Created By: neoYTPismMay 10, 2011 Last Edited By: Psi001October 1, 2013
Troped

Rightly Self Righteous

An egotist that really IS holier than thou.

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Trope

Do We Have This One... oh and I am open to title suggestions.

So let's say we have a character who comes across as extremely self-righteous, touting his or her moral standing as above that of most others. Surely someone so self-righteous ought to just be projecting his or her evil onto everyone else, right? Surely if we look closely enough we could find out that this character is a hypocrite of some sort...

WRONG!

No, this character sees himself or herself morally superior because he or she actually IS. Such portrayals do not require the good-does-not-call-itself-good approach either; to the contrary, it requires good to be blunt about it, because Good Is Not Nice, and if others do not like this Brutal Honesty, it must be because the moral fallings of others reduce their appreciation for it.

Basically, the Rightly Self Righteous are to morality as the Insufferable Genius is to intelligence.

Truth In Television, but it might be an idea to focus on fictional examples for now.

If there's a race who hold this trait, it's Cant Argue With Elves. Compare Well Excuse Me Princess. Multiple Closer To Earth relationships are conveyed this way. They are often snarky, condescending and in some cases outright abusive to their spouse, all while usually completely convinced they are patient and enduring people, though it's very often justified by the latter's completely imbecilic behavior proving their downfall as they so accurately predicted.

Can sometimes lean as a Designated Hero if their pompousness becomes truly insufferable, or even does have hypocritical shades that usually go unnoticed. Can also overlap into Jerkass Has A Point.

In most cases, no matter how consistent they are to this trope, you can expect them to fall off their high horse at least once. After all there's only so long stories can go without Breaking The Haughty.

Contrast Small Name Big Ego, Know Nothing Know It All and Hypocrite for characters who similarly believe they are a bastion of goodness, but are usually just full of hot air (naturally it is possible for examples to merge into these cases however, especially if they are badly written).

Anime

  • Misty of early episodes of the Pokemon was often haughty, belittling and temperamental to Ash, however since the latter was an arrogant newcomer who wrecked her bike, she was often proven right to question his competence as a trainer. Occasional Days In The Limelight knocked her off her pedestal however, especially as Ash became less of an Idiot Hero.

Film

  • Lancelot in Camelot (1967). He is insufferably arrogant about his purity (as shown in his I Am Song "C'est Moi" below), but he really is that pure: his prayer to raise a slain knight from the dead is granted.
    The soul of a knight should be a thing remarkable, his heart and his mind as pure as morning dew. With a will and a self-restraint that's the envy of ev'ry saint, he could easily work a miracle or two. To love and desire he ought to be unsparkable, the ways of the flesh should offer no allure. But where in the world, is there in the world a man so untouched and pure? C'est moi!
  • Mary Poppins qualifies, I think. She is, "practically perfect in every way". The film version of Mary is even nicer then the novel version.
[Mary Poppins measures herself with her tape measure and reads what it says]
Mary Poppins: As I expected. "Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way."

Live Action TV

  • Carla of Scrubs who can be demanding, belittling and short fused, especially to her boyfriend, Turk, but this is usually represented as mandatory given he and most of the other staff at Sacred Hearts hospital are deranged overgrown children in charge of the serious ill. This can border a somewhat erroneous case at times, to the point that if it weren't for a random bout of Compressed Vices to destroy Turk's argument, Carla would arguably lean more as a Never My Fault Control Freak.

Tabletop Games

  • Nearly everyone in the Inquisition of Warhammer 40 K is, by today's standards, a raging fundamentalist convinced of the righteousness of his/her path and would rather burn entire worlds than see them fall to heresy. The thing is, they're right: death is much preferable to falling victim to Chaos (and more to the point, corpses can't serve Chaos). Inverted, however, in that there are those desperate enough to use the weapons of Chaos against it (psykers, Demonic Possession) which are shunned by the hpart of the Inquisition that thinks it heretical. So in between the petty infighting and Inquisitors going rogue every other week, the only thing preventing Chaos from taking over is that they're just as disorganized and prone to getting in each other's way.

Video Games

  • Princess Sally Acorn of Sonic The Hedgehog medias was originally portrayed as such, somewhat pompous and condescending to Sonic's attitude and acting as a rivalistic By The Book Cop. In most cases however her strategy is proven to be right and has to bail Sonic out of a stunt gone wrong. In later medias she is more mellowed out, though still has shades of this due to being a snarky Straight Man.
    • Sonic himself often has shades of this when lacking Sally as a foil. Rivals such as Knuckles and Antoine are quick to point out his egotism and recklessness, and are often driven crazy by his mockery of them, but usually end up outshone due to his Ace level stealth, power and competence.

Western Animation

  • Lisa Simpson of The Simpsons is a neurotic Soapbox Sadie who constantly looks down at her family and the civilians that surround her. Of course since she is child prodigy and rare bastion of virtue, while her family is biologically retarded and Springfield genuinely is a Crapsack World, she is often proved to be justified. There are times however, her pompousness costs her or she is made to admit she is Not So Different.
  • Duck from Thomas The Tank Engine boasts about his Great Western heritage, much to the annoyance of the rude and arrogant engines like Gordon, Henry, and James. However, as he puts it, "The Great Western Way" implicates that he's a reliable engine who works hard and gets the job done without any complaints.
    • Some other engines are occasionally conveyed this way, eg. Fergus, Toby, Donald and Douglas. They can often be smug and heckling to the other engines, but are competent hard workers and usually any attempts to ignore or belittle them only led to a karmic accident or humiliation. Usually avoided in later episodes, where each engine gets their shortcomings and arrogant moments spotlighted equally, with most of said characters being put Out Of Focus or altered completely personality wise (Toby, far from this role, is now a Shrinking Violet who usually underestimates his worth).
  • Played with for Twilight Sparkle and Applejack in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. While they are often The Straight Man, and rather openly aware of it, the instances they start to get rather arrogant about it are usually a sign they'll prove to be Not So Above It All.
  • Hayley of American Dad despite being created as a hypocritical left wing foil to Stan, often proves to have a far less destructive zeal and usually takes the role of the family's Straight Man.
    • For that matter, it's not rare to see the female leads of most of Seth Macfarlene's works to be portrayed as such, to the point of outright Jerkass Designated Hero territory. Lois Griffin of Family Guy and Donna of The Cleveland Show are prime examples.
  • Kyle of South Park has an overly preachy and temperamental attitude and his hatred of Cartman reaches obsessively petty and borderline Knight Templar territory. Most of the time however, Cartman, and to an extent the whole town is completely immoral and deluded enough to earn Kyle's contempt and the majority of time things go haywire as a result of ignoring or hindering him.
Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • May 10, 2011
    ginsengaddict
    I cannot think of a single example of this. I'm sure they exist, but it doesn't seem likely that this trope would be used very often, because self-righteous characters are usually the ones that the audience like to see made fun of, because it's the commonly held conception that morality is completely subjective, and anyone who forces their own morality on others is severely misguided at best.

    Insufferable Genius is easier, because intelligence is undeniable when it's displayed, even if the character isn't very likable. Morality is a bit iffy.

    Based on that, I'm not sure this is tropeable. But I will try to find examples.
  • May 10, 2011
    neoYTPism
    The Calvin And Hobbes one is a pretty obvious example. And the Batman one... meh, he does not verbally express his self-riteousness much, but his strict adherence to Thou Shalt Not Kill comes across as expressing it through actions.

    In any case, please don't go out of your way trying to find examples if you think they are rare. This is more so for users who already know examples and could recall them upon seeing the concept mentioned.
  • May 10, 2011
    ginsengaddict
    I think the trope is interesting enough to warrant keeping an eye out for it. Beyond the two that you have, I think most applications will be similar to the Batman example, with character not verbally expressing their morals, just adhering to them, much to the annoyance of other characters.
  • May 10, 2011
    neoYTPism
    I don't think Batman even avoids verbally expressing his morals; he states earlier in the movie that he has "one rule." It's not that his actions are his only way of "expressing" his self-righteousness, just that they communicate it a bit more bluntly than his words do.
  • May 11, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • Lancelot in Camelot (1967). He is insufferably arrogant about his purity (as shown in his I Am Song "C'est Moi" below), but he really is that pure: his prayer to raise a slain knight from the dead is granted.
      The soul of a knight should be a thing remarkable, his heart and his mind as pure as morning dew. With a will and a self-restraint that's the envy of ev'ry saint, he could easily work a miracle or two. To love and desire he ought to be unsparkable, the ways of the flesh should offer no allure. But where in the world, is there in the world a man so untouched and pure? C'est moi!
  • May 11, 2011
    Fanra
    Mary Poppins qualifies, I think. She is, "practically perfect in every way". The film version of Mary is even nicer then the novel version.

    [Mary Poppins measures herself with her tape measure and reads what it says]
    Mary Poppins: As I expected. "Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way."
  • March 28, 2013
    313Bluestreak
    • Duck from Thomas The Tank Engine boasts about his Great Western heritage, much to the annoyance of the rude and arrogant engines like Gordon, Henry, and James. However, as he puts it, "The Great Western Way" implicates that he's a reliable engine who works hard and gets the job done without any complaints.

    The Tautological Templar will have this kind of attitude since they think that everything they do is good and right by definition.
  • March 28, 2013
    Psi001
    ^ Some other engines are occasionally conveyed this way, eg. Fergus, Toby, Donald and Douglas. They can often be smug and heckling to the other engines, but are competent hard workers and usually any attempts to ignore or belittle them only led to a karmic accident or humiliation. Usually avoided in later episodes, where each engine gets their shortcomings and arrogant moments spotlighted equally, with most of said characters being put Out Of Focus or altered completely personality wise (Toby, far from this role, is now a Shrinking Violet who usually underestimates his worth).

    • Princess Sally Acorn of Sonic The Hedgehog medias was originally portrayed as such, somewhat pompous and condescending to Sonic's attitude and acting as a rivalistic By The Book Cop. In most cases however her strategy is proven to be right and has to bail Sonic out of a stunt gone wrong, the rare times she actually makes a buffoon of herself usually only being when she is as reckless as Sonic. In later medias she is more mellowed out, though still has shades of this due to being a snarky Straight Man.
      • Sonic himself often has shades of this when lacking Sally as a foil. Rivals such as Knuckles and Antoine are quick to point out his egotism and recklessness, and are often driven crazy by his mockery of them, but usually end up outshone due to his Ace level stealth, power and competence.
    • Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has a very similar disposition as Sally, though the show's dynamic and focus on Character Development makes her prone to bouts of humility more often. Applejack is a similar lighter variant, Depending On The Writer at least.
    • Hayley of American Dad despite being created as a hypocritical left wing foil to Stan, often proves to have a far less destructive zeal and usually takes the role of the family's Straight Man.
      • For that matter, it's not rare to see the female leads of most of Seth Macfarlene's works to be portrayed as such, to the point of outright Jerkass Designated Hero territory. Lois Griffin of Family Guy and Donna of The Cleveland Show are prime examples.
    • Misty of early episodes of the Pokemon was often haughty, belittling and temperamental to Ash, however since the latter was an arrogant newcomer who wrecked her bike, she was often proven right to question his competence as a trainer. Occasional Days In The Limelight knocked her off her pedestal however, especially as Ash became less of an Idiot Hero.

    Multiple Closer To Earth relationships are conveyed this way. They are often snarky, condescending and in some cases outright abusive to their spouse or boyfriend, all while usually completely convinced they are patient and enduring people, though it's very often justified by the latter's completely imbecilic behavior proving their downfall as they so accurately predicted.

    Can sometimes lean as a Designated Hero if their pompousness becomes truly insufferable, or even does have hypocritical shades that usually go unnoticed.

    In most cases, no matter how consistent they are to this trope, you can expect them to fall off their high horse at least once. After all there's only so long stories can go without Breaking The Haughty.
  • March 29, 2013
    MagBas
    When you stop to guess, many heroic examples of Jerk Sue are this trope.
  • March 29, 2013
    Psi001
    At times, though a lot of them are actually pointed out as insufferable In Universe, though their opposers' attempts to prove them wrong always fail. Indeed, though a lot of these charcters are Scrappy or Canon Sue bait.

    • Lisa Simpson of The Simpsons is a neurotic Soapbox Sadie who constantly looks down at her family and the civilians that surround her. Of course since she is child prodigy and rare bastion of virtue, while her family is biologically retarded and Springfield genuinely is a Crapsack World, she is often proved to be justified. There are times however, her pompousness costs her or she is made to admit she is Not So Different.
  • March 29, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    You cannot use an entire comic (all four panels) as a page image. This is automatically against the rules.
  • March 29, 2013
    313Bluestreak
    If there's a race who hold this trait, it's Cant Argue With Elves. Compare Well Excuse Me Princess.
  • March 29, 2013
    MagBas
    Bump.
  • March 29, 2013
    Psi001
    Spell fix and add examples to the main article and I'll add a hat.

    • Kyle of South Park leans as this. He has an overly preachy and temperamental attitude and his hatred of Cartman reaches obsessively petty and borderline Knight Templar territory. Most of the time however, Cartman, and to an extent the whole town is completely immoral and deluded enough to earn Kyle's contempt and the majority of time things go haywire as a result of ignoring or hindering him.
  • March 30, 2013
    313Bluestreak
    This can often be the cause of Protagonist Centered Morality if taken too far.
  • April 1, 2013
    MagBas
    Bump.
  • April 2, 2013
    Arivne

  • April 2, 2013
    Chabal2
    Nearly everyone in the Inquisition of Warhammer 40 K is, by today's standards, a raging fundamentalist convinced of the righteousness of his/her path and would rather burn entire worlds than see them fall to heresy. The thing is, they're right: death is much preferable to falling victim to Chaos (and more to the point, corpses can't serve Chaos). Inverted, however, in that there are those desperate enough to use the weapons of Chaos against it (psykers, Demonic Possession) which are shunned by the hpart of the Inquisition that thinks it heretical. So in between the petty infighting and Inquisitors going rogue every other week, the only thing preventing Chaos from taking over is that they're just as disorganized and prone to getting in each other's way.
  • April 9, 2013
    Psi001
    Is neoYTPism or anyone else gonna update this, since I think it's a noteworthy trope if the main article was cleaned up.
  • April 21, 2013
    Psi001
    Updated the main article with everyone's contributions. Hope you don't mind.
  • April 21, 2013
    313bluestreak
    You forgot to mention the Closer To Earth relationships being described as this. Also, you could put a laconic.
  • April 21, 2013
    Psi001
    Very well. These changes are only dependent on whether neoYTPism wants to take it out down or revise it however.
  • April 21, 2013
    Sackett
    Sayoko sees Belldandy as this in Oh My Goddess
  • April 21, 2013
    Psi001
    • Bugs Bunny can be pretty much considered the epitome of this in Western Animation. His constantly smug and condescending demeanor to his foes only seeming just desserts since the large majority of those who challenge him are incompetent bullies who get their arrogance played against them.
  • April 21, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    ^ Bad example - that's an Audience Reaction.

    Given that a lot of these examples don't require the character to be arrogant or prideful (which, indeed, is what 'self-righteousness' implies, and which rather undermines the 'rightliness'), what about Insufferably Virtuous as a title?
  • April 21, 2013
    arbiter099
    Do Randian heroes like Howard Roark count for this?
  • April 22, 2013
    Damr1990
    See also Honest Advisor
  • April 22, 2013
    313Bluestreak
    -Sighs- Im Going To Hell For This, but would God qualify this trope? In The Bible, He will behave unpleasantly towards His creation and will do things that may seem "evil" to them, but He is justified in doing this because humanity corrupted themselves by sin and they have no right to call Him out. Not to mention that since God is the ultimate definition of good, everything that He does is well...good.

    This isn't a good description, so you can try to make it in your own words...or maybe don't put it in at all.
  • April 26, 2013
    Psi001
    • Carla of Scrubs who can be demanding, belittling and short fused, especially to her boyfriend, Turk, but this is usually represented as mandatory given he and most of the other staff at Sacred Hearts hospital are deranged overgrown children in charge of the serious ill. This can border a somewhat erroneous case at times, to the point that if it weren't for a random bout of Compressed Vices to destroy Turk's argument, Carla would arguably lean more as a Never My Fault Control Freak.
  • May 30, 2013
    arbiter099
    YKTTW Bump

  • May 31, 2013
    Tuomas
    I'd just like to point out that copyright issues forbid us from using a full comic strip to illustrate an article, as you've done with that Calvin & Hobbes strip. It's okay to use a part of the work (like two or three panels from a four panel comic), but not the full work. You need to find a way to use just a part of that strip, or figure out another image for illustration.
  • June 14, 2013
    313Bluestreak
  • June 15, 2013
    Psi001
    Fixed.
  • August 23, 2013
    Psi001
    I'm wondering whether to take out the Friendship Is Magic examples, or at least place them as inversions. Looking back at the show, while Twilight and Applejack are often The Straight Man, it tends to make them look Not So Above It All the moment they start to get egotistical about it (eg. Bridle Gossip, Fall Weather Friends).
  • August 23, 2013
    robbulldog
    Weird Al's "Amish Paradise"

    Think you're really righteous? Think you're pure in heart?
    Well, I know I'm a million times as humble as thou art

  • August 23, 2013
    azul120
    The bike wrecking incident in Pokemon was accidentally caused by Pikachu using thunderbolt on a Spearow. Not quite an example of Ash's idiocy.
  • August 23, 2013
    Generality
    ^^ That's really Hypocritical Humor, since he's belying his statement with pride.
  • September 26, 2013
    Psi001
    • The civilians of the Land of Dreams actually come across as far more pious and vindictive than the actual villains in The Dreamstone, all for the sake of good dreams. This bordered more as outright Designated Hero territory in early seasons, though is played more straight later on, where the Urpneys usually mean more genuine harm.

    ^I'm not sure this one actually counts. It's very similar to the Bugs Bunny example, except with a tad of the Warhammer 40 K example in that the Land of Dreams spout their moral superiority to much greater levels than Bugs (and take much more pleasure bullying non-evil cohorts just for being involved with the real Big Bad).
  • September 27, 2013
    313Bluestreak
    See also Good Is Not Nice if the character is good in spite of his meanness whereas this trope is where the character is good because of his meanness.
  • September 27, 2013
    Indalecio
    I'm not liking the verbiage used here. When I here self-righteous, I think of someone who trumpets their own righteousness, which being prideful would be a sin, and hypocritical. Now someone who were actually righteous, is not going to do that, but the fact that they're righteous will come from their actions, which may or may not be visible.
  • September 27, 2013
    Psi001
    I think it's more they blast their moral superiority to the point they really should be considered an egotist, but ultimately they still end up looking right, either because the role designates them regardless, or because their adversary is a lot worse (hense why so many example state 'this guy is arrogant, but since this other guy's a much bigger imbecile/jerkass, it's kinda justified'.

    Admittedly the more I think about this trope, the more I think such characters usually aren't considered well written or likable since they're usually a jerk who is made to look better than another bigger jerk. A lot of them have Karma Houdini or outright Jerk Sue qualities.
  • September 27, 2013
    DAN004
    Beware of Strawman Has A Point: when the author trying to paint this "righteous" man wrong but end up making him really righteous - when the audience sit and think about it - in terms of the story.

    I think the example needs to be In Universe Examples Only to prevent confusion with the above. Bugs Bunny example mentioned some posts ago is one of these cases.
  • September 30, 2013
    madgodzulcan
    Could we have a subversion in the Dresden Files with Micheal?
  • October 1, 2013
    MagBas
    ^^I concur with the In Universe Examples Only thing. Out of note, currently are five hats, but apparently the sponsor made no recent edit in the wiki.
  • October 1, 2013
    Psi001
    With the suggestions in examples, I'm not sure if we should edit some in or out first. Which ones would count as In Universe, most of them are viewed as insufferable by other characters, but not always because they turn out to be right.

    Who should we add or take out of the main article?

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