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Neutral No Longer

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"I'd made up my mind to steer clear of the Alliance, make my living out where I wouldn't be bothered and wouldn't be bothering neither. But you won't seem to let me live that way. Every time I try to walk away, you come followin'. Well, from now on, you choose to chase me, I'm gonna turn and meet you head on. Be honest, I'm developin' a taste for it."

There are many innocents in the epic battle between good and evil. Some people will join on the side of good because the evil invaders destroyed their home. A lot of people will join on the side of evil because Evil Is Sexy, Rule of Cool, or just 'cause.

Then there are the people who deliberately try to stay out of the conflict. These could be the people in the Hidden Elf Village or the Actual Pacifist. Often, they don't have a dog in the fight either way or they're just opportunists supporting both sides. No matter how you slice it, these people don't support either side more or less than any other side. That is, until the good guys turn out to be a bunch of self-righteous jerkasses or the villains Kick the Dog. At that point, it's on and there's going to be hell to pay.

This trope comes in two varieties:

  1. The first kind is rather straightforward. The neutral party is initially undecided until the villains press their Berserk Button. Then the neutral party will oppose the villains from then on.
  2. The second kind is less frequently used. As it turns out, sometimes heroes and villains are really bad at making first impressions. After initially meeting the heroes, the neutral party will decide that evil is so much cooler and join them, or vice versa. This isn't a Heel–Face Turn or a Face–Heel Turn, because these people were neutral at the start of the story and would have remained so if the villains and/or heroes weren't a bunch of a-holes. They will often only go out of their way to oppose someone out of vengeance.

If the neutral faction happens to be able to crush both sides if they really wanted to, then someone has Awakened The Sleeping Giant, and chances are, it's about to Curb Stomp everyone in their way.

Compare Default to Good, Heroic Neutral, Let's Get Dangerous!. Hope that no Neutrality Backlash kicks in when the winning side resents the person who only signed on at the last minute. Contrast Choosing Neutrality, where someone evil or good shifts to neutral. Compare Moral Disambiguation.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Blood+: When she discovers her past, Saya is initially reluctant to jump into the fray against chiropterans. She changes her mind and goes with the Red Shield when she loses her father George to the chiropterans.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Android 16 starts out as a Gentle Giant who refuses to fight anybody except Goku (due to his programming) and instead prefers to interact with the wildlife. When he realises the malevolence behind Cell, a wicked monster that will annihilate all life on Earth simply For the Evulz, he spurs into action and, as an inspiration to Badass Pacifists everywhere, gives Cell the toughest fight he had encountered so far, coming close to killing him outright.
  • In Fist of the North Star, during the Goshasei arc, Juza of the Clouds minds his own hedonistic life and doesn't want to get involved in the conflict between Raoh and the Last General Of Nanto, despite being called multiple times by Rihaku, the leader of the said General's guardians, to take up the fight against Raoh. That is, until Juza finally learns that the Last General is actually Yuria, who was the only woman Juza ever loved, and also conveniently Kenshiro's Love Interest.
  • Alexis Doucet in Record of Grancrest War was neutral because he didn't want to fight Marrine, his love, or Theo who was previously part of the Union that Alexis rules. Then Theo convinces him that the only way to save Marrine from herself is to get involved, at which point he proves to be very competent.
  • The island nation of Orb in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is vehemently neutral: one of their central beliefs is complete non-involvement in any wars that have nothing to do with them. In order to protect their neutrality, however, they have developed some of the most advanced military technology in the world. So the Atlantic Federation attacks them to gain it... and succeeds, except that Orb proceeds to destroy their own infrastructure rather than let the Federation have it. The remaining Orb forces throw in with the Three Ships Alliance, which opposes both sides of the war and plays a major role in ending the conflict.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, shortly after the start of the series, Orb throws their lot in with the Earth Forces in order to avoid getting attacked and destroyed again. The characters involved with the Terminal (a secret underground organization that grew from the Three Ships Alliance) spend the duration of the series trying to invert this trope, with mixed results.
  • Monster Rancher: One episode focuses on Captain Jim, who runs a restaurant and ferry service by the Yellow River. Initially, he dismisses the threat Moo poses, declaring that he'll serve anyone who pays him properly. When the arrowheads attack his ferry while he's trying to escort the Searchers across, however, he naturally defends himself, and ultimately sacrifices his boat protecting them. Afterwards, he goes on to continue the fight against Moo, spearheading his own resistance movement.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Strange started out as a Dr. Jerk who cared only about himself. When circumstances confined him to the hidden retreat of the Ancient One, he realized very quickly that magic is real — and that it can be used for evil. Though he had come to the Ancient One to heal his hands, he changed his request and asked to learn magic instead, so he could fight back.
  • In Doomsday Clock, the series is resolved when Superman convinces Dr. Manhattan that beneath it all, the latter still has ties to his humanity. It inspires him to actually start caring about the multiverse, instead of being a curious, uncaring experimental scientist.
  • In Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, when the New Resistance catches up with Serenity, Mal initially rejects their request to be their leader. But after the Alliance captures Zoe and kills most of the NR in separate incidents, he finally gets angry enough.
  • Spider-Man had his moment in his origin story after his refusal to stop a thief on the grounds that it wasn't his problem got his Uncle Ben killed. He gave up on using his powers for fame and fortune and became a superhero.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The precursors to the Jedi Order, the Je'daii, are shown in Dawn of the Jedi to have dedicated their lives to walking the line between The Dark Side and the light. However, their philosophy fell apart after they were attacked by the Infinite Empire, and they had a Civil War that formed the modern Jedi and Sith.
    • Star Wars: Legacy: It takes nearly the entire series for Cade Skywalker to stop being a selfish Jerkass. After the Sith have endangered and killed just about everyone he gives a damn about, Cade declares war on them, though he still doesn't accept the Jedi calling yet. That doesn't happen until the Final Battle.
      • The Jedi themselves choose to sit the war out, thinking the Sith would turn on itself soon. But when the Sith get more despotic, they soon started to join with the Fel Empire and Alliance Remnant in the war.
  • Uatu The Watcher is a prime example. His race of omniscient watchers swears an oath of neutrality. But as Galactus approached Earth, intent on consuming it, Uatu spoke directly to the Fantastic Four, telling them where to find the Ultimate Nullifier. Not a direct alignment change, but enough involvement to end his neutrality.

    Fan Works 
  • Though none of them are remotely badass, in Adamantine Mist all the civilians of Nerima set out to destroy Ranma's would-be fiances after Shampoo attacks Kasumi. This is done through actions like delaying orders to Ukyo's restaurant or flat-out refusing to sell to Shampoo's and Cologne's cafe.
  • Better Bones AU: RiverClan gets involved in the First Battle despite River Ripple's preference for staying neutral because River Ripple is taken as a prisoner of war by Clear Sky, taking the canon role of Jackdaw's Cry.
  • In Danganronpa Class Swap, Izuru spends most of the story indifferent to the killing game. However, that changes at the end of the fourth trial. Teruteru dies when he accidentally touches exposed wiring in the makeshift radio Kazuichi was building, and because he didn't know it was dangerous Monokuma declares Kazuichi the murderer. Realizing that playing by the rules will not keep him safe any longer, Izuru resolves to destroy the killing game.
  • In A Great Endeavor, Equestria wanted to stay out of World War II at first, seeing it as a human problem. When the Nazis extended their purge of the lesser races to include ponies, though, the princesses refused to merely stand by and watch any longer.
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters: Shortly after Elyon is brought to Meridian, Phobos orders an attack on Charles Ludmoore, in order to cut off his support to the Rebellion. Doing this violates the neutrality accord that Ludmoore operates on, and he escapes to join the Rebellion directly. Which is all part of Ludmoore and Cedric's Long Game, and the reason why Cedric manipulated Phobos into order the attack.
  • Harry and the Shipgirls has Wanko, an Abyssal Harbor Princess. Initially, she didn't care one way or the other about taking a side in the war. Then the hostile Abyssals attacked and seemingly killed Hoppou, the Northern Ocean Princess. Wanko's response was to wipe out what was left of Hoppou's attackers and officially ally herself with humanity.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Olympian Journey: Upon the heroes and Eris coming across her in the ruins of Olympus, Hestia — the Neutral Female Greek Goddess of the Hearth — decides that she's no longer going to sit on the sidelines. The next three chapters after her introduction involve putting the good and bad guys on trial to see who Hestia will side with.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: Throughout Season 1, Gaz makes it clear that she is totally indifferent to the fight for the fate of the Earth. However, during the seasonal Story Arc's climax, she decides to aid Zim by giving him the location of Project Domination, purely to spite Dib and in the hope that her hated rival Viera will get killed in the process. However, Season 2 reveals this was a one-time thing, and that she's gone back to being neutral.
  • Prehistoric Park Reimagined: An example that doesn't involve any actual direct conflict occurs in 'Phase 2' episode "Feathered Dragons". At this point, a group of rather lazy and unhelpful temporary workmen have been hired to ostensibly provide assistance in getting the titular Extinct Animal Park ready for opening day as well as serve as spies for an unsympathetic Corrupt Corporate Executive amongst Novum's executive board who plans to use the park and its resources for his own selfish ends. The man hired to serve as the foreman for these workmen, Kevin Drake, doesn't have any higher of an opinion on the unreliable workmen than the established park staff do; but he initially chooses to not really do anything to help the park staff rein in the workmen due to feeling it will be safer to just be an Accomplice by Inaction so as to not risk getting dismissed and losing a guaranteed chance at earning wages. However, once Kevin manages to secure a deal with two of the park's chiefs of staff that effectively buys him practical immunity from getting dismissed as punishment for taking a stand against his underlings and getting them to actually make an effort at helping the park get ready for opening day, he is very swift indeed to get them all in line.
  • In Queen of All Oni, Courageous Conrad considers himself a True Neutral in matters of good vs evil, as it's a better attitude for business, and as such aids both the Shadow Hand and the J-Team when they cross paths with him on the hunt for the final tablet. But then Hebi's kleptomania causes her to steal from Conrad's store, enraging him and making him aid the J-Team directly.
  • In the WWE story, The Return-Remixed, Edge is shown as being friendly with the Divas and the members of DEAR when he first returns. When Ashley Massaro (who had been shamelessly throwing herself at him, trying to get a date with him) tried to take out his girlfriend, new Diva Kennedi Korklan, Edge firmly threw his weight behind the Divas, helping them become the Diva Army and bringing in Jazz to whip them into shape to fight DEAR.
  • The hidden runners of The Seven Hunters were originally neutral to Redclaw's schemes. After the slaughter of an entire pack with the exception of one child, Viscond, the leader of another pack, decides they can no longer remain neutral to the conflict. Harthron, the highest-ranking hidden runner in all the land, at first wants to remain out of the conflict and hide, but later comes to the realization that running and hiding will no longer work. The combined efforts of the hidden runners help out greatly in the battle in the Great Valley.
  • In the Magical Girl Crisis Crossover Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, the Big Good Fantine initially refuses to use her incredible powers to stop the story's Legion of Doom from waging war on reality. Moreover, she refuses to let the survivors of said war fight back, for fear of losing the only ways to repair the damage to the multiverse. She changes her tune when Joker unleashes a Space Time Eater Eldritch Abomination which consumes countless timelines in the Precure universe. Forced to act to prevent "the entity" from doing even more harm, Fantine sacrifices all but a fraction of her power to banish "the entity" back to where it came. In the aftermath, she tells the survivors that given what's happened, she can no longer stop them from fighting.
  • The Stargate SG-1 series What You Already Know focuses on Daniel Jackson learning that he gained psychic powers after his ascension, which he subsequently uses in the war against the Goa'uld, culminating in him Ascending to a level above the other Ascended so that he can defeat Anubis and dismantle the Goa'uld Empire. After Daniel returns to human form, he is visited by Oma and some of her followers, Oma explaining that Daniel has inspired her and her associates to encourage the Ascended as a whole to take a more active role in the affairs of the lower planes, as he proved that it is possible to help others without being corrupted by that power.

  • Animal Farm (1954): Benjamin knows full well that the pigs are becoming tyrants, yet doesn't speak up against it. It's after his friend Boxer is betrayed and sold to the knacker's that Benjamin makes up his mind to spearhead the second revolution.
  • Rick Blaine, and eventually Captain Renault, in Casablanca.
    • Humphrey Bogart also played this type of character in All Through the Night; he goes from being a gambler who doesn't give a damn about politics ("That's Washington's racket; let them handle it") to actively fighting against the Nazis (this might qualify as a Heel–Face Turn except his character is never explicitly identified as a gangster). Bogart also played this role in Key Largo.
  • The Ents in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. They initially decide to remain neutral, and only change their minds when Treebeard comes across a field of felled trees. This trope does not apply as much to the book; the Ents hold Entmoot and decide to attack Saruman. Either way, the outcome is an awesome Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Star Wars:
    • Luke Skywalker in A New Hope after his Muggle Foster Parents are massacred by stormtroopers. Prior to that, his attitude about the war was "It's all such a long way from here."
    • Played with Grand Moff Tarkin demonstrates the Death Star's ability to be a roving Kill Sat on the planet Alderaan in the hopes that other systems who want to join the Rebel Alliance would think twice. Leia states it will backfire. In the first three movies, there is no apparent sign of this happening. It certainly does so in the expanded universe / Legends continuity (the novel Death Star in particular has a man muse that he was writing what he intended to be a neutral perspective on the war but the destruction of Alderaan was the kind of event that means someone has to take a side), but we see no evidence in the films proper.
    • Lando Calrissian is also an example. All he wanted was for the Empire to leave him alone to run Cloud City in peace, and was willing to sell out his old friend Han to get that. When Vader broke the deal they had made, though, Lando joined the Rebellion, this time for good.
    • Finn is a Downplayed example; he's functionally on the side of the Resistance from very early on, but only to get away from the First Order, and after that out of a desire to protect Rey, and he tries to leave several times in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. It takes an extended trip to Canto Bight and meeting and being betrayed by DJ, seeing the real consequences of remaining True Neutral like he wanted before he truly embraces the cause of the Resistance as his cause.
  • Serenity has "I aim to misbehave": Mal, who pretty much just wants to be left alone and fly under the Alliance's radar (after losing a war against them and having a Heroic BSoD), finally decides to act against the Alliance by getting the word out about the atrocities they committed in search of a perfect world.
  • Benjamin Martin of The Patriot (2000).
    You've done nothing to be ashamed of.
    I have done nothing. And of that I am ashamed.
  • Dogma had the character of Azrael, the Fallen Angel. During the war in heaven between God and Lucifer, he refused to take a side, stating that he was a muse, an artist who had no place on the battlefield (a view apparently not shared by other muses such as Serendipity, who argues that Azrael was simply being cowardly and citing Elvis as an example of a musician who fought when required). Upon God's victory, She cast Azrael into hell along with the rest of the rebel angels. Cue massive Rage Against the Heavens.
  • Eddie Stanky in 42, who breaks his silence after teammate Jackie Robinson gets taunted with a barrage of racist insults during a baseball game.
  • A plot point in Captain America: Civil War is that the isolationist nation of Wakanda finally renews diplomatic ties with the rest of the world in the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
    • Expanded in Black Panther (2018): While Wakanda is open to the rest of the world, they still keep the truth of their civilization being highly advanced thanks to vibranium a tightly-guarded secret, due to a long-standing tradition of staying out of the affairs of other nations. Killmonger intends to end this tradition by starting armed uprisings across the globe using Wakandan weapons, which eventually inspires T'Challa to offer his kingdom's technology for the world's betterment.
  • In The Godfather Michael is drawn into the family business when his father Vito is shot by a rival who would keep trying until Vito is dead. Ironically, America declaring itself Neutral No Longer in World War II was what led Michael to declare his neutrality in the family in the first place, by joining the military.
  • High and Tight depicts a future where Ireland is no longer neutral and has entered a fictional war.
  • In Kung Fu Hustle, the Landlady and Landlord initially did not want to get involved with the conflict at Pig Sty Alley and it is not until Coolie, Donut and the Tailor are killed that they get actively became involved.
  • Under Fire: Russell Price, a photojournalist, comes to Nicaragua during the civil war, and at first is interested in chasing any story ("I don't take sides, I take pictures"). However, when a mercenary Russell knows ends up shooting a rebel in cold blood, and Russell blames himself because he knew the mercenary was Faking the Dead and didn't tell anybody, he decides to help the rebels in their revolution against the government.
    Russell: I think I just saw one too many dead bodies.

