Victorian-era Anglosphere invented modern "childhood". Inspired by the ideals of The Enlightenment and an interpretation of The Bible's New Testament based on them, they came to the conclusion that the time people spent between being a baby and being useful in mines and fields (or for making more babies) was special and precious that people this age were innocent and full of wonder and beloved by God, and that they should be loved and protected and cared for by society in general. They came to believe that there was a stark contrast between the innocent and instinctual goodness of children and the cynical evil of adults. After several decades the grassroots belief in and support for "childhood" became so strong that childrennote under certain ages were actually forbidden from doing certain types of work despite the dedicated lobbying of business interests who didn't want to lose their smallest and cheapest workers (e.g. smaller coal-miners mean smaller mineshafts). By 1900 only a fifth or so of British and US children (under 16) were in full-time employment and even the world's most pro-corporation and rabidly anti-socialist democratic state, the USA, actually finally banned child labour entirely in 1938.
The age European culture has assigned to the end of "childhood" has grown over the years and an "inbetween" period was added in The '50s or so "teenage-hood" but the meme remains: a child is a Blank Slate not yet sullied by the evils of the world. Only upon coming of age do they lose this innocence and the protection it confers. A child's death, even that of a boy, is a tragedy; but a young man just a year older than him is in the most expendable demographic in the world.
The Children Are Innocent trope captures the idea that children are never naturally evil. A consequence is that harming one is the ultimate evil act, no matter how provoked unless that is forcing others to harm them. This is an extremely pervasive trope that is at the heart of many other tropes, such as Friend to All Children and Harmful to Minors as well as frequently the root of both Papa Wolf and Mama Bear. When the Big Bad kills nameless hundreds, the heroes will say the villain killed women and children. The Children Are Innocent trope is old enough that it is difficult to assign it an age; but at the minimum it goes back to the New Testament.
Expect those who buy into this trope to hold that any villain character Used to Be a Sweet Kid until something bad happened to them, especially if they also believe that Rousseau Was Right. Sometimes that "something bad" is as simple as puberty and thus "worldly experience" which again ties into the New Testament stuff.
Off-stage children almost always fall under this trope; like some legal systems, children are "innocent until proven guilty". Being informed that a character has killed, injured, exploited, etc. children is always a mark of evil without such proof. Indeed, one of the commonest ways to disprove Always Chaotic Evil is to bring up their children, as in the Genocide Dilemma. For instance, nothing makes a "heroic" human adventurer look more villainous than an Empathy Doll Shot in a decimated goblin village.
Where blond hair is found naturally, children are often depicted with it. This trope is considered to drive Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold because children (and the young) are more likely to have blond hair than older people, thus blond hair is a sign of innocence.
Frequently children Cannot Tell a Lie because they are too innocent to think of suppressing the truth. Children who do start to lie often show this is new to them by being momentually Bad Liars. On the other hand, this very quality can lead to their being Too Dumb to Fool.
Part and parcel of this is depicting children as the other meaning of innocent: naive, gullible, and too trusting. They can misunderstand anything other than the most obvious. This can lead to an unawareness that they're doing anything wrong. They can commit offenses unwittingly and face a Bewildering Punishment. Children have to learn empathy, and not to be self-centered, and also often have a poor grasp of consequences of their actions. This can then lead to Ambiguous Innocence.
In contrast, the Creepy Child, the Enfante Terrible, and Corruption by a Minor draw much of their force from their knowingness. They understand as much, if not more, than the adults about them, which contradicts not only this trope but the general understanding of children. A Serial Killer can give anyone the chills but the effect is magnified if the killer is a child.
The Spoiled Brat, the Mouthy Kid, the Bratty Half-Pint, and Kids Are Cruel can be complex examples. They may have been born that way, have been this trope and then something happened to them to remove that aspect, or they could have a Hidden Heart of Gold which restores the aspect. In the first case, if the causes of the spoiling are clearly identified, and the children revert to innocence when they are removed, the children may still be innocent.
Teenage Wasteland is a similar case; since children now have adult power and responsibility despite still being children, the forced loss of innocence may be a major theme. Ironically, it is reinforced by a Childless Dystopia, what with how miserable things generally become without them.
Subtrope for Children Are Special. In this case, it is their innocence that makes them special.
Amnesiacs are Innocent is based on a similar idea. The Amnesiacs has returned to the Blank Slate status of a child because they've lost all the worldly experience that made them lose it.
- In the second season of Ai Yori Aoshi, Chika asks the assembled female cast if they "love" Kaoru. They freak because their definition is different than hers. The episode follows Chika's attempts to get answers from the group individually, including Aoi's explanation of the term Enishi. At the end, Chika concludes that everyone loves Kaoru.
- Attack on Titan:
- Eren Yeager is shown to have used this to his advantage in an incident of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior. Going on his own to rescue a girl (Mikasa) from a gang of criminals, he lulls the first man into believing he's just a scared, lost child...and then stabs him in the throat with the knife he'd been hiding behind his back. He then proceeds to brutally murder the second crook, revealing our hero was a very disturbed child long before The Call knew where he lived.
- Subtly exploited by the Survey Corps during Eren's trial. Several groups wanted Eren dead immediately but Levi suddenly started beating the crap out of him in front of everyone as part of Erwin's gambit. While those groups wanted to kill Eren as a human titan, they were visibly horrified seeing Eren getting savaged as a young human man.
- Black Lagoon has a Crapsack World setting so naturally it doesn't follow this trope. Hansel and Gretel are by far, the least innocent characters in the whole show. Though their Dark and Troubled Past might be a reason for this, thus restoring the trope..
- Case Closed:
- Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Genta are three first grade children who latch themselves onto teenager-turned-child Conan Edogawa early in the story. As a result, they've been present for more than a few of the murders that occur whenever Conan is around. Despite this, they are still shown to retain their innocent and cheerful demeanors even as they try, with mixed success, to help Conan crack a case.
- An anime-only story has a murderer attempt to exploit this trope. After encountering teenager-turned-child Ai Haibara and noticing she's more intelligent than the average seven-year-old, the would-be culprit kidnaps her, pretends to be a fellow kidnap victim alongside Ai, and manipulates their surroundings as a means of establishing an alibi for the planned murder. The culprit's intent is that Ai's intelligence would allow for a sufficiently detailed testimony whose honesty would not be questioned due to her being a child.
- Code Geass:
- Believe it or not, Mao (the Psychopathic Manchild) touches upon this trope. Most of his evil deeds are a direct result of serious Moral Myopia brought about from his lack of normal human experience since childhood. With his mind-reading powers, he first learned about humanity's evil impulses much too young, and so automatically assumed that the people thinking them were bad and deserved to be killed, a fact that carries over into the actual plot action, where he's seventeen. This is all talked about in the supplementary readings, where CC frequently comments on his misplaced innocence.
- An inversion occurs during Lelouch's Roaring Rampage of Revenge over Shirley's death. One of the soldiers participating in the assault of V.V.'s headquarters notices a bunch of children and starts to have second thoughts. The children, who are Tykebombs raised and trained by V.V's cult, proceed to calmly use their Geass to make him attack his comrades. They're killed by a teenage boy who's not much older than them.
- The entire Digimon franchise is built on this trope.
- Digimon Adventure: In a nutshell, the Chosen Children (DigiDestined) are children because Adults Are Useless.
- Digimon Adventure 02: Same as above, and ultimately their innocence, hopes, and dreams are what defeats the Big Bad, whose power was built on corruption and despair.
- Digimon Tamers: The Wild Bunch (Monster Makers) based Digimon off of children's ideas, and the Tamers' naïveté to believe that they could do anything is what let them prove it.
- Digimon Frontier: Only those pure of heart answered Ophanimon's call, and all of them were children.
- Tokomon serves this purpose in Digimon X-Evolution.
- At one point in Dragon Ball, Bulma, with Goku in tow, gets hold of her father's capsule by mistake. She's initially wary of using it, knowing her father is a Dirty Old Man, but decides to try it out anyway in case it's something useful. It's not — the capsule turns out to contain a large number of porno magazines. When Goku takes a look at one of them, he reacts in utter bewilderment.
Goku: This is weird... they're all naked, even though they aren't taking any baths...Bulma: KIDS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO LOOK AT THESE!!!
- Ikigami: In "The Last Lesson", the entire point is to disprove this trope. The National Welfare Act was passed was to deal with underage crime.
- A schoolteacher loses his job because a kid took pictures of underage children with the teacher's phone, getting him branded as a pervert. Later, when the kid admits to setting up the teacher, the teacher responds with "If you're truly sorry, then you have done no harm."
- The headmaster of the school where the kid went fired teachers if the children were failing, the logic being that kids will study as hard as they can and if they're failing, it's the teachers' fault.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, this is one of the stated reasons why Fate's sentence was light despite being an accomplice in the dimensional interference; she was just a child who was following her mother's wish and didn't fully understand the crime that she was committing. Also, Precia's an evil bitch for not only taking advantage of that trust, but abusing it.
