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Protectorate
That's the problem with heroes, really. Their only purpose in life is to thwart others.
Peter David

A protectorate is a specific person, place, or thing, or set thereof, which our hero is responsible for defending.

Ideal Heroes, capes, and other such good guys just do not attack other people without provocation, not even if those other people are Card Carrying Villains. Good guys simply do not do preemptive strikes; that's left for Well Intentioned Extremists, Anti Heroes, and bad guys. See Villains Act, Heroes React.

The good guys have to wait until the bad guys do something bad. And, since the good guys are usually closer to human than deity on the sliding scale of superpower, A Million Is a Statistic still applies. (It may apply less, but it does still apply.) But if the bad guys attack something that the good guys are responsible for — from mandate, from their morality code, or because they truly love them — then the good guys can move in to smack down the bad guys. (It can also justify breaking out of prison or captivity, to ensure the protection is done.)

The protectorate might be general innocent people in the vicinity, or family and friends, or the city or country or planet the hero lives in. Only threatening this justifies violence and interference on the part of the hero. This is what makes a Protectorate.

The villains rarely get the notion of redirecting their energies against less inflammatory targets - or if they do, we never hear about it. Again and again, the villain just has to attack the one thing the main character has shown they will kick butt over.

Specific kinds of protectorates:

Some archetypical heroes, especially the wandering kind, will adopt people they've just met as protectorates, much to the dismay of whatever villain was harassing them. This sort of protectorate can be temporary — the hero will defend the person to the death and then never think of him again once he leaves town. But it isn't always; this method of developing protectorates can lead to a hero getting a new Side Kick. Especially tenacious heroes might even take their duty past the grave and become ghostly Guardian Entities.

See Declaration of Protection for the act of declaring your intentions, and Bodyguard Crush for one of the outcomes thereof. Similar to Berserk Button

Examples:

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     Comic Books 
  • The entire Earth, especially Metropolis, is this to Superman. Cause trouble there and he'll take you out, even if he has to die to do it. And if you touch the Kents, the Leaguers, or the staff of the Daily Planet, kiss all your chances of succeeding in your Evil Plan goodbye.
  • "I am The Batman. This is my city. At night it belongs to me."
  • Most DC heroes have a home city they pay special attention to protecting. The Flash has Keystone and/or Central City, Green Arrow has Star City, Nightwing has Blüdhaven, etc.
  • New York is the protectorate of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man put together.
    • With Hell's Kitchen as a smaller protectorate under the eye of Daredevil. And with The Avengers based out of New York as well, let's just say that it's pretty well covered in the Marvelverse.
    • Every superhero who knows the Fantastic Four has also declared a protectorate on the Richards children, Franklin and Valeria. Mess with them, and you'll have the entire FF, plus all their friends, breaking your door in.
    • Doom even put Valeria under his protection after helping give birth to her and naming her, so if you mess with her, Doom will come after you.

     Fan Fiction 
  • In the Star Trek fanfic "Once Upon A Farmhouse", the young James Kirk makes Spock his protectorate.
  • In Transformers Meta, Ratchet and Hound are protectorates to Evac and Bumblebee respectively.
    • Grimlock is a sort of an unofficial protectorate over Bumblebee as well.

     Film—Animation 

     Film—Live Action 

     Literature 
  • In Twenty years after (sequel to The Three Musketeers), D'Artagnan is given the highly unusual task of protecting young King Louis from an angry mob that is going to access the king's own bedroom.

     Live-Action TV 

     Web comics 
  • Piffany is the protectorate of Yeagar, Artax and Nodwick.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Mr. Raven watches over Moperville South high school and its students, especially those he considers his favorites (those with high magic potential).

     Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10, Ben's protectorates are his family and the earth itself. Hurt either, and you'll get reminded how a human boy has become the single most known enforcer of law and order in the galaxy.
  • In Hercules: The Animated Series, Hercules watches over his school and its students, particularly Icarus and Cassandra.
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