"...Find a woman named Elizabeth Lemon. Get her advice, and then do the opposite."
— Jack Donaghy
's video instructions for his expected child, 30 Rock
Advice from certain classes of teammates—like The Ditz
, or the Token Evil Teammate
afflicted with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder
—can usually be safely ignored. But, if a person (let's call him Bob) is wrong consistently enough, then Bob's teammates will eventually find his advice useful—by reversing it first. If Bob says to turn left at the fork, Alice will turn right. If Bob says, "Gee, Dave sure seems trustworthy to me!", Alice takes this as a sign that Dave is not to be trusted. And if Bob says, "Don't touch that, you fools!", Alice knows that it's critically important that they touch the object in question as soon as possible.
In Real Life
, this logic is fallacious; in fiction, Alice opens herself up to getting burned if Reverse Psychology
or Dumbass Has a Point
is in effect, or fall victim to a False Dichotomy
. Of course, the Rule of Funny
governs all, so it's just as likely that this logic works out perfectly for Alice.
For the subtrope of doing exactly the opposite of Bob because Bob is eeeeeeeeevil
, see Hitler Ate Sugar
. For praise producing a similarly negative reaction, see Your Approval Fills Me with Shame
or Damned By a Fool's Praise
. For characters rejecting information that turns out to be correct, see Cassandra Truth
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- In the Gargoyles spin-off comic Bad Guys, the Redemption Squad meets Thailog, who says "Fang can vouch for me." Fang says "Yeah, Thailog's my kinda gargoyle." They immediately know that Thailog can't be trusted. (It's hinted that Fang knew they'd go contrary to his advice.)
- In a Donald Duck story, Donald tried it on himself—he figured that since every single of his plans ends with disaster, he should do the exact opposite of whatever seems most reasonable at the moment. For starters, in hopes of getting himself and his nephew to a tropical vacation, he went to Siberia.
- The comic A. Bizarro had "Al Bizarro" develop a personal version of the Bizarro Code when Al Beezer advised him to do the opposite of everything he'd done with his life.
- Used and lampshaded to hilarious effect in Mind of Aluminum (a Fate/stay night fanfic), in which Rin allies with Shinji and does the opposite of whatever he suggests. Then subverted when Rin finds out that Shinji has been sexually abusing Sakura, and he attempts Reverse Psychology when she asks him if it was a good idea to "shatter every bone in his body and leave him with the rough physical capacity of a turnip."
Rin: "And you know? He thought it was! So I helped him out. He looked surprised, I admit. Like he expected me to… I dunno, do the opposite of what he suggested. But luckily, I respected him far too much for that."
- A story from Analog magazine in the 1970s. An Obstructive Bureaucrat type has been asked to consult on a project. He's pretty clearly suffering from cranial-recto inversion, but the project personnel seem to be taking him dead seriously. It turns out that the bureaucrat has been scientifically identified as someone who is always, always wrongheaded and therefore the project personnel know to do the exact opposite of his suggestions. Now that he and the other "canaries" have been identified and isolated in similar jobs, human progress is taking off like a rocket.
- In His Dark Materials, at the end of Northern Lights, Lyra and her daemon Patalaimon reason that if villains like Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel want to suppress or destroy the Dust, it must actually be good.
- The short story "The Coming of the Goonga": an alien civilization figures that intelligent, well-informed rulers are not the way to go, because the more you know, the more options you see, and eventually you get bogged down with indecision. Their solution was the zeromaster, a "ruler" kept in a state of perfect, crystal-clear ignorance. The result: decisive orders and even future predictions guaranteed to be utterly and precisely wrong, thus guaranteeing excellent results if you do the opposite of what they say.
- At the end of Harry Harrison's Deathworld 2, Jason tells former barbarian Ijale that her life in civilization will go reasonably well as long as she sticks with Mikah note , listens carefully to what he tells her, and then does the exact opposite.
- The Screwtape Letters is this on a meta level. The reader is supposed to recognize that Hell's goals are completely at odds with humanity's well-being, therefore anything Screwtape praises is actually something that could damn the reader, and anything he criticizes is something that could save the reader.
- Mostly Harmless: Arthur Dent finds a soothsayer to ask about how he should continue his life. The Soothsayer hands Dent a large stack of photocopied pages, and explains that it's her autobiography, then adds (paraphrased) "If you follow this and do the opposite of what I did, you'll be fine."
- Robert A. Heinlein (probably via the notebooks of Lazarus Long) suggested that, when not certain who to vote for, one should find a well-meaning fool (of which there are many), and vote against whatever he advises.
- In M*A*S*H Goes To Maine a particularly nasty medical problem forces the main characters to resort to the GM Test...a consultation with fellow doctor Goofus MacDuff, renowned for masterfully summarizing every single aspect of a case and then drawing a completely wrong conclusion from it. MacDuff ends up recommending that they wait, so they operate immediately... and save their patient's life.
- Agaton Sax has a dog called Tikkie, who can be relied upon to like all evildoers and hate all policemen. So much so that in cases of doppelgangers, Sax asks his dog whom to trust and chooses the opposite.
Live Action TV
- Hogan's Heroes. A bomb lands in Stalag 13. Hogan ends up having to disarm it, but is uncertain what wire to cut. He asks Col. Klink for what wire he would cut, then cuts the other one.
- In 30 Rock, Jack prepares some videotapes for his expected child, in case of his demise. One piece of advice: "In the unlikely event that you encounter something that isn't covered here, find a woman named Elizabeth Lemon. Get her advice, and then do the opposite."
- In Seinfeld, George figures out that since following his instincts never got him anywhere, if he did the opposite of what he'd usually do he would be successful. It works... at least for one episode.
- Xavier does this on Home and Away at one point, after Ruby kisses him and he debates with himself over whether to mention it to April. After John advises him to say nothing, Xavier rejects the advice specifically because it came from him. He tells April and the outcome is fine.
- Alfie does this to Jerome on House of Anubis when he asked Jerome for advice about girls. He claimed that the best part of being Jerome's best friend was knowing that the opposite of what Jerome said to do was the right thing to do.
- In Red Dwarf, the crew meet Professor Irene Edgington, of the Erroneous Reasoning Research Academy (ERRA). She is wrong about everything, except for the last digit in a code to disarm explosive pants Lister is wearing. They figure out when to take her answer as truth when realizing the significance of her name, Irene E - Irony. Wouldn't it be ironic if she was right this time?
- Happens by accident in Parks and Recreation: when asked for romantic advice, Tom gives deliberately terrible advice so he has less competition. But Tom is awful with the ladies, so what he thinks is bad advice (like taking the high ground when dealing with your girlfriend's immature ex) is usually worth trying.
Manga & Anime
- In the anime version of Soul Eater's Gecko Ending, while Marie and Chrona are searching for Medusa there's a montage of them searching a swamp. After a while Chrona decides to simply go in the opposite direction to the one Marie picked (both of them having No Sense of Direction was a Running Gag).
- This was done in One Piece once near the end of the Fishman Island arc. After recovering the stolen treasure, the monster trio is about to head back to the palace. Zoro, who notoriously has No Sense of Direction, says that it's "This way," to which Sanji replies "Okay, let's go in the opposite direction!"
- At the start of the third episode of Pokémon XY, Serena is picking out an outfit for her journey but doesn't know what hat she wants to wear. She asks her mother if a red hat or a beret would look better, but when her mother prefers the beret, she throws it aside and settles for the red hat, because she feels that whatever her mother picks is the unfashionable choice.
Stand Up Comedy
- Rodney Carrington is a stand up comic who dabbles in singing humorous country songs. He says that his wife is usually a pretty good judge of his songs, saying "Oh, that's funny" or "Oh, that's not funny" or "Oh goddamn, you're not gonna sing that, are you?" Guess which songs he chooses to sing?
- Spacetrawler: Dustin is a colossal dumbass who has also deliberately tried to undermine the other protagonists' mission several times. So when Dustin tries to warn Pierrot that Curn, King of the Mirrhgoots, can't be trusted, that's what convinces a wavering Pierrot to trust Curn.
Dustin: Don't do it! They'll suck your brains out and-
Pierrot: Dusty thinks it's a bad idea, it must be sensible.
- A Basic Instructions strip has Rick try to fix his life by ignoring logic in favor of trusting his instincts, Unfortunately, all this causes him to do is cringe in panic in response to everything. After four hours of cringing, he decides it isn't working, and he should instead do the opposite of trust his instincts and rely solely on logic. Unfortunately, the logical response to learning how useless his instincts are is to cringe.
- In The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, Wonderella has some advice for the graduating class of 2010. After apologizing for her generation completely screwing everything up...
Wonderella: But that still leaves one crucial life lesson you can learn from us: failure. The secret to your success is, apparently, doing the opposite of whatever we do.
- Near the end of To Boldly Flee, a character who has temporarily become a mad engineering genius reverts to her normal mechanically untalented personality just before she can build the weapon which will save their lives. In desperation, the other engineers resort to asking her questions about how to build it and doing the opposite of whatever she says.
- Allegedly the Monty Python crew, when writing sketches for Monty Python's Flying Circus, would present them to a certain secretary working at the BBC. If she laughed loud and long at one and just kind of shrugged at the other, they went with the one she shrugged at.
- Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones claims that this was the inspiration for the short Bully for Bugs. Supervisor Eddie Selzer, the studio-appointed successor to Leon Schlessenger, was well-known among the Termite Terrace animators for being wrong about everything. So when Selzer walked into Chuck Jones' office one day and declared, out of the blue, "Bullfights aren't funny!" (some have speculated that Selzer had seen a particularly brutal one on a recent European trip), Jones knew they needed to make a cartoon about a bullfight.
- According to this Washington Post article, the Romney campaign downplayed George W. Bush's endorsement in order to avoid its use as Anti-Advice.