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Assurance Backfire

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You're not helping, Gary.
Bolt: Calm down, cat. You're with me.
Mittens: That's the problem!

The opposite of Threat Backfire, this is for characters saying things that are meant to sound assuring, but to those hearing it, it feels like things could backfire and take a turn for the worse instead of getting better.

In other words, Assurance Backfire is to Threat Backfire as Compliment Backfire is to Insult Backfire.

Can be related to Bad Omen Anecdote. (If, for example, one uses as an assuring analogy something that actually ended horribly.) Often related to Analogy Backfire.

Compare/Contrast with False Reassurance, wherein the person doing the reassuring is deliberately misleading. See also Open Mouth, Insert Foot. May result in Digging Yourself Deeper if they try to make up for their original remark but end up saying something even worse. For cases when a character isn't actually trying to provide assurance to another, but instead tell them that there's an even worse problem they should worry about, see Worrying for the Wrong Reason.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In City Hunter, after an airplane crashes into Ryo and Kaori's apartment, leaving Ryo's bed as the only place that's still — relatively speaking — in good enough condition to sleep in, Kaori insists on sleeping in the bed alone and having Ryo sleeping on the couch. Ryo's attempt to promise Kaori that he would do nothing to her causes her to think Ryo finds her too repulsive for him, at least initially, until Ryo manages to convince her to let him share the bed.
    Ryo: I won't try anything, so please let me under the cover, please! I promise that nothing will happen.
    Kaori: Do you promise that... you won't try anything?
    Ryo: Have I ever, ever try to pull something with you up till now?
    Kaori: Am I that unattractive to you?
    Ryo: Do you want me to do something or not?
    Kaori: Of course not! Fine. If you want to get in, get in!
    (Ryo gets under the covernote )
  • Late into I Belong to the Baddest Girl at School, Yutaka notices that Matsuri has been acting a lot less hostile towards Unoki than she used to, and asks her if she likes him now. Matsuri answers that she's started to consider him a friend as of late, but quickly clarifies that's all he is to her; their relationship is strictly platonic, just like her friendship with Yutaka. Since Matsuri is convinced that Yutaka has a crush on Unoki, it's clear she was trying to reassure her she wasn't going to get in their way, but to Yutaka, it just felt like proof that her feelings for Matsuri were completely one-sided.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth, when Mokona suddenly whisks the trio high into the air on a flying device, Fuu tries to calm them down by pointing out that if they did fall, they would be sure to black out long before the moment of impact. Umi, unsurprisingly, is not pleased by this.

    Fan Works 
  • Boldores And Boomsticks: Whisper, noticing Lillie's fear of confronting Grimm for the first time, points out that that Ruby and Weiss will be able to protect her. This just makes her feel more inadequate for being afraid.
  • My Dream Is Yours: Ohlm assures Olympia and Otis that he'll take care of Jamie Jam while they go and deal with the Dream-Transfer-itis outbreak. Olympia, knowing that Ohlm is a complete ditz, isn't assured.
    Olympia: Oh, wait! We need to meet that villain first!
    Ohlm: It's okay, guys! I got this.
    Olympia: [wincing] Why am I not reassured?
  • Twice in Son of the Desert:
    • Hohenheim tries to make Trisha feel better about almost killing a suitor but pointing out that it is traditional to kill the proposer. That if she does not love them, she must kill them, because life is not worth living without her. The already-distressed Trisha snaps and tries to make Hohenheim kill her if he refuses her marriage proposal.
    • When Ed and Al out themselves as Ishvalans, Fuery tries to assure them that they were only half Ishvalan. Since Ed and Al are proud of their heritage, this just angers them further.
  • In This Bites!, after Cross discovers that his long-awaited bounty is an obscenely 1,500,000,000 thanks to a vindictive Garp, he has a minor panic attack before Robin assures him that there are still others worth more than him. He's alleviated, at first...until he presses Robin just who is above him.
    Robin: (without meeting Cross's gaze) Ah, Kaido, Charlotte Linlin, Edward Newgate...
    Cross: (Wheezing incredulously) Those are Emperors!
  • In Urban Wilds, a guard is horrified when Amanita answers a door with her face covered in blood after a fight. Amanita's response? "Oh, don't worry. None of it's mine."
    For some reason, the guard didn't look reassured.

    Films — Animation 
  • Bolt the dog expects Mittens the cat to be calmed down by being reminded she's with Bolt, but she evidently doesn't trust Bolt to know what he's doing because he thinks he really does have superpowers and therefore can perform all sorts of death-defying stunts.
  • Pooh's Grand Adventure: Tigger gives one to Piglet, who is dangling precariously off a broken branch.
    Piglet: HEEELLLP!
    Tigger: Oh relax, Piglet ol' pal. There's no difference between falling a thousand feet to the jagged rocks below and tumblin' out of bed.
    (Piglet uncovers his eyes and grins)
    Piglet: Oh. Really?
    Tigger: Why, sure! (chuckles, then pauses) Um... Except for the splat at the end, they're practically similar.
    (Piglet's smile droops; he covers his eyes again)
  • Played for drama in The Prince of Egypt. After Moses finds a mural depicting Hebrew infants being fed to crocodiles—this just after learning he is Hebrew himself—his adopted father, Pharaoh Seti I gives him a hug and comfortingly says... they were only slaves. His mother's assurance is not quite so horrifying, but her view that "the gods sent you here, so just forget the truth" doesn't help much either.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: After King Neptune freezes Mr. Krabs, SpongeBob assures him that his life in the hands of himself and Patrick. Understandably, Mr. Krabs lets out a sound of fear.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Batman Begins: When rushing Rachel Dawes back to the Batcave to get her an antidote to the Scarecrow's fear toxin, Batman tells her to stay calm, before informing her that she's been poisoned, which causes her to visibly panic.
  • Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi: When Han Solo prepares to ambush a group of Stormtroopers on the forest moon, he tells Luke and Leia "Hey, it's me." They roll their eyes, telling the viewers succinctly that's exactly what they're worried about.

  • Animorphs: When on a planet where cracks reach all the way down to the core, Ax reassures the others on the dangers of falling into the magma: they'll die from the heat long before they hit the core.
  • At the beginning of the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck, King Derwin of Didd is angry because nothing except rain or snow ever comes down from his sky, and demands something new to come down. When his page boy, Bartholomew, tries to calm him down by reminding him that no king before him has ever ruled the weather, the King takes this as a challenge.
  • In Catch-22, Yossarian tries to get out of going on a bombing raid by claiming that all of the enemy fighters would be trying to kill him. His response to being told that he wasn't being singled out and that they were trying to kill everyone was, "Well, what difference does that make?!"
  • Discworld:
    • In Witches Abroad, Magrat is feeling deeply embarrassed and uncomfortable about having to pose as Emberella at the ball. The other witches try to help.
      "Don't worry," said Granny, "We'll be there too."
      "And that's supposed to make me feel better, is it?"
    • Interesting Times: Faced with the unstoppable rumour that the Silver Horde does not have 2,300,009 invisible vampire-ghosts backing them up, Lord Hong has the word sent out that the Agatean forces have their own invisible ghosts to bolster morale. It just makes the already terrified soldiers more nervous, because after centuries of civil war, there are Agatean ghosts they'd rather not meet.
    • Thief of Time: Jeremy Clockson isn't crazy. He's even got a piece of paper saying as such. Not a lot of people have one of those. Somehow, Igor (who is no stranger to 'eccentric' genius) doesn't find this reassuring. In fact, he finds it more alarming than if Jeremy had been going "they called me MAD!"
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry is worried for his sanity because he suddenly sees skeletal horses pulling the Hogwarts carriages, and nobody else can. When Cloudcuckoolander Luna Lovegood tells him that she can see them too and he's just as sane as she is, he is less than reassured.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens a few times on Absolutely Fabulous. After something goes wrong, Patsy would reassure Edina by saying something like, "You still have me", meaning she still had her best friend, which would make Eddie sad, as she would realize Patsy was her ONLY friend.
  • In Babylon 5, G'Kar has become a religious figure, to his own dismay.
    G'Kar: I worry, Ta'Lon, that my shadow may become greater than the message.
    Ta'Lon: If that happens, I give you my word that I will personally kill you.
    G'Kar: And this is supposed to put my mind at ease?
  • Doctor Who. In "Deep Breath", Clara is worrying about the Doctor who's roaming the streets in his post-regeneration madness. Strax assures her not to worry, as he's probably been been robbed and murdered by London's poor by now.
    • A much earlier example, from the 1967 serial "The Macra Terror":
    Jamie: Hey, mister, would you call the ladies off? I'm frightened what they might do to me.
    Barney: Oh, but you look charming, sir. Charming.
  • When Mr. Belding asks Ryan to plan for Screech's surprise birthday party in the Saved by the Bell: The New Class episode "Balancing Act", he asks Ryan to keep him in the dark about the details of the party so that Screech can't get anything out of him and prematurely spoil the surprise:
    Mr. Belding: Can you do all the planning and leave me in the dark?
    Ryan: Hiding something from you? That's easy. *leaves*
    Mr. Belding: Oh, good. Uh, Ryan? Ryan?
  • Supernatural: In "(S07 E17) The Born Again Identity" Dean's attempt to reassure a nervous and amnesiac Castiel that he can easily take out several demons even though he hasn't used his smite in months and due to said amnesia, can't even remember how it works.
    Dean: It's in there. I'm sure it's just like riding a bike.
    Castiel: I don't know how to do that, either.

  • Cabin Pressure: When Douglas is trying to reassure Carolyn that no-one was harmed when he and Martin (but mostly Douglas) dropped a sugar brick on his ex-wife's house, because everyone had already seen the brick coming and run to safety, Carolyn points out that this is not as reassuring as Douglas seems to think it is.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: In the bad ending, after Ann decides to not trust The Consortium, it prompts Ryan to accuse them of wanting to using Ann for their own agendas rather than trying to help her. As the argument continues, G tries to ensure reassurance by stating an incident such as the one where Ryan lost his eye wouldn't happen again, but it ends up provoking Ryan instead to recklessly attack without a second thought. This leads to a disastrous outcome as the security guards end up fatally shooting Ryan right in front of Ann, causing her to immediately succumb to Amok's control and proceeds to kill everybody in the room before unleashing total destruction upon the entire world and turning it into a ravaged Hell on Earth.
  • The World Ends with You offers a particularly tragic example with Shiki and her best friend Eri. The two of them had formed a partnership making clothing together, with dreams of making it big in the fashion industry. Eventually, Shiki started to lose faith in her designs, to which Eri told her she didn't think she was cut out to be a designer. What she was trying to get across was that she thought Shiki's talents lay less in coming up with designs and more in bringing them to life as finished pieces of clothing, but the way she phrased it made it sound like she was telling her to give up on her dream, and it ended up driving a wedge between them. While Eri quickly realised her mistake and tried to apologise, she never got the chance as Shiki would die in an accident shortly afterwards, leaving her wracked with guilt that her last words to her best friend ended up being so hurtful.

    Web Comics 
  • In Ménage à 3, this happens when Gary's attempt to console would-be therapist, Kiley, who suffers from a comedic case of A-Cup Angst, backfires.
    Kiley: (crying over phone) My IQ's smaller than my breast size!
    Gary: (soothingly)' Oh, don't cry — I'm sure your IQ's much bigger than your breasts!
  • In The Order of the Stick, after Haley's been left behind in (the now overrun by goblins) Azure City, Elan tries to jump out of the boat and swim to her until everyone reminds him that she has a much better chance of survival than him. Then one of the minor characters points out that she has Belkar watching her back, causing him to panic again.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent has a case that ends up backfiring for both the receiver and the giver. Emil tries to cheer up Lalli's bad mood by giving him an "everything will be all right" speech. The reason Lalli is in a bad mood in the first place is that he's quite sure that the death of his cousin from the long term effects of a troll bite will happen soon, which causes Emil's speech to have the exact opposite of its intended effect and Lalli to no longer want to be friends with him. The event foreseen by Lalli happens just a few hours later, which very likely made Emil realize just how misplaced his optimism was.
  • Sticky Dilly Buns: Ruby makes the mistake of seeking reassurance about her sexual attractiveness from a gay man. Dillon is an idiot.

    Web Original 
  • In Red vs. Blue, although it's more a case of Donut being an idiot.
    Donut: He has amnesia! Tucker, don't worry. You are safe. We're the reds, we are your mortal enemies. Wait. That didn't sound right.
  • In RWBY episode "Cordially Invited", General Ironwood is at a meeting to determine whether or not he should keep his two seats on the Atlas Council. Penny, who was recently framed for murder is there, and Jacques Schnee asks if the proceedings will be safe with her presence. Ironwood's response, "Penny is completely under my control." doesn't go over so well; Penny is off-put by the assertion that she's nothing more than a tool, while Jacques uses that to segue into the discussion over how much control is appropriate for Ironwood to have.
  • In Worm, Weaver's attempt to reassure Cuff that wearing metal won't make her vulnerable to Behemoth's lightning attacks doesn't come out so well.
    Weaver: I don't think you're any safer or worse off than anyone else. His lightning doesn't follow regular channels. We're all lightning rods to him.
    Wanton: Not reassuring.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Cave of Two Lovers", a cave-in splits up the party in an underground tunnel, and Sokka ends up alone with a group of singing nomads. As Sokka tries to dig his way through the debris, the nomad leader comments, "Yeah, it's no use. We're separated. But at least you have us!" Sokka's response is to scream in despair and start digging more frantically.
  • In Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix, when Ben has to sit beneath a very large and ominous looking machine in order to scan the Omnitrix for a DNA signature, Tetrax's attempts to reassure Ben that the procedure would be harmless is less than comforting.
    Tetrax: Ready?
    Ben: Would no be an option?
    Tetrax: Don't worry. I've had many of these tests done myself. Never felt a thing.
    Ben: But don't you have like diamond-hard skin?
    Tetrax: Uh... Good point. Lets get started.
  • From an episode of Dynomutt, Dog Wonder:
    Dynomutt: Dog Wonder never makes the same mistake twice!
    Blue Falcon: I know. You seem to come up with a new one every time!
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Keeper of the Reaper", Billy summons Irwin to testify in the trial. Since the trial is conducted in the netherword, Irwin is naturally afraid of the various monsters. Billy reassures him "Don't worry. They won't hurt you. Unless they decide to hurt you."
  • In the Paramount Jeepers and Creepers cartoon "Busy Buddies," Creepers is trying to raise some money to pay his income tax, which he does by winning a boxing match. But now he has to cough up on the money he just won, so Jeepers enters him in a rodeo. Creepers is understandably panic stricken:
    Jeepers: Don't worry, pal. I'll be right behind you!
    Creepers: (to us) That's just what I'm worried about!
  • Jonny Quest TOS episode "The Sea Haunt". The Quest team is trapped on a ship with a terrible monster, and Team Pet Bandit is frightened.
    Hadji: Don't worry, Bandit. Nothing will happen to you that won't happen to the rest of us.
    Jonny: Now there's a happy thought.
  • Kaeloo:
    • In one episode, Kaeloo starts crying about how she always turns into a monster. Mr. Cat attempts to comfort her... by saying that the rest of them like her for her "brutal, primitive-minded" self. Cue more tears.
    • In Episode 223, Mr. Cat makes a movie that bombs at the box office. His friends, the only people to buy tickets, attempt to reassure him by saying that they found the movie to be profound and that it deeply touched their emotions. Mr. Cat is touched by their kindness, but still upset by their words because he had intended the movie to be a comedy, not emotional.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Family Appreciation Day" features this, when Apple Bloom is worried about feeling embarrassed when her grandmother shows up at school.
    Applejack: I'm sorry Apple Bloom, but don't you fret. Granny Smith's got no shortage of entertaining stories to tell.
    Apple Bloom: I know. That's what I'm worried about.
  • The Ruff & Reddy Show cracks this during the story arc about missing sheep.
    Narrator: Good old Reddy. He never makes the same mistake twice. He just makes new ones!
  • The debut episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, "What A Night For A Knight" has this at the on set, when Shaggy and Scooby hear a noise in the bushes and Shaggy tells Scooby to see what it is.
    Shaggy: Don't worry...I'm right behind you.
    Scooby: (sarcastically) Thanks a lot.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Lisa The Beauty Queen", Lisa is feeling depressed after seeing an unflattering caricature of her. Marge attempts to cheer her up by singing "There Once Was an Ugly Duckling," but then Lisa says, "So you think I'm ugly, then?" and Marge hastily says, "No, you're one of the good-looking ones... who makes fun of the ugly one."
    • Otto is prone to these. In "Bart Gets An F", when Bart is worried about repeating fourth grade, Otto tells him that after failing fourth grade twice, "Now I drive the school bus!" And in "The Otto Show", when being disciplined for crashing the bus, he boasts that he has a record of "Sixteen crashes and not a single fatality."
  • In the Steven Universe episode "What's Your Problem", Sapphire begins to cry when she finds out that Ruby ran away after their fight in the previous episode. Pearl tries to cheer up Sapphire by assuring her Ruby will return... because there would be no Garnet if she doesn't. And what on Earth would they do without Garnet? And they're so perfect together, it can't be over! Needless to say none of this helps and only makes it so that Pearl joins Sapphire in crying inconsolably.


Video Example(s):


"Just a Test?!"

When Twilight is having a panic over an upcoming meeting with Celestia, Spike tries to calm her by saying it's 'just a test'. Not only does it not calm her down, but she inadvertently causes the entire library to jump.

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