Threaten a child and you will unite its parents against you.
Kill a child and those who have lost it will retreat in mourning. Those around them will feel their pain and likewise look to their own families. They will keep their children close and out of schools. [...] This makes the Rebellion look unforgivably weak.
Many adult viewers and writers are upset about kids being harmed. Kid viewers aren't, but then, kids aren't the ones doing the writing, are they? As a result, many characters on TV Wouldn't Hurt a Child
This is often done simply by not showing kids at all in action and suspense shows, but sometimes it's rather conspicuous when characters seemingly go out of their way to not hurt kids, or circumstances happen to conveniently align themselves so that kids don't get hurt. For example, a slasher movie where the slasher just happens to not encounter children in hiding, or the kids manage to be rescued just in time, while the adults and teens get killed. It's also pretty common that when Even Evil Has Standards
, not harming children is one of them.
In fact, when this trope does get averted and children do get harmed
, it can often be shocking for the audience.
See Also Wouldn't Hit a Girl
for the female-specific version of this trope. See Friend to All Children
for bad guys who not only don't hurt kids, but will actively protect them despite being bad guys. For video games, see Hide Your Children
, where children aren't even portrayed so as to avoid the implications that they could be hurt. For a more specific form of Wouldn't Hurt a Child
, in which very young children are shielded from danger by the plot due to society's squeamishness about hurting babies, see Infant Immortality
A common subversion is when a character who goes by this motto has to face a Creepy Child
, or worse an Enfant Terrible
May be a form of Heroic Vow
Oddly enough, it's also Truth in Television
as many gangs, such as the Mexican Mafia, brutally murder their members that hurt children. This even extends to prison, where inmates, or even prison-based gangs, that welcome robbers and murderers into their fold will not tolerate someone who hurts a kid. In fact, killing one of these people often results in being well liked by the other inmates.
Contrast Child Hater
and Would Hurt a Child
Examples and subversions: (All inversions/aversions go under Would Hurt a Child)
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- One of the very, very few standards Johnny the Homicidal Maniac has is to not hurt children. His victims are all teenagers/adults, although he ends up traumatizing a few children (especially Squee) in the process.
- Hunter Rose, the first Grendel had this as one of his personal standards, even eliminating child prostitution in New York upon becoming mob boss. In fact, when facing off against Batman during his trip to Gotham, the accidental endangerment of a child he was holding hostage was what encouraged him to withdraw and go home. He himself has a Morality Pet in his adoptive daughter Stacy Palumbo, who later arranges to have him killed.
- Fantastic Four villain the Mad Thinker is perfectly willing to try and kill the Four. During a Villain Team Up with the Wizard, the latter kidnaps Franklin Richards (Reed and Sue's son) and is getting ready to vivisect him to discover the secret of his amazing powers. The Mad Thinker, enraged, immediately terminates the partnership and leads Franklin's Uncle Ben to the Wizard's secret base, just in time to save him.
- The main reason why Jason Todd can be considered an Anti-Villain and not a straight-out villain is that he will kill anyone hurting a child.
- Deadpool the Crazy Awesome (and just plain crazy) Merc' with a Mouth still has a few lines he won't cross. One of them is hurting kids. In X-Force, he is the only member of the team to openly declare that killing the child incarnation of Apocalypse was a borderline Moral Event Horizon for the team as a whole and that he for one is unhappy about it.
- In Avengers Academy, the Rhino (Spiderman villain) refuses to kill the teen heroes under Electro's orders.
- As cruel and contemptible as James "Mickey" Hughes was toward his wife, Francine, in the made-for-TV adaptation of The Burning Bed, Mickey is never seen raising a fist toward any of his children; all of his brutality is directed at his hapless wife.
- In Unbreakable and Heroes, a crazy serial killer comes to a house and kills some people, but leaves the kids intact hiding in a cupboard or closet or something.
- In the case of Heroes, Sylar would have killed Molly had he found her, but she had been hiding.
- In Volume 4 of Heroes, Sylar spares the life of teenager Luke and later Micah, which he freely admits is something he usually doesn't do. Although he only spared Luke because he reminded him of himself, and Micah was successfully able to convince Sylar not to kill him. In contrast, Danko's government soldiers express some concern over being ordered to kill an unarmed child, but ultimately do so anyway.
- In the case of Unbreakable, the orange man likely just had other plans for them before he killed them, but we learn little enough about him that it's open to interpretation.
- In the Predator movies, the titular Predator is a nearly-unstoppable killing machine with a code of honor; he doesn't kill children, as they are considered noncombatants (and probably poor prey). This is exemplified in the second movie when he refrains from killing a pregnant cop and a child who was pointing a toy gun at him.
- The predators never kill unarmed people. We don't know if they would spare one of those Ax Crazy brainwashed child soldiers in Africa, though...
- In Scarface: Tony Montana may be a sociopath, but he would never harm a child. This is made evident during a hit he was carrying out—he noticed that the target had two small children with him and refused to do it, just as his bomber was to carry out the hit he shot the man dead so he couldn't.
- Mob boss Harry Waters from In Bruges finds child killing abhorrent and orders one of his men killed for accidentally shooting a boy, then when he thinks he's done the same (actually a dwarf) turns his gun on himself.
- Certainly not a villain, but Robocop deserves mentioning. One of his directives is "Protect the innocent", and this always includes children, in his eyes. (Evident in the TV series too.)
- An infamous hitman in Lucky Number Slevin refused to kill a child and he was given the assignment because the mob thought he was the only hitman who would.
- The same happens in The Replacement Killers.
- Refusing to run over a girl is what caused the downfall of the terrorists in Vantage Point as they tried to escape in an ambulance. Had they run her over, they just might have gotten away. And these are the same terrorists that detonated two bombs in a crowd that contained plenty of children.
- In Apocalypto, the bad guys sacrifice the male prisoners, sell their women as slaves and leave their children unharmed back in their destroyed home village. In Real Life the Mayas did not have any problem sacrificing women and children. But again, they did this to urban, noble women and children, not random hunter-gatherers from the jungle...
- Kill Bill: The Bride plays the trope straight as she really doesn't like it when other children and teens get involved in violent stuff. She's very unhappy when Nikki witnesses how the Bride kills her mom in their fight, later attempts to disuade Gogo from fighting her, and in the end of Part 2 she decides that she'd rather put her revenge aside for a little, than having BB witness her and Bill fight to the death.
- Also in Part 1 she spares a teenage Crazy 88 member but gives him a spanking with her sword and tells him to go home.
- Die Hard 3 has Anvilicious moments about this: the line "children may find it [the bomb]" is uttered by both the good guy and a bad guy. This brings a question of doubt in the perpetrators' actions, and it's revealed the Big Bad never planted a real bomb, just a fake one, because "he's a soldier, not a monster".
- Cheese in Gone Baby Gone may be a ruthless drug dealer who has no problem with brutally murdering people but is insulted if someone accuses him of messing with kids. And if you tell him twice, he'll "get discourteous on you".
- A hilarious example happens in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones is in a local hash bar, he was inches away from killing Belloq at the cost of his own life when armed Arab Mercenaries have their rifles pointed at him. What stopped them from firing was when Sallah's kids entered the bar to shield him while taking him out. They found it amusing and spared his life.
- In The Quick and the Dead, several kids gang up on the priest Cort, who plays this trope straight. It is subverted when the Lady comes in and kicks their asses.
- Of all people, Jason Voorhees. In Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, he's shown standing in the midst of a cabin full of sleeping children and ignoring them completely, even the one who wakes up and sees him. He then goes about his usual business of killing their horny teenage guardians.
- Leon, The Professional, has two major rules. No women, no kids.
Live Action TV
- After subverting this in its first half-hour, Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) later justifies it in that the Cylons want Baby Hera alive, and did their best to take care of her, despite having no prior experience in childcare and in general being lousy at it. Also, Leoben's psychological torture of Kara Thrace on New Caprica included leaving her alone with a child she believed was a half-Cylon hybrid. When Kara locked herself in a room to avoid the kid, the kid hurt herself and Kara's instincts as a human being overcame her hatred for the Cylons and she came to the kid's aid. No, Kara's not the villain, but then again BSG doesn't really have villains. Also, Cylons don't have kids: the toddler was a human girl they'd kidnapped.
- Black Market: Children are being sold in a slave market.
- Played with in The Daily Show when the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference featured a 13-year-old speaker. Stewart showed a clip of his speech, then got out a huge, dusty "Comedy Bible" to determine whether or not he was an Acceptable Target. The answer was "Only for a classmate or sibling".
- Ben on LOST, despite being a Magnificent Bastard, doesn't want to kill Rousseau's baby, and instead takes her in as his own. Later when he tracks down Penny in order to kill her, he hesitates because she has a child. This trope is subverted, however, when Sayid shoots a twelve-year old Ben while in the past.
- Darien Fawkes, on The Invisible Man is really great with kids, even when he's in a chemically induced murderous psychosis.
- For a bit of framing, in one particular episode, the guy sets fire to a picnic, pummels an entire football team while invisible, steals the Rolex of a dead guy at his funeral, But in the scene where he's with kids? He's beyond cool and highly supporting of them. Soon as the kids are out of the room he comes this close to killing his childhood pastor.
- One early episode has him pose as a little girl's Imaginary Friend. He practically cures her Post-Traumatic Stress disorder himself, goes out of his way to make sure she's okay after he was just shot, and protects her from a Sniper while homicidally insane.
- Viciously subverted in Torchwood: Children of Earth when Jack was forced to kill his grandson. Some of the Fandom has depicted him as extremely child averse for quite a while afterwards.
- Doctor Who has several examples of this trope:
- Kazran Sardic, due to his father, who he detested, being willing to hit children.
- The Doctor goes very much out of his way to help a crying child.
- Sylar, for all his evil ways, generally leaves kids under the age of puberty alone. He might threaten them or use them as blackmail against his enemies, but never actually hurts them.
- In an episode of Tales from the Crypt a young girl allows a deranged psychopath, who is dressed as Santa on Christmas Eve mind you, into her house. After the episode ends, The Crypt Keeper says that the killer "prefers older women," meaning that the child was safe.
- While serial killer Frank from Criminal Minds has no qualms about hurting a child per se, he gets no satisfaction from doing so. This becomes a minor plot point in the episode where he's introduced.
- Person of Interest: When a choice came down to either watching a child die from freezing to death or giving Elias the info he needed, Reese chose to save the child. Elias knew this of him as well. That's why he put Reese in the position.
- Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad may be a little rough around the edges, but if there's one thing that sets him off, it's seeing harm come to children.
- In Superman Batman Public Enemies, Lex Luthor conspicuously avoids killing or injuring Toyman/Hiro Okamura, instead simply settling for destroying his equipment, even though he's the only
other person smart enough to stop the Kryptonite meteor about to hit Earth and that by now Lex had gotten so crazy from Kryptonite injections he wanted the thing to hit the Earth so he could rebuild civilization afterward.
- Jackie Chan Adventures. Applies to Jade all the time, but is most telling in an episode where the heroes are fighting evil clones of themselves, and the adults are handily thrashed by the clone of Paco, a child. When they pull off Paco-clone's "mask" to reveal two eyes on an otherwise blank face, the tables suddenly turn and they're allowed to punch him with impunity.
- Chow even called him out on this when he pointed out that Jackie wouldn't hurt a younger version of Valmont.
- And let's not forget when a statue of Lo Pei, the warrior who originally defeated Shendu, was animated by the Rat Talisman. The Dark Hand mooks pose as mystical priests in an attempt to sway him to their side, but as soon as they try to hurt Jade, Lo Pei sees through the ruse.
- In The Boondocks, when the kids get stuck in a prison riot during a field trip, one of the kids ask if the prisoners watching them are going to rape them, their reactions are pretty much "We're bad guys, but even we're not that bad."
- Considering that convicted child molesters tend to be disproportionately targeted, this is hardly surprising.
- Young Justice villains rarely follow this, but Despero is an exception. While giving a particularly harsh Curb-Stomp Battle to Captain Marvel/Billy Batson, the latter counterattacks with his magic lightning, which turns him back into the gangly teenager. Despero's Dragon notes that a child is a pointless opponent, and Despero puts Billy in a trance but otherwise leaves him unharmed. Though ironically, he next decides to fight Superboy, who's chronologically younger than Billy and only a year older physically.
- Pa and Ma, the late convenience store owners in Gravity Falls, wouldn't dare harm anyone under the age of thirteen. Teenagers, however, are fair game.
- In Le Veyan Satanism, you are permitted and in fact required to kill any adult who annoys you, but children are off-limits.