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Everyone Has Standards

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Arya: You're fine with murdering little boys, but thieving is beneath you?
The Hound: A man's got to have a code.

Whether someone is a weirdo, villain, pervert, jerkass, geek, or just way too nice, deviant from the customs of "normal" society — one often finds that those things can only go so far. These characters find that when they're in a situation where they would cross a certain line, they don't do it. Or they get disgusted at those who do cross that line.

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The standard is often moral or ethical, but could also be regarding culture, or True Art, or good taste, or good manners, or what constitutes a good meal, or even the boundaries around a fandom — basically, anything that a person or group is willing to treat as Serious Business. The point of this trope is that no matter how high or low anyone thinks the line is, they all believe that there is a line, and that those who cross it are in the wrong. Even people you wouldn't think of as having standards still tend to believe in something.

A Super-Trope to:

Compare Conscience Makes You Go Back, Sudden Principled Stand. See What the Hell, Hero? when someone calls out a person's actions for violating their own standards. If someone judges other people's actions but assumes their own must be good by definition, they have Moral Myopia. If someone's standards are applied inconsistently, it's a Double Standard. If this hypocrisy is never called out in the work itself, it's Moral Dissonance. Conversely, someone's standards may be consistent but at odds with genuine morality, leading to Curious Qualms of Conscience. See also Shades of Conflict for the many variations that may occur when people with different levels of standards collide.

Someone who doesn't observe any standards may cross the Moral Event Horizon and become a Complete Monster.

This is Truth in Television, of course; just about all people do try to follow some sort of standard, and even outright sociopaths can tell (intellectually) the difference between right and wrong. Though standards may differ from time and place and individual, and people may fail to live up to their own standards, for someone to not care about any ethical or moral standards is generally a sign of a severe mental pathology. That said, No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • Lampooned in Bloom County, where it was combined with an Evil Lawyer Joke and a dose of Self-Deprecation on the part of the writer. The strip's resident Amoral Attorney, Steve Dallas, was thinking about changing careers, because he wanted "an easier way to make a living than getting psychopaths and rapists off the hook". (Not that he cared about who they hurt; he just wasn't all-that good at it.) Then Opus suggested that Steve try getting into cartoonist art, to which Steve replied by jabbing him in the butt with a pen and angrily shouting, "I have some scruples, dude!"
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin may be quite self-centered, but even he thinks starving people are nothing to joke about. He's also periodically disgusted by people who litter.
  • In Dilbert, even a pirate with a diseased parrot refuses to be spokesperson for the unethical company Dilbert works at.
  • Garfield:
  • Wimpy from Popeye is a mooch, cowardly, selfish, and has betrayed Popeye on numerous occasions, however, he refuses to kill under any circumstances. He was also once greatly angered when he heard that someone was poaching goons.

    Film — Animation 
  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven, before Charlie starts actually caring for Anne Marie, he's indignant when she tells him that he's not that much different from Carface. He even asks if he did what Charlie did for her like telling her a story or tucking her in bed or kissing her goodnight. Earlier in the movie, the dogs at the casino even say that Charlie treats them better than Carface does.
  • Animal Farm (1954): When Napoleon sentences some animals to death for supposedly siding with Snowball, Moses the raven (who had before calmly watched Napoleon's dogs tear up Snowball) turns his back on the dogs mauling the hens and sheep and goose, horrified at this cruelty.
  • In Balto, Nikki and Kaltag are eager to see Balto and Steele fight for the medicine. In spite of them helping Steele bully Balto earlier, their amusement turns to genuine concern as Steele uses very dirty moves to get the upper hand, resulting in Balto getting a nasty bite wound. They then become very shocked when Steele carelessly knocks the medicine sled down. After the fight, they and Star decide to abandon Steele and follow Balto.
  • Coco
    • Imelda may be unwilling to forgive Hector for supposedly walking out on his family even after the truth is known but she gets shocked upon seeing her husband about to fade away showing that even she thinks that Hector doesn't deserve to have a Final Death. Indeed, it is the threat of him being erased, not the revelation that he wanted to return before being killed that convince her to help him live by retrieving the photo that Ernesto has confiscated.
    • Miguel's father, Enrique, takes his mother Elena's side when it comes to enforcing the family's ban on music, but he is horrified when Elena smashes her grandson's homemade guitar that Miguel treasured.
  • In Felidae, Francis says this when Bluebeard comes to his house for the first time.
    Francis: Did you come back here to take a leak? Forget it. You don't piss in here anymore. I live here now, and I have my standards.
  • Most of the population of Paris were quick to bully and attempt to flog Quasimodo in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but even they were horrified when Judge Frollo ordered Esmeralda be burned at stake.
  • Despite his love for penguins, even Corporal from Penguins of Madagascar is a little miffed that Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico destroyed the North Wind's airship.
  • In The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, Squidasaurus is appalled that the Bikini Bottomites try to sacrifice Spongebob.
    Squidasaurus: And I thought my friends were primitive.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph definitely did not like Vanellope at all in the first act of the film since she stole his Hero's Duty medal. However, when he witnesses the other racers bullying Vanellope, not only is he absolutely disgusted by it, but he chases them off when they shove her into a mud puddle. Keep in mind that this was before Ralph even had a reason to like her.

    Music 
  • In The Lonely Island's "Like a Boss", Andy Samberg's character (the "boss") says it in the moment, but as the song winds up and the man giving him a performance review double-checks that in an average day, "You chop your own balls off and die," he agrees to those two things, but tries to go back on having said "something about suckin' your own dick". That ain't him.
  • Played for Laughs in Jonathan Coulton's song "Re: Your Brains," about a sentient zombie trying to convince some human survivors to give themselves up:
    All we wanna do is eat your brains!
    We're not unreasonable; I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes.
  • Record label Nuclear Blast is no stranger to publishing blatantly antireligious songs, and had already published some spicy ones by Norwegian black metal band Dimmu Borgir. But the company drew the line with their song "Tormentor of Christian Souls", which was apparently so bad the label refused to put the lyrics for the song in the booklet. They still published the song itself, they just refused to tell anyone what it was really saying.

    Podcasts 
  • Wooden Overcoats: Rudyard utterly loathes Eric Chapman, his business rival, and spends most of the series attempting to destroy him and/or run him out of town. When he meets Jerry in "Rudyard Makes a Friend," he's delighted that Jerry hates Chapman, too, and they bond plenty over that. But when he finds out Jerry intends to kill Chapman, Rudyard immediately points out that this is too far. In one of his most selfless acts, Rudyard makes every effort to thwart the plot, eventually outright standing between Jerry and Chapman, and pulling a Go Through Me.
    Eric: [touched] Rudyard...
    Rudyard: It's the principal of the thing. Nothing personal.
  • In episode two of Mystery Show, Starlee tries to find Britney Spears by going to a mall and a restaurant where she had been had been photographed by paparazzi. After having no luck, she becomes very uncomfortable with her methods and decides to try a different way.
    • In episode five, which revolves around Starlee trying to find out how tall Jake Gyllenhaal is:
    David: So many ways of finding out the objective truth of this information would have been unethical. You can't go to his doctor and find out. That's not the type of people we are. Unless that's what you did, in which case, that is the type of people we are.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Really bad storylines tend to get this reaction.
    • Case in point: Katie Vick. The brain child of the Executive VP of Television Production, Kevin Dunn, it was a terrible angle involving necrophilia, a doll dressed up as a cheerleader, and Triple H in a Kane mask. Hunter has gone on to say that it was the only time he ever questioned Vince McMahon about a storyline. After negative fan reaction, the feud between Kane and Hunter immediately ended, the entire angle was moved to Canon Discontinuity, and the only time it's ever brought up is usually to reference how terrible it was.
    • Vince Russo had a pet gimmick called "Beaver Cleavage", a hyper-sexualized version of Leave It to Beaver. He had fought tooth and nail with the rest of creative to get it on the air — after the (expected) negative fan reaction, Vince McMahon himself pulled the plug, which is what would ultimately cause Russo to jump ship to WCW.
    • Though even Russo has standards. Vinny Ru hated the TNA "Immortal" storyline, which basically amounted to nWo: Take 2. As if to indicate how bad the storyline was, it involved Jeff Hardy turning heel and Ric Flair and Hogan ignoring their decades-long feud. He knew the storyline was going to bomb, and the only reason he kept writing it was because Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff kept pressuring him to do so. All it did was prove that Hogan was still a massive Attention Whore.
    • TNA was also responsible for Claire Lynch, its answer to Katie Vick, which had wrestling's first ever pregnant crack whore. It was by far and away the nadir of AJ Styles's career, and everyone has gone on to say that the only good thing to come out of it was the formation of Bad Influence. The sad part was that this storyline was after Vince Russo's departure from the company.
  • Despite being a neutral party whose only involvement was being in the match, Leah Vaughan prevented her mentor Cherry Bomb from staking Courtney Rush through the heart, presumably because she didn't want to just step back and watch while outright murder was committed in front of her.
  • Following that Hell in a Cell match featuring Mick Foley and The Undertaker, Vince McMahon personally spoke to Mick after the match and told him this: "Mick, you have no idea how much I appreciate what you just did, but I never want to see that again."
    • According to Mick's first book, the idea to start on top of the Cell and get thrown off originated as a joke, and when Mick took the idea seriously, Terry Funk thought he was crazy.
  • Jim Ross has gone on record stating that Brock Lesnar, even with his Real Life abrasive attitude towards other superstars and his mercenary attitude towards WWE, actually didn't want to break The Streak, but was ordered to do so by Vince and had gained the approval of Undertaker himself.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Anathema: Players are required to murder as many people as possible, but even the most blood thirsty shrouds have a group of people that they're strongly adverse to killing. The penalty if you do kill a member of that group? You lose some of your will to live.
  • In BattleTech, during the opening years of the First Succession War, Jinjiro Kurita ordered the slaughter of the entire population of a planet, Nanking-Massacre-style. While the DCMS obeyed (refusal to undertake the orders was an executable offense), they had to, outside of the most fanatically loyal units, be forced and bullied into doing it. The fluff recounts numerous suicides of DCMS troops who could not live with themselves over what they were made to do.
    • Since the Succession Wars, any weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, biological, or chemical, are considered too horrific to use. Consequently, using one is one of the best ways available to get everyone to stop shooting at each other and start shooting at you. Witness the stomping given to the Word of Blake by most everybody else, including the clans, as an example.


Alternative Title(s): Everybody Has Standards

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