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"All things truly wicked start from an innocence."—Ernest Hemingway
Ah, Innocence is grand. Likely related to the story of the Garden of Eden is an understanding that rather than always meaning goodness, innocence may also entail the absence of a sense of right and wrong, making it closer to amorality. This understanding is sometimes applied to the Psychopathic Manchild. Children Are Innocent sometimes carries the implications of this, with its being said that people get worse as they get older because they were innocent, not good. This may be invoked as the explanation for how someone who Used to Be a Sweet Kid could still go horribly wrong.
On the other hand, the villain may often assume this, and that all good characters are really naive -- if they understood things, they would be as evil as he is.
Compare Pure Is Not Good and Virginity Makes You Stupid. The related idea of the "Fall" being a good thing is very common (perhaps even required) in works where God Is Evil and/or Satan Is Good. See also Ignorance Is Bliss, Kids Are Cruel. Obliviously Evil is related.
Anime and Manga
- Sensui from Yu Yu Hakusho has the same sort of thing going for him, although it's played off a bit differently. A devout Demon-Hunter from childhood, with a moral-code so rigid that watching a group of humans raping, torturing and murdering dozens of innocent-and-helpless demons shattered his mind into seven personalities and set all of him off on a genocidal fit of raging misanthropy.
- Explored in Neon Genesis Evangelion with Kaworu, particularly in the manga. Sadamoto had Twain's Mysterious Stranger in mind when plotting out his character, resulting in what some fans call 'Evil Manga Kaworu'.
- Most notably, he snaps a stray kitten's neck, reasoning that it was faster and more merciful than letting it starve to death.
- In Keroro Gunsou, when Fuyuki was younger his dream was... to rule the world. Also, visiting Keronian kids Chiroro and Karara cause all kinds of trouble when they try to conquer Pokopen themselves.
Narration: "That innocence is what's scary." Was Natsumi right?
- The episode of Cowboy Bebop "Pierrot le Fou" explores this, though not with a child. Instead, the "innocent" in question is the (adult) superhuman assassin named Mad Pierrot, who has the mind of a toddler and, as a result, is incredibly sadistic. He's also deathly afraid of cats, and breaks down crying for his mother after taking a minor wound for a thrown knife, having been protected from higher energy projectiles previously.
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, this is used in some of the witches' personas. Eva-Beatrice gets a touch (although she's closer to a teenager, Eva screaming at her for murdering her husband had a lot of tones of this), but more notable was "pure and sweet" little Maria. So pure and sweet that she's rooting for everyone to go to the Golden Land, and in one arc, even murders her own mother upon deciding that her mother would never do such awful things, and so Rosa must be being possessed by the evil witch.
- Mao of Code Geass also has a form of this, since he grew up into a Psychopathic Manchild.
- Virgin Ripper: Nagi, a kitten who became a humanoid shinigami after he died but has since been traumatized into amnesia still has his soul-reaping claws (sword-blades on his hands a la Capt. Kuro). He loves his "mama" and won't hesitate to "make squishy" anyone who hurts her, including a pair of Hansel and Gretal expys.
- Mew in Pokémon the First Movie. It's portrayed as playful and Moe Moe yet it gives a speech about how unnatural lifeforms (IE, clones) are inferior to natural ones and should all die.
- The work of the Danish artist Julie Nord carry themes of this trope.
- Lenore, the cheeful grave-dancing girl in the picture, is an innocent undead abomination who has a habit of accidentally killing all her pets. From her page: Lenore's actions often result in the death or injury to those around her, and in various forms of chaos, yet she is not a malicious character, and often thinks she is doing good.
- A character (or rather, a Basanos Card) from Lucifer is called Innocence and takes the form of a young girl. She turns out to be pretty much out-and-out evil in the end.
- Little Keiko travels with her "Uncle" Jei and later "Auntie" Inazuma, who call her "My Innocent" and slaughter everyone who they believe is evil, which thus far has been everyone (except Keiko and Inazuma, obviously). Considering that Jei thinks that Usagi Miyamoto isn't just evil but the evil he must slay to rejoin the gods, what the heck does that make Keiko? Word of God originally wanted Keiko to be Jei's next host, but that seemed a little excessive to make a child that evil. Maybe in a few years...
- This trope was assumed to be true for the audience of the original Fairy Tales, so they provide clear-cut rewards for good deeds and punishment (often terrible) for bad actions as An Aesop for the difference between right and wrong.
- Or rather, they provide what was considered at the time to be clear-cut rewards and punishments. Quite often along the way, Prince Charming is blinded or in some other way maimed for doing the right thing before he gets the girls.
- One possible interpretation of the character of Lily from Legend is this. Darkness goes out of his way to tell everyone how innocent she is, but in the first few minutes of the movie, we witness her lie and steal. Later, she takes to manipulating Darkness with terrifying ease.
- The other explanation, naturally, is that it was never she who was innocent, but Jack.
- Errand in the Belgeriad willingly helps get the Orb, because he seems to assume everything is good.
- Garion can be this way to some extent in the first chapters.
- The villain in the Lord Peter Wimsey novel Whose Body? is a sociopath who kills for the fun of it, and has a dream of returning people to the pre-Garden of Eden state by freeing them from guilt (and implicitly making them more like himself). Note, that Sayers was also a Christian writer.
- CS Lewis explores this idea in the planet of Perelandra in the Space Trilogy which was without original sin. In an aversion, it wasn't depicted as a bad thing. The entire plot of Perelandra is the hero's efforts to prevent the Adam and Eve figures of the planet from committing their own Original Sin, and his success in doing so is presented as cause for celebration.
- A similar theme is explored in A Case of Conscience, a Science Fiction novel by James Blish in which a Jesuit Priest is part of the team that establishes contact with the first known sapient extraterrestrials. They have a working civilization, but no religion; they are completely without any concept of God, an afterlife, or the idea of sin. The story ambiguously suggests that they were created by Satan.
- Ray Bradbury also explored this in one story, titled "The Fire Balloons". It is about a human missionary who wants to save the Martians' souls. He eventually discovers that their souls do not need saving. This is not presented as making the Martians bad so much as making humanity tragic because we are comparatively destined to sinfulness.
- Another example (and a variation) from Perelandra is the demon that possesses Weston. Ransom is aware right away that he is dealing with something undeniably evil. It isn't until later that he realizes with horror that the "un-man" is completely innocent because it is pure, unadulterated evil. It only uses intelligence as a weapon to tempt the Green Lady, but then defaults back into childlike, spiteful cruelty, disembowling small animals and keeping Ransom awake by repeating his name over and over.
- In J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, the defining traits of children and fairies (and Peter Pan especially) is that they are innocent and heartless. Peter himself is an especially poignant case: being stuck in childhood means that he cannot learn from his experiences--or even remember them. At the ending of the traditional stage play, when Wendy is starting to outgrow Neverland, she mentions that Tinkerbell is dead of old age (fairies don't live very long) and Peter asks, "Who's that?" Also note Peter's merriment and delight at killing pirates and indians.
- It's also mentioned that when there are too many Lost Boys, or they started growing up, Peter "thinned them out."
- Several Terry Pratchett characters, including Mr Teatime and Banjo from Hogfather. And possibly Carrot.
- A major point in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is that innocence is ignorance.
- Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger discusses this in great detail (along with many other stereotypical beliefs about the concepts of good and evil).
- The Howlers from Animorphs were a Tyke Bomb Super Soldier example of this. They were created by Crayak the Bigger Bad of the series for the sole purpose of rendering other species extinct. When Jake morphed one he expected violent rage and killing instinct. What he got instead was a sense of playfulness like a dolphin (note that dolphins are a good example of this in Real Life). Howlers are just a bunch of fun loving three year olds who believe their acts of genocide are harmless games and that their victims aren't real beyond their role in the game. This causes Jake to recall with shame the moment he laughed as a Howler fell to his death -- he had gloated about killing a child.
- Crayak works hard to enforce this innocence. The Howlers have a collective memory, and he ensures no memory of a Howler dying is included so the concept of death remains alien to them. They're eventually rendered useless to Crayak after witnessing a single moment of love between two humans.
Live Action TV
- Samantha Who addresses something like this in the way she treats her amnesia, describing her new, "good" personality as a "clean slate" and asserting that she is not responsible for the actions she committed before this time. Also interesting is one episode titled "The Virgin", which applies to her in an unusual way- her amnesia has caused her to lose all memory of ever having sex.
- River Tam has moments where she comes across like this, blended with Obliviously Evil. She's around seventeen and extremely intelligent, but behaves like a child most of the time because of the damage to her mind both psychological and physical. On top of that, she experiences a lot of Hallucinations, so often her perceptions don't match up with what's really happening in the first place. She does usually have a sense of right and wrong, but she's prone to sudden violence and also sometimes seems oblivious to social conventions.
- It was discussed by the other characters on one occasion, after she casually shot a couple of armed gunmen with her eyes closed and even lightheartedly bragged about it, like she'd come in first at a game.
- When Reid on Criminal Minds is kidnapped by a serial killer who only kills people when he has unambiguous proof that they are "sinners," Garcia says something hopeful about the idea that the killer might not hurt him, since he's "completely innocent." Morgan quite correctly points out that when you're dealing with real people, there's no such thing. Turns out he's right.
- There's an idea in lots of plays with Wife Husbandry (i.e. Moliere's The School for Wives) that having an ignorant wife is not actually a good thing, as while they might be too ignorant to plan to cheat on you, they are also too ignorant to avoid being seduced. A good example of this idea is in the Flashman books with the title character's Brainless Beauty wife Elspeth. While he's a Handsome Lech and deliberately a scoundrel, she is likely (it's never completely revealed) a nymphomaniac and serial adulteress who as Flashman notes is equally amoral because of her stupidity.
- Ivan in Golden Sun is completely unfazed by the idea of invading people's mental privacy. In his first appearance, he reads Isaac and Garet's minds and is startled when they catch him doing it (since Psyenergy is Invisible to Normals), but he later seems to figure this out himself. It is implied his constant mind-reading gave him a reputation as a creepy child in Kalay because, while people never knew exactly what he was doing, a small child staring at you and talking about or knowing things you never mentioned aloud is still pretty dang creepy.
- Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins, for a given value of "innocent". She knows little of the outside world, having lived all her life in the Kocari Wilds with occasional visits to civilization. Her cynicism and social Darwinism is largely the result of her upbringing by Flemeth.
- Orpha in Eien no Aselia was raised to think of killing as a good thing. So she appears quite sadistic while completely unaware of how her behavior horrifies Yuuto. She wanted his approval and tried to get it the way she had been taught.
- One particularly weird example is Rance, from the Rance series of h-games. As harem heroes go, Rance is about as amoral as they come; his number one goal in life is to have sex with every woman on earth and he doesn't particularly care whether said sex is consensual or not (He prefers consensual, but he still has a loose definition of it). This leads to him being the h-game poster child of the Black Comedy Rape tropes, yet in a conversation in Sengoku Rance a priestess dismisses the possibility of using him as a ritual sacrifice due to the lack of evil in his heart. Apparently Rance legitimately does not realize that rape is wrong, though this may be averted somewhat; he's clearly freaked out later in the game when a sympathetic character even he thought was off-limits was raped "for real" by the villains. It's possible that his double-standard comes from some manner of awareness of his ability to invoke Victim Falls For Rapist / Black Comedy Rape and the villains' lack thereof.
- She may be portrayed as adorable, but Iris shows just how devious she can be when it comes to chessmastery, manipulation, trickery, lies, and - believe it or not - murder. There's a reason why she orchestrated RKS's attack against the Empire For the Evulz, after all!
- The Dimension of Lame from Sluggy Freelance is populated entirely by pure, innocent people. This makes manipulating them very easy for the Demonic Invaders.
- It's not a sense of right and wrong they lack, but of different levels of wrong, or of I Did What I Had to Do in even obviously acceptable forms such as fighting back against aggression. They're completely good as long as they don't have to face any kind of adversity.
- They equate peace with good, so were quite cheerfully looking to find Torg to turn over to the invading demons to get them to leave. So good they are not, as they'll sell out anyone if it'll get them peace no matter what the horrible consequences for who they sell out.
- Basically the entire point of Minus., which combines this innocence with omnipotence, resulting in an imaginative little girl who can do anything she wants, from creating magical worlds of wonder to effortlessly bringing nightmares to life, from creating a whole new afterlife to ending life as we know it.
- The eponymous character of Axe Cop is described by the comic's artist as "borderline psycho." Axe Cop is also written by a six year old. Draw your own conclusion.
- GIR of Invader Zim often comes across as sweet and innocent... certainly dumb. But just as it's plain he doesn't understand the reason for conflict, he also often relishes in destruction. (And as the episode in which he was stuck in "duty mode" demonstrated, if he worked properly he would be evil.)