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Heroic Neutral

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You know, some days...maybe you just can't save the whole world. Some days you're better off just getting your own house in order.
Matt, Heroes

A Heroic Neutral character has the qualities of a protagonist, but no motivation to enter the plot. The defining characteristic of the Heroic Neutral is simple: if you don't mess with them, they won't mess with you.

Certainly, Alice will get angry if you mess with her close family and any Love Interests she might have. Occasionally, she may even take an interest in what is happening in her own neighborhood. But intervening beyond that is just "meddling".

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Alice is principled and skilled, and she'd make a great hero. But all she wants is to live in peace. Out there, the Forces of Good and Evil may be fighting to the death, but she doesn't care. She'll turn down Heroes "R" Us and refuse the call as easily as she'll turn down Villains "R" Us, and turn them both down for the same reason: she doesn't want to get involved in the conflict.

It is the job of the plot to make Alice care. Heroic Neutral types Default to Good not so much because of inherent valour as because Evil is more likely to earn their ire: kidnap their loved ones, threaten their home village, etc. And Alice will do whatever it takes to return things to the way they were. If Evil starts it, she will finish it. And then she'll go right back home until some idiot tries to mess with her again.

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The biggest irony is that Evil can't seem to get it into its head that Alice would not be a problem for them if they just stopped bothering her. If they employed a little Pragmatic Villainy about the whole thing, they would realize that Alice would be out of their hair if they just let her go home and have her own way. But Evil being what it is, the bad guys cannot simply overlook someone who has more than enough power to kick their asses. If Alice is not recruited or killed, they think, surely she'll bring all of their plans to ruin. So they poke the metaphorical beehive, thus causing the very defeat they were trying to prevent, because now Alice is motivated to destroy them.

It can be justified if Alice has already spent most of her life fighting the forces of evil and now feels she's earned the right to sit this one out. From her perspective, it's time for younger heroes to take up the slack. In this case, she may break neutrality only to provide indirect assistance: handing over the Free Sample Plot Coupon, giving them her MacGuffin, serving as Mr. Exposition, etc. The protagonists will still have to do the dirty work, but Alice at least got them started.

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Frequently a Retired Badass. Compare Cowardly Lion.

See Badass Bystander, I Just Want to Be Normal, True Neutral (the most fitting Character Alignment for such characters to begin with), Neutral Good (if they decide to plunge further into heroics), Awakening the Sleeping Giant, and Villains Act, Heroes React. Might carry out a Passive Rescue.

Karmic Tricksters are often Heroic Neutral. May also be a Knight in Sour Armor. If this happens not just once or twice but continually, chances are they're a Weirdness Magnet. See Neutral No Longer for when they finally lose the neutrality.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Guts in Berserk develops into this over time. As messed up as he is, Guts truly cares about his True Companions and ends up inspiring other people to lead their lives with more optimistic outlook.
  • Bleach: Ryuuken Ishida is a Quincy of exceptional power who utterly refuses to use his power and wants his clan to be declared extinct with his (deceased) father's generation. He refuses to have anything to do with either Quincies or Shinigami, and won't even hunt Hollows. When he restores his son's self-destroyed power, it's the very first time that the 15-year old Uryuu has ever seen Ryuuken use his power. Why Ryuuken's teenage Wide-Eyed Idealism transformed into Jade-Coloured Glasses is all part of his only partially explained Mysterious Past. The final arc that directly relates to said Mysterious Past; however, seems to be pushing him to being Neutral No Longer.
  • Played with in A Certain Magical Index with both of the main protagonists.
    • You'd never know it to look at him now, but Accelerator used to be like this before the story started. Long before he joined the Level 6 Esper project, Accelerator was a frequent target of assassinations and unscrupulous researchers because of his tremendous psychic powers and was forced to kill to protect himself. This simple desire to be left the hell alone eventually led him to join the Level 6 experiment, under the reasoning that since his powers won't go away the only way the get people to leave him be is to become so powerful that the idea of fighting him is an absurdity. After Touma beats the snot out of him, he becomes a slightly more traditional example, being mainly concerned with Last Order and a small group of his closest associates.
    • The aforementioned Touma thinks of himself like this, as he never goes seeking trouble but trouble always finds its way to him, and he'll fight tooth and nail to protect those he calls his friends. However, it's also pointed out that multiple times he's gone out his way to help total strangers or even the very villains who've been targeting him, to lengths far beyond what a normal Heroic Neutral will. His sense of righteousness has even inspired villains to stand by his side, and many consider him an Ideal Hero with Heroic Self-Deprecation.
  • The main character of Darker Than Black only does his job because his superiors would have him hunted down and killed if he tried anything else. By the end of the series, it's pretty clear he'd much rather live as his Secret Identity than as the badass assassin he is. It takes the Syndicate turning on him anyway and the discovery that they're plotting genocide to get him to act on his own.
  • Dragon Ball Super: During the Universe Survival Saga, Android 17 passes up Goku's invite to represent Universe 7 in the Tournament of Power because he doesn't want to abandon his post at the nature reserve, even after Goku informs him that their entire universe will be destroyed if they lose. 17 goes on to say that if their universe is to be destroyed and everyone is to be erased, then "so be it," and wishes Goku luck.
  • This is a major part of Toru's philosophy in Iris Zero. Due to being an Un-Sorcerer, he was bullied when he was younger and now prefers to maintain "minimal exposure". Were it not for his Chronic Hero Syndrome, it might actually work; the combination of the two has made him quite the budding Chessmaster out of necessity.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Although Kenichi has some vague ideals about helping the helpless, he really would just like to get closer to Miu, and maybe complete his training. It's just that the bad guys keep trying to beat him up (usually because he was somehow able to beat up the last batch of bad guys who threatened him or his friends).
  • Kino, of Kino's Journey, is the episodic version. Kino doesn't care about fairness, or innocence, or revenge, or war, or any of that. The only rule: never to stay in one land for more than three days. The plot and various Bus Full of Innocents then work to provide reasons to get Kino's attention anyway. Averted in some episodes where the plot fails and Offscreen Inertia or Inferred Holocaust get involved.
  • Jack Rakan in Negima! Magister Negi Magi. You can either pay him a huge amount of money or you can make friends with him (in which case he'll just charge you credit) if you want his help. Otherwise, he just doesn't care. Or so he acts. If it is an act or not is debatable.
  • Painfully deconstructed in Neon Genesis Evangelion. The protagonist, Shinji Ikari, has no desire to pilot a cybernetic mecha monstrosity and save the world from eldritch horrors. He's a deeply depressed kid who drifts through life on autopilot, doing whatever people tell him to so they'll stop bothering him. This goes about as well as you would expect.
  • One Piece: The Straw Hats, despite being the protagonists, ultimately do many of their heroic exploits as a result of someone harming one of their own or someone they consider an ally. Otherwise, they wouldn't have fought at least half the antagonists in the entire series.
    • To a lesser extent, this also involves anyone who has the same goals that they do. Luffy stood opposed to Hody Jones not because Hody wanted to kill all humans, or because of the Fantastic Racism involved, or because Hody was going to turn Fishman Island into a fascist dictatorship. Luffy stood opposed to Hody Jones because they both wanted to be King of the Pirates. Luffy didn't care about the fact that beating the tar out of Hody was also a heroic act in the slightest; he just wanted to make sure nobody but him was going to be King of the Pirates, and that was it.
    • Luffy was perfectly content to let Bellamy throw food on him, punch him, insult him, and generally humiliate him because Luffy had nothing to gain by beating up Bellamy. But once Bellamy robbed Cricket of his gold, Luffy stopped playing around and took out Bellamy with one punch.
    • Early in the story, Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, and Usopp attacked the fishmen who had taken over Nami's old village. This included Arlong, Nami's personal nemesis who had basically condemned her to wage slavery. Meanwhile, the village is suffering under Arlong's iron fist, and there's the implication that he's going to find loopholes to keep his abuse of the town going for ages. The Straw Hats care only about the former and nothing about the latter. It's only when Nami finally can't take it anymore and asks Luffy for help that he becomes Neutral No Longer.
    • The Straw Hats eventually burn a flag of the World Government, symbolically declaring the government to be their enemy. They did this as a show of solidarity for Nico Robin, proving that she had a place among them. Spandam is incredulous, saying that the Straw Hats can't challenge the entire world and expect to win for the sake of one person. The Straw Hats tell Spandam to bring it on, beat the stuffing out of the brutal CP9 agents, and take Robin with them. Throughout the entire affair, the Straw Hats are constantly told that opposing the World Government is going to bring hell down on them. This usually gets a fist to the face as a response.
  • Seijuuro Hiko from Rurouni Kenshin would love nothing more than just be a potter and rest after all the fights he has been in his life. But once his "stupid pupil" Kenshin really needs his help, he'll call him an idiot... and then go give him and his True Companions a hand.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; Simon is initially a Heroic Neutral character. Good at heart and caring of others, he isn't particularly close to many individuals because most don't see past his seemingly unimpressive exterior and so don't want much to do with him. Kamina inspires him to fight and Simon's kind nature combined with his newly awakened willpower lets him lead everyone to victory.
  • Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest: Akira Inugami. Doom Magnetism and speciesist attitude aside, the only time he intervenes in a situation is on the behalf of people he likes, which amounts to, AT MOST, five people.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Genkai is largely this or at least claims to be. Known throughout the Demon World as the more or less their boogeyman despite only being human, Genkai is implied to have an extensive body count and known as a killer of demons. In her fight against Shishiwakamaru during the Dark Tournament, he loudly claims her to be some hero of justice and when she thoroughly beat his ass to the floor she informs him that her techniques were meant as a means to an end and a way for her to get what she wanted and unfortunately a large number of the people that stood in her way happened to be Demons. This is also largely hinted at in her introduction to the series when during her tournament she claims that she'll teach her techniques to whoever happens to win regardless of their moral standings. As she puts it "[she's] a Psychic not a Saint".
  • The on-screen side of good in the Tournament Arc Zoids: New Century Zero, especially Bit Cloud. We're told that there are people policing Zoid Battles and trying to shut down the Backdraft Organization, but we don't see them until very late in the series. It's only because Backdraft steals or attempts to steal their robots that the Blitz team gets involved, and it's not like the Blitz team are out saving lives or trying to help people in episodes Backdraft doesn't appear.

