Oblivious Guilt Slinging works like this: Alice is planning something that will hurt Bob in some way. Even though she feels bad about it, she's decided to keep this a secret from Bob. It is therefore almost guaranteed that even though Bob doesn't know what Alice is up to, he will say things that make Alice feel even worse, talking about how much he trusts her, or the importance of not keeping secrets from each other, or just what a wonderful person Alice is.
How Alice reacts to this added guilt varies. Sometimes she'll simply put up with it and go through with her plan anyway. Often, the added pressure leads to a breakdown and a confession. Depending on the nature of the story and the deception, it can also be part of Becoming the Mask
or a Heel-Face Turn
, as the guilt changes the character's plans or actions.
Most of the time, the audience is aware of the deception or secret, making this a subtrope of Dramatic Irony
, as the audience cringes on behalf of the character, who is most likely already in an unpleasant situation, and now has to feel worse about it. However, there are occasional exceptions where the audience is unaware of exactly what the secret is, and the irony only becomes clear later on.
Another common type of this is the opposite: one Alice is about to tell Bob something that would hurt him in some way - usually by confessing a lie or an action - only for Bob to, right before Alice is about to say so, gush about how Alice would never hurt him and how truthful she is or how proud the thing she lied about doing makes him feel, thus making Alice unable to face the disappointment of Bob finding out the truth and keep
lying as opposed to revealing it. Usually an aspect of a "snowball lie."
This is a subtrope of Dramatic Irony
This trope is also used to build suspense, as the guilt-ridden character wonders whether or not to go through with the deception. Compare Insult Friendly Fire
, when Alice accidentally insults Bob without realizing she's done so (at least at first), and Oblivious Mockery
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Anime and Manga
- Soul Eater: after Crona pulls a Heel-Face Turn, Crona's mother has Crona act as a spy, starting by bugging Marie and Stein. The first thing Crona hears when listening in on them is Marie telling Stein what a nice kid Crona is.
- The mother of Kurama's human host body does something that has a similar effect in YuYu Hakusho, when Kurama was planning on leaving forever once he had recovered his powers. She saves him from being badly cut by broken dishes, injuring herself in the process. Kurama planned on leaving at some point after that, but couldn't bring himself to do so, and eventually came to love her enough to be willing to give his life to save hers.
- Classic Star Wars has a story in which Vader hires an actor to impersonate Obi-Wan and lure Luke into a trap. Luke is overjoyed at the prospect of his teacher surviving, and openly so. This guilts the actor severely, and Luke pulls him into situations where to deflect suspicion he has to do what Obi-Wan would... and in the end he has a literal Obi-Wan Moment and calmly dies to save Luke. Who may, possibly, have been not so oblivious after all - he doesn't seem surprised when the actor confesses while dying in his arms.
Films — Animated
- In Aladdin, the Sultan does this to Aladdin, who at this point, was fraudulently using Genie's magic to pass himself off as a prince to gain the affection of Princess Jasmine....:
Sultan: And then you, my boy, will become sultan!
Sultan: Yes, a fine upstanding youth such as yourself, a person of your unimpeachable moral character is exactly what this kingdom needs.
- Aladdin: The Return of Jafar:
- In Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph meets with King Candy just before Vanellope is about to enter the race that will hopefully turn her life around by giving her a chance to be in the game and he convinces Ralph that Vanellope can't be allowed to race For Her Own Good since it could eventually lead to Sugar Rush being shut down and Vanellope actually dying. While Ralph is trying to find the words to convince Vanellope of this horrible truth, she gives him a cookie medal she made with "You're my hero" written on it. Ouch.
- In Mulan II, after Mushu managed to create a rift between the titular character and her love interest all so he can keep his job, as they temporarily walked different paths, Mulan comments on how good companion Mushu is, which causes him to break down and confess.
- In A Goofy Movie, the morning after Max changes the map's destination from Lake Destiny to Los Angeles behind Goofy's back, Goofy decides to make Max the navigator of the road trip, saying he trusts him wholeheartedly. Max keeps up the charade, but is initially hesitant.
- The Jungle Book: After Baloo finally agrees with Bagheera to send Mowgli to the man village instead of living with him, Mowgli reminds him about all the fun they're going to have together and sings "The Bare Necessities", all while Baloo had a guilt-filled expression.
- Frozen: Every time Anna pesters Elsa about coming out to play (as a child) or open up to the world (as a young adult) triggers Elsa's bad memories of the time she nearly killed Anna when they were playing with her powers as children - an incident Anna can no longer remember. It gets to the point that Elsa reveals her powers publicly and runs away, prompting Anna to lampshade the trope and insist she should be the one to go after her because of it.
Films — Live-Action
- In the movie Blow, the protagonist, happy after a successful drug run, drunkenly showers affection on his partners, promises them an extra $200,000, and says he's getting out of the business. All while the federal agents they're siccing on him are poised to break down the door.
- Lampshaded a bit in The Truman Show. Marlon tells Truman, "The last thing I would ever do is lie to you" while Cristof is secretly telling him to say exactly that. There are hints throughout the movie that Marlon is an alcoholic basket case due to his constant deception of his best friend.
- Reservoir Dogs - Orange feels very, very guilty when White takes a bullet while trying to convince Joe that Orange is not the rat. The problem being that, of course, he is the rat.
- Pitch Black. Carolyn looks guilty when the survivors of the Hunter-Gratzner congratulate her for having landed them safely on an alien planet. They don't know she did so by ejecting the other passenger compartments.
- In Roman Holiday, Ann is thankful to Joe for giving her such a great time, while he is only in it for the money. At that point anyway.
- In the Discworld novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, the cat Maurice gained the ability to talk after eating one of the eponymous educated rodents. He keeps this a secret from the other rats, but feels bad and is eventually forced to confess after several remarks on how nice he is, especially in being careful not to eat intelligent creatures. In this case, the reader didn't know exactly what Maurice's secret was until he said it, although they knew the praise was getting to him.
- Bit invoked; one of the rats had a strong suspicion about this, and was making pointed comments on purpose.
- In Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Huck decides to do the "right" thing and turn in his companion Jim, an escaped slave, to the authorities. However, when Jim calls him a great friend - the only friend he has, in fact - Huck finds that he can't go through with it.
- Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome has the eponymous character torn between staying with his ill, shrewish wife Zeena and running away with her sweet cousin Mattie who he's fallen for. When Ethan decides to ask his neighbors for an advance payment on the logs he chops up for them to have enough money to run away with Mattie to the West, he's deterred from doing so when one of them praises him for taking care of Zeena, saying sympathetically, "You've had an awful mean old time, Ethan Frome."
- In Captain's Fury of the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher, the hero Tavi tells his beloved Aunt Isana how much he trusts her, and how family, unlike the untrustworthy nobles he has lived among for the last few years, won't betray you by keeping terrible secrets... not realising that Isana was just about to confess that she was really his mother, and was responsible for his lack of superpowers. Guiltstricken, she keeps silent, which of course just makes thing worse.
- In Jasper Fforde's book The Big Over Easy, DS Mary Mary is secretly reporting on Jack Spratt's case to the decidedly unpleasant DCI Friedland Chymes. Jack continually bolstering her with what a good job she's doing just makes her feel worse that she's betraying him, and eventually she gives it up.
- The Alan Ahlberg poem "I Did a Bad Thing Once" has a child describe how he stole money from his mother to buy bubblegum, only for his mum to then give him bubblegum as a reward for being good.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ginny is distraught after the attack on Mrs. Norris and Ron helpfully assures her that "they'll catch the maniac who did it and have him out of here in no time." Way to go, Ron. (To be fair, Ginny probably didn't suspect herself yet at that point.)
- Chuck has a good example of this as Casey is supposed to kill Chuck once he's no longer useful, but especially in one of the more recent episodes, Chuck acts in a friendly way which makes Casey have reservations about doing this.
- Another good example from Chuck occurs when Sarah is told to bring in Chuck in the episode "Chuck Versus the First Kill", and Chuck notes how she's the only one he believes he can trust. Sarah ends up not going through with the assignment, instead escaping with Chuck to find his father.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer example (because there has to be one): In the third season episode "Lovers Walk", Willow and Xander develop a sudden attraction to each other. At the same time, Oz gives Willow a present to celebrate her new identity as a witch. Willow, who already felt bad, is driven nearly frantic by this, and sets out to find a way to stop things with Xander before they go any further.
- In Season 6's "Dead Things" Buffy is neglecting her duties to have a Secret Relationship with vampire Spike with definite BDSM aspects — naturally the Scoobies tell her how hard she must be working, "being all tied up" and "pounding the big evil".
- In "Indiscretions", a sixth season episode of Highlander, Joe Dawson is being blackmailed and has to deliver Adam Pierson (AKA Methos) to an immortal. They're driving to an ambush when Methos starts telling him he feels there's a bond between them and "Who'd have ever thought I'd end up with a watcher as my best friend?"... by the time they arrive, night has fallen and Methos is still going on. Joe then yells at him to shut up and guiltily admits it's a trap. Methos' answer? "Now that wasn't so hard, was it?". Turns out Methos is Genre Savvy and knew everything from the get go.
- In Merlin, one episode had King Uther tell Gaius "You're the only one I can trust in the fight against magic." Gaius then shares an uncomfortable glance with his protege, Merlin.
- This happened twice to Merlin in the episode "The Sins of the Father". Arthur told Merlin that those who practice magic are evil and dangerous and he was grateful to Merlin, who "helped" him realize it. Later, Uther told Merlin he was a great ally against the fight against magic.
- 30 Rock: In "MILF Island," Jack tasks Liz Lemon with finding the person who anonymously insulted him in a gossip column. He knows that she did it, and spends the entire episode piling it on until she confesses.
- In Firefly, after escaping the authorities, Simon talks enthusiastically about how he and River would be dead if not for Jayne, not knowing that he had betrayed them, and the only reason he helped them escape is that the Feds were going to arrest him too, instead of giving him the reward money.
- In an episode of Friends, during the period that Chandler and Monica's relationship was secret, Ross confessed to Chandler that he'd been dating Janice. Chandler didn't care, leading to this:
Chandler: Why would I be mad?
Ross: Because, you know, there are rules about this stuff. You don't fool around with your friends' ex-girlfriends, or possible girlfriends, or girls they're related to.
Chandler: I am mad. But you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna forgive you! Because that's what friends do! They forgive their friends when they do everything you just said, all on the list there. But I want you to remember that I forgave you. And that I let you live here rent-free! And...that I gave you... twenty... SEVEN dollars!
- Hannah Montana:
- There are quite a few episodes where Miley does something mean to someone who tirelessly forgives her by saying how nice she is and how it was really his/her fault right before Miley does something worse.
- In the series finale, Miley seriously considers accepting a movie role, which would require her to go back on her promise to go to college with Lilly. When she tries to talk to Lilly about it, Lilly starts gushing about how happy she is that Miley is going to college with her instead of going on a world tour or accepting some movie offer.
- In an episode of Scrubs, JD tries to impress his new girlfriend by paying a hobo to fake a heart attack, so he can "save his life". Kylie is impressed, but mostly by how "genuine" he is.
Kylie: James [her ex] lied to me all the time. It's good to be with someone I can trust.
J.D.: Cool. [internal monologue] Oh, no.
- Happened to Tara right off the bat in the second season of Sons of Anarchy: she reluctantly agreed to be Jax's girlfriend, on the condition that there be no more secrets between them. Then Gemma gets raped and confides in Tara, stressing that she can't tell Jax about it, ever. Of course, Jax can't stop talking about how cool it is that he and Tara can tell each other everything.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Marooned", Rimmer has a camphor-wood chest containing all his Napoleonic War models, and Lister has his guitar. When they're desperate for fuel for the fire, Rimmer says his belongings are too valuable, so Lister agrees to burn his guitar, providing he can play one song first. Rimmer gives him some privacy for this, and Lister immediately starts sawing a guitar shape out of the back of the chest. Then Rimmer returns, and is deeply impressed by what Lister has done.
Rimmer: There's no point in being modest. I know what that guitar meant to you. The same as that trunk means to me. If that trunk got so much as scratched, I'd be devastated. It's not the outward value - for me, that trunk is a link to the past. A link to the father I never managed to square things with...
Lister: Is it?
Rimmer: It's the only thing he ever gave me, apart from ... apart from his disappointment. But you've shown me, by burning your guitar, what true value is. Decency. Self-sacrifice. Those are the things that make up real wealth. And from where I'm standing, I'm a pretty rich man.
Lister: Oh, God...
Rimmer: Burn the soldiers.
Lister: No! Not the soldiers as well!
Rimmer: You burnt your guitar. I wish to make a sacrifice too. Burn the Armee du Nord. Cast them into the flames, let them lay down their lives for the sake of friendship... What's that smell?
Lister: What smell? I can't smell any smell.
Lister: Oh, God.
Rimmer: Your guitar was made of camphor wood? It was probably worth a fortune! Burn the soldiers! Burn them right now!
- In an episode of Parks and Recreation, Leslie helps capture a rogue possum, nicknamed "Fairway Frank" since he runs loose on a golf course, after he bit the mayor's dog, so that he can be put down. However, Leslie has reason to believe they captured the wrong possum, but is conflicted because of how pleased the mayor's office is with her now. Scenes like this result.
- In one episode of Necessary Roughness, Ray J tells his mother about his car breaking down. Dani initially scolds him for not having it serviced earlier, but then thanks him for being honest with her. Of course, his car was actually stolen after he snuck into a club with TK the night before.
- All Creatures Great and Small. Tristan, having failed his finals once again, hid it from his brother and dropped smoking, alcohol and laziness in order to get him in a mellow mood. Siegfried was so impressed that, after proposing a toast to Tristan, he offered him a partnership in the practice — once he'd got his degree, of course. The audience cringes on Tristan's behalf for a good five minutes (Peter Davison does horrified/guilty/hurt puppy very well); after the explosion Tristan bounces back into his usual form, completely unruffled. The same cannot be said for the audience, who now want to strangle him.
- Frequently occurs on Noah's Arc, usually with Wade (or Noah's boyfriend at the time) slinging the guilt at Noah (for Noah cheating, wanting to break up, etc.)
- This happens a lot on Dexter, seeing as the entire premise is a cop (blood spatter analyst, to be exact) who's also a Serial-Killer Killer. The main "slingers" are Dexter's sister Deb and his girlfriend Rita, but sometimes his coworkers also make a few remarks that by all means hit home. Dexter's internal monologue often comments on how oblivious they are to the fact that the entirely likable guy in their midst is really a killer.
- Tess' father is a master of it, whenever Tess is about to fess up her father starts gushing about how good an example Tess is and she chickens out. She does finally give in each episode and they reach an understanding.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: After Carlton accidentally takes some speed from Will's locker, Will feels responsible. When Phil decides to give Will his graduation present early and tells him he is proud of him, Will says he can't accept it and confesses.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: The twins are graduating middle school, but Zack failed his reading class and therefore won't be graduating with his class. Zack is guilt-tripped when Carey throws a party for them and bakes a cake, plus their father shows up and gives Zack his guitar as a gift. Zack confesses after all the pressure and is sent to summer school.
- Especially with Frasier. The amount of times he's done something dishonorable and tried to cover it up...
- On The Thin Blue Line, while talking about the teenager they picked up for "joy-riding" in "Night Shift", Goody rambles briefly about the trouble broken families lead to before remembering that Fowler is a divorced father.
- Babylon 5: In "The Coming of Shadows", G'Kar gives Londo a friendly greeting after learning that the Centauri Emperor's visit was intended as a gesture of reconciliation. Londo is horrified by the realization that the attack he has already set in motion is destroying what would have otherwise been an opportunity for peace.
- In Sam & Max: The Mole, the Mob and the Meatball, Sam and Max are ordered to kill their friend Sybil to gain the Toy Mafia's trust. When you talk to Sybil, she knows the Mafia is planning to kill her, and says that Sam and Max are the only ones she can trust. This doesn't make them feel any better. The Trope Namer comes from Max's remark: "She should consider guilt-slinging for her next career".
- Final Fantasy X - Yuna begins her journey to defeat Sin knowing that she will die in the process. Tidus, who's rapidly building an attraction to her, doesn't know this, but unwittingly says things that remind her of it - like "We can come back and see this place again later", or "After we beat Sin, we can...". When he's told what will happen, he beats himself up about it, and hangs a lampshade on his part in this trope.
