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Bystander Cassandra

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A character, after realizing someone just witnessed something incredible/illegal they did, trusts them not to tell anyone because no one will believe them.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Palindromee on Apr 15th 2018 at 4:16:11 PM
Last Edited By:
Palindromee on May 26th 2018 at 4:49:52 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Needs a Better Name, Needs Examples

"You know, if anyone saw us, all we have to say is, "No one is going to believe you."
Adam Savage, while floating down the Colorado River in a raft made of duct tape and bubble wrap

A well-liked, mild-mannered, popular character is doing something extremely unusual, out of character, or downright morally wrong. Naturally, that character would prefer to keep that hidden. So when an Innocent Bystander notices them, say, sneaking away from robbing a bank wearing nothing but a shower cap and an alligator purse, what's there to say to keep said bystander from blabbing the secret?

"Go ahead and tell everyone you know. No one will believe it."

This character has just created a Bystander Cassandra. This is when someone relies on taking Refuge in Audacity to create a Cassandra Truth, thereby ensuring their secret is kept safe and the bystander doesn't go blabbing. The circumstances around the creation of a Bystander Cassandra can be as lighthearted as a celebrity messing with a fan by doing odd things to as serious as some forms of Gaslighting. This may invoke You Wouldn't Believe Me If I Told You.

Can be Played for Drama if instead of a stranger the Bystander Cassandra is someone who the person with the secret knows, or the secret that required the creation of a Bystander Cassandra is a crime committed to the bystander. Subtrope of Cassandra Truth. Compare and contrast to Cassandra Gambit, as a Bystander Cassandra is at most one or two people; more than that would mean the secret is out anyways. Compare Masquerade, which is about a conspiracy to hide something unusual from the public, and Shameful Source of Knowledge. Contrast Hidden in Plain Sight.


Examples

Fan Works

  • Strange Times Are Upon Us: Ila'kshath, a very large Gorn, surprises a deer hunter in 1859 Pennsylvania (Time Travel was involved). In response to his CO Brokosh pointing out the possible contamination of the timeline, Ila'kshath points out that even if the boy told anyone, they'd think he was telling tall tales.

Live Action TV

  • In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Holt claims that he injured his wrist after tripping on an uneven sidewalk. He then privately reveals to Jake that he really got hurt at a hula-hooping class, and shows Jake some photos.
    Jake: Why are you telling me this?
    Holt: (deleting photos) Because no one...will ever believe you.

  • The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Long Live Walter Jameson". Walter Jameson is the fiancee of Sam Kittridge's daughter Susanna. After Kittridge learns that Jameson is more than two thousand years old, Sam tells Jameson that he will have to tell Susanna not to marry him. Jameson tells Sam to go ahead, because Susanna will never believe him.

Real Life

  • There is a popular urban legend which involves someone claiming that Bill Murray walked up to them at a Wendy's, took a fry off their plate, ate it, and said "Nobody's going to believe you."


Feedback: 25 replies

Apr 15th 2018 at 5:12:23 PM

  • In Brooklyn Nine Nine, Holt claims that he injured his wrist after tripping on an uneven sidewalk. He then privately reveals to Jake that he really got hurt at a hula-hooping class, and shows Jake some photos.
    Jake: Why are you telling me this?
    Holt: (deleting photos) Because no one...will ever believe you.

Apr 15th 2018 at 5:32:33 PM

No, not really. Weirdness Censor is when said weirdness is just not noticed. The Bystander Cassandra very much notices, but doesn't tell anyone for fear of being ostracized and/or tells people and gets the Cassandra Truth treatment.

Apr 15th 2018 at 7:22:47 PM

Is it alright to name it "Cassandra", though?

Apr 15th 2018 at 7:36:47 PM

That's why it says Needs A Better Name. I wanted to name it something like "No One Will Believe You" but that's a stock phrase. I couldn't think of much that gets the meaning across other than that.

Apr 16th 2018 at 1:22:57 AM

I've definitely seen this before. Some possible variations:

  • A person tells the bystander that there's no point in their reporting it because no one will believe them anyway.
    • A villain does something evil/wrong/bizarre and taunts the bystander, saying "Go ahead and report it! No one will believe you!"
  • A benevolent character says that they don't need to do anything about a bystander who saw something because no will believe them anyway.

Compare Masquerade, which is about a conspiracy to hide something unusual from the public.

Apr 16th 2018 at 1:20:27 AM

The first two paragraphs and the first sentence of the third paragraph of the Description are an Example As A Thesis (note the Alice And Bob elements). This has a 90% chance of being a bad idea, as explained on that page and SelfDemonstrating/ExampleAsAThesis. Since the rest of the third paragraph is a clear, simple description of the trope, everything before that is unnecessary.

Apr 16th 2018 at 3:31:10 AM

Age Of Bronze: The in-verse explanation for Cassandra Truth is that Cassandra and her brother Helenus were raped as children in a temple of Apollo, and the rapist jeeringly said no one would believe them if they said anything, which Cassandra took to be the god's curse.

Apr 16th 2018 at 5:39:01 AM

Arivne: Those all apply as part of this trope. Should I clarify that on the page, or were you looking for confirmation? Also, while I understand what you mean, I know that I as a reader would be confused on what exactly the trope is referring to without the example paragraph, because “creating a Cassandra Truth via Refuge In Audacity” relies pretty heavily on preexisting terms and tropes. If you have ideas on how to improve it, I’m all ears.

Chabal 2: I’m not sure whether to add that as an example or put it in the description as the Ur-Example or something similar.

As an aside, I’m unhappy about the trope name because it refers to the bystander as a person rather than the event creating the bystander, making the language awkward. Does anyone have suggestions?

Apr 16th 2018 at 6:19:41 AM

The word you want is "witness"

Apr 16th 2018 at 6:37:50 AM

4tell0life4, I stated that I don’t want the trope to be about a person but rather the event.

Apr 16th 2018 at 8:13:40 AM

I can't imagine this as anything but a person. Especially when I think that the witness may see it when the perpetrator isn't aware of the person at all (unlike the scenario you presented).

Apr 16th 2018 at 8:31:10 AM

The thing is, if the trope is referring to specifically the victim of the event rather than the event, trying to discuss it becomes very difficult and results in sentences like “the event that created the Bystander Cassandra” used over and over, and other unclear language.

This trope relies on someone calling to attention the fact that the event occurring is too crazy for anyone to believe; if someone comes to that conclusion on their own, without the perpetrator’s knowledge, I feel like it would better fit under other tropes. In my mind, the trope at its core is the invoking of Refuge In Audacity to create a Cassandra Truth. That’s why I wanted to make it “No One Will Believe You” at first, but alas, that’s a stock phrase.

Apr 16th 2018 at 5:11:31 PM

Feedback is still Extremely Needed, guys.

Apr 16th 2018 at 7:50:46 PM

"In my mind, the trope at its core is the invoking of Refuge In Audacity to create a Cassandra Truth. That’s why I wanted to make it “No One Will Believe You” at first, but alas, that’s a stock phrase."

Both “No One Will Believe You” and "I Don't Think People's Gonna Believe Me" (the scenario I mentioned) involve a witness whose words people won't believe, i.e The Cassandra.

Shameful Source Of Knowledge is related, though.

Apr 17th 2018 at 12:59:58 PM

I don't really understand what you're trying to tell me. Are you saying this isn't tropeable? Like I said, I don't think the scenario you described falls under this trope because it's self-contained within one character rather than it being lampshaded that whatever has been witnessed is unbelievable. For this trope to happen, a) the unusualness of the situation has to be lampshaded by someone other than the bystander and b) that lampshading is an effective means of deterring the bystander from talking about what they've witnessed.

Apr 17th 2018 at 1:17:16 PM

I guess, what I suggested is to change the definition into about the witness? The "lampshading" as you said is also effective when the witness is doing it instead

"A witness who won't be believed" sounds good enough trope as a scenario element, I think.

Apr 17th 2018 at 2:04:52 PM

Isn't this just Refuge In Audacity?

And if not (... which would be a stretch), it would need a better name, and to figure out if it's about the criminal, the witness, or the act.

Apr 17th 2018 at 3:39:59 PM

A. No. I looked over the page and there’s little to no overlap. B. That’s why Needs A Better Name is there. C. I’d like it to be about the act. I’ve stated this several times already.

Apr 17th 2018 at 4:52:18 PM

^ "I'd like it to be about the act." I disagree.

Compare Leave No Witnesses if the "exposed" guy attempts to kill the witness.

Apr 17th 2018 at 5:09:49 PM

You...disagree? As in you think it weakens the trope if it refers to the event, or is that a personal opinion?

May 3rd 2018 at 3:13:23 PM

^ the act itself is too specific an event to be troped.

May 4th 2018 at 12:54:09 AM

Live Action TV

  • The Twilight Zone 1959 episode "Long Live Walter Jameson". Walter Jameson is the fiancee of Sam Kittridge's daughter Susanna. After Kittridge learns that Jameson is more than two thousand years old, Sam tells Jameson that he will have to tell Susanna not to marry him. Jameson tells Sam to go ahead, because Susanna will never believe him.

May 25th 2018 at 6:31:05 PM

Fan Works:

  • Strange Times Are Upon Us: Ila'kshath, a very large Gorn, surprises a deer hunter in 1859 Pennsylvania (Time Travel was involved). In response to his CO Brokosh pointing out the possible contamination of the timeline, Ila'kshath points out that even if the boy told anyone, they'd think he was telling tall tales.

May 26th 2018 at 4:49:52 PM

In Invasion Of The Body Snatchers 1965, Miles gets away from the pod people and begins trying to warn the populace, banging on cars in a maniacal way. One of the pod people says to let him go; it's not like anyone will believe him.

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