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Blackmail Backfire

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This will end badly for at least one of them.

"Let me get this straight. You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands, and your plan is to blackmail this person? [beat]... Good luck!"
Lucius Fox, The Dark Knight

This is when a Blackmail scheme goes wrong for the blackmailer. It can happen in a few ways.

The third is the most common in fiction. Of course the situation occasionally backfires for the blackmailed subject nevertheless because the blackmailer decides that, now that the subtle option is out of the way (or worse yet, and quite ironically, he is the Cornered Rattlesnake in the situation), he must recur to violence.

Related to Bribe Backfire and Sub-Trope of Threat Backfire.


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  • "Victory by Computer": Lex Luthor plans to imprison Supergirl in a secret location to blackmail Superman into breaking him out of jail. However, Supergirl finds a way to escape before Superman realizes that his cousin has been kidnapped. Luthor's reaction when Superman and Supergirl visit him in his cell to tell him firsthand that his scheme has failed is priceless.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Predicted in Berserk, when Griffith hires a group of thugs to kidnap Elise, the young daughter of Minister Foss. The thugs plan to blackmail Griffith by threatening to expose the kidnapping unless he keeps paying them, but Griffith preempts this by having Guts kill them all after the job is done.
  • In Dragon Ball Super, actor Barry Khan is upset that Videl jilted him over an autograph, thus sets up a trap to try to get back at her by trying to ruin her relationship via a Honey Trap. He even shows "proof" of this via photos he took. However, Videl sees right through this and gives him a stinging "The Reason You Suck" Speech followed by Gohan telling him to Get Out! before he wakes up their daughter.
  • GTO: The Early Years: Ryuji and Eikichi try to blackmail Mariko and Ayumi by threatening to tell the school board they almost had sex with the boys, their students, demanding that they meet them at a motel to actually have sex with them. When they show up, instead of the girls they meet a triad enforcer who attempts to sodomize Eikichi (Ryuji decided against going in, and then ran into Ayumi on the way out).
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable has Hayato threatening to expose Yoshikage Kira while the latter is posing as Hayato's father, Kosaku Kawajiri. It first backfires on Hayato when Kira is incensed at the thought of being threatened and kills him. Then it backfires on Kira when he realizes he has no possible way to hide Hayato's death from his mother, made even worse when Kira's father reveals that Rohan Kishibe is onto him and will be coming the next day to investigate him along with Jotaro, Josuke and their friends. Then it backfires on just about everyone else when Kira's determination to say in Morioh and continue his serial killer lifestyle no matter what makes the Stand arrow awaken Bites the Dust, a new ability for Kira's Stand Killer Queen.
  • In Maria no Danzai, Yajima invokes this when Kowase threatens to expose her shoplifting and sex videos after he becomes convinced that she hacked his phone (which in fact was Maria's doing). Having grown sick of his constant abuse by this point, Yajima practically dares him to go ahead and do it, since she'll just tell everyone about all the shit he's been putting her through.
  • In One Piece, Law tries to blackmail Doflamingo into resigning from the Seven Warlords by holding Caesar Clown hostage. If Doflamingo resigns, he gets Caesar back but the Marines will be free to send the Admirals after him. If he doesn't, he can kiss Caesar and the SMILE production goodbye, which will incur the unstoppable wrath of his business partner, Kaido of the Four Emperors. Doflamingo outgambits Law by blackmailing the World Nobles into helping him fake his resignation, something which Law couldn't possibly have predicted or prepared for. By the time he realizes Doflamingo is still officially a Warlord, he's smack-dab in the heart of Doflamingo's territory, surrounded by Doflamingo and Admiral Fujitora.
  • The "loss of leverage" type appears in episode 16 of Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note. As Sunahara stated he has evidence against the Japanese Delinquents group of scamming his foster family, leader Onozuka threatened to expose to the police all the laws the former broke under his orders. However, as it turns out, Sunahara is Crazy-Prepared enough to not break any law.
    Sunahara: Don't underestimate me. I only ever got close to you to gather evidence on you. All the money I said I stole for you was mine.
  • Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches: Subverted. When Odagiri tries to blackmail Yamada by saying she'll share a photo of him sneaking around the girls' room on the field trip (actually Shiraishi in his body), Yamada stands his ground by telling a half-truth that he actually just went to get Shiraishi's books for her, and Odagiri can just ask Shiraishi to confirm it. The subversion comes when Odagiri then shows a photo of "Yamada" holding Shiraishi's panties, and Yamada realizes he has no excuse to get out of that one, after which he's forced to give in to Odagiri's demands.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman: Year One, the corrupt police commissioner tries to bring Gordon under heel by taking compromising photos of him and Sarah Essen, whom he had a brief affair with. However, Gordon simply tells his wife the truth, and when the commissioner goes through with his threat, Mrs. Gordon tells him that she knows about Sarah and to never bother her again. Of course, it only force Loeb to go for a more direct threat.
  • The Black Spider: Mike Ganns, Big Bad of Super-Mystery Comics v1 #4, is on a mission to kill the jurors who are blackmailing him so they don't expose his bribery of them.
  • In Secret Six #20, Catman's infant son gets held hostage, and the hostage-takers threaten to drop him off a building. For every one of his team he kills in the next five minutes, they will allow his son to live for one year. After long deliberation, Catman tells them to go ahead and drop his son, and that he is going to hunt them all down. He then goes on a pre-emptive Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In Suicide Squad corrupt Senator Cray tries to use the Squad to get him re-elected, threatening to reveal the existence of the program. Not knowing Amanda Waller has handled Cray and his aide, Tolliver, Rick Flagg kills Tolliver and, confronting Cray, points out how foolish it is to blackmail a team of super-villans.
    Flagg: When you set out to blackmail the Squad, Senator, didn't you realize you were trying to coerce thugs and killers? Ruthless people. Didn't it ever occur to you that the easiest way of dealing with you was to kill you?
  • Superman:
    • Superman: Truth: The crux of the arc is Lois Lane exposing Superman's secret identity in order to try to trigger this from an unknown blackmailer... and the drama that ensues because the blackmailer remains unknown and the lives of Clark Kent and everybody he knows goes to hell in a hand basket, souring Superman to everybody. The discussion between Kal-El and a still somewhat-unapologetic Lois is that Lois thinks the removal of the threat was a good idea, but Superman insists that the threat was his (and only his) to bear, and Lois seemed to him a bit too eager to try to cut the knot.
    • Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl provides a funny, light-hearted example. Bruce Wayne jokingly says he'll tell Gotham about the Batcave if Batgirl isn't nice to him. She replies that his disappearance has been duly scheduled.
    • Last Daughter of Krypton: After waving her stolen ship's Sunstone in Supergirl's face, Simon Tycho says that she can have it back in exchange for a drop of her blood. Kara responds by setting his space station on fire and then taking her Sunstone from him.
    • In Bizarrogirl, Supergirl threatens to smash the eponymous villain's rocket if she doesn't release her prisoners. It turns out to be a bad idea, since Bizarrogirl flies off the handle and almost turns Kara to stone.
