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Good Is Old-Fashioned

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"A speech on willpower in this day and age? I did not know people still believed in such silly notions."
Rozalin, Disgaea 2

The villain wants to sneer at The Hero. So what does he do? He calls him, and his stern moral code, old-fashioned. Or out-of-date, obsolete, quaint, antiquated, etc. Expect the phrase "this day and age" to come up. The Anti-Hero may use the Stock Phrase, as well, as may indeed, any character whose moral code is somewhat laxer than The Hero's. But the most characteristic users are the Übermensch, Straw Nihilist, and the '90s Anti-Hero.

A Knight in Sour Armor or other characters wearing Jade-Colored Glasses, if only somewhat cynical, may regard it as amusing for its impracticality, tinged with admiration for its honor. The worse a character is, the more likely the attitude will be contempt.

They may even explicitly describe the code of honor and the character who holds it as more suitable for a previous time. If the opportunity ever arises for contrast, it may be clear that the ideals always were ideals, though, in idealistic stories, it actually may have been better in the past.

The villain will seldom explicitly characterize himself in contrast as evil. "Practical," "pragmatic" and "realistic" are more likely — as are "up-to-date" or "way of the future" or other terms indicating that their side is in fashion. Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions may be invoked.

Occasionally, a character may ironically say that he is not up-to-date and as current as the villain, so the villain will just have to live with his reactions. Sometimes, more seriously, The Hero responds that moral considerations do not change with times and that his code is perennial.

Invariably a way of rousing sympathy for the character by showing him being abused.

Note that it applies only to characters whose goodness, rather than any other trait, is called old-fashioned. But it can double up with the character actually being old-fashioned in some manner, or defending himself as living according to the Good Old Ways.

Logically, this could also be phrased as bad guys are up-to-date, in fashion, current, etc., and sometimes it is (as in the New Era Speech), but normally not, because calling good old-fashioned presents evil as the norm and good the divergence. It may go hand-in-hand with declaring yourself Above Good and Evil.

Those Wacky Nazis often have a tendency to express sentiments of this fashion; whilst they may not actually identify themselves as evil, they will often sneer to their more democratic foes that their beliefs are 'outdated', and that the pure Aryan way is the inevitable way of the future. Given what the judgment of history ended up being against the Nazis and their followers, a Nazi who makes this assertion will usually be played for the historical irony, especially if they're making it any time pre-1945. Similarly, villains associated with the Soviet Union, or Communism in general, are likewise likely to be treated like this, with lines about the obsolescence of freedom and democracy and the inevitability of Communist world revolution.

A villain who thinks their morality is the Good Old Ways and the hero’s is a modern perversion is usually an Evil Reactionary.

Contrast Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!, which often carries the same implications but focuses on cynicism in the context of individual people, whereas this trope examines how society has become more cynical over time. See also Cool People Rebel Against Authority, Good Is Not Dumb, and the Appeal to Novelty Fallacy; of which this trope is an example of the latter.

Not to be confused with Older Is Better, the notion that Old-Fashioned is Good.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: In a strange example, it's pointed out that most "traditional" ayakashi (kinds that have been around of hundreds of years and are mostly based on existing Yōkai folklore) are peaceful or can be handled non-violently, whereas the specifically modern ones are all variants of ikon—bizarre, ravenous monstrosities. This may be because most of the "bad" traditional ones were exterminated and not replaced, skewing the results of the survivors; a later arc even has a series of sealed away traditional ayakashi released as antagonists. Still, it seems urbanization has resulted in a higher share of new ayakashi being violent.
  • Bleach: Souken Ishida was a gentle man who didn't believe in hating or teaching people to hate. He worked hard to try and make the shinigami understand that everyone would benefit if the quincies and shinigami could find a way to work together, but died without ever being able to achieve that dream. The Vandenreich has commented that Souken was an old-fashioned traditionalist who rejected the modernization of the quincies. Souken's descendents are the only quincies who have so far been revealed to have been willing to work with shinigami or even made allies or friends of shinigami.
  • Embodied in Kondou in Hakuouki who is the most idealistic out of The Shinsengumi but also the slowest to understand that it is the end of the Japanese Warrior and Westernization is becoming prevalent in Japan. It's telling that when the rest of the captains cut their hair and don Western-style clothing to adapt to the times, Kondou is the only one dressing in the traditional style he always wore.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Somewhat inverted with Satoru Gojo, who despises the conservative higher-ups that lead Jujutsu society due to their traditions and regulations that don't really help the people who need help the most and leave them too stuck in their ways to properly handle Outside Context Problems. He's proven entirely right in his assessment when, following the Shibuya Incident, the higher-ups focus more on pretending that they're in control than in doing something to actually fix the situation, while Gojo's own sympathizers are vastly more effective once they start taking action.
    Gojo: The wave of power you guys have been trying to hold back with your pointless status and traditions has grown bigger than you can handle and is now descending upon us. You won't be able to measure the coming age with the classification of "Special Grade".
  • The titular character of Rurouni Kenshin speaks with a keigo, and has his principles questioned repeatedly by other characters.
  • This is the main point of contention between Kotetsu and Barnaby in Tiger & Bunny — Kotetsu is an old-fashioned idealist, while Barnaby is a new-age Punch-Clock Hero.
    Lunatic considers both types of heroism outdated and opts for a Vigilante Execution approach, killing criminals mercilessly instead of apprehending them for points.
  • Even kids tell poor Trigun's Vash that his code is stupid and old-fashioned, because the planet Gunsmoke is a Crapsack World where old Earth morals don't apply. Vash soldiers on regardless.
  • Inverted in The World God Only Knows where the traditional hierarchy of Hell was overthrown and replaced by the Noble Demon population.

    Comic Books 
  • In Ultimate Marvel, Ultimate Cap, who like all characters in that universe is somewhat less good) is disturbed by the incestuous relationship between Ultimate Quicksilver and Ultimate Scarlet Witch. Ultimate Wasp berates him for having "20th Century morals", because Brother–Sister Incest is so modern and awesome, apparently. Not all the Ultimates felt that way, though- Hawkeye called the relationship sick.
  • Batman
    • In #650, part of Jason Todd's Motive Rant:
      Jason: I don't know what clouds your judgment worse. Your guilt or your antiquated sense of morality.
    • There's an older example from Azrael during Batman: Knightfall.
      Robin: The old Batman would never descend to their level!
      Azrael: The old Batman was created for older times. There's no place for kid gloves now. Evil has lost its patience. Obeying rules and codes the other side has trashed is stupid.
  • Superman gets this a few times by anti-heroes; needless to say he proves them wrong.
  • Tom Strong has an issue with a glimpse into the future where he and his family fight a Nazi (the son of a female Nazi supersoldier who had impregnated herself with a sperm sample taken from Tom while he was briefly captured during WWII) who uses this trope to attack the Strong family's idealism. Tom shoots back with a Shut Up, Hannibal! and makes the case that there have been tyrants and despots since the dawn of history, and that those ideologies are the ones that are obsolete and outdated.
  • This was often given as the premise for the many "proactive" superhero teams that debuted in the Dark Age, and the '90s Anti-Hero in general — something along the lines of "In these difficult times, we can no longer afford to just wait and react!": X-Force, Force Works, Extreme Justice, and the ultimate expression of the theme, The Authority.
    • Parodied in JLA (1997), when Superman tells such a group (the Ultramarines) that "these 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and time travel".
  • In Joe Casey's Gødland, Basil Cronus declares he's not like Archer: "falling into some ridiculously antiquated paradigm with that glowing do-gooder."

    Films — Animated 
  • In Robots, Ratchet calls his predecessor Bigweld a "relic" in a board of directors' meeting for caring about more than making money.
  • The Incredibles: After the Incredibles defeat the Omnidroid and save their city, we get this exchange from two onlookers:
    Onlooker #1: You see that? That's the way to do it. That's old school!
    Onlooker #2: Yeah. No school like the old school.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in the Cold Opening.
  • A New Hope, Han scoffs at Obi-Wan's coaching of Luke in Jedi weaponry and ethos as impractical and antiquated. As it turns out, it's not all that impractical.
  • In Time Bandits, the Supreme Being is an old British gentleman in a conservative gray suit. Evil, on the other hand, is a biomechanical man in an industrialized fortress who wants to reimagine the world around technology.
    If I were creating the world, I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, Day One!
  • Time After Time: Jack the Ripper laughs at the hero's nobility and says: "You're so Victorian!"
  • The Die Hard films frame John McClane as a very old-fashioned hero, a modern-day version of the cowboy gunslingers from the Westerns he enjoys. The films like to pit him against more "modern" villains as a contrast to him, most notably the first film's Hans Gruber (a European Gentleman Thief) and the fourth film's Thomas Gabriel (a cyberterrorist). Gabriel even mocks McClane by calling him an analogue timepiece in the digital age. This episode of Really That Good covering the first film goes into detail on this, describing McClane as an idealized, Reagan-era paragon of old-fashioned heroism who the film frames as standing athwart the cultural and economic changes of The '80s, from the rise of Japanese corporate power to the debauched lifestyles of the yuppie employees at Nakatomi Plaza.
  • In Dragonheart, villain characters frequently sneer that Bowen's moral code — the code of chivalry — is old-fashioned and irrelevant.
  • This is both invoked and discussed in The Avengers (2012), mostly regarding Captain America. The conclusion is that old-fashioned heroism is exactly what people need during Earth's Darkest Hour.
  • This theme is revisited in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is basically a whole film spent unpacking and exploring the conflict between what Steve stands for and whether his values are tenable in the present day. Ultimately, the film comes down on a "Mostly, yes, they are." side.
  • James Bond:
    • Goldeneye: The Big Bad is a Rogue Agent who mocks 007 for being "Her Majesty's loyal terrier," his status as The Casanova, and adhering to old-fashioned espionage tactics. Of course, Bond makes a cutting remark of his own, stating that "mad little" Alec Trevelyan himself is stuck in the past, as part of his grudge against England involves settling an old score that caused his parents to kill themselves of the shame of surviving the Soviet dictator Stalin's death squads at the end of WWII.
    • Spectre: C/Max Denbigh claims that the world is better off with the "Nine Eyes" surveillance project, thinking that an Attack Drone can do a better job than a field agent. However, M holds up the importance of spies as they're capable of autonomous decisions, especially ethical ones, going so far to ask C if he ever held a gun. Spectre later does prove that even in a digitized era, an old-fashioned spy is still necessary to prevent critical errors.

  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Armour of Contempt, an officer tells Rawne that Gaunt will get him killed over a futile point of honor, and that the Warmaster is amused by Gaunt's old-fashioned sense of honor.
    Van Voytz: Your personal code of honour is unusually robust. I was going to say 'I hope it doesn't get you killed.' But, you know, it assuredly will. Eventually, I mean.
    Gaunt: I always supposed that was the point, sir.
  • The Gunslinger in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series seems to get this a lot.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, Chanda reveals himself as The Mole, and the governor asks why. He cites this trope and hands them over to their enemies. And is Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
    You are the past. Weak, pathetic, clinging to your outdated loyalty to a withered corpse on a planet you have never even seen.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Magnus the Red is determined to study the warp and gain power, because
    Notions of good and evil fell by the wayside next to such power as dwelled in the warp, for they were the antiquated concepts of a religious society, long cast aside.
    • He's now the slave of the god Tzeentch with most of his army reduced to mindless shells of their former self because of said warp powers and the mistakes of his second-in-command.
    • In James Swallow's The Flight of the Eisenstein, Garro has a house carl as his equerry; his fellow Death Guard Space Marines sneer at maintaining a tradition that no longer makes sense; it smacks of sentiment. Later, one, as a reanimated and rotting corpse, jeers at Garro and describes himself as a "harbinger of the future".
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, Inquisitor Stele tells the Blood Angels before him that there will be resistance to his plans, because of those who cling to "ancient, decrepit dogma."
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman's appeal to Gandalf:
    A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you. Before us. We may join with that Power.
    • In Two Towers, downplayed; when Eomer asks how to judge in these days, Aragorn urges — as he has ever judged.
  • In Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines, the Engineers, about to fight with the Historians, sneer at them because the Engineers represent the future. The Historians win.
  • In Madeleine L'Engle's Many Waters, the nephilim and their followers have this attitude, in contrast to their "brothers", the seraphim.
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, the Ancient League is five days old but dedicated to ancient traditions.
  • In the Star Trek Novel 'Verse, Emperor Kahless and his traditionalist philosophies get this from other Klingons, on occasion. But with the Klingon Empire reconfiguring itself in light of Martok’s reforms, the tide is turning. In the Star Trek: Voyager Relaunch, Kahless tells Smug Snake Kopek that he is going to become obsolete:
    "You will fall, Kopek, because you live only to hold on to your power and to accumulate more. Martok works daily to restore the empire to the path of honour, and there is no place for you on that path. You will learn the true way, or you will reap the seeds of self-destruction you have so carefully sown”.
  • Simultaneously played straight and subverted in The Dresden Files in the form of Michael Carpenter. As a literal man of God, he gets on Harry's case for having sex with Susan while not marrying her. However, while his moral code is somewhat old fashioned, he plays his part as God's Knight in Shining Armor by having said armor being lined with Kevlar.
    Michael: My faith protects me. My Kevlar helps.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet the 100 year old human Popsicle Captain Geary follows principles that are from the pre-war era. So are some of his phrasings. In fact, his principles actually match official policy. It's just that fleet officers no longer care about official policy.
  • Played with, if probably unintentionally, by Victoria. The protagonists are definitely old-fashioned, fighting to reinstate the culture, technology and aesthetic of the rural 1930s, while rejecting all the ideological underpinnings of the Enlightenment. How good they are is... up for some debate.
  • Warrior Cats: In The First Battle, Clear Sky tells Alder that times are changing, and that it means they must change too: that Alder has to outgrow the instinct to fight honorably.
  • Not only is this trope never played straight in Greg Egan's stories, it is always inverted, often with gratuitous scenes of human cruelty justified by conservatism or religion in order to contrast its tyranny with the benefits of enlightened scientific freethought. But his novella "Oracle" goes so far as to have a character who believes this trope, and whose Wrong Genre Savviness is played for Dramatic Irony: Jack Hamilton is an old-fashioned Cambridge don and Christian apologist who longs for the days of natural theology, but clearly has no understanding of why the rest of academia has moved on. Even though his apologetics arguments have been refuted by fellow Christians, who care about intellectual honesty more than they care about sticking it to the materialists, he still insists that they are correct, and not only that, but that skeptics cannot see this because they are so biased that they cannot possibly understand why his arguments are self-evidently correct. So he interprets his absence from the intellectual scene not as evidence that he is a bit of a crank, but instead that the scientific establishment is uncritically adopting philosophical naturalism because it is fashionable, and that it is only a matter of time before the fickle winds of trendiness make them go for full-on devil-worship. Naturally, he is portrayed as a complete buffoon, and jumps to the conclusion that Robert Stoney is a Satanist after seeing his advanced technology and that he was able to disarm an attacker without Hamilton noticing. His fondness for medieval philosophy means that Stoney is genuinely shocked when he actually makes a decent argument based on then-modern understanding of science and mathematics in their televised debate. In an alternate universe, he eventually comes around and realizes how foolish he is being, but that doesn't happen in the "main" timeline.
  • In the Victorian novel The Sorrows of Satan, the most fashionable characters are all atheists who believe in free love, and who express the view that God and morality are hopelessly outdated. This makes them much more susceptible to Satan's temptations.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Dalinar Kholin, Highprince and uncle to the King, is extremely unpopular among the nobility for his inflexible adherence to the ancient Codes of War and their teachings about honor, virtue, and just rulership. It puts him at extreme odds with the rest of his nation's nobility, who have largely become Glory Seeker Blood Knights, and see Dalinar as a self-righteous fossil at best, and a senile Shell-Shocked Veteran at worst. In particular is Dalinar's Evil Former Friend Sadeas, whose overwhelming military sucess is largely based on ruthless use of slave labor to speed up his army's advances, which has won him no small amount of glory and influence. Much of the first few books consists of the conflict between these two men for the future of their nation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Shane of The Walking Dead (2010) runs on this concept, insisting that the heroes cannot survive the apocalypse while holding onto virtue. Dale adamantly opposes this belief.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): "The Obsolete Man". The title man, Romney Wordsworth, is prosecuted for being an (illegal) librarian and (illegally) believing in God, which is deemed obsolete and thus wrong. He on the other hand upholds them to the point of death (everyone "obsolete" is killed). Wordsworth's a courageous martyr who stands up against this tyranny even if it means his life.
  • Columbo is mocked by one of his suspects (who is a sort of Hugh Hefner character) for his middle-class morality at length.
  • In Spooks, a group of conspirators plotting the overthrow of the British government sneer at the way the protagonists "still cling to this outdated notion of democracy."
  • In the Highlander episode "Chivalry," Adam takes issue with Duncan's refusal to kill Kristen, an immortal who was once Duncan's lover. "You live and die by a code of honor that was trendy when you were a kid," Adam says. Of course, Adam is even more old-fashioned in his own way, being 2000 years old.
    Kirsten: Who the hell are you?
    Adam: A man who was born long before the age of chivalry.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exhumans in Eclipse Phase believe the Fall proved morality didn't work as a concept, and as such consider themselves Above Good and Evil and dismiss anyone who disagrees with this. Firewall believes the exhumans' habits of doing horrible things means they are not above good and evil and are simply dangerous, power-crazed jerks.

    Video Games 
  • The Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/stay night and the Heaven's Feel route of same are all about this trope.
  • In Shu's story mode for Warriors Orochi 2, this is Masamune Date's battle taunt when he shows up.
    • Cao Cao in Dynasty Warriors 6 also considers those who support the Han to be out of touch with the times.
  • An early villain in Knights of the Old Republic is Brejik of the Black Vulkars, a very hostile gang that extorts and takes slaves. Brejik split away from the less criminal, more supportive Hidden Beks gang and made an ongoing effort to destroy it. The player character can choose a side; Brejik captured someone you need for the plot and put her up as the prize for winning a swoop race, and being sponsored by one of these gangs is the only way to compete in it. Win, though, and Brejik rants about how he doesn't have to follow up on old rules like handing over prizes. He is the wave of the future! Naturally, you kill him.
  • Both Ryo Sakazaki and Goro Daimon of The King of Fighters. They're even seen bemoaning this trope in their XIII pre-fight talks, as Ryo complains that no one shares his penchant for training in the mountains and Goro says he has the same problem.
    • Kim Kaphwan, too. He has a very idealised and pushy idea of what good and lawful mean, and by the time XIII rolls in several people either call him out or mock him.
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us and its sequel Injustice 2, Superman ironically adheres to this after breaking the no-kill rule. Or rather, an alternate version of Superman who established a tyrannical dictatorship over Earth after being tricked by The Joker into killing his wife Lois Lane and nuking Metropolis, which caused Injustice-verse Superman to kill the Monster Clown in retaliation. Injustice-verse Superman and his Regime loyalists (Injustice-verse Black Adam, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Robin) see traditional superheroics and the so-called "moral code" Batman and his allies stick to as outdated, as it enables villains like the Joker and Gorilla Grodd to break out of Cardboard Prisons easily and menace society with impunity. In the Regime's view, Batman and his allies are giving the villains carte blanche to rob and terrorize others. When the main universe Superman is brought into the Injustice-verse near the end of Injustice: Gods Among Us, he chides his counterpart for breaking the Thou Shalt Not Kill rule, only to be mocked by Injustice-verse Superman for adhering to outdated values. Likewise in the sequel, many condemn Injustice-verse Superman for breaking the no-kill rule, but he can retort back with a Shut Up, Kirk! speech or an Armor-Piercing Question.
  • Implied throughout the Jak and Daxter games: multiple times, important figures take note of Jak's heroic attitude carried over from the first game that contrasts with the Crapsack World he finds himself in for the sequels. Praxis is critical of it and says all the heroes died long ago, while Damas is more wistful and says that the world is not yet out of heroes.

    Western Animation 
  • In the video series Adventures in Odyssey, "Baby Daze", the Big Bad calls Eugene's morals "outdated."
  • Hank on King of the Hill firmly believes this and the show generally abides. In any given episode, if a character is introduced who is notably hip and modern or who derides Hank for being old-fashioned, that person will turn out to be a jerk and/or need Hank to save them with old-fashioned sensibility by the end.

    Real Life 
  • Since the days of ancient Greece, debates about the morality and practicality of democracy versus tyranny have often been framed in these terms. Plato's The Republic describes an ideal government ruled by "philosopher-kings" who would rule in the people's best interests without regard for themselves, treating contemporary democracy as outdated and inferior. "Sed quid custodiaret ipsos custodes?" (But who shall oversee the overseers?) These debates, in which democracy was portrayed as aimless, inefficient mob rule and enlightened tyranny as more efficient and forward-thinking, were repeated among intellectuals at the turn of the 20th century, with Friedrich Nietzsche being the Trope Maker. Many average people believed it too, feeling that a strong nationalistic leader who would put the good of the people first was preferable to elected bodies that would squabble at best and line their own pockets at worst. Fascist parties came to power in Italy, Germany, and beyond by arguing that things like liberal democracy and individual rights were outdated concepts and that only through totalitarian dictatorship could the "greater good" of the nation as a whole be tended to. One of Benito Mussolini's favorite words was, in fact, "pragmatic". Communist tracts of the time also made use of this trope, though they tended to portray themselves as 'true' democrats and the liberal democracies of the West as being undemocratic because they didn't permit unlimited power to the majority. A favorite of Communist propagandists of the 1930s in the USA was that the Constitution was outdated, obsolete, and a 'barrier to democracy'. It took World War II to demolish these perspectives (among the mainstream at least and for communism it took much longer than that).
  • Winston Churchill was known to be old-fashioned for his time, being culturally much more at home in the Victorian era of his youth. His speeches were full of historical references, whether to English history or to the classical era, and he had a tendency to go on about Wooden Ships and Iron Men or the Middle Ages, always evoking a kind of Hollywood History to inspire the British people. He remained a believer in The British Empire well past the point that it was fashionable. All that being said, his historical imagination and respect for tradition helped him see that the kind of modernity the Nazis advocated would lead to a pretty horrifying future.
  • Oda Nobunaga lived with this belief, in a way. In a nation where old traditions and honor were revered, Nobunaga was a brazen young man that believed that people needed to constantly change and move on from the past. And so he did things that a lot of traditionalists wouldn't do, including disrespecting Buddhism, collaborating with foreigners, promoting meritocracy and using a lot of out-of-the-box thinking to win his battles (as exemplified in Nagashino where his musket tactics trounced the mighty Takeda cavalry). It also made him a terrifyingly powerful warlord who was very close to uniting the whole Japan, had it not been one of his men betraying him, and his whole middle finger to tradition made him very ripe to be given Historical Villain Upgrade by writers. In other words, to Oda Nobunaga, 'good' values like 'honor and tradition' were old-fashioned and to survive, people needed to embrace change.