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The Anti-Nihilist
aka: Anti Nihilist

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"Life may be meaningless.
The future is not."
"There can't possibly be any meaning in this world. But isn't that wonderful in its own right? Because if there isn't any, we can find our own."
2nd Lt. Felicia Heidemann, a Moe Shell-Shocked Veteran, Sound of the Sky

Basically, an Anti-Nihilist or Existentialist/Optimistic Nihilist is someone who decides to be nice, moral, heroic, caring, loving and/or compassionate for the same reasons the Straw Nihilist decides to be The Cynic, Chaotic Evil or an Omnicidal Maniac. The Anti-Nihilist is someone who knows how terrible the world is, but instead of succumbing to despair, decides to create meaning, values and purpose in life out of it.

This is the sort of character that goes by doctrines along the lines of "Don't cling to pain. Don't expect happiness. Don't fear loss. Accept reality as it is. Enjoy the good. Endure the bad. Don't make a big deal out of anything. Be selfless, and unconditionally kind and just, without ever expecting a reward. We're all going to end up as piles of dust, so why not be nice to each other and get those pleasant fuzzies?"

Instead of angsting all the time about "Life is short, we're all gonna die and you can't stop it forever, thus we might as well start killing each other right now", this type thinks more like "Life is short, we're all gonna die and you can't stop it forever... so why not make each others' lives worthwhile and enjoyable? The only thing that matters is letting people know that you care about them, because whatever someone is, has, or can do doesn't mean a damned thing in the end." Compassion, love and empathy — these may be denounced by the pessimists as nothing but fictional lies, but even if they are, to the anti nihilist, these fictions are almost as good as true.

The Anti-Nihilist is very likely to adhere to a Utilitarian morality to work For Happiness, although this isn't a universal rule; there are Anti-Nihilists whose morality might border on self-made Blue-and-Orange Morality. Expect this declaration of nihilism to be uttered as a form of shutting up other nihilists' breaking lectures on Despair and how Humans Are Morons. Thus, very likely to take form as a "No More Holding Back" Speech or Patrick Stewart Speech. It will likely include Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers! because this guy is enjoying himself while the other guy wallows in misery.

Fictional Anti-Nihilists generally come in three major flavors:

  1. The Idealistic Nihilist: Basically someone who strongly oppose the belief that life is without meaning, purpose or point, by displaying a strong sense of moral responsibility, advocating for justice, equality, and the greater good, while still acknowledging that the world they live in is horrible, instead of simply giving up on life. Likewise, they acknowledge the challenges and hardships that life presents, but refuse to be defined by them. Instead, they actively seek to create meaning and purpose in their own lives and the lives of others.

  2. The Knight in Sour Armor: The second type which despite their cynical views, decides to be a good guy not because of the beliefs that it can change the world for better, but just because is the right thing to do. Likewise, their resilience and determination allow them to persevere, reminding others that even in the face of adversity, it is possible to find meaning and purpose, eventually embracing a more optimistic and purpose-driven outlook on life. It could even apply to a Knight in Shining Armor who isn't naive about the world and is self-aware about it but insists on following a code of nobility in direct defiance to despair and hopelessness.

  3. The Hope Bringer: The most powerful and optimistic type which these characters bring hope to the world and its inhabitants in its darkest hour. They tend to do so many ways: boosting the morale of their allies, persistently keep fighting their enemies even though they are almost going to die, and proving cynics wrong about their own jaded ideals. They reject the idea that morality is purely subjective or arbitrary, instead adhering to a set of principles or values that guide their actions, with their unwavering commitment to these principles serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for others, encouraging them to also strive for a more meaningful existence.

Another distinguishing feature of the Anti-Nihilist is their tendency to consider concepts like "fate" and "destiny" complete hogwash. After all, if the future is set in stone, they're already going to do what they plan on doing, so it doesn't matter anyway. Might as well have fun with it and do some good. This very attitude may even make them Immune to Fate by simple virtue of not giving a flip about what the normally Self-Fulfilling Prophecies say. Some anti-nihilists manage to Screw Destiny in the face of an ironclad prophecy via Loophole Abuse, and may do so simply for the joy of eliciting a Flat "What" from the Fates and cynics.

Compare Determined Defeatist, who is pessimistic not about the world, but about their own chance of success, who regardless has a similar "let's try, anyway" mentality. See also Übermensch for the type of person who believes in creating their own meaning and morality, but may not be quite as caring or considerate of others in the process. May choose to be a Small Steps Hero; since they don't believe there's any real "Bigger Picture" to fight for, that means the little pictures are more important.

It's important to note that, despite the trope's name, the Anti-Nihilist is still a nihilist. A character who is optimistic and life affirming and isn't a nihilist would likely be listed under Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!.

Benevolent examples of The Hedonist are also likely to fall under this trope. I Am What I Am is the process of embracing the Anti-Nihilist worldview.

The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is closer to this trope than it is to The Theme Park Version of nihilism described under Straw Nihilist.

See Existentialism for the philosophy that encourages living in Real Life as this character.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mikasa Ackerman of Attack on Titan openly acknowledges that she lives in a Crapsack World, but keeps fighting because, as long as she has Eren, she has something to live for.
    Mikasa: This world is a cruel place. But it is also very beautiful.
  • Elmer C. Albatross of Baccano! has this exact outlook. The guy had a horrible childhood and as a result adopted this sort of unsettling Stepford Smiler personality and obsession with happiness. He feels the world sucks so much that it's important to be happy.
  • Guts from Berserk is a cynical man living in a bleak, dark world, but that doesn't mean he's willing to just lay down and surrender himself to its whims. He's spent the majority of his existence struggling against the odds, even before he was properly born, and it's this ridiculous willpower along with his extreme battle prowess that drive him to reject his "destined fate" of dying at the hands of demons, instead determined to live and go by his own rules. However, it took him quite a lot of Character Development to be the kind of Determinator he is now, as he started out believing that because there was no just and caring god (at least not in his universe), then nothing ultimately mattered. He flipped this around after enough time, believing instead that if there was no god to give the world meaning, then he would give it his own meaning and fight for it. Ironically, his perspective is similar to what Big Bad Griffith adopted prior to crossing the Despair Event Horizon and becoming a member of the Godhand and a Straw Nihilist, but with the intrinsic selfishness in his belief system expunged. As such, the relative positions between Guts and Griffith flipped as time went on.
  • Black Lagoon:
    • Fabiola Iglesias, as a counterpoint to Revy's nihilism is this; she acknowledges that the world does suck, but it is not a justification to act on pointless violence, and believes that there are things that can be solved without said violence. Both Revy, and Rock tell her to shut up (though the former ironically doesn't respond well to the latter's current attitude).
    • Rock appears to be becoming this at first, namely when he finally stands up to Revy. Revy, herself a Straw Nihilist, sees Rock’s attempts at sticking to any morals while living in Roanapur as stupid and foolish, saying there’s no “Robin Hood”. Rock turns this around on her; if there’s no Robin Hood, why doesn’t she become Robin Hood, instead of wallowing in self-pity? That said, Rock’s attempts at living up to his words over the course of the series keep blowing up in his face. Just ask Hansel, Gretel, Yukio, or Ginji. These failures slowly start purging Rock of his morals and hopes to the point where, by the end of the Yakuza arc, Rock’s become a Straw Nihilist. Rock admits as such to Balalaika at the end of that arc, saying that for him, being good isn’t about any kind of morals or principles or even necessarily out of the goodness of his own heart; for him, it’s just a hobby. The “El Baile De La Muerte" arc explores the implications of this; part of his reason for trying to save Roberta is to win a bet with Mr. Chang, he outright refers to the whole affair as a “game”, and he’s willing to use Garcia, a child, as a pawn to fulfill his goal. Tellingly enough, when he’s confronted by Fabiola, who is an example of this trope, Rock dismisses her the same way Revy did.
  • The character Panaru in episode three of Boogiepop Phantom is respected for having this philosophy and teaching it to others.
  • Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass ultimately believes in people's desire for the future and for peace. So much so that he willingly gives up his own life to finally bring peace to the world.
  • Makina from Corpse Princess. The final scene in the anime is of her repeatedly punching her archenemy Hokuto (a fellow fighting-zombie) in the face after all is lost: it's the first time she ascribes meaning to her existence.
    Makina: You're not an undead! You're alive! And so am I!
  • DEVILMAN crybaby has Akira Fudo. While he can be idealistic at times, he's not too naive to believe that love and peace can solve everything, and he becomes aware of what a harsh reality the world actually is after becoming a Devilman. Nevertheless, he still chooses to fight demons, and despite being gradually broken by the countless losses he experiences, he doesn't lose faith in the will of humankind, believing that when faced with the impossible it's better to fight back than do nothing.
  • Jigoku no Gouka de Yakare Tsuzuketa Shounen: As an orphan from outside of the shaman village with no friends, no family, and no knowledge of the world outside of it, Flare never expected his life to amount to much. He's thankful to his master for taking him in and letting him live as long as he does and marches into the Gates of Hell with a smile on his face for the sake of saving the world. His cheer only fades when the excruciating pain of having his body instantly turned to charcoal and getting his soul torched by all the fires of hell drives him to madness for a time. But once he manages to somehow spring back to life, he's all smiles again.
  • Shiro in K, who's in a lot of ways a Lighter and Softer version of Lelouch, has this philosophy, and it ends up sort of becoming the philosophy of the series — see the end of Season 2 where Shiro tells Nagare that he's okay with destroying the Slates because all they really need is a warm meal and friends to share it with — and Nagare realizing as he loses that he also would have been happier enjoying that than trying to upend the world.
  • The main point of Kino's Journey: "The world is not beautiful, therefore it is".
  • In Madlax, the eponymous heroine is a gun-for-hire in a civil war-torn country, yet this only makes her more appreciative of life and its small everyday joys; e.g. she visits her client and target (same person) on the night before his assassination to comfort him. In the end, it is she (or the part of Margaret corresponding to her) who defeats the Straw Nihilist of a Big Bad.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Jack Rakan.
      Jack: Truth? Meaning? That crap ain't got nothing to do with my life!
    • Fate Averruncus appears to be growing into this. Thanks a lot, Rakan-san.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Shinji Ikari grows into this trope at the end of End of Evangelion. With all he's put through, and with the horrifying End of the World as We Know It, it would make sense that he would jump into the Despair Event Horizon and become an omnicidal Straw Nihilist, especially when Rei gives him control over the fate of humanity. Nevertheless, he lets the Assimilation Plot fail, and chooses to live life as an individual. Based on how you interpret it, Evangelion itself is loaded with Existentialist themes, like Jean-Paul Sartre's "Hell Is Other People" (in Eva, the so-called Absolute Terror Field surrounding all souls), but at the same time affirms that being alive and suffering are parts of life and that happiness can be achieved. In Rebuild of Evangelion, he takes it even farther and comes out of the Despair Event Horizon optimistic for man's future, becoming a Hope Bringer.
    • Kaji also has very strong traits of it. He knows more about what's going on than almost anyone else, yet he's the only character who appears genuinely happy. During one very close battle against an Angel that appears to be the final moments before the end of the world, he is watering the melon patch he is growing, with the battle being visible in the distance. If the world does not end on that day, then the melons need to be watered. If it does, then it won't matter what he is doing in the final moments anyway. Either way, he can't do anything to change what's going to happen in the next ten minutes.
    • Yui Ikari is also revealed to have been an optimist despite everything she knew about the darker secrets of the world. She believed that, so long as you were still alive, it was possible to find happiness no matter what.
    • Similarly to Yui and Shinji, Rei develops this attitude by the end of the series. Being a faultily-produced clone made with the sole purpose of serving as an Apocalypse Maiden for Gendo to re-unite with the woman she was used as an emotional substitute for, she was initially willing to accept being killed numerous times and treated as a doll by Gendo, but gradually comes to the realization of herself as an individual actor despite the chaotic and nihilistic nature of the world and comes to the conclusion to go against Gendo in favor of Shinji, staying with her own self-perception even after being physically killed.
  • In One Piece, while Zoro would be the last person to talk about the inherent beauty of the world, he's still deeply invested in protecting his crew and honoring the memory of his friend, he's just as much a Romantic as the rest of his crew, he just doesn't happen to go on about as much. This also overlaps with some Buddhist ideology. He also started as a guy who didn't care about anything but his own strength.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka, although exposed by the Incubators to the pitiless Crapsack World that fed on despair, chose in her sacrifice, and also as a reply to Mami's claim that death would be easier and her apotheosis would be a Fate Worse than Death, to instead believe that if somebody told her that it's wrong to hope, she'll tell them they're wrong countless times. As long as they can remember her, they were not alone. Homura Akemi also grows into this kind of character to honor her sacrifice.
    Homura Akemi: Even though this world is without witches, that doesn't mean there are no curses. The distortions of the world change form and target people from the darkness. This may be a world without salvation and where nothing but sadness and hatred repeat, but it's still a place she once tried to protect. That is something I remember, something I will never forget. That's why... I will keep fighting.
  • Filicia Heideman from Sound of the Sky. The things she went through constantly haunt her. She concluded that, perhaps, life doesn't have any particular purpose, and made herself one in taking care of her new unit, even if it takes committing treason to stop a war. And, she has Rio.
  • The main conflicts in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann have shades of this, with the Hot-Blooded main characters representing this trope while their opponents appear to be Straw Nihilists. There's more to them than that, but they're still very depressed people.

