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...And That Would Be Wrong

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Jesse: Who wants to bet Danny is taping this vacation so that he can deduct it off his tax returns?
Danny: Well, I could do that. But that would be wrong.

A character makes a casual proposition for solving a problem that is immoral, disgusting, murderous, and/or violent. A Beat goes by, in which the other characters look at him with perplexity, disbelief, mistrust, and/or anger in their eyes. He quickly adds, "And/But that would be wrong," or some other halfhearted attempt to save face. This is seldom mentioned again, even when the guy is TOO given to making such propositions.


Not to be confused with And That's Terrible. Compare Could Say It, But..., Shutting Up Now, or "Just Joking" Justification. See also Do Not Do This Cool Thing.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Averted in Monster Rancher: When the Searchers are trying to figure out how to fund their journey, former bandit Tiger of the Wind casually says they should steal whatever they need to get by. Even when the others look at him with reproach, he makes no move to backtrack, even threatening to leave when Genki insists that he can't do that sort of thing anymore. (They enter a tournament instead.)

    Comic Books 
  • Spiders-man from the Spidergeddon event has a tendency to eat people, but the only person who brings this up is him. When reacting to the news of the Inheritors, he reacts with confusion over their indiscriminate taste, pointing out which spider people he WOULD eat, and then denying he would do such a thing. It's played for laughs, but makes for some particularly unnerving Fridge Horror.
  • Played seriously and darkly in The Walking Dead. When faced with awful problems, the protagonists often come up with awful solutions, then say, "And That Would Be Wrong." As the series progresses, they say it more and more quietly, as "wrong" becomes more and more of a necessary option.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) segment "A Fistful of Yen" mocks Nixon: Loo meets Ada Gronick, the Distressed Damsel he's come to rescue (in a ridiculously bugged room).
    Ada Gronick: The guards will have to be bribed. We'll need money.
    Loo: We can raise the money, that's no problem. [reaches up, pulls down a large microphone and speaks into it] But that would be wrong.
  • In Muppets Most Wanted, Fozzie's reaction to learning how the Muppets have been selling out tickets to their terrible shows is... pragmatic.
    Walter: Fozzie! Dominic's the reason we've been selling out our shows! He's been giving away tickets and bribing journalists to write great reviews!
    Fozzie: Ugh, why didn't we ever think of doing that?
    Walter: Huh?
    Fozzie: I—th—th—that's terrible.

