Ron, to camera: I broke it. [...] I predict that ten minutes from now, they'll be at each other's throats, with warpaint on their faces and a pig head on a stick. Good. It was getting a little chummy around here.
A group of people are thick as thieves, supporting each other in all things. Then a third party enters and asks them to decide something. It may be something as mundane as deciding what toppings they want on their pizza, or something as serious as which one of them is The Leader. Suddenly, they are at each other's throats and can't agree on anything except that each of them wants to be right.
The background of this is the Greek legend of how The Trojan War really started: Eris, the goddess of chaos and discord, approached Hera (of fertility and happy marriage), Athena (of intelligence, you might say from a modern viewpoint) and Aphrodite (of love) while they were at an Olympic gathering, a wedding to which Eris had not been invited, and threw a golden apple among the three, on which was written "To the most beautiful one."note Divine bitchfighting ensued, and in the end, when the three goddesses couldn't end their argument, they decided to ask Paris, a mortal prince of Troy.note Each of them tried to bribe him so that he would choose her, and he decided it should belong to Aphrodite - versions differ on whether it was because it was true, and/or because she had promised him the hand of the most beautiful woman on Earth, a Spartan woman who would soon be better known as Helen of Troy. A woman who happened to be already married to another man.
A sister trope to Centipede's Dilemma and a great way to make everyone play with the Conflict Ball. If the decision is whether to trust a once-villainous member of their group, it is the "They Still Belong to Us" Lecture.
Compare Internet Backdraft and Yoko Oh No. For an object that everyone wants which drives them into conflict, see Artifact of Attraction and Loot Drama. For a supernatural cause, see Hate Plague. For the religion, see Principia Discordia and Discordianism.
Contrast Mediation Backfire, when an attempt to intervene in a conflict causes both sides to unite against the meddler.
- A U.S. TV commercial for a Nokia Lumia phone powered by Windows Phone 8 uses a literal example: the apple of discord is an Apple product. At a wedding, a fight breaks out between fans of Samsung phones and fans of Apple phones, while the Nokia fans stand civilly to the side and enjoy the fight. One Apple fan even rips his shirt open to reveal an Apple logo tattoo on his chest.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chao uses a future version of Negi's family tree to disrupt his entire party as they all want to know who he will marry.
Negi party self-destructs!! [Record time of 57 seconds]
- The Litchi Hikari Club appears to be tearing itself apart after the capture of Bishojo schoolgirl Kanon.
- One Piece's Little Garden arc has a hundred-year-long series of duels fought between two best friends because of an argument over which killed the bigger sea monster. Although at this point neither care what started the duel any more (or can even remember), they keep fighting out of pride and honor and probably because they just like fighting. They're still best friends, and when an outside party rigs their latest duel to break the century-long streak of perfect draws, they almost immediately decide to disregard it due to interference and go back to fighting.
- Kakashi's bells in Naruto invoke this; he has two of them for the three-person team, and the one who doesn't get one will get sent back to the academy. The temptation to acquire one, and thus continue being a shinobi, was enough to break up The Team (Naruto was determined to remain a ninja, Sakura wanted to stay with Sasuke and Sasuke wanted to remain a ninja while not trusting the others). The entire point of the exercise was for the genin to overcome that selfishness.
- Referenced in Sword Art Online. A particular guild (called, appropriately enough, Golden Apple) found a rare item that granted a substantial stat boost to its wearer. Some guild members wanted to sell it for money, while others believed it would be better to keep it for themselves. The decision was put to vote, and the majority agreed it should be sold. The guild leader went off personally to sell it, but died mysteriously. Because of suspicions that the murderer was a fellow guild member, the guild fell apart. In a subversion, it was later discovered that the person behind the guild leader's death had a completely unrelated motive, and took advantage of the rare item dispute to avoid suspicion.
- Referenced in the New York arc of Detective Conan; Shinichi and Ran visit his mother Yukiko in New York, where she treats them to a showing of a musical that is loosely adapted from the original myth, except set in what appears to be Gilded Age America; backstage, the relationship of the actresses playing the three "goddesses" are similarly rocky, as all of them are rivals for the affections of the male lead Michael, so when he turns up murdered in the middle of the performance Everyone Is a Suspect.
- A Bamse story involved some characters interfering with the opening of Pandora's Box. Skalman temporarily defeated them by asking "Who is the most dangerous of you?". While the Ills argued, Hope managed to entrap them in the box again. Only to have it later opened by Pandora's husband.
- Happens constantly to the Fantastic Four. The tiniest disagreement between them inevitably degenerates into shouting matches, which are basically never resolved and lead to a vicious cycle of passive-aggressive bickering and brooding (or in Ben and Johnny's case, No Holds Barred Beatdowns). They always get back together in the end though, usually after being forced to team up again to take down some supervillain or another.
- In the Astérix story "Asterix and the Roman Agent", the titular agent (who can start arguments just by standing there doing nothing) comes to the village with a vase as a gift to the most important man in the village. Instead of giving the vase to Chief Vitalstatistix, he gives it to Asterix, which leads to a chain reaction of arguments until the entire village is at odds with one another.
- Another one happened in Caesar's Gift, when the coming of new citizens disrupts the order of the village enough that they are arguing over the best chief when the Romans begin firing catapults at the village. Of course, the Gauls argue a lot anyway, but usually, that's just Vitriolic Best Buds mixed with Boisterous Bruiser - open hostility is unusual.
- During one Popeye adventure in the fictional country of Nazilia, an army is about to attack the king's castle. Popeye throws the would-be revolution into disarray by tossing a large lump of gold into the crowd saying whoever can get it keeps it. Soon the entire army has beaten themselves up fighting for it.
- In Happily N'Ever After the hero causes the wolves to fight over who is stronger with this.
- The Coke bottle in The Gods Must Be Crazy. Eventually, the main character is tasked with getting rid of it.
- The Norman McLaren short Neighbours is about two former friends who fight each other to the death over a flower growing in the middle of their two properties.
- The House That Dripped Blood: In "Waxworks", the wax figure of Salome causes all men to see it as the woman they most desire. This causes problems as Philip and Rogers had both been in love with the same woman, and both see it as her.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- After Frodo is captured by orcs and stripped of his possessions, ownership of these (particularly his mithril chain shirt) drives the orcs to start killing each other, giving Sam a chance to sneak into Cirith Ungol to rescue Frodo.
- The Ring itself has this effect on people (Boromir and Sméagol in particular). This is be due to its magical influence and the natural temptation to use its power despite the danger. It's implied that the Hobbits' carefree and (relatively) friendly nature is what makes them so resistant to this property of the Ring.
- In Mossflower, Martin and friends are captured by Tsarmina's soldiers and escape by encouraging their captors to fight over the remaining food.
- There's also more than one instance in the series of calling out an insult while both captors' backs are turned, so they'd each think the other said it, start fighting, and allow the protagonist to slip away.
- In the Isaac Asimov Black Widowers story "To The Barest," ex-Black-Widower Frank Ottur invokes this and alludes to the mythological example by leaving a sum of money in his will "to the barest" of the current Black Widowers, whatever that means—with the additional caveat that if they refuse to argue, the money will go to a local Nazi group instead. (For extra points, Ottur deliberately chose a lawyer named Parris as his executor.)
- At the end of Discworld novel Feet of Clay, newly free-will-enabled golem Dorfl pulls this on a collection of evangelical priests. Though from disparate and rivalling faiths, they're briefly united in their endeavor to convert him until he says he'll be happy to dispute the matter with the priest of the most worthy god. Predictable bedlam ensues.
- In Dom Casmurro Escobar eventually becomes this to Bentinho and Capitu.
- According to historical records, during the Warring States period of China, the gift of two peaches kills three great warriors who were sworn brothers (the one who was snubbed was Driven to Suicide, and then the other two followed suit).
- Mentioned repeatedly in Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! Trilogy. Since almost all the characters in the book are members of Discordian and/or Erisian conspiracies, this should come as little surprise.
- In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Diao Chan was a human apple of discord thrown between Dong Zhuo and his adopted son Lu Bu.
