Note: I'm not quite sure if this is worth splitting off from Mugging the Monster, but I think the difference in characterisation is enough to make it a subtrope. I thought the simplest solution would be to leave this here and see what everyone thinks.
Alternative names: Defend The Dog
A subtrope of Mugging the Monster
; a villain shows up and begins pushing the hero and/or innocent bystanders around, however the hero doesn't do anything to stop them (either because he or she doesn't want to get involved or to avoid starting a fight where someone could actually get hurt, if the villain's only threatening violence) until the villain has a Kick the Dog
moment or otherwise goes too far.
As with its Super Trope
, it serves to give the character in question an Acceptable Target
to demonstrate their Badass
credentials on. The main difference is what it demonstrates to the audience about the character's...erm...character. Their refusal to act might mark them as wise enough to avoid a fight (if the villain wanted something which wasn't too valuable) or True Neutral
(if they didn't want to get involved). The fact that the villain actually provoked them makes them seem more reasonable (and the villain less sympathetic), although it could just as easily make them seem aloof and passive. It can also establish that the hero has a Berserk Button
, if pressing it is what sets the hero off (this may or may not remove the "reasonable" part of this trope).
In addition to Mugging the Monster
, it can also overlap with Bullying a Dragon
(particularly if the crook was relying on invoking the first part of this trope). Compare Neutral No Longer
and Awakening the Sleeping Giant
(both of which this trope can foreshadow) and The Dog Shot First
(which similarly makes the hero more sympathetic by making the villain more clearly antagonistic). Contrast Bruce Wayne Held Hostage
, where the hero can't act because it would compromise their secret identity.