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Flirry Vorru: Threaten a child and you will unite its parents against you. Kill a child and those who have lost it will retreat in mourning. Those around them will feel their pain and likewise look to their own families. They will keep their children close and out of schools. [...] This makes the Rebellion look unforgivably weak.

Many adult viewers and writers are upset about kids being harmed. Kid viewers aren't, but then, kids aren't the ones doing the writing, are they? As a result, many characters on TV Wouldn't Hurt a Child.

This is often done simply by not showing kids at all in action and suspense shows, but sometimes it's rather conspicuous when characters seemingly go out of their way to not hurt kids, or circumstances happen to conveniently align themselves so that kids don't get hurt. For example, a slasher movie where the slasher just happens to not encounter children in hiding, or the kids manage to be rescued just in time, while the adults and teens get killed. It's also pretty common that when Even Evil Has Standards, not harming children is one of them.

In fact, when this trope does get averted and children do get harmed, it can often be shocking for the audience, and the mark of a Complete Monster.

See Also Wouldn't Hit a Girl for the female-specific version of this trope. See Friend to All Children for bad guys who not only don't hurt kids, but will actively protect them despite being bad guys. For video games, see Hide Your Children, where children aren't even portrayed so as to avoid the implications that they could be hurt. For a more specific form of Wouldn't Hurt a Child, in which very young children are shielded from danger by the plot due to society's squeamishness about hurting babies, see Infant Immortality.

A common subversion is when a character who goes by this motto has to face a Creepy Child, or worse an Enfant Terrible.

May be a form of Heroic Vow.

Oddly enough, it's also Truth in Television as many gangs such as a Mexican Mafia brutally murder their members that hurt children. This even extends to prison, where inmates, or even prison-based gangs, that welcome robbers and murderers into their fold will not tolerate someone who hurts a kid. In fact, killing one of these people often results in being well liked by the other inmates.

Contrast Child-Hater and Would Hurt a Child.

Examples and subversions: (All inversions/aversions go under Would Hurt a Child)


Anime and Manga

  • There's been at least some censorship to not show kids getting hurt. An episode of Dragon Ball Z was censored in the US release to cut out a brief bit of animation where Gohan was punched by a villain, instead merely implying the punch.
    • To be fair, this was when Gohan was a helpless 4 year old who'd never had a fighting lesson in his life. He gets punched plenty on camera after he learns to punch back.
  • Humourously invoked by Really Seven Hundred Years Old Little Miss Badass Vita in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, complaining about having to arrest Lutecia:

  Vita: I don't like this. It's like I'm picking on a little kid.

    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vi Vid, Subaru complains about Nove fighting harshly against a small girl (Ingvalt/Einhart) the previous night, but Nove counters that she also got beaten up fairly badly.
  • The Sonic X dub (like many of 4Kids! Entertainment dub jobs) is famous for the editing out of at least three instances of violence inflicted upon children. The first instance being that of Maria (who not only had an immune disorder in the original, but was shot and killed by a gun soldier who showed considerable angst about it for decades afterwards- while in the dub she was merely "taken away"). This was closely followed by Christopher Thorndyke in a rather infamous scene which was cut apart repeatedly to edit out the fact that Shadow was throwing-and-smashing-him-into-walls. (This resulting in the kid apparently passing out for no reason much to the confusion o a seven year old audience), and finally with the death of a teenaged revolutionary making a suicide run into the Metarex fleet (this time Fourkids actually edited out a gravestone in one image).
    • 4Kids! Entertainment starts to get the hint after a while, but Chris still gets another instance of this in the final series whereas Metarex slashes him during an escape attempt. The single drop of blood was cut in order to further the illusion that he'd been knocked out - not stabbed.
  • Gamma Akutabi, of Zombie Powder, is led to believe he is fighting a child, and so only uses his left hand. He's likely about to lose until he finds out it's actually an old man who just looks like a child. He holds back like this specifically because he has a soft spot for women and children.
  • This might be the reason why, in the anime adaptation of Chrono Crusade, Azmaria is the only member of the main cast to survive to the end of the series. Besides the villain, at least, and Joshua--but he suffers extreme mental damage in the process. That being said, it does show the deaths of another group of children because of their powers (who are minor enough to not have individual names).
  • King Hamdo, the mad tyrant in Now and Then Here and There, uses this trope to his advantage; he employs an army of children so his enemies will be hesitant to fight back. Unfortunately, he also utilizes the child soldiers as war fodder. Bastard.
    • This was based on Real Life examples like the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.
  • In Bleach, Ukitake. When battling Lilinette he kept doing things like playing keep-away with her sword when it was fairly obvious that he could have just killed her without the slightest effort.
    • On the other hand, although Kyoraku also saw Lilinette - who claimed Arrancar don't age - as a child, he attacks Wonderweiss without hesitation when he sees him stab Ukitake.
    • Rangiku is fairly hesitant to fight the child-like Wonderweiss, although it could be more due to his playing with a dragonfly in the middle of a battle instead of fighting (at first)
      • Speaking of Wonderweiss, Yamamoto probably wouldn't have hesitated to fight him, but he did state he was glad Wonderweiss used his release form so he was fighting a bizarre monster instead of a kid.
    • Ichigo is hesitant to hurt Ururu during their training match, and even after seeing her Super Strength in action, decides to only give her a tap on the head to clear the requirements. He somehow ends up grazing her face with his fist and Ururu kicks him away, but manages to pass the test by restoring his spiritual energy.
  • Mifune in Soul Eater has a soft spot for children, and has an iron-clad rule never to kill one, or allow one to be killed if he can prevent it. His Morality Pet, Angela, is a Cute Witch he is fostering.
    • He also attempts to avoid hurting (seriously for Made of Iron people, that is) Black Star (a teenager), deliberately holding back until Mifune found the 'assassin' to be a Worthy Opponent. [[spoiler:In the anime, Mifune kills Black*Star because he is in risk of trying to become a Kishin. Black*Star had an Unexplained Recovery later though.
    • Black*Star himself also obeys this trope: His walks away from his first battle with Mifune when he realizes Mifune's 'witch' was a little girl.
  • Darker Than Black: Hei, extreme Anti-Hero or no, gets very protective of kids under his care for any reason, particularly girls the same age as his Dead Little Sister. Call it unresolved issues. While other contractors harm children, Hei does not.
  • Double Subverted in the Sengoku Basara anime. Mitsuhide uses the semi-conscious Ranmaru as a human shield, taunting Kojuurou that he wouldn't kill a child. Kojuurou tells him that regardless of age, Ranmaru is one of Nobunaga's generals and therefore his enemy and charges in. The declaration causes Mitsuhide to abandon Ranmaru as a shield, allowing Kojuurou to defeat Mitsuhide. He lets Ranmaru off with a stern warning.
  • Sensui might have been counting on this trope in the Chapter Black arc of Yu Yu Hakusho with Amanuma. It didn't work. And Kurama, the one who killed Amanuma, was pissed afterwards.
  • Vash in Trigun, being a messiah-type Technical Pacifist, is particularly unwilling to hurt children. It's just not going to happen. Wolfwood the priest does kill people, though not in front of Vash, but taking care of children is the most important thing to him ever, so as much as he believes in necessary sacrifices he is definitely this. The first time we see his full armory unleashed in the anime, he's firing Guns Akimbo and shouting over the noise, "I'M NOT GOING TO LET ANY MORE CHILDREN SUFFER!!! NEVER AGAIN!"
    • Even Wolfwood doesn't know what he will and won't do. Anime Wolfwood shoots what looks like a child to save Vash. Manga Wolfwood comes across as willing to sacrifice pretty much anything if he had reason to believe it was worthwhile. But children last of anything.
    • When he chooses Vash's side they then go straight to the orphanage where he grew up to intercept the assassin team sent there to punish him; if they'd been late or he'd messed up, the kids would have been crisped.
  • Lina Inverse has many Berserk Buttons, but the biggest one is this trope. I.e., when Rezo petrified a kid in the first season, she got pissed and went to face him despite knowing it was a trap. And in NEXT, she has a major Freak-Out when she thinks she's killed a little girl who turned pout to be an Undead Child from Sairaag, and Sylphiel has to give her a Cooldown Hug.
  • Train Heartnet has been an assassin for many years.....but the biggest Berserk Button he possesses is about children. In the manga, he describes how he was about to shoot a man, but he realized the man was holding a young girl. He stopped, and couldn't pull the trigger, so he was shot, instead. He lived, but this is part of the major Heel Face Turn he undergoes throughout the series. The presence of Genki Girl Saya Minatsuki}} only enstills that even more.


Comics

  • One of the very, very few standards Johnny the Homicidal Maniac has is to not hurt children. His victims are all teenagers/adults, although he ends up traumatizing a few children (especially Squee) in the process.
  • Hunter Rose, the first Grendel had this as one of his personal standards, even eliminating Child Prostitution in New York upon becoming mob boss. In fact, when facing off against Batman during his trip to Gotham, the accidental endangerment of a child he was holding hostage was what encouraged him to withdraw and go home. He himself has a Morality Pet in his adoptive daughter Stacy Palumbo, who later arranges to have him killed.
  • Fantastic Four villain the Mad Thinker is perfectly willing to try and kill the Four. During a Villain Team-Up with the Wizard, the latter kidnaps Franklin Richards (Reed and Sue's son) and is getting ready to vivisect him to discover the secret of his amazing powers. The Mad Thinker, enraged, immediately terminates the partnership and leads Franklin's Uncle Ben to the Wizard's secret base, just in time to save him.
  • The main reason why Jason Todd can be considered an Anti-Villain and not a straight-out villain is that he will kill anyone hurting a child.
  • Deadpool the Crazy Awesome (and just plain crazy) Merc' with a Mouth still has a few lines he won't cross. One of them is hurting kids. In X-Force, he is the only member of the team to openly declare that killing the child incarnation of Apocalypse was a borderline Moral Event Horizon for the team as a whole and that he for one is unhappy about it.


Film

  • As cruel and contemptible as James "Mickey" Hughes was toward his wife, Francine, in the made-for-TV adaptation of The Burning Bed, Mickey is never seen raising a fist toward any of his children; all of his brutality is directed at his hapless wife.
  • In Unbreakable and Heroes, a crazy serial killer comes to a house and kills some people, but leaves the kids intact hiding in a cupboard or closet or something.
    • In the case of Heroes, Sylar would have killed Molly had he found her, but she had been hiding.
      • In Volume 4 of Heroes, Sylar spares the life of teenager Luke and later Micah, which he freely admits is something he usually doesn't do. Although he only spared Luke because he reminded him of himself, and Micah was successfully able to convince Sylar not to kill him. In contrast, Danko's government soldiers express some concern over being ordered to kill an unarmed child, but ultimately do so anyway.
  • In the Predator movies, the titular Predator is a nearly-unstoppable killing machine with a code of honor; he doesn't kill children, as they are considered noncombatants (and probably poor prey). This is exemplified in the second movie when he refrains from killing a pregnant cop and a child who was pointing a toy gun at him.
    • The predators never kill unarmed people. We don't know if they would spare one of those Ax Crazy brainwashed child soldiers in Africa, though...
  • In Scarface: Tony Montana may be a sociopath but he would never harm a child, this is made evident during a hit he was carrying out he noticed that the target had two small children with him and refused to do it, just as his bomber was to carry out the hit he shot the man dead so he couldn't.
  • Mob boss Harry Waters from In Bruges finds child killing abhorrent and orders one of his men killed for accidentally shooting a boy, then when he thinks he's done the same (actually a dwarf) turns his gun on himself.
  • An infamous hitman in Lucky Number Slevin refused to kill a child and he was given the assignment because the mob thought he was the only hitman who would.
    • The same happens in The Replacement Killers.
  • Refusing to run over a girl is what caused the downfall of the terrorists in Vantage Point as they tried to escape in an ambulance. Had they run her over, they just might have gotten away. And these are the same terrorists that detonated two bombs in a crowd that contained plenty of children.
  • In Apocalypto, the bad guys sacrifice the male prisoners, sell their women as slaves and leave their children unharmed back in their destroyed home village. In Real Life the Mayas did not have any problem sacrificing women and children. But again, they did this to urban, noble women and children, not random hunter-gatherers from the jungle...
  • Kill Bill: The Bride plays the trope straight as she really doesn't like it when other children and teens get involved in violent stuff. She's very unhappy when Nikki witnesses how the Bride kills her mom in their fight, later attempts to disuade Gogo from fighting her, and in the end of Part 2 she decides that she'd rather put her revenge aside for a little, than having BB witness her and Bill fight to the death.
    • Also in Part 1 she spares a teenage Crazy 88 member but gives him a spanking with her sword and tells him to go home.
  • Die Hard 3 has Anvilicious moments about this: the line "children may find it [the bomb]" is uttered by both the good guy and a bad guy. This brings a question of doubt in the perpetrators' actions, and it's revealed the Big Bad never planted a real bomb, just a fake one, because "he's a soldier, not a monster".
  • Cheese in Gone Baby Gone may be a Sociopathic Drug Dealer who has no problem with brutally murdering people but is insulted if someone accuses Him of messing with kids.And if You tell Him twice,He'll "get discourteous on You"
  • A hilarious example happens in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones is in a local hash bar, he was inches away from killing Belloq at the cost of his own life when armed Arab Mercenaries have their rifles pointed at him. What stopped them from firing was when Sallah's kids entered the bar to shield him while taking him out. They found it amusing and spared his life.
  • In The Quick and the Dead, several kids gang up on the priest Cort, who plays this trope straight. It is subverted when the Lady comes in and kicks their asses.
  • Of all people, Jason Voorhees. In Friday the 13 th Part 6, he's shown standing in the midst of a cabin full of running, screaming children and ignoring them completely as he goes about his usual business of killing their horny teenage guardians.


Literature

  [...] It struck Loor as almost comical that he could see Vorru's desire to strike at a school as evil, yet his desire to hit Rogue Squadron was nothing more than duty. The difference, ultimately, was that the strike at Rogue Squadron would advance the cause of the Empire, while the strike at the school would only strengthen Vorru's position. We are not as far apart as I would like to think, but neither are we as close as Vorru thinks.

    • Although Loor still bombs the school. He objected to this and to a plan of Isard's, but he went along and helped anyway.
    • In Death Star, every character who isn't a Complete Monster is horrified by what happened to Alderaan, including the gunner who pulled the trigger. In an aversion of A Million Is a Statistic, it's the idea of being on a battle station that destroys inhabited worlds with civilian populations that gets several of them to go through Heel Realizations. A stormtrooper tells himself that he could fight a room full of people and if surviving meant killing half of them, so be it. But he hadn't signed up to murder children in their beds.
  • Ari in Joust:

  I do not make war on children!

  • Count Rugen, the six-fingered man, in The Princess Bride. He avoids engaging young Inigo in battle after he kills his father, and doesn't kill him, even after he defeats him.
    • However, given the Count's obsessive interest in pain, this is likely 'not' 'wouldn't kill a child' so much as it is cruelty.
  • Granny Weatherwax in Discworld. She dislikes most children on principle but is utterly incapable of harming a child, despite being willing to brainwash people into thinking that they are frogs as a punishment for casual insults. Most young children tend to recognise this on a subconscious level and thus have no fear of her. Whilst this doesn't seem like much of an advantage, if you were to threaten a child (or other innocent) in her presence, there are not enough words to express how utterly screwed you are.
  • Corvis Rebaine in The Conqueror's Shadow tells his demonic partner this when the demon suggests that he kill a young girl who ends up being his future wife who is being too chatty. The demon retorts that Rebaine doesn't seem to have a problem with letting his armies slaughter women and children for him. Rebaine is furious, but realizes that he can't deny it.
  • Witch hunter Shadwell in Good Omens refuses to shoot The Antichrist Adam Young when he sees that Adam is a little boy, saying that he is "just a bairn".
  • Doubly subverted in Night Watch with a "wild" Light One Maxim. He can see Dark Ones but not his knismen and as such considers himself to be a lone crusader in a world besieged by forces of Darkness. He relentlessly slaughters every Dark One he comes across, not bothering to find out if the actually harmed anyone (Not all of them do. Untill he encounters a Dark kid. He silently bemoans and curses the "Powers" that bestowed him upon his gift but is still prepared to carry out his mission, and even intervention from another Light One doesn't hold him back ("Your Light has faded!"). He does hesitate, however, when the kid rushes to protect his unfortunate defendor from him, something he wouldn't think possible for a Dark One.
  • Played with in Eagle Strike. Yassen refuses to shoot Alex and cites this trope, although the real reason for him sparing Alex might have been feelings of loyalty towards Alex's father, who saved Yassen's life. Earlier in the series he had no problem working alongside Herod Sayle, a man who wanted to commit genocide against all british schoolchildren.
  • Crops up in Harry Potter, when Hermione tells Harry not to curse a Death Eater who's been left with the head of a baby after an unfortunate accident involving time magic.
  • Despite being a generally ruthless, amoral crime boss, Gentleman Johnny Marcone of The Dresden Files fits this trope to a tee. Not only would he never harm a child, but whenever a child is in danger, he puts their safety ahead of his own every time. He also severely punishes any criminals in the city who violate this rule. It's the main reason that Harry can't bring himself to hate Marcone.
  • Invoked in Someone Elses War, where the Lord's Resistance Army uses Child Soldiers to do their fighting because they know most people will hesitate to kill kids.

Live Action Television

  • After subverting this in its first half-hour, Battlestar Galactica Reimagined later justifies it in that the Cylons want Baby Hera alive, and did their best to take care of her, despite having no prior experience in childcare and in general being lousy at it. Also, Leoben's psychological torture of Kara Thrace on New Caprica included leaving her alone with a child she believed was a half-Cylon hybrid. When Kara locked herself in a room to avoid the kid, the kid hurt herself and Kara's instincts as a human being overcame her hatred for the Cylons and she came to the kid's aid. No, Kara's not the villain, but then again BSG doesn't really have villains. Also, Cylons don't have kids: the toddler was a human girl they'd kidnapped.
    • Black Market: Children are being sold in a slave market. This marks the point where any pretence that the chief black marketeer is anything other than a Complete Monster dies.
  • Played with in The Daily Show when the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference featured a 13-year-old speaker. Stewart showed a clip of his speech, then got out a huge, dusty "Comedy Bible" to determine whether or not he was an Acceptable Target. The answer was "Only for a classmate or sibling".
  • Ben on Lost, despite being a Magnificent Bastard, doesn't want to kill Rousseau's baby, and instead takes her in as his own. Later when he tracks down Penny in order to kill her, he hesitates because she has a child. This trope is subverted, however, when Sayid shoots a twelve-year old Ben while in the past.
  • Darien Fawkes, on The Invisible Man is really great with kids, even when he's in a chemically induced murderous psychosis.
    • For a bit of framing, in one particular episode, the guy sets fire to a picnic, pummels an entire football team while invisible, steals the Rolex of a dead guy at his funeral, But in the scene where he's with kids? He's beyond cool and highly supporting of them. Soon as the kids are out of the room he comes this close to killing his childhood pastor.
    • One early episode has him pose as a little girl's Imaginary Friend. He practically cures her Post-Traumatic Stress disorder himself, goes out of his way to make sure she's okay after he was just shot, and protects her from a Sniper while homicidally insane.
  • Viciously subverted in Torchwood: Children of Earth when Jack was forced to kill his grandson. Some of the Fandom has depicted him as extremely child averse for quite a while afterwards.
  • Doctor Who has several examples of this trope:
    • Kazran Sardic, due to his father, who he detested, being willing to hit children.
    • The Doctor goes very much out of his way to help a crying child.
  • Sylar, for all his evil ways, generally leaves kids under the age of puberty alone. He might threaten them or use them as blackmail against his enemies, but never actually hurts them.
  • In an episode of Tales from the Crypt a young girl allows a deranged psychopath, who is dressed as Santa on Christmas Eve mind you, into her house. After the episode ends, The Crypt Keeper says that the killer "prefers older women," meaning that the child was safe.
  • While serial killer Frank from Criminal Minds has no qualms about hurting a child per se, he gets no satisfaction from doing so. This becomes a minor plot point in the episode where he's introduced.


Theater


Video Games

  • Many Wide Open Sandbox Games prevent this from happening by not having any children present in the game.
  • Korgan Bloodaxe from Baldurs Gate 2: Shadows of Amn is a psychotic dwarf who has no problem with murder, rape, theft or genocide. He's racist against just about anyone, sexually harasses the female party members and always, always suggests solving problems with his axe. But he won't harm children, and describes a man who beats his daughter as "not worth the spittle on his boots".
  • Played with in Super Robot Wars R, the Big Bad Duminuss has trio of homunculi as henchmen. The homunculi, despite posing superhuman strength, are all children. This is because Duminuss known most people will hesitate to fight children. It's eventually averted as the homunculi sacrifice their "mind" to heal badly injured Duminuss and player must kill them all afterwards.
  • Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes fame (infamy?) got over his inability to kill women in the first game, but even in Desperate Struggle he can't bring himself to finish off schoolgirl assassin Kimmy Howell.

  Travis: Screw this! I can't kill a co-ed!

  • In the Undertale follow-up Deltarune, a teen-aged bully who expects to get expelled soon and has confused ideas about going out big uses the nearby kids' class as the springboard for a few insults, then considers dropping in... then decides that's not actually a good idea.

Web Original

  • The giant naga Katrika of Felarya loves children, and often goes out of her way to protect any kids she finds lost in the jungle. This behavior is especially noteworthy because Felaryan nagas (including Katrika) are typically man-eaters.

Western Animation

  • In Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Lex Luthor conspicuously avoids killing or injuring Toyman/Hiro Okamura, instead simply settling for destroying his equipment, even though he's the only other person smart enough to stop the Kryptonite meteor about to hit Earth and that by now Lex had gotten so crazy from Kryptonite injections he wanted the thing to hit the Earth so he could rebuild civilization afterward.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures. Applies to Jade all the time, but is most telling in an episode where the heroes are fighting evil clones of themselves, and the adults are handily thrashed by the clone of Paco, a child. When they pull off Paco-clone's "mask" to reveal two eyes on an otherwise blank face, the tables suddenly turn and they're allowed to punch him with impunity.
    • Chow even called him out on this when he pointed out that Jackie wouldn't hurt a younger version of Valmont.
  • In The Boondocks, when the kids get stuck in a prison riot during a field trip, one of the kids ask if the prisoners watching them are going to rape them, their reactions are pretty much "We're bad guys, but even we're not that bad."
    • Considering that convicted child molesters tend to be disproportionately targeted since other inmates tend to be papa wolves and mama bears, this is hardly surprising.
  • While teenagers are fair game, Pa and Ma would never hurt a child under 12 in Gravity Falls.
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