You can tell he's thinking of doing it too.
Regine: Why would you do that?
Sinclare: Because I feel guilty.
Guilt is a trick emotion. It's put there by your parents to stop you from doing things that feel good.
— Living Single
A lot of times in media and in Real Life
there's a friend (or a group of friends)
, a very good friend whom you may have known since you were kids. But there's one small flaw within the friendship. The friend in question always gets you into serious
trouble. It's usually stuff like trying to get you to break curfew, violate your parole, drink underage and do drugs. The toxic friend will guilt-trip you for not going along with what they want and accusing you of "changing." They'll say things like "Man, you've changed. You used to be cool!", or "Come on, it'll be fun!" And of course, all of the above will almost certainly lead to serious consequences. This is almost the 2000's variant of The Aggressive Drug Dealer
More often than not these characters are usually plot devices for the protagonist to get into a horrible situation for the purposes of an Aesop
. Under normal circumstances, the protagonist in question is usually a rational thinker when not around these types of friends. But when they hang around them they become ridiculously impressionable and naive and easily misled
. The friend could be generally well-intentioned and benevolent
, but still not a good friend in the greater scheme of things. Also expect these friends to be from the Wrong Side of the Tracks
, while the protagonist usually has a squeaky-clean square background (though not always). If they're malicious, they may try to cut off their new friend from old ones because "They Were Holding You Back
." If it's a female expect her to be a troubled promiscuous female
The toxic friend could also possibly be a passive-aggressive Et Tu, Brute?
and saboteur, like a crabs-in-a-barrel
kind of thing. Can be a comedic trope but more often than not it has darker implications. It's also possible for the Toxic Friend to be a significant other as well. Oh, and expect the Toxic Friend to have a very low mortality rate. In a darker sense, serial killers
can be Toxic as well by turning their friends, family, and lovers into accomplices.
Sensei for Scoundrels
is this trope applied to the student/mentor relationship. See also Peer Pressure Makes You Evil
. May also overlap with Femme Fatale
See also Poisonous Friend
, who is "toxic" in a completely different way than a Toxic Friend, and The Corrupter
, who has a different kind of bad influence.
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- The entire plot of Risky Business is set up by the suggestions/insistences of Miles, Joel's stupid friend.
- Randal from both Clerks films. As much as his friend Dante is responsible for his own malaise, Randal's actions do quite a bit of damage on their own (and certainly never help things).
- Ferris from Ferris Bueller's Day Off springs instantly to mind. Cameron must have the patience of a saint.
- Paige from The Last House on the Left lured her friend into a bad situation trying to get marijuana.
- Arguably Louise was this to Thelma in Thelma & Louise.
- Needles in the Back to the Future movies.
- Needles was never really portrayed as a friend to Marty, however. He came off more as a bully, as Marty's equivalent to his father's Biff.
- Amanda from Taken. Enticing her friend to lie to her father, and sleep with French men, because she heard that they are good in bed.
- Lifetime Movies tend to love these characters. Almost always female, almost always bitchy, and always ready to cause trouble to the Girl Next Door.
- Some people see Juno from The Descent as this. Her intentions may be debatable, but the fact she slept with her friend's husband indisputably put her in this category.
- In Brokedown Palace Alice Marano is this to Darlene Davis. Some fans also believe that Alice was the one responsible for the drugs, and that she was a drug smuggler all along.
- Evie Zamora from 13 to the highest disturbing degree. Evie introduces Tracy to shoplifting, underage sex, hard drugs, and seducing older men. And the worst part is that she's such a Manipulative Bitch, she makes her mother believe it was Tracy who brought her into this, not the opposite.
- The girls from Heavenly Creatures were this to each other.
- In the obscure 1990 romance thriller called A Girl to Kill For. Sue is this to sweet natured yet gullible Chuck. More or less seducing him into situations that kept going From Bad to Worse. Can't help but feel sympathy for the poor guy.
- Same could be more or less said for Julie Walker from Return Of The Living Dead III.
- Male example from Save the Last Dance: Malakai to Derek. Derek is one of the few young men in his school who is headed for (and actively seeking) a brighter future, while fresh-from-juvie Malakai seems bound and determined to drag him into the gang scene. Derek, for being a bright guy, gets really stupid where Kai is concerned.
- Ellie from And Soon the Darkness annoyingly veered into this trope in both versions of the film.
- Kumar from Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay goes out of its way to point this out, and Harold has ditched Kumar by A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas because of this.
- In the film Cherrybomb Malachy's parents view Luke as this. Whether it's justified is open to interpretation.
- Megan Stewart is this to sweet wholesome Amy Herman in Megan Is Missing. Amy really wanna prove she's not a sheltered little girl to Megan. Of course naturally this leads to disturbing disastrous consequences for both.
- Played cartoonishly straight with the thriller/horror film Chaos.
- A vampire version in Let the Right One In, though played more sympathetically than usual.
- In The World's End, Gary's fixation on the pub crawl certainly gets the 'Five Musketeers' into a lot of trouble, and it's made clear that even in their younger days he wasn't a particularly good friend to them in many ways.
- The "Use Your Decision Process" examples in most American high school Health textbooks are filled with this. A typical example is "Alice has a friend named Bob who she has known since she was a kid. But Bob has been acting erratic and paranoid lately. Alice thinks he is doing drugs but is not sure. What should she do?" or "Bob's girlfriend Alice has been pressuring him to have sex with her. She claims she will break up with him if he doesn't. What should Bob do?"
- John Dies at the End has John Cheese, an irresponsible, carefree, hard-partying rocker and drug enthusiast. Although he technically serves as an example of this trope for his friend Dave, since he's constantly getting the duo into trouble, we later learn that Dave is an Unreliable Narrator and codependent borderline sociopath, and John is Dave's only friend, as well as the Plucky Comic Relief and, arguably, the real hero of the story.
- That Was Then, This Is Now has two friends, Mark and Bryon. Mark is a sociopathic but charming thug, and Bryon goes along with him until the end.
- Mademoiselle de la Rue from Charlotte Temple.
- Enid Nightshade from The Worst Witch books. In chanting she deliberately sings out tune, getting Mildred in trouble for laughing at her. She turns her cat into a monkey which escapes and is blamed on Mildred again. On the sports day she bewitches a pole to shoot up into the air with Mildred on it (she ends up crash landing in Miss Cackle's office). Mildred is threatened with expulsion for this but Enid keeps on going, locking herself and Mildred inside a closet when the other girls are in assembly.
- Henry for Dorian in The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Lampwick (or Candlewick depending on the translation) in The Adventures of Pinocchio, despite the Fairy's warnings to Pinocchio about friends like that.
Live Action TV
- In Luann, T.J. fulfills this role with Luann's brother Brad. He has gotten Brad into trouble with his borderline illegal schemes and other inappropriate behavior. However, he has done other things that were nice, and it's been implied he has Parental Abandonment issues...doesn't justify the borderline illegal schemes, though.
- CJ, the protagonist of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, isn't exactly a paragon of morality, but he tends towards Pragmatic Villainy. His friends are all dumb thugs to a greater or a lesser extent. A typical mission will begin with them explaining their latest scheme, him pointing out how risky it is, them calling him a buster (mainly Ryder, for whom this is almost a Catch Phrase), and him agreeing to go along with what turns out to be an absolute clusterfuck with at least seven people shooting at him at once. Of course, if he didn't go along, we wouldn't have a plot...
- Surprisingly enough, it turns out Master Miller played this role for Big Boss, who when they met wasn't quite sure whether he wanted to take on his old friend Zero and the CIA directly and make himself an enemy of the world or create Metal Gears with nukes mounted on top of them. Miller was eventually the one that turned back to the US and supported Solid Snake against Big Boss but it was fair to say he certainly wasn't the influence Big Boss needed when they started working together.
- Fallout: New Vegas gives you the opportunity to BE this to your companions if you so choose. Specifically you can convince 2 of your companions to become vengeful killers, and another to stop taking her medications so that she becomes a savage beast randomly attacking anything in sight.
- Depending on your point of view, Renegade Shepard in Mass Effect. The best example is Garrus' loyalty mission in 2, where you can totally encourage his vengeful 'I AM THE LAW!' mentality.
- Invoked in Pokémon X and Y. To evolve the Fighting-type Pancham (a naughty kid panda) into the Fighting/Dark Pangoro (a panda gangster), you need a Dark type in the party when it grows to level 32.
- Lackadaisy Cats: Rocky to his cousin 'Freckle'.
- Vriska from Homestuck. Dealt with realistically, as most of the other characters can't stand her as a result of her acting like this - by the time her story starts, most of her best friends have already dumped her over an incident where she caused one of them to get seriously injured, with even Karkat calling her a backstabbing sociopath.
- In Dominic Deegan, Bumper and Stunt are introduced as a pair of thieves, but Bumper quickly proves to be the sweeter and more rational of the pair. This increases until in the Two Thief or Not Two Thief storyline Stunt is pretty much exactly this, going for bigger and more problematic illegalities all the time and dragging his best friend along. Until Bumper can't countenance the stuff they're involved in anymore.
- For bonus points, Bumper turns out to be from a good family fallen on hard times.
- The Bumper-going-a-sleight-of-hand-show-to-raise-Stunt's-bail-again scene that opens T To NTT is pretty emblematic.
- At the end of the Two Thief storyline after nearly getting him and Bumper killed, Stunt realizes that he's been a pretty bad friend to Bumper. When Bumper offers to join him on another adventure, Stunt tells Bumper to stay in Barthis where he's made a decent life for himself for his own good.
- Patrick in Spongebob Squarepants. Then again, it's just as often Spongebob with Patrick, or Spongebob with Squidward.
- Bart Simpson is often this to Milhouse, to the point that one episode focused on Luann forbidding Milhouse from seeing Bart because he's such a bad influence.
Bart: What's she got against me?
Milhouse: She says you're a bad influence.
Bart: Bad influence my ass! How many times have I told you not to listen to your mother!?
- Bart towards Ralph Wiggum, as well, nearly ending in the Mayor's accidental death.
- Charlie "Big Time" Bigalow to Terry McGinniss in Batman Beyond. Before Terry became The Atoner and Batman, he was a juvenile delinquent due to Charlie's negative influence. It's because of Charlie that he did time in juvenile hall.
- Gorillaz bassist Murdoc was this to singer 2D, who remained oblivious to their Type 1 Vitriolic Best Buds relationship throughout Phase 1, attempted and failed to fight back in Phase 2, and now appears to be realising exactly how toxic Murdoc is to him.
- In The Boondocks Grandad had a hot young blaxploitation ninja girlfriend who was also extremely clingy and kind of crazy. Not helping her was her best friend (she's only heard on the phone and might even be a hallucination), who kept feeding her paranoia that Gramps was cheating on her. The friend pushes her to such extremes she ends up killing her self due to said friend's suggestion to do so.
- Lamilton Taeshawn in the episode, Smokin With Cigarettes, was this to Riley (as if Riley really needed anymore help). But in the end, Lamilton proved to be too much of a hellion for Riley to handle.
- When Family Guy's Brian goes to rehab for his coke problem, his therapist points out that Peter is a horrible influence on Brian.
- Peter is pretty much this anyone he offers aid to due to being an idiot.
- Dodie Bishop of As Told by Ginger. All her plans revolve around making herself popular and she shows little to no regard for Ginger and Macie unless they are helping her.
- Likewise Miranda to Courtney, the latter of whom is pretty decent but Miranda does everything she can to keep her from interacting with Ginger. At one point even getting an older cousin to help in a scam.
- One has to wonder why Penny Proud even bothers to hang around her friends anymore, given how often they either screw her over, abandon her, or get each other into bad situations. Just about the only ones who didn't were Zoe and Sticky.
- The shorts on House of Mouse depict Daisy Duck as this to Minnie Mouse.
- Rocko's Modern Life: Heffer Wolfe is this to Rocko.
- Fandom often depicts Diamond Tiara as this to Silver Spoon on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- In Aimee, Aimee is thought to be this to Zoe.
- In Adventures in Odyssey, Erica plays this role to Aubrey Shepard in "Under the Influence". She has the advantage of having been her childhood friend whom she implicitly trusts years later.