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The Moral Substitute
aka: The Moral Alternative
Hey, kids! Let's play Faith and Redemption, the Christian-blessed alternative to Magic!

"Can't you see? You're not making Christianity better, you're just making rock n' roll worse."
Hank Hill, King of the Hill

Sometimes even Moral Guardians have to accept that The New Rock & Roll isn't going away. They can't stop people from watching/reading/playing/listening to it, and even if they succeed in instituting a Censorship Bureau, it's still not up to their standards.

Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. If those works aren't up to their standards, they will make works that are. And they can even throw in a message about their beliefs and views in these works. Thus they make The Moral Substitute. So now all those children can have their fun, while their responsible parents don't have to worry about that strange new music they didn't grow up on. Everybody wins and nobody loses right?

If everything works out, sure. However, almost by definition, creating the Moral Substitute means directly competing with what it is the substitute of, while explicitly targeting a more specific demographic. Imagine creating a competitor to Coke and Pepsi but targeting only middle-aged mothers at the expense of appeal to the general population. If that sounds like a troubling investment to you, then you see why production values tend to be lower. Adding to the complications of course is the need to produce absolutely nothing even mildly offensive to the specific demographic you are targeting. Put it all together and the Moral Substitute suffers from a reputation of being an overly bland case of Follow the Leader. And those that weren't offended by the original are very unlikely to embrace this product.

Of course if you are in the target demographic you just might appreciate something catering to your particular mindset. Cue possibly small but reliable following. Enough of this exists to keep the phenomenon going as new media fads emerge.

As one might expect works may end up Totally Radical and/or Poor Man's Substitute.

In America the lead suspect for enacting this trope will be the devout (conservative) note  Christian demographic as the foremost Moral Guardians with substantial political pull. They are large enough to have created their own sub-culture out of this trope; nowadays, one can find Christian-focused works for any medium, from music to movies to books to even video games. It must be noted, though, this trope can apply to absolutely any point of view in existence, with examples covering the whole social-political spectrum. For example, within the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, this trope was usually enforced by the various Communist Parties, which created their own Boy Scout-esque youth groups, their own pop music, their own action movies, their own Westerns (depicting the inspirational struggle of the American Indians against American imperialism, although they also indulged in "1920s Soviets civilizing Central Asia" from time to time), their own chewing gum, and more, all to stop people from admiring all that decadent stuff from the West (didn't work this way).

Could be considered a Super Trope to Christian Rock, though that genre isn't nearly as deep into this trope as the label would suggest.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comics 
  • The Eagle was launched by an Anglican vicar who saw local children reading adult-oriented American horror comics, and wanted them to read more wholesome material. He made sure to focus on quality, and brought out a very popular and fondly remembered comic which gave us Dan Dare.
    • Dan Dare was originally created as a sort of military chaplain in space, but he was changed to a straightforward pilot to better appeal to children.
  • Spire Christian Comics, a version of Archie Comics featuring the characters as Christians. It's worth noting that this is actually red-headed Archie Andrews and his friends appearing in comics with an explicitly overt Christian message, not Expys of the Riverdale High bunch.
  • The Jewish Superman clone "Shaloman", who'll help anyone who shouts "Oy vey!". The fact that Superman himself was created by two Jewish people seems to have been overlooked.

    Film 
  • Gamera was originally intended as a comparatively mild example of this — a more kid-friendly alternative to Godzilla, featuring a relatively non-threatening, Friend to All Children giant monster in a series that was lighter on the carnage and senseless death. The '90s reboot tried to move away from this origin, but Gamera the Brave whole-heartedly embraced it.
  • High School Musical is a pretty tame movie series, but there is still a religious alternative: Sunday School Musical, released by The Asylum under their Faith Films imprint - although in this case, the reduced production values aren't due to this trope so much as due to the M.O. of The Asylum being reduced production values.
  • In order to counter the allegedly less-than-flattering portrayal that the 1996 film adaptation of Evita gave to Eva Perón, the Argentinian government commissioned Eva Perón: The True Story, a dueling movie released that same year. (Yeah, way to counter the stereotype that all Argentinians are fascists.)

    Literature 
  • SpineChillers Mysteries, a Christian answer to Goosebumps. Similar cover font and art design, but all the spooky stuff turns out to be faked (because Satan has no real power), and prayer works coincidental miracles.
  • There are Christian Choose Your Own Adventure-type series, like Choice Adventures and What Would You Do?. One was on the dangers of Satanists, New Agers, and-- for some reason-- environmentalistsnote . One of the endings for the latter plot involved starting a Christian environmental club.
  • The rise of cheesy Airport Novel and techno-thrillers from authors such as Tom Clancy and Dan Brown has led to the creation of the Left Behind series, where fundamentalist Christians try to stop the Antichrist with high-tech weaponry. Many books like this start out like normal "apocalypse" books (with the usual waking up one day to find something wrong, everybody in a frenzy), but slowly everything starts becoming Jesus-related.
    • Christian Nation is this to the Left Behind series, only told from the secularist POV and with the roles reversed.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia weren't written as this, although C. S. Lewis was very conscious of and open about his inclusion of Christian themes in the books. However, these days (especially after The Film of the Book), it seems to be treated as such against secular kid-lit fantasy lines like Harry Potter. Still, the Narnia fanbase isn't entirely composed of Christians.
    • And, of course, His Dark Materials was written as a substitute for the Narnia books — from an antitheist viewpoint.note 
    • Also directly subverted in Lewis' other multi-book morality play, where the books start out as a very up-front religious allegory and then turn out to secretly be political allegory instead, with the somewhat Christian-unfriendly aesop that violence is sometimes necessary to do good.
  • The inspirational romance genre serves as the moral substitute for steamy, bodice-ripping romances. While the above link to the Other Wiki doesn't note it, leading publisher Harlequin has a successful imprint (Steeple Hill) that only turns out books of this kind using the parent company's Strictly Formula approach.
    • Taking this methodology a step farther, there exists Christian spanking porn. Of course, the makers deny that it's porn at all and prefer the term "Christian domestic discipline romance fiction". They claim it was created for Christian couples to explore what God intended for marriage (i.e. According to the makers, He wants husbands to spank their wives) without having to look at anything icky.
    • Similarly, there's also a significant number of "Amish romance" books for a Christian audience that seem to be intended as a moral substitute for Fifty Shades of Grey style books. Many actual Amish people aren't amused by it since the authors are typically not themselves Amish and they feel it portrays an inaccurate version of their lifestyle that's actually a mouthpiece for evangelical Christian values, especially around concepts of sexuality and salvation, that they do not share.
  • The Twelve Candles Club is a Christian — specifically, conservative evangelical — alternative to what the author saw as filth and immorality found in secular preteen novel series like The Babysitters Club. The approach is... odd. Basically, each book starts with a fairly standard BSC-style plotline, the characters make it to the second-to-last chapter without mentioning religion in any way, but then, when all hope seemed lost, one of them would suggest that the group pray about their problem. They would do so, and the problem would suddenly be solved by some miraculous coincidence.
  • Some reviewers consider Twilight to be the moral substitute for other vampire and romance novels, such as the works of Anne Rice, which are generally less pro-abstinence. More than that, this series of Livejournal posts makes a pretty solid argument that it's the Mormon Alternative.
  • Frank Peretti wrote a number of novels, many of which could be considered Moral Substitutes for the paranormal/occult detective and action and adventure genres.
  • The New Basic Readers were a series of grade school primers published in the 1930s through the 1960s, featuring, among other characters, Dick and Jane. They were published for the public school market. A division of this company, the New Cathedral Basic Readers, were the Catholic School equivalent. They kept all the secular stories of the original, but would add a few religious-themed stories (ie, the kids read a Bible story, or buy a Blessed Mother necklace for their mom, or have a nun for their teacher).
  • Older Than Radio: "Anti-Tom" literature, or plantation literature, was a genre that was popular in the Southern US in the 1850s. Written to counter Uncle Tom's Cabin and the damning portrayal it gave of plantation slavery, such books instead sought to romanticize slavery as a noble system that existed for the good of black people. Abolitionists were frequently used as strawmen, presented as either misguided idealists and do-gooders who didn't know what they were talking about, or moustache-twirling Damn Yankee villains who were conspiring to destroy the Southern way of life. In turn, after the Civil War, the slave narrative emerged as a substitute for the substitute, seeking to portray the harsh realities of the old slavery system.
  • The Truax was written in The Eighties by Terri Birkett, the wife of a hardwood flooring factory owner, and published by the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers' Association as a counter to Dr. Seuss' environmentalist tale The Lorax.
  • Jerel Law's series Son of Angels openly advertises itself as the Christian alternative to the work of Rick Riordan, whose popular young adult-oriented series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Kane Chronicles, etc.) draw upon Greek, Egyptian, and Roman mythology for their universes and characters.
  • Vox Day wrote his novel A Throne of Bones (The start of his Arts of Dark and Light series) as a "literary rebuke" to the popular fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Half Hour News Hour, a Fox News show that aimed to be the conservative version of the left-leaning Daily Show. Most of its humor was based around taking cheap potshots at Democrats and liberals to canned laughter, not to mention had a horrible timeslot. It only got a half-season's worth of episodes.
    • Red Eye With Greg Gutfeld worked out better thanks to it having better time slots, and being more of an imitation of Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn (which wasn't a left leaning show anyway) rather than the Daily Show.
    • Fox News in general explicitly styles itself as the moral substitute to allegedly left-leaning news sources.
  • All TV channels owned by the Venezuelan government. All of them try, with various grades of success, to promote an "alternative" view to the "imperialist" (read: American) channels, who means that most shows are devoted to how wonderful the government is and how evil the oppressors are. One of the channels was deliberately built as an "socialist" alternative to commercial channels, and even is trying to do "social" Soap Operas. It seems that the effort is not working, though; the combined ratings of all government channels are inferior to the least popular of the commercial channels, and even the directors of some of those channels admit that they are not attracting enough viewers.
  • The requirements various countries have of a mandated amount of locally produced TV and film.
    • This was famously lampooned by the Canadian Sketch Comedy show SCTV, which had to fill Canadian TV's extra two minutes per half-hour with "Required Canadian Content". Miffed at the fact that a Canadian production, with all-Canadian writers, actors, and producers, was not enough in and of itself to meet requirements, they decided to fill those two minutes with all of the most over-the-top Canadian stereotypes they could possibly cram into two minutes. The result was Bob & Doug McKenzie, who became so popular that they eventually made it into the American feed of the show.
    • More popular than that, in fact. They were the only characters on this series to make it to a feature film.
  • The PAX television network was intended to be a family-friendly alternative to the major broadcast networks, but ended up being mostly infomercials and reruns, along with Billy Ray Cyrus as Doc. It's since changed its name to ION and its programming now consists entirely of infomercials and reruns, with the occasional movie during prime time hours (including, oddly enough, Hogfather during the Christmas season). It later consisted of reruns from CBS primetime shows, including Ghost Whisperer, NCIS, and Criminal Minds, indicators of some definite Network Decay.
  • Like the Narnia example above, many of the children's shows aired by the American network PBS (Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, Bill Nye, Arthur) weren't intended as Moral Substitutes. However, once Saturday mornings (and, later, cable networks like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel) became increasingly filled with half-hour toy commercials and shows that certain parents and Media Watchdogs considered to glamorize consumerism and materialism, PBS Kids started to be treated as this by a number of parents who wanted their children watching more educational fare.
    • Ironically, Sesame Street itself is now under fire from some quarters for allegedly being subversive and immoral.
    • PBS may have not meant for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to be a moral alternative, but Mr. Rogers himself is another matter—he was repulsed by what he saw on television and sought to put on something more wholesome. He succeeded gloriously.
  • Dooley and Pals is considered to be a religious alternative to Barney & Friends. The shows' plots are very similar (kids hang out with a fantasy creature, while singing songs about various topics), despite Barney being secular in comparison. (According to the A.V. Club article on Smile of a Child TV linked to below, the series wasn't originally a moral substitute but recut with some pro-Christian material so it could be one.)
  • Bibleman is a moral substitute for superheros/superhero shows in general. Unlike some alternatives however, it is aware of how silly and campy it can get.
  • Evangelist Ty Adams has created an alternative to The Real Housewives series, called The Real Housewives of the Bible, which is supposed to profile 12 women from The Bible. It apparently emphasizes the solution instead of the problem.
  • Trinity Broadcasting Network, one of the largest religious broadcasters, has two sister channels targeting children and teens/young adults with inoffensive, usually pro-Christian programming. The A.V. Club took extended looks at both Smile of a Child TV (advertised as an alternative to the Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network channels) and JCTV (patterned after MTV and its ilk), which give a good overview of how this trope operates in practice.
  • In the 80s, Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) offered Another Life, a slickly-produced alternative to secular soap operas.

