Well, I guess Peyton did prove guys are better than girls. At least when it comes to playing Chaotic. Kaz:
Yeah, except Peyton used girl creatures
, and Crystella used guy creatures
Which proves that... girls are better than guys? Everyone: Hmm...
A work of fiction sets up a moral dilemma or other painful choice, then finds a way to resolve it without actually addressing the issue it raised
. Say, Alice is seriously ill and Bob is considering robbing a local pharmacy to get the medicine she desperately needs. Then he wins the money he needs in the lottery, meaning that he (and the writers) never have to come down on the question of whether theft is acceptable for a good cause.
This trope is used for a number of reasons. It allows the show to resolve the tension without (1) giving an unrealistically clear-cut or Anvilicious
solution to an ambiguous problem or (2) alienating the half of the audience who would disapprove of the resolution if the characters did make the hard choice. It avoids having to deliver a Family-Unfriendly Aesop
(who wants to be on record saying that theft might be okay if you're in dire straits?) And it lets creators flex their godlike muscles: it's their story, and they're not bound to send it toward the Downer Ending
that would almost certainly result for the Real Life
Alice and Bob.
Expect this in works invoking ethnicity and/or gender tropes in ways that might otherwise be blatantly liable to charges of Unfortunate Implications
, e.g. relating to Mars and Venus Gender Contrast
. Usually, a Debate and Switch
is pulled in one of the following ways:
- The antagonist is originally set up as doing something that falls in the moral (and legal) gray area, then jumps off the slippery slope or is revealed to be a Straw Hypocrite.
- The evidence points to the antagonist having committed a crime over the issue under discussion, then new evidence is uncovered that shows that the motive was actually more clear-cut.
- The protagonists are put into the morally gray situation, then Take a Third Option.
- The protagonists are put into the morally gray situation, then another consideration makes it much more black-and-white. The decision is made on that consideration, with the original considerations becoming moot. No Third Option necessary, just a Second Question.
- Before a decision can be made, outside events render it moot, such as a suspect dying in an accident while the antagonists are debating their guilt.
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Anime and Manga
- In Inuyasha, one of the driving points of the narrative is whether or not the eponymous character would use the Shikon no Tama to turn into a full human (or a full yokai.) The point is moot since Kagome destroys the Jewel at the end of the manga. Any wish would be 'wrong'..
- Then again, quite a bit of emphasis is put on the fact that Kagome loves him just as who he is, making it ultimately a "Be Yourself" aesop.
- One episode of The Daughter of Twenty Faces deals with how the protagonists are supposed to be sympathetic when they're major thieves. The main character befriends a lonely little girl, who happens to be the daughter of the head of security for a museum holding the object the protagonists want to steal. In doing so, she learns how to sneak past the security guards and that Gasp stealing a priceless object from the museum could cause big trouble for the kindly security chief and his innocent daughter. Chiko's huge betrayal of her new friend is softened by the revelation that the little girl was actually evil at the end of the episode, and everything she said about her father was probably a lie.
- Done in Mahou Sensei Negima!, of course. Is it right to stop Chao Lingshen, who is obviously not a bad person and seems to have a good motive? Negi spends so much time worrying about it that his students basically just tell him to shut up after awhile, because if it was so important she ought to just tell him. Eventually, they decide it doesn't matter what they're doing is right or wrong, they just don't want to be turned into ermines and Chao hasn't convinced them otherwise. Some fans think it was intentional in order to set Negi up for Fate, who also seems to have a good goal and bad methods. He notably worries much less about it, anyway. Which may have been why Chao set up the moral dilemma in the first place.
- Well, that isn't exactly a very good example, after all, the morality of whether or not to stop Chao Lingshen's plot is resolved. They decide that since the plan would require the suffering of completely innocent people for it to happen. A much better example would be Fate's Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory plot, which Negi already has plan that will postpone the annihilation of the magic world
- Monster does this, although it must be noted that the moral ambiguities it toys with have been debated for centuries and probably will continue to be debated for centuries after: Is all life equal? Do some people deserve to die? Is it right to kill a killer? Is evil irredeemable?
