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 on the part of the punishers themselves, as 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. 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.
open/close all folders
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
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 "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."
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 straightjacket.
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.
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.
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 Ever After, King Francis threatens to punish Prince Henry for the prince not going along with an Arranged Marriage by "denying you the crown and... living 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!"
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 him to finally satisfy the sexually frustrated princess he'd married while still biologically female.
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.
Live Action TV
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.
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 it. (The fact that the whole camp admired him for standing up to Burns and supported him helped; the cook even went out of his way to get a steak from a South Korean farmer made from water buffalo and grill it for him.)
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!
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."
In Hamlet, the title character has a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, but does not take it because of this trope. To elaborate, Hamlet catches Claudius praying for forgiveness for his sins, and fears that him 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
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.
In League of Legends Soraka tried 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, at least insofar as can be determined by none of his skills being related to them, he's having way too much fun using his new form to rip people apart to care. He was already a sadistic monster, she just gave him the ability to indulge his appetites directly.
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 i.e., the frills on her outfit go from blue to red, minimal demonic features on her head and face and a tail. With no change in personality or morality. 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.
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.
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. The character passing the sentence does this intentionally, though, to avoid separating him from his newfound family while still satisfying her comrades' desire to see Stitch punished for his actions.
On the other hand Stitch can't swim and he is stuck on Hawaii so the punishment is something close to house arrest when you come from a space faring civilization.
Happens twice in The Simpsons: Once where Bart is punished for vandalism by being forced to work in a burlesque house, and another when Homer is sentenced to Hell for his greed and 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!
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 Dexters 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 (while the dog, you guessed it, completely trashes the lab). Dexter doesn't even suspect the dog might be doing that.
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 Elaphant 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 from school's safety 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.
"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."
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.
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.
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 wants: 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.