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Violence Really Is the Answer

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Gothwrain: Now now Diggers, let's not lose our temper. Violence is not the answer!
Theodore: You're right Gothwrain. It's not the answer. Violence is the question. The answer is YES!

A character who firmly believes in Thou Shalt Not Kill ends up being presented with a situation extreme enough that despite much compunctions and reservations, they are compelled to resort to violence ― and it works. It makes everything all right. It was the right thing to do all along.

The character is usually, but not always, a Technical Pacifist or something to that extent. If they were an Actual Pacifist, they would never resort to violence under any circumstances at all; if they were a '90s Anti-Hero, they would have no problem with it to begin with. In some versions, they will be (self-)tortured after making this choice, but in others, it is surprisingly easy, and it really seems like the message is that pacifism is laughable, or at best impractical. For some pacifist characters, it could be interpreted by some audiences that they will refuse to resort to violence until it is proven to them that their enemy has no qualms about using it and is shameless about doing so, which acts as a sort of Godzilla Threshold to persuade the character that resorting to violence is a necessary evil. This moral is often proven by a Pacifism Backfire.


A classic Hard Truth Aesop. Compare with Murder Is the Best Solution, Violence Is the Only Option, Beat the Curse Out of Him, and The Extremist Was Right. Guilt-Free Extermination War is the ultimate extreme case. Related to Might Makes Right and sometimes related to Right Makes Might.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • During the Saiyan and Frieza Sagas, Goku repeatedly refuses to kill even the most evil of opponents and often spares them, something Vegeta calls him out on after Goku subdues the Ginyu Force only for Vegeta himself to kill them. It comes back to bite him more than once; for example, during the battle with Frieza, despite all of the horrible things Frieza has done, including personally killing Goku's best friend Krillin, Goku spares his life twice, which only prompts Frieza to try to stab him in the back both times. From that point onwards, Goku becomes more willing to kill his opponents, actively trying to kill Cell and openly encouraging Gohan to do the same.
    • This is played far more straight with Gohan who, unlike his father, never wanted to be a warrior and only started fighting villains reluctantly. This culminates in the Cell Arc when he is sent in to fight Cell and tries to convince him to leave peacefully as he is afraid of what will happen if he loses control. Cell, being a Blood Knight himself, is delighted to learn about Gohan's hidden potential and proceeds to do everything in his power to set him off. Ultimately Android 16 explains to Gohan that pacifism wont work for genocidal monsters like Cell and that it is okay to fight. After 16's death Gohan unleashes his full power and never holds back against evil opponents like Cell again.
  • Vash of Trigun is quite similar to Jimmy Stewart's character in Destry Rides Again (see Film), but his ultimate need to use (lethal) violence is shown as very traumatic. Since the series ends right after the choice, it's hard to tell what his future will be.
    • The manga elaborates it more than the anime, but the aesop is the same: Sometimes, you just have to do it; it's not pretty, it's sad, but it needs to be done, to prevent something worse.
  • Kitano from Angel Densetsu is an Actual Pacifist that always gets dragged unwillingly into fights. Normally he just stands there dodging every blow until his opponent is too tired to continue—just do not push his Berserk Button.
  • Ramen Fighter Miki: In a World... full of Fighting Series that always say that Violence Is Bad but the protagonists always solve their problems through violence, this series is one of the few that averts this trope: Every problem the protagonist had could have been resolved without violence, and those who practice violence is because they are clearly idiots.
  • Full Metal Panic! has the former child-soldier and career mercenary protagonist acting as the head coach for his high school rugby team, who had lost forty-nine of their past forty-nine games. By the end of his training, every one of the wimpy, pacifist team members have been turned into berserkers with burning-red eyes. One of them is outright disappointed that a tackle that carried him through a member of the rival team left said person trembling on the ground instead of dead. With that in mind, the substitute coach was literally reading an instruction manual that was inspired by the teachings of Drill Sergeant Hartman. Of course, the entire episode (if not the entire series) is being Played for Laughs.
  • In One Piece's Alabasta Arc, Vivi believes that she can stop Crocodile's coup by convincing the rebels they are in fact unwitting pawns and stop the civil war Baroque Works is causing without anyone dying. Luffy, however, knows life isn't that simple, and convinces her that the best course of action is to stop pussyfooting around and just attack the problem at its source: Crocodile himself.
    • Mind you, this example is a lot more Zigzagged than most; Vivi is already a combatant who has no problem using (or at least trying) severe or even lethal force against immediate dangers, and in fact spent two years undercover in a gang of vicious bounty hunters/assassins. The argument is more over tactics and priorities than it is over violence/pacifism ideology, and the Straw Hats actually do give Vivi's idea a shot when some desert animals pop up to provide convenient means of transportation to the rebels' camp (though this ultimately fails because Crocodile has planted agitators in both the royal and rebel armies - something neither party actually brought up when Luffy and Vivi had their initial argument).


    Comic Books 
  • Wolverine :
    • Old Man Logan turns out this way. 50 years after becoming an Actual Pacifist, a cross-country errand to earn enough money to save his family leads Logan into a confrontation where violence is unavoidable, as he's locked in a room with someone trying to kill him. Unfortunately, after he defeats his foe and returns home, it turns out he should have resorted to violence much earlier.
    • This has cropped up more often in recent years. His solution in Avengers vs. X-Men? Murder Hope Summers, a teenage mutant girl, for being a beacon for the Phoenix (though he can't go through with it). And in Age of Ultron? Murder Hank Pym so he can't make Ultron, who has successfully taken over the world. A Subverted Trope that second time, as it makes everything go From Bad to Worse in The Multiverse.
  • A Golden Age Comic Book story featuring the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion had them interact with two pacifist brothers who'd isolated themselves in their house for years because of the world's warlike ways. Enemy spies break into the house for some reason (possibly to use it as a hideout, or to steal the brothers' stashed money to fund their spy ring) and it's only by the Guardian's use of applied force that the spies are defeated. The brothers grasp the intended Aesop, that if you don't confront evil, it will eventually come in after you.
  • The original run of Hawk and Dove had this as a message. Of course, if you're going to be a crime-fighter, it's implied that you have to fight people, Dove.
  • Both played straight and inverted in Transmetropolitan. By the end of the series, Spider has personally killed more than a dozen people (mostly in self defense) and has committed assault on hundreds, if not thousands. But he also carries around a mostly nonviolent, if uncomfortable, weapon (the Bowel Disruptor, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin) and almost all real change is effected through the written word rather than the alternative.
  • Superman, in his early Post-Crisis years, infamously killed several (depowered) villains who'd killed their worlds and threatened to get their powers back and do the same to Earth-DC; Supes was left tormented as a result. It strengthened his resolve to always find another way from then on, to the point that when later confronted with Xenomorphs in Superman / Aliens, he is still reluctant to kill them.
  • A crossover between The Punisher and Deathlok (a pacifist man in the body of a killing machine) feature this. The climax of the story has Frank killing a man threatning the life of Deathlok's son. Deathlok initially objects, and Frank says that he didn't have a choice. Deathlok gets ready to argue, but then decides that this time, he was right, and thanks him for saving his son's life.
  • In one Atomic Robo story, the titular robot battles giant ants encroaching on Reno, Nevada. When interviewed afterwards about how he defeated them, he explains "I used my violence."
  • Batgirl (2000): Cassandra Cain often plays with this. Thanks to having Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training, she's essentially nonfunctional in anything that doesn't involve hitting people very hard, and though she tries her best at more traditional methods, she still tends to jump to her fists at the first opportunity. Being Cassandra Cain, this usually works.
  • Subverted in The Badger. In one story the Badger debates this issue with a crippled street musician. After the Badger saves him from a mugger the busker, while remaining personally committed to pacifism concedes that the Badger has a point.
  • Batman, despite his usual Thou Shalt Not Kill rule has resorted to this on a few occasions when the villain he's fighting can't be safely contained. Not counting several Early Installment Weirdness stories from the Golden Age where he killed several villains, the modern era has his original encounter with KGBeast whom he leaves to drown in the sewers (this is later retconned with the GCPD saving him), enraging Deacon Blackfire's followers into killing him in Batman: The Cult, and him shooting Darkseid during Final Crisis. Also while he doesn't kill he still use plenty of violence, leaving criminals with broken bones for the police to pick up, apparently he doesn't lie carrying his batcuffs all the time so beaten unconscious it is.
    • In all of these situations, Batman was acting in a fundamentally different capacity than his usual hunter mode. Batman has rarely been depicted as opposed to lethal force on principle, simply viewing it as Dirty Business instead; for example, he doesn't seem to mind police using deadly force when they have no other choice. Because he is not authorized by a governing body to dispense lethal force, he has trained himself to the point that he always has another choice. In all three of these instances, the people were outside of the law's protection already and were treated by Batman as enemy combatants rather than criminals.
    • As for Darkseid? This was because of just how dire the situation is. Darkseid was threatening the Multiverse with his death as his final spiteful act and Batman decided on a "once-in-a-lifetime exception" on his aversion to killing and firearms to shoot Darkseid with a Radion bullet (the same one Darkseid used to kill his son Orion and that started all this), as Radion is the Kryptonite to New Gods.
  • The current page quote from Gold Digger actually subverts the trope in context. Gothwrain is egging Theodore Diggers on to try to kill him on purpose in order to enable his own Thanatos Gambit that he's been plotting for at least years; violence is exactly the answer he wants.
  • One of the Forever Evil tie-ins focusses on a brother and sister in Black Adam's home country of Khandaq, which is being ruled by a brutal US-backed dictator named Ibac. The sister believes they can liberate the country through peaceful protest and appealing to the international community, while the brother joins a violent militant group called the "Sons of Adam". The Sons try to conduct a mystical ritual to restore Adam (who was killed at the end of Shazam!) to life, but Ibac's soldiers find them and kill them. As her brother dies in her arms, the sister completes the ritual, Black Adam is resurrected and leads the Sons in a violent rebellion, personally (and gruesomely) murdering Ibac. The sister decides her brother was right and grabs his gun, then races off to join the fight.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Wizard in the Shadows, Harry's default response to most problems is to blast his way through them. Or, for instance, use an unhelpful guard as a battering ram.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: More than once, the members of Tsukune's group advocate violence as a solution to their current problem. And more often than not, it turns out to be right:
    • In Act III chapter 7, Dark explicitly warns Tsukune that he will kill him should Tsukune go anywhere near Mizore, making no secret of the fact that he doesn't trust Tsukune, even with the Holy Lock, to hold the ghoul back when he failed to do so once already. By the next chapter, Tsukune approaches them anyway, hoping to talk things over... and Dark promptly attacks him at full force, telling Tsukune that he should have just heeded his warnings and stayed away. However, in the ensuing fight, Dark, along with Mizore and Felucia, who both agreed with him that the Holy Lock was untrustworthy, see firsthand just how strong the chain is and accept that the ghoul is gone.
    • In Act IV chapter 3, when Akua and Kahlua point out that they came to Yokai Academy to learn the value of human life, Kurumu tells them outright that, as far as she's concerned, they would have learned it a lot faster if Tsukune had just let Issa beat the two of them into the ground.
    • In Act II, when Kokoa picks a fight with Moka over Tsukune and goes so far as to invoke the Eia Dreahl, punishable by death if broken, to see who would win him, Moka agrees despite her inner self repeatedly insisting that they just beat her senseless and be done with it. Later, in Act IV chapter 13, Outer Moka suggests that they just let her beat the new Falla into the ground.
    • During the early part of Act VI, Gabriel repeatedly objects to the gang killing members of the HDA, in part because of the angels' code that humans are sacred and untouchable no matter what, despite the fact that the HDA is openly anti-monster and is actively trying to kill him along with the other members of the gang. Eventually, Ceal gets sick of it and subjects Gabriel to a Sadistic Choice, either to kill Ceal himself to stop him from killing an HDA officer, or to stand back and watch as Ceal does so. Gabriel chooses to Take a Third Option by Mercy Killing the officer to spare him a slower and more agonizing death at Ceal's hands, and from that point on, resolves to do whatever it takes to save his friends, even if it means killing the humans he's sworn to protect.

    Films ― Live-Action 
  • In Die Hard, Sgt. Powell tells McClane he asked to become a desk Sergeant because of an incident where he shot a kid who was holding a realistic-looking toy gun. He explains after this, he could never bring himself to point his gun at anyone else again. Fortunately he abandons this policy at the end of the movie by killing the last surviving terrorist, saving McClane's life in the nick of time.
  • In Warm Bodies, the zombies are redeemed by The Power of Love. The bonies, not so much.
  • A complex example in Destry Rides Again. The title character has renounced violence and is a real Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass who elects to take down the bad guy by being a Guile Hero. But when his boss, the sheriff, is murdered by the bad guys, Destry snaps and assembles a posse to wipe out Kent and his gang by force. However, this trope is ultimately averted when the women of the town, determined to stop the bloodbath, arm themselves with two-by-fours and defeat the bad guys with some whacks to the head.
  • In High Noon, the main character's wife is a Quaker, and against violence. She leaves her husband when he wants to fight with his enemies instead of escaping, but finally returns to him, and shoots one of the bad guys.
  • Played for laughs in Hot Shots! Part Deux, where a character goes from crying their eyes out over the brutality of war to exclaiming "War! It's FAN-TASTIC!" thanks to a brief pep-talk.
  • In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, seemingly everyone starts out feeling reluctant to take up arms and go to war. Everyone who actively resists the call to arms is presented as being either weak or being secretly manipulated by the enemy. Still, with a wrathful demigod on the loose who has an army of objectively evil minions at his beck and call, the only choices they really have are to fight or to be brutally slaughtered.
  • Batman is a type who has no problem with brutal fights but a code against killing. Often, villains (especially the Joker) will test this commitment.
    • The movie Batman Begins presents an example where he has no choice, as his mentor turned enemy explicitly states that he feels no gratitude that Bruce previously saved his life and vows to kill Bruce if he doesn't join his cause. Ultimately, Batman doesn't kill the villain but rather declines to save him, which is still at odds with Batman's code of ethics, at least the one established in the comics (especially as it was Batman's plan to stop the train that put the villain in a position which threatened his life). Of course, he was just starting out. It should also be noted that the villain was likely capable of saving himself, if he so wanted to. He seems to have solidified his moral code by the time of The Dark Knight—when the spring-loaded razors on his gauntlets cut the Joker and causes him to fall off the building, he still catches him. It could also be argued that since he survived the fall, he might not have expected Dent to die when he prevented him from killing Gordon's son. Batman can be excused for Dent's death, considering he was exhausted and shot, he only tackled Dent off the ledge to save a small child, and there really wasn't any way for him to know that there would be a fall that would kill Dent. Dent's death was an accident that Bruce can't really be held accountable for.
    • Burton's Batman, on the other hand, never had this problem, and just killed without much thought.
  • The title character of the film Sergeant York - just like the Real Life Sgt. York - converts to Christianity, reads the Bible, and is convinced that following the Lord requires one to be a pacifist. But when he's forced to fight (he gets drafted, applies as a Conscientious Objector, and is turned down), he decides that if God's will is to save lives, then he has to fight well, because he sees no other way to save the lives of his comrades without taking the lives of the enemy. It's worth noting that he does take prisoner many more enemy soldiers than he kills, but he does kill and feels justified in doing so despite remaining a pacifist at heart.
  • The entire plot of the film Billy Jack. Becomes a bit of a Broken Aesop when the film keeps trying to insist that the peaceful, nonviolent hippies are in the right, but Billy Jack's freely-dispensed asskickings are the only thing keeping them from being repeatedly victimized by the town bullies.
  • The missionaries in Rambo find out the hard and painful way that violence only understands violence and when your opponents' goal is mass genocide, pacifism just makes their job easier. Rambo himself has no such illusions, and has no choice but to unleash a world of hurt on the Burmese military junta to save what's left of the naive missionary team. It appears that cold, harsh reality backs this one up; the monks who attempted peaceful protests against the Burmese S.P.D.C. were all but wiped out.
  • The Rundown's climactic moment occurs when Dwayne Johnson's character finally proves why you shouldn't put a gun in his hand and he unleashes his badass fury with an arsenal of weapons.
  • Zigzagged in Starship Troopers; the teacher, Mr. Rasczak, lectures his class on how all political power ultimately derives from the threat of violence; but, he is a representative of an overtly fascist system of government that is being satirized to high heaven. The characters in the film, by and large, believe this; the filmmakers have a different view.
  • Evil: Violence was the answer to crush the Gang of Bullies at Erik's prep school. Erik turns the other cheek for almost the entire movie, and his reward is to suffer horrific torture that ends with him nearly getting murdered, and his best friend Pierre is beaten to a pulp before leaving the school. However, once Erik does decide to start hurting people, he delivers an immensely satisfying beatdown to Dalen that ends in Dalen crawling out of the ring with a shattered nose. Just the threat of violence to Otto, whom Erik catches alone without his goon squad, results in Otto dropping to his knees and crying like a little girl before he pukes all over himself. Then at the end he goes home, tells his brutal stepfather that the stepfather has to leave the house, and then gives him a beating as well (offscreen).

  • One of H. Beam Piper's stories subverted Asimov's maxim, stating that violence is the last resort of the incompetent because "Only the incompetent wait until the last extremity to use force, and by then, it is usually too late to use anything, even prayer."
  • This trope was inverted in In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Harry Turtledove, when the quiet programmer is mocked by his supervisor for not having the conviction to go join the riots against a coup... and then once he's left alone changes a geneological database and anonymously alerts the "good guys" to the "discovery" in a move which does far more to undermine the coup than any individual bottlethrower could imagine (and the POV characters who are protesting physically do little violence but simply shame the coup mooks into not killing them for hours until the mooks are EAGER to surrender to the "good guys" military forces).
  • Turtledove also has an Anvilicious short story (The Last Article) in which the Nazis take over India, and Mahatma Gandhi tries his nonviolent civil disobedience methods against them. It ends with his movement horribly crushed, and on his way to be executed Gandhi laments his mistake in assuming basic human decency on the part of the Nazis, the moral being that such methods can only hope to defeat an oppressor with a conscience.
  • He went one step further in his Worldwar series, suggesting that violence is not only the answer, but our salvation. Humanity's constant strife and warfare has made it so "perfidious" and battle-ready that we continually take the technologically advanced but strategically stagnant alien invaders by surprise with our double-dealing and resourcefulness. For example, pissing on a sensor and freaking out an analyst, who swore up and down that "4 billion Big Uglies" were coming right at them.
  • This was a big theme of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, particularly Naked Empire, in which the pacifist Bandakar Empire had to be persuaded to fight the invading Order soldiers. The protagonist massacres pacifists "armed only with their hatred of moral clarity". Though it should be noted that the protestors weren't just shouting slogans; they were quite literally occupying the only road the army could use to reach any position from which they could fight effectively. In practical terms, they'd volunteered themselves as human shields.
  • Essentially the point of Starship Troopers. The book was about the question of what a citizen owed in exchange for his political privileges, as Heinlein points out that Americans do not earn their citizen status. Violence wasn't the answer provided society was well-governed, but violence was the ultimate, final way in which disputes were settled. Hence, all authorities ultimately must be backed by force or they are toothless. Heinlein's novel featured a Mary Suetopia Earth where nearly everyone was law-abiding, rights were extended to all regardless of race and gender (revolutionary in his time), and civil society was idealized. He contrasts this with a much-more-violent post-war collapse of civil order. Violence against the Bugs was inevitable because neither humanity nor the Bugs would cede their unlimited expansion throughout the universe. Violence is also used to convince the Skinnies to switch sides in the war. The point that violence is a means to an end, and not an end, is frequently brought up, only a bit less than the whole citizenship issue. Heinlein was preaching Clausewitz, not carnage.
    • In fact, citizenship could be earned by any form of civil service. Military service was simply the quickest and most prestigious route, with the much more chance of rising to political office later. Also, the government decides which form of service you get assigned (you can quit anytime outside of active combat, forfeiting the chance to earn full citizenship) ― thus, the chance of being assigned to the armed forces depends on just how much this trope applies to the current interstellar political situation.
  • Redwall. No matter how much the Abbot insists that Violence Is Wrong, Cluny's horde ends up being defeated by... violence. In fact, pretty much every book in the series has the message "violence is OK if you're killing evil creatures", and even among the normally peaceful Redwallers, only a few characters are ever bothered by having killed an enemy. And the ones that are bothered are usually instantly rounded on by the other characters, chastised for their softness/naivete.
  • Being a Technical Pacifist (albeit one who fights dirty), Sam Vimes in the Discworld books frequently finds himself in situations where he is pressured to have to kill his enemies but tries to avoid it. The Fifth Elephant presents a good example, where Lady Margolotta, the mentor and/or pupil of Magnificent Bastard Lord Vetinari, shows her cunning credentials by aiding the villain so he will go after Vimes' wife, putting Vimes in a situation where it is apparent that he has no choice but to kill, knowing that the villain (a werewolf with Nigh-Invulnerability) will always come back against the ones he loves. Vimes does end up killing, fully aware of being set up by Lady Margolotta, and notes how he won't deliver a Bond One-Liner because he believes that it's the only thing separating self-defense and murder.
  • Subverted for once in The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. The narrator spends most of the story rationalizing his killings, but through therapy realizes he was really just following his own psychoses.
  • The moral of nearly any Vince Flynn book.
  • As expected, an integral part of The Art of War. However, Sun Tzu famously states that war with an enemy is the least favorable, last resort to achieving victory.
  • Used in The Two Towers, both book and movie. In the movie, the Ents initially decide to not fight, but they change their minds after finding that Sauruman had clear-cut a large section of the forest. It received lots of complaints about being pro-war. It was more subtle in the book, with Treebeard's line, "It is likely that we march to our doom, but if we stayed home and did nothing, doom would find us anyway."
    • Note that Tolkien was writing this during World War II, a war pretty much universally declared to be completely justified, in stark contrast to World War I in which Tolkien himself had fought. It's likely his intended message was that fighting is okay, if it's in a cause as justified as stopping the Nazis.
    • Not only that, Tolkien's Britain had seen a very active pacifist movement during the 1930s (in 1933, the Oxford Union debating society successfully carried the motion "this House will under no circumstances fight for King and country") along with numerous unsuccessful attempts to deal with the Nazis short of war. Doom, or at least war, *did* find them anyway.
  • George Orwell remarked in one of his essays that, "Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf."
  • In the novels In Death Ground and This Shiva Option by David Weber and Steve White, the invading aliens are an implacable hive mind. No negotiation was possible and the aliens had no desire to coexist. The aliens, in fact, didn't understand coexistence as a concept and were not interested in learning. The violent solution turned out to be the correct one.
  • In the Anita Blake series this is a recurring and controversial theme, especially as it's had a steady presence throughout the series as each new line Anita's willing to cross cuts her off from more of the "normal" world, and slowly pushes old friends and associates further away from her. The author's made comments to the general effect that while she likes and admires idealism enough to write it into characters, she can't manage enough personal belief in it to avoid this trope in her writing.
  • I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss concludes with
    But I've bought a big bat
    I'm all ready, you see.
    Now my troubles are going
    To have troubles with me!
  • In The Lost Regiment series, Vincent Hawthorne is a devout Quaker who enlisted in the Union army despite his church's pacifist objections to war, believing slavery to be a greater sin than warfare. Soon the conflict between his religious beliefs and military duty are put to the ultimate test.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bully Beatdown. Someone messing with you? Let's put him in a cage with a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
  • In Chinese Paladin, Elder Shi is seen as a Knight Templar because of his insistence that nothing will be gained by diplomacy with Bai Yue; various characters, including the Nanzhao General, take the time to privately advise Ling'er differently. Elder Shi is later proved right, and there is a beautiful scene at his funeral where each of the dissenting characters apologizes and pledges to give the battle their all.
  • Cobra Kai dives into whether this is the case or not a lot. On one hand at school the only thing that solves Miguel's bullying problem is him kicking the living crap out of them in the lunch room, but on the other hand Johnny begins learning from Miguel that there's plenty of times where keeping calm and using words or wits is his best bet. Ultimately it tends to boil down to "violence sometimes really is the answer," though the show is also not shy about showing the potential harsh consequences of resorting to violence even in spite of using it in self-defense or when it's justified.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor very frequently ends up killing lots of people/creatures to solve problems, (to the point that some fans have started using "genocide" as a verb because it happens so often) but, with a very few exceptions, he gives them a chance to withdraw peacefully first, and is much happier if a problem can be solved without anyone getting hurt. If his warnings are ignored, however, he shows no mercy, and afterwards seems OK with the ethical implications of wiping out a species in order to protect others.
    • Notorious old-school examples are "The Daleks", in which Ian has to teach the Thals anger, and "The Dominators", which was deliberately written as a hippie-punching allegory of how pacifists are stupid cowards who will get exterminated by the first non-pacifists they meet.
    • Tom Baker has expressed his misery about this in interviews fairly often, complaining that it was wrong for Doctor Who to idealise intelligence, love and pacifism, and yet so often end stories with the Doctor blowing the aliens up. He once even said, likely jokingly, he'd prefer it to be more violent to the point where it became obviously fantastical (the example he gave was a Gory Discretion Shot of him slaughtering 25 people with a sword) if the plots were going to use violence as a solution anyway.
    • A notable example of this is the Doctor killing both of all the crazy Time Lords and Daleks at the end of the last great Time War. The moral is proved in the case of the Daleks throughout the show, and in the case of the Time Lords in "The End of Time, Part Two". This moral is then entirely inverted in "The Day of the Doctor". Talk about changing your mind.
    • "Midnight": The Doctor spends the first part of the episode trying to prevent the creature that has broken into the bus being thrown out of the airlock. He ends up almost being thrown out of the airlock himself and is only saved when the person originally possessed by the creature is thrown out by the hostess.
    • "Spyfall": When an entire roomful of people is being held hostage by the Master at TCE-point, Ada Lovelace (well, she's not named Lovelace yet) takes advantage of the villain's focus on the Doctor to drive him off with a ball-bearing machine gun and experimental grenades ― there's an inventers' fair going on.
  • In Family Matters, Steve Urkel would usually try to find non-violent solutions to problems. Once in a while, though, that wasn't possible, and he would have to turn himself into Bruce Lee.
  • Farscape
    • "The Peacekeeper Wars": Our heroes try to run away from the conflict and when they realize they can't do that, they spend the bulk of the miniseries attempting to facilitate a diplomatic solution. In the end, though, the only thing that can stop the bloodshed is more bloodshed—a wormhole weapon destructive enough to force the two sides into accepting the diplomatic solution.
    • Also many of the Zhaan spotlight plots have her succeeding through physical or psychic violence despite her pacifist ideals, especially the Maldis episodes and "Look at the Princess". She was almost always tormented by the decision, and at least the first time it happened she spends the next few episodes pretty bitter about it and struggling to regain her inner peace.
  • In The Good Fight, Jay punches a Neo-Nazi in the face after the latter makes one too many racist comments. This, along with the Neo-Nazi's white supremacist buddies getting dox'd, leads to a full-scale riot taking place in the parking lot of a polling center. Amidst the chaos, Jay gives a fantastic monologue on the subject to the audience.
    Jay: Is it all right to hit a Nazi unprovoked? I was always taught to never throw the first punch. Never instigate. Defend, but don't attack. But then I saw a video of the white nationalist Richard Spencer being punched in the face during an interview, and I realized Spencer was in a pressed suit, wearing a tie, being interviewed like his opinion mattered, like he should be considered part of the conversation, like Neo-Nazism was just one political point of view. And then I realized there's no better way to show some speech is not equal. Some speech requires a more... visceral response. It's like Overton's window. That's the term for which ideas are tolerated in public discourse. Well, Overton's window doesn't mean shit unless it comes with some enforcement. So, yeah, this is enforcement. It's time to punch a few Nazis.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures has a variant on this in Enemy of the Bane. Sarah Jane tells Clyde, "There are better ways to solve a problem than guns," only for two of the Bane to get killed by Kaagh's blaster and the Brigadiers gun-cane. Seems like having a gun around might have its uses...
  • In The Young Ones, Vyvyan argues that violence is a necessity to create interesting stories when it comes to action narratives. He points out how incredibly boring Dan Dare and Batman comics would be if the heroes never threw any punches, and instead got along well with their Rogues Galleries.

  • The Kenny Rogers song "Coward of the County" covers this topic.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has something of a theme that most problems in Creation can be solved, at least temporarily, by punching the right being in the face. The main risk is that today's necessary puncher becomes tomorrow's punchee. Exalted also tends to assert that violence can "solve" problems, but will often create bigger problems in the process. For Example:
    • Going to war against the Primordials and murdering them won Creation for humankind. But it also permanently broke the cycle of reincarnation.
    • The Usurpation saved the world from the Solar Exalted. But while the Shogunate's warring states weren't as dangerous to the world as the reality-warping Lawgivers, they still weren't GOOD rulers, and the Terrestrial Exalted couldn't keep up the fantastic technology of the First Age
      • And then the two combine: the wrathful dead primordials imbue the ghosts of murdered Solars with power to create the Deathlords, who to date have come the closest to killing everything in the world..
  • Warhammer 40,000: say what you will about the Imperium being shortsighted, but everything REALLY IS trying to kill you and you CAN kill just about anything with enough brutal firepower. Can, but probably won't...
    • Zig-zagged in most of the stories around the Tyranids (and Tau). Usually, violence is utterly futile against the Tyranid (Space Bugs/Mammals/Reptiles/Something numerous enough to take down the armies and navies of entire systems just by clogging vehicles with their corpses), which forces anyone hoping to stand against them to produce alternate methods. Of course, these "alternate methods" usually consist of either poisoning them or diverting their attention. Still, Science Really is the Answer!
    • It happens more often in battles with small splinter fleets. Major Hive Fleets so far were destroyed by concentrating all available space faring firepower from several (dozens, sometimes hundreds) of sectors, craftworlds, tombworlds, septs and/or Xeno Empires. Hive Fleet Leviathan was indeed lured away from it's path to Terra with the help of Science, but the exact effect of this operation is debatable. Sooner or later (most likely, sooner), Orks or Tyranids will emerge victorious (most likely, Tyranids) and stronger than ever. And whoever wins this fight, it is the Imperium that loses the most.

    Video Games 
  • There're some bosses in the pacifist route of Undertale where violence is simply your only option to continue. However, this doesn't mean you can't spare them or show mercy.
  • The Fire Emblem franchise often highlights all the negative aspects of perpetual wars, but still enforce this trope. Early chapters may have the the main Lord of that game kindly ask a group of bandits or small militia to stop hurting people or else. They refuse, and immediately die, all while the Lord continues to protest that War Is Hell.
  • Mega Man X had always tried to be a pacifist, but he quickly concluded (or at least, decided before the first game) that fighting was necessary to bring about peace, to the point that he states that he is not afraid to fight his best friend Zero to stop him from getting corrupted in X5, and his enemy Sigma if he keeps showing up to stop the reconstruction of the world in X6. Then he suddenly made a decision to become an Actual Pacifist in X7, and players were given Axl as a result) Once you save enough Reploids or beat all 8 Mavericks however, X decides (again), that yes, violence is necessary. Then he becomes playable.
    • His reasoning is somewhat sound: he doesn't want to fight anymore because he's tired of killing (he's spent four of the last six games fighting without any direct correlation to helping people that he can see). Given his power, he's very good at killing, and he decides that his abilities and hesitance are better used in more of a leadership role (where he plays the devil's advocate more often than not, arguing that violence is not the answer). After you rescue enough Reploids, he realizes there are a lot of people in the line of fire in what's essentially a custody dispute gone nuclear, and decides to fight to save them, not to stop the fighting (that's incidental).
    • This stance is better seen in X8, where X is clearly displeased by the start of yet another conflict started by Sigma, but immediately jumps into the fray without the slightest word of complaint, as he knows that a lack of involvement will only end with more innocents in the crossfire and he doesn't want the situation to snowball. In fact, when Lumine (a New Generation Reploid able to go Maverick at will and the real mastermind of X8) tries his hand at psychological warfare and seems to succeed at getting X and Zero to hesitate, it is a bullet from Axl that rouses the two out of their brief Heroic BSoD and the epilogue has Zero reassuring X that fighting is necessary, not only to combat Mavericks but to Screw Destiny when it comes to the evolution Lumine spoke of.
  • One wins U.S. Men's Hockey Team Olympic Challenge!, an Interactive Fiction game, by vandalizing the Olympic Village. The motto of the game is literally "Violence really is the answer to this one," a parody of a traditional error message stating the opposite.
  • Pretty much any video game with any sort of combat will go into this. To paraphrase The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés: "All the world's problems can be solved by finding the right guy and beating the crap out of him." It's rather rare to find a game where the major conflict isn't resolved by some variation on "Beat the hell out of this guy."
    • Suikoden II is probably one of the best examples of an exception. In most endings, the major conflict is resolved just by successfully seizing an important location. In the best ending, the more personal conflict for Riou is resolved by confronting Jowy at the stone where they promised to meet back up at the beginning of the game and allowing Jowy to beat him to death. He gets better.
    • There's also Phantom Brave, where the Big Bad Demon Sulphur is pushed out of the dimension by the Power of Friendship, sacrifice, tears and blood. Then he just comes back at full power as a Bonus Boss and it turns out Level Grinding and hitting him really, really, really hard works better.
    • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link offer a different sort of subversion. The Big Bad of the first game is dead, but his followers are very much still out there, preventing reconstruction while scheming to get their leader back and conquer the world for real this time. Both games also have leveling-up side-scrolling gameplay mechanics, gloomy yet awesome music, and understandably bad reputations.
  • In Dragon Age II, this is averted. Killing Orsino and Meredith does secure the survival of Hawke and his/her True Companions, but it doesn't prevent the Mage-Templar war.
  • Joked about by Ultimate!Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
    Ultimate!Spider-Man: Violence is never the answer. Unless the question is 'How do I beat the bad guys?'
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, an attempt to Solid Snake your way through the first castle without hurting the guards by exploiting their line of sight patterns works fine until Link gets to a locked door. To unlock the door, Link must go down to the basement and use his sword to slaughter a guard for the key.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance: In La Cité des Cloches, when Riku asks Esmeralda if Judge Frollo was always an evil bigot and requests to know where he could be located so that he could speak to him, it is subtly implied that Riku intends to try to reason with Frollo, having fallen into the darkness once himself. However, when Riku sees Frollo trying to burn down a villager's home because the inhabitant was suspected of harboring gypsies, he concludes that Frollo is beyond saving and will have to be stopped by force.
  • In Destiny, this is generally Cayde-6's response to everything in the parts where he plays Mission Control - particularly when you're fighting the Hive and the Taken, both of which are species who run on strange eldritch space-magics. Cayde's solution to alien necromancers and the twisted spectres of various creatures who've been broken and recreated by the living embodiment of pure interdimensional evil is just keep shooting them until they go away, and it works like a charm, every time.
  • Sorey spends Tales of Zestiria as a Technical Pacifist, using his power to beat hellions down and purge the malevolence that had transformed them, but refusing to kill. He is forced to question whether his unwillingness to kill is really the best way, especially when he has party members who will finish enemies off, even right in front of him. It's not really whether he's right or wrong, though, but whether the strength of his convictions is firm enough to handle the day he has to kill someone - particularly the Lord of Calamity - without shaking him so much that it lets malevolence infect him. Sorey ultimately kills the Lord of Calamity without falling to malevolence, doing it because he understands there truly is no other option and not because he discarded his principles for the sake of revenge.
  • In Colobot, there is a level where, due to concerns from the Earth's animal rights organizations, you are forced to use a bot that deals with the hostile giant insects in a non-lethal manner, so that you can retrieve the Black Box they are guarding. In literally the next level, your base is under attack from the same insects, and your orders are to forgo any attempts at pacifism and just shoot them into oblivion. The issue of pacifism is never brought up again afterwards.
  • Zombie Army Trilogy: Invoked in the backstory for the player character Dr. Efram Schweiger, a German scientist who signed up for Hitler's occult research rather than be deployed to the frontline due to his pacifistic belief. After inadvertently helping to cause the Zombie Apocalypse, he has forsaken his pacifism, because the willingness to kill is his only means of surviving when confronted by demon-possessed flesh-eating zombie Nazis.


    Web Original 
  • Phase of the Whateley Universe comes from a super-wealthy family where violence is never the answer, because they have security forces and lawyers and layer after layer of protection from the real world. But then Phase manifests as a mutant and gets kicked out of the family, at which point he has to live in a superhero universe where the appropriate response is often an energy blast to the face. He still has trouble with this, although in stories like "Ayla and the Networks" he demonstrates that sometimes the answer is months of scheming and sneakiness beforehand.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Red vs. Blue. A newly-villainous Agent Washington needs to get information out of a group of aliens and is fully prepared to simply force it out of them, but Doc convinces him to try negotiation first. The aliens mock and insult him for it. Washington's response to this says it all:

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender zig-zagged this in the last few episodes: Aang speaks with his past lives and each one tells him, indirectly, that killing Ozai is justified—even a fellow monk pacifist tells him that as Avatar, the well-being of the people supersedes his own spiritual needs. Then Aang goes into the Avatar State, beats the ever living snot out of Ozai, and refuses to complete the finishing move. THEN Aang uses energy bending to save the day without killing.
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, one episode featured the Atom and Aquaman teaming up to save Batman. The Atom, a scientist, is off put by Aquaman's tendencies and tries to solve the problem with science and precision... until he gets sufficiently angry and punches cancer. This works.
  • Adventure Time takes this trope and runs with it. A lot of times, Finn and Jake just solve something by beating or threatening to beat the crap out of it. It's even the aesop for the episode, "His Hero", when Finn is unable to learn the opposite of this. The hilarious part is that "Sometimes violence can solve all your problems" is the secondary Aesop for the episode. The big lesson that Jake and Finn learn is "Never listen to old people," taught to them by a little old lady whom Finn rescues with his fists of righteous anger.
    • The plot of Crystals Have Power revolves around Jake accidentally hurting Finn, which reminds him of a time where his father told him to hurt everyone. He decides that he doesn't want to use violence to solve problems anymore. Unfortunately, Finn is captured by crystal soldiers who will turn him into a crystal, and Jake is the only one who can defeat them. In the end, Jake gets a vision of his late father, who reveals that Jake wasn't paying attention to what he was really trying to say: Jake must hurt everyone who is evil. Jake then "snaps out of it" and easily beats the crystal men.
  • American Dad!: In the episode "Bully for Steve," Stan starts bullying Steve relentlessly in an effort to toughen him up. While Francine initially insists that violence isn't the answer, when she finds out that Stan is the one doing the bullying, she quickly changes her mind. Steve ultimately solves the problem by hiring Stan's old childhood bully, Stelio Kontos, to beat Stan senseless until Stan agrees to stop.
  • Animaniacs did this in the episode Bully for Skippy. Slappy Squirrel's nephew is being horribly bullied at school, and his counselor keeps suggesting all the "solutions" Real Life counselors give: ignore the bully, try to befriend them, inform the bully that they've hurt your feelings, etc. Skippy just gets beat up worse and worse until he teams up with Aunt Slappy and breaks out the Cartoon Violence and dynamite... which oddly reforms the bully into a good citizen.
    • It seems people agree that this may be Truth in Television, since most of the YouTube comments (prior to the video being taken down) say that the counselor's offered approaches rarely work and often only make the bully worse, as seen in the cartoon. For those who haven't seen the particular episode, the solutions, such as "Ignore the bully," "Be a friend to the bully," and "Try to invoke the bully's empathy," are based mostly in quite discredited Freudian Excuses used to explain bullying, such as low self-esteem. Bullies actually tend to have high self-esteem.
    • That episode was also a Take That! towards Moral Guardians and the FCC's then newly-instituted E/I laws (one of the killers of Saturday Mornings); throughout the episode, both the aforementioned counselor and FCC chairman Reef Blunt try to rein in Slappy's predilection for violence, and they send her a machine that eliminates violence, and she spends most of the episode setting it up. It turns out to be a machine that makes all cartoon violence happen offscreen- and of course, the counselor and Blunt are subjected to it.
  • One episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars was spent mostly trying to convince a tribe of Actual Pacifists that the Separatists were about to test a new superweapon on their planet whether the villagers were there or not (although the village was something of a bonus), the Jedi did not lead the Separatists there, and politely asking the Separatists to leave was not going to have any effect. One of the elders of the village refuses to listen and makes the argument that while violence might/would save their lives they would be sacrificing the very heart of who they are as a people by giving up pacifism. Then again, without their lives, who they were as a people is a lot less valuable.
  • The Hero Factory: Invasion from Below special seems to at first play the "violence is bad" moral straight when Breez calms down the beast queen by offering peace. But, due to a misunderstanding, the beasts attack again, and this time the Heroes have no option but to beat them up, indirectly killing them.
  • In Time Squad it's official from the start of the series that this is Buck Tuddrussel's go-to philosophy— punch first, ask questions later! Otto at first tries to intervene at every chance, trying to explain that most problems that the Squad comes across could easily be solved with their words and can be manipulated into an agreeable compromise. But eventually its shown that there's just some problems in life that can't just be "talked" into fixing, sometimes a little butt kicking goes a long way.
  • Steven Universe invoked this trope, with a tragicomic subversion, in So Many Birthdays. Steven has lost control of his shapeshifting abilities and is dying because of the Rapid Aging that ensues. After everything else fails, Afro Asskicker Garnet grits her teeth and violently shakes frail old Steven. When the other Gems pry her away, she is very lost and seems to be in a shocked daze. She explains her actions by invoking this trope: "I thought violence would be the answer."
    • Steven also, reluctantly, comes to a related conclusion as his character arc goes on: while he's an All-Loving Hero who would rather not fight, who has more than once made an enemy into a friend, there are times it may be necessary. He'll be as empathetic as possible, but if it's the only way to stop a Gem monster or Homeworld invader, he'll do what it takes to stop them. He won't like it, he'll try and do it as ethically as possible, but he'll do it. In one episode, he's told that Jasper and Peridot are dangerous and cruel, and that means he and Lapis can't fight them:
      Steven: That's why we have to fight them!
  • Handled really strangely in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!. Dr. Henry Pym, the hero Ant-Man, is a strong believer in the ideals of being a pacifist and makes it very clear that he hates being a superhero because it means he not only cannot indulge his truest love, scientific research, but he is forced to fight super-villains, whom he would much rather focus on trying to rehabilitate after they are captured. In contrast, the rest of the Avengers have no qualms about fighting supervillains, viewing it as an immediate solution to the immediate problem of "this guy is trying to blow up the city". Things come to a header in the Ultron storyarc of the first season, where Dr. Pym tries desperately to stop a fight between the Avengers and the Serpent Society in the middle of a hostage situation; the end result is that Hawkeye gets hurt and several of the Avengers get mad at him—his Love Interest, Janet Dyne, The Wasp, outright chews him out for it. In response, he quits the team. Team leader Tony Stark, Iron Man, views it for the best, but he does not condemn Dr. Pym's decision, noting that he has never truly been happy with the life of the superhero and that it simply isn't a calling for him. In the second season, Dr. Pym temporarily returns as the far more violent vigilante Yellowjacket, having taken a severe shift in bad attitude whilst he was gone.
  • The Simpsons: On at least two of the Treehouse of Horror Halloween Episodes, Lisa made it so Springfield (and the world) became peaceful locations with no weapons... and were thus completely helpless when a threat (the zombies of various famous Western criminals (and Kaiser Wilhelm) in one, Kang and Kodos invading armed with slingshots in another) came packing.

    Real Life 
  • When asked in 1944 if the passive resistance he employed against British colonial rule in India (and had previously recommended for the oppressed populations under Nazi rule) could defeat Hitler and the Nazis, Mahatma Gandhi himself admitted that he wasn't sure, and even if it could, "Not without defeats." He admitted that the British were not bloodthirsty in general, and had serious qualms about shooting unarmed civilians; the same could not be said of the Nazis. However, he was noted various times of various quotes about violence to prevent subjugation of a race or nation and to defend oneself in a dangerous situation. In particular he once stated "Better to risk using violence a thousand times than have an entire race emasculated." Gandhi was a pacifist, yes, but he wasn't naive, and knew that his ideological opposites didn't coach from his playbook.
  • A few of the above fictional examples are loosely based on the 1835 conquest of the Moriori by Māori invaders. They refused to abandon their principles of nonviolence, and as a result were effortlessly annihilated without resistance.
  • US Army Sgt Alvin York was America's most decorated soldier of the first World War. But prior to the war, he had belonged to a pacifist religious order called "Churches of Christ in Christian Union", which opposed all forms of violence. When York registered for the draft, he responded to a question asking if he claimed any exemption with the statement "Yes. Don't Want To Fight." Later in life, he said "I was worried clean through. I didn't want to go and kill. I believed in my Bible." Never the less, his objections were rejected by the Army and he was called up to fight. Near the end of his basic training, York was considering desertion, but a frank conversation with his commanding officer, G. Edward Buxton Jr, who was also a deeply religious man, convinced him to stay. Granted 10 days of leave after he completed training, he returned to the Army convinced that God meant for him to fight and was as committed to his service as he had previously been to pacifism.
  • The Quaker religion is a pacifist Christian religious sect. George Fox, the founder of the Quaker faith, once said "We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretence whatever; this is our testimony to the whole world." Yet during the The American Civil War, thousands of Quakers volunteered for military service in the Union, some swept up by the patriotic fervor gripping the nation, and some on grounds that the evil of slavery was a greater sin than war (The Quaker sect was deeply committed to abolitionism). A Quaker minister, in a eulogy delivered at the funeral of a fallen Quaker soldier, stated the sentiment felt by many of his faith: "To make war in his country forever impossible, by eradicating human slavery, its permanent cause, he took up arms. There seemed no other way of doing it. He would thankfully have used other means, had other means been permitted... You need not be afraid of shocking your principles by receiving him here from battle ... . Do we hate war less in these days than formerly? Nay, Friends, we hate it, if possible, a thousand times more, when we see them, father and son, doing such deeds as this."
  • Yagyū Munenori, samurai and martial arts instructor to the Japanese Tokugawa Shogunate, made this the general theme of his "A Treatise on Family Traditions." Divided into two parts, "the Life Giving Sword," and the "Killing Sword," the book is as much about good governance as it is about swordsmanship (understandable, given who his students were). As he put it, "if thousands are being harmed and oppressed by a single villain, then killing that one villain will bring life to his victims. Thus, the sword that kills can also be the sword that brings life." He presumably drew inspiration from the Buddhist teachings of the philosopher Huisi, who wrote, "if Enlightening beings practice mundane tolerance and allow evil to flourish, such that true teachings are extinguished, then those "Enlightening beings" are in fact devils."
  • The modern world is essentially built on violence, or at least the threat of violence. Any faction who can maintain monopoly on violence will become de facto state, free to enforce their rules on the populace. These rules, in turn, can be codified into law.


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