- Fushigi Boshi No Futago Hime: Fine and Rein find out that Mirlo is in an Arranged Marriage with a rather undesirable dimwit, and are out to break it up. Reviewer Al1701 pointed out that this action seems short-sighted, since the deal for the marriage is in exchange for dimwit's father repairing the Waterdrop Kingdom's cloudmaker. That is, until the whole Arranged Marriage turns out to be a big ruse by the Moon Kingdom chancellor. Doesn't stop this from being one of the best eps of the whole series.
- In a flashback, we see Vash trying to find a way to rescue a fly from a spider's web. His brother Knives solves the problem by crushing the spider. When Vash protests, he claims it was just practical and that if Vash wanted to rescue all flies, the spider would just starve to death, which is a valid point. Vash and their caretaker just say it's wrong though, and moments later Knives turns into an Axe Crazy Omnicidal Maniac. It's a shame, because the series manages to turn Vash's goody-two-shoes character archetype into a well rounded and interesting Deconstruction. His opponent, not so much. This isn't so much the case in the manga where it's revealed that Vash and Knives are Plants that humans use for power in this context Knives sees the conflict between the spiders and butterfly as inevitable and synonymous to his own.
- There's a broader implication never really examined at all but nevertheless there in the special guns Vash and Knives have: Knives' gun is basically an ersatz neutron bomb: it wipes out all living things, leaving inanimate structures intact. Vash's gun is the much-coveted inversion of this, a device that wipes out all inanimate structures such as buildings and weapons, but leaves all living creatures alive. However, as shown in a couple of episodes, Vash's gun is not necessarily any more humane than Knives' is, as it also leaves the survivors devoid of shelter and starving.
- In Bakuman。, several older and less successful mangakas start submitting works for Jump, prompting a debate between Takagi and Mashiro over whether they should be given a chance for a comeback; Takagi doesn't think so, while Mashiro, whose uncle kept trying to get a series even after his contract was canceled, strongly disagrees, and Nizuma believes that writers should not be treated as disposable. It turns out that Nanamine is using these mangakas as his way to try a second time with an improved version of his "system".
- Death Note poses the question: does utopia justify the means if you plan on ending all crime by killing all criminals? Said question is rendered moot by the fact that the perpetrator, Magnificent Bastard Light Yagami, goes from an arrogant sore loser into a Villain Protagonist with a god complex who kills all who oppose him. This is also present in the way someone responds to Light trying to justify his actions. A lot of the morality debate is cut from the manga, and the final debate between Light and Near is cut down to its bare minimum, including Light expressing his belief that he's not only getting rid of the criminals, but creating a society where people are free to do good. Near similarly believes that Kira is forcing his own views onto others under threat of death, "neither peaceful nor just," and asks everyone else what they think about it, to which they respond with tacit approval. While there is considerably more examination of the ramifications of Kira's new world order in the manga, the authors ultimately leave it up to the reader to decide, but note that Light was corrupted by having the power to kill at will.
- Also, Teru Mikami's argument that his mother condones bullies is glossed over by the omniscient narrator as concern for Teru's safety. Thus, this safely and conveniently makes Teru completely wrong, so his ideal of "fighting bullies" can be portrayed as the mind of Black and White Insanity—and thus, the audience can avoid having to weigh or consider anything Teru says and avoid thinking about possible Bystander Syndrome on their part. In fact, Death Note effectively neutralizes any (legitimate or not) complaints about Japanese society by putting those complaints in the mouths of psychotic serial killers with godly death artifacts (including complaints about ways in which Japan condones coercion—said complaints are cast as themselves "forcing ideals on others", and thus the audience does not have to take them seriously).
- In The Walking Dead, after the misogynistic Thomas murders two of Hershel's daughters, Rick decides to implement a "You Kill, You Die" law and declares that Thomas should be hung. This decision is debated by others, but it comes to an end when Patricia lets him out believing that he's mentally ill and not responsible for his actions. Thomas proceeds to strangle her and is shot by another of Hershel's daughters.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 comics, Buffy learns that she is pregnant, and has to decide whether to have her child and raise it as a Slayer, knowing that the kid would be a target for her enemies. In the end, she apparently decides to terminate the pregnancy, but soon it is revealed that Buffy's brain had been transplanted into a robot body, meaning that there was never any decision to make at all.
- Subverted with Spider-Man villain Cardiac: Spider-Man foiled his attempt to murder his latest target, a Corrupt Corporate Executive who escaped blame after a family died in an auto accident from his faulty brakes, but the guy suffers a heart attack and they send him to Eli Wirtham, the best heart surgeon in town. Problem is Eli Wirtham is Cardiac, and he's being asked to save the life of the guy he just tried to kill. He knows he could do it and get away with it but should he kill him? He doesn't, or at least he tries not to; the guy dies anyway. But Eli can't help but wonder if he held back during the surgery even just a little, and if that makes him any better than the "indirect" murderers he hunts down as Cardiac.
- Used in an X-Men tie in to Secret Invasion; the Skrulls are besieging San Francisco and tremendous loss of life is expected. Beast reveals he has a virus that, if released, would destroy all the invaders in one shot, but that he has no way of controlling once released and may ultimately lead to the extinction of the entire Skrull race, even those not involved with the invasion. The X-Men ultimately decide to use the virus... and the infected Skrulls kill themselves, so the infection ends with only them.
- In Civil War, a group of super-powered teenagers filming a reality show attack a group of villains, causing one of them to explode like an atomic bomb, destroying all of Stamford. Public hysteria ensues, and super heroes are placed in a difficult dilemma: with uncontrolled super-hero actions banned, heroes must sign the Super Registration Act and work for the government, or be hunted down by all the government forces (including the superheroes that signed for it). The registration side won, and thing stayed that way for a time. Well, and once the thing has lasted long enough, how do we return things to the way they always were? Easy: put a supervillain on top of the registration side, put all superheroes on the other side, and turn a topic of grey and gray morality into a topic of black and white morality.
- The theme of the second volume of New Avengers is the debate over whether or not it is ethical under any circumstance to destroy a planet, as numerous alternate Earths are revealed to be on a collision course with the main Earth, meaning certain doom, most likely for both, if they collide. The first such planet is eaten by Galactus before the Avengers can decide what to do about it, and the second they do destroy, but it turns out to be uninhabited.
- In the first X-Men movie, Magneto isn't trying to Kill All Humans; he wants to turn the leaders of various nations into mutants. Now that's still ethically highly questionable, but... oh, never mind, the process is fatal, and he won't believe this. And just to make sure Magneto has a firm grip on the villain ball, his "process" is powered by an unwilling Rogue. The sequels avoid the issue altogether by making him progressively more villainous. In the second film he does try to Kill All Humans (apparently unwilling to pass up the opportunity after the other villain nearly managed to Kill All Mutants), and in the third film he even sees his fellow mutants as expendable pawns.
- State of Play, so much so the main plot is made moot by the last 10 minutes of the film. And because of this the Big Bad for the most part goes unharmed. Cal McAffrey clearly didn't know how to sort out the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, or prioritize the Sliding Scale of Villain Threat.
- In the 2009 Star Trek movie, Kirk offers assistance to the about-to-be-crushed-by-a-black-hole Romulan ship, whose crew committed genocide by destroying Vulcan. Spock objects to this. Before any actual debate could happen, Nero, the ship's captain, tells Kirk to go screw himself, thus giving Kirk all the moral cover he needs to hasten their inevitable destruction. Kirk even says to Spock that offering them a chance for survival is the logical choice. note
- The Contender: So, will Laine win the Vice Presidency despite the furore of controversy surrounding her? Will she prove to the world that the bending of the truth and exposure of someone's shady moral history should never be used for political gain and need not necessarily ruin your chances of a high-powered career? never mind, the girl in the photos wasn't actually her after all. Oh, and her main rival's a backstabbing liar. Crisis averted.
- Some see the whole movie of Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story as this. The problem with this movie is that it brings up a lot of issues without actually talking about them. Particularly the complicated socio-economic background of most of the kids.
- My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. The book asks the interesting question of whether or not it is wrong to have a child (Anna) solely to provide blood/tissue/organs for a sicker child (Kate), then gets out of answering by killing Anna in a car accident and having her kidneys donated to Kate anyway. In the movie, however, this does not happen; after Anna wins, Kate dies. (And Kate actually staged a Thanatos Gambit to be able to finish her suffering.)
- Another Jodi Picoult example: Handle with Care asks if it is okay to sue your doctor for not telling you about a disability, and if it is okay to abort a disabled child. Claire wins the case anyway, and the child dies after they win.
- In Sing You Home, it asks the question of whether or not LGBT parents should be allowed to have a family, and who gets things such as frozen embryos after a divorce. Zoe and Vanessa get the embryos because Max (Zoe's ex-husband, who they are fighting in court) is in love with his sister in law (who he is planning on giving the embryos to) and doesn't want to see her happy.
- This happens in Mercy. The whole thing is about the ethical issues of euthanasia and mercy killing, and it turns out that...oh, wait, it doesn't. Not only do we not get an overall view on euthanasia, we don't even get to find out the views of 90% of the characters. It's the kind of 'debate' where people stand around chatting and occasionally eat a biscuit.
- Winds of the Forelands has at its center a smoldering racial conflict, and the Big Bad is a leader of the oppressed race who claims he will liberate it. He's also a Hitler-esque tyrant who would make everyone's lives worse if he actually won, so it's up to the heroes to stop him and let oppression continue. Apparently, the only reason it even comes up is so the villain's followers can be portrayed as misguided rather than evil.
- Firmly averted in the Sequel Series Blood of the Southlands which focuses almost entirely on the racial conflict with the closest thing to a real Big Bad being killed early in the second book, leaving the remainder of the series to deal with the race war her actions set in motion, while the actual war is Grey And Grey morality.
- In Twenty Years After, d'Artagnan wants to kill Mordaunt, but not out of a sense of justice—he is blinded by a desire for vengeance on the sins of Mordaunt's mother, twenty years ago. Athos, on the other hand, is tired of violence and wants to let Mordaunt go, in spite of his own terrible crimes. The dilemma is made moot when Athos kills Mordaunt in self-defense after trying to save him.
- Mordaunt was also hellbent on killing them all over his mother's death, d'Artagnan (Along with Porthos and Aramis) simply want to save their own skins. Athos' reluctance was due solely to Mordaunt possibly being his son. The debate is more "Is Mordaunt's revenging his mother's death just in the eyes of Providence."
- In David Isaak's Shock and Awe, one of the protagonists is an ex-special forces operator with many personal grievances against Muslims, including losing her brother in 9/11. A mysterious billionaire offers her the chance to strike back with vigilante attacks, culminating in an audacious plan to hit Mecca with a dirty bomb. Along the way, she starts doubting whether she is really doing the right thing and thinking that maybe this is going too far. Before she gets a chance to work it out, however, the billionaire is revealed to be in league with another bunch of terrorists, who take the radioactive material and try to use it on the US.
- In the Paladin of Shadows book Unto the Breach, Mike falls for Gretchen, whose hand has been promised to another. He tries to force himself to perish the thought, but struggles with it, including thinking of pulling an Uriah Gambit. Eventually, though, Gretchen gets KIA, sparing the trouble.
- Played for laughs in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, when Dirk relates the tale of some physicists who attempted to carry out the Schrödinger's Cat experiment for real. When they opened the box, they discovered that the cat had got bored and wandered off somewhere.
Live Action TV
- Averted in Dragon Age II - no matter what stance you take in the overarching Mage vs Templar plot points, even a neutral Hawke has to pick a side once Anders blows up the Chantry, who, whilst governing both sides contains one of the few ReasonableAuthorityFigure in the game. There is absolutely no way to avoid this.
- Until the aversion comes at the end, however, it's played straight when it comes to the complaints of the Mages. Their complaints are never actually seriously addressed, because most of their arguments are "disqualified" for extenuating reasons. Anders, their primary advocate, is possessed by Justice and is portrayed as irrational, with even freedom advocate Isabela mostly brushing him off, so players can conveniently write him off and ignore anything he says as the words of a crazy abomination. The strongest argument the Mages have, that the Templars treat all Mages the same way and are willing to punish the innocent along with the guilty, is brushed off by Fenris "shifting the burden of proof", and almost every Mage you meet is an insane blood mage trying to kill you. Well, at least pro-Mage players can have their points addressed with Merrill...oh wait, she conveniently turns out to accidentally unleash a Pride Demon on her clan in Act 3. Well, never mind anything she says then.
- The central themes of Final Fantasy X and it's sequel, Final Fantasy X-2. In the original, there is an active debate in-game about whether or not it's right to sacrifice people in order to temporarily bring the rest of the world peace. Near the end of the game, the characters find a workaround to the Vicious Cycle, but it will still cause the deaths of two of the major protagonists. Word Of God states that this was done intentionally, in order to show The Hero's growth from being selfish to selfless. However, in the sequel, a similar situation comes up and a character offers to sacrifice himself in order to defeat the Big Bad of X-2. Yuna vehemently opposes this idea, stating that she is sick of watching friends die or fade away, and that she does not want to fight battles where "we have to lose in order to win." Furthermore, the aforementioned sacrificed hero gains a chance to be reborn in this game, should the player meet certain requirements, providing no resolution to the overall debate.
- Done deliberately and with severe repercussions in Mass Effect. In the second game, Tali's loyalty mission has you defending her from a charge of treason. In the course of seeking evidence of her innocence, you find a recording revealing that her father was responsible for the crimes she's charged with. She asks you not to use the evidence (which will render her father the worst criminal in quarian history), even though it means permanent exile from her people. You can either use it, withhold it and see her exiled from the Migrant Fleet, or Take a Third Option (with enough Paragon/Renegade) and shame the Admirality Board into backing down. If you don't take the third option, it becomes impossible to make peace between the quarians and the geth, because you'll have given the warmongers on the board evidence to back their position.
- The geth/quarian conflict that occurs in Mass Effect 3 definitely plays out this way. Towards the end, you're forced to choose between one side or the other, with the side you don't pick being completely and utterly destroyed, essentially leading that race to extinction. However, depending on your choices in the previous game and during the Rannoch arc in this one, you may get to Take a Third Option where both races survive and even make long-term peace. There's a bit of Guide Dang It involved in this, but generally if you keep picking options throughout the series that promote the belief that there can be peace between the two races, it's not too hard to unlock.
- In the third season finale of Avatar The Last Airbender, Aang spends a considerable amount of time agonizing over whether he can bring himself to kill Ozai in order to save the world. However, he avoids the whole thing by using a technique that was never hinted at previously to make him unable to firebend anymore and makes it a non-issue.
- It should be noted that Aang does come to the final conclusion that he has to kill Ozai, the Deus ex Machina gave him an alternate solution but he did express what he would have to do if it never arose.
- Also applies to the Lost Aesop in "The Waterbending Master", in which Katara's necklace allows her to join Master Paku's class.
- Though that one's only an in-story debate and switch; from the audience's perspective, the eponymous master is clearly being a Jerk Ass from the start.
- The existence of Jet and the Freedom Fighters could have raised an interesting question about vigilantes and tough decisions in a wartime setting, when Jet attacked an old fire nation man. However, he soon jumps off the slippery slope by nearly flooding an entire village with allies still inside it.
- The primary antagonists of The Legend Of Korra, the Equalists, are a radical political movement with the aim of taking down Benders in order to make the world more equal for Non-Benders. Which actually has some root in reason, but once we see that they are willing to use brutal terrorism in order to achieve their end, the whole political debate is thrown away and they become an evil terrorist cult.
- The second season of Justice League Unlimited raised some serious questions about how much power a league of superheroes should be allowed to have, and whether or not the U.S. government was justified in trying to restrain them, but those questions were more or less pushed aside when it turned out that Lex Luthor was secretly provoking the conflict with sinister intentions... and Brainiac was manipulating Lex the entire time. Word Of God admits that this was due to not wanting to come off as too much of an Author Tract... considering Civil War, it's hard not to say they may have had a point. At the least, they had Green Arrow try to provide an 'answer'.. Word Of God stated they couldn't think of a way to resolve the plot on it's own, so they had a Conflict Killer happen.
- The last season of the series shows the League has been given military garrison and regularly has checks from members of the US Government now, and the members of the group agreed they need limitations (like the not keeping a super-zappo-laser on the Watchtower). So yeah, the show didn't skirt the issue and found a reasonable solution - at least for the Americans.
- South Park is pretty fond of its Spoof Aesops and its Straw Hypocrites. The episode can be 20 minutes of straight up Flame Bait, but once Stan's given his "I've learned something today..." speech, the story pretty much succumbs to the Rule of Funny.
- Batman Beyond: Shriek temporarily released a high-pitch frequency pulse throughout Gotham, causing chaos by making speaking incomprehensible and threatened a repeat performance using a more powerful pulse that would kill everyone unless Batman gave himself up to him. Terry wrestled with the morality of sacrificing one life for many, versus the loss his friends and loved ones would experience, and the disgust of sacrificing himself for the ungrateful populace of Gotham, who side with Shriek and insist Batman was at fault and should give in to his demand. Terry figures out Shriek is using two giant towers as a tuning fork and confronts him at his base of operations, destroying the towers in the process. Bruce asks him at the end if Terry would have given himself up had he not figured out where Shriek was and Terry evades the question, telling him to focus on their repair of the batsuit.
- Superman: The Animated Series: Superman ends up on a planet where Kryptonian criminals Jax-Ur and Mala have taken over the native aliens and ruling them like gods and executing anyone who protests their rule. The two are cordial to Superman and try to paint a picture of them improving the aliens' lives via technology and industry but Superman learns from one of them, Cetea, that the pair were about to execute the former leaders of their planet. Despite Cetea's plea for help, Superman is hesitant to take them on directly because Jax-Ur and Mala have been cordial to him and of the damage & destruction that would ensue from a Kryptonian vs. Kryptonian brawl. This is resolved when Cetea, recognizing that this isn't his homeworld, leads Superman to a secret factory for an invading robot army that will be sent to Earth upon completion and when Jax-Ur and Mala take Superman into deep space to send him into a black hole, and he fights them there, ending up with both of them getting sucked into the hole. He points out the trope at the end, noting that the aliens re-taught him the lesson that evil triumphs when good men do nothing.
- Happens in Ben 10 Alien Force with the first appearance of Alien X. The main characteristic of the alien being that it has godlike power but can act in even the slightest manner (like walking) if its internal personalities agree to do so (which they near never do). When Ben is added into the debate it means he'd logically become all powerful because every one of their deadlocks would be broken with what Ben decided to do but it becomes obvious that suddenly start agreeing... to do nothing in opposition to anything Ben says. When Ben calls them out on this saying that the compassionate personality should want to save lives and the aggressive personality should want to punish evil... compassion starts crying and they completely avoid responding to Ben's complaint.
- Teen Titans plays this for laughs at the end of one episode, where a supervillain escapes into the world of television, inadvertently causing TV to literally rot people's brains. The apparent danger of watching too much television is pointed out by Robin at the end of the episode... except if it weren't for Beast Boy's extensive knowledge of TV, they would never have stopped the villain.