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.
That doesn't make them bad
(though they tend to be). And although they are often likely to commit acts we would see as horrific, some are usually benign. Evil ones tend to, immediately after, not act as if anything 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
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 are just not 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
when super smart
and incapable of emotion
. An individual human (or single members of any species whose majority is using the greyscale 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.
, Humans Are Cthulhu
, Humanity Is Infectious
(all often involving this), Non-Malicious Monster
(sometimes requires 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), and Evil Cannot Comprehend Good
(less elaborate forms that resemble this in practice). 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
and its universe.
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- Miracleman in the Alan Moore rendition of the character counts as arguably more Above Good and Evil. The Neil Gaiman version of the character, in the first Gaiman story, lives this trope.
- Galactus was originally intended to be one of these. More recent interpretations have put him more into Above Good and Evil territory, with varying reasons for his planet devouring ways.
- The Harlequinade, in The Invisibles.
- The Enigma in the comic of the same name.
- One of the Eternals books invokes this, a bit mixed with Beyond Good & Evil. It is set after the Super Registration Act is passed, and Iron Man is trying to get them to register, eventually saying that "you must choose a side." The Eternals' leader replies "Imagine that you find two kids fighting over who gets a plastic ball. Would you choose a side?"
- Nekron from Blackest Night was intended to have this according to Geoff Johns, simply doing what he was created to do, which was bringing death to the universe and raising the undead, and being beyond understanding. However, his actions during the event such as controlling heroes' bodies as Black Lanterns with their consciousnesses being unable to do about it suggests otherwise.
- Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen is above it all. When Ozymandias is inquired about Dr Manhattan's political allegiances, he replies, "Which do you prefer, red ants or black ants?" When the reporter admits he has no preference on such a trivial matter, Ozymandias says that Jon has the same opinion about the factions of the Cold War. It's important to note this happened after his transformation into an ageless nuclear energy being, which caused him to lose touch with humanity and eventually develop a sense of morality completely separate from theirs.
- Supergod by Warren Ellis imagines a world where super powered beings essentially live by this trope, because they're so far removed from human values and experience that their resulting morality simply cannot be expressed in human terms. This ends about as well as you'd expect.
- One early appearance of Doctor Strange's extradimensional enemy Dormammu portrayed him this way, with Doc realizing Dormammu did have a bizarre and alien sense of honor which Doc could use to his advantage once he understood it.
- The Endless of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman show this at times, and at others are utterly human. Plus, each character's personality lends them different ways of dealing with the world. Dream shows this multiple times, such as not punishing a creature which dominates others dreams to create a 'nest' because it is simply acting in its own nature. Death never (well, almost never) interferes with the natural demises of anything, no matter how much she likes the individual and Destiny knows when catastrophic events will occur, and will only summon the others for a meeting about said catastrophes if his book says he does.
- Deadpool. Most of the time, he wants to do the right thing... the problem is, he's nuts. He doesn't always have the best judgment on what's right and wrong.
- Frank of Jim Woodring's eponymous Frank comics, and pretty much all the characters in the Unifactor. Their morality ranges from simple selfishness to extreme sadism, but without any reference to whether it's good or bad. There is some internal consistency for each character's morality, but not between the characters. The lack of words adds to their separation from moral norms.
- The New 52 version of Superboy sometimes has trouble understanding moral issues, as he hasn't really had much time to learn about it. He honestly doesn't understand why robbing a bank gets him complaints.
Films — Animation
- This tends to happen with religions, both ancient and modern (not naming any names), between one another and internally. 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.).
- 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.
- There's a play called Blue/Orange that deals with this people of this sort of morality, although the name ostensibly comes from a mental disorder one of the characters has that causes him to, among other things, see the insides of oranges as blue. Not the outside, nothing else orange, just the insides.
- Cyrano de Bergerac shows us a strange example of humans with this type of morality: The Gascons believe that "Good" is to be crack–brained and brave, to be poor is a motive for pride, your autodestructive tendencies are to be not only tolerated but encouraged, to treat others like crap is tolerable so long as they are not Gascons, and to die in battle is the best destiny your can aspire to. "Evil" is to try to get ahead in life by connections and alliances with powerful people, and to display your riches in public is shameful to the point of being declared No True Gascon. Most of all, Disproportionate Retribution and Disproportionate Reward are completely normal conducts.
- The girl mention in Tom Lehrer's The Irish Ballad is perferctly willing to murder her entire family in cold blood for the simple reason that she is bored, or that she doesn't like them to the point where her murders are reffered to as "little pranks" but will not lie when the police comes to investigate.
- The H Trolls and the Brony Crusaders from Bronyism could be considered this; as the former wants only to make lulz, screw with everyone and make them look like idiots while the latter wants to return everything to normal and keep the place clean from trolls and anything unfit for the blog while also taking the time to mock the Hijakcers and their losses.
- The Elders in New York Magician. They don't like people being able to see them.
Michel: Wait, you're saying you had me kidnapped, knocked out, tied up in a basement and dropped here on this bench because you wanted me to know how it feels when I turn to you on the fucking subway and say "hi"?
- According to Elisa (their actress), The Makeover Fairy and Dr. Tease genuinely think what they do is for the greater good.
- The demons in The Salvation War have some rather jarring morality. Since they are still basically in the Bronze Age, demons have a very rigid and honor based form of warfare that hasn't changed in millions of years. Cannibalism is considered fine for demons, and not eating the dead is considered "wasting them." They only torture humans because they are told that they need the human's "energy" to move onto their afterlife. All this changes when humans arrive.
- The SCP Foundation has a few examples of this. One notable one is SCP-890, the Rocket Surgeon. He views mechanical objects as patients and humans as unnecessary flesh. However, he's a rather creepy example.
SCP-890: I did not [kill him]! My patient not only survived, but recovered quite nicely. If you're referring to the mass surrounding the patient, I left it in place at the patient's request; I suggested it be removed, but the patient was adamant it be left in place.
- The patient in this case is a pacemaker. That was still inside someone. The "mass of flesh" was the person.
- In a similar vein, SCP-049, the Plague Doctor. When someone touches him, they keel over for no discernible reason. The doctor then kills anyone nearby capable of interrupting his work, fiddles with the original victim's innards, and stitches them up. The process transforms them into rage-fueled zombies intent on sl
- Some interpretations of the Slender Man.
- Most non-humans in Tales of MU, like mermaids, demons, and dragons, who each have no problems eating humans. For example: Iona, a mermaid, killed another student because she was in water, making her prey. In retaliation Vice-Chancellor Embries, a greater Dragon, devoured her and enchanted the one witness so she couldn't tell anyone.
- Mercenaries in various stories of the Union Series. It's not about who commits massive war crimes or who plays knight in shining armor, it's more along the lines of being loyal to the original credit line versus switching sides for better pay.
- Rachel/Bitch from Worm couldn't care less about other humans, even kids, getting hurt, but don't harm dogs in her presence if you want to live.