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Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!

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"Innocence is chrysalis, a phase designed to end. Only when we are free from it do we know ourselves."
Eleanor Lamb, BioShock 2

When a character (primarily in dramas) is asked to go beyond their job and help with "a cause", the character sometimes refuses, and afterwards the other person asks, "What's happened to you?" or "Since when did you stop caring?" the answer sometimes comes down to the character saying, "I grew up," implying that the character "grew" from a Wide-Eyed Idealist to an embittered cynic. It's also often used by the Anti-Hero or Straw Nihilist to mock the idealistic methods and beliefs of the Ideal Hero and his ilk; such naive and childish wishful thinking has no place in the grown-up, paranoid, cynical world that the Anti Hero lives in. Alternatively, a Retired Badass might have genuinely gotten too old or set in retirement to do what's being asked of them.

In Real Life, this attitude is often fuelled by Disneyfication: many works which fall on the idealistic end of the idealism vs cynicism scale tend to have simplistic plots which are light in tone and devoid of particularly dark subject matter. Consequently, said works tend to be marketed at children and more general audiences, on account of there being little mature content to justify a restricted rating. Conversely, cynical media with more controversial plots often feature grim and uncomfortable subject matter which is solely intended for mature or adult audiences (or to attract controversy from Moral Guardians). Thus, there can be a tendency, especially among more cynical people, to associate idealism with childish or simplistic thinking—something to outgrow, rather than an actual, legitimate, motivating philosophy that adults can also make use of.note  This conditioned bias is a major reason why many people believe True Art Is Angsty.

It should be noted that a secondary reason is the association in working-class culture between adulthood and the abandonment of lofty goals. The general idea is that you get a job and stop daydreaming, and eventually come to peace with the idea that you most likely won't be rich and famous or single-handedly reshape the world, and is as much a survival mechanism as it is crab-bucket reflex.

Sometimes the result of the character crossing the Despair Event Horizon. The Sour Supporter often expresses it, especially in the face of Least Is First. May be accompanied by a warning that Hope Is Scary. Subtrope of Jade-Colored Glasses. See also Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!. Could also overlap with Obstructive Bureaucrat, and Noble Bigot with a Badge.

Expect this phrase to be uttered in Crapsack World settings and Real Life. Especially by the more Machiavellian Realpolitikers when they lecture idealists about the deceptive dog-eat-dog world of international relations. Also hordes of edgy teenagers, but the pro-idealism side of things has plenty of those as well.

Contrast Good Is Old-Fashioned, where idealism is regarded as only for the children's grandparents. The intent is much the same: To imply that the good/idealistic person is unfamiliar with the here and now. The character may say that what they are dealing with is Above Good and Evil, and the idealistic character should not drag in such childish morality.

It's not all one-way, however; the idealist may fire a few shots back in return. The cynic may be dismissed as a 'sell-out' who gave up on doing the right thing for their own selfish gain under the false pretense of logic and realism. For instance, certain characters just aren't willing to jeopardize their careers, and livelihoods just to change the status quo (this could be Truth in Television depending on how romantic one is and who you happen to be looking at). Or maybe he'll even be called a 'coward' and a weakling who gave up the good fight because he found it too hard and instead resigned themselves to wangsting about bad things.

Compare and contrast Knight in Sour Armor, who still holds ideals, just not as idealists; a converted holder of Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is For Kids! views may turn into this, keeping to the appearance of cynicism while reluctantly pursuing idealistic goals. Also contrast Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!, for when excessive cynicism and pessimism turns out to be just as blinding as too much idealism or optimism (or when idealists call out cynics on their attitude, as above).

A direct antithesis of Good Is Not Dumb. These characters could also fit under the Stopped Caring trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This trope is inverted in Black Lagoon when Takenaka, a Terrorist Without A Cause, attempts to interrogate Rock into giving up some info by convincing him that they're aren't that different. Rock refuses and asks Takenaka why he keeps fighting for a cause he's already lost. Takenaka explains that he's long since lost any ideals about being able to do anything constructive with his actions, but "keeps preaching" because it's the only thing he finds meaning in doing.
    • One can argue that the entire series is about this trope when it comes to Rock's character. He's had to face this trope many times.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Almost every character, even the people he saves, are often completely baffled that Touma Kamijou will help anyone who needs it and interfere with problems that have nothing to do with him (even if there's good chance he might get killed), not expecting any reward or fame, but just because he feels it is right and he believes anyone else in his situation would do the same. Several characters think Touma really has some kind of ulterior motive or is insane.
  • Deconstructed in the Cowboy Bebop episode "Black Dog Serenade". In the episode Jet teams up with Fad, his old partner from his days as a cop, to catch a fugitive assassin who led Jet into the ambush that blew off his arm and made him end his time as a cop. Just before dying, the assassin reveals that Fad was a Dirty Cop on the payroll of the Syndicate, and furthermore was the one who actually shot Jet. When confronted, Fad says that Jet has only himself to blame, because he knew the Syndicates either buy or kill cops who are a threat to them, and Jet refused to be bought. The deconstruction comes in when it becomes clear that despite his cynical words, Fad is a Regretful Traitor who has struggled with guilt ever since, to the point of essentially committing Suicide by Cop, with Jet acting as the "cop" in question. Idealism might be for kids, but unless you have no conscience at all, the other choice is being haunted by guilt and despair.
  • This is Kyosuke Munakata's feelings towards Makoto Naegi in Danganronpa 3. He feels that Makoto's methods of dealing with despair (rehabilitation) are too soft and that the only way to defeat despair is to eradicate it completely (i.e., murder anyone who might be remotely connected to despair).
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist both Miles and another Briggs soldier mention this, as when they were Ed's age they thought they could get through life without killing anyone either.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Often a particularly jaded character (such as Urumi, Miyabi, Ms. Daimon...) will go in a rant about the rotting of the society, Adults Are Useless or abusive/perverted creeps, kids are delinquents, you can trust nobody or they shall abuse you or take advantage of you. However they sooner or later are confronted with the opposite trope and being told they are just blind cynics and that mindset is one of the roots of those troubles.
  • The Token Mini-Moe in Heat Guy J gets in an argument with a Defective Detective, when he tells her that money isn't everything. In her world, where she and her mother barely have what they need to survive, money is everything, and she has become jaded. She tells him that believing in ideals like "money can't bring happiness" is all a fantasy.
  • Mazinger Z: In a story arc of the Gosaku Ota manga alternate continuity Baron Ashura manages to kidnap Kouji Kabuto and tries to talk Kouji into joining him. When Kouji refuses, Ashura goes into a What Is Evil? rant, stating "justice" and "peace" are only meaningless, empty words invented by people because they are too cowardly and weak to accept the truth (Might Makes Right according to him) and protect themselves, and then he taunts Kouji, telling the only thing his idealism has got him is trouble and humiliation.
  • Monster: Johan seems to be trying to teach this to Tenma, and toward the end says "The only thing humans are equal in... is death."
  • In One Piece, when the Sun Pirates helps a young human girl (whom they had grown to cherish) return to her village, Arlong is quick to ruin their mood by stating that Koala will grow up to hate fishmen like any other human. While he was wrong about Koala to the point that she becomes a Revolutionary and substitute teacher of the Fishman style of martial arts, he was right about the people of Koala's hometown, who repaid Fisher Tiger's kindness in returning the ex-slave child by reporting him to the Marines, who mortally wounded him, purely out of Fantastic Racism.
    • It's a trait of many villains in the series that they'll spout a line like this. Donquixote Doflamingo especially does it a lot, though it's subverted by the Big Bad Blackbeard, who actually believes in dreams and idealism in his own, twisted way (which makes sense considering he has the Will of D.).
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura Akemi beautifully sums it up:
    "With kindness comes naïveté. Courage becomes foolhardiness. And dedication has no reward. If you can't accept any of that, you are not fit to be a Magical Girl."
  • Subverted in the first episode of the Rurouni Kenshin anime. When Karou tries to insist that her family's kenjutsu school is a method for self-improvement, the villain laughs and tries to break Kaoru by saying that swordsmanship is meant for killing. Kenshin agrees... but also says that he prefers Karou's idealism over the truth, and hopes that Karou's idealistic view will become the truth in future generations.
  • In Sailor Moon S, this is the big problem between the Inner and Outer Guardians due to Adaptational Jerkass hitting the Outers. Here, they treat the Inners as being too childish and idealistic to do what needs to be done, especially when they learn Hotaru is the "Messiah of Silence". These are also the same girls who saved Earth and the space/time continuum twice. While Usagi's actions do save the world and Hotaru, Haruka and Michiru are so pissed off at the close call that it was that they challenge her to a duel with her title as Moon Princess and Sailor Moon on the line. So, in this case, it was "Silly Usagi, Idealism is for Kids!".
  • Used in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei the first time Itoshiki Nozomu teaches the class.
    • To expand on it, Nozomu tells his class to write down their "Despairs for the future", essentially the students writing down their "Hopes for the future", what they are aiming at becoming, which Nozomu shoots down by saying "It's hopeless", and then giving them a Breaking Lecture on their unrealistic goals... And then Fuura Kafuka shoots HIM down simply by stating that no matter how unrealistic your goal is, as long as you do your best to achieve it "the possibility exists" that you'll succeed. note 
  • Used in Tiger & Bunny to highlight the duality between Kotetsu and his partner Barnaby. Barnaby, a Punch-Clock Hero who views superheroics as "just another job", finds Kotetsu's still-intact idealism and aspirations towards being The Cape to be childish and naive. The twist is that Kotetsu is at least ten years older than Barnaby, and seems to be holding on to the virtues of "the good old days" in an era where superheroes have become marketing mascots.
    • As the series progresses and he starts to rub off on Barnaby, the focus of the trope shifts from the two of them to Kotetsu and Lunatic, a Vigilante Man whose sense of justice involves burning criminals alive.
      • In his case, it turns out his mindset is based on the knowledge of what the Stern Bild idea of 'justice' actually entails. For much of the series the HeroTV heroes are ignorant of the massive corruption and violence that lies behind the glitzy theatrics, giving another reason (if one were needed) why the others don't see where Lunatic's coming from. Hopefully time will tell what the reactions of them and NEXTs in general will be to Maverick's setup being uncovered.
  • One of the central themes in Trigun and also the source of conflict between Vash and his brother, Knives. It's best exemplified in a scene from when they were children, and observing a butterfly caught in a spider's web - Knives opts to squish the spider, and Vash objects that he wanted to save both, prompting Knives to respond with this trope.
  • Partially due to his Heroic BSoD in Season 3, Jaden in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX developed a "Stop Having Fun" Guys mentality towards Duel Monsters during his journey into adulthood between Seasons 3 and 4, effectively losing the optimism that he had for two and a half seasons. Oddly enough, before that he was big on 'It's a game, have fun!' Pretty big turnaround. In the final episode Jaden duels Yugi and regains his passion for dueling.

    Comic Books 
  • This would be a big part of Sally Floyd's mentality in a nutshell during Civil War (2006). When she berates Captain America, she claims that modern America is not about idealistic beliefs but about mediocrity and pop culture and that Captain America with his idealism broke America (sic...although it's not saying a lot when Iron Man had done horrible things that would prove Cap's point).
  • In the Detective Comics (Rebirth) storyline "The Victim Syndicate", Stephanie Brown performs a (downplayed) Face–Heel Turn and attempts to blackmail Batman into getting every vigilante to retire, get help and live normal lives to prevent a group like them from existing and to stop another Tim Drake from dying. Batwing and Clayface call her out by pointing out that doing something like that isn't as simple as just hanging up their costumes and being normal as they have problems beyond just wearing the costume and punching people.
  • Gemini Storm's Elizabeth Rose is very negative, to the point of berating her male companion when he yells at her for killing one of the monsters trying to kill them both.
  • Speedball's evolution into Penance was this trope plus a dump truck full of Wangst. Never mind the armor standing for the victims of Stamford, there was the very, very painful flagellant behavior around the dumb citizens of Marvel (when it was CLEARLY Nitro who did it). That said, he also had amnesia at the time— he knew that he used to be a hero and that he'd done something bad, he just didn't know who or what.
  • Superman:
    • Superman once battled the Elite (a pastiche of The Authority), a pack of super-anti-heroes who routinely killed. It was the Elite's point-of-view that Superman's boy-scout kid-gloves morality was a weakness and that defeating evil required being just as bad. During their final face-off, Superman appeared to be going all-out, slaughtering his way through the Elite on live TV. But it was a fake-out — he was merely knocking them out in creative ways, trying to illustrate how terrifying superpowered killers can be. Manchester Black, the leader of the Elite, maintained that Superman's idealism was nothing but a facade until his dying day. (When Black realized that Superman honestly and sincerely believed and lived up to his ideals, it was more than Black could take and he committed suicide.)
    • In fact, the very idea of idealism apparently screwed Black up so much that he eventually came back and tried to destroy the entire world to ultimately prove his point, in a large-scale prequel to the Joker's attempted demonstrations in The Dark Knight. Except with more Humans Are Bastards (and so are you) thrown in. In The DCU, enough cynicism apparently leads to evil on an epic scale.
    • In another example, Clark Kent once came across a police officer he was acquainted with both as Kent and Superman attempting to beat a confession out of Pete Ross, who was suspected of being a supervillain at the time. When Kent confronted her about it, the police officer dismissively told him to 'grow up'. Unfortunately for her, then Superman confronted her — and snatched her badge from her with his superspeed, crushed it in his fist, and bluntly told her that she was a disgrace who didn't deserve to wear it. Not entirely surprisingly, having the Man of Steel deliver a What the Hell, Hero? speech to her was enough to prompt something of a moral crisis for her.
    • Overall lesson from all this — telling Superman that cynicism and maturity are the same thing is a very bad idea.
    • In Superman: At Earth's End, Ben Boxer claims that Superman's ideals, such as not killing for any reason, have no place whatsoever in a devastated hellhole ruled by twin clones of Adolf Hitler.
      "Foolish old man... your refusal to kill got you nowhere in 1999 — Where do you think it will get you now, in a world ruled by death?!"
  • Subverted in Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl. Batgirl is a cynical jerkass who thinks the Justice Society are gods looking down on the little people and Supergirl is clueless when she tells that they and Lex Luthor are her surrogate family. When it's revealed that Luthor is a lying, murderous bastard it looks like Batgirl has been proved right, but then she talks Supergirl out of killing him because she's a hero and a symbol of Hope and shouldn't drop to his level.
  • In one of Marvel Comic's Thunderbolts mini-series, Baron Zemo accidentally goes back in time and encounters many of his ancestors via time-jumps, one of whom is in young love with a lady that history says he's not destined to marry. Zemo tells them to their faces that they can dream because they are young and that the harshness of reality will eventually make them adults. Of course he was right all along. He knew he would marry another after all.
  • Watchmen:
    • The Comedian's speech at the "Crime Busters" meeting.
    • Ozymandias too, as he tells Nite Owl to grow up and adapt in response to his idealistic views since his new world has no place for silly old-fashioned heroics.

    Fan Works 

Code Geass

  • Suzaku in is on the receiving end of this several times in A Different Code. First, Lelouch openly tells him he can't "change the system from the inside" when the people in charge don't want things changed. Then Jeremiah points out that Suzaku is ignoring all Britannia's faults blindly, whereas Jeremiah knows Britannia has faults but is loyal anyway. Lastly, Lloyd Asplund shuts down Suzaku's rant about the Black Knights merely being lucky the landslide at Narita didn't bury the town by pointing out that any weapon capable of stopping the VARIS rifle could have done so, thus they must have powered it down to save the town. Suzaku then gets indignant about the few house that were hit being "sacrificed" only for Lloyd to point out that life isn't a laboratory and there was likely some unforeseen factor that caused the landslide to go further than intended.

Fairy Tail

  • In Angel's Breath, Ryusuke rips into Evan Mae for their Black-and-White Insanity:
    Ryusuke: Shut the hell up! Heaven? Don't make me laugh, there's no such thing! You're just a spoiled child after an ideal world that can never exist! You want to kill liars? There will always be more! You want to rid the world of treachery, to make it a place where only the honest can live, is that right? Don't be so fucking naive! That world can never exist! Within humanity, there will always exist evil, because without it, good can't exist either! So get your head out of your ass!

Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends

  • In I Spoke as a Child, the normally pleasant Frankie curses out Mac (a nine-year-old) and tells him that he's living in an idealistic bubble and needs to "grow the fuck up". However, she apologizes for this a few hours later. Frankie only snapped at him because she's dealing with the aftermath of Date Rape and has been traumatized by the ordeal.

How to Train Your Dragon

  • In the How to Train Your Dragon fanfic A Thing of Vikings, Regent Einar Thambarskelfir corners Hiccup at one point and, in true evil mentor fashion, tells him that, no matter what people might otherwise claim, their motivations ultimately amount to nothing more than money, power, sex and revenge, and the sooner he realizes this, the better a lord he'll become. Later, he takes Tuffnut aside and is genuinely appalled at Tuffnut's apparent lack of ambition and gives him a Dare to Be Badass lecture.

Mass Effect

  • Happened to Garrus in Parable series. After the two years on Omega and then repeatedly sees how the world treats his wife Jane despite her sacrifices, by the end of the Reaper war, he has completely changed from the idealistic Turian at the beginning of the series to a jaded man that only looks out for his family and is perfectly fine with abandoning people in need if they affect his loved ones' well-being in any way. Case in point, in Part 6, ''Recrudescence'', he gets into a fight with Kaidan when the latter uses the Normandy's fund to save a pair of mother/daughter slaves while the former needs that money to make sure the ship runs smoothly for his twin babies' sake; when Kaidan asks where is the man that wanted justice for everyone, Garrus just flat-out replies that That Man Is Dead and replaced with someone that know how the universe works.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

  • Aftermath of a Fallen Star: A centuries-long conspiracy boils down to the belief that Princess Celestia is too idealistic, and that an Equestria that's governed by principals of harmony, friendship and tolerance is one that will inevitably fail. As far as Amadeus and their allies are concerned, Celestia should be crushing the other races beneath Equestria's heel; all her efforts to make peace are supposedly weakening their country instead.



  • In Ash and Serena's Atomic Odyssey, Serena's main rival in the Tandor Pokémon Contests is a girl named Sayaka who almost as soon as they meet develops an almost compulsive need to crush her. When Serena finally confronts her about this, Sayaka confesses that Serena reminds her a lot of herself when she started, as her original goal was to make people smile with her performances, but was unable to win no matter how hard she tried. Sayaka decided that to be stronger she had to cast away her childhood dreams and become more ruthless, so she needs to defeat Serena to prove to herself that she made the right choice. Of course, Serena's response to this is the opposite trope, and this only makes her more determined to beat her.


  • A Rabbit Among Wolves: Lisa Lavender gives Jaune a rather gentle iteration of this sort of speech, telling him that all his acts of charity and compassion won't amount to much in the long run, as the Fantastic Racism is too deeply ingrained for him to change that way.

Warhammer 40,000

  • In Everqueen, both the Emperor and Malcador have trouble understanding Isha wanting to actually help human suffering with no benefit for herself.

    Films — Animation 
  • Megamind: There is this discussion:
    Roxanne: Please don't do this! I know there's still good in you, Hal.
    Hal: You're so naive, Roxie. You see the good in everybody, even when it's not there. You're living in a fantasy. There is no Easter Bunny, there is no Tooth Fairy, and there is no Queen of England. This is the real world, and you need to wake up!
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (2017), this is the point of Tempest Shadow's Villain Song Open Up Your Eyes.
  • In Zootopia, Nick Wilde tells Judy (who is a literal rabbit) that he considers her worldview naïve and childish, and her dreams are going to be crushed by reality.
    Nick Wilde: Tell me if this story sounds familiar. Naïve little hick with good grades and big ideas decides "Hey look at me, I'm gonna move to Zootopia, where predators and prey live in harmony and sing Kumbaya!" Only to find, whoopsie: we don't all get along. And that dream of becoming a big city cop? Double whoopsie: she's a meter maid. And whoopsie number three-sy: no one cares about her or her dreams. And soon enough those dreams die, and our bunny sinks into an emotional and literal squalor, living in a box under a bridge, until finally she has no choice but to go back home, with that cute fuzzy-wuzzy little tail between her legs to become... You're from Bunnyburrow, is that what you said? So how about a carrot farmer? That sound about right?
  • Spies in Disguise: This trope is one of the reasons, if not THE reason, Walter's considered a weirdo by nearly everyone in the agency, especially with their line of work. Lance straight up tells him that "evil doesn't care that you're nice" and he "can't save the world with hugs".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Angels with Dirty Faces, the gangster Rocky dismisses Father Connolly's high-minded ideals as silly and asserts that the easiest way to get through life is to have a racket or a gun. Because of his cynicism, Rocky doesn't take Connolly's threats to go to the press about his crime seriously, which turns out to be his undoing.
  • The Avengers (2012): Loki lectures Black Widow on this:
    Loki: ...and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer... PATHETIC!
  • Black Lightning (2009): Kuptsov gives a lecture at Dima's university about how you should always prioritize yourself instead of helping others. Dima following this philosophy gets his father killed. Kuptsov later doubles down that if you need help so much you'd die without it, it's your fault for being weak.
  • The Brave One: Jackie, the ex-wife of Detective Mercer from this film. Detective Mercer asks Jackie for help and she replies, "I can't help. Besides, I don't do 'pro bono." When Mercer asks why, she responds, "I grew up."
  • The Dark Knight: This film is essentially a battle of ideologies between Batman and The Joker, with the Joker trying to prove to Batman that deep down, everyone is just as evil as he is.
  • Dragonheart: The hero starts off as this, a cold-hearted mercenary who was soured by trying to instruct a king in the old code, the code of honour of the kingdom, who grew up heartless anyway. He later becomes something of a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • In The Elite Squad, Neto is insulted as naive by Fabio when the former is incredulous about the precinct commander's getting paid off by the drug dealers. He quickly learns to turn the cops' bribe-taking against them. Matias doesn't.
  • Extreme Justice: In this Lou Diamond Phillips film, a lot of the Powers That Be appear to be this way when dealing with Knight Templar cops. Mostly due to the fact they think the ends justify the means, and the lower level powers that be are largely useless due to being in fear of losing their jobs and pensions. And Lou Diamond Phillips' character is mostly seen as naive by his co-workers because he's trying to expose the corruption that people seem to passively-aggressively support.
  • A Few Good Men: Colonel Jessep calls out Lt. Caffe's naivete while trying to justify his own harsh (and illegal) methods of discipline:
    You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it, you? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom! You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury, you have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you talk about parties; you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall! We use words like honor, code, loyalty, We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something, you use them as a punch line. I have neither the time or the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd rather you just say "thank you," and go on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!
  • GoldenEye: After outing himself as the Big Bad, ex 00-agent Alec Trevelyan chastises James Bond for being "Her Majesty's loyal terrier" who clings to outdated ideals and asks if he has qualms killing his enemies. He even makes a nasty jab about Bond's dead wife Teresa, the only woman Bond ever loved.
    Janus/Alec Trevelyan: I might as well ask if all the vodka martinis ever silence the screams of the men you've killed. Or if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: In a Deleted Scene from the fourth film, Moody (actually Crouch Jr.) tells Harry after the Second Task that "if you want to play the hero, I can find you plenty of playmates among the first years."
  • Mad Max. Max wants to leave the Main Force Patrol as he's worried what it will turn him into. Da Chief tries to rally him with a Rousing Speech.
    Fifi: They say people don't believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them! You and me, Max, we're gonna give them back their heroes!
    Max: Ah, Fif. Do you really expect me to go for that crap?
    Fifi: You gotta admit I sounded good there for a minute, huh?
  • New Jack City:
    • The charismatic drug lord Nino Brown gave such a speech to the old military veteran after the veteran tries to reason with Nino that he's destroying his own community and hurting his own people selling drugs. Nino's response:
    Nino Brown: Look at you... in a few years they'll be marking your grave. Me? I'll be right here. What can you offer them? Another "I have a dream" speech? Some of that same shit you ripping off to me? Look where we at. Not a pot to piss in, nor a window to throw it out of. You's the fool, old man.
    • Nino Brown continued to joke about the war veteran later that night. But the old man would get the last laugh.
  • Predator: Dutch finds his special forces team has been duped by CIA agent Dillon:
    Dutch: What happened to you, Dillon? You used to be someone I could trust.
    Dillon: I woke up. Why don't you? You're an asset. An expendable asset. And I used you to get the job done.
  • Revolution (1985): Mr. McConnahay more or less tells Daisy this.
  • Se7en: This is Somerset's attitude towards Mills. Somerset's years as a cop have left him disillusioned, jaded, and borderline misanthropic. He scoffs at the younger man's more optimistic outlook on life, at one point even chastising him by saying "You can't be this naive!" When Mills finally succumbs to the darkness by killing John Doe, however, Somerset is clearly saddened to be proven right.
  • Shooter:
    "For the record, I don't like how this turned out any more than you do. But this is the world we live in. And justice does not always prevail. It's not the wild west where you can clean up the streets with a gun. Even though sometimes it's exactly what is needed... Bob Lee Swagger, you're free to go."
  • Star Wars:
    • Has this occur later on; Han gets Luke to his destination (as per their deal), goes on a massive detour to save a princess and adds the Empire to the list of people who want him dead, only to be met with criticism from the naive teenager who owes him for wanting to leave after earning his reward. Averted when the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism tipples ever so slightly towards idealism when The Power of Friendship means that the good guys win.
    • Lampshaded in Blue Harvest:
      Luke: So, you got your reward and you're leaving? Is that it?
      Han: Well, when you say it that way, I sound like a douche. But yeah, that's what I'm doing.
  • The Thin Red Line: In this Terrence Malick film, Pvt. Witt is constantly taunted by his superiors for being an idealistic dreamer.
  • Training Day: The entire movie is about Dirty Cop Alonzo Harris trying to break Jake Hoyt into his world of corruption and violence.
    Jake: It can't be like this!
    Alonzo: It is this way, man. I'm sorry I exposed you to it, but it is. It's ugly, but it's necessary.
    Jake: I became a cop to put away drug dealers, the poisoners, the criminals, not to be one!
    Alonzo: .... The sooner you can match what's in your head with what's going on in the real world, the better you're gonna feel. In this business, you gotta have a little dirt on you for anybody to trust you.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): The entire film shows how Diana develops this mindset, starting out as a Wide-Eyed Idealist and setting out on the straightforward task of stopping World War One. Ares tells her that mankind is evil and beyond redemption. Diana can't deny this but instead of agreeing, moves into The Idealist.

  • Animorphs. Jake's brother Tom (who is actually controlled by an alien Yeerk slug) sums the trope up when talking about morality in war:
    "Honor and courage aren't what matters, not in real war. What matters is whether you win. After you win, then you start talking about honor and courage. When you're in battle, you do what you have to do. Honor and courage and all that? Those are the words you say after you've killed all your enemies."
    • It's telling that by this point in this story, Jake's inner monologue is along the same lines.
      • This is also what he tells himself when he sends his cousin Rachael on a suicide mission to kill Tom.
    • Within the Animorphs themselves, Marco tells Cassie this a lot.
    • In the Bad Future where Yeerks have conquered Andalites and humans, Cassie has become a Knight Templar terrorist happily dynamiting skyscrapers full of people. She tells Jake that now she finally understands war.
  • The Decembrist uprising of 1825 is described in such terms for all of Russian high society in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar; while "the people of the [eighteen] twenties" are generally idealistic if superfluous, impractical and hypocritical, the people who replace them at the forefront of high society after the failure of the Decembrist uprising are more pragmatic, materialistic and outwardly conformist (notably, both sides can be pretty cynical or the opposite regardless of this divide, just in different ways). And then there is the main character, Aleksandr Griboyedov, who is stuck awkwardly between the two groups and is very cynical and contemptuous towards both.
  • The First Law series has this in spades.
  • In James Stoddard's The High House, Murmur rebukes Duskin for wanting to join in the defense of the house; his father would have, but that was idealism of youth, which he never outgrew.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Michael O'Halloran, when Douglas rejects an official position, he gets this.
    "It is painful to a man of experience to see you young fellows of such great promise come up and 'kick' yourself half to death 'against the pricks' of established business, parties, and customs, but half of you do it. In the end, all of you come limping in, poor, disheartened, defeated, and then swing to the other extreme, by being so willing for a change you'll take almost anything, and so the dirty jobs naturally fall to you."
  • A Song of Ice and Fire seems to run on this trope. It's particularly the focus of Sansa's character development, as she turns from an idealistic, romantic girl into a reserved, suspicious, cynical and untrusting woman.
    • Inverted from the perspectives of Jaime and Tyrion. Both are cynical pragmatists that only find meaning in their lives when they reconnect with honorable agendas.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Kazebar gives a Breaking Speech at the end about how idealism is foolish and everything is about power.
  • Lux in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle is repeatedly told this by others. An excellent example is by his older and less-scrupulous half-brother Fugil. Lux and Fugil both took part in a rebellion to depose their tyrannical family, with the former defeating his opponents non-lethally and intending to spare them afterwards. Fugil killed the rest of the royal family (save for himself, Lux, and their younger sister Airi), the nobles, and the army then lectured Lux on how his approach would have gotten him stabbed in the back later on.
  • Theo Bell has this exchange with his old friend Angus in a Vampire: The Masquerade spinoff novel, not long after finding out Angus was the one who'd been repeatedly trying to kill him.
  • Painfully Deconstructed in the fifth book of the Wings of Fire series, as it delves within the mind of Sunny, local Wide-Eyed Idealist and The Cutie. It shows how Sunny's friends adopting this mindset, constantly dismissing Sunny's ideas on the basis of their idealistic nature, and treating her like a young child has left her with a very raw inferiority streak and a strong desire for acceptance. The fact that Sunny believes in the importance of action and is actually willing to make an effort to make the world a better place, and why this is important to her, is a huge part of her Character Development. She does become slightly more realistic, but as The Anti-Nihilist and one who constantly strives for the better of the world.
  • In World War Z, this is the viewpoint of many Jerk Asses in such interviews as the one with former White House chief of staff Grover Carlson. Asked about the response of the White House to reports of the walking dead, Carlson claims it was above and beyond, and brags that Phalanx, a supposed anti-zombie drug, was pushed through the Food and Drug Administration. When the Narrator points out that Phalanx didn't work, Carlson explodes and launches into a tirade that what mattered was that a panic had been avoided, ultimately telling the interviewer to "grow up":
    "Can you imagine the damage it would have done to the administration's political capital? We're talking about an election year, and a damn hard, uphill fight. ... Oh, c'mon. Can you ever 'solve' poverty? Can you ever 'solve' crime? Can you ever 'solve' disease, unemployment, war, or any other societal herpes? Hell no. All you can ever hope for is to make them manageable enough to allow people to get on with their lives. That's not cynicism, that's maturity."
    • Given that this guy was personally responsible for a number of the dumbass decisions that led the world to ruin, he should feel lucky that his punishment is simply collecting manure for a biodiesel plant. Of course, his viewpoint is that his decisions kept society going long enough for the Redekker Plan to be enacted, therefore making him one of the world's unsung saviors. The reader is left hanging as to this.
  • In The Witchlands, after Aeduan tells Iseult that she can't possibly be one of the Cahr Awen, she mentally scolds herself for regressing back to her childhood years and believing that she could be anything more than a failed Threadwitch. Of course, Aeduan is lying to make himself feel better about his own choices, so the story doesn't really side with Iseult on this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A creepy scene in Angel's "Blind Date". Recurring baddie Lindsey Macdonald, a flunky for the rapacious law firm Wolfram & Hart, starts to have doubts about his job. He gets lectured by Holland, an older attorney, who reminisces about harboring the same ennui that Lindsey is currently feeling. It's a very jovial yet deeply unsettling speech.
    Lindsay: Sometimes you...question things, but—
    Holland: (interrupting) Yeah, I did a lot of crazy things when I was your age. Searching and all. Took me a while to realize how the world was put together and where I belonged in it. And actually the world isn't that complicated: It's designed for those who know how to use it.
  • In Castle, Detective Kate Beckett has been jaded, cynical, and bitter ever since her mother was murdered when Kate was a teenager and the murder was never solved. Her Character Development — helped along by her increased tolerance of, friendship with, and feelings for immature and optimistic Manchild Richard Castle — has largely been centred around reawakening her optimism and hope for the future; as evidence, simply compare how much she smiles in any given episode of season one as opposed to any given episode of season five.
  • Doctor Who: Amy Pond met the Doctor when she was a kid and wanted to travel with him but circumstances delayed him until she'd grown up, where she justifies her (not entirely unjustified) skepticism of him and his claims with this trope. Being the Doctor, however, he has the perfect comeback:
    Amy: I grew up.
    The Doctor: Don't worry. I'll soon fix that.
  • In Game of Thrones, this is basically the plot arc of Sansa Stark in the first two seasons.
  • Peter Petrelli on Heroes has been on the receiving end of this from practically everyone he meets, including his own family. It doesn't stop him from continuing to do whatever he thinks is the right thing.
  • House is a firm believer of this, his personal mantra being "Everybody lies".
  • Law & Order loves to rub the viewers' faces into the political version of this trope. Then there's Abbie Carmichael who is this trope personified.
    • African American attorney, Paul Robinette, began as an idealistic prosecutor and second chair under lead Ben Stone. In later seasons after Ben Stone left the show, Robinette would return as a defense attorney. When Jack McCoy, who took over as lead prosecutor asked why he switched, Robinette claimed he couldn't avoid the realities of him being a Black man in America anymore and decided to defend people he believed were wrongfully prosecuted by a bias, unjust legal system.
    Paul Robinette: Ben Stone once told me: One day you'll have to decide if you're an attorney who is a black man, or a black man who is an attorney. For years I thought it was the former, for years I was wrong.
  • In the Madam Secretary episode "The Detour", Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Ming shrugs off Secretary of State Liz McCord's speech about the good the US could do in Africa if China would quit undercutting them.
    Liz: The United States is trying very hard to turn the page, and be a force for constructive engagement. Cleaner energy, economic diversification and greater transparency, educating and empowering women and girls.
    Chen: Spare me your idealism. More importantly, spare Africa. I lived through the Cultural Revolution. My father was not so lucky. Idealism kills. Mutual interests save lives.
  • In Merlin, when the title character refuses to save Mordred's life because he's destined to kill Arthur, Gaius asks what happened to the young boy who first arrived in his chambers. Merlin replies, "He grew up. And learnt the meaning of duty."
  • Miss Parker from The Pretender, complete with the obligatory "What happened to you?" "I grew up" conversation in the first episode. Jared spends a reasonable amount of time throughout the series trying to revert her, however.
  • Ned in Pushing Daisies gives "I grew up" as the answer to why he no longer likes Halloween. He's lying, though.
  • The Scrubs episode "My Brother, Where Art Thou" is about this. After 3 of years of working at the hospital and due to Dr. Cox's influence, JD, who was originally introduced as a Wide-Eyed Idealist, has become a lot more cynical. His brother Dan, who has come to visit, is shocked by this and doesn't like the change. He tells Dr. Cox that he knows JD will never look up to him, but that he does to Dr. Cox, so he should work at being a better mentor. Surprisingly, Dr. Cox accepts his point and resolves to take the role more seriously.
  • In the Six Feet Under episode "The Liar And The Whore," Karla subtly suggests this with the following line: "People don't change. They just get older, that's all."
  • Tess Mercer from Smallville gives Oliver Queen the whole "I grew up" line. Although this can be described as Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!. A bit of both; she also uses it as an explanation of how she went from an environmentally crusading marine biologist to the head of Luthorcorp.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: When Captain Archer returned to Earth after the events of Season 3, where he carried a team of Space Marines, resorted to piracy, killed unarmed aliens manning a listening post, lost several crew members, and went back in time, he has taken this attitude. The other members of Earth's Starfleet, who are bursting with Roddenberrian enthusiasm for space travel, are deeply concerned as he talks about the importance of better arming ships and warfighting over exploring. They are convinced he's simply cynical, but he can't help but think that being more cynical may have saved some of his crew. It does remind Starfleet that there are civilizations out there who want nothing more than to blow Earth up.
  • When Sasha Monroe from Third Watch points out Tyrone Davis Jr's shady police tactics and how it contributes to innocent black men going to jail, he put his hand up to her face and says "Don't preach to me." Interestingly enough, Ty refused to believe his father was corrupt, yet he's going down the same slippery slope.
  • Sir Humphrey has managed to reduce this to a simple aphorism in Yes, Minister:
    "A cynic is a what an idealist calls a realist."

  • Music example, slightly inverted: In his song "My Back Pages", Bob Dylan describes his angry-young-man cynicism of a few years earlier, and its gradual evolution into pragmatism, with the memorable (and confusing) chorus "I was so much older then / I'm younger than that now."
  • Similarly, Billy Joel in "Angry Young Man":
    I believe I've passed the age
    Of consciousness and righteous rage
    I found that just surviving
    Was a noble fight...
  • Green Day has at least two songs directly dealing with or referencing this, "Emenius Sleepus" and "The Grouch". The former is about a friend who underwent the process, the latter, the narrator.
  • In I Fight Dragon's 'No One Likes Superman Anymore':
    Cuz no one wants to know the man who stands for things we outgrow
    He’s too noble and too blind
    We’re all older now and we don’t need someone to care about
    The innocence we left behind…
  • The Jam in "Burning Sky", though that was meant to be from the viewpoint of a character who'd embraced the capitalist system.
  • Both played straight and subverted with Avril Lavigne. Her first album, made when she was just a teenager, was a poppy, punky teen fest, and "Sk8er Boi" became a hit song among preteens. Two years later and she abandoned the "immaturity" for wangst and cynicism. Three years after that, and she's a teenager again! But now, she's put out a soft rock/acoustic album, making this a Zig-Zagging Trope.
  • Happened with pseudo-anarchist folk/punk band Levellers. Their early albums were all 'times are tough but if we work together we can get past Thatcher and have a time of peace and joy and happiness'. Now, twenty or so years later their songs seem to mostly be about how the world sucks and we're all screwed.
  • Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota has "¡Estás frito, angelito!", from Último Bondi a Finisterre, about the subject singing to a third party about how life is hard and how everything is out there for him if he doesn't abandon his excessive idealism.
  • "I May Not Awaken", arguably one of Enya's saddest songs. The narrator comes to this conclusion about halfway through, promptly throwing her over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Paramore's "Rose-Colored Boy" is about the narrator's annoyance with the titular Wide-Eyed Idealist, finding their relentless optimism in the face of real problems they may face as becoming insufferable. The song is less of a mean-spirited downer than most examples as the narrator is singing less about kicking down idealism for itself being wrong, but rather criticizing how the overabundance of it implies that feeling any kind of sadness is wrong and shameful, and that she'll be sad when she wants to rather than feign happiness for the sake of looks.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Princess: The Hopeful: This is the attitude of the Radiant Courts towards the Court of Mirrors. While the Radiants are idealists, they do acknowledge that they live in a World Half Full and that they will need to Earn Your Happy Ending. Mirrors, on the other hand, teaches that there is no such thing as a no-win scenario, that hard choices only mean that you're not looking hard enough for the perfect answer, and that the Princess can fix everything by herself.

  • Jean Anouilh's version of Antigone is a rare example of this being taken seriously as opposed to being scoffed at or framed as rationalization. The play is concerned with Antigone's willingness to die as a punishment for trying to ensure that one of her brothers gets a proper burial, which itself is a manifestation of her ideological opposition to Creon, the pragmatic ruler that's replaced her father. Her willingness to die for her principles is framed more as a symptom of youth. She can't appreciate how destructive and foolish dying for her cause might be and so winds up ruining the lives of everyone she loves and not accomplishing anything other than ideological purity. Anouilh regards her youthful lack of perspective as her hamartia.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: In Act II Scene VII, De Guiche offers us a more sophisticated example than most, when he counsels Cyrano to study Don Quixote’s chapter of the windmills... implying that Cyrano too will be betrayed by his own idealism.
  • Man of La Mancha: This is the attitude of the Duke, and of Dr. Carrasco; the character he plays in the Show Within a Show.
  • From RENT: "What happened to Benny? What happened to his heart, and the ideals he once pursued?"
  • In Vanities, Kathy learns the hard way, after losing her boyfriend and her nervous breakdown, that her idea of "an organized life" doesn't work well in adulthood. Then the cast as a whole finds out that their friendship "isn't what it used to be".
  • In Austen's Pride, The Musical of Pride and Prejudice, the Act I finale "Why" has Jane Austen discuss the futility of romance and the unrealism of happy endings, as learned from her own heartbreak experience.

  • Rachel of Dumbing of Age, previously a minor character, rips into the damaged Ruth with a brutally cynical attack on the whole idea of character redemption.
    Rachel: No matter how many lies you tell, you will always be the thing you were before. You can't wallpaper over it with a sorry and a smile. It will always be there.
    Redemption is a story. Redemption is not real.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Diane initially has this philosophy toward romance.
    Rhoda: What if you just fall in love with someone someday and they fall in love with you?
    Diane: That's adorable.
  • Fate/type Redline: A member of the Church asks Tsukumo Fujimiya what she would wish for if she won the Holy Grail War. When she said she would wish for a bright future, the man burst into laughter and called her naive.
  • In The Order of the Stick #761, Elan thinks his father is invoking this on him and says he's often heard it but it hasn't stopped him.
    Tarquin: However, isn't this just a little. . . premature?
    Elan: I've been called that lots of times, but it doesn't stop me from doing what is right. And the word is "immature," Dad. Immature.
  • Anecdote of Error: Zeya tells Luntsha that believing there is good in the enemy is naïve, while Luntsha is saving her from execution.

    Web Original 
  • In Angel of Death good liches are widely considered to be sources of annoyance by others, to the point that Kaburlduth feels the need to protest Bavandersloth's accusation that he is a "do-gooder."
  • Atop the Fourth Wall frequently spoofs this attitude with the character of 90s Kid (later 90s Dude), a loud, obnoxious teenage slacker who prefers blood, guns, and grittiness to actual plot or characterization, considering hope and joy to be "kid's stuff". Lewis (and Linkara) express disdain over series that take this line of thought such as Marshal Law and The Boys as the creators are known to actively hate superheroes and openly fuel their "deconstructions" as either naive idiots or complete monsters.
  • This article from criticizes a perceived lack of aspirational idealism in current speculative fiction. It notes in particular J. K. Rowling's remarks on the post-series lives of the Harry Potter characters, noting in particular that the childhood social radicalism of Hermione — especially regarding the wizarding world's enslavement of house-elves and otherwise treating intelligent magical nonhuman beings as second-class citizens — dissipates into a government job.
    Rowling has claimed that after the story ends, Hermione continues to fight for the rights of the downtrodden as an employee of the "Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures". (Apparently she doesn't fight very hard, or she would have done something about the department's name.)
  • On the Dream SMP, in a flashback sequence to the L'Manberg election arc, it is revealed that Wilbur, who had already been turned into a jaded ex-idealist by trauma by that point, was the one who advised Quackity, then an idealistic Naïve Newcomer, that violence was the key to power and security on the server. After an extensive Trauma Conga Line and reaching his Despair Event Horizon two seasons later, Quackity embraces the mentality and proceeds to use this tactic on other characters to convince them to join his new country, Las Nevadas... with copious amounts of I Hate Past Me Psychological Projection implicated in the manipulation.
  • In the RWBY episode "Heroes and Monsters", Ruby Rose, despite being on the ropes, is still determined to be the hero, save the day, and stop Roman Torchwick and the other bad guys from wrecking Vale. Torchwick laughs that off and tells her if she still wants to be the hero, then she should die like the other Huntsman. He also tells her Remnant has no room for her type of idealism, it should die along with her and he'll keep doing what he does best — "lie, cheat, steal and survive!" A split second later, a Griffin Grimm gives him the ultimate Shut Up, Hannibal! by eating him. Adam Taurus tells Blake Belladonna the same thing in the same episode: when she tells him that she wanted peace and equality for the Faunus races, Adam says "What you want is impossible!"

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In the main series:
      • Resident Emo Teen Zuko believes that Aang's ideas about peace, pacifism, and forgiveness are childish. While he's proven wrong in the case of Katara's need to avenge her mother, and admits as much, the question of killing Big Bad Ozai is more complicated; Aang's ultimate non-lethal victory is only made possible by a discovery that some viewers consider a Deus ex Machina, before which even Aang's idealistic friends and his previous incarnations argued that killing Ozai would be Necessarily Evil.
      • The sequel comics also show that the world doesn't miraculously fix itself overnight after a hundred years of war and that even with a Reasonable Authority Figure on both sides of an issue, there is still room for trouble and moral complexity.
    • The Legend of Korra:
      • Korra confronts this often. Her attempts to just solve problems because she's the Avatar run into local and national politics frequently, to the point where she's conned out of interfering in the Water Tribe Civil War until it's too late. When she tries to do a quid pro quo trade with the Earth Queen — she collects the Queen's unpaid taxes, the Queen turns over any airbenders in her city — the queen lets Korra do all the work and then lies about there being any people to turn over, leaving Korra with nothing.
      • Suyin's refusal to step up to lead the Earth Kingdom after the Queen is assassinated in Season 3 and it falls into chaos due to her fears about maybe becoming a dictator are brushed aside by Kuvira (and many fans) as her simply not being willing to do what had to be done because of her own wants, similar to Aang above. Unlike Aang, she gets burned badly for it.
      • Likewise, the leaders of the other nations for assuming Kuvira would be honorable enough to work for years reuniting a kingdom (and building a cult of personality) just to hand it over to the prince who'd been living in luxury and exile the entire time.
      • Even Season 3 Big Bad Zaheer gets hit with this. He thought killing the Earth Queen would lead to more freedom for their subjects. Instead, it led to an even more iron-fisted tyrant than the one who came before.
      • An elderly Toph even views such ideals of making the world a better place as naive. However, the moment she sees her family sacrifice themselves and fight Kuvira no matter how suicidal it was, such an act restored her faith in others' heroism.
  • Beast Machines had Silverbolt from the previous series return halfway through. Much to Blackaraknia's dismay, however, he had turned rather sour after being reprogrammed temporarily by Megatron and at first outright sneered at anyone who brought up his past point of view
    Silverbolt: "I was a fool then. I believed in things."
  • Grandad from The Boondocks shows heavy shades of this.
    • Likewise Huey suffers a heavy case of cynicism towards society while Riley is too ignorant to care. In the comic strip, he had Cesar, who was similar to Huey but lacked his extremely jaded ideas. And MacGruder to make the comic even more cynical has Cesar moving away to deliver the final coup de grace.
  • Hazbin Hotel: Or just "decent people", at least. Alastor makes it clear that he thinks Hell's citizens are beyond redeeming; he's just along for the ride.
    Charlie: So... does that mean you think it's possible to rehabilitate a demon?
    Alastor: (laughs heartily) Of course not! That's wacky nonsense! Redemption; Oh, the non-existent humanity! No-no-no-no, I don't think there's anything left that could save such loathsome sinners. The chance given, was the life they lived before, the punishment is THIS! There is no undoing what is done!
  • Justice League:
    • When part of the Justice League is turned into children in the Unlimited episode "Kid Stuff", most of them enjoy it. Green Lantern's having fun conjuring up things, Wonder Woman's having a girly crush on Batman, and Superman's being a bit goofy. Only Batman remains focused and serious, barely changed, and he's the one who eventually wins. When they return to normal, Wonder Woman comments that it was kind of fun being a kid again. Batman responds "I haven't been a kid since I was eight years old". That's an unfortunate bit of Truth in Television. People who lost a parent to death when they were children often describe it, as adults, as "My childhood ended then." This reaction seems to be most pronounced when the child was between about 7 and 12 when the parent dies.
    • An earlier variation shows up when Lobo invites himself to replace Superman (who was presumed dead). The team wants no part of him since he clearly regards superheroics as simply an excuse to bust heads:
      J'onn J'onzz: The Justice League is about more than physical power. It's about ideals, caring, helping....
      Lobo: Buy me a ticket to Pukesville.
  • Kaeloo: Happens all too often with Mr. Cat and Kaeloo. Kaeloo's optimism is usually crushed when she gets a dose of the real world, with Mr. Cat telling her "I Told You So". One of the most prominent examples is the episode "TV News", where the characters start their own news channel. Mr. Cat says that the news needs "blood, pathos, and suffering" because that's what the viewers enjoy, but Kaeloo tells him that people aren't as bad as he thinks. The show's ratings go up when Stumpy and Quack-Quack beat themselves up on screen, proving that the viewers are indeed as horrible as Mr. Cat made them out to be, and the episode ends with Mr. Cat gently telling a crushed and heartbroken Kaeloo that people are the way they are and there's nothing he or Kaeloo can do to change that.
  • In Robot Chicken, The Lorax is taught by "that marketing whore" the Moolah that profit is more important than trying to impart an educational message. The Cat in the Hat, Horton and the Sneetches all express similar sentiments.
    The Sneetches: We tried to teach tolerance and where did that get us? So fuck it, we'd rather make mountains of lettuce!
  • My Adventures with Superman: Underneath the shiny, colorful exterior of the show, there's a pervasive cynicism among the cast. Lois, Vicki Vale, and Task Force X all believe that it's impossible for Superman to want to help others just because he wants to. Lois and Vicki repeatedly try to dig up dirt on Superman to prove their suspicions right, while Task Force X is convinced that Superman's altruism is just an act and that he's scouting for an Alien Invasion. The show itself seems to be highlighting how difficult it would be for the overarching themes behind Superman's character to be taken seriously in the modern day.

    Real Life 
  • In American politics, supporters of third-party candidates aren't congratulated for participating in the democratic system and standing up for what they believe in. Instead, supporters of third party candidates like Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, and Cornel West, along with idealistic candidates in both the mainstream parties like Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, and Ron Paul, are often demonized by Bipartisan centrists/moderates and Republican conservatives/right-wingers on their side of the aisle and belittled by the media, with the justification that "compromise is better than idealism."
    • In return, the idealists would fire back that it is simply because the system is so broken and concerned with keeping the status quo that it stops anyone who is an honest person, an idealist, or simply not a Sleazy Politician from taking office.
    • This being a classic real-world example of why the gap between idealism and cynicism is actually a literal gray area in which a lot depends on the outcome. A third-party movement that succeeds can be an improvement on either party, at least in theory, from the POV of the third-party voters. But if not enough people join in, the net result is often to bring about victory for precisely the party that the third-party voters would consider the worse option. Republicans see the conservatives who voted for Perot as people who effectively elected Clinton, and Democrats often say that the green in 'green party' stands for Getting Republicans Elected Every November. Hence, third parties these days tend to be in favor of things like ranked-choice votingnote  or approval voting to try to break this effect.
    • The mathematics work out this way because American elections work on the basis of a simple pure plurality.note  So if 3% of the voters vote for whom they perceive to be the best party while 48% vote for the second-best and 49% vote for the worst (again, labels are as perceived by the 3% and maybe part of the 48%), well, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero. The trick here is that altering the election system would require the cooperation of the party or parties in charge, and it's always in their best interest to keep third parties as shut out as possible.
    • Another critique is not so much about idealism but simply skepticism about the Holding Out for a Hero mentality of third parties and other challengers, who largely equate the power of political change with Presidential elections rather than sustaining an effective grassroots movement in local, county, state and congressional elections to effectively build the connections and infrastructure needed to form a viable party. Ralph Nader was criticized by the likes of Chomsky and others for more or less contesting in 1999 and then sitting on the margins for four years and then once again planning a third-party bid in 2003-2004. Mostly, third-party candidates run a campaign of a "little guy" changing a system all by themselves without doing any of the groundwork needed to actually make that change happen. The one example of a third party claiming the presidency (the Republican Party in 1860), happened in an unprecedented election where the Democratic Party was split in three directions, the Whigs had long since imploded, and the GOP itself benefited from the existing infrastructure of the Free Soil, Know-Nothing, and anti-slavery factions of the Whigs and Democrats, which all amalgamated specifically because they needed a big tent party to have any chance of winning the election. But even in terms of grassroots movements there's still a lot of opposition with well-connected candidates gaining favor among establishment instead of grassroots outsiders.
    • More than one Green Party has been torn between those who want policies that completely minimize our carbon footprint and those who want a chance at actually getting power to implement the lightest of said policies. Usually, the extremists have to break off and form a pressure group.
  • The fact that the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism on this wiki was once called the Sliding Scale of Idealism Vs Realism illustrates the sentiments for this trope, as well as the tendency to perceive Deconstruction as Darker and Edgier because they take existing tropes and genres and play them as realistically as possible, which can imply that life itself is inherently dark and edgy. Of course, it should be noted that a true deconstructionist and post-modernist would question the very idea of something being "liberal" or "real", seeing even such labels or the notion of a particular idea having a particular narrative (i.e. name, meaning, structure) as a mode of fantasy regardless of how edgy said person or idea wants to be.
  • More sentiments of this trope that have been found inside and outside of this wiki have been found in how people used to perceive Darker and Edgier as more "mature" while Lighter and Softer was less mature. On this wiki, people used to cite Cerebus Syndrome and the progression towards Darker and Edgier as part of Growing the Beard while Reverse Cerebus Syndrome and Lighter and Softer were often filed under Seasonal Rot. And then there was the talk about how darker works were seen as more mature and more "adult" like and the flame wars they caused.
  • In International Relations theory, the two biggest (though by no means only) schools of thought are usually referred to as Liberalism, which believes that countries can work together and that co-operation either is or should be a priority for countries in almost all circumstances and is mutually beneficial for all concerned, and Realism, which is a rather more cynical take on things that suggests all countries are/should be out for themselves at all times, are mutually hostile, and often are barely restrained from outright conflict at all times. Although realists were the ones who chose the label, so the choice was probably made with this trope in mind to suggest maturity and to downplay the 'silly' or 'naive' idealism of others. And in the middle, we have the Rationalist school, which accepts some elements of both theories.
  • A political cartoon in 2008 accused John McCain of pandering to the right wing in his Republican Presidential nomination campaign with his much less moderate views than he had promoted in his 2000 campaign. When asked what happened to the "Straight-Talk Express" McCain of 2000, the cartoon version of him replied, "He lost."
  • There's a saying in American politics: "A conservative at the age of twenty has no heart; a liberal at the age of forty has no brain." This was derived from a 19th-century remark by a French politician: "A monarchist at the age of 20 has no heart; a republican [small r, as in "believes in a republic"] at the age of 40 has no brain". Of course, these paint conservatism and monarchism as the more mature choices, and of course today monarchism is pretty much dead as an idea, which should tell you something about that sentiment. (In America, perhaps. In monarchies, such as Britain, it's still alive and thriving as an ideology.)
  • A popular modern Russian saying goes "A pessimist is a well-informed optimist". Similarly, several famous people through history, including Mark Twain, have been quoted as saying a variation of: "There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist".
  • A good portion of the backlash against the popularity of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic among adult males comes from people who firmly believe this to be true.
  • Leninist(Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninists, and Maoists) and other authoritarian minded socialists tend to have this attitude towards more libertarian-minded socialists(anarchists, humanist Marxists, as well as democratic socialists), believing that any movement that does not commit themselves to a centralized organizational structure and the use of all means necessary to seize power on the basis that said means will only result in another new form of tyranny will doom themselves to failure or co-option by the state. Marxist-Leninists and Maoists, as their ideologies have taken root in various countries go even further and believe that any and all critiques of the authoritarianism and atrocities of Marxist-Leninist regimes by less authoritarian socialists and Trotskyists would only providie ammo for right wing arguements against any form of socialism and neglecting the circumstances that supposedly pushed said governments to act the way they did.


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Alternative Title(s): Idealism Is Juvenile



Mrs. Menners is annoyed when her son feels unsatisfied with their humdrum life. She tells him to stop trusting in foolish dreams.

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Main / SillyRabbitIdealismIsForKids

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