When characters In-Universe
call out one of the heroes for doing something clearly unheroic, if not outright heinous.
Occasionally, an author will drop some gray
into his otherwise flawlessly good guy hero... and have others notice.
This can add guilt and remorse to a character as they feel shame for their evil actions
, and legitimately have to fight to restore their name
, undo the harm
, or simply live with the guilt and shame of it. In this case, you can expect to hear some variation of "Haven't you done enough already?" More extremely, it can be the first step towards Anti-Hero
-dom or a full-blown Face Heel Turn
. A Redemption Quest
is usually considered the most noble or morally good way to respond to this.
It shows the fans that the author knows their hero did wrong, thereby averting Moral Dissonance
The opposite of Protagonist-Centered Morality
; contrast also Designated Hero
and Hero Insurance
. See also What Is Evil?
and Not So Different
for when a villain
is the one pointing this out, or acting as though there's something to point out to mess with the hero. (A variation is when the villain will praise
the hero, which the hero will find profoundly humiliating
Almost never applies to those Powers That Be
who have an Omniscient Morality License
, although characters who Rage Against the Heavens
might attempt it. Likewise, villains tend to be immune to this thanks to their It's All About Me
attitude (or, at best, Moral Myopia
), though a Heel Realisation
might clue them in, perhaps leading to a Villainous BSOD
. (Then again, this trope doesn't really apply to villains who aren't even trying to do anything decent for the world in the first place
.) Those pesky Trickster Mentors
may also find themselves on the receiving end of Rage Against the Mentor
Some video games offer dialogue trees or something similar that might allow your character to call someone out for their horrible behaviour, which can be immensely satisfying. If your character is the one being called out, it's What the Hell, Player? My God, What Have I Done?
may be a self-inflicted version. Can come right off the heels of a Sadistic Choice
foisted on the player in a video game. The hero may attempt to invoke I Did What I Had to Do
as his justification, though this does not always succeed. Of course, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and one should beware of his own Moral Myopia
leading to The Complainer Is Always Wrong
. Results may vary against the Sociopathic Hero
or The Unfettered
; beware you don't get a Shut Up, Kirk!
or Hannibal Lecture
in response. Et Tu, Brute?
may also counts as this when a hero does not make a full Face Heel Turn
, but gets called out for nearly betraying his allies.
: This article is exclusively
about scenes where the hero is called on his morally ambiguous or directly evil actions by characters in the story
. If the Designated Hero is a Jerkass (or worse), but no one calls him on it in the series, then take your example to Moral Dissonance or Designated Hero.
Reviewers can call out the Moral Dissonance
in their reviews, but they themselves are not engaging in What the Hell, Hero? as they are not part of the series being criticized (though this line can be blurred if they have some sort of skit depicting the events as that technically could be considered fan fiction).