Misused: Moral Event Horizon

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Here's the big thing, forever is a LONG time. Especially in an ongoing series we can see someone step over the line and for years are treated as irredeemable. The MEH is an act that changes someone significantly, not a stamp that means they become immune to any future character development.
This. If a lack of redemption is part of the criteria, then it should be part of the rules for examples that either the series has ended or that Word of God confirms the character will never be a good guy again.

Otherwise, it just needs a clear, significant shift in characterization.
"The Daily Show has to be right 100% of the time; FOX News only has to be right once." - Jon Stewart
A clear shift in characterization sounds like better criteria to me. Some shows have so little continuity between episodes that no act would ever satisfy the "unforgivable" rule because it ends up completely forgotten by the next episode, but the act can still trigger a noticeable shift in characterization.

A perfect example is Eric Cartman. The events of "Scott Tenorman Must Die" are rarely mentioned and the characters basically act like they never happened (Kyle even seems to forget his vow to "never piss off Cartman again") but there is no disputing that the episode forever changed the way Cartman is portrayed within the show. He's not the same character he was before that episode, and he'll never be that character again.
I think the Scott Tenorman episode is a great example of when Moral Event Horizon doesn't apply.

In shows with little or no continuity, characters can do truly heinous acts - Crowning Moments Of Evil, filled with High Octane Evil Fuel because they grabbed the Evil Ball and Took A Level In Evil Ass - without it permanently altering their character. Cartman did something that should forever paint a character as a villain but he has since remained just as much a member of the kids' circle as before and has appeared as capable of heartwarming or sympathetic moments. Cartman never crossed the Moral Event Horizon, and any attempt to list him on that page stems from a desire to talk about the Evil Evil Evil thing he did rather than actually giving an example of the trope.
But it did permanently change his character. As the creators put it "He really started off as the fat kid that everyone picked on" and "He's a super evil genius now". "Scott Tenorman Must Die" turned him into "the most evil kid in the world". It's not just the audience that sees him differently. What he did was so evil that even the creators see him differently. They can't use him the way they did in early episodes, and they have repeatedly pointed to "Scott Tenorman Must Die" as the point at which his character changed. For example, Trey Parker once said this: "He was originally always gonna be the kid with satellite dishes coming out of his butt. But over the course of the show he got a little bit meaner and darker, and then came the Scott Tenorman episode. That was big, with us wondering, should we do this? This is crazy to do with a kid. From that point on, he just got darker."

He's not the kid with satellite dishes coming out of his butt anymore. He's now the kid who can give Cthulhu orders and Cthulhu obeys.
Yeah, it was a major turning point in his development, sure. And it's closer to Moral Event Horizon that a lot of the page's bad entries. But its still not quite an example.

Cartman did not become irredeemably evil after that episode. Later episodes show him rescuing cats, singing and dancing with friends, coming to personal epiphanies and even trying make amends for what he did to Scott Tenorman. The show can do that sort of thing because it's a comedy. He's not a villain - he's a comedic sociopath.

But there is a separate line that characters cross to actual become permanent irredeemable villains. That's the Moral Event Horizon.

31 Cider23rd May 2012 11:22:31 AM from Not New York , Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
The Final ECW Champion
This is a subjective page first off and secondly, we really shouldn't even have this page, at all. It adds nothing to the website besides giving people the wrong idea about the website. The fact that people treat this like a proper trope page at all an pot hole to it and Complete Monster all over the wiki with no restraint is grounds enough to cut both pages.

Complete Monster at least has some promise, but after two rounds in the repair shop saw an avid protest to giving the page a toned down and objective description it should be cut as well. It is TV Tropes, not TV Opinions or TV Fan reactions. If something can't be objectively observed it really doesn't belong except maybe on a just for fun or trivia page, which neither complete monster or Moral event horizon would work as.
Modified Ura-nage, Torture Rack
32 tdgoodrich123rd May 2012 12:11:37 PM from Atlanta , Relationship Status: Californicating
R.I.P 2 My Youth
[up]Cutting the page is out of the question. It has nearly 9000 inbounds. A Special Efforts cleanup may be necessary, but outright cutting it, not so much.
"Polite life will fill you full of cancer." - Iggy Pop

"I've seen the future, brother, it is murder." -Leonard Cohen
33 Cider23rd May 2012 12:42:34 PM from Not New York , Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
The Final ECW Champion
Thus at least 9000 views who hit a problem page and get the wrong idea about the website. If you've established a problem page, a page that has little to do with the all that stuff stated on the homepages, not even one problem page but two of them, then those inbounds are not a good thing. If they were to Fight Scene, Giant Swimmer, Shaped Like Itself-then we'd be talking special efforts misuse cleanup/adding sub pages/rewording to make it more distinct from something else.

These are opinion pages, which aren't really wanted by us in the first place, further more they are repeat effort clean up problem pages, if all you can say about a problem page is that it has in bounds then those in bounds are not a good thing, otherwise we'd still have Fetish Fuel. Now maybe we could talk a fix along "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer but we've already tried that with complete monster and failed. Cutting is definitely an option for both.
Modified Ura-nage, Torture Rack
Or we could rework this into something objective.
Writer adds a single event to the narrative to show how a character is no longer on the good side. How is this a troper's opinion?
Troper opinion is irrelevant. All entries that state opinions are wrongly written.
37 Cider23rd May 2012 03:55:42 PM from Not New York , Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
The Final ECW Champion
different people will come to different conclusions about when a character is proven irredeemable
This isn't how the work treats an event, its how the audience treats an event. Those stating their opinion aren't incorrect, they are just linking to and adding examples to a page we shouldn't have. Even the religious section is largely conflicting opinions, rather than clear scriptural dogmas.

You can't misuse what is purely subjective opinion. Change it to an objective page like the trope pages with no banners, fine, try. Do that and I will stop advocating for cutting. If the crowner fails I'll be back to it though.
Modified Ura-nage, Torture Rack
Yeah, so we agree then that this shouldn't be about fandoms. It should be about the works themselves.
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Yeah, it was a major turning point in his development, sure. And it's closer to Moral Event Horizon that a lot of the page's bad entries. But its still not quite an example.
But that's how it's often interpreted. A character "crossed a line," even if they didn't cross "the" line. And how exactly do we distinguish "the" line from other lines? I get that "irredeemable" is the key word, but how exactly do we tell if that's what's being portrayed?

Again, I think this kind of line-crossing is sort of hard to usefully define.

edited 23rd May '12 6:25:14 PM by HiddenFacedMatt

"The Daily Show has to be right 100% of the time; FOX News only has to be right once." - Jon Stewart
I support making this an objective trope.

[up]It's not just crossing a line. It's crossing a line so far that it fundamentally changes the character. I brought up Eric Cartman because he went from "the fat kid that everyone picked on" to "a super evil genius". That's a fundamental observable change of character, and it wasn't even planned. The creators intended him to always be the character he was in early episodes, but he crossed the line so far that it changed the way they can use him. He's stuck being "the most evil kid in the world" now.
Here is a good long history lesson on this particular trope; it originally started out as Rape The Dog as a companion trope to Kick the Dog, basically treating kick the dog as a small irrelevant evil act. Rape the Dog was a moment that was so horrible it was one step beyond kicking a puppy. Because of its The Same, but More nature it deluded into a horrible mess of bad things people did.

In an effort to take some aspect of the trope that was tropeable, Moral Event Horizon was established as a moment when a character crossed the threshold of evilness. They started out morally questionable and became a Complete Monster. The problem with that is basically they same as it is now, people used it to list things they thought were bad and ignored any sort of character altering moment. The trope was too prevalent in the wiki to restart all over again, so it became subjective because it was so dependent on how editors interpreted the events.

This isn't a solitary act, other tropes like Big-Lipped Alligator Moment should be objective based on criteria but people are incapable of agreeing on how well the criteria fit the trope.

My original hope for MEH was to limit it to very distinctive elements you can identify within a work and not just how an editor feels about what a character did. For example we are arguing about Anakin's slaughter at the Jedi temple, including the children, because some 20 years later in the timeline he redeems himself somewhat. But when the act is made and Padme sees that he had no regret over what he did you can see a "click" moment in her eyes and she verbally says "I don't know who you are anymore." Even then you can feel the movie shift it's tone when Anakin ignited his lightsaber in front of the kids, before then it was a war movie and then it became about the rise of the evil empire. That is a purely objective reasoning of the trope, but the wiki community at the time wasn't interested in fighting for that kind of trope. Maybe we are now and if that is the case I will throw my 100% backing into fixing it.
42 32_Footsteps24th May 2012 12:04:55 PM from Just north of Arkham , Relationship Status: THIS CONCEPT OF 'WUV' CONFUSES AND INFURIATES US!
Think of the mooks!
Inasmuch as I don't like dragging religious discussion out here, I do think that a bit of Catholic belief on the nature of sin illustrates this trope... and also potentially illustrates why this is trope is fraught with issue.

Without getting into too much detail, Roman Catholicism divides sin into two types - venal and mortal. Venal sins are still bad, but those are the ones that you can potentially be forgiven for - stealing gum from the store, yelling at someone, stuff like that. Mortal sins are the really bad ones, the ones that condemn you to Hell - your usual panoply of murder, rape, and so on.

In theory, the idea of Moral Event Horizon is when your villain stops committing venal sins and jumps into mortal sin - those acts that permanently condemn someone. There are a couple problems with this.

  1. It leaves the question as to whether the would-be crosser of the MEH has any positive features. If you go by some, the person can still have some traits that prevent them from becoming a Complete Monster even after they've crossed the MEH. Others believe that the person can't.
  2. There's the question over just what acts qualify for crossing the MEH. Note that, in my experiences, Catholics fudge that part themselves (usually saying that it's for God to decide or somesuch).
  3. Finally, there is the gargantuan question of whether forgiveness is truly possible even after such an event, and whether it's appropriate to give even if it's theoretically possible.

To me, I think the problem comes from that how one treats this trope (and, similarly, Complete Monster) is heavily informed by each person's own philosophy on the nature of good and evil, sin and forgiveness, and the like.

To be honest, I don't know if it'll ever be possible to come up with a satisfactory answer to all of that. I'm inclined to make it something that should be acknowledged in the work itself only - if the work (and not just a single character) makes it clear that someone is beyond forgiveness, then this can be cited. Beyond that, and we leave it to a proxy debate over the nature of good versus evil, and that just becomes a headache.
Reminder: Offscreen Villainy does not count towards Complete Monster.
Routerie: can you point to an example that does meet your definition of the trope? From all the arguing over examples here, it seems like maybe "previously not-evil character becomes permanently and irredeemably evil, and is clearly characterized as such for the remainder of the work" is actually Too Rare to Trope.

Here's an example that's currently on the page: Martin Keamy from Lost. When he first appeared, people certainly got a weird vibe from him, but several from his boat gave that off as well, and some later became sympathetic main characters. He came to the island with his guns - but that made him no worse that any other character, good or bad. Then he put his gun to the head of 16-year-old girl (a known character, another character's daughter),and pulled the trigger. After that, there was no question at all - he was fully evil.

Another example from the same show - the Man in Black, the show's Big Bad. He appeared in the show's very first episode and in every season. He killed main characters. He even appeared to orchestrate the death of the show's Big Good. But even then, the final season kept things ambiguous, leaving open the idea that he was just someone trapped on the island against his will, much as the main characters as been. Then, in one of the last episodes, he tried to kill all the remaining main characters in one go, succeeding in killing three of them. After this, there was no question - he was evil and had to die. (This latter example was unusual because the show followed it by giving him a sympathetic origin story, but the fully grown character was still portrayed as irredeemably evil.)
[up] That stuff counts, but Eric Cartman making a kid eat his own parents doesn't count?.

edited 29th May '12 5:53:05 PM by NewFnu

[up][up]I wonder, do we have a Show Their True Colors sort of trope? It kind of sounds like your describing characters that aren't crossing a line, but revealing that they're already past the line.

That goes for the Cartman example too. Did the character actually change, or did he just reveal how evil he had been all along?
The thing is that we cannot see into the mind of a fictional individual. We don't always know that it is a conscious decision to make that step or that they were merely putting on a facade of goodness. Thus the distinction really doesn't matter, what matters is how it is portrayed thematically. Is the character portrayed differently after the fact or does the story make a shift in tone. That's the key.

That is one of the reasons the trope has struggled, it requires a certain interpretation of the facts to make a proper assessment and most people are placing it as being something they personally think was a bad thing they did.
I think KJ Mackey is right. It's a thematic shift in the portrayal of a character. It's an act that causes a protagonist or sympathetic antagonist to become something else - namely written as something not to be screwed around with.

Applying it to a comedy setting is weird, because unless Cerebus Syndrome is in effect, I don't know if you can have a true Moral Event Horizon because a lot of western situational comedy relies on Negative Continuity. In the case of Cartman in particular, there was a shift in how the character was written. Namely, Cartman went from being Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist into becoming the show's general antagonist in any episode where they needed one that wasn't a celebrity that Matt and Trey wanted to Take That!. However, again, as a comedy show it's much harder to pin down.

To take another example extremely similar to Cartman's is Porky from the MOTHER games, who goes from minor fat kid who gets picked on to the Big Bad. With a focus on "dramedy" or Black Comedy (especially in Mother 3), a clearer but similar character arc with no snap-back is achieved.

This is a objective trope, but it is in the tone of how a character is portrayed being changed. Not what the viewer feels was their most evilist act.

edited 29th May '12 7:58:44 PM by Zeta

I agree about the distinction between comedy and drama. I can't imagine a drama, or a realistic comedy, where someone could feed someone else their parents and be later portrayed as anything but evil. Yet this can and does happen in comedies.

I also agree that there's no meaningful distinction between Showing Their True Colors and Crossing The Line. With nearly any example, we can debate whether the character was "truly evil" before the act in question. This trope should only concern the change in portrayal, which exists regardless of whether the person actually chnged.
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See, all this ambiguity on what exactly is or isn't a MEH leaves me wondering if it's really worth keeping. It seems to be about as much trouble as CM or more, without as much to gain as CM has.
"The Daily Show has to be right 100% of the time; FOX News only has to be right once." - Jon Stewart

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