Created By: MrInitialMan on July 27, 2014 Last Edited By: MrInitialMan on August 5, 2014
Troped

Blackmail Backfire

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This is when a Blackmail scheme goes wrong for the blackmailer. It can happen in a few ways.

  1. The blackmailer's information doesn't give him or her much (if any) leverage.
    1. The victim could have no problem with the information being made public, feeling there is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, or actually being proud of their deeds.
    2. The victim decides that the blackmailer's terms are worse than having the information publicized.

  2. The blackmailee is Crazy-Prepared and the blackmailer has bitten of more than he or she can chew.

  3. The scheme doesn't just go wrong for the blackmailer; it goes WRONG and the blackmailer is screwed.
    1. The blackmailer made the unwise choice of blackmailing someone who has no qualms about murder.
    2. The victim has been so ruined he or she has nothing left to lose and only wants one thing: Revenge.

The third is the most common in fiction.

Related to Bribe Backfire and Sub-Trope of Threat Backfire.

Examples

Film

Literature
  • The Sherlock Holmes story Charles Augustus Milverton, the title character is a blackmailer. Sherlock and Watson are determined to destroy papers that he has that he intends to publish to ruin various powerful men of society. While they're burglarizing his house, a woman shows up ostensibly visiting him to give him more dirt on someone. She isn't—she is a woman whose life Charles has ruined and she's there to kill him so he can't ruin any more lives.

  • In the backstory of The Dark Half, the protagonist Thad Beaumont is a not well-known writer who published several thrillers while using the pen-name of George Stark (said thrillers being a lot more successful than his mainstream work). A man discovers the link between Beaumont and Stark, then tries to blackmail him, threatening to reveal to the media that Beaumont and Stark are the same person. Beaumont was already pondering to stop writing as Stark and this threat definitively decided him to do so. He revealed his second identity to the media himself, staging some mock funerals to symbolise Stark's death, and preventing the blackmailer to gain anything. This was actually a series of events which happened before the novel's beginning. In the proper novel, a being with Stark's mind comes to life and starts a murderous trip to reach Beaumont with the intent of becoming fully human. One of his first victim is the unsuccessful blackmailer, as a revenge because the blackmail attempt is partly responsible for Stark's "death".

Live-Action Television
  • The Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Twelfth Man" involves a man that killed his wife and then hid the corpse, and one of the jurors on his case managing to discover incriminating evidence and then blackmailing him. The juror is a gambling addict and as such continuously keeps on asking for money, and eventually the man decides that killing the blackmailer is the best solution. Of course, he doesn't knows who he is, but he just needs to go through twelve possibilities...

  • On Homeland, Carrie and Saul find out that a Middle Eastern ambassador is gay and try to blackmail him into giving them information. He shrugs it off, saying that his family and his government already know.

  • Elementary: Like the original, Charles Augustus Milverton also gets killed due to his blackmailing. While the murderer invoked this trope in doing it, he had actually killed Milverton and his accomplice to cover up that he had been involved with and wanted to take over the blackmailing business.

  • Svensson Svensson: Gustav is trying to blackmail Max into doing garden work on top of what they had agreed on. Gustav threatens by mentioning the mountain bike that Max wants. However, Max has none of it and explains to Lena about the bribery deal Gustav made with the children.

  • In CSI Crime Scene Investigation's "Pilot", Warrick gave a bad tip on a game to a corrupt judge in exchange for a warrant. A few episodes later, in "Pledging Mr. Johnson", the judge tries to blackmail him into compromising evidence on a rape case, but he confides in Grissom and talks to the judge while wearing a wire.

Real Life
  • The KGB had several women pose as flight stewardesses and seduce Indonesian president Ahmed Sukarno. The orgy was secretly filmed and the KGB showed it to Sukarno with the intention of blackmailing him. Instead, Sukarno thanked the KGB for a lovely night and asked for a copy of the tape—he wanted to release it to Indonesian theatres so his subjects would see how virile their president was.

Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • July 27, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Blue Linked media section title(s).
      • Namespaced character name(s).
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
    • Corrected spelling (burglaring).

    We don't have a trope called Nothing To Lose.
  • July 27, 2014
    DAN004
  • July 27, 2014
    SKJAM
    I forget who said it first, but the subject of the saying, "Never blackmail someone who solves all their problems with murder."
  • July 27, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Possible Live Action Television example: The Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Twelfth Man" involves a man that killed his wife and then hid the corpse, and one of the jurors on his case managing to discover incriminating evidence and then blackmailing him. The juror is a gambling addict and as such continuously keeps on asking for money, and eventually the man decides that killing the blackmailer is the best solution. Of course, he doesn't knows who he is, but he just needs to go through twelve possibilities...
  • July 27, 2014
    Aokage
  • July 27, 2014
    Illemar
    Elementary: Like the original, Charles Augustus Milverton also gets killed due to his blackmailing. While the murderer invoked this trope in doing it, he had actually killed Milverton and his accomplice to cover up that he had been involved with and wanted to take over the blackmailing business.
  • July 27, 2014
    Psychopompos007
    Literature
    • In the backstory of The Dark Half, the protagonist Thad Beaumont is a not well-known writer who published several thrillers while using the pen-name of George Stark (said thrillers being a lot more successful than his mainstream work). A man discovers the link between Beaumont and Stark, then tries to blackmail him, threatening to reveal to the media that Beaumont and Stark are the same person. Beaumont was already pondering to stop writing as Stark and this threat definitively decided him to do so. He revealed his second identity to the media himself, staging some mock funerals to symbolise Stark's death, and preventing the blackmailer to gain anything. This was actually a series of events which happened before the novel's beginning. In the proper novel, a being with Stark's mind comes to life and starts a murderous trip to reach Beaumont with the intent of becoming fully human. One of his first victim is the unsuccessful blackmailer, as a revange because the blackmail attempt is partly responsible for Stark's "death".
  • July 27, 2014
    Bisected8
    Compare Bribe Backfire.
  • July 27, 2014
    Dacilriel
    It's a common staple of murder mysteries that the second body is someone who tried to blackmail the murderer.
  • July 27, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Live Action TV
    • On Homeland, Carrie and Saul find out that a Middle Eastern ambassador is gay and try to blackmail him into giving them information. He shrugs it off, saying that his family and his government already know.
  • July 27, 2014
    henke37
    • Svensson Svensson: Gustav is trying to blackmail Max into doing garden work on top of what they had agreed on. Gustav threatens by mentioning the mountain bike that Max wants. However, Max has none of it and explains to Lena about the bribery deal Gustav made with the children.
  • July 27, 2014
    DAN004
    The blackmail can backfire because the blackmailee is Crazy Prepared.
  • July 27, 2014
    Dalillama
  • July 27, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ A supertrope, perhaps?
  • July 27, 2014
    MrInitialMan
    I'd agree that Threat Backfire would be a Super Trope of Blackmail Backfire
  • July 31, 2014
    MrInitialMan
    Is this ready to go?
  • July 31, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Meeds more hats. A few more examples couldn't hurt, either.
  • August 1, 2014
    MrInitialMan
    @marcoasalazarm Do you have any examples?
  • August 1, 2014
    marcoasalazarm
    Still looking up… I can swear to you this Trope has been applied like a half dozen times throughout the whole CSI franchise, but I cannot find a good example as of this moment. Probably the sleepiness getting to me.
  • August 1, 2014
    Psychopompos007
    There's a couple of relevant examples in Threat Backfire.
  • August 1, 2014
    Bisected8
    ^^ I remember one;

  • August 4, 2014
    TrustBen
    In Sweet Smell Of Success Sidney Falco tries to muscle one of his boss JJ Hunsecker's rival columnists by implying that he knows about an adulterous affair the columnist had. The columnist confesses to his wife right then and there, makes up with her, and launches into a The Reason You Suck Speech aimed at both Falco and Hunsecker.
  • August 4, 2014
    PhillyDom
    • In "$16,940," one of Larry Niven's few non-SF stories, a blackmailer tells his victim that another of his victims has got the goods on him, and that he needs the titular amount to pay him off. The first victim sees a way to get out from under, but it's going to be bad news for the second victim.
  • August 5, 2014
    MrInitialMan
    ^^ But is that backfiring on the blackmailer?
  • August 5, 2014
    PhillyDom
    ^^ Yes, because if the blackmailer had not gone to the first victim for the money the second demanded, the first victim would never have gotten the idea for his plan. This way, he's going to lose two sources of income, rather than one.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=0bk1e5kh8nsgjpnikaxc3fw9&trope=BlackmailBackfire