Quotes: Black and White Morality

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    Comic books 

Soon there will be war. Millions will burn. Millions will perish in sickness and misery. Why does one death matter against so many? Because there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this. But there are so many deserving of retribution ... and there is so little time.
Rorschach, Watchmen

    Film - Live-action 

Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith


Among the Alps and Pyrenees, perhaps, there were no mixed characters. There, such as were not as spotless as an angel might have the dispositions of a fiend.

There's no greys, only white that's got grubby.
Granny Weatherwax, Carpe Jugulum

    Live-action TV 

Two players. Two sides. One is light. One is dark.
John Locke, LOST, discussing...backgammon?

Wesley: There is a line, Lilah. Black and white. Good and evil.
Lilah: Funny thing about black and white: you mix them together and you get grey. And it doesn't matter how much white you put back in; you're never gonna get anything but grey.
Angel, "Habeas Corpses"

By G'Quan, I can't recall the last time I was in a fight like that! No moral ambiguity, no hopeless battle against ancient and overwhelming forces. They were the bad guys, as you say, and we were the good guys. And they made a very satisfying thump when they hit the floor.
G'Kar, Babylon 5, "A Late Delivery From Avalon"


If everyone would go for peace,
There'd be no need for war
But we can't ignore the Devil
He'll keep coming back for more
Clint Black, "Iraq and Roll"

The villain goes to jail while the hero goes free.
I wish it were that simple for me.
David Crosby, "Hero"


There are precious few at ease
With moral ambiguities
So we act as though they don't exist
The Wonderful Wizard Of OZ, Wicked

    Video games 

I always find it's easier the see the world in black and white. Grey? I don't know what to do with grey.
Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect 2, after reconsidering killing a traitor.

    Web animation 

Our hero is Kyle Crane, so called because he's quite tall and tends to overreach himself, dropped into zombie town to recover a stolen file and shacks up with the nice survivors who oppose the local warlord whose evilness defies all reason and sense; the kind of bloke who couldn't even have a boiled egg for breakfast unless he could bring in the hen and force it to watch. If the zombie genre were a school, Dying Light would be the good little boy who irons his uniform every morning and is the first to tattle on the rowdy boys when they start getting too self-aware and ironic.

    Web video 

Because every conflict has a right side.

The movie asks you to care about Kate, our lead. You can tell that she's headstrong, independent, well-read, artsy...applying all these basic traits makes you wanna root for her 'cause she's held back by her comically evil fiancee. On the other hand, she's propped up by Jack—a guy who always seems to know where to go and what to do. He knows everything somehow! Including the the physics of what will happen with a 45,000 ton vessel sinks into the water. He's selfless and flawless.

Then there's examples of the obstructing, lowest-ranking crew members on Titanic as either: Assholes, Jerks, Dickheads, Fuckwads, Cowards, Spineless Pussy Men. I'm sure they all weren't all pussy bitches! But it helps the simplicity of the script...In real life, you probably had a lot of first class rich guys who were super-nice and were good family men, and third class guys who were drunk assholes who beat their wives. But in James Cameron's little brain, people fit into categories depending on their class.

    Web original 

In bygone times, rulers were considered to be anointed by God, and criticism of them was illegal or unthinkable, and so political discontent tended to settle on their counselors. The king is of course noble and good, but he has been getting bad advice from those slippery men who have wormed their way into his entourage! This trope often appears in Mark Trail, too: Senator Baldy wasn’t really in favor of drilling for oil in a national park, it’s just that his corrupt staffer was blackmailing him! That nice lady CEO met an adorable raccoon and put a stop to all the environmentally harmful business plans laid out by her sinister ex-boyfriend! ...Anyhoo, I was going to say something about how this proves that modern society imbues our current corporate 1% with the same semi-divine aura that once was given to kings of old, but then I realized that Mark Trail's relationship to 'modern society' is tenuous at best.

