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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(permanent link) added: 2012-08-01 11:30:25 sponsor: TheWanderer (last reply: 2014-02-05 18:43:57)

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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.
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