They did a bad bad thing (twangie guitars)
They did a bad bad thing (twangie guitars)
When characters In-Universe call out one of the heroes for doing something clearly unheroic, if not outright heinous.
Occasionally, an author will drop some gray into his otherwise flawlessly good guy hero... and have others, particularly The Heart (and especially The McCoy), notice. This can add guilt and remorse to a character as they feel shame for their evil actions, and legitimately have to fight to restore their name, undo the harm, or simply live with the guilt and shame of it. In this case, you can expect to hear some variation of "Haven't you done enough already?" More extremely, it can be the first step towards Anti-Hero-dom or a full-blown Face–Heel Turn. A Redemption Quest is usually considered the most noble or morally good way to respond to this.
It shows the fans that the author knows their hero did wrong, thereby averting Moral Dissonance.
The opposite of Protagonist-Centered Morality; contrast also Designated Hero and Hero Insurance. See also What Is Evil? and Not So Different for when a villain is the one pointing this out, or acting as though there's something to point out to mess with the hero. (A variation is when the villain will praise the hero, which the hero will find profoundly humiliating.)
Almost never applies to those Powers That Be who have an Omniscient Morality License, although characters who Rage Against the Heavens might attempt it. Likewise, villains tend to be immune to this thanks to their It's All About Me attitude (or, at best, Moral Myopia), though a Heel Realisation might clue them in, perhaps leading to a Villainous B.S.O.D.. (This trope doesn't really apply to villains who are just doing it For the Evulz.) Those pesky Trickster Mentors may also find themselves on the receiving end of Rage Against the Mentor.
Some video games offer dialogue trees or something similar that might allow your character to call someone out for their horrible behavior, which can be immensely satisfying. If your character is the one being called out, it's What the Hell, Player? My God, What Have I Done? may be a self-inflicted version. Can come right off the heels of a Sadistic Choice foisted on the player in a video game. The hero may attempt to invoke I Did What I Had to Do as his justification, though this does not always succeed. Of course, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and one should beware of his own Moral Myopia leading to The Complainer Is Always Wrong. Results may vary against the Sociopathic Hero or The Unfettered; beware you don't get a Shut Up, Kirk! or Hannibal Lecture in response. Et Tu, Brute? may also counts as this when a hero does not make a full Face–Heel Turn, but gets called out for nearly betraying his allies. If it's a child calling out a parent, it's Calling the Old Man Out. Can somewhat overlap with "The Reason You Suck" Speech if a character points out a hero's flaws in very long detail in the most brutal way possible. A character verbally chastising the hero may realize s/he Was Too Hard on Him if s/he feels uncomfortable in chewing out the hero. The hero may lash out at the reproof if he Can't Take Criticism.
Of course, the critics aren't necessarily infallible themselves. There may be times when those making the criticism may not be aware of extenuating factors for the heroes. Sometimes, those making a What the Hell, Hero? statement can get one in return- an Anti-Hero may call The Hero out on being too inflexible to do what is necessary, while the hero may respond that his critic's methods are little better than those of the villains.
Important note: This article is exclusively about scenes where the hero is called on his morally ambiguous or directly evil actions by characters in the story. If the Designated Hero is a Jerkass (or worse), but no one calls him on it in the series, then take your example to Moral Dissonance or Designated Hero. Good-intended mistakes fall under Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!. Reviewers can call out the Moral Dissonance in their reviews, but they themselves are not engaging in What the Hell, Hero? as they are not part of the series being criticized. A skit still has to be based on events in the series; not something they make up so they can do the criticizing themselves.
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