Follow TV Tropes


Lowered Recruiting Standards

Go To
Sometimes it's quite blatant.

"Didn't know the requirements were just living and breathing!"

An organization that has always had strict standards about who gets in the ranks has suddenly decided to become much more lenient.

The most frequent reason for this change of policy is a simple need for more members. If the organization is engaged in a deadly conflict, then extra numbers, even as Cannon Fodder, become extremely valuable. In other cases, however, the organization might just decide that their old standards are no longer necessary due to changing circumstances.

If the protagonist's organization has Lowered Recruiting Standards, our protagonist is likely to be one of the people who only got in because of the lowering. This decision is also often a cause of friction between those among the Old Guard who support the new arrangement, those who resent the "riffraff" coming into their midst, and the New Meat themselves who feel the pains of being looked down on.

This trope is specific to when an organization changes the rules to allow more people to join, as opposed to situations where the organization makes a special exception for an especially talented individual who otherwise wouldn't have been allowed in.

As anyone in any Armed Forces can tell you, this is certainly Truth in Television, as seen with Trading Bars for Stripes (when criminals are hired, often forcibly), Child Soldiers (when recruits are taken younger) and Old Soldier (when they're taken older). Contrast with Terminally Exclusive Club, which is often the result of recruiting standards being too high. Not to be confused with Too Desperate to Be Picky, which is about a person being hungry enough that they're willing to eat anything.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Area 88, the Asran foreign legion is desperate for fighting men, so it tends to overlook flaws in potential mercenaries, such as inexperience, criminal backgrounds, or psychopathology. They're not too concerned about lack of consent (in Shin's case) or age (in Kim's case) either.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Batou considers lowering Section 9's recruitment standards when it looks like they might be drastically outnumbered. He and the Major weigh the cons of doing so vs not doing so: if they do, Section 9 loses its super-elite status and its performance will drop, but by not doing so they're very vulnerable to being overwhelmed by less-skilled but more numerous opponents.
  • High School D×D is this trope taken to religious fervor; the war between Angels, Demons, and Renegades (Fallen Angels who unionized) has finally ended... because everyone ran out of reserves and half the leadership was wiped out including God and the four demon Overlords. To survive, the three factions are recruiting humans and breeding like crazy - our protagonist is among the most important of these 'mutt-demons'.
  • In Irresponsible Captain Tylor, the protagonist attempts to join the Space Force but bungles his psych exam. The recruiting officers laughs off that failure and lets Tylor join because, with the Raalgons declaring war, the Space Force will take anyone it can get.
  • In Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, after the battle with Cabernet ends, many Letter Bees are injured and unable to perform their duties as postmen. The Beehive then re-evaluates some failed candidates, resulting in Chico Nege getting a job as a bee.
  • In The World God Only Knows, lack of numbers is the reason that a third class devil like Elsie gets trained and sent to Earth to capture loose spirits; a job previously reserved for the best of the best. To elaborate, there was massive numbers of runaway spirits that escaped the hell realm and invading human realm 10 years prior. To counter this, the hell realm government recruits as many spirit hunters as possible.

    Comic Books 
  • A recurring gag in Sturmtruppen is just how desperate for new troops the army is... And to what the recruiters had to resort to get people on the frontlines:
    • The two soldiers from the 27th Armored Battalion (of Discipline) are explicitely criminals who had been given Longer-Than-Life Sentences for unspecified crimes, but at some point were let out and sent first on repeated suicide missions behind enemy lines and then on the first line.
    • Siegfriend von Nibelungen was a college student that the propaganda convinced to enroll and take horrific risks. He accidentally steps on a minefield he prepared himself, and loses both arms and legs and is left blind, deaf, and without bladder control before he realizes the recruiters scammed him.
    • At one point a soldier shows up convinced he's on a military-style vacation village - and spent all his savings on it. He's implied to have been formerly exempted from military service, except a recruiter scammed him into enrolling.
    • A story arc has the arrival of a trio of completely untrained recruits to the front lines. It's implied that before the war they would have been rejected from the army due stupidity, as the sergeant is unable to make them learn that when he says "Say your name and rank" they should state their names and rank rather than repeat "your name and rank".
    • A late story arc features the arrival of three women soldiers, a measure previously unthinkable. The three would become recurring characters beyond their introductory arc.

