Created By: FrodoGoofballCoTV on April 28, 2012 Last Edited By: FrodoGoofballCoTV on November 18, 2013
Troped

Pragmatic Hero

The sort of hero who tends to break the law while fighting crime.

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Trope

Launched as Pragmatic Hero.

A note on concept history: Per this conversation, we decided to split the Sliding Scale Of Anti Heroes into its component tropes. However, when we got to the YKTTW for the Type III "Dangerous Anti-Hero", which can be found here it proved troblesome, so per this crowner, it was split. :P

"The mark of a true hero is somebody who's willing to sacrifice his own personal morality to help keep the world safe."
-Tess Mercer, Smallville

Most great fictional heroes fall into one of two broad categories: the Ideal Hero, such as The Cape or a Knight in Shining Armor who is pretty much exactly what one would hope for in a hero - skilled, courageous, morally pure, etc., and the Anti-Hero, who lacks one or more qualities normally considered necessary for an Ideal Hero. For example, a Classical Anti-Hero lacks ability or self - confidence. A Knight in Sour Armor lacks a positive attitude, and a Nominal Hero lacks morally pure intentions.

A Pragmatic Hero lacks the "moral cleanliness" of an Ideal Hero. When fighting evil, they often commit acts that might seem more characteristic of a villain than a hero. However, Pragmatic Heroes have morally good intentions and often hold themselves to strict moral standards - it's just that those standards aren't always what others might expect from a hero. This type of hero tends to be much more concerned with whatever heroic business the plotline has assigned them than the nicities of proper heroic ettiquette. However, with the exception of unintentional mistakes, they will rarely if ever commit a villainous deed that doesn't further the cause of good in a way.

This character is one step further toward the dark side of the Sliding Scale Of Antiheroes from the Knight in Sour Armor. Wheras the Knight in Sour Armor complains but does the right thing anyway, the Pragmatic Hero is more about doing the right thing whether anyone likes it or not, and will shove aside more idealistic heroes who give them a What the Hell, Hero? moment.

At the end of the day, their justification is typically I Did What I Had to Do, they love giving "The Reason You Suck" Speech to a poor Wide-Eyed Idealist, and they mostly evolve into cynical mentors. However, they will never say "Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!". Deep down, they want the best for others, and this character will often be the one to defend a captured minion or fallen hero.

Examples:

Anime and Manga:

  • Code Geass' Lelouch falls into this category occasionally, but his desire for revenge often pushes him further down the scale.
  • Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero is a Pragmatic Hero of the extreme kind. Originally, he wanted to be "a hero of justice" who would help the weak and needed, but this led him to become an assassin capable of committing many atrocities in his belief is that choosing the smaller sacrifice is always the best outcome, for him sacrificing a hundred people to save a thousand is something that is done with barely a twitch of an eyebrow down to the point were he killed his own father for messing with vampires, and his trainer and mother figure due to a botched assassination

Litterature:

  • Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero is an extreme Pragmatic Hero, see the entry in the Anime & Manga category .
  • Harry Potter is constantly breaking the rules and ultimately uses two out of the three unforgivable curses and sacrifices the lives of friends to stop Lord Voldemort's schemes.
  • Grimble from Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole fits here, like some other owls in the series do, by virtue of the high stress they have put on efficience in fighting for good.
  • In The Mists of Avalon, Vivian may be one, or be anything else...
  • Warrior Cats features violent fight, tough decisions, and cats betraying the warrior's code, but some of the cats implicated do it for the right reasons.

Live Action Movies:
  • The title character of the Dirty Harry franchise.
  • Some Jedies in Star Wars do not object the creation of clones genetically engineered to defend the Republic from the separatists. Then again, they have strongly held ideals, and think the Republic is the best possible regime, but YMMV on whether this is this trope or an isolated case of Utopia Justifies the Means.
  • Glinda from The Wizard of Oz may be this. Though sometimes, people like an Alternate Character Interpretation.
  • John Wayne played many, many Pragmatic Heroes with guns, who rarely verge on Unscrupulous Hero, but can easily be judged a bit too tough.

