Good Is Boring

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"Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens."
Talking Heads, Heaven
"Once upon a time, an infinite number of people lived perfect, eternal lives. The end."
Zadok, 1/0

This is a trope regarding morality and idealism. For when heavily structured order in which very little is meant to occur is defined as 'good' and set in opposition to the 'evil' of chaos, see Order Versus Chaos.

You're looking for a motivation for your nihilistic villain to take action in order to get the plot moving, but he is so deep in his nihilism that the only motivation one can come up with is that he did it because it would be fun. However, now another side of the character has been revealed. If evil is fun to them then that must mean that he believes... this trope!

This trope is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Either in the view of a character, or in the reality of the situation in-universe, Good Is Boring and Evil is... not. However there is still the question of why one would come to that conclusion, so let's explore that idea together!

Observe this meta-example:

An author attempts to create a world of only good people by disposing of the evil altogether. Doing so reveals a problem. This isn't your typical problem which leads to The End of the World as We Know It but one that would result in a far worse situation... the audience becomes bored.

Living in world of Incorruptible Pure Pureness where idealism reigns with a sugar-coated fist of iron would be wonderful in every practical and realistic sense. Unfortunately for idealists, this leads to a world utterly devoid of conflict and constant goodness is boring to observe.

This problem can be averted entirely by a well written conflict without evil involved and of course, a good person can be boring without it reducing the excitement of the work as a whole

Now observe what occurs in-universe:

A character can simply be this trope incarnate. They are good, boring and... not much else. They either exist to be a moral compass to the other characters, be a foil to a villain or anti-hero, show that boring might not be so bad after all, or perhaps to be a plot device and cause the villain to overgeneralize this trope.

From the villain's perspective, they may have met characters who are this trope incarnate, or they might simply desire thrills that they get most easily from evil acts, resulting in the belief that since evil is far more interesting (because it is), then Good Is Boring by extension. They do not have to be correct in this belief, and the belief can be held by non-villains.

This trope is a sister trope to Evil Is Cool, particularly when The Villain Makes the Plot because it's usually the villain stirring things up. Likewise, it is invoked in settings with A Hell of a Time- since if Good is Boring and Evil is Interesting, then the interesting plots happen where all the bad guys are dumped.

Links all too frequently to the Writer on Board trying to tell us something about mainstream religion, culture, or ethics. Even worse when paired with a Strawman Political. When this trope refers to a problem with the writing and conflict itself, it is the polar opposite problem of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. (Which is also quite a problem.)

Compare and contrast Boring but Practical (which this trope can also be paired with). Contrast Evil Is Cool and Good Feels Good. Can result from a Boring Invincible Hero and is a common complaint regarding Purity Sue. Tangentially related to Victory Is Boring, which can occur with both good and evil characters.

Examples of Good Is Boring include:

Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Used in Hackers, when the villain describes the moral philosophy that allows him to frame a bunch of teenagers for his crimes:

"There is no right or wrong. There's only fun and boring. A twenty year prison sentence sounds a trifle dull to me."

"Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost."

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Iain M Banks has said that the protagonists of his Culture novels are (usually) Special Circumstances operatives (the Culture's equivalent of diplomats, commandos and Magnificent Bastard all rolled into one) or non-Culture citizens precisely because the vast majority of the Culture's everyday life - non-alienated people going about their fulfilling lives, respecting and being respected by their community in a post-scarcity anarchistic metasociety - just wouldn't make for particularly gripping reading. Lampshaded in-universe on a few occasions.
  • In the novel Good Omens, the demon Crowley persuades the angel Aziraphale that they can't allow Armageddon to take place by pointing out that eternity in Heaven means eternal boredom, since all the interesting things exist either on Earth or in Hell.

"Can you imagine eternity with Elgar?"
Aziraphale shut his eyes. "All too easily," he groaned.

    • The real horror is not that Heaven will be boring, but that no matter how tedious it gets you will still enjoy it: you won't have a choice.
  • Defied in the Book of the Long Sun. Silk was meant to be as interesting and as moral a character possible because Gene Wolfe thought that too many modern novels relied on anti-heroes as protagonists. Silk serves as an interesting foil to the blatantly anti-heroic protagonist Severian of the Book of the New Sun, which is also part of Wolfe's "Solar Cycle" meta-verse.
  • Heaven in the book Angel Face by Narinder Dhami bores the teenage-angel protagonist senseless.
  • It's not really visible in his published works, written when he was more tired and cynical, but JRR Tolkien's earlier versions of his mythos (The Book of Lost Tales, the original version of The Silmarillion) tend to avert this trope by going into a great deal of description and detail about just how and why the Bliss of Valinor, the Silmarils, and so forth are so good, while treating Morgoth's evil as mostly banal.
    • For example, the Music of the Ainur, which created Eä, is described as a beautiful and glorious symphony, while Morgoth's song of opposition is described as "loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated", and "a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes".
  • The Childrens' book series The Great Brain states this trope outright. The protagonist is a Heroic Sociopath who enjoys tricking people out of their money. When he reforms in the later books, his younger brother complains that things are too boring, and secretly celebrates when his brother returns to his old schemes.
  • Inverted in CS Lewis's The Great Divorce. People in Heaven are vibrant and happy, while denizens of Hell are bored and full of themselves - or, at the very best, tend to chase trivial things (like attempts of one of them to get a Heaven's apple to Hell).
    • Inverted by Lewis again in The Screwtape Letters, where demons try to minimize the enjoyment people get out of sin, hating joy just like other positive emotions. Moreover, they see God as a hedonist bent on undermining the order and dignity of Hell.
  • Galahad, as portrayed in various strands of Arthurian Legend, is a shining example. He is Incorruptible Pure Pureness incarnate and never says, or does anything interesting. He's also a textbook Boring Invincible Hero, a good example of how impossible it is to have character development when the protagonist is already perfect.
    • Alternatively, Galahad bores himself with his goodness. Because Right Makes Might, jousts are too easy for fun or glory.
  • Played to a T in For Love Of Evil, where the devil actually makes some parts of Hell so much more interesting than Heaven that a soul in Heaven begs Satan to take him back to Hell when he returns. Heaven itself, as Satan notes, is actually a very boring place where people spend a lot of time sitting around.
  • A lot of books, video games, and even movies in the Star Wars Universe include this trope, since the primary expected duties of the Jedi are heavily implied, if not outright stated, to be meditating on the will of the Force, and gaining peace and serenity. Everything else, including policing the galaxy, advising politicians, and fighting Sith are supposed to be secondary, especially when the Jedi aren't currently involved in any wars.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Babylon 5 toed this line with the Vorlons and the Shadows, although it was hard to tell at times whether Good and Evil were entering into their Order vs. Chaos struggle. Eventually, the pawns of this rivalry tell both sides to take a hike.
    • Survival is good other things being equal. Manipulating other races (especially by playing on their fears and baser instincts like The Shadows do) and using them as tools for one's selfish ends is evil. Therefore the "pawns of this rivalry" are good(or grey rather) and the Vorlons and Shadows are Evil Versus Evil.
  • Lois and Clark alluded to a Utopian future in "Tempus Fugitive." Superman and Lois' legacy is a completely perfect, balanced world - which drives the villain of the episode to try and change it. He just can't stand it.

Tempus: A world of peace. A world with no greed or crime. A world so boring you'd blow your brains out, but there are no guns.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In the Crapsack World of Warhammer Fantasy Battle Fantasy, the forces of Order are closest to traditional "good," but they all seem deadset against having or allowing any sort of fun or joy. The Dwarves are dour, inflexible, and obsessed with their grudges and the Human Empire is oppressive, corrupt, and engage in paranoid witchburning sessions (albeit often with actual witches.) The Dark Elves and human servants of Chaos, however, often get to enjoy themselves (unless they end up on the wrong side of a sacrificial knife) and do what they want. The Greenskins truly live for nothing but but war, so essentially all of life is a game to them. Which makes it terribly ironic for the Dwarves to take Greenskin transgressions so personally.
    • The Grey armies, the Wood Elves, Tomb Kings and Lizardmen are a mix. Wood Elves get to enjoy themselves but are insanely protective of their woods and are more like a force of nature. Tomb Kings do what they want (being undead kings) but want to stay on Settra's good side. Lizardmen are all born and bred soldiers and priests, so they're like orcs, only not as funny.
    • Chaos (or at least Archaon) wants to "save the world from stagnation and order." Of course, when it comes to saying that, you know it means something like killing everybody and turning the world into an insane playground of Chaotic Evil embodied, so at that point you may notice it wouldn't be an improvement after all.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The true cheaters ending of Catherine. And then Vincent became an incubus.
  • The plot of Scarlet Weather Rhapsody can be summarized as "Celestial gets bored, attempts to destroy world for fun."
  • Fable and its sequel, depending on your chosen path.
  • Textbook case in Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires. Two of the ending sequences require you to become an evil Emperor and a good Emperor, respectively. The former involves having a license to print money (and also raking in literally dozens of items), mercilessly executing everyone who annoys you, and acquiring a super-cheap means of completely refilling your ranks, all at the cost of a few token peasant uprisings and an occasional extra flood or earthquake. The latter involves taking over almost the entire empire, then doing nothing but spend enormous sums of gold and deplete your army for about six years, all for a bunch of feeble peasant militias that you won't even get to use.
  • The Legend of Zelda CDI Games - Faces of Evil

Link: "Gee, it sure is BORING around here!"
King Harkinian: "Mah boi, this peace is what all true warriors strive for!"
Link: "I just wonder what Ganon's up to!"

    • In Ocarina of Time, the soldier inside the house full of pots wishes Hyrule was more chaotic, as standing all day in a peaceful place bores him.
  • Mentioned by Kefka of Final Fantasy VI:

"This little hamlet has too much boring and not enough burning! Torch everything!"

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Averted in Order of the Stick during Roy's time in the Lawful Good heaven. (Being based on DnD, there are a couple of heavens to go round.) Heaven there is a decidedly fun place, one where playing blocks with your little brother can last for days and still be awesome. Furthermore, there's a Debate Hall Where You're Always Right, a Dungeon Full Of Monsters Just Difficult Enough to Challenge You, and a Tavern of Infinite One Night Stands, of all things, though heaven discourages its use by only allowing you to take them to your parents' house.
    • Before you bring up the "it'll get boring eventually" argument, remember that since nothing changes and you don't have physical needs to distract you, you can't actually tell how long you've been there. (A fact that Roy learns the hard way.)
      • Besides, when Roy questions why Heaven has such things, it's explained that yes, it will get boring after several decades or centuries... which frees you from earthly distractions and attachments as you resume climbing the mountain to attain higher levels of enlightenment (and presumably higher levels of satisfaction than anything the flesh can offer).
    • Technically, playing blocks with your little brother wouldn't automatically be awesome. Roy was just that happy to see his little brother who died around the age of four, which is why he was young enough that playing blocks still held much appeal in Heaven.
    • Also, Durkon, being the stereotypical Lawful Good beer-loving tree-fearing dwarf cleric of the Order, has a reputation of being this trope in parts of the fandom.
  • In Sins, good, as personified by The Virtues, isn't just boring, but stupid and unpleasant as well. No wonder all the hosts think Evil Is Cool.
    • Of course, the Virtues want the Sins to die so that the universe will be destroyed by the imbalance of Good over Evil, on the off chance it will be remade without evil. If it gets remade at all.
    • And Labor is willing to kill an innocent girl on sight, made worse by the fact she lost her soul no matter how innocent she was (her sole crime was picking up the Sins' Soul Jar).
  • The Dimension of Lame from Sluggy Freelance epitomizes this. At first, it seems like a great place where everyone's kind and even the sewers smell like flowers. Except there's no alcohol, all swearing is censored, the only TV channels are PBS and Disney, and everyone seems to subsist entirely off rice cakes and spring water. Torg high-tails it out of there pretty quick.
    • Kinda like that old saying about Hawaii: Nice place for a vacation, but you wouldn't want to live there.
    • On his second visit, Torg notes that the people of the dimension aren't necessarily "good" so much as "pure"; in the sense that they are incapable of doing anything to prevent or even resist evil for fear of becoming less pure.
  • In Sinfest, Baby Blue assures Fuschia that being good is really boring -- and accuses her of thinking of converting. Fuschia denies it.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Moral Orel, but this is more due to most of the characters in the show believing this while being major hypocrites
  • This is the reason why classic cartoons whose premises revolve around a chase devote much more screen time to the villanous predator; you don't see as many scenes with Jerry, the Road Runner, or Tweety as with their respective nemesis.