Stealing the Credit
Some people want glory and fame
... but they can't be bothered with all of that "hard work" stuff. Or perhaps they don't really have any talent or skill to recommend them in the first place.
Their solution? Lay claim to someone else's achievement.
Stealing the credit usually manifests itself in one of two forms. The first is a character who is a schemer. They're smart enough to know that they don't have much talent of their own...and smart enough to identify, manipulate and cheat someone who does
. They usually lay their plans very carefully, encouraging their target, supporting them, and lending them a shoulder to cry on. They may even provide the funding for a project — as a backup plan, so that they can claim that as the "owner" of the project, they were due the credit. When it's complete, the thief will immediately alert the media to their
magnificent discovery, claiming all of the money and acclaim in the process and making sure that the creator's name never appears in the history books. They will have some kind of plan in place to shield them from discovery, and are therefore very difficult to punish. Worse, the person they manipulate is often vulnerable or overly trusting, so this character gets serious Kick the Dog
The second type is an opportunist. They happen to be in the right place at the right time. Perhaps the manager wanders by when the CEO is chatting to a lowly secretary, only for said lowly secretary to outline a brilliant new advertising campaign. The manager will swoop in, blithely remark on how he was chatting to the secretary about his new advertising concept just the other day, and shoo her out of the way so that he can bask in the glory. This type of opportunist is more common than their scheming counterpart — and much less clever. They are usually caught out in their lie and have no contingency plan.
Some examples of this trope see the thief laying claim to something that they were never a part of at all (such as claiming the credit for a painting when they've never even seen a paintbrush). Others will
be involved with the project in some capacity...but they either had a much smaller part to play than they claim, or appear only at the end stages of a project, claiming it was their idea all along. Even if they had previously dismissed the idea as nonsense
However, some characters will actively allow or even insist that someone else steals the credit from them
. The "thief" in this case is usually more sympathetic, since they are often oblivious to the scheme or reluctant to take part. This usually occurs when the true creator feels that claiming the credit would be a hindrance: perhaps they're a doctor who's quite happy to develop life-saving treatments, but feels that fame would hamper his work, or a reclusive author who loves her work, but uses someone else to attend all the book signings and conventions. Rarer is the purely altruistic version, where the creator feels someone needs the recognition or fame more than they do
The Pointy-Haired Boss
will often be involved in the opportunistic version of this trope, while The Chessmaster
and the Manipulative Bastard
will be responsible for the scheming variant. Behind Every Great Man
often sees the woman of the duo allowing him to take the credit for her achievements as part of her role, with some women encouraging
said man to do this so that she can continue working in peace. Glad I Thought of It
is a more low key variation of the trope, with the thief stealing an idea rather than something more substantial.
- One origin story for The Riddler is this: he was a genius computer programmer who developped a new game, but his boss stole it from him, driving Edward to crime.
- In Violine, Kombo steals the credit for "saving" the heroes all the time, despite usually doing nothing-to barely anything at all.
- A fairy tale has the hero kill a dragon in exchange for marrying the princess, but suffers Post-Victory Collapse, allowing an opportunistic thief to cut out the dragon's eyeball and return to the court, claiming to have killed it. The princess, having fallen for the hero in the meantime, demands the dragon's tongue(s) as additional proof, giving the hero enough time to recuperate (in some versions, animals he'd spared earlier help him out) and prove himself. Versions of this story include "The Two Brothers", collected by The Brothers Grimm, and "The Three Princes and Their Beasts", collected by Andrew Lang.
- In the Puella Magi Madoka Magica doujin I'm working for a mahou shoujo recruitment company, but I think I may be at my limit, this is how Kyuzo screws Kyubey over, and after Kyubey had worked his ass off and pulled all-nighters in order to get ten mahou shoujo into the fold. It doesn't help that Kyubey's boss has been threatening to fire him if he continues to produce poor results and "drag down the company". And unfortunately for Kyubey, this isn't even the half of how Kyuzo's betrayed him.
- In Scarlet Street, a prostitute and her pimp are taking advantage of a mild-mannered bank clerk who is in love with the prostitute. The bank clerk's sole source of pleasure is his painting hobby. When the pimp tries to sell one of the paintings and starts getting a lot of interest from art experts, he and the prostitute claim she is the artist. They make a lot of money.
- Dragonslayer. After Galen and Ulrich manage to kill the dragon (with Ulrich giving his life in the process), the sleazy, Dirty Coward king shows up and pretends to have slain it.
- Working Girl. Tess McGill suggests to her boss that one of their clients should invest in radio in order to gain a foothold in the media business. She learns later that her boss is planning to benefit herself by taking credit for the idea.
- Hero. A petty criminal named Bernie LaPlante rescues survivors of a plane crash. A homeless Vietnam veteran named John Bubber goes public and takes credit for the rescues.
- The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Timothy's adoptive parents designed a new pencil that is made from leaves, ensuring their town's pencil factory won't go out of business. However, his parents boss claims credit to the townsfolk. Timothy is furious that the boss stole credit of his parents invention. The boss tries to counter that is Timothy is a weirdo who's just making things up. However, one of the townsfolk who befriended Timothy ask the boss how he made the pencil, the boss is unable answer since he doesn't know. Eventually, everyone including the boss's father who owns the factory turns on him.
- Played for laughs in the action-comedy The Big Hit. Melvin is a Hitman with a Heart who is one of the best assassins in the trade, at one point taking out an entire building filled with mooks while his "best friend" Cisco and the rest of his teammates wait for him to finish. Then Cisco claims credit for doing the job by putting an extra bullet in the target's head post-mortem and guilt trips Melvin into giving him the bonus for the mission, which Melvin allows simply because he's such an extreme doormat.
- TRON had Ed Dillinger taking credit for Kevin Flynn's video games, until Flynn goes into the mainframe and gets proof, literally.
- Averted in the All American Pups book Camp Barkalot. When one of the campers asks Bella if she's "the hero", Bella clears up the misconception and passes the credit on to Fritz.
- In H.I.V.E. Series book seven, Otto takes the credit for stealing the exam answers and the location of the Hunt, when it was actually all eight students on squad four who did it. Because of this, he is expelled. This works in his favor, however, because he is able to leave the island to look for the Glasshouse, and he takes HIVEmind with him, which while not being necessarily beneficial to the plot, it allows the AI to go outside and spend time as a human.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, famous wizard Gilderoy Lockhart can only do one spell really well - a spell to remove people's memories of doing something so he can claim the credit for doing it.
- The Agatha Christie novel Destination Unknown has the greatest scientific minds captured and brought to a purpose-built super-laboratory, with the man behind it all intending to allow them to do their research without political guidance or restrictions (which is why there are communists and fascists among them), but intending to lease their services to governments that can pay the price. However, it turns out that one of the scientists has been unable to produce anything since a groundbreaking paper published shortly after his wife was murdered. It turns out she was the genius, he murdered her to take the credit.
- At the very beginning of The Stormlight Archive, Kaladin successfully kills a Shardbearer. However, Amaram has him branded a slave to allow him (Amaram) to steal the credit... and more importantly, the Shards.
- Our Miss Brooks: Mr. Conklin likes to steal the credit from Miss Brooks on occasion. For example, there was his attempt to claim authorship of a speech written by Miss Brooks in "Public Property on Parade".
- A character trait of Rimmer in Red Dwarf. If it goes right, it was his idea, and he should get the reward. If it fails, it was Lister's, and Lister should face the punishment.
- In Elementary, Sherlock has this problem when DI Gareth Lestrade of the London Metropolitan Police takes all the credit for the former's work when he was working as a private detective prior to his drug rehabilitation.
- In one episode of Sliders, they slide back into their world, where Professor Arturo suddenly starts going around claiming to have invented Sliding, even though it was Quinn's discovery. Eventually, they find that they aren't in their world, it's another alt Earth and the Arturo making the claims is the one from this world, who was left behind when Quinn began Sliding, and has been trying to rediscover it ever since.
- Blackadder does this with a picture painted by Lieutenant George in an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth — right in George's presence. George tries to object, but Blackadder, who outranks him, won't give him permission to speak. Even when Captain Darling points out that the picture is signed "George", Blackadder insists it's a dedication to King George.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Detective Pembrook of the Major Case Squad is nicknamed "The Vulture" for his habit of letting other detectives do the lion's share of the investigation on a case and swooping in at the last minute to make the arrest and take all the credit.
- On Suits Mike was assigned to represent a book publishing company in some routine legal matters. He discovered that one of the executives was claiming credit for work on a book that was actually done by her former assistant. Mike, under the pretext of protecting the company from a potential lawsuit, helps the assistant get the formal credit she deserves. However, he then discovers that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished and the assistant turns greedy and demands all the credit on the book, even for the work that was actually done by the executive. Mike has to scramble to fix the situation and firmly establish who deserves credit for the work and how much is their contribution actually worth.
- Inverted when Mike has to give all the credit for winning a major case to Harvey. Harvey does not want the credit but Mike is practicing law without a law degree and the publicity surrounding the case could expose his secret. Mike was planning to give Harvey most of the credit all along but he is now hit with the realization that due to his deception he will never be able to publicly claim credit for any of his accomplishments.
- Sheriff Lamb on Veronica Mars is always known to take the credit wherever possible. When Mars becomes Sheriff, he makes sure to give credit to a lawyer who helps him - only to have said lawyer run against him in the upcoming elections.
- In the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation "Where No One Has Gone Before", a Traveler alien lets a Starfleet officer take the credit for his breakthroughs so he can travel in anonymity.
- On Eureka, the husband of Henry's old flame was using some kind of mind wipe device to erase his team's knowledge of their breakthroughs, then he'd come in and solve the problem using what he'd memorized earlier.
- In Pie in the Sky, Assistant Chief Constable Fisher's career has been built on taking credit for the successes of more competent officers, mainly the protagonist, Detective Inspector Crabbe.
- Bones: Booth is excited because a big bust he spearheaded will give him a corner office and a vacation in Aruba (or some such). But he trades credit to a local PD in order to get his little brother out of a DUI situation, so they get the credit and he gets nothing.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show: Rob and an old buddy had written a song while they were in the army (the buddy wrote the music, Rob wrote the lyrics), and now the song is about to be a big hit so the buddy shows up asking Rob for full rights to the song. Rob agrees, not knowing about the upcoming record release. When it comes out he goes to the old buddy's office, only to find another guy there in the same situation over the same song (the man had written the music, the buddy had written the lyrics). The only thing the old buddy had written was his name at the top of the sheet music.
- Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
- The second episode portrays the feud between Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley, and Robert Hooke as originating in this. Hooke accused Newton of plagiarism and drove him into seclusion, whereupon Newton invented calculus to figure out the solar system's gravity. When Newton published this work in the Principia Mathematica, Hooke tried the same trick, but Halley stepped in to refute the allegations.
- "Sisters of the Sun" commends Henry Norris Russell for not doing this when he realized that Cecilia Payne was right in her analysis of stellar composition, after having rejected her thesis for flying in the face of established thought.
- In Heroes the Alpha Bitch in Claire's school takes the credit in saving peoples lives in a fire incident, in which Claire was the one who really saved them. This however caused her to be targeted by Sylar, who mistook her for Claire.
- The Sunday 5 November 2006 Dilbert has claiming credit as Step 6 for using incompetence to get promoted.
- Marion really resents Central City for doing this in Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky. After years of denying her funding and manpower, they step in to claim the ruins that are Marion's pet project when she actually starts making progress in her Branch office. To add insult to injury, she's expected to tug her forelock and "co-operate fully" with the interlopers.
- Later in the game, it gets worse: In order to reach the ruins Marion's eccentric but brilliant R&D department build a dreadnought that can outperform any of Central City's ships. Central City's response? Commandeer the ship for their own use, so that they can explore the ruins first. Then it turns out the Central City is the bureaucratic form of The Ditherer, so they don't show up, throwing the R and D department's schedule into chaos, but allowing the main team to head to the ruins.
- Mentioned in Persona 4. The characters discuss the fact that the police will claim the credit for catching the murderer, because the team can't admit to the supernatural nature of their investigation. Yosuke and Chie are particularly stung by this.
- Played tragically in Devil Summoner, since the protagonist's soul is in the body of Kyouji Kuzunoha, forcing him to do detective work in Hirasaki City while using his name.
- In the Wonder Momo webcomics/anime, Amazona steals some of Wonder Momo's credits after the latter gains her powers in fighting off a resurgent Warudemon invasion. This is taken Up to Eleven that for a time, the public thinks that Amazona is Wonder Momo, much to Momoko's anger.
- Cucumber Quest: The Dream Oracle takes the credit from The Nightmare Knight for putting up the purple barrier that saved Treblopolis from being blown up by the Noiseblaster. It's made very clear from her nervous tics that she's lying, and it's stated on the author's twitter, and hinted in the author commentary that the Nightmare Knight is actually the one who saved Trebleopolis. Oracle is taking this opportunity to bolster her reputation. Not that The Nightmare Knight would complain since he wants to maintain his reputation as the bad guy as well.
- In this Not Always Working anecdote, a manager tries to steal credit for the help the one giving the anecdote gave to a difficult customer. Fortunately they were mentioned by name.