- James Corvidae in Pact is a spirit that specializes in this. He has the ability to reassign the connections between objects and people so that someone or something attached to one person finds its way to another, usually in what appears to be an entirely legitimate fashion. In the story, he causes a fire elemental belonging to a group of elementalists to take up residence in some skywriting equipment belonging to a local Astrologer, causing conflict over who gets to keep the equipment and the elemental.
- Used in Deltora Quest when the main characters are cornered by the 11 children of a witch they killed. They begin to discuss who gets to eat which part when Lief mentions that he wants to be eaten by the most powerful of the children. By the time the argument is over only one of the children is left alive. In this case it's not so much disagreement over who is the strongest, they all know it's Ichabod, just if it's fair that he should get to eat more because of it.
- The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign: Partway through the fifth volume, Kyousuke manages to summon the White Queen. This initially has the opposite effect of this trope, relaxing tensions among the members of the Fifteen Siblings Project. But over time, the Queen's presence stirs up all kinds of negative feelings: inadequacy at not being able to compare to her, fear of her incredible power, envy at Kyousuke for being able to monopolise her power. This leads to the others trying to gain control over the Queen, and eventually to the horrors of the Secret War.
- Malcolm in the Middle:
- Dewey: This sort of behaviour is his modus operandi throughout the series with the younger brother being generally quiet but interjecting the right line at the right time so that everybody else will react according to his plan. Dewey is one hell of a Magnificent Bastard.
- He does it to Hal's barbershop quartet group, asking the members why each of them has his own specific role within the group. They do make up (in the middle of a performance, no less), but presumably have problems again at the end, when Dewey starts in on them again.
- He also works on a couple that performed. Five minutes after Dewey started in on them, they were in a gigantic fight.
- Malcolm, Reese and Dewey once pose as political demonstrators to avoid being sent to their mother after an act of vandalism. When someone decides to send each of them a cupcake, Lois removes the cherries from two of the cupcakes so they'll fight over the remaining one. The boys eventually wise up to her plan and merely send the cherry back.
- Dewey: This sort of behaviour is his modus operandi throughout the series with the younger brother being generally quiet but interjecting the right line at the right time so that everybody else will react according to his plan. Dewey is one hell of a Magnificent Bastard.
- The 10th Kingdom: The trolls are holding Virginia captive, and Wolf throws a box into the room. The note says that it's a present for the strongest, bravest troll. Cue all three knocking each other out.
- In Better Off Ted, Heterosexual Life-Partners and coworkers Phil and Lem start arguing when Rose, Ted's daughter, asks if one is the other's boss. In the end, they make up when they decide to give each other equal authority.
- In a season 4 arc of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike nonchalantly brings up issues that almost break the Scoobies up entirely. By the end of the season, they figure out that their arguments were just Spike messing with them, but they don't completely feel comfortable around each other again until they team up and defeat the Big Bad through the Power of Friendship. Literally.
- In a sketch by Loriot, two couples go to a restaurant together to celebrate the friendship they started when they vacationed together. At the end of the meal, the waiter recommends the house specialty dessert, the Kosakenzipfel, which both husbands then order. Unfortunately it turns out there is only one left. The two decide to share it, but this becomes so complicated that it devolves into a shouting match between the two families who are now presumably enemies for life.
- On Babylon 5, Jha'dur's universal anti-agapic is a very intentional version of this on her part. Being the only surviving Dilgar, she offered up a drug that would grant immortality and immunity to disease, at the cost of another's life.note
Jha'dur: You will fall upon one another like wolves. It will make what we did pale by comparison. The billions that live forever will be a testimony to my work, and the billions who are murdered to buy that immortality will be the continuation of my work. Like us? You will become us! That's my monument, Commander.
- Spooks episode 4x03 has Adam Carter infiltrating a far-right political party (which totally isn't the BNP) and manufacturing a rift between its leaders before they can ignite a race war.
- The Librarians 2014 episode "...and the Apple of Discord", had the actual Apple of Discord, and whoever held it turned into the worst version of themselves. It didn't work on Jones since he was already the worst version of himself.
- Kamen Rider Gaim has the Golden Fruit, which is said to be the source of the Overlords' power, and lust for that power drives allies into betraying each other (like Takatora getting backstabbed by his inner circle and his younger brother, or Kaito inevitably breaking with the good Riders). The series itself actually implies that the Golden Fruit was the inspiration for several similar concepts from human myths and religion, which of course includes the Apple of Discord.
- One scene in an episode of Blue Peter had Matt Baker playing a treasure-hunting sailor who was about to be eaten by three sirens. He declared that the most beautiful of the three should be allowed the first bite, causing all three of them to say "Thank You!" in unison, then ran off as they began arguing about who he'd meant.
- The Trope Namer and Trope Codifier is the Apple of Discord used by the Greek Goddess of Strife, Eris. According to The Judgement of Paris, Zeus held a banquet to honor the wedding of mortal Peleus to immortal Thetis (who became Achilles' parents), but Eris was not invited. To avenge this snub, Eris wrote "to the fairest" on a golden apple and threw it into the banquet, where a brawl immediately erupted, as every woman in attendance (bride included) fought for the right to claim the title.
At least twenty years later (by the time Peleus and Thetis had a son, named Achilles, who had grown into a famed warrior), the bickering over the apple still hadn't died down, but it had narrowed down to three women — the three most powerful goddesses on Olympus (coincidence? You tell me.) These were Hera, queen of the gods, Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. The three demanded Zeus choose who was the "fairest", but he wisely declined. Instead, he chose a mortal man to arbitrate. Each goddess presented their beauty to him while also offering a prize should he choose them. Eventually he chose Aphrodite as winner and accepted her promise of the most beautiful woman in Greece. The man? Paris of Troy. The woman? Helen of Sparta. Thus began The Trojan War.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy had an episode spoofing this, where Billy, Mandy and Grim fight over pieces of Eris' Apple.
- One Discordian text claims that it wasn't intended for either of the three, and Eris hadn't been jealous at all. She was just delivering her wedding gift, obviously no one could be more beautiful than Thetis on her wedding day.
- Also in the Trojan Cycle, Ajax son of Telamon and Odysseus jointly save Achilles' body but then fall out over which one of them deserves to be rewarded with Achilles' arms (which were fashioned by the god Hephaistos), which leads to Ajax' madness and suicide.
- The Golden Apple is a loose paraphrase of the Trope Namer in the "Mythology" section above. The apple is the "symbol of our proud state of Washington" made of golden wire. Eris, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite are here named Mother Hare, Mrs. Juniper, Miss Minerva and Lovey Mars. The last-named lady is awarded the apple by Paris, who elopes with Helen.
- In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Hades manages to get the humans to go to war with each other over an artfiact that can grant any wish even though said artifact does not actually exist.
- In Bleach Shattered Blade, the Sokyoku Shards get scattered about. Because even a shard grants massive power, this breaks down the Soul Society into a bunch of infighting among those who want them.
- In MMORPG games, Rare Drops can serve as Apples of Discord and tear apart guilds or spark conflict between factions because of the ensuing Loot Drama.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim allows you to use this on some enemies. Drop something valuable - like a gemstone - among a group of bandits without being spotted, and they will start fighting over it and end up killing each other. Also, if you manage to summon the Daedra Prince Boethiah, she will command all her faithful (including you) to fight each other to the death, with the promise of a special task for the last survivor.
- MOTHER 3 gives us Tazmily Village, a happy little place where there's no technology or currency, but everyone cares for each other- There's no crime, need to lock doors, or greed. But when technology and money are introduced, fighting begins, and people begin leaving for New Pork City, abandoning the harmony and peaceful lives they once had for things like money- And by the end of the game, it's pretty much completely abandoned. The music reflects the change, too- At first, it's perfectly happy, normal music. But by the end, when everyone is gone, and there's no more peace, the music becomes downright heartwrenching.
- The Literature in Shin Megami Tensei IV. The humans in Mikado are so dependent in their vision of the world to function that the merest hint that reality can work otherwise is an Artifact of Doom capable of warping souls and bodies, turning common citizens into abominable demons.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-050 is a statue of a monkey with "To the Cleverest" written on its base. It loves pranks and pursuit of the title of cleverest trickster results in a massive prank war.
