In Code Geass: "My mother is dead!" "Old news, what of it?" This dialogue took place between a boy and his father. Just days after it happened. Justified in that acting this way was part of the father's Evil Plan.note The truth was that the mother wasn't quite dead, and the father WAS affected by it..
In the first episode, a truck crashes and everyone stands around taking photos and occasionally talking about how "someone" should call somebody. Lelouch (after contemptuously lampshading the way other people fall for this trope,) actually runs up to the truck to see if anyone needs help. This is Foreshadowing for one of the defining aspects of his character; his absolute refusal to think it's Somebody Else's Problem if there's something he can do. However, the rest of the series does not shy away from showing how much damage this otherwise admirable trait can cause, as Lelouch's refusal to accept a Crapsack World and his resistance against it gets lots of people killed.
Kanako Oora in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has this as her defining character trait. To her, everything else is somebody else's problem. Like, say, a huge pile of corpses in the classroom after one of Chiri's rampages. On the other hand, everybody calls her magnanimous for not judging you for your problems.
The chapter aptly named "The Bystanders", explores this trope.
If it doesn't involve his little brother Mokuba, his company KaibaCorp, his position as a duelist, defeating Yugi Moto, or owning the most powerful cards (particularly ones related to the Blue-Eyes White Dragon), this defines Seto Kaiba of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! to a T.
But at some point after the series ends, he starts caring enough to devote a significant part of his vast fortune into creating Duel Academia, a school intended to deal with all the magical consequences of Duel Monsters. Thus setting the stage for Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
Invoked by Fate in Mahou Sensei Negima!, when he tries to convince Negi not to interfere with his plans to destroy the Magic World. His argument was "This isn't your world, it's just a fantasy, and you really shouldn't interfere in it's affairs." This is before Negi discovers who his mother is.
Pokémon Special: During their encounter at Fortree, Ruby states to Sapphire that he has no intention of helping defend Hoenn from Teams Magma and Aqua - his reasons being that [A] he's only in it for the Contests and [B] he isn't Hoenn born and raised. Cue the fireworks.
Ah! My Goddess had a few instances when passer-bys decided to ignore the heroes' home because they were used to strange happenings there and didn't want to get involved.
In A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, many people are like this. In episode 5 of Railgun, Uiharu begs for help as a bank robber mercilessly beats up Kuroko, but the people just walk past her. Fortunately, Mikoto answers her plea. Silvia does not care about any matter that doesn't directly concern her, and gets irritated whenever Ollerus helps people and drags her into it. Many of the good guys, like the members of Necessarius, seem to only do good if the problem directly concerns them, and they just don't get why Touma helps anybody in trouble even if he won't get any benefit from doing so.
Happens on a mass scale in Psycho-Passwhen a man beats a woman to death in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses, and not a single person does anything to intervene. This was done as part of a demonstration to show that people have become so accustomed to the Sibyl System managing their lives that they no longer have any ability to do so themselves - many of the onlookers are so used to depending on Sibyl to shield them from danger and violence that they simply can't comprehend what they're watching.
While Dragon Ball Z's Vegeta isn't usually like this, he sits out the fight in Wrath of the Dragon until the villain crushes his house.
In Is This a Zombie?, Ariel is an extremely powerful magic user, fully capable of curb-stomping nearly any Big Bad. Unfortunately, if a matter doesn't concern her students, she doesn't care about it. When Ayumu tries to call her out on this, she just sets him on fire for his insolence and leaves.
Taken to Too Dumb to Live levels in Fairy Tail. When Jackal, one of the rare villains capable of actually killing another character, comes to assassinate a former councilor, just about no one cares. He sets explosions off all over the town just to piss the heroes off, and when his target runs away in the next chapter, it can be seen that no one felt troubled enough by this to flee, and when the councilor insists that his life is in danger and he needs help, they casually question his identity and muse that he might have been the bomber. Even when Jackal shows up and threatens to blow up Lucy, who tries to tell the civilians that it's too dangerous for them to stay in the area while standing on a glowing landmine they all discuss how they've seen her on TV. It isn't until Jackal picks a random bystander to attack that they suddenly realize they might want to react to the situation a bit more seriously.
The Navy in One Piece seems to have this action towards slavery. Despite it being illegal in the series, they do nothing to help stop it or even help protect any slaves that come to them. If it is a World Noble's slave, they are even tasked to get them back. No Navy officer has been shown to have a problem with this.
In Bleach, the Royal Guard aka Squad Zero show up only after the Vandenreich decimated Soul Society. When asked why they didn't help even though they were aware of the situation, they flat out state that their only concern is guarding the Soul King and protecting Soul Society is the Gotei 13's responsibility, not theirs. The only reason why they are intervening now is because the Vandenreich proved themselves to be a threat significant enough to threaten the Soul King.
They actually have a point. One of the duties of the 13 Court Guard Squads is to guard the Soul Society and, by extension, the gateway to the Soul King's palace. The royal Guard are the bodyguards of the Soul King; if they rush to the aid of the Gotei 13, who is going to guard the him? In the off-chance someone finds a way around the defenses of the Soul Society, the king is as good as dead.
This is a regularly occurring concept in the Marvel and DC universes. Even in places where several super-powered heroes or organizations of heroes coexist, most notably the Marvel Universe's New York City metropolitan area, they tend to let everybody deal with their respective Rogue Gallery, regardless of the possible threat to civilians. This is averted on a fairly regular basis, but is still noticeable.
In Avengers vs. X-Men, the X-Men call out the Avengers for not being more responsive to the frequent attempts at genocide mutants have to fight off on a regular basis.
Retellings of the original Galactus trilogy often struggle to explain what the Avengers and other super-heroes were all doing while the Fantastic Four stood alone saving the world.
In DMZ, Wilson has kept his army of "grandsons" out of several fights and military incidents because it either isn't their fight, isn't their war, isn't something that concerns them, etc. Wilson's only concern is building up his power in China Town/among the Chinese, and working towards being the most powerful force in Manhattan.
Rorschach himself is, oddly, an inversion of the trope. The bystander effect largely stems from the same psychology as A Million Is a Statistic: "I don't know this person, so it's difficult, if not impossible, for me to see them as real or to have any real care or concern for their plight." Rorschach is the opposite: he has no problem defending humanity in a general way (e.g., beating up criminals) and idolizes or idealizes people he doesn't know (Kitty Genovese, Harry Truman, etc.) but virtually every person he actually meets, he hates.
Homestuck fic Unwanted Free Ugly Troll has this as the reaction to an abandoned young troll in a box on the street, even from the main character Dave. It's only when Dave is heading back through hours later, in the pouring rain and with no one else around, that he makes it his problem and rescues the little thing. The rest of the story concerns him adjusting to a life of abandoned trolls being his problem, and his attempts to make others care as well.
In Parting Words, this mentality is part of why bullying has become such an issue: most who witness the CMC getting bullied assume their families are already aware of the issue, so they don't get involved. Making matters worse is that Apple Bloom has come to believe her big sister flat-out doesn't CARE, as her attempts to tell her have gotten constantly blown off. Fixing the damage this has done to their relationship becomes part of the focus in the sequel, The Great Alicorn Hunt.
In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, the Kamen Rider Club heavily blame themselves for not stopping Meteor from killing Fourze like in the original series. In the side story Tears to Shed, the resurrected (and brainwashed) Gentaro calls them out on this because they stood there while he got killed off and they never stepped forth to save him. Moreover, this trope is deconstructed with Yuki because all the antagonists will remind her on how she only cried "Stop!" just as Meteor gave Fourze the one-inch punch.
Discussed in Dirty Sympathy when Apollo asks himself if he had spotted Klavier's abuse wounds at the pharmacy instead of the other way around. He admits that he probably would have ignored Klavier and fled him to his fate.
In Airplane!, fully a third of the gags are set up by contrasting the terrible things happening and the passengers' complete indifference to them. Examples include the unconscious bodies of the pilots being dragged through the aisle, a little girl nearly dying after her IV gets knocked out, and the Offscreen Crash near the end.
The passengers in Airplane II: The Sequel react with utter stoicism to being told that the lunar shuttle they're on is off course and being hit by asteroids. Being told they are out of coffee induces a full scale riot.
Big Jake: "I haven't interfered in anyone else's business since I was eighteen years old... and it damn near got me killed!" He changes his mind when he witnesses a Kick the Dog moment on the part of one of the goons.
Seems to be a prominent theme in Brazil, notably at the beginning; when the wrong man is arrested and dies under torture, all any of the departments care about is that the problem doesn't trace back to them.
Rick Blaine in Casablanca appears this way for a while ("I stick my neck out for nobody"), especially when he seems willing to turn over a resistance leader to the Nazis because he is married to Rick's former lover. Eventually, however, we see that Rick isn't nearly as selfish as he lets on.
The Emperor and the Assassin. The entire royal court stands by while Jing Ke tries to kill Ying Zheng. After the assassin fails, the Emperor is understandably pissed and roars at everyone to Get Out.
A man on the street frantically screaming "They're here!" only to be ignored / assumed mad in most if not all versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Irreversible has a woman brutally raped in an underpass. While the camera focus is on the action, the background shows someone enter the underpass, take a look at what's happening, turn around and walk away without even calling the cops.
Similarly, Last Action Hero has the villain, after he's transported to the real world, shoot a man in an alley to test a theory.
Benedict (shouting in the street): Hello! I have just shot a man and I did it on purpose! (silence) I said, I have just murdered a man, and I wish to confess!
Citizen: Hey, shut up down there!
In The Mummy, O'Connell tries to convince Evy that the end of the world is somebody else's problem, with little success.
The Purge: A man is running through the suburbs begging for help because a gang is after him. Mary Sandin isn't bothered by it, while James Sandin looks like he wishes he could help but he can't. The minute one of their kids lets him in is the minute it becomes the Sandin's problem.
In Se7en, Somerset tells Mills, "The first thing they teach women in rape prevention is never cry for help. Always yell 'Fire!' Nobody answers to 'Help!' You holler 'Fire!', they come running." After all, "In any major city, minding your own business is a science." Presumably fire is less subject to this syndrome than rape because it can quickly become everyone's problem.
Several times in the German film Der letzte Zug, which depicts the six-day journey of the last Berlin Jews to Auschwitz, the eponymous train stops at stations and the imprisoned passengers beg passersby on platforms and other trains for water and food, but are ignored. It comes as a welcome surprise when trope is eventually averted by a group of Wehrmacht soldiers.
The Great Waldo Pepper: After Ezra crashes, the spectators all rush out to look at the wreckage, but none of them move to help as Waldo tries to pull him from the wreck, even when it catches fire.
In K.A. Applegate's Animorphs, initially, the kids see the Yeerk war as strictly between the Andalites and the Yeerks, which is why Marco is so against getting involved. However, when Jake learns Tom is a Controller, the kids realize that the stakes are much closer to home than previously thought. By the end of the series, the kids have lost their faith in the erstwhile Andalite reinforcements, and have concluded that the Andalites think it's All Up To You.
In Terry Pratchett's Making Money Moist von Lipwig notes that people pay more attention to small noises than big ones, because while small noises are immediate and threatening, loud noises are 'everyone's problem, and therefore, not mine'.
Richard Mayhew's refusal to yield to this trope, when he found Door bleeding on the sidewalk, led him into London Below. His fiancee declared it someone else's problem, and so remained in London Above.
Residents of London Below tend not to be noticed by the Above folks in the first place. Later in the book, his fiance recognizes him for a brief moment, then is unable to even -see- him.
