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Debate and Switch

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Bruce Wayne: Tell me, what if you hadn't figured out how Shriek was using the towers? Would you have handed yourself over to him at midnight?
Terry: case you haven't noticed, we've got a suit to repair here.
Batman Beyond, "Babel"

A work of fiction sets up a moral dilemma or other painful choice, then finds a way to resolve it without actually addressing the issue it raised. Say, Alice is seriously ill and Bob is considering robbing a local pharmacy to get the medicine she desperately needs. Then he wins the money he needs in the lottery, meaning that he (and the writers) never have to come down on the question of whether theft is acceptable for a good cause.

This trope is used for a number of reasons. It allows the show to resolve the tension without

  1. giving an unrealistically clear-cut or Anvilicious solution to an ambiguous problem,
  2. alienating the half of the audience who would disapprove of the resolution if the characters did make the hard choice, or
  3. giving the uncomfortable (but true) moral that sometimes you're forced to pick between choices that will give a bitter taste in one's mouth no matter which you choose.
It avoids having to do anything objectionable in the case of the first two reasons (who wants to be on record saying that theft might be okay if you're in dire straits?) or overly-depressing the audience with the latter reason (there's only so far one can make a story Darker and Edgier before it comes off as too bleak). It also lets creators flex their godlike muscles: it's their story, and they don't have to write the Downer Ending that would almost certainly result for a Real Life Alice and Bob.

Expect this in works invoking ethnicity and/or gender tropes in ways that might otherwise be blatantly liable to charges of Unfortunate Implications, e.g. relating to Mars and Venus Gender Contrast. Usually, a Debate and Switch is pulled in one of the following ways:

  • The antagonist is originally set up as doing something that falls in the moral (and legal) gray area, or as having a fair and reasonable motivation for their villainy, then jumps off the slippery slope or is revealed to be a Straw Hypocrite.
  • Related to the above, one party turns out to be partnered with, or working for, any kind of Villain by Default.
  • The evidence points to the antagonist having committed a crime over the issue under discussion, then new evidence is uncovered that shows that the motive was actually more clear-cut.
  • The protagonists are put into the morally gray situation, then Take a Third Option.
  • The protagonists are put into the morally gray situation, then another consideration makes it much more black-and-white. The decision is made on that consideration, with the original considerations becoming moot. No Third Option necessary, just a Second Question.
  • Before a decision can be made, outside events render it moot, such as a suspect dying in an accident while the protagonists are debating their guilt.
  • Someone on either side is revealed to be lying about something (motive, true conditions, consequences, etc.), and lying automatically makes them the loser.
  • The argument over culpability turns out to be moot, because the suspect is proven to actually be innocent.

Compare Conflict Killer, Civil War vs. Armageddon. See also Sweet and Sour Grapes, where a character who selflessly sacrifices something they want is rewarded with... the exact thing they wanted in the first place. If it seems to be trying to teach a moral, it will often either seem hypocritical, ending with a Broken Aesop, or leave the audience confused as to what the moral is, ending with a Lost Aesop. Also compare Moral Disambiguation.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bakuman。, several older and less successful mangakas start submitting works for Jump, prompting a debate between Takagi and Mashiro over whether they should be given a chance for a comeback; Takagi doesn't think so, while Mashiro, whose uncle kept trying to get a series even after his contract was canceled, strongly disagrees, and Nizuma believes that writers should not be treated as disposable. It turns out that Nanamine is using these mangakas as his way to try a second time with an improved version of his "system". In the end, though, Azuma, one of the manga artists Nanamine had used and then discarded succeeds on his own, perhaps making this a subversion.
  • Code Geass: Much of the conflicts in R2 comes from Right for the Wrong Reasons. Lelouch leads The Black Knights to liberate Japan and take down the empire to create a better place for his sister while Suzaku serves Britannian to be an Internal Reformist. After circumstances makes them come to understand neither of their methods would ultimately benefit no one, they decide on one option; uniting the world by becoming a symbol of hatred and dying to ensure peace.
  • One episode of The Daughter of Twenty Faces deals with how the protagonists are supposed to be sympathetic when they're major thieves. The main character befriends a lonely little girl, who happens to be the daughter of the head of security for a museum holding the object the protagonists want to steal. In doing so, she learns how to sneak past the security guards and that stealing a priceless object from the museum could cause big trouble for the kindly security chief and his innocent daughter. Chiko's huge betrayal of her new friend is softened by the revelation that the little girl was actually evil at the end of the episode, and everything she said about her father was probably a lie.
  • Death Note poses the question: does utopia justify the means if you plan on ending all crime by killing all criminals? Said question is rendered moot by the fact that the perpetrator, Magnificent Bastard Light Yagami, goes from a Well-Intentioned Extremist into a Villain Protagonist with a god complex who kills all who oppose him. This is also present in the way someone responds to Light trying to justify his actions.
    • The moment when Light as Kira goes from Well-Intentioned Extremist to Villain Protagonist is when he kills a detective on TV who says that while he understands Kira's motive, it's evil to just kill people who are in prison or facing trial because it goes against established laws and systems. That's when Kira realizes that he enjoys killing people, and starts gaining a Slasher Smile for every murder he witnesses. While that detective was a decoy, the subsequent round of Japanese cops and FBI agents who are murdered are real law enforcement. The minute the reader learns that Light has committed This Is Unforgivable! is not when he murders Naomi Misora, but that he reveals himself to her right before her fate to kill herself and hide her body so no one finds it kicks in, forcing her to walk away and complete the order he wrote in the notebook. Evil Gloating is never sportsmanlike when you've already won.
    • A lot of the morality debate is cut from the anime, and the final debate between Light and Near is cut down to its bare minimum, including Light expressing his belief that he's not only getting rid of the criminals, but creating a society where people are free to do good. Near similarly believes that Kira is forcing his own views onto others under threat of death, "neither peaceful nor just," and asks everyone else what they think about it, to which they respond with tacit approval.
    • There is considerably more examination of the ramifications of Kira's new world order in the manga. However, while the authors ultimately leave it up to the reader to decide whether Kira is morally justified or not, they note that Light was corrupted by having the power to kill at will and was no longer actually working toward his professed ideals.
    • The live-action movies also have this issue but they at least address the grey area of the situation. Light to the bitter end declares that he is creating a safer place because human justice systems cannot protect the people who serve and maintain it. His father agrees when L proves that Light is Kira and the latter goes on his Motive Rant; human justice systems are imperfect because the people who create them are flawed. But he says regardless, that killing people who commit wrongs is not the solution and Light is just a self-serving bully that went for a blunt solution. Sequels would reveal that while Light died and L burned the notebooks before he succumbed to a heart attack, other people decided to take Light's place when given a notebook or an opportunity to utilize them.
    • In Death Note: How To Read, the authors explain that this trope is an Enforced Trope because of the target demographic. Since they were writing for Shonen Jump, the focus was on the plot-and-counterplot between Light and L, and not the question of whether Light's actions were right or not. They also state that if they were writing for a seinen magazine, the moral and social ramifications would instead have taken center stage and been thoroughly explored.
  • Dragon Ball Super: There is a real debate in the Future Trunks Saga about the role of the gods and how they should handle the mortals who misused their god-given knowledge since Zamasu is right that the gods are lazy about their duties and mortals can be extremely dangerous to themselves and their environment. This is rendered moot, however, since Zamasu is a hypocritical monster who's far worse than any mortal, killing any debate on the subject.
  • In Inuyasha, one of the driving points of the narrative is whether or not the eponymous character would use the Shikon no Tama to turn into a full youkai (or maybe even a full human.) The point is moot since Kagome destroys the Jewel at the end of the manga. Any wish would be 'wrong'. Then again, quite a bit of emphasis is put on the fact that Kagome loves him just as who he is, making it ultimately a "Be Yourself" aesop.
  • The Millionaire Detective - Balance: UNLIMITED: In the last episode, Daisuke is about to release his parents' adollium research to the public, before he is warned that this could potentially lead to a repeat of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He begins to hesitate about his own plans, but before he can make a decision, Kato accidentally stumbles on the button that confirms the data transmission and inadvertently publishes the research.
  • Monster does this, although it must be noted that the moral ambiguities it toys with have been debated for centuries and probably will continue to be debated for centuries after: Is all life equal? Do some people deserve to die? Is it right to kill a killer? Is evil irredeemable?
  • Naruto made a major plot point being the villain's plan to lock everyone in the world into their own personal dream world that would give them their every desire. Whether or not this would ultimately be a good thing for a world that raises child soldiers is glossed over in favor of discussing how villainous the means of the people trying to set it off are using. Later on it's also added that the plan also slowly turns people into empty zombies, making the initial debate further removed by having the dream world be fatal. Likewise, once people are released their reactions are glossed over and no one expresses any interest at all over their dream worlds despite how easily traumatic it would be for many of them to see lost loved ones again thinking they were real. And then even that is rendered moot when it turns out the whole thing is being manipulated to resurrect a villain whose goals are much less defensible.
  • Done in Negima! Magister Negi Magi, of course. Is it right to stop Chao Lingshen, who is obviously not a bad person and seems to have a good motive? Negi spends so much time worrying about it that his students basically just tell him to shut up after a while, because if it was so important she ought to just tell him. Eventually, they decide it doesn't matter what they're doing is right or wrong, they just don't want to be turned into ermines and Chao hasn't convinced them otherwise. Some fans think it was intentional in order to set Negi up for Fate, who also seems to have a good goal and bad methods. He notably worries much less about it, anyway. Which may have been why Chao set up the moral dilemma in the first place.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica asks if the Incubators' desire to prevent the early heat death of the universe, and the total extinguishing of all life that it would cause through the Puella Magi system justifies the suffering of the Puella Magi, who inevitably turn into witches thanks to that very same system. All this is thrown out the window when Madoka ascends to godhood and rewrites the Puella Magi system so that the girls don't have to fight witches or turn into them. And if that wasn't enough, the sequel reveals that the moral quandary wasn't even valid at the time it was made; the Incubators had the means to institute a system that wouldn't cause harm to the girls, but chose the witch system because it was the most efficient, and promptly attempt to undo Madoka's change and replace it with the witch system again.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • The first part of season two has this. The twins Ali and En come to Earth with their mother, the Doom Tree. They know the tree is dying but don't know how to save her, and both of them grow sicker as the Doom Tree weakens. Ali determines they need to steal human energy to survive, even as he and his sister go for Becoming the Mask while posing as huamns and start falling for their classmates. En at one point cries and says that collecting human energy makes her feel awful because it means they can never be normal or have real friends because they are Trapped in Villainy. When the Senshi learn about the full situation in the season finale, they're sympathetic and try to talk them down since an untransformed Usagi and Mamoru are in the crossfire. In the end, Sailor Moon allows the Doom Tree to talk with her powers, and the tree reveals the human energy was actually poisoning it and it needed love. Ali goes My God, What Have I Done? as he holds a prone En, who took a deadly blow for him. Sailor Moon heals the tree with Moon Princess Halation and all of her love, which allows it and En to revive. Ali and En apologize to the Senshi, thanking Sailor Moon and Mamoru for their kindness. They decide to leave Earth with what they know about love and start a new life. The Senshi wish them luck.
    • S has this in the first part as well. The Outers know that removing a pure heart from someone will kill them, but they are willing to if the Heart is a Talisman because, as Sailor Uranus pragmatically points out, if they don't then the Witches Five definitely will . At least the Senshi can use the Talismans that emerge to stop the Holy Grail from being used for evil. Meanwhile the Senshi, especially Usagi, protest that it's not worth sacrificing an innocent person who may not know they're holding a Talisman; Usagi would sacrifice her heart to protect Mamoru or her friends, but it shouldn't be on a normal person to make that choice. Uranus even agrees privately, as shown when she and Neptune were relieved that Ami didn't carry a Talisman within her body. The point becomes moot when it turns out Uranus and Neptune have two of the Talismans; though Uranus commits a Heroic Suicide and tells Sailor Moon it's All Up to You to summon the Grail, Usagi doing so revives both Uranus and Neptune. Pluto reveals that the orb on her staff is her Talisman, and lets Usagi use it, showing no ill effects. This situation ends up repeating when they realize that Chibi-Usa's new friend is the incarnation for Sailor Saturn. The Outers say that Saturn will end the world if she awakens, while Usagi points out they can't murder an innocent girl in cold blood because of something they might do. The Senshi ended up missing the mark that Saturn needed to awaken to stop Mistress 9 and Pharaoh 90 and were acting on poor information.
  • One of the main messages in Smile Down the Runway is that you must never compromise on your dreams/passions. At one point, Ikuto runs into financial troubles due to his mother's illness and is given the choice to back down as a fashion designer in an upcoming fashion event and work as a patterner for a more experienced designer instead (thus compromising his dream), or convince a friend (who was being scouted as a model) to quit being a fashion designer (thus compromising her dream). Then another friend's father (the owner of a modeling agency) offers to buy his designs, which quickly resolves his financial issues without him needing to sacrifice his or his friend's dream.
  • Twin Princess of Wonder Planet: Fine and Rein find out that Mirlo is in an Arranged Marriage with a rather undesirable dimwit, and are out to break it up. Reviewer Al1701 pointed out that this action seems short-sighted since the deal for the marriage is in exchange for dimwit's father repairing the Waterdrop Kingdom's cloudmaker. That is, until the whole Arranged Marriage turns out to be a big ruse by the Moon Kingdom chancellor. Doesn't stop this from being one of the best episodes of the whole series.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 comics, Buffy learns that she is pregnant, and has to decide whether to have her child and raise it as a Slayer, knowing that the kid would be a target for her enemies. In the end, she apparently decides to terminate the pregnancy, but soon it is revealed that what were seen as pregnancy symptoms were actually because Buffy's brain had been transplanted into a robot body, meaning that there was never any decision to make at all.
  • Defied in Champions issue 5. The Champions encounter a small town whose influential sheriff is a majorly bigoted man. Gwenpool drops in and causes her usual brand of chaos against the police. The team pulls her away and hits her with a What the Hell, Hero?. She explains that she's more than certain that some type of supervillain is masterminding this; there's no way normal people could be so bigoted because it's a comic book! Kamala Khan explains that things aren't so black and white, and that normal people can be evil without the aid of supervillains. Indeed, the man is heavily bigoted and is only brought down when his beleaguered deputy finally blows the whistle on him.
  • In Civil War (2006), a group of super-powered teenagers filming a reality show attack a group of villains, causing one of them to explode like an atomic bomb, destroying all of Stamford. Public hysteria ensues, and super heroes are placed in a difficult dilemma: with uncontrolled super-hero actions banned, heroes must sign the Super Registration Act and work for the government, or be hunted down by all the government forces (including the superheroes that signed for it). The registration side won, and things stayed that way for a time. Well, and once the thing has lasted long enough, how do we return things to the way they always were? Easy: put a supervillain on top of the registration side, put all superheroes on the other side, and turn a topic of (allegedly) grey and gray morality note  into a topic of black and white morality.
  • In Inhumans Vs Xmen, the leader of the people being gassed to death by a chemical weapon Black Bolt released conveniently goes totally psycho at the last minute, meaning that Bolt and Medusa's victory over her note  is...fittingly?...heroic and triumphant. That was the writers' intention, at least.
  • The theme of the second volume of New Avengers is the debate over whether or not it is ethical under any circumstance to destroy a planet, as numerous alternate Earths are revealed to be on a collision course with the main Earth, meaning certain doom, most likely for both, if they collide. The first such planet is eaten by Galactus before the Avengers can decide what to do about it, and the second they do destroy, but it turns out to be uninhabited.
  • Subverted with Spider-Man villain Cardiac: Spider-Man foiled his attempt to murder his latest target, a Corrupt Corporate Executive who escaped blame after a family died in an auto accident from his faulty brakes, but the guy suffers a heart attack and they send him to Eli Wirtham, the best heart surgeon in town. Problem is, Eli Wirtham is Cardiac, and he's being asked to save the life of the guy he just tried to kill. He knows he could do it and get away with it, but should he kill him? He doesn't, or at least he tries not to; the guy dies anyway. But Eli can't help but wonder if he held back during the surgery even just a little, and if that makes him any better than the "indirect" murderers he hunts down as Cardiac.
  • In The Walking Dead, after the misogynistic Thomas murders two of Hershel's daughters, Rick decides to implement a "You Kill, You Die" law and declares that Thomas should be hung. This decision is debated by others, but it comes to an end when Patricia lets him out, believing that he's mentally ill and not responsible for his actions. Thomas proceeds to strangle her and is shot by another of Hershel's daughters.
  • Similarly, with X-Men, Mutant Registration Acts are never given an actual debate. It's sometimes acknowledged that, hey, these are people with the power to level mountains just by opening their eyes and reasonable people might want some means of protection from the bad ones, but the Act is nearly always being pushed by bigots who are using it as the first step in wiping out mutantkind. Even when the promoter is not such a bigot, the specter of such information still being used by bigots to facilitate Fantastic Racism remains omnipresent. The very first Bad Future plotline, Days of Future Past, revolves around the dark world created by enforcing mutant registration, where mutants are forcibly marked and herded into concentration camps, or even exterminated altogether. Animated depictions usually take away the moral ambiguity by portraying such a world as mostly being the fault of the defective programming of the Sentinels humans use to enforce the registration laws.
    • The same usually happen whenever someone comes up with a mutant cure. The anti-cure side will usually argue that mutation is part of who you are and there is nothing to cure and will be presented as being right in this opinion, forgetting that the comic has frequently depicted people who would like to get rid of their powers, often with very good reason, because their uncontrollable powers cause them constant suffering and/or endanger anybody near them. Then the point is rendered moot because the one behind the cure (or someone else who get a hold of it) had malevolent intentions, was planning to cure all mutants regardless of whether or not they want it, or there is some nasty side-effect.

    Films — Animated 
  • Incredibles 2 also has an interesting dilemma. The story's main antagonist raises some valid points about the reliance on superheroes making people weak. The fact that this villain brainwashes the superheroes into declaring war on national TV is never discussed. After foiling the antagonist, the public just accept superheroes again as if it never happened.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • About Time: As the protagonist has the power to time-travel, the film is rife with potential philosophical and moral conundrums, most of which are neatly side-stepped. A dramatic example is when Tim is dating Mary and suddenly gets a chance to spend the night with an old crush. If he were to succumb to temptation, he could go back in time and undo it, but still remember the entire experience. Would that be ethical? Would it still constitute infidelity? And what does that say about all his other uses of time travel? When faced with that issue, he realizes he doesn't want to sleep with anyone except Mary, and runs home to propose to her. It's a sweet resolution, but one that means that the core questions are never actually addressed.
  • American History X: In a Flash Back, Derek and his deceased father Dennis discuss the banning of now-politically incorrect literature from school curriculums and the affirmative action policy. In regards to the latter, Dennis bemoans the practice of hiring lower-skilled people on the basis of immutable characteristics like skin color, especially in regards to high-risk professions such as his job as a fireman. However, he follows this up with a bunch of racist remarks directed at Derek's black teacher, showing that Dennis is arguing in bad faith without addressing the merit of the argument itself.
  • The Contender: So, will Laine win the Vice Presidency despite the furor of controversy surrounding her? Will she prove to the world that the bending of the truth and exposure of someone's shady moral history should never be used for political gain and need not necessarily ruin your chances of a high-powered career? Never mind, the girl in the photos wasn't actually her after all. Oh, and her main rival's a backstabbing liar. Crisis averted.
  • In the 2021 sci-fi Cosmic Sin, First Contact with an alien species turns hostile and within hours the military launch an illegal mission to destroy the alien homeworld with a Doomsday Device. Various issues are raised—are they going to wipe out an entire alien species for what could be the acts of a rogue faction? Should they commit genocide regardless because this is the only way humanity can survive an Outside-Context Problem? All these issues are put to a stop by revealing a massive invasion fleet ready to come through a portal gate, and having an alien-possessed human do some Evil Gloating about how the aliens are an assimilating Hive Mind of apex predators whose entire culture is based on war.
  • Enchanted has this with the main conflict: former animated Princess Giselle ends up in New York, where a grumpy divorce lawyer and his daughter host her. Giselle finds out that Robert (the divorce lawyer) is in a relationship that's on the rocks, and becomes a Shipper on Deck, delivering flowers to Nancy (his girlfriend) and complimenting her looks. Only...Giselle then realizes that she's falling for Robert and doesn't love her fiance Edward, realizing she doesn't know the latter at all. This causes her to lapse into a Heroic BSoD about how it's morally wrong to fall in love with someone who is in a committed relationship, to the point that she lets a disguised Narissa poison her with an apple (which she thinks will make her memories of Robert go away, but it puts her in a would-be fatal coma instead). The question then becomes, do you sacrifice someone else's happiness for your own? Or is it more harmful to remove yourself from the picture (albeit not in the old way, at least not intentionally), knowing people care about you? When everyone realizes that Giselle will die unless Robert and not Edward kisses her, Edward immediately pushes for Plan B without any thought to his own feelings because he's a prince who does what's right, even if it means he gets hurt. Robert understandably protests because that would mean cheating on his girlfriend. The point gets sidestepped when Nancy tells him it's okay because no matter how much it hurts her or ends their relationship she doesn't want Giselle to die. Later she realizes she has a lot in common with Edward, deciding to marry him and move to Andalasia. Each mutual breakup has much less heartbreak and more happiness, in the end, resolving the dilemma a bit too neatly and doesn't really address the question.
  • Some see the whole movie of Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story as this. The problem with this movie is that it brings up a lot of issues without actually talking about them. Particularly the complicated socioeconomic background of most of the kids.
  • The Final Countdown': A modern day aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, is magically transported back in time by a "time storm" to December 6th, 1941. The crew is faced with a dilemma knowing what's about to happen. Should they intervene and irreparably alter history, or should they let history play out and let a war crime happen? While they do eventually choose to intervene, it ends up being a moot point, because before they can do anything, the time storm suddenly reappears and teleports them back to the present day in a blatant Deus ex Machina, avoiding showing what the ramifications of their choice would have been.
  • Final Justice deals with a Texas sheriff who journeys to Malta to get even with the mafiosi who murdered his partner and got away with it, all the while his superiors in the States urge him to back off and let the Italian and Maltese authorities take them down by the book. The complicated questions about honor versus duty and what's just versus what's legal raised by this situation are then deftly sidestepped when it's revealed that the sheriff's boss was getting kickbacks from the gangsters to sabotage the case against them from the inside, immediately justifying the sheriff's vigilante crusade since the argument against it was being made in bad faith.
