Created By: Xzenu on May 17, 2010 Last Edited By: Xzenu on June 21, 2010
Troped

Good Versus Good

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There's a huge conflict going on. It's the force of great heroes who are trying to defend everything they hold dear against the other force of great heroes who are trying to defend everything they hold dear against the first force of great heroes... Hey, wait a minute!

This is not Gray and Gray Morality, it is Good Versus Good: The opposite of Evil Versus Evil, with Gray and Grey Morality in the middle between these two polar opposites.

Why? Well. Maybe it's just a misunderstanding. Maybe they are on some very important quest or guard duty and can't take any chances with trusting each other. Maybe they have people to protect, and conflicting interests that can't seem to be resolved. Or something. Maybe they will eventually find out that Rousseau Was Right and live happily together ever after, but then again maybe they won't.

Going against the traditional Black and White Morality narrative of a good protagonist versus a evil antagonist, a Good Versus Good plot can be narrated in three different ways:

  1. Both sides can be considered protagonists, with the story giving room for both perspectives.
  2. Neither side is the protagonists: The protagonist might sympathize with both sides and try to negotiate either a peace or a unified front against a common enemy.
  3. One side is the protagonist, while the other side makes a sympathetic Hero Antagonist

Please note that in a large scale conflict, the three tropes Good Versus Good, Gray and Gray Morality and Evil Versus Evil does NOT necessarily exclude each other. The same large scale conflict can feature both hero versus hero and villain versus villain. What is needed for Good Versus Good to come into effect is that the heroes on both sides are indeed real heroes. This kind of mixed cases are sometimes caused by My Country, Right or Wrong, where the heroes on both sides just want to protect their people rather then pondering the politics of what country to blame for the war getting started in the first place.

Also please note that this trope is subjective, requiring a viewer/reader to consider both sides "the good guys". For the same reason: No Real Life examples, please.

Examples

Anime
  • Princess Mononoke is a prime example, with both sides being genuinely sympathetic and both leaders being directed by their feeling of responsibility for the welfare of their people.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes (text below)

Comics
  • In JLA-Avengers the two groups were fighting against each other because they were both told by outsiders that the other group was evil, and if the other team collected the Plot Coupons first they would destroy the other.
  • X-men vs. the Avengers (text below)

Film

Manga

Video Games
  • World of Warcraft can be seen this way, with very good and honorable forces within both the Alliance and the Horde. Of course, the game is ALSO a case of Evil Versus Evil, with various disgusting tendencies existing in both factions.

Literature
  • Honor Harrington (text below)
  • Hell's Gate (text below)

