Bruce Wayne: People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?Sometimes to make a Heroic Sacrifice, a hero doesn't need to die. Sometimes he must sacrifice something else... his good name, his reputation and his integrity. A character attempting a Zero Approval Gambit will knowingly risk - or deliberately seek - a 0% Approval Rating and paint himself in a bad light in order to achieve some greater good. This might involve falsely confessing to a crime he didn't commit, or it might involve him being an enormous Jerkass contrary to his true nature. The net result is that he will be hated, hunted or disgraced for all time. In short, he willingly becomes a Hero with Bad Publicity. Note that this isn't a short-term trick. A Zero Approval Gambit is usually permanent or takes a huge amount of work to undo. This is an inverse of Villain with Good Publicity. Compare Good Is Not Nice, Necessarily Evil, Noble Demon, What the Hell, Hero?, Break His Heart to Save Him, and Hidden Heart of Gold. Can result in a Hero with an F in Good. Sometimes done to facilitate a Genghis Gambit. Often a job hazard of the Agent Provocateur. Most of the time it involves becoming a Silent Scapegoat.
Alfred: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They'll hate you for it, but that's the point of Batman. He can be the outcast. He can make the choice no one else can make: the right choice.
Alfred: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They'll hate you for it, but that's the point of Batman. He can be the outcast. He can make the choice no one else can make: the right choice.
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- Uchiha Itachi of Naruto. Probably the most intense example available, as it involved him killing his parents and entire clan (except Sasuke), making himself a wanted mass murderer in the eyes of the whole world, and making his brother hate him so intensely that Sasuke chases him for years just to kill him, all so that the world could know peace. He then also had to adopt the mask of an Akatsuki member for years, something he hated, just to keep up the act and continue to be of use to Konoha by keeping the Akatsuki away from the village. The gambit worked in that another major war didn't occur for about eight years. As for how it affected Sasuke...
- In a lighter example (though tragic as well), under the Fourth Kazekage's orders Yashamaru told Gaara that he'd never loved him and in fact hated him, that Gaara was not and never would be loved, because he blamed Gaara for his sister's death, and that his sister had also never loved Gaara and was using him to exact revenge on Suna. In reality, Yashamaru did legitimately love him, and the person he truly hated was the Fourth Kazekage, Gaara's father and Yashamaru's brother-in-law. Karura, Gaara's mother, also loved him: in fact, her love is what truly drives the sand to protect her son. If anyone was to blame for this, it was the Fourth Kazekage, who after being revived by the Edo Tensei admitted he did not deserve to be called Father by his youngest son.
- This is also Sasuke's motivation behind wanting to be the Hokage. By shouldering all of the hatred of the shinobi world on himself, he'll be able to create a world of peace. It doesn't take off, as Naruto puts a stop to it before it can begin.
- In Code Geass, Lelouch sets himself up as the emperor of the world and runs Britannia with an iron fist. He does this in order to unite the world against a single, common enemy; i.e., himself. Once this is accomplished, he has Suzaku assume the identity of Zero. He then orders Suzaku to assassinate him in public in the guise of Zero, thus causing the world to rally behind its hero and eliminating the last source of hatred on Earth. It works. Bonus points for being an accidental pun on this trope.
- Taiga's run for Student Council President in Toradora! was essentially this. Declaring that if elected she'd essentially be an Evil High School Overlord was part of a plan to get the reluctant Kitamura to step up to the plate. Subverted as the other students were perfectly aware of it.
- Jintetsu of Kurogane does this almost compulsively, since he thinks so little of himself. The most prominent example is when he doesn't tell Makoto who really ruined her family (her adopted "father", Renji). This leads her to continue to believe he (Jintetsu) had done it, thus allowing her to maintain her fond memories of Renji.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Roy Mustang did this when he enacted a plan to make it appear that he burned Maria Ross to death (it was actually a fake cadaver, and Ross was being sneaked out of the country). Ross was under arrest for the murder of Maes Hughes and was to be executed, so Mustang saved her life while making it appear to the higher ups that his desire for vengeance was quenched. All the while, Ross's friends and family continue to think she's dead, making Mustang a bloodthirsty murderer in their eyes (at least until they learn the truth).
- Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena combines this trope with The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask. It turns out she's an ancient Goddess-Princess who watched her brother, the God-Prince, being blamed for all the evil on earth. As a child, she decided to take the blame and let herself be punished by the world for all eternity. She subsequently spends the entire series serene and calm, while suffering the anguish and hatred of the entire world... because her brother coped by becoming evil instead. Eventually subverted when it turns out that none of it was necessary, and all it took for her to change her situation is to overcome her fear of change and simply walk away.
- In the Edolas arc of Fairy Tail, Mystogan wants to paint himself as the villain who made the magic go away (it actually was his fault) so that Pantherlily can kill him and be the hero who will unite Edolas in their time of panic. Pantherlily wants to do it the other way around. In the end, however, it is resolved when Natsu steps up as the Great Demon King Dragneel so no one has to die.
- The Record of a Fallen Vampire. The humans and the vampire distrust each other. They distrust each other so much that there's a war just waiting to be launched, which would very likely destroy the world. Strauss' solution? Take on everyone's hate; both human, vampire, and dhampire, so that they will always have a common enemy to unite against, despite them STILL not liking each other. If that's not a Zero Approval Gambit, nothing is.
- Especially since it only works while he's alive; He's literally borne the hatred of all three races on his back for thousands of years, all while trying to revive his Queen who he didn't truly love, and having to kill the reincarnation/soul of his slain children in the form of the curse of the Black Swan.
