Misplaced Retribution

(The Shield, who claims to fight injustice, ambushes Kane and Daniel Bryan)
Josh Mathews: "What injustice did Daniel Bryan do here tonight, John?"
John Bradshaw Layfield: "He's associated with Kane, that's enough."
Friday Night Smackdown

Some retaliation exceeds what's being retaliated to in its severity. But some retaliation isn't even along the same line; it's directed at those who can't reasonably be blamed for what you're retaliating for, except according to exceedingly shaky justifications, or even no real justification at all. Whether it is worse than what is retaliated to or milder, the point remains that it is still indefensibly directed at the wrong targets.

Closely related to Mis-blamed, a Sister Trope to Revenge by Proxy, and similar to Guilt by Association Gag and Karmic Misfire. It's one of the many ways in which a Cycle of Revenge can get ugly. Avenging the Villain is also related, since The Hero (or whoever killed the villain) is usually either blameless or justified. Yet another related trope is Bewildering Punishment, which is what this trope probably feels like from the victim's POV. The Chain of Harm can result if the victim goes on to inflict this on somebody else.

Truth in Television, of course. From a psychoanalytic point of view, this is called displacement, and occurs when someone who feels under attack emotionally retaliates against someone who is a better victim than the aggressor - for some reason, it is more viable to emotionally attack this new target than the aggressor.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • This is played with in Axis Powers Hetalia. Canada is frequently the target of this because he looks almost identical to his brother America, though the countries that are pissed at America wouldn't harm Canada if they knew the difference. That he's very soft spoken means he rarely is able to stop the abuse or convince the other countries (rightfully angry at America) from beating up on him.
  • A particularly bad example in the case of the anime-exclusive villain Valgaav from Slayers; he was subservient to Gaav, one of the world's five Dark Lords, and he goes on an all-out vendetta against Lina and her comrades for killing him. Problem? Another Dark Lord, Phibrizo, killed Gaav, whereas it took a massive effort for Lina and co. to stand against him. Of course, Lina and co. were used by Phibrizo to lure Gaav from hiding, and Phibrizo is already dead by the time of TRY. It just shows how obsessed Valgaav was with revenge, on top of his other vendettas.
    • Zuuma from Revolution and Evolution-R is even worse. A group bandits abducted him and his wife at the order of one of his father's enemies. His wife was injured, and ended up dying in captivity before the ransom was paid. But before he could get his revenge and learn who hired them, they all got wiped out during an incident in Sairaag. Since Lina and co were involved in said incidents, he goes after her for keeping him from avenging his wife.
  • Sasuke Uchiha of Naruto finds out his brother was ordered to kill his entire family to save his village from civil war and prevent a world war that would've killed thousands of innocents all over the continent. Only the three village elders even knew about that, but Sasuke decides every man, woman, and child in the village, including dozens of people who used to be his friends/family substitutes/mentors, have to die because they owe their lives to what was done to him.
  • In Mai-HiME, Nao, who has turned fully antagonistic after losing one of her eyes in a fight with Natsuki (which, unbeknownst to either, was the result of manipulation by Nao's alleged victim Yukariko), decides to seek revenge on everyone whom she blames for this. This, unfortunately, includes Mai, who tried to stop the fight between Nao and Natsuki, and Natsuki decides to take revenge on Mai by targeting Takumi instead. To a degree, this can also apply to Shiho's grudge against Mai (for which she kills Takumi by destroying Akira's Child), since it was Yuuichi's declaration of love for Mai that showed her that he was attracted to her, rather than anything Mai did, although it also falls under Murder the Hypotenuse in that Shiho wants Mai out of the way as long as she is a potential rival.
  • In One Piece, Duval targets Sanji, who has never met him before, because the poorly drawn composite illustration of him happens to look like him, resulting in Duval being attacked by Marines and bounty hunters who are looking for Sanji (interestingly enough, not over the crimes Duval actually committed).
  • In Murasakiiro No Qualia, Hatou torments Alice in several timelines in consequence of Yukari's death. Alice never meant for it to happen. Quite the opposite, she truly believed JAUNT would be able to protect Yukari.
  • In a Dragon Ball Z movie, Broly wanted to murder Goten and Trunks for looking like Goku, the person Broly was originally looking for.
    • In Dragon Ball GT, Doctors Gero and Myuu plot to get revenge on Goku for their deaths...despite the fact that they both were killed by their own creations.
  • In Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger, it turns out that the main villain Nyanma's mistakenly thought that, during her past as Chocolat, Princess Aura had deliberately tricked her into getting herself disqualified from a race by appearing in a vision to her and asking her to start the race too soon. This lead to Nyanma seeking power from the evil cat spirit Bagi, and led to Nyanma trying to sink the entire country of Mugen in revenge. But Nyanma's retribution is misplaced; it was Bagi herself who sent that vision to Chocolat to trick Chocolat into getting herself disqualified, so Chocolat would have a reason to do Bagi's dirty work in attacking Mugen.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Shinka Kanou learns that his friend Frenda Seivelun was killed by Shizuri Mugino. Rather than target Mugino, he decides to blame and try to kill Touma Kamijou, because he is a hero yet didn't save her. Shiage Hamazura confronts him and calls bullshit on this reasoning. During the time that Frenda was killed, Touma was in another country working on preventing civil wars and invasions. Shiage offers to take the blame because he actually was in the area when the murder happened and actually knew Frenda, unlike Touma who had never even heard of her. Shinka eventually has a Heel Realization.
  • How could we forget the Porygon seizure incident in Pokémon? The real culprit was Pikachu, but Porygon and its evolutions were banned from ever appearing in the anime again.
