Be Careful What You Wish For
"I DIDN'T MEAN IT!"
"So this is it; this is what I wished for; just isn't how I envisioned it..."
...because you might just get it.
A character makes a wish
and actually gets
what they wished for, only to find that the reality does not live up to their fantasy.
This trope is all about how a character who makes a wish comes to regret it; the actual circumstances vary. The wisher may or may not have known that his/her wish was actually going to be heard. The one which grants it may be anything from a wish-granting Genie who wants to show the character the error of their ways
to a Jackass Genie
who just wants them to suffer. A sudden appearance by Louis Cypher
, ready to offer a Deal with the Devil
, is not out of the question either. Sometimes the character gets a tour through an Alternate Timeline
. Other times the mechanism of the granted wish is not even explained — the wisher gets what s/he wants through nothing more than an ironic and coincidental twist of circumstances.
The "deal breaker" that makes the wish not worth it also comes in a lot of possible flavors. Perhaps the character finds out that what they wanted comes at the cost of something they wanted even more. Maybe the element of their life they wanted gone is really essential to who they are; maybe their wish isn't all they thought it was cracked up to be; or maybe it just comes true in an unanticipated manner.
In many cases the character repents of his/her ill-considered wish and things revert to normal — though in some stories the character is stuck in the new situation and forced to deal with the consequences of his/her thoughtless wish.
This is an elementary form of deconstruction
- The character wants X, and then they find out that X has unforeseen consequences
or is less satisfying than expected
. Nine times of ten this is an outright Aesop
, though strictly speaking it doesn't have to be. A crucial element of playing that angle well is making the "deal breaker" a meaningful, inherent flaw to the original wish rather than something tacked on or that could have easily turned out differently if the character had more common sense. Otherwise, a Broken Aesop
is almost guaranteed.
Often a cause of Blessed with Suck
, though not the only one; wont to count as an Opinion Changing Dream
; Contains the same type of irony as Ironic Hell
. In some cases the experience may lead the wisher to discover an Awful Truth
of Be Careful What You Say
. Super Trope
of It's a Wonderful Plot
, I Wish It Were Real
, I Wished You Were Dead
, Please Dump Me
, and Rhetorical Request Blunder
Compare Gone Horribly Right
, when science or logic is involved rather than wishes, and Wanting Is Better Than Having
, when getting your wish ends with more disappointment than satisfaction.
Contrast the Literal Genie
, which ignores the intent of the wish in favor of the exact words; this
trope is about the complications that arise when you get exactly what you wanted
, rather than exactly what you said
. A Jackass Genie
is likely to cause this to happen, if he doesn't just twist your words entirely.
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- A variation on this is the theme of one commercial for Wilkins Coffee:
Wilkins the frog: Boy, I'd give a million bucks for a cup of Wilkins coffee.
(a cup of coffee appears in his lap)
Wontkins the blob: (appearing beside him) Okay, buster, pay up!
Anime and Manga
- In the "Id" story line of JLA, a group of 6th-dimensional beings release an entity capable of granting wishes... unfortunately, it's a Literal Genie. It affects the league, splitting them into their superheroic and secret identities, and wreaks havoc (most hilariously when some guy wishes his boss would go to hell). In the end, Plastic Man's alter-ego pulls the league back together, comes up with a plan to defeat Id, and saves Earth.
- In Avril Lavigne's Make 5 Wishes since there is no Reset Button at the end. Protagonist Hana, having used up all five wishes and finding herself no better off, maybe even worse, than at the beginning of the story, decides to jump off a bridge so as to get rid of the demon Romeo and prevent his magic from harming anyone ever again. Romeo somehow escapes from the box before they reach the riverbed, claiming that he "can't die." The last page shows a news report saying that Hana's body has still not been found.
- "Wish You Were Here", a 1953 story from the EC Comics horror title The Haunt of Fear, uses a variation of "The Monkeys Paw" story: A businessman's wife discovers an enchanted Chinese figurine and wishes for a fortune. Learning that her husband was killed while driving to his lawyer's office (after naming her the beneficiary of a generous life insurance policy) and remembering what happened in "The Monkey's Paw", she wishes for him to be brought back to the way he was "just before the accident"; unfortunately, he's still a corpse since his actual death was due to a heart attack. She uses the third and final wish to make him "alive now, alive forever!"...which condemns him to eternal pain and agony, since his dead body had been embalmed. Even her hacking him to tiny bits can't put him out of his misery. (The comic was later adapted for the 1972 movie anthology: Tales from the Crypt.)
- From Knights of the Dinner Table:
- When given the opportunity for a Wish, resident Rules Lawyer Brian pulls out a 20-page legal document he's been carrying around for just such an opportunity. It's so complex that the Dungeon Master has to call several other DMs to help him interpret it.
- Ultimately, B.A. is able to invoke this trope. While the wish was airtight the immortality granted to Brian leaves a vengeful deity he previously pissed off free to attack him with full force. Fortunately for Brian, a clause of the wish stated that if he died as a direct consequence of the wish, all effects of the wish would be undone and Brian would get a 25,000 gp consolation prize.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic "Artificiality", Captain Picard, at a crewmember's funeral, wishes that all of his crew were as durable as Data. Q obliges him by turning the whole crew into Soong-type androids.
- This tends to happen quite often in the Grimm Fairy Tales comic series.
- The 2011 "Heart of the Monster" arc in The Incredible Hulks is built around this trope - Hulk and his team encounter a Wishing Well. Everyone involved is Genre Savvy enough to know what it will twist every wish it grants. What they don't know is the intentions of the Red She-Hulk, who used it to wish doom on her ex-husband.... if she meant it, his circumstances are going to improve, but if she liked him... As it turns out, she hated him at the time, meaning all of his dreams briefly came true.
- Doctor Strange, in a moment of grief after losing Clea, wished he were dead. Enter D'Spayre, who put him through a series of Mind Screws so painful that Strange nearly took his own life.
- In a Transformers: More than Meets the Eye sidestory, Trailcutter briefly wishes that he no longer had his signature forcefield before going to sleep as he feels that is the only thing people remember about him. When he awakens, an malfunctioning pulse weapon has frozen everyone else on the ship and taken away his ability to project forcefields. He later learns that his forcefields are what protected him from the inventions effects.
- Recent events in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog have displayed this: Mina Mongoose, after being traumatized by the Iron Dominion's occupation of New Mobotropolis and of NICOLE's brief Magitek-induced Face-Heel Turn, uses her status as a music icon to send a message across the city to inspire them and raise awareness concerning possible problems should NICOLE become compromised again. In comes Ixis Naugus, who uses his magic to augment all existing feelings of anger and fear in the public to turn NICOLE into a Hero with Bad Publicity and eventually get her exiled from the city altogether, which, combined with the revelation that NICOLE was acting as The Mole proceeding Sonic and Sally's departure from the city, leaves Mina guilt-ridden. When Mina goes to Freedom HQ, the place of NICOLE's exile, to speak with her and apologize, NICOLE explicitly informs her that with her exile, she got what she wanted.
- A laser guided version occurs in The Sandman. Richard Madoc participates in the sex-trafficking of a muse because, as a writer, he needs ideas. It all works pretty well for him until Morpheus gives him more ideas than his brain can handle.
- In a sense, in Seconds, as Katie starts using the mushrooms to make long term changes in her life. As you can imagine, she quickly finds out there's no such thing as a "perfect" life.
- In The Just #1, Damian Wayne says that the world needs a genius supervillain like his mom or his grandad. It has one. He's sleeping with her.
- In Art Sansom's The Born Loser, the strip's main character Brutus Thornapple finds a lamp with a genie, who will grant him one wish. In an Aside Comment, Brutus says to us, "Boy, I wish Gladys [his wife] could see this!" Gladys suddenly appears in the genie's place and deadpans "You called?"
- In "The Twelve Wild Ducks", a queen says, "If I only had a daughter as white as snow and as red as blood, I shouldn't care what became of all my sons." A troll witch hears and takes her sons.
- In "The Seven Ravens", the father wishes his sons were ravens for their being so forgetful. (To add to the irony, he was mistaken about why they hadn't done as he said.)
- In "The Myrtle", a woman wishes for a child, even a sprig of myrtle.
- In "Hans the Hedgehog", the father wishes for a son, even a hedgehog.
- Similar stories went around in seventeenth century England. In some cases a Catholic or Anglican parent would rather their unborn child to have no head than be a Roundhead, in others, a Puritan would wish for their child have no head than have a priest make the Sign of the Cross on it. Either way, they ended up with a headless baby.
- There is a fairy tale about a poor couple that rescues an elf and is granted three wishes in return. The wife, being hungry, wishes she had a nice, tasty sausage. Her husband scolds her for wasting a wish on such a mundane thing and blurts out in anger: "I wish that stupid sausage was stuck on your nose!" which is exactly what happens next. In the end, they have to use the third wish to get the sausage off the poor woman's face and have thus wasted all three of them.
- There's a story from somewhere in Africa about a tribe that doesn't exist any more, because when seeking a reward from some supernatural being, the men said that the best thing that could happen to them was for their wife to give them a son, and for their cattle to give them female calves. — So be it, all your children shall be sons and all your calves shall be heifers. — They rejoiced, until...
- "Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby, and the Little Sister of the Sun": Your son does not talk. Wish for any child at all, because things can't be worse, and you get a witch child born with iron teeth who eats you up.
- Played with in one fairy tale about a girl who lies dying during the early spring from a malady winter has afflicted her with who wishes that she could at least get to live for as long as the beautiful spring flowers in her garden still bloom so she can meet with her boyfiend who is set to return to her before summer. She near instantly becomes healthy and, unusually for the way these kind of tales tend to work out, seems fully aware of the fact that her life is now tied to her garden flowers and starts taking good care of them to ensure her own survival. She never regrets her wish or angsts about how her days are numbered but is simply thankful for the additional time she has been given and is even more loving and kind to her family than usual... Cue her unknowing boyfriend returning while she's napping in the garden: he plucks the flowers, braids them into a crown and wakes her up by placing it upon her head. The girl quickly realizes what the boy has done and hurriedly sets the flowers in water but over the following days, as the flowers wither away, so does the girl. The story ends with the last petals of the flowers falling as the girl peacefully passes away with her family and devastated boyfriend at her side while the hushed laughs of The Fair Folk are heard from the garden.
Film - Animated
- In the Looney Tunes compilation movie Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island, Daffy, Speedy Gonzales, Yosemite Sam and the Tasmanian Devil are stuck on an deserted island with only three wishes after the map that works a wishing well is destroyed. Speedy and Daffy play this trope straight when Speedy wishes for a burrito and Daffy, annoyed over the wish, wishes it was on his nose. When Daffy suggests using the last wish to get it off, he finds out that Sam and Taz has averted the trope by wishing for a new ship, leaving the other two behind.
- Referenced in DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, by the Genie himself. He knows that "Big wishes always lead to big trouble! The bigger the wish the bigger the trouble!" and asks the Nephews to keep their wishes small. But Webby can't help but fall into this trope twice- Her first wish was a baby elephant whose sudden appearence terrifies Mrs. Beakly, and her last was to turn her toys into Living Toys, which quickly go on a rampage. The Nephews had to use their own wishes to undo Webby's.
- Disney's Aladdin uses this idea, but even without a Literal Genie it doesn't turn out as desired.
- Aladdin wishes to become a prince, but he only wants for Jasmine to love him. He certainly gets to be a magnificent prince, but Jasmine is put off. Once he starts acting like a street rat, Jasmine is once again attracted to him.
- Jafar caught this too - he wants power, and eventually to get the level of power he wants, he becomes a genie and is bound to a lamp. So he had vast power but at the same time, no power at all.
- In the sequel Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Jafar becomes a Literal Genie and tricks Abis Mal into wasting two wishes by making him wish for a sunken treasure... and teleporting him to the bottom of the sea, making him use his second wish to go back to Agrabah. One of themes of the movie is that while it's one of the three genie rules that a genie can't kill you, "you'd be surprised what you can live through."
- Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp's Adventure: Scamp desires to be "wild and free" and not be restricted by rules. However, when he gets his chance and discovers the harsh realities of that kind of life, he changes his tone:
Scamp: "I got all I ever wanted... and it stinks."
- In Bolt, the director pulls one of these when Mindy-from-the-Network asks for a less than happy ending. He ends it abruptly and says to Mindy "How does your audience feel about... cliffhangers? You wanted unhappy 18-35 year olds, I'll give you unhappy 18-35 year olds. Small example but it works."
- A cover for the film version of Coraline features the trope name, word for word, written on a wall.
- The Princess and the Frog: Dr. Facilier promises to "make all [Lawrence and Naveen's] wildest dreams come true." To quote Discworld, remember some of your dreams?
- In this case, Facilier uses Exact Words and double-meanings to convince the pair to accept his deal; Facilier identifies Naveen as "Wanting to be free" and offers "Green" to get that (The card for future shows Naveen on a lily pad). Lawrence is recognized as always being a servant, but is offered a chance to improve his station (Lawrence's future card shows him and Naveen in switched positions). When they accept, Naveen is turned into a frog and Lawrence is given Naveen's appearance.
- This drives the movie Shrek Forever After. When Shrek wants "one day where I can be an ogre like I used to be," he gets it. Too bad the deal he made with the Big Bad has rather unpleasant consequences.
- This happens to Merida in Brave when she wished that her mother would "change" without saying specifics and to the prince of the legend who wishes for "the strength of ten men", was turned into a bear and caused him to kill everyone in the throne room and his brothers were among the victims.
- In Wreck-It Ralph, the Nicelanders challenge Ralph that if he can get a medal, he can get the keys to the penthouse. Ralph does manage to get a medal, but because of his and Fix-It Felix's (who went to find Ralph) absence, Fix-it Felix Jr. has already been declared out of order and will be unplugged soon. As promised, Ralph gets the key to the penthouse but it is now abandoned.
- Toy Story 3 has the main characters wishing early on that they would get played with again. When they do, it's at a day care where they happen to be assigned to toddlers who handle them too roughly. (All the main characters are toys meant for older kids than toddlers.) (And when Buzz Lightyear tries to negotiate with Lotso, the toy in charge of all the other toys, to get himself and the rest of the main characters put into the room with the older kids, Buzz and eventually the other toys find out that Lotso runs the place like a prison.) note
- In Superman vs. the Elite, the titular team is a group of anti-heroes who try to convince Superman that his Thou Shall Not Kill policy is hopelessly outdated in the modern world. After a series of confrontations, Superman shows them how terrifying he would be if he gave up his morals.
- Mentioned by name in How to Train Your Dragon 2:
Eret: If we don't turn up with dragons and fast—(Astrid's dragon Stormfly snatches Eret off his ship) YEAGGH!
Astrid: Careful what you wish for.
Film - Live Action
- In the Robert Zemeckis war film Forrest Gump, Jenny tells Forrest that her dream is to "be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice…" She gets that dream, all right, but she neglected to mention whether she'd be wearing anything, and when the time comes she isn't.
- In the Frank Capra classic Its A Wonderful Life, protagonist George Bailey's life falls apart so dramatically that he wishes he was never born. His guardian angel, Clarence, decides to show him exactly how much of a suckfest his home town of Bedford Falls would have become without his influence. This in turn was parodied relentlessly.
- In the "Fiction" section of Storytelling, white girl Vi wants to have sex with her black literature professor Mr. Scott. The actual experience turns out to be traumatic; she realises she is the latest young, impressionable white girl in a series of sexual conquests, and Mr. Scott has a proclivity for racial epithets that makes the scene memorably disturbing.
- This is how Labyrinth starts. Frustrated at her baby half-brother, Sarah carelessly wishes that the villain from her favorite book would take the brat away and is more than a bit shocked when he actually does. Whoopsie.
- This is the main plot of the Tom Hanks film Big.
- Ditto for the Jennifer Garner movie 13 Going on 30, which is the same premise with a girl.
- In 17 Again, Mike O'Donnell wishes that he could go back in time to change his life. Courtesy of a whirlpool, he does. It's not quite what he thought it would be.
- Bedazzled (1967) has this as its main premise.
- In the Disney Movie Blank Check the protagonist feels left out because he has no money while everyone else in his family does. While blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, he wishes to be rich. Shortly afterwards , his bike gets run over and he is handed a blank check to cover for his bike, he cashes it for 1 million dollars. After buying a house and loads of fancy toys, he realizes that he is just as friendless as before. The final scene has him considering his wish for his next birthday while admiring the attractive female FBI agent that saved him from the villains.
- The Disney Channel movie 16 Wishes combined this trope with An Aesop about appreciating what you have.
- Indiana Jones:
- In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Big Bad asks the movie's extradimensional aliens for all of their knowledge. She gets it all, so much in fact that she explodes from the information overload.
- What happens to her in the novelization of the movie is even worse. She feels her skull start to crystallize and sees the true forms of the aliens right before she explodes.
- Played for laughs in Temple of Doom, where Indy, after having stopped a mining cart with his foot and resulting in his boot smoking, cries out "Water! Water!". Mere seconds later...
- Also applies to the villains of The Last Crusade, though subverted. Donovan wished for eternal life as he drank from what he thought was the holy grail; ironically, he disintegrated after rapidly aging to death. Moments later, Dr. Elsa Schneider attempts to leave with the true holy grail that she would have "done anything" to get. Her wish is granted - or so she thinks - until she crosses the seal and creates an earthquake inside the temple. She nearly falls into a crevasse chasing after the grail, but Indiana catches her. Instead, she chooses to reach the grail using his grip. Just before she can get it, her hand slips from its glove and she loses her life.
- The Russian film Adventures of Petrov and Vasechkin (two children) has a subplot about wishes. For example, Vasechkin states how great it would be to be invisible, only to collide with other person and shout: "What are you thinking, didn't you see me?!" When they really get wishes granted, things get even uglier.
- The Incredible Mr Limpet: Ultimately the trope is subverted, as it turns out he really is happier as a fish.
- In Leatherheads, "Dodge" Connelly (played by George Clooney) wants professional football to become a legitimate, respectable way to make a living. A variant in that there's nothing supernatural to grant his wish. The government steps in and appoints a Commissioner to clean things up. Once this happens, he discovers there's no longer a place for him or his style of play.
- A Day Without a Mexican. The film starts with several Californians expressing their contempt and animosity for Mexican immigrants (mostly the illegal ones), then suddenly all Mexican immigrants start vanishing all over the state forcing them to see how much they relied on them and then making them long for their return.
- In the Olsen twins movie Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, Agatha wishes that she and her identical twin Sophia were "completely different". Agatha grows up to be an evil witch who relatives avoid unless they need money, and Sophia grows up to be a kindly woman who everyone loves.
- In Freaky Friday, the heroine and her mother both wish to be each other "just for one day". Since they make the wish at the same time, this being Hollywood, it happens. Hilarity Ensues.
- In The Thief of Bagdad, Abu accidentally wishes Ahmad away this way.
- In Bernard and the Genie, the Genie warns Bernard "Use the words 'I wish' with the caution you used to reserve for the words 'Please castrate me.'"
- In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the Lieutenant working with Uhura at the Transporter station asks for "a little excitement"...and he gets it, but not what he had in mind.
- It's somewhat overshadowed by the main "foiling the burglars" plot, but Home Alone plays this straight with the protagonist wishing his family didn't exist, and ultimately coming to regret their being gone.
"I made my family disappear!"
- The horror movie Open Graves (as reviewed by Phelous) ends with the character being granted a wish, and using it to rewind time to before the tragic events of the film occurred. Since he neglected to mention that he wanted some kind of foreknowledge of what was going to happen it proceeded to just happen over again. To make it worse, the witch who created the cursed game that set this in motion showed up to tell him his wish was stupid and maybe he should make a different one, and he just insisted that was what he wanted.
- The plot of the Grade-Z horror film Hobgoblins.
- The Banker. The titular character invokes this trope on a fellow who is blackmailing him. Let's just say that things don't go too well for the blackmailer after that.
- In Dead Friend (aka The Ghost) Su-in, completely by accident, got what she wished for - She becomes Ji-won. Unfortunately for her, there were some nasty consequences.
- Lenina Huxley, a huge fan of the pre-Utopia history, wished for some real action in Demolition Man and then Simon Phoenix broke out of the cryo prison.
- The Movie of Wizards of Waverly Place had it too. Alex yells at her mother when the latter grounds the former, ultimately wishing that her parents never met. At all. And because she is holding the wand, the wish that Alex unintentionally makes comes true. Ironic that she'd wish that on vacation in the one place where her parents first met.
- In Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike challenges Pearl Forrester to a game of chance and ends up winning. He asks for Hamlet. Boy, does she give him Hamlet!
- Essentially the plot of most Hellraiser films, especially the first two and the ninth where the cenobites are simply Sense Freaks. Hedonists who open the box looking for sensation the normal, dull, unfulfilling world can't provide learn this lesson very quickly, but far too late. In Hellraiser: Deader, Pinhead delivers the trope name to Winter for trying to cheat death but messing up and delivering himself right into Pinhead's waiting chains.
- Interstate 60: O.W. Grant often grants wishes this way if he thinks the wish is boring or doesn't like the person making the wish. As he explains: "Now one young couple wished to be married and live happily ever after. So I blew up their car at the church on the way to the honeymoon. Another guy he wanted great, perfect sex every day with his choice of gorgeous women - no pregnancies. So everyday he gets a Fed Ex delivery of a skin magazine and a box of tissues."
- In In Time, Sylvia was bored of her sterile, rich life and wanted a life of adventure. Then, Will kidnaps her and she nearly dies a few times. After getting over the initial shock, she falls for him and joins him in his quest.
- In the movie Battleship, Earth people want to contact another planet, known to be circling a similar star in a similar Goldilock's zone (not too hot, not too cold). What they don't realize is, if the civilization has the technology to actually send their people here, while all we can do is send a radio signal there, they might be a little more advanced technologically. And they might want to use that same technology (ours) to call for reinforcements.
- The Sex Monster is about a man who wants his wife to agree to a threesome with them and another woman. She eventually does agree, and has such a good time that she ends up going on what can only be termed a lesbian rampage. He ends up being very unhappy about this; this trope, then is effectively the plot of the whole movie.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle wishes for the rich to "wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us." Her opinion changes after seeing just how destructive Bane's "liberation" of Gotham is.
- Also, twice, this happens with Daggett. First time is when he's going to his office:
John Daggett: And can we get some girls in here?
Selina Kyle: Careful what you wish for. [immediately pounces on Daggett, throws him across the room, and pins him against the wall with her left boot and right hand] Cat got your tongue?
John Daggett: You dumb bitch!
Selina Kyle: Nobody ever accused me of being dumb!
- There's also Daggett's confrontation with Bane:
John Daggett: How the hell did Miranda Tate get the inside track on the Wayne board?! I mean, has she been meeting with him?! Has she been sleeping with him?!
Philip Stryver: Not that we know of.
John Daggett: Ah, clearly you don't know much of anything, do you?! Where is Bane?!
Philip Stryver: Well, we told him it was urgent.
John Daggett: Oh, where is the masked-
- This second time does not go so well for Daggett's neck.
- The old pilgrim in the beginning of The Sword Of Doom was praying for death, but he probably wasn't asking for it in the form of Ryūnosuke cutting him down right then & there.
- In Breaking the Waves every time any character prays, this happens, along with lots of it got worse
- Newton in Pacific Rim desired to see a Kaiju up close, being a huge "Kaiju groupie", as his co-worker called him. He got his wish when Otachi specifically came to Hong Kong to kill him and he nearly got eaten by Otachi Jr. Raleigh even lampshaded this and warns Newton he wouldn't want to see a Kaiju up close.
- In Bride of Chucky, Tiffany proposes to Chucky after he returns to life and kills her ex-boyfriend, but Chucky only remarks that the only reason he gave her the ring was due to its value of the last victim he killed before becoming a doll. Tiffany does not take the fact kindly and locks up Chucky to force him into changing him mind. Chucky however doesn't like that and kills Tiffany to get back at her, then proceeds to resurrect her into a nearby wedding doll, making them inseparable.
YOU SON OF A BITCH!! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?!! [punches Chucky in the face, Chucky then gets up and holds the Ring that Tiffany proposed to him earlier with.]
- The titular character in Eve's Bayou finds this out the hard way when she wishes her father would die and enlists a voodoo practitioner to make it happen. Eve then realizes that she didn't actually want her dad to die and blames herself when he does (though it's left ambiguous whether or not her curse killed him.)
- In The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne spends much of the movie wanting to learn who he is. He soon discovers he's actually a black-ops agent, one who's so dangerous that his fellow operatives have all been summoned to take him out.
- Wishmaster goes way beyond even what you'd expect from a Jerk Ass Genie. Be Careful What You Say At All might be a better advise, because the evil Djinn will interpret it as a wish and then twist it to murder you in the most horrific way possible.
- In "Road to Morocco" Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are locked in a jail cell awaiting beheading when Hope is slipped a magic ring with three wishes. He stupidly wishes for a cold beer and gets one, then exclaims "Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!" and is transformed into a monkey and then back to human, wasting all three wishes.
- The whole Aesop of Into the Woods.
- The Cabin in the Woods: Hadley always wanted to see a Merman being summoned through the ritual, but never happened. When the mosters are set loose, he's killed by the merman. He only gets to groan "Aw come on!" before he gets eaten.
- Somewhere in the Soviet Union... A Russian catches a goldfish, who speaks: "Dear man, free me and I'll grant your one greatest wish." The Russian thinks for a moment: "Well, I have a solid, well-paid job, a beautiful wife, two great children, a car, a flat... What could I wish for? I know! I want to receive the Hero Of The Soviet Union!" The fish nodded: "Your wish is granted!" Suddenly the guy is caught in a giant blast. As it recedes, the man finds himself sitting in a foxhole, wearing a worn-out battledress, with a rifle with a few bullets and several grenades and the bodies of other Russian soldiers lying all around. The man looks out and notices a large group of Nazi tanks advancing towards his foxhole. Suddenly, he realizes: "Holy fuck! It's a posthumous one!!!"
- Man catches a goldfish and wished for riches, power, and a beautiful wife. Next morning he wakes up in an opulent palace, surrounded by splendor, luxury and obedient servants. A gorgeous woman comes into the bedroom and tells him: "Ferdinand, sweetheart, get up. It's time we go to Saraevo."
- A Prayer for Owen Meany: Rev. Merill was at the fateful baseball game in the book when he saw Tabitha wave hi to him. Feeling shameful about the affair he had with her, he wished that she would drop dead. A stray baseball from Owen's bat later...
- In the Rudyard Kipling Just So story about Old Man Kangaroo, the title character wants to be very thoroughly run after and different from all the other animals. He got his wish.
- In the medieval Chivalric Romance of Robert the Devil and all its variants, the parents wish for a child — whether from God or the Devil. The son is therefore born possessed by evil. (Fortunately for him, in due time, he repents and does penitence for his evil. This results in either marrying the princess or becoming a saint.)
- In Hans Christian Andersen's "The Galoshes of Fortune", the titular shoes grant the wishes of whoever is wearing them. This usually ends badly, as the characters are unaware of their power. For example, the Councilor of Justice held the view that in the time of King Hans, around 1500, everything was better; when the galoshes transport him to that age, he finds out that it was actually much worse.
- The Edgar Allan Poe story "Never Bet the Devil Your Head" is an odd case of this. A man tells a story of a friend who says he'd "bet the devil his head" that he could perform a particular trick; out of nowhere, a mystery man shows up eager to take him up on his bet, and sure enough, he manages to decapitate himself and the man runs off with his prize.
- In "Wedding Shirts" from A Bouquet of Czech Folktales, a ballad by Karel Jaromír Erben, a woman makes the following wish in a prayer: "O Mary, full of power / Oh, help me at this hour / Bring my beloved home / Lord knows where he does roam / Bring him, I reck not how / Or finish my life now." You know what followed... Her beloved returned to her from the grave, almost leading to the second part of the wish coming true as well.
- Both subverted and not in the short story "The Wish Ring". A farmer is kind to an old woman, and gets a wish ring in return. He shows it to a jeweler to see how much it's worth, and the jeweler steals it from him and replaces it with an identical copy. The jeweler then wishes for a million gold pieces, which promptly begin raining from the sky and crush him to death. In the meantime, the farmer goes home still thinking he has the real ring. Every time his wife suggests something they could wish for, he says no, they can work for that and earn it instead. Eventually they become happy and rich because of their hard work, and die with the wish still unasked.
- In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the titular character makes a Deal with the Devil to stay young and good looking forever; instead, a life sized portrait of him will age in his place. While he enjoys his life of consequence-free debauchery at first, eventually the picture begins to serve as his conscience, reminding him of things to prefer to forget. Comes complete with a heavy dose of symbolism, as after he commits murder blood appears on his portrait's hands. Eventually, trying to eliminate the portrait and the evidence of his sins causes his own death.
- Forms most of the plot of the Edwardian children's novel Five Children and It by E Nesbit — the "it" of the title is a cantankerous sand-fairy, whose granted wishes always backfire on the children.
- W.W. Jacobs's classic short story "The Monkey's Paw" concerns a married couple who receive the title item as a gift from a friend who served in the British Army in India. The paw grants its owner Three Wishes, and the husband uses the first of these to wish for 200 pounds; the couple subsequently learns that their grown son was killed after falling into the machinery at the factory where he worked, and they are offered as compensation from the employers. The wife then begs the husband to wish for the son to be brought back to life; after he does so (with great reluctance), they hear a steady knocking on their door. As the overjoyed wife runs to unlock and open the door, the husband realizes to his horror that the son will have come back in his mutilated state, and quickly uses the third wish; when the wife finally gets the door open, there's nobody there, implying that the third wish was for the son to be returned to the grave.
- Gelsomino, whose voice could shatter even stone, wished to come into a land "where everything is inversed, and people don't worry about my voice". He then arrives into Land of Liars, where everybody is obliged by law to lie, naming night day, black white etc. Naturally, they don't care about his voice - they have other problems!
- Most of the works of Clive Barker have this theme; want to know where the mysterious girls are coming from? you become one yourself. Want to gain notoriety for finding out that an Urban Legend is true? You will... as his next victim. Want to find a dimension of limitless pleasure? The Cenobites have such sights to show you...
- Lord of the Rings:
- Frodo always wished for adventures when he was small... didn't work out well, either.
- Also part of the backstory of the Nazgűl: they were once mighty, arrogant Kings of Men who desired power and long life. So Sauron gave them magic rings. Now they are immortal...undead slaves to Sauron's will.
- The other Rings of Power save the One Ring acted in a similar fashion. The Dwarven Rings helped the dwarves discover vast riches, feeding and exacerbating their Gold Fever to their detriment. The Elven Rings helped the Elves preserve their way of live, furthering isolating them from the rest of the world. These rings may not have allowed Sauron to control the Dwarves or the Elves to the same extent as Men, but their influence weakened their ability to challenge him.
- In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The Land, drinking the Blood of the Earth gives the power to command absolutely anything to happen, but limited human minds simply cannot know all consequences of a sudden change to reality. So it's usually safest not to use it.
- In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, the protagonist is repeatedly asked to dream of a solution to a pressing problem, and the solution turns out to be worse than the original. For example, asked to make sure that there is enough food for everyone, he dreams of a plague that has killed most people in the past, and the survivors have enough to eat. Then, he's asked to find a way to avert a threatened global war, so dreams that the nations of the Earth united... against the threat of an alien species that has taken up residence on the Moon. Then, when he is asked to dream that the aliens are no longer on the moon, so he makes them leave the Moon for...Earth.
- The basic premise of John Brunner's novel The Traveller in Black is that of a man who grants wishes in ways that are almost never to the wishers' liking; the ultimate goal of which is to replace Chaos with Order. At least, those who are selfish get their comeuppance, but the few who are unselfish (e.g. someone who wishes the Traveller success in his present quest, a little girl who wants to make the fire burn brighter so the family hut will be warm) are rewarded. Moreover, the Traveller often simply accelerates a comeuppance that the character was bound to suffer anyway, as when he splashes Lorega with the transformative water she'd intended to jump into already.
- Another work by Brunner, Galactic Consumer Reports 2: Automatic twin-tube wishing machine, states that the machines are "twin tube" because the inventor of the machine got killed by a creature it created, so they had to develop a second tube that would moderate the wishes. The story contains many examples of the second tube not quite working as needed, but it's still better than the sometimes sold cheaper one tube machines... apparently, one world is quarantined because a five year old child who wasn't given ice cream got angry, so he used such a machine to create an army of Killer Robots and take over the planet.
- There's a short story about a world where wishes came true automatically. In this setting, people lived idyllic lives as their every needs were met. Unfortunately, there was a fool, whose wishes were so poorly conceived that they always backfired on him. After making a number of increasingly short-sighted wishes, he finally thought of one that would put an end to this chain of misfortune: he wished "that wishes would no longer automatically come true." The next and final line of the story reads, "Things were tough all over."
- In Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter, the commoners want a magical lord. This means the lord has to send his son after the title character for a bride and causes all the subsequent problems.
- In Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country", Philip Nolan, as a young man enamored with Aaron Burr, cries out at his court-martial, "Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" The court grants him his wish by sentencing him to forever live on ships sailing away from the United States and be forbidden from ever hearing or reading anything about the United States ever again. He comes to really and truly regret his wish, and makes sure to tell the narrator not to make the same mistake he did.
- Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones has Charles use his new-found powers to torment Simon, the classroom bully. How does he do this? With a literal game of Simon says; anything Simon says comes true. After a few mishaps (with Simon saying everything from 'You girls stink' to 'I'm not clever at all!'), Chrestomanci comes in, gets Simon to shut up and tells Charles how horribly everything could've gone if Simon had said something like 'Two plus two equals three' or the like.
- Bill Brittain's The Wish Giver is all about this. Three children in a small American town (along with the narrator, a man from the general store who answers to the nickname "Stew Meat") get cards that supposedly grant wishes from a mysterious vendor at the county fair, and the three stories in the book deal with the consequences of the kids' ill-thought-out wishes: A sharp-tongued tomboy named Polly wishes people would start being glad to see her, and much to the amusement of her peers she starts to croak like a bullfrog whenever she starts insulting people; a sentimental girl named Rowena wishes the handsome young traveling salesman she has a crush on would "put down roots in Coven Tree and never leave", and he starts turning into a tree; a farm boy named Adam wishes his family's farm had more than enough water, and it ends up flooded. In the epilogue, the trio have learned their lessons, and beg Stew Meat to undo their wishes with his own wish card.
- Another Bill Brittain book, All the Money in the World, has a kid asking a leprechaun for just that. He gets his wish...only to learn that he's unable to spend it, give it away, or otherwise make use of it, because when he tries to do so it boomerangs right back to him. (Also that he's inadvertently bankrupted every nation on Earth.)
- Non-supernatural example: In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the character of Serena Joy is a former conservative televangelist who preached that women belonged in the home and helped to support the overthrow of the United States by the theocratic Republic of Gilead; by the time of the novel, she has been stripped of her public role, reduced to the role of subjugated housewife, and forced to be present while another woman - the Handmaid of the title - has sex with her husband every month. As Atwood wryly notes, "How furious she must be, now that she's been taken at her word."
- Along the same lines as The Handmaid's Tale, Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here details the takeover of the U.S. government by a fascistic regime led by a demagogue named Buzz Windrip. Some characters who initially support Windrip's regime wind up becoming imprisoned or executed by it.
- Truth in Television: among the many, many victims of the Nazis were some of the senior members of the Nationalist and Center Parties, which had originally supported Hitler (under the impression that it was him or the Communists, and the Communists were worse.) Windrip isn't quite a Hitler Expy, but Lewis was writing in the 1930s and almost certainly expected his readers to spot the parallels.
- In C. J. Cherryh's Russian trilogy (Rusalka, Chernevog, and Yvgenie), wizards work magic by wanting something. Since the form of the wish takes the easiest path, a wish, for example, for the five-year-old wizard's father to not hit him again could and did result in the house burning down and both his parents dying in the fire. Every wish is fraught with the potential for disaster, and not wanting things is like not thinking of elephants, so wizards, by and large, end up insane hermits.
- A Goosebumps book with this very title has this as its premise, with the term Reset Button loosely applied.
- In the first book of Animorphs, Tobias states he's all right with his red-tailed hawk morph and doesn't want to be anything else. Consequently, the end of that episode (and the whole rest of the series) sees him trapped in that shape.
- At the start of The Legendsong Saga Glynn wishes for Ember to forget that she is dying. Then when Ember passes through the portal the transition removes all personal memories including this very important warning...
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- It doesn't quite come true, but there is a scene where Arya (disguised as a servant-girl) is talking to an annoying Frey squire who keeps jabbering about how he's going to marry a princess. At some point Arya just snaps at him, yelling "I wish your princess was dead!" not knowing she just wished her own demise. Averted in some ways in that she's still alive, although whether she's still Arya Stark is questionable.
- And also when at the beginning of "A Game of Thrones" Catelyn prayed to the Seven Gods that they let Bran stay in Winterfell. He ended up falling from a tower and not being able to walk ever again.
- And at one point, Jeyne Poole remarks about how when she was little, she often dreamed how it would be like to be a Stark. Now she does know for sure - and this involves massive Break the Cutie.
- A principal point in the novel Coraline by Neil Gaiman — even used as a tagline in the film. Coraline wants her life to be more interesting, exciting, and engaging... she gets it, but not the way she wants.
- One of the characters in Singularity Sky by Charles Stross receives three wishes. His first wish is to be young again; he becomes eight years old. Not quite what he had in mind, but as certain people sought to kill him, he was not going to complain. His second wish is for some "real friends"; he gets some talking animals. His third wish is for adventure. Bad idea.
- A running theme in the Tiffany Aching series (the young adult Discworld books):
- In The Wee Free Men, Tiffany's baby brother is stolen by the Queen of the Fairies, who will give him whatever he wants - and since he wants sweets, he'll get sweets, and nothing else, for the rest of his life.
- That's not even the main problem. He can get as many sweets as he wants and his imagination is a limit... but since he is a little boy, every sweet he is going to eat now means that there is a better sweet in the future he can imagine that he is NOT eating right now. The end result is a crying boy sitting surrounded by ever growing pile of sweets that is unable to choose a single one, because there is always a better one just beyond his reach.
- Tiffany's dream of entering a magical world (the witch school) gets sort of answered by having to visit the nightmarish Fairyland.
- In the third book in the series, Wintersmith, Tiffany doesn't want the titular Anthropomorphic Personification of Winter to continue making her name in frost, or icebergs that look like her, but feels sorry and lets him make all the snowflake portraits of her that he wishes. As the story opens with a Flash Forward of the entire Chalk covered in tens of feet of snow, you can see where this is going.
- In A Hat Full of Sky, this trope is explicitly dissected, with Granny Weatherwax pointing out that if someone in a story gets three wishes, the third will always be "undo the harm caused by the first two wishes". And in the beginning of the book it's noted that had Tiffany said aloud that she'd like to marry a prince, the Feegles might well show up at her door with an (unconscious) prince and a (tied up) priest ready to perform the ceremony.
- There's an example in the main series as well: in Eric, the titular character demands three wishes from Rincewind the wizzard [sic]: mastery over the kingdoms of the world; to meet the most beautiful woman who ever lived; and to live forever. Oh, and a chest of gold. The first wish (granted by Vassenego through Rincewind) sends them in orbit above the Disc, and then to one of Eric's new dominions for tribute (the Tezuman empire, the inhabitants of which want to sacrifice them for being a bad landlord, metaphorically speaking). The second wish takes them to the Tsortean Wars, where they meet Elenor of Tsort (an Expy of Helen of Troy), the most beautiful woman who ever lived- ten years and seven children too late. As for the third wish, well, if you want to live for ever, you have to go back to the start of "ever", right?
- Also Played for Laughs when it's noted that "yes, but not this bit!" has not been recognised as a valid clause in magic spells ever since the late Funnit the Forgetful's arguably successful spell to destroy the entire tree he was sitting in.
- In Soul Music, Imp y Celyn swears that he will someday he'll be known as the greatest musician who ever lived. The Power of Rock hears him, and decides that Dead Artists Are Better.
Be careful what you wish for. You never know who's listening- or what.
- Common in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, especially when fairies are involved. The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair even invokes this, as one of his plans for defeating Jonathan Strange is to appear to him and offer him whatever he wants, on the basis that it's bound to cause him trouble. That plan rather backfired when Strange doesn't ask for infinite gold, the most beautiful woman in the world or something distracting and troublesome like that, but instead asks for various lost pieces of information about magic The Gentleman doesn't want him to know, leaving him flustered and trying to convince him to pick something else.
- Serwe's backstory in Second Apocalypse has a lot to do with this trope. Her prayers to gods come true several times but not in a way she wants.
- Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand by Gail Carson Levine. The Neverland fairies get a wand to repay a mermaid, but, unaware that all wands have a mind of their own, accidentally pick one of the meanest wands.
- In Death Star, Imperial gunner Tenn Graneet, after Alderaan, remembers his grandfather's saying about being careful what you wish for.
Now he understood exactly what that meant. He had wanted to fire the big gun, and he had gotten to do just that. The only man in the galaxy who had shot it for real, at real targets, and look what it had brought him: misery beyond his ugliest dreams
- Unstated, but in Galaxy of Fear: The Doomsday Ship Zak Arranda, tired from ten books of constant adventure and hazard, just wants to stop and have nothing to do for a while. In the next book, Clones, the family has been on Dantooine for two weeks traveling with a local tribe with anything dangerous being quickly and easily resolved by the adults, and the tech-minded Zak is bored out of his mind.
- In Franny Billingsley's Well Wished this trope is the main basis of the plot. The antagonist sets up the protagonist to fall for this trap. She tricks the protagonist into a making wish that she knows will exchange her crippled body for the protagonist's healthy one.
- In Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange Leslie wishes for 'no more fear and pain' when she gets her tattoo...she ends up being used as a conduit by some very dark faeries with a Horror Hunger for negative emotions, unable to feel anything for more than a few seconds and barely lucid.
- Mat from The Wheel of Time books is granted three wishes, but doesn't realise it and goes on a rant. Luckily, he manages to get some useful stuff from it.
- C. S. Lewis:
- In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the seven lords is stranded on an island where all of your dreams come true. When the Dawn Treader arrives there in search of him, they initially think that this sounds pretty good, until poor Lord Rhoop corrects their misconception: not daydreams, dreams. Including nightmares. Once the sailors take a moment to think about some of the dreams they've had, they quickly throw their full efforts into getting the hell out of there.
- Also, in The Magician's Nephew, the fruit that Digory picks for Aslan grants wishes. But as the writing on the garden wall warns...
Come in through the gold gates or not at all.
Take of my fruit for others or forbear.
For those who steal or those who climb the wall
Shall find their heart's desire and find despair.
- In The Emperor's Winding Sheet by Jill Paton Walsh, the last Emperor of Constantinople said that in his youth he plotted and schemed to become Emperor, and God punished him-by making him Emperor.
- At the end of L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero in Hell, Miranda reflects on how she had wished to have a common enemy for her family to unite against. She got one. (It's the second in a trilogy.)
- Elfsong by Elaine Cunningham includes a stanza from Danilo Thann which says this in the chorus. It's a Bawdy Song. "Your wish bespoke how long it WAS, and not how long 'twould LAST!". And yes, it's about a knight's lance.
- One implication of a Cautionary Tale - "A tomboy who became a real boy". A girl wants to do boyish things, and now she has to do boyish things, since she just became a boy.
- A short story "The Dumpster". Sick of your asocial family?, The dumpster will replace it with copies that behave perfectly, but: 1) They will be creepy in their own way, and, most important 2)YOU are now held to the same high standards - slack off and the dumpster will replace you with a perfect copy as well.
- In Peter Freund's Mysteria series, there is a teenage girl Jessie who, when her father starts a book about the titular land, is excited of it and wants to go there; and then she accidently gets stuck in Mysteria, which is very bad because she requires insulin injections and Mysteria doesn't offer this, even with the magic, so she must find a way back before her supply runs out.
- The In Death series: Eve is doing paperwork, which she hates, at the beginning of New York to Dallas. She wishes that there was some murderer out there for her to go get. She gets it in the form of Isaac McQueen, a rapist and pedophile, who was the first murderer she took down while she was in uniform, and is out for Revenge against Eve. It goes From Bad to Worse when Isaac goes to Dallas, the place where she killed her father in self-defense at 8 years old. Paperwork suddenly looks very good right about now.
- In The Obsidian Trilogy and The Enduring Flame Trilogy Wildmages can make wishes to the Wildmagic which will grant it for a price which varies depending on the difficulty of the wish. Since the magic will grant you what you ask for, not what you want, Wildmages are warned to think carefully what they really want/desire in order to not waste time and energy paying off a wasted wish, and to minimize the cost of any necessary wishes.
- Septimus Heap: Lampshaded with Marcia becoming ExtraOrdinary Wizard, since she wished it all the time and it eventually became true... by Alther being shot on the day she became EOW: "Beware what you wish for, lest it come true"
- Half Upon a Time gives us a great moment right from the beginning. Jack, whose father was Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, is arguing with his grandfather about Jack's lack of ambition.
Jack: I should be able to just stick out my arms, and have a princess fall right into them!
- Enchantress from the Stars: Young, overenthusiastic Elana wants to be a part of expedition on Andrecia. She gets her wish when Ilura, another agent, is killed and from then on is on for a very harsh mission from which she now can't back down.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Seemingly every child on planet wants to get one of the five Golden Tickets, which will enable him or her to visit Willy Wonka's factory. For four out of five children who find it — and of these four, at least three actively seek the ticket — the visit turns into a horrible experience. All four are too self-centered to follow their guide's instructions; when faced with something they realize they want badly, they disregard his warnings and pursue it to dreadful ends. This is subverted with The Hero, a virtuous, unselfish kid who becomes the heir to the factory.
- A recurring theme in The Curse of Chalion:
Ista: The gods' most savage curses come to us as answers to our own prayers. Prayer is a dangerous business.
- This echoes a remark by the Roman writer Juvenal about "monstrous prayers that Heaven in anger grants."
- In a 1941 Theodore Sturgeon short story "Shottle Bop", a seer-of-ghosts sees a ghostly couple in an endless feedback loop, repeating a conversation, summed up as follows: "If we kill ourselves, we're sure to be together.... forever.... just like this." "Will we, Tommy?" "I promise.... just like this."
- In The ABC Murders, Hercule Poirot says his ideal mystery would be murder at a bridge game, where everyone was so intent upon the game that noone noticed when one of them, the dummy that round, got up and killed the host. A few books later, he faces exactly that.
- In E. D. Baker's The Wide-Awake Princess, Sleeping Beauty's parents want to protect their second daughter and assure the Fairy Godmother they would do anything to prevent such a curse on her. The fairy godmother makes her immune to magic. Which means she doesn't get the standard gifts that make her beautiful, talented, charming, etc.
- In Airframe, after a strange incident involving a plane, the manufacturer takes it up to recreate it, and a reporter that's been following them demands to go along. She winds up regretting it.
- Household Gods by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove begins when Nicole, fed up with life in modern-day LA, tells what she believes to be perfectly ordinary statues of the Roman gods Liber and Libera that she wished she could live in ancient Rome. Liber and Libera deem it an excellent request, and are all too happy to grant it.
- As John Galt explains towards the end of Atlas Shrugged, society has claimed for decades that wealthy businessmen, executives, and entrepreneurs are evil villains who harm, exploit, and enslave others. Well, he has made them all vanish, liberating society of their evil... so what does anyone have to complain about?
- "Be Careful What You Wish For" by Stef already states it in the title. Young girl Gwen is bored and wishes for something to do. She is sent on a quest to save Idlebury kingdom... from itself.
- John Collier's short story "The Chaser" applies the principle to a Love Potion. The customer buys it in order to secure the absolute and undying love of the woman he desires, but it's implied that this will eventually grate on him. In fact the chaser of the title is the untraceable poison the shopkeeper is sure he'll be back to purchase. The story was adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone.
- A very sad example happens in Bridge to Terabithia. In the beginning, Jess want to become the fastest runner in his grade, but he is beaten by Leslie. Near the end, he contemplates that now he probably is the fastest runner - because Leslie, who became his best friend during the year, has just died in a tragic accident Needlessly to say, this wish fulfillment doesn't make him happy.
- In The Book of Lost Things a greedy and gluttonous man requests that the Crooked Man pay him in gold the weight of everything that he has eaten at a buffet. The Crooked Man complies...by pouring molten gold down his throat.
- For most of his career, Horatio Hornblower really wants financial security (he's terribly unlucky with prize money, which is the real source of a captain's living), recognition of his good work by the Service, and (after The Happy Return) a way to marry Lady Barbara and a title to impress her. He gets all of it at the end of Flying Colours—but because his hero's welcome and title are calculated propaganda, he and Barbara are freed by the death of their spouses, and his constant self-loathing makes him feel like he deserves none of it anyway, Hornblower starts hating it before the last page.
- One of the obvious aspects in The Wishing Maiden, as the titular Maiden has no control over how the wishes are granted; it's all in the phrasing, and the phrasing tends to be taken very literally.
- In Red Mars, one of the First Hundred colonists on Mars is Arkady Bogdanov, a visionary who dreams of remaking humanity on a new world and craves revolution to escape from the old-fashioned and oppressive political structures on Earth. When the revolution comes in 2061 he's as happy as a clam in his free city. Until, that is, it's sabotaged and immolated by U.N. forces, killing him and hundreds of others. The Revolution of 2061 turns into a total bloodbath as the U.N., now a puppet of "metanational" corporations, hunts down and slaughters as many revolutionaries as it can, locks down control of Mars, and forces the survivors deep into hiding for decades.
- In Freaky Friday, Annabel wishes she could be her own boss. She soon is (via being body-swapped with her mother), but finds that there are a lot of things to be considered.
- Some form of the phrase is known to just about every culture in the Heralds of Valdemar novels. It gets directly invoked in Bastion, when the headman of a border village decides that they can get along just fine without fancy-pants Heralds showing up with the new laws from Haven — by the time Mags and Jakyr finish pointing out everything they've just "won" along with their freedom (short form: no more Healers, no more Guard, and did I mention this area is known for bandit attacks?) the entire village throws their headman out of office.
Live Action TV
- In an episode of Selfie, Eliza is trying to set Henry up so he'll have sex and be happier. However, Henry does eventually meet a girl and promptly begins a relationship with her, leaving him less time to spend helping Eliza. This also helps Eliza see her feelings for Henry a bit more clearly, as she at first does not like Henry's new girl at all.
- In Smallville, "Hex", Chloe wished to become Lois. Zatanna complies. Hilarity Ensues.
- In "Apocalypse", Clark wishes he hasn't existed as he brought so much pain and suffering. It's a Wonderful Plot, as he discovers that without him, Lex would be the President and, along with Brainiac, would unleash a nuclear holocaust.
- Early in season 8 Chloe notes that Tess certainly seems like a Luthor-wannabe, and while Tess isn't the one saying it, it's pretty obvious that it's true. In season 10, Tess finds out that she is a Luthor, Lionel's bastard daughter, and let's just say that she is not happy about it.
- Sesame Street: The Amazing Mumford and Abby Cadabby lack both the skill to control their magic and the ability to undo their mistakes. A number of episodes are based on this.
- In an episode of Top Gear devoted to Lamborghini, James May learns this the hard way when he finally gets to drive the car of his dreams, the Countach. He lampshades this without mentioning the trope by name.
James: And [the Countach] looked so good on the poster. In fact, I wish it had stayed there. I'm absolutely gutted. But you know it's not the car's fault; it's mine. I've broken the Golden Rule: You never, ever meet your childhood heroes. ...Stick with the memories. They're just better.
- The plot of Beetleborgs centers around three kids who wish to be their favorite comic book superheroes. Consequently, the villains also appear, handing out several Curb Stomp Battles over the course of the series. The first episode of the second season, "Metallix", also showed that the wish had a second part - you get the powers, you get the bad guys. No more bad guys? No more powers. Thankfully, new bad guys showed up and the kids were back in action.
- The Cosby Show did this plot, with Theo as the teenager who wanted to be treated like an adult, in its first season, but it has appeared in other series as well.
- iCarly: The Christmas Episode "iChristmas". Carly wishes for Spencer to be normal, and an It's a Wonderful Life style homage ensues, ending with Carly more appreciative than ever of her life.
- Standard episode plot for the Buffyverse.
- Ensnaring wronged people with Be Careful What You Wish For is the whole modus operandi of vengeance demons in Buffy. They find somebody who's been wronged, get them to make a wish, and then make the wish come true in a gruesome manner that the wisher never intended.
- In the episode entitled "The Wish", Cordelia wished that "Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale." In the Bizarro World which resulted, without Buffy to stop him, the Master and his vampires succeeded in taking over Sunnydale completely, turning Willow and Xander into vampires with Cordelia herself getting killed.
- Which means that Cordelia never actually learns anything after the snapback at the end of the episode.
- In "Older and Far Away," Dawn makes a wish to Halfrek that everybody would spend more time with her. Halfrek makes the dream come true by magically making it impossible for any of the guests at Buffy's party to leave the house. And then promptly picks up the Idiot Ball by entering the house herself, causing the curse to affect her.
- In "Selfless," a girl who was cruelly dumped by her boyfriend in front of a dozen or so of his frat mates wishes that they all learn what it feels like to have their hearts ripped out from their chests. So Anya summons a huge spider demon that massacres the frat boys by ripping out their hearts from their chests. Willow later finds the girl locked in a closet, in fetal position, saying "I take it back" over and over.
- Later in "Selfless," Anya makes a wish to D'Hoffryn that her vengeance curse be undone. D'Hoffryn answers that undoing the curses requires the death of a vengeance demon. Anya agrees to the price, assuming that she's the one who will die, but then D'Hoffryn summons Anya's friend Halfrek and kills her to undo Anya's curses.
- In another example from the series, Buffy wishes that her parental figures, Joyce (her actual mother) and Giles (her Watcher) would stop forcing her to be responsible. Later in the episode, entitled "Band Candy," when the adults lose their ability to act responsibly, Buffy sees the disasters that can result when no one does what they are supposed to do, e.g. vampires can steal babies to feed to giant demon snakes if no one cares to watch out for such things. The Reset is rarely complete though - quite a few memories and changes were kept until the end of the show.
- A more terrifying example occurs in the episode wherein Dawn uses a spell to bring Joyce Summers back to life. It's the classic Monkey's Paw, and the horror is only increased by the fact that except for her feet walking through the cemetery, we never see what Joyce looked like. She had been dead for some time, so...
- Xander stepping up to the plate and taking his best shot with Buffy. "I want to dance with you". He gets his wish in the very next episode, when a shell-shocked Buffy bumps and grinds against him to enrage Willow and Angel.
- Quoted by Halloween costume fashionista Ethan Rayne. "Don't wish to blow my own trumpet, but it's genius. The very embodiment of 'be careful what you wish for'."
- Buffy has a love-hate relationship with her job. She complains about being a Slayer, but is reluctant to give up her duties when Kendra and Faith threaten to edge her out of the gang.
- "Helpless" depicts what would happen if Buffy were truly a normal girl stuck in a house with vampires.
- A scorned Xander performing a love spell on Cordelia. Needless to say, it backfires.
Giles: I cannot believe that you are fool enough to do something like this!
Xander: Oh, no, I'm twice the fool it takes to do something like this.
- Ken's "The Reason You Suck" Speech in "Anne". He ridiculing her for running away from Sunnydale and her old identity trying to disappear. "Congratulations. You got your wish."
- The Trio in Season 6 wanted to be taken seriously as super villains. Willow completely flayed Warren, leading Jonathan and Andrew to flee the country to escape her wrath.
- Eventually, they knew better than to say they wished for things aloud, given every time they do, something perverts the wish. This is much to the chagrin of Anya, who was trying to get them to wish for something so she could pervert it.
- Liam always wanted to get out of Galway and see the world. So naturally, he jumped at Darla's offer to see it together. He didn't regret it for a moment (until...) but he probably didn't expect it to happen in quite that way.
- Cordelia actually has this happen to her twice—given the opportunity in Angel to wish she had never reunited with Angel and gotten the visions which were killing her, she found herself in a world where Angel was insane, Wesley was missing an arm, and Fred was nowhere to be found.
- Newsradio did a hilarious variation on this where Dave and Lisa put Bill in charge of the station for a day in order to show him how hard their jobs were; the twist was that Bill knew what they were doing from the start (going so far as to ask if they were doing it), but he still played along until they admitted to what they were doing.
- Subverted in Dads Army, when Captain Mainwaring decides to give persistent grumbler Private Frazer a week's experience in commanding the unit in order to see that it is not as easy as he thinks, only for Frazer to grow increasingly tyrannical and arrogant with power; the catch is that Frazer, although unpopular with the rest of the men, actually proves himself a competent commanding officer whose skills are even recognized and rewarded by a superior officer.
- In the The X-Files episode "Je Souhaite", Mulder meets a female genie who can grant anyone three wishes... but she is forced to interpret the wishes rather literally, causing her much frustration at the stupidity of people who don't think things through. It is revealed that she used to be a poor peasant woman in the Middle Ages, who found the original genie and squandered her first two wishes asking for a mule and a magic sack of turnips that never ran out. For her third wish, she asked for great power and eternal life: the other genie promptly turned her into a genie, too. The downside: She is now bound to act on the decisions of whichever idiot unrolls her from the carpet she is mystically connected to, and she cannot grant wishes to herself. When Mulder wishes for "peace on Earth", his wish is granted... by making every other person in the world disappear except him. The genie tells him it is impossible for her to change the minds of 6 billion people, but making them disappear was within the rules. Mulder uses his final wish by giving it to her, granting her the ability to make her own decisions and become a mortal woman again.
- Charmed has several genies corrupting the wishes of the characters that made them.
- In the pilot episode of The Sentinel, Blair wants to learn about Jim and write about him for his dissertation. When Jim offers to let Blair follow him at work, Blair excitedly declares that his book might be a best seller. In the final episode, when Blair's dissertation gets leaked to a publisher, he gets everything he wished for. He gets offered fame and money for his work... but Jim's life becomes a living hell now that the media knows about his abilities.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
- One episode has a boy running into a genie who grants him several wishes, but they all end up backfiring on him. For example, when he wishes for a brand new car, the boy gets it, but is later arrested when the police discover that the car is stolen. In order to end his torment, the boy finally wishes that he had never met the genie, effectively pressing the Reset Button.
- Another episode uses a thinly-veiled version of The Monkey's Paw: One of the kids wishes to win a race, so a wild dog shows up and breaks his rival's leg, etc. The wishes escalate until one of them wishes his grandfather (who's dead) were there, at which point Zombie Gramps starts knocking on the door (you don't get to see it, though) until one of the kids wishes they'd never made the wishes.
- In another one, a girl wishes to live in a fairy tale world, and her wish is granted by the Jackass Genie Sandman.
- Battlestar Galactica (second series):
- The surviving Colonials tried their best to find Earth for three and a half seasons. They found Earth and it is utterly devastated.
- In the Miniseries novel, Gaius Baltar is depicted as "somebody who spends first half of his life trying to get famous, then spends the rest wearing sunglasses [to be unrecognised]".
- Babylon 5:
- In response to being asked what he wanted, by Mr Morden.
...All right. Fine
. You really
want to know what I
want?! You really
want to know the truth
?! I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy. I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again, and command the stars. I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power. I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to... To look back, or to look forward. I want us to be what we used to be. I want
... I want it all back
, the way that it was! Does that answer your question? Morden:
...Yes. Yes it does
- Another thing Londo desires, is to get a better position at court rather than the ambassador to Babylon 5. He eventually gets everything he asked for, and ends up Emperor of the Republic for good measure. The process takes the next three seasons to fulfill and leads to several major galactic wars and millions of casualties. And he has no freedom at all.
- Supernatural had an episode with a whole town full of this trope because of a wishing well that worked, involving most notably (and hilariously, in that depressing ''Supernatural'' way) a little girl wishing for a giant talking Teddy Bear. Who spent most of the subsequent episode drinking, watching porn and trying to commit suicide. Life as a giant talking Teddy Bear, apparently, makes Marvin the Paranoid Android's life seem full of cheer and meaning. In a possible aversion though, the brothers stop the wishing well before things go catastrophically bad. The original wisher was a man with a magic coin who wished for his high school crush to fall in love with him, which didn't quite turn out how he hoped either.
- The third season finale of Heroes seems to drop a load of this in Sylar's lap if one looks back at his words from season 1:
Gabriel Gray/Sylar: [to Chandra] When I was a kid I used to wish some stranger would come and tell me my family wasn't really my family. Oh, they weren't bad people, they were just...insignificant. And I wanted to be different. Special. I wanted to change. A new name, a new life.
- Eden McCain (aka Sarah Ellis) has an extremely potent power of verbal suggestion. During an argument with her (horrible) stepmother, she unwittingly shouts at her: "I wish you'd just die!". Her heart immediately stops.
- The Imagin of Kamen Rider Den-O operate on this trope. They seek out people and grant their wishes, but only in letter. In one episode, when a park groundskeeper wished to make his park a safe haven for strays, the Imajin granting the wish responded by attacking any human who set foot in the park and barricading the entrances.
- Disney Channel had a weekend special where they did this with 3 of their shows:
- Hannah Montana - Miley wishes she was just Hannah Montana all the time. It is granted and her dad married a Gold Digger, her best friend became Alpha Bitch, and her brother became a hobo.
- Cory in the House - Corey Baxter wishes that he was president of the U.S.A. After it's granted, Corey uses his authority to get rich, and slacks off on his presidential duties. This leads to being completely unprepared for an alien invasion, and a literal Reset Button is pressed at the end.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody- Zack and Cody wish that they were superheroes. After having to defeat now-supervillian Mr. Moseby, the twins learn they'll have to fight evil 24/7 and give up all their free time. This prompts them to try and fix things by running fast enough to travel through time, to before they made the wish.
- Though not an actual wish, also in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, the episode "The Suite Smell of Excess", Zack and Cody get a chance to go to an alternate world where everything is reversed and they can play around as much as they like and do whatever they want when they want. However after a few days of excess, they realize that the "preferred" alternate universe Tipton is NOT the perfect place they thought it would be.
- A 1965 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour features an adaptation of the Monkey's Paw story.
- As does an episode of Tales from the Crypt, "Last Respects", which features three sisters. After one sister wishes for a million pounds, another sister dies in a car crash with the third sister (who survives). Guess what the insurance payoff was? When she wishes that the sister hadn't died in the accident, she gets a call from the morgue, and finds out that she was murdered before the accident. When the third sister admits to the murder and comes after her, she deliberately invokes the "Comes back as a Zombie" part to let her slain sister avenge herself.
- There's an episode of Tales from the Crypt about a scriptwriter who continuously fantasizes about his hot neighbour being sexually obsessed with him. His creepy landlady gives him a bottle of something to slip into her drink, which he does, and it works too well: she's now continuously badgering him for sex at every moment of the day, until he commits suicide to get away from her. Even that doesn't work because she throws herself out the window to be with him, and her (now horrifically disfigured ghost)continues to nag him for sex .
- Many Twilight Zone episodes used this trope. One notable one being "Time Enough at Last" starring Burgess Meredith. He wanted to be left alone so he could read and wound up the lone survivor of a nuclear war...with broken glasses.
- From the same series, "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville": A ruthless, aging businessman desires to return to his hometown in the time when he was a young adult, so he could make a business deal for land that he knew was valuable in the present. He's sent back, but forgot a couple of details: (1)he didn't ask for his money to be converted to older currency, so when he tries to make the deal, it's dismissed as counterfeit; and (2) although he wished to look like his younger past self, his physical body is still that of an old man (which he learns the hard way after getting into a fight.) Well, what did you expect from a Deal with the Devil, even one played by Julie Newmar? (Although this devil is more sympathetic, and lets him return to the present at the cost of his fortune.)
- Another example comes from "A Game of Pool": Jesse Cardiff wishes to play against a dead pool champion so that he can become the new best player. He gets the chance, and even bets his own life on the game. Ultimately, he wins, and is acknowledged as the best. But he has to keep proving it, over and over, even after his own death.
- Invoked in "I Dream of Genie", which features a Genre Savvy wisher who is granted one wish by a genie, and featured Imagine Spots of each such wish...as well as the ways they could go wrong. He eventually decides to make an "original" wish: to become a genie himself and himself grant such wishes to those down on their luck.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus used this in a sketch parodying a fairy tale; a witch invokes a curse upon the attendants of a wedding, turning everyone present into chickens. After a brief second, her eyes widen and she adds "EXCEPT ME!" It's too late, though.
Witch Chicken: Oh, bugger.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fantasy Island employed this trope quite often.
- Doctor Who had the Family of Blood, who wanted immortality so badly that they hunted the Doctor for months, then on finding him proceeded to slaughter their way through a village in order to draw him out of hiding. When he does, there's hell to pay.
- From The Day of the Moon:
You should kill us all on sight!
- The genie from the episode "Fruit of a Poisoned Tree" in Once Upon a Time says that he has granted 1001 wishes and 1001 times seen things end badly. We see three wishes granted during the episode, the King's wish for the genie's freedom, which results in the genie falling in love with the Queen and murdering the King, the second wish was for the genie to have the third allowing the genie's own wish to be able to stay with his true love forever and always be able to gaze on her face, resulting in him turning into the Queen's Magic Mirror, and they would seem to confirm the genie's statement.
- On one occasion in How I Met Your Mother, Ted was angry at Barney, who offered Ted one free hit anywhere but the face. He didn't hit him in the face.
- One Episode of The Adventures Of Shirley Holmes has a teenage girl who was constaltnly harassing the male child star for some unknown series, with the intent to get him out of the show, so that she could the star instead. The boy actually did want to quit, but the Corrupt Corporate Executive wouldn't let him. Shirley exposes the executive and helps the boy to nullify his contract, but didn't find any evidence against the girl. The narration then states: "But she did got what she deserved: her own studio contract, with lots of fine print..." Cue the sight of the girl, forced to do a "take 12" of some stupid episode, exhausted, angry, and clearly miserable after just a few days - and earlier it was established that the contracts with this studio have a minimum term of two years. For the girl, those years will be very long.
- Star Trek
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- The plot of "Amok Time" is driven by a Vulcan love triangle involving Spock. The other man ends up with Spock's ex-fiancee, which actually comes as a relief to Spock. (The woman in question is a Manipulative Bitch who is perfectly willing to force two close friends to fight to the death if it will get her out of an inconvenient Arranged Marriage.) Spock wishes the other man well and invokes this trope, saying "You may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true." This is probably as close as a Vulcan can come to saying, "Dude, you have no idea what you are getting into."
- "Shore Leave" has the story conclude with the Caretaker of the strange planet the landing party is on explain that it's a essentially a giant recreation area where anything they think of will be created. He invites the crew to live it up for a while, as long as they follow this trope.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- In "Tapestry", Picard dies from his artificial heart failing him, and he encounters Q in what seems to be the afterlife. After much prodding by Q, Picard reveals he regrets getting into a fight with Nausicaans (mentioned in an earlier episode), in which he suffered a near-fatal wound to his heart, necessitating his artificial heart. So Q takes Picard back to that time so he can avoid the brawl. He does, but this new, "play-it-safe" Picard doesn't have the same drive that made him captain of the Enterprise, instead being stuck as a lowly science officer with no career prospects. Picard regrets this, so with some pleading, Q takes Picard back to that time again to let him get into that fight once more, believing that if he has to die, he wants to die as someone who did something with his life. He does, but in the present, he ends up recovering from his artificial heart's problems, perhaps a token of appreciation by Q.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- Starfleet security officer turned Maquis rebel Eddington framed his conflict with Sisko as Valjean vs. Javert. Once he went too far by using a bioweapon to drive Cardassians from one of the contested worlds, Sisko got tired of the song and dance and rendered an entire Maquis world uninhabitable for human life, and was going to keep going if not for Eddington's surrender.
- Odo desperately wanted to find his people and learn where he had come from. When he finally does, he discovers his people are a ruthless, xenophobic, egomaniacal race that has already conquered the Gamma Quadrant and is now bent on conquering the Alpha Quadrant. He is, suffice it to say, devastated.
- Garak desperately wanted to return home from exile. He eventually gets his wish at the very end of the show after Cardassia has been ravaged by an Occupation that caused war with the entire Alpha Quadrant, the loss of over eight hundred million lives and the complete devastation of its government, security forces, military forces, culture and infrastructure. It goes without saying that this is not the homecoming he dreamed of.
- Martok, holding a grudge against aging Klingon warrior Kor for trying to ruin his career before it began, would like nothing better than to see the living legend slip up. When a bout of senility finally gets to the old man mid-battle, though, Martok can't take any pleasure in it. All he sees is a man losing a battle to the one enemy no Klingon can beat: time.
- In the tie-in novel "Behind Enemy Lines" Ro Laren, after seeing her home devastated by the Dominion, swears to fight until Cardassia is equally devastated. In the later book, she reflects on her previous wish and how horrified she is now of Cardassia's fate.
- Star Trek: Voyager
- In "Blood Fever", it ends with Paris telling Torres he didn't really mind her "scary" Klingon side, and said he might like to see it again someday. She warns him this. It's what launched their relationship.
- In "Learning Curve" a former member of the Maquis claims to Chakotay that he'd rather do things the Maquis way, rather than Starfleet's more regimented style. Chakotay then punches the guy to the ground, and tells him that Chakotay will keep punching him every day until he falls into line, because that's also the Maquis way.
- In one Muppets Disney Xtreme Digital skit, the Newsman reports that a government aircraft carrying fresh mint money is experiencing some technical difficulties and it is causing the aircraft to dump untraceable cash from the sky. Suddenly a sack falls down on to the Newsman's desk and it is followed by bills of money floating down. The Newsman wishes it had been huge sacks of priceless diamonds and then, to his surprise, another sack falls down as diamonds rain down on him. Getting excited, the Newsman wishes for a 32oz T-Bone (medium well done) and a steak falls down on his desk. Getting even more excited, the Newsman also asks for a beautiful brown-eye blonde... But then a cow with blonde hair crashes onto his desk from above. He painfully crawls up and mutters that he should have been specific on that last one.
- From Castle:
- Detective Beckett spends most of the first season and the beginning of the second mortified and annoyed that Castle's following her around for inspiration and research for his novel, and not-so-subtly wishing he'd just go away, stop writing about her and leave her alone. Then, in "When the Bough Breaks", not only is Castle's novel about to be finished, but he's been offered a very lucrative job writing a series of thrillers starring "a certain British secret agent", meaning everything that Beckett's been counting the days down about is about to come to pass. Only now that it's happening, Beckett is clearly a bit upset both about him leaving and the fact that he's apparently not interested in writing about her any more. When the contract for his series about her is unexpectedly renewed, she's clearly annoyed but, it's strongly hinted, a bit relieved as well.
- In "Knockout", after an argument with Castle about her mother's case (and the unspoken feelings between them) has gotten out of hand and become very vicious, Beckett angrily goes to her boss demanding that Castle be kicked out of the precinct. His nonchalant agreement with her request completely throws her off-balance. Subverted, since her boss clearly could tell that she was just venting and her flustered back-tracking only confirmed that she wasn't serious.
- The short film "A Case of Spring Fever", as featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode 1012, has an oddly specific example. A man, tired of trying to fix the sofa, wishes he never sees another spring in his life, only for it to be granted by the insanely cackling spirit "Coily, the spring sprite". Hilarity Ensues as his door locks, phone dial and car pedals stop working. Noooooooooo Springs!
- From MST3K:
- The crew parodied Coily in episode 317 (the famous "waffle episode"), with Willy the Waffle, the Wonderful Whimsical Wisecracking Waffle granting Tom's wish for a world without waffles ("Noooooooooo Waffles! *coil spring noise* "). Willy appeared again in 423 to show Tom a world without advertising ("It was all I had, I had to work fast"). After Willy's spiel, Joel and Tom agree that they prefer the world without advertising.
- They also parodied Coily in the host segments for the episode in which they watched "A Case of Spring Fever". While discussing the skit, Tom wishes never to see Mike again, which prompts a visit by Mikey the Mike Sprite, who makes Nelson disappear. The Bots aren't too bothered, but Mikey eventually badgers them into at least pretending they've learned their lesson, and brings Mike back. Then Crow says he doesn't want to see Mike's socks again; cue Mikesocksy...
- After winning a game of Three-Card Monty against Pearl, Mike wins the right to watch any movie he wants. He decides he wants to watch Hamlet, and Pearl responds by giving him an incredibly dull, black-and-white German rendition of Hamlet.
- In Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark, begs her mother to give her permission to leave Winterfell and marry Prince Joffrey Baratheon, because she wanted to live the privilege life of a Queen and give birth to the future King's children. Sansa quickly regrets this, after she realized what a monster his is at the end of season 1 and during season 2. He has her father beheaded, despite promising her, he'd show mercy if he admitted to treason. Then during season 2, he mentally and physically tortures her.
- Then there's Arya, the tomboy of the Stark family. She never wanted to be a lady. She said it herself. By the end of Season 1, her hair is cut and she is forced to disguise herself as a boy to escape Joffrey and the Lannisters.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit had an episode where a borderline retarded man raped an old woman to death (he saw it in a porno and wanted to try it, too) via a second heart attack. There's no argument that he did it so much as if he's competent enough to be charged with him banking on an insanity plea under the belief that an asylum beats prison, but the look on his face upon entering the ward says it all how much he really lost as the episode closes out.
- LOST Jack wants nothing more than to get off the Island. Ben himself calls Jack out on having nothing to go back to off of the Island. Once Jack makes it off of the Island, instead of the heroic leader he was on the Island, he becomes an alcoholic suicidal delusional man who heavily regrets leaving the Island, and reluctantly knows that the man who told him not to leave was right all along.
- Noel's Christmas Presents (which ran 1989-1999, then 2007-2011, with no episode in 1992), and its Spiritual Successor All Star Christmas Presents play this trope entirely differently; the wishes are entirely positive or humorous, but never the usual case of how this trope plays out in most live-action TV shows. Well, it is a documentary, not a drama. A subversion, in that there is nothing supernatural, and that the presenter is (metaphorically) Subbing for Santa.
- The Tales from the Darkside episode "The Milkman Cometh" featured a milkman that granted wishes that his customers wrote down and left in their discarded milk bottles. One guy gets addicted to having his wishes granted, and the family soon becomes rich, but his Genre Savvy son begs him to stop before they get screwed over. He refuses, and wishes that they had a second child, only for the milkman to grant it by breaking into the house and raping his wife.
- Less squicky and more And I Must Scream is "Lifebomb"; a workaholic executive is offered, free of charge, the titular device - an implant on his back that instantly wraps him in a lifesaving cocoon should he have a heart attack. Turns out that the reason it's provided free of charge is that he's worth millions in life insurance - the insurance companies won't let him die, no matter how much his quality of life decays, until he cancels his insurance policies, which would bankrupt his family. The doctor who gave him the lifebomb says that though he developed the device for sick and elderly patients, the only people who would fund his research were insurance companies. Also a case of Laser-Guided Karma - he denied the families of workers who died in a mine collapse a settlement because they already received company insurance payoffs. "They got what they've been promised." Guess what that doctor says to him at the end of the episode?
- Julian Priest (David Bowie), the Mad Artist Horror Host of the second season of the anthology The Hunger, cites this trope by name as a way of summing up the events of his debut episode "Sanctuary", though the desire and its granting are unusual. Julian hated death and desired artistic immortality; he realized he could achieve it by making his suicide a piece of performance art. Now he's a lonely ghost, haunting the abandoned prison that was his home — perhaps Death's punishment for his defiance.
- In one episode of The Monkees, one of them finds a Monkey's Paw. They don't realize how dangerous it is until the owner says "I wish I could stop talking about it", only to have the wish granted before he can say the last two words of that sentence.
- In one episode of Wizards of Waverly Place, when Alex asks a genie to stop people from comparing her to Justin, no one remembers who he is.
- This happens to Robbie Rotten in "The First Day of Summer" on LazyTown. He wishes that everyone else in LazyTown would just disappear and seemingly gets his wish when they all head off to play at the beach. He quickly realizes, however, that all of the things that he enjoys about being a villain— the setting of traps, hatching evil schemes, etc., just aren't much fun without anyone there to actually scheme against. He ends up falling into one of his own traps, and when Sportacus comes to rescue him, everyone else follows. He's so happy to see them that he even joins them for the singing and dancing of the episode-ending "Bing Bang Song."
- Said word-for-word by the narrator in the seventh episode of Oz, concerning Tobias Beecher's revenge against his abusive White supremacist cellmate Vern Schillinger. Beecher (a middle-class lawyer with zero street skills) spends most of the first season wishing he had some way of standing up to his constant barrage of abuse in prison, and ultimately gives Schillinger his comeuppance in a well-deserved No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. By Season 2, Beecher has become one of the most feared inmates in Oz—at the cost of his sanity and any semblance of dignity that he might once have held onto.
- When Father Mukada is falsely accused of molestation by inmate Timmy Kirk, he prays for Kirk's death. The next day Kirk is murdered by a crazed inmate who believes he's carrying out God's will, whereupon Mukada tries to convince himself that God doesn't carry out that kind of request.
- Rome. After discovering his wife's infidelity, and realising his children conspired to keep the secret from him, Vorenus curses them all to damnation. This is Serious Business for a Roman so Vorenus is aghast when he returns to his house and finds them missing. Pullo assures him he can just lift the curse when his children return. They don't, having been abducted and sold into slavery by an enemy of Vorenus while he was absent from his house.
- One instance where the genie is as much a victim as the wisher is in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, where the Lizard wishes that Will, now a genie, could feel something and the magic complies, killing her dead and getting Will to feel something - grief and guilt.
- On Salem, Mary says this exactly to Mercy after recounting how she came to be George Sibley's wife. Namely, "the problem with becoming the Queen is that you have to marry the King."
- In Farscape the Skarran Empire and Peacekeepers spent a great deal of effort trying to create wormhole weapons, with Crichton being their focus due to the knowledge imbedded in his mind. In The Peacekeeper Wars Crichton finally gives them a wormhole weapon, namely a self-propagating black hole capable of consuming the entire universe. At this point both factions agreed to stop fighting.
- The titular character of Marilyn Manson's concept album Antichrist Superstar rises to become the Physical God he always dreamed of being, but crosses the Despair Event Horizon in the process and destroys the earth in a nihilistic rage. The last words of the album are actually "when all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed" - repeated over and over amidst a wall of static.
- The titular King in Metallica's "King Nothing" did get the title he worked for, but alienated his would-be subjects in the process, leaving him alone to attend to a crumbling kingdom.
- The Talking Heads song, "Burning Down The House" opens up with "Watch out, you might get what you're after"
- Kinda done in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Albuquerque":
- Eurydice in "Hadestown" wants to "lie down forever," so she's taken to the underworld.
- The narrator of Rush's song "Xanadu" wishes he could visit the stately pleasure dome of Coleridge's poem and gain immortality by drinking honeydew and the milk of paradise. He succeeds, but finds himself eternally trapped within the dome.
- The song "Carnies" from Clockwork Angels has the protagonist realizing that wishing to get away from his ordinary life wasn't going to go the way he meant it to.
- Mentioned in the Art of Dying song "Completely"; the lead-in line to the chorus in (both versions) is "watch what you wish for, you know you just might get it..." In the original, there is a line in the chorus about how "everything you want/ain't always what you need..."
- The song "Black Fox" by Heather Dale. Whilst out on a unsuccessful fox-hunt, the master huntsman proclaims "If only the Devil himself come by, we'd run him such a race!". A little black fox then appears, and the huntsmen chase it until it crosses a river... and promptly turns into the devil, whereupon the huntsmen have a collective Oh, Crap moment and flee, pursued by the (now-laughing) little black fox.
- Her other song "Changeling Child" is about a woman who longed for a "babe" of her own so she ask the Fairies to give her one. They give her exactly what she asked for: a child that forever stays as a babe.
- "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin (and covered in the 1990s by Ugly Kid Joe). "I'm gonna be like you, Dad!" The boy's ambition will come true in a most depressing way.
- As per the page quote, this is a recurring theme in Eminem's raps, especially after his best friend and fellow rapper, Deshaun "Proof" Holton died. The track "My Darling" also covers this trope extensively.
- Kanye West professes to having a love/hate relationship with fame, especially after his mother died from complications from extensive surgery after they were enveloped in Hollywood.
- Explicitly quoted by the protaganist of WASP's concept album The Crimson Idol Jonathan Aaron Steel just before his onstage suicide. He got fame, money and glory but at the expense of his family, his sanity and health and never knowing if anyone saying they loved him actually meant it or were just saying it because of who he was.
- Home by Daughtry. The song follows the narrator as he looks back at abandoning his old life and deciding to return to it, even Name Dropping the trope
- "Be Careful What You Wish For" by Steeleye Span from the Wintersmith Concept Album, loosely based on the various Tiffany Aching examples above.
Be careful what you wish for
Dreams seem different in the light of day
Be careful what you wish for
That deep desire to have your way
Could burn you, and turn your head around
- The trope image comes from Calvin and Hobbes, during a storyline where Calvin gets sick.
- Two arcs of FoxTrot relating to one of Jason's money making schemes are a direct result of this trope: The first one related to Jason making his own website, and the second dealt with a greeting card, both times were the result of Roger, his father, ranting about how he would make a lot of money creating a site and at the cost of buying Christmas cards, respectively. The second time, Jason wasn't even in the same room as Roger, implying that Roger was talking about to Andy loud enough for Jason to hear it from another room.
- Garfield has a few examples:
: Reruns! Yesterday's news... Leftovers! There's never anything new
around here! Jon
: Run for your life! The plumbing backed up, and thousands of piranha are spawning in the toilet!! Garfield
- In another strip, Garfield wished for a fifty-pound pan of lasagna. It fell on him. (At which point he mused, "Now wouldn't you think I'd know better than to make a wish like that on a Monday?")
- In a ''very'' early strip, Garfield is shown hanging onto the screen door simply because he's bored complaining of his boredom. He wishes for something to happen. A very mundane yet apparently painful aftermath occurs when Jon announces lunchtime.
- One strip has Garfield stranded up a tree. Garfield says to it "Stupid tree...May all your stupid branches fall off!" Needless to say, all the trees branches broke off and fell to the ground. Including the one he was on.
- U.S. Acres: Roy wanted his eyes to be bigger. Too bad for him it was Lanolin who granted that wish.
- Liō went to a wishing well and evidently wished that his crush Eva would love him back. He turned into a sword, which she loved.
- SCP-738 ("The Devil's Deal"). The entity connected to SCP-738 grants wishes as part of a bargain, but it will only give exactly what it has agreed to and no more. For example, one subject who asked for "freedom" disappeared from custody, but was captured again a few hours later.
- Not Always Learning has this tale, in which a class-cutting student tells the professor that all they want from the class they skipped so much is a passing grade. At the end of the semester, the student gets a C... even though they completed enough coursework to earn an A.
- On the Pokémon-themed egg-hatching website Poké Farm Q, several Gen 6 Pokemon had question marks instead of actual sprites. In response to users constantly demanding that the sprites be completed right now, the admins granted their wish... uploading incredibly bad MS Paint-style artwork for every Pokémon currently without a sprite. In a subversion, the fanbase took it on the chin, with many finding the sprites hilarious.
- Razor Ramon would often encourage children to be just like him, a disrespectful brute who took whatever he wanted. Well, one child did end up like Razor, and Razor Ramon turned out to not like having to deal with him.
- The Four Horsemen and Kevin Sullivan's Dungeon of Doom, as tired of everyone else in WCW of Hulk Hogan, joined together to form The Alliance To End Hulkamania. Well, they failed, but everyone was still sick of Hogan, so Hulkamania ended up dying of natural causes. But Hulk Hogan didn't leave just because he no longer had the power of the Hulkamaniacs, oh no. He formed the nWo, a group worse for WCW than the Horsemen, Dungeon Of Doom and Hulkamania combined.
- On Friday Night Smackdown, the fans voted for Randy Orton to be the first challenger to WWE World Heavyweight Champion Christian. The same fans were less than enthused when Randy won.
- Monday Night Raw referee Brad Maddox wanted to be a wrestler, he wanted to have matches. So he got them, with Ryback, The Great Khali, Brodus Clay, Randy Orton and Sheamus. Subverted, in that Maddox was just a fall guy set up by Paul Heyman to protect CM Punk.
- Said word for word when Sara Del Rey beat up Santana Garrett at an EVOLVE show and said she wanted to face the best the then new SHINE promotion Garret was plugging really had, reasoning it was Jazz.
- When MVP became director of wrestling operations for TNA, Bully Ray would criticize him for not using the powers allotted by the position to their fullest potential. Then Don Sterling lost his National Basketball Association team, The LA Clippers, which not only lead to MVP using the powers allotted to him as director of wrestling operations to their fullest in the most spiteful ways possible, but him deciding that those powers were not enough. Soon Bully Ray was accusing MVP of having a god complex.
- One particularly famous example occurred at ECW's Hardcore Heaven 1994. Terry Funk and Cactus Jack had beaten down Public Enemy for interrupting their main event match, and during so, they asked no one in particular in the audience to toss them a chair. Cue the ENTIRE FRONT ROW (and then some) of fans all tossing in their chairs to assist Funk and Jack, subsequently burying them and Public Enemy in a pile of chairs. It even got to the point where Joey Styles had to ask the audience 5 times in a row to not throw chairs into the ring until they finally ran out.
Religion and Myth
- From The Bible:
- Even God could be harsh in granting wishes when the wishers were being too whiny. In response to the Israelites complaining about all manna and no meat, he gave them meat for a month "until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you" (KJV).
- Ten of the twelve Israelites sent to spy out the Promised Land insisted that its people were too strong to conquer, even though they had God on their side. The people declared that it would be better to die in the desert than try to conquer the Land. God, furious, declared that they wouldn't enter the Land until every man who complained had, in fact, died in the desert. Cue 39 more years of wandering.
- Jephthah in the book of Judges gets a lesson in Be Careful What You Pray For, when he prays to God, "If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering." (Judges 11:30,31) God gives him the victory, but when Jephthah comes home, the first thing that greets him at the doors was his only daughter! The jury is undecided over how Jephthah actually goes through with the sacrifice, whether he does make her a burnt offering or, as some believe, keeps her a virgin for the rest of her life, which in that culture at the time was considered a sacrifice.
- And him making the oath was pretty pointless, since God had already promised him that he would win.
- Continuing the story: During the time of the Judges, Israel had no king (except for God himself). The Israelites decided they didn't like this situation and wanted a human king like all the surrounding nations. So God tells them, "Alright, I'll give you your king, but you won't like him very much". What followed was a whole succession of mostly bad kings, which led to the split of Israel into two nations, followed eventually by a long period of captivity in Babylon.
- One particular instance is Draupadi, the Pandavas's wife, in the Mahabharata yearning for a husband in her previous life. She wanted her husband to be as strong as Vayu, as talented as Indra, as moral as Dharma and as beautiful as the Ashwini twins. She forgot to specify that she wanted one husband. As a result, in her next incarnation, she married five men and was the wife of five husbands simultaneously.
- The legend of King Midas (the first part, at least) is a good example. Upon finding the drunken satyr Silenus, a follower of Dionysus, trespassing on his property, Midas treated him hospitably for ten days rather than punishing him. Dionysus offered Midas a reward for his charity, offering him anything he wanted; Midas asked that anything he touched be turned to gold. Although the god warned him that he had made a foolish wish, he still granted it. Though Midas was happy at first, it soon became obvious that he had indeed been foolish. His daughter was quickly turned into a statue by this power, and Midas couldn't even touch food without it turning to gold. When faced with starvation, he begged Dionysus to take the gift back...
- In Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, the hapless (and gormless) Tom Rakewell's troubles start with him wishing he had money, upon which a mysterious manservant appears to inform him that an estranged uncle has left him a fortune. Once Tom realises that urban decadence and high living are no substitute for the love he left behind in the countryside, he wishes he were happy, and his servant convinces him to marry a genderbending circus artist. Once the marriage falls apart, he dreams of a machine that turns stone into bread and, upon waking, wishes it were true; the servant wheels in a prototype. The machine is a complete fraud, and Tom is bankrupted. You'd think the fact that the servant gives his name as "Nick Shadow" would have rung a bell at some point...
- Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods: Everyone wishes for something at one point - in fact, the beginning prologue song comprised of mostly the lyrics "I wish, more than anything, more than life" - but it typically backfires. Cinderella wishes to go to the Festival but doesn't count on a prince chasing her around the woods. The Baker and his wife wish to have a child but don't intend to also run around the woods trying to get stuff for the Witch. This theme carries through the whole thing. Just when you think everything is resolved, someone whispers "I wish...", which kicks off the whole second half of the play.
- In Shakespeare's Henry V, Henry asks three traitorous nobles what he should do with a drunk who called him a nasty name. The nobles, unaware that Henry knows of their treachery, tell him emphatically that he should show no mercy for this (minor) infraction and punish the drunk harshly. In doing so, they leave themselves no room to ask for mercy when Henry reveals his knowledge of their betrayal. He has them executed.
- Shows up in I Married An Angel.
- During "The Wizard and I" in Wicked, Elphaba sings of one day being known by everyone in Oz. Since it's a Foregone Conclusion that she's going to become the Wicked Witch, she gets exactly what she wanted.
- Salem: Mary says this exactly to Mercy after recounting how she came to be George Sibley's wife.
- Notorious warning given by almost all GMs in fantasy roleplaying when a player acquires a magical artifact or spell that grants them wishes. Often leads to almost comic wordings of wishes to avoid the GM taking it too literally and punishing the player. Apparently the fact that wish is 9th level (requiring the character to be at 17th level with genius-level Intelligence to be able to cast it at all) and ages the caster five years (In pre-3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons) isn't bad enough.
- notably the description for the Wish spell (in 3rd ed at least) contains a standard list of things it can do and then says it may be able to do other things, but if a player makes a wish not on the standard list the DM should feel free to be a Jackass Genie and screw over the player.
- You can ask an higher power to directly intervene in battle in Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, but if the runes are not with you, they might very well appear on the battlefield and kick the crap out of your party instead of helping you.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- The game has a cycle of Wish cards, the flavour text of each of which is a variant on the following: "He wished for X, but not for the Y to [Verb that means use effectively] it."
- Braid of Fire is based around this. It gives you increasing amounts of mana at the start of your upkeep, and by its mana given/casting cost ratio is one of the best mana accelerants ever made. But unlike most it happened uncontrollably, and it was also made in the days of mana burn; if you couldn't find something to spend all that mana on before your mana pool emptied you'd take increasing amounts of damage, giving you a choice between hoping something turned up before it killed you and giving up so much lovely extra mana.
- Warhammer 40,000: In the background fluff of the Changeling, the Dark Angels besieging the fortress of a rogue planetary Governor who'd turned to Chaos. The governor asks the daemon of Tzeentch for a way to break the siege, the daemon asks for the Governor's daughter in exchange for the favour. The Governor grimly complies and the Changeling hands him something and disappears. The governor just has time to wonder what it is before he is surrounded by the hulking blue force fields heralding teleporting Space Marine Terminators; the Changeling had stolen a teleporter homer from a nearby Ravenwing biker, which was keyed to that of the attached Deathwing Terminator Squads. The siege was indeed swiftly ended.
- Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine has a special chart for Reality Syndrome characters, used to determine which foundations of a wish are likely to go well and which are more likely to end up failing horribly instead of entertainingly. A character who wishes for a friend because they are lonely and who has "a little lonely" on their sheet is likely to get it or something like it quite easily; wishing for your own pet shoggoth because you are lonely is...less likely to work out well, put it that way. (Incentive for the archetypal Reality Syndrome character, Chuubo, to fail horribly anyway is provided by a system wherein he gets bonus XP for making the other players Face Palm in an amused fashion.)
- This is one of the main subtexts of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, as the game shows exactly what the players who wanted to be Solid Snake would have to go through with Raiden.
- Calypso, from the Twisted Metal games. He grants the winners of his competitions their wishes in a manner that either kills them or results in an outcome different from what they had envisioned.
- A case of the former in Twisted Metal: Head-On is when the driver of Spectre, Chuckie Floop, wished for a lot of money and was then buried alive underneath a massive pile of cash. In Warthog's ending for Twisted Metal 2, Calypso delivers a sickeningly brilliant example of the latter when he grants the 105-year-old Captain Rogers's wish for a youthful body ... sans the head to match.
- Occasionally, Calypso will grant a wish straight, only for the winner to experience the inevitable or natural consequences of their wish.
- And for all his trickery, Calypso has indeed suffered a reversal of this (Sweet Tooth in Twisted Metal: Black).
- Carl Roberts (Outlaw) to his sister Jamie: "I wish you'd shut up!" Jamie's mouth grows shut.
- Most of the "bad" endings in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl consist of this, with the player character succumbing to the temptation to make a wish to the mysterious artifact in the middle of Chernobyl (the wish chosen depending on certain conditions). All of these wishes end up backfiring on him:
- "I want the Zone to disappear": the PC goes blind
- "Mankind is corrupt, it must be controllednote ": Images of war and death start flashing followed by the PC standing in a black void
- "I want to be rich": the PC sees gold coins falling from the sky...which turn out to be an hallucination: the "coins" are actually bolts falling from the ceiling which collapses on the PC, killing him.
- "I want to rule the world": the PC is absorbed into the C-Consciousness.
- "I want to be immortal": the PC is turned into a metal statue.
- In Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal you get the wish spell. It's a lot more powerful than the limited wish spell and also level 9. It's also extremely tricky to cast, as the Djinn that you summon is a grumpy so-and-so who's out to get you and as such you will need a very good Wisdom score to be able to handle him okay. A WIS of 18 is nigh-on essential to get the most out of this spell, and anything under 9 WIS is catastrophic. When you cast the spell, time is stopped and the casting character negotiates with the Djinn for some hours - finally he presents you with "a list of 5 ways I can interpret your wish - choose one".
- Planescape: Torment utilizes a classic and particularly chilling incarnation of the trope. An NPC named Yves Tale-Chaser will trade stories with the Nameless One and his companions. One of them begins with a man who comes to in an alley, remembering nothing. An old woman is in front of him, and she asks, "And your third wish?" He says he doesn't understand, and she explains she had offered him three wishes, and he'd already used two - and the second wish was to undo and forget his first wish. So, for the third, he asks to know who he is. She cackles softly as she prepares to grant his wish, and he asks what's so funny. "That was your first wish." It's heavily implied in another part of the game that this actually occurred between the Nameless One and the Night Hag Ravel Puzzlewell.
- Eternal Darkness has this happen once. Bored Cambodian temple dancer Ellia finds herself all alone with nothing but what she thinks is an innocuous book of legends to entertain herself, wishes that something exciting would happen to her, and ends up immediately getting locked inside the temple, finding herself entangled and directly involved in the book's "legends," and killed as a result of all this. Now, was that exciting enough for you, Ellia?
- There's a wish-granting Mana (the main character) in Mana Khemia Alchemists Of Alrevis. The first wish it ever granted was death, although, in a subversion, that wish was exactly what the person who wished it was asking for.
- Jak and Daxter:
- The Precursors offer to turn Jak into one of them as thanks for his services. All of a sudden Count Veger arrives with a gun demanding that HE be turned into one instead. The Precursor says "Be Careful What You Wish For" and does something to Veger. Shortly afterwards it's revealed that the Energy Being they were talking to was just a hologram and that the Precursors... are ottsels. Cue Karmic Transformation when Veger realizes the implications of this.
- Later, Daxter, finally in peace with his ottsel appearance, asks for a set of pants. His girlfriend then says that those pants are so cute, she wished she had a pair of them herself. Cue the precursors' "Be Careful What You Wish For" a second time, and the girl getting a pair of pants just like that... and turned into an ottsel so she could fit into them.
- In NetHack, it is possible to be granted a wish. A common choice is to wish for a blessed Archon figurine, which when used has an 80% chance of netting you an extremely powerful pet. There is, however a 10% chance that it will instead be generated hostile. Have a Nice Death!
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has a group of kids who wish they can live in the fantasy world that their video game (which is also called Final Fantasy) presents. Their wish is granted, though Marche isn't keen on the idea of staying in a fantasy world forever.
- Persona 2: Innocent Sin puts a spin on this. You don't so much have to be careful what you wish for, as be careful about wishing at all. Having your wildest dreams handed to you without struggle or effort will eventually rob you of your ideal energy, causing you to fade away to nonexistence.
- Left 4 Dead:
- This was the case on the production level for Left 4 Dead 2. Valve is notoriously known for their Valve Time due to how long they take to produce games in order to perfect them and/or delaying games after they get close to a release date. People got sick of Valve taking too long to produce anything, so Valve made Left 4 Dead 2 nearly one year after the first game was released in order to prove to people that they CAN release on time and on a fixed schedule. While Left 4 Dead 2 was generally well received, the more dedicated fans complain to this day about random bugs and balance issues with some people stating Valve Time is actually a good thing and Valve should not be rushed.
- Similarly, corner camping became a huge issue in Left 4 Dead 1; it was a technique used by survivor players where they huddle in a corner or in a closet and mow down all infected that came their way. People complained about the exploit and started to make suggestions to counter corner camping, which Valve implemented for Left 4 Dead 2 with new infected that dealt with survivors that holed up in a spot (Spitter, Charger, and Jockey), allowing common infected to rush in from more places, and included gauntlet crescendos where survivors have to keep moving through a never ending horde and stop the source (such an an alarm). This worked too well since now most survivor players will always rush the maps and hardly stop, making it difficult for zombie players to be able to spawn in time or attack effectively. Naturally, people are complaining about the changes and want even more special infected that has the ability to stop a survivor from running.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Daedric Prince Clavicus Vile is essentially this trope given corporeal form. The cave in which you find his shrine is populated with vampires that wished for an end to their suffering, which they presumably thought meant a cure for vampirism. He gave them a heavily armed adventurer. Vile sends you after the Rueful Axe, which he granted to a wizard who wished to end his daughter's lycanthropy.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As Portable: The Gears of Destiny: As Levi mentioned with her dying breath, Lord Dearche finally got the nigh-unlimited power that she had always wanted. However, it came at a price she was never willing to pay, namely, the lives of Stern and Levi, her two loyal retainers. Unsurprisingly, her main motivation for the rest of the game is to reverse this so she could get Stern and Levi back.
- Ragnarok allows you to make wishes if you can find the wand of wishing. However, if you don't have sufficient luck, or you wish for certain unique items you will get an evil item instead.
- PAYDAY: The Heist has the Cloaker, a special SWAT unit who can instantly down players by kicking them. The sequel was supposed to have Cloakers, but they were Dummied Out due to them causing the game to crash if they kicked a player. The Cloaker was MIA for several months and everyone kept demanding for the Cloaker to return. The Cloaker eventually was brought back, still doing his instant takedown kicks. Most of the people that wanted the Cloaker now don't want him anymore.
- In Final Fantasy XIII-2, Noel mentions that he wanted the Power of Chaos that Caius had so that he could be a "true guardian." In one of the Paradox Endings, you find out what happens if he actually gets it: he's driven nearly catatonic by it, and mentions that having it is the beginning of a nightmare.
- Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy VII fame did not like the fact that he was a muggle and a mook, and envied his Super Soldier friend and his Super Prototype perfect warrior commander, wanting to be like them. His wish was fulfilled, but not in a good way: the Mad Scientist Dr. Hojo, the creator of Shinra's superhuman project, press-ganged him into his experiments and turned him into another human-Jenova hybrid at the cost of his memories and sanity. Cloud got the cool powers he wanted, but it damaged his personality, partially fusing it with that of his aforementioned friend, and made him vulnerable to mind control, which had a huge impact on his later life. Hojo thought Cloud to be a failed experiment, however Cloud ended up as the only successful human-Jenova hybrid on the side of good.
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2 does this too, subtly. In the Special Episode "Bidoof's Wish", Bidoof finds and wakes Jirachi, who grants him a wish because that's how wish gods work. His wish is for a new apprentice that he can show around and be friends with. He gets his wish in the form of the hero and partner, but the wish's implementation causes Darkrai's evil scheme and the entire Time Gear crisis to bring the hero in from the future. At least he's happy with what he gets.
- Discussed in detail in Fate/stay night, but for the most part averted. Except for Archer. I want to save everyone! I know, how about I make a contract with the world? Guardian Spirits gets to save people all the time! Oh wait, they actually kill people en masse indiscriminately to prevent them from killing even more people. Woops. Other than that little mistake, it seems the idea is 'do what you can with your own ability, and accept your own failures if it doesn't work.
- Also played straight in "Unlimited Blade Works" when Shinji obtains the Holy Grail... by having it implanted in his body, transforming him into its vessel. He recovers and is noted to have reverted to a more pleasant personality after overcoming his obsession.
- And played straight in the case of the Bigger Bad of the whole story: Angra Mainyu/Avenger was an ordinary villager whose compatriots chose him to be the embodiment of all mankind's sins and sacrificed him. In doing this they wished for there to be an external embodiment of evil they could dispose of in order to purify themselves. The Grail, when it absorbed Avenger, attempted to grant that wish, and as a result there now exists a being made up of every sin mankind has ever or will ever commit, an Embodiment of Evil, and it is not pleased at all with humanity for having created it. Nice going, ancient villagers.
- One of the side stories in Kagetsu Tohya has Shiki living in a world based on Twin Threesome Fantasy fantasy scenario he had. The problem is, he realized such a thing could never happen unless they were in a world all by themselves plus he's currently already trapped inside a "Groundhog Day" Loop. So the Dream Within a Dream he has just traps him a world where he's living forever inside the mansion grounds with only Kohaku and Hisui, doing whatever he likes with them while slowly going insane.
- In Deviants Of Art the event that kicks off the plot is the depressed and frustrated hero of the story makes an exasperated wish absentmindedly. Played with in that the wish is not immediately granted, instead it's only after the main character's situation gets better and something happens in the Internet that his wish is granted. While he does like what has happened in terms of going to another world, he instantly thinks of his family and asks how he can go home.
- Also the title (more or less) of this furry cartoon (NSFW), where the wish leads to the heroine being Taken for Granite (or at least metal).
- Real Life Comics:
- A character playing a D&D game gets a ring of three wishes, much to the chagrin of the DM. The character immediately wishes for more gold than he knows what to do with, and his player is instantly crushed by a giant gold boulder. When the previous wish is reversed while still losing the wish, he then wishes for a million gold pieces, and receives gold pieces so small that he "might be able to afford an ale with them". When he finally gets a wish written up by a lawyer in order to avoid any exploitable loopholes, the DM relents and has no choice but to grant the wish. And then the player's character gets eaten by a dragon.
- Another DM had a player who wished for an infinite gold mine. His wish was granted, and the player's character was instantly teleported into a mine of solid gold, stretching forever in all directions...
- Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs from Irregular Webcomic! wished to get his job back after getting demoted. He got his job back, to process all the people who have died when the Irregular Universe was torn apart from Time Paradox.
- this comic◊ from Perry Bible Fellowship.
- And this one◊. Although in this case it's more like "dammit, I wasted my wish."
- when you ask to be sent back in time, specify when first.
- From the very end: "Who do you want brought back?" Think carefully. "Everyone" is a lot of people... and animals...
- Girl Genius has a variation: Castle Heterodyne seems to delight in creative interpretation of Agatha's orders. Not so much because of malice as much as because it's too Axe Crazy to imagine she might NOT want to kill everyone.
- This Subnormality strip shows how to have everything you could ever need in life.
So you're one of those
- Weesh has this as its premise. However, the wish-granter is not malicious (mischievious, perhaps) or literal, but the wish-makers often fail to see the implications of their wishes.
- Wishing wells don't like cheapskates.
Parson: "I mean, then... what's the lesson supposed to be here, Wanda? 'Be careful what you wish for?' This isn't what I wished for!"
Wanda: "Hah! You didn't wish for this world, Parson Gotti. It wished for you.
- Also, the "Ultimate Warlord" spell. Why did Stanley get Parson? Well, this is how he described what he wanted:
"I want him to be obsessed with war! Somebody who plans wars and kills his enemies for fun!note I want somebody who snacks on Gwiffonsnote and eats Marbits for breakfast!note
- This Deep Fried gives a possible solution.
Roadkill: Wish One: I want all my wishes loopholed out of any negative or ironic consequences. Wish Two: Apply wish number one to itself ex post facto. Wish Three: Make me the effin' master of the Universe NOW.
- Any plot in The Wotch involving Djinn will feature at least one of these types of wishes. It is explained that some Djinn do it out of spite for the human race, others do it because they've been summoned through a curse bottle that mandates their wishes backfire.
- Spiderwebs is a rare webcomic built around "Be careful what you wish for" that doesn't involve a Literal Genie: Selena was perfectly willing to explain the consequences of Luke's wish to him but Luke was too impatient to listen.
- In a Real Life example, fans of El Goonish Shive were looking for a nickname for themselves, so they asked the creator to choose one for them. They now refer to themselves as 'Bunnies'
- Subverted in Tales of the Questor: Quentyn—fully aware of what he's dealing with—is careful what he wishes for and uses his Three Wishes to utterly screw over his fae enemy (specifically, wishes that the fae would render null and void every favour and debt owed him, rendering the fae broke, to return all he stole to the duchy of Fenwick, and to return to the Fae world, never to hunt the mortal realms again).Doubly subverted when he later realizes that he could have used those wishes to get back the artifacts he's looking for and TREBLY subverted when a fae ally tells him that wishing for the artfacts back wouldn't have worked.
- He still gets bitten a little. He wished that everything the enemy had stolen be returned to Fenwick. Not just things that had been stolen from Fenwick. And the enemy had a very long career of stealing things. There are now entire store-rooms of 'returned' loot, much of which is unidentifiable and now worthless.
- Also played straight with Rahan, when he wishes he could see Quentyn's face after a prank involving pillows and tar goes off. He does—after Squidge sends the prank completely sideways.
- In Squid Row what Randi learned last year
- Ashley should have been more careful with her wishes during her modeling session in Tales of Gnosis College. Wishing that people could gaze on her beauty forever she turns into a statue.
- Amazing Super Powers got this. As to what the kid should have beware, see Alt Text.
- Very old Vera Salt of Magellan found a genie and wished herself to be younger. She started to age backwards until she was a child. Then, she wished for a way to age herself and had to siphon age from others over several centuries in order to maintain a stable age. Finally, when she was in custody, she used her last wish to wish herself free and ended up dying of old age.
- In Homestuck, the pre-Scratch troll players are hinted (and stated outright in one case) to have gotten exactly what they wanted for their lives in the retconned universe they created... at a tremendous cost.
- Aranea wished she could be outgoing and adventurous without caring about what other people think of her. Then she helped perform the Scratch and got her wish, at least vicariously... but at the cost of her people being enslaved by a devil-figure and being driven to near-extinction; because she didn't really care about other people, she did nothing to prevent any of the suffering.
- Kankri wanted to fight for social justice, and his Scratched counterpart was a Messianic Archetype... who ended up with an even more painful end than Jesus, for significantly less accomplishment.
- Damara wanted to serve Lord English, and her counterpart suffered so much in doing so that she was Driven to Suicide.
- Meenah wanted to be a horrific absolute monarch without personal responsibility regarding her society's rigid White Man's Burden (which fell on her the heaviest), and her counterpart was just such a tyrant... who was secretly forced to obey the Bigger Bad and who was so cruel a tyrant that she tortured the counterpart of one of Meenah's friends, who Meenah never wanted to harm.
- Same for Kurloz, who became head of his church and likewise killed those his counterpart cared about
- Porrim wanted to take care of Kankri; she did so, then watched him killed and was made a slave
- Meulin wanted true love, got it, and then saw it killed in front of her
- Latula wanted to bring justice and protect the innocent, and was lynched for it
- Cronus wanted to be part of an interesting story and have a dramatic rival; his rival took actions which ended with him being murdered by a clown. He'd also stated that he wanted to be treated as he deserved; he was treated exactly that way.
- Mituna wanted to help his friends and was made into a living battery/engine part by one of them
- Rufioh wanted to be a hero, and led a great rebellion... which failed and made things worse
- Finally, they wanted the new session to succeed where they had failed - the pre-Scratch society was ill-prepared for the challenges of the game, mostly the combat ones. The new troll society was made ruthless and incredibly aggressive, and its players were capable of blazing through the fights, but ignored the finer, subtler points of the game... the points that were meant to turn them into better people so that they would succeed in life.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, after September scared November with the story of a mother who turned her daughter into a raven, their mother assured November that she would never wish her daughters away, being aware of the dangers.
- In the Spare Keys For Strange Doors story "Kill the Romance", Trisha attempts to use magic to create a perfect boyfriend.
- In Doc Rat, Wilbur Fuzz is shaken when after all his jokes about heart attacks, he actually has one. He thinks of Crying Wolf. The paramedics — wolves — tell him that they came, and he should be careful what he wishes for.
- In Commander Kitty, CK's at first excited to realize his new passenger is apparently a Bad Ass being pursued by the Triple-I...until he realizes that means the Triple-I are now after him.
- In Ménage ŕ 3, central character Gary implicitly wishes, in the second panel of the very first strip, for a more interesting life. He gets ... to be the central character of this comic. Actually, it's not entirely a bad life, but he gets things like lots of women wanting him without ever getting a clue how to handle the consequences. Other characters in the same comic also tend to get things that they think they want, while lacking the emotional maturity to deal with them.
- In Oglaf, we got a wishing dolly that ruins people's wishes on purpose. For example an ugly girl wished to be beautiful, and she became so fancy everyone thinks she's out of their league. Then there's a guy who wanted to be able to see everyone naked and can't tell anymore whether he himself is wearing clothes or not.
Wishing Dolly: Awww! Are you sad? Tell wish dolly what you really want.
Wishing Dolly: He's tried that! How do you think he got the horn?
Boy: Piss off, wish dolly.
- In The Order of the Stick Nale demands independence from his father, saying that he wants NOTHING from him, and specifically including nepotism, charity, and pity. Nale tried to overthrow his father, constantly insults him and tries to undermine his authority, and killed his best friend and valuable ally Malack. So when Tarquin stops treating him like his son, and treats him like he would anyone else who's done those things, he immediately kills him. He points out as Nale dies that he'd have been dead years ago if Tarquin hadn't been protecting him.
- In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things's Deconstructive Parody of Power Rangers, Zordon asks Commander Badass to find "five teenagers with attitude" to become the Power Rangers. They don't want to take orders from Zordon.
- Lei'ella warns Acheron of this in Inverloch when he says he wants to find out what happened to his Disappeared Dad. She's right. Finding out that Roche was murdered by an elf gives Acheron a Heroic BSOD and nearly makes him abandon his quest.
- Rob from Dimension Heroes wishing for a less boring summer. Boy, did he get that wish granted...
- The Creepypasta titled "The Wishes".
- Invoked in an intentionally nonsensical manner in the Something Awful parody "horror film" Doom House. "My name is Reginald P. Linux, and ever since my wife died, I've been very depressed. This is why I've been searching for the house of my dreams. But as a philosopher once said, be careful what you dream for, because you just... might... get it." Since he wasn't "dreaming for" a house haunted by an odd-looking figurine and built over a terrorist burial camp, this makes no sense, and it's only put there as a parody of bad writing.
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is this trope played deadly straight. Billy/Dr. Horrible wants to be a supervillain and join the Evil League of Evil. He also wants to get a girlfriend. Well, he gets one of his wishes when the Evil League demands that he commit a heinous crime ("a murder would be nice of course") as a membership test. This turns out to be Foreshadowing, as the final confrontation with his Arch-Enemy, Captain Hammer, ends with the latter's humiliating defeat and the world bowing to him in fear due to the murder of... his girlfriend, Penny. Cue his entry into the Evil League, having both gained and lost everything he wanted.
- From one of The Cinema Snob's reviews, Beware Children at Play...
Snob: You know, the kids are evil, just fucking kill them!
(Massacre of children begins as the Snob watches in horror)
Snob:...I wasn't serious about killing them!
- Dragon Ball Abridged:
- Gohan points out this trope in his nerdish way after he and Krillin realize the recently-revived Picollo was brought back to Namek...on the other side of the planet from where they are standing.
Gohan: Oh, so it's a sort of monkey's paw. You have to be careful with the hubris in your wishes.
- Krillin wished for the perfect Christmas tree. Shenron delivered. Thanks for the special, you two!
Reject Mall Santa: Turles, sir! Our ship has mysteriously changed course for a new planet: Earth!
Turles: Does it contain the sufficient amount of joy?
Reject Mall Santa: According to our sensors... yes!
Turles: Well, then... merry Christmas!
- Several JonTron fans kept constantly whining about a lack of new videos, so Jon decided he should please them by leaving Game Grumps to go work on his own videos. While Danny Sexbang, his replacement, is not getting nearly the same amount of hatred he did when he first showed up, there are still many fans who wish they just kept their mouths shut in the first place.
- In Lucky Day Forever, 514 finally wins the lottery in this film, but he gets locked into the Lotus-Eater Machine and gets used as resources for the Whites.
- In Doom House, when Reginald informs the audience of his ambition to move into the house of his dreams in his Opening Narration, he is still quick to remember the words of a philosopher, "Be careful what you dream for because you just might get it."
- "A Caution to the Wise" from The Wanderer's Library.
- In the Tales of the Folly series in the Chakona Space setting, you really should be careful what you wish for on the Folly, as there are a number of fairly mischievous, and meddlesome Rakshani Deities hanging around. The trope is lampshaded word-for-word on a couple of occasions.
- In Noob, we find out that the reason Judge Dead quit playing the MMORPG in which the story is set and got himself hired as a Game Master was that another player among the elite turned out to be his father attempting to connect with him. Judge Dead didn't take it well due to suffering from an Inferiority Superiority Complex and his father being much better at him at stuff having become a pattern over the years. Once a Game Master, Judge Dead decided to use his new power to spite the other player, who had also quit. A message along the lines of "If you want to apologize, log in your avatar one last time and let me ban it forever." gets sent. The other player did log in his gaming avatar Clark Kenting as the hacker known to always get himself in the game despite the best efforts of the Game Master team in the main timeframe.. The whole story can very well qualify for Create Your Own Villain.
- The Open-Source Wish Project tries to find perfect, loophole-less wordings for wishes to avert this trope. While it might work against the Jackass Genie, it doesn't really strike at the heart of the lesson of this trope; if you get exactly the thing you wanted, there's still the possibility you'll find you don't like it.
- In a rough flowchart of the endings for Mass Effect 3, BioWare writer supposedly noted that he wanted the endings to cause LOTS OF SPECULATION FROM EVERYONE. He/They got his/their wish; Mass Effect 3's ending is quickly becoming as infamous for being infuriatingly confusing and nonsensical as that of LOST and that of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Trope Codifier for Gainax Endings. They eventually released an Extended Cut that tried to cudgel most of it into making at least narrative (although not scientific) sense, presumably as an attempt to synthesise a wish that they hadn't made the first wish.
- In 2001, the city of Buffalo, NY had no snow in November and most of December, and it was possible that the city would have no snow on Christmas. So on Christmas Eve, everyone in Buffalo wished for a white Christmas. The next day, they awoke to the beginning of a 5-day blizzard that killed 4 people and dropped seven feet of snow onto the city. Whoops.
- Richard Heene's attempt to become a reality star with his Balloon Boy stunt on October 15, 2009. Looks like he succeeded, just not in the way he had hoped for.
- After viewing his teammate going past him for the win as an act of betrayal, Gilles Villeneuve vowed never to speak to Didier Pironi ever again. He got it: Villeneuve was killed in qualifying the very next race.
- As it was entering its third season, the producers of Moral Orel asked the creators to give them the darkest season they could. And boy did they get it. One episode in particular, the infamous "Alone" was so dark, the producers sliced season three's original episode count in half, and axed the show.
- Chicago Bears fans wished to be rid of Rex Grossman for throwing too many interceptions (despite leading them to the Super Bowl in his first season as a starter). Then came along Jay Cutler, who led the NFL in interceptions.
- When Lena, a young German girl, moved out from her parents' house at 18 (this was in 2007), they were not happy about it and had repeatedly tried to convince her to come back. Then Lena got caught in the 2010 Love Parade Disaster. Since then, she returned to her parent's house - and she refuses to leave and constantly clings to her parents.
- Carrie Fisher had complained about how boring Princess Leia's wardrobe was from the first two Star Wars movies, so George Lucas had wardrobe make the iconic Slave Leia costume for Return of the Jedi. She would describe it as "what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of hell".
- Natalie Portman did something similar and got the black corset number she wore in Attack of the Clones.
- "Better Hitler than Blum!" - Slogan of the French ultra-conservatives. Sometimes fate can be a Literal Genie.
- Many Teen Titans fans who didn't like how the show ended wanted to have the characters return and to have their stories continue. Seven years after the finale, Teen Titans Go! happened.
- Wall Street got its wish when Elizabeth Warren was blocked from taking the top spot at her brainchild the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. After the notoriously outspoken consumer advocate wasn't even nominated - because the President knew he could never get her confirmed in the Senate - Warren went back to Massachusetts and launched her campaign against incumbent Senator Scott Brown. She won the election by an eight-point landslide, Wall Street lost its favorite Senator, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has no intention of stopping her crusade any time soon, is now not only part of the very body that wanted to send her back to her ivory tower, but (thanks to John Kerry's promotion) Massachussetts's senior Senator and a member of the Senate Banking Committee — which is where Wall Street absolutely did not want her. Oooops! And then the awesome continued to just keep coming; most notably, the presiding officer of the Senate holding the gavel when Richard Cordray was finally confirmed as head of the CFPB was none other than Senator Elizabeth Warren. Holy cow.
- Scott Brown's own election was an example of this. In 2004, the heavily Democratic state legislature was concerned that if then-Senator John Kerry became President, then-Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, would choose his successor and Massachusetts would have a Republican senator until at least the next regular election. So, they passed a law requiring a special election in case of a Senate vacancy. Kerry lost the election and remained in the Senate, and the next vacancy was when Ted Kennedy passed away in 2009. By then, Massachusetts had a Democratic governor who appointed a Democrat to succeed him- until the special election the Democrats had put in place back in 2004, which Scott Brown won.
- Early on in 2001, a couple found out that their 12-year-old son was gay. So they prayed to God that they would no longer have a gay son. After several years, their son became so depressed and frustrated that he started doing drugs. Even though he eventually kicked his habit, he started hanging out with his friends who were still doing drugs. He wound up using drugs again, and subsequently died of an overdose. And now the couple doesn't have a gay son...
- Engineer Henry Winstanley achieved what was thought to be the impossible when he successfully built a lighthouse on the the notorious Eddystone rocks. He was so pleased with it that he often expressed a wish to be inside it during "the greatest storm there ever was". On 27 November 1703, his wish came true, as he was overseeing repairs when the Great Storm of 1703 struck the south coast of England. The lighthouse was completely destroyed and Winstanley was never seen again.
- In March of 2014, Steve Colbert did a segment on his show making an Asian joke. Many Asians and other people found the joke offensive and racist. This resulted in a twitter campaign called #CancelColbert, run by a well known Asian American activist named Suey Parks. After three weeks of the boycott, it was revealed in early April 2014 that Colbert is leaving Comedy Central, to be the replacement host for The Late Show, taking over for the retiring David Letterman. In short, Steve Colbert's career actually improved not worsened after the controversy, but the Colbert show on the Comedy Central cable channel will end after Letterman makes his final appearance.
- For many years, fans of The Stooges wished that Iggy Pop would remix their Raw Power album, which suffered from a rushed, thin mix by David Bowie. In 1997, he finally did, but the result was so painfully loud that the rest of the band and even many fans preferred the earlier version.
- The late Clarence Ray Allen was spending life imprisonment for a murder he committed in 1974. While in prison, he wanted a new trial so that he could be acquitted and get back out on the street. He contracted a fellow inmate to murder the witnesses who testified against him before. The murders got carried out. When the authorities found out that Allen had arranged the murders, they did give him a new trial - he was convicted of several counts of murder and executed in 2006.