- In Special A we discover that antagonist Yahiro Saiga pulled one of these years ago. Having discovered that one of Akira's friends was a Gold Digger who was only interested in using her for her money, Yahiro used his family's wealth and his own skill as a Manipulative Bastard to force the girl to transfer. Akira discovered this, and rather than telling her why he did it, Yahiro let her think of him as a monster and maintain her happy memories of her friendship. Flashforward a few years to the series, and Akira still hates him for what he did, as do Yahiro's ex-friend Kei and most of the Special A class. He doesn't try to correct their image of him, and instead plays the villain until well into the series.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has a two-person variation, wherein Zechs Merquise and Treize Khushrenada put themselves in charge of the militaries of the space colonies and Earth, respectively, and then start the biggest, most terrible war they can so the common man will finally realize War Is Hell and actually do something to prevent it. This is apparently somewhat subtle in the anime; the manga and novelization have Zechs come right out and admit to this trope.
- Partially averted in Inazuma Eleven where in the fourth season, Inazuma Eleven GO, Gouenji Shuuya of all people turned heel and took on the name Ishido Shuuji in order to save soccer from Big Bad Senguuji Daigo. It is partially averted since quite a few people in-universe know he's actually Gouenji and vice-versa such that it doesn't hurt his reputation that much to anyone inside the Fourth Wall. In the end his gambit paid off and his position transitioned to the leadership of La Résistance leader and Big Good Hibiki Seigou, thereby ensuring the safety of soccer for everyone. Funnily, it was played straight with the fandom.
- In an early arc of Berserk, Guts taunts Theresa after he just killed her monstrous Apostle father the Count. Theresa furiously swears that she'll kill Guts someday, somehow. Guts sneers at this, but the moment he turns his head away he looks like he's on the brink of tears. After his own painful daddy issues are revealed, it's clear in hindsight that Guts was just trying to give Theresa something to help her deal with her grief.
- Guts does this a lot. Since he's constantly under attack from demons and evil spirits, anyone who follows him is at risk of hideous death. Thus he makes a complete jackass of himself whenever possible, driving them off and saving their lives. This has faded now that he has friends who can handle themselves in battle.
- One story in Black Jack has Jack look after a patient who plays the bad guy on a children's show. The patient's little brother is constantly picked on by his peers, who think that because the patient plays the villain, he is a villain. At the end of the chapter, Black Jack takes advantage of his naturally creepy appearance to pretend to be a bad guy attacking the little brother. The patient plays along and "defeats" him, causing the little brother to have his pride in the patient restored.
- In the second episode of the anime adaptation of Sword Art Online, there is an established mistrust between the players and the beta testers, due to the latter gaining the upperhand early in the game. This nearly leads to disaster when a troublemaker begins to raise the tension between beta testers and players after and the man who organized the raid dies. In response Kirito takes all the scorn on himself, claiming that the other beta testers spent too much time on the early floors while he climbed higher into Aincrad; the end result is that he earns a reputations as "a beta tester and a cheater! A beater!", while the other beta testers are not ostracized.
- Saitama invokes this in One-Punch Man by claiming that the only reason he defeated a powerful monster was because all the other heroes risked their lives to weaken it. This ensures that the superhero agency continues to get support and funding, at the cost of everyone hating him instead.
- It turns out this was Garō's plan all along. By becoming the most powerful, eternal Ultimate Evil in existence, he would force all of humanity's heroes to become the ideal heroes everyone can look up to and make humanity set aside its differences in order to survive and stand against him, unable to focus upon the true enemy: Itself. And yet, he refuses to kill the very Heroes he fights or any civilians, and doesn't even want to be evil. Saitama challenges this worldview throughout their final battle, not even bothering to kill him at the very end and simply asking him if he's okay with being a villain - Garō's facial expression very clearly states he isn't.
- In Kannazuki no Miko, this is Chikane's gambit. The ritual requires a priestess to kill the other. In order to save Himiko, she does this and that (you know what are these) which includes apparently siding with Orochi, so that Himiko will hate her enough to kill her. The gambit is not about saving the world, it's about saving her girlfriend.
- Bleach: Ryuuken appears to be engaged in a long-term plan to keep himself outcast from the spiritual world and his family, and hated by his son. Uryuu views Ryuuken's dismissal of Quincies as a betrayal of the family heritage, refuses to live with him and doesn't trust him. When Isshin accuses Ryuuken of allowing Uryuu to go to Hueco Mundo with Ichigo, Ryuuken quickly explains he simply doesn't care whether his son lives or dies. Souken states that Ryuuken's goal is protection, but refuses to tell Uryuu what. It's very strongly implied to be Uryuu's life, which has been in grave danger from the legendary Quincy King for at least nine years. It's also implied that Ryuuken is persona non grata among the Quincies; they are shocked to learn Uryuu exists and, while The Emperor and a very few elite Quincies have mentioned Souken, Uryuu and Uryuu's mother, even they don't speak of Ryuuken.
- Tokyo Ghoul:Re uses this as a major twist. For more than a decade, Kishou Arima had been conspiring with Eto to sow the seeds of revolution. He purposefully built up his fierce reputation as The Dreaded, becoming a boogeyman either worshiped or feared by everyone......so that whoever could kill him would become a Hope Bringer capable of bringing down V and the CCG. When Kaneki defeats him but won't strike the killing blow, Arima takes his own life to complete the plan.
