Dry Crusader


During its long history, alcohol has caused (and "solved") a myriad of problems. There's no dispute its consumption—especially to excess—has caused damage to countless lives and society in general. Controlling its use has been a problem since the beginning of civilization. The solution of the Dry Crusader is one of complete prohibition.

The Dry Crusader is what you get when you cross The Teetotaler with the Moral Guardians, the Principles Zealot, and (sometimes) the Well-Intentioned Extremist tropes. It's a character who believes consumption of alcohol is always evil in any amount at all times to everyone. Anyone who's unfortunate enough to be drinking a glass of beer within the Dry Crusader's line of sight will soon be subjected to an angry harangue warning him of the spiritual, moral, and health hazards that will result with one sip of the demon rum. It goes without saying that nothing short of a total ban on alcohol will satisfy the Dry Crusader. To achieve this goal, this person on occasion is not above resorting to any means necessary.

When the Dry Crusader appears, it's often in works that are set in the United States during the 19th and early 20th century which is the time the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League were at their peak of influence, and which ultimately led to the Prohibition era, which lasted from 1920 to 1933 and saw the rise of organized crime to meet the demand. Instances of the Dry Crusader in stories set after the repeal of Prohibition in the U.S. in 1933 are far less common. You'll still come across characters who inveigh against all consumption of alcohol but, recognizing its historic total failure, they're less likely to advocate a complete ban or subjecting bars and taverns to hatchetization to achieve their goal.

Often the character will serve as a Strawman Political and usually be Played for Laughs. Expect your crusader to unknowingly imbibe alcohol at some point (sometimes an honest accident, sometimes for a prank, sometimes medicinally) and for them to get hilariously soused after one drink. This may break some of their pride and help them admit that they're only human, and to be a bit more understanding towards occasional indulgence. Or it could just make them angrier - tricking someone into imbibing a substance they have a moral revulsion to is generally not a nice thing.

The Dry Crusader is not limited to the U.S. and can also be found in stories set in Canada, Britain, and other countries that have a history of puritanism and campaigns against the consumption of alcohol.

In many ways, the Smug Straight Edge is the descendant of the Dry Crusader in that both have a tendency to act self-righteously toward and condemn those who imbibe.

Compare to, and may cross over with, Heteronormative Crusader.


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     Comic Book 
  • In the DC Comics Elseworld Batman: The Blue, the Gray, and the Bat, two Dry Crusaders are on the same coach as Bruce Wayne as he heads out West. They turn out to be the Big Bads behind the whole thing.

  • In The African Queen, missionary Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) doesn't take too kindly to alcohol as Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) finds out when she dumps out all his gin.
    • An interesting real-life irony related to this instance of the trope is that, during the duration of filming, while the sober Hepburn came down with a case of dysentery due to drinking the local water, Bogart avoided the illness perhaps in part due to his consumption of primarily alcoholic beverages.
  • Cora Massingale, leader of the Women's Temperance League, in The Hallelujah Trail.
  • At the beginning of The Wild Bunch, a preacher is delivering an anti-alcohol sermon during a temperance rally just before its participants get caught in the crossfire during a bank robbery. A lot of them get mowed down.
    • It should be noted here that director Sam Peckinpah was a notoriously heavy drinker, making this a possible Take That.

  • In both the book and movie version of Elmer Gantry, the title character publicly preaches against the evils of booze. Privately, it's another story. (In the novel, he does eventually quit.)
  • Poledra in The Malloreon series by David Eddings won't tolerate any drinking in her presence; when Belgarath tries to fill a tankard of ale around her, she takes it away and pours it on the ground. Somewhat of a subversion because her opposition has nothing to do with morals but is instead due to the fact she just can't stand the smell of alcohol.
    • It's primarily Belgarath to whom she objects to having access to alcohol, as well; her view seems to be that he drowned his sorrows for a whole decade, he shouldn't be drinking now. And she doesn't mind the smell of wine - just ale.
  • Parodied in Discworld with the Black Ribboners, a group of vampires who have sworn off drinking (human) blood. According to Thud!, one of their slogans is "Lips that touch Ichor shall never touch Mine".
  • In the first few novels of the Worldwar series, which starts in 1942, characters throughout the United States often talk about and recall the events of Prohibition, particularly when they are drink alcohol. At one point, Mutt Daniels actually finds himself taking shelter in what was once a headquarters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and thinks on the irony; he even says that he started drinking when he was a young man because he figured that anything the Union was against was probably okay.

     Live Action TV 
  • In the Blackadder II episode "Beer", Edmund's puritanical relatives, the Whiteadders, are textbook examples of this trope (at least until the end of the episode).
  • The Kenny Rogers telemovie The Gambler: The Luck of Draw features a group of temperance crusaders who attempt to smash the beer barrels for a cowboy picnic and are almost lynched as a result.
  • In a Happy Days episode where Richie's great-uncle-for-this-episode tells the story of one of Richie's relatives, a saloon-busting DA in Prohibition-era Chicago, we see a Whole Episode Flashback starring the main characters as these other characters from the period. Mrs. C. "plays" a local version of Carrie Nation, coming into the speakeasy and trying to catch them selling alcohol so she can bust it up.
  • A sect of these appears in the Midsomer Murders episode "The Night of the Stag".
  • The M*A*S*H episode "Alcoholics Unanimous" has Frank Burns assuming this role while he's in temporary command of the 4077.
    • In a later episode, "The Moon Is Not Blue", a wounded general who's recovering in post-op is one of these.
  • At the beginning of Boardwalk Empire, Margaret is a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, mainly because her husband is an alcoholic Domestic Abuser.

     Video Game 
  • Dry Crusaders appear in Victoria II in several forms, such as events asking the leader to teach temperance, sometimes even asking to outright ban alcohol over the nation. The player themselves can in turn become one, but this does come with some risks such as encouraging reactionary thought or encouraging general population militancy, which may not end well.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the priest at Fort Frostmoth (Antonius Nuncius) in the Bloodmoon expansion plays with the trope. He claims to be intercepting and hiding the alcohol shipments to the fort for moral reasons. In actuality, he's hoping that the disgruntled soldiers will rebel so that he can be reassigned someplace more hospitable than Solstheim.

     Real Life 
  • Carrie Nation.
    Back in 1880, Kansas residents had voted for prohibition, but the law was largely ignored by saloonkeepers. They operated openly, but Nation would change all that. First she prayed in front of an establishment in 1890. She struck at her first saloon on June 1, 1900. Initially, she used rocks, bricks and other objects for these attacks, then turned to the hatchet. Nearly six feet tall and strapping, the determined woman closed the saloons in Medicine Lodge.
    Nation responded with alacrity to appeals from citizens of other towns to close their saloons. She entered states where liquor sales were legal. Her behavior provoked a tremendous uproar and sent her to jail repeatedly for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. (FYI: Carrie Nation)
  • Thomas Riley Marshall, who eventually became Woodrow Wilson's vice president, was an active campaigner against liquor. In his case it stemmed from being a recovering alcoholic himself.
  • The early 20th century evangelist Reverend Billy Sunday frequently preached against drinking alcohol and advocated its abolition.
  • Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League. His efforts played a large role in the passage of Prohibition in the U.S.
  • Many early feminists, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were big supporters of the temperance movement. To a large extent, this was a fig leaf for addressing issues considered unspeakable at the time. A recurring theme in temperance propaganda was that of a seemingly good man who becomes a drunkard, leading him to abuse his wife and drag his family into poverty. At the time, this was also a common story in real life. The real issue was that the social order was set up so that a woman's livelihood was entirely dependent on the good will of her husband and she had no recourse if he became abusive or failed to provide for her. But in the context of nineteenth-century social mores, it was easier to address that issue by saying that the problem was alcohol made him that way.