  • In Michael Connelly's The Black Ice, LAPD Detective Bosch joins up with the DEA and the Mexican federales for a raid on drug kingpin Humberto Zorillo's compound in the Mexican border town of Mexicali, with one of the goals being to take Zorillo into custody for a string of murders committed in Los Angeles (including two police officers). However, even though the Mexican government is cooperating with the raid itself, they historically do not extradite their citizens to the United States, particularly if they're facing murder charges. DEA Agent Ramos has a plan to bring Zorillo to the American justice system anyway. He tells Bosch that Zorillo is going to resist arrest during the raid and suffer an injury that won't be serious but will look bad enough to need medical attention. They will then use one of the helicopters to evacuate him to a hospital for treatment. The pilot, however, will mistake the lights at a hospital on the American side of the border for the hospital on the Mexican side, at which point, the American officials can arrest him and bring him to American courts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda features an in-universe comedic example when the captain and first officer are discussing diplomatic negotiations with a race of humanoids genetically engineered to breathe water.
    Beka: I could say that talks with the fish people are floundering...but that would be wrong.
  • The Big Bang Theory has the following exchange with Bernadette.
    Bernadette: Oh, I take pacts very seriously. One time at my lab, a petri dish of genetically-modified super-virus went missing. That day we made a pinky swear never to admit we crossed Ebola with the common cold.
    Howard: Why the hell would you cross Ebola with the common cold?
    Bernadette: We never did. [beat] That would be a terrible, terrible thing.
  • Bones: Colin Fisher, who had recently been in a mental hospital, describes a victim's injury:
    Colin Fisher: The brain would have bled out, thus releasing him into sweet oblivion. [beat] Which is death, and is sad, not happy.
  • Sometimes happens on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, particularly with Anya, a former vengeance demon turned human.
    • After Buffy and Faith undergo a "Freaky Friday" Flip in "Who Are You?", the latter assumes this to be Buffy's catchphrase (along with "you can't do that") and uses it extensively in rehearsing for her new "role". Later she taunts vampire Spike with a fanservice description of what a hot chick with Super Strength could do to him, then finishes with a smirk: "But that would be wrong..." Toward the end of the episode, she ends up saying it more softly and sincerely as part of Becoming the Mask.
    • In "Halloween", Buffy and Willow talk about how Giles's books might have details about what sort of women Angel was interested in. But in order to find that information, they'd need to go behind Giles' back, and betray his trust. And that, Willow points out, would be wrong. One Gilligan Cut later, they're both in Giles' book cage, flipping through an old volume...
  • Subverted in Deadwood, when Memetic Badass Al Swearengen and Faux Affably Evil Cy Tolliver have a saloon proprietor to saloon proprietor conversation, with Al complaining about the "hoopleheads" who patronize his joint: "Sometimes I wish we could just hit them over the head, rob them, and dump their bodies in the creek." Tolliver (arguably the more evil of the two men by virtue of enjoying his sociopathy) replies dryly, "But that would be wrong." The subversion is that neither man would shy away from such an act on moral grounds, only practical ones (killing your customers today means no customers tomorrow), and both have in fact done much worse things.
  • Dexter says this about the rude owner of a noisy dog who's been keeping his girlfriend awake at night. Of course, he says it in his head, so he's really only mollifying the Code of Harry.
    Dexter: I could make things so much easier for Rita... but that would be wrong.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code", the Doctor and Martha realize they have a chance to see Love's Labour's Won, one of Shakespeare's lost plays.
    Martha: Have you got a minidisc or something? We can tape it, we can flog it, sell it when we get home, we'd make a mint!
    The Doctor: [pause] No.
    Martha: That would be bad.
    The Doctor: Yyyeah.
  • Repeatedly subverted on Firefly by Jayne. Mal is constantly telling Jayne that it's not okay to do certain things, and Jayne's response is usually to whine about it.
    • For example:
      Mal: I've given Jayne here the job of finding out.
      Jayne: [brandishing a big knife] He was non-specific as to how.
      Mal: [whispering] Now, you only got to scare him.
      Jayne: [annoyed] Pain is scary...
    • Downplayed near the end of "Shindig" after Mal wins the duel against Atherton.
      Mal: Mercy is the mark of a great man. [jabs Atherton with his sword] Guess I'm just a good man. [wounds him again for good measure] Well, I'm all right.
  • In one episode of Happy Endings, Jane's boss the Car Czar pulls the too-emphatically-denying version of this.
    Brad: Would you want to come to a dinner party tonight?
    Car Czar: Does the Car Czar have a camera in the woman's bathroom? [awkward pause] No! I do not and would not. But, yeah, I want to come to dinner.
  • In the Season 2 opener of How I Met Your Mother, Ted is trying to stop Marshall from obsessing over Lily's credit card statement (while Lily is in San Francisco, having broken up with Marshall):
    Barney: Plus, those charges are from, like, a month ago.
    Ted: Exactly.
    Barney: For new charges, you have to go to her online account. You can see credit card activity from, like, two hours ago.
    Ted: [glares at Barney]
    Barney: But, you know... don't.
  • In an episode of Leverage, Nathan describes that the villain of the week sets himself up with mob ties, so if the feds ever come snooping around his real profits (a stock fraud scheme)...Parker interrupts: "he'll trade his mob records for immunity and a new identity. Swweeeet! [beat] I mean, evil, and...clever, but...bad."
    • Another episode shows Hardison getting very excited to get access to high tech government security hardware "which I know nothing about because that would be treason and wrong."
    • From the pilot:
      Nate: I know when you sent Dubenich his designs you weren't supposed to make any copies.
      Hardison: No, I promise. That would be very wrong.
      Nate: Show me your copies.
  • In one Married... with Children episode, Peggy has to go back to school to complete her home ec credit and ends up in the same class as Kelly. A girl in the class leaned over and said, "Hey, Kelly, you up for vandalizing the graveyard tonight?" very casually, as if this was a normal activity for them. Seeing Peggy's shocked look, Kelly says, "No, Susan. That would be wrong."
  • NCIS, "Terminal Leave":
    [Kate catches Tony listening through the door to Jen's room as her parents yell at her]
    Kate: [whispering] What are you doing?!
    Tony: Uh...listening.
    Kate: That is just wrong.
    Tony: Sneaking your horny boyfriend into a house filled with armed federal agents who are on the lookout for Al-Qaeda assassins, that's wrong, Kate. Me, I'm just trying to gather some valuable intel so I can do my job better.
    [they both nod, then put their ears to the door]
  • Psych:
    Lassiter: If I weren't a cop, I would shoot him in a darkened alley and leave evidence to suggest that his own people were behind it...and when I say I, I mean a fake, imaginary detective to be played by Powers Boothe.
  • In the Smallville epsiode "Onyx", Chloe says this when she unconvincingly denies ever hacking into security cameras.
  • Inverted in an episode of The West Wing: Burt Ganz, an old friend of Toby's, is in town to testify on behalf of his company against a law that would force companies to pay to clean up the pollution they cause. Ganz approaches Toby to tell him that the company has been disposing of illegal amounts of cancer-causing material, that he's known this for years, and that he wants Toby to get him immunity so he can blow the whistle during the hearings. Midway through a conversation with Ganz, Josh, and a White House lawyer, Toby says they should get Ganz the immunity, not just for his sake, but because announcing it during the hearings will devastate the corporations' arguments against the law.
    Toby: It will do tremendous good for us in terms of winning this one!
    Josh: Toby.
    Toby: Yeah?
    Josh: Plus we retard Kierney-Passaic's progress in killing people.
    Toby: Josh is right; there are several positive outcomes.
  • Alluded to in season 5 of The Walking Dead: after escaping captivity from a group of cannibals and finding another captive that's distracting zombies and therefore opening a way out for the core cast, Rick proposes to leave immediately. Glenn instead talks him into helping the captive.
    Glenn: We can't leave him behind. This is still who we are. It has to be.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Luna gets a thrill from stealing a mobile phone from a random woman. She then quickly adds that stealing is wrong and they shouldn't do it again when she sees Vivian glaring at her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Happens routinely in the Paranoia books, but always with the obvious implication "but Alpha Complex is a Crapsack World, so that wrong thing is exactly what will happen."
    You may notice you're down to only one [choice] when it comes time to determine the team leader. It's not that we think any incompetent can be team leader. It's not like this test is purposely designed to put the person least familiar with Alpha Complex etiquette in charge. Trust us. It's not like that at all.

    Video Games 
  • A villager in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War informs visiting units that a marriage between two people of the same minor Holy Blood will result in all their kids having major Holy Blood and all its attendant benefits... but, of course, that is a strictly forbidden taboo! (At this point in the game it's probably a bit late to start on the two potential pairings that would give the player four such children, but it's certainly doable.)
  • Traynor in Mass Effect 3 states that decrypting turian chatter about the Tuchanka bomb would take a week...and be wrong.
  • Used verbatim by Koal in Advance Wars: Dual Strike, after describing how they turned parts of the world into wasteland. "I'd tell you that we cared, but I'd be lying. And that would be wrong."

    Web Comics 
  • In 8-Bit Theater, Red Mage and Thief discuss abandoning the BSOD-ing Black Mage:
    Thief: Leaving him to rot would be wrong.
    Red Mage: So very wrong.
    Fighter: [holding up a sword] Kind of chainsaw wrong.
    Thief: Okay, good thing we're all on the same page then!
  • Comic #081 of Concerned has Gordon Frohman discuss how his replica strider would make a rampage in Ravenholm if activated.
  • In El Goonish Shive, when Sensei Greg is forced to close his dojo, Greg states that part of the reason is because that his training could give people random, unpredictable powers, which could easily turn into a case of Bad Powers, Bad People, Bad Powers, Good People, Power Incontinence, etc. Unlike some other examples he's being sincere, despite the silliness of the situation.
    Sensei Greg: My training could inadvertently give a sociopath atomic breath or something. While awesome, that would be totally irresponsible.
  • Girl Genius: Agatha mentions all the "things" she could have learned from Dr. Vapnoople, had he not had to leave the country suddenly. Wooster starts ranting about how those things are horrible, evil, bizarre, monstrous... Agatha just looks at him. Wooster has to specifically tell her, "And that would be bad!"
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius, in "Still a Long Way to Go," points out that "as the size of an explosion increases, the number of social situations it is incapable of solving approaches zero". Cue other Order members looking at them funny, Blackwing whispering, and V invokes (and names) the trope.
    • There's a variation earlier:
      Haley: I mean, there's probably some ubermagic that would bind his soul or something... but that's kinda on the Evil side of the street if you ask me.
      Vaarsuvius: And what, exactly, would the problem with that be?
      Vaarsuvius: I did SAY I was representing the halfling's viewpoint in this.
    • V has a habit of this...
      Vaarsuvius: None of us have ever tampered with the fundamental natural order when bored. That would be wrong.
    • Also, in "The Prisoner Dilemma," Haley decides slavery is wrong after all. Seems she has since decided that it was wrong indeed. Progress is progress.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Lieutenant Sorlie has a moment of this while admiring the UNS fleet's finesse in capturing them.
    Sorlie: That is some slick engineering.
    [Murtaugh and Karl Tagon glare.]
    Sorlie: But it's a terrible thing to do, and I don't admire it at all.

    Web Videos 
  • Used by Moviebob in his review of The Losers, explaining that the best use of the film would be for under-17-year-olds to get into the theater so they can go see the far-preferable but R-Rated Kick-Ass, except That Would Be Wrong.

    Western Animation 
  • Danny Phantom: Danny, Sam and Tucker find themselves looking in on future Danny destroying Amity Park. Naturally, Sam and Tucker are appalled; Danny, on the other hand...
    Danny: Wow, is that some sort of Ghostly Wail? That is so cool!
    [Beat; Sam glares at Danny]
    Danny: I mean, if it weren't being used for evil!
  • From the Duckman episode "Ajax and Ajaxer":
    Duckman: Why, I bet a kid, thinking I was a role model and wanting to imitate my behavior, could easily steal sodas from a vending machine...too. DO IT! Do it now, kids! Stick it to the man! HAHAHAHA!!
    [Cornfed is handed some Censor Notes]
    Cornfed: "But of course that would be wrong."
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    Timmy: What do you mean I can't just make three tickets appear like magic?
    ["DA RULES" appear]
    Wanda: Timmy, it's sold out! If we gave you three of the tickets, it means we'd be taking them away from somebody else who already has them!! [off Timmy's "I don't care" glare] And that would be stealing. [off his glare] Which is bad.
    Timmy: Well, can't you just make three extra theater seats??
    Wanda: That would violate the fire code!
    Timmy: I have to buy those tickets from Francis! I wish I had 1500 dollars.
    Wanda: That's counterfeiting. [off glare] Which is bad.
    Timmy: Darn it! I'll have to do it the old-fashioned way...
    Cosmo: Blackmail?
    Wanda: Bad. How do most ten-year-olds make money?
  • Referenced in Family Guy: "Hey, that's way better than what I was thinking; I was gonna suggest we kill and eat the kids! You know...half-jokingly at first so I could gauge your reaction..."
  • Not the phrase entirely, but after Coco from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends says something potentially illegal, Mac says, "Coco, if we did that, we will be in jail."
  • The Oblongs had Milo running as a Dork Horse Candidate for Student President, realizing that they have to appeal to the non-popular kids.
    Milo: Beautiful people are the minority in this school! We have to get to the outcasts, the geeks and freaks, the wimps, the gimps, the simps!
    Helga: Yeah! Kill 'em all!
    Milo: No, no, no, we need their votes.
    Helga: Right, right. Voting good. Killing bad.
  • A catch phrase of Hollywood, a human figure on Hanna-Barbera's 2 Stupid Dogs show, was "Ain't that cute...BUT IT'S WRONG!!!" whenever the Little Dog said something rather obtuse.

    Real Life 
  • Richard Nixon. On the Watergate tapes, Nixon says, of one of his enemies, "We could kill him." In an interview with David Frost, Nixon claimed that the next thing he said, accidentally erased from the tape, was "...but that would be wrong." It became something of a Memetic Mutation back in the day. note 
  • Radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett:
    But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose—you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally-reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.
  • Used almost verbatim by Roger Ebert in his review of the 2011 remake of the 1984 movie Footloose, complete with Wiki word capitalization.
    This 2011 version is so similar—sometimes song for song and line for line—that I was wickedly tempted to reprint my 1984 review, word for word. But That Would Be Wrong.
  • A lot of the handwritten edits to the publicized version of the CIA "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual" come off like this, especially when it comes to "coercive techniques".
    [inserted in the middle of a description of using sensory deprivation in interrogation] Its use constitutes a serious impropriety and violates policy.
  • Some shower heads have a small easily-breakable plastic piece inside. The manual points out that removing this piece "with pliers" "accidentally" "during cleaning" would mean that the shower head is no longer "low-flow" in compliance with regulations restricting water usage, and is illegal.
  • It is perhaps an Urban Legend, but it is said that during Prohibition home wine & beer making kits were sold with at the end of the instructions a disclaimer: "Doing the above would constitute the manufacture of an alcoholic beverage, which is prohibited by Federal law." (But, hey, if you decide to go ahead and do it anyway, you've been warned!)
    • Variations of the warning were to provide instructions on what not to do. So you didn't "accidentally" brew up some alcoholic booze instead of some kind of non-alcoholic and totally legal drink.
    • The Vino Sano Grape Brick (for making grape juice, honest!) simply provided instructions on what you needed to do to prevent fermentation.
  • British actor Jamie Bamber was once asked how many people he would kill to get a role on Doctor Who.
    "None. Because that would be murder and then I'd be in prison and I wouldn't get to be on Doctor Who."

Alternative Title(s): But That Would Be Wrong