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Morality Adjustment
We have the Face-Heel Turn, when a hero changes sides and becomes a villain. We have the Heel-Face Turn, when instead a villain abandons ship (no, not that kind of ship) to become a hero. We even have the Heel-Face Revolving Door, where they keep changing sides at the drop of a hat. But what about the part in between, when a character becomes more of either a Heel or a Face, but not far enough to leave the team?

That's what we call a Morality Adjustment. It comes in all different variations based on direction and extent, but we'll break it into four main flavours.
  1. A villain becoming more of a Heel. (eg: from Villain to Complete Monster)
  2. A villain becoming more of a Face. (eg: from Villain to Anti-Villain)
  3. A hero becoming more of a Heel. (eg: from Hero to Anti-Hero)
  4. A hero becoming more of a Face. (eg: from Hero to Incorruptible Pure Pureness)

Compare Villain Decay, Badass Decay, Messiah Creep. Contrast Heel-Face Turn and Face-Heel Turn. A subtrope of Character Development.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Xellos from the Slayers franchise. Although we're never exactly sure where he stands, he does skirt back and forth across this line while still facing the "I'm still evil but currently in a trend of doing good/evil things" line.

Comic Books
  • Justified by Mind Rape in The DCU: The villain Dr. Light was extensively brainwashed by Zatanna. She attempted to bring out his good side, but was ultimately only capable of turning him into a Harmless Villain. After Identity Crisis, the brainwashing unstuck and he reverted to his old nasty self.

Literature
  • The Seventh Doctor in the New Adventures tie-in novels changed from an enigmatic though sympathetic "Dark Doctor" to a full-on Knight Templar Doctor.

Live-Action TV

Video Games
  • With the introduction of rogues and vigilantes in the Going Rogue expansion, characters in City of Heroes can go from hero to vigilante, from villain to rogue, from vigilante to villain or back to hero, and from rogue to hero or back to villain.
  • Characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic are locked into supporting either the Republic or the Empire, and since they are given objectives by their class and faction quests, their overall support of freedom vs. tyranny can't change. However, they are allowed to embrace the Light or Dark Side as they so choose, so a member of the Republic might be The Cape or an Anti-Hero willing to embrace Imperial tactics if it means winning the war. On the other hand, an Imperial character might be a traditional Complete Monster, or a Consummate Professional who eschews unnecessary cruelty and senseless violence. For instance, it is possible to rise to the Dark Council of the Empire as a Sith Inquisitor by taking an exclusively Light Sided path—and yet every LS choice will come across as a shrewd scheme that, first and foremost, advances the Inquisitor's agenda, and just happens to have an unintentional side effect of making life better for the others.
  • Arnie started out somewhat of a douchebag in Super Robot Wars UX, but after being captured by UX and seeing Richard, he realized there needs to be a justice outside of the laws like UX and aspires to become like Richard. The fact that he was willing to pilot the Orphes, knowing what it could do to his body is telling.

Web Comics
  • The titular antihero Shadehawk of Antihero for Hire has been making a slow but steady crawl towards the Disney Antiheroes. These days the real antihero of the strip is Crossroad, who's accused Shadey of "rampant idealism".
  • Maverick (i.e. future Kaycee Jones) in Magellan moved from Hero towards Anti-Hero after her mother's murder.
  • Lampshaded in Mandatory Roller Coaster with Tiger Pope declaring "All that stuff we told you was wrong and gross is actually pretty cool."
  • Characters in Ménage à 3 (and its spinoff, Sandra on the Rocks) are normally admirably resistant to anything as boring as learning lessons, but here, Tatiana realises that she may have gone too far. (She's just finished conducting an improvised psychosexual experiment on one character, and she's been bullying another for a while.) Admittedly, it's a small adjustment, and it may not stick.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Lampshaded and Subverted when Roy's moral compass is assessed after his death to decide which afterlife he should go to. Though he'd identified himself as Lawful Good through the story up to that point, the assessing angel pointed out his more questionable decisions, such as hiring Belkar, and suggested that his mixed bag of motivations and methods would make him fit better as Neutral Good. In the end, he's still found Lawful Good.
    • Belkar sort of had one, going from Stupid Evil to Chaotic Evil But Careful About It.
    • Vaarsuvius has had at least two adjustments, though exactly when they occurred is up for debate. Apparently, Vaarsuvius's actual alignment is True Neutral: s/he wants to save the world, but cares more about his personal goals, and does what s/he needs to do to accomplish them.

Web Original

Western Animation
The Moral SubstituteMorality TropesMorality Ballad
Mirror Morality MachineHeel Face IndexMotive Decay

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