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- In the Star Trek/Babylon 5 crossover story A Thin Veneer, the Minbari are simply outraged that, after years of being able to casually slaughter the humans from the Earth Alliance with ease, Starfleet refuses to allow them to continue the slaughter! But what really makes them mad is that the Federation actually has the brass balls to win battles against the Minbari! Seriously, their attitude is "How dare they fight back! How dare they have superior technology to the Minbari! And how dare they win!"
Films — Live-Action
- In Erik the Viking, the soldiers of Evil Overlord Halfdan the Black are so surprised that Erik is actually fighting back that they don't know how to react to him. People are usually too scared of them to try fighting back at all. This encourages the rest of Erik's crew to jump in and fight.
- Scary Movie 3: The aliens appear to attack the protagonists, who then kill one of them in retaliation, but the aliens inform them that strangling each other is their standard way of saying hello. A kick to the groin is how they say goodbye.
- Waterworld: The Deacon prefers to get information by capturing two prisoners and telling them, "Whoever talks first gets to live," then shooting the one who didn't talk fast enough on the spot. This apparently works so well that, when he's captured both Helen and the Mariner and neither of them talk, he has no idea what to do.
- In Babylon 5, the Minbari routinely salute other Minbari vessels by approaching with gunports open as a sign of respect. When they encounter a human vessel for the first time, they attempt to do the same as a friendly gesture. The Earth ship, with it's sensors on the fritz because of a Minbari scan and Minbari stealth technology can't tell whether the weapons are powered, and its trigger-happy captain utterly misinterpreting this maneuver and convinced the larger alien vessel is about to attack, opens fire first. The Minbari leader Dukhat was enraged when he learned his crew was doing this in a first-contact situation, but he was killed in the process of ordering the gun ports closed. A bloody war immediately followed.
- The Minbari apparently covered this particular detail up (or, for the most part, didn't realize what the problem was), since the same thing almost happens years later when a Minbari warship visits the titular station. Thankfully, the Minbari ambassador's intervention prevents the misunderstanding from sparking another conflict. Given that she was present for the first incident, it's no surprise she recognizes the problem, and moves to prevent further issues the moment she realizes it might come into play.
- Star Trek:
- In several episodes, various alien species actually seem surprised when the Federation objects to having their citizens kidnapped.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "Half a Life" there's an entire species of people who ritualistically kill themselves on their 60th birthdays, and they seem shocked and baffled when one of their own refuses to do so so (because he needs more time in order save the whole planet — also, he'd fallen in love with Lwaxana). Apparently none of their 60-year-olds had ever had any qualms about dying before.
- In "When the Bough Breaks", an alien race kidnapped the Enterprise children because they had all gone infertile. They seemed surprised that the Enterprise parents didn't understand their plight and wanted their children back.
- In the Deep Space Nine episode "Captive Pursuit", the human-like aliens pursuing Tosk are surprised when Sisko considers the custom - hunting a sentient being for sport - immoral and wrong. In fact, Tosk himself seems to see nothing wrong with it, having been trained from birth for such a purpose. They seem to have taken a page out of the Hitchhiker's Guide and gotten around the whole ethical dilemma by using a genetically engineered race that wanted to be hunted (Word of God is that the Dominion made the Tosks for them).
- On Seinfeld Elaine's dancing is truly horrible, but no-one can ever bring themselves to tell her... until Kramer sees her dance, that is.
- Kramer does this a lot, actually. A running gag is that there's some kind of subject everyone's too polite or too awkward to discuss but Kramer always just blurts it right out. Another example would be when George spent a lot of time complaining about his current girlfriend's oversized nose, which is the only blemish on her otherwise-great face. When they're eating dinner in Jerry's apartment, Kramer outright tells the woman to her face that she should get a nose job.
- When they try to invoke this intentionally, to get Kramer to comment on a woman's terrible hairstyle, it backfires on them completely. He tells her that he really likes it and when she mentions she'd been thinking of changing it, he convinces her not to.
- In an episode of Friends, Monica offers Chandler a massage, but it turns out to be very painful. He tells her this and it turns out that everyone else was making lame excuses about it and Chandler was the only one who was honest to her.
- We can only assume that the piggies of Speaker for the Dead had never tried to disembowel another species before, or else they might have some idea why the humans objected.
- Justified, between when the practice started and when the humans showed up, no other sentient species existed on their planet — in fact, due to a pandemic virus-like organism, there were only six species of any kind.
- In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, members of the Race cannot understand why humans insist on fighting back instead of just placidly accepting their rule. Don't the humans realize that the Race is by definition the most superior species in the universe and thus natural rulers of all life? How dare they think they can resist! And how dare they actually win!
- In The Conquerors Trilogy by Timothy Zahn, first contact with the Zhirrzh goes very badly because the ghosts they use for communication (It Makes Sense in Context) are fatally sensitive to radio waves. Humans are the FOURTH species this has happened with (the other three they conquered, thus the trilogy title). They never figured out that these species were trying to communicate; instead, clearly, all those other species attacked them at first contact. And those other species were so barbaric they armed their escape pods! And so on.
- Played for horror in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The premise is a town that holds an annual lottery, where the "winner" of the lottery gets stoned to death by the rest of the locals. The townsfolk have no qualms about this, even going as far as a mother getting stoned by her own children when she receives the winning ticket. Other towns have begun to abolish this lottery in protest, along with one person in this town, which the other townsfolk can only interpret as societal regression.
- In The Ringworld Engineers, sex is often used as an interspecies social/political lubricant. When Louis Wu turns down offers, he is usually greeted with confusion or amusement.
- Halo 4: Dr Halsey's interrogator calls out on Halsey's methods of creating the Spartan-IIs and the reason they were really made, calling them cruel. Halsey reminds him that her Spartans are the reason humanity survived, and that no one complained before.
- The Simpsons: Homer has gotten Apu fired from the Kwik-E-Mart.
Apu: It is time to settle the score!
(he walks up to the door and knocks; Homer answers it, and Apu walks slowly towards him, arms outstretched, an angry scowl on his features; Homer walks backwards, and screams in fright)
Homer: No, don't kill me. I didn't know there was film in that camera in that hat! I was unaware. I was unaware!
Apu: Mr. Simpson, you misunderstand me. In my village this is the traditional pose of apology... You know, now that I think about it, it may be a little confusing. Many have died needlessly.
- Later, when Apu really does try to strangle him out of anger, Homer misinterprets it as him being thanked.
- American Dad!: When Stan goes to Heaven and is denied a chance to return to life, he pulls out his gun and threatens to shoot. Everyone laughs and points out that Earth Guns don't work. The Bailiff pulls out a Heaven Gun and mentions that these do. Stan immediately grabs the gun and threatens to shoot his now-hostage lawyer. Everyone is shocked and stunned while Stan runs away. One guy complains.
(Stan grabs the gun; various reactions of gasping and other comments from the crowd)
Bystander: Why do we have those again?
(Stan runs away with his lawyer as a hostage)
Bystander: Seriously, why do we have Heaven Guns? I don't mean to be that guy, I'm happy here... but why is this not an issue?
- Every political or cultural revolution, ever. The people rise up against an inherent inequity in law or society that everyone just simply accepted — or at least never really thought about — until now.
- Not just revolutions; most political, social and many religious movements and theories tend to run against this. In many countries law is established by precedent and thus "nobody ever complained" is actually a strong argument that a certain practice is perfectly legal and has to be protected. This led some movements to try and establish a largely or entirely mythical even older precedent - e. g. the "ancient English freedoms" brought up by the Parliamentarian side in the run-up to the English Civil War.
- This will often be brought up explicitly by those defending the old system. "You aren't fighting for equality, you're infringing our established right to persecute you."
- Every single time there's an attempt to remove a religious idol erected on public property, or put an end to some other special privilege one religion has gotten used to having over everyone else, there will always be a flood of religious apologists insisting that whatever illegal thing they've been doing MUST be okay, because Nobody Ever Complained Before. Even when the same violation actually HAS been reported before, perhaps many times.
- When, in 1815, the Allies occupied Paris after the Waterloo campaign, a lot of nations sent representatives there to locate works of art that had been taken there as booty of war during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (e. g. Schadow's quadriga from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin). As Clausewitz noted, there were Frenchmen who complained against this because the Allies had not taken these works of art back when they occupied Paris for the first time in 1814!
- The Barbary Wars of the early 1800s. European powers preferred to simply buy off the Barbary Corsairs rather than risk a disruptive war at sea - there were even dedicated line items in some nations' annual budgets setting aside a portion of their GDP as tribute - to the point where paying ransoms to the Corsairs was just an accepted cost of doing business in the Mediterranean Sea. When the Corsairs presented their tribute demands to the fledging United States, newly-elected President Thomas Jefferson - partly out of general principle, and partly because the young nation simply couldn't afford such an expenditure - basically said, "Yeah...no, we're not gonna do that" and set about building a navy instead. The United States was the first nation in recent memory to actually oppose the whole institutionalized piracy arrangement that kept the Barbary States wealthy and powerful. And it worked: After a rough start, the United States Navy defeated the Corsairs in 1805 (the origin of "to the shores of Tripoli" in the Marine Corps Hymn), and then again, decisively in 1815. After that, the British and French felt emboldened enough to refuse paying tribute as well; after all, if one weak, upstart, faraway nation could successfully oppose the Corsairs, then what excuse did they have? Ultimately they conquered and colonized North Africa. All it took was one nation to complain (very loudly, with cannons), and the whole thing fell down.
- In 2016, the US government announced that women who reached age 18 would be required to register with the Selective Service System — the so-called "military draft" — just like American men had been required to do since 1917. Almost immediately, the National Organization for Women began a campaign to completely end the draft because "no one should be forced to fight and die unless they volunteer." It goes without saying that many jokes were made about the convenient timing of the organization's protest, and the fact that when it was just men being drafted, the organization never really gave a damn about the draft.