->''"I'm at a loss for how to write a villain who doesn't do villainous things."''
-->-- '''Daniel Handler'''

MoralGuardians often get into a tizzy over any sort of naughty, nasty, or even questionable business portrayed in the media. After all, in their minds those kids will [[DontTryThisAtHome imitate anything they see on the screen]]. This tends to result in a [[BlackAndWhiteMorality world of clear-cut heroes and villains]] in media marketed as being "kid-friendly".

But villains are supposed to be evil, right? They can get away with doing all sorts of [[KickTheDog nasty things]] the moral guardians wouldn't approve of because they inevitably get [[KarmicDeath what's coming to them]] [[HappilyEverAfter in the end]]. But sometimes the guardians complain anyway, as if the viewers are too dumb to tell who's right and who's wrong. (Or the guardians might be afraid that EvilIsCool, in the mind of kids who like acting someone cool.) It's like they don't ''want'' the bad guys to be evil...and, of course, since most of these moralists believe in BlackAndWhiteMorality, this attitude steers them dangerously close to LogicBomb territory.

The result of this sort of thinking (if the writers don't tell the MoralGuardians to shove off) is typically VillainDecay or a HarmlessVillain or FriendlyEnemy who [[OffstageVillainy isn't actually shown doing bad things]]. Any attempt by the villains to do bad things will get foiled by the heroes [[InvincibleHero with a minimum of fuss]].

To be fair, one of the oldest ways of GettingCrapPastTheRadar is to create a MagnificentBastard who outsmarts everyone, is [[EvilIsCool much cooler than the heroes]], and lives a life of (vividly described) debauchery, but gets killed in the last five minutes. Then the creators appease the Moral Guardians by saying, "Hey, he loses. That proves that all the debauchery and lying we showed isn't something you root for." (Goes at least as far back as ''Don Giovanni''.) After Moral Guardians realize they've been hoaxed this way, they become paranoid and assume that any villain who succeeds at all is a case of GettingCrapPastTheRadar.

Villain who fall into this trope have a very high chance of being regarded as DracoInLeatherPants by fans.

Despite the snarky tone we're taking here, this trope is not necessarily a bad thing. No matter how clear a series makes it that the villain is not to be admired, [[FamilyUnfriendlyViolence some evil acts genuinely aren't appropriate for all audiences.]] This is why fairly light kids' shows like ''Franchise/ScoobyDoo'' have their villains committing the more mundane crimes (theft, fraud, etc.) rather than the more disturbing ones (rape, graphic torture, etc.)

See also DoNotDoThisCoolThing. When this is done to a HistoricalDomainCharacter, see HistoricalVillainDowngrade. Not related to EvenEvilHasStandards and ALighterShadeOfBlack, which is when a villainous character can't be as villainous as another one, in-story.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* When [[Creator/FourKidsEntertainment 4Kids]] dubbed ''Anime/ShamanKing'', they left in a scene where 'Zeke' kicks Yoh in the head, much to the delight of fans who thought that this might be a sign that 4Kids was going to gradually stop {{Macekre}}ing anime. The result was a massive outcry from parents against a villain actually kicking the hero in the head like that.
** Curiously enough, they actually left in a scene of his spirit [[FamilyUnfriendlyDeath incinerating someone alive]], then [[DeaderThanDead devouring their ghost]], because there was less risk of children imitating the act.
* The Italian dubbers of ''Anime/MermaidMelodyPichiPichiPitch'' apparently thought that, since Sara was [[EverythingsBetterWithPrincesses really a princess]] and going to make a HeelFaceTurn later on, that her VillainSong - which says that "love and dreams are an illusion" - should be replaced by something more heroic that says "have faith in the princesses and ThePowerOfLove." Never mind that this is the ''complete opposite'' of what Sara believes, and that much of the first season is spent trying to convince her of it.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* Used for humor in the ''My Little Pony'' TrollFic ''Fanfic/TwilightSparklesAwesomeAdventure''. The CardCarryingVillain Queen Celesia's introduction has her drinking blood from a skull--but the narrator assures us that it's not a pony skull, so that makes it better.

* In ''Film/LordOfWar'' the in-character reason that Yuri never supplied Al Qaeda is that Osama was bouncing cheques, but the scriptwriters' reason was almost certainly to allow him to be amoral, but not too amoral for the audience.
* ''Film/{{Downfall}}'' drew quite a bit of controversy among some MoralGuardians for depicting UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler as too sympathetic. It follows his last days as the Red Army closes in on Berlin, and largely Hitler is something of an old ship captain trying to retain some dignity and grace in a hopeless situation, a man capable of showing genuine kindness and charm around people and things he likes, but also cruel, petty, ineffectual and paranoid. Before you start feeling too sorry for him, there's a notable scene where he reminds you that he's Adolf Hitler by giving a big speech where he expresses pride in killing millions of people and hopes that the entire German people get wiped out for failing him.

* Creator/JKRowling was attacked by some of the aforementioned fringe groups for having the recently-revealed ''villain'' [[spoiler:Quirrell]] (or in the FilmOfTheBook ''Voldemort himself'') say [[WhatIsEvil "There is no such thing as good and evil, only power and those too weak to seek it."]] in ''Literature/HarryPotterAndThePhilosophersStone''.
* This happened with the second book in ''Literature/ASeriesOfUnfortunateEvents'': It was banned in one school because the villain says "Damn!" and "Hell!", and the really absurd part is that Snicket uses this as an occasion for an parody of overly moralistic children's authors about how swearing is something only a villain would do.
** Daniel Handler eventually stated in an interview that he was deliberately trying to provoke this kind of thing, and was actually disappointed that he got so little attention compared to ''Literature/HarryPotter''. His one real "victory" was the series being banned from a Georgia school due to Olaf trying to marry his own relative in the first book. After jokingly hinting at why southerners in particular would object to that plot point, he went on, "I'm at a loss for how to write a villain who doesn't do villainous things."
** There was also some amount of scandal involved with the book when several Christian groups found out Daniel Handler was an atheist, and [[InsaneTrollLogic claimed that the book series would turn children into atheists.]]
* Every villain in any of the ''Literature/LandOfOz'' books by Creator/LFrankBaum. Baum talks about how evil and nasty they are and how they love being that way, but they're all talk and no show. In his sixth book, four teams of villains band together to make war on Oz in secret, but Ozma had three annoyingly convenient plot devices that put the kibosh on the war just seconds before it could happen. In his previous book, ''The Road to Oz'', there is absolutely no conflict of villains at all. It may have been intentional because the prologues and epilogue of book six suggest that he really wished his fans would stop asking him to write the series.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Lord Zedd, one of the truly genuinely creepy villains in ''Series/MightyMorphinPowerRangers'', got turned into an IneffectualSympatheticVillain by the network after parents complained he was "too scary" for their kids.
** Made especially jarring considering that the rangers' response to any monsters' crime is to [[AllCrimesAreEqual blow them up (twice!)]]. Heck, most monsters don't even get to commit a crime before being [[NeverSayDie destroyed.]]
** Similarly, the number of "bad guy" figures released in the series' accompanying toy line has diminished over the years; in ''PowerRangers''' early days, a good handful of bad guy figures were released along with the Ranger figures, sold under their own name, but nowadays you'll be hard-pressed to find even ''one'' baddie among the sea of Ranger merchandise... and if you do, it's under the generic term of "Evil Space Alien". Who exactly the kids are supposed to play-fight with their Power Ranger action figures is a mystery.
* An in-universe example (sort of): The CouchGag of ''QueVidaMasTriste'' is the actors (not [[TheDanza the characters]]) discussing show-related stuff. One of them is about [[AntiHero Borja]] receiving mail from a feminist association denouncing him because his character treats women like sex objects. Except not only Borja CantGetAwayWithNuthin, his experiences with women usually end the ''worst''. So, apparently, you can't be sexist against women, even if this is shown to be a bad thing. That, or the writers didn't think the joke very well.
* Siegfried, the agent of KAOS who usually fought against Max Smart in ''Series/GetSmart'', definitely falls into this trope. Sure, he was "involved" in KAOS's schemes, but whenever he ran up against Max, the more common thing for them to do was trade commiserations about comparative health benefits, retirement benefits, and working conditions between KAOS and CONTROL, with each one trying to get the other to defect. Oh, and argue over whether KAOS or CONTROL's spy gadgets were better.
* ''Series/TheHandmaidsTale'': In the original book, Gilead was racist, sexist, militarist, anti-science and generally fulfilled every possible negative stereotype of the RightWingMilitiaFanatic to the maximum extent. This adaptation actually ''amplifies'' the regime's misogyny, or at least the attention it receives, but seemingly omits the racism, even showing the system actively promoting higher black birthrates.