The helicopter lands, leading a nearby oldster, one Hugh Palmer, to exclaim, 'Oh, thank God!' This remark proves that Hugh isn’t a film critic, for out of the 'copter emerges Steve Seagal. However, it does indicate that the old-timer is a Good Guy. For in the wonderful simplicity of the world of Steven Seagal, the lyrics of the old Hercules cartoon series theme song ring true: '…People are safe when near him /only the evil fear him.'
Jabootu on On Deadly Ground

I don’t really care to get into the philosophy of Objectivism as I still consider debates with Rand followers as enjoyable as my kidney stone. But I guess if I had to mention anything as to why I don’t buy into it is how everything is so black and white. There is no gray area in Rand’s philosophy. There can’t be any exceptions to the rule or qualified statements such as “The government can be a force for good, but…“ No, it is either black or white, good or evil, hero or parasite. You need to be wary of any philosophy that is so simplistic or tries to so easily lump others in the ‘us‘ or ‘them‘ camp.
Miles Antwiler on Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike

A machine that drains the evil out of people. Now Phil, I hear you saying in the comments, that's a great idea. No. A machine that turns aggressive, violent people into docile, compliant people is a great idea for an interesting, gripping 1984-inflected thriller. A machine that works on the principle that there is a tangible quality of evil that some people inherently have, on the other hand, is just genocidally bullshit.

And make no mistake, this script is firmly in favor of the Keller Machine. The only problems the Doctor ever raises about it are the short-term cruelty to its subjects and the fact that the machine is actually a dangerous alien... And this isn't, to my mind, just a dissonant note. This seems to me emblematic of everything that has been so frustrating in the Pertwee era to begin with. Bad people are inherently bad. Good people are justified in what it takes to stop bad people. And it's that simple. The world divides into good people, who are either smart (i.e. agree with the Doctor) or foolish (i.e. don't agree with the Doctor), and bad people, who all work for the Master. And that's just how people are. Bad people want to hurt us. And we have to stop them.
Phil Sandifer on Doctor Who ("The Mind of Evil")

Mulder confronts the Cigarette-Smoking Man watching television alone in an empty apartment...It’s a nice touch that the Cigarette-Smoking Man is watching a black-and-white Second World War movie. One of the primary themes of The X-Files is that the legacy of the Second World War is much more controversial than traditional historical narratives allow. Of course the Cigarette-Smoking Man likes to remember it as black-and-white.
Darren Mooney on The X-Files, "One Breath"

There is no middle ground, it goes from one angelic extreme to a demonic other. Somewhere between these two sets is where you’ll find the DS9 crew with lots of shades of light and dark (some call it ambiguity) and as such the are far more interesting than the Voyager crew that have no flaws and thus are loaded with them.
Joe Ford on Star Trek: Voyager, "Living Witness"

Chris: Really though, how much of an asshole do you have to be to go “Oh, he has some of Lex’s DNA, that will surely make him evil. Fortunately he also has mine, which will definitely make him good.”
David: Genetic morality, baby! Nature, not nurture! People are either inherently good or evil, it’s not even their fault. Is Clark Calvinist or something?
Chris: I think he’s just a jerk.
—Chris Sims and David Uzumeri on Smallville ("Scion")

I still maintain that as a blatant plagiarism of Civil War (and it is; the press conference scene was a clincher for me as it was dripping theft all over the moment when Spider-Man comes out in a very similar scene and the relationships and conflicts between the major players echo, if imperfectly due to a severe dumbing down, those of the major players in Civil War) the VRA plot is somewhat misguided. I say that because, while Civil War was a fairly intelligent look at the concepts of patriotism, government abuse and the reasonable need of the average citizen to feel safe, the VRA storyline has dragged the same ideas into an oversimplified "us vs. them" parody. What Civil War gave weight and import to just comes off overly simplistic and Manichean here. The heroes are good and the government and citizens who have genuine concerns about them are easily shown to be wrong because they're being influenced by Darkseid.
Julian Finn on Smallville, "Patriot"

This is where Agents of SHIELD could have lived up to the potential of injecting long-form storytelling into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It had the opportunity to do something Captain America: The Winter Soldier didn’t have time to do while it was busy blowing up skyscrapers for the umpteenth time in a Marvel movie: It could have delved deep into the HYDRA twist, and explored the true reasons why so many SHIELD agents decided to join up with what’s essentially a Nazi offshoot.

