This is for when a character, or group of characters, intends to help another character, or group of characters, but because of what it seems like
and the reputations of those who happen to be offering the help and any other circumstances, the very characters whom they are trying to help mistake it for intent to cause harm.
Not to be confused with Stab the Scorpion
, as that's typically associated with giving the audience a misleading first impression as well.
is a subtrope.
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- Suske en Wiske: in the album "De Stemmenrover" (the voice thief), Lambik runs into a Japanese princess who is being attacked by bandits, and comes to her aid. While Lambik single handedly fights the bandits, the princess runs away. Lambik wins the fight but then sees another group of armed men coming his way. Assuming they are bandits as well, he defeats them too, only to learn afterwards that they were actually samurai send by the princess to help him.
Films - Animation
Films - Live Action
- Karate Kid 2 has Sato trapped under a long piece of wood during a storm, and when Miyagi walks over, Sato thinks the idea is to finish him off while he is trapped, only to find out that Miyaki just wanted to free Sato from the rubble.
- During Austin Powers in Goldmember, Austin returns to his hotel room to find Mini-Me grinning at him while holding up a letter opener. The audience knows that Mini-Me is here because he defected from Dr. Evil (the "help") and that he was just using the letter opener to open some mail, but Austin immediately reads it as an ambush (the "attack").
- In Battle Royale, Hiroki tries to help save his crush, but the minute he approaches her in the game she shoots him down, mistaking it for attack.
- In A Certain Justice by John Lescroat, Kevin Shea witnesses an drunken angry white mob lynching an innocent black man. He desperately tries to help the man by holding him up and passing him a knife to cut the noose. It doesn't work, and the photo that gets plastered on the news implies he was part of the lynch mob, trying to pull the man down to speed up the hanging.
Live Action TV
- NCIS: Minor recurring character Nikki Jardine had this as part of her backstory. When her brother, Eric, was in Iraq he was injured in an IED attack and when a friendly Iraqi man tried to save Eric's life, the man was shot by US Forces who mistook him for a terrorist. Nikki has tried to help the Iraqi's widow and children ever since in gratitude for his sacrifice.
- One Foot in the Grave: In the third episode of Series 1, Victor has just been hospitalised by some youthful muggers. Later on in the episode, his act of throwing away Mrs Warboys' hand grenade makes him fall over. Some young people, assuming he's had a heart attack, come and attempt CPR, but Victor thinks he's being punched in the chest and retaliates.
- Blue Bloods has an episode in which a homeless man with mental issues is arrested after a surveillance tape shows him tossing a teenage girl into a subway train, killing her. On closer inspection, it turns out that the girl was trying to commit suicide and the homeless man was trying to drag her away from the tracks when she manages to push away from him and into the train.
- In the Haven episode "Over My Head", a woman named Daphne is trapped in a crashed car and the tide is coming in. When Duke Crocker attempts to save her, Nathan Wuornos assumes he's going to kill her and almost shoots him before Audrey Parker stops him. When Duke draws a knife, Daphne screams and shields herself with her arms, but he uses it to cut her jammed seatbelt.
- Played with in Aloe Blacc's video for "Hello World". It focuses on a number of people in hoodies who are acting suspicious- but are actually trying to help people.
- John Mulaney has a bit about this (except that the person who he thinks is helping him thinks he's attacking them). He was waiting for a train in the New York Subway at 2 am, when a woman starts walking away. He assumes that the woman heard the train on another platform and starts following her. They start walking faster and faster until she starts running and he runs after her. It's only then that he realizes that she thinks he's going to attack her and is trying to get away from him.
- In X3: Terran Conflict and X3: Albion Prelude, the player's space suit is equipped with a repair laser for patching up hull damage (otherwise you have to pay a shipyard to have it fixed, and that can be prohibitively expensive in the early game). Mechanically it works by going through shields and dealing negative hull damage. Thing is, the game still treats it as a weapon, so if you use it on ships you don't own they'll react as if they're being attacked, and Hilarity Ensues.
- In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Terra's penchant for saying "Unversed!" whenever said monsters show up gets him in trouble when he's trying to talk to Snow White. She mistakenly assumes that Terra is summoning the Unversed to attack her when in actuality he's trying to warn her that they're coming.
- In The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "A Visit to Anthony", after the eponymous Anthony is beaten up by a bully, Ren and Stimpy try to help revive him, but his dad sees them and assumes they beat Anthony up.
- In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "If it Smells Like an Ed", the Eds discover Johnny hogtied. The Kids arrive shortly after and think their attempts at untying him are actually them tying him up themselves.