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Unishment

"...So my wife sent me to my room. Which was where I wanted to go in the first place."
Bill Cosby, Bill Cosby: Himself

The punishment equivalent of Attack Backfire: A character is legitimately guilty of some offense, tried and convicted, and sentenced to punishment, except that (whether intentionally or otherwise) the punishment in question is something that the character actually desires — they actually consider it some kind of reward instead.

This can be the result of a successful Briar Patching; alternately it may be the result of Deliberate Values Dissonance or being Too Kinky to Torture. It may even be deliberate Restrained Revenge on the part of the punishers themselves, as a poetic way to combine reward and punishment for those who technically messed up but are Saved by the Awesome. Can overlap with Springtime for Hitler if a character intentionally tries for this and it fails. Not to be confused with Cool and Unusual Punishment (which is still a legitimate punishment, and it's the audience who desires to see it executed).

See also Cursed with Awesome and some cases of Infernal Paradise. Get Into Jail Free is a subtrope where getting into prison in pursuit of another agenda is the desired goal. Compare also Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving, when his "crimes" were actually helpful. Contrast Curse That Cures, where a Curse is actually welcomed by a character because it cures them of a sickness or injury. Also contrast Cruel Mercy if the character spares another's life only for it to suffer a Fate Worse than Death.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Comic Books 
  • The Punisher has said that he doesn't mind being sent to prison when caught by the authorities. After all, there are lots of criminals in prison.
  • In a Fables arc, Boy Blue steals the Witching Cloak and the Vorpal Blade to invade the homelands by himself. When he returns safely, with important intelligence for Fabletown, his "punishment" for the theft is to be sent to the farm, where Rose Red just has him help her out with her daily work.

     Comic Strips 

     Fan Works 
  • The end of When Duty Calls sees Scarlet Glade being punished for helping her half-siblings. The punishment is suspension and a transfer but since she did a good deed, in practice, it's more like a vacation and a promotion
  • In Fever Dreams after Light "confesses" to being The Mole for Kira when cornered the taskforce decide it would be best if Light remains under house arrest under L's supervision which of course is exactly what Light wanted.
  • Towards the end of Past Sins the punishment faced by Nyx is being released to the care of Twilight Sparkle, who is charged with seeing that she has a proper foalhood and never again becomes Nightmare Moon, to their absolute delight. Interestingly, there is some opposition to this from those who recognise it as not being any punishment at all.
  • In a possible homage to the Albanian fairytale below, the protagonist of the manga A Thousand and One Knights in Wonderland is changed from a woman into a man through a dragon's curse. Which is perfect for him because he has fallen in madly in love with a princess.
  • Duel Nature: Rainbow Dash thinks that Twilight's sentence for her fight with Princess Luna might be this when she learns that Twilight got to read an advance copy of Daring Do and the Spear of the Windigos as part of it.
    “You beat up a Princess and they punish you by letting you read the book I’ve been dying to get my hooves on for nearly a year? If I punched Princess Celestia, like, right now, could I get in on this too?”
  • Happens twice in quick succession in Address Unknown: Derpy is put on probation by the Cloudsdale Mail Delivery Service and demoted to ground delivery in Ponyville. While she initially sees it as humiliating for a pesgasus as its supposed to be, she quickly realises that she's better suited to walking than flying anyway, especially in a storm. Then she gets fired after a few hours in Ponyville, over an accident caused by Twilight, but it frees her up for a permanent position with the Ponyville Postal Service, offered by Post Haste because she was able to finish her rounds well ahead of schedule in spite of the accident.
  • Noir Et Blanc has an instance of this when Harry gets annoyed with the other Gryffindors hounding him when "he'd made it perfectly clear that he didn't feel like associating or being bothered. Now they'd decided to ignore him, as 'punishment'. That didn't bother Harry in the least. He preferred it so."
  • In A Growing Affection, as punishment for not informing Tsunade of Naruto's plan to act out again to get demoted, Hinata is instructed to help Naruto clean the Hokage Monument. Or as Hinata put it: "So my punishment is to spend the morning with you? I think the Hokage might be getting soft."
  • In The Lunaverse, Twilight Sparkle eventually turns herself in to the law for her crimes. Her punishment? House arrest and community service, in Ponyville, as their new librarian. Thus she gets to atone properly to the ponies she had hurt (she rejected the initial sentence of house arrest at her family's estate, as it would just be a long vacation), and she can spend almost all her time reading and studying magic, which she loves.
  • The Wrong Reflection: Due to a Noodle Incident where Eleya "cussed out three ambassadors, a rear admiral, and the Proconsul of the Romulan Republic", Eleya gets a massive black mark on her service record and is told by Admiral Riker that she'll probably never make admiral now.
    Eleya: Respectfully, sir, can you see me stuck behind a desk directing fleets or running a research office?
    Riker: Mm, no, I can’t.
    Eleya: Then I think I’ll survive. Sir.
Then the author's note for the chapter goes and quotes Kirk's advice to Picard in Star Trek: Generations, just to drive it home.

     Film  
  • At the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Admiral Kirk is court-martialed for stealing the USS Enterprise, resulting in its destruction. His punishment was demotion to captain and command of the USS Enterprise-A... which is really what he wanted all along. Kirk really, really hated being an admiral, and everyone knew it, even the Klingons.
  • The main character of North by Northwest causes an uproar in the midst of an auction by placing outlandish bids and getting confrontational with anyone who outbids him. Eventually, security is called to escort him out of the building — which is exactly what he wanted, since there were two men in the room who were planning to kill him.
  • Duke from M*A*S*H: "If I nail Hot Lips and slug Hawkeye do I get to go home too?" Subverted, since Burns was punished and went home in a straitjacket.
  • Midway through Bad Lieutenant Port Of Call New Orleans, the main character has a complaint lodged against him for committing an act of Police Brutality against an elderly woman. Until the complaint gets sorted out, he is put on modified assignment and placed in charge of the precinct's evidence room. Since he's a Functional Addict and the evidence room is where seized drugs are stored, this is the equivalent of punishing a small child by locking him inside a candy store.
  • In My Cousin Vinny, the title character hates his hotel accommodations, which include being unable to sleep due to the screeching owl in the tree, and the train outside his window. After being locked up for contempt of court, even with the rowdy prisoners making noise all night, hard-nosed New Jerseyite Vinny sleeps like a baby.
  • Given a passing mention in X-Men: First Class. A prison guard where Alex Summers (Havoc) was staying at the beginning of the film remarks that he's "the only prisoner I've ever seen who actually prefers solitary." Sure enough, when we first see him, Alex is in solitary. A subversion, since Alex doesn't really enjoy solitary, he's trying to stay away from people so he doesn't actually hurt them with the energy blasts that are his mutant power, and which he has great difficulty in controlling.
  • In Coming to America, King Jaffe Joffer is outraged with how Prince Akeem and his servant Semmi have been living in a squalid New York City apartment, and working for a local fast food restaurant. He tells Semmi "You have disgraced yourself, and you must be punished. You will confine yourself to our royal suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, [to Oha] see that he puts on some decent attire, [to female servants] and I want you to bathe him thoroughly.", making Semmi happily say "Oh, thank you, your majesty!", before shamefully lowering his head again.
  • Done in National Security, where a cop is accused of assaulting a black man (he was really swatting a bumblebee, which wasn't visible on a tourist's camcorder) and put in prison. As soon as he arrives in prison to serve his 6-month sentence, he sees every large black prisoner give him the "throat-cut" gesture. A guard holds him and warns him against trying anything, threatening the guy with solitary confinement. Seeing all the angry black prisoners, the guy elbows the guard in the face. Three months later, he is released from solitary. He immediately punches another guard, and goes right back inside.
  • Referenced in Kill Bill 2, when a rather misogynistic friend of Bud's mentions how when he does something to upset the women in his life, he loves it when they give him "the silent treatment", as it means he doesn't have to listen or talk to them. He also pretends to hate it so they'll keep doing it.
  • In the Disproportionate Retribution training film Law Abiding Citizen, Clyde Shelton confesses to a murder because he wants to be imprisoned.
  • In Ever After, King Francis threatens to punish Prince Henry for the prince not going along with an Arranged Marriage: "I'll simply deny you the crown and... live forever!", to which Henry smiles and says, "Good. Agreed. I don't want it!" and walks off.
    King Francis: (to Queen Eleanor, in frustration) "HE'S YOUR SON!"
  • In Zebra in the Kitchen (1965), a boy who works at the zoo is so distraught by the animals' substandard living conditions, that one day he takes the zookeeper's keys and lets all the animals loose. They wander all over town before they can be recovered. But this act of protest did call the town's attention to the deplorable zoo conditions. So the boy's punishment was that he had to do volunteer work at the zoo every day for the rest of the summer, which was clearly what he wanted.
  • In Iron Eagle, the main character manages to "steal" an F-16 fighter plane to rescue his father from a Middle East dictator. The boy's punishment was government appointment to the US Air Force Academy; at the beginning of the movie, his application to the Academy had been rejected because of his high school grades. The government officials were convinced by the boy's friend that, having stolen government property, he needed the discipline the Academy instills

     Folklore 
  • There's this old joke about a man asking for a leave from his boss to accompany his wife to the opera:
    Boss: I'm sorry, John, but this is a busy month. We can't spare anyone.
    John: Thanks, boss, I knew I could count on you!
  • Another joke told of an avid FPS (Doom in this version of the joke) gamer who discovers he won't be let into Heaven, but St. Peter grants him a consolation prize of three wishes. His wishes? IDDQD, IDKFA, you can drop me down now. The joke may, however, be interpreted as a subversion — the man was let into Heaven, figuratively speaking; it just hadn't the expected form.
  • Albanian fairy tale The Girl Who Became A Boy concludes with the title character getting cursed with a biological sex change, enabling her/him to finally satisfy the princess s/he'd married earlier in the story. And they lived happily ever after.

     Literature  
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club, when Mary Anne tries to sneak over to the boys' side and Logan starts a food fight at summer camp, they are punished...by being barred from their least favourite activities.
  • In the short story "Zeepsday" by Gordon R. Dickson, a human is placed on trial in a galactic court for insulting an alien. He is found guilty and sentenced to be "confined" by his fiancée for a year, with all expenses paid by the insulted alien. The judge recommends they spend the year at a very expensive vacation spot.
  • In the short story "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow" by Kurt Vonnegut, a cheap, easily available immortality serum has made the world extremely crowded. At the end, the protagonists end up going to prison — which grants them far more room and privacy than they ever had on the outside.
  • The Conquerors Trilogy: The Zhirrzh Thrr-gilag was punished by the Overclan Prime by being expelled from his clan. It seemed a punishment until Overclan Prime explained that he was to start his own clan whose purpose would be to deal with other species.
  • In Love From Your Friend Hannah, the title character is punished for cursing at a bully on the school bus by being forbidden to ride the bus—which she hated doing in the first place.
  • In the Forgotten Realms short story "Reunification (Body & Soul)" by Jeff Grubb (which follows on from his Forgotten Realms comic book) Vartan, a former member of the Realms Master crew who is now an agent of the Elven god Labelas Enoreth, steals from his god in order to save his former captain's life (something Labelas secretly allowed him to do, but couldn't be involved in). His punishment for this transgression is to be banished from the god's presence, i.e. reunited with his friends.
  • At the end of the Incarnations of Immortality series, the designated punishment for Satan at the end of the series is to be made ambassador to Heaven. However, considering the woman he loved had just been crowned as the new God...
  • Carrie has an example of something being presented as a serious punishment, but which becomes this trope by way of Fridge Logic. The gym teacher Miss Desjardin punishes her female students for their involvement in the shower prank by giving them a week of boot-camp detention after school. Normally, this would be an effective punishment... if not for the fact that it was being given to girls who were spending most of their free time getting ready for the prom that was coming up in a few days. A physical fitness regimen, given to them for free by the school, should've been a dream come true.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Snape's punishment to Neville, Luna and Ginny for trying to steal Griffingdor's sword from Snape's office is... to go to Forbidden Forest and help Hagrid, their friend. That's all happening when school is under Death Eaters' control, corporal punishment is usually used along with crucio curse! Possibly deliberate, considering Snape's true loyalties...

     Live Action TV  
  • Prison Break is basically built on this trope. A main plot point for the first few seasons is that Micheal Scofield attempts bank robbery so that he may go to prison in order to help his brother escape.
  • This trope is called "Alexment" by Justin Russo on The Wizards of Waverly Place. This is the way his sister, Alex Russo, generally gets away with things.
  • During the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles", Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott wasn't interested in taking shore leave, because he had a bunch of technical journals to catch up on. Kirk specifically "ordered" Scotty to go along in order to keep the lower-ranked men from starting trouble with visiting Klingons. Instead, it was Scott himself who started a brawl with those self-same Klingons. This sparked the following exchange:
    Kirk: Scotty, you're restricted to quarters until further notice.
    Scotty: (smiling) Thank you, sir. That'll give me a chance to catch up on my technical journals!
  • In the third season of Lexx at one point Kai is malfunctioning due to falling from the top of one of the cities of Fire. He's later captured by the authorities of another city who put him through what will apparently become an extremely long and bureaucratic trial. He then learns that the maximum penalty of the city is to be thrown off the top...which is exactly what Kai needs to repair himself. After unsuccessfully asking them nicely to receive that punishment, they oblige when he uses his grappling hook to put the judge's neck in a choke hold.
  • In the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "Private Plane", Blackadder and Baldrick are captured by the Germans and the Red Baron shows up to tell them they will suffer "a fate worse than A Fate Worse Than Death"... being sent to Germany to teach young girls Home Economics. Naturally, Blackadder is thrilled with the thought of being sent away from the trenches and the war. Unfortunately, Lord Flasheart arrives to "rescue" him...
  • In That '70s Show, when Eric is preparing to go to Africa for missionary work, Kitty and Red find out what the gang has been doing in the basement for the past 8 years. Despite their rage, Red is unable to punish Eric because he can't think of anything worse than sending him off to Africa, which Eric was doing of his own volition.
  • An episode of The George Lopez Show involved Max hitting on an attractive house guest. George tells him to go to his room, then decides against it, considering that it wouldn't be a punishment at this point.
  • Married... with Children: Bud was studying to join Oxford but then he met Marcy's niece Amber and considered her a reason to stay. When Al decided to punish Bud for failing the test, Bud convinced Al to send him to his room (where Amber was waiting for him) as punishment.
  • M*A*S*H: After Hawkeye slugs Frank in the eye, he is placed under house arrest in the Swamp while awaiting a court martial. He enjoys having a break from his duties. The whole camp admires him for standing up to Burns and supports him; the cook even goes out of his way to get him a grilled buffalo steak for dinner and Father Mulcahy even arranges it so that the weekly movie is shown in Hawkeye's tent instead of the Mess Tent so Hawkeye can see it as well. The trope is then neatly subverted when Hawkeye is cleared and Frank is in hot water for supposedly assaulting a woman — he's actually innocent, but no one is interested in making Frank's house arrest pleasant.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Amy pretends to be sick far longer than she's actually ill because Sheldon takes it upon himself to treat her illness, including Vicks chest rubs and bathing her. When he finds out she's been lying, he regretfully informs he has to spank her. She tries her best to hide her excitement.
    Sheldon: Excuse me! You're not supposed to be enjoying this!
    Amy: Then maybe you should spank me harder.
    Sheldon: Maybe I will!
  • In an episode of Roseanne, DJ needs to be punished due to playing a prank on Darlene. The initial suggestion of grounding him is dismissed as this because "he never goes anywhere" anyway. So instead he gets a Cool and Unusual Punishment in having to go to school in a suit and tie.
  • Subverted in The Brady Bunch episode "Confessions, Confessions", where Peter has to assign punishments to his siblings for breaking a vase. Peter actually broke it, but all his siblings confessed to it so Peter wouldn't be grounded from a much-anticipated camping trip. His parents made Peter assign punishments as a Batman Gambit so he would confess himself. So Peter let them pick their own punishments: Jan has to help Mom bake cookies, Marcia would have to take Bobby to the amusement park, and Greg had to take Cindy to a mantinee. The parents, however, pulled rank and replaced the unishments with more appropriate punishments, such as yardwork.
  • In the pilot of Still Standing, Lauren misbehaves, and Bill responds by telling her to go to her room. When Judy reminds Bill she has a TV and a stereo in her room, he then gets wise and tells her to go to his room.
  • In an episode of Bones, Booth only gets a rapper to cooperate with an investigation by promising to put him in jail for a month and charge him with murder. The rapper is ecstatic, while Bones is completely dumbfounded, unable to comprehend the term "street cred".
  • In Cutthroat Kitchen, sabotages are meant to put chefs at a disadvantage. However, some of the sabotages work in the victim's favor because they have gotten an ingredient they were missing. Other times, chefs have nullified the punishment by gaming the auction.
  • Fletcher spends an episode of Porridge just wanting some peace and quiet alone in his cell but being constantly bothered by visitors, including other prisoners, warders and a fact-finding team from the Home Office. When the prison chaplain comes to see him he finally snaps and attacks him. He is brought before the prison Governor...who punishes him with three days' solitary confinement.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Bill Cosby's famous "Chocolate Cake for Breakfast" joke, from his stand-up special Himself. Bill's wife wakes him out of a sound and much desired sleep, at six o'clock in the morning, in order to serve his children breakfast. When his daughter comes down for breakfast, she asks for chocolate cake, which Bill deduces must be healthy, because it has eggs, milk and wheat in it. When his wife finds out, she flips out and sends Bill back to his room... "which is where I wanted to go in the first place. So you see, we are dumb, but we are not so dumb."
  • Whitney Cummings jokes about how women are actually rewarding their man by giving them the silent treatment, not punishing them.

    Theatre 
  • In Hamlet, the title character has a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, when he finds him praying for forgiveness for his sins, but he does not take it as he fears that Claudius dying shortly after being absolved would send him to Heaven. As a result, Hamlet decides to wait for a time when Claudius is in the middle of some sinful behavior.

     Video Games  
  • Eddie in Silent Hill 2 may be an example, if you believe the idea that the town calls out to the guilty and punishes them. Two of the other characters are clearly suffering punishment for the things they've done. Eddie is punished by being faced with the visages of all the people who have tormented him throughout his life. Eddie sees this as an opportunity to dish out Disproportionate Retribution against his tormentors and takes full advantage of it.
  • Ignus from Planescape: Torment. He was an insane pyromaniac mage who burnt down half of the Hive. His punishment? Being turned into a living conduit for the Elemental Plane of Fire, giving him even better ability to burn stuff. In fact, the only part of the punishment that worked was that it made him so happy that he was content to remain floating in one place in reverie, not causing problems for anyone... Until The Nameless One comes along.
  • League of Legends has a few:
    • Soraka's previous lore involved trying to punish the mercenary alchemist Warwick through a Karmic Transformation, which turned him into a bloodthirsty werewolf. While this seemingly did strip him of his scientific knowledge, he instead had way too much fun using his new form to rip people apart to care. He was already a sadistic monster; she basically gave him the ability to indulge his appetites directly. Their redone lore makes this a bit more of an actual curse, as Warwick will eventually fully become a mindless beast unless he devours Soraka's heart.
    • Cassiopeia was a Noxian spy who specialized in seduction for information, but when she broke an oath of secrecy to a Freljordian diplomat she wound up turning into a Naga. Because of her position as a noble's daughter she faced no shame or shunning from Noxian society, and upon finding out that her new form came with extremely toxic poison and a petrifying glare, the Noxian army gave her a new position as an assassin and eventually a Champion, which is easily one of the greatest honors a Noxian can obtain aside from high military rank.
  • Disgaea:
    • In the ending of the first game, Flonne is guilty of helping an army of demons invade heaven, admittedly to bring down a Knight Templar. As punishment, she's turned into a flower. However, if you unlock the Golden Ending (by completely avoiding any ally kills), then she's instead sentenced to be restored, but as a "fallen angel" note . Meaning she can now survive in the Netherworld and stay with Laharl. However, that was the actual intent of the punishment in the first place.

      And as of Disgaea 4 the punishment has proven even more mild: she was able to become an angel again after the events of Disgaea Infinite, and is now an archangel.
    • Disgaea 4 also has the characters cross this with Cruel Mercy on the evil Nemo, an Omnicidal Maniac who tried to pull a Redemption Equals Death when he realized how corrupt he'd become. This would have meant the destruction of his soul, and thus the escape of any real punishment for his crimes, so the heroes instead rescue him and kill him normally so he will have to labor in the afterlife as a Prinny. This means he will suffer, but will also have a shot at eventual reincarnation, as there are no sins that can't be paid off eventually. Nemo accepts this as probably the best fate he can possibly hope for.
    • Prinnies that accept their fates, like Nemo, Kurtis or Laharl's mother seem to have this mentality about their punishment. They realize that no matter what kind of evil they have committed, eventually they all can look forward to the Red Moon having to do basically menial tasks, and happily work towards that end. Though since prinnies are treated as slave labour and cheap explosives in the Netherworld, they may take a LOT of time before they begin to think like this.
    • Disgaea 3 takes place in a demonic boarding school where being an "Honor Student" involves cheating, skipping class, bullying other students and so forth. Delinquents on the other hand do their homework, pick up litter, and follow a self-imposed curfew. The worst delinquents in the school, Raspberyl and her friends, are such a nuisance to the faculty that they deal with them the only way they can: making them the first students in the history of the school to graduate. Naturally they are thrilled, as this cements their reputation as legendary delinquents.
    • Sicily in Disgaea Dimension 2 is punished for hurting angels when they try to force her to go back to Celestia, which she deliberately ran away from because she was unhappy there. Her punishment? She's banished from Celestia.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ten Days With My Devil, it's forbidden for angels and demons to fall in love with humans, or to interfere with their fates as determined by the Fate Database. Haruhito is already on thin ice for a past infraction, for which he's been sentenced to personally collect 10,000 human souls. When during his route he not only fails to complete his sentence but falls in love with the protagonist and manages to circumvent her fated death, the punishment is expected to be much more drastic, and it is: he's stripped of his powers and banished from both the angel and demon realms to live as a mortal. Which leaves him free to be with the protagonist. Haruhito is, unsurprisingly, completely okay with this.

    Web Original 
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Mustang Sally (a member of the Texas Rangers superhero team) was convicted of aggravated assault on a very litigious (and technically innocent) supervillain. Her sentence was commuted to time served, probation, and a thousand hours of community service as a "civilian adjunct" to the Austin Police Department. In short, she was sentenced to serve as a superhero for the city... which was her job in the first place.
  • There is at least one caption story where a guy is turned into a woman by a witch as punishment... But that guy was transsexual.
  • Occurs in Worm, when the girls bullying Taylor are given only a two week suspension for an extensive campaign of abuse. Turns out to be subverted for one of them, though that isn't known until it is revealed that one of the bullies is a teen superhero already on probation.

     Western Animation  
  • In the House of Mouse cartoon Topsy Turvy Town, Mickey and Minnie Mouse are "punished" by the court for breaking the town rules by having to go on a tropical vacation.
  • At the end of Lilo & Stitch, Stitch's sentence for the havoc he caused is exile to Earth, a punishment chosen very deliberately by the alien councilwoman in order to avoid separating him from his newfound family while still satisfying the law.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bart is punished for vandalism by being forced to work in the house he vandalized...which turns out to be a burlesque house. He thoroughly enjoys his time there and develops a rapport with the owner.
    • In one Treehouse of Horror episode, when Homer is sentenced to Hell for his greed, he is force fed "all the donuts in the world". The latter particularly is meant to be an Ironic Hell, but Homer's gluttony trumps it, and he keeps asking for more donuts.
    Demon: I don't understand it. James Coco went mad in 15 minutes!
    • In "Marge Be Not Proud", when Bart is caught shoplifting a videogame from a supermarket, Homer suggests that Bart be punished by being grounded; no leaving the house, not even for school.
    • Double Subverted in another episode. Bart expects to be told to go to his room, but Homer realizes that's not a punishment and sends him to the garage instead. But then Bart uses this opportunity to steal a riding mower.
    • Also used in the episode where Bart and Todd Flanders compete in Mini-Golf. Homer and Ned make a bet that the "father of the boy who doesn't win" has to mow the other's lawn in his wife's best Sunday dress. Bart and Todd ultimately feel the pressure is too much during the final hole and agree to a draw. Ned tries to let bygones be bygones after this, but Homer still wants to make Flanders embarrassed and reminds them that since neither boy won, they both have to live up to the bet. However, when they do start mowing their lawns in their wife's dresses, Ned actually admits the whole thing is Actually Pretty Funny since it reminds him of his college days, meaning Homer has embarrassed himself for nothing.
    Homer: D'oh! Oh my god, he's enjoying it!
  • On Dexter's Laboratory, Dad decides to punish Dexter and Dee-Dee by sending them to each other's rooms. While it's sheer torture for Dexter, it's the best day ever for Dee-Dee, because she gets free rein of the secret lab in Dex's room...or so Dexter thinks. While he's driven insane by paranoia and tears her room apart, she spends most of the time napping. Dexter ends up having to switch living quarters with the dog as punishment. The dog, you guessed it, completely trashes the lab when Dexter doesn't even suspect it.
  • In an episode of Hey Arnold!, Harold is caught stealing from the butcher, Mr. Green, and is forced to work there to learn his lesson. After a while, he loves it and dreams of being a butcher when he gets older. Once his sentence is up, he tries stealing another piece of meat, just so he can get sentenced to work at the butchery again, but Mr. Green doesn't fall for it as he found Harold more trouble than he was worth (Harold had pretty quickly cost more than the ham he stole or the work he would give in accidentally destroyed merchandise). However, when he needed help with his annual meat sale he's forced to accept Harold's, and afterward is so impressed he takes him on as an apprentice.
  • Subverted in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. To get out of a horrifying dinner, Bloo keeps making trouble, expecting to be sent to his room without dinner. Unfortunately, Mr. Harriman is fighting a carrot addiction, and he sends anyone who sees the carrots to their rooms without dinner; Bloo's pranks, including smashing a wrecking ball into the house, actually help Harriman. In the end only Bloo remains and has to eat the dinner.
  • In The Fairly OddParents, Timmy Turner has to brave the "horrifying trials" of the "sadistic" Yugopotamians; these trials include walking through a flowery meadow, hugging a teddy bear, and eating chocolate - things that would be unbearably painful to their Bizarre Alien Biology, but are really no problem to a human.
  • The Warner Bros. cartoon "Hobo Bobo" entails a small elephant who is tired of of carrying logs in the jungle and yearns to be in the circus in the U.S. He paints himself pink so as to be inconspicuous (he is completely ignored by people who think they must be getting delirium tremens), but he is arrested for causing a panic after his pink paint wears off. The judge sentences Bobo to—-the circus!
    • Subverted in that the small elephant doesn't like his new career either, mostly because he's the Elephant baseball team's batboy.
    "Batboy-schmatboy, I'm still carrying logs!"
  • Subverted on Bob's Burgers when the family decides to rent out rooms and Louise, wanting her own room back, deliberately gets in trouble in an effort to get sent to her room, but then Linda clarifies that by "Go to your room" she meant the room the family is sharing.
  • When most of the main team in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command are captured by Zurg, his scientists put them in Tailor Made Prisons that were supposed to both torture them and counter their specific powers: XR has his extendable limbs stretched out to their limit, Booster is stuck in a cell that keeps bouncing him around so he can't break out, and Myra can't phase through the walls because loud sirens keep breaking her focus. Except XR finds the stretching pleasant (like a form of chiropractic therapy), Booster finds the bouncing fun, and Myra just finds the sirens slightly annoying, all of which frustrates Zurg and leads to him calling his torture division incompetent.
    • This is subverted later on in the episode though, as XR's stretching eventually turns incredibly painful while Myra and Booster find their helplessness far less fun when Star Command is about to be destroyed.
  • In an episode of T.U.F.F. Puppy, Snaptrap plans to sink the T.U.F.F. cruise ship by ramming a mobile iceberg (with an all-you can eat salad bar) into it. Larry, however, wants to go to Acapulco, so at one point in the episode, he tries pedaling there instead of the cruise ship. When Snaptrap finds out, he bans Larry from the salad bar. Larry doesn't care, because he doesn't even like salad. This example is also in contrast to the seires' running gag of Snaptrap dropping Larry in the shark tank (usually for little to no reason).
  • The King of the Hill episode "The Son That Got Away" has Bobby (and Connie) disrupting their music class, and Hank decides to punish Bobby by making him clean the rain gutters. He later finds out Bill and Dale took the job from Bobby out of personal satisfaction.
    "You say punishment, I call it Funishment."
    -Bill
    • In the same episode, Hank berates Kahn for making Connie mow the lawn, thinking of that as a privilege.
  • Chris from Family Guy was once caught with his hand down his pants at school. The principal punished him by ordering him to keep his hand down his pants all week. Boy, what a week that was!
  • The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball and Darwin threw a bowling ball to the Robinson's backyard, and Mr. Robinson has them do chores as punishment. But Gumball and Darwin do them with gusto (such as raking the leaves, cutting the grass with a nail clipper, and painting his fence repeatedly), which creeps him out.

     Real Life 
  • Several recent parenting books mention that sending kids to their room isn't so much of a punishment as the parents think, since that's where the kids keep all their toys. In fact, some parents have gone as far as to evict their kids from their rooms instead for punishment. Many a comedian has pointed out how this has changed. It used to be a punishment for them as a child, back when the only things they had in their room was a bed and a desklamp, but kids these days have smartphones, high def TVs, game systems, and numerous other belongings that have become commonplace as the overall quality of living in American society has improved over the generations. The only way to truly punish a kid now is to completely take away access to any form of modern technology.
  • In a similar vein, a kid who behaves obnoxiously during dinner will often be told by a parent to leave the table. The kid was likely behaving badly because he or she didn't want to be at the table in the first place.
  • And then there's the "punishment" for kids who hate school - misbehaving can lead to suspension, which means time away from school. This is why a number of schools have in-school suspensions — effectively, detention by another name but all-day long. However, this can still be Unishment for some because it means they're out of class all day and while they may be given work, they may not exactly be forced to do it. In fact, most ISS teachers really don't care what the students do as long as they're quiet and don't use electronics. Out of school suspensions are now usually reserved for students who have engaged in physical violence or threats thereof, with removal for the school's safety being an issue trumping punishment. In-school suspension can be a boon to students who are smart but have trouble in a classroom environment— the attention deficient, victims of bullying, etc. Isolated from distractions and bullies, they can breeze through each day's lessons and assignments at their own pace and then spend the rest of the day with a novel or similar, improving their grades and relieving stress for the duration of the ISS.
  • Played desperately straight with the (US) prison system. Some people simply cannot succeed outside of prison, so they keep doing illegal things. This is a major theme in The Shawshank Redemption.
  • One American school required violators of dress code to wear prison jumpsuits. As you might have expected, many students deliberately violated the dress code just so they could wear these prison jumpsuits.
    "I don't think that jumpsuits are going to work, because my friends actually, instead of it being a punishment, they'll see it as an opportunity to be like, rebels," said Meredith, who also isn't sure whether his hair, dyed bright fire-engine red, will pass muster. "I don't think there's going to be enough jumpsuits for everyone in the school."
    • The anti-social behaviour order, or ASBO, in the UK was generally considered to have similar problems from the moment the idea was announced.
  • In many schools, students will purposefully violate the dress code just to be sent home early. As one could imagine, this is especially Unishment for high school students, mainly juniors and seniors, as they likely can just go home themselves and don't need their parents to pick them up.
    • Some schools attempt to avert this trope by instead requiring violators to wear a set of school-supplied clothes kept in the office, usually something drab and too embarrassing to function as a symbol of rebellion as with the orange jumpsuit example. The success of this tactic varies from school to school.
  • Many Real Life prisoners prefer to spend their entire sentence (sometimes decades) in solitary confinement because it's safer than mixing with the other prisoners. Continually violating the prison rules will achieve this.
    • Some convicts actually prefer prison to the outside, because for many homeless or small-time criminals it provides things like regular food, shelter, drug rehab and employment that they don't have in their normal lives. Higher-ranking criminals like leaders of prison gangs may also prefer prison, because it's where they have power, respect and a reputation- the leaders of notorious gangs like MS-13 and the Aryan Brotherhood are good examples- they're serving life sentences in a Supermax prison, and also controlling a vast criminal empire and commanding an army of loyal followers from their cells.
  • Drug lord Pablo Escobar arranged to serve his prison sentence in a prison he was allowed to design himself and staff with his own guards. Since he was able to run his criminal enterprise from in there and it actually served to protect him from assassins, he probably didn't mind too much. Eventually the authorities declared he had to go to a regular facility after he brought some people into his prison to be killed, and Escobar became a fugitive by just walking out the back door.
  • Often when an adult punishes two children equally ("You're as bad as each other!"), the instigator gets just what they want: to see the other child get in trouble and isolate them from their support mechanism, at the 'cost' of a punishment that they themselves are too thick-skinned to take seriously. The fact that the adult often knows the children are bully and victim, and punishes them both to avoid losing face (by avoiding having to admit their personal failure or inability to prevent the bullying), rubs salt into the wound.
  • Australia began as a penal colony to remove cons from England's crowded prisons. However, as featured in Great Expectations, cons sent to Australia often became obscenely rich off the land's abundant natural resources and space to raise livestock. By the time the practice was discontinued, being sent to Australia was definitely an Unishment.
  • The founding principle of Mahatma Gandhi's program of non-violent resistance, Satyagraha, is that the best way to defeat an unjust law is to break it, and then insist on being punished for it, as the forces behind the unjust law and the public that supports them will then have their noses rubbed in just how unjust it is.
  • Delay of game infractions in American football are charged on the offense when they allow the play clock to run out without snapping the ball as a way to prevent a team in the lead to just sit on the ball for huge chunks of time and make the game boring. The penalty is five yards. There are some occasions, though, when a team will intentionally get flagged for delay of game because they want to back up five yards to give their punter more space to punt the ball deep in the "coffin corner" (as close to the opponent's goal line as possible without crossing it - a punted ball that touches the end zone is called as a touchback and the opponent will get the ball at their own 20-yard-line). Usually this is when the offense stalls on their opponent's side of the field but not close enough to try a field goal and the line to gain is too far.
  • In March 2014, Utah resident Andrew Wilcox lost a bet to his brother, and had to dance on a busy street intersection for 30-minutes to whatever music his brother chose. He quickly started a dance party which became an internet sensation and got a date out of it. Read about it here.
  • At some speeches about Autism, a few speakers mentioned being told to go stand in the hall because they were being a disruption. They actually used this as an opportunity to relax. Somewhat subverted in that being told to stand in the hall (or sit in another room) isn't always intended as a punishment - sometimes they just need a bit of time to cool down


Unintentionally Notorious CrimeCrime and Punishment TropesUnknown Assailant
Unholy MatrimonyJust for PunUnsexy Sadist
Uncanny Family ResemblanceImageSource/Western AnimationThe Troubles

alternative title(s): The Unishment
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