Created By: Nemi on April 18, 2013 Last Edited By: Nemi on June 5, 2013

Inexplicable Moral Resonance

When characters suddenly share the morals of the day despite not having any reason to do so.

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"We cannot ignore the truth about the past."
"Going to Vic's won't make us forget who we are or where we came from. It reminds us that we are no longer bound by any limitations. Except the ones we impose on ourselves."
-- Sisko and Kasidy on historical accuracy, Badda-Bing Badda-Bag, Deep Space Nine

Hard times call for hard people and harder choices, be it in fantasy, dystopian, sci fi, or historical setings. Sometimes this gives the viewers a case of Values Dissonance. This can even be deliberate.

However, sometimes the creators, not wishing to have a Broken Aesop, or alienate their viewers/readers, will instead have the work reflect more contemporary (for the time) morals instead.

A subtrope of Consistency, specfically dealing with external and internal varients, and often presents as anachronistic morality.

A general example of this trope for external Consistency the Eternal Sexual Freedom trope applied to a woman in a setting heavily based upon the European Middle Ages, if and only if there is no internal reason for there to be an exception to this.

While Like Reality Unless Noted would cover such an instance, it would leave a consumer with the question of "But Why?" If there is an answer beyond authorical fiat, such as only women can use magic, magical contraception, or the Crystal Dragon Jesus was a woman, this trope does not apply.

Internal consistency would be something like a bunch of advanced aliens not caring either way for lesser life forms, but once they meet humans they inexplicably change their minds.

Essentially if there is no prior indication in the work itself that anybody in this society has these kinds of moral standards, and then they suddenly do.

Subtropes include

Averted by:

Compare with:



Monsters, Inc.
  • The Monsters make it clear that they consider human children to be terrifying, unclean, and 'subhuman'. They literally make their living harvesting the fear of human children to power their city. The entire moral arc of the character Sully is when he meets a human child and bonds with it, thus teaching him that human children are not the horrible, well, MONSTERS that they believe them to be. Yet at the end of the movie, Sully uncovers a plot by the mayor of the town to increase the power output to the monster city by kidnapping human children and torturing them. Suddenly, the revelation that he is prepared to do this is enough to turn every monster in the city against him at once.

  • In Disney's Mulan, the protagonist meets the matchmaker for an Arranged Marriage. When this goes badly, she laments that she's an unsuitable bride, but never questions the custom. Contrast the sequel, in which she reacts with outrage on hearing that the Emperor is sending his daughters off to an Arranged Marriage.

  • Despite being based off of the Norse, who predate the idea of genocide being a bad thing, Loki's attempts to destroy Jotenheim is soundly condemed. The Warriors Three and Sif expressed no concer over the wrongness of going to Jotenheim, only that it was forbidden, and no concern over World War III IN SPACE!. Odin banished Thor for starting an war that would endanger all the peaceful realms. He never spoke out against genocide.


  • Parodied in Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States. A couple pages into Chapter Four: The Colonies Develop A Life-style, the Lemony Narrators interrupt the action to notify the readers that "a review committee... has determined that, so far, this history book is not making enough of an effort to include the contributions of women and minority groups. Unless some effort is undertaken to correct this situation, this book will not be approved for purchase by public school systems in absolutely vast quantities." Whereupon the narrators/authors "just now remembered... that during the colonial era women and minority groups were making many contributions, which we are certain that they will continue to do at regularly spaced intervals throughout the course of this book." Spoiler: They do... whenever the narrative remembers to mention it, anyway.
  • In Eragon the butcher's place is specifcally noted as being very clean, despite that being uncharacteristic for a primitive butcher house. But the idea of a filthy butcher would disgust readers.
Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • April 18, 2013
    Is this a Missing Supertrope? I know we have a few subtropes that fit this description. Eternal Sexual Freedom, for example.
  • April 19, 2013
    Ooh, that's a good point! And I can -steal- reappropriate things from those subtropes! Thank you!

    Now all i need to do is geterdone and refresh my wiki editing skillz.
  • April 19, 2013
    In fairness the Monsters Inc example seems more a case of Everyone Has Standards. Just because they are scared of the kids doesn't mean they are okay with torturing them to dangerous levels (outside a light scare which they believe is for the bare means of powering their town, and even then are just fine going with a friendlier approach in the end), just like some people in real life label harming dangerous predators to still be animal cruelty. Not to mention only the authorities turn on the villain, which abides more due to it being an illegal action. The other monsters just look on dumbfounded.
  • April 19, 2013
    I would also note that just being "based off" the Norse does not make the characters of Thor Norse any more than being based off Chinese culture makes the characters of Avatar Chinese, unless you know some who can stand toe to toe with giants and have lightning-powered hammers (in which case, please introduce me).
  • April 19, 2013
    Is this already covered by Politically Correct History? If not, what would be the relationship between the two?
  • April 19, 2013
    I don't think the Monsters, Inc. example is history at all, so it can't be politically correct history. I agree this is a missing supertrope.
  • April 19, 2013
    Regarding Monsters Inc, the company motto is "We scare because we care". which implies that they don't like scaring, but they do it because they have to.
  • April 19, 2013
    Politically Correct History might be a subtrope.

