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Principles Zealot

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The law is the law. And Dredd is the law.

"No. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Never compromise."
Rorschach, Watchmen

A character who cares too much about their principles, often at the expense of caring about the results of their actions. While many characters believe in ideals like truth, knowledge and the rule of law, these folks take it to uncomfortable levels. May be Played for Laughs, or played straight in one way or another.

A person who Will Not Tell a Lie, for example, crosses over into Principles Zealot when they maintain truthfulness even in the face of horrible consequences that they know could be averted by telling a Jedi Truth—or force everyone to tell the truth lest they suffer dire consequences. A hero who will commit any atrocity rather than break a promise, even if they were tricked into making it, is a Principles Zealot. Please note that such a Principles Zealot isn't necessarily more principled than someone who normally Will Not Tell a Lie but can make exceptions in extreme cases. The difference is that the zealot refuses to see the big picture, clinging blindly to the principle and the principle only. This has a certain bloody-minded logic: the threat of looming negative consequences could always be a trick or illusion, or there might be an escape route, but once you tell the lie to avoid it, there's a 100% certainty that you are now a liar. Psychologically, categorical imperatives can also be a source of immense power.

A Principles Zealot can be a Well-Intentioned Extremist, Broken-System Dogmatist, Knight in Sour Armor, Knight Templar, Lawful Stupid, The Last DJ, Rightly Self-Righteous, or even someone who ended up on the wrong end of that Sliding Scale. Contrast Totalitarian Utilitarian, who is another side of these four kinds of fanaticism: While the Principles Zealot cares only about principles, the Totalitarian Utilitarian cares only about results. Note that a fanatic doesn't have to fall into either of those two categories: their fanaticism can be about a cause or a belief instead.

Things can get really ugly when this character suffers from Black-and-White Insanity.

See also Determinator and The Fettered. Contrast Honor Before Reason: Principles Zealot is a character type, while Honor Before Reason is a motivation/characterization. Honor Before Reason is explicitly idealistic and heroic, whereas Principles Zealot is an idealistic character, but is on the cynical side of that Sliding Scale.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The setting of Avesta of Black and White outright enforces this mindset for the characters with the Black-and-White Insanity that permeates the series. The Commandments especially requires someone to stick to their principles like glue lest they suffer divine punishment, regardless whether it is a good idea or not. A big part of the closing chapters is breaking this farce of a world that they call home to end this pointless war for good.
  • In Berserk, Farnese comes to Bishop Mozgus while he's praying and admits her doubts about their mission, recognizing that their paranoid and brutal inquisition against heresy is hated by the people as well as the knights enforcing it and has so far failed to end the attacks on priests. In response to her asking if they are merely causing needless suffering instead of helping anybody, Mozgus tells her a parable with the lesson that since you cannot predict how your actions will be perceived by the people you are trying to help, you should not worry about it as long as your intentions are righteous. While he admits that he doesn't like to cause so much pain, he feels no guilt about it because he does so in the name of God. Therefore, he urges her not to question God or the scriptures, but instead execute her task no matter what the consequences will be for herself or others. Unlike Farnese, who eventually realizes the error of her ways, Mozgus himself hangs onto his misguided principles until the very end.
  • Suzaku Kururugi from Code Geass starts out like this, refusing to support Zero even though their shared goal is to liberate Japan from discriminatory (and lethal) oppression, believing that change has to be received by due process or it eventually results in pointless chaos; he tried to do things the rebel way by killing his father and screwed things up. Unfortunately, the power of Geass proves that the wisest people can be coerced into doing stupidly genocidal things (or even chose to do them of their own free will), and ends up joining his archrival once the level of insanity reaches his armpits.
    • Once Euphemia goes insane and dies, he starts selling out and slowly reaches a level of power that he could never have obtained as an ordinary citizen. From there, things go horribly wrong.
    • Schnizel then turns Suzaku's act of trust into a total betrayal, which drives Lelouch paranoid and unwilling to take him seriously, straps a warhead to Suzaku's mech and orders him into the line of fire (knowing that Suzaku's brainwashing will inevitably force him to fire it, killing millions), and then uses Lelouch's (fake confessions) in the wrong context to convert the entire Black Knights to his side. It really shows that principled acts can be used by the highest authority into freestyle bastardy.
    • It's also implied that Suzaku found something at Ground Zero that caused him to lose his mind. He starts taking things pragmatically from that point on, rather than choosing based on principles.
    • And this reaches a breaking point when he discovers that Lelouch's parents intend to destroy identity and free will by lobotomizing the collective unconsciousness' brain stem. Lelouch convinces him that even the Assimilation Plot is run by selfish people who hog all the control. By then, he's literally at a loss of principle because no human principle invented has involved breaking into heaven and brainwashing god. By accident.
  • Light Yagami of Death Note believes in justice. This belief leads him to kill thousands of people and manipulate everyone around him. Granted, his idea of justice does shift slightly over time...
  • Chi-Chi in Dragon Ball Z she seems so caught up in wanting the best for her family that she fails to see the big picture. Her principles include believing that education and having a good source of income is so important to the point that she seems so narrow-minded. She means well, but her delving on this trope doesn't solve anything (while not wise, some of her viewpoints come off as justified since Heroism Won't Pay the Bills in their world).
  • Dragon Ball Super: After his Character Development in Z, Vegeta will not abandon his Saiyan pride or his love of his family for anything, even if it means he'll never achieve his lifelong goal of surpassing Goku. He'd rather die than throw away who he is. He contrasts himself to Toppo in this regard, who casts aside his belief in justice when the going gets rough.
    Vegeta: Only a failure abandons his principles and pride! Do you actually think I'd let you stop me!?
  • Greed from Fullmetal Alchemist claims that he never lies (even to enemies). If this were true, then that would mean he would never lie even if it could further his goals, and being the physical incarnation of the sin itself, attaining things like status, sex, money, etc. is very important to him. His first, last, and only lie was to Ling Yao, telling him that they would fight Father together. Greed lied to get Ling to drop his guard, so Ling wouldn't be absorbed into Father as well.
  • Ira Gamagoori from Kill la Kill is a semi-comedic example. He is willing to give Mako and Ryuko a ride to a gas station when their scooter breaks down, and in the next episode refuses to fight Ryuko because their fight does not start for another few hours.
  • Stain of My Hero Academia is a Serial Killer motivated by his very specific idea of what a "hero" is. He believes that heroes must never work for personal gain, only to sacrifice themselves for the people. Those who do are fakes who need to be snuffed out. The problem with this way of thinking is that these so-called fakes are quite good at their jobs and are beloved everywhere. To Stain, the only "true" heroes are All-Might and Deku (who have a character arc that deconstructs this ideal to a degree), despite many other heroes still being good people who have saved countless lives. He also considers the idea of redemption to be utterly impossible.
  • Yuuji Yugami from Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai is a comedic example. His stubbornness is always Played for Laughs and it's part of the reason his classmates tend to avoid him — not that he cares, since he's quite happy without friends anyway and practically refuses to make any.