The explanation in Winter Soldier boiled down to 'they’re evil'. It would have been far more interesting if Agents revealed that the members of HYDRA actually thought they were the good guys, keeping the world safe with black-ops tactics that even SHIELD found morally repugnant. But they didn’t go there. Agent Ward is a HYDRA double-agent because he’s evil. Oh, and also because when he was a kid, [Bill] Paxton’s character made him live alone in the woods for five years and shoot his dog.

Black or white. Good or evil. Lefty or righty. If life has taught me anything, it's that people can be put into convenient boxes and have NO SHADING of any kind. Everyone knows this, except for the evil people because they are evil and only evil.

One October evening, in the midst of the 2013 government shutdown, I watched Bill O'Reilly work himself into something of a state. He sat at his desk, his hands palms upward, fingers slightly curved, as if cupping something in them. 'I want Hagel.' he said, staring into the camera. 'I want Hagel. I want him.' A casual observer might interpret this moment as O’Reilly expressing his fierce but tender desire for Chuck Hagel, the Secretary of Defense. More experienced O’Reilly viewers, however, will recognize it as a signal that the unfortunate Hagel had plummeted downward in O’Reilly’s estimation from pinhead to evildoer. (There are only three kinds of people in Bill O’Reilly’s world: good hardworking Americans, pinheads—people who are not actually malevolent but who are too stupid to understand the way the world really works—and evildoers.)

    Real life 

Every Highlander naturally knows something of the history of his own clan, but usually a good deal less about other clans, except that they were, in contrast to his own, of course, treacherous and bloodthirsty.
Fitzroy Maclean, Highlanders

There is black and there is white, and there is wrong and there is right, and there is nothing, NOTHING in between.
Alan Moore on Mr. A

I have no empty heroes. My goodies are good, and my baddies are bad. There are no schizophrenic goodies or sympathetic baddies. And children like it that way; it's not confusing. And they want the goodies to defeat the bads.

'But that's the point!' Is the single defense I get when I alienate myself at dinner parties by my negativity. It's supposed to be mindless, I'm told. And then those professional types who are safe in loving Star Wars where they might be attacked for reading the latest Robert Silverberg or Thomas M Disch sf novel, explain to me as carefully as one would a retarded child, that Star Wars is a return to the worship of the Eternal Verifies: honor, truth, fighting Evil. All black and white. Try black and white in a world of credit cards, punk rock, mastectomies, Watergate, the rise of homegrown Nazism, Anita Bryant, and the terrifying fact that more than half of all serious crimes in the United States are committed by people between the ages of ten and seventeen—-and that includes rape, murder, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary.
Harlan Ellison, "Luke Skywalker is a Nerd and Darth Vader Sucks Runny Eggs"

And some of them end up dying because I write military fiction and in military fiction, good people die as well as bad people. Military fiction in which only bad people — the ones the readers want to die — die and the heroes don't suffer agonizing personal losses isn't military fiction: it's military pornography.

To the primitive mind, everything is either friendly or hostile; but experience has shown that friendliness and hostility are not the conceptions by which the world is to be understood.
Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic

Morality is not properly the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.

It is naive and dangerous to impose on the human mind any system of thought which lays claim to finality... Ultimately, not Christ, not Marx, not Freud, despite the pretensions of each, has the final word to say about the fact of being human. And those who take solemnly the words of other men as absolute are, in the deepest way, maiming their own sensibilities and controverting the evidence of their own senses in a fashion which may be comforting to a terrified man but is disastrous to an artist.
Gore Vidal, "Norman Mailer: The Angels are White"

The principle of the movement is whoever is not included is excluded, whoever is not with me is against me, so the world loses all its nuances, and pluralistic aspects that have become too confusing for the masses.
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

We demonize the enemy so that our opponent is no longer human. We view ourselves, our people, as the embodiment of absolute goodness. Our enemies invert our view of the world to justify their own cruelty. In most mythic wars this is the case. Each side reduces the other objects—eventually in the form of corpses.
Chris Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

What we are looking at is good and evil, right and wrong.
George H.W. Bush, speech made at Pearl Harbor, October 28th, 1990

For something so dreadfully asinine to be written about a man as well-traveled and well-read would be almost obscene if it were not true. But after 9/11, Hitchens stopped seeing the world in terms of geopolitics but rather saw it, like the Neocons in the Bush administration, as a war between the good Christian West and the evil Muslim Middle East.