"It's so much easier to see the world in black and white. Grey? I don't know what to do with grey."
In Real Life
, seeing the world in absolute Black and White Morality
is considered normal for small children, but seen as a far less healthy trait in adults. A person who regards the people around him as entirely good
or entirely evil
has this. This type of thinking is a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder
, a real life mental disorder.
Some authors have picked up on this, playing belief in Black and White Morality
as a sign of the character being insane or at least mentally unstable.
While this is almost always done in settings that are not of Black and White Morality
themselves, exceptions exist. In such cases, a Lawful Good Anti-Hero
suffering from Black and White Insanity can be very disturbing indeed in the eyes of their fellow Lawful Good
This trope is not
about regarding everyone as either completely sane or completely insane
- however, such a worldview would be a good example
of this trope.
A Character suffering from Black and White Insanity is likely to reason in False Dichotomies
and keep their worldview coherent by applying huge quantities of Insane Troll Logic
and meeting criticism with Abomination Accusation Attacks
. Black and White Insanity might also be what makes a Well-Intentioned Extremist
, well, an extremist
. This kind of insanity is pretty much the characteristic of the Knight Templar
. Character development might lead to the insane one becoming a Troubled Sympathetic Bigot
Compare Activist Fundamentalist Antics
, Windmill Crusader
, With Us or Against Us
, Moral Myopia
Contrast Black and White Morality
(for settings where the world actually operates in a way that makes this kind of world-view completely rational).
Note: This trope is about characters who have a black and white worldview AND are mentally unstable.
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Anime and Manga
- Eren Yeager, the protagonist of Attack on Titan. Considering the complex and morally grey world he lives in, it more often than not causes him problems. As a child, he brutally killed a pair of murderers and justified it by stating they were merely "animals that looked like humans". As a teenager, he reacts to Tragic Villains expressing remorse by exploding into a rage and states they are inhuman monsters not allowed to feel emotions. When confronted by situations that are morally complicated, he tends to either freeze up or get angry.
- This tends to come up in Death Note a lot. Light starts to shift into this as the series goes on, and the fourth Kira is this through and through (he essentially had this as a child, but couldn't quite grow out of it).
- Sensui from YuYu Hakusho. Emphasis on "insanity".
- The X-Laws of Shaman King are all this. Especially in the anime.
- Martian Successor Nadesico has this in the form of the Jovians.
- Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
- Flit Asuno winds up with this after Yurin's death in Mobile Suit Gundam Age.
- Shinn's greatest problem is Gundam SEED Destiny is his inability to see or accept shades of grey. He's not exactly insane, but he's certainly highly unstable. By the finale though, he has definitely gone off the deep end, being willing to defend a Kill Sat about to destroy an entire country because he believes that country to be pure evil (the fact that he was until recently a native citizen of said country actually fuels this belief).
- Shinn's mess of anger issues are the root cause of this way of thinking; or rather lack of thinking. He's not a bad kid, really, just too Hot-Blooded for his own good.
- In Zetman Kouga idolises Alphas, a Super Hero from a cartoon with Black and White Morality, and tries to emulate him even into adulthood. This does not turn out well.
- In Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, Chad keeps insisting in a black and white narrative with himself as the good guy and the hillbillies as the villains. Since said hillbillies are the eponymous characters, well...
- In "Detective Story", the main character views the world this way, even refusing to give a break to a man who embezzled a small amount of money despite the victim not wanting to prosecute. He tells them that he'll commit another crime and another until his like the gibbering idiots they've also arrested. His world collapses when he finds out his saintly wife knew men before him, became pregnant and had an abortion
- God Bless America: With his strict morality of right versus wrong, Frank's reality crumbles. He comes across as being less capable of comprehending the world than Roxy, who easily exploit his insecurity to get him to embark on his misguided crusade. While he's a Windmill Crusader, she seem to simply be in it For the Evulz.
- The the television ranter, tea party members and Westboro Baptist Church picketers Frank kills are also portrayed as suffering from this - either genuinely or simply pretending to get attention.
- In Observe and Report, overzealous mall cop Ronnie suffers from this in addition to Bipolar Disorder.
- Revenge of the Sith has Anakin slowly becoming more and more deluded that all opponents of Chancellor Palpatine are enemies of the Republic, culminating in him declaring a With Us or Against Us to his former mentor. Obi-Wan then uses it right back at him, but the narrative portrayed him as being in the right.
- In The Ledge, Joe lives in his own personal world of strictly black and white morality. This gives a life that is very good but also very fragile. When reality doesn't conform to his over-simplified world-view, everything crumbles.
- Two-Face's condition is even worse in Batman Forever, where his good side, if he even has one, seems to be an excuse at best. To emphasize the point, he has two female henchmen named Sugar and Spice, a pair of attractive women who are supposed to represented his good sidenote and his evil sidenote in very sexy ways. However, Sugar, the one who is supposed to represent his good side, is just as evil as Spice.
- Two-Face's actions show that rather than having a good side and an evil side, his coin toss represents doing evil, and waiting for the next opportunity to toss the coin.
- Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye suffers from this trope, and the consequences are apparent.
- In Flatland, the ruling caste enforce a Black and White Morality worldview to the point where they outlaw color, enforcing the world to literally be black and white. Their excuse for this draconic law is that it's needed for preserving the sexual purity of their women.
- Galad from The Wheel of Time has a comparatively minor case of this; he's described as "always doing the right thing, no matter who it hurts" and has very strict ideas concerning what right and wrong entail. This leads him eventually to join the Children of the Light, an organization (in)famous for this kind of thinking. As of the more recent books, he seems to be lightening up, at least a little. On the plus side, because he's now influential in the Children, his lightening up is taking the organization with him.
- As a whole, the Children of the Light. Quite a few of them smell rabid to wolves.
- Played with in the Discworld books. Granny Weatherwax is accused of having an overly black-and-white view of the world in Carpe Jugulum, but as she explains to Mightily Oats, in her opinion "gray's just white that's got grubby."
Live Action TV
- Virginia in the North and South (Trilogy) miniseries is against slavery. Fine. Believing that everyone from the southern USA is Always Chaotic Evil? Not so fine. And it keeps going downhill from there, with her ruining her own life and arguably becoming more of a liability to her cause rather then an asset.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Watchers Council says all demons are evil. Of course, this is first disproved by the vampire with a soul Angel, and then the soulless vampire Spike, who actually goes and gets a soul for love. Not to mention Clem, a demon so non-evil that not only does Buffy trust him with Dawn, but Dawn is able to push him around (and he comes to Buffy's birthday party).
- But he still eats kittens.
- Not to mention that the Slayers themselves have powers that are demonic in origin.
- Angel showed the Council's position to be nonsense, with scores of non-evil demons appearing. Even many of the demons they fight are "evil" not in a Legions of Hell apocalyptic way, but in a career criminal, thug-for-hire way.
- Monk will try prosecuting people for letting their dogs pee in the street, having an uneven number of buttons undone on their shirts/sweaters or wearing mismatched socks, because such "crimes against the universe" will "invariably" lead to crimes like Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking.
- And don't even get him started on nudists....
- In Bad Religion lyrics, this trope is implied to be one of the main problems with people and society.
- In Billy Joel's song "Shades of Grey", while he notes his own departure from Black and White Morality and how much easier it was, he also cautions in the vein of this trope:
And the only people I fear
are those who never have doubts
Save us all from arrogant men,
and all the causes they're for
- This is also exemplified in the title character of his "Angry Young Man".
- The Monkees also did a song "Shades of Grey" with the same theme, but without the caution aspect.
- The video for the Insane Clown Posse song "Chris Benoit" touches on this in the form of a rubix cube that arranges itself from evenly checkered to solid black or white on each side, representing the titular wrestler's descent into the insanity that led him to kill his family. The use of chess pieces and dice also add to the Black versus White theme prevalent in the video.
- A Vocaloid music video called "Super Hero" has the title character Kagamine Len choose to become a super hero like his idol on a cartoon show in order to administer justice. Over time, he finds the real evil lies in the government and tries to destroy the system for the greater good.
I'm a super hero!!
The time has come to change the world
Call me insane? Call me a murderer?
You're the ones who are evil!
Terrorist, you say? That's outrageous!
Hey, where do you think you're taking me?!
I protect everyone, this town, this world, and you!
I'm your great and noble hero!!
This wasn't the way it ended on TV...
- In another Vocaloid song, "Karakuri Burst", Kagamine Len states that his views of morality are separated only by 'black and white'.
- Tuyet from BIONICLE. She's a Lawful Evil character, who wants to take over the Matoran universe because she genuinely believes she could make it a better place. However, an Alternate Universe shows that this would mean brainwashing all the other Toa into Knight Templars, and killing anyone who poses a potential threat to her position as Empress.
- N and Team Plasma from Pokemon Black And White has this. If you're not in support of their insane Cartoonish Supervillainy, then you're a cruel and abusive Lillipup-kicking Pokemon trainer! It turns out that Team Plasma's claim to having this is merely a cover-up for their true motives — to Take Over the World. N turns to be the true Plasma King. The only one who wants to Take Over the World is Ghetsis.
- In the sequel, Ghetsis and co are still trying to take over the world, while N is still interested in freeing Pokemon, but more specifically freeing them from Poke balls. As the end nears, he begins to question if people and Pokemon really can live alongside each other.
- In Dragon Age II, as Anders becomes more and more obsessed with the Mage/Templar issue of Kirkwall and as he's starting to lose the battle against Vengeance, he becomes more and more hostile to those he perceives as pro-Templar or just generally an enemy of the mages, including those in Hawke's party, and including other mages. At the nadir of his madness, one isn't even allowed to abstain from the debate; choose a side or he'll choose it for you and designate you an enemy.
- Fenris, too, in the other direction, to a slightly lesser extent. Fenris believes that all mages are evil, period. Interestingly, he's actually aware that it's generally a bad idea to overgeneralize the innocent many based on the actions of a guilty few. But reminding him of that will cause him to rationalize that bad magic is so tempting that all innocent mages, with the possible exception of Mage!Hawke, will eventually become guilty. The "lesser extent" part comes in because Fenris never quite acts on his belief that all mages are the same beyond insulting the mages in the party, and Fenris will sometimes apologize for being rude if it's pointed out to him, where Anders...well, play the end of the game for details.
- Hell, Fenris will even help mages when you point out their treatment in the game is a form of slavery; the one thing Fenris hates more than mages.
- Ishida Mitsunari in Sengoku Basara. Either you are a fellow servant of Hideyoshi, in which case he will (grudgingly) tolerate you, or you are a vile sinner who will be killed in the most gruesome fashion imaginable. It doesn't help that he's quite a Horrible Judge of Character.
- Heavily implied with the apparent Big Good Rohoph in the MARDEK series, due to the Violet Crystal's influence. Qualna calls him out on it and gets a Fate Worse Than Death for his trouble.
- Miko in The Order of the Stick is built on this trope, growing increasingly delusional over the course of the story arc. As her insanity increases, it changes her from a mere Knight Templar into a total Windmill Crusader - handwaving even the fact that the Gods have stripped her of her paladin powers.
- In Captain SNES: The Game Masta, Max Force labels people who disagree with him about just about anything as "druggies" and attempts to shoot them down. Once he is convinced someone is a druggie, no force in the world can convince him otherwise. And when he fails to shoot his target, he comes up with insane excuses as to why he didn't actually miss; he was just aiming at something else.
- The partisan climate of the US devolving into this on both sides was the driving force behind the less-than-stellar state of affairs in Remus
- Kore the Paladin is nominally Lawful Good, a requirement maintaining his paladin status. However, he believes certain races of monsters are inherently evil, and that anyone who comes into contact with an evil creature becomes "infected" with evil themselves, which can only be cured by death. This includes people who merely come into contact with evil creatures, people who are kidnapped by evil creatures, and even people who might potentially sympathize with evil creatures. And no, children are not exempt.
- Near the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender, especially in the finale, Azula begins to adopt this mindset, seeing everyone as being either completely for her or a complete traitor to her. Most notably, the end of the two-part episode "The Boiling Rock" after Mai and Ty Lee turn on her.
- Parodied when she banishes one of her twin handmaidens, convinced one is loyal and the other is treacherous, despite the fact that she can't tell them apart.
- Danny Phantom's first episode has Sam and Tucker on the opposing sides of a Meat vs. Veggies, and put Danny in the middle:
Sam: you're either with me...
Tuck: ...or you're against her!
Both: SO WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?!