Blue and Orange Morality

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"If you have struck any kind of bargain with Griphook, and most particularly if that bargain involves treasure, you must be exceptionally careful. Goblin notions of ownership, payment, and repayment are not the same as human ones."
Bill Weasley, Harry Potter

To say that questions of morality are thorny and filled with gray when they aren't being hammered between stark absolutes is putting it mildly. Because of this there can be great drama when characters who represent a wide range of moral viewpoints come together or into conflict.

The strangest of these characters are those who espouse Blue And Orange Morality. These characters have a moral framework that is so utterly alien and foreign to human experience that we can't peg them as good or evil. They aren't a Chaotic Neutral Unfettered, though they may seem to act terrifyingly randomly; nor are they necessarily a Lawful Neutral Fettered, because our and their understanding of 'law' as a concept may not even be equivalent. There might be a logic behind their actions, it's just that they operate with entirely different sets of values and premises with which to draw their conclusions.

Just to repeat: that doesn't make them bad, although they are often liable to commit acts we would see as horrific; in that case, they're likely to follow these with completely benign behavior, and not act as if anything was the matter. Because in their world/mind, that's just what they do. This trope is one of the trickier to pull off well, because Most Writers Are Human, and it's often hard to portray alien without simplifying it to Evil-by-another-name.

This is similar to Values Dissonance, but the main difference is that societies with Values Dissonance can, at least on a basic level, generally measure one another by the same concepts of Good and Evil, or even Law and Chaos. With Blue and Orange Morality, the values are so foreign, that such concepts can no longer be applied. They may not even know what these things are, or even if they do, will often find them confusing. The concepts are not necessarily beyond their grasp, mind you, but are just not something which they'd place any importance on.

Conversely, they may have these concepts, but apply them in vastly different ways. Such as regarding motionlessness as the epitome of evil, or viewing exploration as an element of chaos.

Note that cases involving solely a misapprehension of facts and consequences do not count here no matter how alien the reasons; if, for example, a race of aliens thinks killing is okay because its own members respawn within a day with no harm done, and mistake humans as working the same way, that doesn't mean they wouldn't balk at killing if they realized the degree of harm it causes to other creatures. In this case, they may be working by comprehensible moral standards and just gravely mistaken about the implications of their actions.

Likely candidates for Blue and Orange Morality include the Fair Folk, who follow rules of their own making; Eldritch Abominations that are beyond comprehension; the more exotic Starfish Aliens; AI's and robots, especially when super smart and incapable of emotion. An individual human (or single members of any species whose majority is using the greyscale morality) who operates on this is The Ubermensch of Nietzschean philosophy (a human being who has developed their own Blue/Orange set of morals). A Nominal Hero may have this motivation as well. Moral Sociopathy overlaps strongly with this trope for obvious reasons, though this is not always the case.

Compare Xenofiction, Humans Are Cthulhu, Humanity Is Infectious (all often involving this), Non-Malicious Monster (sometimes requires this), Above Good and Evil, Affably Evil / Faux Affably Evil (they sometimes can come across as this), Even Evil Has Standards (when handled poorly or bizarrely), and Evil Cannot Comprehend Good (less elaborate forms that resemble this in practice). When two sides go to war and nothing will stop them except total annihilation, that's Guilt-Free Extermination War.

Has nothing to do with Bucknell University, The University of Illinois, The University of Virginia, The University of Florida, Auburn University, Syracuse University, Hope College, Gettysburg College, or Boise State University (the colors of all of which are blue and orange, albeit different shades in each case). Nor the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, New York Knicks, New York Mets, or Mango Sentinels. Or the City of New York, for that matter. Furthermore, do not confuse with Blue And Orange Movies. Also has nothing to do with the Karma Meter in Mass Effect nor the Aperture Science Hand Held Portal Device. No relation to the light scheme in Tron and its sequel.

Whether it has anything to do with us is left as an exercise for the reader.

Examples of Blue and Orange Morality include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • Especially Kaworu. By appearances, he comes off as simply Ambiguously Gay for Shinji, but things become more complicated when you realize that he doesn't seem to conform to human definitions of love or sexuality. He also seems to have a genuine admiration and respect for humanity and its achievements, despite attempting to cause The End of the World as We Know It.
    • A lot of Kaworu's traits come from Mark Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger." See below. It's where we get moments like Evil Manga Kaworu.
    • It should be noted that a definite angel is said to have "Blood Type Blue", while an ambiguous Angel has "Blood Type Orange". Take from that what you will.
  • Guu of Haré+Guu, essentially a Trickster Archetype. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to her actions: she's just as likely to torment Haré as rescue him from mortal danger by summoning godlike powers, all the while seeming casual and uncaring. Her inscrutable agenda makes it pretty much impossible to pinpoint her Character Alignment.
    • She loves to act like she's giving Haré an Aesop, but always subverts it completely in the end.
  • Claire Stanfield from Baccano!. He obviously HAS a moral code that he acts by, it's just so unusual that many of the people who encounter him end up with no idea whether he's actually a good person or a really horrible one. (his solipsist worldview may have something to do with it).
    • Ronnie Suchiart is just as likely to incite a massacre as he is to follow a man for two-hundred years just to give him some company. The only answer he's ever given for his motivations is that he's very old, very powerful, and very bored.
  • Ryoko Asakura (an "integrated data entity" disguised as a human) in Haruhi Suzumiya. She honestly can't grasp why murder is wrong as long as it achieves an objective.
  • The Pillar Men in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure have little to no regard for human life, other than the occasional human warrior who knows how to use the Ripple (which is their greatest weakness), but their leader, Cars, will go out of his way to not land on a patch of flowers, or kill some teenagers so they don't run over a puppy.
  • Vampires in Hellsing (more the anime than the manga) are alluded to having their own set rules and motivations, this is what made the Freaks so dangerous since they were artificial vampires and thus had vampire powers but human desires and instincts. Vampires such as Incognito and Alucard seem to have taken human masters in part for this reason.
  • The more intelligent mushi of Mushishi behave this way. The mushi's form of life is so alien from our own that 'good' and 'bad' may mean completely different things to us and them. For example, in the very first episode the mushi lure a young girl out to the forest for a feast, during which they tell her that they want her to watch over her future grandson. Ginko is also quite ambiguous as to whether the mushification of said girl would've been better off botched or properly completed.
  • This plays a large role in Heroic Age, in which the "Iron Race" (humanity) doesn't understand the values of the "Silver Race" that is warring against them, especially considering that they are Straw Vulcans who reject/transfer emotions to a few chosen individuals. The lack of understanding that the SR have no emotional attachments (to home planets) while humanity does, causes the SR to wonder why the humans would try to take back their home planet and then try to conquer the homes of the "Bronze Race" and SR, and causes the human military to attack what they assumed was a well defended BR home world when it was a weakly defended mass nursery, and attack the SR homeworld which was mostly abandoned, opening themselves up for an ambush.
  • Black Hanekawa chides Koyomi from Bakemonogatari for thinking he can befriend or empathize with so-called "oddities" such as itself. Koyomi frequently repeats that oddities should not be hated for what they do because they're only doing what is natural for them.
  • Death Note: The Shinigami. Their entire existence revolves around killing human beings, and they need to do it to survive. Their greatest sin is to kill someone to preserve the life of another, which is apparently too close to playing God. Ryuk dropping the Death Note onto Earth out of boredom seems pretty cruel, since it turns Light Yagami and others into callous killers, but to him, killing people with a Death Note is just a part of nature.
  • Kyubey of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is stated to be unable to understand human morality, being utterly confused as to why the girls would be horrified by the idea that a contract with him is essentially lichification. He later states that the species that he belongs to is incapable of emotion of any sort. In terms of actions, he also sees nothing wrong with manipulating generations of girls into situations that inevitably lead to their becoming murderous Eldritch Abominations, since the system prolongs the life of the universe by reversing entropy. He also doesn't understand why humans consider omitting important information as a form of duplicity.
  • Hunter X Hunter
    • Gon Freecs has distinct shades of this. He isn't The Unfettered, because he is guided by a strong sense of right and wrong, but as the counterfeiter he hangs out with finally realizes, "He doesn't care about the good and the bad." Mostly it's enough to peg him as Chaotic Good, but that doesn't really do him justice. Neither the readers nor the other characters can really predict where his moral sense will take him, and he surprises the hell out of even his best friend (a child assassin) a lot. Notable events include:
    • A serial killer once trained him and Killua, and he cheerfully allowed the person to go free afterward even after it was pointed out that this would cause more young women to get eaten, because "he helped us."
    • After one of the Phantom Troupe is killed by Kurapika, Gon and Killua are captured by his best friend, who suspects them of involvement and rants, in tears, about how much it hurts to have lost his blowing-stuff-all-to-hell partner. And Gon responds with sudden fury, because he had assumed that the Troupe's members could do such horrible things because they didn't understand how much it hurt to lose people, which meant he couldn't hold it against them, but if they can and still do it they're so incomprehensibly evil he wants to end them.
    • The Chimera Ants enter this territory from time to time, as well. Though they're largely just evil.
      • Although most of the ants are evil and some are good, the king, Meryem, is a master of this trope. All the experiences he goes through continually shape his moral code which fluctuates wildly through the arc, turning him from what appears to be a Cell ripoff into one of the most deep and interesting villains in Shonen manga. And yet he always seems to have his code stuck somewhere in the Blue and Orange territory.
  • Togashi makes allusions to this in Yu Yu Hakusho, too, once the S-Class demons start to turn up. Previous, all the weird-thinking people like Sakyou and Sensui were insane or just evil.
  • Togashi loves this trope—the Prince in Level E is similarly inscrutable, and even his compatriots and relatives often fails to understand whether he's really this different, or just a Jerkass Troll.
  • Mercurians in Gunnm are the descendants of the Nano Machine plague left on the planet by a terrorist half a millennium ago. They've since developed into the civilization so utterly alien to the humanity's way of thinking that their ambassador (or at least the entity supposed to contact the Solar System at large) turned out to be a 20 meter tall killing machine with a phallic-shaped Wave Motion Gun in the right place. Fortunately there were places where such "Ambassadors" could be dealt with.
  • Gundam 00 has the Extraterrestrial Liquid-metal Shapeshifters (ELS) from The Movie. These are intelligent metal-based life forms that evolved on a gas giant. They communicate telepathically, or by combining their physical forms together to form a unified being. Naturally there is some amount of extreme confusion between the two species when they meet humanity. The mutual misunderstandings lead to a war between the two before a clear means of communication is found.
  • Yuuko from xxxHolic could be considered to have a version on this, in which, to Yuuko's point of view, any wish or decision can be justified, as long as the the wisher or decision-maker is satisfied with the result, and the only rule in her wishes being Equivalent Exchange and that she won't kill, as it will 'weigh down' on the Universe.
  • While there are plenty of fans that would love to simply write him off as evil, Mayuri Kurotsuchi of Bleach appears to operate on this standard. Mayuri is the ultimate scientist of the series, lacking his Good Counterpart Urahara's morality and his Evil Counterpart Szayel or Aizen's god complex; all that matters to Mayuri are results, and as such he doesn't seem to see any sort of hypocrisy in torturing Quincies to death as a form of study and then healing the last remaining one years later to show his new medicine works perfectly. He abuses his daughter, but from his own perspective this is because he knows for a fact his creation can handle it and people protesting how he treats Nemu are questioning the quality of her design. Szayel raping and nearly killing Nemu to save himself from death doesn't appear to bother Mayuri very much (of course, he can just "fix" her later), but he expresses utter contempt for him once he hears Szayel proclaiming himself a perfect being; perfection would be the death of scientific innovation, after all, and no man of science should view that as desirable.
  • Kimblee in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and second anime has an odd code which seems to consider holding true to your role or principles the most important thing, irrespective of their conventional morality. He criticizes soldiers for being reluctant to massacre defenseless people, but expresses admiration for the Rockbells for their determination to save lives (of the same people the soldiers were killing) as doctors. He sides with the homunculi because they give him freedom to practice his alchemy without restriction, but claims to be primarily interested in who'll win the conflict between them and humans. In the end he saves Ed from a Grand Theft Me by Pride because he's repelled by Pride abandoning his claims of superiority as a homunculus to merge with a human to save himself.
  • In the Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller:
    • The Liaden abide by a strict, voluminous honor code that governs all aspects of their life and can seem cryptic and impenetrable to outsiders. Prominent features of this code include the concepts of Balance, which holds that any action (whether harmful or beneficial) must be met with an equivalent response, and melant'i, which crosses "face"-like social status with separation of multiple roles held by a single person. This code also incorporates different dialects of the Liaden tongue (which are spoken in different social situations) and bows of varying depth and associated gestures that convey relationships. On Liad, a social faux pas can have lethal consequences.
    • The Yxtrangi also have a very codified caste and honor system—to Nelirikk's sorrow.
    • In fact, most planets and cultures in the Liaden Universe have their own cultural mores and honor codes that visiting characters find strange (and vice versa). One of the themes of the series is the difficulty outsiders can have in dealing with "local custom."


Card Games[edit | hide]

"Have you ever killed insects nibbling at your crops? I think that's what the Eldrazi believe they're doing to us." -- Shrivel flavor text

    • The game has also been retooling some of the Too Dumb to Live of its goblins into Blue And Orange Morality about personal wellbeing.
    • Hell, the colors themselves: Every color (of five) has two enemies and two allies, leading to some inherent blue-and-orange-ness:
      • White is law and order. But Light Is Not Good, since white can also become oppressive. White's allies are green and blue; white's enemies are black and red.
      • Blue is interested in knowledge and rational thinking. But this doesn't mean it's necessarily good, since acquiring knowledge can lead to ethical issues; blue's allies are white and black, while its enemies are red and green.
      • Black turns inward, toward the self. Remember that Dark Is Not Evil, since if you discover a drug to cure a disease but have the profit motive, you still help people.
      • Red is the color of freedom and emotion. Red sounds inherently Blue And Orange, since freedom is generally considered good while some emotions, like anger, are generally considered evil.
      • Green lives on instinct. Just look at the animal examples. Green can be quite altruistic, or it can be cancerous.
    • Phyrexia seems to be getting retooled to this from their former role as more or less Omnicidal Maniacs. Though incredibly cruel and ruthless from a human perspective, Phyrexians earnestly believe that flesh-based life is deeply flawed at best, if not totally evil, so they're really doing people a favor by killing or converting them in horrifying ways. They're also growing factions along the color lines above:
      • White Phyrexia follows a scripture talking of the inadequacy of flesh.
      • Blue Phyrexia is constantly trying to improve themselves... by taking apart other beings to learn how their few good traits work.
      • Black Phyrexians fights among themselves, each of them trying to prove that they are the strongest and should get to run Phyrexia their way.
      • Red Phyrexia is finding itself filled with confusion, the ideals of personal freedom from red mana in conflict with the hive-like nature of Phyrexia.
      • Green Phyrexia seeks to change, grow, and approach perfection through an accelerated form of natural selection.
  • WOTC has put a "Personality Quiz" online that allows you to determine your 'color' - many of the answers to the multiple-choice questions are arguably blue-and-orange morality, and the results also show a bit of the same.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • For some wacky reason, nobody gets my moral code. Some people say it's 'cuz I'm nuts.
  • Miracleman in the Alan Moore rendition of the character counts as arguably more Above Good and Evil. The Neil Gaiman version of the character, in the first Gaiman story, lives this trope.
  • Galactus was originally intended to be one of these. More recent interpretations have put more into a Above Good and Evil territory, with varying reasons for his planet devouring ways.
  • The Harlequinade, in The Invisibles.
  • The Enigma in the comic of the same name.
  • One of the Eternals books invokes this, a bit mixed with Beyond Good and Evil. It is set after the Super Registration Act is passed, and Iron Man is trying to get them to register, eventually saying that "you must choose a side." The Eternals' leader replies "Imagine that you find two kids fighting over who gets a plastic ball. Would you choose a side?"
  • Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen is above it all. When Ozymandias is inquired about Dr Manhattan's political allegiances, he replies, "Which do you prefer, red ants or black ants?" When the reporter admits he has no preference on such a trivial matter, Ozymandias says that Jon has the same opinion.
  • Supergod by Warren Ellis imagines a world where super powered beings essentially live by this trope, because they're so far removed from human values and experience that their resulting morality simply cannot be expressed in human terms. This ends about as well as you'd expect.
  • One early appearance of Doctor Strange's extradimensional enemy Dormammu portrayed him this way, with Doc realizing Dormammu did have a bizarre and alien sense of honor which Doc could use to his advantage once he understood it.
  • The Endless of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman show this at times, and at others are utterly human. Plus, each character's personality lends them different ways of dealing with the world. Dream shows this multiple times, such as not punishing a creature which dominates others dreams to create a 'nest' because it is simply acting in its own nature. Death never (well, almost never) interferes with the natural demises of anything, no matter how much she likes the individual and Destiny knows when catastrophic events will occur, and will only summon the others for a meeting about said catastrophes if his book says he does.
  • In the Babylon 5 comic miniseries "In Valen's Name", we meet an alien race who have heard Valen's teachings and travel the cosmos trying to find others to join the cause. If those others Refused the Call, they get slaughtered as they are deemed unfit to fight for Valen. For viewers of the show who know the truth about Valen, it's difficult to imagine him being OK with this behavior!


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • Used often in Aeon Natum Engel, especially with the Migou and their greater view of the universe.
  • In The Return despite many claims of just being "simple creatures," Succubae relationships and morality is so complex it is no wonder that they view humans as bordering on Exclusively Evil, and vice-versa.
  • Very prominent in the Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic Embers; this is used to explain the more complicated beliefs which differentiate the Four Nations. For instance, the Fire Nation is marked by an extreme sense of loyalty, while the Earth Kingdom is far more based in morality; while the Water Tribes place high value on family, the Air Nomads are never raised by their parents; and so on. None of these views are depicted as definitely right or wrong, but rather as how each Nation has a society which functions very differently from the other Nations.
    • Given an in-nation Shout-Out when an opposing faction of Air Nomads show up - their robes are blue in contrast to the saffron worn by Aang as a Temple monk.
  • In Galaxy Rangers fanfics, this sometimes shows up with Shane and Niko, as they outwardly appear human, but were raised in very different environments from Earth. Less common with Niko, as the Circle of Thought and Ariel were decent folk, albeit with different taboos and ideas as they're a race of Technical Pacifist psychics who merely wish to be left alone. It's much more prominent in Shane's case, as he was the product of a brutal Training from Hell Super Soldier program.
  • NewChaos from The Open Door. What standards they appear to have, such as a nigh-Fettered absolute devotion to the protection of children and punishment of their abusers, is contrasted with horrifically anarcho-libertarian laws or lack thereof, near-Unfettered approach to combat and a variety of what are humanly seen as atrocities. The sheer contrast in their extremes of behaviour has driven people both in the audience and In-Universe to blanket label them as evil.
  • Mao from Code Geass Mao of the Deliverance. He starts his journey perfectly willing to do anything for C.C and his actions often seem inexplicably insane in the sheer innocence of their brutality, all the while seeing himself as a paragon example of a Knight in Shining Armor engaged in a struggle of White and Black Morality. It becomes muddled near the middle, however, as Mao seems to acknowledge that his recent actions are evil (at least as far as he can grasp the concept) but necessary (again, for C.C.), revealing the Grey and Gray Morality underlying the story. Regardless, his status as a Cloudcuckoolander often causes him to do things normal people would balk at without impunity, such as his famous attempt to chainsaw his immortal beloved in order to make her more compact for a cramped plane escape.
  • In the Invader Zim fic "In Short Supply," the Irkens' concept of religion is notably odd. Most are Agnostic or Atheist; some are Narcissists, which mean that they see themselves as the highest moral authority; others are Firmamentalists, who worship space (which helps them justify conquering other planets). A few Irkens, however, cling to their oldest religion, Slarkism. In this religion, the water-god Slark demanded that Irkens be virtuous, and since virtue is painful, he considers pain and even suicide holy acts; this is called Virtuous Slarkism. However, an ancient Tallest named Zim (not that one) eventually rebelled and started a Religion of Evil called Zimist Slarkism, which teaches that evil is better since the evil don't feel pain. Even more oddly, the two Slarkist denominations consider themselves allies, in part because tolerance is Virtuous and insolent indifference to others' beliefs is Zimist.
  • The main characters in My Immortal seem to have a belief system based entirely on the concept of "goffic" = good and "preppy" = bad. Apparently, no other moral considerations exist. Killing and torture are perfectly acceptable, but shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch is a mortal sin. Tara has (or pretends to have) the same views.
  • In 'Eye Of The Fox,' Kira's methods or the revel he takes in causing pain to others may be strange to a 'normal' person, he, as a half-demon, sees this as acceptable punishment to people who have wronged him.
  • In The Mega Crossover fancomic Roommates Jareth's dark side thinks in Trope and measures moral questions in the terms of the Theory of Narrative Causality. He would kill if that was dramatically appropriate in the story and in character for his current archetype, maybe feel remorse about the life lost, but would think and feel that that was the right thing to do.[1] To clarify he seems to have some idea about what humans call "good" or "bad" but he thinks of them as storytelling devices not morality and as such doesn't value them over any other Trope. Also his father seems to have similar notions so maybe this is the standard Blue and Orange for The Fair Folk in the series.
  • Shards of Memory, Shinryu. When Firion gives him a What the Hell, Hero?, his replies amounts to a very condescending "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize you too are a god who has existed for eons and thus are fit to judge my actions."


Films -- Animation[edit | hide]

"Life's no fun without a good scare."

    • It's debatable how canon this is (for obvious reasons), but in the Kingdom Hearts series, Jack tends to think of new experiences (such as the Heartless) in terms of how he can repurpose them into new Halloween surprises, but also tends to become quite disillusioned with them if it should ever come to light that it can actually cause people harm (such as, again, the Heartless).


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • The Mi-Go from the 2011 adaptation of The Whisperer In Darkness are a classic example, very much in line with what Lovecraft originally had in mind. After Wilmarth, the protagonist, thwarts their plan to open a mystical portal from Yuggoth (read: Pluto) to Earth, and then crashes a plane into the ritual site for good measure, they actually go out of their way to save his brain, place it into one of their cylinders and take him around the cosmos on incredible adventures. Even though he had foiled a plan that had likely been in the works for several centuries. Their minds work very differently, it seems. They're also repeatedly stated to be Consummate Liars. Another, earlier scene has Wilmarth stumble into one that was on its way to the ritual. The Mi-Go simply kicks Wilmarth out of its way and pays no more attention to him, nor does it inform its buddies of his presence. Had it done so, the ritual would not have been foiled in the first place.
  • The Firstborn, the aliens who built the monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The way the books put it:

And because, in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped. And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.

  • No Country for Old Men: Anton Chigurh is described as having a set of rules that make sense to nobody but him. You get some small idea of his moral code in the gas station scene early on in the film where the store manager tries to make light conversation with him. It's revealed that the manager married the daughter of the former owner of the premises and this visibly irritates Chigurh ("You married into it"). He forces the shop owner to flip a coin to save his life for no exact reason. Later, when he makes good on his promise to kill the main character's wife, he allows her the same coin flip to save her life. She tries to argue with him, but doesn't seem to get anywhere.
  • Jeff Bridges plays a very disturbing serial killer in a little known 1993 remake of a 1988 Dutch film called The Vanishing. In the film, he describes how he saved his daughter from drowning, believing that this act earned her adoration. He then decides that he is unworthy of his daughter's love unless he proves to be capable of performing an equal act of evil.
  • Another Jeff Bridges role is CLU from Tron: Legacy , He was programmed by a young Kevin Flynn to create the perfect sytem, however his idea of perfection is built on Genocide of those he deems imperfect and his program to atain perfection leads to him trying to escape and bring perfection to the world.
  • The Mothman Prophecies

Leek: You're asking for an explanation for something that can't be explained rationally. You know the buildup of energy before something happens? The way your hair stands up before lightning strikes?
John: "Before something happens." Do you mean they cause disasters?
Leek: Why would they need to?
John: All right, then, are they trying to warn me?
Leek: Their motivations aren't human.
John: All right, then what do they want?
Leek: I have no idea. What you really want is to know: why you?
John: Yes.
Leek: You noticed them, and they noticed that you noticed them.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Fair Folk often are shown as practicing this, especially in modern (or very old) renditions. Good examples are found in the works of Neil Gaiman (such as The Sandman or The Books of Magic) and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
    • The Sidhe of The Dresden Files seem to fall into this category, though one went mad because she began to comprehend human pain (and this in turn led her alien mind to try and create a global catastrophe to stop the pain).
      • Lea especially falls into this, as she wants to turn Harry into a hound because she genuinely thinks it would be the best way to protect him. She made a promise, in fact.
    • While on the Neil Gaiman track, God in "Murder Mysteries."

Raguel: (to God) Everything happens for a reason, and all of the reasons are yours.

