Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!

Bolin: ...but how are we gonna pay for all these parking tickets?
Mako: (after burning the tickets) Relax, the city's under attack. The police have more important things to worry about.
The Legend of Korra, "Turning the Tides"

The main characters are no antiheroes or villain protagonists, but sometimes they simply can't be bothered to follow the rules. Why? Well, is it really that important that you stop at every stoplight and follow the speed limit, if in ten minutes if you don't get there in time, some evil demon will eat up the universe?

In cases of The World Is Always Doomed, expect the local law enforcement to be unsympathetic to this point of view, and for the heroes to heavily abuse this to do things that they couldn't ordinarily do.

This is for saving the world by any means necessary. For when the heroes (or side characters) are breaking the rules to take advantage of a lapse in law due to emergency, see Apocalypse Anarchy instead. Compare Godzilla Threshold, when a normally forbidden measure is authorized because it's the only method left powerful enough to stop the disaster. Compare and contrast No Party Like a Donner Party and I Did What I Had to Do, where the rules are broken not so much to save the world as a response to a desperate survival or self-defense situation (up to and including an Apocalypse How).


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Cooking Master Boy: Mao and the others impersonate a deity and burn a palace down. To be fair, the ruler in question was taking money from the citizens, and creating a health emergency, by keeping them malnourished on abalone soup.
  • Van Zant and his crony Smitty from Dragon Ball Z wind up stealing whatever they can and gunning down anyone in the way in the wake of Majin Buu making humanity face extinction. Then they get the bright idea to try to kill Buu, either so to claim a bounty or so they don't have to stop terrorizing people (it depends on the version) and wind up shooting Hercule and Bee dead, which results in the creation of Super Buu who gives them two of the most gruesome deaths in the series.

     Comic Books  

  • In Chew, this drives the plot of the book "Flambe" in which strange writing made of fire appears in the sky. It's up to Tony to stop people doing this.
  • In the eighth season comics for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy reasons thusly. She has hundreds of slayers fighting evil as a global organization. She needs funding. She robs a bank.
  • Inverted in Justice League Europe when the Extremists were threatening to destroy the world. Dmitri Mishkin, Rocket Red, was reading about the crisis in a newspaper at a newstand, but the vendor told him "Armageddon don't mean you can read without paying."

     Film  

  • There was an aversion in Men in Black. Agent K chastises Agent J for endangering The Masquerade during a desperate situation, because The World Is Always Doomed and The Masquerade is the only thing that lets people get on with their lives.
  • Invoked in Man of Steel when Jor-El is out to get the Codex to send it to Earth with his infant son.
    Kelex: Sir, breaching the genesis chamber is a class 5 offense-
    Jor-El: (interrupts) Nobody cares anymore, Kelex, the world is coming to an end!
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Kirk and co. are not averse to breaking the law in the 20th century in order to save the Earth in the 23rd, to wit:
    • Scotty and Mccoy obtaining a supply of Plexiglass (to house the whales) using fraud and bribery;
    • Chekhov and Uhura illegally boarding a US Navy vessel and stealing power (for the purposes of recrystallizing the dilithium matrix in the warp drive allowing them to get home); then Kirk and co. removing a criminal suspect under arrest (Chekhov, who gets captured in the process) from police custody.

     Live-Action TV  

  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the episode "In the Pale Moonlight", Benjamin Sisko lies, bribes criminals, covers up the crimes of other criminals, and was an accessory to murder in order to bring the Romulans into the Dominion War on the side of the Federation. He says 'I can live with it' because the Federation was losing and their way of life was in danger of being destroyed.
    • Another episode is named 'Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,' the Roman term meaning 'in times of war the law falls silent.' In it the Federation again uses morally dubious means to ensure continued Romulan support for the war effort, including the framing of an innocent woman.
  • Not the apocalypse, per se, but the same principle applies to the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Omega Directive". Normally only reserved for captains, Janeway is forced to tell the senior officers about it when the ship detects the omega particle, which has the ability to destroy space, and as a result, would cause the ship to lose the ability to go to warp forever, making it take even longer for the ship—which is stranded in the Delta Quadrant—to get back the Alpha Quadrant (and the Federation). Why does this trope apply, because it is the one directive that allows the Captain to ignore the Prime Directive, since the problem is that bad.
  • Dean and especially Sam Winchester from Supernatural eventually adopt this philosophy at times due to increasingly escalating circumstances. At one point in season 4, Sam even explains to Dean that the normal rules don't necessarily apply to them, because they are not normal, and that Dean had better get used to that if they are going to do what is needed to stop the coming apocalypse. Somewhat ironic since Sam started out being the one who usually complained the most about doing iffy things.
    • Supernatural will subvert this as it shows that the boys often do more harm than good by going against the natural order, unwritten rules and advice of more experienced creatures. (Turns out rules are there for good reasons) Season 4 Sam for example, was slowly turning into a He Who Fights Monsters who ends up causing the apocalypse.
  • An episode of Sliders had a meteor about to hit the Earth with no way to stop it, cue everyone on the planet saying this. Including 3 of 4 main characters.
  • The 100 has the characters constantly facing the possibility that their civilization could be destroyed. In the face of that, Kane is pretty much the only character who worries about upholding the law; everyone else just takes it as a given that the rules will have to be ignored.

     Literature  

  • Harry Potter is no stranger to breaking the school's rules, thanks to having some kind of terrible danger strike the castle every year.
    • The Unforgivable Curses normally result in an automatic life sentence to Azkaban, but once Voldemort declares open war on the wizarding world and threatens the Muggle world, no one has a problem with the heroes using the Cruciatus curse (which, as its name suggests, causes extreme pain and is potentially fatal) in order to fight these people.
  • Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! is all about thwarting the eschatalogical intentions of the bad guys. If averting the end of the world means a hundred thousand people need to have their minds enhanced by being given an LSD trip without their knowledge or permission, then so be it... and (Bilingual Bonus) the bad guys even have the motto Der Zweck heiligt die Mittelnote . At one point there is a submarine battle in the ruins of Atlantis, where the nearest thing to a good guy, Hagbard Celine, has to reluctantly set aside his pacifism and sink the would be world-enders' submarine craft, called Der Zweck and Die Mittel.
  • This appears as a minor bit of world-building in Weis and Hickman's Starshield novels. Essentially, physics isn't the same everywhere; here's it's Newtonian, here Aristotelian, while over there it's a kind of magic that uses demons, but over there it's incantations. The borders for the different physics aren't fixed, and whenever one moves over a populated system, one of two things happens. Either they don't already know about it and treat it as an apocalyptic event and societies collapse, or they do know about it, the authorities prepare, and it's treated as a minor hiccup, like changing from driving on the left to the right (though teenagers do try new kinds of vandalism).

     Video Games  

     Western Animation  

     Web Original  

     Real Life  

  • U.S. criminal law has the doctrine of Necessity. If a defendant can show that it was necessary to break the law in order to prevent some greater harm from occurring they can be found not guilty for that reason. This only applies if the defendant (a) had no reasonable alternative (b) ceased committing the illegal act as soon as it was no longer necessary and (c) wasn't responsible for the dangerous situation in the first place. More at The Other Wiki's article on Necessity.
  • Fire engines, police cars, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles are allowed to ignore a lot of traffic laws if their lights are flashing.
    • And in some circumstances, other drivers may be required to disobey normal traffic laws, such as by running red lights, if it's necessary to do so to clear the way for an emergency vehicle with lights and siren running.
    • Law enforcement also tends to be allowed to, or get away with, breaking traffic rules during vehicular pursuit, on the grounds that it would be impossible to respect traffic laws and still capture a culprit who does not.
    • Generally speaking, one is not allowed to go around smashing the windows of someone's vehicle. Unless you're a firefighter and said vehicle is parked in front of a fire hydrant you need to hook up to, in which case photos of the vehicle with hoses running through the broken windows are likely to appear in the newspaper and online to remind people why they aren't allowed to park in front of fire hydrants.
  • Jewish law has the concept of "pikuach nefesh," which says that Jews are allowed to violate the tenets of their religion if it means saving someone's life. This even applies to Orthodox Jews.
    • Similarly, Muslims may eat normally forbidden food (such as pork or alcohol) if they are at the point of starvation.
  • The Roman Catholic Church lifted its ban on Polygamy after War of the Triple Alliance to allow Paraguay to rebuild its population. Paraguay lost 95% of all males in the war.
    • Similar case occured in some regions of Germany after Thirty Years' War, because same reason.


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