    Would this cover things like fantasy settings that are in most ways based on a certain time period, but have politically correct differences? Like, there is no reason that a setting like in Dragon Age should have to have mideval morality because it is not historical, it is fantasy, however people tend to expect it to because it deliberately evokes the middle ages in its arcitechture, clothing, technologly level etc, so things like people being openly bisexual like it is nbd and women having positions of power seem a little weird. This is something people complain about a lot, actully, when a mideval fantasy setting is not 'historically accurate' even though it is not meant to represent a real place or period of time.
  • April 19, 2013
    I would agree that this is a supertrope of Politically Correct History (since it applies to more than just history.) I went looking for Anachronistic Feminism as another example, but couldn't find it. Eternal Sexual Freedom would also seem to apply.

    I think that what makes this trope in play is if there is no prior indication in the work itself that anybody in this society has these kinds of moral standards. In the Thor example, we don't get any kind of indication one way or another as to their stance on genocide. The closest we come on the subject was little Thor declaring he would slay all the monsters, but he was only a little kid then. In the Monsters Inc., example, they "scare because they care," but it's not the human kids they care about -- the humans get nothing from this transaction. It's been a while since I watched that movie, but I don't recall any of the monster characters ever expressing discomfort or guilt over what they're doing.
  • April 20, 2013
    Mikke's got it right.

    Monsters Inc, humans aren't animals, they are disgusting plague carriars and sub-monster, they aren't even cute the way we find animals cute--people always get up in arms over bunny testing, but not snake testing.

    The law enforcement, I always took that to be because he was conspiring to bring disgusting humans into the city plus general suspicion and wanting to quiet and appease everyone.

    And Leaper, this is true, yet Avatar has the top knot cutting, various forms of honor, etc etc going on.

    We have, actually, two indications that Asgard isn't exactly as anti-Genocide as we are. Mikke points out the first, childhood example. And then there's Odin. Not Odin from the boy's childhood. Odin as he banishes Thor.

    Thor is "Let's kill them all together, Father!" He's going to be king. This is starting WWIII In Space. This can be easily construed as a declaration of intent to genocide the Frost Giants.

    Then Odin banishes him. For betraying people and being unworthy--not because he wanted to play Hitler-On-Ice, but because he twas starting a war that would endanger all the realms. Massive War that spills out onto other realms=Bad. Genocide=Not worth commenting on, twice.

    Speaking of this, Dragon Age, and other things, do we specifically exclude Fantasy Counterpart Culture examples or not?
  • April 21, 2013
    Films - Animated
    • In Disney's Mulan, the protagonist meets the matchmaker for an Arranged Marriage. When this goes badly, she laments that she's an unsuitable bride, but never questions the custom. Contrast the sequel, in which she reacts with outrage on hearing that the Emperor is sending his daughters off to an Arranged Marriage.
  • April 25, 2013
    Should we include Black Vikings as a subtrope, or is that a bit of a stretch? It's not so much related to values as it is to potential anachronism.

    Otherwise I'd consider adding aversions to No Equal Opportunity Time Travel.
  • April 25, 2013
    It COULD be, as Politically Correct History is definetly part of this trope.

    We need to add a trope version of this, to cover the nontrope instances listed already, since this actually is a supertrope. I tried but I think it was eaten.
  • April 25, 2013
    I don't believe this is a trope. The only possible examples that don't fall under Politically Correct History are ones that apply to Fantasy Counterpart Culture, but as they are fantasy, there should absolutely not be a trope that tries to make qualifications about what should or shouldn't be present. Not every culture in human society was racist, homophobic, sexist, etc, and presuming that a fantasy culture has to be has massive Unfortunate Implications and is honestly presuming too much for this wiki about a working knowledge of anthropology.
  • April 25, 2013
    Inexplicable Moral Resonace. That is, unexplained. How does the Monsters Inc example fall under Fantasy Counterpart Culture? They SHOULDN'T care about the human children, but suddenly they do.

    And if a work is using shorthand by basing things off of real cultures, isn't it understandable that we'd assume more is the same? Admittedly, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture has it's own paradigim trope, of guilds and female equality. But then we are not surprised when there IS female discrimination in those stories.

    If anything, this trope needs to be split between instances without their own specific trope and the supertrope.
  • May 24, 2013
    Just a warning, you'll probably need to specify what separates this from Moral Dissonance.
  • May 25, 2013
    Uh, the fact that it's not dissonance? Not a double standard, but that there's suddenly A standard that wasn't there before. Politicaly Correct History, but for fantasy as well.
  • May 25, 2013
    I think MLP:Fi M has some examples. The episode Ponyville Confidential has everypony turning on the CMC (three little girls mind you) after the fact that they wrote the school gossip column, whitch they enjoyed before the fact.

    Granted that seem more like Hypocrisy of the the "It's only funny if it doesn't happen to me" kind. SO that may not be an example, but I'm sure that there are some examples in Fi M somewhere.
  • May 27, 2013
    Never mind.