Protagonist-Centered Morality

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"Hooray! The people whose names I know are saved!"
Elan (while an allosaurus eats dozens of unnamed Mooks), The Order of the Stick

It's only natural for a writer to see things from the protagonists' Sympathetic Point Of View. Due to their frequent role as narrators and Point of View characters, a protagonist's perspective tends to make an impression on the work more than any other character's -- their thoughts will overlap with narration, their feelings will shape the setting and their priorities will dictate the plot. The way events are treated will be colored by how they relate to the protagonist, the things they love, the people they care about. It's hard to imagine a story told otherwise.

But then sometimes this point of view seems to spread like an inkblot and color the way everything behaves and thinks. The work lapses into Protagonist-Centered Morality—a state where, on some profound cosmic level, the very fabric of the fictional universe seems to be seeing things from the protagonist's point of view. Every single sympathetic character, the symbolism, the narration, judge characters as worthy of praise, condemnation or indifference depending on how much favor they carry with the "good guys". Needless to say, the protagonist himself can do no wrong, and even if there's anyone at all who would beg to differ, they're obviously a bad guy.

Suppose, for example, there is a character who slaughters innocent villagers by the thousands, but once helped save The Hero's mother because of whatever motivation; The Hero will Easily Forgiven this guy, buy him a drink, and may even invite them to join the team. Then there is another character who routinely saves orphans from burning buildings who once used his resultant fame to woo away the protagonist's Love Interest. They will be an object of scorn.

Now, this alone is just portraying a realistically flawed hero—the final piece of the puzzle is that the narrative is in on the myopia. There will be no warning signs that the protagonist is being unfair to the hero who saved all these people. No one calls him out on how disrespectful he's being to the memory of thousands of the mass-murderer's victims. This will not come back to haunt him. The Lancer will offer to chip in on that free drink.

The protagonist is essentially acting as though, in certain respects, it really is All About Him, and the narrator might well be agreeing.

This may be a generator of both Designated Heroes and Designated Villains, if the audience notices that the character is being judged only by a narrow section of their activities. Villains who supposedly "redeem" themselves in this manner can be Karma Houdinis, although they don't have to be. Most fanfics and other stories featuring a Mary Sue tend to fall under this.

A specific type of Moral Dissonance which can lead to Aesop Breakage. Compare A Million Is a Statistic, where a million deaths can be excused, but a single death of someone with a name and screentime cannot. Also compare Always Save the Girl, in which the protagonist puts the well-being of his/her love interest above everything else. Subtrope of Selective Enforcement. See also Rule of Empathy.

Needless to say, as far as the way we humans perceive the world goes, this is more Truth in Television than we'd care to admit.

NOTE: This is an in-universe trope. It only applies if the characters in-story have this mindset. If you think a fandom is playing favorites, take it to the work's YMMV page.

Examples of Protagonist-Centered Morality include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Several characters in Inuyasha, most glaringly Koga. His wolf pack ate Rin's entire village and gleefully killed her when she tried escaping. But after kidnapping Kagome and a little mini arc, suddenly he's been turned into The Rival and no worse. When Koga kidnapped Kagome he was more than willing to let his pack eat Shippo, who is the demon equivalent of a seven year old, until Kagome refused to help him if they did. He turned into The Atoner much later in the series, though he still maintained a Jerkass Facade.
  • Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z, who had no problem destroying whole planets, often for no reason at all other than he could. However when he helps the heroes against a bigger villain (Frieza) and ends up giving his life in the process (though he didn't have a choice as said villain was going to try to kill him too), he's suddenly considered reformed and a good guy. Piccolo is similar. His previous incarnation did countless crimes, but once his reincarnation [1] joins Goku's side, he's a good guy, with all bad deeds swept under the rug.
    • In Piccolo's case, its probably because he was "born" as an actual demon due to him being the evil half of Kami-sama's soul while his reincarnation seems to be a non-demonic full soul.[2] Even Kami-sama and Goku note that he didn't feel anywhere near as malicious as his previous incarnation. OTOH, even though he failed, he did still try to kill every person on the island his duel with Goku took place on. Maybe Kami-sama's divinity and good deeds also count towards his other half?
    • Gets an almost-subversion during the Buu saga. As Vegeta prepares to make his Heroic Sacrifice, he asks Picolo about the afterlife. Picolo informs him that his previous crimes are too great for this alone to make amends, and that he's still basically going to Hell. However, he gets to come back to life 30 episodes later.
      • As well, Vegeta's generally only portrayed as a "hero" by people who are only passingly familiar with the series. In practice he's more of a villain who's developed some connections to the good guys, allowing the good guys to keep him generally pointed in the direction of villains worse than him. The entire Androids Saga is basically Future Trunks discovering his father's really an amoral jerk.
  • Pegasus in Yu-Gi-Oh. He kidnaps people, rips their souls from their bodies and puts them in trading cards, and forces them to play a children card's game in an evil dimension that drains their lives.... But once he's beaten by the good guys, his Necromantic reasons exposed and stops such villainous activities, he's suddenly considered a good guy, despite all the horrible crimes he committed in the past. Also Marik Ishtar, who has no problem mind raping, severely injuring, and on screen killing people. However once his split personality is defeated and he gives the Pharaoh a hand understanding his destiny, he's back being counted amongst the good guys. Note that some of the mind raping was not done by his evil split personality, so that's not much of an excuse. In both cases the trope overlaps with Defeat Means Friendship.
    • The manga (which came out first) averted it—defeat did not mean friendship there.
      • Probably because he was murdered in the manga...
      • Marik at least had the excuse that he believed the Pharaoh was responsible for killing his father and enslaving his family (except in the 4Kids dub, where he just wants to take over the world.)
  • In the swirling maelstrom that is Gundam Seed Destiny, this accusation is often leveled at Kira Yamato (the protagonist of the previous series) and his allies by the viewers who dislike them. Commonly cited references include the fact that they go shopping rather than helping try to stop the racist madman who's blowing away space colones with a Kill Sat, or his outright saying that they only got involved in the conflict because of an assassination attempt and would have otherwise stayed Retired Badasses. All in all, this probably has more to do with inconsistent writing than any deliberate characterization (like most of Destiny's flaws).
    • The story doesn't to try to depict Kira's actions as right or wrong though; in fact, whether you agree with the arguments or not, many points were pointed out to be flaws. Kira could be argued to just be another person, with his own sense of righteousness, his own selfishness, and his own flaws; he just happens to be the main character.
  • Several cases in Naruto:
    • Naruto's obsession with redeeming a traitor and would-be mass murderer just because they happened to have a complicated friendship/WorthyOpponent/brotherly relationship with is treated, at worst, as idealistic to a fault; when bad guys are loyal to villains who showed them kindness, it's tragic and destructive (Kimimaro being the stand out example).
      • Although it should be noted that those villains actually go the extra mile and follow the people they are loyal to. While Naruto most certainly does not follow Sasuke.
    • When Starter Villain Zabuza ignores the sacrifice of his devoted Battle Butler Taking the Bullet for him, Naruto shouts at him, "He really loved you! He loved you that much! He threw away his life for you! Do you really not feel anything?!". 405 chapters later, when another character basically does the same for Naruto, well... Judging from his immediate reaction (where he unleashes his Unstoppable Rage on the guy who did the stabbing) he does evidently care, but in the aftermath he expresses absolutely no gratitude, or any acknowledgement at all for over one hundred chapters, and even that was really only a brief compliment.
  • In Sengoku Basara's second season, Toyotomi Hideyoshi wants to recruit or defeat all of Japan's bickering warlords and unify the country as one, ridding it of its meaningless internal conflicts. Unfortunately for him all the protagonists consist of said bickering warlords who want to continue their battles against their respective Worthy Opponents, many with seemingly no greater goal than "keep fighting", so Hideyoshi is presented as the villain for his ambitions.
    • The problem is that after unifying the country Hideyoshi next goal is to Take Over the World. Not to mention he forces every single man capable of fighting to join his army or kills them for defying him.
  • Happens a lot in Fairy Tail. The guild has a negative view of the Magic Council because it tries to restrict the guild at best and disband it at worst. This is largely because Fairy Tail openly disregards its laws and has a reputation for mass destruction of property. In addition, the council enforcers are seen as the bad guys at the end of the Nirvana arc because they arrested Hoteye and Jellal, who had assisted the protagonists. The main characters violently object despite the fact the two they're defending are both known and wanted criminals.
    • To be absolutely fair, Natsu and his friends did not protest to the Magic Council arresting Hoteye, they just said they felt sorry for the guy (who had a pretty solid Freudian Excuse). As for Jellal, well, there's the fact that he was Brainwashed and Crazy when he committed his crimes, and thus could not be held totally accountable for them. The fact that the Magic Council envoys were being total dicks about it didn't help.
  • It's an averted and/or justified trope in One Piece. The protagonists are pirates, so they don't care if someone does bad things unless It's Personal. If someone makes their friend cry, he's a bad guy (Arlong, Crocodile etc.) but if a bad guy helps them (Buggy, the same Crocodile) they are grateful and no one mentions their evil deeds. On the other hand they do understand that the marines are generally the good guys, but they get hostile treatment because their opposing standpoints. To sum it up, for a kid's series, morals are discussed pretty remarkably in the series.
    • Essentially, Luffy and the Strawhats do not consider themselves heroes, they don't do things for the greater good. Luffy only cares about his friends, it just so happens that most of the time when he's helping a friend or one of his crew members, he's doing the greater good. They mention this several times in the Fishmen Island arc.
      • "Listen up! Heroes are people who share their booze with other people!! I wanna drink my booze!!"

