Created By: Scarab on April 14, 2011 Last Edited By: HeroGal2347 on April 23, 2016

SeeWhoYoureLettingDown

They don't want to help until they meet the person who needs them.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Needs a Better Title Do We Have This One?

Humans have a great ability to empathize with their fellow man, but this usually depends on us being provided with something to identify with. Even something as simple as giving someone a name gives us something familiar to latch onto but complete strangers we've never even met are somewhat harder to empathize with.

This Trope deals with a specific scenario in fiction where an individual has been asked for help, usually by people he's never met, and refuses for whatever reason (usually selfish but not necessarily -they may just have more important things to deal with at the time) only to do a Heel–Face Turn when they actually see the situation first hand, see that there's actual suffering involved with real people which they can do something about.

Basically this trope is Comes Great Responsibility without the power necessarily having to be great. In fact it's usually quite mundane: maybe they're just in possession of something the heroes need or can give a specific order of some kind. The problem can be just about anything. A war, a super villain trashing the character's hometown, a complete stranger they've never heard of being terribly ill. It doesn't matter precisely what the situation is, provided that the root of the problem involves somebody (an individual or a group) being in trouble and a complete stranger being the only one who has the ability to help out.

After trying unsuccessfully for a while to convince the character to help them via any means possible (bribery, blackmail or just plain begging included), eventually, somebody will burst out with "Okay, you won't help us! Fine! But I'm going to show you exactly who you're letting down!" and drag the character, usually against their will, to see the problem for themselves.

The character suddenly sees the downtrodden villagers suffering in the slums after a military attack, the thousands of homeless people in the Soup Kitchen, the sick child dying, and is struck with horror at their own blaseness. The Rule of Empathy kicks in. Suddenly they're not dealing with faceless nobodies or a statistic anymore. The character still knows absolutely nothing about this situation, but they will agree to help out in whatever way they can.

This character may be a protagonist but is more often a one shot character who will never be seen again afterwards.

Examples

  • Knight Rider. In one episode of the original series a street thug nearly chickens out of the Bone Marrow Donation that will save a little girl's life -until Michael angrily drags him into the hospital and he meets the girl for himself.
  • My Little Pony A little elf girl, Maeve, refuses to part with the magical flight-granting horseshoe that is her favourite toy until they take her to meet Mimic; who will die unless Maeve gives her the horseshoe back.
  • This is one of the methods of charities. They create adverts that focus on specific individuals in dire need and emphasize the ability of the general public to help these people via relatively simple means. By giving us specific people to focus on it's easier to encourage action than just reading a statistic about, say, the number of people who die of Malaria every year.

Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • April 15, 2011
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek The Next Generation episode Pen Pals. Captain Picard is reluctant to save a planet and its inhabitants from destruction because interfering would be a violation of the Prime Directive. Data arranges for him to hear a call for help from a child living on the planet, causing Picard to change his mind.
    Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Data...your whisper from the dark has now become a plea.
  • April 16, 2011
    pureWasted
    The Lord of the Rings The Two Towers. After being refused by the Ents, Pippin asks Treebeard to drop the Hobbits off at Isengard. What follows is a Big No and an expected but averted Self Destructive Charge for the entire Ent population.
  • April 16, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    Humans have a great ability to empathize with their fellow man, but this usually depends on us being provided with something to identify with. Even something as small as giving someone a name gives us something familiar to latch onto but complete strangers we've never even met are somewhat harder to empathize with.

    Question, is it appropriate to just go in and fix spelling/grammar mistakes in others' YKTT Ws? I feel nitpicky and rude calling attention to them.
  • April 16, 2011
    Rolf
    Its rude to edit someone else's ykttw, but feel free to reply any of my ykttw with corrected discription as I suck on grammar.
  • April 16, 2011
    Scarab
    I actually appreciate someone calling attention to my spelling/grammar errors, particularly where typos can cause meaning confusion. Anything that helps the YKTTW read better. Cheers.

    Also, on a note about the Star Trek reference, the call for help also provided the crew with a solution, since it could technically be interpreted as a plea for help, and therefore avoid the Prime Directive issue.
  • April 16, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Mentalist: Lisbon tricks Jane into meeting the wife and daughter of the Victim Of The Week when he's reluctant to take part in this particular investigation. He resents being manipulated by her but joins the investigation anyway once he meets the daughter, who is about the same age as his daughter would be if she hadn't been killed by Red John.
  • April 24, 2011
    TBeholder
    • In The Cloakmaster Cycle elves invited Teldin to Evermeet (which is mostly off-limit for non-elves) and gave him a tour while waiting for the audience -- so that he saw both a refined happy community and some of their best art. They tried to convince him the Second Unhuman War should not be viewed as their intimate problem -- which wasn't an easy task after one of their admirals stooped to outright piracy.
  • April 24, 2011
    ElCheViva
    Might this be better as "Who you're letting down", rather than "What"?
  • April 27, 2011
    TBeholder
    Maybe See [Who|What] You're Letting Down?
  • April 27, 2011
    randomsurfer
    @Noir's point: contrast A Million Is A Statistic, the inverse.
  • April 27, 2011
    Bisected8
    • Parodied in The Simpsons when Chief Wiggum tries to get Marge to help him by holding something in his arms and stroking it...
      Wiggum: Then do it for this adorable puppy. Won't you do it for the puppy?
      Marge: That's not a puppy, it's your cap.
      Lou: She's pretty sharp, Chief.
      • Also parodied when Homer tries to get a reed for Lisa's saxaphone, only to find the shop closed. He tries to get the owner to open again by showing him a picture of her, but realises he doesn't carry one around.
  • April 29, 2011
    Scarab
    Who You'reLettingDown does seem to fit better since the situation seems to work better for indvidial people, though it also worksfor large groups, I suppose they can be counted as "who" as well.

    So... you guys okay with my trying to launch this? It seems to work okay.
  • April 29, 2011
    Thebes
    Ichigo from Bleach was reluctant to carry out his Soul Reaper duties until Rukia forced him to witness a Hollow attack.
  • July 13, 2011
    Micah
    • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Holiday", Machello steals Daniel's body and wanders off with it. When they find him, he initially refuses to do the swap back, but after a conversation with Daniel -- trapped in Machello's dying body -- he eventually consents.
  • July 13, 2011
    countmall
    Doctor Who's A Christmas Carol. Kazraan refuses to help until he sees his younger self.

  • July 13, 2011
    TonyG
    A Christmas Carol: Seeing Tiny Tim is what really starts Scrooge's Heel Face Turn.
  • July 13, 2011
    randomsurfer
    'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'': Caractacus Potts doesn't want to help the native children of Vulgaria (he just wants to rescue his own kids and leave) until he meets them.
  • July 14, 2011
    MiinU
    Western animation

    • Avatar The Last Airbender: General Fong pulls this on Aang, in order to coerce him into using the Avatar state to end the war against the Fire Nation. When Aang refuses, explaining he hadn't yet mastered the four elements, Fong counters by mentioning the many who've died during the war, and how many more were likely to follow in the meantime. Aang remains adamant until Fong takes him to the infirmary and shows him his wounded men; stating that they were the "lucky ones" since they came back. It works... but not the way Fong was expecting.
  • July 14, 2011
    Koveras
    Imperial Princess Victoria from Tribes Vengeance is initially indifferent to the plights of the Tribals, seeing them all as just savage Barbarian Tribes. However, her time with the Phoenix Tribe (first as their hostage, then as a voluntary helper) leads her to sympathize with them a lot. That is, right up to the point where her Tribal love interest Daniel is tricked into killing her father the king.
  • July 14, 2011
    FastEddie
    Needs a real name. This reads like dialog.
  • July 14, 2011
    Generality
    Near the beginning of Bleach, Ichigo refuses to take on the mantle of Shinigami after accidentally stealing Rukia's powers. Just then, a child is attacked by a Hollow, and he runs of to save him. Rukia points out the hypocrisy in this, and insists that if he save the one child, he also accept responsibility for protecting everyone from Hollows. Ichigo shoots this down and just saves the kid.
  • March 17, 2015
    Gowan
    • In Dragon Bones, Ward's resolution to abolish slavery on his land is reinforced by the cries of his own slave, who is going through a flashback downstairs.
  • March 17, 2015
    DAN004
    So what IS this?
  • April 23, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    Probably related to Conscience Makes You Go Back.
  • April 23, 2016
    DAN004
    I get it now, this is too similar to Neutral No Longer and Default To Good.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=y2xlt29c6286lsy3cemdbo0z