A character is widely distrusted, or maybe even actively disliked, by everyone else in the plot. Even though he's always innocent, this person is blamed for things that he didn't do, and is often the first suspect when something bad does happen.
Unfortunately, rather than go to extreme lengths to prove his own innocence, the character rebels and acts out, sometimes feeling he has nothing to lose by doing so; maybe even committing an actual crime in the process. When people discover the crime, that confirms their suspicions and "proves" to them that, yes, this person was really that bad all along.
For added ironic flavour, the newly-criminal character may be busted just as the others come around and start to believe his original claim — giving the cynic
of the group something to snark
about — "Well I guess you're right chumps, he really
isn't a thief... he's just a graverobber
Compare I Resemble That Remark
. Somewhat related are You Have to Believe Me
, where a character tries to prove their sanity by screaming incoherent gibberish
; Digging Yourself Deeper
, where they try to sound less creepy
by justifying the original creepy remark; and Sticky Fingers
. Contrast with Wrongful Accusation Insurance
, wherein the character is not implicated for crimes committed while trying to clear his name
. The tropes may overlap, though, if the character is called out for his crimes as they happen, yet unceremoniously pardoned
after his name is cleared. Not to be confused with Don't Shoot the Message
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Anime and Manga
- In The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues, people are disqualified from the 25th-century time-traveling police by any criminal ancestry (going back at least to "present day"). One member, unbeknownst to the others, is descended from a murderer. Feeling it's unfair to hold someone else's crimes against him, he decides the solution is to make sure no one ever realizes it was his ancestor who committed the crime, by going back in time and perpetuating the frame job that keeps an innocent person in prison. He does this with more murder.
- In one Bloom County strip, Steve Dallas is defending a client in court and delivering the last bit of a finishing statement, when his client, completely unbidden, shows up by his side and announces that he'd like to add something. He then goes into a mad, spittle-filled rant about how he'll kill the whole court, their loved ones, and their housepets, if he's convicted. He then immediately calms down and returns to his seat, while the judge reconsiders the acquittal he was planning to announce, and Steve considers giving up as an attourney.
- Happens in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with Sirius Black: He is condemned for the horrible death of one Peter Pettigrew, former close friend, in front of many witnesses; having a role in the deaths of the parents of his godson Harry Potter at the hands of Voldemort, conspiracy in the attempt against the life of the mentioned protagonist, treason and other minutiae. It definitely does not help that he is found maniacally laughing at the scene of the crime, survives a punishment/Mind Rape in Azkaban that no sane person should and, succeeding an escape from a prison that was previously thought inescapable, goes on stalking his godson and entering Hogwarts with murderous intentions. Oh, and he let slip things like "could just as well have killed 'em myself" from time to time. As it turns out he went hysterical from the deaths of his friends the Potters thanks to treasonous Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew (whom Sirius himself recommended as the ideal Secret Keeper), tried to avenge them confronting the latter, who managed to frame Sirius for his own (faked) death, was convicted and imprisoned without fair trial, went into an Heroic BSOD so epic it bordered Despair Event Horizon and made the Dementors' powers lose their effect on him, and was in Hogwarts purely to chase Wormtail.
Sirius: I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for!
- Harry Potter himself and other characters of the cast will fall into the wrong side of this trope from time to time; Snape (oh god, Snape) in particular appears to go out of his way to be as suspicious and unlikable as he can.
- Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire does this a lot, and is strange in that he works it to his advantage. As an example, when he assumed a position of authority in a city where everyone hated him and assumed he was a monster because of his unfortunate appearance, he used this as an excuse to bring along an entourage composed of vicious mountain barbarians who carry human body parts as trophies. This assisted immensely with his political goals.
- In the third book, he's accused of murdering his nephew, unfairly imprisoned, and given a sham trial; and all this is happening shortly after he fought in an incredibly vicious battle during which he received a horrible injury from which he is still recovering. He snaps, and not one could blame him. And he still manages to work this to a minor advantage; convinced he's getting a sham trial, he demands trial by combat. He selects a member of the Martells as his representative; the Martells are longtime rivals of the Tyrells, the Lannisters' recent political allies. If he wins the trial, the Tyrells will be pissed that the alleged murderer of their daughter's fiance got away; if he loses the trial, the Martells will be pissed that their son died for him. It's one final "screw you" to his family.
- In general, Jamie and Tyrion Lannister tend to use this trope in a "Then Let Me Be Evil" kind of way. They're constrained by bigotry (Tyrion) or unfair judgements (Jamie) and are unable to escape them despite their best efforts, so they tend to stop giving their "best" efforts and instead use an evil reputation to get their way.
- One of the many things that Jaime and Tyrion Lannister share is a total and crippling inability to KEEP THEIR BIG IDIOT MOUTHS SHUT when a clever remark occurs to them, no matter how many weapons are pointed at their heads at the time, or how testy the people holding them are. That tendency does more to nearly get them killed over the course of the series than all the Stark soldiers combined.
- The Frankenstein Monster. Seriously, there's a bit in the book where a kid insists that the monster is an ogre who wants to kill him. The monster denies this, and then kills the kid for not listening.
- The monster is trying to abduct him at the time, so that would be an extra dose of really not helping your case.
- Bryony theorises that this is why Veil turned to thievery and delinquency in Outcast of Redwall, because she's one of the only three Abbeydwellers who don't immediately accuse him whenever something goes missing.
- The Wheel of Time has quite a variety of these, on a sliding scale from "didn't do something mildly embarrassing" to "not a mass-murdering monster". Perhaps the most explicit is when Galina Casban is mouthing off to her captors about all the horrible retribution they'll face when she's freed, unaware that she's making herself look extra guilty of the murder she's been framed for. Bonus: she is a conniving evil murderer, but didn't commit that particular crime.
- And then there are all the instances where someone's not helping their case about true accusations. Everything from yelling "I'M NOT ANGRY" to shouting about how you're not mad... to the voice in your head.
- In The Seventh Sword trilogy, by Dave Duncan, our hero, Shonsu, is a great swordsman who doesn't know the customs of the land he lives in. He often talks too much, which turns out to not help his case. In the end of the first book, Shonsu is asked about how he managed to survive an attack. He goes into detail about how he used a dagger and attacked two men at one time, then attacked a fleeing swordsman, chopping him down as he ran away. All of these actions were against the well-established rules of the land.
- During Galaxy of Fear: The Doomsday Ship, Dash Rendar is accused of being the ship's saboteur. His weapons, strong antiauthority bent, and general cockiness don't help. Though when he risks his life to seal a compartment and stop decompression, people relax a little more. He'd been there in the first place to steal the ship, but got beaten to the punch.
- In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Dorothy's pet Eureka (in later books the Pink Kitten) is on trial for eating one of the Wizard's pet miniature pigs. She refuses to defend herself other than to point out how much she's wanted and tried to eat said pigs. Nobody wants her convicted, but nobody can believe she's innocent by this point. An representative excerpt from the trial (the Tin Woodsman is defending her):
Tin Woodsman: Look at the kitten’s intelligent eyes; (here Eureka closed her eyes sleepily) gaze at her smiling countenance! (here Eureka snarled and showed her teeth) mark the tender pose of her soft, padded little hands! (Here Eureka bared her sharp claws and scratched at the bars of the cage.)
- After some Courtroom Antics aimed at showing her innocent (which Eureka sabotages at every point) and the trial is reluctantly concluded, Eureka tells them where the missing piglet trapped itself. Trying to get away from her attempts to eat it. And "Eureka was much surprised to find herself in disgrace; but she was, in spite of the fact that she had not eaten the piglet."
Live Action Television
- Komm wieder her by Knorkator is a song about a man begging his wife to return to him. By telling her how much he needs her, he's really not helping his case.
"My fridge is empty, I have no clean socks. Nobody goes shopping for groceries or sweeps the floor. Who pays attention to me, and endures me."
"Who would make me coffee in the morning? Who would lock the door when I leave the house? Who would clean the windows and the shoes? Who would take the garbage out? Who, if not you?"
- "Put Another Log on the Fire" is similar. In the first verse, the singer gives a long list of chores for his significant other to perform, followed by the demand "Then come and tell me why you're leaving me."
- In one story, Paige accidentally reveals that she's been regularly seeing R-rated movies despite being underage. While her mother frets in horror at how much sex and nudity her daughter has been exposed to, Paige quickly adds "Some were just the violent kind, though."
- Reflecting on this, in a later story, Peter suggests that Andy and Roger go see Kill Bill Volume 2, saying it was awesome, completely forgetting how his mother feels about R-rated movies. After she grounds him for a week, he angrily tells her he didn't get this upset when he saw the first Kill Bill. Andy replies that she didn't know he had seen the first one.
- Peter Grimes. The title character could be the patron saint of this trope. People think he's a sadist who kills his boy apprentices on purpose, and possibly abuses them. He's more of a Doom Magnet actually, and haunted by the memory of the dead apprentices, but being an antisocial jerk whose attitude towards the town is "fuck you all and leave me alone" doesn't help much. He eventually goes mad and kills himself.
- In the first trial of "Doubt Academy", Akari's over the top defensive behavior and anger at everyone believing that she was the culprit only lead the other students to push for her death even more. The kicker? She didn't do it. Akari was defending photographs of her she found in her room.
Stand Up Comedy
- Brian Regan mentioned how reading is good for the human mind and how nobody could say otherwise without proving that statement true. He sets up a scene of a point/counterpoint show about reading, with a well-dressed scholar on the pro-side, and on the opposite side we see the village idiot.
Village Idiot: Hey, let me tell you somethin'. Readin', readin' don't never do'd nothin', 'cause if you had, if you have, have has, have hazzeded, if you did haveded, hazzedivizzed a book, and you looks, had looks, have looks, has looks, have looks at it, lookin' in is it, lookin' it, have lookin' is in it at it, then you might not even know why you had do dat.
Professor: I have nothing to add. I would like to yield the remainder of my time to my opponent, in the interest of fairness.
- This is probably the entire story of Ethan Mars from Heavy Rain.
- This trope could easily be renamed The Max Payne Legal Defence. In order to prove that he's innocent of murdering his best friend, who was one of the two guys who knew he was undercover, he goes out and slaughters his way through what seems like half the rank-and-file of the New York Mafia. Most of those were probably self-defence, but still not going to look good if and when he can touch base with his superiors, to say nothing of the Enemy Mine arrangement he made with someone rather high-ranking in the local Russian mob. After Act 3 or thereabouts the trope is averted by way of Motive Decay (and probably Sanity Slippage); Max isn't interested in clearing his name anymore, he just wants revenge. He gets both, aided and abetted by some really impressive Hero Insurance.
- Happens a lot in Ace Attorney, but the crowning king of the trope is probably Larry Butz. In Ace Attorney Investigations, he elevates this into an art-form by actively trying to counter Edgeworth's arguments... while Edgeworth is in the middle of trying to prove him innocent of committing murder
- Nessiah in Yggdra Unison. In the game's backstory, he stole from Roswell and Rosary, and a thousand years ago, he made the Gran Centurio to absorb energy from war. During the game, he's actually just trying to collect said sword and make everyone stop fighting before he leaves Ancardia for good to go Rage Against the Heavens. He is constantly accused of planning world destruction, and you can bet that if anything disastrous happens or any new faction gets embroiled in the conflict, he will get blamed for it because of his track record. Ordinarily, someone in this situation might try to defend himself. Nessiah laughs his ass off at his accusers and mocks them before going on to take over their territory.
- From the same 'verse, we have Mizer, who at the time sustained himself by sneak thieving. Upon being accused of stealing a pendant from Velleman, the party's noble sponsor, he first attempts to flee, then denies having done anything once caught, then rallies his mooks and sneak-attacks you... while attempting to run away a lot. Once you've finally wrestled him into submission, it turns out that Mizer was innocent—Velleman's pendant fell in the mud, and one of Mizer's flunkies picked it up, calling finders keepers.
- In Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, your introduction with Nathaniel Howe (son of Rendon Howe from Origins) has you encountering him in a jail cell after he infiltrated your new base to try and assassinate you. It took four Wardens to subdue him. He is openly disdainful of you, the Grey Wardens, the reigning monarch and the other noble families for the crime of...opposing his psychotic backstabbing rat bastard of a father. If asked what he will do if released, he openly admits he will probably come back and try to kill you again. If you tell him this trope, he'll tell you that he could lie if you wanted. It's then up to the player to either execute him, let him go or conscript him into the Wardens where he ultimately proves to be a better man than his dad, after being hit a few times with the cluebat.
- James Tobin in the game In the 1st Degree really gets stuck in this trope. He is charged with murdering his business partner Zack and for stealing his own paintings. He ends up changing his story of what happened between him and Zack two or three times throughout the game. He ends up coming off as suspicious as a result of telling a different story more than once and shifting the blame to someone else more than once.
- Golden Sun... will the Mars Clan of Prox please stand up? Start with stealing the artifacts to unleash the horrible power of Alchemy on the world, continue with repeated kidnappings and thefts in the pursuit of unleashing said horrible power, add in attempted murder of a Baleful Polymorphed girl, murder of innocent scholars (and less-innocent guards) between Tolbi and Lalivero, murder of enslaved workers at Babi's Lighthouse, and is it any wonder Isaac & Co. decided lethal force was necessary to stop them?
- Throughout Dragon Age: Origins, Loghain insists that he didn't deliberately betray King Cailan at the battle of Ostagar, and that his withdrawal was the only sound tactical choice. The fandom continues to dispute whether or not this is true. However, two of the prisoners Locked In The Dungeon and tortured in his close ally's estate are a soldier who survived Ostagar and the friend of another (missing, likely dead) survivor who claimed Loghain retreated while there was still hope for the king. This revelation works against him at the Landsmeet, especially since the latter was a member of the nobility. Even if he didn't betray Cailan, suppression of the witnesses tends to suggest otherwise. Which leads to even more fandom dispute as to whether Loghain knew what his ally was doing in that regard...
- In Mega Man X4, Repliforce stands accused of destroying a city (they were in fact framed). When they are declared Mavericks for this and refusing to come in for questioning, they start a coup, during which they destroy a city.
- Leela in Futurama, "The Sting": "I'll find Fry's coffin, get his corpse, and keep it under my mattress to remind me that he's really dead. That'll prove I'm not insane!"
- The Simpsons. Homer, pointing a gun at Mr. Burns' head, in front of everyone: "Say I never shot you!... Before."
- Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil tricks him into doing this in one of the few episodes where Bob actually is innocent.
- Zee in The Zeta Project. He's accused of being re-programmed by a terrorist, and no matter what he does the FBI always make it out to be a crime. During most of the series, he was pursuing his creator so he can convince them that he's good, but his actions are taken as an assassination attempt when he accidentally set off the cryogenic chamber, almost killing him. The poor guy just can't win.
- When Agent Bennett tries to convince his superiors in the second season he hasn't gone insane on this mission, the fact one of his own Agents left the NSA over his behavior is pointed out. He counters he hasn't had a bad call on his record other than Gotham, which is not a good incident to bring up since he nearly got part of the city blown up during that incident. Agent West facepalms audibly in the background.
- When Agent West is right about where Zeta is at one point, he points out the other times he found Zeta... which everyone knows were either accidents or Agent Lee doing the legwork.
- Agent Lee goes back and forth: initially she gets this when attempting to explain Zeta isn't evil, but she's Genre Savvy enough to try that exactly once and then turn to the much more provable and equally true objection to her superiors that Bennett is becoming unstable. When she feels it isn't taken seriously, she quits, an act extreme enough to prompt investigation into Bennett's behavior. But she's unable to get Zeta's case heard afterwards when she's viewed as a Mood-Swinger who turned on her boss, and any response she has damages her case.
- Zeta's main character witness for the entire series is a runaway minor who has a criminal record. The show lives and breathes this trope.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender . You know, Zuko, telling the Gaang about that assassin you sent after them and accidentally attacking Toph really isn't going to help your case. (At least he's smart enough to realise this).
- In an earlier episode, the gang force their way into the Earth King's palace, leaving a trail of unconscious guards and wrecked masonry behind them, and then try to convince the King that they're on his side. The King is understandably not impressed:
Toph: He has a good point.
- A minor case, but when trying to expose Iroh and Zuko, Jet's ranting does not help his case, especially since it makes him a bit incoherent.
Jet: I know they're firebenders! I saw the old man heating his tea!
Guard: He works in a tea shop.
- In Sequel Series The Legend of Korra: sheltered Country Mouse Avatar Korra tends to stumble into this.
- In "Welcome to Republic City" When she discovers and tries to argue against an Equalist protestor decrying benders as an oppressive establishment, he easily manipulates her confrontational attitude to make her look like the bad guy in front of a large audience of listeners.
- Later in the same episode, she's incredulous when police insist she be arrested for causing property damage during her well-meant Curb-Stomp Battle of a trio of protection racket enforcers. Instead of coming along quietly to explain her presumption of Hero Insurance, she flees the police, fighting them as she bolts, forcing them to use an Airship to bring her in, which earns the enmity of their chief.
- Matters worsen in "The Revelation" when, desperate to find a friend kidnapped by Equalists, she shakes down the same protestor for information in public, smashing his megaphone, flipping his table and hoisting him by the shirt, and must again flee the police when the protestor wails (quite rightly) that he's being oppressed.
- My Little Pony:
- The Crabnasties in the My Little Pony And Friends episode "Fugitive Flowers" turned out to be the good guys, but the fact that they were introduced literally tearing the forest apart looking for the deceptively cute Flores, and they then proceeded to recklessly trample Posey's garden trying to arrest their quarry, didn't really help their case.
- In the My Little Pony Tales episode "Stand By Me", a mock trial is staged after Melody accuses Teddy of stealing her tape deck. Teddy blurts out that he would "do anything" to get a tape deck like hers, making him seem more guilty in the eyes of the jury.
- This is a big part of the plot in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Luna Eclipsed". Princess Luna returns after a thousand-year banishment as the evil Nightmare Moon in an attempt to reform her public image. Unfortunately, between her spooky Big Entrance, her booming voice, and her hair-trigger temper, it's hard for her to convince anyone that she really isn't an evil villainess.
- And Pinkie Pie's screaming and running doesn't help either. Especially since nobody else realizes that Pinkie isn't actually scared.
- Not to mention an earlier episode "Bridle Gossip". Despite how negatively people treat the cast's suspicions, Zecora did literally nothing to dissuade their suspicion until Apple Bloom cleared things up. If anything, she made herself even more suspicious.
- On the other hand, Apple Bloom says that Zecora told her that whenever she came to town, all the stores "mysteriously closed", implying she didn't know why the ponies hid whenever she came to town and may not have had any idea they thought she was a witch.
- Invader Zim: When at one point offered to refute some rather convincing evidence Dib had collected on national television, Zim replied to a question of "are you an alien?" with "LIES! THE FILTHY EARTH BOY LIES!", before catching himself and adding "...I mean, 'no'."
- In the El Tigre pilot, Rodolfo is about to leave on a business trip and instructs Manny to be on his best behaviour. Manny assures that he will, jokingly asking, "What do you think I'm gonna do, rob a bank?" and his chuckles quickly snowball into a full-scale evil laugh.
- Any character who has ever pleaded to be believed that his story about monsters, demons, zombies, etc is true and that he is NOT insane while screaming and flailing in an hysterical fashion.
- It would only take a modicum of common sense and Genre Savvy to simply call the police and tell them where the monster is located, but hold that specific detail to yourself and instead make up a story about two large gangs waving knives at each other while cussing and insulting each other, oh and I think I saw some guns in there too. Hang up and wait for the police sirens.
- This Cracked.com article mentions how gamers who are angry about anti-piracy measures pirate more, and points out that this is not helping their case: http://www.cracked.com/article_18571_5-reasons-its-still-not-cool-to-admit-youre-gamer.html
- Check any Michael Jackson hate group on the Internet (especially those that claim that anybody who loves him must be completely insane). You will find posts by serious fans who joined the group just to gush about Michael Jackson and spew hate on all other members.
- This also happens in groups for people who don't like the Twilight series; die-hard fans will often join just to insult the other members and gush about the series.
- Websites and columnists directed towards proving the guilt of Amanda Knox, like True Justice for Meredith and Peruga Murder Files have quickly degenerated into this. Not only do they resort to insults (towards anyone who supports Knox or presents a theory that might support that the case against her is flawed), make claims easily debunked as lies, but show outright bias by purging any messages left on these sites by Knox's supporters. Worst of all, despite the stated goals of these sites, the victim and her family is rarely ever even mentioned. Since the case broke, they've become little more than hate sites, both towards Knox and Americans in general (most of them are British).
- During a motorcycle protest ride against a helmet law in New York state, one of the protester had a fatal accident in which a helmet "would have likely saved him".
- Similarly, this man protested the wearing of seatbelts, only to die as a result of not wearing one. Ironically, he even said that it was his choice if he wanted to flirt with death.
- The infamous antics of the British protest group "Fathers 4 Justice", who felt that parental access rights are unfairly biased towards the mother under British divorce laws. They might or might not have a point, but that is not a debate for this wiki. What is not up for debate is that when the general thrust of your argument is, "we can too be trusted to look after young children", participating in what can only be described as wacky hijinks involving hilariously cheap superhero costumes, flour-filled condoms and various national monuments (details) to make your point is definitely counter-productive.
- Soon after Tesco was found to have horsemeat in their ready-made beef lasagne, which wasn't entirely their fault as it turns out, one of their delivery trucks hit and killed a horse.