Martel in Tales of Symphonia.
- Several villains in the Ace Attorney series work this way.
- Most notably amidst them is Justice For All's last villain and arguable Big Bad, Matt Engarde. Rather than dirtying his own hands, he hired Psycho for Hire Shelly De Killer to kill his rival actor, and then had De Killer force a lawyer to save his ass through taking his loved ones hostage, and tried to frame his manager for it. Even if he's not the only Villain with Good Publicity, he's the most notable in the series, especially since we only have a confirmation that he's a villain midway through the case.
- Then, over in Investigations, we have sweet old Quercus Alba, kind ambassador and decorated war hero. And murderous head of a smuggling ring.
- Possibly your character, in the game Overlord; as the game's base assumption is that your character is evil, rather than choosing between being good or evil, your moral choice is whether to be an Ax Crazy maniac who slaughters all in your path...or a Villain With Good Publicity who uses the respect and gratitude of the people to further your own evil ends.
- In Overlord: Dark Legend, the above Overlord's predecessor, Lord Gromgard, has amazing publicity. His incompetent relatives have driven the kingdom to ruin, and the people are just so glad to finally have someone who knows what they're doing and can finally restore prosperity that they treat the whole "evil overlord" thing as little more than an amusing quirk.
- You can also be a Villain With Good Publicity in Overlord II, but this time, it comes by mind controlling the populace into loving you, rather than genuinely earning their respect—you cruelly use them as tools, pawns, cannon fodder, and meat shields, but they have no choice but to be worshipful servants.
- Tony Montana in Scarface the World Is Yours, despite his drug-dealing, becomes respected enough that he can talk citizens into surrendering their cars and cool off "heat" from gangs and the police with a snappy one-liner.
- Saren Arterius, at least briefly, under the cover of being a SPECTRE in Mass Effect .
- Nassana Dantius would also qualify.
- In the Lair of the Shadowbroker expansion, an option comes up to try and discredit the Blue Suns mercenaries. The results report failure due to the Blue Suns launching a killer counter-PR campaign.
- Bob Page in Deus Ex is considered by the general populace as a benevolent philanthropist. The game's opening cutscene reveals him to be otherwise, controlling the population while operating behind an Ancient Conspiracy.
- Walton Simons, too. "Some people are just good, you know? Good to the bone."
- Umbrella had good publicity in Resident Evil until it was involved in Raccoon's destruction. Not only does the US government tear up all contracts with the company, their public stocks take a nosedive.
- The movies unfortunately play this straight, to the point of forgetting that the president ordered the nuclear strike to destroy Raccoon in the games.
- Kane, resident Magnificent Bastard of Command & Conquer, attained much of his power in the First Tiberium War through clever manipulation of the media against the Global Defense Initiative, painting them as the very same violent, bloodthirsty murderers his own Brotherhood of Nod usually turned out to be. He continues his fine tradition in the Third Tiberium War, with the Brotherhood playing the only stabilizing influence in Earth's Yellow Zones, feeding and protecting the population of the economically ruined and poor regions of the world, all the better to stoke the fires of their hatred for the perceived oppressors of GDI....
- In the fourth game, he's actually working with the GDI to combat the tiberium threat.
- In the scenario of Tekken 6, former Tragic Hero Jin becomes corrupted, takes over the Mishima Zaibatsu, and uses it for various atrocities. The people turned to the G Corporation, led by Kazuya, one of the series' villains (and ex-hero), as the savior of the world from the Zaibatsu, and Kazuya happily uses it to his advantage to try to get rid of Jin. Never mind that Kazuya is also evil and has done lots of atrocities with the Zaibatsu in the second series. Or maybe Jin's treatment are way worse.
- And before Jin took over, Heihachi was known to run the Zaibatsu as this.
- King Tejara in D'ni history.
- For the first half of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf is one of the king's top aides and is well trusted by all but Zelda and Link, who know the evil man that Ganondorf is, but won't be taken seriously, part of the reason being that they're just kids and Zelda knows because of a dream. We all know how that turns out. Considering that Zelda's plan of action ends up giving Ganondorf the Triforce of Power, a holy relic which makes him effectively immortal and insanely powerful, first half!Ganondorf is very, very preferable.
- Dr. Wily in Mega Man 9. Failed several times and people still believing he can change.
- Serpent and Master Albert from Mega Man ZX and Advent, respectively.
- Subverted with Dr. Weil of Mega Man Zero. He made a very intricate plan to make Zero and the Resistance look very bad, which, in turn, made him the hero. However, no sooner had this been established, did he turn on the people of Neo Arcadia, and they were able to finally see what sort of monster he really was...
- Ghaleon from Lunar milks this trope for all it's worth, managing to turn the heroes into his patsies through their altruism.
- Dusknoir from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon 2 has elements of this at first.
- Blake Hall from Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia is the president of Altru Inc., the largest corporation in Almia. He is highly popular among the citizens of Almia because he claims to have invented an efficient alternative to fossil fuels, but he murdered his father who didn't want to use the Dark Crystal, and his 'efficient energy source' involves using the Dark Crystal to make every Pokemon in the region his mindless slave.
- In Escape from Monkey Island, Charles L. Charles (Big Bad Lechuck's alter ego) becomes one of these after winning the gubernatorial vote with his "Good Times, Free Grog" policy, which the local pirates cannot possibly resist.
- Chairman Drek from Ratchet & Clank is this, as well as a Corrupt Corporate Executive. He's also the man who gives good PR to the otherwise useless superhero Captain Qwark. Qwark then does a Face Heel Turn through the course of the game and, in the second game, tries to manufacture heroic publicity for himself by causing the protopet disaster. The third game is then spent with much time under his command, believing he's going to turn on you before he fakes a Heroic Sacrifice, only to finally do some actual heroics at the end of the third game.
- The Order of Zugzwang, the main villains of Dragon Quest V, use propoganda and servants to give the rest of the world the impression that they're a benevolent religious order that seeks to protect the world, when they actually seek to bring their ruler into the world so he can rule. By the third generation, they have human followers from around the world, and it's hard to go anywhere without hearing something about them.
- Almost all games in the Final Fantasy series since VII use this as part of the main story:
- In Final Fantasy VII, we have Shinra, who actively hides its atrocities and provides the planet with much needed electricity. (Plus, La Résistance has a tendency to induce civilian casualties in its activities.)
- Edea in Final Fantasy VIII is welcomed with cheers when she gives her speech at Deling City. They seem to be even happier when she kills off corrupt President Deling.
- The leaders of the Yevon clergy from Final Fantasy X, especially Omnicidal Maniac Seymour.
- Cocoon of Final Fantasy XIII keeps the majority of its human citizens safe, so who cares if a few "undesirables" get exiled to Pulse?
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, the true manipulators hide behind the shadows, using political and religious leaders as well as local legends to their advantage. The true hero gets written out of history as a heretic (though accounts of what really happened survivees).
- The characters of Xenosaga don't actually know Wilhelm is the Big Bad until quite late in the third episode. Even to the player, his nature is ambiguous.
- Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty has Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. By the game's start, he's got most of the Dominion eating out of his hand, despite the fact that he's a Complete Monster who was willing to let the Zerg eat everyone alive just a few years ago just to get into power. Then, Media Blitz happens, and his approval rating plummets to 14% at the highest.
- The Warcraft series has a few like this. Queen Azshara of the night elves was responsible for the first demon invasion in The War of the Ancients, but her people loved her so much that until the very end they all believed that she was only a victim of her Deadly Decadent Court. Arcbishop Benedictus is the secret leader of the Old Gods worshipping Twilight's Hammer cult and tries to stop the players from saving the world at the end of World of Warcraft Cataclysm, but nobody believes the players who slayed him. Finally, Kargath Bladefist is one of the most revered orcs of the Horde, with many locations named after him. When players have to kill him, the players are told to remember the hero he was in the past and not what he became because of demon corruption. Except he never was a hero; as revealed in Rise of the Horde, he was a member of the Shadow Council who sold his people to the demons for personnal power. A rare case where nobody, not even most players discovered his true nature.
- Baron Widebeard manages to keep Saul Island and the Barony of Meeth under control, thanks to his major publicity stunts, enough entertainment and hospitality for a small island, and stealing gold from the Leprechauns and forcing the spoonbeaks into slavery.
- The Iron Throne merchant's guild in the first Baldur's Gate.
- In BlazBlue, the Ax Crazy Jin Kisaragi is seen as a hero for ending the Ikaruga civil war.
- Even then, Jin has nothing on Terumi.
- Loghain from Dragon Age is a Deconstruction of the concept. Loghain is the hero of Fereldan, but he keeps having Kick the Dog moments that eat away at his popularity.
- Ashnard of Fire Emblem Path Of Radiance is fondly remembered by his peasants even though he killed a thousand of them in addition to every other royal and noble. The invaders are bad but they only rule because Ashnard gave it to them. He's also indirectly responsible for the food shortage but his goal was to destroy to world. The peasants don't know the truth but his concubine does and still remembers him fondly.
- Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn, where Zelgius/ The Black Knight was viewed as an inspiring hero by Begnion and Daein, rspectively, even while he secretly worked to put his master's plan to induce the apocalypse into effect.
- Sephiran/Lehran, as his real persona was revered as a Saint and beloved Prime Minister of Begnion, and his real identity was all the more beloved as one of the heroes that had defeated the ancient Goddess of Chaos. His PR is so good that we don't realize there's something not quite right until well into the 2nd game.
- The Goddess Ashera herself, reverently worshiped as a benevolent deity by all peoples on Tellius, she was quite willing to kill them all. Most of the villains of Radiant Dawn are an example of Light Is Not Good, which explains why so many are so respected.
- General Shepherd in Modern Warfare 2. He deliberately instigates a US-Russian war because he thinks America's become weak and pathetic, and he wants to make it a military power again. Even after Soap and Price successfully kill him, the public still thinks Shepherd is a war hero, and they are international terrorists.
- In Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, the Prime Minister is the victim of the evil deeds of evil scientists for the whole game, up until the The Reveal, at which point it is shown that he is the unknown instigator of the whole plot due to his greed and want for power. He ran a dangerous scientific experiment to please investors, with fatal results; then swept the deaths under the rug and used the money he received to fund a political campaign. Both major antagonists want revenge for the loved ones they lost in the incident. He is the only unrepentant character in the original trilogy, and perhaps in the whole series, and yet he has never been shown paying the consequences.
- In Saints Row: The Third, the Third Street Saints operate a massive media empire that has since made the members celebrities in the eyes of Stillwater. This includes taking the time to give autographs in the middle of a bank robbery to having cops you're in the middle of fighting ask you to autograph your weapons before putting them down.
- In Order of the Stick, Lord Kobuta is of the opinion that he is one of these, and after being captured for his crimes, fully intends to exploit it at the trial. Vaarsuvius, however, has other ideas.
- Thog as the reigning champion gladiator is one of these in the Empire of Blood. To the heroes and General Tarquin, he's a mass murdering psychopathic Adult Child with no regard for his victims. He is so Badass and entertaining in the arena that the citizenry don't care and love him anyway. He is so popular that Tarquin can't just have him quietly assassinated in the night.
- In Eight Bit Theater, the Light Warriors intend to become this after White Mage defeats Chaos by hogging all the credit. However, White Mage instead makes their Harmless Villain Counterparts, the Dark Warriors, this instead.
- In Girl Genius, this seems to be the aim of the Xanatos Speed Chess planned by (among others) the Knights of Jove, Prince Aaronev, his son Tarvek of Sturmhalten (though the latter seems to have undergone a Heel Face Turn), and Zola, with their Storm King and Heterodyne Princess "saving" Europa from Anti-Villain Klaus. Unfortunately for them, their plan has been hampered by a Gambit Pileup and their own side have suffered an epidemic of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
- There is also Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer!, who has a heroic reputation amongst the common folk of Europa, despite being a spark-killing maniac. Well, let's be fair: it's because he is a spark-killing maniac. Othar is
completelymostly harmless to people who are not sparks and their minions, clanks or monsters, and specifically wants to kill all sparks and their creations because of the mess most of them put normal people in. While this is bad news for our protagonists, who are all sparks, it makes him a hero to the rest of the population (who generally don't like sparks much). Aside from this, there's the fact he's also a spark, and completely nuts.
- There is also Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer!, who has a heroic reputation amongst the common folk of Europa, despite being a spark-killing maniac. Well, let's be fair: it's because he is a spark-killing maniac. Othar is
- Angelo from Our Little Adventure. He has a legion of adventurers and missionaries who do his bidding and spread the word of Angelo's gospel, even if it means razing and burning villages to the ground.
- Von Gernsbach in Minion Comics hacks into government and private sector files - and got on the cover of Time magazine by portraying himself as a Wikileaks-style freedom of information proponent.
- In Sinfest, Satan has this.
- Captain Hammer takes this to the logical extreme: everyone thinks he's a hero. To the titular Anti-Villain, however, he is most definitely the bad guy.
- Michelle Clore from Kate Modern, a world-famous Reclusive Artist who also happens to be the ruthless evil mastermind behind everything that goes wrong on the show. Similarly, Rupert Van Helden is the author of various books that provide inspiration to Hymn of Oners everywhere, but is actually a lying, wife beating hypocrite.
- The Spoony Experiment Review of Final Fantasy VIII has Mad Scientist character Dr. Insano become president, parodying Edea becoming an ambassador despite being Obviously Evil, as well as Lex Luthor's presidency.
- Also, Fu Manchu is his vice president.
- Doctor Steel - arguably not really a villain, but he plays one on the web. Dr. Steel is a master of propaganda, with recruitment posters, web videos, catchy music, and viral marketing through his growing fanbase army.
- Ink City: Trevor isn't very popular with those who know what he's up to; however, he frequently makes a good impression on new arrivals. Steps have been taken to combat this, with warnings about his true nature added to the Sign and Rigby broadcasting a recording of one of Trevor's many kidnapping attempts.
- Celestia did used to be a good mare. This, combined with the whole raising the sun thing, makes it hard to rebel against her.
- Mom in Futurama appears as a sweet, lovable old lady in public, but is really a Corrupt Corporate Executive. She may not always be planning to take over the world, but it is canon that she intends total global (or more) economic domination.
- Zapp Brannigan also counts as one, a narcissistic, oversexed boob who is incompetent at best and a Complete Monster at worst, but manages to keep his job because people still somehow think of him as a hero.
- Vlad Masters/Plasmius in Danny Phantom. Prior to becoming a reasonably respected mayor in Amity Park (to secretly torment Danny), he was already a well-known billionaire celebrity.
- Magnacat in Monster Allergy.
- Darius Dunn in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward.
- Oroku Saki himself during a previous season (3) of the Turtles revamp. By singlehandedly funding the rebuilding of New York City after an alien invasion, he was hailed as a hero and humanitarian. While this troper can't recall any time this directly affected the Turtles' efforts against him (being ninjas and mutant freaks, they have to work in secrecy anyway), it was still irritating. And the public was never the wiser, even constructing a library in his honor when he was finally defeated by the Turtles.
- Porter C. Powell in Transformers Animated is quickly becoming one of these. Not only did he exploit Sari's lack of a birth certificate to make himself the legitimate CEO of Sumdac Systems (then again, she's only eight), but he also made expert use of legal loopholes to justify his hiring of mad scientist Henry "Headmaster" Masterson. So far, only Sari and the Autobots suspect him of anything underhanded, while the rest of Detroit is none the wiser.
- Victor Veloci from Dino Squad is seen by the public as a great servant to the community. He is, in reality, an evil shapeshifting velociraptor bent on returning the world to the jurassic era.
- Seriously, who would even suspect that to be the case?
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, it's made clear thatt citizens of the Fire Nation are fundamentally good people who happen to be lead by evil people, and they all genuinely believe that Ozai and his family are wise, just leaders trying to share the Fire Nation's glory with tne rest of the world. The fact that Ozai is an absolute ruler with total control over the school system and the media make it pretty easy for him to achieve this, it's at the point where he doesn't even need to worry (or at least, not care) about spinning a genocide, since his people already accepted one as necessary a century ago.
- In the sequel The Legend of Korra, the Equalists' Evil Genius Hiroshi Sato kept up this act for twelve years after the death of his wife at the hands of a firebending gang left him with a hatred for all benders. He gives up the act in the same episode it's revealed to be an act with The Reveal of his latest invention: Mini-Mecha capable of curbstomping all but the most skilled benders.
- Wilson "Kingpin" Fisk in the 1990s Spider-Man: The Animated Series. He's a well-respected member of the community. Peter Parker doesn't even know he's a criminal mastermind until late in the season, and, at one point, saves him from an attack by the Green Goblin during a groundbreaking ceremony.
- Speaking of the Goblin, Norman Osborn is also a Villain with Good Publicity in all versions: Muggles don't know about his criminal activity as a businessman or as the Green Goblin. In this particular series, the other crime lords are the same: even Spidey thought Silvermane was a nice old man.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, L. Thompson Lincoln, AKA Tombstone, is the Big Man and also a Composite Character with Kingpin. He shares Kingpin's ability to trash Spider-Man in hand-to-hand much more easily than any of Spidey's more tricked-out foes, but also possesses an equal or even greater good publicity, as everyone thinks of him as a beloved philanthropist. Especially impressive, since he's Obviously Evil looking, being a Scary Black Man albino with sharpened teeth.
- Metalocalypse: Dethklok doesn't count since they aren't the series villains. Their manager, however...
- The Secret Saturdays has V.V. Argost, who hosts a popular TV show about cryptids and is well-liked around the world.
- Parodied with Montgomery Burns of The Simpsons. Despite being a textbook Card-Carrying Villain, he often strives—and always fails—to portray himself either as a sensitive, kindly soul (his autobiography is titled Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?) or as a benevolent super-being (in his film festival entry, he portrays himself as both E.T. and Jesus). Furthermore, when he loses his plant (and in one case, his entire fortune as well) and Springfielders are free to openly hate and mock him, Burns is genuinely shocked that they feel that way.
- Apparently taking a cue from Lex Luthor, the Delightful Children in Kids Next Door briefly became student council president in one episode.
- Arguably, Jafar in Aladdin; he's obviously an Evil Chancellor but, even after doing some questionable things, the sultan keeps him around. There's no word from the populace about him, though, so his good reputation may be strictly limited to the sultan. Him having a Mind Control Device on hand doesn't hurt either.
- Looney Tunes: Fresh Airedale, a 1945 Chuck Jones cartoon, concerns a "loyal, trustworthy" dog named Shep who gobbles up his master's steak, invites a burglar to ransack the house when the master's away at work, and attempts to kill the nation's "# 1 dog" after reading about him in the paper. A cat repeatedly foils the dog's schemes, but ends up taking the blame for them.
- Although he did get a six month jail sentence at the end of the pilot for receiving stolen property, David Xanatos from Gargoyles is still viewed as a billionaire industrialist and member of high society, and his many misdeeds are never revealed to the public.
- For almost all of Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is seen as the perfect hero and the greatest guy in the town. Somehow, everyone manages to ignore the fact that he was stalking, harassing, and blackmailing Belle, and then tried to wrongfully commit her father, just so he could get the perfect trophy wife.
- They did know, as seen during Gaston's song, but they just ignored it. Probably a case of Values Dissonance; his treatment of women probably wasn't anything unusual for that (admittedly ambiguous) time period.
- Dr. Paradigm of Street Sharks certainly counts. He manages to convince the entire city that the sharks and their father are the real bad guys, essentially ensuring that they blame everything wrong on them. On the other hand, that's the only plan of his that actually works.
- On Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Pete is seen as a respected captain of the guards until the end of the movie.
- Setting aside what anybody actually thought of President Bush, this could be considered somewhat inverted in the South Park episode Mystery of the Urinal Deuce. All throughout the episode, the President and the White House are made out to be evil people who caused the 9-11 attacks, a conspiracy perpetrated by themselves. Then, at the end, we find out that none of this is true, and the reason they perpetrated the hoax was so that people would think the government had everything under control.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Heloise unwillingly becoming one of these.
- Cobra Industries in G.I. Joe: Renegades.
- Within the DCAU, there's Lex Luthor (during his Superman: The Animated Series days and in the Cadmus Arc of Justice League Unlimited), naturally enough, but we also have Vandal Savage (during the Justice League episode "Maid of Honor") and Derek Powers (until he unintentionally publicly exposed his radioactive condition).
- The Brotherhood in X-Men: Evolution episode No Good Deed. The only ones to realize they're up to no good are the X-Men (who they frame for violently using their powers) and Edward Kelly (who doesn't know they're up to no good, but assumes they are because they're mutants).
- Edward Kelly himself is one to some extent. To many, he's a noble principal who wants to help his students, and to the Muggles, he is legitimately a good principal, he's just such a massive racist against mutants that he tries to encourage fellow mutant hater Duncan to team up with the Brotherhood just so they can pick a fight with Cyclops and get him, and him only, expelled simply for being a good mutant.
- Unless they got into power by an internal coup within an already existing government, most dictators got into power by rallying extensive popular support. Even in a popular uprising, there are almost always also crowds of protesters, proclaiming their support for the government.
- The Economist has some advice on how to achieve this here.
- Malcolm X described this phenomenon in one sentence: "If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the oppressed and loving the people doing the oppressing."
- Elija Muhammed himself was a Villain with Good Publicity within the Nation of Islam.
- Al Capone made the first soup kitchen.
- This tends to happen with celebrities, particularly athletes, who are accused of crimes, particularly rape/sexual assault. The public can't divorce the person from their image of what the person does and stands for, so they refuse to believe they could do anything wrong.
- Depending on what side of the political spectrum you're on, politicians from the other side can sometimes be this. Of course they have good publicity. That's how they get elected, unless you consider dictators to be politicians. And that is all we have to say about that.