    Fan Works 
  • In Chapter 3 of Il Logical Conclusions, Brienne of Tarth finds herself leading a Kingsguard with drastically reduced standards of skill, experience or even basic competence. Since all the greatest heroes of the land are either dead or retired, there aren't many legendary candidates available, and since the greatly reduced powers of the Crown mean that Brienne doesn't have the authority to demand able men from the Lords, she's reduced to populating the once-mighty Kingsguard with a procession of wide-eyed young men with no training in the dim hope that she can build them up into suitability.
  • In My Mirror, Sword and Shield is this the reason Suzaku was able to become Emperor Lelouch’s bodyguard despite having no records, not being part of the military and is from the country Lelouch is invading. Lelouch admits that soldiers are thin on the ground and competent ones are nonexistent. He overlooks Suzaku’s sketchiness because he is far more competent than the entirety of the Royal Guards. Plus he makes great eye-candy.
  • This trope is vehemently defied in The Night Unfurls. It has been stated that under no circumstances should Kyril's company lower the recruiting standards for anyone seeking fame and fortune. Only the absence of glory hounds and sycophants can ensure the effectiveness of his company.
  • Kings of Revolution:
    • When the three Aces suddenly suffer a massive Curb-Stomp Battle at the hands of Kyrie, Iris, and Veyron, the Arthra immediately demands reinforcements with the presence of Eclipse Drivers and General Darlton knowing of their existence becoming a massive concern. But because most of their forces are elsewhere, they are forced to speed up training new recruits and send them to Earth instead. Cue an Adaptational Early Appearance of Subaru and Teana.

  • In Armageddon (1998), each of Harry's men fails their NASA evaluations. Finally, Truman asks if they can merely survive the trip to the asteroid, and a doctor replies that he's surprised they even survived the tests.
  • In The Bourne Legacy, Aaron Cross reveals that his IQ score was raised 12 points by a military recruiter so the recruiter could make his quota. Being made a Super-Soldier has enhanced his intelligence, which is why he's not eager to be Brought Down to Normal.
  • The Bridge: Seven teenaged German boys are thrown into combat in the Western Front in the last days of World War II, after exactly one day of training. Tragedy ensues.
  • Played for Laughs in Deadpool 2. Deadpool recruits every single person who signs up for the X-Force, including a random non-superpowered guy named Peter who joined 'cause he thought it'd be fun.
  • Played for Drama in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Due to the approaching Uruk-hai army being several times larger than anticipated, Theoden's army, having taken refuge at Helm's Deep, is forced to start conscripting all hands in the fort, including old men and children (some looking to be as young as 10) to bolster their numbers.
    Gimli: Most of these men have seen too many Winters.
    Legolas: Or too few.
  • This trope is the premise behind the original Police Academy movie. The mayor instituted the policy as a political move (apparently aimed at achieving racial and social equality, but all kinds of oddballs end up joining), and a resentful chief of police cooks up a plan to make the new cadets so miserable they quit.
  • Early in Starship Troopers, we see a cheesy "I'm doing my part!" Federation propaganda clip where a little kid wearing junior-sized combat armor gets a laugh from a regiment of Mobile Infantry. It's less funny later in the movie, when Johnny Rico is given his own command and a lot of his New Meat consists of terrified Child Soldiers, indicating that the Bug War is going badly.

  • Mentioned in All Quiet on the Western Front: towards the end of the war, younger and younger recruits are being sent to the front with even less training than the protagonists' group received. They comment that they seem so much older now than those kids.
  • In Amagi Brilliant Park, the staff is so short-handed and budget-stiffed that management is forced to hire a cast of misfits so weird they make the Magical Fairy People who compose the main staff look comparably sane. (Compare Beast Men and globes-for-heads to a failed mayoral candidate and a normal-looking girl with a perverted serial killer for a brother).
  • Andersonville: Andersonville POW Camp is hastily constructed to hold Union prisoners at a time when the Confederacy is running out of men. Andersonville commandant Henry Wirz is not happy that his command consists of halfwits and rejects, the elderly and teenage boys. For that matter Wirz himself got the command because he is unfit for combat after suffering his wound at Seven Pines.
  • The title character of Biggles was a beneficiary (and/or victim) of this trope in the chronologically second-earliest book in the series. Not only does he get into flight school by lying about his age, albeit only by eight months, but a chapter or so later he's getting his pilot's wings and a hasty posting to 266 Squadron in France despite having less than half the required hours in the air. He survives through raw talent and sheer dumb luck for long enough to learn on the job; many other pilots don't.
  • In Chaos Squad, children as young as eight are shown serving as defense forces to protect Earth following the first half of an alien war.
  • Harry Dresden, title character of The Dresden Files and black sheep of the wizarding community is recruited into the Wardens and made regional commander for the central United States due to their shorthandedness during the vampire war. Unlike other examples, his abilities are not in question. He just has a checkered past and they don't like his personality.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
      • In the sixth book, Harry is accepted in the advanced Potions class because the new teacher has lower standards than Snape's. Unlike most examples on this page, however, it's implied Snape's admittance requirements were too high (demanding the Wizarding equivalent of an A on the exam, while the replacement also allowed those with the B grade equivalent). Snape was also unable to apply this requirement to his new class, Defense Against the Dark Arts, as this would have left him teaching a one-student class (a student by the name of Harry Potter...).
      • The sixth book mentions that Voldemort had to do this after his return. He would have loved to severely punish the Death Eaters who defected after his apparent death fifteen years prior, but his severe lack of minions forces him to keep them around.
    • Aurors (wizard SWAT teams) need high grades in every core subject at Hogwarts. After Voldemort's defeat, the job is open to anyone who participated in the Battle of Hogwarts (which involved fighting murderous Dark wizards twice their age and experience), which is how students got in who would otherwise never have made it (such as Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter).
  • In Heavy Object, the basic soldiers of the supernations can be as young as thirteen while Elites are often recruited as children to more directly shape them. A point is made in one volume that none of the protagonists find this unusual which is a sign of how warped the world's morality has become.
  • In The Helmsman Saga, before the First Galactic War, only nobles were accepted into the Helmsman Academy. The protagonist is from the first batch of commoners to be allowed in due to the losses in combat.
  • The Manticorian Navy in Honor Harrington has been quietly lowering its standards with regards to re-enlistees in preparation for the war with Haven, resulting in troublemakers like Randy Steilman being kept in the service.
  • Monstrous Regiment, by virtue of the fact that there was hardly anybody left to recruit by the time of the story.
  • Happens in Under the Dome by Stephen King. After the town is cut-off from the outside world via Some Kind of Force Field, the town's leaders make the decision to deputize some young adults in order to beef up the police force. These young adults? The town selectman's sociopathic son and his delinquent friends.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Aes Sedai (magic-user) policy of only admitting young girls as trainees is relaxed a little to admit the prodigy Nynaeve, and then abandoned altogether (along with restrictions on minimum magical strength) after Egwene becomes the Amyrlin Seat.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, Sam Yeager is a player for a Triple-I League Baseball team. During the Great War, he tried to join the Army but was rejected on the basis of having lost all his teeth during The Spanish Flu. After the Race attacks the US (and many other nations), the Army quickly lowers its standards and starts accepting anyone who's willing to fight. Sam and his manager "Mutt" Daniels (who would normally be too old to fight) join up.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Empire began supplementing its Clone Army with non-clone recruits, a development which drew criticism from the clones. As this policy eventually gave us the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, the clones probably had a point.
  • Defied by Chief of Staff Rumford in Victoria, who wants to keep the standards of the Christian Marines high, since they are supposed to serve as the elite vanguard of the revolution. Even once casualties begin to mount, he sticks to the old formulas, demanding that recruits should be not just military men in good standing, but also men of culture devoted to the philosophical heritage of Christianity and Western Civilization. Ashe sees it, if the Christian Marines ever lose sight of what they are fighting for and why, they are worse than useless in any case; a few true believers are far better than a whole regiment of conscripts.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, the war against the Parshendi has been a sufficient drain on the humans' manpower that ten-year old boys are being conscripted. Or at least, that's the excuse. The truth is that a lighteyed noble wanted revenge against a darkeyed surgeon, and found a loophole in the conscription laws, so he got his cousin Highmarshal Amaram to recruit the least useful of the surgeon's sons.
    Amaram: Lighteyed boys are recruited as early as eight or nine.
    Lirin: For officer training! Not frontline soldiers!
  • In the first Warrior Cats book, Bluestar's recruitment of Rusty is considered to be this by most cats, since recruiting house cats with no fighting experience is basically unheard of in the Clans.
  • Field Grey: In 1941 Arthur Nebe rejects Bernie Gunther's request for transfer to a front-line unit because Bernie, born in 1896, is too old. Bernie tells an interrogator that by 1944 there was no such thing as too young or too old for the German army, which is why Bernie found himself fighting alongside teenagers and grandpas as part of the last-ditch defense of Konigsberg in early 1945.
  • This is central to the plot of Guns of the Dawn. Despite the authorities perpetually claiming that Lascanne's war with neighbouring Denland is close almost won, the Lascanne army gradually but steadily lowers its standards for conscription. Eventually, it starts to conscript women - such as protagonist Emily Marshwic - not just into secondary roles such as couriers, but into front-line units.
  • Hive Mind (2016): When certain critical jobs become vacant, Lottery will select the best person for the job whether they would normally have been chosen for that job or not. This is especially a problem with the Sea Farm, which typically only sends about a hundred candidates for Lottery ever year.
    • Admiral Tregarth is concerned that if a successor for him is not found soon, the Hive may need to do that for Sea Farm Admiral, which could be disastrous.
    • Caleb was selected for head of Sea Farm Security due to the murder of his predecessor, despite being too impulsive for the job.
    • Amber's Lottery, due to having a new telepath, led to a large number of people being imprinted as potential Strike Team members. Adika wants to wait until the next Lottery to fill the open slots in the Strike Team, on the grounds that anyone selected in the next Lottery will be chosen because they're absolutely perfect for the job instead of being 'good enough' in a year when many were needed.
  • Mass Effect Annihilation: The Keelah Si'yah, being made on something of a rush job on account of the extremely imminent Reaper invasion, decided to go with the policy of taking whoever of its various races it could get. As a result, the intake is a lot more ragtag than the previous four arks the Andromeda Initiative made. Never mind the captain being a genocidal lunatic.

    Live Action TV 
  • All in the Family: Archie's lodge is in trouble for not having any black or Jewish members. So he suggests that they invite one black to join - Solomon Jackson. And one Jew - also Solomon Jackson. At the end of the episode Jackson accepts their invitation to join, and promises to invite all his black friends and all his Jewish friends to join too.
  • Happened a few times in Babylon 5:
    • During the Earth-Minbari War EarthForce would accept anyone willing to man the ships, as otherwise they would be unable to keep up with the Minbari, and then enacted a conscription. As that wasn't enough they started deploying on the battlefield the Belt Alliance (effectively a union-shipping company hybrid with its own anti-piracy security force), as while their ships and fighters, being more primitive that what was used by EarthForce, were useless to defend convoys against Minbari raids they could at least serve as meat shields to give the heavier EarthForce ships a very small chance to strike back, or, during the Battle of the Line, keep the Minbari busy for longer while the evacuation of Earth proceeded. After the Minbari's unexpected surrender, many of the surviving personnel enrolled during the war was kept in service, just with additional training.
    • Expanded Universe sources reveal the Centauri military has actually formalized this: while technically every adult free male is considered part of the military, most of the time it's composed by career soldiers and young men who have just reached adulthood and are serving a mandatory term; during times of crisis and danger, however, the emperor and the Centaurum can recall in service larger parts of the population, up to forming slave battalions. At no time, however, the Centauri are willing to arm their subjects (foreign mercenaries (especially Drazi), on the other hand, are used).
    • Defied in the backstory by the Orieni Empire: their military's strongest point is its excellent training, and they won't lower enrolling or training standards even during a war. This was their undoing when the Centauri-Orieni War dragged on: already at disadvantage due their smaller space, population, economy, reliance on logistically-intensive weapon systems and even proportional availability of the Quantium-40 necessary for the jump drives, the Orieni's refusal to lower standards meant that the Centauri numerical superiority only increased even after they stopped recalling people in service, and by now the Centauri had lost most of the misplaced arrogance they had at the start of the war, had learned the right lessons from the early defeats, and just wanted the complete military annihilation of the Orieni Empire.
  • Hogan's Heroes:
    • In one episode, Klink is in danger of going into combat on the Russian front, and the POWsnote  try to help him get out of it by making sure he's in the worst possible physical health. Unfortunately, it ends up being in vain as the physician approves Klink anyway, saying that he fulfills the one main requirement: the fact that he's breathing.
    • In another episode, Hogan and his crew impersonate employees of a nearby armaments' factory to infiltrate and sabotage it. While working the factory floor, the guy Newkirk's been impersonating, a foreman checking for quality, gets called up to be drafted into the German army. While waiting his turn to see the doctor, another man tells Newkirk he was too fat to be a tanker, too nearsighted for an artilleryman, and didn't have feet good enough for the infantry, so he was placed in the airborne unit. Newkirk was deemed fit frontline service because he remembered his name, could tell that a chair's color was brown, and a shot from pistol startling him indicated his reflexes were good and had no major surgeries or illnesses within the last three days. When he's paraded in front of some high ranking officers, Klink, who was visiting the factory, states "we're scraping the bottom of the barrel." The reason Newkirk wasn't discovered or sent off to battle was because he covered his face with a handkerchief when Klink was nearby, and because Hogan used one the sabotaged cannons as an example of what happens when the factory loses an experienced foreman.
  • The 100 - By Season 2, the Ark has lost so much of its population, and is facing such an overwhelming threat from the Grounders, that even Murphy, a known murderer, is allowed to help with their defense. Murphy is well aware that, if he's being trusted with a weapon, then they "really are screwed".
  • The Man in the High Castle: In season 3, Inspector Kido is introduced to a new member of his staff to replace some of the people killed in the previous season's bombing of the Kempeitai's offices, a half-Japanese man born in the United States whose proficiency in Japanese is not up to standards. Kido begrudgingly gives him a chance to prove his loyalty to the Empire. This man later turns out to be a mole.
  • M*A*S*H - With the draft on, you get doctors who are against the very war that's being fought. It was a recurring theme that the vast majority of the US Army (being draftees), were unprepared, unfit, and generally had no business being in a warzone.
  • Orange Is the New Black: In Season 3, the prison hires more guards to deal with the workload. However, it's clear from the start that they aren't qualified to work there. In the finale, it's revealed that one of them is actually a hit man who works for the drug lord that Alex smuggled for. He even says that the place would hire Forrest Gump.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • From professional wrestling, you have the nWo (New World Order) of the WCW. This was one of the things that soured the storyline, causing the eventual implosion of the WCW.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Takashi Kurita formed the Legion of Vega, a military unit made not of samurai elites, but of Undesirables like the yakuza, then assigned his son, Theodore, to lead it. This Army of Thieves and Whores actually turned out to be extremely effective once they realized that Theodore was just as much of a Black Sheep as they were. Training standards were not lowered for them and the honor they were accorded by being made soldiers filled them with motivation and pride, and they fought with distinction in the War of 39, the Ronin War, and the Clan Invasion. In fact, the lack of samurai or nobles in their ranks gave them some advantages in the Clan Invasion, as they were willing to be tactically flexible instead of attempt to keep challenging the Clans to honor duels (which the Clans excelled at far more than the warriors of the Combine thanks to their superior mechs).
  • In Twilight: 2000 by the time the game starts in 2000 all the armies in Europe have been taking anyone they can get for years: draftees, left-overs from destroyed allied units, deserters from the other side, even locals.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • For the most part averted in the Imperium, where in normal circumstances only the best of the Planetary Defense Forces are allowed to join the Imperial Guard. However, manpower is the Imperium's greatest weapon (one general regularly wins battles by sending wave after wave of infantry without armored support against fortresses or through minefields) so in some case they'll let anyone join/get shanghaied. Then there's some planets like Cadia and Catachan everyone is a Badass Normal just for surviving to adulthood, and anyone who doesn't shape up fast enough can generally look forward to meeting the Commissar and being sent to a Penal Legion.
    • Noted to be an impossibility for the Space Marines: their incredibly stringent genetic and physical standards are necessary to ensure recruits actually survive the surgeries that turn them into super-soldiers, and even then it’s not a certainty. They consider four possible candidates from a single planet to be an exceptionally good run. Several Chapters have remained on the verge of extinction for centuries or millennia because replenishing their numbers is just that hard, and every attempt to lower standards or otherwise mass-produce Marines has ended in disaster.

    Video Games 
  • Afterlife (1996): The Angel and Demon training centers can have their standards raised or lowered throughout each of their evolutions. Lowering the standards lets you train more home grown workers rather than relying on imported ones, but they also cause your punishments/rewards to evolve more slowly, and are also quicker to riot if there aren't enough jobs to keep them occupied.
  • Europa Universalis IV (with the Cradle of Civilization DLC) has the Slacken Recruitment Standards action. Mechanically it drops your Army Professionalism level by 5% in exchange for giving you two years' worth of manpower.
  • In Portal 2, the player gets to see Aperture Science at three times. The first time, the test subjects are Olympians, war heroes, astronauts, etc. It's heavily implied that most of the aforementioned subjects ended up getting killed, resulting in Aperture being Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee and ending up nearly bankrupt. The second time, the test subject are all vagrants offered $60 for questionably safe experiments. By the third time, Aperture is reduced to performing tests on its own office workers, likely because nobody with a choice in the matter will participate.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • In the Sith Warrior storyline, your initial mentor comments that this policy was recently put into practice within the Sith Academy, due to the heavy losses of the war. In an inversion, your character is one of the elite who is there legitimately (sort of—in a somewhat-ironic inversion, your mentor gives you special treatment while trying to prove his point about the lowered standards), while The Rival is one whose presence owes itself to the Lowered Standards.
    • The Sith Inquisitor Player Character is also one of the Lowered Standards, as your Overseer and rival constantly point out, but doesn't stay that way for long.
  • Happens in some of the StarCraft novels. A lot of Terran recruits are convicts, so the methods used involve arresting people for flimsy reasons, as well. In at least one case, people were outright kidnapped from colonies, using the brainwashing meant to keep the more violent convicts under control to instead tell them a fake story.
  • Judging by the backstories of the soldiers from XCOM 2, this clearly happened after XCOM: Enemy Unknown, where the members of the titular Extraterrestrial Combat Unit were elite trained soldiers fighting the Alien Invasion. In the later game, XCOM is La Résistance against a Vichy Earth and the requirements to join are essentially "Do you hate the alien overlords?" and "Can you run short distances and shoot a rifle somewhat straight?". In an example of Gameplay and Story Segregation, XCOM 2 rookies aren't noticeably worse shots than their "professional" counterparts from the first game.

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation normally recruits its D-class personnel (human test subjects) from death row criminals, and terminates the survivors at the end of the month. In times of need, they start grabbing from lesser criminals, and sometimes escalates to just grabbing civilians and using amnesics on them. Their plans for world-wide apocalypse have several levels, with only the last one planning for the release of superviolent and/or insane criminals if it comes down to there being any human beings left at all.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy's Peter Griffin is named president of a cigarette company for the same reason.
  • Justice League does it when they go Unlimited, resulting in the recruitment of oddballs who have to be expelled later, like the Huntress. Several members verbally wonder how The Question got in. Given that this happened in the wake of the Thanagarian Invasion, that saw the original members on the backfoot for most of the hostilities, it seems to be have been done to shore up numbers to prevent something similar from happening again. Superman also mentions that it's intended as a way for the various superheroes and vigilantes to coordinate with each other for the greater good. It should also be mentioned that quite a few of the oddballs are actually pretty good at hero work (Batman feels that Question is a better detective than himself, for example) so the idea of lowered standards can be countered by the presence of many a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. Also, it's explicitly stated that some of the weaker characters, like Green Arrow, were recruited in order to ensure that the Justice League has some perspectives closer to ordinary humans, so that they didn't risk starting to think too much of themselves and go down the path of the Justice Lords.
  • A segment on Robot Chicken (released before the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell) is a Navy recruitment ad targeting gay men and promising "Now we're more don't ask than ever before!"
  • On The Simpsons, NASA decides to let an average person be an astronaut to better its image and get better Ratings for televised launches, which is how Homer ends up on the space shuttle.
  • In the South Park episode "Best Friends Forever" Kenny dies and ascends to Heaven in order to command Heaven's army against the forces of Hell. He is told by the angels that they used to only let Mormons into Heaven, but they started to let others in order to increase their army's size.
  • Steven Universe: During the war for Earth, the Homeworld Gems established a Beta Kindergarten as a rush job to churn out more soldiers to fight the Rebellion. Being set up in a non-optimal location meant the Gems produced there were also non-optimal, with a much higher rate of defects than normal. Except for Jasper, who popped out far stronger than even anyone from the Prime Kindergarten.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) episode "Pulverizer Returns", it is revealed that the Foot Clan will let practically anyone join, due to many of the former members quitting after losing to the turtles so often. The eponymous Pulverizer joined and brags of being an "ashigaru sah"—a title which Donny explains is equivalent to "Cannon Fodder".

    Real Life 


  • Conscription in general has this effect on armies. The army is forced to accept many barely fit recruits who don't want to be in it either, and is cited as a contributing factor the infamous "Rape of Nanjing" during World War II, as a number of conscripts were of the "imprisoned or enlisted" variety.
    • This also happens in volunteer armies in times of war. The need for manpower increases due to attrition (read: people getting blown up) and the fact that it seems pre-war analysis of manpower requirements never seem to be close to actual obligations which occur during wartime. Therefore standards are either gradually lowered, this might be explicitly written down or implicitly by interpreting requirements loosely and by making what were supposed to be rarely granted waivers and turning them into something given as of routine. Either way, the army swells in size.
    • And when the war is over, standards rise back up and many of these individuals who came in find themselves being discharged, as the Command suddenly noticed that they did not after all fulfill the requirements.
    • An interesting take on this is when the US military started mass recruitment during WW1, they discovered a large percentage were below acceptable standards on IQ Testing despite not doing any noticeably worse than the grunts who passed the tests. This forced the authorities to confront the fact that the IQ test of the era was skewed by education and cultural bias.
  • The Austro-Hungarian Army (officer corps 76.1% German) was particularly badly affected by this in World War I, though the situation was still manageable while they were able to use the pre-war Army Reserve to plug the gaps (officer corps 56.8% German). Things only became truly critical when they ran out of these after repeated Italian and Russian offensives in 1916 and had to begin recruiting en masse from the country's civilian professionals (c.24% German).
    • In the meantime, general Cadorna of the Italian army worked around that, as he'd raise troops from the youths a year before their majority, when they were supposed to be conscripted even during peacetime, to have the time to train them up to standards that were actually being increased due combat experience. This ended up being more useful than anticipated after the debacle at Caporetto, as the new troops sent to the front lines to replace the losses were already trained and skilled, if inexperienced.
  • During the Russian Civil War the Red Army was being routinely hammered by the Whites and all the revolutionary proletarian fervor in the world couldn't help them. Trotsky made the decision to recruit former Imperial Russian Army officers, despite the Communists' lumping them as members of the corrupt system they were trying to overthrow, and they managed to instill some professionalism and experience. Well, until a younger Stalin locked many of them in barges and sank them in the Volga River.
  • The Waffen SS during World War II. Initially membership was open to "Aryans" only in accordance with the racial policies of the Nazi state, but the rules were partially relaxed in 1940, and Adolf Hitler authorized the formation of units composed largely or solely of foreign volunteers and conscripts as the war went on. By the end of the war, non-Germans made up more than 50 percent of the Waffen SS.
    • The Germans had to depend on this more and more as the war turned against them. One of the first examples were the Luftwaffe Field Divisions, which essentially took auxiliary and non-essential air force personnel and pressed them into frontline service. Their battle prowess was about as good as you can expect.note  By 1944, anyone who was previously declared "medically unfit" was allowed to join the Wehrmacht. At the end of the war, the Volkssturm was the ultimate result of this. With the Wehrmacht essentially tapped for any reserves, the Nazis began to conscript anyone who wasn't already in uniform to fight against the Red Army. The majority of Volkssturm members were old men (many of whom were veterans of the First World War) and children from the Hitler Youth, who were far more fanatical than their older comrades.
    • Towards the end of the war the German army also formed the Stomach Division - made up of men who would normally be exempt from the draft because of stomach or other intestinal problems, and lumped together to make their dietary requirements easier to meet.
  • Soviet Russia, Ukraine, and So On invoked this during the Soviet-German War. Entire categories of people who had been barred from combat-roles (socialist- and liberal-sympathizers, central Asians, petty criminals), or from military service (women) were suddenly conscripted, trained, and pressed into logistics and frontline roles. Upon the war's outbreak the Red Army had been entirely male, mostly Russian, and quite strictly Communist. Upon its end the Army was only 9/10 male, less than half-Russian, and embraced all flavors of the left-wing rainbow. This couldn't last, however, with the women and less orthodox members being quietly removed in post-war years.
  • In the War on Terror, the US Military's problems have been well documented. Whats not often appreciated is that this also happened with the other major militaries which have been in action, i.e the UK and the Pakistani armed forces have also had to lower standards. As of 2016 as the major troop commitments have wound down, all three have suddenly and ruthlessly reimposed exacting standards.
    • Incidentally, the reasons given for the shortage of troops has been since all three militaries expected to fight short and bloody wars against conventional opponents, meaning you would not have time to raise new troops during war and lots of time to replace losses afterwards. This did not translate well to the conditions of the War on Terror; a low level war lasting approximately forever.
    • The major non-UK, NATO allies most notably did not lower standards during the war and their armies did not grow. Whether this was to keep the quality of their armed force high (as they claimed) or whether that was an excuse not to increase size of their armies and avoid major responsibilities and therefore unpopular casualties, (as some US Military leaders insist) is not to be discussed here.
  • The "against" camp in the debate on whether or not to allow women into the combat branches of the US Military uses this trope as one of their primary arguments.
    • This happened when the US military was eager to swell its ranks during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Waivers became more common for people with non-violent criminal histories, overweight and out of shape recruits became more common, and accordingly reports of injuries to soldiers unaccustomed to the harsh lifestyle and crimes (petty and otherwise) skyrocketed.
  • One of the points proponents of allowing gay members of the United States military to serve had against those arguing that allowing gay troops would somehow lower unit morale or affect unit discipline, was that when the United States desperately needed people in uniform in the past, they tended to be less interested in their personal lives and overlook things no matter how transparent the closet was, and there was no discernible effect even if everyone around a gay soldier knew they were gay.
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara started the Project 100,000, which involved recruiting 100,000 persons who had scored in Category IV of the Armed Forces Qualification Test (meaning they were mentally and/or physically unable to serve): some of them were mentally challenged, suffered from light physical impairments or had weight issues, and others were unable to read, or even speak English. They were soon nicknamed McNamara's Morons and McNamara's Misfits, and suffered worse outcomes, either in or after the fighting, than regular recruits.
  • Happened repeatedly to the Roman Army:
    • In ancient times the Roman troops had to buy their own equipment, so military service was restricted to those with the required patrimony. During the Second Punic War, however, the situation at one point became so bad that recruitment was opened to those previously considered too poor and even the slaves, knowing that both groups had reasons to revolt once armed. They did not revolt, however, and the very appearance of these new legions was a contributing factor in the Macedons pulling out of the war.
    • During the Cimbrian War the Romans suffered various defeats, culminating in the annihilation of their field army at Arausio, with only Marius' army that was returning from victory in the Jugurthine War being available. Given full command and authority to do anything he deemed necessary, Marius did away with the property requirement for good to raise a new army, that, with the adoption of new tactics, was able to win the war. This ended up backfiring on Rome further down on the line, as the troops were now almost completely raised among the landless poors and more loyal to the generals responsible for their pay rather than the Senate, paving the way for the civil wars that would turn the Roman Republic in the Empire.
    • Traditionally the Roman Army had included non-citizens and foreigners for various auxiliary roles that were either distributed among Roman units so that they would be slowly culturally assimilated or kept in their own tribal units as foederati. In the fifth century, however, the Western Roman Army suffered heavy losses in various external and civil wars and couldn't replace them with new citizen troops due the heavy economic crisis discouraging new volunteers, forcing the Western Empire to rely on the foederati as their entire army. It was these troops that in 476 AD mutinied over a lack of promised pay and deposed the last Emperor of the West.


  • In Australia the university fees are capped by the government, but to help the universities make money they uncapped the number of admissions. As a result the ATAR (Australia's version of an SAT) scores needed for admission have steadily been getting lower to allow more students.
  • Jokingly mentioned by Dave Barry in regards to universities being so desperate for students they now accept people they wouldn't have allowed to work in the boiler room.
  • During the debate against positive discrimination in education this trope has inevitably been raised. Supporters of positive discrimination point out that standards have already been lowered whenever a student has sporting talent that a university or college can utilize for its own team.
  • Allegations of this phenomenon occurring in education have been levied with dumbing down and grade inflation.
  • Happens during economic bubbles: the prices of an asset such as real estate or shares rise because there's the expectation there will be buyers, thanks to the Greater fool theory, meaning that moneylenders think they can afford to be less selective towards prospective buyers, since they could seize something whose value actually rose if the borrowers defaulted. Moreover, sellers will be more and more aggressive in their search for buyers. So, the chain will go from good risks with good prospective of payment and go down until going to those whose financial state will be way less good.
    • This is how went the 2000s real estate bubble: first, banks started by lending to good risks, or prime, with regular and high incomes then they went to loan to subprime cases with less favorable finances (see NINA and even NINJA).
    • It is the origin of the anecdote of Joseph Kennedy deciding to sell his shares after he heard his shoe shine boy speaking about investing in Wall Street: it meant that it will be, in the future, not much to buy his assets and that he would be better off selling them now.
  • This has happened in just about every professional sports league in times where they expanded the number of teams. As the league needed more players to fill out rosters, athletes who were previously considered not good enough to make the ranks were suddenly accepted and sometimes put in the starting lineup.
  • This happened with The Mafia in the US. Originally, a member could only become a made man if he was of full Sicilian descent. They eventually decided that the pool of potential inductees was too small, so then any man of full Italian descent could be considered. Then, due to increased inter-marriage, the rule was further relaxed to include any man with a fully Italian father for consideration.