Created By: Topazan on November 23, 2011 Last Edited By: Topazan on April 12, 2013
Troped

Excuse Return Fire

A character tries to make an excuse, but then the same excuse is used to justify punishing them.

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Do We Have This? I can't find it.

Possible launch title: Excuse Boomerang.

The culprit has been caught red-handed and is about to receive a well deserved punishment. But, he objects, it wasn't his fault. He had no control over his actions. He had to commit the crime.

Unfortunately for him, the authority figure also has no control over his actions, and has to deliver the punishment.

An Excuse Boomerang is used as a rhetorical shortcut. Rather than argue with the culprit about whether or not the culprit can be held responsible, the authority simply claims that for the same reason he can't be held responsible for the punishment he is about to deliver.

Related to Ironic Echo.

Examples

Literature
  • In Jingo:
    Oh, no doubt the man would suggest there were mitigating circumstances, that he had an unhappy childhood or was driven by Compulsive Well-Poisoning Disorder. But I have a compulsion to behead cowardly murderers.
  • This Ambrose Bierce poem:
    "There's no free will," says the philosopher;
    "To hang is most unjust."
    "There is no free will," assents the officer;
    "We hang because we must."

NewspaperComics
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Similar to the Zeno of Citium story, Calvin claims that he can't be held accountable for his actions because he was predestined to do them. Hobbes knocks Calvin over, claiming Calvin was predestined to fall down.

RealLife
  • Charles James Napier (attributed), during his governorship in British India:
    "You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
  • There's an Older Than Feudalism story about Zeno of Citium chastising a slave for stealing. The slave argued that it was his fate to steal. Zeno informed him that it was also his fate to be beaten.

WebComics
  • This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic, in which a woman protests that arresting her ego for smoking marijuana is unjust, when other parts of her mind and body were responsible for the deed. The police officer handcuffs the woman and tells her his hands are just obeying the frontal lobes in Congress.
  • There was an early Pvp strip in which Cole attempted this unsuccessfully. His employees were in the habit of neglecting their jobs to play video games. At one point, he told them that he was too busy playing a certain game to finish the payroll, only to decide a moment later that he actually should get it out of the way.

WesternAnimation
  • Unsuccessfully attempted by Hank in King of the Hill. A new employee turns out to be a drug addict, and gets his lawyer to invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act to keep his job and demand special accommodations. This inspires other employees to, with the help of the same lawyer, claim to suffer from a variety of outlandish disabilities and demand inconvenient and time-consuming accommodations. Hank tries to get a handle on the situation:
    Hank:You see, I recently came to realize that I, too, suffer from a disability: Good Worker Syndrome. I get sick to my stomach unless every one around me is giving 110 percent. The symptoms include pride, responsibility, and a feverish enthusiasm. It used to be a common condition among Americans.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • November 23, 2011
    Xzenu
    • In The Sound Of Music, the children don't dare to say that they tried to visit Maria. Instead they make the axcuse that they was picking berries, and their father decide that after all those berries they can't be hungry so they don't need any dinner.
  • November 24, 2011
    Topazan
    ^ That might be a slightly different trope, but if we don't have that one either, I guess we can lump them.
  • November 24, 2011
    Omeganian
    An Older Than Feudalism example about Zeno of Citium:

    We are told that he was once chastising a slave for stealing, and when the latter pleaded that it was his fate to steal, “Yes, and to be beaten too,”
  • November 24, 2011
    Topazan
    ^ Would that go under Real Life or Philosophy?
  • November 25, 2011
    robybang
    • Calvin And Hobbes: Similar to the Zeno of Citium story, Calvin claims that he can't be held accountable for his actions because he was predestined to do them. Hobbes knocks Calvin over, claiming Calvin was predestined to fall down.
  • November 26, 2011
    jate88
    never mind
  • November 27, 2011
    somerandomdude
    Excuse Backfire for the title?
  • November 27, 2011
    Topazan
    That might work for examples like Xzenu's, where the excuse itself causes additional problems for its maker. In fact, I thought that trope already existed under that exact name, but maybe I dreamed it.

    For the other examples, I think Return Fire is a better metaphor than Backfire. As I understand it, backfire is a malfunction that produces an undesirable effect. In this case, the excuse in of itself doesn't do any harm, it's just that the other person counters it by coming up with a similar excuse.
  • November 28, 2011
    Xzenu
    Yeah. Their excuse onlybackfired because their father decided that it should. Return Fire is better for title.

    However, "return fire" sounds a bit as if the outlandish excuse is met with an even more outlandish excuse.

    So while the current title is fine, we might want to keep one eye open for an even better option.
  • November 28, 2011
    Topazan
    Fine by me.
  • November 28, 2011
    randomsurfer
    How about Excuse Boomerang?
  • December 6, 2011
    Duncan
    Some instances of this might include an Ironic Echo.
  • December 7, 2011
    Micah
    Excuse Boomerang is good.

    • This Ambrose Bierce poem:
      "There's no free will," says the philosopher;
      "To hang is most unjust."
      "There is no free will," assents the officer;
      "We hang because we must."

    In fact, most of these examples seem to be about fate or determinism; that's probably worth noting in the description.
  • December 7, 2011
    CaveCat
    • An Archie Comics story had Archie punished for breaking a window at school by being forced to replace the window himself. When he gets home after that's done, his father asks him if he got detention again. Archie then decides to use a good amount of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness to explain his reason for arriving home so late. When he finishes, Mr. Andrews then grounds Archie for two weeks, then explains the situation to Mrs. Andrews in plain English. It was apparent that Mr. Andrews knew what Archie was actually saying.
  • December 13, 2011
    Topazan
    .
  • December 14, 2011
    Statalyzer
    "However, "return fire" sounds a bit as if the outlandish excuse is met with an even more outlandish excuse. "

    Good point.
  • December 14, 2011
    Statalyzer
    "However, "return fire" sounds a bit as if the outlandish excuse is met with an even more outlandish excuse. "

    Good point.
  • December 14, 2011
    Topazan
    Huh? Double posting I can understand, but six hours apart?

    Anyways, Excuse Boomerang works for me. I think we can plan to launch under that title unless someone comes up with a better one.
  • December 26, 2011
    Topazan
    So, I don't know, is this worth launching?
  • May 9, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    This would definitely be related to Ironic Echo.
  • May 11, 2012
    DracMonster
    maybe Ironic Excuse Boomerang or Karmic Excuse Boomerang... slightly clearer
  • May 14, 2012
    Topazan
    I'm not sure either adjective really fits. "Karmic" might help comprehension a little, but it assigns a value judgement that may not actually show up in the work. As for "Ironic", I prefer to minimize its usage to avoid debates over its definition.
  • August 19, 2012
    jate88
    The name made me think of someone who is stupid enough to not follow the advice when a cop says you have the right to remain silent.
  • April 12, 2013
    Topazan
    Looking back months later, I kind of like Ironic Excuse Boomerang. What do you guys think?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=i7c450u66fcl47i7pe10x16g&trope=ExcuseBoomerang