  • The centaurs in Harry Potter are pretty much this, continually declaring their refusal to meddle in human affairs until Hagrid, carrying a (seemingly) dead Harry, berates them for being a "cowardly bunch o' nags". Subsequently, they show up firing arrows to assist Hogwarts in the Final Battle.
  • Night by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel pleads the readers to turn to this trope.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Thrawn Trilogy: The smugglers of the 'verse are typically neutral — they'll take any job you happen to want, regardless of faction, and then take your competitors' tomorrow... until the Empire starts encroaching just a little on their line of work. First they take Talon Karrde prisoner to keep him from revealing (i.e. selling) the location of the Katana fleet. After he gets broken out of prison, Karrde promptly turns around and gives it to the New Republic. Then the Empire hires a mole to stop the smugglers from banding together, who promptly orders a hit on a smuggler meeting that kills the one unarmed guy in the room and approximately no one else. Turns out upsetting an entire underworld's worth of cutthroat low-lives is a bad idea. Thrawn had actually instructed him not to do anything like that, for this exact reason; he was just an idiot.
    • Then the Yuuzhan Vong go and make exactly the same mistake during New Jedi Order by breaking a mercenary contract. With the Mandalorians. Yeah, that'll work.
    • Most of the main characters in Death Star are working for the Empire, whether enlisted or conscripted, and kept from leaving. Many of the cast dislike the Empire, but having no non-propagandistic knowledge of the Rebel Alliance they assume it's no better, so all they're doing working on the battle station is keeping themselves intact. The moral complacency of most characters is jarred after Despayre and shattered after Alderaan. Old archivist Atour Riten explicitly states in his narration that for all his life he's been apolitical, just a historian, but now that changes — killing billions of people just like that is evil.
      Atour could not stand to see this happen again. He was old, he had lived a long and full life, and he decided now that whatever days he had left, he would dedicate to defeating an Empire capable of abominations.
    • Old canon and new canon, the events of A New Hope was a watershed moment of this across the galaxy, pushing entire systems into actively aiding the Rebel Alliance as the destruction of Alderaan and the dissolution of the Senate crippled the Empire's legitimacy and reputation while the destruction of the Death Star showed that the Rebel Alliance was capable of confronting and defeating the Empire.
  • At the end of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Empire In Black And Gold, the Moth-kinden and the militia of Helleron finally come to aid the heroes against the evil Wasp Empire.
  • In the Old Kingdom series, there were nine superpowerful magical beings in The Beginning. When the most powerful of them, The Destroyer, wanted to destroy the world again, seven of the others allied and bound him. The eighth one, Yrael, decided to remain neutral. But when The Destroyer gets free, Yrael unexpectedly decides to help bind him again.
  • In Horus Heresy, Jaghatai Khan spends most of Scars seeking more information before choosing a side in the burgeoning civil war. In his defense the Khan was receiving conflicting reports about his brothers Leman Russ (who he never got along with but has remained loyal to the Emperor) and Horus (who has turned to Chaos and started the rebellion, but the Khan didn't know this yet and had promised his help to him). In the end a combination of factors - a conversation with his old friend Magnus (a reluctant traitor who urges Jaghatai to join the loyalists), a duel with Mortarion (a traitor and an old rival), and an attempted coup by Horus' supporters in his own legion - convince the Khan to side with the loyalists.
  • In Children of Dune, Duncan Idaho has to pull a Heroic Sacrifice in order to convince Stilgar to lead a rebellion against Alia Atreides.
    • He does more in the book than in the miniseries. In the latter, all he does is kill his wife's lover, although, by Fremen custom, he should've challenged him to a duel first. Stilgar, who has promised neutrality, kills him in retaliation. In the book, this is not enough. Duncan proceeds to taunt and insult Stilgar until the latter is furious. Only later does Stilgar realize that this was what Duncan wanted all along. The book also specifies that Alia took the guy as a lover only because she knew he was a traitor and wanted to flush out the conspiracy.
  • In the Honor Harrington books, this is played straight by the Andermani Empire. At one point the Andermani and the Manticorans come dangerously close to going to war, with ships firing on each other, but the revelation of Havenite operations in the area (including False Flag Operations and a major attack on the Manticoran base at Sidemore Station) push the Andermani the other way. And of course, let's not forget the Solarian League.
  • In The Dresden Files, the Faerie Courts of Winter and Summer are neutral to the war between the White Council of Wizards and the Red Court of vampires. They offered the Council access through their territory (letting the wizards take advantage of the Alien Geometries of Faerie) but were otherwise neutral. Then in Dead Beat, the Red Court invaded Faerie in an effort to wipe out the senior leadership of the Council after an already-devastating victory, and Summer immediately fell all over the Reds, with Summer declaring war on the Red Court for the transgression. However, the Summer forces could not go on the offensive because Winter refused to move against the vampires and made to threaten Summer's borders, which only allowed the Summer fae to provide limited support to the wizards.
    • However, it should be noted Queen Mab of Winter was angry and does want her vengeance against the Red Court, for this infraction and another action taken in a previous time, she simply is waiting for a time that would best suit her. So she, through a long gambit, got Harry Dresden to fight in her personal courtyard wielding Summer-enhanced fire, and destroy her wellspring. This action draws the entire Winter Army away from the borders and allows Titania to move her forces for their vengeance. Mab would wait a few years until Harry's child was taken and he needed her help in saving her, and so Harry became her Knight. Then her vengeance would be wrought on the Court with Harry using the Court's own truly dark ritual to destroy every single Red Court vampire.
  • In the Dragaera universe, a rival Dragonlord attempts to start a war with Morrolan, who employs Vlad as a security consultant. Vlad makes no effort to support Morrolan until Fornia's men come to his house and threaten him to make sure he stays out of it. Now that they've threatened him, and, further, have broken a rule he and the rest of the underground criminal syndicate hold sacred, he is pissed, joins Morralan's army out of pure spite, and winds up being a central figure in the final battle of the war.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Ogier are in many ways Captain Ersatzes of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings, though physiologically are more like sasquatch than trees. They avoid involvement in human affairs, and in the prologue of the last book are preparing to transport themselves to a new world and abandon humankind to the forces of Darkness, until Loial speaks up. We're not told what he says, but when the Ogier are next seen, they've dedicated every last member of their species who can hold an axe to the oncoming battle, where they show the meaning of the saying, "To anger the Ogier is to pull the mountain down on your head".
  • A Civil Campaign has a non-combat example; Miles isn't especially interested in the inheritance conflict between two heirs to a Countship...until one of them threatens to have a murder charge laid against him if Miles doesn't vote for him. Miles promptly throws his full support behind the other heir.
  • Nightshade in the Magic Kingdom of Landover series was always evil, but was not actively opposed to King Benjamin at first. In fact, they first met when Ben insisted on going to meet her, over the strong objections of all his friends, in hopes of recruiting her to his side against the Iron Mark, the Big Bad of the first book. Questor, Ben's court wizard, pointed out to him that this was a terrible idea and that even the last real king of Landover had wanted nothing to do with Nightshade, but there was nothing to indicate that Nightshade had ever been in open conflict with the kings of Landover. Ben's meeting with her, however, did not go well: Nightshade banished Ben's friends to Abaddon, home of the demons, so Ben retaliated by banishing her to the Mists, which was much the same thing for her. After that, Nightshade would remain one of Ben's enemies. Things got really bad after the events of the fourth book, though.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: When Jon Snow becomes Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, the escalating threat of the Others and the chaotic political situation in the North test his oath of neutrality in many ways. The Night's Watch is sworn to take no part in the wars and politics of the Seven Kingdoms, yet Snow gives aid to his ally Stannis Baratheon against the Boltons (at first the Watch is in no position to refuse Stannis and his army after he defeats Mance Rayder's host for them, but Jon continues to provide crucial information to Stannis afterwards). For thousands of years the Watch has protected the North from wildlings, but Lord Snow allows thousands of free folk through the Wall to settle in the Gift and attempts to organize a ranging to Hardhome to rescue more people because the Watch is desperately short on manpower and every wildling abandoned to die increases the strength of the army of the Others. Further complicating matters, many wildlings swear oaths to Jon personally according to their traditions of following individuals rather than titles or law, which worries some brothers in the Watch. Jon even ends up protecting a distant relative from her scheming uncle, imprisons the man's son, and arranges a marriage pact between Alys Karstark and the Magnar of Thenn - all traditional prerogatives of a lord of the North rather than the Lord Commander. These controversial actions threaten the Watch's neutrality, but Jon had legitimate reasons to believe that his choices were ultimately necessary for the strategic benefit of the Night's Watch and acts within the bounds of his role as Lord Commander. That is, until Jon receives a letter which falsely claims that Stannis is dead - at which point he forswears neutrality and announces he will ride south to take Winterfell from the Boltons. Jon does not order the Night's Watch to come with him, but he asks for voluntary help and the free folk agree to join Jon - appearing to confirm the worst fears of Jon's detractors that he was planning to raise a wildling army and seize power for himself - and Jon is stabbed by his own black brothers "for the Watch."
  • In a Star Trek Expanded Universe novel, the entire plot is revealed to have been a ploy by Starfleet Intelligence to bring the Klingons out of their neutral state in regards to Federation-Romulan negotiations on the side of the Federation by making the Romulans appear to be dishonorable and underhanded (not a difficult task, mind you). This resulted in the Treaty of Algeron when the Romulans closed their borders for several decades in exchange for the Federation banning all cloaking research.
  • Diamond Sword, Wooden Sword has a hermit, imprisoned under the foundation of the Temple of Cold Flame since time immemorial, who turns out to be formerly Merlin, the True Mage. He remained in exile up until deciding that it is time to get involved to help Tavi — and turned out to be far more powerful than any of the current generation's mages. Of course he redeemed/sacrificed himself to stop Chaos and save the current world
  • In the Military Science Fiction story Victoria, neutral Libertas is caught between two warring great powers, the right-wing reactionary Northern Confederation and the progressive Lady Land Azania. Eventually, pressure from the Confederation and their own Christians' horror at Azania's atheism and lesbianism make them join with the former.
  • In the backstory of Shadow of the Conqueror, the Arch Order of Light remained neutral in all political conflicts, even as the Dawn Empire crushed nation after nation. It was Emperor Dayless destroying the city of Daybreak that finally persuaded them that the Dawn Empire was a threat to the entire world, prompting them to join the war and prove the decisive force in destroying it.

    Live Action TV 
  • Andor is largely the story of how the main character slowly embracing this trope, and to a lesser degree, the galaxy starting to do the same.
    • Cassian spends most of Season 1 ping-ponging back and forth on his views of the Rebellion, but even when he feels more in favor of it instead of apathetic and resigned, he is determined not to get swept up in the cause and primarily wants to find some place to live his own life away from the Empire's heavy hand. In the end, the events of the season, his own past experiences, his time in the hellish prison on Narkina 5, Nemik's manifesto, and Maarva's speech lead Cassian to offer his services to the Rebellion without any hesitation in the final episode.
    • While as of the end of the first season the Empire hasn't turned everyone, or even most people against it (the first season takes place roughly 5 years before A New Hope), but more and more you can see in the background that anti-Imperial sentiment is becoming more widespread and open. The most obvious case is the planet of Ferrix, where Cassian spent most of his life. A Close-Knit Community that mostly specialized in working on ships, Ferrix had barely tolerated the Empire early in the season, and aside from doing work on starships, they mostly ignored the Empire, and were happy to deliberately sabotage the attempts of the Law Enforcement, Inc. company that the Empire contracted and put in charge of the sector. Then the Empire started directly overseeing the region, complete with a crackdown that included torture and execution of locals and the Empire inserting itself into every local custom and matter until at the end of Season 1, there is a massive riot against Imperial control.
  • Game of Thrones: Wyman stood out of the war in the North to avoid the loss of life by his men. By the end of the season, he is now firmly a follower of House Stark.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Romulans insisted on remaining neutral in the war between the Dominion and the Federation/Klingon alliance. The Federation was taking such heavy casualties that Starfleet realised they could not win the war without gaining allies. The only race powerful enough to make a difference was the Romulan Empire, who had no reason at all to drop their neutral stance due to the fact their three major rival powers were exhausting themselves while they watched from the sidelines in the hope they could mop up the Alpha Quadrant after the war was over. Sisko decided to do something to bring the Romulans into the war on the Federation's side and recruited Garak to come up with the franchise's best example of a Batman Gambit to achieve it, essentially framing the Dominion for the assassination of a Romulan senator and creating the illusion that the Dominion were going to attack Romulus soon anyway.
  • The Archangel Gabriel on Supernatural pulls off one of these. It's a combination of the two types: on the one hand, he has bonded with planet Earth and its denizens, i.e. the good guys in this story, and wouldn't be doing this otherwise. On the other, it wasn't enough to make him take sides until Lucifer went and started slaughtering his friends and girlfriend at the pagan god convention, so if Luci hadn't Kicked The Dog, he mightn't have had to face Gabriel.
    • Mind, all he winds up doing is buying a few minutes. Awesomely.
      Gabriel: Lucifer, you're my brother, and I love you. But you are a great big bag of dicks.
      • Oh, except he also winds up telling the brothers how to stop Lucifer for good.
  • On the Community episode "Pillows and Blankets", while a campus-wide Civil War rages round him, Jeff first exploits the conflict for personal gain. However, he makes a genuine stance once he sees that the friendship between Troy and Abed has seriously deteriorated. (Subverted in that instead of picking a side to support, he works towards the pair's reconciliation.)
  • In the earliest episodes of Doctor Who the Doctor was nowhere close to the altruistic hero he is now. He traveled mostly to satisfy his own curiosities, and only got involved in events where he landed because he and his companions were unable to simply get back in the TARDIS and leave for various reasons. It wasn't until his seventh serial, "The Sensorites", that he did the right thing precisely because it was the right thing to do.
    • In the minisode, "The Night of the Doctor", with the universe in danger of tearing itself apart from the Time War and having failed to save lives by remaining neutral, the mortally wounded Eighth Doctor is given an option to pick what his next incarnation will be. He decides to enter the conflict and forsake his promise.
      Eighth Doctor: I don't suppose there’s any need for a "Doctor" anymore. Make me a Warrior now.
    • In "The Day of the Doctor", it's revealed that this eventually led to the War Doctor's grim realisation that there was only one way to end the Time War, which he avoided enacting until he finally left with no other option.
      War Doctor: Time Lords of Gallifrey, Daleks of Skaro. I serve notice on you all. Too long I have stayed my hand. No more. Today you leave me no choice. Today this war will end. No more. No more.
  • Dominion: Michael states that during the Extermination War, the other archangels declared neutrality and sided with neither him and humanity nor Gabriel and the lesser angels. However, with The Chosen One revealed, Uriel at least has decided to enter the fray... and is Playing Both Sides for yet unrevealed ends.
  • Babylon 5 sees a Civil War break out between the Earth Alliance military. One side being run by the tyrannical President Clark and the resistance being led by Captain John Sheridan. Originally, the different alien governments only provide support by announcing that they will do nothing to aid the Earth Government against Sheridan's rebellion. After hearing that Sheridan had been captured, all of the alien governments vote to provide full military support to aid the resistance in overthrowing Clark, both out of gratitude to Sheridan for all he did for them in the Shadow War, as well as knowing that, along with his atrocities, Clark would also make Earth extremely isolationist or hostile to their different races. They note it as a rare occasion where the smart political decision is also the good moral decision.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the final scene of "Starcrossed", Michael Ryan and Alexandra Nevsky decide to join the NATO resistance against the Hing.
  • Narcos: El Mayo is an independent drug trafficker on the Mexican west coast who is approached by both the Sinaloa and Tijuana cartels with offers to join their organizations, both of whom he rebukes. When war breaks out between the two cartels, Tijuana is dealt enough setbacks that they're forced to collect on anybody who's in debt to them. El Mayo owes them 5 million USDnote , so they burn one of his boats to scare him into submission. Instead, he sides with Sinaloa.
    Enedina Arellano-Félix: El Mayo has made his choice.

    Tabletop Games 
  • During BattleTech's Clan Invasion, ComStar — an NGO Super Power that manages the Subspace Ansible network in the Inner Sphere — remained neutral, providing their services to the invading Clans so long as they left ComStar alone. Eventually, ComStar gets wind that the end goal of the Clans is to retake Planet Terra, effectively their Mecca, which is inconveniently the headquarters of Comstar. ComStar's military leader challenges the Clans to a Trial Of Possession, unveiling the fact that for the past three hundred years, they have been amassing an army backed up by Lost Technology that they have salvaged and stolen, including interstellar warships. ComStar kicks the crap out of the Clans at Tukayyid, forcing a truce and giving the Inner Sphere realms a vital breathing space before hostilities resume.
    • They also broke their neutrality to leak video evidence of the Kentares Massacre to the Inner Sphere due to the sheer horror of the atrocities being committed (a whole planet's population being put to the sword, sometimes literally, by Draconis Combine troops). This directly saves the Federated Suns from being finished off by the Combine as the vastly demoralized Combine soldiers are driven back by the enraged FedSuns military.

  • 1776: New York's delegation always fails to vote one way or another on any and every motion presented in Congress, because they never received any instructions from their legislature on how to vote on anything. Lewis Morris ends up with the Running Gag of saying that "New York abstains, courteously". By the end of the play, though, as the Declaration is to be signed, they receive word that British troops have landed in New York and have destroyed Morris' estate; now that It's Personal for him, Morris goes "The hell with New York — I'll sign it anyway."

    Video Games 
  • Thief: Deadly Shadows: Garrett's Refusal of the Call finally ends when he becomes the leader of the Keepers; subverted in that the Keepers try to be neutral, even though ultimately they are forced to pick a side too.
  • The third act of Dragon Age II revolves around Hawke finding it increasingly difficult to remain neutral as the tensions between the Mages and Templars rise in Kirkwall. At the end of the game, Anders destroys the Chantry, leaving no middle ground left and no way to resolve the situation peacefully, forcing Hawke to pick a side.
  • Another one from BioWare and Star Wars: Jolee Bindo from Knights of the Old Republic is a ex-Jedi in Sour Armor who left the Order and had exiled himself. Despite being neutral on the Karma Meter, and making a good show of not caring about the outcome of the current war, he is very quick to scold a player's Dark Side acts. When it comes down to the wire, he chooses the path of a Jedi and will positively refuse to join you if you choose Dark Side.
    • Kreia from the second game is similar. She will chide the player for specifically Light Side or Dark Side acts, seeing them as Stupid Good and Chaotic Stupid respectively. In the end, she comes down on the Dark Side end, but it seems to be out of convenience more than actually accepting the Sith philosophy.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has four endings to the main quest, three of which involve siding with one of three factions (the New California Republic, Caesar's Legion, or Mister House, with the fourth option to be seizing power for him/herself). In order to move into Act III of the game, the player must invoke this trope, forsaking at least two of the factions. There are even a handful of quests, such as "The House Has Gone Bust!" that can't be completed, only failed; the notification that you have failed them is letting you know that you have reached this stage.
  • Fallout 4 continues this. When you side with the Railroad, the Institute, or the Brotherhood of Steel, there comes a point in the main quest line that throws you into a conflict between the Brotherhood and the Institute (Railroad PCs are working with the Institute while secretly organizing a synth rebellion). Picking one side means making enemies of the other. If you side with the Minutemen, you have to get expelled from the Institute before their quest line can proceed. You can also make enemies of the Brotherhood to take them out optionally in the Minutemen ending.
    • The DLC Far Harbor also has this: During the main quest line, you can choose to kill the citizens of Far Harbor by unleashing the island's creatures on them. You can grant the Children of Atom "Division" by launching the nuke in their submarine base. You can also choose to turn Far Harbor against Acadia. Or you can just kill all of them, You Bastard!. There's a peaceful option, too: killing the Children of Atom leader and replacing him with a synth. However, that's exactly what DiMA, Acadia's leader, did to Far Harbor: killed the town leader and replaced her with a synth. If you convince DiMA to wipe out one of the sides he'll admit that he can't stay neutral in the conflict any longer.
  • In Mega Man Zero 4, the human refugees of Area Zero, known as Caravan, prefer to stay out of the war between the La Résistance (who they only see as terrorists with petty goals) and Neo Arcadia (which has fallen into dictatorial rule). However, over the course of the game, upon seeing that the Resistance's goals were no different from their own, the Caravan finally welcomes their help in fighting off and finally defeating the Neo Arcadian army. At the end of the game, in fact, they all mourn for Zero's Heroic Sacrifice, knowing that all of it would never have been possible without his efforts.
  • In Rogue Galaxy, Broken Hero Deego Aegis could care less about the Morarty family taking over Vedan. He would like nothing more than to spend the rest of his life drinking away at his friend Angela's bar. However, once the Morarty Family burns down her bar, Deego is more than willing to make a stand against them.
  • Suikoden:
    • Many of the characters in the original Suikoden are True Neutral and forced out of retirement. Most of them join La Résistance because The Empire attacked/drafted them, but one notable occasion has La Résistance itself drafting a forger who wants to live a quiet life.
    • In Suikoden V, one of the Stars is a doctor who struggles to remain neutral in the civil war due to a desire to help the wounded and ill on both sides. Eventually, however, he begins to realize that the Godwin's absolutely have to be stopped, and promptly joins the Prince's army.
    • Suikoden V has the Oboro Detective Agency, who go through several layers of this. First, Oboro must be convinced to officially join the Prince, which can go very easily if he was impressed by the Prince helping out their investigation earlier or poorly if the Prince made a wrong choice or two (or missed out on the investigation entirely). When he finally does join, Sagiri chooses to Opt Out, staying with the agency but refusing to join the war effort... unless the Prince finds somebody else and tries to recruit them, leading to Sagiri revealing her reasons for not wanting to fight before deciding to sign on anyway.
  • Played with in the second Avernum game: the Empire-Avernum War is interrupted by the Vahnatai, who start out as "neutral" in the sense that they're targeting all humans due to the theft of their revered Crystal Souls. When Imperial involvement in the theft is exposed — and, more importantly, when your party clears the Avernites of any wrongdoing — the Vahnatai side with your people against the Empire.
    • Subverted in the third and fourth games, when Rentar-Ihrno continues to seek vengeance against first the Empire and then Avernum, despite the majority of the Vahnatai preferring to remain neutral.
  • Warcraft and World of Warcraft:
    • In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the new playable races, the worgen on the Alliance side, and the goblins on the Horde side, are suddenly thrust into the conflict by the re-emergence of the black dragon Deathwing, and the subsequent run-ins with opposing factions. The worgen, whose isolationism is forcibly broken by the Cataclysm, are fighting off an invasion by the undead Forsaken who want to annex their lands for a strategic harbour. The goblins escape a volcanic eruption on their home island, only to be shipwrecked after their boat is sunk by Alliance crossfire at sea.
    • The high elves originally wanted to stay out of the various wars and only aided the Alliance enough to defeat the Horde during the Second War. While some remained part of the Alliance, the majority retreated to their nation and tried to ignore the Third War... until the Scourge invaded and killed ninety percent of their population. The survivors tried to make amends with the Alliance, but their liaison took every opportunity to try and undermine them, eventually leading to their racial Face–Heel Turn.
    • The novel Wolfheart shows that the process of the worgen becoming part of the Alliance is far from smooth. Namely, most of the Alliance members approved... except for King Varian Wrynn of Stormwind, the strongest member of the Alliance. Varian isn't so much opposed to the animalistic nature of the worgen as to the fact that they left the Alliance when the Alliance needed them. Later on, Varian and King Greymane reconcile their differences, and Varian leads the worgen in a charge that utterly devastates the Horde, which is in the process of curb-stomping the night elves.
    • In the Mists of Pandaria expansion, Dalaran goes down this path after the Horde uses Dalaran's neutral portal network to sneak into the Alliance city of Darnassus. Jaina, Dalaran's newly-appointed leader, reacts by giving the Horde citizens and soldiers in Dalaran an ultimatum: leave or be imprisoned indefinitely. And then her companion Vereesa, wife of the deceased former leader of Dalaran, has the player kill anyone who does try to escape.
    • Similarly, in Mists, the Klaxxi Paragons, and perhaps their entire race, join Garrosh and the (evil) Horde. They are bosses in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid. This is solely because Garrosh possesses the heart of their deity, which they outright stated at the beginning that they would turn on you for. No one probably would have guessed that the Klaxxi would join Garrosh of all people, but at the moment, he is their god incarnate, therefore, they have finally chosen a side. This doesn't end well for them.
    • In Warlords of Draenor, the Frostwolf clan of orcs refuses to join the Iron Horde, expecting them to respect their neutrality and leave them be. When that doesn't happen, and the Iron Horde abducts several Frostwolves as sacrifices for the Dark Portal and later attempts to destroy them outright, the Frostwolves ally themselves with the Horde of Azeroth to fight them.
    • The allied races of Battle for Azeroth have this at play with previous neutral factions such as the Nightborne and the Highmountain Tauren joining the Horde and the Lightforged Draenei of the Army of Light and the Mechagnomes of Mechagon joining the Alliance.
  • In Final Fantasy VI the city of Narshe originally refused to take a stand against the Empire, believing it only attacked people who sided with the Returners. After the Empire attack them a couple of times anyway, to get at the Frozen Esper, they decided to join with the Returners.
  • Cloud of Final Fantasy VII starts off neutral towards Shinra, though he gets personally invested in the conflict eventually.
  • In the early timeline of the X-Universe the Boron are relatively small and weak and just want to be left alone. The Argon are emphatically not small and weak, but they too have chosen to remain neutral. The Split, a trigger-happy race of violent psychopaths, hate the Boron and start a war with them. The poor militarily inferior Boron are reduced to just their home sector, and this slaughter finally moves the Argon to pity. They renounce their neutrality, turn on their war machine on the Split, and curb-stomp them back to their home sectors. A long alliance with the Boron results.
    • The Boron, having almost been annihilated, finally understand that neutrality is impossible, and they themselves gear up for war.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Jarl Balgruuf the Greater of Whiterun initially maintains a position of neutrality in the Civil War, refusing to get involved (though he has no fondness for Ulfric Stormcloak). Eventually, if you start the questline, regardless of which faction you side with Ulfric chooses to invade Whiterun, forcing Balgruuf to side with the Imperials. Speaking to him afterwards will have him reveal that he has nothing but contempt for Ulfric, who he regards as a power-hungry barbarian and that he favors the Empire for economic reasons.
  • In Tears to Tiara 2, the city of Tartessos honors an ancient treaty to the Barcids to serve as the capital of Hispania. It then proceeds to remain completely indifferent despite having its groundkeeper tag along with the Party, despite being invaded and having its walls broken down. Finally when it witnesses Monomachus' Last Stand defending it, it joins in the fight and easily wins with Story-Breaker Power. Though it pretty much goes back to being neutral right after, being originally a city of the dragons and all.
  • Shin Megami Tensei games often have shattering revelations or events that force everyone's hand, driving them over and over into the Order Versus Chaos Forever War.
  • A running theme in The Witcher. Geralt of Rivia is smart enough to know he gains nothing from getting involved in the war between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the Scoia'tael and would rather get on with his personal quest. But everyone recognizes what a badass Geralt is and tries to persuade him to join their side, and those that don't try to persuade Geralt berate Geralt for thinking he can stroll through the middle of a war zone and not get involved. It's possible to avert this trope, but it is very difficult and involves some Video Game Cruelty Potential.
  • The theme continues in both The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, where Geralt finds he's typically stuck in the middle between two hostile factions, and he has to pick someone to side with, as he needs their help. Early in the second game, for example, Geralt is accused of assassinating the king of Temeria, and has to side with either Vernon Roche, head of Temeria's special forces, or Iorveth, leader of a Scoia'tael guerilla force, in order to keep from being executed and find the true killers.
  • In Star Trek Online, the Romulan Republic Player Character is this. They start out as a simple farmer on the Romulan colony world Virinat, trying to make some semblance of normalcy since the Hobus supernova destroyed Romulus. Then, General Hakeev of the Tal Shiar decides to be a dick and invade your home. This sets off events that see the manipulative Tal Shiar and Romulan Star Empire destroyed and the much more peaceful Romulan Republic established. All at your hands.
  • As you work your way through the various runs of Undertale, though he certainly won't hesitate to call you out on it, you can murder anyone you want in the Underground and Sans the skeleton will still let you pass him without a fight. Even if you kill Papyrus. But if you decide to kill everyone and thus permanently remove any chance of ever reaching the Golden Ending again, he finally becomes motivated enough to step up and make a last stand in the Judgement Hall, at the point of no return. Bad times ensue.
  • Borderlands 2 begins with this. The player characters are Vault Hunters — basically mercenary adventurers employed to open Eridian Vaults. While they had their reasons for being on Pandora, only two really had any meaningful ties to anything there — Salvador was born on Pandora, and Krieg had an old enmity with Hyperion and was only on the train because of Maya. The initial driver of the plot is Handsome Jack betraying the player characters and leaving them for dead, which is one of those things that influences people without making friends and successfully motivated them all to side with his enemies, the Crimson Raiders.
  • The nation of Heyama in Forever Home refuses to get involved in the conflict between Auria and Tren, but they're eventually forced to take a stand against Tren's Judgment Faction when the latter razes a Heyama housing complex.
  • One of the initial yet fundamental tenants of The Scions of the Seventh Dawn in Final Fantasy XIV is that they bind themselves to no one nation of Eorzea, just helping who they can to unite the nations with no biases as they handle the Primal and Ascian threats. Then they ended up having to lead the charge against the Garlean Empire, the Monetarists of Ul'dah subsequently screwed them over (though that was really mostly Teledji's doing), and they were scattered to the winds. While their neutrality is but a thin line at that point, Alphinaud's forced to align with the more open-minded parts of Ishgard, and soon enough they become the forefront of the Doma and Ala Mhigo liberation efforts as well, effectively discarding this "rule" with both good and bad consequences aligned with it and a big Garlean target on their backs.
    • There’s also the Sharlyan people. A group of people dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, they disdain fighting and those who do fight, preferring to hoard knowledge and stay out of fights as they focus more on preparing for the Final Days. With the end averted, they set about abandoning this mindset.
  • In Giants: Citizen Kabuto, the alien Meccaryns initially don't care about the war between the Smarties and the Sea Reapers, being just accidental visitors to the planet — their mission is to recover their lost comrade and then resume traveling to their vacation world of Planet Majorca. But after their Smartie friend Timmy is Fed to the Beast as a Human Sacrifice, they decide that they're going to defeat the Sea Reapers and restore dominion of the planet to the Smarties, declaring It's Personal now.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • In the backstory, during the Great War, Mantle and Mistral attacked Vale, while promising Vacuo, the last nation, that they would have their independence as long as they stayed out of it. But since Vacuo was already occupied by Mantle and Mistral, Vacuo quickly realized they would be double-crossed. So instead they kicked all the enemy soldiers out and went to war on Vale's side.
    • In Volume 5, the White Fang is planning an assault on Haven Academy, but Blake and Sun are unable to convince the citizens of Menagerie to help them protect Haven because, as Blake explains, Menagerie has been populated by Faunus who are tired of fighting or struggling and just want to be left alone, and asking them to go and fight other people's wars is asking them to put strangers before themselves. This all changes in "True Colors" when White Fang members, acting on Adam's orders, attack Blake's parents, the chieftains of Menagerie, and try to kill them. The assassination fails, but the attack nonetheless provides the opportunity Blake needs to rally the citizens, convincing them that they have to get involved in the fight, or else what the White Fang are doing in their name is going to make things permanently worse for Faunus everywhere. They begin forming a militia to defend Haven Academy against the White Fang.

  • In Sluggy Freelance Bun-Bun is frequently the subject of this trope. As a Heroic Comedic Sociopath, he's frequently disinterested in whatever life and death struggle everyone else may be involved in, but more often than not the Big Bad du jour will do something that irritates Bun-Bun in some way (or the heroes will tell Bun-Bun the Big Bad did something irritating). Cue the Revenge of the Killer Rabbit.
  • Hinted about the elves in The Order of the Stick. "Old allies, that are slow to go to war."
    • A more direct example would be the reptilian bounty hunters Gannji and Enor, who have no stake in the Empire of Blood's political struggles and are perfectly willing to do business with it...until Tarquin tries to have them kill each other in a gladiatorial arena, after which they sign up with a newly-formed resistance group.
    • The Chaotic Neutral sky-pirates who have been ferrying the heroes in one of the later arcs eventually realise that neutrality just isn't an option when the existence of their entire world is at stake, even if they don't fully understand what's happening, and so ally themselves more actively with the heroes.
  • Breakfast of the Gods: Toucan Sam throws his lot in with Tony and the rest of the kingdom's defenders, after witnessing Count Chocula set Cap'n Crunch up to be murdered.
  • Pibgorn: There's no way to be neutral with demons.
  • In Earthsong, the Spinster is a powerful spider-like telepath who is uninterested in taking sides in the fight between Earthsong and Beluosus, and will provide his handmade clothing to both sides since he can enforce his privacy through his spiderwebs. After befriending Willow, he decides to change his policy and sides with Earthsong. He dies in defense of Haven when Beluosus invades it.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Helena intervenes in the confrontation between Voltaire, Elliot, and the Griffins because she's tired of just letting events unfold.

    Web Original 
  • In an online game called Memesville 2, one of the neutrals (who just had to survive to win) was trying to help those who were being lynched if they were neutrals like him. Then one Villain, who could change who she appeared as, lied to him to try and live but failed. Then they killed the one guy he KNEW was a Neutral. His response? "... ... ... Alright, villains. Thanks for choosing my side for me."
  • In Worm, Parian, who previously used her powers (mental control of objects like thread and cloth) as an advertising gimmick for her fashion career, is forced into this position in order to get enough money to pay for medical treatment for her friends and family-specifically, she joins the local supervillain gang that is taking over the city, much to the horror of her superhero friend Flechette.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Jahi and the demon clan she has gathered around herself have chosen to settle into living in Alent's Threshold district after entering the Land of the Living, staying out of the conflicts their new home is involved in. However, when agents of the demon hordes infiltrate Alent and keep harassing Jahi in order to force her to side with her old demonic allies, Jahi does her best to not choose any sides until it gets personal as both demons and humans cross the line and hurt her loved ones. She ultimately unleashes the darkness she has kept in check and embraces it, choosing to side with the Eastern Horde but not on their terms but her own terms and her newfound ruthlessness in dealing with both enemies and allies alike quickly proves that bringing out the darkness within her may not have been a great idea.
  • The Falcon Cannot Hear: After the death of MacArthur, Admirals Fletcher and Bloch use the Atlantic Squadron to set up an American exile community in Guantanamo Bay, declaring themselves separate from any of the factions in the Civil War. This lasts until Japan invades the West Coast; this pisses off the Admirals enough that they join The Alliance against the Japanese and their allies, the fascist White faction.
    • The Japanese invasion actually triggers another example: Canada had up until this point been officially neutral, albeit running supplies to the more democratic factions. Shortly after the invasion, Canada declares war on Japan and floods the occupied Northwest with troops.
  • A More Personal Union: Shortly before the Great War breaks out, Poland signs a nonaggression pact with the Holy Roman Empire, but doesn't outright join the Catholic League. Then, more than midway through the war, they stab the Empire in the back, no longer being willing to play second fiddle to the Habsburgs.
  • Magic, Metahumans, Martians and Mushroom Clouds: An Alternate Cold War: The Yuzhou de fangshi monks at the Xuchan Shrine stay neutral for much of the Chinese Civil War, until the PLA accidentally bombs the shrine while driving out Kuomintang forces in the region. The survivors then fled to Nationalist territory and provided their services to Chiang Kai-shek.
  • The Berenstain Bears:
    • In the Big Chapter Book And the Dress Code, in a chapter fittingly titled "The Turning Point", Brother has been largely neutral in the fight over "rad clothes" and saying outright at one point that "I'm not into rad clothes myself. But it doesn't bother me when other cubs wear them to school." Eventually though, when Miss Glitch comes to his home asking for Papa's support, it proves to be the last straw for him. Specifically, when she reveals the adults' B.O.R.E. organization is going to be holding a big school assembly about their opposition to the cubs' new fashions, Brother learns they're also planning to delay the school concert (which Brother is taking part in and which he and the other students want to get over with so they can move on to new music) that was originally scheduled for that time. Seeing this act as an even bigger disruption than the clothes themselves, he immediately storms out and starts contacting the other cubs to form a dedicated organization — F.R.E.E.S. — meant to counter B.O.R.E., with himself as a major leader.
    • Later in the same book, when Vice-Principal Grizzmeyer announces a new dress code version that basically lets him outlaw any clothes he personally doesn't like, Ferdy Factual (who's been pretty snide towards both sides over the whole thing) finally announces his support for his fellow cubs and joins the F.R.E.E.S. organization.

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers:
    • Tigatron does this in Beast Wars. He wakes up from stasis all confused, not certain who he is, when he sees the Predacons threaten to kill an innocent animal if the Maximals don't surrender their friend. The Maximals surrender — and he realizes who the good guys are.
    • Happened with the Constructicons in the Transformers: Animated cartoon. Initially they were neutral hedonists and were even friendly to Bulkhead, but after Optimus Prime was a bit of a Jerkass to them they threw in their lot with the far more seemingly benevolent (and generous with his oil) Megatron.
    • Bumblebee starts as a neutral Energon scavenger in the Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy, being cynical towards both sides of the war and refusing to join their conflict. This changed when he came to possess the Codes of Alpha Trion, looking at the Autobots for help and assisting them once things cleared up. By Earthrise, he wears the Autobot insignia.
  • The Flutter Ponies in My Little Pony: The Movie (1986) are the only creatures that can drive off the overwhelming purple glop known as Smooze, but they insist it's "not their fight." It takes a Rousing Speech by the Ponies' human ally, Meagan, to convince them to help.
    • That and Lickity Split and her friends saved one of their own.
  • Played with in an episode of Road Rovers, the president of Switzerland, under hypnotic suggestion, almost launched a missile strike against the other nations. After coming out of it, he immediately declares "We are neutral again!"
  • Star Wars Rebels: Kanan meets an ancient force-welding being called The Bendu who is Above Good and Evil and prefers to live in isolation on the unmarked planet Atollon where Phoenix Squadron has made their hidden base. When Grand Admiral Thrawn finds their hideout, Kanan tries to get his help but The Bendu is having none of it, then he calls him a coward; this finally spurs him into changing into a massive thunderstorm which then precedes to attack both the Empire and Rebellion indiscriminately.
  • Double Dragon (1993): At first Su Lien, tai chi chuan master and instructor, refuses to side with either the Dragons or the Shadow in their fight, preferring to remain neutral. The Shadow Master, never taking no for an answer, captures her and plugs her into a virtual reality program to invade her mind and rip her knowledge from her; Jimmy, Billy, and Su Lien's student Kona go in after her. When it seems the Shadow Master, in large dragon form, is about to win, Su Lien breaks her neutrality, turns into a giant white dragon, and kicks his black-scaled butt. When asked later, she says there comes a point where no one can remain neutral in the fight of good vs evil. Afterwards, she stays a useful ally.

    Real Life 
  • Apparently, in some places, watching traffic from the curb is a national spectator sport. The Stryker ICV is a favorite with the youngest fans. One day somewhere in Baghdad, a convoy was moving one of these. Simultaneously, a group of insurgents moving an IED entered the same intersection. The insurgents panicked and triggered the device. Locals were appalled at the lack of concern for civilian life and began cooperating with the NATO forces.
    • This serves as an allegory for pretty much the entirety of the occupation. The insurgents have had much, much less concern for innocent life, detonating devices near schools, restaurants, and other public places. This has led to a lot of the civilians siding with the occupation forces.
  • Really, this trope has pretty much been America's hat. Examples:
    • The U.S. sat out the Cuban rebellion against Spain for about fifteen years until the USS Maine blew up in Havana Harbornote , which got the U.S. into the war against Spain.
    • The U.S. stayed neutral in World War I until the Germans were caught attempting to form an offensive alliance with Mexico against the United States.
    • The U.S. didn't really start to help the Allies in World War II until after the fall of France, did not get into the war until after Pearl Harbor, and did not declare war against Germany until after Germany declared war against the U.S.
    • When the Cold War began, the Truman administration was quite indifferent to what happened in mainland east Asia, cutting off aid to Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT in the critical year of 1946, and then, after the Communists took over China, withdrawing American forces from Korea and declaring South Korea to be outside the American "defense perimeter in Asia". When the North Koreans then promptly invaded South Korea with Soviet and Chinese backing, the U.S. intervened on the South Korean side.
    • When Lyndon Johnson became President, he declared that he was "not going to send American boys halfway around the world to do a job that Asian boys can and should do for themselves". When it became apparent in 1965 that South Vietnam was months if not weeks from falling to the Communists, however, and Communist forces fired on a U.S. naval vessel in the Gulf of Tonkin, he did exactly that.
    • Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. was largely neutral in the Arab–Israeli Conflict until the early 1970s, and did not, for example, intervene to open the Strait of Tiran in 1967 despite an earlier promise to do so. But during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when the Soviet Union sent a massive airlift of supplies to the Egyptians and the Syrians, the Nixon administration decided to send an American airlift of supplies to Israel. This is only a partial example, however, since the United States only sent supplies, and did not intervene directly.
    • In 1990, American ambassador April Glaspie met with then-ruler of Iraq Saddam Hussein to ask him about the troops he was massing on his border with Kuwait and the threats he was making toward Kuwait. He apparently assured her that he was just saber-rattling to win diplomatic concessions on a border dispute, and she seemed to have understood him to say that he was committed to resolving the dispute peacefully. She famously assured him, however, that the U.S. has "no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait....the Kuwait issue is not associated with America", and he may have taken that as a green light to invade Kuwait. Suffice it to say that when he did, the U.S. sent troops to the Persian Gulf, first to defend Saudi Arabia, but then to liberate Kuwait.
    • Later in that decade, during the Balkan wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia, the United States did not intervene for several years in the war in Bosnia but did finally decide to back Croat intervention on the side of the Bosniaks against the Serbs, after watching Serb attacks on Sarajevo and other Bosnian towns on the news every night for years. Then, when the Serbs went to war in Kosovo to attempt to prevent that province from breaking away, the U.S. decided to intervene directly, launching an air campaign against Serbia.
    • Also during the 1990s, the United States was neutral in the civil war in Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, even as the Taliban took over most of the country, pushing the Northern Alliance into a tiny strip of territory in the north. After September 11, 2001, however, the United States intervened in Afghanistan on the side of the Northern Alliance and removed the Taliban from power. The "civil war"/insurgency continues to this day, however.
    • Also happens within the United States — at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Kentucky was a slave-holding state that identified culturally with the South but one that didn't have much appetite for secession (its governor Beriah Magoffin was Southern-sympathizing and bristled at President Lincoln's call for troops to serve in Union armies but believed slave states should remain in the Union and the Constitution). For the first several months it tried to stay neutral, its legislature refusing to vote on a bill of secession and instead passed a bill asking both sides to leave them alone. Then, Confederate General Leonidas Polk occupied the town of Columbus that summer, spurring the legislature (which at this point had become pro-Union enough to override the governor's vetoes) to start passing legislation blatantly against Confederate efforts but not the Union's — this in turn pissed off pro-Confederates in the western and central parts of the state, who established their own state government that joined the Confederacy that December. Kentucky's stance was sorted out by 1862, with the state effectively in Union hands thanks to General Ulysses Grant, the original pro-Union government remaining in effective control, Governor Magoffin resigning, and the rival pro-Confederate government existing only on paper having been forced to flee to Tennessee.
  • Italy in both World Wars. In World War I, Italy was supposed to immediately enter the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, but refused due to a loophole and stayed neutral for about a year before entering the war against them. In World War II, it happened TWICE. First, Italy was supposed to join Germany as soon as France and Britain declared war but stayed neutral until the war appeared to be already won and attacked France and a small British colony just for show, only to get held off by the French and find out the hard way that the British Empire wouldn't surrender. In 1943, an invaded Italy sued for peace and became neutral again until the German reinforcements sent to help the defense were ordered to become an occupation force.
  • Vichy France was a subversion during World War II. The government (including France's colonies) was neutral in the war (at least officially). In particular they were guaranteed control of the French Navy, which they promised to the Allies they would not allow to fall into German hands. Evidently lacking confidence in this promise (or the Vichies' ability/desire to keep it), the Royal Navy seized several French ships and fired on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir. There were numerous skirmishes between Vichy French and Allied forces after this, and Vichy neutrality effectively ended with Case Anton, the German seizure and occupation of all of Vichy France. As it turns out, the French kept their promise regarding their Navy, scuttling their ships in the harbor at Toulon.
  • To protest against SOPA and PIPA,note  Wikipedia blacked out their website on January 18, 2012. Wikipedia is notable for staying as True Neutral as possible, making this a huge change in their policy. Ironically enough, they had to break their own neutrality in order to fight for the principle of neutrality.
  • In the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark tried to be neutral so they could trade with both England and France; "unfortunately" they had a very big fleet at that time, making England scared that France would get to use the fleet. So they bombed it in 1807, an act that made Denmark join the war on France's side.
    • Denmark was neutral in WWI and would have probably been so in WWII as well, if it hadn't been for Germany invading the country in 1940, making them technically no longer neutral.
    • Belgium initially declared neutrality in both World Wars, only to be twice invaded by Germany on their way to France.
  • Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Switzerland announced it would abandon its longstanding financial neutrality and deny use of its banking system to persons or entities under international sanctions.note 
    Federal President Ignazio Cassis: To play into the hands of an aggressor is not neutral. Having signed the Geneva Convention of human rights, we are bound to humanitarian order.
    • Similarly, said invasion caused formerly unaligned Finland, Sweden, and Austria to consider NATO membership. Sweden and Finland both formally requested to join NATO on May 16th, 2022. In Sweden's case, this ended 200 years of official military neutrality.