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Challenging The Bully

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A character must face their bully in a challenge

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
WarJay77 on Aug 22nd 2018 at 3:44:02 PM
Last Edited By:
WarJay77 on Oct 6th 2018 at 9:38:20 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Bully characters in fiction often seem to use very similar tactics with similar motivations. Beyond just beating up or tormenting their victim, they like humiliating them more than anything- and what a better way than to publicly beat them at a challenge or watch them back down as a coward?

As such, this plot occurs when a bully and their victim- who is often the protagonist- face off in a challenge. Sometimes it's a traditional fight, which often results in the victim getting a Boxing Lesson. Other times it's an actual contest in a field the bully believes the protagonist will have no talent in. Sometimes someone will set up the challenge for the protagonist in the assumption that they'll win, or the protagonist themselves will make the declaration, but there must be an actual challenge offered for this trope to occur. If the protagonist is the one to make the declaration, they're usually fighting for someone other than themselves. Or, the bully themselves will challenge the protagonist.

These challenges are almost always public (even if it wasn't meant to be, a la Spontaneous Crowd Formation). They can occur as the climax of the story, but it's not a requirement, as they can also happen at any other point.

Results may vary. In most cases the protagonist wins, either thanks to their hard work preparing and the bully's overconfidence, the Beware the Nice Ones factor, or because the bully was Bullying a Dragon. In some cases, this will lead to Defeat Means Friendship in works that avert Status Quo Is God. However, it most often doesn't lead to anything, and the bully will remain their usual selves come next episode. Sometimes, however, the bully ends up the victor regardless, often with a Curb-Stomp Battle.

Compare Not Afraid of You Anymore; May overlap with Took a Level in Badass. This challenge may involve a Game of Chicken.

Please note that for an example to fit this trope a challenge of some form must be present or implicit. A character standing up to their bully without a challenge being made is not this trope.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Doraemon: In one chapter, Doraemon has to go back to the 22nd century because his duty has been "fulfilled" (i.e making Nobita happy), but he's reluctant because he comes to care about Nobita too much. Nobita tries to prove that he doesn't need Doraemon anymore, one of the methods being challenging the local bully, Giant. While Nobita is badly beaten, he keeps coming after Giant, who ended up getting scared of him because he just won't back down. This at least convices Doraemon to go back "home".
  • In Kakegurui, after Yumeko loses a fortune gambling against her classmates, she gains the right to challenge members of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council to matches. She takes advantage of this right in order to confront each of council members about their various dirty secrets, ensuring that even the ones who win have to spend the rest of their time at the academy worrying that they'll be betrayed.

     Film 
  • Sky High: Thanks to his newfound powers, Will's friends decide he'd be able to defeat the two bullies, Speed and Lash, in a game of Save The Citizen. Though he spends the conversation insisting he has no interest in competing with them, the challenge is made anyway, with the stakes being a year without bullying or his friend's head being dunked in the toilet every day.

    Literature 
  • Skippy Dies combines this with Cock Fight. Skippy and Carl are both rivals for Lori's affection, but Skippy is a quiet nerd who is frequently bullied, while Carl is a psycho who bullies younger kids and sometimes pushes Skippy around. After being repeatedly threatened, Skippy challenges Carl to a fight. Surprisingly, Skippy is able to land a punch on Carl and "win" the fight, by visualizing attacks from his favorite video game.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:
    • Draco Malfoy challenges Harry to a duel at night in, but this is a Subverted Trope because Draco doesn't actually show up and just wanted to get Harry into trouble.
    • Malfoy steals a Rembrall from Neville, a frequent target of his bullying, and mocks him for injuring himself. Harry gets tired of this and rises on his broomstick, challenging Malfoy to a contest of flying skills. Harry is able to retrieve the Rembrall through a tricky broomstick maneuver, defending Neville's honor and coming out on top.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Drake & Josh: The pilot episode features Josh getting challenged to fight a bully who believes he was dating his girlfriend (when, in reality, it was Drake). Josh spends the episode learning karate and eventually gets really good at it... but still loses the fight after one single blow.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In "Guide to Your Body", Ned gets roped into a weightlifting contest against Loomer thanks to an attempt by Coach Dirga to defend him. Though he and everyone else believes he'll fail, Dirga teaches him the proper technique to lifting weights, and he ends up defeating Loomer in front of the entire school.
  • In "After School Special", the season 4 episode of Supernatural, we see in a flashback that, in a desire to blend in and be normal, Sam will ignore bullies that pick on him personally, but woe to anyone who picks on people Sam considers to be a friend or under his protection. When bully Dirk decides to beat up Sam's new friend Barry, even kicking him when he's already down. Sam tells Dirk to leave Barry alone, but Dirk cockily challenges the diminutive Sam to a fight. Sam proceeds to lay a curb stomp beatdown on the bully, despite Dirk being easily twice Sam's size. He also crowns the bully Dirk the Jerk, a nickname that would follow the bully the rest of the way through school.

    Music 
  • The premise of the Ninja Sex Party song "Cool Patrol" is Danny Sexbang teaching a high school boy getting picked on how to deal with bullies. The training consists of learning a silly dance, but gives the kid enough confidence to approach the bullies with an implicit challenge... before he's promptly beaten up and possibly killed.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Cutie Mark Chronicles", it's revealed that Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy were both bullied by three colts who first appeared in "Sonic Rainboom". Rainbow Dash stood up for Fluttershy and in the process ended up in a public race against the three bullies, fighting "for Fluttershy's honor".
  • In the Peanuts special "He's a Bully, Charlie Brown", Charlie Brown finds himself standing up to a marble stealing bully named Joe after spending days learning to play. They have a public match and Charlie Brown talks him into playing a game for all the marbles, which Joe arrogantly accepts, then loses.
  • Phineas and Ferb: "Raging Bully" introduces the character of Buford, who is shown as a stereotypical bully when he challenges Phineas to a fight after the latter spills ice-cream on him. The fight turns out to be a thumb war treated like a boxing match, and Buford almost wins until Phineas gets icecream on his own shirt thanks to Perry and Doofenshmirtz. Buford calls off the fight, seeing as he and Phineas are even, and they become friends.
  • The Simpsons episode "Bart the General" has Bart defending Lisa from school bully Nelson Muntz (making his debut), and gets beat up for his efforts. This leads to a final confrontation between the two, which becomes a pastiche of WWII movies.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Hero Hamton", Hamton accidentally hits Montana Max with his locker door. When he tries to apologize, Monty threatens to beat him up, and Plucky makes the situation worse by telling Monty that Hamton could easily beat him in a fight. Monty then challenges Hamton to a fight after school, with Plucky charging people admission to see the fight. Much of the episode involves Hamton first trying to get out of the battle before eventually accepting it and being trained by his friends for the inevitable showdown.

Feedback: 33 replies

Aug 22nd 2018 at 3:58:21 PM

Western Animation

  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Hero Hamton", Hamton accidentally hits Montana Max with his locker door. When he tries to apologize, Monty threatens to beat him up, and Plucky makes the situation worse by telling Monty that Hamton could easily beat him in a fight. Monty then challenges Hamton to a fight after school, with Plucky charging people admission to see the fight. Much of the episode involves Hamton first trying to get out of the battle before eventually accepting it and being trained by his friends for the inevitable showdown.

Aug 22nd 2018 at 4:47:19 PM

The Simpsons episode "Bart the General" has Bart defending Lisa from school bully Nelson Muntz (making his debut), and gets beat up for his efforts. This leads to a final confrontation between the two, which becomes a pastiche of WWII movies.

Aug 22nd 2018 at 6:00:58 PM

  • In "After School Special", the season 4 episode of Supernatural, we see in a flashback that, in a desire to blend in and be normal, Sam will ignore bullies that pick on him personally, but woe to anyone who picks on people Sam considers to be a friend or under his protection. When bully Dirk decides to beat up Sam's new friend Barry, even kicking him when he's already down. Sam tells Dirk to leave Barry alone, but Dirk cockily challenges the diminutive Sam to a fight. Sam proceeds to lay a curb stomp beatdown on the bully, despite Dirk being easily twice Sam's size. He also crowns the bully Dirk the Jerk, a nickname that would follow the bully the rest of the way through school.