Live-Action TV
  • The Unification War in Firefly can be seen in this way, if you take into the account that the Alliance (depicted as grey at best) is seen trough the eyes of very bitter individuals. Both sides were fighting for good, both committed various acts of evil in the name of good (Alliance had apple bombs, Browncoats had vicious torture methods and that's just a small sample), and both sides could be called "good". One wanted freedom, the other wanted safety.
  • LOST can be seen this way, with several sides in many conflicts having very good reasons for what they are doing, and the horrors committed by each side runnin
Community Feedback Replies: 52
  • May 14, 2010
    randomsurfer
    In JLA-Avengers the two groups were fighting against each other because they were both told by outsiders that the other group was evil, and if the other team collected the Plot Coupons first they would destroy the other.
  • May 15, 2010
    ChevalierMalfait
    In the earlier storylines of the webcomic Fans!, the Science Fiction Club protagonists have as their antagonists the Fantasmagorical Integration Board (FIB), a covert, MIB-like government organization. Both groups, however, have the same goal: to protect the world from paranormal threats. Furthermore, although the FIB is, especially at first, far more ruthless in its methods, the director at any rate genuinely means to do good and is often ambivalent about his organization's goals and methods. The Science Fiction Club and FIB end up working together as allies, if not exactly friends.
  • May 15, 2010
    Freezer
  • May 15, 2010
    DaibhidC
    Lets You And Him Fight is the misunderstanding subtrope, but it's not the only reason for Good Versus Good - In DC Comics Versus Marvel Comics, both groups of heroes know that they're fighting other heroes, but the Big Bad Brothers haven't left them any options.
  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Many American Civil War stories are presented this way.
  • May 15, 2010
    Aminatep
    See also Rousseau Was Right as a justification.
  • May 15, 2010
    sgamer82
    • The recent Whitebeard War arc in One Piece can count as either this or Grey vs Grey. On the one side we have the Navy, many of whom are genuinely interested in seeing justice done and protecting the innocent, though often given to extreme methods such as executing a pirate more for his connection to the Pirate King than any of his actual crimes. On the other side, we have the Whitebeard pirates, criminals who ultimately care little about the eventual consequences and damage their rescue attempt will do but are bound and determined to save one of their own. The pirates are pegged as the good guys, but it's also easy to sympathize with the Navy's side (or, at the very least, to sympathize with specific members of the Navy).
  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    World War I might well count as a particularly huge and horrible example of this. The actual differences in practice between Wilhelmine Germany and George V's England were pretty minor, but because of what the two sides considered honorable reasons, they wound up fighting each other for four long years.
  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    I'd make it more clear that the good characters in this trope can do bad things. You kind of said it throughout the "Why?" paragraph, but I'd state it more outright.
  • May 15, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Hero Antagonist covers most of this, except for the case of the Villain Protagonist. With Hero Antagonist, both sides are sympathetic. The three typical reasons a Hero Antagonist opposes the hero is that 1. He knows something the protagonist doesn't, such as what he's planning is going to really mess something up. 2. Misunderstanding. 3. The antagonist is being tricked/ doesn't know the truth about the protagonist. Hero Antagonist situations are most likely a conflict between a Lawful Good character (usually the antagonist) and a Chaotic Good character.
  • May 15, 2010
    KZN02
    BIONICLE: the Toa Mahri and Toa Hagah fight each other due to the latter wanting to destroy the Coliseum (with good reason to, but they don't tell the former). They only stop when Kualus accidently uses his Mask Power to summon a giant Rahi that rampages through Metru Nui, thus forcing the two Toa Teams to join forces to stop the new threat.
  • May 16, 2010
    callsignecho
    • Honor Harrington: After Thomas Theisman's coup, Haven is still Manticore's main antagonist, but they are decidedly not bad guys. The war continues because a third party--the real "evil"--is manipulating events behind the scenes.
  • May 16, 2010
    Ironeye
    • In the X-men vs. the Avengers comic book miniseries, both the X-men and the Avengers are treated as sympathetic protagonists: the Avengers believe that the recently reformed Magneto needs to stand trial for his past supervillainy, while the X-men are trying to keep Magneto hidden because not even the World Court could give a mutant an impartial trial. Further complicating this is the Soviet Super-Soldiers, who are trying to bring Magneto to trial in the USSR. With the exception of the Crimson Dynamo on the side of the SSS, all of the combatants prioritize protecting innocent life over completing their (sympathetically motivated) missions. While the Cold War puts the Super-Soldiers as Hero Antagonists, which of the two American teams are seen as the "true" protagonists of the story depends on how much the reader cares about the rule of law. The miniseries doesn't even confirm which team had the right idea about the World Court: Captain Marvel of the Avengers helps Magneto rig the outcome to prevent a human-mutant war, leaving evidence to support either interpretation.

    I believe this example demonstrates that not every case is based around having a Hero Antagonist: both the X-men and the Avengers are treated as protagonists for the entire miniseries. (Part 4 is the one of note here, as the Super-Soldiers are Put On A Bus at the end of Part 3 and don't return.)
  • May 16, 2010
    Shinr
    Legend Of Galactic Heroes from a certain perspective (After Reinhard takes over one side).
  • May 16, 2010
    Hertzyscowicz
    Another example by David Weber: Hells Gate
  • May 16, 2010
    Xzenu
    Unknown Troper >>"I'd make it more clear that the good characters in this trope can do bad things. You kind of said it throughout the "Why?" paragraph, but I'd state it more outright."

    Agreed.

    I have now added links to the existing trope I Did What I Had To Do and the upcoming trope Sliding Scale Of Unavoidable Versus Unforgivable (currently at YKTTW)

  • May 16, 2010
    Twin Bird
    I'm going to say this is Grey And Grey Morality, or Rousseau Was Right, because the entire point of grey morality is that no one's sure what is good, and if they all agreed, there would be no conflict.
  • May 16, 2010
    Ironeye
    I think a major problem here is how broadly the trope is being defined (ie Of the opposing sides, at least two have at least one heroic character a piece.) We have legitimate subtropes we can look at, but combining a broad definition with a subjective nature is going to attract all manner of useless examples that technically still fit.
  • May 16, 2010
    ramendik
    Edited - added links for Literature, Video Games, Real Life. No other changes, honest.
  • May 16, 2010
    Unknown Troper
  • May 16, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    this happens in Persona 3: FES I believe
  • May 16, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    Yeah, this is just a more optimistic take on Gray And Grey Morality. In fact, the only two of these I would define as Good versus Good without the moral grey areas are the Lets You And Him Fight examples, the JLA-Avengers and X-Men vs. the Avengers. Most of these examples are still willing to go to war and kill people without negotiation. As for the real life examples, Edwardian Britain vs. the Central Powers is definitely Gray Versus Grey on the ground and might even be Evil Versus Evil if you go high enough up the hierarchy.
  • May 17, 2010
    kuyanJ
    Matthew The Raven,

    One can argue that Grey And Grey Morality is just a more optimistic take on Evil Versus Evil. This is just as true as Good Versus Good just being a more optimistic take on Grey And Grey Morality.

    >>"Most of these examples are still willing to go to war and kill people without negotiation."

    Most heroes in White And Black Morality does this and worse. Is white impossible without black? We can have Black And Black Morallity conflict (Evil Versus E Vil), but not White And White Morality Conflict (Good Versus Good)?
  • May 17, 2010
    Xzenu
    Twin Bird,

    The

    This trope Rousseau Was Right claims that if people are good (and according to the trope, they are), there can be no conflicts except for misunderstandings.

    You seem to agree with that concept, and thus dismiss this trope: If there are two sides in a conflict and it's not just a misudnerstanding, then they can't both be Good (white), at least one side must be ambiguous (grey) at best.

    I disagree: Destructive and unresolvable conflict between unambiguously good characters/factions makes great tragedy. :-)
  • May 17, 2010
    Xzenu
    Dunno if it's my firefox or if it's the Tvtropes server.

    In either case, the bug just struck again, deleting some examples. :-(

    Luckily I made a backup yesterday, so I think I can get most of it back. Nevertheless, I'm reluctant to make any more edits before launch.
  • May 17, 2010
    Twin Bird
    That's just it - conflict between "good" parties comes from either disagreement over what the "good" choice would be (see Grey And Gray Morality), or a misunderstanding (Rousseau Was Right). There is no other way conflict could arise.
  • May 17, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    @Xzenu "One can argue that Grey And Grey Morality is just a more optimistic take on Evil Versus Evil. This is just as true as Good Versus Good just being a more optimistic take on Grey And Grey Morality."

    Evil versus Evil conflicts are frequently explicitly evil, even going so far as to have demonic or traditionally villainous trappings. Gray And Grey conflicts can be virtually anything, including these White Versus White conflicts because there are shades of gray in the conflict. White versus White is altogether arbitrary.

    "Most heroes in White And Black Morality does this and worse." It's not so much about the actions in White And Black settings - the entire setting in such a case is designed to make the Black Side appear to be evil and wrong. It's a structural binary, good versus evil, with the entire narrative indicating that there is such an opposition and one side is flat wrong. Grey covers a work with ambiguity.

    "Is white impossible without black?" This is meaningless, as Ambiguity is not possible with both black and white present.

    "We can have Black And Black Morallity conflict (Evil Versus E Vil), but not White And White Morality Conflict (Good Versus Good)?" As explained above.
  • May 18, 2010
    bluepenguin
    I don't have an intelligent argument to put forth at the moment (maybe sometime when it's not 4 AM -- though I think Twin Bird and Matthew The Raven have covered it pretty well anyway), but I also think that most of these are Gray And Grey Morality. Yes, you could argue that both sides are good, but just the fact that a number of these examples include "you could argue that..." or "you could see this as..." implies a certain ambiguity which doesn't really fit with black-and-white thinking.
  • May 18, 2010
    Xzenu
    bluepenguin,

    It's about a third party (another character or the viewers/readers) considering both sides Good, not them considering each other good.

    Indeed this trope doesn't fit well with black and white thinking. Your statement leads to another question: Is it possible to be good if you consider yourself to be the good guy in a black and white dichotomy?
  • May 18, 2010
    Xzenu
    Matthew The Raven,

    Grey And Gray Morality clarly states that "In an all-grey conflict, neither side is totally good or completely evil. "

    I think it should keep saying that.

    What I'm trying to capture here is when both sides are good.

    And yes, I do understand that some people see that as a oxymoron, I'll minimize that as far as possible.

    I'll revise the main entry in a few days.
  • May 18, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    "Totally good" is an abstract and meaningless statement that can't be used to measure any sort of fictional behavior. This is Grey And Gray Morality because the narrative framework does not support either side as good or evil, unlike in Black And White Morality and Evil Versus Evil, which revels in the vileness of both sides. If you can come up with a definition of "Good" that doesn't allow for any gray areas (and explain why both sides are in conflict if they don't have negative sides or prejudiced points of view) then I can see why we need this. Otherwise, we already have it covered as Grey And Gray Morality and Lets You And Him Fight.
  • May 18, 2010
    Rottweiler
    This forms the climax of the Arthurian prose romances. When Guinevere and Lancelot's adultery is revealed, Arthur sentences them to death. The fugitive Lancelot rides to Guinevere's rescue, and the heroes split into two armies, one to uphold the rule of law to stave off the Dark Ages, one to uphold the principle that good guys don't kill women.
  • May 19, 2010
    Xzenu
    Matthew The Raven,

    You already know that I already know what your position is.
  • May 19, 2010
    sunksunk
    Arguably this is the basis of Marvel's Civil War event but YMMV.
  • May 19, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    @Xzenu. Sorry. When you replied to my previous statement it sounded like you didn't understand it.
  • May 19, 2010
    johnnye
  • May 19, 2010
    callsignecho
    ^ That sounds rather racial. (not -ist, mind you. Just... -ial).

    I think good vs. good sums it up nicely. And I haven't looked over all the examples given, but I know that my Honor Harrington example wouldn't fit under Grey And Grey Morality. The respective heads of state who are actually waging the war are undeniably Good Guys, doing what they know to be best for their people.
  • May 19, 2010
    Dcoetzee
    • Disney's The Little Mermaid: King Triton and Ariel are often at odds, since he's a mercilessly strict parent who stifles her dreams, but at the same time he's clearly a good guy who cares about her safety and sacrifices himself to save her (he even worries that maybe he's being "too hard on her").
  • May 19, 2010
    RawPower
    There is a very easy way to make Good Versus Good unambigous. Honour. Conflicting loyalties. Ichigo Versus Byakuya is a perfect example. Any tragedy written by French author Corneille is made fo this trope.
  • May 19, 2010
    johnnye
    Also, I suppose any unneccessary conflict created by Poor Communication Kills would qualify. I'm struggling to think of an example, but a hypothetical one would be two sides pushed into Lets You And Him Fight by an agent provocateur.
  • May 19, 2010
    Xzenu
    @johnnye,

    Or Lawful Good versus Chaotic Good morality. :-)

    @Raw Power,

    Yes, and conflicting moral frameworks. I'm currently working on some tropes about teleology (morality based on the consequences of actions) and some tropes about deonthology (morality based on the principles actions).

    Those who have criticized me are right that my first two drafts are too unclear and have too fuzzy overlap with other tropes. Like I said, i will do a big revision on the description of this trope. However, I'll finish some of the simpler morality tropes first, since some of them will be important in this trope.
  • May 20, 2010
    RawPower
    Three Worlds Collide. Where an alien species thinks good equals eating babies: it's the ceter of their culture.
  • May 20, 2010
    Michael
    Can also be a set-up for a Heroic Sacrifice on behalf of the "aggressor" such as in Babylon Five when if you die in a duel your family is forfeit to the victor. The man who picks a duel with Londo knows a villain wants to wipe out him and his entire family but can't touch Londo. As soon as he dies his family is safe.
  • May 28, 2010
    Starry-Eyed
    In A Dark Wood, Michael Cadnum's Perspective Flipped retelling of Robin Hood. Geoffrey, the Sheriff of Nottingham, is an honorable man just trying to uphold the law... and Robin Hood is just as honorable and virtuous as he's usually portrayed.
  • May 28, 2010
    Servbot
    What's the difference between this and Rousseau Was Right? Rousseau Was Right doesn't just cover misunderstandings, it covers all situations where all side are actually on the White side of morality (or at least, a lighter shade of Gray)
  • May 28, 2010
    AnimeOtaku
    The Marvel Civil War plotline.
  • May 29, 2010
    Ironeye
    @Servbot: Rousseau Was Right requires that there aren't any genuinely evil characters in the story. (The penultimate paragraph does allow for genuine villains, but only under certain conditions.) This trope specifies that two of the opposing sides are both treated as heroic protagonists, while still allowing for, say, Complete Monsters...just not on either of the aforementioned two heroic factions.
  • June 17, 2010
    XanderHarris
    Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Scoobies vs Knights fo Byzantium. Both want to kill Glory. The Knights want to kill Dawn to save the world - the Scoobies don't.
  • June 17, 2010
    LickyLindsay
    I thought I'd posted the comment before, but World War One is usually depicted (all the way back to All Quiet On The Western Front) as one of the most egregious examples of Grey And Grey Morality in modern history.
  • June 17, 2010
    magnum12
    Zero versus Harpuia. Both characters are fighting for a good cause. Harpuia just wants to protect humanity but is unfortunately bound by a severely flanderized definition of Maverick (not that he knows that). This further shows itself when they stop fighting when Obviously Evil Weil and Omega show up.
  • June 17, 2010
    magnum12
    • In Soul Nomad, we have Revya's squad (Neutral Good) running into conflict with Thorndyke (Lawful Good) over Feinne. Both sides want to do the right thing, but do so in conflicting ways. Subversion as Revya's squad actively tries to minimize confrontation with Thorndyke and focus on evading him. I strongly believe you need to put in the whole law versus chaos thing since this type of conflict often occurs between a Lawful Good faction and a Chaotic Good faction (see the Zero example.
  • June 21, 2010
    AlirozTheConfused
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=yeu8h6dhtb2p801qtkq72s1o