Created By: dragonslip on September 13, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on July 15, 2013

No forgiveness for the sound minded

this when a character is more easily forgiven for something because they where not of sound mind when they did it

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So you’re a writer who wants to write a story about how we should forgive people who truly make omens for their actions…. But you’re afraid that the audience won’t be willing to give your murdered protagonist the benefit of the doubt no matter what you say, what do you do?

Well, one thing you can do is establish that your protagonist was in some way not quite right in his head at the time of the murder. It doesn’t have to be enough for an insanity defence, it can even just be that he was drunk. It just has to be enough that the audience can tell themselves that he defiantly wouldn’t do it again because it’s scientific fact that his head is wired differently now.


Examples:

Live Action TV
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
    • in a season one episode we’re suppose to sympathise with a paedophile who’s still been persecuted by the authorities after having served his time. To make this easier for us they say he was extremely high on mushrooms when he raped the kid and didn’t even know what he was doing until after
    • in a season five episode the team arrested a former killer now university professor, who insists he’s a changed man. To make him more sympathetic they firmly establish that he was high when he killed the women years earlier

movie
  • in the English TV Film Boy A the adult protagonist Jack Burridge is demonized for a murder he committed when he was a child which was both provoked and atleast partly the result of peer pressure

Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • September 14, 2012
    DracMonster
    Not quite sure what you're going for here. Do you mean as a type of Debate And Switch? Or as a twist where he seemed perfectly rational at first?

    If it's just "character is not right in the head so he's not accountable for his actions", that seems like People Sit On Chairs. It's just how it works in Real Life.

    The way you've phrased examples sounds like "they should have left him a Complete Monster, not made him sympathetic" which is Complaining About Shows You Dont Like territory. (I may be reading too much into it though.)
  • September 14, 2012
    dragonslip
    @Drac Monster

    Ok I'm saying that if you write a story about forgiveness, it's easier to make a character seem deserving of it if you make them mentally ill so it's done a lot (I also think it defeats the point but that,s just my view)

  • September 14, 2012
    DracMonster
    Ok, so making them not fully responsible for their actions is a cop out to make a forgiveness aesop easier to swallow. I understand better but it's still kind of a complaining trope and rather YMMV - what you think is a cop out others may view as perfectly justified (it's also fodder for the whole Draco In Leather Pants thing.)

    And.. well.. as I pointed out, this is all too often Truth In Television in our Gray And Grey Morality Real Life. We do have Complete Monsters, but they're pretty rare.
  • September 14, 2012
    dragonslip
    @Drac Monster

    "others may view as perfectly justified" why do do you mean by "justified"?
  • September 14, 2012
    DracMonster
    Well, in the Justifying Edit sense - which this could engender a lot of. You appear to be positioning this as Bad Writing. It could be a neutral trope if properly phrased, but it might be subject to Trope Decay.
  • September 14, 2012
    dragonslip
    @Drac Monster

    I can't think of a way to do what I think you're asking without leaving out the howl point of this trope's use

  • September 14, 2012
    DracMonster
    Please understand I'm not trying to nitpick or be difficult, but in general, tropes whose whole point is to say "this is bad and the author shouldn't have done it" are generally discouraged nowadays even if they're valid, because they tend to be flame bait.

    Having said this, I'm not sure we have a trope for where the audience is initially steered into believing a villain's act was pure cruelty, then has their perception shaken as further investigation reveals there were mitigating circumstances such as mental illness. If we don't have it, this could work if you can rewrite it be more neutral sounding - it's something that can be done well or badly.
  • September 14, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
  • September 14, 2012
    dragonslip
    @Drac Monster

    The truth should be told, to hell with what people do with it

  • September 14, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Does This Count?
    • In Hamlet Ophilia kills herself. Normally in that time, this would keep her from getting a proper Christian burial; but because she wasn't in her right mind at the time (having been driven insane by Hamlet's pretending to be insane) she is allowed a proper burial.
  • September 15, 2012
    kyeo
    Nah.
  • September 15, 2012
    dragonslip
    @kyeo

    Well, as long as you're not being dismissive (sarcasm)

  • November 11, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Motion to discard.
  • November 11, 2012
    Sackett
    I think the trope name is backwards. It tells us what this isn't rather then what it is.

    The trope is essentially:

    Evil acts done by people not in their right mind is forgivable.

    Which is indeed a trope and might not always follow. For example: A drunk driver that kills someone in an accident.

    Whether this is a "cop out" or poor writing does not effect the existence of the trope. It just describes whether you think the trope is a good one or not.
  • November 11, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    No it's not. "Evil acts done by people not in their right mind is forgivable" is an opinion.
  • November 11, 2012
    MorganWick
    This might be a trope if it were about the Insanity Defense, but we already have that page, so this is either redundant or unneeded and unwanted; I get the sense that the OP's intent was to complain about its contrapositive.
  • November 12, 2012
    MarqFJA
    Perhaps the issue is that when people hear "insanity", they tend to think of the "completely batshit crazy" kind of insanity instead of the medical and legal definitions that more or less encompass a very wide range of mental illnesses, most of which are quite far from the aforementioned common perception. Thus, while the concept proposed here would technically fall under Insanity Defense, most people might think that that trope is much narrower than it actually is.
  • July 15, 2013
    Goldfritha
    Technically, it sounds like confusion between forgiveness, which by definition can't be merited, and excusing, which can be.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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