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[[quoteright:350: [[ComicBook/BatmanAndCaptainAmerica http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/evil_standards_crop_1_2518.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:Even when [[ComicBook/TheJoker you're a psychotic jester]], the American way must be protected.]]

->''"I'll kill a man in a fair fight. Or if I think he's gonna start a fair fight. Or if he bothers me. Or if there's a woman. Or if I'm gettin' paid. Mostly when I'm gettin' paid... but ''eating people alive''? Where's'' that ''get fun?"''
-->-- '''Jayne''', ''Film/{{Serenity}}''

One of the easiest ways to highlight just how ''bad'' something or someone evil is: have an otherwise-remorseless villain reject it.

It's often to show that a new villain is ''really'' [[SlidingScaleOfAntagonistVileness bad]] if even [[MorallyAmbiguousDoctorate Doctor]] [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Annihilation]] shrinks from it. Another way that it's used is to keep a villain safely on the "still sympathetic" side of the MoralEventHorizon; give him something that he simply ''will not do''. It may be specifically invoked to prove that it's OK for our hero to [[EnemyMine work with]] villains who have standards when the need is great enough. This can be strange if handled badly objecting to someone's crossing even if they have crossed another one, leading to confusion and unintentionally edge into BlueAndOrangeMorality. Why, after all, should a criminal think shooting a [[NominalImportance particular single orphan]] be worse than killing every single orphan in the ThrowawayCountry, or a serial killer be upset by petty theft, or...? This might be deliberate however, in order to show the MoralMyopia of the villains and make the viewers question what is right what is wrong and if there is more wrong. Also to show how complex human beings can be, what is acceptable for them and what drives them to make different choices in different scenarios. It is particularly ironic when two characters display this and their different understanding of morality by objecting to each other's crossing.

The most common taboos of this type in contemporary Western works involve [[RapeIsASpecialKindOfEvil sexual violence]] or [[WouldntHurtAChild ill-treatment of children]]. [[PaedoHunt Or both at once]]. Common gangster-story examples are to have the NeighbourhoodFriendlyGangsters, by contrast with the RuthlessForeignGangsters, refuse to [[DrugsAreBad sell illegal drugs]] or be disrespectful and abusive in their treatment of the [[UnproblematicProstitution women who they pimp]]. If your story takes place in a MobWar where [[BlackAndGreyMorality one side is slightly better than the other]], it's most likely because the "[[NeighbourhoodFriendlyGangsters good]]" side has standards. In older works, or historical fiction with authentic moral attitudes, common examples are breaches of SacredHospitality, treachery against [[MyMasterRightOrWrong one's leader]], or general [[IGaveMyWord breaches of oaths]].

The trope title is frequently spouted by the NobleDemon, in order to justify his evil self-identification. The typical format of their declaration is usually along the lines of "I may be Y, but I am/am not an ''X'' Y!"

The CompleteMonster in particular has a tendency to provoke invocations of this trope on the part of other villains, due to having zero moral standards and generally being the absolute worst when it comes to villainy.

IGaveMyWord is another common variant, which may let the heroes agree to CombatByChampion. Some villains may maintain their standards through use of a [[HeroicVow Villainous Vow]].

Can lead to an EnemyMine if the evil is another villain. Can also lead to a PetTheDog moment. Can contribute to making an AntiHero or VillainProtagonist ALighterShadeOfGrey than their enemies. Can also make it so that a conflict [[EvilVersusEvil where both major factions are malicious]] [[ALighterShadeOfBlack has someone for the audience to root for]]. In rare cases, a HeelFaceTurn can even develop from the villain taking a RedemptionQuest as a direct result of the conflict (most likely from HeelRealization).

In comedy, it's often used to frame a TakeThat against a real-life action (such as [[DigitalPiracyIsEvil digital piracy]]) or profession (such as [[EvilLawyerJoke lawyer]]) that the villain is "too good" to associate with (or alternatively making fun of those who treat it as a crime); it's sometimes also played for laughs with ArsonMurderAndJaywalking, where the one thing that the villain objects to is something comically minor compared to their usual crimes. Contrast MoralMyopia and EvenEvilHasLovedOnes, where the 'standards' apply only to the villain's allies and ArsonMurderAndAdmiration where the eviler one is the better. This trope is one of the distinguishing differences between most villains and TheUnfettered.

Compare and contrast PragmaticVillainy, when the villain's refusal to partake in the abhorrent act is far more selfish (or in the case of a group of villains against a single one, group-beneficial); EvilerThanThou, where the villain is dismissive of another villain for not being evil ''enough''; EvenMooksHaveLovedOnes, where minions defect to protect a loved one from their boss; DoWrongRight for cases where it's not what is done but rather ''how'' it's done that the villain has standards for; EvilVersusOblivion, where one villain is trying to defend the world (himself included) against another villain who [[OmnicidalManiac wants to destroy everything]]; and FamilyValuesVillain for where the standards are very . . . old fashioned. Often the deal with many LawfulEvil villains, but sometimes not. Can occasionally be the cause of a BreakTheBadass moment, when the badass in question is the bad guy. As said above it may be used by a character who also crossed the MoralEventHorizon and so he may be, in theory (if not wholly) just as evil as the target of this trope. The PoliticallyCorrectVillain always considers themself part of this trope, though whether the writer and audience agree tends to vary.

See also HitmanWithAHeart, where this Trope may apply. (Not all characters who fit the ProfessionalKiller Trope are evil depending on their choice of targets, but most are, and a lot do have ''some'' scruples. They're particularly likely to have the Even Evil Has Standards variant SelectiveSlaughter.)

Can even involve ConscienceMakesYouGoBack, SuddenPrincipledStand. See also EvilVirtues and VillainousValour, for good traits and virtues that villains commonly practice. The inversions of this trope are WellIntentionedExtremist and UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans, when it turns out that ''goodness'' is willingly crossing the MoralEventHorizon. This trope is a common trait in AffablyEvil characters. On the other hand, while FauxAffablyEvil villains do not possess much sincerity, even they could conceivably have their limits. A subtrope of EveryoneHasStandards.

[[NoRealLifeExamplesPlease No real life examples, please]].

* EvenEvilHasStandards/AnimeAndManga
* EvenEvilHasStandards/ComicBooks
* EvenEvilHasStandards/ComicStrips
* EvenEvilHasStandards/FanWorks
* [[EvenEvilHasStandards/AnimatedFilms Films Animation]]
* [[EvenEvilHasStandards/LiveActionFilms Films Live-Action]]
* EvenEvilHasStandards/{{Literature}}
* EvenEvilHasStandards/LiveActionTV
* EvenEvilHasStandards/{{Music}}
* EvenEvilHasStandards/MythsAndReligion
* EvenEvilHasStandards/PrintMedia
* EvenEvilHasStandards/ProWrestling
* EvenEvilHasStandards/{{Radio}}
%% Due to the controversial nature of whether or not evil people in Real Life have standards, it would only be GodwinsLaw.
%% No RealLife examples, please. This is an admin warning. Disregarding or removing it may result in an edit ban.
* EvenEvilHasStandards/TabletopGames
* EvenEvilHasStandards/{{Theater}}
* EvenEvilHasStandards/VideoGames
* EvenEvilHasStandards/WebAnimation
* EvenEvilHasStandards/WebComics
* EvenEvilHasStandards/WebOriginal
** EvenEvilHasStandards/SCPFoundation
* EvenEvilHasStandards/WesternAnimation
%% No RealLife examples, please. This is an admin warning. Disregarding or removing it may result in an edit ban.