play the bad guy

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British pronunciation/plˈeɪ ðə bˈad ɡˈaɪ/
American pronunciation/plˈeɪ ðə bˈæd ɡˈaɪ/
to play the bad guy
01

to be strict, especially toward someone close to one, to help them improve or become stronger

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to [play] the bad guy definition and meaning

What is the origin of the idiom "play the bad guy" and when to use it?

The origin of the idiom "play the bad guy" can be traced back to the concept of tough love and the idea that sometimes, in order to help someone grow or improve, it is necessary to adopt a role that challenges or pushes them beyond their comfort zone. The idiom draws on the idea that by assuming the role of the "bad guy," one takes on the responsibility of providing honest and sometimes harsh feedback, setting high standards, and refusing to go easy on the individual. It can be used in personal relationships, such as between friends, siblings, or mentors, where one individual assumes the role of providing honest feedback, tough love, or pushing the other beyond their comfort zone.

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Example
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The mentor played the bad guy by providing constructive criticism and pushing their mentee outside of their comfort zone to foster professional growth.
My older brother played the bad guy by challenging me to take on more responsibilities and not letting me settle for mediocrity.
The manager played the bad guy by refusing to accept subpar performance and consistently pushing their employees to deliver their best work.
The tough professor played the bad guy by giving strict assignments and holding high expectations to push the students towards academic excellence.
As a coach, I had to play the bad guy and push my team during training to ensure they reached their full potential on the field.
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Definition & Meaning of "To [play] the bad guy"
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