In 1936 it was clear to everyone that if Britain would only help the Spanish Government, even to the extent of a few million pounds' worth of arms, Franco would collapse and German strategy would be severely dislocated... Yet in the most mean, cowardly, hypocritical way the British ruling class did everything they could to hand Spain over to Franco and the Nazis.
Our heroes are in trouble. They're being completely slaughtered by the Big Bad
, who are obviously too strong for them... but wait! There is a large regiment of cavalry
in the area. Let's just call in
these guys and the Big Bad will be easily defeated.
Or so you'd think. In fact, the cavalry don't feel like rushing in to save the day at all, and stubbornly refuse your desperate call for help. Perhaps they have some kind of Obstructive Code of Conduct
forbidding them to intervene. Perhaps the Big Bad
has powerful friends whom they don't want to get into trouble with. Or the Cavalry are organised more or less democratically and some of them are opposed to helping the heroes
(or they all agree about that
, but argue endlessly about the details). Whatever the reason, the Cavalry refuses.
This trope is in play when the heroes need help, and there is an entity which could and/or should provide it but says 'Screw you'. Can lead to the heroes (and, if the unwilling Cavalry's excuse is particularly poor, the audience) exclaiming 'Why don't you do something?' or 'What The Hell, Hero?'
If the heroes looked up to their supposed protectors, this will result in a Broken Pedestal
Comes in two varieties:
- Type A is when the unwilling Cavalry is a (supposedly) neutral authority figure with power over both the heroes and the villains. They don't rush in to protect the heroes, even if the villain is clearly violating the rules which they are supposed to enforce - for example, in a schoolyard setting, a teacher not doing anything to protect the bullied protagonist. Related to Adults Are Useless and Police Are Useless.
- Type B is when the Cavalry have no formal power over the villains, but are big and strong enough to significantly aid the heroes. They are supposed to be on the heroes' side (thus making them potential Cavalry), but refuse to help.
Compare Dying Like Animals
acts this way toward the heroes) and Cavalry Betrayal
(when the Cavalry does show up, but turns out not to be on the heroes' side after all).
- In Last Exile, the Guild (an organisation supposed to enforce The Laws And Customs Of War) does nothing to help an army which is being attacked with "forbidden" tactics, because they favour the offending army.
- It's hard to keep count of the times the United Nations have refused the Cavalry call, due to the decision-making process which allows several powerful nations, whose interests are often diametrically opposed, a veto.
- The United Nations' predecessor, the League of Nations, wasn't exactly eager Cavalry, either - they stood and watched while the Japanese invaded (Chinese) Manchuria, the Italians brutally conquered Abyssinia and a handful of Spanish generals staged a coup against their government which led to the Spanish Civil War.
- In Zulu, a force of actual cavalry arrives upon the scene where the heroes are making a Last Stand... and promptly flees. This happened in Real Life, too, but in reality, the cavalry were much more justified in their flight than depicted in the film.
- Thranduil in The Hobbit is shown in flashbacks to have refused to help the dwarves, both against Smaug in Erebor and against the orcs in Moria, choosing not to lead his people into a hopeless battle against an enemy that they have no chance of defeating. The White Council (minus Gandalf) were going to be a third one but the dwarves (with good reason) left before they could refuse to help them.
- Happens whenever a face (usually John Cena) and a heel are forced to be tag team partners. The heel will let the face take a beating and refuse to tag in or help him.
- This pretty much happens whenever a face is getting a beatdown. The other faces in the back will rarely come to the rescue no matter how many heels are doing the beating. Whereas if a face is beating a heel, all the heel's friends will come to help. Yes, in Professional Wrestling, the bad guys are more loyal than the good guys.
- In the introduction video to StarCraft: Brood War, a Terran colony finds itself the target of a literal Zerg Rush; a Terran warship shows up overhead, but promptly leaves again without doing anything for the besieged Terrans on the ground.
- Shepard can pull this on the Citadel Council at the end of Mass Effect.
- Paranormal Mystery Squad: A greater demon named K'aannl'ngua is set on attacking Las Vagas. The US Military prepares to defend the city, but is then ordered to stand down by an Animal Wrongs Group activist with a presidential order declaring K'aannl'ngua an endangered species. The military then pulls out and lets Las Vagas get wrecked while the heroes have to defeat it alone.
- Britain and France in the Spanish Civil War (see the page quote). They took this trope Up to Eleven by enforcing an arms embargo against the Republicans, on whose side they were supposed to be. In theory, there was an international embargo against both sides. In practice, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supplied the Nationalists with weapons, aircraft and auxiliary troops; the USSR similarly aided the Republicans, but on a much smaller scale. Only Britain and France actually upheld the embargo, in an attempt to appease Germany and prevent - or rather, forestall - World War II.
- The USSR did this to Poland towards the end of World War II. As the Red Army drew close to Warsaw, the Polish Home Army rose up against the German occupation forces - but the Red Army had other priorities and did not come to their aid. The British offered to send planes to help, but they were denied access to Russian airbases. Needless to say, this ended badly for the Poles. Then again, if the Poles really considered the Red Army to be The Cavalry at all, it was at most in an Enemy Mine way, considering the kind of things the Russians had done to them only a few years before...
- During the Battle of Lang Vei, Col. Lownds of the 26th Marines refused to send reinforcements to support the Green Berets and South Vietnamese militiamen being attacked by North Vietnamese tanks out of fear that his men might be ambushed en route, contributing to the disaster.