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 simply because he thought she was hot; The Hero will easily forgive this guy, buy him a drink, and may even invite him 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 and supertrope for What Measure Is a Mook?. See also Rule of Empathy. Contrast What the Hell, Hero?, where another character does call the protagonist out on his questionable behavior, Moral Myopia, where a character tries to invoke this but the narrative disagrees, and Hypocritical Humor, where a character's double standards are Played for Laughs.
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 when the story ignores bad things done by the protagonists, or good things done by the antagonists. If the story presents a character as a clear hero or villain, but some fans ignore the facts, that's Misaimed Fandom.
open/close all folders
Big Finish Doctor Who often uses this trope, particularly in one Story Arc that pits the Eighth Doctor against the Monk. Simply put, the Doctor can't force his friends to sacrifice their lives, even if it would save thousands, whereas the Monk would gladly murder one person if it would prevent an entire planet from being destroyed. Of course the Doctor gets the moral victory, albeit at great personal cost. Other stories and arcs explore the idea further, but no matter how much Grey and Grey Morality comes into play, the Doctor typically comes out as a hero because he's, well, the hero.
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.
This is probably no more blatant then when the gang fought Kao a powerful demon who feeds on the sorrow of others. Inuyasha has just watched Kikyo die a second and final time. Yet the demon said that Kagome’s pain was worse because she had to watch Inuyasha be sad over another woman. Inuyasha himself even said that it was selfish of him to feel pain because of the hurt he caused Kagome.
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, Vegeta 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.
The case with Pegasus is anime only. In the manga, he's killed right after his duel with Yugi (though Pegasus is regarded with apprehension even in the anime, so he's not entirely forgiven).
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).
Danzo has committed a string of morally questionable actions for (what he views as) the good of the village, but what puts the protagonists at odds with him was giving the Cloud village permission to kill Sasuke, who had recently assisted the same terrorist organization that had antagonized the village throughout Part II (and had just reduced it to a crater) by capturing a jinchuurki like Naruto without any regard for the man's life.
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.
And then there's Ultear, who has murdered or otherwise ruined the lives of countless people, including Jellal, but pulled a face turn at the end of the Tenrou Island Arc and was automatically labeled as one of the good guys without anyone calling her out on it.
This trope was explicitly discussed and exploited in-universe by a minor character: Luciano Bradley, the Knight of Ten. Before his climactic fight with Kallen's new Guren SEITEN, he mentions that acts which might normally brand one as a mass murderer will instead be treated as those of a hero if they are done 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.
Mostly subverted in the case of the actual protagonist, Lelouch vi Britannia. At the beginning, the story didn't appear to be making too much emphasis on the negative consequences of Lelouch's rebellion and his actions as Zero, outside of the antagonist faction's predictable complaints, but later on several of his unethical acts, mistakes and omissions did start to come back and affect him, his cause and/or his own friends as a result. Furthermore, he denies himself this trope by accepting the extremes he feels must take and not making excuses for his actions, even when a perfectly good explanation that could help save face exists.
Inverted in the case of the Black Knights, specifically Ohgi plus those who willingly joined in the betrayal of the protagonist at the instigation of Schneizel and Britannian spy/secret love interest Villetta, since most of them either ignored or downplayed the positive actions carried out by Lelouch/Zero on behalf of their cause and the UFN, instead choosing to focus only on the real or perceived offenses their leader had committed. In turn, their own unjust treatment of Lelouch was largely left unaddressed, with the shortsighted at best and self contradictory at worst nature of the whole affair being cast aside.
Suzaku's more worried about being moralistic in his own actions than caring about the morals of the people he works for, no matter how many innocent civilians die in the process. 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.
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!!"
Humorously Lampshaded when Luffy tells a civilian friend of theirs that he can't trust Aokiji because Aokiji is a Marine. After getting a confused look in response he remembers that Marines are the good guys (in theory, at least).
Shaman King practically revels in this. Despite Yoh's philosophy about how if you hurt others then they hurt you back, a lot of the people seeking revenge actually have a very valid reasons for doing so (like the children of Camel Munzer whose father was murdered by Chocolove but are considered "evil" for killing him). Tao Ching even handwaves the morally questionable acts his family commits on the excuse that good and evil are meaningless in an ever changing world.
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 he 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.
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.
Kirito may have some justification, however: Kayaba was devoid of empathy but also devoid of any particular malice towards the players, and he played by Aincrad's rules even when he is ultimately defeated. Sugou, on the other hand, hides behind the invincibility of his admin status, was explicitly trying to rape Asuna and murder Kirito, and if his Mind Control experiments with the Nerve Gear had paid off he would have inflicted untold suffering on who knows how many victims beyond the 300 he used for his experiments. Taken this way, Kirito's comment has less to do with the weight of their respective crimes and more to do with their locations on the Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness.
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).
Also remember that he'd met Rastapopoulos before and had an idea of what scum he was.
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.
Marvel Comics has had several villains over the years reform or claim to reform with their crime conveniently forgotten. Magneto was once a mutant terrorist and the Juggernaut had caused massive destruction and threw around buses full of children in his fights. Yet both were accepted on to the X-Men when the claimed to reform and did some good. Ares, the God of War has tried to start WWIII, destroy civilization, and murders mortals on a whim. The moment he has a son and wants to raise him on Earth Iron Man forgets all of his past crimes and wants to make him an Avenger. Virtually no other character expresses a problem with Iron Man letting on the team a 5,000 year old warlord who has more blood on his hands than every Avenger villain combined... for laughs.
Magneto's case is more defendable. He was always fighting for his people, not simply killing to kill. What has changed (the many times he's been through the revolving door) is what he deems acceptable circumstances for that killing.
Wolverine in general, concerning his rivalry with Cyclops, especially in recent years. Earlier years he was a rebel who often got himself into trouble and had to learn to respect Cyclops' leadership, but as fans of his got promoted into being his writers, and his problems with Cyke have now grown to the point he's shunned him and taken leadership of the 'real' X-Men team, he's grown into this. We're supposed to take Wolverine's side in their arguments, given he usually gets the last word in and he is seen as 'the good guy', despite the fact that he's the one who instigates most of their arguments, or the fact that had they gone with his idea, everything would have been screwed. In Schism, when Cyclops argues they stand and fight while he wants to run away to protect the younger students, he starts a physical fight that wastes time until the Sentinel is there, and he continues the fight while also fighting off the Sentinel, before eventually going with Cyclops' plan, which ends up being the right call. Despite that, he splits the X-Men, and again, we're supposed to agree with him. In Avengers vs. X-Men, the spiritual follow-up, the entire incident could have been avoided had he not bad-mouthed Cyclops to Captain America, and later he suggests the idea of killing Hope (you know, the girl who can repopulate his race?!) to end the Phoenix threat, which later turns out to have been a terrible idea that nobody else supported. Despite that, he ends up on the side of angels while Cyclops is arrested for terrorism. Both were written by Jason Aaron, who seems to have a fondness for Wolverine calling Cyclops out on perceived wrong-doings, usually with little justification. It doesn't help that everything he calls him out on, Wolverine himself is guilty of. Schism was supposed to be about Wolverine protecting the innocent children... Except the X-Men have always trained students to fight, with Wolverine himself making it a tradition to take a teenaged girl under his wing every ten or so years. This trait continues into Wolverine-centric adaptations, while ironically, Cyclops-centric ones tend to give Wolverine some merit in his complaints.
This hit its peak when, during the Battle Of The Atom crossover, Wolverine calls out Cyke for killing Charles Xavier. Never mind that Cyke was possessed by a cosmic force and killed Xavier in self defense, the fact is: Wolverine kills all the time! Cyclops, of course, calls him out on the hypocrisy, pointing out that Cyclops has killed one person, while Wolverine has killed many. How does Wolverine respond? "Nobody I've killed matters." That is literally a direct quote...
Wolverine's viewpoint in the whole Schism storyline is actually quite out-of-character for him, considering he's always been in favor of the younger mutants getting involved in combat in the past, and an older issue had him point out that plenty of children have fought in wars when Professor Xavier was trying to have Kitty Pryde moved to the New Mutants.
In fairness this applies equally to Cyclops himself. He has a romantic relationship with a former enemy of the X-Men and history of murder and Mind Rape. Likewise, the question of whether Magneto, who has caused thousands of deaths over the years is a villain to be stopped or an ally to be worked with is usually based entirely on Scott's personal feelings on the matter. Cyclops and Wolverine are Not So Different on this front, with both of them having a shared habit of adopting absolutist stances that disregard the opinions of virtually everyone else, including their own teammates, whenever they feel that the end result will be for the best.
Wanted deconstructs this in a rather interesting way. The protagonist Wesley Gibson starts out as an almost comically gutless, whiny loser before he is introduced into the world of supervillains. As part of his Took a Level in Badass act, he instead becomes a sadistic, depraved mass-murdering monster through an inversion of The Hero's Journey-type of story arc, while the reader is forced to side with him due to the Villain Protagonist perspective and Evil Versus Evil morality. In reality Wesley's enemies are barely worse than him, and the comic ends with Wesley becoming one of the five supervillain overlords of the planet, his journey to power, wealth and evil completed. Any readers who at this point were still rooting for the guy as an Anti-Hero badass despite his depravities are soon reminded how bad he is when he turns to the reader, calls them out on supporting him, and then rapes you. Don't forget, he's the villain.
In the Pokémon 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. What's really ironic about this is that she accused the Pokemon anime canon of doing this with Ash, despite this clearly not being the case.
The X-Men: Evolution fanfic Tsunami received a lot of 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 the 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.
Likewise, some stories show the humans as evil simply because they didn't want to convert or they dared to defend themselves against the ponies.
In I'm Here to Help, Emerald's stated goal (to stop Crystal Tokyo's creation, to prevent its people from being brainwashed) is noble enough, but the fic gives virtually no evidence of brainwashing (life seems to go on perfectly normally, from what we hear of it), and his main reasons for not liking life in Crystal Tokyo boil down to that he thinks it's boring. The same goes for Pluto, at the end. The only reason she gives for having her timeline erased from existence - sending countless unsuspecting people and her own friends into Nothingness - is because Crystal Tokyo didn't turn out how she liked it. No specific reasons, just that.
After Serenity came to power, Emerald joined a group of rebels who tried to overthrow her. While their efforts were portrayed as heroic (if doomed to failure), none of them seemed to consider ever trying non-violent means of shaking Serenity's public support, instead opting to launch an incredibly brutal attack on her and her friends. Emerald decries the decreed fate of the rebellion's survivors - banishment from Earth - and hates that the senshi consider it magnanimous, except that sending them to live elsewhere is a pretty light sentence for trying to kill a ruler.
A later chapter has Jupiter and Mars discussing the last time they fought Emerald. They are portrayed as being unfeeling about attacking two children that Emerald brought as helpers, while it's ignored that Emerald was the one who brought the children along in the first place.
Quite possibly the ultimate one: Serenity performing Purification on the planet (keeping monsters from springing from it and removing negative emotions from everyone) is portrayed as an incredibly amoral act. At the end of the fic Emerald counters this by performing an anti-Purification, soaking the planet and its people in his own power, to keep the actual Purification from working. This is portrayed as unquestionably the best solution, even though Emerald is using his own power to change the planet and meddle with the lives of countless people without their knowledge or consent, something which he hated Neo-Queen Serenity for doing. (While it is heroic that he allows everyone their free will, it is at the cost of a future full of monsters, and nobody is informed of any of this. Emerald takes it for granted that the entire world would reject Crystal Tokyo, were it not for Purification.)
Films — Animated
This trope is in full action in Vuk The Little Fox. Since the story focuses on Vuk, he is treated as a good guy, despite killing a lot of (apparently sentient) animals for food, and systematically destroying a man's property. At the same time, the hunter is treated as the Big Bad, even though he just kills foxes to protect his livestock.
Played for Laughs in The LEGO Movie. Batman reveals he stole the hyperdrive of the passing ship the Millennium Falcon so that the group could use it for their own ship. The very next scene shows the now-hyperdrive-less starship being eaten alive by a space slug.
Films — Live-Action
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.
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!
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 makes only half-hearted attempts at ambiguity, clearly basing itself on the audience siding with Collins.
Jumper is based on the audience siding with its Anti-Hero, who supports himself with crime ennabled by his superpowers. We side with him because the organization who hunts down people with his powers are Knights Templar and will kill people who try to help him.
He was a child when he stole the wealth and apparently was in the process of paying back what he stole. He came from a home where his dad just kinnda burned out after the mom left. In fact, she was one of these Knight Templars who left her husband and child because her duty would have made her kill the protagonist. When she does see him again, she justs says she's giving him headstart.
Perfectly averted in First Blood. What starts as a black and white story of an over zealous sheriff abusing a vagrant 'Nam vet who just wanted to be left alone evolves into a story of Graying Morality due to Rambo and Teasle having just the right amount of Ax-Crazy and Jerkass Has a Point to their respective characters.
In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Sarah and Nick sabotage some mercenaries hired by the company who owns the dinosaurs. 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. The film also conveniently leaves out most of the really bad stuff the real Spartans did, like institutional slavery.
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.
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. Also, 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 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.
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.
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 USA is 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.
The first film has Dom's team stealing parts from truckers, yet plays them as sympathetic. Their only reason for doing this is to fund their street racing.
The fourth film has the team rob another truck, and almost kill the driver (though not intentionally). The thing given focus is how Dom and Letty want to settle down and get away from this dangerous life.
The Ledge suffers greatly from this: the hero, Gavin, is an atheist who decides to seduce Shana, the wife of the antagonist Joe, who is a devout Christian. But up until that point, the only really bad thing Joe had done was feeling sorry for Gavin's "empty life without God" as well as feeling sorry for his gay roommate. Moreover, Gavin is also shown (and even admits to) using emotional manipulation on her in order to make her fall for him, and the whole justification Gavin uses for his actions is that he believes that Shana is too good for her deeply religious husband and thus Gavin appoints himself as her "savior" from an oppressive life.
Ever After has this with the gypsies, a band of highwaymen who are introduced when they find Prince Henry lost on the road and proceed to beat and attempt to rob him. When their leader chides Danielle by telling her that she can leave in peace and take with her whatever she can carry, he's so amused by her ability to carry Henry himself on her back that he lets them stay in their camp for the night. The fact that they're still criminals who attacked the crown prince and have been making a living by attacking travelers on the road is quickly forgotten, and Henry later invites them to a masquerade ball. To rub elbows with some of the same people they've been mugging.
Dave: When the White House Chief of Staff and Communications Director conspire to replace the incapacitated president of the USA with an impersonator (the 'Dave' of the title) in order to pursue their own agendas it is a nefarious conspiracy. When the impersonator himself, his new squeeze the First Lady, and a Secret Service agent do the same thing on their own account it is portrayed as heartwarming and principled.
In lots of movies with a plot in which a character is applying for a job the narrative will be framed so we support this character and want them to get the job, which inevitably means we want the other applicants NOT to get the job. So if the character gets the job we will cheer for them, and not be sad for all the other applicants who got rejected, and if a different applicant gets the job the narrative will make it seem sad for the main character. This kind of centered-morality was spoofed in a scene of Five Hundred Daysof Summer.
Maleficent unblinkingly kills dozens if not hundreds of men during her reign of terror. Most of them were trying to kill her, sure, but they were Just Following Orders from their own tyrant king. Besides, a lot of that could have been avoided if she hadn't cursed Aurora in the first place. Still, all of that gets to be completely ignored at the end when she makes her Heel-Face Turn and gets to live Happily Ever After with Aurora's praise and respect.
In the Very Loosely Based on a True Story movie about Bruce Lee's life, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story it depicts Bruce as coming up with the idea for the Kung Fu tv series, with the intention of playing the lead character. the movie then shows Bruce and his wife Linda being saddened when Bruce gets passed over for the role in favour of actor David Carradine, basically making it seem like Carradine stole the role from Bruce, with the movie demonising Carradine. Needless to say, in real life EVERY SINGLE TIME an actor auditions for a role they go up against other people, and if one person gets chosen that inevitably means other people got rejected. All Carradine did was accept a paid role that was offered to him, and yet this movie demonises him for that.
In book #12, the girls get bitchy over Claudia spending time with a new friend and go as far as to short-sheet her bed, mess with her belongings, and leave her a series of nasty notes. But in the end, Claudia is the one who owes them an apology for "being a bad friend."
The girls also viciously shun Mary Anne in another story after she commits the mortal sin of... getting a stylish new haircut. Everything's back to hunky dory by the end of the book.
In one book, the girls are angry and hurt when Mrs. Newton decides to hire an older sitter for her new baby as she feels that a 13-year-old, no matter how experienced, may not be able to cope with a newborn. The girls act like it's irrational and unfair, and the girls do eventually prove that several of those sitters are Very Bad, although Mrs. Newton says she found one she liked and she'll continue to call him on his own. The girls do eventually get to sit for Lucy Newton, but not until they're in eighth grade.
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.
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.
A minor character actually calls them out on it at one point. An acquaintance of the minor character has been pretending to be on the side of the protagonists, but is actually running a kind of con game. They pull a reverse con on him and cheat him, and the minor character says something along the lines of "So, yeah, I don't think I can be your friend any more. Yes, he was trying to cheat you too, but if you're serious about following the teachings of Christ, you're supposed to be better than him." Many readers were probably thinking "Yeah!" when the Jerk Ass finally got his comeuppance, so this was a slap in the face for them as well.
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.
Bella has a rather telling moment in Eclipse when the Cullens know a battle with a large group of hostile vampires is coming, and Bella finds out that vampires become a little stronger if they feed on human blood versus the Cullens' normal diet of animal blood. She realizes she's perfectly okay with condemning someone to death if it slightly improves the odds of her boyfriend surviving the battle.
And by Breaking Dawn, the Cullens have agreed that they need backup if the Volturi are coming to get their murder on, so they call in every favor they have with the other vampires. Now, the Cullens have sworn to feed only on the blood of animals. These vampires have not. And yet, the Cullens are happy to lend them their car to go hunting for humans (and vampires in this universe inevitably kill any human they feed on, unless they're turned) - just as long as Bella doesn't get hurt.
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.
It is stated in-story that only paragons of Incorruptible Pure Pureness can ever be Lensmen in the first place (and that the Arisians are actively weeding out those who fall short just before they actually get Lenses), but we do have to kind of take the author's word for it.
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 House of Night series is seen and judged through Zoey's sense of Morality. Even in Tempted and Burned (when different POVS and Loads and Loads of Characters are introduced) and someone has different opinion than that of Zoey's having, they're considered to be having an OOC moment at best or they're automatically considered to be a horrible bitch and/or in kahootz with the Big Bad.
Kalona, pretty much the cause for every single bad thing that's ever happened in the series, gets a Fallen Hero backstory and two chapters from his POV. Zoey thought it possible he could be redeemed. Why? Because in a past life Zoey was in love with him.
The Big Bad, despite have a pretty legitimate Freudian Excuse, has yet to ever have a chapter in their POV explaining why and how they have become the very thing they have always hated the most. The Big Bad has been written off as a monster. Why? Because Loren's real lover was Neferet and she sent him to seduce Zoey and segregate her from her friends and allies. Neferet also flirted with Erik when Zoey was still in love with him despite the fact that he wasn't dating anyone and he was a Changed Vampyre.
The majority of characters (and a large portion of the Fandom) consider Loren Blake to be idealized. Why? Because he was young good-looking substitute professor and because Zoey was in love with him and Death Equals Redemption. Loren Blake was a sexual predator and a Manipulative Bastard. Ontop of that, he decided to toy with the feelings of the Big Bad... A serious case of Too Dumb to Live and Hoist by His Own Petard. He knew what the Big Bad wanted and why she wanted him to do it and went along with her plans with no remorse.
When Venus is introduced she has just recently regained her humanity but she is deemed a horrible bitch and possibly evil in the first chapter of Hunted. She is also hated by the fandom considerably. Despite the fact that Venus's personality is very close to that of Aphrodite, PC Cast's favourite character and most popular character with the Fandom. Why? Because she DARED to flirt with Erik infront of Zoey and hooked up with him when Zoey and Erik broke up. Zoey was telling herself that it was wrong to behave and think the way she did, didn't stop it anyway.
Not to mention how Zoey and her friends all call Aphrodite a "ho" for dating two guys, even though she began going out with the second one only sometime after the first one and is genuinely serious about him. Zoey, meanwhile, has dated/flirted with no less than four guys, lost her virginity to her teacher Loren while she was dating Erik and letting Heath continually lure her into feasting on his blood, and she repeatedly calls herself out for being unable to settle on one guy. And yet when Erik calls her out on this in a later book, he's dismissed as just a jealous jerk by all her friends and we're clearly meant to disagree with her being a ho even when she keeps on saying that she is and is right.
Raven Mockers are mindless creatures of Darkness and they should all be wiped out. Everybody agrees with the Kill 'em All attitude and, as of Burned, around twenty Raven Mockers have been killed. Even the idea of giving them a burial is seen as strange. The only exception is Stevie Rae and when she raises valid points of What Measure Is a Non-Human? and If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him not only does every character tell her she's wrong but she is suspected of secretly turning over to The Dark Side.
Speaking of Stevie Rae, how is it okay for the Red Fledglings that haven't "Chosen" yet to be running around killing people? Even after she gives them multiple chances to choose, and they try to kill her and her friends multiple times, she ends up just chasing them away/exiling them... as if wherever they end up, they'll be any less evil and bloodthirsty? Maybe it's just a weakness moment or something, but the fact that they're Red Fledglings and thus "her people" seems to be what keeps her from stopping them from murdering any more innocents... permanently.
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 Polgara and Belgarath are much worse. 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.
Lampshaded 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.
Also in The Elenium, the Sparhawk's party slaughters enemies by dozens. They even kill in cold blood an unsympathetic teenage bastard who was unarmed and harmless. They only lose a single member by the end, killed in a fair fight while invading the enemy's HQ. Reaction of the party? They take this justified battle killing as a vile murder and the murderer is slowly and violently tortured to death. And the lost party member is mourned aloud as if it was very unusual for warriors to be killed in battle. We'll hear no remorse from Sparhawk for his murders.
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.
The Fountainhead: Everyone who's poor deserves it except of course Henry Cameron, whose impoverished circumstances are because of eeeevil classical architecture. Then there's Howard Roark, the hero, who engages in rape and domestic terrorism, yet it's treated as a good thing when despite spending eight pages in a Motive Rant about how and why he did the latter, he's found not guilty anyway.
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.
However, she 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, who aren't even really portrayed as bad guys) 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.
This trope is deconstructed quite openly by Emperor Gregor in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, where Gregor somewhat bitterly observes that his actions affect millions of people, and that therefore yes, he does trade in human lives on a daily basis. However, he makes it abundantly clear that he is unhappy with this burden and that he will make compromises that he thinks will benefit his people despite having near-absolute power with which to impose his will as he sees fit. He is also the one holding Miles' leash (personally in the later books, rather than through Simon as in earlier books) and he expects a degree of restraint even though Miles as an Imperial Auditor could be the ultimate Cowboy Cop if allowed to do so. Miles himself becomes noticeably more self-restrained once he becomes an Auditor, and realizes how even the most trivial of his actions could directly impact the Imperium much more than in the days when he was a covert operative.
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.)
Brought to the fore in the ending of The Sword of Good. One of the companions is a pirate captain, but because she joined the heroes she will be rewarded in the end and has never shown the slightest repentance for her past crimes. The heroes also indulge in what should be considered to be torture and cold-blooded murder, except it's done to "the bad guys". The Obi-Wan doesn't bother to heal the crippled and sickly on the street but will stop to patch up small nicks, and makes the party's rogue (who pulled a Heel-Face Turn and thus won't be held accountable for his past crimes either, particularly as he's falled in love with the pirate captain) take point and stumble into a lethal trap, despite the fact that he himself is covered with enough protective spells to make him practically invulnerable to mundane traps and attacks. The protagonist is rightfully sickened when he realizes how easily he just accepted all this before.
In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, Ziantha thinks taking over the bodies of the dead is a touch of Necromancy. Having done so, she and the other psychic with her exploit the dead's past and the loyalties of the innocent guardsmen without regard to the effect they have on the ancient civilization — and all for a purpose of Tomb Robbing. It is taken for granted that the dead man's widow is malicious because of her hatred for him, though the book reveals nothing of their relations before. (True, the other psychic is doing it to discover more about the past, not for financial reasons. Still.)
In Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small, a major event in Squire involves the fact that nobles are able to mistreat commoners at will and at worst must pay a fine if convicted, something that Kel protests vehemently. She also agrees to give up her own noble right to duel the noble offender when the King agrees to change the law since that would undercut the point that the law must apply to all. But in Lady Knight, Neal lays a spell on a man, cites his being a Queenscove when reminded it's illegal, and Kel unambiguously approves of this act. Yes, the man was an abusive Jerk Ass and there wasn't much chance of local justice, but Kel should have at least thought about the fact that Neal was flagrantly taking advantage of his birth to do this.
There is particularly blatant example in The Scarlet Letter. The antagonist Chillingworth does objectively good things: He gains great medical knowledge from the indians at considerable personal risk and uses it for the benefit of the community. When Chillingworth comes home to see his wife (and indirectly himself) publicly shamed, he comforts Hester, medicates her and her daughter and mostly blames himself for his wife's infidelity. He helps Dimmesdale medically and emotionally by correctly insisting that Dimmesdale will never fully recover until he relieves himself of whatever is weighing his heart. Despite these good acts, the Puritans of Boston seem ungrateful for having a man who has put so much effort into becoming a great doctor for them and seem to interpret everything he does in the worst possible light. Everyone, including the narrator and Chillingworth himself assumes that he is doing everything for the very worst of reasons. Just to hammer in his badness the narrator makes Chillingworth ugly and uglier as the story goes on. Protagonist Dimmesdale on the other hand does objectively bad things by ruining Hester's life and making Pearl grow up a poor pariah. He is extremely hypocritical in participating in the public shaming of Hester, even pretending to try to make her give away the name of her lover. He neither has the courage to confess and face the consequences, nor to take his secret to the grave. Choosing the most cowardly possible solution he waits until he only has seconds left to live to confess. Yet he obviously has the sympathy of the narrator, Hester and all of Boston.
Simultaneously averted and played straight with Anita Blake. Anita does start sliding down the slippery slope of morality, noting how she's less affected by things as the series goes on, and can do things that morally she would have balked at earlier. However, everything she does is portayed as the right and correct decision at the time, regardless of the consequences (and some of the things she's done would result in her perfectly legal summary execution.)
A lot of the behavior displayed by the titular Nancy Drew is downright meddlesome, snoopy, and intrusive, all of which is portrayed as perfectly okay as she's a detective and the people she's displaying this behavior towards are jerks and/or suspects in her case. When anyone else acts like this, they are rightfully called out on their rudeness. To the point where she outright demands clarification on information that she learned while eavesdropping on a man's private conversation, he's the one made to be the bad guy for screaming at her to mind her own business.
To be fair, multiple times throughout the Files series, Nancy is blasted for this by everyone—Bess, George, Ned, even her own father—and her conduct is bad enough to cause a rift in her relationships with these people.
A particular virulent and infamous example of this is in Brisingr, when Eragon goes AWOL after finding Sloan in the Ra'zac lair, and subsequently condemns him to a Fate Worse than Death by a blatant act of Mind Control (something that he later despises Galbatorix for doing to Murthagh). His decision is not only not punished by his superiors afterwards, but they agree that it was for the best. To put this into perspective, if Murthagh had attacked while Eragon was gone, the entire Varden, Surdan and Urgal force would have been wiped out. And all for the sake of saving a traitorous backstabber that Eragon happened to know personally. Mind you, that if Eragon had not done this, Sloan would have been Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
The second book of the The Cobra Trilogy has the titular Cobra super-soldiers agree to consider attacking the planet Qasama (which they know nothing about) in exchange for new territory elsewhere. They go to Qasama pretending to be a diplomatic party while actually spying, and when caught, kill a lot of Qasamans and threaten to do more damage until they're allowed to leave. Then they come back in greater force to conduct experiments, and kill more Qasamans to make their getaway. Their conclusion: Jeez, these people we've attacked twice are a damn menace, aren't they? We've got to start a full-scale war with them, quick! (The fact that the Qasamans used spy tricks and violence against the Cobras is cited as proof that the they're dangerous, even though the Cobras were first to spy and first to kill.) In the end, the Cobras find a solution short of war which will "only" overturn the foundations of Qasaman society. But it's the Cobras doing all this, so yay! A few people on the Cobra side note that the conflict was probably unnecessary, but even then, most treat it as a strategic blunder rather than a maybe-we're-the-bad-guys realisation.
In Twisted, Railrunner gushes about how much he loves drinking blood and killing, and during his initial transformation and rampage, straight-out murders dozens of cops who were just doing his duty, then has the audacity to bitch that no one accepts him as he really is. He also has no problem with killing the Fallen, even though they're evil through no fault of their own . . . and he's the good guy!
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.
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.
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 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.
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 "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 Grunwald 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.
Ross cheating on Rachel was portrayed sympathetically for both sides, one feeling hurt and betrayed and the other feeling ashamed and trying to fix his mistake. Joey slept with an actress who had a long term boyfriend and it was played entirely for laughs because he wasn't a main character and kind of a dick.
Ross ridiculing Paolo right to his face, insulting him in English, knowing full well the guy can't understand him. Had the roles been reversed, Paolo would have been seen as a jerk. When Ross does it, it's played for laughs. Also, Ross intending to swoop in and seduce Rachel following her break-up with Paolo, not only knowing full well that she's in a bad state, but looking to do this BECAUSE she is. Even he argues that this is actually a pretty sleazy thing to do before going ahead with it anyway.
Rachel's nasty attitude towards Ross' girlfriend Julie (and most of Ross' girlfriends) and her manipulative attempts to interfere in this and other relationships of his (trying to prevent Ross and Julie from sleeping together, getting Bonnie to shave her head, etc) She displays similar behavior towards Joey's girlfriends when she takes an interest in him, all played for sympathy and amusement because she's a main character, whereas she would have been reviled had she not been. And she just laughingly accepts that other women tend to dislike her?
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.
Highlander: The Series ran on this trope. Duncan was always right, even when he clearly wasn't.
"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 corpsesStefan leaves behind appear to be of interest purely in terms of judging his mental state.
When it is realised that killing an original vampire also wipes out their entire bloodline, they naturally 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 Centered 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. Also ironic, as the Winchesters have accepted immanent death for far lesser payoffs in the past. Is it better to die fighting a single demon, or wiping them all off the face of the Earth?
There is another side to that story arc. In order to close the Gates of Hell, the brothers (well, Sam) have to complete 3 Trials- kill a Hellhound, save an innocent from Hell, and cure a demon. The hellhound was sicced on a bunch of people who sold their souls years ago, some for quite decent and arguably even noble reasons (to improve the lives of their family- albeit naively by making them rich, which inadvertently turned them all into jerks; to save their dying mother from death etc.), non-selfish or relatively harmless deals that demons make all the time; the innocent soul turns out to be their uncle-figure Bobby, who is shown to be only one of any number of innocents who were supposed to go to Heaven but landed in Hell; the third proves that the vast majority of demons can potentially be saved, and suggests demonism is a curable affliction a la The Corruption. In short, had they actually completed the trials, they would have damned billions of victimised and even innocent souls to true eternal damnation. Not once does anyone bring that up.
Sam's behavior at the start of the eighth season - giving up hunting, shacking up with some random woman, and not even trying to find Dean or rescue Kevin from Crowley - came under a lot of criticism for this. It might could have worked if the show had at least acknowledged he'd screwed up, but instead the narrative and Word of God tried to push that Sam's decision was 'mature' and Dean was wrong for being upset over it. Eventually the show did have Bobby call Sam out on this, but this was 19 episodes into the season and was likely only done to appease the fans once it became clear that nobody liked the decision.
If one compares the early seasons to the later seasons you can easily see that this trope has become rampant in this show. Where once the boys angsted over the rights and wrongs of killing a demon- which always means killing the innocent person they are possessing too-, nowadays they cut them down by the dozen without a shred of hesitation or remorse, and in season 8 at one point Sam actually stops a demon from leaving a victim and then kills it; the only times they don't do this is, of course, with people they personally know and like. In earlier seasons, they were opposed to hunters who treated every single monster out there as fair game and slaughtered with impunity; nowadays, they do exactly that themselves, making only occasional exceptions for, once again, monsters they know (and admittedly, once or twice, for "new" monsters who haven't killed anyone...yet).
In Wizards of Waverly Place it is really driven home in the Alex vs. Alex special. Alex gets drilled, again, for being irresponsible and selfish by her family. Being depressed over this, Alex pulls a stunt that endangers the world, again. She gets stripped of her powers, again, for her actions. At the end of the special, she gives a speech about how only Harper appreciates Alex for being herself and not trying to change her. This It's All About Me speech actually manages to deem her worthy of having her powers again.
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.
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.
This was possibly lampshaded in another show entirely; Living Single. The character Regine is also played by Kim Fields, and is arguably an adult version of Tootie. She's on the jury for a trial of a harmless, little old lady who used to be movie star, accused of arson, and is the only one who thinks the lady is guilty, leading to a hung jury. The temptation to gossip about it nearly kills her, and she eventually gives in, then is kicked off the jury, and ends up wondering why she's a compulsive gossip. Then Max comes in and says the old lady, who was acquitted in seconds by the replacement juror, just torched a 7-11 (with no injuries). Regine immediately decides her big mouth is a gift, and her purpose in life, then ascends majestically to her bedroom while the rest of the cast looks at her dubiously.
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.
Mash 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?
Let's not forget the times that Hawkeye and the others give Frank a hard time over patients dying or not recuperating, and this is seen as harmless joking. Whenever Frank takes a shot at Hawkeye when the tables are turned, everyone treats this as an unpardonable sin.
While Frank was the designated antagonist, he was also known for having the least skill, most pre/eminent/post problems and the highest death rate among the doctors. When he lost a patient, it was half-expected. When Hawkeye has problems, it not because he isn't trying hard enough
Better still, in an early season to force a commander out of the field, Hawk and Trap induced symptoms of a burst appendix on him and then operated to remove it, even though it was an unneeded operation performed with full knowledge that there was no medical reasoning. This is treated as the good guys saving the common folk from an idiot leader, though also shown to be meaningless as they are at war and new causalities immediately come in regardless. Then later, after BJ comes in, Hawkeye wants to perform the same trick again, only this time BJ doesn't follow and Hawkeye (again) performs an unneeded operation, only this time by himself. As (this was during the Alda-wangst period) he melodramas about doing this horrific deed, again it's proven meaningless by a new influx of patients.
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.
Done in Arrow, when Ollie chastises Helena for her violent methods... Except he's killed many, many more people. And yet he still acts self-righteous. When she calls him out on this and gives a Not So Different speech, his response is simply "no."
In lots of sitcoms and soap operas a main character will go through a particularly bad break-up/dumping. Often that character will talk about how bad and nasty and horrible their ex was, and we are meant to agree with them, when often their ex is not actually shown doing anything more 'bad' than simply not wanting to be in a relationship with them. But according to the protagonist and the narrative, this makes them 'bad'. An obvious example is Lilith in both Cheers and Frasier. Diane Chambers, in the same shows, is a lesser example, because while she did leave Frasier at the altar it was subsequently revealed many times that she cared for him and liked him, just not in a romantic way, and yet Frasier and the gang absolutely demonised Diane.
Lilith is a special case because it was more than a simple breakup as she cheated on Frasier and the subsequent devastation nearly drove him to suicide. Lilith was less a bad person and more incredibly unpleasant to be around due to her cold nature and habit of being blunt and unfriendly. It must also be noted that she became significantly more welcome around the household in later seasons when the sting of what she had done wore off a bit.
The resolution of the conflict in the Doctor Who story "Meglos" is highly questionable, yet no one ever questions it. It takes place on a planet where everyone lives in a safe underground city undisturbed by the planetwide jungle teeming with venomous and carnivorous plants. Their power source, a mysterious artifact, is stolen by the intergalactic criminal Meglos to use in a planet-killing superweapon. The Doctor reprograms the weapon to change the target from the jungle planet to Meglos' base. His decision to kill Meglos and the band of thieves he was working with (who didn't even know they were involved in a genocidal scheme up until the end) is never explained or even questioned. This is in stark contrast to the usual pattern of the Doctor avoiding killing even the most evil villains unless it's made very clear to the audience that he had no choice. More alarmingly, the underground city leaders thank the Doctor for saving their planet from destruction and stopping the criminal who stole their power source, but never question whether it was really necessary to destroy the power source. They now have to evacuate untold cubic miles of powerless underground dwellings, set up new homes in a horrible writhing jungle, and somehow find the power to make it all work. Assuming this is even possible, it will be a long and difficult process in which some lives will no doubt be lost. The Doctor may have had no alternative to destroying the artifact, but we wouldn't know because the subject is never discussed at all.
In Remembrance of the Daleks, the Doctor frequently chastises the military (and humanity in general) for their habit of resorting to violence. However, not only does the Doctor directly kill several Daleks over the course of the story, he's actually been planning to eradicate them all for centuries in advance - with a weapon he even helped build.
In LOST the main characters are often placed in situations where they are forced to lie, or even kill, in order to survive. the main characters seem to have accepted this and don't really condemn anyone on 'their' side for killing someone because they see the killing as justified. But when one of the 'others' has to do the same thing against them, for the exact same reasons, they are quick to condemn them and attack them and even kill them, failing to see that they are guilty of the exact same thing. But when 'they' do it it is justified, when the others do it it isn't.
When Walt and Skyler want to buy the carwash, they find ways to screw over the owner. He'd been a jerky boss, but didn't deserve to have them rip him off.
This trope crops up as a recurring theme on The X-Files. Whenever Mulder and Scully are reassigned or the X-Files division is closed, the audience is supposed to feel as outrageously indignant about it as Mulder does. The only problem is that the actions of the partners before the closing/reassignment are actions that should have gotten them fired, if not arrested. This includes such actions as breaking into government agencies using fake identification, stealing evidence, going on unauthorized cases, ignoring direct orders from superiors, etc. The partners always assume that the closing of the X-Files division is part of the conspiracy (and they're not totally wrong), but one has to remember that not only are these agents making the agency look bad, the only reason the X-Files is even open is because Mulder has sway in the government. It's a non-essential division and really shouldn't exist to begin with.
This comes into play heavily in season 8, when Kersh becomes the new AD and assigns Doggett to not only head the man-hunt for Mulder, but also replace him on the X-Files. Kersh is supposed to be seen as an evil dictator of sorts, very different from Skinner, who started out as a boss and ended up a friend. He constantly says he's keeping on eye on the X-Files, which the audience assumes means he's looking for any reason to shut it down. In reality, having a division with essentially rogue agents and a vague case-closure percentage means he should be looking at it closely. Not to mention Mulder had just disappeared and it was seemingly connected to the work. When he says that he'll fire Scully or Skinner if they mention the word "aliens" to his own superiors, one forgets that his job is not only to police the agents under him but to make the FBI itself look good. He also makes several good points when Mulder returns and is refused reinstatement to the FBI; not only does Mulder have a personnel file thick enough to rival War and Peace and Doggett does not, the case closure rate for the X-Files had gone from a very low amount to the highest in the bureau during Doggett's tenure in the office. In the end, he does agree to reinstate Mulder, but rightly fires him in "Vienen" when he—surprise, surprise—ignores direct orders and almost causes an international incident. And who are we supposed to identify with? Mulder and Scully.
On Saved by the Bell, Zack and most of the other main characters aren't much nicer to their nerdy classmates than any of the various bullies who appear on the show in its run (including Screech, who's supposedly Zack's best friend). They insult them frequently and look down on them as people, but because they're the main characters, this is treated as totally normal and acceptable. One particular example comes in the Date Auction episode, wherein Lisa's Guy of the Week is a handsome brainy kid (not a "nerd") who isn't interested in her until she puts on an intellectual facade. Later in the episode, he's made out to be a pompous jerk because he expresses less-than-complimentary feelings about Lisa's friends, as well as Lisa herself before putting on the facade, and Lisa is made out to be correct in telling him off. Because she's a main character, though, it seems viewers aren't meant to remember that Lisa expresses similarly condescending views about people she feels are beneath her (nerds, especially Screech) to some extent in almost every other episode.
Family Matters did this in its last season, when Steve and Laura suddenly hooked up with each other. The problem is that they were both dating other people, who suddenly became their Romantic RunnerUps. And to make things even worse, the writers thought it was a good idea to turn Myra, Steve's ex-girlfriend, into a Designated Villain. It might be true that Myra already had shown signs of being unhinged and morally ambiguous. But still, she had mostly been a good girlfriend to Steve, and she and Laura had even become friends. But in an attempt to make us root for Steve and Laura, who were the Designated Heroes, she suddenly was flanderized into an Ax-CrazyStalker with a Crush, who couldn't bear seeing her ex-boyfriend with another woman. And still, you have to feel sorry for her. After all, she had been Steve's girlfriend for the last four seasons, even when other people often bullied him.
In The IT Crowd episode "Men Without Women", Jen decides to leave the IT apartment to become her boss's PA. She later gets angry at her former colleagues for replacing her with an answering machine (even though she's already left the department so it shouldn't concern her anymore) and punishes them by locking them in an office with their roofied boss who attempts to rape them. In a followup episode, she complains that her colleagues got more money than her in a settlement against their boss and chastises them for not all "sticking together" to push for a bigger settlement. She never seems to realise that she was the one who deliberately put them in that position in the first place, so not only do they owe her absolutely nothing, but they're within their rights to take her to court themselves.
Many RPG players, especially those who aren't interested in the role-playing aspects of the game, will take this attitude. Anything they do is completely justifiable (including killing sentient creatures and taking their stuff - also known as "a home invasion"), while they will seek revenge on NPCs for the slightest infraction.
A major part of the background in Warhammer 40,000. 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).
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.
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!
Also a very minor one in Tales of Symphonia, which is otherwise pretty good about averting it: in the synopsis of the plot thus far found in the game's menu, after the ambush atop the Fooji Mts., the game claims that the Renegades stole the Rheiards from you. I guess we're ignoring that the party stole them from the Renegades in the first place?
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.
Snake and Otacon have formed a group in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty that is dedicated to destroying Metal Gears in all their forms. This leads Snake to infiltrate a tanker operated by the US Marines to get evidence of a new Metal Gear that the government has created. Despite RAY being an antithesis to Metal Gears (no nuclear launch capabilities and designed for the specific purpose of destroying other Metal Gear models) they treat it as as unpardonable sin that the government has created this machine, and we are expected to agree. Or maybe not.
Selvaria, being a Valkyria, is a terrifying enemy who remorselessly slaughters thousands of Gallians, but only until we find out that Alicia is one too, and once she has a connection to the protagonists, her villain status immediately begins to wane. The heroes are much more upset about her capture than they are about the castle full of soldiers she obliterates, the player is expected to feel much more for her than her victims, and the plot pays so much more attention to her that the fact that her capture was a Wounded Gazelle Gambit is never even addressed by her survivors.
Selvaria herself tends to embody this trope on her own, in conjunction with Squad 7's Plot Armor. She's being exploited for her powers and only kills Mooks that no one cares about, so the story treats her like a tragic figure who is good at heart, but isn't in control of her own destiny. But then she spares Squad 7, thus sabotaging Maximillian's assured victory at the last minute, but she kills those thousands of soldiers anyway. The way the story plays out, the tragedy is that she committed suicide, not that a sizable portion of Gallia's entire population was just murdered during a truce.
Faldio shoots Alicia to awaken her Valkyria powers, which stops Selvaria from destroying what's left of the Gallian military and winning the war. Although no one disagrees that his plan worked when no one else had any other ideas, the story utterly condemns him for choosing the many over the one because the one is a main protagonist and the many were Mooks, and while he's punished for treason, the story shows us he was wrong because his plan to save the day required harming a main character instead of just trusting that they'd figure out a way themselves. It's especially notable that he openly states that it's because no one had a solution that he even went to such lengths to begin with, and in the end, the plot proves it was necessary.
The narrative nails this one home at the end when he commits a completely needless Taking You with Me with Maximillian, explicitly to atone for believing in power instead of his friends... who don't object, try to talk him out of it, or even indicate that they accept his apology, even though they're openly offended that someone would dare physically strike Selvaria.
Geld had been committing war crimes since the first war and the Empire apparently knew about it, but wasn't punished for it until, as luck would have it, he was caught by Captain Varrot, who only stayed in the army to find him and get revenge for torturing and murdering her lover. Evidently the Empire didn't mind him torturing and killing prisoners and civilians until Varrot took the high road.
The only Imperial soldiers given any sympathetic treatment are the one that dies in Alicia's lap, and the captain of his unit who lets Alicia and Welkin leave in peace instead of killing them while they're alone in the woods without backup; it's supposed to be a way of showing that the Imperials are Not So Different, but since they go right back to acting like assholes for the rest of the game, it seems that the only way the Imperials can be good people is by being good to the lead couple.
Remember Me doesn't really care too much about anyone but Nilin and the people she cares about personally. No mention is made of the people who are killed as a result of her tampering with memories except for the one she feels guilty about, or the people who are about to be suddenly flooded by horrible memories they once deleted at the end of the game.
Many many video games in general. Is it worth shooting and beating up all those bad guys to get the treasure? Lara Croft is an example, killing lots of guys in her quest to find artifacts. Tomb Raider (2013) lampshades this making Lara repeatedly apologize and angst over killing other island survivors and even the animals she needs to eat to survive.
Defied in Phantasy Star IV, with Chaz's Calling the Old Man Out speech. The Great Light created life in Algo for the sole purpose of keeping the Sealed Evil in a Can in its prison, but Chaz asserts that if they mindlessly obey the Light's plan, there's no real difference between the servants of Darkness and the servants of Light except for which side of the bars they're on. Chaz ends up rejecting the whole Light vs. Dark thing altogether, and decides to fight to protect the people of Algo instead.
Crops up only briefly in King's Quest VI, with a royal proclamation announcing Cassima and Alhazared's wedding. It appears in the beginning of the game before Alexander has any real reason to question the legitimacy of the marriage, but Alhazared is obviously the villain and, at the very least, is oppressing Cassima to the point of keeping her under house arrest. The narration describes Alexander as being distraught at the thought of the wedding because she'd be another man's wife. The danger she's in personally apparently doesn't upset him quite that much.
Odin Sphere has some interesting examples of this thanks to the various characters that the player controls. Ingway, for example, is first introduced as a massive asshole who cast a Pooka curse on Cornelius so that he couldn't be with his sister. Then Mercedes meets him when he's been transformed into a frog and the player gets to see his more heroic side, and then he becomes a Jerkass Woobie for Velvet's story, when his and her backstories are revealed. Odin is first introduced as a complicated figure with an estranged relationship with his daughter. Not necessarily evil, but definitely capable of some morally dubious things. Then comes Mercedes' story again, where the first thing he does on-screen is kill Mercedes' mother during the war between them for control of the Cauldron, and he isn't seen again until her Final Boss fight with him, with Mercedes repeatedly talking about how evil he is in-between.
Queen Odette gets stuck with being the Designated Villain by everyone. As sadistic as she may act, she just wants for everyone to stop breaking into the Netherworld to steal her jewels, and to respect the finality of death by not trying to bring people back all the time.
"Sam": (Holding a bomb) Where can I put this so it doesn't hurt anyone we know or care about?
"Max": Out the window, Sam. There's nothing but strangers out there.
Freeware RPG Paradise Blue has the player on the side of La Résistance as they plan a coup d'etat against the current king. At no point in the game does the narrative try to explain why the resistance leader should be king, and in fact the current king doesn't seem to be that bad of a guy; the only real major flaw he has is that his second in command is a complete asshole. The resistance are the good guys simply because the protagonist is working for them.
Splatoon features conflict between two teams. The team you are on is referred to as "The Good Guys" while the team the player is not on is called "The Bad Guys".
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 human becoming a Heroic Spirit is 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 their soul is stored in the Throne of Heroes rather than reincarnated.
Originally the Grail System was designed to prevent such "Anti-Heroes" from being summoned in any role other than Assassin. After the Third Grail War this restriction was removed due to the corruption of the Grail by Angra Mainyu.
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.
The possibly insance homeless older guy Rayne does basically the same thing to is played more for laughs, seeing as how the character looks almost exactly like artist Lar de Souza's self-portrait.
Zii of Ménage ŕ 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.
In PvP, 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 has this in spades. It matters not if Christian Chandler has decided to have his characters destroy an office building with hundreds of innocent employees inside, as long they were making fun of 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 Doctor 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.
Invoked in the South Park episode "Coon vs. Coon & Friends".
The Coon: It's not my fault you guys turned evil, Kenny!
Mysterion: You are the bad guy, fat boy. You!
The Coon: I'm going around making the world a better place!
Mysterion: For you! You're making the world a better place for you!
The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles miniseries falls into this trope when the turtles steal Baxter Stockman's van and take over his laboratory for no reason other than that he's a bad guy. This justification gets flimsier still when you consider that all Baxter did was collaborate with a mysterious individual who wanted to mass-produce his rat-catching robot prototype. Not questioning what this army of robots was for was irresponsible, but it doesn't make Baxter a serious criminal.
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 that the turtles, although unquestionably heroic at times, have also committed plenty of actions that would make people go "what the hell, hero?"
Ćon 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.
One episode focus's on Buttercup going to far with this. She beats Fuzzy Lumpkins far beyond any need to, and is called out fir it by her sisters and the doctors who treated Fuzzy who is wheelchair bound with excessive injuries, the doctor blatantly state she isn't a hero for beating up someone so viciously.
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."
Very common of many of the protagonists from the Golden Age Of Animation. Warner Bros., MGM and other studios were commonly creating protagonists who were selfish, sociopathic jerks who self-righteously whaled on whoever got in their way for some slight against them no matter how minor. The slapstick, suspension of disbelief and occasional charm helped offset the jerkass tendencies.
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.
The example that stands out to most fans comes in season 8's "Reborn to Be Wild". Bobby meets a group of young Christians who practice their faith in non-traditional ways (such as through skateboarding, tattoos and rock music). Hank is initially happy that Bobby is taking an interest in religion, but gets mad because he feels Bobby's doing it the wrong way. Even though the youth pastor is shown to be a good man with noble intentions, Hank is portrayed as being in the right, with even the pastor's own father siding with him. Eventually, Hank explains that he was worried Bobby would see Christianity as just another fad, like the Troll dolls and Tamogachi he abandoned after about a week, rather than a way of life. While this is a perfectly reasonable sentiment, it isn't revealed until about two minutes before the episode ends, and the entire episode expects the audience to accept it on faith that Hank is right.
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).
Not to mention Brian. He hit on his owner's wife after Peter gave him a home. He is very hypocritical; he constantly acts like everyone who doesn't agree with him is an idiot. He dates women for their bodies, when he says he dates them for their minds. Lampshadedhere by, of all people, Quagmire. Of course, much of this is either a one-time only thing (in the former's case), or later toned down, and he becomes more of a self-loathing Jaded Washout.
Then, of course, there's Quagmire. The guy's been portrayed as a borderline/flat out rapist consistently since the show began (keeping several "tagged" Asian women in the trunk of his car, having an automatic system in place in his house to drug visiting women unconscious, etc...), but he gets to call Brian out, when the worst thing Brian did was to be kind of a smug know-it-all.
To some degree in The Dreamstone. Though they get the shorter end of focus in several episodes, the narrative seems to side with the Land of Dreams, who generally treat the Urpneys as Villain Ball Magnets and repel and often sadistically punish them for trying to give them bad dreams (disregarding Zordrak tortures or killsthose that don't). The fact the heroes are exceptionally pious about it helps little either. Later episodes at least tone down their retaliations and give them a more genuine provocation, though the Urpneys still aren't really any more willingly villainous than before.
Winx Club: Despite the fact that she's essentially created a monster and is currently engaged in weeping because said behemoth is leveling the odd building, no one seems to care that Bloom did a ridiculously stupid and short-sighted thing in demonizing Diaspro despite her being the other, more sympathetic victim of their weak-willed, deceitful and unreliable love interest.
The tad-infamous Hero Factory special Invasion from Below showed signs of this, as the Heroes' actions at the end lead to the death of the entire Beast colony, including their unhatched eggs, even though it was made clear that they were a sentient species who only became aggressive when unassuming construction workers trespassed into their nest. The Heroes do make peace with them, but a slight misunderstanding (one Beast accidentally stepping on a gun) causes another fight, and the Heroes blast their nest to pieces, letting the colony fall into a lake of acid. At the end, we're supposed to cheer for their victory and the one surviving Beast egg is even presented as a dark Cliffhanger, when it's clearly been shown that the Beasts are not evil by nature and can be reasoned with. In a previous episode, the Heroes even contemplated enacting infanticide (after finding eggs belonging to the species of an escaped prisoner), and only decided against it for tactical reasons. No one ever calls them out on their morals, then again, they do protect the innocent civilians pretty well, even if at the cost of other beings' lives.
The Mane Six's crashing the upper crust party in "Sweet and Elite". While they didn't mean any actual harm, their lack of social graces and manners in this case wasn't too cool with the ponies whose private event they were crashing, and Rainbow Dash came within inches of accidentally clobbering an older mare in the head with a croquet mallet. But no one batted an eyelash once Rarity stuck up for them, and the matter was dropped entirely.
In Lesson Zero, Twilight causes major mayhem due to her neuroses over not submitting a friendship report on time. Celestia does scold her, but it's done offscreen, she's subsequently rewarded for it, and the other Mane Six not taking her problems seriously is held up as the wrongdoing in the episode rather than Twilight's catastrophizing and abusing her power. It also doesn't help that they did try to get her to calm down, she just refused.
Pinkie Pie can veer into this trope. Her behavior is rarely seen as wrong, and is seldom corrected.
In "Luna Eclipsed," she unintentionally causes the townspeople to run away from a distressed Luna. When Twilight tackles her, it looks as if she's about to call her out on her shenanigans, but she calls Pinkie Pie a genius instead. Although things do work out for Luna, Pinkie should have been at least reprimanded for her behavior and should have at least apologized for it.
"A Friend In Deed" has Pinkie stalking and pestering Cranky, and when Twilight tells Pinkie Pie that she just has to accept that Cranky doesn't want to be her friend, Pinkie Pie accepts her advice...then aggressively tries to get Cranky to accept to her apology, causing even more problems. She's eventually able to make things right by reuniting Cranky with his lost love, and he does agree to be her friend. And in turn, she agrees not to be on his back 24/7. However, while Pinkie does have her wish, this episode caters to her actions and it just teaches an Accidental Aesop that if stalking and annoying others is a good way to make friends.