Straw Nihilist – TV Tropes

"In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of 'world history' - yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die."The Straw Nihilist is an extreme version of The Cynic and a specific type of The Philosopher who delivers Despair Speeches and Breaking Lectures about Life, The Universe, and Everything (or at least how meaningless it is to fight for any of them), often Chewing the Scenery about how the hero/audience lives on an Insignificant Little Blue Planet and morality never existed in the first place. Often Above Good and Evil, due to the Straw Nihilist's Armor Piercing Questions about "What Is Evil?". This can even be mixed with a belief in a higher meaning in life, where the Nihilist claims that the higher meaning is a reason to neglect the life that he has.The basis for the Straw Nihilist is usually extreme scientific empirical materialism: we're all nothing but matter and energy and eventually the universe is going to die as if we never existed, so what's the point in trying to hope and fantasize in a world full of suffering and destruction where morality is dictated by force? Your consciousness is merely an electrochemical reaction inside a dying chemical reactor called the brain which, out of animalistic instincts to protect itself from pain, creates the illusion of meaning and significance in a reality that has none. Good, evil, morality, and thought are nothing but illusions, with no absolute standard in the universe by which to prove their absolute existence as immutable physical laws.These are one of the inhabitants of the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. Their ability to play existential mind games and force the audience into ethical dilemmas make them a popular sage in the Ontological Mystery genre and amoral Crapsack Worlds. Sometimes they serve as Mr. Exposition, while other times, everything they say is a Fauxlosophic Narration or even a Red Herring, or they're a mix of all of them. But if done badly, they can end up looking like a gratuitous scene of Wangst, making people only get puzzled on why they haven't killed themselves yet.The Straw Nihilist's behavior is often expected to be like that of The Hedonist or The Sociopath, since, if he doesn't subscribe to morality, he has no restraint in pursuing his instinctual desires. Said hedonism can serve as a justification on why he has not killed himself yet, because he's having too much fun. In more straightforward Science Fiction and Fantasy stories, they are usually villains who are always preaching hate and plotting destruction, and can get really over the top in their behavior. They also often use No Good Deed Goes Unpunished and Being Good Sucks as Freudian Excuses on why they have a nihilistic outlook on life.Note that nihilism is simply the belief that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. We use "Straw" as part of the title because it's a stereotype that rarely applies to real nihilists.Also note that it never occurs to the Straw Nihilist that, even if purpose and value were proven to be human myths, meaning and significance is undeniable as intelligent life is able to map out the consequences of existence and is therefore of great consequence to the future of all existence (whether it's populating the galaxy or thinking machines or talking animals or simply staying put is irrelevant).Compare the bermensch, The Social Darwinist, and The Fatalist. Contrast The Anti-Nihilist, who also thinks life has no inherent meaning yet reaches inverse conclusions about morality and the value of life. See also The Unfettered - what they end up as because of their dedication to their philosophy - and Virtue Is Weakness, who believes that morality is a flaw rather than pointless (though some villains believe both).This trope mostly applies to a negative portrayal of existential nihilism. For an approximation of moral nihilisim, see Above Good and Evil and Blue and Orange Morality.

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Anime and Manga

Rock: It's not an obligation. And it's got nothing to do with justice. The only reason I wanna do it is because it's my hobby.

Balalaika: In the grand scheme of things, our lives are meaningless. They're light as a candy wrapper.

Tsukuyomi was amused by the fact that despite supposedly holding these beliefs, Fate later on starts to experience human qualities like attraction and opinion, unbefitting of a lifeless soldier for a cause he may or may not believe in. The fact that she takes a nearly patronizing stance towards him after finding this out probably makes Tsukuyomi herself the best example in the series. She does believes that life is meaningless aside from the small joys that can be grasped (in her case, causing bloodshed). One of her lines summarizes her worldview:

Comic Books

Dr. Manhattan: But yes, I understand, without condemning or condoning. Human affairs cannot be my concern.

Fan Fic

Films Animation

Films Live-Action

Tyler Durden: Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.


Live-Action TV

Stephen: You see, nothing means anything. Mankind is just a random collection of self-replicating protoplasm, floating in a godless universe where the stars blindly run and however frantically we may try to deny it, all our efforts amount to nothing more than death... and dust. [long pause] Stephen: [cheerful] Oh, and I'm having a Christmas cocktail party...

"There's only one thing that ever changes anything. And that's death. Everything else is just a lie. You can't be saved by a lie... you can't be saved at all."

We're never truly sure what his motivations are. Usually he is in it for the challenge, but we're sometimes led to believe that he cares. House tries to subvert this by revealing how selfish he is, but it's pretty ambiguous.

On the other hand, a perfectly valid Alternative Character Interpretation is that he is actually an bermensch in the making, on the threshold of becoming one but uncertain if he is quite ready to take the leap. As such, he's hidden his actual, personal Blue and Orange Morality behind the mask of somewhat more socially-acceptable nihilism.

Jerry: Well, birthdays are merely symbolic of how another year has gone by and how little we've grown. No matter how desperate we are that, someday, a better self will emerge, with each flicker of the candles on the cake, we know that it is not to be. That for the rest of our sad, wretched, pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end, inevitably, irrevocably. Happy birthday? No such thing.

Dean: ''There is no higher power, there's no God. There's just chaos and violence and random, unpredictable evil that comes out of nowhere and rips you to shreds."

"What a cosmic joke, eye candy. An accident of chemicals and evolution. The jokes, the sex just to cover the fact that nothing means anything. And the only consolation is money."

"This... This is what I'm talking about. This is what I mean when I'm talkin' about time, and death, and futility. All right there are broader ideas at work, mainly what is owed between us as a society for our mutual illusions. 14 straight hours of staring at DB's, these are the things ya think of. You ever done that? You look in their eyes, even in a picture, doesn't matter if they're dead or alive, you can still read 'em. You know what you see? They welcomed it... not at first, but... right there in the last instant. It's an unmistakable relief. See, cause they were afraid, and now they saw for the very first time how easy it was to just... let go. Yeah They saw, in that last nanosecond, they saw... what they were. You, yourself, this whole big drama, it was never more than a jerry rig of presumption and dumb will, and you could just let go. To finally know that you didn't have to hold on so tight. To realize that all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain, it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it."


If only because dust, is what we come to, nothing matters, but knowing nothing matters~

"Haven't I told you that the urethral sphincter is subordinate to the will?"

Newspaper Comics

Professional Wrestling

Religion And Mythology

"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. ... I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

"Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."


Standup Comedy

Tabletop Games


Video Games

All human beings are fragile. Especially those who lack power. They die quite easily. And when you die, it's over. There's just no meaning to it. .... That's why I must have power. Enough absolute power to carve my existence into the very fabric of this world.

Why do people insist on creating things that will inevitably be destroyed? Why do people cling to life, knowing that they must someday die? ...Knowing that none of it will have meant anything once they do?

"Understand, that there is no point in living! Cry, that there is no answer! Where there is darkness, there are shadows! I, myself, am all of you humans!!"

Mephiles: It's futile. The world will betray you. Why fight at all? Why risk your life for those who will persecute you later?

Zor: Only the Reaper wins in the end.

Merlina: Why do flowers bloom knowing they are destined to wither? Their time of beauty is so short-lived.

Web Comics

It is worth noting that he isn't entirely evil in more recent strips he negotiates with Deegan and tries to make a peace offering. He still tries to kill people, but at least one was a psychopath and another was a crime lord. He's become somewhat of a Knight Templar.

Greyview: Only certainty in life: when icy jaws of death come, you will not have had enough treats.

Web Original

Western Animation


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Straw Nihilist - TV Tropes

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