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Lawful Pushover

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A guard / police officer / teacher / boss / other authority professes to uphold protocol...but buckles before the nearest layperson, because confrontation issues.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
BlueCaper on Jul 30th 2017 at 6:27:14 PM
Last Edited By:
BlueCaper on Jan 23rd 2018 at 6:32:33 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

"Some president I am, right?
"I can't even confront my own club members properly...
"I just wish I was able to be a little more assertive sometimes."
Monika, act II, Doki Doki Literature Club!

Some voices of authority will break the rules to seek their own ends. Others will do it for the perceived greater good. And then there's the Lawful Pushover, who defies protocol because some random layperson asked them to.

It has very little to do with undermining an Obstructive Code of Conduct, or even being a Reasonable Authority Figure (though they may very well aspire to be one). The Lawful Pushover just shrinks back at the tiniest perception of assertion. They may have had a Knight Templar Parent or two, or maybe they were bullied growing up; or maybe they're still just the rookie in their profession. They simply cannot say "no" in the moment.

This pushover knows they will be in trouble. They are already anticipating the big chew-out. Or perhaps they hold a teaching position, or they are the boss, and they are left to decide how they act towards their students or underlings. Either way — there will be consequences, and this doormat is used to facing them.

More developed Lawful Pushovers may also apologize a lot, or kick themselves afterward for not growing a spine. Compare Shrinking Violet, Extreme Doormat; see also Police Are Useless. Contrast Bothering by the Book and Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help.


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  • Dungeons & Dragons: In the module OA7 Test of the Samurai, the player characters arrive in the mysterious realm of Qui, only to be immediately confronted by its current Officer — an indecisive, panicky oriental unicorn named Chanii. She initially orders them to leave, but when they insist on seeing Za-Jikku, she backs down and leads them to see his statue. Should they return to Qui later, she will again ask them to leave; however, if they continue to press her, she will let them stay for up to four hours.

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Feedback: 12 replies

Jul 30th 2017 at 10:39:40 PM

Choose another image for this. Maybe show a scene where she tries to actively enforce the rules and then backtracking, because a sheepish reaction doesn't illustrate the trope. Also, where are all the other examples? Remember that a trope is an observed pattern across many works.

Jul 30th 2017 at 10:47:29 PM

The Simpsons: Depending On The Writer, Seymour Skinner is this. Anything from bowing to Political Correctness Gone Mad (and segregating the school by genders as a result) to allowing his school to be used for vile schemes to allowing students to name parts of the school with really stupid names and doing nothing but grumble about it when he needs to say those names aloud.

Jan 18th 2018 at 11:41:01 PM

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons And Dragons adventure OA7 Test of the Samurai. When the PCs first arrive in Qui they are confronted by the current Officer, an indecisive, panicky oriental unicorn named Chanii. She demands that they leave immediately, but when they insist on seeing Za-Jikku, she backs down and leads them to see his statue. If they return to Qui in the future, she will again ask for them to leave, but if they complain she will let them stay for up to four hours.

Aug 5th 2017 at 4:57:27 PM

I believe I have addressed all concerns hitherto. I was wondering, however: is using the same trope example for the quote and the image generally accepted? If not, I have another possibility for this trope's image.

Aug 5th 2017 at 7:39:13 AM

  • The Tragic Flaw of Cole in LA Noire is that while he has the authority to stand up to behaviour he dislikes that isn't outright illegal (such as bigotry from his partner or people who defend drug abuse) he won't confront it. This is understandable, since refusing to indulge in anti-Japanese sentiment in the war lost him the confidence of the men under his command, and ultimately got him shot.

Jan 18th 2018 at 6:29:49 PM

Compare Police Are Useless for another kind of Lawful Pushovers.

Jan 19th 2018 at 7:44:53 AM

Needs a better image and a more concise quote if it is going to go anywhere.

Jan 19th 2018 at 10:52:50 AM

This image is garbage.

Jan 19th 2018 at 4:24:55 PM

Jan 22nd 2018 at 11:28:00 PM

Found a better image from Iron Violet The Shy Titan (#1, p.4, third panel), but have to contact creator in hopes of getting a higher-resolution version.


Jan 23rd 2018 at 6:31:24 PM

Also changed the quote to something that gets the point across more concisely.

Jan 23rd 2018 at 6:32:33 PM

By the way, now that it's troped, feel free to make edits at the trope page.