Grieving mother: All my hopes and dreams were bundled in this boy. I can't help but feel that all of this is somehow my fault!
Gunter: (claps her hands) It is. You are completely to blame.
I have some advice for you, so listen carefully. Never, ever give anyone advice. Doing so can only ever end badly for almost everyone involved. Instructions are just as bad. Invariably, one of the following will happen:
- You're giving advice to The Ditz or Cloudcuckoolander. Your advice may be perfectly sound, but they are ultimately incapable of acting on it in a logical manner. They may take a euphemism used in the explanation, or a sarcastic reply to one or more questions they raised before or after, literally; or they could take something more normal and make it something completely abstract.
- Perhaps they are capable of understanding, but you or they have overestimated their ability. At step 3 in your seven-step plan, they'll measure something incorrectly and won't catch it until the whole thing blows up in their face. Or, alternately, you may have been giving them advice on the proper method to moving heavy equipment, not realizing that all the method in the world won't make up for their physical weakness when the equipment falls on them. Or they could just be jinxed.
- A vital piece of information may be missing. You might have thought you heard the whole story when you hadn't and given advice based on that, which can result in flawed instructions or an unnecessarily hurtful tirade aimed at someone you assumed was a Jerkass. Alternately, something that went without saying for you or had been well-learned from your own experience might be conspicuously missing for them; this version in particular inspires some interesting anecdotes.
- Perhaps the person you were giving advice to is someone who you ought not have. Maybe they're the villain and you don't know it yet. Maybe you're the villain and you don't know it yet. Maybe your ultimate goals are simply mutually exclusive. Maybe you're in direct competition, and you figure they're no threat anyway so you might as well be a Friendly Enemy. In any event, the information you give them will, invariably, result in your defeat at their hands. It doesn't matter if the advice happens to be "it's Istanbul, not Constantinople", it will get you killed. Er, if potential death was ever a factor, at least.
- Or, maybe you're not the one originally giving the advice. Maybe you're relaying a message from another advice-giver. But, unfortunately, something has been lost in translation, or only fits in a certain context. You obviously can't clarify for the recipient, so if these differences change the message significantly, you're out of luck. On a related note, if you're sending such a message through someone else, you should take care that the deliverer is trustworthy, and preferably also that he doesn't know what the message is; if he acts on information intended for someone else entirely, that could throw things out of whack.
So don't just go telling someone whatever you think will solve their problems. It usually won't, at least not the way you want it to.
- Dragon Ball GT: During the Super 17 Saga, Dr. Myuu's last words to Super 17 are to finish Goku and Android 18, and show them he can't be controlled. Super 17 responds by promptly turning on Myuu and annihilating him:
Super 17: You're right, Doctor! Nobody controls me!
- Dragon Ball Super:
- Gowasu, the Supreme Kai of Universe 10, orders his anti-mortal apprentice Zamasu to fight Goku so he can have a better idea on how mortals are. Although he is shocked along with Zamasu on how powerful Goku is, he thinks Zamasu got a positive experience from fighting Goku. Instead, Zamasu just ends up convinced that mortals are both foolish and dangerous. Then he takes Zamasu 1000 years into the future of a primitive planet, thinking the mortals would have calmed down by then. They've developed some culture but are still pretty barbaric, which doesn't help Zamasu's attitude... and leads to him killing one of their inhabitants.
- When talking to Zamasu about his belief that there must be a Balance Between Good and Evil, he says that evil is needed for justice to prosper since justice is created to counteract evil. Just before Zamasu tries to kill him, Zamasu says that he finally understands how acts of evil can lead to justice.
- In Eyeshield 21, Jo Tetsuma is so literal that he takes everything WAY OVERBOARD. When told to 'keep hydrated' in preparation for a match, he went through twenty-something water-bottles in less than five minutes, resulting in the one time he ever deviated from his pass route—running off the field in the middle of a game to get to the bathroom after getting a stomach cramp.
- In My Wife Is a High School Girl a young store clerk is immediately smitten by the eponymous girl Asami, later he tells Kyosuke (oblivious that he is Asami's husband) that he has a crush on one girl, Kyosuke ignorant of the fact that he is talking about his wife advices to "never give up on her, no matter how many times you are rejected, fight for her". You can guess how that turns out.
