Good Is Old-Fashioned
"A speech on willpower in this day in age? I did not know people still believed in such silly notions."—Rozalin, Disgaea 2
The villain wants to sneer at The Hero. So what does he do? He calls him, and his stern moral code, old-fashioned. Or out-of-date, obsolete, quaint, antiquated, etc. Expect the phrase "this day and age" to come up. The Anti-Hero may use the Stock Phrase, as well, as may indeed, any character whose moral code is somewhat laxer than The Hero's. But the most characteristic users are the Ubermensch, Nietzsche Wannabe, and the Nineties Anti-Hero.
A Knight in Sour Armor or other characters wearing Jade-Colored Glasses, if only somewhat cynical, may regard it as amusing, for its impracticality, tinged with admiration, for its honor. The worse a character is, the more likely the attitude will be contempt.
They may even explicitly describe the code of honor and the character who holds it as more suitable for a previous time. If the opportunity ever arises for contrast, it may be clear that the ideals always were ideals, though, in idealistic stories, it actually may have been better in the past.
The villain will seldom explicitly characterize himself in contrast as evil. "Practical," "pragmatic" and "realistic" are more likely—as are "up-to-date" or "way of the future" or other terms indicating that their side is in fashion. Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions may be invoked.
Occasionally, a character may ironically say that he is not up-to-date and as current as the villain, so the villain will just have to live with his reactions. Sometimes, more seriously, The Hero responds that moral considerations do not change with times and that his code is perennial.
Invariably a way of rousing sympathy for the character by showing him being abused.
Note that it applies only to characters whose goodness, rather than any other trait, is called old-fashioned. But it can double up with the character actually being old-fashioned in some manner, or defending himself as living according to the Good Old Ways.
Logically, this could also be phrased as we bad guys are up-to-date, in fashion, current, etc., and sometimes it is (as in the New Era Speech), but normally not, because calling good old-fashioned presents evil as the norm and good the divergence. It may go hand-in-hand with declaring yourself Above Good and Evil.
Those Wacky Nazis often have a tendency to express sentiments of this fashion; whilst they may not actually identify themselves as evil, they will often sneer to their more democratic foes that their beliefs are 'outdated', and that the pure Aryan way is the inevitable way of the future. Given what the judgment of history ended up being against the Nazis and their followers, a Nazi who makes this assertion will usually be played for the historical irony, especially if they're making it any time pre-1945.
Contrast Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids—which often carries the same implication that "you are ignorant of the real world of today." See also Cool People Rebel Against Authority and Good Is Not Dumb.
- Merla, self-styled Queen of Darkness from an old episode of Voltron
- Inverted in The World God Only Knows where the traditional hierarchy of Hell was overthrown and replaced by the Noble Demon population.
- Even kids tell poor Vash that his code is stupid and old-fashioned, because the planet Gunsmoke is a Crapsack World where old Earth morals don't apply. Vash soldiers on regardless.
- This is the main point of contention between Kotetsu and Barnaby in Tiger and Bunny—Kotetsu is an old-fashioned idealist, while Barnaby is a new-age Punch Clock Hero.
- The titular character of Rurouni Kenshin speaks with a Keigo, and has his principles questioned repeatedly by other characters.
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- In Ultimate Marvel, at some point Ultimate Cap, who like all characters in that universe is somewhat less good, is taken aback and disturbed by the Ultimate incestuous relationship between Ultimate Quicksilver and Ultimate Scarlet Witch. Ultimate Wasp berates him for having "20th Century morals". Because Brother-Sister Incest is so modern and awesome, apparently. Not all the Ultimates actually felt that way, though—Hawkeye did call the relationship sick.
- In #650, part of Jason Todd's Motive Rant:
Jason: I don't know what clouds your judgment worse. Your guilt or your antiquated sense of morality.
Robin: The old Batman would never descend to their level!
Azrael: The old Batman was created for older times. There's no place for kid gloves no. Evil has lost its patience. Obeying rules and codes the other side has trashed is stupid.
- Superman gets this a few time by anti-heroes; needless to say he proves them wrong.
- Notably, in "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?", in which he fights some very obvious Expies of The Authority.
- In Kingdom Come, a killer goth cyborg with 666 tattooed on his chest calls Supes "Man of the 1950s" for daring to lecture the future's super-gang-bangers on morality. The setup for Kingdom Come revolved around Superman coming out of retirement, which he entered after Magog, an embodiment of the Grim and Gritty Nineties Anti-Hero, displaced him as the top superhero, telling him that ideals like taking villains alive don't work anymore.
- In Superman At Earth's End, Ben Boxer attempts to convince Superman that his adamant refusal to kill is old-fashioned and out of touch with reality. Superman's response, made famous by Linkara; "Reality is, you're just an android. I AM A MAN!" But then he uses an enormously oversized gun to mow down the Villains Of The Week and their hench-army anyway, before delivering a message about how guns are bad. And now you know why Linkara featured this comic.
- In DC's miniseries Trinity, Morgaine Le Fey tells Superman, during the climactic battle, that she is looking to the future, while he, Batman, and Wonder Woman cling to the past.
- Tom Strong had an issue with a glimpse into the future where he and his family fight a Nazi (the son of a female Nazi supersoldier who had impregnated herself with a sperm sample taken from Tom while he was briefly captured during WWII) who uses this trope to attack the Strong family's idealism. Tom shoots back with a Shut Up Hannibal and makes the case that there have been tyrants and despots since the dawn of history, and that those ideologies are the ones that are obsolete and outdated.
- This was often given as the premise for the many "proactive" superhero teams that debuted in the Dark Age, and the Nineties Anti-Hero in general—something along the lines of "In these difficult times, we can no longer afford to just wait and react!": X-Force, Force Works, Extreme Justice, and the ultimate expression of the theme, The Authority.
- In Tom Scioli's Godland, Basil Cronus declares he's not like Archer: "falling into some ridiculously antiquated paradigm with that glowing do-gooder."
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in the Cold Opening.
- In Time Bandits, Evil jeers at the way God bothered with such things as butterflies. He's going straight to hi-tech.
If I were creating the world I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, Day One!
- For good measure, when God appears at the end, he manifests as a somewhat officious old man in a gray suit.
- In Time After Time, Jack the Ripper laughs at the hero´s nobility and says: "You´re so Victorian!"
- In Live Free or Die Hard, Thomas Gabriel mocks John McClane by calling him an analogue timepiece in the digital age.
- In Dragonheart, villain characters frequently sneer that Bowen's moral code—the code of chivalry—is old-fashioned and irrelevant.
- This is both invoked and discussed in The Avengers, mostly regarding Captain America (comics). The conclusion is that old-fashioned heroism is exactly what people need during Earth's Darkest Hour.
Literature[edit | hide]
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Armour of Contempt, an officer tells Rawne that Gaunt will get him killed over a futile point of honor, and that the Warmaster is amused by Gaunt's old-fashioned sense of honor.
- The Gunslinger in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series seems to get this a lot.
- Hagbard Celine in The Illuminatus! Trilogy explains people fall in neophobes and neophiles, with 90% of the population being neophobes, afraid of change, and that these people are in the end, right.
- There's absolutely no moral dimension in being a neophobe or neophile. All heroes and all villains fall squarely in the neophile category.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, Chanda reveals himself as The Mole, and the governor asks why. He cites this trope and hands them over to their enemies. And is Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
You are the past. Weak, pathetic, clinging to your outdated loyalty to a withered corpse on a planet you have never even seen.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Magnus the Red is determined to study the warp and gain power, because
Notions of good and evil fell by the wayside next to such power as dwelled in the warp, for they were the antiquated concepts of a religious society, long cast aside.
- He's now the slave of the god Tzeentch with most of his army reduced to mindless shells of their former self because of said warp powers and his treacherous second-in-command.
- In James Swallow's The Flight of the Eisenstein, Garro has a house carl as his equerry; his fellow Death Guard Space Marines sneer at maintaining a tradition that no longer makes sense; it smacks of sentiment. Later, one, as a reanimated and rotting corpse, jeers at Garro and describes himself as a "harbinger of the future".
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, Inquisitor Stele tells the Blood Angels before him that there will be resistance to his plans, because of those who cling to "ancient, decrepit dogma."
- In JRR Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman's appeal to Gandalf:
A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you. Before us. We may join with that Power.
- In Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines, the Engineers, about to fight with the Historians, sneer at them because the Engineers represent the future. The Historians win.
- In Madeleine L'Engle's Many Waters, the nephilim and their followers have this attitude, in contrast to their "brothers", the seraphim.
- In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, the Ancient League is five days old but dedicated to ancient traditions.
- In the Star Trek Novel Verse, Emperor Kahless and his traditionalist philosophies get this from other Klingons, on occasion. But with the Klingon Empire reconfiguring itself in light of Martok’s reforms, the tide is turning. In the Star Trek: Voyager Relaunch, Kahless tells Smug Snake and Complete Monster Kopek that he is going to become obsolete:
"You will fall, Kopek, because you live only to hold on to your power and to accumulate more. Martok works daily to restore the empire to the path of honour, and there is no place for you on that path. You will learn the true way, or you will reap the seeds of self-destruction you have so carefully sown”.
- Simultaneously played straight and subverted in The Dresden Files in the form of Michael Carpenter. As a literal man of God, he gets on Harry's case for having sex with Susan while not marrying her. However, while his moral code is somewhat old fashioned, he plays his part as God's Knight in Shining Armor by having said armor being lined with Kevlar.
Michael: My faith protects me. My Kevlar helps.
- The Twilight Zone: "The Obsolete Man." The title man is prosecuted for being an (illegal) librarian and (illegally) believing in God. The government in that episode also admittedly espouses philosophies similar to those of Mussolini (see below).
- Columbo is mocked by one of his suspects (who is a sort of Hugh Hefner character) for his middle-class morality at length.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- The Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/stay night and the Heaven's Feel route of same are all about this trope.
- In Shu's story mode for Warriors Orochi 2, this is Masamune Date's battle taunt when he shows up.
- Cao Cao in Dynasty Warriors 6 also considers those who support the Han to be out of touch with the times.
- An early villain in Knights of the Old Republic is Brejik of the Black Vulkars, a very hostile gang that extorts and takes slaves. Brejik split away from the less criminal, more supportive Hidden Beks gang and made an ongoing effort to destroy it. The player character can choose a side; Brejik captured someone you need for the plot and put her up as the prize for winning a swoop race, and being sponsored by one of these gangs is the only way to compete in it. Win, though, and Brejik rants about how he doesn't have to follow up on old rules like handing over prizes. He is the wave of the future! Naturally, you kill him.
Web Comics[edit | hide]
- It wasn't just Those Wacky Nazis, the real Nazis, and the Italian Fascists who came before them, came to power largely by arguing that things like liberal democracy and individual rights (as opposed to the "common good") were outdated concepts and that totalitarian dictatorship was the way of the future. In keeping with this trope "pragmatic" was, in fact, one of Mussolini's favorite words (though Mussolini was decidedly less evil than modern guilt by association makes him out to be).
- Communist tracts of the time also made use of this trope, though they tended to portray themselves as 'true' democrats and the liberal democracies of the West as being undemocratic because they didn't permit unlimited power to the majority. A favorite of Communist propagandists of the 1930s in the USA was that the Constitution was outdated, obsolete, a 'barrier to democracy'.
- Depressingly enough, the idea that democracy is aimless mob rule and that enlightened tyranny is the way of the future was actually a very popular viewpoint among turn of the century intellectuals, with Nietzsche being the Trope Maker. It took World War II to demolish that perspective for a while, by demonstrating just how disastrously bad giving one man absolute power can be.
- It's Older than You Think: debates about the morality of democracy and the practicality of tyranny have been raging since at least Ancient Greece.
- Notions of chivalry and gentlemanly ethics can seem stuffy and old-fashioned in a more relaxed age where people are more open and free about speaking their mind. However while some elements may be rightly discarded (protective elements of the two can be seen as having elements of sexism), old-world politeness, courtesy and diplomacy can are arguably no less welcome and desirable today.
- Write a handmade thank-you note. Watch the delighted reaction (and prepare for some really nice presents next time).