- In Toriko this is apparently was Acacia's plan from the wery beginning. Turns out that he figured out weakness of his inner demon long ago, and all this time he tried to force it to vomit all, that he devoured (which included population of countless planets). Said weakness is the fact, that his inner demon hates the taste of anger and immense amount of it can make him sick. That means, that in order to free everyone, who was devoured, he not only had to be defeated, but also defeated by someone as angry as possible. Naturally, in order to do it he had to be as much of a jerkass to everyone, as possible.
- In "Side:Hope", the final episode of Dangan Ronpa 3, the students of Class 77-B agree to publicly take the blame for the Final Killing Game in order to ensure that the Future Foundation will be able to recover from the event and continue to help rebuild the world.
- Tiger Mask does this four times, initially because, as a wrestling heel, the more he was hated the more people came to his matches hoping to see him defeated, meaning more money for him (and he says so to the public to make them hate him more. Left out was that he used the money to help orphans), and later, after establishing himself as a face in a world where Pro Wrestling Is Real, because he thinks he may not survive the next ordeal. It never works properly: back when he was a heel Ruriko recognized the man under the mask as her childhood friend Naoto, eventually leading to his official Heel–Face Turn; at the Maskmen World Championship (a tournament set up by Tiger's Cave to murder him) Baba asked himself why Tiger Mask would take part to a tournament where his life was in such a clear danger, discovered what he wanted to use the prize for (pay for an extremely expensive surgery that would restore a girl's sight), and went out to help him win the tournament and regain his good fame; before fighting Black V, that Tiger Mask was convinced he could not beat (as he had not come up with a counter to Black V's devastating Missile Headbutt yet), even Ruriko and Baba thought he had gone insane when he inflicted a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to the aspiring wrestler Teppei Oiwa, but Teppei recognized it as a Secret Test of Character and explained it to Ruriko (and Tiger Mask himself admitted so to Baba right before facing Black V, so that someone would become Teppei's teacher in his place if Black V ended up killing him); and before going to face an apparent execution at Tiger's Cave main base the other JWA wrestlers flat-out disbelieved him due the previous incidents and followed him to Tiger's Cave main base to turn his execution in the storming and defeat of Tiger's Cave.
- A flashback chapter of Akagami no Shirayukihime reveals that upon reaching maturity Izana cruelly set up two problematic earls to fail by behaving like a much more self-centered and spoiled prince than he really is and having them beggar themselves and ruin both their own families and those loyal to them in their attempts to win his favor before stripping them of their lands and titles. It's downplayed in that those who hate him afterwards are only from two areas of the kingdom but he was well aware at the time that his actions would likely lead to assassination attempts but he wanted to send a clear message about what kind of king he was going to be while also testing the rest of the nobles in the kingdom while ensuring they are all very cautious around him.
- In Soul Hunter, the hero Taikoubou pulls one off to ensure the safe passage of refugees through a border gate, with shades of Batman Gambit and Enforced Method Acting. He pretends to take the side of the official of the pass, and attacks one of his shills harmlessly with wind magic. This angers his Humanshifting companion Youzen so much that Youzen transforms into a highly respected general to convince the official to let the people pass. Taikoubou tells the official that the 'general' is a shapeshifter trying to trick him, and forces him to choose which person to believe. The official arrests Taikoubou and lets the refugees pass.
- Booster Gold, who dooms himself to being seen as a fame-obsessed fool while he's saving the universe through time travel. Since his foes are also time travelers, hiding his true importance reduces the risk of being targeted for a Grandfather Paradox. For the same reasons, his mentor and son Rip Hunter carefully hides his entire identity from everyone.
- On the inside, Batman is one of the most compassionate, good-hearted, and moral individuals on the face of the Earth. But hardly anyone has ever seen this side of him because he spends almost all his time cultivating a fearsome image and a gruff persona so that criminals will be afraid of him. The downside is that law-abiding members of society end up afraid of him too and other heroes think he's a jerk (if they aren't also afraid of him).
- This is a recurring theme in Marvel Comics. Most heroes have gone through this at one point or another.
- During a crossover issue with the X Men, Deadpool started acting like a homicidal maniac. Much more so than usual, that is. It turns out it was a ruse to make the X Men look like heroes in public and he never actually intended to kill his target.
- The Achille Talon story Le Roi des Zôtres depends on this. The only other choice for ruler being a peace-loving beatnik, Achille sets out to look like a bloodthirsty madman channeling the worst dictators of history. Successfully pissing off every single age branch, social class and profession, he barely escapes with his life but the country is restored.
- During the Spider-Man storyline "The Other", following Peter's supposed death, Wolverine hits on the grieving Mary Jane, who slaps him. His fellow heroes are disgusted, until Wolverine tells them that he did it to make her angry, so she wouldn't become consumed by grief, and if she spent the rest of her life hating him for it, then so be it. Fortunately or not, Mary Jane saw through it in fairly short order, though she thanked Wolverine for putting in the effort.
- On Irredeemable, Qubit endangers the entirety of the human race by letting the murderous Plutonian live and he gets his ass handed repeatedly for such an act. His refusal to kill him stems from his belief that he can put the Plutonian's power into good use without sacrificing Tony if given the chance, even when having the opportunity to kill Tony at all times.
- Gilgamos' plan to save humanity from the Plutonian involved making them immortal forever, which could have led to a stagnation of epic proportions. Good thing he was offered an alternative.