    Comic Books 
  • The most iconic incarnation of the Incredible Hulk is the simple-minded green version; although he's quick to anger, left to his own devices both he and Banner just seek isolation, possibly making friends along the way. There's a reason "HULK JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE!" is one of the character's catchphrases. But if anything happens to either of their friends, the Hulk really gets angry, and whoever is at fault will get the worst of the rampage.
  • On that note, everyone in the initial lineup of The Defenders. Apart from Dr. Strange, you had the Hulk (mentioned above); the Submariner, who was more concerned with affairs in his home country than anything beyond it; and the Silver Surfer, who just wants to go home. Each was massively powerful, mostly a loner, and a bit of a misanthrope, but would spring into action if the threat was big enough.
  • X-Men:
    • The X-Men are quickly becoming this to the rest of the Marvel Universe, most noticeably during the events of the Civil War. Of course, a community on the verge of extinction isn't likely to get very proactive about concerns outside their own community. However, the team is largely still composed of decent people, so if things really hit the fan, they'll pitch in regardless.
    • The reason given by Emma Frost for the X-Men not joining the Civil War is that the non-mutant teams themselves generally don't get involved with the mutant problems (either the rampant racism, actual government oppression or the then-current decimation), which would later be acknowledged by Captain America at the end of the Avengers vs. X-Men event.
  • Every Sin City protagonist with the exception of Hartigan is a loner who would rather be left alone. Unfortunately, they always find themselves entangled in a murder mystery or have to help a friend in need.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The title character's entire origin story is about this. All he wanted to do with his newfound powers was to have fun and make some money. The murder of Uncle Ben was his Neutral No Longer moment.
    • In the mini-series Renew Your Vows, an alternate timeline where Peter Parker remained married and fathered a daughter with Mary Jane, he segues back into this when the choice is forced on him to save his family from Venom or help the Avengers stop a new villain named Regent. He chooses the former, and the Avengers are almost wiped out by Regent. Regent takes control of the world and Peter tries to keep his and his family's heads down so that they aren't bothered by the villain; unsurprisingly, it doesn't stick.
  • Swamp Thing is usually content to hang out in his swamp with his fellow plants. He will, however, be pressed into heroic action if the villain's plans threaten ecological stability, or happen to harm a human friend of his. At this point, said villain will be totally screwed.

    Fan Works 
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction Abraxas (Hrodvitnon):
  • Marinette Dupain-Cheng's Spite Playlist has Marinette become this after transferring out of College Francoise Dupont. Having had her former friends turn on their 'Everyday Ladybug' for trying to warn them about a manipulative liar, she sees no reason to get involved again. Let them deal with Lila on their own. Lila eventually baits her into abandoning this position, leading to the liar's downfall.
  • Bleach fanfic A Protector's Pride makes Ichigo a textbook case after dealing with the Big Bad of the first arc. Unfortunately it does not last, as separate machinations of three factions bring in the next crisis he is personally interested in resolving.
  • Valkron from Warriors of the World is hardly willing to help in the search for whatever is threatening the kingdom, not even when offered a reward, and even plans to go into hiding until it blows over. He only becomes Neutral No Longer when he realises his little ragtag party is the last chance the kingdom has left.
  • Many Harry Potter stories have Harry become this, usually around fifth or sixth year. Most of the time, while he'll offer to leave Voldemort alone if he leaves Harry and his friends/family alone, Voldemort tries to kill Harry anyway.
    Ginny: But [Voldemort] killed your parents.
    Harry: I killed him twice; once as a baby and once in second year. Pretty sure that makes us even.

    Film 
  • The movie Commando. John Matrix just wants to live alone with his daughter. He doesn't want to stop the villains, but he doesn't want to join them either. To "convince" him, the villains kidnap said daughter. Oh, he's convinced to do something, all right...
  • The titular Stranger from Sword of the Stranger. He's just a ronin, with no concerns beyond his next meal... he even sealed his sword so it wouldn't get him into trouble again. But of course, that wouldn't make for a very good movie. Cue the drama, Morality Pet, Worthy Opponent, and Implausible Fencing Powers!
  • Godzilla from Legendary's Monsterverse. He is a powerful force of nature, indifferent to humanity, and is content to simply rest on the ocean floor and leave humans in peace. However, time and again human action causes the balance of nature to be disrupted, and so Godzilla rises to the action to set things right, retreating to his undersea lair once his job is done.
  • Lone Wolf and Cub: Leave the guy and his kid ALONE, already! First 100 assassins sent, died messily. Second 100 assassins sent, died messily. You'd think this MIGHT give the villains a clue, but no, they decided to "compromise" by telling him they'd leave him alone if they just killed his son.
  • Cloud and Vincent become this (thanks to Flanderization) in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Since isolation is a Bad Thing, the plot seeks to use the imagery of mobile phones to make them reconnect with everyone else.
  • Rick Blaine from Casablanca, since he represents America at the beginning of World War II (see Real Life example below). His idealistic younger self fought alongside those resisting fascism, but the expansion of Axis authority and being suddenly abandoned by the love of his life made him cynical and apathetic. He doesn't take sides with the Vichy authorities, the Nazis, or the resistance until the plot of the film awakens the hero within. The German major, equipped with a full dossier on Rick, is smart enough to be aware of this that he doesn't attempt to convert Rick, just keep him neutral. It doesn't work.
  • Sergeant Gerry Boyle from The Guard is this till the drug-smuggling ring starts messing around in his town with his people.
  • The Ents in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, in keeping with their book counterparts as described below.
    Treebeard: We are on nobody's side because no one is on our side.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen really isn't interested in becoming a symbol or sparking a revolution. She just wants to keep her family safe and keep her head down.
  • The Dude from The Big Lebowski fits this. He only wants a new rug after his was ruined from a case of mistaken identity, then gets dragged into a hopelessly complicated kidnapping plot. The whole time, the Dude just wants his rug back and to be left alone by the various outside forces involved in the kidnapping plot, fitting the definition of the Classical Anti-Hero by being a lazy good-for-nothing who has achieved very little but is happy with very little.
  • Mori Tanaka from 3 Ninjas is offered a chance to make big money by his former student, the crime boss Snyder is he will train his henchmen. Mori refuses, but also makes no attempts to tell the authorities about the incident, even though the FBI officer investigating Snyder is Mori's own son-in-law. Then Snyder has Mori's grandchildren kidnapped, and Grandpa suits up to confront him.
  • Jason Bourne would love nothing more than to be left alone by the CIA and enjoy a peaceful life in which he doesn't have to kill anyone anymore. He only ever shows any interest in exposing their corruption when they are stupid enough to come after him while he is in hiding, either to kill him or frame him for their own misdeeds.
    Bourne: I swear to God, if I even feel somebody behind me, there is no measure to how fast and how hard I will bring this fight to your doorstep. I'm on my own side now.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword are an Ancient Order of Protectors that seeks only to keep people looking for the Holy Grail off the scent. They helped the Nazis capture Henry Jones when he got close, but when Indy tells them he just came looking for his father, they tell him where Henry is being held. Later they attempt to ambush the Nazi motorcade in the desert; unfortunately once the initial surprise wears off, the Germans' greater firepower quickly gives them the upper hand.

    Literature 
  • In The Affix, all Matt wants is to enjoy his well-earned long weekend. Instead a gem that breaks causality decides he should be its new keeper, causing a horde of crackpots and highly motivated artifact brokers to descend on him and his friends.
  • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! He just wants to have a peaceful retirement on a quiet out-of-the-way planet, but the Imperium seemingly needs him all the time, and his reputation makes them call on him all the more often, a reputation that only grows every time they do. When he's seemingly found his peace, the baddies always seem to come across the galaxy to find him. This is made worse by Cain's Heroic Self-Deprecation where he thinks of himself as a Dirty Coward and nothing else, leading Cain to wonder why he keeps agreeing to it.
  • The City and the Dungeon: The City has a strict non-intervention policy with the rest of the world, and a delver harming a surfacer under any circumstances is heavily penalized by the Law. This is because delvers are ridiculously overpowered compared to the rest of the world; a single violet could probably conquer the world by themselves, but even a blue can cripple the world's economy without too much trouble.
  • Isana in the Codex Alera series doesn't really give a damn about the country or the government. But if you mess with her family, she will crush you. However, her opportunities to be neutral are restricted more and more as the series goes on and Tavi gets himself involved in bigger and bigger conflicts and she starts having to consider political repercussions.
  • Discworld: Rincewind is not a hero. Rincewind is barely a wizard. Rincewind wants to be left alone and live a quiet life. Rincewind is a plot magnet.
  • Fighting Fantasy: In his heyday, the wizard Nicodemus fought bravely against the forces of evil and thwarted their plans many times. Eventually he became tired of the struggle, and retired to Port Blacksand, where almost no one bothered him. Nowadays, Nicodemus hates being bothered by adventurers, especially if they expect him to solve all their problems for them, although he will provide indirect assistance if the threat is serious enough.
  • Aziraphale and Crowley of Good Omens, an angel and demon respectively, have spent most of their thousands of years on earth as this. Neither are interested in communicating with their Heavenly/Hellish superiors, and they've come to a truce they refer to as the "Arrangement" where they balance the number of good and evil deeds they inspire and neither attacks the other. Both are reluctantly pushed into Neutral No Longer territory when they are given instructions to prepare for the upcoming apocalypse because neither wants the earth and humanity destroyed.
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss didn't mean to become the symbolic figurehead of a national rebellion...
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • The Ents. Almost aggressively neutral, their first and foremost concern is the safety of Fangorn Forest, and it's not until Saruman's orcs start pillaging their forest that they even consider intervening in the War of the Ring. Even when they do, it's limited to neutralizing Saruman.
    • The Eagles are another example: they make it clear to Gandalf in The Hobbit that although opposed to evil in general, they are seldom willing to cooperate with Men (as they feed on flocks of sheep tended by Men and Men have attacked them for it). This was also mentioned in the common objection to The Lord of the Rings by many viewers (why they didn't just get the Eagles to fly them in) — as Tolkien himself put it, they are not Middle-earth's taxi service. Which is one among other more practical reasons.
    • Beorn, in The Hobbit, is generally on the side of good, but he's also a habitual loner and strongly dislikes visitors, and seems to have a particularly low regard for dwarves. He will oppose the goblins and wargs if nothing else and was willing to come fight them at the Battle of the Five Armies, but most of the time he prefers to be left to mind his own business and for other people to mind their own problems and leave him alone.
  • Modesty Blaise: Modesty and Willie are already retired when the series begins, and have no particular urge to fight evil. They generally get involved only when they've been given a personal stake in the outcome, either because the villain comes after them directly or because someone's messed with one of their friends.
  • Lily Bard in Charlaine Harris' Shakespeare mysteries is just a cleaning woman, albeit one with a traumatic past and a black belt in karate, and would be happy to be left to that but friends, acquaintances and customers keep insisting on getting murdered around her.
  • The Postman's George Powhatan just wants to be left alone to run his farm and brew some good beer. In a mild twist on this trope, that would suit the villains just fine — if his settlement insists on its neutrality, it's in an ideal position to keep their opponents from linking up.
  • The Thrawn Trilogy: Talon Karrde doesn't much care for all this politicking; he just wants to run his shipping business/smuggling ring in peace. When The Empire keeps threatening his crews, breaking business deals, and eventually tries to turn the other members of his smugglers' coalition against him, he takes it kind of hard.
  • A defining characteristic of Mat Cauthon in The Wheel of Time; if you hate battles, nobles, and heroism, you're stuck with them. Eventually escalating to him being the prince of the biggest empire in the world... which they are all trying to fight off.
    • His childhood friend Perrin Aybara also fits into this, though he seems to be more at terms with being lord of his home valley in the latter parts of the series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Deadwood: Seth Bullock from is an interesting Inverted Trope. He's drawn into heroism not by his desire to be left alone, but by his inability to leave other people alone. You see it right from his first scene. Maybe his alignment is Meddling Neutral?
  • Once Upon a Time: Emma was perfectly willing to pack up and leave Storybrooke, leaving her biological son with his adopted mother, but Regina and her chronic case of Villain Ball mixed with her inability to keep her mouth shut pushed Emma enough to stay put, if only to be a pain in the ass and look out for Henry.
  • The Prisoner (1967): No. 6 is this. All the events of the series are triggered by his resignation from a British Intelligence service. Of course, his retirement doesn't even last until the end of the opening credits, as he is gassed and kidnapped to "The Village" - a dystopian prison run by people very interested in why he resigned.
  • Revolution: The Mathesons just wanted to be left alone. Then in the pilot episode, Monroe Republic came for Ben Matheson, resulting in his death and Danny Matheson being taken. As a result, Aaron is given Ben's pendant and he is told to find Grace Beaumont. Also, Charlie Matheson is told to go enlist Miles Matheson for help in rescuing Danny. It started out as a simple rescue mission, but by episode 11, Team Matheson ends up having to take a stand against the Monroe Republic.
  • Smallville: In the first couple of seasons, Clark Kent is like this. He just wants to marry Lana Lang and be normal Clark Kent, Kansas farm boy. Of course, destiny has other ideas.... Between Seasons 5 & 8 he becomes Neutral No Longer.
  • Survivors: The main characters will help anyone that comes within their sphere of influence and take strong action to protect their own but initially have little interest in the wider world or country. This is made explicit in the "Lights of London" two-parter where Greg and Charles prioritise recovering their community's doctor Ruth over helping the London survivors, who believe themselves to be the biggest concentration of humans left and humanity's best chance of survival, with Greg stating his only concern is "My family and my friends." (Ironically, the group in question are led by a despot whose downfall is a direct consequence of his kidnapping Ruth.) Near the end of Season 2, this shifts when the pair take it upon themselves to lead the rebuilding of the country even when it means abandoning the community they've built up.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is essentially the motivation of the Inconnu in the original Vampire: The Masquerade. They tend to be very old vampires who have had enough of the neverending Camarilla vs. Sabbat conflict and have their own thing going. Of course, as very old vampires, they are prime targets for diablerie; since the Camarilla outlaws diablerie while the Sabbat considers it a sacrament, they're much more likely to side with the former.
  • This is the attitude of the Upper Planes — the actual, card-carrying angels — in Plane Scape. Despite being vastly more powerful than most Player Characters and at least ostensibly on the same side, the supposed great warriors of Good stay on their own planes and act superior unless personally attacked. The Upper Planar major campaign NPCs consist of a racist demagogue, a Machiavellian schemer, a condescending academic, an egomaniacal merchant, and a couple of ordinary merchants. The only exception, Unity-of-Rings, performs small acts of charity — but adamantly refuses to do anything that would actually require his incredible angelic powers.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood reveals that after defeating Rodrigo Borgia at the Vatican, Ezio feels that his battles are over. Even though he let Rodrigo Borgia live, Rodrigo is now scared of Ezio and has lost the Apple of Eden. With his personal conflict now over, Ezio is quite looking forward to retiring to Monterrigioni and living the rest of his life in peace, thank you very much. While Rodrigo is content to focus on consolidating the Templar's power while leaving Ezio alone, Ezio didn't take Rodrigo's son Cesare into account, who leads an army against Monterrigioni. Cesare's army ends up destroying the city, stealing back the Apple of Eden, and killing Ezio's uncle Mario. Ezio pays Cesare back by returning to Rome, setting up a proper Assassin's Guild, steals the city out from underneath the Borgia family, and completely destroys Cesare's army and finances. Late in the game, when Cesare comes to beg his father for more money to continue his war, Rodrigo instead reams him out for his stupidity, telling Cesare that Ezio would have left them alone if Cesare hadn't foolishly attacked Monterrigioni in the first place.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Zevran from Dragon Age: Origins starts at borderline Neutral Evil and moves to this by the end of the game assuming he falls in love with the main character, and the MC survives the game's events.
      • There's a lot of this going on in Dragon Age: Origins. Many of the origins have the Player Character as this (though obviously you can RP them any way you like) - The City Elf Warden just wants her family and herself to not get raped and murdered, the Dalish Elf Warden wants to not die of Darkspawn blood poisoning, and most of the others are sentenced to death or otherwise really just don't have a choice about joining the Grey Wardens. The other trainee Grey Wardens you'll meet are sentenced to death, or interested mainly in protecting family. Of the party members you can get, only Wynne, Leliana, and maybe Alistair seem to be genuinely motivated by a pure desire to save the world. Alistair seems to care more about camaraderie with the other wardens than anything else.
    • In Dragon Age II, Snarky!Hawke's final rousing speech essentially equates to "Wake up. Save the World. Go to the Pub." It's actually the last bit that bothers them the most, as since The Hanged Man was wrecked, they will have to find another pub first!
      • Hawke's father, Malcolm, was a mage who fled the Circle and risked a life on the run from the Templars...so he could have a family with the woman he loved. Word of God basically describes him as this - while he believed in mage freedom, he just wanted a quiet life with his wife and kids. The Legacy DLC reveals he was once blackmailed by Grey Wardens into helping them reinforce the prison of a powerful darkspawn through murky means. They had to threaten Leandra's life to make him give in. He retaliated by extorting both safe passage and as much cash from them as he could.
      • Fenris of the same game is rarely concerned with anything that isn't either a direct threat or connected to his personal hatred of magic and/or slavery. He complains about Hawke constantly risking their life by getting into adventures regardless of cause (moreso if it involves helping mages), advocating Hawke keeping his/her head down and just guarding what they have. Conversation with Varric and Aveline reveal that he barely interacts with anyone outside the party over the seven years of plot.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition - Sera fits the 'alignment' part: her main desire is to get things back to normal so she can have fun, and she and the Friends of Red Jenny exclusively target nobles who've abused their position. They have no long-term plans to topple the aristocracy, on the grounds that there'd just be a "new top" to replace them.
  • The Boomers of Fallout: New Vegas have no desire to interact with the "savages" of the wasteland and anyone coming close to Nellis Air Base will have to deal with artillery shellings. However if The Courier gets them on his/her side, then they will at least be willing to participate in the final battle specifically for the Courier's sake as well as a chance to take their brand-new B-28 Bomber out for a spin.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Cloud, Vincent, Cid, Yuffie, and Red XIII all start as this in Final Fantasy VII. Hell, only Tifa and Barrett start with good intentions, and even then Barrett's a Good Is Not Nice Anti-Hero. They all just want to keep their respective homes safe from Shinra. But once Sephiroth enters the picture and starts wrecking the planet, they have no choice but to get involved.
    • Steiner in Final Fantasy IX starts off not really caring about the politics of the world around him, the central conflict involving the Mist, or really anything else that's going on. He just wants to follow his orders and get Princess Garnet back home. This puts him into the category of Lawful Stupid, since the queen that Steiner serves has clearly lost her marbles. It's only after Steiner sees the full extent of the queen's plan that he rebels.
  • Karel in Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade. Much different than his (take your pick) Ax-Crazy / Blood Knight / Token Evil Teammate / Psycho for Hire characterization in the prequel Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, but 20 years along with the death of your sister can have that effect on a person.
  • The Samurai in For Honor have no interest in conquering anyone else, and only want to be left alone. While they do fight among themselves quite frequently, they have never sought out conflict with the Knights or Vikings, and only fight them in self-defense.
  • In God of War (PS4), Kratos and Atreus aren't interested in the goings-on between the Aesir and Vanir, the problem Odin has with the giants (or basically anyone else), or whatever the Stranger wants. Kratos and Atreus just want to get to the highest peak in all of the Nine Realms to spread the ashes of Faye, the wife of Kratos and the mother of Atreus. They're doing this not out of opposition to the gods, but because it was a last request from Faye. The two protagonists only take part in the conflict between the Norse gods because the gods force their hand. Had the Stranger and Odin left them alone, Kratos and Atreus would simply not have gotten involved. This is in stark contrast with previous entries in the series, in which Kratos has a very personal beef with the Greek gods, and had a tendency to kill them all because he wanted them to pay.
  • Hat Kid from A Hat in Time has no interest in fighting the Mafia of Cooks, and only engages them in order to get back her Time Pieces. This ends up putting her at odds with Mustache Girl who wants to use the Time Pieces to take down the Mafia. In the final level of the game, she succeeds in making herself a totalitarian empress that is judging every other character in the game as "bad guys", thus having your previous antagonists rally around you to stop her.
  • inFAMOUS has elements of this, particularly at the beginning. Cole just wants to be left alone and to protect his friends. Cole's heroic path is mostly about helping people for the sake of establishing a "base of operations" more than helping people, and his villainous path starts with him deciding to screw over others so he can provide those closest to him with a reliable source of food. And in both cases, Cole goes along with helping Moya because he wants out of Empire City.
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: Roxas largely just wants to hang out with Axel and Xion, and doesn't know (or seem to care) that his boss and the leader of Organization XIII, Xemnas, is evil. His only real heroic act at the end of the game - try to kill Organization XIII and free Kingdom Hearts - is only prompted by Xion asking him to do it while dying in his arms.
  • Yet another BioWare example: Jolee Bindo from Knights of the Old Republic ends up as a Subversion. He puts up a good show of not really caring, preferring to be thought of as "the crazy old man in the dangerous woods," and considers himself in self-imposed exile from the Jedi Order. But he has his own reasons for signing on. He knew the Player Character was Revan from the outset. He was either going to help you make your own peace with the Force or at least try to steer you away from causing more damage. He is also the one Jedi-classed character who will not go to The Dark Side under any circumstances.
  • In Mass Effect 2, it's learned that this is the true alignment of the Geth. The True Geth, that is (the ones you fought are the Heretics who split off from the main faction). Their war with the Quarians only came about due to the Quarians attacking them first after gaining full sentience and according to Legion as long as they're left alone Organics have nothing to fear from them. Which is good, because up until now you've only been fighting 5% of the population which are considered a serious threat in their own right.
  • Shinjiro Aragaki of Persona 3. He makes it clear to both sides that fighting Shadows and the conflict between SEES and Strega have nothing to do with him, until Ken Amada is involved. That gives him a reason to fight again.
  • Inverted in Portal 2, by the end of the single-player campaign, GLaDOS gives up on killing Chell and decides she simply wants to be left in peace. the song "Want You Gone" is all about what it is to be Villainous Neutral.
    "You want your freedom? Take it
    That's what I'm counting on
    I used to want you dead
    But now, I only want you gone."
  • John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. A reformed outlaw who desperately wants to put his past behind him and live a quiet life on a ranch with his family. Needless to say, it ain't that easy for him.
  • SaGa Frontier: Asellus just wants to live in peace with her girlfriend, Princess White Rose. The problem is, first, that Princess White Rose belongs to Lord Orlouge and he wants her back; second, Orlouge's Dragon Ciato wants Asellus dead because he's scared shitless of how powerful she might become; and third, Rastaban wants to turn her into a Mystic strong enough to replace Lord Orlouge. If Asellus wants to be left alone, she's got a lot of Mystical asses to kick to get there. She abandons this trait in the Full Mystic path, deciding that if she can't be a human, she'll have to live as a Mystic - which means replacing Lord Orlouge as Charm Lord.
  • From the Shadow Hearts series we have two odd examples, Koudelka Iasant, the main protagonist from the first game in the series, and Roger Bacon, a recurring character throughout the entire series. In between games the manga tie-in saw Koudelka gain god-like powers, a side-effect of which is she sees humanity as insignificant on a cosmic scale. In Shadow Hearts Koudelka is being tortured by the Big Bad to help summon Eldridge Horrors, but is so uninvested she goes into a meditative trance imitating a coma just to mess with him. However the second he threatens her son, she breaks her restraints, starts glowing the walls start shaking and the normally unflappable Big Bad starts getting very serious. Once her son is out of danger, she is back to giving exactly two craps about humanity and only because her son is among them.
    • Roger is the one who penned the Eldridge Tome Koudelka read to get her godling power-boost so obvious he has a similar view of humanity. However in Roger’s case it comes with a does of religion. Since Roger knows God is the Eldest of Elder Gods but was Christian beforehand he considers directly interfering in the fate/nature of the world blasphemy. He is willing to do basically everything other than directly interfering though, which is why he is a heroic side character. The one time Roger directly uses his reality warping insights, it is to bring back a friend of his and love interest from the main protagonist from the dead - which he expects to be smote for. It only briefly works and Roger refuses to try again because he is fairly certain God is already pissed off at him for trying and is just grateful the attempted resurrection didn’t result in a Tragic Monster or him getting smote. But the experience gives us a fairly good insight into why an ultra ethical person like Roger doesn’t go using his reality warping powers to more directly help humanity - humanity simply is not worth his time, only individual friends are, and even then, he uses a light touch.
  • Knuckles from the Sonic the Hedgehog series is a loner who is destined to guard the Master Emerald at Angel Island, but he usually joins Sonic and the gang in their battle against Dr. Eggman when the situation calls for it.
  • Stellaris:
    • The "Inward Perfection" civic turns your empire into one, giving bonuses to unity and population growth at the cost of restricted political options.
    • In general, Xenophobic empires will stay within their own borders, and out of everyone else's affairs.
    • Fallen Empires are these in most cases. Being Higher-Tech Species who have no interest in the affairs of the younger empires. That is of course unless something gets their attention, like colonizing a world they consider holy, or they decide to awaken. Either of which will be catastrophic for whoever they have their sights on...
  • Tales of Eternia: Reid comes across as this sometimes, especially during the early parts of the game. All he wants to do is have an uncomplicated life, hunting, eating, laying around, and hanging out with his friends. Thanks to meeting Meredy and his friend Farah's insistence on helping her he ends up being dragged around 2 worlds while frequently complaining that he just wants to go home for the first half of the game.
  • Thief: Garrett does not care about anything other than living his life of thievery. He cares nothing for the well-being of the City, of the conflict between the Hammerites and the Pagans, nor of the "balance" his former teachers, the Keepers, are always trying to uphold. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for everyone else), a large number of Keeper prophecies revolve around Garrett stopping some kind of major catastrophe, which he always ends up doing because circumstances force him into it. The only really heroic trait Garrett displays is some minor sympathy towards the poor and downtrodden of the world.
  • Shiki in Tsukihime, which is only really a plot point in Arcueid's route. When all is said and done, it turns out he doesn't even really care that much that the vampire is eating townspeople. At least, not enough to risk his own life. He just wants to help Arcueid. And in the 'official' ending and timeline, apparently whatever happened to Satsuki (It's rather vague) majorly pissed him off towards the Dead Apostle Ancestors.
  • Kylier from Yggdra Union. Because of her background and the way she grew up staring at the aftereffects of mass war, she finds the very idea of it abhorrent and really would rather not have anything to do with the war or the Royal Army. Except for the fact that Milanor, her Love Interest, is one of its members, and she just so happens to be extremely protective of him.

    Webcomics 
  • The entire plot of Ciem 1 is about Candi being forced to shift her alignment from Heroic Neutral to Chaotic Good. Once Arfaas is ousted from Evansville, she settles for Neutral Good.
  • Erika and the Princes in Distress : Erika very much acts this way. She usually sees no reason to help out others unless it is part of her mission or benefits her in some way, and concurs with her people's belief that everyone needs to strive out for themselves. When Pita makes the argument that they're "the good guys, not the bad guys", she angrily proclaims that she is neither one nor the other.
  • Ronson From The Gods of Arr-Kelaan, he's the god of Apathy and Beer and he doesn't care what most people do, but when people start to mess with his followers and/or friends, they quickly figure out one of the big reasons why the God of Apathy and Beer is the leader of the pantheon.
  • There are two things Hank Jacobsen of Indefensible Positions is likely to be doing at any given moment: talking about and/or having sex with animals or telling other people to get off his land. He fights one antagonist faction when it invades that land and fights the other antagonist faction when it attempts to kill his sister, but he never really joins the heroes, and he doesn't even participate in the final battle.
  • Arthur of Apple Valley frequently displays signs of this; after triggering a doomsday prophecy back in late 1999, he goes on a heroic adventure... briefly... then returns home and essentially ignores the entire prophecy for nearly another decade as reality falls apart around him. It's only after an army of furries from the dimension next door invade his home town and disrupt his television watching that his brother and girlfriend manage to coax him into even trying to set things right, and even then only just barely.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Bun-bun. While he likes to kill and maim occasionally, just for kicks, mostly he just seems to stay at home and watch TV. However, time after time he'll rise up to fight the forces of evil, not because he wants to, but because the forces of evil manage to annoy him in some small way, like stealing the remote control to the TV or being in any way affiliated with telemarketing. Heck, a lot of the time the bad guys don't even actually do anything to Bun-bun; the other characters make up some sort of minor slight to get Bun-Bun into the fray or take the more direct approach of offering him persuasive compensation (like briefcases full of money) if he helps. And God help us all when he does...
    • Torg in "That Which Redeems" is an interesting example in that he becomes this after attempting to lead La Résistance against the Demonic Invaders. It turns out the locals are such Perfect Pacifist People there is no chance leading them in resistance, causing Torg to decide to just to hide out living relatively happily with his new girlfriend and pet rabbit as long as they can survive.
  • Instant Death: As long as he and Tomochika are not the target, Yogiri doesn't care what happens around him.

    Western Animation 
  • Bugs Bunny, and anyone else fitting the Karmic Trickster trope. Bugs is a little different in that he enjoys Disproportionate Retribution, but critically unlike The Prankster, he will wait for someone else to start it. There were, however, a few really early ones where he was just a flat-out jerk, bothering people who hadn't done anything to him.
  • In the first movie, the titular Shrek just wants to live in his swamp by himself. He ends up going on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona for the sake of getting all of the fairy tale creatures out of his swamp after Lord Farquaad sends them there. While Farquaad keeps his ends of the bargain, Character Development along the way on Shrek's part meant that he abandoned the few people who genuinely liked him to get his swamp back, making Shrek realize how desperately lonely he really was.
  • Spider-Man Unlimited: Spider-Man fits the bill throughout the series. He arrived on Counter-Earth to clear his name and save John Jameson, who is unwilling to return home until the High Evolutionary is overthrown, so Spidey stays behind to help. Even so, he just wants to return home, wants nothing to do with the conflict, and repeatedly tries to convince himself that the Counter-Earth humans' plight isn't his problem. This doesn't go unnoticed by the humans on Counter-Earth, one of whom calls him out on it in "Enter the Hunter!"
    "What do you care about? What do you stand for, spider-punk?"
  • Lapis Lazuli from Steven Universe is first portrayed as a villain out of urgency, desperate to leave Earth by stealing the Earth's oceans. She has a particular dislike towards the Crystal Gems having been confused for one by Homeworld and imprisoned in a mirror for thousands of years for it and avoids any actual involvement in their affairs unless it involves protecting Steven or if it inconveniences her. In "The New Crystal Gems", she becomes a member of the Crystal Temps, a temporary team meant to protect Beach City when the Crystal Gems leave to rescue Greg from the Human Zoo. Unlike Connie and Peridot, however, Lapis has no real emotional investment in actually doing anything heroic, only participating just because.
  • The Runaways of Young Justice. They can't trust anyone, and those they trust would only be put in harm's way if they went to them, so they tend to stay on the sidelines. They did pay their debt to the Team when they rescued them in "The Hunt", and they also helped stop the Reach apocalypse in the finale, but ultimately they aren't interested in playing heroes as much as getting their own lives in order. Virgil counts as Neutral No Longer when he joins the team after the Reach apocalypse, deciding that he likes being a hero.

    Real Life 
  • Technically, the USA remained neutral through the Second Sino-Japanese and World Wars until the Japanese Empire's simultaneous invasion of the American Philippines and surprise attack upon the US Navy's fleet at Pearl Harbor. For many American citizens, the attack seemed to come, as it were, out of nowhere. Hindsight tells us otherwise. A good number of the Allied nations started off this way at the outset of WWII, including neutral countries (such as the Netherlands) which were invaded by Nazi Germany. Even France, Britain (and its commonwealth countries of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.). The people of Poland and France didn't really want war with anybody, disillusioned as they were at the outcome of the last big war.
  • Iran during the 1991 Gulf War. At that time, they just recently earned their peace after they cornered Iraq to bankruptcy during Iran–Iraq War, and was not interested in joining the NATO-dominated coalition (it does not help that members of that coalition were supporting Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War). For Saddam's part, he knew better than to provoke his long time nemesis.
  • The ancient Roman general Cincinnatus, who only left his family farm when Rome itself was threatened. When the threat had passed, he stepped down and returned to his farm, telling the Senate to leave him out of their politics in the process.

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