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"There really aren't that many evil men out there. It's mostly just good men working at cross purposes."
Digger, by Ursula Vernon

Near the very idealistic end of the many Shades of Conflict (only White and White Morality is more), a setting with White and Grey Morality features no truly evil characters, but ranges through a spectrum of squeaky-clean heroes, slightly more sarcastic heroes, borderline heroes, Well Intentioned Extremists, and the occasional Anti-Villain at worst. Your Complete Monsters need not apply. Conflict is generated either through misguided ideals or simple misunderstandings, so there is often an undercurrent of "if only people would sit down and talk to one another, they'd find they're Not So Different after all". Expect a great deal of dog-petting and Heel Face Turning, from characters only nominally "heels" to begin with.

This does not necessarily imply that there is little conflict or that the conflict is lightweight. Two powerful forces working at cross-purposes can cause an amazing amount of mayhem even though both of them have good reasons for what they're trying to do.

Contrast Black and Gray Morality, where Anti Heroes are the best you can expect from the good guys; because True Art Is Angsty, though, this trope is a lot less common than that one, at least among works intended for older audiences. If the antagonists only became so due to a negative influence from outside, this may overlap with Rousseau Was Right. In that case, the occasional Complete Monster may pop up, but they will inevitably be shown to be a victim of horrible circumstances that shaped them into what they became (rather than simply expressing a monstrous nature they always possessed).


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • In almost any sports manga/anime, there are no villains. The closest to villains are people who toy with or break the rules to achieve victory, as well as people who treat their friends or companions like crap.
  • A common theme of Hayao Miyazaki's movies. The antagonists are sympathetic and/or have reasonable motivations.
    • Princess Mononoke: Ashitaka was very much The Messiah, but both Lady Eboshi and San had valid reasons for their actions. The enemy samurais seemed to be bad, but then, you feel if they had been explained then they too would have fair motivations.
  • A lot of Slice of Life animes have no villains: Sketchbook, Lucky Star, Ichigo Mashimaro, Candy Boy, Azumanga Daioh, and others.
  • In Aria, the planet Aqua (formerly known as Mars) is populated by nothing but well-meaning, friendly people--or at least Neo-Venezia is. Every time someone seems to act in less than 100% positive manner it generally is only a matter of slight misunderstandings, which mostly get resolved quickly.
  • Astro Boy: While minor human crooks and such may be genuinely evil, the Big Bad Dr. Tenma and related characters are just Well Intentioned Extremists. If a robot is portrayed as a villain, it's always due to a misunderstanding. This is in contrast to the rest of Osamu Tezuka's work, where pretty much everyone but the main character is always a bastard. Especially Rock.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura has no villains either; in the first arc, the Cards are portrayed more as mischievous beings than truly evil troublemakers and are all subject to Defeat Means Friendship, and in the second arc, the "villain" is quickly hinted (and revealed at the end) to be much more of a Trickster Mentor. All the intelligent characters are presented as decent people, which underscores the "Humans Are Good" part of the trope.
  • In Fairy Tail, the majority of the major villains have reasonable and sympathetic motives. The first one is trying to release a monster so he can defeat it, which is the thing his teacher died doing; he merely wants to prove himself by surpassing her. Another notable villain was a slavemaster who spent 8 years building a tower to revive the most dangerous dark wizard in history because he was brainwashed into thinking it would bring about a Utopia.
  • Gundam Wing seems to like this trope, too, at least for most of the main characters. Save for the few Complete Monsters like Dekim Barton, most of the characters desire for justice and peace, despite that their ways of achieving it is questionable, as pointed out by Relena Peacecraft. Fortunately, Everyone Lives except Treize Kushranada, who willingly dies by his own choice, and the world achieves true peace as Relena sees it. This way, Gundam Wing is a total opposite to the Universal Century series.
  • Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer and Chobits lack any really evil characters. There are lots of less pleasant individuals, like the cheaters in the former and the outright perverts in the later, but the closest things to villains in the storylines are concerned about victory like the protagonist or are interested in protecting other persocoms from the damage Chi could potentially cause.
  • The Lyrical Nanoha franchise was like this until Force (or not):
    • The Complete Monster of an Evil Matriarch Precia Testarossa, whose villainy defined the original series, was, as Alicia reveals in Fate's Happy Place sequence in A's, has originally been a very kind and gentle person. But exactly because she was so gentle, her psyche couldn't handle Alicia's sudden death and she "broke". The Movie expands her character to be even more of a Tragic Villain.
    • A's is the example of this trope in the franchise. The only entity that can be considered villainous is a self-defense program of an ancient artifact, which was corrupted long ago under unrevealed circumstances, while the rest of the cast only attempt to do what they believe would be best for everyone and angst heavily about having to hurt others ("It was such a small wish..."). Basically, the Team Nanoha vs. Wolkenritter is a Good Versus Good conflict.
    • StrikerS seems to feature a straight-up Mad Scientist villain with Jail Scaglietti until The Reveal that he was made that way by a group of old men who spent their youth fighting to stop a senseless, centuries-long war and were desperately seeking a means to prevent such wars from breaking out in the future. There is also the fact that the "Doctor" has a very family-like relationship with his Numbers and not in a Pet the Dog way: even after seeing the error of his (and their own) ways, none of the Numbers turns their back on Scaglietti, continuing to see him as a parent figure.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The characters split fairly cleanly into Idealists (Madoka, Sayaka, Mami) and Pragmatists (Kyubey, Kyouko, Homura). The latter group are the antagonists, but are often right.
  • Seirei no Moribito has a total of two human characters in it whose motivations and methods are presented as unsympathetic, and they're both one-shot. The main conflict is entirely caused by a misunderstanding by the traditionalistic/dogmatic anti villains, and the fact that their cause manages to come across as understandable when it involves child-killing speaks volumes for the tone of the series.
  • Star Driver is full of this. The Glittering Crux want to use the Humongous Mecha Lost Technology to achieve world peace (by force, but the force part is only implied and never stated outright.) Many of the Crux deplore loss of civilian life and go out of their way to prepare ways to get the innocent (such as keeping a luxury ship large enough to Cary the population of a small island on hand) out of the way in the event if a crisis. The only reason they're at odds with the heroes at all is the "force" part. Both parties are fully aware of this and even act as genuine friends when off of the battlefield too. There are a total of two characters who's names that we know who're portrayed unsympathetically/as genuinely bad and unlikeable people in the whole of the series, which stands out for it's surprisingly large cast.
  • Stellvia of the Universe is all about this. There isn't even a single negative character in the series -- even the aliens are good. Or at least, they expressed regret after slaughtering a Keiti wing almost wholesale.
  • Suzumiya Haruhi. There are pretty much no villains, aside from maybe, possibly Asakura Ryouko, and even then she's just a really, really, really far extremist. All forces are genuinely trying to create the world they think is ideal, and only very few seem too extremist for rationality. The Data Entity wants to just "observe"; the Organization wants to maintain the world as it is; the Time Travelers want to keep a Stable Time Loop. Haruhi herself isn't evil, just in favor of a little more excitement, and Kyon just wants his peace. Even the Anti-SOS Brigade has somewhat stinted yet good intentions: Fujiwara wants to keep his race from being "slaves to time travel", Kuyou Suou just wants to communicate in the first place, Tachibana Kyouko just thinks the world is more ideal under Sasaki's influence, and Sasaki wants to figure out the truth behind everything. Not to mention the fact that it might even be better for Sasaki to become God.
  • Towa no Quon: Although the group out to capture awakened children (dead or alive) is a very dark shade of gray, their ultimate goal is to protect the public. For now.
  • Vision of Escaflowne qualifies. Even the Big Bad is eventually revealed as a particularly ruthless Well-Intentioned Extremist. The closest any character comes to "evil" is Dilandau, but s/he turns out to be more Brainwashed and Crazy than anything else.


Comics

  • Gaston Lagaffe. Gaston wants to sleep, have fun, protect the environment, etc., and the people around him want him to get his work done and obey traffic laws. If Gaston thought his actions through at all, there wouldn't be any problems, but of course he doesn't.
  • Most X-Men stories where the antagonists are humans or government forces. Barring genocidal maniacs like Reverend Styker, in most cases their motive is simply the belief that mutants should be accounted for in some way.


Film - Animation

  • Pixar has some examples.
    • WALL-E, absolutely. The villain of the film was a robot that was doing exactly what it was programmed to do by programmers who themselves just had incomplete information, and all the humans soon fell head over heels in love with the world as soon as they were jerked out of their reverie and take responsibility to work to undo their ancestors' mistakes.
    • Finding Nemo - Dr. Sherman took Nemo because he mistakenly believed he would not be able to survive on his own with a deformed fin, and Darla is a "fish-killer" because she is a child who doesn't know any better. The other antagonists of the film are simply mindless predators. It's worth noting that both Finding Nemo and WALL-E were directed by Andrew Stanton.
    • The original Toy Story. Sid is a bit of a Jerkass, but he's mostly just a boy who likes playing in an unorthodox way with his toys. Unfortunately, the protagonists are Living Toys. In the sequel, Al is also a Jerkass but otherwise is just a bit of a slob. He steals Woody as well, but considering it got him a deal with a museum that could have gotten him hundreds of thousands of dollars, it's hard to not understand why. Note that this trope is completely averted in the third film with Lotso.
  • Just about everybody in Meet the Robinsons, human, robot or genetically enhanced animal, are pretty decent people. Only two characters are villainous in the entire movie, and only one of them is a human (and even he has a Freudian Excuse and is hopeless at being bad). 
    • Even extends to the video game where it seems the conflict between the two main antagonists seems to have only been sparked because of an ongoing rivalry since childhood Wilbur inadvertently caused.


Film - Live Action

  • Avatar. The Na'Vi are just minding their own business, and the humans just want the planet's resources to ensure their own survival - but unfortunately the diplomacy ísn't working. (Quaritch and his troops are not considered among the Gray, though.)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind - although Roy Neary's wife and kids might not agree about the film having no villains given their distress resulting from his possession. The ETs originally come across as if they're auditioning for The Exorcist, scaring Gillian half to death and then abducting her infant son, although he wanted to go, and they do return him later.
  • Forbidden Planet. Morbius: it implies that even the worst people have good intentions
  • The Terminal
  • Most romcoms probably fall into this category.


Literature

  • Many Tom Clancy novels feature something like this, especially those which deal with full-scale war, like Red Storm Rising. Usually, the deal is that good, patriotic souls from different countries will struggle with each other because of the actions of one or two people (usually politicians) who are motivated by pride, fear, or ignorance. Although some villains might be delusional beyond reckoning, For the Evulz types are exceedingly rare. 
  • A lot of Orson Scott Card's writing, particularly in Ender's Saga, deals with the idea that no-one is really evil, and it's all a matter of perspective.
    • Usually. For instance, the Formics are discovered to have attacked humanity because they have a Hive Mind and didn't know each human was individually sentient. On the other end, the Descoladores of the later books are either seeking outright planetary conquest or are just too alien to comprehend. And the Big Bad of the Shadow spinoffs, Achilles, is most definitely evil.
  • Isaac Asimov tended to be this way. He also had no real villains in his books. Asimov and Kurt Vonnegut were much alike. In the Foundation series, the psycho-historians behind the Gambit Roulette believe every conflict in human history comes from people not understanding each other. This is no Gut Feeling: they have human reactions and brain chemistry down to an exact science.
  • The Master and Margarita had this exchange:

 Pontius Pilate: And now tell me: why do you always use the expression "good people"? What, do you call everyone that?

Yeshua ha-Nazri: Yes, everyone. There are no evil people in the world.

  • Pretty much every character in Brandon Sanderson's works is revealed to have "good" (or at least sympathetic) motivations for their actions, though he does include a handful of Complete Monsters for contrast. Perhaps the most spectacular example is the Lord Ruler of Mistborn, who in life is portrayed as pretty much pure evil but is gradually revealed after death to be a very human figure who basically had unlimited power dropped in his lap and did the best he could with it while it slowly drove him mad. One of the major themes running throughout all of Sanderson's novels is that "evil" is usually a lot more complicated than people realize.
  • The majority of books written by Timothy Zahn don't have many evil people at all. He doesn't really set up along the good guys and the bad guys. The Empire is not all bad. The New Republic is not all good. Other people have their own allegiances. Plenty of antagonists on any side are doing what they think will be best in the long run. He does have some actually unambiguous villains, but most of them at least have solid reasoning behind what they're doing. No one ever wakes up and decides to be evil.
    • In the Hand of Thrawn Duology, after all the bad blood Supreme Commander Pellaeon signed a peace treaty with President Gavrisom.
    • Zahn's non-Star Wars fiction tends to have a lot of this as well; The Conqueror Trilogy in particular features a galactic war caused by essentially a misunderstanding. The humans' standard "greet the unknown aliens" transmission is sent via radio, which causes varying degrees of pain for the non-human side of a First Contact scenario, and thus the aliens understandably interpret the greeting as an unprovoked attack. There are at least four, possibly more, distinct factions involved, none of whom act unjustifiably throughout the course of the brief but intense war that follows.
    • Also, there are plenty of characters who, despite a fall to Dark Side, eventually come to realize the error of their ways.
    • Averted with the Vagaari, who, as an entire slaver species, are one of the nastier cultures in the Star Wars EU, surpassed only by the Vong and a few others.
  • James White's Sector General space hospital series, a deliberate attempt to write Science Fiction with both tension and a murder deficit. Any aliens who may be trying to kill you have just been misinformed.
  • The Vampire Diaries veers between this and Grey and Grey Morality. Countless times, characters are introduced and seem just so mean but often turn out to have genuine motives behind their actions.
  • Oddly enough, Kurt Vonnegut states in the introduction to Welcome to the Monkey House that this is one of the guiding principles of his work: there are no villains, just people with conflicting interests.
    • Then again, his characters don't tend to be heroic either. So...
  • Most of Edgar Pangborn's antagonists are misguided rather than evil, but that doesn't prevent them occasionally causing horrific tragedies. Example: Tiger Boy, in which the semi-wild title character and a friend he meets are killed due to the belief that he is a demon.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe is at different places on the morality scale Depending on the Writer.
  • The Honorverse certainly does feature many a Complete Monster-- and some truly, deeply unambiguous conflicts-- but it's also at constant pains to point out that this trope is in play most of the time. In fact, the first part of the series (with the Manticore/Haven war) really only has five or so really evil characters, right at the top of the enemy food chain. The many dozens of other Havenite enemies given names and faces all tend toward My Country, Right or Wrong at worst.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's work tends to feature this; in fifty years of publishing, only one of her stories(The Word for World is Forest) features an character she described as "purely evil"
  • Played with in the novel Miracle Monday, where Superman faced The Devil's agent on Earth. While the demon was truly evil (we get to read his thoughts to confirm it) Superman himself holds this belief, and it's because of it that he ultimately wins.


Live Action TV

  • Kingdom
  • In The West Wing, most of the antagonistic politicians wanted what was best--they just had different opinions of what was "best" for America. At worst, they tended toward stupid corruption, greed, and tendency to stretch the truth. There were actual evil people like the Western Terrorists, but they mostly stayed off-screen and seldom lasted long.
    • Even corrupt characters often had redeeming qualities. Russel, for instance, is probably the morally second-worst person on the show who isn't one of those briefly appearing or off-screen terrorists mentioned above, but even he won't let the president bomb the wrong country on the mistaken belief that they'd developed atomic bombs of their own in The Warfare of Genghis Khan and is disgusted at hearing on the news about a women in Turkey being executed for adultery in King Corn. The worst non-terrorist character is Robert Ritchie, who even goes so far as to not seem to feel any sympathy when he hears about a secret service agent being killed in the line of duty ("crime...boy, I don't know). Aside from some terrorists and homophobic activists, Ritchie's arguably the only complete villain on the show. Even the Christian right are portrayed as low and mean, but not pure evil.
    • For a discrete moment of Rousseau Was Right, see the end of "Evidence of Things Not Seen": the egg stands on its end.


Music

  • Dave Mason's "We Just Disagree."

 There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys. / There's only you and me and we just disagree.


Table Top RPG

  • Blue Rose is this. Most of the conflicts in the setting are meant to be resolved (or at least kept from getting worse) through peaceful, diplomatic means - or through carefully measured policing action at the very most.


Video Games

  • In one of the many endings for the Bioshock sequel, the child you have been taking care of grows up to realize that there is no "evil," only "pain." Because of the mercy you have taught her, she is able to forgive her mother, and live a healthy life on her own.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy at first is your typical Order Versus Chaos story with the Big Bad Chaos summoning some of the most sinister villains of Final Fantasy to battle their heroes serving the Big Good Cosmos. However, the backstory reveals their conflict to be this trope. Chaos is a literal Designated Villain, as he and Cosmos agreed to war with each other by a pact with Cid and Shinryu. As for Chaos's forces -- Garland is in on the pact and just does as he's ordered, partially because he sympathizes with Chaos and partially because he's lived through so many loops, he just doesn't care any longer; the Cloud of Darkness tells the heroes how to stop the Manikins because she dislikes their presence, and aside from that she is just intent on preserving balance and doesn't even have anything against the heroes; Golbez and Kuja are Anti Villains who try to help the heroes best as they can admist all the rapid-fire plots and schemes; Jecht, Cloud and Sephiroth are Punch Clock Villains who are only fighting for personal reasons; Terra and Tidus only serve Chaos because they're Brainwashed and Crazy, and Gabranth eventually becomes disillusioned with the war and abandons it. The only villains who are totally and umambiguously evil are The Emperor, Kefka, Exdeath and Ultimecia, and even then there's a couple of Freudian Excuses and Alas, Poor Villain moments between the four.
  • In Dungeon Siege III, just about every major villain up to and including the Big Bad is a Well-Intentioned Extremist or has a Freudian Excuse.
  • Used tragically in Mega Man Zero. In the midst of this rebellion, barring the temporary psychopath (Elpizo) and the permanent ones (Copy-X, Omega, and Weil), no one on either side is truly evil. The Zero series has some of the most sympathetic antagonists (Harpuia being #1) in the whole franchise, which counter-balances its notoriety for the most extreme crapsack state of the world.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots reveals that most of the villains were actually good people whose plan to make the world a better place did horribly go wrong. Most events of the series were actually the villains' attempts to use whatever means necessary to correct their mistakes.
  • Despite having a dark entity known as Sulphur, Phantom Brave certainly fit into this. Most characters, at worst, act like Jerkasses who cheat off Marona and treat her as trash. Some of who have selfish motivations does have a particular reason of being so. For example, Walnut, a Kill Steal bounty hunter, have a mindset of caring about money because he is trying to fund medicine for his sick little sister. And some who fell into the path of darkness is mostly due to tragic circumstances, such as Sprout, who lost his family to Sulphur. Regardless, everyone is Easily Forgiven by Marona and those who were treating her like trash came to realize she's the only hope of defeating Sulphur and realize her kindhearted nature, started treating her an actual human being, and rally to aid her. In the end, Marona's "treat everyone with kindness" favors her.
  • Tales of Vesperia, though having its share of Complete Monsters, ultimately comes down on the side that most baddies are Anti Villains, and even the Big Bad performs a Heel Face Turn when he realizes he was wrong in his position that Humans Are Bastards.
  • The Touhou series is full of Designated Villains who are unilaterally revealed to be Good All Along by the time the game ends - in most cases, your character has a tea party with the Final Boss following their defeat. Bad Powers, Bad People is completely averted. The only things in the series that could be considered evil at all are the Saigyou Ayakashi, more popularly known as the Cherry Tree of Doom, from Perfect Cherry Blossom (it hypnotizes people into languishing to death under its leaves, and then eats their souls), and the final boss of Subterranean Animism, who flat-out threatens to nuke all of Gensokyo. The latter turns out to be much more stupid than evil.
  • Unusually for an Alien Invasion game, Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds has an arguable case of white vs grey. The humans are fighting for their home and way of life, and the martians are only fighting because their home and way of life is dying. This does, however, lead to some rather nasty Fridge Logic in that whichever race you play as, you are dooming the other to extinction.
    • That sounds pretty Grey vs Grey to me.
  • In Xenogears Anyone doing bad things is just proven to be manipulated by a sort of cross between a crazy computer system and Giant Space Flea From Nowhere. The guy seen as the Big Bad is actually just misguided rather than truly evil and the hero even forgives him at the end, though he refuses to forgive himself. Another recurring antagonist is a sympathetic character forgiven by the heroes and even comforted by them after his defeat. The two warring nations are shown to be full of mostly good people and make peace. Even the leader of the evil empire is actually on your side for the most part. The entire theme of the game in fact seems to be that the goodness of humanity can triumph even in a Crapsack World.


Webcomics

  • Freefall forgoes villains in favor of lots of geek-tickling tech-talk. Even the Corrupt Corporate Executives tend to be simply narrow-minded and incompetent, rather than willfully malevolent. It's just that they're not smart enough to figure out that A Is have become sentient, and still think that they're just products. It doesn't help that some of the A Is agree.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court is known for lacking "proper" villains; Coyote is (arguably) more of a general Trickster, and Ysengrin is simply insane. And Reynardine is... who knows? Tom Siddell confirms this in an interview: "There are no outright evil characters, for example, just situations in which a character might act in a way perceived to be evil."
    • On the other hand, Diego is a pretty evil character, and is arguably as close to a Complete Monster as the series would ever get. It's bad enough that he causes the death of the woman he "loves" because she rejected him., but then in this comic, when Jeanne desperately comes to him for help, he just smugly smirks at her fear. An alternative interpretation is that he is a coward and strongly in denial. He does seem to be horribly broken after Jeanne dies.
      • Sort of a combination of the whole buffet line. Definitely a coward, but he did it of his own free will, because he's too petty and selfish to think of anything except how she's getting her comeuppance. Then, rather than face his wrongdoing, he goes into denial; it haunts him for the rest of his life and on his deathbed he claims he was forced to come up with the plan by the same men who asked him if there wasn't an alternative at the time.
    • Jack was pretty much just some variant of gone nuts from the whole Zimmyham experience or high on his new creepy powers. He got better, though.
  • A Miracle of Science has no real villains. The Big Bad is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who actively avoids civilian casualties and even the Venusian Mafia is mostly just selfish.
  • Ursula Vernon, creator of Digger, has complained that she can't seem to come up with a real villain, since all of them have reasons for what they are doing and believe that they're doing the right thing. Some of them admittedly think it's the right thing because they're doing it, yes, or that the ends will justify the means, but no one so far is truly evil.


Western Animation

  • This used to apply to most American Animated TV series, mainly because the Moral Majority forced them to. Ironically, non-human villains were allowed to be truly evil- and often destroyed.
  • Kim Possible has the recurring villain Senor Senior Senior, who had quite likely built his fortune legitimately and turns to evil as a hobby, seeing how closely he can mirror a classic cartoon Big Bad complete with setting up death traps for the heroes to escape from. One episode has his fortune stolen by a swindler, and Kim really tries to stop him from taking it back by robbing businesses owned by who scammed him even though the money is rightfully his. She is stopped by his son who turns him in, and Kim settles for Senior earning his money back through the reward money that he'll gain for his capture.
  • Unsurprisingly present in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Moments after the climax of the second episode, the goddess of darkness, who is effectively the Big Bad of the ponies' entire mythology, runs crying into a hug with her sister and counterpart day goddess. Who instantly forgives her. Indeed, the worst villains in the first season were Gilda from "Griffon the Brush-Off" and the Great and Powerful Trixie from "Boast Busters", who were both realistic Jerkasses rather than deliberately kid-friendly villains, neither of which learned their lessons in their respective episodes. This changed with the Season 2 premiere "The Return of Harmony", which featured as its antagonist Discord, a trouble-making Reality Warper with a cruel sense of humor. Some of the show's conflicts even boarder on White and White Morality, like the Dragon from Dragonshy, who was just trying to sleep until Dash kicked him in the face.
  • Phineas and Ferb - While Candace is often the antagonist, she's neither evil nor truly spiteful - only impulsive and a bit high-strung. Heck, even the evil genius has his decent moments! The only really unpleasant people to appear are Doofenshmitz's parents (in his tales of his Hilariously Abusive Childhood) and the drill sergeant from "Phineas And Ferb Get Busted!" (Which was a dream..)
  • The first season of Superfriends. There were no supervillains (with the possible exception of the Raven, who put Superman on trial), just Anti Villains who were all doing the utterly wrong thing for what they felt were the right reasons. In the end, they always Saw the Light, Repented for their Wickedness, and never even went to jail.
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