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Good Is Boring

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"Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens."
Talking Heads, Heaven

This is a cynical trope regarding morality and idealism. For when heavily structured order in which very little is meant to occur is defined as 'good' and set in opposition to the 'evil' of chaos, see Order Versus Chaos.

You're looking for a motivation for your nihilistic villain to take action in order to get the plot moving, but he is so deep in his nihilism that the only motivation one can come up with is that he did it because it would be fun. However, now another side of the character has been revealed. If evil is fun to them then that must mean that he believes this.

This trope is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Either in the view of a character or in the reality of the situation in-universe, Good Is Boring and Evil is... not. However there is still the question of why one would come to that conclusion, so let's explore that idea together!

The character is simply good, boring and... not much else. They either exist to be a moral compass to the other characters, be a foil to a villain or anti-hero, show that boring might not be so bad after all, or perhaps to be a plot device and cause the villain to overgeneralize this trope.

From the villain's perspective, they might simply desire thrills that they get most easily from evil acts, resulting in the belief that since evil is far more interesting, then Good Is Boring by extension. They do not have to be correct in this belief, and the belief can be held by non-villains.

This trope is a sister trope to Evil Is Cool, particularly when it's the villain stirring things up. Likewise, it is invoked in settings with A Hell of a Time- since if Good is Boring and Evil is Interesting, then the interesting plots happen where all the bad guys are dumped.

Links all too frequently to the Author Tract trying to tell us something about mainstream religion, culture, or ethics. Even worse when paired with a Straw Man Political. When this trope refers to a problem with the writing and conflict itself, it is the polar opposite problem of Too Bleak, Stopped Caring (which is also quite a problem).

Compare and contrast Boring, but Practical (which this trope can also be paired with). Contrast Good Feels Good. Can result from an Invincible Hero and is a common complaint regarding the Purity Sue. Tangentially related to Victory Is Boring, which can occur with both good and evil characters. One possible reason why All Girls Want Bad Boys.

In-Universe Examples Only

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Orochimaru from Naruto believes this. He uses a twisted form of logic to convince himself that if a windmill (the world) isn't turning (is peaceful) then it's just plain dull. Naturally, he believes things will be interesting if he destroys the Leaf Village. It's revealed that this wasn't his only motive, since he wanted revenge on the Third Hokage.
  • The Major in Hellsing is bombastic, larger than life, loves rousing his troops with massive speeches and displays of power, lives a life of decadent luxury, and absolutely loves Stuff Blowing Up. Pip Bernadotte, to the contrary, is a calm, collected, low-key commander who lives the same life of his troops and just delivers matter-of-fact messages prior to a big battle.

    Comic Books 

  • I'd Trade My Life For Yours: In the eyes of Motherkuma, the dramatic and murder themed events of the killing game are good for ratings while the pleasant and tranquil events between the students are boring, ergo bad for ratings.
  • Nasthalthia Luthor from Kara of Rokyn is a villain because she finds honest life incredibly boring.
    Nasthalthia: I guess I got a little of what Lex was infected with, genetically. Not any of the science stuff, butó You know how straights are, and how straight life is. Soooo boring. I found out about guys, cycles, drugs, and privilege in short order. Got off drugs. Got myself a real cycle gang while I was in college, Nasty's Nasties. Dad 'n' Mom didn't approve, but I didn't give a damn as long as they kept the money coming. Then they cut it off.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bagdad Cafe: The local scrimshaw/prostitute Debby leaves Bagdad, to the disappointment of the rest of the town. When asked why, she replies, "Too much harmony."
  • Used in Hackers, when the villain describes the moral philosophy that allows him to frame a bunch of teenagers for his crimes:
    "There is no right or wrong. There's only fun and boring. A twenty-year prison sentence sounds a trifle dull to me."
  • In Lethal Weapon 3, this is the gist of Jack Travis' Motive Rant when he kidnaps Capt. Murphy:
    Murphy: You used to be one of US, for Christ's sake!
    Travis: You know what a future a cop has, Murph? None. You punch a clock for 30 years, retirement, pension... nothin' to do. Drunk at noon, bullet in the brain by evening. Well, not for this kid! The police department's got it all: guns, ammo, drugs, cash... it's a one-stop shopping center. If you've got the balls and the brains, there's not a fucking thing anyone can do about it!
    Murphy: You're already fucking history, Jack. And YOU KNOW IT!
    Travis: No, Murph. I'm just getting started!
  • The Matrix:
    • As told by Agent Smith:
      Agent Smith: Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost.
    • In the second movie, the Architect strongly hints that it's more along the lines of Order Is Boring.
  • In The Dark Crystal, the urRu are nearly completely apathetic. Justified in that the passion, drive, and ambition of the urSkeks is embodied within the Skeksis, the other set of beings created when the urSkeks split into two.
  • In Sodom and Gomorrah, when Ildith tells Lot that he shouldn't act on his love for her because he needs to be a good man to set an example to the Hebrews he leads, he snarks that what she really means is "dull, grey, old, boring".

  • Piers Anthony: In For Love of Evil, the devil actually makes some parts of Hell so much more interesting than Heaven that a soul in Heaven begs Satan to take him back to Hell when he returns. Heaven itself, as Satan notes, is actually a very boring place where people spend a lot of time sitting around.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Message": George considers the warless thirtieth century insipid, tame, and stress-free. He very much prefers the violent, noisy, and heroic twentieth century, especially the World War II period.
  • Iain Banks's The Culture: The protagonists are (usually) Special Circumstances operatives (the Culture's equivalent of diplomats, commandos and Magnificent Bastard all rolled into one) or non-Culture citizens precisely because the vast majority of the Culture's everyday life - non-alienated people going about their fulfilling lives, respecting and being respected by their community in a post-scarcity anarchistic metasociety - just wouldn't make for particularly gripping reading. Lampshaded in-universe on a few occasions.
  • Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar: The fanciful setting of the story is nonviolent, there's no poverty, and everyone can express their artistic nature freely... but some people are attracted to violence anyway... in fact, the main antagonist gives the community leader (who's also his brother) a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, saying this peaceful Arcadia, Call to Agriculture stuff is not only boring, it's making the community a mere shadow of what it could have been.
  • Narinder Dhami's Angel Face: Heaven bores the teenage-angel protagonist senseless.
  • John Dennis Fitzgerald: His children's book series, The Great Brain, states this trope outright. The protagonist is a Sociopathic Hero who enjoys tricking people out of their money. When he reforms in the later books, his younger brother complains that things are too boring, and secretly celebrates when his brother returns to his old schemes.
  • Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens: The demon Crowley persuades the angel Aziraphale that they can't allow Armageddon to take place by pointing out that eternity in Heaven means eternal boredom since all the interesting things exist either on Earth or in Hell.
    "Can you imagine eternity with Elgar?"
    Aziraphale shut his eyes. "All too easily," he groaned.
  • Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time: Rand al'Thor has this reaction at the climax, during his duel with a powerful cosmic evil. Each combatant forges a simulated Alternate Universe in an effort to break the other, he creates a world totally cleansed of evil. It horrifies him, because he realizes that everyone has some measure of good and evil in them, and it is that contrast that gives them depth and makes them actual, complex people. He meets Elayne and discovers that she has gone from a politically-savvy Action Girl to what can essentially be described as all the Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits all in one character, with none of the complexity anyone else on that list might possibly have. And not just her. Everyone is like that. Everyone is happy that way. They have no choice but to be happy that way. They have no options except for the "perfect" ones. They have no ability to choose any option that is less than completely selfless and "good".
  • C. S. Lewis:
    • The Great Divorce: Inverted, as people in Heaven are vibrant and happy, while denizens of Hell are bored and full of themselves - or, at the very best, tend to chase trivial things (like attempts of one of them to get a Heaven's apple to Hell).
    • The Screwtape Letters: Demons try to minimize the enjoyment people get out of sin, hating joy just like other positive emotions because they lead to people wanting to do more things that "feel good". Moreover, they see God as a hedonist bent on undermining the order and dignity of Hell.
  • Elena May's Nightfall (Series): Myra struggles with this, as well as with Evil Is Cool. She loves her friends at the Resistance, but cannot find anyone who understands her love for art and literature. Vampires, while evil, can open her mind in ways she had never imagined, while the humans are too focused on survival to care about much else.
  • George Orwell claimed this was why most utopias tend to bore people, whereas dystopias are interesting. He felt it was reflective of older depictions for Heaven and Hell, with the former being impossible to actually make interesting. Orwell even felt it was impossible to ever describe permanent or perfect happiness, period, and argues we may not be able to imagine this at all.
  • Star Wars: A lot of books, video games, and even movies in the Expanded Universe include this trope since the primary expected duties of the Jedi are heavily implied, if not outright stated, to be meditating on the will of the Force, gaining peace and serenity. Everything else, including policing the galaxy, advising politicians, and fighting Sith are supposed to be secondary, especially when the Jedi aren't currently involved in any wars. They're also supposed to abstain from romance, marriage, and other emotional attachments (things which most people find as the most meaningful), at least going by the new continuity.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien: It's not really visible in his published works, written when he was more tired and cynical, but earlier versions of his mythos (The Book of Lost Tales, the original version of The Silmarillion) tend to invert this trope by going into a great deal of description and detail about just how and why the Bliss of Valinor, the Silmarils, and so forth are so good while treating Morgoth's evil as mostly banal. For example, the Music of the Ainur, which created Eä, is described as a beautiful and glorious symphony, while Morgoth's song of opposition is described as "loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated", and "a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes".
  • Villains by Necessity: The book starts on a description of how Good beat Evil when they won the final great war, after which the source for Evil was sealed off from the world. Afterward, the Evil remaining was slowly destroyed by the Good guys, with the world steadily becoming nicer and more peaceful, but also quite boring to the few villains left. "Boring!" is the first dialogue spoken in the book, as Sam shouts this in annoyance once the prologue ends (he's an assassin with no call for his work anymore. This is his grievance at first with the forces of Good who now rule (alongside them hunting down everyone like him to be "whitewashed" into being Good too. It soon transpires however that far more is at stake if Good takes over entirely.

    Live Action TV  
  • Doctor Who:
  • Lois & Clark alluded to a Utopian future in "Tempus Fugitive." Superman and Lois' legacy is a completely perfect, balanced world - which drives the villain of the episode to try and change it. He just can't stand it.
    Tempus: A world of peace. A world with no greed or crime. A world so boring you'd blow your brains out, but there are no guns.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine made it a point to deconstruct this trope, with numerous characters both within and without the Federation criticizing its bland, overly saccharine outlook. Eventually, the trope is outright subverted with the reveal of Section 31. Needless to say, fan reactions have varied somewhat. In any case, we see almost nothing of how the ordinary Federation citizens live, though it's said they still find meaning in challenging themselves by their work or pleasurable pastimes.
  • When Cordelia ascends to a higher plane on Angel, the first thing she says: "I am so bored!"
  • Exploited by the Underwoods in the US House of Cards: Frank woos Claire into Unholy Matrimony with the promise that she would never be bored.
  • In Season 3 of Once Upon a Time Henry's memories have been altered by a spell causing him to forget his real life. He has no idea that David and Mary Margaret are both Prince Charming and Snow White and his grandparents and finds them to be very boring. They are highly offended when Emma tells them this, apparently they thought they were cool.

  • A young Eminem faced negative backlash for his "too soft" Conscious Hip Hop album Infinite and quickly created a evil alter-ego to take over him, switching his style to a distinctive, cartoony take on Horrorcore that finally got him noticed, making him the terror of America around the turn of the Millennium. Especially as his personality has matured, he's faced conflicts around this - being a villain no longer suits him now that he's out of the total breakdown of his life he was experiencing at the time he started his act, but his kinder material tends not to be as well received as when he's playing a heel (something he notes on many songs on The Marshall Mathers LP 2).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In TNA, Raven taunts Lauren about her moral superiority to everyone around her, saying he knows it must make her miserable. Somewhat subverted in that Raven himself is always miserable.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer Fantasy:
    • In thi Crapsack World, the forces of Order are closest to traditional "good," but they all seem deadset against having or allowing any sort of fun or joy. The Dwarves are dour, inflexible, and obsessed with their grudges and the Human Empire is oppressive, corrupt, and engage in paranoid witch-burning sessions (albeit often with actual witches). The Dark Elves and human servants of Chaos, however, often get to enjoy themselves (unless they end up on the wrong side of a sacrificial knife) and do what they want. The Greenskins truly live for nothing but war, so essentially all of life is a game to them. Which makes it terribly ironic for the Dwarves to take Greenskin transgressions so personally.
    • Chaos (or at least Archaon) wants to "save the world from stagnation and order." Of course, when it comes to saying that, you know it means something like killing everybody and turning the world into an insane playground of Chaotic Evil embodied, so at that point, you may notice it wouldn't be an improvement after all.
    • Inverted in a "Boring is Good" way by one vampire lord, who planned to save the world from Chaos... by killing everyone in it, starving the Chaos Gods of believers.
  • As of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, Chaos has succeeded in overrunning the world... and now that they have no one to really fight against except each other, the Chaos tribes are desperately bored, growing fat and weak. The reveal that the champions of Order have ascended to godhood was greeted with joy because they finally had something to do.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Eldar have to be very careful about what kind of emotion (especially pleasure) they let themselves feel, because they run the risk of attracting the attention of Slaanesh, Chaos god/dess of desire, who loves nothing more than eating Eldar souls. The Dark Eldar can let themselves be sadistic debauched hedonists... as long as they're in the Webway where Slaanesh can't reach. When in realspace their famously backstabbing kind stay rigorously on-target, with betrayals happening once they're "safe".

     Video Games  

  • Cucumber Quest: Sir Carrot is an example of a character representing this. His sole reason for becoming a Knight was to serve his king. He doesn't care much for fighting or being cool, but rather the things he enjoyed most about being a Knight were "rescuing stray pets", an "massaging his king's feet". That he's being completely serious about it is Played for Laughs.
  • In The Order of the Stick:
    • Averted by the Lawful Good heaven: people reunite with their dead friends and enjoy idealized versions of mortal activities (like the Tavern of Infinite One Night Stands) for as long as they want to, moving on to more spiritually fulfilling pursuits as they let go of their old lives. Although the process ends in Loss of Identity when they become spiritual embodiments of their alignment, that's the ultimate goal of every afterlife.
    • Xykon is an Ax-Crazy, thrill-seeking, undead Psychopathic Manchild who gets tired of anything less than wanton death and destruction: he thinks Pragmatic Villainy is just as boring as Good.
  • In Sinfest, Baby Blue assures Fuschia that being good is really boring -- and accuses her of thinking of converting. Fuschia denies it.
  • In Sins, good, as personified by The Virtues, isn't just boring, but stupid and unpleasant as well. No wonder all the hosts think Evil Is Cool.
    • Of course, the Virtues want the Sins to die so that the universe will be destroyed by the imbalance of Good over Evil, on the off chance it will be remade without evil. If it gets remade at all.
    • And Labor is willing to kill an innocent girl on sight, made worse by the fact she lost her soul no matter how innocent she was (her sole crime was picking up the Sins' Soul Jar).
  • The Dimension of Lame from Sluggy Freelance epitomizes this. At first, it seems like a great place where everyone's kind and even the sewers smell like flowers. Except there's no alcohol, all swearing is censored, the only TV channels are PBS and Disney, and everyone seems to subsist entirely off rice cakes and spring water. Torg high-tails it out of there pretty quick.
    • On his second visit, Torg notes that the people of the dimension aren't necessarily "good" so much as "pure"; in the sense that they are incapable of doing anything to prevent or even resist evil for fear of becoming less pure.
  • Oglaf discusses this for laughs with the Paladins for Group Sex:
    "We believe that evil gains a foothold when goodness is really fucking dull."

     Web Original 
  • In WarpZone Project, the protagonist has just entered the world of super-heroes and super-villains, choosing the side of good. His mentor's arch-enemy tries to get him to become his pupil whenever they run into each other, his main if not only argument being that he's going to get bored fast otherwise.

     Western Animation  
  • In Futurama, Leela mentions that this trope is why Heaven is boring; there's no sleaze. Seconds later, a mass orgy is called.
  • One of the "Censored Eleven" Looney Tunes, Clean Pastures (1937), starts out with Heaven ("Pair-O-Dice"— oh yes, there are reasons this is on the Censored Eleven list) losing ground to "Hades, Inc." and its Harlem jazz clubs until Gabriel gets him some swingin' angels of his own (modeled on performers like Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller)— and then Good is so not Boring that Satan himself tries to get back in!
  • Hal Stewart/Titan/Tighten from Megamind compares being a hero to a dead end job with no long-term goals. Of course, he's only saying this after Roxanne justifiably tells him that she does not love him.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Viva Ned Flanders", Springfielders are amazed at Ned's longevity and youthfulness at age 60 until he reveals how much he's deprived himself in order to attain it.
    Ned: I resist all the major urges.
    Sideshow Mel: All of them?
    Marge: You mean you've never splurged and say, eaten an entire birthday cake and blamed it on the dog?
    Edna Krabappel: You've never licked maple syrup off your lover's stomach?
    (Agnes Skinner glares at Seymour)
    Bart: (Halfway outside, holding a crowbar) You've never snuck out of church to break into cars?
    Ned: No, no, and double no! I haven't done any of those things, folks. You name it, I haven't done it!
    Homer: Jeez, Flanders, you're sixty, and you've never lived a day in your life!
    Carl: Yeah, even the boy in the bubble had a deck of cards.
  • This is shown as an issue between Tom and his wife in The Boondocks. Tom, a straight-laced, calm, morally upstanding man, apparently bores his wife to tears, to the point where she throws him out of the house at one especially low point and is shown to lust after "bad boys" like Pretty Boy Flizzy. Flizzy himself sums up his success with women with the term "bitches hate being bored."