Created By: SeroccoFebruary 8, 2013 Last Edited By: SeroccoApril 15, 2013
Troped

Villain By Proxy Fallacy

When a character targets another for marginal involvement in a crime.

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When someone subscribes to the phrase "An Accessory to the Crime". Let's say that a shooting occurs. You feel like administering justice, not just to the shooter, but to the gun dealer and the gun maker. As well as the legislators who allowed for gun acquisitions and the police officers who enforced that law. You feel that they, even if marginally, contributed to the shooting, and you take it upon yourself to be the Karma Police, consequences be damned.

In the more sympathetic portrayals, the Karma Police actually has a legit beef with the Villain By Proxy (who may or may not care either way), even if their methods can range from overzealous to cruel. The less savory examples operate under methods that come across as Misplaced Retribution, with a touch of Evil Is Petty, Never My Fault or as a proponent of Poor Communication Kills.

A hybrid option would be to follow the slippery slope scenario, where it morphs from "directly involved" to "marginally involved" to "only acquainted with those who were involved". This is an effective way to descend the Karma Police into the path of a Complete Monster.

Just for clarification, this is not about whether the audience feels this way about a character. This is about someone in-universe thinking this way and doing something about it.

Sub Trope of Knight Templar with a touch of Well Intentioned Extremist (depending on the portrayal). Compare Hitler Ate Sugar, Accomplice By Inaction and Guilt By Association Gag, the former two of which can overlap if things turn really nasty.

[[folder:Film]]

  • The Dark Knight uses this trope to elevate Harvey Dent into one of its prime antagonists. After Rachel dies, Two Face confronts the people that he felt were responsible for her death, starting with The Joker, the actual killer. The madman won the coin toss and got to live, so Harvey goes after everyone else from there. The last person Two Face targets is Commissioner Gordon; he was a couple yards away from the building housing Rachel, but it exploded as soon as he got out of the car. Two Face threatens to kill his son on a coin toss, on the idea Gordon failed to save Rachel quicker.

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[[folder:Literature]]

  • A major point of contention between the Space Wolves and the Inquisition in Warhammer 40 K. After the First War for Armageddon, the Inquisition decided that the Guardsmen and civilians who'd fought might be corrupted by Chaos (or start talking about what they'd seen about Chaos), and enacted a mass sterilization and forced labor program for the civilians and shoot down the Guard transports. This did not sit well with the Space Wolves, who had fought alongside these men and women, and took it upon themselves to rescue all those that they could without opening fire on Inquisitorial ships. The Inquisition failed to take the hint and almost started a civil war with the Wolves.

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[[folder:Live Action Television]]
  • In Unforgiven, the working girls put out a $1,000 bounty on the heads of two cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Bunting. While this is understandable in Mike's case (he cut up one of the prostitutes pretty badly), Davey's only crime is his poor choice of friends.
  • An unusual example occurs on Series/Angel with the Vampire Hunter Holtz, who seeks vengeance on Angelus for murdering his family and forcing him to stake his own daughter. In this case, Holtz comes after Angel even after acknowledging that Angel is essentially a different person than the soulless Angelus. The trope is played straight in that Holtz's vengeance also encompasses Angel's infant son and his allies in Angel Investigations. Holtz's assistant, Justine, is also a clearer example, int hat she hates all vampires because one of them killed her sister.
  • On Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Warren shoots and kills Tara and is in turn apparently killed in revenge by Willow, after which she also vengefully targets his former partners Jonathan and Andrew despite their lack of involvement in the shooting...and when Buffy and the Scoobies prevent these murders, she blames and attacks them!
  • Star Trek Deep Space Nine provides an inversion, where Sisko feels this way about himself after playing a part in tricking the Romulans into declaring war on the Dominion. This includes bribery, manufacturing evidence, covering up the murder of a high-profile Romulan ambassador and framing the Dominion for a crime they hadn't committed. It's easy to see his point, except he can live with it, if it meant preserving the Federation.
  • The Wire:
    • Part of the utter, systemic failure of the drug war comes about because the police tend to treat anyone living near a drug-dealing operation with considerable brutality whenever one such operations harms or even simply embarrasses a police officer or a public official, and in turn most people living in drug-affected areas behave as if every police officer is a brutal thug or a corrupt cop because some of the police fit that description.
    • In another example, when Corrupt Cop Lieutenant Valchek becomes enraged that stevedores' union chief Frank Sobotka has gotten a coveted stained-glass window at their church before Valchek, he sends his officers to harass the entire union with selective enforcement. Later still, frustrated that the investigation he instigates has moved on from Sobotka and the union to chase international drug and human traffickers, he calls in the FBI knowing that they will focus on busting the stevedores' union first and foremost. By the end of the season, the union is gone, and by the end of the series at least some of the members are homeless after losing their jobs. Really, it's safe to say that the world of The Wire runs on this trope.
  • Law Abiding Citizen: Clyde Shelton's family are murdered during a burglary, and the Justice Department are forced to cut a deal with the burglar who carried out the murders, offering him a lesser sentence in exchange for him testifying against his accomplice. Shelton decides to take matters into his own hands, first by taking brutal revenge against the burglars, then by initiating a campaign of terror aimed at bringing down the entire Justice Department, who he sees as guilty of a miscarriage of justice.
  • CSI: NY : The Compass Killer. Driven insane from the grief and the brain damage that ensued from a madman entering his office and blowing away everybody inside with a shotgun (including his wife) before killing himself, architect Hollis Eckhart started killing everybody that had anything to do with it. The guy who sold the madman the gun, the shrink that didn't diagnosed the shooter as an unstable man, the guard that didn't searched the shooter thoroughly... and himself, for putting his wife in danger. It didn't helped in any way at all that the madness which made him decide to perform this act also made him identify innocent people as those that were the targets of his vengeance.

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[[folder:Video Games]]

  • Fallout New Vegas: The antagonist of the Lonesome Road DLC, Ulysses, hates the Courier because he blames them for a nuclear explosion that destroyed the Divide; it turns out the courier once delivered a package to the Divide which contained the nuke's launch codes. From the courier point of view, that package was so ordinary they can't even remember it clearly.
  • From the very beginning, Ghost Trick makes a large deal out of the fact that various parties are trying to kill the female protagonist Lynne. At one point, the Big Bad tries to frame her for murder. Why? Back when she was a child, he was fleeing the police when he came across her playing in the park, so he took her as a hostage. If she hadn't been there, he would have never gone that far. Therefore she was partially responsible for ruining his life, even though it was his choice to take her hostage from the cops that were already chasing him.

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[[folder:Web Comics]]

  • In Goblins, Kore's Fantastic Racism extends not only to members of the 'monstrous races', but also to members of the 'civilized races' who could potentially harbor sympathy for monsters. This results in him executing a child whose 'crime' was being orphaned and Raised By Orcs, while delivering a speech about how allowing the child to live would result in the potential for greater evil to exist in future.

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[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • Notable aversion: in Batman Year One, Bruce Wayne is turned off of studying the Law when he learns about Accessory/Felony Murder laws, specifically a getaway-car driver being judged equally guilty of murder if his partner kills someone during a bank robbery even though the driver wasn't even in the bank and doesn't know it happened.
    Wayne: That isn't justice!
    Professor: No, Mr. Wayne, that is the law.
  • A tendency for Double D in Ed Edd N Eddy, who is often punished along with the other Eds by the other vengeful kids, despite most inconveniences they make are caused by Eddy's callousness or Ed's oblivious stupidity. This usually counts as a non lampshaded Misplaced Retribution, though in at least one episode, Sarah points out that Double D probably didn't have any part in the Ed's antics, though decides to let him take the fall anyway.
    Sarah: It's like they say, give those cute ones an inch and they'll take a mile!
  • Tron Uprising
    • Cyrus, who believes that It Is Beyond Saving while the grid is under Clus control and tried to eradicate everything, including the programs who don't support the occupation.
    • Tesler was willing to tear Mara limb from limb simply because she happened to touch is chest when he was annoyed. Inexplicably, he included her friend Zed in that public execution, eve though he was only there to see her touch Teslers chest.
  • The trope is parodied on The Simpsons when Sideshow Bob, actually innocent and reformed for once, actually helps Bart and Lisa thwart his criminal brother Cecil from sabotaging a construction project he and Bob are working on together. In the aftermath, Chief Wiggum sends him to prison along with Cecil on general principle.

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Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • February 8, 2013
    Astaroth

    Edit: Second paragraph might need a rewrite, to avoid Example As A Thesis
  • February 8, 2013
    FalconPain
    From the very beginning, Ghost Trick makes a large deal out of the fact that various parties are trying to kill the female protagonist Lynne. At one point, the Big Bad tries to frame her for murder. Why? Back when she was a child, he was fleeing the police when he came across her playing in the park, so he took her as a hostage. If she hadn't been there, he would have never gone that far. Therefore she was partially responsible for ruining his life.
  • February 8, 2013
    Sledgesaul
    My question is, who should we categorize it under? The actual Villain By Proxy, or the character who believes in the Villain By Proxy fallacy?
  • February 8, 2013
    Astaroth
    In the examples we've got so far, the focus is on the characters who nominate the other character to be the 'villain by proxy'. So I'd say we should start as we mean to go on.

    • In Goblins, Kore's Fantastic Racism extends not only to members of the 'monstrous races', but also to members of the 'civilised races' who could potentially harbor sympathy for monsters. This results in him executing a child whose 'crime' was being orphaned and Raised By Orcs, while delivering a speech about how allowing the child to live would result in the potential for greater evil to exist in future.
  • February 8, 2013
    Serocco
    I think he meant: should it fall under the character who is considered the Villain By Proxy, or the character who enforces the Villain By Proxy?

    As in, should we see "Villain By Proxy" under Commissioner Gordon or Harvey Dent?
  • February 8, 2013
    Astaroth
    OK, I think I see what you're getting at. In that case, may I suggest a rename to 'Villain by Proxy Fallacy' or something similar?
  • February 8, 2013
    Serocco
    Villain By Proxy Fallacy.... yeah, I think that's better. It's an important distinction.
  • February 8, 2013
    StarSword
    EDIT: Actually, I'm not sure how Felony Murder is related, if at all.
  • February 8, 2013
    Serocco
    Yeah, no Felony Murder.
  • February 9, 2013
    Chabal2
    A major point of contention between the Space Wolves and the Inquisition in Warhammer 40 K: after the First War for Armageddon, the Inquisition decided that the Guardsmen and civilians who'd fought might be corrupted by Chaos or start talking about what they'd seen, and enacted a mass sterilization and forced labor program for the civilians and shoot down the Guard transports. This did not sit well with the Space Wolves, who had fought alongside these men and women, and took it upon themselves to rescue all those that they could without opening fire on Inquisitorial ships. The Inquisition failed to take the hint and almost started a civil war with the Wolves.
  • February 9, 2013
    Astaroth
    Would this qualify as a real life example?

    • After Genghis Khan's death, the Mongols decided to keep the location of his grave a secret, so they executed the slaves who had constructed his tomb. The soldiers who carried out the execution of the slaves were executed as well, for good measure.
  • February 9, 2013
    Serocco
    They feared their boss' corpse would be discovered, so they wiped out everyone who knew of it. That's paranoia, for sure, and either Disproportionate Retribution or Misplaced Retribution, but without full context of who they feared would find the corpse, I can't tell if it counts. If anything, that was more "Villain By Proxy due to a Future Crime."
  • February 13, 2013
    Sledgesaul
    I'm not sure the Space Wolves example fits either. It seemed more paranoia than actual villain by proxy stuff, apart from that one mentioning of the Inquisition thinking that Chaos infected everyone.
  • February 14, 2013
    MaxWest
  • February 14, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Notable aversion: in Batman Year One a collegate Bruce Wayne is turned off of studying the Law when he learns about Accessory/Felony Murder laws, specifically a getaway-car driver being judged equally guilty of murder if his partner kills someone during a bank robbery even though the driver wasn't even in the bank and doesn't know it happened.
    Wayne: That isn't justice!
    Professor: No, Mr. Wayne, that is the law.
  • February 15, 2013
    Serocco
    I'd say the Space Wolves one stays, since the Inquisition assumed that people were corrupted by Chaos or would talk about Chaos, which is something a lot of the Imperial solar systems don't know about.
  • February 16, 2013
    Psi001
    • Often a tendancy for Double D in Ed Edd N Eddy, who is often punished along with the other Eds by the other vengeful kids, despite most inconviniences they make are caused by Eddy's callousness or Ed's oblivious stupidity. This usually counts as a non lampshaded Misplaced Retribution, though in at least one episode, Sarah points out that Double D probably didn't have any part in the Ed's antics, though decides to let him take the fall anyway.
      Sarah: It's like they say, give those cute ones an inch and they'll take a mile!
  • February 24, 2013
    Serocco
    What others?
  • February 24, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    CSI: NY : The Compass Killer. Driven insane from the grief and the brain damage that ensued from a madman entering his office and blowing away everybody inside with a shotgun (including his wife) before killing himself, architect Hollis Eckhart started killing everybody that had anything to do with it. The guy who sold the madman the gun, the shrink that didn't diagnosed the shooter as an unstable man, the guard that didn't searched the shooter thoroughly... and himself, for putting his wife in danger.

    It didn't helped in any way at all that the madness which made him decide to perform this act also made him identify innocent people as those that were the targets of his vengeance...
  • February 27, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    ^Thanks for updating my entry.
  • February 27, 2013
    Serocco
    No problem.

    Do the Uprising examples count to you guys?
  • March 7, 2013
    Astaroth
    • Law Abiding Citizen: Clyde Shelton's family are murdered during a burglary, and the Justice Department are forced to cut a deal with the burglar who carried out the murders, offering him a lesser sentence in exchange for him testifying against his accomplice. Shelton decides to take matters into his own hands, first by taking brutal revenge against the burglars, then by initiating a campaign of terror aimed at bringing down the entire Justice Department, who he sees as guilty of a miscarriage of justice.
  • March 8, 2013
    OmarKarindu
    Comic Books
    • The "Avengers" villain the Grim Reaper started out blaming the early Silver Age team for his brother Wonder Man's apparent death, but very quickly started targeting anyone who ever joined the team...including a Back From The Dead Wonder Man!

    Film

    Live Action TV
    • An unusual example occurs on Series/Angel with the Vampire Hunter Holtz, who seeks vengeance on Angelus for murdering his family and forcing him to stake his own daughter. In this case, Holtz comes after Angel even after acknowledging that Angel is essentially a different person than the soulless Angelus. The trope is played straight in that Holtz's vengeance also encompasses Angel's infant son and his allies in Angel Investigations. Holtz's assistant, Justine, is also a clearer example, int hat she hates all vampires because one of them killed her sister.
    • On Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Warren shoots and kills Tara and is in turn apparently killed in revenge by Willow, after which she also vengefully targets his former partners Jonathan and Andrew despite their lack of involvement in the shooting...and when Buffy and the Scoobies prevent these murders, she blames and attacks them!
    • Part of the utter, systemic failure of the drug war in The Wire comes about because the police tend to treat anyone living near a drug-dealing operation with considerable brutality whenever one such operations harms or even simply embarrasses a police officer or a public official, and in turn most people living in drug-affected areas behave as if every police officer is a brutal thug or a corrupt cop because some of the police fit that description.
      • In another example, when Corrupt Cop Lieutenant Valchek becomes enraged that stevedores' union chief Frank
    Sobotka has gotten a coveted stained-glass window at their church before Valchek, he sends his officers to harass the entire union with selective enforcement. Later still, frustrated that the investigation he instigates has moved on from Sobotka and the union to chase international drug and human traffickers, he calls in the FBI knowing that they will focus on busting the stevedores' union first and foremost. By the end of the season, the union is gone, and by the end of the series at least some of the members are homeless after losing their jobs. Really, it's safe to say that the world of The Wire runs on this trope.

    Western Animation
    • The Batman: Year One example is only in the animated adaptation, not the comic.
    • The trope is parodied on "The Simpsons" when Sideshow Bob, actually innocent and reformed for once, actually helps Bart and Lisa thwart his criminal brother Cecil from sabotaging a construction project he and Bob are working on together. In the aftermath, Chief Wiggum sends him to prison along with Cecil on general principle.

  • March 30, 2013
    Serocco
    Sweet examples. I'll restructure them into the appropriate media. Before I launch it, should this be a character or series trope?
  • April 1, 2013
    dvorak
    Character Real Life
    • IRL, this is called Guilt by Association.
  • April 8, 2013
    Sledgesaul
    Related to Revenge By Proxy, maybe?
  • April 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    @Omar: Well, I gotta admit that I was wrong and you're correct that that scene isn't in Batman Year One the comic book. I just opened my copy and looked and didn't see it. But I'm positive it's in some Batman story from the same general time frame (1986-87). I've never seen the animated version of Year One so I didn't see it there.
  • April 12, 2013
    Astaroth
    Would Accomplice By Inaction be a related trope?
  • April 12, 2013
    jokerisland
    • In Unforgiven, the working girls put out a $1,000 bounty on the heads of two cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Bunting. While this is understandable in Mike's case (he cut up one of the prostitutes pretty badly), Davey's only crime is his poor choice of friends.
  • April 15, 2013
    Serocco
    Accomplice By Inaction and Hitler Ate Sugar can actually overlap if it gets really bad

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable