- Finn from Adventure Time occasionally falls into this. He nearly has a nervous breakdown in "Memories of Boom-Boom Mountain" trying to make everyone happy because he made a vow to always help someone in trouble, and in "Videomakers" he insists on obeying the FBI warnings on all their pre-Mushroom War video tapes, even though the FBI was destroyed in said war.
- Stan Smith from American Dad! operates on this almost every episode he stars in. He believes helping people instead of letting them resolve their issues won't make them tougher but helpless, tried to keep Roger from becoming somebody so he wouldn't overshadow him (which was incredibly stupid), tried to toughen up Steve and his geeky friends for not being men by herding cows that were infected with sickness, tried to toughen up Steve by disguising himself as a bully, actively tried to make sure his wife Francine wouldn't tell him to his face "I told you so" for the boneheaded decisions he believed were right, and tried to stay in the good side of his boss to be his number one man while forcing his family to look after his deranged wife and then an Asian prostitute (the latter he looked out for behind Francine's back). He has many to list.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Anti-Villain Zuko begins the series believing he's a disgrace and only his father can restore his honor and his rightful place, but his desperation and his tendency to put his quest for redemption above all else puts him and his crew at risk. He ends the series by wanting to restore honor to the entire Fire Nation.Actor Zuko: HONOOORR!!
- This is Aang's Fatal Flaw. He's too rigid to his own personal beliefs even though he's The Chosen One whose first duty to the world which makes him rather selfish at times.
- At the end of season 1, when he, Sokka, and Katara get to Northern Water Tribe so he and Katara can learn waterbending from a master, they find out that they don't teach women to fight. Women waterbenders have to be healers there. Katara wants to learn to fight but Master Pakku won't teach her. Aang says if Katara doesn't get to learn, he won't either. Even though he's running out of time to learn the elements and they still have to find him earth and fire teachers. Katara tells him that he needs to learn to save the world and there's nowhere else he can go to learn and he eventually acquiesces. She later gets to learn to fight, however.
- Aang is unwilling to outright kill Firelord Ozai, despite everyone, including his past lives, telling him it's the only way. When he looks to the previous Air Nomad Avatar, Yangchen, for back up because of their shared religious beliefs in pacifism, she tells him that his duty is to the world not to himself. Plot twist: Lion turtle.
- In the season two episode "Avatar Day", Aang insists on undergoing an unfair trial by the Avatar-hating Chin Village for something that he did in a past life at least two hundred years previously. Hes so sure that Avatar Kyoshi shared his pacifistic beliefs (which she didnt) that he wants to stay to defend her honor. Katara and Sokka both try to tell him that no one in the world outside the village cares and they should just move on.
- Anti-Villain Zuko begins the series believing he's a disgrace and only his father can restore his honor and his rightful place, but his desperation and his tendency to put his quest for redemption above all else puts him and his crew at risk. He ends the series by wanting to restore honor to the entire Fire Nation.
- Played with in an episode of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!. Baron Zemo agrees to help the heroes, but only if they promise to let him go. He demands this promise to be made by Captain America, as he knows he's the only one in the group who will not turn back on his word. Unfortunately for Zemo, the current Captain is secretly a Skrull in disguise, and he has no qualms about lying.
- Bob's Burgers: Bob in undoubtedly a good cook, but a poor businessman. He seems to think his food should be more than enough to have a successful restaurant, but dismisses other things. When an old friend invests in the restaurant by adding a tiki motif, or when a historian wants to put a plaque to reveal the restaurant is where a notorious gangster was killed, Bob immediately rejects them because they're not what he wants people to come for. Ths is in spite of him bemoaning how broke he and his family is.
- Alissa from Dead Space: Downfall was more worried about helping the survivors (whom might already be infected) then quarantining the ship. Her captain might have been nuts, but he actually made SOME sense. Could also be a case of Compassion Before Reason.
- You have to be dead in order to be infected, but still there was at most 20 people out of 2000 left alive and going crazy.
- You don't have to be dead for the marker to drive you batshit insane though.
- You have to be dead in order to be infected, but still there was at most 20 people out of 2000 left alive and going crazy.
- In the Family Guy episode "Brian Goes Back To College", Brian goes on a guilt trip after Stewie convinces him to cheat on a test and pass. After some internal conflict, Brian decides not to cheat on his final exam and he fails, but at least he feels good for being honest. The Griffins all say he should have cheated.Chris: I HATE YOU!!!
- In the Futurama movie Into the Wild Green Yonder, the last Encycolopod tries (albeit reluctantly) to preserve the genetic material of the recently deceased last Dark One. The Encyclopod preserves extinct species by carrying recreations of them on its back using genetic material. The Dark Ones have been trying to exterminate the Encyclopods ever since the two species existed. If the Dark One's remains hadn't been completely destroyed before the Encyclopod could reach them, the Encyclopod's honor would have forced it to carry its own mortal enemy on its back.
- In the episode "The Gathering", Goliath decides to have himself and his clan help their enemy, David Xanatos, stop the godlike Oberon from abducting his child on pure principle, considering they owe the billionaire absolutely nothing. Although it's obviously a difficult and dangerous task, Goliath is instrumental to making Oberon compromise to allow the child to stay. Subverted, since as a result, Xanatos then feels he owes the clan big time, which leads him to inviting them back to the castle to live safely after they are exposed to the public. Likewise Owen's participation in that battle, since he knew Oberon would not be happy he was missing the Gathering.
- During his first appearance Macbeth is trying to capture the gargoyles, but he chooses to calmly wait until sundown to fight them rather than just moving their statues in the middle of the day. In a later episode he refuses to let Demona smash them, again citing it as dishonorable.
- In the two-part G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode "The Synthoid Conspiracy", Cobra Commander got a little tired of Destro's complaints, and in an attempt to put him in his place, made a Synthoid of Destro, simply to prove to him that he could be replaced. Destro would have none of that, and to show the Commander he did not like being insulted, betrayed the plans to the heroes (who were floundering and almost beaten at the moment; if this had not happened, Cobra likely would have won).
- In Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, a Japanese daimyo kills his own daughter, rather than breaking a promise. A promise he made to demons.
- Iron Man:
- Played straight and then subverted during one episode. Tony Stark agrees to get an artifact from a booby-trapped tomb if Madame Masque will release his kidnapped workers. She releases Julia Carpenter (Spider-Woman) who will send the Iron Man armor but keeps the other workers captive. Julia says that she will send down the armor "and a lot more", but Tony stops her because he has given his word. The trope is subverted almost immediately afterward. Once, Iron Man has entered the tomb, Julia convinces Jim Rhodes (War Machine) to attack Madame Masque and her minions anyway, arguing that the only chance the hostages have is if they attack their captors off guard.
- Taken to ridiculous extremes in an episode in which M.O.D.O.K. creates a robot clone of Iron Man. This robot is such a perfect copy that it refuses to attack the real Iron Man when his back is turned, because "Iron Man would never attack someone in the back". This causes conflict with his orders to kill Iron Man, so the robot gets destroyed.
- Justice League
- During the Justice Lords arc, it's pointed out that the Lords are every bit as smart, strong, fast, and skilled as the League, except that they're willing to KILL. Superman insists that he won't cross that line, to which Batman replies they'll have to cross SOME kind of line. So they end up getting Lex Luthor's help.
- Wonder Woman is banished by her mother from Themyscira for bringing men to the island and breaking the law. If she hadn't worked with the Hostage for MacGuffin scenario, the Amazons would remain in stone. If she hadn't received help from her teammates, Hades could have taken over. The Flash points out this is ridiculous since she risked her life to save everyone. When the Gods have her return in "The Balance", she says she should leave after completing the task. Hippolyta asks her to stay and when she points out her exile, her mother explains that the Gods will have to deal with her if they have a problem with that. One wonders why she didn't say this the first time other than to have a Bittersweet Ending.
- Kim Possible:
- Shego's brother Hego is this in the ep where it's revealed she used to be a hero. For example: His letting the enemy strike first and revealing their presence became too much for his sister, and became one of the many reasons, if not THE reason for her FaceHeel Turn.Shego: (Annoyed) Why do you think I left?!
- Señor Senior Senior is probably the worst offender of this trope, believing adhering to traditional villainy is better, which often means leaving Kim in a death trap while giving her a chance of escape. Junior often lampshades this by asking Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?. Justified in that Senior doesn't fully intend to do anything evil, he's just having fun playing the part of a villain as an eccentric hobby.
- Shego's brother Hego is this in the ep where it's revealed she used to be a hero. For example: His letting the enemy strike first and revealing their presence became too much for his sister, and became one of the many reasons, if not THE reason for her FaceHeel Turn.
- King of the Hill: The number one flaw of Hank Hill.
- Hank adamantly refuses to see a doctor whenever he isn't feeling well because he thinks it's a either a sign of weakness or makes him lazy, because if he admits that he's sick, then that means he won't be able to go to work. In the first season, he refused to see a doctor about his constipation, or discuss it with anyone else, because he's too squeamish to discuss it despite the fact that he hadn't had a bowel movement in days. In another episode, he throws his back out and still refuses to see a doctor and still goes about his normal routine, even though his back hurts so much he could barely stand. When he does finally get goaded into seeing a doctor, the only two options he suggests are to get workman's compensation and bedrest or to take painkillers for the nerve pain so he can go on working. Hank rejects the idea of workman's comp since he views it's only for pregnant women or lazy government leeches who can't be bothered to do their jobs. He is also is offended at the idea of painkillers, which he sees as little better than taking crack cocaine. When the doctor first diagnosed his narrow urethra, he laid out a whole host of options meant to help Hank and Peggy conceive. Hank quickly shot down all of them out of discomfort or disagreement. Thus, the fact that they were never able to conceive the bigger family they wanted is entirely his fault. Over a decade later when he and Peggy were very much ready for more children he did relent and make attempts to increase his sperm count, but eventually gave up for a wide variety of reasons.
- In the episode, "Ho Yeah" Hank believed that the angry pimp chasing him would obey the red traffic light, only for the pimp to drive through much to Hank's shock.
- In "Boxing Luanne", when his niece picks a fight with Freeda Foreman, Hank tries to stop the fight by talking with her father, George Foreman. It all seems okay until George asks Hank if his company is willing to sell his grills. The more logical move is to claim to agree just to make George happy or reply that it isn't up to him but Hank will at least put a good word. There's also the fact that George Foreman, though retired, is a two-time boxing champion. Instead, Hank flat out declines because they don't sell "novelty grills" and mocks that they are sold in "Housewares". This pisses George off, saying the fight is back on.
- The Legend of Korra:
- Korra publicly challenges Amon to a one-on-one duel, alone; Amon does not have the same moral qualms. And yet...
- A weakened Korra challenges Kuvira but refuses to go into the Avatar State from the start, allowing the more highly-skilled and experienced Metalbender Kuvira to dominate the fight. By the time Korra finally relents and goes full Avatar, her Enemy Within rears up and forces her back to normal.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Applejack.
- Particularly in the episode "Applebuck Season", where she promises to do a few too many things while also harvesting her family's entire apple orchard by herself. It takes most of the episode, severe sleep deprivation and overwork, and accidentally causing several disasters to finally convince her that maybe she should admit she's overextended herself and ask for some help.
- She does it again in "The Last Roundup," where her failure to win a contest whose prize she had promised to donate to Ponyville led her to run away from home and go out West intending to work off the debt. She was too ashamed to face her friends and family, despite the fact that nobody else actually blamed her for losing the contest.
- In "Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo", when Doofenshmirtz took over the Tri-State Area in the Bad Future, he got everyone (including the O.W.C.A.) to swear obedience to him. All he had to do to stop whatever plans they had to dethrone him was reminding them of the oath.
- The Powerpuff Girls
- Subverted in a strange way in one episode. Mojo has Blossom in a bind by having the Professor and her two sisters hostage. He demands Blossom's fealty and tries to use her honesty against her.Blossom: What do you want?
Mojo Jojo: First, you will bow down before me! Next, you will pledge your allegiance and devotion to serve me!
Blossom: How do you know I won't lie?
Mojo Jojo: Because you're Blossom.
- Another example would be from the episode where she first gets her "ice breath" power. After inadvertently causing the escape of a trio of robbers, she promises never to use her ice powers again. She makes this promise right before a giant meteor heads straight for Townsville. She's the only one that can stop it, yet she's insistent on maintaining her promise despite the fact that the promise won't matter if she doesn't do something. Buttercup manages to snap her out of it, though.
- When faced with elderly criminals, Buttercup and Bubbles prepare to foil their crime when Blossom stops them. She points out while they could stop them, they have to respect the elderly. She decides to instead recruit the heroes who fought the villains the last time. The end result has everyone being rushed into intensive care with everyone recognizing Blossom's error.
- Justified since she's a kindergartner, and as such has a much more black and white view on things than an adult.
- Subverted in a strange way in one episode. Mojo has Blossom in a bind by having the Professor and her two sisters hostage. He demands Blossom's fealty and tries to use her honesty against her.
- Zig-Zagging Trope in ReBoot. Enzo has returned home to Mainframe, all grown up, big, strong and gunning for Megabyte, both literally and figuratively. When confronted by Enzo's gun, Megabyte taunts him into fighting like a "real sprite". Enzo puts away his gun...but then proceeds to send Megabyte flying with a punch hard enough to dent his chest, before Megabyte has a chance to prepare. And he then proceeds to do it again while Megabyte is still recovering from the first attack. When Megabyte inevitably cheats, he takes him on with a spear, then at the end of the fight, spares Megabyte... despite Megabyte enslaving the population of Mainframe, torturing his friends, and killing countless binomes.
- Roboroach:On the day Rubin gained his Roboroach powers, he vowed never to use them for personal gain. While admirable, he sticks to those guns so thoroughly, that he and Reg are living in poverty.
- Samurai Jack insists on defending others from evil, even when it means passing up a chance to return to the past and undo the original cause of the evil.
- The 2013 Scooby-Doo video feature "Scooby-Doo! Stage Fright" has Fred and Daphne winning the top prize on a show called "Talent Star" via popular vote. However, they deliberately throw the contest so Emma Gale, a sweet little girl who was a contestant on the show, could win the prize and save her family's farm.
- Imp from She-Ra: Princess of Power is a coward who will avoid direct battle not to his advantage. He is also quite cognizant of the fact that his teammates' fear of their mutual boss Hordak is the only thing preventing them from visiting great pain on his little body. Despite this, when Skeletor temporarily deposes Hordak, it is Imp who tries to rally the other Hordesmen to fight back... a decision that does not work out in the least for him.
- The Simpsons: Lisa turning down a fortune after finding out what Mr. Burns had turned the recycling company he and Lisa had started into. The good she could've done with twelve million...Homer, in a hospital bed after 4 simultaneous heart attacks: It's okay, sweetie. But we really could've used that 12,000 dollars.
Lisa: Actually, Dad, 10% of 120 million dollars isn't 12,000, it's...
*Smash cut to hospital corridor*
PA: Code Blue! Code Blue!
- The worst part about this particular scenario is that since Lisa didn't take the money, Mr. Burns gets the money, and he probably wouldn't do anything good with it.
- This trope often applies to Lisa. Typically, someone will try and convince her to lie, cheat, or at least conceal the truth, because it's to everyone's advantage. In fact, the story will often go out of its way to assure us that everyone is better off with the lie. This usually leads to Lisa having a moral crisis before she decides to tell the truth after all (usually in an overly dramatic fashion). But of course, there's always another twist at this point.
- In one episode, the town tricks Lisa. She had cheated on a test (no, really) and her ill-gotten A got the school in a position to be granted government funds. When Comptroller Atkins showed up at a public conference to deliver the check, Lisa confessed and Comptroller Atkins decided due to her honesty to let them keep the money anyway. After she leaves, it's revealed to the viewers that, knowing Lisa would have confessed, the entire town had an imposter disguised as Comptroller Atkins to lure Lisa away and, when the real Comptroller Atkins showed up, they used a false Lisa to trick him.
- On one occasion, Lisa is offered a free ride at the college of her choice if she loses the spelling bee so a cute kid with a lisp can win. Lisa struggles with this, then snaps and tells the entire audience about the fix before immediately misspelling the word she was given. If she'd just tried her best without making a dramatic announcement about it, she'd have lost honestly and still gotten a free education.
- Though in a surprisingly rare case it's averted in "Lisa the Iconoclast", where she ultimately decides not to ruin the town's image of their founder, Jedediah Springfield, by revealing that he was actually a ruthless pirate, because doing so would destroy the hopes and dreams of countless generations of citizens past, present and future that have been built on that lie.
- In one occasion, Bart faked being kidnapped (because he went to a rap concert that he was forbidden to go to and things got complicated), which eventually led to Milhouse's deadbeat father Kirk getting arrested and thrown in jail by mistake. Lisa is the only person that wants to find out the truth (because everybody benefited from it, including her father and Chief Wiggum — and even Kirk, who is such a Straw Loser that he sees living behind bars as a marked improvement) and when she decides to investigate on her own the only person willing to help her is Principal Skinner (who made it perfectly clear that he is helping her only because he wants to make Bart suffer).
- In "Much Apu About Nothing", due to anti-immigrant fever hitting Springfield, Apu buys a fake passport and suppresses his Indian heritage to maintain the ruse, even putting on a phony American accent. However, he quickly feels ashamed for rejecting his heritage, and tears up his passport, not wanting to remain in America if it means living a lie.Apu: I cannot deny my roots, and I cannot keep up this charade. I only did it because I love this land where I have the freedom to say and to think and to charge whatever I want. I want to stay, but as the real me not as some yahoo from Green Bay.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Maul abuses the Mandalorian code of honor to gain power. He gains control of Mandalore by challenging Pre Vizsla to a Duel to the Death. Pre Vizsla accepts without considering the fact that Maul is a Force user, Pre Vizsla had been previously beaten by the Force using Obi-Wan in the past, and Maul doesn't have Obi-Wan's restraint. Maul explicitly calls honor a weakness.
- Star Wars Rebels: Appropriately enough, "The Honourable Ones" features this. After getting stranded with his archenemy, who's injured, Zeb has no real reason to let him live — except that Zeb would much rather beat Kallus in a fair fight instead of killing him out of hand. Kallus then ends up reciprocating it by saving Zeb's life when they're getting out of the ice cave, by choosing to shoot the creature attacking Zeb instead of him.
- In the third season finale of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), the Shredder decides that the perfect time to take revenge on Splinter is seconds before an army of extradimensional Tricertops destroy the Earth in order to prevent the Kraang from using it as a foothold in the show's main universe.
- The Doom Patrol in Teen Titans are made of this trope; so much so that they come across as arrogant when they refuse to let the title characters join them on a potential suicide mission. This trope is also subverted in that the Teen Titans end up undoing all the Heroic Sacrifices the Doom Patrol made offscreen.
- Thomas the Tank Engine has gained a heavy case of this in later seasons. While usually hard working and loyal, he will very quickly disobey an order or ignore duties if he believes someone else is remotely unhappy or needs help. He is usually reprimanded for this, though the Fat Controller occasionally lets it slide if it truly is for the better rather than just causing confusion and delay. Other engines occasionally have bouts of this too.
- ThunderCats (1985):
- In the episode "The Slaves of Castle Plundarr", the mutants enslave humanoids resembling cattle. Lion-O, being Lion-O, wants to free them, and he and the elder ThunderCats do so. The mutants use "warp gas", an anger and aggression-inducing substance, to turn the freed slaves against their rescuers. Lion-O refuses to retreat, saying the Lord of the ThunderCats can't run. Cheetara tells him "pride carried too far is foolishness."
- In "The Thunder-Cutter", the villains trick the samurai Hachiman into thinking the ThunderCats are evil, so he agrees to fight them. The villains offer him a lift in a vehicle, but he refuses, saying samurai do everything on their own, so he'll walk and find the ThunderCats himself. Later, he and Lion-O run into each other on a bridge above a Bottomless Pit that is too narrow for them to walk around each other. Lion-O points out that since they are closer to Hachiman's side, Hachiman should be the one to back up and let him pass. He says a samurai never backs up and starts slashing the bridge to intimidate Lion-O. Angered, Lion-O starts slashing the bridge too, ignoring Nayda trying to warn them the bridge will break if they don't stop. Sure enough it does, and only Nayda's quick thinking saves them.
- Brick from Total Drama believed highly in his code as a cadet. So strong was his honor, that he sacrificed winning a challenge for his team to save the lives of Mike, Zoey, and Cameron, who were on the other team. This resulted in his elimination, but those he saved saluted him good-bye.
- Optimus Prime in Transformers: Generation 1 always was an honorable fighter. Particularly in the episode "Heavy Metal War", when Megatron challenged Prime to single combat. Megatron, of course, cheated by transferring all of the special abilities of the Deceptions to himself. Even though Megatron was clearly doing things he could not possibly do (teleport, fire null rays, etc.) Prime accepted defeat. At least, until Teletraan-1 pointed out what a cheating bastard Megatron was.
- Many of the older comics and some of the new ones use this to mark the difference between Optimus Prime and other Autobot leaders such as Grimlock, who's not as honor bound, more ruthless and willing to do whatever is necessary for a victory. Yet that same honor, similar to Captain Carrot (see Literature, above) is what allows Prime to make things work that others simply wouldn't. Through patience, a few Peter Cullen Speeches, and honorable behavior throughout, Prime manages to convince a Decepticon commander that his surrender to the Earthbound Deceptions is not a sign that the "great Optimus Prime" actually is and always was a coward or a weakling, but rather that he genuinely believes that only by uniting can they stop a greater threat.
- Honor Before Reason is probably also the reason why, despite coming into conflict with humans multiple times in pretty much every setting that's in the present or future, the Autobots refuse to develop even any non-lethal weapons for fighting humans despite it being something that ought to an easy task.
- Wander over Yonder runs on this trope, with a typical episode revolving around its Ideal Hero's inability to stop doing minor good deeds for random passerby despite the fact that he and his friend are being hunted down by the villain's henchman, or his need to venture on an increasingly complicated and dangerous quest in the hope of personally returning a lost sock to its owner rather than risk leaving it in the lost and found.
- Xiaolin Showdown;
- Omi actually pulls a FaceHeel Turn because of this trope. Omi lost his good side temporarily becoming evil. The main villain of the season then had Omi pledge loyalty to him. After he returned to normal, Omi decided to stay with the villain SOLELY to keep a promise he made when he wasn't in his right mind.
- Another is when Omi doesn't look up the secret to destroying all evil.... because he promised not to. And actually it's worse than that, because he DOES break the promise and looks it up... but now to feebly try to keep the now BROKEN promise he refuses to USE the secret. Sure, things work out in the better in the end, but it's still horrific use of this trope since as far as Omi was concerned, he was playing it painfully straight. Though it turns out the secret was really the secret to destroy all good. Chase gives up that little tidbit. Omi then uses Chase's own words against him.
Honor Before Reason / Western Animation