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Designated Evil

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Designated Evil is when a writer paints the solution to a problem, committed by a protagonist, as indisputably wrong or evil, but either doesn't make an alternative action clear, or shows the audience that the alternative would have been ineffective. Any protests that the action was necessary will be met with stunned silence or stares, and the question of what should have been done instead is either never asked, never answered, or answered with a solution that clearly would not have worked. Most often, this means some form of killing or violence.

This usually makes a point of sparing the more sympathetic characters the responsibility of dealing with it themselves, while still leaving them to stand as a morally-superior gallery to condemn the character who committed the Designated Evil act. Expect the rest of the heroes to be, at the very least, hesitant to forgive the character who commits the act, regardless of any reasoning or extenuating circumstances. They may not be able to argue the point, and they may recognize that they get to enjoy the benefits of that solution after the fact, but they will still denounce it as wrong, and the character wrong for doing it. The best a Designated Evil character can hope for is to have a few reluctant supporters who refrain from outright condemning them, but won't openly defend their position from the judgement of others: the author is clearly not on their side.

Often, this comes off especially hypocritical if the series has shown it to be perfectly acceptable to kill human villains if they shed their human side, or turn out to be Not Even Human in the first place.

This trope is what happens with a bit of Fridge Logic, and maybe some Values Dissonance for good measure. After all, just what is a right and wrong response to morally complex scenarios can vary just person to person.

As noted above, this is largely a subjective trope. For some, the writers are right, killing a helpless human is always wrong, no matter what. For others, the idea that you should just take away the bad guy's toys and send him on his way despite his multiple murders and likelihood to do it again is infuriating, with a few in this group going as far to believe that heroes who are unwilling to get the blood of dangerous killers on their hands have the blood of the innocent stained in its place. Regardless, the emotional impact of taking a human life is strong enough that perhaps not being completely sure that the hero is justified in doing so may be reason enough to consider the act immoral. It varies.

Compare Informed Wrongness, the more extreme version where the character's actions aren't wrong in any context. Also compare Felony Misdemeanor for when characters in the work take this attitude, but the work itself does not actually side with their opinions. See also Strawman Has a Point, which is when the designated evil character actually makes a completely legitimate argument for their actions. Not to be confused with Designated Villain.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Sailor Moon: Uranus and Neptune tend to fall into this trope throughout the anime.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion ends with Homura in this role, with the rare variation in which the designated evil character seems to agree with the others' condemnation. She knows what she's doing is wrong, but Kyubey had already gotten what he wanted by putting her in the Isolation Field: he confirmed the existence of Madoka, all but guaranteeing that the Incubators would eventually be able to control or circumvent the Law of Cycles. Homura may have been selfish in forcing Madoka into a human form that she could have by her side, but the massive power of that love is what made it possible for her to restructure the universe into one that not only neutralized Kyubey as a threat, but gave all the other girls the happy lives they could never have lived otherwise (though at the cost of taking away their memories and agency, and undoing all their development).
  • Naruto
    • When Sasuke is believed to have kidnapped the Eight-Tails Jinchuuriki Killer B and killed him, the entire Shinobi, especially Kumo-nin and the Raikage responds with an instant death sentence on him which objectively and to Naruto's perspective, is meant to be an act of cruelty that will trigger the start of Cycle of Revenge (Apparently, Shikamaru claims that if Sasuke dies, then Konoha will avenge his death and subsequently Kumo will avenge their deaths as well) and in turn war. But the problem is, Sasuke has basically attacked a very important figure of the cloud village and thus, they have every right to perceive him as a threat to the Shinobi world if he is not dealt with (It doesn't matter if B turned out to be alive, Sasuke would have still succeeded in kidnapping the Jinchuuriki if it weren't for B's quick wits). Not to mention that despite being a defector from Konoha, Tsunade did not lift a finger in trying to subdue Sasuke in any way besides aiding Naruto in making him return back to the village. Therefore if Tsunade does not handle Sasuke, then A will have no choice but to deal with the Uchiha himself. It doesn't help that when Naruto confronts the Raikage himself, he doesn't seem to care that his own freaking brother is under "Akatsuki" hands but rather care only about Sasuke and what would happen if they embrace the path of revenge.
      • Relatedly, Danzo officially removing Sasuke as a Konoha Ninja and putting his name in the bingo book is presented as a display of how evil Danzo is and how awful his reign as Hokage is going to be. But as explained above, Sasuke joined a terrorist group and kidnapped a man who was not only a foreign village's jinchuriki, but the brother of said village's Kage. Hadn't Danzo done that, it would have appeared as if Sasuke was still acting on Konoha's behalf, which in turn could have very much caused a war with Kumo.