  • Gifted: The film is largely cetered around the custody battle for a phenomenally gifted 7-year-old girl named Mary after her equally-gifted mother's suicide. Mary's uncle, Frank, wants to honor his sister's wishes and give Mary a normal life, while her maternal grandmother, Evelyn, believes that Mary should be out into special schools that foster her brilliant mind. Frank argues that the way Evelyn raised Mary's mother was the major factor that contributed to her suicide, as it deprived her of a normal life, while Evelyn argues that Frank is unfit to be a guardian as he lacks the necessary income to support a child, and has no health insurance. Initially, the film posits that Both Sides Have a Point, as Mary is repeatedly shown to be struggling in school with the lack of academic challenge and her inability to fit in with other kids. At the end of the film, it's revealed that Mary's mother had solved the Navier-Stokes Problem and that she then killed herself because she saw no reason to live after solving it, and requested that Frank not reveal that she had solved the equation until Evelyn's death. Frank agrees to hand over the solution to Evelyn on the condition that she drops the custody battle over Mary. Evelyn agrees, proving that Mary's well-being was a secondary concern to her, and that she mostly just cared about having a brilliant mathematician as a relative. However, this is slightly Downplayed as, at the end of the film, it's shown that Frank enrolled Mary in college-level math classes while also having her spend time with kids her age in an attempt to achieve a "best of both worlds" outcome where Mary's gifts are appropriately nurtured without sacrificing a normal childhood.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Nick Fury reveals to Captain America that S.H.I.E.L.D has been working on a global security system connected to spy satellites designed to surveil the population and preemptively eliminate potential threats. The debate on whether anyone should arbit who is and isn't a potential threat and how much the government should spy on its citizens in the name of protection is ultimately rendered moot because the whole project was developed by HYDRA, who has infiltrated the government and S.H.I.E.L.D's ranks. The film ends up being about stopping them since they're using the satellites for Obviously Evil purposes.
    • Captain America: Civil War: Peacekeepers must have permission to operate, and must answer for their actions, but they must also refuse illegal orders. Should Avengers submit to the UN or not? This is presented as the initial conflict, but it's later switched over by Bucky Barnes being accused of murder (for which he was framed, anyway). The whole issue is also sidestepped by the main guy pushing for the regulations being a corrupt Straw Character (specifically, a character who was the main villain of one of the previous films).
    • Black Panther (2018): A main internal conflict T'Challa struggles with in the film is whether to open Wakanda to the rest of the world and share its advanced technology internationally or to uphold Wakanda's isolationist tradition. Conservatives in his country argue (including the Starter Villain) for the latter, saying opening themselves up as opposed to keeping up The Masquerade could expose them to threats (and considering where the country is located, how tiny it is, and how pitifully weak its military forces are, this is a reasonable fear to have). The main villain has his tent firmly pitched in the former option, pointing out that by standing by and refusing to intervene, millions of Africans in other countries suffered. However, he aims to take the throne and wage war against the entire rest of the world, so he has to be put down. At the end, it seems like T'Challa took a third option and opened Wakanda to the rest of the world without all the bloodshed, but we only see Wakanda opening an outreach center in a developed African-American community. The question of whether Wakanda should provide for third-world countries (and the conservatives' argument that their neighbors could be a threat) isn't addressed.
  • Star Trek (2009): Kirk offers assistance to the about-to-be-crushed-by-a-black-hole Romulan ship, whose crew committed genocide by destroying Vulcan. Spock objects to this. Before any actual debate could happen, Nero, the ship's captain, tells Kirk to go screw himself, thus giving Kirk all the moral cover he needs to hasten their inevitable destruction. It is likely that Kirk knew how Nero would respond, but wanted to offer him the freedom to choose his own destruction. Kirk even says to Spock that offering them a chance for survival is the logical choice.note 
  • State of Play, so much so the main plot is made moot by the last 10 minutes of the film. And because of this the Big Bad for the most part goes unharmed. Cal McAffrey clearly didn't know how to sort out the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, or prioritize the Sliding Scale of Villain Threat.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • In X-Men, Magneto isn't trying to Kill All Humans; he wants to turn the leaders of various nations into mutants. Now that's still ethically highly questionable, but... oh, never mind, the process is fatal, and he won't believe this. And just to make sure Magneto has a firm grip on the villain ball, his "process" is powered by an unwilling Rogue, because he's not willing to sacrifice his own life for the cause when he can sacrifice somebody else's instead.
    • The sequels avoid the issue altogether by making him progressively more villainous. In X2: X-Men United, he does try to Kill All Humans (apparently unwilling to pass up the opportunity after the other villain nearly managed to Kill All Mutants), and in X-Men: The Last Stand he even sees his fellow mutants as expendable pawns.
    • In the third movie, this is also done with the debate about using the mutant "cure" versus protesting it. Plenty of mutants are shown benefiting from the cure, while just as many find the idea insulting. There are allies of the X-men who speak in favor of it and there are mutants opposed to it who form nice, organized meetings to figure out how to get their views heard. And then Magneto shows up and the rest of the movie has him and his violent followers as the main mutants protesting the cure. Also, he destroys the facility producing the cure, and the mutant behind it is taken away. At the very least, Rogue gets the cure, and Wolverine tells her to get it for herself, not for her boyfriend. She looks truly happy for the first time ever when showing Bobby she can kiss him without draining his powers or life force. And the very end of the movie heavily implies the cure isn't permanent, so the point is moot.

  • In David Isaak's Shock and Awe, one of the protagonists is an ex-special forces operator with many personal grievances against Muslims, including losing her brother in 9/11. A mysterious billionaire offers her the chance to strike back with vigilante attacks on terrorist groups, culminating in an audacious plan to hit Mecca with a dirty bomb. Along the way, she starts doubting whether she is really doing the right thing and thinking that maybe this is going too far. Before she gets a chance to work it out, however, the billionaire is revealed to be in league with another bunch of terrorists, who take the radioactive material and try to use it on the US.
  • Played for laughs in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, when Dirk relates the tale of some physicists who attempted to carry out the Schrödinger's Cat experiment for real. When they opened the box, they discovered that the cat had got bored and wandered off somewhere.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin can be read as a dramatized debate over the question of whether anarchism, represented by the "Odonian" philosophy practised on the planet Anarres, or liberal democratic capitalism, represented by the nation of A-Io on Anarres' sister-planet Urras, is better. Though the author clearly prefers anarchism, for most of the book the question is dealt with subtly, with the failings of Anarresti society and the successes of the society of A-Io both being shown. Then, practically out of the blue, A-Io massacres peaceful protesters by the thousand. Well, duh, Anarresti anarchism is better than that. The whole philosophical debate is tossed aside and replaced by Baddies Are Bad. In an interesting case, the A-Io's actions are understandable, though not justified - they remember what the last strike led to, and they are all out of moons to bribe dissidents with. It's also probably worth noting that, while massacres of striking workers weren't common in 1970s America, they were common in America at the turn of the century, so this could also simply be a case of Anachronism Stew, but it seems probable that A-Io is meant to represent an older US, as the US of the 1970s certainly also did not prohibit women from universities, for example-much the opposite.
  • Hand of Thrawn: A document is recovered from an old Imperial archive showing that a group of Bothans, a race currently a prominent member of the New Republic, collaborated with the Empire in the destruction of the planet Caamas (known for peaceful resistance to the Empire). However, the names of the specific Bothans involved are conveniently missing from the version recovered, leading to a debate over whether the Bothan people and state government should be held collectively liable. Nobody really cares about the Caamasi survivors' opinion because it pretty quickly stops being about the actual merits of the issue and turns into an excuse for various members of the Republic to get even with traditional rivals. The issue is then rendered fully moot in the end when Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade manage to recover an intact copy of the Caamas Document from the late Grand Admiral Thrawn's personal archives, allowing the specific Bothans responsible to be identified and tried.
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss’ major moral dilemma is whether she can kill equally innocent children in order to survive and come home to her sister Prim and best friend Gale. Yet, she never has to face this dilemma. She only ever kills Careers, who are treated as acceptable targets, and even none of these kills are calculated or cold-blooded. Katniss drops the tracker-jackers on the Careers, because they are hunting her, which ends up killing Glimmer. She shoots Marvel, but as a quick reflex after Marvel kills Rue, and later kills Cato as a Mercy Kill. Katniss worries about having to kill Rue, but Marvel does this for her, Foxface, but then Foxface mistakenly eats the nightlock berries, and Thresh after he saves Katniss’ life but then Cato kills Thresh. The end momentarily subverts this when the Gamemakers renege on their offer to let two members from the same district live, and Katniss must either kill Peeta or be killed. But then Katniss Takes A Third Option by suggesting they both eat nightlock berries. This is then doubly subverted, because the Gamemakers blink and let both Katniss and Peeta live, meaning Katniss never has to decide between killing an innocent or dying herself.
  • Jodi Picoult:
    • My Sister's Keeper asks the interesting question of whether or not it is wrong to have a child (Anna) solely to provide blood/tissue/organs for a sicker child (Kate), then gets out of answering by killing Anna in a car accident and having her kidneys donated to Kate anyway. The film avoids this by having Kate choose to die because she loves Anna too much for the latter to sacrifice her life.
    • Handle with Care asks if it is okay to sue your doctor for not telling you about a disability and if it is okay to abort a disabled child. Claire wins the case anyway, and the child dies after they win.
    • In Sing You Home, it asks the question of whether or not LGBT parents should be allowed to have a family, and who gets things such as frozen embryos after a divorce. Zoe and Vanessa get the embryos because Max (Zoe's ex-husband, who they are fighting in court) is in love with his sister in law (who he is planning on giving the embryos to) and doesn't want to see her happy.
    • This happens in Mercy. The whole thing is about the ethical issues of euthanasia and mercy killing, and it turns out that... oh, wait, it doesn't. Not only do we not get an overall view on euthanasia, we don't even get to find out the views of 90% of the characters. It's the kind of 'debate' where people stand around chatting and occasionally eat a biscuit.
  • Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill involves a court case between a mother whose child can't be vaccinated for medical reasons and an antivaxxer whose child infected the first with measles, causing serious health issues. The case is dropped when it turns out the vulnerable child was actually infected by an unrelated (vaccinated) adult, leaving the central question of whether antivaxxers should be held responsible for other people's illness unresolved.
  • The children's book Not Quite Narwhal is about a unicorn who was raised by narwhals and when he realises he's a unicorn, he's faced with a tough choice: whether to live at home, or with his own kind. However, that issue becomes moot when the narwhals move near the beach and the unicorns move to the beach.
  • In the Paladin of Shadows book Unto the Breach, Mike falls for Gretchen, whose hand has been promised to another. He tries to force himself to perish the thought, but struggles with it, including thinking of pulling an Uriah Gambit. Eventually, though, Gretchen gets KIA, sparing the trouble.
  • Tree of Aeons: When one of the heroes is infected with demonic magic, Aeon investigates and discovers that it's actually a sentient magical parasite — which claims that the demons aren't actually malicious themselves, just enslaved, and that if he lets the parasite survive and mature, it will be able to help him. Since he already knows that the [Hero] class includes divine Mind Control and isn't all it's cracked up to be, the demon's claim is more plausible than it might sound, and he's left wondering whether the hero or the parasite is actually more useful and worthy of surviving. Until the parasite refuses to consider a compromise solution, and attacks him, making the situation simple again.
  • In 20 Years After, d'Artagnan wants to kill Mordaunt, but not out of a sense of justice — he is blinded by a desire for vengeance on the sins of Mordaunt's mother, twenty years ago. Athos, on the other hand, is tired of violence and wants to let Mordaunt go, in spite of his own terrible crimes. The dilemma is made moot when Athos kills Mordaunt in self-defense after trying to save him.
  • Winds of the Forelands has at its center a smoldering racial conflict, and the Big Bad is a leader of the oppressed race who claims he will liberate it. He's also a Hitler-esque tyrant who would make everyone's lives worse if he actually won, so it's up to the heroes to stop him and let oppression continue. Apparently, the only reason it even comes up is so the villain's followers can be portrayed as misguided rather than evil.
