Playing With: The So-Called Coward

Basic Trope: A character is widely believed to be a coward. He isn't.
  • Straight: Because Jeff refuses to respond to Miles' taunts and fight him 'like a man', Jeff is branded a coward by the locals in his community. Until Miles and his friends push him too far by attacking him and his wife Laura — whereupon Jeff, much to the shock of everyone, promptly hands Miles and the other bullies a beat-down they'll never forget.
  • Exaggerated: Miles is a braggart who has stolen the credit for a heroic action that was in fact committed by Jeff, simultaneously painting Jeff as a coward. Jeff becomes the ridicule of the town but refuses to speak up and defend himself or his reputation, losing the respect of all but a few. Then, circumstances similar to the original catastrophe occur; while Miles hides in a cowardly panic, Jeff silently proves himself a hero.
  • Downplayed: Jeff's friends think he's a bit of a scaredy-cat because he refuses to go see a horror movie. They find out the reason he dislikes horror movies is just that they don't scare him, so he finds them boring.
  • Justified:
    • Jeff is a quiet and modest man who does not believe in boasting, and believes that actions speak louder than words. He feels he has nothing to prove to anyone except himself.
    • Jeff is pacifistic in nature; he won't pick a fight, but he'll fight if necessary.
    • Jeff is the veteran of a war which permanently soured and sickened him on violence, and he refuses to engage in violent actions for trivial reasons.
    • Jeff is rather patient and peaceful, leading people to thing he's nothing special, and he actively tries to avoid any needless conflict. On the other hand Jeff is smart and gets enough of a workout regularly to stay in shape, which makes him more prepared than most others.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted: Jeff is branded a coward, but responds in a fashion that indicates that he has hidden reserves of courage that no one can see. Then a crisis strikes... and it turns out Jeff is a coward after all.
  • Double Subverted: Just because Jeff feels fear doesn't make him a coward; he hesitates like anyone would, but proves himself a hero after all.
  • Parodied: Jeff is constantly doing heroic things, but somehow no one notices.
  • Zig Zagged: Jeff is believed to be a cowered, but he practices more than any other warrior in the village. This is because he wants to avoid all conflict by seeming to be more skilled than his opponent, but that's just avoid killing anybody who doesn't actually want to fight just for the sake of a fight.
  • Averted: Jeff's nature is open and he is not considered a coward.
  • Enforced: The network executives want their show to be "family friendly" and teach kids to try and avoid violence. The protagonist must always run or hide from fights for the first 40 minutes of the show. He's only allowed to kick ass at the climax.
  • Lampshaded: "There goes Jeff — the yellowest man in the county". "I wouldn't be too quick to judge, brother; something tells me that man has Hidden Depths..".
  • Invoked: Jeff is the subject of slander that suggests that he is a coward.
  • Exploited: No one in town can stand up to Miles and gang, and Jeff is the only one who can stop him, but he doesn't want to violate his personal anti-violence code of ethics, or even explain himself to anyone else. Laura knows that Jeff has the power to save the day and is merely unwilling to help, so she intentionally antagonizes Miles into attacking her, which is enough provocation to cause Jeff to rush to her defense, defeat Miles, and prove he is a hero after all.
  • Defied: Jeff is constantly proving his heroism to those around him.
  • Discussed: "I don't care if they call you a coward; I know you're not, and you know you're not, and that's all that matters."
  • Conversed: "In these stories, the guy everyone calls a coward always turns out to be the bravest man around".
  • Deconstructed:
    • Just because Jeff has 'proven' himself a hero and earned the townspeople's respect doesn't mean that they have earned his; their quickness to believe that he was a coward simply because he refused to play their games to 'prove' his masculinity only shows them as superficial, foolish and unworthy of respect. And Jeff is quick to tell them this.
    • Jeff doesn't consider himself a hero; 'proving' himself has come at the cost of violating a principle Jeff held sacred, and he considers himself a failure because of this.
    • Jeff dies as a result of his heroism, prompting those who mocked him to realize that they will never have an opportunity to make amends to him.
    • A single act of heroism still isn't enough to gain the respect of the townspeople, who've already made up their mind about him.
  • Reconstructed:
    • The townspeople are genuinely ashamed of their treatment of Jeff and sincerely attempt to make amends to him. Gradually the wounds are healed.
    • Jeff has a realization that violating it for the sake of protecting people is arguably a Necessary Evil and gets over it.
    • Jeff is brought back to life, prompting them to become The Atoner.

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