Examples and subversions: (All inversions/aversions go under Would Hurt a Child)
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Anime and Manga
- Daimos: Do not even think of hurting a child in front of Kazuya Ryuuzaki lest you have your face rearranged.
- There's been at least some censorship to not show kids getting hurt. An episode of Dragon Ball Z was censored in the US release to cut out a brief bit of animation where Gohan was punched by a villain, instead merely implying the punch. Take notice that this was when Gohan was a helpless 4 year old who'd never had a fighting lesson in his life. He gets punched plenty on camera after he learns to punch back.
- Hercule deliberately threw his "fight" against Trunks. He didn't know he was going to get punched clear out of the ring by a tiny superhuman, but that doesn't change his intent.
- This is the trait that distinguished Wamuu as a Noble Demon with honor and decency amongst his fellow vampires in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
- Humorously invoked by Really 700 Years Old Little Miss Badass Vita in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, complaining about having to arrest Lutecia:
Vita: I don't like this. It's like I'm picking on a little kid.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, Subaru complains about Nove fighting harshly against a small girl (Ingvalt/Einhart) the previous night, but Nove counters that she also got beaten up fairly badly.
- The Sonic X dub (like many of 4Kids Entertainment dub jobs) is famous for the editing out of at least three instances of violence inflicted upon children. The first instance being that of Maria (who not only had an immune disorder in the original, but was shot and killed by a gun soldier who showed considerable angst about it for decades afterwards- while in the dub she was merely "taken away"). This was closely followed by Christopher Thorndyke in a rather infamous scene which was cut apart repeatedly to edit out the fact that Shadow was throwing-and-smashing-him-into-walls (this resulting in the kid apparently passing out for no reason much to the confusion of a seven year old audience), and finally with the death of a teenaged revolutionary making a suicide run into the Metarex fleet (this time 4kids actually edited out a gravestone in one image).
- 4Kids starts to get the hint after a while, but Chris still gets another instance of this in the final series whereas Metarex slashes him during an escape attempt. The single drop of blood was cut in order to further the illusion that he'd been knocked out - not stabbed.
- Eggman also never wanted to hurt Chris, and in fact, when one of his robots went haywire and actually was about to kill him, Eggman aided Sonic in shutting it down because the thought of having a child's blood on his hand was too horrific even for him.
- Gamma Akutabi, of Zombie Powder, is led to believe he is fighting a child, and so only uses his left hand. He's likely about to lose until he finds out it's actually an old man who just looks like a child. He holds back like this specifically because he has a soft spot for women and children.
- This might be the reason why, in the anime adaptation of Chrono Crusade, Azmaria is the only member of the main cast to survive to the end of the series. Besides the villain, at least, and Joshua—but he suffers extreme mental damage in the process. That being said, it does show the deaths of another group of children because of their powers (who are minor enough to not have individual names).
- King Hamdo, the mad tyrant in Now and Then, Here and There, uses this trope to his advantage; he employs an army of children so his enemies will be hesitant to fight back. Unfortunately, he also utilizes the child soldiers as war fodder.
- This was based on Real Life examples like the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.
- In Bleach, Ukitake. When battling Lilinette he kept doing things like playing keep-away with her sword when it was fairly obvious that he could have just killed her without the slightest effort.
- On the other hand, although Kyoraku also saw Lilinette - who claimed Arrancar don't age - as a child, he attacks Wonderweiss without hesitation when he sees him stab Ukitake.
- Rangiku is fairly hesitant to fight the child-like Wonderweiss, although it could be more due to his playing with a dragonfly in the middle of a battle instead of fighting (at first)
- Speaking of Wonderweiss, Yamamoto probably wouldn't have hesitated to fight him, but he did state he was glad Wonderweiss used his release form so he was fighting a bizarre monster instead of a kid.
- Ichigo is hesitant to hurt Ururu during their training match, and even after seeing her Super Strength in action, decides to only give her a tap on the head to clear the requirements. He somehow ends up grazing her face with his fist and Ururu kicks him away, but manages to pass the test by restoring his spiritual energy.
- Mifune in Soul Eater has a soft spot for children, and has an iron-clad rule never to kill one, or allow one to be killed if he can prevent it. His Morality Pet, Angela, is a Cute Witch he is fostering.
- He also attempts to avoid killing Black Star (a teenager), deliberately holding back until Mifune found the 'assassin' to be a Worthy Opponent. In the anime, Mifune tries to kills Black*Star because he is in risk of trying to become a Kishin while in the manga they both have a silent agreement to not hold back in a Duel to the Death.
- Black*Star himself also obeys this trope: His walks away from his first battle with Mifune when he realizes Mifune's 'witch' was a little girl.
- Darker Than Black: Hei, extreme Anti-Hero or no, gets very protective of kids under his care for any reason, particularly girls the same age as his sister. Call it unresolved issues. While other contractors harm children, Hei does not.
- Double Subverted in the Sengoku Basara anime. Mitsuhide uses the semi-conscious Ranmaru as a human shield, taunting Kojuro that he wouldn't kill a child. Kojuro tells him that regardless of age, Ranmaru is one of Nobunaga's generals and therefore his enemy and charges in. The declaration causes Mitsuhide to abandon Ranmaru as a shield, allowing Kojuro to defeat Mitsuhide. He then lets Ranmaru off with a stern warning.
- Sensui might have been counting on this trope in the Chapter Black arc of YuYu Hakusho with Amanuma. It didn't work. And Kurama, the one who killed Amanuma, was pissed afterwards.
- Vash in Trigun, being a All-Loving Hero Technical Pacifist, is particularly unwilling to hurt children. It's just not going to happen. Wolfwood the priest does kill people, though not in front of Vash, but taking care of children is the most important thing to him ever, so as much as he believes in necessary sacrifices he is definitely this. The first time we see his full armory unleashed in the anime, he's firing Guns Akimbo and shouting over the noise, "I'M NOT GOING TO LET ANY MORE CHILDREN SUFFER!!! NEVER AGAIN!"
- Even Wolfwood doesn't know what he will and won't do. Anime Wolfwood shoots what looks like a child to save Vash. Manga Wolfwood comes across as willing to sacrifice pretty much anything if he had reason to believe it was worthwhile. But children last of anything.
- When he chooses Vash's side they then go straight to the orphanage where he grew up to intercept the assassin team sent there to punish him; if they'd been late or he'd messed up, the kids would have been crisped.
- Lina Inverse from Slayers has many Berserk Buttons, but the biggest one is this trope. I.e., when Rezo petrified a kid in the first season, she got pissed and went to face him despite knowing it was a trap. And in NEXT, she has a major Freak Out when she thinks she's killed a little girl who turned out to be an Undead Child from Sairaag, and Sylphiel has to give her a Cooldown Hug.
- Black Cat: Train Heartnet has been an assassin for many years.....but the biggest Berserk Button he possesses is about children. In the manga, he describes how he was about to shoot a man, but he realized the man was holding a young girl. He stopped, and couldn't pull the trigger, so he was shot, instead. He lived, but this is part of the major Heel–Face Turn he undergoes throughout the series. The presence of Saya Minatsuki only instills that even more.
- Madara Uchiha in Naruto informs a an old and enraged Onoki that the only reason he went easy on him when he was younger, was because adults shouldn't fight kids seriously. it doesn't save Onoki or the other Kage now from the beat down they get now.
- Suitengu from Speed Grapher, despite being absolutely ruthless towards adults, doesn't hurt kids. An example: a little daughter offers her money to pay the father's debts; Suitengu leaves. A father offers her daughter to pay his debts: bad idea.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Aiho Yomikawa absolutely refuses to fight anybody who is a child or teenager, even if they have superpowers. One of the only times she broke this rule is when she punched her adopted son Accelerator after he came home from World War III for worrying her.
- 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. Oddly enough, and most likely a case of Depending on the Writer, this goes against the grain for the Wizard's character, as during a story in the 1970's when the Wizard and several other supervillains attacked the Fantastic Four's headquarters and took Franklin and Alicia Masters hostage. Reed Richards demanded to know where they were, to which the Wizard responded: "Both are safe, Richards. I do not wage war on blind women and children." Richards took him at his word on this.
- 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.
- The Punisher: Played straight with Frank, but it depends on the situation. He'd never hurt a child and always plans his attacks very carefully so that no innocents are harmed. Once, when he thought he was responsible for the death of a small child, he had a gun to his head and was ready to pull the trigger when he saw evidence that convinced him that he could not possibly have done it. Another time, he had a clear shot at a teenage hood who had just won parole from juvenile hall, but upon seeing him do something charitable (confirming what the parole officer had told the judge) he changed his mind and let him live. However, if you're a gang banger or a child soldier and you start shooting at him, his reflexes are going to take over and he's not going to ask for your ID before returning fire. He won't lose any sleep over it afterwards, either.
- From Doom 2099, when Doom was approaching two terrified teenagers. "Calm yourselves. Doom does not harm children."
Psychiatrist: No, you have to understand! She wanted to be with me, she begged me to do it!Deadpool: Really? Kind of like the way you're begging me right now?
- 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.
- This trope also plays an important part in the Evil Deadpool storyline, where Deadpool is battling a composite version of himself who has absolutely no scruples. Evil Deadpool is out to prove he's infinitely worse than Deadpool, and Deadpool is trying to figure out what Evil Deadpool's next move is going to be so he can head him off. The problem is that he's approaching it from the wrong direction by looking at it from only his perspective. Then one of his head voices quietly tells him to stop trying to think of something he would do, and to instead try to think of something he wouldn't do. There's a pause, then the horrified expression that comes over Deadpool reveals that he's figured it out: Evil Deadpool is going to kill a child.
- Deadpool once accepted a pro bono job where he went after a psychiatrist who'd taken advantage of a young girl who was a patient of his, psychologically manipulating her to be vulnerable to his advances and having sex with her multiple times. The girl ended up killing herself, and Deadpool was completely serious throughout the entire story arc, with none of his joking or breaking-the-fourth-wall antics. He psychologically toyed with the psychiatrist, showing up pretending to be seeking help but subtly always turning the session towards topics that made the psychiatrist very uncomfortable. Begging for his life didn't help. If you're going to harm a child, you'd better pray Deadpool doesn't find out about it.
- In Avengers Academy, the Rhino (Spider-Man villain) refuses to kill the teen heroes under Electro's orders.
- X-Men villains The Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy had been partners and close friends for almost their entire careers, but that all changed during M-Day when Black Tom killed a kid, something that was too much for the Juggernaut. He confronted his former friend and convinced him to turn himself in, saying, "He was a kid, Tom. An' you an' me, for all our faults, we used ta be better than that." Tom did indeed seem to be sorry (after all, he had gone insane after his powers went haywire and turned him into a living tree, which the effects of M-Day undid). As he told his friend, "That wasn't me, Cain, you know that. I wasn't in my right mind... You've got to understand... that mad life, before... it was like some dream."
- The Flash has the Rogues. One of their rules is that they won't kill women and children, with the exception of Mirror Master, who will try to refrain from killing women, but still definitely won't hurt a child. This is part of their Pragmatic Villainy. They know that doing certain things will just bring all sorts of trouble upon them. Their business model is based on there being Always a Bigger Fish for the heroes to concentrate on.
- Young Loki found (for their great surprise) that they're this trope now. They had the perfect plan and would get away with it too but it involved driving Wiccan to suicide and they just didn't have the heart to go through with it. Later the Angelic army learnt this the hard way, when Loki promptly disposed of them after they refused to take the Last Chance to Quit offer at the end of a speech that pressed at almost tedious lengths that what they intended to do involved baby killing.
- In the Calvin and Hobbes: The Series Made-for-TV Movie "Invasion", Calvin comes across two snipers - one of whom believes in this, and another who puts his orders first. This ties in to the mind game he plays with them.
- Silver Spoon of Bad Future Crusaders, despite being a burgular and an assassin for hire who started out as a Boxed Crook for comitting some undisclosed crime, is show to have a serious soft spot for children. Not only does she express disgust for a fellow Boxed Crook who was in prison for killing his child and point out that she planned to kill him afterward for it, she also seems to be genuinely fond of the young colt Clear Rivers.
- Italian mob boss Fanciullo Cattivo of the Shadowchasers Series has this as one of the most important rules for anyone working for him, and has put out large bounties on the heads of known human traffickers who target children. Shadowchasers: Conspiracy suggests he may have sworn an oath in the past to protect children.
- In Fate Parallel Fantasia, while False Caster is battling True Berserker, she gets a shot at killing Ilyasviel and thus winning the battle; but ultimately, she can't bring herself to harm a child.
- The Second Try: One of the soldiers Rei encounters during the invasion of the Geofront specifically chose perimeter patrols because he thought he wouldn't encounter and have to kill one of the teenaged pilots. Aki, being included in the kill order due to simply being near Rei, ups the ante. He repeatedly refuses to shoot her, even after being threatened to be court-martialed by his superior, and when the latter decides to do it himself, he finally opens fire... on him. He unfortunately isn't fast enough to eliminate his remaining squad mate before suffering the same fate.
Films — Animated
- 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
otherperson 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.
Films — Live-Action
- 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.
- The heroine of The Girl in the Cafe admits to having been imprisoned for attacking someone for hurting a child.
- In Unbreakable 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. 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 eponymous Predator is a nearly-unstoppable alien killing machine with a code of honor; Predators view children as innocents, off-limits to being hunted, and sometimes even protect them from harm. According to the Expanded Universe, predators hunt things depending on how worthy they are at giving them a good hunt. A predator would kill a child soldier in self-defense in a blink, but if it tried to hunt one and collect the skull as a trophy the other predators would punish him.
- This is exemplified in Predator 2 when he refrains from killing a pregnant cop and a child who was pointing a toy gun at him.
- In one comic the chief of the clan KILLED a young hunter who had a child's skull as a trophy. So they are REALLY strict in enforcing the rule.
- In another comic, a predator kills nazis who were about to kill a child (after having massacred his whole town), then cuts the ropes tying the boy's hands.
- And in yet another comic, a predator kills a man who physically abused his son and forced him to go hunting to the woods with him, and after blood from his father's body splatters on the boy, the predator gently wipes off the blood from the boy's face before returning to deal with the father's corpse.
- In Scarface (1983): 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. In Part 1 she's very unhappy when Nikki witnesses how the Bride kills her mom in their fight, later attempts to dissuade Gogo from fighting her, she spares a teenage Crazy 88 member but gives him a spanking with her sword and tells him to go home, 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..
- Die Hard with a Vengeance 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. (Of course, seeing as the reason Jason even exists is because he himself was once a child who had died as a result of neglect by people who did not have this philosophy, he could probably relate.)
- Leon, The Professional, has two major rules. No women, no kids.
- In Once Upon a Time in the West, after being framed for the murder of a family, including a young boy, the bandit Cheyenne fumes, "What the hell? I'll kill anything. Never a kid. Be like killin' a priest."
- Pitch Black: Riddick likes children quite a lot, and they in turn seem fascinated by him - not just Jack, but Imam's younger acolyte as well. In fact he likes them enough that he refuses to kill Jack even though she's actually a girl on her period and attracting the monsters. He doesn't have any qualms about leaving them to save himself, though.
- Drive Angry: Near the end, the female cultist who has been caring for Milton's baby granddaughter finds herself unable to harm the child when Jonah King orders her to sacrifice the baby.
- However, when asked if she'd ave handed the child over to be killed, she's too ashamed to answer and the Accountant implies that she'll be damned to hell as a result.
- Come Out and Play: The protagonists find that an island is inhabited by evil children. A surviving adult explains that even though he had a gun, he couldn't bring himself to hurt the children—no one could.
- The Secret Garden: While Maggie Smith's Medlock certainly threatens to box Mary's ears, she never actually strikes her. She slaps Martha, but she's old enough to not be considered a child.
- Played with in Major Payne, where the first thing the titular character tries to do to one of the ROTC boys is break his finger: however, it's his twisted way of helping someone take their mind off of excruciating pain elsewhere, such as getting a shot (the kid) or having been shot (one of his Marine buddies). When the time comes later when he actually means to hurt one of them, he physically cannot bring himself to punch out Alex Stone.
- Damon Runyon's characters are criminals, but this is a line they do not ever cross. In the story "Gentlemen, the King!" three hoods hired to knock off a European king abort the mission instantly upon finding that the King in question is a child, and end up assassinating the man who hired them, instead.
- Dexter might be a bloodthirsty Serial Killer, but even he is horrified that anyone could hurt a child. Of course, being Dexter, he expresses that horror by offing the child killers in turn, but hey, nobody's perfect.
- If anything, that only elevates him closer to perfection.
- In The Krytos Trap, Kirtan Loor is the terrorist striking during a terrible pandemic in order to make the New Republic's job that much harder. Flirry Vorru is sent to stop him, but instead decides to use him, telling Loor what targets to hit as part of some plan. Once he directs Loor to a school. Not a training academy, a school. For children.
[...] It struck Loor as almost comical that he could see Vorru's desire to strike at a school as evil, yet his desire to hit Rogue Squadron was nothing more than duty. The difference, ultimately, was that the strike at Rogue Squadron would advance the cause of the Empire, while the strike at the school would only strengthen Vorru's position. We are not as far apart as I would like to think, but neither are we as close as Vorru thinks.
- Although Loor still bombs the school. He objected to this and to a plan of Isard's, but he went along and helped anyway.
- In Death Star, nearly everyone is horrified by what happened to Alderaan, including the gunner who pulled the trigger. In an aversion of A Million Is a Statistic, it's the idea of being on a battle station that destroys inhabited worlds with civilian populations that gets several of them to go through Heel Realizations. A stormtrooper tells himself that he could fight a room full of people and if surviving meant killing half of them, so be it. But he hadn't signed up to murder children in their beds.
- Largely averted in Galaxy of Fear, when just about anyone is willing to directly or indirectly hurt Tash and Zak Arranda, who start the series as thirteen and twelve years old, respectively. But played straight (ish) with Captain Thrawn. When Tash is insultingly rude to him, his bodyguards bristle but he tells them to stand down, and says that since she's a child he won't take offense. He also takes the time to explain himself to them, a little, though he doesn't go out of his way any to help them.
- Ari in Joust:
I do not make war on children!
- Count Rugen, the six-fingered man, in The Princess Bride. He avoids engaging young Inigo in battle after he kills his father, and doesn't kill him, even after he defeats him.
- However, given the Count's obsessive interest in pain, this is likely 'not' 'wouldn't kill a child' so much as it is cruelty.
- Granny Weatherwax in Discworld. She dislikes most children on principle but is utterly incapable of harming a child, despite being willing to brainwash people into thinking that they are frogs as a punishment for casual insults. Most young children tend to recognise this on a subconscious level and thus have no fear of her. Whilst this doesn't seem like much of an advantage, if you were to threaten a child (or other innocent) in her presence, there are not enough words to express how utterly screwed you are.
- Another Discworld example: in Sourcery, it is stated that the customers of the Mended Drum, a notorious pub in Ankh-Morpork might murder each other, but "a child could go in for a glass of lemonade and be certain of getting nothing worse than a clip round the ear when his mother heard his expanded vocabulary."
- Corvis Rebaine in The Conqueror's Shadow tells his demonic partner this when the demon suggests that he kill a young girl who ends up being his future wife who is being too chatty. The demon retorts that Rebaine doesn't seem to have a problem with letting his armies slaughter women and children for him. Rebaine is furious, but realizes that he can't deny it.
- Witch hunter Shadwell in Good Omens refuses to shoot The Antichrist Adam Young when he sees that Adam is a little boy, saying that he is "just a bairn".
- Doubly subverted in Night Watch with a "wild" Light One Maxim. He can see Dark Ones but not his knismen and as such considers himself to be a lone crusader in a world besieged by forces of Darkness. He relentlessly slaughters every Dark One he comes across, not bothering to find out if the actually harmed anyone (Not all of them do. Until he encounters a Dark kid. He silently bemoans and curses the "Powers" that bestowed him upon his gift but is still prepared to carry out his mission, and even intervention from another Light One doesn't hold him back ("Your Light has faded!"). He does hesitate, however, when the kid rushes to protect his unfortunate defendor from him, something he wouldn't think possible for a Dark One.
- Played with in Eagle Strike. Yassen refuses to shoot Alex and cites this trope, although the real reason for him sparing Alex might have been feelings of loyalty towards Alex's father, who saved Yassen's life. Earlier in the series he had no problem working alongside Herod Sayle, a man who wanted to commit genocide against all British schoolchildren.
- Crops up in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Hermione tells Harry not to curse a Death Eater who's been left with the head of a baby after an unfortunate accident involving time magic. Also cropped up earlier in the book, when the centaurs don't (initially, anyway) hurt Harry and Hermione because they're "foals".
- Despite being a generally ruthless, amoral crime boss, Gentleman Johnny Marcone of The Dresden Files fits this trope to a tee. Not only would he never harm a child, but whenever a child is in danger, he puts their safety ahead of his own every time. He also personally executes any criminals in the city who violate this rule. It's the main reason that Harry can't bring himself to hate Marcone.
- Invoked in Someone Else's War, where the Lord's Resistance Army uses child soldiers to do their fighting because they know most people will hesitate to kill kids.
- In Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom novel Magic on the Storm, Allie would fight to prevent Powered by a Forsaken Child magic drawing on the hospital nursery.
- In John Hemry's The Lost Stars novel Tarnished Knight, Drakon protects the families of security forces for fear of the children being hurt.
- In Void City, though Eric considers all vampires including himself to be monsters, one of the few moral lines that he absolutely won't cross is to harm children.
Live Action TV
- Battlestar Galactica (2003):
- After subverting this in its first half-hour, the series 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.
- The episode Black Market shows that in the human fleet's criminal underworld children are being sold in a slave market. Apollo, despite having seen proof that the gangsters are very connected, dangerous, and might be able to get away with killing him, nonetheless confronts the head of the black market and says that he understands the need for a black market on certain goods, but that children are off limits. The guy refuses, thinking that Apollo doesn't dare actually kill him. Apollo quickly proves him wrong, and gets the new head of the underworld to agree to not mistreat kids.
- 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.
- In Heroes, Sylar, for all his evil ways, generally leaves kids who haven't reached puberty alone. He might threaten them or use them as extortion chips against his enemies, but never actually gets around to hurting them. Teenagers are fair game for him, though.
- 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. Criminal Minds in general falls under this trope, at least what is being shown on screen. Even though many of the serial killers have hurt kids in their past, when an episode raises the possibility that a kid could get killed, the kid always lives. The only time this was subverted was in "The Boogeyman" when the killer was himself a kid.
- Person of Interest: When forced to choose between giving Elias information or watching a child freeze to death, Reese chose to save the child. Elias knew Reese would make that choice, which is the only reason he engineered the situation.
- 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.
- Two of Volker's hitmen in The Mentalist are ordered to kill a child who witnessed one of Volker's murders. The first hitman asks one of his relatives to take the kid in. The second hitman looks at a picture of the kid and flat-out refuses.
- Once Upon a Time:
- Rumpelstiltskin, for all his evil doings, he has never been seen harming, manipulating, or even raising a hand at a child. This can be explained through his backstory; he became The Dark One to prevent his son from becoming a child soldier, and later used this power to rescue all the other children from the war.
- In "Lacey", upon discovering that the reason Robin Hood stole a wand from him was to heal Marian, who was deathly ill and pregnant, Rumplestiltskin intentionally misses with the arrow he was aiming at them. Made more telling that the bow used was enchanted to always find it's target. Belle even calls him out on it and he basically just ignores her by changing the subject.
- He also seemed to have a genuine fondness for Henry even after it was revealed that Henry would be his downfall.
- In a flashback in Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena reluctantly spares a young Royal heir in the East even though she was evil at the time and she knew he would grow up to be a homicidal despot with a grudge against her because she slaughtered his family. She turns out to be right about him when she revisits him fifteen or so years later, yet she faces the same choice when Gabrielle implores her to spare him again despite all he has done since they last met. The last scene of the episode shows the Emperor sitting on his throne and Xena walking out of the throne room with Gabrielle and telling her she couldn't go through with it...but then the last shot reveals he is in fact dead.
- The trope is played with in an episode of The X-Files when Scully goes against her instincts and her belief system and shoots the villain of the week, who is using mental trickery to make her think he's a child.
- In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, this trope is what led to Joe Gibken defecting from Zangyack, as he refused to follow his commander's order to slay three captive children.
- Despite being fairly ruthless in regard to criminals (and suspected by many of being a dirty cop), Chicago P.D.'s Sgt. Voight actually has a secret soft spot when it comes to kids, particularly ones in trouble. He took in the teenage daughter of a junkie and raised her as his own, and often helps other kids he encounters in his police work in a variety of ways.
- Omar Little, the Karmic Thief from The Wire who steals exclusively from the drug syndicates running the streets of Baltimore, has both this trope and Would Not Shoot a Civilian as his guiding lights. Despite how young some of the drug dealers are when they start the game, Omar still refuses to harm minors, shows kindness towards local children during a 10-Minute Retirement, and several times discounts a potential threat because "He's just a boy." He's killed in the final season by a young sociopath with a gun whom Omar had discounted as a threat.
- Hunter: In the episode "Sniper", an army Sergeant goes on a shooting spree with a sniper rifle to kill random women in public parks who remind him of his ex-wife. When a young boy runs into him during one of these while chasing after a football, he tells the kid to get the hell out of dodge. This backfires when the boy alerts a police officer and the sniper has to flee the scene.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: At Act I Scene IV, a Buffet – girl offers Cyrano free food. Cyrano lampshades that his pride is enormous, but his fear to wound the Buffet – girl is even more great, so he accepts her offer of free food… after he lampshades that as a great deed. This could be a standard Pet the Dog moment until Fridge Logic show us that Cyrano was wound in his childhood by his mother: because she didn’t like him when he was a vulnerable child, adult Cyrano cannot even consider any woman could love him. Hence his fear to wound a little girl by making her feel she’s unlovable if Cyrano would refuse this offer of food… an offer he would have surely refused if it were made by any other person.
- One of the late-game boss battles in Tin Star is against Kid Johnson, the Baby Bandit. Tin Star has a good guy code that says "never shoot women and children," so he naturally won't shoot Kid. This turns the showdown into a Hopeless Boss Fight, as even if Tin Star draws his gun, the cursor goes wonky when aiming at Kid. However, Kid Johnson showing up was part of a Batman Gambit on the part of Big Bad Black Bart, as Bart immediately hides Kid after the showdown, claiming Tin Star shot him, which causes Tin Star to be run out of town.
- Many Wide Open Sandbox Games prevent this from happening by not having any children present in the game.
- Korgan Bloodaxe from Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn is a psychotic dwarf who has no problem with murder, rape, theft or genocide. He's racist against just about anyone, sexually harasses the female party members and always, always suggests solving problems with his axe. But he won't harm children, and describes a man who beats his daughter as "not worth the spittle on his boots".
- Played with in Super Robot Wars R, the Big Bad Duminuss has trio of homunculi as henchmen. The homunculi, despite posing superhuman strength, are all children. This is because Duminuss known most people will hesitate to fight children. It's eventually averted as the homunculi sacrifice their "mind" to heal badly injured Duminuss and player must kill them all afterwards.
- Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes fame (infamy?) got over his inability to kill women in the first game, but even in Desperate Struggle he can't bring himself to finish off schoolgirl assassin Kimmy Howell.
Travis: Screw this! I can't kill a co-ed!
- In the Team Fortress 2 comics, this goes for the mercenaries. So far seen are the RED and BLU Soldiers, Spies, and Scouts, and the RED Heavy and Demoman.
- In "Ring of Fired", this also applies to Saxton Hale, although he's okay with ordering his employees to hurt children in his stead. Unfortunately, they won't, even if the fate of Mann Co. hangs in the balance. Grey Mann uses this against him to wrest control of Mann Co. from him. In his case, it's more out of the fact that children cannot put up a proper fight rather than any moral compunctions.
- In many Bethesda Softworks games, one cannot kill or even hurt children. Attempting to attack a child in Skyrim, for example, will result in the child running away in fear with no damage, angry parents, a 1000 gold bounty and a swarm of guards trying to kill you.
- In World of Warcraft, child non-player characters (including those of the opposing faction) cannot be attacked or killed.
- For all their homicidal tendencies towards the night guards, the animatronics of Five Nights at Freddy's won't harm kids, and instead are fiercely protective of them. This is due to the main five—Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the Bunny, Chica the Chicken, Foxy the Pirate, and Golden Freddy—being haunted by the souls of murdered children. It's very heavily implied that the Marionette is also inhabited by the soul of a dead child. Their aggressiveness towards adults, especially the guards, is a noble but misguided effort to protect the kids from The Purple Man, the psychopathic serial killer who murdered them in the first place.
- Five Nights at Freddy's 4 features the only subversion to this. And, even then, it's purely by accident. It happens when The Child's douchebag of a brother and his equally dickish friends pick up the poor kid against his will and shove him into Fredbear's mouth. As can be expected, it ends badly. CRUNCH!
- Adrestia in morphE is so against the idea of hurting children that when she is thrust into a Involuntary Battle to the Death with a teenager she offers him a shard of tile and orders him to kill her so that he can live.
- In Sparklecare, the doctors at the titular hospital give their patients all sorts of horrifying, and often deadly, "treatments". However, the "Staff Rules" poster in Lunesta's office states that "harming children is FORBIDDEN". This seems to be supported by the fact that Kid Dies, the only child patient we've seen thus far, is treated nicely by Nurse Shortnick, although that's probably just because Shortnick is one of the Token Good Teammates.
- The giant naga Katrika of Felarya loves children, and often goes out of her way to protect any kids she finds lost in the jungle. This behavior is especially noteworthy because Felaryan nagas (including Katrika) are typically man-eaters.
- The initial protagonist of What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf? falls under this, until the children in question start to force his hand.
- In the opening of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible rejects Johnny Snow's challenge to a fight, because "there are kids in that park" (and also because he dismisses Snow's claim to be his "arch-nemesis").
- In South Park, it is subverted in the case of Kenny and Butters quite often, and subverted to a lesser degree with Ike.
- 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.
- Chow even called him out on this when he pointed out that Jackie wouldn't hurt a younger version of Valmont.
- In The Boondocks, when the boys get stuck in a prison riot during a field trip, one of the kids ask if the prisoners holding them captive are going to rape them, to which one of them replies, "Hell no! Do we look like priests?"
- 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.
- Gravity Falls:
- Pa and Ma, the late convenience store owners in "The Inconveniencing"< wouldn't dare harm anyone under the age of thirteen. Teenagers, however, are fair game.
- In "Fight Fighters", despite all the threats Robbie made towards Dipper, at the end of the episode Robbie can't bring himself to hurt Dipper, even after the latter had accidentally sicced a living fighting game character on him.
- In The New Adventures of He-Man episode "Quest For The Crystals", when Meliac and his mooks corner He-Man and Caz, Meliac tells Caz he is free to leave. One of his mooks asks why they would bother sparing him. Another mook says that ever since Meliac's son died in a cave-in, Meliac cannot bear to see any child be harmed.
- Captain Hook is usually very willing to hurt the Lost Boys. However, in Peter Pan & the Pirates, he compromises in one episode where he is able to manipulate a magical text that gives him an overwhelming advantage over Peter. As he's about to kill Peter, Wendy asks that Toodles be allowed to leave, so he can be spared seeing it. (Toodles is only a toddler.) Hook actually honors this request, and tells his men to bring Toodles below deck. (In this Darker and Edgier continuity, Hook has often stated that he is "a gentleman" who is not unreasonable.) Unfortunately for him, this was actually part of a plan thought up by Peter to escape by appealing to Hook's pride, and it worked.
- An unusual example in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In one story arc the Space Pirate, Hondo Ohnaka, attacked a Jedi ship which was carrying six younglings in an attempt to steal their lightsaber crystals, and told his men to do whatever was necessary to get them. But two episodes later he tells the Padawan chaperoning the younglings, Ahsoka, that he doesn't like taking children into battle. When she mentions the earlier incident, he waves it off as a change of heart. The character's voice actor said in an interview that Hondo really doesn't like hurting kids; he was hoping to retrieve the crystals with minimum fuss and would have let them go home unharmed.
- Hunter Gathers of The Venture Bros. has two rules: never kill women or children.
Hunter: It's what separates us from the bad guys.
- While Stormer's bandmates in Jem have no issue stuffing little girls into trucks she disagrees. She helps Ashley behind their back, instead of leaving her to die.
- Sunset Shimmer in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. She orders Snips and Snails to kidnap Twilight Sparkle's dragon-turned-puppy assistant Spike to her as ransom for entry back to Equestria. When Twilight orders Sunset not to hurt Spike, she answers that she wouldn't dream of it.
- In LeVeyan Satanism, you are not permitted to harm children. However, it should be pointed out that LeVayan Satanism is hedonistic, and not outright evil.
- In the National Geographic Documentary, Russia’s Toughest Prisons, an inmate at Black Dolphin explained about his life as a mobster, which has its own rules regarding children. Since they’re viewed as defenseless, he wasn't allowed to harm them. The same rules applied to women.
- Many prison documentary series, such as MSNBC’s Lockup and National Geographic’s Lockdown, it has been explained that even prisoners have their limits when it comes to children and those convicted of harming them, especially sex offenders, which are viewed as low, even by prisoners’ standards.
- Many countries, like Russia and China, have laws that ban school officials from using corporal punishment on students, which can lead to job dismissal. Sweden was the first to go one step further and ban all form, including domestic.
- United States was among the countries that signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights treaty that handles rights for those under 18, but failed to have it ratified due to each state have different laws regarding children and a partial blame on political and religious conservatives to blocking the measure. Barack Obama is aware of this and admits he’ll have this reviewed since he considered the failure to ratify as an embarrassment.
- However, many countries, including United States, have made illegal for anyone under 18 to be executed for a crime, including murder. Instead, the harshest allowed is life for those who committed homicidal acts in the first-degree, while amendments for non-homicidal crimes have been considered since they can be viewed as cruel and punishments.
- During the trial for the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's infant son, it was argued that the kidnapper must have been foreign, because "no American gangster ever sank to the level of killing babies." Interestingly, the true kidnapper might have had similar standards, since the baby's death was likely accidental.
- Even in the animal kingdom, certain species meet this standard. Not among predators, who usually attack the weakest first (sick, injured, elderly, children) or pack animals with an alpha (who will usually kill off the children of the previous alpha), but among social animals. A common way to end a fight among primates is for one fighter to pick up an infant and hold it.