  • Scar from Fullmetal Alchemist tries to kill the Elric brothers shortly after he's introduced. Scar is one of the few surviving members of a genocide perpetrated by the Amestrian government, and so has good reason to be angry, but he chooses to exact revenge for the deaths of his people by killing State Alchemists, and all State Alchemists, regardless of whether or not they were involved in the Ishbalan conflict. Edward and Alphonse in particular were small children when the genocide took place, and had absolutely nothing to do with it.
    • Also, Scar murdered Winry's parents when it seemed like they were Amestrian scientists who were conducting experiments on Ishbalan survivors. They were doctors. As a bonus, turns out that the people responsible for the whole war were Father and Envy, who treat their Amestrian minions like fish food. Whoops.
  • Justified with the Kimura-Andou-Izayoi feud in Danganronpa 3. Kimura blames Andou for getting her expelled from Hope's Peak Academy. Andou and Izayoi, in turn, blame Kimura for their expulsions. As it turns out, Nagito Komaeda accidentally took a performance enhancing drug that Andou wanted and left her with the laxative he wanted. Naturally, when Andou spiked the candy she was making for a practical exam with the laxative, it ended up causing her proctors severe stomach pain. When Andou accused Kimura of setting her up, Kimura revealed a detonator for a bomb she had come into possession of when she accidentally swapped bags with the aforementioned Komaeda. Then a giant mutant puppy attacked, startling the two into detonating the bomb. The result of this was that Kimura and Andou looked like Mad Bombers, getting them kicked out. Izayoi's expulsion is a straight example of this trope; he was basically lumped in with them because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to be Andou's boyfriend.

  • One of Green Lantern's Silver Age antagonists was the Aerialist, who was under the delusion that someone at Ferris Aircraft had murdered his beloved (her death was in fact a freak accident) and therefore sought revenge against the company. Notable for being one of the few times Hal Jordan thought the Insanity Defense would actually work, even citing the M'Naughten guideline.
  • In The Trial Of Superman storyline, Superman is sentenced to death by an alien tribunal... because one of his ancestors had perfected a device that made it so that most of the Kryptonians couldn't leave their planet without dying, which meant they couldn't leave when the planet blew up. The fact that Superman was only a baby when this happened was ignored by the judges: all that mattered to them was that Superman was related to a killer, therefore he would have to pay for the crime.
  • There is the origin of Doctor Doom. When they were in university, Reed Richards spied Doom's notes for his grand experiment and tried to warn him that some of his calculations were off, which threatened disaster. Doom refused to listen, and when the experiment blew up in his face, as Reed warned, Doom could not accept that he made a mistake and irrationally accused Reed of sabotage, starting their lifelong enmity.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog, Thrash the Devil, like the other dwindling Mobian-type Tasmanian Devils, had been told that the echidnas were evil due to the fact that, centuries ago, a group of scientists modified them, turning them into Devil Dogs slowly over the years. Thrash ended up getting his revenge, leading to the last leader of the Devils realizing that what she had told the other Devils had Gone Horribly Wrong: Thrash had sent every last echidna outside of Knuckles himself into another dimension out of spite.
  • In Nightwing, it is revealed that, once a generation, the Court of Owls takes a single child from Haley's Circus to become one of their Talons every time the circus visits Gotham City. This child would then be tortured, trained, and experimented on. Dick Grayson himself was supposed to become a Talon, but of course, his parents are killed and he is adopted by Bruce Wayne. So instead, his friend Raymond is taken, but washes out and has his eyes pecked out. Years later, Raymond returns as Saiko and claims that Dick Grayson is the worst killer evargh ever and tries to kill him, along with everyone else in the circus at the time. Except: 1. Dick couldn't have possibly known about this (Batman himself didn't know about the mere existence of the Court of Owls, let alone their methods) 2. Dick was in mourning and had found a kindred spirit who could help him achieve his goals (good old vigilante justice) 3. Dick didn't kill him 4. The audience has nothing to do with this.
  • In Incredible Hulk, most of the Gamma Squad hunted the Hulk because they wrongly believed he was responsible for their personal tragedies. To their credit, they stop hunting the Hulk once they realize this.
    • Mess' child was killed during a battle between the Hulk and the Abomination and she was led to believe that the Hulk threw the bus that killed him. It was actually the Abomination who did it, which was even more galling to Mess because she let the government alter the left half of her body to be Abomination-like.
    • Gideon blamed the Hulk for his son Jim Wilson's death just because Jim was a friend of the Hulk's when he died. Jim actually died of AIDS (which, to be clear, he did not contract from the Hulk). The Hulk pointed this out to Gideon. The Hulk then mentioned that Jim never told him his father was still alive, and he asked Gideon why Jim was a runaway pretending to be an orphan in the first place.
    • Prodigy's parents claimed that he suffered birth defects because of the Hulk. Prodigy became a Leader-like Gamma mutate and joined the Gamma Squad for payback. He later discovered that his parents blamed the Hulk to hide their heroin addiction, the real reason for his birth defects.
    • The only members who don't fit this are Grey and Griffin. Grey actually hated his brother Glenn Talbot and just wants to prove himself more capable than his brother by beating the Hulk. Griffin just wants someone to hate.
  • The big twist at the end of Mark Millar's Super Crooks, is after the team rip off notorious super-villain the Bastard while in costume. The Bastard goes to the pack of mobsters who had threatened the gang's friend (forcing them to do this heist) and murders them all while they're baffled as to why. It turns out the mobsters were all once costumed crooks...the same costumes the team wore to rip the Bastard off so he ended up taking out their own enemies.

    Fan Fic 
  • The Vocaloid fanfic From Concert To Chaos has the main antagonists, Miku Zatsune and Rin Arakawa, inflict this onto Miku and Rin by beating the living daylights out of them during a concert, because Zatsune and Arakawa were absolutely convinced that their former boyfriends, Mikuo and Len, broke up with them because of the girls' interfering, even though it was THEIR OWN DAMN FAULT and Miku and Rin were completely innocent. Even more to the point, they trapped the audience in a wall of fire to prevent them from escaping, simply to show the world how evil they were.
  • In The Lion King Adventures, Mtumwa tries to kill Simba (and Nala by extension) for Scar's death, even though that was actually Hago's doing. This is actually justified, however, as Mtumwa wasn't present when it happened, and only heard about it after it was distorted by word of mouth retellings.
  • Pony POV Series:
    • In the Dark World, Fluttercruel's reaction to Discord being mortally wounded is to go One-Winged Angel and try to kill the Elements of Harmony in retaliation. This despite the fact that not only was this actually Rancor's doing, but Cruelty was there and saw it happen. Though in this case, it's justified by the fact that her grief and rage has driven her insane.
    • In the Finale Arc, Venus learns that Tootsie is wielding her murdered son Cupid's Bow. Venus attacks the child and tries to kill her, accusing her of robbing and defiling her son's grave. Toostie had no idea who Cupid was and had been given the bow as a gift by the villains. She eventually realizes she was overreacting and sends Tootsie an apology gift.
  • In Frozen Hearts, when two of Prince Harald's men mistreat Prince Hans while bringing him back from Arendelle, their father, King George, has them dismissed. Harald responds by beating up Hans.
  • In First Try Series, an Iwa genin tries to avenge her father, who was killed in the Third Shinobi War, by setting fatal traps to kill Konoha genin in the Kiri Chunin Exams. It gets her twin brother and their teammate slaughtered by a Kyuubi-powered, enraged Naruto, leaving her to flee for her life.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Dr. Wily got his start in villainy (at least in part) when he made a mistake that caused Proto Man a great deal of pain shortly after Proto Man first activated, but Dr. Wily irrationally accused Dr. Light of sabotaging Proto Man's blueprints, in a manner similar to the Doctor Doom example under the Comics folder of this page.
  • In Sonic X: Dark Chaos, Tsali ended up murdering Cosmo's entire race in revenge after being slowly and tortuously turned into a robot, even though only his adopted father Luke/Dark Oak was actually responsible for it.
  • The Star Wars fic Going Solo has a Mad Doctor who basically lost his sanity after his family was killed on the Death Star. Luke is actually who took out the thing, while Han only had a small role, shooting a couple Imperial fighters so Luke could destroy the thing. In the fic, the whole group is captured, but it's Han who has a badly injured arm with an embedded knife tip, and who's the target for the doctor's rage. The guy also has a hate on Corellians, which makes him even more eager to torment Han.
  • Dead or Alive 4: The Devil Factor: Bass Armstrong wanders into a store and finds a poster of his daughter Tina posing nude. Enraged, he beats up the clerk and throws him through a window, ignoring his protests that he just mans the cash register and has nothing to do with the merchandise.
  • The Svenjaya contract in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. After the Svenjaya “Great Mistake,” whatever that was, the entire tribe had to pay by being sent into indentured servitude for 40 years. It's now been 30 years, and since the average lifespan of a Svenjaya is 30-40 years, several generations that had absolutely nothing to do with the Great Mistake have been growing up in virtual slavery. The four are disgusted by this and vow to help the Svenjaya change the contract.

    Films - Animated 

    Films - Live Action 
  • This is Two-Face's deal in The Dark Knight. Rather than The Joker who actually orchestrated his tragedy, he goes after everyone who was involved in the events, no matter how weakly or by how many degrees of separation, even to the point of threatening Gordon's son (so Gordon will understand what it's like to lose the person he loves most). He reasons that the Joker was "a mad dog" and he's going after the ones who let him off the leash and the people who failed in their job to stop him before the tragedy. Besides which, the Joker was the first person he judged with his coin and would have killed him like all his other victims if chance had not been in the Joker's favor.
  • In Star Trek: Nemesis, Shinzon directs his hatred of the Romulans towards Earth for reasons which make sense only to the screenwriter. It's never even explained what bizarre line of reasoning led to him wanting to destroy Earth and not, you know, Romulus. It's implied to be motivated by a particularly mean-spirited variation of Cloning Blues, but it still doesn't make much sense.
  • In Hellraiser: Hellworld, The Host reveals that he's torturing the protagonists because he blames them for his "beloved" son's suicide. Chelsea points out that this makes absolutely no sense because they were his best friends who loved him dearly and did everything they could to help him. Plus, The Host is a hypocrite because he walked out on his family over 16 years ago and didn't even attend his son's funeral, so he has no right to claim he cares about his son. The Host ignores this and continues the torment.
  • Nine Dead: The Kidnapper wants revenge against his nine captives for the role they played in the death of his son. These include the man who raped him thus giving him AIDS and the lawyer who framed him for a liquor store robbery. Also includes the guy who was owed money by the REAL robber, and a priest who heard the Confession of the robber.
  • Law Abiding Citizen has Clyde Shelton retaliate against anyone even remotely related to a deal the prosecutor made with his family's killers (the accomplice got the needle, while the actual killer was released)... except the prosecutor himself. Basically, his rage is against the US legal system, so anyone is fair game.
  • Star Trek has Nero, who might be the craziest example on this page. When Spock fails to save his homeworld Romulus (including Nero's family) from a horrible natural disaster, Nero goes completely nuts and goes back in time to wipe out the entire Federation. He goes for Vulcan first since it's Spock's "fault" that Romulus is gone. Spock really tried his best to save Romulus, which in itself is amazing given the Romulans' less than pleasant history with the Federation (especially the Vulcans). Nero wants to wipe out the past, present, and future of Spock and everyone Spock loves anyway.
  • The Scream series is both built on this and Disproportionate Retribution.
    • The original Scream's primary killer is Billy Loomis, who initiates a murder spree in his town and attempts to finish it by murdering his girlfriend, because his girlfriend's mother had an affair with his father, hence causing Billy's mother to leave him. The fact that his girlfriend Sidney had nothing to do with this, and especially the fact that Billy ALREADY MURDERED SIDNEY'S MOTHER AND SUCCESSFULLY FRAMED ANOTHER MAN FOR IT is utterly lost on Billy. The following murders and Sidney's were completely unnecessary save for the fact that whatever darkness was in Billy said they were needed. Then again, maybe it was In the Blood, considering...
    • Scream 2's primary killer is Mrs. Loomis, Billy's mother. While she has a SOMEWHAT more understandable motive of wanting to avenge her son's death, it is equally lost on her that he committed his murder spree because SHE left HIM over something her HUSBAND did, and that her son died because Sidney was acting in self-defense, and for some reason another murder spree is needed in this vengeance where only 1/2 of the victims are tangibly related to the revenge by virtue of being tied to Sidney in some way (this this excessive body count might have something to do with his co-killer, Mickey, who is a genuine serial killer she managed to find and recruit for aid). Once again, Sidney is targeted for death for something out of her control. It's also worth noting that Hank Loomis, the other hand in this affair, is barely mentioned and never once targeted for his part in it in any of the films.
    • Scream 3's killer, Roman Bridger is retconned to be the ultimate start of the Ghostface mass killings, as he was the one who told Billy about the affair and hence set him off onto the path that his death further set his mother onto. HIS motive for putting on the Ghostface mask and setting off a third spate of mass killings? That Sidney is now famous for surviving the first two massacres he caused to happen, fame he believes he himself should have. He desires revenge for crimes he caused to be committed against her that she had the gall to survive, something Sidney thankfully calls him on, hard.
    • Scream 4's primary killer, Jill, is driven more by envy and I Just Want to Be Special than retribution, but once again it's someone basically seeking 'revenge' against Sidney because she somehow managed to survive being targeted by three separate serial killers and became famous for it. When you're being targeted for murder primary because you're a survivor, you know it's misplaced.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron has this in form of the Maximoff twins, Pietro and Wanda (otherwise known as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch from the X-Men). They hate the Avengers because they're associated with Tony Stark, who made a shell that smashed into their apartment building, killing their parents and staring them right in the face for two days as they waited to see if it would explode as it also hampered efforts to rescue them. For some reason they blame Tony for this, as there would be no shell to kill their parents if Tony had never made it to begin with.
    • Played With in Captain America: Civil War. Zemo's family was killed in the climatic battle of Age of Ultron. He blames the Avengers for it and plots to make them destroy each other, even though Ultron was the one caused the battle. However, the only reason Ultron even existed in the first place was because of Tony and Bruce Banner.
  • X-Men: First Class has this for Magneto. He hated humans since his mother was killed in the Holocaust. But the one who really killed his mother is Sebastian Shaw, a mutant who sided with the Nazis for his own gains. Even when he kills Shaw, he adopts his stance in wiping out mankind.
  • In Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, the killer Roy Burns goes on his killing spree to avenge the death of his son, Joey. Ironically, the one person he didn't kill was Vic, the guy who had murdered Joey and was subsequently taken away for it before the killings even began.
  • The Wizard of Oz: The Wicked Witch of the West wants revenge on Dorothy for killing her sister. Except Dorothy didn't do that. She didn't make the house fall on the Witch of the East — she just happened to be inside it when it was caught up in the tornado.
  • Clash of the Titans (1981) plays with a combination of this and Disproportionate Retribution. During Perseus and Andromeda's wedding, Andromeda's mother, Cassiopeia, praises of Andromeda's beauty, comparing it to Thetis'...while in her own temple! In response, Thetis stops the wedding and demands Andromeda's life for Cassiopeia's insults, otherwise the krakken would destroy Joppa. In actuality, Thetis was using this as an excuse to carry out her son, Calibos's wish for revenge.

  • In Harry Potter, Severus Snape's hatred for James Potter, his childhood bully, quickly transferred itself onto his son Harry once he started Hogwarts, causing him to be stricter towards him then any other student. The last book, however, reveals that the real reason has more to do with Snape being hopelessly in love with Harry's mother, Lily Evans, making Harry a constant reminder that the love of his life had ultimately married the man he loathed most of all.
    • A straighter example is Snape blaming Lupin for an almost-fatal prank Sirius played on him. He also assumes James was in on it, thinking James saved him for the sake of his own neck.
  • In Diane Duane's novel Spock's World, the Big Bad's motive is revenge on Spock for a death in the family...except that an outsider would probably say it's not his fault at all.
  • In Galaxy of Fear, the wraiths of Kiva spent their undeath cursing Mammon Hoole for their fate and clung to existence solely for the chance to make him pay. When they see evidence proving that Gog, Hoole's partner in the experiment was truly responsible, it takes a few seconds for the wraiths to accept that the man they hated all this time was innocent. Fortunately for them and unfortunately for Gog, their true murderer is in the same room with them, meaning they can still have their revenge.

    Live Action TV 
  • Cold Case: A young boy is horribly abused in a group home. So when he grows up, does he track down those who abused him and/or those who let it happen? No. Instead, he selects completely innocent boys who bear only the vaguest resemblance to his former tormentors and kills them, putting them through the same abuse he suffered.
  • Grange Hill: In a mid 90's episode, a guy and a girl try to escape from a fire by climbing out of a window. She slips, falls to her death, her boyfriend blames the guy who was with her and spends the rest of the season stalking and harassing him. He eventually stops and apologizes (possibly since everyone was against his vendetta).
  • Law & Order: UK: Matt Devlin is killed in a drive-by shooting by a young man looking for revenge on the police for their poor handling of the investigation of his brother's murder, a screw-up he believed was racially-motivated. Problem is, not only was Matt not a bigot, he had nothing to do with the case (and probably would've been steaming mad about it). What's worse, the killer had an idea of who his brother's murderer was (a local drug dealer who may have been lying to gain street cred)—why not go after him or one of the cops who DID botch the case?
  • Law & Order:
    • Jack McCoy's zealous prosecution of a drunk driver who killed three people. Reprehensible, certainly, and fully deserving of a harsh prison term. But it soon becomes obvious that his actions are motivated by the fact that the drunk driver who killed his lover Clare received a light sentence.
    • In "Suicide Box", the episode that the abovementioned Law & Order: UK episode was based on. However, the perp was much younger (14) and the victim survived with only an injured arm.
  • Merlin: King Odin tries to kill Arthur (twice!) because Arthur bested his son in a Duel to the Death. As Arthur tells it, the young, inexperienced prince challenged Arthur and Arthur could not refuse due to the knights' code. Arthur even (unsuccessfully, obviously) tried to convince the boy to withdraw his challenge.
  • Revolution:
    • "No Quarter" has Private Richards beat up Danny Matheson over the death of his best friend Templeton back in "Pilot". It's true that Danny pulled a crossbow on Templeton, but Templeton shot first. It's true that Danny shot Templeton with his crossbow, but one of the villagers named Caleb shot and killed Templeton. Clearly, Richards is after people who are indirectly responsible for the death.
    • "The Longest Day" has Rachel Matheson reveal that she only wants to turn the power back on so the other factions will kill Sebastian Monroe, and she'll get her revenge for her son's death back in "The Stand". Earlier, Rachel tries to kill Major Tom Neville over her son's death, and had to be talked out of it by Charlie Matheson in "The Song Remains the Same". Rachel tries to go into Monroe's tent and blow them up with a live grenade in "Clue". "Children of Men" had Monroe himself say that he wasn't even there when she reveals why she's out to kill him. The thing is he's right, because one of Monroe's helicopters was firing wildly and Danny got caught in the crossfire. It wasn't like Monroe killed Danny personally.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The episode "The Survivors", where members of an alien race kill a powerful being's wife. In retaliation, he kills the entire race, all fifty billion of them. He acted in a moment of rage and was horrified by what he'd done.
  • Buffyverse:
    • In Buffy season 6. After skinning Warren alive out of revenge for his Accidental Murder of Tara, Willow proceeds to target his accomplices Jonathan and Andrew, who were both in jail at the time and had nothing to do with it. Though the Scoobies (sans Buffy) all rallied behind Willow en masse when she targeted Warren, they all agreed that Jonathan and Andrew don't deserve to die at all and work together to protect them.
    • The gypsies didn't really think Angel's curse through. Angel has to spend all of eternity suffering for the crimes of Angelus? Liam was a womanizing jerk at worst, but Darla murdered him and a demon spent a century and change murdering and marauding with his face. Especially bad since the Curse Escape Clause they included eventually led to Angelus murdering the last descendant of the gypsy clan.
  • Once Upon a Time: Regina's antagonism towards Snow White is very much this - the young Princess Snow, who had just lost her own mother, was manipulated by Regina's abusive mother Cora into revealing Regina's secret romance with her family's stable boy, Daniel. Cora soon murdered Daniel in front of Regina, leading to Regina devoting her life to gaining vengeance against Snow for this betrayal, even the extent of occasionally allying with Cora to do so.
    • Even if one concedes that Snow White bears some responsibility for her mistake (making Regina's actions toward her Disproportionate Retribution), everyone else that Regina curses had nothing to do with it.
    • A season 4 episode even lampshades it when Regina says Emma should forgive her parents for lying to her and Emma retorts "this from the woman who spent half her life punishing everyone around her for an eight-year old not able to keep a secret."
  • In 24 Day 8, this is why Jack murders Dana Walsh, as she was involved with the rogue members of the Russian government who eventually murdered his friend Renee Walker, even though by that point Dana had long since been imprisoned and had nothing to do with Renee's death.
  • Ari David, the first Big Bad on NCIS targeted Gibbs' team, vowed to make his life a living hell and murdered Caitlin Todd because Gibbs just happens to remind him of Ari's father, the head of Mossad.
    • The Big Bad of season 9 also suffers from this problem. His son was investigated by Gibbs in the past and transferred to another ship as punishment for his crimes... only the ship was later attacked by terrorists who killed him who exploited a design flaw. Instead of blaming the terrorists, he instead blames Gibbs and the Navy for his son's death and exploits two unknown flaws for extra chaos.
  • Invoked in one episode of iCarly when Freddie's teacher meets Spencer at the school, whom she hated when he was a student. Since she couldn't punish Spencer, she dolled out punishments to Freddie until Spencer left the building. Freddie had to throw Spencer out before he got expelled.
  • Due to an Uncanny Family Resemblance, in one episode of Bewitched, Samantha is mistaken for her cousin Serina by a witch whose husband the latter had turned into a bird. Unfortunately, before Sam could clear up the misunderstanding, the witch banished her to 1886 New Orleans. Needless to say, Darrin is not pleased with Serina.
  • In Jessica Jones, a group of people (among them Jessica's neighbor, whose brother killed himself on Kilgrave's orders) affected by Kilgrave's powers has been formed. When Jessica manages to capture Kilgrave, ties him down and prevents him from using his powers, Jessica's neighbor gets the group to attack Jessica, blaming her for everything Kilgrave has done, and free Kilgrave.
    • The client she meets in "AKA 99 Friends" is a woman whose mother died in the incident, and she blames the "gifted", instead of, you know, the aliens that were attacking the city while the Avengers were trying to save as many people as possible.

