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The Victim Must Be Confused

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Heroic Wannabe tries invalidating the supposed victim's claims to the contrary by citing coercion, being misinformed or brainwashing by their "captor."

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
EvilerThanThou on Mar 7th 2019 at 7:40:12 PM
Last Edited By:
EvilerThanThou on Mar 14th 2019 at 2:12:01 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

The Hero sees a Damsel in Distress in the claws of someone that they really not should be around - An Evil Sorcerer, a Mad Scientist, The Don, etc. - and immediately assumes that they have kidnapped the Damsel and is holding her against her will. The Hero unsheathes his sword and is more than happy to strike that villain down and ride off into the sunset, both of them on his horse.

There is just one problem: the Damsel is not in distress. Or so she tells him.

She explains that the villain is not so bad, and that he was actually her friend. He would never harm her and the Hero's assumptions that he would just makes him prejudiced. Perhaps the villain had used magic and hypnotic technology to brainwash her so that she would say such things, or maybe she was threatening her and her loved ones if she ever confided in anyone the horrible things that he does? The Hero has long since made up his mind on the issue and he refuses to think otherwise.

When the supposed good guy makes the assumption that the damsel has been gaslit into Stockholm Syndrome in such a manner, then they are either a complete idiot to not see the lack of evidence of abuse, or an Unscrupulous Hero who is out to ruin the Designated Villain's already paper-thin reputation by claiming that he would defile the brain of such a beautiful maiden. Acting upon his impulse to "rescue" her and "free her from this spell".

All attempts will undoubtably fail and he will persist to try new and increasingly archaic methods to prove otherwise. Insane Troll Logic, various holy and magical rituals, fasting and repentance, therapeutic hypnosis, maybe even a little enhanced interrogation to enforce the truth into them one defibrillator to the temple at a time. Eventually he may concede to the fact that she is Not Brainwashed and really is telling the truth. If the denial persists long after it should, it usually delves into I Reject Your Reality Sanity Slippage territory, coming to Believe Their Own Lies in-spite of all of the evidence they find along the way because they are the hero and the hero just knows.

Sub-Trope to Unwanted Rescue. Compare with Condescending Compassion and Not Now, Kiddo. Contrast with Stockholm Syndrome, Subverted Suspicion Aesop and Properly Paranoid, all of which happening when the hero is right all along. Related to Cassandra Truth, I Reject Your Reality, Moving the Goalposts, Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying over You and Windmill Crusader.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, the Church of the Three Heroes tries having Naofumi branded as a wanted criminal for kidnapping the Princess Melty. When Princess Melty tries explaining to the three heroes that she had left with him of her own free will, the Church and her sister Princess Malty tries rationalizing this as being the product of an ability to brainwash people that they believe the Shield Hero possesses. This is quickly shot down by Naofumi, citing that the other three heroes do not possess such an ability and that it would be very unlikely that he would have it. This also can be noted as further evidence that Malty lied about him raping her at the beginning of the series, as having the power to control people's minds would have been useful if he did do so.

    Comic Books 
  • In Rainbow Rowell's Runaways, the team tries to "rescue" Klara from foster care, only to discover that she's been Happily Adopted. Unwilling to accept that Klara has good reasons for not wanting to return to the team, Gert suggests that maybe Klara's foster parents are supervillains who brainwashed her, as Molly's grandmother tried to do. Considering that Klara Has Two Daddies, this does not go over well, and Klara asks them to leave.

    Fan Works 
  • Freeze On The Stones: In the Enchanted Forest, Belle and Rumpelstiltskin message her father Maurice that they have gotten married. When she visits him, he is relieved that she had "escaped" him. When she clarifies that she did not escape the castle and that the letter she sent was all true, Maurice is convinced that Rumpelstiltskin placed her under a spell to make such claims and that a quick trip to the clerics will clear everything up. During the curse in Storybrooke, Maurice's cursed self Moe French becomes worried and paranoid over his daughter Lacey's safety when she and her daughter Renee stay over at Mr. Gold's place under the assumption that he is physically and sexually abusing her. No matter how many times she tells him otherwise, he presumes that the truth is much worse than she claims under the assumption that Gold had threatened her if she told anybody.

    Literature 
  • Near the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Snape insists that Harry and his friends must have been bewitched to believe that Sirius Black was innocent. He rationalizes this as saving them from getting in trouble for attacking him, but it's clear that his grudge against Black for being one of his school bullies (and because he blames him for the death of Lily Potter) is the real reason.

    Live-Action Series 
  • In Kamen Rider Gaim, Mitsuzane slowly undergoes Sanity Slippage and starts to see Kouta as a idiot who will doom the world with his bumbling instead of a selfless hero. This is because Kouta acts contrary to Mitsuzane's plans and wind up sucessfully saving the day because of it, becoming resentful of the praise it earns him. When their mutual friend Mai tries to defend Kouta's actions, Mitsuzane ignores her argument and dismisses her as "confused", and starts threatening more of their friends to make her come with him.

    Video Games 
  • Defied in Undertale. When the protagonist first meets the two royal guards loyal to Undyne, Undyne will let them know that she had told them beforehand that she'd likely to have been brainwashed if she ever became friends with a human if they contact her after befriending her. This is why she doesn't bother coming to talk them into letting you through.

    Western Animation 
  • Code Name Kids Next Door has Professor XXXL lure Nigel to his lair so he could use Nigel as a taste tester to develop the perfect snow cone in "Operation C.O.L.L.E.G.E." Despite the professor's relatively harmless motives, Nigel appears to be strapped to a chair while being fed snow cone after snow cone, which the KND mistakes for torture even though Nigel is enjoying it. When he's "rescued", his attempts to explain that he was fine and that it was all a big misunderstanding fall on deaf ears, as they believe he's suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Feedback: 19 replies

Mar 7th 2019 at 8:24:44 PM

Comic Books

  • In Rainbow Rowells Runaways, the team tries to "rescue" Klara from foster care, only to discover that she's been Happily Adopted. Unwilling to accept that Klara has good reasons for not wanting to return to the team, Gert suggests that maybe Klara's foster parents are supervillains who brainwashed her, as Molly's grandmother tried to do. Considering that Klara Has Two Daddies, this does not go over well, and Klara asks them to leave.

Mar 7th 2019 at 10:26:32 PM

Brainwashing Accusation?

In Beauty And The Beast, Gaston tries to paint Belle as crazy when she protests that the Beast is gentle and not dangerous.

BTW, I think "sighting" is actually "citing" in this case.

Mar 7th 2019 at 11:14:52 PM

What's the focus here? The fact that the supposed bad guy is good all along, or the fact that the supposed victim is not one after all, or the fact that the "hero" who tried to save them still have doubts if they're saying the truth? Or maybe when it's all ambiguous to even the audience?

Good All Along is already a trope so that option is out.

Mar 8th 2019 at 2:30:05 AM

Corrected spelling (sighting -> citing, releaved -> relieved).

Mar 8th 2019 at 9:38:56 AM

@4tell

The trope seems to be focusing on a "victim" being saved by someone from some alleged evil and refusing to believe the "victim" when they say that said "evil" is actually treating them well.

Mar 8th 2019 at 11:49:14 PM

^^ From your wording, it seems to indeed be about the "savior's" perspective.

Contrast Subverted Suspicion Aesop, where the "evil" guy in question - even though we've been told to never judge people by their looks - is as evil as they look.

Mar 9th 2019 at 7:56:14 PM

  • In Kamen Rider Gaim, Mitsuzane slowly undergoes Sanity Slippage and starts to see Kouta as a idiot who will doom the world with his bumbling instead of a selfless hero. (Largely because, in doing the right thing, Kouta often goes against whatever Mitsuzane is planning. Mitsuzane considers this an insult to his intelligence and becomes jealous of how Kouta gets praised as a hero for it, so he starts to take it personally.) When their mutual friend Mai tries to defend Kouta's actions, Mitsuzane ignores her argument and dismisses her as "confused", and starts threatening more friends of theirs to get her to come with him.

(Feel free to trim out Micchy's motivations if you feel it's too much detail.)

Mar 9th 2019 at 8:12:45 PM

The supposed bad guy in this case may also be a Sheep In Sheeps Clothing.

Mar 9th 2019 at 8:21:56 PM

NVM this comment. I read the description and realized that this is not what I was thinking of. But I do have an example.

  • Undertale: When you first meet the two royal guards loyal to Undyne, Undyne will let you know that she had told them beforehand that she'd likely to have been brainwashed if she ever became friends with a human if you contact her after befriending her, which is why she doesn't bother coming to talk them into letting you through.

Mar 10th 2019 at 3:46:28 PM

Contrast also Properly Paranoid (when the hero is right all along).

Mar 10th 2019 at 11:46:54 PM

In worse cases the "hero" may use Malicious Slander or Abomination Accusation Attack towards the perceived bad guy.

Mar 11th 2019 at 11:49:36 AM

Western Animation

  • Code Name Kids Next Door has Professor XXXL lure Nigel to his lair so he could use Nigel as a taste tester to develop the perfect snow cone in "Operation C.O.L.L.E.G.E." Despite the professor's relatively harmless motives, Nigel appears to be strapped to a chair while being fed snow cone after snow cone, which the KND mistakes for torture even though Nigel is enjoying it. When he's "rescued", his attempts to explain that he was fine and that it was all a big misunderstanding fall on deaf ears, as they believe he's suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Mar 11th 2019 at 12:45:09 PM

  • Near the end of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Snape insists that Harry and his friends must have been bewitched to believe that Sirius Black was innocent. He rationalises this as saving them from getting in trouble for attacking him, but it's clear that his grudge against Black for being one of his school bullies ( and because he blames him for the death of Lily Potter) is the real reason.

Mar 11th 2019 at 8:52:53 PM

  • Inverted (maybe... I feel this one is a Played With example to some degree) in Nefarious. When Mack arrives to tell Princess Mayapple that he is breaking up with her, he tells her that it is because of how much time she spends with Crow. Mayapple tells him that it's only because Crow constantly kidnaps her and demands for Mack to come save her before he flies off. Neither Mayapple nor Crow are amused by this.

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