Created By: surgoshan on April 20, 2013 Last Edited By: surgoshan on November 2, 2013

Creepy Comfort

Comfort that really isn't comforting.

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Trope
Sometimes one character has had a really bad day and needs a hug and a pep talk. Sometimes that character's friend isn't on hand to give that, and what you're left with is a scene that would be comforting, if it weren't for the fact that said comfort is being offered in an uncomfortable way.

Usually the comforter is a villain, sometimes just a really creepy bastard with boundary issues. Sometimes it's genuine comfort, sometimes it's offered as a manipulative psychological ploy (eg. Good Cop/Bad Cop, but with only one cop), sometimes the comforter knows how discomfiting it is and just enjoys it for that reason.

False Reassurance is a related trope, perhaps a cousin, in that the villain is offering something that, from the right person, ought to make the victim feel better. Often performed by a Faux Affably Evil character. Close family to Cradling Your Kill.


Shh, the examples are right here, my pet.

Film
  • In the intro to Serenity, the Operative demonstrates his signature move on the government flunky who ran the Academy that Mind Raped River; paralysis followed by a slow, grisly death. As the man dies, the Operative offers him genuine comfort while the man (and his assistant) stare in horror: "This is a good death, an honorable death. You should be proud..."
  • In the climax of The Jackal, Bruce Willis's character is holding a teenaged girl as a Human Shield and, as she cries and while he stares at Richard Gere, he gives her a gentle kiss on the forehead.
  • Kruger in Elysium seems to love this, knowing that being all creepy comforting makes the awful shit he does so much worse. He tells Frey that he doesn't like being violent in front of children, "so cover her eyes". And then his "marriage proposal" on the ship, complete with gratuitous sniffing...
  • David Lynch uses a recurring theme of "humiliating, 'comforting' hand on shoulder".

Literature
  • In the Time Scout series, Jack the Ripper at one point holds a woman captive in her apartment. When she's not quick enough to explain modern technology to him, he notices that she's quite woozy from a knock to the head and being tied to her bed for hours. He then treats her medically and gently ensures she's in good health, much to her confusion.

Live Action TV
  • In the third season of The Walking Dead, Glenn and Maggie are captured and taken to Woodbury, where Glenn is tortured while Maggie listens in the next room. The Governor then takes over for Maggie's interrogation and, after a brief attempt to appear kind, nearly rapes Maggie. Then he brings her into the next room, coerces the information out of her by threatening Glenn... then holds her close and comforts her (still half naked, while Glenn barely holds himself back).
  • When Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory tries to comfort someone he usually genuinely wants them to feel better (if only because people being upset breaks down his carefully constructed routines). However, he's a human example of an Amusing Alien and Hates Being Touched causing contact with the people he's comforting to limited and robotic. His attempts are at best ineffective and worst just so awkward they're downright unsettling. 
  • In How I Met Your Mother, an episode centers around how in order to be remembered at a job, you need to be a "guy," (like "food guy," "toy guy," etc. Barney warns Marshall to choose carefully, lest he become "creepy backrub guy" who seems to appear behind people and offer unsolicited backrubs.
  • In the first season finale of Lost Girl, Bo walks into her apartment to find her Ax-Crazy estranged evil mother... baking cookies. This is the same mother who nearly killed Bo's boyfriend the previous episode.

Western Animation
  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven, Carface is about to kill Charlie (again) and tells him "Look at it this way, I get what I want and you get to go to Heaven!" Made doubly creepy by the fact that (unbeknownst to Carface) Charlie's already been to Heaven and was told "You can never come back."
  • In The Prince of Egypt Seti genuinely means to comfort Moses when he hugs him and reassures him that the mass slaughter of newborn babies was all right because "they were only slaves."
Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • April 20, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Needs less Example As A Thesis, but otherwise this is a really good idea. Possibly tie it to Your Approval Fills Me With Shame, since some of these cases would be reassuring were it not for the person the reassurance is coming from?
  • April 21, 2013
    Arivne

  • April 21, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    Sounds very much like False Reassurance.
  • April 21, 2013
    SharleeD
    Related to Cradling Your Kill.
  • April 21, 2013
    surgoshan
    Oh, well done Sharlee D.
  • April 28, 2013
    surgoshan
    I can't think of any more examples. Is this a thing?
  • August 12, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    Does this count?

    When Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory tries to comfort someone he usually genuinely wants them to feel better (if only because people being upset breaks down his carefully constructed routines). However, he's a human example of an Amusing Alien and Hates Being Touched causing contact with the people he's comforting to limited and robotic. His attempts are at best ineffective and worst just so awkward they're downright unsettling.
  • August 12, 2013
    hevendor717
    This makes me think of when Milhouse rides a girl's bike in The Simpsons, and evaluates it as "disturbingly comfortable".
  • August 13, 2013
    DAN004
    Often done by Faux Affably Evil people.
  • August 13, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Dunno if this counts, but...

    • In How I Met Your Mother, an episode centers around how in order to be remembered at a job, you need to be a "guy," (like "food guy," "toy guy," etc. Barney warns Marshall to choose carefully, lest he become "creepy backrub guy" who seems to appear behind people and offer unsolicited backrubs.
  • August 13, 2013
    Morgenthaler
    Also related to Terms Of Endangerment.
  • August 13, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    I don't see how that The Boondock Saints example is a case of this. Maybe add some more context than just a piece of dialogue?
  • August 15, 2013
    XFllo
    bump
  • August 15, 2013
    Tardigrade
    Film: David Lynch uses a recurring theme of "humiliating, 'comforting' hand on shoulder". In Lost Highway, Renee 'comforts' Fred in this way. In Mullholland Drive, it's Coco 'comforting' Diane.
  • August 15, 2013
    littlemissmuffet
    • In All Dogs Go To Heaven, Carface is about to kill Charlie (again) and tells him "Look at it this way, I get what I want and you get to go to Heaven!" Made doubly creepy by the fact that (unbeknownst to Carface) Charlie's already been to Heaven and was told "You can never come back."
  • August 15, 2013
    Dacilriel
    In The Prince Of Egypt Seti genuinely means to comfort Moses when he hugs him and reassures him that the mass slaughter of newborn babies was all right because "they were only slaves."
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