    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Batman can sometimes fall into this, especially when it comes to why he doesn't kill the Joker (or at least allow him to die). He is adhering to Thou Shalt Not Kill, and is somewhat justified in being afraid of not being able to stop once he crosses that line, but how many people have died at the hands of the Joker, thanks to his principles?
  • Captain America: Captain America is generally a subversion of this, Depending on the Writer. While known for his integrity, he also knows that sometimes it's absolutely necessary to resort to lies and trickery. Other times, he refuses to compromise his ideals even when it will result in suffering.
    • A retcon claimed that Cap had never killed anyone ever. Even during the Second World War when he was in the thickest of fighting. This supposedly gave him the moral high ground over Wolverine, allowing him to take offense concerning Wolverine's bloody record. Normally, Cap is portrayed as preferring not to kill, but accepting it can sometimes be necessary. If he has to choose between letting the Red Skull escape or killing him, for example, he's generally willing to kill because he knows the Skull will just keep on causing suffering.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Dredd is in many ways a parody of this, with Judge Death as a parody of the parody. While Judge Dredd is a Knight Templar By-the-Book Cop and Judge Death an Omnicidal Maniac Hanging Judge, they are still the same kind of Principles Zealot.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): Twilight Sparkle became one in one issue, where she utterly refused to use any magic, either offensively or defensively, against some foes because they were "non-magical residents of Equestria". Needless to say, this drove the entire conflict of the comic and resulted in a lot of property damage and a lot of injuries to her friends and civilians.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: A parody of Les Miserables brought Javert's attitude to the logical extreme... By having Scrooge Valjean being pardoned with Javert continuing the chase to tell him he was now a free man: to Javert, the law is akin to divine justice, and if the law now said Valjean was as if he had never been a criminal he couldn't allow him to think himself as one and live on the run.
  • Spider-Man: In Ends of the Earth, Spider-Man goes out of his way to rescue Doctor Octopus right after Ock tried to wipe out most of humanity in a particularly pathetic attempt to be remembered for something. What made this especially galling was that Silver Sable, a heroine who was helping him, was drowning in another room, but Spidey still opted to save the monster Ock instead of going back for her.
  • Watchmen: Rorschach follows this trope consistently. This is probably because he's The Anti-Nihilist; he believes that the world has no other meaning than the one we impose upon it. If he abandoned his principles, he'd have nothing. The page quote is literal. He would rather let the world perish than neglect one of his moral principles just once. His reaction to Ozymandias's plan to save the world is a perfect example. He knows Veidt's attempt at utopia will be a lie built upon a foundation of corpses and cannot let that injustice pass, and thus welcomes death by Dr. Manhattan's hand because he can no longer abide living in a morally bankrupt world where injustice must prevail in order to save lives.

    Comic Strips 
  • Mo from Dykes to Watch Out For often borders on this (as — ironically — does neoconservative Cynthia in the final years of that strip). Mo's lover-to-be Sydney invokes it early in their courting:
    Mo: What do your "sources" tell you?
    Sydney: Oh, just that neither Lois nor your friend Clarice are speaking to you because you're such a rigid, self-righteous prig.
    Mo: Is that right? Well, if I had a superiority complex the size of yours, I wouldn't throw stones.
    Sydney Sounds like my sources were right.
    Mo: Sydney, if you don't like my personality, feel free to go pester someone else.
    Sydney: But that's just it! I do like your personality, Mo! I admire you for putting principles before people-pleasing.
    Mo: Well! As long as you admire me, what do I need with friends?

    Fan Works 
  • The White Arcanum in Arcanum. They're so dedicated to hunting down and slamming Wildmages in The Alcatraz that they would literally rather have all of civilization fall and have humanity massacred to extinction before letting even one out of the Sanctum.
  • In the Better Bones AU Spiderleg is very loyal to the warrior code and is consequentially loyal to the possessed Bramblestar, to the point of willingly taking a punishment from "Bramblestar" himself while condemning other cats for being unwilling to atone.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Charulata: Bhupati is very much a purist, who insists that his newspaper (which he is publishing in 1879 Calcutta, Bengal, India) must be all in English, and must not have any "silly news" or "gossip" but must only contain deadly serious coverage of the issues of the day. Of course, since he's actually one of the Idle Rich and the paper is a vanity project it doesn't matter. It's a big character growth moment near the end, when he agrees with Charulata that they can work together on a re-launched paper that combines political news in English with literature in Bengali.
  • Nicholas Angel, the hero of Hot Fuzz, takes By-the-Book Cop to zealot levels. He gets better. The Neighborhood Watch Alliance as a whole also counts considering they're willing to kill innocent people just to preserve Sanford's reputation as the perfect village.
  • Batman, in The Dark Knight, would rather veer off and crash his bike, leaving himself vulnerable to the Joker, than simply running the Joker over and ending the whole fiasco. Even though the Joker is unloading machine-gun fire into random motorists at the time, Batman still will not kill him.
  • Harry from In Bruges snarls that if he ever killed a child, he would stick his gun in his mouth and pull the trigger then and there. At the end of the film, when he believes he has shot a kid, he follows through on his claim.
  • Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. He is so thoroughly principled that he converted to Judaism for his wife and refuses to abandon it even after their divorce. He also rather notoriously threatens to shoot a man because he didn't take a penalty during a bowling game.
    Walter: Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don't work, I don't drive a car, I don't fucking ride in a car, I don't handle money, I don't turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don't fucking roll!
  • In Man of Steel, Pa Kent took keeping young Clark's identity a secret very, very seriously, to the point of willingly letting himself die to protect it.
  • In The Bridge on the River Kwai, Col. Nicholson almost gets himself and his officers killed by the Japanese because he insisted on compliance to the Geneva Conventions which forbids officers to do manual labor.
  • The main plot point and Fatal Flaw of Carlito in Carlito's Way. Carlito is completely dedicated to the street code of honor that he grew up with, to the point that he ignores all the common-sense signs of trouble around him, including how several people close to him (especially one guy in particular that Carlito has an I Owe You My Life sort of debt to) are planning to use and betray him. Even the warnings of his own girlfriend, (who isn't as street savvy, but clearly sees the writing on the wall) go unheeded in many situations.
  • In The Haunted Mansion (2003), Ramsley's principles about honor and distinction are the reason why he killed Elizabeth to stop Master Gracey from marrying a woman of such low social status.
  • Judge Dredd: Although an effective officer in curbing crime and doling out proper justice, Judge Joseph Dredd is an ardent dogmatist of The Law of the Megacities, claiming it is the only thing that matters to a Street Judge (even presenting it with a subtext as if it was a Bible), even though it does not recognize extenuating circumstances or evidence, leading to false arrests for people who had no choice, or they are metaphorically left holding the bag. However, Dredd gets a metaphorical slap-in-the-face about this when the very supposedly airtight system he sought to defend and praise has him arrested for the presumed murder of a news critic and his wife since the DNA imprint on the weapon matched his. (It was actually Dredd's brother, Rico, who fired the weapon.) Herman "Fergie" Ferguson, a harmless repeat offender that Dredd arrested earlier in the filmnote , temporarily wakes him up to the problems inherent in The Law, as they travel to the prison:
    Fergie: [after noticing Dredd is sitting next to him] What are you doing here?
    Dredd: I was convicted of a crime. Wrongly convicted.
    Fergie: [laughs, sarcastically] Really? That's kinda weird! What are the odds? Two wrongly convicted guys sitting right next to each other?
    Dredd: You received the sentence the law required.
    Fergie: Five years, just for saving my own ass? That was a mistake!
    Dredd: The law doesn't make mistakes.
    Fergie: Really? Then how do you explain what happened to you?
    [Dredd turns away stoically, trying to think of a reason]
    Fergie: You can't, can you? Great. [mockingly mimics Dredd's voice and accent] Mister "I Am ThE LAw" can't. [normal voice] So maybe this is some kind of typo. Maybe it's a glitch. Or maybe it's poetic justice!

