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Bait-and-Switch Compassion

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"I can't bear to see a dumb animal suffer..."
Willy Wonka: That pipe, it just so happens to lead directly to the room where I make the most delicious kind of strawberry-flavoured chocolate-coated fudge.
Mrs. Gloop: Then he will be made into strawberry-flavoured chocolate-coated fudge? They'll be selling him by the pound all over the world?
Willy Wonka: No, I wouldn't allow it. The taste would be terrible. Can you imagine Augustus-flavoured chocolate-coated Gloop? Ew. No one would buy it.

Someone seems at first to be worried about someone else or feeling sympathy for them, but it turns out they are actually thinking something very different.

If a particularly unkind character is doing this, then they may be a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.

Sub-trope for No Sympathy. Often a Bait-and-Switch Comment. May double with Refuse to Rescue the Disliked if someone invokes this by suggesting helping someone when they are in a bad situation but then laughing it off as they don't really care about the person being in the state, or Skewed Priorities if someone appears to be worried about someone, only to reveal that they're more interested in something inconsequential.

Compare Bait-and-Switch Sentiment. Contrast to HA HA HA—No where a character laughs at something but gets serious.


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    Fan Works 
  • In My Hero Academia fanfic Pro Hero Metal Bat, after Izuku gets shot trying to protect Eri, Bakugo yells at him that he shouldn't have gotten involved. Izuku first thinks he's concerned about his well-being... until Bakugo makes it clear that he would have still shouted at him if he hadn't got injured, because he only cares that he made other heroes "look bad".
  • In The Loud House fanfic, Our Brother's a Werewolf, Lincoln tells Clyde that he was bitten by a wolf while camping with his family. Clyde then says that maybe he was bitten by a werewolf. The two boys are frightened for a second before having a laugh as Clyde was just making a joke. Unknown to Clyde, Lincoln was bitten by a werewolf.

    Films — Animated 
  • 101 Dalmatians: When Cruella DeVil tells Jasper and Horace to kill the Dalmatian puppies, the camera shows a shot of the puppies listening to the conversation as Jasper pleads for her to have pity... before asking "Can't we see the rest of the show first?".
  • Beauty and the Beast: Monsieur D'arque, who runs the mental asylum, initially seems to dislike Gaston's plan to have Belle's father Maurice locked up unless she agrees to marry him, but then laughs evilly and says he loves it.
  • Big Hero 6: After getting Hiro out of a sticky situation at the bot-fighting ring, Tadashi asks Hiro if he's alright and if he's hurt at all. When Hiro confirms he's unharmed, Tadashi starts hitting him, asking, "What were you thinking, knucklehead?" This is repeated by Aunt Cass after she bails them out of jail.
  • In Luca, Luca accidentally kicks a soccer ball into Ercole's Vespa. It starts to tip over but Ciccio dives under the scooter to cushion its fall. Ercole runs over and, with great concern, asks "Are you hurt?", but it turns out he is talking to the Vespa.
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines has a scene where PAL admits to her creator Mark that she hacked into his competitor's private emails and Mark looks taken aback by this and says that what she did was a 'dangerous overreach of corporate power'. PAL looks chastened for a second before she and Mark end up laughing it off. Too bad that Mark should've taken it more seriously when PAL turns evil and nearly tries to destroy all of humanity.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: After Jack is shot down, a police officer announces the terrible news... that there is still no sign of Santa Claus.
  • Open Season: Boog and Elliot are arguing with each other over who's the bigger loser, until Elliot says he killed a man. They then laugh it off as Elliot was joking.
  • Peter Pan: After Mr. Darling takes a bad fall in the nursery, he hears his family going "Awww..." and smiles warmly at their concern. It turns out they were actually worried about the dog Nana, who merely took a little slip. He, who had just been complaining about not being respected, doesn't take it well.
    All: Poor Nana...
    Mr. Darling: Poor Nana?! THAT'S THE LAST STRAW!
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Squidward discovers that Mr. Krabs has been frozen by Neptune.
    Squidward: Oh, no! This is terrible! Who's gonna sign my paycheck?
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: While stuck in the Maw-Ray, Donkey Kong and Mario seemingly are about to share a heart-to-heart about how they both feel insecure due in part to their disappointed fathers. But the moment is promptly spoiled when a disgruntled DK blurts out that Mario's dad is right to be disappointed in him. The two continue to squabble until they find DK's kart and use its remaining rocket barrel to escape.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: After Augustus goes up the pipe, Mrs. Gloop asks Mr. Wonka where the pipe leads and is horrified when he tells her it leads to the fudge room. When she asks him if Augustus will be turned into fudge, he tells her that he wouldn't allow it... because no one would buy "Augustus-flavoured chocolate-coated Gloop".
  • In Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Edgin finds himself at the mercy of two of the villains. One of the villains (a former comrade of Edgin's who betrayed him) confides in Edgin that he really doesn't want to see Edgin die... which is why he's going to leave the room.
  • In Hardcore Henry, one of the villains is hanging from the door of a helicopter. Henry walks over as if to pull him up, then slams the door on his fingers.
  • Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey: Invoked by Sassy. After an encounter with a bear, Sassy tells Chance the bear could have eaten him and asks him if he realizes how painful that would have been... for the bear.
  • Killers of the Flower Moon: Done so many times it's almost funny. Every time the conspirators seem to genuinely care for an Osage tribesperson, they are revealed to be only lining their pockets.
    • Hale shows concern for a tribesman who suffers from suicidal tendencies, trying to steer him away from booze or violence. In reality, he has a life insurance policy out on said tribesman which is voided if he is murdered, and only cares about him being alive to cash in.
    • It's unclear how much Ernest really knows about the conspiracy until later in the film. As a result, many scenes with Ernest and his wife are rife with this. For example, one scene has Ernest and Hale eating lunch with Mollie, explaining to her how the P.I. she hired to investigate Anna's death likely ran off. Ernest killed said P.I. himself.
  • In Smosh: The Movie, Ian accidentally opens the door and smacks a man carrying a bunch of drinks, spilled them all over himself. When it seems Ian is going to apologize, all he has to say is how hilarious it was.

  • The Things They Carried: When the platoon runs across a one-legged boy, Azar gives the kid a chocolate bar, and for a moment it looks like he may feel sorry for the kid when he says "One leg, for Chrissake." Then he finishes the sentence with, "Some poor fucker ran out of ammo."
  • A Running Gag in Captain Underpants in the comics George and Harold make. When a disaster strikes that prompts the call for the titular superhero, oftentimes a bystander will recount that the monster destroyed some inanimate objects and brought harm to a school faculty member. Cue the "Oh no! Not the [inanimate objects]!"
  • In Hyperion Cantos, Lenar Hoyt's first deputy and Councilor Albedo, in order to hide that Hoyt, after dying, is sometimes reborn as Paul Duré, kill both him and any guards present. During the time shown in the books, the deputy remarks it's a pity... and hurries to explain that the rich cloth with which they covered the body can never be washed clean of the blood.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "World Enough and Time" Bill is exploring a hospital and finds a patient who is unable to speak, but has been given a mechanical voice box which they use to constantly emote the word "pain". A Battleaxe Nurse approaches the patient and offers to help them, and is seen adjusting some of the machines the patient is connected to. When Bill gets a closer look at the patient, she realises that all the nurse did was set the voice box to mute.
  • Lethal Weapon: At the beginning of "Jingle Bell Glock", a man notices a corpse atop his car and says "Oh my god. My car!"
  • In the Married... with Children episode "976-SHOE" at Al's trial for creating a fraudulent phone line, the judge first laughed at Al, then got serious and yelled at him, and then laughed at him again, which prompted the entire courtroom to join in.
  • In Mimpi Metropolitan episode 5, after Alan is revealed to be the one who pranked Bambang, Prima voices disapproval of Alan's action... because he would like to record Alan's prank for fun.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Inverted in a strip of Calvin and Hobbes. When Calvin gets lost at the zoo, Calvin's dad jokes to himself that he might be in the tiger pit because he likes tigers so much, but then realizes the possibility is very real and starts running to go save him.
  • In a strip of Garfield, Garfield hears a doctor tell Jon he's putting him in the hospital. Garfield, thinking Jon is going to die, is worried but it's not out of concern — he's just worried that nobody will be around to feed him.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: When Link visits Gerudo Town, he can ask for a drink at the local canteen. The proprietor notes that he looks too young to be drinking alcohol, to which Link can respond that he's over a century old. The woman will be silent for one text box in apparent surprise, only to laugh at the Hylian visitor's "joke."

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: In the sixth episode "Truth Seekers", the I.M.P. are caught by a government agency bent on discovering their secrets. Stolas then comes to the rescue by terrifying the living daylights out of the two agents who tried to interrogate Blitzo and Moxxie. Stolas then comes up to Blitzo and asks if he's all right. After the imp replies that he is, Stolas lingers on his face in relief...before he immediately scolds him and the gang for getting caught by humans.

  • The Order of the Stick: In Strip #376 "All Too Easy", Xykon orders his legion of hobgoblins to forced march for Azure City, so they can wage war on it before an escaped messenger reaches the city to warn them. Redcloak expresses concern about some of the hobgoblins dropping dead from exhaustion during the march... followed my a Beat panel, and then both of them are shown guffawing.

    Western Animation 
  • In Angelina Ballerina, when Angelina's baby sister Polly and her classmate's yoyo go missing, Angelina sees him searching around. Initially, she thinks he's looking for Polly, but he's actually looking for the yoyo.
  • A variation happens in Futurama, in the episode "Love and Rocket":
    Leela: Doesn't it bother you even a little to be taking advantage of your girlfriend's trust?
    [Bender bursts into laughter, then stops.]
    Bender: Oh, wait, you're serious. Let me laugh even harder.
    [He laughs even harder.]
  • Green Eggs and Ham (2019): In prison, Sam asks Squeaky, the mouse prisoner, what he's in for. Squeaky explains he was only trying to feed his family, and Sam looks concerned and says "Uh huh", but it is revealed that Sam can't understand him and only hears squeaking.
  • Hey Arnold!: In the episode "Olga Comes Home", Helga forges Olga's report card to make her think she got a B grade. When Helga walks by Olga's room and hears her crying, Helga looks guilty and remarks how she can't stand to see her like that anymore. She then shuts the door and brightens up.
  • Invader Zim: In one episode, The Almighty Tallest Purple suggests sending some malfunctioning SIR units to Zim. Red gasps and says in a worried tone that he will be destroyed if he gets them. The two then laugh since they hate Zim's guts.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Daffy Duck's reaction when he sees a dog making sad faces at him through a window.
      Daffy: Aw, shucks. I can't stand to see a dumb animal suffer. So... [Closes the window blinds. Walks away.]
    • Bugs Bunny Rides Again: Bugs Bunny has tricked Yosemite Sam into stepping off a cliff, but then he runs down to the bottom to place a mattress for him to land.
      Bugs: Y'know, sometimes me conscience kinda bothers me — But not this time! [pulls away mattress just as Sam hits the ground.]
    • Plop Goes the Weasel: The Barnyard Dawg hears Foghorn Leghorn screaming in pain as the weasel begins cooking his foot on a hot skillet and comments about how he can’t stand to hear the big schnook suffering like that, before he walks off, seemingly to help Foghorn, only to come back with a set of earmuffs to block out Foghorn’s screaming as he resumes guarding the chicken coop.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Lesson Zero", when Twilight panics that she hasn't sent a friendship letter to Princess Celestia that week yet, the rest of the Mane Six express concern before laughing it off, thinking it's no big deal.
  • Recess: In the episode "The Box", Randall seems horrified when Miss Finster suggests keeping TJ in The Box for two extra minutes, but gleefully calls her a genius, at which point they both share a laugh.
  • South Park: Cartman listens with uncharacteristic concern and seriousness as Stan reveals that Kyle is dying and needs one of Cartman's kidneys:
    Stan: Kyle's in trouble, Cartman. I can see him getting worse right before my eyes. There might be a way that you... can save his life.
    Cartman: (listening intently) Uh huh.
    Stan: What Kyle really needs... is a new kidney.
    Cartman: Oh, I think I see where this is going.
    Stan: His mom is trying all this Eastern medicine and New Age bullcrap on him, but it's obviously not working.
    Cartman: Stan, why don't you just ask the question?
    Stan: Alright. Will you donate one of your kidneys to Kyl—
    Cartman: (singing and dancing) No no, no no, no! No no, no no, no!
  • The Simpsons: In one episode, Homer takes on a job as an ice-cream man and sees one boy sadly looking on, as if he has no money for ice cream. When Homer goes to offer him one for free, the kid reveals that he’s actually lactose intolerant, leading to Homer getting the wrong idea and forcing him to eat the popsicle.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Whatever Happened to SpongeBob?"note , Sandy and Patrick feel horribly guilty for having yelled at SpongeBob, as this is what caused him to run away. Squidward also appears to be worried about SpongeBob at first, but then he brightens up and says he just wishes he had slammed the door in SpongeBob's face even harder before laughing it off.
    • In "Have You Seen This Snail?", Patrick sees the disheveled SpongeBob lying down on the ground because he's exhausted from having spent a long time playing paddle ball. Patrick exclaims SpongeBob's name in supposed concern before running over to a framed picture, saying that the picture isn't straight.
      • Later in that same episode, after having seen Grandma and Gary at a craft store, Patrick seems like he's about to tell SpongeBob that he saw them at the store, but instead tells him that he saw some huge chunks of balsa wood.
  • Teen Titans: In the episode "Forces of Nature", the elemental brothers Thunder and Lightning wreak havoc across Jump City in their quest to have fun. After Beast Boy calls Thunder out on how dangerous his "fun" is, Thunder expresses his concern to Lightning. Lightning looks concerned for a few moments before laughing and dismissing the idea that their fun could be dangerous.
  • In a 1-hour special of Total Drama, Gwen, Trent and Leshawna see Heather trapped in a beaver dam and wonder if they should help her...then laugh their heads off because they despise her and then leave her alone.
  • Wander over Yonder:
    • In "The Flower", Wander attempts to stop Lord Dominator from destroying the last flower in the galaxy. Dominator shows concern for the damage her actions have caused...before blowing off Wander for being a sap.
    • In the credits of "The Little Guy", there's a funeral for Westley (who the Watchdogs mistakenly think is dead). Hater is wailing and Peepers comforts him, thinking he's distraught about Westley, but then Hater says he doesn't even know who Westley is and that he's just upset that he lost to Wander and Sylvia yet again.


Video Example(s):


Nazi "comforts" Commie

When Commie is broken up over Ancom leaving, Nazi tells him that if he ever needed to talk to someone... he should kill himself for being weak.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BaitAndSwitchCompassion

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