- This happens in ep. 32 of Fullmetal Alchemist (anime). A group of thugs surrounds Al and informs him that he's being kidnapped. Al says he was taught not to go anywhere with strangers. One of the guys advises him not to take orders from adults, saying something along the lines of "You're 14 years old, act like a man and make your own choices!" Al takes his advice and chooses to fight rather than go with strangers.
- In Ranma ½ directional advice shouldn't be given to Ryoga. He will follow it to the letter and ignore common sense. One time he was told the quickest way back to Tokyo was to follow this one road straight to Tokyo. He follows it until he came to a curve around a mountain and continues on that straight line, going off the road and into the woods.
- Tokyo Ghoul: Kaneki's Missing Mom always told him that it's "better to be hurt than to hurt others." Not only did following her own advice result in his mother literally working herself to death to provide for both her own home and that of her Jerkass sister, who took advantage of her at every opportunity, but following it himself resulted in Kaneki being captured and undergoing ten days of Cold-Blooded Torture at the hands of the crazed ghoul Yamori, resulting in him discarding his humanity altogether.
- In Supreme Power, Hyperion (the Superman Alternate Company Equivalent/Expy who has been programmed by the US government to be its ultimate secret soldier since his childhood) goes to Confessional in a Catholic Church desperately looking for someone to connect to on a real level. It turns out he secretly knows that he's been lied to all his life, and he's angry as hell about it, and he details this to the priest in some general and non-specific ways. The priest gives him what would be good, reasonable advice to try to deal with this situation honestly and get rid of the lies, which prompts Hyperion to force a bloody confrontation with the US Military and almost gets the priest accidentally flash fried by Hyperion's heat vision.
- Happens twice in The One to Make It Stay:
- Alya keeps pressuring Marinette to go after what she wants... while ignoring her BFF's insistence that what she wants has changed; she's not interested in Adrien anymore, and really doesn't appreciate Alya continuously trying to force them together. Naturally, Alya's very surprised when Marinette takes her advice about being more decisive by decisively putting her foot down. All those times she told her to be more assertive, she didn't mean for it to be with her—!
- Adrien later tells Marinette that she should make up with Alya by apologizing. Marinette immediately calls him out on not knowing anything about why they're arguing in the first place and treating her like she's the sole source of the problem. (She does so unaware that Adrien does know — or thinks he knows — that it has something to do with her former crush on him. Not that it would help his case any if she was aware of that little detail...)
- The Little Mermaid: When King Triton asks Sebastian if he was too tough on Ariel, the crab says he wasn't being tough enough and says "If I were you, I'd show her who's boss." The next day, when Triton discovers that his daughter has been collecting objects from the surface (and has fallen in love with a human), he responds by flying into an Unstoppable Rage and destroying everything in sight, breaking her heart and endangering her life. Needless to say, Sebastian is completely mortified by this.
- Not Another Teen Movie: Jake's sister Catherine advises him that if he wants to get Janey's attention he must sing a song with her name in it. While Janey is taking an outdoor art class, Jake commandeers the school's PA system and sings 'Janey's Got A Gun'. One of the other students points a finger at her and shouts "She's got a gun!" Everyone except Janey screams and runs off, and the police converge on her; panicking, she runs, is wrestled to the ground by two cops and gratuitously tasered into insensibility.
- J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring.
Gildor: Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.
- As Frodo puts it, "Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes."
- P. G. Wodehouse used this in any number of stories.
- On Happy Days Richie takes over the college paper's advice column, and Postie & Ralph (who are sharing an apartment) write in for advice on how to get along. Richie jokingly suggests dividing the apartment in half and they actually do it.
- Inverted in The Big Bang Theory: When his friend Stuart is about to go on a date with Penny, Leonard deliberately gives Stuart what he thinks is bad advice about what to do on the date. Stuart follows the advice and ends up making out with Penny anyhow. Penny called out Leonard's name rather than Stuart's, though, and since the advice was exactly what Leonard had done himself, the implication is that Penny was simply trying to replace Leonard with someone very similar.
- On 30 Rock, Liz Lemon tried to advise Jenna on aging gracefully with this exchange:
"You can try to fight getting older. You can be like Madonna and cling to youth with your Gollum arms. Or you can be like Meryl Streep and embrace your age with elegance."
"So you're saying it's a choice? Between the dignity of middle age and the illusion of youth."
"Two paths: Meryl Streep...or Madonna."
"Very well. I will emulate my acting inspiration. A woman of profound poise, whose career is what we all aspire to."
"Okay, this build-up is making me nervous."
"A woman whose feminine grace and normal outfits are an inspiration."
"Just say who it is, and I'll feel better."
"Someone whose very name stands for enduring beauty and the wonder of womanhood!"
"Please don't say..."
- In one episode of The Drew Carey Show, set after the Browns returned to Cleveland, Drew and his three friends are behind a guy in line for tickets. The guy gets one ticket, but Drew stops him and tells him the return of the football team is a special time and should be shared with friends. He ends up getting five tickets, which happened to be the last five.
- From an episode of Friends: Joey is teaching an acting class. One of his students gets a part as a boxer on a soap - a part Joey wanted. He goes to Joey for advice - Joey tries to sabotage him by telling him to play the boxer gay. It totally works and the student gets offered the part.
- One episode of Brimstone features one of the 113 trying to get a handle on her hellspawned superpower (burning people with her mind) by going to therapy. When the therapist advises her to confront her anger issues head-on, she interprets this as license to embrace her evil side, and promptly goes on a rampage.
- An episode of Weird Science has Lisa fall in love with Gary, causing her to turn into a Stalker with a Crush. Gary tells her "If you love somebody, set them free", and she decides the best way to do this is by deleting herself. Wyatt quickly steps in and says Gary is an idiot who doesn't know anything and was just spouting off old rock lyrics.
- In Kamen Rider Wizard, Rinko comes across The Dragon; and they actually wind up chatting. The Dragon complains about having to work for the Big Bad, and Rinko - having just found evidence that he Used to Be a Sweet Kid - encourages him to just Be Yourself and break from the Big Bad's control. The problem is that he's really not the same person anymore, but a monster using the "Sweet Kid's" face; where Rinko interpreted the Big Bad's control as forcing him to be evil, it was really forcing him to hold back. The only upshot to him taking Rinko's advice is that it helped push the hero to put the threat down for good.
- In Breaking Bad, Mike gives a memorable speech to Walt about how it was time for "no more half measures" in dealing with the problem that Jesse had become to Gus' empire. Mike meant this to get Walter to abandon his half assed attempts to protect Jesse from himself and stand out of the way when Gus inevitably decides to remove Jesse from the picture, but it instead galvanizes Walt to whole heartedly support Jesse and become just as adversarial to Gus' operation. This gets lampshaded the next time Walt and Mike see each other, and Mike is less than pleased about the fact.
- One of the first few episodes of The 100 has Bellamy try to help a little girl deal with her nightmares by giving her the same advice his mother gave him: "Don't be scared of the demons; fight back." This backfires when we find out her nightmares involved President Jaha, and she interpreted the advice by killing his son, since she couldn't kill the real thing.
- Early in TURN, Abraham's father is ordered by the British to choose which of the community's gravestones to dig up to build fortifications. He's clearly conflicted, and Abraham tells him that the time has come to make a choice, whether to submit, or to fight back. The next day, he gives an impassioned speech about surrendering what they care about most to show submission to their leaders, and proceeds to personally dig up his own son's gravestone.
- In Midst, Comsector Spahr tells Phineas that he's going to lose his job if he keeps showing weakness. Phineas takes it to heart, and kills a witness because he's desperate not to make a fool of himself.
- This story sounds apocryphal, but you be the judge: Golfer Sam Snead was playing a practice round with players much younger than himself when they faced a second shot with options. Option one was to go over the trees and make the third shot much shorter, and option two was to follow the fairway with a longer third shot. The young guys asked Snead which option to choose. Snead told them that he used to shoot over the trees. Predictably, none of the young guys could do it, and Snead chose that moment to add something to his previous advice: "Of course, in my day, those trees were thirty feet shorter."
- Hamilton: When Philip Hamilton has an upcoming duel with George Eacker, he goes to his father for advice. Alexander counsels him to aim at the sky rather than actually try to kill his opponent, arguing that if George is a man of honor, he'll do the same, and that Philip doesn't want another man's blood on his hands. Philip dutifully agrees not to aim at George, which gets him killed. Alexander later follows his own advice in his duel with Burr, which doesn't end well, either.
- In Jet Set Radio, Professor K receives a letter asking for advice on how to deal with a roach problem. As a pirate radio DJ, this is decidedly not his field, so he plays it off and tells the guy to burn his house down. Guess who didn't realize it was a joke.
- Zig-zagged in Five Nights at Freddy's with one of Phone Guy's bits of advice: He suggests playing dead if you're caught since the animatronics might assume you're an empty suit and leave you alone, but immediately takes it back realizing it could backfire badly with them instead trying to stuff an endoskeleton into you. It's zig-zagged when it turns out playing dead can work: when you're out of power playing dead (not moving the mouse at all) you'll get a solid minute of Freddy's song before he attacks. Since an hour's only a minute and a half, playing dead can buy you enough time to finish the night if you run out of power after 5.
- Basic Instructions has this as its premise.
- These two videos from Robert Half staffing agency.
- Cracked has a series of articles following a format of "So X" where X is some often bizarre situation like "your clone is trying to murder you" or "you're stuck in a time loop". In them the person asks for help, and a disembodied voice gives them advice on how to get out of the situation, which due to a combination of the general incompetence of the person asking and it being terrible, terrible advice, often makes things worse. A common ending is for the advice giver to declare victory because while the person is still in horrible circumstances, the specific problem they were asking about has gone away.
Congratulations! You have reached the end of this guide, and are now no longer tied up on train tracks! If you require any further guidance, please consult our guide So You're Being Pursued, Potentially Sexually, by an Overstimulated Grizzly Bear.
- RWBY: In the Volume 5 episode "Known by its Song," Raven advises Yang to question everything she's been told. By the end of "Haven's Fate," Yang decides to do just that by calling out Raven on her hypocritical cowardice and her irrational perception of strength. By the end, Raven can only whisper a tearful apology before fleeing the Vault in shame.
Yang: I'm starting to ask questions, like you said.
- Moral Orel, Once per Episode (at least). One episode actually revolved around people trying to avoid giving him advice. It still didn't turn out well.
Orel: Reverend, I just feel terrible about making that awful song so popular. What can I do to make it up to God?
Reverend Putty: N-nothing! God knows you've done enough. Just don't do anything, and sit still, will you?
Orel: Really still?
Putty: No, not really still! T-that would be too still. No, you know — be normal.
Orel: Huh, normal.
Putty: Orel, wipe that look off your face! You don't need to do anything special to be normal.
Orel: Oh, I get it! I can just be myself!
Putty: Oh, no! No, no, no, no, no! Don't do that, either! Don't be normal. Sorry, I used the wrong words. Come on, Putty, grab a hold of yourself. Okay, um, can't you just forget about all this?
Orel: Well, I guess I can forget about it if I really try!
Putty: Don't try! Please, God, don't try doing anything!
Orel: Oh, Reverend, I'm getting confused!
Putty: Yeah, me too, buddy.Moral Orel ("Innocence")
- On one episode of Aladdin: The Series, Aladdin and Jasmine travel to Odiferous to attend Prince Uncouthma's wedding. Unfortunately, the bride falls in love with Aladdin, and Uncouthma is very depressed about this. Jasmine advises him to "Fight to win her back!" Uncouthma, being a Proud Warrior Race Guy and all, ended up taking this advice...by having a duel to the death with Aladdin.
- An episode of King of the Hill has a double-backfire version. Hank and his friends sneak into the box seats at a Texas-Nebraska football game, only to discover it belongs to a famous Nebraska player. Late in the game the Nebraska coach calls the box to ask for advice and Hank, pretending to be the player, gives him a terrible suggestion...only for it to work perfectly, costing Texas the game.
- American Dad!:
- In "Iced, Iced Babies", Roger, posing as a college professor a la Dead Poets Society, advissd his students to seize the day and not let anything get in the way of living life to its fullest. Unfortunately, one of his students decides that that means it's okay to kill his father, which Roger and Hayley learn after he invites them over to discuss philosophy.
- In "Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls", Stan tries to improve his Halloween haunted house by displaying actual serial killers in glass containers, but Francine doesn't like the idea because "it's like looking at a shark in an aquarium". This gives Roger the idea to release the killers and let them run loose in the house.
Roger: Yeah, Francine was right, a shark's not very intimidating behind glass. But if you're in an ocean with it...!
Stan: But Roger, they're going to kill us all!
Francine: AND CHOP OFF MY HEAD!
Roger: Scary, right? [beat] Ugh, I never think things through.
- Happens to Daria constantly, with the added bonus that most of the time she's not even trying to give advice, people just misinterpret random things she says and run with it.
- In the Thunder Cats 2011 episode "Song of the Petalars", young Prince Lion-O mistakenly views his friend Emrick's well-meant advice that It's the Journey That Counts through his Hot-Blooded Proud Warrior Race perspective, assuming that he and his ThunderCats should live Like You Were Dying and rush to engage an army of Lizard Folk pursuers. They end up needing rescue by a Deus ex Machina.
- In The Legend of Korra, Pema accidentally got the Love Triangle really going this way, for the double reasons of not having all the information (Korra only said that the guy she liked was seeing someone else) and underestimating how Korra would fix it (Pema suggested confessing one's feelings, Korra just went and kissed the guy). Pema also didn't know that the guy's brother had a crush on Korra. Korra misunderstanding her advice led to the team almost falling apart (and causing issues in the following episodes).
- In the episode "Original Airbenders", Tenzin comes to Bumi for advice on how to whip the airbenders into shape. Unfortunately for Bumi, Tenzin takes his advice a bit too seriously.
- Defied in "The Terror Within", when Varrik tries giving Bolin romance advice after he and Opal get closer. After what happened last time, Bolin refuses the advice.
- Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King": Lawyer Temple Fugate is on his way to a court date which he believes will make or break his career. City councilman Hamilton Hill, with whom he shares his commute, offers some friendly advice: he says Fugate is too tightly-wound, and thinks it'll make him look bad to the judge, so Hill suggests he deviate from his rigid schedule, take his regular coffee break at 3:15 rather than 3 on the dot, and relax. It seems to go well at first, but then fate decides to play silly buggers with Fugate, causing him to lose the case and destroying his life. After discovering that Hill's law firm represented the other side of the case, Fugate becomes convinced that Hill purposely sabotaged him and becomes the eponymous Clock King in order to get revenge.
- In the South Park episode "The Damned", Hillary Clinton's associates advise her to say "My opponent is a liar and should not be trusted" as a response to anything Mr. Garrison will say in their debate. However, they didn't expect Garrison to try to throw his campaign and say that Clinton will make a better president than him, which ends up getting Garrison more supporters than ever, to both campaigns chagrins.
- In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore seeks Tigger's advice on how to be popular. Tigger explains, "I've just got to be me!" Unluckily, Eeyore understands this to mean he just has to be Tigger. This doesn't work out so well.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Discordant Harmony", after Discord offers to host his next tea party with Fluttershy, he goes to Pinkie Pie for some advice throwing a party. Pinkie advises him to try and make his guest comfortable, but Discord goes a little too far in trying to make the chaotic pocket dimension he calls home more "normal". Not only does seeing Discord acting calm and polite leave Fluttershy unnerved, but it turns out Discord suppressing his chaotic powers nearly causes him to literally fade away.
- In an episode of Beetlejuice, Lydia tries to help Beetlejuice get in better standing with his neighbors. The problem is he ends up taking her advice to their literal extremes and making things worse. She mentions he needs to make them feel wanted, he ends up putting wanted posters of Ginger, getting her arrested. Lydia tells him to do them as he would want them to do unto him, he ends up infesting them with beetles. By the end, not only is everyone mad at Beetlejuice, they end up mad at Lydia when they found out she gave him the advice in the first place.
- Family Guy: In "Love, Blactually", Brian gets a new girlfriend and Stewie, knowing that his penchant for sex drove his previous dates away, advises him to take it slowly this time. Unfortunately, she turns out to be an even bigger sex maniac than him, and she soon dumps him for being too slow.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "A Life in a Day," Larry the Lobster, a professional daredevil, declares he lives every day as if it was his last and tells SpongeBob and Patrick they should do the same and start "living like Larry." While Larry meant that they should live their lives to the fullest, Sponge and Pat take his advice literally and start performing life-threatening daredevil stunts just as he does, eventually landing themselves and Larry in the hospital.