"So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don't you know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't understand it."Bob and Alice are being terrorized by Doctor Deathmurderkill. He has hunted them, attacked them, and nearly gotten them killed on several occasions. Bob is convinced that Dr. DMK has kicked the dog more than enough times to warrant fighting back with lethal force. Alice, however, insists that he must have a good reason, or maybe that it's all just a big misunderstanding. Despite any evidence to the contrary, Alice refuses to believe that he can actually be 'evil'. After all, no one's that heartless, right? This trope is, in its essence, a character who refuses to believe that someone could simply be evil for its own sake. If this character can just talk things out with the villain, then surely their motive will come out and together they can find a better solution (perhaps after pounding them into submission). It doesn't occur to them that there might not be a motive to discover. This character may also spare a villain, thinking that there's still some good in him, or that he can change for the better... only for the villain to commit more crimes. Whether Alice is right or not depends on the work's placement on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. In an idealistic show, this attitude could very possibly lead to a Heel–Face Turn. In a cynical one, expect her death to be the very thing to push the villain over the Moral Event Horizon. This trope is usually limited to the very naive and very young, or the very old and war-weary, who've grown tired of the "black and white, us vs. them" attitudes of those around them. Note: Be careful not to just stick this trope onto any pacifistic characters, whether technical, actual, or martial. The tropes are related, but one does not automatically imply the other. Compare Stupid Good, The Pollyanna, White and Grey Morality. Contrast Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, This Is Unforgivable!.
— Marge to Grimsrud, Fargo
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Anime and Manga
- Seiichiro Kitano from Angel Densetsu is always the target of thugs or other people who try to attack him because he looks like a monstrous, evil devil or something like that. Kitano is so naive and good that he never has bad thoughts and has no idea why would people do bad things and he cannot recognize bad actions very well. When people attack him, he believes that he did something bad to them that made them angry, that's why he lets them keep hitting him. And if (it happens rarely) he recognizes bad actions (which he mostly misinterprets), he tries to stop them.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Touma Kamijou says he just doesn't get why people are assholes who grab power at the expense of others, constantly asking them why they don't use their abilities to make the world a happier place. However, this doesn't diminish his effectiveness at all. Just because he doesn't know why people do bad things, doesn't mean he's unaware that they do.
- Jean from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, aside from being the nicest guy in the show (and Adorkable), is quite upset when Captain Nemo informs him that the Nautilus can be used for destruction if in the wrong hands. When Nadia expresses suspicion about the Nautilus, Jean replies that the Nautilus ''is a good ship… because the Captain is a good man!" Which is what makes his experience of witnessing his new friend Fait die at the hands of technology all the more heartbreaking.
- After being put in charge of Hell in The Sandman, Remiel proclaims that the purpose of Hell shall no longer be punishment, but purification with the aim of redemption. The demons of Hell will no longer punish you for punishment's sake, or for their own pleasure, or because that's what demons do. They will punish you for purpose, for your own good, and because they care. As one of the damned comments, having redemption dangled in front of your nose at the end of it all only makes it worse.
- In the Vertigo series Hard Time Ethan is a 15 year old who takes part in a "prank" shooting at his school only to realize his friend is using real bullets. Sentenced to a maximum security prison, Ethan talks to a pair of lawyers about how he was ruthlessly bullied by the jocks and pretty girls at his school. He relates how he point blank asked the quarterback why he was doing this and the man just replied "because I hate you." The female attorney (an attractive black woman) is thrown, unable to understand this but her husband (a more nerdy white man) is quick to answer.
Lawyer: You'll have to forgive my wife. She was a triathlete champion at high school so she never had to endure the reality that teenagers don't need a reason to look down on others.
