Lister: Do you mean they had a war over whether the doughnut diner hats were red or blue?The protagonists encounter two (or more) groups who are in a deadly serious conflict over what the protagonists (and likely the audience) perceive to be a trivial and petty difference or issue. Like which end of the egg to crack first, or whether toast should be eaten butter side up or down, or even body features such as which half of their face is black and which is white. This trope is often paired with An Aesop about how what we consider life-and-death, irreconcilable differences may be based on cultural norms and would seem just as petty from an outsider's perspective, and maybe we should reconsider our intolerance. If the writer wants to be extra Anvilicious about the message, expect the alien group to counter any perplexed queries about why they're willing to segregate, oppress, ostracise, or even kill each other over something so asinine with a retort like "humans kill each other over less". Like what pigment their skin has, whose parents they were born from, which phrases they pray with, politics, and gender. And the aliens killing each other over what color hat they wear are far above that kind of petty bickering. The fact that they're comparing what select groups of humans do (or did waaay back in human history) to their entire species being willing to kill each other over this stuff won't really be addressed. Depending on how idealistic the story is, the protagonists may persuade the aliens/elves/mutants/pastry chefs to reconcile their differences or accept their differences and finally give living peacefully a shot. However, if it's going for the Downer Ending, then expect the hero's efforts to be for naught as the conflict escalates and they wipe each other out. Most early instances of Fantastic Racism were based on groups at odds over superficial matters but if the groups have real and important differences, it can fall into a Fantastic Aesop that trivializes their conflict just because it's analogous to some real-world group of humans that are at odds for some mundane reason. This is a subtrope of Serious Business. Related to Humans Kill Wantonly and Fantastic Racism. See Felony Misdemeanor for when it's humans acting like this, and it doesn't (usually) end in war. Compare Pretext for War, where two sides seize upon any reason they can to go to war, without actually caring about the reason itself. When it's a mere domestic squabble, it might be a Toilet Seat Divorce. See also Blue and Orange Morality, which can potentially justify this trope. Sometimes the real reason is the pride of the rival parties. If so this would be Honor Before Reason.
Holly: Yeah. Most of them were killed fighting about that. It's daft really, innit?
Lister: You're not kidding. They were supposed to be green.
Holly: Yeah. Most of them were killed fighting about that. It's daft really, innit?
Lister: You're not kidding. They were supposed to be green.
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Anime & Manga
- In Slayers Gorgeous, heroes... er, protagonists Lina Inverse and Naga the Serpent find themselves caught in a civil war between a local lord and his daughter, who's raised an army and marched on the palace. Her reason for rebellion? She wants a bigger allowance.
- And she already gets a pretty large one (which she is using to bankroll her rebellion - why her father is still paying her allowance while she's rebelling is never brought up), which is why her father is so worked up about her demands — a raise from from 50 gold a month to 200 gold a month is not chicken feed. Even Lina and Naga think her father is justified in being annoyed when they find out she wants quadruple her monthly allowance.
- And it also happens in Slayers: Great, where the father and son of a famous golem-making family, Galia and Huey, are fighting a personal battle that they eventually try to settle by building giant golems and having them fight each other. The reason: Galia is obsessed with making Kawaii golems, to the extent he builds his mega-golem in the form of a Chibi Lina Inverse, even going so far as to spend time and effort causing it to make cute sound effects when it steps or does anything. Huey, on the other hand, is into ultra-realistic golems — and his favorite source material are beautiful, buxom women. His mega-golem is designed as a humungous statue of Naga, and he devotes effort to making sure the breasts jiggle like hers. When they finally reconcile, their first combined effort golem is a Betty Boop reference; a Super-Deformed woman's face atop a realistically sculpted sexy woman's body.
- Played with among the Proud Warrior Race Guy Giants in the Little Garden Arc of One Piece. Dorry and Broggy have been fighting (as in, straight-up brawling) each other for decades on end, such that they don't even remember what they were fighting for. The original dispute? Who caught the bigger fish? This is related to Serious Business and, again, the Proud Warrior Race trope, so their pride is respected in-universe even as the audience is expected to laugh at the cause for a decades-long bout between comrades.
- In most of the series in the Yu-Gi-Oh!, the only thing silly about the conflicts seems to be how the card game is used to dispute it. The reason for the conflict itself is anything but silly. (In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's a Well-Intentioned Extremist is trying to prevent a Bad Future, threatening the lives of millions in the process; Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL is an Order Versus Chaos clash with both sides focused on genocide.) However, in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, the card game itself is the focus of the conflict, where an inter-dimensional war has been started over which Special Summoning technique is superior. However, it was revealed to be a ploy created by the Professor to gather as many captured souls and use them to fuse the four dimensions.
- In one episode of Space Dandy, the Aloha Oe crew crash on a moon where war has raged for 10,000 years... over whether to wear undies or vests. The planet the moon belonged to was destroyed about 10,000 years ago and both sides are down to the Last of Their Kind. They drag Dandy and Meow into the war since Dandy wears undies and Meow wears something vest-like.
- In comic book Smurf Versus Smurf, a civil war erupts in the Smurf village over whether the word "smurf" should be used as an adjective (south end) or a verb (north end). This gets funnier in languages that allow for many composite words (e.g. Dutch and German) because now the war is about whether the proper term is "corksmurf" or "smurfscrew".
- In Dilbert, Elbonia erupted into civil war between the left-handed and right-handed people. Dilbert quickly lost patience trying to explain that it's "an arbitrary distinction." ("Geez, you lefties are thick. I'm glad I'm normal.")
- Amusingly, Dilbert is left-handed — at least in the animated series. Where he ends up becoming an (inadvertent) champion for left-handed rights.
- During his Not So Different rant in The Killing Joke, the Joker remarks that the last world war was caused by a dispute over how many telegraph poles Germany owed as war reparations. Which, true or not, he evidently finds hilarious. While Germany having fallen in arrears in its delivery of telegraph poles did not cause a war, it was the reason given by France for occupying the Ruhr Valley in 1923. One British observer commented that this was the most devious use of wood since The Trojan War.
- One of the earliest Superman stories has Clark sent to cover a war in a small South American nation. After uncovering a corrupt weapon manufacturer and the US senator collaborating with him, Clark drags the opposing generals into the forest and demands they settle it by fisticuffs. The generals admit to having no clue what they're fighting about, and quickly make peace when Clark explains the whole war is a scam to sell armaments.
- In an Homage to Dr. Seuss, The Defenders once had an issue where the Defenders found themselves in a dimension with two lands named 'Here' and 'There' who were locked in a war. The Defenders eventually learned that the reason for the war was that the people of 'There' objected to the people 'Here' referring to their land as 'There', when it was obvious that they were really 'Here' and the other side was 'There'.
And They live over the sea,While We live over the way,But—would you believe it?—They look upon WeAs only a sort of They!
- The story also may be an allusion to Rudyard Kipling's poem We and They, in which an obviously British child is incensed because
- In the Civilization III fanfiction Vegetarian Vengeance, the Indians end up going to war with Rome over the contents of Caesar's sandwich!
- The TSAB certainly views the beginning of the war between the Moon Kingdom and Dark Kingdom as this in White Devil of the Moon: because Beryl, jealous that Endymion fell in love with Serenity instead of her, incited the war.
- In The Universiad the Originals once fought a civil war over a paper shortage. Justified because paper was the only non-renewable resource they had on their growing post-scarcity, immortal community at the time.
- In An Awkward Day, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza of Cavallia is completely dumbstruck when she learns that Equestrian armies are massing on the border between the two realms. Equestria and Cavallia have been close allies for fifteen hundred years, and Cadenza is a close friend of Princess Luna. The only explanantion she can think of is that Luna is falling into the same madness that took Celestia a few centuries previously. She flies to Canterlot, and there finds out what happened. The castle major-domo had staged a fake coup in order to convince Luna that she needed to install some stairs to her room. The coup's armies weren't even supposed to go to Cavallia, they were supposed to go to Caballeria.
- In Pony POV Series, Prince Blueblood mentions that during his career as a diplomat, he's encountered people who would declare war over getting their grandparents names wrong and other, equally stupid things.
- In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, at one point, the lawyer Estermann recounts the events kicking off the War of Jenkin's Ear (see the Real Life section below) to his case worker Lyra Heartstrings, making the point that impressions don't need to be factual to have an impact.
Films — Animation
- The 1939 Fleischer Studios animated adaptation of Gulliver's Travels, the holy war over egg ends was changed to a fight over which sappy love song should be played at the wedding of the Prince of Blefescu and Princess of Lilliput: "Faithful" or "Forever". In theory, this is supposed to have been a nod to the satirical tone of the source material, but the film plays it completely serious. Gulliver suggests that the couple combine both songs to settle the matter, and it works.
- South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut has the parents of South Park calling for war with Canada because they didn't want to take responsibility for letting their kids see a movie with foul language.
- In Animalympics, an announcer speculates that Kit and Rene falling in love during their marathon, and crossing the finish line simultaneously, could start a war over the medal-count.
Films — Live Action
- In RRRrrrr!!!, two prehistoric tribes are at war because one has shampoo and the others are trying to get the formula/a sample.
- In Duck Soup, a devastating war between two countries begins because of Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) taking offense at getting called an "upstart". Rather a Berserk Button, wouldn't you say?
- It gets worse/funnier: when peace talks are declared, Firefly waits for his opposite number to show up, prepared to shake his hand. However, he then wonders about the implications if the other man refused the handshake. He gets so worked up over this he slaps the guy when he finally shows up, and the war continues.
- Parody-Cannibal Film Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is about two feminist tribes who have fallen out over whether men should be eaten with guacamole dip, or with clam dip.
- Monty Python's Life of Brian: The People's Front of Judea, The Judean People's Front and the Campaign for Free Galilee all seem to hate one another, possibly because they can't agree on who hates the Romans the most, to the point where the People's Front of Judea and the Campaign for Free Galilee start fighting one another over who gets to carry out a stealth mission to weaken the Romans… while already on said mission and surrounded by enemy soldiers. When Brian urges them to unite against their common enemy they all assume he's talking about the Judean People's Front.
- Played for absurdly dark laughs (if not flat-out chillingly straight) with the Trope Namer General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove: his reason to send bombers into Russian airspace with orders to nuke everything that moves is because, essentially, he's blaming them for his sexual hangups.note
- The Phantom Menace starts with a dispute over tariffs that make the Trade Federation upset enough to blockade Naboo as a means of protest. It could possibly have been resolved peacefully had Darth Sideous not been a Treacherous Advisor to them who convinced them to take their grievance much further into unethical and immoral actions, which eventually triggered the Clone Wars, Order 66,and Palpatine's rise to power.
- In the Animorphs book The Ellimist Chronicles a race called the Capasin receives a trasmission from another race (the Ketrans) about a videogame they had made that's about creating new species of creatures and making them fight. The problem? Capasins don't have videogames and thus think the Ketrans are really creating creatures and making them fight. So the Capasins decide to wipe out the Ketrans.
- In A Brother's Price, someone complains that the so-called "War of the false Eldest" was this, as it was just about who should rule the country ... more precisely, which sister from the same family. To the population, this didn't matter at all, but the side-effects of the war, were, of course, severe.
- In Gulliver's Travels, the Lilliputians fought a long war over which end of a boiled egg should be broken (the Big-Endians and the Little-Endians). This was a metaphor for the contemporary conflicts over the eucharist, specifically the belief and disbelief in transubstantiation.
- Inspired by the Swift, The Butter Battle Book, pictured above, had two peoples fighting over which side of the toast should be buttered. It escalated to ridiculous extremes, becoming an obvious parody of the then-current Cold War, and ends with an ambiguous Mexican Standoff. Seuss himself liked to butter the crust.
- A similar but less violent Seuss story is The Sneetches, in which the presence of a star on their bellies is used as a sign of racial superiority by the titular Sneetches until Sylvester McMonkey McBean shows up with a contraption that applies (or removes) stars, all for a modest payment. In the end, he has all their money, and the hopelessly confused Sneetches get the Aesop.
- And The Zax, in which a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax happen to meet face-to-face, and they both refuse to budge "an inch to the east, nor an inch to the west" to let the other pass. Like The Butter Battle Book, it just ends with them at an impasse (also under an overpass). Dr. Seuss loved this trope.
- La Secchia Rapita (The Rape of the Bucket) is a mock-heroic epic poem by Alessandro Tassoni first published in 1622. It tells of a war between the Italian cities of Modena and Bologna over the possession of a wooden bucket. It was a real war. Honest. See the Real Life section for some details. (That's "rape" in the archaic sense of the word, "carried off, seized by force", by the way, not a Cargo Ship.)
- In the same vein, Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock dramatizes a real-life incident that happened to friends of his, wherein a young lady's fiancé stole a lock of her hair without asking permission (again, "rape" here meaning "seize forcibly", as in the case of the infamous bucket, above). The brouhaha was so ridiculous that Pope turned it into a full-scale epic, complete with miniature gods and descriptions of coffee, card games, and petticoats that would make Achilles weep.
- These are the kinds of wars Jidai Geki Japan is presented as waging in one Where's Waldo? where Waldo is wandering around various eras of history.
- Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov's Foundation prequels once mentions a youth subculture conflict on his home planet between people who shave the left side of their head and those who shave the right side of their hair.
- In a Spellsinger novel, two tribes of prairie dogs went to war periodically over possession of an ugly statue, which gave the victors exclusive rights to use the nearby hot springs' water. The springs produced enough hot water to meet the needs of both tribes, but their egos were too caught up in the competition to care.
- The Ravenloft novel Carnival of Fear was set in a country where criminals were transformed into circus freaks and mind-wiped, then gleefully mocked and abused by the ordinary citizens. Hating the odd-looking became so essential to their mindset that, when the Carnival's performers learned the truth and fled the region, the remaining citizens turned on one another: in the epilogue, a gang of children are seen throwing stuff at another boy because his eye color is different from theirs.
- In Welkin Weasels, the protagonists come across an island that is home to a pair of dodo tribes. They apparently hate each other because of the color of their eyes, and over ownership of a bunch of little models made of fish bones. Apparently, whenever they go to steal the other tribe's, the other tribe gets the same idea and they're back where they started. They manage to solve this by the protagonists having them burn all of the models. It doesn't really work, though, as the chieftain of the tribe they first met recommended that the group leave before the darts started flying.
- In the Star Wars Legends novel Planet of Twilight, the titular planet is inhabited by a species known as the Drovians, who had been at civil war between two tribes for centuries... because one tribe thought the word "truth" was singular and the other thought it was plural.
- The Star Trek Expanded Universe novel I, Q told of a war between the Q and another race of similarly omnipotent beings, the M. These two impossibly advanced species both admitted the real reason for their cataclysmic conflict was "there's just something about you that just really pisses me off." The war itself is kicked off when one of them blurts out, "Your mother!"; nobody now knows who said it or who it was directed at (and it's not like any of them even had a mother). Both sides also show near fourth-wall breaking Genre Savviness: they're both aware enough to realize that in their reality every race always manages to get balanced out by some other race which exists to be an opposing force and source of plot. If they made up with their obvious opposite numbers, it would inevitably lead to a serious threat to both of them showing up.
- Another Expanded Universe novel, Imzadi mentions two feuding worlds whose centuries-long strife ultimately stemmed from the hard feelings caused by an unintentional diplomatic incident. Specifically, a dog analogue owned by a dignitary from one world killing a cat analogue owned by a dignitary from the other. When this was discovered, this resulted in the first ever peace treaty to include a section about leash laws.
- In A Civil Campaign, it's mentioned that the Barrayarans once fought a minor war over whether the Emperor or his District Counts had control over a substance extremely useful in the terraforming effort. Since Imperial power is Serious Business on Barrayar, and since terraforming a planet with almost no technology is hard, this war isn't that silly—but since the useful terraforming substance is horse manure, the whole thing sounds kind of ridiculous to most readers. The way Miles tells it in-story, it was the sort of war that underemployed minor aristocrats start whenever they have a cashflow problem or feel like expanding their territory and think they can get away with it, but it seems to have ground to a halt quite quickly when the Barrayaran Vor ruling class became dimly aware it was a silly Pretext for War even by their standards.
- In Use of Weapons, part of The Culture series of sci-fi novels, one of the many, many, many military conflicts the protagonist took part in was an unending and brutal war on an ice planet. Ostensibly, the war was for control of the constantly shifting iceberg masses that made up the only land surface on the planet. But since these icebergs are inevitably destroyed/melt as they move towards the equator, no victory ever means anything for more than a few months, but the war continues on and on, as both sides had grown to hate each other too much to admit the whole thing is pointless...
- The Discworld novel Jingo has a twofer, in the main plot and an anecdote.
- The war that nearly takes place in the book is over a small island with no usable resources, and no potential for any use economically or industrially, that suddenly pops up in the water between Ankh-Morpork and Klatch. While neither side actually wants the island, they don't want the other side to have it either, since both sides believe it belongs to them. Humorously, the war is ultimately prevented when Vetinari, after visiting the island, surrenders it to Klatch because he had determined that the island will inevitably sink again, making it even more worthless than it already is. This is a reference to an actual island between Sicily and Malta, called Ferdinandea by Italy, Julia Island by France, and Graham Island by the British. In mid-1831, the volcanic island emerged after an eruption, sparking a brief diplomatic row by the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, France, Britain, and Spain over who would claim the new island, until the "island," actually made of weak tephra, washed away over the course of the next six months. The Italians (or to be specific, the Sicilians) recently renewed their claims in 2000 by inviting the heir to the defunct Bourbon throne out for a ceremony to plant both a flag and a plaque on the summit, by sending a diving team down.
- There's also a story about two smaller nations nominally claimed by the Klatchian empire, who had only recently eased off on a centuries-old war, having run out of rocks to throw. The reason for the conflict is a one-word difference in their holy book, which one country translates as "man" and the other translates as "god". This trope is applicable because the difference between the two words, in Klatchian script, comes down to how a single dot is positioned over one letter ... and it especially applies if, as heretical theologians suggest, the dot is actually a bit of fly poo. Apparently if the dot was moved slightly more it would mean "licorice". This (well, the first part, not the licorice) is a reference to the split between the Eastern and Western Churches over a Greek word that could mean either 'of God' or 'of man' in the Nicaean Creed depending on if it differed by an iota (the smallest Greek letter). Hence the phrase 'not one iota of difference'.
- Another Discworld example; in Thud!, Commander Vimes discovers that the Battle of Koom Valley, which ignited a long-standing animosity between Dwarfs and Trolls, was actually caused by a misunderstanding. The dwarf and troll leaders intended to broker a peace in Koom Valley, but a thick fog caused their armies to mistakenly believe the other side was ambushing them. With the leaders washed away by a flash flood, the survivors spread the story of the "double ambush" and continued their racial feud. A group of conservative dwarfs tried to prevent this knowledge from spreading in order to prevent a new peace accord between the two races.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, higher-dimensional beings like playing Brockian Ultra-Cricket, a game so complicated that a complete compilation of its rules became a black hole. The more popular it gets, the less it is being played because almost all the teams (and substantial parts of the population) are now in a state of permanent warfare with each other over the interpretation of these rules. This is, however, all for the best, because in the long run a good solid war is less psychologically damaging than a protracted game of Brockian Ultra-Cricket.
- Also, the Vl'hurgs and the G'Gugvuntt fought a long war because the Vl'hurg leader was supposedly insulted by the G'Gugvuntt leader. After noticing that it was actually Arthur Dent (and a hole in the space-time continuum), they teamed up and flew thousands of light-years towards the Milky Way, only to be swallowed by a little dog.
- German philosopher Oswald Spengler pointed out in his non-fiction book The Decline of the West that many wars in Real Life were started like this — more than one, apparently, because some courtier wanted to break up the developing relationship between some general and his wife.
- The Elenium:
- The Lamorks are in a constant state of war, with the minor nobles declaring war on each other for any perceived slight. One war ended up getting started over a bee sting.
- In The Shining Ones it is revealed that a man angry his betrothed was paying more attention to her sister than to him is the true origin of centuries of warfare and machinations in both the Eosian kingdoms and the Tamul Empire.
- Similarly, the Arends in the Belgariad also tended to fight constantly for foolish reasons. Their civil war over which Duke would become King was fairly significant, but the fact that the fighting continued for an additional five hundred years after the issue was finally resolved, due to a legal technicality, qualifies. (The Asturians refused to swear fealty to the crown because they had already sworn fealty to their Duchess. The fact that the Duchess of Asturia and the Queen of Arendia were the same person was irrelevant. Once this is discovered, the Duchess arranges for her subjects to be released from their vows so that they might swear fealty to her in her persona of Queen — as well as to her husband, but only in his persona as King of Arendia, not in his persona as the Asturians' cultural archenemy, the Duke of Mimbre.)
- Tristram Shandy has a chapter-long aside about a war between France and Switzerland that starts when the countries disagree about what to name the French heir.
- British statesman Lord Chesterfield wrote in Letters to His Son: "Such closet politicians never fail to assign the deepest motives for the most trifling actions; instead of often ascribing the greatest actions to the most trifling causes, in which they would be much seldomer mistaken." (letter 93)
- In The Chromium Fence by Philip K. Dick, a meek man is unsure of which side to take in a social conflict that seems to be leading his future-society towards a full-blown civil war. The issue at stake? Mandatory shaving and hygiene laws (up to and including minor surgery to reduce body odor and sweating for egregious offenders). As violence begins to erupt on the streets and even in his own home (between his hygienic son and his politically active, hairy, sweaty, and stinky brother-in-law), the main character refuses to take a side and can't understand why either side is taking the issue so seriously. He confesses to his less-than-helpful robotic psychologist that he feels like the Only Sane Man, but worries that feeling is a sign that he is the one who is really insane for not caring about it.
- The first war depicted in the Deverry novels was between two nobles who were fighting over whose peasants had the right to forage in the local woods for pig fodder. It should be noted that the two families had been feuding for three generations at this point, and had already exhausted just about every other reason they could find to go to war with each other, including who owned the forest in question.
Cullyn: Pity we can't arm the swine. Everyone will fight for their own food.
- Andre Maurios's children's book Fattypuffs and Thinifers is set in an underground world where people are divided according to their weight, which is deliberately stupid in the first place. When the book begins, they are in an uneasy truce in a war over something, which is never made clear, to do with an island in the sea between their countries. At a hopeful peace conference, the Fattypuffs insist on calling the island "Fattyfer", while the Thinifers demand it be called "Thinipuff". And so the war resumes over the name of an island (of course, neither side asked the natives for their opinion). In a happy ending, the reconciled Fattypuffs and Thinifers agree to call it "Peachblossom Island" instead.
- In one of The Three Musketeers novels, the Duke of Buckingham was willing to go to war with France if diplomatic relations broke down... because it would keep him away from the Queen of France that he was in love with.
- C. S. Lewis started but never finished a story about The Trojan War called Ten Years After. In the story Helen's jilted husband, King Menelaus, is bewildered and distressed by the assumption of his advisers that the real reason for the Trojan War is to do with securing food supplies. As far as he is concerned, that is a silly and ignoble reason for war, whereas war to take back the most beautiful woman in the world is something that any true warrior can get behind.
- Averted in The Sworn Sword. Ser Duncan tries to convince Lady Rohanne not to invade his lord's land over a 'pissing contest' about who can dam the river. Lady Rohanne points out that these contests are how nobles judge each other's strength, and worse will happen if she doesn't put up a strong front.
- In Steven Brust's Cowboy Feng's Space Bar And Grill, the Sugar Bear conspirators' society is so terrified of Hags Disease that they repeatedly engineer nuclear attacks to try to exterminate the rest of humanity, fearing the other human colonies' inhabitants are carriers. By the time they're found out and stopped, said "rest of humanity" have long since found a cure for the disease in question, yet the conspirators have stayed so isolated from everyone else that they've never heard that their "quarantine" efforts no longer serve a purpose.
- In Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, the two major powers in the Kingdom of Wisdom, Dictionopolis the City of Words (ruled by King Azaz the Unabridged) and Digitopolis the City of Numbers (ruled by the Mathemagician), were at odds over whether words or numbers were the most important aspect of wisdom. When the princesses Rhyme and Reason advised that both words and numbers were equally important, the kings ordered them banished, a move which turned out to be the last time they ever agreed on anything. Milo manages to Logic Bomb Azaz and the Mathemagician into agreeing to lifting their banishment and in the end the two appear to have restored peace, although there is still some bickering.
Live Action TV
- Rather than hold elections or have kings, the Drazi in Babylon 5 randomly divide their population between "green and purple" scarf wearers, fight non-lethally, and the side with most victories got to rule for the next year. This causes all manner of problems on Babylon 5 when the faction war breaks out on the station in the vicinity of non-Drazi, especially when the greens decide that the 'non-lethal' part of the rules can be glossed over in the interest of victory. And just to make matters worse, it turns out there Ain't No Rule that says the winner has to be a Drazi citizen themselves, as opposed to... say... a station security officer responding to a breach of the peace. They freely admit that that part is stupid, but the Obvious Rule Patch is caught up in committee.
- In one episode of Cold Case the team comes across a family that has lost 4 sons successively in a years-long feud with a drug dealer. What started the whole thing? The smallest son ran into a dealer with his kick scooter and the dealer stole it. The eldest son went to ask the dealer for it back, tried to grab it by force and was killed. Then the second son tried to avenge the elder's death and everything went downhill from there. The scooter in question was actually a prize the youngest son won at a contest and a symbol that the impoverished family, or at least the youngest son, could have a future. Which only makes it worse.
- On Fraggle Rock, two groups of Fraggles apparently once fought a civil war because they didn't share the same sense of humor. A repetition was averted when it turned out that both groups laughed at the sight of someone slipping on a banana peel, even if the non-humorous ones were reacting to this delightful opportunity to clean up the mess.
- Red Dwarf:
- Cat's people wiped themselves out fighting a war over what color the hats at Lister's hot dog stand were supposed to be. What's particularly sad is that neither side got it right.
- In the novelization, it again conjures the dispute over the Nicaean Creed, as the dispute is over Lister's name — the difference between the two guesses is one letter, and yet again, both sides were wrong, as both added an extraneous "c" to the beginning of the name; although, admittedly, the ones who thought he was Clister were at least slightly closer than the ones who thought he was Cloister.
- Star Trek:
- The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" featured two aliens with their face divided in two halves by black and white, one with the right side white and left side black and the other with the colors reversed. One is a lawman out to capture the other for inciting "race riots", and after he hijacks the Enterprise to help him return the fugitive to their planet, they discover it had long since destroyed itself in a race war. Despite this, they just keep fighting and descend to their ruined world, after which a dejected Kirk orders the Enterprise home.
- An episode of Enterprise featured a slightly updated version of the same basic plot - a War on Terror allegory instead of a Civil Rights one, and not quite as Anvilicious - with the titular ship getting caught in the middle of a war started by religious schism over whether creation took nine days or ten. At the end of the episode, it turns out their civilisation had destroyed itself, just like the previous incident.
- The Star Trek episode "A Taste of Armageddon" has neighboring planets Eminar and Vendikar fighting for the silliest reason of all: it's easier to continue their centuries-long computer-simulated war than it is to organize a cease-fire. If it weren't for the executions, it'd be just a game. When Kirk destroys the computer, they quickly come to a peace treaty, since they have no actual hostility or disputes.
- The Tomorrow People: "The Blue and the Green" has most of the world's population on the verge of mass violence and riots between those who preferred the color blue to those who preferred the color green. It eventually turned out that this was being psychically induced by the onset of the pupal stage in a brood of aliens left as eggs on Earth during the fall of Rome. The Tomorrow People save both the aliens and the Earth by knocking everyone on the planet unconscious and giving them violent dreams to provide the necessary psychic energy to the aliens in a comparatively harmless way.
- Averted in The West Wing as Kate Harper finds a way to defuse the situation, but the buildup of tensions after Canadian ranchers take American hunters hostage leads to a rather amusing B-story.
- The Dinosaurs two-parter "Nuts to War" had the two-legged dinosaurs going to war against the four-legged dinosaurs over pistachios.
- And a subplot involved the Baby's own personal war against a mammal who had stolen his cookie. At least this one is more justified, as the Baby is a baby and his feud came when Fran didn't believe there was a "cookie creature", telling Baby that it's between them.
- The song 99 Luftballons (99 Red Balloons) records the beginning of World War III happening because of a misunderstanding that occurs when 99 red balloons float away accidentally from a park and were registered by radar (doesn't really helps that both sides are full of trigger-happy General Rippers and Colonel Kilgores that "want to be Captain Kirk").
- The Battle Of Epping Forest, by Genesis, describes a battle between two gangs over "gangland boundary". By the middle of the song, though, one of the gangsters says "I'm breaking the legs of the bastard that got me framed!", thus revealing the pretext of the fight. This is a bad reason to fight over, more so since all of the so-called soldiers die and the gang bosses settle the matter with a coin toss anyway.
Mythology and Religion
- In The Bible's Book of Judges, Samson killed a thousand men (with a donkey's jawbone), burned down the Philistines' granaries and vineyards, and humiliated their gods, and for what? His wife was given to Samson's companion by her father, a Philistine.* The Israelites and the Philistines already had tense relations with each other, and since Samson did that stuff by himself (with the Spirit of God causing him to Hulk out), this one looks to be more of a Roaring Rampage of Revenge than an all-out war.
- Homer's The Iliad. Yes, a ten-year siege over a jilted husband. No-one questions this enough to stop fighting in the original, but commentary from Euripides onwards pulled the thread of that logic, e.g.:
Hector: She is not worth what she doth cost the keeping.
- While it seems a silly reason now, it wasn't then. The men were just keeping their oath. Every man who wanted to be a suitor for Helen had to agree to abide by her father's decision and defend the right of the chosen husband should anyone try anything funny. Also, Menelaus inherited his throne via his marriage to Helen - if he doesn't get her back, he loses the right to rule.
- Also, Paris kidnapped Helen while being a guest at Menelaus' home, a breach of hospitality. For most ancient societies, Sacred Hospitality was Serious Business (to the point that, in the Iliad, two warriors on opposing sides ditched the battle to celebrate upon learning the grandfather of one of them had been guest of the grandfather of the other), and a prince kidnapping a queen while being a guest was a perfectly acceptable reason for war. Menelaus declared war for that (and his right to rule, but would have done the same even if it didn't depend from Helen), Agamemnon joined him because it was his brother who had been besmirched by this breach, and the rest of the Greeks joined due their oath or because they were Agamemnon's subordinates.
- Herodotus cites this absurdity as evidence for a slightly different theory about The Trojan War. Egyptian priests told Herodotus that Helen never made it to Troy, because she and Paris were shipwrecked in Egypt along the way, and the Egyptians decided to hold onto Helen for her husband until he came to get her. The Greeks think the Trojans are just lying when they say that Helen is not in Troy, hence the ten year war. Herodotus argues that this makes more sense than Homer's version, because the King of Troy "assuredly was not so mad, nor yet the others of his house, that they were desirous to run risk of ruin for themselves and their children and their city, in order that [Paris] might have Helen as his wife"
- Thersites, a commoner in the Mycenean army, calls Agamemnon out on this at one point, telling the Myceneans they should go home and let their king deal with his own problems, especially since the elites in the army help themselves to plunder and women captured by the common soldiers. Odysseus promptly beats Thersites with a staff for this, telling him that commoners need to shut up. At one point in the Iliad they even try it - Menelaus and Paris duel, with the winner getting Helen. Menelaus won, but then Aphrodite got a Trojan soldier to break the truce, restarting the war.
- To make it even worse, one version of Greek Myth claims that the Trojan War was the first war among men, and that it was caused originally by the vanity of three goddesses, which, in turn, was started by Eris, who was angry for not being invited to a party. In short, going by this story, the long, bloody conflict was started out of spite and jealousy.
- In the Armenian legend "Ara the Handsome", Queen Semiramis of Assyria goes to war with Armenia because King Ara refused to marry her (besides being politically advantageous, Ara was, as you might have guessed, handsome), so she wanted him brought back to her alive.
- Bleak Expectations: In the series 4 finale, the main characters travel to Russia, which is in the middle of a civil war, the "Crimeariver War". As it turns out, the reason for this war was an argument over how to spell "Czar". One faction goes with "czar", the other "Tzar". And this is the sixth of their "Czar Wars".
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The game encourages this when players need to justify why the Ultramarines and Salamanders, two indisputably good Space Marine chapters in a setting filled with Black and Gray Morality, are fighting each other. Obviously they were sent to retrieve a holy relic independently of each other or something like that, now roll to see who goes first.
- Something similar happens in the Dawn of War: Dark Crusade campaign - both General Alexander's 1st Kronus Regiment and Brother-Captain Thule of the Blood Ravens 4th Company are trying to liberate the planet Kronus for the Imperium. The problem is that Alexander refused Thule's order to evacuate his men (because the Blood Ravens are also after some chapter relics they want to keep secret), so the two end up clashing, which canonically ends with Alexander's retreat and Thule ordering the surviving Guardsmen shipped off to Segmentum command, with his compliments for following their orders. This move did not endear the Blood Ravens to Imperial Bureaucracy, coupled with their penchant for secrecy some organizations went so far as to call them heretics.
- At least Dark Crusade took some effort to justify the confrontation. Relics that could prove Blood Ravens are descended from a Traitor Legion have been found, while Alexandr could have been influenced by a daemon bound to Titan's cannon in his base. Soulstorm was worse. The plot sums up to Sisters (backed up by Inquisition) being self righteous zealots with no common or military sense whatsoever and Boreale being a complete idiot.
- In other bits of background fluff, this is why the Imperial Guard tries (unsuccessfully) to adopt a standardized uniform across the countless regiments raised from across the galaxy - there have been occasions when two loyalist forces ended up fighting because they looked so different, each assumed the other was the enemy.
- Orks (and Orcs) don't really need any reason to kill their enemies (or each other) beyond boredom, but they're good at finding justifications. For example, the two Greenskin gods are Gork and Mork, one the god of brutal cunning (he hits you when you're not looking), the other of cunning brutality (he hits you really hard even when you are looking). The question of which is which regularly leads to a happy round of religious warfare, at least until the Greenskins find something more interesting to fight.
- The backstory of the late 90's spin-off game Gorkamorka involved a load of Orks stranded on a desert planet after their ship crash-landed. Repairs slowed as a civil war spread over which deity the vessel better resembled, to the point that the ship was destroyed. Afterward the name Gorkamorka was chosen as a compromise, and reconstruction nominally continued, though the "Gorkers" and "Morkers" kept fighting. A Downer Ending in any other universe, but here, it just kind of makes sense. Oh, and the world they landed on is strongly hinted to be a Necron Tomb World.
- Meanwhile, in Warhammer Fantasy, just about any non-Black Orc unit has to make a Leadership test at the start of each turn they aren't in combat (called an Animosity test, in game). If they fail, they have a 1 in 6 chance of attacking the nearest friendly unit, a 1 in 6 chance of charging the nearest enemy unit, and a 4 in 6 chance of basically grinding their advance to a halt as they start bashing each other out of boredom. They'll even do this despite having a Black Orc Boss or Warboss in the unit... who will basically kill any troublemakers the first time they start punching each other up. And they can potentially go right back to doing this even after he cracks some heads together!
- In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Orcs have a special rule that requires them to make a willpower check to avoid picking a fight with the nearest Orc if given the slightest provocation to do so — with exceptions if any Black Orcs are nearby or the orc is already in melee with someone.
- Also in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Bretonnian nobles are noted to be notoriously thin-skinned and will war with each other for the silliest of reasons (such as an flippant insult) if not restrained by their liege lords. This is especially true in regions of Brettonia where there are no orcs or beastmen to fight. In fact, one particular pair of Feuding Families are still going at it over an alleged ravishing that happened several hundred years ago (if it happened at all) and which both sides claim to be the victimized party in. The feud is so formalized the time and place of any battles are agreed upon in advance, fought according to a timetable, and are apparently a great spectator sport for neighbouring nobility and peasants.
- Dwarfs maintain the Book of Grudges, which lists every single slight against their race (Including any perceived slights incurred while settling an existing grudge, and any slights incurred while settling that grudge, ad infinitum), and are grimly dedicated to settling accounts by blood or compensation. This could very well mean that an army of Dwarfs will attack your keep because your great-great-grandfather uttered an ill-timed short joke. A White Dwarf battle report featured a Dwarf king leading a bloody siege against an Imperial noble because of his horrible betrayal of the Dwarf engineers who helped build the castle - the noble shortchanged them by twelve gold crowns. The hardcover Empire army book for 8th edition mentions a similar event happening in 2410, when dwarfs raze Fortress Kreighof to the ground after realising their payment was two and a half pennies short of the twelve dozen wagonloads of gold they had been given.
- Though the empire-shattering war between the High Elves and Dwarfs might have been inevitable, and the main cause was a Dark Elven false flag operation that attacked a Dwarf caravan, it could have been avoided had the High Elven King not ordered that the Dwarf ambassador be shaved and sent home in disgrace. The Dwarfs refer to the ensuing conflict as the War of Vengeance, while the Elves call it the War of the Beard.
- The hardcover Tomb Kings army book for 8th edition mentions the ongoing (it started in 210, Imperial Calender, so it's been raging for over 2300 years) "War of the Hammer", between dwarfs and the undead legions of King Alkharad. The cause? The Hammer of Algrim, an ancient dwarf-forged weapon. Problem is that it contains, as its centerpiece, a bronze coin minted for King Alkhared before the fall of Nehekhara. The dwarfs won't give it up because it was forged by a dwarf; the Tomb King refuses to lose one of his coins.
- In one of the Gotrek & Felix books the pair are temporarily allied with a Tomb Prince in service to Alkhared's dynasty, and it turns out he and Gotrek had previously fought on opposite sides of one of these battles. When Felix asks why they don't just take the coin off the hammer and each take the part they actually care about, both act as if he's a complete idiot. In the end of the story they duel for the hammer, mostly just for the fun of it.
- Any given Beholder in Dungeons & Dragons is engaged in a never-ending race war against any Beholders not of its breed, killing them on sight. While there are some varieties that are vastly different in terms of appearance and philosophy, they will fight over any difference at all, even ones that anyone other than a beholder would never notice. Of course, there is the true Beholder, whose form would clearly be the correct form for a beholder to have. Unfortunately, whenever any beholder sees it the thing looks exactly like them.
- The Blood War has been tearing across the lower planes for eons, routinely spilling into many other planes, and the Baatezu and Tanar'ri see no reason to stop. Why? One side is Lawful Evil, and the other is Chaotic Evil. Evidently they've been fighting since the first moment they met. (There's evidence, however, that certain other parties encourage the war to continue, either for profit or because they really don't enjoy the prospect of the combatants deciding to attack them instead.)
- Dwarf Fortress. "The War of Ignition was waged by The Imperial Fells on The Council of Lances. One of the most significant causes of the conflict was a dispute over the treatment of plants."
- This is often the main cause of war between the elves and anyone else. Unless the anyone else involved is controlled by the player, in which case odds are that the war started because the player decided that the best economic resource to trade to the elven emissaries was MAGMA.
- Players have also waged war on the underworld itself on the robust grounds of "why the hell not".
- Team Fortress 2. The whole battle between RED and BLU is an Excuse Plot, a feud between two idiot brothers when their jerkass father gave them a bunch of worthless land for the exact, written reason of fighting over. Said brothers have constructed immortality machines in an attempt to outlive each other, and hired armies of mercenaries, all so they can conquer a bunch of gravel. (The situation is made worse by the Announcer, who secretly owns the controlling stock in both RED and BLU and used their resources to take over the world. She keeps RED's and BLU's mercs attacking each other so Redmond, Blutarch, and the rest of the planet don't notice.) The Mann vs Machine update has altered the status quo...but only in the loosest sense of "continuity"—in game, any player can choose any battleground they wish.
- The Soldier/Demoman war was started in story because the Administrator hated friendships, and meta-wise over a new unlockable, which turned out to be a pair of boots that lowered explosion damage when worn.
- Kingdom of Loathing. The Cola Wars were fought between the followers of Dyspepsi-Cola and Cloaca-Cola. The war between the Hippies and Frat Boys gets started over the (apparent) murder of an animal mascot.
- At least the latter groups were raiding and killing each other well before the mascot's death (or before you have any quest relating to the war), and were in an arms buildup at the time of it. The mascot was just the final straw.
- Battlefield Heroes. The nationals apparently cheated during an Olympic cycling event and then mocked the king's mustache. The royals proceed to launch a full-scale invasion.
- Mystic Ark. We never find out exactly what started the longstanding feud between the crews of the Bloodhook and the Gunboss, but when the captains of the two ships are asked just what they were fighting for, neither one can offer any answer other than embarrassed silence.
- The conflict between the Federation and the Revolutionaries in R-Type Tactics II: Operation Bitter Chocolate, thank to the newly found Excuse Plot. The reason they fight each other is nothing else but the dispute over the Force Device weapon system with the R-Fighters. Still, they both fight the real evil against them both — the Bydo.
- In the Zork games, a bloody war was fought between the city-states of Phee and Bor. What was it over? Whether the name of the river that started near Phee and ended near Bor should be named Pheebor or Borphee.
- Pokémon Black and White. The two brothers destroyed Unova in a battle over what was arguably a theoretical debate on philosophy—or, rather, they were fighting over whether it was better to live your life according to your ideals, or to live your life searching for the truth. The brothers weren't even fighting over specific ideals; they were just fighting over the concept of ideals themselves. The sequel reveals that they were incited to war by their own ambitions, as anthropomorphized by another legendary Pokemon.
- While we're on the topic of Pokémon, let's not even get into the idiocy that is the Team Magma / Team Aqua war as seen in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, its Updated Re-release Pokemon Emerald, and its remakes Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby. One side wants to dry up all the oceans because more land is good for Pokemon. The other wants to flood the entire landmass because more water is good for Pokemon. The result? Either the sun turns baking hot, the rain falls uncontrollably, or you get both ridiculous weather conditions alternating rapidly back and forth. No matter what happens the entire Hoenn region is almost rendered unlivable for both Pokemon and humans alike if not for the timely intervention of our heroes.
- StarCraft II Blizzard Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars has two gods at war with one significant difference: one blue, one red. They wage massive war to amuse themselves.
- Europa Universalis is played between nations; declaring war on another nation requires a casus belli ('cause for aggression') which can take a number of forms and has different effects on the peace settlements that result from the war. The 'Diplomatic Insult' casus belli can be used to attack a nation that has recently insulted you (over border disputes, recent aggression against their neighbors, buttering toast on the wrong side...) The resulting conflict is called a War of Honor and only has one effect on the peace: double the normal Prestige gain for making them admit defeat.
- However, since the winning nation doesn't have to demand what they actually declared for, it's possible to have a war over an insult that results in the defeated nation being totally annexed. Don't insult France, kids, it's not worth it.
- In Runescape, the goblin village is locked in a conflict over which armor color to wear, green or red. It is up to the player to resolve the conflict. These being goblins, in the end they decide on brown, the color that their armor originally had before they started fighting over red and green.
- In Terraria, you may frequently find yourself stuck in the middle of a goblin invasion, which can result in the wholesale slaughter of your NPCs, and which only ends after the player has killed dozens of goblins. According to the pacifist Goblin Tinkerer, the goblins are waging war over cloth (which is also a reference to the fact that you can summon an invasion with the Goblin Battle Standard.)
- Played for Drama in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. On the surface, the Civil War is about religious freedom, the Empire having signed a treaty with the Thalmor outlawing the worship of Talos. The Stormcloaks accuse the Empire of being oppressive elven puppets, and the Empire accuses the Stormcloaks of being racist traitors. The thing is, the Empire never really enforced the Talos ban except in the most flagrantly public cases, and before the Civil War just about every home in Skyrim had a shrine to Talos so they could worship in private. And EVERYONE hates the Thalmor. So in practice, the war is between those who want to worship Talos openly and make war on the elves now, and those who want to worship Talos in private until the Empire has the strength to fight the elves later. To make things even worse, some characters imply that the late High King Torygg may very well have agreed with Stormcloak leader Ulfric about openly defying the Talos ban, if Ulfric had just asked him instead of Shouting at him until his head exploded.
- In Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm, the Kuma (bear-like beastmen) and Fairies are fighting over the Posporia Alterworld, and trade dominance back and forth over the game. Why are they fighting? Because the Fairies wrote all over the Kuma Chief's clothes as a prank, and the Kuma thought the Fairies had issued a challenge. Now both sides fight because they've been fighting for so long. Their young get together in neutral zones and commiserate over how idiotic they think their parents are acting.
- In Star Control, the humans and VUX go to war because a human called an alien "ugly". This had actual plot impact. (If the human commander insults a Spathi's appearance, the Spathi will merely insult them back.) In addition, the Orz got *frumple* and *danced* with the Androsynth, and can go to war with the human commander if you ask them the wrong questions about it. The Ilwrath sparked wars For the Evulz and the player can literally force them to commit mutual genocide with another race just by messing with their broadcasts. The VUX case is even sillier: the VUX already wanted to kill all humans at first sight because we are just that ugly to them and only declared war over the insult as an excuse. The VUX declared war on humans merely because humans are an eyesore to them.
- Island Wars has two small islands wage war on each other in order to... blow up each other's palm trees. In the sequel, the invasion mode has an invading force try to destroy the island's palm trees.
- In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, the Kingdom of Cohdopia had, a few years prior, split into the Kingdom of Allebahst and the Republic of Babahl in a vicious civil war. While the exact points of contention of the war were never outright stated, one of them was about which nation owned the legitimate copy of a solid gold statue of their first king. Even Kay points out that it's a rather childish point of conflict. Ambassador Palaeno agrees, but says the people of Babahl and Allebahst still consider it Serious Business, and the conflict between the nations cannot be resolved before it's determined which nation owns the bona fide article.
- The entire conflict in Red vs. Blue is initially presented as two color-coded teams fighting to control two bases in a box canyon, and a rare example where those involved in the conflict are fully aware of how silly it is (except for Sarge and Caboose). But later it's revealed that the real reason for the war is to give the Freelancers as many combat scenarios as possible, and that the soldiers recruited for the war were all military rejects who were put there as Cannon Fodder.
- In the My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series short "Budget Impasse", the reason the whole war with Nightmare Moon started was because Celestia refused to dress up as a banana.
- The Finley/Lashway war in The Overture began over a dispute as to who owned desolate rock. Desolate Rock is exactly what its name implies; a small, mile long island in the middle of the ocean with no natural resources or strategic value.
- In Antihero for Hire, the main character is up on a space station prison where there is a turf war between the orange-shirted prisoners and the blue-shirted prisoners, for no other reason then the differences in their shirts. They admit that they're doing this because there's not much else to do.
- Invoked on the first page of Gone with the Blastwave, as part of establishing the setting. The protagonists are fighting a war. But all the land is ruined, money is useless since there's nothing left to spend it on, and it's not about religion... so, why do they fight? To win the war.
- The "pro-/anti- Skub" comic from The Perry Bible Fellowship.
- Done during the Trent-Mercia War from Sluggy Freelance. It was waged partly because the king of Mercia said the Trent king's mustache smelled like parmesan, and partly because, well, they're warlords. Going to war is just part of the job description.
- Upon being told this, Torg promptly asks if he can become a "keglord" or possibly a "Salma-Hayek-lord."
- In What's New? with Phil and Dixie, two powerful forces went to war over stripes vs spots.
- This xkcd strip presents a gang war about to break out over a question of punctuation.
- In one Kevin & Kell storyline, carnivore propaganda splits rabbit society into antagonistic "ears up" and "ears down" factions. The purpose is to ensure no-one will support Kevin's place on the Rabbit Council (since he has one floppy ear).
- And just to prove how worthless the whole thing was, when voting day came, every rabbit in the world suddenly had one ear up and one ear down. Just like Kevin's.
- The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Great Divide" combines this with The Rashomon, with Aang trying to settle an ancient grudge between two gangs, neither one of which can agree on what started the grudge. Since there was no way to know which side was right or wrong, Aang just fibs and tells both tribes the "real" story, exonerating both sides in the dispute over who started the grudge and making them think the reason for being at odds really was a silly one after all. The Aesop of the episode was that, no matter what the reason, you shouldn't hold grudges forever.
- In The Flintstones episode "Bedrock Hillbillies", Fred inherits some land in a rather rustic area, only to find that a hundred-year-old feud between his family and another called the Hatrocks is still going strong. Fred knows nothing about how this fight started, but when Wilma manages to talk to a couple of them (they're polite enough to call a one-hour truce and even bring a pie with them) they find that it all started because one of Fred's ancestors made a very unflattering remark about a painting of the Hatrocks' long-deceased matriarch. (Wilma and Betty can't resist commenting on how absurd that sounds.)
- A Ben 10: Alien Force episode did this quite poorly, coupling it with They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot about opportunistic arms sales. They go to this planet, first it looks like the (comically identical) aliens are fighting over being different colors, then each gives the "self-defense" excuse, then it appears to be a religious squabble, THEN both generals admit to using war as a scapegoat for all their problems. In the end they don't even bother to solve it.
- Well, Ben pulls a Take a Third Option by accidentally destroying the giant statue of their former united leader (while trying to paint it purple to stop the Blue Vs. Red war), turning both sides against HIM. The episode ends with the same little alien girl who wrote to Ben asking for help at the beginning, writing him a letter about how much she hates him now (but she does reveal that her world has finally found internal peace as they unify to against their new common enemy)
- In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), Adam reminds himself that he has to learn diplomacy etiquette because one wrong use of a spoon or fork during dinner with ruler of other country can cause a war.
- An episode of the Jumanji animated series was centered around the conflict between two warring tribes, one of giant Black Ants and one of giant Red Ants, of which Judy, Peter and Alan were caught in the middle. The former accuse the latter of stealing their "Black Bahoot" and the latter accuse the former of trying to steal their "Red Bahoot". The "Bahoot" turns out to be an apparently useless big ball of slime that, what do you know, happens to be colored black and red. All this was supposed to teach an Aesop on getting along... until the episode ends with Judy and Peter arguing over who gets the last remaining cookie, just as they were doing in the beginning of the episode.
- In the 1939 MGM short Peace on Earth, the warring factions includes the meat eaters fighting vegetarians, and flat-footed people fighting buck-tooth people.
- Though that last one is probably Fridge Brilliance, as the squirrels are likely unknowingly describing World War I, with the "buck-tooth people" being the British, and the "flat-footed people" being the Germans (with fallen arches). Being completely ignorant of the gigantic clusterfuck of political causes of the conflict, they assume it's just monstrous humans murdering each other over trivial deformities.
- Phineas and Ferb
- "Nerds of a Feather" has armies of sci-fi and fantasy Fanboys going to war over a Fandom Rivalry, with Phineas and Ferb (who are fans of both Space Adventure and Stumbleberry Finkbat) getting caught in the middle and trying to resolve things peacefully.
- In "The Doonkleberry Imperative", the boys discover that all the industry in Drusselstein is powered by "the Shaft", which is powered by bunnies running on treadmills. The Shaft has recently upgraded from "bunny power" to "goat power", but the nation has split into two factions who can't agree on which direction the goats powering the Shaft should walk, and as a result the Shaft has ground to a halt. The two eventually resolve things, and the grateful citizens plan to celebrate Phineas and Ferb's help with a holiday in their honor... but as soon as the boys leave, the Drusselsteinians immediately begin arguing over whether to call it "Phineas and Ferb Day" or "Ferb and Phineas Day".
- Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: The episode about the Jersey Devil has the Quest team encounter two families who are descendants of the Redcoats and Minutemen and fighting over possession of the original Declaration of Independence. Dr. Quest resolves the conflict by explaining that they've lived in the deep woods so long they don't realize the Revolutionary War has ended ~200 years prior and they agree to live peacefully with each-other.
- The Simpsons
- In one episode they did it, not for war but for religion. Flanders explains that the bad blood between their religion (The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism) and Catholicism goes back to when the former split off from the Catholic Church over the right to attend services with wet hair... which they've since abolished.
- In the episode where Bart becomes a Catholic (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star) and there's a fight between churches to make him pick the "right" one he comes to the conclusion that the minor differences aren't important and that they should bond over the big similarities. A thousand years into the future, Bart is considered the last prophet of God and two factions are at war over whether Bart's teachings were about love and tolerance, or understanding and peace.
- Then there's the rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville, which can turn violent at times. (In one episode, as Lisa explains, Springfield built a mini-mall that was purposely larger than a mini-mall Shelbyville built. Then, after Shelbyville made the world's largest pizza, Springfield burned down their city hall. Then Shelbyville spiked Springfield's water supply to get even. And on, and on, and on.) Supposedly, the founders of the two towns, Jebediah Springfield and Shelbyville Manhattan were once friends and partners, but broke into two factions simply because the former objected to the latter's desire to allow citizens to marry their cousins.
- One Treehouse of Horror episode has France declare war on and nuke Springfield just because Mayor Quimby said that French people look like frogs. (Which they did in the episode. When they laughed their necks swelled up like a bullfrog.)
- An episode of South Park set 1000 years in the future shows a huge war between three atheist factions (who each speak of how silly it was for people to fight for religious reasons in the past). By the end, it's revealed that the war was over what name to call the atheist society.
- Plus the otters felt that eating off of tables was stupid when you had nice furry bellies.
- Once (thanks to meddling with the past) that war is resolved, the three former aethiest groups promptly ally to go to war with the "French-Chinese" over who owns Hawaii.
- VeggieTales did an anti-prejudice storyline involving two nations on the other side of a mountain who were at war because one of the nations wanted to wear shoes on their heads, and the other wanted to wear cooking utensils on their heads. (It was also an adaptation of "The Parable of the Good Samaritan".)
- In an episode of The Wild Thornberrys, Eliza and Darwin end up on opposite sides of a war between two groups of monkeys who fight each other because one troop has stubby tails and the other has long tails. They attempt to reason with them, and finally Eliza gets them to see eye to eye when she makes them armor out of coconuts, which means they don't figure out who is on which side until after they fight.
- The 1941 Merrie Melodies cartoon "The Fighting 69-1/2th" had two armies of ants at war over a picnic. At the conclusion, the family packs up their picnic, leaving behind a chocolate cake. The two ant generals decide to call a truce and divide the cake evenly, and the truce doesn't last long. The two generals are at odds over who gets the cherry on top, and it leads to yet another war.
- In Family Guy, Ernie the Giant Chicken and Peter Griffin started a running series of battles over an expired coupon. Some time machine shenanigans in a later episode reveal that the chicken gave Peter the expired coupon because 15 years earlier Peter had bumped into him at a high school dance. In a later battle, the two make up and have dinner, but then fight for the right to pay for the meal.
- In Gargoyles, the millennia-long conflict between the Gargoyles and The Hunters Demona casually scarred a kid named Gillecomgain after he caught her stealing food. He made a mask to highlight the scars and began hunting her relentlessly, making revenge his lifelong goal. Several decades later, she finally unmasked him. He stared at her and asked if she now understood why he hunted her for so long. Demona flatly replied, "No." A thousand years later, she apparently still doesn't know what his beef was.
- But it gets worse. In a deleted scene from "Hunter's Moon: Part Two", the leader of the latest generation of Hunters confesses to Elisa that no one in his family remembers how or why the hunt began either, meaning they are, in truth, doing it for nothing. But it still gets worse. While the Hunters hate Gargoyles in general, their true goal is to slay Demona, and they don't know that they can't. Due to the bond she shares with Macbeth, only he can kill her. Thus, for ten centuries, they've been pursuing a meaningless and pointless goal, which they have no hope of ever achieving.
- The worst part is, the only true purpose the Hunters have in the present day is Fantastic Racism, which actually makes them just as bad as Demona when you look at the whole picture.
- In the Spongebob Squarepants episode "The Battle of Bikini Bottom", the titular fight — an actual historical event that ends up being reenacted as a brawl between Spongebob and Patrick — was fought between fish over whether it was right to be clean or dirty.
- A Marvel Cinematic Universe meme consists of a three-panel comic that has Tony Stark and Steve Rogers getting into a Serious Business disagreement, usually about something mundane, like a TV show or food, followed by a smash cut to the title of Captain America: Civil War, suggesting the two heroes come to blows over it.
- Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG:
625. I must remember before the next time I shave off the sleeping dwarf's beard and glue it to the sleeping elf, wars have been started that way.
Note: While many of these wars were triggered by ridiculous things, they are often the culmination of larger tensions between two enemy states that may go back for generations.
- The Pastry War of 1838. A Franco-Mexican war that expanded to include Great Britain and United States. During the course of the conflict, France captured almost the entire Mexican fleet, the Republic of Texas moved further into the orbit of the USA, and former Mexican dictator Santa Anna was wounded in a clash with Mexican soldiers, paving the way for him to return to power. In the end, the British intervened and forced Mexico to pay France the 600,000 pesos compensation that France had demanded in the first place. Compensation for what, you may ask? The property of a French baker in Mexico having been damaged by Mexican army officers, 10 years previously.
- The Nika Riots of 532 AD, when supporters of two rival teams of chariot racing (supported by two different Christian sects) broke out in fighting that ended up snowballing into riots that burned half the city of Constantinople and a full-fledged coup attempt, and resulted in the deaths of thousands massacred by the professional army. Chariot racing was Serious Business — it was closely tied to Imperial politics and the legal system to such an extent that toughs representing a team that was in favor often had nothing to fear from law enforcement, almost regardless of what they did.
- "The Football War" was a brief four-day war between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 that started with a soccer riot. 3000 people (soldiers and civilians) died and 300,000 people were displaced. However, this is more a case of the riot lighting the fuse on existing tensions than actually going to war over the match.
- In the Han dynasty, a brief war erupted between the nobles of the royal family due to a game of weiqi: the losing royal pitched a fit and beaned his playing buddy to death with the board; the grieving father blamed the other boy's father for being a terrible host and attacked.
- By some accounts, the rebellion of William Wallace began because some English soldiers tried to steal his fish and he killed some of them, so they put a warrant out for his arrest. And his wife was killed for hiding him, which is why he went to the nearby fort and burned it down.
- In 1325, Italy was still divided into city-states. A regiment of soldiers from the city-state of Modena invaded Bologna to steal a brown, oak bucket. During the raid, several hundred Bolognese citizens were killed by the Modenese troops. The ensuing war lasted 12 years. Modena won, and still has the bucket. It's still on display in Modena's cathedral tower, the "Ghirlandina". Here's a photo.◊
- The true reason for the battle of Zappolino was the control of the region during the war between Guelphs and Ghibellines (which definitely counts as Serious Business) and the bucket was taken as a mock trophy when the battle, although bloody, ended in the stalemate. This is also exactly the reason that a large battle (comparable with battles of Agincourt or Tannenberg numbers-wise) is largely unknown and usually mentioned only in reference to the mock-heroic poem written three centuries later.
- Downplayed in 1859 with "the Pig War", when an American farmer on the San Juan Islands near Vancouver, Canada, disputed between the US and Britain (The most recent treaty between the US and UK regarding that region clearly marked the border between America and Canada on the mainland, but was vague as to who owned which coastal islands near said border, and where the territorial waters of the islands owned by one side ended and the territorial waters of the islands owned by the other side began), killed a British-owned pig rooting in his garden. British authorities tried to arrest the farmer, and the American community on the islands called for US protection. When both sides realized that it was insane to "involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig," in the words of the British commander on the scene, they set up a joint military presence and called in German mediation. (Which eventually decided in favor of the Americans.)
- In 1900, in what is now Ghana, a war broke out between the British and Ashanti Empires over a golden stool. To the Ashanti, the golden stool was an object of immense cultural and spiritual significance, representing the souls of all Ashanti, dead, living, and unborn. The British governor, Frederick Hodgson, was unaware of this, believing it was simply a throne, and rather unfortunately demanded the Ashanti hand it over so that he could sit on it. The result: the War of the Golden Stool—3,000 deaths, the dissolution of the Ashanti Empire, and the British never found the stool. The Ashanti to this day consider it a win, since their objective has been fulfilled—Hodgson never sat on it. In fact, the Ashanti would have been happy, since they had already been defeated by the British in another war, for Queen Victoria to sit on the stool, seeing as she was ruler of the British Empire and someone they saw as an equal and victor. Hodgson? Not so much...
- The Spartans liked to take this trope one step further by going to war for no reason at all. At one point, according to Xenophon, they attacked the city state of Elis, literally and entirely "because they had no one else to fight at the time."
- The Macedonia naming dispute. Now, none of those countries have openly declared they want each other's territories (although Greece is afraid of an implied Macedonian expansion). This is more the political equivalent of a Flame War.
- Originally, the pre-conquest Mesoamericans had a general agreement to not begin a war until a messenger had been sent to the enemy and announced the reason why war was being declared. This worked just fine for a time, but after the Aztecs and their desperate need for war prisoners came to power, wars began to be declared so often that they soon ran out of good excuses, and the reasons became increasingly sillier. For example, in 1473 the Aztec emperor declared war on the king of Tlatelolco (who was his brother-in-law) because he didn't sleep with his wife often enough and that made her sad — the king was thrown off Tlatelolco's main temple and his state annexed to the Aztec Empire. It's safe to assume that everybody else eventually ran out of excuses too, because by the time the Spanish showed up, all the surviving states had agreed to have some limited wars with each other each few years, the "flowery wars", with no single purpose but to provide sacrifice victims to everybody.
- A list of the five most retarded wars ever fought.
- And a list of lesser known (but completely ridiculous) civil wars.
- One of the many incidents over Chaco in South America was inflamed by a postage stamp showing it as part of Paraguay.
- Following World War One, relations between Greece and Bulgaria were rather strained. One day, a dog ran away from his owner in Greece over the border into Bulgaria, and his owner, a soldier, ran after him. The soldier was shot dead by Bulgarian sentries. The resulting war was called "The War of the Stray Dog."
- In 1976, Operation Paul Bunyan was started because two US Army officers were killed. This operation included two eight-man tree-trimming squads backed up by three platoons of soldiers with a supporting company waiting in helicopters. This was further backed up by major air support including an aircraft carrier. The reason? They were chopping down a tree in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Granted, South Korea and North Korea had quite a lot of tension between them, this was supposedly a scheduled trimming. Note that the high level of military force was intended as a deterrent to prevent a more serious conflict from erupting. This wasn't quite as silly as it initially seems. A previous work detail of two men and no back-up had been sent out to chop down the tree, which was blocking the view of a South Korean observation post, when they were attacked and killed by DPRK troops. The massive show of force was to both protect the tree-trimmers and to basically dare the North Koreans to mess with them a second time.
- The War of Jenkins' Ear (1739-1748): Britain was looking for an excuse to go to war with Spain, and someone eventually pointed out that eight years earlier, Spanish coast guards had boarded an English ship, captained by the aforementioned Jenkins, and cut off his ear. Parliament was duly outraged and war was declared. (The war was eventually subsumed in the War of the Austrian Succession, an all-European conflict that began when Prussia invaded Austrian Silesia in 1740). To further highlight the pointlessness of the conflict, there's even considerable doubt about whether or not some guy named Jenkins really lost an ear that way in the first place.
- The Dog Tax War, the last of the Maori wars fought in 1898. The Hokianga County Council in New Zealand introduced a tax of 2/6d on dogs, the local Maori rose in armed protest and a short military campaign was fought. The war was bloodless and the upshot was the dog tax stayed.
- In 1870, the throne of Spain was offered to a prince from a Catholic side-branch of the ruling house of Prussia. The French government vehemently objected, so the Prussian prince withdrew his candidacy. Then the French government demanded that Prussian king never allow such an offer to occur again. Prussia refused. The French declared war on Prussia (despite Prussia's bigger army), which led all the other German states to declare war on France. The Germans quickly defeated the French, taking Alsace-Lorraine. The festering dispute over Alsace-Lorraine helped cause both world wars.
- Both the Prussian king and the French emperor Napoleon III (nephew of the first) realized it was a really silly pretext for war and were slowly backing down, but Bismarck, who wanted a war to kickstart the German unification, published part of their messages, enflaming German public opinion over the perceived harsh language (thanks to Bismarck's cautious editing of what got published). That in turn enflamed French public opinion because they thought it was a perfectly legitimate request (even though France had had no problems prevailing when the Habsburgs had ruled over Germany and Spain at the same time), who forced the government to declare war. Napoleon III is recalled complaining about this a few days before he had to sign the declaration.
- Otto von Bismarck –- "Europe today is a powder keg and the leaders are like men smoking in an arsenal ... A single spark will set off an explosion that will consume us all ... I cannot tell you when that explosion will occur, but I can tell you where ... Some damned silly thing in the Balkans will set it off".
- "On Holy Wars and a Plea for Peace" Is a famous essay by Danny Cohen on whether data should be transmitted from the most-significant bit to the least-significant bit or vice versa. It draws heavily on Gulliver's Travels down to the names for the sides: Big-Endian (most significant first) and Little-Endian (least significant first). To this day, those are the "official" names of those groups.
- North Korea once claimed that South Korea had broken the ceasefire treaty when soldiers erected a Christmas tree on the southern side of the DMZ.
- The East Coast/West Coast Hip-Hop feud, fought in the United States over regional variants of rap music. The Notorious B.I.G. (representing the East Coast) and Tupac Shakur (representing the West Coast) were both assassinated during this conflict.
- Although it has not escalated to military conflict, Egypt and Sudan have a long-standing border dispute over an area called Bir Tawil — specifically, they each allege that the OTHER party owns it. The reason for the dispute is that each nation claims a different historical border to be the correct boundary between their nations (each of them favouring a border that includes a much more valuable piece of land within their nation), and both of their preferred borders exclude Bir Tawil from their nation. Thus, even if the other side doesn't want it, one side can't simply claim that territory as their own since it would be implicitly giving up the territory they actually want.
- The Google Maps War, fought in 2010 between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. After Google Maps erroneously portrayed Costa Rica's border with Nicaragua south of the accepted line, they sent 50 soldiers to the Isla Portillos in Costa Rica, justifying it by saying that, according to Google Maps, it was a part of Nicaragua. Costa Rica responded by sending 70 police officers to the island (as they do not have a real military). It ended with Google Maps correcting the error, and the UN ruling that technically, Nicaragua invaded Costa Rica.