One would hope that most members of a Noble Profession, though human and prone to imperfection, are decent folk who make an honest effort to uphold the basic moral and ethical standards one might associate with the position.
And then there's this character.
She's a nun, at least that's what it says on her job resume. However, she acts nothing like what she's claiming to be. Instead, she can be violent, destructive, steal from the collection plate, wear revealing clothing, be perverted like the best of them, forget all about her chastity vows, take God's name in vain and swear so much she'd make a sailor cry, not to mention that she seems to have ideas or notions that directly contradict the Church she belongs to. In other words, she's anything but the normal image of a member of the Church you'd expect. It leads one to wonder how she managed to land this job in the first place. Like the Bunny-Ears Lawyer, It is possible that she's actually good at parts of her job... once you bypass all the rest of the stuff she does.
One of three things usually occur.
The character's coworkers decide they've had enough and kick her out. May be Played for Drama.
The character is punished or called out for her actions, but the response is halfhearted and the character remains. May be Played for Laughs.
The Nun Too Holy character is revealed to have a redeeming trait that makes her immune to getting the boot.
In some cases, it seems likely the character never had any interest in performing their role adequately; they are just using the position and the church (or other organization) to further their own ends, whether that is a source of funds to embezzle from to a front for an Elaborate Underground Base. In this case they might be anything from the Big Bad to an Anti-Hero leader working within the church to fight its enemies behind The Masquerade.
In other cases the character simply finds that the air of semi - respectability her position gives her is just too convenient to give up. The character in this case is often Mrs. ViceGal, a traditional hard - drinking Anti-Hero, or an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
Most often, the character is a sympathetic Hero with an F in Good who is sincere about responding to The Call but can't seem to bring themselves to control their excesses.
Asia from Highschool Dx D is a subversion. She's a nun who was turned into a demon, but she's still as sweet and kind as she was while as a human.
The whole local church in Black Lagoon, they're actually drug and arms dealers. The nun, Eda, might be the most prominent example on the show. As revealed in later arcs, she's a CIA agent posing as a nun.
Sort of invoked with one half of the Iscariot Organization team in Hellsing - a nun with a violent, sword-wielding split personality. Technically her partner Heinkel probably should be a nun as well, but instead she Crossdresses as a priest.
Miroku in Inuyasha is an itinerant Buddhist monk who is very good at fighting youkai, but terrible at being a Buddhist, between his incessant skirt-chasing and his habit of conning his way into money and comfortable lodgings whenever possible.
This is reasonably historically accurate, given that many monks of the time were incessantly criticized by laymen, both commoners and authorities alike, for doing exactly these things. It was said that there were no worse Buddhists in medieval Japan than among the clergy. Miroku himself manages to stay among the more benevolent examples of the trope and proves to be capable of deep spirituality when the situation is serious... but he's still a terrible Buddhist.
Sister Angela from One Pound Gospel. A mild example, since her only serious indiscretion is her relationship with Kosaku.
Esther Blanchett from Trinity Blood: not only is it suggested she is in love with both Father Nightroad and Count Ion, at a couple points in the story she's also on the run for murder charges!
It should be noted that she was like that before beoming a nun! Partly Fiery Redhead! Partly Dietrich's influence! Reread the first volume! Fridge Logic in that if she hung around him so much how come she never joined the Order? Weren't they lovers (before Abel came into the picture)? Also her Pettanko status doesn't help her personality!
In the Anime, however, she apparently became a nun at age five, which probably has a lot to do with it.
Wait, then wouldn't she be more inclined to be more holy, then? If that is how she was mostly brought up...
It should also be noted that Esther isn't the only nun indicated to be in love with Father Nightroad; Sister Noélle Bor openly admits it to him. Abel gently rejects her, but seems to find nothing inappropriate about the idea. Given that the current Pope is openly acknowledged to be the son of the previous Pope, it seems that in the distant future of Trinity Blood, the Catholic Church has dropped the requirement of celibacy for the clergy.
But nuns aren't clergy. The celibacy requirement CAN'T be lifted for nuns because it's intrinsic to what a nun is. Nuns are monastics, and all monastics take vows of celibacy and poverty.
The manga has a better example in Sister Monica Argento, who despite being a nun crossdresses as a priest, and who greatly enjoys killing. And she's one of the good guys! (More or less.)
The killing also appears to be less of a problem in Trinity's Catholic Church, considering that there are at least two organizations within the Church whose members are authorized to kill if necessary when carrying out their missions. It is also possible that Ester repented regarding her murderous actions between arriving in Rome as a novice and becoming a full-fledged nun.
What Miyu, Alyssa, and Nao become at the end of Mai-Hime. Nao in particular used to pose as a child prostitute and rob her clients with the help of her Child.
Yukariko herself is also one, as despite her innocence and lack of knowledge about men, she gets visibly drunk during the Karaoke party, and also gets into a relationship with Ishigami, becoming pregnant in the process (although this may have been due to rape). At least in her case she has apparently stopped being a nun at the end of the series, though she still works at the church.
Zange in Kannagi, daughter of a priest, dresses as a nun, but with a miniskirt.
The trope description fits Rosette Christopher from Chrono Crusade to a T. She constantly swears, physically takes her frustration out on her assistant Chrono (who's a demon, by the way) when things go wrong, enjoys gambling, revels in wearing expensive clothing, in one scene gets rip-roaring drunk and then forces a twelve-year-old to drink - during Prohibition, Drives Like Crazy, and... happens to be one of the best exorcists in the Magdalene Order, when she manages not to destroy anything. The Order puts up with her behavior because not only is she very good and very dedicated to what she does, she has an extremely good reason for being there—saving her younger brother from a powerful demon.
Note that Rosette does not have a religious vocation, never claimed to have a religious vocation, only joined up for the training and resources she needed in order to save her brother, and left the Magdalene Order shortly after doing so.
Sister is also pretty much definitely not an actual holy-person of any religion too - as he seems to think God is Big Boss and his "Bible" is filled with a variety of misquotes from everything to Christian to Buddhist texts.
Sister Sein in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Getting trained as a nun for a few years under the strict supervision of Sister Schach had done nothing to reduce her mischievous personality. For example, her first appearance on ViVid involved surprise Skinship Grope and secretly touching everyone's no-no places while they were relaxing in the hot springs.
Teana: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense, you know.
It is, however, indicated that, immature tendencies aside, she's a caring individual who's good at her job. In Sound Stage X, she notices when an elderly pilgrim is about to collapse and carries her the rest of the way, and she is often seen caring for the comatose Ixpellia.
Nicholas D. Wolfwood of Trigun is a male example. He claims to be a travelling Christian priest, yet he drinks, smokes, sells confessional sessions for money, kills both for profit and for expediency, and is the member of a Church Militant in the manga and functionally a Knives priest-in-training in the anime. In the anime, he even admits he's never actually been inside a church before when he stumbles into one to make his last confessions and die.
Genjyo Sanzo of Saiyuki. A Buddhist priest known for his heavy smoking, easy irritability and general disinterest in giving sermons whenever possible. Also notorious among Youkai for being a killer marksman.
Index is no wallflower, may be a glutton, but she doesn't swear and has decent manners when she isn't biting Touma's head. She also apparently didn't have any underwear prior to meeting Touma. And a number of times afterwards.
The Roman Catholic's ranks seem to subside on nuns with weapons and criminally short skirts (especially Agnese, and especially her Stripperiffic Restraining Bolt during her second appearance). They're also dangerously zealous and pay no heed to the cardinal rule thou shall not kill.To be fair about it, their initial schemes to convert Academy City seem to try and Take a Third Option to killing.
The Amakusa are unique in that they seem to be a variant of Kirisuto-kyō. The whole sect tends to be portrayed more as noble ninja than a religious denomination, though the portrayal has its reasons. They also have their own Saint. Who frequently kicks ass and almost always dresses in Stripperiffic street clothes herself. She also gets away with fighting one of the highest Angels, in part because of her powers as a Saint, but also uses the justification that Japanese tradition holds that you can successfully fight ''kami''.
Double subverted in Hayate the Combat Butler with Sister Freesia. At first, it seems that she lives up to this, being stingy, greedy, and showing hints of a Yandere nature. Subverted when it's revealed that the character first introduced as Sister Freesia, Sonia, is an impostor. Double subverted when it's revealed that the real Sister Freesia doesn't act mature at all and obsesses over boy bands. Played straight by the priest, a noted lech and obsessed with role-playing games.
The Soldat nuns in Noir serve as Elite Mooks for the organization, which already has a fairly impressive army of assassins at its back, and put up a surprisingly valiant fight against the title duo, with one even coming at the pair with a broadsword.
Misora Kasuga from Mahou Sensei Negima! also counts as this. Despite working as a Church Militant for Mahora, she prefers using her Sprint Shoes to escape rather than for assistance. And that's not even counting her mischievous deeds, including posing as a priest inside a confessional.
Seira Mimori from Kaitou Saint Tail has stolen (once), lied (repeatly), violated confessional secrets (on average once every chapter), and is in cahoot with the titular thief, and is fully aware she's not supposed to do any of it. Her saving grace are that said thief is Just Like Robin Hood and only steals already stolen things to give them back to the legitimate owners (and both justify their actions with having to do it for justice: none of them actually likes stealing), and once Saint Tail retires she stops doing most of that (the Distant Epilogue implies she still violates the confessional secret to send former Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist to unmask thieves and scammers).
The Ghost Rider arc "Heaven's On Fire" introduced a legion of Gun Nuns. Yes, that's the actual name of their order. Previously we'd also seen a deadly order of martial artist nuns. That said, they aren't actually bad, they just go to necessary extremes. The Gun Nuns protect the portal to Hell, after all.
Soeur Marie-Thérèse des Batignolles◊: drinks, fights ◊, swears, smokes dope, hates kids, reads pr0n magazines, punches fouls and completely disrespects her hierarchy. But then, she is also good friend with the pope.
The Solicitines in Castle Waiting are an unusually serious and sympathetic example. They're genuinely religious and caring of other people, but they have absolutely no problem with helping women permanently escape from abusive husbands (to the point of implied murder if necessary), are happy for members to flirt with men and even leave if they meet a guy who seems worth it, and make most of their money from distributing massively alcoholic desserts.
The Italian comic book Suore Ninja (literally "Ninja Nuns") has as protagonists three ninja nuns who are implied to regularly compete for the higher body count whenever they're sicked at some threat to the Holy Church.
Nao in the Mai-HiME fanfic The Sword of the Lord. She swears quite often (in and out of her narration), likes to drink and occasionally has contact with men. Yukariko is still a nun despite being married, which Nao suspects is only allowed because she got an exemption in exchange for keeping quiet about Joseph's infiltration, forced a bishop to submit or used St. Vlas' powers to convince people it was allowd. It's suggested that the order as a whole loosely follows the rules, being more focused on dealing with supernatural threats.
The title character of Luis Buñuel's Viridiana is a novitiate-nun who tries to be Mother Theresa, but is secretly Prideful of her Good Works. She's really more misinformed and naive than 'bad', but she screws it up magnificently nevertheless.
Sister Maria from The Sound of Music: 'She's always late for everything except for every meal'. Another mild example, she has strong moral character, is hard working, compassionate, and a talented music teacher, but it's obvious to the other nuns that becoming a nun was a poor career choice for Maria.
Worth mentioning, although it was done in the name of heroism: In the movie only, when the Von Trapp family is on the run from the Nazis in the Abbey, a group of sisters come to the Reverend Mother and cross themselves, intoning "Bless us mother, for we have sinned." Then from under their habits they pull the car parts they stole from the soldier's cars.
The real Maria averted this as she was the classic stereotype of the stern, sour-faced, ruler wielding nun. It was the father, Georg von Trapp, who was carefree, letting his children get away with murder, until Maria disciplined them.
Delores from Sister Act. Justified in that she's really a lounge singer and witness in a high profile court case who was sent to the convent by the authorities to protect her. Subverted in that if it weren't for her party girl side, she'd have made a very good nun.
In Nun of That, the Order of the Black Habit are nun assassins. The lead character, Sister Wrath, was chosen for the order specifically because she beat up a nun who was trying to have sex with her and a priest who was having sex in the confessional on separate occasions.
Mother Superior in Silent Night, Deadly Night is, for all intents and purposes, a nun. She's even as holy as a nun (and even behaves like one) for the most part. However, she's rather abusive towards Billy, and she even does something that can only be described as torturing him in his sleep at one point. She does not (or, more accurately, refuses to) understand what that one night on the road did to him. This does not help Billy's mental state one bit, and even contributes to his becoming the most infamous Slasher Santa the screen has ever seen. Of course, she truly believes she's doing the right thing for the whole film, so she's more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist than anything.
A male example with Rev. Henley in Hell's Hinges (1916). He only became a pastor because his mom wanted him to. When he goes to the Wild West town of Hell's Hinges, he's seduced into drinking and debauchery, and winds up joining the mob of toughs to burn down his own church.
Here's one: A couple of nuns go into the city to buy some groceries for their convent. But they aren't very experienced drivers and soon they get lost and run out of gas in a bad part of town. A local gang sees their expensive car, and the leader comes over and leans on the hood and sticks a gun in Sister Mary's face. She says "Sister Agatha, what should I do?," and Sister Agatha says "Show him your cross," and Sister Mary says, "Get off my fucking car!"
Christopher Moore's Fool: A woman supposedly so dedicated to asceticism she is locked up in solitary in a convent turns out to have an extremely inventive mind when it comes to sex with one of the altar boys, despite the fact that her only access to the outside world is a small cross-shaped window...
The entire convent appears to be having sex, at least with each other, and has a definite interest in male anatomy. But they still have something to lose and so care about maintaining appearances.
The Sister of Battle trainer in Cain's Last Stand is a loyal and pious soldier of His Divine Majesty's church - and also drinks and plays cards with the navy, infantry, and Commissariat trainers in her down time ( and is having an affair with the head administrator - Amberly mentions in a footnote that not all Sororitas orders impose a vow of celibacy).
Mother Mary Bellarmine in Jane Haddam's Murder Superior fits this trope.
Father Lavingy in Agatha Christie's Murder in Mesopotamia's behavior isn't quite right for a priest; most of the party being Protestants, they don't catch it, but the Catholic Poirot does. Turns out he's a thief masquerading as a priest.
A mild example, in The Long Earth, Joshua has noted that the nuns who run the orphanage aren't much like nuns on TV. The main one we see is Sister Agnes, a Badass Biker who plays Jim Steinman too loudly for the other nuns' liking. There's also Sister Serendipity, who has joined holy orders until the FBI stop looking for her. (Sister Agnes says it was all a misunderstanding, and it's not like she succeeded in shooting the senator.)
Live Action TV
Desmond on LOST became a monk after receiving a sign from God, but was kicked out for drinking the wine made at the monastery and it being clear that it wasn't where he belonged.
Pushing Daisies had a plot in the second season where Olive became a nun to avoid the stress from all the secrets people entrusted her with. Olive herself wasn't that great of a nun (trying desperately to take back her stuff from the poor when it was donated), and at least one other nun like this was featured in an episode.
In one episode of Leverage, Parker dresses as a nun. The audience knew that she wasn't, but it was still an amusing scene. Especially when she pulls up her skirt to reach lockpicks attached to her leg and uses a fake bible to take an imprint of a key and make a plastic duplicate. (Earlier she was mistaken for an angel while stealing a statue)
Also Sister Lupe in "The Boys Night Out Job", who Nate's friend Jack met and had feelings for. Nate kept stressing "She's not a nun". She pulled a gun on him when thinking he had a hand in stopping Jack of delivering cancer drugs, and he, Elliot, and Hardison work together to take down two drug lords after them.
Sybil on Camelot is manipulative, cunning, and delves into pagan magic more than once, up to and including "sacrificing" girls studying at her Convent (whether they died as a result is left unclear) to keep spiritual forces at bay.
In one episode of Robin Hood, an 'Abbess' turns up at Nottingham Castle. Her bearing and behavior are not quite right—it turns out she was a thief planning to steal the tax money being stored in the chapel.
Sister Jude is vindictive, cruel to several of the patients at Briarcliff, and is clearly infatuated with Monsignor Howard, and gets the heroine Lana committed to keep her from exposing the inhumane treatments of the asylum. When Jude goes through a massiveBreak the Haughty routine as well as some light shed on her own past, she is revealed to have some Hidden Depths.
Sister Mary Eunice starts off as a genuinely sweet girl who is way in over her head and only wants to get Sister Jude's approval. When she's possessed by the Devil himself, she plays this straight, though it's revealed she's been Fighting from the Inside, and once she's able to regain control of herself for a brief moment, she begs Monsignor Howard to kill her and stop the Devil.
Bloodline has the Shengdi nuns, who are elite combat warriors of the Church Militant organization. Some are mild while other can be more Knight Templar, not caring who is in the way of their missions.
It is also saying something that Sulumor is one of the more conservatively dressed female characters in Exalted canon. Compare the Lady of Darkness in Bloodstained Robes, who is a high priestess of the Neverborn, the dead cousins of the Yozis, who wears... Well, the jury is still out on whether what she has constitutes wearing something.
The bulk troops of the Oracle Think Tank company in Cardfight Vangaurd are all nuns with theme names related to chocolate called "battle sisters". They all carry excessive amounts of weaponry, be it knives, miniguns or otherwise. This is somewhat able to get a pass because they do not serve a church but instead serve a Big Good corporation run by a Japanese goddess.
In La Pucelle, Prier is rude, very violent (inside and outside her demon hunting job), steals on occasion from the Church, doesn't take prayer that seriously, and sometimes outright decides to go against their own Holy Scriptures. Everyone calls her out on that, especially since she aims to become The Messiah.
Keep in mind Prier apparently really did become a Demon Overlord in the Disgaea games.
Ironically enough, in La Pucelle, the goddess Poitreene SAYS she shouldn't be worshiped, she's just as "aspect" of Light in general.
Skullgirls has Double, the demon who's true appearance is a morphing creature of Body Horror. Played with in that she is an agent of the Trinity
The H-Game series Kango Shicyauzo features one nun who 'sometimes falls asleep when she is in bed with a boyfriend', a second who apparently fell in love with a priest and joined the sisterhood in order to stalk him, and a third who is the biological mother of one of her students...
In the iPhone app and Xbox Indie game Twin Blades , we might excuse the heavy weapons she carts around as necessary for killing zombies. The revealing red dress and white stockings, though...
Dragon Age: Origins gives us Leliana who used to be a nun before she joined your party. While she qualifies for this trope based on how unlike the nuns of her setting she is, there are several subversions here. The big one is she disagree's with Chantry dogma and believes the creator is a loving god instead of an indifferent one.
Referencing the brothel mentioned in the Real Life section below, Sister Teodora in Assassin's Creed II runs a bordello staffed by (former) nuns. She says she takes care of both the body and the soul.
And of course, Pope Alexander VI (again, see Real Life) shows up in the game - as Big Bad Rodrigo Borgia.
Mutatsu in Persona 3 is a cigar-smoking, hard-drinking, very bitter Buddhist monk. He's the game's Tower Social Link, and the protagonist meets him hanging out at a local club.
There are two nuns in the Arcana Heart series. Elsa la Conti mostly averts this trope, despite being armed with a large cross and several other weapons (which could be excused as she works for an organization trained to deal with spiritual anomalies). On the other hand, her partner, Clarice di Lanza, is a full-blooded demon who acts rather immoral at times (though she usually means well), as well as having a major lesbian crush on Elsa.
in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, we have Danica Pure-Spring, the high priestess of Kynareth in Whiterun. She consoles Ahlam about the Jerkass proclivities of Ahlam's husband... not in being faithful to him, but agreeing with Ahlam's assessment that he's a jerkass and maybe that if the Stormcloaks attack the city then maybe he'll be killed.
In Sonichu, Angelica Rosechu may have been raised in a convent, but that doesn't stop her from masturbating (in churches, no less!).
Sister Butch from John Callahans Quads, oh where do we begin? Somewhat of a subversion since she is unhealthily devoted to the church, but at the same time she's a violent, aggressive beast with a Voice of the Legion when she gets angry and a somewhat pleasant working relationship with Satan.
It wasn't terribly unheard-of for Renaissance Popes to lavish attention on "nieces" and "nephews" whose mothers didn't appear to have a close blood tie to the Pope and whose fathers were nowhere to be found, and this is actually the origin of the term Nepotism. Alexander VI was just the first to openly acknowledge his daughter and three sons.
There was a brothel in medieval England that catered to customers with a Naughty Nuns fetish. None of the employees were actually nuns, but they wore the full costume.
The "Nuns Having Fun" calendars are fairly mild cases, but the appeal comes largely from this trope. They ride roller coasters, dance around, go paddling in their habits, and smoke cigarettes, and it's all pretty giggle-worthy because they're nuns.
A certain good-sized priest had a story about how he got the chance to attend a ceremony at the Vatican that was being led by the Pope. As soon as the Pope appeared, he claims that, in their zeal to reach the pontificate, a couple of little old Italian nuns knocked him out of the way as if they were pro linebackers.
Averted with St Margret of Hungary, but played somewhat straight with the other nuns who don't like her too much for taking her role as a nun too seriously. According to the medieval hagiographies at least. One thing that is often overlooked or played down, is the fact she basically threw her father, the King, out of the monastery when he wanted to call her back for an arranged marriage, making her probably one of the most independent women remembered from her time. Not exactly what nuns are known for.
Benedetta Carlini was a nun who used her position within the church to have sex with and even marry another nun.