    • Ironically, Sasuke is also hit with this on the other side of the spectrum, namely when he Mind Rapes Sakura into an illusion of death that is meant to be a heartless Kick the Dog moment from him but given that previously Sakura tried to confess her feelings for Sasuke again despite having millions of reasons she should move on from him (the very fact that she confesses after his Motive Rant to Take Over the World makes this even more prominent), Sasuke basically has every right to call her annoying.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, anytime a duelist sacrifices their own monster to progress their duel, they are often chastised by the heroes for being heartless to their own monsters. Most famously, Yami Yugi sacrificing his monsters for Catapult Turtle's effect in order to defeat Raphael is supposed to be seen as a sign of Moral Event Horizon. This would make sense if the monsters in question were real living creatures, but they aren't. They're tokens in a card game, and subject to the rules thereof—and those rules allow and even encourage sacrificing. Not to mention that since he couldn't attack due to Swords of Revealing Light, what else could he do? By the time three turns have passed, Raphael could have probably drawn a winning card that could end up defeating the Pharaoh, thus he has no other choice but to finish him off as soon as possible to prevent such an incident from happening. And he's used Catapult Turtle several times before without it being mentioned. Hell, in his rematch with Raphael, he uses Brave Attack (a card that destroys your own monsters), and Raphael even points out that it's basically the same thing as last time, but Yami Yugi claims that this time, he's doing it because of unity or something despite the two cards being functionally identical in terms of what they do.
    • And in a case of this being inverted in that same Duel, Raphael's frequent use of cards to protect his monsters, even at the cost of his Life Points, is meant to be a sign that he's an Anti-Villain, whose bond with his cards is so strong that he'll ignore strategy if it means keeping them alive. In point of fact, most people will tell you that sacrificing Life Points to maintain your field is an excellent strategy. Unless you're playing a specific deck, you don't get anything out of having high or low Life Points, whereas the difference between having a given monster on the field and not having it can easily be the difference between winning and losing. Raphael's efforts to keep his monsters out of the Graveyard are a bit more atypical, but he gets something out of it (several of his cards rely on it) and it clearly works for him.
  • In Akame ga Kill! the main characters, known as Night Raid, are an assassination group who are on a mission to overthrow The Empire and are wanted criminals as a result. They don't even try to justify their actions either and flat out admit that they are straight up killers for hire. The series tries to paint the conflict between the rebellion and the empire as Gray-and-Grey Morality, but The Empire is the embodiment of a Crapsack World. The nobles constantly kill and/or rape any women they get their hands on. The strongest soldier they have is a Noble Demon, but rather than do anything about the obviously troubled world she perpetuates it because she prefers the violence and destruction that come with rebellions against the empire. Any attempt at changing things from within the empire diplomatically has led to said individuals being killed. And the one who's the mastermind behind all of this is the Obviously Evil Prime Minister who is using his influence over the emperor to get away with it. It's pretty hard not to side with Night Raid's methods given the above; it's not even like they kill indiscriminately either as they verify if their targets actually committed any crimes or not, and often go out of their way to help people who are negatively affected by those in power. Yet most characters they kill are quick to call them out on their actions as if they're the evil ones, and the members of Night Raid constantly talk about how morally dubious their actions are, when they are shown time and time again to be basically the good guys in every situation.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman killing Maxwell Lord. Lord was busily trying to bring about small-scale Armageddon, had control of one of the most powerful beings on Earth, was using that control to have Superman beat Batman to death, and he himself said, while under the Lasso of Truth, that killing him was the only way to stop him. Despite this, everyone in-universe acts like Wonder Woman killed him in cold blood for jaywalking, and since DC has a fairly strong tradition of Thou Shall Not Kill, it's heavily implied we're supposed to think this of her too. Unlike other examples of this trope, Wonder Woman is absolutely candid about what she did, including the fact that she considered herself completely justified due to the extraordinary circumstances. And she is also willing- even eager- to stand trial for it. (She is acquitted.)
  • The Punisher seems to run into this occasionally, depending on how he's being handled and whether he's in his own book or not. Usually in his own book, he's taking out major drug and arms traffickers, mobsters, and other people that could quite possibly rate the death sentence anyway. Outside of his own book, just to make sure that his war on crime is Designated Evil, some writers actually have him killing white-collar embezzlers. His Garth Ennis runs also doesn't help since while they are memorable he is being ridiculously ultraviolent when it comes to killing his targets that one might forget he usually just shoot criminals in the head.
  • Inverted in ElfQuest during Rayek and Cutter's competition: Cutter isn't clever enough to win the trial of wits, and blusters through the trials with physical skills, except for the last one, where he cheats by using a "magic stone" (a magnet) to retrieve his sword from a crevice. Savah rules him the winner, because Cutter's discovery of its magnetic property was an accident... but that's not true at all. Cutter was the one to chip it off from a larger stone, and the only reason any of the Wolfriders even noticed the damn thing was that it pulls metal objects to itself and clings to them. This is never mentioned and although Rayek rightfully complains that Cutter cheated, as the rules disallowed the use of magic powers and Rayek is a talented telekinetic, nobody cares what he has to say about it except Leetah, and even she doesn't stand up for his right to a fair contest.
  • Batman's one rule of never killing, particularly where The Joker is concerned, has been a long-standing case of this considering Arkham Asylum's status as a corrupt Cardboard Prison, the fact that most of these criminals are well deserving of the death penalty at this point, and the fact that countless lives would undeniably be safer without him around. Even in scenarios where lethal force would be wholly justified for either a law enforcer or civilian, either out of self-defense or saving the life of a hostage or ally, it's treated as a Moral Event Horizon that Batman and his allies can never cross, to the point they've even intervened to Save the Villain by preventing police or military using legal lethal force. So much so that it's been analyzed in-depth both In-Universe and by fans, justified as a case of either He Who Fights Monsters or Rousseau Was Right, and even challenged in Batman: Under the Red Hood:
    Jason Todd: Ignoring what he's done in the past. Blindly, stupidly disregarding the entire graveyards he's filled, the thousands who have suffered, the friends he's crippled. I thought I'd be the last person you'd ever let him hurt.
    Batman: You don't understand. It'd be too damned easy. All I've ever wanted to do is kill him. But if I do that, if I allow myself to go down into that place, I'll never come back.
    Jason Todd: Why? I'm not talking about killing Penguin, or Scarecrow, or Dent. I'm talking about him. Just him. And doing it because...because he took me away from you.
    Batman: ...I can't. I'm sorry.
  • World War Hulk: The decision of the Illuminati (Iron Man, Mr Fantastic, Blackbolt, Charles Xavier and Dr. Strange) to shoot the Hulk into outer space is treated as an unforgivable crime and a terrible betrayal of a close friend, ally and hero. Except the impetus for the Illuminati's decision was the Hulk going on a rampage which killed about 22 people. This was also a period in which anti-superhero political forces were just LOOKING for an excuse to enact registration laws. Exiling him was being pretty lenient and arguably doing him a favor since "Leave Hulk alone" is one of the Hulk's catchphrases. That's not even getting into the fact that the Illuminati were innocent of planting a bomb in the ship Hulk was in which was the reason for the Hulk's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in the first place.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Patriots of Equestria by twilightsparkle3562, Instant Justice is supposed to become He Who Fights Monsters with his Vigilante Execution against Hopper, who permanently crippled his son. However, the story kept making Hopper a Hate Sink (especially with his Heel–Face Door-Slam against Thumper) who only responded to force anyway. Princess Celestia's resulting warning that Justice's deed made Hopper a martyr to his fellow extremists out there falls flat as Hopper was already dying from wounds that the protagonists had given him earlier. Justice's actions has excessive emotional involvement, but were little different than what the good guys were forced to do.

    Films — Animated 
  • Camelot: While the movie avoids portraying Mordred as a strawman, it fails to explain why his will to punish Lancelot and Guinivere's affair is misguided. The closest thing is a comment that Mordred fails to see the bigger picture, but this explanation is too vague. Lancelot and Guinivere most certainly broke the rules by having an adulterous affair.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Black Christmas (2006) has a subplot where Kyle is revealed to have a sex tape online of him and another sorority girl. The entire sorority kicking him out of the house is meant to be seen as Sisterhood Eliminates Creep, and Kelli coldly says "you owe it to Meghan" later when he's reluctant to go into the attic with the killer. Except, Kyle says the video was made before they were together, and we know very little about Meghan because she's killed shortly after this. It's in fact never said whether she knew she was being filmed or not (and the angles we see suggest the In-Universe Camera was not hidden). It's a strike against Kyle that he has multiple tapes and hid them from Kelli, even though he admits it's from a dark past he's not proud of and it's understandable he wouldn't be thinking rationally the day it was uploaded. The kicker? His tapes were stolen and uploaded by someone specifically to get back at him. Kyle is a victim of revenge porn, and the film treats having made sex tapes in the past as something he needs to redeem himself and die for.
  • Gone Baby Gone subverts the trope, albeit dubiously. Once it comes out that Doyle helped kidnap Amanda to save her from her criminally neglectful mother, Patrick reports him to the authorities and Amanda is returned to her mother. At first, it looks like everything — including Amanda's mother's neglect — has been solved, but the last scene, where we learn the mother doesn't have a babysitter and doesn't seem to be looking too hard to find one, implies that the whole thing will eventually start all over again. Oops.

  • Alternate Character Interpretation seems to deliberately leave the invocation of this vague in the case of Dexter. The people he kills are most definitely murderers that have cheated justice, and Dexter often steps up his timetable to take them out if he thinks they're likely to kill again. Opinions in-universe on whether the Bay Harbor Butcher is a hero or a villain differ across a spectrum, and the series itself is murky on the point.
  • In Changes, Harry kills Lloyd in order to assume his mantle as the Winter Knight, and this is presented as his first questionable act in order to save his daughter. However, the old Winter Knight was in a state of perpetual torture, and, at the time of his murder, had gone completely insane from it. Killing him would have been a mercy.
    • This is the first time Harry commits deliberate, premeditated homicide in cold blood. He had previously mentioned having nightmares after killing Corpsetaker in Luccio's body. Lloyd's death underscores Harry's willingness to abandon his values and he acted out of desire for power rather than compassion. This is addressed in Ghost Story, where the evil of what he did and the potential evil he might do with his power is balanced against his motives and the ends he was working towards. The conclusion is that the power doesn't rule him, so he can still do good, be Good in his current situation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jack Bauer executing Dana Walsh toward the end of 24 was meant to show the audience that Jack had well and truly Jumped Off the Slippery Slope in his quest for revenge, and everyone in-universe is absolutely horrified that Jack would do something so out-of-character as to kill somebody who was defenseless and surrendering to him. This glosses over the fact that Dana was definitely not a helpless civilian; she was The Mole who'd committed several cold-blooded murders just that day. The sequence leading up to her death was a lengthy chase and shoot-out as she attempted to escape custody, and the only reason she was defenseless was because she'd just emptied a gun trying to kill Jack.
  • Angel:
    • Gunn killing the professor that sent Fred to Pylea in "Supersymmetry". Not only was this portrayed as an evil act, but as him taking the evil onto his soul so that Fred wouldn't do it.
    • Angel and crew's aquisition of Wolfram and Hart in the last season. Despite characters good and evil telling them that they would be corrupted and that it was proof that they had failed as heroes, most of what was shown was just the opposite. Angel fired or killed the firm's evil employees and maintained a very strict policy on not killing humans, he cut loose the firm's more sinister clients and benefactors, and one episode even showed Gunn using the company's resources and legal power to fight corruption and help people. This was made worse by Angel himself flip-flopping on the issue. One episode would end with him thinking that they had made the right choice, the next would show him thinking that doing good was nearly useless, and that he had given up all his principles.
    • Angel letting Drusilla and Darla snack on the Wolfram & Hart lawyers in "Reunion". It was a good indication that Angel was going down a darker path as it's generally something he wouldn't even think of doing, and he can be blamed for not sticking around to stop the two afterwards, but we're apparently supposed to fault him on principle for not saving a bunch of people who willingly and knowingly work for the personifications of evil who are responsible for much of mankind's suffering. Furthermore, Lorne directly states that it was going to happen no matter what Angel did, and the Powers just didn't want him around for it.
    • Just prior to their joining W&H, there's the team fighting and ultimately killing Jasmine, which gets Lilah to come back from the dead to compliment them on destroying a perfect chance for world peace. Which rather ignores the fact that this peace would have come at the cost of all personal freedom, and Jasmine's immediate reaction to them ruining her plan was to try to destroy the world. Well, that's one way to get peace...
      • Not to mention that Jasmine had to feed on humans in order to survive and keep her power. Of course, Wolfram and Hart probably doesn't have as much of a problem with that part.
      • Wesley actually calls her on all of this, which she dismisses.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Journey's End": the Doctor's half-human clone kills the Daleks in order to save everything else that ever lived, will lived, or had lived in the multiverse. The Doctor not only exiles him to another dimension which he'll never be able to leave for this action, but makes sure to take a potshot blaming this supposedly inexcusable act of violence on the clone like himself when he first met Rose. One supposes that literally uncountable numbers should have died just so the Doctor wouldn't have a squidgy feeling about how they were saved.
    • Not to mention that the Doctor has (tried to) commit genocide of the Daleks at least three times previously, and him not wiping them out the last time he had the chance led to the devastating effects of this story. Also the Daleks survive anyway and end up causing even more trouble across the Universe.
