Comes Great Responsibility
"This is the crystace [blade] they shall sheathe in my heart if... I use these powers for capricious or selfish purposes."Super Heroes are expected to have a higher moral standard. No abusing your powers for personal gain. Sometimes this is enforced by the authority that granted their abilities, but most often it is self-imposed. What constitutes "abuse"? That gets into a nebulous area. This trope usually involves the more obviously violent powers that could kill someone in a few seconds or violate a person's integrity, but even good powers can make bad people. However, if your family is down on their luck financially, what's a little arm wrestling wager at the pub going to hurt? Mostly this is a moral stance superheroes took early in their career to make sure they never hit the slippery slope to evil-dom. This happens fast; arm-wrestling for money at the pub will often signal temptation to evil within a few episodes, if not that very one. This was lampshaded in an episode of Bewitched where Samantha used her powers to do something but a mortal who wasn't supposed to see her. So she's considering "freezing" them until she can figure out what to do about it. But to do that, she would have to freeze others who would miss them if they weren't around for a few weeks while the person was gone, so they'd have to be frozen. She sort of realizes the ridiculousness of this when she considers maybe she should just freeze the entire human race, i.e. all mortals. Once you get started with potentially bad actions, each subsequent one becomes easier until you've crossed every line. In the hands of a poor writer, it is easy for this to turn into a Family-Unfriendly Aesop or Fantastic Aesop. For instance, a character Cursed with Awesome powers and unable to enjoy them in any way, trapped in a life they didn't choose can easily become You Can't Fight Fate and Hard Work Hardly Works, and is usually a one way ticket to Wangst-ville. It can also degenerate into the idea that benefiting from one's own talents or skills is wrong, and that trying to help others will only end in disaster, but that you are still obligated to do so even knowing that Failure Is the Only Option. Superheroes who follow this trope often become The Cape. Outside the superhero genre, this is not often a trope relating to the main characters, but many a Reasonable Authority Figure is deeply aware of the responsibilities that come with his post. Indeed, one way to detect whether such a figure is good is how he regards the misery or deaths of the faceless masses; even not knowing any of them, the Reasonable Authority Figure will not regard them as A Million Is a Statistic and if he must sacrifice them, will regard it as Dirty Business. Contrasted by Muggle Power and With Great Power Comes Great Perks.
— Part of the Sentinel's oath, as given in Fusion Fire
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- Nozomi, The Ditz of Yes! Precure 5, wanted to use the Dream Collet's any-wish-your-heart-desires to do all her homework for her.
- In Mai Hi ME, the applications of the HiMEs' powers were explicitly unrestricted, which Dark Magical Girl Nao used to justify using her powers to rob unsuspecting men, posing as a child prostitute. An Aesop ensued, although frankly, a criminal, regardless of how insignificant the crimes are, hardly has any chance to win an ethics debate to begin with...
- At least if you seriously want to claim that laws are always ethical.
- In Turn A Gundam Loran feels this way about the titular mobile suit. He's even unhappy about using the beam saber when he first finds it, long before he learns that he's piloting the most powerful mobile suit ever built.
- In Gundam SEED, Mu La Flaga throws this at Kira near the beginning, one of the prime reasons Kira continues to take up arms and fight.
- The final episodes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann carry this theme in the revelation that reckless use of Spiral Energy can potentially destroy the universe.
- In Alice19th, Alice is encouraged to use her powers to help her studies. However, in a side story, a character loses her powers when she tries to charge money for the water she created using them.
- Something interesting — fansub group Janime translates a line from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX as "With great responsibility comes great power." The speaker is not referring to any superpower, but Judai's super-charisma and inherent ability to inspire people and get them to follow him just by being himself. That's not as good as it sounds.
- It's kind of subverted in the anime Eden of the East, in which twelve people called Seleçao are enrolled in a "game" where they get 10 billion yen and a concierge that allows them to do almost anything they want with it. It is later revealed the the goal of the "game" is for one of the Seleçao to use the money responsibly to "become a Messiah" who will "save Japan": Those who fail to do so are killed when they run out of money (or killed when one of the others win). "Noblesse Oblige" and "The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power" are Arc Words in the story.
- Averted early in the Chuunin Exam Arc of Naruto, wherein everyone in the room is subtly encouraged to use their ninja abilities to cheat on the written portion, which is so impossibly hard that this is the only way they will be able to finish. They were really being marked on their ability to cheat without being caught.
- Joey Jones from Heroman struggles with this once he get's the titular robot. Comes with the territory seeing as the series is the brainchild of none other than Stan Lee.
- InuYasha: Inuyasha isn't allowed to obtain Tessaiga without learning that he must protect humans if he wants to wield it. Thereafter, his ability to strengthen and master Tessaiga goes hand in hand with his increasing compassion.
- In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, the Saints are absolutely forbidden from using their Clothes for personal gain, having to don them exclusively to protect Athena and humankind. If they do use their Clothes for personal gain, Sanctuary law has it that they shall be executed.
- This is also present in the original series: at the start the protagonist Saints are using their Clothes to fight in the Galaxy Tournament, and the Sanctuary, upon hearing of this, sends another powerful Saint (Hyoga in the manga, Ikki in the anime) to execute the lot of them.
- Devil Survivor 2 has main protagonist Hibiki Kuze feel this way about his savant-like ability to summon the powerful demon Byakko.
- Inverted in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: After the secret is revealed Nadia's firm belief in this trope combined with her own self-hatred leads her to attempt suicide because she's convinced she could never handle such power responsibly.
- The Trope Namer, of course, is Spider-Man, who used his powers to earn some money at wrestling, but couldn't be bothered to stop a criminal from escaping — the same criminal who would later kill his uncle. Humbled, he takes up crime fighting, learning that power has a price. The only concession he makes is to take pictures of himself in action to pay the bills.
- The phrase people most often think of, "With great power comes great responsibility" (heard in, among other things, the 2002 film), is actually a Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The original quote came from a narration box in the final panel of "Spider-Man!" in Amazing Fantasy #15, with the narrator telling the viewer how Peter has learned that "with great power there must also come — great responsibility!"
- That phrasing comes back during Spider-Verse. During one story, a very angry Spider-Girl confronts an Uncle Ben who gave up being a Spider because his world's Green Goblin killed his May and Peter. May, already angry that her brother was in the hands of the Inheritors, snaps at Ben for abandoning his role as a hero. She starts to use the motto before Ben corrects her with the real phrasing and uses it as the reason why he quit.
- Also in Spider-Verse, Ben reminds everyone that the actual quote is 'With great power there must also come great responsibility', implying that responsibility is at once a choice, and an inherent part of the package with great power.
- That phrase, Spider-Man's trademark, is parodied in Marvel Ultimate Alliance in a conversation with Spider-Man:
"With great power comes—"
"Don't you dare finish that line, or you'll have so much webbing in your hair you'd have to shave yourself bald."
- Played straight with the actual character in-game, however, where he has the passive "Great Responsibility," which gives him a chance to protect an ally from an enemy attack. If he does, it switches to "Great Power," which increases his damage. Once he attacks, it changes back to "Great Responsibility."
- A What If? story depicts Spider-Man stopping the burglar for self serving reasons—he know he'll get good publicity off of it. As a result, Peter Parker becomes a pampered movie star and millionaire with beautiful women jumping into his bed on a nightly basis. He doesn't learn the "with great power..." lesson until Daredevil sacrifices his own life to protect him.
- Ezekiel, a person with powers similar to Peter, poses a question to Spider-Man.
"And what comes with great responsibility?"
"If great power comes with great responsibility, what comes with great responsibility? Power? Freedom? Guilt?"
(Peter points a finger at the City's view) "You want to know what comes with great responsibility? This all."
- In an issue of Universe X, an older, fatter Parker answers this when he declares that he had the maxim backwards all along:
- "It's responsibility that brings power. It's knowing what needs to be done that brings strength. And courage. That's my daughter... and I won't let her remain a mindless slave of the Skull."
- In the evilest ending of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Peter has fallen so far that he rejects his former motto, claiming that he never knew what power was and deciding that he likes it.
- This is the underlying moral of the 50th Anniversary storyline, "Alpha": a ordinary teenager is given incredible powers by an accident caused by a disgruntled worker. Peter, as himself and Spidey, attempts to reel him in, but his ego gets the better of him, turning him into a celebrity who'd willingly cheat on the girl he was crushing on and deciding to emancipate himself from his parents after the Jackal kidnaps them in a plot, not to save them, but because they were cramping his style. Spidey pulls the plug on Alpha's fun once and for all after a fight with Terminus nearly causes hundreds of deaths when his powers short circuit airplanes all over New York, two of those near-victims being Aunt May and her husband, Jay Jameson (JJJ's dad).
- It's also the underlying moral of the Superior Spider-Man storyline: Doc Ock takes over Peter's body before his gives out and decides he can be a better Spidey than Peter ever was. While he creates his own company, gets his degree and creates an army to protect New York City with, it ends up alienating him from virtually everyone because of his massive ego. When the Goblin King brings everything down around his ears, Otto's forced to accept that Peter was the better Spidey because he allowed himself to have those chances to be better slip away because he felt he didn't deserve them.
- Then it's subverted in the Secret Wars (2015) story "Renew Your Vows" as Peter gives up being Spider-Man to protect MJ and their daughter Annie, making him the last superhero alive in a world ruled by the mysterious Regent. Even more, he goes so far as to ignore cries for help just to deal with his kid.
- The phrase people most often think of, "With great power comes great responsibility" (heard in, among other things, the 2002 film), is actually a Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The original quote came from a narration box in the final panel of "Spider-Man!" in Amazing Fantasy #15, with the narrator telling the viewer how Peter has learned that "with great power there must also come — great responsibility!"
- Subverted by Runaways in which Spider-man's mantra provokes the following reaction from Gert.
"Really? That's insane. Most people in life don't have great power, and few that do are almost never responsible with it. The people who have the greatest responsibility are the kids with no power because we're the one who have to keep everyone else in check."
- Used in All-Star Superman, although not spelled out. Lex Luthor gains Superman's powers at the end and goes on a rampage, stopping every so often as his Super Senses give him new insights on the universe. Just as his powers run out, he declares that life is beautiful and everyone needs to stick together - implying that anybody with Superman's godlike perspective would naturally choose to become an altruist. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue implies that Luthor mellowed out considerably after the experience. Although Luthor is smart and would be capable of recognizing the beauty of the universe with his new Super Senses... and it didn't completely stop him from trying to defeat Superman anyway. If anything it's a combination of Superman's godlike perspective and being raised well that makes Clark Kent who he is.
- Occasionally averted in X-Men when a mutant is shown using their powers to aid in doing their day job. For example, Colossus used his superhuman strength and endurance to work as a farmer (in the comics) and a construction worker (on the TV series) before joining the team. While he is using his powers to do productive work for society, it is clear that he is getting paid for it.
- This was (and still is) a common trait of Communist superheroes (and supervillains!) in comics. Most if not all of them are on the government payroll. It's superhumans from non-autocratic countries who have the freedom to use their powers as they choose.
- This was also demonstrated in the 1990s Sleepwalker comics with Anti-Villain Spectra. Her initial criminal schemes give her amazing superhuman powers and transform her into a supervillain, and she seems ready to become a criminal, but by the next time Sleepwalker runs into her she's using her light-projecting abilities to make a living working for a glassware manufacturer.
- Superman isn't above using his powers to get a good news story if doing so doesn't interfere with fighting evil. In one of the earliest comics he scooped Lois on a story about a dam bursting by outrunning her train, stopping the flood, and phoning the story in.
- Sort of justified in that his heroing makes his job more difficult far more often than it makes it easier — like Peter Parker, the guy deserves a break.
- Various versions of Iron Man usually wrestle with this - Tony Stark's fortune is built on his engineering genius, but in the film, Tony decides to get his company out of the munitions business after seeing that his weapons were being sold in dirty deals to terrorists and criminals. In the comics, Stark quit selling weapons years ago, but he still frets about villains stealing and abusing his armor designs, sometimes to the level of paranoia that he manipulates, deceives and attacks his own friends.
- A bit of a subversion and Aesop in the DCU. Rita Farr's inability to control her size-changing abilities ended her film career. The only movie she made after it was a knockoff of "The Incredible Shrinking Woman." Likewise, her adopted son (Gar "Beast Boy" Logan) also went into acting, and had a good run on a Star Trek knockoff, using his shapechanging ability to play an alien...however, neither of them were able to find more acting work, since their reputations as "freaks" made them un-castable in anything else. Other DCU examples were Victor "Cyborg" Stone and Cliff "Robot Man" Steele. Their Emergency Transformations enhanced them, but also rendered them ineligible to participate in the athletic abilities they loved because their cybernetics were considered cheating. For all of the above, it's arguable that they're in the hero business because they can't do anything else.
- A recent issue of New Avengers has superhuman mobster The Hood (who is a villainous deconstruction of the Marvel teenage superhero, and whose name happens to be Parker) explaining to his gang that they owe their enhanced abilities to him:
Hood: With power like this comes responsibility.
- In the print- and webcomic PS238, the private school Praetorian Academy is founded on the ideals of teaching this to its (grade-school level) students. Their somewhat draconian methods of enforcing these ideals contrast it sharply to PS238 itself, which is more of a normal grade school (with a curriculum modified thereafter) for kids that happen to have superpowers.
- A Crown Of Stars: During their conversations with Shinji and Asuka, Daniel and his wife Rayana explain to them the more powerful you are the more responsible you must be, especially if you are a god. You have great powers so you MUST use them to help people because is the right thing to do, but you have to be careful because if you interfere with their lives too much or start to punish whoever displeases you, you risk going down the slippery slope (how happened to Daniel a long time ago).
- Harry in the Harry Potter x Ben 10 crossover Harry Tennyson plays with this. Despite Grandpa Max's wishes, he doesn't see having the Omnitrix to mean he has to fight every criminal he finds and rush into every dangerous situation to help people. Instead he believes using the Omnitrix responsibly means making sure he doesn't get anyone hurt with his recklessness. He outright states that he has no interest in being a hero and is only interested in helping someone if the police/firemen/etc. can't help them.
- The Infinite Loops: Twilight Sparkle takes to this attitude as soon as she realizes Equestria is stuck in a time loop. It swiftly expands to the inhabitants of the entire looping multiverse.
- While not clearly stated or defined in Koihime Musou Tales Of The Armored War Gods, all the Riders seem to have an understanding of this as none of them have ever abused their powers or used them for personal gain other than to make a living (usually as bandit hunters, but that is more of a public service)
- Last Child of Krypton: Shinji decides to use his powers to help people because he thinks it is his responsibility to use them wisely and he does not like seeing people hurt.
- Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: After being shown Jor-El's message Asuka strives to live up to the ideal of hope that Kal-El could have been. The responsibility of being a superhero is also one of the major overarching themes of the story.
- In The Bridge, Godzilla Jr. states that because he's so powerful, it is his job to assure the safety of those around him, to face threats that he can fight but they cannot.
- Not using Time Travel for personal gain was one of Dr. Emmett Brown's self-imposed policies on his and Marty's trips in the Back to the Future trilogy. In the second movie, Marty considered making easy money with a time machine, but Biff Tannen beat him to using a future sports almanac to gamble on past events, which resulted in drastic changes in the timeline. However, like other rules - not using information from the future and avoiding one's other selves - Doc eventually disregarded this rule anyway after finding his love in 1885.
- Possibly justified by the fact she was supposed to have died. Removing her from the timeline would probably cause less damage to history than not.
- In Back to the Future Part III, Doc constructed a giant machine with the sole purpose of creating ice cubes before the technology became common, which sounds like something one would do if they were trying to randomly change the timeline. That's all it does too; no Chekhov's Gun here.
- He probably had no intention of publicizing his inventions anyways, and nobody in town would probably figure out how it worked.
- ...And that information from the future saved Doc's life in the first film.
- The Amazing Spider-Man:
- Somewhat deconstructed:
Uncle Ben: You're a lot like your father. You really are, Peter, and that's a good thing. But your father lived by a philosophy, a principle really. He believed that... that if you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things. That's what at stake here. Not a choice, responsibility.
Peter: That is nice. That's really... that's great. That's all well and good, so where is he?
Uncle Ben: What?
Peter: Where is he? Where's my dad? He didn't think it was his responsibility to be here and tell me this himself?
Uncle Ben: Oh, come on! How dare you?
Peter: How dare I? How dare you?!
- This theme is explored in the parallel between Spidey and the Lizard. Both believe in this, but they disagree on what their responsibility is. Peter believes that his responsibility is to help other people and to take care of Aunt May. Connors believes that his responsibility is to give everyone else his powers.
- More explored in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where Max uses all of his power as Electro to try to make everyone else feel as powerless as he once felt before getting his powers. Harry Osborn also refuses to accept any responsibility for his actions or for his condition. In reality, there is no one to blame for Harry's disease, but Harry blames Spider-Man and Menken for his crappy life, especially after he becomes the Goblin. Specifically, Menken had in fact framed Harry for Electro's creation so he can take over Oscorp, which still isn't a good way to handle responsibility of running a company, but Spider-Man's case, his apparent refusal to help him was only using his own responsibility to protect his friends and family, including Harry. Who still becomes the Green Goblin and decides to kill Gwen in retaliation. By the end, seems Harry now plans to use his power to create the future that Oscorp envisioned, starting with forming the Sinister Six.
- Somewhat deconstructed:
- The Specials has a Crowning Moment of Funny associated with this:
Deadly Girl: Ted might have been right about some things. Like drinking; last week I got drunk at a bar mitzvah, unthinkingly summoned forth demons and... they... ate a kid.
- Kick-Ass sums it up with "With no power comes no responsibility. Except that's not true."
- Used in the film version of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" for the Safety Patrol.
- The film version of Superman borrows the trope and plays it straight, when Pa Kent tries to lecture the teenage Clark about not showing off. "You are here for a reason," he says...
- Right before he dies of a heart attack that Clark can't prevent.
- The eldest immortal of the Underworld series feels that it is his responsibility to clean up after his kid's messes but the protagonist says that if he was really being responsible then he'd have stopped his offspring along time ago, as he's the only one capable of doing so.
- Inverted for parodic effect in Clerks II tagline: "With no power comes no responsibility."
- Parodied in Kung Fu Hustle - in the original Mandarin, one of the dying Kung Fu masters says this line... in English. The people surrounding him say they don't speak English, what is he saying? (The English Dub replaces this with a joke about repeating iconic movie lines.)
- In Iron Man after building his Iron Man suit, Tony understands that its power must be used to help people and begins an arduous transition from a glorified douchebag Arms Dealer to a humanitarian hero and champion of world peace. ...Who is still kind of a douchebag.
- Man of Steel:
- Jonathan tells the young Clark that he has to decide what kind of man he wants to be, since with his powers he can change the world.
- Though Jor-El's primary concern is his son's survival, he's not ignorant of the implications Kal-El's superpowers will have on Earth, among humans, so he or his avatar tells him to live in humanity's service. Though Clark was already helping people due to his own morals, but not yet as a career.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Xavier coming to terms with the responsibilities of his powers and his role as mutant leader (and the personal sacrifice it requires) is a major plot point.
- The noblest of the Deryni show a great awareness of this trope:
Dhugal, I may have access to more and other kinds of power than most men, but I must answer for the use of that power to the same God and king that you do—or that any of the priests and bishops do—and to my own conscience as well, which can be a far sterner taskmaster. Because I've been given far greater abilities, I've had to contend with far greater responsibilities. I didn't ask for them, but I have them. All I can do is serve the best way I know how.
- Alaric Morgan hangs another lampshade in The Bishop's Heir:
Here am I, Lord:
- Explicitly invoked in the Healer's Adsum Domine, a Gabrielite hymn in the Deryni works. Rhys Thuryn sings it in the short story "Healer's Song", and Duncan McLain sings it during the dedication of Camber's chapel in King Kelson's Bride. The English translation of the first verse makes the point:
Thou hast granted me the grace to Heal men's bodies.
Here am I, Lord:
Thou hast blessed me with the Sight to See men's souls.
Here am I, Lord:
Thou hast given me the might to bend the will of others.
O Lord, grant strength and wisdom to wield all these gifts only as Thy will wouldst have me serve...
- In C. S. Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader, half invoked. Lucy uses her access to cast a spell to find out what your friends think of you, but when Aslan rebukes her, it is not the personal gain, but the eavesdropping. He explicitly says that spying on people by magical means is still spying. So with great power comes — more chances to do things that would be wrong regardless of how you do them.
- The middle school novels of Seefer Elliot are heavily influenced by this trope. In the first book, the hero, Seefer, must overcome the urge to take his newly found powers and flee to safety. He ultimately decides to use them to save his peers, despite the fact they tormented him for years.
- This really cuts into sarahs Lounging around time in Tales of an Mazing Girl
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, Uriel explicitly thinks that the Inquisitor considers the population he is willing to sacrifice as numbers, while Uriel thinks of them as people.
- In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, Victor's Back Story includes a time where he made a worm and discarded it and was sternly rebuked: the stronger must protect the weaker, or those who are still stronger than they will treat them in the same manner. In the story itself, as the oldest child (with Amelia, the next oldest), he watches over and protects the younger children. At the climax, he makes his declaration of love to Amelia and regrets that he has nothing to offer her but himself; he had wanted to wait until he could provide for her.
- Given a stranger spin in the final part of Tuf Voyaging, where the main character, after twice failing to solve a planet's problems in spite of his Cool Ship's godlike powers, concludes that to give them a permanent solution to their situation, he must accept the responsibility and authority of a god alongside the powers of one.
- The wizards of Young Wizards have to swear an Oath before they get their power, and intentionally breaking it will result in the power being taken back.
- Sarah in Tales of an Mazing Girl feels, this given her awesome powers. However it really cuts around into her lounging around time.
- The Animorphs agree to an unwritten code of conduct in the way they use their powers: don't use them to steal, don't morph sentient beings, and so on. In early books they're fairly studious about this code, aside from their tendency to use their powers for opening-chapter hijinks. Later in the David Trilogy they break the rules for the first time, leading to new Sixth Ranger David deciding to take that idea and run with it. In the aftermath, the Animorphs swear to follow their code more strictly. They don't.
- Jake also notes in MM 3 that their power traps them in a bind: they have enough power to fight and make them responsible, but they don't have enough power to actually win.
- Wizard Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files embraces this trope, saying that he "follows the Tao of Peter Parker." He means it, too. Thomas Raith comments on this in the Dresdenverse story Backup, saying that Harry has a "half-divine, half-insane philosophy" about responsibility that "he's cobbled together from the words of saints and comic books."
- Subverted by many other wizards of the White Council. As long as they do not use black magic, they are free to use their powers for personal gain. If the White Council did not allow it, it would cause a civil war among the wizards.
- The Merlin, head of the White Council, however accepts this trope; he just interprets responsibility differently than Harry.
- Molly Carpenter arguing against her mother cites the Parable of Talents as a reason for her to continue practicing magic. Harry immediately points out to a Father this trope says the same idea, only simpler. The Father agrees but notes that "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" is harder to work into a sermon.
- Virgil used this trope as the Roman ideal, making it Older Than Feudalism:
Other peoples may yet
more skillfully teach bronze to breathe,
leading outward and loosing
the life lying hidden in marble;
Some may plead causes better,
or using the tools of science
better predict Heaven's moods
and chart the stars changing courses.
But Roman, remember you well
that your own arts are these others:
to govern the nations in power;
to dictate their rule in peace;
to raise up the peoples you have conquered,
and throw down the proud who resist.Translation: Some peoples' hat is art, for others it's science, for us, it's being in charge. Don't screw it up.
- In C. S. Goto's Blood Ravens trilogy, the amnesiac Rhamah's first serious doubts about Ahriman stem from his actions — and Rhamah's rebuke is that knowledge brings power, and power brings responsibility.
- The Bible in the Parable of the Faithful Servant: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
- The Firebird Trilogy: The Sentinels are well aware of the dangers their Psychic Powers entail, and therefore hold themselves to a high moral standard.
- The Knights Radiant of The Stormlight Archive had this as part of their oath. Specifically, "strength before weakness" is a pithy way of saying that those with power have an obligation to use it for the benefit of those without.
- In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, when discussing his options with Geary, Rione ironically observes that some people think that great power means doing what you want to, and not what you don't want to.
- In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen Vs the Junion Super Patriots, this is alluded to when talking about how she got her powers.
- Tris from Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, Tris has the most dangerous ambient magic out of the four kids, namely, weather magic. This includes the ability to create lightning and alter weather patterns (and later extends to geology). As a result, Tris has to learn iron-willed control very fast and can't support herself with her magic: she doesn't want to be a war mage, and being a weather mage would mean fouling up the weather patterns everywhere around the region she might work for.
- Sandry also comes from a noble family, and maintains the beliefs that the nobles are obligated to help those less fortunate and powerful than themselves. She sticks to this pretty well, to, although she does occasionally get a selfish streak.
- In Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna is told early on that she can't hide from her magic and that she has an obligation to use her Gift for healing to make up for the lives she will take as a knight.
- The House of Night:
- Said verbatim to Zoey by her grandmother in Marked.
- Stevie Rae doesn't use her powers to "rule the world or anything crazy like that", because of this trope. Stevie Rae also reads comic books.
- Jurassic Park: Ian Malcolm talks about how a hypothetical martial artist, by the time he can kill someone with his bare hands, should also have learned the wisdom not to do so recklessly. He says that most other forms of power are similar. He then compares it to science, which allows people "to stand on the shoulders of giants" without developing the necessary wisdom. The film had a similar speech, though it could be summarized by the line
...Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.
- Artist Ian Hugo, the husband of Anais Nin, wrote this in an article about engraving:
Every artist owes it as a duty to himself and to the world to know what messages he is conveying. Above all he should know when he is a free agent and when he is a prisoner of his own obsessions or of anything else. For the power of an image-maker is the power of a god or a goddess and with that power go responsibilities.
- Elijah Valentine could, theoretically, save the starving by magical means, but the world is made of connections - change one thing, you break another. So he mostly avoids using his powers, citing responsibility, and helps people in mundane ways.
- In Charmed, the sisters were prohibited from using their power for "personal gain" to the point where they couldn't even use it to save Piper's life when she was about to die from natural causes, even though it would preserve their special Power-of-Three-ness and presumably save many lives in the long run. Later on, the writers played with this trope a bit.
- In S6 Phoebe's empath power is taken away because the Elders feel she abused it.
- In S7 the sisters use their powers to help the avatars try and create utopia but this comes at a heavier price than they realise and then they have to put things right.
- Towards the end of S8 the magical community turns on the sisters for not living up to their responsibilities.
- Dead Like Me: If the reapers abuse their powers they face supernatural consequences. When George tries to directly speak to her mother she finds she can no longer remember memories she could talk about to prove she really is Joy's daughter (her appearance is altered to the living). Also when George tries to mess with fate, weird and unpleasant things start happening to her.
- The original Power Rangers were explicitly instructed not to use their powers for anything but fighting evil. This was actually subverted in the later Mystic Force season, though they were punished for it and technically later teams never had Zordon's three rules.
- Even the Theme Song says so. They know the fate of the world is lying in their hands. They know to only use their weapons for defense.
- Dustin of Power Rangers Ninja Storm got a light scolding from Sensei for using his abilities to stop a crime - an orchestrated hit on a store. Apparently they really are only supposed to fight the Monster of the Week and nothing else.
- Appropriately, Super Sentai, and by extent Power Rangers, was inspired by Japanese Spider-Man.
- Hiro Nakamura, of Heroes, has explicitly quoted this trope, in full "Spider-Man" glory, to his more mercenary friend Ando — and was proved correct when Ando's argued-for cheating at cards got them in serious trouble. (Just because nobody knows how you're cheating doesn't mean they can't tell you're cheating!) And the other hero who exemplifies this philosophy is named Peter P.
- The Invisible Man: The Official frequently tries to impress this upon Darien. He wants him to use his invisibility gland to help protect the country. Occasionally if he feels Darien is out of line he goes so far as to withhold the counteragent that prevents Darien from going mad.
- Michael from Roswell has been known to use his telekinetic powers to cheat at dice games.
- Gary from Early Edition once uses the paper to bet on horse races. He was so busy making money that he didn't read the part about a friend of his who died in a car crash.
- Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad occasionally used their powers for fun and games, including a game of Internet hide-and-seek.
- In Smallville, Clark naturally feels compelled to use his powers to help others. Jonathan once had a line like that too. Chloe Sullivan too, after she received the meteor power of Empathic Healing, she insists on healing a dying Lex even though it killed her the first time. It killed her again, but she has Resurrective Immortality. Many others with powers, don't.
- Poor President Bartlet from The West Wing has a very strong sense of this trope that invariably leads to enormous guilt, to the point of declaring that he would not be able to stomach the prospect of remaining President if he ever walked willingly to a bunker during a crisis. The trope was not just limited to his personal feelings: it screwed him over badly on numerous occasions, most sadistically in the third season finale, because it's part of his job.
- In "True Q" on Star Trek: The Next Generation, when trying to justify killing Amanda if she were a half human/Q hybrid, Q states "With unlimited power comes responsibility." Being that it's Q, you can't be sure if he isn't being disingenuous, but the episode still does make the point when Amanda is forced to face the fact that living as a human would mean not making use of her powers.
- Referenced by Takatora from Kamen Rider Gaim, who refers to it as noblesse oblige.
Micchy: What was that you were always droning about? Noblesse oblige? That the most gifted should be the first to sacrifice. In that was true nobility. [.] What is "nobility" then? To get hurt for others' sake, to let them use you... You expect anyone to be happy about that?
- Later, his brother deconstructs it while fighting him:
- Genius The Transgression calls its Karma Meter "Obligation". High Obligation, you're a Reasonable Authority Figure and Science Hero. Low Obligation, you're either a cackling lunatic or Mengele.
- Mage: The Awakening has a Karma Meter that dings the Awakened for engaging in Mundane Utility, but you practically have to be a saint to be affected. On a more general level, flagrantly throwing about extremely obvious magic will quickly lead to Paradox.
- Additionally, becoming a Mage causes the normal human karma meter to be more harshly enforced— if you go around murdering people, not only do you have a random stat with no real consequences telling you you're a bad person, but the entire supernatural world starts disliking you on sight.
- Ironclaw's section on Necromancy states "with unlimited power comes unlimited irresponsibility."
- Cole from In FAMOUS. And everything Kessler puts you through? Preparation for when the shit really hits the fan.
- Spoofed in Psychonauts. After Ford Crueller teaches Raz how to use pyrokinesis, he tells him not to use it unless it's REALLY important, or unless it's REALLY funny. The dev team ensured it would always be funny,
encouragingguaranteeing a flagrant abuse of the power.
- Mentioned during King Terenas' voiceover about his son Arthas in the Wrath Of the Lich King intro:
"Our line has aways ruled with wisdom and strength. I know you will show restraint when exercising your great power."
- However, this line is juxtaposed against Arthas resurrecting an undead dragon.
- In The Godfather game, Tom Hagen tells you as Aldo Trapani that becoming Capo is an honour that comes with great responsibility, should you speak with him immediately after the promotion cutscene. Given that Aldo's at best a Sociopathic Hero and at worst an out-and-out Villain Protagonist, though, one wonders if there was meant to be any moral behind it...
- In Dragon Age II, this was how the hero's father, Malcolm, viewed being a mage.
- The first game has Wynne asking the PC point-blank what it means to be a Grey Warden, and the rest of the conversation is more or less Wynne's Uncle Ben moment.
- Subverted in Driver: San Francisco. Chapter 1 is even called With great power... but the first thing Tanner does with his ability to Body Surf into the drivers of other vehicles is gleefully abuse said power with precisely zero repercussions.
- Similarly subverted in Dishonored. The Outsider grants his gifts of magic to people purely because he finds them interesting and wants to see what they'd do with an extra catalyst. He even tells Corvo outright that what he choses to do with his newfound powers is entirely up to him.
- In Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland, Meruru and the Masked G will have a discussion about this if the player qualifies for the requirements of the Strongest Princess ending. Meruru is excited about being the "strongest princess," but comes to wonder just what power is and why it is or isn't important.
- In Lament Mirror in the PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release of Eternal Sonata, Salsa is alone with Frederic and hankering for some food. She asks Frederic why he doesn't use his magic powers to magic up a steak for them. He replies that "Magic is not a tool of convenience," and continues that even if such a thing were possible, their first thought should be of the children starving in the cities. Salsa is not persuaded by this logical argument, and breaks down in a tantrum, causing Frederic to Face Palm.
- 8-Bit Theater:
- Bob and George: How to get George to fight for a minor character? Remind him he's a superhero!
- The Dreamland Chronicles: It's not easy, being queen.
- Also parodied in Everyday Heroes, when Carrie gets Summer out of doing chores by using the power of her Puppy-Dog Eyes.
- In Keychain of Creation, Misho was a Solar of the First Age, and therefore one of the rulers of Creation. Unlike many of his brethren, he ruled wisely and well. However, one day he saw the Loom of Fate, and due to his perfect memory, he could never forget it. He spent the rest of his First Age incarnation working non-stop, since with his power he knew every single second of his time could save hundreds of lives. It's implied that when the Usurpation came he didn't even notice until he was actually killed.
- The Order of the Stick parodies it.
Elan: "With moderate power comes moderate responsibility."
- Inverted in Questionable Content by the AnthroPCs which are fine with having no civil rights because having power would mean having to take responsibility For the Lulz. Given how most of them seem free to run around doing whatever they please instead of serving as an actual computer, it seems like they've gotten the better part of the deal.
- Also, Hannelore points out that her mom could have never gotten to where she was as a businesswoman if she believed that.
- Schlock Mercenary sees Petey say this to the Rev (who identifies it as "the Gospel of Uncle Benjamin").
- Those with powers in Pacificators are forced to either train and become T-Pacificators, or be labeled as renegades. There's no Take a Third Option at all.
- After promising her husband that she won't let their inventions fall into the hands of the military, Lady Spectra decides to use them to become a superhero instead.
- German physicist Georg Ohm forgot the words of his dying uncle who told him, "With great Power comes Great Current squared times Resistance" and crafted that wisdom into the foundation of modern electrical engineering. Translated that means that with high levels of Power one has the Responsibility to deal with the waste heat if one doesn't want their device to burn up.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, this was the standard code of behavior for all player characters. The standard mantra was "If your character lacks a Code Against Killing, you need to ask yourself why not."
- Atop the Fourth Wall mocks this whenever it is encounter. "That's right people, don't have anything unique or special about you, perhaps it's not "normal""
- Many characters in Marvels RPG, especially Spider-Man, as is to be expected.
- Lots of examples in the Whateley Universe, including the headmistress of Whateley Academy, but Stormwolf (Adam Ironknife) is probably the best example. He's so devoted to the concepts of justice and law that he's letting bad stuff happen because he doesn't have proof of it. Also, every single person in the school club Future Superheroes of America is this way by definition.
- On the other hand, all of Team Kimba use their powers to make their lives easier, doing everything from Fey magically drying her long hair every morning, to Generator using her powers to earn money working in the Whateley Academy sewers.
- In The Powerpuff Girls (The Movie), which is a detailed telling of their Origin Story, the girls learn the hard way what using their full power can do to an innocent town; a game of tag wrecks many buildings and streets, and generally panics the citizens. At the end, the message is subverted, and by the time of the series, the ridiculously large amount of collateral damage the girls wreak on Townsville is accepted by everyone as the cost of safety.
- Kim Possible has no superhuman abilities, but her ability to call in favors comes close. She can usually line up global transport and any needed equipment from people she had helped in the past, at any hour of the day, to anywhere on Earth. She is reluctant to use it for her personal gain from an ethical standpoint, but in a more practical sense, she knows that abusing this ability might make it go away, since it's tied to her character and reputation.
- In Danny Phantom, Danny has occasionally used his powers to retaliate against bullies. However, when he really lays on Dash, he comes to regret it when a nerdish ghost confuses him as a bully.
- Danny using his powers for any personal gain never works out well and sometimes puts Amity Park and its people in world-ending danger. In an alternate future he created by cheating on an ersatz SAT turned Danny into a monster after his family was killed in an extremely unlikely accident... because his English teacher wanted to make a point. Averted with Vlad who used his powers to amass a fortune through clearly unethical means... yet played staight in that he's a lonely and bitter man who wants to be loved. Well, that's what he says as he tries to repeatedly kill Jack Fenton and endangers innocent people on a regular basis. You would think Vlad alone would be enough of an example to not need the other Aesops, but Danny can be an Idiot Hero on occasion.
- Averted in Ben 10. Ben uses the Omnitrix for personal gain or personal amusement every chance he gets. His idiocy, however, usually brings about the worst possible result.
- In the W.I.T.C.H. episode "The Stone Of Threbe", the girls have trouble getting the smelly character Blunk to take a bath, so they decide to transform to make it easier to catch him. A few minutes after doing so, their powers are stripped away by a side-effect of the Stone of Threbe's presence, and they spend the rest of the episode wishing they'd used their powers more responsibly. The loss of the girls' powers isn't directly related to their misuse, but it seems like Karma chose to bite them in the butt.
- Which leads to Fridge Logic and a Broken Aesop since cleaning Blunk up was supposed to keep his stink from hurting Hay Lin's family-owned restaurant's business; since the restaurant's basement acts as the Guardian's HQ and Hay's grandmother/WITCH's mentor lives there it's in the best interests of the entire universe that it stay open. Karma does pay them back at the end when Blunk rolls into a car wash and gets clean.
- The girls usually experience similar cosmic backlash when they use their Astral Drop clones to make life a bit easier for them. In the third volume of the original comic, overuse of the Astral Drops actually leads to the girls' lives getting wrecked for a while, while in the second season animated series episode "H is for Hunted", Nerissa uses her powers to make one of Will's Astral Drops a living, breathing person... with heartrending consequences.
- Also in "H is for Hunted" they transform to decorate their gym for the farewell party of one of their teachers and mostly get away with it, though they do come close to getting caught. The more realistic Aesop ("Don't neglect your responsibilities") is mixed in with the Fantastic Aesop fairly well and the Astral Drops are not used at all for the rest of the season, though more likely because of Nerissa's ability instead of the girls actually learning their lesson.
- SheZow has a pretty strict set of over 2000 rules that must be followed.
- She-Ra: Princess of Power: Bow learned this lesson when he abused the power of a wand he took from Shadow Weaver in "Bow's Magical Gift". However, the biggest problem wasn't how he used the power but how often he used it.
- Avatar: The Legend of Korra establishes that the Avatar Cycle exists primarily because Wan came down with Spider-Man Syndrome.
- S5E10 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Spike attempting to let Princess Twilight have a few hours of sleep after being up for several days in a row. As a result, he ends up making decisions in her name, eventually calling himself Princess Spike. Only near the end, after he had been warned by Princess Cadance, does Spike realize the consequences of his decisions, as the room where the convention was supposed to take place is completely flooded thanks to something that Spike wanted done later.
- This mantra is often used on forums to explain how its leaders should act.
- The doctrine of noblesse oblige teaches that the wealthy and powerful are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard and contribute more to society than ordinary citizens.
- Winston Churchill was credited with the saying "The price of greatness is responsibility", which is close enough to the Spider-Man line to make one wonder if Stan Lee might not have come across that quote when creating Spider-Man.
- Soldiers, police officers, judges, and others in similar positions are often required to swear oaths to never abuse their powers. This does not prevent said powers from being abused either with or without official sanction. We don't need specific examples.
- Any weapons or combat sport class will drill into their students' heads that they have an obligation to use their skills and tools in a safe and responsible manner.
- The opinion of the Supreme Court in Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, LLC, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), invalidating a licensing agreement related to a Spider-Man toy since the underlying patent expired, quoted the line word for word in its conclusion:
What we can decide, we can undecide. But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: "Spider-Man," p. 13 (1962) ("[I]n this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility").