"If she was alive out there and saw you coming all methed out with your buck knife and geek ears around your neck, she would run in the other direction."The Distressed Damsel and/or Dude is sitting in their cell with head in hands, or hanging by a thread from a cliff, when suddenly, the door is broken down, or a head peeps over the cliff edge. Joy turns to terror as he or she realizes it's The Dragon (who unbeknownst to them has made a Heel–Face Turn), an Eldritch Abomination, Fluffy the Terrible, a Killer Robot... and so on. Usually it'll only be temporary until someone fills the rescuee in on current events, although it may lead to Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like. Sometimes it'll turn out they actually are in worse danger now such as with a Villainous Rescue or Destructive Savior. A Dark Messiah can be this on a global scale. See also Horrifying Hero and Terror Hero who tend to cause this reaction even when being 100% good. Compare Stockholm Syndrome, Unwanted Rescue, Embarrassing Rescue.
— Shane Walsh to Daryl Dixon, The Walking Dead
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- In Magi – Labyrinth of Magic, Aladdin's djinn, Uugo, tends to scare the crap out of whoever he's rescuing or protecting, what with him being a headless giant and all.
- Tenchi Muyo! GXP: Protagonist Seina is only rescued from the Space Pirate Tarant Shank (Knight of Cerebusnote . and Knife Nut) by the Betty of his Love Dodecahedron, Kiriko — covered in the blood of every mook between her and Seina. His first reaction is terror — which upsets her, and Seina spends most of his screentime in the rest of the episode upset at himself for being scared of his childhood friend/crush when she'd just saved his life.
- Done a lot in One Piece. We have Monster Point Chopper in the Enies Lobby arc, inadvertently saving many of his True Companions while also trying to kill them. Aokiji saves Robin in her backstory, while killing his own ally right in front of her. Crocodile gets Luffy out of Impel Down and — while that had a reason; he wanted out too — he later takes blows for Luffy and orders Mr. 1 to do the same as they attempt to rescue Ace. This is partially because he's done a... well, a "Heel Neutral Turn," and partly because Luffy just has that much charisma.
- The Black Swordsman of Berserk. A tall, hulking man with one eye, heaps of scars, a mean scowl, a bad attitude, and a BFS almost as thick and tall as he is. Fortunately, he's actually Guts, our Anti-Hero protagonist. Unfortunately, whether he cares if you live or die depends on if it's the beginning of the manga or the latter of it.
- There's a brief moment of this in Full Moon o Sagashite in episode 40. The guy that went into the canyon to look after Mitsuki unintentionally scared her and caused Takuto to take human form to attack him. Luckily, the mistake was quickly cleared up.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the protagonist doesn't realize that Homura is this trope because she's so terrifying. Not knowing the Incubators' true, sinister nature, Madoka is horrified when Homura shoots one and chains it up. Then it gets free, and things get a lot worse for everyone.
- In Overlord, Momonga becomes this for the people of Carne Village, the first natives he encounters after coming to a new world. He discovers a small army is threatening to wipe out a defenseless village, and decides on a whim to come to their rescue, partly to test his strength. In his old world, he encountered some Fantastic Racism due to being a skeletal lich, but in this new world, the undead are rare, always malevolent, often mindless killing machines. When he first shows up, he saves a pair of village girls by effortlessly slaughtering the enemy soldiers that had attacked them. When he offers a healing potion to the injured girl, she doesn't trust him at all. Afterward, Momonga puts on a mask and hides the fact that he himself is undead, but when he turns one of the dead soldiers into an undead death knight and sends it to deal with the rest of the soldiers and save the village, the ensuing massacre is terrifying to the soldiers and the village.
- A Justice League Unlimited comic has Blue Devil suffer a Heroic B.S.O.D. when he tries to save a child who's too scared of his demonic appearance to go with him. Dr. Fate tries to cheer him up by telling him that Superman actually had the same problem once, while trying to save a girl from a flaming plane wreck.
- In one Hellblazer story, a little girl is kidnapped by a demon and kept caged inside his body. John is allowed to see her, and as he's being removed, reaches towards her yelling "We're coming to get you!" and wondering why she's backing away as far as the cage allows. Only later does he realize that what the girl saw was an indistinct shape covered in slime reaching towards her yelling "We're coming to get you!"
- In the New 52, Superman has a sad flashback of a time when he saved a little boy from getting hit by a truck. The boy was utterly terrified of him and struggled to get out of his arms. The neighborhood immediately forms an angry mob and attack him, and he is forced to flee to avoid harming them.
- In DC: The New Frontier, Batman terrifies a boy he's attempting to rescue from a doomsday cult, prompting his change in appearance and demeanour from his Darker and Edgier Golden Age version to his Lighter and Softer Silver Age one.
Batman: I set out to scare criminals, not children.
- In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, averted and played straight with the same character. The first time, despite previous actions the heroes are more than willing to accept assistance from someone who had been terrorizing them for the better part of a year due to the stakes and an attitude adjustment. The second time, the character's previous actions are recalled and cause even a Badass in Distress to wonder why this individual would want to save them. However, they are called out on this due to being unaware of a Heel–Face Turn.
- Among the characters of the Shadow Wars My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanon is Claire Pie — a giant, invisible, eight-headed Fluffy Pony with tentacular tongues and dimensional Gate powers. She is quite good at rescuing Ponies. How does she normally accomplish this? By opening a temporary Gate to the distressed Pony's location, reaching through with a couple of tentacles, and dragging the Pony through. This can be frightening, especially if you don't know her, especially since she has trouble speaking in normal Pony hearing registers and is thus The Unintelligible save to those who know her very well.
- In Mass Effect: End of Days, a Geth force arrives as Big Damn Heroes during the attack on Elysium. The Alliance is used to them being allies and welcomes them. Tali - not so much.
Film — Animated
- Zig-Zagged in the original Shrek movie: at first, Fiona is not happy about being rescued by an ogre, but then comes to like Shrek. Then a gang of a handsome Robin Hood-wannabes attack them, ostensibly with intent of saving Fiona from the "beast", but she dislikes him even more than she disliked Shrek. However, instead of calling for help, she dispatches all the attackers herself, leaving Shrek awed.
- In Tarzan, Jane falls off a great height as she is chased by baboons and Tarzan catches her. She looks up at the half-naked wild man grabbing her by the waist and lets out a scream.
Film — Live Action
- In Adventures in Babysitting, Chris's car gets a flat, leaving her stranded on the side of the expressway. She is understandably frightened when a huge truck pulls up behind her and a hulking figure with a Hook Hand gets out. But this turns out to be tow-truck driver "Handsome" John Pruitt, who offers her a free tow to Dawson's Garage.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man tries to save a boy from a burning car, and has to take off his mask to prove that he's not a monster.
- During The Great Raid (both the film and Real Life) some of the prisoners did not recognize the uniforms of their rescuers, and had to be coaxed out of their huts. One even hid until after the raid was over.
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope subverts it:
Princess Leia: Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?
Luke Skywalker: Huh? Oh! The uniform... [removes helmet] I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you.
Leia: You're who?
- In The Terminator, Sarah Connor is understandably freaked out when a guy pulls out a sawed-off shotgun in the Tech Noir and starts shooting. It's only after the bullets have stopped and he's hauled her outside that he explains that he was saving her from the hulking dude he shot.
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah's in the middle of escaping the institution holding her when that same hulking dude steps out of the elevator and approaches her. She remembers how impossible it was to kill last time and she has no weapons capable of stopping him. She's trapped between the hospital guards and it until it holds out its hand to her and says "Come with Me If You Want to Live" and her son shows up and vouches for it.
- In Charles Stross' The Atrocity Archive, Mo describes being rescued from terrorists by a SWAT team:
You ever had two guys point assault rifles at your head, so close you could see the grooves on the inside of the barrels? You just lie there very still and try very hard not to look threatening.
- In A Brother's Price, Ren initially thinks Eldest Whistler's flying tackle is an attack on her (she thinks Eldest is aware of just how close Ren and Eldest's unmarried brother Jerin had gotten the night before, and in this society, would react violently to this event). Turns out Eldest was knocking Ren clear of a trap that would have killed her.
- In Dragon Bones, the protagonists go bandit-hunting in a country where their ancestors had helped crush a rebellion. The natives do not like them. When they save the people of a village, initially everyone hides from them. They later encounter a grateful inhabitant of that village, but that's after they walked away without trying to even get some food in return for the rescue. The grateful man then gives them food and blankets, and points out that he doesn't like people from their country, but that it helps a lot that they saved his daughter from a gang-rape.
- Forgotten Realms: In Wyvern's Spur, an old adventurer told the stories of Cole Wyvernspur. One of the stories was about the carpenter's daughter who refused the mad red wizard and then was kidnapped and imprisoned by him. Cole who jumped to the rescue "looked so fierce when he arrived that Bette mistook him for one of Yawataht's minions and smacked him on the head with a hammer". In another Cole entered a hydra's lair unarmed and when he left a hour later, the monster was "everywhere" — in pieces. He was turned into a big wyvern.
- Early in The Wheel of Time, Perrin is captured by Whitecloaks and sentenced to execution. When Lan violently bursts into his tent and cuts down his guards, Perrin inadvertently tries to scream a warning to his captors.
- Geralt of Rivia recounts in The Witcher: The Last Wish how his first heroic act was to rescue a teenaged farm girl and her father from a group of bandits. His brutal attack caused the father to flee in terror with the surviving bandits and the girl to throw up on him and pass out. He's been a lot more cynical about stories of heroic deeds ever since.
- In the Bones episode "The Woman in the Car", where the child Booth was rescuing was terrified until Booth told him his father's code word (Paladin).
- The titular Dexter, a Serial-Killer Killer, rescues Lumen, a young woman who has been subjected to horrific torture and rape by one of his victims. As she first sees him tying up and stabbing her captor, she is understandably spooked.
- Doctor Who: In "The Night of the Doctor", this is Cass' reaction upon realising what species the Eighth Doctor is from. Despite not fighting in the Time War himself (thus far), his people's actions have damaged their reputation so badly that Cass elects to die rather than be saved by a Time Lord.
- In the "The Reichenbach Fall" episode of Sherlock, Moriarty is revealed to have terrified a pair of kidnapped children with a double of Sherlock, in order to cast suspicion on Sherlock when the children begin screaming in his presence.
- Thanks to Disquiet, any Promethean attempting to help mortals turns into one of these.
- Space Marines are this by design. Giant, genetically modified super-soldiers in bulky powered armor, Space Marines are trained to assault like the wrath of the God-Emperor himself, then move on to the next target. Most people they save along the way wish to never witness such a thing again.
- In Resident Evil 4, Ashley attacks Leon when he first comes through the door. He's actually a fairly friendly-looking guy, but he's a heavily armed stranger who comes in the door with his gun drawn, isn't dressed like a cop or a government agent, and immediately calls her by name. Not to mention that a former American agent was involved in her kidnapping, though she may or may not be aware of it. Understandably, she assumes Leon is with her kidnappers.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Light Sided Imperial players, particularly Sith, will often evoke this reaction in civilians, Imperial personnel and even Republic troops that they come to the aid of.
- In first BioShock, rescuing a Little Sister involves first killing her Big Daddy guardian and then finding her where she's trying to hide from you in absolute terror.
- In BioShock Infinite, Elizabeth is initially terrified by the sight of the heavily armed Booker, an understandable reaction given that she'd been locked alone in her tower for her entire life and that he'd just crashed through the ceiling. After accepting his offer to help her escape, her ease turns right back to terror again, after witnessing how brutally effective Booker is at killing people.
- In Mass Effect 2, if spared in the first game, Rana Thanoptis has this reaction to discovering that Shepard was the person shooting their way through the Blue Suns on Korlus. After thanking them for the rescue, she states her intention to leave as quickly as possible, since she was forced to outrun a nuclear explosion the last time they met.
- Shepard's initial reaction to Legion, after realising that a Geth not only sniped the Husk that was about to attack them, but more importantly, is able to speak and knows who they are.
- Mentioned in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne by a soul you can talk to in the Labyrinth of Amala. It asks the player character what he would do if he saw a bear attacking a man out of hunger, presuming that the player character would probably save the man. However, he notes that, in the act of tearing apart a bear with his own strength, the player character would have just proven himself even more terrifying. This has no direct relation to anything in the game itself, but given what the player character is, it might be a cautionary story in case he does decide to play hero and help people.
- In Grand Theft Auto V Online, there is a heist mission where you have to get a man in a shack surrounded by police officers. Granted, he might think you're a cop at first, he keeps this up.
- Awful Hospital: WHATEVER it was that saved Fern from being digested by Ora, by obliterating Ora into so much lifeless gore, and dragged the unconscious human right outside to safety, where she eventually woke back up.
- In Unsounded, the protagonist Duane saves a woman from the jaws of a gigantic construct of First Silver and tortured flesh. Unfortunately for her, he's The Undead and quite thoroughly decomposed, so being in his arms is less than comforting.
- In the Batman Beyond episode "Heroes", the hero Magma terrifies a little girl when he rescues her from kidnappers.
- In the episode "Unmasked", Batman tries to pull a small child out of a burning building, but the boy keeps crawling away, thinking he's some kind of monster. Batman has no choice but to remove his mask to show that he's human, before the boy will take his hand.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In "Hail the Tornado Tyrant!", two small children have this reaction to the Tornado Champion when he rescues them from a burning building, and run screaming into their parents arms.
- There were many a time when one of the Gargoyles would rescue someone only for the person they rescue to run away from them screaming.
- Batman gets this reaction in Justice League: The New Frontier, prompting him to rework his look onto a slightly less terrifying one.
Batman: Let's just say I set out to scare criminals, not children.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Slaves of the Republic", Obi-Wan is disguised as a slave trader, and the alien he's trying to rescue is terrified of him until he removes his helmet.
- In an episode of Street Fighter, Blanka rescues a drowning Japanese businessman. Upon seeing his savior, the man yells "Kaibutsu!" ("Monster!") and flees. This is part of Blanka's ongoing characterization of identity struggle caused by his forced mutation (the cartoon draws from the plot of the Street Fighter film).
- There have been many cases of kids, raised with Stranger Danger, getting lost but then hiding from their rescuers. One case had the child sighted within a couple hours, but it was a few days before the child was finally rescued, because he kept fleeing.
- A fully suited up firefighter can be very scary to children if they aren't prepared ahead of time, which has led to some children hiding from their rescuer. Field trips and open houses at the fire station include introducing kids to a firefighter in the whole kit to help avert this.
- Imagine being from the developing world with no real knowledge of modern science. Now add foreign soldiers in your homeland. Imagine being injured or critically ill, then having these soldiers run up in their massive body armor with their automatic weapons. They speak in a language you don't understand, then an interpreter from your nation tells you that these foreign soldiers intend to help you. Then they begin to cut away at your clothing and bring out medical equipment you may or may not be familiar with at all. This was a regular feature of US and NATO military operations of the last quarter century, where aid for civilians was considered standard operating procedure for medics and medical units. In Afghanistan, this could even go as far as responding to an emergency by throwing emergency patients and a relative into an evacuation hospital escorted by Apache attack helicopters and taking them to a mobile hospital with a surgical team hundreds of miles away. A Combat Medic won't let a little thing like hundreds of miles of mountains filled with the Taliban prevent them from treating a patient.
- Mike Wasdin, a SEAL sniper, recounts a story how a team he was on saw a child whose gangrenous foot was beyond local help, but not modern medicine. His team couldn't reveal their location, so they bust into the kid's house in Mogadishu in the middle of the night, rounded up every terrified occupant at gunpoint, put them on the ground and bound their hands and eyes, then treated the kid before releasing everyone in the house. The next night, the inhabitants calmly went along with it. The third night, they left out what meager tea and food they could spare for the team.