So, you have a race of people who all have black, leathery wings. They're born with the ability to shoot black, shadowy globs out of their hands. Also, they prefer the night, and let's not get started on how their names all start with some variant of Dark, Black or Shadow. Surely, they're evil!
Except...no one has actually mentioned them doing bad things; in fact, they may actually be pretty good guys. It's not like they keep pet dogs exclusively for kicking. Despite any images that may have been burned into our minds, creepy appearances and killing people actually don't have much to do with each other. Unfortunately, however, people can still judge them based on their looks. Expect some Van Helsing Hate Crimes to be committed, especially by dickish Knight Templars who claim to side with the holy light.
This trope can be a subversion or aversion of several other tropes depending on how it's played, including Beauty Equals Goodness, Always Chaotic Evil, and Colour-Coded for Your Convenience. A common use for it is for the "Don't judge a book by its cover" Aesop. It can also be used to promote Evil Is Cool and Evil Is Sexy, and sometimes Even Evil Has Standards, except without the, uh... evil. Even though with the subtle (or not so) undertone of Humans Are Bastards that this trope implies, using this does not automatically enforce Light Is Not Good; in fact, stories where Light Is Good and Dark Is Not Evil are quite common.
The extreme form of this is The Sacred Darkness, where Dark is not just not Evil, but is in fact equally holy and Good as Light (or even more so) is typically perceived to be. In situations where The Sacred Darkness exists, however, Dark Is Not Evil is not an absolute certainty, and the usual caveats about Light Is Not Good still apply.
Light Is Not Good, Good Powers, Bad People are sister tropes. For the inverse, see Dark Is Evil. A natural implication of the Yin-Yang Bomb.. May overlap with Mysterious Purple if the dark color is a shade of purple and "not evil" means morally ambiguous. See also Good All Along, Bad Powers, Good People, Creepy Good, Face of a Thug, Terror Hero, Perky Goth, Our Monsters Are Different, Anti-Anti-Christ, Reluctant Monster, Good is Not Nice, Good Is Not Soft, and Halloweentown. When vampires are involved, this trope generally puts them on the friendly end of the Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness, often resulting in a Friendly Neighbourhood Vampire. Gods of the underworld and death in particular can be this, since Everybody Hates Hades.
Compare Evil Wears Black, though the two can coincide if the Hero with Dark Powers wears white and the Villain with Light Powers, wears black.
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- Careful S. from Happy Heroes is colored black (purple in later seasons), his pre-Art Evolution symbol represents Planet Gray, the villains' planet, and he's quite unemotive and quiet... and yet, at the same time, he's genuinely kind and heroic, being just as ready to fight off monsters as the other Supermen.
- In The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen, the title thief is a thief. Nevertheless, he generously throws his lot in with the three princes to help them, and in the course of the tale, he reveals that he saved the knight's life as a baby at considerable danger to himself.
- The original tale of The Little Mermaid had the Witch as not being evil, just neutral and clearly warning of the risks. In at least some versions, she even informs the mermaid's sisters about how to save her.
- While many folklorical black dogs are malevolent, some are this trope instead. Eg. the Gurt Dog of Somerset in Britain is thought to protect children and lone travellers.
- According to Alpine folklore, the demonic goat figure Krampus is the polar opposite of Santa Claus in that while Santa rewards good children with gifts, Krampus punishes naughty children using harsh punishments. It's because of this that he's often depicted as a good guy within countries that honor Krampus-related traditions in spite of him being a goat demon (although you might not get that within certain works of fiction).
- WWE Superstar Mark Calaway is best known for being "The Undertaker", a wrestling gravedigger/zombie/death incarnate/cult leader/biker. Although he started off (and every so often returns to being) a Heel, he's often treated as a Face until his retirement, being one of the longest-tenured and popular wrestlers. Behind the scenes, he's also very well respected as a mentor and A Father to His Men.
- The Boogeyman has red and black devil-style face paint and originally a stage persona to match. What impression do you get about◊ this◊ guy◊? This is crossed with Creepy Good: Despite his overall creepiness, Boogeyman definitely seemed to be a force of good in his own, weird way.
- Hallowicked became this after his 2006 Rudo-Tecnico Turn. After Delirious used the Eye of Tyr on him to turn him against UltraMantis Black at the 2014 CHIKARA Season Finale Tomorrow Never Dies on December 6, 2014, he completely changed his look and became a case of Light Is Not Good.
- Sting has been a face for pretty much his entire career stretching back to the 1980s and continuing through to today. In 1996, he changed from his original good-natured Surfer Dude gimmick into a gothic, brooding avenger with corpse-white face paint inspired by The Crow, but he continued to be the Big Good of WCW and established himself as the main adversary of the heel New World Order faction. The handful of times that a Face–Heel Turn was attempted with him in WCW and TNA were temporary and unpopular due to his long-time face status and fan popularity.
- The musical In the Green features the character of Shadow. She represents the repressed trauma and guilt that Hildegard carries over her sister Agatha's death. Her introductory song, "Underground," is a perfect example of this trope, as she welcomes the other aspects of Hildegard to her realm. Despite her appearance, she's gentle and kind and is trying to keep the others safe from the painful memory she holds. She is ultimately integrated with the others when Hildegard finally "becomes whole."
- In Jasper in Deadland, most of the corpses in Deadland dress in dark clothes but are friendly, sociable, and way less of a problem for Jasper than anything else he encounters in Deadland.
- The Magic Flute subverts this. The Queen of the Night actually is as bad as she sounds.
- The musical version of The Phantom of the Opera zig-zags this: the Phantom does have sympathetic qualities thanks to his Freudian Excuse, and "Music of the Night" is basically this concept set to Villain Love Song — but he's still not a nice person and gets progressively worse as his Crazy Jealous Guy side takes over. He ends up with a Love Redeems and I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy ending, however. The book version of the Phantom on the other hand, while still pitiable is genuinely Dark Is Evil for the most part.
- Pretty much the whole point of the musical Wicked. Also contains usage of Aristocrats Are Evil.
- This is a common interpretation of the Ghost Host and the Happy Haunts from The Haunted Mansion and other attractions at Disney Theme Parks. This is supported by the line in "Grim Grinning Ghosts", "They pretend to terrorize," implying that, like with the citizens of Halloween Town, it's all in good fun for them. This is more blatant in the Expanded Universe material, specifically the 2003 movie and the game, where the ghosts are the victims that the heroes need to save.
- Ace Attorney:
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, Viola Cadaverini definitely falls under Obviously Evil. Her clothing and hair is entirely black, she has a way of suddenly appearing from nowhere, a creepy giggle, is aware of her family's being The Mafia, and repeatedly offers coffee to Phoenix and Maya. As it turns out, she's an innocent victim being exploited by Furio Tigre, and thinks that his murder scheme was horrible. Of course, that doesn't stop her from "making him drink a lot of coffee" when she finds out the truth.
- Detective Tyrell Badd from Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth isn't bad, although he is Baddass.
- Simon Blackquill from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is presented as a murderer with black hair and black clothes, and acts like one for most of the game. But in the end, he's shown to be an innocent man who was Taking the Heat for who he thought was the guilty party in an old incident. He's not evil, just rough and sarcastic. By contrast, his partner Bobby Fulbright is the Big Bad in disguise.
- Barok van Zieks in The Great Ace Attorney dresses like Dracula, spends seemingly every moment swirling A Glass of Chianti, and goes by the moniker "the Reaper of the Old Bailey" because any defendant he fails to convict winds up mysteriously dead. Turns out his boss was orchestrating their assassinations behind his back to make him an avatar of karmic justice in the eyes of the public.
- Rider in Fate/stay night doesn't appear completely dark or use especially dark powers, but wears a black cloth, initially comes off as the Servant of an evil Smug Snake, is seductively sexy and dangerously ass-kicking, and even Saber calls her off as a monster. To hammer it down worse, she is revealed to be Medusa, a Greek figure mostly viewed as Always Chaotic Evil. But beyond the initial impressions, you find out that she's not evil, only tortured and hammered with lots of misfortunes in the past, and her true Master was someone far more benevolent and kinder than the said Smug Snake (provided she doesn't snap).
- In her tears were my light, Nil isn't messing with reality to be evil. She's upset that Time has lost her memories of her and is becoming attracted to Space, and she wants to be happy with her again.
- In Shall We Date?: Angel or Devil, four of the love interests are demons and soul reapers.
- The Venus Blood series: