Good Is Boring

"Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens."
Talking Heads, Heaven

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.

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!

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.

This trope is a sister trope to Evil Is Cool, particularly when The Villain Makes the Plot because it's usually the villain stirring things up. Likewise, it is invoked in settings with A Hell of a Time- since if Good is Boring and Evil is Interesting, then the interesting plots happen where all the bad guys are dumped.

Links all too frequently to the Writer on Board trying to tell us something about mainstream religion, culture, or ethics. Even worse when paired with a Straw Man Political. When this trope refers to a problem with the writing and conflict itself, it is the polar opposite problem of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. (Which is also quite a problem.)

Compare and contrast Boring but Practical (which this trope can also be paired with). Contrast Evil Is Cool and Good Feels Good. Can result from a Boring Invincible Hero and is a common complaint regarding Purity Sue. Tangentially related to Victory Is Boring, which can occur with both good and evil characters. One possible reason why All Girls Want Bad Boys.

In fact a classic definition of the difference between reality and fiction is (paraphrased): In real life, good people are interesting and bad people are boring. In fiction, it is the other way around.

In-Universe Examples Only

    open/close all folders 

     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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

     Live Action TV  
  • Doctor Who:
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • Exploited by the Underwoods in the US House of Cards: Frank woos Claire into Unholy Matrimony with the promise that she would never be bored.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In TNA, Raven taunts Lauren about her moral superiority to everyone around her, saying he knows it must make her miserable. Somewhat subverted in that Raven himself is always miserable.

     Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
    • 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.

     Video Games  

  • 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.
  • In The Order of the Stick:
    • Averted by the Lawful Good heaven: people reunite with their dead friends and enjoy idealized versions of mortal activities (like the Tavern of Infinite One Night Stands) for as long as they want to, moving on to more spiritually fulfilling pursuits as they let go of their old lives.
    • Xykon is an Ax-Crazy, thrill-seeking, undead Psychopathic Manchild who gets tired of anything less than wanton death and destruction: he thinks Pragmatic Villainy is just as boring as Good.
  • 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.
    • 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.

     Web Original 
  • 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.

     Western Animation  
  • 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".