And That Would Be Wrong

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Jesse: Who wants to bet Danny is taping this vacation so that he can deduct it off his tax returns?

Danny: Well I could do that. But that would be wrong.

A protagonist-but-not-hero character makes a casual proposition for solving a problem that is immoral, disgusting and/or murderous and violent. A beat goes by, in which the other protagonists look at him with perplexity, disbelief, mistrust or anger in their eyes. He quickly adds, "And/But that would be wrong." or other half-hearted attempt to save face. This is seldom mentioned again, even when the guy is TOO given to making such propositions.

Not to be confused with And That's Terrible. Compare Could Say It, But..., Shutting Up Now.

Examples of And That Would Be Wrong include:

Films -- Live-Action

Ada Gronick: The guards will have to be bribed. We'll need money.
Loo: We can raise the money, that's no problem. (reaches up, pulls down a large microphone and speaks into it) But that would be wrong.

Live-Action TV

  • Dexter says this about a noisy dog who's been keeping his girlfriend awake at night.

Dexter: I could make things so much easier for Rita... but that would be wrong.

    • Of course, he says it in his head, so he's really only mollifying the Code of Harry.
  • Repeatedly subverted on Firefly by Jayne. Mal is constantly telling Jayne that it's not okay to do certain things, and Jayne's response is usually to whine about it.
    • For example:

Mal: I've given Jayne here the job of finding out.
Jayne: (brandishing a big knife) He was non-specific as to how.
Mal: (whispering) Now, you only got to scare him.
Jayne: (annoyed) Pain is scary...

    • Somewhat subverted in "Shindig" near the end when Mal wins the duel and mentions that mercy is the mark of a great man, and then proceeds to non-fatally stab Atherton twice and reduce his quality to "alright".
  • Subverted in Deadwood, when Memetic Badass Al Swearengen and Faux Affably Evil Cy Tolliver have a saloon proprietor to saloon proprietor conversation, with Al complaining about the "hoopleheads" who patronize his joint: "Sometimes I wish we could just hit them over the head, rob them, and dump their bodies in the creek." Tolliver (arguably the more evil of the two men by virtue of enjoying his sociopathy) replies dryly "But that would be wrong." The subversion is that neither man would shy away from such an act on moral grounds, only practical ones (killing your customers today means no customers tomorrow), and both have in fact done much worse things.
  • An excellent example from Psych:

Lassiter: If I weren't a cop, I would shoot him in a darkened alley and leave evidence to suggest that his own people were behind it... and when I say I, I mean a fake, imaginary detective to be played by Powers Booth.

  • Sometimes happens on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, particularly with Anya.
    • After Buffy and Faith undergo a Freaky Friday Flip in the fourth season, the latter assumes this to be Buffy's catchphrase (that and "you can't do that") and uses it extensively in rehearsing for her new "role".
  • In one Married With Children episode, Peggy has to go back to school to complete her home-ec credit and ends up in the same class as Kelly. A girl in the class leaned over and said, "Hey, Kelly, you up for vandalizing the graveyard tonight?" very casually, as if this was a normal activity for them. Seeing Peggy's shocked look, Kelly says, "No, Susan. That would be wrong."
  • The Big Bang Theory has the following exchange with Bernadette.

Bernadette: Oh, I take pacts very seriously. One time at my lab, a petri dish of genetically modified super-virus went missing. That day we made a Pinky Swear never to admit we crossed Ebola with the common cold.
Howard: Why the hell would you cross Ebola with the common cold?
Bernadette: We never did. (beat) That would be a terrible, terrible thing.

  • From Bones, Colin Fisher, who had recently been in a mental hospital, describes a victim's injury: "The brain would have bled out, thus releasing him into sweet oblivion." (beat) "Which is death, and is sad, not happy."
  • Inverted in an episode of The West Wing: an old friend of Toby's who's in town to testify on behalf of his company against the necessity/justice of a law that would force companies to pay to clean up the pollution they cause comes to him to say that the company has been disposing of illegal amounts of cancer-causing material, that he's known this for years, and that he wants Toby to get him immunity so he can blow the whistle during the hearings. Midway through a conversation with the friend, Josh and a White House lawyer, Toby says they should get him the immunity not just for his sake, but because if he says all this during the hearings it will be devastating to the corporations' side of the debate over the law.

Toby: It will do tremendous good for us in terms of winning this one!
Josh: Toby.
Toby: Yeah?
Josh: Plus we retard Kierney-Passaic's progress in killing people.
Toby: Josh is right; there are several positive outcomes.

  • In Doctor Who, "The Shakespeare Code," the Doctor and Martha realize they have a chance to see one of Shakespeare's "lost plays," Love's Labour's Won.

Martha: Have you got a minidisc or something? We can tape it, we can flog it, sell it when we get home, we'd make a mint!
The Doctor: ...No.
Martha: That would be bad.
The Doctor: Yyyeah.

  • NCIS, "Terminal Leave":

(Kate catches Tony listening through the door to Jen's room as her parents yell at her)
Kate: (whispering) What are you doing?!
Tony: Uh...listening.
Kate: That is just wrong.
Tony: Sneaking your horny boyfriend into a house filled with armed federal agents who are on the lookout for Al-Qaeda assassins, that's wrong, Kate. Me, I'm just trying to gather some valuable intel so I can do my job better.
(they both nod, then put their ears to the door)

New Media

This 2011 version is so similar -- sometimes song for song and line for line -- that I was wickedly tempted to reprint my 1984 review, word for word. But That Would be Wrong.

Tabletop Games

  • Happens routinely in the Paranoia books, but always with the obvious implication "but Alpha Complex is a Crapsack World, so that wrong thing is exactly what will happen."

You may notice you're down to only one [choice] when it comes time to determine the team leader. It's not that we think any incompetent can be team leader. It's not like this test is purposely designed to put the person least familiar with Alpha Complex etiquette in charge. Trust us. It's not like that at all.

Video Games

  • Used verbatim by Koal in Advance Wars Dual Strike, after describing how they turned parts of the world into wasteland. "I'd tell you that we cared, but I'd be lying. And that would be wrong."

Web Comics

  • The Order of the Stick
    • Vaarsuvius, in strip #696, points out that, "As the size of an explosion increases, the number of social situations it is incapable of solving approaches zero." Cue other OOTSers looking at him/her funny, Blackwing whispering, and V invokes (and names) the trope.
    • There's a variation earlier:

Haley: I mean, there's probably some ubermagic that would bind his soul or something... but that's kinda on the Evil side of the street if you ask me.
Vaarsuvius: And what, exactly, would the problem with that be?
(Beat Panel)
Vaarsuvius: I did SAY I was representing the halfling's viewpoint in this.

    • V has a habit of this...

Vaarsuvius: Of course not. None of us would ever tamper with the fundamental nature of reality when bored. That would be wrong.

Sensei Greg: My training could inadvertently give a sociopath atomic breath or something. While awesome, that would be totally irresponsible.

    • Note that there is no sign of it a last-second addition or half-hearted. He is sincere on both points.
  • In Eight Bit Theater, Red Mage and Thief discuss abandoning the BSOD-ing Black Mage:

Thief: Leaving him to rot would be wrong.
Red Mage: So very wrong.
Fighter: (holding up a sword) Kind of chainsaw wrong.
Thief: Okay, good thing we're all on the same page then!

Web Original

  • Used by Moviebob in his review of The Losers, explaining that the best use of the film would be for under-17-year-old to get into the theater so they can go see the far-preferable but R-Rated Kick-Ass, except That Would Be Wrong.

Western Animation

  • From the Duckman episode "Ajax and Ajaxer":

Duckman: Why, I bet a kid, thinking I was a role model and wanting to imitate my behavior, could easily steal sodas from a vending machine... too. DO IT! Do it now, kids! Stick it to the man! HAHAHAHA!!
(Cornfed is handed some Censor Notes)
Cornfed: "But of course that would be wrong."

Danny: Wow, is that some sort of Ghostly Wail? That is so cool!
(Beat, Sam glares at Danny)
Danny: I mean, if it weren't being used for evil!

  • Referenced in Family Guy: "Hey, that's way better than what I was thinking; I was gonna suggest we kill and eat the kids! You know... half-jokingly at first so I could gauge your reaction..."
  • The Fairly OddParents:

Timmy: What do you mean I can't just make three tickets appear like magic?
("DA RULES" appear)
Wanda: Timmy, it's sold out! If we gave you three of the tickets, it means we'd be taking them away from somebody else who already has them!! (off Timmy's "I don't care" glare) And that would be stealing. (off his glare) Which is bad.
Timmy: Well, can't you just make three extra theater seats??
Wanda: That would violate the fire code!
Timmy: I have to buy those tickets from Francis! I wish I had 1500 dollars.
Wanda: That's counterfeiting. (off glare) Which is bad.
Timmy: Darn it! I'll have to do it the old fashioned way...
Cosmo: Blackmail?
Wanda: Bad. How do most ten-year-olds make money?

Real Life

  • Richard Nixon. On the Watergate tapes, Nixon says of one of his enemies, "we could kill him", and in an interview with David Frost, Nixon claimed that the next thing he said, accidentally erased from the tape, was "... but that would be wrong." It became something of a Memetic Mutation back in the day.