There's a reason the Knight in Shining Armor needs the shining armor — and the weapons.
The world is filled with Wide Eyed Idealists who believe in truth and justice and devote their lives to fighting for it. And then the dark, cruel and brutal world keeps letting them down. For them, Being Good Sucks. But rather than giving up on their goals, they choose to fight, not because they believe they will truly make a difference, but because it's the right thing to do.
More often than not these characters are in settings that feature Black-and-Gray Morality, though it's also common for Black-and-White Morality and even White-and-Grey Morality. They're usually survivors who have largely given up on believing in Honor Before Reason, but still strive to be Lawful Good or as close to it as reality allows them to be. They are willing to bend the rules to save them. In Lighter and Softer settings, these characters are cynics and are often mocked by the other characters for being so sour all the time.
The presence of cynicism usually makes the idealistic behavior even more noteworthy: it's easy to love everyone when Rousseau Was Right, but you really have to be a good guy to believe that Humans Are Bastards and care about them anyway. Such characters can also be The Fettered; their cynical outlook tells them they could probably get away with all kinds of things that they don't do because that would be wrong, and just because the world sucks doesn't mean you need to make it worse. Then again, this kind of character goes great with a world where you Earn Your Happy Ending after much strife.
This is the inverse of the worldview of most Well Intentioned Extremists, especially those who believe that Utopia Justifies the Means. Extremists or Knight Templars may believe themselves to be this, but their actions are far too extreme. A Knight In Sour Armor believes in the rules and breaks them only when absolutely necessary, which is very rarely; not surprisingly, many have taken a Heroic Vow related to this behavior. Often has a personal set of rules, trimmed down to those that really matter in order to minimize conflicts and distractions. Contributes to the Knight's gruff tendencies, since politeness tends to appear a lot further down the priority list than feeding orphans and so on.
Generally, these characters fit one of two personality types. Members of the first type are former Wide Eyed Idealists who have come to accept that their world is on the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, but who still find something beautiful in their former ideals that they want to hold on to. Those of the second type are born cynics, who would make natural Jerkass antiheroes, but who nevertheless have devoted themselves to a code of honor or fair play. In either case, these people tend to have gone through (often painful) Character Development in their past, meaning that they are normally older than the average hero.
These characters show up often in Film Noir, Dark Fantasy, and Low Fantasy. Law enforcement is a particularly attractive career, but the Knight in Sour Armor will usually hold back from becoming a Cowboy Cop. Very frequently, they end up as The Mentor, a Mentor in Sour Armor, The Last DJ, or a Cool Old Guy if they last long enough. As teammates, they are often the Sour Supporter. They also frequently end up as Hero Antagonists and extreme Woobies. This is often the final state of The Atoner post-Heel–Face Turn. Despite their cynicism, they behave like The Anti-Nihilist.
Will often overlap with The Snark Knight. Compare Angst? What Angst?, for characters who take the troubles of a good alignment with far less complaint; Noble Demon, who will proudly declare themselves evil, but still finds themselves doing good once in a while; Byronic Hero, for characters who are determined to see their goals through to the end in spite of the suffering they've both experienced and caused; Sour Outside, Sad Inside, for characters whose sour attitude hides the fact they're sad; and Jerkass Woobie, who spits in the face of the alignment chart. Also see Iron Woobie if they continue the good fight in spite of their pain, and Stoic Woobie if they hide their pain through Stoicism. Converted Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids! or Good Is Old-Fashioned believers may well find themselves becoming this trope if the heroes can bring them around. If they don't like idealism, but don't like cynicism, either, then you also have a touch of Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!
- Zora Ideale from Black Clover. When he was young, he had a very idealistic view of the Magic Knights and aspired to be one himself, especially after his dad managed to rise through the ranks and become the first peasant to be a Magic Knight. However, his dad ended up being killed in battle and one day when he went to visit his grave, he overheard some Magic Knights calling him a loser of peasant. This revelation of their corruption not only disillusioned Zora with the Magic Knights but also caused his outlook towards the world to become more dreary and realistic. In present day he himself is now a Magic Knight and with the Black Bulls no less but his hatred for the organization as a whole has not wavered and he's quite hesitant to bond with his teammates and the people he helps.
- In Chainsaw Man, Denji grows into this over the course of Part 1. He comes out of the other side of the Despair Event Horizon after seeing how many people revere the Chainsaw Man for his heroics, as well as a talk with the equally despondent Kobeni making him accept that bad things in life are perfectly normal. This is best exemplified when he and Pochita finally decide to kill Makima when she admits she wants to erase everything she dislikes from existence, even trivial things like bad movies. As Kobeni told him, wanting to live in a world where there is no bad to highlight the good is unrealistic.
- Chilchuck from Delicious in Dungeon has this as the reasoning behind him being an adventurer who is Only in It for the Money. He sees people who claim to work for free as the least deserving of trust as there is nothing in place to ensure it, and the way things are set up for adventurers jumping from one job to the next based solely on pay and not completion is the fastest way to end up with no jobs other than potentially criminal ones. Things just do not work out well for anyone but those who approach the matter as anything other than employment.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- Edward Elric is smug, rude, and claims to be motivated only by a desire to regain his and his brother's bodies, and yet he suffers from a really bad case of Chronic Hero Syndrome.
- Roy Mustang considers himself to be an irredeemable monster for his actions during the Ishvalan War of Extermination and believes that his country is headed down a monstrous path. He knows he faces forces of unbelievable power and that his chances for success are nearly nil. Yet he works within the system to take it down, willingly suffering injuries to both his body and reputation, in order to make things right.
- Ghost Talker's Daydream: It isn't that Misaki doesn't care about helping the deceased move on, she's just tired of being bothered with it. But also realizes that they won't leave her alone, because she's got the gift, which is why they're naturally drawn to her. So the only way she can find a moment's peace is by helping them find theirs.
- The protagonist of Gintama, Sakata Gintoki, is a veteran of a lost war who had lost a lot of comrades during the war. He is quite cynical due to what happened in his past, often rude and sarcastic. But he still follows his own set of principles, his own brand of bushido. And he always does everything in his power to help the people around him, even strangers, sometimes by risking his own life. When called out by Bansai on how he's a ghost seemingly trying to protect a "rotten country" and the "dying samurai" and who can't let go of the past, Gintoki retorts that he never once cared about the country or the samurai, and that what he was trying to protect then and what he's trying to protect now haven't changed one bit.
- Goblin Slayer lost his family and home to goblins when he was a child, and was forced to witness first-hand what the goblins do to the girls they get their hands on (namely, to his older sister). The experience traumatized him for life, and led to him swearing to wipe out all goblins from the face of the world, even if he has to kill them with his own hands. Cut to the present, he is now a Silver-ranked Adventurer who only takes jobs that involve killing goblins; if he's asked for help with anything else, he'll walk out of the room without saying a word. Not only that, his exclusive dedication to killing goblins has left him with No Social Skills and an incredibly cynical outlook that puts him in contrast with more idealistic adventurers like Priestess or High Elf Archer. But make no mistake: though he may not know how to show it, Goblin Slayer does care, and occasionally finds it in himself to comfort other victims of goblin abuse in his own way.
- Amuro Ray, originally a wangsty Classical Anti-Hero in Mobile Suit Gundam, develops into this in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Duo Maxwell is outwardly a cheerful goof, but inside he's experienced the horrors of war first-hand when his adoptive home was destroyed pointlessly by the military (and before that when he was a street urchin). In spite of all this, his ultimate goal is to bring peace to the world, and he's glad to be The Grim Reaper—"It’s a lot better than being the hero of a massacre!"
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: Athrun Zala spends most of the series trying to do the right thing and continually getting the short end of the stick for it. It gets to the point where he's barely able to smile for his fiancée. It gets even worse in the sequel, where he wants to be a mentor to his new team, but is clearly struggling with too many unresolved emotional issues.
- Near the end of the 1st season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Neil Dylandy expresses his attitude that he has hidden deep inside with these words: "You people, are you satisfied with this world...? I'm not, and I hate it...!" And right then, he dies.
- In Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate and Hinagiku both qualify. Hayate is seen to be extremely cynical due to his horrid childhood, especially in the manga, but simply can't help but help people he sees in need. Mostly. If he's particularly annoyed with someone (ex: The SC Rangers, Fumi) he will try to avoid getting involved with them but after getting roped into it anyway he always does his best to actually help out. Hinagiku is in a similar position, as past experience has also left her quite cynical to the point where she's more likely to snark at a villain's motives than actually be surprised. Nevertheless, she is a steadfast Ally of Justice (with a legendary sword or two to prove it) who will leap into action to protect others. Both also have a shared trait of helping others even when it would be a detriment to themselves.
- Sora, one of the two main protagonists of No Game No Life, is a NEET with a Friendless Background who developed the view that humanity is worthless... but at the same time, he is capable of giving surprisingly impassioned speeches about how Humans Are Special. When questioned about this, he replies that, although he strongly dislikes humanity as it is - including himself - he genuinely believes in the potential of humanity to be something greater, best embodied in his hyper intelligent little sister, Shiro.
- Smoker from One Piece is a Lawful Good one: he seems to realize how many marines, especially the higher-ups, are corrupt and follows his own idea of justice instead of the absolute justice that is proposed by the most higher-ups. Yet, despite being constantly screwed over by his own bosses and his allies, he keeps being a marine and hunts pirates. He's an example of the second type.
- Fakir in Princess Tutu, fitting the jerk type, but only after he gets a grip on his - perfectly understandable - fear.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
- Homura Akemi. For someone who knows how the world works and that with kindness comes naïveté, courage becomes foolhardiness, and dedication has no reward, she has a particularly strong ideal and hope in protecting Madoka, even if it means suffering an endless recursion of time for it.
- In the finale, Madoka. She sacrifices all semblance of her own identity to change the Magical Girl system. She creates a new world where suffering runs just as rampant as ever, acknowledging good cannot exist without evil. And why? Because, by God, Magical Girls deserve to die happily anyway, and she's willing to become the embodiment of hope itself in such a despair-filled world.
- Sayaka Miki. After learning the first Awful Truth of becoming a Magical Girl and having a heart-to-heart with Kyouko who tells her that she is better off battling witches for her own rewards than to protect others, she still chooses to continue to stay a hero. However, when her Locked Out of the Loop friend Hitomi admits to having also been in love with Kyosuke and gives her a day to admit her feelings, which she can't due to the nature of the truth, her ideals begin to gradually shift more and more until she becomes a witch herself.
- Naofumi of The Rising of the Shield Hero turns into this in the matter of one day. His sole party companion betrayed him, robbing him of his money and falsely accusing him of trying to rape her. His name dragged through the mud and treated like a criminal by the very people he was summoned to save, he becomes unable to trust anyone, and at first, decides to fight the waves of monsters only so he can go home and be done with everything, with the fellow people of nobility claim it was their beloved "Three Heroes" that were responsible for both defeating the Wave Boss and dramatically lessened casualties during the second Wave... while the truth blissfully passes right by them. Thankfully, meeting a few allies such as Raphtalia and Filo help him shed this attitude over time. Granted, he always demands compensation for his trouble whenever he helps somebody, which paints him as greedy jerk in the eyes of strangers, but it's actually because he needs to make living somehow unlike the other heroes, who get funding from Melromarc's king.
- Robotech: Rick Hunter goes from being a pacifist to an ace pilot and The Captain everyone revolved around in The Sentinels. By the time of the New Generation segment, it is said that the order to use Neutron-S missiles on Earth came directly from Admiral Hunter (yes, confirmed to be the same Rick Hunter from the Macross Saga). Albeit a Salt the Earth tactic was practical but it would have killed millions of humans along with hopefully destroying Reflex Point (Invid headquarters). The comic book Prelude To Shadow Chronicles attempts to lampshade this not only by making it appear to be a committee decision he acquiesced to but he also states "I was an idealist in my youth, but...". Rick did have to deal with the betrayal of General Edwards (in this Sentinels Retcon, Rick is noticeably hurt by Edwards' betrayal indicating that he was at one time a trusted friend), the near-death of Lisa Hayes Hunter and the miscarriage of their baby. And there might be the difficulties associated with Minmei who just can't keep herself out of trouble.
- Being a former assassin, the titular character from Rurouni Kenshin has a very cynical view of the world. However, he'll seize any opportunity to fool around and will help Wide Eyed Idealists whenever he can.
- After being defeated by Kenshin, Sanosuke adopts this view as well. After his group the Sekihoutai were persecuted by the government, he's become a bit more cynical noting the arbitrary labels of good and evil, yet still resolves to protect the weak from oppression.
- Hiko, Kenshin's mentor, is just as cynical as Saitou. He berates Kenshin that yes, the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu successor is meant to protect the innocent and uphold justice, but as a warrior unbound by political prejudices, not a political tool. He knows the age of the swordsmen is over and is quite bitter about it.
- In the Tsukioku-hen OVA's we meet Kenshin's other two mentors, Kogoro Katsura and Shinsaku Takasugi. They were not exactly happy with how the soon-to-be Imperial Japan was developing, and they weren't shy about letting their unhappiness show either.
- Kazuma Kuwabara of YuYu Hakusho seems like the only character in the series who both recognizes how truly nasty people can be, and still fights to do right by them.
- Many depictions of Batman fall into this as seen below. As does Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Batman Begins' depiction of Gordon borrows a lot, including his fitting this trope, from Batman: Year One. Batman's former partner, Jason Todd becomes one of these in the pages of Red Hood and the Outlaws.
- Most depictions of Green Arrow. Oliver Queen is a sarcastic cynic who doesn't have much faith in God, government or basic human decency. He thinks most of his fellow superheroes overlook white collar criminals in favor of the obvious evils that wear silly costumes and wield death rays. Yet when the chips are down, he's the first person to throw himself into the fire, despite a complete lack of superpowers and any talents beyond wielding an archaic weapon and having a heck of a lot of chutzpah. All because he believes someone has to stand up for the little people.
- Sin City: John Hartigan is probably the last good cop in Basin City, up until his forced retirement. He doesn't have much to show for it. Except for the knowledge that he did the right thing and a friend who stays by his side no matter what. He even compares himself on several occasions to Galahad, one of the Knights of the Round Table.
- Gemini Storm: Elizabeth Rose is a possible saviour of Junessa, yet tends to think of the world around her in a negative light.
- The Marvel Universe (particularly the Ultimate universe) loves to kick Spider-Man in the nuts when he's down, and he's quick to point out that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, but Lord bless him, he keeps on keeping on. This End Credit song of Spider-Man 2 emphasizes such a point.
- The DCU's Hans von Hammer, the Enemy Ace, retains his "Knights of the Sky" view of air combat (refusing to, for example, shoot down an opponent who is out of ammunition) despite how much the realities of war challenge his ideals.
- Matt Murdock in Daredevil may be one of the best examples in comics. He's put through the emotional ringer a dozen times over and his life always seems to get worse when you think it can't possibly decline further. It's so bad the poor guy can barely muster the energy to brood. Despite this, he struggles on and refuses to ever give up on saving people.
- Grimjack is this on a good day (on the bad ones, he's Ax-Crazy.) This is actually discussed at one point.
Lillian Seffington: Perhaps in the shadows, the dividing line has between Good and Evil has become difficult to see.
Grimjack: Balls. There are standards. If you can't see one, you make one and stick to it come hell or high water — until you see a better one.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Peter Quill, who looks back on his original time as the Star-Lord with distaste, isn't exactly thrilled about heroics or self-sacrifice, but will still risk violent and painful death to save the universe, time and time again. Because the universe needs protecting, and there's no-one else around.
- In Drowntown, Leo Noiret used to be an investigator for the International Criminal Court in the Hague, but got disillusioned when he realised he wasn't really changing anything. He ended up with something like a dishonourable discharge and is now something like a bodyguard and private detective, but he still has a moral compass.
- Cyclops' character development since 2001 has largely consisted of him growing more cynical, not without reason. Mostly being let down by people he trusted. Among other things, he was tricked into cheating on his wife, was cheated on by his phoenix-crazed girlfriend, and his father figure kept his little brother's existence from him.
- His daughter Rachel Summers comes from a Bad Future where mutants were hunted down and killed or herded into concentration camps. She still fights to keep the dream of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants alive.
- For much of his series, at least until he met Spider-Man, X-Man was fully convinced that people, human and mutant alike, sucked. Since he was regularly persecuted, never thanked and most people were utterly terrified of him (and not entirely without reason), it's hard to argue against this. But he still saved people, because that's what heroes do.
- Magik. Despite having a very abrasive personality, she's loyal to Cyclops' side and the X-Men in general, regrets ruining her relationship with her brother and is thrilled to be with Kitty Pryde again in Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3.
- Post-Flashpoint Superboy grows into a boy with anger and self-confidence issues, but who still helps people because it's the right thing.
- New 52 Supergirl was full of anger, bitterness and loneliness due to her family's loss and the perception that everyone intended to use her and then betray her, to the point that she became a Red Lantern in Red Daughter of Krypton when her rage, self-loathing and despair pushed her beyond her breaking point. Still she never, not even at her lowest, stopped helping people in distress.
- Major Disaster from Justice League Elite isn't interested in going back to being a supervillain, but he's also increasingly disillusioned with being a superhero.
- In The Silmarillion story A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script, Beren comes to the conclusion that Morgoth can't be defeated and his world can't be Unmarred, but it's irrelevant because his cause is worthy, even if hopeless.
- From the Negima/Naruto crossover fanfic Broken Faith by Kur0Kishi, Naruto Uzumaki becomes jaded due to certain extenuating circumstances before the story begins. The end result is a bitter idealist who at times tells the other characters as he trains them to not follow his path, as well as becoming an enforcer of sorts known and feared by most mages worldwide as The Black Paladin
Gandolfini: "Naruto-sama doesn't know it, not many dare to call him that to his face but his actions on missions has earned him the moniker Black Paladin among the wider mage population because of his actions. He always fights what for what is right regardless of the rules and protocol, hence The Paladin, but his methods and results are rather... disturbing and he usually dresses completely in dark colours, hence the Black."
- Child of the Storm has Harry evolve into this in the sequel after the Forever Red arc, after the events of the last year (technically 18 months, thanks to the temporal relativity of the Nevernever) - battles, near-death experiences/actual death experiences, and psychic torture, among other things - culminated in a particularly brutal Trauma Conga Line. This results in a deeply cynical and sarcastic hero who's Resigned to the Call and can always be relied upon to do what is right over what is easy... just don't necessarily expect him to happy about it. And do expect him to make that clear - even after he lightens up somewhat, and leans back towards a Knight in Shining Armor.
- Crimson and Emerald: Hawks is rather cynical of the pro-hero industry due to growing up as a Child Soldier for the Heroics Commission and the focus on fame and power plays before doing actual good. Regardless of the situation, Hawks will work to be the best hero he can be because it's what he can do.
- In the Doctor Who/Alias crossover fic Doctor Who and the Rambaldi Enigma, Sydney Bristow comes across as this in contrast to the Third Doctor, who still has a relatively upbeat view of life and the universe despite his current exile where Sydney is bitter and frustrated at how many lives have been ruined through obsession with Milo Rambaldi's work in the future.
- Doing It Right This Time: Shinji, Asuka, and Rei are more determined than ever to save the world after having gone through the canon's events and returned the past. They are also more sarcastic than ever due to be fully aware of having been puppets used to fight massive alien monsters and cause the end of the world.
- The only thing the protagonist of Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns lacks is the attitude, but everything else fits in with the trope. He knows full well, and always did, that the world is full of liars and backstabbers, but he is determined to keep trying to make it a better place as long as worthwhile things (like the potential of the younger generation) continue to exist. Of course, he's trying to make sure the world itself keep existing at the moment.
- Guardian explores why Lulu is like this in Final Fantasy X. Although she's somewhat cynical about pilgrimages and the Church of Yevon, she never wholly abandons her faith—she transfers the greater part of her belief in Yuna, who she knows to be good and trustworthy.
- In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl has become jaded due to over one decade battling all kind of evildoers, which hasn't allowed time for developing many meaningful relationships, as well as several extremely close calls in a short space of time. She has expressed over and again her desire to retire and lead a normal life, but everybody keeps needing her to save the universe, and she answers the call every time.
- Crossover fanfiction The Hill of Swords has Shirou, who was well on his way to becoming a broken, bitter and cynical anti-hero when Louise summoned him.
- In A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor:
- Arturia Pendragon downplays this. By the start of the story, she had to contend with the loss of her kingdom, Camelot, in part due to her own mistakes, had to put down an old friend who has fallen into complete madness thanks actions on both ends, and failing to protect the one person she could consider her friend; all of which most definitely have caused her over moral and personal view of herself to have been damaged. However, she still is able to hold to her beliefs(despite getting mocked and ridiculed for having them), being driven because of said experiences to make herself and her ideals better than before in order to properly deal with the new world she's landed in and THOSE earth-shattering events.
- Cullen Rutherford is still clearly scarred from witnessing the fall of the two Circles he was apart of: the first one had him witness all of his friends and commands murdered in front of him before getting Mind Rape by demons and the second one had him witness very worst of the Circle system he previously supported and lead to the current Mage-Templar War. Despite this, Cullen is still devoted to the cause of the Inquisition and believes the Templar Order can be redeemed despite its many mistakes.
- A number of Kur0kishi's fanfic have Naruto as a mix of this and Jerk with a Heart of Gold. As taken from their profile directly:
Amethyst Love is about a Naruto who has found something more important than those ideals.Broken Faith was about a Naruto who has abandoned those ideals as childish but slowly learns to see that maybe, just maybe, being idealistic isn't all that bad after all.Caliburn Initiative is about Naruto that held onto his ideals. The problem was that the environment he is in has changed. His ideals are NO LONGER RELEVANT.End Game is about one who has forgotten those ideals.Unwavering Sky is about one whose ideals have changed along with the environment but the core principles never changed.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fanfic The Long Walk, jaded cynic Breech Loader is fighting on the side of good, for good reasons, but despite a devotion to learning the ways of honour, she still fights horribly dirty.
Leonardo: "You're one of us now, Breech, and we're a family full of good people."
Breech: "You don't pay much attention when I fight, do you?"
- Mass Effect: Human Revolution:
- Adam Jensen knows as a repeatedly demonstrated fact that he lives in a Crapsack Galaxy. But he gets up and kicks the crap out of pimps, serial killers and assassins because he's not going to just accept it.
- David Anderson is determined, almost desperately so, to continue fighting the good fight in a galaxy whose systems seem constantly out to test and betray his faith in them.
- Edward Grey was broken by his experience in Akuze, and while he came back still heroic, he's quick to opt for the Leave No Survivors option against slavers, xenophobic lynch mobs and other criminal scum.
- In every Fanfiction Mr. Evil has used his Original Character Fredi Heat. He shows absolutely no care for people in general, and many of his own teammates appear to even be scared of him. But he always does what's right, despite his dislike for doing so.
- A Brother's Price fanfic The mysterious Trini has Jerin describe Princess Trini as this. While he does it in an answer to her being upset about someone else looking down on her, his justification is sound; she IS disillusioned and didn't want to marry anyone in the first place, but did it to help Jerin, even though she was wary of him and suspected he might be evil.
- The Night Unfurls:
- The Night of the Hunt has shaped the Good Hunter into a scarred, jaded killer who is insensitive to any sort of carnage or suffering. Although he shuns heroism and idealism, it is evident that people are better off as a result of his deeds (e.g., hunting down marauding orc bands, saving his travelling companions from danger, etc.). Under his hard-killer exterior, he bears no ill will towards innocent people, respects anyone who is genuinely nice or demonstrates a conscience, honours his promises, and refuses to treat others with snobbery, even though his sheer power would allow him to get away with practically anything. The original version of the story, in particular, takes this trope to a literal level due to him being knighted. As much as Kyril desires a quiet, peaceful life and forget about the horrors of the Hunt, he still chooses to fight against the Black Dogs and their desire to rape, enslave and subjugate people under their Sex Empire, when he could have left those people to stand alone. He empathises with the young, the desperate, the starving, and the poor, as they remind him of his struggles. Ultimately, the Good Hunter acknowledges that there are times where he may fail to save everyone, or he may save none at all. He knows that feeling all too well, but he does his damnedest to salvage what he can, to stop the situation from getting worse, and to atone for failing those he tried to rescue during the Night of the Hunt.
- Lily is no stranger to the cruelty of the Black Dogs after being captured by them in the Feoh/Ur Arc. After Kyril took her in as a hunter, she decides to lend her strength to defend the weak, so they need not go through the suffering she did. She takes Kyril's mentality of "saving as many as possible, even if it is impossible to save everyone" to heart.
- In Once More with Feeling, Shinji doesn't want to be a Humongous Mecha pilot... but in the original timeline everything went to Hell, everyone died and he lost his loved ones because he ran away from his duty. So he's determined to pilot Eva -even though he hates it- and save the world.
- In The Roboutian Heresy:
- The Iron Warriors, who are aware of how impossible their task is, but ongoing in knowing that even one planet saved for a while longer matters.
- The Alpha Legion as well, after realizing how truly corruptive Chaos is, but also that not all aliens are threats. They know they're the Legion of Dirty Business, and they accept that, for nobody else in the Imperium wants to do their job.
- Caphriel, angel and Love Martyr, from the Good Omens Dark Fic The Sacred and the Profane: it's his job to love and protect the world and the people in it. It all keeps letting him down over and over again (across millennia), but he can't afford to give up.
- Asuka from The Second Try is sick of fighting to save a world that keeps taking everything from her over and over again and resetting itself. She's determined to save it anyway.
- The Seventh Player has Machaira Mekhit, the titular seventh player of the Bad Kids. From the day she was born, Machaira's life would be filled with obscene tragedy for someone as young as her, most of which over matters that she was powerless to control or change. It would begin with being born "primitive" (being born with fangs and growing up to be shorter and stockier than most tabaxi), which would result in a childhood filled with brutal abuse from her peers and neglect from the adults in her community, including her own parents, and would later go on to involve her nearly destroying her life once puberty hit her- she would go on to drink, do drugs, and have sex recklessly with people, which would result in her being further abused by others and being subjected to even worse cruelties of the world. While she comes out of it all a very brutal and savage warrior with no illusions in regard to how horrible the world and the people in it can be, she still hasn't lost her determination to do good and do right by others in spite of it all, nor has she lost the ability to be affectionate and loving towards those she feels she can trust.
- In Sleepless, Minuette is getting increasingly cynical as the story progresses. The same thing happens to Dr. Stable in the first sequel, Thirsty.
- Sonic and his friends become this in Sonic X: Dark Chaos. The Milky Way Galaxy is an utter shithole and the rest of the universe is somehow even worse, but it doesn't stop them from trying to make things better.
- Detective Hard Boiled of Starlight Over Detrot. His city is a veritable hive of crime and he knows it - but that doesn't stop him from fighting tooth and nail for it.
- Ume from Sugar Plums is rightly incredibly mistrustful and cynical about the shinobi system, the people who run it and the entire bullshit power scaling of the world. This doesn't stop her from spending a LOT of time and effort accruing resources, allies and making very detailed plans to make things better.
- Tech from Tech 10 Rebooted has basically given up on people and the law, but fights as hard as he can for what he sees as justice.
- Underfell usually has two examples:
- Us and Them:
- Vincent from Final Fantasy VII makes good on the extra time he has when freed from the Nibelheim mansion decades earlier. He finds and joins Avalanche, ascends the ranks quickly and becomes their leader. However, he is still a curmudgeon whose patience is constantly tried by the younger members of Avalanche.
- With the exception of his family and friends, Sephiroth often acts as though he's surrounded by morons.
- Beast Boy from Young Justice: Darkness Falls knows the hardships their team goes through every time they fight, and definitely knows of the harsher sides of life. However, he's still among the most cheerful and optimistic of the team members because even in losing things, there's a chance to get new things back.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Thousand Year Door Redux, Francesca almost crosses the line into this in the Final Battle. When Sophia's attack leaves the Queen mortally wounded, Fran briefly considers simply stalling during her turn to let her bleed to death, but she refuses to do something so underhanded, offering her foe a chance to surrender (which the Queen refuses, Defiant to the End). When the Queen is able to assume her true form and recover, Fran briefly curses herself for changing her mind. ("I could have just took my time and stalled a minute ago…" she laments. "A few minutes and she would have bled to death, but NO! I had to be some goodie-goodie hero who believed all that stuff about “don’t sink to her level” and “you’re a better person than she is!" Fortunately, Andy appears in spiritual form and tells her to Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! (complete with a Dope Slap) and she comes to her senses.
- Rick Dicker in The Incredibles a gruff man, yet is willing to help Supers such as the Incredibles settle into civilian life. After Bob is fired for severely injuring his Mean Boss Gilbert Huph, he tells Bob that he's screwed up once too often and is on his own, but immediately relents and offers to help him out once more for old times sake.
- Ezylryb (Lyze of Kiel) of Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole may be a legendary warrior, but he takes no pleasure in it whatsoever, as he demonstrates by displaying his slashed face and a blind eye.
Ezylryb: This is what it actually looks like when you've fought in battle. It's not glorious, it's not beautiful, it's not even heroic. It's merely doing what's right and doing it again and again, even if someday you look like this.
- Shrek is crude, hot-tempered and cynical, but nearly always manages to do the right thing, especially for people (and donkeys) that have proven they're able to see past the idea of "big, stupid, ugly ogres."
- Toy Story 3:
- Woody becomes this, in that he knows full well that going back to the daycare is suicide, not to mention the difficulty in helping his friends escape and making it back home before Andy leaves for college. The logical thing to do would be to try and go home alone. No points for guessing what he decides to do.
- Chatter Telephone and Chuckles the Clown; the former had been stuck at Sunnyside for years but used his knowledge of the place to (try to) help the other toys escape, and the latter saw some of Lotso's rather despicable actions firsthand and told Woody about this to warn him of Lotso's true nature.
- In Zootopia, law enforcement is principally in the hands of Chief Bogo, a strict and blunt-spoken example of Da Chief. When Judy Hopps, the newest rookie on the force, feels responsible for a sudden sharp rise in racial tension, he reassures her in a very Knight-in-Sour-Armor way.
Bogo: Don't give yourself so much credit, Hopps. The world's always been broken. That's why we need good cops... like you.
- Alternative Universe Superman in Justice League: Gods and Monsters; Hernan has seen injustice, he knows about prejudice, racism, xenophobia, and poverty. He knows that most of the world doesn't hold a favorable view on him, he knows that he often gets blamed of things he doesn't do, he knows that America has an ugly side, and yet he fights monsters and villains in order to protect the people who despise him so much.
- Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, as archetypal Film Noir Private Detective Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, and as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon. Those three movies, plus High Sierra, led to Bogie being typecast in this role. Additional examples include Tokyo Joe, The Enforcer, The Harder They Fall, To Have And Have Not, Dead Reckoning, Dark Passage, and The Barefoot Contessa, among others.
- When you think about it, isn't this the sort of role John Wayne often plays? He is usually a Boisterous Bruiser as well but combined with a tired yet resolved demeanor. The "Knight" side of his persona's codified with that classic catchphrase (often attributed to him), "Well, a...man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."
- Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Sheriff Bell, actually plays a fair few of these, including Kay from Men in Black:
Agent Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.
- Roger East from Balibo is a scruffy, somewhat cowardly reporter bitterly aware that the rest of the world doesn't give a damn about East Timor, but he still does his damndest to attract attention to the country's plight.
- Pamela Landy in The Bourne Series is the only CIA operations chief who actually seems to be in it to do the right thing.
- The Dark Knight Trilogy:
- Jim Gordon.
Gordon: In a town this bent, who is there to rat to anyway?
- Batman himself counts as this. He watches his parents gunned down in front of him, the woman he loves is killed (and then he finds out that she loved someone else more than him), the Knight in Shining Armor he hoped would let him retire had turned insane, the city he had fought so hard to protect has vilified him, he has seen the worst humanity has to offer, he spent eight years in seclusion, three separate psychopaths have tried to destroy the city he swore to protect, he gets the shit beaten out of him and is tossed into a prison described as "hell on Earth" and is forced to watch his city turned into an anarchic prison... and yet he is still a staunch idealist who believes that Rousseau Was Right, that people are worth saving, and refuses to kill anyone.
- Jim Gordon.
- Dirty Harry from the eponymous films.
- In Dragonheart, Bowen (who is a knight in a real sense) goes through this twice. He has to go against (and ultimately abandon) his quest to kill all dragons when he has finally killed all but one of them and is forced to strike up an alliance with said sole survivor and become a con artist. He then goes on to questions his own codes of honour when he discovers that his pupil, the young King Einon did not have his nature poisoned by Draco's tampering with his heart but merely exploited Bowen for his skills in swordsmanship and became evil of his own volition.
- Duck Butter: Nima has a pretty pessimistic view of things, believing that as a result of natural resource depletion humanity is likely doomed, thus people are selfish to have kids in such a world. Multiple people complain of how depressing this is. She still does like and wants to help others however, even if the state of things makes her feel depressed.
- Olive Penderghast in Easy A is an extremely Deadpan Snarker, but she is willing to let her reputation be ruined to rescue a friend from bullying, preserve her favorite teacher's marriage, and otherwise help people.
- Sheriff 'Monk' McGinn in Gangs of New York. He starts out as an Irish Rōnin muscle for hire with dozens of notches on his shillelagh, and is viewed with contempt until we find out he's really this. Then he goes out with a rousing speech and puts the villain in his place, which, unfortunately, Bill the Butcher does not respond well to.
Monk: Citizens of the Five Points! Mr. Bill Cutting is attempting to draw me into an argument that would no doubt end in bloodshed and the compromising of my office! What do ya think? Should I engage and silence this relic of the ancient law? Or shall I be your chosen voice, in a new testament, in the New World! (silence) There you are, Bill. The people have spoken. The very notion of violent reprisal be-numbs them.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Despite being an obvious cynic and despite being very self-pitying over his son's death in the destruction of San Francisco, Mark Russell is still vehemently disgusted by the eco-terrorists' plan to put billions of people in mortal danger, and he even foregoes pursuing the escaping eco-terrorists (whom have Emma and Madison) in Antarctica because he sees that the G-Team are in mortal danger and will likely die if he doesn't go back for them.
- In High Noon, Marshall Will Kane tries to raise a posse to fight off four gunmen led by an ex-con who had previously made all their lives miserable before Kane threw him in prison. You'd think the population of an entire town would be able to take on four men. Only an old, one-eyed drunk and a fourteen-year-old kid would help Kane (and he refuses them since they wouldn't have much use in a gunfight). Everyone, who would rather live in fear than risk their lives to protect their own freedom, money, and dignity, tells Kane to leave town. He ends up taking on the gunmen by himself, then abandons the town in disgust.
- Kaji from The Human Condition, who becomes hardened and cynical as the result of WWII Japan.
- Several incarnations of James Bond, especially Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig's versions. The latter is a self-described "half monk half hitman" who describes murder as his "employment," but still holds onto his ideals of patriotism to his country and loyalty to allies, especially to his boss, M.
- In Live Free or Die Hard, John McClane gives a speech where he pretty much describes himself as this. Notably, it's not only to dissuade Farrell of the notion that he's a hero, but to encourage the kid to stand up and fight since they're the only ones who can save the day:
McClane: You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin'. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can't remember your last name. Your kids don't want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.Farrell: Then why you doing this?McClane: Because there is nobody else to do it right now. Believe me if there was somebody else to do it I would let them do it. There's not, so we're doing it.Farrell: That's what makes you that guy.
- Tom Doniphon in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a textbook example... Especially when it comes to the part about hating himself for it.
- An Alternative Character Interpretation of Arthur Bishop in The Mechanic (1972) says he is this, and that's why he lets his student McKenna kill him.
- Günther Bachmann from A Most Wanted Man. An adaptation of a John Le Carre book (of which the character is known for utilizing this trope in his realist spy novels), Bachmann is the typical Le Carre protagonist where he is jaded and cynical about his world and the corruption around him but seeks to do the best job he can anyway because of some personal morality. It is Philip Seymour Hoffman's last movie
- Sheriff Bell in No Country for Old Men is this at the beginning of the movie. The events of the movie are too much for him and he bitterly retires.
- Rambo: John Rambo, especially in Rambo IV. Traumatic experience from wars and the ugliest side of humanity has left the Vietnam War veteran a bitter, misanthropic man, but he will still go out all his ways to do the right things to save the people worth protecting.
- The title character in RoboCop has nothing to live for, and as the film series progresses, seems more aware that his creation was only a publicity stunt, but his sense of duty and spirit for justice keeps him going. (Well, that and his ineluctable programming.)
- Although MacGregor is fairly consistent throughout Rob Roy in standing by his own code of honor, he does have a moment of doubt after his money is stolen, his property ransacked, his wife raped, his brother killed, one of his clansmen shot and he himself has narrowly escaped being lynched. He starts believing that he should have gone against his principles by lying and saying that the Duke of Argyll was a Jacobite to avoid all the hardships he and others went through. His wife makes him see sense.
- William Somerset in Se7en keeps trying to retire because he finds the world horrible and his work demoralizing. He frequently sermonizes bitterly about how horrible the world is. Yet he can't find it in himself to quit.
- Jöns from The Seventh Seal. You won't find anyone fitting to the trope more closely than him. His being a squire, not a knight is pretty much the only difference.
- Several characters in Sin City, an otherwise Black and Gray Crapsack World.
- Han Solo definitely becomes one of these by the end of Star Wars: A New Hope, and fills a Sour Supporter role for the rest of the Original Trilogy. In stories of the Expanded Universe, it's seen that before the original trilogy he was once fairly idealistic, though never to the point of being wide-eyed.
- Fire Chief O'Halloran from The Towering Inferno is clearly sick and tired of saving stupid people from the consequences of their own mistakes, but he still keeps charging into burning buildings to rescue them.
- The Two Towers: A few examples:
- With Orcs freely pillaging his country, his King reduced to a catatonic puppet by Saruman's magic, his sister held hostage by Saruman's sleazy spy Grima, and himself banished by "royal decree" upon speaking out about the situation, Eomer of Rohan starts out the film a grim, burned-out cynic. Yet he and the Riders loyal to him continue to fight the invading Orcs and defend the common people as best they can. As he tells Aragorn, "Look to your friends, but do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands."
- After ambushing a Haradrim convoy, Faramir of Gondor contemplates the body of a fallen enemy soldier and wonders if he didn't think that the cause he served was just as valid and noble as Faramir thinks his is. The Un-Favourite among his father's two sons, dealing with the recent death of the older brother he idolized, and feeling more and more that Gondor and the rest of the West are simply doomed, he continues to fight solely out of a sense of duty to his country and his people. He is no longer certain his cause is winnable, or even worth fighting for, but he doesn't know what else to do.
- Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Since his brother's death, he's loathed Toons but ends up helping one anyway.
- The Wild Geese: Rafer Janders, one of the mercenary lieutenants, tried to be a freedom fighter but became disaffected when the liberators he fought for turned out to be dictators just as repressive as the ones they deposed - a new mission rekindles a little of his doused idealism.
- Wonder Woman (2017): Where Diana is the Wide-Eyed Idealist, Steve Trevor is this trope in spades, describing himself as a thief, a liar, and a killer, all traits which Diana has expressed distaste in despite her decision to help him on his mission. He does what he does, sacrificing his own ideals, because he saw the madness the world was going through and just felt he had to do something to try and stop it.
- X-Men Film Series:
- Cyclops, no matter how much of a boy scout Wolverine thinks he is.
- Wolverine himself, being a long-lived mutant who has been the subject of inhumane science experiments, amnesia, and scorn from a hateful society (plus the blood he has put on his own hands through his various escapades through history) but still helps Professor Xavier's cause because he recognizes the good it can bring to the world.
- Norse Mythology: The Norse worldview basically consisted of a largely amoral universe where bad things happened to good people and everything ended in death. Yggdrasil was eaten by serpents from below, and deer from above, and even the Aesir would die at Ragnarok. Nevertheless, the warrior's code was to fight the good fight and the mythology is riddled with examples of standing and fighting even when death is inevitable because that's the right thing to do. On the other hand, Thor was viewed as the protector of Midgard and friend of Men, the Good Guy fighting giants to protect the Aesir and humans alike. Most stories focusing on him tend to be far more upbeat, with Thor overcoming challenges after much fun is made at his expense.
- The Bible:
- Powder Keg from Fallout Is Dragons is a type two Knight In Sour Armor.
- 1865 depicts Edwin Stanton as very much this. He knows that the world is a cruel and often unkind place, and that he’s in for a considerable fight with Johnson, but he keeps fighting because he triply beleive that Lincoln’s legacy with ensure a more fair and just America for Americans of all races. This is especially the case after Johnson grants amnesty to the South.
- Seen and Not Heard: One of the pieces of advice Bet's rabbi gives her: "You don’t have to love your lot in life. Be pissed off! […] But what keeps you on the good side of the world is doing good for the world despite how it’s treating you. And if you can’t do good, just don’t do harm."
- In the Dragnet radio dramas (as well as the later remakes), Sergeant Joe Friday sometimes trades his shining armor for sour mail when exposed to particularly bad cases of social decay.
- Harry Nile in The Adventures of Harry Nile. A former Chicago cop who wound up retiring after seeing widespread corruption in the force, and almost murdered a crime boss in order to get out of debt before working as a private investigator instead. Yet despite just how much of the seedy side of society he's seen, the guy's own humanity is his greatest asset, and he cares for his clients.
- A common character type in Warhammer 40,000, especially among the Imperium of Man. Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt is perhaps the most prominent example, a genuinely selfless, courageous, and noble hero who is becoming deeply bitter and cynical towards the Imperial Guard command structure. Major Elim Rawne of the same series quite arguably worked his way into this trope from the other direction-he started as a ruthlessly cynical, self-serving bastard, and remains a ruthlessly cynical bastard-but one with a very tarnished and deeply hidden heart of gold. Commissar Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, projects this at times... because his reputation (and possibly he) would be shot if anyone knew how he actually is.
- The author himself has stated that he doesn't know if Cain really is the Dirty Coward he presents himself as, or if Cain just doesn't give himself enough credit. Still, Cain isn't like the stereotypical commissar that shoots his own men at the drop of a hat, which is a huge point in his favor.
- Certain members of the Tau have lived long enough and seen enough of the universe to understand that their race is fundamentally naive and that their dream of uniting the galaxy under the Greater Good is a Tragic Dream at best. However, they reconcile themselves with the Greater Good by embracing the philosophy that even if the Greater Good is a utopian ideal and their galaxy a Crapsack World, simply striving towards those ideals is good enough.
- And then there's the Lamenters Chapters. Founded during the Cursed 21st Founding, they are Blood Angels successor chapter who seems to be free of the Red Thirst and Black Rage. Unfortunately, they seem to be cursed by terrible, terrible luck, going into Iron Woobie status. And yet despite being distrusted by their own allies, almost annihilated for unwittingly fighting for the wrong side, almost eaten by Tyranids, and forbidden from recruiting more to their Chapter, they are still loyal to the Imperium. Hell, other chapters have been known to turn renegade for a fraction of the shit they went through.
- After his reawakening, Primarch Guilliman himself joins the ranks of the sour. Upon returning to the Imperium, he discovers that it's a rotting shadow of its former self due to the corruption in the government, the constant attacks by other races, as well as a healthy heaping of Executive Meddling from the Ecclesiarchy resulting in the Imperial Truth he fought so hard for being declared Heresy and the Emperor being worshipped as a god against his wishes. Combine this with the knowledge that the Emperor held no familial love for his own sons, and it results in him bitterly quipping that it would have been better if the Imperium had burned in the Horus Heresy rather than continue on as the utter mess it is now. However, he sticks around to administrate the Imperium as Lord Commander and Imperial Regent because he understands that he's the only chance the Imperium has at returning to some semblance of stability.
- Dungeons & Dragons brings you the Grey Guard Prestige Class. Paladins who tend to fall early and often for breaking their code in the pursuit of genuine Good (not making the job quick and easy) are sometimes approached by the knightly equivalent of the CIA. The abilities they pick up take the 'goodness and light' of the Paladin and turn it into 'goodness and Bad Cop interrogations.'
- The Paladin class itself flirts with being an example of this even before one takes the Gray Guards into account, especially in a setting where the government is harsh or totalitarian. It's pointed out in the Book of Exalted Deeds that when faced with a choice between Law and Good, a true Paladin will always choose the latter (the Paladin's code in the book has a loophole about "Legitimate" authority for this reason).
- Most clerics of Ilmater.
- A fairly common character archetype in Eberron. The continent has just emerged from a devastating hundred-year war that culminated in the annihilation of an entire country in a disaster nobody knows about or predicts. The dragonmarked houses use their innate powers for profit. The afterlife is a shithole where souls linger in boredom for a while, losing their nature, and then dissolve. Every religion has its share of corruption. As a result, a lot of heroes are cynical, but still fight to make it a better place, one dead tentacle monster at a time. This is particularly common in Karrnath: the country is cold and northern, with short summers and long winters, the Naytheistic Blood of Vol religion is ingrained in the local culture (with a bit of a struggle going on between the true believers and the Path of Inspiration elements hijacked by Erandis d'Vol), the Last War didn't go so hot for them (better than Cyre, at least), and the region was known for a grim and fatalistic temperament even before that.
- As the Ravenloft setting is bound to eat your average Knight in Shining Armor for breakfast, it's home to quite a few of these instead, striving to hold back the darkness. The game-setting's Knights of the Circle function more like vigilantes or undercover operatives, keeping their heroic deeds under the darklords' radar.
- Shadowrun being what it is, most established characters with a strong moral compass fall under this category. A near-embodiment of this trope, however, is Captain Chaos.
- Pan Dachshund is one of the sample characters in Pugmire and is one of the two characters (along with the more idealistic Yosha Pug) who break the fourth wall throughout the rule book by explaining details and concepts to the reader. He's grumpy, cynical and doesn't believe any of this crap about the sacred legacy of Man or the inherent nobility of Pugmire, but he'll fight any monster who threatens honest dogs because that's just the right thing to do.
- Princess: The Hopeful: This trope is often where a Princess ends up at low Belief. She has suffered enough Compromises to give up on her belief that moral and upright behavior can function in the world as it now is, but she clings doggedly to what principles she has left and to the hope that someday the world can be made a better place, a place where idealism is once again workable and where the compromises she has been driven to will no longer be needed.
- Cassandra in Code 21 is a good example. She decides to work in mental health because she wants to make a difference and over the years adhering to the system's rules makes her feel embittered and less hopeful about the world.
- Wicked: Why, Miss Elphaba... you and this trope deserve each other.
- In Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote might be this; he has a skewed perception of the world as a beautiful, marvelous place when it clearly isn't, but he indicates that, even when he knows the world is a dire mess that has little hope of elevation, he will fight on. When he converts Dulcinea to his cause, she becomes a full-fledged example.
- "The Impossible Dream" sums up this trope perfectly
- Miguel de Cervantes, or at least his character here, is more this than Don Quixote (although the two are described as being closely related) because Quixote seems to be more truly mad. Cervantes specifically gives a speech saying that he has seen evil in the world, but that it has convinced him even more that it is important to do good. People "asking not why they died, but why they had ever lived" for example.
- Ace Attorney:
- Most of the SL-9 crew in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. They're demoted, fired, and generally jaded but still want to find the truth of what happened to Neil Marshall.
- Detective Badd in Ace Attorney Investigations, as part of his Film Noir detective persona. And he still fights for justice as the Yatagarasu.
- Barok van Zieks of The Great Ace Attorney admits that he has no faith in his nation's criminal justice system or even humanity. Despite this, he's adamant on playing by the rules and performing his duty as a prosecutor without resorting to underhanded means or Cowboy Cop tactics.
- Dev Hanshin from the Death Room. He clearly doesn't think the world is sunshine and roses, but he always tries to do the right thing.
- Dreamscape: Keedran knows protecting humanity is a thankless job because of her unsettling appearance, but she does it because it's her job as a protector of the planet, not because people like her.
- Red vs. Blue: Most of the protagonists in this series are this, though special mention has to be given to Church. Despite being a bitter, lazy, and sarcastic Jerkass most of the time, he always tries to do what's right and has even willingly performed a Heroic Sacrifice twice over just because he knew it was the right thing to do.
- Blake has this mentality towards heroes, particularly Wide Eyed Idealists like Ruby. She wants to end corruption, and refuses to partake in the violence that the White Fang inflicts on humans, who systematically oppress the Faunus. However, she balks at Ruby's more straightforwardly heroic nature and desire for a happy, fairy-tale ending.
- Qrow is another prominent example: He's a depressed, cynical alcoholic who spends a lot of his free time mocking his allies and pointing out flaws in their plans, but still winds up risking his life to protect his niece, her friends, and the world as a whole on a pretty regular basis.
- The regular robot in this Tumblr cartoon.
Regular Bot: The world is still a very magical place! Even if it is also full of garbage.
- In SwordCat Princess, Kathryn no longer engages verbally with those she saves, instead prompting them to run from danger by threatening them with her swords.
- Roy Greenhilt of The Order of the Stick finds himself filling this role more often than he'd like.
"As much as I loathe how you've manipulated my friends and me, Xykon is an actual threat. I'm not going to sit and let him get away with whatever he's got planned just because my father happens to be a self-absorbed arrogant jerk. There are too many lives at stake" - source
- In The Letters of the Devil, Detective Cedric Dustin is more interested in advancing himself by doing the least amount of work possible than he is in actually solving crimes.
- Karkat Vantas of Homestuck. He'll shout, he'll whine, he'll mock his friends and foes alike, but ultimately he'll do the right thing. Dave Strider as well. In addition, both Karkat and Dave are literal knights. Other characters with traits along these lines include Rose Lalonde and Sollux Captor.
- Oddly enough, Davan and some of the other main characters of Something*Positive sometimes come across like this. They live in a Crapsack World and are completely aware of it, but they'll go to great lengths for each other.
- A running theme in Sluggy Freelance is our heroes running into situations that almost make them this trope, but eventually resulting in them keeping their idealism, especially as they meet characters who embody it. The best example of this kind of character would have to be the aged alternate version if Riff in the 4-U City arc, who has been tirelessly working to fix his doomed world for decades while knowing that the dystopia he's ignoring is causing the citizens to suffer. By the time he meets another human being for the first time in ten years he's one giant ball of bitterness. Seeing that possible future causes Riff to reaffirm his idealism during that arc, but even he ends up landing in a balance between idealist and cynic most of the time.
Riff: "The sound of children playing in the streets for the first time in decades. Hate that sound. But I know it's a good thing."
- Heathcliff Sinclair of Slightly Damned puts on a mean face, but shows his true colors when the chips are down.
- In El Goonish Shive, Elliot describes Susan as something like this.
- Corrick of Plume is incredibly jaded with his masters and the world in general, but still manages to bond with Vesper and do more than just keep her alive.
- Zebra Girl: Sam. The fact that he's a cartoon rabbit makes his jadedness all the more pronounced.
- Lamar in We Are The Wyrecats is incredibly dour, but quick to take action nonetheless.
- Jessica the oppossum is possibly the most cynical character in Housepets!, not only being a Flat-Earth Atheist regarding the Opener of Ways and constantly snarking at her fellow woodland creatures for believing it, but also refusing to believe Zach when he tells her it's an Unwanted False Faith (well, not exactly false, but definitely unwanted) and he's not trying to get the worship of her friends. She will also give up anything in a moment to help the aforementioned other woodland creatures, because as long as they believe this nonsense someone's got to be practical.
- The Courier in Courier's Mind: Rise of New Vegas is a cynical and very reluctant hero, but never the less, usually does the right thing.
- Sword Art Online Abridged: Despite his snarkiness, sociopathy and overall abrasive personality, Kirito's Chronic Hero Syndrome turns him into this by the end of the Aincrad arc.
- Genie from Aladdin: The Series becomes this in one episode. He agrees to help the Mukhtar, a member of a genie hunting, magic sensing race that is considered the mortal enemy of all genies. The reason? If he does so, the Mukhtar will free his friends Aladdin and co., who have been captured and trapped in a magical locket. At one point the Mukhtar is attacked by a plant creature, and Genie seizes the opportunity to snatch the locket and run away. However, because he is a good guy, his conscience forces him to turn around and save the Mukhtar from the plant creature. Later he is betrayed by the Mukhtar and sold out to Mozenrath, a sorcerer who hired the Mukhtar to catch Genie. After being imprisoned in a crystal, he angrily says to himself "I could have run away, but noooooo, I'm a GOOD guy!" Later the Mukhtar turns around and saves the protagonists, including Genie, from Mozenrath, but the point still stands. Sometimes a good character will be disgusted with itself for doing the right thing when amorality could have paid off so much more.
- Ratchet from Transformers: Animated has seen what the worst of war can bring out of the Autobots as a medic and mentor to Omega Supreme. Yet, not even his cynic attitude can completely jade his loyalty for his people. Overall, the series' theme seems a bit sourer than any other Transformers series.
- In Transformers: Prime, not only does Ratchet carry on this trait, but most of Team Prime, even Optimus himself, carry bits of it with them after spending hundreds of millennia fighting against the Decepticons and losing their home.
- Dinobot in Beast Wars becomes one as he lightens up and becomes less of a Token Evil Teammate. He generally has nothing but contempt for the Maximals' exploration and research missions, feeling their time could be better spent fighting the Predacons, and he absolutely despises the thought of returning to Cybertron as a Maximal (even once opting to stay behind alone). That all said, while he complains every step of the way, he never hesitates to take part in these missions, and helps them try and return to Cybertron every time the opportunity arises, simply because it's what his Maximal allies want.
- Silverbolt became one in Beast Machines after being reformatted, as a result of trying to reconcile his established Knight in Shining Armor personality with the fact that as a Vehicon, he enjoyed murder, mayhem, and general evilness.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender Prince Zuko becomes this after his Heel–Face Turn and becoming the Sixth Ranger and The Atoner. And while he's on the side of good now, he's still as grumpy and emo as ever and still firmly believes that Aang's silly ideas about pacifism should remain in air temple preschool where they belong, for Aang misses the bigger picture.
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Wheeler (usually) does what's right and rushes with the others to stop the eco-villains and rescue endangered wildlife/threatened habitat/his friends, is brave, and certainly has heroic moments despite generally being the Butt-Monkey. Still, that doesn't mean he doesn't complain or grumble about it at times, and even though he's usually outwardly cheerful and flippant, he's also one of the more cynical Planeteers, and is revealed to have come from an abusive background.
- South Park has Stan, a young boy who knows most of the things he will do won't change anything, but he keeps doing good deeds regardless because it's the right thing to do.
- Tron has developed a very nasty case of this (along with Good is Not Nice) in TRON: Uprising, after being betrayed, damaged, and left for dead. He's very gruff towards Beck, but for good reason; he wanted to talk the kid out of it, but since the younger Program isn't going to quit, he'll try to harden Beck so that he survives.
- Warhawk (a member of the Justice League in the future time period of Batman Beyond) is very much like this, along with Good is Not Nice, sharing both traits with Big Barda, who is also a member at this time.
- Buttercup of The Powerpuff Girls is the Blood Knight of the trio and can act like this a lot, seeing as she represents the Spice aspect of Professor Utonium's original recipe.
- Zodac from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), is like this, but wasn't always. He was once a Knight in Shining Armor type, but after King Hsss killed his brother in the original war with the Snake-Men centuries ago, he became colder and harsher in his ways. In the present-day storyline, he barely avoids crossing the line into Knight Templar territory when Hsss returns.
- Samurai Jack: Jack himself has hit this territory as of Season 5. While he continues to fight Aku's forces, he's become completely and utterly broken. Having been trapped in the Bad Future for fifty years without aging or finding a way back to the past, Jack has become little more than a shell going through the motions, and even finds himself arguing with his own subconscious over how hopeless his situation has become. This is visually reflected by his new outfit, a suit of dark-colored samurai armor that has replaced his original pristine white gi.
- Batman hits this wall in one episode of Batman: The Animated Series ("I Am the Night") where he starts the episode dwelling on whether or not he's wasting his life trying to fix a city beyond repair then gets even more jaded when a sting operation goes wrong and Jim Gordon ends up severely injured in the process, enough to incite a 10-Minute Retirement. He gets past it by the end but, as shown by later installments of the DCAU, over time he becomes permanently sour thanks to tragedy, loneliness, and his personal vendetta against crime taking its toll. Terry McGinnis does help him open up somewhat but his jadedness never truly fades.
- Jonathan Swift, despite being a self-proclaimed Misanthrope Supreme who wrote entire books dedicated to proving (quite hilariously) that Humans Are Bastards, nevertheless spent much of his life trying to help the powerless and dispossessed. He particularly tried to help the Irish - even the Catholic ones - having himself seen (as an Anglo-Irishman born in Dublin) exactly how wretchedly they lived. Sometimes, he did both at once. Worth spelling out that Swift was the Dean of Dublin Cathedral, thus a high official in the Anglican Church of Ireland, which at the time believed that all Catholics would go to hell. (And it gets better - the Deanship was really a political appointment, so he was not just going against the policy of the Church, but of the State as well.)
- The official philosopher of this view must be Joseph de Maistre, who wrote in his St. Petersburg Dialogues:
The philosopher can even discover how permanent carnage is provided for and ordained in the grand scheme of things. But will this law stop at man? Undoubtedly not. Yet who will kill him who kills everything else? Man! It is man himself who is charged with slaughtering man.But how can he accomplish this law, he who is a moral and merciful being, who is born to love, who weeps for others as for himself, who finds pleasure in weeping and who even invents fiction to make himself weep, and finally, to whom it has been said that whoever sheds blood unjustly, by man shall his blood be shed?
- The Existentialist movement is like this. Yes, such a "meaning in life" does not exist anyway in this Crapsack World, but they still continue to make the most meaningful out of it and live it. Søren Kierkegaard, considered the first Existentialist philosopher, basically described his Knight of Faith as a somewhat more poetic version of this trope. Like both nihilists ("aesthetic people") and those who resign themselves to the afterlife (the "knight of infinite resignation"), he knows that pursuing an unreachable goal in this world is cynically absurd/meaningless (if it's impossible to reach someone you love, the vast majority would just give up), yet in contrast to them he does anyway as a way of making his life even more meaningful.
- Abraham Lincoln spent most of his life, especially The American Civil War, severely depressed over the nature of the country, particularly the South, and he fought to keep it together anyway.
- George Orwell, who despite the grim darkness of most of his works remained adamant that Democracy and Socialism were worth fighting for (and got shot through the neck doing so—in the Spanish Civil War—yet somehow survived).
- Kent M. Keith, "The Paradoxical Commandments":
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
- Dmitri Shostakovich, a bitter Soviet composer who refused to become a propagandistic servant to the totalitarian state he lived in until the end.
- Glenn Greenwald, a Salon columnist and former civil rights attorney who, despite being a Deadpan Snarker, firmly believes in civil liberties.
- War poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen subverted this trope slightly in the sense that they wrote about hating war whilst continuing to serve as soldiers (since they would still have viewed fleeing as treacherous and cowardly). Rudyard Kipling played it a little straighter in the sense that he likewise took on a less jingoistic tone in his poetry after his son died in battle, but he continued to view the concept of besmirching soldiers or the war effort as little better than treason.
- History will remember Ludwig van Beethoven as a bit of a grump. He did not like people, it seemed, but he still produced music that celebrated the finest qualities of both man and divinity, like the famous vocal exert of Ode To Joy.
- Many long-time International Humanitarian Aid workers who have worked in the developing world fall into this category too.
- Keith Olbermann, a blazing idealist who wraps himself in a protective shroud of cynicism, snark, and anger. Though generally appearing to be exasperated with the world around him, Keith doesn't do a great job of hiding the fact that he's mostly angry with the world for not being as good as he believes it can be, and obviously can't help but keep believing that someday, it'll get there. If nothing else, his Special Comment on Proposition 8 shows more clearly than anything else that, underneath the snark and the grumbles, Keith Olbermann is a hopeless romantic of the first order.
Keith: ...this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.
- Sufferers of depression often become something of a real-world equivalent of this if they survive and overcome the disorder. Prolonged depression tends to give people a more negative outlook on life, but many act in a selflessly and joyous manner to compensate.
- Fred Rogers knew that the world is a hard, often nasty place, and a necessary part of his worldview was that all human beings, himself included, have a monster inside. And yet he is one of the most gentle and kind-hearted people in the world, believing that everyone deserves to be loved and understood, despite their flaws.