White Knighting


White Knighting is a common accusation on forums, especially those frequented by a multitude of trolls. In the broadest of terms, it is any attempt to protect or defend a third party on the internet from another's attacks, like a Knight in Shining Armor on his White Stallion rushing up to protect the innocent.

The accusation is made for a number of different reasons. A common one is where the "innocent" is a Damsel in Distress, and the knight is defending a female forum-goer. The accusation being that they are only doing so because they have a crush on the lady, and are acting whether she needs a defender or not. Forumites do tend to feel a need to "protect" the ladies.note 

Another cause of the accusation is when someone states an opinion that differs from the opinion of the local majority. When this happen, knights immediately leap out to slay that heretic by fire. The "innocent" being protected in this case is generally a work of some sort. Games, comic book heroes, and web-personalities get this. A lot.

Recently, the term has been applied to describe what is often also called 'Social Justice Warriors', people who feel the need to argue in defence of minorities, or 'social justice' (ie, voice criticism, or defend those who've voiced criticism, of a work because of its treatment of women, non-white men, LGBT, etc). The idea being that they don't really care about these issues, but are doing so to look heroic and morally superior to others, and have done so to an excessive amount that it crosses into Political Correctness Gone Mad. Whether this criticism is valid or not is a large case of debate better saved for elsewhere.

Accusing someone of being a White Knight is generally a form of Ad Hominem attack; the accuser cannot attack the argument, so they attack the arguer. You'll notice in most cases that it doesn't actually matter if the accusation of White Knighting is accurate or not.

All that being said, it should be re-noted that there are people who "rescue" other forum-goers because they expect to be rewarded with romance. However, if you must accuse someone of being a White Knight, it's wisest to do so after you've defeated whatever argument they made.

Contrast The Shepherd, who protects newbies from making mistakes that would get them mistaken for trolls and banned, and is generally held in high regard by the other forumites. Compare Condescending Compassion, White Man's Burden, and You Are a Credit to Your Race for a few forms of behavior often demonstrated by the more privileged White Knight. See Opinion Override (when the person the White Knight is Knighting for actually enjoys whatever sparked the Knighting) and Wounded Gazelle Gambit (for when somebody tries to actively exploit the White Knight by playing the role of a victim). See also: The Dulcinea Effect, and GIFT.

For actual white knights see The Paladin.

Examples of this trope, include:

Anime and Manga
  • The trope is discussed and smashed to pieces in Revolutionary Girl Utena, which examines many knight-and-lady tropes. Around the end of the series, and after having her whole world crash down, Utena realises that this is what she has actually been doing to Anthy all along — she has been protecting Anthy less because of a desire to fix her difficult situation as the Rose Bride, and more because of Utena's own desire to make herself look good and heroic with a damsel to "protect". After coming to terms with this really harsh truth, Utena puts herself back together, decides to actually help Anthy and free her from villain Akio... and succeeds.

Comic Books
  • During the "Back from the Dead" arc of X-Statix, Phat catches hell from his teammates for using his powers to redirect a rocket aimed at Henrietta Hunter, which inadvertently results in the rocket hitting El Guapo instead and blowing his legs off.
  • Teen!Angel does this to X-23 in the first arc of All-New X-Men volume two, swooping in thinking he needs to rescue her even though she's A) the biggest Bad Ass on the team and fully capable of taking care of herself, and B) has a Healing Factor that enables her to survive and shrug off the damage (falling off a cliff, being lit on fire) thrown at her. Laura is very much not appreciative of this

Fan Fiction
  • A common tendency for OCs in Girls und Panzer fan fiction. If the fic takes place during canon, and the scene in the tank cafe is included, the OC will typically tear into Erika with much more force than Yukari (who apologized when Erika told her it was none of her business) did, while defending Miho's actions. For sequel fics, the OC will typically do this with regards to Miho's mother. As a result, Miho tends to fall in love with those OCs.

  • Invoked by Master Chief Urgayle in G. I. Jane. His claim is this Trope will diminish a male soldier's effectiveness in battle, because he will put aside his own safety and the success of the mission more readily to save a female teammate than he would for a male teammate. note  During a training exercise where an enemy interrogation is simulated, he brutalizes O'Neil in front of her male teammates, even going so far as to threaten a sexual assault, in an attempt to prove to them that they will instantly cave in to the enemy if it means saving her. For a few moments it almost looks like he's going to prove his point, but then the rest of the recruits simply refuse to play along in disgust.

  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jon Snow is mocked for rushing in to protect Samwell Tarly from getting the shit beaten out of him during a training match.
  • Gale subtly blames Katniss of being a female version in The Hunger Games series. The only way for a man to get noticed by her is to suffer so terribly that she feels obliged to tend and care for them.

Visual Novels
  • Katawa Shoujo:
  • The term appears in don't take it personally babe, it just ain't your story; Taylor makes a post about Kendall breaking up with her girlfriend Charlotte, prompting Akira to accuse Taylor of being a "bitch", which results in Kendall telling him not to be a "white knight" on her behalf.
  • The story of RE: Alistair is kicked off when the eponymous Alistair killsteals a difficult boss out from under Merui in her favorite MMO, then trolls her about it. Depending on the route the player pursues, Alistair may begin complaining that another player, "Oda," has begun white-knighting him over it; it's not likely to come as much of a surprise when Oda turns out to be Travis, during whose route this occurs. Oda's player isn't directly trying to curry favor with Merui (in fact he's a global mod for the MMO, which justifies his involvement to some extent), but it's clear that he's primarily motivated by his romantic feelings for her - in case there was any doubt, the end of the route confirms that Oda's character class is "Guardian."

Web Comics
  • In Homestuck, after Karkat develops a crush on Jade, he flames his own past self for being rude to her. Jade then accuses him, in so many words, of acting like a knight trying to save her. Adding to this is that Karkat actually IS a Knight.
  • In Pv P one of the internet-themed supers associating with LOLbat is "The White Knight", a geek with glasses who goes out of his way to defend women.
  • When Gyno-Star decides to form her own super hero team in The Adventures of Gyno-Star, one of the prospective hires she interviews is The White Knight, who "harnesses the power of white male guilt to amplify the voices of marginalized people."
  • In Does Not Play Well With Others, the superhero Knight Light shows up to defend a female superhero from Tekmage (bonus points for her being a Straw Feminist/social justice warrior previously seen out of costume), at which point Tekmage points out that he is dressed as a literal white knight and thus she refuses take him seriously. In actuality Knight Light just wanted to dress up as a Solaire knockoff and it was just a coincidence that the person he showed up to rescue happened to be a woman.

Web Original
  • Entire wikis have been dedicated to how Christian Chandler, creator of Sonichu, attempts to do this in his ever-occurring "Love Quest", and, for that matter, those who try and fail to stop the trolling.
  • Captain Hammer from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Objectively, most of the things he does are morally positive: he fights crime, helps the LAPD stop Dr. Horrible from ruining a bridge dedication, and gets Penny her homeless shelter. However, since he only does it for a combination of personal reputation building and to get in Penny's pants (partly because he likes her, and partly to mess with Doctor Horrible), he is White Knighting incarnate. It's not even that he likes her, but rather, he likes the sex.
  • The Nostalgia Chick suffers from white knights in her video comment threads and the forums who fail to grasp that her mistreatment of her sidekick and butt monkey Nella is all an act that Nella is completely on board with, and sometimes even writes the script for. Then there are the people on the other side who forget Black Comedy is Lindsay's Author Appeal and try to protect her from the mean guys who are obviously writing everything themselves. While not quite as prevalent (for obvious reasons), fangirls of Doug have a tendency to act like he's just as woobie as The Nostalgia Critic and needs a Mama Bear to save him from the trolls.
  • Ian from Statless And Tactless gets called this for trying to jump in to defend a female group member.
  • The Knights of Fandom have been called this by detractors, although their intentions are genuine.
  • The final season of The Guild features a character calling himself "Black Knight," who is the polar opposite of a White Knight: a self-important, abusive - albeit equal-opportunity - Gamer Troll. The character is a sort of Take That against the kind of people who make White Knighting accusations (which Felicia Day herself apparently had first-hand experience with).

Western Animation
  • King of the Hill: Protagonist Hank Hill treating his boss Buck Strickland with the utmost respect despite the fact that the man is a hard-drinking, womanizing slimeball. In one episode Hank's wife Peggy outright calls him Buck's white knight.
  • Justice League Unlimited. In the episode that introduces Carter Hall, the first clue that he's obsessed with Shayera "Hawkgirl" Hol is when Batman searches for him online, and finds that Carter has caused numerous Flame Wars by registering on "I Hate Hawkgirl" web forums just to defend her. (While Hawkgirl knew that she had abysmal PR, she was completely unaware at the time that there were web forums devoted to bashing her.)

Real Life

Alternative Title(s): White Knight