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Faking Another Person's Illness

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A character lies that another person is unwell.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Unicorndance on Nov 27th 2017 at 4:18:35 PM
Last Edited By:
Unicorndance on Apr 19th 2018 at 11:35:41 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Filthy Rich: "So, Granny was never sick?"
Granny Smith: "And there ain't no apple-blighted ponies?"
Big Mac: "Nope."
Applejack: "Those were all lies."
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Where the Apple Lies".

Although there may be some exceptions, it generally isn't a good idea to lie. It is usually an especially bad idea to lie about someone else's health, because you're bringing another person into the equation. That doesn't stop some characters, though, and this is what this trope's about.

Maybe the liar is trying to avoid going somewhere or doing something by claiming that someone else is sick and that person needs their attention. Maybe, the liar is trying to prevent the ones being lied to from visiting the allegedly sick character and finding out a secret. Maybe the allegedly sick character is playing along and they're either helping this person pretend to be contagious or trying to gain important access to places or items that they claim will "cure" the allegedly sick one.

Sometimes, the character who's apparently sick can be not present or even completely made-up and the liar can just leave without any intention of visiting them, but if they're made up and expected to be present, expect the character who invented them to use their imaginary illness to justify why they cannot let anyone see them.

If it's a real person and they're not playing along, expect the liar to hastily try and hide the allegedly sick person or make them look sick, sometimes shh'ing them or putting a hand over their mouth when they try to say, "I'm fine". Sometimes it's an animal or a baby and they can't talk, but they still look healthy, so expect the lying character to try and hide that.

Compare Playing Sick and its subtrope You Don't Want to Catch This for pretending that you are sick, and Induced Hypochondria for lying to someone that they are sick. Invented Invalid is a subtrope (for when the person is definitely made up and the lie involves a visit.)


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  • Star Wars: A New Hope has C3PO tell a "Someone Else Is Broken" Lie by pretending another droid, R2D2, has short-circuited and they have to go to maintenance.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: Thor and Loki perform a routine to get past the guards that involves Thor carrying Loki, who's limp, and shouting "Get help!".

  • In Be Careful What You Wish For, Ruth lies to her parents to avoid going out by saying that she is going to visit her friend Lou's "sick" grandfather.
  • In one of the Just books, Andy tries to get out of doing something by pretending his imaginary friend, a polite boy named Fred, is sick. His mother pretends Fred is real.
  • In The Midnight Gang, the main character Tom has to get sleeping serum to get the evil matron to fall asleep. He pretends that he's a doctor and the fired porter is his patient. What the porter allegedly has is undefined, but it renders him immobile, is a literal pain in the butt, and drives him insane into thinking he's a doctor.

     Live-Action TV 
  • The Addams Family: Happens in "Cat Addams", when the Addamses think their pet lion is sick and try and make the vet brave enough to treat him, they falsely claim that Cleopatra (the plant), Thing (the hand in a box), Cousin Itt and Uncle Fester (the humans) are sick, have them play along, and have them pretend the vet cured them.
  • Animorphs: In Marco is incompletely demorphed from Osprey and people want to know what's wrong with him (being mostly covered with a sweater). Jake pretends he is his deformed brother Tommy and Marco pretends he has a disease called "beakonoma" which causes you to grow a beak and only affects the "smart and handsome". Jake transmits most of it to the crowd and they leave, shuddering as Marco finishes demorphing.
  • In episode "San Junipero" of Black Mirror, Kelly tries to lose Wes, who is stalking her, by telling him that her friend Yorkie (sitting next to her) is terminally ill. Later, it turns out that it's in virtual reality and Yorkie is in fact the avatar for an comatose old lady.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: In the episode "Eyes on the Prize", Will tries to convince his friends Ty and Jazz that Carlton is ill, but when asked for the name of the illness, he can only come up with the unconvincing "Bette Davis Eyes".
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In "By Any Other Name", Spock uses his Vulcan abilities to pretend to be unconscious to help the protagonists escape from the Kelvans. Both Kirk and Dr. McCoy tell the Kelvan guard that Spock is sick and needs to be taken to the Enterprise for treatment.
    • In "I, Mudd", as part of a fake escape attempt, Dr. McCoy injects Harry Mudd with a drug that causes him to fall asleep. He then (along with Captain Kirk) tells the android guards that Mudd is sick and needs to be taken to the Enterprise sickbay.

  • In Matilda, the girls pretend Nigel is narcoleptic to get him out of trouble.

     Western Animation 
  • Arthur: In "D.W.'s Imaginary Friend", Arthur wants to go to the fair and his sister D.W. wants to come and bring her Imaginary Friend Nadine. Arthur doesn't want D.W. to bring Nadine out of fear they'll think he's babyish, so he tells her that he thinks Nadine has chicken pox and must stay behind. However, he admits to having lied when D.W. realises the Fridge Logic that if he can't see Nadine, how's he to know she's sick?
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the episode "Bus the Two of Us", Bloo takes the Fosters' bus on a joyride without Frankie knowing. When Will finds out about it from Mac, he, who usually doesn't like lying, lies to Frankie that Coco is sick and that she has to stay to take care of her.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Sweet and Elite", Rarity lies that Opalescence is sick to justify her staying in Manehattan instead of returning (really it was to go to a party). When her friends arrive to bring their initial party to Rarity, she drenches Opalescence in water to make her look sick.
    • In "Where the Apple Lies", it's revealed that the reason why Applejack Will Not Tell a Lie is because she lied in her adolescence that Granny Smith was sick to avoid Filthy Rich and Spoiled Milk from finding out that she didn't really make a deal with Granny and also falsely told Granny that the apple blight was starting to infect ponies.
  • Rugrats: In "All's Well That Pretends Well", Angelica lies to the adults that the babies are sick and tries to make them look sick by making them shiver with ice cream, painting spots on Phil and Lil to make it look like they have the chicken pox, and trying unsuccessfully to make them sneeze.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine has Gordon lie to Thomas that James is sick as part of a plan convincing James to play sick.


Feedback: 42 replies

Nov 27th 2017 at 5:40:50 PM

It does? How does it sound like somebody's talking as it doesn't sound like that to me?

Nov 27th 2017 at 11:55:59 PM

Made a number of corrections to the OP but they're not showing up onscreen because of a TV Tropes bug.

Nov 28th 2017 at 9:23:40 AM

Can somebody explain why it sounds like someone talking?

Nov 28th 2017 at 4:26:28 PM

^ I think it's because "somebody else is sick' lie" sounds sort of like a line of dialogue. Like "A person walks up to another person. 'Somebody Else Is Sick' they say" So if it was changed to 'Fake Illness Cover Story' or something else that conveys the same meaning, it wouldn't sound like a sentence someone might say.

Nov 29th 2017 at 2:39:21 PM

Western Animation

  • In the Thomas The Tank Engine episode, "Trust Thomas", Gordon gives James the idea to play sick so he won't have to pull freight cars. When Thomas comes to see them, this exchange occurs;
    Thomas: Cheer up, it's a beautiful day.
    Gordon: Yes, but not for James.
    Thomas: What's the matter?
    Gordon: He's sick.
    James: Yes, he is. I... I mean, I am! I don't feel well at all.

Nov 28th 2017 at 9:57:27 PM

I tried to add your example, but it didn't work. What gives?

Nov 28th 2017 at 10:36:25 PM

Still not sure if it's an actual stock phrase as the whole title isn't dialogue-y. I'm still new to the rules and nuances, though. Additionally, I don't know what else to call it.

Nov 29th 2017 at 2:39:39 AM

^^^ Due to a TV Tropes bug, you can edit the draft but the changes don't show up when the draft is displayed.

The current title "Somebody Else Is Sick" Lie does not violate No New Stock Phrases because (a) it isn't a Stock Phrase and (b) it doesn't meet the criteria to "sound like someone talking" listed on the second half of that page.

Nov 29th 2017 at 5:05:53 AM

^^^^ You can still add my example to the main page, but two of these ( ) will need to be added at the end of each line of spoken dialogue. I tried to fix those in editing, but a bug in TvTropes always prevents me from doing so.

Nov 29th 2017 at 5:12:45 AM

^ Darn it, it happened again.

Nov 29th 2017 at 11:04:54 AM

In the The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air episode Eyes on the Prize, Will tries to convince his friends Ty and Jazz that Carlton is ill, but when they press for an actual name of his illness all Will can think of is an unconvincing "He got... uh, he got Bette Davis Eyes".

Nov 29th 2017 at 1:00:19 PM

  • Thor Ragnarok: Thor and Loki perform what they call the "Get Help!" routine to get past the Grandmaster's guards, much to Loki's chagrin. It consists of Thor carrying a listless Loki and yelling "Get help!" as he runs up to the guards, then throwing Loki at the guards before shooting the others.
  • Animorphs: Marco is incompletely demorphed from osprey when people want to know what's wrong with him (being mostly covered by a sweater). Thinking quickly, Jake passes him as his deformed little brother Tommy, and Marco, ever the comedian, feeds Jake lines via thought-speak, claiming he has a disease called beakanoma (a growth in the shape of a beak, and truly tragic because it only affects the smart and handsome). Jake transmits most of it to the crowd and they leave, still shuddering at the Facial Horror as Marco finishes demorphing.

Nov 29th 2017 at 2:40:12 PM

I edited the Thomas example using the arrow format and it looks better now.

Nov 29th 2017 at 3:09:20 PM

Live-Action TV:

  • Early on in Black Mirror episode "San Junipero", Kelly tells Wes, who is stalking her, that she can't deal with him because she is busy talking with her friend Yorkie (next to her) who is terminally ill, a lie she made up on the fly. There's an aha moment later for us when we learn that this scene played out in a virtual reality and Yorkie is in fact an avatar for a comatose old lady waiting to pass over.

Dec 2nd 2017 at 5:59:39 AM

Western Animation

  • In the Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends episode, "Bus the Two of Us", Bloo takes the Foster's bus on a joyride without Frankie knowing. When Wilt finds out about it from Mac, he, who is completely against lying, lies to Frankie that Coco is sick and that she has to stay behind to take care of her. Coco does her best to convince Wilt and Frankie that she's sick, but unfortunately, Wilt didn't count on Frankie leaving her purse, which has a bottle of aspirin in it, in the bus.

Dec 23rd 2017 at 9:18:44 PM

I think Invented Invalid could be a sub-trope, as sometimes they use a real person or it doesn't involve visiting.

Dec 24th 2017 at 6:46:46 AM

^Tropes Are Flexible. Invented Invalid doesn't require the person to be imaginary, just the illness. (The person who made that draft had some serious Trope Namer Syndrome for Oscar Wilde as I recall.)

Dec 24th 2017 at 8:57:37 AM

The trouble with tropes being flexible is that I'm never sure how flexible any given trope is or any new trope I'm making, Can you give me some advice?

Dec 24th 2017 at 9:21:23 AM

I read the description and it clearly says that it involves a visit and the person is made up.

Dec 24th 2017 at 10:17:36 AM

^And this doesn't? Your proposal is "Character lies that another person is sick as an excuse for not doing something." So is that one, it just focuses on using the made-up person to play hooky from school/work. (And seriously, you might want to read the original draft discussion. The troper was borderline obsessed with a particular iteration of it and it didn't all get excised from the final product.)

Dec 24th 2017 at 1:46:51 PM

Except this one is more broad...should we define the other trope to be more broad instead? Is that what you're saying?

Dec 24th 2017 at 4:49:46 PM

^How is it more broad?

Dec 24th 2017 at 8:44:20 PM

Because it doesn't always involve visiting and isn't always a subtrope of Invented Individual.

Dec 25th 2017 at 10:12:26 AM

^You're missing the point. This isn't a subtrope or a supertrope, it's the same trope. They're both "lying that somebody else is sick in order to get out of obligations".

Dec 25th 2017 at 10:25:00 PM

But it's a different sort of "somebody else" and it's not always to get out of obligations.

Dec 26th 2017 at 1:53:54 AM

My 2ct:

Feb 27th 2018 at 9:24:13 AM

Therefore, we've concluded that it's similar to Invented Invalid but not the same. Can I launch it now?

Feb 27th 2018 at 10:12:33 AM

I recommend you expand this draft's emphasis on how it is different from Invented Invalid before launching this. Otherwise somebody's gonna un-launch it and you'll be having the same argument all over again.

Mar 2nd 2018 at 12:30:30 PM

Also, I agree with Aggron 9988, Fake Illness Cover Story is a better name for this draft than Someone Else Is Sick Lie. Fake Illness Cover Story gets the point across using fewer and clearer words. Also, Fake Illness Cover Story opens up the possibility of this draft becoming a Super Trope to both Invented Invalid (someone edit: thinking up an imaginary person who's sick for the purposes of shirking duties) and You Do Not Want To Catch This (someone scaring enemies away by faking a contagious disease).

Feb 27th 2018 at 10:30:54 AM

The folderization also makes this seem like it has more examples than it actually does.

Feb 27th 2018 at 10:47:31 AM

natrualironist, you managed to put into words the very idea that I myself was struggling to articulate. Kudos.

Mar 2nd 2018 at 12:34:05 PM

The more I re-read this draft, the more it seems like Unicorn Dance is trying to make a Super Trope to Invented Invalid. The trouble is stemming from too much comparison and not enough contrast.

Mar 3rd 2018 at 9:19:54 AM

Is Unicorn Dance still around?

Mar 29th 2018 at 4:08:09 PM

Yes, I am, sorry. I'm just confused over what to do now.

Mar 29th 2018 at 5:29:10 PM

  • In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, the Weasley family had Ron's ghoul posing as a sick Ron with Spattergroit, in order to avoid suspicion when the real Ron goes with Harry to hunt for Horcruxes.

Apr 12th 2018 at 3:57:01 PM

How about Faking Another Person's Illness, and it could be a supertrope to Invented Invalid?

Apr 18th 2018 at 3:37:43 AM

This can occur in the "fake sick prisoner" (Playing Sick) scenario in The Guards Must Be Crazy, if another prisoner says that the Playing Sick prisoner is sick.

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek The Original Series
    • "By Any Other Name". In order for the protagonists to escape from the Kelvans, Mr. Spock uses his Vulcan abilities to appear to fall unconscious. Both Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy tell the Kelvan guard that Spock is sick and needs to be taken to the Enterprise for treatment.
    • "I, Mudd". As part of a fake escape attempt, Dr. McCoy injects Harry Mudd with a drug that causes him to fall asleep. Both Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy tell the android guards that Mudd is sick and must be taken to the Enterprise sickbay.