- Green Lantern Hal Jordan does this in the aftermath of Lights Out and God Head, faking Kilowog's death, stealing Krona's prototype Willpower gauntlet and ditching the Corps to really pull the heat off of the Corps so that they can get on the good side of the universe again and have all of the blame and anger focused on him.
- During Secret Invasion, Xavin pulls a zero-approval gambit on the rest of the Runaways, knocking them all out with a forcefield and then running away, hoping that the others will assume that they betrayed the team and elect to flee rather than trying to fight the Skrulls. It doesn't work and the team ends up rescuing Xavin when they end up in over their head. The only thing it does accomplish is making Karolina extremely cross with Xavin.
- Explicitly stated in Fallout: Equestria: Littlepip, having become the Wasteland's face of good, acknowledges the need to secure its safety and recovery, despite what the world - and her friends - might think of her.
- Applies to Scootaloo as well.
- This is, essentially, what the dwarven noble protagonist does in the opening chapters of Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns, an elaborate Dragon Age Alternate Universe fanfiction which has six wardens, plus Alistair, as main cast, among other things. How does he do this? He actually, unlike the original game, figures out in advance that Bhelen is planning to kill Trian and frame the protagonist for it. But if the protagonist foils the plan, then since the protagonist is popular the Assembly will name him King. But he wants Trian on the throne, so to foil Bhelen, the protagonist deliberately frames himself for Trian's murder, and then has Trian secretly taken somewhere else to recover.
- In Armored Core: from the Ashes, Ghost may be doing this. Hopefully.
- In the Pony POV Series, Princess Celestia is more than willing to use an alias to write unflattering tabloid articles about herself if it benefits the greater good in some way. The tabloids would demonize her anyway, at least this way they're doing it in a way that benefits somepony. In the finale of the Princess Gaia Arc, she writes such an article, painting herself as the real Big Bad of the Nightmare Whisper incident to spare Fluttershy from being demonized by the tabloids for something she will not and cannot ever repeat so the poor girl can move on. She even has her Day Guard make it seem like she's attempting to suppress the article so the conspiracy theorists will assume it's true and leave Fluttershy alone.
- Sharpe, of XSGCOM, uses this all the time. His ultimate goal is to make X-COM and earth so terrifying that no one will ever think to look at them harshly again. He also uses this to force the Free Jaffa and the Tok'Ra to work together to find a cloaked assassin, claiming that "if they hate me enough, they won't go pointing guns at each other."
- Nate in For The Mission. When he finds out about his partner's death, he drops all subtlety and deserts the guild after insulting them. He also has his Substitute clone tell them that he intends to take the Time Gears again, starting with Treeshroud Forest. While he is going to collect the Time Gears, Nate also insulted them and tipped them off on his destination because he knew that they would send someone after him and see that the forest was still frozen.
- In The Predespair Kids, just like in canon, Mikan Tsumiki is a Shrinking Violet with zero confidence who cries at the drop of a hat. Yet she, of all people, actually pulls one of these when she pretends to side with Junko as a Remnant of Despair in an attempt to get close and stop her plan. She does this knowing it's unlikely anyone will forgive her or even hear her out, especially after Junko orders her to help during The Incident of Hope's Peak Academy.
- Bruce Wayne pulls one of these at the end of Batman Begins. Batman pulls an even bigger one at the end of The Dark Knight.
- Harvey Dent manages a rare short-term version in The Dark Knight when he turns himself in as Batman, so that the Joker will come out of hiding and attack him, allowing the real Batman to do the same to the Joker. This works, and proves that Harvey's not Batman in the process, so that his reputation is restored.
- In the movie version of Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan lets the world think he's gone on a murderous rampage, so they'd unite against him instead of killing each other. Not that it was his idea...
- In both the film and the original source material, this the basic idea behind the titular Green Hornet. Disguising the hero as a villain allows him to operate with impunity, understand the inner workings of his various foes at the same level, and ideally keeps innocent bystanders and his personal allies out of the fray.
- John Hartigan in Sin City takes the fall for the rape of a child, losing his wife and spending eight years in prison, because he thinks she'll be killed if he denies it.
- Sang-hyun from Thirst survives a fatal disease and makes a miraculous recovery because, unknown to the world, he is given a blood transfusion from a vampire and becomes one. A small group of fanatics begin revering him as a saint and spend weeks or months camped outside of the hospital where he had been treated. At the end of the movie, he convinces all of them that he isn't a saint and that they should move on with their lives by letting himself be caught about to sexually assault a woman (he doesn't actually do anything to her).
- In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Black Widow does this by allowing her checkered background get leaked to the public. Captain America intends this for all of S.H.I.E.L.D., reasoning that they've been so thoroughly infiltrated and corrupted by HYDRA that the only way to destroy the infestation is to burn SHIELD with it.
- In the 1990 movie "Stella", Stella lets her daughter think she's abandoned her to get married to give her daughter a chance at a good life.
- In Oz: The Great and Powerful, during the final confrontation between the Wicked Witches, Oscar pretends to make a getaway in a hot air balloon with a bunch of gold, making everyone think he's abandoned them. Then, when Theodora shoots down his balloon and everyone believes he's dead, he works his stage magic and a video projector to make a grand comeback as the "true" Wizard of Oz, renewing everyone's hope and scaring the witches away.
- Attempted in Stroker Ace. One of Stroker's schemes to get fired involves creating an advertisement gag that is meant to piss off Torkle and NASCAR fans. He arrives in his chicken costume at the speedway sitting atop a giant egg being pulled by a wagon and tractor. In addition, he has his racecar outfitted to look like a plucked chicken. Torkle is angry, but he turns the gag on Stroker by acting like it was the best thing Stroker could do for the company, ensuring that Stroker won't try it again.
- In the Hurog duology, Ward makes himself very unpopular among his allies by suggesting that they give the Big Bad the dragon bones in a cave under castle Hurog in order to save the people. In the end he does something that makes him even more unpopular, namely killing his ghost-slave Oreg, who is magically bound to the castle, to make the cave collapse. Oreg wants to die, but Ward thinks bad of himself due to that deed.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Jaime "The Kingslayer" Lannister broke his vows as a member of the Kingsguard and killed King Aerys the Mad, to prevent the total destruction of King`s Landing, which Aerys planned to burn down to spite his enemies as they breached the gates. For the entire series he is reviled and distrusted by nearly everyone he meets as a result, none of whom (except for Brienne, the only person he tells the story to,) know why he did it. In the end it seems he was too occupied with the political turmoil after the murder and hunting down Aerys' other alchemists to make a big deal out of it, and by the time things had calmed down it would have looked like he was just making excuses for the murder, which his pride would not allow. Jaime was also put in a position of genuine conflicted loyalty - between his father and head of his family and his king. The realm considers what he did to be dishonorable, certainly, but it's still distinct from someone who turned traitor for money or to simply save himself.
- Eddard Stark attempts this gambit near the end of A Game of Thrones by admitting to the false allegations the Lannisters have cooked up against him. He wants to protect his daughters, who are effectively hostages now, and to prevent a full-scale war from breaking out. Even though most of the Lannisters are also in on the plan, and intend to spare Eddard and send him off to the Wall, Robert's successor Joffrey Baratheon chooses to publicly execute him instead, completely defeating the purpose of the gambit and resulting in said full-scale war breaking out anyway.
- In Stephen Donaldson's Mordant's Need, King Joyce exemplifies this trope. After spending the majority of his life building his kingdom from scratch (Including collecting every magician in the world into one place), he faces new threats in his old age. In response, he pretends to descend into senility, making everyone hate him and his regime. Because his enemies think that he's weak, they attack his kingdom at the same time (to get at the magicians.) His senility flushes out all opposition to his regime at the same time.
- Explored from various angles in the original Ender's Game series, most explicitly with Admiral Lands of the Lusitania Fleet.
- Legacy of the Force:
- Jacen Solo inAlthough in his case, he actually is being thoroughly evil, though his intentions are noble. Sort of.
- Corran Horn took the blame for the destruction of the garden paradise world of Ithor to spare the rest of Jedi Order.
- The Dresden Files: In Turn Coat Warden Donald Morgan allows himself to be considered a traitor to A) prevent any blowback on the actual (mind-controlled) murderer, who he's in love with and B) prevent a civil war from breaking out in the White Council.
- In Five Hundred Years After, Adron's last words are, "Don't tell them that I meant well."
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Severus Snape kills Albus Dumbledore. For the next year, he is reviled by all of his former ssociates and just about everybody in the wizarding world. At the end of the seventh book, it is revealed that he had arranged this with Dumbledore almost a year before, as a plot to save a student from the act and to let Dumbledore die with dignity, as well as to cement Voldemort's trust in him and thus allow him to work as a Reverse Mole now that his Double Agent role is blown.
- In the chronologically last of the Hornblower series, "Admiral Hornblower", Hornblower comes across a boat full of well-armed French revolutionaries out to spring Napoleon from St Helina. The only way he can foil it is to lie to them, and pledge his honor that Napoleon had died. Inverted, though, in that, as Hornblower is returning to port to hand in his resignation, he is met by another ship and informed that Napoleon had actually died.
- In No More Dead Dogs, by Gordon Korman, Wallace does this at the end when he takes the blame for sabotaging the school play in order to protect the real culprit, Rachel's little brother.
- The plot of John Moore's Bad Prince Charlie centers around a scheme to have the throne of Damask taken by an unpopular ruler so that the neighboring kingdom of Noile can be seen as saviors when they conquer it, at which point the people who engineered the scheme get paid off and the 'tyrant' (Who doesn't care for his home country anyway) gets banished. The strange thing is that Charlie manages to make himself unpopular by being competent.
- God-Emperor Leto II of Dune sets up such a gambit. To preserve humanity, he becomes, well, a tyrant for three and a half millennia. His absolute oppression will instill a racial memory based hatred in humanity so profound that it will impel them to scatter farthest reaches of existence preventing the possibility that they will ever become extinct. But his plan also necessitates his demise. Now, a god can't simply die or commit suicide, because that would not stop the worship of him; so he arranges things so that his own people would revolt and topple him by force.
- As can be imagined, there's a bit of a balancing act involved in foiling the premature assassination attempts while not actually eliminating everyone capable of successfully pulling it off when the time does come.
- Baron Harkonnen in the original novel was attempting a villainous variant by having his nephew Rabban brutalize Arrakis's population, in order to give his heir, Feyd-Rautha, an in as a savior from Rabban's torment. Unfortunately for him, The Plan didn't have time to work, as his rival family the Atredies had already insinuated themselves within the natives.
- Successfully done, kinda, in The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach: The Emperor, being immortal, spends several centuries making himself unpleasant while mounting an effective rebellion against himself in a disguise. All because he wants to die, and knows that if he just committed suicide without utterly destroying his image as a god-like being, his empire, that he ruled for over 200,000 years, would never be free of him. He even arranges for his unwilling killer never to reveal the truth, and for his desecrated corpse to be exhibited as an object of shame.