- In Mekko Rarekko its played straight with Buchi, who was innocent as a kid and is still very sweet and innocent as a teenager. Taishou on the other hand, who is Buchi's best and only friend, is a different case. As a kid, Taishou was also very innocent as well just like Buchi. But when he met a group of kids that he wanted to be friends with, all of the kids bullied him, and not just a little bit. Taishou was bullied so much in first grade it can even be considered torture. Because of that experience, he became a bit of a bully himself. He became friends with Buchi in second grade when Buchi was being bullied because Taishou knew what Buchi was going through since he was in his position before.
- No Game No Life: Izuna Hatsuse isn't exactly "innocent" as she swears constantly in the light novel (she does little swearing in the anime though), but that doesn't mean she's a bad person, As she's only 8 years old and as long as it's not a game (or petting), she barely cares of things the others do and has to ask many questions to understand. In the flim, When Tet told her of the Great War and how the Exceeds killed one another for thousands of years, she cannot comprehend why people would want to do that.
- In Phantom Dream, when a Jaki kills a child for a spell, Tamaki is enraged.
Such a... small life... crushed.
- Haru initially believes this in Reborn! (2004). During their first meeting with her, Reborn is with Tsuna. Haru asks to be friends with Reborn, then to hug him. After Reborn tells her he is an assassin, she punches Tsuna, telling him that babies are innocent, pristine angels, and he should be ashamed of himself for tainting him. She changes her mind soon enough.
- A Silent Voice subverts this in one of the most cruel ways depicted in a manga. In Volume 1, the only innocent kid is Nishimiya Shouko, the deaf transfer student. Everyone else in the class bullies her, and when this becomes known to the teachers (who, by the way, were in on the bullying in the first place and are only trying to save face), the class turns on Ishida Shouya, the only classmate who actually made any real effort to try and get along with Shouko, even though he was also the one who started bullying her in the first place. Six years later, in Volume 2, we learn that Shouya being ostracized by his classmates in elementary school drove him to want to kill himself. It was only because he met Shouko again, that he decided to do everything in his power to make amends, even though he didn't believe he deserved to be forgiven by Shouko.
- In Space Runaway Ideon, the children on the Solo Ship are represented as the indifference between the warring sides, genuinely playful and optimistic, and completely oblivious to what's happening around them. Despite Karala Ajiba being an alien, the children accept her and see the good in her, in comparison to their paranoid older counterparts. Interestingly enough, In the final film, Be Invoked, it's discovered that the children's innocence is the key to controlling the Ide, with Karala's recently revealed pregnancy by human Bes Jordan acting as a sign that peace is possible. However, this being a Tomino anime, Karala is shot, the Ide is ticked off, and ends both races through their intense fighting. The themes explored in Ideon concerning the children are retouched in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen: At seventeen, Kaito Sena is a little on the old side for this trope, but is still referred to as a "Sinless Soul" after being murdered by his abusive father and then summoned into the world where the story takes place.
- The theme of Freedom from Fear (of Four Freedoms). World War II is raging around the family, but the children are implied to be innocent of the horrors as they slumber peacefully.
- A recurring element in Strontium Dog is that children are (usually) not prejudiced against mutants, and often cheer them on even when their parents complain about how freaks should stay out of sight of decent folks. One particular story deserves special mention - a kid was caught in the crossfire between Johnny and a criminal. Johnny was wracked with guilt and chased away from the funeral, so in desperation to make amends, he dug up the corpse and brought it to a necromancer to be revived. This didn't end well.
- Subverted in a scene when Rudi talks with a mother who believes in this trope, while at the same time the kids play with Adolf Hitler dolls and throw atomic Cluster F Bombs at each other.
- Infuriatingly subverted by a young girl in DC: The New Frontier. John Henry lays dying after taking a beating from the Ku Klux Klan. A little girl appears in front of him and he begs her to help him. Her response is "He's here! He's here! The nigger's over here!"
- In Castle Waiting, we heard that The Devil has objections to curses on babies.
- Batman Vampire: The sight of her master Dracula about to kill an innocent child is what enabled Tanya to break free of his control and escape.
- Wonder Woman (1987): Diana is angry and upset about everyone Medusa killed, but she is only upset at Athena for not interfering to save the one child Medusa murdered, Martin Garibaldi.
- In the Don Rosa story The Prisoner Of White Agony Creek, Scrooge is reminiscing about his gold-digging days, and Huey, Dewey, and Louie decide to ask what happened the month he and Goldie spent alone in White Agony Creek. Donald has a massive Oh, Crap! moment before shoving the boys away. While they may be innocent, Donald can probably imagine what happens when two people with Belligerent Sexual Tension spend a month alone together.
- In Primer (2020), flashbacks show protagonist Ashley Rayburn as this, where she listened to her father to give him while he was in a fight with the police. He then murders the officer, and she greatly regrets what happened.
- The Emperor's New Clothes, with the classic case of a kid who is Too Dumb to Fool.
- In The Brothers Grimm' The Children Who Played Butcher, some kids watched a farmhand slaughter a pig, then cut it up. They decide to play this "game" and slit the throat of the child picked to be the pig, killing him. Before they can cut up the body one of the mothers come across them and drag them before the magistrate. The magistrate, with the help of the local elders, comes up with a way to determine if they are innocent or guilty. Each child is offered an apple and a silver coin. If they took the apple then they are innocent of the ways of the world and didn't intend to kill the other child. However, if they took the coin then they were wise to the ways of the world and intentionally killed the other child and will be hung for murder. It never said which they chose. This is one of their tales that appeared only in the first edition.
- Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla MonsterVerse fanfiction, Manda is a baby Protectorate who is adorably innocent and sweet-natured. He'll still try and stand up for others if need be and potentially end up picking a fight with something seriously dangerous.
- A Growing Affection has Minato cite this as one of the reasons he sealed the Nine-Tails in Naruto; as an innocent baby/child, he would be more resistant to the demon's influence.
- In Christian Humber Reloaded children appear as helpless victims which had a Morality Pet role for the main character.
- Played with in the Eva fic Nobody Dies. The Ree, the Reego, and the Keiworu are all innocent... by which we mean they do not seem to have a good grasp of morality. They tend to think that killing and violence, especially if explosions and/or knives are involved, is FUN. However, they also have very strict prohibitions against killing humans, because humans, like them, are "people", and harming people is a bad thing according to their parental figures. Kaworu speculates that they may be closer to what humanity was like before the "Fall": uninhibited and unaware of Good and Evil.
- Played With in Gensokyo 20XX in terms of mostly Reimu and Chen and later on the others.
- In Reimu's case, this is mostly justified and played straight because she is age-regressed, mentally as well as physically, coupled with being mentally conditioned, thus she wouldn't be able to grasp things that those older than her might (Like why swearing is bad). However, later on, when she is a witness to Chen's suicide attempt, it is made note that she never did seem to be able to make sense of it and is likely suffering from mental trauma as a result. By 20XXV, this veers into Ambiguous Innocence territory and Ping-Pong Naïveté.
- Played with even more so in Chen's case in that, naturally, being the mental-equivalent of a human child, has fluctuating maturity, and knows what some words mean but doesn't know what other words mean but is also naive to what infertility is. Also, in 20XXIII, she pretty much knows there is a war going on but doesn't understand why Ran would be against building an inner core or refuge as a part of their preparations. At the same time, later on, in Gensokyo 20XXIV, at two points, she couldn't understand why Ran had changed and, later on, attempted suicide, something children don't do. However, aside from her innocence, she is smarter than what she tends to let on.
- Kind of in Sakuya's case, as Yukari brought her back as a child, she is more or less this as demonstrated in chapter 53 of Gensokyo 20XXIV when she suggested Ran "drink some herbal tea" and was genuinely remorseful that it seemed to upset her. Whether or not she actually knew what she was talking is unknown.
- Definitely played straight with Maribel and Renko. When first introduced, seem to be unaware that the place where they were was once nuked or that their life has changed. If they are aware that their life has changed, then they don't seem to be fazed by it. Also, they have no clue where babies come from and it prompts them to ask.
- Also played straight in Foundling (a branch off) with Reimu, who thinks it's normal to live in a forest full of youkai and neither is she fazed by their overall oddness, however, being so young, she hasn't learned otherwise.
- Kill la Kill AU plays with this in terms of Ryuuko, Nui, and Mako in that while they may act older than their ages, there are some things they cannot seem to sort out, i.e Ryuuko couldn't so easily cope with Satsuki being severely ill and neither did she know how, opting to run away. This is played straight, however, with Original Character Shinseiji, who, despite looking like a toddler, is very much an infant, with the lack of knowledge or comprehension to match.
- The innocence of children comes up twice in The Second Try as an important plot point: The first time, a random child convinces Asuka and Shinji to try and save the world after being sent back to the past. The second time, Aki manages to keep Rei from performing Instrumentality after they spend the day together.
- The Secret Return of Alex Mack: Subverted when Alex's older sister remarks on Colonel O'Neill's looks, in front of eight-year-old Shar.
Annie: Well, I can sure see why Willows all hot for the general.
