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Accomplice by Inaction
Igraine: I never did anything to hurt you !
Morgan: Indeed, my lady. You did nothing. You did nothing when my father had my mother killed so that you could sit in her place. As you did nothing when my father banished me.
Igraine: No queen questions her king.
Morgan: And I thought my opinion of you couldn't get any lower.
Starz's Camelot, during Igraine and Morgan's second scene together

So, let's say Alice was abused by her dad, Evulvz. She was a favorite victim of his, and his abuse was made of both emotional and physical patterns. From her childhood to early adulthood, he made her life a real mess and when she finally managed to make Evulvz Sealed Evil in a Can with help of her beloved, Danny, everyone expected them to rejoice. They were supposed to go straight to Charlie and Bob, the Apathetic Citizens, who watched the abuse thinking that it was somebody else's problem, or to Claire, the Innocent Bystander who was unable to do anything, and to throw a party and invite them.

Except they want to have them caught. Now. And to charge them all as accomplices to Alice's dad's abuse. And burn their crops. And terminate their subscription to cable channels. Turns out, doing nothing wasn't that much of a great plan.

The level of sympathy given to both parties (the accusers, be they the victim or not, on one hand and the accused, on the other) can vary, depending on whether it was the bystander being oblivious or knowing all along, but also on whether the character refused to help, or was also another innocent victim, or was simply incapable to offer help. There is also the issue of Alice's reaction to the abuse. She can turn into Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds or into a Knight in Sour Armor.

Compare Failure-to-Save Murder, which has a strong overlap rate. Compare and contrast Cruel Mercy which the non-intervention may be from the point of view of the inactive party, thus making the accusation justified. See also a common cause for this trope, Moral Myopia, the All-Powerful Bystander who is likely to be seen as this, and You Were Trying Too Hard, for the almost-opposite. Contrast Murder By Inaction.

Possible overlap with Hitler Ate Sugar and Villain-by-Proxy Fallacy, could involve Insane Troll Logic in some cases.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • This is an audience reaction to Ryuk from Death Note : technically while he didn't force Light to kill criminals he did cause the whole plot to even start by dropping the book in the human world.
  • A debateable problem in No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular. Tomoko is unpopular and very bad at being social, yet her brother doesn't do much to actively help her get better, her parents are practically nonexistent - in fact, they seem to harm her more with Tough Love which lowers her self-esteem - and most of her teachers don't do anything, either... mostly a Values Dissonance. The only teacher who seems to want to help her get friends is her homeroom teacher who tries it the wrong way...

    Comic Books 
  • In W.I.T.C.H., Ari of Arkhanta, who possesses a slave he uses only for his greedy motives, has a massive grudge against the oracle of Kandrakhar, the benevolent figure who saves everyone's life once a week. Why ? Unlike the man, who obsessed about changing his son, the Oracle didn't ever try to "cure" the child's autism.
  • This is the main motivation of "Public Enemy" from the Marvel 2099 verse. A genetically engineered super soldier, he bears a grudge against the corporation Alchemax for murdering his parents. Even after tracking down and killing everyone involved in the Red Dog project he still feels like the really guilty party hasn't been punished. He then witnesses a crazed gunman about to kill a woman, while dozens of pedestrians either ignore it or talk about what a shame it is. After rescuing her, a crowd of people gather around him to tell him what a hero he was. Incensed at their inaction, he murders them all on the spot. He realizes that who he truly hates are the public who allow bad things to happen while claiming innocence. He kills more crowds of people who were witnesses crimes and do nothing to stop them, eventually coming into conflict with The Punisher. During a battle between the two, he's surrounded by a crowd of people who were related to his victims. They all attack him with bricks, pipes and whatever else they have on hand. As the crowd swarms him, Public Enemy yells out encouragment to them, overjoyed that they're finally doing what he wanted them to do even as they tear him apart.
  • This was part of a very large plotline in the Spider-Man comics, involving Tombstone and Daily Bugle editor Joe Robinson. Tombstone had bullied Joe when they were kids, and eventually, Joe witnessed Tombstone - now a hitman working for the Kingpin kill a man, and after the thug threatened him, he kept quiet for decades. In the present time, Joe finally came forward when the Kingpin used the assassin in a failed attempt at Spidey, but Joe was arrested and convicted of withholding evidence. (In truth, both the DA and judge were bought by the Kingpin; this led to another storyline where Tombstone attempted to gain revenge on him in prison, which eventually ended in Joe gaining a Presidential pardon; still, the issue with Tombstone lasted much longer...

    Fanfic 
  • In Harry's New Home, Snape and Harry start distrusting and in the latter case, outright fearing Dumbledore when they realize it was Dumbledore's fault that no one checked up on Harry and why Sirius never got a trial.
  • This is also the treatment of Dumbledore in A Little Light Reading

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Zira blames Kovu after Nuka dies in the fight with Simba.
    Kovu: I did nothing!
    Zira: Exactly! And in doing so, you betrayed your pride, betrayed Scar!
    Kovu: I want nothing more to do with him!
    Zira: You cannot escape it! Nuka is dead because of you! You've killed your own brother!
    Kovu: NO! *runs off*

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman Begins : Bruce could, from the beginning, quite rightfully cause this reaction with one of his lines.
    I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you...
    • The Dark Knight has this somewhat as the reason for Harvey's rampage, as he goes after everybody who had something to do with Rachel Dawes' death.
  • In the film adaptation of Night Watch, a cornered vampire girl blames the Night Watch (ostensibly the good guys) for her turning into a vampire and subsequent crimes, since the vampire who turned her was doing so legally under the Balance Between Good and Evil treaty, so the Night Watch couldn't intervene.
  • The Danish film Festen (The Celebration), set during a family reunion for a 60th birthday party, centres on the revelation by eldest son Christian that he and his twin sister were sexually abused by their father. When his mother tries to intervene, he calls her out for ignoring the abuse and says "I'm so grateful to have such a twisted hypocrite for a mother. I wish you were dead."
  • In Natural Born Killers, after Mickey kills Mallory's abusive father, Mallory kills her mother because she never did anything to try and stop Dad.

    Literature 
  • In Samuel Richarson's Clarissa (1747-48), the longest book ever written in the English language, the heroine's mother and her aunt look like this from a modern reader's perspective because they never oppose the father's when he does his best to force the heroine into an arranged marriage. Richardson seemed to partially agree, at least for the good aunt Hervey, whom he describes in the preface as "lacking the courage to go against so strong a steam, [and] sailing with it".
  • Strangely averted and then deconstructed in Céline Raphael's La Démesure, a testimony of her life as a child and later as a young teenager with an unbelievably physically and emotionally abusive Stage Dad. She mentions that her mother and her younger sister never confronted her father about the abuse in the first years, and the reader assumes that they didn't know about the situation. Then, halfway through the book, she writes about how unsettling it must have been for them to hear all this from behind the closed door of the room her father locked her in for practice. She never had a grudge against her mother.
    • However, there were occasions when her little sister had to go walk with them, and while this was one of the rare moments during which she (Céline) wasn't beaten, her sister (Marie), who limped, was hit with a stick if she didn't follow quick enough. If her sister didn't accept to come for a walk to make their father cut Céline some slack, she and her mother yelled at her.
    • She also resented a P.E. teacher who taunted her for failing to attend his classes (because her father forbade her too for practice) out of pure anger towards her and her family enjoying superior social standing and being allegedly able to break rules. It is one of the rare persons she seems to still resent and look down upon.
  • After Lancelot hesitates a second and then jeopardizes his reputation and future for Guinevere — by getting in cart, making him look like someone going to his execution — in some versions of Arthurian legend, she refuses to even look at him. He thinks this is because he demeaned himself and is thoroughly humiliated. Actually, it is because he didn't totally humiliate himself immediately.
  • Found in Jane Austen's works and played differently:
    • Love and Freindship , this is used for comedic effect, when Laura and Sophia are furious with the latter's cousin, Mac Donald, because he didn't sigh nor weep when he heard that they had been abandoned by their grandfather. He just saved them, providing them with shelter, food and stability.
    • Played for Drama in Sense and Sensibility, since the eldest brother refuses to give anything to his sisters despite his father's unofficial will and his promise at his father's deathbed. They despise him for his neglect and for being a condescending, pitiless, Innocently Insensitive weakling.
    • In The Watsons (unfinished novel), the heroine despises the brother who gained financial independence and could have helped her sister while she, despite being in a higher situation, couldn't do anything, but he chose not to do anything except invite his favorite sister occasionally.
  • Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, specifically the second part of the first one were created to defy the trope
    A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    First law of robotics
  • In The Fountainhead, Gail Wynand was once nearly beaten to death as a youth by a drunken longshoreman. Wynand dragged himself to a saloon and asked for help for the first and last time in his life when the saloonkeeper found him. The saloonkeeper simply went back inside without a word. Years later, the now wealthy and powerful Wynand still remembered the longshoreman and the saloonkeeper. Wynand never did anything to the longshoreman. He utterly ruined the saloonkeeper's life, driving him to suicide.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Camelot: Morgan's reason for hating Igraine is apparently this, as Igraine never opposed her father when he tried to destroy her childhood. It appears later on that there is also a dose of Irrational Hatred in this since Igraine couldn't have escaped Uther's will (he was really a domineering violent king). When Morgan stabs Igraine in the season 1 finale, her stepmother reveals that Uther wanted to kill his own daughter, and that she convinced him to simply send her away in a convent to protect Morgan.
  • Desperate Housewives has this as the main motive of Paul Young in Season 6, after the titular housewives knew he was framed for murder and refused to do anything to assist. Further, they also refused to visit him or show him any kindness.
  • In the backstory of Justified Hunter Mosley was the sheriff of Harlan County when Henry Crowder kidnapped, raped and murdered Mosley's young niece. Henry fled and the other members of the Crowder family refused to reveal where he was hiding. Mosley made a Deal with the Devil with a Miami drug cartel and with their help located Henry and murdered him in revenge. He then went after the other Crowders and while he could not have them arrested as Henry's accomplices, there were plenty of other crimes they were guilty of and could be sent to prison for. Even years later he still holds a grudge against the Crowders even though the remaining members of the family had no role in the matter.
    • Ava Crowder was abused for years by her husband Bowman until she finally had enough and shot him dead. All the locals knew what was happening and have no real problem with what she did since they feel that Bowman deserved what happened to him. However, when they try to express this sentiment to her she rebukes them because none of them tried to help her when she was abused so their words mean nothing to her. The only one to apologize for his inaction is Bowman's brother Boyd and Ava forgives him after he risks his own life to save her from his father Bo Crowder.
    • This trope is subverted by Limehouse who runs the black community of Noble's Hollar and has for years offered sanctuary to the abused women of Harlam County. As a result the Genre Savvy Limehouse now has a network of grateful women who provide him with information on all the important things happening in the region.
  • Canonically, on Once Upon a Time, this is probably supposed to be Regina's motivation for extracting revenge on Snow White, who was manipulated by Regina's mother Cora into revealing the identity of Regina's lover, all despite swearing to never to say a word about it to Cora, who then killed him. This is left ambiguous and she may believe that Snow White was more than negligent and planed it all from the start.
    Regina: (having an Indulgent Fantasy Segue about strangling the girl) My mother corrupts young souls. If you had been stronger, none of this would've ever have happened...
    • Fanon for makes this part of Regina's motivation for asking her dad to act as a manservant and later killing him to further her plans. He seems to expect this, but she denies this with an heartfelt Do Not Go Gentle speech and thanks him for always trying to help.
    • This may be her motivation for ruining the lives of every inhabitant of her kingdom. Her mother abused her for years, killed her lover and forced her to watch and to marry a middle-aged widower ? Well, they are fine with it. She tries to kill their princess ? They unleash their wrath on her.
  • Seinfeld is a prime example in the last episode of the last season. The episode is about the cast not helping someone getting mugged on the street in broad daylight, and them being arrested, trialed (with everybody they managed to somehow piss off with their Jerkassery over several seasons coming Back for the Finale as witnesses) and then put in jail because of a recently-passed "Good Samaritan" law.
  • Subverted in an episode of Taggart; members of a criminal gang are being murdered and the prime suspect is the daughter of a have-a-go-hero who got beaten to death for his trouble (by the leader, the other gang members just stood by). They arrest her after she shoots said leader however when they try to call her out for killing the other gang members, she denies it. They realize that said leader had manipulated her into shooting him (he was wearing a bullet proof vest) and was the one who killed his former partners in crime.
  • In V-2009, this culminates for Erica after she must watch her ex-husband die in her arms because of an attack by the aliens, just after escaping what everyone thinks was a kidnapping, and is just narrowly cleared of accusations of being The Mole. But this is not over, because she must bear her son Tyler's sneering comments about how she couldn't save her husband and should have, leading to Failure-to-Save Murder.
    • She is understandably angry and depressed and this sounds shocking to her, just like the cases of teenagers chastising the church for not meddling in V politics. Though, when you read Tyler's previous actions, you realize that he often blamed her for not helping the cute (ruthless homicidal totalitarian) and charismatic Hive Queen of the Vs, his friends, or himself when she could barely intervene...
  • One episode of Supernatural features a psychic boy out to kill his abusive father and uncle. He's also after his mother, because she didn't do anything to stop it.
  • An early episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had the team investigating a murder scene where the parents and two sons of a family were killed in their home, but the two daughters survived. Turns out Dad had been sexually abusing the older teenage daughter, leading to the birth of the younger one. He then wanted to get frisky with the younger daughter, who was seven at the time. The teenage daughter hired her boyfriend and some of his friends to kill Dad to stop the abuse, and had the other family members killed because they never tried to stop Dad.

    Mythology 
  • Ulysses is constantly blamed for the amount of mind-boggling STUPID his crew members wreak. They are always eager to disobey the orders of the superior forces, and when he tries to apologize for them, he is usually held responsible.
  • Electra has the poor Chrysothemis, who seems to be blamed for not really taking a side in the terrible family conflict. She is sweet and is well-adjusted, so she probably will have an easy life...

    Religion 
  • In The Bible, Matthew 25:41-45 showcases the fate of those who are not chosen by God when the Day of Judgment comes:
    41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
    42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
    43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
    44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
    45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
    • Elsewhere in the bible those who are in watchmen positions (either literally as city guards or figuratively as prophets) are considered to be guilty of bloodshed if they fail to warn people of coming peril and those people die as a result.
    • James 4:17 shows us what theologians call the "Sin of Omission". It's not just doing evil that is sinful, but also not doing good when given the chance:
    "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

    Video Games 
  • In Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten Judge Nemo considers everyone evil because no one but Artina helped him when he was tortured was a prisoner of war, but what really pushed him over the edge was when Artina was executed for her kindness to him.
  • In the game Misao, Kudou saw Misao being bullied, but didn't take action against it, and Misao executes him by driving a car over him.
  • World of Warcraft: Grand Magister Rommath (along other blood elves) hate the Kirin Tor because they did nothing when every elf in Dalaran, a city many of them considered home, was imprisoned and sentenced to death because of a false accusation.
    Rommath: "A monumental betrayal. In Dalaran, beneath the ever watchful eyes of the Kirin Tor."
    Aethas Sunreaver: They really had nothing to do with —"
    Rommath: "I assume you mean that the Kirin Tor did nothing. Did nothing to prevent it, did nothing to stop it. And instead left us to rot in the prisons beneath a city many of us called home as much as ever we did Silvermoon."
  • Godot in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations hates Phoenix Wright because he did nothing to stop Mia from getting killed—never mind that Phoenix couldn't have done anything under the circumstances, and knew nothing of the danger she was in. In actuality, this is displaced anger at himself for not stopping Mia from getting killed—never mind that he was in a coma at the time. It's heavily implied Godot is not all there.

    Web Original 
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: After Lizzie learns that Bing Lee simply left her sister Jane because his sister Caroline and his friend Darcy told him that she wasn't interested in him, she is about to forgive him. Then, she realizes that he understood the situation later, but couldn't muster the courage to do anything. And from that point, she hates him.
  • In Squaresville, it is hinted that the group of protagonists which we follow are a bunch of social outcasts. They are victims, if not of bullying, at least of condescending remarks from the other children, even the conformist outcasts, and the mots jaded of them all, Esther, has a grudge against Shelly, a girl who "escaped" their current condition, and did nothing to help.

    Real Life 
  • This is very much Truth in Television in certain situations, as far as judiciary system goes, since you can be prosecuted for not taking any action to help someone in peril (officially known as the duty to rescue concept)..
  • Céline Rapahaël, a Frenchwoman victim of a Stage Dad, wrote a book about the abuse she underwent. The examples are treated in the Literature section.
  • This is what doomed Erwin Rommel following the failed July 20 plot. Historians still differ as to his exact role, but at the very least, he knew about the plot and did nothing to stop it.


Accidental KidnappingCrime and Punishment TropesAcquitted Too Late
Acceptable TargetsThe Only Righteous Index of FanaticsActivist Fundamentalist Antics

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