      • For that matter, something similar came up in Good Omens, from Crowley: "It can't be a cosmic chess game, it has to be just very complicated game of Solitaire. If we could understand we wouldn't be us."
    • The Aelfinn and Eelfin ("snakes" and "foxes") in The Wheel of Time series, another variation of Fair Folk, are described like this: not even really evil, but so alien that they might as well be.
  • The aliens in Childhood's End. Both the Overlords and the Overmind.
  • Merlin, in That Hideous Strength provides Deliberate Values Dissonance to the post-Roman Christians with his at-times alien morality system. In one scene, Merlin believes Jane should be executed because she has unknowingly prevented the birth of a saint—by using birth control. Not abortion, you understand: birth control. He says outright that she is worse than Balinus, the hot-tempered Knight of the Round Table, who accidentally killed his brother in heat of battle and so started a feud that played into the downfall of Camelot. In his essay "Religion and Rocketry," Lewis touched on this trope by discussing the theological problems that would crop up if we found aliens. Their system of morality might be so incomprehensible to us that we would mistake them for evil.
  • The mermaid in the Oscar Wilde short story "The Fisherman and His Soul." Although she did share in The Power of Love.
  • In one of S. P. Somtow's Mallworld stories, an alien race hosts a banquet for their human hosts, featuring one of the race's prized delicacies. The primary ingredient for this delicacy was roasted alien baby (the children of this alien race were considered vermin until they reached a certain age). The aliens couldn't quite understand why the humans were so horrified.
  • In one of Larry Niven's Draco Tavern stories, a crewman from the first embassy ship to an alien homeworld reveals that when the aliens took DNA samples it wasn't for pure scientific purposes: they grow brainless human clones as a food delicacy. The UN quietly accepts royalties, and some of the crew members later kill themselves.
    • Similarly to the above, the Bishops in Future Boston don't consider their offspring to be fully "people" until they pass a sapience test. For them to eat one of their own children before that point would be considered merely bad manners.
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky's novella Three Worlds Collide (online here) is about humans encountering two species with moralities such that, to each of the three species, the other two seem horrifyingly evil.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe book Traitor. The Yuuzhan Vong who trap Jacen teach him that pain was good and shielding people from it preventing them from developing strength.
  • The short science fiction story The Dance of The Changer and The Three is about a legend from an alien race of Energy Beings; the narrator, a human, cannot fully understand their motivations very well, in particular why they attacked the humans they had befriended; when asked why, their answer was "because."
  • Perdido Street Station: The Weavers don't have a sense of morality as we would understand it, but rather a sense of beauty. That which is aesthetically pleasing or poetically appropriate to the Worldweave is "good" whereas that which is ugly or discordant is "bad." They can also disagree with one another and their aesthetic sense is incomprehensible to people. The humanlike races are deeply uncomfortable dealing with them because Weavers are so utterly unpredictable; they might help you, but they're just as likely to messily shred you and arrange your guts in a pattern that pleases them.
  • The ancient race in Robert E. Howard's Queen of the Black Coast are said to have existed on a level of good incomprehensible to human morality before sinking to a level of evil likewise.
  • Atevi in C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner have this. They can't understand the concept of friendship, but have their own biologically-based, heirarchical system of loyalty called man'chi. This tends to creep out most of the humans which landed on their planet (to be fair, humans generally make Atevi uneasy as well), so they designate a single human ambassador for when they have to deal with each other and keep well apart otherwise. This is, naturally, our protagonist.
    • C. J. Cherryh also applies this trope heavily in the Chanur series; the methane-breathers are considered unpredictable by Hani for good reason. Especially the Knnn.
  • While the Otherness in the Repairman Jack novels is a fairly standard Eldritch Abomination or group thereof, what exactly motivates the Ally to oppose it is very uncertain.
  • The Third Men in Last and First Men are essentially a species of esthetes. At one point their entire world was dominated by an empire based on music. Their final civilization was obsessed with biological manipulation: one faction used to breed ever more powerful diseases and parasites on the grounds that when a "higher" lifeform is slain by a virus, it has a certain ironic beauty.
  • Robert A. Heinlein was particularly well known for his ... interesting takes on morality throughout his works.
    • The Martians in Stranger in A Strange Land have an understandable morality, but it's essentially incompatible with how we view it. One of the biggies that is only mentioned in passing is the idea that putting someone in prison is a horrible, horrible thing to do. You should just kill them instead. Also, they're very strongly for cannibalism as a nearly religious rite.
      • That could be why the main character in the story who was raised on Mars breaks into a prison, uses his abilities to end the existence of the worst offenders, and then erases the bars in a similar fashion, thus setting everyone else free. He just eliminates anything that he thinks should not exist, including certain people.
      • A few other tidbits: they can't fathom hate or dislike anyone or thing with more than a "mild distaste," this is because they devote so much time to understanding things that they can never truly hate it. Also, they see no wrong in obliterating planetary civilizations if, after centuries of contemplation, they decide it necessary, as they did with the fifth planet in our solar system. No, not Jupiter, the planet that is now the asteroid belt.
    • Martians in Double Star have a highly complex system of politeness. The main problem of the book is that a politician may be late to a ceremony that inducts him into a Martian clan. There is a legend on Mars about a young Martian who was late to something important, and the consequence of this is death. He was given a second chance, on account of being young and having only a partially formed brain. He would have none of it, so he brought a case against himself in court, successfully prosecuted himself for being late, was consequently executed, and is now held in reverence as the patron saint of propriety on Mars.
    • In Space Cadet, eating in public is the big taboo on Venus.
    • In Glory Road Star is shocked to find out that sex is a sellable commodity in Oscar's reality. In her world, a woman's sexuality is considered an integral part of her spiritual existence and it can not be bought and sold, only partaken of as a gift of the woman.
      • She's also horrified to find out that Oscar turned down the sexual advances of their host's daughter and wife the night before. While he thought he was protecting the sanctity of his host's home and family by not taking advantage of the man's family, their host was so insulted that he turned down their gift that he expelled them from his home at first light.
    • In Magic, Inc., the salamander who helped in the destruction of Archie's business cannot be yelled at or punished as the other fantastical beings can. It has no sense that what it did was wrong, just that the person who asked it to do so provided something entertaining that it was inclined to do. Archie offers it a special fire place in his home to gain its favor and encourage it to do what he wants.
  • Catch-22: Milo Minderbinder. It's not just that he believes anything that promulgates capitalism to be good. It's that he has absolutely no comprehension of how anything that promulgates capitalism could possibly be bad.
  • This is basically the way the Cosmic Horrors of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos work. They seem like horrific demons, but they're simply so far beyond human comprehension that our concepts of good and evil cannot be applied to them. Works based on Lovecraft's universe Flanderize Nyarlathotep into an aversion, as someone who can operate on a human level and shows clear sadistic tendencies.
    • That's no so much Flanderization as it is Alternate Character Interpretation: Nyarlathotep even in Lovecraft's works was shown to at least understand the fundamental differences between the Old Ones and humans (something the other Old Ones didn't.) Depending on the depiction he was either apathetic, mischievously amused, or outright antagonistic about this fact.
    • "The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom."
    • The Mi-Go from The Whisperer In Darkness consider it a reward to extract your brain, put it in a jar, and take you on a cosmic sightseeing tour.
    • The Elder Things, on the other hand, are a massive subversion. They are by far one of the most bizarre species to come out of Lovecraft's mind, but their interests, desires, and needs are readable enough that a human can piece together their history from the bas-reliefs they used to decorate their houses. One of the people studying their ruins calls them "men of a different kind", despite their vastly different physiology and being long-vanished before the first ape hit another with a sharp rock.
  • The sphinxes who guard the first gate in The Neverending Story. Most people who attempt to pass them are instantly paralyzed and no one has been able to discern any pattern concerning who gets to pass.
    • In the film, the gnome states that the sphinxes strike those who do not feel their own worth.
  • The Elohim from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant straddle this and Above Good and Evil; since they are Earthpower incarnate and able to see and understand nearly everything they frequently act in ways that are incomprehensible to us mere mortals. To top it off, they also tend to say that anyone who isn't an Elohim can't even think about judging them and their actions. Bastards.
    • From the same series, the ur-viles. Initially introduced as Exclusively Evil, it's revealed they they're an artificial race created by Black Magic, and consider their own existences to be abominable. Everything they do is based around attempting to create some purpose for their lives- whether that purpose be good or evil. As of the Last Chronicles, they seem to have chosen good.
  • The Inchoroi from R. Scott Bakker's Second Apocalypse series (more commonly known for the Prince of Nothing Trilogy) qualify for this trope. They are described as being a "Race of Lovers," by which they mean a race "given wholly to their lusts," for whom the vagaries of ejaculation and their lust are king. It was presumably a nasty shock for them when they found themselves stranded on a planet where Old Testament Morality -- including damnation -- is objectively real, meaning that the entire species is doomed to burn in hellfire for eternity upon death.
    • The Dunyain monks also have a very alien concept of morality. The goal of their organisation is to create a "self-moving soul," a being with absolute free will. In the meantime they consider everyone else to not be autonomous beings but rather slaves to circumstance. Therefore the Dunyain have no compunctions about manipulating people however they like and genuinely see nothing wrong with it.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Genome trilogy features Brownies, aliens whose behavior is completely insane by human standards.
    • Lukyanenko absolutely loves this trope and uses it whenever possible. For example, in one of his first major works, The Lord from the Planet Earth trilogy, there were Fangs—a race of aliens who basically judged anything by its aesthetics. So, upon learning the War Is Glorious trope from humans, they basically though that humans would be good sports and immediately went to war. When they found (from the main character, incidentally) that humans also think that the War Is Hell, they were utterly dumbfounded by such seemingly schizophrenic (to them) thinking. And that's just the least bizarre example.
  • The various magical creatures of the Harry Potter universe tend towards this. The house-elves are the most obvious, being extremely powerful magical creatures who just want to care for humans, which leads to the elves being abused, but most of the others are just as strange. The centaurs, for example, insist on being categorized as magical beasts (that's the same as hippogryphs), despite clearly being intelligent enough to sit in other categories. No one knows why, and they definitely get pissed off when someone refers to them as "near-human intelligent."
    • Regarding the centaurs: People in-universe know why they chose "beast" classification—they did not approve of sharing "being" classification with Dark creatures like vampires and hags. The centaurs understand the laws and social codes of humans, they just don't agree with them and follow their own rules.
    • Also, I think centaurs would be offended by the notion that magical beasts are inferior to or less intelligent than those other, more humanoid magical beings. For the same reason that some animal rights activists get annoyed by the common assumption that humans are superior to animals (because they might just be intelligent in a completely different way, or have physical skills humans lack), except that centaurs are part-horse, so they would take this assumption way more personally.
    • Goblin law states that an item belongs to the goblin who made it. Thus nothing is bought from goblins, only rented for the rest of someone's life, leading to some complications in Deathly Hallows.
    • In the Second Wizarding War, the two factions are able to gain allies among magical creatures by appealing to their Blue and Orange Morality. For example, the giants end up allying with the Death Eaters not out of any real animosity toward Muggles or Muggle-borns compared to other witches and wizards, but because the Death Eaters promise them freedom and equality if their regime succeeds.
      • That hardly seems to count as 'appealing to their Blue and Orange Morality', more a case of White and Grey AND Gray Morality: sure, the Death Eaters may believe in wizard domination of muggles and the evilness of interbreeding, but they're nicer to the giants' reasonable requests than most wizards are.
  • The Ellimist from Animorphs comes off like this in his first few appearances, with apparently self-imposed "rules" governing how he can interact with other species that he nevertheless finds ways to bend. The pattern becomes more logical when we're introduced to his Evil Counterpart, Crayak; the Ellimist needs to follow his "rules" to avert an all-out war with Crayak (which would likely destroy the universe), but he's clever enough to still work things in the Animorphs' favor.
    • The microscopic Helmacrons also come across as this. Their two ships try desperately to kill each other off, but once one ship is destroyed by the Yeerks, the other Helmacrons immediately attempt to avenge their deaths. They kill all of their leaders, because any leader who makes a mistake would have to be executed, and "This way she may be a symbol for all to admire." And the females severely oppress the males, so Cassie and Marco decide to give the males a pep talk about gender equality. When the Helmacrons next appear, it seems the Animorphs may have inadvertently started a civil war, with the males and females each trying to wipe the other out.
    • Though a little bit closer to home in most of their motivations, despite being the primary villains, Yeerks consider humans to be little more than livestock - indeed, they treat their livestock better than humans treat theirs, as their hosts remain alive. Being exposed to human morality and intelligence (humans are far more intelligent than any of the other mass-Controlled species in the books, save perhaps Leerans, which the Yeerks don't use for long) drives a handful of Yeerks insane.
  • In Star Trek: The Lost Era, we're introduced to the Manraloth, whose hat is skilled communication and manipulation, and who use these skills to aid in bringing peace to the galaxy. Their methods of doing so conflict with those of the Federation, and they are very, very sneaky and manipulative. Always, though, their intentions are good and noble. The same novel which introduced them also introduced another Blue and Orange Morality culture to the Star Trek Novel Verse: The Regnancy of the Carnelian Throne, whose citizens are metaphorically slaves to the Carnelian Throne itself. They ritualistically "play along" with subjugation as part of their "enslavement" to the values it represents. In another Star Trek: The Lost Era novel, The Sundered, Sulu acknowledges this trope when agreeing to honor the Tholian warrior caste's legal determinations of truth, which are arrived at through combat.
    • Funnily enough, that last bit about the Tholians was also sometimes used during the middle ages. For a time it was perfectly legal for the two parties in a case to have a fight to the death. The idea behind this was not that strength implied truth, but that God was just and thus would not let an unjust person kill the just person.
    • Introduced in Star Trek: Ex Machina are the Shesshran, who operate somewhat differently from Humans, and most other races. They are unashamedly belligerent without apparent motive, and like shooting at things to say hello. They fantasize about killing their own children and generally behave in a bloodthirsty fashion. They're actually quite reasonable and honorable beings—it's just that they are naturally highly individualistic predators, with strong hunting instincts. They reject all hierarchies and authority, and view the universe through the eyes of a lone predator.
    • And while we're in the Star Trek Novel Verse, the Pahkwa-thanh have always considered their prey animals sapient. They don't eat humanoids and "civilized" beings, not because they have an objection to it as such, but because it would be rude. Humanoids don't consider themselves part of nature; to eat them would be impolite, which Pahkwa-thanh are not. If you think you're prey, though, they'll happily eat you. The Frills are another more-or-less-friendly race that is happy to eat sapient prey. Both Frills and Pahkwa-thanh, it should be noted, are Federation members.
  • In Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the aliens and humans really don't quite understand each other's psychology, mainly because the aliens have much more of a herd dynamic. Most relevantly, the aliens don't understand how or why you would possibly initiate diplomacy before first fighting to see which party was dominant. Likewise, they don't understand why a battered humanity responds with total war (pretty much an unknown notion to them), rather than taking a Defeat Means Friendship-type submissive relationship.
  • Quantum Gravity: The premise is that humans are dealing with The Fair Folk ("Yes, I'm probably going to try to trick you. You weren't expecting that?"), Demons ("Everything is an art.") and Elves ("Allegiances are not simple." + incredible patience), and some beings which may or may not have a traditional consciousness. This is par for the course.
    • One fairy comments that she prefers working in adult films with demons because their hearts are pure.
    • Dar tortured Lila for information he and those surrounding knew she did not have. This makes perfect sense to most elves.
    • In an example of etiquette, rather than morality: Elves live for a very long time, and so are patient. They will just wait for you to finish or do otherwise. Humans see this as infuriating, because it looks like the elves don't care about anything. Elves find the human way of conversation annoying to a little childish, though they usually understand.
    • The author has a segment where the readers are allowed in Zal's head, and see why he got together with Lila--he didn't want to fall in love with anyone he could lose, but Lila was lacking enough in self-confidence to not want to leave him, and tough enough that it'd be hard to take her from him. The author presents this sympathetically ... and it works.
  • In Speaker For The Dead, several pequeninos are ritually murdered by their peers for providing important conceptual or technological advances. This only gets figured out when humans realize that, due to the piggies' Bizarre Alien Biology, My Death Is Just the Beginning. After a piggy is ritually executed, they turn into a tree. The males can only have children after becoming one, in fact.
  • In The Sparrow, breeding rights are a huge deal because it would be immoral to just let people breed wantonly and possibly over consume resources. This strict focus on population control and the human misunderstanding as to the levels the Jana'ata will go to maintain it ultimately causes the catastrophe at the end of the book.
  • In In The Cube, multiple alien species with this mindset interact with humans, often with confusing results. The beaver-like Phner, for example, don't consider anything to be aesthetically fulfilled until it is destroyed, hence quickly demolish any artwork that comes into their possession. They dissect their dead in a funerary celebration, to better appreciate every last iota of the dead Phner's identity and experiences.
    • In Future Boston, which is set in the same universe, there's an alien called The Bishop who puts everything in three categories: sapient, food, and inedible by reasons of insanity (anything not yet proven sapient). He casually mentions how he will eat his children if they fail a test.
  • The Wess'har in Karen Traviss' Wess'har War series who have no concept of a "grey area," have no interest in the concept of motivation and have two different concepts of sex, sex and ouran, both of which to human eyes look like...sex. Also no concept of embarrassment. They are also natural "small c" communists with no need for a compelling authority.
  • In Gordon R. Dickson's The Alien Way, there's a race with a strange "honor" code, which considers perfectly honorable to kill your mates, friends and even family members, if it helps you to gain power or opportunities to spread your genes, and the closer you are to the person killed, the more honorable the act.
  • Some of the acts depicted in the Reynard The Fox fables are pretty horrific by today's standards. For example, Reynard is about to be put to death for committing numerous crimes against the other animals. But Reynard convinces the royals to let him go by playing to their greed and promising treasure. Reynard requests that two of his rivals, Isengrim and Bruin be partially skinned alive so that the fox could wear their pelts for the trip. King Noble, who is supposed to be a figure of benevolence actually grants Reynard's request.
    • Reynard the Fox also contains a heaping amount of Carnivore Confusion. Though the animals are supposed to be sentient, they are depicted as being still wild and retaining their animal instincts. This makes Reynard, who kills and eats several young chicks, the animal equivalent of a baby eating anti-Christ among the other animals.
  • Shows up in Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger. A central plot point is that angels have no concepts of good and evil because they have no original sin. Or more clearly, angels can't do right or wrong, because such ideas aren't in their nature - they can do things humans consider wrong, but angels are pretty much indifferent. It ends up being fairly creepy.
    • It is actually more accurate to say that the angels have never eaten from the tree of knowledge, as Adam and Eve did. Therefore they can commit sins the way humans do, but have no knowledge of what sin means and thus it is meaningless to them. It may make human morality a fair example of Blessed with Suck.
  • Warbreaker's Nightblood is a sentient weapon created with the express command to destroy evil. The problem is, a sword has no brain with which it can understand what evil actually is, let alone some mystical way to Detect Evil, so it just kinda guesses. The result tends to leave a lot more people dead than it ought to.

Nightblood: I'm not evil. I destroy evil. I think we maybe we should destroy those men up ahead. They look evil.

  • German philosopher Oswald Spengler claimed in his non-fiction book The Decline of the West that every major culture from the POV of most other major cultures was this.
  • In Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart (which eventually became the basis for Hellraiser) the Cenobites are very much examples of this trope: they have explored pain and pleasure to such an extent that their understanding of either is almost incompatible with that of most human beings, which leads to trouble when people try to contact them in order to take advantage of the "pleasures" they can offer. All in all, the Cenobites do not appear to understand or care that their charges are in agony most of the time- after all, they did ask for it, and if they aren't enjoying themselves, they'll just have to learn how to do so.
  • Human morality is very strange to treecats in the Honor Harrington series. For one thing, the 'cats consider a desire for physical privacy to be just plain weird. They're telepaths, so it makes sense. Also, they have a code for dealing with anyone who actually manages to make an enemy of them that does as follows: There are two types of enemies; those that have been properly dealt with, and those that are still alive. Fortunately, they're a laid-back species.
  • The Enigma Race in The Lost Fleet demonstrate hints of this.
  • A relatively mild example is PG Wodehouse's Jeeves; he has no problem with his employer Bertie Wooster drinking heavily or committing blackmail and burglary, but no mustaches or frilled shirts will be tolerated.
  • The Lodgeless Ones in Marti Steussy's Forest of the Night: Building a permanent shelter is a no-no. Calling someone's autobiography "boring," or accusing them of embellishing it, is fighting words. Letting your disabled child starve to death because he can't hunt is unfortunate, but not morally wrong. Eating your child's corpse? At least the scavengers didn't get him.
  • In Harry Harrison's The Jupiter Plague (AKA Plague from Space), a strike team breaks into the quarantined spaceship and finds the recordings of the mission on Jupiter. They find out that the crew discovered an alien race living on the solid core of the planet. Unlike humans, the "Jovians" use biotechnology. They initially offer to talk to the humans but then proceed to slaughter most of the crew in increasingly gruesome ways. Their latest act is sending the human ship back to Earth with a genetically-engineered virus that easily jumps species and is 100% fatal. It doesn't take long for the protagonist to figure out why they behave this way. Apparently, the Jovians are a Hive Mind species, where each being is but a cell in a larger organism. As such, they consider humans to be the same way, and all their murders are merely studies. After all, what's killing a few cells to a giant organism? It is not revealed if the Jovians finally realize the error of their ways or not. They do provide humanity with a cure after they complete their study, though.
    • On the one hand, the human strike team threatens the Jovian they find in the ship[2] into giving up the cure. On the other hand, the cure turns out to do more than just cure the Jupiter Plague.
  • Comes up in works by M.C.A. Hogarth, who describes herself as "an anthropologist to aliens". Examples include the caste system and community-orientedness in Kherishdar, or the fact that the Jokka completely separate procreation and love (which is taboo if it is between different genders).
  • Chiun from The Destroyer is from a village that has fed itself through the ages by hiring out as assassins, because of this assassins are greatly respected in the village. The only target that is forbidden is children. They revere many of the great tyrants of history because they provided a lot of work and thus helped support the village. Lee Harvey Oswald's killing of President Kennedy is shameful only because he was an amateur: he was not paid for it and he used a gun instead of bare hands.
  • As with many other depictions of The Fair Folk, fairies and similar beings in Fablehaven have very alien concepts of morality. Several of them, for example, don't see anything wrong with killing humans just because they can, because human life is so short anyway. (In-universe, it's likened to a human stepping on a bug.) And that's only the least of it. With few exceptions, however, the humans don't treat this as bad—it just means they need to be exceptionally careful around them. One of those exceptions being centaurs, whose obfuscating jerkassery is treated as exactly that.
  • Subverted with the Marat, Canim, and Icemen in the Codex Alera, who are initially considered too alien to coexist with humanity in-universe, only for a good chunk of the series to involve The Hero finding common ground and building bridges with them. Played completely straight with the Vord.
  • A constant theme in the works of Jack Vance.
    • In the short story "The Moon Moth", musical virtuosity and swordsmanship are the basic virtues, money is meaningless, and everyone must wear a mask at all times. Protagonist Edwer Thissell uses this against antagonist Haxo Angmark in a beautifully absurd, yet entirely appropriate, conclusion; when Angmark desperately accuses Thissell of having kidnapped, murdered, sold children into slavery, an angry onlooker replies: "Your religious differences are of no importance. We can vouch however for your present crimes!", and the crowd kills Angmark for alleged violations of local morality: trying to remove someone's mask, insolent behavior, and the like.
    • Or as frequent Vance protagonist Magnus Ridolph wrote: "In all the many-colored worlds of the universe no single ethical code shows a universal force. The good citizen on Almanatz would be executed on Judith IV. Commonplace conduct of Medellin excites the wildest revulsion on Earth and on Moritaba a deft thief commands the highest respect. I am convinced that virtue is but a reflection of good intent."
  • In The Otherworld, werewolf Clay was changed at age five instead of late puberty like almost everyone else, and then left on his own for two years. As a result, his thought processes are much more wolflike. His morality centers entirely around what's best for his pack, with an afterthought of what will make his mate happy. Clay brutally tortured and murdered one werewolf threatening his pack and distributed the photographs freely to discourage others from trying, but the thought of killing people needlessly or for fun revolts him. He wouldn't stop to help an injured stranger - unless his mate was watching - but he has laid down his life multiple times without hesitation for his packmates.
  • In None But Man this is the very heart of conflict between the humans and Moldaug. While humanity judges every action based on whether it is Right or Wrong, the Moldaug judge their decisions based on whether it is Respectable or Not Respectable. Earth's government is willing to capitulate completely to avoid a war, but the sheer lack of Respectability and hints of even worse acts to come from such an action would compel the Moldaug to destroy humanity.
  • In A Dirge for Prester John John's moral standards are perverse and inexplicable to the people of Pentexore, as are their moral standards to him.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Anti-Villain Morgaine in the Doctor Who story "Battlefield" thinks nothing of slaughtering people who tick her off, but insists on paying for a round of drinks that her son ordered in. She pays for them, by the way, by curing the barmaid's blindness. She also won't fight in graveyards as to not dishonor the dead. She also held a ceremony honouring said dead -- dead people on a planet she cared nothing of. They died in battle = They deserve honour.
    • The Doctor himself sometimes borders on this, thinking almost nothing of taking his friends to dangerous places all the time.
    • Another Doctor Who example are the Sontarans. Their entire morality system is based around the glory of battle. They love war and will start one for any reason, and they see dying in battle as the most honorable possible death, thus they have no qualms about killing the enemy in battle. In fact, they will often joke and congratulate their enemies while they are doing well, including killing them all, and will greet people with such sweet nothings as "I hope one day to spill your intestines on the battlefield". But it is morally reprehensible to kill someone who isn't fit for battle while not at war with them; such killing is considered murder. This is really highlighted in "A Good Man Goes To War": one of the biggest punishments for a Sontaran is to become a field medic, because not only are you not fighting, but you're actively stopping people from being able to die a glorious death in battle.
  • The Ancients of Stargate SG-1 might be this trope after their ascension. Whenever we see living Ancients on this plane of existence, they are generally depicted as normal humans who were simply interested in science a lot, not the gigantic Jerkasses they are as ascended beings (see more on Neglectful Precursors).
    • The Goa'uld are certainly this, as being taken as a host is repeatedly used as Nightmare Fuel, but for the Goa'uld it is an essential and natural part of their biology. After all, would you want to spend your entire life swimming back and forth in a pond lacking opposable thumbs and sex organs?
      • The existence of the Tok'Ra, who act more like a symbiont than a parasite for their host, would point to the Goa'uld as falling under Complete Monster and not this trope. It's also strongly implied that they (or at least the ones at the top) are totally batshit crazy due to overuse of the sarcophagi.
    • In "Learning Curve," SG-1 encounters a technologically-advanced planet where the human civilization implants nanites into certain children at infancy that records all information they learn. When they come of age, these nanites are removed and distributed to the rest of the population, transferring their knowledge while reducing the children to a largely infantile state. SG-1 is horrified to discover that the children are essentially "having their brains sucked out" but the other civilization seems to have no issue with this.
  • Cameron of The Sarah Connor Chronicles has a very simple morality system that revolves around protecting John Connor. If it protects him, she'll usually do it, unless he overrides her (most of the time). If it threatens John Connor, however, she destroys it without hesitation, and regardless of whether John or anyone else objects. That's pretty much the beginning and the end of her concept of morality.
    • Worth noting is early in the first season, Cameron guns down a FBI informant in front of Sarah for warning the FBI about the Connors, and Sarah slaps her in response, telling her never to do that again. Cameron's response is to stare at her in absolute but emotionless confusion; after all, Cameron just did everything right by her programming, but Sarah's telling her she did the wrong thing.
    • Another example of this occurs later, when Cameron uses a man on the run from the mob to get information on who the Turk prototype computer was sold to. She promises to help the man, but the moment she has the information, she simply walks away and lets the mob hitmen kill him. For a human character, this would be an act of cruelty that—depending on the character—could catapult them over the Moral Event Horizon, but for Cameron, the audience knows that her morality system is extremely alien compared to a human's, and thus the result isn't as severe; the audience is just reminded that Cameron is still a machine assassin and still coldly and brutally logical about her mission.
      • Present-day John and Sarah invented the 'stop Skynet' mission, so they're able to define how that mission operates, including setting limits on killing people who might interfere with that mission. (This is compared to the 'protect John' mission, which they cannot interfere with...Cameron will do anything to protect him, period, regardless of what he wants.) However, John never ordered her to not put people in danger or to help them escape danger, just to not kill them.
    • At one point, when John is surprised that a Terminator isn't cruel for cruelty's sake, Cameron points out to him that terminators aren't cruel. This applies to both Cameron herself and "evil" terminators in general, who, while utterly ruthless, don't inflict pain just for the sake of inflicting pain. While they are willing to torture humans (not usually for interrogation, but for other purposes, like hurting someone's loved ones to draw them out of hiding), the moment they determine that this will not achieve their goals they stop and utilize other tactics.
  • A sideplot in Babylon 5 episode "Geometry of Shadows" revolves around Ivanova trying to understand Drazi politics before the conflict between Purple and Green spirals out of control. Aside from colors, Purple and Green are wholly abstract concepts with no defining characteristics like ideology or regional identity. Drazi foreign policy is quite understandable by humans, though.
    • The Vorlons and Shadows initially appear to be Good Is Not Nice and Exclusively Evil, respectively. But really they're Lawful Blue and Chaotic Orange, essentially using the younger races as arguments in a million years-old philosophy debate on the nature of Order Versus Chaos.
  • The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation were a lot like this originally, before eventually being humanized by the addition of the Borg Queen in the movie First Contact.

Locutus: "Why do you resist? We only wish to raise the quality of life."

    • The entity Nagilum in the episode "Where Silence Has Lease" traps the Enterprise in a strange Negative Space Wedgie, kills a Red Shirt, and decides to kill a good portion of the rest of the crew to fully explore the concept of death. It seems to truly have no idea that the crew might not be wild about this idea.
    • In the episode "Liaisons", had ambassadors from a race that lacked the concepts of antagonism, pleasure and love. One of them studied antagonism by being a jerk to Worf, one of them studied pleasure by pigging out, and one of them tried to learn about love by stranding Picard on a planet and taking the form of a human woman.
    • While Q is portrayed as being an adversary of humanity, he might embody this trope. In the episode "True Q", he even claims his race has the right to decide whether humans live or die because of their superior morality, a characterization with which Picard disagrees, to put it mildly.
      • Although Q is a particularly malicious member of his race. While the Q Continuum do fall under this Trope, Q himself is particularly sadistic and condescending compared to the others, and isn't the best comparison for how his species thinks (the Continuum once kicked him out and turned him into a human for being an embarrassment).
      • In the final episode he actually saved humanity indirectly by dropping hints about what the continuum was doing so that Picard could stop it. In an earlier episode where he was acting as their agent he admitted the Q as a whole considered humans a possible future threat.
    • In the extended canon novel Q&A it is revealed that Q's tests had a point all along... turning Q into a case of Values Dissonance. A race known as Them have returned to decide the fate of the entire universe. It turns out They created our universe (the Q included) and, like many others they created before ours, They are now going to destroy it... because They are no longer entertained by it. The Q knew all along and had essentially given up. Q, however, (yes that one) had tested countless races and decided on Humans, Picard in particular, to prove the worth of keeping our universe around. It works. Picard convinces Them to let the universe remain... by laughing at the absurdity of the situation. All along Q had been teaching Picard to have a sense of humor about things that were out of his control just so he would have exactly this reaction when the time came.
      • And then you begin to realize that the fans of Star Trek are essentially Them... what with the recent drastic decline in the franchise's popularity. EPIC!
    • In the episode "Allegiance," Picard is whisked away to a strange prison with three strangers and replaced by a doppelganger on the Enterprise. When he figures out the experiment he and the others have been unwittingly participating in, his captors (a group of previously unknown aliens) reveal themselves and return him to his ship. They explain that they sought to understand command structures, which do not exist in their culture. When Picard tells them that what they've done is wrong, they claim not to understand the "primitive" concept of morality. But it's clear, when Picard gives them a taste of their own medicine, that he doesn't entirely buy their alleged Blue and Orange Morality, and that maybe they're just assholes.
  • In The Original Series the non-humanoid Excalbian race provides another example; they view such concepts as "good" and "evil" as being so foreign that they decide to test them experimentally by staging a battle between representatives of the two.
  • An early episode of Enterprise had the crew being continually attacked by a mystery ship for no apparent reason. T'Pol points out that not every species out there necessarily behaves in a way that would make sense to humans. They never find out what the aliens' motivation was, but they did successfully test their new weapons on them.
  • The Addams Family and The Munsters live this trope, particularly the Addamses.
  • The Head Six and Head Baltar entities of Battlestar Galactica. Ron Moore says that their kind are the inspiration for stories of angels and stories of demons. It's not hard to believe.
  • Witness the huge discussion on the Headscratchers page for Angel over what Jasmine's hypothetical "alignment" was. Sure, she brings total peace and happiness to the world, but she eats people (but usually no more than one or two a day, far fewer than would be killed by wars and crimes her presence would prevent), and people have no choice but to love and adore her. Can any human definition of "good" or "evil" really describe her? (That was rhetorical, by the way)
    • Present in an early episode, "Bachelor Party", with a family of Ano-Movic. Ano-Movic demons are a very peaceful race—formerly a violent race of nomadic demons, they blended into Western Society and gave up their more gruesome traditions. On the flip side, not all of their old customs have been abandoned—the family seen in the episode are shown discussing the wedding plans just as easily as they discuss the ritualistic eating of the former spouse's brains. While this sounds gruesome, to the Ano-Movics, it is a gesture of love—their belief is that by eating the brains of the old spouse of their wedded-to-be prior to the wedding, the new spouse will incorporate all of the love and affection from the previous relationship into their new marriage.
    • Illyria demonstrates this to a large extent, and due to being in a human body she, partly against her will, starts to feel human emotions and assimilate human values. When Wesley betrays her she's perturbed at the fact that it bothers her, as "betrayal was a neutral word in my day. As unjudged a word as water or breeze". She spends quite a lot of time trying to figure out why mortals act as they do. She describes her world view quite well to Angel:

"I didn't give you a chance. That you learn when you become a King. You learn to destroy everything that isn't utterly yours. All that matters is victory. That's how your reign persists. You are a slave to an insane construct. You are moral. A true ruler is as moral as a hurricane, empty but for the force of his gale. But you; trapped in the web of the Wolf, the Ram, the Hart. So much power here! And you quibble at its price. If you want to win a war, you must serve no master but your own ambition."

  • The Observers from Mystery Science Theater 3000 get a little of this, being brains in pans who have evolved beyond the need for physical bodies (even if their brains still need to be carried around by their former bodies). Though in truth it seems more like they're just jerks who pretend like they have their own moral code to justify being jerks. Brain Guy himself explains why he serves as a medic rather than a combatant during a battle as follows.

"My species is a race of pacifists, we only believe in killing out of personal spite."

  • The Plokavians in Farscape. Because they all have a perfectly Photographic Memory, they consider subjectivity and personal colouring of experiences to be alien concepts; so, when each of Moya's crew gives a slightly different testimony of the destruction of a Plokavian merchant ship by Talyn, the judges accuse them of lying. Eventually, Crichton manages to placate them (for a time) by claiming that they were lying in defence of each other, a concept that the judges are more familiar with.
  • Gosei Knight in Tensou Sentai Goseiger believes in protecting the Earth, much as the Gosei Angels do. However, their definition extends to all life forms on it, whereas his definition applies strictly to the Earth itself.
  • The Observers from Fringe. It's almost certain that they have some system of logic and morality guiding their decisions, but since they basically exist outside of time and their perspective on events is almost as impossible to understand as their writing, working out what's going on in their pale and hairless heads is...well, something nobody human has managed to do with complete accuracy yet.
    • It has been shown that they feel morally obligated to "repair" the timeline when they inadvertently prevent a foreseen event from occurring.
      • Although it remains to be seen whether that's a moral obligation of whether they're just doing their job.
    • Their driving motivations so far appear to be ensuring that events happen as they were meant to happen, and "important" people are kept safe.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper has a mindset that cannot be easily understood by other people. Usually people around him consider him as mean and selfish, but when Penny ran out of money and asked him for help, Sheldon took out his savings and wanted to lend her much more than she would have thought about. Chances are that Sheldon is not really selfish, but he has a different standard of "good" behavior.
    • Sheldon has a "this is fact" and "this is not fact" mindset. Usually, the way he sees things, "it is a fact" that he is intellectually superior, therefore deserving of more praise and acknowledgement. Similarly, upon seeing Penny in financial hardship, he recognised the fact that he had more money than he needed, whereas Penny needed more money than she had, and therefore the right thing to do was lend her money.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]


Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • The Professional Wrestling business, by and large seems to run on this trope, particularly when it comes to how the main stream audiences perceives it. What may seem amoral to an average American may be perfectly nominal to a Triple H or an Undertaker, Or a Raven, or a Ric Flair, or a Jeff Hardy and so on.
    • Stone Cold Steve Austin seems to be the personification of this trope. It doesn't matter what his moral center of gravity is, he's still a Badass fan favorite.


Religion[edit | hide]

  • This tends to happen with religions, both ancient and modern (not naming any names), between one another and internally. When someone gets perplexed by the seeming arbitrariness and contradiction of the dogma, the official answer tends to be that god(s) are incomprehensible and the problem is on your end. The best we can do is obey their inscrutable commands and hope for the best. This also comes up in response to the common question of why, in an ordered universe, bad things happen to good people. Many philosophies and religions recognize that the needs of an individual and the needs of the universe at large simply won't mesh up, and a transcendent being is probably only interested in the latter. So while it might look like your god/gods/spirits are cruel bastards for killing your family with that flood, a believer needs to remember that from a divine standpoint it was probably the right thing to do (e.g. the flood was a necessary evil, or death isn't actually bad, etc.).
    • By contrast, to the religious, the morality of secular humanists can be incomprehensible; many religious fundamentalists believe that humanists don't actually have a moral system the way that they understand it, because the arbitrary nature of a statement like "reduction of suffering" as a basis for morality rather than divine mandate strikes them as "making it up as we go along". Likewise, it's hard for the secular humanists to understand the theist point of view that there are no such things as "morals" without a deity to dictate them, and that, without a higher being saying something is good or bad, there no basis for judging something's goodness or badness at all.
  • In the Mahabharata the river goddess Ganga bears King Shantanu several children...and drowns them. When he gives her a What the Hell, Hero?, she explains that it's Not What It Looks Like; the children are reincarnations of holy souls that need to transcend reincarnation. (They committed a minor offense in a past life, and so were forced to be reincarnated as mortals, so Ganga lets that happen, and then kills them while they're still young and innocent so they can be released from reincarnation. Because she knew that there's no way King Shantanu would be able to comprehend this, she had asked him to never question her...and since he just did, she left him shortly afterwards.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Old World of Darkness. There's a detailed description of a great many moralities of vampires in a supplement named Chaining The Beast. One believes that suffering is good and if you deprive someone of it you might as well kill them because they won't be strong enough to face life. Another believes that everything must change or die and thus encouraging change is the only good thing you can do.
    • Worth noting: most characters (including non-vampires) in Vampire: The Masquerade have three Virtues—Conscience, Self-Control and Courage. On the alternate paths of Morality, vampires often switch out Conscience and Self-Control with Conviction and Instinct. Not only do they no longer see virtue in human terms, they don't see it in other supernaturals' terms. (Old world mechanics were not designed to work across venues.)
      • These paths are a favorite of the Sabbat (who believe they are better than humanity, and deserve to rule over them) and the Independent clans. Such alternate paths include the Path of Night (favored by the Lasombra), which penalizes them for not killing someone if it would make them look merciful; the Path of Metamorphosis (favored by the Tzimisce), which focuses on understanding change in the most disgusting ways possible; the Path of Paradox (favored by the Ravnos), which upholds causing chaos and breaking mortal laws as virtues; and the Path of Lilith, which teaches that wisdom comes through suffering, so suffering must be good (in moderation of course).
    • Mage: The Ascension makes this a part of the mechanics (such as they are) of the game's magic system. For example: Playing a Euthanatos mage might mean that you need to kill a bunch of people at certain times and certain places in order to keep the world balanced and working properly. As a Cultist of Ecstasy, you might need to do a lot of drugs and sleep with a lot of people in order to transcend your limitations. Even if you're not playing a stereotype of the Traditions, your Avatar might have a wholly different outlook on the world from its host and may not work properly for the mage unless he/she brings his/her perspective more in line with the Avatar's.
    • In the new gamelines, each supernatural splat works on different moral principles than their former base human selves, whose Karma Meter is called Morality:
      • Vampires replace it with Humanity, perhaps the closest analogue to human morality among supernaturals, only adding soul-eating and Mind Rape to the list of sins.
      • Werewolves on the other hand have Harmony, how in tune they are with themselves. Since they're half spirit and part wolf, killing and eating humans is no longer so low on the sin totem pole.
      • Sin-Eaters have Synergy, measuring how in tune the Sin-Eater is with their geist, and with the balance between life and death. Deliberate killing is absolutely no problem for a Sin-Eater, emblematic of 'clean' death, but serial killing and mass murder are seriously disruptive, emblematic of 'unclean' death, while any means of attempting to resuscitate a dying person plays havoc with the balance of life and death. And attempted suicide will piss your geist right off.
      • Mages have Wisdom, which doesn't so much replace the human one as add various degrees of misuse and abuse of magic to the list.
      • Changelings have Clarity, a dual measure of morality and mental stability. Becoming part Fair Folk after their ordeal, they don't so much have inhuman morality but develop a vulnerability to perception changes which can cause them to degenerate as badly (or worse) than some sins. A week without human contact is just as morally/mentally damaging as Grand Theft, for example. If they drop low enough they go fully into Blue and Orange Morality by becoming a True Fae.
        • Their captors, the True Fae, are most definitely this. They come from a world of utter chaos where everyone must strike their own stake to avoid fading into oblivion; ergo, their lives are consumed by conflict and the eternal struggle for more glory. They adopt emotions as passing fancies, but don't understand them; the book cites a True Fae falling in love with a changeling, only to snap his neck when he hesitates to pass the salt and recalling the burbling of a brook in summer when it hears the changeling's dying gurgles. Mind you, this is NICE for a True Fae. You really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really don't want to know what "Nasty" is. Oh, and if they ever try to understand humanity, they lose most of their power and pretty much all of their memories of Faerie.
      • Hunters can inflict this on themselves with the optional rules for setting up a hunter's code.
      • Prometheans round it out by having a nearly identical morality scale to humans... if they raise it that high. Being homunculi they start out with or can develop some very weird thought processes. Considering their goal is to become human, it's understandable.
    • In the fanlines, Geniuses have Obligation, which is more along the lines of how in-tune they are with the rest of humanity. The lower it dips, or the more powerful the Genius gets, the more likely they are to drift toward Blue and Orange Morality. When that happens, they tend to start viewing people more as collections of spare parts.
  • In Exalted, The Fair Folk fall into this; at base, the unshaped (and many shaped) raksha simply have trouble comprehending that anyone else is a separate being that might not care about their agenda, and they don't see why humans are so afraid of the chaotic madness of the Wyld. Those who do comprehend humanity still tend to subscribe to alien (read: soul-eatingly dangerous) morality, but there are exceptions. Graceful Wicked Masques puts it best:

All other characters in the Exalted setting are unique beings with their own unique Motivations, personalities and memories. A raksha is not a being like that -- not really. Instead, a raksha is actually an incoherent and incomprehensible mass of seething chaos that -- for some impenetrable reason of its own -- pretends to be a unique being with its Motivation, personality and memories. The first step in understanding and creating a raksha character is to understand that everything about that character is a deception engineered to facilitate an interaction between a shaped being of Creation and an entity so far removed from Creation as to be utterly beyond mortal comprehension.

    • A similar deal goes with many of the Primordials. They are, at their very core, pure, undefiled concepts, which means they have trouble understanding anything outside their purview. She Who Lives in Her Name honestly thinks everyone would be better as mindless pieces in a hierarchical machine, the Ebon Dragon can't understand why anyone would do something that doesn't hurt someone else (unless, of course, they're setting up for the inevitable betrayal), and Autochthon views innate progress and innovation as totally awesomesauce but can't possibly foresee the consequences. Adorjan has a particularly impressive case, since she's redefined her Compassion so that killing someone in an agonisingly painful fashion is, to her, a compassionate act because they're so quiet afterwards and silence is the greatest gift.
  • Nobilis thrives on this trope, particularly in the sidebar "microfiction" vignettes. While the Nobles have an ultimately good goal (they want to save the universe), some want to destroy humanity as well. The Nobilis, even the more traditional "good guy" types, see things in an entirely different way than you or me. They are, after all, basically living personifications of concepts.
    • And then there are the Excrucians, who have a morality that freaks out the Nobilis. Yipe.
  • In Kult, reality itself is an illusion, and the true reality behind it is very different. Any character who knows anything about the truth and acts on this knowledge rather then just playing normal will be perceived as insane at best. One basic rule is that you need to achieve as extreme a mental balance as possible in order to break free from the illusion. A normal person has a mental balance of zero, the weakest and most vulnerable position possible. Thus, helping people with negative mental balance climbing back up to zero is actually doing them a disfavor, unless you can keep pushing them upwards to high levels of positive mental balance. This means that it's usually a bad thing to heal a trauma or cure a mental disorder. It also means that any person with negative mental balance (or positive balance very close to zero) potentially has a lot to gain from getting tortured, raped, or even murdered. Positive mental balance is even more alien, although much neater.
  • Some source material from Paranoia suggests that Friend Computer works on this system. Either that, or its goals are just really screwy. No one can be quite sure, and trying to be is treason.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Da Orks. Essentially an entire species of Blood Knights, they consider nothing to be more important than war- sorry, WAAAGH!, and genuinely think there isn't anything wrong with rampaging across star systems to kill anything that fights back, because that's what they're supposed to do.
    • While not as extreme, the Tau are also an example, absolutely devoted to the concept of the Greater Good. The Ciaphas Cain novel For The Emperor spends a bit of time on this, stating that any action that goes contrary to the Greater Good is detested almost to a physical reaction, and they literally can't understand why others would willfully refuse to follow it.
    • All of the Chaos gods fall into this. They do what they do because they are made from that thing, and exist to propagate the ideology that they feed on.
      • Tzeentch seems to want to screw over everone for the sake of screwing over and being a Magnificent Bastard, for the sake of survival.
      • Nurgle literally loves to inflict ailments on you (and he thinks your misery is a form of gratitude).
      • To top it off, the uncaring Tzeentch is suppose to be born from the feeling of hope, while the ever-loving Nurgle is born from the feeling of despair.
      • Khorne has his own value system by which blood must be let, regardless of the source, and an honor system, where only death in battle is acceptable, where psyker powers and long range fighting is seen as dishonorable.
      • Slaanesh's motivations can be seen as a devotion to pleasure, or most other experiences, the more intense, the better.
  • The Fair Folk in Halt Evil Doer for Mutants and Masterminds. Convention has it that the Lords of Winter are the "bad guys" and the Lords of Summer the "good guys". Word of God is that convention is completely wrong—it's just that the Lords of Summer happen to be the Anthropomorphic Personification of happy dreams and the Lords of Winter of nightmares. But that doesn't mean the Lords of Summer care about humans, or the Lords of Winter are actively malevolent. (However the current leader of the Lords of Winter is a human villain who is a straight-up bad guy.)
  • The aurads, in the third-party D&D 3e setting Oathbound, "can accept betrayal if it is explained eloquently, but might take issue at an excellent gift presented without proper ceremony."
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons Mystara campaign setting, the Immortal (D&D's functional equivalent of AD&D's gods) Nyx was definitely this. All the other Immortals of Entropy were just straightforwardly evil. Nyx, on the other hand, loved every living thing in the universe as if they were her own children. It's just that she believed that living things were children who ought to be helped to mature into undead. She wanted to transform the world into one in which the undead would dominate the living. She wasn't evil in the sense of wanting to harm anyone; she genuinely believed that the world would be a better place if more people became vampires, liches, ghosts, or what have you, and if those undead beings ruled the world.

Theater[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • It is possible for the player to be this in any game that includes a morality system, if the player makes choices based on a line of reasoning besides good or evil. Of course, many games punish you for not being either all the way good or evil (for example, In Famous), or puts you in in the middle path.
  • The Reapers of Mass Effect claim to have good reasons for annihilating all advanced species in the galaxy on a regular basis. In Mass Effect 3, they largely attempt to pass off their cyclical process of destruction as a form of salvation and protection. Their primary directive is to prevent a technological singularity which in which they fear that synthetically created life will completely destroy organic life. To prevent this, they direct technological development at a pace they deem acceptable and then "reap" major civilizations at a specific point of development which is usually indicated by wars between machines and organics (ie. The Geth Morning War or the Prothean Metacon War. Choice civilizations are left untouched to ensure that life continues while the reaped civilizations are given a form of commemoration through having their genetic materials preserved in the new generation of Reapers.
    • Much of the abovie is largely subverted by the ending of Mass Effect 3, in which the arrival of Shepard and the culmination of his/her actions forces the AI regulating the Reapers to admit that the time has come for a different solution.
  • Akuma in Street Fighter is often portrayed as being a dark, evil being, but he's really just got his own morality: if you best someone in a fair competition it's only honorable to give them death. He doesn't kill people like Dan who pose no threat to him, for instance.
    • He just flat-out kills M. Bison (or Vega, if you insist on the Japanese names) without a fight, because according to Akuma/Gouki's moral standards, he is as pure an evil as you can get. Trying to claim false power without actually working for it, falsely claiming to possess power you don't have, murdering people in cold blood without giving them the opportunity for a fair fight—all "sins" in Akuma's eyes, and the fact that Bison possessed all of them meant that he simply had to die, rules of fair combat be damned. The fact that Bison was also pure evil and deserving of death by the standards of normal people was just a happy coincidence.
      • There's also the alternate theory that it was actually a big fight, but it was skipped over for the sake of the game.
    • He also refuses to kill Gen after defeating him in a battle, because he has a terminal illness and wants to die in a battle. Apparently in Akuma's view, that made it an "impure" fight and thus Gen does not deserve to be killed.
      • Even more interestingly, the exact OPPOSITE happens in the comic, where he purposely kills Gen, precisely for the above reasons, as a Mercy Kill.
    • He also helps people in need, because by his honor code it is the duty of the strong to use their strength to do for those who are not strong enough to do for themselves (as long as the weak recognize their place deferring to the strong's power) - part of the reason for his aforementioned taking out of Bison was that Bison abused his power and victimized the weak, which in Akuma's eyes is just as dishonorable as it is in the others' eyes (though for slightly different reasons).
    • Explored in the Ryu Final manga, where Akuma became what he is precisely and deliberately so Ryu would know what became of people who lost themselves to the lust of fighting and surrendered themselves to the Dark Hadou, and would therefore strive to become a purer breed of warrior—one who would devote himself not to the fight, but to nurturing the younger generations. He's just... extreme in his teaching methods.
    • And let's not forget this priceless win quote:
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Mira has a very strange moral code. Apparently it is wrong to kill without good reason, but the best way of dealing with men is to knock them out, slap some stun cuffs on them, starve them for a few days, and double check to see if they have any bounty on them.
  • Morgfyre of Lusternia was a Warrior God before he began devouring other Gods and numerous Eldritch Abomination's. Unable to subsume their personalities beneath his own, he instead adopted them - becoming a gestalt entity, able to think with many different minds and speak with many different voices. Consequently his train of thought can be difficult for other Gods to follow, let alone mortals.
  • Depending on the writers, the Daedra of The Elder Scrolls can be beyond human comprehension, ambivilently moral, or just plain evil. Some invididual Daedra have both good and bad aspects, such as Sheogorath, the Daedric God of Madness, Creativity and Artistry. Others are like Molag Bal, who is called the King of Rape for a reason.
    • In fact, most of the Daedric Princes have good and bad aspects, or at least aspects that are not inherently evil from a mortal perspective. It's just that some (Mehrunes Dagon) tend to favour their bad aspects when they show up, while others (Azura) more commonly show a good side.
  • Every character in Zeno Clash exhibits this to some degree.
  • None of the various factions in Thief are aiming for good or evil. The Pagans want chaos, and growing things. The City Watch wants order. The Keepers want balance. The Hammerites want their religion followed, and also want order, and hate chaos. The Mechanists want the same thing as Hammerites, but object to using wood and stone in construction and view that as a deep heresy, and hate growing things even more than Hammerites. Most of them hate each other.
  • Wilhelm from Xenosaga exists solely to prevent the destruction of the Lower Domain. He does not care for how many lives he must manipulate, ruin and destroy to achieve this goal.
  • Touhou gives us Yukari Yakumo who, in addition to being super intelligent, has her own brand of logic that nobody really understands. Most of her conversations in Scarlet Weather Rhapsody are excellent examples of this.
    • Gensoukyou as a whole is an example of this trope, with things such as vastly extended lifespans and entirely non-lethal combat creating different standards of morality. It is completely insane to us to go out and beat people senseless because they aren't human or mess with everyone's lives because you were bored, but not to them.
    • Also worth noting is that youkai of various species and ethnicity are the majority population in Gensokyo, so things like eating humans (or other youkai) are not at all unheard of, and there have apparently been agreements on which humans are permissible to attack and eat (mainly humans who aren't in an established safe place at night).
  • Chrono Trigger fans can't seem to agree on the ethics of Lavos.
  • The Occuria, godlike entities of Final Fantasy XII's Ivalice, keep the world and the history of its races under a tight, obsessive control. Vaguely related to the Sun-Cryst and the Great Crystal, their motivations and origins are as unknowable as their claim to the world's stewardship. They grant power to chosen puppets periodically in order to unite the countries --whether this puppet engages in gruesome warfare and conquest to achieve so is not of their concern, and they themselves are not above a little genocide every now and then when a kingdom (or even just its governors) strays too far from their grand design. But the truth is, they do preserve peace at whichever cost, and the rule of their puppets is generally considered a "golden age" by historians of the world. Who, then, would want to take the reigns of history from them and give them back to the short-lived, power-hungry races of Ivalice?
  • The Orz of Star Control 2 are friendly enough with most anyone they meet. They are happy to form alliances and aid in battle. They also get angry (or *frumple*, as they put it) enough to start a war if anyone talks about the Androsynth, for reasons unknown. A prominent but unproven theory is that they wiped out the Androsynth, again for reasons unknown. Then there's the fact that nobody really knows what they mean by *connecting*, *parties*, or *enjoying the sauce*. There are many hints in the story that these seemingly innocuous terms mask a sinister meaning. They themselves seem to fall victim to this trope: when they greet the player in deep space, they state that they don't understand why *campers* (aka us) always say "hello" when they meet each other, but they do know this makes *campers* happy, so they do it too.
    • One of the theories surrounding the Orz is that they appear like individuals to us, but are in fact a single organism existing outside our universe, alone in its own dimension. This is why the Orz creatures you meet tend to call themselves "fingers", protruding into our space from *Outside*. Orz probably doesn't understand the concept of separate individuals living in the same universe, which would lead it to assume that all the creatures it meets in our universe are just fingers of another being. Therefore, to Orz it would appear as though it has met someone whose fingers keep talking to each other.

"You are a *silly* *camper*. Orz is not *many bubbles*, Orz is one with many *fingers*."

      • This is actually reversed with the Xchaggers from Star Control 3: you meet a creature who looks like a bug with many eyes and claws, but when you talk to it you realize that it is not an individual at all - but in fact a colony of billions of individuals operating together. I.E. imagine that each cell in your body had its own identity.
    • The Mycon also have a unique logical operation. This stems from the fact that each Mycon shares the identity and memories of each of its ancestors. As a result, their agendas seem to span thousands or even tens-of-thousands of years, and thus their motives for any action are nigh unfathomable.
      • Although this is colored a bit by the fact that the Mycon truly are just outright insane. They're biological terraformers produced by the Precursors, but their programming has become corrupted into a bizarre religion—this was in the dubious Star Control 3, but later Word of God confirmed that this actually was what the series creators intended.
    • The Thraddash are some combination of Blue and Orange Morality and Too Dumb to Live. When you meet them thay are on their nineteenth attempt at having a civilization, having nuked themselves back to the stone age eighteen times before. They revel in combat (which would make them Proud Warrior Race Guys), but are lousy at it. They attack you without provocation, but will listen to your advice and attack much more powerful races (and be annihilated) if you suggest it. They worship a piece of Precursor garbage as a sacred artifact. And if you manage to impress them, you can convince them to start a new society, one based around imitating classic comedians like The Three Stooges.
  • The Qunari of Dragon Age Origins. On the surface, they're just a Proud Warrior Race with a proactive magic phobia (considering the way magic works, that's actually a smart mindset), but the more you talk to Sten, the more this they start to evoke this trope.
    • According to Sten (the only Qunari we interact with in the main game), your career is as much a part of you as your skin color or gender. He only mentions this when justifying his apparent misogyny towards a female PC, eventually deciding that you are not, in fact, a woman. "I don't understand. You LOOK like a woman."
      • The Qunari are not misogynistic so much as they believe that your gender defines what you can and can't do even if you have a strong aptitude for it. They simply don't understand the concept of a woman who fights. Basically it's case of "If it looks like a duck, quacks like duck, flies like a duck" it has to be a duck. To them the word warrior is basically synonymous with male while the word manager is synonymous with female but ironically they regard the importance of both as equal rather than viewing military prowess superior to other skills unlike the rest of Thedas. Likewise they also can't understand the chivalrous (or even humane) attitudes shown by humans; in Redcliffe Sten comments how in a Qunari society everyone, men, women and children would fight to defend their homes from an invader while humans put noncombatant females under the protection of noncombatant males.
      • Actually it's more like noncombatants under the protection of combatants Thedas is remarkably gender neutral. Even the manual states the both genders are represented fairly equally.
        • Not in Redcliffe though. The PC and and party members are the only females who potentially help defend Redcliffe, and only old men are found in the Chantry (where the non-combatants are). The PC can also convinces several different men (including a non-combatant bartender) to fight, whilst saying to a non-combatant barmaid "shouldn't you be in the Chantry?"
      • Sten is actually the most rounded companion in the game, cultured and emotionally mature. That said, the honor code he lives by puts the loss of his sword at about the same level as going nuts and wiping out a farming family that saved his life. However, he freely admits that this reaction was completely unjustified, shamed his people, and should be punished with his execution.
        • Case in point the Qunari basically regard their occupation given at birth as being the same as their soul or very person. They have a simple almost animal like outlook on things; in camp Sten spends most of his time talking to your War Dog since he can relate to him best. Despite this Qunari have a sense of love and friendship and at least in the Sten a sense of childish affectation: he's enamored over cookies and sweets (which the Qunari don't have in any shape or form) and wants to bring it back to his people and once played string with kitten apparently just to help train for fighting. He may in fact be dead serious about that.
      • The Qunari also have no currency and instead provide their people with whatever they need, quite possibly communist like but you never see this in action.
    • The Qun (qunari religion) is built around the idea that you have only one important choice: You can choose to play your role or die. They don't see this as a contradiction—as far as they're concerned, merely existing proves that you chose to live before you were born.
    • This is definitely the case in Dragon Age II so much so that people actively try to push the Qunari too far in order to spark a conflict. Eventually, The Arishok becomes so sick of what he sees as the lack of morals and principles that he feels define organisms that he starts a war.

Hawke: I see a man willing to start a war on principle.
The Arishok: What would the Qunari be without principle? Much like you I expect.

    • It doesn't help that they often refuse to talk about their beliefs, thus perpetuating the ignorance. And then take violent actions that more often than not make no moral or ethical sense to anyone but themselves. As far as they're concerned, it's all self-evident. Talking about it just proves to them that you are not a true person - you are bas, a thing. They don't care what your race is, though. Anyone who freely chooses to follow the Qun is considered one of their own and will be treated as such.
      • Even if those who chose to follow the Qun are merely doing it to get their Qunari's protection.
    • A different example of this is Anders, who is possessed by the Spirit of Justice, now transformed into a Demon of Vengeance due to Anders' hatred of the circumstances that resulted in the creation of the Circles and the oppression of mages. Justice/Venegance isn't human, but rather a spiritual entity devoted entirely to that concept, and he and Anders are so integrated that Anders isn't sure where his mind ends and Venegance begins. As the game progresses, Anders becomes more and more unreasonable and dogmatic, because of Vengeance's influence, to the point where it becomes questionable as to whether or not Anders is being driven by human morality at all.
      • Even before being changed into Vengeance, Justice could count, becuase he is a spirit of justice, and therefore doesn't adhere to the same morality as ordinary people. He can only think within the constraints of what is just. the same can apply to all spirits/demons.
  • In World of Warcraft, a great number of forces simply see mortals as plants in the Titans' garden, to be pulled or fertilized as the situation warrants.
    • Algalon the Observer rightfully sees that the Old Gods haven't been properly contained and has decided to "re-originate" the planet.
    • A common interpretation of the war between the Blue and Red dragonflights is that neither is good or evil, the former is simply trying to do its job (guarding magic) by killing all mortal magicians, and the latter is just trying to do its job (guarding life) by saving them.
      • To provide more insight into this in Warcraft lore magic is responsible for (or aided in allowing) numerous bad things to occur, like an Orc invasion, the Orc homeworld blowing up, a Demon invasion, a Zombie invasion and more notable the Sundering that tore apart and created the various land masses of Azeroth.
        • What Malygos and his Blue dragons conveniently forget is that it was one of the own that used dragon magic to become one of the worst monsters in Azeroth. It was also a human mage who helped the dragons defeat him.
        • Interestingly, quite a lot of pre-release information suggested the war would have been more along the lines of Grey and Gray Morality. Then a considerable portion of the player base decided they'd rather support the blue dragons as the pre-release information made them sound right. It's unclear whether Blizzard changed the blue dragon's actions to be more along the lines of Knight Templar Well-Intentioned Extremist in response to what they saw as Draco in Leather Pants, or if it was always going to be like that and the pre-release information just gave a very incomplete picture of it.
    • Elementals are like this quite often, as they are considered purely chaotic. One water elemental, Duke Hydraxis, notes that he does not understand the human concept of gratitude or giving rewards, but in accordance with it, gives you a special item as a reward for a (now removed) quest.
  • The Einst from various Super Robot Wars games exist for the sole purpose of preserving the universe(s). Since human consciousness is slowly causing the entropy of existence, that means mankind has to go. However, for unspecified reasons, they've decided that simply wiping out humanity won't do, and they decide to replace it with a new human race that lacks souls and emotions, and is no longer a threat. Unfortunately, one of their own didn't think it could work.
  • The Strogg, the main villains of the Quake series, turn out to be motivated not by a desire for conquest, but survival, as capturing humans and "Stroggifying" them is how they reproduce.
  • Almost every powerful entity in the Shin Megami Tensei series operates under this; to the point where there are basically only one that is actually good (Philemon) and two that are actually evil (Nyarlathotep and Erebus). All the others have mindsets so alien that trying to call them good or evil is a waste of time; as they don't think anything like humans. (Yes, even YHVH)
    • Even Erebus is debatable—as explained in The Answer, he's only destroying the world because so many people secretly long for death.
  • The Big Bad of Persona 4 genuinely wants to make the world a better place to live in for humanity. However, she has a very limited understanding of humans and what they really want. She ended up decided that the best example of a human being was a psychopathic Serial Killer, simply because he was the best at leading people From a Certain Point of View. As such, she paid attention to his very skewed perception of people, and determined that the best way to make a paradise for humanity is to make an Assimilation Plot.
  • Crysis hints at this with the Ceph, but the Novelization Crysis: Legion all but outright says that the Ceph have an alien morality. Hargreave presents a theory that the Ceph are "gardeners" who awoke to find humanity messing up the biosphere they created and are removing an infestation (human attempts to understand the Ceph, he argues, are equivalent to locusts trying to understand human attempts to exterminate them) while Alcatraz/Prophet theorizes that the Ceph are not the gardeners, but the tools of the gardeners left behind to activate and fend for themselves. A CIA analyst at the end of the book proposes a third theory, that the Ceph's technology and motivations are completely beyond human understanding, and that the entire "invasion" was an effort to recover technology like the Nanosuit that Hargreave invented based on Ceph tech.
  • Dwarf Fortress has elves, who find it unthinkable to kill plants, but are perfectly okay with eating the corpses of their enemies.
    • Dwarf Fortress also has a set of ethics parameters that are quite easy to modify, making it simple to create a race or modify an existing one with strange moral values. Heck, even the DF player community can fall into this at times, as they frequently consider Video Game Cruelty Potential not just amusing but a mandatory part of gameplay; if you don't start gleefully butchering kittens and building giant doomsday devices out of their bones to slaughter your enemies (or dwarven nobility) at some point, you're an alarming aberration and likely to be accused of being an elf in disguise.
  • The Brothers of Turgor seem to have a very strange morality from a human perspective.

Triumphator: Giving is an unquestionable evil, so taking must be an unquestionable good!

  • The Shivans of Free Space have a morality that is completely incomprehensible to humanity, or indeed any to other being who's ever encountered them. This is because the Shivans do not communicate, indeed do not even try to communicate: They simply kill all non-Shivans with subspace technology on sight, and then hunt down the rest of their species down to the last man and exterminate them all. Nobody knows why they do this.
    • It gets even more strange in the sequel, with the Shivans looking set to do the above and the GTVA desperately working to seal the entry point into the rest of GTVA space... and then the Shivans make a star go supernova. There is some theorizing in the outro about why, but nothing is confirmed and it doesn't have any apparent connection to hunting down species with subspace technology.
    • Another unexplained action they take in the second game is kidnapping Admiral Bosch and his command staff alive when they finally managed to get a communication across to the Shivans. This is completely outside their usual MO and has confused many a fan of the series.
  • Capsuleer motives are seen as this by planet-dwellers in EVE Online. It doesn't help that even among the various capsuleer factions there's a general theme of sociopathy with rules unique to each group.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Sam Starfall of Freefall seems to fall into this. He explains that, coming from a race of scavengers, morality on his homeworld is incompatible with that of human society—stealing, for example, is seen as an act of bravery necessary to help your family survive, especially if done from a stronger scavenger or a predator. But at the same time, he revels in breaking the law just for the thrill of it, so he may just be using the scavenger morality thing as an excuse.
    • Strip #2998: "Until then, I'll just have to accept I'm at that socially awkward point between nemeses."
  • In Order of the Stick, we see Nale Completely Missing the Point of his Succubus companion's displeasure, though he recovers quickly. Likewise, it never seems to occur to her that Nale might not like hearing about how she had sex with other people four times in a mere three hours—she actually thinks that he is surprised by how few people it was, justifying it by saying that she "had errands to run, too."
    • There's also Elan's attempt to make a decision based on the principles of pure Law and Chaos:

Modron: 100101010100010101101011![3]
Slaad: Turquoise bicycle shoe fins actualize radishes greenly!

    • If what we're told about the Snarl is true, it doesn't kill because it's malicious. In fact, it can't even understand the act of killing, because it doesn't understand orderly concepts.
  • Sparks in Girl Genius regularly slip into worldviews that for normal humans would be... err... rather unusual.
  • Kevin and Kell: The rules there are way different from ours, simply because animals are sentient. For example, Kell (a wolf) works for a corporation whose business model is hunting and killing people for use as food. She only objects to hunting species that she's related to, notably rabbits, as she might end up eating one of Kevin's relatives (she apparently ate Vern and Betty Lopear, two rabbits he knew, a while ago). According to the FAQ, there are some rules regarding killing, though, as predators can only kill prey for food, and if herbivores kill, they must prove that it was in self-defense.
  • Troll society in Homestuck falls under this trope; especially in regards to their romance, caste system, and concept of coming of age. Troll society is also much more violent than human society, so murder is less a crime and more of a faux pas—you're more likely to set off a nasty Cycle of Revenge than get prosecuted. Of course, if you do get prosecuted, then you're screwed, because on Alternia, every court is a Kangaroo Court.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: What are the grounds for a true and solid friendship between the fairies? Cool hair, it seems, since two alienated friends get back together after a haircut (much to the main characters' chagrin). The two aforementioned fairies, funnily enough, happen to be orange and blue-haired, respectively.
  • In Touhou Nekokayou, judge of the dead Shikieiki attempts to view the karma of mad hatter Kisume using her ability to see things in black and white. Kisume shows up mauve.

Shikieiki: ... oh, you're pleading insanity.

  • As we see in this VG Cats strip, Dr. Hobo has two Shoulder Angels: a Devil and a Clown.
  • K'seliss from Goblins has no qualms about killing or eating people, but fighting against animated objects? That would just be sick!
    • Specifically, he sees no difference between killing, eating, and mating. Therefore, fighting something inedible is in fact a form of sexual deviancy to him.
  • The people in Collar 6 seem to have a wildly different morality system than the people in the real world, based on Atlantean writings. The system arguably resembles a very extreme form of libertarianism, with people able to sign "slave" contracts that give others actual legal authority over them.
    • Mistress Sixx is surprised at Laura's outrage at being drugged, put in bondage and forced to participate in sexual acts, since Laura had previously enjoyed participating in consentual sexual acts without bondage or drugs - not recognizing at least three differences between those cases. Apparently the author was called out on that by the readership, and was forced to make an Author's Saving Throw with Sixx apologizing for her inconsideration.
  • Demons in Wapsi Square have a strict set of rules which they follow, but those rules don't match up with our ideas of right and wrong. They even specifically mentioned that evil is a human concept, not a demon one.
  • A number of "Creatures" in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures value only power; if you're too weak to defend yourself, you don't really deserve to live. And since the legal system requires one to be tried by their own species, many beings take up adventuring to seek revenge.
  • Professor Joseph Corwin in Tales Of Gnosis College shows signs of this trope. He is more than happy to lure female undergraduates into weird experiments the involve changing their state of matter or intimate contact with tentacle beasts, but he draws the line at using is technology to make duplicates of people, even when that would be handy. He’s also intensely loyal to his own subordinate.
  • El Goonish Shive crops up here too!
    • When we see the flashback of how Tedd got the transformation gun we learn a few interesting facts about Uryuom society. While it is not illegal to own a TF gun, their manufacture is prohibited due to religious objections to object-oriented programming.
    • Raven's mother (sometimes called Chaos, other times called Pandora) wants to help her son out, so she begins to instigate many magical incidents, such as granting powers to unaware people leading to near-disasters when they unwittingly use them.

Web Original[edit | hide]

Michel: Wait, you're saying you had me kidnapped, knocked out, tied up in a basement and dropped here on this bench because you wanted me to know how it feels when I turn to you on the fucking subway and say "hi"?

  • Some interpretations of the Slender Man.
  • Mercenaries in various stories of the Union Series. It's not about who commits massive war crimes or who plays knight in shining armor, it's more along the lines of being loyal to the original credit line versus switching sides for better pay.
  • Most non-humans in Tales of MU, most notably mermaids, demons, and dragons, who each have no problems eating humans. For example: Ionia, a mermaid, killed another student because she was in water, making her prey. In retaliation Vice-Chancellor Embries, a greater Dragon, devoured her and enchanted the one witness so she couldn't tell anyone.
  • According to Elisa (their actress), The Makeover Fairy and Dr. Tease genuinely think what they do is for the greater good.
  • The demons in The Salvation War have some rather jarring morality. Since they are still basically in the bronze age, demons have a very rigged and honor based form of warfare that hasn't changed in millions of years. Cannibalism is considered fine for demons, and not eating the dead is considered "wasting them." All this changes when humans arrive.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Marceline the Vampire Queen in Adventure Time openly acknowledges this, stating "I'm not mean, I'm a thousand years old, and I just lost track of my moral code". It mostly explains how she can be an example of Dark Is Not Evil while still being really terrifying at times.
    • Lemongrab could count as this. While he's definitely not evil, he is not a good guy (as in a hero or a nice person.) He sends everyone to the dungeon for committing petty crimes. Sometimes it's justified, and the sentence is like a reasonable time-out; only a few hours. Other times, it's a horrible case of Disproportionate Retribution, and then it becomes obvious that he hasn't got all his marbles together.
  • Dinobot in Beast Wars: "I have honour, but it is PREDACON honour!"
  • It is likely that Discord, being what he is, is in this situation. "What fun is there in making sense?"
    • Discord has Complete Monster and For the Evulz tendencies to place him in the Chaotic Evil category, but, since creating chaos and disorder is his entire reason for existing, he pretty much falls under this. To him, chaos is a good thing.
    • he also tries to claim moral high ground because he, unlike Celestia, would never turn another being into stone. Makes sense when you consider that a being of chaos would definitely not enjoy being trapped in a rigid unchanging form where you can't do anything.
    • The villains from Season 2's finale, Changelings and their queen, Chrysalis, are 'evil' because to them, love is a food.
    • It should be noted that while both of the above two examples merely provide a motive, they do not explain the outright sadism both exhibit. That seems to be a personality trait completely separate from this.
  • It's a possible trait of inhabitants of the Spirit World in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Avatar Yangchen, the previous Air Nomadic Avatar, mentions to Aang that many Air Nomads have detached themselves from all worldly concerns and achieved spiritual enlightenment, but the Avatar can never do it because it's the Avatar's job to be the bridge between the physical world and the spiritual world, which requires them to be a part of the world they're protecting. It's likely the Avatar was created so a powerful spiritual being could comprehend humanity and the concerns of the physical world, thus not have blue and orange morality as a result of their uninvolvement.
  • Hank Hill's thoughts on this trope: "What kind of code lets you return a bag of shaving cream and not marry a girl you got knocked up?"


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Many animals can be said to have Blue and Orange Morality, if you can apply a concept like Morality to them in the first place:
    • Bonobos' morality is significantly different from that of humans' (though several humans have said we should follow their example once learning Bonobos resolve conflicts through sex.) The same goes for conflicts between family members, unless there is a chance of impregnation. Impregnation of close family members is the only reason bonobos will refuse sex. Since they never know who fathers are, this works out to 'no mothers with sons, or (maternal) siblings with each other.' Fullstop.
    • Even when compared to other animals, cuttlefish look for strange things when mating. While females of other species will seek out the biggest and strongest males to mate with, cuttlefish seem to value cleverness and ingenuity as well. Sometimes, a small male will approach a mating couple, disguised as a female. If the bigger male buys the disguise and invites "her" in, the real female will allow the small one to mate with her, allowing her to spawn both big and smart offspring.
    • Rape or forced sex as a way of life is prevalent among ducks.
    • By the moral of pretty much any human culture on earth, bottlenose dolphins could easily be regarded as the most evil animals. In zoos, Bottlenose dolphins are never put in with other species of dolphin, because the Bottlenose will frequently torment and rape them. Dolphins are also one of the few species besides humans to have discovered sex slavery - in the wild groups of males will sometimes surround females and prevent them from eating until the females submit to rape. Some also seem to delight in torture.
    • In many species of spiders the male will tie down the female with silk first before attempting to mate with her, probably because she is much larger then him and may try to eat him. Similarly, male tarantulas grow small blunt "hooks" on their first pair of legs when they reach sexual maturity. These hooks have no purpose other than to catch and hold the female's fangs - Blue and Orange morality on both sides, since it's not so much rape as the only way two instinctive killing machines can manage to reproduce.
    • You may have seen pictures of orangutans with large, distinctive cheeks and some without. Evidently it's the male of the species that produces those cheeks, but only if he lives a certain lifestyle. If he settles down, claims a territory, and waits for the ladies to come to him, he grows big cheeks. The other male lifestyle is known as "roam and rape".
    • Infanticide is common among many animals, often it is done because it causes the mother to go into heat faster.
      • Females do it, too. If they're stronger, female rats will kill the offspring of other females to make room for their own litters.
    • Some mother animals appear remarkably indifferent to their offspring by human standards. It's not uncommon for a mother giraffe to step over a fence and just keep on walking, leaving behind her baby that isn't tall enough to cross it.
    • Regarding animals and their Blue and Orange sexual "mores," here is a cute story that sums it up.[context?]
    • Fratricide is apparently quite common among bird hatchlings. After all, it is easier for the parents to feed fewer mouths, and the weaker siblings would probably compromise the entire species. It's also common amongst spotted hyena pups, but only if they're of the same gender, when one's male and one's female the female takes the lead.
    • This bison.
  • Many times, differing cultures have regarded each other as having this. A particularly good (or at least obvious) example is the old stereotype of "inscrutable" Orientals and "crazy" Western devils.
    • Ruth Benedict's The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is an excellent account of just how incomprehensible the Americans and the Japanese were to each other during WWII: Americans thought the Japanese must be crazy for comitting mass suicide attacks and finding death preferable to surrender, while the Japanese thought Americans must be crazy for being willing to dishonor themselves by surrendering.
  • In the Islamic Republic of Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death. Transsexuality, however, isn't only perfectly legal, a sex change is even applicable for financial support by the state.
  • Within contemporary normative ethics are three major types of ethical theory: Consequentialism (the morality of an action is dictated by its consequences), Deontological ethics (the morality of an action is based on duty) and virtue ethics (morality is based on virtues). The morality of a given decision will vary widely between them.
  • Literature from all sorts of ancient cultures falls into this trope. Some of the stuff we take for granted in classical literature can be pretty bizarre for those unfamiliar with ancient Bronze Age customs. Far from being considered barbaric, it was probably just a description of "the status quo" back then. Advocates of more recognizably modern value systems were considered kooks.
    • Eating in public was a major taboo in ancient Greece. It was probably the inspiration for similar taboos found in various Speculative Fiction works.
    • Shakespeare in the Bush is a delicious account of trying to explain the plot of Hamlet to a tribe with very different mores; they have no concept of ghosts, the term which is their closest approximation to "scholar" (literally "person who knows things") is the same as one of their terms for "witch," and they believe that a widow should remarry as soon as possible. They wind up deciding, among other things, that Polonius's death was entirely due to his own mind-blowing stupidity regarding hunting etiquette and that Laertes was a witch who killed Ophelia to sell her body.
    • This trope is the result of a lot of misinterpretations of the myth of Pandora's box - people now see the hope at the bottom as the manifestation of the one good thing that persists in spite of all bad things. But the ancient Greeks actually saw hope as a negative, because it was a delusion. That's why it was in the box Pandora wasn't supposed to open!
      • Even the idea that Pandora wasn't supposed to open the box is an example, most likely from associations with Eve from The Bible; in the full version she was created, from the ground up, to be incapable of not opening the box. Her entire existence, and that of women in general, was a punishment for Humanity's patron Prometheus.
      • According to at least some scholarship, the last evil, the one Pandora managed to keep in the jar, wasn't hope. It was the sure knowledge of the future's shape. Humankind still has hope because we do not know for certain just how bad things will be. The ancient Greeks weren't a very optimistic bunch.
  • The Aztecs had a thing for human sacrifice. It was originally considered an honor to be sacrificed, so rival cities would host ball games; the captain of the winning team would be sacrificed. Changing mores (and the realization that their conquered neighbors didn't quite feel the same way) partially led to the downfall of the Aztec empire, since the invading Spanish were identified with Quetzalcoatl—a god that was opposed to human sacrifice.
    • The Aztecs also had a rich history of Imperialism and enslaving people so that they could be used as unwilling human sacrifices led to every single one of their neighbors regarding them as an unholy mixture of The Empire and Religion of Evil.
    • While we see the Aztec downfall as a catastrophe and Spanish conquest as Imperialism, in a sense, they both won; while the Christianity prevailed, the Spanish conquerors did not form a separate caste or nation inside nation, but were quickly absorbed in the Native American population. The conquerors and the conquered became one nation.
      • Actually, they did form a special caste. Peninsulares (European and born in Spain) at the top, then Criollos (European and born in the colonies), then Mestizo (part Spanish and Part Native), then the in some complicated order the Indians, Africans, and mixes.
    • The Mayans, on the other hand, were more big on self-sacrifice. They weren't averse to a little human sacrifice, but they were mainly concerned with body purification through bloodletting. Sexual stuff was considered relatively unclean, so the Mayans purified themselves by drawing barbed threads through their tongues and penises.
    • Some American Indian cultures had no concept of sin, could not be traced back to Noah, and many, especially males, simply wore clothing as fit with the weather, totally a contradiction of Genesis. This put Indians in the Uncanny Valley, which of course made it possible for the Spanish, and later Americans, to kill and enslave Indians, though the Catholic Church quickly declared Indians human.
      • And when some Indians first got a look at this "lord and savior" the white man was so infatuated with, the Indians were extremely unimpressed; why would these people worship some loser who got nailed to a cross?
        • Supposedly they did like the whole Christ thing since it involved a deity sacrificing itself, like what their gods did everytime a new sun/world was needed.
        • The Native Americans are a vast variety of different cultures and beliefs. Some quickly found a place for Christianity in their belief-system, while to others it was a complete anathema.
        • The first contact of some Nordic peoples with Christianity was similar. They found it unthinkable that one's god would make his followers debase themselves by kneeling before him. After all, shouldn't worthy followers be willing to stand before a stronger entity? Early Christian missionaries were frequently asked if Christ could beat Thor in a fight, and Jesus was quickly reimagined as White-Christ, a Badass warrior deity with appearance and demeanour very much like Thor.
          • Given that Nordic Mythology wasn't written down until quite a while after Christianity was preveleant, and as a whole many scholars believe Nordic Mythology fully incorporated the Bible (such as Odin's sacrifice on the tree), take this with a grain of salt.
          • Jesus was already depicted as quite Badass in The Bible. It's just that most people are more familiar with His sermons and self-restraint than His Power. The reason He commanded His followers not to take revenge was because they didn't need to; He'd give those who persecuted His followers sufficient time to repent, and if they did not, He'd avenge His followers Himself. Revelation 19 depicts the Second Coming and Battle of Armageddon, where all the world's wicked try to fight Jesus, but Jesus strikes down the entire army with one swing of His sword.
        • Similarly, one of Charlemagne's ancestors became an enthusiastic convert to Christianity and used to fantasize how, if he'd been at the Crucifixion with a few of his warriors, he'd have been able to rescue Christ by massacring all the legionnaries intent on nailing him up. His bishop had to patiently explain to him that he was somewhat missing the point.
  • James Bowman in Honor: A History traces the honor codes of various times and civilizations and points out that they have universal similarities and striking differences. He also believes that the old style honor code is becoming Blue and Orange Morality to a number of modern people.
    • An example he gives was of a Obviously Not Intrepid Reporter (whom he mercifully refuses to name) he heard of in Iraq who persuaded a female soldier to ride in his car to "use their chauvinism against them" so that no insurgents would shoot at him. The author points out that the honor code of Middle Eastern terrorists is not quite that of a Quintessential British Gentleman, the differences are as complex as the similarities, and in general they would have no problems shooting at a female soldier.
  • Take two people completely opposed on some issue- say an avid hunter and a member of an animal rights group. Chances are, they will find themselves literally unable to comprehend the other's point of view.
    • This is increasingly the case today, as both will be getting their news and other media from sources dedicated to their own viewpoint, and so may not even have the same idea of the basic facts—much less any idea what the opposing argument really is, beyond a strawman.
    • More to the point: The core element of many animal rights arguments is that animals have the same rights as people (or should), thus, shooting them is morally equivalent (or at least similar) to murder. Meanwhile, the core elements of the hunter's viewpoint is that this argument is patently false, and that humans who hunt are as much a part of the natural environment as any other apex predator. These two views simply cannot be resolved in any meaningful way, and both sides believe they are "good" while the other side is "evil" (or, at least, willfully stupid), making the essential conflict a blue-and-orange morality issue.
  • A literal example from Cold War days. Two power blocs that found it pretty difficult to understand each other's particular ethics and moralities - the capitalist and communist - were facing each other down over a divided German border for over forty years. When NATO had its annual manoevres and field exercises in West Germany, rather than risk offence to the Russians by denoting the "invading from the East" faction the Red Army, and making it obvious by calling the "defending from the West" side the white Army, the convention evolved that called the two sides in NATO wargames "Blue" and "Orange". A whole generation of NATO officers passed through their countries' armed forces thinking of the Warsaw Pact as "Orange Army" and their own side as "Blue Army"...
    • Watergate is the perfect example: The Russians couldn't believe Nixon, a powerful and effective national leader, was really brought down by the kind of things that were a matter of course in the USSR.
      • And then they themselves were brought down by Chernobyl and the impossibility of covering it up (although they tried).
      • Not exactly, the collapse of the Soviet Union wasn't from Chernobyl alone, it was a multi-faceted situation involving many different elements. Economic collapse looms largest amongst these causes, as they took Reagan's bait and engaged in a major arms race while fighting a major war in Afghanistan, something their economy couldn't afford. Meanwhile, Gorbachev's attempt to liberalize their political system (Glasnost and Peristroika) led to increasing unrest and ethnic disputes that they simply did not have the military manpower available to shut down with force as they'd done for forty years, nor the desire as it was antithetical to the whole notion of Glasnost and Peristroika to begin with. The increasing unrest and apparent failure of Glasnost and Peristroika led to an attempted military coup, which failed. However, it paved the way for the various outlying republics to lose confidence in the central government, particularly given that the central government was resorting to heavy taxation of these provinces to pay for everything in the economic downturn. They began declaring their indepencence, and suddenly, the USSR was no more. Chernobyl, though a tremendous disaster, was not the largest element precipitating the crisis, merely one of many.
  • People with certain kinds of psychological disorders and conditions, like autism. Some of these are usually considered amoral, or lack of a recognition of morality; however there are people like this who hate things that are absolutely normal, accept things that most people disdain, and judge other people by things that are usually not associated with morality.
  • This argument is occasionally used to justify (although not necessarily defend) questionable business practices—why should a corporation operate based on ethics similar to interpersonal relationships when it only exists to make money as efficiently as possible?
  • The codes of conduct held by various established organised crime - as opposed to Obviously Evil street thug gangs - and esoteric groups can often be incomprehensible to "outsiders".
  • This can occur quite frequently between atheists and theists, given that the two groups have entirely different precepts that they consider to be axiomatic (i.e. evident, obvious, requiring no proof).
  • Even though you might say our current society is "descended" from them, the ancient Romans (among other past societies) sometimes might as well be aliens to us, between the casual practice of infanticide, fights to the death being a celebrated form of entertainment, and suicide being a much more acceptable reaction to failure. It's part of why works like I, Claudius and Rome are so fascinating. Even Saint Augustine, writing "just" in the fifth century, couldn't understand why the legend of Lucretia made the suicide of a rape victim something heroic.
  • A tragic example in WW 2- British, American and ANZAC troops would surrender if ordered to do so or if the situation was hopeless in order to avoid unnecessary deaths. To the Japanese surrendering was the ultimate taboo in war- this meant that surrendered Allied troops were often treated horrificly.
  • Until the end of WW 1 the British army still regularly used corporal punishments that would be considered barbaric today. Capital punishment for cowardice was common and during the 18th and 19th centurys a naval captain were put to death if they didn't attack enemy shipping at any and every opportunity- unless there was an extremely good reason for doing so.
  • Jonathan Haidt's observations, which became the basis of The Righteous Mind, highlighted this. In essence, there are moral foundations that can be classified under broad categories like care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. He asserts that not only do these impact one's individual moral framework, but that these can also lead to wildly differing views, beliefs, ideologies, etc. based on what foundations take precedence. As a consequence, this can help explain why Right and Left-leaning people can view the same thing in incredibly varied interpretations and why it's difficult for human beings to talk on the same page.
  1. (He pushed his best friend off the rooftop because he refused to be the "Hero" (ended up as one anyway) and Jareth was the "Villain" that time and that's what villains do)
  2. by saying they'll cut the communications link to Jupiter - the individual Jovian isn't important to the Hive Mind, but the experiment is
  3. This is binary gibberish. In ASCII it would be:"_-k"