It's only natural for a writer to see things from the protagonists' Sympathetic Point Of View. Due to their frequent role as narrators and Point of View characters, a protagonist's perspective tends to make an impression on the work more than any other character's — their thoughts will overlap with narration, their feelings will shape the setting and their priorities will dictate the plot. The way events are treated will be colored by how they relate to the protagonist, the things they love, the people they care about. It's hard to imagine a story told otherwise.
But then sometimes this point of view seems to spread like an inkblot and color the way everything behaves and thinks. The work lapses into Protagonist-Centered Morality — a state where, on some profound cosmic level, the very fabric of the fictional universe seems to be seeing things from the protagonist's point of view. Every single sympathetic character, the symbolism, the narration, judge characters as worthy of praise, condemnation or indifference depending on how much favor they carry with the "good guys". The protagonist themself can seemingly do no wrong, and even if there's anyone at all who would beg to differ, they're obviously a bad guy.
Suppose, for example, there is a character who slaughters innocent villagers by the thousands, but once helped save The Hero's mother because of whatever motivation; The Hero will easily forgive this guy, buy them a drink, and may even invite them to join the team. Then there is another character who routinely saves orphans from burning buildings who once used his resultant fame to woo away the protagonist's Love Interest. They will be an object of scorn.
Now, this alone is just portraying a realistically flawed hero — the final piece of the puzzle is that the narrative is in on the myopia. There will be no warning signs that the protagonist is being unfair to the hero who saved all these people. No one calls them out on how disrespectful they're being to the memory of thousands of the mass-murderer's victims. This will not come back to haunt them. The Lancer will offer to chip in on that free drink.
The protagonist is essentially acting as though, in certain respects, it really is All About Them, and the narrator might wellbe agreeing.
This may be a generator of both Designated Heroes and Designated Villains, if the audience notices that the character is being judged only by a narrow section of their activities. Villains who supposedly "redeem" themselves in this manner can be Karma Houdinis, although they don't have to be. One of the defining traits of a Mary Sue, especially the Jerk Sue.
A specific type of Moral Dissonance which can lead to Aesop Breakage. Compare A Million is a Statistic, where a million deaths can be excused, but a single death of someone with a name and screentime cannot. Also compare Always Save the Girl, in which the protagonist puts the well-being of his/her love interest above everything else. Subtrope of Selective Enforcement. See also Rule of Empathy. Moral Myopia is when a character tries to invoke this but the narrative disagrees.
Needless to say, as far as the way we humans perceive the world goes, this is more Truth in Television than we'd care to admit.
NOTE: This is an in-universe trope. It only applies if the characters in-story have this mindset. If you think a fandom is playing favorites, take it to the work's YMMV page.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Several characters in InuYasha, most glaringly Koga. His wolf pack ate Rin's entire village and gleefully killed her when she tried escaping. But after kidnapping Kagome and a little mini arc, suddenly he's been turned into The Rival and no worse. When Koga kidnapped Kagome he was more than willing to let his pack eat Shippo, who is the demon equivalent of a seven year old, until Kagome refused to help him if they did. He turned intoThe Atoner much later in the series, though he still maintained a Jerkass Façade.
Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z, who had no problem destroying whole planets, often for no reason at all other than he could. However, after he starts helping the heroes against bigger villains and ends up giving his life in the process, he's suddenly considered part of the team and the heroes work alongside him, even if they still pay lip service to how much they supposedly hate him.
Piccolo is similar. His previous incarnation did countless crimes, but once his reincarnationnote who has all the same memories as the original, and on a spiritual level counts as the same person (killing him kills Kami too) joins Goku's side, he's a good guy, with all bad deeds swept under the rug.
Gets an almost-subversion during the Buu saga. As Vegeta prepares to make his Heroic Sacrifice, he asks Piccolo about the afterlife. Piccolo informs him that his previous crimes are too great for this alone to make amends, and that he's still basically going to Hell. However, he gets to come back to life 30 episodes later. And later, when Goku asks the Namekkians (who've gathered their Dragon Balls) for everyone except "the bad guys" get brought back to life, Vegita somehow gets included in this mass resurrection.
Pegasus in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. He kidnaps people, rips their souls from their bodies and puts them in trading cards, and forces them to play a children card's game in an evil dimension that drains their lives... But once he's beaten by the good guys, his Necromantic reasons exposed and stops such villainous activities, he's suddenly considered a good guy, despite all the horrible crimes he committed in the past. Also Marik Ishtar, who has no problem mind raping, severely injuring, and on screen killing people. However once his split personality is defeated and he gives the Pharaoh a hand understanding his destiny, he's back being counted amongst the good guys. Note that some of the mind raping was not done by his evil split personality, so that's not much of an excuse. In both cases the trope overlaps with Defeat Means Friendship.
Naruto's obsession with redeeming a traitor and would-be mass murderer just because they happened to have a complicated friendship/Worthy Opponent/brotherly relationship with is treated, at worst, as idealistic to a fault.
Sasuke gets a huge amount of moral leeway with his crimes. Despite becoming a murdering sociopath who would - canonically - sell his teammates down the river for the chance to get "revenge", he is treated by Naruto - and the narrative - as being worthy of redemption, as a lost friend who has strayed down the wrong path but can be brought back to the light by the Power of Friendship. Anyone who disagrees with this and thinks that Sasuke should be severely punished is instantly portrayed as narrow-minded and often hypocritical in the face of Naruto's messianic willingness to forgive. Of course, Naruto does have a bad track record of forgiving mass-murdering villains once they show remorse or friendship (including the Eldritch Abomination that was until recently trying to essentially eat his soul and break out of his body to unleash untold horror on the world of mortals) - a lot like Goku in the above example - so YMMV on whether this is a serial perspective (where Sasuke is just a prominent example).
Happens a lot in Fairy Tail. The guild has a negative view of the Magic Council because it tries to restrict the guild at best and disband it at worst. This is largely because Fairy Tail openly disregards its laws and has a reputation for mass destruction of property. In addition, the council enforcers are seen as the bad guys at the end of the Nirvana arc because they arrested Hoteye and Jellal, who had assisted the protagonists. The main characters violently object despite the two they're defending are both known and wanted criminals.
It's an averted and/or justified trope in One Piece. The protagonists are pirates, so they don't care if someone does bad things unless It's Personal. If someone makes their friend cry, he's a bad guy (Arlong, Crocodile etc.) but if a bad guy helps them (Buggy, the same Crocodile) they are grateful and no one mentions their evil deeds. On the other hand they do understand that the marines are generally the good guys, but they get hostile treatment because their opposing standpoints. To sum it up, for a kid's series, morals are discussed pretty remarkably in the series.
Essentially, Luffy and the Strawhats do not consider themselves heroes, they don't do things for the greater good. Luffy only cares about his friends, it just so happens that most of the time when he's helping a friend or one of his crew members, he's doing the greater good. They mention this several times in the Fishmen Island arc.
"Listen up! Heroes are people who share their meat with other people!! I wanna eat my meat!!"
This whole trope is recognised in-universe as one of the most defining aspects of Lelouch's character; he started his war for the primary purpose of reshaping the world into one where his little sisterNunnally could be happy. He also shows a lot of favouritism to people he knows (like the incident with Shirley's father), and it takes a long time for him to abandon the restraint he shows towards Suzaku, even when it is quite obviously causing everyone a lot of trouble. His gradual realisation that he must keep going with his war for the good of the world even if it hurts Nunnally might have marked positive turning points in his Character Development, except they go hand-in-hand with the various parts of his Trauma Conga Line, which lead to all sorts of other problems.
Suzaku's more worried about being moralistic in his own actions than being worried about the morals of the people he works for, no matter how many innocent people die. Part of this is that he may not believe that Britannia can be defeated... but, as they say, evil only wins when good people do nothing.
Discussed and thoroughly exploited by a minor character: Luciano Bradley, the Knight of Ten. Before his climactic fight with Kallen's new Guren, mentions that acts that normally brand one as a mass murderer will instead be treated a hero if they do it for the sake of one's country. When Kallen presses that Luciano wants to be a hero, he flat out says that he simply enjoys killing, and the good reputation is just a bonus.
At the start of the second half of Magic Knight Rayearth, Umi comments on how the events of the end of the first half have left her unable to enjoy playing RPGs anymore. To paraphrase, "I'm the hero, but the antagonist sees me as the bad guy."
In Soul Eater, the main cast (especially Maka) is always on the side of Crona, despite the fact that xe has been repeatedly shown to be dangerously unstable with a sense of loyalty bordering on Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and a list of crimes including the murder of dozens, possibly even hundreds of innocents. At one point Maka even argues that Crona should be forgiven for hir most recent betrayal on the grounds that if her father was forgiven for committing adultery then Crona should be allowed to get away with helping Medusa drive Professor Stein insane. The audience is apparently expected to buy this as a legitimate argument.
It gets worse in the manga, when Crona betrays Shibusen and murders an entire town, including a Death Scythe, Shinigami-Sama issues a death warrant for hir. We're expected to believe this is far too harsh of a sentence.
Tintin has a good deal of this, though Hergé seemed to be aware of it by the end of the series. If Tintin likes someone he is pretty quick to consider them good even though they don't deserve it. For instance he seems to believe Lazlo Carreidas is better than Rastapopoulos even though Carreidas himself would disagree.
The operative word here is "seems". Tintin is inclined to think favourably of Carreidas before the millionaire reveals the skeletons in his cupboard under the influence of Krolspell's truth serum. But it is not unreasonable to think of Rastapopoulos as worse than Carreidas just considering what he actually does and plans to do in Flight 714 (his master plan for instance involves murdering most of his mooks and henchmen).
He also supports Emir Ben Kalish Ezab over Bab El Ehr despite the fact the Ben Kalish Ezab apparently tortures people, thinks trials are a waste of time, and was fine with slave trading until Arabair refused his son's stupid request. Tintin's other pet dictator is of course General Alcazar who also thinks trials are a waste of time, is happy to start unnecessary wars, and names the capital after himself.
Even better, Alcazar was deposed by general Tapioca, who renamed the capital so that it was named after himself, and generally acted like Alcazar did, and Tintin helped Alcazar lead a revolution to get the country back because Tapioca was the evil one.