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
* Over the past several years, [[{{Heel}} heels]] in [[Wrestling/{{WWE}} World Wrestling Entertainment]] have been forced to tone down their behavior to the point that all but a few of them hardly seem worse than mere {{Jerkass}} status, and even appear unobjectionable compared to some of the ''faces'' of the Wrestling/AttitudeEra. Often this will be taken to ridiculous extremes, with the heels portrayed as full-blown [[DirtyCoward Dirty Cowards]] who are too afraid to attack anyone openly - and worse, sometimes crying or begging for mercy, when a real-life villain would just try to kill or maim his opponent, or at least display a token amount of hatred. Making insulting remarks regarding race or ethnicity - [[NWordPrivileges even one's own race or ethnicity]] - has been generally forbidden since the mid-2000s. References to Satanism or the occult are a no-no (unless you're Wrestling/TheUndertaker or Wrestling/{{Kane}}, since the former is a {{Face}} and both benefit from the GrandfatherClause). It is still permissible to bully, threaten, or lecherously leer at a woman, but actually ''hitting'' a woman is blatantly crossing the MoralEventHorizon and isn't attempted except in the most serious of stories. (Sexist comments are generally okay, but only if the victim kicks the man's ass afterwards.) And while firearms are popular in almost every other entertainment medium, it's surprisingly very, very rare to see even the most violent villain in pro wrestling brandishing a gun (the few times it's happened, it's been called "controversial," as if nothing else in WWE programming could be that). If you think about it, relying on this trope is quite counterproductive for wrestling, since trying to diminish a heel's level of evil will make it much more difficult for him to draw CheapHeat.

* ''Creator/HamishAndAndy'': During a sketch about the idea about making a new version of Google maps called Google treasure maps that would be tailored specifically for pirates. Then one of the pirates mentioned his intention of using the map to find a port were he could pillage and “inappropriately touch” women.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Given that, outside of amateur white supremacist video games, Nazis are [[VillainByDefault universally portrayed as villains]] in video games, NoSwastikas could almost be a subtrope of this.
* In ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' the Medic is a German near-sociopathic mad doctor who considers healing people a mere side effect of curing his own morbid curiosity. But he's not a Nazi.
** Less to do with avoiding controversy, and more because making him a Nazi would have been "[[WordOfGod too easy, and too boring.]]" It might've also been to avoid the natural FridgeLogic that would arise from a Nazi serving on a team with a black man and a Russian (the latter of which he also happens to be a close friend with).
* ''VideoGame/{{Portal 2}}'' [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUQYrdgIJuI has been attacked]] for using adoption as an insult when both users of the attack are the antagonists, and their inability to come up with truly effective insults is part of the joke.
* Inverted in the case of the ''VideoGame/{{Syndicate}}'' remake. Reviewers called out Starbreeze for [[spoiler:throwing in a HeelFaceTurn]] instead of letting you fully embrace the VillainProtagonist role of the originals.
* The evil(er) Overlord in ''VideoGame/{{Overlord}}'' is more funny-evil than evil-evil. He has a harem of kidnapped village girls who don't actually do anything but stand there and wonder if they can get something less revealing to wear.

[[folder:Web Originals]]
* Parodied by ''WebAnimation/HomestarRunner'' in the Strong Bad Email "being mean", where Strong Bad makes fun of an e-mailer known as "Nice Dad" who scolds him for "being mean" and tries to convince him to "point out why being mean isn't always the best choice". Strong Bad then shows a "high school drama club" production by "Coach Z's Nicetown Players", in which Head Male Cheerleader (Coach Z) and Marzipan's character are at a party making ([[PokeThePoodle rather defanged]]) jibes at [[BullyingADragon Strong Mad]] in the role of a stupid nerd. After the fun is made, the party's going great...until suddenly the gigantic muscular nerd comes back to bash everyone with a spiky club.
* The [[MoralGuardians Child Care Action Project]] will count points against a movie using it's [[FunWithAcronyms WISDOM score system]] regardless of which characters perpetrate the wrongdoing, even or especially if it's the villain, and even if said villain is some unlikeable loser like Prince John from Disney's RobinHood, who no child would want to emulate anyway.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The outrage over the goosestepping hyenas in ''Disney/TheLionKing''. Apparently, this happens to Disney a ''lot''.
* ''Disney/TheHunchbackOfNotreDame''. Disney was forced to cut several minutes of footage (including most of the [[CrowningMusicOfAwesome awesome]] VillainSong) in order to secure a General Release rating in Australia.
* All the way back before any actual ''{{Transformers}}'' fiction was created, Hasbro representatives initially complained that the name "Megatron" sounded too dangerous, until reminded that the character was ''intended'' to be the BigBad.
* In early ''WesternAnimation/VeggieTales'', before UsefulNotes/{{DVD}}, "Rack, Shack, and Benny" retold a Biblical story of idolatry, replacing chocolate bunnies for the idol. The bag guy, Mr. Nezzer, sang "The Bunny Song", with lyrics about neglecting parents, school, and church. The heroes achieve their moral victory by refusing to sing along--but the song was so ridiculously catchy that RealLife kids started singing it for real. The show responded, first by offering a "New & Improved Bunny Song", as sung by the [[HeelFaceTurn reformed Mr. Nezzer]], in their first sing-along video: the tune was the same, but the words were about getting a stomach ache from eating too many chocolate bunnies. ("I need to eat good food to help me to grow / I'll obey my mama, 'cause she loves me so.") And when his backing singers sang the same lyrics from the old song, Mr. Nezzer scolded them. Then, reprints of "Rack, Shack, and Benny" bowdlerized the villainous version of "The Bunny Song", to make it more focused on neglecting healthy food. Now, the original version of the song is only around at [[UsefulNotes/{{VCR}} VHS]] quality. You can see it [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML0Ho2EgvwY here]].
* According to Creator/MattGroening, [[Franchise/TheSimpsons Bart Simpson]] was created out of his frustration with this trope; as he put it, the traditional brat in television was usually just a decently mannered kid who spoke too loud, in contrast to Bart's genuinely disruptive and anti-authority behavior.
** Of course, back in the day Matt got what he wanted and more: when ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' first began airing (and particularly during the first two seasons) Bart's behavior set off a firestorm of protests from angry parents' groups saying Bart was a terrible role model. Unlike many examples on this page, though, all this complaining was roundly ignored by the show's writers, who refused to change a thing. In fact, it inspired [[Recap/TheSimpsonsS2E9ItchyAndScratchyAndMarge an episode where Marge stages a censorship campaign against Itchy and Scratchy]]. The campaign works, and I&S becomes incredibly bland and boring as a result.
** Ironically, either through shifting culture or VillainDecay (probably a little of both), Bart can now be reasonably accurately described as a "decently mannered kid who speaks too loud".
*** Even in his heyday, Bart could almost be a subversion. While he genuinely enjoyed causing mayhem, most of his antics were more meant to drive authority figures crazy rather than cause any genuine harm. There were lines that [[EvenEvilHasStandards even Bart wouldn't cross]], and when he realized he went too far, he'd actually feel bad about it and try to make up for it. The prime examples would be he'd happily torment Homer and raise hell for Skinner but cares about Marge's opinion of him and never pranks Maggie. He'll tease Lisa relentlessly but [[HypocriticalHeartwarming if anything ELSE bothers Lisa]] he'll step in to help her out.
* In ''[[WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}} Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles]]'', BigBad Xanatos and his wife Fox got a really jarring HeelFaceTurn and became complete saints (in the canon comics by the original creator, Creator/GregWeisman, they do a much more natural semi-HeelFaceTurn to become ''{{Anti Hero}}es'', and even though they're now allies of the protagonists are still very morally grey and rather untrustworthy).

* The treatment many {{Website/Neopets}} villains receive (and nearly all that aren't part of the regular character lineup). Goes hand-in-hand with the prevalent VillainDecay.