Created By: audienceofone on January 14, 2012 Last Edited By: audienceofone on January 15, 2012

Prince Arthur Paradigm

The hero is heroic because he is the hero and everything he does is heroic because he is the hero

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"And then Jack chopped down what was the world's last beanstalk, adding murder and ecological terrorism to the theft, enticement and trespass charges already mentioned, and all the giant's children didn't have a daddy any more. But he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no-one asks inconvenient questions."
Susan, Hogfather

Indexes: Hero Tropes

Narratively, this dates back to Geoffrey of Monmouth's writings on Prince Arthur in the Middle Ages. Has similarities with Protagonist-Centered Morality in that the interpretation of the hero's actions is dependent on his role in the text as the hero. But whereas Protagonist-Centered Morality has the moral universe determined by the protagonist, the Prince Arthur Paradigm occurs where the moral universe is unchanged but the hero's actions are not subject to it. Rather than the hero being a hero because he behaves heroically, the hero's actions become heroic because he is the hero, regardless of what those actions are.

Prince Arthur used to rape, pillage, and murder but he was the hero of the tales so these are considered to be 'heroic' rapes and murders. Naturally everyone who opposed him was the villian even if their objections to his violence were justified. The trope is seen particularly in action films where the 'hero' uses the same tactics as the villian but is somehow excused them. So if the villian kneecaps ten guys with a submachine gun and hacks into the Federal Reserve he's a criminal. But if the 'hero' does it then it's suddenly justified.

Terry Pratchett references this trope often in his Discworld novels.

A Byronic Hero, such as Angel may operate within this paradigm, although their philosophical musings on their Darkand Troubled Past and their determination to live outside of society's rules are not characteristic. A hero operating in the Prince Arthur Paradigm believes sincerely that his actions are morally right because they're undertaken by him. In this, it also has similarities with the Designated Hero.


  • Rambo - In fighting the oppressive and violent Burmese military regime to save a group of missionaries, Rambo kills 236 people. In the finale he uses a jeep-mounted .50-caliber machine gun to mow down his enemies.

  • Taken - To rescue his daughter from sex traffickers, Bryan Mills murders and tortures his way across Europe; blatantly ignoring the plight of dozens of girls who are in the same situation as his kidnapped daughter. In this in particular - his lack of empathy and his use of violence - he behaves almost exactly the same as the movie's villians.

Live Action TV
  • Merlin - as a modern day retelling of the Arthurian legend, it's unsurprising that it falls into this trope. Camelot is constantly attacked by magical beings trying to protect themselves from a regime that marginalises and oppresses them yet that oppression, seen as evil under Uther's reign, is not seen as evil once it's Arthur doing it.

  • Person of Interest - vigilantes use illegal surveillance, hacking and violence to stop murders; justifying their behaviour by dividing their moral world into those who are 'good' and therefore deserving of protection and those who are 'bad'.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • January 14, 2012
    I automatically think of Merlin with this,but Prince/King Arthur goes between aversion of it and playing it rather straight...Arthur's been a bigger jerk at times since he became king, and no one's called him out on it yet. (banishing Gwen,the big event in "His Father's Son". At least he rectifies that one by the end and the war's averted.)

    Angel plays with it, but also goes between aversion and played straight. In season 2, they call him on stuff big time. In season 5, he gets away with more.

    Buffy The Vampire Slayer-Faith lives this. She thinks everything is collateral damage and even killing a man is okay because she's a slayer.
  • January 14, 2012
  • January 14, 2012
    I'm having problems editing because I keep getting a text-based version of the editor only. Is there a reason for this? Other people's entries seem to have italics, bold and the ability to hyperlink.
  • January 14, 2012
    ^The editor is entirely text-based, just like the wiki-editor. Italics, etc., are added through the markup language. See Text Formatting Rules for information on how to do all of that.
  • January 14, 2012
    I'm not really clear on how this differs from Protagonist Centered Morality.
  • January 14, 2012
    Designated Hero, Byronic Hero

    FYI, you can learn about the markup in this wiki by opening any page's editor and clicking the Show Markup Help button. If even that isn't enough, visit the Text Formatting Rules page. One thing you certainly don't need to do is paste the entire url for internal links. The page's title in CamelCase will do.
  • January 15, 2012
    ^^ I'd say for Protagonist Centered Morality, their questionable actions or opinions may be glossed over, but Prince Arthur Paradigm takes it a step further by portraying their questionable actions as heroic despite the fact that if a villain did it, it would definitely be counted as part of their villainy.
  • January 15, 2012
    I'm not sure I'd count Merlin. Arthur is clearly meant to be a bit of a jerk, especially as our viewpoint character is someone he's frequently a jerk to. And the opression of magic hasn't suddenly become heroic because it's Arthur doing it; it's something he's doing because he's influenced by baddies (Agrivaine and the memory of his father).
  • January 15, 2012
    Gleep, Trope Namer Syndrome.

    I'm not sure how this differs from Protagonist Centred Morality or Designated Hero, either. I'm pretty sure the 'step further' you mention is actually part of that trope.
  • January 15, 2012
    I don't think that Protagonist Centred Morality quite covers it and Designated Hero certainly does not. However, it could be that the Protagonist Centred Morality trope could/should be expanded to include the concept that the hero's actions are considered morally acceptable regardless of what they are simply because he is the hero.
  • January 15, 2012
    That seems reasonable to me (since that's more or less what I thought it was to begin with).