"I cannot go to school today,"
Said Little Peggy Ann McKay.Sometimes in a fictional story, a character will pretend to be sick (otherwise known as malingering). Most often, this is to avoid something unpleasant at school or work, such as a test, visit from management, or similar inconvenience. Some just do it to get a day off, and some just want attention. This is often accompanied by completely overblown "symptoms", often exaggerated further by the character holding a thermometer up to a light bulb to fake a temperature. In comedy, this almost never works, with the ruse either being readily discovered or backfiring on the character. A backfire might be whatever they were trying to avoid being moved to a day not covered by their ploy; it's also common for the character to end up missing out on something fun. Another risk is that the character may be compelled to take medicine or otherwise submit to medical treatment, as unpleasant and counterproductive as such things may be for someone who is not in fact sick. For added irony, it is rather common for someone who's playing sick to actually get sick somewhere along the way. This is often depicted as Laser-Guided Karma. See Munchausen Syndrome for the more serious, even pathological version. Compare Do Well, but Not Perfect, Hypochondria, Obfuscating Disability, Playing the Victim Card & You Don't Want to Catch This. Contrast Working Through the Cold.
— "Sick," by Shel Silverstein
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Anime & Manga
- In InuYasha, Kagome's absences from school to go time-traveling in Feudal Japan are attributed to increasingly bizarre illnesses that still somehow manage to fool her friends. Maybe she should try for some smarter friends....
- In an episode of the manga of Strawberry Marshmallow, Chika really is sick, and is being cared for by her big sister. Miu pretends to be sick, as well, to gain attention. (Though by the end of the episode, Miu actually gets sick, probably due to prolonged exposure to an airborne illness, and is taken to the doctor.)
- Konata of Lucky Star often makes up different excuses to skip school, including playing sick. So much so, that when she actually does get sick, she gets hit with accusations of Crying Wolf.
- The series Paranoia Agent is made of this trope. Lil' Slugger is essentially a means of feigning injury in order to shirk personal responsibilities.
- Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch had one of these happen in the early episodes, where the main girl's friends ditch her so she could go on a date, and one of them played sick. When suspected after insisting the main character to go, she just said she was just pushing herself.
- MOON – Subaru Solitude Standing has the titular heroine use pneumonia as an excuse to not go on a dance tour of her troupe. She's suspected of faking, as people see her out shopping. She wasn't faking the pneumonia and has a relapse.
- No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! has Tomoko think to herself how she will do this to avoid going on the field trip in her second year, beginning by mentioning how she feels unwell three days before the trip, then have a worsening cough... so she can stay at home and just play games.
- The plot of an Ouran High School Host Club episode starts off with Kaoru pretending to be sick so that he could set Hikaru up with Haruhi on a date. Hilarity Ensues with Tamaki getting jealous and the rest of the club trying to help the date go well.
- One episode of Yo-kai Watch has Nate pretending to be sick so he can stay home to play video games. He gets a youkai to help pretend he has a fever. Duchoo gives Nate an in-depth explanation on how to fake being sick. It fails when Nate is unable to heat the thermometer as his mother is watching. Another yokai named Coughkoff comes around and helps Nate fake a cough, which works. However it works a bit too much and he ends up with a fever. Nate ends up too sick to play video games.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- Subverted in a strip. Calvin won't get up because he's too sick. His mother mentions that it's Saturday and he won't miss school, but Calvin's only response is to curl up further in his blankets and mutter "I know". Cue final scene of his frantic mother dashing to the phone to call a doctor.
- Played straight on other occasions. Once Calvin even got himself sick on purpose (by sticking his head out the window) in order to delay turning in an assignment.
- This is done in a strip where Dogbert describes sick days as "Vacation days with sound effects", and depicts Dilbert with a makeshift slingshot made out of kitchen furniture loaded with a chicken calling his boss and saying "Don't be surprised if I cough and you hear my lungs hit the refrigerator".
- Parodied when Dilbert calls in sick and pretends to have a cough. He then admits that he doesn't have a cold, but he does have a headache, and he doesn't know how to make a headache sound over the phone.
- Inverted in another strip, where the Alice (who still looks rather sick) comes to work after taking a sick day, and the PHB tells her he was suspicious of her taking it on a Monday. She then turns to him and coughs up what appears to be a lung and a spleen. In the last panel, she tells Dilbert and Wally, "It was a good thing I had some extra organs."
- Inverted in FoxTrot, Jason attempts to fake being well in order to go to school and at the very least take a math test despite clearly being sick. The teacher doesn't buy it and tells him to go home.
- The Smurfs do this in the comic book story The Reporter Smurf to fool Gargamel into thinking he has contracted a disease from them that turns humans into toads.
- Bob in Knights of the Dinner Table habitually claimed to be sick to avoid going to work when it would interfere with his gaming. After getting caught at it once too often, he was fired and thrown out by his angry and disappointed father.
- The Child of Love: In chapter 6 Asuka does not want that Rei spends time with Shinji while they walk to the base, so she pretends to faint and fall sick again, hoping that Shinji stays in home with her.
- In The Second Try, Asuka plays sick right after returning to the past. Shinji and she are not ready to go to school and face their classmates, so Shinji tells Misato that Asuka shouldn't go to the school because she isn’t feeling well, and he wants to stay home to take care of Asuka. Misato buys it.
- This is, of course, the entire impetus to the plot of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He even explains how to do it.
"The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It's a god non-specific symptom, and I'm a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, ah...you get a nervous mother, and you could end up in the doctor's office, and that's worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and while you're bent over moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It's a little childish and stupid, but then again, so's high school."
- The film A Gift for Heidi has her friend Clara faking she still has her stomach ache from yesterday (after eating too much ice cream). However, she's doing it so that her chaperone has someone he can care for, for once in his life.
- In the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Elliott very convincingly pretends to be sick (even warming the thermometer using a light bulb) so he can be alone with his new alien friend. Taken from Steven Spielberg's own childhood; he sometimes faked being sick to stay home from school.
- The title character in Billy Madison tries this when not wanting to go to school while in third grade. Billy's maid offers to let him shave her armpits while he's home sick, which forces him to get up and go to school.
- Thirteen Days: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, who is Locked Out of the Loop, is told that the next day the president's going to have a cold. He isn't told anything else, except how bad it is is up to him. The reason is that Kennedy needs to get back to Washington so he can deal with the crisis without letting on what's going on.
- In Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant, the 12th film in the Dr. Kildare series, the Patient of the Week is a newlywed woman with a sudden and inexplicable case of total amnesia. Turns out she's faking it to get out of her marriage.
- In Bored of Education, a short film featuring The Little Rascals, Alfalfa fakes a toothache, complete with a balloon mimicking a swollen jaw, to get out of school. The teacher' on to him, though.
- In Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Dying Detective, Dr. Watson discovers that Sherlock Holmes is bedridden with an exotic foreign disease. Holmes is faking it in order to tease a confession out of the evil genius who tried to infect him with said exotic foreign disease. He made a very thorough job of it, though: he starved himself for three days.
- In Diane Duane's Deep Wizardry, Dairine does this for her sister's benefit.
- One story from the Doctor Who 2007 Storybook has a boy putting his head next to a radiator to fake that he has a fever so that he can get sent to bed early and later sneak out to help the Doctor.
- From the Harry Potter books:
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fred and George Weasley's "Skiving Snackboxes". One end of the candy will make you graphically ill (nausea/vomiting, nosebleeds, rashes, etc.); upon being excused from your class, you eat the other half, which restores you to perfect health.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron intends to explain why he isn't returning to Hogwarts by claiming to be ill with spattergroit (a highly contagious fungal disease), and has a ghoul impersonate him in bed with the condition. He does this with his family's assistance, since they're really all in danger.
- The Shel Silverstein poem "Sick" consists of Peggy Ann McKay listing symptoms of her illness — from a sliver to a 108 degree fever to a shrunken brain — keeping her from going to school until she realizes it's Saturday, when she miraculously recovers.
- Papillon makes this into an art form. Hospitals have less security then the Penal Colony and a hospital stay can buy time to make better arrangements for labor assignments or plan escapes. They find many ways to feign illness; for example planting lice, eating spoiled food, or intentionally causing injuries. If that fails, bribe a doctor.
- A deleted chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory involves this. Willy Wonka shows the tour group a room in which Spotty Powder, which you put over your cereal in the morning like sugar. You then eat the powder and get spots on your face, so that when your mother sees you across the table, she'll think you're ill and send you to bed. Perfect for the day you have exams (as Charlie declares). Deleted characters Miranda Mary Piker (a school-obsessed, snobby girl) and her father (a headmaster) are both appalled by this and try to destroy the machine. They walk into the room where the machine that makes the powder is being made and are last heard laughing their heads off for some unknown reason.
- Hulliam d'Averc from Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon series constantly claims to be suffering from unnumbered, crippling maladies...but lives the life of a lusty action hero, showing that his health is as good as anyone's. The stories never say outright whether he knows he's faking, though it seems likely.
- In a story from the Andy Griffith book Just Crazy, Andy doesn't want to be in a play so he does this. It doesn't work so he tries to actually get sick.
- In Emerald Green of The Ruby Red Trilogy, Charlotte and Gwen both play sick. Charlotte does it so she can search Gwen's room while Gwen is in school. Gwen pretends she is ill so she can stay home as well and foil Charlotte's plan, however, her mother makes her go to school. It works for Gwen later when she wants to avoid going to the ball in the 18th century.
- Mary Musgrove of Persuasion suffers frequent "nervous ailments" that confine her to the couch, until her family members start giving her the level of attention that she's looking for.
Live Action TV
- In an episode of The Addams Family entitled "Cat Addams", the Addamses hire a vet to look at Kitty Cat the lion, but the vet is too scared to. In order to make him braver, Morticia and Gomez have Fester, Thing, and Cousin Itt play sick so the vet can treat them and they can pretend to get better so he'd think he was amazing.
- On an episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete, younger Pete fakes food poisoning by pudding to get out of school for a day, and breaks cardinal rule number one, "Don't leave the house", in the second season finale of The Adventures of Pete and Pete. (Yes, it's the one where he sticks President Martin Van Buren up his nose.)
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kennedy fakes being sick to get out of going on a vision quest with the other slayers, giving her a chance to take Willow out on a date.
- In one episode in El Chavo del ocho, a character played this, and used her (supposed) very contagious illness to scare all her neighbors. It ended with all the cast sick... except for El Chavo, who wanted most to get the illness so he could enjoy of hospital attention and regular income of food.
- In the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Fakes Illness", Ricky discovers Lucy is faking a nervous breakdown, and hires an actor playing as a doctor to diagnose Lucy with "the go-bloots", a rare and lethal tropical disease. As the doctor says she has minutes to live, Lucy fakes her impending death until Ricky's orchestra starts playing the upbeat song, "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You".
- Subverted in The Secret World of Alex Mack: the titular heroine uses her powers to raise the level of mercury in the thermometer — but accidentally takes it too far, breaking the thermometer, and is sent to school.
- In one episode of CSI: New York, most of the police officers of New York City call in sick. They're striking due to not being paid.
- The "Blue Flu", a tactic used by police unions because police officers are not legally allowed to go on strike, appears in several television series, including CSI: NY, Barney Miller, and Babylon 5 (in the third case, involving underpaid-and-overworked space station dockworkers bound by a no-strike contract).
- In the Seinfeld episode "The Scofflaw", Jerry learns that his friend Gary Fogel (played by Jon Lovitz) had only pretended to have cancer in order to, according to Jerry, "get some free hair" (Jerry had bought him a hair club membership).
- This comes back to bite him, in a later episode Jerry mentions he crashed his car and killed himself while adjusting the hair piece in the rear view mirror.
- In an inversion of this trope, George spends the week on vacation, but keeps his car in the parking lot. After Kramer and Jerry have to clean it from bird droppings, they crash it on the way back, but still park it back in the same space. George has to come back pretending to be seriously injured after the crash to keep from being fired. It still bites him in the butt when he doesn't get the raise he was hoping for as they thought he was seriously inured or dead and had to fill the position.
- Rachel has done this a couple of times on Friends, for example when she had kissed her co-worker and thought it would be awkward to see him.
- In one episode of The Golden Girls, Sophia really is injured and must stay in a wheelchair, so Dorothy hires a nurse to look after her mother. The nurse takes excellent care of Sophia but makes life miserable for the other three housemates, who want to fire her. Sophia fakes being injured long after she recovers in order to go on being pampered by the nurse, noting that the way she treats the other three characters is 'just a bonus'.
- ROY does this in one episode when he finds all of his friends have come down with an illness, but he can't because he is a cartoon (although he does get ill later in the episode). He then discovers his sister Becky isn't ill either and uses that as blackmail against her.
- In an episode of Lizzie McGuire, Matt tries to pull this, but his mom sees through the act from the start. Rather than send him off to school anyway, she cheerfully proceeds to make Matt miserable by feeding him borscht and sweating out his "fever" by swaddling him in a wool blanket with the heater on. Ironically, this and Matt's further attempts to fake sick did end up making him genuinely sick by the end of the episode.
- In Unnatural History, Henry does this to get out of the school when it is under lockdown due to a mysterious disease to get the cure from the medical repository.
- DJ did this in an early episode of Full House in an attempt to get Stacy Q's autograph. It almost worked, but Joey and baby sister Michelle just happened to show up at the mall as DJ and Kimmy were leaving. Of course, Michelle discovered them and led Joey over, thus blowing DJ's cover and embarrassing her at the same time.
- On Doogie Howser, M.D. 's Christmas Episode, Doogie fakes an illness while at the hospital (where he’s worked for 36 hours straight), to go home on Christmas Eve and attend a party with his girlfriend, Wanda. Being a teenage kid, as well as a doctor, he was able to get away with this quite well…but he later feels guilty and decides to return to work.
- In Home Improvement, Jill is enjoying finishing her classes and getting some time off when her dad calls wanting to visit. Believing he wouldn't accept a simple "no, I'd like some time to myself" (which her mom later agrees would be the case), she fakes a cough and warns him away. Soon after, Dad has a heart attack and passes away, burdening Jill with the guilt that she not only passed up a last chance to see him, but that the last things she said to him were lies.
- A more comedic example involves her oldest son trying to do this, going so far as to put the thermometer into a cup full of hot coffee briefly before placing said thermometer into his mouth. It burns his tongue and causes his temperature to read at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Since he's up at walking at this supposed temperature as opposed to dying, Jill is not fooled.
- Played with by Sándor and Tamas on Schloss Einstein: Alexander figures out pretty quickly that Tamas isn't really sick, but lets him skip class anyway; and whenever anyone comes into the room, one of them has to hide depending on who it is (either someone from the Schloss Einstein staff who thinks Tamas is Sándor, or Sándor's father, who knows that Sándor is Sándor).
- Somewhat hilariously, they are found out in the very next episode, when Sándor's father shows up unexpectedly and sees Tamas being called "Sándor" by everyone.
- In the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night", Basil Fawlty pretends to faint when he is trying to introduce Gourmet Night guest Lionel Twitchen to fellow guest Colonel Hall, who has a severe nervous twitch, so as to avoid looking as though he is drawing attention to the colonel's condition.
- Sirens (UK) had a mother call 999 because he had a slight cough. Stuart was less than impressed and immediately singled out the cause of his cough was a dislike of Rugby. Oh and then he insinuated that the 12-year-old was gay.
- Combined with Crying Wolf on an episode of Community. Leonard's comrade Richard continually says, "Where am I? What year is this?" and the rest of the seniors laugh at this genius ploy of getting out of trouble. This leads to a Tear Jerker moment towards the end when Pierce and the others discover Richard is actually suffering from dementia, and may or may not have been previously faking.
- Jeff does this to get out of helping Annie move, telling the group that he's at the hospital when he's actually shopping for clothes at the mall. The saleslady, without being prompted, asks for his insurance card and the name of his primary care physician to help the ruse. Watch it here.
- From Reba, two of the title character's kids each try to use this trick once. They both fail.
- In "Valentine's Day III" on The Middle, Axl, stumped for an assignment where he has to give a speech about a life-changing moment, makes a video where Brick fakes being terminally ill.
- On The Brady Bunch, When Bobby pretends to know Joe Namath Cindy tries to help out by writing him a letter, claiming Bobby is terminally ill in the hope that Namath will give him his autograph. However, when Broadway Joe decides to visit the house and comfort him, Bobby has to fake it.
- Peter also does it in one episode, to try to avoid going to a party where a girl with a big crush on him will be.
- In "Today I Am a Freshman," Marcia uses it on the first day of high school; she's incredibly nervous about going to a school where she doesn't know anybody.
- In the Modern Family episode "Virgin Territory", Cameron fakes an injury while at brunch in the Dunphys' house so, when everyone's out, he can search it for a Tupperware bowl Claire insists she's returned to him.
- Junior in The Sopranos feigns dementia to avoid criminal prosecution. Invoked and then twisted as Junior is really going senile.
- In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, the aliens get the idea of calling in sick. As usual, they think they are total geniuses and that no human has ever thought of this:
Sally: Taking a sick day when you're not really sick? It sounds like a crime to me.
Dick: It's not a crime... it's the crime of the century!
- Carrie from The King of Queens actually gets the flu and Holly makes soup for her. After discovering that Holly is a great cook, she decides to pretend to be sick when she isn't anymore to get Holly to continue bringing her food, even when Holly gets sick.
- Tutter on Bear in the Big Blue House does this once to try to avoid going to Mouse School.
- On House, the title character once pretended to have terminal cancer so he could get a pleasure drug injected directly into his brain. Even for House, this was considered despicable.
- On Breaking Bad, Walt needs an excuse for disappearing for two days after he was kidnapped due to his meth-making. So he walks into a supermarket and calmly strips off all his clothes, giving the impression that he had a mental break due to his cancer.
- An episode of That's So Raven, after Raven's principal breaks his back and it looks like he'll be leaving, she faking sick to avoid putting up with him for one more day. However, the principal's back healed, meaning that he's staying. And to add insult to injury, he took the school on a field trip to a water park to celebrate his recovery.
- The flashback portion of one episode of Psych had Henry catching a young Shawn pretending to be sick so that he wouldn't have to have dinner with their neighbors. Shawn then explained that he didn't want to go over to the neighbors' house for dinner because they were vegans—at which point, Henry decides he's going to play sick.
- Katie pulls off an interesting variant of this in Big Time Rush. When her mother laments that nether Katie nor her brother need her much anymore, Katie acts as if she was sick to make her mother feel needed. Katie has to admit to pretending after her mother goes from caring to nearly suffocating.
- In the Get Some In! episode "Medical", Teddy boy Jakey Smith tries to fail his medical exam in order to be disqualified from National Service by pretending to be hard of hearing. The Medical Officer asks him to repeat what he says, then whispers, "Six pounds of lettuce." Jakey simply replies, "When you're ready, Sir!" The MO then tells him to sit down, and he happily complies... giving himself away in the process. His backup plan of swallowing cotton wool before having his chest X-ray taken so that it looks like he has shadows on his lungs is also seen through immediately.
- In one episode of Brooklyn 99, Santiago realizes she's booked her romantic weekend away on the same day she promised to help Captain Holt with some community out-reach. Not wanting to give up her weekend nor disappoint her idol, she pretends that she has broken a tooth, is in horrible pain, and has to go to the dentist that weekend. It all backfires magnificently when the concerned Holt immediately books her in with a family friend, who's the best dentist in the city, for free. When Santiago tries to get out of it, citing a broken car, Holt insists on driving her there in his. The dentist almost immediately realizes that she has no broken teeth, and she gets called out. However, turns out that her overly aggressive brushing technique rubbed away all her teeth's enamel, and her whole mouth if filled with cavities.
Holt: For the record, you deserve this.
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Amy falls ill with the flu and Sheldon takes care of her, rubbing Vicks on her chest and helping her bathe. Amy enjoys the attention so much that she pretends to be still sick once she's gotten better.
- On Orphan Black, Sarah pretends to be her clone Beth, and unwittingly ends up in the middle of a hearing to determine whether or not Beth is fit to resume duty as a police officer. She promptly goes into a nearby bathroom and chugs the contents of the soap dispenser, so that she can visibly throw up before she has to testify and buy herself a few more days to figure out what's going on.
- In Wolf Hall, Anne Boleyn accuses Thomas Cromwell of faking because he didn't want to carry out her command of arranging a French marriage for her daughter Elizabeth. Cromwell was ill and says so, having ended the previous episode with a delirious fever so bad that Henry went so far as to actually visit him (albeit in cut scenes, but in the book he's noted to have a dread of contagion). Anne just replies that Cromwell wouldn't be ill unless he wanted to be.
- Budnick and Michael pretend to get sick in an episode of Salute Your Shorts in order to get out of instructional swim class. Budnick had a recipe for convincing looking fake vomit, and Ug wouldn't let them out of class unless they were blowing chunks. They quickly regret this when they realize that Ug was taking the class to the beach as a surprise.
- A common set-up for a wrestling feud. One such execution will have a face wrestler scheduled to take on a heel, but the scheduled heel is a "no show" because he claims to be ill. So one of the heel's underlings will take his place. The good guy will beat on the underling heel for a few minutes, until the supposedly sick wrestler runs into the ring to mastermind a severe beatdown of his foe.
- Vampire: The Masquerade has "Schere's Disease". It was created to mimic vampire symptoms and to be used as a cover-story, explaining why someone burns in sunlight and needs to drink blood from a medical perspective. The Schere Foundation was simultaneously created to give out false information about the disorder and provide medical credentials for individual vampires who might need them.
- In Fallout 3, claiming to be sick is one of the dialogue options before taking the G.O.A.T. exam. However, your father is the Vault doctor, too and very quickly shuts down the attempt with a light mocking. If you chose this dialogue option, another character comments on you trying the old "I'm sick" routine.
- Mocked by Liam Neeson, and check one more off the list.
- In Fire Emblem Tellius the character Makalov exemplifies this trope, frequently making excuses and trying to got out of battles and debts by feigning illness. After the game's lord, Ike, overhears him planning this, Makalov is told that the company payed off his debts, that he would be working for free for a while, and not to even think about being sick.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, in a support conversation, Yarne was feigning illnesses to avoid marching. Laurent, who notices, didn't buy it one bit.
- The Sims can sometimes call in sick to get a day off, with fake coughing and chuckling when they think the person on the other end can't hear them.
- In Fleeing the Complex, Henry can try to do this to escape his cell. It gets him tranquilized and moved to the Quarantine cell, complete with cellmate whose arm just fell off.
- This Wapsi Square comic has Dietzel recommending that Monica do this.
- A story arc in PreTeena has Teena Keene, normally an A student, panicked into faking illness to escape a test she hasn't prepared for. Older sister Jeri, a veteran of escaping tests and homework by similar ploys, congratulates her for coming over to the dark side, but Teena's conscience gets the better of her and she shamefacedly confesses and apologises.
- A sinister example appears in Bastard where it's the parent who forces the child to play sick. After murdering a woman at the park, Jin's Serial Killer father forces him to stick a heating pad up his shirt so that when they're pulled over for a random search due to the large number of murders in the area at the time, he can get out of it quickly by claiming that his son has a bad fever. As a result, the police officers miss the bloodstain on the trunk of the car.
- Two Lumps: During a flashback sequence, kitten-Eben gets sick shortly after he and kitten-Snooch are adopted. note Once Snooch finds out that his brother is being given pureed chicken to encourage him to eat, he immediately fakes the same symptoms.
- Arthéon from Noob frequently does this for the double benefit of not having to go to class and getting his overprotective mother to leave him alone "so he can rest".
- In Part 4 of Super Mario Logan's "Bowser Junior's Summer School" story arc, Junior pretends to be sick so he doesn't have to go to summer school. Karma soon catches up with Junior, as on this particular day, the teacher, Jackie Chu, decides to give out cupcakes and cookies for the class, along with no homework that night. Meanwhile, Junior gets a beating from his father when he's caught playing Minecraft when he should have been in bed.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Jimmy Neutron once gave his friends special patches that mimicked illness, allowing them to skip school. Unfortunately, the patches got absorbed and made them really sick, forcing Jimmy to pull a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot to develop a cure (hence the episode's title, "Journey to the Center of Carl").
- Used in several Arthur episodes.
- In "Arthur's Chicken Pox", younger sister D.W. pretends to have come down with the titular sickness. It works until the spots come off in the bath.
- Another episode has D.W. faking she has lost her voice (or, rather, keeps pretending to have lost it after it returns) so that everyone spoils her. Arthur overhears her talking and has to get help from his friends to make her come with the truth.
- In "April Ninth", there's a fire at Lakewood Elementary burns down and Arthur pretends to have a sore throat because he fears his father will be in a fire if he goes to deliver a cake to another school and he knows that his dad wouldn't leave if Arthur had a sore throat as then he'd think he was sick and given him a special kind of chicken soup that only he can make. However, Mr Read sees through the ruse and reassures him that schools are usually safe places and the fire at Lakewood was a one-off.
- In "Arthur Goes Crosswire", Arthur finds Muffy's boat boring as he didn't see animals and Buster suggests he play sick to avoid doing it again the next day and he thinks it's a good idea, until Prunella and Sue Ellen want to join in to see if it's fancy, Buster says that Arthur is sick, but Arthur states he "got better".
- In the Bad Dog episode "Nurse Barky", Penelope and some of her friends pretend to be sick to get out of school to go to The Hair Scrunchie Barn at the mall. However, Little Vic and Berkeley believe Penelope really IS sick, and try every remedy they can think of to cure her, which ultimately results in Berkeley infecting her with poison ivy.
- One Care Bears cartoon has two characters drawing spots onto themselves to fake that they have spots. However, when they wash the spots off and declare they're better, the parents declare that the illness is getting worse!
- Happens with Dale on the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Kiwi's Big Adventure"; he pretends that his foot is injured just to get closer to Gadget. Chip is well aware of this, however, and gets Gadget, Monty, and Zipper to see him walk perfectly okay by himself when they leave him alone. Dale would end up breaking his foot for real near the end, though.
- The Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Cry Ed", although Eddy is pretending to be severely injured instead of sick, and trying to get attention and pity from the other kids rather than out of school.
- In an episode of The Emperor's New School, Kuzco did it after learning that the Royal Treasury would provide funds to look after him (in luxury) if he was ill. Kuzco did this because he missed living in his palace, and all the comforts of it. Then in a twist of irony, he actually does get sick because of one of Yzma's schemes.
- One episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack has Flapjack pretending to be struck dumb by a curse so that Captain K'nuckles will take him to a carnival.
- And another has K'nuckles pretending to be dead so Flapjack will leave him alone.
- The My Little Pony Tales episode "Too Sick to Notice" - Bon Bon feels ignored by her family when her youngest brother gets sick, so she decides to pretend she's sick too. At first she enjoys it, then regrets it when she is forced to stay in bed all day while her friends have fun outside and her family gets more and more stressed by her ever increasing demands. Wracked with guilt, she confesses. Her family seems to forgive her, but then they all claim that they are sick and force her to care for them.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Attempted in "Family Appreciation Day" by Apple Bloom. It doesn't work. Granny Smith, having raised first her own children as well as Apple Bloom's older siblings before her, sees right through it.
