Worrying for the Wrong Reason

Butch: Alright. I'll jump first.
Sundance: No.
Butch: Then you jump first.
Sundance: No, I said.
Butch: What's the matter with you?!
Sundance: I can't swim!
[Butch starts laughing hysterically]
Butch: Are you crazy?! The fall will probably kill you!

One character expresses some concern about a situation. Another character corrects them, telling them what they should really be worried about. Not to be confused with Skewed Priorities, which is about being disproportionately concerned over something comparatively trivial, or with It's All About Me, which is about putting one's own interests ahead of everyone else's. This trope is about a character who has a legitimate fear that is then replaced with another legitimate fear.

A subtrope of Right for the Wrong Reasons, and related to False Reassurance.


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • This Castlemaine XXXX advert.
    First fisherman: There aren't any sharks in here, are there?
    Second fisherman: Nah. Crocodiles ate all the sharks.

    Film 
  • The most famous scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is built around an instance of this trope (and an aversion of Soft Water), as seen in the page quote.
  • The film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has Augustus Gloop get stuck in a pipe. His panicky mother shrieks that he'll be "made into marshmallows," to which Wonka responds that the very idea is patently absurd.
    Because that pipe doesn't go to the marshmallow room; it goes to the fudge room!
    • Similarly, in the 2005 film, Augustus's mother expresses fear that he will be made into fudge and sold around the world. Wonka assures her that that that fudge would taste terrible, and he'd never allow it to be sold with his name on the packaging. (Both of the above conversations are drawn from the source novel.)
  • In the movie of James and the Giant Peach, after the giant peach has fallen into the ocean:
    Earthworm: Great! We're stuck here until we shrivel up and die.
    Grasshopper: Highly improbable.
    Ladybug: That's a relief...
    Grasshopper: We're far more likely to drown.
  • In The Care Bears Movie, a couple of kids and a couple of Care Bears are stuck in a tree and afraid of falling when Friend points out that they should be more afraid of the lion that's climbing up for them. (Fortunately, the lion turns out to be friendly and just wanted to help.)

    Forum Role Plays 

    Literature 
  • When the Animorphs find themselves on a cliff on the meteor-wrecked Hork-Bajir planet, they notice the planet's molten core far below them. One character worries about the possibility of falling into the magma. Ax says that this won't happen — if they fell, they'd be vaporized by the heat long before they reached it.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Last Continent, there are very few poisonous snakes in XXXX... because most of them have been eaten by the spiders.
    • Making Money introduces the drink Splot, a sort of Klatchian Coffee Up to Eleven. People are often reassured when they hear Splot is nonalchoholic...until they're told it's because "alcohol wouldn't survive."
    • In Going Postal, Moist is relieved to hear that a dangerous pass has very little bandit activity nowadays. Then he's told that isn't good news because "We still don't know what killed them".
  • Belisarius Series: Belisarius' popularity made Justinian so nervous that Irene hinted that Belisarius would actually be safer on a long and dangerous fact-finding trip to India. He didn't notice the Malwa conspiracy.
  • Deliberately invoked by the supervillain Phanthro in Relativity to taunt the heroes: He has them trapped in an abandoned coal mine, with a (sort of) nuclear reactor in an adjacent room which will eventually explode and destroy the city. But they don't need to worry about that — the reactor is generating intense heat and they'll burn to death long before the explosion.

    Live Acton T.V. 
  • Firefly: When Serenity's engine breaks down, shutting down life-support, the crew worries that they'll suffocate. River informs them that they don't have to worry about that; they'll freeze to death long before the air runs out.
  • On the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Pangs", Xander is in a panic because he has been cursed with a host of diseases. He's most stressed about the syphilis. Anya says comfortingly:
    Anya: It'll make you blind and insane, but it won't kill you. The smallpox will.
  • Played with in Red Dwarf when the captain of the ship charges the main character with crimes they are innocent of. In the process of clearing their names, they commit other crimes, the punishment for which works out to be exactly the same.
  • One of these occurs in The West Wing in the episode "The Fall's Gonna Kill You". It takes place during the arc about President Bartlet having to reveal to the public that he has MS, which the staff has been frantically preparing for. In order to gauge reaction, they put out a poll asking the people of Michigan how they would feel if they found out their governor had concealed a similar disease. The Title Drop comes in when Josh mentions to C.J. that Bartlet and Leo are worried that if anyone learns about this, it'll look like Bartlet only told the truth because a poll told him to. C.J. finds this hilarious at the end of a long day.
    CJ: You guys are like Butch and Sundance peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder-filled rapids three hundred feet below, thinking you better not jump 'cause there's a chance you might drown! The President has this disease and he's been lying about it, and you guys are worried that the polling might make us look bad? It's the fall that's gonna kill you!"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Recurring joke in Brewster Rockit Space Guy. "[Planet Name Here]... Isn't that the planet with the giant poisonous snakes?" "Good heavens, no. Those were all wiped out by the giant poisonous tarantulas."

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • Peter Kay's standup act relates the story of a meal interrupted by a cellphone call from a child who's scared to go to sleep because of monsters in his cupboards. Our hero tells him he needn't worry about monsters in his cupboard - it's burglars breaking into the house he should be worried about.

    Video Games 
  • In Day Of The Tentacle, Dr. Fred tries to send the main characters back in time using his... er... highly experimental time machine. Just before he turns it on, he and Bernard have the following exchange:
    Bernard: Have any people ever been hurt in this?
    Dr. Fred: Of course not!
    [grins all around]
    Dr. Fred: This is the first time I've ever tried it on people!

    Webcomics 

    Real Life 
  • This phenomenon can also be observed in real life. Many people worry about stuff that most of the time will never happen or is extremely unlikely to happen. Ironically other, more likely causes of concern, will not worry people that much. For instance, many people have a fear of flying, while in reality more car accidents happen every year than with planes. Another example: people worry for a next world war, while a huge environmental disaster or epidemics are far more realistic future concerns.
    • Panics over diseases are pretty good examples of this. In the US, every few years, fears over an epidemic of a disease such as swine flu or the ebola virus will generate panic for a short time, while others will frequently mention how other less "trendy" diseases such as the more typical flu or malaria will rack up a much larger body count, but don't get nearly as much attention because they're more "boring." There are also accusations leveled against the news media for manufacturing panic for the sake of ratings, web traffic, etc.
  • The same goes for more mundane fears. People often worry what other people will think of this or that, while most of the time the reactions will be not as unanimously bad or hysterical as one might fear. Or if they happen they tend to occur for only a short period of time.
  • A lot of smokers put on perfume or deodorant out of fear of smelling bad in company. And then they light up their cigarettes without any concern about that more awful stench.


Alternative Title(s):

Worrying For A Wrong Reason