    • "Supergirl's Big Brother": Biff Riggs threatens to reveal Supergirl's secret identity to the world if she tells her parents that he is a crook impersonating their son, expecting her comply and even make power-grating pills for him. However, Kara retorts he'll be gone when she gets back from her current mission if he is smart. Kara starts thinking of a way to get rid of that crook, but she never gets to implement it because Biff dies shortly after.
  • The Vision (2015): Leon Kinzky, the father of one of Viv's classmates, saw Virginia burying the Grim Reaper and recorded it. He later sent her the video and called several times until she gave in and agreed to arrange a meeting. Leon threatened with making the video public unless Virginia and her family move out of their home. He ends up in a coma Virginia theorizes he will never come out of, and with his son Chris dead.
  • The Good Asian is set in 1936, and a blackmailer with a grudge discovers that Terrence Chang, the golden boy lawyer of San Francisco's Chinatown, is gay. Should that be revealed, considering the morals of the time, Chang will be ruined, as will all the work he has done guiding investments into Chinatown and his legal work trying to win greater rights and recognition for Chinese-Americans. To prevent that from happening, several of Chang's associates pay the blackmailer to stay silent, but the ambitious blackmailer keeps increasing the amount demanded until eventually the brothers paying the blackmail try to kill him at one of their meetings instead of continuing the payments.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Black Room, a servant girl reveals that she knows where Gregor's been hiding the bodies in order to get her to marry him. He kills her instead.
  • In Crime Doctor's Man Hunt, the two hoods Natalie hires to dispose of Armstrong's corpse later up their price and threaten to call the police with what they know. Natalie leaves them in her apartment with the gas valves open and they asphyxiate.
  • The Dark Knight:
    • Predicted when Coleman Reese confronts Lucius Fox, revealing that he knows Wayne Enterprise paid for Batman's Tumbler, and demands $10 million a year for the rest of his life to stay quiet. Fox neither confirms nor denies what Reese is saying, but has this to say about his plan.
    • To make things even worse for him, when the Joker makes his threat that he wants Batman to reveal himself or he will continue to terrorize Gotham, Reese tries to release his information anyway to try to appease the Joker... and the Joker calls the station that is interviewing Reese to say that he doesn't care about finding Batman's true identity anymore and makes a new threat: unless Reese is dead within the hour, he will blow up a hospital.
  • The Death of Stalin: Khrushchev makes Beria indirectly responsible for the deaths of over a thousand mourners who get shot by the NKVD guarding Moscow, turning the Presidium against him. When Beria learns he's to be held responsible (which would hamper his prospects of becoming the new leader of the CCCP) he flips out and goes on a rant, revealing he has blackmail material on every single member of the Presidium that could cause them to get branded as traitors in the court of public opinion and shot. Instead of scaring them into line, this threat to their lives instead galvanize the hold-out members into supporting Khrushchev over Beria, leading to the latter's deposing and execution.
  • Edge of Tomorrow centers around Major William Cage, a sleazy PR man who's been covering the recent victory over the Mimics from the safety of the home front. When General Brigham assigns him to the front lines to cover what he deems to be the final victory over the Mimics, Cage tries to weasel his way out by threatening to release some unsavory information about the general. The general responds by demoting Cage to private, labels him a traitor and deserter, and sentences him to fight in the first wave of the attack.
  • In Faceless, Mrs. Sherman works out that something illegal is going on at the clinic, and attempts to blackmail Dr. Flamand over it. Flamand does his best to persuade her that her suspicions are groundless, but when she persists, he sends Nathalie to kill her.
  • In I Saw What You Did, Amy should have realised that blackmailing a man who has just murdered his wife into marrying her was potentially a really bad idea.
  • In Jack the Ripper (1976), Charlie goes to confront Dr. Orloff and demands 500 guineas or else he will go to the police with proof that Orloff is Jack the Ripper. Unsurprisingly, the next scene has Orloff's landlady finding Charlie hanging dead by his neck.
  • In A Jolly Bad Fellow, Delia attempts to blackmail Bowles-Otterly into marrying her. Attempting to blackmail a poisoner proves to be a very bad idea.
  • Knives Out:
    • After Harlan Thrombey, renowned author and publisher, dies and leaves everything to Marta, his nurse and confidant, his family becomes infuriated and demand the fortune they feel is rightfully theirs be returned. When Marta tries to sneak away from her house to avoid the media circus outside her apartment building, Walt Thornbey, Harlan's youngest son, goes and tries to recover the inheritance. Saying that he and his family can use their money to hire good lawyers to prevent her mother from getting deported, should that information get out. She then counters that she can use her money, acquired from Harlan's inheritance, to hire her own lawyers to keep her mother from getting deported, and slams the door in his face.
    • Fran, the housekeeper, finds out that Harlan's grandson Ransom is responsible for Harlan's death, and attempts extortion, only to discover that the subtle and indirect method Ransom used on Harlan doesn't mean Ransom isn't also able and willing to end a threat by direct and immediate means.
    • In Glass Onion, the two people who try to blackmail Miles Bron (Andi Brand and Duke Cody) are murdered by Bron by being drugged and put inside of a garage with a running car to fake a suicide and by slipping pineapple juice (which Duke is deathly allergic to) in his cocktail the very second he gets close enough to perform said murder. The situation is Deconstructed because this is shown as proof that Bron is an impulsive idiot trying really hard to get by through Refuge in Audacity.
  • In Long Shot: Charlotte gets blackmailed to drop her environmental agenda, with President Chamber threatening to withdraw his presidential endorsement, and his ally Parker Wembley threatening to release a video of Charlotte's boyfriend Fred masturbating to one of her speeches and ejaculating over his face. In the end, she decides to brave the consequences and denounces them. When they do release the video in retaliation, it just comes across as verifying her claims of being blackmailed and stirs up a lot of public sympathy for her.
  • In The Mad Magician, Rinaldi thinks he can blackmail Gallico into continuing to construct illusions for him by threatening to go to the police with his suspicions that Gallico murdered Ormond. It seems he didn't take into account the depth of Gallico's hate for him, or the implications of Gallico having already murdered once. As Gallico later says to Lt. Bruce, he'll get the chair whether he committed one murder or four.
  • The Man Who Knew Too Little: After learning their their plot due to pillow talk, Hooker with a Heart of Gold Lori is trying to blackmail Embleton and his fellow Spooks about their assassination plot. Predictably, they send an assassin to kill her, but she survives due to Wallace and the assassin accidentally getting each other's instructions.
  • Momentum: Quite spectacularly. Kevin and co-conspirator Jessica foolishly decide to blackmail the senator with a secretly recorded sex tape. We're talking about a US Presidential candidate who hires criminals to rob banks. The silly woman didn't even make a backup. Mr. Washington scoffs about how stupid she was before he kills her.
  • The plot of Motherless Brooklyn is kicked off when private detective Frank Minna is killed after trying to blackmail Moses Randolph with incriminating evidence about his Child by Rape Laura that could jeopardize his rise to power and political career.
  • Mulholland Falls: The bad guys try to blackmail Detective Hoover with his affair with Allison by holding the film reels of their liasons over his head. The problem is, they mailed the copy of the reels directly to his house, as opposed to his office or a safety deposit box, so his wife has already seen them by the time he finds out. He later points out to the blackmailers that he really doesn't give a crap anymore who they send it to now, making their whole scheme worthless.
