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Blue-and-Orange Morality

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Ye who walk the Path of Bacon
shall be with dinner blessed.
Yet ye who walk the Way of Necktie
shall be for dinner dressed.

"For one of dragon's blood to not take up weapons, to not prepare night and day to slaughter any enemies that would come against them—it is unthinkable. It is—one who does such a thing, who believes the world will not be dangerous, will not strive to kill him… That is what we call insane."
Shidan, Embers (Vathara)

To say that questions of morality are thorny and filled with gray when they aren't being hammered between stark absolutes is putting it mildly. Because of this there can be great drama when characters who represent a wide range of moral viewpoints come together or into conflict.

The strangest of these characters are those who espouse Blue and Orange Morality. These characters have a moral framework that is so utterly alien and foreign to human experience that we can't peg them as "good" or "evil". They aren't a Chaotic Neutral Unfettered, though they may seem to act terrifyingly randomly; nor are they necessarily a Lawful Neutral Fettered, because their understanding of "law" as a concept may not even be equivalent to ours. There might be a logic behind their actions, it's just that they operate with entirely different sets of values and premises from which to draw their conclusions. It's also worth noting that such cultures are just as likely to be something we'd find appalling as they are to be something we'd find benign and/or weird. They may also find us appalling, benign, or weird even if we don't see them that way, and although they are often likely to commit acts we would see as horrific, some are unusually benign. Either way they tend to act as if nothing were the matter. Because in their world/mind, that's just what they do. This trope is one of the trickier to pull off well, because Most Writers Are Human, and it's often hard to portray alien and truly foreign. Because of this, it's not uncommon for audience members to label these characters as Designated Heroes or villains due to human audiences often lacking the experience or knowledge that these fictional characters have. Audiences must remember that these characters are meant to be Morally Ambiguous.

This is similar to Values Dissonance, but the main difference is that societies with Values Dissonance can, at least on a basic level, generally measure one another by the same concepts of Good and Evil, or even Order and Chaos. With Blue and Orange Morality, the values are so foreign that such concepts can no longer be applied. They may not even know what these things are, or even if they do, may find them confusing or unworthy of consideration. That is not to say these characters are amoral or devoid of any sense of right and wrong, mind you, but that their ideas of right and wrong can't really be understood using the aforementioned concepts. Conversely, they may have these concepts, but apply them in vastly different ways— such as regarding motionlessness as the epitome of evil, or viewing exploration as an element of chaos. In short, Blue and Orange Morality isn't just about what a character(s) view as right or wrong, it's also about how and why they judge them as such.

Note that cases solely involving a misapprehension of facts and consequences do not count here, no matter how alien the reasons; if, for example, a race of aliens thinks killing is okay because its own members respawn within a day with no harm done, and mistake humans as working the same way, that doesn't mean they wouldn't balk at killing if they realized the degree of harm it causes to other creatures. In this case, they may be working by comprehensible moral standards and just gravely mistaken about the implications of their actions. This is not to say that trope can't still apply if the culture remains this way with no grasp of the reasons behind it. If, say, such a race of aliens really do exist, and really did come to believe killing is okay as a side effect of the reasons above, but don't apply this to their thought processes when killing, and thus, think just as little of killing mortals who don't respawn, then this trope can still apply.

Because of the inherently alien nature of this trope, the likely candidates for it are usually non-humans: The Fair Folk, who follow rules of their own making; Eldritch Abominations that are beyond comprehension; the more exotic Starfish Aliens; AIs and robots, especially when super smart and/or incapable of emotion; The Anti-God and God via Time Abyss and Above Good and Evil. Another candidate is the power of money or The Almighty Dollar. An individual human (or a single member of any species whose majority falls into darker morality) who operates on this is the Übermensch of Nietzschean philosophy (a human being who has developed their own Blue/Orange set of morals). A Nominal Hero may have this motivation as well. Moral Sociopathy overlaps strongly with this trope for obvious reasons, though this is not always the case.

See also these tropes, which include or are connected to this kind of Morality System: Xenofiction, Humans Are Cthulhu, Humanity Is Infectious (all often involving this), Insane Troll Logic (when the set of values is still rooted in our world but just doesn't make sense to us), Above Good and Evil, Affably Evil/Faux Affably Evil (they sometimes can come across as this), Even Evil Has Standards (when handled poorly or bizarrely), Evil Cannot Comprehend Good (less elaborate forms that resemble this in practice), Non-Malicious Monster (which occasionally requires this), and Obliviously Evil (when a villain thinks that their actions are acceptable or helpful). When two sides go to war, and nothing will stop them except total annihilation, that's Guilt-Free Extermination War. If the character genuinely knows everything will turn out okay, allowing the plot to treat them as a good guy no matter how cruel, irresponsible, or inhuman this makes them by our standards, that's Omniscient Morality License.

See also Morality Tropes and Philosophy Tropes for other Morality and Philosophy Systems.

Not to be confused with Orange/Blue Contrast (though the fact that there's a contrast between those colors does help this trope's name make more sense).

No Real Life Examples, Please!.


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    Comic Strips 

    Film — Animation 
  • Big Hero 6: Baymax's sole motivation is the survival and physical health of his patients, making him hard to work with at first. He becomes much more co-operative when he adds mental health to the list and is convinced that helping Hiro will improve his mental health. He also considers just about everyone he encounters a potential patient, even scanning the Big Bad and determining (among other things) his blood type during their first encounter.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings: According to the hero's mother, the Moon Kingdom functions on this. Kubo's aunts and grandfather do care for him and want him happy, but their way of going about it and view of the human world is monstrous to humans - forcibly abducting him from his parents (after hideously disfiguring one into a beetle) and plucking his remaining eye out to make him blind to the mortal realm, which the celestials consider impure and sinful.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, Mantis mentions that he never knew his father, because his mother ate his head before Mantis was born. Being, well, a praying mantis, Mantis doesn't consider this unusual, and later on when it looks like they're about to die, he's actually disappointed that he never got the chance to settle down with a nice girl and have his head eaten.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: It turns out that the residents of Bricksburg/Apocalypseburg are this to the Sistarians, who don't really understand the tough and gritty facade the former have been putting up and therefore have no idea how to effectively communicate their desire for peace.
  • Monsters University: Tampering with the mail is a big enough offense in the eyes of monsters to merit lifelong banishment to the supposedly lethal human world. With no supplies, as is suggested in the original film. In human terms, that's like being dropped in the middle of Darkest Africa without any food, water, protection, clothing, or contact with the rest of humanity. For the rest of your life.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas:
    • Halloween Town citizens scare children for a living, but do it because it's their job and they simply enjoy it. Subverted in that they're still kind and unwilling to intentionally harm others. Oogie Boogie is the only citizen who is sadistic or murderous. Interestingly, they (including Jack) can't comprehend the basics of Christmas, and when they try to replicate it... well, things go horribly wrong.
      "Life's no fun without a good scare."
    • It's debatable how canon this is (for obvious reasons), but in the Kingdom Hearts series, Jack tends to think of new experiences (such as the Heartless) in terms of how he can repurpose them into new Halloween surprises, but also tends to become quite disillusioned with them if it should ever come to light that they can actually cause people harm (such as, again, the Heartless). This is why Oogie Boogie is the villain of the original film: he's the only citizen of Halloween Town who actually wants to do harm to the people he scares.
    • The official sequel comic, The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero's Journey, implies that Lock, Shock, and Barrel's troublemaking is legitimately how they play. It's confirmed in issue 13.

  • The Addams Family seems to have a moral code that makes sense only to their family. They happily engage in murder, arson, torture, poisoning, destruction, cruel jokes, and seem to find pain (both theirs and other people's) hilarious. At the same time, they are a family of polite, friendly people who clearly care about one another and have some lines that they won't ever cross (i.e. the couples always ask each other for consent, the parents never beat or abuse the kids, they never throw anyone out for being different, and they think that betraying your family is an unforgivable act). Exactly how good/evil the family is portrayed varies greatly depending on who’s writing them.



    Myths & Religion 

  • Brimstone Valley Mall: The main demons all fall into this, to some degree. They were sent up to Earth to lead people into sin, but they rarely actually do that — not for any moral reasons, but because they like life on Earth and don't want to go back to Hell. While they rarely actively antagonize anybody (except for Misroch), they have no qualms about murder, stealing, assault, or cannibalism. However, they're not totally amoral, either; they all value loyalty and friendship, and they are decidedly not bigoted in any way. Murdering a bystander because He Knows Too Much? Totally fine. Flaking out on band practice or degrading your friend's ambitions? Absolutely not!

  • There's a play called Blue/Orange that deals with people of this sort of morality, although the name ostensibly comes from a mental disorder one of the characters has that causes him to, among other things, see the insides of oranges as blue. Not the outside, nothing else orange, just the insides.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
    • Junko Enoshima straddles the line between this, Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad, and Card-Carrying Villain. Yes, most of her schemes are just to satisfy her sadomasochistic tendencies, but there's also an element of her thinking that it's a good thing to spread despair to others, as it's the one emotion that never bored her, and she considers boredom to be the worst possible thing. So she genuinely cares for her classmates... which is why she sticks them into the killing game; to treasure the despair she fosters in them. She does have enough of an understanding of conventional morality to know this is immoral, but she just doesn't care.
    • Nagito Komaeda has a very bizarre outlook on morality. To him, hope is good and despair bad, but because his life has been a long roller coaster of disaster followed by windfalls, he believes that bad things will always lead to good things, and therefore it's okay to cause despair so long as that's not your end goal (like Junko), because doing that will lead to more hope. He condemns one of the murderers because they did it out of despair and a twisted love for Junko, but he will cause various problems for his classmates and shows No Sympathy for things like Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu mourning Peko Pekoyama's death, because to him all these things are just stepping stones to the victims having a more hopeful situation in the end. His classmates think he's creepy because of it.
    • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, there's Korekiyo Shinguji, the Ultimate Anthropologist. He sees himself as a passive observer of humanity and is excited by any chance to study "Humanity's Beauty"... which to him means any expression of character or skill, including a murderer's attempt to cover up their crime. It's later revealed that he's also a Serial Killer who sees nothing wrong with killing people he sees as especially admirable, since he's a firm believer in the afterlife and he sees it as introducing his dead sister to new friends.
  • In Double Homework, Dr. Mosely/Zeta does her best to protect her test subjects whenever possible and believes in the underlying morality of what she does. However, she runs illegal experiments that mainstream science considers unethical, and she has no problem killing anyone who becomes a “liability” to her — sometimes with pleasure.
  • Saya no Uta: Saya herself is not conventionally evil and does not take delight in killing humans, helps mental patients if they wish so, and only exists to fulfill a mission. Sadly, all of this still means she'll go around killing (and eating) humans both as a conventional food source and for studies, her healing skills can drive people even more insane than before, and her mission is to "bloom" and release spores to convert the entire population of the planet into more beings like her.



Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Orange And Blue Morality, Rainbow Morality



Lelouch and Suzaku manage to find Nunally stuck with a motion-sensor bomb above her head.

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