    Comic Books 
  • Atomic Robo admits to being one to ALAN, acknowledging that he'd rather fight for a better world when there is no higher power than believe in a higher power and give up his agency in favor of holding out hope for an unseen, incomprehensible plan.
  • Batman, Depending on the Writer. The victim of a seemingly random and meaningless tragedy, young Bruce Wayne could have decided that life itself was meaningless and succumbed to depression and nihilism. Instead, he chose to focus on what his parents meant to him and to Gotham, re-inventing himself as a force for order and justice, which stands in direct opposition to the Joker's strain of chaos and destruction. There's actually a surprisingly deep (if unsubtle) quote in Batman & Robin which captures the existential nature of Batman's character.
    Alfred: Death and chance stole your parents. But rather than become a victim, you have done everything in your power to control the fates. For what is Batman if not an effort to master the chaos that sweeps our world, an attempt to control death itself?
    • On the subject of Batman, The Killing Joke offers a similar philosophy, with the Joker as a Straw Nihilist and Batman and Commissioner Gordon as this trope. The Joker firmly believes that "one bad day" is all it takes to shatter a person's perceptions of morality and order, driving them just as crazy as he is. To prove it, he shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon (while Commissioner Gordon watches), then kidnaps the elder Gordon and drags him to a dilapidated amusement park, where he's stripped naked, beaten, and forced to view gigantic photos of his daughter's nude, crippled body. When Batman arrives, the Joker delivers a long speech about how, by driving Gordon insane, he's proved that all of humanity's struggles are ultimately pointless — life is simply a "monstrous, demented gag." But as it turns out, Gordon is fine — he not only managed to resist going crazy, he even insists that Batman capture the Joker "by the book" to make a statement about law and order still working. Batman, for his part, remarks that he's heard the Joker's "gag" interpretation before (presumably when his parents were killed), and still doesn't find it funny. In short, both Batman and Gordon acknowledge that life is sick and twisted, which means that imposing structure on it through principles like justice and kindness is all we can do. Batman illustrates this further by showing a degree of forgiveness for the Joker, despite the latter's horrific crimes, and offering to help the Joker in his madness — however, the Joker sadly remarks that it's too late for him.
    • Harley Quinn is an unusual example in her post-New 52 series. While the Joker's motto seems to be "Life is meaningless, so might as well be as much of a dick as possible", Harley is more akin to "Life is meaningless, so might as well have fun while it lasts", and she seems to have just as much fun helping people as she does beating people up.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Related to the example from The Killing Joke, in issue 172, Scourge (formerly "Evil Sonic") tries to steal the Joker's line: "All it takes is one bad day and you'd be just like me". However, Sonic turns it around on Scourge then and there: "All it would take is a bit of selflessness... a little bit of decency... and you'd be just like me." Scourge, not expecting Sonic to actually have a response to that, is left speechless in the moment and is still brooding over it twelve issues later.
  • Despite hanging out with various Norse gods and calling Thor "oathbrother", Beta Ray Bill qualifies.
    Bill: If there is nothing but what we make in this world, brothers... let us make good.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Minor character Ore was killed in the first issue, the annual (coming out between issue 8 and 9) has him temporarily revived, and his dialogue reveals him to be one. At one point Swerve asks if he's a believer of any scientific or religious answer to life.
    Ore: I'm not anything. I just think... pfft. What do I think? I think that life is violent and cruel — and precious. Yeah... I think you don't have to believe in a higher power to be overawed by the world around you.
  • Optimus Prime becomes this in The Transformers (IDW). This might also be a case of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome as to the effects of being at war for millions of years would have on one's psyche.
  • The Transformers (Marvel) has this as an Informed Attribute of Grotusque. Sure, he was constructed as a soldier in a ten-million-year-long war, he stands a very real chance of dying in said war, his friends die regularly, and his alternate mode is ugly (and fat), but the way he sees it you can either mope and gripe about life or to try and enjoy something as long as you're here anyway. Grotusque chooses to find humor in the absurdities and keep making friends rather than become a bitter loner like the other Monsterbots, and the fact that he's the only Monsterbot whose company is welcome among the Autobots vindicates his decisions.
  • All-Star Superman turns Superman into one. Due to his advanced senses, he can actually see the way the universe works: a vast, intricate mechanism of connections. The universe merely chugs along indifferently, and the only thing that matters are our connections to each other. The only thing in this vast machine worth protecting is life. When Luthor temporarily steals his powers, he experiences this for himself and is moved to tears.
  • Watchmen:
    • Despite being batshit psycho, Rorschach is a textbook example. Instead of abandoning rules and discipline due to a nihilistic outlook, he decides that his rules and principles are all the more important in a world that has no more meaning than the one we impose on it — not unlike the Inkblot Test that he takes his name from, the only meaning of which comes from what people impose on it.
    • Though Dr. Manhattan spends most of the book as a Straw Nihilist, he has become this by the end of the story. While he believed that humanity was unimportant because life isn't important enough to give other planets a chance, he also believes that the sheer improbability of any relationship, especially one so horrid as Laurie's parents' (adoptive and biological), resulting in any one person makes that person's existence a miracle, since so many factors could have gone to either create no life at all, or a different life. Jon in fact becomes so anti-nihilist that he decides to create human life somewhere in the Andromeda galaxy just to study it. In the sequel Doomsday Clock, Jon ends up in the mainstream DC universe instead and sets out to Make Wrong What Once Went Right as a Secret Test of Character for The Paragon, Superman. He ends up so inspired by his Incorruptible Pure Pureness that he decides to fix things in both universes and Fling a Light into the Future by creating a son with his powers capable of relating to humans.
    • Rorschach's therapist, Malcolm Long, who becomes influenced by his philosophy, also comes to a similar conclusion. When his wife tells him not to intervene in a street fight, he says: "I have to. In a world like this... I mean, it's all we can do, try to help each other. It's all that means anything..." And then they — and half of New York City — die. Not exactly a subversion, but certainly tragic. However, his sacrifice and dedication to helping others inspires his son to take up both their mantles and become the second Rorschach.
    • Rorschach describes the Comedian as being someone who understood the pointlessness of life and never let that fact stop him from trying to make it better. In truth, the Comedian was a Practically Joker Straw Nihilist who felt that life being meaningless made morality meaningless as well and gave him an excuse to do whatever he wanted, including raping and murdering people.
  • The Internship: Cooper of all people begins developing into this halfway through Volume 3. Having yet another argument with River over them being so generous to him, River inadvertently ends up spilling about their own issues. As it turns out, like Cooper, they've had problems tied to their own sexuality, and part of why they're trying to connect with him is because they can empathize with him on being an outcast and a loner. In other words, River's not as cheery or perfect as they let on. Coop then gives himself a moment to laugh, realizing that A), he's not as alone in the world or in struggling as he previously believed, and B), he's found someone who, in his words, is "as messed up as I am". This finally causes Cooper to start becoming self-aware about his situation. He ends up relating a bit to River about his dad, who was the root cause of most of his issues. He realizes, for the first time, that his dad's sad ending doesn't have to be his own. He says that, in the end, even if life is "bullshitting to the grave", he at least wants to enjoy his life and improve himself. River outright calls him a nihilist as a result of this. It turns out to be major Character Development for Coop, as he starts to think positively for the first time and start taking decisive steps towards taking control of his life.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one particular strip of Calvin and Hobbes, the duo is relaxing under a tree when Calvin starts questioning if there is no afterlife. Hobbes simply shrugs, and comfortably says he'll take it anyway. In another strip he says fall is his favorite season because it reminds him that the fleetingness of life is what makes it beautiful.
  • Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, in Phoebe and Her Unicorn, cheerfully notes that the universe is devoid of all meaning or purpose. But it's okay, because not only is she a fabulous unicorn, she also has sparkles.

    Fan Works 
  • Better Bones AU: Spottedleaf has an attitude that nothing in life matters and everyone will all die and be forgotten anyway, but it's still important for her to save lives in her job as cleric and earn that little bit more time for other cats.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Insomniac," the sardonic Mittens eventually discovers what has been behind her chain of nightmares, thanks primarily to having just watched Hannah and Her Sisters. Taking a cue from the character of Mickey from the film, she accepts that she won't learn the answers to life's biggest questions of existence, but decides to accept this, enjoying the rest of her days best she can and not worrying about it.
  • Child of the Storm has Harry Thorson eventually become this in the sequel, after a brutal Trauma Conga Line led to a period as a bitter Knight in Sour Armor, leading him to decide that there is no mercy or justice in the universe... so he had best create some. He ends up a Knight In Shining Armour once more — albeit a sarcastic, pragmatic one.
  • Harry himself, in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. He knows that there is no God or meaning to the universe, so he decided to become God, and... optimize things. This is also the fundamental difference between him and this 'verse's Voldemort. Voldemort saw an uncaring world and said "Why not be evil?" Harry saw an uncaring world and said "Why not be good?"
  • In Immortality Syndrome, Blossom and Buttercup become Straw Nihilists after they die and are brought back to life. Once it happens to Bubbles though, she decides that yes, there is pain and suffering in the world, but that's all the more reason to spread love and joy rather than kill everything to end it all.
  • Several loopers in The Infinite Loops become this. Throughout all their repeats, even through some awful Crapsack World versions of their homes or other loops, they always want to try to make things better. The ponies are the best example, to the point where they have openly declared their loop a sanctuary for all other loopers to recover.
  • Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus: Kaito Goshikida states that there are terrible things, but that shouldn't mean that people wait till things lighten up before they be happy.
  • The protagonist of May The Future Be Bright: Kiran's Story behaves this way. The only reason he's nice is because Good Feels Good, he does not believe evil and good actually exist.
  • Kyoji Nakamura in The PreDespair Kids explains this as his mindset in a conversation with Mukuro Ikusaba.
    "The concepts many of us hold so dearly in our lives, such as love, peace, kindness, happiness, and justice are meaningless. They are merely ephemeral concepts manifested by our own minds. And yet, it's precisely because they're so ephemeral that I value them so much. In my vocabulary, meaningless is not synonymous with worthless. The most meaningless things in the world are, to me, the most valuable and important."
  • The Scootertrix the Abridged incarnation of Pinkie Pie also has this world view. As she is very well aware that she and everyone else exist in an abridged series, that their lives are being guided by a human written script, and they can all just be snubbed out of existence by a cease-and-desist. But despite this, while she isn't exactly cheerful about it 24/7, she does still try to make the best of her situations, while allowing the rest of pony kind to remain blissfully unaware of the nature of their existence. Best shown after Twilight forces Pinkie into revealing this to her and is entering an existential crisis. Pinkie helps calm her down. Even saying that while script guides them, their character does affect what direction the script goes. note 
  • This is the primary aesop of Sonic X: Dark Chaos. Despite the extreme Crapsack World and Jerkass Gods around them, Sonic and friends decide that helping others is the only hope to make things better.

    Films — Animation 
  • Isle of Dogs: Chief is a gruff and proud stray dog who doesn't sugarcoat the fact that life on Trash Island is terrible. In spite of this, he still encourages the other dogs in his pack to not give up and survive the island's terrible conditions.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: Emmet keeps up a chipper attitude in spite of everything becoming a Crapsack World, in stark contrast to Rex Dangervest, his future self, who became a Straw Nihilist after spending years abandoned and left to meditate on the existence of the LEGO Worlds.
  • In Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear experiences a major Heroic BSoD when he realizes that he's a toy and not a real space ranger. This trope comes into play when he accepts who he really is and what he can do.
    Woody: Look... over in that house is a kid who thinks you are the greatest, and it's not because you're a Space Ranger, pal. It's because you're a toy. You are his toy!
    Buzz: But why would Andy want me?
    Woody: Why wouldn't Andy want you? Look at you! You're a Buzz Lightyear! Any other toy would give up his moving parts just to be you. You've got wings! You glow in the dark! You talk! Your helmet does that... that... that "whoosh" thing! You are a cool toy! As a matter of fact, you're too cool. I mean—I mean, what chance does a toy like me have against a Buzz Lightyear action figure? ...Why would Andy ever want to play with me, when he's got you?
    (Buzz contemplates the "ANDY" marking on the sole of his shoe, and becomes resolute)
    Buzz: ...Come on, Sheriff. There's a kid over in that house who needs us. Now let's get you out of this thing!
  • Zootopia introduces ZPD Chief Bogo as a textbook example of Da Chief - cynical, short-tempered and having exactly zero patience for Naïve Newcomer Judy. However, it slowly becomes apparent that he has Hidden Depths that are in line with this trope, as well as Knight in Sour Armor. When a dismayed Judy confesses to feeling like she "broke" the city by accidentally helping ignite a new flare-up in racial tensions, he comforts her with uncharacteristic gentleness.
    Bogo: Don't give yourself so much credit, Hopps. The world has always been broken. That's why we need good you.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Niles in Palm Springs shows definite shades of this. While he's become comfortable with the fact that nothing he does has any long-term consequences, good or bad, he deliberately avoids doing anything that would hurt anyone, and makes some effort to bring people joy, knowing full well that it will all vanish when the timeline resets, because "the pain is real".
  • The Protagonist in a Woody Allen film are people who don't believe there is much more to life than misery and unhappiness, but desperately search for meaning in their existence, and/or simply find a way to enjoy themselves while they can. They may also seek to "escape" their reality, either through overactive imaginations (some of Alvy's childhood memories in Annie Hall, for instance) or more mysterious, generally unexplained Plot Devices (Midnight in Paris).
    • In Annie Hall, a number of Alvy's opinions on life and relationships reek of pessimism and nihilism, best exemplified by the film's opening lines: "There's an old joke, um... Two elderly women are at a Catskill Mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life — full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly."

      This, however, is turned around when Alvy shares another joke at the very end of the filmnote  and rationalizes that he has a reason to endure all of the absurdity and suffering "because he needs the eggs". The theme is also exemplified through Dr. Flicker's viewpoint in his talk with young Alvy and his mother, when young Alvy had concluded that nothing is important because the universe is expanding and everything in existence will fall apart.
      Dr. Flicker: It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we're here!
    • In Midnight in Paris, Gil finds his reality to be unsatisfying and his work as a Hollywood screenwriter to be worthless. He wishes to escape it all, and he does. However, he later concludes that there is no escape as life and present-day realities are always unsatisfying for everybody, and one has to live with it. The story concludes with Gil, having decided to leave his "Golden Era", finally finding meaning and joy in his own contemporary era.
    • In Stardust Memories, Sandy Bates is a director of many comedy films who started to tell more serious stories because he started finding life to be too miserable and full of suffering and nothing seemed funny to him anymore. His latest movie is about delivering a message along the lines of "No matter who you are or what you did, your life is headed for a garbage dump." He desperately searches for meaning in life, discovering that he'd find it in love and enjoyment in such, despite maintaining that everyone is just headed for the metaphorical "garbage dump".
    • In Hannah and Her Sisters, Mickey decides to kill himself, because he feels that existence is meaningless. After he bungles it, he goes to the streets, and eventually wanders into a movie theater, where a Marx Brothers film is playing. After a while, he starts enjoying the film.
      Mickey: I started to feel, how can you even think of killing yourself, I mean isn't it so stupid? Look at all the people up there on the screen, they're real funny, and what if the worst is true. What if there is no God and you only go around once and that's it. Well, ya know, don't you wanna be part of the experience? You know, what the hell it's not all a drag. And I'm thinking to myself, jeez, I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I'm never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts. And after who knows, I mean maybe there is something, nobody really knows. I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that's the best we have.
    • Play for laughs in Play It Again, Sam, Allan's philosophy is quite close from an existentialist one:
      Allan: It's quite a lovely Jackson Pollock isn't it ?
      Museum Girl: Yes it is.
      Allan: What does it say to you ?
      Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
      Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?
      Museum Girl: Committing suicide.
      Allan: What about Friday night?
  • In Avengers: Age of Ultron (directed by Joss Whedon, whose TV work also embodies this philosophy), Ultron claims humanity is doomed no matter what happens, so there is no point in protecting them. Vision admits that he agrees humanity will one day be gone — perhaps quite soon — but it's still worth delaying the inevitable in exchange for seeing the beauty they are capable of.
    A thing is not beautiful because it lasts.
  • According to Rufus in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the entire future will be based on this:
    Rufus: Be Excellent to Each Other and Party On, Dudes.
  • In Black Panther (2018), T'Challa recognizes that Kilmonger was right about the damage white people have done to black people and that Wakanda should've done something about it and that maybe it is too late to truly fix all the problems. While he doesn't completely open the doors of the country to the world, he decides to use its resources to help however he can.
  • In Collateral, Max starts the film as an idealist and a dreamer, contrasted with Straw Nihilist Vincent. Throughout the night, he's treated to a series of lectures from Vincent, arguing that life is meaningless, the world is indifferent, and death is inevitable. In the end, Max throws this back at him, telling him that, if his life is meaningless, he has nothing to lose by trying to stop Vincent.
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once: Waymond Wang, Evelyn's husband, in contrast to their overtly nihilistic daughter. Appropriately, it is embracing his philosophy of finding joy in the small things even if nothing else matters that allows Evelyn to combat Jobu Tupaki.
    Waymond: When I choose to see the good side of things, I'm not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It's how I've learned to survive through everything. I know you see yourself as a fighter. Well, I see myself as one too. This is how I fight.
  • George C. Scott's Hardboiled Detective protagonist in The Exorcist III gradually moves from pure skepticism to something more resembling this trope. He gives a great speech at the movie's climax about all the horrible things in the world, which he does his best to fight.
    This I believe in... I believe in death. I believe in disease. I believe in injustice and inhumanity, torture and anger and hate. I believe in murder. I believe in pain. I believe in cruelty and infidelity. I believe in slime and stink and every crawling, putrid thing, every possible ugliness and corruption, you son of a bitch. I believe... in you.
  • In Falling Down, Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist Martin Prendergast was this. He was a foil to Villain Protagonist Bill Foster, as both were middle-aged has-beens who lost loved ones and were betrayed by the system they served. While Bill experienced Madden Into Misanthropy, Prendergast focuses on the greater good he provides and persevered.
    Bill: I help to protect America. You should be rewarded for that. Instead, they give it to the plastic surgeon. They lied to me.
    Martin: Is that what this is about? You're angry because you got lied to? Is that why my dinner's drying out in the oven? They lie to everybody. They lie to the fish! That doesn't give you any right to do what you did today. The only thing that makes you special is that little girl. Now, let's go.
  • Phil in Groundhog Day, eventually. Nothing seems to keep the day from repeating, not even suicide, so he might as well help out.
  • Lucky is about an old man struggling to cope with his own mortality. At the end, he gives a long monologue about the inevitability of death and the impermanence (and seeming futility) of life, and then, when asked what we can do with that, he replies: "You smile."
  • In The Martian, Mark Watney has this ideology through and through. He admits that the odds of him surviving are extremely low and that the universe will constantly find ways to screw with him, yet despite setbacks or bad luck, he never throws up his hands and gives in, and states that should he die, it will be in service to a great cause, leaving him with no regrets.
    • In the extended edition, when the rocket carrying supplies that would allow him to survive explodes, he reacts to the news by running the experiments that were cut short by the mission abort. He even finds a way to send what little data he can send to NASA, making it clear that he's not going to spend his remaining time doing nothing.
  • In the famous final scene of Monty Python's Life of Brian, the cast cheerfully sings about the importance of always looking on the bright side of life even in our super-shitty world. While being crucified.
    Life's a piece of shit
    When you look at it
    Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
    You'll see it's all a show,
    Keep 'em laughing as you go.
    Just remember that the last laugh is on you.
  • Morgan Freeman's Detective Somerset becomes this by the end of Se7en, exemplified by his final line (an Ernest Hemingway quote):
    "'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for'... I agree with the second part."
  • In The Seventh Seal, Block ultimately becomes this. He can't find God or any meaning in life, so his final quest is to perform some meaningful act to validate his life. He attempts to distract Death to let Mia and Jof and their young child escape alive by overturning the game of chess that could result in his death. Death simply resets the pieces, saying he is glad that Block got some joy out of the altruistic gesture, but also implying that it changed nothing.
  • In Tenet, Neil's experiences with time travel has left him a fatalistic outlook that most, if not all, things are predestined. Despite that, he inverts the usual resulting beliefs by instead deciding that this means anything he does is worthwhile, since it must happen.
    "What's happened's happened. Which is an expression of faith in the mechanics of the world. It's not an excuse to do nothing."
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Despite Steve's more overt cynicism, at the end of the day he falls squarely here. When confronted with the idea that Humans Are Bastards he doesn't deny it, instead he concludes that that doesn't change the fact that humanity is still worth saving. It's his Heroic Sacrifice that inspires Diana to adopt a similar mindset.
  • In The Zero Theorem, the son of management, Bob, believes in the Zero Theorem, the idea that everything ultimately adds up to nothing (meaning life is ultimately without any actual higer meaning) but sees it as a source of joy and reassurance opposed to Qohen who finds this idea depressing:
    Qohen: How would anyone believes such a horrible thing?
    Bob: What's so horrible? I believe it. Nothing's perfect, nothing lasts forever, there's nothing to worry about!
    • But as he says so himself, he's young enough to believe anything, even that it might be wrong.

  • Anargrin, the main character of the The Angaran Chronicles is this incarnate, as well as many of his colleagues in the Hunters. They find purpose by opposing the repressive theocratic regime of the continent of Angara.
  • This is the eventual moral outlook of Roger from The Behemoth.
  • The titular Conan the Barbarian expressed this sentiment during a monologue in the short story Queen of the Black Coast. Conan admits that the gods exist in his world, but doesn't have much interest in praying to any of them. Conan also admits, however, that he neither knows nor cares what will happen to him when he dies. In any case, while Conan is alive, he will live life to its fullest.
    Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.
  • Many Discworld books have this theme, especially ones focusing on Death and Sam Vimes, which reflects Terry Pratchett's Real Life views.
    • This is a significant plot point in Hogfather: Death is convinced that the real reason for concepts like the Hogfather (and the reason the Auditors want to destroy them) is training - if you learn to believe in the little lies, you can believe in the big ones, like, for example, justice or mercy. Susan affirms her belief in the necessity for this belief, and, Death agrees:
      Death: You need to believe in things that aren't true; how else can they become?
    • Lord Vetinari (the most competent and benevolent tyrant Ankh-Morpork could ever hope for) might well be one, as he repeatedly gives cynical speeches about the inherent evil/stupidity of people, yet the very first time he gives such a speech (at the end of Guards! Guards!) Vimes immediately points out that he still bothers to get out of bed in the morning. Vetinari indirectly explains this later (much later) on in Unseen Academicals, when, while extremely drunk, he explains to Ridcully and Henry (formerly the UU's Dean) that he realised the true nature of the universe's cold cruelty when he was travelling in Uberwald as a young man and saw a mother otter drag a female salmon out of the river and her pups feasted on the unborn salmon roe. "Mother and child, feasting on mother and child." He then goes on to add that he realised that if there was a supreme creator, it was the duty of every sentient being to become their moral superior.
    • Stated most succinctly by Brutha in Small Gods. When Om points out that they'll all be dead in a hundred years, he replies: "But here and now, we are alive!"
    • The golem Dorfl, the first of his kind to gain autonomy, decides that the only sane response to being responsible for one's actions is to only take actions you can be proud of.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Sir Sanya is an atheist (later an agnostic), despite being a former Knight of the Blackened Denarius (host of a Fallen Angel) and a current Knight of the Cross. He points out on more than one occasion that the Archangel Michael — who met him and gave him his sword — and other Angels could quite easily just be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, the powers of the swords simply similarly advanced technology. However, as he also points out, it is worthy work (that meets his Trotskyite principles of serving the community): fighting evil and protecting those who cannot protect themselves. And to him, that is ultimately all that matters.
    • Harry Dresden is the Knight in Sour Armor whose whole life is a Trauma Conga Line and who is rarely short of a lengthy description of just how much the world sucks. This is the reason why he always does the right thing. His inner monologue from Ghost Story, in the wake of seeing another bystander mauled by a supernatural nasty, sums it up nicely.
      No, it wasn't. But the world wasn't a fair place, was it? And I had more reason to know it than most people twice my age. The world wasn't nice, and it wasn't fair. People who didn't deserve it suffered and died every single day.
      So what? So somebody ought to do something about it.
  • Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain: What Emperor Mollusk and the Pluvian Philosopher Kings agree on is that while entropy will always win out in the end, it's one's strive to one day overcome it that is the prime initiative of sentient life. A universe without life would be entirely pointless, in contrast to a universe with life being mostly pointless. So the idea that he would be able to create a Quantum Certainty Generator, a machine that would allow anyone to control all probability in the universe in spite of entropy, should clue you in that the Council of Ego actually didn't build a Quantum Certainty Generator under Mollusk's instruction.
  • The narrator of Ted Chiang's short story "Exhalation" is watching his universe wind down to equilibrium. Rather than despair, he implores future explorers to "contemplate the marvel that is existence and rejoice that you are able to do so. I feel I have the right to tell you this because, as I am inscribing these words, I am doing the same."
  • Christine, the narrator of the novel Faction Paradox novel Dead Romance thinks like this when she's dismissing one of her friend's uber-depressing, Wangsty poetry:
    Christine: What I'm getting at is that in a pointless, empty universe a good time is as meaningless as a bad time, so you might as well slap on a smile and get on with your life.
  • In John Barth's The Floating Opera, the protagonist, Todd Andrews, frequently contemplates suicide, because of the lack of any values to believe in. He has a piece of paper on which he writes his reasoning, and it ends with "There's no final reason for living." At the end, he changes enough to think that there might be non-final reasons to live for. He changes his writing to say, "There's no final reason for living (or suicide)."
  • The books of His Dark Materials end up coming around to this theme, more or less, with a bit of a Fantastic Aesop courtesy of Dust. But it's former nun Mary Malone who first reaches the conclusion: that though once she felt that no God meant no purpose to the world, the need to keep Dust alive, that is, wisdom, curiosity, education, and kindness, gives the worlds purpose. In other words, "There is now!"
  • The plot arc of the first two Hitchhiker's books is a large argument for this. '42' is supposedly the Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. However, '42' is just a random number Douglas Adams chose, a placeholder for the idea of 'meaninglessness', but at the same time is so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh and have fun with it. The characters spend the best part of the series searching for some kind of meaning to the madness, but in the end realize that the universe is random and silly, like the number '42'.
  • The short story "The Illusionless Man & the Visionary Maid", tells about two polar opposites falling in love. One, the titular "Illusionless Man" Henry is a cynical man with no dreams or hopes who claims to see life for what it truly is, the other, Lorabelle "The Visionary Maid" is an overly enthusiastic woman who get happy and dreamy about nearly everything and everyone. Her hopeful nature contrasts with his insensitive personality, as he continuously claims to not love her. As the years pass, both of their stereotypical life views are deconstructed: Lorabelle takes several lovers who she idealizes before having her illusions shattered and Henry realizes that he does love her, while all their hopes end up in a disappointment. Eventually their relationship degrades to the point where the man briefly contemplates killing her before having an epiphany and telling her for the first time that he loves her despite admitting at the time that love is an illusion. Ultimately the story's Aesop seems to be that while things like love, hope and dreams are human illusions that won't necessarily make you happy because you indulge in them, people ought to roll with them because "they're all there is", the story concluding with the two titular characters dying (not happy) but at peace with themselves.
  • Imperial Radch: Breq gives a speech to this effect in Ancillary Mercy.
    Ekalu: And so what's the point, sir? What's the point of talking about training and promotions as though it's all going to just go on like it always has?
    Breq: What's the point of anything?
    Ekalu: Sir?
    Breq: In a thousand years, Lieutenant, nothing you care about will matter. Not even to you — you'll be dead. So will I, and no one alive will care. Maybe — just maybe — someone will remember our names. More likely those names will be engraved on some dusty memorial pin at the bottom of an old box no one ever opens. And that thousand years will come, and another and another, to the end of the universe. Think of all the gries and tragedies, and yes, the triumphs, buried in the past, millions of years of it. Everything for the people who lived them. Nothing now.
    Ekalu: I'll have to remember, sir, if I'm ever feeling down, that you know how to cheer me right up.
    Breq: The point is, there is no point. Choose your own.
  • The title character of Jacques the Fatalist is (obviously) The Fatalist, and since he believes everything that happens is preordained, he appreciates the good things and reacts with stoicism toward the bad ones.
  • Attila József: "Why should I be honorable? I'll be laid out regardless! Why shouldn't I be honorable? I'll be laid out regardless." ("Miért legyek én tisztességes? Kiterítenek úgyis! Miért ne legyek tisztességes? Kiterítenek úgyis.")
  • Ralph, Piggy and Simon in Lord of the Flies. The primary theme of the novel is the regression of humans when removed from the rules and order of society. Ralph and Piggy ruminate on the fact that structure and meaning of the "real world" doesn't apply to their island, but they still commit themselves to maintaining order and peace. All the others, without anything to control them, quickly fall into anarchy and violence.
  • In contrast to The Film of the Book, at one point in The Martian, Mark Watney gets frustrated and gives up once: when the airlock explodes and sends him flying into a seemingly impossible to survive situation, he rages against the circumstances and decides that he's just going to give up and die. A few minutes later, his next audio log admits that he's had his moment, and now it's time to get back to work. At no point does he ever give in to despair or accept that he's going to die, though he does plan for it.
  • This is the Central Theme of most of Cormac McCarthy's novels: no matter the time or place, absolutely monstrous evil has always existed, and will always exist. In the midst of an unrelenting cold and dark world, there will still be those who will carry the fire.
  • Monk & Robot: Mosscap's view on the world. The universe is chaotic, random, and ultimately meaningless, which is exactly why life and consciousness is a gift to be cherished; the odds were so stacked against it happening that simply being alive is a reason for joy.
  • The Overstory has Douglas Pavlicek, a Neitzsche fan who will go on about the pointlessness of humanity's endeavors, who also stands out as one of the most idealistic and determined to do good in the world out of a cast full of characters like that.
  • The Perfect Run: Almost everyone dismisses Ryan as an immature jackass, and his actual friends are worried that he might be literally insane. The truth is that his time-looping ability means that he knows there is no point to the universe, so he may as well have fun and help people out. This revelation came to him after he died of old age, which he had assumed would kill him permanently, and he just restored right back to his old save point.
    Ryan: I'm not insane, I just get the joke.
  • An oft-paraphrased passage from Loren C. Eiseley's "The Star Thrower" illustrates this trope and its overlaps with Small Steps Hero and/or Determined Defeatist:
    While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, "It makes a difference for this one." I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.
  • The Star Wars Legends novel Dark Rendezvous actually depicts the wise, eight-hundred-something-year-old Yoda in this light. Specifically, when a Padawan expresses angst regarding Asajj Ventress's nihilistic philosophy, Yoda claims, "Right she is!"... then softens to "Maybe," and says that he's gone back and forth on whether or not there's a higher meaning and concluded that one should live their life to the fullest anyway. The point where he says, "suppose there is no Force" sounds ridiculous on the face of it, considering that this is strong-in-the-Force Jedi Master Yoda talking — but also sounds suspiciously like an author's views on the implications of whether or not God exists, with "the Force" substituted for God. Or it could be that he means that "The Force" is a false concept, like calling lightsabers Light and blasters Dark.
    Yoda: Grief in the galaxy, is there? Oh, yes. Oceans of it. Worlds. And darkness? [points to a star map] There you see: darkness, darkness everywhere, and a few stars. A few points of light. If no plan there is, no fate, no destiny, no providence, no Force: then what is left? Nothing but our choices, hmm? Asajj eats the darkness, and the darkness eats her back. Do that if you wish, Whie. Do that if you wish. To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night, Padawan: but choose!
    • This also shows up in Matt Stover's Star Wars Legends works, perhaps most concisely at the end of his novelization of Revenge of the Sith.
      The dark is generous and it is patient and it always wins — but in the heart of its strength lies its weakness: one lone candle is enough to hold it back.
      Love is more than a candle.
      Love can ignite the stars.
  • The Knights Radiant in The Stormlight Archive. Their philosophy centers around the idea that since everyone dies eventually what matters is not your fate, but how you got there. Hence what they call their First Ideal:
  • Meursault, the protagonist of The Stranger. An incarnation of the philosophy of the Absurd, Meursault has concluded during his time as a student (precisely when he dropped his studies) that life was ultimately futile, as everyone has to die at some point or another. As such, Meursault considers everything as pointless and doesn't care about his image, his relationships or love, and always speaks his mind truly. While the Prosecutor and the Chaplain, opposing Meursault, find the idea of a completely meaningless and final life soul-destroying, Meursault really doesn't mind and is perfectly content to live through his daily and pointless routine, enjoying life's sensual pleasures as they come, but not really yearning for them. Once imprisoned and deprived of all his immediate pleasures (swimming in the sea, lying on the sand, women, smoking cigarettes, etc) and his freedom, Meursault quickly learn to adapt and be happy with this life as well, occupying his time between sleeping and minutely re-examining his memories. At the end of the novel, having spent his lasts weeks fearing for his near execution, Meursault (after his confrontation with the Chaplain) finally makes peace with his death and the insignificance of human existence and ceasing to hope for another life, concludes that he is happy with his life and realizes that he always has been so. If this guy isn't the best example of an Optimistic Nihilist...
    Meursault: I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I'd been happy, and that I was happy still.
  • Lestat de Lioncourt from The Vampire Chronicles. Lestat essentially summarizes this philosophy when he says he can accept the lack of God, Satan, or eternal rewards or punishments, but not the idea that acts of human kindness lack value.
  • Thom Merrilin from The Wheel of Time quotes an old poem when musing on his journey thus far:
    We can't go back, Mat. The Wheel has turned, for better or worse. And it will keep turning, as lights die and forests dim, storms call and skies break. Turn it will. The Wheel is not hope, and the Wheel does not care, the Wheel simply is. But so long as it turns, folk may hope, folk may care. For with light that fades, another will eventually grow, and each storm that rages must eventually die. As long as the Wheel turns. As long is it turns....
  • Geralt of Rivia, from The Witcher, does not believe in the gods (although he once came face to face with a Physical God), does not believe in fate (although fate has intervened several times in his life) and is convinced that in the end, he will die in a violent and lonely way. Yet he continues to kill dangerous creatures (if only for money), he remains faithful to his friends, and remains true to his principles and his own code, which prevents him from killing harmless or intelligent creatures.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Contestant Nightbirde from Season 16 of America's Got Talent had cancer with a 2% chance of survival. Despite this, she was still hoping to make a difference and told Simon Cowell that you shouldn't wait until life stops being tough before you choose to be happy. Tragically, she would die on February 2022.
  • From Babylon 5 we have Ranger Marcus Cole, who is always eager to annoy the relatively straight-laced military characters of the show with his input:
    Cole: I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, "wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?" So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.
  • Thanks to Character Development, the once callous and self-serving Jeff Winger has elements of this by the end of Season 3 of Community.
    • Pierce's mother leaves him a tape espousing this philosophy before she dies
      Mrs. Hawthorn: Life is only worth a damn because it's short. It's designed to be used, consumed, spent, lived, felt. We're supposed to fill it with every mistake and miracle we can manage.
  • The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in Doctor Who. By the time this incarnation of the Doctor emerges, he has lived through such horrors as the Last Great Time War and the siege of Trenzalore (which lasted about 1,000 years), on top of the general misery inherent to a functional immortal who no longer has a family or peers to work as a support network, whose mortal companions will inevitably leave him one way or another — but without whom he cannot hold himself to his chosen mission to be a healer who travels space and time helping others. In his debut story "Deep Breath" he tells the Monster of the Week that he no longer expects to "reach the Promised Land" after all the mistakes and sins he's made, in "The Zygon Inversion" he laments his Time War atrocities, and in "Face the Raven" (after betrayal and the death of his beloved Clara Oswald break him utterly) says "I was lost a long time ago." But while his suffering sometimes results in rash decisions and unhappy fallout — even a brief stint as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds at the end of Series 9 when the events of "Face the Raven" are compounded by horrifying torture and he is Driven to Madness, with Mind Rape needed to fully bring him back to his best self — it also has convinced him that he no longer has anything to lose. He is that much more determined to be the man who saves people and atone for the mistakes he's made, giving him deeper empathy and compassion to allies and enemies alike. Post-Series 9, he is able to apply the lessons he learned from his painful stint as an Anti-Villain to finally be the lover his previous selves were not to long-suffering "sweetie" River Song, and manages to earn a happy ending in the process. And in "The Doctor Falls" at the end of Series 10, facing what he knows is probably his Final Battle, he gives a "No More Holding Back" Speech wherein he states that he's going to fight the Cybermen even if it kills him, even if his desperate gamble to save the under siege villagers is utterly hopeless, because it's simply what he does.
    The Doctor: Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Syrio Forel:
      Forel: There is only one god, and His name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: "Not today."
    • Daenerys strives to be a fair and just ruler in a world that laughs at the very notion. Her principles and empathy for the downtrodden make her malleable and vengeful to those who harm her "children", and she is in pursuit of a high ideal in a world that only respects strength and cruelty, and those are only temporary shore-ups of authority. Therefore, although from a family renowned as conquerors and although a good portion of the city she just escaped from would like nothing more than to see her dead, she still wants to immediately head back because doing good is in her blood and her people need her.
  • The Good Place: This becomes a key plot point midway through Season 3. The humans have discovered the true nature of the afterlife — meaning their motivation is tainted, and it's impossible to selflessly earn enough points to make it into the Good Place. They are destined for the Bad Place, and there's nothing any of them can do about it. Michael and Janet write a manifesto in the hopes that someone will be inspired to change the afterlife system after they're gone, while Eleanor convinces everyone that even if they can't make it into the Good Place, they can help other people get there.
  • Dave Lister from Red Dwarf is a surprisingly touching example, he's an atheist (despite becoming a god for an entire race of cat people and actually meeting Jesus or least someone he thought was Jesus Christ) and doesn't believe in a larger plan of the universe, yet despite being more or less alone in deep space and for most of the series being the last human alive... Lister always finds a reason to push on and be chipper about things. He can even enhearten those who've given up completely as beautifully shown in the Red Dwarf: The Promised Land when Rimmer was at a Despair Event Horizon over the fact he's not really alive or "real" as a Hologram and is prepared to just let his light bee drain out.
    Rimmer: I'm pointless.
    Lister: No you're not. You know what I'll tell you the point of you. A moon can not make light, right? And yet there is such a thing as moonlight.
    Rimmer: It's light reflected from a moon to a sun.
    Lister: Yeah but the sun can't make moonlight without a moon, and the moon can't make moonlight without the sun, so who's making the moonlight?
    Rimmer: They both are.
    Lister Which means even though a moon can't make moonlight, moonlight exists, like you Smeghead.
    [Lister leaves Starbug's cockpit and Rimmer plugs himself back in.]
  • House is this, in his own way. As another character points out, he may hate his life, but at least he enjoys hating life.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Sara Lance has suffered a lot over the course of the Arrowverse, losing family and friends, suffering the life style of the League of Assassins, even dying and violently coming back. Despite this, however, the most she ever suffers is the occasional Heroic BSoD, never permanently sinking despair. This is probably best shown in the penultimate episode of Season 5, where the Fates trap the Legends in TV shows based on their deepest desires. While several of the others are tempted to just give up, Sara refuses to abandon a sometimes hard life for the sake of an easy fantasy, choosing to keep fighting the good fight.
    "Life is beautiful and terrible all at the same time. If we're only living part of it, then we're not living at all."
  • Implied by Oma Desala in Stargate SG-1.
    Oma Desala: The Universe is so vast, and we are so small, there is only truly one thing we can control; whether we are good or evil.
  • Inherent in Star Trek. The Federation — or at the very least, Earth — is a whole society of Anti-Nihilists. Since there is no scarcity, the acquisition of wealth is pointless.note  Since they've Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions, religion is irrelevant. And since the universe is big enough for everybody, there's no reason to conquer or force people to serve you. Life is focused on individual accomplishment and/or happiness. People go out and find their own purpose — whether that might be exploring the galaxy, making great scientific discoveries, or just starting a farming colony.
  • Dean Winchester of Supernatural to some extent, at least up until Episode 2 of Season 4.
    • He becomes one again in Season 15, after he recovers from the shock of learning how badly Chuck has been manipulating the Winchesters.
  • Rust Cohle in True Detective has a deeply nihilistic and pessimistic outlook on life, and thinks that perhaps it would be best if the human race voluntarily extinguished itself. However, he still works as a detective. At the end of the series he looks at the stars, and realizes that once, it was all dark.
  • Inherent to all of Joss Whedon's work.
    • Firefly:
      • Mal fought for freedom and honor in The War Of Government Aggression. He lost, and has come to terms with that. But at the same time, he refuses to be a slave or a thug — even when the entire 'Verse insists that he has to obey a higher authority or act against his principles to survive, he remains Captain Malcolm Reynolds. And he aims to misbehave.
      • Simon also has something of a tendency toward this. He specifically states that acting morally means even more out in the black without an authority to impose it.
      • River recognizes that all meaning is "imbued" and thus there really is no "meaning" to begin with. River has a surprisingly positive outlook on life, and sees things in a very innocent way (i.e. the loaded gun everyone was freaking out about took the form of a harmless stick in her mind). "Objects in Space" is actually an exploration of these two character types, juxtaposing River against Jubal Early, who's definitely a Straw Nihilist. Faced with the same realization as River, Jubal's response was to become a complete psychopath who tortured his puppy.
    • Angel:
      • Angel's defining moment in Season 2 is the revelation that life has no purpose or meaning, thus making even the tiniest act of kindness an end in itself. He carries this philosophy throughout the rest of the show, and it plays heavily into all of his actions. One could argue that it's the show's defining theme, and the finale is all about this. Angel's Koan:
        If nothing that we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.
      • Wesley outright states the existential nature of the character Angel (as well as the series itself) when he says:
        Wesley: There is a design Angel, hidden in the chaos as it might be. But it's there. And you have your place in it.
      • Contrary to Angel, his son Connor also encounters an existential crisis, but he acts as a mirror image to his father by going the opposite route and becoming a Straw Nihilist.

  • In The Tarot Cafe, immortals tend to find themselves jaded and disgusted with life. Pamela proves herself to be this trope when she talks to Belus (actually the very crazed and angry demon Bellial) at the end of the series.
    Pamela: It took me a long time to accept this abnormal life of mine... but going through so much made me realize that it's not how long one lives that's important... it's how one lives. I choose to live happily.

  • Van der Graaf Generator tackles the subject with "Lemmings"; the first half dealing with the meaningless of life, and the second concluding that ending it all won't fix anything.
    • They also tackle this subject more directly in "A Place to Survive", with the music affirming the hardships and futility of life but but encouraging the listener to never give up.
  • This trope is prevalent in the album Lateralus by tool. The lyrics grapple with themes of alienation, helplessness, and disgust at the state of the world, but ultimately come to the conclusion that being bitter won't make things any better and that it's up to everyone to choose what makes their life meaningful.
  • Misery Index addresses this with "Gallows Humor" and "The Weakener": while falling into apathy and nihilism as a coping mechanism to deal with the fact that the world is full of awful things and horrible people is very easy to do, those horrors won't care about your lackadaisical, "so it goes" attitude when they're at your doorstep, and furthermore, the infectious quality of those attitudes is extremely harmful when something terrible is rising before your eyes and the people who see it for what it is are drowned out by the people who have chosen not to care. The essential gist of the two songs is that while nihilism is a very attractive way to deal with the fact that the world sucks, it's also very, very dangerous.
  • Within Temptation's "Covered by Roses" addresses the fragility of human love:
    Covered by roses
    When this dance is over
    We all know all beauty will die.
    The choirs have awoken
    Left no words unspoken
    Remember you as long as I can
    Hold you in my arms all night
    And spill the wine until the end
    We all have our place in time,
    Need to live every moment
    • "Never-Ending Story" is similar, addressing how nothing lasts forever and we'll all be forgotten eventually...but that doesn't make life any less meaningful.
      We'll all be forgotten, there's no endless fame
      But everything we do, it's never in vain
  • The song "Matches" by Sifu Hotman, featured on Welcome To Nightvale address this kind of mentality, and about how humanity is capable of truly awe-inspiring things, regardless of there being no greater purpose in life.
    The reason I'm not a nihilist
    Is someday I wanna live like they do in Star Trek
  • Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra — "Kiss The Sky" has this philosophy too, specially the chorus
    Too late to keep the world from dying
    It's not too late to spread the love you have
  • "Save Your Serpent...---..." by Ego Likeness encourages this attitude:
    Build no temple
    Just remember
    What you came from
    Who you are
    And you're owed nothing
    Just feel lucky
    To leave a trace of who you are.
  • "Kill Your Heroes" from Awolnation is a tract for this philosophy.
  • "A Song About an Anglerfish" by Hank Green is about a man who realised that the deep sea anglerfish is happy despite having no reason to be happy, and is trying to convince himself to also be happy despite having no reason to be happy.
    For years this rule has kept me out of hopeless despair
    You simply do not feel what is always there
    I ask my brain to entertain that pain is the same
    That if I feel it all the time, can you really call it pain?
  • The title track from Father John Misty's album Pure Comedy presents a heavily cynical and nihilistic view of humanity, society and life in general before ending on a note of optimism and companionship.
    Oh comedy, oh it's like something that a madman would conceive!
    The only thing that seems to make them feel alive
    Is the struggle to survive
    But the only thing that they request
    Is something to numb the pain with
    Until there's nothing human left
    Just random matter suspended in the dark
    I hate to say it, but each other's all we've got
  • "Land of Confusion" by Genesis describes a Crapsack World; however, the chorus says:
    This is the world we live in
    And these are the hands we're given
    Use them and let's start trying
    To make it a place worth living in
  • Delain:
    • In "The Tragedy Of The Commons" and "Danse Macabre", the narrator talks about the futility of their efforts and the inevitability of death but decides to live and fight.
    • In "Masters of Destiny", the narrator suspects that the higher powers are playing her, then decides to make her own choices anyway.
    • "To Live Is To Die" says life is short, urges the listener to be kind and asks, "Tell me how you'll fill the void / Screaming sorrow or screaming joy?"
  • "Dance In The Graveyards" by Delta Rae states that We All Die Someday, but it won't stop us from dancing in joy before or after we die.
  • In "Is there all there is" Peggy insists if that's all there is, 'lets break out the booze in have a ball and keep on dancing.'
  • Seems to be part of the meaning of "No Promises" by Icehouse: even though life might give you things like like gold and gems one moment, nothing is certain, and you have to make sense of things yourself.
  • The old nursey-rhyme "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, Merrily, Merrily. Life is but a dream." seems to deliberately invoke this trope, as it's saying "life is meaningless, but it can still be fun."
  • The boygenius song "Satanist":
    Will you be a nihilist with me?
    If nothin' matters - man, that's a relief
    Solomon had a point when he wrote Ecclesiastes:
    If nothing can be known, then stupidity is holy
    If the void becomes a bore, we'll treat ourselves to some self-belief
  • "No One Lives Forever" by Oingo Boingo is all about this trope.
    No one beats him at his game
    For very long but just the same
    Who cares there's no place safe to hide
    Nowhere to run no time to cry
    So celebrate why you still can
    Cause any second it may end
    And when it's all been said and done
    Better that you had some fun
    Instead of hiding in a shell
    Why make your life a living hell?
    Have a toast, down the cup
    Drink to bones that turn to dust
    No one, no one, no one...
    No one lives forever!

    Myths & Religion 
  • What we know of Aztec Philosophy seems to have centered around the concept of "unstable ground". The world is an inherently chaotic place full of destruction and unpredictability... so it is humanity's right to carve itself a piece of order.
  • Norse Mythology has a variation as its Central Theme. The mythology teaches that the gods are in constant battle to keep the universe intact. They all know it's doomed, yet continues to fight and are going to continue through Ragnarök until they have died. It's better to try to win even if futile, than simply surrendering. Moreover, some prophecies of Ragnarök (Depending on the Writer) claim that although civilization will collapse and the vast majority of humans and gods will die, the very fact that they fought to exist will allow some kind of new cosmos to be rebuilt from the wreckage. For this reason, C. S. Lewis considered Norse religion the noblest form of paganism, and wrote that if God told us he was dying, it was better to die nobly with him than to join the forces killing him and "win." Similarly, the Poetic Edda states: "Cattle die and kinsmen die, thyself too soon must die, but one thing never, I ween, will die — fair fame of one who has earned." Though the Norse believed in several afterlives, they did not consider the deeds done in life as the key to a certain afterlife like Valhalla, but the manner of death. Instead they spoke for giving oneself a good reputation because that was the only thing that would be left of them in this world.
  • King Solomon, traditionally considered the writer of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, plays with this trope. Although the book does reference common spiritual elements like God Himself, eternity, and final judgement, the subjects of the book, life and everything on Earth, are treated as "vanity" or "vapor" or "a striving after wind." The book doesn't shy away from detailing the futility of human life or the acts of humanity as a whole, noting that the good can suffer, the wicked can prosper, pleasures fade and everyone dies. God's plans are also referenced, but noted to be inexplicable to man. However, it also emphasizes that the joy to be found in various aspects of life and doing good makes life worth living.
    What value, then, can the man of affairs get from what he earns? I have observed the business that God gave man to be concerned with: He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts eternity in their mind, but without man ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that God brings to pass. Thus I realized that the only worthwhile thing there is for them is to enjoy themselves and do what is good in their lifetime; also, that whenever a man does eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all his wealth, it is a gift of God.
  • Nietzsche himself considered Jesus Christ to be the first Übermensch, having said "the last Christian died on the Cross." While he dismissed mainstream Christianity as conducive to "slave morality", he admired Jesus for taking it upon Himself to be a source of objective morality and radically changing the views of society. Having performed extensive Biblical analysis through his upbringing in a family of Protestant ministers, he saw Jesus' message as an exhortation to the weak and poor to come to terms with and accept their suffering as simply a fact of the human condition rather than a fundamental injustice in order to rise above it, with the entire point of His Heroic Sacrifice being to accept our suffering Himself and teach us to forge a better future so we too can return to God's side. It's believed that in the Garden of Gethsemane, since He was without sin Jesus was forced to bear witness to every atrocity ever committed by man across time at once to make Him understand what He was going to die for, and He still chose to do so.
  • This is a core tenent of Buddhism: life is, by its very nature, full of suffering, small insatisfactions, and ultimately is a constant cycle of death and rebirth that prolongs the suffering. Despite this, most, if not all, sects of Buddhism still deeply values doing good deeds to others, and avoiding hedonistic and negative emotions, especially if you want to reach Nirvana. note 

  • Merle of The Adventure Zone: Balance summarizes his general life philosophy as being one of finding happiness and making others happy because "no one's getting out of this life alive anyways."

    Tabletop Games 
  • The more idealistic characters in Exalted. Sure enough, the world is gangbanged from all directions by undead, Wyld mutants, demons, and other awful things. The folks in charge of defending it are too busy politicking. Heaven is a sham and a scam, and the patron god of heroism is a crack addict. But — and this is a massive but — you're a hero, possessed of a power to drastically change the world. And by "hero", it's hero in an archaic Übermensch sense: you get to decide what is right or wrong, answerable only to your own conscience (or the lack thereof).
  • Eberron: Similar to Planescape's Bleak Cabal, this is also canonically the attitude of the faithful of the Blood of Vol. People of Khorvaire know for a fact that the afterlife is a dreary, gray wasteland known as Dolurrh where the best they can hope for is for their soul to slowly fade away into nothingness. The gods are unresponsive, and angels and fiends can't say whether they even exist. Despite that, the Blood of Vol teaches that life is for living and people should find meaning in creating the world they'll leave behind. Nearly every other religion's teachings have a hard time with this truth and include some idea about how their faith will let them escape Dolurrh.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Arguably, the Abzan clan, from the Plane of Tarkir. Yes, life is tough and food is scarce... but that just means it's all the more important to look after each other and what little nature exists in the desert that they live in. They prioritize family, and every family has a tree that they protect with their lives. This stems from their colors: primarily white (emphasizing community) with some green (emphasizing nature) and black (emphasizing pragmatism).
    • The more sympathetic interpretations of the Black color in general fall under this. All the other colors focus on ways to shape the world to one end or other, but Black encourages its followers to live the best lives they can in a harsh, cruel, unreasonable world that cannot be meaningfully improved or changed.
    • The Aetherborn, introduced in Kaladesh, take Black's stand on this (above) to its extreme. They are born with the knowledge that their lives are very short, and so are determined to live life to the fullest. This even extends to their deaths, as rather than holding a funeral, an Aetherborn near death will hold a party, with mandatory attendance of friends and associates.
  • Planescape:
    • The Bleak Cabal is canonically an example of this. Life is meaningless and cruel so hey, no need to add more meaningless cruelty to it by your own actions. The Bleak Cabal runs Sigil's soup kitchens and asylum, and are at a whole a rather decent bunch even if most of them are insane to one degree or another. Sure, their actions won't make any difference in the long run (but in their view, nothing does anyway), but it helps today. They may be the only example on the page that exist in the afterlife, surrounded by evidence of gods, and still hold to this philosophy. Beholding a being of divine power and acknowledging it as an empirically superior being are two different things.
    • A 2nd Edition Planewalker's Handbook described three "archetypes" for Bleakers, of which the middle one fits this trope well (and the first not at all):
      Perpetually depressed: "Nothing means anything, so why bother doing anything?"
      Perpetually cheerful: "Nothing means anything, so why not do anything?"
      Perpetually mad: "Nothing means anything, so anything means anything!"
  • Nurgle, the Chaos God of disease and despair in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 is, surprisingly enough, like this. Yes, all things will eventually die and rot, and you will most likely never achieve your dreams, but does that matter? Instead of angsting over it or spending you life trying to reach an impossible goal, you should just be happy with what you have. Nurgle loves you no matter what you do. He is the god of disease, so while he genuinely does care for you, his idea of caring involves "gifting" people with terrible diseases...
    • Diseases are made out of millions of lifeforms. Someone needs to love those, too.

  • In Avenue Q, the main character, Princeton, starts off as a fresh-out-of-college idealist searching for his purpose in life. By the end of the play, he still hasn't found it and fears he may never find out why he even exists. To comfort him, the other characters say that very few people, if any at all, find their purpose, and the best thing to do is just enjoy life as it comes, because nothing is going to last forever.
    Don't stress, relax, let life roll off your back. Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now.
  • The Book of Mormon plays with this trope. At the end, the cast concludes that Mormonism, as with all religions, most likely isn't true. However, if it spreads good morals and makes people happy, than there's no harm in believing in it anyway.
  • In Jasper in Deadland, Gretchen is perfectly aware how meaningless her "life" is, and knows that spending an eternity in Deadland with Ghost Amnesia and Afterlife Angst could easily give her an Identity Breakdown - but rather than dwell on her fate, she genuinely enjoys having a good reason to fill her existence with fun distractions. She's also much more easygoing than Jasper, even though he can still live a fulfilling life.
    Jasper: Great. Just great. I spent the whole time looking for my friend, and all you did was party.
    Gretchen: (cheerfully) Look, this is how I roll! It's what I do to keep me from going crazy!
  • Near the end of The SpongeBob Musical, SpongeBob sings that if they only have seven minutes left to live, they should make them the best seven minutes of their lives instead of arguing with eachother.

    Video Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed: "Nothing is true, everything is permitted." There is no God. There is no Devil. There are only Flawed Humans, the children of flawed Precursors. So if we wish to live in peace, prosperity and freedom, we must build a civilization that permits those things.
    Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad: ...laws arise not from divinity, but reason. I understand now that our creed does not commend us to be free — it commends us to be wise.

    Ezio Auditore da Firenze: ...merely an observation of the nature of reality: To say that nothing is true is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile, and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization. To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions, and that we must live with their consequences, whether glorious or tragic.
  • Shadowheart in Baldur's Gate III is a complicated example. She's a Cleric for a Religion of Evil worshipping the God of Darkness Shar, patron deity of Straw Nihilists everywhere with Always Chaotic Evil devotees. However, she acts as a Token Heroic Orc who in spite of this and occasional selfish behavior typically advocates for the moral and compassionate options. In order to reconcile this dichotomy between her beliefs and actions, she uses the Balance Between Good and Evil as an excuse and accuses Shar's Good Twin Selune of upsetting that balance.
  • BlazBlue: Jin Kisaragi grows into this character eventually. He was a rather extreme example of a Broken Ace, talented, handsome, and admired by many for his efforts, but due to his extremely troubled upbringing, Jin himself found no meaning or pride in any of his accomplishments and grew up to believe nothing in the world mattered except death itself. He soon realizes that the problems of the world are a lot bigger than he originally thought. He never lets go of his nihilistic views, but decides that it's better to fight against the corruption that plagues the setting than do nothing. The speech he gives sums it up.
  • Tyalie from BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm puts a neat meta spin on this. Near the end, she explains to the player that she knows she's a fictional character. She's known all along that her entire world is just a "trashy freeware game". But has she ever let that break her spirit? No. Instead, she chose to throw herself into her role with all her heart, hoping to make the experience as fun as it could possibly be for you, so that maybe — just maybe — you'll remember her when it's over. It's pretty clear that she was written this way as a direct response to the "angsty" meta-aware characters that had become popular at the time.
  • In Cultist Simulator, a Hunter, agents trying to bring the Villain Protagonist to justice, can develop the grim or idealist traits, which provide immunities to certain kinds of psychological attacks, but vulnerability to the others. Grim hunters are not impressed by the glorious lore of Lantern, but can be broken by Winter, while idealists maintain their composure in the face of Winter but are easily tempted by Lantern. A hunter who is grim and idealistic falls into this trope, and are immune to both schools of lore.
  • The Dark Souls series has traces of this outlook. The game setting is described as apocalyptic, with the world falling apart, and there being no signs of positive outcomes, no matter how much you preserve and struggle, but despite the bleak circumstances, the character carries on anyway, because in doing so, they carve meaning out of meaninglessness.
  • Death Stranding has Amelie Strand, the Extinction Entity, become into this by the end of the game. As an Apocalypse Maiden, she is destined to destroy mankind, and sees little point in prolonging this since it will eventually happen. However, Sam, and the connections he's made, causes her to change her mind and prolong as long as she can, because humanity means something to those living it.
  • Destiny 2: Emperor Calus appears to be this at first. Calus was the previous Cabal Emperor and leader before Dominus Ghaul came to power. He was deposed by Ghaul, who was aided by Caiatl, Calus' daughter. Due to Calus' popularity amongst the Cabal, Ghaul and Caiatl couldn't just execute him, instead choosing to exile him and his remaining loyalists aboard the Leviathan. Calus plunged into despair as a result, desiring only to wither away and die. The Leviathan then drifted on, until it reached what was believed to be the edge of the universe. Looking into it, Calus learned that the universe was on track to be completely erased, later revealed to be due to the actions of the Witness. This actually reunited Calus' will to live, as it convinced him that his way of living solely For Happiness was truly correct after all. and fostered in him a desire to survive to be the very last one in the universe to go out. Compared to most Destiny antagonists, Calus seemed genuinely affable and cordial with the Guardians. He also showed scorn towards the Hive, who he saw as merely hypocrites who's cruelty concealed their fear of death. However, as Calus' backstory and true motives was gradually brought to light, it's shown that Calus is a subversion of this, leaning towards being a Straw Nihilist. For one thing, he was hardly the compassionate, benevolent emperor he portrayed himself as, using the Red Legion to suppress any dissent towards his rule and being an Abusive Parent to Caiatl, meaning he's the one who turned his daughter against him in the first place. The final nail in the coffin was his conversion into a Disciple of the Witness, the being actively working to bring about the end of the universe. His true goal, as it turns out, was to aid the Witness in doing so as he believed that it would result in the birth of a new universe, one beholden to him. In other words, Calus' anti-nihilist philosophy was nothing more than a shallow excuse he used to justify his cruelty and hedonism to himself.
  • Fate/Grand Order has this as a major theme as the main characters repeatedly rebuke the Big Bad for believing that humanity's endless suffering and fleeting lives means that all of their accomplishments are meaningless if they keep suffering and cannot live to see the end result as this myopic viewpoint ignores just how far humanity has come to reach the present and everything done to enable that. By the endgame, Mash Kyrielight is on the verge of death but refuses an offer to become immortal because her struggle with her terminally short lifespan has led her to the conclusion that every moment was worth living to the very end.
    • Fergus is described as having this mindset, but it's usually overshadowed by his hedonism.
  • In Fallout 4, Nick Valentine has shades of this, especially in regard to his identity. His neural patterns are based off of a real, pre-war police detective of the same name, but he was considered a failure by the Institute and ended up in a trash pile. Meanwhile, he still has memories of the original Nick Valentine, including the murder of his fiancé Jennifer Lands. While the crime took place over 200 years earlier, he suspects the culprit, crime boss Eddie Winter, is still alive and sets out to finish him. After he does so, while he initially believes that it was just his way of tying up a lose end from the original Nick's life, the Sole Survivor can convince him that what he did was about justice. Nick concludes that, even if doing good and bringing criminals to justice is the only thing he can ever truly claim as his, he'll accept it.
  • Final Fantasy VI, this is the game's moral message juxtaposed against the antagonist Kefka who is a more traditional nihilist. At the end of the game, Kefka declares that everything lives only to die, and that most people will live lives devoid of any genuine meaning or impact on the world, then die and be forgotten one day. To him, all life is meaningless and insignificant. The party, particularly Terra, tell him it doesn't matter; the day-to-day struggles and triumphs, the love of friends and family, and the hope to improve one's lot in life, give life a meaning all their own and make it worth living.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, by the expansion Endwalker, Zenos yae Galvus has somehow managed to come out the other side of Straw Nihilist into a deconstruction of this trope: asserting that it's up to the individual to impose meaning on the meaninglessness of existence, his preferred way of doing this is to be The Unfettered Blood Knight, in a demonstration of what happens when someone espouses this kind of philosophy but finds genuine joy and fulfillment only in fighting to the death instead of lifting others up.
  • Guilty Gear:
  • Mass Effect:
    • This is the life philosophy of the geth. The usual philosophical conundrums of organics are easily answered by the geth: Why do we exist? What happens after death? For the geth, they were created to be menial labor for the quarians, and their memories are archived after "death". Since they are no longer performing their original task and have been "disowned" by their "gods", they have created their own purpose: total unity of their Mind Hive in a single giant Dyson Sphere platform (though a more accurate analogy would be a Jupiter Brain). The true geth (which Legion is from) want to do so on their own terms along technology paths they find themselves, while the heretic sect took an easier, more controlled path under the command of the Reapers.
    • Javik eventually has to face the prospect that he may outlive the chance to get revenge on the Reapers and will need a new purpose in life. Unless you suggested he use the Memory Shard. In which case he will kill himself.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Solid Snake adopts this outlook. He doubts whether or not his actions will make a difference in the long run and knows how brutal and senseless life can be, but still devotes himself to the cause of creating a more just, peaceful world by stopping the proliferation of superweapons, especially the eponymous Humongous Mecha.
    • Snake's predecessor, Big Boss, once had a very similar philosophy, but became a Well-Intentioned Extremist and one of the series' main antagonists when he took romantic notions of being a soldier too far, though it's hard to blame him for it. He eventually returns to anti-nihilism at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, ending his long and storied life with a very fitting Dying Moment of Awesome: He reconciles with Snake and reaffirms that world peace is Worth Living For, performs a Mercy Kill on a comatose old friend who had unwittingly become the keystone of the War Economy, enjoys One Last Smoke, and salutes the grave of his mentor (who was also an Anti-Nihilist who sacrificed her life and reputation to make the world a better place) before passing away. His last words?
      Big Boss: This is good, isn't it?
    • Senator Armstrong of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has a sideways version of the Snakes' philosophy. He sees a world full of citizens pacified by empty principles and soldiers dying for causes they don't believe in, but rather than a world of peace, he wants to create a world of freedom — one where people can choose their own principles and fight for their own causes. He may not be able to end all war, but at least he can make sure that those who put their lives at stake are doing it for their own good reasons.
  • NieR: Automata has you become this. Yes, you, the player. By the end of Route C/D All of humanity is dead, the alien threat is non-existent, the entire war is worthless, the YoRHA project itself is a joke, and all the characters we've come to love died horrible deaths. But still, The pods' newfound consciousness and your empathy for the plight of A2, 9S and 2B make you want a happy ending for them. That's a tall order, and the game straight up taunts you but with the combined strength of everyone else who've been through the same troubles, you are able to finally give them a future for themselves.
  • Night in the Woods:
    • Mae's speech to whatever is living in the depths of the abandoned mine reflects this mindset, saying that when life sucks, she wants it to hurt, because that means it meant something.
    • Angus has an interest in the supernatural, but in a "why do people believe what they believe" kind of way. Ultimately, he believes that whether or not there's a God, people have the capacity to be good to each other.
  • Persona 3: This is shown to be an overarching theme of the game, which makes sense considering that the Final Boss is the literal incarnation of death.
    • This is framed primarily in the conflict between SEES and Strega, the two teams of Persona-users. Having grown up on the streets only to be abused and crippled by the Kirijo Group, the Strega members became Straw Nihilists who see their lives as having no meaning at all. When they learned of Nyx, the avatar of death, they, especially Takaya, saw Nyx’s coming as a blessing, and as such, actively worked to bring about the Fall, seeing the Fall as inevitable. The SEES group, by contrast, comes to believe that there’s little they can do to prevent the Fall, but they choose to resist anyway, even after Nyx’s messenger, Ryoji Mochizuki, offered to wipe their memories and leave them ignorant of the approaching Fall. Mitsuru sums it up to Nyx, saying that life is about looking death in the face.
    • This comes to a head in the game’s epilogue, “The Answer”. In “The Answer”, SEES discovers the true power behind the Fall: a monstrous being called Erebus, the living embodiment of humanity’s desire for death. The game’s protagonist sacrificed himself to act as a seal between Nyx and Erebus to prevent the Fall, and Erebus attempted to break that seal, only to be defeated by the SEES group. Metis informs them that as long as even one human desires to die, Erebus is immortal and can never be killed permanently. The SEES group, while they admit that they’ll likely never be able to do so, vow to try to change the world in their own ways to help humanity find joy in life, in the faint hope of seeing their lost friend set free. They even hold onto their Evokers, the special guns that let them use their Personas, as a testament to that vow.
      • The following game, Persona 4, hearkens back to this. After the end of Persona 3, Elizabeth, one of the attendants of the Velvet Room, chose to leave her duties there, having been so moved by the efforts of the hero from 3 that she wanted to find a way to free him. In 4, her sister Margaret, who takes her place in the Velvet Room, says that Elizabeth’s goal is pretty much impossible, but acknowledges her resolve to undertake it.
    • Interestingly, the Game Over quote, which is a small speech from Igor, follows this theme. It speaks about the inevitability of death, but how life should be undertaken with hope, for the sake of those you’ll leave behind when you die.
  • A life philosophy for many characters in Pillars of Eternity, including a player character with a Philosopher background. One particularly important end-game Walking Spoiler who sees the world this way is Iovara, who was executed by the Big Bad and his inquisition when she discovered the "gods" were artificial creations and the universe was, in fact, devoid of inherent meaning. She believed kith would be better off knowing the truth and making their own way in the world.
  • This philosophy shows up again the sequel Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. Eothas himself believes that the kith do not need the gods and smashes the Wheel, forcing kith and the other gods alike to find their own way.
  • Skies of Arcadia: The legendary pirate Daccat was apparently one. After Vyse and co. are separated, put through Hell and back and coincidentally solve each others' half of a deathtrap dungeon, Daccat's vast treasure is a single gold coin and a note reminding the finders that their friends are the real treasure. It's possible he spent his vast fortune before he died to make the most of it and then decided to leave others with An Aesop instead. It all seems like a heartless prank at first, but it turns out that reporting the discovery behind the legend is enough to make Vyse and co. a lot of money anyway.
  • Solatorobo: Red the Hunter has Red Savarin grow into this mindset by the game's ending, stemming from his pre-existing Downplayed Knight in Sour Armor attitude. He knows that the Caninu and Felineko have done many terrible or foolish things just like the humans before them, but nevertheless affirms that even if all of them are failures in some way, they can and have still chosen to look out for one another and help each other learn and grow.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic himself expresses such a view at the end of Sonic and the Black Knight. As he puts it, every world will eventually end; the only thing you can do is live your life to the fullest in the time you have. This exact outlook of his, unknowingly to some, was established all the way back in the very first game in the form of a Tagline on the Japanese box art:
      "Don't just sit there and waste your precious time. When you want to do something, do it right away. Do it when you can. It's the only way to live a life without regrets."
    • Similarly, his Image Song "It Doesn't Matter" claims:
      I ain't out of control
      Just livin' by my word
      Don't ask me why
      I don't need a reason
      I got my way
      My own way

      I won't look back
      I don't need to
      Time won't wait
      And I got so much to do
      Where do I stop?
      It's all a blur and so unclear
      Well I don't know but I can't be wrong!
    • Sonic's rival Shadow displays this attitude in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). When Mephiles tries to tempt Shadow to join the dark side by explaining that the world will turn against him in the future, Shadow's response is to basically say Shut Up Mephiles and explain that even if the world does betray him, he will continue to fight for what he believes is right.
  • In Tattered World, the Dollmaker of the Shadow Stage sums it up nicely:
    Death is inescapable; we shouldn't try to fight that fact, but embrace it. Enjoy the time you have and never forget that someday, we all die.

    Visual Novels 
  • Takumi Nishijou from Chaos;Head becomes this by the end of the story. Despite being the polar opposite initially as someone who wanted nothing more but to be constantly happy and not face any struggle or strife in his peaceful life. After the nightmare he's put through and facing his own Despair Event Horizon upon realizing his life is a lie and that he technically isn't real, he understands all too well how horrible the world really is, but comes to realize that with the support of other people who are struggling and traumatized the same way he is, and with someone to live for, he can survive in this world and make something of his life, and be happy despite it. His life, despite being a delusional one, is still worth living, and he is his own person that can take control of said life, and instill the worth in it.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: Nagito Komaeda is a Byronic Anti-Hero whose entire philosophy is anti-nihilism. His existence has been marred by a maddeningly turbulent sense of luck which has given and taken enough from him that by the start of the game he's seeking meaning in his life by whatever sort of hope he can leave behind, at absolutely any cost (with his final free-time event revealing that he doesn't have long to live and therefore has nothing to lose). Even if that turbulence informs a shaky definition of "hope". In Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, Monaca probably best sums him up as "fighting for hope despite falling into despair."
  • Downplayed with Monika in Doki Doki Literature Club!, who has one bit of dialogue in these lines: That she realises she's unlikely to ever really make a difference in the world, so she feels like most people she's just consuming resources, but if she ends up giving more to the world than she takes, she'll be satisfied with that. Now that said, considering what happens in the plot and what kind of position she's in and how she reacts to it, well, her relationship to (anti-)nihilism is pretty complicated, but this line at least shows a bit of this trope.
  • During Hatoful Boyfriend, Yuuya is revealed to be this. A terrible thing he did as a child weighs on him enormously, but he uses it to drive him forwards and can be incredibly kind and thoughtful. Part of the plot of Holiday Star is him using his acceptance of what's happened and his refusal to reject the memory or the deed to drive away a soul-absorbing spirit thing, and spreading some of that sentiment to others.
  • It's not too uncommon for Nasuverse protagonists to be Anti-Nihilists.
    • In Fate/stay night, Shirou lives his life by this sort of doctrine, even though he doesn't realize it. The "Unlimited Blade Works" route causes him to actively seek it, as he realizes his life is empty and the only thing he finds meaning in is selflessly sacrificing himself for others.
    • Tsukihime's protagonist, Shiki, holds a similar view. The main difference between his and Shirou's outlooks is that Shiki sees everything as meaningless because of his Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, which force him to see the world and everything in it as being as fragile as cardboard, and as such can derive meaning for himself simply from living a good life in what little time he has (and he has even less than a normal person, also as a result of his powers).
      • That said, Nasu himself has come and said this small difference is enough that Shiki and Shirou would never get along.

    Web Animation 
  • In the final episode of Season 5 of Arby 'n' the Chief, Arbiter has some shades of this in his words to Trent Donnovich, who he discovered to be having an affair while engaged to his friend/love interest Claire. Doubles as a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    Arbiter: It doesn't surprise me that a dose of emotion would have a toxic effect on an emotion-deprived cretin like you. Who's really the plastic one here? Your bleak outlook on life is poisonous. Maybe the world is a big sinking ship. But we can't accept that as an inevitability and use it as an excuse to act like shitheads. We have to be the change we seek. We have to build something better for ourselves.
  • Kurzgesagt: Cheerful, colorful videos that frequently describe with brutal honesty how harsh and uncaring the universe is, but always with an eye toward reminding the viewer that the lack of purpose in the universe means that each person is free to find whatever meaning they can, and that time is precious. They call this "optimistic nihilism", which they explain in this video. It's the idea that if universe doesn't have any plans for us and we don't know what happened before we were born and we won't be sentient once we'll die, there's nothing scary about being dead. Also, because we only get one chance, we might as well use that time to be happy and help others. And finally, because there's nothing after death, the bad things that happen to you during your lifetime do not matter.
  • RWBY:
    • In the final episode of Volume 4, Ruby reveals herself to have developed into this in her letter to Yang; she's now aware of the bad things in the world, but has resolved to continue fighting the good fight anyway.
    • The theme is also expressed in the Volume 4 theme, "Let's Just Live", and continues in the Volume 5 theme, the heroes may have suffered and lost, but they can resolve to fight on regardless.
    • After the revelations about Ozpin's past in Volume 6, the group becomes this outright. They know that it might not even be possible to defeat Salem but keep going regardless.
    • Notably, Ruby's anti-nihilist worldview helps her partially resist the Apathy's mental compulsion, which makes victims more traditionally nihilistic to the point of giving up and waiting to die.

  • Dechs of Antihero for Hire once got a medium-sized lecture from a mercenary out to kill him (during the fight), about how his morals are meaningless and the people he protects would not return the favour and so on. Eventually the mercenary left, making it clear that he probably could win, but it wasn't worth the risk; but it left him rattled and doubting everything. At the end of the chapter, Wrench shakes him out of it by simply asking "does it matter if it matters?".
  • When the Shadowchild asks her what the importance of being good is, Digger has this reply:
    Digger: Because it's a cold, hard, miserable world sometimes, and there's suffering enough to go around without any of us making it worse.
  • This Dresden Codak doodle uses a hole in the chest as a metaphor. While most people try to fill theirs up, the anti-nihilist enjoys it for what it is.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: Chase admits that even if the world is too broken to be saved, he wants to try to make it a better place anyway. He attempts this by teaming up with Scarlet to help her take out sinners.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: YISUN was once asked by their disciples "What is the ultimate reason for existence?", "How can a man live in perfect harmony?'" and "What is the ultimate result of all action?". YISUN replied "Self-deception", "Non-existence" and "Futility", respectively. When the disciples then asked how to serve YISUN's will, they replied "Kindly ignore my answers to the previous three questions".
  • Mob Psycho 100: Reigen's life philosophy is that, even if fate's dealt you a bad hand, you can still make something with your life. Also, just because there's Always Someone Better than you at something does not in any way invalidate your own talents. And Reigen says all of this despite having no psychic power of his own. This philosophy and outlook on life helped Mob start having his A God I Am Not tendencies.
  • This A Softer World strip sums it up pretty well. "Nothing matters at all. Might as well be nice to people."
  • There is a xkcd strip in which the white beret guy uses this trope when confronted with a more typical nihilist.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Durkon gives a poignant Shut Up, Hannibal! speech to Vampire Durkon after the latter is shaken and confused by the sight of Durkon's mother's selfless sacrifice of all her wealth to raise five complete strangers from the dead.
    Durkon: Thar's na much ta explain. Ye told me b'fore tha ye are who ye are on tha worst day o' yer life. An' tha's true. Tha's 100% true. But ye know who else ye are? Ye are who ye are on tha next day. Tha day ye wake up an' haf ta decide: are ye gonna make this tha new worst day o' yer life, or na? Ye are who ye are on all o' yer days. All o' em. Includin' tha worst an' tha best. Ev'ry single one counts. All the way ta tha end.

    Web Original 
  • This is ultimately the main message of Nemo Ramjet's web-novel All Tomorrows; taking us through the overarching history of mans' future and then; when it's all over, saying that the important part isn't how things ended up, but in those individual moments of life throughout our history.
  • Nobody Here: The whole point of "Life". Life may be miserable and a waste of time, but it sure is fascinating!
  • SCP Foundation:
    • It features this with SCP-1281, which is a message from a dead alien race.
      The galaxy is dark, empty and cold. It spins inevitably toward death. You will die too, one day. Perhaps you will have longer than we have. We hope so. But one day you too must vanish. Until that time, you must light the darkness. You must make the night less empty. We are all small, and the universe is vast. But a universe filled with voices saying "I am here" is far greater than a universe silent. One voice is small, but the difference between zero and one is as great as one and infinity. And when your time is passing, please send this message on, so the next voice can speak against the darkness.
    • The SCP Foundation's world also has Gamers Against Weed, a group of anartists who looked at AWCY's philosophy and flatly rejected it. Bluntfiend, one of the founders, outright states that yeah, the universe is meaningless — but that just means that you have to give it some meaning. This philosophy (and a lot of Homestuck) is also what caused Eli and Lyris to decide not to blow up the Earth.

    Web Videos 
  • AFK: Serena expresses this viewpoint, that life has no meaning or divine oversight and is ultimately pointless, but people can make it for themselves nonetheless.
  • In the ContraPoints episodes "Incels" and "Envy", Natalie examines hopeless ideologies that drive to misery and evil, and argues against them. She's pointed out flaws in "black pill" incel ideology that claims incels are doomed to never be with women while noting that there is usually a problem with their effort or conduct that makes them unsuccessful, and in "Envy", she advocates for pro-oppressed ideologies rather than anti-oppressor ideologies since the latter may be wrapped up in a feeling that the status quo cannot truly change, such as political lesbianism, which co-opts a real sexuality as a performance under the assumption that heterosexuality is broken and unfixable rather than trying to address the issue.
  • Costa McClure of Lovely Little Losers.
    Costa: And I'm not letting you give up, either. Because it is pointless. And so is life. But everyone else manages to suck it up.

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman:
    • In Mr. Peanutbutter's own words, life is largely miserable, and the best way to deal with that is to distract yourself from it as often as you can, enjoying every moment until you die. However, it's gradually subverted the more and more the series goes on; it becomes clear that for PB, this doesn't mean "accept your mortality and insignificance, and move on with the things that really matter." Rather, it means "deny anything that's wrong and focus on the exciting parts", which is just a more hedonistic form of nihilism itself.
    • As of Season 3, BoJack Horseman himself seems to have become one.
      Bojack: See, Sarah Lynn? We're not doomed. In the great, grand scheme of things, we're just tiny specks that will one day be forgotten. So it doesn't matter what we did in the past, or how we'll be remembered. The only thing that matters is right now, this moment, this one spectacular moment we are sharing together. Right, Sarah Lynn? ...Sarah Lynn?
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Numbuh Three comes across as this throughout the series. The show runs on Growing Up Sucks, with nearly every child terrified of the concept of turning thirteen and leaving the KND, but knowing there's nothing they can do to stop the inevitable aging process. Numbuh Three, however, remains cheerful and positive despite being fully aware that her time as a kid is limited, and seems dedicated to having as much fun and experiencing as much joy as possible before she grows up, even if she won't remember any of it. As such, she often seems to be the best-adjusted member of the team, which is part of why she's The Heart.
  • Futurama: Bender, depressed at learning that as a robot, he has no Free Will and can only do what he was programmed to do, seeks solace at a Robot Monastery. The Ab-Bot tells him that his order has accepted this, but rather than be depressed about the fact that their purpose in life is pre-determined, they choose to revel in fulfilling that purpose to the best of their ability.
    Ab-Bot: Are we automatons? Yes. But we are magnificent automatons.
  • At the end of episode "Rick Potion no. 9" of Rick and Morty, Morty Smith is positively traumatized by the events: After Rick ruined the whole planet beyond repair, they jumped dimensions to a reality where everything turned out fine but both of them had died soon afterwards, allowing main!R&M to bury their own corpses and blend in. In the later episode "Rixty Minutes", however, we see on two occasions that he has coped with it in an anti-nihilistic way: First, when the rest of his family choose to use their new interdimensional TV channel package to look for realities where they were famous and successful, Morty says "I don't care about myself" in a relaxed, indifferent manner. Second, when Summer is about to run away from home from finding out she was an unwanted pregnancy, he stops her with a heartwarming speech talking about his earlier experience.
    Morty: I'm a version of your brother that you can trust when he says don't run. Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die. Come watch TV?
    • Jerry Smith (Morty's father) may also be one, given that he keeps going despite his entire life being terrible. The quote "Life is effort and I'll stop when I die!" sums it up.
    • Doofus Rick (an alternate version of Rick), Like other Ricks, he believes that life is "dangerous and complex and unyielding," but while other Ricks choose to use this as an excuse to inflict cruelty on whoever they need to for the brief aggrandizement of themselves, Doofus Rick does the opposite, reasoning that even just trying to get by is winning in and of itself.
  • South Park, in the episode, "All About Mormons". The town is introduced to a family of optimistic and kindhearted Mormons. When the family tells Stan of the story of Joseph Smith, Stan yells at them for believing in something so ridiculous and factually incorrect. Later, Gary, the family's youngest son, tells Stan that he's willing to (and, to a large extent, does) have doubts in Mormonism, but it doesn't matter, as everything good in his life is because of his family's Mormon beliefs. Incidentally, Trey Parker and Matt Stone would later go on to create The Book of Mormon.
  • Pearl in Steven Universe, particularly in the episode "Keep Beach City Weird", where she tells Steven that conspiracy theorists like Ronaldo are simply trying to find conflicts where none exist in an attempt to feel like their lives are more important than they actually are. Sounds pretty cynical, until you realize she's telling this to a kid in order to make him feel better.
    Pearl: Oh, Steven. Humans just lead short, boring, insignificant lives, so they make up stories to feel like they're a part of something bigger. They want to blame all the world's problems on some single enemy they can fight, instead of a complex network of interrelated forces beyond anyone's control.
    • Notably, it's also a bit hypocritical given that she does hold a very strict Black-and-White Morality and wallows in self-pity every once in a while.

    Real Life 
  • Usually, this is the classical response of agnostics, atheists, deists, Epicureans and the like to accusations of nihilism and hedonism; since some theists think that if there is no god or gods (or the god in question is apathetic) who will give us a meaning in such a miserable life, everyone would be Driven to Suicide. "The fact that we have only one life to live should make it all the more precious." Also, some philosophers say that one must find their own meaning in life, not a pre-made one.
  • Søren Kierkegaard's "Knight of Faith", one of the major influences to the Existentialist trope. You fully accept that following such stuff about God and ethics is ultimately an absurd goal in this life, but in contrast to the aesthetic "nihilist" and the otherworldly "knight of infinite resignation", you still prefer to make the most of it.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche's version of the Anti-Nihilist in particular is less of a "utilitarian" who works For Happiness and more of a "Let's live by our own rules while being awesome, manly/virtuous and magnificent at it". He also pointed out that a way to make life suck a little less could be through charitable acts (he didn't say that it would make you happy, just feel less angsty/guilty/whatever).
  • Albert Camus, of The Stranger. In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus he argues that the absurdity (desire for man to find meaning and the Universe's indifference to this desire) of life is in fact an invitation for human beings to experience revolt, freedom and passion and not in fact a valid reason to commit suicide (which he argues is even more absurd than life itself), concluding with the thought that "The struggle itself [...] is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
  • This trope is the basis of the website humorously named ANUS (acronym for American Nihilist Underground Society).
  • For all his cynicism and for all the Humans Are Bastards themes in his work, Kurt Vonnegut was a vocal secular humanist.
  • Philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote an essay titled "The Absurd" that arrives at this point after noting the absurdity of existence.
  • This video was made after its creator visited Chernobyl. He describes the point of view as nihilistic in the video, and it sums up this trope simply and eloquently.
  • Stanley Kubrick perfectly summed up this trope.
    Kubrick: The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent. But if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
  • Comedian and musician Tim Minchin, as better seen in his address for a graduation ceremony in The University of Western Australia.
    There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is: fill it.
  • This gamer who decided that despite life's inherent meaninglessness and that against the epoch of infinite time no human accomplishment can possibly stand for more than a few centuries at best. He was determined to stamp his life with his only meaning. By playing the first level of Final Fantasy VII, maxing out his character's levels to level 99. Spending 500 hours over two years. And all of it for the goal of giving the middle finger to the first guy who attempted the feat but gave up.
    Life does not have inherent meaning; to say that our lives are pointless and our achievements meaningless is to state the obvious. No matter how grand our achievements or how broad their scope, time turns all to dust and death destroys all memory. But that does not mean we cannot ascribe our own meaning to what we do. It is because nothing has meaning unto itself that we are free to create meaning, to make metaphor, and in doing so reflect on ourselves and our world.
  • This guy, who during a philosophy class in college, realized he was going to die like billions before (and after) him, and that nothing could prevent it. While he briefly ranted about the shortness of life, concluded that every choices taken in human existence were devoid of meaning, and that nothing will remain of us when we are gone, he quickly adopted a much more positive set of mind: if death is inevitable, then 1) It renders all our fears obsolete and 2) It should make us even more happy to be alive. Camus sure would have approved this guy's way of thinking.
    That life is limited and finite that it holds no real reason or meaning, does not mean it is not worth living, that it's not worth trying, that it's not worth enjoying. For we are here already, and will continue to be until whatever time God or nature determines we ought not to be. Till then — till our deaths — we are here. We're here anyway. We're here because — in some weird way — we're meant to be here. And so, by whatever luck, we have days left to live. And in that class on that day, the seeds of a very important lesson were sowed: that to live the rest of my days, as I had lived the many days before that day — as a sad and sorry kid, weak of mind and body, and scared of most everything — seemed, well... stupid. Cause whatever the meaning of life, of this much I was certain... That on that day, and on this day, I stand above that ground rather than lay below it. And that's not a thing to waste. And everything that scared me, and everything that worried me — some test, some cute girl, some misfortune or future I had no control over — all of it meant nothing. So, fuck that. It was time to be free.
  • Patton Oswalt described his late wife Michelle McNamara (a true crime writer who specialized in cold cases) as loathing the platitude of "everything happens for a reason", and countering with her own philosophy of "It's chaos. Be kind." He urges his audiences to do the same.
  • Actually a really common component in a lot of Anarchist tendencies, particularly among, appropriately enough, Nihilist-Anarchist and Insurrectionary-Anarchist circles. After all, it does stand to reason that if nothing in life has any intrinsic value, that does technically include all forms of hierarchy and government too.
  • Luther Burbank hated religion and stated he didn't believe there was any afterlife. Despite this, he helped breed new kinds of plants in order to help humanity, and when he was near death he straight up said he loved everyone.
  • H. P. Lovecraft was an odd combination of this and Straw Nihilist: while he wrote a lot of Cosmic Horror Story and seemed to regard the universe in general as terrifying, he also wrote in "In Defense Of Dagon" that even if there is no afterlife and we just cease to exist after death, that's not so bad as with no consciousness one can't suffer or lack anything.
  • The Angel example above had far reaching impacts on at least one Russian woman who came out to protest for LGBT rights in Russia after the country instituted sweeping bans on LGBT people.
    "I want to be able to look in the eyes of my children and grandchildren and say 'I did all I could'. There is a quote from an American TV show Angel. There is a wonderful phrase there: 'If nothing we do matters then all that matters is what we do'."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Knight Of Faith, The Knight Of Faith, The Existentialist, Anti Nihilist


Waymond's "Be Kind" Speech

In two universes, Waymond tells Evelyn that his way of fighting through their cruel, uncertain, and turbulent world is to keep being kind.

How well does it match the trope?

4.96 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheAntiNihilist

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