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Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!

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Bolin: ...but how are we gonna pay for all these parking tickets?
Mako: (after burning the tickets) Relax, the city's under attack. The police have more important things to worry about.
The Legend of Korra, "Turning the Tides"

The main characters are no antiheroes or villain protagonists, but sometimes they simply can't be bothered to follow the rules. Why? Well, is it really that important that you stop at every stoplight and follow the speed limit, if in ten minutes if you don't get there in time, some evil demon will eat up the universe?

In cases of The World Is Always Doomed, expect the local law enforcement to be unsympathetic to this point of view, and for the heroes to heavily abuse this to do things that they couldn't ordinarily do.

This is for saving the world by any means necessary. For when characters are breaking the rules to take advantage of a lapse in law due to emergency, see Apocalypse Anarchy instead. Compare Godzilla Threshold, when a normally forbidden measure is authorized because it's the only method left powerful enough to stop the disaster. Compare and contrast No Party Like a Donner Party and I Did What I Had to Do, where the rules are broken not so much to save the world as a response to a desperate survival or self-defense situation (up to and including an Apocalypse How).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Cooking Master Boy: Mao and the others impersonate a deity and burn a palace down. To be fair, the ruler in question was taking money from the citizens, and creating a health emergency, by keeping them malnourished on abalone soup.

    Comic Books 
  • In Chew, this drives the plot of the book "Flambe" in which strange writing made of fire appears in the sky. It's up to Tony to stop people doing this.
  • In the eighth season comics for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy reasons thusly. She has hundreds of slayers fighting evil as a global organization. She needs funding. She robs a bank.
  • Inverted in Justice League Europe when the Extremists were threatening to destroy the world. Dmitri Mishkin, Rocket Red, was reading about the crisis in a newspaper at a newstand, but the vendor told him "Armageddon don't mean you can read without paying."
  • An inversion is used on one Astro City short story to demonstrate how used to the fact The World Is Always Doomed the inhabitants of the city are: one night battle between superheroes and an Eldritch Abomination is being seen by everybody on a neighborhood... except for two kids who have been sent inside by their mother and ordered to make their homework because as she tells the protagonist, unless the world actually ends, they still have school tomorrow.
  • Ultimate Vision: Turning Dima, a 6 years girl, into a living bomb would be a horrible action in most circumstances. But the Gah Lak Tus module will destroy the world if it is not destroyed, and she's just a plastic artificial human, anyway. This is Tarleton's view of it, anyway. Vision does not share it.

    Film — Animated 
  • Big Hero 6 has a lesser-scale moment, with the party escaping the Yokai. Wasabi drives in compliance with the traffic regulations... to the point he stops at a red traffic light, only to get chewed out by GoGo (who proceeds to take over the steering wheel shortly afterwards):

    Film — Live-Action 
  • There was an aversion in Men in Black. Agent K chastises Agent J for endangering The Masquerade during a desperate situation, because The World Is Always Doomed and The Masquerade is the only thing that lets people get on with their lives.
  • Invoked in Man of Steel when Jor-El is out to get the Codex to send it to Earth with his infant son.
    Kelex: Sir, breaching the genesis chamber is a class 5 offense-
    Jor-El: (interrupts) Nobody cares anymore, Kelex, the world is coming to an end!
  • Night of the Comet: Sam thinks it's silly to have to wait for the light to change to cross the street since everyone else in the world is dead. She is nearly run over a boy who she's then able to ride off into the sunset with.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Kirk and co. are not averse to breaking the law in the 20th century in order to save the Earth in the 23rd, to wit:
    • Scotty and Mccoy obtaining a supply of Plexiglass (to house the whales) using fraud and bribery;
    • Chekhov and Uhura illegally boarding a US Navy vessel and stealing power (for the purposes of recrystallizing the dilithium matrix in the warp drive allowing them to get home); then Kirk and co. removing a criminal suspect under arrest (Chekhov, who gets captured in the process) from police custody.

  • Harry Potter is no stranger to breaking the school's rules, thanks to having some kind of terrible danger strike the castle every year.
    • The Unforgivable Curses normally result in an automatic life sentence to Azkaban, but once Voldemort declares open war on the wizarding world and threatens the Muggle world, no one has a problem with the heroes using the Cruciatus curse (which, as its name suggests, causes extreme pain and is potentially fatal), or the Imperius curse (which is a nasty mind-control spell) in order to fight these people. There's no confirmed cases of them using the Killing Curse, although it is known that Bellatrix Lestrange died instantly when a curse from Molly Weasley struck her.
  • Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! is all about thwarting the eschatological intentions of the bad guys. If averting the end of the world means a hundred thousand people need to have their minds enhanced by being given an LSD trip without their knowledge or permission, then so be it... and (Bilingual Bonus) the bad guys even have the motto Der Zweck heiligt die Mittelnote . At one point there is a submarine battle in the ruins of Atlantis, where the nearest thing to a good guy, Hagbard Celine, has to reluctantly set aside his pacifism and sink the would be world-enders' submarine craft, called Der Zweck and Die Mittel.
  • This appears as a minor bit of world-building in Weis and Hickman's Starshield novels. Essentially, physics isn't the same everywhere; here's it's Newtonian, here Aristotelian, while over there it's a kind of magic that uses demons, but over there it's incantations. The borders for the different physics aren't fixed, and whenever one moves over a populated system, one of two things happens. Either they don't already know about it and treat it as an apocalyptic event and societies collapse, or they do know about it, the authorities prepare, and it's treated as a minor hiccup, like changing from driving on the left to the right (though teenagers do try new kinds of vandalism).
  • In The Spirit Thief, the spirits are forbidden from talking about the important apocalyptic thing that might be happenning again by their goddess, but as the Shepherdess is becoming more and more neglectful and self-absorbed while the world begins to burn around her, they're breaking this rule to help the heroes stop the apocalypse.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide mentions this in the segment dedicated to building a safe-haven to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, cautioning the reader that "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs or fences will only keep people out before all hell has broken loose and all bets are off.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the episode "In the Pale Moonlight", Benjamin Sisko lies, bribes criminals, covers up the crimes of other criminals, and was an accessory to murder in order to bring the Romulans into the Dominion War on the side of the Federation. He says 'I can live with it' because the Federation was losing and their way of life was in danger of being destroyed.
    • Another episode is named "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", the Roman term meaning 'in times of war the law falls silent.' In it the Federation again uses morally dubious means to ensure continued Romulan support for the war effort, including the framing of an innocent woman.
  • Not the apocalypse, per se, but the same principle applies to the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Omega Directive". Normally only reserved for captains, Janeway is forced to tell the senior officers about it when the ship detects the omega particle, which has the ability to destroy space, and as a result, would cause the ship to lose the ability to go to warp forever, making it take even longer for the ship — which is stranded in the Delta Quadrant—to get back the Alpha Quadrant (and the Federation). Why does this trope apply, because it is the one directive that allows the Captain to ignore the Prime Directive, since the problem is that bad.
  • Dean and especially Sam Winchester from Supernatural eventually adopt this philosophy at times due to increasingly escalating circumstances. At one point in season 4, Sam even explains to Dean that the normal rules don't necessarily apply to them, because they are not normal, and that Dean had better get used to that if they are going to do what is needed to stop the coming apocalypse. Somewhat ironic since Sam started out being the one who usually complained the most about doing iffy things.
    • Supernatural will subvert this as it shows that the boys often do more harm than good by going against the natural order, unwritten rules and advice of more experienced creatures. (Turns out rules are there for good reasons) Season 4 Sam for example, was slowly turning into a He Who Fights Monsters who ends up causing the apocalypse.
  • An episode of Sliders had a meteor about to hit the Earth with no way to stop it, cue everyone on the planet saying this. Including 3 of 4 main characters.
  • The 100 has the characters constantly facing the possibility that their civilization could be destroyed. In the face of that, Kane is pretty much the only character who worries about upholding the law; everyone else just takes it as a given that the rules will have to be ignored.
  • The Walking Dead: Andrea sees a necklace her sister might like for her birthday while looting a store for survival supplies. When Rick asks her why she doesn't just take it, she points out that he, a cop, is standing right there. Considering the street outside is flooded with zombies, and they're having this conversation with one large group of the undead threatening to break down the doors, he points out that no one's really going to care.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Video Games 
  • Near the end of Mass Effect, the Citadel Council grounds the Normandy, preventing Shepard from going to Ilos and stopping Saren. Since not breaking the law would result in all sentient life in the galaxy dying horrible deaths, they, with the help of Captain Anderson, steal the ship and her crew back for The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • Due to the Elite's strict honour code and how the humans have been labeled as heretics by the Prophet Hierarchs, Covenant soldiers in Halo are typically forbidden from using human weaponry. Fan-made custom campaign SPV3 flips this notion on its head during the levels Two Betrayals and Keyes with the introduction of the Savage Covenant; Covenant infantry (barring Elites and Hunters) who, lacking very few working Covenant weapons, have taken to arming themselves with scavenged Human weapons out of fear of being overrun by the Flood.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Beavis and Butt-Head mistake a chemical train crash for the end of the world, and begin looting the town when everybody's gone.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: In most cases, if someone's fairy godparents are revealed to someone who doesn't have their own fairies, they lose them forever. In the "Wishology" trilogy, Timmy never faces retribution for pretty much everyone he knows finding out about his fairies because they're dealing with the Darkness; the closest thing to a penalty is everyone getting Laser-Guided Amnesia when everything is over.
  • The Legend of Korra has the title quote, where Mako burns traffic tickets. As a police officer himself, he should know that it's better to be good than lawful in this situation.
  • The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror specials have used this several times:
    • One has France nuke Springfield in retaliation for Mayor Quimby's "Frogs legs joke", which Homer survives because he happened to be in a bomb shelter at the time. He briefly mourns Marge, Bart, Lisa, "and the rest" before resolving to live his life to the fullest because "everyone's gone and [he] can do whatever he wants." He gets as far as dancing nude in the Church before the mutants find him.
    • Another has the whole world in chaos where everything with a microchip goes haywire because of the Y2K bug (caused by Homer, natch), and everyone starts looting everything they can grab.

    Real Life 
  • U.S. criminal law has the doctrine of Necessity. If a defendant can show that it was necessary to break the law in order to prevent some greater harm from occurring they can be found not guilty for that reason. This only applies if the defendant (a) had no reasonable alternative (b) ceased committing the illegal act as soon as it was no longer necessary and (c) wasn't responsible for the dangerous situation in the first place. More at Wikipedia's article on Necessity.
  • Fire engines, police cars, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles are allowed to ignore a lot of traffic laws if their lights are flashing.
    • And in some circumstances, other drivers may be required to disobey normal traffic laws, such as by running red lights, if it's necessary to do so to clear the way for an emergency vehicle with lights and siren running.
    • Law enforcement also tends to be allowed to, or get away with, breaking traffic rules during vehicular pursuit, on the grounds that it would be impossible to respect traffic laws and still capture a culprit who does not.
    • Generally speaking, one is not allowed to go around smashing the windows of someone's vehicle. Unless you're a firefighter and said vehicle is parked in front of a fire hydrant you need to hook up to, in which case photos of the vehicle with hoses running through the broken windows are likely to appear in the newspaper and online to remind people why they aren't allowed to park in front of fire hydrants.
  • Jewish law has the concept of "pikuach nefesh," which says that Jews are allowed to violate the tenets of their religion if it means saving someone's life, such as driving a vehicle on the Sabbath when the vehicle is an ambulance. This even applies to Orthodox Jews.
    • Similarly, Muslims may eat normally forbidden food (such as pork or alcohol) if they are at the point of starvation.
    • Likewise, the consumption of forbidden substances such as alcohol in medicines is allowed assuming the alcohol so consumed is part of the treatment. This is a non-issue nowadays.
  • The Roman Catholic Church lifted its ban on Polygamy after War of the Triple Alliance to allow Paraguay to rebuild its population. Paraguay lost 95% of all males in the war.
    • Similar case occured in some regions of Germany after Thirty Years' War, because same reason.
  • The Yazidi faith is very insular as it accepts no outside converts and they are strictly endogamous - they can only marry within their community and those who married outsiders were promptly excommunicated. However, during the Iraqi Civil War, thousands of Yazidis were massacred by the Islamic State who aimed to eradicate their people by converting them to Islam and execute those that refused with several women and girls being forcibly converted and married off to the terrorists. Their religious leaders allowed those that escaped their living nightmare to be baptized (which is only reserved for babies) and returned to their previous faith, since they are already an minority in Iraq and they wouldn't be able to survive these losses.