The Morality/Mortality Equation

If Alice is associated with Bob the Villain, her chances of dying increase in direct proportion to the evilness of Bob's actions and/or the closeness of their association. If he's VERY evil and they're VERY close, then she's VERY dead. But if he's very evil and she's not that close to him, or if they're very close but he's never done worse than Poke the Poodle, she'll be fine.

The driving force behind this trope is that it provides karma by proxy for a villain who might otherwise be untouchable. If Bob is the main character, his Plot Armor protects him, but he still deserves his comeuppance for his deeds. Thus the penalty falls on Alice, costing him someone he cares about. If Bob is an established villain and we are seeing his Start of Darkness, we already know that he'll survive — but if his loyal bodyguard is killed by an enraged mother with a crossbow, it provides the sense of justice, albeit thwarted, that the viewers crave.

Conversely, heroes tend to cast a protective force on their friends and loved ones. This is because The Hero will ALWAYS save his or her friends in the Sadistic Choice of the Friend or Idol Decision, or in the choice between power and love, or in the choice between his loved ones and just about anything.

However, the equation goes both ways. Sometimes, even the most kind and loving All-Loving Hero can get downright scary when those close to them are in danger. Once you've kicked the hero's loves ones off a cliff, you can expect the hero to do things that he wouldn't even consider otherwise.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Code Geass, once Lelouch starts loosening his morals, the people he cares about die (like Shirley), bad things (like genocide) start happening, and he loses his best friend (Suzaku).

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars
    • Reverse case: in Attack of the Clones, Anakin, after having his mother die in his arms, takes out his anger and frustration on the vicious sand people who killed her. He even kills the women and children of the sand people village.
    • In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin has just killed several children and a Jedi Master. His wife, Padme, refuses to follow him on his path to The Dark Side. He uses The Force to choke her, causing her death. However, due to the force of Plot, she lives long enough to die later from childbirth. This is one case where Karma ricochets back on the evildoer, as Anakin is burned by lava, becoming Darth Vader, which was ordained by the Plot to happen.
    • Darth Vader is a very evil and very successful villain, and as such, it is NOT a good idea to work for him, as he kills his own Mooks when they mess up.
  • Applies to those around Jimmy in GoodFellas. After the Lufthansa heist, everyone related to said heist to begins to turn up dead. Then, even more people start dying, including his best friend.

    Web Comics 
  • In 8-Bit Theater, Black Mage is very powerful, but not very successful, and fails miserably at trying to kill the other light warriors. When he finally does achieve ultimate power and kills the other light warriors, he accidentally kills White Mage, the only thing in the universe he cares about. When the other light warriors and White Mage are resurrected, Black Mage soon loses his ultimate power.
  • In The Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness, Redcloak can't die because it's a prequel, so his brother ends up paying for their evilness instead.

    Web Original