Good Is Boring
"Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens."This is a trope regarding morality and idealism. For when heavily structured order in which very little is meant to occur is defined as 'good' and set in opposition to the 'evil' of chaos, see Order Versus Chaos. You're looking for a motivation for your nihilistic villain to take action in order to get the plot moving, but he is so deep in his nihilism that the only motivation one can come up with is that he did it because it would be fun. However, now another side of the character has been revealed. If evil is fun to them then that must mean that he believes... this trope! This trope is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Either in the view of a character, or in the reality of the situation in-universe, Good Is Boring and Evil is... not. However there is still the question of why one would come to that conclusion, so let's explore that idea together!
—Talking Heads, Heaven
Observe this meta-example:
|An author attempts to create a world of only good people by disposing of the evil altogether. Doing so reveals a problem. This isn't your typical problem which leads to The End of the World as We Know It but one that would result in a far worse situation... the audience becomes bored. |
Living in a world of Incorruptible Pure Pureness where idealism reigns with a sugar-coated fist of iron would be wonderful in every practical and realistic sense. Unfortunately for idealists, this leads to a world utterly devoid of conflict and constant goodness is boring to observe.
This problem can be averted entirely by a well-written conflict without evil involved or even a villain, and of course, a good person can be boring without it reducing the excitement of the work as a whole.
Now observe what occurs in-universe:
|The character is simply good, boring and... not much else. They either exist to be a moral compass to the other characters, be a foil to a villain or anti-hero, show that boring might not be so bad after all, or perhaps to be a plot device and cause the villain to overgeneralize this trope. |
From the villain's perspective, they might simply desire thrills that they get most easily from evil acts, resulting in the belief that since evil is far more interesting (because it is), then Good Is Boring by extension. They do not have to be correct in this belief, and the belief can be held by non-villains.
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Anime and Manga
- In Naruto Orochimaru believes this. He uses a twisted logic to convince himself that if a windmill (the world) isn't turning (is peaceful) then it's just plain dull. Naturally, he believes things will be interesting if he destroys the leaf village. It's revealed that this wasn't his only motive, since he wanted revenge on the Third Hokage.
- Tintin: Tintin is the least interesting of all the characters. His adventures are exciting, but he is so good and incorruptible that it's no surprise that Haddock is far more memorable.
- Spirou and Fantasio: Spirou has pretty much the same problem Tintin has: he is nice, brave and polite. All the comedy comes from his sidekick Fantasio.
- Suske en Wiske: Suske is basically incorruptible, while Wiske at least can be jealous, hysterical and/or too curious for her own good.
- Tom Poes: Tom Poes is generally nice and incorruptible. Almost to the point that he's completely overshadowed by all the other characters.
- Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber: Piet Pienter is especially bland compared to the impulsive, agressive coward Bert Bibber.
- Blake and Mortimer: Both Blake and Mortimer are incorruptible detectives with strong ethics.
- Jommeke: Jommeke's niceness is so bland that he is the least colorful of all characters.
- Lucky Luke: Luke's only vice used to be smoking, until he quit the habit. Apart from that he is brave, nice and the greatest shooter in the West. Completely boring in other words....
- Towards the end of Supergod, the artificial metahuman Daijal who can see all possible timelines at once reveals that the joining of Krishna and Jerry Craven will result in a Singularity-based utopia... which is why Daijal immediatly detonates himself and destroys the world because he considers utopia to be so boring that extinction is preferable.
Films — Live-Action
- Check any biographical film. Half of them are about thieves, murderers, serial killers, gangsters, dictators, corrupt politicians or delinquents. Even with people who aren't notorious criminals there is still a tendency to make movies about people who were violent, adulterous, suffered from alcohol or drug addiction, occasionally dishonest or suffered from troubling mental disorders that made them difficult to cope with. Even films about people depicted as heroes are more interesting when they show the darker or more morally questionable side of the people. For instance, in Patton general Patton is definitely portrayed as a patriotic hero. Though the movie doesn't shy away from showing his flaws too. He is depicted as an egomaniac, hits a soldier with shell shock and even gets in trouble in the final years of his life for voicing opinions that are rather close to the Nazis and Fascists . Similarly, The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers shows Peter Sellers as a comedic genius, but also portrays him as unfaithful to his wife, vain, more focused on his work than his family and generally cold and unempathic towards his children.
- Used in Hackers, when the villain describes the moral philosophy that allows him to frame a bunch of teenagers for his crimes:
"There is no right or wrong. There's only fun and boring. A twenty year prison sentence sounds a trifle dull to me."
- The Matrix, Version 1.0, as told by Agent Smith:
Agent Smith: Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost.
- It's notable that he's not saying exactly why the first Matrix was a disaster, and in the second movie, the Architect strongly hints that it's more along the lines of Order Is Boring.
- Iain M. Banks has said that the protagonists of his Culture novels are (usually) Special Circumstances operatives (the Culture's equivalent of diplomats, commandos and Magnificent Bastard all rolled into one) or non-Culture citizens precisely because the vast majority of the Culture's everyday life - non-alienated people going about their fulfilling lives, respecting and being respected by their community in a post-scarcity anarchistic metasociety - just wouldn't make for particularly gripping reading. Lampshaded in-universe on a few occasions.
- In the novel Good Omens, the demon Crowley persuades the angel Aziraphale that they can't allow Armageddon to take place by pointing out that eternity in Heaven means eternal boredom, since all the interesting things exist either on Earth or in Hell.
"Can you imagine eternity with Elgar?"
Aziraphale shut his eyes. "All too easily," he groaned.
- Defied in the Book of the Long Sun. Silk was meant to be as interesting and as moral a character possible because Gene Wolfe thought that too many modern novels relied on anti-heroes as protagonists. Silk serves as an interesting foil to the blatantly anti-heroic protagonist Severian of the Book of the New Sun, which is also part of Wolfe's "Solar Cycle" meta-verse.
- Heaven in the book Angel Face by Narinder Dhami bores the teenage-angel protagonist senseless.
- It's not really visible in his published works, written when he was more tired and cynical, but J. R. R. Tolkien's earlier versions of his mythos (The Book of Lost Tales, the original version of The Silmarillion) tend to avert this trope by going into a great deal of description and detail about just how and why the Bliss of Valinor, the Silmarils, and so forth are so good, while treating Morgoth's evil as mostly banal.
- For example, the Music of the Ainur, which created Eš, is described as a beautiful and glorious symphony, while Morgoth's song of opposition is described as "loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated", and "a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes".
- The children's book series The Great Brain states this trope outright. The protagonist is a Sociopathic Hero who enjoys tricking people out of their money. When he reforms in the later books, his younger brother complains that things are too boring, and secretly celebrates when his brother returns to his old schemes.
- Examined in the trippy novel In Watermelon Sugar. The fanciful setting of the story is nonviolent, there's no poverty, and everyone can express their artistic nature freely... but some people are attracted to violence anyway...
- Inverted in C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. People in Heaven are vibrant and happy, while denizens of Hell are bored and full of themselves - or, at the very best, tend to chase trivial things (like attempts of one of them to get a Heaven's apple to Hell).
- Inverted by Lewis again in The Screwtape Letters, where demons try to minimize the enjoyment people get out of sin, hating joy just like other positive emotions. Moreover, they see God as a hedonist bent on undermining the order and dignity of Hell.
- Galahad, as portrayed in various strands of Arthurian Legend, is a shining example. He is Incorruptible Pure Pureness and never says, or does anything interesting. Because Right Makes Might, jousts are too easy for fun or glory.
- Played to a T in For Love Of Evil, where the devil actually makes some parts of Hell so much more interesting than Heaven that a soul in Heaven begs Satan to take him back to Hell when he returns. Heaven itself, as Satan notes, is actually a very boring place where people spend a lot of time sitting around.
- A lot of books, video games, and even movies in the Star Wars Universe include this trope, since the primary expected duties of the Jedi are heavily implied, if not outright stated, to be meditating on the will of the Force, and gaining peace and serenity. Everything else, including policing the galaxy, advising politicians, and fighting Sith are supposed to be secondary, especially when the Jedi aren't currently involved in any wars.
- There's a reason why when most people read Dante they stop after the Inferno, or perhaps the Purgatorio. The Paradiso is gorgeous poetry and deep theology, but is rather dull as a story.
- Rand al'Thor has this reaction at the climax of The Wheel of Time, in rather interesting and nuanced way. During his duel with a powerful cosmic evil, in which each combatant forges a simulated Alternate Universe in an effort to break the other, he creates a world totally cleansed of evil. It horrifies him, because although everyone he knows is happy and good, they also lack the free will and the capacity for evil to make being good meaningful.
- More specifically he realizes that everyone has some measure of good and evil in them, and its that contrast, and the urges and negative emotions coupled with the urges and positive emotions that makes the people he knows who they are, gives them depth, makes them actual, complex people. He meets Elayne and discovers that she has gone from a politically savvy Action Girl to what can essentially be described as all the Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits all in one character, with none of the complexity anything on that list might possibly have. And not just her. Everyone is like that. Everyone is happy that way. But they have no choice '''but''' to be happy that way. They have no options except for the "perfect" ones. They have no ability to choose any option that is less than completely selfless and "good". And he made them that way. He is utterly horrified and repulsed by what he sees.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who:
- Robert Holmes, known for being very strong on the cynical side of the Scale, tended to feel this way. Grey and Grey Morality and Grey and Black Morality abounds, and when he was made script editor he Enforced a darker, moodier and more manipulative characterisation for the Doctor than had been seen since William Hartnell's Token Evil Teammate phase. Some of his other achievements in darkening boring good characters include Revisioning the Time Lords from a Crystal Spires and Togas civilisation of enlightenment into a hypocritical and pretentious Deadly Decadent Court of declining power.
- Peter Davison - whose Doctor was a gentle, warm-hearted, subtle and peaceful man - tends to do quite badly in "Top Doctor Who Doctor" lists (though he's got his fans, like David Tennant and Steven Moffat). This is usually assumed to be due to Davison's tenure being bookended by two extremely loud Bakers - both of whom had outrageous fashion sense and hairstyles, an exuberant acting style and a willingness to be physical, sinister and Shoot the Dog. However, hindsight shows that the Fifth Doctor often had his hands tied by the stories themselves: Eric Saward, a Writer on Board who preferred 'gritty' and violent science fiction, found the character's niceness dull and so liked to use his pacifistic nature to delay the Doctor's involvement in plots; the stereotypical Saward-edited Davison serial structure is three episodes of the Doctor hand-wringing to his companions about his dislike of Dirty Business, while lots of cool guys with guns would move the plot along and the Doctor would finally take charge at the end (see "Earthshock" and "Resurrection of the Daleks"). Fans like to cite "Caves of Androzani" as the high point for the Fifth Doctor's character as it works with his peaceful decency rather than against it, making him a subtly terrifying, noble and playful Determinator willing to go through any amount of suffering to battle his way out of the corners the universe keeps putting him in, and the Expanded Universe tends to use the lessons learned from this story to make the Fifth Doctor as interesting as any flamboyant, frizzy-haired Baker.
- One of the reasons the book The Eight Doctors didn't go down terribly well is because Terrance Dicks spent much of it savaging the Doctors he personally dislikes. One of these was the Fifth Doctor, who he notes explicitly as being wet, ineffectual and boring compared to his crazier predecessor and successor. The other was the Seventh Doctor, who he savaged for being boring for the exact opposite reason.
- Similarly, many felt that Richard was the least interesting of the four main protagonists on Legend of the Seeker. Kahlan had the emotional turmoil of both her powers and her later status as the last surviving Confessor. Cara was a stone cold Badass with a hint of Deadpan Snarker who was also defrosting from her time as a Mord'Sith. Zedd was a wizard with Crazy Awesome stamped all over him. Richard was... the hero. A Badass Normal, sure, but still a little flat compared to his companions.
- Babylon 5 toed this line with the Vorlons and the Shadows, although it was hard to tell at times whether Good and Evil were entering into their Order vs. Chaos struggle. Eventually, the pawns of this rivalry tell both sides to take a hike.
- Survival is good other things being equal. Manipulating other races (especially by playing on their fears and baser instincts like The Shadows do) and using them as tools for one's selfish ends is evil. Therefore the "pawns of this rivalry" are good(or grey rather) and the Vorlons and Shadows are Evil Versus Evil.
- Lois and Clark alluded to a Utopian future in "Tempus Fugitive." Superman and Lois' legacy is a completely perfect, balanced world - which drives the villain of the episode to try and change it. He just can't stand it.
Tempus: A world of peace. A world with no greed or crime. A world so boring you'd blow your brains out, but there are no guns.
- A criticism of The Federation in general or Star Trek: The Next Generation is that they're all just so nice. While the other shows often feature messy personal issues, overwhelming odds or precarious politics, Picard and crew are often stuck dealing with a strange scientific phenomena or moral quandary that can make the show look dry and dull by comparison. Likewise, fans who prefer societies and races like the Klingons or Cardassians will often point to how "boring" the Federation is when compared to the messier, more exciting species.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine made it a point to deconstruct this trope, with numerous characters both within and without the Federation criticizing its bland, overly saccharine outlook. Eventually, the trope is outright subverted with the reveal of Section 31. Needless to say, fan reactions have varied somewhat.
- When Cordelia ascends to a higher plane on Angel, the first thing she says: "I am so bored!"
- In the Crapsack World of Warhammer Fantasy, the forces of Order are closest to traditional "good," but they all seem deadset against having or allowing any sort of fun or joy. The Dwarves are dour, inflexible, and obsessed with their grudges and the Human Empire is oppressive, corrupt, and engage in paranoid witchburning sessions (albeit often with actual witches.) The Dark Elves and human servants of Chaos, however, often get to enjoy themselves (unless they end up on the wrong side of a sacrificial knife) and do what they want. The Greenskins truly live for nothing but but war, so essentially all of life is a game to them. Which makes it terribly ironic for the Dwarves to take Greenskin transgressions so personally.
- The Grey armies, the Wood Elves, Tomb Kings and Lizardmen are a mix. Wood Elves get to enjoy themselves but are insanely protective of their woods and are more like a force of nature. Tomb Kings do what they want (being undead kings) but want to stay on Settra's good side. Lizardmen are all born and bred soldiers and priests, so they're like orcs, only not as funny.
- Chaos (or at least Archaon) wants to "save the world from stagnation and order." Of course, when it comes to saying that, you know it means something like killing everybody and turning the world into an insane playground of Chaotic Evil embodied, so at that point you may notice it wouldn't be an improvement after all.
- The true cheaters ending of Catherine. And then Vincent became an incubus.
- The plot of Scarlet Weather Rhapsody can be summarized as "Celestial gets bored, attempts to destroy world for fun."
- Textbook case in Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires. Two of the ending sequences require you to become an evil Emperor and a good Emperor, respectively. The former involves having a license to print money (and also raking in literally dozens of items), mercilessly executing everyone who annoys you, and acquiring a super-cheap means of completely refilling your ranks, all at the cost of a few token peasant uprisings and an occasional extra flood or earthquake. The latter involves taking over almost the entire empire, then doing nothing but spend enormous sums of gold and deplete your army for about six years, all for a bunch of feeble peasant militias that you won't even get to use.
- The Legend Of Zelda C Di Games - Faces of Evil
Link: "Gee, it sure is BORING around here!"
- In Ocarina of Time, the soldier inside the house full of pots wishes Hyrule was more chaotic, as standing all day in a peaceful place bores him.
- Mentioned by Kefka of Final Fantasy VI:
"This little hamlet has too much boring and not enough burning! Torch everything!"
- Cucumber Quest: Sir Carrot is an example of a character representing this. His sole reason for becoming a Knight was to serve his king. He doesn't care much for fighting or being cool, but rather the things he enjoyed most about being a Knight were "rescuing stray pets", an "massaging his king's feet". That he's being completely serious about it is Played for Laughs.
- Averted in The Order of the Stick during Roy's time in the Lawful Good heaven. (Being based on DnD, there are a couple of heavens to go round.) Heaven there is a decidedly fun place, one where playing blocks with your little brother can last for days and still be awesome. Furthermore, there's a Debate Hall Where You're Always Right, a Dungeon Full Of Monsters Just Difficult Enough to Challenge You, and a Tavern of Infinite One Night Stands, of all things, though heaven discourages its use by only allowing you to take them to your parents' house.
- Before you bring up the "it'll get boring eventually" argument, remember that since nothing changes and you don't have physical needs to distract you, you can't actually tell how long you've been there. (A fact that Roy learns the hard way.)
- Besides, when Roy questions why Heaven has such things, it's explained that yes, it will get boring after several decades or centuries... which frees you from earthly distractions and attachments as you resume climbing the mountain to attain higher levels of enlightenment (and presumably higher levels of satisfaction than anything the flesh can offer).
- Technically, playing blocks with your little brother wouldn't automatically be awesome. Roy was just that happy to see his little brother who died around the age of four, which is why he was young enough that playing blocks still held much appeal in Heaven.
- Also, Durkon, being the stereotypical Lawful Good beer-loving tree-fearing dwarf cleric of the Order, has a reputation of being this trope in parts of the fandom.
- Before you bring up the "it'll get boring eventually" argument, remember that since nothing changes and you don't have physical needs to distract you, you can't actually tell how long you've been there. (A fact that Roy learns the hard way.)
- In Sinfest, Baby Blue assures Fuschia that being good is really boring -- and accuses her of thinking of converting. Fuschia denies it.
- In Sins, good, as personified by The Virtues, isn't just boring, but stupid and unpleasant as well. No wonder all the hosts think Evil Is Cool.
- Of course, the Virtues want the Sins to die so that the universe will be destroyed by the imbalance of Good over Evil, on the off chance it will be remade without evil. If it gets remade at all.
- And Labor is willing to kill an innocent girl on sight, made worse by the fact she lost her soul no matter how innocent she was (her sole crime was picking up the Sins' Soul Jar).
- The Dimension of Lame from Sluggy Freelance epitomizes this. At first, it seems like a great place where everyone's kind and even the sewers smell like flowers. Except there's no alcohol, all swearing is censored, the only TV channels are PBS and Disney, and everyone seems to subsist entirely off rice cakes and spring water. Torg high-tails it out of there pretty quick.
- Kinda like that old saying about Hawaii: Nice place for a vacation, but you wouldn't want to live there.
- On his second visit, Torg notes that the people of the dimension aren't necessarily "good" so much as "pure"; in the sense that they are incapable of doing anything to prevent or even resist evil for fear of becoming less pure.
- In Warp Zone Project, the protagonist has just entered the world of super-heroes and super-villains, choosing the side of good. His mentor's arch-enemy tries to get him to become his pupil whenever they run into each other, his main if not only argument being that he's going to get bored fast otherwise.
- Moral Orel, but this is more due to most of the characters in the show believing this while being major hypocrites
- This is the reason why classic cartoons whose premises revolve around a chase devote much more screen time to the villanous predator; you don't see as many scenes with Jerry, the Road Runner, or Tweety as with their respective nemesis. The exceptions usually occur when it's the heroes' turn to be a Not So Above It All instigator.
- Similarly The Dreamstone focuses largely on the villains more than the heroes, due to the Land Of Dreams being depicted as a near utopian Sugar Bowl where conflicts or even basic problems are rare without Zordrak and the Urpneys causing trouble.
- In Futurama, Leela mentions that this trope is why Heaven is boring; there's no sleaze. Seconds later, a mass orgy is called.
- One of the "Censored Eleven" Looney Tunes, Clean Pastures (1937), starts out with Heaven ("Pair-O-Dice"— oh yes, there are reasons this is on the Censored Eleven list) losing ground to "Hades, Inc." and its Harlem jazz clubs, until Gabriel gets him some swingin' angels of his own (modeled on performers like Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller)— and then Good is so not Boring that Satan himself tries to get back in!
- In The Simpsons episode "Viva Ned Flanders", Springfielders are amazed at Ned's longevity and youthfulness at age 60 until he reveals how much he's deprived himself in order to attain it.
Ned: I resist all the major urges.Sideshow Mel: All of them?Marge: You mean you've never splurged and say, eaten an entire birthday cake and blamed it on the dog?Edna Krabappel: You've never licked maple syrup off your lover's stomach?(Agnes Skinner glares at Seymour)Bart: (halfway outside, holding a crowbar) You've never snuck out of church to break into cars?Ned: No, no, and double no! I haven't done any of those things, folks. You name it, I haven't done it!Homer: Jeez, Flanders, you're sixty, and you've never lived a day in you life!Carl: Yeah, even the boy in the bubble had a deck of cards.
- This is shown as an issue between Tom and his wife in The Boondocks. Tom, a straight-laced, calm, morally upstanding man, apparently bores his wife to tears, to the point where she throws him out of the house at one especially low point, and is shown to lust after "bad boys" like Pretty Boy Flizzy. Flizzy himself sums up his success with women with the term "bitches hate being bored".