  • Murder by Proxy: On learning of Darius Brunner's murder, Groot—the private detective he had hired—realises who the murderer must be, and attempts to blackmail them. At the end of the film, Inspector Johnson says that Groot's body had been pulled out of the Thames.
  • The Natural: The Judge tries to do this to Roy (he had gained possession of photos of a woman who killed herself after wounding Roy in compromising circumstances when he was younger), but, after Roy declines his offer, the Judge in his shock declares that he thought he could rely on Roy's "honor"—which Roy then replies to with "you're about to" before heading back to the field to hit the pennant-winning home run.
  • No Man of Her Own: Stephan doesn't know the lengths that Helen will go to to protect her identity and her son from being discovered. She's willing to kill him to keep him silent. Same with her beau, Bill.
  • In None Shall Escape, Karl is preparing to leave Nazi Germany for good and threatens to reveal Wilhelm's role in the Reichstag fire and the "Schleicher murder" (i.e. the Night of the Long Knives) unless he leaves the Nazi Party. In a Have You Told Anyone Else?-esque twist, he threatens to put it in writing when he arrives at his destination. Wilhelm solves his predicament by having Karl arrested and deported to a concentration camp before he has a chance to leave.
  • In Quicksand, Mackey attempts to blackmail Dan for $3000 over the theft of the sedan. When Dan can only come up with $1800, Mackey takes the cash and then tries to call the police. In an attempt to stop him, Dan winds up strangling him. And the kicker is Dan later learns that Mackey didn't know Dan had stolen the car. He ran the same line on all of his employees and Dan was the only who bit.
  • Red Rock West: Kurt is shot for trying to blackmail a wanted fugitive. Unusually for the trope, he survives his injuries.
  • In Ronin (1998), Gregor meets a Russian gangster and demands more money for his briefcase's contents. He informs the gangster that his girlfriend, Natacha, a gorgeous skater, has a sniper being trained on her, ready to kill her in the middle of a performance. Gregor counts down the time until the sniper fires, waiting for the gangster to pay up to save his girlfriend. At "zero," the gangster raises up his own gun and too late Gregor realizes the man has absolutely no qualms about letting his girlfriend die rather than pay up more.
  • In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968), Jekyll's assistant chemist Stryker realizes his connection to Mr. Hyde and tries to blackmail Jekyll for money. This leads to Jekyll deliberately transforming into Hyde and murdering Stryker to keep everything a secret.
  • In Sweet Smell of Success, Sidney Falco tries to muscle one of his boss JJ Hunsecker's rival columnists by implying that he knows about an adulterous affair the columnist had. The columnist confesses to his wife right then and there, makes up with her, and launches into a "The Reason You Suck" Speech aimed at both Falco and Hunsecker.
  • Thunderball: SPECTRE operative Angelo Palazzi tries to blackmail his organization into paying him more money at the last second before his part in the plans to steal several nuclear weapons occurs (as he points out, he is the only infiltrator available for the job, with his surgically-changed face and all; and there is no way SPECTRE will get a replacement in such short notice. He also points out that said face is all the evidence he needs to show any agency that some dirty deeds are afoot). SPECTRE agrees, only to kill him rather unceremoniously once he has outlived his usefulness.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: R.K. Maroon's plan to blackmail Marvin Acme fails when Acme is murdered, and Maroon tries to repair the damage by trying to find Acme's will, and ends up murdered as well.
  • On Zero Effect, this almost happens. While the blackmailer and Daryl Zero have their own plans on how to deal with the blackmail, the blackmail-ee Stark has grown obscenely paranoid and skittish by the time Zero starts his investigation and insists on wanting to arm himself to blow away the blackmailer if he ever meets him in person (which Arlo needs to talk him out of repeatedly).

  • In Midst, Moc Weepe kills Atticus for trying to blackmail him. He doesn't care that Atticus found out that the Black Candle Cabaret is a front for hiding refugees—until Atticus realizes that he was planning to betray them to the Trust himself.


    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: It happens on occasion that blackmail will get involved in someone's murder plot. Usually, it's a victim killing their blackmailer, but exceptions exist.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
      • Redd White has a vast blackmail empire that all but guarantees him immunity from legal recourse. Mia solves that problem by compiling information on people who committed suicide because of his blackmail, which could ruin his life if it got to the press. He kills her before she can use it, but that doesn't actually stop her, courtesy of her little sister Maya and student Phoenix.
      • Double Subverted in the third case. The victim finally snapped from years of life-destroying blackmail and tried to kill his blackmailer- but then proceeded to lose the subsequent struggle, being pushed to his death on a sharp fence post. However, the case ends with the culprit admitting their involvement, so he has some consolation in that his killer is going to jail.
      • The bonus case. Damon Gant's 'ace in the hole' was a piece of a murder victim's jacket that had Ema Skye's fingerprints, and threatened Lana that he'd use it to get Ema convicted of murder. When the evidence does come up during Lana's trial, Phoenix is able to turn it against him by proving that the cloth had been cut from the jacket before the victim's death (it should've had blood on it, but didn't), ergo the only thing it proved was that Gant had set Ema up before murdering the victim himself.
    • The final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All features this. The defendant of this case, Matt Engarde, actually is guilty of murder as he hired the assassin who killed the victim and had said hitman hold Maya hostage to ensure you get him acquitted. He also recorded the murder to use as blackmail information in the future. Unfortunately, not only did he consider blackmailing a known assassin—a questionable move at best—but said assassin, Shelly de Killer, has a strict code of honor and considers the trust between him and his client to be sacred. In the best ending, you reveal the contents of the recording to de Killer (you haven't seen the tape, but previous talk with the defendant and other corroborating evidence has already made it clear what it is). The recording proves that the Engarde not only didn't trust de Killer at all but was also about to backstab him, a major Berserk Button for de Killer, and so he breaks the contract, releases Maya and announces his intentions to go after Engarde next. At this point, Engarde is stuck between a rock and a hard place: if he's found guilty, he gets sent to prison and possibly gets the death penalty; and if he's found not guilty, he will be hunted down by de Killer. Engarde ultimately chooses to confess.
    • The anime adds an earlier case of blackmail; Mimi Miney didn't initially want to resort to killing Dr. Turner Grey to protect her identity, just fake the channeling. Her accomplice Morgan Fey blackmailed her into murdering him and framing Maya because she wanted Maya out of the way so her daughter Pearl could take Maya's position.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations: Kane Bullard used his security company to gather info about his clients and be discount Redd White. This backfired when he realized Luke Atmey was the mastermind behind the 'gentleman thief' Mask deMasque and blackmailed him, which prompted Luke to kill him and frame Ron DeLite for it.
    • Gyakuten Kenji 2 reveals that most of the series plot points happened because somebody got killed for attempted blackmail. Isaac Dover realized that his partner, pastry chef Dane Gustavia, had lost his sense of taste, and tried to blackmail him with the information (along with kidnapping Dane's son, who served as his taste-tester), but Dane killed him instead. That's the case that instigated the DL-6 Incident, which serves as a turning point in most of the main characters' backstories.
  • In Double Homework, Dennis tries to manipulate the protagonist and Dr. Mosely to get what he wants. Instead, he ends up dead, his belongings destroyed, and his digital accounts wiped clean.
  • Tyrion Cuthbert: Attorney of the Arcane:
    • Pierce tries to blackmail Aster by threatening to reveal Celeste's parentage and demands to have his execution lifted. This leads to Aster setting him up as a target and his subsequent demise.
    • Beatrice had a folder detailing William's plots against the Crown and House Steelwind. If he didn't surrender all of House Frega's assets to her immediately, she would send this information to the right people, who would absolutely ruin him. Unfortunately for Beatrice, William thought that he could buy his way out of trouble if the information got out. Now, Lucio Steelwind wasn't a person that could be bribed, and she knew it, but William was so sheltered and naïve that he didn't take the blackmail seriously. Instead, William decided to disinherit Beatrice on the spot for her insolence. Her own life depended on the inheritance, so she had to improvise and kill him before he could write a new will where she didn't receive any assets. In the end, however, the truth came out and not only was she convicted for murder, she lost the right to any inheritance per the Slayer Rule, and her soul can be claimed at any moment by the Empress of Discord because Beatrice failed to fulfill the terms of her Deal with the Devil. It could have been averted if Beatrice had simply sent the damning information to the right people without the blackmail.

    Web Comics 
  • Aisopos: Drakon refuses to promote Yadmon as an Arcon and tells him he is going to be his puppet, in return for not revealing that it was Yadmon's father who attacked Athens. The next day he ends up mysteriously "suffocating" during the victory celebrations in Aigina.
  • Full Frontal Nerdity: Lewis gets a blackmail phonecall from hackers who got access to his ten-year old Yahoo account note . Lewis asks if they can forward those forum links, because he lost them when a previous computer got fried.
  • Briefly discussed early on in A Girl and Her Fed, wherein Hope immediately realizes that you can't blackmail someone if your secret is a million times bigger than theirs, such as, for example, the ability to remotely access even air-gapped systems in instants. (The systems, in this case, need not even be digital.)
    Hope: Blam, thud, and we're shopping for an extra-large coffin.
    Speedy: Or a hacksaw.
  • Parodied in one El Goonish Shive strip without even any actual blackmail. When the pizza arrives at Grace's birthday party, Tedd (in female form) is horrified to realise that it's being delivered by Matt Cohen, the school council president, who vaguely recognises her just as Nanase and Susan (both in male form) are arguing about skirts. Tedd is convinced that Matt will work out that they have gender-bending technology, or at best decide that Tedd is a crossdresser. Sarah suggests going the mutually assured destruction route, since they now know that he has a delivery job while under 18, but Tedd is unconvinced the relative weight of the secrets gives them the power in this scenario. (From what we've seen of Matt since, it's more likely that he decided he had no idea what was going on but it was none of his business, and promptly forgot about it.)

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-4645, the Blackmailing Computer, is a computer that every day threatens the Foundation to do something horrible (releasing Keter SCPs, executing the O5 council, taking over the world, et cetera) or the computer will carry out some threat. This doesn't work for two reasons: At first, the computer only made ridiculously minor threats like deleting Minecraft accounts and having all staff stub their toes, and after it started escalating to more serious threats (researchers being badly injured, major security breaches, and so on) the Foundation figured out that it was learning what threats they wouldn't take seriously and escalating until they did, so they started wiping its memory every so often so it would start over at the minor threats.
  • Helluva Boss: When Fizzarolli decides to quit working for Mammon, the latter retaliates by threatening to reveal his Secret Relationship with Asmodeous (the shameful part being that they're in a loving relationship, something that Asmodeus, as the embodiment of Lust, denounces as his party line). However, Ozzie decides at that point that enough is enough and publicly outs himself on stage to all of Hell; the audience's reactions indicate that they've been shipping the two for ages and are happy that they are finally confirmed to be together.

    Real Life 
  • The KGB had several women pose as flight stewardesses and seduce Indonesian president Sukarno. The orgy was secretly filmed and the KGB showed it to Sukarno with the intention of blackmailing him. Instead, Sukarno thanked the KGB for a lovely night and asked for a copy of the tape — he wanted to release it to Indonesian theatres so his subjects would see how virile their president was.
    • Allegedly, in an attempt to leverage him, the CIA tried to do the same with similar results.
  • The KGB once tried to blackmail the French consul, by threatening to expose him with pictures of him having sex with other men. His response? "Go ahead, I don't care. Everybody knows I'm gay."
    • Apparently, something similar was considered by the CIA: to discredit a Middle Eastern leader, they were going to leak fake pictures of the man having sex with other men. It wouldn't have worked; apparently, in this man's country, such acts were considered a minor transgression, like a French president's mistress.
  • This trope is the reason why the blackmail version of Honey Trap is so fraught with difficulties. The target may not actually care if the "compromising" information is released. (The other reason is that most influential and powerful men are smart enough to recognize the plot beforehand.) Indeed, a good rule of thumb is to presume that a person's proclivities are known to their superiors.
  • The author of the book "Silk", about the KGB blackmailing Westerners, revealed that the CIA tried something similar, which didn't work because Eastern Europeans didn't care; being seduced by foreigners was considered one of the perks of the job.
  • This happened to a girl who had sex with hockey player Jaromir Jagr. She then took a selfie with him and planned to blackmail him to not reveal. But Jagr was not in any kind of relationship at the moment, and also had a reputation for being a really weird guy, so he just shrugged it off.
  • When the famous London courtesan Harriette Wilson was about to publish a tell-all memoir, one of the famous names involved was the Duke of Wellington, a national hero known for his defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. The publisher contacted Wellington, letting him know that unless Wellington paid up, Wilson's stories about Wellington would be included. Wellington's response was simply "Publish and be damned!" His reputation not only survived, he became Prime Minister; Wilson and her publisher had a brief windfall from the memoirs, but the publisher was soon devastated by libel suits and Wilson fell on hard times and died in obscurity.
  • Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and the richest man in the world, was contacted by the publishers of The National Enquirer, informing him that they had evidence of him having an affair, including raunchy texts and nude photos. They offered to bury the story in return for retracting claims he'd made against their parent company. The problem was that Bezos was already planning to end his marriage and marry his mistress, and wasn't particularly concerned with being publicly exposed. He publicly admitted everything in a blog post, including publishing the blackmail messages, which exposed them to possible criminal charges. It didn't really cost him anything that he wasn't planning to give up anyway.
  • David Letterman was blackmailed by Joe Halderman, a producer on CBS threatening to reveal his sexual relationships with several of his female employees. Letterman stated that someone had left a package in his car with material he said the blackmailer would write into a screenplay and a book if Letterman did not pay him US$2 million. As soon as he saw the information, Letterman said that he contacted the Manhattan District Attorney's office and partook in a sting operation. Letterman then announced the affairs on his show after the producer was arrested.
  • In 2019, a hacker managed to acquire nude photos of Bella Thorne from her phone and threatened to release them unless she sent him money. She responded by releasing the photos herself, along with their chat logs.
    • Sia once did the same thing.
  • The expected "blackmailer killed by victim" outcome had a slight twist in an Indian case where the blackmail victim came clean with her boyfriend about the circumstances of the blackmail. The blackmailer expected the girl to break up with her boyfriend so he could be with her to protect the secret, or that he would release the photos publicly for the same effect, thinking no one else would want to be with her after that. He failed to consider that someone might Take a Third Option—that the boyfriend would remain protective of his girlfriend regardless of whatever transgression the photos supposedly revealed. The boyfriend of the victim proceeded to drug and strangle the blackmailer in a muddy field.
  • In late March 2021, freelance journalist Seth Hettena wrote a letter to anti-Republican PAC group MeidasTouch demanding responses towards obviously false and defamatory accusations towards the group, claiming they were doing these throughout the Georgia runoffs, despite not talking to them since after the initial elections. He planned to reveal these accusations in an issue of Rolling Stone. MeidasTouch's response? They lawyered up, responded to those questions in a tweet, then proceeded to reveal that Rolling Stone, once a shining beacon of rebellion, was now under the ownership of a pro-Trump and Saudi multimillionaire and was turning it into a mockery of itself.
  • What spelled the undoing of Maximilien Robespierre. Arriving at the National Assembly claiming he had a list full of traitors to expose, but refused to say who until the next day. When he tried naming them the next day, the entire assembly (His own party included) shouted him down, arrested him, put him on trial and executed him. Just in case they were on the supposed list.
  • Otto von Bismarck's strategy to ultimately force the Prussian king's and later German emperor's hand was to declare, if he did not get his will, he would resign. This worked out multiple times under Wilhelm I. Two emperors later, the German parliament refused to extend his antisocialist laws. He offered the new emperor Wilhelm II the choice to either hold reelections until he had a majority or to step down as chancelor. To his shock, the Kaiser chose to accept his resignation.


Video Example(s):


Fizz & Oz come out

When Mammon threatens to out his scandalous relationship with Fizzarolli to the public, if he doesn't back off, Ozzie shoots that down immediately by revealing it to everyone present. It helps that it was already speculated, though Mammon ominously threatens that he'll regret revealing it before disappearing.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / BlackmailBackfire

Media sources: