Follow TV Tropes

Archived Discussion Main / BlackAndGrayMorality

Go To

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Padur Karil: Are you all sure Schlock Mercenary isn't more Gray and Grey Morality? Even the villains in it seem mostly have halfway decent motives. As decent as any of the "heroes" at least.

Just added a small correction to A Song Of Ice And Fire . Don't want to go into the individual people since it may be rather spoilery, but the Lannisters are neither the only nor neccessarily worst bastards in the setting, even excluding the Ancient Undead Enemies From the North.

I haven't used discussion before, so excuse me if I'm doing it wrong. Anyway, the main article calls this trope a "failed attempt" at something, twice. Aside from redundancy, there are some big problems with this - there are way more than a couple reasons to invoke Black and Grey Morality, as it's a very broad aspect of a work - and just a glimpse at the works on the page will show you that it's a pivotal feature of some decidedly not "failed" works. (As a newbie troper I didn't feel bold enough to edit the main article, or at least not unless no one defends it)

James S: I would very much agree with you. Individual works that do black and gray may fail for various reasons, (including by trying to push it too far), but labeling the entire trope a failure of some sort does more to reveal the bias of the original author than anything else. The very first example given, A Song Of Ice And Fire, is one of the most brilliant works of fantasy I've read in years and years. (I say this having been a fan of the genre for close to 20 years). I'd certainly say a more neutral edit needs to be done. Hey new guy, I started out much the same as you, and feeling the same hesitance at doing too much too fast. Thanks for pointing this out, and I hope you like the site and will be participating more in the future. :)

Guy Smiley: I think the trope isn't that the works are a failure - it's that the moral worlds of the story, as it were, isn't necessarily more complicated.

  • James S: I'd still argue it's a generalization that doesn't apply to all of these works, but if no one else feels the same I'll let it be. (I also want to make clear I'm not against the entire trope, or even in favor of a major rewrite, but something along the lines of changing "it's a failed attempt at a more nuanced moral world" to "the trap that most of these fall into is going too far" sort of thing. Because right now there are certain bits that read like someone ranting about not having enough pure heroes or knights in shining armor, even in work that still have definite white hats).

Antheia: I absolutely agree that it needs some rewriting. The way it reads now, you get the feeling that unless this kind of morality is played for comedy or satire, it's a sign of failure.

The Wanderer: here's what I think a good rewrite might look like. Keep the first paragraph the same, "Works that fall under this trope are generally of two types. Type A still has a few white hats, a few truly black hats, and everything in the middle. All points of view from The Messiah to the Card-Carrying Villain are present, but either extreme is rare and the gray area in the middle is likely to receive more focus, be where most characters are, and probably where the most effective characters are as well.

However, since this takes a lot of effort and thought to write, many writers wind up doing an author's version of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, and present a world where our "good guy" Heroic Sociopath battling it out with the Card-Carrying Villain and his Psycho for Hire. Often there is some totally subjective line drawn, such as, say, the fact that our good guy Wouldn't Hit a Girl, that makes him a righteous Bad Ass Anti-Hero because he won't cross it, (even if he regularly indulges in torture, murder, etc), and makes all those who do cross it worthless scum who deserve what's coming to them. (Even if they're otherwise identical to the hero). To the writers who create these worlds any Moral Dissonance that stems from this or urge for the reader to say what the hell should be ignored. (If the writer even recognizes that there is reason to do so). Alternatively, the heroes might be put in a position where they are forced to choose between dog kickers and dog rapers, or a "normally corrupt" syste and a mind blowingly evil one, and have to hand over victory and control to one side or the other." What does everyone think?

Bob: I'm cutting the Chronicles Of Riddick example because of factual inaccuracy and massive amounts of Complaining About A Movie You Didn't Like.

  • The Chronicles Of Riddick - The protagonist is a completely amoral serial killer (at the least) who at one point risks his life to save his girlfriend but doesn't bat an eye at two other allies who he possibly could've saved in the same manouver getting burned to a crisp. Oh, and he ends the second movie having taken over as the head of a militant crusading cult of people who apparently worship death. . . and it's considered a Happy Ending.

I felt I had to remove the Cowboy Bebop example. Mostly I am thinking of the episode where they refuse to cash in on Chessmaster Hex, because he was basically dead (severely senile) and knew what the corporation would do to him. Considering the amount of money they could have blackmailed for, that's a pretty noble deed. There are others, but I haven't seen the series in a while.

That Other 1 Dude: "Waltz For Venus" is probably a pretty good example.

Uknown Troper: Removing Elfen Lied. Kohta is a genuinely nice person, repressed memories or no, Mayu as well — and Nana is a friend to most living things despite having Kill All Humans hardwired into her genome... The whole anime's primary plot point seems to mainly be What Measure Is a Non-Human? and what makes people horrible (although if I may be a little impartial here, I've seen far better stories showcase it), and most of the inhabitants of the inn, are there to showcase The Power of Love and The Power of Friendship and how Love Redeems, and stuff like that — although not in a 'love breaks the rules of physics' way.
Pteryx: Bringing in this Made Of Win line by Wyvernil for discussion as to how to integrate it:

"Basically, a team of Knight Templars pitted against absolute evil in a rousing game of dog football."

Is Sin City really a good example? A lot of the time it seems like people assume all Sin City protagonists are as crazy and sadistic as Marv. Dwight Mc Carthy, John Hartigan, and that guy from Hell and Back all seemed like pretty decent people to me.
Charred Knight: The Zabi family are not Nietzche Wannabe, they believe that the Newtypes (and in particular Zeon) are the chosen people to rule the world. In particular Gihren Zabi is based off of Hitler
Large Blunt Object: Cutting the entire Real Life section because it is nothing but flamebait, wank and natter. (Also, to the last dickhead who claimed it was only the Americans who ever firebombed anyone, google "Dresden.")

Charred Knight: For some god awful reason, I have had two small arguements with LBO, and since then I have agreed with everything he said. K Garret, read the first few paragraphs, apologize, and stop with the anti-american crap, your making every british member here look bad. Let's be blunt, the American, and British people did what they did so that Germany would be crushed morally, and the Allies could shape them into their own allies. The exact same thing happened with Japan where America wanted to force Japanese to surrender unconditionally so America could have bases, and an ally in the war against communism.

Deadpool Fan: I disagree with the characterization portrayed in the Command and Conquer entry. Nod is no doubt the evil jerkwads in this situation, but GDI as, quote:

"selfish, corrupt, and bound by countless rivers of red tape, and is focused entirely on improving the wealth and life of its own population at the expense of the majority of the world, which is rapidly falling apart into worldwide civil strife and poverty"

Doesn't seem to fit, as the goal of GDI, expressed throughout the game, is the iradication of Tiberium and the world returning to as it was before. The discription only seems to apply to the person in charge of GDI at the time of the game Director Redmond Boyle who is willing to sacrifice thousands to end a war quickly where as the people the player meets outside of Boyle's circle are all typical white hats, including General Granger who would rather slug it out in a red zone then blow it up with a bomb that could potentially kill thousands if not millions of people in both yellow and blue zones. While the description does fit Boyle he's only one part of the story, the rest of characters are displayed as White hats, whose goal is to destroy Tiberium and return the state of the world to normal. In fact there is even a mention in game about a yellow zone being converted back to a blue zone.

Therefore I think a revision is in order, that GDI is only partially greyer in respect to Redmond Boyle's leadership and only remains grey if the player decides to drop that Tiberium bomb in the last GDI mission.

Cromage: The main problem with this article is that most examples are actually more of a "dark gray vs light gray" thing. The Song of Ice and Fire, for instance. There's very little "soul-crushing evil" in the thing.

Good examples include V for Vendetta and Pirates of the Caribbean (which is interesting because there's only one "black" character in it, whose lingering presence is a prime example of this trope)

Right now, the trope is being diluted by non-examples. Will need help to fix up (I'll alter the description a bit to make it more coherent; the rest is up to Wiki Magic)

And it might not hurt to change the title to something like Black Vs Gray Morality.

Ulti S.: Removing:

Ichigo & Co. are undoubtedly the good guys, so it can't be an example of this trope.

  • Gintama. Gin steals things and beats up perfectly innocent people for rent money, Kagura steals stuff and beats up anyone for perfectly arbitrary reasons, and Sadaharu, to quote this wiki, "bites people. A lot." Their enemies, the aliens/perm mafia/mafia-of-the-week, shoot people and run slavery/drug/insult rings.

I doubt Gintama belongs here. At worst it's Parody and at best, the main characters show a somewhat good side. (And Sadaharu doesn't count, being a giant dog and all that.)

  • The book series Left Behind shows a bunch of people who lie, cheat, steal, and kill to stay alive. And that's what the good guys are doing. Now, consider that the bad guys are far worse...
  • Inheritance Cycle has Eragon and Roran, its Heroic Sociopath protagonists, and Galbatorix, the Emperor King who destroys entire villages inside his Empire (no, not that one) who annoy him by, among other things, not paying their taxes. Oddly enough, there are a lot of people prepared to justify what Galbatorix does, whilst simultaneously raving about how evil Eragon is for similar ruthlessness.

These are supposed to be Black and White Morality. Just because the writers suck at it doesn't mean they follow this trope.

Caswin: The Death Note entry just bugs me. Specifically, the part about L being "a little evil" because he "sacrifices" a convict's life to get some clues, even though he specifically chose a convict who was already scheduled to be executed on the same day. Can anyone think of a better example of L's dark side?

Caswin: I edited in the fact that it was a death row convict. New question: How is Blondie an Anti-Hero? I don't remember him doing any Anti-Hero-ing. Actually, I specifically remember an absence of it. Cutting it until someone can point out what I'm missing.

  • The Bad is a Complete Monster, the Ugly is a Villain Protagonist and the Good is an Anti-Hero. The scale is fairly clear.
  • The Wanderer: Blondie cheats local governments out of their money by pretending to turn in Tuco, (a criminal wanted for a horrifying number of crimes) then frees Tuco, makes off with the money, and allows Tuco to remain free to potentially commit more crimes. He kills actual bounty hunters out to turn in Tuco so he can pull this scam instead. When Tuco demands a larger share of the money, Blondie responds by abandoning Tuco on foot, tied up, in the middle of the desert with no water. (And 50 miles from the nearest town.) Lastly, at the end when Blondie abandons Tuco for a second time, if Tuco had fallen before Blondie turned around to shoot the rope, (and Tuco came dangerously close multiple times) Tuco would have died. Don't get me wrong Blondie is by far the morally best character out of the three, it's just that saying that is damning with faint praise.

Caswin: So where's the Anti-Hero element? Never mind "a paragon of morality", when I originally wrote the entry (which didn't even mention deconstruction), it was for lack of someone to root for, period.

  • The Wanderer: And I rewrote what was in the entry to make it more impartial and accurate. By the way, to clarify the exchange from above where I listed all the bad things Blondie did, I thought you were asking what did Blondie do that was bad. As for what he did that was good: he doesn't hurt anyone who isn't either a criminal or a murderer. The only exceptions are the bounty hunters who were after Tuco early on, and even then you can argue that they're guys who make their living by killing other people. He Pets the kitten, comforts the dying soldier, is appalled at the We Have Reserves nature of the Civil War, expresses sorrow at the needless death of Shorty when Tuco stops him from shooting the rope for Shorty, and in the end he does split the money fairly with Tuco, even after multiple betrayals by Tuco. Were it Tuco or Angel Eyes that won the duel, they wouldn't have hesitated to kill a partner and take all the cash for themselves instead, especially if said partner attempted to stab them in the back. Blondie may be pretty low on the Sliding Scale Of Anti Heroes, but I'd say he deserves a spot. (Probably under Type IV)
  • The Wanderer: As for your "Who cares?" bit from the example on the main page, going by the fact that it's one of the most worshiped movies of all time and still is considered a masterpiece 44 years after it came out, it sure seems like a lot of people care. Thus, I took it out and rewrote it slightly to make things more fair and less opinionated.

Caswin: I'll grant you the "who cares?" being out of line, although it referred less to the movie itself than who won among the three, especially since one of the major counts against him was his con artistry — I would call that "hurting" innocent people on a fairly regular basis. Were you the one who originally made it "what does it matter?"? I think that was a reasonable response.

Jordan: L's use of implied torture on Misa might put him in the slightly evil category (it's ambiguous what was done to her, but it's certainly an uncomfortable scene, especially because L earlier seemed to have something of a crush on Misa. Still, I think you'd have to be really disregarding the story if you viewed L as anywhere near as evil as Light is.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: