The Punishment is the Crime
The punishment for committing the crime is... being allowed to commit the crime.


(permanent link) added: 2011-07-15 22:21:26 sponsor: ACarlssin edited by: SteveMB (last reply: 2012-08-14 20:49:31)

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In some cases (in fiction, and one would imagine in real life as well), a person will commit a crime, and then get caught. As they wait in fear to find out what their punishment is, the hero will reveal that no punishment could possibly be worse than simply being allowed to live with the consequences of the crime itself, so there will be no further punishment. Also compare Be Careful What You Wish For, Ironic Hell.

The villain may raise this issue himself, arguing that he's being punished enough already and should be spared anything further. Depending on the character and the circumstances, this may come off as genuine regret deserving of mercy, a cynical ploy to evade justice, or somewhere in between.

In particularly literal cases of the trope, the offense is punished by forcing the perpetrator to continue doing it long past the point where it is pleasurable or desirable.

Examples:
  • In no less than three Doctor Who storylines, the punishment for people seeking immortality was to become immortal. "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" was a subversion of this trope, because the Doctor added extra punishments on, but in the other two examples ("Mawdryn Undead" and "The Five Doctors"), the punishment for seeking immortality was nothing more than immortality itself.
  • In one episode of "Seinfeld", Elaine eats a 100-year-old slice of wedding cake which was one of her boss's prized possessions. When he finds out, she's afraid he'll punish her somehow. His response is something along the lines of, "Do you know what sitting around for 100 years does to a piece of cake? What's about to happen inside your intestines will be punishment enough."
  • There was once a newspaper comic in which someone tried to get out of paying their taxes by offering to sleep with an IRS agent. Their punishment was to sleep with an IRS agent.
Often used in fetish fiction: The punishment for a man trying on women's clothing is...being forced to wear women's clothing.
  • In the backstory of Mortal Kombat, it's stated that the Elder Gods punished Shang Tsung for taking a soul with a curse which not only forces him to kill his enemies, but to take their souls as well. Only in this way would he hold off his grim fate: to age rapidly and die prematurely.
  • In one episode of Red Dwarf, Rimmer is put on trial for causing the deaths of the original crew. Kryten, as his defence lawyer, sums up his argument as "He's only guilty of being Arnold J. Rimmer. That is his crime, it is also his punishment"
  • Many sorts of Fantastic Nuke may be included, since, as Shadowdale put it,
Elminster: Spells of this sort are directly forbidden, although it is difficult to punish transgressors as they are usually dead before the spell reaches this stage!
  • At one point the penalty for attempted suicide was death by hanging (in England at least). Though this may have to do with suicide being considered the honorable way out and execution bringing shame to the guilty's family.
  • In That '70s Show, Eric is going to go to Africa as part of the Peace Corps (iirc) and at the same time, his parents finally find out about the regular marijuana use that he and his friends engage in. This leads to this commment from Red, "Well, this is the worst thing that you have ever done! Eric, I am gonna make you... I am going to... well, I can't think of anything worse than sending you to Africa. You're going to Africa!"
  • In La Fille Mal Gardee, after Colas's appearance in Lise's room causes Alain to dump her, Widow Simone, who had earlier been deadset against Lise marrying anyone other than Alain, decides she'll have to settle for Colas.
  • There's the classic "smoke the whole pack" punishment for kids who are caught smoking. Homer Simpson once attempted this one on Bart when Bart was actually transporting cigarettes for Fat Tony.
    • The "smoke a whole pack" punishment occurred in an episode of King of the Hill where Bobby started smoking.
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum--"Suicide's illegal! The penalty is death!"
  • Real Life example: one man in Africa was caught having intercourse with a goat. The locals handled the matter by forcing him to marry it...
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, two of the Lannister hostages try to escape from King's Landing by hiring on as oarsman. Tyrion Lannister suggests keeping them on the oars for a few years as punishment, but eventually decides against it as they can't afford to lose the hostages.
  • In Code Geass this occurs in the final second - season episode. However, it's a very odd example because Lelouch had been planning this for some time and Suzaku had willingly agreed to it.
Lelouch: "The punishment for what you've done shall be this, then. You will live on, always wearing that mask serving as a knight for justice and truth. You will no longer live your life as Suzaku Kururugi. You shall sacrifice the ordinary pleasures of your life for the benefit of the world. For eternity...
Suzaku: This Geass, I do solemnly accept.
  • Many branches of Christianity teach that God's main punishment of sin is the ENJOYMENT of the sin committed. So many of our sins are easier to stop on day 1.
  • In the Codex Alera, Fidelias's eventual punishment for being a spy and pretending to be Valiar Marcus is to have to keep living as Valiar Marcus.
  • There is an old joke that states that God's punishment for polygamy is having two wives.
  • In Theodore Sturgeon's short story "Vengeance Is", two men rape an academic's wife and he begs her to give into them. He does so because he knows that she's the carrier for a venereal disease that will soon cause them painful death.
  • A literary example would be Ambrose Bierce's definition of bigamy: "A mistake in taste, for which the wisdom of the future will adjudge a punishment called 'trigamy.'"
  • On one episode of Married... with Children, a man told Al that Peg was running around with his husband. He responded "Well, he's got what he deserved!" When reminded that what he got was Al's wife, he said "Let the punishment fit the crime!"
  • In an episode of The Buzz on Maggie, Maggie went to see a PG-13 movie her parents forbade her from seeing and it ended up scaring her so much she was left traumatised. After Maggie confessed to her parents they decided her trauma was more than enough punishment.
  • In Deuteronomy in The Bible, the punishment for raping a woman is being forced to marry her. Certain amount of Values Dissonance here since the victim is also stuck married to their rapist.

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