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Apathetic Citizens

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Oh, look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
Phil Ochs, "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends"

Citizens that are either reallllly pessimistic or really apathetic.

The Empire taking over the world? Giant meteor in the sky? Evil vampire slaughtering people? Clownish madman destroying the world? Eldritch Abomination awakening? They don't care. It's somebody else's problem. It doesn't even seem to faze them beyond the occasional "Wow, that's a big rock in the sky." Sure, occasionally the mayor will ask you to save their town, but that's as much concern as they express. The shopkeepers might sell you the supplies you need to rescue them, but they'll charge full price, because there's No Hero Discount. It's Up to You.

They'll just shuffle around, minding their own business, While Rome Burns.

In a film where cities are destroyed, this trope runs as rampant as the disasters themselves. No matter how many warnings the populace has, no matter if there have been fissures opening in the streets for days or giant alien spaceships hovering overhead, there are always a huge number of people who are just there to stare in disbelief right before being obliterated. Unfortunately, this has more than a little Truth in Television. The trope is justified here because seeing an empty city trashed is not as emotional as knowing millions are dying.

Expect these to be one of the everyday inhabitants of a Dystopia or Crapsack World, to highlight the psychological despair of the setting. Justified in these kinds of settings, since the immutability of their misery have made them experience the in-universe equivalent of Too Bleak, Stopped Caring. Dystopian governments also prefer their citizens to be apathetic and easier to rule, and might try to deliberately invoke this trope through Bread and Circuses.

This is also used poetically (mostly in fantasy) in making the statement that magical events and miracles takes place all the time and all around us, and people are just too busy, or too distracted to see it. But in extreme fantasy it could be that the citizens ignore the flying horse, disappearing church, or whatever the event, because it is a common-place occurrence in that world. If the apathetic citizen is working as a cashier or store clerk, then it's Apathetic Clerk.

The parable of the Good Samaritan makes this trope Older Than Feudalism, although it is of course averted within the story.

See also Bystander Syndrome, It Can't Be Helped, Unusually Uninteresting Sight, Suicidal Pacifism, Adam Smith Hates Your Guts, Conditioned to Accept Horror, Stiff Upper Lip, as well as the Just For Fun page Dying Like Animals. If their apathy crosses the line into antagonism, see Ungrateful Townsfolk.


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  • In a Transport Accident Comission (TAC) Victoria ad, the company pay homage to the Jaws franchise, analogizing how people seem to gawk at car accidents while driving on the road, but decide to do nothing about it. In this ad, a young boy is having a great day at a crowded beach while resting on a surfboard, and then cue the music and the shark. He cries for help, but though many look no one responds. It is not just the reactions of the beachgoers that is disturbing, but the fact that we do not even see (or from what we know anyway) his parents or anyone else he went to the beach with, and though we most likely knows what happens, we do not see the aftermath. We do see a father carry his daughter over where the shark attacked the boy circulating around in his blood, but obviously, no one objects to that. It does not help matters the Soundtrack Dissonance that is played throughout this commercial, though it does ease the mood a bit, the disturbing aspects are still obviously there. The incident in this advertisement is plausible, frighteningly, though not likely to occur, but the Nightmare Fuel, Nausea Fuel, and Paranoia Fuel tropes that play in this brief commercial all come into play.

    Anime & Manga 

  • In the very first episode of Death Note, some thugs try to rape a woman in full view of a busy street, right in front of a convenience store where Light is (ostensibly) reading a manga. Later, an FBI agent has a Hollywood Heart Attack at a busy subway station, and no one seems to notice or care. Later still, Matt is shot by Takada's bodyguards, while hundreds (or even thousands) of people just look on.
  • Dragon Ball Z was particularly guilty of this trope, especially during the Buu Saga. When Goku and Vegeta attempted to get the Earth to donate energy to the Spirit Bomb, the people (besides their friends and family) outright refused, even mocking them. Mr. Satan was legitimately angered at this, as the planet was giving the middle finger at their one and only chance to destroy Majin Buu once and for all, and ended up calling them out for it. Ironically, it's him calling them out that got them to do it. Many people said (though possibly only the dub) that it might have just been some trick by Buu, or something to that effect. It was the fact that Mr. Satan is the most famous heroic champion fighter on earth (since the Z warriors all shun fame and let him take credit for the Cell Games) that they got on board... Though oddly nobody questioned if his voice was a trick, probably because the one thing Mr. Satan shares with his namesake other than the name is epic bullshitting.
  • Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA: At the end of the Vow in the Snow movie, Miyu is teleported to Illya's universe and arrives on a busy sidewalk. Everybody ignores the disoriented little girl who is barefoot and only wearing a backless dress, shivering in the cold. She quickly steals clothes and shoes from a house and blends in.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Citizens don't care that Togusa had just been shot and now lay bleeding out on the sidewalk. They just want to get out of the rain... although one citizen does cautiously approach him at the very last second before the episode fades out to the credits.
  • Grave of the Fireflies:
    • At the beginning, a bunch of people walk past Seita as he dies of malnutrition. This was a very common sight in those days, so no one offers to help him.
    • When an air raid siren goes off, the aunt says, in a very disinterested tone, "Oh, not again."
    • When Seita informs his aunt that his mother is dead, her reaction is essentially to mumble, "How awful," and tell Seita to write to his father about it, without saying much else aside of how odd it is that he hasn't responded by now.
  • Hunter × Hunter: People get killed off all the time in public, or escorted out of the public to be killed in gruesome manners, and no one ever seems to pay much attention to the corpses on the streets or rampant disappearances, not even reporting them to the police. The Hunters are the only ones shown to take note of frequent deaths and disappearances in some particular area, and most of them display no empathy whatsoever, using said knowledge as clues to further their own ends. Ordinary civilians recount horrific events casually to their co-workers and comrades in a casual manner with little reaction from the people they speak to. The main character, Gon, is one such exception to this rule; any death he sees weighs heavily on him, as long as they haven't proven themselves an irredeemable murderous scumbag to him.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: Narancia Ghirga cuts out his tongue during the Talking Heads fight, and only two men of a whole street seems to have noticed it. And the only reason they are shocked is that they are the enemy stand users. Later, Narancia shoots one of them to death with Aerosmith and still nobody cares. For their defense, they cannot see stands, but a person suddenly being full of gunshots and spilling blood over people is certainly not an everyday experience.
  • This is a major plot point in My Hero Academia. Apathetic Citizens ignoring Tenko Shimura when he was alone on the streets is what drives him down the path of villany.
  • Naruto: The Uchiha clan is killed in a single night and nobody but Sasuke (the sole survivor) seem to care at all. It's true that the Uchiha clan weren't on great relations with the rest of the village and were in fact planning a coup, but wouldn't somebody at least Think of the Children! You'd think the Uchiha clan would have at least some friends outside the family that would be devastated by this. Even if we assume people simply didn't care about them, this is still a ludicrous scenario. There is a mass murderer who can kill a clan on the loose and as far as they know, he could come back and come after them too. The Uchiha clan was at least one of the founding members of Konoha and were killed in a single night. What made the other clans think they could do any better? There's the fact Itachi was ordered to do this by the village leaders in secret, was always still loyal to the village, and he was actually just one of two perpetrators of the act, so there are hints there was quite a government cover up at work about this.
  • Panzer World Galient: The Lanplatians. Even when a tower falls on their friends right in front of them, they just stand there drooling in confusion. Marder's grand plan is actually to make them forget this and care about something again.
  • Justified and Played Straight in Psycho-Pass. Thanks to The Sybil System and regulated Psycho Pass Scans, violent crime has been diminished to the point where it's practically become a non-existent concept. So when a man using a Psycho Pass Blocking helmet is beating a woman to death in the middle of the street, in broad day light, in front of millions of witnesses no less, the citizens barely register what's happening and one guy even starts making a video recording of it.
  • Re:CREATORS: Mamika's blasts typically subvert this since people react appropriately to the equivalent of a little girl firing bombs in a densely populated area. Then it gets double subverted when she uses her Taking You with Me attack on Altair, which has such a large blast radius (and is even visible from a far distance) a good potrion of town should be effected— yet neither the townsfolk or the news ever comment on it.
  • Robotech: The people of Earth are quite apathetic to the Invid rule and the attempts of the Robotech Expeditionary Force and the few partisan fighters to take them down. Justified by the fact that not only they leave Humans alone as long as they don't try to get more Protoculture than they're alloted or pose a danger to them (overlapping categories, as most mechas and weapons capable of fighting the Invid require Protoculture as fuel), but they've also repaired Earth's ecosystem after the Zentraedi bombardment at the end of the First Robotech War nearly collapsed it, so the citizens of Earth have little reason to oppose the conquerors and will sometimes even help them, luring the unsuspecting soldiers into ambushes and leaving before the Invid attack.
  • Shows up a lot in Shiki, where most of the villagers are utterly apathetic about the vampires taking over the town (they think it's an epidemic of disease, but still). An epidemic is one thing, but the town having dozens of deaths, and slowly being repopulated by pale people who only work at night, you'd think they'd be at least a little suspicious. This ends up frustrating Doctor Ozaki to no end resulting in him hatching a plan to try and get the villagers to act.

    Comic Books 
  • The usual citizens of the Marvel Universe and the DCU do not usually react to people using superpowers or flying around in costumes. After all, after some decades of ongoing continuity, it would not be realistic to expect them to keep pointing "it's a bird, it's a plane..." The exception is when there is a severe fight or destruction: people that keep shopping while Terrax or Despero destroy the buildings some meters away would be too much. Another exception (or not) is when the characters go back in time; the unusual overreactions to superheroes make it even more clear that they are not "at home".
  • In Giraffes On Horseback Salad, when the world starts to become more and more bizarre due to a Reality Warper turning everything surreal, most people — including authority figures — respond with feeble attempts to simply cope as best they can.
  • Hitman from DC comics, starring Tommy Monaghan (not the bald dude). He is utterly truthful with his initial romantic interest, who simply thinks he's being charming. She does not take it well when she discovers that he really does kill people (only bad ones though) for cash.
  • Many of Jhonen Vasquez's works such as Invader Zim and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac make prolific use of this trope, using it as a running gag in conjunction with Humans Are Morons most of the time. Whatever malign force makes Johnny insane also prevents him from having his crimes seen. This is lampshaded in the story. Squee takes place in the same universe and the citizens react the same way. Also, there are a few non-Johnny stories in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac where strange things happen and no one seems to care much.
  • Robin (1993): Tim gets jumped outside a fairly busy theater while on a date with Ariana. Not only does everyone other than Ariana ignore what's going on, his school councilor tries to pin the blame for the injuries on Bruce, even though Tim was living with his father by that point and there was at least one witness who was easy to contact.
  • Sin City citizens generally don't care if someone like Marv turns someone into a bloody mess right in front of them.
  • This is the reason Rorschach became a costumed vigilante in Watchmen - his first 'origin' ("Kovacs pretending to be Rorschach") was triggered by reading in the newspaper about the case of Kitty Genovese (see the Real Life section).
    Rorschach: Kitty Genovese. Raped. Tortured. Killed. Here in New York. Outside her own apartment building. Almost forty neighbors heard screams. Nobody did anything. Nobody called cops. Some of them even watched. Do you understand? Some of them even watched.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Spider-Man is falling to his death, and pass by the window of Kingpin's big gala. Nobody paid attention to him.

    Fan Works 
  • My Little Pony in the Sims: Ghosts haunt ponies, buildings spring into existence out of nowhere, furniture mysteriously changes location, the Grim Reaper shows up to collect a soul... and unless it effects them directly, nopony cares. One YouTube reactor discussed this, wondering how common it must be for buildings to mysteriously appear while time has stopped.
  • Quicken: Invoked. When Emma shooed away an enforcer that was harassing Lisa, Lisa was grateful because a lot of people saw her and just walked by. And Emma didn't.
  • Persona: The Sougawa Files: Justified. Shadows intentionally steer attention away from their unusual occurrences with a perception filter; only Persona users can see through this.
  • The Dragonball Z Abridged adaptation of the Future of Trunks has a radio station giving what sounds like a weather report on the Androids currently destroying a city and slaughtering its inhabitants. Trunks guesses most people didn't react more due to them being a slow-burn threat.
  • In Aftermath of a Fallen Star, Twilight's death had little (if any) effect on the ponies who didn't like her. If anything, she's accumulated more hatred since her plans to modernize Equestria are happening no matter what.
  • In the beginning of Worm/DC crossover Echoes of Yesterday, Kara tracks down cries for help in Winslow High School and finds Taylor imprisoned into her locker as everyone but her bullies is passing by and ignoring her shouting. Later on, when Principal Blackwell asks why a super-hero would get involved in a case of bullying, Kara retorts "[She] was needed, because no one was bothering to help her, even the staff."
    I won't lie, my blood boiled at the sight. They could obviously hear her begging for someone, anyone to help, and all they did was either watch or ignore her. Several had already broken off with bored looks on their faces. I shoved through a trio of girls a little harder than necessary, and ran up to the locker.
  • In Sonic Origins (Ri2), this is the problem with the denizens of Solana. They were so caught up in their own problems even the threat of Helheim couldn't bring them together.
  • Purple Days: Joffrey is the only one to call for a Maester when he poisons Tyrion at his wedding, meaning that his family (besides Jaime, who ran to his side), multiple noble houses, and the citizenry present did nothing but watch as a member of the royal family died right in front of them.
  • Ennea Series: None of the civilians walking down the street stop to help a depowered Hawks as he's kidnapped by Kaetsu in broad daylight, despite the victim's obvious attempts to get away from the kidnapper. Any citizens that think something might be wrong decide it's not their problem or wait for a Pro Hero to come help but one never appears.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time (DragonRand100), this is averted. After the seven year time skip, Citizens across Hyrule are afflicted in some form from the constant warfare and the constant horrors experienced in all towns and cities in Hyrule.

    Films — Animation 
  • The residents of Oakey Oaks from Chicken Little are, quite frankly, complete jerks, who only give Chicken Little the time of day if he wins a ball game for them.
  • In the anime movie Howl's Moving Castle, two of the main characters, Howl and Sophie, walk across the street in mid-air while the street below them is crowded with nearly hundreds of townsfolk dancing. Perhaps they simply never looked up?
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: The people of Apocalypseburg chide Emmet for letting the gang be captured but will do nothing to help him rescue them.
  • Penguins of Madagascar starts with a long row of penguins who are blindly marching in line (for a brief dip in a pool) and unconcerned about a runaway egg rolling past them.
  • All over the place in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which can be justified in that, a) it's New York, and b) it's a New York that has been a playground for superheroes and supervillains for over a decade. By this point, the natives have truly Seen It All, and only react when something weird even by Spider-Man standards starts happening. One of the best examples is when, briefly after Miles gets bitten by the radioactive spider and is swinging through Brooklyn, he and Peter B. accidentally crash and land right in the middle of a crowded crosswalk, both in full Spider-Man costume. He nervously says, "You can just go around," and everyone, without even blinking or acknowledging him, takes that advice, some even going over them.
    Miles: [getting stepped on by a passerby] Great. Thanks, New York.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2012: Tony decides to call his estranged son, whose family is shown to be sound asleep even though the world is collapsing around them.
  • In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman regularly confesses to being a Serial Killer, just to see if anyone is listening. They almost never are, and if they are they think he's joking. It is however hinted that he just imagines at least some of the killings. It's also hinted that he really is killing people, but the people around him don't mind, covering it up for their own gain.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: The Avengers seek to evacuate Novi Grad before their battle with Ultron. Quicksilver goes to the police station yelling that they're under attack. No one listens, and just go back to whatever they're doing (one of them even playing Solitaire on the job). He quickly runs out, comes back with an assault rifle and fires a volley into the ceiling to be sure everyone's paying attention and gets moving.
    Quicksilver: Get off your asses...
  • Batman (1989):
  • Blade (1998): When Blade, a man in a black leather duster with a sword hilt sticking up from his collar, attacks a uniformed cop and stuffs him into his squad car, the people walking along the street mere yards away have no reaction.
  • Exaggerated and Played for Laughs in Blazing Saddles when the brawl between the townspeople of Rock Ridge and Hedley Lamarr's goons, after having swept up a Camp Gay musical production in its wake, crashes into the Warner Brothers studio commissary. Not only do the characters eating in the commissary not flee or try to break up the fight, but they escalate the conflict by snatching up cream pies and throwing them at random people in an enormous "pie fight". Even the unsuspecting tour group that enters the commissary and gets repeatedly pied doesn't seem to mind what's happening.
  • The Boondock Saints:
    • The brothers listen to a sermon in which the priest tells the story of the murder of Kitty Genovese, including the historically apocryphal details that no one called the police or attempted to intervene. The sermon is an indirect endorsement of the brothers' vigilantism.
    • In All Saint's Day also but to a lesser extent than previous. The late Don Yakavetta's bastard son, Concezio Yakavetta, had been indicted for ordering the murders of 22 people but the s.o.b. got off scot-free. He's done so for years since the Saints' departure.
  • Children of Men: Facing The End of the World as We Know It after no new babies are being born, most of the populace retreats into self-centered indifference. When the protagonist is snatched off the street by masked men in broad daylight, some bystanders see it happen but barely break stride, let alone call the police.
  • The Dark Knight
    • The Joker finishes off his first display of talent by having a school bus drive into the bank and then pull out in the middle of a group of them, in broad daylight, on a busy street. The only reaction of the people on the street that the audience is able to notice is a bunch of kids cheering.
    • Later on, Batman has to plow through an alleyway of parked cars on his Batpod. Two kids in the alleyway pretending to shoot guns at the cars watch as the cars really do start blowing up. One seems amazed but not frightened, while the other smiles.
  • Done to both funny and scary effect in Ghostbusters (1984), when Louis is cornered by the Terror Dog outside a restaurant. Everyone ignores his pleas to be let in, then just watches as the dog drags him off before going back to their meals. Ivan Reitman really gets a laugh out of the scene on the DVD commentary, calling it "a New York moment".
  • Taken to some downright Jerkass extents in Ghostbusters (2016), especially in the extended addition. For example, when Erin was kicked out of the academy she worked at, her boyfriend Phil completely turned his back on her; the jerk pretended she wasn't there when she came to him for comfort.
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch: Murray Fetterman gets attacked by a Bat-Gremlin (some Applied Phlebotinum was used to let it survive daylight) in the middle of a busy street. A few people stop to watch, but that's about it. Ironically, they feel more sympathy towards the monster than the man himself.
  • Halloweentown: During the villain's New Era Speech, several people in the crowd are seen nodding and most of the crowd cheers at his defeat, but not a single bystander moves to help either side throughout the final fight.
  • Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
    • Hardly anyone reacts to Harry and Marv chasing Kevin through the streets. It is also weird how Kevin does not even bother to ask anyone for help.
    • Another example from the same film, though probably not from malice; it does depend on the perspective, the infamous Christmas pageant scene. As Kevin sings his solo, unbeknownst to him, Buzz decides to humiliate him, doing things such as giving him "bunny ears" with two electric candles, and pretending to beat on his head like a drum swinging the candles around like drumsticks. This invokes nearly the entire audience to erupt in laughter. It is questionable why an audience mostly full of adults and older students think it is acceptable to laugh at a child being treated as if he was an idiot, either they think what Buzz is doing is downright hilarious and is just goofing around with a harmless prank, or they are doing it for the intentions of demeaning Kevin, difficult to say when we see it from his perspective alone, but it is quite possible, since we are seeing it from his perspective, it is probably coming off much harsher than it actually was. Either way, it is quite sadistic that this would happen in a school performance let alone to a kid. Apparently, everyone was just too polite to violate the (ostensibly) formal atmosphere of the Christmas pageant. Kevin did get everyone to shut up though when he decided to shove Buzz causing him and the rest of the choir to fall over, as well as the set and the pianist, but he had to be called on that.
  • The House That Jack Built: Jack tells Jacqueline before killing her that she can scream however much she'd like-nobody will come to help. He even proves this himself by screaming loudly so that people in the other apartments and outside can all hear. Jack's right-no one responds.
  • In The Howling (1981), several people watch a woman transform into a werewolf on live TV and pass it off as special effects, not really caring enough to look into the matter further.
  • Kick-Ass:
    • Dave Lizewski states that the reason he became a superhero is because he couldn't stand by as a man got attacked while everyone just watched.
    • In the fight that makes him a Living Legend, he even indirectly calls a group of them out on this. Judging from their reactions, they didn't quite get it.
      Kick-Ass: Three assholes, laying into one guy while everyone else watches? And you want to know what's wrong with me?
    • On that occasion, Lizewski shouts for a bystander to call 911 while he battles the thugs. Instead the bystander uses his phone to record the fight so he can upload it to Youtube.
  • In The Lady Vanishes, at least half of the train passengers who deny having seen Ms. Froy aren't even part of the conspiracy, they just don't want to get involved for various reasons of their own.
  • In Last Action Hero, the main antagonist is a criminal from a stereotypical movie universe where the good guys always win and the bad guys never kill innocent bystanders while on the rampage. When he finds himself in the real world late one night, he asks a random bystander for some help "testing a theory". When the bystander approaches, he pulls out a gun and shoots him dead, then loudly announces "I've just killed a man!", to which someone angrily hollers back from the windows overhead for him to shut up so that they can sleep. The villain is overjoyed.
  • The Long Goodbye (2020) is set in a dystopian Britain where white nationalist militias drag Britons of Pakistani ancestry out of their houses and murder them in the street. As Riz's family is massacred, the white people in the neighborhood simply watch from behind their windows, even after Riz's brother spots some of them and screams for them to "Fucking help us!"
  • In Men in Black II, Will Smith is thrown through the window of a New York Subway train and immediately starts shouting at everyone to evacuate. The passengers ignore him until a giant toothed alien monster bites a chunk off the carriage. Later after he mind-wipes them, he starts chewing them out about this, realizes he's screwing up the mind-wipe and starts over.
  • Zigzagged in Oldboy (2003). After the hallway fight scene, Dae-su walks out onto the street covered in blood with nothing more than the occasional odd look from passersby. But when he collapses in the middle of a crosswalk, somebody instantly rushes to his aid (though justified when a short while later it's revealed he's in on the conspiracy.)
  • Rear Window: Lampshaded when a woman stands on her deck and castigates her neighbors for not caring about each other or banding together when crimes happen in their midst, like her dog getting killed. The neighbors all come out to listen to her, some with shamed expressions on their faces. When she's finished screaming, they all just file back inside. The party-goers at the musician's apartment seem entertained by the whole affair.
  • In Serenity, the citizens of Miranda were exposed to an airborne chemical which was designed to suppress criminal impulse. However, the drug ended up suppressing all impulses, leading to the majority of the population succumbing to fatal levels of apathy as they simply stopped caring about sustaining themselves. What made the mishap worse was the adverse reactions exhibited in a handful of cases. Instead of their impulses being suppressed, their ability to resist impulse was suppressed to the extent where they were driven murderously insane. Long story short, the Alliance created the Reavers. It's this scandal which allows Mal and his crew to come away from the movie with anything resembling a victory.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, The crew of the Enterprise is wandering the streets of San Francisco in 1986 in full Starfleet uniforms, trying to find their way to a nuclear reactor to power the ship's depleted warp drive, while various pedestrians just ignore them (except for one helpful soul who points them to Alameda; the crew had to chase her down to get her to sign a release to use the footage). In pre-production, the studio was concerned that locals would see the actors in costume and interfere with filming, so they sent people out to tour the area in full uniform. Nobody took any notice.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, a Mile-Long Ship crashes into the San Fransisco waterfront, smashing Alcatraz on the way in before plowing into the city itself. However as Spock pursues the Big Bad through the city, everyone is still going about their business as if this sort of thing happens every day.
  • In Spree, Nobody believes that Kurt's actually killing people, even as the attacks get increasingly violent and Bobby's death is filmed. Regardless, they keep watching rather than call the police or report Kurt to his social media. Jessie later calls the audience out for it during her fight with Kurt.
  • In The War Game, a 1965 docudrama about a nuclear attack on Britain, blame for this is put on the authorities and the media who've failed to educate or even address the populace on the subject of nuclear war. Sure enough, the BBC prevented the film from being aired on the grounds that it was too disturbing for television.

  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, O'Brien goes on lengths to describe how the proletariat are this, they're so entrenched in Bread and Circuses that they would never care about all the sheer misery, lies and destruction the Party is perpetuating in plain sight, thus destroying Winston's hope that "if there is hope it lies in the proles".
  • In the Lemony Snicket series A Series of Unfortunate Events, most of society is unwilling and/or unable to fight injustice, and many would prefer to gawk at violence for entertainment than attempt to stop it, unless it actually threatens them.
  • The Harlan Ellison story "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" plays on and ultimately subverts the trope. Witnesses to a Kitty Genovese-like (see the Real Life section) murder aren't simply indifferent or paralyzed. They're members of a Religion of Evil taking part in a sacrifice.
  • The inhabitants of the Castle in Septimus Heap rarely care about even plot-critical and Castle-spanning events like the Supreme Custodian taking over the Castle.
  • Played as hilariously straight as it is horrifying, in the GONE series, residents of the FAYZ are used to several people dropping dead on the street every week, and have genuinely stopped reacting fully to it, unless they were personally involved with the poor smuck.
  • Those That Wake has these to begin with, and it's made worse by Man in Suit and his corruption.
  • In Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, the citizens who did not take seriously Windrip's rise to power qualify as this. Emma Jessop is a recurring example, as she's more concerned about mundane matters than the rise of fascism in America, much to Doremus' chargrin.
  • Some politicians attempt enforce this trope in the Newsflesh Trilogy, and without laws, its probably a good way to stay alive. You see, in this world, anyone dying can, within minutes, zombify. Thus quite a few people (and laws) are concerned that attempts to help people killed in car-crashes or heart-attacks will just lead to further outbreaks.
  • In Rachel Griffin, Rachel is stunned to realize that no one is actually concerned, or willing to do very much about, the impending end of the world.
  • Martín Fierro: Martin Fierro was this even before all his disgraces happened: At the second song, he says that he didn’t want to vote in the last election (In Argentina, to vote for the Civil Judge was required) because ''He is a gaucho redondo (dumb) and those things do not interest him''. Notice that he never rebels against the authorities, he just runs away from them. This is the case with all the gauchos: in Real Life, they were exterminated by their goverment in only a few years.
  • Stephen King invoked this early on in Carrie.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Derry Girls: The people of Derry are accustomed to the presence of the British military, and paramilitary bomb threats, which the Fish out of Water James sometimes finds jarring.
  • Doctor Who, to excess. The Russell T. Davies era, whose production team consists of fans of the original series who were likely frustrated by this trope, takes great efforts to avert it, most notably having London completely evacuated for Christmas because the city was attacked by aliens the previous two Christmases.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Jaime mentions this trope when describing the Mad King's execution of Ned's father and brother in "Lord Snow":
      Jaime: Five hundred men just stood there and watched. All the great knights of the Seven Kingdoms, do you think anyone said a word, lifted a finger? No, Lord Stark. Five hundred men, and this room was silent as a crypt. Except for the screams, of course, and the Mad King laughing.
    • In "Sons of the Harpy", Loras is seized by the Faith Militant just after a sparring match, but neither his squire, nor his sparring partner, nor any of the nearby nobles make any attempt to intervene as the Queen's brother is manhandled by commoners.
  • In one two-parter of Kamen Rider OOO, a guy moves into the neighbourhood and forces people to comply with some directives he comes up with (despite not possessing any evident authority to impose them) and installs cameras to enforce them. The only characters shown objecting to him are the Cous Coussier staff.
  • Lost:
    • It seems like the background characters don't give a tiny rat's rear about the monster, the Others, the sky turning purple, or any of the other weird stuff that happens on Craphole Island. They just want to eat Dharma products and lie on the beach. They don't even want to build an SOS sign or play ping-pong.
    • The severe lack of 'island savvy' is commented upon by some of the characters, who then go off later and do exactly what they warned other people not to do. Not wander through the jungle alone because there be monsters. The characters are aware they should not even be alive in the first place (it was a nasty crash) but still...
  • Lampshaded in Lexx:
    Kai: I have observed that the residents of the various cities on Water suffer from — or perhaps, benefit from — a certain complacency in relation to the potential dangers they face. They seem to live for the minute, in a kind of continuum, and will likely show no interest in our problem.
  • In the Burn Notice episode "False Flag", Michael saves a woman from being hit by a car, but nobody else in the street even reacts.
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye, in attempting to demonstrate the apathy of the camp, makes a bet with Trapper that he could walk into lunch stark naked and no one would notice. He was only foiled because a soldier did notice and dropped his tray loudly enough to get people's attention.
  • In Star Trek, the Federation can act like this at times. We never get any indication that the citizens have any problem with Starfleet seeking out new life and new civilizations and occasionally (often by total accident) pissing them off. With how often Trek villains state their end goal is to destroy the Federation (Earth in particular), you'd think there would be some opposition from the people on Federation worlds that will be razed due to Starfleet's actions? Do the people have any say in things?
    • When the Maquis protested that their colonies were given to the Cardassians without their consent, rebelling against Cardassian rule, they were denounced as terrorists, rounded up and imprisoned as enemies of the state. As shown in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Non Sequitur", even talking to a known member of the Maquis and looking up certain information on a public database is enough to get someone slapped with an ankle bracelet.
    • the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Paradise Lost" shows one dangerous Starfleet officer trying to force Starfleet into becoming a full-blown police state in the name of Federation security, although this time, the people do notice the armed personnel on every street corner and take a stand.
    • Subverted by the Organians in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Errand of Mercy", who appear this way to the Federation and Klingons at first, even shrugging off the threat of mass murder against their people. As it turns out, however, they're really an incomprehensibly powerful race of energy beings who were just sitting back and observing the two alien powers to see just how rotten they could be to each other.
  • Played straight in Scream: The TV Series where most of the teen population of Lakewood react to Nina's murder with dry sarcasm or mild indifference, which can be justified as many people thought they had it coming... then averted later on when Riley is killed, causing many grief-induced breakdowns.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man: In the episode "Stranger at Broken Fork", the people don't do squat as the local hooligans force the mental patients out of their convalescent home to be disposed of — in the middle of the desert, egged on by a low-down and evil grocer, off all people — even after Steve and the local police save the day.
  • Arrow: Hatred at the population of the Glades turns out to motivate the plans of the first season's Big Bad to Kill the Poor: when his wife was stabbed in a mugging gone wrong, despite being both out in the open and a wealthy philanthropist who worked in the area (in fact, she was coming home from a free clinic she founded/ran when she was stabbed), nobody lifted a finger to help her. With the revelation she only died because nobody even called the police during the hours she spent bleeding out, with people walking past her indifferently all that time, the villain's views about the need to destroy such a Wretched Hive are understandable.
  • Sex and the City: Carrie is mugged. She walks into a salon and shrieks "I've been robbed!" In true New York City style, everyone present shrugs and goes right back to what they were doing.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Many, Many Monkeys", almost 100,000 people across the United States suddenly go blind as a result of a growth forming over their eyes. Jean Reed's theory is that it is a punishment for humanity's indifference towards each other's pain and suffering. She tells Nurse Claire Hendricks that her husband lost his sight after he received news of his mother's death and talked about it as if he was discussing the weather. Jean admits that she left him alone in spite of his condition in order to save herself and thinks that she was struck blind as a result. Claire eventually becomes convinced that Jean was right when she said that people have become monkeys.
  • Friends: While working as a telemarketer, Phoebe ends up talking to a man who hates his Soul-Crushing Desk Job so much that he's planning to kill himself. When she tries to convince him that people care about him, Earl points out that he's been loudly talking about suicide for five minutes and none of his co-workers have even looked up from their desks.
    Earl: Hang on. (turns to the room) Hey everybody! Uh, I'm going to kill myself! (nobody reacts) I'll get back to ya. (to Phoebe) I got nothing here.
  • The Wire: Bystanders at best act as a Greek Chorus noting various events ("this kid is getting his ass beat!") but calling the police or intervening is out of the question. Bubbles is angry when no one comes to his aid any of the many times the same agressive junkie robs him.

  • The citizens in The Protomen's albums are this across both acts; Protoman even calls them out for just waiting for a hero to save them.
  • The citizens mentioned in Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" cares little for the eponymous character's And I Must Scream situation. This leads to him losing his mind and the subsequent Roaring Rampage of Revenge when he does get free later.
  • "Dark Ages" by Jethro Tull has hints of this. With civilization on the brink of collapse, humanity is more concerned with their own well being than those of others.
  • "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" by Phil Ochs. The first verse is quoted up top.
  • One bystander to the Kitty Genovese murder (see Real life, below) was a guy called Allen Lanier, who had only moved to New York City from upstate New England a fortnight or so previously. A few years later, he wrote a song called Screams In The Night about the incident, which appeared on his band's first LP.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • In 1st Kings, Elijah the prophet deals with the religious apathy of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel during King Ahab's reign, telling them, "How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; and if Baal, follow him!" (1st Kings 18:21) He then proceeds with the contest between the prophets of Baal and himself to show which one among the two is truly God.
    • In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus in the Olivet Discourse warns that the days leading to His Second Coming will be like "the days of Noah" in which people will do ordinary things like "marrying and giving in marriage" and will not be aware that the "end of the age" will come upon them until it's too late. He also warns His followers not to be caught up in the things and cares of this world, lest the Day of His Coming comes upon them without warning.
    • In the Book of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of Laodicea in one of His seven letters to the seven churches, telling them that they are "neither hot nor cold", and He would rather that they were one or the other, or else if they remained lukewarm, He will "spit them out of [His] mouth".

  • Epicureanism and Stoicism have sometimes been accused of embodying this trope in their teaching. However, while Epicureanism teaches that one should strive for tranquility, and the Stoics too, both philosophies using the word "apathaia" for this from which we get "apathy", neither meant what we now mean by the word. They had different doctrines regarding "tranquility", but in both cases they didn't mean one should not care at all for others. Rather, for Epicureans one should not seek out conflict and adversity, trying to live peacefully with people (or if that wasn't possible, getting away from them or fighting back if attacked). The Stoics are notorious as preaching indifference, but that also isn't the whole story. It's true they did teach we should not let passions rule, but that didn't mean moral concern toward others wasn't good-on the contrary, they said one should act on this. However, they recognized that no matter what, people will face hardship, and said we can control its effects on us (thus maintaining "tranquility" rather than giving in to emotion), not indifference for others' hardships.

  • In Welcome to Night Vale, the titular town's citizens are so Conditioned to Accept Horror that they'll just stand by while hooded figures openly steal babies, and will continue to go about their day as a giant glowing cloud drops hundreds of dead animals on their town — as long as they brought a good umbrella. Played for Drama in episode 46, when Cecil tries to rally Night Vale to help Tamika Flynn's child militia in taking down StrexCorp, but the citizens who showed up only stood there and watched while the children were defeated and captured.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Space 1889: Mostly averted at least with humans, this was the time of plenty of grass root movements and charity movements. In some adventures player characters are sometimes expected to intervene in matters that does not directly involve them for no reason than the goodness of their hearts. Most canal Martians are surprisingly resigned to the ineffectiveness of their rulers and the slow dying of their planet, though.

  • In Lizzie, it is disturbingly implied that the townspeople know, or at least suspect, that Lizzie's father is abusing her... and yet, no one has tried to help her. No calls to the police, no attempts at helping her escape, not one person even asking her if she's alright. And it's more than just one-sided; Lizzie doesn't even consider asking anyone for help, either, perhaps out of fear that she won't be believed or taken seriously. The play is set in 1892, but sexual assault and domestic abuse would have raised an eyebrow even then.

    Video Games 
  • Averted in the Anno Domini series. One of the best ways to see fireworks is to withhold (or not meet) your population's needs from them for an extended period of time.
  • Baldur's Gate:
    • Baldur's Gate: Many citizens are aware that the world's going to hell right now (again), but nobody seems to be arsed to do a thing about it. Also, people who lose things, have their friends kidnapped, or just plain want to investigate strange happenings, are quite content to wait around and wait for you to do the job yourself, or at best, wait for you to talk to them before heading on their quest with you in tow.
    • Baldur's Gate II handles most of the quests a bit better, especially the class-specific/stronghold quests: it's not that the citizens are apathetic, and in fact, there's more than a few people trying to do things about the problems, but they're level 1 nobodies and know it, so they're not about to look into it themselves. They'd much rather hire the roving band of god-like mercenaries.
    • This makes the actions of the NPC crowd even stranger in the first game, when one of the big problems is an iron shortage that your party can resolve by third level. What has the Badass Army Flaming Fist been doing if it isn't chasing the Player Character down for infractions of Video Game Cruelty Potential?
  • Dragon Quest VI: When Amor's river runs red as blood, most of the townspeople panic. Except the shopkeepers, who keep their calm by selling you stuff (to the admiration of your teammates).
    Shopkeeper: Wazzat? The water's running bloody red? Eh, stuff happens. You here to buy weapons or gab?
  • Knights of the Old Republic has plenty of this from the Muggles, but it's justified to the point of Deconstruction, especially in the second game, by the fact that the Force Users are dragging everyone else into their conflict (not for the first time, and certainly not for the last), and many don't see much of a difference between Jedi and Sith.
  • The Black Omen in Chrono Trigger is a flying obsidian battlestation. When it first appeared in 12,000 B.C, Humanity had just barely managed to survive a cataclysm that brought the world out of an ice age (which its appearance caused), and people knew that the Black Omen was something to fear. However, its purpose was to just wait until the Day of Lavos to happen in 1999 AD, so it did nothing. In 1000 A.D, it had been floating around for generations without doing anything, so there would be no reason to expect it to do anything now. Characters even forecast weather by the way it shines that day.
  • City of Heroes:
    • City of Villains often plays this straight. Civilians often completely ignore the antics of supervillains and various groups. Gameplay wise, normal civilians are invulnerable, and since random superpowered public battles go on all the time ... by this point, it's little more than street theater for them.
    • In City of Heroes, though, pedestrians who get too close to enemies often cringe and run back the way they came.
    • The apathy is even more apparent if one tries to talk to the civilians. Rogue Islanders are rather dismissive of supervillainy, to the point of being Deadpan Snarkers! ("Let me guess. You're the Dark Something or Other.")
    • Prime Example of this: During a Deadly Apocalypse special event (which is heralded by thick fog, dramatic music, and the sudden appearance of ominous banners throughout the zone), Paragon Citizens will run for cover. Islanders? Don't even react.
  • Dungeon Siege II: Broken World hits the "reallllly pessimistic" part right on the head. A lot of the Elves go on pessimistic monologues that would make a goth or a Nietzsche Wannabe proud. There is a good reason for it, though; they no longer have visions and the Familiars easily decimated them.
  • In Mother 3, after Tazmily gets modernized by Fassad and the Pigmask army following a 3-year Time Skip, most of the villagers, once friendly and willing to help others in need, become colder and greedier, with Lucas and his family receiving the All of the Other Reindeer treatment for refusing to get a Happy Box (which opiates the villagers) and modernize their house. The villagers don't seem to be bothered with the Pigmask army destroying the Nowhere Island's ecosystem, the houses of people that don't own a happy box being mysteriously destroyed by lightning, or the elderly being thrown into a run-down retirement home.
  • Pokémon:
    • A crime syndicate takes over our city? Cults attempt to flood and/or dry out the world? Some god-wannabe tries to restart all of creation? Some kid will take care of it for us.
    • Pokémon Emerald: the weather's gone to hell, two ancient titans are intent on destroying one another, Hoenn and possibly the world are in jeopardy... and that kid in Mossdeep is still rambling on about the rock Steven gave him. Now evacuate before your island floods. It gets worse when you're trying to solve the issue present in the Hoenn games, and trainers in the general area of the disaster will challenge you to a battle, despite the blistering heat or deluge of rain.
    • Pokémon Platinum: People seem worried... if they're in the area. This trait is carried on from Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald.
    • Mention goes to Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver, where you can have the god of the Pokémon universe following you around and no one seems to notice. Well, except the guys at the Ruins of Alph.
    • Lampshaded in Pokémon Black and White; at one point, N suggests that if everybody else in Unova cared about their Pokémon half as much as you do, he wouldn't have a cause, but they don't, so he does. This is averted with the Gym Leaders. Unlike the previous generations where the Gym Leaders are just as apathetic as everyone else, the Leaders from seven of the eight Unova gyms are actively involved in opposing N and Team Plasma.
    • In Pokémon X and Y, two people in the town's Pokémon Center do notice that an enormous crystalline weapon has risen from the ground in the middle of Geosenge Town, destroying several houses in the process, and that Team Flare has seized control of their town. On the other hand, another guy in the Pokémon Center is still too busy talking about the TM he gave you earlier to notice anything unusual. But what really takes the cake is Phil the Photo Guy, as you can still call him to take your picture in the middle of all this, and he doesn't acknowledge any of what's going on. When you call him up, he just goes about his business like usual. Even after the crisis is averted, nobody really does anything to fix the damage done around Geosenge's north end, and everyone in town seems relatively unphased by the ordeal.
    • Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire play this game about as straight as the originals, but mercifully make the people of Mossdeep panic as well. It's a little more egregious given the nature of the BuzzNav which reports everything to every Trainer faster than Speed Forme Deoxys; everyone should know about this and be panicking, but only half the country cares.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link has a mix.
      • Plenty of people are willing to help Link, but sometimes require strange tasks. Getting one key spell, for example, requires getting water for a woman when the fountain is the next screen over. Another complains about a trophy being stolen and requires its return to get the spell.
      • The random townspeople are a mixed bag. Some of them are clearly worried with phrases like "You must save Hyrule!" and "Please save our town!". Others express "I am much too busy to talk to a stranger" or "I know nothing".
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask: In a combination of the giant moon in the sky and the clownish madman trying to destroy the world, the premise has the possessed Skull Kid bringing the moon down on Termina. Reactions range from "Gee, the moon's getting bigger..." to plans in a Bomb Shop for trying to GET to said moon using bombs. Even the Mask Salesman who starts you on your journey doesn't do anything himself, only shaking you if you go back to him without the eponymous mask.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: Princess Zelda gets turned to stone, and nobody in town gives a shit. In fact, all they ever seem to give a toss about is how strange the King is acting - by which time you'll probably have seen the cutscene that explains it. People are more interested in Kinstones.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Nobody seems to notice that their beloved Queen Zelda has disappeared. They don't even talk about her all that much or even when Hyrule Castle is surrounded by an impenetrable bubble. When the city is first filled with darkness, they watch the castle burn and don't seem to really care! To paraphrase Midna: "This city is full of idiots!"
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: Anyone in Skyloft will let you sleep in their bed. Especially Beedle, who complains how your sleeping in his bed made him have to pedal even harder just to keep his floating shop afloat. He says he doesn't mind, but he certainly complains about it enough.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Online, a number of Non Player Characters were constantly moaning about how terrible things were. This was later changed to make them less unhappy.
  • Mercenaries:
    • In Playground of Destruction, the people of North Korea have become so desensitized to the constant shifts in government and the daily assortment of air raids, artillery barrages, mafia killings, and armored offensives that they won't even blink when a heavily armed mercenary rumbles past with a stolen tank.
    • In Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, most Venezuelan civilians will keep on driving down the road, even when there is a large running gunfight between mercenaries, People's Liberation Army of Venezuela, the Venezuelan Army, the Chinese Army, and the Allied Nations roaring down the road towards them. However, an interesting aversion sometimes occurs when civilian pedestrians in the major cities run screaming in terror from the various bombing runs and gunfights occurring within city limits.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): Early on in the game, you find yourself impeded by a large door which won't be opened without authorization from the captain of the police force, but the officer who tells you this won't just tell you where to find the captain; apparently, the best use of their time was to devise silly little Knights and Knaves games meant to impede people trying to save the princess. The worst partnote  is that, when you finally locate the captain, he tells you they gave you the runaround because they just really didn't feel like helping you save their beloved monarch.
    • Sonic Unleashed: The world has been torn apart, an Eldritch Abomination is wreaking havoc at night, and Eggman is being uncharacteristically menacing, yet the only townspeople to show appropriate concern or despair are revealed to be possessed by the aforementioned Eldritch Abomination. It's a little bit creepy finding people completely aware of the grim state of the world, yet much more concerned with mundane problems. This is lampshaded by Amy when she asks why everyone is so laid-back during the crisis.
  • Tales Series:
    • In Tales of Symphonia, at one point, a planet appears overhead. The two planets are mere miles away from each other, and it turns the sky a bright shade of purple. However, no one seems to be upset that another world is placed so close to theirs, except for one college student, who worries that it might mess up his senior thesis.
    • In Tales of Vesperia, a similar premise takes place when the Adephagos is introduced into the world. Despite it being blatantly obvious in its eventual destruction of the world, the populace, for the most part, doesn't look like they care much. However, this is changed when the guilds, Knights, and everyone else joins together to destroy blastia in the hopes of bringing change to the world.
  • Averted in the Wrath of the Lich King Expansion Pack for World of Warcraft, where you gather weapons and otherwise help a group of farmers rise up to battle an undead invasion. It's even the farmers' idea.
  • While the citizen of Empire City will easily notice Cole and act accordingly to his Karma rating in inFAMOUS, they have the annoying habit of just standing around while you're duking it out with street gangs and giant robots. While not much of an inconvenience if you're playing as a villain, in which case you can just blast everything in sight, be it villain or civilian, it gets particularly annoying when playing as a hero, and you can't use any of your stronger powers because twenty damn old ladies are between you and baddies.
  • Angband, Moria, and some other Roguelikes partially follow this trope. There's a deep dungeon with the world Ultimate Evil at the bottom, but there's a happy town with merchants all too willing to make a buck off the hero. Though to be fair, it's possible the town has sprung up because of the opportunities in selling equipment to would-be adventurers who promptly get themselves killed, thus ensuring a nice buyback policy once it's "found".
  • In the ending of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, despite having a massive weapon smash through a large portion of New York, much of the citizens in the background simply carry about their business, and the only ones who seem to even notice the damage are the police. Although only a handful are present.
  • In Phantasy Star IV, late in the game, the people of Piata are worried about what will happen to their city when they find out that a huge hole has opened up in the earth north of them and all life around it is dying inexplicably, including killing everyone in Mile, a nearby village. They don't do anything about it. Piata is called the Town Of Learning because it's the only place in the solar system with a university, and the world's smartest people live there. It does have a notable aversion, though, see below.
  • [PROTOTYPE]: By late in the game, most of Manhattan is a warzone between Alex Mercer, the US Marine Corps and Shadowy Government Conspiracy, and the Infected. However, in many areas, traffic is going normally, and people are casually strolling down the streets, right up until Mercer shows up while using any of his visible powers, or the Infected start spreading again. Then they panic. They should know better by now. It gets so absurd, that you can stand at the edge of an infected zone and a neutral zone and look left, see people panicking, screaming and freaking out as infected attack them and the military attacks them, then look right and see completely calm people cross the street without a care in the world.
    Marine: Fucking New York...
  • Hitman:
    • The series usually averts this, with civilians screaming and running at any sign of danger, but the last mission of Hitman: Contracts hands you a blatant example — you can mug a paramedic for his clothes with a half-dozen civilians standing five feet away, looking directly at you. It doesn't raise the alarm at all.
    • In the Mardi Gras level of Hitman: Blood Money, the teeming mass of partygoers choking the streets don't notice or care if 47 is running around having gun battles with cops and thugs dressed as giant birds. They don't even count as living witnesses afterwards.
  • The Godfather game is weird about this; sure, there's Crowd Panic should you be seen with a gun, or get involved in a gunfight, or crash into something... but if you use your car's horn to try and get them out of the way when you're speeding to somewhere, they don't care. Perhaps a case of Truth in Television?
  • Final Fantasy VII have the people in the slums practically not care what happens around them or above them on the upper plate. When Sector 7 gets destroyed because of a piece of the upper plate falls on it, several of the NPCs are either mildly surprised or are disgruntled that the destruction caused them an inconvenience.
  • Persona:
    • Ironically, the citizens in Persona 3 act this way toward Apathy Syndrome victims. People with Apathy Syndrome can't talk or move, so if they're stuck outside, they can easily become dehydrated or get heat stroke. However, it seems that most people you speak to are too creeped out to get near a victim or can't even be bothered to help. One student even admits to taking pictures of every victim he saw and sending them to his friends.
    • Persona 4: The longer the fog remains in the town, the more apathetic the citizens get. The protagonists worry about this when they notice that the townspeople are more concerned with the latest trending topic than they are about the problems the town is facing. As they later learn, the fog represents self-deceit, and is fueled by the people's desire for a convenient lie over harsh reality. Both of the major villains have the nihilistic belief that this is all there is to mankind, and are willing to grant that wish by forcibly merging the real world with the Shadow world when the fog inevitably grows strong enough.
    • Persona 5: Regularly discussed. Many of the villains bring up the fact they can do the horrible things they've done because the general public is more interested in being told what to do rather than doing what's right on their own. In fact, the Phantom Thieves decide to continue their activities after the first dungeon in order to encourage people to not be afraid and apathetic anymore. The optional dungeon Mementos is actually the Palace of Tokyo's general population, created by mundane stressors such as a loss of livelihood, status, and family. These fears prevent them from challenging the status quo that allows the villains to get away with their crimes. Of the Seven Deadly Sins the Palaces and their creators represent, Mementos and humanity represent "Sloth". The apathy of the general public becomes somewhat ridiculous when the supernatural Big Bad creates a Palace of the population of Tokyo itself, rains acid blood on everyone inside, and 99.5% of the population continues walking and pretends they're not noticing their neighbors melting right in front of them.
  • Averted in Metal Walker. While the majority of the citizens don't have Mons to help, they know a lot of what's going on and freely share information with you, telling you where places are on the world map. In the very beginning of the game, a citizen even saves your character's life!
  • In D/Generation, while some of the people you rescue may give you advice, most just wait for you to lead them to the exit.
  • In Zettai Hero Project, the citizens are presumably so used to world ending threats that they don't really care that there's a rampaging Final Boss threatening to destroy the world, reasoning that the world's most popular hero The Unlosing Ranger will stop him. The event is even televised as a media sensation. When the Ranger dies and the torch is passed to a weak bystander who gets killed in one shot, they still don't care. Reaches legendary proportions when a nuke threatens to destroy Japan in 20 minutes, and nobody can stop it besides the weak bystander. Do they gain faith in him? No, surely someone else besides that loser will save them.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Morrowind, NPCs won't lift a finger to help you if you're under attack by another NPC. Even your fellow Guild members won't assist if you're attacked by a Dark Brotherhood assassin in the guild hall. The only exception is that City Guards will kill creatures if you lure them into town.
    • Oblivion:
      • There are many cases, especially the rulers of the cities and the empire. At the climax of the main story, there is a demonic invasion about to occur outside one of the most important imperial cities. If the battle and the city are lost, the empire will fall as the demons would have a clean march to the heart of the empire. So your character goes around trying to muster support for the coming invasion. If you do everything perfectly (taking over an hour per city), you'll be assisted by...14 standard city guards. Not 14 guards per city. 14 guards total. To top things off, the capital of the empire can't send any troops at all because: "They are too busy protecting the borders". Priorities seem skewed...
      • During the main part of the game there are Oblivion Gates open all over the land, constantly pouring demons out of them, and no one outside of the main quest line seems overly concerned about that.
      • Wonky AI also contributes to this and zigzags it. Plenty of videos have sprung up of people committing flagrant crimes in front of guards and citizens, who yell at them but can't be bothered to get up out of their chair to actually do something about it. On the other hand, it's equally common to see the populace of Cyrodiil drastically overreact to minor crimes, leading the theft of an onion to balloon out into a full-on riot, leaving a dozen dead.
      • Inverted for the City Guards in comparison the the previous game, Morrowind. Bethesda seems to have overcompensated, because in Oblivion, a perfectly viable way to defeat tough enemies is to simply lure them toward some guards who will take care of them in short order.
    • In Skyrim, most people seem concerned about the impending draconic apocalypse, but they just go about their normal business since they know there's nothing they can do about it. But if someone dies in front of them, chances are they'll just say "Oh. What happened?", knowing full well that the culprit is right behind them with a weapon covered in blood. Ans sometimes, after the town your visiting is attacked by a freaking dragon, the citizens react to the aftermath like it was a normal day in the neighborhood.
  • In the old FPS/RPG Strife, neither the peasants or Order troops pay attention to the heavily armed man wandering around town. Not even when the facilities he enters suffer from gunfights and destruction shortly after. You can also shoot villagers with poison arrows and stab them to death in plain sight of their friends or allies and most of the time they won't even move. However, acolytes will attack you if kill other acolytes.
  • The citizens of Hexi village from Eastern Exorcist demonstrates some ridiculous moments of apathy, which figures into the backstory of some of the bosses (who turns out to be tragic monsters because of their past). For instance, the Shura used to be an orphaned boy the villagers simply ignored and left to starve to death on his own, while there is a water demon monster was a rape victim, that the villagers simply sentences to death in order to preserve their village's reputation.
  • Averted in the Europa Universalis series, where if your subjects have reasons to revolt (nationalism, religious differences, etc.) THEY WILL. To many players' annoyance.
  • Played straight in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, where the citizens of Crimea, at least in Port Toha, explicitly state that they don't care that their country is being overrun, though they're aware of it. Oddly, citizens of the antagonist country Daein seem quite passionate when the protagonists overrun their country.
  • Played straight and subverted in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Many of the toads in the game show some level of concern over the outbreak of Blorbs and at least notice the disappearance of everyone in Peach's castle, but none of them are actually willing to do anything about it. That said, when things land right in their lap, most of them are plenty willing to scream and panic (i.e. when Bowser grows several stories and has a Godzilla-style throwdown with a Humongous Mecha formed using Peach's castle).
  • The citizens of OsTown and Mean Street in Epic Mickey. The world is nothing but a dangerous, toxic, dark, forsaken wasteland, death machines and murderous predators made of ink waiting around just for a chance to slit their throats or take their souls, the world is ruled by Cthulhu's long lost cousin and a Mad Scientist with an amputation fetish, their former king is losing his grip of reality due to bitterness, jealousy, grief and loneliness, and the most famous star in animation history is running around either trying to save the world or playing Grand Theft Auto Disney-style on them and they all walk around with big smiles and happy faces and says they've no problems in the world and just ask you to deliver their mail or bring them flowers or something.
  • Super Mario Sunshine: The citizens have the shine sprites needed to get the island sunny again. They have Mario do everything for them instead of pooling them in or just giving them to Mario. Especially egregious are the tanookis running the boathouse, who are actually hoarding two dozen Shine Sprites and will only fork them over for blue coins.
  • The villagers in the Animal Crossing games barely do anything to make the town better. Weeds have grown all over the place? You have to remove them! Money is needed to build a bridge? The villagers will only contribute with a very small amount of money! Gulliver has washed up on the beach? No one will bother to see if he is alright.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: A meeting with a contact turns bloody in the Ultra-Luxe Hotel spa, eliciting absolutely zero reaction from the nearby people who are dipping in the pool. It actually makes the place creepier than it already is.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins: NPCs will often ignore huge battles taking place right beside them, and outside of one guy in Lothering, none of the Templars seem to notice that Morrigan is an apostate. The latter is rather justified, as Ser Bryant, the leader of the Lothering Templars, does point out that his main concern is the approaching Darkspawn horde, and as long as they don't cause trouble, he simply has bigger fish to fry than a Mage Warden or their Apostate allies. Another reason is that Templars likely don't want to create a diplomatic incident with the Grey Wardens over arresting their allies, especially in lieu of the Blight — a side-quest in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening shows what happens when the Templars do try to take issue with the Grey Wardens hiring apostates. For the most part, the only objection the Templars have to the Grey Wardens is their refusal to ban Blood Magic, seeing it as simply another tool to use against the horde.
    • Dragon Age II: The citizens of Kirkwall don't seem to notice or care that the city's most famous resident, a rogue wizard, the captain of the guard, and a pirate are getting into massive, bloody battles in residential neighborhoods.
  • In Katamari Damacy, the citizens notice that the stars and moon are gone out of the sky, but never notice that rolling balls of... stuff are collecting people, buildings, and land. Son, did you say there's a strange ball collecting stuff? Oh, we have to catch a plane.
  • While they don't actually appear, they clearly exist in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The Big Bad gives a Motive Rant referencing the world's apathy as a reason for his Despair Event Horizon, and his goal is to get citizens to care about the risks and sacrifices the military makes.
    General Sheperd: Five years ago, I lost 30,000 men in the blink of an eye... and the world just fucking watched. Tomorrow, there will be no shortage of volunteers, no shortage of patriots. I know you understand.
  • Herc's Adventures: Nobody gives a wet napkin about you being a legendary greek hero trying to stop Hades to bring The End of the World as We Know It, but they react if you hit them... By saying things like "Quit hitting me !" or "Pick someone your own size !".
  • The Mental Series, at least in the last game, Murder Most Foul. The citizens don't really seem to care about your presence, with them only telling you "Watch it FREAK!" if you run into them. This wouldn't be so bad, if the instructions didn't establish the three as the most wanted criminals in the country. They still don't react when Walter starts running them over with a van.
  • The Smurfs themselves on the very first level of the 16-bit version of Infogrames' The Smurfs (1994). Not only do they not seem to care that your fellow Smurfs have been captured by Gargamel and you're the only Smurf that needs to rescue them, they're also inadvertently trying to kill you with their daily activities!
  • Zigzagged in Cobra Mission. As we learn towards the end of the game, most young men and women were kidnapped and either killed or drugged and transformed into Mooks, and older folks are too afraid to leave their homes. Yet, most businesses (shops, delivery firm, construction company, railroad, hiring company) seem to be working as though nothing is out of ordinary.
  • Played very straight by the NPCs of Sands of Destruction. Your hero Kyrie is a Person of Mass Destruction who was jailed for accidentally killing a beastlord and turning his whole village to sand, and his Love Interest Morte is the Crimson Plague, feared Beastslayer, and supposedly one of the most notorious members of the World Annihilation Front (and definitely carrier of a BFS that no one ever asks her to please leave outside). Most people don't even blink when you walk into town - not just the humans, who might believe you're there to liberate them from feral rule, but even most of the ferals don't seem to care (including if you walk into a feral-only portion of a city; the most reaction you'll get is a casual, "Oh dear, how did you get in here? This is no place for humans," not even a threat to call the guards if you don't leave). When people start noticing that the world may actually be ending, their reactions are pretty low-key, too - a couple say they're scared but still roam around the city as usual, though some question if such a thing is even possible. In the city of Viteaux, however, when Porcus Rex threatens to eat a child for accidentally running into him, the crowd of onlookers definitely feels sorry for the kid, but doesn't dare intervene or even raise an objection. Even your companions point out to Kyrie that this is simply the way things are (luckily for that kid, though, Kyrie is an All-Loving Hero and refuses to accept the status quo).
  • Ryomura Village's citizens in Sinjid don't seem to notice or care that Mistwalkers hired by the The Empire stormed their village and kidnapped your allies while you were away. It's even lampshaded; Sinjid questions why the villagers are so calm given the situation they're in, and Midori, who informs you of this matter, states that it's because they're slow.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines' resident pawn shop manager Trip will sell the player character highly illegal weapons with offhand comments about the dreary state of Santa Monica, a warning not to do anything that could be traced back to him, and absolutely no further interest. That he has connections in local law enforcement and both opposing Vampire factions makes it highly likely that he has some inkling of the supernatural nastiness going on in town, but prefers the safety of the sidelines.
  • Parodied in Crash Twinsanity, where Crash Bandicoot and Dr. Neo Cortex end up in a Wumpa Fruit farm, and the farmer happens to have one of the crystals they need to travel to the Tenth Dimension. However, the farmer refuses to give it to them unless they exterminate the worms infesting his orchard before the farmer's market opens the next day. Cue Cortex blasting the farmer and saying something to the effect of "This Is Reality."
  • Clarence's Big Chance: Clarence's coworkers, Played for Laughs. One even stands around impassively while the room is on fire.
  • Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places): Everyone. They don't care if you are drugged, choking to death, drowning, or dying of bad food. In fact, they ALL WANT YOU TO DIE! Except for the hairstylists, that is. For instance, during the airport segment of the game, you find a suitcase with a ticking bomb in it and you decide to get it out of there before it kills everybody. You shout that you have a bomb and that everybody should get to safety, and they all ignore you. Even the guard seen in the way out (a local who knows just basic English) is informed of the bomb and replies "Have a nice day."
  • Spirits of Anglerwood Forest: The citizens of Hatchet's Point really don't care that Edgar, a young boy from out of town who's parents are missing, has nowhere to stay for the night. The innkeeper refuses to let him stay the night without money and one man tells him to just sleep on the streets.
  • The citizens found in Heavy Rain don't seem to particular care about what goes on around them. In the prologue, Ethan and his son Shaun get hit by a car. While Ethan's wife Grace is hysterical over what she just witnessed, everyone else gathers around to see what's going on but they just stare in silence instead of offering to help or calling for an ambulance. In another case, Ethan's agoraphobia in a crowded train station nearly causes him to have a mental breakdown. While a few people do notice Ethan's behavior, they display annoyance rather than concern and everyone else just moves on without a care. Another situation occurs when Madison escorts an injured Ethan through a subway station to get away from the police that are chasing them. Madison decides to have herself and Ethan jump down to the tracks and cross it to reach the platform on the other side. The station is packed with commuters and yet not a single person bats an eye over a woman and an injured man trying to cross the train tracks.
  • Lethal Enforcers: Most citizens, like in many Light Gun Games, are just annoying in how they jump out of cover to yell at you to not shoot, but a few, notably in Chinatown Assault, seem to be completely unconcerned with the active shooting situation going on around them. Notably one old man in the subway station who is sleeping on a bench throughout the entire scene, only moving to scratch himself or look up annoyed at you. A chef trying to catch a chicken also walks through the scene.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Worshippers of the Gain, there are various bad endings where your character is put into a terrible situation, from being essentially enslaved to outright murdered, but no one in the town else seems to notice or care. Not even anyone you befriend or become a couple with will lift a finger to save you. This is justified and exploited, as there is a sealed deity nearby who is using its influence to cloud the minds of the townsfolk, specifically to make sure they stay in town to eat and get fatter. Your character is the only one immune to this and when you gain max friendship with someone you can help snap them out the deity's influence to help you eventually destroy the deity.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • In "Necessary Sacrifice," much to Sun's frustration, no one in Menagerie is willing to help protect Haven Academy from the White Fang. Blake explains that Menagerie has been populated by Faunus who are tired of fighting or struggling and just want to be left alone. Asking them to go and fight other people's wars is asking them to put strangers before themselves. Her concern is that the people of Menagerie haven't yet realized that the damage the White Fang will do in the eyes of the humans will affect even Menagerie.
      Blake: The Faunus here in Menagerie — the ones that weren't born on the island — moved here because they were tired of fighting, of having to struggle constantly. Menagerie is filled with people that just want to be left alone, and here we are, asking them to put the rest of the world before themselves.
      Sun: I guess I never really thought about it like that.
      Blake: The problem is, whatever happens at Haven is going to affect them whether they like it or not. If Adam gets his way and Haven falls, it's only going to make things worse for the Faunus. Everywhere.
    • In "True Colors", the citizens are finally broken out of this attitude when the White Fang attacks and tries to kill Blake's parents, the beloved leaders of Menagerie; this, along with a Rousing Speech from Blake, convinces them to help.

  • Most of the citizenry of Generictown in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. Then again, considering how smartness-impaired many of them are, getting them actively involved in the town's weirdnesses would probably only make things worse.
  • In A Hate Story, every living citizen of the Lich'Moor Empire is completely desensitized to any form of danger or disaster and has no fear of death, leading to things like a crowd of people roasting marshmallows on the flames of the burning building they're trapped in.
  • In Second Empire, Xenol has found that the rulers of Dalek society have begun implementing a series of "efficiency" measures such as effectively slaving the Dalek Empire to their computers and stopping assigning names in favor of strings of alphanumeric code, among other measures he sees as polluting the Dalek legacy. He arranges for a break-in into Skaro in a daring mission to kill the Emperor, and when that fails, he has inflicted massive damage to the Dalek capital and considerably thinned the city guard. He leaves Skaro, fully confident the citizenry will see his acts and begin asking questions and weakening the Emperor's rule. Cue the Skaro's Largest Kwalorblmn Fruit report next day.
  • The Order of the Stick: When the Order is trying to avert the imminent destruction of the planet, the crew of the pirate airship Mechane won't transport them until they're sure of getting paid, and gripe about it even then.
    Crewman: Ugh, it's just another apocalypse-of-the-week situation. Good triumphs over Evil while Neutral gets the bill.

    Web Original 
  • On many art sites, many artists (mostly those who constantly get bashed for producing low quality artwork or fanservice) will often use Don't Like? Don't Read! or some variation thereof in order to try and invoke this. The main reason being these individuals either Can't Take Criticism or hope that, by telling users Don't Like? Don't Read! or making a Dear Negative Reader, people will leave them alone so they can continue to create those works.
  • Alice Isn't Dead: During part 3, the conspiracy of the cannibalistic thistle men, their fake war with Bay and Creek, and how the US government is supporting them both gets expose to the public and life goes on like nothing has happened with none of the expected shock and outrage. There is barely any mention of it in the news and one guy just says he isn't into politics when asked about it. The protagonists think they have lost until they figure out that they need to gather people together to do something about it.

    Web Videos 
  • In Kickassia, the civilian populace of Molossia (read: the president's family) react to all news about the state of their homeland with an uninterested hum, without even taking their eyes off their magazines. Until the very end, when one of the president's children looks up from his magazine and says, "What?"
  • In Positively Dreadful, the Marvel Universe is coming to an end, one citizen is shown panicking, while another seems uninterested and confident that the Avengers will fix everything. The latter turns out to be right.

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Beetlejuice had the eponymous ghoul and Lydia visit a cursed town which disappears for eternity as soon as all its inhabitants fall asleep. Everyone who is not dozing is constantly drowsy and forgetful as a result of the curse's effects.
  • One episode of one of the Care Bears television series had the eponymous characters and their cousins visit a gray town filled with apathetic people who didn't care about the miserable state of their surrounding or the kind actions offered. It's later revealed to be a Fisher Kingdom under the spell of a nearby gem, causing the the Care bears and their cousins to slowly lose their color and become increasingly non-caring. In the end, it is destroyed just before the characters succumb to its effects and everything becomes happy and cheerful again.
  • Played for Laughs in episode of Darkwing Duck, "Stressed to Kill" where the people seemed apathetic to the crimes. Quackerjack and Megavolt developed a way to forcibly relax people so they can steal without anyone raising an alarm.
    Darkwing: What is with you people?! The city's been robbed blind and you act like nothing's happening!
    Citizen: So, like, what's your point?
  • In the Doug Christmas Episode, this is taken to brutal extremes when Porkchop is treated as a mad dog due to accidentally hurting Bebe while getting her away from thin ice and in danger of being put to sleep. When Doug tries to get up a petition to save him, only Mr. Dink was willing to sign; everyone else refused to get involved in the mess or thought that Christmas wasn't the time to deal with such depressing things. It's not until Doug makes a stirring speech at Porkchop's trial that everyone agrees to give Porkchop a fair shake and hear his side of things.
  • Every inhabitant of the Neutral Planet from Futurama seems unable to process enough emotion to be afraid of imminent disaster.
  • Invader Zim: There are only two people on Earth who notice that an alien invader and his battle robot are attempting to infiltrate the planet, and only one of them cares. Good thing the invader is really bad at his job, which is the exact reason the other character gives for choosing to play video games instead of helping to fight said alien.
  • Happens in the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Lax", where the cast from Recess Cross Overed into Lilo and Stitch's universe for a vacation in their Hawaiian island hometown. One of Stitch's "cousins" activated to cause havoc is a parrot-like experiment named Lax who had the ability to fire green rays from his antenna that caused anything it hits to relax or stop working. When Pleakley, Jumba, and Stitch get zapped by the lazy beam, they all go on vacation, forcing Lilo to rely on her new friends to stop the experiment so they can use it to deactivate Hamsterviel's latest destructive weapon. As Lax dwindles down their numbers, all but Lilo and The Smart Guy Gretchen are left to stop the latest threat. When Lax's beams hit Gretchen, she acts unaffected as her Workaholic personality allows her to derive relaxation and satisfaction from her work. Through improvisation, they use their affected friend's vacation play to catch the experiment, deactivating the destructive machine and finding Lax's one true place where he belongs by using his powers to make grouchy business people enjoy their vacations.
  • Strange example from The Mask animated series. It had an episode where Stanley became an astronaut. When his space shuttle is about to crash, the people panicked except for one guy who simply walked away uninterested with his arms crossed.
  • The citizens of Ponyville, the home of the titular Mane Six in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, are jaded to the idea of danger to the point they'd let the Mane Six deal with the problem while going more or less on with their lives. However, it is worth noting that they are only in danger about 30% of the time, which is rare compared to the 70% of the time when it's peaceful.
  • Pinky and the Brain: "I'm really a lab mouse trying to take over the world."
  • South Park: The citizens of South Park have been guilty of this on numerous occasions, particularly in "Good Times with Weapons", where they witness Butters with a shuriken in his eye... and ignore it in favor of Cartman walking around naked.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The Bikini Bottomites often behave this way in regards to the main characters. For example, in "Stuck in the Wringer", they don't bat an eye at SpongeBob getting constantly pummeled at the carnival due to Patrick's incompetence, yet they get on his case when he justifiably tells Patrick off and outright tell him to his face he deserves to be in his wringer for it, callously sending him into a deep depression.
  • One episode of Steven Universe revolves around Ronaldo trying to make the citizens of his hometown actually care that they were attacked every other week by alien monsters that only the Gems can fight. Even when it becomes apparent that the monsters are only attacking the town because they're looking for the aforementioned Gems, the strongest response he gets is "but what do you expect us to DO about it?".
  • The Pupununu tribe from Tak and the Power of Juju really enjoy abusing Tak for no reason, as Tak is seen an annoyance to them in the village.

    Real Life 
  • The Chinese guy who said a proverb which is translated roughly as Only a madman celebrates the change of dynasty, claiming that no matter who is in power, the situation won't change anyhow.
  • There's actually far more Truth in this Trope than you might think. Contrary to the "we don't want to create a panic" cliche, most people tend to underreact to warnings of danger. Freezing is a far more common response than panic.
  • Living creatures in general tend to fit this trope. Unless it impacts the individual or their family members and friends directly, most tend to ignore or else reluctantly react towards whatever is going on. And this fits more than just humans. Animals can react apathetically to an individual's plight as well. Humans ganging up on one member of their species in order to capture/kill them? Well, as long as the ones on the sidelines can get away, then there's nothing to worry about.
  • Towards the end of the Three Kingdoms, the state of Wei (one of the titular Three Kingdoms) finally conquered the rival state of Shu in 264. This left only the state of Wu. However, the political situation in Wu was extremely volatile, with the Wu imperial court devolving into a Decadent Court. The Wu Emperor Sun Hao was also the worst tyrant of the Three Kingdoms, and when an invasion was launched note , most of Wu's military forces and civilians couldn't even be bothered to try to defend the state. The invasion went so well that the commanders actually had to halt some of their forces so everyone could catch up.
  • British history author Anthony Beevor suggests in his book Russian Revolution and Civil War 1917-1921 that Russia basically is this trope. According to him, the Russian October Revolution in October 1917 succeeded basically because nobody bothered to resist the Bolsheviks in the first place and they were able to seize the power undisturbed. This is another version of the Chinese proverb "only a madman celebrates the change of dynasty" - for the Russians, the Bolsheviks would be another case of hard-handed rulers in a long continuum.
  • Editor Maxwell Perkins once showed up at a literary party with the aim of proving that no one ever listened to each other at said parties. This he accomplished upon meeting the hostess, saying, "Sorry I'm late, it took longer than expected to strangle my aunt." The hostess' answer? "Oh, of course. So nice of you to come."
  • A similar, probably apocryphal, story is told of Franklin D. Roosevelt, said to have started telling dignitaries as a receiving line, "I strangled my grandmother this morning." In some versions of the tale, a particularly astute British diplomat responds, "I'm sure she had it coming, Mr. President."
  • The case of Kitty Genovese, who was raped and stabbed to death near her home in Queens, New York in 1964, is usually cited as an example of this. The media reported that thirty-eight witnesses saw the crime, but nobody called the police. In reality, several calls to the police were made, but no one realized the severity of the attack or the fact that the perpetrator returned to the area to finish the job. Nevertheless, it inspired an investigation of the phenomenon, called bystander effect.
  • It's the same reason that people with crutches have a more difficult time getting help in crowded cities than in less-populated areas. People just think that someone else will help them if they don't. A similar effect can be noticed with hitchhikers. The more cars, the less chance of getting a lift. People don't feel bad about leaving you there if they think someone else will pick you up. If there's only one car on the road, they figure what the hell and give you a lift.
  • On February 12 1993, in Liverpool, England, 2-year old James Bulger was kidnapped from a shopping mall and eventually murdered by two 10-year old boys, Robert Thompson and John Venables. Of the many shocking aspects of the crime, one was that before the murder, Bulger was taken from a public place in front of hundreds of witnesses and walked over 2.5 miles with two young boys in the middle of a school day without anyone noticing something was wrong. Eventually 38 people, who would become known as "The Liverpool 38", made formal police reports claiming they saw the children on the day of the crime. Many of them said they saw signs that Bulger was in obvious distress and sometimes was being dragged or carried. However, only 2 of the 38 said they stopped to question the boys, and those two both accepted Venables' and Thompson's explanations for why they were walking with Bulger without taking any further action. It was not bystander apathy, in fact some who did see him in obvious distress did seem concerned, but those who did see, and did seem concerned, perhaps thought that they were his brothers, or that someone else would help. Hundreds did protest at their trial, and hundreds of thousands did sign on that the two would receive life time sentences.
  • Eliot Aronson, an eminent psychologist cites another, lesser-known case of a woman called Eleanor Bradley in his book The Social Animal after mentioning Genovese. Bradley, while shopping on the Fifth Avenue, fell and broke her leg; she lay on the street for forty minutes, and people just passed her by until somebody finally helped. Aronson suggests that an important factor in this case was that people were able to leave the situation. He cites an experiment where someone pretended to faint in a subway car; they received help in 95% of the cases.
  • In one of his routines, Australian comedian Adam Hills described being caught in a delay on the London Underground: several tubes had to be stopped for at least three-quarters of an hour, due to a possible bomb (not long after the 2005 bombings). The commuters' reactions? Mild annoyance at the delay.
    Adam Hills: England is the only country that attempts to fight the war on terror using boredom.
  • Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain tells a joke in regards to both the July London Bombings and the London Olympics:
    Dara O'Briain: The city reacted in a phenomenally London way; the entire place went Oh my God, there's a bomb on the Piccadilly Line. [pause] Well, I can get the Victoria line. The two things happened one day after the other; the announcement of the Olympics and then the bombs going off; the 6th and the 7th and the reaction, essentially, from Londoners was the same: an incredible piece of news, but how am I supposed to get home?
  • Israel is sometimes referred to as the only country in the world, where a group of young men with machine guns can walk into a bank and be expected to wait in line. Subverted in that they have to be uniformed soldiers (due to universal conscription there's quite a few of them running about the place). Israel has its occasional inversions of this trope, however. Upon seeing a situation that can be resolved with application of overwhelming force (such as say, a terrorist attack involving something other than a suicide bomber), off-duty soldiers that just so happen to be in the area have been known to intervene with lethal efficiency.
  • Colonel David Hackworth mentions in his autobiography About Face that a newspaper in the US deliberately printed the same front page article on the Korean War three days in a row. If anyone noticed, no one bothered to write in and complain.
  • One newspaper accidentally ran the same horoscopes every day for over a month before anyone noticed (the Barnum Effect could also be a factor in this case).
  • During periods of history before the advent of the fire department, it was often said that if one so happened to be a victim of a crime and in need of aid, the best course of action would not be yelling the likes of "Help!", "Assault!", "Rape!" or whatnot, but instead shout out "Fire!". People can be very apathetic when it comes to the plight of others, but fire has the added chance of spreading and doing damage to them, making it more likely that people would come to your aid, and end up intervening because they've already spent the effort to make their way over. Books on self-defense for women still advised them to yell "Fire!" in the 1960s. This is also why "shouting fire in a crowded theater" was long considered the stupidest and most insensitive prank a person could play.
  • This is sadly common in child abuse cases. Many times, a neighbor or even a relative, sometimes more than one, will report knowing that the abuse was happening and say they actually wanted to do something. This is after the child is dead.
  • Evidently, there were some Real Life Apathetic Citizens in Poland in World War II, and they were swayed to help quarter Russian or German soldiers via a False Flag Operation or two. (Nobody truly admits to doing this, and these could simply be cases of accusing the other side of doing it when they say their village was attacked.)
  • Photographers and journalists for the Associated Press have to deal with this dilemma for their entire careers. A natural disaster has just occurred. People are trapped under rubble and will die in minutes if it isn't cleared away. In a strange twist, some photographers have actually faced backlash for 'just doing their job' as was the case with Kevin Carter and his photo of a young girl being stalked by a vulture. After the photo received widespread acclaim, he received a lot of criticism for not intervening and helping the girl, criticism which appeared to haunt him until he took his own life. In actuality, the "girl" in the photo was actually a boy whose mother had left on the edge of a UN aid distribution site so that he would not be injured in the crush of a desperate mob rushing the site to struggle for food aid. There was fundamentally nothing Carter could have done to help. Incidentally, the boy in the picture lived to adulthood and died of a fever in his thirties. The film crew of the show COPS deals with this frequently. On at least a few occasions, they've taken their impartial stance and threw it by the wayside to help, such as assisting a cop performing CPR.
  • Speaking of people trapped under rubble, there was the case of explorer Floyd Collins, who in 1925 died after spending two weeks stuck under gravel in a narrow Creepy Cave tunnel. Crowds of onlookers swarmed outside the cave but nobody was willing to go far enough inside to assist Floyd save for his brother and an Intrepid Reporter by the name of William Miller. To make matters worse, the unhelpful bystanders ended up indirectly causing his death as all the traipsing around and campfires melted the frost on the cave's interior, eroding it to the point of a cave-in and stymying rescue efforts further.
  • Derren Brown once hypnotised someone to "assassinate" Stephen Fry. The gun had blanks, and Fry had a blood pack, but the audience Fry was giving a lecture to were completely unaware. When the assassin stood up and emptied a clip "into him", the audience reacted no more than if the power had gone out. They simply stayed in their seats and murmured to each other whilst Fry was dragged offstage. Though one has to wonder if there wasn't another trope at work here, and whether they would have reacted differently if someone other than a famous actor had been the supposed victim, it's still a rather alarming example.
  • Cities with high crime rates tend to have this trope in full force. If a person is lying in the gutter dying from their wounds inflicted from a violent crime, most people ignore the person and keep walking because they fear trying to help the dying victim will get them into trouble from the same person/group of people who tried to kill the victim.
  • Also sad is the fact that saving someone can actually be harmful to you. Some people actually use a Decoy Damsel tactic to lure some would-be helper and then attack them. This has stopped many people from even getting help from police and hospitals since being a crime witness for someone you don't even know is not a very fun thing to do for most people.
  • In the United States, there is a persistent, but false, urban legend that calling an ambulance for a stranger will cause you to be responsible for their medical bills. Uninformed passersbys will sometimes decide not to make the call, thinking that legend is true.
  • Incidentally, in the United States, there are laws called Good Samaritan laws specifically to avoid this trope. They protect any civilian from liability should they try to assist a person who is hurt or is in grave danger and wind up hurting them in the process. Which means if you try to pull someone out from a burning car, for example, and you injure them (or worsen their injuries), the victim cannot legally attempt to sue you for worsening their situation.
  • Sadly, before China enforced its own Good Samaritan laws, many people in China were unwilling to help others in life-or-death situations. There were incidents in China where "Good Samaritans" who helped people injured in accidents were accused of having injured the victim themselves.
    • The case of toddler Wang Yue provided a chilling example of this that sparked sheer outrage: she had wandered from home and was infamously run over twice in a Chinese street — and ignored by at least 18 citizens who continued to walk past as if nothing happened — before somebody finally stopped to help. The event was caught by a surveillance camera and, for those of you who end up looking it up, be warned it is extremely graphic.
    • Sometimes the authorities in China will arrest someone for simply calling for an ambulance for someone who's been hurt by another person. Because somehow that means they're the one who hurt them.
    • Unfortunately, lack of enforcement of Good Samaritan laws in China is very widespread, and has given rise to the rather disturbing saying that if you accidentally injure someone (such as Wang Yue above), it's much, much cheaper to just pay for a funeral than escalating medical bills.
  • Happened in 2010 in New York. The worst part was that the man died because he stopped a mugger from attacking a woman, which gave her a chance to flee. Over 20 people passed by his bloody body without doing anything. Except for the one guy who took a picture and left.
  • The example in Psycho-Pass above may very well have been based on a real incident that occurred in Osaka in 2012 when a madman stabbed two people to death on a busy street. One of the victims was a music producer from nitro+, which is also the same company that Psycho-Pass's writer works for.
  • A fire alarm going off in a public building, like a school or a hotel, is often met with mild agitation and a very slow meander out of the danger zone, and that's usually after a few minutes of chatting up the people around you to confirm why the alarm is going off. This is likely a result of either a lack of preparedness (most people don't have a fire plan for any building that's not their own home) or desensitization from fire drills at school or work. The effect actually can be had from any alarm that tends to go off too frequently for other, non-drill causes and in some areas there is an effort to actively avert this by improving the accuracy when it comes to sounding the alarm.
  • For the first few months following "Operation: Iraqi Freedom", whenever an Allied aircraft dropped a bomb, everyone in Baghdad ran for cover, and thanked their maker that they hadn't been blown to smithereens. Eventually, the concussive blasts were thought of as if they were lightning strikes, it happened and the people went about their way. If they were away from home, they checked if the dust cloud was rising from their neighborhood. If it wasn't, they ignored it, and continued to do whatever they were doing.
  • The invention of Israel's "Iron Dome" system has resulted in this for a lot of people among the Israeli populace. As it's an interception system for the rockets that are often fired from the neighboring Gaza Strip, and it has a very high success rate, many people react to the warning sirens of incoming rockets with a great deal of calm. This is in direct contrast to the actual military, who proceed to scramble jets to level the area that the rocket came from.
  • Unfortunately, a very common reaction to the COVID-19 Pandemic, resulting in the epidemic becoming worse than it would otherwise be.
  • In July 2008, a woman named Esmin Green collapsed in the waiting room of Kings County Hospital (a well known hospital in Brooklyn) and lay there for an hour before she was tended to, by which point it was too late and she died. Security camera footage showed several hospital staff members walking by for over 30 minutes before doing anything. This is especially bad as these were medical professionals trained to help rather than ordinary people, yet they did nothing except tell Blatant Lies about the incident—her chart claimed that she was walking and talking at a time the footage showed she was lying on the floor.


Video Example(s):


MommaPoppa's Remains Open

Even when Ham and Judy exposes Momma and Poppa's disgusting food practice in the local newspaper, their restaurant remains open and people are still eating there.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / KarmaHoudini

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