- The situation also happens in reverse with Tidus and the rest of the party; after The Reveal that Jecht became Sin a decade ago, every time someone (especially Yuna) brings him up in a heroic light makes Tidus guilty and uncomfortable, due to him feeling personally responsible for his father.
- In Dragon Age: Origins it's entirely possible for the Grey Warden to do this to Morrigan, especially if the Warden is a male character romancing her. It doesn't stop Morrigan from following through with her true objectives, but it's clear that she feels guilty about it. Then again, if this isn't the first playthrough, there's nothing "oblivious" about it.
- You can also do this to Arl Howe in the human noble origin, who is planning to have you and your entire family killed by the end of the night; if you go out of your way to be nice to him, he's a bit nonplussed and becomes uncomfortable, in probably the only decent moment the man has all game.
Human Noble Warden: I just wanted to wish you well, Arl Howe.
Arl Howe: Thank you...(looks noticeably uncomfortable and turns away) that is...quite unnecessary.
- Something similar can happen in Dragon Age II depending on the actions and dialogue the player chooses near the end of Act II. You can't stop Isabela from betraying you, but you can make her feel really bad about it and pull a Changed My Mind, Kid later.
- In Frozen Essence, being nice and helpful to Varian causes him to become visibly uncomfortable and tell Mina outright that helping him will not help her. It doesn't stop him from helping Oryon capture and attempt to reseal her, although he's clearly wracked with guilt/doubt about this. On the other hand, pulling this off on him again during his path with the right choices does result in him having a change of heart at the last minute about his plan to reseal Mina.
- Can be done to Shepard in Mass Effect 3. If Shepard chooses not to tell Eve about the fact that the salarians sabotaged the genophage cure long ago, Shepard has to listen to Eve constantly talking about what a hero Shepard is for all s/he's doing for the krogan people. Wrex also praises Shepard for being a hero (although how much he does depends on how many decisions you made that are good for him or the krogans), but is a subversion of the trope since Wrex doesn't stay oblivious forever...
- Nicole: One of Nicole's potential love interests is — unknown to her, obviously — also the man who kidnapped three women and is now planning to kidnap her, along with tormenting her through threatening messages on her phone. At one point, she essentially beats his door down to comfort him over a recent failure, and yells at him until he accepts that she truly does think of them as friends and she's not trying to emotionally manipulate him. He's so distraught over this that he threatens to rape her in an attempt to make her hate him; when she calls his bluff and tells him flat-out that she knows he's not really going to do it, he freezes up. The fact that she shows so much faith in him even after he threatens her like that completely unsettles him.
- In the webcomic Sam and Fuzzy, where Sidney "the Sicko" tells Crush actually Sam with a beard that he's the only person he can trust. Unbeknownst to Sidney, Crush is currently dating his on-again-off-again girlfriend, of whom he is notoriously fanatically possessive. Crush is extremely upset by this, since Sidney has always been kindness itself to him, and aside from his neuroticism regarding his ex, is a pretty cool guy. This trope happens again later, with Gert, prompting the appearance of her conscience cat.
- Much later, when the fact that they are dating finally becomes known to Syd, he reacts predictably- only to have her yank him firmly down to earth by sternly reminding him of the "ex-part" and make him apologize. Everyone remains good friends.
- Natani of TwoKinds confesses that Keith is her best friend when he's been ordered to betray the group (Keith's race is biologically disposed to follow orders). He then finds that he cannot kill her, and tries to kill himself instead.
- In Homestuck, this happens when Jane (who has a huge crush on Jake), is asked up-front about her feelings for him and freaks out and denies it. He goes on to effusively thank her for her honesty, telling her how much it means to him to have a good friend right now, and confides in her about his confusion regarding Dirk. Her reaction is both hilarious and heart-breaking.
- Also happens earlier from a different direction when Roxy, frustrated with Jane's refusal to believe her about the batterwitch, sends her a file that will cause her computer to explode pretending it's from the batterwitch in the hopes that Jane will finally start taking her seriously...only for Jane to come around on her own and start apologising for being such a bad friend. Roxy has a My God, What Have I Done? moment and tries to stop Jane from running it, but she goes ahead anyway.
- In one episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series, Stitch deliberately lets one of the experiments, "Mr. Stenchy", be captured when he begins taking up Lilo's attention. Afterwards, Lilo laments on how losing Mr. Stenchy means that she'll be unable to bring him to a tea party held by the snobbish girls to be accepted as their friend. Nani points out that these girls probably wouldn't make good friends anyway; Stitch, on the other hand, is someone Lilo can depend on. Every affirmation made of how Stitch would never do anything to hurt Lilo sends the creature sinking further and further into his chair. He tries to atone for it by dressing up as Mr. Stenchy for the girls' tea party, though it doesn't exactly work out.
- In an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender , Aang learns of the location of Sokka and Katara's father, and keeps it secret. This plagues him through most of the episode as he is praised for being honest and true. Their reaction...they did not take it well.
- Invoked in The Spectacular Spider-Man, "Final Curtain": Harry pretends to do this to keep Gwen from breaking up with him, but he's not actually oblivious at all.
- Another one The Simpsons did straight: in "Team Homer", while the rest of Homer's bowling team are pressuring him to get rid of Mr. Burns, Burns buys them all bowling shirts and tells them they're the only friends he's ever had.
- Subverted when Homer quickly recovers and tries to punt Mr. Burns off the team anyway, only for the others to interrupt him out of guilt. Then Double Subverted when Mr. Burns steals the trophy and the glory at the end.
- Played straight again in "Steal This Episode". Homer starts pirating movies and hosting a movie night, but Marge starts feeling guilty and mails a check to a Hollywood producer paying for the ticket she didn't buy and confessing what Homer did. This leads to the FBI arresting Homer, and as he's taken away he starts talking about how he's going to hunt down whoever did this to him, and what a good wife Marge is. Homer manages to escape, and the family hides out in a Swedish consulate. However, the FBI finds them again and Homer turns himself in once Marge confesses.
Marge: Lisa, tell your brother that sealing is wrong, no matter what!
Lisa: I don't know. It wasn't like Dad was stealing for himself. He created a wonderful experience for the whole town. I just can't imagine anyone turning him in.
Marge: (takes Maggie's pacifier and rapidly sucks on it)
- Happened in Teen Titans, in the episode "Betrayal". The same night Terra is given the word to deactivate the Titans' security and let Slade's army of robots in for an all out onslaught against the Titans, the Titans comment on what a great friend Terra is and how valuable she is to the team, and how good friends like her don't come along every day. She obviously feels guilty, even insisting they don't have to be grateful since she's just doing her job (as a Titan). She betrays them anyways.
- In one episode of Arthur, Arthur's dad scores him a backstage pass to a concert, because he's catering for the band. He tells Arthur he can invite his friends, but Arthur's Imagine Spot about the band taking him luging suffers a Fantasy Twist when he imagines a dozen kids showing up, so he says he doesn't think they'd want to go. The next day Buster tells him that he's going to see if his reporter mom can get them backstage, and Binky offers him a spare ticket closer to the stage. He invites everyone.
- In Young Justice "Satisfaction", Paula Crock thanks Wally for providing emotional support as she comes to terms with Artemis' "death". Wally's guilt over maintaining the ruse in front of Artemis' grieving mother is written all over his face.
- In the same episode, the rest of the Team goes on and on about how Kaldur is going to pay for Artemis's "death". They're rather confused when Nightwing mysteriously vanishes, unable to cope with the guilt.
- In an episode of House of Mouse, one person has to be fired when the club goes over its budget, and that person has to be the most irresponsible employee. Goofy naturally fits that role, but when he tells his friends he loves them and enjoys working at the club, Mickey and the others (except Donald) can't find it in their hearts to fire him.
- In the short "Mickey's Mistake", Mickey finds an envelope full of money and uses it to buy Minnie a new bow. When he does, Minnie tells him that she lost an envelope full of money that she intended to donate to an orphanage, then expresses hope that someone as noble and kind-hearted as Mickey would find it and turn it in. Mick soon looks like he's going to throw up.