Vice is punished, but virtue is not rewarded.
Aaron Pittman: "If the only thing they are doing is torching Drexler's heroin we shouldn't be trying to kill them, we should be sending them a fruit basket!"
Life — the way it really is — is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse.
— Joseph Brodsky
None of us was a saint.
— Max Payne, Max Payne
There is no such thing as innocence — only degrees of guilt.
Ah, finally, the ultimate showdown between vaguely-evil and somewhat ambiguous!
Goodness has only once found a perfect incarnation in a human body and never will again, but evil can always find a home there. Human nature is not black and white but black and grey.
— Graham Greene
... the hero, who is intended to be a sympathetic and perhaps even noble character, is described as stamping on somebody's face, and then, having crushed the man's mouth in, grinding his heel round and round in it. Even when physical incidents of this kind are not occurring, the mental atmosphere of these books is always the same... If ultimately one sides with the police against the gangsters, it is merely because they are better organized and more powerful, because, in fact, the law is a bigger racket than crime.
— George Orwell, "Raffles and Miss Blandish"
Michael Sullivan: He murdered Annie and Peter!
John Rooney: There are only murderers in this room! Michael! Open your eyes! This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee - none of us will see heaven.
Michael Sullivan: Michael could.
John Rooney: Then do everything that you can to see that that happens.
Phyllis: We're both rotten.
Walter Neff: Only you're a little more rotten.
Sometimes life seems so complicated. Nothing is truly good or truly evil. Everything seems to be a shade of grey. And then you spend some time with a man like Dukat, and you realize that there is such a thing as truly evil.
— Sisko, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
I think her bad guys are badder than my bad guys.
— Echo, Dollhouse
"What you lookin' at? You all a bunch of fuckin' assholes. You know why? You don't have the guts to be what you wanna be? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin' fingers and say, "That's the bad guy." So... what that make you? Good? You're not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don't have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There's a bad guy comin' through! Better get outta his way!"
— Tony Montana, Scarface (1983)
Shadow and shade mix together at dawn
But by the time you catch them simplicity's gone.
So we sort through the pieces, my friends and I.
Searching through the darkness to find the breaks in the sky.
The villain goes to jail while the hero goes free.
I wish it were that simple for me.
— David Crosby, "Hero"
Ex-President "The Beast": My job is to keep the majority of the people in this country alive. Thatís it. If fifty-one percent eat a meal tomorrow and forty-nine percent donít, Iíve done my job.
President Garry "The Smiler" Callahan: I wanted to be the President so I could fuck with people!
It is the logic of our times,
No subject for immortal verse -
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse.
— Poet and World War II Propagandist C. Day Lewis, "Where are the War Poets?"
When will you fools learn that there are no battles fought by heroes?
— Talpa, Ronin Warriors
That woman deserves her revenge, and we deserve to die... But then again, so does she. So I guess we'll just have to see, won't we?
— Budd, Kill Bill
Legend: So where do you stand, then? Where do you see yourself in terms of the sliding scale of good and evil, heroes and villains?
Skitter: All of the above? None of the above? Does it matter? Some of us wear the villain label with pride, because they want to rebel against the norms, because itís a harder, more rewarding road to travel, or because being a Ďheroí often means so very little. But few people really want to see themselves as being bad or evil, whatever label they wear. Iíve done things I regret, Iíve done things Iím proud of, and Iíve walked the roads in between. The sliding scale is a fantasy. Thereís no simple answers.
Legend: There can be. You could do whatís right.
Skitter: Speak for yourself. You want to hide here while my group and Hookwolf deal with the brunt of the Nineís attention. Just like you did with the ABB.
Legend: That happened under Armsmasterís leadership. You canít blame us for being intelligent about how we go about this.
Skitter: I can blame you for being cowards. Iím going. If you want to talk about morality, start by talking to Armsmaster.
"I doubt that DS9 would be allowed to be quite so forthright if it were playing now... It's very clear here that "sabotage" and "terrorism" are methods, not ideologies, and we see saboteurs and terrorists on both sides of the conflict. DS9 is honest enough to treat its characters as real people, not cardboard "good guys" or "bad guys." For instance, Kira is a terrorist, not a "freedom fighter," regardless of the fact that we like her, sympathize with her, and are rooting for her to succeed... although it's not always clear that she's in the right. Similarly, even though the Dominion's middlemen, the Vorta, are currently enemies of the Federation, they're given quite a complex presentation, often being shown as quite reasonable people who happen to have different objectives than the Federation; these are not "bad guys" whom we can blindly hate. Taking this approach means that DS9 treats the issues in a meaningful and thoughtful way, rightfully rejecting the idea that there are easy, clear-cut answers to complex real-world conflicts. You know that Star Trek has come a long way when DS9 can (even subtly) raise the question of whether Dominion occupation is really so much worse than Federation assimilation."