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Ambiguous Innocence

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"All things truly wicked start from an innocence."
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Ah, Innocence is grand. Likely related to the story of the Garden of Eden is an understanding that rather than always meaning goodness, innocence may also entail the absence of a sense of right and wrong, making it closer to amorality. This understanding is sometimes applied to the Psychopathic Manchild. Children Are Innocent sometimes carries the implications of this as well. This may be invoked as the explanation for how someone who Used to Be a Sweet Kid could still go horribly wrong.

On the other hand, the villain may often assume this, and that all good characters are really naive — if they understood things, they would be as evil as he is.

Compare Pure Is Not Good and Virginity Makes You Stupid. The related idea of the "Fall" being a good thing is very common (perhaps even required) in works where God Is Evil and/or Satan Is Good. See also Ignorance Is Bliss, Kids Are Cruel, and Creepy Child. Obliviously Evil is related. If a character comes off as ambiguously innocent not because of the inherent amorality of innocence but because the writers can't remember how grown-up the character is supposed to be, it's Ping Pong Naïveté. If the character is an animal acting out of instinct and therefore incapable of being good or evil, it's a Non-Malicious Monster.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • If anyone in Black Lagoon qualifies for this trope, it's Hansel and Gretel. Orphans who were taken from Romanian orphanages after Ceausescu's dictatorship was overthrown, they were forced to participate in child pornography and snuff films, where they were they learned to kill in order to survive. Needless to say, this broke them mentally, leaving them so screwed up that they really don't understand that people aren't supposed to rape, kill and mutilate each other. Indeed, they think that killing people keeps the universe running, and that the purpose of humanity is to butcher each other.
  • Mao of Code Geass also has a form of this, due to growing up with little human contact beyond CC. As a result, he sees nothing wrong with his destructive actions.
  • The Cowboy Bebop episode "Pierrot le Fou" explores this, though not with a child. Instead, the "innocent" in question is the (adult) superhuman assassin Mad Pierrot, who has the mind of a toddler and, as a result, is incredibly sadistic. He's also deathly afraid of cats and breaks down crying for his mother after taking a minor wound from a thrown knife, having been protected from higher-energy projectiles previously.
  • Light Yagami of Death Note can come off this way; his Black-and-White Insanity and Lack of Empathy are often regarded as evidence of his immaturity and childish inability to understand the world around him or connect to others, thereby making his mass murder spree seem like an adequate way to spend his time. Light does admit that he understands killing people is a crime — he just never admits that it is wrong. It doesn't help that he can kill without seeing people die.
    • Even worse, Misa. She's an adorable Genki Girl who is even more happy to kill innocent people than Light. It's genuinely hard to tell if she has any sense of morality whatsoever, or if she's motivated purely by pleasure.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Before he grew up into the messiah we know, Goku was much more willing to kill, possibly because of this. In fact, this trope is how Akira Toriyama sees the character: Goku's selfish goals often lead him to performing acts of good through co-incidence and not intent. While he'll defend someone being oppressed, the primary reason why Goku fights the various Big Bads is either because he wants to challenge them to a fight and see how he measures up, or out of revenge, rather than explicitly because it's the good and proper thing to do (case in point: he's perfectly happy to let dangerous characters like Frieza and Dr. Gero be if they're not currently terrorizing anybody).
    • This is exactly what makes Majin Buu in Dragon Ball Z so dangerous. He thinks like a child; everything he does was a game, including murdering almost everyone on the planet. As soon as someone manages to get close enough to him to explain that what he's doing was wrong, though, he pulls the plug immediately. Unfortunately, that just wakes up the other personality that's buried inside him, which is the identity that destroys galaxies like he was created to do.
    • Zeno, the Omni-King of Dragon Ball Super, is the most powerful God in existence and can destroy all universes in the blink of an eye, and he acts like a small child. The fact that he will destroy the losers' universes in the Universe Survival Arc and is playing a chess-like game with his future counterpart while destroying 202 real planets just brings to question how otherworldly the Lord of All is. There is a reason why Beerus and Champa are scared shitless of him. On top of it all, it's revealed during the Universe Survival Arc that Zeno was planning to destroy some of the other universes to begin with, and Goku reminding him of the Tournament of Power just gave him a convenient excuse to do so...though it turns out he fully believed that the winner would wish the others back and it was a Secret Test of Character and he'd have found the multiverse not worth keeping around had a selfish wish been the result. Beerus himself notes that Zen'o is truly innocent and noble, which is exactly why he's so dangerous.
  • This is one possible interpretation of Akito in Fruits Basket — he just made life hell for people because no one ever told him it was wrong.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • The Homunculus Gluttony in both the original manga and the 2003 anime (especially the latter). He is too dumb to think on his own and merely does what he's told, which mostly involves killing and eating people. He lacks the ability to understand that this is in any way wrong.
    • The anime version of Wrath is also this before being made aware of his nature and undergoing a Face–Heel Turn — having spent his formative years inside the Gate of Truth, he's completely unaware of human life and customs, with occasionally Creepy Child results.
  • Elaine from Genocyber is a Cute Mute Wild Child with Psychic Powers raised in a lab by an abusive Mad Scientist who can transform into the titular monster that can and does destroy cities. By the 3rd OVA, she's driven the world into an After the End state.
  • A recurring theme in Hunter × Hunter is that Gon doesn't judge people, even when he should. He's forgiven or befriended a surprising number of serial killers; just don't you dare let him catch you engaging in Moral Myopia...
  • Ultimo, the Ultimate Good douji from Karakuridouji Ultimo, is currently recovering from this; before, he was even worse. An example: while in feudal Japan, bandit Yamato taught him that Aristocrats Are Evil and he took it seriously. Later on, they met princess Gekkou, who was ready to renounce her royalty, marry Yamato, and live for the common people; Ultimo killed her for the only reason of her being a noble, just as his master taught him. Yamato even lampshades it.
    Yamato: The good of children is evil for adults.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, protagonist Suletta Mercury seems ignorant of many social conventions. It's usually Played for Laughs... until The Stinger of episode 12, when Suletta, in an attempt to save Miorine from an assassin, slams Aerial's massive hand down on the man, reducing him to a puddle of gore. When Suletta exits Aerial's cockpit, she slips and falls in the blood and has a chuckle about how clumsy she is, and seems completely oblivious as to why Miorine is staring at her in pure horror.
  • Monster Musume is very vague on exactly how socially conscious and mature Suu is, especially in regard to when she sexually assaults the other girls. On one hand, she's shown to learn from them mainly by imitation, is ignorant of many aspects of society, and her biology is so different from everyone else's that it's arguable whether she understands what sex even is. On the other hand, it's also implied that she's much smarter than she lets on and at least partially understands the situation. The fact that her mental state is heavily dependent on the materials she's absorbed makes it even harder to tell exactly how innocent she is.
  • Explored in Neon Genesis Evangelion with Kaworu, particularly in the manga. Sadamoto had Twain's Mysterious Stranger in mind when plotting out his character, resulting in what some fans call "Evil Manga Kaworu". Most notably, he snaps a stray kitten's neck, reasoning that it was faster and more merciful than letting it starve to death. It takes several panels for the cat to die and the cat is clearly in pain the entire time. We also get a shot of Shinji's horrified face.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero's Journey reveals that Lock, Shock, and Barrel don't know the difference between good and bad, just whatever's the most fun in the moment, whether it's playing a trick, hijacking a sled, stealing candy, or kidnapping a beloved holiday icon.
  • The title of Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice is eventually found to be meaningful for Kazumi herself, an innocent amnesiac who learns the awful truth about Magical Girls, the awful lengths to which her friends will go to prevent the inevitable, and that she herself is a clone made from the flesh of a Witch, whose very nature is toxic even though her personality isn't.
  • In Sgt. Frog, when Fuyuki was younger, his dream was... to rule the world. Also, visiting Keronian kids Chiroro and Karara cause all kinds of trouble when they try to conquer Pokopen themselves.
    Narration: "That innocence is what's scary." Was Natsumi right?
  • Virgin Ripper: Nagi, a kitten who became a humanoid shinigami after he died but has since been traumatized into amnesia, still has his soul-reaping claws (sword-blades on his hands à la Capt. Kuro). He loves his "mama" and won't hesitate to "make squishy" anyone who hurts her.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions prequel manga TRANSCEND GAME, Sera is a Creepy Child who nearly succeeds in killing Kaiba, but in the movie, she's a hero who wants to save Aigami from darkness, opening room for a lot of interpretation.
  • Sensui from YuYu Hakusho has this going for him, although it's played off a bit differently. A devout Demon-Hunter from childhood, with a moral-code so rigid that watching a group of humans raping, torturing and murdering dozens of innocent-and-helpless demons shattered his mind into seven personalities and set all of him off on a genocidal fit of raging misanthropy.

    Comic Books 
  • Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl: Lenore, the cheerful grave-dancing girl in the page image, is an innocent undead abomination who has a habit of accidentally killing all her pets. From her page: Lenore's actions often result in the death or injury to those around her, and in various forms of chaos, yet she is not a malicious character and often thinks she is doing good. Maybe.
  • Lucifer: There is a character (or, rather, a Basanos Card) called "Innocence" that takes the form of a young girl. She turns out to be pretty much out-and-out evil in the end.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: Little Keiko travels with her "Uncle" Jei and, later, "Auntie" Inazuma, who call her "My Innocent" and slaughter everyone who they believe is evil — which, thus far, has been everyone (except Keiko and Inazuma, obviously). Considering that Jei thinks that Usagi Miyamoto isn't just evil but the evil he must slay to rejoin the gods, what the heck does that make Keiko? Word of God originally wanted Keiko to be Jei's next host, but that seemed a little excessive to make a child that evil. Maybe in a few years.
    • Muddying the waters further is the fact that while Jei spares people here and there without declaring them evil, only two other characters have explicitly been called innocent. Another child, Keifumi, and oddly, Usagi's adult cousin and travelling partner Yukichi. Keifumi is a core character in Jei's backstory. After she gets dangerously ill, her father threatens to kill everyone at the temple where she has been brought to recover if she is unable to, leading the kindly head priest Jizonobu to make a desperate deal with Dark Gods to save her life. In the process Jizonobu is transformed into Jei, and proceeds to kill everyone in the temple anyway except the now cured child.

    Fairy Tales 
  • This trope was assumed to be true for the audience of the original fairy tales, so they provide clear-cut rewards for good deeds and punishment (often terrible) for bad actions as An Aesop for the difference between right and wrong. Or, rather, they provide what was considered at the time to be clear-cut rewards and punishments. Quite often along the way, Prince Charming is blinded or in some other way maimed for doing the right thing before he gets the girls.

    Fan Works 
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, this is part of why the Cavalcade of Horrors has always intrigued Tarakudo. Their treatment of everything like it's some kind of sick joke only they understand makes him wonder if they're really actively malicious, or if they're mentally more like cruel children, viewing acts of destruction and madness as games and jests.
  • Midoriya from Oyasumi Midoriya would be a good example of this, as his quirk warps reality around him, and he may or may not have malicious intent. As of now, the author has not confirmed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Groot can only speak one sentence, and is nearly at all times just following his friend Rocket's instructions. He seems childlike, growing flowers for people he likes, and fiercely protective when people threaten his friends. He also impales a line of soldiers, thrashes them around until everyone stops moving, only to turn around to the rest of the group and give them a dopey smiley almost as if he's looking for approval for what he's just done.
  • One possible interpretation of the character of Lily from Legend (1985) is this. Darkness goes out of his way to tell everyone how innocent she is, but in the first few minutes of the movie, we witness her lie and steal. Later, she takes to manipulating Darkness with terrifying ease. The other explanation, naturally, is that it was never she who was innocent, but Jack.

  • The Howlers from Animorphs are a Tyke-Bomb Super-Soldier example of this. They were created by Crayak, the Greater-Scope Villain of the series, for the sole purpose of rendering other species extinct. When Jake morphed one, he expected violent rage and killing instinct. What he got instead was a sense of playfulness much like that of a dolphin (note that dolphins are a good example of this in Real Life). Howlers are just a bunch of fun-loving three-year-olds who believe their acts of genocide are harmless games and that their victims aren't real beyond their role in the game. This causes Jake to recall with shame the moment he laughed as a Howler fell to his death — he had gloated about killing a child. Crayak works hard to enforce this innocence; the Howlers have a collective memory, and he ensures no memory of a Howler dying is included so that the concept of death remains alien to them. They're eventually rendered useless to Crayak after witnessing a single moment of love between two humans and deciding that love looks like more fun than war.
  • In A Case of Conscience by James Blish, a Jesuit priest is part of the team that establishes contact with the first known sapient extraterrestrials. They have a working civilization, but no religion; they are completely without any concept of God, an afterlife, or the idea of sin. The story ambiguously suggests that they were created by Satan.
  • Discworld:
    • Mr. Teatime and Banjo from Hogfather. Both are in touch with their "inner child", which makes Teatime a totally deranged psychopath who never considers the consequences of his actions beyond "Would it be interesting to...?" and Banjo so easily led that he's a thug even though, left to his own devices, he's not actually violent.
    • Captain Carrot, possibly. He's so relentlessly nice and earnest that he can get two gangs of street kids to play football and convince the most feared warriors in Klatch not to charge, simply by assuming that they're basically sensible people. Not even his closest friends are sure whether or not this is all some elaborate joke, or how aware he is of his in-universe Plot Armor. He also says things like "If [the Guild of Fools] burns, it'd be a blow for entertainment in the city."
      Vimes looked sideways at him. That was a true Carrot comment. It sounded as innocent as hell, but you could take it a different way.
  • In Division by Zero, we have Clotho, the most powerful manifestation of the omnipotent God, who can annihilate anything on all levels just by thinking about it. She is indifferent to morality but still does moral things, at least in framework of the story where her intent and character matters little (an example: as the multiversal manifestation of life, she not only allows people to exist, but is directly responsible for the continuing existence of all things in the multiverse). However, Clotho doesn't care about what's right or wrong, only about if there will be consequences for her (and if things will amuse herespecially the latter). She is not interested in putting an end to the Second Celestial War which would see an entire universe destroyed should Omega succeed (or worse), and only encourages Kohana to assist Alpha because she both wants to see Kohana fight, and is interested in the outcome of Alpha's fate should the war end. This is unsurprising, considering that she not only casually destroys multiple universes in front of Alpha, but an entire timeline too simply because she feels like it.
  • Ray Bradbury explores the idea of an entire species of innocents in "The Fire Balloons", about a human missionary who wants to save the Martians' souls. He eventually discovers that their souls do not need saving. This is not presented as making the Martians bad so much as making humanity tragic because we are comparatively destined to sinfulness.
  • In the Flashman books, the title character's Brainless Beauty wife Elspeth demonstrates that while she might be too ignorant to plan to cheat on her husband, she's also too ignorant to avoid being seduced. While Flashman is a Handsome Lech and deliberately a scoundrel, she is likely (it's never completely revealed) a nymphomaniac and serial adulteress who, as Flashman notes, is equally amoral because of her stupidity. Elspeth is so clueless that when Flashman first seduces her, she actually asks him, "Was that what the minister means by fornication?" (Then again, it might just be Obfuscating Stupidity.)
  • The Great Gatsby: When Nick confronts Tom about what he said to Wilson that made him kill Gatsby and himself, Tom answers that he accused Gatsby of running over Wilson's wife with his car. Nick realizes that Tom is sincerely incapable of understanding why this is an evil act:
    "And if you think I didn't have my share of suffering — look here, when I went to give up that flat and saw that damn box of dog biscuits sitting there on the sideboard I sat down and cried like a baby. By God, it was awful—"
    I couldn't forgive him or like him but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...
    I shook hands with him; it seemed silly not to, for I felt suddenly as though I were talking to a child. Then he went into the jewelry store to buy a pearl necklace — or perhaps only a pair of cuff buttons — rid of my provincial squeamishness forever.
  • The villain in the Lord Peter Wimsey novel Whose Body? is a sociopath who kills for the fun of it, and has a dream of returning people to the pre-Garden of Eden state by freeing them from guilt (and implicitly making them more like himself). Note that author Dorothy L. Sayers was also a Christian writer.
  • In Nine Goblins, all wizards are a little cracked. A little girl with powerful magic who wants her brother back after he left with the army kills everyone in her village so she'd be taken to him.
  • In Peter Pan, the defining traits of children and fairies (and Peter Pan especially) is that they are innocent and heartless. Peter himself is an especially poignant case: being stuck in childhood means that he cannot learn from his experiences — or even remember them. At the ending of the traditional stage play, when Wendy is starting to outgrow Neverland, she mentions that Tinkerbell is dead of old age (fairies don't live very long) and Peter asks, "Who's that?" Peter displays much merriment and delight at killing pirates and Indians, and it's also mentioned that when there are too many Lost Boys, or they started growing up, Peter "thinned them out". He's also been known to change sides if a fight is too easy to be fun.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, Filo's human form is an angelic, prepubescent girl. Given her innocent behavior and sweet nature it's easy to forget her actual form is a large predatory bird trained to fight since birth. This leads to her sometimes saying or doing something shocking, such as wanting to eat other members of her own species.
  • The whole point of Shimoneta is that the overly strict indecency laws have led to teenagers being hopelessly ignorant about sex. This leads to the leader of a censorship squad almost raping someone since she has no idea about things like consent and has confused lust with love, all due to her massive ignorance of the topic enforced by her parents. Also, no teenager knows how a baby is made due to the censorship laws forcing textbooks to declare it simply happens "out of love".
  • The Space Trilogy explores this idea in the planet of Perelandra, which was without original sin. In an aversion, it isn't depicted as a bad thing. The entire plot of Perelandra is the hero's efforts to prevent the Adam and Eve figures of the planet from committing their own Original Sin, and his success in doing so is presented as cause for celebration.
  • Nightblood in Warbreaker is a sentient sword formed with the instruction "destroy evil". No one stopped to think that a sword has no way to understand a concept like "evil". Anyone purehearted is repelled by it; those that are not tend to cause a lot of damage before Nightblood kills them.
  • Worm: Bonesaw of the Slaughterhouse Nine. One of the worst serial killers in the Wormverse... but she doesn't necessarily do what she does out of malice. Rather, she feels the idea of a concrete moral system is absurd and doesn't apply to her. She just wants to do the activities that she finds fun and interesting. It just so happens that her idea of "fun and interesting" usually entails something along the lines of "horrific human experimentation and torture".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Criminal Minds: When Reid is kidnapped by a serial killer who only kills people when he has unambiguous proof that they are "sinners", Garcia says something hopeful about the idea that the killer might not hurt him, since he's "completely innocent". Morgan quite correctly points out that when you're dealing with real people, there's no such thing. As it turns out, he's right.
  • In an episode of The Defenders (1961), the father and son team of lawyers defend a man accused of murder who says he is innocent. As they rise to hear the verdict, the defendant turns to his lawyer and says, "However it turns out, I want you to know I did it." The verdict is "Not Guilty", and the man walks out a free man.
  • Doctor Who:
    • More sympathetic portrayals of the Daleks (such as "The Evil of the Daleks", "Dalek", "Asylum of the Daleks", and the audio dramas "The Davros Mission" and "Jubilee") often exploit this, as Daleks are genetically programmed to exterminate and have no concept of anything else — so, in a lot of ways, are much more innocent than similarly evil humans. In "Jubilee", the Doctor even points this out to the humans in a speech that they made themselves into a Dalek analogue culture through choice, which is so much worse, while "The Davros Mission" is about a Thal psychologist trying to persuade Davros that he's capable of making good decisions, unlike the Daleks, who are psychologically incapable of knowing any better. Davros's Insane Troll Logic justification for his actions in "Genesis of the Daleks" is based around the idea that since the Daleks' only goal is to survive, their mass genocide is "the power not of evil, but of good". He considers himself a god for having created them, but refuses to give them knowledge of good and evil in order to keep them morally pure.
    • The Fourth Doctor occasionally dabbles in this due to his Manchild qualities and the fact that he's simultaneously impossibly old and wise, creating an intentionally uncomfortable effect. It often appears that the playfully cruel or dangerous things he does (like intentionally hesitating before turning off a nuclear strike just to see the Brigadier squirm in "Robot", or the humiliating way he gets a Mad Scientist killed in "The Robots of Death", for just a couple of examples) are things he does because he innocently thinks they're funny, and he simply hasn't processed the cruelty involved... or it could be that he's well aware of his own cruelty and simply doesn't care.
  • Firefly: River Tam has moments where she comes across like this, blended with Obliviously Evil. She's around seventeen and extremely intelligent, but behaves like a child most of the time because of the damage to her mind both psychological and physical. On top of that, she experiences a lot of Hallucinations and has certain "triggers" that set her off (for instance, the Blue Sun logo and the "Fruit Oaty Bars" commercial), so often her perceptions don't match up with what's really happening in the first place. She does usually have a sense of right and wrong, but she's prone to sudden violence and also sometimes seems oblivious to social conventions. It's discussed by the other characters on one occasion after she casually shoots a couple of armed gunmen with her eyes closed and even lightheartedly brags about it, like she'd come in first at a game.
  • Game of Thrones: Tommen is ambivalent towards Joffrey's dwarf play and laughs along several times. The difference is that he just doesn't seem to realize just how much it hurts his uncle, and he starts to look more and more uncomfortable as the wedding wears on and Joffrey progresses to openly making Tyrion's life a living hell.
  • Mindhunter: Tench's son Brian. He was adopted from unknown origins and is anti-social and nonverbal. Then, he and a group of older boys end up killing a baby and strapping the body on a cross. The series never gives a simple answer as to what happened that night.
  • Samantha Who? addresses something like this in the way she treats her amnesia, describing her new, "good" personality as a "clean slate" and asserting that she is not responsible for the actions she committed before this time. Also interesting is one episode titled "The Virgin", which applies to her in an unusual way—her amnesia has caused her to lose all memory of ever having sex.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): Anthony from "It's a Good Life" isn't a bad kid, but his basically limitless powers make everyone too scared of him to actually teach him moral behavior or scold him in any way. As a result, he goes around creating strange animals that try to bite people, banish people he doesn't like to "the cornfield", turns his grandmother catatonic because she sang (which he hates), and changes a man who yells at him into a grotesque Jack-in-the-box. His lashing out at others is almost always followed by him justifying it by insisting that those people were "bad" to him. The 2002 revival series provides a sequel, "It's Still a Good Life", in which we see that a now-grown Anthony kept many of his childish traits, including his simplistic views on people. He seems genuinely unable to understand why the townspeople are too afraid of his temper to actually try to beat him at bowling or why other parents don't like their children playing with his daughter. On the subject of his daughter, the ending of the episode implies that she too falls under this trope. While she is shown to be sympathetic to the other townsfolk, occasionally using her father's love for her to calm him down so he won't hurt others, she does eventually banish everyone to the cornfield before bringing the entire world back to please her father. She and her father then plan to take trips to other cities, and she basically says that they'll do horrible things to anyone who isn't "nice" to them. The episode is incredibly ambiguous as to whether Anthony learned anything or how his daughter turned out (for example, was she really following in her father's footsteps, or was she trying to teach him a lesson without having to directly harm him?).

  • Melanie Martinez's "Cry Baby" is a Concept Album based around the idea of presenting complex adult situations through the lens and metaphor of childhood, so it's naturally chock-full of this.
  • Eminem's Slim Shady character is a Psychopathic Manchild, but usually fully aware that he's a monster (he just doesn't care). On Eminem's Relapse album, however (and a handful of later songs using this characterisation), Slim is portrayed as genuinely not knowing or understanding what he's doing. In "Insane", when a bystander asks him (after threatening to rape and then kick a puppy) what he's saying, he screams "I don't know, help me!" and flashes back to his traumatic childhood rape. In "Same Song And Dance", he murders a couple of starlets (and another woman, Tonya) while delighting in their screaming and struggling, viewing it as them singing and dancing just like they do on stage. In the Revival song "Framed!", Slim has no idea why these real life murders seem to be the same as the ones he's described in his songs, and seems to really have no understanding why he's covered in blood or has Ivanka Trump in the trunk of his car. A lot of this is to allegorise the Missing Time that can be caused by abuse of Ambien and Valium.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Bleak World:
    • The princesses are fighting the darkness that threatens to consume the universe... but might also be the elves who destroyed Jotun society and kidnap children.
    • The Jotun themselves are presented as freedom fighters, but might routinely engage in cannibalism to get home.
    • Basically all of the races are presented as being good by the gamebook, despite all doing terrible things to further their "altruistic goals".

    Video Games 
  • Suggested in the cases of both the Manpigs and the Engineer in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. During your explorations, you'll come across a series of cells in which you can observe non-hostile Manpigs trying to eat, playing with blocks, and weeping in corners. It's suggested that the majority of them were made from the mentally disabled and the homeless. The Engineer is more obscure, but he comes across as quite child-like the further you go into the game. His visions of the 20th century drove him to genuinely believe that there was no other way to save humanity other than to kill them all and begs Mandus to let him finish, seemingly quite puzzled and hurt by his attempts to sabotage the machine.
  • Quark from Atlas Reactor is a Keet Energy Being who doesn't seem to understand the whole "life" thing or why people consider it a big deal — Quark pulls some atoms apart, Quark puts some back together... All in good fun.
  • Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten:
    • Desco has been raised by a Mad Scientist her whole life for the sake of conquering the human world for her ambitious older sister. Her appearance and personality just scream "Cutest Eldritch Abomination Ever".
    • In life, Artina was Incorruptible Pure Pureness personified, so selfless and kind that even Omnicidal Maniac Nemo exempted her from his Humans Are Bastards mentality. Naturally she became an angel upon dying... specifically an angelic thief. She retains her bright, sunny personality and claims her actions are fully justified (Celestia is "owed" that money because the Netherworld has been shirking its duties), but it's hard not to get the impression that she thoroughly enjoys her new criminal lifestyle. One could assume that while she's still a good person, she's embracing the opportunity to cut loose and cause trouble after a lifetime of pious servitude.
  • Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins, for a given value of "innocent". She knows little of the outside world, having lived all her life in the Kocari Wilds with occasional visits to civilization. Her cynicism and social Darwinism is largely the result of her upbringing by Flemeth.
  • Porky Minch of EarthBound (1994) is established early on as a bit of a bully, but not malicious, and he seems to view Ness as his friend. As the game goes on, however he becomes more of a jerk... When Ness talks to him in Magicant, it's implied that Porky really wants to make amends and Ness can see right through his jerk act. When you confront Giygas at the end of the game, Porky appears alongside him and it's extremely difficult to tell if Giygas is controlling Porky or Porky is controlling Giygas.
