Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Working Title: Henchmen Arent People: From YKTTW

Tetris (who hasn't signed up to Troperville yet) thinks that today's (12 May) Dilbert strip would make an excellent image for this trope. I'm afraid you'll have to look it up yourself as the page script won't let me link to it. Wally is trying to recruit Asok as a henchman. Asok asks what a henchman does. "A henchman's job is to be gunned down in reverse order of importance", Wally explains. "How important am I?" says Asok? Wally replies that he shouldn't bother to pack a lunchbox for orientation day.

Korval: Removing this:

  • The film adaptation of Daredevil is guilty of this. Our hero, Matt Murdock AKA Daredevil is more than willing to kill random hoods guilty of lower crimes (and in fact, goes out of his way to hunt them down), but managed to avoid jailtime. Near the end of the movie, he kills the hitman who supposedly killed his lover while the guy is helpless and begging for mercy. (Okay, he doesn't die, but that's just luck.) However, at the very end of the movie, he has the Big Bad at his mercy. The Big Bad A: Murdered his father, B: Ordered the murder of his lover, C: Had enough pull and resources to potentially beat the rap, and D: knew his secret identity. Of course, Daredevil simply lets him live, because he, Matt, is "not the bad guy". Like other times heroes have killed, it's arguable that actually killing him in this case would be an execution, not actual self-defense, and as he mused, "Go ahead, tell the guys at Rikers you got beat by a blind man,"... but still, he's the goddamn Kingpin; point C remains unrefuted.

That's Character Development. In the beginning of the movie, he had no moral compass. He just executed people he thought were guilty. Children fled from his presence, and he as an all-around jackass. He eventually decided to adopt Thou Shalt Not Kill. Yes, the movie was rather ham-fisted about this, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there.

OK, I moved all the relevant examples from What Measure Is a Non-Human? here and edited that page to be more specifically about non-humans. Anyone want to take care of the Moral Dissonance examples?

Some Guy: Done.

TTD: Thank you! (Organizes them into categories...)

Air Of Mystery: So, a bunch of orcs are "known" to be evil but a bunch of stormtroopers, who let us not forget are basically space-nazis, are innocent? Despite both they and their clone counterparts attempting to kill the heroes dozens of times, not to mention casually blowing up a planet? (Some stormtroopers are admittedly conscripted, but still...) Oh, and I'd question the validity of the "families of the henchmen" defence, as having a family doesn't automatically make you a good person - organised crime people have families and they do all kinds of horrible things.

Caswin: Regarding Justice League. When, at any point in the show, do "non-speaking villains" get "slaughtered"? And... I don't even understand the reference to the "Savage Time" episode. They didn't hold back against anyone, period, whether soldier or Savage himself.

Caswin: Ding. It sounds like someone wasn't paying attention.

Dangermike: Removed "*** Scarily Truth in Television, especially if you're unfortunate enough to be living in the UK and work for certain companies... Thank goodness said invaders are all too scrawny to complete even a day's worth of martial arts training and have to resort to shoddily constructed IEDs." ...Unless the real life example covers someone who intentionally killed only low-level employees but had the opportunity to kill a boss or owner and chose not to, it's not this trope. Failing to kill someone you can't get to or who isn't present isn't WMIAM. And an IED is usually targeted at "whoever is near it at the time", not a specific person. Random killing is by definition random, a bomb doesn't know who it's blowing up.

Danel: I cut the Buffy example and brought it here, since there's a hell of a lot of semi-reasonable conversation on it that should be discussed here:

  • The fifth season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes a big deal of Buffy's refusal to take human life — but only two episodes before she killed over half a dozen of the Knights of Byzantium (with the Knights' general explicitly referring to the fight as having left eight of his men dead), including throwing an axe into one man's chest. No other character makes any mention of Buffy's killing spree. She was admittedly a little stressed at the time and determined to protect her sister above all else, but yeesh.
    • Buffy might have been less inclined to spare Ben if she'd known how he betrayed Dawn to Glory earlier.
    • Heightening this to outright Moral Dissonance in Season Six, Buffy gets all hot and bothered over Willow going all Psycho Lesbian to kill the very very guilty Warren, declaring that its the place of the justice system to decide. Long story short, Buffy can't seem to decide if Humans Are Special or if it's just the "innocent" ones.
      • Although the episode does go a bit out of its way to have several hero characters, including perpetual innocent (at that point, anyway) Dawn, comment that Warren got exactly what he deserved; their concerns were entirely the effect that the vigilante actions would have on the already junkie-like Willow.
      • Refer to the Jedi example - it's not what you do, it's why you're doing it. Slaughtering your way to the target is fine, deliberate vegeance is dangerous.
      • and lets not forget the episodes in earlier seasons, where Buffy showed zero hesitation in using leathal force on human beings on several occascions.
      • to be fair, killing someone in the heat of battle is very different from killing someone at your mercy in cold blood.

As some of the arguments point out, in the example of the Knights of Byzantium she is desperately trying to defend her little sister against fanatics trying to kill them both. Ben, by contrast is both helpless, (as far as she knows) innocent, and also something of a friend. He's not the Big Bad (he just turns into her occasionally). Thoughts?

Also, there seem to be a number of examples here of another trope entirely - the main description seems to be that the Hero slaughters nameless mooks with no hesitation, but considers their named boss to be worthy of sparing. There are a bunch of examples here where the complaint is that the mooks are evil at all, not even Punch Clock Villains; they are innocent dupes, or out-and-out brainwashed. This seems to be a different trope, and in any case some of the examples should be purged of their extreme stupidity: particular noticeable in the Eragon example, which seems to suggest that since the evil armies of the Big Bad were essentially conscripted against their will, the rebels should... what? Lie down and let themselves be killed?

  • Most objections or examples here, especially the Eragon "examples", are mainly flawed however when one stops to consider the stakes of most of these series. Eragon or Deus Ex being the most obvious examples, or Star Wars. When your entire world is being dominated and plundered, or even worse your entire galaxy in the case of the Galactic Empire, by some sociopathic monster of a king or emperor or whatever...why should you care about his minions? What right do they have to live when they're most likely actively preventing the downfall of a tyrant? Even if they're not truly evil, just stupid or enslaved, they're still directly responsible for what has happened in many ways...for the Eragon example, even if they're slaves they still choose, for all practical purposes, to do what the Emperor says. They could rebel, like the resistance does, and show the courage to risk their lives but instead they chose to serve either out of craven fear or simple greed (you can't believe every single one, even the officers, are slaves!) and so every time The Empire sacks a village, or starts some pogrom, then yes it is most certainly their fault as much as the Emperor. He's evil, they're just blind and stupid. No one has ever wept over the SS troopers who only wanted to make their mommy proud by joining the Nazis, because every one that died brought the world closer to the death of Hitler, a man who would have—and did—kill tens of millions without a second thought. The measure of a mook, then, is irrelevent unless or until they do something other than serve the Empire of Darkness or whatever.
    • The Eragon troops aren't serving an Emperor, they're serving a king, KING Galbatriox of the EMPIRE(blame the author of the book and read the literature entry for it). If your side had horrible monsters that most likely dealt with deserters I'd bet you'd stay in line and sing the praises of the King of the Empire. Also there wouldn't be a draft if there weren't any members of the resistance killing the King's troops in the first place! See Offstage Villainy for more. About the SS: I'm betting the mothers that they wanted to make proud shed alot of tears over their sons who were fooled into thinking what they were doing was right, but they aren't people are they? Just numbers, which is part of what this trope is about. The other part is that they LET THE BAD GUY GO or RISK THEIR LIVES TO REDEEM HIM AFTER KILLING 10,000 OF HIS TROOPS THAT HE SET IN MOTION IN THE FIRST PLACE WITHOUT A MOMENT'S PAUSE OR REGRET OF ANY KIND JUST BECAUSE THEY KNOW HIS DAMN NAME. Darth freaking Vader got redeemed to Force Ghost and Luke made an attempt to save his life after massacring people by the truckload and neck crushing others, but the guy who joined the Imperial army because he wants a steady job and three meals a day while upholding the law? Nope, lightsaber to the neck while heroic music blares.
    • That's asinine. By your logic then we should have never fought backa gainst Hitler, or any other dictator in history, because some mother somewhere may be upset. Again, this is completely pointless as an argument: these people don't matter, unless or until they do something to prove they matter, and serving the Empire of Evil or whatever is not that. So no they aren't people, they're monsters who are helping a monster murder, pillage and rape and I'm sure they think they're doing the right thing, but they're still monsters and at best they're stupid, at worst they know what they're doing but don't care. You're not even taking into acount how many people those "poor men" who need "steady jobs" have many villages they put to the sword, how many women and children they murdered. And more so, if they just want a "steady job" that makes it even worse because that means they're serving evil not out of fear or ignorance, but out of pure greed and that they don't care about the people who die so they can make money. That makes them, at best, mercenaries. Either way you're not changing anything with this argument: their lives are, indeed, meaningless unless they show some reason to give them meaning. So far all they've done is attack people who showed defiance to the Emperor (or King, in this case) and helping him with his acts of wanton cruelty and murder. Remember he came to power because he executed the other people who kept peace in the world before him...even Hitler had the courage to actually be elected legitimately, this guy just killed anyone who stood in his way. And these "poor men" helped him, most likely, or stood by doing nothing. So again, the measure of a mook is irrelevent, unless or until they show some reason why their lives mean more than human freedom. By the way we executed rank and file SS soldiers for working in Death Camps, just as a steady job...but I'm sure their mothers were upset right?

Caswin: It may have been deleted from the main page, but...

  • Subverted in real-time chat MST sessions of bad fanfiction attended by this troper: a running gag is making up "guard backstories" for cannon-fodder mooks slaughtered by the good guys.

I still want to know. Where can I find these MST sessions?

Raekuul: Pulled most of this off of the main page:
  • In Eldest Eragon does some angsting after killing rabbits to eat them and resolves not to eat meat anymore because it involves killing living things. (Let's not start on the Fridge Logic of a young man raised as a medieval peasant being squeamish about dead animals.) This does not prevent him from later in the book massacring enemy Mooks in a borderline Ax-Crazy manner, even after the opening to Eragon establishes that most of these mooks just got picked up by the draft, and some may even be from his home town. Nor does it stop him from draining the life from small animals to replenish his magical energy just so his brother can fight better in the beginning of Brisingr.
    • While Eragon's killing sprees were quite justifiable in the early series, they've begun to cross the Moral Event Horizon more and more the closer Eragon gets to becoming a Physical God. By the time of Eldest, Eragon can sense most mooks walking toward him more than half an hour before they can even see him and has enough magical power to turn himself invisible and wait for them to pass. Yet this doesn't stop him from sacrificing innocent slaves for the sake of convenience or killing an unarmed soldier, who was, frankly, just working for an Empire that is explicitly stated to make most of its population happy. Eragon has been known to angst about the lives he's taken, but these moments are few and far between when compared to how often he attempts to justify it.
      • All of the actions you've described were needed. Eragon had no way of attacking the Ra'zac without sacrificing the slaves, but he does note that no further slave will die. Eragon also only drained the lives of the animals in order to survive and help his cousin survive, and he felt like puking just from killing shrubs. As for the mooks, in war conditions, they can not afford to let anyone go, no matter what. They were unable to hide at the time due to extenuating circumstances, but they did the best they could.
      • Did the best they could? Eragon can TURN INVISIBLE. Why did he even bother facing them at all? In fact, there was a number of ways Eragon could've dealt with the unarmed guard: erase his memory, take him as a prisoner, etc. Hell, the LEAST he could've done was snuff out his life instantly instead of STRANGLING him to death like a Complete Monster.
      • Raekuul would like to point out that it may or may not have been established that the Ra'Zac can smell humans; even if Eragon could sneak past the guard invisible, the Ra'Zac would likely notice him anyway, the guard would be alerted... someone would have died anyway. I don't like it, but hey: not my book, not my call.