In Tintin and the Picaros Tintin only became involved in the civil war in San Theodoros because he wanted to save his friends Bianca Castafiore, Thompson and Thomson (wrongfully arrested as part of a plot against Tintin masterminded by Colonel Sponsz). And when he helped Alcazar to win he did it to ensure that the coup would be bloodless.
It should be pointed out that, in the cases of both Alcazar and Ezab, Tapioca and Bab Ehl Ehr aren't really any better, and in some cases appear to be even worse.
In Bill Willingham's Fables, a main source of tension is the Fabletown Charter's 'General Amnesty' to signatory Fables. Basically, it doesn't matter what horriblehorrible things a Fable did before signing, they are all forgiven as a means to allow Fables who have done wrong to live there without fear of reprisal. This is especially useful considering many Fables shared the same stories and did 'not nice' things to each other. This becomes interesting (and commented on several times) because characters like Bigby, Bluebeard, and Frau Totenkinder, who are essentially known mass murderers, are employed, accommodated, and at times respected because they work for the greater good of the small community of Fables. Of course, it helps they did give up their mass murdering ways when they came to the new world... mostly. Bluebeard didn't give up the mindset, which cost him his life after murdering an innocent, and Frau Totenkinder has some kind of appalling (by Fable standards) means to keep her magic strong.
Geppeto, on the other hand, is a known and active mass murder who's not okay because he was acting for the "greater good" of millions of inhabitants across many, many worlds. It's been shown that he actually did create a functional and not outrageously repressive dictatorship where people could live peacefully, albeit with high taxes, conscription, and immediate and gory death to all resistance and AWOL soldiers. Pinocchiostill loves him dearly, despite putting a geas on him.
Averted in one issue of Green Arrow. Ollie befriends an Irish man, who he later finds out is a terrorist for the IRA. Initially he's hesitant to go after him, but after he sees pictures of the things he's done...
Neozoic is one of the worst. The Protagonist Lillin, an extremely competent dinosaur killer, captured (sorry, "saved") a little girl and smuggled her into fort Monanti in explicit disregard of the Laws- and by this she managed to cause the fall of the city by a horde of dinosaurs and a conquering force, the death of thousands, the foundation of a proto-mind slavery ring, the murder of her sister at the hands of a Dinosaur and the crippling of her Mentor. When everyone finds out about her deeds... she is lauded as the savior of the city because she managed to kill the Leader of the conquering force. Apparently if you retake a city and kill the bad guy all the consequences of your actions are forgiven no matter how horrific they may be.
Played for laughs by Sam & Max. They may or may not get the job done, and they may or may not use ethically questionable methods to do so, but they're the title characters, so whatever they do is just fine. This carries over into the video games as well.
In the Pokemon fanfic Pedestal, the protagonist breaks the main antagonist, a terrorist, out of jail. The morality of this is discussed surprisingly little in the fic compared to other issues.
In Christian Humber Reloaded, Vash kills a hunter after a setting off a trap, which breaks on his leg without harming him, and we are apparently supposed to think this is acceptable (the hypocrisy of him doing this despite having set off the trap while hunting is lampshaded in Normalman's webcomic adaptation notes) . His actions get worse from there, including killing a girl and everyone related to her for reporting him to the police, and killing all 6 million people at the Super Bowl to show the cops what it means to fight him. The author treats most of Vash's killings as justified, and when the villains commit comparable or even lesser crimes, they're quickly killed, often by Vash himself.
In the world of Cori Falls's fanfiction, the quickest way to gauge whether or not someone's a good person is whether or not they agree with the morals of the protagonists. If you don't think Rex Raptor did the right thing or that Jessie and James's actions weren't justifiable, you're clearly evil.
The X-Men: Evolution fanfic Tsunami received a lot of its complaints because the authors tendency to do this. Namely, everyone depicted positively complains about doing some "hard work", which was a canon event in the series the story was based on (The story basically being a word for word retelling of X-Men Evolution with the addition of an OC), was depicted as just something normal teenagers do at the prospect of hard work. When Scott and Jean made a small comment about how hard this is, who did not complain in the series, they were bashed for being so lazy. This is forgetting that the OC and viewpoint character made a much bigger deal about the hard work two chapters ago. And that's just one example.
In the Indecisive Deconstruction fanfic known as Pokemon Revolution, the premise is that a lab-escapee Eevee convinces other Pokémon that training is enslavement, then leads a revolution. This is all very well and good until the Pokémon army marches into Pewter City, kills the soldiers who try to stop them... and doesn't stop there, slaughtering what is stated to be several hundred thousand civilians, who may or may not have even had anything to do with training. Consider that in terms of a real-life conflict...
In general, fanfics that are guilty of Ron the Death Eater or Die for Our Ship tend to do this. While one character is transformered into an unsympathetic characiture of themselves (if they're lucky), the main character and others will shun, mock, and shame them for every action or inaction they perform, while their love rival can treat them like crap, usually acting worse than the other character is shown doing but treated as if they're he symbol of morality.
The Conversion Bureau universe sees the ponies forcing humans to either lose their personalities and all other aspects of their selves in the conversion process... or die violently. The ponies are the protagonists. In any other story in the world (and, in fact, numerous Fix Fic deconstructions), they'd be utter monsters.
John Q has this in spades. The protagonist's son needs a heart transplant but can't afford it. Clearly, the big bad insurance agent is evil for not paying for his son's surgery. So John holds an entire hospital emergency room hostage, threatens to kill people if his son doesn't get a heart, and causes terror. However, there are only so many hearts available for transplant in the world. By blackmailing others to get his son a heart, he stole it from someone else, effectively killing that person. Then his son had his heart transplanted last minute by a group unprepared for the surgery, which lowered the odds of the transplant working. So John gave his son a lower chance of success of surviving the surgery than the person he stole the heart from. Not to mention the whole holding people hostage, disrupting an emergency room, which nearly resulted in one person dying, due to lack of proper treatment. Not only did John's stunt waste thousands of dollars, his 'victory' will encourage more people to blackmail the government for organs, which will further destabilize things, and most likely lead to more senseless deaths when the next blackmail attempt doesn't go as well as John's. Meanwhile, the insurance agent and doctor that are presented as the bad guys point out that they can't go around helping every little kid when there aren't enough hearts to go around. When you have to triage lives anyways, to triage lives based off financial affordability makes sense when the only other option is going bankrupt from never being paid for your services, and no one getting help.
The news media montage shown near the end basically states that John's actions do nothing to fix the Medicare problem, and that he was extremely lucky things worked out. Despite that, John's eventual conviction on multiple counts of kidnapping shows that he doesn't get off scot free, and realistically he would face decades in prison, even a life sentence. Furthermore, John set it up so that if he failed, no one else would get hurt. He didn't care about right, wrong, or himself, he just wanted his son to live.
But with that said, John Q becomes something of a hero to the media as the news story breaks, with people making impassioned pleas on his behalf in front of cameras on how he was forced into what he was doing by the unfair health care system. At his trial, every single one of the people he took hostage speaks on his behalf and asks for a lesser sentence, and it's even outright stated that no judge will give him any more than three to five years in prison (which will likely get bumped down to two).
Jonas from Twister. He's the bad guy because he 'stole' the idea for Dorothy (even though it obviously wasn't patented and he helped invent it in the first place), got funding for his research, and was 'competing' with the heroes to launch his invention first. But the movie sets him up as evil because he's a jerk to the hero despite the fact that if he succeeded, his data could also save people from tornadoes. Furthermore, Bill walks up and punches Jonas for no reason while Jonas is talking with reporters. And Jonas' "jerk-ness" is him snidely saying, "I really like your weather reports", sarcastically complimenting Bill on the job that Bill voluntarily quit tornado chasing to take!
When it comes to his protégé Mr. Orange, Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs has a definite case of Protagonist-Centered Morality. It is evident in the very first scene (White calls fellow thief Mr. Pink on his no-tipping policy, yet stays silent when Orange wants to follow suit), and then escalates in geometrical progression until the very end. Although in fairness, in the 'tipping' example one possible reason he stays silent is that Joe, who is everyone's boss and paying for the meal, immediately orders Orange to shut up and Pink to cough up a dollar for the time, thus settling the matter. Orange could also have been cracking a joke. It's certainly far from the most outrageous thing said in jest around that table so far, including Joe asking Blonde to shoot White.
The biographical film Michael Collins depicts the morality of the IRA's terrorist/guerrilla war against the UK largely in terms of what side Collins is on. When Collins is for revolution, revolution is the answer; when Collins decides that the revolution is over and turns his forces against those who want to keep the war going, that's that. The movie tries to put a bit more ambiguity into all of this than most, but still.
Jumper depicts everything as being quite all right and Davy finally having prevailed over the big, bad, evil world out to get him, when Davy, in fact, rampaged through other lives from the day he found his powers. He stole money from banks, left the Templar out in the desert to die with no hope of escape, ruined Griffin's war efforts and generally used people as mere toys of his whims (like endangering his family, girlfriend, and, again, Griffin, who tried to rescue him).
At one point a protagonist character teleports a moving bus into a fight in midair to attack an antagonist character. This is portrayed as simply an example of how formidable a teleporter can be when pressed, and how innovative this particular one was in using his powers. That fact that he just killed everyone on the bus (which, as stated, was moving, so even if he got lucky and randomly picked one with no passengers, it definitely had a driver) isn't so much "glossed over" as "apparently not something the writers even realized."
Sarah and Nick from The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Granted, the team of mercenaries sent to capture the dinosaurs weren't using kid gloves, but the sabotage that the two of them did is directly or indirectly responsible for every human death in the film. Even after the mercenaries save the two of them from death, Nick uses it as an opportunity to sabotage Roland's gun. Apparently, killing a dinosaur is wrong even if it is rampaging through your camp, killing your men. And it wasn't as if nature was at stake. The dinosaurs were created in a lab and introduced in a time period that was unsuitable for them. The fact that they exist at all could be disastrous to the ecosystem. This was the entire point of the first movie and pounded home more in the Lost World book yet somehow, the filmmakers forgot all about that.
300 is full of this, mostly due to the Unreliable Narrator. The Spartans are touted as a just and free society, even though they're shown in the movie to hurl imperfect babies off cliffs, kill messengers, and toss boys into the wilderness as a rite of passage.