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Tintin has a good deal of this, though Herge seemed to be aware of it by the end of the series. If Tintin likes someone he is pretty quick to consider them good even though they don't deserve it. For instance he seems to believe Lazlo Carreidas is better than Rastopolous even though Carreidas himself would disagree. He also supports Emir Ben Kalish Ezab over Bab El Ehr despite the fact the Ben Kalish Ezab apparently tortures people, thinks trials are a waste of time, and was fine with slave trading until Arabair refused his son's stupid request. Tintin's other pet dictator is of course General Alcazar who also thinks trials are a waste of time, is happy to start unnecessary wars, and names the capital after himself.
  • Depending on the Writer, this can be a problem in regard to the Spider-Man antagonist Venom—he wants to kill Spider-Man, but generally protects civilians, and may or may not be portrayed as a villain. A good look at his origin might discourage any sympathetic feelings for Venom: he wants to kill Spider-Man because Spidey brought a Serial Killer to justice. Eddie had originally published a newspaper article, fingering an innocent person as the killer. Spider-Man proved otherwise so Eddie lost his job. Yep, that's his motivation. Part of it, the other 'half' of Venom (i.e, the actual alien, not the human) wants to kill Spidey because he was ditched which is, admittedly, not any better. Anyway, that is the point. Venom wants to do a very evil thing for a very petty reason, yet he still protects people. Some writers focus on the latter when Venom gets his stories, thus fitting the trope. Hell, in Venom's earliest appearances he didn't even care about civilians and was just a raving psychopath. It took a little while for him to find even the most basic morality.
    • Really more of an inversion, since Venom is more of an Anti-Hero to most and only a pure villain to Spider-Man personally, thus he gets considered a super villain.
      • Except as Spidey himself points out in one issue while pondering his various foes, "Venom says that he only wants to kill me, and everyone else is safe. The dead bodies he's left in his wake say otherwise." Venom does kill and hurt others in the course of his vendetta, he's just very good at making excuses for it to himself when he does.
  • In Bill Willingham's Fables, a main source of tension is the Fabletown Charter's 'General Amnesty' to signatory Fables. Basically, it doesn't matter what horrible... horrible things a Fable did before signing, they are all forgiven as a means to allow Fables who have done wrong to live there without fear of reprisal. This is especially useful considering many Fables shared the same stories and did 'not nice' things to each other. This becomes interesting (and commented on several times) because characters like Bigby, Bluebeard, and Frau Totenkinder, who are essentially known mass murderers, are employed, accommodated, and at times respected because they work for the greater good of the small community of Fables. Of course, it helps they did give up their mass murdering ways when they came to the new world... mostly. Bluebeard didn't give up the mindset, which cost him his life after murdering an innocent, and Frau Totenkinder has some kind of appalling (by Fable standards) means to keep her magic strong.
    • Totenkinder's method of keeping her magic is implied to be operating a series of abortion clinics, and thus entirely legal (if, to some, rather unsavory).
  • Averted in one issue of Green Arrow. Ollie befriends an Irish man, who he later finds out is a terrorist for the IRA. Initially he's hesitant to go after him, but after he sees pictures of the things he's done...
  • Preacher (Comic Book) has lots of characters who make, at best, questionable moral choices. Cassidy is more like a villain than a hero, especially when we see what he did in the flashbacks. He may show remorse for one or the other violent act, but does not really change his ways 'til after the very end. Also, Jesse abuses his power(s) and murders people every other time. Granted, most of them are horrible people - but for someone who wants to find and confront God about his errors and misdeeds, he doesn't seem to really care about anyone outside his close circle of friends. If even that. There's also the former Nazi officer in the "Salvation" arc. He told everyone that he was a Nazi in hiding, but constructed a "safe" identity for himself, where he was reluctant to go along with the Reich and did so out of fear. He was a loyal friend to Jesse and a love interest to his mother, and seemed to be a genuinely good, reformed person. But when Jesse learned the extent of the man's actual involvement in the war, he unflinchingly told the guy off... and gave him a noose.
    • To sum up regarding the main character: Jesse complains that God allows the world to be complete crap by being uncaring and irresponsible with His power and that He doesn't care about people, and this is portrayed as a correct outlook and Jesse as absolutely right in holding it. Jesse, however, clearly doesn't care if he himself makes the world a worse place, is constantly irresponsible with his own power, and clearly doesn't care about the basic human rights of anyone who even mildly annoys him.
      • Jesse is still correct in that it's God's responsibility to take care of the universe, not his responsibility. That he possesses identical power to God is irrelevant; God chose to assume the responsibility by creating the universe and promising everyone that He'd look after it, and Jesse did neither of these things. Jesse is also correct in that he did not seek out his power but instead had it dropped on him by accident, which means he doesn't owe anybody anything just for having it. Likewise, since Jesse cannot give up his power without almost inevitably being killed and with someone else immediately taking it and using it to run riot, as he is pursued by any # of ruthless people attempting to use the power of Genesis to their benefit, he also has no obligation to release his grip upon this power and in fact has a moral obligation to hang onto it and keep it safe. Jesse, however, is wrong that he fails to acknowledge he does still possess the same basic moral responsibility that any other person does, in his situation or any other -- the responsibility to not fuck up the world any worse.
  • Neozoic is one of the worst. The Protagonist Lillin, an extremely competent dinosaur killer, captured (sorry, "saved") a little girl and smuggled her into fort Monanti in explicit disregard of the Laws- and by this she managed to cause the fall of the city by a horde of dinosaurs and a conquering force, the death of thousands, the foundation of a proto-mind slavery ring, the murder of her sister at the hands of a Dinosaur and the crippling of her Mentor. When everyone finds out about her deeds... she is lauded as the savior of the city because she managed to kill the Leader of the conquering force. Apparently if you retake a city and kill the bad guy all the consequences of your actions are forgiven no matter how horrific they may be.
  • Newspaper Comic Minimum Security has a really bad case of this. Either you're with Kranti and killing 99% of humanity is the ONLY way to save the earth or you're doing just a poser who does ineffective things like recycling and peacefully protesting (everyone knows that riots get headlines! Or free trips to secret detention camps), or you're The Man and actively trying to destroy the planet and oppress people.
  • Played for laughs by Sam and Max. They may or may not get the job done, and they may or may not use ethically questionable methods to do so, but they're the title characters, so whatever they do is just fine. This carries over into the video games as well.

Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • In Christian Humber Reloaded, Vash kills a hunter after a setting off a trap, which breaks on his leg without harming him, and we are apparently supposed to think this is acceptable (the hypocrisy of him doing this despite having set off the trap while hunting is lampshaded in Normalman's webcomic adaptation notes) . His actions get worse from there, including killing a girl and everyone related to her for reporting him to the police, and killing all 6 million people at the Super Bowl to show the cops what it means to fight him. The author treats most of Vash's killings as justified, and when the villains commit comparable or even lesser crimes, they're quickly killed, often by Vash himself.
  • In the world of Cori Falls's fanfiction, the quickest way to gauge whether or not someone's a good person is whether or not they agree with the morals of the protagonists. If you don't think Rex Raptor did the right thing or that Jessie and James's actions weren't justifiable, you're clearly a Complete Monster.
  • The X-Men: Evolution fanfic Tsunami received a lot of its complaints because the authors tendency to do this. Namely, Everyone depicted positively complains about doing some hardwork, which was a cannon event in the series the story was based on (The story basically being a word for word retelling of X-Men Evolution with the addition of an OC), was depicted as just something normal teenagers do at the prospect of hard work. When Scott and Jean made a small comment about how hard this is, who did not complain in the series, they were bashed for being so lazy. This is forgetting that the OC and viewpoint character made a much bigger deal about the hard work two chapters ago. And that's just one example.
  • In the Indecisive Deconstruction fanfic known as Pokemon Revolution, the premise is that a lab-escapee Eevee convinces other Pokémon that training is enslavement, then leads a revolution. This is all very well and good until the Pokémon army marches into Pewter City, kills the soldiers who try to stop them... and doesn't stop there, slaughtering what is stated to be several hundred thousand civilians, who may or may not have even had anything to do with training. Consider that in terms of a real-life conflict...
  • So much of this happens in Naruto Veangance Revelaitons. If one of the villains rapes Sakura or one of the other girls, Ronan will step in (if he's not too busy masturbating if the rapist happens to be female), but nothing happens if Ronan rapes someone. Ronan can have sex with all the girls he wants, but when Sakura has sex with Naruto, it is considered an evil act and she has to cut off her vagina (However, later on, Atni, one of Ronan's girlfriends, ends up with his son Ekaj). Ronan persecuting people who don't share his religion, sexuality or taste in music is portrayed as good, while the Council's doing so is portrayed as evil.
  • Disturbingly common in the later works of Jared Ornstead -- see his stories Partially Kissed Hero, Chunin Exam Day and My Gilded Life for some good examples.


Film[edit | hide]

  • John Q has this in spades. The protagonist's son needs a heart transplant but can't afford it. Clearly, the big bad insurance agent is evil for not paying for his son's surgery. So John holds an entire hospital emergency room hostage, threatens to kill people if his son doesn't get a heart, and causes terror. However, there are only so many hearts available for transplant in the world. By blackmailing others to get his son a heart, he stole it from someone else, effectively killing that person. Then his son had his heart transplanted last minute by a group unprepared for the surgery, which lowered the odds of the transplant working. So John gave his son a lower chance of success of surviving the surgery from the person he stole the heart from. Not to mention the whole holding people hostage, disrupting an emergency room, which nearly resulted in one person dying, due to lack of proper treatment. Not only did John's stunt waste thousands of dollars, his 'victory' will encourage more people to blackmail the government for organs, which will further destabilize things, and most likely lead to more senseless deaths when the next blackmail attempt doesn't go as well as John's. Meanwhile, the insurance agent and doctor that are presented as the bad guys point out that they can't go around helping every little kid when there aren't enough hearts to go around. When you have to triage lives anyways, to triage lives based off financial affordability makes sense when the only other option is going bankrupt from never being payed for your services, and no one getting help.
    • The news media montage shown near the end basically states that John's actions does nothing to fix the medicare problem, and that he was extremely lucky things worked out. Despite that, John's eventual arrest shows that he doesn't get off scott free.
  • Jonas from Twister. He's the bad guy because he 'stole' the idea for Dorothy (even though it obviously wasn't patented and he helped invent it in the first place), got funding for his research, and was 'competing' with the heroes to launch his invention first. But the movie sets him up as evil because he's a jerk to the hero despite the fact that if he succeeded, his data could also save people from tornadoes as well.
    • And let's not forget that Bill walks up and punches Jonas for no reason while Jonas is talking with reporters. And Jonas' "jerk-ness" is him snidely saying, "I really like your weather reports." Sarcastically complimenting Bill on the job that Bill voluntarily quit tornado chasing to take!
  • Examined in the Romantic Comedy Ghost Town, where Ricky Gervais' character cannot bring himself to like his romantic rival, but acknowledges that he's a good person, and it wouldn't be fair to try to steal Tea Leoni from him. Once they break up, she's fair game.
  • When it comes to his protégé Mr. Orange, Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs has a definite case of Protagonist-Centered Morality. It is evident in the very first scene (White calls fellow thief Mr. Pink on his no-tipping policy, yet stays silent when Orange wants to follow suit), and then escalates in geometrical progression until the very end. Although in fairness, in the 'tipping' example one possible reason he stays silent is that Joe, who is everyone's boss and paying for the meal, immediately orders Orange to shut up and Pink to cough up a dollar for the time, thus settling the matter. Orange could also have been cracking a joke. It's certainly far from the most outrageous thing said in jest around that table so far, including Joe asking Blonde to shoot White.
  • The biographical film Michael Collins depicts the morality of the IRA's terrorist/guerrilla war against the UK largely in terms of what side Collins is on. When Collins is for revolution, revolution is the answer; when Collins decides that the revolution is over and turns his forces against those who want to keep the war going, that's that. The movie tries to put a bit more ambiguity into all of this than most, but still.
  • In the classic epic Ben-Hur, the character of Quintus Arrius, a consul of the Roman Empire, is a slave-owning imperialist who does things like ordering galley slaves to row at ramming speed for sustained periods of time just to see what will happen. He's a bad guy, right? No, he's a good guy, because he treats the title character well and eventually adopts him as a son.
    • Maybe, maybe not. Arrius has his misconceptions about morality shattered—particularly when Judah, immediately upon boarding the rescue ship, turns to go back to the galley. He realizes that this Judean wasn't holding him hostage, but was simply doing the right thing not letting him commit suicide. What he does for Judah would have been a scandal in Rome!
    • And when you are the commander of a warship that attacks by ramming, testing how well it can do that is far from idle cruelty.
    • Also, pretty much everyone in Imperial Rome was a slave-owning imperialist - or else they were a slave themselves. Those who opposed slavery were very few and far between, and those who opposed the Empire tended to be rather short-lived.
  • Jumper: The Movie depicts everything as being quite all-right and Davy finally having prevailed over the big, bad, evil world out to get him, when Davy, in fact, rampaged through other lives from the day he found his powers. He stole money from banks, left the templar out in the desert to die with no hope of escape, ruined Griffin's war efforts and generally used people as mere toys of his whims (like endangering his family, girlfriend, and, again, Griffin, who tried to rescue him).
    • At one point a protagonist character teleports a moving bus into a fight in midair to attack an antagonist character. This is portrayed as simply an example of how formidable a teleporter can be when pressed, and how innovative this particular one was in using his powers. That fact that he just killed everyone on the bus (which, as stated, was moving, so even if he got lucky and randomly picked one with no passengers, it definitely had a driver) isn't so much "glossed over" as "apparently not something the writers even realized."
  • Sarah and Nick from The Lost World. Granted, the team of mercenaries sent to capture the dinosaurs weren't using kid gloves, but the sabotage that the two of them did is directly or indirectly responsible for every human death in the film. Even after the mercenaries save the two of them from death, Nick uses it as an opportunity to sabotage Roland's gun. Apparently, killing a dinosaur is wrong even if it is rampaging through your camp, killing your men. And it wasn't as if nature was at stake. The dinosaurs were created in a lab and introduced in a time period that was unsuitable for them. The fact that they exist at all could be disastrous to the ecosystem. This was the entire point of the first movie and somehow, the filmmakers forgot all about that.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, killing a diplomat during negotiations is apparently okay if you're a protagonist. To be fair, the Fellowship had already told the Mouth of Sauron they weren't there to negotiate, so he probably should've figured they were going to move on to Aggressive Negotiations. When Aragon killed him, he had already moved on to taunts and psychological warfare. By any reasonable metric, negotiations were over. By Tolkien's treatment of the same scene, the heroes drive off Sauron's diplomat just by staring at him.
    • Diplomatic niceties of behavior between warring nations is a mutual obligation and not a unilateral one. The standard penalty for refusing to honor ambassadors is the total severing of diplomatic relations, the standard penalty for killing an ambassador is war, and the standard penalty for not honoring an enemy's surrender is the enemy now being allowed to kill you out of hand even if you try to surrender. Since Sauron is already making a mockery of diplomatic relations (his emissary is not only demanding unconditional surrender but explicitly boasting that the slavery of everyone is part of the terms), the West and Sauron are already at war, and Sauron intends to massacre the armies of the West as soon as they surrender (and is infamous for repeatedly doing such things in the past)... well, let's just say the Mouth really should have known what he was in for.
    • Although they did not kill the Mouth in the books, the 'negotiations were over' viewpoint is actually upheld by dialogue from the books:
The Mouth of Sauron: I am a herald and ambassador, and may not be assailed!
Gandalf: Where such customs are in use, it is also customary for heralds to speak with less insolence.
  • Three Hundred is full of this, mostly due to the Unreliable Narrator. The Spartans are touted as a just and free society, even though they're shown in the movie to hurl imperfect babies off cliffs, kill messengers, and toss boys into the wilderness as a rite of passage.
    • Their so-called "just and free society" didn't preclude slavery. Leonidas at one point also makes fun of some Athenians for being homosexuals, when Real Life Spartans actually preferred the company of other men to women, whom they considered to be unworthy and only useful as breeding stock.
      • The latter isn't quite true; it would be an apt description to the Athenean attitudes towards women, which were only slightly on the liberal side from the modern Taliban, but Spartan women were allowed to own property and hold authority outside military matters. This was an unavoidable necessity in a society where men who were not of the Helot slave caste spent all their lives playing war, doing absolutely nothing unrelated to military activity. Somebody had to deal with actual work while this was going on. Persian women on the other hand could own and inherit property, decide for their own marriage and get divorce, and even hold certain positions of authority. The country also practiced freedom of religion and had a rudimentary constitution limiting the king's power. Needless to say, none of this comes across in the movie.
  • In Tyler Perry's movie Daddy's Little Girls, the protagonist Monty's ex-wife is dating a drug dealer and taken the kids to live with her. After the custody hearing, Monty purposely hits his ex-wife and her boyfriend Joseph's car and then opens the door and beats up a dizzy and confused Joseph. At Joseph's trial, the entire neighborhood willingly testifies against him for the drug charges(after years of silence), but keeps their mouth shut when Monty is accused of assaulting him.
  • A mild case in Mystery Team. The trio IS out to do the right thing, but murder is something that should be left to people who don't harass comatose seniors, break into people's houses, solicit drug dealers, dress up as Mexican plumbers and cause property damage.
  • At the end of Congo, Dr. Ross destroys her company's satellite in payback for her boss putting the mission above her fiancée. Never mind that this would inevitably cause thousands of people to lose their jobs...
  • Is lying in order to have someone taken away by security acceptable? It is if you're Haley from The Wizard (film).
  • Averted in Superman Returns. While a lot of care is given to the Superman/Lois relationship, her fiancee Richard is still portrayed as a good husband and father and someone who can make Lois happy. The film even gives him his share of CMOA's in the finale.
    • On the other hand, if anyone other than Superman was hovering outside Lois's house spying on her with X-Ray vision, it probably wouldn't considered acceptable behavior.
    • Though that is meant to show Supes at his most vulnerable and it is clear in the narrative that the writer doesn't approve of his actions even if he isn't overly quick to condemn them.
  • In the movie Judge Dredd, Dredd is labelled a criminal and the city's police force is scrambled to intercept him en route to his confrontation with the Big Bad. Which means there's a scene where Dredd guns down waves of lawmen - his former colleagues - none of whom are actually in on the villain's plan, but rather think (rightly, if you think about it) that they're trying to bring down a dangerous criminal. There are no repercussions for this, nor is it implied there should be.
  • David Brin's infamous Star Wars articles (not the first part, but has links to the other parts) mention this as one criticism of Vader's redemption.
    • Although this is not really a valid in-universe complaint. Only Luke really seems to forgive him, even Leia doesn't and still considers him to have been largely evil. The rest of the Rebel Alliance generally ranks him as among the most evil individuals in history.
      • Even Luke never really tries to excuse all the things Anakin did while he was Darth Vader... he simply acknowledges that in the end Vader realized how wrong he'd been and was sorry. Luke forgives him because, among other things, holding onto hate would be a temptation to the Dark Side. (The fact that Leia bears so much anger for him for years after his death shows she's actually a lot more like her father than she'd care to admit.)
      • In addition, Luke also has a compelling personal reason to believe in the sincerity of Vader's redemption, notably, the fact that he is still alive. Other people in-setting don't share either this reason or Luke's conviction.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • This site has a total deconstruction in a short story called "The Sword of Good".
    • Summary: Hero is sucked into a fantasy world, where he's given the Sword of Good, which will smite the unworthy. On the way to defeat evil forever, he sees some minor injustice and Moral Dissonance, but ignores them because they further the cause of Good. We then reach the climax, the last battle between Good and Evil, and the protagonist stops long enough to think about it. He notices that the wizard with the group refuses to help the people he doesn't know, and refuses to take any risk despite having the best chance of surviving them; he's a cold bastard and no hero. The pirate queen who's been setup as his love interest is a pirate queen, who's probably killed lotsa people and done lotsa bad things, which are forgiven because she's a Karma Houdini. The villain, meanwhile, has been trying to uplift his people from slavery, oppression, and hatred, simply because they're different. The protagonist then decides to help the "villain" on his campaign to freedom and equality for all.
    • Hilariously, this becomes a meta example when the very first step the hero must take towards "true" Good is... murdering one of his allies in cold blood. Sure, the wizard was arrogant and didn't take personal risks, but he was still at the hero's side, giving him the best help and advice he could. He never did anything actively wrong, and was really just the victim of his culture's questionable morality (indeed, the hero even mentions how amazing it is for anyone at all raised in this world to realize that everyone deserves rights). Yet the Sword of Good is totally fine with cutting this man down for no reason other than needing his soul as fuel for the ritual to bring fairness to everyone.
      • Not quite. The "villain" calls him out on several sins, including causing and necessitating many pointless and avoidable deaths. He lists five people by name to have been killed due to the wizard's actions, the same five mook baddies the protagnists kill at the start of the story, and whom they could just as easily have avoided.
  • In the novel The Red Blazer Girls, a character who stalks the protagonists and is apparently in competition with them is described by one as "Pure evil!", although he actually turns out to be on their side, and they forgive him.
  • Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle starts off strong with this, apparently a butcher refusing to give away free food is so unforgivable that he keeps bitching about it well into the second book.
    • The greatest example of this are the Urgals, who are portrayed as evil, savage beasts. When they ally themselves to The Empire, who claim they are merely misunderstood and wish for peace, they are still portrayed as evil, savage beasts. But the instant they join the Varden, they are suddenly good guys.
      • Not to say that the Inheritance Cycle doesn't have this, but Eragon is explicitly portrayed as prejudiced, which is understandable since the Urgals are the enemies of humans, generally speaking, and he doesn't know much about them. It's not until he does that mind-reading thing that he is forced to admit that they are more complicated than he thought.
      • Actually, the Urgals freely admit this to Eragon, saying that their kind does love war and fighting far more than peace, and despite the gains that they've made (land of their own, respect of the other nations, an actual nation, etc) they are likely to go on the warpath in succeeding generations simply because it's within their nature. It's one of the things that makes Eragon decide to include Dwarves and Urgals into the Riders when he redoes the spell.
  • Jacqueline Carey's duology The Sundering is one long deconstruction of this trope.
  • Deconstructed in Lazarillo De Tormes, when the title character (who has had a long string of abusive employers) works for a corrupt pardoner who treats him very well. Lazarillo knows, deep down, that the man is scum, but he's willing to overlook it because he's sharing in the benefits. This episode is one of the darkest parts of the novel's satire.
  • The heroes of Left Behind are often shown generally acting like unmitigated jackasses to anyone they meet, but those who insult or do them the slightest harm are quite literally condemned to Hell for it.
    • In this blog post, Fred "Slacktivist" Clark notes that the heroes seem more worried about the traffic jam they're stuck in (hindering them from reaching their comrades) than the news of the outbreak of World War III which preceded the traffic jam announcement.
  • In the Legacy of the Force, when Jacen Solo turns to the dark side, he doesn't rack up nearly as much bad karma as Vader did—among other reasons, he didn't have nearly as long to do it in. But the second he kills Mara Jade-Skywalker, he's irredeemable. Luke can apparently forgive the deaths of hundreds of strangers -- at least a round dozen of which were innocent children—if his life gets saved at the end of it. But he can't forgive the murder of his wife. And we the readers weren't supposed to, either.
  • One of the biggest complaints against the Twilight series is how pretty much everyone who disagrees with Bella is instantly demonized to some extent while Bella suffers no repercussions for treating others like crap. Charlie opposed Bella and Edward's relationship because, well, if your only daughter suddenly came home one day and tells you she wants to marry a guy who had left her heartbroken and nearly suicidal once before, you'd be worried. Her mother just wants her to go to give more thought about going to college before settling down. Her friends from her school who came around pretty much every day while she had her Heroic BSOD and seemed to genuinely care for her well-being? She just thought they were getting annoying; so did the author.
    • Many of Edward's and Jacob's actions were typical of an abusive relationship, but they were portrayed as being perfectly okay and even romantic. Edward stalks her and watches her sleep? It just shows how much he loves her! He breaks her car and has his sister kidnap her to keep her from visiting another boy? It just shows how much he cares about her! Jacob forcibly kisses Bella and insists that she wanted him to but just won't admit it? Again, it just shows how much he loves her!
    • The "good" vampires appear not to have thought of using their immeasurable powers to save people's lives; they're more content to repeat high school for the umpteenth time and play baseball, and seem to be happy with their brethren slaughtering innocent people as long as they leave Bella alone. And Bella herself doesn't lift a finger to help anyone even when she knows they're as good as vampire food.
  • E. E. Smith's Lensman series exemplifies this. The actions of various protagonists are consistently applauded - including one man judge/jury/execution, destruction of entire planets/solar systems/civilizations, with or without noncombatants, various nasty means of underhanded (or overhanded) warfare, torture, mind rape, etc.
    • Justified Trope: the entire plot of Lensman is one giant war story. Ethics in war is largely about target selection, not method. (Consider that almost every war crime on the books is not a war crime if done to enemy combatants, and that the 'crime' element only comes in when done to the wrong people.)
  • This Trope is examined in The Last Hero by Vetinari who points out that most "heroic" acts would have anyone else hanged for wanton death and destruction, but since they are committed by a "hero" they are considered acceptable.
    • See also Susan's revised retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk" in Hogfather.
  • The Hunger Games. Katniss complains that the other tributes are out to kill her, but is just as quick to attack them, eventually preemptively. This is possibly justified by the premise of the Hunger Games themselves, in which conventional morality is clearly out the window, but is then muddied when the story never stops to ask if survival is worth becoming your enemy (or, frankly, even notices Katniss Jumping Off the Slippery Slope).
    • May be a Justified Trope in this case, the entire series is narrated by Katniss in the first person, making it difficult for the narrative to condemn her objectively (she blames herself for lots of things anyway). There are definitely moments when other people call her out over her actions or tell her to suck it up and act responsibly instead of according to her own (often skewed) priorities.
  • In Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt is viewed as downright evil for killing Mercutio (even when some versions portray it as mostly an accident), but Romeo's completely deliberate murder of Tybalt (who was his wife's cousin, keep in mind) is portrayed as justified.
  • Zoey Redbird suffers from a major case of this in The House of Night. She learns in the first book that something is up with the seemingly dead vampyres and later on that they're killing humans, but doesn't show the least bit inclination to investigate this until her ex-boyfriend is kidnapped by them. She knows that vampyres are expected to not grieve or even talk about friends who have (seemingly) died, but this doesn't bother her until her best friend dies and she's suddenly shocked and horrified that she's expected to just put her out of her mind like she unquestioningly did with two dead vampyres before. She calls girls who go out with more than one guy (or give them blowjobs) hos, but her boyfriend is demonized and spat upon for justifiably getting angry when she cheats on him with two other guys. Even her friends are implied to be overreacting when they get upset about Zoey keeping so many secrets from them, including the one about their dead friend turning out to be not so dead after all, or to be unquestionably in the wrong the few times they don't immediately agree with Zoey's opinion.
  • So many David Eddings books. Barak rapes his wife in the Belgariad, but nobody cares, because he's a good guy. Zakath, once he joins the heroes, is considered to be a trustworthy friend, regardless of the fact that he attempted to commit genocide and nearly did.
    • Values Dissonance: trying to commit genocide on the Murgos is not a sin by Alorn standards, given that they held the same goal as a religious virtue for millenia. The only reason they abandoned it is because Torak's death meant the holy war against all Angarak was finally over, but the Alorns are hardly going to look down on anyone else for trying to do it. They know that they can't.
    • The marital rape is also Values Dissonance, precisely because this is a fantasy-medieval era and therefore the concept of marital rape does not exist either in common ethics or common law. Sure, they didn't consider it a flaw in their friend Barak. They wouldn't have considered it a flaw in an enemy, either.
    • Lampshaded many times when each person (especially Silk) admits to having various vices and refusing to accept it as being the same as the vices of others. Belgarath even refuses to classify it as Good vs. Evil and instead prefers to call it "them versus us."
  • Atlas Shrugged features this very prominently in its final chapters, ultimately culminating in Dagny and her allies murdering security guards in cold blood, even as the narrative says they're too paralyzed with indecision to be any threat or obstacle, on the way to rescue John Galt. One can argue that the questionable behavior up until that point was just washing one's hands clean of a broken system, but actively and intentionally murdering someone for the hell of it can't be excused that easily. Now we know where Terry Goodkind gets it from.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Oh, yeah! This series cheerfully marches into this territory, particularly by the book Free Fall. If you don't support the Vigilantes, then you're either a Jerkass or a Complete Monster. The Vigilantes broke laws to a million pieces, in their quest for Revenge against every Karma Houdini who wronged them. They also did things like give three rapists the John Wayne Bobbit treatment, broke every bone in a wife-beater's body, and skinned alive a diplomat's son who used Diplomatic Impunity. Now, Jack Emery did talk his girlfriend Nikki Quinn about the Vigilante's methods from time to time.
  • Anne McCaffrey's protagonists routinely get away with being huge jerks to other characters. It's often portrayed as a flaw in a generalized way (Killashandra and Lessa are both understood to be overly short-tempered, for instance) but in most specific instances the narrative rather makes it clear that "that (Designated) Jerkass had it coming." In Crystal Line Killashandra humiliates a scientist for more than page for the sole offense of being pedantic and giving a new substance a different name than she gave it, and this is meant to be funny.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Doctor Who: "The Wedding of River Song" gives an excellent example of this. River's attempt to save the Doctor threatens all of existence, and it's implied that even the Doctor and River would eventually suffer the same fate. Despite this, River flat-out says she thinks she'll suffer more than anyone else. The Doctor isn't too happy with this and calls her out on it, briefly, but the most she gets is (voluntarily) sentenced to a Cardboard Prison and married to the Doctor.
    • General consensus both in and out of universe is that it's largely pointless to apply a human standard of morality to a 900+ year old being who routinely makes the laws of space and time his bitch. It's not that he has an Omniscient Morality License since he is perfectly capable of doing immoral things (even by his own judgment), but that his perspective, what he's capable of doing, and what he routinely has to face puts him so far beyond the human scope of experience that it's best to just let him regulate his own moral system.
  • In True Blood, Eric and Bill have both killed and tortured countless people during their lifetimes. Eric feels no remorse and continues to do so - he even runs his own Torture Cellar . Bill is a self-loathing wreck about his past but hasn't tried to atone for his actions and quite readily kills if it is convenient for him to do so. His main objection in killing a seventeen year old girl (Jessica) and converting her to vampirism (knowing full well that she will probably die - most newborns vamps don't make it through the first year- and that she will certainly kill innocent people), is that he'll get in trouble with Sookie if she were to find out. During the first series, Bill murdered three people besides Jessica (The Ratraces and Sookie's perverted uncle, all of whom were jerkasses or perverts, but still humans) and suffers no repercussions. Both Bill and Eric would be considered violent sociopaths in real life, but we're meant to see them as heroic at best and antiheroic at worst because they both genuinely love Sookie.
    • This trope is invoked with every sympathetic vampire ever featured on the show. All of them (even Jessica) have murdered innocent people at least once, and none of them can fully control their urges. Beyond that, not one of them has even tried to atone for their actions or make amends to the families of their victims.
    • Sookie does some pretty amoral things, and she's never called out on it. For one, she must have known exactly what would happen when she told Bill about her Uncle or that young man who had been trying to infect the clan of vampires with his blood-borne illness. Or when she outed the telepathic bell-hop to Eric. And that's just the first season. It's easy to feel sympathy over her actions involving her uncle (he probably got what he deserved) but the other two didn't. The young man with the blood borne illness was just seeking revenge for the brutal murder of his lover, and the vampires he targeted were unreformed and bloodthirsty killers. Even if you buy into the whole Friendly Neighborhood Vampire thing, he plan didn't involve murdering them, just put them out of action for a few months. Sookie's words sentenced him to death (and most likely, particularly brutal torture) at their hands. This incident has no repercussions is never mentioned again, by anybody.
      • Even in the case of that uncle, it's only a "probably" that he deserved it. We don't know if he was ever going to act out on his thoughts, if he was ever an active child molestor, or if he just had a really creepily dirty mind. Which might not have been a problem if Sookie weren't a telepath (which he didn't know). Bill's justification for murdering him is, "He hurt you, Sookie." Well, there actually is a possibility he didn't intend to.
    • And if you do want to accept the parallels the show tries to draw between Vampire Rights and other minority rights groups (gay rights, civil rights, etc) and that some of the vampires are well integrated and safe, then Jason's behaviour becomes sick and disgustingly amoral, and he is hardly called out on it. Granted, Jason is frequently Too Dumb to Live and his actions are often a result of this, but in series one he and his girlfriend abduct and slowly murder a sweet-natured and (so far as vampires go) harmless middle aged man who also happens to be a member of that extremely rare set of vampires: the ones you never see killing humans or exploiting human suffering. He's not as nice-looking as the other vampires and hasn't done a whole lot with his life, but if you should feel any sympathy for any vampire appearing on the show, it should be him. Jason and his girlfriend don't kill him to save humans or be heroic or anything, but only so they can make money harvesting his blood, and when they have him prisoner they he is tied up with silver chains, which is elsewhere shown to be a particularly painful torture for vamps. Jason feels a little guilt at the time and Eric calls him out on it , but he suffers no other repercussions and the episode is promptly forgotten. As soon as he resolves his problems with Sookie, he is back to being treated as one of the heroes. It's like: Dude, you abducted and murdered an innocent person in order to get money and drugs. Shouldn't you at least go to jail or something? Plus, his actions might have (at least partially) caused Lafayette to get trapped in Eric's basement, even though Lafayette was only trading vampire blood he earned in exchange for sexual favours. And while the vampire was probably the worst thing that Jason had done, he hardly ever gets called out on any of the amoral things he does.
  • This trope is subverted in Stargate SG-1; at first it looks like Teal'c is going to be this, someone whose evil dog-kicking past will be swept away once he joins SG-1, but it's soon shown that the trope will be averted. Relatives of a few people whom Teal'c had butchered under orders from Apophis have him put on trial, and Teal'c insists he should be judged for his actions, despite the rest of SG-1 willing to do right about anything possible to bail Teal'c out. Teal'c also repeatedly shows concern and regrets over the things he did as First Prime of Apophis. One of the final episodes has that episode's villain, who murdered numerous innocents with a bomb, call out Teal'c saying that Teal'c was every bit as bad when he worked for the Goa'ulds. Finally, one of the most touching scenes of Stargate: The Ark of Truth has Teal'c advising a former enemy soldier, who, like him, did horrible things in the name of his religion. Teal'c tells him that others may forgive him, but he'll never forgive himself, and that they should devote their lives to helping others for other people's sake, not for a vague hope of redemption.

Teal'c: One day others may try to convince you they have forgiven you. That is more about them than you. For them, imparting forgiveness is a blessing.
Tomin: How do you go on?
Teal'c: It is simple. You will never forgive yourself. Accept it. You hurt others -- many others. That cannot be undone. You will never find personal retribution. But your life does not have to end. That which is right, just, and true can still prevail. If you do not fight for what you believe in, all may be lost for everyone else. But do not fight for yourself. Fight for others -- others that may be saved through your effort. That is the least you can do.

    • Discussed much earlier, with Master Bra'tac well before either of them had a hope of the Goa'uld being overthrown.

Bra'tac: When Apophis throws his armies into the fire you will be there to temper his sword. In so doing you may save countless lives as I have done in my time.
Teal'c: And you have done all these things against his will?
Bra'tac: His will can be made to bend. But not always. I have done deeds for which I cannot forgive even myself, as will you. Men such as you and I have only the comfort of those times we make a difference. Make a difference.

    • The trial episode involves the son of a one-legged man Teal'c killed wishing to avenge his father's cold-blooded murder. The additional problem is that, unlike an Earth trial, this one does not have an impartial judge. Instead, the victim gets to decide. In fact, this society doesn't even understand the term "impartial". After all, everyone has an opinion. While Daniel successfully argues that Teal'c murder of the man may have helped these people escape the Goa'uld in the future (they only move with the speed of the slowest person), which was Teal'c's intention (the man he killed even seemed to be signalling Teal'c to kill him) when Apophis ordered him to kill someone (Apophis saw the murder of a cripple as deliciously evil). While admitting there may be some truth to this, the son is still determined to execute Teal'c. And Teal'c is determined to pay for his sins. Conveniently, the Goa'uld happen to attack the village then, and Teal'c fights them off and kills the Jaffa in charge. Seeing this, the villages agrees that Teal'c is indeed a different man, and that the old Teal'c is dead.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Anya is considered to have become good once she's depowered and teams up with the good guys, even though she shows no remorse for going around killing people for a millennium. Of course, it helps that once she became human she stopped killing people and started romancing one of the Scoobies. Angel is forgiven pretty easily, as well, and most of the hostility the Scoobies direct towards Spike has more to do with his jerkass behaviour than his kill total.
    • A version of this is in "Doppelgangland". Apparently the Scoobies thought it was perfectly fine to send vampire Willow back to her universe instead of stake her, based on the fact that she was willing to go home and only kill people there, where they can't see it (she would be staked there, but the Scoobies had no way to know that).
    • In one of the last season's episodes, Anya has killed over a dozen people and Buffy decides she'll have to kill her. Xander tries to dissuade her, saying that Anya's her friend, and Buffy gives him an epic chewing out on how she doesn't get to play favorites, while conveniently forgetting her own hypocrisy . The guy Buffy was in love with gets infinite forgiveness, but the person she only sort of likes? Has to die, no question.
    • It wasn't really very moral to allow Angel to continue existing, even after he had turned "good". Angelus is too evil and destructive, and the spell which keeps him from returning to his old ways was too easily broken. Angelus was a lot more homicidal than most of the monsters he killed: after all, you have to engage in a lot of rape and murder to earn the title of most evil vampire. Could anybody really prevent themselves from experiencing "one moment's happiness"? Happiness is as spontaneous and uncontrollable as any other emotion. The whole thing is a little like giving a small child the controls to an atomic bomb. But yet he's still portrayed as a hero.
      • This is not entirely fair or correct. The spell could only be broken through a moment of "perfect happiness" which is noted to be extremely rare for most people if it happens at all. Angel was shown often happy, but not "perfectly happy." The difference between Angel and Angelus they were for all intents and purposes different people compare to some others like Spike. Finally, Angel has spent the last hundred years trying to make up for all he did as Angelus even though his culpability itself is highly questionable and suffered greatly for it.
        • Furthermore, the curse only worked the first time because Angel didn't know about it. As shown on Angel, the constant worry that a pleasurable moment might become too pleasurable and thus lead to an undesired outcome actually invokes a variant of the Centipede's Dilemna—because a part of you is always worried about it on some level, its impossible for you to ever have perfect happiness. It's noteworthy that the only time Angel's curse is ever invoked after this is when they're deliberately trying to trigger it with Angel's own cooperation (it was a dire necessity to interrogate Angelus for knowledge only he had, which requires giving him control of Angel's body back so they can talk to him), and even then it required hypnotizing Angel so hard that he lost all awareness of where he really was or what he was really doing.
      • And ultimately, the point is moot. Angel's continued existence is too valuable to certain prophecies for the Powers That Be (or Jasmine) to ever allow him to die until he's fulfilled said prophesied role, even if they have to manipulate fate all out of proportion to keep him going. Even if he does die Wolfram & Hart has access to a ritual that can resurrect a dusted vampire, and at least one reason (their desire to corrupt Angel to their side of the Apocalypse) to actually use it.
    • In season five there was Ben. Even though Giles and the script in general present Ben as being an innocent, he's twenty five and fully aware that an evil being is using his body to destroy worlds and kill people. If he killed himself, a lot of people's lives would be saved and other people, who were trapped in whatever horrifying nightmare Glory created for them would have their sanity restored. But he doesn't do anything, except quibble over how Glory's possession of him is ruining his life and the career he worked so hard to build.
      • For that matter, Dawn could have ended the whole thing in the exact same way - by killing herself. Of course, she's fourteen, so it's much more understandable that she didn't.
        • We also expect children to take moral guidance from their adult guardians and role models when facing doubtful situations, and all of them had already chosen 'Dawn stays alive, even if that means risking the entire world' as their course of action, so Dawn can hardly be faulted for agreeing with them.
        • Dawn also has very little opportunity to kill herself after being captured by Glory—in the one scene where she is left alone for any length of time, there's nothing lying around nearby she could do the job with, and several guards immediately outside the door in a position to intervene the instant they hear anything suspicious. Even at the very end, at the top of the tower, Dawn would have to physically force her way past Buffy in order to die in Buffy's stead. Which is pretty much the Platonic Ideal of "impossible", given that doing so would require an untrained, physically normal fourteen-year-old girl to defeat the Slayer in hand-to-hand combat.
        • At the denouement Dawn actually tries to throw herself off the tower, and is physically restrained by Buffy from doing so. She then verbally pleads with Buffy to be allowed to sacrifice herself and save everyone else, only for Buffy to insist on doing it herself and then jump.
      • Ultimately, Ben chooses to not only avoid dying, but to actively side with Glory, in the final episode. At this point Ben's death is well-deserved, although admittedly Giles did not know this at the time he made his decision to kill Ben.
    • Another Buffy example in "Gone", where a social worker sent to look after Dawn sees legitimately suspicious activity. Buffy, who has turned invisible, sets things up to make it look like the social worker is insane in a way which could easily get her fired or sent to a mental institution. This is portrayed as a comedy routine and we are apparently supposed to feel sympathy with Buffy harassing an innocent person merely because she's frustrating a main character.
      • There is also the fact that the Scoobies do not know if Dawn is still the Key, and therefore have a compelling need to keep the girl who can possibly be used to end the world in their custody regardless of legal technicalities. And of course, there's no way they can possibly explain this to Social Services.
    • Spike and Harmony are quite sympathetic in the latter series, mainly because they are both so ineffective as to be laughable, and because Spike is such a martyr for love. Meanwhile, Harmony is killing a whole bunch of people while Spike is completely unrepentant and cares so little for other's welfare that he helped a Big Bad bring on the end of the world at least once, and was selling weapons (demon eggs) - the sort which could kill entire cities - to the highest bidder.
    • On the other hand, Buffy spends a lot of time beating up Spike. She may or may not have sexually assaulted him a few times, too, depending on your interpretation. Even if he is a bad guy (and might deserve at least some of it), it's a little jarring to watch and (given how the show never presents any of this as being wrong) feels like the show is advocating domestic violence (possibly even torture) provided it's female on male. And sometimes Buffy does straight out torture vampire mooks. So there's that.
    • Willow's Roaring Rampage of Revenge is forgiven fairly easily, even though (in-universe) it was really just luck and timing which prevented her from bringing about the apocalypse. She also flayed somebody to death.
      • Sorta lampshaded in the final season episode "The Killer In Me". I say "sorta" because it's pointed out by a bad guy who put a hex on her not for almost destroying the world but just because they're jealous.

"She almost destroyed the world! And yet everyone keeps on loving her?"

        • To be fair, if the Scoobies threw out every member they had who'd almost destroyed the world, they'd have to axe at least half their membership. What a bunch, huh?
        • For that matter, at least two members of the Scoobies (Xander and Dawn) openly stated their own willingness to kill Warren, so they're hardly judging Willow by an inconsistent standard. The limits of their concern were largely about what psychological harm the use of black magic to perform murder would have to Willow, Warren's own life was irrelevant to them.
        • Elsewhere on this wiki there is a trope entry itemizing exactly how many members of the Scooby Gang are not guilty of at least one count of murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter. That list is exactly one name long: Dawn Summers. To judge Willow more harshly than they've judged themselves would make them total hypocrites here, so it's actually decent of them not to.
          • Two names: Tara is also innocent. Of course, she's dead by this point.
  • Helena Peabody in the 2nd season of The L Word had a strong social conscience. She cared a lot about the plight of poverty stricken families and donated a lot of money, both money from the company she inherited and her own money, to good causes. However she manipulated Tina and Bette so was a villain. Similarly when she mentioned to her - admittedly also very charitable - mother Peggy Peabody that she had been a neglectful mother and Peggy responded by mocking her we are encouraged to support Peggy who was always nice to Bette.
    • Also we are encouraged to dislike Helena for dating other women while with Tina even though she only did this after Tina cheated on her with Bette
  • The iCarly trio have done things just as bad as the 'villains' of various episodes have done. In one specific episode, the villain is a bully, who does the exact same thing that Sam has done and continues to do so long after the bully is defeated, with the only difference being that the villain picked on Carly. The bully insulted the trio and pushed Carly away, so she's apparently a big jerk who needs to be put in her place. Sam beats Freddie with a racket, throws him out of a tree house, and then slams onto him because he has a different opinion to everyone, and a season or two later, the two are dating.
  • Ally McBeal cheats on her boyfriend Gregg then decides to win him back by hiring a male model to be her pretend date to make said boyfriend jealous. When her boyfriend ends things with the woman he was dating to get back with her Ally then decides she prefers the hired model so doesn't want Gregg. If a man had cheated on Ally, schemed to break up her new relationship then dumped her once the new relationship was destroyed he would be a Jerkass deserving of revenge but neither the show or any of Ally's friends show any negative judgment about her behavior.
    • Ally is also the kind of person who purposefully smashed her car into a stranger's car and justified her actions because he had smiled at her and she wanted to meet him.
  • When a character in Cold Feet cheated on their spouse the person they cheated with was always depicted as a villain yet when Karen, one of protagonists, starts an affair with a married man there is nothing negative shown about her behavior or her friend Rachel for encouraging her to pursue the affair
  • Frasier. After Niles dumps his wife days after marrying her to be with Daphne and she says she will only give him a divorce if they pretend to be married for awhile to save embarrassment she is depicted as unreasonable as this ruins Niles and Daphne's - the two people who caused her so much heartbreak - social plans forcing them to make all their romantic plans in their homes rather than in public. The viewers are also supposed to be pleased when Niles further humiliates her by ending their "marriage" by shouting at her that he wanted a divorce in front of her friends at a party. Admittedly she had been embarrassing him and making his life difficult but he'd given her plenty of reason to act that way towards him.
    • The problem with this example is that Niles is shown as genuinely sorry for hurting her, and originally agrees to the charade purely to make it up to her, sincerely hoping to help her avoid embarrassment and feel better. He broke it off with her because he loved Daphne, yes, but also because he realized he wasn't really in love with her and was just repeating his mistake with Maris. It's only when it becomes clear that she's using the agreement to punish him and hurt him as much as possible that he reaches his breaking point. Painting her as merely "embarrassing him and making his life difficult" borders on death eating Niles.
    • Plus, Mel was shown to be jealous, clingy, and manipulative of Niles long before his feelings for Daphne resurfaced. It could be argued that the writers saw this trope coming, and thus deliberately set out to make Mel unsympathetic.
    • Averted in the final season with Charlotte. While its clear the writers wanted to end the series with Frasier having found someone, her boyfriend Frank is still shown as an extremely nice and good hearted guy who is a committed environmentalist. This makes Frasier feel guilty about trying to get between them.
  • Oz from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet series 1 and 2 was a xenophobe who abandoned his wife and child yet, while his behavior was shown as wrong, he was still someone the characters sided with. However when characters like Herr Grimwald or Arthur Pringle were rude or nasty to the main characters they were hate-figures deserving of ridicule and embarrassment.
  • This trope played itself out in Robin Hood to a mind-boggling degree. No matter how much of a Jerkass Robin could be at times, anyone who loved Robin was good, and anyone who hated Robin was evil. The end.
    • That was sadly also true in the earlier and much superior Robin of Sherwood.
      • And, well, the Robin Hood legend in general. The bad guys are the law enforcers, the good guys are the criminals. At best, they're corrupt law enforcers and needlessly principled criminals. However, if there was a historical Robin Hood, he most certainly would not have been that.
  • Inverted irritatingly on Scrubs. No matter how much of a jerkass JD's 'friends' act, he's always in the wrong so he can learn something.
  • Friends. Joey and Ross can have multiple girlfriends and this is fine. Phoebe can date two men at once and the other characters don't criticize her (though one of the men dumped her when he found out) but when Phoebe's boyfriend is overheard having sex with someone else the men rush upstairs to violently assault with the women's full support.
    • Ross at least was dating two women non-exclusively (very common, especially in big cities), and when one woman dated both Ross and Joey non-exclusively she wasn't potrayed as immoral or wrong in any way - exactly like Ross was. So at least they played that the same.
    • Also the guy upstairs thing was less a moral stance and more simply the setup to a joke. The guy upstairs was depicted as extremely charming, getting Phoebe into bed with him even though she originally went upstairs to complain about the noise he was making. (It's implied she was extremely taken with him and even thought they might be in a relationship.) The guys getting angry and storming upstairs isn't so much saying that the guy was objectively wrong for sleeping with another woman, but 1) a bunch of people siding with their friend over anything else, and 2) the punchline to the whole joke setup since the guy proceeds to charm them out of being mad.
  • The later seasons of Charmed just smacks of this. The sisters can steal souls, wipe out free will with the Avatars, and even encourage killing higher ups of Good simply because it suits them.
  • Highlander the Series ran on this trope. Duncan was always right, even when he clearly wasn't.
    • "Comes A Horseman": He ends their friendship when Methos' brutal acts during the Bronze Age come to light. Joe and Richie sensibly point out Values Dissonance and Society Marches On, but MacLeod angrily insists that if it's wrong today, it was still wrong, even though there were few alternatives at the time.
    • "Promises": He owes fellow immortal Kassim a debt of honour for the time when the latter risked his own honour to let MacLeod rescue a friend from his lord. Centuries later, Kassim comes to collect, asking MacLeod to assassinate a tyrannical dictator so he can replace him with a good alternative. MacLeod reluctantly agrees, but at the crucial moment refuses to kill a man from behind, breaking his promise to Kassim and causing the death of the good alternative at the tyrant's hands.
  • Averted in Spaced. Even though the writers intended Tim to end up with Daisy, they were at pains to make Tim's girlfriend Sophie a genuinely nice person who gets caught in the middle; even though we're rooting for Daisy, she's portrayed as viewing Sophie unfairly. Not that it didn't stop fans hating Sophie anyway ...
  • In Vampire Diaries Elena and co are okay with proceeding with Klaus's ritual in which Elena, a vampire and a werewolf have to be sacrificed, once they figure out how to keep her alive. It's only once Klaus decides to use their friends as those vampire and werewolf, that the main characters become worried. Presumably, if he used someone they never knew, they would've been perfectly fine with it...
    • No one seemed to care about Jules actually.
    • In the third season the string of innocent corpses Stefan leaves behind appear to be of interest purely in terms of judging his mental state.
    • Let's not forget the moment in the third season when it is realised that killing an original vampire also wipes out their entire bloodline. Naturally, they want to avoid killing the original responsible for the bloodline of Stefan, Damon and Caroline, because they're Elena's friends. Apparently however, no one is even slightly concerned about the possible hundreds of other vampires that will die if they kill any of the other originals. As far as is obvious, they aren't of concern.
  • Glee has a serious problem with this trope. If a character makes fun of or bullies the Glee Club; they are portrayed as jerks who need to be shown up. Anyone within the club who picks on or mistreats someone else (and there are plenty of instances); it is played for laughs and handwaved. The worst for this is definitely Kurt. He can be as terrible as he wants to anyone (telling a student he smells homeless), but anyone who bullies or insults him is presented as an irredeemable villain. The show is also very forgiving of characters like Quinn and Santana despite the terrible things they've done which are never really acknowledged or condemned in the same way the gay bullying was.
  • Played with and averted on Angel. When launching his campaign of terror against Angel, Holtz is never viewed an outright villain but a noble man who lost his way and became consumed with revenge (he comes off as a sort of opposite side of the coin to Angel, seeking to punish the wicked rather than protect the innocent). The gang views him as a bad guy for kidnapping Connor but only for that. Angel is fully aware that what he did to Holtz was unforgiveable and never tries to justify himself or ask forgiveness. As a result, Holtz becomes a lot more sympathetic than might otherwise have been the case.
    • This trope is also averted and examined in the Season five episode Hell bound in which Spike fears he is being dragged to hell by demons and Angel tells him that they will both suffer in the afterlife. The sheer weight of their crimes is too much to simply be forgotten. It turns out to be something else but it is still an interesting look at the characters who know they're doomed but soldier on anyway because it's the right thing to do.
      • Which really just opens up a can of Fridge Logic as to why they'd think that; their souls weren't in their bodies while they committed those atrocities. While Angel had done some morally questionable things during his century of having a soul, Spike's only major accomplishment was saving the lives of six billion people. If there's a heaven in the Buffy Verse, they should be rolling out the red carpet for him when he bites the big one.
      • Well it was Angel who said it. Its not like he's big on discussing the positive.
      • Indeed. Both Angel and (after he's souled) Spike are pretty much defined by their giant guilt complexes, even if the guilt is not always rational.
      • Angel and Spike directly lampshade their lack of considering themselves as shiny heroes at the end of "Damage"

Spike: The tingling in my forearms tells me that [Dana] is too far gone to stop. She's one of us now. She's a monster.
Angel: She's an innocent victim.
Spike: So were we... once upon a time.
Angel: (sadly) Once upon a time.

  • In Season Six of Supernatural , the Winchesters need Crowley (current ruler of Hell) to help Bobby and Sam, so they kill Alphas (powerful monsters) in order to help Crowley locate Purgatory, which he considers prime real estate, because he is planning to expand hell. Sure, he is much less evil than Lucifer (and possibly quite cuddly), and he regularly uses torture to achieve his ends. How likely is it that he's planning to do anything positive to the souls in Purgatory, let alone anything which benefits the heavenly or earthly spheres? Plus, they are mean to poor old Cas, who is already stressed with his civil war and being hunted by his family. Yet, we are supposed to side with the Winchesters.
  • Brutally averted by Babylon 5, when the protagonists realize that they've been used as pawns in the Shadow-Vorlon conflict long after the Vorlons and Shadows themselves have forgotten why they were fighting in the first place.
  • One of the more glaring flaws in the rejected Wonder Woman pilot from 2011. In this version Diana is a vigilante who brutalizes, tortures, and even kills Mooks in pursuit of her idea of justice—not to mention holding a press conference so she can tell everyone that Elizabeth Hurley's company is evil, admitting that she doesn't have any proof but she just knows that she's right.[3] After rampaging her way through Hurley's company, the episode ends with her getting a standing ovation from her employees and the federal investigator (who just so happens to be her ex-boyfriend) lies to his superiors and tells them that there's no reason to go after Wonder Woman. Is it any wonder this thing didn't get picked up?
  • Victorious does this with Trina. Trina has zero friends and her own parents don't even care about her and we are supposed to believe she deserves this because she often acts like a Spoiled Brat. Yet other characters such as Tori, Jade and even Robbie have done worse things than Trina and we are expected to always be sympathetic toward them.
    • Tori once got jealous that a boy she liked was dating her friend Cat so she she follow the couple and ruined their date. Then she kissed Cat's boyfriend and was probably going to make it a secret had Cat not showing up at the moment. Later she says she's sorry like it wasn't a big deal and gets mad with Cat after she punch her in face.
  • This happens all the time in Little House On the Prairie. In one example, a woman named Kezia is portrayed as the protagonist. She refuses to pay her taxes and has her home sold at auction. When Harriet buys the house, she's portrayed as the antagonist and everyone in town agrees with Kezia's side of the story. No one ever mentions the fact that Kezia should have read her own mail. After all, she works at the post office where she reads everyone else's mail. This is particularly interesting because there is another episode where Harriet is seen as the bad guy for listening in on phone conversations. Kezia does the same thing with mail, but is the good guy.

Music Videos[edit | hide]

  • In Michael Jackson's short film Ghosts, Jackson's hero (referred to in the credits as "Maestro") is a mysterious loner in a mansion who secretly tells children ghost stories and performs magic for them, and when one of them tells the adults of their town ("Normal Valley") about it, their mayor (also Jackson) leads a Torches and Pitchforks mob of the children's parents to run the "freak" out, warning they will hurt him "if we have to." Maestro proceeds to unleash a parade of horrors on the mob (including the kids) that is supposed to be all in good fun, yet climaxes in what amounts to the mayor's magical possession and torture. Maestro then tricks the mob into thinking he's killed himself when the mayor—and only the mayor—demands he leave, and then reappears and sends the mayor running through a window. Though leading an angry mob is an overreaction, it's hard not to sympathize with the mayor for being concerned that a strange person is not only meeting with kids but telling them to keep their meetings secret, and to see Maestro's behavior as unnecessarily cruel. The Reality Subtext of the video (this was after the first round of child molestation allegations against Jackson) makes matters worse. See also this Salon article.
  • Harry Potter: If you pay attention to the books, the narrator describes what happens only in Harry’s perspective. For example: After Colin Creevey has been pestering Harry, the narrator concedes that Draco Malfoy is doing a cruel but accurate interpretation of Colin manipulating a camera.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • A major part of the background in Warhammer 40,000. Almost every book published by the Black Library is Imperial propaganda, and the fluff included in each faction's codex casts them in a good light (with the exception of Chaos and Tyranids, both of which are mostly from Imperial point of view as well, probably because the stars of those books are insane or all devouring cosmic horrors).

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • This is halfway to being the moral system at work in The World Ends With You, and it's the probably only reason for why the Composer is left alive even though you kill plenty of other villains. However, Uzuki and Kariya get to live even after killing Rhyme, indicating that a) being funny gets you a pass as well, b) it's not protagonist centered so much as camera centered, with whoever gets character development surviving, or c) Beat is left out of determining what's moral and what's immoral. (Come to think of it, c) could also explain why Beat and Shiki, who have no connection to the Composer, don't kill him when Neku refuses to do it.)
    • The moral problems from all of that get somewhat less serious when you read the secret reports and realize that erasure isn't actually permanent, but more of a major setback on the road dead souls take. As for Beat and Shiki Joshua paralyzed them so they couldn't do anything.
  • Faldio in Valkyria Chronicles. Because the game skews so heavily toward the Idealistic side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, his capital crime (treason) might as well be meaningless; his real crime in the story is shooting his best friend's girl, even though doing so prevented the wholesale slaughter of the Gallian military. When he kills himself to make up for it at the end of the game, he explains that he deserves to die for thinking power is what wins a war and for betraying his friends. This doesn't really take into the account the thousands of Gallian soldiers who survived that battle did so solely because he made that decision.
    • The game tries to mitigate this with the complete annihilation of the Gallian main army at Ghirlandaio, which means that Faldio's actions were only delaying the inevitable rather than actually saving anyone's lives... except that if he hadn't shot Alicia when he did, Selvaria would have just run roughshod over the army and conquered Gallia by teatime. The real reason the main army was obliterated is because General Damon was an idiot and didn't kill Selvaria when he had the chance, solely because he wanted to take credit for her capture.
      • Just about every character's moral worth can be measured by how well they treat Welkin, Alicia, or any given Darcsen, regardless of what side of the conflict they're on. Since almost every death is an Anviliciously Karmic one, it's not that much of a surprise, but Welkin and Alicia are typically portrayed as paragons of the moral ideal, with everyone around them being degrees of less-good than they are. Characters who fall too short of the main couple's mark often end up with poor fates for no perceivable reason other than they weren't good enough people to deserve a better one.
    • Selvaria herself is a pretty good example. She would be considered far less sympathetic if Alicia weren't a Valkyria too. Her relevance to the main characters vastly eclipses the significance of the thousands and thousands of Gallians she remorselessly kills, and her death is treated as far more tragic than her victims' because of it. The whole issue is illustrated in a single scene: Selvaria is finally captured alive. Once she puts her hands up, one of General Damon's Gallian Mooks hits her in the back of the head with his rifle to knock her out because, as Damon puts it, the only safe way to capture her is if she's unconscious. Welkin and Alicia are just appalled that he would use violence against poor, captured, helpless, slayer-of-countless-Gallians Selvaria. Shortly afterward, Selvaria wastes the military in a nuclear holocaust.
  • This has almost become the entire basis of Touhou, with Designated Heroes that are belligerent, selfish and/or insane, and Designated Villains that are Good All Along. It has reached the point where it is obvious that the only reason the protagonists are considered heroes is because they're protagonists and the only reason anyone is considered a villain is because they are doing something the protagonists don't like. This is no more evident than in Undefined Fantastic Object, in which a group of youkai are pursued and attacked because they are attempting to release their friend from her millennium of imprisonment, and when said friend is released she is attacked as well, just because (and that isn't even considering the Fantastic Racism).
    • Of course, it was lampshaded in the very first game, which states Reimu started her "quest" on a whim. This kind of event is rampant in Gensokyo, and most of its inhabitants apparently deliberately choose the hard way because it's more fun to them.
    • Sort of. The few times morality is actually mentioned tend to be... weird. Most characters aren't considered heroes or villains at all. And most of the incidents really were either things that needed solving or things that looked dangerous.
  • Revan from Knights of the Old Republic can be played like this if you get all the Dark Side points in the game for being a massive jerk for the sake of it and then saved the Republic, everyone will ignore all that and you're a hero.
    • Admittedly, most of the Dark Side point opportunities in the game don't exactly leave behind a superabundance of witnesses.
  • Final Fantasy VII. Many people seem to forget that the heroes are actually eco-terrorists who blow up a magical power plant, thereby causing thousands of Gil worth of property damage and killing just about every Mook inside. Let's not forget, either, that Cloud explicitly says he doesn't care about the Planet. He just wants his paycheck. They get better, though.
    • Cait Sith doesn't forget, though, and calls Barret out on it later on. Barret tries to justify it with a "its a war, there are casualties" line, but even he isn't totally convinced by his own yarn.
    • Also, the heroes do at least attack the power plant in the middle of the night, and there's a mention that most of the defenses are automated. They're clearly trying to minimize casualties, at least.
  • This trope was used and addressed by the developers of Brink, with the biggest example being a mission where, as the Resistance, you're trying to safeguard a vaccine from capture by Security forces. The same mission, played from the Security side, is attempting to wrest a lethal bio-weapon from the Resistance. After all, to develop a vaccine, you first need a sample of the virus... Plenty of other examples are given throughout playing both campaigns, which was an intentional design.
  • This gets ridiculous in Sands of Destruction, where you're trying to destroy the world, which is perfectly acceptable. The ferals, most of whom treat humans poorly, are the bad guys, occasionally trying to stop you when you do something they don't like, such as killing their kid and stealing from them.
  • In the Assassin's Creed series, it is shown to be perfectly acceptable, or at least there are no moral implications, to kill every single soldier law enforcer you come across regardless of the need. Be a guard walking down the street? dead. Calmly stand on a rooftop? Dead. You and 3 other friends idly talking? dead. Patrolling on a horse down a street keeping the peace? Dead. Arguably they are portrayed as corrupted and evil, but does that mean every single one has done an offense worthy of death?
  • Tales of Graces: Richard has been possessed and turned into a merciless psycho king. However, because Richard is a friend to the party, they can't just kill him before he ruins or ends anyone else's life. They need to save him!

Visual Novel[edit | hide]

  • In Fate Stay Night, the villain factor of any particular character is for the most part entirely dependent on how antagonistic they are towards the protagonist in that particular route. Rider gets treated sympathetically due to Shirou divining 'she's not a bad person'. In the final storyline she is completely uncaring towards the mass casualties caused by her Master eating people by the hundreds, as long as said master is alive and happy.
    • You get to see things from the perspective of the protagonist, whose hypocrisy is constantly called trough the Visual Novel, though.
  • In the Good ending of Swan Song, Takuma is forgiven and left unpunished for rape, murder, torture, necrophilia, you name it. In the normal ending he is the sole reason for the death of all the earthquake survivors.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Pv P, Max Powers was a parody of this, until the characters actually became friends with him. Although he was really nothing more than a friendly, decent guy (if somewhat self-centered) he was the "villain" of the strip, and Cole's "nemesis." His "crime" was nothing more than being more successful than Cole. Take Cole's Bias Goggles off, and he was nothing more than a Sitcom Arch Nemesis.
  • The protagonists of Kit N Kay Boodle are always right and everything they do is morally righteous and correct behavior, no matter what they're doing to whom, because their motives are supposedly pure and for the greater good. This includes raping someone with the mind of a child, because she's a brat, and framing her lawyers for the crime when they try to rescue her.
  • Miko Miyazaki from The Order of the Stick was intended to be an intentional exploration of this: A Lawful Good paladin and also one of the protagonists' main antagonists. She is shown to be slightly more reasonable as long as none of them are in the room with her. Well, up until the point where she ends up killing an innocent old man over her own misgivings and continues to insist it was all according to some greater plan her gods had for her.
    • Depending on how Meta Fiction you're willing to get, then she did do her exact duty for the only God that matters in her world: Rich Burlew himself has stated that she did EXACTLY as he intended her to do.
  • Lately, YU+ME: dream has this in spades, especially when it comes to Lia. While she was Not Herself sort of when doing all of the terrible things she did, it was a bit jarring to see her have a romantic reunion with Fiona while a child that she killed was still in the background of the scene. There are also no repercussions for her actions besides her feeling bad about it... which doesn't seem to be getting in the way of her life too much.
  • Zii of Ménage à 3 is constantly performing acts that could be considered sex crimes, and spends almost all her time switching between trying to get laid and stopping other people from getting laid. These are portrayed as harmless, happy exploits and every time she seems to go too far such as by seducing an internet troll's mother or a waitress it turns out she was right to do so (the mother's husband was cheating on her and she gave her the confidence to divorce him, the waitress was sexually unsatisfied by her boyfriend). Even the other roommates who she's devoted to sexually manipulating don't seem bothered by her.
  • As someone over at the BadWebcomicsWiki put it, Sabrina Online's Zig Zag is able to do whatever she wants whenever she wants to whomever she wants with little to no consequence, from sexually harassing an employee to threatening said employee's boyfriend to stalking, harassing, and physically assaulting people for saying mean things about her on the internet.
  • In Least I Could Do, protagonist Rayne gets away with being insanely rude, selfish, insulting, etc. because, well, it's him. In earlier strips his friends would give back about as good as they got, but in more recent years Rayne is the only one allowed to look good in the end. The modus operandi of late involves Rayne doing something mean or selfish to his friends for 90% of the storyline, then taking the last 10% to do something that magically makes everyone forgive him, whether it's honestly nice or just him cleaning up the mess he got them into in the first place. Not helping matters at all is the fact that Rayne is pretty well an Author Avatar for Ryan Sohmer.
    • The (rare) occasions when Rayne is actually called on his behaviour, and still the story goes out of its way to portray him as a good character, are particularly blatant. Usually, it's just a girl that complains about his jerk behaviour, but we never get to see anyone being genuinely upset at him. This usually goes as follows: Rayne says or does something insensitive, often when he is in a position of power (e.g. he's the boss), the person (usually attractive woman) complains about that, Rayne says something funny, the person is obviously more amused than angry now (judging by the wry smile - it's pretty much always a wry smile). One of the more extreme examples is this, however: at one point in the comic, Rayne finds a homeless orphan and starts using him as an ill-defined personal assistant/slave/plaything, often verging on abuse at the very least. At one point, he gets called out on it. His reaction is one of indignation, and he points out how he is saving the kid from a life on the street, and how he is actually the child's legal guardian. The accuser (an attractive woman, of course) backs down, saying something to the effect "I'm sorry for assuming the worst". The comic (and the accuser) completely ignores/forgets that such behaviour towards someone entirely dependent on you is still very much abusive, and the fact that you're paying money for someone's living doesn't render their basic dignity moot. If anything, the boy is in no position to protest for fear that he might actually have nothing to eat if he gets kicked out. Arguably, switching from the usual Comedic Sociopathy to a weak attempt at treating the situation realistic and justifying Rayne's behaviour makes it worse, by claiming the situation is a-OK rather than dismissing it as a comedic, unrealistic situation.
      • Notably, "holding someone's livelihood over their head to make sure they stay loyal to you no matter what you demand over them" also arguably applies to Ryan Sohmer and his relationship with the current artist of the strip, who was homeless before Sohmer started paying him to draw the comic.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • One interpretation of Captain Hammer (the one that most people in-story believe, and most viewers refuse to believe) in Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog is that he really is a hero and didn't, on average, deserve a comeuppance (and wasn't really any worse than a lot of other heroes except from the point of view of Doctor Horrible).
    • Supplemental material shows that Captain Hammer has done worse things then what he shows in the movie, and his super-heroics are often shown as reckless (he stops a remote-controlled car at one point by removing the controller and letting it drive off out of control, and doesn't capture Dr. Horrible so he can continue taunting him). That said, in the original story itself, Hammer is just a Jerkass, yet his comeuppance is self-inflicted and relatively minor, more befitting a Jerk Jock than a supervillain. Revealing himself to be a coward in front of a crowd of people he was just boasting to seems like it would affect him more than the death of a girl he was only sleeping with as a form of revenge. His actions over the story seem to imply he was a superhero for all the wrong reasons (Glory, status, chicks...) and now he's lost it all. That said, many folks call Angst Dissonance on this ending.
  • Dominic Deegan