  • Galad Damodred in The Wheel of Time is described as someone who "always does what's right, no matter who it hurts," which also indicates a very peculiar idea of what constitutes "right." He does, though, very specifically and especially include himself in "no matter who."
  • Stannis Baratheon from A Song of Ice and Fire. His dedication to his principles as a goal in itself approaches levels of The Unfettered, but the chapters seen from Davos' point of view also shows that Stannis himself is conflicted by this. At times Stannis does have to go against his very strong principles (pardoning lords he considers traitors, and at one point he considers burning one of his nephews for a magical ritual) but he hates going against his principles and only does so out of a strong sense of duty.
  • In the Xanth novel Man from Mundania, Grey Murphy is so Lawful that he feels obligated to honor the promise his father, the exiled Evil Magician Murphy that previously attempted to conquer Xanth made to the evil Com Pewter, a machine which wanted a human to aid in its world conquest plans. He only escapes by finding an overriding law concerning taking the place of Humphry, Magician of Information, service to whom overrides any and all prior obligation.
  • In Brothers in Arms, Miles Vorkosigan and Duv Galeni discuss this while being held captive by Duv's Komarran-rebel father. Miles mentions how his mother has always argued that one should put people before principles, and Duv observes that his father has always been a very principled man.
  • Investigator Paula Myo in Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga was apparently genetically engineered with the inability to tolerate any breach of the law, regardless of context.
  • Tarl Cabot of Gor gets in trouble at least twice when he is arrested/captured and refuses to defend himself or tell even a simple and plausible lie.
  • In Prosper Mérimée's Matteo Falcone, the titular boy's father unflinchingly executes the kid by blowing his brains out with a shotgun for the crime of treason (read: He promised an escaped convict that he wouldn't tell the police where he was and then he did). It doesn't matter that everybody else praises the kid's action, the father is pissed that the kid besmirched the family honor for going back on a promise.
  • The Knights of the Cross in The Dresden Files are a lighter example of this: they have principles and beliefs from which they will not (and cannot) stray. If one of their most hated enemies repents, falsely or not, then they must accept that as a form of redemption and stop all hostile activities, something that almost infuriates Harry, whose moral compass is much more malleable. That being said, the code of the Knights of the Cross is vague and open to interpretation: as long as they are doing God's work, He doesn't seem to mind how they do it: Sanya's preferred weapon is not his sword, but rather an assault rifle.
  • Victoria gives us John Rumford, who is willing to kill hundreds of thousands to support his traditional society. His introduction is interrupting a remembrance ceremony for fallen Marines rather than allow a woman to say "Iwo Jima". No women fought on Iwo, so no woman has the right to honor the war dead. When offered the choice of a public apology or getting discharged, he chooses the latter.
  • Banage of The Spirit Thief is absolutely uncompromising when it comes to any actions that might harm spirits. As such, he's often derided by Sara and the Council as a thick-headed extremist, and his opinions are rather unpopular. This being said, when there are spirits being abused, you really want this guy to be on your side because if you're the abuser, he'll absolutely wreck you and your operation.
  • Inspector Javert from Les Misérables named a trope because of this: to him the law equals morality and divine justice, so anyone breaking it is evil and must be punished. When the criminal Jean Valjean saves his life fully knowing who he is and that Javert has been chasing him for years he can't reconcile the contradiction nor the fact the law says he must still chase Valjean even if he owes him his life, and this prompts him to kill himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Chuck McGill in Better Call Saul is an ace attorney who believes that, in his own words, "the law is sacred" and as a result has unreasonably high standards for how practitioners should conduct themselves. He looks down on the Loophole Abuse they're paid to do and simply advertising their practices is a sin to him because he thinks the precedent allowing them to do so is flimsy. Because of this, he sabotages his own brother's career because he thought his criminal past made him unfit to practice law.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine has this attitude to her ideals of perfection. Janeway also drifts into this territory sometimes, when it's her principles that are at stake. Many of Seven's earlier episodes did a good job displaying that while she'd been separated from the Collective she still exercised a Borg's way of thinking and acting as a matter of principle. She has no problem sacrificing herself for the good of her "new collective" and will obey the choices of the larger whole despite her own opinions.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Homeward", Captain Picard (and thus his crew) chose to let an entire civilization die, one that they could easily have saved. They commit this genocide-through-inaction for the simple reason that the rules say so. Of course, it doesn't take long before Nikolai Rozhenko, Worf's foster brother, goes all What the Hell, Hero? on them. Specifically, he could easily have saved some of the planet's inhabitants, although there was no way to save all of them. It's almost certainly impossible to transplant a civilization without destroying it, so the question is whether you let all of them die or let most of them die. In this case, when one of the people who were illegally and unknowingly rescued discovers what had happened, the implications of everything they had left behind and lost drove him to suicide (presumably at least some others in their culture would have responded similarly).
  • Not to be outdone, in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Dear Doctor", Archer actually does let an entire civilization die slowly and painfully from a disease while they've spent the entire episode begging him for help, due to a specific set of principles that don't even exist yet and wouldn't apply to this specific civilization even if they did.
  • Doctor Who is utterly committed to his role as a peaceful explorer and scientist. As a result of Can't Argue with Elves, he tends to be very prideful and uncompromising, going to extreme lengths to uphold his Chaotic Good values.
  • From The Good Place:
    • Chidi strictly follows Kantian Ethics, which includes being forbidden from lying. Chidi follows it so strictly that he can't even lie if it means protecting himself from demons.
      Eleanor: They're trying to torture us, man! We're behind enemy lines!
      Chidi: Well, principles aren't principles when you pick and choose when you're gonna follow them!
    • The Good Place Committee is willing to let billions of innocent people be tortured in The Bad Place if it means that no rules will be broken while identifying why no one gets into the Good Place anymore.
  • In JAG, Harmon Rabb defends Rear Admiral Thomas Boone (played by Terry O'Quinn) who is accused of war crimes during The Vietnam War. While the old officer doesn't plead guilty, he does nothing to defend himself or help the defense. It turns out that he is innocent but believes that no matter the cost he can never break a vow of silence once it's given.
  • Chris and Victoria Argent on Teen Wolf qualify, due to their Fantastic Racism and Hunter of Monsters thing. After being infected with lycanthropy, Victoria commits suicide, with Chris' help, even though they know that werewolves can learn to control their condition and they have the resources to keep one contained until that can be accomplished. The emotional trauma this is guaranteed to cause their daughter is secondary to their adherence to Hunter rules.
  • An episode of Law & Order centered around this: Brisco and Green caught a serial killer and said killer refused to give up the location of bodies of his previous victims (or even how many they were), vowing to drag out the process for as long as he could For the Evulz. The killer told his rookie public defender where the bodies were located. The rookie finds the bodies where the killer said they werenote , but refuses to break attorney-client privilege, even when he's removed as the killer's defender and when he knows it might end his career. Serena Southerland even says to him no one would blame him for breaking privilege in those circumstances. His response: "Really? Shame on them!"
  • Game of Thrones:
    • As in the original novels the show was based on, Stannis Baratheon is this, refusing to compromise to the point of insanity. Most tellingly, he plunges blindly into battle after battle despite being ridiculously outnumbered, refusing to surrender his claim to his younger brother despite the latter's far greater popularitynote , and likewise refusing to concede to the North's desires to secede from the Iron Throne. It doesn't matter to him that he's already caught in a war with the Lannisters and the inbred bastards falsely claiming his family name, or that he's so hugely outnumbered; Renly and Robb Stark are traitors and must be crushed, rather than made peace with. He likely figures that as long as all three are working against each other they're actually doing him a favor. That said, there's also a case of Ambition Is Evil melded in, as his drive to achieve his goals ultimately leads to him committing some pretty morally murky things in his hopes of achieving them. Like burning his daughter alive as a Human Sacrifice. It gets so bad that his already-meager forces desert him in disgust, ultimately leading to his death.
    • Eddard Stark is a downplayed version of the same. Whilst he's not as blind to its dangers as Stannis, his honor and the immense pride he takes in preserving his honor, leads to him making some very unwise decisions that ultimately get him killed.
    • Aeron Greyjoy's very first line is a strong-worded "The law is clear!" when Yara suggests that she rules by default after Balon's death. Aeron is as big on tradition as one would expect from a holy man.
    • Jon Snow takes after his father with his "no lies" policy, claiming that enough secrets and lies cause people's very purpose to become upholding those same secrets and lies at the cost of everything else. He's forced to acknowledge that some secrets must be kept from one's enemies, but he still tells enough people the horrifying truth that he's the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne due to Rhegar Targaryen legally marrying Lyanna. This ends badly.

  • This is a common criticism of Kant's moral philosophy: when he discusses the example of a murderer standing at your door and asking you whether you're hiding his to-be victim (who is, indeed, in your house), Kant seems to indicate that it is not morally permissible for you to lie to the murderer. This is, of course, debated by philosophers.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has Elesh Norn, praetor of the white Phyrexian faction. Strangely, she gets along well with the Totalitarian Utilitarian blue praetor, Jin-Gitaxias.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Pretty much every single "good" member of the Imperium of Man that isn't a direct member of the local Church Militant should be like this. Especially the soldiers and doubly so for the Commissars. It's to the point that if you disobey an order but win a battle, where obeying an order would lose the entire war, you will be court-martialed and executed. During active combat, so much as suggesting an alternate route could be, at officer's discretion, punishable by death.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, Bahamut the Platinum Dragon is a Lawful Good deity, the most commonly worshiped God of Good in the Forgotten Realms, and generally a pleasant and peaceful fellow. However, Bahamut has followers called the Platinum Talons who take his stance against evil to an extreme. The Talons fight and kill anybody they deem unworthy of the Platinum Dragon's attention, including other worshipers of Bahamut, on the grounds that they aren't "loyal" enough or broke some part of Bahamut's teachings. This makes the Talons hypocrites, since one of Bahamut's core tenants is not willingly doing any evil action, and killing innocent people while being Knight Templars that act Holier Than Thou with Blind Obedience is pretty evil.
  • The Hellknights of Pathfinder are feared for their complete, unflinching dedication to the law. They don't care if the law was put in place by a kindly ruler or a tyrannical despot, whether it asks them to lay down their own lives for a beggar or execute an entire village over a single stolen coin, if the law tells them to do something they will do it.
    • The Hellknights of the Order of the Nail are particularly feared since they believe there are no such things as minor crimes and major crimes - only order and anarchy.

    Video Games 
  • In Baldur's Gate III, this is part of Barbarian Hero Minsc's Character Development. After being saved by the party he wants to go on a crusade against The Don Nine-Fingers Keene, but is talked down after seeing that she's actually A Lighter Shade of Grey and instead resolves to help her reform. Later on he confides in the Player Character that he's worried that this and the things he did while Brainwashed and Crazy makes him a hypocrite. One of the options to reassure him is to point out that being good is one of the few things he knows.
  • Planescape: Torment gives us Vhailor, a Mercykiller avatar of Justice. Even death didn't slow him down — he didn't even notice his, but continued his work as he possessed his old battle armour. Not even the protagonist is safe from his swift justice if he happens to realize who the Nameless One is...
  • If Shirou follows this, it can lead to an infamous bad end in the Heaven's Feel route of Fate/stay night.
  • Dragon Age:
    • The Qunari adhere to a rigid code, the Qun and will never compromise if the "demands of the Qun" aren't met. Thus, under it, one is assigned a role at birth, and this is all they may do - a farmer will always be a farmer. The only other alternative is death: "existence is a choice.. and we can refuse it."
      • In Dragon Age: Origins, Sten can never return home without his sword, as he will be killed on sight for having lost it.
      • In Dragon Age II, Ketojan submits to the Qun despite its consequences for him, and regardless of Hawkes' actions, willingly chooses death. An Arvaarad attempts to kill Hawke even if Hawke has his respect because Hawke may be "corrupted".
      • In the same game, the Arishok will not leave without the relic and Isabela despite Hawke's willingness to let it all end peacefully. He and his men will leave peacefully if Hawke hands said party member over.
        Hawke: I see a man who's willing to start a war on principle.
        The Arishok: And what would the Qunari be without principle? You, I suspect.
      • In their own way, even the Tal'Vashoth, the Qunari exiles, find ways to adhere to the tenets of the Qun. They are told that those who have left the Qun become mercenaries and murderers, and that is what they do, because that is all that they know to do when they refuse their place in Qunari society.
        Sister Petrice: Qunari. Even their rebels conform.
    • For a non-qunari example, Anders in Dragon Age II. Playing host to a spirit of Justice/Vengeance really did a number on his ability to handle shades of grey, and as the game goes on he gets steadily more aggressive and unreasonable in his expectations, alienating him from most party members who are unwilling to drop everything and devote themselves full-time to mage liberation. In the end, he blows up a cathedral with everyone inside it and starts a continent-spanning war, because even if innocents have to die, mages have to be freed.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the Corel prison warden, while nominally a regular guy, absolutely refuses to let the party leave, even to plead their innocence. More to the point, he refuses to let them go even when Barret is waving a gatling gun in his face, valuing enforcing his prison rules more than his own life.
  • Fallout:
    • The entire mainstream Brotherhood of Steel degenerates into this. They keep on getting more and more obsessed with keeping to the Codex as more and more schisms splinter off from the mainstream thanks to the increasing insanity of trying to keep to all the rules. This is worsened by the fact that there is significant evidence that the Codex has been altered... to be more strict (for those that wonder why this is here and not under Honor Before Reason, the Codex, at least by Fallout: New Vegas, includes parts about not helping outsiders, which is hardly heroic or idealistic), even as hiding in bunkers and keeping all pre-War tech to themselves becomes increasingly less of an option. Even though Nolan McNamara, the elder of the Mojave chapter, is quite aware that the Brotherhood is actively stagnating he will not break the followings of the Codex, though if the Brotherhood forms a truce with the New California Republic and helps them win, they'll at least agree to patrol the roads (otherwise if the NCR are not around, they take the opportunity to try and harass travelers for tech).
      • The Brotherhood have always been highly xenophobic and all about hoarding technology. In Fallout they were so close to becoming total zealots that the assassination of just one of their leaders, Rhombus, leads to them becoming the Steel Plague, fanatics who actively hunt down anyone else with advanced technology and usher in an even darker age. Only the Chicago and Washington D.C. Brotherhoods have ever truly diverged from rigid adherence to the Codex, mainly due to being cut off from the central leadership.
    • The Railroad of Fallout 4 are arguably a slightly more positive example. They're a ragtag bunch of idealistic wastelanders who are hunted daily by the Institute and risk their lives for a tiny minority of people in a land that's hellish enough already. Why? Because Androids Are People, Too, and helping them to freedom is the right thing to do. However, they've shown themselves to care more about robots (with some willing to protect even Gen 1 and 2 synths, which aren't even sentient) than their fellow man, and are willing to kill children (as there are children found in both the Prydwen and Institute), put civilians in harm's way, and betray their allies if it benefits their cause.
  • This is the main problem of Andrew Ryan, the antagonist of the first BioShock. Ryan had self-imposed principles of personal responsibility, hard work, and ruthless capitalism that allowed him to rise up in the world and become a Self-Made Man. Unfortunately, these principles failed spectacularly when he attempted to apply them to an entire city he built; a downtrodden working class immediately was formed who were being exploited and mistreated by the rich. Ryan simply expected them to pull themselves up like he did, ignoring that the system he put in place made it impossible for them to do so.
  • Sweet Johnson in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. He is unable to see the larger picture and "the hood" is all it matters to him, so much so he views CJ as a sell-out for hitting on the big business like managing rappers. And also because he refuses to deal with hardcore drugs, his gang is at a disadvantage compared to their Ballas rivals so much so his own lieutenants Big Smoke and Ryder double-cross him and try to have him killed.
  • Deconstructed in Injustice: Gods Among Us and its sequel. Both Superman and Batman cling on to their respective ideologies of Pay Evil unto Evil and Thou Shalt Not Kill after the Joker was killed by the fallen Man of Steel in retaliation for tricking Superman into nuking Metropolis and killing his own wife. While both sides make good points about their thoughts about the post-Metropolis situation, they also have shortcomings that nullify their arguments. At the end of the sequel, this rears its ugly head as both Superman and Batman immediately squabble over sparing Brainiac, with Superman inclined to kill the Coluan in retaliation for destroying Krypton and he believes he can restore the captured cities himself with Cyborg's help, though Batman knows what could happen if Superman is given control over the Skullship. Batman wants Brainiac alive because he thinks killing him will risk the destruction of more cities, although he fails to mention how to contain Brainiac despite knowing that sparing him could put more the Earth and other alien civilizations in big jeopardy. Neither of them offers any options (such as, for example, using Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth to force Brainiac into telling them how to take control of the ship and safely release the billions of cities he collected) and escalate to blows with a minute at the most.

    Visual Novels 
  • Kiyotaka Ishimaru from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, thanks to his talent as the Ultimate Moral Compass. He insists, for instance, that everyone try to follow the rules of the school and maintain proper decorum, despite the fact that they're all in a Deadly Game where they literally have to get away with murder in order to escape. Taka does loosen up a little bit after he bonds with Mondo Oowada, but Oowada being outed as the murderer in the second case and getting sentenced to death as a result makes Taka have a Heroic BSoD.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: While all members of the Ace-Ops are firmly loyal to General Ironwood and follow his orders without question, Harriet Bree takes it to full-blown zealotry. Best displayed in Volume 8, when Ironwood announces his intent to bomb Mantle just to get Team RWBY to hand over Penny; while the rest of the Ace-Ops and even Winter, Ironwood's most loyal soldier, balk at going that far and instantly turn on him, Harriet not only continues to support him, but goes so far as to try to carry out the plan herself. When Vine calls her out on it, pointing out that it's completely pointless to do so, Harriet defends her actions by claiming it's a matter of principle.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    • Mom insists you have to eat everything on your plate — even if a light bulb just fell there.
    • Parodied in "Evil Ethics": A kid espouses evil deontology, which involves purposefully finding bad things to do based on the fact that it's based on a moral principle, like finding life-saving lies you could tell and refusing to do it on principle. (The other kid is an evil utilitarian.) It's a parody of this concept but couldn't be a straight example because the consequences 'do'' matter, just in a reverse way.
  • In the setting of Anecdote of Error, girls who are designated as housekeepers aren’t allowed to go out in public without an escort. When one such housekeeper, the main character Atshi, sneaks out to infiltrate an enemy base, she’s caught by Shimei, her classmate and bully who insists on going with her despite her objections and despite Shimei not gaining anything at all from this, because she absolutely will not stand by and let a housekeeper break the rules.

    Web Original 
  • Lingur, from the Sporewiki Fiction Universe is this. He is so dedicated to his principles that other people have been seen to talk for him at military meetings, despite him being the head of his empire's military because if he were allowed to speak, he might call another attendee evil. In fact, his love interest Callanni partially exists as a plot device when the plot requires him to do something he normally wouldn't. She is the only one he's been seen to listen to on such issues. Though Lingur is the only commonly featured example, it is implied that virtually all Aeoneonatrix are like this.
  • The Saint of Swords from A Practical Guide to Evil would rather die than compromise with even the series more reasonable villains. In her words; "There can be... no truce with the enemy."
  • This fan comic of Warhammer 40,000 from /tg/ features a Imperial Commissar killing anyone for minor offences (including jaywalking), even including the God-Emperor of Mankind for going to the bathroom.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time has the Earl of Lemongrab who, while not evil (just a huge jerk), definitely qualifies for this trope. All Lemongrab wants is a clean, quiet, orderly kingdom. He tries to achieve this mild goal by screaming at everybody, terrorizing the candy people, and sending folks to the dungeon at the slightest provocation.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Parodied with the Clock King, whose Blue-and-Orange Morality make him a fundamentalist Schedule Fanatic willing to kill someone for something worse than a crime: making him late.
  • In one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Mrs. Puff has a flashback to the unfortunate day that she met SpongeBob. She's just opening her new boating school and gives her word that she will accept ANY student and never give up on them. Cue SpongeBob's arrival. In a later episode, the entire plot revolves around Mrs Puff's increasingly blatant desire and attempts to get SpongeBob killed in a destruction derby accident. She would sooner commit murder than go back on her word and just kick him out of the school.
  • Halcyon Renard of Gargoyles is a zealot about personal responsibility, to the point that he locks up Goliath until the latter is willing to admit his responsibility for the unprovoked destruction of one of Reynard's research bases. (Goliath had been deceived and manipulated into doing it, but he did do it.) While his attitude isn't portrayed negatively and he lives up to his own standards, this zealotry has cost him friendships and the love of his family. He also reacts badly to his daughter, a black sheep who revels in an amoral, irresponsible lifestyle.
  • The Land of Dreams residents of the The Dreamstone value the process of dream making and consider Zordrak and all his Urpney minions absolutely reprehensible for trying to sabotage them into nightmares, never once taking notice to the fact most of his army are unwilling cowards who only work for Zordrak out of fear of torture and execution. Later episodes toned down the heroes to be less outspokenly priggish and violent about it, and gave them a more proportionate provocation for fending the Urpneys off, though still considered them standard bad guys in spite of their behaviour otherwise.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa Simpson is a Soapbox Sadie that believes fervently in being truthful at all times and standing for what she believes in, even if that means seeking out the truth and exposing it and destroying the lives of other people as a side-effect (and occasionally her own as well, although pretty obviously that wasn't part of her plan). On a couple of occasions this meant (unknowingly) dodging literal bullets. The only time she knowingly compromised on this (and even then, it was a last-second decision) was when she discovered the truth about Jebediah Springfield, since telling everyone that he was a murderous pirate would have effectively destroyed what little pride Springfield had.
    • Parodied and played straight in The Simpsons, "Homer Vs. The Eighteenth Amendment": When a Prohibition law enacted 200 years ago is discovered in Springfield's Constitution, alcohol is outlawed. Unfortunately, this causes the same sociopolitical climate of the 1920s to return, with speakeasies and alcohol smuggling cropping up, including Homer, who is at the center of the crime ring, sneaking beer inside of hollow bowling balls through a complex system of pipes leading to Moe's Tavern. When Chief Wiggum is discovered, drunk, in the tavern, he's fired from the police force. When the police are unable to enforce the law, Rex Banner, a parody of Elliot Ness, with a no-nonsense humorless personality, from The Untouchables, is brought in. When Homer's Duff supply runs out, he decides to make his own liquor, which starts failing after a while as well. Chief Wiggum, when found later, begs Homer to let him capture him. Homer agrees, but the punishment for breaking the prohibition law is by expulsion by catapult, out of town. When Marge steps up to try to defend Homer, Banner starts to lecture the town about how the law should not be dictated by popularity (despite how the prohibition law actually caused more problems than it solved, much like the real-life Prohibition of the 1920s.), while not knowing that he's accidentally stepped into the bucket. When Wiggum has had enough, and decides that Banner has started talking out of his ass, he has the catapult launched, expelling Banner. The town clerk then finds that the law was repealed one year after it was passed, meaning that all this strife and agony could have been avoided. In the same episode we get another example for Lisa, who makes clear that she is in favor of the dry law when everybody else in her family (including Maggie) are against it and is sent to her room in response.
  • Steven Universe: Priyanka Maheswaran, Connie's mother, starts out this way. She was an ardent helicopter parent, closely watching her daughter's activities, and never going back on a rule that she enforces, but it's subverted in that this is only done for her safety, not out of malice. Her strict parenting methods begin to crumble when she discovers that Connie hid Rose Quartz' sword (a safety issue), and Connie needs it to defend from an attack by mutant gem experiments (gem shards forced into fusion) at Beach City Hospital:
    Connie: Mom! I really, really, really need that sword!
    Dr. Maheswaran: Connie, no! Now is not the time!
    [One of the mutants in an outside hallway rams the door]]
    Connie: Now is the perfect time, Mom! [jumps at Dr. Maheswaran, attempting to grab the sword]
    Dr. Maheswaran: Connie! What has gotten into you?! [holds her bag, with the sword in it, out of Connie's reach] You know I never go back on a rule, young lady!
    Connie: There has to be some exceptions! I'm not some... rule-driven robot!
  • Armagedroid from My Life as a Teenage Robot is programmed to destroy dangerous weaponry in the name of peace. He was built to fight off an Alien Invasion, which he did, but his simplistic programming caused him to start attacking everything around him that might be a weapon, on the logic that anything that could possibly harm a person is a threat to peace. He's so slavishly devoted to his principles of peace through destruction that when Jenny points out that he qualifies as a weapon himself, his immediate response is to kill himself.
  • Mao Mao from Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart is Lawful Good to a fault, obsessed with justice to the point where he nearly abandoned Badgerclops so he could respond to a public disturbance...all because his best friend was a former bandit.