Shame If Something Happened
aka: Protection Racket
Oh, you'd be surprised how detrimental a poor choice of fashion can be. Take this dress. It may be all the rage now but in a very short time it can become tiresome, an affront to the eyes. Certain people might even think it's Oh, hello, tropers. Why, isn't this a very well-written article we have here? It would be just terrible if someone were to, say, scrawl ethnic slurs all over it...
objectionable. And then...
(rips it in half) Nothing but rags.
The Good Guy and the Bad Guy have a meeting. The Bad Guy makes an offer. The Good Guy rejects it outright because he's the Good Guy.
Then the Bad Guy rattles off a few offhand remarks about how beautiful the Good Guy's wife, child, house, dog, mother, whole family, etc. are. He shows recent photos of the lovely person or thing in question, and perhaps a copy of personal information the Good Guy thought was secret. And then comments offhandedly that "It'd be a shame if <something bad> were to happen to it/them."
The clear implication is if the Good Guy doesn't give the Bad Guy what he wants, <something bad> will
happen to it/them.
This generally gets the Good Guy back to the bargaining table, and shows just how bad the Bad Guy is. It also calls attention to the resource level of the Bad Guy and his criminal conspiracy.
There may be some overlap with The Villain Knows Where You Live
(when the Bad Guy backs up this threat by proving he knows where to find the Good Guy and/or the Good Guy's family). This may lead to an And Your Little Dog Too
situation, making the Good Guy much more likely to take the Bad Guy down than if they hadn't threatened the Good Guy's friends and family
. And the Bad Guy needs to make sure that the Good Guy they're trying this on with isn't someone who could instantly and unexpectedly turn them into a smear on the wall
if they were in any way displeased, since threatening innocent loved ones is a good way to trigger an Unstoppable Rage
from the seemingly meek and mild
This is also a common stock phrase
used by thugs (usually The Mafia
) in extortion rackets. "You've got a nice (noun) here. It'd be a shame if anything were to... happen
Often parodied: the Big Bad
will threaten the hero with some minor inconvenience
, and it will be treated with the same seriousness
as a death threat, if not more seriously.
In linguistics, this sort of threat is known as a Gricean Implicature.
See also Terms of Endangerment
, Interrogation by Vandalism
and Trouble Entendre
. If the Bad Guy's threat actually gets carried out, it often leads to I Have Your Wife
. If one doesn't want to look bad, he can use a Monster Protection Racket
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- A swedish PSA about not buying alcohol for your kids had a young teenaged girl casually remark to her parents how she could in theory make their lives miserable unless they got her what she wanted.
Anime & Manga
- After Kaname is kidnapped in an episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Sousuke walks into the female gang leader's hideout. An Extended Disarming later, Sousuke plays the trope for all it's worth, dangling the gang leader's little brother from the hideout's rafters and rattling off a list of the "most precious things" of all the other gang members (sickly mothers, little sisters, exotic fish, etc.), causing them to disperse in tears. This is all done with a ominous shadow over his face and in a Creepy Monotone.
- Then, when Kaname is released, Sousuke reveals that he'd bribed the little brother to play along. We're not sure how much he was joking about the rest, though...
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, a great scene shows Ed trying to quit his job, but then the Fuhrer King casually remarks about Ed's "nice childhood friend Winry", who of course Ed has fairly intense feelings for. Averted when Kimblee makes a similar comment to Ed, but is honestly saying that he just thinks Winry is nice.
- In Death Note, The Mafia kidnap Sayu, Light's little sister, and tell it to her father with a speech to this effect.
- In an early episode of Anime/Medabots (or at least, the English dub), one of the gang of Medabot thieves threatens Ikki thusly: "Nice Medabot you've got there. Shame if something were to happen to it."
- Subverted awesomely in Zettai Karen Children. The Normal People, who have The Children in an ECM field try to get Minamoto's computer password by threatening Kaoru, just as Minamoto planned. The password Minamoto told them was actually a trigger for an emergency ECCM unit, freeing Kaoru to use her powers.
- Since "ECM" and "ECCM" are pretty obscure acronyms and sound pretty similar: The ECM is an Anti-Magic field, the ECCM is an Anti Anti Magic field.
- In YuYu Hakusho, King Yomi managed to do this on Kurama and get away with it, revealing that not only had he already done extensive research on Kurama and his human family, but that he'd taken measures to ensure that Kurama will be forced to work for him. Notable in being the only time in 112 episodes that Kurama actually cusses at someone.
Humans love to travel don't they? It would be a shame if a plane were to crash. Although I doubt a story about middle-aged newlyweds dying on their honeymoon would even make it on the evening news. Kurama
: You bastard
- Roberto uses this to great effect on Detective Runge in Monster, talking about his ex-wife, daughter, and grandson in this manner.
- In Girls und Panzer, fed up with Erika's Trash Talk about how there is an unspoken rule that weaker schools (such as Ooarai, the protagonists' school) should stay out of Tankery, let alone "superior" schools like her Kuromorimine, the otherwise lethargic Mako Reizei, driver of Ooarai's flagship tank, snarks that it'd be a shame were a team of "nobodies" to beat the top dogs that came up with that rule, to which Erika could only glare. Come the Final Battle, Ooarai does just that, screwing up Kuromorimine's carefully-laid plans with unpredictable moves, one of which involved fooling Erika's tank into falling off a ditch, leaving her unable to do anything but go into a screaming fit on national television.
- Ever since the Green Goblin was revived in the late 1990s, he's done this to Spider-Man on a seemingly annual basis. Unlike some villains on this page, Osborn already has a loved one's death under his belt (Gwen Stacy), so when he threatens Mary Jane, or May, or anybody else Peter cares for, Spidey can't afford to hope it's just a bluff.
- In an excellent story arc in 2002, however, Peter finally DID realize it was just a bluff, when he came within an inch of killing the Goblin and Osborn tearfully told him to go ahead. Peter, realizing that Osborn is so miserable he's stooped to doing stuff like this just for the attention, just walked away. And when Osborn yelled that by this time tomorrow all his loved ones will be dead, Peter said "Go right ahead", and left.
- Played completely straight in the Astro City story "Knock Wood": a lawyer uses a genius defense to acquit the son of a mafia boss, who then wants to recruit him permanently. When the lawyer refuses, the boss says the trope name nearly verbatim to threaten his family if he turns down the offer...
- Played straight in Watchmen. Rorschach is in prison, in solitary. Crime boss Big Figure (who Rorschach sent to jail) wants to have a little chat. The guard isn't supposed to let him through... so Big Figure starts making friendly conversation about the guard's wife and kids.
- Ivana Baiul of DV8 calls a troublesome US Senator to console him on the recent death of a good friend of his (which, needless to say, she orchestrated), saying that it would be terrible for anything like that to happen to his wife or daughter.
- The origin of Dick Grayson involves this. Mob boss Tony Zucoo uses this on the Ringmaster, and after being thrown out partially cuts the ropes for the Graysons' trapeze. The rope breaks when Dick's parents are using it, and they fall to their deaths.
- In the September 1, 1987, strip of Garfield, Garfield tells John Arbuckle that "it would be a shame if someone slashed [his drapes] into party streamers" with the (successful) intention of getting food.
- In Kyon Big Damn Hero, Mori asks enemy esper Kyouko how her grandfather is in Osaka. She immediately gains a look of barely concealed terror.
- Nights Favored Child: The Inquisitor is attending a Peace Conference with the griffin kings which is falling apart (mostly due to the Inquisitor hating griffins and intentionally infuriating them), when the head king eventually threatens war. The Inquisitor then points out that the king's daughter (implied and later confirmed to be Gilda) is currently in Equestria on an exchange program, and while he's monitoring her, it might be... "difficult" to insure her safety if there's a war. The king backs down.
- Used in You Obey as the interrogator is eyeing his victim's limbs.
- Dirty Sympathy Kristoph tells Apollo after he's nine minutes late to work that if he should adhere to schedule so people will know where he is and where he's supposed to be. Because he doesn't, people wouldn't know where he's supposed to be and won't notice if Apollo went missing.
- In On The Wings of Dragons, Harry shows a photograph where a dragon appears smiling right behind a small girl playing in a park. The girl is the grand-daughter of a man that Harry knows is planning to have him attacked in some way because he humiliated the man before, and Harry is doing this to show him he is not to be trifled with. Subverted in that it is just a bluff, since Harry is completely unwilling of harming an innocent.
- In the Attack on Titan fanfic My Child, during the birth of his and Mikasa's baby, Levi once again refuses to sell his soul to the demon Xaphan, telling Xaphan that he doesn't need him and to get out of his life. Xaphan stays put, and replies, "You might regret it if I left and something were to happen." Cue shoulder dystocia nearly suffocating the baby.
- Unfortunately Unbreakable:
Harry: If you want me to treat Snape with the respect he has earned, I'll start insulting him and his parents in front of the whole school. And I'll start destroying things that matter to him. That's a nice potions storeroom you've got there, Snape. Be a shame if anything happened to it.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Frank Nitti threatens Eliot Ness's family in this manner, in The Untouchables. "Nice house."
- This is how Kobayashi keeps the protagonists working for Soze in The Usual Suspects.
- From The Good The Bad And The Ugly:
Angel Eyes: That your family? Nice family.
- He proceeds to shoot the man he's talking to, along with his son. After he gets what he wants.
- In the crime/horror movie Se7en, villain John Doe taunts Detective David Mills by talking about how lovely Mills' wife Tracy is. Of course, this is subverted in that John Doe has already killed Tracy in order to enrage Mills and get Doe exactly what he wants — his own murder, at Mills' hands.
- In The Castle, the firm that is trying to buy the main characters' house send a man around after he refuses their offer. He makes vaguely threatening comments that leave the main character riled up, and later trashes his car. When they try it on his neighbour, a Kuwaiti man, he replies: "You send someone 'round to see me, make threats, I send someone 'round to see you, blow up your car." They decide to leave the Kuwaiti man alone.
- The man later tries it again — only this time, after he makes his threatening comments, the main character's son does a less subtle version of this trope by putting a shotgun in his face.
- Die Hard: "That's a very nice suit. It would be a shame to ruin it."
- The villain in The Lincoln Lawyer uses this.
Your daughter, Hayley, she's very pretty. She has soccer practice on Saturday?
- A deleted scene from the movie After the Sunset has the local gangster telling professional thief Max, "I love the view of the water from your house." Max corrects him, "You mean the view of my house from the water" (which actually isn't much better, as both lines indicate that he knows where Max lives). The gangster assures him that his first statement was correct, leaving Max to worry about his and his fiancee's safety should he tangle with the man.
- In The Sentinel, the villain outright threatens his henchman when he tries to renege on their plan to assassinate the president. "We're not going to kill you. We're going to kill her. (holds up picture of man's wife) And then we're going to kill her. (holds up picture of man's daughter) And then we're going to kill her. (holds up picture of man's other daughter)
- In the film Tormented (best known for its skewering on MST3K), the beatnick ferry operator won't stop rambling about Tom Stewart's house when they meet. Amusingly, the man clearly intended it as a threat but was so obtuse that Tom couldn't parse out the threat until the kid finally explained himself.
- In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader replies to Lando's initial protest at him Moving the Goalposts by replying it would be a shame if he had to leave a garrison behind in Cloud City, essentially threatening Lando with annexation.
- Patriot Games has a nicely sinister example from Irish terrorist Sean Miller. "How's the family, Ryan?" What's especially frightening about this is that he has already tried to kill Ryan's wife and daughter in a drive-by shooting. He's not threatening to harm them—he's telling him that he's going to finish the job.
- Heroic variant in Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Sam Wilson does this to The Mole after said mole asks why he should go with Sam like Sam said to:
Sam: Cause that tie looks really expensive and I'd hate to mess it up. *cue a laser sight from a sniper rifle appearing on said tie.*
- Inverted in the backstory to the Discworld novels, where the basically-good Bad Guy (the Patrician) uses it on really Bad Guys (the heads of various criminal gangs) after persuading them to form a Thieves' Guild that regulates crime (more or less turning it into an official, legal profession), for the purpose of reminding them what can happen if they don't honor the deal:
"I know who you are, he said. I know where you live. I know what kind of horse you ride. I know where your wife has her hair done. I know where your lovely children are, how old are they now, my doesn't time fly, I know where they play. So you won't forget about what we agreed, will you? And he smiled.
"So did they, after a fashion."
- People like that often wander into Aziraphale's book shop in Good Omens. However, once they've been bade a polite farewell, they never ever come back. Crowley also successfully subverts this trope to persuade Aziraphale to help him stop the Apocalypse, not by threatening but by pointing out how many nifty Earthly things will be lost if the world ends.
- In Terry Pratchett's Nation, one of the Gentlemen of Last Resort casually mentions another character's birthplace, mother, and several other minor details. That character mentions that it felt like the start of a threat, and the fact that no actual threat followed was not comforting.
- In a non-Pratchett involved example, Payne Harrison's Storming Intrepid ends with A meeting between the US President, the Vice-President(President-Elect), and the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, formerly the head of the KGB and The Chessmaster behind the events of the plot. Said plot has revolved around an anti-nuke Kill Sat that the Americans have. The GS says that if the US insists on rebuilding the destroyed weapon, Russia will simply have to find alternate delivery methods. Then he shows a KGB colonel next to a red, white, and blue barrel in Red Square. And another photo with the same man, in normal clothes, next to the barrel in Washington, DC. He notes how small it's possible to make nuclear bombs nowadays, small enough to fit in a barrel...
- One book in the Myth Adventures series turns this sort of sideways when the local Mob wants to get a foothold in the Deveel Bazaar, and begins to extort "protection money" in roughly this fashion. The Deveels decide to hire Skeeve to put a stop to it (blissfully unaware that Skeeve had directed the Mob at Deva to get them off his back), whereupon Skeeve & Co start setting up the sort of "accidents" that the protection money was supposed to prevent. Naturally, the Deveels are Not Happy about these incidents (after all, they paid) and start demanding refunds from the Mob for substandard protection.
- In Kim Newman's Diogenes Club story "Soho Golem", a local gangland boss attempts to secure psychic detective Richard Jeperson's cooperation in the investigation of the rather horrific supernatural execution of one of his colleagues by intimidating him with a threat of this nature. Jeperson's response is to cheerfully laugh in his face and to inform the gangster that his threats are meaningless; not only has Jeperson come across too many nastier things in his time to be intimidated by some thug, but the supernatural nature of the threat mean the rules the gangster lives by no longer apply here, and he's dependent on Jeperson's goodwill to remain in the land of the living, not the other way around.
- in Trial by Journal the bad guy uses this to get the wrongfully accused guy's lawyer to quit. she quits to protect her two kids.
- This is actually subverted in the original novel of The Godfather. Everyone in the neighbourhood fears Don Fanucci because of his alleged ties to a more powerful criminal organization. Vito Corleone correctly dismisses this because Fanucci does all of his own collecting instead of sending Mooks. Thus, instead of buckling under to Fanucci's demands, Vito confronts and kills him instead, knowing there will be no repercussions.
- In the early 20th century novel A Candle in Her Room, the third-generation protagonist Nina finds herself confronting the wicked Dido. The person Melissa loves most in the world is her great-aunt Melissa, who became her guardian after the deaths of her parents, and in order to compel Nina to do what she wants, Dido starts talking about what a terrible thing it would be if elderly Aunt Liss were to stumble on the stairs or something equally dangerous.
- The Romulans specialize in this in the Star Trek Novelverse, particularly the "nice family" variant. D'deridex pulls it on Valdore in the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch, Sela on a Kevratan rebel in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Relaunch, and Koval on Pardek in the novel Rogue (according to a later story in Star Trek: Titan, Koval actually went through with the threat and murdered Pardek's young daughter).
- A Mere Interlude by Thomas Hardy:
'I will intercede with my husband, ma'am,' she said. 'He's a true man if rightly managed; and I'll beg him to consider your position. 'Tis a very nice house you've got here,' she added, glancing round, 'and well worth a little sacrifice to keep it.'
- One of the Sweet Valley High mystery mini-arcs involved a convicted murder stalking Elizabeth and Jessica because of his grudge against their father. He sends many threats of this nature to Ned Wakefield through the post.
- In the web-novel Domina, in one of the flashback chapters, a gang member starts making meaningful observations about a woman's new apartment. She doesn't beat around the bush, and just notes that she already paid another gang, Necessarius, for protection money. Then said gang shows up and, to everyone's complete surprise, actually protects her.
Sinclair: Funny, because it looks like you're harassing...Priscilla Ljunborg. Our records show that she is all paid up on her protection money.
Sinclair: So that means she's under the protection of Necessarius, Gabriel. I'm going to have to ask you to leave.
- Septimus Heap: Magyk: The Hunter threatens to burn Sally Mullin's cafe in that manner before doing so.
- In Pact, Blake Thorbun, Rose Thorburn, and Maggie Holt turn up at the house of police officer Duncan Behaim and help his wife get her car unstuck from the snow. When Duncan, and shortly thereafter his uncle Laird, turn up, Blake threatens to Laird that Duncan could easily lose someone precious to him if Laird continues to work against him. In this case, though, Blake isn't talking about killing her-the Other that Rose has summoned specializes in creating an Apple of Discord between allies, and does so by reassigning the connections of objects or people to other people in the most inconvenient way possible. In other words, Blake is threatening to make Duncan's wife break up with him.
- The Robber Baron in Devils Cape does this to the D.A. Warren Sims, who is already looking to get the Baron behind bars. He even pulls some strings to make sure that Sims meets and marries his college sweetheart, as he has no family or friends that the Baron can threaten, but once Sims and his wife have a baby on the way, the Baron comes to have a chat with him.
- The page quote is from a Saturday Night Live sketch mocking former Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, which has had a reputation of being one of the most corrupt states in the US and is widely stereotyped as having a Mob-controlled government (past ties to Al Capone probably don't help the reputation either). In this particular example, Blagojevich had been arrested for soliciting bribes for political appointmentsnote and has since been convicted and is currently in jail.
- In a more recent example, SNL also parodied Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey (another state that is infamous for its political corruption) in the wake of his "Bridgegate" scandalnote by having him implicitly threaten Piers Morgan during an interview and invoking this trope word for word.
- Scorpius from Farscape pulls a rather aggressive version of this trope by forcibly showing John a hologram of Earth and threatening to send a fleet to destroy it if he doesn't start co-operating. Despite this, even after John foils his plans, Scorpius gets a rather sympathetic scene where he points out that petty revenge against John is pointless if the revenge he really wanted was out of his grasp.
- The protection version is sent up in Monty Python's Flying Circus, when Dino and Luigi Vercotti try this with an Army base.
Luigi: How many men you got here, colonel?
Colonel: Oh, er ... seven thousand infantry, six hundred artillery, and er, two divisions of paratroops.
Luigi: Paratroops, Dino.
Dino: Be a shame if someone was to set fire to them.
- Parodied in Malcolm in the Middle, where an officer delivers his files to Lois in response to her objecting a traffic ticket, and tries to make innocuous small-talk:
Police Officer: Nice house you have here.
Lois: Are you threatening me!?
- Played with in episode 4.08 of Sons of Anarchy. Lieutenant Roosevelt remarks that Jax has a beautiful family and naturally, it would be a shame if anything happened to them. However, he's not threatening Jax, just emphasizing that getting into the drug business could cause his loved ones serious harm - by this point the Sons have already been witness to multiple assasination attempts by their cartel's competition.
- The episode "Damned If You Don't" of American Gothic inverts this trope: when Buck comes to collect on a debt, and mentions him having "a lovely daughter...how old is she now, fifteen?" Carter believes (helped along by the sheriff's smarmy turn from Affably Evil to downright pedophilic) that this is a blatant threat to his daughter's life if he turns Buck down—but all the sheriff is doing is innocently offering her a job at the precinct. Of course, when Carter does turn him down and opts for a different means of paying the debt, the daughter, his wife, and his entire livelihood are indeed threatened...with tragic consequences.
- Parodied in a Swedish cop comedy show called S.W.I.P Snutarna. One Story Arc parodies The Godfather with one family being an apple mafia and their neighbours wanting to keep their apple trees (includes a hilarious scene that parodies the horse head, where a man wakes up to find his bed filled with apples). Anyhow, one member of the apple mafia family threatens the neighbours. "Lovely apple trees you've got. It would be a shame if someone was to... scrump."
- "Scrump" may be inherently funny, but it's also a British pastime, generally involving small children pinching apples from people's trees, hence its relevance.
- Lana Lang in S6 of Smallville does this with one of Lex Luthor's scientists with regards to his family, home and livelihood. Of course, Lana being Lana, the scientist shows up later in the series to help her get superpowers...on purpose.
- Inverted in Power Rangers Ninja Storm, when it's actually the good guys doing the persuading, complete with the "Nice place you got here" shtick. The duo pulls the parody version, which is met with worry from the object of their persuasion.
- On Leverage, Nathan et al learn a hard lesson on why it's not a good idea to piss off the wrong people while passing through a town to help someone.
"Too bad you won't be here next week when the [victim]'s house burns down."
- Police Squad! had an episode with a mob protection racket; this trope was one of the few that the episode played straight.
- One Mystery Science Theater 3000 short involved a bread salesman; Mike and the bots decided to add some subtext to one scene with a grocer.
Salesman: G'morning, Mr. Marco.
Mike: Mr. Marco, you want my coffee ring today? Sure be a shame if something bad happened to your store here.
Salesman: (Notices shopping cart) Hey! Something new!
Mike: Be a shame if this ran over your kid.
- Peep Show: "Nice packet of Crunchy Nut you've got here, pretty expensive as I recall..."
- On The League of Gentlemen, Papa Lazarou's exceptionally creepy "makeup speech" eventually turns out to be one of these about a woman he's kidnapped.
"You know, the thing a lot of people don't realize about makeup is that you can tend to overdo it. It's much better to have too little, and then add on. I learned my skills from my wives
. Each one of them has something different to offer. Your
wife, for example, knows a great deal about curling eyelashes. You didn't know that, did you? Perhaps you should have paid more attention to her. I know
- Foyle's War contains two examples in the same episode... both of which are rather awesomely thrown back in the faces of the people trying to intimidate our heroes:
- Number one has an arrested black marketeer casually mention to Milner that many of the people he works with won't be pleased that Milner has arrested him, and that Milner should 'be careful' and 'watch his back'. Unfortunately for the black marketeer, he made this comment in front of the desk sergeant as well, giving Milner a reason to calmly add two more charges to his sheet — obstruction and threatening a police officer. Even more unfortunately for the black marketeer, someone else later does try to kill Milner, thus putting the black marketeer in the position of Chief Suspect. The marketeer ends up having to frantically backtrack and plead that he didn't have anything to do with it, honestly.
- Number two has Sam overhear a conversation that perhaps she shouldn't have between a suspect and a third party at her new job in a map-making facility. Later that night, the suspect surprises her as she's leaving to go home, suggesting that it really would be better for her if she forgot all about that conversation, and that he really wouldn't want anything bad to happen to her as a result of it. Sam calmly replies that she'd actually forgotten all about the incident already, "but since you're so worried about it you've come out here to try and bully me, I'm going to mention it to everyone I can." She then rides off without a backwards glance, leaving the suspect with an Oh, Crap expression and the feeling that this possibly wasn't one of his better ideas.
- Curiously, the men making 'hints' turn out to be uncle and nephew. Having your threats casually dismissed must be genetic.
- Subverted on Dollhouse: when speaking to a possible new Active, Adelle brings up the candidate's mother's financial situation. The candidate thinks she is going to threaten his mother, but Adelle actually offers to solve his mother's financial troubles if he agrees to become an Active.
- Since Adelle offers a combination of threats and promises (carrot and stick), the underlining threat behind this promise was "we know your mother matters to you." She's a Magnificent Bastard for a reason.
- Various antagonists in Burn Notice do this to Michael Westen all the time. In one episode, this is played straight and then later subverted: Well, subverted in the sense that after playing it straight, the good guy responds with the exact same trope: Michael's brother is threatened by an arms dealer named Brennen. In response, after discovering that Brennen has a daughter living in Europe, Michael threatens her. After burning his American house down to show he's serious.
- A gang member once tried this on NCIS, threatening McGee and Ziva if Gibbs didn't get off his back. Notwithstanding who Ziva is (or McGee for that matter), he was saying this straight to Gibbs' face. Needless to say, he took it back. Fast.
- Schillinger does this to Beecher in Oz saying he's got a beautiful wife and kids, forcing Beecher to take the photos he has of his family and tear them up.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's final Mirror Universe episode, "Smiley" says this about the Klingon flagship once its shields are down.
- Parodied in a MADtv Miss Swan sketch. A mobster tries to extort money out of her by threatening her beauty salon. He demonstrates what could happen if she doesn't pay by "accidentally" knocking a glass jar on the floor. However, Miss Swan is such a Cloud Cuckoo Lander that she finds that to be entertaining, and begins destroying other things in her store for fun. The thug has to quickly step in and stop her before she destroys her television.
- Law & Order: UK: James Steel confronts his nemesis, confronting him with irrefutable evidence of his guilt in several murders and urging him to have the decency to plead guilty and not torture the families of his victims with a lengthy trial. The man responds by casually asking, "He's eight, isn't he? Your little boy? Ethan? Gradley Street, Edinburgh. Beautiful house they've got. But busy roads, though. On his walk to school." Although visibly shaken to realize just how much of a monster he's dealing with, Steel keeps it together long enough to coldly bid the man farewell and walk out of the room.
- Played With in the final season of The Sopranos, one of the family's minor protected businesses folds and is replaced with a Brand X Starbucks. Two of Tony's lieutenants go in to try this routine on the new manager. He immediately recognizes what they are doing, but in an almost sympathetic tone he points out the store's workforce isn't unionized and the company is a billion dollar multinational with complete insurance. What's more, every single bean is in the computer, so if he started skimming for the mob he'd be fired immediately and they'd have to start over. The two mobsters leave, complaining about the state of modern business.
- Then there's the time Bobby Bacala is sent to smooth over a situation involving a recalcitrant union leader:
Bobby: I mean, you recently got an offer, for a lot of money. And, if you don't get paid, you can't feed your family. I presume you got a family. I'm a family man myself, and I gotta tell you I'd rather take two shots to the back of the fucking head than not be able to feed my family.
[makes a gun with his hand and points it to the back of his own head]
Bobby: One... Two... To the back of the head. You think about that.
- A standard tactic of the evil Girl Guides in You're Skitting Me.
- Variation in the first episode of Sherlock. After kidnapping Dr. Watson, Mycroft says he "worries about Sherlock" in an attempt to get Watson to spy on Sherlock. Watson assumes this is a threat, only to discover later that Sherlock's "archenemy" is really his brother who is legitimately concerned about him.
- Used in nearly every episode of The Vampire Diaries. By every major character. Against every other major character.
- In the Cold Case episode "Sandhogs", the victim, an avid union activist, is threatened by one of his opponents. He dismisses the threat, warning the man that if anything happens to him, no one would believe that it was an accident and that everyone would quickly and correctly suspect him. The man agrees, but then reveals that he wasn't really threatening him, stating, "But who's going to care if some random colored woman goes missing on her way home from work?", thus telling him that he'll harm his girlfriend if he doesn't back off.
- In an episode of Barney Miller the squad discovers that someone is going around shaking down business owners in the neighborhood on the basis of a spurious rumor that the stationhouse is being closed. Nobody will come forward as a witness because, with the police gone they're the only protection available. But then one business gets robbed and the extortionists don't do anything about it - now he'll press charges!
- Cancer Man delivers Assistant Director Skinner one of these in The X-Files. "You ever wonder what it would be like to, uh... die in a plane crash? Of botulism? Even a heart attack's not uncommon for a man your age. You think I'm bluffing?" However, Skinner has an insurance policy in case of such an event and is not intimidated.
Walter Skinner: This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass.
- On Monty Python, a sketch revolved around two sinister gangsters played by Michael Palin and Eric Idle, presenting an offer to an increasingly incredulous British Army general.
Nice armoured division you got here, squire. All those tanks must be worth a pretty penny, eh? Shame if anything happened to them, eh? I bet they're not properly insured...
- In Copper, this is a tactic Maguire employs after he joins the Druids counterfeiting ring to persuade the local merchants to pay more for the counterfeit cash. For example, he points out to a tobacconist how the important thing to remember about tobacco is that it burns...
- In the 3DO game Zhadnost, a common thug named Zygi managed to steal a nuclear bomb, and as the announcer is describing him to the game show host, it shows surveillance footage of Zygi "playing" with his new bomb in his house, pretending to be the President of the United States. "You have such a lovely country here. It would be a real... shame... if something happened to it." He pats the bomb while he says this, too.
- In Silent Hill 4, you get an ominous note under your door reading: "Better check on your neighbor" shortly before Eileen gets brutally attacked and almost killed.
- In Neverwinter Nights 2 if you're playing evil you can try and pull this on a merchant. Of course he won't understand you and once you switch to simple threats, will chastise you for not getting right to the point.
- Hilariously, he's actually delighted that the thieves' guild is extorting him, because it means he's treated as a serious businessman and it will generate free publicity and draw customers.
- Civilization gives us something among these lines when leaders want to threaten you into giving them free stuff.
- Civilization III takes this into full-on ethnic stereotyping when Julius Caesar says "Nice civilization you've got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it."
- According to Memetic Mutation, that's what Minecraft Creepers do◊.
- In Jak II: Renegade, Krew is trying to convince Jak to throw the championship race, which Jak refuses to do. Krew then makes a thinly veiled threat against Daxter. Errol then makes a dramatic entrance, so we don't get to see Jak rip Krew to shreds for daring to threaten his best friend.
- Lampshade Hanging in the ZX Spectrum game "Bugsy":
"Nice pawnshop you got here. Shame if anything should happen to it."
Okay, so ya want originality. Well, let me tell you dis is 1922 and right now dis line is very original.
- Featured in Dragon Age: Origins. A few carta thugs can be found threatening a shopkeeper in Orzammar Commons. As well as another opportunity for good/evil/money it ties into the main plotline for Orzammar.
- Final Fantasy VI: Kefka Palazzo, when asking the King of Figaro where Terra is, says "it would be a shame if something were to happen to your precious Figaro!" He keeps true to his promise with fire.
- Suikoden V: Gizel employs this tactic when he tells Lymsleia about her upcoming coronation as Felana's new Queen, now that the period of mourning for Queen Arhstat and her husband, Ferid, had passed. Lym refuses to go along with it, recognizing that Gizel intended to use her as his puppet, until he invokes the trope:
Lymsleia: (defiantly) "That right! I refuse to be your PUPPET QUEEN!!"
"My, my, and here everyone was so
looking forward to the princess' coronation, but the princess is being difficult. (pause)
You wouldn't want anything to happen to Miakis
, or your other servants, would you...?"
Miakis and Lymsleia gasps in realization
Lymsleia: (horrified) "Y-you wouldn't! You wouldn't dare!"
Gizel: (nonchalant) "Hmph... or would I...?"
- Pizza Tycoon: You can sometimes get a visit from the Mafia, who will say something along the lines of "Nice place you've got here... pity everything's so flammable..." in an extortion attempt.
- The trope is used by Gensokyo's resident meddling gods, Kanako Yasaka and Suwako Moriya, as part of a faith-gathering scheme. Kanako's a big planner/speaker and Suwako has a group of curse gods under her control; together they essentially offer the chance not to be cursed by Suwako.
- Millie from Ozy and Millie can't quite pull this off.
- Dead Winter has this happen. A shady Chess Master coerces hitman Monday Blues into his service with a few off-hand comments about a hunting trip in somewhere in Pennsylvania. Blues decides to play along, then begins viciously hunting down the keystones in his would-be employer's organization, intending to ultimately kill the man at the top.
- In Kevin & Kell, a beaver makes this threat against Kevin's tree house. Kevin responds by threatening the beaver's dam in a similar manner, forcing him to back off.
- Happens early in Schlock Mercenary. A local union attempts to intimidate Breya into hiring lots of unnecessary local labor for her new ship-refitting operation. Having failed to notice her day job commanding a mercenary company with very big guns, and very little concern about collateral damage. Hilarity, and Plasma Cannon, ensue.
- In Dominic Deegan, Urban Eddie and his goons use this approach on several businesses in the rebuilt Barthis, as part of Stunt's plan to take control of the town. Subverted when the aforementioned townsfolk and business owners see through the ploy and aren't intimidated by it. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Darths & Droids, the protagonists gain the help of the Gungans when Anakin mentions that they know where the Gungan's Lost Orb of Phanastacoria is, and wouldn't it be a shame if someone's starfighter accidentally blew it up?
- In a later rant, it is pointed out that this is a much better way for mercenaries to work.
Mercenaries should of course be... mercenary. Any opportunity to turn someone else's misfortune into a quick buck should be grabbed and made the most of. There's no need to be impolite about it though. That's the one mistake PCs often make. Why raid a cave system full of goblins, slaughtering all before you at considerable risk to life and limb, when you can simply rock up to the front door, make pleasant conversation about how nice a cave system it is, and how it'd be a right shame if anything were to happen to it, while meaningfully picking your teeth with a two-handed sword?
- In Dinosaur Comics, T. Rex apparently says this kind of thing all the time out of genuine concern, unaware of how it sounds.
- Pv P's Skull quit playing Animal Crossing for just this reason.
- Attempted in a flashback in Final Fantasy VII: The Sevening, but since the vase Tseng is trying to break is made of plastic, nothing happens.
- In What's New? with Phil and Dixie, gnones do this to comic book artists.
- The Simpsons:
- Parodied when Homer threatens Mr. Burns: "Nice office you have here. It would be a shame if somebody... DIDN'T USE A COASTER!" Mr. Burns appears to be truly shaken.
- In another episode, Homer threatens the manager of a beauty salon by hurling a hairnet to the ground and unscrewing the lid off of a jar. The manager is perplexed, especially as it is only after these things have happened that Homer explains his intent: he wants the salon to honor Marge's coupon for two free hair streaks, "or a lot more jars are going to be unscrewed."
- And again when Homer hires a private investigator, Dexter Colt, to find information about Lisa. Dexter comments that it would be a shame if Principal Skinner's papers were shuffled and does so. Skinner responds that he could easily put them back, to which Dexter staples the now mismatched pile. Cue a Big "NO!" from Skinner.
- Parodied in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, when Cindy, trying to sell products for a school fundraiser, says the above phrase in regards to a rocking horse on the man's front porch. This causes him to worriedly buy several boxes.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Long Feng tells Aang "I understand you’ve been looking for your bison. It would be quite a shame if you were not able to complete your quest." This is a variation on the standard trope, as the threat was merely expulsion from the city; although Long Feng was indeed holding Appa, he had to know that directly using him as a hostage would end... badly.
- In The Legend of Korra, a trio of bender thugs from the Triple Threat Triad are rather unsubtle about it.
: Mr. Chung, please tell me you have my money, or else I can't protect your fine establishment. [The Firebender gangster palms a ball of fire and grins]
- In the second season, Varrick threatened Mako in this way about Asami and Bolin. It was a bluff, and Varrick opted to frame Mako.
- Freakazoid! had a one-shot villain named Arms Akimbo, an old-style gangster who offered "Oops Insurance"; whenever the shopkeeper asked "What's 'Oops Insurance'?", he'd knock something over and say "Oops". This culminates with a Stock Footage building exploding, followed by his usual "Oops".
- Futurama: The gist of the Grunka-Lunka's song in Fry and the Slurm Factory.
Grunka-Lunka: Asking questions in school is a great way to learn.
Grunka-Lunka 2: If you try that stuff here, you might get your legs broke.
Grunka-Lunka: We once found a dead guy face down in the Slurm.
Grunka-Lunka 2: It could easily happen again to you folk.
Grunka-Lunkas: So keep your heads down, and keep your mouths shut!
- Played with on an episode of Rugrats: on a dark and stormy night, a stranger shows up at the Pickles' doorstep, making vaguely threatening statements about their home and family. Then he realizes he's being inadvertantly creepy, and reveals he's just an insurance salesman and would like a few moments of their time.
- In Gargoyles, mob boss Tony Dracon runs a protection racket and blows up the buildings that don't pay. As a gargoyle, who are sworn to protect, Goliath is driven into a rage over something like this.
- In the South Park episode "Le Petit Tourette" has Chris Hansen telling Cartman that if he doesn't appear on his show, he will be killed, citing about how a pedophile "shot himself" to get out of being on To Catch a Predator.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Summer Job" had Mr. Krabs making Mrs. Puff work at the Krusty Krab to pay for driving into the restaurant, using this method to threaten her with telling her parole officer if she refuses.
- In April 2006, the Motion Picture Association of America actually used this in a letter to Swedish State Secretary Dan Eliasson, with thinly-veiled threats of trade reprisals and/or a smear campaign against Sweden.
John Malcolm: As we discussed during our meeting, it is certainly not in Sweden's best interests to earn a reputation among other nations and trading partners as a place where utter lawlessness with respect to intellectual property rights is tolerated.
- Rooster Teeth's Geoff Ramsey recalled this coming from his young daughter, coupling this trope with Troubling Unchildlike Behavior.
- The basic ploy of the 'YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED WITH VIRUSES' scareware popups that come with a prompt to buy their software... to remove their popups.
- A lot of prisons have policies (official or unofficial) that forbid guards from having non-work conversations while on duty in order to prevent this, because any personal information an inmate can glean could be used against the gaurd down the line. In maximum security prisons this can go so far as married guards not being allowed to wear their rings and guards not being allowed to give out their full names.
- When investigating the death of Guy-Andre Kieffer (who had been killed while investigating allegations of child slavery used in the production of cocoa in Africa), Carol Off got this kind of advice twice - first from Embassy officials, and then from local officials.
Off: "But if you have to [ask questions], at the very least, don't ask any questions about Guy-André Kieffer. Whatever you do, don't even mention his name." Maybe that's good advice, but wherever I went they would raise his name and in ways that I realized weren't even veiled threats. I would be speaking with somebody in the business and they would say, "You know what happened to the last person who asked these questions? I wonder where he is now?" They would just look at you. You got the message. I quickly realized how incredibly sinister and evil this story really was.
- During the Ukraine crisis, Russia outright admitted it does this. When challenged on the issue by the UN, a Russian diplomat said "We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation."