Created By: Speedball on March 7, 2012 Last Edited By: Speedball on March 14, 2012

People Are The Real Enemy

In a survival situation, the real danger is the other survivor

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Needs a Better Description, Needs More Examples

This often gets misapplied to Humans Are Bastards, so I figured it needs its own trope.

In a survival situation (Zombie Apocalypse, After the End, or some more local disaster like a sinking ship) the rules of civilization break down. It's every man, woman and child for themselves. While much can be accomplished by cooperating, in the end, there might not be enough food, water, ammunition, escape pods or other essentials for everybody. Some people will start fighting, often to the death, to protect these things. That's why, in a deadly survival situation, it's not the disaster you have to worry about: People Are The Real Enemy.

The inversion of The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People. Compare Dying Like Animals, which more broadly encompasses people dying in a disaster due to their own selfishness or stupidity.


  • All over the place in The Road. The father and son have to evade roaming packs of cannibals.
  • One of the trailers for I Am Alive flat-out says that people are more dangerous than the destroyed environment. Gangs of marauders are everywhere, and they want all the food you've got, and possibly to eat you, as well.
  • General: This is a recurring them of almost any Zombie Apocalypse scenario. Zombies are dangerous in groups, but mindless and can be killed one-on-one easily. A crazed human with a gun or a knife is significantly more dangerous. Examples are most easily found in John Romero's "of the Dead" series, the Dead Rising series where psychopaths form the boss fights, The Walking Dead (both the series and the comic).
  • The tabletop game Paranoia revolves around this. It takes place in a City in a Bottle populated by mutants and run by a demented Master Computer who considers almost anything to be treason, and yet the biggest danger in the game is almost certainly your fellow players.
  • In the Alien franchise, the aliens are certainly dangerous, but it's the actions of the callous Company that put people in danger in the first place.
  • Pretty much the whole point of Lord of the Flies.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • March 7, 2012
    Sounds a lot like Dying Like Animals.
  • March 7, 2012
    True, but that trope is so broad and indistinct and usually covers a lot of stuff about how humans die to their own stupidity during disasters.
  • March 7, 2012
    • The tabletop game Paranoia revolves around this. It takes place in a City In A Bottle populated by mutants and run by a demented Master Computer who considers almost anything to be treason, and yet the biggest danger in the game is almost certainly your fellow players.
  • March 7, 2012
    Needs A Better Description.

    Would these count?

    Anime and Manga:
    • In Gall Force, the solnoids are engaged in a desperate war with the paranoids. The greatest threat to their survival, however, may be their own leaders' failure to consider peace as a viable alternative to victory. In Destruction, the Solnoid leader Journey plans to sacrifice the protagonists in order to lead her counterpart Bohn into a trap.

    • In the Alien franchise, the humans wouldn't have had much trouble with the aliens if some humans hadn't deliberately sought them out in the first place.

    • In Drowtales, the drow are viewed as demons by humans, a clear and present danger by light elves, and food by ver'aku. However, the greatest threat to the clans is the Nidraa'chal, drow who use ver'aku as living weapons, and the Big Bad is Princess Snadhya'runes Vel'Sharen.
  • March 7, 2012
    That school of thought that says you don't have to be faster than [the monster], you only have to be faster than the other person running from it with you.

    • The Walking Dead Shane shooting Otis so the Zombies would swarm the crippled prey and give him a chance to get away. Which Shane alternately feels guilty about and justifies because he was willing to do whatever it took to protect Lori and Carl.
  • March 7, 2012
    • Jigsaw, of the Saw franchise will occasionally engineer these situations as part of his death traps. One particular case is a Double Subversion, as in Saw V the main plot victims kill each other one by one only to learn afterwards that they were supposed to work together. Jigsaw lampshades this in his instructions to his victims by explicitly warning them not to follow their first instincts.
  • March 7, 2012
    There's some of this in The Stand, not only the danger from Flagg's group but the rogue groups the travelers run into, like the 'zookeepers', and the looting and whatnot earlier on in the story.

    All over the place in ''The Road', where the main characters have to assume everyone is probably out to eat them, given what they see them doing to other people.
  • March 8, 2012
    This trope is the inversion of The Apocalypse Brings Out The Best In People.

    • Lucifers Hammer. The threats faced by the survivors include two armies, one made up of former military personnel and another of cannibals who are also religious fanatics.
  • March 8, 2012
    Pretty much the whole point of Lord Of The Flies.
  • March 14, 2012
    In D&D , the description of the fallen city Myth Drannor mentions that despite of the monsters and devils stuck there due to magic anomalies, one of the greatest threats to adventurers is other adventuring parties.
  • March 14, 2012
    In Homestuck everyone was worried about the kids session and Bec Noir. No one even noticed their used to be stoned friend Gamzee going sober and deciding to slaughter people until it was too late.