Aug 22nd 2018 at 6:13:24 PM

Examples added and description tweaked.

Aug 22nd 2018 at 8:32:39 PM

^ Hmm, I'm not quite seeing the similarities, can you elaborate? I'm not saying it isn't comparable...I just want to know why you think it is

Aug 23rd 2018 at 10:13:54 AM

If the bully wins, it's usually a Curb Stomp Battle.

Literature:

  • Skippy Dies combines this with Cock Fight. Skippy and Carl are both rivals for Lori's affection, but Skippy is a quiet nerd who is frequently bullied, while Carl is a psycho who bullies younger kids and sometimes pushes Skippy around. After being repeatedly threatened, Skippy challenges Carl to a fight. Surprisingly, Skippy is able to land a punch on Carl and "win" the fight, by visualizing attacks from his favorite video game.

Aug 31st 2018 at 1:09:25 AM

Added a Charlie Brown example I just remembered

Aug 31st 2018 at 11:44:38 PM

Web Original

  • The premise of the Ninja Sex Party song "Cool Patrol" is Danny Sexbang teaching a high school boy getting picked on how to deal with bullies. The training consists of learning a silly dance, and before the kid can put any of it to use he's promptly beaten up, and probably killed, by the bullies.

Sep 1st 2018 at 12:08:18 AM

^ Hmm.. watched the video and though it's not elaborated on much in the example but I can see the implicit challenge when the kid approached the bullies, so I'll tweak it and add it.

Sep 6th 2018 at 11:57:02 PM

Anime And Manga

  • In Kakegurui, after Yumeko loses a fortune gambling against her classmates, she gains the right to challenge members of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council to matches. She takes advantage of this right in order to confront each of council members about their various dirty secrets, ensuring that even the ones who win have to spend the rest of their time at the academy worrying that they'll be betrayed.

Sep 7th 2018 at 12:44:00 AM

Added the examples and changed the "Web Original" folder to "Music" to better suit the lone NSP example

Sep 12th 2018 at 11:51:32 AM

I should mention that Draco gets a lot of shit in these books, to the point of almost being a Downplayed Butt Monkey at times, but none of it is specifically from Harry as far as I remember (I could easily be wrong; there are 7 books, they're all hundreds of pages long and Draco shows up in all of them in major roles)

Sep 12th 2018 at 12:17:22 PM

Oh right, the sectumsemra thing. Harry slices Draco with a spell in half-blood prince but it doesn’t work out very well for him because Snape happens upon the scene and puts Harry in detention for the rest of the year. There’s also that time in Chamber of secrets where ron tries to use a spell on Draco to make him vomit slugs but it backfires on him. The bully gets challenged ‘’for’’ them by a teacher (Moody, though he’s not actually a moody; it’s complicated) when he turns draco into a ferret and it’s hilarious

There’s probably a lot to be said about Draco here, but like I said there’s a lot of book to comb through.

Sep 12th 2018 at 12:18:10 PM

The ferret thing happened in goblet of fire, forgot to mention that.

Sep 12th 2018 at 4:25:07 PM

Alright, if you could rewrite the example to include that information that'd be great

Sep 12th 2018 at 5:21:49 PM

The challenge may come in the form of a Game Of Chicken.

Sep 12th 2018 at 8:32:54 PM

  • Total Drama loves doing Bully And Wimp Pairings which typically leads the nerdy wimp to besting The Bully.
    • Harold and Duncan are the most prominent pair, with Duncan spending the majority of the first two seasons tormenting Harold by pranking him or beating him up. In "Crouching Courtney, Hidden Owen", the two are forced to work together as part of a challenge. While ungodly putting their differences aside, Duncan pushes Harold's Berserk Button by insulting Harold's crush. Harold proceeds to drench Duncan with water before knocking him out with a killer hook. Harold enjoys the Swapped Roles so much he spends the next episode repeatedly pranking Duncan and getting him back for everything the bully put him through, including pulling Duncan's pants down.
    • In Revenge if the Island, Bubble Boy Cameron find he's the favorite bully target of Jerk Jock Jo, who endlessly insults him, blackmails him, and treats him like an expendable ragdoll she can throw at dangerous places. This comes full circle in "Up, Up And Away In My Pitiful" where the challenge is for each contestant to construct a flying machine and Jo has Cameron do all the work for her. After a whole episode of abuse and being used as bait to attract danger, Cameron reveals he had sabotaged the hot air balloon he made for Jo, and sends it plummeting to the ground and making Jo lose. Jo end up being eliminated and calls Cameron a traitor, but Cameron remarks he simple learned from Jo's example, to which Jo changes her mind and is so proud of her little dweeb.

Sep 12th 2018 at 9:00:14 PM

^ Hmm, but there's no real challenge issued in these examples, there's definitely a lot of revenge and the bully being knocked down a peg, but there's no declaration of a challenge which is what this trope is about.

Sep 12th 2018 at 11:50:57 PM

^^^^^sorry, it was late and I was a bit sleepy when I added the example. How about this:

The other examples don't count I think because Draco never challenged them to anything. He provokes them because he's a bully and that's what bullies do but that's something else.

Sep 13th 2018 at 4:29:19 AM

  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood: Jonathan being bullied by Dio Brando. He kills his dog, takes his family over, poisons Jonathan's father, and even steals his first kiss from his future wife Erina. But when Jonathan has enough, he snaps: just in his first win, he bruised Dio's face, then after Dio becomes a vampire, he travels to England and tries to master the power of Hamon. Then after beating enemy after enemy, he finally reaches Dio and reduces him to a head. Too bad that he couldn't enjoy his marriage voyage with Erina...

Sep 15th 2018 at 1:42:33 PM

^ Is there a challenge made though?

I'm seeing a pattern of examples where the victim snaps against the bully and takes them down somehow, but with no challenge being made. Should I expand this to include those sorts of examples? This is a pretty solid pattern on it's own, so...

Sep 25th 2018 at 8:31:07 PM

I think I might launch this by the end of the week. Any objections, comments, examples?

Sep 25th 2018 at 11:02:52 PM

Dio is being more than a bully, so I don't know if that counts.

Sep 25th 2018 at 11:43:49 PM

^ I'm not adding it anyway because there's no official challenge...at least as far as I can tell reading the example.

Sep 26th 2018 at 6:23:05 AM

Some comments about the Harry Potter Example:

None of those really have the challenge aspect. With the midnight duel, Malfoy challenges Harry, not the other way around. With the duel in Chamber of Secrets, a teacher pairs them up, and it's not quite a challenge. In Half-Blood Prince, Malfoy is behind his bullying days for the most part, and their fight is less of a challenge and more of a regular fight (Harry startles Malfoy in an emotionally vulnerable moment, Malfoy lashes back violently), and Harry is portrayed as being in the wrong in that scene.

I think this would be a valid example though:

  • In Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone, Malfoy steals a Rembrall from Neville, a frequent target of his bullying, and mocks him for injuring himself. Harry gets tired of this and rises on his broomstick, challenging Malfoy to a contest of flying skills. Harry is able to retrieve the Rembrall through a tricky broomstick maneuver, defending Neville's honor and coming out on top.

Sep 26th 2018 at 10:35:59 AM

^ Regarding the midnight duel part, the bully can challenge the protagonist, that still counts, in fact it was my original basis for this trope. You're right about the other examples, though.

Sep 26th 2018 at 5:29:38 PM

The description should mention a variation where it's the bully that challenges/dares the other guy.

Although we may need to change the title if that's the case...

Sep 26th 2018 at 5:34:31 PM

  • Doraemon: In one chapter, Doraemon has to go back to the 22nd century because his duty has been "fulfilled" (i.e making Nobita happy), but he's reluctant because he comes to care about Nobita too much. Nobita tries to prove that he doesn't need Doraemon anymore, one of the methods being challenging the local bully, Giant. While Nobita is badly beaten, he keeps coming after Giant, who ended up getting scared of him because he just won't back down. This at least convices Doraemon to go back "home".

Sep 26th 2018 at 5:48:14 PM

^^ Did I not mention that? I swore it was there, but it's possible I wrote it out of the description and didn't realize it.

...Huh, you're right, it's not there. I'll make the change, then.

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