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Light Is Not Good

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"I had always presumed white light to be pure and somehow chaste, to be noble and good. But this whiteness was unutterably evil, chilling, its purity an abomination."

The Light seems like a good, kindly thing, especially compared with that bad old Darkness: Whereas Darkness is usually concerned with kicking puppies, eating children, and laughing its head off, the forces of Light generally worry about nicer things, like singing with the birds, helping little old ladies cross the street, and... well, you know, being a Hero. Whereas the Dark is sexy and alluring and tends to dress that way, the Light (while often quite attractive in its own way) tends to be a bit more conservative when it comes to clothing. Women serving the Light tend to really appreciate this, considering what the Darkness usually makes its women wear. Whereas the Darkness seems to revel in lawlessness and chaos, the Light tends to prefer law and order, providing for properly maintained roads, a court system, and safe cities.


Yet despite all of this, the Light is not always a bringer of good and hope. It can, in fact, be just as vicious as the Dark, if not worse.

In one of those instances where you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, the Light isn't always what it appears to be. Sometimes, a battle with an obviously Light-wielding character will not result in Defeat Meaning Friendship or an Epiphany Therapy, but will just end with a laser-scorched corpse and the shiny happy killer skipping off to continue using their sunshine-fueled powers to wreak decidedly unholy havoc. There is a reason why the word Lucifer in Latin, literally means "Light Bringer".

Anti Heroes generally fall under Dark Is Not Evil rather than this Trope unless they're a Knight Templar, like for instance, a ruthless Church Militant who works with the good guys. Light Is Not Good is when a character is directly bad, directly villainous — and still has Light powers. Depending on characterization, they might be sympathetic, perhaps well-intentioned but horribly misguided. Or the person could be the most gleefully twisted bastard imaginable.


The mildest form of this Trope involves beautiful, charismatic villains dressed in white and surrounded by religious symbols, often of some form of sun worship. A step further features a villain who wields Light as an elemental power. Whether by technology or magic, they can bend physical light to their whims, displaying such powers as beauty-enhancing sparkles or an angelic glow, optical illusions and holograms, Mind Control through Laser-Guided Amnesia, blinding flashes, and laser beams. For artistic contrast and further deconstruction, they might be opposed by a hero who uses shadows and darkness as Elemental Powers.

Commonly used with Fallen Heroes and Knights Templar. Often used together with the Path of Inspiration or Corrupt Church. Perhaps might even go so far as to cast aspersions on a Council of Angels. At the most extreme, it declares God and Heaven Above are a bunch of evil scumbags (and if not God, then perhaps a Demiurge Archetype). May well occur in a villain's Yin-Yang Bomb, in which case the heroes probably need to produce one of their own to combat it.

Crapsaccharine Worlds are often depicted as highly polished, brightly lit, and cheerful almost to the point of cloying. Of course, the true nature of the society is gradually revealed over the course of the narrative, making it an instance of this trope. In some settings, this trope can manifest in the form of Ascetic Aesthetic, as the latter not only gives the impression that something rotten hides under that shiny white exterior, but is also the aesthetic of choice for societies that value absolute order and conformity a bit too much. (e.g. the city from Mirror's Edge).

This trope is an inversion of the standard that "Light = Good". Like with Dark Is Not Evil, Light Is Not Good can subvert or avert a number of other Tropes depending on how it comes into play — usually Beauty Equals Goodness and Good Colors, Evil Colors, among others. By now you get the idea that, just like how, sometimes Dark Is Not Evil, sometimes Light Is Not Good. Some will view the Light itself as natural, and darkness as nothing more than an absence of it. Others will see Light as a destructive force, a perversion of the infinite all-encompassing Darkness.

Light and Dark are both oversimplified metaphors for Good and Evil, not truly synonymous terms. Looking at the matter rationally, too much sunlight causes burns, sunstroke, skin cancer, and drought, which is bad; whereas nightfall and sufficient shade provide relief and rest, which is good. So, neither physical brightness nor physical shade can be all good or all bad. Elements are properly value-neutral. note 

This trope is not about an Obviously Evil character such as a Bedsheet Ghost wearing white, although they may fall under Bright Is Not Good. To qualify a character must fit with what is culturally thought of light. An angel wearing bright clothes with White Magic or simply a classical unicorn as the villains are good examples; a simple Corrupt Church cleric or a white-haired handsome youth simply using their attractiveness to get away with misdeeds is pushing it depending on who you ask; a Monster Clown wearing white makeup but otherwise not brightly coloured, not attractive or not possessing holy powers is most definitely not. Someone who is beautiful but otherwise not light related in any way is definitely out. Add a sun (powers, jewelry, name, whatever), however, and we're listening. And an Eldritch Abomination with light powers is definitely in. Divinely Appearing Demons are demons who look angelic in apperance.

Keep in mind that stories where Light Is Not Good do not automatically enforce Dark Is Not Evil. In fact, stories where Dark Is Evil and Light Is Not Good are commonplace to show that the light can be just as foul as darkness. In addition, some stories may use BOTH Light Is Not Good and Light Is Good at the same time, with good light-based characters calling the evil ones Hypocrites.

In the context of Order vs. Chaos, Order Is Not Good serves as this trope's counterpart, the former which Light Is Not Good tends to go hand-in-hand with as mentioned above.

See also Pure Is Not Good, Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon, Villain in a White Suit, Albinos Are Freaks, Ethereal White Dress, Lawful Stupid, Good Is Boring, Dangerously Garish Environment. May result in Good Powers, Bad People. Often overlaps with Light 'em Up and Holy Hand Grenade. Oh, while we're at it, laser beams are made of light too. Fire (particularly Fanatical Fire) can be applied to this as well, as well as electricity and ice, as well as the blinding flash provided by Nuclear Weapons or an gamma-ray burst or asteroid/comet impact. In this case, see also Bright Is Not Good, which only applies to colors. Not related to Good Is Not Nice, though the borders can be fluid. If combined with a touch of Red Is Violent, you'll get White and Red and Eerie All Over.

Related to Daylight Horror. Occasionally the Sun expresses this trope in fiction, generally either as sun-powered villains or as evil or creepy disembodied heads representing the Sun, but sometimes the sun (or sun god) itself is seen as malevolent. Even more common than the Sun in this context is the full moon, especially when werewolves are involved. See also Hiding Behind Religion, which can be considered a more realistic version of this trope.

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, White Wolf has white fur but is just as willing to capture goats as the other wolves. In fact, he's able to capture and eat goats nearly every day, a feat that's all but impossible for the other wolves.

  • Kalutika Maybus, the God of Light in Rebirth, wants to destroy the human race because his life as a human in the 1600s was very unpleasant. Prior to attaining (or growing into) godhood, he was the main character, half-vampire Deshiwitat's close friend. After Desh failed to save Kal's beloved sister, Kal had a Heroic BSoD and became a god. He then vaporized Desh's girlfriend Lilith right before his eyes and sealed Desh in stone for 300 years. Currently, he has somehow revived Lilith and made her his wife/consort. They apparently have a son, a powerful vampire called Gray. In spite of their connections with the vampire race, they're planning on killing them all before moving on to humans (Kal has already destroyed the Galactic Senate Council of Gods which govern his actions).

    Music Videos 
  • In Danger Days, the album by My Chemical Romance, the main antagonist throughout the videos is Better Living Industries, a Mega-Corp that deals entirely in pristine monochrome. Black and white logo, white vending machines, etc.
  • Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe takes place in an almost all-white facility that is reminiscent of a church and discusses "cleansing" and "coming into the light" repeatedly.
  • In Miserable by Lit, Pam/Vallery has golden blonde hair, wears a bikini that is almost entirely white, and even has white nail polish. However, that doesn't make her good. Despite seeming friendly at first, once she's done being climbed on by the band, she starts gleefully devouring each member one-by-one as they beg her for mercy.

    Visual Novels 
  • Tears to Tiara: Holy power is associated with purity, precision, belief and perfection, but when taken to extremes it also promotes blind faith, arrogance and self-righteous zealotry. The Empire is strongly associated with holy powers, which makes its more moderate members like Gaius and Octavia uneasy.
    • Said Empire is led by Lector, one of the Twelve Angels, all of whom have turned into vicious zealots ever since Watos the creator deity vanished, due to not having a single clue of what the latter's will actually is. They are responsible for purging every race that threatens to develop enough such that they equal or even surpass the Angels in their "perfection", and it got so bad to the point Watos is heavily implied to have created this universe's equivalent to Satan just to free the world from his mad kin. Light may not be good, but at least God has standards.


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Alternative Title(s): Light Is Evil


Horde Prime

She-Ra subverts the "Light is Good" rhetoric in season five with Horde Prime's terminology of light and darkness.

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