The single most powerful deterrent to kidnapping in all fiction, (and certainly in the mundane category), is to be so annoying that the kidnapper requires an active force of will to keep their sanity. What makes them annoying isn't important. In truly bizarre cases, the kidnappers can be annoyed because their victim insists on being kind, upbeat, and forgiving even through torture. The point is, nobody wants to be around them and that ransom note looks increasingly unimportant as compared to the promise of not having to deal with the Anthropomorphic Personification of "damned pest" day in and day out.
This can lead to an especially awkward situation when it turns out that the extortee doesn't want the hostage back. Expect much comedy to abound in this scenario, in part because a sufficiently vicious kidnapper would not get in this situation in the first place. Foiled by niceness once again, it seems.
This trope is a fairly old one. O. Henry's famous example "The Ransom of Red Chief" executes this trope using a pair of kidnappers (and a particularly bratty kid as the "hero") back in 1910, and there are stories, jokes, and folk tales going back to the Middle Ages and beyond of someone who escapes damnation because the Devil Himself doesn't want to deal with her (and it was almost alwaysa her, because the Middle Ages were like that).
It's fairly common for this trope to be invoked if the captive is particularly Genre Savvy or cunning.
Compare Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth. Contrast Poisonous Captive. If you pity the kidnappers because they're about to get their asses kicked by the kidnappee, then that's Mugging the Monster. Also compare Defiant Captive, who is more 'uncooperative' than simply 'annoying'.
Not to be confused with Stockholm Syndrome, in which the kidnappee develops pity/amicability with the kidnapper; Contrast Lima Syndrome, in which the kidnapper actually starts to like or feel sympathy for the victim.
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In Axis Powers Hetalia, Germany, America, England, and France have ALL, on separate occasions, tried to hold Italy prisoner. It never works out.
Germany has recently taken Italy prisoner. Germany, bored out of his mind and furious that Italy doesn't even want to escape, is pushed to the limit when Italy starts singing Germany a song. The song starts out as complimentary, but it then starts to insult Germany's attitude, food, "scary tourists" and overly abrasive girls. Italy is shipped back home in a box before he is even finished singing.
One time, Germany shipped Italy home in a box. The Allies shipped Italy back to Germany twice, once after America captured him (although they were willing to keep him like a dog until he insulted England's cooking, at which point America immediately decided not to keep him), then again after France captured him. Both times, the box had 'FUCK' written on it, in big, bold letters.
In Zoids: New Century, Polta and the Backdraft Group have kidnapped Leena. While he calmly attempts to negotiate, Leena can be heard in the background shouting down her kidnappers and harassing them. Polta stops talking twice, once to order them to restrain her and another after asking "excuse me a minute", when she threw something that hit him in the face. He leaves the video call to stop her, and returns visibly beaten and disheveled, but successful at least.
The Marvel Universe robot character Machine Man (Aaron Stack) was nudged toward sentience by the alien Celestials at his creation. Years later, they abducted him and took him into space. They then returned him to Earth with little explanation for their actions. Suffering from self-esteem issues, Aaron claims they returned him because they thought he was boring and obnoxious.
A flashback in Nextwave (which may or may not be real) has the Celestials telling Aaron that he's a loser. Complete with L on the forehead. And they mock him further when he Wangsts about it.
Celestial: Aaron Stack, you who were called Machine Man. You have travelled with us for three hundred and sixty cycles by your reckoning of time. There is now something we have to tell you. You are total ☠☠☠☠. Aaron: ... What? Celestial: No. Really. You're ☠☠☠☠. We've taken a year of you. We're taking you back to that orbiting trashcan you call a planet. And dumping you there. You're turning away from us. We are speaking to you and you're turning away from us. This is exactly the kind of ☠☠☠☠ we're taking about here.
In the DCU, Lobo, Karnevil and The Joker have all been kicked out of hell at one point or another. Lobo for throwing wild parties and causing massive damage to demons and property, Karnevil for annoying/freaking out the demons by constantly pointing out better torture methods, and the Joker for being the Joker.
Features in a Judge Dredd story, where a criminal kidnaps a woman for ransom after she frees him in the mistaken belief that Society Is to Blame. Of course, she's so saccharinely annoying that he's soon begging to be taken to prison just to get away from her.
In Asterix the Gladiator, Cacofonix is captured by a Roman prefect to give to Caesar as a gift. The suffering of the kidnappers only increases on their journey as they spend more and more time with Cacofonix's singing.
In Asterix in Spain, Romans try to get a village of Iberians to surrender by holding the chief's son Pepe hostage. Pepe is, of course, a Bratty Half-Pint who drives the Roman soldiers guarding him up the wall, and is little better when Asterix and Obelix offer to take him home to his father.
There has been at least one Batman story wherein Alfred is kidnapped by thugs with ambitions towards the Wayne trust fund. Unfortunately for them, Alfred is generally portrayed as a Retired Badass with shades of Battle Butler.
In the first arc of the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic comics, Chrysalis gives the Mane 6 three days to find and rescue the Cutie Mark Crusaders, partly because that's when the Comet of Doom will be in position, but mostly because she's already starting to get annoyed by their constant chatter and cutie mark obsession.
Tintin: While she isn't thrown out, Bianca Castafiore's stay in a San Theodoran prison is very stressful on the guards, who keep coming out of her cell with spaghetti on their heads because it wasn't cooked to her liking. When she is rescued by Tintin and the revolutionaries, she wants to break into song, which is met by a hasty "No! No!" by Captain Haddock and the San Theodoran officer.
The Lord of the Rings fanfic the Ransom At The Redhorn explores the situation where Elrond's wife Celebrían (daughter of Galadriel) is taken prisoner by Orcs. The canon tells us unspecified torments were suffered in the Orc-Den. But, as Thranduil Oropherion Redux points out, the reality of who suffered torments and who inflicted the torments might be rather different. It is noticeable Elrond was not in much of a hurry to get his wife back.
The main character in High Strung spends most of the film complaining about whatever is within his view (it's not exactly great cinema). At the end, he is dragged away by Death (played by Jim Carrey), who eventually lets him go because he complains so much.
In "The Ransom of Red Chief", the titular "Red Chief" (what the kid calls himself in his first game, Cowboys and Indians) is so bad, that the kidnappers had to pay a ransom to his father to take him back! Totally understandable, as the kid was no mere Bratty Half-Pint, but rather both a Motor Mouth and a precocious Magnificent Bastard- one memorable scene involves one of the kidnappers being ambushed in his sleep and nearly scalped with his own knife.
The short story "A Good Boy" by Desmond Warzel references "The Ransom of Red Chief" by name. The titular boy turns out to be a lot more than just an annoyance, though...
Saki's "The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleigh" inverts this trope by having the kidnap victim be odious enough that the kidnappers successfully extract eight years' worth of ransom from her family by threatening to return her. Even though, as it turns out, they don't actually have her.
Terry Pratchett's Nac Mac Feegle, a race of belligerent, six-inch tall, red-haired, kilt-wearing blue men (also known as pictsies) were rumoured to have been thrown out of Fairyland for being drunk and disorderly. This trope is even more perfectly exemplified in Wintersmith, the third book featuring them, where they accompany the young man Roland to the Underworld to rescue the goddess Summer. Roland gets across the river Styx by paying Death the classical two pennies, but when he retrieves Summer and wants to cross back the other way, Death demands another six pence, which Roland doesn't have. However, when the Feegles say that if Roland stays, they're obligated to stay with him, the ferryman quickly changes his mind and lets them go.
Also, there's a wonderfully cool scene in Carpe Jugulum, where Granny Weatherwax is about to march off into the woods after the Magpyrs. Mightily Oates (a visiting Omnian priest quite unaware of Granny's reputation) asks the villagers:
Oates: Aren't you going to stop her? There are monsters in that forest!
Villagers: So why should we care what happens to a bunch of monsters? That's Granny Weatherwax, that is.
The now-out-of-print children's picture book The Barons Booty is about a nefarious but soft-heartedWicked Baron who kidnaps a nobleman's dozen-or-so young daughters while gloating in rhyme about the ransom he plans to demand for them. The children turn out to be cute, but demanding, and the kind-hearted baron is worn down trying to keep them happy. To his shock, the girls' father declares that he is rather enjoying his break from them and sees no reason to take them all back. The baron ends up bankrupting himself bribing the father to let him return the kids.
In Simon Green's Blue Moon Rising, Prince Rupert arrives at a dragons lair only to find a dragon who desperately wants rid of an aggressive, tomboyish, loud princess who was sent to it to die. When asked later why the dragon is helping them, Rupert answers that he rescued it from a princess.
In a Polish poem, Pani Twardowska, the Devil comes to claim the soul of a wizard, Sir Twardowski, after he visits Rome (accidentally, an inn Twardoski just happens to visit is called "Rome"). There was, however, a part of the deal that allowed Twardowski to give the Devil three last tasks, and failing one would result in breaking the deal. The first task is to build a cathedral from various absurd materials like Jews' beards and in an impossibly short time, which the Devil manages. The second is to bathe in holy water, which he, very reluctantly, forces himself to. The third task is to live with Mrs. Twardowska. The Devil gives up.
Jennifer the Jerk Is Missing has a group of kidnappers who can't stand their 8-year-old charge, even when she's tied to a chair, due to her constant complaining and mocking.
Kidnapper: That kid's driving me nuts! I'm restraining myself all the time! I keep wanting to bust her in the chops every time she opens that big mouth of hers!
In Animorphs one Yeerk is practically driven insane by his own host. Said host constantly recited Henry V, so when the yeerk finds the Time Matrix the first thing he does with it is kill the inspiration for that play, just to silence him.
In the Narnia book Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace is such a miserable person to be around that the slave-dealers who kidnap the crew cannot sell him and try, without success, to give him away for free.
Happened in the novel Jimmy The Kid (a sequel to The Hot Rock) by Donald Westlake, and the movie based on the book.
In P. G. Wodehouse's short story "Helping Freddie" (later rewritten for the Jeeves and Wooster series as "Fixing It for Freddie"), a young Upper-Class Twit comes up with a Zany Scheme to help his friend Freddie, whose fianceé has broken up with him. He kidnaps a small boy who he thinks is the fianceé's cousin, intending for Freddie to bring the kid home and play the hero. Then the boy turns out to be unrelated to the fianceé, and our hero is stuck with him for the rest of the story.
By Jove, you know, till I started to tramp the place with this infernal kid, I never had a notion it would have been so deuced difficult to restore a child to its anxious parents. It's a mystery to me how kidnappers ever get caught.
In Mash, a pair of North Korean infiltrators drop Major Burns off on the road. In the brief conversation that ensues, they explain that they don't need a hostage anymore, he's driving them crazy, they're not in the mood to torture him, and he should go back to the 4077th because it's the best thing he can do "to help our side."
A few seasons later, Major Winchester hires a North Korean spy as a houseboy. In one of his last communications to his people, the spy replies "And in regard to kidnapping Major Winchester for questioning, forget it. He is one big jerk."
On True Blood, Bill is forced to turn a terrified teenaged girl as punishment for protecting Sookie. It is implied that the vampires think this will be agonizing torture to the girl, but as soon as she realizes that she's no longer under the thumb of her ultra-religious and abusive father, she becomes insufferable. Bill and Eric pass her back and forth to get rid of her. (She does eventually get better, but it's amazing nobody shoved her out in daylight before her attitude improved.)
Maxwell: (paraphrased) Ms. Fine, the bank robber drove off with your mother as a hostage!
Fran: Oh that poor man!
Fantasy Island had a B-plot that involved two kidnappers trying to ransom Tattoo. He and Mr. Roarke are both quite familiar with the Red Chief story, referred to above, and Tattoo is roughly child-sized...
The protagonists of Hogan's Heroes were technically POWs, but this Trope could apply a lot. In fact, in one episode, Col. Hogan made a public announcement over a radio (giving support to the German army that was obviously sarcasm) that even got Hitler's attention. Hitler's orders were: "If this man ever tries to escape, LET him!"
Weeds: Celia Hodes is kidnapped by her daughter and her boyfriend the rebel leader. They intend to ransom her, but no one is interested. They then plan to sell off her organs for cash, but find out she's had chemotherapy so no one will want them. Celia then "makes herself useful" e.g. by organizing the rebels' firearms, but manages to provoke a fight between her daughter and the rebel leader, breaking up their relationship. The daughter leaves, and the rebel leader lets Celia go.
Babylon 5 presents a nonantagonistic version: Garibaldi arrests G'Kar for assaulting Londo Mollari. Some time later, Garibaldi notes that a petition was passing around because the station population thought Garibaldi's men were torturing G'Kar. What was actually happening was that G'Kar was singing to pass the time. But that wasn't what got him out early. Instead, the station was about to go under martial law and Garibaldi needed his security out on the beat, not guarding an otherwise model prisoner.
This happens in an episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, but it's unique in that the victim intentionally tries to drive the abductor nuts. Lord Zedd gets the idea of making Kimberly his queen, so orders Goldar to kidnap her and use a spell of mind control. The first part is successful, but the spell doesn't work for some reason; so Kimberly pretends it does, doing a rather good impression of Rita, which reminds Goldar only too well how bad a temper she had. He doesn't let Kimberly go (although it is hinted he wanted to), but the act does distract him long enough for Jason to find them.
Subverted in an episode of Stargate SG-1; the team gates into a museum and ends up taking a security guard (and a bunch of guests) hostage until they can find a way to gate out. When the security guard has made himself into enough of a pest, Mitchell simply duct tapes his mouth shut.
Mitchell: Should have thought of that sooner.
The old Irish song "Killieburne Brae" is about a loud and annoying woman who is dragged off to hell, then terrorizes the demons there in all kinds of colourful ways. She is eventually sent back to her husband, with the moral that "women are worse than the men/when they go down to hell they are truant again."
"Scolding Wife" doesn't go so far, but does include the line:
And if the Devil would take her, I'd thank him for his pain
Heather Dale covered this song under the title "The Farmer's Curst Wife"
Happened more than once with Sub-LieutenantPhillips in The Navy Lark. He was kidnapped several times, and virtually every time the Troutbridge crew had to be forced to take him back for reasons of either annoyance or if he cooperated with his kidnappers he ended up doing more damage to them than armed opposition would have.
The play Bones by Peter Straughen is made of this trope - although in a fun variant, instead of being annoying, the 'kidnappee' (Reg Kray) is just a dangerous, badass gangster, and something of a Magnificent Bastard who soon has his kidnappers either terrified or practically in love with him.
Used in Serious Sam 2, where the literal dragon, after kidnapping the hilariously ugly princess, decided to surrender her to Sam without a fight; he refuses, and they fight over who has to take her. Sam wins and agrees to take her if he can also take the magic artifact he was after.
Fire Emblem provides the page quote. An example of this trope doesn't actually occur in the game, but, given Serra'spersonality, it becomes quickly apparent why Erk would come to this conclusion about her.
In a bit of background conversation in Diablo III, an old soldier and his wife reminisce about the time she was kidnapped by barbarians, and the soldier describes how he was beside himself until they brought her back with an apology. His wife comments that their leader still sends her a bundle of hides every year.
In The Last Remnant, a sidequest involves rescuing a merchant's son from kidnappers. The catch? The son is a yama, a race of 10-foot-tall powerhouses (and said son is one of the larger ones), and the three kidnappers are qsiti, a race of 2-foot-tall reptilian creatures, with knives that would barely scratch the yama's skin. Rush even says something to the effect of "Which one of them actually needs help?"
Charlotte is pitiful enough when she kidnaps Cyndi as a reflection of her self-hatred and hatred for her abusive mother in Penny and Aggie. Then Cyndi talks her into slitting her own throat.
Nodwick once had the crew greeted at a volcano cave by a dragon, with great relief. He's sick and tired of the nagging princess he's kidnapped, who keeps insisting he do things like "put the seat down"... on the volcano. Said princess turns out to be so annoying that in the following month's issue, even Piffany, cleric with endless goodness and purity wants to kill her.
In Animaniacs, Yakko and Dot challenge Deathat checkers to bring Wakko back to life, with their lives at stake. Death exploits Exact Words so he can take all three of them (they asked to "be with their brother again") — but then he realizes he'll have to host the three loons in the underworld for all eternity, and he lets them go. In other episodes, they get Dracula and Satan to let them go for the same reason. They subvert their own pattern in a later episode, as this fails to work on an Army drill sergeant; he just assigns them to worse duties. That is, until he can finally stand it no longer, goes insane, and becomes a camp counselor.
One episode features something so horrible, even the Warner siblings can't deal with it: Baloneythe Dinosaur. Even dropping multiple anvils on him only gains them a temporary respite.
At the end of the Looney Tunes short "The Whole Idea", an inventor finally tires of his stereotypically shrewish wife's nagging and drops her down one of the "portable holes" he'd invented. It apparently leads all the way to Fire and Brimstone Hell, as there's a burst of flame and then a mopey-looking demon appears, hauling her out by the collar of her blouse and asking the inventor, "Isn't it bad enough down here without her?"
The Boondocks had this happen twice in the episode "Let's Nab Oprah". In an attempt to kidnap Oprah from a book signing, the bumbling duo Gin Rummy and Ed Wuncler III accidentally kidnap Maya Angelou. They have to dump her out of the van after she starts repeatedly kicking Gin Rummy. The two try again by breaking into Oprah's studio, but they end up going into Bill Cosby's dressing room instead. They decide to cut their losses and just kidnap him, but he's so annoying they have to let him go fifteen minutes later.
Subverted in an episode of Extreme Dinosaurs. A scientist allows himself to become the hostage of the evil Raptors, but not before hinting his plan to the heroes by making reference to "The Ransom of Red Chief". Unfortunately, his plan backfires and he instead learns a valuable lesson.
In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Bugs and Thugs", Bugs is kidnapped by a pair of gangsters. He drives them so crazy that when the police arrive, the criminals beg the cops to arrest them to get them away from him.
The same gag is used in the earlier "Racketeer Rabbit".
Locking the baddies in a stove, turning the gas on, and then throwing a match in to explode it is really a whole new level of "driving crazy".
In the Tiny Toons episode "Take Elmyra Please", Elmyra's father invents an environmentally friendly fuel and a rival fuel company kidnaps Elmyra for ransom so they can get the fuel's formula. Elmyra is oblivious bcause she believes the hideout is a TV studio for her own show and tortures the henchmen by making them do dangerous or humiliating segments. In the end, the henchmen surrender and disclose information about their boss because they want to get away from her.
In the episode "Molly Coddled", Molly, dressed as her hero Danger Woman, is kidnapped by two gangsters, whom she repeatedly kicks in the shins and raises a ruckus over until help arrives. This defense technique is also used by her against the antagonist, smooth talking Covington, in a getaway earlier in the episode.
Baloo's pal Louie has an aunt who, in "The Ransom of Red Chimp", is abducted by Don Karnage... and proceeds to drive him up the wall when she develops a crush on him.
In an early episode of Dexter's Laboratory Dee-Dee was given to a trio of visiting aliens by Dexter, but after Dexter changed his mind and went to rescue her, the aliens were more than happy to give her up, since she caused so much havoc on their ship.
In the Sam And Max cartoon, Lorne's first episode The Friend For Life features him kidnapping the Mad Thespian, who begs and pleads to be arrested due to Lorne's psychotic obsession with impressing Sam and Max.
SpongeBob SquarePants was once returned from Davey Jones' locker because the Flying Dutchman couldn't stand to have Spongebob around.
The Flying Dutchman also enslaved SpongeBob and Patrick, but it turns out they were HORRIBLE minions. Unfortunately, the Flying Dutchman realized that they'd make better dinner than slaves.
Not to mention "SpongeBob Meets the Strangler", where the Tattletale Strangler would rather be in prison than trying to strangle SpongeBob for ratting him out.
In an episode of the Josie and the Pussycats cartoon series, Melody ends up kidnapped by "the Evil Eye" and is put under Mind Control. Unfortunately for the Evil Eye, Melody is The Ditz and is completely useless as a minion - she even responds to commands with "Yes, Mustard" instead of "Yes, Master".
An episode of Rugrats featured Tommy being kidnapped by two criminals who mistakenly believe him to be the child of a billionaire. Tommy proceeds to act in his usual manner and promptly destroys their hideout. By the end of the episode, the exasperated crooks apologize frantically and return the baby to Stu, who apparently doesn't give this matter a second thought.
An episode of The Jetsons had Jane attempting to get her drivers license. Her driving was so awful that when a bank robber hijacked her and forced her to be his getaway car, her instructor pitied him.
The Filmations Ghostbusters episode "The Ransom Of Eddie Spencer" has Prime Evil kidnapping the titular character, who manages to wreck Prime Evil's lair because he is such a screw-up. Prime Evil ends up pleading with the other heroes to take him back, even promising to call off the horde of thunder ghosts he's unleashed on the city if they do. (And he does.)
My Little Pony And Friends, "The Great Rainbow Caper": Danny and Surprise are held for ransom by the Gizmonks, two Mad Scientist monkeys who want to get their paws on the Rainbow of Light so they can study it. Danny manages to flatter the Gizmonks into letting them out of their cage, then he and Surprise proceed to screw with their inventions, free their test animals, and generally make a mess of the Gizmonks' lab. The episode ends with the Gizmonks fleeing their ruined lab and begging Megan to take the hostages back.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has this happen in the episode "A Dog and Pony Show", when Rarity gets kidnapped by a pack of Diamond Dogs who seek to exploit her ability to find gems and put her to work digging them up and hauling them around. She proceeds to drive them up the wall with her whining, crying and complaints. When Rarity's friends come to her rescue, the Dogs are all too willing to let Rarity leave, with all the gems she'd found for them. Turns out Rarity was doing iton purpose, too.
We find out later that Rarity is a Cute Bruiser and probably could have kicked their flanks if she's wanted to, she just chose to whine her head off and annoy them into letting her go.
A Jimmy Two-Shoes short revolved around Dr. Scientist snatching up Cerbee and trying to experiment on him. However, he quickly proved to be so energetic the doc couldn't handle him.
Family Guy: Burglars break into the Griffin house and take Meg hostage. By the time the family is rescued, Meg has been charged with sex crimes against the burglars.
In an episode of She-Ra: Princess of Power, the title character's friend Perfuma is captured by the evil Horde. Hordak first demands that She-Ra surrender herself in exchange for Perfuma's release, but Lighthope urges her not to agree to his demands. This proves good advice. Perfuma then proceeds to annoy everyone (especially the audience) with her sing-songy voice, decorate the evil lair with flowers, and even coerce the Horde-Troopers into dancing (in a conga line). Hordak quickly changes his demands, saying She-Ra can have her back if she simply comes to get her. She still heeds Lighthope's advice, and eventually, by the ends of the episode, he begs She-Ra to take her back, paying the rebels three months' worth of supplies in return.
Happened in an episode of Kim Possible when Professor Dementor captured Kim's cousin Larry.
In The Swan Princess sequel, the villain, an Evil Sorcerer, kidnaps Queen Uberta, who manages to redecorate the dungeon, get good food and get the sorcerer's minion confused enough to follow her orders instead of the sorcerer's. She also keeps complaining about how it's her birthday. She doesn't even stop when the sorcerer turns her into a bunch of different animals.
In the Transformers Generation One episode "The Girl Who Loved Powerglide", the Decepticons kidnap a girl named Astoria in an attempt to learn her father's formula. She drives them crazy with her constant whining, being The Jinx, and tearing the place apart.
An episode of Count Duckula featured the Count ending up held for ransom (after some mix-up about sending a ransom note before the actual kidnapping) and inadvertently driving the abductors crazy by showing off his alleged musical skills.
One episode of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had Shredder kidnap a teenage girl who was the young president of an explosives firm (he wanted their recipe for a powerful explosive). She refused to talk, so he tries to use a device that reads thoughts and emotions in an attempt to extract the recipe out of her. The girl, however, was an extreme brat who overloaded the machine with incessant complaints. Subverted in that she was eventually threatened with force to divulge, so she spills, but in the chaos of the Turtles rescuing her, there was no time to test it, allowing the girl to get away with one last insult: she had given the wrong recipe.
A surprising number of people who were kidnapped by organ harvesters in Brazil have been released voluntarily by their kidnappers unharmed. At least once, it was because the woman kidnapped screamed so loud for so long that the guard forcibly threw her out.
Doesn't work on the police, so don't bother trying. (They'll just beat you to a pulp, lawsuits be damned.)
Prison guards are usually considered expendable in the event of kidnapping, so they make poor hostages in the event of a riot or an attempted breakout.