Super Heroes are expected to have a higher moral standard. No abusing your powers for personal gain. Sometimes this is enforced by the authority that granted their abilities, but most often, even if they are aware of the Mundane Utility, it is self-imposed.
What constitutes "abuse"? That gets into a nebulous area. This trope usually involves the more obviously violent powers that could kill someone in a few seconds or violate a person's integrity, but even good powers can make bad people. However, if your family is down on their luck financially, what's a little arm wrestling wager at the pub going to hurt?
Mostly this is a moral stance superheroes took early in their career to make sure they never hit the slippery slope to evil-dom. This happens fast; arm-wrestling for money at the pub will often signal temptation to evil within a few episodes, if not that very one.
In the hands of a poor writer, it is easy for this to turn into a character Cursed With Awesome powers and unable to enjoy them in any way, trapped in a life they didn't choose can easily become You Can't Fight Fate and Hard Work Hardly Works, and is usually a one way ticket to Wangst-ville. It can also degenerate into the idea that benefiting from one's own talents or skills is wrong, and that trying to help others will only end in disaster, but that you are still obligated to do so even knowing that Failure Is the Only Option. The weight of the responsibility of the said great powers is often why heroes have Chronic Hero Syndrome.
Superheroes who follow this trope often become The Cape.
Outside the superhero genre, this is not often a trope relating to the main characters, but many a Reasonable Authority Figure is deeply aware of the responsibilities that come with his post. Indeed, one way to detect whether such a figure is good is how he regards the misery or deaths of the faceless masses; even not knowing any of them, the Reasonable Authority Figure will not regard them as A Million Is a Statistic and if he must sacrifice them, will regard it as Dirty Business.
Contrasted by Muggle Power and With Great Power Comes Great Perks. If the powers result in the character losing any sense of responsibility, see Drunk with Power and With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
- The Trope Namer, of course, is Spider-Man, who initially took advantage of his bestowed powers purely for profit, competing as a wrestler. However, by failing to catch the criminal who would eventually kill his Uncle Ben, he takes up crime fighting, learning that his inhuman powers have a price. The only concession he makes is to take pictures of himself in action to pay the bills.
- The phrase people most often think of, "With great power comes great responsibility" (heard in, among other things, the 2002 film), is actually a Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The original quote came from a narration box in the final panel of "Spider-Man!" in Amazing Fantasy #15, with the narrator telling the viewer how Peter has learned that "with great power there must also come — great responsibility!" The first time this was contracted this way and attributed in-page to Uncle Ben was in Christopher Priest (comics)' Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1.
- The multiple phrasing is discussed during Spider-Verse. During one story, a very angry Spider-Girl confronts an Uncle Ben who gave up being a Spider because his world's Green Goblin killed his May and Peter. May, already angry that her brother was in the hands of the Inheritors, snaps at Ben for abandoning his role as a hero. She starts to use the motto before Ben corrects her with the real phrasing and uses it as the reason why he quit. Also in Spider-Verse, Ben reminds everyone that the actual quote is 'With great power there must also come great responsibility', implying that responsibility is at once a choice, and an inherent part of the package with great power.
- It is also the aesop of the first arc of Ultimate Spider-Man, an expanded version of the classic origin story. Ben explained the concept to Peter, and cited the phrase, which was actually coined by Richard Parker, Peter's late dad. Peter was very angry at the time, and run away from him. He eventually realized that he was right, and returned home to apologize himself and reveal his new powers. The thief scene played out in a similar way, but added a Never Got to Say Goodbye to the mix.
- That phrase, Spider-Man's trademark, is parodied in Marvel Ultimate Alliance in a conversation with Spider-Man:
"With great power comes—"
"Don't you dare finish that line, or you'll have so much webbing in your hair you'd have to shave yourself bald."
- Played straight with the actual character in-game, however, where he has the passive "Great Responsibility," which gives him a chance to protect an ally from an enemy attack. If he does, it switches to "Great Power," which increases his damage. Once he attacks, it changes back to "Great Responsibility."
- A What If? story depicts Spider-Man stopping the burglar for self serving reasons—he know he'll get good publicity off of it. As a result, Peter Parker becomes a pampered movie star and millionaire with beautiful women jumping into his bed on a nightly basis. He doesn't learn the "with great power..." lesson until Daredevil sacrifices his own life to protect him.
- Ezekiel, a person with powers similar to Peter, poses a question to Spider-Man.
"And what comes with great responsibility?"
"If great power comes with great responsibility, what comes with great responsibility? Power? Freedom? Guilt?"
(Peter points a finger at the City's view) "You want to know what comes with great responsibility? This all."
- In an issue of Universe X, an older, fatter Parker answers this when he declares that he had the maxim backwards all along:
"It's responsibility that brings power. It's knowing what needs to be done that brings strength. And courage. That's my daughter... and I won't let her remain a mindless slave of the Skull."
- In the evilest ending of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Peter has fallen so far that he rejects his former motto, claiming that he never knew what power was and he likes it.
Black Suit!Spider-Man: I was told that with great power comes great responsibility.
Symbiote!Black Cat: And now?
Black Suit!Spider-Man: I never knew what power was!
- In Spider-Man: Edge of Time the Alchemax CEO, an evil 2099 version of Peter Parker, has his own twisted version after falling to despair over losing everything he loved.
"With great power comes great responsibility, and great opportunity. And the only way to live up to all that responsibility, is to use every opportunity to get all the power."
- This is the underlying moral of the 50th Anniversary storyline, "Alpha": a ordinary teenager is given incredible powers by an accident caused by a disgruntled worker. Peter, as himself and Spidey, attempts to reel him in, but his ego gets the better of him, turning him into a celebrity who'd willingly cheat on the girl he was crushing on and deciding to emancipate himself from his parents after the Jackal kidnaps them in a plot, not to save them, but because they were cramping his style. Spidey pulls the plug on Alpha's fun once and for all after a fight with Terminus nearly causes hundreds of deaths when his powers short circuit airplanes all over New York, two of those near-victims being Aunt May and her husband, Jay Jameson (JJJ's dad).
- It's also the underlying moral of the Superior Spider-Man storyline: Doc Ock takes over Peter's body before his gives out and decides he can be a better Spidey than Peter ever was. While he creates his own company, gets his degree and creates an army to protect New York City with, it ends up alienating him from virtually everyone because of his massive ego. When the Goblin King brings everything down around his ears, Otto's forced to accept that Peter was the better Spidey because he allowed himself to have those chances to be better slip away because he felt he didn't deserve them.
- This is turned on its head in Nick Spencer's first issue of Amazing Spider-Man as a Take That! towards everything after that - Peter is exposed as a plagiarist when it's revealed that a paper Otto wrote to get his diploma in Empire State University was similar to what Otto actually wrote (in Superior, a man caught note of what "Peter" had done, but Otto stops him by using one of his old devices to pretend Otto had convinced him to accept it). After he's fired from the Daily Bugle, laughed at by Mary Jane and brushed off by Aunt May, Peter comes to realize that he screwed up big time - he should have dumped everything Otto had built up (he even admits the paper Otto wrote was on a subject he knew about just as well) and by taking in everything Otto built, he wasn't taking responsibility for it.
- Then it's subverted in the Secret Wars (2015) story Renew Your Vows as Peter gives up being Spider-Man to protect MJ and their daughter Annie, making him the last superhero alive in a world ruled by the mysterious Regent. Even more, he goes so far as to ignore cries for help just to deal with his kid.
- Referenced and Played for Laughs in an issue of Spider-Girl:
May Parker: But daddy, it's my responsibility...
Peter: Don't give me the responsibility shtick, young lady. I invented the responsibility shtick!
- Gert has her own opinion of the motto in Runaways.
Victor: But... but I have powers! And in that book Webs, your photographer friend said your motto is, "With great power, there must also come great responsibility!"
Gert: Really? That's inane. Most people in life don't have great power, and the few that do are almost never responsible with it. The people who have the greatest responsibility are the kids with no power because we're the ones who have to keep everybody else in check.
Spider-Man: Wow. You are totally going to be an Avenger when you grow up.
- Parodied in the 2018 relaunch of Fantastic Four. Spidey attempts to psyche up Franklin Richards, who is afraid his power isn't enough to stop the Big Bad of the storyline, using his motto, but the Thing, annoyed Spidey's going this route, grabs him by the back of his shirt, lifts him aside, and psyches up his godchild his own way.
- Deconstructed in the storyline Hunted as Curt Conners tells him that while Spidey does understand the idea of that, he doesn't understand it from the eyes of a parent, which is why he's willing to let loose the Lizard to save his son.
- Spider-Man: Noir has its own turn on the concept with a lesson Peter learned from his Uncle Ben, who was a pilot in WWI:
If those in power cannot be trusted, it is the responsibility of the people to remove them.
- Nick Spencers run deconstructed this, pointing out that for all his talk, Spideys never really been responsible at all.
- Naturally this comes up in Spider-Man (PS4), but with a cruel subversion at the end of the game; it's a mentally corrupted and freshly-defeated Otto Octavius, having gone mad with vengeance and infected Manhattan with a deadly bioweapon, declaring that he and Peter Parker have a responsibility to do what's best for people in an attempt to get Peter to help him. At first Otto seems to be describing this very trope, but he perverts the very concept right after by proclaiming it's to do it for "those beneath us, whether they understand it or not." Peter, already beside himself in grief over his father-figure and mentor in this continuity becoming such a twisted man, immediately flips his lid.
- Aside from the first film having the words said as in the comic book, Spider-Man 2 has Otto Octavius telling Peter that "Intelligence is not a privilege; it's a gift. And you use it for the good of mankind." In the climax, Peter echoes these words to him to Break Him By Talking.
- The Amazing Spider-Man:
- Somewhat deconstructed:
Uncle Ben: You're a lot like your father. You really are, Peter, and that's a good thing. But your father lived by a philosophy, a principle really. He believed that... that if you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things. That's what at stake here. Not a choice, responsibility.
Peter: That is nice. That's really... that's great. That's all well and good, so where is he?
Uncle Ben: What?
Peter: Where is he? Where's my dad? He didn't think it was his responsibility to be here and tell me this himself?
Uncle Ben: Oh, come on! How dare you?
Peter: How dare I? How dare you?!
- This theme is explored in the parallel between Spidey and the Lizard. Both believe in this, but they disagree on what their responsibility is. Peter believes that his responsibility is to help other people and to take care of Aunt May. Connors believes that his responsibility is to give everyone else his powers.
- More explored in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where Max uses all of his power as Electro to try to make everyone else feel as powerless as he once felt before getting his powers. Harry Osborn also refuses to accept any responsibility for his actions or for his condition. In reality, there is no one to blame for Harry's disease, but Harry blames Spider-Man and Menken for his crappy life, especially after he becomes the Goblin. Specifically, Menken had in fact framed Harry for Electro's creation so he can take over Oscorp, which still isn't a good way to handle responsibility of running a company, but Spider-Man's case, his apparent refusal to help him was only using his own responsibility to protect his friends and family, including Harry. Who still becomes the Green Goblin and decides to kill Gwen in retaliation. By the end, seems Harry now plans to use his power to create the future that Oscorp envisioned, starting with forming the Sinister Six.
- Somewhat deconstructed:
- In Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker essentially condenses this trope and his origin story to one simple phrase:
"When you can do the things that I can, but you don't... and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you."
- This is a main theme in Spider-Man: Homecoming: after Peter nearly gets an entire ferry filled with people killed, Tony Stark reads him the riot act and demands his suit back. When Peter claims that he's nothing without the suit, Tony tells him that if he needs the suit to be a hero and a better person, then he shouldn't have it to begin with.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home revisits the idea as Peter finds himself being thrust into the spotlight as Tony Stark's successor. Feeling that the responsibility is too great for him to wield the power of EDITH, Tony's posthumous gift to him, Peter relinquishes it to Quentin Beck. Unfortunately, Beck proceeds to use that power to endanger the lives of everyone in London (including his classmates), forcing Peter to take responsibility for Beck misusing such power.
- Nozomi, The Ditz of Yes! Precure 5, wanted to use the Dream Collet's any-wish-your-heart-desires to do all her homework for her.
- In My-HiME, the applications of the HiMEs' powers were explicitly unrestricted, which Dark Magical Girl Nao used to justify using her powers to rob unsuspecting men, posing as a child prostitute.
- In ∀ Gundam Loran feels this way about the titular mobile suit. He's even unhappy about using the beam saber when he first finds it, long before he learns that he's piloting the most powerful mobile suit ever built.
- In Gundam SEED, Mu La Flaga throws this at Kira near the beginning, one of the prime reasons Kira continues to take up arms and fight.
- The final episodes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann carry this theme in the revelation that reckless use of Spiral Energy can potentially destroy the universe.
- I Wish has Wye talk about how Dee is in desperate need to learn this lesson. She's too carefree and willing to flaunt her magic powers on everything and everyone and it often leads to causing more problems than help. He's afraid that she'll eventually go down the same path as he once did, using his magic to resurrect people, becoming feared by previous admirers and ultimately doing something that could lead to the end of the world if she were not stopped. Dee does learn the lesson when her love-obsessed, stalking servants try to kill her and Wye takes the hit for her to keep her safe and she is much more responsible.
- In Alice 19th, Alice is encouraged to use her powers to help her studies. However, in a side story, a character loses her powers when she tries to charge money for the water she created using them.
- Something interesting — fansub group Janime translates a line from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX as "With great responsibility comes great power." The speaker is not referring to any superpower, but Judai's super-charisma and inherent ability to inspire people and get them to follow him just by being himself. Which isn't as good as it sounds.
- It's kind of subverted in the anime Eden of the East, in which twelve people called Seleçao are enrolled in a "game" where they get 10 billion yen and a concierge that allows them to do almost anything they want with it. It is later revealed the the goal of the "game" is for one of the Seleçao to use the money responsibly to "become a Messiah" who will "save Japan": Those who fail to do so are killed when they run out of money (or killed when one of the others win). "Noblesse Oblige" and "The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power" are Arc Words in the story.
- Averted early in the Chuunin Exam Arc of Naruto, wherein everyone in the room is subtly encouraged to use their ninja abilities to cheat on the written portion, which is so impossibly hard that this is the only way they will be able to finish. They were really being marked on their ability to cheat without being caught.
- Joey Jones from Heroman struggles with this once he get's the titular robot. Comes with the territory seeing as the series is the brainchild of none other than Stan Lee.
- Inuyasha: Inuyasha isn't allowed to obtain Tessaiga without learning that he must protect humans if he wants to wield it. Thereafter, his ability to strengthen and master Tessaiga goes hand in hand with his increasing compassion.
- In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, the Saints are absolutely forbidden from using their Clothes for personal gain, having to don them exclusively to protect Athena and humankind. If they do use their Clothes for personal gain, Sanctuary law has it that they shall be executed.
- This is also present in the original series: at the start the protagonist Saints are using their Clothes to fight in the Galaxy Tournament, and the Sanctuary, upon hearing of this, sends another powerful Saint (Hyoga in the manga, Ikki in the anime) to execute the lot of them.
- Devil Survivor 2 has main protagonist Hibiki Kuze feel this way about his savant-like ability to summon the powerful demon Byakko.
- Inverted in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: After the secret is revealed Nadia's firm belief in this trope combined with her own self-hatred leads her to attempt suicide because she's convinced she could never handle such power responsibly.
- In Mob Psycho 100, Mob has an incredibly mundane, mediocre life...and god-like Psychic Powers. However, he almost never uses his powers because when he was younger, his future mentor Reigen told him that he shouldn't ever view himself as superior to ordinary people, and that misusing his abilities would be like misusing a knife (but on a much grander scale). An early story arc introduces a Shadow Archetype character who actually does use his powers to basically rule his school; After getting curb-stomped by Mob, he undergoes a HeelFace Turn and becomes much more humble.
- The protagonist of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Josuke Higashikata, despite his Chronic Hero Syndrome is originally content to allow his older nephew Jotaro handle the Stand-using Serial Killer that is menacing his town. After his grandfather is murdered and he realizes his Healing Hands cannot solve all his problems, he resolves to rid Morioh of evil Stand users.
- Yet another trope that Revolutionary Girl Utena rips to shreds. MAJOR SPOILER: Prince Dios' backstory highlights the cost to the "powerful": the world is too big and too full of problems to save, and you'll break yourself if you try to fix it on your own. Anthy's own arc during the series itself delivers two even sharper truths: "trying to save someone against their will only makes things worse" and "people who are endangered need love and support far more than some token heroic intervention".
- Dragon Ball:
- While the Dragon Team has fought powerful villains or villain organizations and saved the world in the process, only Gohan chose to use his Charles Atlas Superpower to fight Earthling-level crimes as a superhero.
- Subverted with Kuririn, who has become a policeman in his middle age, but for him it's just a job and earns money with it. It is never explicitly stated that he chose the job to help people with his Charles Atlas Superpower and he only uses them when he thinks he needs them or if it makes his job easier.
- Played straight with Videl, who, while not as strong as the fighters of the Dragon Team, still went crime fighting during her high school days by using her martial arts. Her father, Mister Satan, who is the world's champion, instead chose a life of luxury.
- In the 2014 run of Young Avengers, Wiccan obtains the ultimate power of the Demiurge and monologues a bit about how he could do anything with it, and how he has the responsibility to use that power. He then promptly concludes that he's way to irresponsible for that at the moment, and stops at killing the villain of the week.
- In War World, after helping him find Supergirl, The Spectre reminds Clark that power must be used responsibly.
Superman: Thank you, Spectre. You have taught me a great lesson here and I won't forget it! Fate has granted us great power But power for power's sake is utterly worthless! Power is meaningless... until it is tempered with conscience!
- Used in All-Star Superman, although not spelled out. Lex Luthor gains Superman's powers at the end and goes on a rampage, stopping every so often as his Super Senses give him new insights on the universe. Just as his powers run out, he declares that life is beautiful and everyone needs to stick together - implying that anybody with Superman's godlike perspective would naturally choose to become an altruist. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue implies that he mellowed out considerably after the experience.
- Superman isn't above using his powers to get a good news story if doing so doesn't interfere with fighting evil. In one of the earliest comics he scooped Lois on a story about a dam bursting by outrunning her train, stopping the flood, and phoning the story in. Justified in that his heroing makes his job more difficult far more often than it makes it easier, and the guy deserves a break.
- In Starfire's Revenge, a suitor tries to talk Supergirl into quitting her hero identity and leading the peaceful, normal life she deserves. Supergirl replies she wishes she was normal; but she is not, and she is obliged to use her powers to help humanity for as long as she is needed.
Supergirl: I have these powers — and while sometimes I wish I didn't — and could live a normal life — I have to use them to help humanity as long as it needs me!
- In War World, after helping him find Supergirl, The Spectre reminds Clark that power must be used responsibly.
- Occasionally averted in X-Men when a mutant is shown using their powers to aid in doing their day job. For example, Colossus used his superhuman strength and endurance to work as a farmer (in the comics) and a construction worker (on the TV series) before joining the team. While he is using his powers to do productive work for society, it is clear that he is getting paid for it.
- This was (and still is) a common trait of Communist superheroes (and supervillains!) in comics. Most if not all of them are on the government payroll. It's superhumans from non-autocratic countries who have the freedom to use their powers as they choose.
- This was also demonstrated in the 1990s Sleepwalker comics with Anti-Villain Spectra. Her initial criminal schemes give her amazing superhuman powers and transform her into a supervillain, and she seems ready to become a criminal, but by the next time Sleepwalker runs into her she's using her light-projecting abilities to make a living working for a glassware manufacturer.
- Various versions of Iron Man usually wrestle with this - Tony Stark's fortune is built on his engineering genius, but in the film, Tony decides to get his company out of the munitions business after seeing that his weapons were being sold in dirty deals to terrorists and criminals. In the comics, Stark quit selling weapons years ago, but he still frets about villains stealing and abusing his armor designs, sometimes to the level of paranoia that he manipulates, deceives and attacks his own friends.
- A bit of a subversion and Aesop in The DCU. Rita Farr's inability to control her size-changing abilities ended her film career. The only movie she made after it was a knockoff of "The Incredible Shrinking Woman." Likewise, her adopted son (Gar "Beast Boy" Logan) also went into acting, and had a good run on a Star Trek knockoff, using his shapechanging ability to play an alien...however, neither of them were able to find more acting work, since their reputations as "freaks" made them un-castable in anything else. Other DCU examples were Victor "Cyborg" Stone and Cliff "Robot Man" Steele. Their Emergency Transformations enhanced them, but also rendered them ineligible to participate in the athletic abilities they loved because their cybernetics were considered cheating. For all of the above, it's arguable that they're in the hero business because they can't do anything else.
- A recent issue of New Avengers has superhuman mobster The Hood (who is a villainous deconstruction of the Marvel teenage superhero, and whose name happens to be Parker) explaining to his gang that they owe their enhanced abilities to him:
Hood: With power like this comes responsibility.
- In the print- and webcomic PS238, the private school Praetorian Academy is founded on the ideals of teaching this to its (grade-school level) students. Their somewhat draconian methods of enforcing these ideals contrast it sharply to PS238 itself, which is more of a normal grade school (with a curriculum modified thereafter) for kids that happen to have superpowers.
- Arad's Stardust: Twilight's attitude towards some of her more extreme magic, like transmogrifying living beings or the Want-It, Need-It spell. She will not hear of performing such magic for X-Com, citing it as too dangerous.
- In The Bridge, Godzilla Jr. states that because he's so powerful, it is his job to assure the safety of those around him, to face threats that he can fight but they cannot.
- A Crown of Stars: During their conversations with Shinji and Asuka, Daniel and his wife Rayana explain to them that the more powerful they are the more responsible they must be, especially if they're gods.
- Chloe's Lament: While Chloe constantly abused her position as the Mayor's daughter and assumes Marinette will do the same after her Wish swaps their positions, Marinette instead uses her family's connections purely to help people. When Chloe confronts her about this, she states outright that she has to set a good example to others, much to Chloe's bewilderment.
- DC Nation: Fauna points out to a couple of her fellow (non-powered) activists that if someone obtains metahuman abilities, their options are surprisingly few. Try to hide them? Well, you don't have any control or training, so your abilities end up using you instead and you're a target for people who want to exploit you. Embrace them, but still don't take up the hero position? Well, if someone could have been helped by your abilities and you refused to use them, good luck dealing with the guilt. You can't get rid of them most of the time, even if you want to, and it still makes you a target. Heroism is a dirty, dangerous job, but at least you're not a lone target, and you might be able to eke some good out of it.
- Yussef from Deva Series wholeheartedly believes power must be wielded responsibly.
- In Worm/DC Universe crossover Echoes of Yesterday, Kara decides to mentor Victoria Dallon after the latter gets an undercover cop, whom she had mistaken for a regular drug dealer, badly hurt. When Victoria's mother tries to object, Kara retorts superhuman power must be used responsibly, and Vicky has obviously not been taught that.
Kara: "At her heart, I think Glory Girl is a good person. She wants to help others however she can, which is absolutely the most important part of being a superhero. But what she did today was also inexcusable; the power we are burdened with is a tool, and just like any tool, it has to be wielded responsibly. Brockton Bay already has plenty of metahumans that don't. You might get angry at me for saying that about your daughter, but would you honestly be able to look her in the eye if she'd crippled or killed that man? Justice might be blind ma'am, but common sense isn't."
- Very much averted in Faery Heroes with the idea of Harry teaching students Defense Against the Dark Arts. He instructs only a handful of students and when the two Hufflepuff among them try to insist that he's obligated to teach everyone because he's so good at it, Harry retorts that it's the professors jobs to teach. He's doing this out of the goodness of his heart and doesn't have time to tutor more than a few students.
- Harry in the Harry Potter x Ben 10 crossover Harry Tennyson plays with this. Despite Grandpa Max's wishes, he doesn't see having the Omnitrix to mean he has to fight every criminal he finds and rush into every dangerous situation to help people. Instead he believes using the Omnitrix responsibly means making sure he doesn't get anyone hurt with his recklessness. He outright states that he has no interest in being a hero and is only interested in helping someone if the police/firemen/etc. can't help them.
- In Supergirl story Hellsister Trilogy, the reason Superman thinks his cousin shouldn't go on retirement:
Superman: What I'm trying to remind her of is that our powers place us in a certain position. And it's one of obligation. No one on Earth can do what we can, and very often, to protect it and other planets, we are required to do everything we're capable of.
- Deconstructed in I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Harry spent fifteen hundred years saving the world from whatever dark witch or wizard was currently threatening it, to the point that the Wizarding World was completely reliant on him. When an accident with a Time Turner sends him two hundred years into the future, Harry finds that the world has been ravaged by a war between two dark wizards. After Harry kills them both, the Wizarding World blames him for not having stepped in sooner to save them. In the present, Harry still helps people, but only if he takes an interest in them or if the situation hits close to home, such as helping out Ahsoka or rescuing a number of slaves.
- The Infinite Loops: Twilight Sparkle takes to this attitude as soon as she realizes Equestria is stuck in a time loop. It swiftly expands to the inhabitants of the entire looping multiverse.
- It's Over, Isn't It (it's only just begun) deconstructs this as well. In the wake of All-Might's Heroic Sacrifice, a culture of martyrdom begins to crop up among those who want to follow in his footsteps. Endeavor deliberately exploits this to encourage the heroes and interns in his employ to push themselves beyond their breaking points, which infuriates Nighteye when he finds out:
Endeavor: "Don't talk to me of compassion when you know perfectly well that sacrifices must be made for the sake of peace"
Nighteye: "You are sacrificing nothing! Forcing burdens on someone else is not a sacrifice. It's cowardice."
- In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, Paul utters a cynical variation of this: With great power comes a lot of people pestering you to use it on their behalf.
- KoihimeMusou: Tales of the Armored War Gods: Despite being in a PERFECT position to either use their powers for their own gain, or even manipulating events, none of the Riders have abused their power OR their knowledge, with the farthest any of them going being using their powers to make a living (often as bandit hunters at that, which is actually a public service). Even Masataka's actions which are more or less giving Go an advantage are all done with good intentions.
- Last Child of Krypton: Shinji decides to use his powers to help people because he thinks it is his responsibility to use them wisely and he does not like seeing people hurt.
- Deconstructed in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. When Sabrina first discovered her Psychic Powers, her father told her it was her responsibility to use them to help people and make the world a better place. However, over time people in her hometown began taking advantage of her goodwill and came asking for her help in very mundane tasks out of laziness, she grew more and more disgusted. It all went downhill when she decided to push them to improve themselves through fear, and began using her powers to terrorize them.
- Risk It All: Following the second attempt on his life, Ren resolves to use his powers to defend his parents from Black Mask rather than any kind of self-benefit. His sense of morality soon motivates him to go on patrol in Gotham's Chinatown and Koreatown, knowing that he would hate himself if he let something happen when he could do something about it.
Ren: If there was a rape or a murder? If it happened nearby? Right when I decided to shrug my shoulders and go home? I would hate myself.
- Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: After being shown Jor-El's message Asuka strives to live up to the ideal of hope that Kal-El could have been. The responsibility of being a superhero is also one of the major overarching themes of the story.
- Reconstructed in To Intervene with regards to Spider-man. Tony quickly realizes that Peter is consumed with the need to help anyone he possibly can, no matter how much it endangers himself. As a result, Tony does his best to train Peter, provide him with better gear, and talk to him about his guilt complex so he doesn't one day kill himself trying to save others.
- Not using Time Travel for personal gain was one of Dr. Emmett Brown's self-imposed policies on his and Marty's trips in the Back to the Future trilogy. In the second movie, Marty considered making easy money with a time machine, but Biff Tannen beat him to using a future sports almanac to gamble on past events, which resulted in drastic changes in the timeline. However, like other rules - not using information from the future and avoiding one's other selves - Doc eventually disregarded this rule anyway after finding his love in 1885.
- Possibly justified by the fact she was supposed to have died. Removing her from the timeline would probably cause less damage to history than not.
- In Back to the Future Part III, Doc constructed a giant machine with the sole purpose of creating ice cubes before the technology became common, which sounds like something one would do if they were trying to randomly change the timeline. That's all it does too; no Chekhov's Gun here.
- He probably had no intention of publicizing his inventions anyways, and nobody in town would probably figure out how it worked.
- ...And that information from the future saved Doc's life in the first film.
- The Specials plays it for laughs:
Deadly Girl: Ted might have been right about some things. Like drinking; last week I got drunk at a bar mitzvah, unthinkingly summoned forth demons and... they... ate a kid.
- Kick-Ass sums it up with "With no power comes no responsibility. Except that's not true." In context, all the "superheroes" are normal people taking up costumes in a realistic world with realistic consequences, including the protagonist, whose combination of inexperience and naivety of becoming a vigilante is played as such a boneheaded move that he almost gets killed on his first day. However, the rest of the story details that if one does manage to survive long enough to learn the ropes, the power to fight evildoers in the pursuit of justice is very real, worth it, and AWESOME.
- Used in Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the Safety Patrol.
- The film version of Superman borrows the trope and plays it straight, when Pa Kent tries to lecture the teenage Clark about not showing off. "You are here for a reason," he says...
- Right before he dies of a heart attack that Clark can't prevent.
- The eldest immortal of the Underworld (2003) series feels that it is his responsibility to clean up after his kid's messes, to which the protagonist replies that if he was really being responsible then he'd have stopped his kid a long time ago (him being the only one capable of doing so).'
- Inverted for parodic effect in Clerks II tagline: "With no power comes no responsibility."
- Parodied in Kung Fu Hustle - in the original Mandarin, one of the dying Kung Fu masters says this line... in English. The people surrounding him say they don't speak English, what is he saying? (The English Dub replaces this with a joke about repeating iconic movie lines.)
- In Iron Man after building his Iron Man suit, Tony understands that its power must be used to help people and begins an arduous transition from a glorified douchebag Arms Dealer to a humanitarian hero and champion of world peace. ...Who is still kind of a douchebag.
- Man of Steel:
- Jonathan tells the young Clark that he has to decide what kind of man he wants to be, since with his powers he can change the world.
- Though Jor-El's primary concern is his son's survival, he's not ignorant of the implications Kal-El's superpowers will have on Earth, among humans, so he or his avatar tells him to live in humanity's service.
- Martha offers a beleaguered Clark a different twist on this in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; she tells him that he should be whatever kind of person he wants to be, that other people are not entitled to his sacrifices, and that in the end he must do what he does because he chooses to.
- In SHAZAM! (2019), Billy initially uses his powers to goof off and become famous. However, Freddy eventually calls him out on his selfish behavior, causing him to realize he needs to accept responsibility to become a real hero.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Xavier coming to terms with the responsibilities of his powers and his role as mutant leader (and the personal sacrifice it requires) is a major plot point.
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, John realizes this when the Terminator almost kills someone after he orders it to fight off the two guys who came to see if he was ok after he had just screamed for help. In the span of about thirty seconds, John goes from thinking about how cool it was to have his own Killer Robot to realizing that it meant that he literally had the power of life and death at his fingertips and lecturing it about not killing. His second official order note is Thou Shalt Not Kill.
- The main theme of Bruce Almighty is Bruce learning to use his omnipotence to help others, rather than just himself.
- John Watson noted this of Sherlock Holmes:
"So silent and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent, that I could not but think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his energy and sagacity against the law instead of exerting them in its defence."
- The noblest of the Deryni show a great awareness of this trope:
Dhugal, I may have access to more and other kinds of power than most men, but I must answer for the use of that power to the same God and king that you door that any of the priests and bishops doand to my own conscience as well, which can be a far sterner taskmaster. Because I've been given far greater abilities, I've had to contend with far greater responsibilities. I didn't ask for them, but I have them. All I can do is serve the best way I know how.
- Alaric Morgan hangs another lampshade in The Bishop's Heir:
Here am I, Lord:
- Explicitly invoked in the Healer's Adsum Domine, a Gabrielite hymn in the Deryni works. Rhys Thuryn sings it in the short story "Healer's Song", and Duncan McLain sings it during the dedication of Camber's chapel in King Kelson's Bride. The English translation of the first verse makes the point:
Thou hast granted me the grace to Heal men's bodies.
Here am I, Lord:
Thou hast blessed me with the Sight to See men's souls.
Here am I, Lord:
Thou hast given me the might to bend the will of others.
O Lord, grant strength and wisdom to wield all these gifts only as Thy will wouldst have me serve...
- In C. S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, played with. Lucy uses her access to cast a spell to find out what your friends think of you, but when Aslan rebukes her, it is not for the personal gain, but the eavesdropping. He explicitly says that spying on people by magical means is still spying. So with great power comes — more chances to do things that would be wrong regardless of how you do them.
- The middle school novels of Seefer Elliot are heavily influenced by this trope. In the first book, the hero, Seefer, must overcome the urge to take his newly found powers and flee to safety. He ultimately decides to use them to save his peers, despite the fact they tormented him for years.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, Uriel explicitly thinks that the Inquisitor considers the population he is willing to sacrifice as numbers, while Uriel thinks of them as people.
- In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, Victor's Back Story includes a time where he made a worm and discarded it and was sternly rebuked: the stronger must protect the weaker, or those who are still stronger than they will treat them in the same manner. In the story itself, as the oldest child (with Amelia, the next oldest), he watches over and protects the younger children. At the climax, he makes his declaration of love to Amelia and regrets that he has nothing to offer her but himself; he had wanted to wait until he could provide for her.
- Given a stranger spin in the final part of Tuf Voyaging, where the main character, after twice failing to solve a planet's problems in spite of his Cool Ship's godlike powers, concludes that to give them a permanent solution to their situation, he must accept the responsibility and authority of a god alongside the powers of one.
- The wizards of Young Wizards have to swear an Oath before they get their power, and intentionally breaking it will result in the power being taken back.
- Sarah in Tales of an Mazing Girl feels, this given her awesome powers. However it really cuts around into her lounging around time.
- The Animorphs agree to an unwritten code of conduct in the way they use their powers: don't use them to steal, don't morph sentient beings, and so on. In early books they're fairly studious about this code, aside from their tendency to use their powers for opening-chapter hijinks. Later in the David Trilogy they break the rules for the first time, leading to new Sixth Ranger David deciding to take that idea and run with it. In the aftermath, the Animorphs swear to follow their code more strictly. They don't.
- Jake also notes in MM 3 that their power traps them in a bind: they have enough power to fight and make them responsible, but they don't have enough power to actually win.
- The Dresden Files
- Wizard Harry Dresden embraces this trope, saying that he "follows the Tao of Peter Parker." He means it, too. Thomas Raith comments on this in the Dresdenverse story Backup, saying that Harry has a "half-divine, half-insane philosophy" about responsibility that "he's cobbled together from the words of saints and comic books."
- Subverted by many other wizards of the White Council. As long as they do not use black magic, they are free to use their powers for personal gain. If the White Council did not allow it, it would cause a civil war among the wizards.
- The Merlin, head of the White Council, however accepts this trope; he just interprets responsibility differently than Harry.
- Molly Carpenter arguing against her mother cites the Parable of Talents as a reason for her to continue practicing magic. Harry immediately points out to a Father this trope says the same idea, only simpler. The Father agrees but notes that "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" is harder to work into a sermon.
- Archangel Uriel and other angels hint at the idea of this trope. Uriel is one of God's strongest and most dangerous servants. However, as his Duty is the protection of Free Will, then respecting the choices mortals make, even if they are crimes of horrendous evil or just stupid, must be respected. Uriel states he has the power to destroy galaxies, but when a mortal villain mouths off to him and flicks the angel's nose, Uriel can only stand still.
- Virgil used this trope as the Roman ideal, making it Older Than Feudalism:
Other peoples may yet
more skillfully teach bronze to breathe,
leading outward and loosing
the life lying hidden in marble;
Some may plead causes better,
or using the tools of science
better predict Heaven's moods
and chart the stars changing courses.
But Roman, remember you well
that your own arts are these others:
to govern the nations in power;
to dictate their rule in peace;
to raise up the peoples you have conquered,
and throw down the proud who resist.Translation: Some peoples' hat is art, for others it's science, for us, it's being in charge. Don't screw it up.
- In C. S. Goto's Dawn of War trilogy, the amnesiac Rhamah's first serious doubts about Ahriman stem from his actions — and Rhamah's rebuke is that knowledge brings power, and power brings responsibility.
- The Bible in the Parable of the Faithful Servant: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
- The Firebird Trilogy: The Sentinels are well aware of the dangers their Psychic Powers entail, and therefore hold themselves to a high moral standard.
- The Knights Radiant of The Stormlight Archive had this as part of their oath. Specifically, "strength before weakness" is a pithy way of saying that those with power have an obligation to use it for the benefit of those without.
- In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, when discussing his options with Geary, Rione ironically observes that some people think that great power means doing what you want to, and not what you don't want to.
- In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen vs. the Junion Super Patriots, this is alluded to when talking about how she got her powers.
- Tris from Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, Tris has the most dangerous ambient magic out of the four kids, namely, weather magic. This includes the ability to create lightning and alter weather patterns (and later extends to geology). As a result, Tris has to learn iron-willed control very fast and can't support herself with her magic: she doesn't want to be a war mage, and being a weather mage would mean fouling up the weather patterns everywhere around the region she might work for.
- Sandry also comes from a noble family, and maintains the beliefs that the nobles are obligated to help those less fortunate and powerful than themselves. She sticks to this pretty well, to, although she does occasionally get a selfish streak.
- In Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna is told early on that she can't hide from her magic and that she has an obligation to use her Gift for healing to make up for the lives she will take as a knight.
- The House of Night:
- Said verbatim to Zoey by her grandmother in Marked.
- Stevie Rae doesn't use her powers to "rule the world or anything crazy like that", because of this trope. Stevie Rae also reads comic books.
- Jurassic Park: Ian Malcolm talks about how a hypothetical martial artist, by the time he can kill someone with his bare hands, should also have learned the wisdom not to do so recklessly. He says that most other forms of power are similar. He then compares it to science, which allows people "to stand on the shoulders of giants" without developing the necessary wisdom. The film had a similar speech, though it could be summarized by the line
...Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.
- Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking states: If you are terribly strong, you must be terribly nice.
- Artist Ian Hugo, the husband of Anais Nin, wrote this in an article about engraving:
Every artist owes it as a duty to himself and to the world to know what messages he is conveying. Above all he should know when he is a free agent and when he is a prisoner of his own obsessions or of anything else. For the power of an image-maker is the power of a god or a goddess and with that power go responsibilities.
- Elijah Valentine could, theoretically, save the starving by magical means, but the world is made of connections - change one thing, you break another. So he mostly avoids using his powers, citing responsibility, and helps people in mundane ways.
- In the A Song of Ice and Fire books, the Iron Throne is a Cool Chair made from the thousand swords of Aegon the Conquerer's enemies. It's incredibly uncomfortable to sit on and is rumoured to have killed Aegon's son, Maegor. The entire point is to remind anyone who sits on it that supreme power is supremely dangerous, not something to be trifled with and one can never slouch and grow complacent while they sit in the throne. The overwhelming majority of people in these books completely miss this point.
- The reason Rudyard Kipling's controversial poem "The White Man's Burden" falls under the heading of Fair for Its Day is because while culturally supremacist, it still acknowledges that Westerners owe other peoples respect.
- Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain: Deconstructed with Claudia, AKA "Generic Girl." She's the strongest super in the city by a fairly noticeable margin, and spends all her free time stopping crime quickly and efficiently. However, she is still a thirteen year-old girl who should not have to shoulder that responsibility. Sure she's the strongest, but there are more than enough other heroes who can handle things, not to mention the fact that Claudia hates fighting and crashes hard from the adrenaline. Her arc in Henchmen revolves around realizing that the city can get by fine without her; in the climax, she's all set to solve the problem in five seconds, but Penny convinces her it's more important she spend time with her father, because the other kids can handle it (albeit slower).
- Bewitched lampshaded this trope in an episode where Samantha used her powers to do something but was seen by a mortal who wasn't supposed to see her. So she's considering "freezing" them until she can figure out what to do about it. But to do that, she would have to freeze others who would miss them if they weren't around for a few weeks while the person was gone, so they'd have to be frozen. She sort of realizes the ridiculousness of this when she considers maybe she should just freeze the entire human race, i.e. all mortals. Once you get started with potentially bad actions, each subsequent one becomes easier until you've crossed every line.
- In Charmed, the sisters were prohibited from using their power for "personal gain" to the point where they couldn't even use it to save Piper's life when she was about to die from natural causes, even though it would preserve their special Power-of-Three-ness and presumably save many lives in the long run. Later on, the writers played with this trope a bit.
- In S6 Phoebe's empath power is taken away because the Elders feel she abused it.
- In S7 the sisters use their powers to help the avatars try and create a utopia but this comes at a heavier price than they realise and then they have to put things right.
- Towards the end of S8 the magical community turns on the sisters for not living up to their responsibilities.
- Dead Like Me: If the reapers abuse their powers they face supernatural consequences. When George tries to directly speak to her mother she finds she can no longer remember memories she could talk about to prove she really is Joy's daughter (her appearance is altered to the living). Also when George tries to mess with fate, weird and unpleasant things start happening to her.
- The original Power Rangers were explicitly instructed not to use their powers for anything but fighting evil. This was actually subverted in the later Mystic Force season, though they were punished for it and technically later teams never had Zordon's three rules.
- Even the Theme Song says so. They know the fate of the world is lying in their hands. They know to only use their weapons for defense.
- Dustin of Power Rangers Ninja Storm got a light scolding from Sensei for using his abilities to stop a crime - an orchestrated hit on a store. Apparently they really are only supposed to fight the Monster of the Week and nothing else. Years earlier, Justin got scolded for teleporting to safety when he was falling out of a tree and could have broken his neck (or otherwise been seriously injured).
- Appropriately, Super Sentai, and by extent Power Rangers, was inspired by Japanese Spider-Man.
- Hiro Nakamura, of Heroes, has explicitly quoted this trope, in full "Spider-Man" glory, to his more mercenary friend Ando — and was proved correct when Ando's argued-for cheating at cards got them in serious trouble. (Just because nobody knows how you're cheating doesn't mean they can't tell you're cheating!) And the other hero who exemplifies this philosophy is named Peter P.
- The Invisible Man: The Official frequently tries to impress this upon Darien. He wants him to use his invisibility gland to help protect the country. Occasionally if he feels Darien is out of line he goes so far as to withhold the counteragent that prevents Darien from going mad.
- Michael from Roswell has been known to use his telekinetic powers to cheat at dice games.
- Gary from Early Edition once uses the paper to bet on horse races. He was so busy making money that he didn't read the part about a friend of his who died in a car crash.
- In other episodes, he did "cheat" at horse races on a limited basis, just so he could pay the bills.
- Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad occasionally used their powers for fun and games, including a game of Internet hide-and-seek.
- In Smallville, Clark naturally feels compelled to use his powers to help others. Jonathan once had a line like that too. Chloe Sullivan too, after she received the meteor power of Empathic Healing, she insists on healing a dying Lex even though it killed her the first time. It killed her again, but she has Resurrective Immortality. Many others with powers, don't.
- Poor President Bartlet from The West Wing has a very strong sense of this trope that invariably leads to enormous guilt, to the point of declaring that he would not be able to stomach the prospect of remaining President if he ever walked willingly to a bunker during a crisis. The trope was not just limited to his personal feelings: it screwed him over badly on numerous occasions, most sadistically in the third season finale, because it's part of his job.
- In "True Q" on Star Trek: The Next Generation, when trying to justify killing Amanda if she were a half human/Q hybrid, Q states "With unlimited power comes responsibility." Being that it's Q, you can't be sure if he isn't being disingenuous, but the episode still does make the point when Amanda is forced to face the fact that living as a human would mean not making use of her powers.
- Kamen Rider has this baked into the premise thanks to Shotaro Ishinomori's fondness for the Phlebotinum Rebel trope. In every single series, the Riders' powers come from the same source as their enemies, but the Riders choose to do good with them. This got special notice in the Post-Script Episodes of Kamen Rider Wizard, where the villain tries to claim that the Riders hide behind a facade of "justice" but are no better than the monsters they slay; the Riders counter by saying that they fight to protect humanity's peace and freedom against those who would destroy both, rather than for some arbitrary definition of justice.
Micchy: What was that you were always droning about? Noblesse oblige? That the most gifted should be the first to sacrifice. In that was true nobility. [.] What is "nobility" then? To get hurt for others' sake, to let them use you... You expect anyone to be happy about that?
- In Kamen Rider Gaim, Takatora Kureshima believes in this in the form of noblesse oblige; later in the series, his brother deconstructs it while they fight each other:
- In Kamen Rider Drive, Gou/Kamen Rider Mach uses the same Density Shift powers as the Roidmudes to intimidate some criminals for information; Shinnosuke/Drive chews him out for this, saying that they have a responsibility to be better than that. It helps that Shinnosuke was a By-the-Book Cop even before he became Drive.
- In Powers, Walker gives Calista this speech in season 2 when she takes up Retro Girl's moniker.
- Jessica Jones (2015): Jessica gives a rebuttal to someone who tries to pull this sort of remark on her, saying, "If you say with great power comes great responsibility, I swear Ill throw up on you.
- The Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode "Regrets... I've Had A Few" features this. Shortly after the Young Hercules Pilot Movie, Hercules has become brash and arrogant, acting bored and too good for Cheiron's lessons. One of the local gangs attempts to initiate a new member (Bartoc) by siccing him on Hercules. During the confrontation, Hercules treats it as a joke and just messes with Bartoc, until he accidentally breaks the guy's neck. It's a wake-up call for Herc, and he spends the remaining flashbacks dealing with the fallout (including delivering the news to Bartoc's family).
- In Lois & Clark, some visiting Kryptonians question Clark's refusal to kill his enemies. Clark tells them that when he discovered his power, he had to decide whether to use it for destruction or for life, and he chose life.
- Genius: The Transgression calls its Karma Meter "Obligation". High Obligation, you're a Reasonable Authority Figure and Science Hero. Low Obligation, you're either a cackling lunatic or Mengele. The Peerage's view on it subverts it slight; you do have a responsibility, but it's a responsibility to keep your head down, remain quiet and don't do anything too insane. To them, a Genius trying to help has the risk of getting carried away and having weird ideas on what helping means.
- In the New World of Darkness:
- Muggles can win free points on the Karma Meter for exceptional acts of heroism, whereas the various supernatural splats always have to spend Experience Points for the same. This is explicitly explained as a responsibility of the powerful to tend to the well-being of their own souls.
- Mage: The Awakening:
- The Karma Meter is enforced more harshly for mages than for Muggles. Mages are blocked from the highest levels of Wisdom just for using magic for its Mundane Utility, Magic Misfires are worse for low-Wisdom mages, and Spirits dislike low-Wisdom mages on sight.
- Mages need to be careful about the spells they cast, because flagrantly throwing around extremely obvious magic threatens the various Magic Misfires of Paradox.
- This belief is what separates the Silver Ladder from the Seers of the Throne. The Silver Ladder believe they're supposed to rule over Sleepers, but that this rulership is for the Sleepers' own good — they're supposed to guide Sleepers towards enlightenment and generally rule well. Seers don't believe that control over Sleepers has any real responsibilities apart from not spooking the herd, and abuse both mystical and manipulative power for personal gain on a grimly regular basis.
- Ironclaw's section on Necromancy states "with unlimited power comes unlimited irresponsibility."
- In Sparks of Light, one of the issues suffered by the Light is the question of "grey magic," or the use of the Light for personal benefit (ranging from using the Light to refresh yourself after an all-night study session, to rigging the stock market in your favor). The Courts of Light say "don't do that, ever," but no magical girl obeys that rule perfectly (and the Courts don't really have any means of strictly enforcing it). The Twilight Courts broke away from the Light because they saw the Light's position as Lawful Stupid. However, there's a reason for the rules, because there is a slippery slope to worry about, and a lot of Twilight girls eventually fall to the Dark.
- Divine spellcasters in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder make this a game mechanic: in exchange for their powers, they are required to use them in ways that advance (or at least do not conflict with) a given cause, typically a deity or religion. The Paladin is an extreme example of this, losing their divinely granted powers instantly if they violate their code of conduct (or sacred oath in 5th Edition D&D).
- In BIONICLE Adventures: Challenge of the Hordika, after Vakama discovers evidence that he and the other Toa Metru were chosen by mistake rather than destiny, Norik tells him that whether or not his team were meant to be Toa, they have the power, and so they have the responsibility to use it to help others.
- Cole from inFAMOUS. And everything Kessler puts you through? Preparation for when the shit really hits the fan. Of course, with the game's moral choice system, it's up to the player whether or not Cole embraces this trope or if he rejects it and is only looking out for himself.
- Learning this is part of Good Delsin's Character Development in In FAMOUS Second Son.
- Spoofed in Psychonauts. After Ford Crueller teaches Raz how to use pyrokinesis, he tells him not to use it unless it's REALLY important, or unless it's REALLY funny. The dev team ensured it would always be funny,
encouragingguaranteeing a flagrant abuse of the power.
- Mentioned during King Terenas' voiceover about his son Arthas in the Wrath Of the Lich King intro. Note that by this time, Arthas has long since done a FaceHeel Turn, and this line is juxtaposed against Arthas resurrecting an undead dragon.
"Our line has aways ruled with wisdom and strength. I know you will show restraint when exercising your great power."
- In The Godfather game, Tom Hagen tells you as Aldo Trapani that becoming Capo is an honour that comes with great responsibility, should you speak with him immediately after the promotion cutscene. Given that Aldo's at best a Sociopathic Hero and at worst an out-and-out Villain Protagonist, though, one wonders if there was meant to be any moral behind it...
- In Dragon Age II, this was how the hero's father, Malcolm, viewed being a mage.
- Dragon Age: Origins has Wynne asking the PC point-blank what it means to be a Grey Warden, and the rest of the conversation is more or less Wynne's Uncle Ben moment.
- Subverted in Driver: San Francisco. Chapter 1 is even called With great power... but the first thing Tanner does with his ability to Body Surf into the drivers of other vehicles is gleefully abuse said power with precisely zero repercussions.
- The Outsider grants his gifts of magic to people purely because he finds them interesting and wants to see what they'd do with an extra catalyst. He even tells Corvo outright that what he choses to do with his newfound powers is entirely up to him.
- In a meta sense, Corvo's (and the player's) actions throughout the game drastically alter the tone of the setting. It could thus be said that this trope is the entire game's moral.
- In Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland, Meruru and the Masked G will have a discussion about this if the player qualifies for the requirements of the Strongest Princess ending. Meruru is excited about being the "strongest princess," but comes to wonder just what power is and why it is or isn't important.
- In Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey, after Ilmeria decides to open an atelier of her own and sends a letter to her parents informing them of such, she receives a letter back stating that alchemy brings great power, so wielding it without purpose would be a foolish thing to do. However, by choosing her own path, she has become a respectable alchemist.
- In Lament Mirror in the PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release of Eternal Sonata, Salsa is alone with Frederic and hankering for some food. She asks Frederic why he doesn't use his magic powers to magic up a steak for them. He replies that "Magic is not a tool of convenience," and continues that even if such a thing were possible, their first thought should be of the children starving in the cities. Salsa is not persuaded by this logical argument, and breaks down in a tantrum, causing Frederic to Face Palm.
- Mentioned in Undertale, but only under rather specific circumstances — if you kill Papyrus, but aren't going full Kill 'Em All, Sans will meet you in the Last Corridor and insinuate he knows about your Save Scumming, and ask, if you have a special power, doesn't that mean you also have a responsibility to do the right thing? Regardless of what your response is, it leads to him calling you out for killing Papyrus.
- In Geneforge, this is a major theme of the Shapers. While they're not good guys (Gray-and-Grey Morality rules the roost), they know exactly how dangerous Shaping is, and while they use this technology as the basis of their civilization, they consider containment procedures and keeping Shaping under control to be just as important as continuing to develop the art for the good of their people. Their black labs have security procedures that make the CDC look lax, and they forbid the use of Upgrade Artifacts because a core element of their philosophy is that developing one's power naturally means developing the discipline to use this power wisely, while giving power to amateurs before they're ready will lead to chaos.
- In StarCraft, defying this trope is the entire motivation of the ultimate Big Bad of the series. Amon enjoyed the power that came with becoming a Xel'Naga, but balked when he realized that the Xel'Naga aren't gods, but shepherds.
- In Mega Man ZX, it's noted at multiple points that the Chosen Ones who become Mega Men have the potential to change the very state of the world with the power of their Biometals. The heroes are the ones who choose to use that power to protect the innocent from Mavericks to keep them from suffering the same fates their own loved ones suffered or for the sakes of those who helped them when no one else would, while most of the villains want to use their powers to rule the world and institute their own brands of order on it because of their past traumas.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies, Athena was driven to become a lawyer because her powers showed her that a guy being hauled away for murder was innocent. She was about nine years old at the time.
- In RuneScape, when Saradomin first achieved godhood, he became drunk with power, destroyed a city, and almost wiped out an entire sapient species because they were pacifists who chose not to worship or side with him during the ancient God Wars. He now regrets his violent actions and calls them his greatest failures.
- Assassin's Creed and II both deconstruct the eponymous Badass Creed, "Nothing is true; everything is permitted." Ezio, and Altair after Character Development, remark that the Creed essentially is just an Anti-Nihilist repudiation of the concept of "natural law": the only codes of conduct that actually exist are the ones that human societies choose to impose on themselves in order for civilizations to exist, and thus the onus is entirely on individual people to act wisely.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Sith Inquisitor companion Ashara Zavros, formerly a Jedi Padawan, criticizes a revered Jedi Master for living in meditative seclusion while the galaxy is torn apart by war, but also takes note that in contrast to the Jedi Code, the Sith Code is more of a description of how Sith view the Force than an instruction on how to act. She argues that since she and the Inquisitor have these powers, they should be using them to help end the galaxy's suffering.
- 8-Bit Theater:
- Bob and George: How to get George to fight for a minor character? Remind him he's a superhero!
- The Dreamland Chronicles: It's not easy, being queen.
- Parodied in Everyday Heroes, when Carrie gets Summer out of doing chores by using the power of her Puppy-Dog Eyes.
- In Keychain of Creation, Misho was a Solar of the First Age, and therefore one of the rulers of Creation. Unlike many of his brethren, he ruled wisely and well. However, one day he saw the Loom of Fate, and due to his perfect memory, he could never forget it. He spent the rest of his First Age incarnation working non-stop, since with his power he knew every single second of his time could save hundreds of lives. It's implied that when the Usurpation came he didn't even notice until he was actually killed.
- The Order of the Stick parodies it.
Elan: "With moderate power comes moderate responsibility."
- Isaac brings Max with him to a secret location, and gets a surprisingly effective speech considering it's coming from someone with a doorknob for a face.
- Inverted in Questionable Content by the AnthroPCs which are fine with having no civil rights because having power would mean having to take responsibility For the Lulz. Given how most of them seem free to run around doing whatever they please instead of serving as an actual computer, it seems like they've gotten the better part of the deal.
- Also, Hannelore points out that her mom could have never gotten to where she was as a businesswoman if she believed that.
- Schlock Mercenary sees Petey say this to the Rev (who identifies it as "the Gospel of Uncle Benjamin"). Given that Petey's put himself in charge of a defensive war, and understands that (directly) helping his friends can impact it even indirectly, he seems to believe it.
- Those with powers in Pacificators are forced to either train and become T-Pacificators, or be labeled as renegades. There's no Take a Third Option at all.
- After promising her husband that she won't let their inventions fall into the hands of the military, Lady Spectra decides to use them to become a superhero instead.
- Parodied in xkcd: German physicist Georg Ohm never forgot the words of his dying uncle who told him, "With great Power comes Great Current squared times Resistance" and crafted that wisdom into the foundation of modern electrical engineering. Translated, that means that with high levels of Power one has the Responsibility to deal with the waste heat if one doesn't want their device to burn up.
- Erfworld is set in an RPG-Mechanics Verse where this trope is a game mechanic: "Commander" units feel a sense of "Duty", which motivates them to use their talents for the betterment of their Faction, even to the point of enabling a Zeroth Law Rebellion if they doubt their Ruler's ability to act in their Faction's best interests.
- Unordinary: John is an advocate of this and expresses to Sera that he wishes that those with abilities would use them to protect the weak rather than oppress them. After Sera confronts him about him being Joker, he declares that he doesn't actually believe that, which rattles her deeply.
- This is ultimately what drove Tiger to choose superheroics over his family in Spinnerette. After his wife learned about his secret patrols as the hero Tiger, his wife made him promise to stop, out of fear that it would end up getting him killed. Later, the school his daughters attended had been attacked by a gunman. While his daughters turned out to be safe, they admonished him for not taking up the mantle of Tiger to try and save the victims. He couldn't help but agree with them, even as his wife threatened to divorce him if he tried to be a hero again.
- Atop the Fourth Wall mocks this whenever it is encounter. "That's right people, don't have anything unique or special about you, perhaps it's not "normal""
- Many characters in Marvels RPG, especially Spider-Man, as is to be expected.
- Whateley Universe: Lots of examples, including the headmistress of Whateley Academy, but Stormwolf (Adam Ironknife) is probably the best example. He's so devoted to the concepts of justice and law that he's letting bad stuff happen because he doesn't have proof of it. Also, every single person in the school club Future Superheroes of America is this way by definition.
- On the other hand, all of Team Kimba use their powers to make their lives easier, doing everything from Fey magically drying her long hair every morning, to Generator using her powers to earn money working in the Whateley Academy sewers.
- While Phase has few compunctions about using his powers to benefit himself through Mundane Utility, he is also very self-conscious about both the risks of misusing them and obligation to use them constructively, to the level of Chronic Hero Syndrome at times. While he explicitly denies wanting to be a superhero, he's been called out at least once for espousing this position in a lot more words.
- Glowfic has some form of this/plays with this trope somehow.
- Bells use their power to give themselves all kinds of neat perks, such as The Needless and Living Lie Detector and Resurrective Immortality and such but they also always without exception use their Functional Magic or other Applied Phlebotinum to improve worlds/people's lives, for example terraforming mars and setting up portals to it and filling it with houses and free magical healing items and free food replicators, and they fix malaria and persuade everyone around them with any power to do the same.
- How to Hero riffs on this concept when the guide reminds its readers that "if youve got great powers youre basically morally responsible to do lots of good stuff with them." The parenthetical voice then asks any readers with a catchier way of saying that to send them a telegram.
- In The Powerpuff Girls Movie, which is a detailed telling of their Origin Story, the girls learn the hard way what using their full power recklessly can do to an innocent town; a game of tag wrecks many buildings and streets, and generally panics the citizens. At the end, the message is subverted, and by the time of the series, the ridiculously large amount of collateral damage the girls wreak on Townsville is accepted by everyone as the cost of safety.
- Kim Possible has no superhuman abilities, but her ability to call in favors comes close. She can usually line up global transport and any needed equipment from people she had helped in the past, at any hour of the day, to anywhere on Earth. She is reluctant to use it for her personal gain from an ethical standpoint, but in a more practical sense, she knows that abusing this ability might make it go away, since it's tied to her character and reputation.
- In the Family Guy episode "Cool Hand Peter", Peter, Joe, Quagmire, and (a visiting) Cleveland decide to take a roadtrip down south to get away from their wives for a bit. While traveling, they're pulled over by a Corrupt Hick who arrests them on trumped up charges simply because Cleveland is black. When it looks like their stay in prison may be indefinite, the gang opts to escape on their own, back to Quahog. When they arrive, it turns out the police force followed them, only for Joe to reveal that he anticipated this and called in Quahog's police force. The episode ends when Joe gives a speech.
Joe: You took an oath, just the same as me, Sheriff. To protect and serve, not to harass and douche. Just because you have a badge doesn't mean you can treat people anyway you like, and as a law enforcement professional, you have an obligation to be more ethically upstanding than the average man, not less. Now get the hell out of my town!
- In Danny Phantom, Danny has occasionally used his powers to retaliate against bullies. However, when he really lays on Dash, he comes to regret it when a nerdish ghost confuses him as a bully.
- Danny using his powers for any personal gain never works out well and sometimes puts Amity Park and its people in world-ending danger. One possible future that he created by cheating on an ersatz SAT led to his friends and family being killed in an extremely unlikely accident... because his English teacher wanted to make a point. Danny himself being the sole survivor, he wound up having his ghost half turned into a monster who killed his human half and began a ten year reign of terror. Half-averted with Vlad Masters/Vlad Plasmius who used his powers to amass a fortune through clearly unethical means... and half-played staight in that he's a lonely and bitter man who wants to be loved. Well, that's what he says as he tries to repeatedly kill Jack Fenton and endangers innocent people on a regular basis. You would think Vlad alone would be enough of an example to not need the other Aesops, but Danny can be an Idiot Hero on occasion.
- Averted in Ben 10. Ben uses the Omnitrix for personal gain or personal amusement every chance he gets. His idiocy, however, usually brings about the worst possible result.
- In the W.I.T.C.H. episode "The Stone Of Threbe", the girls have trouble getting the smelly character Blunk to take a bath, so they decide to transform to make it easier to catch him. A few minutes after doing so, their powers are stripped away by a side-effect of the Stone of Threbe's presence, and they spend the rest of the episode wishing they'd used their powers more responsibly. The loss of the girls' powers isn't directly related to their misuse, but it seems like Karma chose to bite them in the butt.
- Which leads to Fridge Logic and a Broken Aesop since cleaning Blunk up was supposed to keep his stink from hurting Hay Lin's family-owned restaurant's business; since the restaurant's basement acts as the Guardian's HQ and Hay's grandmother/WITCH's mentor lives there it's in the best interests of the entire universe that it stay open. Karma does pay them back at the end when Blunk rolls into a car wash and gets clean.
- The girls usually experience similar cosmic backlash when they use their Astral Drop clones to make life a bit easier for them. In the third volume of the original comic, overuse of the Astral Drops actually leads to the girls' lives getting wrecked for a while, while in the second season animated series episode "H is for Hunted", Nerissa uses her powers to make one of Will's Astral Drops a living, breathing person... with heartrending consequences.
- Also in "H is for Hunted" they transform to decorate their gym for the farewell party of one of their teachers and mostly get away with it, though they do come close to getting caught. The more realistic Aesop ("Don't neglect your responsibilities") is mixed in with the Fantastic Aesop fairly well and the Astral Drops are not used at all for the rest of the season, though more likely because of Nerissa's ability instead of the girls actually learning their lesson.
- SheZow has a pretty strict set of over 2000 rules that must be followed.
- She-Ra: Princess of Power: Bow learned this lesson when he abused the power of a wand he took from Shadow Weaver in "Bow's Magical Gift". However, the biggest problem wasn't how he used the power but how often he used it.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: while the main Aesop of "Lightsaber Lost" is about patience, it also touches on responsibility—Ahsoka's lightsaber is pickpocketed off her at the start of the episode and she's worried what the criminal who took it could do with it as a result of her own carelessness, and the episode culminates with said criminal taking civilians hostage with the lightsaber at their throats. Ahsoka is brought to a Jedi youngling class at the end fo the episode to pass this lesson on to the children.
- Avatar: The Legend of Korra establishes that the Avatar Cycle exists primarily because Wan came down with Spider-Man Syndrome.
- S5E10 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Spike attempting to let Princess Twilight have a few hours of sleep after being up for several days in a row. As a result, he ends up making decisions in her name, eventually calling himself Princess Spike. Only near the end, after he had been warned by Princess Cadance, does Spike realize the consequences of his decisions, as the room where the convention was supposed to take place is completely flooded thanks to something that Spike wanted done later.
- On Ella the Elephant, Ella can use her magic hat to help others, but it will start acting funny and not work properly if she tries to use it do something like getting out of doing work.
- The Canadian short Hot Stuff is about the responsibility of using fire and what could happen if one's careless with it.
- On two occasions in The Super Mario Bros Super Show!, Mario and Luigi have a chance to return to their home in New York. They end up going back to the Mushroom Kingdom however when they realize that King Koopa would seize the opportunity to cause trouble (once in the Mushroom Kingdom and once in their own world). Also both times, they offer the Princess a chance to go with them, she firmly declines due to her responsibility to her people.
- Voltaire actually came up with the quote, making him the Trope Namer in spite of the iconic usage of the quote in Spider-Man being far more well-known. This mantra is often used on forums to explain how its leaders should act.
- The doctrine of noblesse oblige teaches that the wealthy and powerful are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard and contribute more to society than those in less powerful or less fortunate positions.
- The philosophy of Objectivism devised by Ayn Rand specifically defies this trope. Objectivism defines the pursuit of one's own material self-interest (without ever resorting to "force, fraud, or coercion") as morally good, and defines things which prevent people from doing so (such as the "oppressive" idea that you should act to save the lives of others when you do not want to do that) as evil. To an Objectivist, one's degree of power does not alter this fundamental moral principle: with power, comes no responsibility to do anything but advance your own material greed without resorting to "force, fraud, or coercion": "I swear ... that I will never live for the sake of another man, *nor ask another man to live for mine*" establishes that everyone has the same and no greater responsibility than to seek their own self-interest without violating the rights of others.
- The political-economic doctrine of Social Darwinism also defies this trope, saying that when everyone acts selfishly and government does not force the powerful to help the weak (through taxing them to provide public education, road works, healthcare etc) and allows the powerful to prey upon the weak (through charging them rents for housing, utilities, transport, etc), the 'Invisible Hand' of 'The Free Market' perfectly ensures that the objectively 'valuable' and hardworking people in society become powerful/rich and the 'worthless' and lazy become weak/poor. In other words, Social Darwinism claims that when 'government gets out of the market' then the world operates according to Laser-Guided Karma. Comes Great Responsibility is evil in the eyes of Social Darwinism because there is no such thing as "the undeserving poor": the 'Invisible Hand' perfectly allocates wealth, so poor people are poor because they are morally bankrupt and/or objectively worthless to the economy. Preventing the so-called "needy" from dying only hurts the economy and society as a whole.
- Winston Churchill was credited with the saying "The price of greatness is responsibility", which is close enough to the Spider-Man line to make one wonder if Stan Lee might not have come across that quote when creating Spider-Man.
- Soldiers, police officers, judges, and others in similar positions are often required to swear oaths to never abuse their powers. This does not prevent said powers from being abused either with or without official sanction.
- Any weapons or combat sport class will drill into their students' heads that they have an obligation to use their skills and tools in a safe and responsible manner. As noted in the Literature folder above, martial artists are trained from Day 1 to only use their powers in self-defense and defense of others, and the Eastern martial arts especially place great value on discipline and honorable actions. As with the example above, however, that's not to say that there aren't unfortunate instances of the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy in real life.
- The opinion of the Supreme Court in Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, LLC, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), invalidating a licensing agreement related to a Spider-Man toy since the underlying patent expired, quoted the line word for word in its conclusion:
What we can decide, we can undecide. But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: "Spider-Man," p. 13 (1962) ("[I]n this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility").
- Parenting is a mundane but common expression of this. You made (or adopted) a kid - that's great! You have a HUGE degree of power over this younger, smaller person. However, with all that power comes a responsibility to make sure their physical and psychological needs are met and that they develop into an independent, capable, socially functional and morally upstanding person capable of taking care of themselves and being considerate of others over the course of the next (at least) twenty years: In effect, you have the responsibility to develop your child into the best person you can make him be.
- Adulthood itself is another mundane example. Yes you have the freedom to do a lot of things you can't do as a kid, but for the vast majority of people you need to hold down a job to pay to do these fun things. Or even for the basic things like electricity, food, or to keep a roof over your head - a large part of adults spend their time working just to pay for things taken for granted. You can gorge yourself on junk food as much as you want, but you have to be aware of the risks to health by repeatedly doing so. Failing to meet one's responsibilities can lead to serious financial, legal, or health issues.
- Used as a quote in an official U.S. Department of Justice press release by Manny Muriel, the Special Agent in Charge of the IRS' Criminal Division, when announcing the 5.5-year prison sentence of former Detroit-area trash hauling CEO Charles B. Rizzo on conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges.
With power comes great responsibility. When you willingly choose to use your power to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars and commit bribery, know that IRS-CI will be there to hold you accountable. IRS - CI Special Agents will comb through any rubbish to find evidence of a crime - in this case, shell companies and phony legal settlement agreements, especially one as egregious and offensive as this.
- In certain situations and under certain legal code, being in a position of power means you are held to a higher standard for people under you than a bystander. In the US, a random person who sees someone needing rescue but does nothing to help is generally not required to try to save them. However, if a parent sees their child in distress, or a captain sees one of their crewmates/passengers in distress they are legally obligated to try and do something to help. Otherwise, they can be sued or even charged with a crime for doing nothing.