Created By: TheWanderer on August 1, 2012 Last Edited By: TheWanderer on February 5, 2014
Troped

Scared Of What's Behind You

A character thinks that they intimidated someone else, only to realize that it was a bigger fish that did it.

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This is a comedic trope where The Hero believes that they intimidated an enemy, usually complete with said hero getting cocky and/or grinning like a goof until they realize that what was truly scary was either a bigger fish, an Enemy Rising Behind, or that The Cavalry arriving Just in Time to save them.

Depending on the situation, the hero's reaction is usually either an Oh Crap!, or just getting deflated about the fact that they're not as intimidating and badass as they thought.

Related to and often overlaps with Always a Bigger Fish, but not always. May also overlap with Enemy Rising Behind in some cases. Compare and contrast Right Behind Me. May involve Failed a Spot Check on The Hero's part if he really should have noticed something sooner than he did. Compare Framed for Heroism.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In the first episode/chapter of Attack on Titan, young Armin is being bullied by some older kids about the outside world (which Armin believes in but the other kids don't), and Eren and Mikasa rush to the rescue. When the bullies see Eren, they get ready to take him, but when they see Mikasa behind him, that's when they run for the hills. Eren, being the cocky kid he is, thinks he scared the bullies off, but Armin corrects him that it was actually Mikasa.

Comics
  • In (IIRC) Tintin arc The Land of Black Gold, Captain Haddock is pinned down behind a sand dune by enemy troops. When they shoot his bottle of whisky, he charges their position screaming at the top of his lungs and spinning his rifle around his head like a club. The enemy flees. Haddock calms down, turns around, and discovers that they were fleeing because The Cavalry have finally arrived, not because they were afraid of him.
  • In The Maxx, a group of kids scare off some older people because of Maxx towering up behind them. The kids just think they were intimidating.

Film
  • In Willow Master Swordsman Madmartigan prepares to make a Last Stand against the Evil Army. He does some fancy sword kata and the army rushing at him stops, then starts running away. Madmartigan grins until he notices a shadow and turns to see a giant, two headed dragon that rose up out of the moat behind him.
  • Towards the end of the Street Fighter film, Guile gets cornered by a bunch of Bison's mooks, who are all armed with assault rifles. Guile pulls the only weapon he has; a pocket knife. The mooks start backing up. Guile acts cocky until Cammy calls to him and he sees that The Cavalry arrived behind him without him noticing it, at which point he deflates like a balloon that's been pricked with a pin.
  • This occurs in the movie Avatar, when Jake Sully stands his ground against a large native creature trying to assert dominance. The creature promptly runs away and Jake proceeds to jeer at it pompously until he notices a far larger creature behind him.
  • Happens in Batman Begins. Rachel is being followed by two Falcone's thugs, and they confront her outside the subway. One is behind her and another in front. She smacks the one behind her with her purse, then turns around and points a taser at the one in front of her. He looks afraid and runs off, which causes her to jeer at him ("Yeah, you better run!") until she turns around and sees that Batman was behind her. (And had take care of the other thug.)
  • The Three Musketeers (1993): At the end, our heroes are confronted by the goons that have been pursuing D'Artagnan throughout the movie. Suddenly the goons' leader screams like a girl and the goons turn and run away. The heroes think they scared the goons away when suddenly the entire Musketeer Corps appears from behind the heroes, chasing after the goons. The goons could see them coming but the heroes couldn't.
  • During their trek through Moria in the Fellowship of the Rings movie the fellowship gets surrounded by every orc in Moria and prepares to make a Last Stand. Suddenly the Balrog is heard growling from out of sight, which causes the orcs to panic and flee. Gimli jeers at them as if the orcs were running from the party, but everyone else is much more concerned about the new threat.
  • In The Lion King, Simba and Nala get trapped by the hyenas while exploring the elephant graveyard. Simba tries to roar at them to scare them off, but only a little wimpy roar comes out, him being a cub and all. Amused, the hyenas encourage him to try again, and this time there's a huge, scary roar. They hyenas, Simba and the audience all have a moment to be shocked before Mufasa (obviously the real source of the second roar) jumps in to save the day.
  • The French film The Bear (L'Ours) ends this way. The cub is being chased by a cougar, who corners it near a stream. The cub gives little roars trying to scare the coagar away... only to last unleash a powerful roar that turns out to be coming from a full grown grizzly bear, who is the younger cub's surrogate parent. Terrified by the adult grizzly, the cougar runs away.
  • In the opening of Monsters University, Mike, as a kid monster, gives a little roar that all his classmates turn around at. At first he thinks he's got them all impressed, but then also turns to see that they're actually in awe of the scarers marching in behind him.

Literature
  • There are several short stories and fables where a small, non-threatening animal (such as a mouse) invokes this with a much larger and more threatening animal in order to keep the larger animal from eating it. The smaller animal will claim that he's actually a Pintsize Powerhouse that all creatures are afraid of, and invite the larger animal to walk with it and see how animals flee from it. After seeing multiple animals supposedly fleeing from the mouse, (actually fleeing the larger animal) the larger animal becomes impressed and leaves the smaller creature alone. Variants include a mouse and a lion, a mouse and the Gruffalo from The Gruffalo, and a fox and a tiger from a Chinese legend.

Newspaper Comics
  • The image is the last two panels of a Garfield strip where Garfield goes to a zoo and starts imagining and acting out what it would be like if he were a wild animal. He thinks that he's intimidating the patrons, unaware of the huge lion sitting right behind him.

Western Animation
  • Done in several Looney Tunes episodes. In one case, there was a variation where Sylvester is being chased by a Bully Bulldog named Spike and his little Hero-Worshipper Chester. Spike tries several times to beat up on Sylvester, but keeps getting mauled by an escaped puma. The variant is that neither Sylvester or Spike ever see the puma, and both are convinced that Sylvester is responsible. When Sylvester tries to menace both dogs at once, little Chester cleans his clock.
    • Another variant with the same characters: Sylvester drinks a Jekyll & Hyde potion, and keeps switching between forms. He repeatedly mauls the bulldog while in Hyde form, then switches back to his normal, Jekyll form. Eventually Sylvester becomes convinced that he can scare the dogs while in normal form. The result is the same as above.
  • When Danny Phantom breaks into the Fright Knight's castle to steal his blade, the Soul Shredder, he wakes up all the skeletons who were guarding it. Danny poises himself to attack with the stolen sword, but instead they all bow down to him. It takes Danny a second to realize that they are all bowing to the Fright Knight himself, who was released after Danny pulled out the blade.
Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • August 1, 2012
    MsCC93
    In the ending of one episode of Tomand Jerry, when Tom sees Jerry in brown paint, he laughs, and then the elephant jumps out and Tom gets a little intimidated, but when the mother jumped out, Tom laughed nervously and then runs away laughing in fear.
  • August 1, 2012
    Avurai
    This occurs in the movie Avatar, when Jake Sully stands his ground against a large native creature trying to assert dominance. He stands his ground and the creature runs away. Jake proceeds to jeer at it pompously, until he notices a far larger creature behind him which the one he was fighting with actually ran away from along with the rest of its pack.
  • August 2, 2012
    TheWanderer
    Updated YKTTW, didn't add mscc93's example because I looked it up and it's a case of Round Peg Square Trope: this trope is about the comedy when a character thinks he's reason that an attacker ran away, only to find out he's not. In that example Jerry, the baby elephant he'd been sheltering, and the elephant's mother purposefully made themselves look alike and jumped out one at a time to freak out Tom. Seems more like invoking Always A Bigger Fish.

    Any suggestions on names? I'd prefer not to add yet another Badass trope, as that has become rather overused on this wiki.
  • August 2, 2012
    Shnakepup
    • Happens in Batman Begins. Rachel is being followed by Marconi's thugs, and they confront her outside the subway. One is behind her and another in front. She smacks the one behind her with her purse, then turns around and points a taser at the one in front of her. He looks afraid and runs off...turns out, Batman was behind her (and had take care of the other thug).
  • August 2, 2012
    Shnakepup
    Also, I'd mention Right Behind Me in the description, as it seems related.
  • August 3, 2012
    Arivne
    The 1993 The Three Musketeers example on The Cavalry is also this trope.

    Film
    • The Three Musketeers 1993: At the end, our heroes are confronted by the goons that have been pursuing D'Artagnan throughout the movie. Suddenly the goons' leader screams like a girl and the goons turn and run away. The heroes think they scared the goons away when suddenly the entire Musketeer Corps appears from behind the heroes, chasing after the goons. The goons could see them coming but the heroes couldn't.
  • August 3, 2012
    elwoz
    Comic Books: In (IIRC) The Land of Black Gold, Captain Haddock is pinned down behind a sand dune by enemy troops. When they shoot his bottle of whisky, he charges their position screaming at the top of his lungs and spinning his rifle around his head like a club. The enemy flees. Haddock calms down, turns around, and discovers that they were fleeing because The Cavalry have finally arrived, not because they were afraid of him.
  • August 3, 2012
    TBeholder
    here's the old ykttw.
  • August 3, 2012
    TheWanderer
    I KNEW we had this as a trope at one time! I went through a whole huge thing trying to find it and going through lost and found, but nobody knew about it and most assumed it got folded in with Always A Bigger Fish or something. I don't suppose there's any chance you know what happened to the trope, TBeholder?
  • August 3, 2012
    JohnDiFool
    Lord Of The Rings films: Gimli does when a huge band of orcs starts reacting to the approaching Balrog.
  • August 3, 2012
    Waterlily
    In The Lion King, a young Simba tries to roar at the hyenas to scare them away and they are terrified to hear a loud and powerful roar. It's his father Mufasa behind him.

    I haven't seen The Bear since I was a kid but I remember it having a scene like this. The bear cub thinks he's scaring away a mountain lion but it's actually his older bear companion behind him.
  • August 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^^^Got cut as part of The Speedy One's desire to remove as many dialogue-sounding tropes as possible, also allegedly a "duplicate" of something else but it was never explicitly identified.
  • August 3, 2012
    TheWanderer
    Any alternate title names? Maybe Not You Theyre Really Scared Of?
  • August 4, 2012
    surgoshan
  • August 4, 2012
    surgoshan
    Or, for alliteration, Bigger Badass Behind.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump; still needs a better name, although the one we have isn't terrible.
  • January 18, 2013
    MokonaZero
    ^ True. I think it's good, but doesn't go well with the description. I think The Badass Behind Him sounds good.

  • January 18, 2013
    Larkmarn
  • January 18, 2013
    TheAnswer
    Could count as a Funny Moment?
  • January 23, 2014
    TheWanderer
    I think Scared Of Whats Behind You is the best sounding name so far. I'm going to edit the title to reflect that, and do a last bump looking for hats and some last minute examples.
  • January 23, 2014
    TheTitan99
    • In The Maxx, a group of kids scare off some older people because of Maxx towering up behind them. The kids just think they were intimidating.
  • January 23, 2014
    abateman
    This isn't really about The Bigger Fish. Often times with this, the ignorant character is not really scary at all, except perhaps in their own mind. The image in the OP is the example. Another great one is the ending of See No Evil Hear No Evil, when Gene Wilder's character yells threats and orders to the bad guy, unaware that a huge squad of police are yelling the same orders, since he's deaf.
  • January 23, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    Anime and Manga
    • In Attack On Titan, In an ealy episode/chapter, Armin was being bullied by some kids older than him, so Eren and Mikasa rush to the rescue. The bullies, upon seeing Mikasa, immediately runs away. Eren claims they got scared of him, but Armin corrects him that it's because they saw Mikasanote .
  • January 23, 2014
    Tuckerscreator
    • The French film The Bear (L'Ours) ends this way. The cub is being chased by a cougar, who corners it near a stream. The cub gives little roars trying to scare the coagar away... only to last unleash a powerful roar that turns out to be coming from a full grown grizzly bear, who is the younger cub's surrogate parent. Terrified by the adult grizzly, the cougar runs away.
    • In the opening of Monsters University, Mike, as a kid monster, gives a little roar that all his classmates turn around at. At first he thinks he's got them all impressed, but then also turns to see that they're actually in awe of the scarers marching in behind him.
  • January 24, 2014
    TwoGunAngel
    The AOT episode/chapter in question was the very first one. When Eren goes after the bullies, they get ready to take him, but when they see Mikasa behind him, that's when they head for the hills.
  • January 24, 2014
    MetaFour
    Framed For Heroism often plays out as a similar gag.
  • January 25, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Invoked by a mouse in The Gruffalo. He gets the titular monster to follow him and see that "everyone in the woods is afraid of me." Of course, they're really scared of the monster behind.
  • February 5, 2014
    DennisDunjinman
    • When Danny Phantom breaks into the Fright Knight's castle to steal his blade, the Soul Shredder, he wakes up all the skeletons who were guarding it. Danny poises himself to attack with the stolen sword, but instead they all bow down to him. Danny realizes only a second later that they are all bowing to the Fright Knight himself, who was released after Danny pulled out the blade.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=89yuasvp3sueblw49jnps918&trope=ScaredOfWhatsBehindYou