"I've heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father's armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and... you have saved us all."
A variation in in Fairy Tail. In Master Makarov's first appearance, he admonishes everyone in the guild for various misdeeds (especially Natsu for blowing up several buildings). Just as it looks like he's about to give them all severe punishment, he says something that boils down to "Screw the Council! True Fairy Tail mages don't need to be intimidated by authority!" And the crowd goes wild.
They also invert it. When the Magic Council goes over a list of violations by Fairy Tail, including many, many counts of property damage, and associating with the criminal Jellal, not to mention all the things they did before the new council was selected, one of them mentions that the guild did stop a dark guild from taking over an ancient magic that would have turned the whole country into a giant magic war zone. The other members then decide that this is also a violation, because they didn't wait to get permission to save the day.
The girls of the bastion in So Ra No Wo To violate quite a few military laws in the last few episodes. Harbouring an enemy soldier without informing their superiors, disobeying direct orders, lying to a superior officer, assaulting a superior officer, tying up said superior officer in their illegal distillery, going AWOL and attacking friendly units (although in fairness, they were attacked first). All in all, it's a good thing they're friends with Rio, who is princess of Helvetia and third wife to the Roman Emperor by that point.
Episode 5 of Digimon Savers has a perfect example: Satsuma is furious at the team for disobeying his orders, to the point Kudamon does most of the scolding for him. When it seems like he's going to unload on Masaru and Tohma in particular...he quietly congratulates them for making it back, smiling to Kudamon's confusion. This could be explained by the fact the last time he went to the Digital World it was a disaster. Knowing his team did it successfully gave him hope that Digital Dives could actually work.
Ross: "I agree to One. Simple. Test. And you trash a shuttle, wreck Vegas and reveal yourselves to the public in a way we cannot hide or go back from... and for what? For what, Mr. Richards?"
Reed Richards: "That's a hand-held death ray, General. Pretty easy to reverse-engineer and produce."
Ross: "...I love you, boy."
In one of the books in the X-Wing Series, Aaron Allson's Wraith Squadron, a couple of the pilots get one of these after pulling off a brilliantly executed plan, drawing off a Star Destroyer with just two X-Wings and two A-Wings, saving an entire evacuation convoy, including one last transport that had trouble getting off the ground. But they went against procedure by broadcasting unencrypted towards the enemy they'd fooled, taunting him. Wedge says that they should split the difference and hammer a medal into each of their skulls.
In MGLN Crisis, Hayate dresses down Arisa and Suzuka for taking the golem into combat, and after silencing their protests, congratulates them for their heroism.
In Rules of the Game, Harry is given a dressing down by Snape for directly disobeying orders, throwing his' friends into danger, and saving Professor Snape.
In ''Symbiosis, Brock chews out Ash for getting involved in the siege as it could have gone horribly wrong, but he does concede that Ash made a good call in covertly stopping Team Rocket from killing Melanie and taking the eggs.
In Kindergarten Cop: Kimble is being questioned by the school principal after the former beat up a student's abusive father:
Miss Schlowski: Now Mr. Kimble, I have checked, and there's no record of you teaching anywhere in Florida, or in the US, for that matter. Now, let's see... I thought that introducing a ferret to the class was a terrible idea, but the children seem to like it. I thought that the whistle and drills were outrageous—
John Kimble: It was all I could think of—
Miss Schlowski: Please...allow me to finish. I thought that the whistle and drills were outrageous...but it worked. Now, I don't know what kind of cop you are, Mr. Kimble, but you are a very good teacher. Now. I want you to answer one more question—don't lie. What did it feel like to hit that son of a bitch?
Chief: Didn't you cause about a bazillion dollars worth of damage? And I sure as hell ain't covering for you! I don't give a damn how sexy you look floating down in your little pants! And as for the rest of you...I just want to say how very proud I am of all of you. Undercover Brother, the world is safe once again thanks to you.
Although considering that almost every one of those dollars was a) caused by Conspiracy Brother and b) done to The Man's property and plans, it's doubtful that the Chief was too upset and just wanted to invoke this trope.
Used at the end of Mulan, with the Chinese Emperor himself giving the talk to the title character. Bonus points for actually committing all three crimes.
Such an epic quote, Disney felt it was all that was needed for the film's first trailer.
Although they changed the word stole to took.
The trope appears rank-and-file in Kingdom Hearts II. Most of the quote remains intact, although Sora interrupts before he can get to the part about the palace with "We get the picture." Incidentally, the palace isn't even damaged in this game, due to Shan-Yu getting his ass kicked first.
The Magic Voyage used this at the end with the native chief to Christopher Columbus.
Native Chief: You stole our idol! Destroyed our sacred temple! And... made squishy with the Swarm Lord. How can we ever thank you?
In the Disney Channel original movie Motocrossed (inspired by Shakespeare'sTwelfth Night), a teenage girl takes the place of her twin brother (who broke his leg) in a motocross championship. After winning, she reveals herself to be a girl. While there's some question as to the legality of her win, there Ain't No Rule about the winner being female, and the fact that she registered under the name "Andy" (her brother's name is Andrew) means that she can't be called on that (her name is Andrea). Then comes out the CEO of the sponsoring factory, who at first appears to be outraged at the girl tricking everyone. She then promptly praises her for winning in a "man's sport" and signs on the entire family.
John Boyd in Ravenous attempts to desert from the Army during the Mexican-American war, but ends up inadvertently winning a crucial battle on his own. His superiors know exactly how it went down and tell him they'd execute him if not for how bad it would look; instead, they pin a medal on him and then give him a reassignment as third in command of the shittiest outpost in the country.
In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, after Bilbo saved Thorin from Azog, Thorin harshly calls out Bilbo on all his failings and lists his reasons why he believes Bilbo doesn't belong with the company, before finishing with "I have never been more wrong!" and grabbing Bilbo into a giant hug.
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, Watch Commander Sam Vimes gets this from Lord Vetinari at the end of Feet of Clay. (It probably helped his case that the people he threatened or assaulted were involved in an assassination attempt against Vetinari.)
Inverted in Monstrous Regiment; in spite of all the things they've personally done to end the war with a reasonably victory-flavored outcome for Borogravia, the country's political leaders are a hair's breadth away from giving the protagonists what amounts to a consolation prize and quietly forgetting anything of the sort happened, just because said protagonists are women (in a country where Straw Misogyny is part of the religious doctrine). It takes the intervention of Sergeant Jackrum, who is well-known, well-respected, and above all knows things about half the ruling council that would get them hanged (namely, they're women too), to turn this around.
At the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron get this speech from Dumbledore. At first, it seems that they might actually get expelled, but they get bonus house points for Gryffindor instead, and they win the House Cup.
Harry goes through this all the time; when the adults and faculty of the school refuse to listen to him, he invariably winds up needing to save the day himself, often breaking a ton of rules in the process. He might get punished along the way, but never suffers at the end of the book. The earliest example is probably when he, Ron, and Hermione defeated a giant Troll loose in the school halfway through Book 1. As Harry stopped listening to the teachers so much in the later books (and the teachers likewise realized it's a good idea to pay attention when Harry says someone wants him dead), the series started to move away from this. Pretty heavily lampshaded, too, especially by Snape. Verges on Jerkass Has a Point.
Commander Blaine gets one of these at the beginning of The Mote in God's Eye for leading his marines in a coup de main against a rebellious planet's shield generator. If he had failed the admiral would have had no choice other than orbital bombardment, killing most of the population and dooming what remained to a slow death by starvation. In the end, Blaine's action was successful, so he was promoted and given command of a battlecruiser.
One character in that series (in fact, I think it's the one delivering this particular chewing-out) says that officers are, instead of following whatever stupid idea comes to mind, supposed to follow The Book, which he then categorizes as "largely a bunch of stupid ideas that worked."
As seen below, the latest Star Trek novel (Before Dishonor) had several original characters, including a Vulcan, stage a mutiny after Picard ignored the Admirals yet again. They were...forgiven. So, yeah.
Picard himself was pretty much forgiven when his actions helped save the Earth from a Borg attack. By the end of the novel, Ambassador Spock (who was aboard the Enterprise during the novel) recommended that Starfleet pass a new General Order stating that in the event of a Borg invasion, Starfleet should automatically defer to Captain Picard.
Which is exactly what happens in the Destiny trilogy — with a fleet of a thousand Borg cubes rampaging through the Federation and Klingon Empire, President Bacco says, "Tell [Picard] that if he has any idea how to stop the Borg, no matter what he has to do, he has my unqualified authority to do it. If he has to toss Starfleet regulations and Federation law out an airlock, so be it. If we're still here when the dust settles, he can count on full pardons for himself and his crew, no questions asked."
The backstory for two of the characters in The Tar-Aiym Krang was that they faked a malfunction aboard their ship in order to attack AAnn forces which were about to invade and enslave/depopulate a world the Commonwealth wasn't officially bound to protect. At their court martial:
Ensigns Bran Tse-Mallory and Truzenzuzex were ordered stripped of all rank and dismissed from the service. As a preliminary, however, they were to be awarded the Church Order of Merit, one star cluster. This was done. Unofficially, each was also presented with a scroll on which those citizens of the colony planet known as Goodhunting had inscribed their names and thanks ... all two hundred and ninety-five thousand of them.
Beregond from the Lord of the Rings books. During the siege of Minas Tirith, he deserted his post and killed the porter with the keys to the Silent Street, as well as two members of the Guard. However, he only did this to protect Faramir from a premature funeral pyre, and only slew the others because they would not listen to him and attempted to kill him first. After the crowning of King Elessar, Beregond is brought before the new King. King Elessar spares him from execution because of the circumstances, but discharges Beregond from the Guard and orders him out of Minas Tirith... so that he may be reassigned to Faramir's newly-formed personal Guard in Ithilien as its captain.
In Honor Harrington a subplot involves an enlisted man drawing the unfortunate attention of a sadistic bully, then taking martial arts no make sure that if there's another confrontation he at least gets out alive. Then the bully nearly kills a friend by sabotaging their equipment, so he finds the bully and suckers them into a fight, winning easily and causing no small amount of damage. He goes in front of the captain, expecting to be kicked out of the service at best, gets the dressing down... and is docked some pay.
In "Let's Go to Prague", a short story set in the universe, two Manticoran Marines on a lark decide to take leave on an enemy planet, accidentally get involved with an intelligence operation and screw up the carefully laid plans of the officer in charge, brazen and bull their way through to save the day and not only get forgiven, one of them gets the girl (namely the intel officer). Then they get home and discover that Honor has negated their intel gold mine by turning out to be not dead and breaking out of prison with 800,000 other people, so no one cares.
In the The Dresden Files, one of his enemies took up dark magic - the corrupting, addictive, force that fuels most illegal magic, to save lives. She wants to destroy death - so while she's assisting a massive necromancy ritual that will kill many people, she also saves random civilians from dying. Harry tries to convert her back to the light side and gives this trope as part of his pitch.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Davos was a lifelong smuggler who smuggled vital supplies into Storm's End during a seige. He's now Sir Davos Seaworth, and one of Stannis Baratheon's most trusted advisors. Somewhat subverted in that he was punished for his life of crime at the same time, by having one joint of each finger on his left hand removed. But that seems relatively lenient by the standards of Westeros, and it certainly doesn't seem to bother Davos. He'll argue with anyone who suggests it's unfair.
In Artemis Fowl, Holly Short of LEPRecon gets this speech a lot.
The Railway Series: In "Percy's Predicament", The Fat Controller scolds Daisy for her laziness and stubborn behavior ever since she came to the branch line while Thomas was being mended, but then praises her for helping Toby clear Percy's accident with the brake van and allowed her to stay on the branch line.
While the scene itself doesn't often come up, the nature of the beast informs the plots and resolutions of several Vorkosigan Saga novels:
The Warrior's Apprentice: Miles commits fraud by misrepresenting land he mortgages, bends or breaks Betan law a couple other times and leans on his family name to protect him, smuggles and fights and deceives his way into command of a mercenary outfit, and ends up on trial for treason because he raised a private army. But he gives up that army to the Emperor as a deniable intelligence asset for Barrayar and comes out smelling like roses.
The Vor Game: Miles repeatedly disobeys orders, sometimes in situations warranted (criminal orders by an abusive commander) and other times less so (perfectly legal orders, but which Miles feels are wrong for the situation), and generally deceives and cheats all around, leading up to saving the young Emperor who briefly ran away from his responsibilities in a fit of depression, and narrowly averting a war among the powers of the Hegen Hub of which Cetaganda was ready to take advantage.
Memory: Miles averts his trend of pulling these off terribly at the start of the book when he has a seizure mid-mission and accidentally fires off his plasma arc, slicing off the legs of the man he and the Dendarii were sent to rescue - seizures which Miles had known about but covered up rather than admit to, and lied about in his report. Simon sums up Miles's whole career in ImpSec in a painful inversion where Miles did everything unconventionally but right for so long and then this last act all but invalidates everything else.
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance: Late in the book, Ivan gets involved in a scheme by his new wife's family, to plunder a cache of Occupation-era riches and artifacts in a sealed bunker hidden under ImpSec Headquarters. Excavation destabilizes the ground under Headquarters, and when the tunnels are flooded the whole of Headquarters visibly sinks into the ground. Ivan's involvement should have probably gotten him court-martialed for keeping things secret, but at the same time if he wasn't involved then the bunker may well not have been recovered so that Barrayar got control of everything inside instead of Ivan's Jacksonian in-laws. For his sins Ivan is assigned off-world which he turns into a years-long tropical honeymoon with his wife, Tej.
Several episodes in various incarnations of Star Trek. Typically, the Captain will give their subordinate a full dressing down, dismiss them... then stop them at the door and remark, "Nice job out there."
A notable subversion occurred in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, where Lieutenant Tom Paris acted against the captain's wishes in order to do the Right Thing... and got chewed up and demoted to Ensign for his troubles. This stuck for several episodes, and was worth a small ceremony when he was reinstated.
Played straight and mostly for laughs in the Voyager episode Survival Instinct. Janeway dresses down Paris and Kim for getting involved in a brawl that appears to have been a game that got out of control and confines them to quarters. As they're on the way out:
Janeway: Well, did you win?
Paris: Oh, yes, ma'am.
Kim: We kicked their...rackets.
Janeway: Good. Dismissed.
TNG's Worf vs. a gamey old man who orders the away team to—essentially—git off his lawn. Go on, git. ("The Survivors")
Worf: Sir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay with a non-functioning weapon was an act of unmitigated gall. Uxbridge: Didn't fool you, huh? Worf: I admire gall.
Also notable is Data during the Klingon civil war, who, while given temporary command of a starship, disobeys orders and exposes the Romulans as they cross the border. Data himself, being completely logical, states to Picard that ends do not justify the means and expects to be reprimanded. Picard is the one who claims that Data did the right thing.
After the fall of President Clark's regime on Babylon 5, the new President Luchenko comments that there was much discussion of whether Sheridan should be given the Medal of Honor for restoring the legitimate government, or taken out and shot for leading a rebellion (and that she wishes she could do the logical thing, and do both). The upshot is that Sheridan and the other rebels are granted amnesty, on condition that he immediately resigns from EarthForce, which he does.
Luchenko: If we decide to pursue this, who should we negotiate with? You? Delenn: No. The three of us [Delenn, G'Kar, and Londo] make up the advisory board of the new alliance. We have our duly elected President, as you do. Luchenko (already knowing the answer): And where can I find this President? [Smash Cut] General: You! President Sheridan: Funny thing about retiring. You no sooner pick out the places you want to go on vacation than someone comes at you with another job offer.
This is practically the whole reason for Cuddy's existence in House. Except she's less threatening and more yappy, like a small dog. However, she is a well-developed character in her own right, even if House goes behind her back and rarely takes her seriously.
House always manages to avoid getting fired when he does crazy, irresponsible stuff to patients. He cures 90% of his patients so he gets away with it with nothing more than this trope.
It's actually revealed at one point that the hospital basically has a "House is getting sued for doing insane crap again" fund. When Cuddy tells House this, it's revealed that they're under budget with this fund.
"The" D'Artagnan: I ordered you confined to the garrison... and you disobeyed my orders yet again, knowing it would assure your expulsion from the Musketeers... and (beat) you saved my life.
D'Artagnan: Well, nobody's perfect.
Often the case with Jimmy McNulty of The Wire. Described by one of his peers as " a picture postcard of a drunken, self-destructive fuck-up", none of this stops Mcnulty from taking on cold and dead cases and knocking them out the park. May not be saving lives, but he's certainly saving the Homicide Unit's clearance rate when he's not trashing it with vindictive (yet factual!) memos.
Reid got a McCloud speech from Hotch in the Criminal Minds episode "Elephant's Memory". When the Un-Sub, a teenager who killed bullies who targeted him, was approaching the police station to retrieve his runaway girlfriend, Reid confronted him and purposely extended his arms and body in such a way to shield him from potential gunfire from his teammates, not wanting the Un-Sub to go down in a hail of bullets since Reid identified with him in a way having been a victim of bullying himself. Hotch mentions at the end of the episode about how he should fire Reid for his actions- since he put himself and his teammates in danger- and "next time (he) will", before telling him at the end that he "did a good job".
Happens frequently in Psych, though it's more about him solving murders that the police either wouldn't have been able to solve or would taken a longer to do it.
Unfortunately, as of the season 7 finale, the constant use of this has caught up to the department and the chief herself is forced to take a suspension to cover for her two top detectives and the Psych guys.
Gilmore Girls: The editor of the Yale Daily News dresses down his star reporter:
Doyle: Gellar! Do you see what I have here in my hand?
Paris: I’m busy, Doyle.
Doyle: Rabbi Baron says he’s changed his number twice.
Paris: Oh, please.
Doyle: Father Callahan is threatening a restraining order.
Paris: If I had a nickel…
Doyle: And the honorable Muhammed Abdul Aziz says that you stole his flip-flops.
Paris: What a lie. He leaves them out in his hallway and I have told him a million times that people suck, and –
Doyle: You have threatened, stalked and basically freaked out every religious leader within a hundred mile radius. This paper has never received so many complaints in the history of its existence. And how the hell did you get Jesse Jackson’s barber’s number? How?
Paris: Hey, you gave me this beat to find the story, not to kowtow and make nice, and –
Doyle: (appreciatively) Way to go!
Tower of God: At the end of the Untrustworthy Room arc, Augusgus chews Mule Love out for acting independently to get revenge, conducting an unauthorized test and thus indirectly causing a Regular's death. Furthermore, he criticizes him for not being even able to kill another Regular (as a Ranker, Love should outclass any Regular) and giving him great publicity that way. But he still can see the right side of the matter and is glad that first of all, the Regular in question didn't die and even got the team mates he needed through that test. If this sounds a little wonky, that's justified: Augusgus is actually a sleeper agent for the same criminal organization that employed the Regular and killed Mule's parents, and Mule's independent action contributed greatly to their plans.
Laharl gives one of these to Etna in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness after she uses him as bait in a plan to one-up her blackmailer, nearly getting him killed in the process. Laharl's justification is not that she preformed a heroic deed, but rather for pulling it all off with style. Her diary entry states she was expecting to be killed for betraying him, but she's glad he had the maturity to understand the situation and did what the king would have done.
Team Fortress 2: After eating one of his trademark "Sandviches," the Heavy will sometimes yell "You're a loose cannon, sandvich! But you're a damn good cop!"
After disobeying orders in Rainbow Six Vegas 2 in order to take down the Big Bad, your superior pretty much plays the trope straight over radio. He ends it by disguising a promotion as a firing.
In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, after you complete the final quest for the Fighter's Guild, the Guildmaster tells you that for your reckless actions, you are to be stripped of your position as her second in command... and that she will be stepping down to offer you her title.
Tolwyn: Blair! You have a lot to answer for, pilot! Disobeying orders, dereliction of duty, theft of Navy property, endangerment of personnel… Nice work… Colonel Blair. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m proud to serve with you on this ship, Maverick.
The quote from Mulan was used after the Shan Yu battle in The Land of Dragons in Kingdom Hearts II.
Essentially the entire plot of Trauma Team is this. The main character killed many in a terrorist attack but is apparently the best surgeon in the world and thus he is allowed to perform surgery in exchange for a reduced sentence. Also, he has amnesia from the attack so he doesn't remember killing people.
In Dragon Age: Origins, if you end the Blight, all of Fereldan hails you as a hero regardless of how much theft, murder, smuggling, desecration, betrayal, and dealing with demons you did along the way.
The ending of Fallout: New Vegas can do this depending on the player's actions, juxtaposing the number of people helped versus the number of people ended by The Courier. This can end up Crossing the Line Twice when a homicidal Courier may leave a carpet of bodies (or body parts) behind them as they murder their way through almost every group they meet, but nonetheless ends up, say, saving Hoover Dam in the end and being rewarded with a medal.
Vallejo: Principal Folsom isn't sure whether to give you guys a commendation or to give you detention. On the one hand, you put Stainless away. But on the other hand, you destroyed an entire shipment of brushed steel stalls, you ruined a month's supply of macaroni, and you allowed the most notorious graffiti vandal in the history of the school to escape.
Brock Samson in The Venture Bros. gets one of these when he goes to renew his License to Kill:
Proctor: Well, let's see here Mr. Samson. On the driving portion you totaled every car but the one you were driving. On the pistol range you refused to use a gun, and — heh heh, here's my favorite — on the written you drew the little guy with wings from the Led Zeppelin records.
Brock: Icarus. So, uh, what are trying to tell me here, little man, that you don't like Zep?
(The proctor stands and rips the written portion in half)
Proctor: My father is General Treister. You saved his life. The man spoke of you as a god... and you did not disappoint.
Brock: Oh yeah. I used to babysit you.
Parodied in South Park. The boys set up a make-believe detective agency and a police captain, seemingly going along with the gag, agrees to let them "work" as real detectives. He then immediately turns serious and sends them after genuine criminals, namely to bust a drug ring. The boys reluctantly go along, and unintentionally provoke the drug runners, and later some crooked cops, to panic and get themselves killed (repeatedly). The captain reprimands the boys for each of their bloodbath results, but always ends with something like "But dammit, you get the job done!" The boys, for their part, think real police work sucks, and when offered a promotion at the end of the episode, decide to resign and open a make-believe dry cleaners instead.
In Young Justice, Batman delivers one of these in episode four. Particularly notable for coming from Batman, who in a lot of media is obsessively controlling to the point of being unable to deal with any deviation from his orders, no matter how justified. He scolds the team for not obeying his order to not interfere, and then praises them for reacting well once contact with the enemy inevitably changed the game.
Batman: A simple. Recon. Mission. Observe and report. You'll each receive a written evaluation detailing your many mistakes. Until then...good job. Kid Flash: Uh, what? Batman: No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. How you react to the unforeseen is what determines success.
In The Simpsons, Apu gives us this example when Homer resigns from a brief stint working at the Quik-E-Mart:
Apu: He slept, he stole, he was rude to the customers. Still, there goes the best damned employee a convenience store ever had.
Even university textbooks get in on the act. Discrete Structures, Logic, and Computability by James L. Hein contains this fantastic illustration of the Non Sequitur fallacy: "You squandered the money entrusted to you. You did not keep required records. You incurred more debt than your department is worth. Therefore, you deserve a promotion." The text states that most people can probably agree that that is indeed a fallacy.
The Puritans were strict and no-nonsense. In England, they used a stance against theatres and plays to force the demolition of the Globe Theatre early on in the English Civil War. Almost midway, they also committed regicide. In America, they instigated an infamous witch hunt in a small Massachusetts town called Salem. They also introduced vaccination to the Western world.