House: At the end of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," the wolf really does come. And he eats the sheep... and the boy... and his parents.You know the story. A little shepherd boy cries wolf to get people to come running, because he's bored out of his skull (or whatever). They fall for it. He does it again. They fall for it again. Then, an actual wolf comes along, and the little boy screams his little lungs out (crying "You Have to Believe Me!") but this time nobody comes, since they think he's just playing that stupid prank again. The sheep the boy is watching get nommed down, and the boy learns a valuable lesson. Grimmer versions will end with the wolf eating the boy as well. Or everyone. Some have the variant plot of the hero kid getting caught in a relatively minor lie, or at least they thought they have, and then the kid alone spots something truly serious and no-one believes him. Fortunately, the kid is either able to find witnesses to support him or is able to prove his claim, even if he has to save the day on his own. Eventually, the kid's reputation is restored either by the authorities being impressed by his heroism or the people he helped coming forward to praise his character. Moral of the story: nobody believes a liar, even when he's telling the truth. This can be taken two ways: "Don't be a liar" or "Don't assume liars are always lying." Less traditional possibilities are "Never tell the same lie twice" and "Don't leave a known liar on watch." There is also a more innocent variant when a hero, like a detective, makes a conclusion and decides that he has to take immediate action with something, only to find he was mistaken to his embarrassment. This kills his credibility with others, which makes his next move upon learning the real situation all the more difficult. Older Than Feudalism, the Trope Namer being from Aesop's Fables. Which also makes it one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. A frequently subverted Undead Horse Trope. Not to be confused with the Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots boss Crying Wolf. See also: This Is Not a Drill, Cassandra Truth, Not-So-Imaginary Friend, No Mere Windmill, Mistaken for an Imposter, Not Now, Kiddo. Contrast While Rome Burns, when things are actually going horribly wrong but everyone is in denial of it. In situations like that, if the character crying wolf turns out to be right, and people still refuse to believe him, then he is either an Ignored Expert or The Cassandra.
Chase: The wolf doesn't eat the parents!
House: It does when I tell it.
Chase: The wolf doesn't eat the parents!
House: It does when I tell it.
This trope provides examples of the following situations:
- An Aesop: "Lying is bad" is the usual interpretation, but Aesop didn't actually spell this one out and alternatives have been proposed as mentioned in the description.
- The Big Bad Wolf
- Cassandra Truth: The villagers don't believe anything the boy says, even when he is serious.
- Crowd Panic
- The Gadfly: The boy gets people riled up by screaming about danger that doesn't exist.
- "Just Joking" Justification: How the boy justifies crying wolf, complete with the lesson that "It's just a prank, bro!" will turn out badly in the end.
- Karmic Death
- Rule of Three: The third time the boy cries "Wolf!" nobody believes him anymore.
- Urgent Medical Alert: Patient abusing alarms results in this, regardless of the truth.
- You Have to Believe Me: The boy isn't believed because he's telling an improbable-sounding story with no evidence to back it up.
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- Fittingly, Isuzu featured the Joe Isuzu as the boy (or car salesman, in this case) lying about various problems before showing it was solved easily with his Isuzu Trooper. When he's surrounded, this happens...
Joe Isuzu: Help, wolf! I'll never lie again, I'll never lie again. Help, wolf! (Townspeople ignore him)
Anime & Manga
- Usopp's introductory arc in One Piece is modeled on the Boy Who Cried Wolf (or Pirates, in his case), and his name is a portmanteau of "Uso" (lie) and "Aesop". By the point we meet him, he's done it every day for ten years. By then, the village sets their watches by it ("Usopp's coming, time to go to work.").
- It becomes heartwarmingly inverted at the climax of the arc, when Usopp resolves to handle an actual pirate attack by himself (with help from the protagonists) because he cares more about the villagers' peace of mind than restoring his credibility.
- Minor instance with Lucky Star, where Konata can't convince her teacher she's too sick to attend class after she spent the past two days giving other (dumber) excuses.
- The opposite is played with in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. After some incidents on April Fool's Day, Itoshiki concludes that if a person is always honest everyone will believe them even when they're lying. Then a fairy tale book is shown with the opposite of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" story, where an entire village is destroyed after a perfectly honest boy cries wolf as a joke.
- Code Geass uses a variant of this in R2. During the Second Battle of Tokyo, Suzaku says he's carrying a Weapon of Mass Destruction in an attempt to deter the Black Knights. Lelouch doesn't believe him because a couple of episodes earlier, Suzaku lied about a private meeting and brought along soldiers who nearly captured Lelouch....except that Suzaku did come alone; Schneizel was the one who sent the soldiers, to destroy any remaining bonds of trust between the pair. This results in Tokyo getting destroyed.
- In Angel Beats!, Yurippe told this story (lies repeated make them less believable) and her new alternative is to use different people and invent new gags. The gags used are: Hinata - bamboo shoots shooting out the ground (Hinata's chair launches), Takamatsu - look thinner on the clothes (Takamatsu's chair launches with style), Ooyama - confess to Tenshi (Hinata's chair launches). All for the sake of making Kanade Tachibana aka Tenshi fail.
- This also shows up in an episode of the Little Lulu anime. After three false alarms involving falling out of a tree, freaking out over a caterpillar, and thinking that Alvin was going to fall into the lake while rolling in a barrel, Lulu is no longer believed by Tubby and the other boys when she tries telling them that the Westside Gang really did show up. Up until the end of the episode, that is.
- Lupin III is able to exploit this trope in a manga chapter and the Lupin III (Green Jacket) episode (One Chance to Breakout) based on that chapter, by intentionally causing this effect. While he's in prison, he keeps claiming that he isn't really Lupin, until everyone gets sick of it and stops listening. On the day of his execution, he switches places with a guard, who gets dragged off protesting that he isn't Lupin – and, of course, no one believes him.
- In the second Tenchi Muyo! movie, Ryoko is the most hostile to Mayuka when she appears at the Masaki household. When Ryoko finds out that Mayuka might really be a threat to Tenchi, Ryoko tries to warn the others, only for Tenchi to brush her off, thinking Ryoko is overreacting again.
- In a filler episode of Dragon Ball Z, a little girl named Lime would constantly scare her small town by screaming that Cell was coming. Ironically, the real Cell never shows up, but Gohan and her grandfather scold her for it. One of her warnings exposes a man as a Dirty Coward when he runs into his bomb shelter and locks everybody out (Gohan then casually destroyed it and pointed out it would never have stopped Cell).
- Happy Happy Clover. Episode 12 of the anime, "Big-Time Thief", involves Cinnamon and Twirl telling Clover and friends that they spotted a wolf stealing berries. However, after Clover notices a leaf that appears to be a trap, they go for plan B by using a stone that turns the duo into wolves. Clover and Kale listen to their plans until they see a cave that contained missing berries. As the episode goes on, more stuff from the citizens of Crescent Forest starts disappearing. Cinnamon and Twirl once again run back to Clover and the rest of the citizens, only for Clover and Professor Hoot to say that they are both lying. Near the end of the episode Kale notices a moving box covered in sheets that is later revealed to be his baby brothers. His brothers then reveal that there actually is a wolf inside the box. The wolf explains to the citizens that he got injured by a falling tree and Kale's brothers decided to help him recover by taking various things to help him heal including food and a temporary shelter.
- Happened in the Disney comic "Cry Duck!", in which Scrooge McDuck staged "tests" to see how his employees (among which, Donald Duck) reacted. Hilarity Ensued when a real thug attacked Scrooge, but he failed to learn anything, refused to admit he was ever at fault, and ends up chasing Donald out of town trying to clobber him.
- A TaleSpin comic had Baloo be late for work due to running into a ghost plane flown by skeletons. Rebecca naturally thinks he's lying until he flies her up there to see it for herself. After the plot is resolved (it was a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax created by Shere Khan to hide his secret Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Really.) Rebecca vows to never doubt Baloo again. The comic ends with Baloo loafing around Louie's while calling Rebecca to tell her he was caught in a hurricane and may be stuck the whole night.
- Takes on a more literal meaning in Fables. Jack Horn is brutally attacked by a group of living wooden soldiers and escapes to tell Bigby and Snow about it. They don't believe him, despite the fact that he is bloody and carrying a wooden leg, because Jack has basically made a career of scams and get-rich-quick strategies and they think this is just one more, and the very first arc of the series actually involved him and Snow's sister Rose faking her death and using her actual blood (taken over a period of time to give the appearance she'd bled out) at the scene to get out of paying Bluebeard. When he protests, Snow White asks him "Jack, have you ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?" to which Jack replies in total seriousness, "Yeah, he lives on the seventh floor. What's that got to do with anything?"
- There's also a flashback in a later chapter that shows Jack tried to steal the Naughty or Nice list from Santa Claus back in the fifties.
- The Jack of Fables series has more flashbacks with Jack pulling off even more outrageous schemes for cash.
- In one Golden Age Superman comic, Orson Welles himself played this role. In the plot of the story, a group of Martians who admired and mimicked the Nazis were planning to invade Earth, and Welles, who had been abducted by them, tried to send a warning to Earth, only for it to fall mostly on deaf ears— too many people remembered his famous hoax adaptation of The War of the Worlds. Fortunately for everyone involved, he was able to convince Superman, who was enough to stop the invasion before it started. (Welles himself is no slouch fighting them either.) On the last page of the comic, a debutante asks Welles at a party if it was another hoax; he chuckles a little, and tells her, "Just ask Superman!"
- The Swedish comicbook Kunskapens Korridorer had a scene where the school was having a standard fire drill... when an actual fire broke out. The principal (who earlier had complained how no one takes the fire drills seriously) is amazed how serious everyone is about the drill... while he's idly pottering around the school halls instead of evacuating, because he still thinks it's just a drill. The whole event culminates with him going out on an upper-floor balcony while everyone waves and shouts at him, and prepares to make a speech... and only then realizes the room behind him is on fire. The fireman who rescues him even asks him why he didn't evacuate like a smart person should.
- Archie Comics: Reggie plays a recorded ice cream truck jingle to fool Jughead. He does it again, saying it really is the ice cream truck. When Jughead decides not to be fooled, the real ice cream truck drives by.
- When Cheryl Blossom becomes a lifeguard, almost every teenaged boy on the beach needs to be saved. Even Cheryl knows that they're faking it, but has to check each one in case one of them actually needs help. Eventually, the head lifeguard calls the boys out on this, stating that their antics might keep the lifeguards from saving someone in actual trouble. At that point Archie (The one boy who ''didn't'' fake it) suddenly gets attacked by little octopi. However, Cheryl thinks it's just a ploy and doesn't go in. Needless to say, Archie was pretty upset with Cheryl when he managed to get out…up until she puts him into some Post-Kiss Catatonia.
- In Wild's End when Mr. Fawkes, a notorious drunk, wanders into a bar ranting of aliens and lights in the sky his warnings go unheeded. Unfortunately he isn't lying or exaggerating this time.
- Defied in Red Fire, Red Planet, in a Shout-Out to the Honor Harrington series (see Literature, below).
"And for that brief moment, Kybok’s Vulcan composure slipped. Case Zulu was a code phrase that had not been heard in Sol since the Breen attack thirty-four years ago. It was never, ever given during exercises to avoid crying wolf, and had only one definition: 'Enemy invasion imminent.'"
- In Princess Trixie Sparkle when Trixie who had kicked off the plot by manipulating Twilight into switching bodies with her is forced to work with The Mane Six and Spike to fight the Bigger Bad, Twilight understandably believes that Trixie is just pulling another trick and double-crosses her. Too bad she was telling the truth.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- This is the entire plot of Big Fat Liar. The characters' surnames are even Shepherd and Wolf.
- Chunk has this problem in The Goonies. None of his friends believe him when he starts a story with "I just saw the most amazing thing in my entire life." More importantly, the friendly sheriff doesn't believe him when he says he's in trouble because the last
timeseveral times he called it was a prank.
- Tremors. The boy Melvin Plug repeatedly plays pranks on Earl and Valentine, including wrapping a Graboid tentacle around his head and pretending it's attacking him. Finally he starts yelling and Earl, thinking he's still joking, says he's going to kick Melvin's ass. When they go outside, they see Melvin cowering on top of a metal pole — making them realize that this time he isn't kidding — the Graboids are here. (You'd likely expect a jerk like Melvin to be counted among the victims in a film like this, but ironically, he survives.
- Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean is an interesting case. It's not that he tells outright lies, but usually half-truths, and it's always for the purpose of manipulating people for his own ends. As a result, nobody actually trusts Jack fully and when it turns out he's been honest about something, it's pretty shocking.
Norrington: You really were telling the truth.Jack: I do that quite a lot. You people are always surprised.Will: With good reason.
- Carry On Matron had an expecting mother that had a baby three-weeks overdue waiting inside her. She binge-ate while she waited, leading to her calling out that her waters have broke, when it turns out to be wind or indigestion.
- In Bedazzled (1967) (1967), George (the Devil) gives poor shlub Stanley seven wishes for his soul, but grants them all in the worst-case ways possible. Having claimed more than enough souls to get back into Heaven as an angel (as per a bet with God), he gives Stanley the deed to his soul back, maybe out of pity, but more to make himself look good. At Heaven's gate he's turned away for this selfish gesture - he rushes back to Stanley, desperate to give him back his soul in an altruistic way, but Stanley has been tricked too often, burns the deed, and slips away.
- In Mr. Deeds, tabloid reporter Babe Bennet pretends to be mugged in order to get the titular character to trust her and get dirt on him. He eventually found out her deceit and when later she was in danger of drowning, he has a hard time believing her.
- Friday the 13th Part III has Shelly, who's known for playing pranks on the rest of his friends, including one where it looks like he's taken an axe to the head. When Jason proceeds to slit his throat later on, he manages to last long enough to make it back to one of the others, but at this point he's pranked everyone so many times she merely assumes he's playing another joke and ignores him, only realizing that this time he's not joking long after he's bled to death.
- In The Lost Boys, a new recruit starts the process of becoming a vampire by drinking the blood of the group's leader. David uses this trope to make sure Michael will drink it. The gang have Chinese food, and David gets Michael to eat some white rice, then asks him how he's enjoying his maggots. Looking down, Michael sees wriggling maggots, but when he drops the box, only plain white rice spills out. David apologizes and offers a box of noodles, but Michael sees writhing worms inside — yet when David takes a big bite, they are clearly only noodles. Needless to say, when reluctant half-vampire Star tries to warn Michael that the wine bottle he is offered contains not wine, but blood, Michael scoffs and takes a good long drink.
- Interestingly, the viewer has no way of knowing what is real and what is illusion in this scene. Was mortal Michael eating maggots, or rice? Was vampire David eating real worms? It's impossible to know whether this is a case of crying wolf falsely, or warning of real wolves who are then hidden.
- In Outbreak, Colonel Daniels had previously predicted serious outbreaks of deadly diseases, which failed to happen. This is why General Ford tells him not to worry, since the recently discovered (actually reemerged) Motaba virus kills so quickly, it's unlikely to get very far. Cue one Motaba-infected monkey arriving in America...
- Exploited in How to Steal a Million. Simon Dermott, as a ploy to snatch a counterfeit statue from a museum, uses a boomerang twice to activate the statue's motion-sensing alarm before quickly sneaking back into his janitor's closet hiding place. After the museum security fails to find anything stolen or moved, and after getting an angry call from the French President concerning the loud siren so late at night, the Head of Security decides to just turn off what he believes to be a faulty security system, allowing Simon and Nicole to grab the statue without problem.
- The Window has this as its Central Theme and as An Aesop for the hero kid Tommy. Because of his history of being a notorious Mr. Imagination, Tommy's parents and the police don't believe him when he becomes a witness to a murder. It almost gets him killed afterwards but by the end the villains get caught and Tommy's reputation is restored.
- In Six Degrees of Celebration 2, an elderly man who watches over a closed airbase is sure that someday it will be needed again, and his grandson keeps telling him that a plane is coming to distract him from the staff phone and call his girlfriend. Naturally, when the boy notices an actual plane making an emergency landing and raises the alarm, the grandpa calmly sits at his supper. Fortunately, when he sees the boy really running to turn on the runway lights, he believes him, and they ensure the plane lands safely.
- The title comes from one of Aesop's actual fables, making this Older Than Feudalism. Interestingly, the boy in the original fable only loses his sheep; the detail of being killed by the wolf himself only being added much later.
- A variant in some versions of the story has the boy overreacting to a single sheep going missing (usually, the missing sheep is found again later). Different motivation, same result; the villagers stop believing the boy, and then an actual wolf comes.
- Hilaire Belloc's poem Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death, features Matilda, who...told lies and was burned to death, for
... every time she shouted "Fire!"
They only answered "Little Liar!"
- Willo D Robert's " The Kidnappers" has a protagonist, Joel, with this problem. so, when he says he saw the school bully kidnapped, no-one will listen (except his friend, sister and the bad guys themselves). This proves to be a really, really BAD thing.
- In Jennifer the Jerk Is Missing, Malcolm's past history of reporting nonexistent crimes to the police (that he genuinely thought were occurring) has destroyed his reputation with them. So when he does see the kidnapping of a bratty classmate, no-one believes him.
- In one of Nyx Smith's Shadowrun novels, an assassin returns to a location several nights in a row to shoot a security camera. While the security guards do keep checking each time it goes on the blink, their response-time becomes slower and slower, until it's long enough for her to sneak inside and swiftly eliminate her target.
- In the Kim Newman novel The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, one of Amy's schoolfriends, Smudge, is constantly telling wild stories. Then another friend gets kidnapped by sinister hooded figures, and they go to report this to the staff:
"Smudge told the story first, which was a disaster."
- Amy corroborated the story, which might have helped if a third girl hadn't said she simply ran off.
- In Gordon Korman's The D- Poems of Jeremy Bloom, the narrator of the poem "Why I Was Late" comes to school late every day for a week, always giving a ridiculous excuse (an asteroid enveloped Earth in a time-distortion field which means he's actually on time, he had to tiptoe around an unexploded atomic bomb in his front yard, etc.). On Friday, his excuse is actually plausible: he missed the bus because he had to rescue the family cat from a tree, and he couldn't ride his bike to school because he left it in the driveway and his father accidentally backed the car over it. He insists that he was telling the truth this time — honest — but his enraged teacher refuses to listen.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Regained, when Eramus blames himself for not heeding Prospero's message, Prospero blames himself for having cried wolf once too often.
- Orson Scott Card discusses the trope in several of his novels, usually favoring the "don't put a liar on guard" interpretation. If you don't believe the kid when he raises the alarm, what's the point of having him watch the sheep in the first place?
- Combined with You Have to Believe Me in a book in Galaxy of Fear. By that point the characters have become more inclined to believe wild claims. But the hacker who cruelly tricked Zak into shutting down important ship functions in the hopes of seeing him get in trouble?
- Defied in Honor Harrington: On Basilisk Station. The narration mentions that the code phrase "Case Zulu" is never, ever given in drills to avoid exactly this trope. It has only one meaning: "Enemy invasion imminent."
- Goosebumps has the story "The Girl Who Cried Monster", about a girl who constantly pulls monster pranks. Eventually, she finds out that the librarian is a monster, but nobody believes her. Of course, this aesop is a bit undermined by the inherent nature of it — people may believe you if you say there's a wolf in town, but a bug-eyed monster? Unlikely in any case. It turns out that Her parents - as well as her and her brother - are actually monsters, which she didn't know at the time and they had been acting like they didn't believe her when they were planning to eat the librarian.
- Nightmare Hour: "I'm Not Martin" receives its title from the titular character's habit of screaming that he's not Martin, especially as he's being taken in to have his foot surgically removed. This later dooms Sean as the orderlies take him away after Martin switches their charts since they've been warned about Martin's habit.
- Invoked in Firebird by the protagonist Ilya and a helpful fox. They get the villain, the Kaschei, to disable his own guard dragon by having it make a series of (apparently) false alarms.
- One chapter of Little House on the Prairie has this occur to Laura's cousin Charley. He doesn't want to help his father and uncle in the fields so he goofs off all day and gets in the way of their work. Eventually they tell him to go away, but even then he keeps on mock screaming to fool them until they begin ignore him. Charley begins to scream and it turns out this time it's for real danger. He had stepped on a bee hive and they were attacking him. He ends up okay but covered in bee stings.
- Invoked in The City of Ember; the mayor tried to claim to the city that this is what Doon and Lina were doing when they reported that he and Looper were stealing, stating that they were "spreading vicious rumors." However, they were telling the truth.
- Combined with Playing Sick on an episode of Community. Leonard's comrade Richard continually says, "Where am I? What year is this?" and the rest of the seniors laugh at this genius ploy of getting out of trouble. This leads to a Tear Jerker moment towards the end when Pierce and the others discover Richard is actually suffering from dementia, and may or may not have been previously faking.
- It also occurs with Pierce's father. Pierce is notorious for faking heart attacks to get out of things, even winning at paintball using this tactic. When his father appear to have a heart attack, Jeff assumes it is another fake. He is actually having a heart attack and thus dies.
- Game of Thrones: Tyrion tells Varys in "The Lion and the Rose" that he has warned Shae of the dangers of King's Landing so many times that she pays no attention anymore.
- Scrubs does this a lot, usually involving the Janitor:
- One episode involves him planning an elaborate prank on J.D., who is living in a tent on his half-acre. The Janitor calls the police from a nearby payphone for several days, reporting a wolf. When the police arrive and ask J.D., there is no wolf. The plan culminates in the Janitor releasing an actual wolf in JD's tent, only to have the wolf turn on Janitor instead.
- Played fairly straight in an episode where the Janitor claims to have been a world-class hurdler in his younger days. J.D., who had been victimized by the Janitor's compulsive lying for years, finally cries foul and tells him that the hurdling bit is a bridge too far. J.D. finds out later that the Janitor was actually telling the truth this time.
- Same when the Janitor tries to prove that he's not a loner and is seeing someone. When J.D. prompts for her name, the Janitor seemingly struggles and blurts out "Lady". Naturally, J.D. thinks he's proven the Janitor is lying yet again, only for a woman named Lady to show up and kiss the Janitor. They later marry.
- Yet another time, the Janitor offers an apology and tickets to a sporting event as a way to make amends, and J.D., having been tricked by this sort of thing before, denies him. The Janitor then turns, pulls the tickets out of his pocket, and says "Fine, see if I ever reach out again."
- Few believe Lost's Ben Linus when he says the Boaties are Bad Guys who plan to kill everyone on the island, since Ben has spent the last season and a half destroying his own credibility through series after series of intricate lies.
- Likewise, when he tries to get Hurley to come with him next season, having joined forces with Jack to take the survivors back to the island, Hurley refuses to listen.
- Also, in season six, when Ben finds an injured Sun in the jungle, the others refuse to believe he had nothing to do with it, even though he had switched sides at that point.
- In an episode of Psych, Shawn alone believes the testimony of a man who's known to be a chronic liar, because he can read the man's "tells" that reveal he's not lying this time. He spends the rest of the episode trying to prove the man's case.
- On Dexter, the title character builds up Sergeant Doakes' suspicions of him covertly to make it look like Doakes has an irrational vendetta against him. When he finally makes a blatant move against Doakes by lying to him about a blood report and causing him to arrest and terrorize an innocent man, Doakes' superior doesn't even bother to check his insistence that Dexter set him up.
- Dexter's setup is done rather brilliantly. One move involves Doakes challenging him in Dexter's office. Dexter walks up and headbutts him, then calmly walks out into the main floor and walks as if nothing happened. Doakes gets up and charges after him, tackling Dexter and assaulting him full view of the other detectives. Naturally, Dexter claims he didn't do anything to deserve the pummeling.
- In an episode of House, a woman with Munchausen's Syndrome (a syndrome where a person seeks attention and perceived virtue by pretending to be sick) turned out to actually be sick. Also, see the quote above.
- In another season five episode, House references the story by saying "I don't care how many time he lies, Mom's gonna come running." Which is sad, but true.
- In one LazyTown episode Ziggy was playing pranks by saying untrue things, such as there being a monkey playing trumpet outside or Trixie having a spider on her shoulder. The other kids get sick of it, and decide to ignore him, then, when he stumbles on Robbie plotting out loud in a cow costume, they refuse to believe he saw a talking, evil cow with a catapult. Kind of a Broken Aesop, in that it would have been a pretty reasonable thing for them to doubt anyway, even without Ziggy losing their trust by telling lies.
- Played with in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: When Bashir tells the story to Garak, the Cardassian (coming from a Planet of Hats of
untrustworthy schemersMagnificent Bastards) concludes the moral is not to keep telling the same lie.
- The problem with that interpretation is, if the boy was exposed for repeatedly starting false alarms, they still would have stopped believing him no matter how many different stories he had told.
- Which is exactly the problem for Garak — in the same episode it's apparent that someone is out to kill Garak when a bomb goes off in his tailor shop. Odo tracks down the assassin, but realises that Garak set off the bomb himself so people would believe him when he said his life was in danger, despite being a Consummate Liar.
- In Misfits, we have a rare case of a character crying wolf both metaphorically and literally. Nathan is convinced that his step-father is a werewolf — and not without reason — but unfortunately his mother, Louise, is so used to her son attempting to sabotage her relationships (and generally spouting fantastical lies at the drop of a hat) that she sternly refuses to listen.
Louise: This is like the time you said Richard was sexually abusing you.
Nathan: It's nothing like that! This is true!
- This trope is actually played with quite a lot in Misfits, and not merely with Nathan and his various lies. As the protagonists are all convicted petty criminals, when they find themselves committing horrible acts through necessity (they are forced to kill an Ax-Crazy guy in self-defence), they know that no-one would believe them if they told the truth — which is understandable, the truth being that they were caught in a freak electrical storm that gave them all superpowers and transformed their supervisor into a psychotic zombie. Hence they are given little choice but to lie.
- In an episode of Lexx, Xev refused to heed 790's warnings that Stan was possessed by a malignant alien influence, since 790 was always saying similar things about Stan and begging anyone in earshot to kill him.
790: Not that I didn't mean it before, but this time I really mean it!
- On Sanford and Son, as well as the revival series Sanford, Fred's fake "heart attacks" were a running gag. An episode of the latter show starts out with him complaining about feeling sick and having numbness in his arm, but the other characters blow it off as the usual goldbricking; after they've left, however, he suffers a real heart attack and they come back to find him collapsed on the floor.
- The Colbert Report: Stephen warns about crying wolf or rather crying zombie in the end of this clip about college students playing zombie tag. According to Stephen this game will leave us vulnerable when the rage virus escapes.
