"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)
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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.
- 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.
- In Avengers Academy, the Rhino (Spiderman 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."
- And 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.
- 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.
- 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 disuade 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 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. (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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 until 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 PD'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.
- In LaVeyan Satanism, you are not permitted to harm children.
- 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.