- For Shazam's Billy Batson, this flaw seems to exist across multiple continuities: he's willing to work with, or at least support, evil people because he's an innocent child who's powers are a direct result of being one of the purest souls on Earth. In the mainstream universe, this happened when Lex Luthor became president; in Kingdom Come, Luthor basically brainwashes him into an evil Atoner; in Injustice: Gods Among Us, he's willing to follow an increasingly Knight Templar version of Superman (and gets killed for finally saying he's gone too far), etc.
- Batman has a recurring problem with The Joker because of this. He can understand Greed or lust for power, he can understand Vanity and the urge to show off, he can understand Revenge on a very deep and personal level and he can probably understand the sadism of a weak man who wants to feel strong by picking on people even weaker than himself. But Joker? He frequently doesn't seem to have a motive he can articulate beyond It Amused Him and/or It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. He's as close to an Anthropomorphic Personification of Chaotic Evil as you can get while still being a corporeal, mortal(...ish) human being. And that makes it really hard to be Crazy-Prepared for dealing with him.
- Fluttershy in Post Nuptials could not understand why a creature like Discord could be so cruel and sadistic. Of course, the fanfic was written before season 3.
- In Child of the Storm, this is one of Harry's defining characteristics. He knows better than most that there are people who are cruel to others for petty reasons, or no reason at all. But he simply can't understand why people are like that.
- In Build Your Wings on the Way Down Hughes as a man who loves his family cannot understand why Tucker would do such a horrible thing like turning them into chimeras to his own family.
- In The Very Secret Diary, Ginny ultimately realizes she can't quite figure out what the hell is wrong with Tom and why he is the way he is, and gives him an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
Ginny: Was it a terrible place, Tom?
Tom: Oh, are we back to Tom? And now comes a surge of pity… yes, I feel it. God, how insipid you are. How predictable. How full of drama and tepid romantic conclusions. It was just a place like your sorry little Burrow, overrun with children. No different.
Ginny: You say that you can feel my lies. Well, you are in me so much now that I can feel yours too. And I do not feel sorry for you at all. I have been thinking. Harry is an orphan, and he is not horrible. And Prissy has everything she wants, and she is still nasty. So I do not know how much it counts. I cannot work out what is wrong with you.
Tom: ...Get. Out.]
Films — Animated
- This is one of Danny's major flaws in Cats Don't Dance. He proves to be too naive to realize how evil Darla Dimple really is. This comes back to bite him in the butt when she sabotages his and the other animals' audition for movie studio mogul, L.B. Mammoth, initially thinking she wanted to help.
Sawyer: She [Darla] was your "little angel"?Danny: She said she wanted to help us.Tilly: And you believed her?!
- Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon 2 is insistent on trying to reason with Drago despite his father's warnings. Later events transpire to teach him that, unfortunately, some people just can't be reasoned with. Specifically, Hiccup is at first optimistic that he can talk Drago out of his warmongering, but upon meeting Drago and hearing his story and witnessing his conviction/insanity, he rapidly realizes that there is no reasoning with him. Drago's actions are not based on ignorance or fear like so many Hiccup has encountered before, but rather a deeply dark view of the world.
- Soren from Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole refuses to believe that his brother Kludd had willingly joined the Pure Ones. He even mourns for Kludd when the latter apparently falls to his death in a forest fire.
- Realizing he needs a new enemy with Metro Man apparently dead, Megamind grants superpowers to low-level cameraman/slacker Hal to become Titan. Megamind figures that anyone granted powers will naturally use them to become a hero and help the city. Instead of a hero, Hal turns into a greater menace than Megamind ever was. It never occurs to Megamind that someone with the power to do great good would choose to do great evil instead.
- Also, when he discovers Metro Man faked his death in hopes of escaping his persona, free of the pressure of being a hero, Megamind is stunned, unable to accept that anyone beloved by the masses like Metro Man would ever give it up for a "normal" life. This is more Good Cannot Comprehend Neutrality, though.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars: The Jedi Order suffers from this problem, and the Star Wars Expanded Universe has shown again and again that for a group that acts as champions of good, the Jedi Order has absolutely no understanding of the dark side. Justified since many of them refused to so much as study the Sith or the Dark Side, believing that even trying to understand evil would lead them to fall.
- This is taken to Up to Eleven with the Jedi Order in the prequels, who, through a strange mix of Christian and Eastern philosophy, are convinced that all evil comes from emotional attachment, and the Jedi prohibition on said attachment is quite alienating for those who want to, y'know, keep their emotions. For example, in Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin goes to Yoda for advice about fear and the possibility of loss, Yoda simply doesn't have the moral flexibility and/or life experience to give Anakin anything but platitudes about how emotional attachment is dangerous and wrong. Palpatine, on the other hand, gives Anakin actual advice, setting the stage for his More Than Mind Control.
- Marge expresses this in Fargo, as seen in the page quote. Marge, a Nice Girl By-the-Book Cop, has just arrested Grimsrud after she caught him stuffing his partner's corpse into a wood chipper. She simply can't believe that the crime spree that ended with five people dead, lives ruined and families destroyed, was all for money.
- Most characters in No Country for Old Men also struggle with this, usually when they are facing Anton Chigurh. Likewise, Anton Chigurh cannot understand why his victims always implore him to have mercy.
- In The Dark Knight, Bruce hits a dead end trying to understand and figure out the motives behind The Joker; it's with a little help from Alfred that he comes to accept that there is no why behind The Joker, he just is.
- In Star Trek Into Darkness, the heroes had a lot of trouble wrapping their heads around the fact that Admiral Marcus was a corrupt traitor.
- Schindler's List: For a long time Oskar Schindler seems to think that Amon Goeth would be a much better person if there weren't a war going on, which Schindler thinks brings out the worst in people. He's incredulous that Goeth could enjoy killing people until Stern confirms the number of atrocities that the Nazi Captain has already committed.
- In Richie Rich, it's obvious to most everyone Laurence Van Dough is jealous of the Riches and wants the business for himself, but even after he's marooned on a desert island by him, Mr. Rich can't grasp how bad Laurence is.
Van Dough: Where's the money?!Mr. Rich: In banks. Where else?
- This plays into the finale when Van Dough breaks into the Rich family vault, only to find that instead of gold and money, it contains personal items and memories of the Rich's lives. To them, it's perfectly logical that they would use the vault for the stuff that's most important to them and they're astounded Laurence would think they hoard their money away.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Philip Swift is a Good Shepherd who believes that everyone has some good in them and can be saved by God's grace, and attempts to reach out to Blackbeard, admitting that trying to save Blackbeard's soul was "a bit of a long-shot." As the film goes on, however, Philip changes his mind and declares that Blackbeard is evil beyond any hope of redemption.
- Harry Potter: Dumbledore has shown that he can understand quite a bit about Lord Voldemort. However, it turns out that Dumbledore was unable to figure out that Voldemort hid one of his Horcruxes in the Room of Requirement. Why? Because Dumbledore was a model student who never cheated and hence had no need to use the room to hide anything. Harry, however, was certainly not a model student, he cheated a couple of times, and he used that room, so he could figure it out.
- In Death series: Dr. Mira in Midnight in Death is unable to find out why David Palmer is such a bastard. Eve Dallas is unable to find out why her own mother is so bad in New York To Dallas.
- In The Silmarillion, it is said that the Valar didn't understand Morgoth's evil. The most obvious manifestation of this failure is when Morgoth was imprisoned for millenia after his first rebellion; eventually, the Valar king (and Morgoth's brother), Manwë (whose name means something like "incorruptible") frees him because he claims to have repented. Not all of the Valar seem to have been convinced, but Manwë didn't question it.
- Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The Vigilantes have shown that they cannot understand why people like the Monarch HMO in Payback, Karl Woodley in The Jury, and Maxwell Zenowicz in Fast Track are such evil people.
- Early in the series, we have Twoflower who thinks the better from everyone and is convinced that no problem can't be solved when people sits to reasonably discuss them, his worldview is helped by the fact that he also thinks that "he can not get into trouble, because he do not wants trouble to anyone" even in the face of the danger, this baffles danger so much that passes by his side (preferably by the one in which Rincewind is) letting him unfazed. Only the star cultists make him realize that they weren't going to "reasonably discuss" anything.
- Granny Weatherwax of all people. The Duchess mocked Granny's attempt to make her have a Heel Realization, claiming that Granny was naive for believing that all people really are good deep down. One of Granny's core philosophies is basically "Once you truly comprehend good, you can't choose to be evil." A philosophy that she started vocalizing after her encounter with the Duchess.
- In the Warrior Cats series, when Bluestar's suffering from dementia and is absolutely convinced that WindClan is stealing prey, she won't listen to Fireheart when he gives her evidence that a dog has been killing the prey. She tells him that he's a good and noble warrior, so he can't comprehend that other cats would have morals any less pristine than his own. He especially thinks this comment is odd, since he was the one that exposed Tigerclaw as a traitor and murderer.
- Annabeth Chase from Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians refuses to believe her former best friend Luke Castellan is evil, even after he attempts to kill her several times throughout the series, insisting that he is just being manipulated by the Titans and is a victim.
- Catch-22: Yossarian has heard stories of slave traders in Africa kidnapping little boys and selling them to men who disemboweled and ate them. He wonders how a child could suffer such a horrible fate without showing the slightest hint of fear or pain, but takes it for granted that somehow they do-he refuses to believe that anyone could knowingly cause a child to suffer.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: This along with Horrible Judge of Character is the Fatal Flaw of most of House Stark. They really never catch on that not everybody in Westeros holds the same lofty moral standards that they do, which eventually gets most of them betrayed and massacred, leaving only a few scattered surviving children.
- This, combined with Honor Before Reason, is the key flaw of the Starks on Game of Thrones. Eddard is the worst, assuming the royal court must hold to ideas of honor and good play and is totally unprepared for how ruthless they can be and he pays the price. Robb follows in his footsteps with the mistake of assuming anyone entering into a treaty will naturally hold to it and not, say, get paid off by his enemies to lure him in.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Savage Curtain", Surak, Spock, and President Lincoln have a hard time understanding the motives and actions of the opposing "evil" side. Only Kirk seems to have a grasp of their potential for deceptiveness and duplicity.
- The Highs in Red Dwarf when presented with the Lows.
High Kryten: The poor wretch, he has a faulty gun! He's accidentally shot me five times! Oh, how I love him!High Cat: Brother, there is a grievous fault with thine weapon. It keepeth shooting people.
- Doctor Who:
- The Mentiads in the serial "The Pirate Planet" state this as the reason they had not deposed the Captain prior to the Doctor's arrival. They are incapable of understanding why he does what he does, and are unable to properly work against him as a result.
- In the revival series, there's a downplayed example. The Doctor can't work out why the Weeping Angels' method of attacking Amy involves needlessly tipping her off in advance. He's briefly dumbstruck when he finds out that they're just doing it to terrorize her.
- The Torchwood episode "Countrycide"note ends with Gwen confronting the main villain with a simple question:
Gwen: Why? Why would you wake up one morning and decide that this is what you want to do?The villain: Because it made me happy.
- In Fargo, the murderous liar Lester is in conversation with his brother, Oswalt, who grasps to understand him and states, "There's just... something missing." Oswalt admits that was why he didn't want to listen to his deputy's theories about Lester being the killer, that he didn't want to face the idea the world could be this way.
- The reason the team of Leverage get so much business. There is no shortage of people who find themselves the victims of scam artists or corrupt businesspeople, good and decent folks who can never concieve being taken advantage of. That includes people who trusted the crooks, even friends and can't believe they were ripped off so badly. Sadly, this counts as Truth in Television.
- Old Harry's Game: One episode has Satan and the Professor embarking on a Journey to the Center of the Mind to see why Thomas is the way he is. At one point, the Professor comes across a hidden-away memory which is marked with tons of warnings not to open it, which shows Thomas as a child being bullied by his classmates. The Professor assumes that this is a Freudian Excuse that Thomas locked away because it was painful for him to remember, but when he tries to offer Thomas consolation, Thomas reveals that the memory was actually of an unspecified crime (presumably involving killing the bullies) and he had hidden it away to avoid accidentally incriminating himself.
- In the lore of Warcraft, this is what happened with Sargeras, the creator and leader of the Burning Legion. Originally belonging to a race of god-like beings called the Titans, he and his kind traveled throughout the cosmos to bring order to worlds; they were so powerful they defeated the Old Gods, the Eldritch Abominations of Azeroth, and created the dragons to become the world's stewards. While defeating and imprisoning the demons of the Twisting Nether, their evil caused Sargeras to question the Titans' quest for order. He was driven into depression after witnessing the chaos wrought by the demons, especially after defeating the vampiric Nathrezim, whose manipulative bastardry on various worlds affected him deeply. Eventually, he went completely off the rails with the belief that the Titans' quest for order was essentially wrong, given that he saw the Universe as intrinsically chaotic and evil. The last the Titans saw him, Sargeras had freed the demons he had personally previously imprisoned, made them a part of his army, and sent his Burning Legion to bring war upon the Universe, putting into action the corruption of the Draenei and Orcs, the birth of the Lich King, and the multiple near-destruction of Azeroth itself. An example of Good Cannot Comprehend Evil taken to epic proportions.
- A more low-key example would be the nuking of Gnomeregan. Unlike most of Azeroth's denizens, the Gnomes didn't have any history of fighting among each other, which is why Mekkatorque didn't suspect Thermaplugg's seemingly obvious traitorous plan, even if it involved setting off a nuke in their own capital city. He is not proud of this.
- In Mass Effect 3:
- A defector from an evil organization thought that she had hidden families safely on a remote world, because she "couldn't imagine" the organization's leader coming after them. Shepard says "That's what evil counts on..."
- After discovering the various atrocities at Sanctuary, Ashley (who is by no means a naive character), says she truly cannot understand what motivated it. She also says that she's actually glad she can't, as it makes her feel human.
- Earlier in the series, this is the reaction of the mainstream geth (who primarily want to be left alone) to the heretics (who worship the Reapers and want to help them wipe out everything). Legion, a "normal" geth, expresses outright shock at the very idea that the heretics are spying on the mainstream.
- More generally, the Reapers are a race of robotic Eldritch Abominations who cull all advanced societies every 50,000 years. Many in the galaxy at large cannot comprehend that the Reapers are engaging in a multi-species war of extermination, not a war of conquest. The Reapers exploit this by using Mind Rape to make leaders tell their populations to stop fighting while a peace deal is hammered out. The Reapers offer no peace, but a docile populace is easier to exterminate.
- In the first Kingdom Hearts game, there's a bit where the cute and cheerful ninja girl Yuffie says that she just can't understand why people like Ansem are so intoxicated by the power of darkness.
- Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords show the Jedi to be very ignorant of the Sith order and the motives of those who turn to the dark side. In particular, Darth Revan was able to convert so many Jedi to his cause not only because of this trope, but also because he was a notable aversion of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. Revan understood the order and its flaws far too well, exploiting them to deadly effect.
- Comes up again in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Jedi order is apparently blind to the massive corruption in the Republic and a large number of dark Jedi, Sith aligned and otherwise, in their own ranks.
- Treasure of the Rudra takes this almost to the point of Running Gag. Surlent assumes that everyone he meets is as honest and compassionate as he is, which leads to him trusting the wrong people and getting screwed as a result of it several times throughout his scenario.
- In the intro chapter of Bravely Default, the Wind Vestal Agnés is being hunted by soldiers from the Duchy of Eternia. At first she is willing to surrender to them to stop their attack on the city of Caldisla, assuming "they are men, not monsters". When she goes to turn herself in accompanied by Tiz, she meets the leaders of the assault. When they tell her how they want to beat her to within an inch of her life, then heal her just so then can do it again over and over, she realizes that they are, in fact, monsters. So begins the game's first boss fight.
- Fenthick in Neverwinter Nights is another example; he is so good that he simply cannot conceive of the possibility that anyone else could be evil. It comes back to bite him.
- A vlaath is a predator found on the Lower Planes in the Planescape campaign, and one of the most sadistic of beasts, torturing prey to death via the most horrendous means imaginable. One researcher who refused to believe they did this simply For the Evulz formulated the theory that vlaath were Emotion Eater who fed on their victims' fear, possibly giving the creature some justification. This theory was debunked when the researcher sedated a vlaath to talk to it. Or rather, thought he had sedated it.(The researcher's assistant managed to escape with the recording mimir and published the research posthumously.)
- The Amazing World of Gumball:
- In the episode "The Saint," Gumball does a bunch of horrible things to Alan (including framing him for cheating on Carmen and having his parents tortured by a clown) all for the sake of trying to find something that upsets him. Not only does Alan forgive Gumball right off the bat, but he views Gumball's actions in such a ridiculously optimistic light that he doesn't even believe he did anything wrong.
- In the episode "The Wicked," Darwin repeatedly insists that Mrs. Robinson must have some redeeming quality or Freudian Excuse and tries to find it, despite all evidence that to the contrary. He only realizes he's wrong and Mrs. Robinson is just pure evil when she sees him choking and does nothing but give a Psychotic Smirk and watch. From there on out, his motive changes from trying to prove that she has some good in her to simply trying to get her locked up.
- American Dad!: In the episode "Ricky Spanish," Steve tries to prove to Roger that everyone can be redeemed by redeeming Ricky Spanish, Roger's titular Ax-Crazy persona of the same name, only for "Ricky" to use him as an Unwitting Pawn to set up a robbery and leave him to take the fall with the cops. Steve's final scene in the episode is of him exercising in prison while swearing revenge on Ricky Spanish, now hating him just like everyone else in Langley Falls. To twist the knife even further, there's even a Hope Spot that makes it look like Roger is going to help Steve escape... only to steal his wallet and throw him to the cops, who promptly beat him senseless.
- The Batman has one episode where Batman actually tries to make sense of The Joker. By the end, it is safe to say that Batman figures out that doing this is an exercise of futility and madness.
- Henry Pym in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! will often try to reason with enemies first, especially if they used to be his villainy-rehab patients. In his defense, it almost works on Wonder Man before Iron Man brings down an Interrupted Cooldown Hug.
- Macbeth in Gargoyles didn't even consider the possibility that Duncan (and later Demona) might be... less honest than he, until they betrayed him.
- Hego from Kim Possible insists on believing that his sister Shego still has good in her, even after she directly backstabs him. To be fair he was right, she won't be doing a Heel–Face Turn anytime soon, but for all his evil Shego couldn't fight against his family, as Dr. Drakken pointed out they defeated her suspiciously easy given that she had stolen the powers of all.
- The titular protagonist of Steven Universe is so upbeat and selfless he assumes that anything "mean" is a simple misunderstanding. The following quote refers to an alien invader who has already tried to kill him, and is currently en route to exterminate mankind.
Steven: Maybe when Peridot gets to Earth, she'll see how nice all the people are. And she won't want to hurt anyone.
- In The Condor, Tony has a hard time believing that his own cousin Reuben is a Jerkass unrepentant gangster. Even after Reuben sabotaged his skateboard and later cooperated with Taipan to set fire to Tony's house, Tony still thinks he can "save" Reuben and extends an olive branch. After Reuben angrily rejects him, Sammi gently explains to Tony that he can only save Reuben if Reuben wants to be saved.