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We have the Face Heel Turn, when a hero changes sides and becomes a villain. We have the Heel Face Turn, when instead a villain abandons ship (no, not that kind of ship) to become a hero. We even have the Heel Face Revolving Door, where they keep changing sides at the drop of a hat. But what about the part in between, when a character becomes more of either a Heel or a Face, but not far enough to leave the team?

That's what we call a Morality Adjustment. It comes in all different variations based on direction and extent, but we'll break it into four main flavours.

  • 1. A villain becoming more of a Heel. (eg: from Villain to Complete Monster)
  • 2. A villain becoming more of a Face. (eg: from Villain to Anti-Villain)
  • 3. A hero becoming more of a Heel. (eg: from Hero to Anti-Hero)
  • 4. A hero becoming more of a Face. (eg: from Hero to Messiah)

Compare Villain Decay, Badass Decay, Messiah Creep. Contrast Heel Face Turn and Face Heel Turn. A subtrope of Character Development.

Examples of Morality Adjustment include:

Anime and Manga

  • Xellos from the Slayers franchise. Although we're never exactly sure where he stands, he does skirt back and forth across this line while still facing the "I'm still evil but currently in a trend of doing good/evil things" line.

Comic Books

  • Justified by Mind Rape in The DCU: The villain Dr. Light was extensively brainwashed by Zatanna. She attempted to bring out his good side, but was ultimately only capable of turning him into a Harmless Villain. After Identity Crisis, the brainwashing unstuck and he reverted to his old nasty self.

Literature

  • The Seventh Doctor in the New Adventures tie-in novels changed from an enigmatic though sympathetic "Dark Doctor" to a full-on Knight Templar Doctor.

Live Action TV

Video Games

  • With the introduction of rogues and vigilantes in the Going Rogue expansion, characters in City of Heroes can go from hero to vigilante, from villain to rogue, from vigilante to villain or back to hero, and from rogue to hero or back to villain.

Web Comics

  • Lampshaded and Subverted Trope in Order of the Stick, Roy's moral compass is assessed after his death to decide which afterlife he should go to. Though he'd identified himself as Lawful Good through the story up to that point, the assessing angel pointed out his more questionable decisions, such as hiring Belkar, and suggested that his mixed bag of motivations and methods would make him fit better as Neutral Good. In the end, he's still found Lawful Good.
    • Belkar sort of had one, going from Stupid Evil to Chaotic Evil But Careful About It. Vaarsuvius has had at least two adjustments, though exactly when they occurred is up for debate.
      • Apparently, Vaarsuvius's actual alignment is True Neutral: he wants to save the world, but cares more about his personal goals, and does what he needs to do to accomplish them
  • Maverick (i.e. future Kaycee Jones) in Magellan moved from Hero towards Anti-Hero after her mother's murder.
  • The titular Anti-Hero Shadehawk of Antihero for Hire has been making a slow but steady crawl towards the Disney end of the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes. These days the real antihero of the strip is Crossroad, who's accused Shadey of "rampant idealism".

Web Original

Western Animation

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