Shar: Yeah, because hes really funny, and hes really nice to Auntie Willow, and if anybodys mean to her, I bet he goes all general-y on em!
Alex: Yeah, thats exactly right.
Shar: And Auntie Willow thinks Uncle Jack is really good at sex stuff too!
- In the Mass Effect's Crucible's companion fic, Interference, the adult characters enforce this trope onto their hybrid children which causes more harm than good in the long run. Instead of telling the kids that there're are bad people out to use and kill them simply for being Hybrids and prepare the children for the worse, the parents shield them from everything with "you will understand when you're older" or dismiss that they're just kids and won't be able to understand anything. This attitude causes misunderstanding from the hybrid children and thus makes them unprepared when the brutal truth catch up to them in the form of Mondala.
- Alt!Jane and Garrus were a big offender of this trope. Her loss of innocence from a young age caused her to be overprotective to their son Gaius so when they had to explain Alt!Garrus's constantly away for his work of reforming the Hierarchy, instead of exposing the truth to Gaius that "your dad does it because he's fighting against the people who want to hurt or even kill you and your kind", they just went with "I will explain it when you're older". This made Gaius misunderstood that his father hated and wanted nothing to do with him. Had they just gave Gaius the truth, the child would have felt less hurt and be more understanding of the situation.
- Alt!Victus also did it to Tiberius. He overcompensated for his son lack of motherly affection by shielding the child from every bad thing, even the flaws of others. But by constantly telling the child stories about Tarquin's heroic deeds without revealing anything bad about his deceased older brother, Victus has effectively put Tarquin on a pedestal, made Tib seeing himself as unworthiness and thus damaged his self-esteem beyond repair when he grew up.
- Victus being into this trope also cause him to not believe Tib when the kid tried to tell him that he was being bullied at school, it wasn't until Alt!Shepard confirmed it to him that Adrien realized that he was wrong.
- Invoked in Ginny Weasley: Double Life; the talking snake Milikan has grown used to using her Hypnotic Eyes to get friends, such as with Ginny, but when Ginny introduces Milikan to her infant daughter Lily, Milikan is truly touched to realise that Lily shows no fear of her.
- It's not the Raptor DNA:
- Rosie, Owen's niece, who is an adorable little girl who does not know of the terrible things Elise did prior to her HeelFace Turn. The adults also have to tiptoe around why Elise's sister Small One isn't around anymore.
- Love, a baby Apatosaurus that wanders into Elise's room at the vet's after her run-in with Lilly. While Elise is a Gentle Giant, she's still a predatory dinosaur that killed several of Love's kind during her rampage, but Love shows no fear with walking up to Elise.
- One of the biggest focuses in A Glad Day is how all babies and non-brainwashed children are innocent and in need of protection. Ultimately the goal of the good guys is to save the unborn Trunks, reincarnated Goku, and ten thousand toddler Saiyans whose infant conditioning was sabotaged by Bulma and the resistance specifically because of this trope.
- Played with in Lost, Found, with Ryuuko and Nui, who have very little understanding as to why they were being experimented on and can only speculate, along with knowing the consequences. While they do have some understanding of how wrong their treatment was, they could do very little to affect it. In a later chapter, Nui, when telling of her (and Ryuuko's) experiences at the "orphanage", she describes a vivisection before asking what it was, however, she seems to have a clue as to what "euthanasia" was (or, at least, what the idea entailed), as she mentioned, I got to stay because they were low on kids.
- RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse:
- Sceptre (Flicker to his friends, and anyone who isn't his great-grandmother) tells his great-grandmother, Vicereine Puissance, all the things his dad said about her - like how great-grandma's an evil pony who's lived too long, and is a spiteful monster - right to her face, not getting why it might be a bad idea to tell her all this.
- From one non-canon story, there's Thesis, who doesn't seem to get how blatantly suspicious (if not definitely villainous) her "big sister" is. Being only a few days / weeks old has something to do with that.
- The Outside:
- Played with in regards to Ryuuko is more naive than the usual child (we don't know exactly how old she is but the story implies that she's about 12), however, this is because Satsuki forbade her from going outside and raised her isolated, so she doesn't really know how the world works or what things are. Special points of this are when she refers to an RV as a "house car", didn't know what snow was and asked what it was, couldn't understand exactly how someone as nice as Rei could be a wanted fugitive (her reasoning is that "nice people don't go to jail"), or what miscarriages are.
- This is equally played with with Nui, though, to a lesser extent, as, despite being about six, she's knows more than a six-year-old would but she, like Ryuuko, doesn't know what a miscarriage is.
- In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Inko Midoriya believes that the alien baby she and her husband Hisashi found to be innocent since he's just a baby. Hisashi is convinced that the baby is somehow an Enfant Terrible. Inko's assumption proves to be true once they start raising the baby as their son Izuku.
Inko: So what if he's an alien? It's not like all aliens are evil. The Martian Manhunter certainly wasn't evil. Besides, he's just a baby, and babies can't hurt people.
Hisashi: Yeah, but the people they grow up to be can! Besides, how do we even know he's even actually a baby? [steps over to Inko and peers at the baby] For all we know, he comes from a planet of beings that just look like babies, and they all try to use their overwhelming cuteness to infiltrate societies and destroy them from the inside! [baby giggles and squeezes Hisashi's nose] That doesn't disprove the theory. [removes baby's hand from his nose]
- In The One to Make It Stay, even after all of Chat Noir's unsavory actions come to light, Ella and Etta are still huge fans of him, even wanting him to team up with Ladybug and Viperion. Alya doesn't have the heart to tell them the truth.
- So far, born of hell('s kitchen) has three child characters. Two of them are the epitome of cheerfulness and optimism, and while the third is rather traumatized by repeated Parental Abandonment, he still manages to be an utter cutie winning his entourage through his sweetness.
- Innocence is actually discussed between Matt and Foggy — Matt equates it with ignorance, insisting his son won't be happy to learn his parents are leading double lives in which they commit violence and bring various villains' attention upon them. Foggy firmly disagrees and claims it's a matter of idealism, believing Matt's son Peter would be awed to learn his parents are superheroes doing their utmost best to protect people. The narration itself leans more towards Foggy's argument.
- In Things Jade Hates, Jade's six-year-old brother doesn't realize how abusive and dangerous his mother is. He doesn't remember why his mother was arrested and doesn't pick up on the animosity in the house.
- In Final Toll, the Cheerful Child Romani has no idea what's going to happen in a few hours and is just happy that she's old enough to drink Chateau Romani. She doesn't realize that everyone is going to die before sunrise.
- In Bucky Barnes Gets His Groove Back & Other International Incidents, most people seem to be under the breathtakingly mistaken impression that Captain America's childhood was pure character-building Dickensian poverty that helped turn him into the moral paragon that he is now. Not only is Steve Rogers, as a man, not even close to a paragon of anything save for maybe stubbornness, he and Bucky spent their childhoods aiding against Prohibition. Steve kept books for multiple speakeasies, and Bucky's family auto shop used to serve bootleggers on the down-low, where he'd help install secret compartments for contraband and learned how to soup up engines a bit. Given that Prohibition wasn't lifted until both were in their late teens, they were both minors when they were breaking the law, and Bucky could have been helping out with bootleggers' cars as young as elementary school-age.
- The Miraculous World of Caline Bustier: Sabine Chang and Caline Bustier take up the Ladybug and Cat Miraculouses temporarily when the normal bearers are incapacitated. They nearly beat Mayura to death with their bare hands for threatening their kids. Caline admits after that maybe the reason teenagers are chosen for this duty is that they are innocent enough not to jump straight to using their superpowers for brutal murder.
- My Neighbor Totoro: Satsuki and Mei. Actually, this is a plot point, as they are the only ones that can see Totoro and his friends.
- In Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, Ponyo's father wishes she could stay pure and innocent forever. Later, when Ponyo's mother proposes putting Sosuke to the test, he is distressed at how innocent Sosuke is.
- Toy Story: Sid tortures toys for fun. On one hand, it's easy to imagine this kid growing up to torture his fellow humans. On the other hand, he didn't know the toys were alive.
- Pixar plays with this trope in some films: In Monsters, Inc. it is played straight with Boo, in Finding Nemo, Darla's innocence make her unable to realize that she terrifies the fishes (who consider her a "fish-killer" after she accidentally killed a goldfish by constantly shaking the bag. In Up, Russell's innocence made him reveal Kevin's existence in Muntz's airship.
- In the film version of Le magasin des suicides (The Suicide Shop) Alan and his friends watch Alan's sister Marilyn get changed and dance around her room naked. Unlike his friends, Alan doesn't see anything sexual about this. He just likes watching his sister dance.
- This is an important plot point from the Rise of the Guardians film, where the power from the guardians depends on the belief of the human children in them.
- Just about every movie made before the mid-1950s invoked this trope. Children were almost always portrayed as innocent and trusting, with nary a shred of cruelty or disrespect. This began to change once Youth Counterculture became a major social issue during the 1950s, with Rebel Without a Cause being first among the stories to abandon this trope.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Mess with kids and Indy will END YOU.
Indiana Jones: "They're innocent children.... Mola Ram, prepare to meet Kali... IN HELL!!"
- In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker's falling off of the slippery slope was killing younglings when Sors Bandeam, one of them, asked him what they were going to do during his attack on the temple. This trope is also the reason why on Naboo the monarchs are generally elected from amongst pre-teens and teenagers for the Naboo people believe that children have an uncorrupted kind of wisdom. Padmé Amidala, one of the most beloved queens Naboo ever had, began her reign at age 14. One of her successors, Apailana, was elected at only 12.
- The orphans in The Devil's Backbone might be a bunch of little kids who love comic books and grossing each other out with slugs, but they're a complex bunch, and by the end, perfectly capable of killing Jacinto like a pack of hunters taking down a mammoth.
- Hotel Rwanda has terrified children who simply cannot understand the concept of genocide. One of the most heartbreakingly memorable lines in the film comes when a Red Cross worker recalls being Forced to Watch as the Hutu militia slaughter Tutsi children, and one of the children says "Please don't let them kill me. I promise I won't be Tutsi any more". She is killed anyway.
- Being a Pædo Hunt/Too Smart for Strangers Public Service Announcement, Tricky People plays this straight. Particularly anvilicious is Carmen's tearful confession to Yello Dyno of "not [being] a little girl anymore".
- The Professional:
- This trope is used to differentiate the two killers. Léon refuses to kill children (or women), while Norman Stansfield has no problem gunning down a four-year-old child.
- Mathilda Lando curses a lot, smokes, and has a disturbingly sexual mind for someone as young as she is, but despite all the outward appearance, she is just an innocent kid, especially when compared to Leon (a Professional Killer) and especially Stansfield (an Ax-Crazy Dirty Cop DEA agent).
- The movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is built around this trope and—ironically—its commercial exploitation.
- Averted with extreme prejudice by The Bad Seed adaptations and its Gender Flipped counterpart The Good Son.
- Also averted in Mikey where the titular Villain Antagonist is an abused orphan who kills entire adoptive families if they don't love him enough.
- Parodied in Blazing Saddles. This belief was the undoing of the Waco Kid way back when.
The Waco Kid: Well, it got so that every piss-ant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must have killed more men than Cecil B. De Mille. It got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word "draw" in my sleep. Then one day, I was just walking down the street when I heard a voice behind me say, "Reach for it, mister!" I spun around... and there I was, face-to-face with a six-year-old kid. Well, I just threw my guns down and walked away. Little bastard shot me in the ass. So I limped to the nearest saloon, crawled inside a whiskey bottle, and I've been there ever since.
- In The Wild Bunch children are shown to be among the most violent characters in the film, and in a Peckinpah film that's impressive. A child smiles as he watches the Mexican Army (which his father is the general of) get massacred by rebels, and later lands the killing shot on Warren Oates, still smiling. In the first 25 minutes, a group of children are shown torturing scorpions (who only LOOK scary) by trapping them and coating them with fire ants, and later setting the cage ON FIRE, and, after the massacre in town, run around pretending to shoot the corpses, yelling "Bang! Bang!" in a way that will make anyone feel chills.
- Downplayed in To Kill a Dragon. The children already show signs of being corrupted by the Dragon. However, it is implied that they can have their free will restored, whereas most of the adults are too far gone and will forever remain slaves at heart.
- In My Life as a Dog, 12-year-old Ingemar goes to visit his ill mother in the hospital. Not realizing she is terminally ill, he asks her what she wants for Christmas in a heartbreaking scene.
- Stated word-for-word in The Hunt (2012). All the movie's problems are based on a single lie from little Klara. Her words turn out deadly (for the protagonist's dog anyway) and if Klara was an adult, we would see her action as a wicked attempt to manipulate others for her own satisfaction. But at her age, Klara was simply confused and misinterpreted Lucas' rejection. All adults in the movie accept this fact when the truth is revealed. The only person not actually buying into this trope is 16-year-old Marcus, who is in such a rage about Klara's lie that he spits her in the face.
- In Charlie's Angels (2000), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore) is shown rolling naked down a hill behind a house. Two young boys see her. How do they respond? They give her clothes, including a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin T-shirt.
- A revolting example in Cuties with one of the Cuties finding a used rubber and blowing on it like a balloon. When she was chastised by the other girls that it's a condom, she remains oblivious until they explain to her that people with AIDS use it, which itself is a precocious example by the girls who have misguided perceptions about sex, including that you could catch AIDS orally.*
- The Sapphires: The only Inept Talent Show Contestant who doesn't seem racist is a young boy who claps for the sisters.
- Spawn (1997): Spawn runs into his human daughter Cyan after secretly observing a lecture given by his former fiancé Wanda. The little girl isn't afraid of the imposing figure and innocently notes his weird (burned and scarred) face before exchanging names.
- The Theatre Bizarre: In "The Accident" a mother and young daughter drive along a mountain road and come upon a fatal collision between a motorcyclist and a deer. Another biker puts the suffering deer out of its misery with his knife. The mother thoughtfully and poetically answers her daughter's questions about the nature of life and death.
- Ender's Game plays with this trope. Valentine and Peter are angel and demon, respectively. Ender is Ender.
- In John C. Wright's books:
- Orphans Of Chaos it is explicitly invoked, when Mrs. Wren asks Vanity and Amelia to pray for her because God will hear the prayers of the "young and sweet" better than hers. Later in the same work, Amelia ponders that Kids Are Cruel, and while some adults take advantage of their power to do wrong, others don't — and wouldn't they be more innocent, because their opportunities are greater?
- In Fugitives of Chaos, Amelia warns Colin that the Ring of Gyges might not work on the innocent, and cites children as possible.
- In Guild Hunter, it is stated as the reason why to harm a child may well be the only true taboo Angelkind has left.
- King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak is all about this trope. It basically preaches that if kids are given power, there will be no evil.
- In The Secret Garden, Mary and Colin are both Spoiled Brats when they first appear. However, the causes are delineated: Mary's mother neglected her, and the servants learned to indulge Mary to keep her from coming to her mother's notice, and Colin's father had neglected him after his mother's Death by Childbirth. Letting them play together and experience the beauties of the garden and nature causes them to shed the characters and become their true, innocent selves.
- In James Thurber's The 13 Clocks, one of the wicked duke's wickedest deeds was imprisoning children in the tower. Late in the book, the sounds of children's laughter from the tower and a ball rolling down the steps deeply enrages him.
- In Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, the narrator and his wife have many run-ins with evil forces. The final one, which shocks them to the core despite all they have seen, is the kidnapping of their baby daughter to Hell.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, the Ghosts on several occasions make special provision for children. In Necropolis, Criid takes two children, total strangers, under her wing when their mother dies, and when Caffran sees that a child and a woman are looting, he brings out what they had intended to steal, and gives them a gun as well. In Sabbat Martyr Criid opens a deserted building to shelter children and stands down the Obstructive Bureaucrat who objects; later, the Ghosts are particularly protective of the children among the refugees. This lends particular horror to Caffran's death at the hands of a child in The Armor of Contempt. Subverted during the siege of Vervunhive in Necropolis. The narration briefly mentions that the Chaos army is made of all people available, including elders and children.
- In Bram Stoker's Dracula, the vampire Lucy preys on children. Although she doesn't kill them, the children's innocent inability to understand that she was harming them — some even wish to meet her again — is horrific.
- Simon Spurrier's Night Lords novel Lord of the Night: Sahaal captures a child who cries for its mother and then, when he's close enough, tries to stab him; even a Chaos Space Marine such as Sahaal reflects that there is no place for innocence in the underhive. Later, when he orders Chianni to kill child hostages, she merely nods, and he is impressed that it does not perturb her.
- Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files:
- Death Masks, Susan tells Dresden that the Red Court prey on children, which disgusts them both. Ortega offers to turn Dresden into a vampire rather than kill him in a duel, claiming they aren't so different. Dresden fishes until he establishes that Ortega preys on children and cites it as a difference.
- In Dead Beat, Wardens can not bring themselves to leave children behind in danger while they deal with the bad guys.
- In Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality books, the souls of infants are pure — except, in some interesting theology where they can be tainted down to "in balance" by such things as the circumstances of their conception, or by their deaths owing to genetic disease precipiating their mother's suicide.
- Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Children are portrayed this way in Songs of Innocence and they are not portrayed this way in Songs of Experience, in the poems "NURSE'S Song" and "Infant Sorrow".
- In Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, Vetinari speaks coldly of killing children; those he is addressing counter that they had exterminated pups — which only makes them look bad. Then we learn they are speaking of orc children which is just as bad.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's Two Towers, Theoden throws off Saruman's charming voice citing the children who died from his attack (plus their mutilation of the dead).
- In Sandy Mitchell's Duty Calls, a Knight Templar explains to Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, how he needed to do everything: even, when abandoning a settlement to alien attack, shooting the inhabitants when they tried to get their children on his ship. Cain, a self-professed Dirty Coward who would abandon anyone to save his own skin, is horrified.
- Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno
In each such glimpse, the face seemed to grow more childish and more innocent: and, when I had at last thought the veil entirely away, it was, unmistakeably, the sweet face of little Sylvie!
- In John C. Wright's The Golden Transcedence, Ungannis declares that humanity is unspeakable and only was endurable when mortal, because then those guilty of crime would die and the children, temporarily innocent, took their place. Then, she's The Resenter.
- In Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London (known as Midnight Riot in the US), getting a warrant for a ghost who murdered his wife and child is complicated by the ghostly magistrate asking whether the woman was a shrew. The quick-thinking narrator tells him that she was a terrible shrew but the baby was innocent, which gets the warrant.
- Domingo Santos' story The First Day of Eternity (published in Analog) has the Innocent Aliens befriend the children of the colonists first.
- Left Behind uses this, no doubt due to the conundrum of "what of people who were not raised Christian or were too young to understand what it really means", and similar. The writers being pro-life, they also raptured children in the womb, and there is surprisingly little angst when every child under twelve (the cutoff point) suddenly vanishes.
- In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, a character warns not to be deceived by a child's innocence — since she was drawn to a man they know is a traitor, she must be as bad.
- In Devon Monk's Magic to the Bone, Allie is surprised by a question of whether she cast a curse, and (truthfully) denies it — the target's just a little boy.
- In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol stories:
- In Brave To Be A King, Manse prevents an infanticide by telling the king that, among other things, that he must not shed the children's innocent blood.
- In Delenda Est, when they threaten revenge, Deirdre pleads not the children, they had nothing to do with it.
- In Patricia A. McKillip's Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather cites this.
- In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots, at one point, going up against the Junior Super Patriots leads to reflections that they are as innocent as those fighting them were, when they were recruited.
- In Coda (2013) Alpha and Omega are very innocent, which is why Anthem works so hard to protect them from the Corp.
- His Dark Materials. Children are immune to the Spectres, and can have special affinity to the Alethiometer, and have transforming daemons symbolizing their infinite potential - but one of the main themes of the books is that children have to grow up, and it's not a bad thing. Neither Will nor Lyra takes direct part in the war against the Authority; they don't share Lord Asriel's Rage Against the Heavens - they're just trying to survive. They do end up killing the Authority, but it's not an act of violence; they didn't know who he was, and were trying to help him. Then again, one is a murderer, and the other is 'only' a sometimes foul mouth brawler who prides herself in her ability to lie to anyone and approves of the other being a murderer. Most other children are likewise depicted similarly, so 'innocence' is a relative concept.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Tommen and Myrcella Baratheon are portrayed in this manner, in great contrast to their older brother.
- Sansa Stark was pretty innocent at first, mixed with Wrong Genre Savvy. She inhabits a truly brutal World Half Empty, which showed no sympathy for her. She soon learned better.
- In the backstory, Visenya Targaryen managed to bloodlessly and singlehandedly conquered the Vale by luring Ronnel Arryn, the infant King of the Vale, to play with her. When his mother, Queen Regent Sharra, found him, he was sitting on Visenya's lap, her dragon Vhagar by their side, asking his mother if he could "ride dragons". Sharra immediately surrendered the region to the Targaryens.
- Played with in Ray Bradbury's The Small Assassin, in which a mother becomes convinced that her newborn baby will kill her. She's right. And the father too. A very similar short story is "Baby Hate" by Elizabeth Fancett, where a father believes his newborn son cannot stand to be around him. We are initially led to believe that he is simply projecting his own psychological issues onto the baby - until the baby horrifically and gruesomely murders his father.
- Lampshaded and mocked by Terry Pratchett in Hogfather, with the comment that the sound of children at play is a wonderful thing to hear, provided you're too far away to make out what they're saying.
- Played every way but straight in the Gone series by Michael Grant, where every character is a child. On one end of the scale, you've got the evil, malicious kids: a Big Bad, an Ax-Crazy sadist, a manipulative Smug Snake, a Dark Action Girl who can make people see monsters, an avatar for the alien monster, and a racist cult leader. A little bit lighter gray, you've got a lot of kids who are only looking out for themselves, a techie genius who is forever changing sides, a greedy teenage businessman, and a hypocritical Christian fundamentalist who will lie when it suits her but won't tolerate it in others. For the lightest gray, our heroes are a few well-meaning kids who crack under pressure. All under 15 years old at the start of the series. It's a world of Grey-and-Gray Morality, with no room for innocence.
- Sergey Lukyanenko's Knights Of The Forty Islands is a case of Playing with a Trope. Aliens abduct teenagers (duplicates, actually) and distribute them among the forty islands connected by bridges. They are told that the group that manages to conquer all forty islands gets to go home. The kids are supplied with wooden swords that turn into metal whenever they get aggressive (i.e. fight). Dima quickly learns that this is not a game, and people really die here. Very quickly, the teens realize that it is simply impossible to conquer all forty islands, as each island only has no more than a dozen people. Eventually, the protagonist suggests allying with the nearby islands in order to be able to achieve their goal. While this works at first, it later turns into a disaster, as their former allies turn on them, kill the boys, and rape the girls. In fact, they find remains of children from World War II era who have tried the same thing with identical results. This novel seems to be about breaking every child stereotype to claim that, under the right circumstances, even a child is capable of anything. The worst thing is, the aliens never planned to release anyone.
- Deconstructed in Joe Hill's NOS4A2 where the children of Christmasland are innocent forever, which means they never learn or gain experience or develop empathy. As one character states, "Innocent little kids rip the wings off flies because they don't know any better." In other words, perpetual innocence means no Character Development, for good or ill.
- In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it turns out that Willy Wonka launched the Golden Ticket contest (which was specifically aimed at children) as a way of finding an heir via the Wonka Factory tour. He specifically wants "a good sensible loving child" to become his heir because "A grown-up won't listen to me; he won't learn. He will try to do things his own way and not mine." In the novel, 2005 film, and the 2010 opera adaptations, Charlie is the one nice, perfectly behaved kid of the five ticket finders. The others are Spoiled Brats who are only innocent in the trope's negative aspects: self-centered, naive, and prone to foolish behavior because they think they know better. The 1971 film and 2013 stage musical adaptations avert this trope by making Charlie flawed but still good at heart and possessed of a huge sense of innocent wonder (and, in the musical's case, creativity) that the other kids lack.
- Played with in Eva Ibbotson's Which Witch? — the very nice and innocent female protagonist meets a little orphan boy, who comes to love her as a kind of adoptive mother, but turns out to be a very dark wizard, which, coincidentally, is exactly what she needs, so everything turns out alright.
- In Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive), Lift assumes that this is why her spren, Wyndle, came to her. It's actually almost the exact opposite.
Lift: Why don't they notice you? Is it 'cuz only the pure in heart can see you?
Wyndle: You're not serious.
Lift: Sure. That'd fit into legends and stories and stuff.
Wyndle: Oh, the theory itself isn't ridiculous. Merely the idea that you consider yourself to be pure in heart.
Lift: I'm pure. I'm a child and stuff. I'm so storming pure I practically belch rainbows.
- Warrior Cats:
- Most kits are portrayed as innocent, energetic young cats who contrast with the hardened, shell-shocked, and weary warriors. Even Tigerstar (basically cat Hitler) was adorable and innocent as a kit. It's only when the kits start training to become warriors that they lose their innocence.
- Subverted with Brokenstar in Yellowfang's Secret and Shrewclaw in Tallstar's Revenge. You can see the seeds of Brokenstar's evil right from his kithood, and Shrewkit is a bully who picks on Tallkit and calls him a worm.
- In The Divine Comedy, Beatrice says that only children are innocent among humanity and that as soon as they mature they become ravenously evil. She goes so far as to say that a child will learn to speak intelligently at the same time they first hope to see their mother dead and buried.
- Deliberately exploited by a villain in Hive Mind (2016). Rose is only 10, and uses that to both conceal her murders and attempt to evade responsibility for them.
- Mercy Thompson plays this straight with Jesse, who tries her best to be plucky and upbeat even while living with a divorced father and in a world where there is tension between humans and supernatural beings.
- Spinning Silver
- Miryem's view of the Staryk shifts radically when she learns that they have children and her servant introduces her daughter. This is the reason she defies Irina and frees the Staryk King from Chernobog.
- Stepon, the youngest viewpoint character, is a small boy who is perceptive to the feelings around him (even though he doesn't understand what is happening or why) and just wants the people he cares about to be safe and not scared. Zigzagged with the other village children, however; several of them bully him and are being raised to be just as antisemetic as their parents.
- A strongly held belief of Jesse's in Breaking Bad, and in the early seasons, a sign that he isn't just a stupid, jerky, gangsta-wannabe type that his first impression gives off. He destroys a joint that he finds in his little brother's possession, and in a later season, attempts to kill two drug dealers that killed an 11-year boy. This trait also eventually ends his partnership with Walt, when a "co-worker" of theirs murders a boy during one of their operations, and Jesse realizes that only he is really horrified and disgusted by it.
- Game of Thrones: Played with. Westeros certainly considers childhood to be special, but it also ends much earlier than the modern norm. Boys become legal adults at 16 and girls at their first menstruation, but Bran is taken to his first execution at 10.
- The Stark kids all start this way before their respective Break the Cutie arcs. Rickon Stark, in particular, is this way in one of the creepiest ways possible. He seems completely oblivious to what's happening at first - a fact which Robb painfully informs Catelyn about. He also parrots some of the more offensive Wildling stories that Old Nan told him to Osha, who is a Wildling herself. However, Osha takes it in stride as Rickon clearly likes her.
- Played straight by Tommen and Myrcella Baratheon in contrast to their brother Joffrey. Tommen comes off as a genuinely sweet kid and is nice to Sansa. Myrcella is also nice to Sansa and seems genuinely excited to see her and Joffrey get married. In the 5th season, Myrcella is killed by Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes for revenge on the Lannisters and the death of Oberyn, even though she had very little involvement since she was in Dorne at the time when Oberyn was killed. In the 7th season, Tyrion calls them out on it, saying that she was innocent and didn't deserve it.
- Despite being squires captured in battle, Willem and Martyn Lannister seem quite innocent in their concern that Robb Stark might actually turn into a wolf and eat them.
- Deconstructed in-universe by Varys, who determines that it is Ned Stark's concern for this trope that ultimately seals King Robert Baratheon's fate.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The demon from the Season 3 episode "Gingerbread" uses this to get the parents of Sunnydale to kill witches and anyone who protects them, including their own children.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation:
Gil Grissom: Let me tell you something, Humbert. You're twice the age of these kids, and half of them couldn't find their own ass with a map. You prey on innocent children, concocting God-knows-what from God-knows-where, selling Russian Roulette in a bottle and you think we came all the way out here to bust you for possession, you dumb punk? I'm gonna get you for murder. Cool?
- An important subplot in the fifth season of Lost involves a time traveling Sayid shooting Ben as a child to stop him from growing up and causing misery for everyone. However, Kate, Sawyer and Juliet choose to save his life, arguing that he shouldn't be punished as a child for things he will do as an adult.
Jack: That kid is Ben.
Juliet: That's not Ben yet. He's just a kid.
- Dexter feels affection for children because of their innocence, since he himself lost his childhood innocence at a very young age. He also is very protective of them, and whatever else happens finds the idea of hurting a child repulsive.
- Chance of Noah's Arc strongly and explicitly believes this, which is why he keeps taking care of Kenya even after he and her father are separated. He even states a variation on the trope name at one point.
- Initially played straight in Conspiracy Thriller Utopia, but as the gang of unwitting protagonists are pushed further and further, eventually both of the ~12-year-old children involved have committed murder. One in cold blood.
- At first, American Gothic (1995) appears to subscribe to this trope: Buck is proven to be absolutely evil by
murderingmercy-killing Merlyn in the first episode, and most of the first half to three-quarters of the series is devoted to protecting the innocent Caleb from the sheriff's vile influence. Then, as Caleb gradually falls deeper and deeper under his father's thrall, starts taking lessons from him, and absorbs some of his powers, he becomes more disturbingly amoral, wicked, and heartless. By the end of the series, it is Buck who must actually save Trinity from Caleb.
- In an episode of Angel in which a young boy is being possessed by an evil demon we eventually learn that the demon is actually trapped inside the boy's body and the boy in question has no soul and is pure evil, shown by his actions after he is exorcised of the demon, when he burns down his house while his parents and younger sister are still inside, starting in his sister's room to make sure she cannot escape.
- Criminal Minds doesn't believe in this trope.
- One episode has a twelve-year-old serial killer.
- Another had a sociopathic young boy who murdered his younger brother, then stuffed pieces of a model airplane down his throat.
- Another had a thirteen-year-old family annihilator.
- In fact they frequently make the argument that all minors are at least somewhat sociopathic so there is no point in calling them that.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, Ep22), Dean explains that he did not want to answer Sam's questions about their parents because he wanted him to be a kid for just a little longer.
- Played with in The 100. While most of the 100 are in their late teens, it's twelve-year-old Charlotte, seemingly the youngest of the group, who's the first to commit murder on the Ground. However, while the 100 are ready to lynch Murphy (who appears to be sixteen or seventeen) when they think he's the murderer, they're suddenly not so willing when they find out it was Charlotte. Murphy thinks this is unfair and demands Charlotte be executed just like he almost was. Much of an episode is spent trying to protect her from Murphy; even friends of the person she killed come to her defence. Charlotte, however, doesn't think she deserves this protection, and ultimately kills herself.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Gift", Pedro immediately becomes friends with Williams because, as a mistreated orphan with no friends, he can relate to the stranger. Other than the doctor, he is the only person in Madeiro who believes that Williams is no threat to the village.
- Doctor Who: In "Dragonfire", the writer Ian Briggs intended the little girl to represent innocence but was dismayed by the choice to put her in a Mini Pops-Esque dress which caused controversy in both fan and media reviews.
- Showing that Rousseau Was Right, "Who Taught You How To Hate" by Disturbed contrasts the judgmental, aggressive adults with the innocent, unbiased kids who play together paying no mind to their differences.
- Michael Jackson frequently claimed that children could/would right the wrongs in the world through their innocent goodness if only adults would listen to them.
- "Through the Eyes of a Child" by Reamonn is about this trope:
Why did we make it so hard?
This life is so complicated until we see it through the eyes of a child
- Tears for Fears:
- "Suffer the Children", the band's first single, is centered around this topic, as Roland Orzabal (the main songwriter) elucidates in the liner notes of the 1999 The Hurting remastered CD.
Orzabal: We were really big on this at the time — we really thought children were born innocent and good and holy... When you've got kids of your own, you realize how bloody difficult it is. But it's that kind of thing — saying look at what you're doing with your child.
- "Swords and Knives":
A waking world of innocence
So grave those first born cries
When life begins with needles and pins
It ends with swords and knives
God save those born to die
- "Suffer the Children", the band's first single, is centered around this topic, as Roland Orzabal (the main songwriter) elucidates in the liner notes of the 1999 The Hurting remastered CD.
- Both Played Straight as well as averted on John Zorn's Music for Children. The dolls in the album artwork all have an Uncanny Valley creepiness to them, while the liner notes make a stance for the benefits of childish innocence:
Rich ground for love and enthusiasm, innocence is delight in the natural charm of being and the unconscious experience of contradictions which no longer have a tragic character. To attain the virginal joy of innocence, one must not live contradictions consciously, or know tragedy and thoughts of death, because such knowledge is baffling, complex, and requires disjunction. Innocence resists tragedy but welcomes love, because the innocent, never troubled by inner contradictions have generous impulses.
- Eminem's work has a complex relationship with this trope. In his world, Slim Shady is only able to be the corrupter of children because there are kids out there as stupid and violent as Slim. He also acknowledges the importance of his very child-unfriendly music to the kids who will listen to it anyway, viewing them as his primary audience. However, he views these fucked-up kids as being the result of a horrible environment of abuse, poverty, broken homes and ambiently depraved pop culture, taking from his music how to stand up for themselves and protect themselves from a world that is already trying to corrupt them. And then there is his daughter, Hailie - she is the emotional heart of his music and represents innocence, with him admitting he wouldn't let her listen to his music either (he would record special Clean versions for her). He wouldn't allow swearing inside the house and, hilariously, worried about Britney Spears's sexualised image on his little girl. And then puts her to sing on some of his most below-the-belt, depraved songs ever.
- Older Than Feudalism example from the Gospels: Jesus's followers are squabbling over who will be greatest in the coming Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus responded: "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven", so he meant "It's not about being high up and powerful, but humbly accepting truth".
- Other religions similarly use children as symbols of being innocent and receptive, such as Daoism: "If you receive the world, the Dao will never leave you, and you will be like a little child."
- Some religions go as far as to preach being like something even younger than a child, like the Zen koan: "What did your face look like before your parents were born?".
- Most mainstream Christian Denominations believe that children are incapable of committing major sins by virtue of their youth. It is also generally believed that all baptized children who die immediately go to Heaven (what happens to unbaptized children is debated). In the Catholic Church, those who have not yet reached maturity are considered to be unable to commit mortal sin on the basis that they lack reason (and by extension lack full knowledge, one of the requirements necessary for a sin to be mortal). Additionally, the Catholic Church holds that any baptized person who dies before attaining reason goes to Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church concludes that while it can't be said for sure what happens to baptized children, there is good reason to believe that God has mercy on them (perhaps even letting them into Heaven) on the basis that Jesus was a Friend to All Children. Other denominations that don't practice infant baptism believe instead that all people are born sinful, and accepting salvation is a private, personal decision, of which baptism is merely a symbol. However, those who die without having the faculties to make such an important decision (namely, children and the mentally handicapped) are still believed to get a pass.
- In Islam, children who have not yet reached maturity are one of the three categories of people for whom "the pen has been lifted" (i.e. Allah does not hold them accountable for wrongdoings). Additionally, it is held that all children who die before maturity go to Heaven, even if non-Muslim children.
- Dungeons & Dragons enters this trope in a roundabout and downplayed way: being evil requires either being made of evil or combining doing wrong with the ability to understand the concept of "wrong". End result: most children don't become evil until at least a few months after hitting Intelligence 3, even ones of generally evil races like drow or goblins.
- The introduction of Princess: The Hopeful depicts adults in general as judgmental, unaccomplished, and cowardly. The only admirable ones are those with childlike hearts.
We learned that growing up isn't about suddenly being able to do everything you ever wanted; it's mostly about learning how stupid you were when you were young. (...) Our potential was replaced with reality.
- The Arthur Miller play The Crucible uses this trope as a plot point — the children would never lie about who the witches of Salem are, right? Not even if one of them's 17 and wants to bone the main character, and concocts the entire crisis in order to take his wife out of the picture. The reality was even worse: the aforementioned 17-year-old was actually eleven (although her true motives are unknown).
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Young Link and Zelda. Ganondorf exploits this by waiting until they open the door to the Sacred Realm in their attempts to stop him.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is complex. While Link and Aryll are still innocent, Tetra defies it with all her might. After all, a pirate captain has no need of such a thing. Then she turns into innocent Princess Zelda who takes up a bow and helps Link kill Ganondorf rather in an incredibly brutal way. When the fight is over, the King of Hyrule calls the gods themselves out to this trope, referring to Link and Tetra. Also, many players have noted that, aside from Link and Aryll, most of the children in the game behave like small adults, especially (aside from Tetra) Medli.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The children of Ordon Village, particularly Colin. Malo, however, has the cynicism and maturity of an adult, being capable of running a shop in Kakariko Village and planning the purchase of an abusively expensive emporium in Hyrule Castle Town so its products are made available for less wealthy people.
- Surprisingly touched upon in Killer7. When assassin Jean DePaul brings up MASK de Smith's popularity with children, MASK responds by declaring that children's purity makes them the most objective judges in the world. Turns out they're right.
- Played straight in Nightmare Realm for Emily and most of the children that appear.
- One of the few survivors from Cabadath's blood trail in Trilby's Notes is the woodcutter's son. According to the Evil Bible within the game, it is because he is innocent, but the book tends to downplay the bloodshed, to say the least.
- A set of twins, Mireille and Mischka, can join you in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume. They're both 12 years old and take much joy in killing, yet don't see what's wrong with killing other people after they have surrendered. Their reasoning is that since they signed up in the first place, they should be prepared to die. Their dialogue is completely 100% innocent.
- Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer: The spirit of a priest is convinced that "the child" can't have committed the crimes he was convicted of. It turns out "The Child" is a brilliant liar who was more than capable of murder by arson and centuries-old due to being trapped in a furnace and so isn't a child anymore anyways. If the requirements are met, joins the party in control of a mish-mash of spirits called One Of Many.
- Played with in BioShock:
- The little sisters will original call for the protectors to kill you, but then seem more friendly and innocent once restored to 'normal' however later they will stab the final boss to death with syringes Although genetic engineering and behavioural programming gets most of the blame.
- In the sequel, we discover how they've been programmed to see Rapture - to them, the whole thing is elegant and beautiful (except for the occasional lapse into reality), with "angels"(read: corpses) lying on the ground waiting for them to gather their ADAM. They completely trust "Daddy" whatever he does to them (although they may be scared of him if you go the evil route, they'll still go with him and gather for him).
- Mana-Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy: Puniyo starts as a straight example but grows out of it. She takes on Lily's active imagination throughout the game, along with showing hints of being able to become a Magnificent Bastard, despite being only five years old.
- Ace Attorney:
- Pearl Fey's so innocent, she doesn't even notice when her mother orders her to kill her cousin and best friend and heartbreak her aunt.
- Regina Berry is so innocent she doesn't even know what the word "death" means. Ace Attorney plays this trope straight and yet also plays with it.
- While played mostly straight in Nightmare Realm, there is exception for Jeff and Phillip, who are both Big Bad in different ways: the latter is a Broken Bird while the former is implied to be one: Phillip wants to maintain the Dream World (later transformed into Dark City) because he doesn't want to go back to being sick while Jeff wants to be talented in something.
- Nick Valentine mentions this in Fallout 4 when discussing his past; when he first arrived in the Commonwealth, people regarded him with caution, since synths were an unknown entity back then and people didn't fear them as the boogieman. People didn't really trust him until a young boy named Jim approached him.
- During the The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion quest, Shadow Over Hackdirt, Jiv Hiriel cites the reason he decided to help you rescue a young Argonian as "she's so innocent."
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has several orphaned children whom the player can adopt. Skyrim is considered one of the darker games in the series and one of the reasons is that racism plays a larger role in the game world. However, the orphaned children of Skyrim are perhaps the kindest NPC's in the game because don't care if you're a human, elf, or a beast, they're just happy that you've adopted and love them.
- Zero Escape:
- Quark, one of the Nonary Game players in Virtue's Last Reward is one of the nicer people in the game and won't vote Betray when he can (when it occurs in the game it's when Quark is paired with Dio and he is quickly forgiven). He's surprisingly optimistic for someone who grew up in the Apocalypse.
- Q or rather Sean in Zero Time Dilemma zig-zags this. He's easily one of the nicest people in the game, especially compared to his teammates Eric and Mira, but if push comes to shove he can and will kill someone if that's what it takes.
- Because Laura of Silent Hill 2 is an innocent, if bratty, child, the town does not manifest as a dangerous and hellish place to her the way it does to the adults she interacts with.
- DDG: The souls of children are implied to go straight to heaven since they lack the ability to make moral judgments.
- In The Order of the Stick, after Roy's heartfelt afterlife confession to his dead little brother, the brother's reaction was:
Eric Greenhilt: hi roy! wanna play blocks with me?
- Averted. Most of the children in the main cast are each evil in their own special ways. Special mentions go to Autumn (who uses this trope to her advantage; she even wears a schoolgirl outfit in order to heighten people's perception of her innocence) and Dionne (who takes great pleasure in crushing the souls of others due to her lack of one).
- Perhaps even more telling is its treatment of the children who aren't evil. Jacob is a sweet, caring young boy who is so kind and selfless that his being selfish or mean for a change has been a punchline unto itself and there was even an arc about it. He's the strip's resident Butt-Monkey, who is constantly hurt and never really treated with respect. Max is even nicer. He seems oblivious to the existence of bad or evil in the world. He's considered kind of strange by the rest of the kids, and although respected for his abilities, he's also frequently manipulated by the others or resented for the consequences of his Incorruptible Pure Pureness. The moral of the story? Children are evil, and those who aren't will end up used or mistreated by those who are.
- Jacob's become more and more like his friends as time's gone on. He's still rarely the instigator of the evil schemes, but he's proven more than happy to take part in the planning of the group's immoral activities. The newest member of the class, Ursula Xane is even more of a straight example than Max, having been raised in isolation by parents who have carefully controlled her knowledge of the outside world. She's so innocent that in one Copper Road strip, she actually believes FOX's claim of being "fair and balanced."
- Defied with several examples in Sandra and Woo. Cloud gets an erection when seeing Sandra in a bathing suit and, according to Larisa, Sandra gravitates towards feeling needy for Cloud half of her waking hours. Speaking of Larisa, she has pyromaniac tendencies, jokes about being a "junkie" when she injects insulin (with the predictable results), accuses a teacher of molesting her just so she could get out of a homework assignment and is generally very flirty at an adult level. Cloud's mom, Ye Thusa, used to be a Burmese guerrilla Child Soldier.
- A very cynical version in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: "Teaching 2":
Interviewer: Congratulations on your retirement. What inspired 40 years of teaching young kids?
Sweet old lady: It was nice to get them so early before they inevitably turn to utter shit like the rest of humanity.
- Kaiten Mutenmaru: As little children, Sick Solitude and Anne Bran were the only good people in the town of Throne from the start. Anne was also the only commoner to oppose violence and to value Sick as a person rather than judge him solely based on the decadence and tyranny of his parents.
- In El Goonish Shive, Akiko doesn't quite have the capacity to grasp the complexities of sexuality, bigotry, and prejudices.
- Surprisingly, despite being far from innocent in any conventional sense, Sette appears motivated by a childlike faith in herself, her father, the nonsense she'd been raised on, and childish dreams of Frummagen-style glory such as it is. Each grisly reality she confronts leaves her horrified and terrified.
- Matty is the only major character in the story who has no real prejudices or innate hatred towards anyone. He doesn't seem to have a mean bone in his body.
- Too damn innocent in Landmines Are Not Toys, as Toki didn't know landmines were dangerous, something that you were supposed to stay away from, rather, she seemed to like what they do and went to her 'playground' and her fascination is what lost her leg. Then again, this can be justified as she hasn't encountered landmines up until that point, thus she wouldn't have otherwise known they were dangerous, as she hasn't learned to fear them from prior experience, and had, at the time, the overall mindset of a small child.
- According to this Cracked article, babies are inherently evil.
- Disclaimer: All of this is in spoilers cause it is a major plot twist. Subverted in There Will Be Brawl. At first, it had been the main motivation for Luigi to keep fighting: that as long as there was one child laughing in the world, there was hope for it. When he started to lose his focus, he saw Ness and Lucas playing, and that motivated him to go on. Come the final episode though, and he finds out that the murderers are Ness and Lucas. They are such pure evil that even Ganondorf wonders how heroes can exist in the face of it.
- The SCP Foundation likes to play with this trope. While many of the child SCP items, such as SCP-053, SCP-040 and SCP-239, are dangerous and almost all of them are creepy, almost none of them are out-right hostile or malevolent, and even the ones who are have been altered or manipulated by an external force, such as SCP-993, SCP-204 or SCP-899.
- Not Always Right:
- Bob's Burgers: Despite how much freedom they allow their kids, Bob and Linda try to avoid them encountering things that may not be appropriate for them.
- In "Bed And Breakfast", Linda tries to cover that two of their guests are into BDSM from Gene by claiming they're escape artists.
- "It Snakes A Village". Played straight with Gene and Louise, who questions the sounds of the elderly at the retirement home. Subverted with Tina, who bluntly suggests they stop having loud sex.
- "Bob Fires The Kids", the trio never catch on to the revelation the blueberries are just a cover for the pot farm they're actually working for.
- "My Big Fat Greek Bob". Linda doesn't realize until Gretchen starts selling a vibrator that the "Lady Goods" she sells are sex toys. Louise and Gene have no idea what it is but want it for different reasons, causing Linda to order them to their rooms. Tina seems to have an idea what they are but is still sent to her room as well.
- Justice League: The Ultra-Humanite is a Misanthrope Supreme, but believes that children have yet to be infected by the shallowness he perceives in adults.
- In The Legend of Korra, Tenzin's children Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo are playful and sweet characters who have a Plucky Comic Relief role in the story (Though occasionally they have a couple of Badass Adorable moments)
- Moral Orel: Orel is so trusting and naive that he takes everything he learns from the adults at face value. Lampshade at one point.
''Dear Orel, always remember, son, even though you are the perfect candidate for brainwashing in this town, you're also too pure and good-hearted to be corrupted. -Love, Grandpa"
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
Rarity: Heavens no! We're getting dressed!
- A charitable interpretation of Snips and Snails in "Boast Busters". Determined to prove true the impressive though unlikely claims of "The Great and Powerful" Trixie, the two clearly not-that-bright colts lure a giant bear into Ponyville, a heavily populated town where Trixie is temporarily residing during her traveling performance. Snips are Snails are thus STUNNED when Trixie proves to be a fraud despite Spike having told them earlier that the unlikely claim is not necessarily true just because Trixie said so. Main Character Twilight Sparkle may believe in this trope, given the rather lenient punishment she gives them after she stops the rampaging bear and saves the town.
- This conception is played for laughs at the end of season 1. The girls are changing into their gala dresses and Spike is locked out, banging on the door and unable to understand why they won't let him in. Rarity is utterly repulsed that he wants to come in while they're dressing, until Applejack reminds her that they're usually naked and nudity isn't taboo.
Applejack: Dressed? Uh, beg pardon, but we don't normally wear clothes.
- In the season 2 finale, Spike has no idea what a bachelor party is.
- In Season 6 we are introduced to Baby Flurry Heart, the baby filly of Shining Armor and Princess Cadance. She's a Cheerful Child who giggles at everyone she meets. She wasn't even scared when she met the changeling Thorax, even when she saw his true form she giggled at him like everyone else.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, flashbacks show that Zuko, Mai, and Ty Lee were all nice kids, but Azula was an Enfant Terrible. According to her, her own mother saw her as a monster. This trope comes up again when Katara finds a painting that she believes to be a Zuko as a baby. Zuko responds that it isn't him in the painting; it's his father, Firelord Ozai, the Big Bad. The group find themselves disturbed looking at this innocent, happy child while knowing the monster he'd one day grow up to be.
- South Park:
- The show runs on inverting this trope for Black Comedy. Even the good main characters are foul-mouthed and mean to each other. The creators even mention their disbelief in this trope in the commentary.
- Butters is the closest thing to innocent on the show, being a Token Good Teammate and Wide-Eyed Idealist in such a Crapsack World.
- Stan and Kyle, despite their foibles, have at least some shred of innocence in them when a plot calls for it.
- Played straight in some episodes even by Cartman, like the one where the kids simply cannot fathom that people kill each other for having different-coloured skin, or when they use "fag" without implying gay (for obnoxious Harley riders), or when they run around town trying to buy a "nerection" for Kyle's dad so that Kyle's parents will stop fighting.
- Played straight in Chef Goes Nanners. The boys were so un-racist that they had no idea that the town flag was racist and simply thought the flag represented capital punishment.
- Played straight with Blanket Jackson and every child 0-6 years of age except Dougie. This includes Ike (Kyle's brother) and Karen (Kenny's sister).
- Spoken word for word in one Robot Chicken short where a bird is teaching his son how to poop on things. He asks the son to pick a target, and when the son chooses a baby's carriage:
Father: No, son. For he is a child, and children are innocent.
- On Peter Rabbit, whenever one of the show's predator characters goes after Peter Rabbit's cute little sister Cottontail, wanting to eat her, she generally doesn't get it and treats it as a fun game. She thinks it's great fun when an owl swoops her up and takes her for a flight and usually the predators have to act very overtly mean for her to get scared, and even then it doesn't last long, assuming she even recognizes it for what it is. When Mr. Tod the fox places her in his cookpot with Shrew, she spends most of her time in it giggling and when he tosses in vegetables for flavoring, she eats some of the carrot slices.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy:
- Jimmy is a Cheerful Child who loves fairy tales and engaging in feminine make-believe, cementing him as the most innocent member of the Cul-de-sac.
- Jonny is another one who's devoid of malice intent in that he usually observes natural surroundings and talks with his Companion Cube, often because he has No Social Skills.
- Codename: Kids Next Door: All of the KND are rather innocent and naive in that they hang around in a treehouse behaving like typical kids who love soda pop and refuse to eat vegetables. They also dominate against the adult population—who generally fall under the Humans Are Bastards and Adults Are Useless categories—using make-believe weapons, while recruiting teenagers as their personal minions, who typically fall under the Hormone-Addled Teenager and Teens Are Monsters categories.
- All of the Recess gang are friendly kids who dread adults and academia, and live for the moment once recess time approaches.
- Kaeloo: While the trope is usually heavily averted, it is occasionally played straight:
- Stumpy is the closest thing to this trope, as he has no idea how babies are made and still believes in things like magic and Santa Claus.
- Kaeloo has no idea how to even tell a lie until Mr. Cat gives her lessons on how to lie to people.
- Even Mr. Cat has shown signs of this from time to time; one episode had him wear a Nazi costume when playing the bad guy in a game and suggested that he had no idea what his costume actually represented and got the idea from watching a movie.
- Most predatory species don't develop their predatory habits until they become adolescents or adults. In their infancy, Predators are more playful and only eat pre-killed prey or small insects. Their playfulness as children would eventually teach them how to hunt for themselves.
- Many countries have rules which exempt children and young teens from responsibility for their crimes. This is because children often lack a full understanding of what they're doing, and they certainly lack an adult's impulse control. Furthermore, imprisoning children with adult criminals would be a very quick way to get dead, molested, or further-corrupted kids. Juvenile sentencing laws exist for good reason.
- Corruption of a minor is a crime: It involves encouraging or aiding a minor to commit a criminal act (e.g. using drugs), or sexually abusing minors. In Canada, the maximum penalty is 2 years.
- Age restriction legislation exists in North America prohibiting minors from purchasing and partaking in tobacco, pornographic material, and liquor. Minor ages, however, differ, between states and provinces of Canada and America. However, the minor ages usually range from 18-21. Other countries in particular European countries have different laws permitting minors to consume liquor under the supervision of parents or caregivers. As with tobacco, the definition of minors differs. Cinematic content is also governed by similar laws, where minors may be permitted to view R-rated movies with the presence and supervision of an adult non-minor. Minor laws differ between jurisdictional countries. For violating the tobacco and liquor restrictions adults could be fined and imprisoned for 2 years as with corruption of a minor.
- Children are often used by supporters to vindicate their ideology. The idea seems to be that if a child believes your view then that is because they are pure and innocent and not just because their parents told them what was "correct".
- The belief that children could not lie about terrible things led to the deaths of countless women, men, and even other children during the witch panic that swept mainly through Europe but also the US in the 17th century. Though it wasn't always the children's fault, mind you. Often times they were just saying what they thought the adults wanted to hear. The little ones often had no idea what they were even saying beyond "If I say this a person they're saying is bad will be punished."
- This same behavior led to the slew of child molestation allegations throughout the '80s and early '90s, the most infamous American example being the McMartin case, in which investigators actually looked for secret tunnels under the daycare facility because children claimed that they'd been abused there.