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Black and White Morality
aka: Good Vs Evil

"If half an onion is black with rot, it is a rotten onion. A man is good or he is evil."
Melisandre of Asshai, A Clash of Kings

Good versus Evil. White hat versus black hat. The shining knight of destiny with flowing cape versus the mustache-twirling, card-carrying force of pure malevolence. The most basic form of fictional morality, Black And White Morality deals with the battle between pure good and absolute evil.

This can come in a variety of forms:

Stories using this trope usually have a Hero Protagonist and a Villain Antagonist, though this is not always the case. They're also where you're most likely to find Beauty Equals Goodness, although there are stories with black and white morality where appearance doesn't reflect morality.

While it shows up in stories of all kinds, Black And White Morality seems to occur frequently in media marketed for kids. Many stories that use Black And White Morality tend to lean towards the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, but this doesn't necessarily have to be the case - in a more cynical Crapsack World, there is more black than white, but the white can at least take a sour form. Works that use both Adaptational Villainy and Adaptational Heroism, or Historical Villain Upgrade and Historical Hero Upgrade for different characters are also deliberately employing this trope to make the moral conflict simpler. Of course, usage of Black and White morality in stories won't always end up sparkling white: this moral alignment is often associated with clichéd writing and propaganda.

Of course, the prevalence of this moral system may lead to the belief that Good Is Boring. Thus, the aforementioned grey spots in a setting like this are a common Ensemble Darkhorse. Badass Decay occurs when the dark horse is whitewashed to conform to the prevailing system.

Compare Grey and Gray Morality, Black and Gray Morality, White and Grey Morality, and Morality Kitchen Sink. Also see Shades of Conflict and Graying Morality. See Black and White Insanity when this sort of thinking by characters is presented as a sign of mental instability in the story.

Please note even in a world where the moral lines are sharply drawn, there may still be characters or organizations that are presented as being 'grey'. A general rule of thumb as to whether or not black-and-white morality is present is that the heroes are almost always considered to be in the right, while the villains are always 'wrong'. Of course, the audience might disagree with the author's moral compass. Moral Dissonance occurs when a character with a black-and-white moral system is unaware that they're not always following their own values well (all-too-possible in Real Life).

If general attitudes on issues addressed change and/or the story is introduced to a very different culture, it may be viewed as Grey and Gray Morality, Black and Gray Morality, or Blue and Orange Morality.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Any commercial. Brand loyalty is Serious Business.
  • Good luck finding any political campaign commercials anywhere which suggest that it is possible to disagree over an issue without being monstrous, or at the very least stupid.

    Anime and Manga 

    Comics 
  • A common element in Chick Tracts, the Christian protagonists are good while the nonbelievers are evil, or at least a Jerkass.
  • New Gods justifies this trope by transforming a single planet into two purely good and evil worlds.
  • Most comic books set in the Golden Age (World War II or thereabouts) and most of the Silver Age have this sort of moral code.
  • Steve Ditko's Mr. A comic lives and breathes this trope, being Ditko's interpretation of Ayn Rand's Objectivism in vigilante form.
    • The Question under Ditko was essentially a more marketable version of Mr. A. His Captain Ersatz Rorschach, however, deconstructs it to reveal Black and White Insanity.
      • 'There is black and there is white, and there is wrong and there is right, and there is NOTHING in between', as Alan Moore's adolescent band once sung, in reference to Steve Ditko.

    Fan Fic 

    Films — Animated 
  • The Disney Animated Canon uses this all the time. Pixar uses it pretty frequently too, though their villains are more likely to have sympathetic motivations.
    • The true exception to "sympathetic motivation" is A Bug's Life, where Hopper says that keeping the ants under control is more important than just getting food from them.
    • This trope is played with in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. Whereas the original movie played the trope straight (Scar and the hyenas are evil; everyone else is good), the sequel sets itself up the same way (lions in the Pridelands are good; lions in the Outlands are bad) but then subverts the trope. The moral of the movie is that the characters' Black and White Morality they started out with is wrong and that they must learn to recognize the shades of gray.
    • Hercules adds this morality in adaptation. Hercules, Zeus and Hera become purely good. Hadies becomes purely evil. In the origional myths they were a lot more morally ambiguous. The only grey character in the movie is Meg. This is one side effect of being Hijacked by Jesus.
  • In the Compilation Movie Once Upon a Halloween, a villain is plotting to do something evil while her magic mirror tries to talk her out of while showing her clips of various Disney movies. In the end the villain decides she doesn't want to go through her plan anymore, but the mirror kills her anyway for even attempting it in the first place.
  • In Epic all Boggans are completely evil without any redeeming feature, while all the Leafmen and their allies are good.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Box: Anyone who pushes the button is evil and must be used as statistics in supporting human extinction and anyone who doesn't push the button is good and must be enslaved. "Arlington Steward" even apologizes to the main couple, saying this is how it must be and it cannot be negotiated.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the few Marvel movies to follow this morality exactly (in fact, aversions include this movie's own sequel). This is justified in-story through the Super Serum that created both Captain America and his enemy the Red Skull, as it enhances people's true qualities—good becomes great, bad becomes worse. Steve Rogers is an idealistic, friendly guy who just wants to do his duty for his country by fighting bad guys, and becomes a capable war hero. Red Skull is a bullying Nazi extremist too evil even for Hitler, is so narcissistic as to have a god complex, and becomes an Omnicidal Maniac.
  • Cats & Dogs:
    • Dogs are good, and cats are evil.
    • Subverted in the second film, where it's revealed there's a secret cat organization that protects humans as well as catkind.
  • Gladiator. Maximus is a brave, noble veteran who initially wants to make Rome a republic again and later wishes to avenge the murder of his wife and son. Commodus is an insane, patricidal megalomaniac with a Caligula complex and a creepy fixation on his own sister.
  • Ridley Scott's Legend. The heroes are an innocent Princess Classic with Virgin Power and a group of forest inhabitants trying to protect the sacred unicorns who make life possible. The villain Darkness is a demonic Evil Overlord who rules over an army of evil goblins and cannibalistic pig-men executioners and wants to create an eternal night to bring about the end of the world.
  • Schindlers List: It does not get much more blatantly evil than Amon Goeth and his Nazi buddies, and it definitely does not get more genuinely righteous than heroes like Stern and, eventually, Schindler. Played with in that the protagonist himself starts off as a knowing war profiteer and user of slave labor, but Schindler eventually becomes a better person when he truly realizes what is happening around him.
  • Star Wars: The rebels are good, The Empire is evil. Black And White Morality is enforced by the Force in the case of the Jedi. If Jedi aren't committed 100% to the Light Side, it's only a matter of time before they become insanely evil.
  • Discussed in Vera Drake. When the truth comes out about Vera's secret profession (back-alley abortions) and Sid chides her for it, Stanley quietly accuses Sid of seeing the matter this way.

    Literature 
  • The page quote comes from A Song of Ice and Fire, which actually averts this as a series; the setting is rife with Gray and Grey Morality. The speaker, however, believes fervently in this.
  • Also deconstructed in A Wizard in Rhyme when a college student gets transported into a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of France, where God and Satan are very real, saying damn really means you are sending said person to hell, and even magic works on this principle. Being from our world, the rigid code causes a lot of problems as he adjusts.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series. The American/Lemurian alliance is good, the Grik and any Lemurians or humans who don't support the alliance are bad.
  • The Dresden Files both follows and averts this. This series and main character clearly believe in right and wrong with commuting certain actions like one human murdering another with magic strengthen the forces of evil and certain creatures like Fallen Angels and Red Court Vampires objectively evil. Averted in the wizards and muggles are, after all, human, and have difficulty knowing the right action and many supernatural creatures like the Winter Fae while evil by human standards operate by Blue and Orange Morality and are not considered objectively evil. It can be hard to remember that in the earlier books, the fights between literal agents of Heaven and Hell were much more commonplace. The books also imply (by way of Sanya) that angels and the like aren't really Good of themselves, but rather its their actions that make them Good, and that they'd still be Good if you replaced "angel" with "superpowerful aliens that look like angels". Despite that, even angels can be harsh and militaristic, with job descriptions such as "general" and "spook". Very evil is still evil and depraved, though. However, this is fairly true to the source material, and fits the Dresdenverse quite adroitly.
    • Uriel does invoke this, assuring Harry that the Archangel likes Star Wars over Star Trek because of this trope, and because it makes him "feel young". Despite the fact that "Mr. Sunshine" existed since before Creation, given the way that the superpowerful beings of the Dresdenverse interact with time, this is a slightly bizarre statement.
  • Harry Potter starts out this way. Dumbledore is the Big Good, Harry and his friends are the heroes, the other students are generally nice except for the Slytherins, and Voldemort is the Big Bad. As the series goes on, it adds more and more shades of gray with turncoats on both sides, a corrupt government opposing Voldemort, heroes paying evil unto evil, and Harry discovering that his father and Dumbledore have...complicated backstories. It's still essentially a "Good Guys vs Bad Guys" story, with villains clearly inspired by WWII, and a hero who goes through the whole story, including a civil war, without killing anyone ever.
  • Inheritance Cycle: The Varden and Elves are good, The Empire is evil.
    • Eragon tries to give this a significant amount of thought, as a number of characters point out that he's fighting because other people told him to, however right they may be. After a significant amount of angst, Eragon comes to the bizarre and defeatists conclusion that he has to cross the ocean to train the next generation of riders. He left behind civilization, everything he fought for, the chance to shape the creation of the next major golden age, and the chance to get into Arya's (the only woman for whom he could hold genuine affection) tight leather pants.
  • The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion: Broadly speaking. The respective villains Sauron, Saruman and Morgoth are evil, and those who oppose them are good. On a closer level this is not so - Sauron, Saruman and Morgoth's Orcs are Always Chaotic Evil, but their human forces are not, which is lost on many a critic. More than one character notes how they must be manipulated or forced to do their will.
    • Broadly speaking. See the quote at the top of Grey and Gray Morality. The Silmarillion in particular tends to be white, grey and black. (Surely people like Fëanor, his sons, the Noldor in general, Thingol, Túrin, etc. cannot be thought of as all black or all white.)
    • Outside of the Silmarillion there are many other examples. Gollum, Lobelia and Denethor (in the book, the movie plays him as more of a straight forward villain) are anything but clean cut good or bad guys. Despite its lighter tone The Hobbit averts this a lot more than its darker sequel. Thorin is for the most part noble but also a greedy, proud jerkass who would risk a war to hang onto his gold while Beorn is kind and friendly but kills an Orc who had already surrendered and puts its head on a pike.
    • Indeed, it would probably be best to say that Middle-Earth has Black-and-White Morality, but only as extremes- Eru and the Valar are pure good; Morgoth and his directly corrupted minions are pure evil; most of the non-divine characters lean strongly one way or the other, but aren't "pure". This ties in to temptation being a major theme of LOTR in particular.
    • Averted in The Children of Húrin. Túrin is well meaning but also a morally ambiguous Jerkass who blows over the Moral Event Horizon when he murders a lame man in cold blood, his Lancer Androg is a serial rapist and murderer and the group's traitor, Mîm the Dwarf is a Woobie Anti-Villain whose actions are motivated by the relentless persecution his people suffered from the Elves as well as Androg's cruelty. Even after his betrayal he inists that Túrin be released unharmed.
  • Stieg Larsson's The Millennium Trilogy, like the works of the aforementioned Spillane, is a rather dark tale of good versus evil: the heroes are all noble and well-intentioned, and the villains are all pure evil.
  • Catherine firmly believes this in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. She grows wiser.
  • Redwall: If you're a mouse, otter, vole, badger, hedgehog, squirrel, or lapine, you're good. If you're anything else, you're evil. (Except for cats and birds - they're case-by-case.) If you're a fish, you're dinner.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Almost all the good guys are handsome/beautiful, and the bad guys are either ugly as sin or ordinary-looking. The choices the characters make are unambiguously good or evil. The characterization of the characters is either good or evil.
  • The Symphony of Ages series: Rhapsody and those who love her: Good. Those who don't love Rhapsody: Evil.
    • Except for Michael has got the hots for Rhapsody and is evil.
  • Sword of Truth: The heroes are good and noble, and always right, while the villains all Kick the Dog like they're in an international dog-kicking competition.
  • In the Tortall Universe it's true that expressing any disdain for peasants is a clear sign that someone's a villain. In the first quartet, Song of the Lioness, you can tell who's good and who's bad by how friendly they are to Alanna. The rigidness starts to loosen in Protector of the Small (with some I Did What I Had to Do siuations), the hero of Daughter of the Lioness is a spymaster who gets her hands in all kinds of Dirty Business, and the Provost's Dog book have a kind of light-gray-and-black morality thanks to Police Brutality and The Needs of the Many—while Beka and her friends always try to do the most right thing they can, they face instituational limits.
  • Deconstructed in Warrior Cats. Hollyleaf starts out with her absolute trust in the Warrior Code, and believes that all who follow it are good, while those who don't are evil. After using the code to justify most of her actions, she learns that her very birth broke the code, and that someone she had respected had broken one of the code's core principles, but for a good reason. After learning this, Hollyleaf's mind was completely shattered, and she realized that her entire morality was flawed, leading her to attempt to murder her own mother, then flee from the Clans.
    • Warrior Cats is at first an example of Greyand Gray Morality with Thunder Clan and Shadow Clan each having their good warriors (Firestar, Graystripe, and Yellowfang come to mind) and their bad warriors (Brokenstar, Tigerstar, and Darkstripe) but in the fourth series... Black-and-White Morality is in effect as the Clans go against The Dark Forest cats who are indeed evil. Also in effect during the fight with Blood Clan who are (with few exceptions) very black.
  • Although the Discworld doesn't follow this in a meta sense, Granny Weatherwax is a firm believer in this. She refutes Grey and Grey Morality by insisting that grey is only white that's got grubby.

    Live Action TV 
  • Burn Notice, through and through. Westen and his allies are good, his antagonists are always evil. The villains of the week are almost always dog kicking assholes. If that wasn't enough the true antagonists, the shadowy organization behind the burn, has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. As for Westen's crew, they are always seen by everyone as perfect and never wrong, even though Westen himself has largely selfish motivations for what he does.
    • There is the little issue of Michael accidentally getting Jesse burned.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel both play with this. Each starts out as a clear-cut example, but later seems to drift to somewhere between this and Black and Gray Morality, with the protagonists usually doing the right thing, but not always, and most of the antagonists remaining dog-kicking villains. Also, despite usually being portrayed as good in the sense that they're well-meaning, the heroes of both shows often encounter situations that are portrayed as morally gray, leading them to disagree with each other on what the good course of action is. A villainous example would be The Judge from Season 2 of Buffy, who kills based on whether a target has humanity or not. Any vampire with sufficiently human traits—like interest in books, or involvement in romance—is a fair target to him, even if they're otherwise serving evil purposes.
  • Charmed: You are either good or you are evil. Yes, you have to choose and then there's nothing in between. The only ones who don't follow this are the Angel of Death and the Avatars, but they are an entire class of their own, not something in between. To break it down: witches are good, demons are bad. More specifically, anyone who are allies with the Charmed Ones and they like them, they are good. Anyone else is bad. Even the neutral ones because you can't trust anyone who is neutral. Also, all witches after they first get their powers, must decide if they are good or evil within 24 hours.
  • LOST: While it's unclear whether either character has purely good or purely evil motivations, the entire series has boiled down to an epic, eternal conflict between Jacob, the representation of white and seeming "good guy," and the aptly named "Man in Black," better known as the Smoke Monster, the representation of black and alleged "evil incarnate."
  • Enforced in Once Upon a Time where doing something morally questionable, no matter what the circumstances are, will turn a good guys heart black; this only applies to the heroes, however, as the antagonists are more morally complex.
  • Power Rangers and Super Sentai: Rangers and their friends are good; even the shady ones have an excuse: street-level hoods? Stealing to survive and help other homeless! Guy working with the mob? Screwed them all over to help an orphanage of Littlest Cancer Patients! Professional thief? ...Okay, that one was just glossed over, but he's probably one of those guys who's legitimately hired by companies to test security.
    • Power Rangers Dino Thunder's Mesogog, while still black, was a particularly grey shade of black, as he is the sole villain of the series to not carry an evil business card. He was a dinosaur hybrid who wanted to wipe out us filthy mammals and restore dinosaurs to their rightful place as the dominant creatures, and so thought what he was doing to be right, although his methods and manner make it dark enough to still be evil. Its grey, but only in comparison to the villains whose goals are stated to be "to be as evil as possible, nyahaha".
    • The grayest Power Rangers villain is Ransik of Power Rangers Time Force. He wanted to take over the world in the present, because in the future, the mutations that result on rare occasion from the genetic engineering process that normally allows for perfect Designer Babies for all are shunned to a degree that would make the mutants of X-Men count their blessings. Ransik's entire gang is gathered from the homeless mutants. He cackles as much as any past villain whose title is "Your Evilness" when causing mayhem, but he's got a reason for his hate and his motivation isn't simply greed or the evulz like many of the others.
  • Common feature of Soap Operas. Villains have no redeeming quality and absolutely everything they do have one of two motivations: earn even more money (they usually are extremely rich to begin with) or mess with the hero/heroine For the Evulz. The hero/heroine is the epitome of purity, and everything they do is genuinely for the benefit of others. Any wrongs from them will be revealed to be due to being manipulated by the villains.