    • Firmly averted in the Sequel Series Blood of the Southlands, which focuses almost entirely on the racial conflict, with the closest thing to a real Big Bad being killed early in the second book, leaving the remainder of the series to deal with the race war her actions set in motion, while the actual war is Grey-and-Gray Morality.
  • War Crimes plays with this one. The decision of whether to imprison or execute the accused is rendered moot by an assault on the court, yet the jury goes on to answer it anyway.
  • In the second series of Wings of Fire, the protagonists debate whether Darkstalker's crimes (and the potential threat he would pose to the world) mean he deserves to stay trapped under a mountain for the rest of time. Then he's freed anyway (by accident) and immediately degrades into a torture-happy supervillain who monologues about how glorious conquering the world will be. Convenient.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of The 4400, one of the returnees has the ability to heal genetic defects in utero. It is later revealed that this returnee is a Rwandan war criminal and the rest of the episode debates whether his ability to heal should preclude him from getting sent back to Rwanda to pay for his crimes. It is later resolved by revealing that every genetic defect he fixes is taken into his own DNA, making him sicker. Either way, this man is assured a death sentence; it becomes a choice of whether he dies quickly via execution or slowly, but helping others along the way.
  • Angel Season 4: It's an interesting question whether the heroes should defeat Jasmine, who brought peace to the world at the cost of humanity's free will. The revelation that she eats people makes the debate moot. However, it is clearly still viewed as, at best, an ambiguous choice. As Jasmine herself pointed out, she was killing thousands to save billions, and the opening of the Season finale shows the characters themselves are pretty torn over it.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • The series can usually be counted on to examine social problems at some length, yet fell into this trap in Season 4.5. In light of recent discoveries the policies of the Adama/Roslin administration are brought into question — the two had fielded an "ends justifies the means" approach to getting to Earth, especially Roslin who followed her visions on blind faith. Even in the midst of the latest scandal, Roslin is irresponsibly letting the government get out of control without allowing another leader to step into power, and Adama is considering allowing the Cylons — the same Cylons that nuked the 12 Colonies and then tormented the population of New Caprica for a year — citizenship into the Colonial Fleet. While Adama may have justification for contemplating this move, the show is right to suggest it, as well as Roslin's childish behavior, deserves to be re-evaluated with care ... however, when Adama and Roslin's opposition turns out to be led by Felix Gaeta and Tom Zarek, who summarily attempt to kill many of our beloved characters and succeed at killing numerous secondaries, the writers opt for a different approach. It seems that getting our protagonists into tough spots was not on the agenda, after all.
    • There's a recurring theme of What Measure Is a Non-Human?, about whether the Cylons are really "alive" and had souls. But according to Caprica, the Cylons originated when a human's memories and personality are coded into a digital avatar. So basically, the skinjob Cylons have bodies molecularly indistinguishable from humans, and their minds are essentially human minds, and since Caprica doesn't end with a massive wave of amnesia, the BSG characters should know this from history class. So they are as human as anyone else. Why the hell are even they considered robots by any criteria except Karel Capek's?
    • That one seems to be more a case of deliberately dehumanizing them, i.e. refusing to acknowledge Cylons are or could be people (even bad people). It's hardly surprising given the wars both sides fought, and the Cylons having an artificial origin just made it easier.
  • Near the end of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon and Amy's research finally pays off and they're up for a Nobel Prize. However, their hypothesis was proven by two other scientists in a lucky accident, and the university can't give credit to 4 people. Sheldon's friends find evidence that the other scientists committed plagiarism in the past, which would put them out of the running if made public, but they're conflicted about throwing two strangers under the bus to ensure their friends get the award. Some of them consider publishing the evidence without telling Sheldon and Amy, to spare them the burden. But the whole issue is rendered moot when one of the scientists turns out to be having an affair with the other's wife, and they proceed to out the plagiarism and ruin eachother in the ensuing feud.
  • Bodyguard (UK 2018) spends a lot of time in the first two episodes on whether Julia is right to introduce a massive, controversial surveillance bill. She's killed off at the end of episode 2 in a conspiracy between radical Islamic terrorists and London gangsters, specifically to prevent the bill from being passed, so the debate stops as the only people who would oppose it seem to be murderers.
  • This skit from the Israeli skit show The Chamber Quintet:
    I don’t wanna hear about that Peres; they say he’s a humanist and all that, but that guy ain’t got no feelings. Like after that thing in Kafr Qana: he got the press and told ‘em, ‘I’m accountable,’ said, ‘The Hizballah are to blame,’ said, ‘We won’t stop the operation,’ and not a single muscle in his face moved, nothing, not even a hint of a facial expression, some moist in his eye, half a smile... C’mon, after all, 100 Arabs died just like that; show some joy! Show some joy, man! But nothin’, that guy ain’t got no feelings!
    That’s why he lost the elections!
  • On season 2, "Dexter" must choose between giving himself up or killing Doakes, who has found out his secret. Doakes is clearly an asshole and a stalker, but that's not enough to fit the code. Then the new romantic interest finds Doakes and kills him, becoming a morally unambiguous Big Bad.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Trial of a Time Lord", the Doctor wipes out an antagonistic race of aliens as per usual and is promptly accused of genocide. Instead of dealing with this issue, we get the revelation that his accuser is the villain behind everything.
    • Much of "Boom Town" is dedicated to a debate on capital punishment, where the Doctor is put in the position of making the choice. Before the Doctor has properly made up his mind, Blon Slitheen looks into the TARDIS and is turned into an egg.
    • "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways": The Doctor realises the only way to stop the genocidal Dalek fleet from wiping out everyone on Earth (and then moving on to other planets to wipe out their inhabitants too) is to send out a pulse that will not only kill all the Daleks, but also himself and everyone on Earth. The Doctor is saved from trying to decide whether it's moral to kill a load of people in collateral damage (when inaction will lead to their death anyway) to save everyone else when Rose becomes an almost literal Deus ex Machina and saves the day by effortlessly wiping out the Daleks without any further casualties.
      • The Doctor does answer the dilemma by refusing to use the Delta Wave, he just gets a third option at the last second. This is emphasized by how haunted he is by the decision he made the last time he faced this dilemma.
    • "The Beast Below" sets up an interesting moral dilemma by revealing that the entire future-city of London is kept alive by a star whale, which must be tortured regularly in order to keep it from escaping. This brings up the moral issue of whether to free the whale, dooming the city, or continue torturing the whale. However, the issue is avoided when... it's revealed the whale wanted to help them anyway and it stays of its own accord because it couldn't bear watching children cry! Phew!
      • Less so than the above, since they do come to a final response for the dilemma: the twist at the end means they didn't have to go through with it but they still came to a final answer. He was going to fry part of its brain so it could still function to keep London alive and not suffer but would essentially become a vegetable.
    • "The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People" spends a long time making it clear that the gangers are just as real as the people they're duplicating, and not just tools. Helpfully, at least one of each pair dies before making it back to the TARDIS, smoothly avoiding any dilemmas when they get back to their families.
    • "Kill the Moon" has the reveal that the Moon is actually the egg of a gigantic space creature that is about to hatch. Clara, the Doctor and Captain Lundvik spend much of the episode debating whether or not they should destroy the creature to save the earth. They then decide to let humanity decide. While humanity votes to kill the creature, Clara overrules the vote on her own. The hatching of the Moon causes no damage and the baby immediately lays another egg bigger than itself.
  • The final season of Elementary holds a short discussion about the pros and cons of Pre Crime Arrest (Sherlock is against it, Arc Villain Oden Reichenbach is for it) that quickly turns moot when Reichenbach is revealed to be a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist who is not above killing people to present his option as correct or killing someone to facilitate the purchase of a company. Guess it's expected of a Corrupt Corporate Executive with the last name of the place where Sherlock Holmes nearly died.
  • The short-lived TV series First Monday about Supreme Court decisions used this trope regularly whenever the difficult decision of finding in favor of the constitution was made to seem like a defendant was getting Off on a Technicality or a sleazy individual was getting away with something for which There Should Be a Law.
    • A doctor gives his patient's blood to a police investigator who couldn't get a warrant for the suspect's DNA, pitting the need to get a serial rapist off the streets against doctor-patient privilege. The rapist's girlfriend gives the police a lawfully-obtained sample of his DNA in the form of his toothbrush.
    • The CIA challenges the publishing of a book that contains confidential trade craft secrets that could potentially endanger the CIA's mission, but the publisher argues the First Amendment trumps the need for secrecy. The CIA also gets one of the justices disqualified from ruling on the case because she would have ruled in their favor. The justices theorize the book is really full of Blatant Lies meant to fool the CIA's enemies, and the court challenge was designed to drum up publicity for it. However, they can't know for certain if this isn't part of some bigger plan by the CIA who wants them to think they're ruling against the CIA's interest so they Take a Third Option and drop the case altogether, ceding to the lower court ruling.
  • JAG: Rabb debates breaking attorney-client privilege to inform on a client he suspects is selling stealth fighter-jet paint coating (privilege doesn't cover a planned crime, only a crime already committed). After breaking the privilege, he faces disbarment charges when the missing coat of paint is found on the base. Fortunately, his boss, Admiral Chegwidden does not have to censure him for making a difficult decision once he finds out it was the client's son who stole the coating, validating his assumption while essentially making him wrong about the facts of what he reported and giving the admiral leeway to find he was not at fault.
  • On Judging Amy, Amy has to decide on the custody of a boy in a coma. Lots of folks think the boy has faith-healing powers and they touch him to get cured of their ailments. The Government has raised eyebrows about the unsanitary conditions of the transfer of germs from visitors day in and day out but the public strongly believes in the boy's powers and Amy will catch heat if she rules in favor of the government's motion. The Government, fearing the negative press, drops their motion, giving Amy no choice but to rule in favor of the family and taking all the political heat for it.
  • Law & Order has refined this into an art form.
    • One prominent example occurs during the first season, when a woman is on trial for bombing an abortion clinic. The moral issues of abortion are debated, even going so far as to polarize the main cast members (and, it's implied, the jury), but then the ADA pulls the rug out during cross-examination by pointing out that, by killing a pregnant woman, the bomber also murdered her unborn child. Cue one guilty verdict.
    • Subverted when a man kills the insurance executive who vetoed an extremely expensive treatment for his terminally-ill daughter. During the trial, the insurance company reverses its position, putting her on the medication and giving strong credibility to the justification that the murder saved his daughter's life. But the judge refuses to allow the jury to hear about this, insisting the trial should be about an eye for an eye. It ended on a "hopelessly deadlocked" hung jury, and it's strongly implied the DAs aren't going to bother trying again.
    • "Scrambled": a woman is charged with Felony Murder after she hires an ex-cop to break into a fertility clinic and destroy her eggs and he kills a worker who walked in on him. The case hinges on whether or not one's own eggs can be legally the property of someone else, for the purposes of establishing the predicate felony. Except during the break-in the cop destroyed another couple's eggs too, but they didn't initially come forward to report the 'loss' for other reasons.
    • Happens three times in "Progeny", another abortion episode. The killer uses the "preservation of life" justification of killing the abortion doctor to save a woman's unborn fetus. McCoy first points out that since the doctor's intended patient was really the killer's partner and her scheduled abortion was a ruse to lure the doctor out that her fetus was never in jeopardy. He then digs up evidence the defendant's motive was revenge against abortion doctors after he failed to prevent the woman carrying his child from getting an abortion. The defendant's spiritual advisor, a pro-life advocate who insists on making a jury debate the value of the "preservation of life" argument, claims he was the defendant's co-conspirator, having provided the gun and transportation for him to kill the doctor. On the stand, he claims the justification defense but McCoy asks him why, if he believes its morally right to kill abortion doctors, did he not just pull the trigger himself instead of giving the gun to the killer? The answer was that no matter how much he decried abortion, he still knew it was wrong to kill anyone, thus he did not believe in his own defense.
    • One episode has a young woman die, and it turns out to be due to a contraceptive implant she had been given without her knowledge. Her gynecologist has made a habit of sterilizing young women from poor/troubled backgrounds, supposedly out of the belief that preventing a pregnancy will enable them to improve their situations and avoid being trapped. Additionally, the dead woman already had a child who was removed from her custody due to abuse and had bragged about conceiving again to get on welfare, so stopping her from having more children is preventing their abuse as well. On the other hand, one of the other women she sterilized who did manage to graduate school and improve her life and is touted as her success story is devastated that she is unable to have children now that she can provide them a good life, especially since there's no evidence that she would have had an accidental pregnancy or that said pregnancy would have been bad for her or the child. Then there's the general debate about bodily autonomy and allowing patients to make their own decisions, and the fact that, because the doctor wasn't consulting with her patients, she didn't know the dead woman had anemia, which is what caused the implant to kill her. Then the dead woman's grandmother comes forward, admits that she was the one who had requested the implant and told the doctor about the victim's anemia, and the doctor had lied about the risks involved and performed the procedure anyway. This becomes the sole issue for the trial, and any other points are ignored.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • In one episode, a woman has euthanized her baby with antidepressants because it had Tay-Sachs. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that she had gotten pregnant from an affair, which is why she didn't do genetic testing with her (gentile) husband to avoid a tay-sachs baby. The ADA relies on the theory that she killed the baby to hide her affair, thus poisoning the jury against her and securing a conviction, even though the theory is obviously wrong - she is sincere in her grief, not sociopathic, and killing the baby doesn't conceal its genetic condition. The Assistant District Attorney, having been faced with her own moral dilemma - should I use an insincere legal theory to secure a conviction? - complains that the woman was convicted only "because I turned her into a whore".
    • In another episode, what looks like a rape turns into a right to die debate until it turns out the woman who runs the assisted suicide website entered into a suicide pact with someone and didn't fulfill her end of the bargain. The debate then becomes about whether that's murder, manslaughter, or something else.
    • Another episode discusses whether it is acceptable to apply capital punishment to a woman, who by this point has already been proven to be a serial killer. The woman hangs herself. (It should be noted that this pissed off the characters as well.) Even before this, the episode has already pulled another Debate and Switch by implying that the woman has been trying to support her son. The boy isn't even hers; she had kidnapped him.
    • A husband played by John Ritter cuts his unfaithful wife open and kills her fetus, claiming he was enraged by the thought of her having her lover's child. The trial is not so clear-cut because killing a fetus isn't murder unless there's proof that it took a breath outside the womb. As he's on the stand, Cabot presents him with evidence the fetus actually belonged to him and he killed his own child, prompting him to admit the baby cried before he killed it. Notably the episode ends before the verdict is read; the viewer is meant to assume his insanity defense was rejected solely on the basis of the murder charge being provable.
    • A young woman with Down Syndrome is raped and impregnated, but wants to keep the baby. Her elderly mother, however, wants to abort, feeling she won't be around long enough to provide for both her daughter and grandchild. The detectives are caught up in the family drama as they search for the rapist... and eventually they do find him, and it turns out he's filthy rich. As such, the police decide to plea bargain him in exchange for lifetime child support, so everyone's happy.
      • In the same episode, it isn't immediately clear that there was a rape (the girl is in her 20s, so there's no age of consent issues); initially, it appears that the baby may have been fathered by the girl's boyfriend, raising some fairly complex questions about whether or not the woman would have been capable of giving meaningful consent to sex if that is in fact what happened. All of which goes out the window when both parties insist they never had sex, and it's solidified when detectives discover that it was somebody else who had blatantly taken advantage of her naivete and his position of power over her to manipulate her into sex, making it a clear-cut case of rape.
  • On Lie to Me, a cop plants a gun on a teen he mistakenly shot while chasing another suspect. The FBI wants Lightman to withhold his findings and stand by as the teen (who was paralyzed in the shooting and subsequent fall) is falsely charged with attempted murder because the same cop is undercover, rooting out suspected terrorists within the ranks of the police. Lightman proves that the cop misled the FBI: he'd already uncovered everything they needed to take down the terrorists but said nothing because he was angry about the friendly-fire death of his daughter in combat.
  • Airing bravely (or perhaps coincidentally) in the midst of the Terri Schiavo debate's worst excesses, Malcolm in the Middle had a plot requiring Hal to choose whether to pull the plug on a similar patient. In the end, in a parody of this trope, Hal solves the problem with a hitherto unconsidered third option. We never learn what this option is, only that it involved Radio Shack and a hat.
    Hal: Once I realized how much he loved birds, the answer was so obvious!
  • Subverted twice on The Practice: On 2 occasions, one of the attorneys was defending an old friend for making a questionable judgement call, only to find out in private that the defendant had ulterior motives and was just using their friendship to get a good defense. As they were bound by attorney-client privilege not to disclose the new information, they still had to present the original argument with a straight face to the jury:
    • Rebecca defends a childhood friend, an off-duty cop who shot an armed stranger he believed was going to rob a convenience store. She digs up dirt on the victim including a murder charge that was dropped on a technicality. The murder victim in that case was an old friend of the defendant's: he killed the suspect out of revenge, then planted a gun on him to make it look like a robbery.
    • Jimmy defends an old school buddy who was being sued after he outed an HIV-positive subordinate of his out of fear he might infect other co-workers. During their conversations, the defendant reveals that he was a homophobe who was glad that the employee's hostile working conditions prompted him to resign.
  • Private Practice did this with an episode where the doctors were asked to sterilize a woman living in a relationship with her biological brother (the pair had met without knowing about their blood relation). Much screentime was spent by the cast agonizing whether or not they were encouraging incest by agreeing to the procedure or not. In the end, the question became moot when it was revealed that the brother had known all along, causing the couple to break up.
  • Subverted in an episode of Scrubs when a patient who had been cared for by all for of the leads (JD, Turk, Carla, and Elliot) dies while they're all simultaneously distracted by wacky sitcom antics, causing them to be called before the hospital review board. Just as it looks as though they're going to be hung out to dry, the coroner reveals that the original mistake was on a bit-character radiologist who had misdiagnosed the patient, meaning he'd have died regardless since he was getting the wrong treatment. The subversion comes when Dr. Cox interrupts the quartet's celebration of their innocence with a blistering "Reason You Suck" Speech reminding them that it was sheer luck that the error wasn't theirs, and that any of them could screw up just as badly at any time if they slack off on their jobs.
  • Smallville:
    • Season 8 introduced Davis Bloome, a.k.a. Doomsday, who, due to his split personality, discovers he is responsible for the deaths of several people in Metropolis. At one point he is goaded into becoming Doomsday; under the other side's influence, he smothers the person, and Doomsday recedes, allowing him control. Once Clark and Chloe figure out that he's been killing criminals to keep Doomsday at bay, they have to decide if Davis is still a good guy making the most of a horrible situation or a horrible killer. They seemed to be leaning toward the former, then he gained his freedom and promptly hopped off the slope by killing Jimmy, cementing him as a bad guy.
    • Clark in Season 9 was faced with the difficult question of what to do about the Kandorian refugees: should they try to pass as normal humans and live regular lives or acquire their rightful Kryptonian powers? Being normal left them vulnerable to paranoid humans who had no qualms about killing them off but under Major Zod's leadership, the empowered Kandorians were destined to conquer Earth. Clark gives them a third option: shaking their faith in Zod and using the Book of Rao to send them to another plane of existence where they can make a new start.
  • Parodied on Sparks, when Alonzo Sparks has to go up against his old law professor, who made fun of his stuttering, even nicknaming him "Porky Pig". Nervousness causes his stutter to come back, until the professor makes the mistake of pissing him off, which motivates him to speak perfectly. Midway through this closing argument, the judge gets word of another case that already made the decision, and says the whole thing is "moot", to Alonzo's protest.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The episode "Dax". The titular character is a symbiont, which is implanted in a humanoid host, and shares experiences and personality. When one host dies, the symbiont is passed onto another, retaining its old memories. The previous host, Curzon, is accused of a crime, and the victim's families want the new host, Jadzia, to be tried and punished for them. The symbiont can't be removed without killing Jadzia, so the episode wrestles with a complex legal and philosophical question of whether the symbiont in its current host is sufficiently the same person as to be culpable for a crime that took place in a different life. Before any resolution is reached, the question is rendered moot by proving that Curzon wasn't guilty of the crime in the first place (and had hidden his alibi because he'd been with his best friend's wife).
  • Star Trek: Enterprise:
    • In the episode "Dear Doctor", the switch is an even bigger moral decision. Initially, it's about whether to interfere in the natural arrangement of a pre-warp society (a stone-age species is kept in benign slavery by a more advanced one), but then it suddenly turns out that the disease that's been spreading among the dominant species (and for which the crew was helping to find a cure) is a "natural development" of their evolution (which may well "solve" the problem of the stone-age species' subjugation by killing their caretakers). So naturally, the crew decide to give them relief of the symptoms rather than a cure, in a proto-development of the Prime Directive (its most appalling application in the entire history of the series, which is ironic as it was intended as a justification for it). And then people wondered why the Star Trek franchise took a breather.
      • This was actually the result of Executive Meddling; in the original script, Phlox refuses a direct order from Archer to give the species in question the cure he has developed. The higher-ups were worried that a major conflict between the characters might upset the audience, so Archer's decision was changed at the last minute to agree with Phlox. Unfortunately, this had the opposite effect, as viewers began calling Protagonist-Centered Morality.
    • A better usage was in the episode "Affliction", in which Phlox and the Klingon Doctor Antaak have been tasked with finding a cure for the Klingon Augment Virus which is threatening to wipe out the entire Klingon Empire. Dismayed to see Antaak preparing to euthanize one of the infected test subjects with a lethal injection, Phlox interrupts him, and an argument breaks out between them as Antaak insists that giving one's life to save millions is a most honorable way for a Klingon to die while Phlox contends that such a killing is ethically unthinkable. While they're arguing, their boss General K'Vagh pulls his disruptor, calmly shoots the victim, and tells them "Proceed."
  • Star Trek: Picard: Season's 3's "Dominion" has a grim sequence where Vadic describes her torture and that of the other Changelings at the hands of Section 31. Picard looks deeply troubled for all of thirty seconds before he and Beverly decide, albeit with some difficulty, to execute her anyways. This is never brought up again, and the Changeling plot is mostly an afterthought by the end of the season.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The episode "Haven" begins with Deanna Troi facing an arranged marriage. The episode is one extended debate over personal choice vs. cultural expectation which is soundly side-stepped by the plague ship from the B-plot suddenly having aboard it the woman of Troi's fiance's dreams (literally; he's been dreaming of her all his life).
    • The episode "The Price" debates whether Troi's use of her empathic powers to support the missions of the Enterprise is more ethical than Devinoi Ral's use of his empathic powers as a negotiator for hire. Then Ral conspires with the Ferengi to trigger a military conflict to frighten the Barzans from accepting the Federation's offer.
    • The episode "A Matter Of Time" has the Enterprise encountering Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveler from the 26th century, and they naturally argue about whether it's moral to use future knowledge to prevent tragedies. However, this is soon undercut with the revelation that Rasmussen wasn't really a 26th century time-traveler but a 22nd century conman that wanted to take stolen goods from the Enterprise, including Data, back to the 22nd century, where he'd "invent" them and profit from it.
    • "Rascals" had a subplot involving Miles and Keiko O'Brien's marriage being endangered by her having been reduced to a prepubescent girl by the Negative Space Wedgie of the week. He equivocates quite a bit when she reminds him that they're married and then asks him point-blank whether his discomfort over her shows of affection as a little girl means the end of their marriage. That's a terribly good question, come to think of it... and one that Miles mercifully never has to answer since Status Quo Is God and child actors cost too much to be on Star Trek as anything other than guest stars. Another question they're also spared answering: what to tell their daughter Molly, who wants her mommy and doesn't understand that (approximately) twelve-year-old Keiko is still the same Keiko who gave birth to her.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Scientific Method", it is revealed that the crew have been the subjects of medical experiments by an alien species (a thinly veiled allusion to animal testing and possibly unethical human testing). Janeway finally manages to get the experiments aborted by flying Voyager into a pulsar, which is stated to be nearly-certain death, which scares the aliens off and destroys one of their ships that doesn't get away in time. Of course, Voyager survives. The reason this is this trope is that Janeway is only acting that way because of the experiments of the aliens.
    • The Seska arc introduces a wildly complicated question when Seska reveals that she forcibly stole Chakotay's DNA and impregnanted herself with it, and later begs for his help when she and his son are in danger. How he's supposed to respond to that is agonizingly difficult. To the show's credit, they do spend a good deal of time dealing with these questions (Chakotay decides to try and get custody and raise him after the spirit quest version of his father makes the observation that the boy is essentially a Child by Rape), but they're ultimately rendered moot when it turns out that the child isn't actually Chakotay's after all. Seska dies, the baby's biological father claims him, and everything goes back to normal.
    • In "Shattered", Voyager is split into 37 different timeframes. Chakotay, the only one originating from the proper timeframe, enlists the help of a Janeway from before Voyager was launched into the Delta Quadrant, injecting her with a special chroniton-infused serum so that she can exist in the other timeframes. Along the way, she begins to learn about all of the crazy stuff that's happened to Voyager throughout its run in the Delta Quadrant and blames herself for it. She wants to modify Chakotay's plan to fix things so that all of Voyager is back in the proper timeframe so that it is instead in her timeframe, and thus she can make it so that it never goes into the Delta Quadrant. Chakotay tells her that she's not seeing the big picture - all of the families and relationsships that have formed on Voyager and how everyone's grown. He also says that it's presumptuous of her to think that she has the right to change everyone's future. Yet, in the series finale "Endgame," this is exactly what happens. Admiral Janeway returns from the future with a plan to get Voyager home. There's maybe about two minutes of hand-wringing about the ethics of this at most, with most of the rest of the story spent on the ironing-out and execution of the plan, the upshot being that it works out exactly as intended and Voyager gets home nearly 16 years before it did in Admiral Janeway's timeline.
  • Frequently on Supernatural, usually in the form of whether to let someone who is doing bad things against their will (e.g., a werewolf) go, or kill them. The person usually dies or makes some sort of Heroic Sacrifice by episode's end, which and in and of itself isn't unusual since if you're not one of the brothers your life expectancy is pretty low. In one case where the trope is averted (and a werewolf actually wanders off into the sunset) they both pause and look around expectantly as if waiting for the last body to fall from a closet, and you can't really blame them.
  • The central conflict of Utopia has The Network attempting to solve the Overpopulation Crisis through the release of a Sterility Plague. This is debated very heavily among the team when they learn the truth, eventually even leading to Wilson performing a Face–Heel Turn and joining the bad guys that have been trying to kill the crew since Day One. Ultimately avoided, however, when it's revealed that the last secret adjustment made to Janus changed it from a nonfatal Sterility Plague to a full-on 3rd-Reich-style-eugenics virus that would leave 95% of the world dead on the spot and only Philip Carvel's own Romani race remaining, so the good guys and bad guys have to put aside their disagreements and work together to stop it.

    Video Games 
  • The endgame of BlazBlue: Chronophantasma starts off with this trope. Ragna has just returned from the Dark War era with knowledge of how Kushinada's Lynchpin works, and moves to accost Kokonoe over the use of Celica in it, with both sides getting into a heated argument (Kagura joins in, but he doesn't like cute girls getting hurt, but that's neither here nor there). Interestingly, both sides reference the Dark War, and both have good reasons for their chosen outcome. Kokonoe's is purely technical: whereas Bloodedge's sacrifice froze the Beast for one year, use of the Lynchpin could have suspended it for three to five, giving more time to better articulate an effective armed response against it. Ragna's argument is from an emotional standpoint: the whole reason Nine worked so hard on making the Nox Nyctores was because she was trying to get out of sacrificing Celica in the first place, and if Celica had gotten sacrificed, she would have been consigned to a Fate Worse than Death, with Nine crossing the Despair Event Horizon as a result. The argument ends by intervention from Rachel, who reveals that the Nox Nyctores Houyoku: Rettenjo was made as a workaround to fire the Lynchpin, and that it had been loaded recently... with former Imperator Tenjo's soul. This allows both sides to get what they want in the end: Kokonoe gets to fire the Lynchpin to impair Imperator Izanami's operations, and the gang get to keep Celica for the rest of her natural existence... or as natural as a chronophantasma gets, anyway. Another problem related to the debate — that Celica's chronophantasma was evoked for this inevitable endgame — is never addressed.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: At Castle Redcliffe, you learn that the Bann's young son Conner has been possessed by a demon due to lacking control over his budding magic powers. As said demon is also causing the town of Redcliffe to be constantly attacked by the undead, this obviously cannot continue. You are given multiple options, most of which have a very negative downside (make a deal with the demon, kill Conner, or use Conner's mother Isolde in a blood ritual that will cleanse Conner of the demon but kill her (with her consent). None of these options are great, and 2 of them end with Alistair giving you a MASSIVE chewing out (with big loss of approval) and the third causes Conner to be possessed again by the demon sometime down the line. However, there's a final option that makes all the above irrelevant. You can simply leave and go get help from the near by Mage's Circle, who will come with skilled mages/templars and lyrium, allowing them to purge Conner of the demon with no loss of life. Conner will be required to go live at the Circle for the rest of his life, but it's generally the best option he has available with Ferelden's situation. And there isn't even any time limit if you take this option, you can put off going to the tower for a long while and the Redcliffe situation won't change one bit.
  • Dragon Age II:
    • Averted — no matter what stance you take in the overarching Mage vs Templar plot points, even a neutral Hawke has to pick a side once Anders blows up the Chantry, who, whilst governing both sides contains one of the few Reasonable Authority Figures in the game. There is absolutely no way to avoid this.
    • In a way its still played straight. In the end, regardless of whether you sided with Templars or Mages, you still have to kill both Orsino and Meredith when the former uses blood magic to turn into a Flesh Golem and the latter goes insane due to her sword made of Lyrium.
    • Until the aversion comes at the end, however, it's played straight when it comes to the complaints of the Mages. Their complaints are never actually seriously addressed, because most of their arguments are "disqualified" for extenuating reasons. Anders, their primary advocate, is possessed by Justice and is portrayed as irrational, with even freedom advocate Isabela mostly brushing him off, so players can conveniently write him off and ignore anything he says as the words of a crazy abomination. The strongest argument the Mages have, that the Templars treat all Mages the same way and are willing to punish the innocent along with the guilty, is brushed off by Fenris "shifting the burden of proof", and almost every Mage you meet is an insane blood mage trying to kill you. Well, at least pro-Mage players can have their points addressed with Merrill... oh wait, she conveniently turns out to accidentally unleash a Pride Demon on her clan in Act 3. Well, never mind anything she says then.
    • Played straight regarding Hawke's bickering mother and uncle. Leandra is furious that Gamlen didn't tell her he lost the family fortune, then used her new family's distress to sell her kids into indentured servitude to pay off his debts. Gamlen counters that she chose to leave the family fortune behind years ago, left Gamlen to take care of everything, turned up decades later only when she needed something, and is acting entitled and ungrateful for the help Gamlen could offer her. It raises interesting questions of how much Gamlen really owes her and how appreciative Leandra should be. Then Hawke finds out that Leandra's parents actually left her everything and Gamlen stole her inheritance, rendering his side of the argument completely moot.
  • The central themes of Final Fantasy X and its sequel, Final Fantasy X-2. In the original, there is an active debate in-game about whether or not it's right to sacrifice people in order to temporarily bring the rest of the world peace. Near the end of the game, the characters find a workaround to the Vicious Cycle, but it will still cause the deaths of two of the major protagonists. Word of God states that this was done intentionally, in order to show The Hero's growth from being selfish to selfless. However, in the sequel, a similar situation comes up and a character offers to sacrifice himself in order to defeat the Big Bad of X-2. Yuna vehemently opposes this idea, stating that she is sick of watching friends die or fade away, and that she does not want to fight battles where "we have to lose in order to win." Furthermore, the aforementioned sacrificed hero gains a chance to be reborn in this game, should the player meet certain requirements, providing no resolution to the overall debate.
  • Near the end of Fire Emblem: Awakening, Lucina confronts the Avatar after s/he is outed as a Manchurian Agent for the Big Bad. She then decides that in order to stop the Bad Future she came from from happening all over again, she has to Mercy Kill them. You're given the option to agree or disagree with her judgement, but the choice is largely meaningless, since Lucina won't go through with it either way if the Avatar is her husband or mother, and even if neither is the case, her father, Chrom, will convince her to stand down anyway.
  • Done deliberately and with severe repercussions in Mass Effect.
    • In Mass Effect 2, Tali's loyalty mission has you defending her from a charge of treason. In the course of seeking evidence of her innocence, you find a recording revealing that her father was responsible for the crimes she's charged with. She asks you not to use the evidence (which will render her father the worst criminal in quarian history), even though it means permanent exile from her people. You can either use it, withhold it and see her exiled from the Migrant Fleet, or Take a Third Option (with enough Paragon/Renegade) and shame the Admirality Board into backing down (by arguing that they have insufficient evidence to prove guilt and that their trial is corrupt with blatantly partisan political motivations, which is true). If you don't take the third option, it becomes far more difficult to make peace between the quarians and the geth, because you'll have given the warmongers on the board evidence to back their position, and removed the possibility of Tali acting as a voice of reason.
    • The geth/quarian conflict that occurs in Mass Effect 3 definitely plays out this way. Towards the end, you're forced to choose between one side or the other, with the side you don't pick being completely and utterly destroyed, essentially leading that race to extinction. However, depending on your choices in the previous game and during the Rannoch arc in this one, you may get to Take a Third Option where both races survive and even make long-term peace. There's a bit of Guide Dang It! involved in this, but generally if you keep picking options throughout the series that promote the belief that there can be peace between the two races, it's not too hard to unlock.
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 4, Adachi's entire core motivation stems from the fact that he believes the world is unfair towards those who actually work hard, and that people who are successful in their lives are primarily those that are born into that success somehow. This is one of the main themes that gets brought up later in the game, particularly during a particular scene in which the Investigation Team confronts him. He specifically brings this up, stating that human beings are born into their lives, and those without a ticket to success have no choice but to accept it, and not complain, no matter how unfair it is. These points are never tackled directly, and are never given any legitimate counterargument. Instead, because they also used these motives as an excuse to murder two women for extremely petty reasons, they are sidestepped by the Investigation Team in a "your opinions don't matter" fashion.
    • In Persona 5 Royal, Kasumi Yoshizawa brings up a decent counter-argument to the actions of the Phantom Thieves while still remaining sympathetic: by reforming society through changing the hearts of corrupt adults, they're robbing victims of the chance to stand up for themselves and solve their own problems. These points hit even harder during the Okumura arc, where the Phantom Thieves' engineered popularity has caused the public to blindly trust them to solve all society's problems, while they sit back and do nothing. Shortly after this arc, Kasumi accidentally wanders into the Metaverse and awakens to her Persona in front of Joker and Morgana, and from that point on she's fully on-board with the Thieves and their methods, and her initial argument is never mentioned again. And revelations in the 3rd semester make it questionable whether she ever held those views to begin with, as the "Kasumi" who espoused them was actually her sister Sumire brainwashed into thinking she was Kasumi.