  • Final Fantasy XIV introduces, in the Shadowbringers expansion, Lord Vauthry, ruler of Eulmore. An obese, oversized man with rolls of fat for a neck who somehow is able to command Sin Eaters into not immediately attacking, infecting and transforming his people, while sheltering a Lightwarden somewhere in his city... all while declaring that the entire world should obey his whims. His proclamations are sadistic, his temper short, and his reaction to insults delayed. It's then revealed that he is the Lightwarden, having been infused with one's essence in the womb, merely an "unascended" one, and raised to believe that whatever he did was just and right. When he finally transforms, the trope itself becomes an incredibly fitting name for his "true" self, Innocence, for even as the players beat him down, he cannot grasp why these "villains" have gone out of their way to attack him, why his "righteousness" cannot stop them, or what he's done to deserve it. He's very much in the wrong, but his horribly tainted worldview means he can't begin to understand how to make amends, or even that he should.
  • Hungry Lamu: Lamu's part of the game suggests he genuinely can't tell that he's doing bad things and just believes his "friends" are fully on board with being eaten. Then again, he uses some pretty sadistic methods to get his victims out of hiding and can go out of his way to destroy their car so the last remaining camper can't escape him, suggesting that part of him is aware of what he's really doing and enjoying every second. On the other hand, Lamu's writings in their lair paint a different picture of them, as someone who's desperately trying to convince themselves that they're not doing anything wrong.
  • Alluded to by Concordia in Pokémon Black and White when remarking that N's innocence is both beautiful and terrifying. But rather being innocent of right and wrong, it's his innocence of the world that prompts his mistaken belief that Pokemon are better off without humans.
  • Undertale is a five-hour waltz with the many, many ways innocence can be played with. The obvious example is Flowey the talking flower, but this quickly turns into a subversion. Flowey is well aware that he's doing terrible things. He just doesn't care.
  • In The Walking Dead: Season Two, some of Clementime's comments make it unclear if she hasn't had The Talk or is obfuscating naivety. Regardless, Bonnie tries to act as a Moral Guardian by telling off the others for telling bawdy jokes in Clem's presence.

    Visual Novels 
  • Orpha in Aselia the Eternal - The Spirit of Eternity Sword was raised to think of killing as a good thing, so she appears quite sadistic while completely unaware of how her behavior horrifies Yuuto. She wanted his approval and tried to get it the way she had been taught.
  • A big part of Marie's early characterization in Dies Irae is that she is so innocent that she doesn't understand or even find anything wrong with the concept of murder. When the main character Ren confronts her with the prospect of them having to kill people, she just becomes confused and ends up wondering and asking him what the big deal is. When Ren tries to play to her sentimentality by asking if she would kill Kasumi, a person Marie became friends with just recently, she simply responds that yes, she would do it if asked to, without a hint of malice in her declaration. In fact, to her, death and murder are described to be as natural as breathing. While she never quite loses this mindset, she eventually grows to understand why people have a problem with it.
  • Matt Engarde of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All gives off this vibe. He seems hopelessly clueless, always has a smile, and just doofy in general. It's hard to believe that he could have killed someone, despite some of the evidence against. As the case progresses, it becomes clear that the evidence against him is fabricated, and he seems genuinely happy though still weirdly clueless about what's going on. Then Phoenix finds out that Matt hired the assassin that killed the victim, prompting Matt to reveal his real self, and this trope goes right out the window.
  • The amorality of innocence is one of the major themes of Remember11, and is the foundation of one of its major twists: there is one more person involved in Satoru and Kokoro's "Freaky Friday" Flip predicament — one of Utsumi's unborn twins, who killed Enomoto (and slashed his corpse with a knife as if it was a crayon) and wrecked the living room at SPHIA during a major tantrum. One of the TIPS describes the "baby colic" phenomenon as a baby's simultaneous desire and inability to recklessly "play" with the world. In addition, the childlike Hotori/Inubushi kills a sick rat without the slightest remorse, rationalizing it as a Mercy Kill, which leads Satoru to theorize her spree killing at a hospital was born from the same motivation.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, this is used in some of the witches' personas. Eva-Beatrice gets a touch (although she's closer to a teenager, Eva screaming at her for murdering her husband had a lot of tones of this), but more notable was "pure and sweet" little Maria... so pure and sweet that she's rooting for everyone to go to the Golden Land, and in one arc, even murders her own mother upon deciding that her mother would never do such awful things, and so Rosa must be being possessed by the evil witch. Of course, the part about murdering her mother is implied to be All Just a Dream, indicating that deep down, she really is afraid that Rosa doesn't love her.

    Web Animation 
  • The Amazing Digital Circus: The pilot leaves it somewhat unclear if Caine is responsible for putting all of the performers in the circus, or if he's just as in the dark about what's happening as they are and is simply doing the best he can to help them cope. As such, it's hard to tell if his happy, fun-loving nature is genuine or just an act.

  • The eponymous character of Axe Cop is described by the comic's artist as "borderline psycho". Axe Cop is written by a six-year-old. Draw your own conclusion.
  • The shadowy creature encountered by Digger is initially innocent to the point of amorality. Digger tries to teach it good, but it's slow going, due to the myriad cultures with differing moral systems in the area.
  • This is basically the entire point of minus., which combines this innocence with omnipotence, resulting in an imaginative little girl who can do anything she wants, from creating magical worlds of wonder to effortlessly bringing nightmares to life; from creating a whole new afterlife to ending life as we know it.
  • The Dimension of Lame from Sluggy Freelance is populated entirely by pure, innocent people. This makes manipulating them very easy for The Legions of Hell. They equate peace with good, so were quite cheerfully looking to find Torg to turn over to the invading demons to get them to leave. So, good they are not, as they'll sell out anyone if it'll get them peace... no matter the horrible consequences for who they sell out.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Having Mission Control headquarters in Torbjörn and Siv's house results in their three Bratty Half-Pint children being semi-recurring characters. The children are established quite early to be quite a handful for their parents and heavily implied be a walking Badly Battered Babysitter factory, but still can be easily dismissed as ultimately harmless. In Chapter 10, Onni goes into an emergency magical trance while in the same room as them. A completely zoned out house guest proves too tempting to the children, so they start giving him a haircut, accidentally recreating an ear wound that Onni had just received in his spiritual form in the process. The phenomenon is quite scary, has yet to be explained in-story, and leaves the audience wondering if a similar thing could happen again.
  • To Prevent World Peace: Tiffany acts playful, childish and slightly spoiled. But she also commits crimes almost casually and cheerfully murdered a couple of villains who mistreated her.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • Despite being described as evil, the Flame Princess from isn't really malicious. It's just that, given that she's never really set foot outside her home in the Fire Kingdom, she doesn't get that other creatures in the Land of Ooo don't like being set on fire, and her flames get dangerous when she gets too passionate, which causes problems when Finn falls in love with her.
      Flame Princess: Fire's purpose is to burn... which is why I'm going to make this land my fire kingdom!
    • Lemongrab counts, too. He's done some pretty horrible things, but without personal malice, and we don't entirely know if he knows that what he does is harmful to others. Even the overtly "good" characters, like Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum, don't hold him entirely accountable for his mistakes, because he A) is an idiot, B) has the maturity of a seven-year-old, and C) has an autism-like developmental disorder which severely limits his understanding of social boundaries.
  • Invader Zim: GIR often comes across as sweet and innocent... certainly dumb. However, just as it's plain that he doesn't understand the reason for conflict, he also often relishes in destruction — and, as the episode in which he's stuck in "duty mode" demonstrates, if he worked properly, he would be evil.
  • Stumpy from Kaeloo relishes in destruction, does horrible things to his friends, has tried to be a villain... It's not quite clear whether he is an innocent child or not.
  • The Owl House: While the Collector is a centuries-old, god-like being who drove the Titans to extinction and is helping Belos in his plan to wipe out all life on the Boiling Isles, their childlike nature makes it hard to know if the Collector even knows what they're doing is evil. When King overhears the Collector's private thoughts, they're expressing excitement at being free, no longer being alone and playing. They also truly consider Belos a friend and "playmate", and they consider the Final Solution nature of the Day of Unity to be nothing more than a "chore" Belos tricked them into doing. Contrastingly, they seem ecstatic to play with King, and their suggestion is an actual game of hide-and-seek. Especially so with their The Dog Bites Back moment, as while they frame splattering Belos across the wall as a game of tag, the tone in which they say "I'm it" implies they not only know what's going to happen when they tag Belos, but only decided to "play" just to obliterate him, which shows that they do understand the value of life... although they immediately assume that Luz and her friends want to play tag as well and offers them a head start. Showrunner Dana Terrace even describes them in a Posthoot as an example of a "chaotic little character", and particularly one who is a "morally grey, neutral chaotic kind of motherf[ucker]".
  • The Simpsons:
  • Xavier of Xavier: Renegade Angel is this trope in spades. He has a noble desire to help people, but his attempts to do good always result in death and suffering. For example, one episode has him transported to a dimension where time moves backwards. He sees a man getting run over by a car in reverse — Xavier sees the man as a bloody corpse miraculously healed, then walking backwards. So, what does Xavier do on his heroic quest? He steals a car and starts driving it backwards, killing dozens of people, believing that he is saving them.