Their so-called "just and free society" didn't preclude slavery. Leonidas at one point also makes fun of some Athenians as "boy-loving," though Real Life Spartans were equally guilty of that sort of thing.
In Tyler Perry's movie Daddy's Little Girls, the protagonist Monty's ex-wife is dating a drug dealer and taken the kids to live with her. After the custody hearing, Monty purposely hits his ex-wife and her boyfriend Joseph's car and then opens the door and beats up a dizzy and confused Joseph. At Joseph's trial, the entire neighborhood willingly testifies against him for the drug charges (after years of silence), but keeps their mouth shut when Monty is accused of assaulting him.
A mild case in Mystery Team. The trio IS out to do the right thing, but murder is something that should be left to people who don't harass comatose seniors, break into people's houses, solicit drug dealers, dress up as Mexican plumbers and cause property damage.
At the end of Congo, Dr. Ross destroys her company's satellite in payback for her boss putting the mission above her fiancée. Never mind that this would inevitably cause thousands of people to lose their jobs...
At the end of Finding Forrester, William Forrester stands up for his protege Jamal against the bitter English teacher that had a grudge against him. But the film seems to forget the fact that the reason that Professor Crawford was bitter was because Forrester had fraudulently scuttled the man's dreams 20 years earlier by falsely alluding to a non existent second book; just to encourage publishers not to work with him. Given that Forrester had never met the man, nor did he imply that Professor Crawford had written anything objectionable, it seemed like a wrong that the story doesn't ever address. Even at the end it's pretty clear that Crawford idolizes Forrester, so it seems likely that he didn't know, but I still would have felt a lot better if after he had defended Jamal Forrester owned up to what he did.
Not only that, but Crawford's negative attention on Jamal is because Jamal actually did plagiarize the work that he's being accused of plagiarizing, and Forrester had specifically told Jamal not to use any of his work. Crawford may be a jerk, but he's justified in his actions.
In On Deadly Ground an oil executive pressures his crews to find oil before the exploration permit expires, even if it means harming the environment or ignoring safety regulations. When protestors and employees complain, he hires some paramilitaries to harass troublemakers. When the paramilitaries kill an employee, clearly they are villains. But does this justify Steven Seagal killing the paramilitaries, murdering the executive, destroying the exploration site and presumably causing multiple deaths and millions of dollars in property and environmental damage? Apparently it does, for everyone, including the press, who give him a standing ovation. Plus of course there was his ill thought-out speech on alternative fuels in which he comes off as offering pipe dreams, not real alternatives.
The 'villain' in The Wizard is basically a bounty hunter who brings back runaway kids. Because he's trying to bring back the heroes while their dad and older brother also try to do it, this makes him evil somehow. Furthermore, when he almost catches the kids towards the end of the movie, Haley accuses him of child molestation in a crowded area, potentially ruining his life.
In Superman Returns, Superman abandons his son (the first one was excusable since he didn't know, but now he does) after giving him a "hang in there, kiddo" speech, which he doesn't hear, because he's asleep. As Cracked noted, his son has one hell of a Freudian Excuse to turn into a supervillain, along with the powers and physical ailments to boot.
In Judge Dredd, Dredd is labelled a criminal and the city's police force is scrambled to intercept him en route to his confrontation with the Big Bad. Which means there's a scene where Dredd guns down waves of lawmen - his former colleagues - none of whom are actually in on the villain's plan, but rather think (rightly, if you think about it) that they're trying to bring down a dangerous criminal. There are no repercussions for this, nor is it implied there should be.
Actually at least some are in on the villain's plan as they murdered a potential witness, and are an Internal Affaires force than his actual colleagues who Dredd avoids killing.
The Absent Minded Professor has the main protagonist stalking his jilted ex-fiancee who currently wants nothing to do with him and also terrorizing the man that she's now dating; a character mind you that hasn't really done anything that bad except currently be the main character's romantic rival.
Batman Begins has Batman taking out numerous police cars when they begin chasing him. Although he was rushing back home to cure the currently poisoned Rachel Dawes and couldn't afford them catching him, the fact that he utterly demolishes their vehicles with no thought to what happens to their occupants means he leaves the cops potentially horribly wounded or even dead, which is very questionable especially considering the character's stance against killing.
The Dark Knight is when Batman's Thou Shall Not Kill policy is solidified, and it encounters the usual problem when the Joker arrives. As sickeningly evil as they come, Batman has every justification to put this maniac out of everyone else's misery and despite being a Hero with Bad Publicity no-one would care, yet rigidly refuses to kill him because, apparently, preserving his conscience is more important than the dozens of lives that could be saved. Even when being shot at (meaning it's self-defense) and while most of the bullets were hitting civilian's cars, Batman chooses to take a faceplant on asphalt than run him down, and if it weren't for Gordon's interference he would have been killed, leaving Gotham almost defenceless.
The Dark Knight does at least try and give some reason by showing that, if Joker were to die, crucial information about his plan (Harvey and Rachel's locations, the bombs on the ferries) would be lost. Its also worth noting that Batman only really gets one opportunity to kill him (The building) and passes that up, when police were moving in anyway. Other times were either in police custody or when They thought They might need him alive. The third film averts this by having Catwoman kill Bane at the first real opportunity.
Dean Walcott in Patch Adams is unambiguously presented as the film's villain because he tries to block the title character's graduation from medical school. This despite the fact that Patch frequently behaves immaturely in class, he impersonates a third-year medical student so he can get in to see hospital patients, he sneaks into patients' rooms late at night to bombard them with balloons, he advocates a "laughter cures everything" approach to medicine that he never even attempts to prove with science, he practices medicine out of his house without a license, he steals supplies from a hospital, he gets some of the highest grades in school even though no one ever sees him studying (making it perfectly logical to suspect him of cheating), and his methods directly cause the murder of another med student. But of course, since he's the protagonist, anyone who doesn't think he would make a good doctor must be evil.
Jay-Jay Manners in High-School USAis portrayed as the everyman good guy while the preppy Beau Middleton gets the bad guy treatment. Jay-Jay isn't entirely innocent. He crashes Beau's party and hits on Beau's girlfriend constantly, even kissing her in public, and in the sight of Beau, yet Jay-Jay is still supposed to be the good guy.
In Back to School, when the opposing college's diving team's divers are diving, Derek Lutz (played by Robert Downey, Jr.), friend of the protagonist uses a loud horn and a mirror to distract and disrupt the dives of the other team despite the other team not even having anything to do with the plot. They hadn't been established as being evil and hadn't done anything against the protagonist other than being on a different team and the outcome of the dive meet had nothing to do with the plot (the Jerk Jock character is on the protagonist's team!). This was played for laughs, with Melon's bodyguard telling Derek, "You're all right, kid," but the scene makes him look like a jerk and really should have gotten him kicked out of the stands.
In the novel The Red Blazer Girls, a character who stalks the protagonists and is apparently in competition with them is described by one as "Pure evil!", although he actually turns out to be on their side, and they forgive him.
The Inheritance Cycle starts off strong with this; apparently, a butcher refusing to give away free food is so unforgivable that Eragon keeps bitching about it well into the second book. However, despite everything else his treatment of the Urgals is explicitly portrayed as a prejudice, and Eragon later changes his tune after coming to know them better.
Jacqueline Carey's duology The Sundering is one long deconstruction of this trope.
Deconstructed in Lazarillo De Tormes, when the title character (who has had a long string of abusive employers) works for a corrupt pardoner who treats him very well. Lazarillo knows, deep down, that the man is scum, but he's willing to overlook it because he's sharing in the benefits. This episode is one of the darkest parts of the novel's satire.
The heroes of Left Behind are often shown generally acting like unmitigated jackasses to anyone they meet, but those who insult or do them the slightest harm are quite literally condemned to Hell for it.
In this blog post, Fred "Slacktivist" Clark notes that the heroes seem more worried about the traffic jam they're stuck in (hindering them from reaching their comrades) than the news of the outbreak of World War III which preceded the traffic jam announcement.
Perhaps the neatest example comes early in Book 3. Chloe and Buck are in Chicago after the start of World War 3. Their New York home has been destroyed and Chicago itself may be under attack. Loretta, an old woman who belonged to their church, offers to put them up in her house and the two (speaking outside of Loretta's presence) agree to accept this. Not even a page later, during the same conversation, they point out that if it came down to it, the church bomb shelter is too small for Loretta, with the implication that they would leave her to die in the fire.
Luke forgiving Vader (and him getting to be a Force Ghost along with the not-evil Obi-Wan and Yoda) is something of a sore spot with a lot of Star Wars Expanded Universe writers. They note the rest of the galaxy still views Vader as nothing more than a mass-murdering monster, while Leia (who if you remember was tortured by Vader when she was nineteen) is portrayed as hating Vader for years afterwards and furious at Luke that he was so presumptuous as to forgive Vader on behalf of his millions of victims. Yet other writers still present this as unnecessarily holding onto hatred and not, you know, a reasonable reaction to the top enforcer of a totalitarian dictatorship.
The metaphysics of the Force are at play here. A normal person can afford to hate. A Force sensitive that indulges in hatred, no matter how justified, will fall to the dark side. Even Leia eventually makes peace with the idea that there was an Anakin Skywalker before there was a Vader.
One of the biggest complaints against the Twilight series is how pretty much everyone who disagrees with Bella is instantly demonized to some extent while Bella suffers no repercussions for treating others like crap. Charlie opposed Bella and Edward's relationship because, well, if your only daughter suddenly came home one day and tells you she wants to marry a guy who had left her heartbroken and nearly suicidal once before, you'd be worried. Her mother just wants her to give more thought about going to college before settling down. Her friends from her school who came around pretty much every day while she had her Heroic BSOD and seemed to genuinely care for her well-being? She just thought they were getting annoying; so did the author.
Many of Edward's and Jacob's actions were typical of an abusive relationship, but they were portrayed as being perfectly okay and even romantic. Edward stalks her and watches her sleep? It just shows how much he loves her! He breaks her car and has his sister kidnap her to keep her from visiting another boy? It just shows how much he cares about her! Jacob forcibly kisses Bella and insists that she wanted him to but just won't admit it? Again, it just shows how much he loves her!
The "good" vampires appear not to have thought of using their immeasurable powers to save people's lives; they're more content to repeat high school for the umpteenth time and play baseball, and seem to be happy with their brethren slaughtering innocent people as long as they leave Bella alone. And Bella herself doesn't lift a finger to help anyone even when she knows they're as good as vampire food.
E. E. Smith's Lensman series exemplifies this. The actions of various protagonists are consistently applauded - including one man judge/jury/execution, destruction of entire planets/solar systems/civilizations, with or without noncombatants, various nasty means of underhanded (or overhanded) warfare, torture, mind rape, etc.
This trope is examined in The Last Hero by Vetinari who points out that most "heroic" acts would have anyone else hanged for wanton death and destruction, but since they are committed by a "hero" they are considered acceptable.
See also Susan's revised retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk" in Hogfather.
The Hunger Games. Katniss complains that the other tributes are out to kill her, but is just as quick to attack them, eventually preemptively. This is possibly justified by the premise of the Hunger Games themselves, in which conventional morality is clearly out the window, but is then muddied when the story never stops to ask if survival is worth becoming your enemy (or, frankly, even notices Katniss Jumping Off the Slippery Slope).
May be a Justified Trope in this case, the entire series is narrated by Katniss in the first person, making it difficult for the narrative to condemn her objectively (she blames herself for lots of things anyway). There are definitely moments when other people call her out over her actions or tell her to suck it up and act responsibly instead of according to her own (often skewed) priorities.
Zoey Redbird suffers from a major case of this in The House of Night. She learns in the first book that something is up with the seemingly dead vampyres and later on that they're killing humans, but doesn't show the least bit inclination to investigate this until her ex-boyfriend is kidnapped by them. She knows that vampyres are expected to not grieve or even talk about friends who have (seemingly) died, but this doesn't bother her until her best friend dies and she's suddenly shocked and horrified that she's expected to just put her out of her mind like she unquestioningly did with two dead vampyres before. She calls girls who go out with more than one guy (or give them blowjobs) hos, but her boyfriend is demonized and spat upon for justifiably getting angry when she cheats on him with two other guys. Even her friends are implied to be overreacting when they get upset about Zoey keeping so many secrets from them, including the one about their dead friend turning out to be not so dead after all, or to be unquestionably in the wrong the few times they don't immediately agree with Zoey's opinion.
So many David Eddings books. Barak rapes his wife in the Belgariad, but nobody cares, because he's a good guy. Zakath, once he joins the heroes, is considered to be a trustworthy friend, regardless of the fact that he attempted to commit genocide and nearly did. Sadi dealt drugs like candy, including powerful hallucinogens and poisons, Silk nearly wiped out an entire family for the actions of a few, and let's not even get started on Polgara and Belgarath. The attitude of both series seems to be 'If they're not on our side, they're horrible people who do horrible things. If they are on our side, they're good people who just made some bad choices.' Yeah, try telling that to the thousands of dead Murgos.
Lamp Shaded many times when each person (especially Silk) admits to having various vices and refusing to accept it as being the same as the vices of others. Belgarath even refuses to classify it as Good Vs Evil and instead prefers to call it "them versus us."
Belgarath also firmly believes that Utopia Justifies the Means, and has done everything he has done, including forcing people into loveless, dysfunctional marriages to ensure the birth of important figures, drugging up the Queen of the Dryads and forcing her people into a treaty with Tolnedra, a number of assassinations and a ten-year piss-up, to assure the victory of the Light.
Atlas Shrugged features this very prominently in its final chapters, ultimately culminating in Dagny and her allies murdering security guards in cold blood, even as the narrative says they're too paralyzed with indecision to be any threat or obstacle, on the way to rescue John Galt. One can argue that the questionable behavior up until that point was just washing one's hands clean of a broken system, but actively and intentionally murdering someone for the hell of it can't be excused that easily. Now we know where Terry Goodkind gets it from.
Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Oh, yeah! This series cheerfully marches into this territory, particularly by the book Free Fall. If you don't support the Vigilantes, then you're a Jerkass. The Vigilantes broke laws to a million pieces, in their quest for Revenge against every Karma Houdini who wronged them. They also did things like give three rapists the John Wayne Bobbit treatment, broke every bone in a wife-beater's body, and skinned alive a diplomat's son who used Diplomatic Impunity. Now, Jack Emery did talk his girlfriend Nikki Quinn about the Vigilante's methods from time to time.
Anne McCaffrey's protagonists routinely get away with being huge jerks to other characters. It's often portrayed as a flaw in a generalized way (Killashandra and Lessa are both understood to be overly short-tempered, for instance) but in most specific instances the narrative rather makes it clear that "that (Designated) Jerk Ass had it coming." In Crystal Line Killashandra humiliates a scientist for more than a page for the sole offense of being pedantic and giving a new substance a different name than she gave it, and it's Played for Laughs, and viciously justified a few pages later with descriptions of how space-sick the scientist and his partner got all over the ship that brought them in.
Harry Potter: If you pay attention to the books, the narrator describes what happens only in Harry’s perspective. For example: After Colin Creevey has been pestering Harry, the narrator concedes that Draco Malfoy is doing a cruel but accurate impression of Colin manipulating a camera.
Lois McMaster Bujold, who usually avoids this so well, lapses into it at the end of Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign when the protagonists work together to prevent the arrest of a man who has (albeit naively) swindled investors out of large amounts of money. Why? Oh, he's their friend, and they need his scientific brilliance to make money for themselves. There is no talk of restitution to the investors (even on the part of the would-be arresting officers) nor any protest even from Ekaterin, and the day is very much treated as saved. Please note that the titular Vorkosigans probably have more than enough money to actually pay the debt.
Hush, Hush has this. For example, the male love interest starts out intending to kill the female love interest, but it all comes out okay, because he's the male love interest. Someone else tries to kill the female love interest...well, she deserves to have her wings ripped off! Also notable in that something that would ordinarily have been good—warning a girl to try her best to stay away from a guy who was stalking her—gets twisted into a selfish act because the person who did it wasn't supposed to be sympathetic.
Toward the end of The Host, there is a very visible division between the humans who like Wanderer, and those who don't. Those who don't are portrayed as bitter and selfish, while those that do are, well, the heroes. There are a few who don't care much about her either way, but they are not among the more important characters. Somewhat justified in that Wanda had to earn the trust of everyone who likes her, but it's still implied that the only reason people might not like her is because they are horrible people. Bear in mind that the story is written from a first-person perspective. It's no more unusual for Wanda to think better of people who are nice to her than it is for anybody else, especially given the cultural mold of the souls. And Wanda does concede that the humans who hate her have justifiable cause; she just gets tired of it after a while. Again, who doesn't get worn down by constant hostility, regardless of justification?
There's also the fact that the aliens are actually surprised when their invasion targets commit suicide instead of allowing them to take their bodies and minds away from them, seemingly unable to comprehend the fact that their targets don't want to be taken over.
Lampshaded in Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, in which young Sam points out to Vimes that in certain circumstances, Vimes is prepared to do things which are illegal or immoral (like knocking people unconscious before they can hit him). Vimes evades giving an explanation, and privately admits to himself that his main justification is "It's Me Doing It" - and that this is a pretty poor justification, especially because it's the one the people on the other side are using too. (And he feels he could do worse if he let himself, but he doesn't.)
Live Action TV
Doctor Who: "The Wedding of River Song" gives an excellent example of this. River's attempt to save the Doctor threatens all of existence, and it's implied that even the Doctor and River would eventually suffer the same fate. Despite this, River not only causes deaths, but she flat-out says she thinks she'll suffer more than anyone else. The Doctor isn't too happy with this and calls her out on it, briefly, but the most she gets is (voluntarily) sentenced to a Cardboard Prison and married to the Doctor.
Proving yet again that the Doctor is a gargantuan hypocrite. Time and time again he has placed the lives of his companions above that of anyone else, and because Earth is his favourite planet and humans his favourite species he continually protects them and advocates their dominance even if it means another species becomes extinct. The Tenth Doctor is especially prone to this, a bad combination of self-righteous and self-centered meaning he has little appreciation for any action that doesn't affect him. (He at least learned his lesson by the end, but for poor Harriet Jones it was too little, far too late.)
Something similar to River's situation is earlier played completely positively, with Rory being more concerned about Amy's death than every universe having never existed used as proof that he was still human (though granted he wasn't the one who caused the catastrophe).
Except it was proof he was human, not proof he was morally right. Humanity was not described as synonymous with moral perfection, it was more synonymous with irrational emotions and personal attachments rather than the hard logic which would be expected of an Auton. Nothing ever implies that Rory caring more about Amy (or for that matter, the Doctor caring more about his companions) than the rest of the universe is supposed to be the morally "right" thing.
However, the Doctor defies this trope in one of the most extreme possible ways offscreen by personally slaughtering his entire species — including Romana, his parents and siblings, his children, and his granddaughter Susan, and any other grandchildren he might've had, assuming not all of them managed to conveniently die before his massacre — to save the rest of the universe from destruction, and although he considers his actions to be horrifying and it causes him chronic guilt and mental anguish and self-loathing (when he thinks he may have found Time Lords who escaped into a bubble universe, Amy remarks that he seems desperate for the chance to beg them for forgiveness), he never for a moment actually regrets his decision or wishes he hadn't done it.
In True Blood, Eric and Bill have both killed and tortured countless people during their lifetimes. Eric feels no remorse and continues to do so - he even runs his own Torture Cellar . Bill is a self-loathing wreck about his past but hasn't tried to atone for his actions and quite readily kills if it is convenient for him to do so. His main objection in killing a seventeen year old girl (Jessica) and converting her to vampirism (knowing full well that she will probably die - most newborns vamps don't make it through the first year- and that she will certainly kill innocent people), is that he'll get in trouble with Sookie if she were to find out. During the first series, Bill murdered three people besides Jessica (The Ratraces and Sookie's perverted uncle, all of whom were jerkasses or perverts, but still humans) and suffers no repercussions. Both Bill and Eric would be considered violent sociopaths in real life, but we're meant to see them as heroic at best and antiheroic at worst because they both genuinely love Sookie.
This trope is invoked with every sympathetic vampire ever featured on the show. All of them (even Jessica) have murdered innocent people at least once, and none of them can fully control their urges. Beyond that, not one of them has even tried to atone for their actions or make amends to the families of their victims.
Sookie does some pretty amoral things, and she's never called out on it. For one, she must have known exactly what would happen when she told Bill about her Uncle or that young man who had been trying to infect the clan of vampires with his blood-borne illness. Or when she outed the telepathic bell-hop to Eric. And that's just the first season. It's easy to feel sympathy over her actions involving her uncle (he probably got what he deserved) but the other two didn't. The young man with the blood borne illness was just seeking revenge for the brutal murder of his lover, and the vampires he targeted were unreformed and bloodthirsty killers. Even if you buy into the whole Friendly Neighborhood Vampire thing, the plan didn't even involve murdering them, just put them out of action for a few months. Sookie's words sentenced him to death (and most likely, particularly brutal torture) at their hands. This incident has no repercussions and is never mentioned again, by anybody.
Even in the case of that uncle, it's only a "probably" that he deserved it. We don't know if he was ever going to act out on his thoughts, if he was ever an active child molestor, or if he just had a really creepily dirty mind. Which might not have been a problem if Sookie weren't a telepath (which he didn't know). Bill's justification for murdering him is, "He hurt you, Sookie." Well, there actually is a possibility he didn't intend to.
If you want to accept the parallels the show tries to draw between Vampire Rights and other minority rights groups (gay rights, civil rights, etc) and that some of the vampires are well integrated and safe, then Jason's behaviour becomes sick and disgustingly amoral, and he is hardly called out on it. Granted, Jason is frequently Too Dumb to Live and his actions are often a result of this, but in series one he and his girlfriend abduct and slowly murder a sweet-natured and (so far as vampires go) harmless middle-aged man who also happens to be a member of that extremely rare set of vampires: the ones you never see killing humans or exploiting human suffering. He's not as nice-looking as the other vampires and hasn't done a whole lot with his life, but if you should feel any sympathy for any vampire appearing on the show, it should be him. Jason and his girlfriend don't kill him to save humans or be heroic or anything, but only so they can make money harvesting his blood, and when they have him prisoner they bind him with silver chains, which is elsewhere shown to be a particularly painful torture for vamps. Jason feels a little guilt at the time and Eric calls him out on it, but he suffers no other repercussions and the episode is promptly forgotten. As soon as he resolves his problems with Sookie, he is back to being treated as one of the heroes. Dude, you abducted and murdered an innocent person in order to get money and drugs. Plus, his actions might have (at least partially) caused Lafayette to get trapped in Eric's basement, even though Lafayette was only trading vampire blood he earned in exchange for sexual favours. And while the vampire was probably the worst thing that Jason had done, he hardly ever gets called out on anything he does.
Subverted in Stargate SG-1; at first it looks like Teal'c is going to be this, someone whose evil dog-kicking past will be swept away once he joins SG-1, but it's soon shown that the trope will be averted. Relatives of a few people whom Teal'c had butchered under orders from Apophis have him put on trial, and Teal'c insists he should be judged for his actions, despite the rest of SG-1 willing to do right about anything possible to bail Teal'c out. Teal'c also repeatedly shows concern and regrets over the things he did as First Prime of Apophis. One of the final episodes has that episode's villain, who murdered numerous innocents with a bomb, call out Teal'c saying that Teal'c was every bit as bad when he worked for the Goa'ulds. Finally, one of the most touching scenes of The Ark of Truth has Teal'c advising a former enemy soldier, who, like him, did horrible things in the name of his religion. Teal'c tells him that others may forgive him, but he'll never forgive himself, and that they should devote their lives to helping others for other people's sake, not for a vague hope of redemption.
Teal'c: One day others may try to convince you they have forgiven you. That is more about them than you. For them, imparting forgiveness is a blessing.
Tomin: How do you go on?
Teal'c: It is simple. You will never forgive yourself. Accept it. You hurt others — many others. That cannot be undone. You will never find personal retribution. But your life does not have to end. That which is right, just, and true can still prevail. If you do not fight for what you believe in, all may be lost for everyone else. But do not fight for yourself. Fight for others — others that may be saved through your effort. That is the least you can do.
Discussed much earlier, with Master Bra'tac well before either of them had a hope of the Goa'uld being overthrown.
Bra'tac: When Apophis throws his armies into the fire you will be there to temper his sword. In so doing you may save countless lives as I have done in my time.
Teal'c: And you have done all these things against his will?
Bra'tac: His will can be made to bend. But not always. I have done deeds for which I cannot forgive even myself, as will you. Men such as you and I have only the comfort of those times we make a difference. Make a difference.
The trial episode involves the son of a one-legged man Teal'c killed wishing to avenge his father's cold-blooded murder. The additional problem is that, unlike an Earth trial, this one does not have an impartial judge. Instead, the victim gets to decide. In fact, this society doesn't even understand the term "impartial". After all, everyone has an opinion. Daniel successfully argues that Teal'c murder of the man may have helped these people escape the Goa'uld in the future (they only move with the speed of the slowest person), which was Teal'c's intention (the man he killed even seemed to be signalling Teal'c to kill him) when Apophis ordered him to kill someone (Apophis saw the murder of a cripple as deliciously evil). While admitting there may be some truth to this, the son is still determined to execute Teal'c, and Teal'c is determined to pay for his sins. Conveniently, the Goa'uld happen to attack the village then, and Teal'c fights them off and kills the Jaffa in charge. Seeing this, the villager agrees that Teal'c is indeed a different man, and that the old Teal'c is dead.
Anya is considered to have become good once she's depowered and teams up with the good guys, even though she shows no remorse for going around killing people for a millennium. Of course, it helps that once she became human she stopped killing people and started romancing one of the Scoobies. Angel is forgiven pretty easily, as well, and most of the hostility the Scoobies direct towards Spike has more to do with his jerkass behaviour than his kill total.
In one of the last season's episodes, Anya has killed over a dozen people and Buffy decides she'll have to kill her. Xander tries to dissuade her, saying that Anya's her friend, and Buffy gives him an epic chewing out on how she doesn't get to play favorites, while conveniently forgetting her own hypocrisy . The guy Buffy was in love with gets infinite forgiveness, but the person she only sort of likes? Has to die, no question.
In both Buffy and Angel, when Angel loses his soul, the characters go to great lengths to restore it - but they never try to do the same for anyone else who gets turned into a vampire. It's only because they already know Angel that they make an exception for him. Every other vampire just gets slain. It is possible they have considered the fact that Angel's soul was restored as (apparently very successful) punishment for the crimes of his demon half, and come to the conclusion that pulling a more-or-less innocent soul out of the afterlife to inhabit the body of an undead murderer might not be the most merciful of acts, but it's never mentioned on screen.
Angel himself, meanwhile, very much avoids this trope. Angel tells Spike that they will both suffer in the afterlife, and the sheer weight of their crimes is too much to simply be forgotten, knowing he's doomed but soldiers on anyway because it's the right thing to do. And when Holtz launches his campaign of terror against Angel he is never viewed an outright villain but a noble man who lost his way and became consumed with revenge (he comes off as a sort of opposite side of the coin to Angel, seeking to punish the wicked rather than protect the innocent). The gang views him as a bad guy for kidnapping Connor but only for that, and Angel is fully aware that what he did to Holtz was unforgiveable and never tries to justify himself or ask forgiveness.
In "Gone", a social worker sent to look after Dawn sees legitimately suspicious activity. Buffy, who has turned invisible, sets things up to make it look like the social worker is insane in a way which could easily get her fired or sent to a mental institution. This is portrayed as a comedy routine and we are apparently supposed to feel sympathy with Buffy harassing an innocent person merely because she's frustrating a main character.
Spike and Harmony are quite sympathetic in the latter series, mainly because they are both so ineffective as to be laughable, and because Spike is such a martyr for love. Meanwhile, Harmony is killing a whole bunch of people while Spike is completely unrepentant and cares so little for other's welfare that he helped a Big Bad bring on the end of the world at least once, and was selling weapons (demon eggs) - the sort which could kill entire cities - to the highest bidder.
Willow's Roaring Rampage of Revenge is forgiven fairly easily, even though (in-universe) it was really just luck and timing which prevented her from bringing about the apocalypse. She also flayed somebody to death. Given a notice in the final season episode "The Killer In Me", where it's pointed out by a bad guy who put a hex on her not for almost destroying the world but just because they're jealous.
"She almost destroyed the world! And yet everyone keeps on loving her?"
Helena Peabody in the 2nd season of The L Word had a strong social conscience. She cared a lot about the plight of poverty stricken families and donated a lot of money, both money from the company she inherited and her own money, to good causes. However she manipulated Tina and Bette so was a villain. Similarly when she mentioned to her - admittedly also very charitable - mother Peggy Peabody that she had been a neglectful mother and Peggy responded by mocking her we are encouraged to support Peggy who was always nice to Bette.
Also we are encouraged to dislike Helena for dating other women while with Tina even though she only did this after Tina cheated on her with Bette.
Ally McBeal cheats on her boyfriend Gregg then decides to win him back by hiring a male model to be her pretend date to make said boyfriend jealous. When her boyfriend ends things with the woman he was dating to get back with her Ally then decides she prefers the hired model so doesn't want Gregg. If a man had cheated on Ally, schemed to break up her new relationship then dumped her once the new relationship was destroyed he would be a jerkass deserving of revenge but neither the show or any of Ally's friends show any negative judgment about her behavior.
Ally is also the kind of person who purposefully smashed her car into a stranger's car and justified her actions because he had smiled at her and she wanted to meet him.
When a character in Cold Feet cheated on their spouse the person they cheated with was always depicted as a villain yet when Karen, one of protagonists, starts an affair with a married man there is nothing negative shown about her behavior or her friend Rachel for encouraging her to pursue the affair
Oz from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet series 1 and 2 was a xenophobe who abandoned his wife and child yet, while his behavior was shown as wrong, he was still someone the characters sided with. However when characters like Herr Grimwald or Arthur Pringle were rude or nasty to the main characters they were hate-figures deserving of ridicule and embarrassment.
This trope played itself out in Robin Hood to a mind-boggling degree. No matter how much of a jerkass Robin could be at times, anyone who loved Robin was good, and anyone who hated Robin was evil. The end.
And, well, the Robin Hood legend in general. The bad guys are the law enforcers, the good guys are the criminals. At best, they're corrupt law enforcers and needlessly principled criminals. However, if there was a historical Robin Hood, he most certainly would not have been that.
Friends. Joey and Ross can have multiple girlfriends and this is fine. Phoebe can date two men at once and the other characters don't criticize her (though one of the men dumped her when he found out) but when Phoebe's boyfriend is overheard having sex with someone else the men rush upstairs to violently attack him with the women's full support.
Ross at least was dating two women non-exclusively (very common, especially in big cities), and when one woman dated both Ross and Joey non-exclusively she wasn't potrayed as immoral or wrong in any way - exactly like Ross was. So at least they played that the same.
The later seasons of Charmed just smacks of this. The sisters can steal souls, wipe out free will with the Avatars, and even encourage killing higher ups of Good simply because it suits them.
Phoebe in particular mixes this with heavy doses of hypocrisy to boot. Considering Alyssa Milano took over as a director on the show, this is not suprising.
"Promises": He owes fellow immortal Kassim a debt of honour for the time when the latter risked his own honour to let MacLeod rescue a friend from his lord. Centuries later, Kassim comes to collect, asking MacLeod to assassinate a tyrannical dictator so he can replace him with a good alternative. MacLeod reluctantly agrees, but at the crucial moment refuses to kill a man from behind, breaking his promise to Kassim and causing the death of the good alternative at the tyrant's hands.
In Vampire Diaries Elena and co are okay with proceeding with Klaus's ritual in which Elena, a vampire and a werewolf have to be sacrificed, once they figure out how to keep her alive. It's only once Klaus decides to use their friends as those vampire and werewolf, that the main characters become worried. Presumably, if he used someone they never knew, they would've been perfectly fine with it...
In the third season the string of innocent corpses Stefan leaves behind appear to be of interest purely in terms of judging his mental state.
Let's not forget the moment in the third season when it is realised that killing an original vampire also wipes out their entire bloodline. Naturally, they want to avoid killing the original responsible for the bloodline of Stefan, Damon and Caroline, because they're Elena's friends. Apparently however, no one is even slightly concerned about the possible hundreds of other vampires that will die if they kill any of the other originals. As far as is obvious, they aren't of concern.
In season 4 they really outdo themselves by murdering Chris -a hybrid who was risking his life to help them in the first place- in cold blood because Jeremy needed to kill a vampire in order to stop Elena's hallucinations. And then they have trouble understanding why Tyler, who was Chris's friend, is upset about it.
A Hunter looking to kill Elena just because she's a vampire? A horrible act of bigotry. Elena getting her brother to kill Kol, which would wipe out his entire bloodline, effectively committing mass murder on tens of thousands of vampires? Just something that needs to be done.
Glee has a serious problem with this trope. If a character makes fun of or bullies the Glee Club, they are portrayed as jerks who need to be shown up. Anyone within the club who picks on or mistreats someone else (and there are plenty of instances), it is played for laughs and handwaved. The worst for this is definitely Kurt. He can be as terrible as he wants to anyone (telling a student he smells homeless), but anyone who bullies or insults him is presented as an irredeemable villain. The show is also very forgiving of characters like Quinn and Santana despite the terrible things they've done which are never really acknowledged or condemned in the same way the gay bullying was.
Basically, in Glee, every single scene features Protagonist Centred Morality. If the scene is from Rachel's POV, then it will show stalking and harassing an auditor and cheating to get around fair audition procedures as a perfectly valid way to get into your chosen university; if it's from Finn's perspective, it will show yelling at and hitting a girl with a spinal injury and trying to tip her out of her wheelchair in the middle of a crowded dance floor as justified due to the fact of her not informing him the instant she started to regain some ability to walk; if it's from Sam's perspective, it will show ignoring a girl's boundaries and direct 'no' and pursuing her regardless as perfectly reasonable; if it's from Santana's, it will show vicious verbal abuse of a guy she hates because she slept with him while trying to avoid acknowledging her love for Brittany and then got slut-shamed by both him and his girlfriend in front of the glee club as perfectly reasonable and indeed enjoyable. You have to locate the individual scenes within longer arcs (for instance, the infamous Finn-Quinn confrontation at Prom referenced above, which occurs in between the two episodes dealing with Beiste's abusive marriage) to get an idea of what the show - as opposed to the characters - think of them and of the characters' actions.
In Season Six of Supernatural , the Winchesters need Crowley (current ruler of Hell) to help Bobby and Sam, so they kill Alphas (powerful monsters) in order to help Crowley locate Purgatory, which he considers prime real estate, because he is planning to expand hell. Sure, he is much less evil than Lucifer (and possibly quite cuddly), and he regularly uses torture to achieve his ends. How likely is it that he's planning to do anything positive to the souls in Purgatory, let alone anything which benefits the heavenly or earthly spheres? Plus, they are mean to poor old Cas, who is already stressed with his civil war and being hunted by his family. Yet, we are supposed to side with the Winchesters.
Given that the series alternates between black and gray and black and black morality, it's entirely possible that we aren't supposed to side with the Winchesters, and it's an intentional instance of them playing villain protagonist rather than antihero.
The eighth season finale has another case. Sam and Dean have a chance to close the gates of Hell, banishing every demon off of the face of the earth forever, at the cost of Sam's life. They ultimately decide not to go through with it and the show tries to play it as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming that shows just how much Sam and Dean care about each other. However, many fans saw the brothers' decision as selfish, feeling that Sam's life was not worth that of every human who will ever be killed by a demon from that point onwards.
One of the more glaring flaws in the rejected Wonder Woman (2011 pilot). In this version Diana is a vigilante who brutalizes, tortures, and even kills Mooks in pursuit of her idea of justice — not to mention holding a press conference so she can tell everyone that Elizabeth Hurley's company is evil, admitting that she doesn't have any proof but she just knows that she's right. After rampaging her way through Hurley's company, the episode ends with her getting a standing ovation from her employees and the federal investigator (who just so happens to be her ex-boyfriend) lies to his superiors and tells them that there's no reason to go after Wonder Woman. At no point is this presented with the slightest bit of irony. Is it any wonder this thing didn't get picked up?
In one example, a woman named Kezia is portrayed as the protagonist. She refuses to pay her taxes and has her home sold at auction. When Harriet buys the house, she's portrayed as the antagonist and everyone in town agrees with Kezia's side of the story. No one ever mentions the fact that Kezia should have read her own mail. After all, she works at the post office where she reads everyone else's mail. This is particularly interesting because there is another episode where Harriet is seen as the bad guy for listening in on phone conversations. Kezia does the same thing with mail, but is the good guy.
Mrs. Oleson is generally accepted as an antagonist and everything she does is wrong, so the Ingalls can do whatever they want and the audience will side with them. When Mrs. Oleson makes up a lie and spreads it, she's a horrible person. When an Ingalls makes up a lie, there's nothing wrong with it. In one episode, Charles takes in a black boy who wants to go to school. When he takes him to the school, Mrs. Oleson objects, saying the school is for the children of the people of Walnut Grove. Charles tells her the boy is his son from a previous marriage. In another episode, when Caroline's father is trying to sell copies of the book he wrote, Laura tells Mrs. Oleson the book has all kinds of gossip in it, including a story about how Caroline ran out of the house naked one time.
Desperate Housewives did this a lot. We're supposed to feel sympathy for Lynette when she steals the children from her husband and goes cross-country without telling him because she believed he was cheating (he actually wasn't), to name an example.
The main four girls and Mrs. Garrett in The Facts of Life do whatever they want and they're still considered examples of good people.
Tootie snoops and snitches on other girls, spreading half-truths and rumors.
Natalie is boy-crazy and isn't shy about her urges.
Jo and Blair steal a van, buy beer illegally, drink wine, and do other things that would land a lot of people in jail.
Mrs. Garrett doesn't respect the wishes of others and manipulates them to get what she wants, including setting the girls up for failure so they will have to room together for another year as punishment.
Smallville had a huge problem with this trope when it came to certain characters. The most glaring being Lana Lang, and was one of the main reasons she became such a scrappy. Lana could and would do anything, from invading close friends' privacy, yell at Clark for perceived slights and refusing to let him explain, try and frame Lex for her murder and later arranges to become the test subject for an experimental process that will grant her powers similar to Clark's, not to stop Lex from getting it, but so she can be with Clark. There's also the fact that Oliver, upon tracking down Lex's location, goes straight to try and kill him, and later when Lex returns and Lana tells the others about it, they make sure to freeze Ollie out of their investigation into Lex to stop him going after him. Everyone forgets that the reason Lana knew he was going for blood was because she too was trying to track him down.
M*A*S*H had Hawkeye and Trapper as the designated protagonists. They could do whatever they wanted and were still considered "good." They put Frank in a crate and left him there. Another time, Frank thought ahead and wore electric socks. Hawkeye and Trapper call him a fink and wrestle the socks away from him. Why? Because Frank thought of it and they didn't?
Richard Harrow of Boardwalk Empire. Nevermind how far this is taken out-of-universe by the fanbase. The show itself never throws an even remotely harsh light on him, despite the fact that he slaughters numerous people even though it would seem to be contrary to his reassimilating into society after the war. Granted most of these individuals are criminals themselves, but he even discusses his willingness to kill young women and civilians if it were to draw out his rivals. Yet he is supposed to be seen as an antihero at worst because he is a veteran, is loyal to his friend and said friend's family, and is a genuine gentleman to the few love interests in his life.
The iCarly trio have done things just as bad as the "villains" of various episodes have done. In one specific episode, the villain is a bully, who does the exact same thing that Sam has done and continues to do so long after the bully is defeated, with the only difference being that the villain picked on Carly. The bully insulted the trio and pushed Carly away, so she's apparently a big jerk who needs to be put in her place. Sam beats Freddie with a racket, throws him out of a tree house, and then slams onto him because he has a different opinion to everyone, and a season or two later, the two aredating.
In Michael Jackson's short film Ghosts, Jackson's hero (referred to in the credits as "Maestro") is a mysterious loner in a mansion who secretly tells children ghost stories and performs magic for them, and when one of them tells the adults of their town ("Normal Valley") about it, their mayor (also Jackson) leads a Torches and Pitchforks mob of the children's parents to run the "freak" out, warning they will hurt him "if we have to." Maestro proceeds to unleash a parade of horrors on the mob (including the kids) that is supposed to be all in good fun, yet climaxes in what amounts to the mayor's magical possession and torture. Maestro then tricks the mob into thinking he's killed himself when the mayor — and only the mayor — demands he leave, and then reappears and sends the mayor running through a window. Though leading an angry mob is an overreaction, it's hard not to sympathize with the mayor for being concerned that a strange person is not only meeting with kids but telling them to keep their meetings secret, and to see Maestro's behavior as unnecessarily cruel. The Reality Subtext of the video (this was after the first round of child molestation allegations against Jackson) makes matters worse. See also this Salon article.
A major part of the background in Warhammer 40000. Almost every book published by the Black Library is Imperial propaganda, and the fluff included in each faction's codex casts them in a good light (with the exception of Chaos and Tyranids, both of which are mostly from Imperial point of view as well, probably because the stars of those books are insane or all devouring cosmic horrors).
In the Assassin's Creed series, it is shown to be perfectly acceptable, or at least there are no moral implications, to kill every single soldier law enforcer you come across regardless of the need. Be a guard walking down the street? Dead. Calmly stand on a rooftop? Dead. You and 3 other friends idly talking? Dead. Patrolling on a horse down a street keeping the peace? Dead. Arguably they are portrayed as corrupted and evil, but does that mean every single one has done an offense worthy of death?
The series does have something of an out, in that it points out that the Animus memories are not objective (in other words, just because you kill a specific person doesn't necessarily mean the real Altair/Ezio/Connor killed them). Also, the second game notes the fundamental ironies of an order of people trying to make peace by committing murders.
This trope was used and addressed by the developers of Brink, with the biggest example being a mission where, as the Resistance, you're trying to safeguard a vaccine from capture by Security forces. The same mission, played from the Security side, is attempting to wrest a lethal bio-weapon from the Resistance. After all, to develop a vaccine, you first need a sample of the virus. Plenty of other examples are given throughout playing both campaigns, which was an intentional design.
Final Fantasy VII. Many people seem to forget that the heroes are actually eco-terrorists who blow up a magical power plant, thereby causing thousands of Gil worth of property damage and killing just about every Mook inside. Let's not forget, either, that Cloud explicitly says he doesn't care about the Planet. He just wants his paycheck. They get better, though.
Cait Sith doesn't forget, though, and calls Barret out on it later on. Barret tries to justify it with a "it's a war, there are casualties" line, but even he isn't totally convinced by his own yarn.
Pit in Kid Icarus Uprising responds to a remark from a villain that he's a "flying munitions depot" and far more destructive than her with the remark "But I'm fighting evil. It's different. Look it up."
The Player Character from Knights of the Old Republic can be played like this if you get all the Dark Side points in the game for being a massive jerk for the sake of it and then saved the Republic, everyone will ignore all that and you're a hero.
This gets ridiculous in Sands Of Destruction, where you're trying to destroy the world, which is perfectly acceptable. The ferals, most of whom treat humans poorly, are the bad guys, occasionally trying to stop you when you do something they don't like, such as killing their kid and stealing from them.
Tales Of Graces: Richard has been possessed and turned into a merciless psycho king. However, because Richard is a friend to the party, they can't just kill him before he ruins or ends anyone else's life. They need to save him!
Faldio in Valkyria Chronicles. Because the game skews so heavily toward the Idealistic side of the Sliding Scale, his capital crime (treason) might as well be meaningless; his real crime in the story is shooting his best friend's girl, even though doing so prevented the wholesale slaughter of the Gallian military. When he kills himself to make up for it at the end of the game, he explains that he deserves to die for thinking power is what wins a war and for betraying his friends. This doesn't really take into the account the thousands of Gallian soldiers who survived that battle did so solely because he made that decision.
The game tries to mitigate this with the complete annihilation of the Gallian main army at Ghirlandaio, which means that Faldio's actions were only delaying the inevitable rather than actually saving anyone's lives... except that if he hadn't shot Alicia when he did, Selvaria would have just run roughshod over the army and conquered Gallia by teatime. The real reason the main army was obliterated is because General Damon was an idiot and didn't kill Selvaria when he had the chance, solely because he wanted to take credit for her capture.
Just about every character's moral worth can be measured by how well they treat Welkin, Alicia, or any given Darcsen, regardless of what side of the conflict they're on. Since almost every death is an Anviliciously Karmic one, it's not that much of a surprise, but Welkin and Alicia are typically portrayed as paragons of the moral ideal, with everyone around them being degrees of less-good than they are. Characters who fall too short of the main couple's mark often end up with poor fates for no perceivable reason other than they weren't good enough people to deserve a better one.
Selvaria herself is a pretty good example. She would be considered far less sympathetic if Alicia weren't a Valkyria too. Her relevance to the main characters vastly eclipses the significance of the thousands and thousands of Gallians she remorselessly kills, and her death is treated as far more tragic than her victims' because of it. The whole issue is illustrated in a single scene: Selvaria is finally captured alive. Once she puts her hands up, one of General Damon's Gallian Mooks hits her in the back of the head with his rifle to knock her out because, as Damon puts it, the only safe way to capture her is if she's unconscious. Welkin and Alicia are just appalled that he would use violence against poor, captured, helpless, slayer-of-countless-Gallians Selvaria. Shortly afterward, Selvaria wastes the military in a nuclear holocaust.
This is halfway to being the moral system at work in The World Ends With You, and it's the probably only reason for why the Composer is left alive even though you kill plenty of other villains. However, Uzuki and Kariya get to live even after killing Rhyme, indicating that a) being funny gets you a pass as well, b) it's not protagonist centered so much as camera centered, with whoever gets character development surviving, or c) Beat is left out of determining what's moral and what's immoral. (Come to think of it, c) could also explain why Beat and Shiki, who have no connection to the Composer, don't kill him when Neku refuses to do it.)
The moral problems from all of that get somewhat less serious when you read the secret reports and realize that erasure isn't actually permanent, but more of a major setback on the road dead souls take. As for Beat and Shiki Joshua paralyzed them so they couldn't do anything.
Team Fortress 2: The "Meet the [Class]" promotional videos are all shot from the RED team's perspective (except for "Meet the Spy", which plays more like a Mook Horror Show instead), so only RED team's classes are impossibly heroic, badass, and loyal.
In-game voice responses and taunts also suggest that both RED and BLU teams have this sort of mindset.
Averted in "M1 Abrams" for the Sega GENESIS with a mission where the base is surrounded by incoming hordes of Soviet built armored forces. Your orders are simple: defeat all enemy forces while the C.O. hides in his office. Inattentive players may interpret this as "destroy anything that moves." The mission summary for such a strategy involves the C.O. wiping his brow and congratulating you for saving everyone... except for your fellow servicemen in the Bradleys and other Nato vehicles that had been out there... moving. He then places the hero under arrest. End result: medals, promotion, AND court martial and prison time.
In the Good ending of Swan Song, Takuma is forgiven and left unpunished for rape, murder, torture, necrophilia, you name it. In the normal ending he is the sole reason for the death of all the earthquake survivors.
This is an in-universe plot point in Fate/stay night; the main criteria for a Heroic Spirit to be summoned is that they are the hero of their own story. Even if they are truly rotten (like Gilgamesh and Bluebeard), if they were a "hero" by that definition, they're fair game.
The protagonists of Kit 'n Kay Boodle are always right and everything they do is morally righteous and correct behavior, no matter what they're doing to whom, because their motives are supposedly pure and for the greater good. This includes raping someone with the mind of a child, because she's a brat, and framing her lawyers for the crime when they try to rescue her.
In Least I Could Do, protagonist Rayne gets away with being insanely rude, selfish, insulting, etc. because, well, it's him. In earlier strips his friends would give back about as good as they got, but in more recent years Rayne is the only one allowed to look good in the end. The modus operandi of late involves Rayne doing something mean or selfish to his friends for 90% of the storyline, then taking the last 10% to do something that magically makes everyone forgive him, whether it's honestly nice or just him cleaning up the mess he got them into in the first place. Not helping matters at all is the fact that Rayne is pretty well an Author Avatar for Ryan Sohmer.
One of the more extreme examples is when Rayne finds a homeless orphan and starts using him as an ill-defined personal assistant/slave/plaything, often verging on abuse at the very least. At one point, he gets called out on it. His reaction is one of indignation, and he points out how he is saving the kid from a life on the street, and how he is actually the child's legal guardian. The accuser (an attractive woman, of course) backs down, saying something to the effect "I'm sorry for assuming the worst". The comic (and the accuser) completely ignores/forgets that such behaviour towards someone entirely dependent on you is still very much abusive, and paying money for someone's living doesn't render their basic dignity moot. If anything, the boy is in no position to protest for fear that he might actually have nothing to eat if he gets kicked out. (Never mind that "I may treat you badly, but you'll be worse off without me" is a tactic used by real life abusers.) Arguably, switching from the usual Comedic Sociopathy to a weak attempt at treating the situation realistic and justifying Rayne's behaviour makes it worse, by claiming the situation is a-OK rather than dismissing it as a comedic, unrealistic situation.
Zii of Ménage à 3 is constantly performing acts that could be considered sex crimes, and spends almost all her time switching between trying to get laid and stopping other people from getting laid. These are portrayed as harmless, happy exploits and every time she seems to go too far such as by seducing an internet troll's mother or a waitress it turns out she was right to do so (the mother's husband was cheating on her and she gave her the confidence to divorce him, the waitress was sexually unsatisfied by her boyfriend). Even the other roommates who she's devoted to sexually manipulating don't seem bothered by her.
Miko Miyazaki from The Order Of The Stick was intended to be an intentional exploration of this: A Lawful Good paladin and also one of the protagonists' main antagonists. She is shown to be slightly more reasonable as long as none of them are in the room with her. Well, up until the point where she ends up killing an innocent old man over her own misgivings and continues to insist it was all according to some greater plan her gods had for her.
Depending on how meta you're willing to get, then she did do her exact duty for the only God that matters in her world: Rich Burlew himself has stated that she did EXACTLY as he intended her to do.
In Pv P, Max Powers was a parody of this, until the characters actually became friends with him. Although he was really nothing more than a friendly, decent guy (if somewhat self-centered) he was the "villain" of the strip, and Cole's "nemesis." His "crime" was nothing more than being more successful than Cole. Take Cole's Bias Goggles off, and he was nothing more than a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis.
As someone over at the BadWebcomicsWiki put it, Sabrina Online's Zig Zag is able to do whatever she wants whenever she wants to whomever she wants with little to no consequence, from sexually harassing an employee to threatening said employee's boyfriend to stalking, harassing, and physically assaulting people for saying mean things about her on the internet.
There are some consequences for Zig Zag. The sexually harassed employee gives her a black eye and is promptly apologized to, and the campaign against her internet detractors results in "so many lawsuits." Granted, it's played for laughs, but Zig doesn't get away with quite as much as Zii or Rayne from previous entries.
YU+ME: dream has this in spades, especially when it comes to Lia. While she was Not Herself sort of when doing all of the terrible things she did, it was a bit jarring to see her have a romantic reunion with Fiona while a child that she killed was still in the background of the scene. There are also no repercussions for her actions besides her feeling bad about it... which doesn't seem to be getting in the way of her life too much.
However, this event is what caused Fiona to merge consciences with their respective owners, so something like that won't happen again.
Sonichu. It matters not if Christian Chandler has decided to destroy an office building with hundreds of employees inside, as long they were drawing pickles on Rosechu, he's in the right.
One interpretation of Captain Hammer (the one that most people in-story believe, and most viewers don't) in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is that he really is a hero and didn't, on average, deserve a comeuppance, and wasn't really any worse than a lot of other heroes except from the point of view of Doctor Horrible. Granted, said comeuppance is self-inflicted and relatively minor, more befitting a Jerk Jock than a supervillain.
Applied in a big way in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, as noted most obviously in the turtles' treatment of Karai, Hun, and the Shredder. While all three characters have led crime syndicates and have ruined countless off-screen lives, the turtles' treatment of them varies wildly. The Shredder, as Hamato Yoshi's killer, becomes a kill-on-sight villain whenever he threatens the world. Hun, who is openly antagonistic against the turtles but has yet to do any real damage, is dealt with ambivalence—if he's killed, fine, but they won't go out of their way to do so. On the other hand, sometimes-ally Karai—who has tried to kill the turtles on more than one occasion and was perfectly willing to allow her father to commit interstellar genocide—wound up being invited to April and Casey's wedding after her help defeating an even bigger bad. Combined with the fact that "stopping the bad guys" sometimes means "committing genocide", it's hard not to conclude the the turtles, although unquestionably heroic at times, have also committed plenty of actions that would make people go "what the hell, hero?"
Aeon Flux deconstructs this constantly. The pilot starts out as a normal "Superspy slaughters mooks" sequence, then slowly shifts its focus to the final thoughts and experiences of several drugged, bleeding guards dying on the floor. The episode "War" goes through no less than four protagonists in a matter of minutes, each alternating sides in the conflict, and several of which start by killing the previous protagonist...
The title characters of The Powerpuff Girls are often just as destructive as the villains they fight, which is almost never acknowledged because, well, they're the Powerpuff Girls. Most likely the townsfolk decide that they're probably a better option than leaving the Kaiju unchecked, but often the destruction they cause is entirely disproportional to the threat.
The beatings they regularly give to any criminal, ever, are almost excessive force by an enormous margin. Mojo Jojo especially is on the receiving end of some horribly brutal treatment, and given that he's no more physically able than a regular chimpanzee it's the equivalent of Superman giving a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to Lex Luthor.
They beat the crap out of an innocent clown, who was clearly not acting out of his own malicious intentions and that it was the result of a freak accident, who had also reverted and was no longer a threat when they beat him up.
There are many instances when a villain is either subdued or surrenders... only to be beaten to a pulp before going to jail. One example comes from Big Billy becoming a good guy temporarily only to leave the group after getting yelled at. In the end, he saves the girls' lives by thwarting a scheme against them. The girls say that while they appreciate it, he still has to go to jail for helping the Gangreen Gang which he nods in acceptance.... they then beat the snot out of him.
In another episode the Professor forces them to use a giant battle mecha to fight a giant pufferfish monster and the fight totally destroys Townsville, but instead of overlooking the destruction like they usually do the whole town yells at them and demands they never use the robot again. Realising what they did the girls shift the blame onto their maker, who has the decency to be rendered speechless and leave under the towns' collective glares.
Also given one helluva lampshade in the origin movie, where the girls' first flight through Townsville causes mass destruction and makes the populace terrified of them. For what it's worth, they never cause anywhere near that level of destruction ever again unless they're actually fighting something.
Spongebob Squarepants has this in spades. We are constantly supposed to side with Spongebob and Patrick over other people, such as in the "Bubble Buddy" episode where we're supposed to sympathise with Spongebob because people want to pop his "friend", despite them doing nothing but cause trouble the entire episode, such as keeping a very large amount of people waiting two hours to use the bathroom because Bubble Buddy was "using it" and making an unreasonably complicated order at the Krusty Krab. And since the bubble currency they paid Mr. Krabs ceased to exist (and was never valid to begin with), they technically stole several hundred dollars worth of food from him. Bubble Buddy even let a fish die; at least in the Mob's case, they didn't know Bubble Buddy was alive.
In the series as a whole, anyone whose species is a simple fish is liable to die with nary a concern from the main cast.
This appears more in later seasons. You're supposed to side with Spongebob and Patrick, no matter what, especially when they annoy or cause injury to other characters because of their idiocy, sending a warped aesop to the viewers: "Making everyone's life a living hell is okay if you're the protagonist."
In "Boast Busters" Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Applejack take issue with Trixie's magic show and boasting, despite all three doing plenty of boasting themselves and begin heckling her for little if any reason. By the end of the episode Trixie's home and possessions are destroyed by an Ursa Minor and the main culprits of the bear being brought there, Snips and Snails, get mustaches as 'punishment'. While Twilight is the one to (indirectly) humiliate her, Twilight's friends were practically gloating at the ruination of someone else's livelihood and home for behavior less problematic they themselves have and would do.
The treatment of Canterlot upper crust ponies is pretty bad. While they are snobby jerks, that doesn't really justify the Mane Cast causing property damage, assaulting the attendees who didn't do anything to them, causing massive disruptions, and in the case of the Canterlot Garden Party, in addition to the above, they invade the party uninvited, eat the food, forcibly redecorate, and try to play over the music, even though the snobs hadn't done anything to them personally. In other episodes, the kind of rude behavior they did, stuff like causing property damage and assaulting old mares, was done by the jerk characters as a means to establish they were massive jerks, whereas when the Mane Cast did it, it was treated as Hilarity Ensues.
The Legend of Korra: Although various subtle forms of non-bender opression are found in the background of early episodes, the audience are expected to believe that, in the words of Korra, the Equalists are "opressing [themselves]". The main characters frequently insist that most benders would never dream of using their abilities to bully and assault non-benders - and then proceed to do just that. The only one who ever calls them out on this behaviour is the show's villain Amon.
The best example is the Equalist Protestor, whose biggest crime is being obnoxious while on his soapbox. We're supposed to side with Korra when she smashes his megaphone and physically threatens him, despite the fact he's obviously just a low-ranking mook who isn't privy to all the secret important information they're looking for.
Mako tries to discourage his brother from asking Korra out under the guise of "dating teammates during a tournament is a bad idea." The real reason is he secretly likes her, despite already being in a committed relationship with Asami. His advice about not dating teammates is then presented as right when the Fire Ferrets fighting causes them to nearly lose a match and Bolin gets his heart broken. None of which was actually caused by Bolin going on a date with Korra, but rather Korra getting his hopes by not telling him she only liked him as a friend, and then kissing Mako while unaware he could see them. Despite being the most innocent in all of this, Bolin is the only one who apologises and Mako is never called out for trying to keep Korra on ice.
In King of the Hill, Hank is almost always presented as being clearly in the right of whatever the issue of the week is while his opponents, whose only crimes most of the time was simply being a mild annoyance to Hank or disagreeing with him, are turned into strawmen. This carries some Unfortunate Implications with it as Hank is often shown as somewhat bigoted, small minded and controlling of his son Bobby to the point of ruining activities Bobby enjoyed because Hank disagreed with them.
This trope applies to Family Guy as a whole, especially their treatment of characters like Meg, Lois, and Brian. We're supposed to side with Peter because he is a protagonist. Because Meg is the definition of Hollywood Homely, we're supposed to find her abuse funny.
At the same time, the majority of the time Peter is handed An Aesop, Lois is designated as The Straight Man and supposed to be considered of higher moral ground, despite the fact that, in later episodes at least, Lois only has a vague margin of scruples over Peter, and many of her lectures or arguments with him are full of hypocritical or self serving behaviour (perhaps the most exagerrative examples include when she raped him to prove how misguided his vow of abstinence was, or when she chastised him for saying he hates his kids, despite once outright advising Meg to commit suicide out of apathy for her).
To some degree in The Dreamstone. The heroes excessively regard the Urpneys as evil monsters for serving Zordrak and are supposedly justified in elaborately torturing or outright trying to kill them each episode as revenge for trying to steal the stone. Keeping in mind the Urpneys are meek, impersonal and completely unwilling Slave Mooks to Zordrak (who is known to horribly kill Urpneys who fail or defy him) and their crimes rarely exceed petty theft and trying to give the Noops scary dreams. It doesn't help that the backstory heavily implies the Dream Council banished Zordrak to Viltheed, so are arguably responsible for him conquering it and enslaving them in the first place. Overall, the heroes have caused a lot more unprovoked (or at least highly disproportionate) damage to the Urpneys' lives, but are still depicted as incredibly harmonic and sweet natured civilians, who are justified in their apathy towards the Urpneys because they are forced to steal their precious stone.
Pakku from Avatar: The Last Airbender. In his first appearance he's antagonistic, misogynist, and condescending, culminating in him insulting Katara and then refusing to duel her, a serious insult in the Avatar world, where dueling is still considered the most appropriate way to settle disputes. After Pakku changes his mind and chooses to teach Katara waterbending, however, our view of the character completely changes. All of a sudden he's a nice, heroic figure who acts lovingly and respectfully, and all of his failings are completely swept under the rug.