- In Kickassia Fritz von Baugh tries this trick on the reviewers while trying to retake the nation for President Baugh. Of course, the use of this trope gets Lampshaded.
- Back when Osama bin Laden was still alive and in hiding, Brazilian website wwwdotchargesdotcomdotbr posted an animation suggesting that the reason he still was at large was because the people who found him fought one another because none of them wanted to share the reward.
- The season one finale of Ben 10 had the heroes distract the villains by asking who the second strongest (aside from Dr. Animo) out of them was.
- Tom and Jerry short "The Truce Hurts": Tom, Jerry, and Spike make a pact to stop fighting. Then they find a steak and fight over how to divide it. When the steak ends up going down a sewer drain, Spike tears up their truce and the three go back to pummeling one another.
- The Looney Tunes short "The Fighting 69½th" has a similar ending. Two ant armies fight over a picnic until the humans pack up, leaving only one small pastry with a cherry. Realizing the futility of their struggle, they decide to end hostilities and split the pastry evenly. However, they can't decide which side gets the cherry, and the war begins anew.
- In "Bugsy and Mugsy", when Bugs overhears Rocky and Muggsy talking about a load of "carrots", which is a jewelry store heist, Bugs starts gossiping over the phone, suggesting that Muggsy isn't as innocent as he appears to be, and Bugs starts framing Muggsy with a screwdriver in his hand after the light fixture falls on Rocky, having him light a stick of dynamite which he thinks is a cigarette, and puts a pair of roller skates on Muggsy which he controls from beneath the floor with a magnet. The cops rush in and arrest Rocky and Muggsy once Bugs rigs up a sign saying "Rocky's Hideaway".
- The plot of "Bugsy and Mugsy" was taken from "Stooge for a Mouse", where Sylvester and Hector, who start off as friends enjoying a nap, are pitted against each other by a mouse, who frames Sylvester and gets him into hot water with Hector using similar gags, making enemies of them, only to have the mouse get his comeuppance when the chandelier falls on him.
- In the Disney short "Toy Tinkers" Donald Duck does this to Chip and Dale. Pretending to be Santa Claus he gives one a large walnut and the other a small walnut. Instantly they are fighting over who deserves the large one.
- Teen Titans had Beast Boy and Aqualad pull this off on the clones that a villain made of himself. The villain had an enormous ego and believe he was perfect, as did his clones. The effect of the question "If you're all perfect, which one of you is the best?" should not be hard to imagine.
- An earlier episode had a more humorous example where the normally cohesive Titans were unable to agree on pizza toppings. (Notably, Starfire thought mint frosting was a topping and suggested that they have it on their pizza.)
- Garfield and Friends: Garfield once got the Buddy Bears, those bastions of conformity and cooperation, off his back by asking them what they want on their pizza. Garfield even lampshades this by stating it to be a fundamental human behavior, since even the parents each have their own disagreeable and contentious opinions on which pizza topping combo is the best.
Garfield: In the history of mankind, no two people have ever been able to agree on pizza toppings.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "The Ticket Master", Twilight Sparkle receives two tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala. When her sidekick Spike declines his, the spare ticket becomes a source of friction between Twilight's friends.
- Season 2 opener "The Return of Harmony", has a shout-out to the original Greek myth with a Reality Warper villain named Discord. He turns the main characters against each other, mainly using Break the Cutie and mind control, before literally turning into a pile of apples, thus making this a literal case of Apples of Discord.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks:
- The Dazzlings propose turning the school's musical showcase into a Battle of the Bands and use the competition to fuel their magically-induced Hate Plague.
- The mane characters are immune to the Hate Plague, so the Dazzlings resort to physical and psychological means of causing discord between the Rainbooms so they can feed on their emotional energy as well, and in fact succeed, until Sunset and Twilight manage to defuse the Rainbooms' arguments.
- As mentioned above, Eris from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, while the apple is more of an Artifact of Doom, in one episode where she appears, Eris "gives up on chaos" and gives the apple to the trio, Grim tries to seal it away, Mandy wants to become the new goddess of chaos, and Billy is... well, Billy. The three eventually end up fighting over it until Eris returns, glad with the chaos her plan created, and leaves with the apple.
"Well, well... this turned out to be my best idea ever!"
- One spin-off short from Despicable Me has all the minions fighting over a banana. It eventually falls down a hole...cut to one minion standing apart from the crowd, taking a bite out of an apple. Oh, no.
- In King of the Hill, Hank and the gang need a diversion in a bar frequented by military veterans. Bill loudly asserts that Vietnam soldiers endured more hardships than anyone else, and the room immediately devolves into a shouting match between veterans of WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, etc. The bar apparently goes through this a lot since once the fighting breaks out the bartender points to a sign reading "No war debates!" but is merely ignored.
- In the We Bare Bears episode "Jean Jacket", the eponymous article of clothing brings good luck to whoever wears it and Grizzly, Panda, and Ice Bear briefly start arguing over who gets to wear it. They then spend the rest of the episode trying to get rid of the jacket before it causes any more of a rift between the three of them.
- In the Beware the Batman episode "Reckoning", Batman is simultaneously faced with five enemies, each trying to collect Ra's al Ghul's reward for bringing him in dead or alive. He surrenders to one of them, who is promptly attacked by another to claim the prize, who is then attacked in turn.... The situation quickly degenerates into a free-for-all from which Batman simply walks away.
- Happens a couple of times in Mixels:
- The episode "Cookironi" contains the last of a box of cookironis (a cookie and macaroni noodle hybrid) that nine of the Mixels squabble over, leading to an all-out battle of the Maxes. It breaks before any of them can claim it...and then a Nixel is found with a box of them...
- The special "A Quest for the Lost Mixamajig" contains a special key that grants the wielder as The Chosen One, which leads to a gigantic brawl for who will be the key-bearer. Even when the main group manages to split the role among themselves, they come to a shocking realization that the entire thing was a hoax pulled by King Nixel, and he had lured the others into this trick as well. Thankfully, they were able to overcome their selfishness to work together in the end.
- In The Weekenders, Tino wins two tickets to a Chum Bukket concert and he has a tough time deciding which of his friends to take. He ultimately chooses Carver. Then they learn that Tino actually won passes that are each worth two free tickets, so they all get to go after all.
- The Jungle Bunch: In "The Cube" the animals of the jungle are fighting over a mysterious sparkling blue cube that they each think is something legendary or significant, though they each think it's something different. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that it was one of Al's art projects.
- On the Internet, some subjects are just so controversial (religion & politics are the two biggies, but just about any subject will be Serious Business in at least one spot on the Web) that they're known as Flame Bait. It's best not to mention them at all unless you're among very good friends, you can somehow be totally objective about it, or you're spoiling for a fight. Curbing conflict of this nature is what our Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement is all about. And now you know.
- This is also why many discussion forums, online and otherwise, have an official or understood Ban on Politics.
- Apple itself (that is, the computer company) is an apple of discord on some technology forums. Especially gaming forums. Flamewars erupt over whether Apple's computer and smartphone products are better than competing products (especially Windows and Linux over the former and Android over the latter) and we'll leave it at that.
- This trope, along with Loot Drama, was used in ancient China to kill off three mighty military leaders who had gotten so politically powerful that their lord got nervous he would be overthrown. One of the other advisers told the lord to throw a party and made a big to do about bestowing two incredibly rare peaches (a symbol of immortality) to the greatest men of the kingdom. One of the men were immediately Driven to Suicide at being the odd man out, after which the other two also killed themselves over their comrade killing themselves over such a petty matter.
- When it was clear he wouldn't recover from his illness, Alexander the Great's last words are said to have been "To the strongest" ("tôi kratistôi") when asked which of his generals he left his empire to. Cue immediate fighting by the generals over who gets what (not helped by the fact that one of them was named Krateros, making it possible he'd actually said "To Krateros" ("tôi Kraterôi"), and dissolution of the Macedonian empire.