Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/sgnwoin_823.jpg

"The pessimist sees a dark tunnel;
The optimist sees a light at the end of the tunnel;
The realist sees two lights at the end of the tunnel,
and the engineer can see three idiots standing on the rails."

Which best solves problems? The Power of Friendship, or a bullet between the eyes?

The answer depends on where the series falls in the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.

A story can be idealistic or cynical towards any idea. In general, if the story values or is hopeful for a particular ideal, then it is idealistic. If the story criticizes, assaults, and accentuates the negative about that expectation, then it is cynical.

For a simple, archetypal example, let's assume that the idea to believe in is Humans Are Good/Rousseau Was Right. In idealistic series, those who believed it got lots of friends and a Happy Ending (therefore, Right Makes Might), while cynical series are Crapsack Worlds where those who believed it got ruthlessly bullied by everyone else (therefore, Might Makes Right). Of course, the definitions of "Right" and "Crapsack" in the above can technically mean whatever one wants them to mean.

However, be careful not to confuse idealism with straw optimism, cynicism with straw pessimism, and the scale as a whole with the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness. Also note that when this applies to characters, this does not mean good or evil. After all, it's perfectly possible for an idealist to be evil, and a cynic to be good. Likewise, a very cynical series could be quite lighthearted (see also: Crapsaccharine World), conversely a very idealistic series could be extremely dark. It's also true that comedies can be cynical as all hell (see also: Satire), and dark dramas can end idealistic (see also: A World Half Full).

See also: The Idealist and The Cynic for the archetypal characters. For how both sides often portray each other, see Wide-Eyed Idealist/Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!, and Grumpy Bear/Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!. See Cynicism Tropes, and Idealism Tropes for lists of each.

This particular sliding scale can be the topic of fierce debate. Each person will have a different point which they tend towards. Therefore, this scale is most useful in targeting demographics and those who are sympathetic to a certain world view, and identifying where on the spectrum one's own work is.

Cerebus Syndrome describes a shift from comedy to drama and this often also results in a shift from idealism to cynicism. Reverse Cerebus Syndrome is the inversion. When shows Zig Zag between the two, they're on a Cerebus Roller Coaster.


Examples:

    Visual Novels 
  • Silver Crisis has a huge part of the story focus on whether Strength comes from raw power, or from your own will/mindset and the help of others. The Scale slides towards the Cynical Side for most of the plot, with moments such as Lucas’s constant losing streak and status of being a burden to Lucario, Silver and Ganondorf’s Overwhelming Power, and the Corruption of Lucario’s former trainer in pursuit of this leaning on the side of “Raw Power means everything”. But by the end of the story, the scale lands firmly on the Idealistic side, showing that the trust Lucas and Lucario had for one another is what truly defeated Silver, as well as Lucas’s strength of heart and willingness to better himself being what allows him to truly unlock his hidden power and become truly strong.

Alternative Title(s): Sliding Scale Of Idealism Vs Cynicism, Sliding Scale Of Idealism Vs Realism, Idealism Vs Cynicism, Sliding Scale Of Cynicism Versus Idealism, Sliding Scale Of Cynicism Vs Idealism

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SlidingScaleofIdealismVersusCynicism