Live Action TV

  • In Angel, the eponymous character thinks he has to take down the forces of evil by any means, and tries to distance himself from humans because they make him more remorseful, and ultimately, less ruthless. He also joins a dubious organization. Possibly momentarly downplayed when he tries to turn into Angelus, his Enemy Without.
    • It becomes a plot point in season 5, when it drives him further and further away of his function of Champion.
  • Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, later in the series. Buffy avoids this.
  • Merlin sees himself as this in Camelot. It is unclear whether he is actually this at the end of the series, but it seems he wants to be this and will succeed later.
  • In The Closer, Brenda Leigh Johnson is a Pragmatic Hero, verging on the Lawful choice of the dilemna To Be Lawful or Good because she geniuely thinks she has to (but choosing good ultimately, though a rather tough good).
  • The Doctor is this in DoctorWho, at one point sacrificing a city to prevent the world from being ruled by the villains.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's Elliot Stabler, possibly. He uses I Did What I Had to Do as a Catch Phrase, because he is highly moral, but also sometimes too determined in achieving what he thinks are the best results. He has a closure rate of 97 %, after all.
  • It is explored greatly in ABC's Legend of the Seeker.
    • First of all, it is Played Straight with the incorruptible Kahlan. She sacrifices her chances to get her immediate happy ending with the man she loves, her safety and the right to have the normal life she dreams of since so long ago, but can be a bit too extreme, even after her Love Interest. For instance, when she learns that her baby niece is actually a baby nephew, and discovers he'll be a terrible dicator of the Always Chaotic Evil men Inquisitor kind, she initially wants to drown him. She is also ready to kill a dangerous, potentially apocalypse-causing, yet innocent young lady Inquisitor.
    • Zedd seemed to show signs of being this, but it gets Subverted when he is willing to get revenge on Panis Rahl while it doesn't help in his quest, nor in his goal, not even helping to fulfill his personal standards, morally or otherwise. Then, it gets Double Subverted, as he refuses to do so when he realizes how bad it would be.
    • It is played with with Cara, who behaves like one due to Richard's orders (but it is unclear whether she completely or just partly adopted this mentality).
    • Subverted with Richard, who is supposed to be turned into a Pragmatic Hero by his training but always Takes a Third Option, remaining (depending on your point of view) either a Heroic Archetype, either a hero with shades of type I antihero.
    • It gets Deconstructed for antagonists such as Darken Rahl, Nicci, the first Mother Confessor in the series's run, and the Sisters of The Light, except Verna, who see themselves as this, but unlike Kahlan, Zedd and Cara, refuse Richard's solutions about taking a third option.
  • The heroine in Medium, Alison Dubois, uses death threats, emotional manipulation and horrible phobias to make people get caught by the police, or confess their crimes. Sometimes, she even lets murderers die when they can't get caught. She justifies it by thinking they cause a threat, but is several times seen rejoicing, which is justified again because she has many proofs of the afterlife.
  • Merlin from BBC's Merlin could be seen as this. Merlin poisons the innocent Morgana to save the good future he works for. Gaius encorages him on this way, and they both end up talking about how hard making difficult choices can be, but how it becomes necessary. Morgana is later characterized by her lack of planning and impulsivity, which cause her to go to great length either to make something way too extreme happen, either to prevent one of this situations realize, untill the season 4 premiere, in which she accepts to do an enormous sacrifice.
  • Ziva David was once a Dark Action Girl, who used manipulation and brutal intimidation to save her counntry. See her NCIS character page.
  • Smallville has Tess Mercer, who defines herself and people who are really heroes, as the people who are ready to do the dirty work for the good of the many.
  • 24's Jack Bauer is a highly nonconventional government agent who won't hesitate to torture his enemies to find out what he wants to know. Given that knowledge may be the only thing standing between the world as we know it and some very bad things, he falls in this category.

Theater

Video games

Western Animation

Community Feedback Replies: 44
  • April 29, 2012
    Lorialet
    I saw some examples and added them on the discarded page. I'll add them here. There are many others one can find on I Did What I Had To Do, Shoot The Dog, and Sadistic Choice.
  • April 29, 2012
    Jir
    warriors has many cats breaking the Warrior Code because it was the right thing to do, such as when Firestar went behind Bluestar's back to stop a unjustified war between Thunderclan and Windclan.
  • April 29, 2012
    Lorialet
    I just realized this YKTTW, unlike the other, wasn't up for grabs. Sorry for editing. Thanks to the last troper to have replied for suggesting this example. I'll correct grammar mistakes I made, and then just make suggestions.
  • April 29, 2012
    Lorialet
    Angel in Angel. Ziva at the beginning in NCIS (she becomes much more of a Knight In Sour Armor or slightly Good Is Not Nice now), perhaps Gibbs. The heroine of Medium.
  • April 29, 2012
    Lorialet
    I don't watch the show, but is Jack Bauer is the Trope Namer for Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, and I don't know (I am personally against, because the show contributes to banalize violence againt state opponents) if he could be added here.
  • April 29, 2012
    Lorialet
    I propose this formulation for Live Action TV :

    • In Angel, the eponymous character thinks he has to take down the forces of evil by any means, and tries to distance himself from humans because they make him more remorseful, and ultimately, less ruthless. He also joins a dubious organization. Possibly momentarly downplayed when he tries to turn into Angelus, his Enemy Without.
    • Giles in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, later in the series. Buffy avoids this.
    • The heroine in Medium, Alison Dubois, uses death threats, emotional manipulation and horrible phobias to make people get caught by the police, or confess their crimes. Sometimes, she even lets murderer die when they can't get caught. She justifies it by thinking they cause a threat, but is several times seen rejoicing, which is justified again because she has many proofs of the afterlife.
    • Ziva David was once a Dark Action Girl, who used manipulation and brutal intimidation to save her counntry. See her NCIS character page.
  • April 29, 2012
    Lorialet
    • Chloe from Smallville, ultimately. Tess Mercer, sometimes.
  • May 3, 2012
    ScanVisor
    Nanananananananananananananananana BATMAN! BATMAN!
  • May 3, 2012
    Lorialet
    Is there not a fair bit of overlap with Sociopathic Hero here?
    • No, because they do it out of good intentions. They are compasionate, but fight their compasionate nature to benefit the greater number.
  • May 6, 2012
    Lorialet
    I think some explanation of the difference between this and The Unfettered is called for. Which I didn't see, so I suppose this can pretty much be completely disregarded.
    • Actually, there is an explaination at the beginning. I sent the details in a private message.
  • May 6, 2012
    Lorialet
    The differences with The Unfettered have been recognized in the crowner page. Those with sociopathic hero have been acknowledged undirectly by way of the account on the differences between this and Nominal Hero.
  • May 25, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    Just Launch It Already - this looks pretty good, and whatever isn't totally finished will get there via Wiki Magic.
  • May 25, 2012
    JGuy
    Yuri Lowell from Tales of Vesperia "Did what he had to do" to Ragou, and Cumore. he as also given his share of "The Reason You Suck" speeches to Flynn Scifo
  • May 26, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    ^^No, the description and examples will have to be clean here or else to TRS it will go.
  • May 26, 2012
    sgamer82
    • In the case of Angel, the Pragmatic Heroism is actually a plot point in the fifth season, as the compromises he has to make in the name of that pragmatism drive him further and further away from his role as Champion.
  • May 26, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    A few suggestions:
    1. Swap the first and second paragraphs and rewrite them so that they are out of beta.
    2. "Their favourite sentence" is using it as a Stock Phrase. Write it as "Their favourite justification"
  • May 26, 2012
    Wii
    I'd like to suggest a name change to "Pragmatic Protagonist", because of Added Alliterative Appeal.
  • May 26, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    ^I'd do that, but a Hero Antagonist can also be a Pragmatic Hero.
  • May 27, 2012
    Wii
    I figure it's still fine; I've seen enough tropes with lines to the effect of "note that this does not always apply exclusively to X" to think it's an acceptable choice. Just include a line akin to, "Note that the character does not technically have to be the focus of the work; so long as a character deviates from 'typical heroism' for the sake of pragmatism, it counts."
  • May 27, 2012
    Lorialet
    I think that the distinction between Pragmatic Hero and Pragmatic Protagonist is important for the clarity. Perhaps we should find another alitteration.
  • May 27, 2012
    Lorialet
  • May 27, 2012
    Lorialet
    Knight In Never UN Practical Armor ?
  • May 27, 2012
    Lorialet
    Knight In No Nonsense Armor ?

    I really like this one.
  • June 1, 2012
    Kiefen
    I added the fact that Harry Potter uses 2 of the three unforgivable curses in book 7 and fixed Yuri Lowells gender under Videogames ( he was called a "she" 2 times)
  • June 7, 2012
    AP
    I could've sworn Pragmatic Hero used to be a trope here.
  • June 7, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I think the name needs work. can we use vigilante instead?
  • June 8, 2012
    szabba
    Grimble from Legend Of The Guardians: The Owl's of Ga'Hoole might fit.
  • June 8, 2012
    raven2785
    • From Fate Zero we have Kiritsugu Emiya, he originally wanted to be "a hero of justice" who would help the weak and needed, but this led him to become an assassin capable of committing many atrocities in his belief is that choosing the smaller sacrifice is always the best outcome, for him sacrificing a hundred people to save a thousand is something that is done with barely a twitch of an eyebrow down to the point were he killed his own father for messing with vampires, and his trainer an mother figure due to a botched assassination
  • June 9, 2012
    WhySoSerious
    This trope sounds oddly familiar to me... kind of like the Knight Templar trope, but far less extreme. Maybe mention this?
  • June 9, 2012
    Lorialet
    I am supporting Just Launch It Already.
  • June 9, 2012
    DracMonster
    Might name it Pragmatic Heroism to line up with Pragmatic Villainy better.
  • June 9, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    ^Pragmatic Heroism isn't the best name for a character trope.
  • June 18, 2012
    raven2785
    Page Quote anyone?
  • June 19, 2012
    Lorialet
    I propone :

    Clark Kent: You're so delusional, you put together a small army to make some fictional prophecy come true.
    Tess Mercer: Clark, the mark of a true hero is somebody who's willing to sacrifice his own personal morality to help keep the world safe.

    or

    Clark Kent : Why are you so determined to see Davis Bloome die?
    Tess Mercer : That's simple, Clark. An entire civilization's survival depends on it.
  • June 19, 2012
    raven2785
    ^ Smallville fan eh... I tried long and hard to look for a quote, but the only one I could come up with is the one on the character page for Kiritsugu Emiya.

    "Even if I am to carry "all the evils of this world", it won't matter. If that can save the world, then I'd gladly accept it."
  • June 19, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Tried to trim it a bit. If everyone likes the new description, I'll start the launch clock.
  • June 19, 2012
    InvasivePlague
    Added renegade Commander Shepard as an example.
  • June 20, 2012
    Lorialet
    I like your description the way it is. You can launch it as soon as you want.
  • June 21, 2012
    raven2785
    ^ Agreed, launch this sucker already
  • June 22, 2012
    raven2785
    wait, do we have Jack Bauer in here, last I checked he fits the description
  • June 23, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    ^ It will be easy enough to add him post-launch, if we've missed him.
  • June 23, 2012
    Lorialet
    We haven't missed it, he is in the good section.
  • June 24, 2012
    Lorialet
    I really liked working on this YKTTW !
  • November 18, 2013
    Lorialet

    If your reading this title your parents will die within 5 years To undo this curse copy on 5threads Good luck sorry I CAN'T Risk it!!!
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