Characters who seek Safety In Muggles manage to avoid being harmed, captured or killed because their pursuer is unwilling to break The Masquerade
in front of a large number of Muggle
witnesses. This can swing in a villain or hero's favor, turning a sure win into a stalemate, or possibly even a win for whoever can manipulate the crowd of bystanders to unwittingly helping their cause. Even causing a scene to get themselves (or their pursuer) arrested can count, since being under the custody of muggle law enforcement (incompetent or corrupt as it may be) can deter immediate harm.
Notably, this tactic is used by both heroes and villains alike.
Of course, characters attempting to do this run the risk of the pursuer deciding to use conventional means to separate them from the crowd (like posing as a "common" kidnapper or using a gun instead of a Laser Sword
) or eschewing collateral damage / breaching the masquerade and trusting people's Weirdness Censor
to convince them it was something mundane after the fact (if they even care). In the absolute worst case, the pursuer may decide to eliminate the characters and uphold the masquerade by the simple expedient of killing everyone
The use of this trope becomes especially Ironic
if the one being saved doesn't care about upholding the masquerade.
Truth in Television
to a large extent. If a person in danger can escape to a location with many bystanders, a criminal will think twice before continuing pursuit in a place with so many potential witnesses. It is also much easier to summon help in such a place.
Contrast Killed to Uphold the Masquerade
. Compare Villain over for Dinner
and Human Shield
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Anime & Manga
- Soul Eater has a slight variation; Stein actually is trying to unmask Medusa as a witch, however since he doesn't have enough evidence he confronts her at a party so she can't kill him without revealing herself (right in front of Lord Death himself and in a room full of meisters and their Equippable Allies). Unfortunately she's already put her plan (to trap everyone attending the party while she frees an Eldritch Abomination) into motion and just runs away.
- In Death Note when going to meet the second Kira, Light/Kira invites a large group of friends to accompany him on the outing in case Ryuk is seen by the second Kira's shinigami and so give away his identity as Kira. The second Kira is able to spot him anyway but doesn't want to approach him with all those people around.
- A Crowning Moment of Funny in Hellsing, where Seras manages to prevent a meeting between Hellsing and Iscariot in an art gallery from degenerating into bloody violence by impersonating a guide and leading a tourist group into the room.
Films — Animation
- Lilo & Stitch. Jumba can't open fire on Stitch because of his close company with Lilo. He enjoys reminding Stitch of it though, when he revealed the handle of his plasma weapon from inside a paper sack.
- This is actually because Cobra Bubbles once convinced some aliens that humans should be protected (he claimed that mosquitos are an endangered species, and that humans are their primary food source).
Films — Live-Action
- Obi Wan Kenobi in A New Hope.
- In the original and remake of Fright Night, Charlie and his girlfriend run into a crowded dance club hoping to Invoke this trope and stop Jerry from killing them. It doesn't work since there are too many people to notice that his "loving kiss" of her neck is actually a Hemo Erotic Kiss of the Vampire.
- In the first Men In Black movie, K stops J's attempt to kill the bug villain because they are in public.
- In Licence to Kill, after Bond "resigns" and escapes to the street, M stops a guard from shooting because they can't risk hitting a civilian.
- In North by Northwest, the protagonist takes refuge in an auction, and makes a disturbance in order to be escorted out by security.
- Averted in The Matrix films, where the Agents have zero qualms with leap-frogging from car to car on a busy freeway, tearing the roof off of one, and then dodging the stream of bullets fired at them, all in plain view of the civilian drivers. Presumably, this is because the Machines have the power to just rewrite the memories of those imprisoned in their Lotus-Eater Machine.
- At one point during The Saint, Simon Templar escapes the Russian gangsters who are chasing him simply by entering a crowded shopping center. He doesn't hide, doesn't run... he just surrounds himself by witnesses.
- In the first Blade film, Deacon Frost uses this method to converse with Blade. He even hangs lampshades by pointing out several children playing in the park nearby. Even more audacious is that he is a vampire, talking to a vampire hunter, in broad daylight.
- The Elenium: Sparhawk encounters Martel ... in Arasham's tent, while Sparhawk is pretending to be an emissary to Arasham. Both Sparhawk and Martel really want to start fighting, but neither feels like being torn to bits by a horde of fanatic Rendors.
- A common tactic in The Dresden Files. While supernatural nasties are generally willing to be seen by ordinary people, even the strongest will usually split when they hear police sirens. Bringing in the mortal authorities is considered the "nuclear option" among the supernatural nations—they're all well aware of what mobs of people with torches and pitchforks can do, let alone mobs of people armed with guns. Also subverted when a White Court vampire tries to get Dresden to back down by invoking this. Dresden points out that he's in the phone book under Wizard and the publicity would do great things for his business.
- In Pact, various practitioners attempt this against their enemies. First, Blake Thorburn leaks word of Laird Behaim's involvement in his cousin's murder to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, causing him some inconvenience, and then follows up by faking a phone call to the police from within Laird's house to disrupt his plans while he's in the middle of a major ritual by getting him taken in for questioning under suspicion of child abuse. Unfortunately for Blake, the Masquerade in Pact's setting is partly maintained by the basic ability of any practitioner to create a Perception Filter by cutting the connection between them and a given individual, meaning that Laird, who has power to burn, is out of his cuffs before he reaches the police station, and he immediately returns to his home and does the ritual over before Blake can make it back to his house.
- Later in the story, Duncan Behaim, in retaliation for the above attacks on his uncle, frames Blake for the murder of a child and takes advantage of Blake's unwillingness to pick a fight with the police to keep him in a holding cell.
- In Vampire Academy, Rose and Dimitri use this in Last Sacrifice after breaking Rose out of the Court prison. They go into a large mall and meet up outside to lose their pursuers. They correctly assume that if they were seen, the guardians would hesitate before shooting or capturing them in front of so many witnesses, especially considering that they would both be able to put up a fight that could endanger civilians.
- Get Smart: Max is doing battle with a KAOS agent in his apartment when his aunt and uncle, who don't know he's in the spy business, show up. Max makes the KAOS agent play along that they're business colleagues, and the KAOS agent takes the opportunity to just leave.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander pulled this off against Angelus whilst Buffy was hospitalised and vulnerable. Angelus backed down rather than have to go through the effort of killing a bunch of security guards and other bystanders to get to Buffy.
- Used regularly by Chuck when villains enter the Buy More.
- In a first season episode of Burn Notice, Michael ducks out of a fight with an assassin dual-wielding knives by jumping in an elevator full of civilians.
- This happened often in Highlander: The Series. The Immortals were usually very careful about conducting their fights in isolated areas without any witnesses. If any muggles showed up unexpectedly, they would abort the fight and try another time. In one instance Methos goes so far as to call the police in order to stop a fight between Duncan and another Immortal.
- Supernatural: Dean confronts Dick Roman, who is secretly the leader of the Leviathans, in public, with dozens of witnesses, and challenges him to kill him. Dick has one simple rule for the Leviathans - don't make the news - and a very harsh penalty for failure. Dick can't just kill him without drawing tons of attention to himself and by proxy the Leviathans.
- Dungeons & Dragons, Ravenloft module Death Ascendant. While the religious service in the temple is going on the Kargat members take aside worshippers one at a time and drain them of their life force. When they try to do this to a PC, if the PC protests the Kargat member backs off because they don't want to make a scene.
- In Mage: The Ascension, mages suffer from an effect called "paradox" whenever they do anything that can't be explained away as coincidence. Paradox is bad enough when it's just supernaturals around to witness it, but it gets really bad if a Muggle sees something that's definitely magic. Therefore, mages of pretty much any faction tend to lay off the really heavy magic when there are civilians around.
- The prologue story in one edition of the main book had a character invoke this deliberately. Realizing that her opponent had too much paradox going, she grabbed a random guy off the street and asked him to help her. The mere presence of an ordinary man was enough to increase the paradox to the point where the enemy mage was simply pulled out of reality.
- In Worm, the Undersider's exploit Armmaster's obsession with reputation by trying to make him look bad in front of the crowd, causing him to hesitate while attacking.
- In an episode of The Spectacular Spiderman, villain Tombstone not only refuses to attack Spidey as he helps him fight other villains, because he depends on good publicity to keep running his business. As soon as there is no one watching them, though...
- In the same cartoon, there are also scenes where an undisguised Spidey has to avoid attacking Eddie Brock, AKA Venom, because Eddie makes sure there are people watching.
- In most incarnations of Transformers, this is the rationale behind becoming robots in disguise, being able to masquerade as common, everyday vehicles and objects.
- In Transformers Prime especially, transforming in front of humans is something you just don't do. Any human that knows tends to wind up with the Autobots, as the Decepticons have no qualms about people being Killed to Uphold the Masquerade. This is what allows Arcee to escape in the first episode... her Decepticon pursuers weren't willing to risk a giant robot battle in view of more humans than they could reasonably expect to kill without causing a scene.