In the Gone series, 90% of the Perdido Beach kids have this attitude. An apartment is burning down with a kid inside? Sam can deal with it. We're running out of food? Sam can find more. The Human Crew is running around trying to kill the mutants? That's the Sam's problem, not ours. Caine and Drake have gotten into the Power Plant and are going to feed uranium to a monster? It's Sam's job to stop them!
The former Trope Namer is Life, the Universe and Everything. We're introduced to the concept of the Somebody Else's Problem Field, a sort of stealth system that automatically triggers the Weirdness Censor of anyone who looks directly at it. When it first crops up in the book, Ford tries looking at it from odd angles to get through. Meanwhile, Arthur just calmly remarks that he can see through it (which, obviously, means that it's his problem).
In the short story "Grotto of the Dancing Deer", the main character befriends a 20,000 year old man who says he has survived by always staying on the fringes and never volunteering for anything.
This crops up constantly in the Hush, Hush series. In the first book, a particularly creepy instance happens when Patch and Nora have to take shelter in a motel, while it's raining. Patch sets up for them to get a room which the man behind the desk complies with, all while Nora continuously insists that no she does not want to share a room with him. Patch then ends up attacking Nora in the room and threatens her life. When she says she'll scream if he doesn't let her go, he invokes this trope by saying no one will care if a woman screams in a motel as seedy as this. In Crescendo, Scott is able to almost flat-out abduct Nora in the middle of a crowded amusement park simply by telling everyone that she's his girlfriend and they enjoy playing a game in public where he pretends to grab her and she pretends to resist. Everyone buys this and one guy laughs.
In Across the Universe, Amy is nearly raped in public during the Season. When she screams for a couple of people nearby to help, one of them just smiles and tells her to calm down and stop struggling, or she'll get hurt. Given that everyone present but Amy is under the effect of very potent mood-altering drugs, it at least is justified.
In Stephen King's It, the heroes notice the shockingly high level of this in Derry. It's never explained if it's due to Mind Rape via Eldritch Abomination or just human nature, but Derry frequently ignores several massacres and a x6 murder rate. Additionally, only one non-main character seems aware of a 27 years cycle where numerous children either disappear or turn up gruesomely murdered until some massive catastrophe with multiple deaths is required to return things to normal, as each wave of killings seems to be treated as something new, and the assumed Serial Killer is never mentioned outside of town.
Noted in the famous poem "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, which is famous for it's opening lines: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone". Effectively, the poem's message is this trope; people will willingly share joy and happiness, but will seldom listen to your troubles.
The premise of Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door , and The Movieof The Book. The source material is even worse.
Live Action TV
The Twilight Zone: An episode of the 1980s run, "A Little Peace and Quiet," where in the substory about her newly-found amulet that can stop and start time by simply saying "Shut up!" and "Start talking!" Penny (the story's main protagonist) also takes the trope as she ignores news reports about dramatically rising tensions between the United States and Soviet Union, with each side refusing to concede. She realizes – much too late – that she should not have been a bystander when, in the final moments the USSR unleashes a massive nuclear bomb attack on the U.S. ... and the only thing she can do to save her own skin is shout "Shut up!"
The whole premise of the ABC's What Would You Do? is take a current hot-button issue, have actors play it out in public, and see if anyone steps in to help. Some topics covered in the show for example include racial or religious discrimination and seeing whether or not any bystanders step in and help speak out against such injustice. A few bystanders play this trope straight. It becomes both Heartwarming Moments and Moment Of Awesome for those individuals who choose to avert, subvert, and just outright defy this trope.
The Four Man Band of Seinfeld is incarcerated in the finale for the many, many times they do this (as well as just being horrible). The breaking point is the four watching a man get mugged and laughing about it.
Ironically, the final example of this would have been the one time it was somewhat of a good thing, as they had taped it and thus had video evidence of the crime, meaning they did something that can help the mugger be caught. Of course, that's not how the show had it turn out.
In one episode of The Young Ones, the characters have stumbled across a time warp and now have a horde of medieval peasants out to kill them. They are terrified, and wonder aloud how they are going to get out of this predicament, when Vyvyan says "Who cares?", and the housemates instantly lose interest in their own mortal peril. End of episode. Considering they die on a near-daily basis...
Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It calls this trope NoMFuP: "Not My Fucking Problem".
Jack Bauer of 24, season 2 premiere. He's still haunted by his wife's murder, his daughter wants nothing to do with him, and he's on the verge of suicide. The reason he leaves is to warn Kim to get out of LA. Later, when seeing a mother with her child, Jack decides to do something about it:
Mason: There's a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. We believe it's going to go off today.
Jack: How good's your intel?
[Jack walks out]
This must be the reason Burn Notice's Michael Westen gets away with so very many illegal acts in the middle of downtown Miami. Unless he wants the police to show up, people will safely ignore him when he sets off explosives, gets involved in car chases, and generally makes a mess of the local real estate. At least, until we find out that he's being specifically protected by various organizations, purposefully making it so the police don't link him to his activities.
This is how most citizens of Sunnydale react to the rampant supernatural activity in their town on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
LOST: In the episode "Greatest Hits", we see a flashback to Charlie playing his guitar on the streets for money. When the show's over, he hears a woman (Nadia) screaming for help as a man tried to rob her purse. He chases him away by repeatedly hitting him with his guitar case. When she thanks him, Charlie says he did what anyone else would've done, to which Nadia replies that at least three people passes by before him and none of them even tried to help her.
In Highlander, Methos has survived for millennia mostly by not getting mixed up in other people's problems.
Duncan: Don't you want to see Robert and Gina live happily ever after?
Methos: Yeah, but I want to see me live happily ever after even more.
In the infamous episode "That's My Dog" from Six Feet Under, David gets carjacked. He suffers terribly and actually doesn't have many opportunities to ask for help because that might get him killed. However, when the psycho lets him go, he's seen going along a road, badly beaten and looking awful. He tries to stop somebody, but all cars just ignore him and keep going. Luckily, a police car appears at the end.
Played for Laughs in the episode "Lucky Penny" from How I Met Your Mother. Barney has run the New York City Marathon without training and enjoys his free ride on the subway, showing off his medal. However, his legs stop working and he can't get off. Barney gets insulted for not giving up his seat for other people (an old woman, a pregnant woman and a boy with crutches). He calls Ted to come to pick him up, but Ted doesn't manage it on time so Barney is traped there and is riding from end to end over and over. In The Tag, he's seen still riding on the empty subway. Nobody would help him.
Phil Ochs's song "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" deals with the political ramifications of this trope.
The Protomen's first album is a deconstruction of Holding Out for a Hero, with this as an accompanying theme. In the first song, Protoman is built to liberate an oppressed city from Dr. Wily and his robot army, but after a protracted battle through the streets, he's killed by Wily's robots while a crowd of citizens look on, none of them willing to risk themselves to save "their hero."
You want to close your eyes you want to make believe this tangled web you weave is nowhere near the place you sleep while other people’s lives are cheap and all of this is someone else’s problem.
There's one Mister Boffo comic where all of the passengers one one side of an airplane are panicking. The passengers on the other side of the plane sit quietly and confident, because, as one of them brags, "We've still got our wing!"
Exalted: The design philosophy of high level Stealth charms. Won't it be easier if people (supernaturally) ignore you doing your business of killing someone?
The "Shards of the Exalted Dream" supplement adds an example in the form of the Sidereal Firearms charm "Wearing Red to a Wedding". When in use, this power prevents observers from noticing anything wrong with the user being covered in blood, injured, or otherwise showing signs of having just been involved in violence. They can see these things just fine, but it never crosses their mind that they're something to be concerned about.
A major problem in Legend of the Five Rings. The general reaction of most of Rokugan to the Shadowlands is to stick their heads in the ground and pretend that they'll go away. Outside the Crab Clan (the people whose job it is to keep them out of Rokugan), it's considered dishonorable to even mention them when it's not absolutely necessary.
And asking you to deliver trinkets to some dude and generally just standing around doing nothing.
This happens in every single RPG in existence, even when there's a giant meteor hanging in the sky or the last boss is hanging over the earth in a huge purple blob and you're the world's only hope. Chalk it down to how confident they are in the hero's skills.
A notable subversion is Wizardry 7, in which competing parties are not only attempting to reach the same goal as your party, they can actually find and take important main-quest items before you, making the game more difficult to finish.
In the Baldur's Gate games, the lazy, lazy NPCs may well claim to be amazing warriors, but they'll still stand around waiting for you to reach them before they go to rescue their friend/kill rats/buy a book/retrieve something that was stolen.
Final Fantasy X lampshades this with a merchant charging the party when a giant monster is rampaging outside. Even though he acknowledges that he might die soon, he has confidence in the party.
In Zelda games, the world's gonna be destroyed if the princess isn't rescued, whether she's been kidnapped, turned to stone, or vanished off the face of Hyrule. Since you, Link, are already dealing with it, nobody's worried. It's YOUR problem now. They even charge you for equipment vital to your quest.
Averted in Majora's Mask - everybody knows that something horrible is about to happen. By nightfall of the last day, almost all of them have fled town - of the few who you are able to locate at this point, they acknowledge their flight probably won't make a difference. Only those in serious denial of the imminent catastrophe (and you, the player) remain behind.
Senel Coolidge from Tales of Legendia has this mindset at first. He acts as if the world revolve around Shirley, and if something unrelated to her is presented to him, he ignores them or at least tell him not to bugger him with it, pissing off many people, especially Chloe, though eventually he stopped obsessing about her completely. This one is so bad that in the Tales of the World, he gets a What the Hell, Hero? yell that he'd rather let the world be destroyed than just halting his search for Shirley, then he takes the hint (after all, if the world is destroyed, he can't even reunite with Shirley at all).
This trope is why nobody helps Aeka with the horrible bullying she deals with in Yume Miru Kusuri. People realize she is suffering, but don't help her for fear that they will become targets. If the player picks her route, Kohei and her get so fed up with this that they leave school entirely.
At the end of Fire Emblem Awakening, the player is given the choice to either have Chrom or the Avatar finish off Grima. Choosing Chrom to do it will only put Grima to sleep for a thousand years, leaving the Exalt at that time with the task of quelling the dragon once more when he reawakens to destroy the world.
Averted by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where people are highly concerned about the dragon attacks, and will help fight any dragons in their area if they're able, but most of the local warriors are busy with the civil war going on, leaving it up to you to look into the dragons.
Zig-zagged with the Three Heroes who sealed Alduin in time, knowing full well that he will come back and someone else will have to fight him again: when you pursue Alduin in Sovngarde, they're more than happy to join the fray and help take him down.
Averted in Dragon Quest IV. The first major city the Hero visits after his village is destroyed contains a party of adventures leaving (in formation) to defeat the ancient evil now that the Hero has (allegedly) been killed.
At the end of the Back to the Future Telltale games, three alternate future Martys appear, begging for Marty and Doc's help in saving the future. Marty and Doc decide to just ignore them and go for a drive. In their defense, they had just finished a lengthy adventure across time and space, and it's strongly implied they'll get around to dealing with this eventually. Remember, they have a time machine and can deal with this sort of thing whenever they want.
One of the lyrics of Portal 2's ending song, Want you Gone, is "You're someone else's problem/Now I only want you gone".
Averted in Chrono Trigger. Most of the playable characters could easily live their lives without being seriously impacted by the threat Lavos poses to the planet, but they decide that it is their problem.
Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 have this trope as their entire premise. A rogue Spectre is rampaging around space with an army of Mecha-Mooks that haven't been seen for nearly 300 years, looking for a mysterious device linked to myths of a machine race that exterminated all life? Eh, we'll send a rookie Spectre and his/her Ragtag Bunch of Misfits after him. A mysterious group of aliens abduct hundreds of thousands of human colonists for unknown purposes? The only people who care are Shepard, the secondRagtag Bunch of Misfits he/she assembles, and the human-supremacistterrorist organization that funds him/her. The attack on the Citadel was led by a member of a species of Abusive Precursors and was attempting to ensure their return? It's clearly a geth creation, and Shepard is clearly delusional. Mass Effect 3 is essentially the biggest "I told you so" in history.
In Dead Rising 3, Basement-Dweller Theodore "Teddy" Lagerfeld Jr. is incredibly rich, with a powerful security system and the keys to the police armory, since he's the mayor's son. When Nick Ramos asks for the keys so the survivors can be armed against the Zombie Apocalypse, Teddy decides that's too much work and tells him to get lost. When Nick persists, citing that many people could die without weapons, Teddy sets his mansion's security system against him. Fittingly, Teddy is meant to embody Sloth of the Seven Deadly Sins.
This happens pretty often in Schlock Mercenary, since the main characters are generally only interested in 1: survival and 2: getting paid. Which has now been codified with a Challenge Coin available to fans of the comic, with a Polish idiom: "nie moj cyrk, nie moje malpy"note "Not my circus, Not my monkey."
Domain Tnemrot: Morris assaults an eight-year-old girl in the middle of a crowded ballroom. No one notices. Then Angel slams his head into a table hard enough to break his nose. Nobody notices that, either.
The attitude of the general population towards demons in Demonic Symphony, and oh boy does it backfire.
There's an SCP that lets people get away with murder by doing this. The knife is even implied to be the murder weapon that killed Kitty Genovese.
What's really bad is that knife's "bystander effects" extend to the person who is being attacked.
There's also a hat that functions as an SEP field — the effects of which are permanent if you wear it too much.
Fine Structure weaponizes this with a weapon that causes a person to be ignored by anyone around them. You can scream and wave and punch people and people will care so little that they won't notice any of it. Or you. Ever again.
L: ...and in this footage you can see various pedestrians who clearly don't give a $h!t that somebody near them just collapsed and died.
In Atop the Fourth Wall in order to avoid the AI Is A Crap Shoot trope, Linkara installed a subroutine on Nimue which acknowledges that in the event Humans Are Bastards is taken too far, while she does name what she could do. She implies that the work in this Cyber Revolution would result in many unnecessary deaths and wear her down. Or in Linkara's words "Screw them it's not my problem."
SF Debris has repeatedly slammed various Star Trek episodes from TNG onward for using the Prime Directive as an excuse to pull this when entire civilizations were about to be wiped out.
Random Pedestrian 2: We have problems too, you know.
In Worm 11.5 Taylor meets a girl who saw her at the locker incident but didn't do anything to help. She promptly gives the other a big chewing-out.
Most characters in Drawn Together (considering the prevalent Jerkass-ness) have done this at one point or another, but Captain Hero, a superhero whose Catch Phrase is "SAVE YOURSELVES!", is probably the worst offender. His response to Bambi wailing to him about his dead mother (that he shot no less) is:
Captain Hero: "Sucks to be you!"
Every character in Futurama has decided, at least once, that the current crisis is somebody else's problem.
Scruffy the Janitor may be the most blatant offender here: when asked why he didn't fix the boiler, his reply was "schedule conflict" and another flip of his porn magazine. When said boiler was getting ready to go critical ten feet away.
Scruffy: Scruffy's gonna die the way he lived. (licks finger, turns page)
It was also sort of used when the characters decide they don't care that Earth will be threatened by a giant garbage ball in about a thousand years. Mostly because launching said garbage ball was their method of averting the very same crisis during the present day.
A fair bit of the humour comes from the fact that nobody ever notices all the alien spaceships and Humongous Mecha that routinely appear. This is more of a Humans Are Morons thing.
Gaz however plays this straight. While she's one of the few humans who actually knows that Zim's an alien, she couldn't care less. In her defense, she's just aware of Zim's incompetence and sees no need to do anything when he'll eventually screw himself over.
The Simpsons. When Lenny and Carl walk past a tank containing radioactive gas that's bursting at the seams, Carl remarks nonchalantly about the tank's imminent failure, to which Lenny quips "Who cares? It's Homer's problem."
Once Homer's job as Sanitation Commissioner predictably starts falling apart, he decides the best way to get funding is for other cities to pay him to bury their garbage. When questioned he almost responds with this trope. Later on this backfires horribly, to the point Springfield ends up becoming a huge dump and the city's buildings have to be relocated five miles away.
One episode has Santa's Little Helper become a star, then during one of his promos, Homer fakes drowning in the beach (in an effort to get him back). When Santa's Little Helper chickens out of swimming, the crowd furiously shame a dog for not saving the man, none of them even trying to go in themselves.
The Williams Street cartoons for [adult swim] specialize in this.
In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Master Shake has a different (and often bizarrely random) reason every episode for not caring about what's going on - even in "Revenge of the Trees," where the Monster of the Week was looking for revenge on Shake.
Sealab 2021 does this a lot. In the pilot episode, "I, Robot," Quinn is trying to save Sealab from exploding — but everyone else is too busy with a Seinfeldian Conversation to help. In "Green Fever," zombies attack the station, but Debbie is too busy preparing her birthday party, Stormy and Sparks are busy chatting about steel pipes, etc. Exactly who is uncaring varies; in "No Waterworld," Quinn is too busy with his monster truck to help Debbie find out why all the water around the station has disappeared.
In Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Zorak and Moltar frequently get bored with Space Ghost's show, and decide their jobs on it are for someone else to do. Sometimes Space Ghost gets bored with his own show, and does the same thing.
The world gets taken over and heavily modified in every movie (twice in one of them) and the people act accordingly. Timmy usually makes an extravagant wish and somehow either everyone doesn't notice or is too stupid to understand what is happening.
In SpongeBob SquarePants - Wet Painters, Spongebob is in danger of having his butt removed by his boss, and is abandoned in a moment of crisis by his own reflection.
Megas XLR: Coop is the king of this trope. In one instance, he made a horde of rampaging monsters someone else's problem by chucking them into Philadelphia. In another, he blew up part of the moon, causing worldwide climatic change, and his only concern was buying bubblegum ice cream. He's destroyed several planets with (usually) no remorse, and is arguably more of a danger to the universe than the race trying to conquer it. A race that he created.
Adventure Time has Princess Bubblegum (in stark contrast to Finn and his Samaritan Syndrome), who just doesn't care about anything that doesn't affect the Candy Kingdom and its people. This is most apparent in her treatment of her I-can't-believe-it's-not-autism-afflicted creation Lemongrab, as she is perfectly fine with sticking him in an empty castle far away from her, and it's not until he starts sneaking into her castle and watching the candy people sleeping that she decides to help him.
Princess Celestia seems to suffer from this often enough for the fans to take notice and poke fun at her for it. A grand total of 4 Big Bads have popped up so far, and she's only tried to help directly once. When the villain was right in front of her. And she got stomped to the curb for her effort. Word of God is that Nightmare Moon incapacitated Celestia off-screen. As for Discord's attack, it's implied she couldn't help if she wanted to (she did). She has no excuse for ignoring Sombra's attack, however.
The mane six suffer a bout of this during "Daring Don't" when they just stand back and watch as Daring Do and a bunch of thugs fight over a giant gold ring. Fluttershy even lampshades it.
"Um, should we go in and help her maybe?"
In one US Acres/Orson's Farm segment of Garfield and Friends a new rooster replaces Roy and is tasked with rescuing the chickens from a weasel. When he prefers to take cover and hide, Orson actually spends the rest of the episode trying to drag him out and make him take on the weasel, never coming to the (likely much quicker and easier) realization to do it himself.