Vows? I'll show you some vows!
"Have you come to give confession? I will gladly accept your tithe...in BLOOD."
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.
Additionally, on rare occasions, this character type will become Team Mom
to a Badass Crew
, Good-Enough Shepherd
to a group of Darker and Edgier
variety of heros a more traditional Apron Matron would run screaming from
The character's reasons for being the way they are may vary:
- 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.
- Alternately, they may be a fusion of Badass Preacher and Lady of War note , forming a one-woman Church Militant. This type can range from knight in sour habit to a living incarnation of Good Is Not Nice. This variation often openly acknowledges their own hypocrisy, but consider their own vices trivial compared the evil they oppose. Fairly common in Urban Fantasy and punk generas.
- Another possibility is that she's simply one small (or not so small) example of what happens when the whole Church becomes rotten to the core.
- Occasionally in historical fiction, the character will have been forced into the role by family, the Church, or society and will have no real aptitude or calling.
- This trope is often subverted; the character turns out never to have been a nun, but is an imposter or simply doesn't correct others' confusion.
When punished for their vagrancies or faced with a Moral Event Horizon
that pushes them beyond even their own limits of acceptable behavior, this character can variously Jump Off The Slippery Slope
and become The Unfettered
answering to no one but themselves, turn against their order
, or even suddenly realize how far they have fallen
and seek redemption and reform
Much less Truth in Television
than it used to be. Convents in the Middle Ages were used as dumping grounds for unruly noblewomen, who made equally unruly nuns and possibly the Trope Maker
for Naughty Nuns
This trope can apply to any member of a religious order- any character whose nominal role is that of a holy person, moral leader, etc. can be Nun Too Holy
, though as the name suggests, this is most commonly used to describe a female character. For specifically male characters of this sort, see Dirty Old Monk
Sometimes overlaps with Nuns Are Funny
, Nuns Are Mikos
, Nuns Are Spooky
, Naughty Nuns
, Sexy Priest
, or The Vicar
. If the character is sincere but mistreats those they are supposed to cater to, they may be a Jerkass Woobie
For characters who take their role as a moral leader too
seriously rather than not seriously enough, see Knight Templar
or Well-Intentioned Extremist
Compare also the Sinister Minister
and Churchgoing Villain
Don't confuse with Bad Habits
, which is about villains dressing
like nuns or priests even though they're not.
Take into consideration the actual setting when adding examples- if everyone is dressed like Naughty Nuns
in the Church, then simply wearing a sexy nun outfit isn't enough to be Nun Too Holy
, nor is innocent mock-flirtation with no intent to act upon the attraction. This trope is about a character that flagrantly and unapologetically violates doctrine, appropriate behavior for their position, common courtesy, or all of the above, on a regular basis.
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Anime and Manga
- Played with in the European comic book series Soda. One book has a (male) small-time criminal who dresses up as a nun for disguise. Of course, Soda himself is a rare male example (and subversion), since he dresses up as a priest to fool his old mother into thinking he is one and not a gun-toting cop.
- Bad Girl icon "Shotgun" Mary Delacroix from Warrior Nun Areala: Give her 20 "Hail Marys" or she'll chop your head off.
- 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.
- In AA Pessimal's take on the Discworld, the Chaplain to the Thieves' Guild School is a cheerful motherly nun, beloved by her pupils, kind, loving and suporting. Who was on the run for embezzling large amounts of money from her Order, which she maintains was "resting" in her bank account. Her motto for reverend contemplation is The Gods help those who help themselves. This is believed to be based on a real case where a cheerful Irish nun, headmistress of a convent school, bankrupted the school by persistent and well-concealed theft estimated at a million pounds over ten years.
- 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. Though she also said that the part about her being ill-suited for the Abbey was accurate. When asked if she was that troublesome in real life, she replied, "I was worse!"
- 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.
- Sara in Two Mules for Sister Sara.
- Subverted in that Sister Sara is a prostitute merely posing as a nun to avoid being killed.
- Spy Hard has gun-toting nuns.
- 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!"
- A man is walking through downtown when a prostitute tells him "For thirty bucks, I'll give you a blowjob." The man had never heard of blowjobs before, so he wandered through town trying to think of what it could be. Finally, he saw a nun and decided to ask her. "Sister, what is a blowjob?" he asked. "Thirty bucks, same as downtown," she replied.
- 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...
- Theconvent 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 - Amberley 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.
- In The Three Musketeers, Milady once was a nun. She obviously didn't take it seriously.
- Tyene Sand of A Song of Ice and Fire is in training to be a septa, and puts on a show of being sweet and pious — being blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful doesn't hurt. However, she's also a Master Poisoner and just as bloodthirsty and deadly as any of her Badass Family.
- 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.)
- Kitsune Sura of Spirit Hunters drinks a lot, makes dirty jokes, gambles, eats tons of meat, and streaks in public; surprising many who hear that she's a priestess. Her standard response is that she's a Taoist, not a Buddhist like most of them are used to. Though in real life one of the two major schools of Daoshi has similar requirements as Buddhist monks, the other doesn't.
- In Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy, Sammy's church is visited by some very free-spirited nuns (the titular Sisters of Mercy) who are very kind and devoted but also enjoy playing jaunty music on the organ during Mass and dancing in outfits made of purple feathers. Sammy considers them unusual but loves having them around. It then turns out that they use their act as a way to stick around churches long enough to steal anything of value, which makes it possible that they were only posing as nuns.
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.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus had "Attila the Nun", who took a vow of eternal brutality.
- 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.
- American Horror Story: Asylum has Sister Jude and Sister Mary Eunice, who are both deconstructed.
- 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 massive Break 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.
- Prince Edmund in The Black Adder episode "The Archbishop", when he becomes Archbishop despite not believing in God, because King Richard wants him to discourage the pentient from leaving their money to the church. There's also several gags about Naughty Nuns.
Edmund: Selling the sexual favours of nuns? You mean some people actually pay?
Baldrick: You know, foreign businessmen, other nuns...
- The candid-camera style show Just For Laugh Gags got a lot of comedy mileage out of pranks involving nuns being naughty.
- In Jack Taylor, there was a nun who worked at St. Monica's Magdalene laundry in 1960s Galway who took extreme pleasure in terrorising her charges, referred to only as "Lucifer" in a diary account. At one point, the diary author's best friend is leaving the institution to get married, and then Lucifer stops by to wish her well when she spots a pack of cigarettes in the friend's luggage. Lucifer tells them how lucky they weren't caught a week ago, or they would have been punished severely for possession of tobacco, only to light one up in front of the two and then offer a cigarette to the lucky bride-to-be.
- Subverted in MidsomerMurders - while there is an episode that centered on a convent of nuns, they took their religious vows very seriously. It's just that political infighting (which is impressive since there's only four of them), [[Impoverished Patrician
lack of funds for maintaining the building]], stolen antiquities and the Prioress blackmailing a war criminal who later kills two people
makes everyone outside the Priory very suspicious of them.
- 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.
- The Tabletop RPG Macho Women With Guns supplement Renegade Nuns on Wheels.
- The whole point of a short lived reality show about priests in training... and their girlfriends.
- In Warhammer Fantasy battles Nagash used his posistion as head of church when he tried to conquer the world his first time.
- Exalted features Sulamore, one of the signature characters of the Infernal Exalted, who wears clothing approaching a nun's vestments, but a) she acts as a servitor of the will of the Yozis upon creation, and b) there's a reason that clothing is "approaching" a nun's vestments.
- 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!! Vanguard 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.
- 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 Assassins 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.
- Mother Judgement from New Grounds. The main screen sums it up as "Nun with guns".
- 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.
- Bayonetta, the hypersexualized, sadistic titular protagonist enjoys doing the whole nun thing, and judging from the fact her job is doing graveyard burials and last rites disguised as a one, it's entirely possible that it's her cover story/a way to piss off enough angels to meet her quota.
- In Sonichu, Angelica Rosechu may have been raised in a convent, but that doesn't stop her from masturbating (in churches, no less!).
- Mary in Joseph And Yusra swears, fights, and is a professional sniper.
- Sister Butch from John Callahan's 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.
- As stated above, often Truth in Television during periods when the fate of The Unfavorite or a younger son was often being forced into a career in the church.
- On the other hand, it was also a convenient way to lead a more or less comfy life and avoid being sent to fight and die in the military.
- Pope Alexander VI. Among his more notable accomplishments, preventing a major war and fathering Lucrezia Borgia.
- 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.
- A British World War II Public Service Announcement film warned the public to be on the look out for Nazi paratroopers disguised as nuns. People were warned to look out for nuns with hairy forearms, adam's apples, and tattoos spelling out H.I.T.L.E.R.
- 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.