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Dry Crusader

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During its long history, alcohol has caused (and "solved") a myriad of problems. There's no dispute that excessive consumption has caused damage to countless lives and society in general. Controlling its use has been a problem since the beginning of civilization. The solution of the Dry Crusader is one of complete prohibition.

The Dry Crusader is what you get when you cross The Teetotaler with the Moral Guardians, the Principles Zealot, and (sometimes) the Well-Intentioned Extremist tropes. It's a character who believes the consumption of alcohol is always evil in any amount at all times to everyone. Anyone who's unfortunate enough to be drinking a glass of beer within the Dry Crusader's line of sight will soon be subjected to an angry harangue warning him of the spiritual, moral, and health hazards that will result with one sip of the demon rum. It goes without saying that nothing short of a total ban on alcohol will satisfy the Dry Crusader. To achieve this goal, this person on occasion is not above resorting to any means necessary.


When the Dry Crusader appears, it's often in works that are set in the United States during the 19th and early 20th century which is the time the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League were at their peak of influence, and which ultimately led to the Prohibition era, which lasted from 1920 to 1933 and saw the rise of organized crime to meet the demand. Instances of the Dry Crusader in stories set after the repeal of Prohibition in the U.S. in 1933 are far less common. You'll still come across characters who inveigh against all consumption of alcohol but, recognizing its historic total failure, they're less likely to advocate a complete ban or subjecting bars and taverns to hatchetization to achieve their goal.

Often the character will serve as a Strawman Political and usually be Played for Laughs. Expect your crusader to unknowingly imbibe alcohol at some point (sometimes an honest accident, sometimes for a prank, sometimes medicinally) and for them to get hilariously soused after one drink. This may break some of their pride and help them admit that they're only human, and to be a bit more understanding towards occasional indulgence. Or it could just make them angrier — tricking someone into imbibing a substance they have a moral revulsion to is generally not a nice thing.


As another Always Female character, the Dry Crusader is a Justified Trope. Alcoholism was a serious problem in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and usually it were the wives and children who had to endure the violent bouts of their alcoholic husbands, and the ensuing poverty as many men squandered their salaries on drink. The Dry Crusader is not limited to the U.S. and can also be found in stories set in Canada, Britain, and other countries that have a history of puritanism and/or campaigns against the consumption of alcohol, such as Scandinavia.

There's also another, darker side to the Dry Crusader, at least in the US. The US was industrializing at the time and factories were going up everywhere to take advantage of the nation's abundant natural resources. As a result, the economic boom was fed by a flood of immigrants, and where you get immigrants, you get a surge in anti-immigrant bigotry (this period also saw the formation of the anti-immigrant Know Nothing political party). Alcohol and alcoholism had always been a problem, but it was viewed as an individual moral problem, rather than a social problem, and much of the rise of the various temperance movements were fed by this rise in bigotry. Thus they wanted to fight the Germans with their beer, the Irish with their whiskey, the Italians with their wine, the Slavs with their vodka, etc. who were "destroying America's moral character with their degenerate habits". People at the time were well aware of this sort of thing, as the well-known slogan "Every Nation But Carrie" made it onto commemorative products sold by or to bars like postcards and miniature hatchets.note 

That said, this anti-immigrant bigotry is connected with the rise of the teetotaler movement to greater prominence, power, and radicalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Temperance as a whole goes back well into the 18th century, where it could be connected with health (native American temperance movements), class (the poors and their gin), and, yes, the moral crusade against alcohol as a sinful vice. Hence, works which present a Dry Crusader may intend to present a very different message depending on the time period it was produced in and how they present the crusader. In 1790, theynote  might be presented as a little prudish, or a stuck up prig, or one of the few upright characters. In the 1890s, they might be presented as prudish, or a prig, or one of the few upright characters, or a white supremacist (which, again, might be presented as one of the few upright characters).

In many ways, the Smug Straight Edge is the descendant of the Dry Crusader in that both have a tendency to act self-righteously toward and condemn those who imbibe.

Compare to, and may cross over with, Heteronormative Crusader.


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    Comic Books 
  • In the DC Comics Elseworld Batman: The Blue, the Gray, and the Bat, two Dry Crusaders are on the same coach as Bruce Wayne as he heads out West. They turn out to be the Big Bads behind the whole thing.
  • Lucky Luke: Thanks to taking place during the Old West, these characters pop up every now and then, usually temperance groups consisting mostly of women, but men too, such as the visiting scientists from The Black Hills, who not only order things like tea or lemonade in a saloon they stop at with Luke, they also give a lecture about the health effects on alcohol to an Indian they meet. An interesting example is Big Bad August Oyster from Calamity Jane, who starts out as a saloon owner using his business to smuggle guns, but after losing it in a bet, he lies to the local temperance group that he's decided to turn over a new leaf and become this trope, so they'll help him shut it down.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The African Queen, Methodist missionary Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) is visibly upset when her captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) starting drinking gin, but she politely keeps her opinions to himself. After he gets drunk and starts ranting at her, however, she dumps all of his gin out while he's sleeping it off.
  • Cora Massingale, leader of the Women's Temperance League, in The Hallelujah Trail.
  • At the beginning of The Wild Bunch, a preacher is delivering an anti-alcohol sermon during a temperance rally just before its participants get caught in the crossfire during a bank robbery. A lot of them get mowed down.
  • Winnefred Goodman and her father are members of Arizona Revival who fight for clean and honest country in Lemonade Joe.
  • Parodied (along with every other possible Trope) in Airplane!. As the plane is in trouble, a passenger takes a shot from his hip flask, which he offers to the elderly, tightly-dressed-looking woman next to him. She snaps, "Certainly not!" in an offended and horrified tone before turning around and doing a line of coke.
  • In the Harold Lloyd comedy Hot Water, the main character's obnoxious mother-in-law turns out to be one, which does not bode well for his attempt to use Liquid Courage to stand up to her.
  • In Never Grow Old, the Christian Temperance League has taken over the town of Garlow and banned alcohol, gambling and whores.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Elizabeth shows a brief flash of this trope when she and Jack are marooned on an island. Much to his horror, she burns all the rum. It's mostly for a signal fire, but she cites the additional reason that rum is "a vile drink that turns even the most respectable men into complete scoundrels."

  • A man is enjoying a drink at a bar, when a nun comes in, decrying the evils of drink. He sighs, puts down his drink, and asks her, "Have you ever had a drink, Sister?" The nun admits she hasn't. "Well then, how do you know it's evil?" "My Mother Superior told me so," she replied. "Tell you what," says the man at the bar. "I'll buy you a drink. If you don't like it, I'll swear off alcohol for life. But if you do like it, you'll never bother anyone in this bar again." "I can't do that!" replied the nun. "I'm a nun! What would people think if they saw me drinking?!" "I'll just have the bartender put the drink in a teacup. Then no one has to know." The nun agrees, and he goes up to the bar. He orders another whiskey sour for himself, and a vodka on the rocks. He lowers his voice and asks for the vodka to be placed in a teacup. The bartender says, "Oh, no, not that nun again!"

  • In both the book and movie version of Elmer Gantry, the title character publicly preaches against the evils of booze. Privately, it's another story. (In the novel, he does eventually quit.)
  • Parodied in Discworld with the Black Ribboners, a group of vampires who have sworn off drinking (human) blood. According to Thud!, one of their slogans is "Lips that touch Ichor shall never touch Mine".
  • In the first few novels of the Worldwar series, which starts in 1942, characters throughout the United States often talk about and recall the events of Prohibition, particularly when they are drinking alcohol. At one point, Mutt Daniels actually finds himself taking shelter in what was once a headquarters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and thinks on the irony; he even says that he started drinking when he was a young man because he figured that anything the Union was against was probably okay.
  • Animal Farm: Among the principles of Animalism is prohibition, as alcoholism turned Jones into an incompetent farmer. Napoleon and his cronies selling Boxer to a knacker to buy more booze is the most serious sign that they've turned their backs on Animalism.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Blackadder II episode "Beer", Edmund's puritanical relatives, the Whiteadders, are textbook examples of this trope (at least until the end of the episode).
  • The Kenny Rogers telemovie The Gambler: The Luck of Draw features a group of temperance crusaders who attempt to smash the beer barrels for a cowboy picnic and are almost lynched as a result.
  • In a Happy Days episode where Richie's great-uncle-for-this-episode tells the story of one of Richie's relatives, a saloon-busting DA in Prohibition-era Chicago, we see a Whole Episode Flashback starring the main characters as these other characters from the period. Mrs. C. "plays" a local version of Carrie Nation, coming into the speakeasy and trying to catch them selling alcohol so she can bust it up.
  • A sect of these appears in the Midsomer Murders episode "The Night of the Stag".
  • M*A*S*H:
    • The episode "Alcoholics Unanimous" has Frank Burns assuming this role while he's in temporary command of the 4077.
    • In a later episode, "The Moon Is Not Blue", a wounded general who's recovering in post-op is one of these.
  • At the beginning of Boardwalk Empire, Margaret Schroeder is a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, mainly because her husband is an alcoholic and commits Domestic Abuse.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Played for Laughs when Phryne, an unabashed hedonist, visits a relative who turns out to be active in the temperance movement; Phryne quickly smuggles some champagne into the household. Subsequently Played for Drama when it's revealed that the relative is a closet alcoholic who's being Blackmailed by her supplier.
  • A semi-regular recurring facet of the The Murdoch Mysteries given its set at time when the Temperance Leagues were at the most active. Sometimes they're central to the plot, sometimes they're just a background element. Very often a thorn in the side of the Inspector Brakenreid given he is a heavy drinker (though rarely to excess).

    Video Games 
  • Dry Crusaders appear in Victoria II in several forms, such as events asking the leader to teach temperance, sometimes even asking to outright ban alcohol over the nation. The player themselves can in turn become one, but this does come with some risks such as encouraging reactionary thought or encouraging general population militancy, which may not end well.
  • In Back to the Future: The Game, Edna Strickland turns out to be one. When transported to Hill Valley's founding in the 1800s by accident, the character in question is ecstatic to be in such a "pure" era and makes no attempt to leave... until Beauregard Tannen shows up and builds a saloon. Edna's views on any place that serves alcohol is to burn it down. Unfortunately, this ends up resulting in the entire town going up and threatening the timeline as a whole.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the priest at Fort Frostmoth (Antonius Nuncius) in the Bloodmoon expansion plays with the trope. He claims to be intercepting and hiding the alcohol shipments to the fort for moral reasons. In actuality, he's hoping that the disgruntled soldiers will rebel so that he can be reassigned someplace more hospitable than Solstheim.
  • In Guns, Gore & Cannoli, the Bureau of Prohibition, having realized that Prohibition was a failure, created a poison so they could spike the ingredients of alcohol. It was rejected because the effects were too..."extravagant."
  • Frank from House Party issues a total ban on all alcohol at what is suppose to be a normal college party. If either he or his assistant Leah catch you handling any booze they'll beat you down before you know it. He claims it's because he's straight edge and feels it's his duty to spread the philosophy by any means necessary. However certain bits of random chatter and later opportunities reveal he's actually a drug dealer who is trying to peddle his wares to the partygoers, with the alcohol ban only being in place because he doesn't want anyone to get too drunk to buy from him.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Carrie Nation.
    Back in 1880, Kansas residents had voted for prohibition, but the law was largely ignored by saloonkeepers. They operated openly, but Nation would change all that. First she prayed in front of an establishment in 1890. She struck at her first saloon on June 1, 1900. Initially, she used rocks, bricks, and other objects for these attacks, then turned to the hatchet. Nearly six feet tall and strapping, the determined woman closed the saloons in Medicine Lodge.
    Nation responded with alacrity to appeals from citizens of other towns to close their saloons. She entered states where liquor sales were legal. Her behavior provoked a tremendous uproar and sent her to jail repeatedly for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. (FYI: Carrie Nation)
  • Thomas Riley Marshall, who eventually became Woodrow Wilson's vice president, was an active campaigner against liquor. In his case, it stemmed from being a recovering alcoholic himself. Wilson himself obviously felt differently, considering Congress passed the Volstead Act over his veto.
  • The early 20th-century evangelist Reverend Billy Sunday frequently preached against drinking alcohol and advocated its abolition.
  • Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League. His efforts played a large role in the passage of Prohibition in the U.S.
  • Many early feminists, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were big supporters of the temperance movement. In fact, a recurring theme in temperance propaganda holds that a seemingly good man becomes a drunkard, leading him and his family into poverty and frequently resulting in, on the man's part, Parental Neglect at best and Domestic Abuse at worst. Today, it is known that alcohol abuse can lead many people to become more uninhibited, although it's certainly not the only cause of violence, domestic and otherwise.
  • In Finland, the Dry Crusaders are often seen as the foremothers of the modern Eco-Terrorists: fanatics who are ready to run for fair goals (temperance and protection of nature) with foul means (violence and vandalism). They managed to have Prohibition stated in the Finnish law in 1918, albeit it went pear-shaped. The Prohibition in Finland was repealed 1932.
  • Vladimir Lenin, believe it or not. Russia had actually gone dry back in 1914, partly as a wartime measure, but when Lenin came to power, he strengthened the policy, declaring that alcohol would, "lead us back to capitalism." Under his watch, anyone caught moonshining would be put in The Gulag for a minimum of five years. It worked about as well as it did in America. Just a year after Lenin's death, Josef Stalin legalized booze. Incidentally, it apparently took alcohol sixty-six years to lead Russia back to capitalism.