- On Cougar Town, Jules pretends to be hurt to get her son to come into the room faster than if she just called him. The second time she does it, she's lying on the floor, and says, "No, really this time! I twisted my ankle!" Not really.
- In 90210 sequel series one of teachers exploits this trope when his student Naomi falsely accused him of sexual harassment. She later admits her lie, but soon afterwards he rapes her for real.
Mr. Cannon: Who's going to believe you? You're the girl who cried wolf.
- In one episode of The Practice, Jimmy defended an accused rapist whose victim had a record for claiming to have been raped in two previous occasions only to have the authorities investigate and find no evidence to confirm either case. That record makes Jimmy believe his client's claim that the "victim" consented. However, the law prohibits defense from bringing up the victim's sexual life in rape cases. Jimmy even tried (and failed) to convince the judge to allow it. While trying, Jimmy literally accused the "victim" of crying wolf. In another episode, Hannah Rose discredit a rape victim by pointing out said victim had been diagnosed with Münchausen.
- El Chavo del ocho and La Chillindrina were playing a game where Chavo was a sports commentator and the lollipop he was holding was a microphone. When Chavo ate the "microphone" and she told her Dad about it, he thought she was talking about a real microphone. Later on, Don Ramón refused to believe when Chavo told him Quico swallowed a radio.
- Klinger lies repeatedly about family emergencies that require him to be sent home. When he receives word in the mail that his wife wants a divorce, nobody believes it's for real.
- Klinger also fakes illness or injury on several occasions in hopes of getting a medical discharge from the Army. In "The Red/White Blues," he has a bad reaction to an anti-malarial drug and develops anemia. The medical staff initially ignore his symptoms, thinking this is just another of his pretend afflictions - until another soldier comes down with the same symptoms.
- This also happened in the episode when Klinger lost his hearing. The doctors were skeptical when he claimed their lips were moving but no sound was coming out. They realized he was telling the truth when BJ stood behind him and crashed two bedpans together, and he didn't flinch at all.
- Played with on an episode of The Golden Girls. Rose is regaling Blanche and Sophia with another St. Olaf story. It starts off like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, only this boy Shepard actually WAS losing his sheep to a wolf, but he never caught him in the act. So he became known as "The Boy Who Didn't Cry Wolf". Finally, when the boy did catch the wolf, this being St. Olaf Insane Troll Logic comes into play. The townspeople assumed that if the boy never cried wolf when it was there, now that he was crying wolf it probably wasn't. It was a bear. The boy is now known as "The Boy Who Cried Continuously".
- In an episode of Top Gear where the boys turn cars into trains, Jeremy Clarkson passes James May on an adjacent track and sees that James' buffet car is on fire. When Jeremy tells him his train is on fire, James doesn't believe him; the fire was on the side he couldn't see and Jeremy isn't the most trustworthy co-presenter around. As a result, the buffet car burns down completely and all the passengers James is carrying run away.
- Played tragically straight in Downton Abbey. Dr Clarkson is helping oversee Sybill's pregnancy. Clarkson expresses his concern about Sybill's condition, fearing she may have Eclampsia. However, his misdiagnoses in the past causes Robert to doubt his diagnosis and he hires another, more respected doctor, who insists she is healthy and nothing is wrong. Sybill gives birth, then goes into seizures and dies from post partum Eclampsia
- Almost Once an Episode on Arrested Development. Particularly when Lucille expresses concern for any of her children. She couldn't care less about their well-being, but sometimes the pretense she's using is true, even if she's just bringing it up because she stands to benefit in some way.
- Newhart: In the episode "The Boy Who Cried Goat", the Minuteman Cafe gets robbed (off-camera), and when the insurance man investigates he asks Dick about Kirk, and Dick reluctantly tells him that Kirk is known for telling lies. With insurance believing that Kirk might have been lying about the robbery, Kirk has to take a lie detector test... which ends up not showing any results when used on Kirk. When it looks like Kirk won't get the insurance money, Dick tells Kirk that the whole situation was his fault for lying so many times before, comparing it to "The Boy Who Creid Wolf", a story that Kirk had never heard (and as Dick tells the story everyone else mentions hearing different versions). Of course, in this episode the robbery happens off-camera, so the viewer has to decide that Kirk is actually telling the truth this time.
- Gosei Sentai Dairanger features such plot to kickstart a trouble of the week. Ryou is oversleeping so Shouji used the Aura Changer to falsely inform that there's a Gohma on a rampage, waking Ryou up. However, it's a lie. Then a real Gohma monster shows up, and Shouji informed Ryou again... but this time, he's thinks that Shouji is suckering him again, so he didn't respond. But only when Doushi Kaku informed that there's a Gohma monster for real that Ryou got his ass moving (though too late to save Shouji from being trapped).
- 1000 Ways to Die once related the tale of an obnoxious Attention Whore coed on vacation in Australia with a group of other students. Among the antics that soured the others on her were throwing herself at other girls’ boyfriends and crying "shark" instead of "wolf" ('cuz they were on a beach). Unfortunately, while taking a swim, she unwittingly swallowed a tiny – and deadly – jellyfish, which proceeded to sting her to death from the inside (known as Irukandji syndrome, a terrifyingly painful way to die). The last thing she ever saw as she staggered up on the beach gasping for air was her companions looking on with contempt, unknowingly letting her die because they thought she was faking.
- An episode of The Twilight Zone is about a man who constantly tells made-up tales of great things he's done who gets abducted by aliens who've mistaken his lies for truth. After they let him go he tells his friends about the experience, and of course they don't believe him.
- In an episode of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries episode, "The Flickering Torch Mystery," the Hardy Brothers suspect that their client is going to be killed with a bomb on stage. To prevent that, Frank and Joe storm the stage during a concert and rip up the equipment, but find nothing. After that fiasco, the Hardys have a much harder time convincing anyone of a real murder threat on the client's plane, especially since it was already searched and came up clean. Acting on instinct, the Hardy Boys stop the plane and the plane is discovered to be much more subtly sabotaged: with a special radio designed to interfere with the plane's navigational equipment to make sure it goes off course over water and crash when it runs out of fuel with no land in sight...not to mention a missing technician who discovered the plot and tried to warn of the problem is found tied up in the empty spare fuel tank. Of course, everyone changes their minds about the Boys who are obviously amazingly astute as detectives to foil this genuinely cunning murder attempt.
- On One Life to Live, promiscuous troublemaker Marty Saybrooke spread false rumors that the town reverend had molested a local teen (out of revenge for him rebuffing her advances). A year later, when Marty was gang-raped, the DA warned her that many would see her accusations as an example of this trope.
- Sesame Street:
- A Muppet sketch adapted the classic fable, with Cookie Monster taking the place of the wolf.
- In another sketch, Ernie finds a piece of cake and eats it. Bert then informs Ernie that he bought two pieces of cake for them to have for desert, before seeing that one piece is missing. Rather than admit his mistake, Ernie tells Bert that a monster ate the cake, and when Bert questions why Ernie has a fork in his hand and is wearing a napkin, claims that the monster did it to frame him. Bert doesn't believe him, figures out that Ernie ate the cake, and only sarcastically agrees that it could have happened. But when Bert leaves, Beautiful Day Monster shows up, eats the other piece of cake, and for some reason asks Ernie to hold the fork and napkin. Bert comes back and notices the other piece missing, and when Ernie starts telling Bert what happened, Bert immediately doesn't believe him.
- The Muppet Classic Theater special adapted the classic fable as well, with Gonzo as the titular boy who cried wolf. Unlike most of the other examples, though, Gonzo is not deliberately lying; he's just over-excitable and jumps to conclusions a lot, his imagination well-helped along by overreacting sheep who panic over everything (a couple of falling rocks means an earthquake, a few drops of water hitting him is obviously the signs of a tidal wave). He honestly believes it every time he rushes to warn the villagers of impending doom, but since the disasters are always ludicrous and never even remotely true, the result is the same: When the Big Bad Wolf shows up, the villagers don't bother to listen to Gonzo's cries for help.
- It becomes a bit of a Broken Aesop when the moral weirdly enough remains "don't lie" and the villagers all chew Gonzo out for lying — except Gonzo never tells a single intentional lie over the course of the story. A better moral for this version of the tale would have been "before making public statements about something, try to make sure you have the basic facts right and haven't misunderstood the entire thing."
- Which might be interpreted more along the lines of "The Sky Is Falling" than of deliberate pranking.
- Attacked in a That Mitchell and Webb Sound sketch depicting the shepherd boy's uncle being cross-examined during a court inquiry into the incident, where the prosecutor questions why the boy was chosen as the one to watch the sheep in the first place, and suggests a better moral for the story would be "If you have grounds to believe there is a ferocious predator at large, don't appoint as your sole watchman a twelve-year-old child whom you have resolved to ignore." It then goes on to suggest the shepherd intentionally set the boy up as part of an insurance and inheritance scheme.
- The Transhuman Space supplement Cities On The Edge describes an ultra-tech version of the car/shop alarm problem described under Real Life. If criminals can keep fooling an AI security system into making false alarms, then eventually the owners will either start ignoring it or set it to be less vigilant.
- Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio is a melodramatic jokester, so when he gets into a mock fight with Tybalt and screamed that he is dying, while making witticisms about his injury, all of his friends laugh at him. He is, in fact, dying.
- Amahl in the Menotti opera Amahl And The Night Visitors has told his mother so many imaginative stories that when he comes to tell her there is a "king with a crown" at the door, she doesn't believe him ... or when he finally ramps it up to, "The kings are three / And one of them is black!" Then she goes to the door herself, and finds the Three Kings waiting there.
- In Super Mario RPG, the boy Gaz tells his mother he's just seen Geno walking around outside. She's heard excuses involving Geno before, and "Geno" is just a doll Gaz likes to play with. Or is he?
- In Half-Life 2: Episode 2, after an (offscreen) unending stream of false alarms due to crows, nobody takes seriously the first Combine assault on the White Forest base. Several lives are lost for not reacting faster, and of course it's Gordon's job to fix things.
- At the beginning of Banjo-Tooie, Kazooie cheats at a game of cards by telling everyone that Gruntilda has come back to life. While they're looking out the window, Kazooie steals some chips. During that very same game of cards, the whole house starts shaking, and Mumbo leaves to investigate. He comes back and reveals that Gruntilda really has come back. Bottles doesn't believe him and stays inside while everyone else is running out, which doesn't end so well for him.
- In The Secret of Monkey Island, after Guybrush overuses his "Look Behind You, a three headed monkey!" phrase, the cannibals of Monkey Island™ don't fall for it when a three headed monkey actually shows up.
- In Higurashi: When They Cry the reason why social services do not believe that Satoko is being abused by her uncle is because she used a Wounded Gazelle Gambit one too many times against her innocent stepfather and they were afraid that she was doing the same thing again. This is rather tragic when you read the TIPS and learn that abuse from previous stepfathers has really messed with her head and she can't tell the difference between her current stepfather and the ones before. In other words: There's a good chance she really believed she was being abused. Although the social services actually DID show up at her house when her teacher called them. However, this time Satoko refuses to admit to the abuse, so they can't do anything.
- Cyanide & Happiness shows how the pandas suffer because of this.
- In Doc Rat, Wilbur Fuzz is shaken when after all his jokes about heart attacks, he actually has one. He thinks of this trope. The paramedics — wolves — tell him that they came, and he should Be Careful What You Wish For.
- In chapter 32 of Gunnerkrigg Court, Annie's attempts to reconcile with Kat by inventing dangerous situations for them to "solve" become so exaggerated that Kat assumes a huge, clearly real kraken to be another of her antics.
- Oglaf uses it — see the page image. Please be aware that much of Oglaf is extremely NSFW.
- The Order of the Stick
Blackwing: Ugh, this is all that wolf-crying boy's fault, whoever he is.
- Parodied in "The Elf Who Cried Raven". Vaarsuvius' party members refuse to believe that V really has a familiar and that it's been with them the whole time, largely because V completely forgot about it until recently. The trope is even referenced in the title.
- A much more serious (and sad) version of the trope appears in "Getting the Message". Roy doesn't believe Belkar when the latter reveals to them that Durkon is dead, arguing it is another of the halfling's sick joke. Though in this case, it was mostly out of denial from Roy's part.
- Referenced again when Blackwing tries to get V's attention via their empathic link. It doesn't work, as he's been doing the same thing whenever the sky pirates so much as glance at his new bauble.
- In the prologue of Stand Still, Stay Silent, a talk show guest suspecting that an Apocalyptic Gag Order is in place concerning the seriousness of The Virus is discredited due to being somewhat of a Conspiracy Theorist.
- Over the course of Twig, the Lambsbridge Gang develops a deserved reputation as devastatingly cunning human-looking experiments that masquerade as children and use their abilities to bait their enemies into disastrous actions. Naturally, when Lillian, who actually is a normal human child, is injured and needs medical help, Sylvester and Jamie run into problems convincing the people they go to for help that it's not a trap.
- SCP-2179 is a supernatural fire alarm that likes to play this prank, to the Foundation's expense. Then one day, it declared an animal attack and everyone was too sick of the constant military deployments to care. Until it declared 5+ civilian casualties, at which point a squad was deployed and discovered that it was telling the truth for once. Since then, they HAVE to listen to the alarm, regardless of false positives. Interestingly, the animals turned out to be pathetic but rabid from hunger, yet the squad witnessed mega-beasts mauling the corpses of the civilians.
- Defied (like many other things that would create The Guards Must Be Crazy) on The Evil Overlord List: Any kind of alarm is to be treated as true and responded to with full military might always in case heroes are tying to lull security into disregarding them (the List itself doesn't has any rules for compulsive liars, though, but since for the most part they advice the Overlord to severely castigate any act of Stupid Evil done by his subordinates...)
- This trope is partly responsible for pokecapn's infamous LP of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). The OP for the archived version tells the tale of reviews for the game complaining about terrible controls, a terrible camera, a terrible story, and terribly long loading times - but pokecapn had heard the exact same complaints about every other 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game before then, and having enjoyed all of them regardless of those issues, decided to Let's Play the game, initially assuming that the problems wouldn't be nearly as bad as everyone made them out to be.
- In the Ewoks episode "Cries of the Trees", Wicket, Paploo and Teebo are caught trying to lie their way out of playing a forbidden game and sentenced to join the ground work crew. Suddenly, a Wistie (magically enchanted by Morag the Tulgah Witch) appears to light Wicket's broom on fire and the boys frantically attempt to put it out, but only make it worse until the Elders come do it properly. Unfortunately, given that the boys were caught lying before, the Elders don't believe their story that they didn't start the fire which seemed to begin on its own. Thus the boys are given a harsher punishment, which puts them in an area to see Morag's larger scheme at work, but this time, Wicket's brothers, responsible as their warders see what is going on and immediately back up the boys when they run back to warn the tribe. In the end, the boys save the day and the Elders decide they were too hard on them.
- In a Darkwing Duck episode, Honker is mistakenly thought to be lying about something when it was the supervillain Splatter Phoenix's fault. At the climax, Splatter literally steals the lips of the Mona Lisa (which protests all the way) and Honkers saves them. His parents come to punish him, but the lips stuns them by protesting their mistaken judgment of the boy, whose character he praises.
- In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Orson the Pig tells the story of "The Wolf Who Cried Boy" about a wolf who cries "boy" too often until finally none of his pack believe him when a young hunter comes up the hill. In the middle of telling the story, Orson realizes that Roy the Rooster's constant cries of "Wolf!" throughout out the episode may not be another prank.
- In Rugrats, the only times the babies don't believe Angelica are when she's telling the truth. This probably justifies why they keep believing her lies most of the time despite knowing she usually is up to no good, as they can never really know when she's actually being truthful.
- Most evident in the episode "Tricycle Thief", where Susie accuses Angelica of stealing her tricycle after she can't find her it, only to see Angelica riding a tricycle. Angelica had broken Susie's reflector earlier, and Susie pointed out Angelica's tendency to lie, so the babies naturally believe Susie at first. It turned out that Angelica's tricycle was not the same one as Susie's, and Susie's tricycle was under her porch.
- In the Looney Tunes short "Foney Fables", a running gag is this story where the boy does it just to piss off the townsfolk, greeting them each time with a characteristic laugh. At the end the wolf does come and the woodsman comes to discover that the wolf has eaten the boy and laughs just like the boy did earlier.
- Inverted a chicken was in real danger as a fox continuously tries to get him, and constantly pulls the alarm but The Barnyard Dawg couldn't understand him and only thinks he wants water (each time the fox fled as soon as the alarm rang).
- There was an episode of The Simpsons with an actual wolf, although it started out with Bart pretending to be sick to avoid schoolwork.
Grandpa: Did you ever hear the story of the boy who cried wolf?
Bart: Boy cries wolf, has a few laughs... I forget how it ends.
- Later, an actual Alaskan timber wolf escapes from its owners on the set of Krusty's show due to loud noises (with "loud" being the secret word), and attacks Bart right outside the classroom. Groundskeeper Willie rescues him (beating the wolf handily) and Bart staggers back inside all scratched and bloody... and still isn't believed, of course. He gives up and "admits" he was lying about the wolf.
Bart: I'm just gonna lie on the floor now. Please don't let me swallow my tongue. (faints)
Krabappel: Don't you feel much better for telling the truth?
- A "Treehouse of Horror" segment has the people of Springfield listening to Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938, panicking, and then discovering it was a hoax. Shortly afterward, the aliens Kang and Kodos launch a real invasion, reasoning correctly that the townspeople will dismiss it as another hoax.
- Later, an actual Alaskan timber wolf escapes from its owners on the set of Krusty's show due to loud noises (with "loud" being the secret word), and attacks Bart right outside the classroom. Groundskeeper Willie rescues him (beating the wolf handily) and Bart staggers back inside all scratched and bloody... and still isn't believed, of course. He gives up and "admits" he was lying about the wolf.
- Inverted and subverted in the South Park episode "The Death Camp of Tolerance". Mr. Garrison is trying to get fired for being gay, so he can sue and get a big payout. To accomplish this, he brings in Mr. Slave and starts doing incredibly lewd things in the middle of class (like putting the class pet up Mr. Slave's ass). The boys tell their parents that Mr. Garrison and Mr. Slave are being inappropriate, but their parents accuse them of being homophobic and take them to a tolerance museum. They tell them again, but they still won't listen and send them to a tolerance camp run by a pseudo-Nazi who threatens to kill them if they screw up. And it's then that the parents see Garrison and Slave are not just gay but behaving incredibly inappropriately and sexually in the context of teaching children, and then they bail out the nearly-dead kids. Of course, none of this happens until Garrison himself gets fed up with how far he's had to take things and goes off on a rant about his own inappropriateness, resulting in him and Slave themselves being sent to the camp for being "intolerant of [their] own behavior".
- Subverted in My Life as a Teenage Robot: Tuck spent all day calling Jenny to do his chores and impress his friends by making her guilty about having him as a last priority over Saving the World. One of his new friends in particular has weird yellow eyes and pointed teeth. Later, his brother persuaded Jenny to read the story, and she decided not to go after Tuck anymore...until she reads what happens to the boy at the end of the story. The last time he calls her, she eventually goes — but finds that he was calling her to see a friend's pet (a dog that was half wolf).
- An episode of The Angry Beavers deals with Dagget discovering how much fun slapping his tail on the surface of the water is. Norbert tries to get him to stop abusing it because of this reason (even though the whole thing comes off as a metaphor for something else...), and indeed an actual wolf shows up and no one takes Norb seriously when he tries to warn them with the tail slap.
- This is also done in The Powerpuff Girls. The Gangreen Gang trick the Mayor into leaving his office so they can use his hotline to Powerpuff Girls to play crank calls on them, sending them after Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, and finally Him when they were just minding their own business. When the trio finds out that the gang was responsible for the girls attacking them, they attack the gang and when the real Mayor gets back to his office and sees the fight, he calls the Powerpuff Girls, but they don't believe him and even incinerate their phone.
- Buttercup pulls this on her sisters in the comic book story "Who's Afraid Of The Closet Monster?" (issue #29).
- Naturally, this occurs in the Three Little Pigs followup Three Little Wolves: Practical sets up a horn as a wolf alarm, only to find his brothers abusing it and laughing at his expense. He warns them that "Someday the Wolf'll get ya. Then you'll be in a fix. You'll blow that horn and I won't come. I'll think it's one of your tricks." Which is exactly how it plays out, though they finally get his attention by tricking the wolf into blowing the horn with all his might.
- A Dexter's Laboratory short had DeeDee pulling the old "What's that" gag, pointing to Dexter's chest then flicking his face when he looked down. The 3rd time, she cries out "What's that" for real and Dexter's got his eyes closed, refusing to fall for the gag as a face-sized bug is latched onto his head.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 series, Zach's parents sent him to a military academy for falsely reporting several crimes he believed to happen.
- In Yogi's Gang, the animals and "Mr. Fibber" convince Yogi to land the flying ark, twice. Both times they claimed an emergency situation of some sort, but it turned out they just spotted a lemonade stand and then an ice cream factory. When the animals spot an approaching tornado, Yogi refuses to land, thinking it's another trick.
Yogi Bear: You fooled me twice. Three times isn't nice!
- The Clifford the Big Red Dog episode, aptly titled "The Dog Who Cried Woof" in which Cleo pranks the Clifford and T-Bone with ghost stories about a giant ghost skunk named Wiffy. She kept pranking them by saying he was after her, and they finally got fed up with it and leave. Karma soon catches up to Cleo when a real skunk shows up and she scares it. The others, while out looking for her, smell that she got sprayed. Cleo apologizes to Clifford and T-Bone for her cruel pranks and promises never to do it again. The next day, after receiving four baths in a row to get rid of the smell, a now complimentary-odored Cleo exits the vet's office where Clifford and T-Bone are waiting outside.
Cleo: Don't worry, you guys. I've learned my lesson. The stinky way!
- The Raccoons: In one episode, Bert Raccoon found out Cyril Sneer wanted to pave the forest but nobody would believe him because of how he jumped into conclusions before.
- A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The rest of the gang initially refused to believe Shaggy and Scooby about Dr. Croaker because they assumed it was another exaggeration as the ones they invoked to justify their skepticism.
- Wheel Squad had an episode where Enzo was having a tunnel built to grant potential customers easy access to World Mart. Unfortunately, the construction was threatening the neighborhood, so they started a petition. Fearing the petition wouldn't be ready on time, the heroes tried to forge signs of dinosaurs having lived there so archaeologists would delay the work until the petition was ready but the hoax was soon exposed. Later on, the heroes investigated and found out remains of an Ancient Roman bath house. As it sometimes happens when the hero finds out the villain's secret, the villain appeared to confront them about it. One of the heroes told Enzo he couldn't keep them from telling about the bath house and Enzo said he didn't have to, since nobody would believe them after the dinosaur hoax. Nevertheless, they did convince someone to investigate and the truth gets out.
- Some Care Bears invoked the trope using a swamp monster instead of a wolf and the others refused to believe when they were attacked by a "real" swamp monster, who was actually Mr. Beastley in disguise, but the Care Bears didn't know it.
- Played straight and inverted in Regular Show. One Episode, Grilled Cheese Deluxe, revolves around Mordecai and Rigby having a lying contest while getting their boss a grilled cheese sandwich. Their lies end up escalating to them using a Grilled Cheese Sandwich to save the city from an Antimatter Explosion. (It Makes Sense in Context) When habitual liar Rigby tells the truth about what happened to the sandwich, he's not believed. Mordecai then lies about what happened, and is believed.
- In the second season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle gets worked up over nothing on several occasions, on one occasion throwing a whole town into chaos. This bit her in the rump big time in the season finale when she realized Princess Mi Amore Cadenza was Not Herself, but nopony believed her.
- Inverted in the season four episode "Leap of Faith", when Applejack's honesty has such a good reputation that when she lied about the Flim Flam brothers' tonic, everypony believed her.
- The King of the Hill episode "Peggy's Fan Fair". There, Peggy tries to prove everyone that Randy Travis stole an essay she wrote and made it into a song, but even Hank refuses to believe her, because she has such an exaggerated sense of self-esteem that she could very well be imagining it or making it up. (And because they're conveniently never present when the more obvious evidence appears.)
- In a Robot Chicken sketch, people start crying out to Superman for help, and when he arrives, the people would laugh at him for falling for the false alarm. When a kid strapped to a bomb calls for help, Superman angrily declares that he's not falling for it - and then it blows up and kills the kid. For bonus points, the kid says Lex Luger put the bomb on him, Superman assuming he was mispronouncing Lex Luthor's name - and then it turned out it really was the wrestler who did it, as he shows up to taunt Superman over it immediately after.
- On Invader Zim, one of the reasons people are skeptical of Dib's paranormal claims is that he's apparently made quite a few odd ones over the years. Played With, however, in that we never really find out if they were wrong; given the setting, maybe there really was a ninja ghost in that toilet?
- The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: In "Liar, Liar, You For Hire?", K'nuckles claims to know where Candied Island is. At the end of the episode, he really does see Candied Island but no one will believe him.
- In the American Dad! episode "An Apocalypse to Remember", Stan tries to warn his family that Buckle is after Hayley, but because his previous assumptions of things turned out to be false, they refuse to believe him. Eventually, Stan becomes convinced it was only his imagination and let's it go. Only then do they see him.
- In Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Tummy is caught eating Grammy's cake and tries to convince everyone that an ogre ate it, and when asked how an ogre could have gotten in, he nervously says it "was a small ogre". (Seeing as he has frosting an his nose, it's obvious he's lying.) As fate would have it, Duke Igthorn's henchman Toadie (who is a small ogre) breaks in, Tummy sees him and no-one believes him until Toadie steals their whole supply of Gummi Berry Juice. (Fortunately, when they corner him, Toadie makes the mistake of drinking the whole keg at once with rather explosive results.)
- A variation occurred on The Real Ghostbusters: The victim isn't a perpetual liar, but he did open a Ghostbusters-themed rollercoaster, using the guys' likenesses, logo, and vehicle designs without their permission or even their knowledge, so when he calls them up saying the ride is haunted by ghosts, they initially dismiss it as a publicity stunt and hang up on him.
- Double subverted in Camp Lazlo with the episode "Radio Free Edward". When his radio show isn't getting any attention, Edward sets up a sham about being attacked by yetis and everyone believes him. The next night, he's attacked by yetis for real, and successfully convinces everyone that he's telling the truth... only to find that the yetis are intellectuals who are breaking into the radio station to play music.
- Looney Tunes: A variant happens in Rabbit Hood. Bugs hits the Sheriff of Nottingham with a club after fooling him into believing that the king is behind him. Later on, Bugs tries to pull this again, but he isn't fooled at first. Bugs eventually fools him.
- Dragon Booster subverted the trope all the way to the point of a Broken Aesop in "The Mouth that Roared." Similar to the Darkwing Duck example above, Lance is entirely in the right about seeing a black-market dealer selling gear, it's just the the cops and his friends don't seem to want to stake out the spot for more than a few minutes despite knowing someone is selling black-market gear in the area. To add insult to injury, Lance is outright accused of crying wolf and the dealer always seems to show back up right as the adults leave.
- Big Bad of Code Lyoko, XANA, cleverly invokes this in "Cold War" when he repeatedly activates a different tower on Lyoko only to deactivate it again without launching an attack in the real world through it. After so many false alarms, Jeremie decides to just wait and see what happens when yet another tower activates. And then XANA launches his attack for the episode.
- An episode of Baby Looney Tunes has Petunia wanting attention, so she starts yelling out about seeing monsters and leading everyone outside to search for them. After the second time, Granny explains this trope to everyone and when Petunia accidentally breaks the bathroom sink, causing water to flood everywhere, nobody believes her when she tries to get help.
- On Beat Bugs, this is the subject of "Anytime at All." After Buzz is terrorized by the local cat, Mee-Yow, the Beat Bugs set up an alarm system, the Crikcto-call-me, which she's supposed to use "anytime at all" that she needs help. Buzz, however, uses it one too many times for trivial stuff and so when Mee-Yow shows up again while everyone else is off playing, she sounds the alarm and they ignore it, forcing her to solve the problem herself.
- The technical term for this phenomenon is "Alarm Fatigue", where constant exposure to false (or inconsequential) alarms desensitizes people to them and makes them more likely to ignore actual emergency alarms or react to them much slower than they should.
- The "Particularly Dangerous Situation" and "Tornado Emergency" enhanced verbiage/warning came into existence precisely because of this. In most places where severe storms are frequent (e.g. the Midwest and South in the US), tornado watches are often ignored entirely, and due to the old way of issuing tornado warnings by county rather than by locations at risk, people got into the habit of even ignoring tornado warnings unless they saw it for themselves - often leading to lots of deaths and injuries from tornadoes, especially at night. To get around this, "particularly dangerous situation" verbiage is now used for watches when a tornado outbreak is expected in the watch area, and a "Tornado Emergency" is declared for actual urbanized/heavily populated areas in the path of a confirmed via ground truth or debris echoes tornado. These seem to be working to emphasize danger for now, but there's always the potential for these, too, to eventually be seen as Crying Wolf...
- Similar to the car alarm example, store staff will frequently disregard the beeping of electronic article surveillance systems because these alarms often go off accidentally. Makes you wonder how many shoplifters set off an alarm and still walk out of the store without getting caught.
- On the other hand, many store employees not trained to handle shoplifters will be told not to engage any one that actually is one (i.e. anyone that doesn't immediately stop when the alarm goes off). In no small part due to the potential for untrained employees getting hurt by someone desperate enough to snatch and grab. The employees trained to handle that sort of thing generally are not the obvious ones and most are caught on camera any way at which point they're much easier to catch if they come back (or for severe offenders, elsewhere as stores will typically share information about such people as it hurts everyone in the area).
- In Real Life, this happened to Andy Kaufman. Having built his career on an increasingly outlandish series of worked shoots, a lot of people thought his increasingly fragile, sickly appearance in 1984 was another prank in the making (indeed, he had once considered faking his death). But he really was dying of lung cancer, succumbing that May... though there are still a few who think He's Just Hiding.
- In late 2013 his brother claimed Andy did indeed fake his death and had was quietly living with his family. He then introduced Andy's 24 year old daughter. He soon admitted it was a joke and the "daughter" was actually an actress he hired - Andy probably would have approved.
- GG Allin would have friends call his brother (who was also in the band) and say that GG died, which is nothing compared to his onstage antics (throwing his shit into the audience, bashing his head in with a microphone, beating up audience members, et cetera). Eventually, he got used to it, so he ignored all calls like that. When GG Allin died of a drug overdose, band members, friends, and others called him to say that he died. Guess what happened?
- A few years after Orson Welles' infamous radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds (which was made as a radio Mockumentary and actually tricked a large number of people into thinking Martians had really invaded) he was doing a patriotic radio show featuring music and poetry that was then interrupted with the news that the Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor. Nobody believed it.
- Forcefully averted in Real Life by many high security areas (prisons, army bases, top secret labs and so forth) when all alarms are always answered, even when it seems to be just another false alarm as its always a possibility that the false alarms may be engineered by intruders hoping to exploit the crying-wolf syndrome in the hopes of breaking in without too much resistance.
- This is precisely why today, joking that you have a bomb isn't a good thing to do. Not only will you be detained, you can be outright arrested.
- This is also a similar case for guns. Joking in a public place like a movie theater or a school that you have a gun or are going to get a gun can cause the entire area to be under lockdown and you'll be subjected to heavy investigations just to be sure whether or not you were serious. Case in point: a violinist traveling to Chicago made a joke about having a machine gun in his case. Airport security did NOT have a sense of humour, but deliberately so. He missed the flight.
- In fact, US Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., defined the limits of free speech in Schenck vs United States as "falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic".
- In World War I, both sides spread propaganda about the enemy, which included a genocide perpetrated by the Germans. While there were indeed occasional war crimes against the civilian population (what with the western front being most of the time in Belgium and France), but genocide... less so. This came to light after the war, of course. Now, if you have been paying attention during history lessons, you might remember that Germany did indeed start a program of genocide within the next 20 years. The response to warnings this time was rather... lukewarm. Ouch.
- Anne Frank and her family knew from British radio that if they were captured things would be bad, yet the soldiers liberating the camps were utterly surprised/horrified.
- The Germans actually did commit a genocide shortly before WWI broke out, the Herero and Namaqua genocide in German South-West Africa (modern day Namibia).
- Highly disputed. German planning did in fact provide for long term ethnic cleansing (by deportation if possible, by outright slaughter if not), and that is what they did to varying degrees in pretty much every country they occupied. And even when they chose to cut back on willy-nilly killing, they were entirely willing to use famine and forced labor in any event. If anything, the main fault with the propaganda was not in creating a genocide where there was not one but in exaggerating the scope of the existing ones.
- Interestingly, the first professional Holocaust deniers were not neo-Nazis, but liberal pacifists like Harry Elmer Barnes and Paul Rassinier. They remembered the lurid anti-German propaganda of World War I and thought this "Holocaust" thing was just the same old war-justifying lie. Unfortunately, their efforts laid the groundwork for Holocaust deniers with very different politics.
- The more conventional neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers also like to bring up World War I propaganda in order to argue, "They lied the first time, so maybe they lied the second time too." In fact, the original Nazis liked to make this argument when they were in power. Prior to the war, Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath dismissed claims of Nazi wrongdoing by saying, "One would really think that the foreign public, which meanwhile realized the untruth of the World War atrocity stories, would not so easily again be deceived by a new dishing-up of similar fairy tales."
- Similarly, The Crusades got off to a very ignoble start with "The People's Crusade", which failed so horribly that Kilij Arslan, the Seljuq Sultan of Rûm, was convinced that every future attempt would fail as hard, and was thus nothing to worry about. This miscalculation allowed the Baron's Crusade to gain footholds in the country nearly unopposed and, eventually, Jerusalem itself.
- "This is not a practice alert. I repeat, this is not a practice alert!"
- In a Midwest town, the tornado warning sirens are tested on the first Tuesday of each month during tornado season. Jokes that tornadoes better not strike on a first Tuesday are so old, even the weather reports seldom do them anymore.
- In another hometown, they test the sirens on the first Wednesday of every month, as long as the weather is clear. If the weather is cloudy, they wait a day, and so on until a clear day.
- One town even tests them once a week on Saturday at noon. You know, the time when everyone is out of the house, at the park or lake.
- The 2009 scandal over climate change data forgeries made a lot of people who had been previously convinced of the evils of industrialization to turn the deaf ear to alerts of global warming of other form of climate change altogether. This was done deliberately by the hackers and those that spread the word; the controversy consisted entirely of individual lines of personal e-mails taken out of context. Several separate investigations were conductednote , and every single one found that there was no data forgery.
- Also, the media agitation over the possible end of oil reserves during the record prices attained in the summer of 2008 flopped during the first months of 2009, when crude oil prices dropped sharply. (In practice, the oil reserves of all major countries increased in 2010-2011 due to the drilling campaign bringing huge untapped reserves into the market.)
- Workplaces and schools which conduct regular fire drills can result in people becoming complacent when there really is a fire and the alarm rings. In schools, alarms are often pulled as pranks, too.
- This can be a good thing: it ensures that nobody panics and treats the threat as a routine incident, so everybody can exit the building in a safe and orderly manner.
- Unless there's a really big problem, like a teacher assuming it's another fire drill, when in fact it's a tornado drill. (It happened.)
- On a related note, a dormitory at Seton Hall University had a problem with idiots setting off the fire alarms as a joke. This happened repeatedly over a matter of months and caused many students to ignore the alarms and not evacuate the building when a real fire started.
- This can be a good thing: it ensures that nobody panics and treats the threat as a routine incident, so everybody can exit the building in a safe and orderly manner.
- Starblade, the Furry who made "Fuck you! I'm a dragon!" a household phrase among /b/tards, often asserted that the backlash to his behavior on the Internet constituted death threats. Since the general consensus was that every other sentence he typed was A) totally hilarious and B) in itself evidence for a need of stronger medication, most Internet denizens dismissed claims that someone was trying to kill him as standard Starblade fare. It became a little harder to classify his claims as paranoia when his friend stabbed him to death.
- King You of Zhou, a Chinese monarch who reigned in the 8th Century BC, had a favorite concubine named Bao Si whom he later made his queen, but he could not get her to so much as crack a smile. One night he had the bright idea to light the kingdom's signal fires, and the resulting confusion, with so many men and horses running around in disorder, made Bao Si break into laughter. This made his wife happy but cost King You the trust of his nobles, and after repeated abuse of the warning system, there was an actual invasion. When the monarch lit the beacons again they were ignored, and that's why King You was the last of the Western Zhou.
- This post on FMyLife.com. The poster got told that her cousin would say he's allergic to foods to get out of eating them. This, of course, leads to her making him eat something he's allergic to.
- One commenter claims that the cousin wouldn't have said he's allergic if the poster had been a better cook.
- During the Apollo 13 mission, astronaut Fred Haise turned a valve in the Lunar Module that produced a loud bang, as per a joke. So when the accident occurred and produced a similar bang, the other astronauts Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert initially didn't think anything about it until they saw Haise's concerned face.
- Groups like DARE, and to a lesser extent the U.S. education system in general, have been known to lie about the effects of milder illegal drugs like marijuana, causing many to take less seriously their warnings about more significantly dangerous drugs like heroin and meth. This has led many to give them a fair bit of the blame for the high rates of use of hard drugs. John Cheese of Cracked, for example, had this to say:
You spend years in school listening to D.A.R.E. programs (or whatever anti-drug stuff they do where you live) telling you that one hit off a joint will put you in a coma. Then you actually try the stuff and realize that's bullshit, so you immediately ignore all other warnings, too.
- Political pundits often say things like "this is the most important election in our nation's history, and if [candidate] wins, this country will be DOOMED!!". It starts to wear a little thin when you realize that they say this every single election. They do a similar thing pushing how dramatic and close it is, even if it's so obviously in the bag the eventual winner barely pays attention to it at all.
- Similarly, various news agencies try to get higher ratings by labeling everything as some form of Scandal Gate, which inherently devalues the impact such scandals should carry.
- Dialing 911 (or any other emergency number) and making up a bogus emergency situation or not answering the dispatcher is a good way to get yourself arrested and/or fined. Emergency dispatchers are trained to send out police officers to anyone that calls them (if one is requested) or calls and immediately hangs upnote . Thanks to the advancement of technology, you can easily be tracked down if you try to prank the emergency dispatcher. All that said, there have been instances of bad 911 operators treating a seemingly disbelievable 911 call as if it was a prank, when it actually wasn't.
- This trope is the reason why faking surrender, injury, or death are all forbidden by The Laws and Customs of War. Being shot at by "surrendering" enemies tends to discourage soldiers from accepting genuine surrenders, and being ambushed by "corpses" similarly leads to them making sure that any dead bodies they come across are, in fact, dead (which, it bears mention, is also illegal).
- Claims of police brutality are becoming so incredibly common these days that it's getting hard for anyone, including the most professional internal affairs investigators, to distinguish between the mountains of disgruntled and self-entitled traffic stop "victims" and actual cases of brutality. It is especially common on YouTube to have videos of people open-carrying firearms, which is perfectly legal in many places, but then approaching random officers of the law just to start an incident, thus tricking the cop into getting confrontational and aggressive. Once they get home they then upload said video to prove that the police are violent, usually after editing out their harassment of the cop in question so it looks like said cop is being aggressive and confrontational for no reason.
- This is part of why shoulder-mounted cameras on officers is gaining traction, as the logic is that it would protect good cops from this sort of harassment, while outing bad and Corrupt Cops for their behavior.
- Fire safety regulations often recommend to install smoke alarms in every room except a kitchen, even though the presence of lots of high-powered electrical equipment (oven/stove, toaster, water heater...) there makes it a very common place of where fires start. The reason for this is that regular smoke detectors cannot discern normal steam, which is expected to happen frequently when cooking, from the actual smoke of a fire, which would lead to frequent false alarms which in turn can lead to people ignoring a real alarm.
- Back in the 1990s, in a lot of divorce cases, there were parents fighting for custody, who falsely accused the other parents of child molestation. Sometimes, they coached their kids to go along with it. As a result, many judges simply don't want to hear accusations of child sex abuse.
- As Cenk Uygur points out, the history of the United States on military interventions has undermined its credibility on them.
- As a bitter (of course) post-Soviet half-joke puts it: "Everything they told us about Socialism was a lie. Only too late did we realise that everything they told us about Capitalism was not."
- Thanks to gluten-free diets becoming a fad, people who actually have celiac disease have trouble being taken seriously by restaurant staff, leading to things like not paying attention to cross-contamination. For example, you can't just pull a hamburger patty off a bun, as it can still have bits of the bun stuck to it.
- Stratagem #1 of The Thirty-Six Stratagems is essentially this, banking on the fact that the enemy will be so annoyed by constant false alarms that they will ignore you once you make your real move.
- For a few years, the Cambodian genocide was dismissed by many people, mostly leftist intellectuals, as over-the-top anti-communist propaganda. This came shortly after The Vietnam War, during which the U.S. government had told fairly transparent lies to justify its military actions. Unfortunately, it turned out the Cambodian genocide was very real.
- An aircraft warning system known as TAWS warns the pilot if they are coming dangerously close to an obstacle or ground. It has a database of major airports, so it won't generate a false alarm when the aircraft is approaching the ground in order to land. However, the pilots from Polish 36th Special Aviation Regiment - responsible for carrying VIPs, including the President, on the international flights - were very often landing at various Eastern Europe airfields not in the database (e.g. many rural military or ex-military airports) and, with the TAWS invariably going off every time during landing, they developed a habit of ignoring it (or even resetting the altimeter to silence the alarm). Thus, during a VIP flight to a rural military airport, as the TAWS sounded once again, the pilots ignored it... cue a major Oh, Crap! when they suddenly saw the trees looming out of the dense fog right in front of them.
- Ironically, dogs can fall under this trope if they have a barking problem. If they have a tendency to bark for inconsequential reasons, then their owners won't take their barking seriously when a real emergency arises.
- Dyslexia and/or ADHD. Both of those, depending on the country, can result in several bonuses during education (eg. more time given to complete a written test, or relaxed rules considering behavior during classes). When both became known to the general public somewhere in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the schools around the world noted a serious influx of suddenly diagnosed cases of both, thanks to "protective" parents trying to get their kids through school years in an easier way (and the "helpful" doctors as well); as a result, nowadays a number of schools treat any claim that your child is dyslexic or suffers from ADHD as a cheating attempt and refuse any special treatment of such children.
- California Proposition 65 mandates that any and all consumer products that contain possible carcinogens must be labelled with a warning (i.e. the famous "This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm"). However the low bar for labeling something a carcinogen meant that almost everything sold in California is labelled with the warning. Many pollution activists have criticized the system because these labels are so ubiquitous that no one actually pays attention to them.
- The Top Gear presenters and crew were almost lynched in Argentina, because some Argentinians thought that a license plate H982 FKL was a reference to the 1982 Falkland war. It was most likely a coincidence but not many people believed that. As Jeremy Clarkson wrote: "For once, we did nothing wrong."
- Abe Vigoda had been erroneously reported as dead twice before in 1982 and 1987, so when he died for real on January 26, 2016, many reports had to say "This is not a hoax.".
- Go ask any South Korean person (or, heck, even any American person) what their thoughts on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's rhetoric about nuking the world are, and most (but not all, mind you) will point to this trope. The NK have been using this rhetoric for more than a decade, but has yet to deal any sort of significant damage to anything but its own reputation (even China, who sided with them during the war and is essentially the primary reason NATO hasn't preformed a preemptive strike, is getting tired of the posturing). If an invasion actually happens it will be a big deal, but for the time being no one, especially the people of South Korea, couldn't care less about how much the North says they'll do it.
- According to The Death of WCW, the sale of the wrestling promotion company was treated as this by many wrestlers. The management team did so many shoots, swerves and works to throw everyone off balance that when they were told that they were being sold they didn't believe it until they didn't get their paychecks.