Blue and Orange Morality

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April 2, 2015 by KWills

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Most characters in fiction can be classed as Good or Evil, or a complex mix of the two. Wherever they fall along the axis of morality, we can use the same basic parameters to describe their actions: selfish or philanthropic, bigoted or accepting, hateful or kind. It doesn’t take long to figure out the heroes and the villains.

But then along comes an outsider. Maybe an alien, maybe a member of a different species, or maybe just another human with a different mindset. For whatever reason, these characters live by their own code; and it’s utterly bizarre. This is a case of “Blue and Orange Morality”.

Introducing a whole new dimension

They are not amoral, nor acting out of a desire to shock. They simply have their own ideas about right and wrong, which do not map neatly onto ours. Often they are as confused by our moral code as we are by theirs, which can lead to drama, comedy, or even tragedy, depending on the story being told.

Done well, “Blue and Orange Morality” can hold up a mirror to our own world, questioning or reaffirming the moral standards that we take for granted. It can be used to show people with different values trying to find common ground, or even the misunderstandings that can occur when people assume that everyone has the same moral framework.

Done badly, it descends into “We’re right, you’re weird, they’re evil” – a disturbingly common theme. If the “Blue and Orange” mindset is portrayed as irrational, self-defeating, or otherwise untenable, then the whole story becomes a soapbox for proclaiming that anyone who disagrees with the author is wrong, and probably also insane.

Like most tropes, “Blue and Orange Morality” is hard to do well, but very rewarding when pulled off successfully. Follow the link (at your own risk) to see some examples of this trope in action.

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One thought on “Blue and Orange Morality

  1. Alex Hurst says:

    This is the first time i’ve heard of this… It looks like an interesting way to test a character’s morality structure.

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

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