    • One of the minor Mementos targets in Persona 5, a homeless ex-mercenary who assassinates Asshole Victims, brings up that the Phantom Thieves' methods may be exactly the same as his, or possibly even worse, from a certain point of view. The Thieves vehemently deny this without providing a real counterargument. Making this more notable is that Kiritani's hit jobs are carried out by his Split Personality, meaning the Phantom Thieves' Change of Heart may have essentially killed that personality.
    • The major ethical quandary in Persona 5 about the Phantom Thieves' primary method being Changes of Hearts where they mess with an individual's cognition is neatly dodged despite being brought up repeatedly. While the Phantom Thieves actively go after targets in Mementos, the non-optional story targets (except for Futaba, who asks for the Thieves' help to deal with her suicidal depression and Sae, who gets better on her own) have the Thieves debate if they should really get involved before some contrived situation forces their hand and puts them unambiguously in the right, even if in the end it was all part of a larger plan by the Big Bad Yaldabaoth. Not to mention the often difficult situations each Confidant finds themselves trapped in that are reflection of real life systemic injustices are conveniently solvable through a quick trip to Mementos rather than grappling with the actual problem, including any of the more realistically hard choices people might be forced to make in such dire circumstance.
  • Pokémon Black and White rather infamously addresses the franchise's morally ambiguous practice of Pokémon training... by having a chiefly villainous organization spout about how wrong it is for trainers to use Pokémon, while they themselves readily abuse and battle with the creatures in a manner that is unashamedly hypocritical. By the end of the game, it turns out that their Pokémon rights schtick was just a cover for the group's real goal of taking over the region, meaning the core cast doesn't really need to do much to actively prove that Pokémon are truly content with the current status quo. The direct sequel reveals that a splinter group led by the sole unambiguously heroic member of the organization has formed and are now earnestly helping abused and homeless Pokémon, but the plot focuses on the villainous actions of the main Team Plasma instead, thus dropping the subject.
  • Tales Series:
    • In Tales of the Abyss, it's revealed that the main problems of the story are related to The Score, a mystical prophecy which has proven completely correct thus far, but a select few know that it also predicts The End of the World as We Know It... and that date is approaching soon. The Big Bad of the story, Lord Vandesdelca Grants, despises The Score and people who rely on it, but every effort to defy it has has resulted in it coming true regardless. So they decided to exploiting a Prophecy Twist; the villain will cause the events outlined in The Score, but make them happen on their terms so that, in the end, the world will be destroyed, but a new world populated by Replicas, aka "clones" of humanity will live on in its place. However, the Heroes' counterpoint is that the villain themself as well as the clones are also accounted for in The Score if read between the lines, meaning that the Evil Plan is only enabling the very prophecy it's meant to stop, but this is also true of the heroes when they try to counter it. So the debate becomes should they help the villain's plan which guarantees the deaths of millions even if it succeeds, or should they Screw Destiny outright and simply hope that a solution can be found that doesn't require mass death. It's only at the very end that Lorelei, the literal embodiment of The Score itself, tells the protagonists that their way was correct, but there's no real explanation of what, if anything, they did that was different from the prophecy.
    • Velvet Crowe, the main character of Tales of Berseria, is initially portrayed as an Anti-Hero with extra "Anti". Her main motivation is to kill her brother-in-law, Artorius, for selfish revenge, while Artorius has the goal of ending the menace of Daemonblight, which causes people to turn into bloodthirsty monsters seemingly at random. Then it turns out that Daemonblight is actually caused by Malevolence, strong negative emotions and that if Artorius succeeds in his plans, Daemonblight will be stopped by erasing everyone's free wills and forcing them to act according to "order", which will prevent them from creating Malevolence and Daemons, but will also end creativity and culture, and cause the deaths of several innocent and mostly-innocent people (people who have committed crimes in the past will have their feelings of guilt amplified until they are Driven to Suicide, people who commit crimes out of necessity are executed, and the elderly are either used as live bait for the remaining Daemons or willingly go into exile until they starve to death). And the magic that causes this emotional suppression is Powered by a Forsaken Child. The sheer extremism of this goal erases any point Artorius might have, and makes killing him feel justified.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: The Affinity Mission "New in Town" involves Rock, an Actual Pacifist who does not want to fight, due to traumatic events which led to him killing everyone in his friend, Celica's, hometown. Despite this, Director General Chausson presses Rock to fight, because Rock is otherwise contributing nothing to help out the city, and according to Chausson, NLA can't afford idle citizens. To prevent Rock from being forced to leave, Celica goes on a suicidal mission to become a BLADE and almost gets herself killed as a result, only being saved by Elma and Rock, who wrestles with an indigen to save Celica and stays out of the way while Team Elma kills it.

    Visual Novels 
  • The outcome of the second murder case of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair initially seems to hinge on the dilemma as to whether Just Following Orders is a legitimate justification/defence or not. Peko killed Mahiru, but after being voted as the culprit, she claims that she only did it because Fuyuhiko ordered her, and he should be counted as the culprit instead of her, as she's just his "tool". This would effectively make Fuyuhiko the winner of the killing game, so he would be allowed to escape while the rest of the group would die. The others argue that, regardless of the circumstances of her actions, she's a person, not a tool, so she's responsible and therefore the correct culprit. However, it then turns out that she wasn't acting under orders in the first place, effectively rendering the moral dilemma moot. The main question is ultimately whether Fuyuhiko, a selfish Jerkass who doesn't care about anyone besides Peko, is willing to let the rest of the class die in order to graduate, and the answer is no. That said, the chapter 5 trial does imply an answer to the conundrum, though it goes unmentioned by the cast: One person masterminded the murder by manipulating someone else into unknowingly killing them. The unknowing, inadvertant killer ends up being considered the culprit, implying that intent is irrelevant and that whoever physically commits the murder is considered guilty. As such, Peko would've ended up being the culprit anyway, as regardless of whether she was following orders or not, she's still the one who actually carried out the killing.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All:
    • In the second case, Maya is on trial for murdering a doctor while channeling a spirit with a grudge against the latter. In a world where spirit channeling is very much confirmed to be real, this raises interesting questions on whether the channeler can really be held responsible for their actions while under the control of a supernatural entity and even if the latter can even be punished for their actions. Of course Maya is actually being framed by a normal person who can be convicted and sent to jail like everyone else.
    • In the final case, Phoenix must make a decision at the end of the trial: whether to plead "Guilty" or "Not guilty" for his client, Matt Engarde. Engarde really is guilty, but Phoenix pleading for a guilty verdict would mean that his sidekick Maya would be killed by Engarde's partner, who kidnapped her to force Phoenix to defend the asshole in the first place. However, while saying Engarde is innocent would get Maya back, it also means an unrepentant monster would get away with murder. Whatever you decide, Franziska von Karma enters the courtroom before Phoenix has a chance to actually say it, and offers a Smoking Gun that makes it clear to everyone that your client is guilty. After that, you get to choose a verdict again, but it doesn't matter, as Engarde will just plead guilty anyway so he can go to jail and avoid the wrath of his partner, who now plans to kill him rather than Maya. After the trial, though, Mia tells Phoenix that whatever he (the player) chose before the Smoking Gun arrived was what defined him as a lawyer. So, in a sense, the player can model Phoenix's code of ethics.
  • YU-NO tries to present a conflict of opinions: is it right to expose the crimes of a corrupt politician if it will bring undue stigmatization on his innocent family members? However, the only ones to argue against Takuya are Straw Losers that aren't supposed to be taken seriously for a second, and the actual perpetrator who exposed Mio's father did so not because of a desire for justice but instead out of jealousy over Takuya and Mio being close, rendering the whole debate moot.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: In early seasons, the White Fang is shown to have some genuine points and serious reasons for the violence they commit, which is at least ultimately in the defense of the Faunus and which is often a response to comparable violence from slavers exploiting them, leading to important moral questions about the use of violence in the pursuit of justice. Then, right as they become important to the plot, Adam takes over the organization in a violent coup, sides with Salem, and Blake (just in case any viewers weren't getting it) specifically states in as many words that he never cared about the Faunus at all, only about having a chance to commit violence and make the world suffer for what he's personally suffered in the past.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
      • In the third season finale, Aang spends a considerable amount of time agonizing over whether he can bring himself to kill Ozai in order to save the world. However, he avoids the whole thing by using a technique that was never hinted at previously to make him unable to firebend anymore and makes it a non-issue. It should be noted however that Aang does come to the conclusion that there's no way around killing Ozai before he discovers the technique, it's just he never had to actually go through with it.
      • The existence of Jet and the Freedom Fighters could have raised an interesting question about vigilantes and tough decisions in a wartime setting, when Jet attacked an old fire nation man. However, he soon jumps off the slippery slope by nearly flooding an entire village with allies still inside it.
    • The Legend of Korra:
      • The first season sets up a really interesting question about the premise of the setting, only to ultimately result in this. We're introduced to the Equalists, a group of non-bender revolutionaries who feel oppressed by the superpowered benders (and we're shown that powers are used in practical contexts as well as combat, so benders would make it hard for non-benders to get jobs as much as it makes them easy targets). Korra doesn't do much to counter their beliefs at first, being horribly insensitive to them about how awesome bending is, then going on to proudly star in a major sport that requires you to be a bender. While the Equalists resort to greater and greater forms of domestic terrorism, the attitudes of the bender main characters (and bender politicians) only make it easier to understand why the Equalists are so upset. So how is this resolved? By revealing that the Equalists are secretly led by a bender. While his motives are actually pretty honest after all, his defeat is still treated as a resolution to the problem, even though his true identity as not just a bender, but a bloodbender (bloodbenders can turn anyone into a puppet or kill them outright, and even block the bending of others), only showed how right he and the Equalists were to feel at the mercy of the dangerously powerful benders. The most attention this is ever given is that a non-bender president is installed off-screen between seasons. What certainly doesn't help is that the only non-bender main character is non-powered in much the way that Batman is (in other words, they have a massive fortune and one-of-a-kind brilliant mind that allows them to compensate for a lack of superpowers in a way that cannot be easily imitated).
      • The second season had more minor versions of this. Unalaq wanted a balance between the human and spirit realms, which Korra would eventually let happen anyway, but since his methods involved deception, manufactured civil wars, and unleashing an avatar of chaos, little actual debate was had on the matter. Similarly, Vaatu's nature called into debate the methods Korra usually used to solve her problems (namely, force), by being a being made from and empowered by concepts like aggression and violence (which gave Avatar Wan no other option other than to seal it away). So, after being brought low, Korra has a spiritual journey to find a way to beat him... which ends up just being to beat him into submission like every other villain.
      • The third season has the Red Lotus, a group of anarchists who have some legitimate concerns with the various leaders of the world. In fact, the one leader they manage to assassinate is an Orwellian tyrant. The fact that they're extremists (to the point where they didn't even think about the consequences of a power vacuum) allows the characters to mostly ignore even the points they do have (including against the leader they themselves hated). This is somewhat offset by a conversation the leader has with Korra in the next season.
      • The fourth and final season follows up the events of the previous season by tackling the struggle of rebuilding a war-torn nation. Kuvira desired to rebuild the Earth Kingdom and it is later revealed that she was the sole individual willing to take on the task. Her methods are heavily based on military rule, with one of the protagonists being revealed to have been working for her during the time skip. In addition, she refuses to give up her leadership when the other nations wish to re-install a member of the royal family, believing that such an action would undo the past three years of work (which considering the behavior of individual they wished to install, could have very well been the case). The notion of whether any of the actions that Kuvira is undergoing could be validated is ultimately rendered moot, when it is revealed halfway through the season that she is building a superweapon and has established re-education camps.
      • Ruins of the Empire continues this: should you let an Obviously Evil candidate run for office when they announce their intentions but follow the rules? After Kuvira has surrendered to Korra and is set to lose her trial for treason and war crimes, her general Guan is intending to finish the work she started. Rather than stage an invasion, Guan announces he is planning to run for office, under Prince Wu's new system and then recreate the Earth Empire from the ground up. Wu is then faced with the Sadistic Choice of cancelling the election and admitting democracy isn't ready in the Earth Kingdom, or let Guan run since he filled out the paperwork and have Team Avatar support a new candidate, Toph Beifong. Wu initially chooses the latter, and Korra tries to have Kuvira talk down Guan. It doesn't work, and Korra admits it was a long shot. Guan then reveals he's perfected brainwashing and wants to ensure none of his rivals or opponents can destroy him. He proceeds to attack Team Avatar, brainwash half of them, and do the same to Korra and Kuvira. When Wu is cured of his brainwashing, he now has the justification to cancel the elections and Guan is hunted down, arrested and disqualified by default.
  • Batman Beyond: In "Babel", Shriek temporarily released a high-pitch frequency pulse throughout Gotham, causing chaos by making speaking incomprehensible and threatened a repeat performance using a more powerful pulse that would kill everyone unless Batman gave himself up to him. Terry wrestled with the morality of sacrificing one life for many, versus the loss his friends and loved ones would experience, and the disgust of sacrificing himself for the ungrateful populace of Gotham, who side with Shriek and insist Batman was at fault and should give in to his demand. Terry figures out Shriek is using two giant towers as a tuning fork and confronts him at his base of operations, destroying the towers in the process. Bruce asks him at the end if Terry would have given himself up had he not figured out where Shriek was and Terry evades the question, telling him to focus on their repair of the batsuit.
  • Happens in Ben 10: Alien Force with the first appearance of Alien X. The main characteristic of the alien being that it has godlike power but can't act in even the slightest manner (like walking) if its internal personalities disagree to do so (which they near always do). When Ben is added into the debate it means he'd logically become all powerful because every one of their deadlocks would be broken with what Ben decided to do but then they suddenly start agreeing... to do nothing in opposition to anything Ben says. When Ben calls them out on this, saying that the compassionate personality should want to save lives and the aggressive personality should want to punish evil, compassion starts crying and they completely avoid responding to Ben's complaint.
  • Bob's Burgers: The entire conflict in "Sacred Cow" was solved by said cow almost getting hit by a car and then dying of a cow heart attack.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command has this in an episode where Princess Mira is forced to undergo an Arranged Marriage. It's for political purposes and tradition on her planet Tangea. She doesn't dislike her new fiance personally; even though he is The Ace and a little insufferable, he's not a bad guy and fulfills her "worthiness" test of going through Space Ranger training, with flying colors. The big issue that the team has is that Mira isn't happy about the marriage on principle, and they debate if it's worth interfering since they weren't even invited. They at least decide to attend incognito to support Mira. It turns out the prime minister arranged the marriage under a sham, so as to cause a Grounder coup, and her fiance curbstomps the invaders. Said fiance then admits he doesn't want to get married either because he likes Mira as a friend and nothing more. XR then lies that there's a loophole in the rules to nullify the arrangement, pacifying her father.
  • Gravity Falls has this in the episode "The Last Mabelcorn." When a heart-reading unicorn named Celestabellebethebelle declares Mabel impure of heart (and then gives her a few reasons), her reasons are ignored and she is thereafter the villain of the episode because she made Mabel cry. Though Celeste does make some rather callous remarks along with her points, rather than addressing the legitimate parts of her criticisms or showing why Mabel is a good person despite her flaws, the episode concludes with Celestabellebethebelle being revealed as a fraud and the rest of the unicorns as "jerks" who are all actually terrible people with no ability to rightfully judge Mabel at all, thus dodging the issue of her comments' relative validity entirely.
  • Justice League
    • From the episode "A Better World" we have Batman debating with his Justice Lords counterpart whether the JLords' fascist regime is "right". After some back and forth, JLord Batman argues "We've made a world where no eight year old boy will ever lose his parents because of some punk with a gun!", prompting JLeague Bats to concede. Then in a later scene, JLeague Batman manages to change his counterpart's mind... by reminding him how his parents would have hated the oppressive dystopia the Lords had made. The writers admitted that this was because they couldn't come up with a more compelling rebuttal.
    • The second season of Justice League Unlimited raised some serious questions about how much power a league of superheroes should be allowed to have, and whether or not the U.S. government was justified in trying to restrain them, but those questions were more or less pushed aside when it turned out that Lex Luthor was secretly provoking the conflict with sinister intentions... and Brainiac was manipulating Lex the entire time. Word of God has since discussed that this was done for a variety of reasons; the writers didn't want the show to come off as too much of an Author Tract (hard not to agree with, considering the above-mentioned Civil War), they needed some kind of Conflict Killer to happen to provide a proper climax without coming down too hard on one side (since Both Sides Have a Point was the whole point in and of itself), and they feared they were straying too close to Clueless Aesop territory (the conclusion they had reached was that vigilante organizations like the Justice League would be a bad idea in the real world, but this didn't make sense within the context of the fictional DC universe, where supervillains, monsters, and aliens that can only be stopped by superheroes are a weekly occurrence). The series nevertheless tried its best to find a middle ground after the final battle through Green Arrow and the last season showing the League accepting a small degree of government oversight and limitations.
  • The Loud House:
    • In "One Flu Over the Loud House", several of the Louds fall sick with the flu. Lincoln wants to escape with his healthy sisters, but Leni wants to stay and nurse the sick family members back to health. At the end, the conflict is rendered moot, when everyone in the house (save the secondary pets) gets the flu anyway. Even if they had chosen one of those options, all the healthy siblings would have won anyway, since Lincoln was planning to have Clyde make meals for the sick Louds (ensuring they'd be taken care of if the healthy Louds escaped) and Leni was planning on having everyone wear masks (ensuring they wouldn't get sick if they stayed).
    • The conflict of "Resident Upheaval" is deciding whether Myrtle or Nana Gayle should stay in the one available room in the old folks' home. Eventually, a third option is taken when it's revealed that Scoots was hogging a two-bedroom suite, so she's redirected to the vacant room, and Myrtle and Nana Gayle end up living together.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Bats!", Applejack's apple garden gets infested by fruit vampire bats that proceed to feast on it, destroying Applejack's hard work and threatening her business. Applejack wants them driven away so that they leave her crops alone, which brings her into debate with Fluttershy who sympathizes with the bats and insists they need to feed their families and in general are important to the ecosystemWhy? . Twilight takes a third option and opts to brainwash them into avoiding the apples and Fluttershy is convinced to help paralyze the bats with her Stare so that Twilight can cast a spell on them. However, because Fluttershy was in the range of the spell, she accidentally gets turned into a vicious fruit-hungry vampire herself. After catching her and bringing her back to normal, Applejack feels guilty that Fluttershy suffered from Twilight's "short-sighted solution" and agrees to make a small separate corner for the bats in her garden... So Fluttershy only ends up being in the right because the spell backfired and chasing them away is no longer a viable solution?
  • South Park often fluctuates between Spoof Aesops and serious ones, with the latter occasionally falling into this. "Best Friends Forever," for example, satirized the Terri Schiavo case and the heated debate over whether to remove her life support, with Kenny standing in for Schiavo. The debate is magically "resolved" when the characters hear an excerpt from the last page of Kenny's will, which all but states the intended Aesop outright: "It's wrong to show people in a vegetative state on national television."
  • Steven Universe:
    • "Can murder ever be justified?" In the season 3 finale, we are told that Rose Quartz shattered Pink Diamond, killing her permanently. All-Loving Hero Steven, who has previously insisted upon Thou Shalt Not Kill, is utterly horrified by this revelation and insists she was wrong to do so. Garnet insists that Rose had no other choice, and destroying Pink Diamond was the only way to end the war and allow everyone to be free. Two seasons later, it turns out that Rose was Pink Diamond and her "shattering" was faked. Steven is just happy to learn she never actually shattered anyone, while dealing with the fallout from that reveal with the Crystal Gems and the Diamonds, and the debate remains unaddressed.
    • The debate is also brought up earlier with Bismuth. She was imprisoned by Rose because she advocated the Crystal Gems should make shattering a normal part of warfare. As in the above example, she provides reasons why she believes this is necessary — that it would let them defeat their enemies once and for all and save their allies from having to suffer any further at their hands — but Steven rejects it as morally wrong. Steven is forced to poof her in self-defense, and the Crystal Gems agree to keep her bubbled after he explains what happened. She only comes back after the first Debate and Switch, at which point her own debate is deferred by a Retcon where she now says she was only planning to shatter the diamonds and not the rank-and-file. She just agrees it was reasonable that Rose imprisoned her for planning to shatter her personally, and the original debate of whether it is right to shatter ordinary soldiers is never addressed.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Superman ends up on a planet where Kryptonian criminals Jax-Ur and Mala have taken over the native aliens and ruling them like gods and executing anyone who protests their rule. The two are cordial to Superman and try to paint a picture of them improving the aliens' lives via technology and industry but Superman learns from one of them, Cetea, that the pair were about to execute the former leaders of their planet. Despite Cetea's plea for help, Superman is hesitant to take them on directly because Jax-Ur and Mala have been cordial to him and of the damage & destruction that would ensue from a Kryptonian vs. Kryptonian brawl. This is resolved when Cetea, recognizing that this isn't his homeworld, leads Superman to a secret factory for an invading robot army that will be sent to Earth upon completion and when Jax-Ur and Mala take Superman into deep space to send him into a black hole, and he fights them there, ending up with both of them getting sucked into the hole. He points out the trope at the end, noting that the aliens re-taught him the lesson that evil triumphs when good men do nothing.
  • Teen Titans plays this for laughs at the end of one episode, where a supervillain escapes into the world of television, inadvertently causing TV to literally rot people's brains. The apparent danger of watching too much television is pointed out by Robin at the end of the episode... except if it weren't for Beast Boy's extensive knowledge of TV, they would never have stopped the villain.
    Raven: So... there really isn't a lesson here.
    Cyborg: Yep! It was all completely meaningless!
    Cue "Everybody Laughs" Ending.
  • In Voltron: Legendary Defender, Keith keeps asking Hunk not to treat him differently since he only just found out he is part-Galra, and that he's the same person. Hunk during the episode points out that Keith has become a better person since learning his identity. This gets pushed to the back as a Running Gag.
  • The What's New, Scooby-Doo? episode "3D-Struction" opens with a standoff between a paleaontologist and an indigenous activist, with the latter informing the former that the dinosaur bones he's excavating are sacred to the native people of the area, who believe that they must not be disturbed lest a terrible curse ensue. Sure enough, the dinosaur apparently comes back to life and attacks the scientists. This is a very serious debate in real-world archaeology and a subject not often touched on by kids' shows, and sure enough it inevitably turns out that the "activist" is really a gold smuggler and the mastermind of the whole thing, the sacred status of the bones and the legend of the curse were completely made up in an attempt to guilt the scientists into leaving after they got too close to an illegal mine he was operating, and when that didn't work he brought the dinosaur to life by means of a piece of mining equipment "dressed up" by an artist accomplice. Crisis averted!