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Blue and Orange Morality
Ye who walk with the Path of Bacon shall be with dinner blessed. Yet ye who follow the Way of Necktie shall be for dinner dressed.

"For one of dragon's blood to not take up weapons, to not prepare night and day to slaughter any enemies that would come against them – it is unthinkable. It is – one who does such a thing, who believes the world will not be dangerous, will not strive to kill him... That is what we call insane."
Embers

To say that questions of morality are thorny and filled with gray when they aren't being hammered between stark absolutes is putting it mildly. Because of this there can be great drama when characters who represent a wide range of moral viewpoints come together or into conflict.

The strangest of these characters are those who espouse Blue And Orange Morality. These characters have a moral framework that is so utterly alien and foreign to human experience that we can't peg them as good or evil. They aren't a Chaotic Neutral Unfettered, though they may seem to act terrifyingly randomly; nor are they necessarily a Lawful Neutral Fettered, because our and their understanding of 'law' as a concept may not even be equivalent. There might be a logic behind their actions, it's just that they operate with entirely different sets of values and premises with which to draw their conclusions. It's also worth noting that such cultures are just as likely to be something we'd find appalling, as they are to be something we'd find benign and/or weird. They may also find us appalling, benign, or weird even if we don't see them that way.

And although they are often likely to commit acts we would see as horrific, some are unusually benign. Either way they tend to act as if nothing were the matter. Because in their world/mind, that's just what they do. This trope is one of the trickier to pull off well, because Most Writers Are Human, and it's often hard to portray alien truly foreign.

This is similar to Values Dissonance, but the main difference is that societies with Values Dissonance can, at least on a basic level, generally measure one another by the same concepts of Good and Evil, or even Order and Chaos. With Blue and Orange Morality, the values are so foreign, that such concepts can no longer be applied. They may not even know what these things are, or even if they do, will often find them confusing. The concepts are not necessarily beyond their grasp, mind you, but just aren't something which they'd place any importance on.

Conversely, they may have these concepts, but apply them in vastly different ways. Such as regarding motionlessness as the epitome of evil, or viewing exploration as an element of chaos.

Note that cases involving solely a misapprehension of facts and consequences do not count here no matter how alien the reasons; if, for example, a race of aliens thinks killing is okay because its own members respawn within a day with no harm done, and mistake humans as working the same way, that doesn't mean they wouldn't balk at killing if they realized the degree of harm it causes to other creatures. In this case, they may be working by comprehensible moral standards and just gravely mistaken about the implications of their actions.

Likely candidates for Blue and Orange Morality include The Fair Folk, who follow rules of their own making; Eldritch Abominations that are beyond comprehension; the more exotic Starfish Aliens; AIs and robots, especially when super smart and incapable of emotion. An individual human (or single members of any species whose majority falls into darker morality) who operates on this is the Übermensch of Nietzschean philosophy (a human being who has developed their own Blue/Orange set of morals). A Nominal Hero may have this motivation as well. Moral Sociopathy overlaps strongly with this trope for obvious reasons, though this is not always the case.

Compare Xenofiction, Humans Are Cthulhu, Humanity Is Infectious (all often involving this), Above Good and Evil, Affably Evil / Faux Affably Evil (they sometimes can come across as this), Even Evil Has Standards (when handled poorly or bizarrely), Evil Cannot Comprehend Good (less elaborate forms that resemble this in practice), and Non-Malicious Monster (which occasionally requires this). When two sides go to war and nothing will stop them except total annihilation, that's Guilt-Free Extermination War.

Has nothing to do with the following: Bucknell University, The University of Illinois, The University of Virginia, The University of Florida, Auburn University, Syracuse University, Hope College, Gettysburg College, Boise State University or the flag of Ukraine (the colors of all of which are blue and orange, albeit different shades in each case). Nor the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, New York Knicks, New York Mets, or Mango Sentinels. Or the City of New York, for that matter. Furthermore, do not confuse with Blue and Orange Movies. Also has nothing to do with the Karma Meter in Mass Effect nor the Aperture Science Hand Held Portal Device or even the light scheme in TRON and its universe.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animation 
  • Halloween Town citizens from The Nightmare Before Christmas. They scare children for a living, but do it because it's their job and they simply enjoy it. Interestingly, they (including Jack) can't comprehend the basics of Christmas, and when they try to replicate it ... well, things Go Horribly Wrong.
    "Life's no fun without a good scare."
    • It's debatable how canon this is (for obvious reasons), but in the Kingdom Hearts series, Jack tends to think of new experiences (such as the Heartless) in terms of how he can repurpose them into new Halloween surprises, but also tends to become quite disillusioned with them if it should ever come to light that it can actually cause people harm (such as, again, the Heartless).

    Newspaper Comics 

    Religion 
  • In the Mahabharata the river goddess Ganga bears King Shantanu several children…and drowns them. When he gives her a What the Hell, Hero?, she explains that it's Not What It Looks Like; the children are reincarnations of holy souls that need to transcend reincarnation. (They committed a minor offense in a past life, and so were forced to be reincarnated as mortals, so Ganga lets that happen, and then kills them while they're still young and innocent so they can be released from reincarnation. Because she knew that there's no way King Shantanu would be able to comprehend this, she had asked him to never question her...and since he just did, she left him shortly afterwards.
    • If it is any consolation, however, that eighth child turns out to become the legendary Bhishma, who was blessed with wish-long life and had sworn to serve the ruling Kuru king, and grand uncle of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Long story short, when Bhishma died, he was the eldest living ancestor to the equivalent of 5 generations of the Pandava line, and was strong enough to overcome even Arjuna in battle.
  • In general and to a lesser extent, this tends to happen with religions, both ancient and modern (not naming any names). When someone gets perplexed by the seeming arbitrariness and contradiction of the dogma, the official answer tends to be that god(s) are incomprehensible and the problem is on your end. The best we can do is obey their inscrutable commands and hope for the best. This also comes up in response to the common question of why, in an ordered universe, bad things happen to good people. Many philosophies and religions recognize that the needs of an individual and the needs of the universe at large simply won't mesh up, and a transcendent being is probably only interested in the latter. So while it might look like your god/gods/spirits are cruel bastards for killing your family with that flood, a believer needs to remember that from a divine standpoint it was probably the right thing to do (e.g. the flood was a necessary evil, or death isn't actually bad, etc.). The Omniscient Morality License trope is all about this.

    Theater 

    Music 


Balance Between Good and EvilNeutrality IndexBystander Syndrome
Grey and Gray MoralityHedonism TropesSliding Scale of Unavoidable vs. Unforgivable
The BlankOtherness TropesBroken Angel
Black and White MoralityPhilosophy TropesEvil Versus Evil
Bizarre Alien PsychologyAlien TropesCame from the Sky
Blatant LiesThe Only Righteous Index of FanaticsBlind Obedience
Beware the Honest OnesMorality TropesBrainwashing for the Greater Good
Auto-TuneSturgeon's TropesBowdlerise
Beneath the EarthCosmic Horror StoryBroke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu
A.I. Is a CrapshootRational FicCrazy-Prepared

alternative title(s): Orange And Blue Morality; Red And Green Morality; Green And Red Morality; Yellow And Purple Morality; Purple And Yellow Morality; Kaleidoscope Morality; Rainbow Morality; Complementary Color Morality; Infrared And Ultraviolet Morality
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