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Protagonist-Centered Morality

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"Hooray! The people whose names I know are saved!"
Elan (while an allosaurus eats dozens of unnamed mooks), The Order of the Stick

It's only natural for a writer to see things from the protagonists' Sympathetic Point of View. Due to their frequent role as narrators and Point of View characters, a protagonist's perspective tends to make an impression on the work more than any other character's—their thoughts will overlap with narration, their feelings will shape the setting, and their priorities will dictate the plot. The way events are treated will be colored by how they relate to the protagonist, the things they love, the people they care about. It's hard to imagine a story told otherwise, but then sometimes this point of view seems to spread like an inkblot and color the way everything behaves and thinks. The work lapses into Protagonist-Centered Morality — a state where, on some profound cosmic level, the very fabric of the fictional universe seems to be seeing things from the protagonist's point of view. Every single sympathetic character, the symbolism, the narration, judge characters as worthy of praise, condemnation or indifference depending on how much favor they carry with the "good guys". The protagonists themselves can seemingly do no wrong, and even if there's anyone at all who would beg to differ, they're obviously a bad guy.

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Suppose, for example, there is a character who slaughters innocent villagers by the thousands, but once helped save the mother of the protagonist or some other character simply because he thought she was hot; said character will easily forgive this guy, buy him a drink, and may even invite him to join the team. Then there is another character who routinely saves orphans from burning buildings who once used his resultant fame to woo away the Love Interest of the character. They will be an object of scorn as apparently her choice didn't matter at all. This alone would just be portraying a flawed hero (or a hypocritical villain if the character is evil) — the final piece of the puzzle is that the narrative is in on the myopia. There will be no warning signs that the protagonist is being unfair to the hero who saved all these people. No one calls them out on how disrespectful they're being to the memory of thousands of the mass-murderer's victims. This will not come back to haunt them. The protagonist is essentially acting as though, in certain respects, it really is All About Them, and the narrator Author Tract might well be agreeing.

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As always, tropes aren't bad. It can be a very effective tool: a savvy author will use it beneath several layers of fictional content and context to tempt their viewers to agree that the protagonist has made morally sound decisions while allowing subtlety to display that, in reality, they have not. Conversely, by exaggerating the trope, they may tempt viewers to disavow seemingly morally bankrupt decisions of the protagonist, then allow plot developments to suggest that they acted wisely. Viewers who discover these nuances can learn many important things about the integrity of their own moral compass, and thus benefit. The example used by the author of the page quote above posits intentional Values Dissonance, and it's used for comedy: in that context, he succeeds.

This may be a generator of both Designated Heroes and Designated Villains, if the audience notices that the character is being judged only by a narrow section of their activities. Villains who supposedly "redeem" themselves in this manner can be Karma Houdinis, although they don't have to be.

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Unfortunately, it can make the protagonist hypocritical in that the main character does something bad and gets away with it, while the other characters do the same thing and get punished for it. If, in an attempt to justify this, the main character's recklessness ends up not hurting anyone due to circumstances beyond their control, it's Moral Luck.

Can lead to a Broken Aesop. Often enabled by Psychological Projection. Compare A Million Is a Statistic, where a million deaths can be excused, but a single death of someone with a name and screentime cannot. Also compare Always Save the Girl, in which the protagonist puts the well-being of their love interest above everything else. Subtrope of Selective Enforcement and supertrope for What Measure Is a Mook?. See also Rule of Empathy. Contrast What the Hell, Hero?, where another character does call the protagonist out on their questionable behavior, Moral Myopia, where a character tries to invoke this but the narrative disagrees, and Hypocritical Humor, where a character's double standards are Played for Laughs.

NOTE: This is an in-universe trope. It only applies when the story ignores bad things done by the protagonist, or good things done by the antagonist. If the story presents a character as a clear hero or villain, but some fans ignore the facts, that's Misaimed Fandom, Ron the Death Eater or Draco in Leather Pants.


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    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who often uses this trope, particularly in one Story Arc that pits the Eighth Doctor against the Monk. Simply put, the Doctor can't force his friends to sacrifice their lives, even if it would save thousands, whereas the Monk would gladly murder one person if it would prevent an entire planet from being destroyed. Of course the Doctor gets the moral victory, albeit at great personal cost. Other stories and arcs explore the idea further, but no matter how much Grey-and-Gray Morality comes into play, the Doctor typically comes out as a hero because he's, well, the hero.

    Films — Animated 
  • It shows up, believe it or not, in Disney's The Little Mermaid. Sebastian the crab, a major character, narrowly escapes Chef Louie, who kills and cooks fishes. The moment when Sebastian reaches safety is treated as the end of the matter; the fact that the other fish Louie still kills and cooks were clearly sentient is glossed over.
  • This trope is in full action in Vuk the Little Fox. Since the story focuses on Vuk, he is treated as a good guy, despite killing a lot of (apparently sentient) animals for food, and systematically destroying a man's property. At the same time, the hunter is treated as the Big Bad, even though he just kills foxes to protect his livestock. Justified, since Vuk would not survive otherwise.
  • Mentioned or implied in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Vinny says the following: "...but nobody got hurt. OK, maybe somebody got hurt, but... nobody we knew." (Presumably as his reason for sticking up for the good guys this time.) This Sudden Principled Stand on his part, which Roarke calls out as inconsistent when Vinny backs out, was motivated by this particular job entailing several orders of magnitude more collateral damage than he could rationalise away.
  • Played for Laughs in The LEGO Movie. Batman reveals he stole the hyperdrive of the passing ship (the Millennium Falcon) so that the group could use it for their own ship. The very next scene shows the now-hyperdrive-less starship being eaten alive by a space slug.
  • The Emoji Movie heavily relies on this. The villain is treated as a despicable control freak despite the dangers posed by an emoji making more than one face. Meanwhile, the film glosses over everything bad that Gene does, even though he doesn't even offer an apology. Gene leaves Akiko Glitter to die with the trolls, can't hold a face without panicking, — and his adventure actually accelerates Alex's decision to erase all the phone data.
  • Played straight in Ralph Breaks the Internet, as in the first film, it's explicitly stated that game-jumping is bad and there are massive repercussions for Ralph when he temporarily abandons his game to get a medal proving he can be a good guy and the Big Bad of the first movie did the same thing, causing his game, Turbotime and the game he kept jumping into to be shut down for good. In the sequel, Vanellope wanting to abandon Sugar Rush and go to Slaughter Race because she's bored of winning all the time is framed like a natural part of her growing up and Ralph is the one who has to learn to let Vanellope go so she can do the thing he and Turbo got vilified for in the first movie. Speaking of Ralph, him leaving his game again (albeit for a far less selfish motive than in the first movie) is treated as no big deal as Felix offers to cover his shift, despite Ralph being the most essential part of Fix-It Felix Jr. next to Felix himself, as opposed to Vanellope whom Sugar Rush could, and even used to, run perfectly fine without. It almost feels like "Going Turbo" isn't even a concept anymore, at least as far as the good guys are concerned.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Central Theme in Team America: World Police (along with My Country, Right or Wrong). Team America are a squad of gung-ho Straw Conservatives who keep destroying other countries in their ham-fisted attempts to "stop terrorists", but in the end they are still better than genuine tyrants and dictators.
  • John Q. has this in spades. The protagonist's son needs a heart transplant but can't afford it. Clearly, the big bad insurance agent is evil for not paying for his son's surgery. So John holds an entire hospital emergency room hostage, threatens to kill people if his son doesn't get a heart, and causes terror. However, there are only so many hearts available for transplant in the world. By blackmailing others to get his son a heart, he stole it from someone else, effectively killing that person. Then his son had his heart transplanted last minute by a group unprepared for the surgery, which lowered the odds of the transplant working. So John gave his son a lower chance of success of surviving the surgery than the person he stole the heart from. Not to mention the whole holding people hostage and thus disrupting an emergency room, which nearly resulted in one person dying due to lack of proper treatment (he gets convicted of that at the end, but he's still treated as right).
  • Jonas from Twister. He's the bad guy because he 'stole' the idea for Dorothy (even though he helped invent it in the first place), got funding for his research, and was 'competing' with the heroes to launch his invention first. But the movie sets him up as evil because he's a jerk to the hero despite the fact that if he succeeded, his data could also save people from tornadoes. Furthermore, Bill walks up and punches Jonas for no reason while Jonas is talking with reporters. And Jonas's "jerk-ness" is him snidely saying "I really like your weather reports", sarcastically complimenting Bill on the job that Bill voluntarily quit tornado chasing to take!
  • The biographical film Michael Collins depicts the morality of the IRA's terrorist/guerrilla war against the UK largely in terms of what side Collins is on. When Collins is for revolution, revolution is the answer; when Collins decides that the revolution is over and turns his forces against those who want to keep the war going, that's that. The movie makes only half-hearted attempts at ambiguity, clearly basing itself on the audience siding with Collins.
  • Jumper is based on the audience siding with its Anti-Hero, who supports himself with crime enabled by his superpowers. We side with him because the organization who hunts down people with his powers are Knight Templars and will kill people who try to help him. The opening scenes have the protagonist ignoring a news story about hundreds of people whose lives are in danger due to a flood so that he can rob a bank and have lunch on top of the sphinx. Note that this is before he knew people wanted to kill him. Neither he nor the hundreds of other teleporters in the world have ever tried to use their powers for good.
  • In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Sarah and Nick sabotage some mercenaries hired by the company who owns the dinosaurs. Granted, the team of mercenaries sent to capture the dinosaurs weren't using kid gloves, but the sabotage that the two of them did is directly or indirectly responsible for every human death in the film. Even after the mercenaries save the two of them from death, Nick uses it as an opportunity to sabotage Roland's gun. Apparently, killing a dinosaur is wrong even if it is rampaging through your camp and killing your men. And it wasn't as if nature was at stake. The dinosaurs were created in a lab and introduced in a time period that was unsuitable for them. The fact that they exist at all could be disastrous to the ecosystem. This was the entire point of the first movie and pounded home more in the Lost World book yet somehow, the filmmakers forgot all about that.
  • 300 is full of this, mostly due to the Unreliable Narrator. The Spartans are touted as a just and free society, even though they're shown in the movie to hurl imperfect babies off cliffs, kill messengers, and toss boys into the wilderness as a rite of passage. The sequel makes this explicit, with a few Athenians visiting the city and concluding the Spartans are just lunatics.
  • In Tyler Perry's movie Daddy's Little Girls, the protagonist Monty's ex-wife is dating a drug dealer and has taken the kids to live with her. After the custody hearing, Monty purposely hits his ex-wife and her boyfriend Joseph's car and then opens the door and beats up a dizzy and confused Joseph. At Joseph's trial, the entire neighborhood willingly testifies against him for the drug charges (after years of silence), but keeps their mouths shut when Monty is accused of assaulting him.
  • At the end of Finding Forrester, William Forrester stands up for his protege Jamal against the bitter English teacher that had a grudge against him. But the film seems to forget the fact that the reason that Professor Crawford was bitter was because Forrester had fraudulently scuttled the man's dreams 20 years earlier by falsely alluding to a non-existent second book, just to encourage publishers not to work with him. Also, Crawford's negative attention on Jamal is because Jamal actually did plagiarize the work that he's being accused of plagiarizing, and Forrester had specifically told Jamal not to use any of his work. Crawford may be a jerk, but he's justified in his actions.
  • In On Deadly Ground an oil executive pressures his crews to find oil before the exploration permit expires, even if it means harming the environment or ignoring safety regulations. When protesters and employees complain, he hires some paramilitaries to harass troublemakers. When the paramilitaries kill an employee, clearly they are villains. But does this justify destroying the exploration site and presumably causing multiple deaths and millions of dollars in property and environmental damage? Apparently it does, for everyone, including the press, who give Steven Seagal a standing ovation.
  • The Absent-Minded Professor has the main protagonist stalking his jilted ex-fiancée, who wants nothing to do with him, and also terrorizing the man that she's now dating — a character, mind you, who hasn't really done anything that bad except currently be the main character's romantic rival.
  • Dean Walcott in Patch Adams is unambiguously presented as the film's villain because he tries to block the title character's graduation from medical school. This despite the fact that Patch frequently behaves immaturely in class, impersonates a third-year medical student so he can get in to see hospital patients, sneaks into patients' rooms late at night to bombard them with balloons, advocates a "laughter cures everything" approach to medicine that he never even attempts to prove with science, practices medicine out of his house without a license, steals supplies from a hospital, and gets some of the highest grades in school even though no one ever sees him studying (making it perfectly logical to suspect him of cheating). Worst of all, his methods directly lead to the murder of another med student. But of course, since he's the protagonist, anyone who doesn't think he would make a good doctor must be evil. The real Patch Adams was quite upset about this portrayal of his life, which was highly inaccurate. The Nostalgia Critic had a field day with this.
  • Jay-Jay Manners in High School U.S.A. is portrayed as the everyman good guy while the preppy Beau Middleton gets the bad guy treatment. Jay-Jay isn't entirely innocent. He crashes Beau's party and hits on Beau's girlfriend constantly, even kissing her in public, and in the sight of Beau, yet Jay-Jay is still supposed to be the good guy.
  • In Back to School, when the opposing college's diving team's divers are diving, Derek Lutz (played by Robert Downey, Jr.), a friend of the protagonist, uses a loud horn and a mirror to distract and disrupt the dives of the other team despite the other team not even having anything to do with the plot. They hadn't been established as being evil and hadn't done anything against the protagonist other than being on a different team and the outcome of the dive meet had nothing to do with the plot (the Jerk Jock character is on the protagonist's team!). This was played for laughs, with Melon's bodyguard telling Derek, "You're all right, kid," but the scene makes him look like a jerk and really should have gotten him kicked out of the stands.
  • The Fast and the Furious:
    • The first film has Dom Toretto's team stealing parts from truckers (endangering their victims via high-speed carjacking) to fund their street racing. The film plays this as understandable and justified.
    • The fourth film has the team rob another truck, and almost kill the driver (though not intentionally). The thing given focus is how Dom and Letty want to settle down and get away from this dangerous life.
    • The fifth film is all about this. The "heroes" drag a 10-ton vault through the streets of Rio, causing untold property damage (it smashes through a bank in the middle of the day). We're to believe every single cop in the city is on the take, and their deaths are justifiable. Let's add in that this whole thing started because the heroes betrayed their partners in stealing a bunch of cars from the DEA because they found out the "bad guys" were after one specific car all along.
  • The Ledge suffers greatly from this: the hero, Gavin, is an atheist who decides to seduce Shana, the wife of the antagonist Joe, who is a devout Christian. But up until that point, the only really bad thing Joe had done was feeling sorry for Gavin's "empty life without God" as well as feeling sorry for his gay roommate. Moreover, Gavin is also shown (and even admits to) using emotional manipulation on her in order to make her fall for him, and the whole justification Gavin uses for his actions is that he believes that Shana is too good for her deeply religious husband and thus Gavin appoints himself as her "savior" from an oppressive life.
  • Maleficent curses the newborn Aurora to fall into a coma on her sixteenth birthday, solely because she wanted to get revenge on Aurora's father. She also unblinkingly kills dozens if not hundreds of men during her reign of terror. Most of them were trying to kill her, sure, but they were Just Following Orders from their own tyrant king. A lot of that could have been avoided if she hadn't cursed Aurora in the first place. Still, all of that gets to be completely ignored at the end when she makes her Heel–Face Turn and gets to live Happily Ever After with Aurora's praise and respect.
  • In Let the Right One In, we're clearly meant to root for Eli and Oskar, despite the fact that the former spends the movie murdering perfectly innocent people, and the latter is perfectly okay with her doing so because she's nice to him, though Eli does get a little bit of leeway since she is literally dependent on doing so for survival.
  • Hanna, in The Reader, was personally responsible for killing hundreds of people, not to mention the fact that she sexually abused and manipulated a teenage boy. But we are supposed to sympathize with her simply because she's illiterate. Because, you know, you have to be literate to know that killing people is wrong.
  • In Accepted, we’re supposed to see Dean Van Horne as a tyrant and a raging conservative who wants to stop Bartleby and his friends from starting their own college. He’s kind of a jerk, but he is absolutely right when he points out that said college isn’t a college at all, as it lacks the basics: teachers, a curriculum, a library, and so forth. Also, Bartleby started said "college" simply because he didn’t have the guts to tell his parents that he hadn’t been accepted into a real college. But we’re supposed to side with him and be moved by his passionate speech at the end of the movie.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel: In the 1982 Anthony Andrews version, Percy purposefully makes Marguerite's married life with him a living hell; he justifies this by his understandable belief that she murdered the Marquis de St. Cyr and his family, but since the Revolution there's this new thing called divorce, hey? Worse, once he's learned of Marguerite's innocence and reconciled with her, Percy still arranges his own fake execution to humiliate Chauvelin, which predictably devastates Marguerite. It would not have been surprising if she had committed suicide, turning his practical joke into a tragedy. Possibly justified by the Rule of Funny.
  • Zigzagged in Jupiter Ascending. Jupiter herself clearly wants to prevent the Earth from being harvested; but the Aegis crew, and in general anyone who helps her, are never shown to care one way or the other about the Earth. They're portrayed as heroic simply for protecting Jupiter's legal inheritance.
  • This gets subtly mocked in Saving Silverman when they're talking to their former coach, who's in prison because he'd (accidentally) killed a referee in a fit of rage.
    Wayne: So, Coach, how's your parole coming?
    Coach Norton: Not good. The victim's whiny family keeps complaining.
    J.D.: God! What is their problem?
  • At the end of Spider-Man 2, Mary Jane Watson ultimately decides to dump her would-be fiancé John Jameson in favor of being with Peter Parker right at their wedding. Apparently this is supposed to be a good thing since the One True Pairing of Spider-Man and Mary Jane have finally gotten together; but it ignores the fact that Mary Jane gently broke the news to her fiancé by leaving him at the altar.
  • Pitch Perfect: Bumper, the leader of the Treblemakers, is the closest thing the movie has to a villain. The Bellas' leader, Aubrey, is every bit as cruel, arrogant, selfish, and obnoxious as he is, but she's on the same team as the main character and he isn't, so the audience is supposed to root for her.
  • Find Me Guilty by Sidney Lumet is a Courtroom Drama about the 1980s RICO trial against the entire Lucchese Crime Family that ended in an acquittal after more than a year, in particular the antics of the already convicted Jackie DiNorscio (Vin Diesel), who represented himself at the trial after firing his previous lawyer. DiNorscio, despite being a repugnant, completely unapologetic lifelong gangster, is treated as an underdog Comedic Hero fighting against a corrupt system, while his opponent NY District Attorney Sean Kierney is a bonafide Jerkass despite his indictments against the Calabrese Family's numerous crimes (murder, racketeering, drug dealing, etc.) being absolutely correct. This is exacerbated because their crimes are never shown, only mentioned during the courtroom proceedings, making the mafioso come off like a bunch of well-dressed goofsters being maliciously targeted by the authorities. At one point Kierney, after becoming frustrated by them getting sympathy from the jury, denounces this in private, saying to his aides that they don't get what kind of people the defendants are. Some reviewers were also repelled, saying it was difficult to be happy with a movie that ends like this.
  • The Mummy: while the titular mummy is obviously the villain, the protagonists Evy, O'Connell and Jonathan constantly go around stealing things, which is presented as Kleptomaniac Hero; but when their rival Burns notices that Evy has his stolen tool kit O'Connell points a gun in his face to get him to back off, and Evy refuses to give the kit back. One can question why the American dig team is portrayed as the bad side, when the 'heroic' characters are doing the exact same things as them; essentially grave-robbing an ancient site, getting innocent local people killed (albeit accidentally) and refusing to listen to the warnings of the Medjai, all of which ends up releasing Imhotep and endangering the world.
  • In The Wizard Haley falsely claims that Putnam touched her breasts so security takes him away. But Haley is helping the heroes and Putnam is a sleazy bounty hunter so everything works out.
  • In Bean, Mr. Bean quite literally defaces a priceless piece of American art, replaces it with a poster and steals the original to boot, but ends up as a hero for it. The only other person aware of what he's done is David, who cannot say anything in protest because he would lose his job and possibly face a multi-million dollar lawsuit for negligence if anybody else found out.

    Literature 
  • The Baby-Sitters Club: In book #12, the girls get bitchy over Claudia spending time with a new friend and go as far as to short-sheet her bed, mess with her belongings, and leave her a series of nasty notes. But in the end, Claudia is the one who owes them an apology for "being a bad friend."
  • In the novel The Red Blazer Girls, a character who stalks the protagonists and is apparently in competition with them is described by one as "Pure evil!", although he actually turns out to be on their side, and they forgive him.
  • Subverted in Lazarillo De Tormes, when the title character (who has had a long string of abusive employers) works for a corrupt pardoner who treats him very well. Lazarillo knows, deep down, that the man is scum, but he's willing to overlook it because he's sharing in the benefits. This episode is one of the darkest parts of the novel's satire.
  • The heroes of Left Behind are often shown generally acting like unmitigated jackasses to anyone they meet, but those who insult or do them the slightest harm are quite literally condemned to Hell for it.
    • In this blog post, Fred "Slacktivist" Clark notes that the heroes seem more worried about the traffic jam they're stuck in (hindering them from reaching their comrades) than the news of the outbreak of World War III which preceded the traffic jam announcement.
    • Perhaps the neatest example comes early in Book 3. Chloe and Buck are in Chicago after the start of World War III. Their New York home has been destroyed and Chicago itself may be under attack. Loretta, an old woman who belonged to their church, offers to put them up in her house and the two (speaking outside of Loretta's presence) agree to accept this. Not even a page later, during the same conversation, they point out that if it came down to it, the church bomb shelter is too small for Loretta, with the implication that they would leave her to die in the fire.
    • A minor character actually calls them out on it at one point. An acquaintance of the minor character has been pretending to be on the side of the protagonists, but is actually running a kind of con game. They pull a reverse con on him and cheat him, and the minor character says something along the lines of "So, yeah, I don't think I can be your friend anymore. Yes, he was trying to cheat you too, but if you're serious about following the teachings of Christ, you're supposed to be better than him."
    • If there's anything that makes other Christians dislike the books, it's the fact that God is just as much prone to this trope as the human characters, because humans are fallible and so can be forgiven for screwing up. God has no excuse. When Nicolae Carpathia, the Anti-Christ and servant of Satan mass murders people, it's proof of how evil he is. When God unleashes the deadly plagues and natural disasters that actually kill more people than Carpathia does, however, it's a perfectly fine part of the divine plan of an all-loving God. Early in the book, Chloe calls God out on this, saying that no good God would cause the Rapture, and all the disastrous accidents that resulted from the various suddenly unmanned vehicles and infrastructure. She never gets a justification past 'God has his reasons', and the issue is never brought up again, even by the villains.
    • Making deals with the devil is always considered a pretty bad idea, even when you're not a Christian. But that doesn't stop both Rayford and Buck from working for Carpathia after being offered very impressive salaries and work environments. No, they don't accept these offers so that they can get closer to Carpathia in order to assassinate or spy on him. They just take the jobs because they're good jobs. When Hattie takes a job with Carpathia, not knowing that he's the Anti-Christ, they try to convince her to quit without trying to prove who Carpathia is. That she doesn't accept that the man who brought about world peace is evil, simply on Ray's word, and that she won't quit her incredibly good job as that man's personal assistant, is proof that she's deserving of the fires of Hell.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the Legacy of the Force, when Jacen Solo turns to the dark side, he doesn't rack up nearly as much bad karma as Vader did — among other reasons, he didn't have nearly as long to do it in. But the second he kills Mara Jade-Skywalker, he's irredeemable. Luke can apparently forgive the deaths of hundreds of strangers -- at least a round dozen of which were innocent children — if his life gets saved at the end of it. But he can't forgive the murder of his wife. And we the readers weren't supposed to, either.
    • Luke forgiving Vader (and him getting to be a Force Ghost along with the not-evil Obi-Wan and Yoda) is something of a sore spot with a lot of writers. The original films had the luxury of Darth Vader's on-screen evil often being on a lesser scale than other villains (like Tarkin) or directed toward other bad guys. The expanded universe (and later the prequels), made this a lot more awkward by actually showing what gave Darth Vader his reputation. Some authors note that the rest of the galaxy still views Vader as nothing more than a mass-murdering monster, and Leia (who was tortured by Vader when she was nineteen) is portrayed as hating Vader for years afterwards and furious at Luke that he was so presumptuous as to forgive Vader on behalf of his millions of victims. Yet other writers still present this as unnecessarily holding onto hatred rather than a reasonable reaction to the top enforcer of a totalitarian dictatorship. Supposedly, the metaphysics of the Force are at play; a regular person can afford to hate, but a Force sensitive who indulges in hatred, no matter how justified, will fall to the dark side. Leia eventually makes peace with the idea that there was an Anakin Skywalker before there was a Vader.
  • One of the biggest complaints against the Twilight series is how Bella suffers no repercussions for treating others like crap.
    • Her friends from school who came around pretty much every day while she had her Heroic BSoD and seemed to genuinely care for her well-being? She just thought they were getting annoying; so did the author.
    • The "good" vampires appear not to have thought of using their immeasurable powers to save people's lives; they're more content to repeat high school for the umpteenth time and play baseball, and seem to be happy with their brethren slaughtering innocent people as long as they leave Bella alone. And Bella herself doesn't lift a finger to help anyone even when she knows they're as good as vampire food. This is shown clearly in Eclipse, where an army of uncontrollable newborn vampires is only four hours away from them destroying Seattle, but none of the Cullens or Bella even consider trying to stop them until they start to think the Seattle-based vampires might be coming for them next. Toward the beginning, they explicitly pass it off as Somebody Else's Problem.
    • Bella has a rather telling moment in Eclipse when the Cullens know a battle with a large group of hostile vampires is coming, and Bella finds out that vampires become a little stronger if they feed on human blood versus the Cullens' normal diet of animal blood. She realizes she's perfectly okay with condemning someone to death if it slightly improves the odds of her boyfriend surviving the battle. And by Breaking Dawn, the Cullens have agreed that they need backup if the Volturi are coming to get their murder on, so they call in every favor they have with the other vampires. Now, the Cullens have sworn to feed only on the blood of animals, these vampires have not, and yet the Cullens are happy to lend them their car to go hunting for humans (and vampires in the setting inevitably kill any human they feed on, unless they're turned) — just as long as Bella doesn't get hurt. Oh, and that they hunt outside Forks so people Bella knows won't die.
  • E. E. Smith's Lensman series exemplifies this. The actions of various protagonists are consistently applauded — including one man judge/jury/execution, destruction of entire planets/solar systems/civilizations, with or without noncombatants, various nasty means of underhanded (or overhanded) warfare, torture, mind rape, etc. It's stated in-story that only paragons of Incorruptible Pure Pureness can ever be Lensmen in the first place (and that the Arisians are actively weeding out those who fall short just before they actually get Lenses), but we do have to kind of take the author's word for it.
  • Discworld:
    • This trope is examined in The Last Hero by Vetinari who points out that most "heroic" acts would have anyone else hanged for wanton death and destruction, but since they are committed by a "hero" they are considered acceptable. Downplayed in that at least some of their stuff would be a case of Black-and-Gray Morality, such as Lord Hong.
    • See also Susan's revised retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk" in Hogfather, which lampshades this trope:
      Susan: ...and then Jack chopped down the beanstalk, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and trespass charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused anything if you're a hero, because no one asks inconvenient questions.
    • Lampshaded in Night Watch, in which young Sam points out to Vimes that in certain circumstances, Vimes is prepared to do things which are illegal or immoral (like knocking people unconscious before they can hit him). Vimes evades giving an explanation, and privately admits to himself that his main justification is "It's Me Doing It" — and that this is a pretty poor justification, especially because it's the one the people on the other side are using too (and he feels he could do worse if he let himself, but he doesn't). Also downplayed in that he's using it about the Elite Mooks of a corrupt, oppressive king, so there is some justification.
    • Played for Laughs in Reaper Man, where Miss Flitworth has no truck with the idea of moral relativism, because she was taught the difference between right and wrong. Death points out that the father who taught her this was an occasional smuggler.
      Miss Flitworth: There's nothing wrong with smuggling!
      Death: I MERELY POINT OUT THAT SOME PEOPLE THINK OTHERWISE.
      Miss Flitworth: They don't count!
    • Both Magrat in Witches Abroad and the Senior Wrangler in The Science of Discworld 3 have used the phrase "It can't be bad if we're doing it. We're the good ones!" Their collegues have to point out that they've got cause and effect reversed there.
  • The House of Night series is seen and judged through Zoey's sense of Morality. Even in Tempted and Burned (when different POVS and many new characters are introduced) and someone has a different opinion than Zoey's, they're considered to be having an OOC moment at best or they're automatically considered to be a horrible bitch and/or in cahoots with the Big Bad.
    • The majority of characters consider Loren Blake to be idealized because he was a young good-looking substitute professor and because Zoey was in love with him and Death Equals Redemption. He was also a sexual predator and a Manipulative Bastard. On top of that, he decided to toy with the feelings of the Big Bad... A serious case of Too Dumb to Live and Hoist by His Own Petard. He knew what the Big Bad wanted and why she wanted him to do it and went along with her plans with no remorse.
    • When Venus is introduced she has just recently regained her humanity but she is deemed a horrible bitch and possibly evil in the first chapter of Hunted, despite how Venus's personality is very close to that of Aphrodite. Why? Because she DARED to flirt with Erik in front of Zoey and hooked up with him when Zoey and Erik broke up. Zoey was telling herself that it was wrong to behave and think the way she did, didn't stop it anyway.
    • Zoey and her friends all call Aphrodite a "ho" for dating two guys, even though she began going out with the second one only sometime after the first one and is genuinely serious about him. Zoey, meanwhile, has dated/flirted with no less than four guys, and letting Heath continually lure her into feasting on his blood (which has strong sexual connotations in this universe), and she repeatedly calls herself out for being unable to settle on one guy. And yet when Erik calls her out on this in a later book, he's dismissed as just a jealous jerk by all her friends and we're clearly meant to disagree with her being a ho even when Aphrodite is supposed to be seen as one for less.
    • Raven Mockers are mindless creatures of Darkness and they should all be wiped out. Everybody agrees with the Kill 'Em All attitude and, as of Burned, around twenty Raven Mockers have been killed. Even the idea of giving them a burial is seen as strange. The only exception is Stevie Rae and when she raises valid points of What Measure Is a Non-Human? and If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him! not only does every character tell her she's wrong but she is suspected of secretly turning over to The Dark Side.
    • How is it okay for the Red Fledglings that haven't "Chosen" yet to be running around killing people? Even after Stevie Rae gives them multiple chances to choose, and they try to kill her and her friends multiple times, she ends up just chasing them away/exiling them... as if wherever they end up, they'll be any less evil and bloodthirsty? It could simply be a moment of weakness, but the fact that they're Red Fledglings and thus "her people" seems to be what keeps her from stopping them from murdering any more innocents.
    • The authors almost poke fun at this in Chapter 6 of Revealed, when Kalona calls Zoey out for making a tactless comment concerning personal morality and Stark jumps to her defense, telling Kalona that he "just [doesn't] get her." Zoey is then shown to get all worked up and zone out when she realises that (gasp!) Kalona's assessment might be right.
    • In Hunted, Zoey catches Stark raping a vampire girl through forcible blood drinking, but ignores Darius condemning him because Nyx herself guides Zoey into deciding to redeem Stark. On the flipside, in Tempted, Zoey calls Stark out on what he did and Stark angrily declares that she's been misled and turned against him by Kalona.
  • The Belgariad has a lot of this, quite possibly on purpose, since it was explicitly intended to be Trope Overdosed.
    • Barak drunkenly raped his wife in the backstory, but nobody cares (except Barak himself, and then only in a 'kinda regrets the circumstances' way), because he's a good guy - though that could be coloured by the fact that the only one who heard about it is a 14 year old Garion, and the terminology was sufficiently obscure that while most readers would get it straight off, it goes straight over Garion's head, meaning that no one else may actually have known.
    • Zakath, once he joins the heroes, is considered to be a trustworthy friend, regardless of how he attempted to commit genocide and nearly did.
    • Sadi dealt drugs like candy, including powerful hallucinogens and poisons.
    • Silk nearly wiped out an entire family for the actions of a few, Hettar openly admits to murdering people on the road just because they were Murgos, and Polgara and Belgarath are much worse. The attitude seems to be 'If they're not on our side, they're horrible people who do horrible things. If they are on our side, they're good people who just made some bad choices.' Yeah, try telling that to the thousands of dead Murgos.
    • Lampshaded many times when each person (especially Silk) admits to having various vices and refusing to accept it as being the same as the vices of others. Belgarath even refuses to classify it as Good vs. Evil and instead prefers to call it "them versus us." Considering that he's spent about 7000 years often being Necessarily Evil, you can understand why he would.
    • In the case of Zakath, it's a bit more ambiguous. It's noted a) that he spent most of the series as a cold-blooded monster, as a product of being manipulated into executed the woman he loved when he'd just taken the throne, which drives his genocidal Roaring Rampage of Revenge, b) nearly has a breakdown when he realises that pretty much everything he's done since the end of The Belgariad has been absolutely pointless, c) very nearly reverts after he feels as if he's been betrayed by the heroes. In other words, he's not presented as performing a Heel–Face Turn overnight, nor is it presented as either smooth or easy.
    • Belgarath firmly believes that Utopia Justifies the Means, and has done everything he has done, including forcing people into loveless, dysfunctional marriages to ensure the birth of important figures, drugging up the Queen of the Dryads and forcing her people into a treaty with Tolnedra, a number of assassinations and a ten-year piss-up, to assure the victory of the Light.
  • In The Elenium, the Sparhawk's party slaughters enemies by dozens. They even kill in cold blood an unsympathetic teenage bastard who was unarmed and harmless. They only lose a single member by the end, killed in a fair fight while invading the enemy's HQ. Reaction of the party? They take this justified battle killing as a vile murder and the murderer is slowly and violently tortured to death. The "tortured murderer" was in fact a raping, torturing, murdering monster who totally deserved his fate, but their treatment is simply Disproportionate Retribution for that particular killing. We'll hear no remorse from Sparhawk for his murders.
  • The protagonists of Atlas Shrugged commit all sorts of reprehensible acts in pursuit of their personal freedom from taxation, but Ragnar Danneskjöld, a pirate who exclusively plunders foreign aid ships, probably takes the cake.
  • The Fountainhead: Everyone who's poor deserves it except of course Henry Cameron, whose impoverished circumstances are because of eeeevil classical architecture. Then there's Howard Roark, the hero, who engages in sex that has Questionable Consent and domestic terrorism, yet it's treated as a good thing when despite spending eight pages in a Motive Rant about how and why he did the latter, he's found not guilty anyway.
  • Anne McCaffrey's protagonists routinely get away with being huge jerks to other characters. It's often portrayed as a flaw in a generalized way (Killashandra of Crystal Singer and Lessa of Dragonriders of Pern are both understood to be overly short-tempered, for instance); but in most specific instances, the narrative rather makes it clear that "that (Designated) Jerkass had it coming." In Crystal Line, Killashandra humiliates a scientist for more than a page for the sole offense of being pedantic and giving a new substance a different name than she gave it, and it's Played for Laughs, and viciously justified a few pages later with descriptions of how space-sick the scientist and his partner got all over the ship that brought them in.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga:
    • At the end of A Civil Campaign, the protagonists work together to prevent the arrest of a man who has (albeit naively) swindled investors out of large amounts of money. Why? Oh, he's their friend, and they need his scientific brilliance to make money for themselves. And the situation is decided on the basis that Miles's cook would lose money if the arrest goes forward.
    • This trope is averted quite openly by Emperor Gregor in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, where Gregor somewhat bitterly observes that his actions affect millions of people, and that therefore yes, he does trade in human lives on a daily basis. However, he makes it abundantly clear that he is unhappy with this burden and that he will make compromises that he thinks will benefit his people despite having near-absolute power with which to impose his will as he sees fit. He is also the one holding Miles' leash (personally in the later books, rather than through Simon as in earlier books) and he expects a degree of restraint even though Miles as an Imperial Auditor could be the ultimate Cowboy Cop if allowed to do so. Miles himself becomes noticeably more self-restrained once he becomes an Auditor, and realizes how even the most trivial of his actions could directly impact the Imperium much more than in the days when he was a covert operative.
  • Hush, Hush:
    • Patch walks around threatening, mindraping and torturing Nephilim, but seeing as he’s doing it for Nora, it’s okay. It's treated as evil when someone else does it.
    • Nora does a good few cruel things to Marcie for revenge purposes (for example, breaking into her bedroom and stealing her diary and anything Patch gave her), but all of them are excused as being justified. The few Kick the Dog moments Marcie gets are treated like she horrifically tortured Nora.
  • Parodied in Love and Freindship, the satirical novel Jane Austen wrote as a teenager, in which the narrator Laura excuses any crimes whatsoever committed by herself, her husband Edward, and their friends Augustus and Sophia, but is merciless toward anyone who does not cater to their whims.
  • In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, Ziantha thinks taking over the bodies of the dead is a touch of Necromancy. Having done so, she and the other psychic with her exploit the dead's past and the loyalties of the innocent guardsmen without regard to the effect they have on the ancient civilization — and all for a purpose of Grave Robbing. It is taken for granted that the dead man's widow is malicious because of her hatred for him, though the book reveals nothing of their relations before. (True, the other psychic is doing it to discover more about the past, not for financial reasons. Still.) Then when they come back to their own time, he is at pains to keep her from being arrested for her crimes, not because she was exploited by the mastermind because of her youth and poverty, but because she's really useful.
  • In Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small, a major event in Squire involves the fact that nobles are able to mistreat commoners at will and at worst must pay a fine if convicted, something that Kel protests vehemently when a friend of hers is the victim. She also agrees to give up her own noble right to duel the noble offender when the King agrees to change the law since that would undercut the point that the law must apply to all. But in Lady Knight, Neal lays a spell on a man, cites his being a Queenscove when reminded it's illegal, and Kel unambiguously approves of this act. Yes, the man was an abusive Jerkass and there wasn't much chance of local justice, but Kel should have at least thought about the fact that Neal was flagrantly taking advantage of his birth to do this.
  • There is a particularly blatant example in The Scarlet Letter. The antagonist Chillingworth does objectively good things: he gains great medical knowledge from the Indians at considerable personal risk and uses it for the benefit of the community. When Chillingworth comes home to see his wife (and indirectly himself) publicly shamed, he comforts Hester, medicates her and her daughter, and mostly blames himself for his wife's infidelity. He helps Dimmesdale medically and emotionally by correctly insisting that Dimmesdale will never fully recover until he relieves himself of whatever is weighing down his heart. Despite these good acts, the Puritans of Boston seem ungrateful for having a man who has put so much effort into becoming a great doctor for them and seem to interpret everything he does in the worst possible light. Everyone, including the narrator and Chillingworth himself, assumes that he is doing everything for the very worst of reasons. Just to hammer in his badness, the narrator makes Chillingworth ugly, and uglier as the story goes on. Protagonist Dimmesdale, on the other hand, does objectively bad things by ruining Hester's life and making Pearl grow up a poor pariah. He is extremely hypocritical in participating in the public shaming of Hester, even pretending to try to make her give away the name of her lover. He neither has the courage to confess and face the consequences nor to take his secret to the grave, instead choosing the most cowardly possible solution (he waits until he only has seconds left to live to confess). Yet he obviously has the sympathy of the narrator, Hester, and all of Boston.
  • In the Anita Blake series, Anita starts sliding down the slippery slope of morality by the seventh or eighth book, noting how she's less affected by things as the series goes on, and can do things that morally she would have balked at earlier. However, everything she does is portrayed as the right and correct decision at the time, regardless of the consequences (and some of the things she's done would result in her perfectly legal summary execution), and she's quite willing to kill people for committing lesser crimes than she has who had decidedly greater justification than hers. She even set one character up who was supposedly under her protection to be hunted down and murdered simply because he refused to have sex with her. This was presented as the appropriate response to the reader.
  • A lot of the behavior displayed by Nancy Drew is downright meddlesome, snoopy, and intrusive, all of which is portrayed as perfectly okay, as she's a detective and the people she's displaying this behavior towards are jerks and/or suspects in her case. When anyone else acts like this, they are rightfully called out on their rudeness. This gets to the point where Nancy demands clarification on information that she learned while eavesdropping on a man's private conversation, and he's the one made to be the bad guy for screaming at her to mind her own business. Multiple times throughout the Files series, however, Nancy is blasted for this by everyone — Bess, George, Ned, even her own father — and her conduct is bad enough to cause a rift in her relationships with these people.
  • The second book of The Cobra Trilogy has the titular Cobra super-soldiers agree to consider attacking the planet Qasama (which they know nothing about) in exchange for new territory elsewhere. They go to Qasama pretending to be a diplomatic party while actually spying, and when caught, kill a lot of Qasamans and threaten to do more damage until they're allowed to leave. Then they come back in greater force to conduct experiments, and kill more Qasamans to make their getaway. Their conclusion: Jeez, these people we've attacked twice are a damn menace, aren't they? We've got to start a full-scale war with them, quick! (The fact that the Qasamans used spy tricks and violence against the Cobras is cited as proof that they're dangerous, even though the Cobras were first to spy and first to kill.) In the end, the Cobras find a solution short of war which will "only" overturn the foundations of Qasaman society. But it's the Cobras doing all this, so yay! A few people on the Cobra side note that the conflict was probably unnecessary, but even then, most treat it as a strategic blunder rather than a maybe-we're-the-bad-guys realisation.
  • In Twisted, Railrunner gushes about how much he loves drinking blood and killing, and during his initial transformation and rampage, straight-out murders dozens of cops who were just doing their duty, then has the audacity to bitch that no one accepts him as he really is. He also has no problem with killing the Fallen, even though they're evil through no fault of their own... and he's the good guy!
  • Shows up in The Fault in Our Stars when Hazel and her friends vandalize Monica's house as paback for her abruptly ditching Isaac after he lost his vision.
  • In The Fabulous Five series (or rather, its prequels), the titular characters have a club whose primary goal is find ways to humiliate Alpha Bitch Taffy Sinclair, mostly out of jealousy over the fact that she's pretty. This is portrayed as right—even with the girls eventually being chewed out for their behavior—presumably because readers are assumed to be empathizing with the girls rather than with Taffy.
  • Quite prevalent in L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth. Psycho Psychologists using their black arts to twist the minds of their victims is evil, but the protagonists using hypno-helmets to reprogram their enemies into doing what they want is fine. The difference between the bad guys on Earth using Public Relations to manipulate the masses and the protagonist using Advanced Symbolic Logic to do the same is that the protagonists' civilization was doing it first. Even the books' central plot boils down to an attempt to free planet Earth from a tyrannical overlord so that an alien empire can conquer it over instead.
  • The average Danielle Steel book will have any and all behavior by her heroes and heroines portrayed as perfectly okay, while identical behavior from the villains is despicable. In The Wedding, a woman comes home from a business trip to find her boyfriend cavorting with another woman; she tells him off and throws him out, conveniently forgetting that she herself spent her trip having a fling with another man, who turns out to be her One True Love, whom she marries at the end of the book in the titular ceremony. There's also her numerous May-December romances being portrayed as perfectly common and normal—to the point where no one bats an eye at a 62-year-old man marrying an 18-year-old girl (in A Perfect Stranger), or a 49-year-old man falling in love with a 15-year-old girl (in Family Album). Unless you're a villain. Then, you "look like an idiot" with your younger girlfriend, even though the age difference is only 15 years.
  • Harry Potter
    • An authority figure's open favoritism of the protagonists' rivals is used to characterize that character as a Jerkass. McGonagall (the Head of Gryffindor House, and the Deputy Headmistress), on the other hand, is portrayed as strict but fair despite the fact that she breaks the rules to put Harry on the team as a first year.
  • Snape's bullying of Harry due to his history with James Potter, is used to demonstrate that he's a Sadist Teacher and a petty Jerkass. Meanwhile, Hagrid is depicted as a Nice Guy despite the fact that his introductory scene has him give Dudley a pig's tail purely because his father insulted Dumbledore note , and McGonagall is seen as a Reasonable Authority Figure and a Cool Teacher despite endangering Neville's life twice through punishments for relatively minor infractions note .
  • Victoria tells the story of brave patriots seceding from the United States in the face of Political Overcorrectness, to preserve traditional Christian values. In the course of this, they seize federal land to sell to foreign developers, kidnap, torture, make liberal use of hostages and human shields, threaten the families of servicemen who fight against them, execute captured soldiers en masse, assist a foreign invasion of the US, bomb their own allies, nuke an ally's city, threaten nuclear war with China, violently purge ideologically unreliable academics, and more. These are, at worst, the strictly necessary actions of a reasonable figure, more often, outright celebrated, unlike the federal opposition. When the heroes take pilots and their families hostage to deter bombing, it's a clever outside-the-box tactic, when the Feds assassinate a Confederate leader, it's a vile crime. When good Christians are sold into slavery in the Middle East, no effort or expense can be spared in securing their return home; when defeated feminists are sold into sexual slavery in the Middle East, it's only their just comeuppance and a chance to show them what real patriarchal oppression looks like.
  • Worm:
    • Early on, the protagonist and narrator, Taylor, is offered a chance to work with the Undersiders, a gang of superpowered teenage villains working for a mysterious boss. She accepts the offer with the notion of insinuating herself into their group to hand over valuable intel to the local Protectorate, a group of adult heroes, via Armsmaster, who owes her a favor. Although she does this without the approval or knowledge of the Protectorate, she still goes to Armsmaster after she's accepted the Undersiders' offer and asks him to ensure she stays out of prison should things go sour. Armsmaster predictably refuses, pointing out that the favor she's calling in—allowing him to take credit for apprehending a dangerous gangster named Lung—blew up in his face due to her own recklessness. Rather than apologizing and asking what she can do to help, Taylor gets angry with Armsmaster and storms out to go her own way. Armsmaster is portrayed as insensitive and stubborn, with Taylor comparing him to the bullies who abuse her on a daily basis.
    • This becomes a major theme of the story. Centered around the interactions between Heroes and Villains, one character describes the whole thing as a high-stakes game of 'Cops and Robbers'. As long as Villains respect the unoffical boundaries, they are given significantly more leeway than you might expect, while Heroes are given very long leashes when it comes to their actions, being protected from the law as long as they don't make their bosses look bad. As a result they're able to have an effective (if uneasy) truce when working together against truly awful villains like the Slaughterhouse Nine or world ending threats like the Endbringers. The resultant culture is dubbed 'The Unwritten Rules', a code by which both Heroes and Villains agree to follow. Essentially, as long as crimes are kept under a certain level of severity and you work towards the greater good when needed, crimes can be swept under the rug...
  • Asian Saga: Subverted with shades of deconstruction. Dirk Struan, the protagonist of Tai-Pan is... not a very nice person. He comes across fairly well, due to having very progressive attitudes about employer-employee relations, intercultural interaction and corporal punishment, but is completely ruthless in dealing with anyone who opposes him, in business or at sea. His Evil Counterpart, Tyler Brock, has more typical attitudes in regards to race, violence and the treatment of women, but firmly believes that Even Evil Has Standards and in many ways holds himself to a higher standard than Struan (among other things, he insists that Struan be "broken regular" i.e. killed in a fair fight, whereas Struan showed no qualms about sending a triad hit squad after Brock's son). Both Struan and Brock are POV characters at some point, and it is clear that, from their perspective and with the information they have, both are doing what they think is best for their families and the people around them. Both men are also very well aware that they are not angels, but rough-and-tumble China traders and opium smugglers, and that a lot of what they do as a matter of course is morally dodgy at best. Both men throw the phrase I Did What I Had to Do around with abandon.
    • A telling scene is when Brock attempts to sink a lorcha carrying bullion Dirk Struan intends to use to pay off a huge debt to Brock,, who has been buying up Struan's mortgages in the hope of driving him out of business. Culum goes on a long rant about how Brock should hang for a pirate. Dirk just shrugs and says that if he had been in Brock's shoes he would have done exactly the same thing, and that Brock's only crime was failure.
    • When Noble House rolls around some 200 years later Ian Dunross and Quillan Gornt (descendants of Struan and Brock, respectively) have romanticized the events of Tai-Pan thoroughly, and both openly consider their respective forefather to be a paragon and the other's a vile villain.
  • In the third Survivor Dogs book, the innocently naive Fierce Dog pups lampshade the Carnivore Confusion that comes with the series' Animal Religion. The Forest-Dog watches over the animals of the forest and if he's pleased with a dog he'll "give" them prey. Lick gets confused and asks "But if the Forest-Dog watches over the trees and animals, doesn't that mean he watches over voles and rabbits too?"
  • Hetty Feather: The entire series is actually child and teenaged Hetty's memoirs, naturally unintentionally or even intentionally skewing facts at times.
  • The Han Solo Trilogy: After learning his account's been frozen as Corellian Security has learned that he had deposited proceeds from selling stolen goods, Han takes the bank manager hostage before he can get arrested. This gets the man killed as he's shot when stormtroopers try to stop Han escaping. Yes, he didn't intend it, but it's probably the worst thing Han does in the trilogy. He never has to face any consequences for it either. This is just fine apparently, because he is the hero.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: "Turncoat" is solely defined as someone who turns against the protagonist. People joining them are only doing what's right. Along with this, the barbarian hero is described rescuing a female slave from being kept in a harem, then has sex as a reward before abandoning them in the middle of nowhere (i.e. using them for sex much like their slave master would), yet remains a "hero" to people writing such a character.
  • The Hunger Games trilogy is entirely narrated by Katniss, and she tends to categorise whether someone is good or bad by whether she likes them or not. She frequently mocks Effie and her style team for worrying about how they're going to get her sponsors (which is their job), but when Cinna makes her a pretty dress, she treats him like he's better than the other people in the Capitol. Johanna even calls her out on this in the third book when Katniss asks why Johanna hates her so much — Johanna tells her that despite Katniss's angsting about what she suffered in her Hunger Games, she fails to appreciate that as the Mockingjay she gets special treatment because she's the symbol of the rebellion, whereas everyone else who suffered just as much or even more than she did just have to suck it up and get on with it because they have a war to win.

    Music 
  • Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me." The opening lyrics state that the boyfriend is having an argument with his girlfriend. She's apparently offended by something that he said. The next lyric is "she doesn't get your humour like I do". Because of course since Taylor is the narrator, her romantic rival clearly has to be in the wrong. She must of course be overreacting to a joke, rather than have a legit reason to be offended at something her boyfriend said to her. (The video plays with this by having Taylor portray both the narrative character of the song and the girlfriend.)
  • The Steve Miller Band's "Take the Money and Run." A pair of young, possibly teenage protagonists rob and murder someone, then escape the police and flee to Mexico. Everything about the song acts like we should be rooting for them rather than the police detective who's trying to bring them in.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Hulk Hogan gouged eyes, pulled hair, choked on the ropes and such as much as anyone on top of being an incredibly Sore Loser yet the WWE always portrayed Hulk Hogan as a squeaky clean All-American Face. WCW followed suit when he jumped ship, but the fans turned on him there until he finally turned on them and started the New World Order, most notably running up against foes such as Sting, Diamond Dallas Page, Goldberg, and internal bickering with Kevin Nash and the Wolfpac—all of whom were universally treated as faces when they fought against Hogan and his pals. Years later, when Sting and Luger turned heel on Hogan to screw him out of the WCW title a few months after the group's disbandment and his return to being face, fans cheered Sting as though he were still the face even though a vignette tried to portray him as the most evil mastermind in WCW history.
  • Big Show once got disqualified for pulling John Cena out of the ring during a tag team match also involving Chris Jericho and Randy Orton. Kane once got disqualified for giving John Cena a big boot. At some point the rules of wrestling as far as WWE is concerned became "It is illegal to try and stop John Cena from winning a match."
  • Pro Wrestling has often had a double standard related to heels and faces, where if a heel and face do the same underhanded thing, the heel will be treated by commentary and kayfabe as a horrible jerk and the face's actions will be laughed off or weakly excused. This is especially a big problem in WWE, especially in the early 2010s, where it seems almost every feud has at least some shades of this. Some standout exceptions being...
    • There are plenty of times when a face will steal something from a heel, often unprovoked, and it'll just be treated as the wacky antics of a hero. Sheamus stealing Alberto Del Rio's car was laughed off with "he's just borrowing it", and the entire buildup of the Intercontinental Title match at Wrestlemania 31 was all six of Wade Barrett's opponents stealing the title from him and hot potatoing and stealing it from each other repeatedly.
    • Roman Reigns' entire singles career began this way, with him getting into a #1 contender's match for the WWE Title by poisoning his bosses' coffees and leaving their put-upon underling, Vickie Guerrero, an essentially innocent woman in the whole situation, to take the fall for it. Even worse, Reigns' bosses didn't even acknowledge his fault in the whole thing even though his spiking the coffees was caught on camera, and they instead opted to punish Vickie. So in WWE's kayfabe, Roman Reigns got an innocent woman fired for his own benefit and wasn't punished for it in any way aside from not winning the title. Sure, Stephanie McMahon's used the same tactic herself years ago to help Vince and Shane get the jump on her husband's best friend, but considering she's that ruthless, you would think she'd also be ruthless enough to, y'know, selectively forget that and punish Roman Reigns somehow in order to separate the difference between the two.
    • As noted above, John Cena runs into this a lot. Over the course of nearly a decade and a half, Cena has piled up quite a list, which includes but is not limited to: hitting Batista with an Attitude Adjustment off the roof of a car and through a hole in the stage, after Batista begged him not to; viciously attacking Rusev outside of any match, putting him in a submission hold and making him tap out and pass out just to get him and Lana to agree to a match at WrestleMania 31, when doing something very similar to Edge was meant to be considered Seth Rollins' Moral Event Horizon; and challenging a worn-out Rey Mysterio Jr. to a match for the WWE title on the same night Rey won it for the first and only time in his career (notable especially because Rey might be even more of a "perpetual face" than Cena), when both before and since this event Cena would often be first in line to take moral umbrage with anyone using Money in the Bank advantageously to become champion. This is one of the biggest criticisms of Cena, as he is shown doing things like this frequently, but it is almost never acknowledged and even then only by heels who are meant to be wrong.
    • The ultimate example, though, could be "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who did things that should have had him thrown in prison yet always got him cheered. He threatened the very lives of Vince McMahon and others to get title matches. He assaulted women in the ring — morally questionable enough when it's an Alpha Bitch like Stephanie McMahon, but he also did it to Stacy Keibler, who was being portrayed as an abuse victim in storyline. But perhaps the worst was his 1999-2000 feud with Triple H, where he threw Trips in an ambulance and then smashed the ambulance with a semi — just because he didn't win their Triple Threat match with Mankind for the title at SummerSlam; this led to HHH setting Austin up to get hit by a car at Survivor Series; when Austin found that out a year later, their next match ended with Austin trying to crush Triple H to death in a car with a forklift. And Triple H was still called a "son of a bitch" by Jim Ross when he broke up Austin's title match two weeks later; to repeat, Triple H was supposedly the absolute bad guy for ruining a title opportunity of the guy who tried to kill him TWICE.
  • The Ring of Honor=CZW feud was instigated by Chris Hero complaining about a CZW show being moved from the evening up to the afternoon because a venue showed preference to ROH. After Jimmy Bowers insulted Hero during an ROH title match granted to him by Bryan Danielson in an effort to silence Hero and Necro Butcher, Hero "revealed" Bowers as ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky and vowed to destroy his company over it. CZW owner John Zandig liked this idea enough to personally lead the CZW locker room against ROH's, using a weed whacker, which were banned from all sporting events nation wide, after the CZW locker room's first mass assault on ROH failed and taking a hand in the torture of ROH wrestler BJ Whitmer. The angle played across both promotions, sometimes both of them having joint shows in the same building (which were agreed upon well before Hero instigated open conflict) with the CZW fans cheering every CZW talent despite their petty and disproportionate actions, except for Kevin Steen, the only CZW wrestler pointing out CZW wrestlers and ownership were being petty and disproportionate, begging ROH to take him, and booing everyone associated with ROH, who were mainly trying to defend themselves or their property except when they were trying to avenge the people already hurt or property already destroyed by CZW, booed them all except Claudio Castagnoli, who was a mole within the ROH locker room.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A major part of the background in Warhammer 40,000. Almost every book published by the Black Library is Imperial propaganda, and the fluff included in each faction's codex casts them in a good light (with the exception of Chaos and Tyranids, both of which are mostly from Imperial point of view as well, probably because the stars of those books are insane or all devouring cosmic horrors).

    Theatre 
  • Subverted in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. The first act sees fairy tale characters Jack (the one who climbs a beanstalk), Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood living their famous stories, while a new couple—a childless Baker and his Wife—try to break the spell on their family by collecting items from those characters. All five of these main characters do sneaky, underhanded things to achieve their dreams, but they still have our support...until Act Two comes along, and Sondheim shows us just what the consequences of the characters' wishes have been. For instance, the Giant's wife appears and points out that she welcomed Jack into her home—despite his being a complete stranger—and offered him food and care, only for Jack to repeatedly return and steal money, a golden egg-laying goose, and a singing harp. The first theft was perhaps the worst, as he didn't even allow the Giantess to explain the situation to her husband; he simply stole from her and ran for it. Jack then eventually killed the Giant, and no one cared because he was a "monster." But his wife did, and she is angry. While killing the Giant's Wife becomes a goal in Act II, Red Riding Hood does weigh out the morality of killing the Giant's wife and while Cinderella judges that it's the best decision for now, being that the wife caused so much harm to the kingdom, she also acknowledges in song that "giants can be good."
  • Discussed in "Stepsisters' Lament," a song from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical adaptation of Cinderella. The stepsisters, watching Cinderella dance with the Prince, point out that conventionally pretty but mysterious girls—"frail and fluffy beauties" who are "obviously unusual"—always end up with happy endings and the support of the audience, while "solid," "usual" women like them are inevitably left with nothing. It's worth noting that these stepsisters, while somewhat mean, have a softer, kinder side. Their final fates vary depending on the version — in the original 1957 TV production and its stage adaptation they and their mother are at the wedding celebrating Cinderella's good fortune, while in the 1997 TV movie remake they all end up cast out of the palace. In the 2013 Broadway version one of the sisters is part of the Beta Couple so "Stepsisters' Lament" is sung only by the other, backed by the chorus. This sister and the stepmother make Heel-Face Turns at the end, as Cinderella's forgiveness moves them.

    Visual Novels 
  • BAD END THEATER: Despite the claim that the game only has bad endings, the ending where the Hero defeats the demon army, slays the Overlord, and rescues the Maiden could be considered a good ending... when playing as the Hero. If you reach the same ending as any of the other characters, the tone will be very different; the Maiden was never in real danger and is horrified that the Hero killed all those demons for no reason, the Underling is left all alone after all of their friends are killed, and the Overlord dies cursing herself for allowing the Maiden to wander into her castle.
  • Briefly discussed at various points in Dies Irae. How a person is viewed morally ultimately comes down to either how well you know them yourself or how they align with your own views. Generally, then everyone who does not fit this we label as evil to justify ourselves. Meanwhile, those who are basically faceless masses are ultimately inconsequential.
    • In the larger Shinza Bansho Series of which Dies Irae is part of there is Mirtha, The First Heaven, who took this trope to its logical conclusion by making it into a universal law. She believed herself to be the ultimate justice and thus, anyone who followed her where good and anyone else was evil. Thus her law made this a universal and objective truth. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the era under her rule was just one big Forever War between the two sides of Good and Evil, neither of which really fit the labels.
  • This is an in-universe plot point in Fate/stay night; the main criteria for a human becoming a Heroic Spirit is they are the hero of their own story. Even if they are truly rotten, and thus rightfully remembered as an antagonist in their legend, if they were a "hero" by that definition their soul is stored in the Throne of Heroes rather than reincarnated. Originally the Grail System was designed to prevent such "Anti-Heroes" from being summoned in any role other than Assassin. After the Third Grail War this restriction was removed due to the corruption of the Grail by Angra Mainyu.
    • In the Unlimited Blade Works route, the concept of Protagonist-Centered Morality is roundly criticized by Archer. He became a hero hoping to save people, but this ultimately meant leaving a long trail of dead people in his path.
  • In Love, Election & Chocolate, the protagonist is a member of the school's Food Research club, which barely does any actual research and instead functions almost exclusively as a hangout for friends (the club members) who eat snacks bought with funds the school provides them. When election time comes and a major candidate for president campaigns on a platform that includes disbanding or reducing the budget for low-merit clubs such as themselves and redirect it to more active ones, she is presented as somehow being wrong. In addition, the club members express their annoyance over another presidential candidate playing around the election rules by giving out gift cards for the school cafeteria the week prior to the start of the elections (bribes are forbidden when election period officially begins), but when they decide to participate in the election with their own candidate, they violate the spirit of the rule by giving out free candy that's technically considered an election leaflet because they put stickers with election material on the packaging.
  • In the Good ending of Swan Song, Takuma is forgiven and left unpunished for rape, murder, torture, necrophilia, you name it. In the normal ending he is the sole reason for the death of all the earthquake survivors.

    Web Animation 
  • This trope runs so rampant in the GoAnimate "X Gets Grounded" videos, it would probably be easier to list grounded videos where this trope isn't in effect in some way. Generally speaking, though, if the main character of a grounded video is a designated troublemaker or a "baby show character" (i.e. Caillou) and does something horrible or stupid, this is portrayed as wrong and the troublemaker will get grounded. However, if a main character of a grounded video who isn't a troublemaker/baby show character does the same exact thing to a troublemaker/baby show character (whether in retaliation to a troublemaker's wrong-doings, as part of a Punishment Day, or even just because they don't like the troublemaker/baby show character), this is portrayed as justified or as a winning moment for the "good" character, who will subsequently be rewarded for stooping down to the troublemaker's level.

    Webcomics 
  • In Kevin & Kell, as protagonists, nothing the Dewclaw family does is ever wrong.
    • Kell Dewclaw has done some unsavory things. Including guilt-tripping Sheila into taking charge of planning Leona's wedding ostensibly to protect Rudy's relationship with maid of honor Fiona.
    • Fiona Fennec has frequently taken unreasonable positions in her relationship with Rudy, and has never had to be called into account for it. And then there's the joke that she might have castrated Vin Vulpen.
    • Lindesfarne Dewclaw has committed white-collar crimes on a number of occasions. Including embezzlement, identity fraud, and hacking.
    • The ultimate crime in the setting is predators using their diet as an excuse to kill people they don't like — all predation is supposed to be anonymous. RL's tendency to eat his employees is presented as his most villainous characteristic, and what finally gets him sent to jail. However, many stories have been resolved by Coney eating the antagonist, with zero comeback.
  • The protagonists of Kit n Kay Boodle are always right and everything they do is morally righteous and correct behavior, no matter what they're doing to whom, because their motives are supposedly pure and for the greater good. This includes raping someone with the mind of a child, because she's a brat, and framing her lawyers for the crime when they try to rescue her.
  • Least I Could Do:
    • Protagonist Rayne gets away with being insanely rude, selfish, insulting, etc. because, well, it's him. In earlier strips his friends would give back about as good as they got, but in more recent years Rayne is the only one allowed to look good in the end. The modus operandi of late involves Rayne doing something mean or selfish to his friends for 90% of the storyline, then taking the last 10% to do something that magically makes everyone forgive him, whether it's honestly nice or just him cleaning up the mess he got them into in the first place. Not helping matters at all is the fact that Rayne is pretty well an Author Avatar for Ryan Sohmer.
    • One of the more extreme examples is when Rayne finds a homeless orphan and starts using him as an ill-defined personal assistant/slave/plaything, often verging on abuse at the very least. At one point, he gets called out on it. His reaction is one of indignation, and he points out how he is saving the kid from a life on the street, and how he is actually the child's legal guardian. The accuser (an attractive woman, of course) backs down, saying something to the effect "I'm sorry for assuming the worst". The comic (and the accuser) completely ignores/forgets that such behaviour towards someone entirely dependent on you is still very much abusive, and paying money for someone's living doesn't render their basic dignity moot. If anything, the boy is in no position to protest for fear that he might actually have nothing to eat if he gets kicked out. (Never mind that "I may treat you badly, but you'll be worse off without me" is a tactic used by real life abusers.) Arguably, switching from the usual Comedic Sociopathy to a weak attempt at treating the situation realistic and justifying Rayne's behaviour makes it worse, by claiming the situation is a-OK rather than dismissing it as a comedic, unrealistic situation.
    • The possibly insane homeless older guy Rayne does basically the same thing to is played more for laughs, seeing as how the character looks almost exactly like artist Lar de Souza's self-portrait.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • In general, this trope is shown to be a direct consequence of an RPG Mechanics 'Verse; the protagonists (and any other good-aligned adventuring parties in general) can slaughter hundreds of sapient foes without losing their alignments by reframing the narrative to make it look like they were trying to be heroically-good. Or looking cool while doing it.
      Adventurer: Hey, they attacked us first!
      Sir François: Because you were committing a home invasion.
    • Miko Miyazaki was intended to be an intentional exploration of this: A Lawful Good paladin and also one of the protagonists' main antagonists. She is shown to be slightly more reasonable as long as none of them are in the room with her. Well, up until the point where she ends up killing an innocent old man over her own misgivings and continues to insist it was all according to some greater plan her gods had for her.
    • Conversely, Redcloak's motivation for the inverted trope - Villain Protagonist Centered Immorality - stems from the realization that a band of roving paladins can use their Duty to eliminate all threats to Azure City to justify killing an entire nearby village of women and children who happen to have the unfortunate ability to connect to an evil god, even if they never intended to be the one person who could use it their entire lives. He uses Then Let Me Be Evil to justify his crippling Never My Fault character flaw and Kick the Dog moments, which are clearly a combination of his own fault and the influence of his spiteful, neglectful god.
    • Also the source of the Trope Quote. Elan is happy that Enor and Ganji (who are antagonists) are safe over the literally dozens of dead guards, and Tarquin's only complaint is that the latter are expensive to replace.
    • Generally averted due to the universe's strict laws defining Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos — if you are a dick, you are seen as evil, and if you try to be good, then you are good. The afterlife in general judges souls based on how they saw themselves and the will behind their choices, as well as the actual consequences of their actions. Slightly played straight in terms of Belkar, who generally gets a pass on murdering innocent civilians — although, as Roy points out, the best that can be done for Belkar is just pointing him in the right direction and the Deva assigned to his after-death paperwork does concede that Belkar's evil is much less than what it would be without Roy's direction.
    • Played with when Belkar and Vampire Durkon are reunited after the pyramid's destruction:
      Belkar: If trying to eat me isn't enough to pay his fare to Stabbytown, I officially have no idea what you people want from me!
  • In PvP, Max Powers was a parody of this, until the characters actually became friends with him. Although he was really nothing more than a friendly, decent guy (if somewhat self-centered) he was the "villain" of the strip, and Cole's "nemesis." His "crime" was nothing more than being more successful than Cole. Take Cole's Bias Goggles off, and he was nothing more than a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis.
  • YU+ME: dream has this when it comes to Lia. While she was Not Herself sort of when doing all of the terrible things she did, it was a bit jarring to see her have a romantic reunion with Fiona while a child that she killed was still in the background of the scene. There are also no repercussions for her actions besides her feeling bad about it... which doesn't seem to be getting in the way of her life too much. However, this event is what caused Fiona to merge consciences with their respective owners, so something like that won't happen again.
  • Sonichu has this in spades. It matters not if Christine Chandler has decided to have her characters destroy an office building with hundreds of innocent employees inside, as long they were making fun of Rosechu, she's in the right.
  • Strong Female Protagonist built up to its longest chapter to date exploring this issue in detail. Superman-expy Alison sees herself as a literal Social Justice Warrior, ready to battle all the problems of the world with her fists. Unfortunately, the problems of the world aren't that simple — and her heavy-handed attempts to make them simple have resulted in people becoming increasingly afraid of her readiness to inflict violence. Her long alliance with her former archnemesis terminated abruptly when he broke her heart and reminded her that the young man she's been so infatuated with is in fact a terrorist who changed his methods but not his goals. Not to mention that she's now guilty of kidnapping, torture, terroristic threats, and medical fraud against an ex-boyfriend after she forced him to save the lives of thousands even though he refused to do so because of her method of "asking." Said ex-boyfriend also happens to be the son of some very powerful people who seem to have been letting her operate freely only because she wasn't important enough... until she acquired their full negative attention.

    Web Original 
  • Subverted in The Sword of Good, parodic "fragments of a novel that would never be written" in which a Genre Savvy lost prince raised in our world battles Always Chaotic Evil orcs alongside a pirate captain and a wizard with healing magic. When they meet the villain, right after the death of a Mauve Shirt the pirate was in love with, the villain points out that the wizard could have not only saved the Mauve Shirt himself by putting himself at minimal risk but could also have alleviated much suffering the heroes had previously seen, prevented from doing so only by the self-interested ideology that's underlain both the villain's "evil" classification and the wizard's mysticism to that point. This causes the hero to realize how much suffering the grieving pirate captain must have herself caused almost by definition, how quickly he bought into the idea of hereditary absolute monarchy, and the fact that his party is guilty of torture, and he concludes that he was on the Wrong Side All Along.
  • Occasionally, a story on Not Always Right will feature an employee who clearly thinks they're the "good guy" of the story, when really they're worse than the customer they posted the story to complain about. That's assuming these events actually happened, of course. This pops up on the sister sites as well; many stories posted to Not Always Working are written by customers who mistreat employees but see themselves as the protagonist of the story. For example, someone pretends to be an irrational customer a la Not Always Right and then mocks the employee for not realizing it was only an act.
  • In the story-presented-as-television Comeuppance, Sian Welby (as portrayed by the author) is supposed to be seen as always right, while the contestants as always wrong. However, at times, it just comes off as whining on her part simply because contestant X makes valid points and the author makes them look worse by playing up their supposed villainy, or because they don't merely give her a free pass on anything for being a celebrity (as seen on Chapter 5's introduction):
    Karen: We don't need excuses, Sian. If we don't like the look of you, you're not coming in. Simple as that. And there's no point arguing. We're there all night. If you want to stand there making a tit of yourself, that's your choice.
    Sian: [stamps her foot] Uuugghh!! So unreasonable!

    Web Videos 
  • One interpretation of Captain Hammer (the one that most people in-story believe, and most viewers don't) in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is that he really is a hero and didn't, on average, deserve a comeuppance, and wasn't really any worse than a lot of other heroes except from the point of view of Doctor Horrible. Granted, said comeuppance is self-inflicted and relatively minor, more befitting a Jerk Jock than a supervillain.
  • Conversed in the "Violence as Narrative" episode of Folding Ideas. He talks about how a lot of video games will portray the main characters' actions as okay even if they're terrible. Then he discusses 3 games that worked around Protagonist-Centered Morality or attentional bias and instead have the violence as a part of the narrative. The examples of aversions he gives are:
    • The Last of Us: Joel has learned to solve his problems with violence to the point that's all he knows. He shows symptoms of sociopathy when rescuing Ellie. In the end, there's a Perspective Flip which gives a more objective outlook on his actions.
    • Hotline Miami: The player is forced to make the protagonist go through the maze again afterward and see the corpses of all the people the protagonist has killed. The main character is later provided a foil and gives the player (playing as the foil) the option not to kill anyone if they want.
    • Bioshock Infinite: The look of Comlumbia emphasizes Booker's violent actions and role as a chaotic element. He, in text, claims the Vox Populi are a reaction to people much like himself. He acts and presents himself as an enemy to the Voice of the People.
  • Parodied in this video. Despite seen as people doing charity for good, the speedrunners are blatantly doing things like stealing college degrees, killing their own parents, literally trying to kill themselves, and generally causing $1000's worth of damage, all to raise only $25 for an unnamed charity. There's even a narrator reassuring us that it's for charity.
  • CinemaSins frequently gives out sins for movies indulging in this, if they don't give a strong enough reason to root for the heroes or if the heroes are as bad as or worse than the villains:
  • Lampshaded and parodied in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. The narrative has decided that Liu Bei is the hero, so the world cheerfully accepts this. However, as time goes on, a lot of people start to get tired of it.

Alternative Title(s): Protagonist Centred Morality

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