      • And earlier that series the Doctor destroyed a less dangerous race even though this killed 20,000 innocent people, to save the Earth. Granted, this was a fixed point in time, but it still seems hypocritical when only the Daleks and (possibly) their Omnicidal Maniac creator Davros were destroyed, when, as Handy says, this Dalek Empire is big enough to slaughter the cosmos.
    • In the Series 9 finale "Hell Bent", Ohila chews out the Twelfth Doctor for choosing to punish Rassilon and the High Council for their actions in the Last Great Time War and their recent plot against him that trapped him in a bespoke torture chamber and inadvertently led to the unjust execution of his innocent companion Clara. She outright calls him a Dirty Coward for not just forgiving and forgetting once he gets the upper hand in his situation. However, as the architects of the Last Great Time War, and given Rassilon's established personality, apologizing and atoning for their actions may not be something they are capable of. If anything, the Doctor's decision to exile them to find a new home is far, far better than they deserve for their monstrous actions, and certainly no one suggests an actual better way for him to handle this situation. To make matters worse, the later Expanded Universe comic book miniseries Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen reveals that Rassilon promptly decides to do a Villain Team-Up with the cyborgs, suggesting the Doctor might have been better off just killing the villains, even though this would have opened him up to more criticism in-universe.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place had the episode "The Good The Bad And The Alex" in which one character tries to end the whole one wizard per family rule: this is treated as wholly and unequivocally evil without any explanation as to why; the show goes so far as to KILL this character for her evil deeds...and then make a joke about it.
  • A nonviolent example happens in Glee when Finn snaps and calls Kurt's decorating "faggy" and immediately catches Hell for it, because Kurt is flamboyantly homosexual. Said decor matters because it's the bedroom they're about to be sharing, as their parents are getting married. The interior design itself, which Kurt changed without consulting Finn, was chosen as a blending of masculine and feminine sensibility as a sort of visual metaphor for the two of them connecting as a couple. We the audience are supposed to lose sympathy for him because he uses derogatory slang, but this ignores the fact that Kurt knows Finn is straight and has been sexually harassing him anyway, and indeed, only set their parents up in order to have an easier time of seducing Finn in the first place. Finn might have been able to their parents to complain, but pretty much the entire universe is on Kurt's side, especially Burt, who throws Finn out of the house over it.
  • Merlin (2008): Uther had plenty of legitimate Kick the Dog moments, but every now and then he'd turn out to be right. For example in "The Curse of Cornelius Sigan", Camelot is being attacked by a bunch of unkillable Gargoyles. Uther decides to seal off the castle so they can't get in. His son Arthur chastises him for abandoning the people outside, but Uther merely responds there's nothing they can do to help them and that they need to save the people they can right now. Arthur refuses to accept this and rides out to defend the city from the Gargoyles... Except his attack against them was completely ineffective. They were only stopped by Merlin defeating the Warlock responsible for reanimating them, which was both done without Arthur's knowledge and incidental to his own attack. All Arthur accomplished by trying to fight them off was putting himself in danger.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Third edition considered using poison an evil act. One sourcebook explained that using poison caused undue suffering, and specifically exempted knockout poison (but not stat-reducing poisons, or natural poisons from class-feature mounts or animal companions) as evil. Apparently, fire, lightning, acid, summoned thorns, and good old-fashioned spiky bits of metal are drastically less painful than nearly any poison. Ironically, poison that does Strength or Dexterity damage can only ever paralyze the target, and would be vital for bringing someone in alive.
    • Another ridiculous 3E restriction was that Rangers could choose their own race as a "favored enemy" only if they were evil. Since intelligent humanoids can be of any alignment, there's nothing inherently evil about training to be a better hunter of your own species. Not to mention the fact that many "evil" races share a type with "good" races, so apparently, a half-orc who trains to protect people from his kin or an elf who trains to hunt drow is always evil. There's also no restrictions against picking good outsiders, meaning that killing angels is apparently alright. This was removed in 3.5 as the designers realized how stupid it was. Especially since half the bonus apply to mundane, out-of-combat skills, thus you can pick a "favored enemy" less for the combat bonus and more for the advantages given to peaceful interactions.
    • By default, the game universe has Good and Evil as objective forces that can be drawn on for magic just like Fire, Air, and so on. The rationalizations are... dicey. Imprison Soul, okay. Sadism and Masochism are unfortunate to have in melee, even if the mechanical effects are useful. ...Cheat? The most absurd example is a spell that does nothing but reveal when people are low on health. In some fairness to this one, this only has any mechanical impact on clerics, who can't cast a spell opposed to their god's alignment - presumably, Crystal Dragon Jesus is not interested in his priests using his powers to cheat at craps.
      • Summoning spells are a subset of this, in that it's noted that a Summon Magic is treated as an evil spell if it's used to summon an evil creature. This one is more or less Bad Powers, Bad People, since a dretch demon is every bit as under your control as a celestial, and incapable of doing anything evil on its own initiative. In fact, there's a good-aligned class that's based around summoning demons and tricking them to think you're evil, which specifically removes the above restriction for clerics.

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep gives us Terra's struggle with his Darkness, which is supposed to be a massive Ironic Echo between him and Riku. However, whereas Riku willingly accepted Darkness in the original Kingdom Hearts, Terra actually has it forced upon him. note  Furthermore, while Riku clearly started Jumping Off the Slippery Slope during the course of the original game, Terra's only known crime — allegedly stealing Aurora's Heart via the power of Darkness — is actually the combined fault of Maleficent and Master Xehanort for temporarily invoking Brainwashed and Crazy on him. Additionally, Riku deliberately attacked Sora and co. out of anger and arrogance, whereas Terra only willingly resorts to Darkness as a self-defensive last resort against Braig, Eraqus, Xehanort, etc. And yet Riku ended up being the much luckier one, being able to start redeeming himself immediately after the original game; Terra, meanwhile, ends up receiving a far longer-lasting Fate Worse than Death — which many fans just see as Karmic Overkill for events largely out of his control to begin with.
  • Warcraft has several examples:
    • The Culling of Stratholme. Upon finding one of the largest cities in the kingdom was infected by The Virus and likely to turn almost everyone inside into a slavering horde of zombies within a day, Arthas chooses to exterminate the population to prevent the undead from spilling out of the city. This is portrayed as his Start of Darkness, and his closest allies treat it as him crossing the line. However, as much as Uther and Jaina protested the morality of Arthas' choice, they weren't presenting him with any alternatives (other than an inane "There must be another way!"), and his decision, while extreme and cold, prevented the rest of the kingdom from suffering the same fate. Furthermore, the Plague of Undeath is literally impossible to cure and extremely fast-acting, something that Arthas saw first hand. Everything we know about from the game is that, really, Arthas didn't have a choice; Mercy Kill the infected, or wait for dawn and have an entire city's worth of slavering ghouls swarming out to devour every living being in sight.
    • The Alliance locking the Orcs up in internment camps after the events of Warcraft II is often depicted as morally wrong in Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. Consider, however, that the Orcs had just cut a bloody swath through the Eastern Kingdoms, destroying Stormwind and decimating several of the other Kingdoms. Releasing them was not an option, they'd have likely regrouped and invaded again. At the time the war ended the Alliance didn't know about the blood curse and merely believed the Orcs to be Always Chaotic Evil. While many of the Orcs were terribly mistreated in the camps, they were formed as an alternative to the Genocide Dilemma and not just because Humans Are Bastards as the Horde would have you believe, and the main reason they were treated badly is because the guy in charge was a terrible person, yet this is used to paint the entire thing as evil.
  • Tales of Berseria has an event near the late middle of the game where Velvet ends up killing Oscar and Teresa by accident. The scene is played out like her killing them was a horrendous thing to do, as she killed the younger brother in front of his sister, then kills the sister after, and she feels that this is exactly what Artorius did to her in the beginning, that she has become no better than him. This doesn't work because, unlike Artorius, Velvet hadn't intended to kill either of them — the party had an agreement with Teresa, where they agreed to leave each other alone after reuniting her with Oscar in exchange for letting them grab a Therion Daemon they were hunting, that she went back on. Neither siblings are innocent people either; Teresa was using Malakhim as tools and was abusive towards them, which includes Laphicet, and Oscar knew of the atrocities Artorius was committing as head of the Abbey, and willingly went along with it. Oscar was the one that made Kamoana, a naïve and innocent girl, into a Therion with no remorse while trying to justify it.
  • Faldio in Valkyria Chronicles. He effectively saves all of Gallia from being crushed by the tank-destroying, laser-firing, invincible enemy commander by inducing those same powers in Alicia. He achieves this by shooting her, since he knows her powers can only be awakened via near death experience. He gets severely punished for it, but no one ever mentions the fact that, well, nobody else had any better ideas, and since Faldio knew Alicia, as a Valkyria, would have supernaturally powerful regeneration, which she already had even before her powers were activated, no one would be harmed long-term. He did know that it would drastically change her life, but he also had to make a judgment call: changing one girl's life, or watching hundreds of thousands be snuffed out? No one cares about his viewpoint (the closest anyone comes is Varrot being reluctant to punish him as severely as would ordinarily be warranted) and no one considers what would have happened if he hadn't done it. Faldio even points this out, and no one has an answer.
    Welkin: "Tell me why... why did you have to shoot her?!"
    Faldio: "The people... Gallia needed her. Now let me ask you a question: how else do you think we could have won that battle? If not for Alicia's power, Gallia would have most certainly lost."
    Welkin: "I still can't..."
    • This is actually worse when you consider the logical question, "Why didn't he just ask her and let her make her own choice?". The reason is simple: one of the lessons the story tries to teach is Ambition Is Evil. If she said yes, she'd be negating the whole game's moral stance. If she said no, we wouldn't have a story at all.
  • In the first Ar tonelico game, some bigoted thugs are threatening the pacifistic reyvateil who runs the bar and also happens to be the best friend of one of the protagonist's possible love interests. Violence is quickly becoming imminent. The protagonist steps in and tells the thugs to back off. One of the thugs attacks the protagonist. The protagonist beats the snot out of him. Cue chewing out from the bar lady and the party, because "violence is never the answer". Apparently, he should have just taken the beating and hoped that the thugs would leave afterwards. To rub it in, the protagonist takes this lesson to heart and stupidly takes a pointless beating in its name shortly thereafter. Mercifully, these incidents are never referred to again.
  • ADOM has a Character Alignment/Karma Meter system where the character ranks between Lawful and Chaotic. It's pretty clear that "Lawful" is largely equivalent to morally good and "Chaotic" to evil. That said, you might wonder at how you get Chaotic points for killing Lawful creatures — even if they attack you first and are trying to kill you.
  • In Silent Hill: Downpour, one of the criteria of getting the best ending is to show mercy to foes by not killing them. However said "foes" are highly aggressive merciless monsters that want nothing more in life than to rip you apart. The fact that you're defending yourself from Eldritch Abominations is never addressed and killing so much as one of them regardless of the circumstances costs you the best ending, but considering it's the town itself that set this up and it clearly operates by its own rules, well...
  • During a sidequest in the original campaign of the 2002 version of Neverwinter Nights, after most of the escapees have been either killed or allowed to get away, the remaining one, who is wanted for mass murder, kidnaps the daughter of the person who gives out the bounties and holds her for ransom, with an implication that she was raped. When you find him, he attacks, but pleads for his life if he's nearly defeated. When asked why he kidnapped the girl, he initially claims that she came with him by choice. If you decide that he's lying, a high persuasion check can get him to admit that he got her drunk. If after hearing his story you decide to kill him after all, your alignment is shifted a few point towards evil, even though your only other option is letting an unrepentant murderer walk free. It should be noted that if the player chooses the initial option to kill him during the conversation instead of choosing to hear him out, alignment isn't affected.
  • Cpt. Martin Walker in Spec Ops: The Line inadvertently crosses the line when he uses white phosphorus on enemy soldiers, horribly killing the many civilians it's revealed they were protecting in the process. Walker is ultimately portrayed (and called out) as refusing to accept his mistake when he claims he had no other choice, but due to Gameplay and Story Segregation, he's completely right. There is no way to learn about the civilians beforehand, and enemies will infinitely respawn until they kill you or you use the white phosphorus, so you can't defeat them without the collateral and getting Blamed for Being Railroaded as a result. This and the other "evil" things you do are rationalizable as self-defense, as no peaceful alternative options exist until the ending. The developers responded to the criticism by saying there is a peaceful option; stop playing the game, which is obviously not a viable option in-universe.
  • This whole thing is discussed by V and Takemura in Cyberpunk 2077 where Takemura views corporations as this and points out that V opposes them with no idea how to make the world a better place without them. Even when V points out that Takemura himself grew up in an impoverished miserable slum because of the corporations, Takemura shrugs it off believing such things could be made better in time using alternate methods.
    Takemura: You oppose the corporations, their world, their order, in a mindless way, yet you offer no worthy alternative.
    V: Take a look around. It's here — your corporate world in its glorious splendor.
    Takemura: You show me filthy streets as if no other world exists, as if nothing else is possible. What of the millions who work for Arasaka and receive stability, safety?
    V: And Chiba-11's slumrats? They're there, scraping scraps out of scoptins. Corps decided that, too.
    Takemura: We cannot fix everything at once.

    Web Video 
  • Economy Watch: David mentions in the Season 2 finale that he's not proud of how he developed as a person and feels as though he's a bad guy, but he's not necessarily as awful as he thinks he is. His character was officially designated as "True Neutral".

    Western Animation 
  • The Dragon Prince paints dark magic as evil but it functions mostly on killing bugs. This is never stated, even when good characters defend dark magic. Dark magic can potentially save lives with only caterpillars as a sacrifice, but this is also never stated.
    • However, it's shown that it has a cost on the user; Viren's shown draining life from butterflies to hide his true appearance, Claudia's hair slowly whitens as she slips into evil, and Callum almost dies on his first try, the one that only used a caterpillar. Also, most users don't just do it once, but repeatedly, and not always with noble intentions and teeny sacrifices. Not to mention dragons can smell it on you and try to murder you, and humans can learn Primal Magic, so it's not dark magic or nothing.
    • This is also in play with the war between humans and magical creatures themselves. If Corvis and Soren's reactions to Rayla and the flame dragon are anything to go by, humans consider magical beings dangerous to a point where they don't need to do something bad to deserve being killed, the fact that they were born an elf and a dragon is crime enough. On the flipside, elves are apparently taught from a young age that humans are evil and untrustworthy, presumably because of their dark mages. Not helping the human's case is how all dark mages we've seen so far seem to nurse an intense hatred for magical creatures, and probably enjoy slaying them, slicing them up and using their parts in spells as a sort of Catharsis Factor.
  • On Total Drama Action, Courtney is immediately set up as the villain because she keeps complaining about her team, and then later she manages to get Owen eliminated. This is apparently supposed to make us dislike her, given how everyone else jumps to his defense... but what the writers don't seem to realize is that to many fans, Owen is a Creator's Pet (and he participated in another season, despite already winning, which makes it pretty unfair), so while Courtney seemed a bit overly vindictive, it wasn't exactly all that bad. Alejandro's dislike of Owen in the next season may have been a similar case, though given how much Owen really was annoying Al, maybe it was more of a Fandom Nod. Owen does get eliminated because Courtney voted for it, but what about the other teammates? Oh, right, they voted for Courtney, even though they were told by Chris that voting her off was off-limits this time around. Their votes were negated, while Courtney's remained valid. So, the characters are all upset that Owen got voted off and blame Courtney, even though it was their fault per the stated rules.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, "Two-Face, Part 2", the title character of the episode decides to end Rupert Throne's life, something painted as crossing the line. While it was more from feelings of Two-Face's personal vengeance than justice he sought back as when he saw himself as Harvey Dent, Rupert surviving has allowed him to be a Karma Houdini who keeps causing problems in later episodes, including in the following one. One could argue that Rupert's death might cause an Evil Power Vacuum and make things worse for Gotham but the series has never implied this as a possibility.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Voyage of Temptation", Obi-Wan and Duchess Satine are facing off against Tal Merrik, who has rigged the ship they're on to explode. When they corner him he starts taunting them that they'll have to kill him to stop him and neither of them can -Satine because doing so would violate her pacifistic ideals, and Obi-Wan because of his feelings for Satine- and gleefully announces he's going to blow up the ship as soon as he gets off. Before this can go any further, Anakin sneaks up behind Merrik and stabs him in the back, killing him. This is portrayed as morally reprehensible on his behalf, complete with disapproval from Obi-Wan and the first few notes of Darth Vader's leitmotif playing ominously in the background. But Merrik had just outright said he was going to kill everyone on the ship. There was no clear alternative to stop him from doing so, and Jedi are allowed to use lethal force when necessary. Dialogue even indicates it's what Obi-Wan himself thought needed to happen, he just couldn't bring himself to do it in front of Satine. But despite all this, we're supposed to see Anakin as having done the wrong thing.
  • The plot of The Dreamstone is almost entirely reliant on this trope. The heroes never really elaborate on the fact the Urpneys are Trapped in Villainy, despite some of the latter being rather vocal about it at times. As far as they are concerned, they send nightmares, so are evil to the core.
  • The Simpsons episode "Marge Be Not Proud" presents Bart's shoplifting as above and beyond his usual prankery, but at this point in the series he's already smashed all the windows in Mr. Burns' mansion, been involved with the Mob, and been expelled from school for massive property damage at least once.
  • King of the Hill is infamous for the fact that far too many episodes involve "antagonists" whose only real crime is to have views, opinions or beliefs that differ to the near-caricature Good Old Boys mentality of Hank Hill. Some examples include the man who makes a very comfortable living by picking up animal feces in novel ways and who offers to take Bobby on as his apprentice, and the Christian youth group pastor who tries to make Christianity more inviting to the youth by showing it doesn't need to be stodgy, allowing the youths under his care to have skateboarding lessons and listen to New Rock. Invariably, some ham-handed way to make Hank "right" for opposing these people is presented.