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
. 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
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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- 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.). The Omniscient Morality License trope is all about this.
- 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.
- 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.