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Alternate Personality Punishment

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"It matters not if she is the reincarnation! She was to be crucified! To slowly and painfully rot away!"
Chirizuka Kaiou, Ayakashi Triangle

A character does something worthy of punishment, but an alternate version, personality, clone or even past self (usually innocent or ignorant of the other's crimes) gets punished for it. Bewildering Punishment may ensue if the alternate self truly has no idea what they're being blamed for. Don't count on them causing the Death of Personality for the guilty one, because that may not always be possible.

Related but distinct from Cartesian Karma, when someone is held accountable for crimes they "committed" because they were mind-controlled. Just as likely to be boiled down to Moral Luck.

Compare Revenge by Proxy and Amnesiacs are Innocent. See also Karma Houdini, Alternate Identity Amnesia, Precrime Arrest, Criminal Doppelgänger, Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment, and Jekyll & Hyde. May overlap with Fantastic Legal Weirdness.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Chirizuka Kaiou initially mistakes Suzu for their previous life who sealed them away, not realizing it took over a hundred years for them to break out. When Garaku points out the difference, Kaiou considers them both equivalent. They'd be right for any other incarnation, who seemingly consider themselves one being, but Suzu uniquely managed to maintain a separate consciousness.
    All things are dust. I see the true nature of everything. The kon and haku of this girl are the same as the ayakashi medium!
  • The Mystery of Mamo starts with a clone of the main character, a notorious thief called Lupin III, being hanged in the place of the real version. Everybody believes the real one has been executed except Inspector Zenigata.
  • Samurai Executioner: One of the criminals Asaemon has to execute is a woman whose Split Personality is a pyromaniac, but is completely unaware of what she does when in her trances. As Asaemon is against killing people who don't know why they're being killed, he arranges for fireworks to go off during the execution, causing the woman's other personality to take over, letting Asaemon execute the guilty personality with the innocent one (instead of just the innocent).

    Comic Books 
  • Hellblazer: In order to escape Hell, John Constantine creates a kind of Evil Twin by removing all his more unsavory aspects (baser urges, demonic blood, clinginess over an ex-girlfriend...) and leaving it in his place. This screws him over later when Demon Constantine is on Earth and ends up raping John's niece Gemma (during John's wedding). Believing it was the real John, Gemma summons a vengeance demon and sics it on her uncle. While the misunderstanding is cleared up, their relationship is irreparably broken (and John considers her right to hate him).
  • The second Runaways series opens with the Runaways hunting down Victor Mancha because his alternate-future self killed an alternate-future version of Gert. Thankfully, they soon realized how unfair this was and decided to conscript him to their team instead.
  • In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, a launch accident causes the spaceship Lost Light and its crew to be duplicated in a different part of space. An investigation of the duplicate by the survivors of the "original" crew finds all of its occupants murdered in terrible ways. It also reveals that the ship's resident scientist is, in fact, a Decepticon spy, and begins an arc with him as the primary antagonist. While it later becomes apparent that he was acting for the greater good, he is still judged guilty and briefly imprisoned for selling out the crew to a Decepticon hit squad, something that his quantum duplicate was technically responsible for.

    Comic Strips 
  • Played for Laughs in one Calvin and Hobbes arc where Calvin time-travels two hours into the future in order to pick up his completed homework from his future self at 8:30. Naturally, 8:30 doesn't have it because he went to the future to get it two hours ago, so 6:30 and 8:30 decide it's 7:30 Calvin's fault. They both go to 7:30 to confront that time's Calvin, threatening to beat him up... but 7:30 points out that hitting him means 8:30 Calvin will get hurt too. In the end, they both return to 8:30 to find that 6:30 and 8:30 Hobbeses have done the homework for them (a novelization of the evening's events narrated by Hobbes). Calvin says it made him the laughingstock of the class even if it did get him an A+.

    Fan Works 
  • Shen Yuan transmigrates into the body of the villainous rival of a harem novel he was reading in SV Wishes. Almost immediately, he is punished for his host body's scheming and attempted sabotage despite having nothing to do with it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • An odd version in Avengers: Endgame: In the aftermath of Thanos ending half of all life in existence, the heroes manage to assemble what's left of the team and beat the crap out of Thanos... who has taken up the Call to Agriculture and barely puts up any resistance. He doesn't even have the Infinity Stones anymore, having used their own power to destroy them, greatly weakening himself in the process. The Avengers kill him anyway, but it's obvious they feel no satisfaction or justice from doing so. Fortunately, they go back in time to retrieve the stones to undo the damage and are followed by pre-snap Thanos, resulting in a Thanos who is very much satisfying to kill, even if he technically hadn't (yet) killed half of all life (it helps that having seen the results of only killing half of it, he decides to kill the entire Universe and start over so no one will be "ungrateful" at him for it).
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah is very hateful and distrustful of the T-800 assigned to protect John, as it looks and sounds like, and is the same model, of machine that tried to murder her and succeeded in murdering Kyle Reese, even though this T-800 has done nothing but fight tooth and nail to keep her son alive. In the extended cut she even tries to destroy it by smashing its chip, forcing John to appeal to her cold pragmatism to (just barely) convince her to spare it by pointing out they need it as proof of Judgment Day. By the end of the movie though, while she's not moved to tears by its Heroic Sacrifice like John is, she at least has come to accept and admire it enough to give it an approving handshake and see it as more than just a machine.
  • Unedited Footage of a Bear: Donna, who is addicted to the fictional anti-depressant Claridryl, has multiple "clones" running around during the short; the main one, who is depicted as cruel and abusive to her children, representing her addicted personality. She hits Donna with her own car and then leaves to torment the children, leaving Donna to crawl back home. When Donna makes it, it's clear she's too late to do anything, as flashing red and blue lights approach her. In her addictive state she'd at least hurt her kids, causing police intervention, but it's staged as though the sane and injured Donna is innocent and the cruel, abusive Donna clone is the criminal.
    Donna: I don't have a gun... I don't have a gun...

  • Animorphs: In one alternate timeline, World War II is fought against a Franco-German alliance (with no Nazis in sight) and Hitler is just an army chauffeur with a particular mustache. Tobias (in Hork-Bajir morph, an alien with blades on its arms) instinctively puts him in a headlock despite Cassie pointing out that this Hitler isn't responsible for the Holocaust. He ends up with his throat slashed anyway (possibly accidentally).
  • A double variant in the seventh Captain Underpants book: In Book 7, Melvin and Mr. Krupp go through a "Freaky Friday" Flip, which results in Krupp being rude to Miss Anthrope and causing trouble as Captain Underpants, while in Melvin's body. When Melvin gets back into his own body, an angry mob arrives to chase after him, believing him to be responsible for the actions done by his flipped version. Melvin deserves what he gets, though not for the things they're mad about.
  • Discworld: In Carpe Jugulum, Agnes' more vicious personality Perdita makes a nasty comment about Granny Weatherwax and gets slapped by Nanny Ogg for it... or rather, Agnes gets slapped for it since they share a body.
  • N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy: The Punishment for the god Nahadoth was to be bound in mortal form and Made a Slave. At night, he's a Humanoid Abomination, but by day, he's a human with no memory of his divine self. When Nahadoth is released, he grants the human a body and sets him free.
    Hado: All the people who feared the god did not fear the man. They quickly learned they could do things to the man that the god would not tolerate. So the man lived his life in increments, born with every dawn, dying with every sunset. Hating every moment of it. For two. Thousand. Years.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, the Earth Alliance's standard method of capital punishment is Death of Personality. In "Passing Through Gethsemane", a group of people related to a serial killer's victims attempts to take revenge on the person he's become post-mind wipe, a Trappist monk. They, however, hire a telepath to bring back the monk's memories of his crimes in an attempt at defying this trope, but only partially succeed — nothing of the monk's previous personality returns and, horrified at who he used to be, he accepts his upcoming death as proper punishment (at least he gets the answer to the question he was seeking for spiritual enlightenment right before they pull the trigger).
  • Black Mirror: In "White Christmas" there are things called "Cookies" where people basically make tiny clones of themselves, with their entire memory and personality, to work as a personal assistants who live in tiny little environments that can be controlled by the one using them; one Cookie was interrogated by the police over the actual person committing murder, and after confessing (to a crime they didn't commit personally, being the clone) they were punished with listening to Christmas Every Day on constant repeat... with the time slowed down so that just listening to it over Christmas break in the real world felt like over two million years in his time.
  • This is the defining characteristic for Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later on his own show.: When Angelus is cursed by gypsies, he is given a soul, creating the alternate personality Angel. As someone who was a soulless vampire for over a hundred years before having his conscience restored by a curse, he suffers from terrible guilt for the things he remembers doing (which started with killing his entire family and escalated from there). Exactly how culpable he is for them is left vague - some characters seem to regard Angel and his evil persona Angelus as two different people, while others see him as a mass murderer who shouldn't be left off the hook just because he's started feeling bad for his crimes - but Angel himself at least accepts enough of the guilt to have dedicated the rest of his immortal existence to doing good in repentance.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Impossible Astronaut", Amy, Rory, and River receive a mysterious summons by the Doctor to meet him in Utah, where they have a picnic by a lake. While there, someone dressed as an astronaut emerges from the lake, the Doctor goes to speak with them as if this is totally expected, and he is promptly shot dead, leaving his horrified and distraught friends to witness his murder and dispose of his body. After this traumatic experience, the three are in a diner discussing the purpose of what just occurred when in walks the Doctor, or rather a version of himself that's 200 years younger. River promptly slaps him for what his future self just put her through, and he quickly deduces that it was for something he's going to do in the future and that he's "looking forward to it".
    • The episode "Let's Kill Hitler" introduces a team of time travelers who hunt down historic Karma Houdinis at the end of their lives and submit them to torture so that they face some sort of punishment. Ideally, they aren't altering the timeline, since the subject is about to die anyway (and, when necessary, their ship transforms into a copy of the person to live out the rest of their life). Except their ship is about as reliable as the TARDIS, and they wind up targeting Hitler 7 years early (he's plenty guilty already, true, but they're still including crimes he hasn't committed yet in his sentence), and they stumble on River Song the very day she's going to first attempt (and fail at) the crime they're targeting her for.
  • The Flash (2014): a metahuman named Griffin Gray kidnapped Harry Wells, blaming him for Griffin's rapid aging. Only problem is, Harry is just the doppelganger of the guy who actually did do it- he's from Earth 2, while the real culprit is his Earth-1 counterpart who was actually Eobard Thawne/the Reverse Flash in disguise.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Dax". The Trill are a race of humanoid aliens. Some of them have another slug-like sapient alien implanted into their bodies, with the two combined beings forming a joint consciousness. The Trill Jadzia Dax is the combination of the Trill Jadzia and the symbiont Dax. During the episode she is arrested for a murder and treason allegedly committed thirty years ago by a previous Trill/symbiont combination named Curzon Dax, a merger of the Trill Curzon and the same symbiont Dax. The extradition hearing is based on the question of whether the current Jadzia/Dax combination can be held responsible for the crimes allegedly committed by the past Curzon/Dax combination. Ultimately the issue gets sidestepped when it turns out that Curzon Dax was framed in the first place.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger: Ozzie VIII is the leader of Medina when you first meet him, using his kinship to the first Ozzie (The Dragon in the first part of the game) to boss other monsters around. It's possible to dethrone Ozzie in the past so when you return, Ozzie VIII is now a servant being bullied by the other monsters. While the player and the PCs know what happened, it's a Bewildering Punishment to Ozzie VIII since he was never a bully in this timeline.
  • Dragon Quest VI: After the Evil Chancellor is ousted from the realm in the real world, his dream self (a rich and arrogant merchant) is arrested by the king in the dream world despite being completely unrelated to (and ignorant of) the crimes his real-world self committed.
  • Empire Earth: After Grigor II (a giant robot with an AI powerful enough to serve as Grigor's heir) becomes a totalitarian dictator, Molotov (a true believer in Grigor's cause) returns to the past in the hopes of convincing Grigor of taking Novaya Russia down another path to avoid turning the revolution that returned Russia to a global superpower into a fascist nightmare. Unfortunately, Grigor turns out to have no problem letting things turn out this way as long as he's in power. Molotov shoots him dead and returns to the future, but the ending doesn't show whether this was for good or bad.
  • The twin androids Popola and Devola in NieR Automata are not the same units responsible for the demise of humanity in NieR, but all androids are hard-coded to shun and dislike them as punishment for the sins of their forebears.
  • Star Trek Online has a couple of bizarre examples where this got crossed with a Stable Time Loop to become a Cycle of Revenge.

    Web Original 
  • Dragonball Z Abridged: Trunks comes back from the future to tell the Z Fighters about two androids that are going to kill most of them and terrorize the rest of the world, and they resolve to kill them before they get the chance. Four of the two androids (Trunks didn't know about all of them) are antagonistic from the outset, so attacking them is justified without the future knowledge. The sixth is neutral. The seventh is identified while in a larval stage, before he's even emerged or had a chance to do anything, good, evil, or neutral. Trunks recognizes this and wonders about the morality of killing it before it's committed any crimes. Krillin drops the metaphor and announces "We're aborting Cell!" before blowing his incubator to smithereens.
  • Within the OneyPlays community, this is the premise of a famous discussion on the show: If you had your own pocket-sized clone (or "perfect copy") of Adolf Hitler or Osama Bin Laden, would you feel personally justified in torturing them? Most of the debate in the discussion comes from clarifying Chris' bizarre definition of a clone, actually.

  • League of Super Redundant Heroes: During an arc where the cast keep running into and through alternate timelines, one person encountered is thought to be the local (and female) version of an internet lowlife, one so abhorrent they leave just on the off-chance she's anything like the original (despite displaying no hostility or rudeness).
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Dork has a kid inform a bully that he's going to clone the bully, lock it in an airless room, and just before it dies, tell it that it's because the 'real' bully took the kid's lunch money.
  • Schlock Mercenary: At some point the crew arrests the gate-clone of a criminal; he argues only the original should be punished, but is rebuffed because he committed the crime before he was duplicated, and the process makes a perfect copy with all personality and memories.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "Avatar Day", Aang finds out too late that the titular Avatar Day is, for the local people he just stumbled upon, the day to desecrate the Avatar's image because of what the past Avatar (Kyoshi) did to their greatest king in the past. Upon finding out Aang is the current Avatar, they capture and immediately try to execute him. Played with in that all Avatars are the reincarnations of the previous one, and upon the execution, Kyoshi's soul briefly takes over Aang's body to... admit that she did kill the king, because said king was a tyrant conqueror who threatened her group. This just makes the villagers even angrier until Fire Nation thugs raid the village, forcing them to rely on Aang and friends to fend them off.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In the episode "Mime For A Change", Rainbow the Clown is transformed by a bleach spill into the evil Mr. Mime. The Powerpuff Girls manage to transform Mr. Mime back into Rainbow, then they beat up Rainbow and send him to jail even though he was Not Himself. Fortunately, in "Birthday Bash", he's seen entertaining at the Girls' birthday party, indicating that he had been forgiven.
  • Steven Universe: Rose Quartz was a notorious rebel leader who turned against her Diamond, ultimately killing her. Steven inherited her gemstone, which makes him as much her reincarnation as her son. Numerous villains think it means he is Rose Quartz, and want to punish her for her crimes. Then it's revealed that Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond all along and Pink Diamond's death was faked. And while her sisters are happy she's alive, they're still ticked that she didn't tell them anything when things started going too far out of control.

    Real Life 
  • "Roko's basilisk" is a hypothetical situation in which an artificial super-intelligence creates simulations of people who did not work to bring it into existence for the purpose of punishing them. When the concept was proposed by Less Wrong user Roko in July 2010, site creator Eliezer Yudkowsky was so alarmed by the concept — and the fact that Roko had posted it online, potentially putting readers in the basilisk's crosshairs — that he deleted Roko's post and banned all discussion of the topic for five years.