- Fluttershy does it in "Hurricane Fluttershy" to avoid tornado duty, painting spots on her face and making rather obviously fake sneezes. Rainbow Dash isn't fooled, dumping water on her and washing away the spots.
- "Three's A Crowd": Discord does this by claiming to have the "Blue Flu" and having Twilight and her visiting sister-in-law Cadance tend to him. Naturally he's doing this for his own amusement in the hopes it'll spoil the visit (though he claims it's also a Secret Test of Character for Twilight to see if she really does care for him). It winds up backfiring since Cadance didn't mind it since it gave her some much needed excitement from her princess duties. Plus, he catches a real disease in the process.
- In "It Ain't Easy Being Breezies", Fluttershy looks after a flock of Breezies (tiny winged creatures who fly on the breeze), and their leader Seabreeze wants them to get home, but the others want to stick around so they pretend to have colds.
- Pepper Ann had an episode where she fakes she has a fever (by putting the thermometer in a cup of coffee) so that she can have a day off school.
- One episode of Rugrats has Angelica faking having a broken leg to get out of chores, and so she can more easily boss the adults around. It works when there is a mix up with the X-Rays at the Hospital.
- Angelica does this again in the spin-off All Grown Up! in which she starts quoting lines of a deranged character from a soap opera so she can stay in the hospital longer.
- In The Simpsons Bart does this a few times, in one case pretending to have Tourette's Syndrome (later changed to rabies via Executive Meddling) and various other symptoms while Grandpa warns him against playing the "boy who cried wolf". Eventually he's attacked by an actual wolf that's escaped from Krusty's show and isn't believed.
- In another episode, Bart eats a jagged O from a box of Krusty-Os and develops agonizing stomach pains. No one believes him except Lisa (although it's also likely that the Teachers not believing him was also simply due to callousness on their part rather than previous faking sick attempts, as Krabappel once mentioned that she also won't be held accountable if one of her students [Milhouse in this case] was eaten by the pet snake), though he is eventually taken to the hospital.
- Ms. Hoover also was speculated to have faked sick by some of the students when she revealed that her Lyme Disease was actually Psychosomatic in one episode, to which she confirms it both faking sick and being crazy.
- Even Lisa got in on the act to get out of a bad birthday party when a lot of the kids get sick from eating raw oysters (which Lisa, being a vegetarian, would have never eaten in the first place).
- In one episode of Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry finds a fairy with a hurt wing and offers to take care of her until her wing heals. The fairy takes advantage of Strawberry's hospitality and all the attention her friends dote on her, pretending she can't fly even after her wing has healed.
- Ginger Snap does it in "Ginger Snap's No Light Night of Fright" to try to get out of going on a camp-out because she's scared of the dark, but it doesn't work.
- Tom and Jerry did a variation in which Jerry painted spots on Tom to make him believe he had measles. Tom eventually finds out and goes after Jerry, only to find that now Jerry had the measles for real.
- Code Lyoko does this in countless episodes. "Mrs. Hertz? I don't feel good, I have to go to the infirmary." "Me too!" "And I'll escort them!" Cue running off to Lyoko. With three or four students doing this all at the same time, and it's the same ones every time, you wonder why the teachers don't see through it.
- The teachers and principal start getting fed up with this in the last Season and aren't fooled as often, so it becomes harder for the heroes to pretend being sick.
- Keep in mind that most of these visits never happened.
- South Park: Stan and Kyle give one another ludicrously overblown maladies (date rape psychosis and cancer, respectively) in Towelie, telling their mothers that they're too busy nursing one another to bother with baseball practice or school.
- An old Popeye cartoon has him and Bluto feigning illness to get into a hospital and be treated by nurse Olive. As they try to outdo each other and start fighting, Olive sees through their ruse. A later WWII cartoon has the two in the US Navy; Bluto fakes illness to get out of working. Popeye sees through it and proceeds to teach him a lesson.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender had an entire city pretend that they were sick with Pentapox in order to let the citizens flee the occupied city. This mysterious disease was actually just hickies from a Purple Pentapus.
- Katara also fed Appa a bunch of bright purple berries to make it seem like he was sick, so they would have to stay for longer so that she could be the Painted Lady.
- One episode of Recess had the main characters pretend to be sick in order to be sent home from a boring school day (every other student is out with a real illness). Unfortunately, Gretchen mixes up the symptoms, so instead of an illness that would mandate being sent home, the nurse thinks that they've contracted some horrible disease that leads to them being quarantined by public health officials.
- In The Mask, Lonnie the Shark's henchman Pete is prone of making excuses to get sick to avoid doing work.
- Jokey Smurf does it at least twice in The Smurfs: once in "Jokey's Funny Bone" in order to get attention, and another time in "Calling Doctor Smurf" in order to make Dabbler feel useful as a doctor. Although in the latter case, Jokey actually became sick when it turned out that he was allergic to the pink paint he used to make himself and several other Smurfs look like they came down with a sickness.
- Dragon does it in "The Bug Flu" on Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends after seeing Spiderus do the same thing.
- In one episode of The Flintstones, Fred and Barney tried to call in sick to go to a baseball game. Fred's boss believed him, but Barney's wanted him to check with the company nurse. He did, and when she took his temperature, Fred tried to fake a fever for him using his cigarette lighter. Unfortunately that made it register way too high, and the nurse panicked and called an ambulance, and suffice to say, it only got worse from there.
- Goof Troop did this twice, once played very sympathetically and once played very unsympathetically.
- The sympathetic example is when PJ plays sick (at Max's coaxing) to get in one last day of freedom before being Grounded Forever for failing his math test, which he thinks he did. Pete is very strict about what counts as "sick enough" to stay home, so Max makes PJ look very sick, which results in him being taken to the hospital and Pete very briefly realizing that he's a bad parent. Unfortunately, PJ didn't even need to play sick in the first place because he didn't fail the test.
- The unsympathetic example is when Pete pretends to be sick so that he can take the day off fishing. This wouldn't be so bad by itself, especially considering Pete is his own boss, but he tells PJ he's sick and dying and that PJ has to take over his job. He goes so far to make him feel guilty by saying that Peg, Pistol, and Chainsaw will be stuck doing terrible jobs if he doesn't succeed. This starts to backfire when Max and Goofy give PJ the idea to use Pete in some stunts (since he's dying anyway), and backfires even further when PJ tearfully presents the proceeds to Peg and tells her what Pete said.
- In Holly Hobbie and Friends: Christmas Wishes, Holly is said to have lost her voice due to a "freak scarf accident" and this is the reason why she has to give up her solo to the widow Kelly Deegan. In reality, it's just a scheme to try to restore happiness to this Broken Bird, and it works.
- An episode of ChalkZone has Rudy faking sick to get out a test he forgot to study for. However, the test turned out to be the next week and instead he was to have gone on a field trip to a dinosaur-themed amusement park, so Rudy makes a portal to ChalkZone to go to the park without getting caught.
- The Silly Symphonies "The Wise Little Hen" is a straightforward telling of The Little Red Hen, whose attempts at getting help growing her corn are met with feigned sickness by a pig and his cohort, Donald Duck, in his debut.
- Bugs Bunny's many "death scenes" to pull one over on Elmer Fudd always work. Most notably in "The Wabbit Who Came To Supper" where Bugs—having been locked out of Elmer's house—says he'll catch "p-neumonia!"
- Cow and Chicken: In "Playing Hookie", Chicken pretends to be sick so he won't have to take a test he didn't study for. When he finally convinces his parents, they call a Doctor who happens to be the Red Guy. After deeming Red's treatments scarier than the test, Chicken admits to be playing sick, prompting the Red Guy to confess he was just playing doctor.
- In Pororo the Little Penguin, Eddy does this in "Achoo, I Got a Cold", and Pororo does this in "Is Pororo Sick?".
- China's Wei General Sima Yi pulled this trick (along with his sons, too) so that he could plot a coup in secret without anyone being suspicious. This is also written in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
- Cao Cao did this as well. Not to say, they both faked to have some kind of neurological disorder in front of people; Sima pretended to have what we call Alzheimer's now, and Cao pretended he had stroke— when he was a teenager.
- Lu Meng also used a fake illness to put Guan Yu off his guard.
- In ancient Rome, an epileptic fit was one of the omens considered dire enough to put an end to any public assembly where a fit was seen. The sufficiently cynical would see this as a useful political ploy.
- In her childhood, actress Toni Collette once faked a burst appendix so she could miss school. Her acting was so convincing that she ended up having it removed.
- There's a modern trick called the Munchausen by Internet syndrome, where people lie about their own healths, pretending to be seriously/deathly ill to garner sympathy. A list of some infamous cases are here
- Trying the light bulb thing is an easy way to generate a real-life subversion; choose the light unwisely and the mercury in the thermometer can expand so forcefully it breaks the thermometer.
"Huh? What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is Saturday?
Good-bye! I'm going out to play!"