troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Wants a Prize for Basic Decency
aka: Virtue Is Its Own Reward

Buffy: What are you doing?
Spike: Making this woman more comfortable. I'm not sampling, I'll have you know. Just look at all these lovely blood-covered people. I could, but not a taste for Spike, not a lick. I knew you wouldn't like it.
Buffy: You want credit for not feeding on bleeding disaster victims?
Spike: Well, yeah.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Bob just isn't good by default. Where some people cleave to good behavior more or less naturally, Bob does not, either through being a Jerkass or an outright villain. He needs to be pushed and prodded — by himself and others — into being a decent person, and because this process is a struggle for him and because his good behavior is above and beyond how he might be acting otherwise, he believes he deserves exceptional acknowledgement for his efforts.

This is Wants a Prize for Basic Decency. A character expects extra kudos for behaving in a situation like a decent human being instead of a Jerkass, even though basic humanity is expected of others by default.

Can inspire Then Let Me Be Evil if the character is treated around as negatively as actual villains despite their good nature.

Compare It's All About Me, Entitled to Have You, Dogged Nice Guy, and Condescending Compassion. Contrast Dude, Where's My Respect?, in which a character actually does heroic things but gets no positive acknowledgement for it, and Think Nothing of It, in which a character avoids being praised after doing heroic things. Also contrast strong cases of Crapsack World, where having a shred of humanity actually is to exceed any reasonable expectations. Furthermore, then there is the idea of Blue and Orange Morality coming into play (where the person has inhuman or bizarre morals and standards to where 'basic human decency' is actually pretty high standards (or out of character) for them)

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • Coupled with Deliberate Values Dissonance in Anatolia Story. Ramses abducts Yuri, and then tells her off for screaming and trying to escape. He tell her she isn't very grateful for how "nice" he's being, whereupon Yuri asks why the hell she should appreciate his kidnapping her as "nice". His response? He wasn't raping her while kidnapping her, was he?

     Comic Books 
  • The Kingpin in Ultimate Spiderman explains to Peter that this is why normal people resent superheroes like Peter. Normal people, according to the Kingpin, are sheep who just want to do the bare minimum of what is expected of them and want someone like the Kingpin to give them a big cookie for it at the end of the day. Seeing heroes like Peter going above and beyond makes them realize that they don't really deserve that cookie.
  • There is Zoe Zimmer from Ms Marvel 2014, who is just concerned about the wellbeing and financial status of her classmates. She is even willing to shop where one of them works, and can't fathom why he wouldn't make coffee for her for this great act of charity. The others are divided whether or not her "concern trolling" is an act or cluelessness.

     Fan Works 
  • In the Death Note fic Lab Specimen L thinks Light should be grateful to him despite L's invasive and dehumanizing treatment of him and sexually assaulting him because at least L wasn't torturing him.
  • In the Death Note fic To Feel Alive Ryuk is quite put out when Light doesn't seem too thrilled when Ryuk makes the promise that his death would be quick and painless:
    Shouldn't he be grateful that he wasn't planning on giving him a painful, lingering death?
  • In Wish Carefully, Lucius Malfoy thinks the women of the Cabal, who were kidnapped from their homes to be breeding concubines, should be grateful to him because he gives them whatever they want in reward for them birthing and "took them from poverty". And he lets them see their own children.

     Film 
  • In La cintura di castita, a hermit enlightens Boccadoro that though Delioso has been trying to abduct and even rape her, he didn't kill her though he could. And why? Because he loves you, my child!
  • A downplayed example appears in In the Loop. Toby, an aide of British cabinet minister Simon, is in Washington D.C for a meeting with a senior American government official. The night before, he goes out clubbing with an old university friend, hooks up with her and oversleeps, resulting in him missing the first half of the meeting. After Simon "reads him some extracts from the Riot Act" in response, Toby protests on the grounds that "it's not like I threw up in there, is it?" Unfortunately for him Simon's not impressed with this line of defence:
    Simon: No. You're right. I'm being unfair. I should be thanking you for not throwing up. Well done. You're a star. And you didn't wet yourself, did you? You're in the right city. You didn't say anything overtly racist. You didn't pull your dick out and start plucking it shouting "Willy Banjo!" No, I'm being really unfair! You got so much right... without actually being there for the beginning of one of the most important moments of my career. Thanks. You're a legend.
  • Zig-zagged in Scent of a Woman, during the climactic hearing. The dean intends to punish Charlie for not naming names, yet also intends to reward George for testimony that is only slightly less vague than Charlie's. (He is apparently unable to punish the actual vandals, despite knowing who they are, without this testimony.) After Frank's Rousing Speech, the school disciplinary committee, in addition to excusing Charlie from any further involvement in the case* declare that George's should not receive recognition or reward for his testimony.

     Literature 
  • Invoked in The Picture of Dorian Gray, when Dorian realizes that his painting is reflecting all the hedonism he's committed, and thinks that not picking up this country girl he comes across will improve it. The painting promptly develops a smug grin of hypocrisy.
  • One Dave Barry column has this insight into the male mindset: being little more than toilet-trained cavemen, they will occasionally perform an act of great heroism like doing the laundry without being asked or making spaghetti without setting the house on fire, only to be confused when other people (read: women) don't consider this an accomplishment worthy of a Nobel Prize.
  • Harry Potter: In Deathly Hallows, Aberforth Dumbledore says this of his late brother Albus, more of an intellectual than a guardian figure.
    "Bit of a comedown for Mr. Brilliant, there's no prizes for looking after your half-mad sister, stopping her blowing up the house every other day. But he did all right for a few weeks ... 'til henote  came."
  • Twilight:
    • Edward Cullen embodies this mindset. "I'm not killing every random human in my path, I deserve a cookie!", even though he's never lifted a finger to stop anyone else from eating people, or tried to save anyone in danger of getting eaten, unless they're a member of his little familial unit. He claims to have eaten only bad people in the past to justify his actions but we can only take him at his word. His telepathy only works on surface thoughts, so he really can't tell the difference between someone genuinely plotting a murder and a person who might just be mad at their boss and fantasizing about committing a murder.
    • Jacob's the same way—he forcibly kisses Bella against her will, not letting go until she punches him so hard she breaks her hand, and his only defense is pretty much, "Well, at least I didn't rape her."
  • In the final Incarnations of Immortality book, two female characters learn that All Men Are Perverts, and gain a newfound appreciation for the amount of restraint the average man shows in not raping them. Yeesh...
  • In Hush, Hush, Patch wants Nora to love and trust him... because he didn't kill her. And not that he was planning on killing her because he was lied to or brainwashed or anything. He wanted to kill her because it would make him human and thus let him feel things. Truly, it was so wonderful of him to drag her to a motel room, isolate her from her friends and family, scare her out of her mind, and then assure her that he had no intention of going through with murdering her.
  • Vern the dragon from Karina Fabian's "DragonEye, P.I." series thinks he's learned more patience and long-suffering than a dragon was ever meant to know now that he resists incinerating or eating anyone who happens to annoy him.

     Live Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike the erstwhile evil vampire tries to impress Buffy by helping people injured in a roof collapse, and especially wants credit for not drinking their blood.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town", Blon Slitheen has a nice chat with a young pregnant woman about family instead of eating her. The Doctor doesn't fall for it.
    Blon: I spared her life.
    Doctor: You let one of them go, but that's nothing new. Every now and then, a little victim's spared... because she smiled, cos he's got freckles, cos they begged. And that's how you live with yourself, that's how you slaughter millions, because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind's in the right direction, you happen to be kind.
  • Played with on an episode of The X-Files. Agent Mulder says something along the lines of "If I had a peg leg, everyone would applaud me just for being alive, but because I'm normal, I'm expected to exceed."
  • Gul Dukat of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine shows continual annoyance that the Bajorans didn't give him any admiration or love for being a more merciful prefect during the military occupation of their world, and later even rants to Captain Sisko about how just he was in ordering proportional executions of alleged suspects in response to Cardassian deaths from a terrorist attack.
  • Schmidt on New Girl harangues his friends to say he's a good person for saving a man from choking on gum (after crashing his bike and breaking both legs, for which Schmidt didn't even bother to call 9-1-1). This after he had just cheated on CeCe with Elizabeth and vice-versa, and tried to break up Jess and Nick because he thinks they were to blame for the former.
  • Happens with Meadow on The Sopranos. She throws a party at her grandmother's abandoned house, which gets completely trashed. When her parents later take her to task for it, she complains that they aren't giving her any credit for not trying Ecstasy at the party, which she totally could've done.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • One Baby Blues strip featured Zoe excitedly telling her mom that she just saw her brother Hammie bend over in front of her, and didn't kick him! The last panel has her complaining about how hard it is to get brownie points.
  • At one point in the Early Years of the comic strip For Better or for Worse, John flew into a blind rage and spanked Michael for not agreeing that he, as the child, owed his parents for feeding, clothing and housing him. Elly's objection was not that Michael didn't owe his parents every single cent spent on him with interest rates that would make a Mafia loanshark sick but that he lost his temper.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin seems to have something of this mindset during the holiday season. He has actually mentioned that the sort of pressure of behaving correctly would be easy for a normally good kid, but for a mischievous troublemaker like Calvin, it is quite difficult, thus playing with the trope.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • A gem from Chris Rock that would make an excellent page quote if not for the, ahem... controversial language;
    Everything white people don't like about black people, black people really don't like about black people, and there's two sides, there's black people and there's niggas. [...] You know the worst thing about niggas? Niggas always want credit for some shit they supposed to do. A nigga will brag about some shit a normal man just does. A nigga will say some shit like, "I take care of my kids." You're supposed to, you dumb motherfucker! What kind of ignorant shit is that? "I ain't never been to jail!" What do you want, a cookie?! You're not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!

     Video Games 
  • Mass Effect 1
    • Inverted by Renegade Shepard:
      Shepard: Saving my boots from burning lava is part of your job, Joker. We don't give medals to soldiers for doing their jobs.
    • Joker dislikes Nihlus for giving him a compliment instead of high praise. He elaborates that "Remembering to zip up your jumpsuit on the way out of the bathroom? That's good."
  • Subverted in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Paarthurnax invites the Dragonborn to ponder one question, one that has actually made many players hesitate to kill him: "What is better - to be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort?"

     Webcomics 
  • There's a Surviving The World strip with an...interesting take on this.
  • There was a Zogonia strip that went something like:
    Kev: I can't believe you don't trust me! All those times when I was on guard duty, I could have slit your throat while you slept and taken all the treasure, but I didn't! And this is the thanks I get?
    Domato: I was never really asleep.
    Kev: Yeah, I know.
  • Belkar in The Order of the Stick prequel, On The Origin Of PCs. He thinks he deserves a reward for the restraint he showed by not killing all the barmaids in a tavern brawl, and suggests that if humans don't want him to murder people, they should put up a sign saying "Thank you for not killing more than five of us".
    Prison Guard: We don't want you to kill ANY of us!
    Belkar: Now you're just being unreasonable!
  • Cronus from Homestuck believes that the other characters should be totally impressed that he doesn't nearly lord his highblood status above them all as much as he could.
  • Played with hilariously in 'Sinfest''. Slick managed to do something good and Nana goodheartedly gave him a cookie and he mildly rubbed it in Xanthe's face. This trope would be in play, but he actually didn't really expect to get a cookie so it's pretty interesting.
  • Katamari has Ace, whose desire for personal recognition makes him a completely self-absorbed Jerkass. Upon learning that his Snowlem cousin Sherman has mostly melted and needs help building up a body, Ace refuses to help until the other brings up a potential reward.

     Web Original 
  • Deconstructed in this article on Cracked.
  • Youtuber the1janitor, also deconstructs how a lot of guys claiming to be in the "Friend Zone" are really entitled Extreme Doormats that really aren't as nice as they claim to be.
    "Look dude, the world doesn't owe you shit for being nice, and girls don't either. You're supposed to be nice to people. You don't get a cookie for doing what people are supposed to be doing anyway."

     Western Animation 
  • This beauty from Avatar: The Last Airbender , while the group was talking about Zuko's sudden Face-Heel Turn, and citing setting Appa free instead of leaving him to rot as one good thing he's done.
    Sokka: (Sarcastically) Oh, hurray! After a lifetime of evil, at least he didn't add animal cruelty to the list!
    Toph: I'm just saying that considering his messed up family and how he was raised, he could have turned out a lot worse.
    Katara: You're right, Toph. Let's go find him and give him a medal. The "Not-As-Much-Of-A-Jerk-As-You-Could-Have-Been Award"!
  • In X-Men: Evolution, after Lance saves an elderly lady (out of genuine decency) from a train wreck Wanda caused and the lady richly rewards the Brotherhood, the Brotherhood begins to do "good deeds" — but only for the reward, occasionally engineering the situations in the first place. When their reputation collapses and the rewards vanish, they go back to their typical Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain routine.
  • The Simpsons:
    • There was a plot where Homer and some of his friends become firefighters and get so many thank-you gifts that they come to expect it. They steal from Mr. Burns when he refuses to reward them, then just start robbing places as a matter of course.
    • Homer once saved Mr Burns' life by allowing Bart to be a donor during a blood transfusion, solely on the basis that he expected some kind of reward from Mr Burns. When the only reward he got was a thank-you note addressed to Bart, he sent him an abusive letter in return.
  • On South Park, Cartman is freaking out around Christmastime about whether or not he's been "nice" enough to merit Santa's favor. He suggests that brushing his teeth counts as a "nice" action, only for his "naughty and nice accountant" to note that that doesn't really count.

Undesirable PrizeRewarded With An IndexYou Kill It, You Bought It
The Unfair SexIntolerable ToleranceWeirdness Coupon
Ungrateful BastardGratitude TropesWhy Couldn't You Save Them?
Wall BangerAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!War Hawk
Totally EighteenHuman Rights IssuesWhat Measure Is a Non-Human?
Victim BlamingThe Only Righteous Index of FanaticsWet Blanket Wife
Wardrobe Flaw Of CharacterizationCharacter Flaw IndexWeak-Willed
The Walls Are Closing InExample as a ThesisWas It Really Worth It?

alternative title(s): Virtue Is Its Own Reward
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
36487
33