    Religion/Mythology 
  • In religion, this idea is often called (Manichean) dualism:
    • God is good, Satan is evil. (Christianity)
      • Of Christian faiths, Calvinism deserves special mention. In Calvinism, human beings do not have free will to make decisions, and can only be capable of redemption through the grace of God. Thus not only are acts either good or evil, but human beings are, despite any attempt outside of God to be otherwise, evil.
    • Ahura Mazda is good, Ahriman is evil. (Zoroastrianism)
    • Abba deRabutta is good, Ahriman is evil. (Manichaeism)
  • The Hollywood version of many mythologies tends to fit this; the real mores of such cases tend to be much more, subtle.
  • Conspiracy Theories (a mythology of a kind) tend to follow this trope very well. The conspiracy is always purely nefarious and the people behind it are always blatantly trying to benefit themselves at the expense of the world. Anyone cast as resisting the conspiracy is a glorious hero deserving of the greatest reverence. If said hero has died, especially under circumstances deemed suspicious, then that hero is also a martyr killed for have gotten too close to exposing/destroying the conspiracy. There are never gray areas in conspiracy theories. Everyone in the know is either completely for the conspiracy or completely against it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Blue Rose, your Character Alignment is either Light, Shadow or Twilight (neutral). There's a magic artifact used to make sure only light-aligned people get to become nobles in The Kingdom of Aldis.
  • Most Dungeons & Dragons settings: People who go "ping!" on Detect Good are good. People who set off the paladin's slaydar are evil. (People who don't trigger either are either using Undetectable Alignment or are the resident shade of grey, the neutral alignments).
    • Playable races (such as humans, elves, dwarves, and such) tend to be good, while orcs, goblins, and other 'monstrous' humanoids tend to be Always Chaotic Evil. There are plenty of exceptions, though, with a number of villains from PC races showing up from time to time. The occasional good orc or goblin may make an appearance as well (especially in Eberron, which subverts a lot of the common expectations about alignment and race).
    • There is a Succubus Paladin created on the Wizards site a while ago that detects as Lawful, Good, Evil and Chaotic via the sundry detect spells. This is because Demon are MADE of Evil and Chaos, while Paladins are philosophically Good and Lawful.
  • The RPG Over the Edge is very much Black and Grey Morality, but a drug in the setting called "Zorro" (short for "Zoroaster") induces delusions of black and white morality in the user.
  • Talisman: The "Lightbearers" alternate ending in the Blood Moon expansion changes the nature of the normally free-for-all game into a cooperative one, where every player must choose a character of good alignment. The players cannot fight each other, and instead can assist each other in combat against the forces of evil, freely exchange items, and work together to win the game as a group before time runs out.
  • In Torg in the sub-universe of the Nile Empire, based on pulp fiction tropes, everyone is either good or evil...until one of the evil scientists of the Nile Empire accidentally infects himself with a meme virus based on the plays of Anton Chekov and becomes the sub-universe's only Neutral character.

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • It has always been the trait of the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series, where the Allies are good and the Soviet Union is evil. They are later joined by a new evil side, Empire of Rising Sun.
  • Dragon Quest series uses this regularly. The heroes are good. A giant dragon and a badly skinned mage are evil. Many other villains are even beyond that.
    • Psaro the Man Slayer subverts this partly. He hates humans because they harmed his girlfriend. But going into the arena and beating random fighters to death isn't that nice of a thing to do either. None of his underlings are ever good.
      • Though Psaro could be seen as a Woobie in some ways, as the death of his girlfriend drove him beyond insanity, causing him to force himself to evolve into a demonic monster who at that point doesn't even remember who his girlfriend is, and the only thing he knows in life is to destroy all humans for what they did to him, despite he doesn't even remember what that was, all he knows is that is his goal
  • Fire Emblem tends to play with this alot, even with its many morally pure Lords as its protagonists.
    • As pictured above, Queen Elincia and the Herons are good, but Mad King Ashnard is evil. However, his steed isn't evil, just Brainwashed. But then there's Naesala, who's more morally ambiguous, as well as several Daein commanders who fight for Ashnard more out of a sense of duty for their nation then being outright evil.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening mostly play this straight; the Halidom of Ylisse worships Naga and is presented as pure and good while the desert theocracy Plegia worships Grima and is portrayed as dark and evil. But there are a few mentions, Emmeryn's predecessor had brutally oppressed Plegia in the past, so relations between the two countries were naturally sour by the time she took over, and according to one conversation speculates that many members of the Grima cult treat it like a normal religion. However none of this is really seen ingame, every Grima cultist member encountered is a Card-Carrying Villain for example.
  • Galaxy Angel: The Transbaal Empire is good; The Val-Fasq are evil.
  • Subverted in Golden Sun: seemingly present during the first game, but the second game deconstructs it by having you play the antagonists of the first game, and having the final boss be the mentor from the first game.
  • Gradius: Planet Gradius is good; Bacterion, Venom, and Salamander are evil.
    • But what about the Gradian government? Before the Northern Cross War that inadvertently killed nearly of the Wreekians, the Gradius government avoided contact with them because they were primitive. After the Northern Cross War, the Gradius government didn't do much at all for the poor Wreekian survivors; they only wanted to use their ESP power. This would put the Gradian government on the grey morality.
  • Deconstructed in Grandia II; see the page for more details
  • The first Knights of the Old Republic game.
    • Brutally deconstructed in the sequel.
  • Link, Zelda, and their allies are good; Ganon and his followers are evil.
  • Mega Man (Classic) and his friends are good, Dr. Wily and his robots are evil.
  • New Worlds Ateraan has a God of Shadows and a Goddess of Light, niftily color-coded. However, those devoted to the former would likely call Light blinding and evil, so 'good' and 'bad' are not so easily determined.
  • The Overlord (you) is evil, the heroes are (mostly) good. This is one of the few scenarios where you're supposed to prefer the black morality.
  • In Pokémon Red and Blue and Pokémon Gold and Silver. The main character is good, Team Rocket is evil.
    • The later core games avert this though, with the evil teams having more reasonable and sympathetic motivations. The exception is Ghetsis of Team Plasma, whose villainy neighbors Cipher proportions. Cipher from Pokémon Colosseum is far more evil than anything before them and a sight more evil than anything since, up until Pokémon X and Y gave us Lysandre.
  • Present in Riviera: The Promised Land. Which is very surprising, considering the rest of the series.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles are good; Robotnik is evil. Shadow and Rouge border on the Grey morality, though.
    • Actually, the series averts it quite often. Eggman is the main villain, but he's usually portrayed as merely being Affably Evil, and often teams up with Sonic and helps him when the world is at risk, as he doesn't seek its destruction, he just wants to conquer it. Knuckles was Eggman's Dragon in his debut game, but he's actually a good guy who got tricked into thinking that Sonic wanted to steal the Master Emerald and Eggman just wanted to prevent it. Gamma is one of Eggman's robots and follows his orders for half of his story, even fighting Sonic at some point, but goes through a Heel-Face Turn and decides to rebel, declaring Eggman his enemy and deciding to "free" his robot siblings (actually animals used as living batteries) by destroying their robotic bodies and releasing them. Chaos is a legendary beast who caused the destruction of a whole ancient civilization, and almost that of the modern world as well, but he's actually the protector of the Chao and the Chaos Emeralds and has no evil on his heart, he just got consumed by rage when an ancient tribe hurt the creatures he was defending in its lust for power. Gerald Robotnik programmed the ARK to destroy the Earth and made a deal with Black Doom that would result in humanity being attacked and conquered by an alien race, but it's revealed that he wanted to help everyone by creating the Ultimate Life Form and just went insane when his beloved granddaughter got killed by the government's army, and that he actually created the Eclipse Cannon to warrant that humanity had a way of stopping the Black Arms when they arrived and attacked. Solaris seeks to destroy time and space, but he's actually a good deity who went insane after being performed experiments on. Emerl is a robot designed as a weapon of mass destruction, but gains a kind and heroic personality through the game as a result of hanging around Sonic and his friends and copying their traits, and keeps this one until the end, even after his programming makes him go berserk. Shahra is Sonic's sidekick and main ally for most the game, but is revealed to actually be an ally to the main baddie in the end, only to go through a Heel-Face Turn and join Sonic for real. Similarly, Merlina, who is Sonic's guide and ally in Sonic and the Black Knight, is revealed to be the Big Bad at the end, but her intentions and motivations aren't evil.
    • Played straight in more recent mainstream titles. In Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, Eggman's silliness masks an ever growing competence culminating in Generations with him actually maintaining full control of the Eldritch Abomination he unleashes. Also in Unleashed, Dark Gaia is very much evil, while Light Gaia (AKA Chip) is very much good.
  • Star Fox and the Cornerian army are good. Andross, Anglar Emperor, and their armies are bad. The Aparoids were created solely to be The Virus, and were nothing but evil and trouble.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Mario is good, Bowser is evil.
    • Averted in later spin-offs, as Bowser developed over time and he became increasingly Affably Evil to the point that in most modern games he's less evil then simply misguided and greedy.
    • Played straight in the main series, though; in both Galaxy games Bowser is as one-dimensionally megalomaniacal as ever. Probably because their one attempt at giving him more "complexity" was Super Mario Sunshine, which included narmy voice acting ("How dare you disturb my family vacation!") and introduced The Scrappy, Bowser Jr.
    • Also played straight by the one-off villains in the Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi series. Okay, not quite Count Bleck, but Fawful, Dimentio, the Shadow Queen, Cackletta, and the Shroobs are portrayed very much to the extreme end of the evil scale.
  • Played with in Touhou. On one hand, the series as a whole follows White and Grey Morality at worst, with copious amounts of Dark Is Not Evil and Not Always Evil, preventing the series from having any true villains. On the other hand, the interactions between youkai and humans in the games are laced with Blue and Orange Morality, with the youkai attacking and sometimes even eating humans because, well, that's what monsters do... and the humans in turn exorcising youkai, even harmless ones, because, well, they are monsters. note  On the third hand, the character Eiki Shiki possesses the ability to "distinctly judge anything to be Good or Evil", meaning that she sees the world in Black And White Morality. As she is the resident Judge of the Dead whom decides the ultimate fate of every deceased soul in Gensokyo, she gets a lot of mileage out of this.
  • Valkyria Chronicles tries to avert this trope, but ends up shooting itself in the foot because everyone on the Gallian side who isn't morally upstanding gets murdered and the only Imperials who might have been decent people also die. By the end of the game, Darcsens and non-aristocrat Gallians are good... and everyone else is dead.
  • In the first two WarCraft games, the Orcs are evil and the humans are good, but by Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, while there are still undeniably evil forces like the Burning Legion and Scourge, it becomes less clear whether the Alliance or the Horde has the moral high ground.
  • Yggdra Union starts off with a princess fleeing from The Empire and raising an army to fight back against them. This later gets subverted, as the Empire isn't actually evil and is fighting for what they believe is true justice as well.
  • Early Video Games with Excuse Plot or plot with little-to-no cutscenes are likely to be this. Even Bad Dudes do not seem to be any kind of bad other than Bad Ass.
  • Bravely Default: Edea Lee, due to being a naive teenager who was brought up believing the lies she was told by her home country, initially believes there are only heroes and villains. Her Character Development is all about making her realize the other shades of morality in between.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Surprisingly subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender. At first, the set-up seems to make the Black and the White quite clear: the Fire Nation is the Always Chaotic Evil Empire embarking on a campaign of world conquest, and those who fight against them are good. Then the writers seem to spend the entire remainder of the series picking this stark divide to pieces in every direction, with an abundance of quite likable and sympathetic Fire Nation characters and an abundance of utterly loathsome Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe characters. The Fire Lord and his daughter remain the clear bad guys, and Team Avatar the clear good guys, straight until the end, but beyond that the series drifts closer to Grey and Grey Morality than almost any other children's show you could name.
    • Some of the main characters, primarily Katara, come close to crossing the line more than once.
    • Zuko alone is a subversion. It seems like the moral the show's trying to send is that life isn't so straightforward and it's important to remember that. Even Azula, the magnificent bitch, gets sympathy. After being betrayed by her friends, abandoned by her father, and given way too much power for her to handle, she has a mental breakdown that all stems from a perceived lack of love from her mother.
    • It's sequel series, The Legend of Korra, is by Word of God attempting to go in the opposite direction with Graying Morality, though the presentation of the antagonists as having little ethical support has raised some accusations of Black and White Morality (and, in the case of the Book 2 main antagonists, it's blatant Black & White morality, since the villain is a mad religious extremist working for a Dark Is Evil Eldritch Abomination. At any rate, several conflicts are indeed very morally gray, such as Korra's opposition to President Raiko in Book 2.
  • Ben 10 is mostly this trope, but the main hero's character flaws can push it slightly into Black and Gray Morality at times.
  • Captain Planet was famous for this trope. The bad guys were not only bad, they tended to put together their absurdly complicated plots strictly For the Evulz. Abiding by the EPA's regulations probably would have been cheaper than some of the crackpot pollution schemes these guys concocted.
  • Kim Possible and friends are undoubtedly the good guys, but it's her foes that really exemplify this trope. Every one of them describes themselves as an evil villain, sometimes worrying if they're being evil enough. Evil supervillainy appears to be a whole subculture in their world.
  • Samurai Jack. The eponymous main character is good, and Aku is evil.
  • South Park occasionally parodies this by taking what is often considered a real life example and reversing the roles. One example is the rainforest episode, where the rainforest is shown solely as a Death World where Everything Is Trying to Kill You, and the loggers destroying the rainforest are invariably kind, hospitable, and heroic, with the episode ending on the lesson that "Rainforests are evil and need to be destroyed".
    • Another example is the smoking episode "Butt Out", in which tobacco companies are portrayed as affable, proud of tobacco's role in building America, careful to ensure that customers are fully warned about the dangers of smoking, and perfectly fine with not living to old age. The anti-smoking activists are greasy, Wormtongue-esque characters who regularly make up evidence against smoking, try to murder a ten year old boy in the name of some of said evidence, and are overly rude to smokers, even when they're in a place where they're completely in their rights to smoke.
  • Transformers: Autobots are good, Decepticons are evil (except in Shattered Glass, where it's the other way round).
    • Though in Transformers Animated some of the Autobots are selfish, corrupt, or incompetent, though not in the main cast. Sentinel Prime,we are looking at you. Likewise, while "sympathetic" might be stretching the portrayal of the Decepticons as a whole, they are at least clearly motivated (most of them want to reconquer Cybertron, but some have other motivations).
    • And in the IDW comics Continuity, the conflict has its origins in Gray and Grey Morality, as the Decepticons were a group that were rising up against the corrupt government that preceded the Autobots.
    • Many Transformers continuities play with and partially subvert the idea, going right back to the Marvel comic series in the 1980s. It is always with individual characters though so the trope is played straight for the overall factions even if the individuals within the groups don't necessarily all adhere. Also, the trope is played painfully straight whenever Unicron is involved, usually with "Unicron = BAD Those who fight him = good"
    • The new book Exodus also establishes a whole lot of gray in the origins of the war and looks like a subversion, but later on plays this trope straight. Sort of.
  • Wander over Yonder plays this for laughs. Wander is clearly "good"—he loves to help people out, adventure and is genuinely cheerful and Sylvia, while snarky, also has fairly good intentions. Lord Hater is a Card-Carrying Villain who see himself as evil and wants to rule the galaxy. He's also a skeleton in a robe, if the "he's the bad guy" message wasn't obvious. On the other hand, instead of frightening, he's an incredibly insecure Psychopathic Man Child. Craig McCracken has stated that the dynamics between Wander and Hater are not so much "Good Vs. Evil" as it really is "Love Vs. Hate."
  • All of the main characters of Xiaolin Showdown explicitly refer to themselves as good or evil. While there is a decent bit of switching sides, (in fact, all four of the monks have been evil for some period of time, though for different reasons), once a character turns good/evil they will be very good/evil. For example: Good!Jack is nothing but hugs and rainbows to the point where he weirds everyone else out, and Evil!Omi is a hyperactive Blood Knight who loves to cause destruction and get in fights.
  • Really, most cartoons fit this trope. The Smurfs? Good (except carnivorous ones). Gargamel? Bad. He-Man? Good. Skeletor? Bad. G.I. Joe? Good. COBRA? Bad. ThunderCats? Good. Mum-Ra? Bad. Rinse and repeat as necessary. Newer works, however, tend to be a bit more morally grey.

Black and White MagicBlack Index, White IndexBlack Gal On White Guy Drama
Black and Gray MoralityPhilosophy TropesBlue and Orange Morality
Barbarian HeroRomanticism Versus EnlightenmentBlack and Grey Morality
Black and Gray MoralityAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Black Shirt
Black and Gray MoralityMorality TropesEvil Versus Evil
Big Damn HeroesIdealism TropesBlithe Spirit

alternative title(s): White And Black Morality; Good Versus Evil; Good Vs Evil
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