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Good Is Not Soft

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"If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you're going to die. So they'll talk. They'll gloat. They'll watch you squirm. They'll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar. So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word."

Do not mistake kindness for weakness.

The character isn't necessarily an Anti-Hero, Vigilante Man or may not even be portrayed as Good Is Not Nice. He could be a genuinely friendly, sociable, caring person, always looking out for his friends and family and trying to do the right thing. Such a character would have to be compassionate to his enemies, right?

Actually, no. Unlike the Good Is Not Nice character, someone who falls under this trope actually is an amicable and affable person. But this niceness doesn't extend to giving free passes to the truly vile and horrific among their enemies. They are the reason why the villain should Beware the Nice Ones, especially since they aren't gonna wait to be angered or snap before the inevitable beatdown/killing begins. The Good Is Not Soft character will find them, will stop them and (if they're lucky) will kill them before they can hit that Berserk Button. Then they'll (usually) go home to enjoy dinner and settle in for a good night's sleep.

Maybe The Hero knows that the criminal will break out of the Cardboard Prison. Maybe the villain has placed the Ideal Hero in a kill or be killed situation and the hero kills for the greater good, taking on the moral consequences of their actions. Or it may simply be the Well-Intentioned Extremist needing to Talk to the Fist before they cross the Moral Event Horizon.

This trope has the potential to slide into or be interpreted as Pay Evil unto Evil, if the hero's method of ending the villain's threat is excessively cruel. Different viewers will have different ideas about what qualifies as being excessively cruel to a villain. Even so, this trope will most likely lead to him being just as bad as the villain if taken too far.

This isn't an unusual trait of the Technical Pacifist; the Gentle Giant won't have an issue with it, either. Common in Good Is Not Dumb works. If the character is a Jerkass rather than a Nice Guy, then they fall under Good Is Not Nice. Compare/contrast Beware the Nice Ones who are reactive rather than proactive. This trope can easily fit Lawful Good characters' duties to reward good and punish evil, Neutral Good characters' often strong senses of pragmatism, and Chaotic Good characters' defiance of expectations for them to be overly merciful. See also Anti-Hero and Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. Compare Affably Evil where a villain instead of a hero has these personality traits. May result in the villain calling out a "Not So Different" Remark when lampshaded. Also can tie into It Gets Easier if the character is enough of an experienced killer that they are able to get on with a relatively normal life after they've pulled the trigger.

Example subpages:

Other examples

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    Comic Strips 
  • The Phantom: Old jungle saying: "The Phantom is rough with rough-necks." Another one: "When the Phantom is rough, he is very rough." These are typically cited when he's beating people up. He's a Technical Pacifist who likes to get criminals to a proper trial, and nice and helpful towards friends and innocents, but he gives out plenty of brutal beatings. (Of course, they don't leave people actually injured much, so he gets off easily.) One of the cruelest things he does could be the fact that he tattoos people he punches with his Skull Mark — a bit of a snap judgement against everyone who opposes him, who are never innocent but could be Punch-Clock Villain mooks — but this seems to be more about the Rule of Cool than any consideration of the long-term effects.

  • "Mr. Niceguy" from Lost and Found by Will Smith is about how other celebrities treat him like a joke, but if he wanted he could buy out the stations they work for and leave them in the dirt... but it's not his style, because he's a nice guy. It even contains the lyrics "Sometimes y'all/Mistake nice for soft".

    Music Video 
  • The pink teddy bear who takes on the monstrous champion in the Imagine Dragons video for "Radioactive" gets pretty badly smacked around, like all the challengers before. Then it's the teddy bear's turn. The bear gives better than it gets.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Thor is a Hot-Blooded Boisterous Bruiser who spends most of his time drinking, eating and killing giants. Thor is humanity's best line of defense against the giants, who would otherwise destroy the world of men, and the stories told about Thor indicate that he truly does care for humanity.
    • Though the argument could be said that this applies to almost all the Aesir. Yes they seem like a pantheon of berserker warrior types, but they are pretty honorable and if you interpret Ragnarok literally a lot of them sacrifice themselves to see evil devastated in the final battle for the fate of the universe. Thor is simply the most obvious example
  • Egyptian Mythology:
    • Horus and Ra. Horus is a vengeful warrior god who goes out of his away to avenge cosmic wrongs done against the universe. Ra routinely went to battle the evil serpent god Apep to stop the destruction of the world.
    • Another one from Egyptian Mythology is Sekhmet. Holy crap, Sekhmet. The lion-headed goddess who not only utterly wasted an attempted coup against the gods by almost drowning the world in blood, she was also known as She Who Mauls and One Before Whom Evil Trembles. She is a vicious goddess, but her rage is against evil.
  • Any deity from the Hindu pantheon who represents the destroyer aspect. Most notably Durga who defeated a terrible demon, Kali who was known for her fury against evil beings, Shiva who is related to a number of incidents of unmitigated spiritual badassery, and Indra who famously slew the dragon-like Asura Vitra releasing all the waters of the world.
  • Hercules/Heracles of Greek lore. Yes he did a number of things as atonement for actions he committed under a supernaturally induced frenzy, but he genuinely fought for what was right.
  • Lugh of Celtic mythology. The king of the Tuatha De Danann earns a place here for vanquishing Balor and utterly devastating the rest of the Fomori Army.
  • Cuchulainn from Irish Celtic lore also falls under here. He is one of the most beloved Celtic heroes in mythology and a total badass to top it all off. He even managed to fight of an army tied to a standing stone while mortally wounded and died standing. According to some sources, a standing death was a true hero's death.
  • Marduk of Babylonian mythology who managed to slay the mad progenitor goddess Tiamat, and used her body to create the world. He was also a deity of justice.
  • Tengri of Turko-Mongol religions falls under this. He was the God the sky and the storm and was directly responsible for punishing wrong doings on the earth.
  • From the Apache peoples of North America we have Fire Killer of Enemies and Child Born of Water who according to legend slew a number of terrible monsters that preyed on the human race.
  • God from the three Abrahamic Faiths. As noted throughout The Bible, He is compassionate to those in need, especially to those who turn to Him for counsel, aid or solace. But He has no qualms whatsoever with punishing someone when they've done evil and are unrepentant of it. Jesus is the same way, though in His case, He directed it towards Satan, the corrupt merchants and moneylenders in the temple, and the manipulative Pharisees and Sadduccees.
  • Also from Abrahamic lore, the Cherubim. The Cherubim were not tiny, Cupid-like goodie two-shoes: they were God's soldiers. Their original appearance was very similar to those winged, human-headed, bull- or lion-bodied creatures depicted in Assyro-Babylonian art. (In Ezekiel's vision, they're described with four heads: lion, eagle, bull, and human male.)
  • The Archangel Michael is a patron of soldiers and policemen.
  • Mars from Roman religion was actually quite a different figure from Ares of Greek mythology. One of his nicknames was Mars the Avenger.
  • A not as widely known example comes from pre-Christian Armenian mythology. Vahaghn was a bit like the Armenian version of Thor and was known in legend as a slayer of evil dragons and is one of it's most beloved heroic figures. Just like Thor, he was also a thunder god.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In a Universe as twisted as Warhammer 40,000, The Salamanders Space Marine Chapter stand out for being one of the few Chapters that will actively protect civillians and being pleasant people in general. However, they are also considered to be among the toughest and their preferred way to attack can be.....unpleasant. Also, pray to your dark gods if you fire upon civillains.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: The Stormcast Eternals are heavenly warriors sent by a God of Good to protect mortals from the depridations of Chaos, and by said god's command, have even been known to offer Chaos-worshippers the chance for redemption and freedom from the control of the Dark Gods, something previously unheard of in any Warhammer setting. Should you turn that offer down, however, they'll remind you that they're still demi-gods of war who can and will crush your skull, and pray for your soul afterwards.
  • In Dark Sun, Avangions are epic-leveled mage/psionicists who have devoted themselves to working preserver magic, becoming beacons of life and light who restore the land and bring greenery back to their dying world. The physical transformations they undergo even makes physical combat impossible, contrasting the brutal array of natural weapons gained by their dark counterparts, the dragons. But there is no moral restriction on the avangion transformation, meaning an evil avangion is quite possible, and they maintain their massive arsenal of Psychic Powers and spells — and though they are more adept at abjuration and divination magic, they suffer no penalty to learning or using evocation spells. If an avangion believes that someone or something needs to die for the good of the world, they are capable of wiping away entire armies in telekinetic maelstroms or storms of fire.

  • In Les Misérables, Les Amis's response to Javert being a spy is, depending on the production, knocking him out, tying him up, or both. After Eponine dies, they are even more set against the military (and, presumably, Javert), and when Valjean arrives, they essentially force him to help them fight off the First Attack on pain of death.

  • BIONICLE: The Toa, though goodness and softness does depend on the individual Toa, they are all supremely powerful warriors dedicated to protecting the innocent. Best summed up in the 2006 storyline by Lewa, fighting one of the Piraka.
    Lewa: Peace loving, not weak.
  • Transformers: Most versions of Optimus Prime tend to be this, especially if pushed too far. Even the original Generation One versions (both comic and animation) had their moments.

    Web Original 
  • Linkara from Atop the Fourth Wall is generally a nice guy, but is perfectly willing to commit cold-blooded murder on his enemies. In fact, he's done this so much that he started to turn evil, possibly subverting the trope.
  • In a similar vein to Reds! below, the Red Army and the American Socialist Union of The Fire Never Dies are generally portrayed as morally upstanding people. That does not stop them from brutal tactics when they have to, including chemical weapons and massed artillery barrages against urban areas. Anyone who doubts this is welcome to tour the ruins of Salt Lake City, Wilmington, or Washington, D.C.
    • Earlier in the story, the Committees of Public Safety were genuinely dedicated to ensuring safe working conditions... sufficiently dedicated to committing assault on factory bosses who didn't comply.
    • Huey Long describes some of the tactics of Louisiana partisans, including breaking into the homes of KKK members and murdering them in their own beds.
  • The Church Knights of From Winter's Ashes may be dedicated to dealing with terrible things so you don't have to, but that doesn't mean one might not stick a sword through your hand and drag you around by it to teach you a lesson.
  • Pendorians are kind, generous people who never consider using force to impose their will on other cultures. They also react badly to things like Pendorians being kidnapped. One kidnapping was mentioned to have ended in the destruction of a city. Another caused an interstellar war aimed at killing everyone connected to the kidnapping.
  • Powder Keg of Justice is a famous gaming story in which a Paladin ... disabuses a cultist of the notion that his calling means that he needs to be soft on evildoers.
  • Reds!: A Revolutionary Timeline: The UASR is portrayed as a decent nation with a leadership devoted to social and economic equality for all citizens. That being said, their nation's early history is marked by what is arguably political persecution against those believed to be trying to destroy American democracy, complete with Kangaroo Courts and summary execution. (Though to give them their due, once stability was restored the government had a major My God, What Have I Done? moment and undid as much of the damage as they could.) And it is stated that World War II was an even bloodier affair. Whether or not this extra bloodshed was their doing hasn't been revealed yet, but it's clear they are ready for a fight.
  • Chaka of the Whateley Universe: she's cheerful, considerate, happy-go-lucky... and she kicked Montana's butt when he crossed the line with her friend. When she had to deal with Lycanthros, she broke half his ribs and smashed his face in with moonsilver.
  • Taylor, protagonist of Worm, is a perennial bullying victim and wannabe superheroine, who, even as she infiltrates a gang of supervillains, refuses to spend any of her share of the ill-gotten gains, has managed to temporarily incapacitate a regenerating supervillain who becomes more powerful as the fight continues. Her way of ensuring that he doesn't get back up before the authorities arrive? Calmly use a knife to remove his eyes, since they'll regenerate... eventually.
  • In Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, Red Guy is the tallest (and presumed oldest) of the main trio. He's also The Stoic to extreme levels (virtually never raising his voice or getting upset), and shows compassion to his friends. But in Episode Four ("Computers"), he gets sick of the insane, babbling Teachers making trouble, and starts fighting back: he calls out Colin the Computer for his stupidity and even tries to shut him down (Yellow Guy and Duck Guy never touch the Teachers), refuses to be taken in by the clicks and whistles the computer offers, and escapes the "digital world" Colin creates through sheer force of will. Granted, this gets Red Guy "killed"—or at least warped out of the reality of the show—but in Episode Five, he's still trying to save his friends by calling them from the real world. Red Guy even ends up saving the day in Episode Six by unplugging the device that seems to be powering the horrific reality he and his friends once inhabited.
  • The Anglo/American – Nazi War: The A4, despite fighting a brutal war, spend tons of valuable resources trying to help civilians and offer food to any enemy that surrenders. But what do they do to a nation that enslaved and murdered tens of millions, unleashed deadly gas attacks, murdered members of the British Royal Family, and turned all of France into a wasteland out of sheer spite? Well:
    • The Nazi Reich endures horrific nuclear and biochemical attacks. Berlin and Nuremberg are not just destroyed, but rendered uninhabitable for centuries.
    • When Nazi soldiers decide to impersonate British soldiers and murder civilians in order to scare civilians away, Special Forces hunt them down without mercy.
    • Per treaty Germany is permanently broken into 15 permanently-occupied administrative districts to ensure another horror doesn't come back from the grave. In 2007 (almost half a century after the end of the war) a group of nationalists tried to militarily revolt to unite Germany, the A4 responded by obliterating the city of Stettin by orbital bombardment.
    • In a more personal example, a respectable Kansas soldier who lost several of his comrades in war was implied to have abandoned his guard duty so that a group of Polish survivors could take brutal revenge on a group of former concentration camp commandants.
  • RWBY: Remnant teems with Creatures of Grimm, kept at bay solely by Huntsmen. Team RWBY's first lesson involves Professor Ozpin throwing them off a cliff into a monster-filled forest after warning them to kill or be killed. Dr. Oobleck challenges Team RWBY's personal motives for training, forcing them to realise that a Huntress's most important duty is to always prioritise the protection of the vulnerable and innocent. Only Ruby isn't challenged, as the staff know she's The Paragon who is driven by the desire to create a better world for all; this makes her relentless and uncompromising when dealing with people who put themselves before the protection of the people.
  • Critical Role: Caduceus Clay is by far the kindest and most moral member of the Mighty Nein. He's the first person the others turn to when they need life advice, his solutions to problems are almost always non-violent, and while he's not opposed to killing, his role during combat is mostly to keep his teammates alive rather than dealing damage himself. That said, Caduceus is far from harmless, and his methods of fighting include sending swarms of carnivorous insects after people, and casting spells that cause their flesh to wither and rot. After meeting Trent Ikithon, the man who tortured and abused Caleb for years, Caduceus glares at him with barely suppressed rage, and later while speaking to Caleb, issues one of his harshest threats to date.
    Caduceus: Considering how the past 24 hours went, I feel pretty comfortable saying if he looks at you sideways, we will not leave enough of him to be found.
  • Unwanted Houseguest: The actual web video version of the character doesn't really fit the "Good" part of this category, as he's largely uninterested in evil that doesn't affect him personally. However, in the Comic-Book Adaptation the Houseguest is very concerned about the villains' plan, and is immediately prepared to use lethal violence to stop them.

  • 180 Angel:
    • As explained by Sam, all angels are trained to be capable warriors as soon as they enter school.
    • Sam also demonstrates this by killing the demon sent to kill Lilith with a knife, without much hesitation or remorse.
  • Sir Andre, from Midnight's War. Happening on two vampire initiates threatening a young woman, he pulls a gun on them and forces them to back down. Then he brutally cripples one, stabs the other in the throat, and crushes the first one's skull. He then collects their blood to help pay for the taxes their vampire masters have forced on the rest of humanity.
  • In The Bully's Bully, to BB bullying bullies are her lullabies, she is the nicest kindest girl you can imagine, makes every effort to use reason, but when it comes to the crunch she beats down and later mind rapes bullies.
  • In Freefall, Max Post nails this trope in a glorious speech.
    Sam: Fear vs. Hope. Hardly an even match.
    Max: That's because you think of hope as something light and fragile. My version of hope has calluses and dirt under the fingernails and isn't above bringing brass knuckles to a fight.
  • Megatokyo's Ping is usually very kind and innocent, since she's a Robot Girl built for live-action Dating Sim-ing; but threatening her, or her friends, will literally activate Berserk Mode.
    Ping: Sorry about the mess. I had to make a bad man go away.
  • Julie seems to be becoming this way in Our Little Adventure as the story progresses.
  • Rebirth: Noah is the only character so far to kill a human, his own brother. However, he only did this after he saw him attempt to kill Neo to survive, and he knows he did it to his own daughter in the previous timeline.
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, Just Before the End, Iceland took radical measures to protect its population against The Plague, which included destroying boats of refugees if they don't give the proper signal.
  • Saxony Canterbury from Thunderstruck is basically a good guy, and he never loses his cool. Ever. But it's not a good idea to convince him you are a threat.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace expresses the philosophy that if anyone is bad enough that fighting them is unavoidable she shouldn't hold back. This can be seen in her videogame play-style across genres from fighting games to platformers.
  • The titular Girl Genius Agatha Heterodyne may take more after her father and uncle in regards to having Chronic Hero Syndrome, but she is still a Spark (and a top-tier one at that), with all the megalomaniacal impulse entailed when in The Madness Place. She is also of a highborn house known for leading a historically troublesome rogue state that is notorious for brutality and savagery. A hero she may be, her wrath can easily become like the Old Heterodynes should one incur it.
    • Bill and Barry Heterodyne, Agatha's father and uncle, were cut from much the same cloth. While they were known as paragons of Good, who would always try to negotiate, compromise and make peace, they had full access to the Heterodyne family's resources (as well as their own highly developed skills) and weren't shy about breaking out death rays and mechanical murder machines if they deemed it necessary.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Double Homework will fight, both verbally and physically, for the people he cares about.
  • In Melody, this is demonstrated in the protagonist's interactions with with other characters involving Melody. In general, the best decision when Melody gets unwanted attention is for the protagonist to get in the other guy’s face, if not hit him. Also, it’s generally better to choose telling Melody a hard truth than a white lie.
  • Phoenix Wright in the Ace Attorney series is, aside from his Deadpan Snarker moments, is a very friendly Nice Guy and will fight for you tooth and nail in court if he believes you're innocent. However, when he finds the true culprit behind the crime, Phoenix will ruthlessly tear that person apart with logic and evidence in such a way that they'll have a Villainous Breakdown when they can't hide their crime any longer. Likewise, Phoenix's partner, Apollo Justice, is also an easy-going guy (if a bit easy to rile up), but he'll be on you like a hawk if he sees that you're not as innocent as you claim. He gets quite intense in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice where he was willing to risk his own life while guards had guns pointed at him in order to bring down justice against Ga'ran, the Queen of Khura'in when he's able to correctly deduce that the person is the true murderer of the victim and the murderer of Apollo's biological father.


Video Example(s):


Trunks Isn't THAT Soft-Hearted

When Vegeta stands in his way of stopping Cell, Trunks declares he'll fight him if has to. Vegeta believes that Trunks doesn't have the guts to attack his own father and dares him to fire, and ends up being shocked when Trunks actually goes through with it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / YouWouldntShootMe

Media sources: