Created By: Ryusui on March 18, 2011 Last Edited By: Ryusui on January 14, 2014

Putting The Ex In Extortion

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Possibly Needs a Better Name.

So someone's got something on you. Something you never want to be made public. And all it takes to buy their silence is for you to do whatever they tell you to do.

Except there's one problem with this indentured servitude scenario: the impetus is, to quote Michael Weston, a bullet that can only be fired once. It's to the blackmailer's benefit that the secret remains a secret, or else they've got nothing they can hold over your head.

So when slavery gets too much to bear, you still have one option, however painful it might be: expose the truth yourself.

Interestingly, in fiction, revealing the secret almost never results in the dire repercussions the blackmail victim is afraid of - often times, it's purely beneficial, as they now have a clean conscience and are free of the blackmailer's influence.


  • In one episode of Doug, Judy makes Doug into her personal slave after he accidentally breaks a tacky souvenir mug. In the end, he breaks free of her control by telling the truth (he says his parents didn't even know what the mug was, though this could have been due to the poor job he did of putting it back together).
  • Sue on Glee once blackmailed Principal Figgins with an embarrassing airline safety video he once appeared in. By the end of the episode, he had defused the situation by posting it on YouTube himself. It got three views.
  • One story in Machine of Death, "Exhaustion From Having Sex With a Minor", involves a politician in the running for Prime Minister of Great Britain who knows he is going to die from the eponymous cause - and has understandably kept the fact under wraps. He's approached by a corporate interest who knows his secret and attempts to blackmail him into being their political puppet. In the end, he decides to sabotage their plans for him - and his own political career - by coming out with the truth. He gets elected anyway. It turns out that due to massive changes in the political system, he's only 17 and still technically a minor himself.
Community Feedback Replies: 9
  • March 18, 2011
    One of the key plot points in Discworld Making Money
  • March 18, 2011
    And don't forget David Letterman's real-life introduction to this trope last year.
  • March 18, 2011
    In the Glee example, Sue threatened to post the video, but Figgins revealed that he'd already posted it himself at an earlier date, thus her threat was useless.
  • March 18, 2011
    My first thought about the title was this was a reference to marital divorce. Which for that topic would be an awesome title -- but this one, seconding Needs A Better Title.
  • March 19, 2011
    Publish And Be Saved, perhaps? (As a play off "publish and be damned.")
  • March 20, 2011
    The businessman in The Case Of The Stepdaughter's Secret (Perry Mason) isn't being blackmailed, but ends up revealing his secret.
  • January 14, 2014
    Paranoia: most of the blackmail material for sale in Alpha Complex is "non-exclusive", meaning it'll be sold to anyone with the credits. A supervisor faced with a constant stream of blackmailers might just decide a trip to a confession booth is less hassle than dealing with the blackmailers.
  • January 14, 2014
    ^^^ "Publish and be damned!" was said by Nelson in response to a blackmail threat, making it essentially this trope already (except that Nelson didn't have to bother to do the publishing himself.)
  • January 14, 2014
    Real Life: David Letterman was the subject of an extortion threat and told the world all about it on his TV show.