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • On The Fairly OddParents, Mark Chang is considered a good guy after he becomes Timmy's friend (so he can hide out on Earth). He never shows any remorse for his actions, and indeed seems quite content in a later episode to let the Earth get destroyed when he can easily save it. He has gotten better though.
    • A milder version can be seen in the episode "The Grass is always Greener". Timmy runs away to the circus and wishes he was the greatest performer in the world. All the other carnies become jealous of Timmy stealing their talents, although the pinman is happy to put up with it - until Timmy steals his talent. Granted, this is a subversion because it was all a Massive Multiplayer Scam to convince Timmy to go back to his parents.
  • Applied in a big way in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 cartoon, as noted most obviously in the turtles' treatment of Karai, Hun, and the Shredder. While all three characters have led crime syndicates and have ruined countless off-screen lives, the turtles' treatment of them varies wildly. The Shredder, as Hamato Yoshi's killer, becomes a kill-on-sight villain whenever he threatens the world. Hun, who is openly antagonistic against the turtles but has yet to do any real damage, is dealt with ambivalence—if he's killed, fine, but they won't go out of their way to do so. On the other hand, sometimes-ally Karai—who has tried to kill the turtles on more than one occasion and was perfectly willing to allow her father to commit interstellar genocide—wound up being invited to April and Casey's wedding after her help defeating an even bigger bad. Combined with the fact that "stopping the bad guys" sometimes means "committing genocide", it's hard not to conclude the the turtles, although unquestionably heroic at times, have also committed plenty of actions that would make people go "what the hell, hero?"
  • Aeon Flux deconstructs this constantly. The pilot starts out as a normal "Superspy slaughters mooks" sequence, then slowly shifts its focus to the final thoughts and experiences of several drugged, bleeding guards dying on the floor. The episode "War" goes through no less than four protagonists in a matter of minutes.
  • The Powerpuff Girls are often just as destructive as the villains they fight, which is almost never acknowledged because, well, they're the Powerpuff Girls. It is also hinted at times that the girls could potentially be a danger to the city of Townsville if pissed off, but again, this is seldom acknowledged by the Mayor, the Professor, or anyone else.
    • This actually is averted in one episode, when the Professor and the Girls move to the town of Citysville which is far more like a real city than where they had came. While there, they manage to foil bank robbers from escaping by blowing up the bridge they were about to cross with their eye lasers. Instead of being praised like they would be in Townsville, the mayor there chews them out for their extreme course of action, and points out they could have just stopped the robbers by using their flight and super strength to stop them without costing the town a countless amount of dollars.
    • And again in another episode where the Professor forces them to use a giant battle mecha to fight a giant pufferfish monster, the fight totally destroys Townsville, but instead of overlooking the destruction like they usually do the whole town yells at them and demands they never use the robot again. Realising what they did the girls shift the blame onto their maker, who has the decency to be rendered speechless and leave under the towns' collective glares.
    • Also given one helluva Lampshade Hanging in the origin movie, where the girls' first flight through Townsville causes mass destruction and makes the populace terrified of them. After they stop the villains, the townsfolk decide that they're probably a better option than leaving the Kaiju unchecked.
      • Besides, the girls were relatively young at that point and only then realized what destruction they were causing. From then on they tried to be better about property damage.
    • They have Hero Insurance.
    • They also beat the shit out of an innocent clown.
      • Said clown had taken the color out Townsville. It doesn't matter if he'd been covered in bleach and that he was sorry. Being sorry does not automatically make it okay.
      • The only problem with this is that the clown was clearly not acting out of his own malicious intentions and that it was the result of a freak accident. It's what made the end of that episode so jarring to watch even to younger viewers.
      • The clown had also reverted and was no longer a threat when they beat him up.
      • Not to mention Rainbow once appeared as a guest at the girl's birthday party and seemed totally normal, further indicating it was the bleach that corrupted him, proving that Rainbow himself is not dangerous.
        • Which all probably ignores that the Powerpuff Girls beating him up even though it wasn't really his fault, he was harmless, and he apologized, was meant as humorous. The PPG are supposed to look like violent jerks in that episode... and probably in most other episodes where people complain of this trope. It's not that their general destructive tendencies are brushed over, ignored, or condoned, it's that these are meant to be part of the series' humor. Anyone who doesn't get this is clearly Completely Missing the Point.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has this in spades. We are constantly supposed to side with Spongebob and Patrick over other people, such as in the "Bubble Buddy" episode where we're supposed to sympathise with Spongebob because people want to pop his "friend", despite them doing nothing but cause trouble the entire episode (such as keeping a very large amount of people waiting two hours to use the bathroom because Bubble Buddy was "using it" and making an unreasonably complicated order at the Krusty Krab).
    • Bubble Buddy actually let a fish die. At least in the Mob's case, they didn't know Bubble Buddy was alive.
      • Pretty sure we were supposed to side against Spongebob then. Spongebob parodies cliches such as epic speeches or t.v. all the time. In later seasons Spongebob does things that are clearly reprehensible and it's played for laughs.
    • Essentially, in the series as a whole, anyone whose species is a simple fish is liable to die with nary a concern from the main cast.
  • There are some episodes in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic where we're really meant to side with the Mane Cast when they're being just as big jerks (or even worse) as the antagonists. This is especially prevalent whenever we have snooty, upper-cruft ponies, compared to our lovable protagonists... who proceed to completely ruin the former's social event because they can't be arsed to learn anything about such events, including respecting them enough as to not crash their party.
    • In defense of their behavior at the Grand Galloping Gala, they were not only specifically invited but the hostess invited them (admittedly, without telling them) with the specific intent of having their usual antics upset the party for her own amusement. You cannot fairly criticize people for arriving at a party with an express invitation and then behaving precisely as their hostess wanted them to act. (You can, however, fault Princess Celestia with her apparent desire to pull a practical joke on every guest except the Mane Six, in addition to not telling the Mane Six that their actual purpose of being invited is to use them to set up a prank on someone else.)
    • Prevalent in Boast Busters, where Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack take issue with Trixie's magic show and boasting, despite all three doing plenty of boasting themselves and begin heckling her for little if any reason. By the end of the episode Trixie's home and possessions are destroyed by an Ursa Minor and the main culprits of the bear being brought there, Snips and Snails get mustaches as 'punishment'.
      • In point of fact they weren't 'heckling' Trixie; they were standing at the back of the crowd and talking amongst themselves about how unimpressed they were with her act. The only reason Trixie heard them in the first place is because Rainbow Dash forgot to use her indoor voice, but that was not intended. (We have seen what happens when Rainbow Dash deliberately intends to be confrontational—its not only far louder, its done at much closer range.)
    • Granted Rainbow Dash at least Lampshades this on her part, and in the end, Trixie is humiliated (indirectly) by the far more humble acting Twilight Sparkle.

Rainbow Dash: There's no need to show off like that; that's my job.

    • Also, Trixie's reaction to the 'heckling' is to throw out an open challenge to the audience that anything they could do she could do better (which means from that point on anything that anyone does to try and show Trixie up is entirely justified, as its being done at Trixie's express invitation), and then changes the rules of each contest halfway through so that Trixie always wins. So regardless of how the Mane Six behaved the final catastrophe is Trixie's fault—she not only chose to escalate a minor conflict out of all proportion when all she had to to defuse said conflict was nothing, she then doubled-down on bad behavior by cheating. At this point Trixie's pretty much just eating her own bad karma, even if her opponents were not perfect saints.
  • Eric Cartman combines this trope with Self-Serving Memory, being convinced that he's always right and therefore anyone who disagrees with him is always wrong. The "Coon and Friends" multi-parter illustrates this perfectly; Cartman joins forces with freaking Cthulhu, gets him to kill hippies and Justin Beiber, and is still convinced that he's a superhero and his friends (who refused to go along with this) are villains and assholes. Mysterion (Kenny) calls him out on this, saying that the only "world" he's making better is his own, by attacking anyone who doesn't march in lock-step with his worldview.
  1. who has all the same memories as the original, and on a spiritual level counts as the same person (killing him kills Kami too)
  2. even if it seems to be just as linked to Kami-sama as the previous incarnation was
  3. We call that "slander" in the real world, honey