Post Robbery Trauma
When a sitcom protagonist has an encounter with crime they will become paranoid of everyone around them. They will take a self-defense class (you-know-what ensues
) or buy a gun. In the latter case a trigger-happy random shootfest inevitably follows, and somebody gets shot in the foot. This usually turns into a Family-Unfriendly Aesop
about the dangers of attempting to defend oneself for any reason.
Not everyone needs to (or should) own a gun, and not everybody who owns one knows or cares how to use it responsibly. Some statistics show friends and relatives are shot more often than criminals, yet others also show that some areas with high gun ownership may have lower crime rates than areas with low gun ownership. In short, a lot relies on your interpretation of Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
- Diff'rent Strokes: Arnold is traumatized after he is robbed at knifepoint. His coping mechanism is to bluff to his friends that he held his own and that he isn't scared, but Mr. Drummond suspects that his son is deeply upset. Eventually, he is able to get Arnold to admit he was scared for his life … and a classroom exercise in self-defense exposes the truth.
- Ellen: After a break-in, Ellen is given a gun by Audrey and tries to learn self-defense. She also has bars installed in her windows, and takes to sleeping cuddled up with a life-sized mannequin meant to give intruders the illusion that she lives with a man.
- Suddenly Susan: After Susan's apartment gets robbed, she decides to get a gun and ends up accidentally shooting her elderly neighbor.
- The Golden Girls, "Break In": The house is robbed while the Girls are out for an evening. Terrified, Rose buys a gun for protection. Rose accidentally shoots Blanche's very expensive vase, thinking that the burglar has returned when it was just Blanche and her date returning to the house.
Blanche: You shot my vase!
Rose: I didn't shoot Lester! (Blanche's date for the episode)
Blanche: I'd rather you shot Lester!
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air used this for drama. Will and Carlton were robbed; Will was shot, which set up a long recovery arc, and Carlton got paranoid and bought a revolver. Guess how well that went over...
- Home Improvement did this once, though it was actually neighbor Wilson that got robbed. In any case, imagine Tim Taylor Technology applied to a home security system and... yeah.
- 7th Heaven, after Annie and Matt are robbed at gunpoint. Matt reacted in the usual terrified way, suffering a Heroic B.S.O.D. the next morning, while Annie remained calm and strong as usual. However, later on Matt was getting better thanks to a support group while Annie unexpectedly broke down in tears a few nights later, and freaked out when she mistook a stranger giving back a pair of dropped sunglasses for an assailant.
- Mama's Family:
- In "Black Belt Mama", Thelma gets mugged and gets her purse stolen. She then takes a self-defense class with Naomi and Sonja. Later on in the episode, Thelma is at a bus stop with another woman when the same mugger comes for her purse. Thelma reminds the thief to remember to take the other woman's purse too, at which point Thelma slams him in the back of the head with an iron in a shopping bag.
- Applied hilariously in "The Key to the Crime": After the Courteous Crook hits the Harper home, Thelma notices he cleaned up the bathroom and remarks, "I ain't gonna be able to sit in there again!"
- Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory experienced this after Leonard's and his apartment was robbed. However, in keeping with the light 'n' happy, nerdy tone of the show, he and Howard designed a security system equipped with a taser-fitted fishing net. Needless to say, it didn't end well.
- It happens again in the fourth season, only instead of a break-in, someone hacked Sheldon's World of Warcraft account.
- On Empty Nest, after Laverne is mugged, she reacts like her usual wisecracking self. Only after giving her statement to the police does she realize how terrified she was and she spends the rest of the episode in a Heroic B.S.O.D. until Harry snaps her out of it.
- On Life Goes On, the family returns from an evening out to find that they've been robbed. They all freak out to varying degrees, with the father eventually buying a gun. Unfortunately, son Corky nearly shoots a presumed intruder with it—he was a classmate of Paige's stopping by to help her with an assignment—and it forces the family to realize that they haven't been handling the situation very well.
- Doogie Howser, M.D., Doogie and Vinnie are robbed by a home invader and actually admit that they're pretty freaked out by the whole thing, especially when the intruder returns and steals Doogie's car this time. They just don't realize how much or seek any help until Doogie nearly attacks a guy he mistook for a mugger.
- Similarly on Beverly Hills 90210, when the Peach Pit is robbed. Like Doogie, Brenda (the victim) admits how terrified she was, but insists that she's feeling better as time goes on even though she is actually getting worse. She finally flips out in the middle of an exam when a sound reminds her of the robber's gun cocking.
- Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
- Dorothy's son, a morphine addict, breaks into Dr. Mike's home, looking to steal some. Dr. Mike handles it okay, even after shooting him in self-defense, but daughter Colleen is severely traumatized to the point of being afraid to leave the house.
- In the final season, Dr. Mike herself is shot by a man who hates doctors. She too becomes agoraphobic for the remainder of the episode before finally snapping out of it.
- On ER, although he isn't robbed, Mark gets the daylights beaten out of him by a never-identified attacker. For the next several months he acts like a Jerkass, to varying, sometimes understandable degrees—jumping out of his skin when approached in the hospital parking lot, pulling a gun on several youths who he thought (possibly correctly) were going to mug him, snapping at his coworkers and finally humiliating himself by screaming at the bereaved widow of a patient. His is the most extreme example—all other staff members who went through similar traumas appeared to recover quite rapidly—in that very same season, Carol was held hostage during a grocery store robbery, yet suffered no lingering effects, and neither did Sam after having been kidnapped and raped by her ex and finally more-or-less forced to shoot him in self-defense.
- A really seriously twisted version of this is part of an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit with a serial rapist that not only attacked women once, but kept track of them and raped them again, even years later in order to make sure they stayed afraid of him for the rest of their lives. The Victim of the Week was a woman that had been attacked several times already and had been traumatized to the point she never left her home, moved across several states and changed her name, shunned all human contact, made her home practically a fortress, constantly had a Hand Cannon by her side and practically had to be begged by the police to so much as open the door, let alone provide information for the case. By the time SVU finally obtained enough evidence to arrest the rapist, the man had managed to get to the woman and killed her.
- L.A. Law. DA Grace Van Owen is shot by a vengeful gangbanger (she'd just sent a fellow gangbanger to death row). She deteriorates to the point of being afraid to even walk into a courtroom and becomes dependent on alcohol and the painkillers prescribed to her. Her boyfriend, fellow attorney Michael Kuzak, forces her to snap out of it by telling her that they're through unless she gets professional help. She disappears for a few days, resurfacing after finally getting herself together.
- One Calvin and Hobbes story had burglars break into Calvin's house and steal the TV and some jewelry while they were out of town. Calvin's parents were traumatized by the breach of security, but Calvin was (once he had ensured that Hobbes was safe) mostly just annoyed about the lack of TV.
- Hey Arnold!, "Mugged": Arnold learns martial arts from his grandmother after getting mugged, but starts becoming more and more aggressive. He becomes guilt-ridden after lashing out at an innocent bystander, but gets over it after a pep-talk from his granny and a final confrontation with the guy who originally mugged him.
- Doug, in the episode where Doug's bike gets stolen.
- Slight variation in The Simpsons, (Strong Arm of the Marge) when Marge becomes a shut-in after having her necklace snatched. Eventually, she regains her self-confidence after using free weights, and pummels her attacker (earning Chief Wiggum's praise). However, she soon starts taking steroids, but that's a trope for another day...
- Less variable variation: in the episode "The Cartridge Family", after a particularly violent soccer riot, Homer buys a gun to protect his family. Marge becomes naturally worried, particularly with Homer acting ... well, like Homer with a deadly weapon, and takes the kids to a motel, while Homer reasons there's no need to have a gun for protection when he has nothing to protect. The episode ends with Marge taking the gun and throwing it in the trash Until she sees her own reflection with the weapon and decides to keep it for herself.
- Metalocalypse has the band refuse to go out in public after they are attacked on-stage at the end of season one.
- In an episode of Watch My Chops, Corneil witnesses a robber break into his house in the middle of the night, and becomes so terrified that he refuses to be left alone; driving his owners crazy.
- Played for Laughs in The Fairly Oddparents episode "The Lame Ducks" with Timmy's dad being driven to start a neighborhood watch consisting of him, Timmy, and Mr. Crocker.
- The Spongebob Squarepants episode "Squid Defense" has Squidward wanting to learn karate after he is mugged for his groceries. He later uses his newfound skills to beat up the mugger, despite Sandy's warnings of not using karate for revenge. It turns out that the "mugger" was actually someone trying to return Squidward's groceries, so Sandy strips Squidward of his karate belt and he is arrested for assault.