"There really aren't that many evil men out there. It's mostly just good men working at cross purposes."Near the very idealistic end of the many Shades of Conflict (only Good Versus Good is more), a setting with White and Grey Morality features no truly evil characters, but ranges through a spectrum of squeaky-clean heroes, slightly more sarcastic heroes, borderline heroes, Well Intentioned Extremists, and the occasional Anti-Villain at worst. Conflict is generated either through misguided ideals or simple misunderstandings, so there is often an undercurrent of "if only people would sit down and talk to one another, they'd find they're Not So Different after all". Expect a great deal of dog-petting and Heel Face Turning, from characters only nominally "heels" to begin with. Someone will likely say Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers! at some point. This does not necessarily imply that there is little conflict or that the conflict is lightweight. Two powerful forces working at cross-purposes can cause an amazing amount of destruction and mayhem even though both of them have good reasons for what they're trying to do. Contrast Black and Gray Morality, where an Anti-Hero is the best you can expect from the good guys; because True Art Is Angsty, though, this trope is a lot less common than that one, at least among works intended for older audiences. If the antagonists only became so due to a negative influence from outside, this may overlap with Rousseau Was Right. In that case, the occasional villain may pop up, but they will inevitably be shown to be a victim of horrible circumstances that shaped them into what they became (rather than simply expressing a monstrous nature they always possessed).
— Digger, by Ursula Vernon
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Anime and Manga
- Stellvia of the Universe is all about this. There isn't even a single negative character in the series — even the aliens are good. Or at least, they expressed regret after slaughtering a Keiti wing almost wholesale.
- The Lyrical Nanoha franchise was like this until Force (or not):
- The Evil Matriarch Precia Testarossa, whose villainy defined the original series, was, as Alicia reveals in Fate's Happy Place sequence in A's, has originally been a very kind and gentle person. But exactly because she was so gentle, her psyche couldn't handle Alicia's sudden death and she "broke". The Movie expands her character to be even more of a Tragic Villain.
- A's is the example of this trope in the franchise. The only entity that can be considered villainous is a self-defense program of an ancient artifact, which was corrupted long ago under unrevealed circumstances, while the rest of the cast only attempt to do what they believe would be best for everyone and angst heavily about having to hurt others ("It was such a small wish..."). Basically, the Team Nanoha vs. Wolkenritter is a Good Versus Good conflict.
- StrikerS seems to feature a straight-up Mad Scientist villain with Jail Scaglietti until The Reveal that he was made that way by a group of old men who spent their youth fighting to stop a senseless, centuries-long war and were desperately seeking a means to prevent such wars from breaking out in the future. There is also the fact that the "Doctor" has a very family-like relationship with his Numbers and not in a Pet the Dog way: even after seeing the error of his (and their own) ways, none of the Numbers turns their back on Scaglietti, continuing to see him as a parent figure.
- Lupin III:
- In the anime, while the titular character and his gang are criminals, they wouldn't do anything really heinous, so even at their worst, the crew are Anti Villains. Their antagonist, Inspector Zenigata, is a Hero Antagonist, and their relationship can be described as an almost friendly rivalry, rather than confrontation between criminals and law-enforcement. Whenever a serious bad guy comes up, Lupin and Zenigata usually ally against him - though they always resume their antics when the alliance is no longer needed.
- Absolutely NOT the case in the original manga. In the first ten volumes of the manga and at points in World's Most Wanted, Lupin was an unapologetic and reprehensible rapist, murderer, kidnapper, and arsonist. The very first volume includes scenes of Lupin raping a woman and murdering a police officer. The anime was of significantly lighter tone.
- Towa no Quon: Although the group out to capture awakened children (dead or alive) is a very dark shade of gray, their ultimate goal is to protect the public. For now.
- A common theme of Hayao Miyazaki's movies. The antagonists are sympathetic and/or have reasonable motivations.
- Princess Mononoke: Ashitaka was very much an All-Loving Hero, but both Lady Eboshi and San had valid reasons for their actions. The enemy samurais seemed to be bad, but then, you feel if they had been explained then they too would have fair motivations.
- Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer and Chobits lack any really evil characters. There are lots of less pleasant individuals, like the cheaters in the former and the outright perverts in the later, but the closest things to villains in the storylines are concerned about victory like the protagonist or are interested in protecting other persocoms from the damage Chi could potentially cause.
- In almost any sports manga/anime, there are no villains. The closest to villains are people who toy with or break the rules to achieve victory, as well as people who treat their friends or companions like crap.
- In ARIA, the planet Aqua (formerly known as Mars) is populated by nothing but well-meaning, friendly people—or at least Neo-Venezia is. Every time someone seems to act in less than 100% positive manner it generally is only a matter of slight misunderstandings, which mostly get resolved quickly.
- Cardcaptor Sakura has no villains either; in the first arc, the Cards are portrayed more as mischievous beings than truly evil troublemakers and are all subject to Defeat Means Friendship, and in the second arc, the "villain" is quickly hinted (and revealed at the end) to be much more of a Trickster Mentor. All the intelligent characters are presented as decent people, which underscores the "Humans Are Good" part of the trope.
- Haruhi Suzumiya. There are pretty much no villains, aside from maybe, possibly Asakura Ryouko, and even then she's just a really, really, really far extremist. All forces are genuinely trying to create the world they think is ideal, and only very few seem too extremist for rationality. The Data Entity wants to just "observe"; the Organization wants to maintain the world as it is; the Time Travelers want to keep a Stable Time Loop. Haruhi herself isn't evil, just a Jerkass who wants a little more excitement, and Kyon just wants his peace. Even the Anti-SOS Brigade has somewhat stinted yet good intentions: Fujiwara wants to keep his race from being "slaves to time travel", Kuyou Suou just wants to communicate in the first place, Tachibana Kyouko just thinks the world is more ideal under Sasaki's influence, and Sasaki wants to figure out the truth behind everything. Not to mention the fact that it might even be better for Sasaki to become God.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing seems to like this trope, too, at least for most of the main characters. Save for the few like Dekim Barton, most of the characters desire for justice and peace, even if their ways of achieving it are questionable, as pointed out by Relena Peacecraft. Fortunately, Everyone Lives except Treize Kushranada, who willingly dies by his own choice, and the world achieves true peace as Relena sees it. This way, Gundam Wing is a total opposite to the Universal Century series.
- Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit has a total of two human characters in it whose motivations and methods are presented as unsympathetic, and they're both one-shot. The main conflict is entirely caused by a misunderstanding by the traditionalistic/dogmatic anti villains, and the fact that their cause manages to come across as understandable when it involves child-killing speaks volumes for the tone of the series.
- Star Driver is full of this. The Glittering Crux want to use the Humongous Mecha Lost Technology to achieve world peace (by force, but the force part is only implied and never stated outright.) Many of the Crux deplore loss of civilian life and go out of their way to prepare ways to get the innocent out of the way in the event if a crisis (such as keeping a luxury ship large enough to carry the population of a small island on hand). The only reason they're at odds with the heroes at all is the "force" part. Both parties are fully aware of this and even act as genuine friends when off of the battlefield. There are a total of two named characters who are portrayed as genuinely bad and unlikeable people in the whole of the series, which stands out for its surprisingly large cast.
- Astro Boy: While minor human crooks and such may be genuinely evil, the Big Bad Dr. Tenma and related characters are just Well Intentioned Extremists. If a robot is portrayed as a villain, it's always due to a misunderstanding. This is in contrast to the rest of Osamu Tezuka's work, where pretty much everyone but the main character is always a bastard. Especially Rock.
- A lot of Slice of Life animes have no villains: Sketchbook, Lucky Star, Strawberry Marshmallow, Candy Boy, Azumanga Daioh, and others.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The characters split fairly cleanly into Idealists (Madoka, Sayaka, Mami) and Pragmatists (Kyubey, Kyouko, Homura). The latter group are the antagonists, but are often right (and in fact, Homura turned out to be the real protagonist of the story).
- The Vision of Escaflowne qualifies. Even the Big Bad is eventually revealed as a particularly ruthless Well-Intentioned Extremist. The closest any character comes to "evil" is Dilandau, but s/he turns out to be more Brainwashed and Crazy than anything else.
- In Fairy Tail, the majority of the major villains have reasonable and sympathetic motives. The first one is trying to release a monster so he can defeat it, which is the thing his teacher died doing; he merely wants to prove himself by surpassing her. Another notable villain was a slavemaster who spent 8 years building a tower to revive the most dangerous dark wizard in history because he was brainwashed into thinking it would bring about a Utopia. Both of these later pulled a Heel–Face Turn. Some later enemies, like the Oración Seis and Grimoire Heart guilds had guild masters and some members truly in the black morality pitch. However, most of the guild members were given sympathetic backstories and reasons for joining these guilds - like how Ultear's entire "evilness" is because of a misunderstanding in her childhood.
- The closest things A Little Snow Fairy Sugar has to a "villain" would be Joe Crow, who is not so much that as just a typical bully. Ginger is fairly callous, Basil and Cinnamon are rather mischevious, Greta is a rich snob and sees Saga as a rival, but everyone else in the show is usually super-nice to one another.
- In Popotan, the most evil thing anyone ever did (in this case, Keith) was attempt to kill someone in order to prevent the sisters' secrets from leaking out to the general public (which he never tried again after Ai calls him out for it). There was also that ghost girl who puts others to sleep, but also for understandable reasons.
- Kanon. Not counting everyone who drove Mai away in the past, the worst we have are the Demons, who, despite their destructive behavior, mainly wanted to show Yuichi said past of Mai's and how they came to be, so that he can send a message to her that her constant battle with them can end as soon as she stops fighting. In general, everyone in the show is mostly good, even though a few of them (such as Makoto and Kuze) are Jerkasses in some way or another.
- Digimon Tamers proves that, yes, you can have intense conflict without anyone who is properly "bad." Every Big Bad is actually trying to prevent threats to their worlds, and you can see why they consider the other side to be bad news. Even the final Greater-Scope Villain is just a program acting on its orders; see Gone Horribly Right.
- Momo Kyun Sword features a battle between the Celestial Maidens and the Oni Clan. While the Maidens are on the side of good and their main ally Momoko is the heroine, the Oni Clan is shown to not really be evil but a clan trying to restore their former glory and their main face comes in the form of Onihime, a young oni girl who while strong a strong rival to Momoko is closer to her friend then enemy. Even the oni king is shown to be a pretty cool guy.
- Part 7 of Jojos Bizarre Adventure is founded on this. While people like Gyro and Lucy are good people (Johnny eventually comes around as well, though he's much grayer than most heroes), none of the main villains are really evil, per se. Diego wants to win because it's his job, and to fulfill his dream of being wealthy to avenge his mother. Funny Valentine, on the other hand wants the parts because he feels that they are too dangerous for anyone else, and he wants to use them to further the gain of his country and make his citizens lives better. When the main villain is a guy that Jesus Christ himself approves of, you know this trope is in full effect.
- In Season 9 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Drusilia returns, sane, and seeming to have pulled a genuine Heel–Face Turn. So just what is she up to these days? She encountered a demon that feeds on trauma (the reason she is so well,) trained it to work only in that regard, and sets up a shelter for those who have been traumatized, willing to have the demon feed on them so the pain they feel goes away if they ask for it. Angel sees the whole thing as a abomination and Mind Rape, believing people must suffer for what's happened to them and that if they did not feel bad about (in his case, Angelus) there's no reason not to make amends. Faith, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have a problem with it since the people are going willingly. After Angel kills the demon Drusilia is back to being the vicious Slayer killing psychotic.
- Most X-Men stories where the antagonists are humans or government forces. Barring genocidal maniacs like Reverend Styker, in most cases their motive is simply the belief that mutants should be accounted for in some way.
- Gaston Lagaffe. Gaston wants to sleep, have fun, protect the environment, etc., and the people around him want him to get his work done and obey traffic laws. If Gaston thought his actions through at all, there wouldn't be any problems, but of course he doesn't.
- Astro City, as a whole, runs on this as part of its optimistic reconstruction of The Silver Age of Comic Books. While there are villains and monsters and evildoers, their motives are frequently due to their own good intentions, and they are ultimately defeated by the optimistic heroes regardless. Many a villain has pulled a Heel–Face Turn after realizing how pointless and self-destructive their current paths are.
- The Rise of Darth Vulcan: The Mane 6 vs. Darth Vulcan. Darth Vulcan is undoubtedly a criminal, but underneath he's just a Jerkass who obtained the power of the Alicorn Amulet, and proves to be a Noble Demon, not killing anypony, keeping one's word, and keeping his Mooks well fed. The fact that he is the Villain Protagonist allows the reader to see things from his perspective. The Mane 6 are clearly defending their town from a dangerous criminal, and actually want to save Vulcan from a dangerous power that may be controlling him, but their mistakes are due to being out of their depth when dealing with someone like him.
- In The Bridge, most of the heroines and heroes are fairly selfless, kind, and noble; though some aren't always soft. The villainous forces they are fighting however have their morality all over the spectrum. While some like Legion and King Sombra are undoubtedly evil, there are others. Aria Blaze and Sonata Dusk are not above Mind Control and causing Hate Plague, but do earnestly care for their group somewhat. On an even more gray example, a group of four sympathetic villains working for the Big Bad all have very redeeming qualities and goals one might expect a hero to ask for.
- Christmas With A Corduroy: Wendy, a free-spirited teenage girl, vs Lynda Pines, a nasty, overprotective parent.
Films — Animation
- WALL•E, absolutely. The villain of the film was a robot that was doing exactly what it was programmed to do by programmers who themselves just had incomplete information, and all the humans soon fell head over heels in love with the world as soon as they were jerked out of their reverie and take responsibility to work to undo their ancestors' mistakes.
- Finding Nemo: Dr. Sherman took Nemo because he mistakenly believed he would not be able to survive on his own with a deformed fin, and Darla is a "fish-killer" because she is a child who doesn't know any better. The other antagonists of the film are simply mindless predators. It's worth noting that both Finding Nemo and WALL•E were directed by Andrew Stanton.
- The original Toy Story. Sid is a bit of a Jerk Ass, but he's mostly just a boy who likes playing in an unorthodox way with his toys. Unfortunately, the protagonists are Living Toys. In Toy Story 2, Al is also a Jerk Ass but otherwise is just a bit of a slob. He steals Woody as well, but considering it got him a deal with a museum that could have gotten him hundreds of thousands of dollars, it's hard to not understand why. And in Al's defense, he did try to buy Woody legitimately. Note that this trope is averted in Toy Story 3 with Lotso.
- Brave might fit for the "vicious animals are True Neutral" rule. Even if it's one hell of a Animal Nemesis. Which used to be human.
- Monsters University, as many a college film, is this instead of the Black and White Morality of the original. The two protagonists (flawed people themselves) are only trying to prove their value in front of both the Dean Bitterman who expelled them from their major, and the Jerk Jock posse with whom they are competing.
- Superman vs. the Elite: Superman is definitely a good guy, but the Elite, rather than bad guys, are at worst anti-heroes; they do display actually heroic intentions, and hurting Black's team-mates typically is his Berserk Button. In addition, while the film does end on the side of Superman, his black and white views of the world are heavily questioned not just by the Elite, but Lois and the ordinary citizens who suffer every time a villain Superman has spared escapes and kills more people. Neither solution is perfect, but White is considered the better choice in the end.
- In The Book of Life, the main conflict is between Manolo and Xibalba. While the former is unambiguously good, the latter is not truly evil, just lonely. Chakal is the only true villain in the movie, and he gets little screen time.
- The Land Before Time: The antagonist, Sharptooth, is just acting on its predatory instincts, whereas Littlefoot and his friends are unambiguously good.
Films — Live-Action
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind - although Roy Neary's wife and kids might not agree about the film having no villains given their distress resulting from his possession. The ETs originally come across as if they're auditioning for The Exorcist, scaring Gillian half to death and then abducting her infant son, although he wanted to go, and they do return him later.
- Forbidden Planet. Morbius: it implies that even the worst people have good intentions
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: E.T., the kids, and later, Keys are in the white, and want to help the alien "phone home". Almost every authority figure other than Keys is in the gray because they do not want to harm E.T. in any form, but they aren't above bringing out their guns when he and the kids escape.
- Basically everyone in The Terminal has good intentions, the conflict stems from Viktor Navorski's pragmatic goodness versus Frank Dixon's adherence to the rules.
- Avatar. The Na'Vi are just minding their own business, and the humans just want the planet's resources to ensure their own survival - but unfortunately the diplomacy ísn't working. (Quaritch and his troops are not considered among the Gray, though)
- Tiger Bay has a Sympathetic Murderer (possibly an Accidental Murderer) being pursued by a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist.
- Falling Down: The movie has an increasingly violent man angry at the world, vs. a cop with his own issues and who can deal with them maturely. There are some real villains in the latino gangbangers and the Neo-Nazi store owner, but they're secondary characters and aren't part of the film's main conflict between Foster and Prendergast.
- Thirteen Days: Kenny, Bobby and JFK are the most traditional heroes, being inspiring if pragmatic figures. The Soviets don't want a war to start either, but like the Americans find themselves forced into an escalating crisis which they can't stop by themselves. The greys are the military hardliners, but even they are Well Intentioned Extremists who believe they're doing the right thing.
Ambassador Dobrynin: [To RFK] You are a good man. Your brother is a good man. I assure you, there are other good men. Let us hope the will of good men is enough to stop the terrible strength of this thing that was put in motion.
- In WarCraft, with the obvious exception of the Big Bad Gul'dan, all major orc characters are shown to have some redeemable qualities, and it's made rather clear they are invading Azeroth because their own world is dying, making their motivations sympathetic. Meanwhile, humans are overall portrayed as unambiguously good and just defending themselves against the Horde's assaults.
- Many Tom Clancy novels feature something like this, especially those which deal with full-scale war, like Red Storm Rising. Usually, the deal is that good, patriotic souls from different countries will struggle with each other because of the actions of one or two people (usually politicians) who are motivated by pride, fear, or ignorance. Although some villains might be delusional beyond reckoning, For the Evulz types are exceedingly rare.
- A lot of Orson Scott Card's writing, particularly in Ender's Saga, deals with the idea that no-one is really evil, and it's all a matter of perspective. Usually. For instance, the Formics are discovered to have attacked humanity because they have a Hive Mind and didn't know each human was individually sentient. On the other end, the Descoladores of the later books are either seeking outright planetary conquest or are just too alien to comprehend. And the Big Bad of the Ender's Shadow spinoffs, Achilles, is most definitely evil.
- James White's Sector General space hospital series, a deliberate attempt to write Science Fiction with both tension and a murder deficit. Any aliens who may be trying to kill you have just been misinformed.
- Isaac Asimov tended to be this way. He also had no real villains in his books. Asimov and Kurt Vonnegut were much alike. In the Foundation series, the psycho-historians behind the Gambit Roulette believe every conflict in human history comes from people not understanding each other. This is no Gut Feeling: they have human reactions and brain chemistry down to an exact science.
- The Master and Margarita had this exchange:
Pontius Pilate: And now tell me: why do you always use the expression "good people"? What, do you call everyone that?Yeshua ha-Nazri: Yes, everyone. There are no evil people in the world.
- Every character in Brandon Sanderson's works is revealed to have "good" (or at least sympathetic) motivations for their actions, though he does include a handful of geniune villains for contrast. Perhaps the most spectacular example is the Lord Ruler of Mistborn, who in life is portrayed as pure evil but is gradually revealed after death to be a very human figure who basically had unlimited power dropped in his lap and did the best he could with it while it slowly drove him mad. One of the major themes running throughout all of Sanderson's novels is that "evil" is usually a lot more complicated than people realize.
- The majority of books written by Timothy Zahn don't have many evil people at all. He doesn't really set up along the good guys and the bad guys. The Empire is not all bad. The New Republic is not all good. Other people have their own allegiances. Plenty of antagonists on any side are doing what they think will be best in the long run. He does have some actually unambiguous villains, but most of them at least have solid reasoning behind what they're doing. No one ever wakes up and decides to be evil.
- In the Hand of Thrawn Duology, after all the bad blood Supreme Commander Pellaeon signed a peace treaty with President Gavrisom.
- Zahn's non-Star Wars fiction tends to have a lot of this as well; The Conquerors Trilogy in particular features a galactic war caused by essentially a misunderstanding. The humans' standard "greet the unknown aliens" transmission is sent via radio, which causes varying degrees of pain for the non-human side of a First Contact scenario, and thus the aliens understandably interpret the greeting as an unprovoked attack. There are at least four, possibly more, distinct factions involved, none of whom act unjustifiably throughout the course of the brief but intense war that follows.
- The Vampire Diaries veers between this and Grey and Grey Morality. Countless times, characters are introduced and seem just so mean but often turn out to have genuine motives behind their actions.
- Most of Edgar Pangborn's antagonists are misguided rather than evil, but that doesn't prevent them occasionally causing horrific tragedies. Example: Tiger Boy, in which the semi-wild title character and a friend he meets are killed due to the belief that he is a demon.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe is at different places on the morality scale Depending on the Writer.
- Honor Harrington certainly does feature many an irredeemable villain — and some truly, deeply unambiguous conflicts— but it's also at constant pains to point out that this trope is in play most of the time. In fact, the first part of the series (with the Manticore/Haven war) really only has five or so really evil characters, right at the top of the enemy food chain. The many dozens of other Havenite enemies given names and faces all tend toward My Country, Right or Wrong at worst.
- Ursula K. Le Guin's work tends to feature this; in fifty years of publishing, only one of her stories (The Word for World Is Forest) features any character she described as "purely evil"
- Played with in the novel Miracle Monday, where Superman faced The Devil's agent on Earth. While the demon was truly evil (we get to read his thoughts to confirm it) Superman himself holds this belief, and it's because of it that he ultimately wins.
- Four Sherlock Holmes stories involve this: "A Scandal In Bohemia", "The Man with the Twisted Lip", "The Noble Bachelor", and "The Yellow Face". In each case, it is revealed that there is no villain, and the apparent victim turns out to be the morally gray character.
- In Doctor Zhivago, most of the characters are treated sympathetically in one way or another, even the ones who come closest to being "villains": Komarovsky has some Pet the Dog moments in spite of all his manipulative seediness, and the two main communist characters, Strelnikov and Liberius, are portrayed as Well Intentioned Extremists swept up in the fervor of the Revolution rather than malicious murderers.
- In The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side by Agatha Christie, both the victim and the murderer are sympathetic, but both have fatal flaws that collectively bring about the tragedy. Heather failed to recognize how her actions would destroy Marina's happiness, and Marina poisoned her in a fit of rage without thinking.
- D. D. Webb, the author of The Gods Are Bastards, has repeatedly expressed their dislike for totally evil characters (or, worse, totally evil races) in fantasy fiction, which is why the Bastardverse doesn't have any.
- Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth portrays the main antagonists, the tribesmen of the North, in a sympathetic light. This is lampshaded in a conversation between the heroes while staying at the tribesmen's camp.
Live Action TV
- The Vampire Diaries veers between this and Grey and Grey Morality. Countless times, characters are introduced and seem just so mean but often turn out to have genuine motives behind their actions.
- Anna seemed to be a sinister vampire using Jeremy for her own ends - until we found out about her mother, and her Becoming the Mask.
- Damon seemed to just be trying to make his brother's life a living hell, and then his history with Katherine was revealed, and his gestures of humanity to Elena.
- The West Wing:
- Most of the antagonistic politicians wanted what was best—they just had different opinions of what was "best" for America. At worst, they tended toward stupid corruption, greed, and tendency to stretch the truth. There were actual evil people like the Western Terrorists, but they mostly stayed off-screen and seldom lasted long.
- Even corrupt characters often had redeeming qualities. Russel, for instance, is probably the morally second-worst person on the show who isn't one of those briefly appearing or off-screen terrorists mentioned above, but even he won't let the president bomb the wrong country on the mistaken belief that they'd developed atomic bombs of their own in The Warfare of Genghis Khan and is disgusted at hearing on the news about a woman in Turkey being executed for adultery in King Corn. The worst non-terrorist character is Robert Ritchie, who even goes so far as to not seem to feel any sympathy when he hears about a secret service agent being killed in the line of duty ("crime...boy, I don't know"). Aside from some terrorists and homophobic activists, Ritchie's the only complete villain on the show. Even the Christian right are portrayed as low and mean, but not pure evil.
- For a discrete moment of Rousseau Was Right, see the end of "Evidence of Things Not Seen": the egg stands on its end.
- Once Upon a Time starts out as Black and White Morality, but as it has continued its run it has drifted ever closer to White and Grey Morality, giving even most of its most monstrous characters sympathetic backstories that give them Freudian Excuses or sympathetic motivations, and giving Character Development to at least one of them that results in her becoming vastly more sympathetic. Now we have many villains who are tragic and heroes that are flawed.
- Engine Sentai Go-onger has the Gaiark, who, while they are the antagonists and at first may resemble your typical evil empire or something of the sort, are actually intent on polluting the earth to give someplace for their world's inhabitants to live, away from the dictator Yogoshimacritein. In the end, the two remaining ministers sacrifice themselves to save the other Go-Ongers and stop Yogoshimacritein. So while it was a horrible way of doing things, they had their mechanical hearts in the right place.
- Scrubs: The conflict between Dr Cox and Dr Kelso was initially depicted as straight good versus evil, but as Kelso became a more sympathetic character it evolved into a battle between Dr Cox's compassion for the individual patients, and Kelso's cold but pragmatic "greater good" approach, e.g. giving a spot on an experimental treatment to rich man rather than a poor one in order to get funding for prenatal care for low income women.
- Star Trek:
- Most of the five series heavily favored this trope. The show tended not to have very many truly evil people and the ones that seemed to be would get fleshed out or retconned later to be more sympathetic. Typically most people could be reasoned with and almost everybody was just looking out for their own if they weren't motivated by nobler intentions. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine skews furthest from this trope with the Federation becoming a bit greyer and the Dominion being darker than is typical of the other series.
- The Next Generation-era Ferengi were universally motivated by greed, embodying the worst of crony-capitalism on a show that tended to favor capitalist utopias. Deep Space Nine, despite being overall darker, pulled the Ferengi into the gray range, even introducing a number of social reforms during their run and having the Alpha Quadrant be saved by a Ferengi.
- Dave Mason's "We Just Disagree."
There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys. / There's only you and me and we just disagree.
- Until recent editions, this was the case between the naive, but swiftly learning Tau Emptire and the jaded, hardened Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40,000. However, the optimistic and idealistic the alien Tau were found by, at least by some members of the fanbase, to be too idealistic and utopian to fit into the settingnote . The Tau have since been "greywashed", and while they are they do fit the setting's equivalent of the The Federation, some recent fluff has stated that they may use concentration camps and "re-education" policies on worlds where the Imperium's xenophobic policies are too ingrained. The relationship between the Tau and the Imperium are further complicated by practices of Realpolitik and outright alliance by certain planets, though the official position is that the Tau must be exterminated someday.
- An important theme in Lady Windermere's Fan. The woman whom the titular character thought to be irredeemably wicked makes an enormous self-sacrifice for her, forcing her to re-evaluate her worldview. Although evil is a subject discussed numerous times, especially by Lord and Lady Windermere, there turn out to be no wicked characters in the play.
- A number of William Shakespeare's comedies, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Love's Labour's Lost, The Taming of the Shrew, All's Well That Ends Well and The Merry Wives of Windsor involve this. The antagonist, if any, is an Anti-Villain or Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
- Sylvanian Families is generally this trope. Everybody is nice, except the two fox families; the Slydales and the Renards, who like playing pranks on people. If there's any antagonist more extreme than playing with matches or spraining your ankle, it's probably them playing a harmless trick on somebody.
- In one of the many endings for BioShock 2, the child you have been taking care of grows up to realize that there is no "evil", only "pain." This is the nicest possible ending, discussing how your Player Character strove to protect innocent children caught up in the carnage of Rapture, but always forgave and spared those who wronged you in the past or got in your way in the present. Following your example, she saves the last of the children and in the end, forgives her mother for all the terrible things she did to her, telling you that not only can she and the little girls you save live happily now, but they opened the door for her mother to do so as well.
- The Splicers. They're desperately addicted to ADAM, which is basically Fantastic Steroids, and are usually desperately seeking it. They also have largely joined the so-called Rapture Family just to find a way to better their livelihoods — at this stage, they've pretty much hit rock-bottom anyway so they've nothing else to lose. Mark Meltzer admits flat out that if their leader hadn't had his daughter kidnapped, he'd feel sorry for them.
- Metal Gear Solid 4 reveals that most of the villains were actually good people whose plan to make the world a better place did horribly go wrong. Most events of the series were actually the villains' attempts to use whatever means neccessary to correct their mistakes.
- Mega Man:
- Used tragically in Mega Man Zero. In the midst of this rebellion, barring the psychopaths (Copy X, Elipzo, Omega, and Weil), no one on either side is truly evil. The Zero series has some of the most sympathetic antagonists (Harpuia being #1) in the whole franchise.
- Even Copy X and Elpizo are simply Well Intentioned Extremists, fighting for a goal (protect humans and reploids respectively). Sure, their methods would result in mass death of the other but it's far more sympathetic than Omega (Ax-Crazy Blood Knight Berserker) and Weil (Egomaniacal Card-Carrying Villain).
- Even Weil himself had justifiable intention at the start; given that reploids (especially Mavericks, be they virus-infected or politically-charged) were responsible to many tragedies in history, he was not pleased when the solution to that was to give the reploids anti-virus program (Cyber-Elves) and call it even. His methods to enforce the notion that reploids are by default dangerous if not controlled resulted in the cataclysmic Elf Wars, and the punishment he got for that drove him more and more unhinged.
- In Mega Man X4, X and Zero are unquestionably good guys who want to maintain the peace between humans and reploids, but who are both willing to fight if necessary, while General and Colonel are just misguided well-intentioned extremists who want to gain their independence from the human world. Of course, they tend to resort to fighting before trying to reason.
- Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire fits pretty neatly here. All the villains are sympathetic and well-intentioned, and realize the error of their ways in the end. One of the villains, Archie, is incredibly friendly even before his Heel–Face Turn, friendlier than even some rivals.
- Tales of the Abyss makes it clear from beginning to end that both sides ultimately want to accomplish the same goal, removing the Score's hold on the world. They just have very different methods on doing so.
- Tales of Xillia falls into this too, with all the antagonists being either a Well-Intentioned Extremist or Anti-Villain. Even the worst of them either have Heel Realisations or Alas, Poor Villain moments, and none of them have zero redeeming qualities.
- In Xenogears Anyone doing bad things is just proven to be manipulated by a sort of cross between a crazy computer system and Giant Space Flea from Nowhere. The guy seen as the Big Bad is actually just misguided rather than truly evil and the hero even forgives him at the end, though he refuses to forgive himself. Another recurring antagonist is a sympathetic character forgiven by the heroes and even comforted by them after his defeat. The two warring nations are shown to be full of mostly good people and make peace. Even the leader of the evil empire is actually on your side for the most part. The entire theme of the game in fact seems to be that the goodness of humanity can triumph even in a Crapsack World. The only truely evil character in the game is an artificial human made by the Big Bad.
- The Touhou series:
- There are many Designated Villains who are unilaterally revealed to be Good All Along by the time the game ends - in most cases, your character has a tea party with the Final Boss following their defeat. Bad Powers, Bad People is averted. The only things in the series that could be considered evil at all are the Saigyou Ayakashi, more popularly known as the Cherry Tree of Doom, from Perfect Cherry Blossom (it hypnotizes people into languishing to death under its leaves, and then eats their souls), and the final boss of Subterranean Animism, who flat-out threatens to nuke all of Gensokyo and even then the latter turns out to be under the influence of a temporary but bad case of power induced crazy on top of being much, much more stupid than evil.
- Downplayed in Legacy of Lunatic Kingom in which the villains are way more in the darker side. You have the Lunarians attempting to kill humans so as to make a place for them to live while Junko, the game's Final Boss is attempting to launch a full scale genocide against the Lunarians in her revenge. While the Lunarians are justifiably running away from death, Junko readily gives up her plan upon meeting the player, though this is due to realizing she would lose if they were to fight and in the Extra Stage, she readily puts an end to her own plans... until she can figure out how to destroy Lunarians without interference from the heroes. She is among the really evil characters in the franchise, though she at least has a sympathetic reason, namely, her son was killed by a Lunarian Goddess.
- Unusually for an Alien Invasion game, Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds has a case of white vs grey. The humans are fighting for their home and way of life, and the martians are only fighting because their home and way of life is dying. This does, however, lead to some rather nasty Fridge Logic in that whichever race you play as, you are dooming the other to extinction.
- Dynasty Warriors generally holds to this in its modern installments with the exceptions of Dong Zhuo, Lu Bu, and Yuan Shao. Every one of the major factions is comprised of largely sympathetic people attempting to end the chaotic wars of the terminal years of the Han Dynasty and produce a better future for the greater good of all. However, they disagree, frequently in very lethal ways, about what sort of future it should be and how it should be achieved.
- In Dungeon Siege III, just about every major villain up to and including the Big Bad is a well-intentioned extremist or has a Freudian Excuse.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy and its prequel Dissidia 012 at first tell your typical Order Versus Chaos story with the Big Bad Chaos summoning some of the most sinister villains of Final Fantasy to battle their heroes serving the Big Good Cosmos. However, the backstory reveals the conflict to be this trope. Chaos is a literal Designated Villain, as he and Cosmos agreed to war with each other as part of a pact with Cid and Shinryu, and Chaos was the one hesitant to participate at first. As for Chaos's forces, they variably have no interest in the war, are fighting for personal reasons, are Brainwashed and Crazy, or are Anti Villains who try to help the heroes win. The only villains who are totally and umambiguously evil are The Emperor, Ultimecia, Kefka and Exdeath, but of them, Ultimecia has a Freudian Excuse, Kefka has the Alternate Character Interpretation that he's too insane to know any better, and Exdeath is a Made of Evil Eldritch Abomination that simply does what he does.
- Despite having a dark entity known as Sulphur, Phantom Brave certainly fit into this. Most characters, at worst, act like Jerkasses who cheat off Marona and treat her as trash. Some of who have selfish motivations does have a particular reason of being so. For example, Walnut, a Kill Steal bounty hunter, have a mindset of caring about money because he is trying to fund medicine for his sick little sister. And some who fell into the path of darkness is mostly due to tragic circumstances, such as Sprout, who lost his family to Sulphur. Regardless, everyone is Easily Forgiven by Marona and those who were treating her like trash came to realize she's the only hope of defeating Sulphur and realize her kindhearted nature, started treating her an actual human being, and rally to aid her. In the end, Marona's "treat everyone with kindness" favors her.
- Undertale turns out to work this way. The Random Encounters are just scared, and can all be placated non-lethally. Toriel just wants you to stay in the Ruins where you're safe, and tries her hardest to avoid killing you in her boss fight. Papyrus really does want to capture you to facilitate his long-delayed entry to the Royal Guard, but he's just too kind-hearted to follow through (which, incidentally, is why his entry to the Royal Guard is being delayed). Undyne refuses to accept your mercy, because she is either righteously angry over the monsters you've killed or simply determined to take your SOUL so the barrier can be destroyed, but even she can be made to relent. Mettaton genuinely does want to kill you, but only to prevent the barrier from being shattered, since step 2 in that plan has always been "destroy humanity", and if you overcome him, he decides you're strong enough to prevent it yourself. And Asgore, the creator of that plan, did it in a fit of grief and very obviously doesn't want to go through with it now that his head is clearer. Even Flowey turns out to be a Jerkass Woobie who is only an asshole because he died long ago, Came Back Wrong, and now literally has no SOUL. When he briefly regains one in the Golden Ending, he shatters the barrier himself and apologizes for everything he did. The only unambiguously bad character is The Fallen Child, and even that's not completely certain, since it is implied in the Golden Ending that they wanted to help the monsters of the Underground, but, through a Freudian Excuse, went about it in a less than merciful way, and it's only your action in a No Mercy route that drives them to become the Greater-Scope Villain and irredeemably evil.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: The Skellige succession crisis. Hjalmar and Cerys are both exceptional candidates for the throne of Skellige and the island kingdom prospers under the rule of either, but in the event that neither are helped by Geralt, Svanrige becomes king through the manipulations of his scheming mother... and he turns out to actually be a decent king himself who ends up uniting the islands, though through considerable force and ruthlessness.
- Chronicles Of Tsufanubra features some genuinely morally depraved characters, but only in the backstory. Everyone in the present-day conflict is either doing what they think is best in light of what those earlier characters did, or is being manipulated.
- Ursula Vernon, creator of Digger, has complained that she can't seem to come up with a real villain, since all of them have reasons for what they are doing and believe that they're doing the right thing. Some of them admittedly think it's the right thing because they're doing it, yes, or that the ends will justify the means, but no one so far is truly evil. Well, no one except Sweetgrass Voice.
- Freefall forgoes villains in favor of lots of geek-tickling tech-talk. Even the Corrupt Corporate Executives tend to be simply narrow-minded and incompetent, rather than willfully malevolent. It's just that they're not smart enough to figure out that AIs have become sentient, and still think that they're just products. It doesn't help that some of the AIs agree.
- Gunnerkrigg Court:
- One of the things the comic is known for lacking "proper" villains; Coyote is more of a general Trickster, and Ysengrin is simply insane. And Reynardine is... who knows? Tom Siddell confirms this in an interview: "There are no outright evil characters, for example, just situations in which a character might act in a way perceived to be evil."
- Jack was just some variant of gone nuts from the whole Zimmyham experience or high on his new creepy powers. He got better, though.
- A Miracle of Science has no real villains. The Big Bad is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who actively avoids civilian casualties and even the Venusian Mafia is mostly just selfish.
- El Goonish Shive has no one who does things For the Evulz. Save one bad eggnote , there are no really evil characters in the comic; all of them so far have either been misguided or acting off their own sense of what's right rather being downright evil.
- Everyone in Broken Telephone is doing what they believe will be best for the greater good. Even the hired assassin, who's there to kill a terrorist.
- The overall moral scheme of The Legend of Korra, as each of the main antagonists has a legitimate point and are overall genuinely well intentioned, if ruthless about their methods, as well as other human traits. One episode has Toph advising Korra to learn from her enemies; as they have good points, they just lack balance. The exceptions are Unalaq, Hou-Ting and Vaatu.
- This used to apply to most American Animated TV series, mainly because the Moral Guardians forced them to. Ironically, non-human villains were allowed to be truly evil- and often destroyed.
- The first season of Super Friends. There were no supervillains (with the possible exception of the Raven, who put Superman on trial), just Anti Villains who were all doing the utterly wrong thing for what they felt were the right reasons. In the end, they always Saw the Light, Repented for their Wickedness, and never even went to jail.
- Phineas and Ferb: On the "white" side, Phineas and Ferb are short on flaws, as are many of their friends. On the "gray" side, While Candace is often the antagonist, she's neither evil nor truly spiteful - only impulsive and a bit high-strung. Buford is a card-carrying bully, but is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who is clearly friends with his "victims". Even the Big Bad Doofenshmirtz is quite Affably Evil, loves his daughter dearly, and is an absurdly Friendly Enemy to Perry. His attempts to take over the ENTIRE! TRI-STATE! AREA! come across as more pretending to be evil to get attention than the evil acts of a power-mad lunatic. Suzy Johnson appeared to be a straight Jerkass in her first appearance, but later episodes revealed that she's a sweet girl whenever Jeremy's not around. The only really unpleasant recurring characters are Doofenshmitz's parents in his tales of his Hilariously Abusive Childhood.
- Unsurprisingly present in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Moments after the climax of the second episode, the goddess of darkness, who is effectively the Big Bad of the ponies' entire mythology, runs crying into a hug with her sister and counterpart day goddess. Who instantly forgives her. Indeed, the worst villains in the first season were Gilda from "Griffon the Brush-Off" and the Great and Powerful Trixie from "Boast Busters", who were both realistic Jerkasses rather than deliberately kid-friendly villains, neither of which learned their lessons in their respective episodes. This changed with the season 2 premiere "The Return of Harmony", which featured as its antagonist Discord, a trouble-making Reality Warper with a cruel sense of humor. note Some of the show's conflicts even border on Good Versus Good, like the Dragon from Dragonshy, who was just trying to sleep until Dash kicked him in the face. Averted by the phenomenally dark King Sombra, and Lord Tirek.
- The episode "Bats!" from the same show sets up a conflict between Applejack and Fluttershy. Applejack is the grey morality, wanting to exterminate and/or drive off vampire fruit bats from her farm because it will destroy her crop and her livelihood. Fluttershy is the white morality, wanting to create a reserve on the farm for the fruit bats, arguing that the seeds the bats drop will eventually produce stronger, better apple trees. Applejack initially wins the argument, but events swing it back around to Fluttershy's side anyways.
- Kim Possible has the recurring villain Senor Senior Senior. He had (quite likely) built his fortune legitimately: he turns to evil as a hobby (subverting Evil Is Not a Toy), seeing how closely he can mirror a classic Big Bad complete with setting up death traps for the heroes to escape from. In one episode, Sr. Senior Sr.'s fortune is stolen by a swindler, and he tries to get it back by robbing businesses owned by the person who scammed him: meanwhile, Kim attempts to stop him. She is stopped by his son who turns him in, and Kim settles for Senior earning his money back through the reward money that he'll gain for his capture.
- Adventure Time: 80% of the time, Finn and Jake's enemies are less evil and more morally challenged, Obliviously Evil or just simple jerks. The Ice King and Lemongrab are good examples of this: the former is a sociopath who has an obsession with kidnapping princesses, however it's out of loneliness and his Jerkass moments come from not realising the social impact (due to an incredibly tragic backstory). The latter is a crazy Control Freak who puts people in dungeons for little reason, but it's because he was born utterly nuts instead of being a cruel person. Even Marceline's Dad, who's basically the Devil, is semi Affably Evil and loves his daughter. There are exceptions who definitely stand out, but they're few and far between.
- While Iron Man: Armored Adventures has its share of villains, the large majority of its antagonists are either various Types of Anti-Villains (including two of the Big Bads) or Punch Clock Villains.
- In Moral Orel Orel is a genuinely good kid with Incorruptible Pure Pureness. While Moralton has many horrible people (including his own parents), lots of them are sympathetic, most of whom have their own Freudian Excuse. His parents both had issues with their own parents. While Miss Censordoll is pretty awful, she has one of her own (it's hard not to feel bad for her when you learn her mother removed her reproductive system). Reverend Putty is a bit cynical and jaded, but he has his own Pet the Dog moments in regards to Orel and his daughter Stephanie. Joe's a brat who bullies Orel and beats up kissing boys but he's afraid of growing old and didn't know his own mother.
- The Dreamstone generally portrays things this way narrative wise. While Zordrak is as evil as they get, he is usually too petty and ineffectual to do anything himself, and his Urpney army mostly consist of sympathetic minions Just Following Orders. The Land of Dreams is generally portrayed as a Sugar Bowl (though their occasional fondness for Disportionate /Misplaced Retribution may lean them more as A Lighter Shade of Grey).
- In Skywhales the alien tribe just want to have enough to eat and the skywhales are just animals driven by instinct.
- Legends of Chima: On one end you've got the Lions whom are the paragons of good and keep the other tribes in line by distributing Chi, and the Eagles and Gorillas whom are kindly scholars and spiritualists but are quick to ally with the Lions. On the other end you've got the Crocs whom are lead by a prince being manipulated by his sister, the Ravens who are master con men, and the Wolves who are savage and will seize power if deemed necessary. The other tribes fall somewhere in between.
- Steven Universe is stated to be this by the creators, with the heroes generally being flawed but very moral overall, and the villains generally being either Anti-Villains with clear reasoning for their actions, extremists who are opposed because of their methods, or unable to control their actions. Well, except Kevin; he's just a jerk.