  • In The Breaker, a great deal of characters are after Han Chun Wo, also known as Goomoonryong, because he killed their master or performed some other dishonorable thing upon their martial arts school. He is a complete and utter badass upon which they have no hope of carrying out their revenge. Therefore, they prefer to target his student, Yi Shioon, which becomes particularly unfair and messed up in The Breaker: New Waves when Shioon looses his ability to use ki and becomes completely helpless, is renounced by his Master as a student and is no longer a Murim (part of the martial arts world) and should be off limits.
    • Backfires pretty horribly on them since his Master actually started a process that would make Yi Shioon even stronger in Shioon's body (his ki center being broken was a necessary first step). After the first hundred chapters or so, they are seeing Shioon as a threat in his own right.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Infamously, Konnan bashing Carly's father and sister over the head with a guitar because Carly lost them the tag team championships they held in WWC.
  • In a case of "not being available", BJ Whitmer assaulted Lucy because her boyfriend, who had knock him unconscious and joked about it, happened to be in Japan at the time. Punk would show his displeasure upon return by attacking the Outcast Killers for trying to cheer him up with beer and then threatening to kill a member of the Ring of Honor locker room if the guilty party did not come forward.
  • When Kurt Angle brought his wife into TNA she disapproved of his Tag Team partner Sting and pretended that Sting had slapped her to break them up. However, she thought Angle went to far when he decided to go after Sting's son in revenge.
  • Prince Nana hired Bison Smith to attack member of the ROH roster to get back at the company for not hiring him back when he lost his fortune.

    Religion, folklore and mythology 
  • This was endemic among the Greek gods. "Zeus seduces (or flat out rapes) a mortal woman, then his wife afflicts that woman and/or her son with a curse as punishment" is a fairly typical plot outline, and the other gods weren't much better. Though because Zeus was simply too powerful for any of Hera's curses to have any effect on him, and Zeus actually does care about his mortal lovers and demigod sons there actually was a twisted logic to her actions.
    • A well known version of the Medusa myth shares a similar theme. Medusa was a beautiful woman that was raped in Athena's temple by the god Poseidon. Athena was so enraged by her temple being violated that she of course curses Medusa, apparently for not being able to fend off a god, turning her into a gorgon. Some versions even have Athena take it one step further and cursing her sisters too.
    • Aphrodite has a bad habit of doing this whenever there's someone who made a Blasphemous Boast that a certain woman is more beautiful than her. Just ask Psyche and Myrrha about this. In Psyche's case it was particularly bad, since it was her suitors who made the claim, not Psyche herself. On the other hand she got off lucky because Aphrodite assigned her son Eros to carry out the retribution...and he promptly fell in love with Psyche.
  • With Omniscient Morality License, God in the bible has a few instances like when King David had an affair with Bathsheba then put the latter's husband out in front, God kills their first child. Granted, upon this happening David is extremely regretful and atones.

  • Julius Caesar: In real life, after the murder of Julius Caesar, the poet Helvius Cinna was killed by a vengeful mob because he was mistaken for Cornelius Cinna, one of Caesar's killers. In William Shakespeare's dramatization of the event, Helvius is killed because his name is Cinna, despite his protests that he had nothing to do with the assassination.
    Cinna: Truly, my name is Cinna.
    1st Citizen: Tear him to pieces, he's a conspirator.
    Cinna: I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.
    4th Citizen: Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.
    Cinna: I am not Cinna the conspirator.
    4th Citizen: It is no matter, his name's Cinna. Pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him going.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In Ar Tonelico 2, Luca for the longest time holds Lady Cloche responsible for the death of her younger sister. Cloche could not realistically have been responsible for that, considering she was only six or seven years old at the time and even though she's the head of state now, she has always been a puppet ruler who never made any real decisions. And even more so because Lady Cloche IS Luca's sister.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Any time Franziska gets offended by someone she cannot whip, she immediately whips someone nearby, often Phoenix, Edgeworth or Gumshoe.
    • In a more serious sense, this is Godot's entire motivation; He gets poisoned by Dahlia Hawthorne, and when he wakes up, Mia Fey, the woman he loved, is dead and Dahlia is on death row. Feeling as though he failed to protect her, and unable to take action against Dahlia, he becomes Phoenix's rival as a prosecutor, and to thwart a plot on Maya's life, sets in motion a plan that leads to Case 3-5 and causes Misty Fey's death rather than go to Phoenix for help, because he blames Phoenix for not being able to protect Mia.
    • This is also Marlon Rimes's motivation for framing the orca for murder in the DLC case of Dual Destinies, "Turnabout Reclaimed". Marlon thought that the orca had killed his girlfriend, when in reality she died of a heart condition, and both the orca and the orca's predecessor were innocent. In fact, his original plan was to kill the orca, but then the victim of the murder interfered.
  • In Shadow the Hedgehog, the reason the G.U.N. Commander hates Shadow so much is because he was Maria's friend on the Space Colony ARK, and he blames Shadow for her death because G.U.N. considered Professor Gerald's creation of him too dangerous, causing G.U.N. to shut down the ARK, arrest Gerald, and kill Maria and the scientists. Apparently, he doesn't realize that it would make more sense to blame Gerald for creating him, or G.U.N. for actually shooting Maria, rather than blame Shadow just for being created.
  • In MOTHER 3, Fassad, in his "new" form attacks Lucas and his friends when they try to pull one of the seven needles, saying that they pushed him off Thunder Tower, even though his fall was actually caused by his own bad habit of leaving banana peels everywhere. The music that plays during the battled is even called Misplaced Retribution/Unfounded Revenge.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, the motivation of the Big Bad, Mithos Yggdrasil, turns out to be this trope. He was discriminated against as a half-elf. But instead of seeking retribution only on the humans who actually discriminated against him, he set a plan in motion that would make the entire human race suffer for a thousand years. This included treating humans as cattle, implementing a "Chosen" system that resulted in misery for those chosen, causing two worlds to have to share mana so one is always suffering, making people suffer to power up Exspheres, etc. As Lloyd puts it, Mithos took his own pain and forced it on everybody else.
  • The finale of Dragon Age II is kicked off this way. One of the player's mage companions commits a terrorist attack by blowing up the local chantry. In response Knight Commander Meredith immediately invoked the Right of Annulment against the city's Circle of Magi. The problem with that logic is that the mage responsible for attack was an apostate who originated from an entirely different Circle, which Meredith knew. Multiple people point out how insane Meredith's response was, but she wasn't deterred. When news of this reached other circles, several revolted on the spot. The ones that didn't experienced a chain reaction of mage protests and more restrictions from the Templars until things reached a breaking point and descended into total war. All exactly as Anders planned.
    • Sebastian lampshades this ("Why are we debating the Rite of Annulment when the person who did this is standing right here?"), but then threatens to go back to Starkhaven, build an army, and raze Kirkwall to the ground if Anders is spared, which makes absolutely no sense as both Hawke and Anders would be either dead or long gone in the time it would take for him to seize control of Starkhaven, raise an army, and march it to Kirkwall.
      • In Inquisition if you made certain choices, Sebastian actually does raise an army to invade Kirkwall. It causes a minor conflict which you need to settle on the War Table.
  • Seen in the eighth installment of the Dark Parables, where the imprisoned sea goddess unleashes a Bolt of Divine Retribution against those responsible for her confinement. However, she also punishes the five completely innocent daughters of the king who captured her, turning them into mermaids.
  • Hope of Final Fantasy XIII decides early on to kill Snow for the role he played in the death of his mother. Said role was attempting to stop the government from exiling a large group of people (including Hope and his mother) for tenuous-at-best reasons, his mother volunteering to help, and soldiers killing her even as Snow tried (but failed) to rescue her.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Death Note: The Abridged Series (Kpts4tv) Rem blames Light for Misa's stupidity and demands that he save her "or I'll rip your face off."
  • During the Yogscast miniseries Cornerstone, Smiffy of Hat Films steals Sjin's jetpack, causing Sjin to murder Ross, who wasn't even there. To make matters worse, Smiffy had actually put in another jetpack for charging, then returned the one he stole.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Invader Zim episode "Battle of the Planets", Tallest Purple orders someone Thrown Out the Airlock for not remembering Zim ruining Operation Impending Doom I. His response afterward:
    Purple That was the wrong guy but... that's okay! I think everyone gets the point!
  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: When one Ed does something wrong, it's common for all of them, a different Ed, or both other Eds to be punished for it.
    • In "My Fair Ed", the kids hold Edd responsible for the trouble Ed and Eddy cause, saying if he doesn't stop their shenanigans, he'll pay the price.
    • In "If It Smells Like an Ed", Jimmy frames all three of the Eds when he is humiliated in front of the kids after he is given a wedgie by Eddy - and ONLY Eddy, never mind the fact that Ed and Edd have done absolutely fucking nothing to deserve it.
    • In "Ed, Edd, 'n' Eddy's Boo Haw Haw", Ed goes around beating up people and EDD AND EDDY are beaten up instead and Ed goes unharmed.
    • In "All Eds Are Off," Ed contaminates the pool with gravy and Eddy receives detention for it instead.
    • In "Smile For the Ed" Eddy gets a week's detention for impersonating the principal, which Edd actually did (though Edd was trying to help).
    • In "A Fistful of Ed" after Eddy keeps insulting, taunting, and pelting Jimmy with endless hot dogs, Jimmy freaking EXPLODES and gives Edd a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
    • Sarah, a frequent instigator of this towards the Eds, lampshades and justifies it at least once, admitting Double D likely didn't do anything wrong but "give those cute ones an inch and they'll take a mile".
  • Attempted in one episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog when evil eggplants want to attack Muriel because she eats eggplants. Courage dresses up like an eggplant and tries to convince the eggplants to attack the supermarkets instead, but his plan fails when they find out he isn't an eggplant.
  • The Clock King from Batman: The Animated Series goes after Gotham City mayor Hamilton Hill. Why? Years earlier, The Clock King (then Temple Fugate) was put out of business by a lawsuit brought by Hamilton Hill's law firm. While Hill wasn't specifically the lawyer representing the plaintiff, the Clock King does consider him completely responsible because Hill also suggested Fugate take his coffee break at a different time...which led to things going worse.
  • American Dad!: After Steve finds his girlfriend slandered and as a result loses her run for election, he gets revenge on the three popular kids who did it (by having buffalo feces dropped on one, injecting another with fat and giving the final one an STD). He finds out his friends did the slander, and the whole school decides to get revenge on all of them, despite Steve protesting that it was their fault after they come clean. While it was his friends spreading the lies, Steve was the one who caused the very serious attacks on the three, making his friends the ones who had the retribution misplaced upon them.
  • In the Thomas the Tank Engine episode "Trust Thomas", James angrily bumps the troublesome trucks because he has to do Percy's work while he's away at the harbor, but after the trucks find out that Thomas agreed to do James' work, even though James was playing sick, they decide to play tricks on Thomas instead since "one engine is as good as the other".
  • Utilized multiple times in the first season of Total Drama:
    • In one episode, when the Killer Bass were forced to wake up Duncan (who had given a threat of injury if his nap was disturbed) in order to win the current event, Duncan immediately snapped at Harold, even though it was Courtney who made the decision to wake him up.
    • In another one, Harold gets revenge on Duncan for bullying him by rigging the votes and getting Courtney eliminated because he had a crush on her.
    • In yet another episode of the season, when Eva returned to the island, she randomly accused Bridgette of backstabbing her and getting her voted off, despite the fact that her entire team voted her off for being a raging maniac.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In an early episode entitled "Moaning Lisa", Lisa is in such a depressed state that the school takes notice and sends a note home to her parents, and even then out of worry rather than her being in trouble. Homer's so used to Bart being in trouble with the school instead that in response he punishes his son anyway by making him vacuum the entire house, despite Bart not doing anything wrong. Bart understandably is less than pleased with this and also makes sure to vacuum up a deck of Homer's playing cards in retaliation.
    • In "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken", Homer and his friends go on a drunken stupor and ransack Springfield Elementary. Chief Wiggum automatically assumes it was kids and imposes an excessive curfew, which Homer applauds because he was too drunk to remember. Naturally, the kids are righteously upset and spend most of the episode finding ways to get back at their parents or other adults.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • This was the theme of the cartoon "Pest of a Guest". Every time bellhop Daffy disrupts the rest of a disgruntled hotel guest, he punches the manager Elmer Fudd in the nose. At the end of the cartoon, when Daffy works the guest up into his greatest rage, Elmer promotes Daffy to manager while taking over as bellhop. The guest still punches him in the nose.
    • In another cartoon entitled "Fox Pop", a fox overhears a radio broadcast talking about how foxes are popular and in season. Believing that foxes are getting a royal treatment, he gets himself taken into a fox farm (after disguising himself as a silver fox), only to find that he was going to be turned into a fur coat. After going through hell and escaping with his life (following a beating from a pack of hunting dogs), he blames his misfortune on the radio, steals it, and smashes it up. After telling his story to a pair of hawks (the premise of the episode being in a flashback Framing Device), they join him in smashing it.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Karate Choppers," Mr. Krabs orders SpongeBob to give up his obsession with karate for good, or he's fired. As SpongeBob is leaving the Krusty Krab, contemplating how to break the news to Sandy, Sandy herself comes in and starts attacking him, dismissing SpongeBob's attempts to explain what Krabs said. Mr. Krabs comes out at that exact moment and sees it, and despite the fact that SpongeBob was literally standing there doing absolutely nothing while Sandy was trying to instigate, singles out SpongeBob and fires him on the spot. He takes it back after Sandy explains the situation and agrees to give up karate as well.
    • In "Shanghaied", when SpongeBob and Patrick keep jumping off the Flying Dutchman's ship, only to keep landing back on it, the Dutchman asks if they're going to keep doing it. When Patrick responds "Maybe", the Dutchman blasts Squidward with a ball of fire (again).
    • In "Bubble Buddy", after SpongeBob and the titular bubble unintentionally cause everyone on the beach grief and trouble, they form an angry mob and tip over the lifeguard tower to vent...followed by deciding to attack the lifeguard who did nothing. Fortunately, Squidward convinces them to focus the senseless violence against SpongeBob and Bubble Buddy instead.
    • In "Patty Hype", after SpongeBob's Pretty Patties dye the people who ate them different colors, they take their vengeance out on Mr. Krabs because he was the current owner of the stand selling the patties, even though SpongeBob was the one who sold them the patties in the first place.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In the episode "Paste Makes Waste," when a bullied kid named Elmer Sglue mutates into a giant monster after being ruthlessly teased and bullied by Buttercup and the other kids, Blossom and Bubbles initially refuse to help Buttercup fight him, telling her outright that she and the other bullies deserve it for how they treated Elmer. They quickly change their minds when Elmer proceeds to attack Ms. Keane, who had nothing to do with the bullying, and proceeds to rampage through Townsville.
  • In one episode of The Tom And Jerry Show, Spike beats up Tom and Jerry for the insults the Interactive Narrator made about him.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • In "Blondas Have More Fun", Jorgen blamed Wanda for Timmy's reckless and dangerous stunt wishes when it was Cosmo who was granting them.
    • In "Boys in the Band", Timmy's Mom threatened on TV to take her aggression out on Timmy if Chip Skylark didn't show up to the concert she and Timmy's Dad were at, which Timmy was actually responsible for because his wish got him kidnapped by Vicky, but his mother didn't know that. His dad advises him to run.
  • Invoked in one episode of Johnny Test where Johnny's father said that Johnny would be held accountable for anymore transformation experiments the twins performed. No sooner did his parents leave that his sisters turned themselves into babies as part of a scheme to win over the neighborhood hottie.
  • In one episode of ˇMucha Lucha! when Rikochet was in detention, the Headmistress kept adding to his time because the mariachi band with him wouldn't stop singing.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Hogwild Hampton", Egghead afflicts Pressure Point damage to Hampton (and eventually demolishes his house) because of the noise Plucky's party was causing, even when it was Plucky who slammed the door in his face and was rude to him when he asked for the noise to stop.
  • In the Family Guy episode "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Fonz", one cutaway gag depicts Peter eating dinner while on steroids. When Lois asks him to pass her the mashed potatoes, he flips the bowl over and punches Meg.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Lawnmower Dog", Jerry threatens Rick that he'll ground Morty if Rick doesn't find a way to make the family dog smarter (slightly justified as Rick needs Morty's help with his experiments). Fortunately for Morty, Rick quickly produces an invention to do exactly that.
  • Goblins in Trollhunters will punish whoever kills one of their own severely, but are also not very good at linking cause and effect; when one is killed by a truck, they take their vengeance out on the truck instead of the driver. Jim trips Nomura over causing her to land on a goblin and kill it, and they take their vengeance out on her instead of him.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Slice of Life, a background The Big Lebowski reference near the end implies that the bugbear killed Donny in its attempt to get at Bon Bon (who had sent it to Tartarus).