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Quotes / Grey and Gray Morality

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General Tullius: We aren't the bad guys, you know.
Ulfric Stormcloak: Maybe not, but you certainly aren't the good guys.
Tullius: Perhaps you're right. But then what does that make you?
Ulfric: You just said it yourself.

Wesley: There is a line, Lilah, black and white, good and evil.
Lilah: Funny thing about black and white. You mix it together and you get grey. And it doesn't matter how much white you try and put back in, you're never gonna get anything but grey.
Angel, "Habeas Corpses"

"Surely you wouldn't do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn't do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?"
Genesis 18:25 (New Living Translation)

"It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace ? all in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind."

"There aren't evil guys and innocent guys. It's just... It's just... It's just a bunch of guys."
Steve Arlo, Zero Effect

"That’s make-believe. There ain't no good guys. Or bad guys. There's just guys."

Nena: Taking revenge for your family?! I'm doing the same thing! Don't act like you're the only one suffering here! (Louise completely demolishes her Gundam in three seconds flat) I was created for this... and forced to fight... I refuse to die like this! This isn't how I want to die! (notices she's right in front of her enemy's weapon)
Louise: (coldly) I know. I'm sure you don't want to die. But my mom and dad... WEREN'T EVEN GIVEN THE CHANCE TO SAY THAT BEFORE YOU KILLED THEM!!! (impales Nena's cockpit)
Nena: DAMN YOU, YOU BITCH! (dies)

It's not always black and white but your heart always knows what's right.
Pokémon Black and White opening theme

"No one involved was fully in the wrong, but no one was really right, either. That's how it felt to me."
Sorey, after witnessing the destruction of Camlann, Tales of Zestiria

"The battle between pretty evil and pretty good has begun."

Truth has many shades; it is not a matter of black and white, but grey.
Morgan Freeman, Bombs Away (B.O.B. song)

"It's so much easier to see the world in black and white. Grey...I don't know what to do with grey."

"When you are young, the world seems so simple and straightforward. There is right and there is wrong. In the cowboy films the goodies wear white hats and the baddies wear black. As you get older you realise the world is not so simple. There are men in grey hats."
Michael Merriot, By Royal Command

"I'm saying that with time you will see that things aren't so black and white."
Blune. Sigma Star Saga

"There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between."
The Monster, A Monster Calls

"The world's been hard on us, hard on him. Joel's done some terrible things. He tells me that on this journey, "you either hang onto to your morals and die or do whatever it takes to survive." I guess I'll find out."
Ellie, The Last of Us

"It's tempting to see your enemies as evil - all of them - but there's good and evil on both sides in every war ever fought."
Ser Jorah Mormont, Game of Thrones

...The Usurpation shouldn't be clearly interpreted as either power struggle or an act of balance, neither a horrible betrayal nor an act of justice. Why? Because we have factions endorsing all of these positions, and it would diminish their struggle to outright decide who is right and who is wrong.
The Great Curse is a convenient tool that creates this level of ambiguity. It creates the dire necessity without justifying the horrible means taken. It muddies the moral issues by creating an unknowable, external circumstance that shifts the blame around without absolving specific. It works.
I'm not even saying this level of ambiguity can't be preserved without the Curse, just that it would have been very hard, near impossible I daresay, to maintain it throughout numerous books by different authors without this extremely useful narrative tool.
Morangias discussing why this trope is enforced in Exalted

"Our enemies are never as evil as we imagine, and maybe we're never quite as good."
Amanda Waller, Justice League Unlimited

"Tu comprends, sur cette Terre, il y a quelque chose d’effroyable, c’est que tout le monde a ses raisons."
("The most terrible thing in the world is that everyone has their reasons.")

"I don't know. I guess I picked the least shitty of two incredibly shitty sides."
Conway, Gunpoint

Legend: So where do you stand, then? Where do you see yourself in terms of the sliding scale of good and evil, heroes and villains?
Skitter: All of the above? None of the above? Does it matter? Some of us wear the villain label with pride, because they want to rebel against the norms, because it’s a harder, more rewarding road to travel, or because being a ‘hero’ often means so very little. But few people really want to see themselves as being bad or evil, whatever label they wear. I’ve done things I regret, I’ve done things I’m proud of, and I’ve walked the roads in between. The sliding scale is a fantasy. There’s no simple answers.

"I’m trying to convince you that ‘right’ isn’t the exclusive property of the good guys, just like ‘wrong’ isn’t wholly on our side of the fence. Armsmaster’s sense of ‘good’ was purely what was good for his own interests. I’m trying to do the right thing more often than not, believe it or not, or I’m doing the wrong things for the right reasons."

Good to conquer evil,
Lies to fight the truth,
any of us only saints or sinners,
Or is it always red versus blue?
Jeff Williams, "Red Vs Blue"

Mike: The lesson is, if you're going to be a criminal, do your homework.
Pharmacist: Wait. I-I'm not a bad guy-
Mike: I didn't say you were a bad guy. I said you're a criminal.
Pharmacist: What's the difference?
Mike: I've known good criminals and bad cops. Bad priests, honorable thieves. You can be on one side of the law or the other, but if you make a deal with somebody, you keep your word. You can go home today and never do this again. But you took something that didn't belong to you and you sold it for a profit. That makes you a criminal. Good one, bad one, that's up to you.

"There's a demon inside you... It's inside both of you."
Prince Ashitaka to both Eboshi and San, Princess Mononoke

"The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it - I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it is rotten. This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics, is hopeless."
Hayao Miyazaki, explaining his affinity for this trope.

Tradition mages have a very biased view of the world: they see themselves as heroes who are striving to save the world, renegades fighting against an inhuman, faceless, soulless Collective; the Technocracy is seen as a ruthless, unstoppable machine. The Technocracy does include despicable overlords, soulless Constructs and inhuman assassins. However, there are many people serving the Technocracy who don't fall into that shallow stereotype. Just as it's foolish to say that all technology is evil, it is simplistic to say that all Technomancers are "evil." The Issues of the Technocracy are not always black and white. For some, the World of Darkness is a world of extremes, but for many - including the rogues who work for both the Technocracy and the Traditions, the Tradition mages who defect and the survivors who serve only themselves - everything is in shades of grey.
Mage: The Ascension - Book Of Shadows

Raeleth: Evil men rarely convince others to their side by asking them to perform dark deeds for no good reason. They will always start with the lightest shade of gray. They so often use what seems like a good cause.
Davian: You don't think it's possible that a little gray is what's needed, sometimes?
Raeleth: No. Gray is the colour of cowardice and ignorance and sheer laziness, Davian—never let anyone tell you otherwise. If something is not clearly right or wrong then it bears actually figuring out which one it is, not dismissal into some nebulous third category. If you have a basis for your morality, a foundation for it, then there will always be an answer—and if you do not, then trying to decide whether anything is right or wrong is an exercise in futility and irrelevance.
The Licanius Trilogy: The Light of All That Falls

"I mean, no one is completely evil... Dragons are complicated. Some are kinder than others, or braver than others, and some of them do really cruel things. But everyone has both good thoughts and bad thoughts and reasons for what they do, reasons they believe are important."
Moonwatcher, Wings of Fire: Winter Turning

"This has to stop. This idea that we’re all...that our team is perfect and the other team is demons. And this is not like a Kumbaya, let’s all get along. Let’s fucking fight, but let’s fight with precision and integrity, and not with just demonization."

"There was right. There was wrong. Now there is you."
Hercule Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express

Cyndie: You have to swear...that you'll never come back and you'll never tell anyone about us, not even your own people.
Tara: Why would I come back? Why would I tell anyone about this place?
Cyndie: Because maybe you could get something out of it...anything. Why did we kill those two people who just came near us? Why did you kill all those people at that satellite station? Because you all thought you had to. But none of you had to. You just did. Nobody's evil. They just decide to forget who they are. You have to swear.
Tara: Some people are evil, Cyndie. I've seen it. That's why I have to get back now.

Dark Mephisto: You... enjoy killing Beasts.
Shinya Mizorogi: What?
Dark Mephisto: Beasts attacking humans... humans defeating Beasts... its the same thing. In this wicked, pretentious world, there is no justice, good or evil. All that matters is that the strong survive. In other words, power is the truth that comes before all other truths. Stop being lost. Release your heart and become even more stronger.
Shinya Mizorogi: You bastard, who are you?
Dark Mephisto: I am, your shadow. Shinya Mizorogi, the form that you wished for.
Ultraman Nexus, Episode 18: "Apocalypse"

"The true rule, in determining to embrace or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil than good. There are few things wholly evil or wholly good."

"When one is young, it seems so very easy to distinguish between right and wrong. But as one gets older, it becomes more difficult. The villains and the heroes get all mixed up."
René Mathis, Quantum of Solace


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