- Geralt of Rivia, in the short story The Lesser Evil. He kills Renfri, who was planning to massacre the whole village of Blaviken. Ironically, they proceed to pelt him with stones, not the least bit grateful.
- Randall Garrett's The Highest Treason shows a society where you cannot say that one man can be better than another in ''anything'', promotion is strictly according to age, and that society is quickly losing a war against aliens. So, the protagonist, as a desperate patriot, joins the enemy, helps them conquer a planet, and slaughters the people there, showing the humanity that one person can be worse than another. In the end, the humanity is victorious, and their philosophy is now that one man cannot be better than another in everything.
- Invoked by Perry Rhodan, where the hostile Cold War power blocs' common enmity against the Third Power marks the beginning of the process towards establishing One World Order.
- This page of The Zombie Knight, when Hector (already unjustly feared) is trying to save a town from superpowered Agents Provocateur, sums up the trope perfectly.
- Played for Laughs in Discworld, when Sergeant Colon reveals that his old Drill Sergeant Nasty was doing this to keep the squad united, if only against him. They realized why he'd put them through hell, and... ambushed him when he was coming out of a bar and beat the proverbial seven kinds of crap out of him. His knuckles sometimes twinge with happy memories.
- Again in Discworld in Unseen Academicals. The head men of the University's sports team tell the players there's no big meal before the night of the real game. There's no real medical reason for this, the management just wants the players united in hatred. They come to regret it when the staff decide it applies to everyone on the team, including them.
- Steelheart in The Reckoners Trilogy can only be harmed by those who don't fear him, so he goes to great effort to ensure that everyone fears him, including creating a PR department whose function is to blame him for atrocities he didn't have the time to actually commit. Ironically, this proves to be his greatest weakness as well, as his power doesn't prevent him from accidentally killing himself.
- In The Machineries of Empire, Jedao has deliberately massacred his own men at Hellspin so that he'd be executed, but also made himself useful enough that he'd be put in the black cradle, ensuring that he'll always be there when the Hexarchate is at its weakest.
Live Action TV
- In My Name Is Earl, Earl takes the blame for his ex-wife Joy so that she could take care of her children and husband.
- Doctor Kelso has done this a number of times on Scrubs. He's not a hero, but he uses the staff's hatred for him to make them more efficient. Most notably when the staff is bitterly divided over the Iraq war and spends more time arguing than doing their jobs right. Kelso, realizing that the group needs a common enemy to unite them, cancels the free coffee policy at the hospital Starbucks for every staff member except himself. The effects are nearly instantaneous.
- Cox once said he was wrong about a drug addict (he said the addict wasn't still taking drugs when he was) so Elliot wouldn't have her optimism crushed.
- Captain Sobel in Band of Brothers is characterized as a petty tyrant and an incompetent battlefield leader, but he does know that making his soldiers hate him will get them better motivated to train harder and become better soldiers.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
Admiral Jarok: My daughter will grow up believing that her father is a traitor. But she will grow up.
- In the episode "Sins of the Father", Worf takes discommendation and shame on his family name for the good of the Empire, even though he knows the real villain was the father of the politically powerful Duras. In the later episode "Reunion", Duras repaid Worf for this by murdering his on-off lover and the mother of his son after she spurned his advances. Worf took this about how you'd expect.
- And in the episode "The Defector", a Romulan Admiral defects to the Federation to prevent a Romulan-Federation war.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "Duet", the Cardassian clerk Aamin Marritza poses as the infamous war criminal Gul Darhe'el, brazenly antagonizing the Bajorans with regalings of the atrocities so that he can be executed and provide some closure for the Bajorans, and to shame his fellow Cardassians for not owning up to these crimes.
- Wesley's reasoning for kidnapping Connor in Angel is that, though he's betraying his friends and they'll hate him forever, he's saving Connor and sparing them the burden of knowing that Angel's prophesied to kill his son. Unfortunately, this decision's made after several sleepless weeks, which is perhaps the only justification for the mixture of Idiot Ball misunderstandings that follow.
- Doctor Who
- The Doctor destroys Amy's faith in him to kill the Minotaur in "The God Complex".
- The Seventh Doctor did the same thing to Ace in "The Curse of Fenric", for similar reasons.
- In "Hell Bent", the Twelfth Doctor knowingly alienates his own people, whom he spent millennia pining for, and his confidante Ohila in his effort to save Clara Oswald from her unjust, fixed-point-in-time death. Sadly, he does not earn his happy ending — he has undergone a Sanity Slippage and his goal is a Tragic Dream that cannot be fulfilled without destroying space and time. Maybe he'll mend fences with them later, if they finally prove understanding.
- Perverted a bit in Misfits where Curtis needs to break up with her ex without getting upset and triggering his time-warping guilt. Queue the awesome breakup montage.
- In Community : Pierce falsely admits to bribing the teacher to kick Jeff out of Biology 101, so that their anger would be directed back at him, instead of Jeff.
- In Wicked, Elphaba tells Glinda that no one can ever know the truth that she was only rebelling against an tyrannical Wizard.
- A big theme in Into the Woods. The witch neatly sums it up:
"No, of course, what really matters is the blame. Somebody to blame. Fine! If that's the thing you enjoy, placing the blame, if that's the aim, give me the blame!"
- Mrs Erlynne does one on the spur of the moment in Lady Windermere's Fan: while hiding with Lady Windermere in another gentleman's house, Mrs Erlynne reveals herself, and thus exposes herself to scandal and contempt, in order to explain the presence of Lady Windermere's fan on the table, and allow her to slip away unseen.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: It's revealed at the end of the game that The Boss' defection was an act; in order to save America's face and prevent a nuclear war, she ends up having to be killed by Snake. The end result: The Boss is dead, her reputation is permanently ruined, and the entire world believes her to be nothing more than a war criminal and a traitor to her country. On top of it all, it's revealed in subsequent games that her death wasn't even really about preventing war; instead, the U.S government had set the whole thing up because they were scared of her and wanted to get rid of her.
- Yakuza has The Hero, Kazuma Kiryu, take the fall for his friend Akira at the beginning of the game.
- One probably happens in the end of Metroid: Fusion, when at the end of the game, Samus redirects the space station's orbit to impact SR-388, to ensure that the X parasites do not take over the galaxy. It's implied that the Federation does not like this, but by now you've seen that the Federation's been breeding Metroids (even Omega Metroids) for "various purposes", which means that they're starting to do the same kinds of things as the evil Space Pirates. And what makes it worse, Samus has the DNA of the Metroids and pretty much all of the (now extinct) SR-388 ecosystem, which means the Federation will probably want to get her for many reasons now.
- In Final Fantasy III, the Dark Warriors are this trope combined with True Neutral. They've destroyed the overflow of light in the world to keep the balance, after which the world slowly started edging towards darkness instead. If they hadn't, the lack of balance would have caused the world to be destroyed - but in the meantime, they're known as the ones who ended the happiest era known on the planet. Luckily, the majority of the people you talk to during the game actually seem to understand this.
- In Suikoden II, Riou, Jowy and Nanami's old master, Genkaku, had to duel with his best friend from another country in a final match between champions to end the war. He finds out his own king poisoned his sword, and once the duel begins he refuses to attack, after which he is banned from his country as a traitor to go live in the other country he was previously at war with, where he is known as a coward.
- In Mass Effect 2 Tali can pull one of these to exile herself from the fleet (and destroy her reputation) to save her father's.
- If you play the Arrival DLC, Admiral Hackett basically tells Shepard that they're going to have to pull one to prevent a human-batarian war after you slowed the Reaper invasion by destroying a colony of 300,000 batarians. If you give a Renegade response at the end, he blatantly tells you that you're a convenient scapegoat. Notably, Shepard goes through a similar situation even if he/she isn't involved in the events of Arrival, thanks to their alliance with Cerberus.
- Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica:
- This, combined with Gambit Pileup, aptly describe the (Anti-)Villains. Your party even get to try to make people agree to your madman's scheme to drop a significant part of the Floating Continent to power-up a literal stairway to heavens in order to make real an ancient miracle that's proven to not work before. Oh, and there is a nice song playing when you drop the thing, too!
- Subverted by Jakuri/Myuru, she never bothers with painting herself in good light. And she does Kick the Son of a Bitch several times in the story.
- Touhou 8: Imperishable Night. Basically, your party casts a spell that makes the night never end in order to find the source of a potentially world-threatening magic that only appear at night. If they don't find the culprit at the time the sun is supposed to rise, the entire Gensokyo will gang-up on them. You Cant Get Away With Nothing either; the Barrier Maiden Reimu Hakurei and the guardian of humans Keine Kamishirasawa (oh, and Marisa) is out for your characters' head.
- Subverted in that the common people don't know the protagonists were investigating the false moon, and believed they were investigating the unending night.
- In Tales of the Abyss Van attempts mass genocide in order to guarantee everyone true freedom. Of course, this leads to a very negative opinion of him, as no one knows his true intentions.
- In Dragon Age: Inquisition, it's heavily implied that Maferath, the ultimate betrayer of the series' backstory, actually pulled one of these to enable his descendants to eventually take down The Empire.
- In Star Trek Online Ambassador B'Vat tries to provoke a Forever War between the Federation and the Klingon Empire to ensure that the Klingons will forever have an enemy to unify against, since he fears that the Empire would self-destruct without one. To that end he attempts to sic a planet killer on Federation planets. The player disrupts the plan with help from a Klingon defector, and kills B'Vat shortly thereafter.
- BlazBlue: Central Fiction: Ragna erases himself from the universe in order for the world to move on, and in order to do so, he must become 'The Enemy of the World'.
- In Town of Salem, the purpose of the Jester role is to get lynched, which requires a majority of people in the town to a) put you on the gallows to defend yourself and b) determine after the defence that you're guilty. Therefore, the Jester has to make themselves look like they're another evil role, like the Mafia or the Serial Killer, in order to get everyone else to lynch them. Of course, this is only a desired outcome for the Jester, as one of the people who voted them guilty will be found dead the next morning...
- Fire Emblem Gaiden: Emperor Rudolf of Rigel purposefully makes himself look like an Evil Overlord and tires to conquer the entire continent to ensure that Alm can rally everybody against him and lead to a natural unification of Rigel and Zofia.
- Miou in A Profile goes out of her way to get Masayuki to distrust her, but he won't do it.
- In Captain SNES: The Game Masta, Alex tries one of these to convince the Sailor Scouts to get out of the line of fire when they're trying to help him fight the Sinistrals. It succeeds at the "Zero Approval" part, but fails at getting them to leave.
- In Goblins, Big Ears the paladin scares away a crowd of innocent bystanders by pretending to be a mad monster.
- Mike (aka The Pythagorean) in Something*Positive claims that this is his superpower.
- Roy from The Order of the Stick attempts to pull this to clear out some innocent bystanders, in the most lampshade-worthy way possible. It works.
Roy: I'm a big scary gladiator with permissive ideas about individual rights! BOO!
- The Slime King in Blasphemous Saga Fantasy declares himself to be a bad guy so that Seb can have the motivation to train and get stronger, as well as being able to watch over the village in case of Grrg's return
- The end of Bill-Sanctioned Shenanigans has Bill doing this once it becomes clear that he can't stop Ao from reaching Mt. Silver and undoing the lock on the gods' powers.
- The Question makes an assassination attempt against Lex Luthor in Justice League Unlimited, in order to prevent a seemingly unavoidable future in which Superman kills Luthor, leading to the Justice League Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. He reasons that, since he's already considered a nutty Conspiracy Theorist by the public, his arrest and fall from grace will leave the rest of the Justice League relatively untarnished. (Of course, the show never allows heroic characters to kill human beings unless it's a Bad Future or a parallel universe, so Luthor kicks his ass.) It helped that Luthor was unknowingly the host of Brainiac, who was secretly giving Luthor enhanced strength, speed, stamina, etc. to keep him alive until Brainiac could find a better host.
- In The Simpsons episode "Separate Vocations", some bad guidance counseling causes Bart and Lisa to end up swapping roles, with Bart becoming the goodie-two-shoes and Lisa the surly rebel. Lisa ends up stealing all the Teachers' Edition textbooks (crippling the school, since they don't know the material otherwise), and Bart is the one to find the books in her locker. In order to keep Lisa from destroying her future by getting expelled, Bart takes the blame. His recent good relationship with Principal Skinner softens the punishment to 600 days' worth of detention.
- In the TaleSpin episode "Plunder And Lightning", Kit pretends to betray Baloo, Rebecca, and Molly to gain Don Karnage's trust and allow them to escape the air pirates.
- This has always been part of The Green Hornet; he uses his position as a supposed "bad guy" to get villains to trust him when he offers his services and to intimidate friends and foes alike (sometimes intending them to betray him!). This has remained consistent from the radio serials through the TV show and the 2011 movie.
- According to Rational Wiki, Skarka's Law is the reason that this will never work in Real Life—no matter how much of a Hate Sink a person tries to be, there will always be somebody out there who will defend him. In other words, while it is possible to become an extremely hated person, a true 0% approval rating is impossible.
- In the Japanese children's story Naita Aka Oni ("The Red Oni Who Cried"), the blue Oni lets the townspeople believe he is evil so that his friend, the red Oni, can come to their "rescue" and befriend them.
- The Far Sight Enclave army book of Warhammer 40,000 heavily implies that the motive of everything Farsight is doing is to protect the Tau from the Eye of Terror.
- Often a strategy employed by coaches or trainers of sports teams: the goal is to force teammates to put aside whatever personal differences they might have by subjecting them to a Training from Hell, thus bonding over their mutual hatred for the guy putting them through it. Famously employed by Olympic Hockey Coach Herb Brooks for the 1980 US team. His use of the Gambit enabled him to overcome bitter inter-collegiate rivalries among individual team members (particularly the U-Mass/Minnesota rivalry) and get them all working together as a team, united in their hatred of him. Thanks to this training, the team took the gold medal against very long odds, and to this day members of that team still speak of Brooks as the most brutal coach they've ever had.
- This is also used in the military, except in the military going through hell continues as they do their job.
- The 2012 Washington Nationals decision to shut down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg after reaching an innings limit. It was said to be good for Strasburg's arm note , but hated by the national media, especially since the team was in a pennant race.
- Similar to the Strasburg example, Chicago Bulls player Derrick Rose was medically cleared to play after injuring his knee the previous season, but refused to out of not wanting to risk another injury and not being mentally ready.
- General Ulysses S Grant's Overland Campaign can be seen as a Zero Approval Gambit in the context of the Generals that came before. The Overland Campaign consisted of a series of tactical defeats wrapped in an overall strategic victory. With over 55,000 casualties Grant was denounced in the press as a butcher and the losses even put serious pressure on President Abraham Lincoln in an election year. The strategy to constantly engage General Lee and then maneuver around him forced the Confederate army into an irreversible retreat, but the overall objectives tended to be lost on the public which were focused on the battlefield reports. The generals that came before Grant were very much aware of their public image, and in the case of George McClellan, also eying a run for the Presidency. Their tendency to advance cautiously and then immediately retreat after any battle that did not result in complete victory ultimately wasted more lives for little gain. Still, to this day Grant is often cited as waging a pure war of attrition, carelessly throwing his men into combat to grind down the Confederates.
- Pope Pius XII, also known as "Hitler's Pope" for a long time for his refusal to stand against the Nazis and the Holocaust, was vilified as the absolute worst pope who ever existed in History. Turns out it was strategic all along since he used his power to decide who was or wasn't Catholic to help thousands of Jews escape Nazi territories by giving away travel visas, and none of them knew who their savior was until decades later. Actually standing against the Nazis openly would have been a very bad idea since Hitler had the power to control frontiers and could have added Catholics to his no-travel list, making the whole operation all but impossible. Pius XII knew very well that his reputation would suffer, but he didn't mind since even the Bible says that doing the right thing is more important than maintaining a reputation.