    Music 
  • The entire genre of white power and neo-Nazi music, which includes rock, metal, ska and, amusingly enough, rap. Whether it can be called a moral substitute...
    • There's also Saga, the neo-Nazis' answer to Madonna. Madonna is a devotee of Jewish mysticism, see.
    • National Alliance leader (and secret author of The Turner Diaries) William Pierce was well aware of the irony. He despised rock music and preferred that young people listen to classical music or opera, but was pragmatic enough to decide that if white youths were immature enough to be into the rock scene, that was what his label Resistance Records was going to give them (provided it could impart a "white power" message, of course).
    • The tween singing duo Prussian Blue began their career as a white-power alternative to Disney's multicultural teen pop stars. They've since renounced racism, though, saying that their mother, who is still active in racist causes, was a Stage Mom who tried to use them as a mouthpiece for her views (though they remain on decent terms with her).
  • During the Second World War, Hitler had tried to purge the German airwaves of everything "degenerate" and un-German. Towards the middle of the war, however, his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, had realized that most people didn't want to listen to Wagner, stirring martial music, or Oom-pah-pah traditional tunes all day, while Allied bombers droned overhead. As an alternative, he put together a band (ironically, partly composed of Jews who had hidden their parentage), to play what basically amounted to Weird Al-style parodies of popular swing tunes, with the lyrics changed to denigrate the Allies and extoll the virtues of Germany.
  • Pat Boone made his career out of taking somewhat-racy popular music (especially Rock & Roll) and defanging it, going back to the 1950s when he released a tamer version of Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti", which had itself been bowdlerized from Little Richard's original version (which was about the mechanics of gay sex), so in effect Boone defanged something already largely toothless. He rode this to become the second highest-selling artist of The Fifties, with several of his covers, including "Tutti Frutti" and Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame", reaching higher positions on the charts than the original recordings (though the originals are today recognized as the First and Foremost versions). He's still doing it to this day; In A Metal Mood, an album of Boone converting such songs as Metallica's Enter Sandman and Ronnie James Dio's Holy Diver, has earned a So Bad, It's Good cult following (amusingly, Boone has since claimed his church threw him out for even touching metal music). Little Richard recorded "Long Tall Sally" in an effort to produce a song that Pat Boone couldn't cover. Boone gamely tried, but Richard's version ended up beating his out on the charts.
  • In a curious inversion of the usual order, atheist activist Michael Newdow (best known for his challenges to the Pledge of Allegiance) released a CD of "solstice" carols with the religious elements removed for the enjoyment of his fellow atheists. Lyrics here. It's odd.
  • During the latter years of the Cold War, the Soviet government promoted the career of Dean Reed, an American expatriate living in East Germany, as an alternative to decadent "rohk" music, which had replaced decadent "jast" music on their hit-list.
  • Chris Rice parodied the concept of moral substitutes in his "Cartoon Song." He stopped playing it live in 2004 because too many people were missing the point that God wants His believers to do the praising themselves, not through their choices of entertainment.
  • Although most Christian rock bands don't really fit here, the band ApologetiX makes blatant use of this trope, as all of their songs are based off of popular secular songs, like a Christian version of "Weird Al" Yankovic. The most interesting one of their songs is "Spirit Inside." It's a parody of "Spirit in the Sky," which already was a Christian song (and got further tweaked into one by dc Talk), but apparently ApologetiX still thought a moral substitute was needed!
  • The Black Eyed Peas started out as a less violent, socially conscious alternative to the Gangsta Rap artists that dominated rap music in The Nineties. This changed once Fergie joined, with their hit albums Elephunk and Monkey Business turning them in a more party-pop-oriented direction.
  • The entire Straight Edge music scene and subculture emerged as a backlash against what was perceived as out-of-control violence and drug use within the Hardcore Punk scene in The Eighties. Ironically, the militancy of some straight edge adherents led to the perception that the movement was a gang.
    • The "gang" mentality, by the way, was lampshaded clear into the stratosphere by WWE's CM Punk between 2009 and 2011. His "hardcore straight-edge" gimmick, originally heroic, took on a diabolical "cult" flavor, with Punk's followers essentially a group of skinheaded thugs and Punk himself looking disturbingly like Charles Manson (until Rey Mysterio shaved him bald).
  • "White Metal" or "Unblack Metal" is this to Black Metal.
  • In The Eighties, Televisa, then (and still) the most powerful Mexican TV network, was faced with a dilemma. As one of Mexico's self-appointed Moral Guardians, they had to ostracize any music that plays harder than 2 on the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness to prevent the "family values" crowd from viewing them as traitors, but doing so meant losing those profitable demographics that enjoyed rock music. So they decided to Bowdlerise rock music, playing children's bands like Timbiriche.
  • Will Smith built a good chunk of his music career in The Nineties on this trope, marketing himself as the less vulgar and violent alternative to the edgy Gangsta Rap and militant Hardcore Hip Hop popular at the time. He never used "hard" swear words in his songs, and one of his lines in "Freakin' It" had him challenging gangsta rap artists to "write one verse without a curse" (a reference to Eminem dissing him over how clean-cut his music was).
  • Ditto for MC Hammer, who made a point of including a Christian song on every one of his albums, and is today a Pentecostal minister. His attempt to stay relevant and go "gangsta" with the 1994 album The Funky Headhunter cost him a large chunk of his fanbase, and was one of the factors that set off his rapid decline.
  • There also exists Christian rap, which tends to be even more niche than Christian rock.
  • Gospel music is an inversion of this. It has a rich history as a uniquely American music form, based on African call and response and rhythmical patterns. A lot of early secular soul and R&B music was influenced by this tradition.
    • This also applies to much of the history of Christian art/music/literature etc. - it doesn't fall under this trope as it isn't a substitute. (Although it may be substituted *for*, as noted elswhere.)

    New Media 
  • Conservapedia, founded by Andrew Schlafly (son of Christian Right activist Phyllis Schlafly), is the conservative Christian version of Wikipedia, created to counter what Schlafly saw as a left-wing, anti-American slant on that site.
    • Its editors started the Conservative Bible Project, an attempt to produce a Bible translation free from "liberal bias." Yes, the people behind Conservapedia are producing a Moral Substitute for The Bible. The project seems as though it will remain perpetually unfinished, though, given that very few of the people involved with it had any knowledge of ancient Hebrew and Greek, and those few who did found themselves driven out. Even many conservative Christians (including Jack Chick and Joseph Farah, owner of of the arch-conservative news site WorldNetDaily), the target audience for the project, found the whole thing disgusting, if not blasphemous.
    • Conservapedia later spawned its own secularist substitute in the form of Rational Wiki, which was founded after some of Conservapedia's more scientifically-literate editors got fed up with Schlafly's attempts to push a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint in their articles on evolution and other scientific subjects. Initially focused on debunking pseudoscience and religious fundamentalism, and mocking Conservapedia's use of such in their articles, it has since expanded its mission to ripping political extremism and conspiracy theories as well, while dropping many of its associations with Conservapedia (though it still mocks them from time to time).
    • And then there's Liberapedia, which is one part the liberal alternative to Conservapedia, and many parts over-the-top satire.
    • A Storehouse of Knowledge, made by a former Conservapedia administrator who got fed up with the site.
  • There's message boards for Christian Furries.
    • And for "confurvatives".
  • MyPraize, a Christian alternative to MySpace.
  • There have been a number of attempts at "patriotic" (read: right-wing/conservative/Tea Party American) alternatives to Facebook out of a perception that the site's owners hold a left-wing bias and are censoring conservativesnote , recent examples including Tea Party Community, FreedomTorch, and ReaganBook (now re-branded as FreedomBook). Typically, however, these sites wind up either failing to resonate beyond their niche audience, or crawling with trolls after a few months before being shut down.

    Radio 
  • Air America Radio was created as the liberal alternative to conservative talk radio, and managed to pick up such hosts as Jerry Springer and former Saturday Night Live stars Janeane Garofalo and Al Franken (a future senator). It sputtered on for several years on corporate life support (Even Neal Boortz, noted for his opposing views, donated money!) before it got shut down.

    Tabletop Games 
  • "Christian Power Cards", a Moral Substitute for Pokémon cards, featuring characters from The Bible.
    • But not Apocamon which are creatures from the Book of Revelations Pokémon-style.
    • Also, Redemption.
  • After a number of Christian fundamentalists got it into their heads that tabletop RPGs (particularly Dungeons & Dragons) were Satanic, someone came up with Dragon Raid. RPGnet actually gave it a favorable review, with some interesting commentary on the overall "watered-down substitute" phenomenon. Ironically, the game was criticized by the same fundamentalists despite its Christian viewpoint; they figured any fantastic roleplaying was evil.
    • There were several attempts at Christian (TM) Games during that period, including a Chutes-and-Ladders knockoff called "Revelations", marketed to "mothers worried that your children are into games with Dungeons and Demons and The Occult".
  • The board game Kosherland, which is Candyland, but with all the candy imagery (and candy-themed cartoon characters) replaced with imagery and cartoon characters about food that orthodox Jews can eat.
    • "Uh-oh, you landed in cholent swamp; you lose a turn!"
  • Among certain circles that decried standard playing cards as featuring Satanic imagery (or "making fun of the Holy Family" or being used in gambling, or...), the card game Rook became popular as it had no imagery whatsoever... aside from the eponymous crow-like bird.
    • Uno and Dutch Blitz are also big hits in such communities.
  • One notable immoral Moral Substitute would be the white power RPG Racial Holy War, which you can find a thorough mocking of here.
  • Going from far-right to far-left politics, there's Class Struggle, which aims to teach players about Marxist theory. It was actually published by Avalon Hill.
  • As seen in the page image, "Faith and Redemption", described as the Christian alternative to Magic: The Gathering. Of course, among the MTG community, a joke has sprung up that basically predicts that Magic will make a set based on the Judeo-Christian mythos...though they've taken cues from holy texts before.
  • Inverted by Cards Against Humanity, which is a self-consciously immoral alternative to the relatively tame Apples To Apples.
  • Kickstarter-funded "Farewell To Fear" is a progressive, pro-science alternative to fantasy tabletop Role-Playing Games that in their words are full of "all sorts of legacy concepts that are rather disgusting to us; sexism, classism, racism, institutional violence".

    Theme Parks 
  • Heritage USA, part of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's PTL media empire, was planned as the Christian version of Disney World, and wound up becoming fairly popular after its opening in 1978. Today, however, the park is best known for playing a role in the scandal that led to Jim Bakker's downfall and subsequent imprisonment. The park was closed in 1989, and parts of it have since been redeveloped (mostly by various ministries), while the rest lingers in various states of decay.
  • The Holy Land Experience is an Orlando, Florida theme park that uses the production values of the Universal and Disney Theme Parks (even hiring designers who'd worked on them) to recreate Biblical times and places, primarily focusing on the ministry of Christ. Instead of rides, the main draws are live shows (passion plays, etc.) and opportunities to interact with performers who play Christ, his disciples, etc.
  • There are a number of Young Earth Christian Creationist theme parks and "museums" in the U.S. that intend to counter the accepted scientific theories about evolution and the age of the Earth:
    • The Creation Museum in Kentucky by Answers in Genesis, which intends to be the substitute for mainstream science museums, all while espousing that the story of Genesis is literally true and Science Is Wrong.
    • The short-lived Dinosaur Adventure Land theme park in Pensacola, Florida, by the creationist Kent Hovind. The park was plagued by legal troubles since its inception, from lack of zoning permits to undeclared revenue by Hovind which caused him to be jailed for tax fraud. It was finally closed down and seized by the government in 2012.

    Toys 
  • After the American Girl doll brand was involved in controversies over claims that the company's charitable contributions supported pro-abortion and pro-gay rights groups, several alternate doll brands popped up intending to be more moral alternatives. In some cases, they all but called out American Girl by name when criticizing "other" companies in their publicity. American Girl remained the leader in brand recognition, marketing and quality, and for the most part the imitators have since fallen by the wayside and folded with little fanfare.
    • Speaking of American Girl, there's also Maplelea Girls, with the twist that they're not meant to promote religious conservatism or religion at all; instead, they're calling out the American part of the title, encouraging Canadian kids to get over Cultural Cringe and leave a brand that wears its Americanness on its sleeves for one that embraces Canadian national identity.
  • Dara and Sara, the officially-sanctioned Iranian Barbie doll substitute.
  • Speaking of Barbie: there have been more than a couple of alternatives claimed to promote a more "healthy, realistic" body image than Barbie: more natural proportions, for example. At least one such version had molded nipples, supposedly so young girls didn't think that the fact that their breasts weren't featureless lumps meant there was something wrong with them.

    Video Games 
  • The game developer Color Dreams changed its name to Wisdom Tree, and re-released their old games with new titles and Christian themes slapped on. Some notable games that they made included Bible Adventures, Sunday Funday (a rebadged version of the old Color Dreams game Menace Beach), and Spiritual Warfare (a thinly disguised Zelda clone — not half bad, but mostly by virtue of picking a good game to rip off). These games did not carry the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality, and came with special cartridges that were designed to get around the lockout chips in Nintendo's consoles.

    It is widely believed that the reason Color Dreams turned into Wisdom Tree was not out of piety, but so that they could get around Nintendo's licensingnote . Nintendo's primary pressure tactic was refusing to sell their games to retailers that sold unlicensed games. Christian bookstores were immune to this, as they didn't stock video games in the first place. Seeing an opportunity, the newly-renamed Wisdom Tree convinced the bookstores that their games would bring kids to God, and started selling their games to them. Another theory is that Color Dreams changed their modus operandi after Nintendo sued them for selling unlicensed games — after all, what sort of evil company (and a Japanese one, at that) would hate on a Christian game developer anyway?
  • Seanbaby reviewed a Christian version of Dance Dance Revolution (entitled Dance Praise) in one issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, concluding with an offensive but somewhat pertinent quote: "[What I learned was that] Christian anything sucks more than regular anything."
    • He also reviewed Bible Adventures and Sunday Funday. After comparing Sunday Funday's gimmick of quoting scripture versus Menace Beach's gimmick of having your girlfriend's clothes disappear between levels, he concluded that "If you suck at making things but want people to buy them anyway, crap with Jesus sells better than crap with tits."
  • A Christian Guitar Hero clone, entitled Guitar Praise, which includes a lot of groups listed on Christian Rock (and one song from a Not Christian Rock group, Flyleaf).
  • There's a Catholic-themed clone of DopeWars called, yes, Pope Wars. It's somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
  • There was a PC game spawned by the Bibleman video series by a company called Covenant Studios. It played sort of like Diablo with jerky controls, sprites that moved at a snail's pace and weapons of a purely defensive nature — even the character who had a laser gun at the time. Instead, there's a clunky system to destroy enemies with random Bible passages. To top it all off, Bibleman, the character the series is named after, has to be unlocked before players can take control of him. Oddly, despite this winning combination, the purported PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance versions never materialized. At last check, the developers' site had disappeared off the face of the internet.
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has made a number of animal rights-themed Flash parodies of popular games.
  • Word of God claims that Ultima IV (the Trope Codifier for the Karma Meter) was intended to be this to the first 3 games, after hearing the complaints of Moral Guardians. A prime example of Tropes Are Not Bad since said game revolutionized the RPG genre.
  • In The Eighties, home computers were marketed as an educational alternative to video game consoles to anxious parents fearful of anything that could threaten their children's attempts to get into a good college. Commodore in particular attempted to scare parents away from mind-rotting consoles toward their computers. Their ploy seems to have worked, as the Commodore 64 is considered a factor in The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Subverted as the C64 and other computers of the time actually had plenty of great games. The moral panic surrounding teenagers' Internet use has made this somewhat Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • Edutainment Games, especially in The Eighties and The Nineties.
  • The Left Behind books have an ongoing series of Real-Time Strategy games as well. They generated some controversy over the idea of "kill or convert" approaches to heathens, though the emphasis does lean more towards conversion rather than combat. The first game, at least, has some genuinely interesting ideas and mechanics for urban warfare with a strong "hearts and minds" theme, but is crippled by a lot of amateur mistakes for the genre and its obsessive devotion to ideological purity rather than good gameplay. For example, the main menu shows a CGI rendering of The Creation of Adam with Adam wearing white boxer shorts, and completing missions unlocks bonus (Christian rock) music and informational documents... like why evolution is wrong and how archaeology proves the Bible.

    Webcomics 
  • Filthy Figments, the "positive" alternative to Slipshine, for those who object to eroticism with men holding the strings. It's just as smutty as regular porn but it's drawn by women.

    Web Original 
  • Stuff Christians Like, compared to Stuff White People Like, though it leans more in the Affectionate Parody direction. This is lampshaded by its first post and in the book article: "Stuff Christians Like: Ignoring all Copyright Laws".
  • Spoofed in a YouTube video starring a troupe of rapping kids promoting the "Christian Side Hug," which avoids the "sinful" crotch contact of the traditional hug. No, as much as it might seem to be par for the course, and as much as you might want it to be, it's not even the tiniest bit real.
    • It seems like the video may not be a parody, and those guys were dead serious. It's supposed to be a parody, yet Word of God states that they were serious about keeping physical contact to a minimum.
    • And, of course, the "side hug" is a real thing which is suggested for anyone working with children, in secular or sacred settings, in hopes to avoid anyone suggesting that there's intentional "crotch contact".
  • This trope, in conjunction with New Media Are Evil, has been cited (especially by the "old media") as a major reason for the declining quality of news coverage in the Turn of the Millennium and beyond. The thesis is that, before the rise of the internet and cable news, most places had only a few mass-market newspapers and TV stations that had to moderate their reporting and editorials in order to avoid alienating large sections of the populace and going out of business. Anybody looking for more partisan journalism had to either turn to magazines like The Atlantic and National Review (which still tended more towards the "establishment" wings of their respective political viewpoints), or do some serious digging. Today, on the other hand, it is possible to get several news sources that conform to a strictly ideological point of view, while lambasting more moderate sources as biased. The Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and Russia Today all explicitly style themselves as the "honest" alternatives to a "biased" Mainstream Media (from conservative, liberal, and pro-Russian perspectives, respectively), while there exist countless blogs and news websites that do the same, and often take their biases to far greater extremes than the cable news networks.

    Western Animation 

    Other 
  • Branson, Missouri, in the words of The Simpsons, is "Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders." The city offers elaborate hotels, shopping, and tons of live shows, but there's no gambling or "party scene". The shows focus on G-rated entertainment, especially musical revues — oldies, country, and Broadway are the most frequently appearing genres. Other shows include grand-scale musical adaptations of Bible stories, and such headliners as Yakov Smirnoff, the Oak Ridge Boys, Tony Orlando, and Jim Stafford. (Another Simpsons episode had the chorus of a revue declare: "We took Nick at Nite and made it a town!")
  • There have been "alternatives" to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from every direction. The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, for instance, had the Pioneers, and Nazi Germany had the infamous Hitler Youth. A number of churches have also created their own "scouting" organizations, such as the Pathfinders (Seventh Day Adventists), the Royal Rangers for boys and Missionettes for girls (Assemblies of God), and Awana (Southern Baptists). More recently, due to the increasingly conservative bent of the Boy Scouts of America (not surprising, since Lord Baden-Powell came up with the idea during one of Britain's imperial wars of conquest, and "scouts" throughout history have traditionally been connected to the military), there are also a few scouting organizations that have sprung up with more moderate and non-denominational views on Christian doctrine (such as the Christian Service Brigade), and others with the aim of being more accepting of gays, lesbians, and non-Christians.
    • The Boy Scouts themselves were partly inspired by an organization called the Boys' Brigade, which was (and is) an explicitly Christian youth organization. Therefore, the Boy Scouts were the "less moral" substitute (which is pretty funny when you consider the controversy over their views on religion and homosexuality). Also, as the name suggests, the Boys' Brigade has even stronger military overtones than the Boy Scouts: humorist Clive James, who was a member of both groups in his youth, commented that the Scouts emphasize "woodsy lore" and the Brigade prefers "parade ground drill." For example, the adult organizers of the Brigade are called Officers (with the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain), and younger members can become Non-Commissioned Officers, with ranks running from Private through Staff Sergeant.
    • After the Scouts recent decision to keep the ban on gay scout leaders, but allow gay young men to participate in scouting, the author of this article R.I.P, Boy Scouts of America invokes exactly those words:
    But here’s the good news. I and dozens more will be convening for a coalition meeting of pro-family leaders next month in Louisville, Ky., to discuss the creation of a moral alternative to the Boy Scouts.
  • Several churches, appalled at the pagan influences of Halloween and the monsters seen in traditional haunted houses, have taken to doing "Halloween alternative" parties, in which children disguise themselves as Biblical characters. Some take this to extremes by setting up "hell houses," in which the attendees are shown scenes meant to portray the decadence of secular culture, finally ending in a room occupied by Satan, claiming that all of the characters they had seen are now firmly in his grasp. In the worst of these, the Hell House is marketed as a normal haunted house, and is thus a Bait and Switch, and in some the attendees must either agree to be saved (i.e. become born-again Christians) or must traverse the length of the building in order to get out. The whole concept is savagely mocked in a Something Positive sequence starting here. Perhaps more common are the Harvest Parties, which feature game booths, contests, and the requisite candy, typically hosted in whatever part of the church has an open floor and forgoing the ghouls-and-ghosts theme (converting the holiday into Thanksgiving Lite).
    • Christmas and Easter even started out as Christian substitutes for pagan celebrations.
  • Some parents who school their children at home do so because they perceive public school as un-Christian or un-whatever their religion/worldview is. It's also possible for Christian parents to give their children a complete Christian education, all the way from pre-school to Ph.D.
  • Christian BDSM.
  • The American Center for Law and Justice is a Christian conservative counterpart to the ACLU founded by Pat Robertson that litigates for pro-Christian, pro-life issues (even though the ACLU also does work defending the civil liberties of Christians in regards to the free exercise of their beliefs).
  • The 19th century French thinker Auguste Comte devised a humanist "Religion of Humanity" complete with its own feast days (to commemorate figures in Western history) and clergy.
  • A whole industry of vegetarian products exists to provide replacements for burgers and bacon, among others.
  • Nazi Germany pushed "moral" (for lack of a better word) substitutes throughout the arts and sciences.
    • Early on, the Nazis advocated "Deutsche Physik" as an alternative to the physics mainstream, which they felt to be too dominated by Jews like Albert Einstein. It fell out of favor in the late '30s once the sturdiness of the "Jewish physics" became apparent even to many Nazis.
    • After the Nazis clamped down on "entartete kunst" (degenerate art) following their rise to power, they pushed art that upheld "blood and soil" themes of militarism and racial purity, often infused with classical Greek and Roman influence. Hilariously, as Cracked pointed out, an exhibition of the banned art (the only legal venue for such work) to show the German people how evil and Jew-corrupted it was wound up attracting far more visitors than a nearby exhibition of Nazi-sponsored art.
    • Arguably, fascism itself, as its proponents saw it as this towards socialism. It combined many of its economic proposals (broad populism, state control of industry, etc.) and its revolutionary spirit with ultra-nationalism and reactionary social views, in sharp opposition to socialism's international worldview. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler described both capitalism and socialism as two sides of the same coin, i.e. both controlled by Jews, and both needing to be destroyed. It's not for nothing that the Nazis called themselves the "National Socialists", the "National" part differentiating them from the "subversive" international (read: Jewish) socialists that they viewed as destroying Germany. This post on AlternateHistory.com goes into detail on how, while socialism was explicitly oriented towards the working class, fascism was a "big tent" ideology that held something for those in all socioeconomic strata.
  • Similar to Nazi Germany's "Deutsche Physik", the Soviet Union under Stalin pushed Lysenkoism as a more acceptable alternative to evolution by natural selection, which they felt was too capitalistic ("survival of the fittest" and all that—a rather strange reaction, given that Marxism also has a pseudo-Darwinist strand, except instead of "the fittest race" or "the fittest firm" it was "the fittest class" that wins out), to the point that botanists who disagreed and advocated mainstream (i.e. real) genetics were arrested (most prominently Nikolai Vavilov, who was sent to and died in The Gulag). It was abandoned (along with much of Stalin's legacy) after Nikita Khrushchev became Premier, due to the fact that it had proven itself to be a total failure as a scientific theory.
    • The Soviet Union also promoted Socialist Realism against "decadent, bourgeois" abstract art.
  • Non-alcoholic wine, beer, and even whiskey! Ariel non-alcoholic wine even managed to win some awards.
    • On a more historical level, many soft drinks began life as (or were later marketed as) "temperance beverages" billed as alternatives to intoxicating liquor. Coca-Cola even marketed itself as "The Great Temperance Beverage" around the turn of the 20th century. Ironically, its original formula included cocaine.
    • Coffee is also a common substitute for alcohol. The word is in fact derived from the Arabic term for "wine," and was originally introduced to the West as "the wine of Arabia." It's popular with religions that forbid alcohol use, such as Islam and some Christian churches, though averted in Mormonism, where coffee consumption is banned.
      • Coffee also became a Moral Substitute for tea during the American Revolution, because several tax and trade acts that involved tea really pissed off the Americans. Patriots disavowed tea as a symbol of British injustice, but still needed their caffeine, causing a rise in the popularity of coffee.
    • And while we're on the subject of drugs, there's the teaching of "Holy Ghost intoxication" or being "drunk in the Spirit", a spurious claim that comes from misinterpretation of Scriptures (mostly Acts chapter 2 and Ephesiasn 5:18) that is preached by the likes of Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard Browne, and Kenneth E. Hagin, that is presented in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles as The Moral Substitute to getting high from real drugs. John Crowder even goes so far as to call it "tokin' the Ghost". VICE has a YouTube video on the subject that can be seen here.
  • While it may be hard to imagine today given the rhetoric surrounding it, the health care reform plan that ultimately became "Obamacare" started out as a conservative, free-market alternative to Bill Clinton's plan (dubbed "Hillarycare" after his wife, the main architect of the plan) in The Nineties, promoted as a way to advance the virtue of personal responsibility by requiring people to buy health insurance. Famously, Mitt Romney implemented such a plan at the state level as governor of Massachusetts. It was only after Barack Obama, a Democrat, championed the plan at the federal level that it was disowned by Republicans. This left Romney in the awkward position of having to be against something he favored as governor when he ran against Obama in 2012 (although he tried declaring it a state's rights issue).
  • Labor Day in the U.S. is held the first Monday in September, instead of May 1 like in other countries, because of the association of the latter date with those Dirty Communists. The American labor movement was itself a moral substitute for Communism, thanks to the influence of the staunchly anti-Communist AFL-CIO under Samuel Gompers eventually squeezing out the more radical Industrial Workers of the World. The early successes of the labor movement meant that workers could gain representation and fair treatment without overthrowing the capitalist system, which partly explains why Communism never became a significant movement in America.
  • Similarly, the New Deal was a moral substitute to communism and fascism, setting out to reform the capitalist system so that it wouldn't be overthrown (like it had been in Russia and Germany) while taking steps to ensure that The Great Depression would not happen again.
  • A private committee in China established the "Confucius Peace Prize" in response to a Chinese dissident receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize was proposed as a way "to declare China's view in peace and human rights to the world."
  • The Knights of Columbus were founded for two main reasons: a) to sell affordable life insurance to Catholic workers, who often worked in dangerous jobs, and b) to serve as a fraternal organization that Catholics could join in good conscience, since they were prohibited from joining organizations like the Freemasons under pain of excommunication.
  • The Soviet Union held the "Workers' Olympics" because Party officials denounced the Olympic Games as "bourgeois" until they finally broke down and sent a team to Helsinki in 1952. It didn't stop them from doping their athletes up their eyeballs to make sure they won, however.
  • Similarly, the tit-for-tat boycotts by the US and Soviet Olympic teams of the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics led Ted Turner to create the Goodwill Games in 1986 as a non-politicized alternative to an event that he saw as having become more about national/Cold War posturing than sport.
  • Confucius promoted chopsticks as an alternative to forks and knives, which he equated with violence.
  • After Chick-fil-A head Dan Cathy expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage, several liberal activists posted online recipes for "non-homophobic" alternatives to the restaurant's chicken sandwiches.

    Fictional Examples 
Film
  • Bob Roberts parodies this idea by having the title character as the fanatically conservative child of hippies who uses the folksy musical style of '60s protest songs, with their left-wing populist themes, to express his decidedly right-wing ideology.
  • Reefer Madness The Musical: in the film version, at the end of "Listen To Jesus, Jimmy," Jesus challenges Jimmy to "take a hit of God" and see if he can "handle the high". Jimmy refuses, saying, "I've got a new god now!"

Video Games
  • Parodied mercilessly in a viral campaign for Dantes Inferno, which offered a game at the complete opposite end called Mass: We Pray. And naturally, it was presented as a game using Wii-like technology. The punchline was that, whenever you clicked any link on the fake website for the game (which is now dead), you got a message more in the style of the real game informing you that performing mass without a real Catholic priest falls under the sin of Heresy.
  • Two of Grand Theft Auto V's fictional TV shows parody this trope.
    • invoked Kung Fu Rainbow Lazer Force is a kids' animated series which revolves around pushing conservative Christian morality, including an anvilicious pro-abstinence message, laughably bad "science", and crude denigration of LGBT people. It also makes fun of how Americans are prudish towards sex in the media yet accepting of violence in shows marketed directly to children, with the show's fight scenes frequently veering into Gorn territory.
    • The other side isn't immune either, as the game also has Impotent Rage, a parody of Captain Planet and the Planeteers and, more broadly, of the "limousine liberal" stereotype and liberal moralism in general. The eponymous protagonist's attempts to improve the world invariably make things worse, such as when his destruction of a factory owned by a Corrupt Corporate Executive (who wasn't really all that corrupt to begin with) puts the striking workers he was trying to help out of their jobs.

Web Comics
  • Dumbing of Age: Joyce's favourite childhood show, Hymmal the Humming Hymnal, with messages like "All the good things we do are God working through us". Joyce shows atheist Dorothy one episode of it, and Dorothy admits afterward that she was never going to enjoy it.

Web Video

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons, with its broad satire of American pop culture, has parodied this trope on more than one occasion.
    • The episode "I'm Goin' to Praiseland" has Ned Flanders opening a theme park called Praiseland, a parody of Heritage USA and the Holy Land Experience. The park quickly becomes a dud, with visitors finding it too focused on Sunday School-style evangelism at the expense of entertainment, until an apparent miracle at the park (actually the result of a dangerous gas leak) causes attendance to skyrocket.
    • In "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily", Rod and Todd Flanders are seen playing Billy Graham's Bible Blaster, a parody of Christian video games.
    Rod Flanders: "No, you just winged him and turned him into a Unitarian!"
    • In "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy", Lisa, disgusted by the questionable messages that the Malibu Stacy doll (a parody of Barbie) sends to young girls, creates the Lisa Lionheart doll as a more positive role model. She even gets help in designing the doll from Stacy Lovell, the original designer of Malibu Stacy who was kicked out of the company she created. Unfortunately, Lisa Lionheart flops despite a ton of hype, with everybody distracted by the new Malibu Stacy doll (with new hat!) that came out on the same day.
  • The first King of the Hill Halloween Episode had a Moral Guardian do her best to destroy the holiday out of her belief that it's Satanic. Instead, she offered up a "Hallelujah House", which served mainly to beat children over the head with Christian aesops (like "Premarital sex kills instantly").
    • The page quote comes from an episode where Bobby gets interested in Christianity due to a group of devout skateboarders. Hank spends most of the episode looking kind of bad (since he started off wanting Bobby to care more about their faith, but hates the direction he's taking), but in the end he explains that he just doesn't want Bobby to treat something that important as a mere fad, like his long-forgotten Troll Dolls and Tamagochi.

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alternative title(s): The Moral Alternative; Moral Substitute
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