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Forgot I Could Change the Rules
King Jaffe Joffer: Who am I to change things?
I thought you were the king.
Bob has near absolute authority in his land, but an existing law will hurt him or someone he loves. Often this law forces an Arranged Marriage
, other times it can be a minor crime treated with a draconian punishment
, or it might be something else.
Bob agonizes about how helpless he is to change this law, until he remembers, or is reminded, that he does
have the authority to change the law.
Now this might come across as What an Idiot
for Bob, but Bob was raised to respect tradition. So actually using his authority this way didn't occur to him until just then. Especially when it is a normally good rule that works out badly in this case; this is a traditional reason for the existence of pardons.
Now in reality, some rules were out of the reach of all but the most absolute monarchs. Rules that could have been changed would also be met with resistance unless the ruler was strong willed enough to enact these changes. Sometimes fiction will deal with these difficulties as well, but not always.
This often falls under Dramatically Missing the Point
, but Comically Missing the Point
can be a cause as well.
Contrast Screw the Rules, I Make Them!
(Bob is happy to enforce, and even change, the rules for other people; he just chooses to ignore following them himself).
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Anime and Manga
- Princess Knight: Sapphire's father realizes this at about the two-thirds point in the anime. Just as he's about to release a proclamation that would allow women to rule Silverland, he is by apparently complete coincidence kidnapped by the baddies, who have gotten tired of waiting for Sapphire to slip up and reveal she's actually a girl.
Film — Animated
- The Sultan at the end of Aladdin, in regards to the "princess must only marry a prince" law. He's freaking out at the beginning because there's only three days until the deadline and Jasmine hasn't chosen anyone, but by the end he sees she's chosen Aladdin, who has proven himself to be worthy but instead is a poor thief.
Sultan: "It's that law that's the problem... well, am I Sultan or am I Sultan? I decree, from this day forward, the princess may marry whomever she deems worthy!"
Film — Live Action
- Averted in RoboCop (1987) when the vice president of OCP takes the president hostage. Robocop cannot intervene against an OCP employee. Instead of changing Robo's directive, the president just fires the VP, making him fair game.
- The page quote is from Coming to America, when Prince Akeem, the sole heir to the throne of Zamunda, comes to America to find a woman worthy to be his queen (i.e. someone with a personality instead of the Extreme Doormat his parents paired up him with), pretending to be a poor African foreign exchange student. When his father King Jaffe Joffer finds out, he personally comes to New York to bring Akeem home. Joffer plainly tells Akeem's Love Interest how things must be, and she accepts it, telling Akeem to go home. On the way home, Joffer argues with his wife that it's traditional for a prince to marry someone of similar stature. Queen Aoleon, who sees that her son loves the girl and who her self was given to Joffer as part of an Arranged Marriage, points out that he is the king of Zamunda and thus decides what tradition is. Joffer ends up pulling a Bride and Switch on Akeem, having decided to break with tradition.
- Inverted at The Once and Future King, where King Arthur chooses not to change the law about burning adulterous wives after Guinevere's affair with Lancelot is revealed. He is not (particularly) jealous of them. He loves Guinevere, he loves Lancelot, he is the king and the law is barbarous, but no, he will not change it, because no-one should be above the law.
- He pretty much ignores the two of them until he can no longer pretend to be ignorant of the affair, and at Guenevere's execution (Lancelot has fled) he's actively rooting for Lance to come and save her (and does as much as he feels he can honorably do to make it easy for this to happen, such as making sure that his strongest knights are nowhere near Guenevere). His character arc of the last book or two has been realizing that the law needs to apply to everyone. And this winds up biting him in the butt in the most painful way: watching from a distance, he's overjoyed that Lancelot does appear and save the queen. Then messengers start bringing him news of the guards ... the ones Arthur himself put there, knowing Lancelot could defeat them ... that have been killed, and some of them are his close relatives. So instead of just letting them escape, he's got to chase the two of them off to Joyeux Gard and make war against his best friend.
- The Bible: Averted in the Book of Esther, the king is maneuvered into creating a law that would allow all the Jews to massacred by Haman. When Queen Esther reveals that she is Jewish herself and exposes Haman to the king, the law authorizing pogrom cannot be annulled by even the king. However, there is nothing that prevents him from passing a new law enabling the Jewish population to defend themselves with state support.
- A similar aversion occurs in the Book of Daniel. The king is tricked into decreeing the death of his favorite advisor, and cannot annul it to save his life. Luckily, God keeps the lions from eating Daniel, and the king passes a new law that next day to kill his treacherous advisors and allow for worship of Yahweh.
- Played with in Incarnations of Immortality. In the first novel, it isn't so much that Death forgot that he could change the rules; it's that he didn't know that he could (in fact, he didn't even know half of them), causing infant souls born under questionable circumstances to go to Purgatory and later triggering an end to all death worldwide because he refused to take one soul. At the end of the book, he realizes that it's his prerogative to do what he damn well pleases as the Incarnation of Death, and that all of Satan's rulesmongering didn't mean a damn thing. He also changes the rules regarding infant souls, sending one to heaven instead of Purgatory in the end. The last is retconned in later books, as Death is acting outside of his authority.
- In Breaking Dawn, Jacob has to submit to the will of Sam, the Alpha Wolf. When Sam orders him to help destroy the Cullens (and Bella), he remembers that he was born to be the Alpha but he had voluntarily given up the birthright. Choosing to become the Alpha frees Jacob from obeying Sam's orders.
- In The Fangs Of Kaath, Prince Raschid briefly ponders at all the grand reforms he could do arbitrarily if he were Shah, but ruefully reminds himself that he would be assassinated within a day by the nobility and/or bureaucracy if he tried.
- Iolanthe by Gilbert and Sullivan: A comedic version of this occurs. The Chancellor wants to marry Phyllis, who is his ward.
Lord Chancellor: Victory! Victory! Success has crowned my efforts, and I may consider myself engaged to Phyllis! At first I wouldn't hear of it — it was out of the question. But I took heart. I pointed out to myself that I was no stranger to myself; that, in point of fact, I had been personally acquainted with myself for some years. This had its effect. I admitted that I had watched my professional advancement with considerable interest, and I handsomely added that I yielded to no one in admiration for my private and professional virtues. This was a great point gained. I then endeavoured to work upon my feelings. Conceive my joy when I distinctly perceived a tear glistening in my own eye! Eventually, after a severe struggle with myself, I reluctantly - most reluctantly - consented.
- A song or so later, Iolanthe's life stands forfeit for breaking her vow not to reveal herself to the Lord Chancellor, and so do the rest of the fairies' — all save the Queen — for marrying mortals just as Iolanthe did. It takes the Lord Chancellor's brilliant legal mind to save the day by changing the fairy law to mandate death for any fairy who doesn't marry a mortal. Hasty marriage for the Queen, and everyone goes home happy.