Knight in Sour Armor

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."

William Somerset, Se7en

The world is filled with idealists who believe in truth, justice and all that stuff and devote their lives to fighting for it. And then the world keeps letting them down. For them, Being Good Sucks. But rather than giving up on their goals, they replace their shiny armor with a full plate of pure cynicism. These characters realize they live in a dark, cruel and brutal world and choose to fight not because they believe they will truly make a difference, but because it's the right thing to do. And they hate themselves for it.

More often than not these characters are in settings that feature Black and Gray Morality. They're usually survivors who have largely given up on believing in Honor Before Reason, but still strive to be Lawful Good or as close to it as reality allows them to be. They often fail, but keep on trying. They are willing to bend the rules to save them. In Lighter and Softer settings, these characters are Grumpy Bears and are often mocked by the other characters for being so sour all the time.

The presence of cynicism usually makes the idealistic behavior even more noteworthy: it's easy to love everyone when Rousseau Was Right, but you really have to be a good guy to believe that Humans Are the Real Monsters and care about them anyway. Such characters can also be The Fettered; their cynical outlook tells them they could probably get away with all kinds of things that they don't do because that would be wrong, and just because the world sucks doesn't mean you need to make it worse. Then again, this kind of character goes great with a world where you Earn Your Happy Ending after much strife.

This is the inverse of the worldview of most Well-Intentioned Extremists, especially those who believe that Utopia Justifies the Means. Extremists or Knights Templar may believe themselves to be this, but their actions are far too extreme. A Knight In Sour Armor believes in the rules and breaks them only when absolutely necessary, which is very rarely; not surprisingly, many have taken a Heroic Vow related to this behavior. Often has a personal set of rule, trimmed down to those that really matter in order to minimize conflicts and distractions. Contributes to the Knight's gruff tendencies, since politeness tends to appear a lot further down the priority list than feeding orphans and so on.

Generally, these characters fit one of two personality types. Members of the first type are former Wide Eyed Idealists who have come to accept that their world is on the low end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, but who still find something beautiful in their former ideals that they want to hold on to. Those of the second type are born cynics, who would make natural Jerkass antiheroes, but who nevertheless have devoted themselves to a code of honor or fair play. In either case, these people tend to have gone through (often painful) Character Development in their past, meaning that they are normally older than the average hero.

Either way, however, the effect is basically the same: you have a Knight in Shining Armor wearing Jade-Colored Glasses; the difference between the first and second types is which comes first.

These characters show up often in Film Noir and in Low Fantasy. Law enforcement is a particularly attractive career, but the Knight in Sour Armor will usually hold back from becoming a Cowboy Cop. Very frequently, they end up as The Obi-Wan, a Grumpy Bear with Jade-Colored Glasses, The Last DJ, or a Cool Old Guy if they last long enough. As teammates, they are often the Sour Supporter. They also frequently end up as Hero Antagonists and extreme Woobies. This is often the final state of The Atoner post Heel Face Turn. Despite their cynicism, they behave like The Anti-Nihilist. Compare the Iron Woobie, who takes the troubles of a good alignment with far less complaint, and the Noble Demon, who will proudly declare himself evil, but still finds himself doing good. Converted Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids or Good Is Old-Fashioned believers may well find themselves becoming this Trope if the heroes can pull them round. Compare Jerkass Woobie, a character who spits in the face of the alignment chart. Compare The Snark Knight for the Non-Action Guy variant.

Examples of Knight in Sour Armor include:

Anime and Manga

Jet: Betrayal may come easily to women, but men live by iron codes of honor.
Faye: You really believe that?
Jet: I'm trying to, real hard.

  • Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist.
    • Mustang even more so. He basically IS this trope, along with Hawkeye, Hughes and the rest of his group.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Eikichi Onizuka probably has as little a reason as anyone to put up with the students of his class, and by all rights probably should have quit teaching from the very start. The fact that he genuinely cares and believes that students should be able to have fun at school (and he's too stupid to quit) allows him to strive to make school a better place.
  • Fakir in Princess Tutu, but only after he gets a grip on his - perfectly understandable - fear.
  • Being a former assassin, the titular character from Rurouni Kenshin has a very cynical view of the world. However, he'll seize any opportunity to fool around and will help Wide Eyed Idealists whenever he can.
    • As well as Saito Hajime, Kenshin's Anti-Hero counterpart. Vicious verging on sadistic, believes Kenshin's optimism to be dangerously deluded, yet utterly, utterly relentless in punishing the wicked and doing what is right for his country for all that.
    • Hiko, Kenshin's mentor, is just as cynical as Saitou. He berates Kenshin that yes, the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu successor is meant to protect the innocent and uphold justice, but as a warrior unbound by political prejudices, not a political tool. He knows the age of the the swordsmen is over, and is quite bitter about it.
    • In the Tsukioku-hen OVA's we meet Kenshin's other two mentors, Kogoro Katsura and Shinsaku Takasugi. They were not exactly happy with how the soon-to-be Imperial Japan was developing, and they weren't shy about letting their unhappiness show either.
  • Genjo Sanzo of Saiyuki - a chain-smoking, gambling monk with a tragic past who has a smartass comment for every occasion. Nevertheless, he still chooses to do the right thing.
  • Kazuma Kuwabara of Yu Yu Hakusho seems like the only character in the series who both recognizes how truly nasty people can be, and still fights to do right by them.
    • Or hot demon chicks....
  • Dr. Tenma from Monster is of the aforementioned first personality type, whereas Detective Lunge is of the second.
  • To some extent, Duo Maxwell can be seen as one as well. In spite of his cheerful and babbling behavior, he is actually a bitter young man who has witnessed the cruelty of war in front of his very eyes. It is probably the reason he aspires to become a God of Death - "It is so much better than a Hero of Destruction."
    • Should be added that Duo is emotionally the oldest of the Gundam pilots, having had neither training nor shelter, and avoids all forms of idealism, militarism, and even nihilism in favor of a highly pragmatic but strict personal code. He's basically a cynic surrounded by various stripes of romantic. This is often but far from always an advantage.
    • In line with this trope, Duo doesn't take things terribly seriously on one hand, but regularly risks his life for other people or the world on the other.
  • Near the end of the 1st season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Neil Dylandy expresses his Knight in Sour Armor attitude that he has hidden deep inside with these words: "You people, are you satisfied with this world...? I'm not, and I hate it...!" And right then, he dies.
  • Tiger and Bunny's Blue Rose hates being a corporate sponsored superhero. She gets little time for herself and her interests, has to wear an impractically sexy costume in dangerous situations, spout catchphrases she doesn't like, act like an oversexed dominatrix for ratings, and gets chewed out by her boss and sponsors if she doesn't manage this in addition to scoring points for capturing criminals—who really don't care about the saving lives part so much as they care about their public image. So why does she keep at it?

Blue Rose: I want to save people in trouble. Isn't that enough of a reason?

  • Homura Akemi from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. For someone who knows how the world works and that with kindness comes naïveté, courage becomes foolhardiness, and dedication has no reward, she has a particularly strong ideal and hope in protecting Madoka, even if it means suffering an endless recursion of time for it.
    • In the finale, Madoka. She sacrifices all semblance of her own identity to change the Magical Girl system. She creates a new world where suffering runs just as rampant as ever, acknowledging good cannot exist without evil. And why? Because, by God, Magical Girls deserve to die happily anyway, and she's willing to become the embodiment of hope itself in such a despair-filled world.
    • Deconstructed, however, with Sayaka Miki. After learning the first Awful Truth of becoming a Magical Girl and having a heart-to-heart with Kyouko who tells her that she is better off battling witches for her own rewards than to protect others, she still chooses to continue to stay a hero. However, when her Locked Out of the Loop friend Hitomi admits to having also been in love with Kyosuke and gives her a day to admit her feelings, which she can't due to the nature of the truth, her ideals begin to gradually shift more and more until she becomes a witch herself.
  • In Naruto, Itachi seems to be one of these, as revealed by his comments after he is brought Back from the Dead. Despite all the terrible things he has been forced to do, he still believes in the ideal of the Will of Fire, and considers himself a shinobi of Konoha.

Comic Books

  • Many depictions of Batman fall into this. As does Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight trilogy.
    • Batman Begins' depiction of Gordon borrows a lot, including his fitting this trope, from Batman: Year One.
  • John Constantine. He doesn't just think the world is half empty—he knows for a fact that the universe is run by jerks. And yet he still stands up for the little people against the forces of heaven and hell. Why? Because somebody has to. A quote is needed;
"He dances on the edge of the known like a crazy man, pitting himself against Heaven and the Pit, because he is John Constantine, and because he is alive."
Dr Occult to Tim Hunter on John Constantine, "The Books of Magic"
  • Eric Finch from V for Vendetta.
  • The Doom Patrol are made of this trope.
  • John Hartigan is probably the last good cop in Basin City, up until his forced retirement. He doesn't have much to show for it. Except the knowledge that he did the right thing, and a friend who stays by his side no matter what.
  • Elizabeth Rose is a possible saviour of Junessa, yet tends to think of the world around her in a negative light.
  • The universe (particularly the Ultimate universe) loves to kick Spider-Man in the nuts when he's down, and he's quick to point out that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, but Lord bless him, he keeps on keeping on.
  • DC Comics' Hans von Hammer, the Enemy Ace, retains his "Knights of the Sky" view of air combat (refusing to, for example, shoot down an opponent who is out of ammunition) despite how much the realities of war challenge his ideals.
  • Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan. Cynical or not, and crazy though he might be, he's a journalist because he cares about the truth, and a savage beating from people who don't appreciate it won't make him see otherwise.
  • Rorschach from Watchmen talks like a lunatic nihilist who lost all faith in humanity, yet still fights for his vision of justice. This is particularly evident in the story of Dr. Malcolm Long, who becomes "infected" with Rorschach's disorder after a Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: while he begins viewing the world as cold and cruel, he also feels compelled to stop injustice and abuse whenever he encounters it.
  • Matt Murdock in Daredevil definitely counts. He's put through through the emotional ringer a dozen times over and his life always seems to get worse when You think it can't possibly decline further. Its so bad the poor guy can barely muster the energy to brood. Despite this, he struggles on and serves as a true hero of New York.

Fan Works

Leonardo: "You're one of us now, Breech, and we're a family full of good people."
Breech: "You don't pay much attention when I fight, do you?"

  • The only thing the protagonist of Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns lacks is the attitude, but everything else fits in with the trope. He knows full well, and always did, that the world is full of liars and backstabbers, but he is determined to keep trying to make it a better place as long as worthwhile things (like the potential of the younger generation) continue to exist. Of course, he's trying to make sure the world itself keep existing at the moment.
  • In each of his works, Mr. Evil has used his Original Character Fredi Heat. He shows absolutely no care for people in general, and many of his own teammates appear to even be scared of him. But he always does what's right, despite his dislike for doing so.
  • From the Mahou Sensei Negima/Naruto crossover fanfic Broken Faith by Kur0Kishi; Naruto Uzumaki becomes jaded due to certain extrenuating circumstances before the story begins. The end result, is a bitter idealist who at times tells the other characters as he trains them to not follow his path, as well as becoming an enforcer of sorts known and feared by most mages worldwide as The Black Paladin

Gandolfini: "Naruto-sama doesn't know it, not many dare to call him that to his face but his actions on missions has earned him the moniker Black Paladin among the wider mage population because of his actions. He always fights what for what is right regardless of the rules and protocol, hence the Paladin, but his methods and results are rather... disturbing and he usually dresses completely in dark colours, hence the Black."


Ezylryb: This is what it actually looks like when you've fought in battle. It's not glorious, it's not beautiful, it's not even heroic. It's merely doing what's right and doing it again and again, even if someday you look like this.

  • Shrek is crude, hot-tempered and cynical, but nearly always manages to do the right thing, especially for people (and donkeys) that have proven they're able to see past the idea of "big, stupid, ugly ogres."
  • Woody becomes this in |Toy Story 3, in that he knows full well that going back to the daycare is suicide, not to mention the difficulty in helping his friends escape and making it back home before Andy leaves for college. The logical thing to do would be to try and go home alone. No points for guessing what he decides to do.
    • Chatter Telephone and Chuckles the Clown; the former had been stuck at Sunnyside for years but used his knowledge of the place to (try to) help the other toys escape, and the latter saw some of Lotso's rather despicable actions firsthand, and told Woody about this to warn him of Lotso's true nature.
  • Jöns from The Seventh Seal. You won't find anyone fitting to the trope more closely than him. His being a squire, not a knight, is pretty much the only difference.
  • Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, as archetypal Film Noir Private Detective Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, and as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.
  • When you think about it, isn't this the sort of role John Wayne often plays? He is usually a Boisterous Bruiser as well but he is often this.
  • In High Noon, Marshall Will Kane tries to raise a posse to fight off four gunmen led by an ex-con who had previously made all their lives miserable before Kane threw him in prison. You'd think the population of an entire town would be able to take on four men. Only an old, one-eyed drunk and fourteen year old kid would help Kane (and he refuses them, since they wouldn't have much use in a gunfight). Everyone, who would rather live in fear than risk their lives to protect their own freedom, money, and dignity, tells Kane to leave town. He ends up taking on the gunmen by himself, then abandons the town in disgust.
  • By the end of Star Wars: A New Hope Han Solo definitely becomes one of these and fills a Sour Supporter role for the rest of the Original Trilogy.
    • Though unlike most of these examples instead of starting overly idealistic and get more cynical, he started out overly cynical and got more idealistic.
      • In the movies, anyway. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, it's seen that he was once fairly idealistic, though never to the point of being wide-eyed.
  • William Somerset in Se7en keeps trying to retire because he finds the world horrible and his work demoralizing. He frequently sermonizes bitterly about how horrible the world is. Yet he can't find it in himself to quit.
  • Sheriff Bell in No Country for Old Men is this at the beginning of the movie. The events of the movie are too much for him and he bitterly retires.
  • Pamela Landy in the Bourne series is the only CIA operations chief who actually seems to be in it to do the right thing.
  • Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Since his brother's death he's loathed Toons but ends up helping one anyway.
  • John McClane gives a speech in Live Free or Die Hard where he pretty much describes himself as this.
  • Tom Doniphon in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a textbook example... Especially when it comes to the part about hating himself for it.
  • Tequila from Hard Boiled.
  • The hero of Dragonheart turns from Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids into this by the stories end.
  • An Alternate Character Interpretation of Arthur Bishop in The Mechanic says he is this, and that's why he lets his student McKenna kill him.
  • Sheriff 'Monk' McGinn in Gangs of New York. He starts out as an Irish Ronin muscle for hire with dozens of notches on his shillelagh, and is viewed with contempt until we find out he's really this. Then he goes out with a rousing speech and puts the villain in his place, which unfortunately, Bill the Butcher does not respond well to.

Monk: Citizens of the Five Points! Mr. Bill Cutting is attempting to draw me into an argument that would no doubt end in bloodshed and the compromising of my office! What do ya think? Should I engage and silence this relic of the ancient law? Or shall I be your chosen voice, in a new testament, in the New World! (silence) There you are, Bill. The people have spoken. The very notion of violent reprisal be-numbs them.

  • Several characters in Sin City, an otherwise Black and Grey Crapsack World.
  • The title character in RoboCop has nothing to live for, and as the film series progresses, seems more aware that his creation was only a publicity stunt, but his sense of duty and spirit for justice keeps him going.
    • Well, that and his ineluctable programming.
  • The Wild Geese: Rafer Janders, one of the mercenary lieutenants, tried to be a freedom fighter but became disaffected when the liberators he fought for turned out to be dictators just as repressive as the ones they deposed - a new mission rekindles a little of his doused idealism.
  • Olive Penderghast in Easy A is an extremely Deadpan Snarker, but she is willing to let her reputation be ruined to rescue a friend from bullying, preserve her favorite teacher's marriage, and otherwise help people.
  • This list would not be complete without a mention of Jim Gordon from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Gordon: In a town this bent, who is there to rat to anyway?


  • Jon Snow of A Song of Ice and Fire fits this. He believes wholeheartedly in his father's beliefs about goodness and decency and all that, but being a Heroic Bastard, he finds it easier to make compromises for the greater good than the rest of his family. Not that he likes doing it.
    • Sandor Clegane, Ned Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen are this as well.
      • Ned Stark is FAR too much a believer in Honor Before Reason and Sandor Clegane is not a good person at all, just not as bad as his reputation would have you believe. I wouldn't disagree with Daenerys, however.
        • Ned fits quite well. He knows the world sucks and most people don't care for anything - but HE keeps trying and does not compromise.
      • Also, adding the Hound to this page would involve calling him a knight.
    • There's also Tyrion Lannister, who's snarktastic and has contempt or hatred for most of those around him (because they either assume he's a Lannister and think he's untrustworthy, or see that he's ugly and short and assume he's evil), but he truly tried to do what was best for the kingdom while he was Hand. His brother Jaime is another example, sort of, although he was a bit darker than is usual for the role (Brother-Sister Incest, anyone?)
      • Tyrion definitely qualifies from the very beginning. I mean, he designed a special saddle for Bran after his fall and went back to Winterfell to give the design, although he knew he would not be much welcome there? However, Jaime started off as a villain, and after his Heel Face Turn, he is more concerned with doing what is honorable (like fulfilling his promise and so on) than doing what is actually right.
  • Sturm Brightblade of Dragonlance has watched the Knights of Solamnia he grew up idolizing turn into earnest failures at best and corrupt monsters at worst. He has the darkest sense of humor of any of the main cast outside of Raistlin, and yet he is truer to the knights' code than most of the knights who were actually given full status.
  • Ed Exley becomes this by the end of L.A. Confidential.
  • Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler's main character is explicitly described by the author as a 'knight in shining armor' despite being a Deadpan Snarker First-Person Smartass.
      • "I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put it back where I had moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn't a game for knights." -- The Big Sleep
  • Terry Pratchett often writes like this, especially in Discworld. Sam Vimes may well be the ultimate Knight in Sour Armor ("as soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn't measure up."). Granny Weatherwax is a fairly good example as well; Witches Abroad alludes the idea Granny was a good candidate for a "bad witch", until her sister took up the role and she had to balance it out. Granny's adamant belief in Right and Wrong over anything else is predicated on the fact that neither of those neccessarily involve what someone (including herself) would like to do.
    • Lord Vetinari might also be considered an example of this trope, if he'd ever had any idealism to begin with.
      • Lord Vetinari is definitely an example of this trope, according to his speech in Unseen Academicals.("Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.")
    • Vimes is also literally a sour knight, having been elevated (against his wishes) into the ranks of nobility.
      • he feels like a class traitor and complains of "gilt by association"
  • Karrin Murphy of The Dresden Files is one of these. Her lawfulness causes her to threaten to throw the book at Harry more often than she'd like. She also gets angry when an archangel uses her as a mouthpiece when she takes up one of the Swords of the Cross.
    • Karrin Murphy is changing, she's being forced toward a change in worldview by the realization of the cold fact that the law, which she idolized (almost literally) in early books is just simply inadequate to deal with the reality of the world as she has come to know it. She's also begun to realize just how much Harry was protecting her, even when she angrily insisted she wanted no such protection, now she knows she needed it...and resents that fact.
    • In Blood Rites, when Harry looks upon Murphy with his Sight, she appears as an angel, but one that has been covered in blood and soot and is bearing terrible wounds - a direct contrast to the more idealistic image of a pure angel in shining white clothes that she appears as in Grave Peril, four books earlier when she is still an idealistic cop who hasn't had her faith in the law twisted and abused.
    • Donald Morgan is also ultimately revealed to be one. For a long time he just seems like a nasty, abusive Jerkass, but over the course of the series it is gradually revealed that the he really does believe in the White Council's laws, and most of nastiness comes from being a tired, bitter man who has spent his entire extended lifespan fighting the forces of darkness.
  • Councillor Arfarra in Yulia Latynina's Wei Empire Cycle started out as a Knight Templar. By the first large novel, he became sourly disillusioned in The Empire and somewhat penitent, but soldiered on trying to reform it, ultimately failing despite doing some good in the process. Then he became even more disillusioned in the very foundations of the Empire, and spent twenty-five years in exile. Then he got dragged back unto the political scene, and very reluctantly took control, this time just trying to keep the whole thing running and to avoid having the world drowned in blood in a horrible civil war. He sort of failed due to circumstances far beyond his control, but kept relentlessly looking for ways to at least marginally improve the situation right until finally dying from old age.
  • Severus Snape from Harry Potter—he allies himself with people like Harry (whom he doesn't like), Sirius Black (who has hated and mistreated him since the day they met), and of course Dumbledore, who, in spite of a seeming affection, uses him fairly ruthlessly. He's also the only one of the heroes who is willing to get branded as a traitor by making a huge sacrifice for their cause (namely, Albus Dumbledore).
    • It should, perhaps, be pointed out that Snape is almost entirely selfish in his motivations; his entire reason for signing up with the Order of the Phoenix is his desperately one-sided love for Lily.
      • Well, taking risks and sacrifices for one-sided love certainly doesn't sound selfish. Call it short-sighted or small-minded, that he did so only for her and only after it was too late, but it's pretty obviously not "entirely selfish".
      • Also, not quite everything Snape did was selfish. He had nothing to gain when he pushed Harry, Ron, and Hermione behind him after Lupin turned into a werewolf. That was a split-second decision, made without thinking, and Snape did the right thing without hesitation, or concern for his own personal safety. His only duty, if he were bound by any, would have been to protect Harry, either for Dumbledore or for Lily's memory, and he could have accomplished that in a many other ways with less personal risk. In a strange confluence, James Potter once saved Snape from Lupin, after James tricked Snape into entering the Shrieking Shack during Lupin's "illness". But it was strongly suggested that James only did it to avoid expulsion, and as an Animagus he assumed much less risk.
    • It depends on how you view him.
      • Or... It could be argued that in the beginning Snape's motivations were entirely selfish (which could be justified when you consider that he was 21 years old, very immature, scared, and was still idealistic enough [broadly speaking] to believe that Dumbledore's protection would keep Lily alive). When that didn't happen... Remember that "usually painful Character Development" that was talked about at the top of this page? One-sided or not, losing the love of your life is wrenching, and was probably the point where Snape grew up (again, broadly speaking) and realized that working for Voldemort wasn't going to get him anything besides more pain and disappointment. At which point he accepted Dumbledore's outlook and, when Voldemort came back, used his skills as a spy to bring Voldemort down, not because he liked people or wanted to "save" anyone, but because it truly was the right thing to do.
    • Dumbledore's brother Aberforth is this as well.
  • Arkady Renko, from the series of novels by Martin Cruz Smith.
  • Stephen Donaldson protagonists tend to be big fans of sour armor. The titular lead of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant novels turns this trope Up to Eleven, stubbornly persevering even though he knows everything he does will be turned into disaster by the Big Bad.
  • Sparhawk of David Eddings' Elenium is a world-weary, cynical knight, old before his time who will readily cooperate with and ally with career criminals against far more terrible evils and readily establish a reputation for savagery in combat to convince enemies not to fight. Nonetheless, he has an ironclad sense of personal honor and dignity, and his bark is generally far worse than his bite.
    • Which is to say that, while he threatens to do a lot of horrible things, he only actually does some of them. In the last book of the Tamuli trilogy, he does nothing to prevent one of his allies from setting a man on fire and imprisoning him forever in a frozen moment, where nothing moves. So not only will that man burn forever in the space between every second, he'll be forever alone as well even if he did find some way to douse himself.
  • Meyer Landsman of The Yiddish Policemen's Union is certainly one of these on top of being a Defective Detective—a cynical jackass, but feels personally compelled to close his investigation instead of let it be shelved as a cold case for bureaucratic reasons.
  • Winston Smith in 1984. He joins the Brotherhood knowing full well that he won't see any change in his lifetime and that he will be killed for it eventually. Too bad the Brotherhood doesn't actually exist -- it was set up by the government as a way to entrap Thought Criminals.
  • Gawyn Trakand from The Wheel of Time series swears an oath as prince to protect his sister to the death and yet she not only makes his childhood a hell with her antics, she runs off in the middle of training in the White Tower two times leaving him behind. This comes to a head when Gawyn decides to support a coup against the Amyrlin and slays his own teachers from his frustration to help but later helps the Amyrlin escape. The guy just can't catch a break and it doesn't help later when in the middle of Dumai Wells his men are surrounded and getting killed. Cue Min dropping the bomb on him that his sister is in love with Rand and the emotional turmoil must be unbearable.
  • In the play "The Dragon" by E. Schewartz we have Lancelot The Travelling Knight:

Lancelot: I was injured lightly nineteen times, severely eleven times and deadly five times, but I'm so light a soul that I'm still alive.

  • Takeshi Kovacs seems to be an inversion of this; a life-long cynic, Kovacs has slowly but steadily gained an idealistic side, strongly influenced by the philosophy of his homeworld's revered revolutionary leader and Knight in Sour Armour Quellcrist Falconer. However, his particular status has left the cynicism deeply ingrained, with the result that he seems to strongly resent his idealistic side and reacts with a Snark Knight schtick that ranges from convincing to desperate.
  • Typically in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Luke Skywalker is quite idealistic. But in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, the Big Bad makes him mentally experience an eternity after the heat death of the universe in an attempt to break him and get him ready for a Grand Theft Me. It doesn't entirely work, but when Luke gets out, he's made deeply cynical, believing that everyone's life is waste, saving someone wasn't really saving them because that would just prolong the brief interval. All striving leads to nothing, and everyone who talked about duty and honor and love was just using him. He doesn't want to believe it, but he does - and he makes the very conscious decision to act exactly like he did before, like when he trusted in these airy concepts and believed lives were worth saving, in the hope that he can fall back into the dream and become the mask. Later he sees a very Mind Screw-y vision that relieves some of that cynicism, though, so he's not a sour knight for very long.
  • In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape, a demon's mentor, warns him about these. "Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."
  • Dedicate Rosethorn from the Circle of Magic series qualifies. She's very much a sarcastic and irritable Cynical Mentor to Briar, but she has given up a normal life in order to help the poor.
  • Most of the protagonists in the Anthology Dark and Stormy Knights, edited by P. N. Elrod are this although there are also examples of Noble Demon, Action Survivor and Punch Clock Hero.
  • Garrett from the Garrett P.I. series describes himself like this.
  • Haymitch from The Hunger Games. He just wants a world where no more children can be tortured from being forced to kill each other.
  • The Hallow Hunt: Ingrey is actually rather youthful for a Bujold protagonist, but the tortures he endured—meant to help him control the wolf-spirit he harbors—made him "frighteningly self-controlled" not to mention dour and sarcastic. His love interest lampshades it:

"Now what makes you grow grim?" Ijada demanded.
Her lips twisted in exasperation. "To be sure."

  • DC Grant in Rivers of London tries to be idealistic even though he knows it is all going to end in tears.
  • Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird is utterly and correctly convinced that, because of Maycomb County's inherent racism, Tom Robinson cannot escape being convicted for a crime he didn't commit. Atticus still does everything in his power to get Tom acquitted, and treats it as the most important case of his entire career despite the reaction from the people of Maycomb County.

Live-Action TV

  • Marcus Cole of Babylon 5 has one of the darkest wit of any characters on the show, knows his way around the station's criminal underworld, and yet acts like a knight of the round table.
    • Also Micheal Garibaldi, a jaded cop who joins Sheridan's extremely idealistic rebellion unhesitatingly.
      • It's worth noting, however, that he eventually leaves said rebellion specifically because he's cynical. And no, Bester didn't intend for him to do that.
      • But it's also worth noting that he actively promoted it, and Garibaldi might not have done it at all if Bester hadn't made him extra paranoid in the first place.
        • By the end of the series Ivanova
  • Most people involved with the government in 24 seem to believe this. Despite their constant sacrifices to save America, even Redshirt agents seem to realize that their victories are Pyrrhic at best, and rarely make attempts to mask how jaded they are.
  • Lee Adama is this at times in Battlestar Galactica, in a sort of contrast with the Honor Before Reason driven Helo. Both believe in rules and the system, but Lee is more willing to bend the former to save the latter.
    • It's possible lawyer Romo Lampkin is also this way, as he has the cynicism of the disillusioned idealist. We never get to hear why he hated Lee's grandfather, a famous criminal defense attorney, so it's difficult to say.
      • Said grandfather was revealed in Caprica to have gotten through law school funded by the Tauron mafia and in the very first episode bribes a judge to get off mobsters, among other things. He apparently got a lot better, but there were probably lots of reasons to dislike him.
  • Pretty much everyone in Torchwood.
  • Dr Cox of Scrubs is a cynical, angry, egotistical man, who firmly believes everyone should get the best treatment possible and often tries to stop injustice in the system. Indeed, many a Dr. Jerk could be described as this. Why do you think they're doctors?
    • "Chicks, money, power, and chicks." Dr. Cox, "My Bed Banter and Beyond"
      • Of course, in the same breath, he admits that he doesn't get any of that.
  • Angel. Hell, the entire cast of that show could fall under this, especially Angel and Wesley. Angel's philosophy is that the world is a terrible place, but heroes live life as it should be, and that even if they can't defeat evil, they can make its existence very painful.
    • Angel himself phrases it much more poetically in the Season 4 episode "Deep Down". "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh, and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions. It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be. You're not a part of that yet. I hope you will be. I love you, Connor. Now get out of my house."
  • Boyd in Dollhouse. Ballard seems to be on his way to this from his original Knight in Shining Armor characterization
  • Giles becomes one at some point in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's run (certainly by the finale of season 5, when he kills Ben to kill Glory), probably around the time the Watcher's Council fired him for refusing to endanger Buffy's life. Joss Whedon seems to enjoy the trope.
  • Almost every single good cop in The Wire knows that their objective is ultimately a futile effort, and that the city of Baltimore is in far more disarray than they could possibly hope to rectify. However, this sure as hell doesn't stop them from trying.
  • Colby from Survivor, who said the game he first played in 2000 was outdated and gone, being one of the few players (other than Coach and Rupert) who was Honor Before Reason.
  • In House MD,House is practically the poster boy for this, and yet at the same time a very ...complicated example. He constantly complains about how terrible the world is and how Humans Are the Real Monsters, but it somehow doesn't stop him from going to often desperate measures to help people. He's just a Jerk with a Heart of Gold...or he's a Jerk With A Huge, Fragile Ego And One Hell Of An Inferiority Complex. Like they said, complicated.
    • While it is repeatedly stated that he only cares about the puzzle, there are some moments of ambiguity, in which House always comes up with an excuse.
    • Or maybe he just thinks the world is a horrible place and want people to keep living in it.
  • Mal Reynolds of Firefly can also be seen as one of these, especially in The Movie.
  • Raylon Givens in Justified. His work requires him to get his hands dirty and costs him in his personal life but he doesn't opt to leave again.
  • Derek Reese from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. He's a miserable man who was once a young boy playing baseball, then suddenly, got thrust into the apocalypse. He will spend every last ounce of energy, and stop at absolutely nothing including murder, in order to fight the coming cybernetic invasion, simply because no matter how hopeless it gets, it's not just the right thing to's the ONLY thing to do.
  • Alex Russo from Wizards of Waverly Place sometimes has elements of this (or as sour as a Disney Heroine is allowed to be at least) and at one point describes herself as an angry loner who occasionally does good and doesn't want anyone to know about it.
  • Dean and Sam in Supernatural have a good, bitter rant about this to a side character at one point season four's "Wishful Thinking."
    • Dean in particular fits this trope from the beginning; see Season 2's Houses of the Holy. Sammy starts off more hopeful but, well, it's Supernatural.
      • And now Castiel, starting in Season 5 and especially in Season 6.
  • Clayton Webb of JAG. Comes with his profession.
  • Most of the characters on Criminal Minds have been this at one point or another. (Except Garcia, and even she has her borderline moments.) Derek Morgan explicitly gave voice to it near the end of 4x25/26, "To Hell And Back", pointing out that however many unsubs they catch, the world always produces more. He wavered on whether to leave- except that he didn't, giving truth to the Trope.
    • The exception being Jason Gideon, who seemed like one for a while, and then abandoned the team in 3x01 because the awfulness of the world had overwhelmed him.
  • James "Sawyer" Ford and also, ultimately, Benjamin Linus from Lost.
  • Andy Sipowicz from NYPD Blue, as an intersection of Noble Bigot with a Badge and Rabid Cop, with a decent dose of Deadpan Snarker and a surprisingly large amount of The Woobie.
  • In Doctor Who, the Ninth Doctor refers to Humans as "stupid apes", but saved Earth again and again.
    • In fact, every incarnation of the Doctor has been this to some extent or another, but it's become much more evident in the revival, he usually manages to hide it well with his humour and childlike excitement. This is a man who has seen all of time and space, he knows full well that there is no final victory, and that evil will never be totally stamped out, but he keeps fighting all the way, because he's the Doctor, and it's what he does.
  • Sirens has Stuart (and possibility Ash) who after years of dealing with drunks fighting every Saturday in the street and the general lowest ebb of the human condition are fed up with the world. But given half the chance they'll crawl through broken glass or climb the side of a building to help those that need it.
  • Jack Bristow in Alias.
  • Nick in New Girl is filled with bitterness, anger, cynicism and self-loathing but is still a great friend and almost always does the right thing even as his life keeps getting progressively worse.
  • Derek Hale in Teen Wolf is a prime example of this.
  • After being on Degrassi enough seasons you either end up here or Jade-Colored Glasses, just a fact of life for teenagers. Best examples for this side of things would be Spinner, Darcy, Jimmy, Marco, Sav, Clare, Alli, and Jenna. The series is abundant with drama and cruelty for them, but they still believe no matter how the world sucks... it's what they have and it's worth it to not give up. But the world unquestionably sucks, they are all more than clear there.

Mythology, Oral Tradition, and Religion

Tabletop Games

  • A common character type in Warhammer 40,000, especially among the Imperium of Man.
    • Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt is perhaps the most prominent example, a genuinely selfless, courageous, and noble hero who is becoming deeply bitter and cynical towards the Imperial Guard command structure. Major Elim Rawne of the same series quite arguably worked his way into this trope from the other direction-he started as a ruthlessly cynical, self-serving bastard, and remains a ruthlessly cynical bastard-but one with a very tarnished and deeply hidden heart of gold.
    • Comissar Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, projects this at times... because his reputation (and possibly he) would be shot if anyone knew how he actually is. Of course, we only have his word for that. The author himself has stated that he doesn't know whether Cain is the Dirty Coward he presents himself as, or doesn't give himself enough credit. Its clear that in the very least he is not the type of commissar to shoot his men for very little reason and from what we see in Last Stand that he wants to prepare his proteges for the galaxy at large as best he can. In general its clear he at least is a decent person.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Paladin class itself flirts with being an example of this, especially in a setting where the government is harsh or totalitarian. It's pointed out in the Book of Exalted Deeds that when faced with a choice between Law and Good, a true Paladin will always choose the latter (the Paladin's code in the book has a loophole about "Legitimate" authority for this reason).
    • Complete Scoundrel brings you the Grey Guard Prestige Class. Paladins who tend to fall early and often for breaking their code in the pursuit of genuine Good (not making the job quick and easy) are sometimes approached by the knightly equivalent of the CIA. The abilities they pick up take the 'goodness and light' of the Paladin and turn it into 'goodness and Bad Cop interrogations'.
    • As the Ravenloft setting is bound to eat your average Knight in Shining Armor for breakfast, it's home to quite a few of these instead, striving to hold back the darkness. The game-setting's knights of the Circle function more like vigilantes or undercover operatives, keeping their heroic deeds under the darklords' radar.
    • Most clerics of Ilmater in Forgotten Realms. It's sort of clear that this will not be about sparkles and singing birdies when one subscribes to follow a god of endurance and suffering, who teaches that one needs to suffer to achieve one's goal and whose dogma mainly revolves around taking the heat for innocents.
  • Shadowrun being what it is, most established characters with a strong moral compass fall under this category. A near-embodiment of this trope, however, is Captain Chaos.


  • Cassandra in Code 21 is a good example. She decides to work in mental health because she wants to make a difference and over the years adhering to the system's rules makes her feel embittered and less hopeful about the world.
  • Wicked: Why, Miss Elphaba... you and this trope deserve each other.
  • In Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote might be this; he has a skewed perception of the world as a beautiful, marvelous place when it clearly isn't, but he indicates that, even when he knows the world is a dire mess that has little hope of elevation, he will fight on. When he converts Dulcinea to his cause, she becomes a full fledged Knight in Sour Armor.


  • Kiina from Bionicle is a type 1. She's a tough, Ladette Action Girl who is dissatisfied with her planet as it is, and believes that there are other, better worlds out there. Naturally, everyone thinks she's nuts. Then, when she turns out to be right, she suddenly morphs into a Genki Girl. She got better.

Video Games

  • Squall Leonhart from Final Fantasy VIII veers between this and just being a Jerkass (later revealed to be Jerkass Facade because Love Redeems.) Especially notable beause doing the right thing, for him, means not only fighting for a world he might not think is worth fighting for (most of the game, anyway), but also serving the forces which have forbidden him from exercizing his free will for his entire life. (Though, to be fair, he has been strung along most of the time because he doesn't know what he would do otherwise)
  • Kratos Aurion in Tales of Symphonia fits this like a glove. He started out as an idealist alongside Mithos Yggdrasill who just wanted half-elves to be accepted, and then became what we see in the game.

Colette: Our weapons are love!
Genis: Justice! And...
Kratos: Sigh...hope.

  • Yuri Lowell from Tales of Vesperia left the royal knights because he felt they were doing very little to change the lives of the poor and downtrodden and end the corruption among the upper class, but his sense of honor and justice still drives him toward this goal.
  • Elika in Prince of Persia is a rare female example.
  • Most of the SL-9 crew in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. They're demoted, fired, and generally jaded but still want to find the truth of what happened to Neil Marshall.
  • Jolee Bindo in Knights of the Old Republic has rejected the Jedi Order as hypocritical and hidebound, but he hasn't rejected his moral center.
    • Carth Onasi fits the trope as well. He's closer to good on the Karma Meter than the Jedi in your party, but his capability to trust in the good of others has been torpedoed by personal tragedy. He's vocally suspicious regarding the player character and the entire situation; that suspicion eventually turns out to be eerily dead-on. The comics, set a few years before the events of the game, make it clear that his entanglement with Revan wasn't the first time he found himself involved in a Jedi scheme and cover-up.
  • Garrus from Mass Effect and especially the sequel fall into this. He starts a vigilante group on Omega to help combat the crime, corruption, and decay of the station, and admits that he knows he wasn't really making a big difference; for all of the irritation he gave the mercenary groups after him, Omega was a pisshole when he started and was a pisshole when he left. And he fights on anyway.
    • Shepard can be played like this, if you act douchey in dialogue but ultimately do good things. If you have a Colonist background, the asari consort says as much, 'detecting a sadness behind your eyes'.
    • At the end of the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, Liara will ask Shepard how s/he's doing. If you choose the right dialogue option, Shepard will vent about how tired s/he is of dealing with Cerberus and the Council treating him/her like s/he's nuts. But in the end s/he keeps going because s/he wants to give people the chance to change for the better.

Shepard: People are messy, awkward, sometimes selfish and cruel. But they're trying, and I'm going to make sure they have a chance.

    • By Mass Effect 3, Shepard has embraced this trope and taken it Up to Eleven. S/he vocalizes at MANY points in the story his/her doubts that anything s/he does is actually going to win the war but s/he never stops going.

Garrus: You should get some sleep Shepard. You must be exhausted.
Shepard: I'll sleep when I'm dead.

  • Fate/stay night: Archer shifted towards this from Iron Woobie in his former life, working his best towards being an idealistic crusader while recognizing that the world wasn't that convenient and knowing he'd have to kill a few to save many. After he became a guardian spirit and lost his free will, he crossed the Despair Event Horizon and lost all faith in his ideal, even though he technically acts on it through his role.
    • Shirou decides to become this in the Unlimited Blade Works route, accepting that he can't save everyone but still deciding to try to live up to his ideal the best he can.
  • Keldorn and Jaheira from the Baldur's Gate series have shades of this, the former being a 60+ year old paladin and the second a very cynical Harper (a secret society devoted to spreading good).
  • Solid Snake is arguably the best example in gaming. He's cynical, jaded, world-weary, really couldn't care less about being seen as a hero or a legend, and doesn't believe he'd make a difference to the future ("I'm not as arrogant as that."), but he continues to fight because no one else can or will.

Snake: "I'm no hero. Never was, never will be. Just an old killer, hired to do some wet-work."

    • His papa, Big Boss, is another example until his Face Heel Turn, particularly after being forced to kill the Boss.
  • Keisuke from Devil Survivor becomes this if you can convince he's wrong after he snaps.
  • Alistair from Dragon Age fits this trope pretty darn closely. He LITERALLY stopped short of becoming a Knight Templar.
    • You yourself can play as one of these too, if you so choose. If.
    • Also a natural fit for an elf Grey Warden - humans have been bastards to you, your family, and your race for longer than they can remember, and don't exactly feel guilty about it. The game demands that you save the mostly human kingdom of Ferelden, re-unite it under legitimate political authorities, and generally leave it a much stronger and more powerful nation than it was before you entered the picture. One bit of dialogue has an NPC thanking you for saving the kingdom, and one of your responses is along the lines of "I'm saving my people from the Blight. Your kingdom can burn for all I care."
  • Casavir also behaves like this sometimes. Just try asking him about the circumstances of his first exit from Neverwinter.
  • Cole MacGrath from In Famous. If you finish the game with good karma, he ends up as Empire City's savior, but the final scene has him musing about his isolation (given that his girlfriend is dead and his best friend's betrayed him) and wondering how long it will be before the city turns against him. Unfortunately for him, he knows that there's something big and powerful coming, and he's the only one that can stop it. He's not happy about it at all.
  • Hash from Live a Live. After defeating the demon king, he was heralded as a hero, but the very nature of human beings continued to disgust him much to the extent that he faked his death and hid out in a cabin in the mountains, only being convinced to help Oersted save humanity again because despite his hatred, he knows that it's the right thing to do. When he dies, he asks Oersted to believe in his friends and not become bitter like he did. Unfortunately, Oersted's own adventure eventually pushed far beyond merely being bitter.
  • Jim Raynor from StarCraft was more of a Knight in Shining Armor (and Kerrigan lampshaded it) before he realized that the Koprulu Sector was a Crapsack World. As of StarCraft II, he's still a Knight In Sour Armor.
  • Marshal Leigh Johnson of Red Dead Redemption is a bitterly jaded old man who nonetheless remains Lawful Good throughout the game (though by the epilogue he moves as far away from Armadillo for his retirement). John Marston has similar tendencies when he decides to help out people (mostly Bonnie and Luisa).
  • From the Sonic the Hedgehog series:
    • Shadow the Hedgehog eventually becomes one. He went from fighting against the world, to fighting for himself,to fighting for the world. Pretty much his only reason for this is because a little girl told him to before she died. It took Shadow a while to remember that, but when he did, the bad guys began wishing he was still one of them.
      • One of the super bad guys tries to get Shadow to stop fighting him by telling him one day, the world would turn on him. Shadow pretty much says he'll just fight like he used to, and then proceeds to kick the asses of hundreds of shadow clones of the bad guys.
    • Gerald Robotnik. Since he's an old guy, he can't really fight, but he knew that humanity was good and deserved saving. So what did he do? He created an immortal, powerful hedgehog named Shadow to protect humans, despite that Shadow pretty much hates humans, calling them "pathetic" at every chance he gets.
      • Bonus for Gerald in that he pretty much hates humans just as much as Shadow, although this may be because the aforementioned little girl was his granddaughter, and her death made him go insane, considering how she'd been killed because experiments to save her had been considered too dangerous. However, when he was sane, he reveals to Shadow that he built the gigantic gun on the ARK station to actually save the Earth from an alien attack that would happen 50 years later, while Shadow previously thought that he had built it to destroy Earth. Guess who pulls the trigger?
      • Did I mention the humans he tried so hard to save actually executed him?
  • Gabriel Belmont also qualifies. As his mentor Zobek tells us, he could have given up all hope of saving the world because he has done so many questionable deeds - which he himself admits so. However, something in his mind still forces him to continue on - bitterly...
  • Max Payne. His entire family murdered, his best friend killed, and both the good sides and the bad sides of the city trying to kill him. He even contemplates leaving the city early on, becoming a fugitive, but quickly decides that he'd rather see things through to the end. He ends up paying for it pretty harshly, though.
  • Your Mileage May Vary given the interpretation you prefer, but Garrett from Thief fits this quite a lot. He's a completely unrepentant criminal who acts as though he has nothing but contempt for others, his surroundings, and the whole corrupt, depraved pit that is the City and the world he lives in - most of the time. But there are hints that Garrett cares more than he'd ever want to or admit when he witnesses cruelty against almost anybody, especially the poor and already down-trodden, and even people who've tried in the past to kill him. (Possibly because it's a really, really long list.)
  • Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII is a female example. She does believe in doing what's right, but the world she lives in is so messed-up she has very little "right" to believe in and she bitterly laments her fate as a cursed l'Cie.
  • In L.A. Noire, Herschel Biggs and Jack Kelso are both perfectly aware of and disappointed in the state of the Los Angeles, and how little of what they do is actually meaningful. They try their damndest anyway. Protagonist Cole makes the shift from idealist to sour knight over the course of the game, despite his attempts not to, thanks to the corruption and politics endemic in the LAPD.
  • Several characters in Fallout: New Vegas qualify for this. Rose of Sharon Cassidy is a hard-drinking and somewhat surly woman who also happens to have a strong moral code, being the one character who will specifically complain about the player's Karma Meter if it gets incredibly low. Also, there's Colonel Hsu and Chief Hanlon of the NCR, who despite being personally against the war (especially considering the fact that their commander, General Oliver is a Glory Hound and General Failure) do what they can for the sake of the soldiers.

Web Comics

  • Roy Greenhilt of The Order of the Stick finds himself filling this role more often than he'd like.
  • Karkat Vantas of Homestuck. He'll shout, he'll whine, he'll mock his friends and foes alike, but ultimately he'll do the right thing. Dave Strider as well. In addition both Karkat and Dave are literal knights.
  • Oddly enough, Davan and some of the other main characters of Something*Positive sometimes come across like this. They live in a Crapsack World and are completely aware of it, but they'll go to great lengths for each other.
  • Schlock Mercenary has a few, including Major Murtaugh, introduced as a Hero Antagonist (it's very easy around Toughs) leading an unit of a By-The-Book Rent-A-Cop company, then got kicked out of it (it's also fairly common around Toughs, and above average outcome of being caught between two factions of an intelligence service) and later re-appeared as "a sullied paladin questing for redemption", in the words of Karl Tagon.
    • Later, UNS General Apala Bala-Amin, as competent as disillusioned. She immediately arranged a covert scan of a strange ship, and when this was partially foiled, stuck them with a "cultural attache" she herself openly introduced as someone who "knows more about ship design than most shipwrights do". Fittingly, she can't stand the local Well-Intentioned Extremist - Admiral of UNS military intelligence Manyara Emm. When the latter tried to use her as a Fall Guy, this quickly turned into an exercise in futility and Stealth Insults.

We welcome our friends with open arms. And if they're not friends, well... We're big and our hugs can be a little suffocating.

      • Her technical assistant Lieutenant[1] Haley Sorlie, who started as a Wide-Eyed Idealist and suffered enough of letdowns and unpleasant discoveries that eventually when promised "many interesting things for you to see", she asked whether she will want to un-see any of them. It's interesting that Bala-Amin obviously grooms her for promotion, and seems to personally have a soft spot for her, if in "Tough Love" way - keeps telling Sorlie that she has a bright future, gives her access to information classified above her level and throws into complicated missions bound to become enormous headaches in the unlikely best case.
      • Bala-Amin later assigned Sorlie as a "liason" to Yaeyoefui - an ancient Oafan whose third sentence after reanimation was "I can't wait to learn the extent of the mess that was made in my absence" and who remained understandably grumpy - with vague directives to become "genuine besties" her own way. They get along splendidly.

Web Original

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Despite being a self-proclaimed Misanthrope Supreme who wrote entire books dedicated to proving (quite hilariously) that Humans Are the Real Monsters, Jonathan Swift nevertheless spent much of his life trying to help the powerless and dispossessed. He particularly tried to help the Irish - even the Catholic ones - having seen himself exactly how wretchedly they lived as an Anglo-Irishman born in Dublin.
    • Worth spelling out that Swift was the Dean of Dublin Cathedral, and thus a high official in the Episcopalian church - which at the time believed that all Catholics would go to hell. (And it gets better - the Deanship was really a political appointment, so he was not just going against the policy of the Church, but of the State as well.)
  • The official philosopher of this view must be Joseph de Maistre, who wrote in his St. Petersburg Dialogues:

The philosopher can even discover how permanent carnage is provided for and ordained in the grand scheme of things. But will this law stop at man? Undoubtedly not. Yet who will kill him who kills everything else? Man! It is man himself who is charged with slaughtering man.
But how can he accomplish this law, he who is a moral and merciful being, who is born to love, who weeps for others as for himself, who finds pleasure in weeping and who even invents fiction to make himself weep, and finally, to whom it has been said that whoever sheds blood unjustly, by man shall his blood be shed?

  • The Existentialist movement is like this. Yes, such a "meaning in life" does not exist anyway in this Crapsack World, but they still continue to make the most meaningful out of it and live it.
    • Soren Kierkegaard, considered the first Existentialist philosopher, basically described his Knight of Faith as a somewhat more poetic version of this trope. Like both nihilists ("aesthetic people") and those who resign themselves to the afterlife (the "knight of infinite resignation"), he knows that pursuing an unreachable goal in this world is cynically absurd/meaningless (if it's impossible to reach someone you love, the vast majority would just give up), yet in contrast to them he does anyway as a way of making his life even more meaningful.
  • Abraham Lincoln spent most of his life, especially the American Civil War, severely depressed over the nature of the country, particularly the South, and he fought to keep it together anyway.
  • George Orwell, who despite the grimdarkness of most of his works remained adamant that Democracy and Socialism were worth fighting for (and got shot through the neck doing so—in the Spanish Civil War—yet somehow survived).
  • By extension, the majority of American servicemen and CO's. You try fighting in an unpopular war in the name of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" sometime...
    • Can also be interpreted as Punch Clock Heroes or Knight Templars. Those with military service behind them who retain some faith in humanity and/or good intentions often seem to live in sour armor.
  • Kent M. Keith, "The Paradoxical Commandments":

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

  • Dmitri Shostakovich, a bitter Soviet composer who refused to become a propagandistic servant to the totalitarian state of Soviet until the end.
  • Gleen Greenwald, a Salon columnist and former civil rights attorney who, despite being a Deadpan Snarker, firmly believes in civil liberties.
  1. when she was introduced