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Reasonable Authority Figure
aka: Reasonable Authority Figures

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The Governor: Parasitic aliens are invading Earth. And my husband is controlled by one.
Marco: Yeah. Basically, that's the story.
The Governor: Thank God. I was beginning to think something much, much worse was happening. Aliens we can fight.
Animorphs #51: "The Absolute"

Heroes like the Ignored Expert have a hard enough time dealing with idiotic peasants, but their deepest problems invariably come from the antagonistic local authorities, who are dead set on ignoring their warnings and running them out of town because it's politically expedient. This makes the existence of the Reasonable Authority Figure all the rarer.

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Fully aware that Machiavelli Was Wrong, he'll listen to those "crazy kids" when they say there's a fugitive nearby, and logically consider their arguments instead of dismissing them outright. However, their openness to the heroes' ideas doesn't mean they'll follow Agent Mulder's crazy ideas blindly. Often, they'll ask for proof and facts rather than follow baseless accusations, but even then, they'll usually humor the heroes and go check out their theories; whether it pans out or turns into a dead end depends on how far along the story is.

Usually Lawful Good and the person characters must Bring News Back to. They are the chain of command that goes past the basic Command Roster. The Rebellious Rebel is motivated by loyalty to him.

Noteworthy because, if the hero does manage to convince them, they can help in the fight but they may have to Shoot the Dog as part of their position. Being in a position where you are responsible for millions and do not think that A Million Is a Statistic can be hard.

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May present The Hero and his companions with valuable gifts before The Quest or as a reward afterward.

This position means that they can end the story quickly unless other obstacles intervene. Which means they usually do intervene.

  1. They're made inaccessible by the Obstructive Bureaucrat and Evil Chancellor who has it in for the heroes, trying to stop them getting an audience or outright lying to destroy their arguments and reputation. Barring this, the Reasonable Authority Figure might just be busy, overworked, or under-funded and might not have the time or resources to adequately solve the hero's problem as quickly as he or she would like.
  2. A young ruler (usually hereditary) may have difficulty either getting to the heroes to listen, or asserting his theoretical authority. Usually they are surrounded by manipulative "guardians" out to start pointless wars.
  3. The Reasonable Authority Figure will inevitably be displaced when a Tyrant Takes the Helm, leading to a 10-Minute Retirement.
  4. If he is not the absolute ruler, Interservice Rivalry and Divided We Fall can be a problem even after you persuade him. Indeed, that you speak with this character may induce his rivals to regard you as an enemy or to undercut you in hopes of ensuring that their favorites succeed in your place.
  5. If he needs approval from the Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering to take action, the chances that he can convince them to agree about anything are less than favorable.
  6. Of course, sometimes the threat is so overwhelmingly catastrophic that even his help merely upgrades the heroes' situation from "completely hopeless" to "fighting chance."
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A common subversion is to have this character turn out to be the Treacherous Advisor. Sometimes, also, they will merely have a Treacherous Advisor, and be undermined because they listen to him too much.

It should be noted that a reasonable authority figure isn't somebody who simply says yes to all of their subordinate's requests. It may be that they have a good reason to deny a request, perhaps because it would interfere with the big picture and throw off some other more important task that must be completed, or that there is a morally ambiguous situation and while he has sympathy for his subordinate's position he can't agree with it due to conflicting ethics. This often crops in To Be Lawful or Good situations. It may also be that while he personally believes his staff when they come to him with an outlandish story, he's aware that his own superiors may not and would require proof, and therefore must refuse their requests on that basis. Conversely a leader who lets his subordinates do whatever they please may not be a good leader at all, but may be completely ineffectual, or even possibly malevolent, for example by making his subordinates so loyal to him that they willingly and eagerly hurl themselves into situations for him that more guarded people would realise were insane. In other words, a reasonable authority figure doesn't always have to support his underlings if he has good reasons not to, and somebody who does always back his subordinates up isn't always a reasonable authority figure.

The type's opposite is Head-in-the-Sand Management. Also contrast the Clueless Boss, who means well but is desperately out of touch with things in his own organization and possibly incompetent. If male, the Reasonable Authority Figure may be The Patriarch and A Father to His Men, or Da Chief, or a Benevolent Boss. If female, the Reasonable Authority Figure may be an Iron Lady or The High Queen.

In school-type shows featuring the Sadist Teacher (or possibly a strict dean or vice-principal), it's usually the principal that fills this role. Mind you, sometimes this is just elaborate Good Cop/Bad Cop.

See also In Its Hour of Need.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • This is one way to describe the relationship between Batman and Commissioner James Gordon, who, let's face it, is really sticking his neck out as a policeman and a city official by consistently trusting in a shadowy, anonymous vigilante who dresses up as a giant bat to beat up criminals. In Frank Miller's run, and The Dark Knight Trilogy, this is justified as the rest of Gotham's police force are corrupt cops.
  • Hank Pym is this towards the Runaways. After Nico Minoru casts a spell that enables him and Tigra to see things from the kids' perspectives, he finally ends the Avengers' longstanding policy of trying to forcibly disband the Runaways, in exchange for the Runaways reporting to Avengers Academy once a month so that he can be assured that they're all still alive, and rather than ask them to bring Molly and Klara to teach them actual school classes, he created a robot to do that for them. Admittedly, he had some selfish motivations for this change in policy: one of the Runaways is technically his grandson.
  • Although less famous than Gordon, Spider-Man has had a few cops that see past J. Jonah Jameson's rants and recognize Spidey for the hero he is, and give him whatever help they can. Notable examples include George Stacy, Jean DeWolff, Lou Snider, and William Lamont. (In terms of "obstacles intervene", two of them are dead, though one may have returned as a demonic monster.)
  • In Supergirl (Rebirth), Cameron Chase is Director of Department of Extra-normal Operations, a Government agency created to neutralize hostile alien threats. She doesn't trust her newest agent Supergirl, but she's willing to work with her and give her a chance to earn her trust. She is also pretty indulgent towards her subordinates.
  • The Transformers: Till All Are One: Windblade forces Starscream to make a Council of Worlds with all of the planets they get together with in an effort to curb the absolute power he'd claimed for himself. Obsidian, the delegate from Carcer, immediately starts trying to overhaul all the corruption in the system starting with appointing an honest third party security company to administer over the current police force. Of all the delegates it's Obsidian whom Starscream sees as his biggest threat.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: Katsuichi is the biggest example, being a respected swordsman and fair, if stern, teacher. Inspector Ishida is a kind and pleasant old policeman, and Usagi's firm friend, never once falling under Inspector Javert. This trope is usually played with in the many towns Usagi visits, often meeting the magistrate or other headman. Sometimes the result is friendly, where one magistrate and the police force sided behind Usagi against a team of bandits. Sometimes they're corrupt, like Magistrate Oda, who taxed people heavily and killed several who oppose him. Sometimes they just don't like the main character, but are otherwise not villainous.
  • When the X-Men were based out of Utopia (an artificial island off the coast of San Francisco) the mayor of San Francisco practically went beyond "reasonable" and into "pushover" territory. She basically deputized them and declared the city a safe haven for mutants.
    • Speaking of the X-Men, there was FBI Agent Fred Duncan. During the early stories, before mutant hysteria started running rampant, he was their official government contact. Once the government shifted to an anti-mutant viewpoint and they started ignoring him when he said mutants should be judged individually and the X-Men were trustworthy, he resigned, though not before shredding his files on them as a "security precaution." He's appeared a handful of times since then, always supporting the X-Men.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Emperor in Mulan, who is clearly the wisest and most level headed person in the movie, especially when contrasted with Chi Fu, his obnoxious, opinionated advisor.
  • Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame had an Archdeacon to clean up the church's name after Judge Frollo's Kick the Dog moment where he contemplates killing the deformed baby Quasimodo. Sadly, he’s not around for the rest of the film where Frollo does things that are arguably even worse than that.
  • General Rogard in The Iron Giant attempts to understand the situation and not assume the worst when confronted with a giant alien robot. Unfortunately, the FBI agent on the scene happens to be a complete bigot (and a Dirty Coward to boot), and goes out of his way just to provoke the Iron Giant into retaliation.
  • The Grand Councilwoman from Lilo & Stitch is rather reasonable for being the head of the Galactic Federation, although like most aliens, she believes Pleakly when he tells her to spare Earth from destructions because mosquitos are endangered.
    • She's also willing to give Stitch a chance to speak for himself when he's initially introduced at Jumba's trial, rather than outright condemning him. Then at the end of the film she expresses regret at having to take Stitch in after he's shown to have calmed down and matured somewhat, and seems rather satisfied when Lilo provides a loophole as to why the Grand Councilwoman can't take Stitch.
    • Cobra Bubbles is this as well; rather than remove Lilo from Nani's custody right away, he listens carefully to the evidence and ultimately tries to do what he feels is best for Lilo's wellbeing. The ending reveals he was also a CIA member. The thing about mosquitoes being endangered was something he made up to deter an alien invasion.
  • Monsters University Dean Hardscrabble, though some of her decisions are a tad personal. She holds an understandable grudge against Mike and Sulley for breaking her scream canister and she's often unpleasant to Mike about his endeavors. Still, she enforces fair punishment and still permits them a chance of redemption at the Scare Games and does not let Oozma Kappa suffer for the actions of Mike and Sulley.
  • La Muerte from The Book of Life, is the Only Sane Woman among the Gods and said it was fair to return Manolo back to life since Xibalba cheated.
  • Aladdin: Despite his flaws, the Sultan is generally a worthy ruler knowing when to put his power to good use. In The King of Thieves, he agrees to drop all charges against Aladdin for busting Cassim free because Aladdin only did so out of love and willingly came back to accept the consequences of his actions (plus he does like and respect Aladdin). That's on top of changing the law so that Jasmine can Marry for Love.

    Music 
  • The title character of "Good King Wenceslas" represents the Christian ideals of charity and caring for the meek.
    • Though the real Wenceslas seems to have been more pious than competent and might have been better as a cleric than a king.
  • Kids Praise:
    • Psalty himself whenever he acts as an authority. In one of the Li'l Praisers videos, it begins raining outside, and Psalty uses that as a song cue for the song about the Wise Man and the Foolish Man, and he has the kids put on their raincoats. One kid points out that they're indoors, and while other adults might scold the kid for questioning orders, Psalty just explains that they're costumes.
    • God as well: at times, even Psalty makes mistakes, but every time God intervenes, He's understanding and forgiving.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • It was common in the past for all authority figures in the pro wrestling business to be depicted this way when they showed up on television, acting as a Foil for the antics of the heels and the zanier faces. Jack Tunney is a good example. It wasn't until the nineties that the Corrupt Corporate Executive version of the authority figure rose to popularity (in the form of Vince McMahon in the then-WWF and Eric Bischoff in WCW).
  • After years and years of the WWF being run by Lawful Evil heels like Vince McMahon and Triple H who screwed the faces at any chance, a bit of fresh air surfaced when Mick Foley became Commissioner in 2000 and actually treated everybody equally. It was a nice if brief change of pace to watch a heel like Triple H finally get his just deserts— at the hands of the man he forcefully retired, no less. Besides Triple H, Foley's actions would frequently anger Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle. Chris Benoit got it the worst when two of his world title victories were overturned by Foley due to the referees making bad calls. Still, Mick's reasonableness didn't save him from getting booed when backed into a corner by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
  • Teddy Long, a former long-suffering general manager of WWE's Smackdown brand, is apparently a little too reasonable for Vince McMahon's tastes; one of his storylines had him being put on probation, ostensibly for being too bland and not having any major accomplishments, but implied to be more because he didn't give special consideration to Vince's favorite wrestlers (Heels one and all).
    • Case in point; Drew McIntyre ignored repeated warnings by Teddy to stop attacking an injured Matt Hardy, so Teddy stripped him of the IC title and fired him. The next week, McMahon reversed the decision, much to the dismay of Long and Kofi Kingston, who won the IC belt while McIntyre was gone.
  • Booker T was this during his time as the Smackdown general manager.
  • In Progress Wrestling, Jim Smallman and Glen Joseph come across as this; their other business partner Jon Briley most likely is as well, he just doesn't really get involved publicly.
  • It should be noted the baby face "promoter" used to be the default mode of every authority figure ever. Even before kayfabe was broken, most owners, staff, athletic commissions, governing bodies, TV executives, sponsors and the like used to find the idea of the fans turning on them—and by extension, the product—nightmarish. Even when there was an evil boss, said boss would always be below the 'real' boss in authority. A good example is Victor Quiñones leading W*iNG and IWA Japan against FMW. Everyone from Ray Gonzales to Savio Vega to Carlito Caribbean Cool to Jeff Jarrett tried to take over whatever was the biggest promotion in Puerto Rico at the time, but would always end up dismissed.
  • Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins became one in a public relations move to try and save TNA (and later NWA). It was not a ratings stunt, this was real. On-screen, he's a pretty neutral character, something the business sorely needs. His involvement and visibility was a positive for TNA because the actual chairman, Dixie Carter, looks like a Real Housewife from central casting. (After 8 years of running TNA she had no idea what kayfabe was.)
  • Even when Eric Bischoff and the nWo were running roughshod over WCW, they still had to answer to "Ted Turner", who frequently came down hard on them.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Examples from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, Forgotten Realms: Alustriel of Silverymoon; Khelben Blackstaff, leader of the heroic breakoff organization from the Harpers; Piergeiron the Paladinson, one of the Lords of Waterdeep; and both the late King Azoun IV of Cormyr and his son, Azoun V. Given the scale of the setting, many, many others exist.
    • Similarly, many of the men and women who rule the nations of Eberron are reasonable. Even King Kaius III, a freakin' Lawful Evil vampire, can occupy this role, as can Keeper of the Flame Jaela Daran, King Boranel of Breland and so forth.
  • There are a few officials in Warhammer 40,000 who fit this trope, such as Ciaphas Cain, Ibram Gaunt, and a handful of their fellow officers. Warmaster Horus was one, at least before the heresy. Unfortunately, they are very much in the minority. To be fair, this is not entirely unjustified in a setting where having an open mind is practically an invitation to Chaos.
    • Post-Cicatrix Maledictum, the role has been definitively claimed by Roboute Guilliman, who's even somewhat willing to cooperate with aliens, in stark contrast to the Absolute Xenophobe Imperium.
  • Paragons (people who have a high Obligation in Genius: The Transgression) radiate a sense of trustworthiness and knowledge. As a result, they get a nice bonus to social rolls when they act like this.
  • In In Nomine, the player characters are often angels reporting to Archangels. The books give directions for the GM to play these Archangels as anything from Knight Templar fanatics to Reasonable Authority Figures. Their counterparts, the Demon Princes, not so much.
  • Pretty much every authority figure in Ptolus has a reason they're in the position in the first place, are well-respected, and haven't been enveloped by the city by the spire's intense politics. DMs are given advice to not trot the players to these people for no reason, and to treat the encounters with gravity.

    Theatre 
  • John Hancock as president of Congress in 1776. He's an independence man like John Adams, although he doesn't actively participate in debate or voting (except in case of deadlock, which Adams is quick to remind him of). He breaks one of those ties in favor of Dickonson's motion that a vote on independence must be unanimous and explains that not doing so would tear the country apart right from the get-go. Later, he offers to go beyond his authority to help the cause of independence when it looks sunk, but Adams tells him he needs to stay as this trope.
  • Romeo and Juliet:
    • The Prince. He doesn't want the feud to tear the city apart and is doing everything he can to keep the two sides from going too far.
    • Lord Capulet, depending on the production. He doesn't take the feud as seriously, and when Romeo crashes a party, his response is to just shrug because Romeo has a good reputation. When his younger relatives are raving about how Romeo's crashing the party, Capulet tells them to just leave Romeo alone because he's not done anything wrong. Some play it like him trying to avoid trouble, seeing as the Prince's relatives are also at the party and the Prince made it clear that he wouldn't put up with any more feuding nonsense.

    Visual Novels 
  • Alex Cyprin in Astoria: Fate's Kiss, the protagonist's boss, has immense faith in her and backs her up as much as they can even when she's acting well outside the auspices of the organization they both work for. Higher up the chain of command, Hades is an even better example: in the best ending of Hydra's route, once Hades hears what Hydra and the protagonist have to say about what's going on he puts an end to Hercules's plans immediately, and one gets the impression that the whole trouble could have been avoided by simply going to Hades about it from the beginning.
  • Ace Attorney is lacking in these, but there are a few. The Judge is easily swayed, intimidated and distracted by prosecutors and witnesses but never ignores a possibility or discrepancy that's presented, no matter how minor and occasionally has moments of incredible wisdom and courage.
    • Miles Edgeworth becomes one after his Heel–Face Turn, when he stops worrying about his record and starts sincerely pursuing the truth. He takes it upon himself to play Devil's advocate with Phoenix specifically to get him riled up and working at his best. Then he becomes Chief Prosecutor and reinstates Phoenix after he was disbarred just so the two of them can team up and dispel the Dark Age of the Law.
    • Klavier Gavin doesn't care about winning, only the truth. He's willing to share information and indirectly help Apollo from the get-go.
    • Ambassador Colias Paleano never once lies to, hinders, insults, annoys or ignores Edgeworth. He always gives all the help and information he can to the best of his ability. It is refreshing for both players and Edgeworth to have a genuinely helpful witness for once.
    • The judge gets an upgrade in Dual Destinies, such as when he's confronted with a choice over whether to allow Athena to use analytical psychology on Detective Fulbright. The argument is made that emotions are not evidence, and cannot be used in court. The judge declares this is exactly right, but also says that the process has, in the past, helped uncover the truth, and allows it to go forward regardless, as court cases should be less about legal technicalities and more about the truth.

 
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