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Blame Game

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Your Fault! No, your fault!.

Jack: Wait a minute though, I only stole the gold to get my cow back from you!
Little Red Riding Hood: [to the baker] So it's your fault!
Jack: Yes!
Baker: No, it isn't! I'd have kept those beans, but our house was cursed. [The Witch] made us get a cow to get the curse reversed!
Witch: It's your father's fault that the curse got placed and the place got cursed in the first place!

This is when something has Gone Horribly Wrong and it's time to determine who is at fault, but the consequences for this blame can wreck careers and reputations, or even get people killed. Either that or just stubborn pride takes the hit.

So when someone is blamed, that person tries to pass off the blame to another plausible person, and that person either tries to put the blame back on the first person or pass it to someone else. Essentially the blame is now like a game of "hot potato", hence we call it the Blame Game.

A true player of the game will, therefore, work to avoid becoming The Scapegoat at all costs... while doing their best to note who else around them might better fit the role. In bulk, preferably.

The Game can happen in both comedy as well as drama. In Real Life, a staple of wrongfully biased politics/journalism, right after any tragedy. Also common among young children when somebody has done something naughty. As well as every other age group.

The truth of the matter is either the original accused is often at fault, or some of/the whole group are at fault. On rare occasions, it really does turn out to be an unforeseen person or event. Though when blaming most or an entire group when it is a certainty that not all individuals of a group are at fault, whether present or not, is basically a biased scapegoater and/or person.

Compare Never My Fault, when someone consistently tries to avoid taking the responsibility for his or her mistakes, with or without any finger-pointing (but very often with) and see Stopping the Blame Game for when another character refuses to allow this. See also Argument of Contradictions.

Remember, this isn't just trying to pass off blame once. There has to be at least one return volley.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In The Smurfs comic book version of "The Astro Smurf" (and its Animated Adaptation), when Astro Smurf climbs up what's supposed to be a greased pole effortlessly and Grandpa Swoof finds out that it wasn't greased, one Swoof blames another for not greasing it, and that Swoof blames another, and so on.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie: After Mojo Jojo's true colors are revealed, the girls fly away from Earth and land on an asteroid. Blossom and Buttercup get into an argument over who is to blame for how things have turned out. Blossom blames Buttercup for escalating their game of tag to destructive levels which is what resulted in them being hated by the town, a fact which Mojo exploited to manipulate them into helping him. Buttercup retorts that it was Blossom's idea to walk home from school - instead of flying which would have allowed them to find their way home easier - which resulted in them encountering Mojo in the first place.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: After the Koopa General destroys Donkey Kong's kart, he blames Mario for letting the Koopa General do a Kamikaze Attack on his kart. Their argument lasts until they land into the water and get eaten by the Maw-Ray.
  • In the first Toy Story, Woody and Buzz pull this when their Escalating War gets them stranded at a gas station. It loses track a little by the end:
    Woody: It's all your fault!
    Buzz: [outraged] MY-my fault? If you hadn't pushed me out of the window in the first place...
    Woody: [fumes indignantly] Yeeeaaahh? Well, if you hadn't shown up with your stupid little cardboard spaceship and taken away everything that was important to me...
    Buzz: Don't talk to me about importance! Because of you, the future of this entire universe is in jeopardy!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Four generals at the end of a film version of The Charge of the Light Brigade all try to avoid blame for the order for the suicidal charge.
  • In the film version of Into the Woods, when the protagonists are in their lowest moment, they start blaming each other for what happened, which proves to be their main weakness. Only by stopping it can they earn even a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Mystery Men features a blamethrower that makes a couple groups of Mooks do this, allowing the heroes to beat them while they're distracted.
  • Lampshaded by Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs.
    Joe Cabot: Well, let me tell you a joke: Five guys sitting in a bull pen, San Quentin. Wondering how the fuck they got there. What'd we do wrong? What should we've done? What didn't we do? It's your fault, my fault, his fault. All that bullshit. Finally, someone comes up with the idea, wait a minute, while we were planning this caper, all we did was sit around and tell fucking jokes. Got the message?

  • Discworld:
    • Every time a plan formulated by the Auditors goes wrong, some time is spent on this one. The outcome inevitably goes like this: the plan was a group effort, therefore it's everyone's fault, and if it's everyone's fault, it's no one's fault, because the amount of blame that attaches is as close to nothing as makes no difference. They're very corporate that way.
    • The wizards, on the other hand, love nothing more than to spend hours bickering over whose fault something was, especially if they can do this as an alternative to dealing with the problem. They will do this until the problem either goes away on its own, or gets so big that it physically prevents them from continuing.
  • The Berenstain Bears has a book of this verbatim. Whenever Brother and Sister break something, they end up blaming each other. It took Papa to explode in anger for the cubs to finally learn their lesson in the end.
  • In The Bible:
    • Genesis 3, God confronts Adam about his having disobeyed His commandment not to eat the Forbidden Fruit. Adam says, "The woman You put at my side—she gave me of the tree, and I ate", thus passing the blame not only to Eve, but to God. Eve, in turn, says, "The serpent duped me, and I ate." God punishes all three of them.
    • The Book of Samuel. When Samuel confronts Saul about making a sacrifice without waiting for him, Saul answers "You were late, and the people were demanding it". Samuel immediately reads out the death sentence of Saul and his family... irresponsible kings won't be tolerated.
  • The Dayao in Always Coming Home attempt to shift the blame upon each other when the war goes badly for them. They are big on the Never My Fault when it comes to the leaders.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Chernobyl manages to depict the layers of bureaucratic finger-pointing that broke out even as the nuclear reactor was busy going critical, let alone the Kafkaesque legal(ish) nightmare that ensued for months afterwards, far removed from the Cosmic Horror playing itself out in the exclusion zone. It almost eclipses the horror of, say, dying of acute radiation poisoning because the poster boy of this trope, Deputy Chief Engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, was in acute denial and incredibly focused on trying to save his own ego (and life from the bigger fish above him) that he just couldn't face what was happening, so gave insane orders. Most politicians, even many frontline responders and liquidators, couldn't face what was happening, although the most courageous tried. So... It's blame game and scapegoat time from those least equipped to understand or care about those being directly affected. It goes poorly, and we see how and at what price in uncomfortable detail.
  • In an episode of The Tudors, Cromwell and another lord try to pass off blame for Henry's displeasure with Anne of Cleves. Unsurprising, given that they could well get in quite a lot of trouble if the king's wrath falls on them.
  • In a skit on Mr. Show, a group of film executives each try to pass the buck for greenlighting Coupon: The Movie, an abysmal flop. Each time the buck is passed, the group starts chanting the name of the new accusee, until the last man in the room realizes that he's chanting his own name.
  • This seems to be the main skill that they are looking for on The Apprentice. Donald Trump is most likely to send home the Project Manager of the losing team, so PMs will find someone else to blame for the loss.
  • During an ER storyline in which a patient died because he was misdiagnosed by one doctor and consequently given the wrong medication by another, their supervisor blasts them for the error, to which they both respond that she should have been there to oversee them.
  • Without a Trace. After an agent provokes a suspect into attacking him so as to have a reason to shoot him, his partner gives their supervisor a watered down version of what happened. However, Internal Affairs is suspicious and keeps pressing the issue, at which point the first agent blasts the other for lying, while she in turn blasts him for losing his temper with the suspect.

  • As Skyclad put it in "Eirenarch",
    Successes have fathers — but failure's a bastard.
  • Kanye West has a song called "Blame Game", about a couple that doesn't get along.
    Let's play the blame game, I love you, more
    Let's play the blame game for sure!
  • This Brazilian song concerns marijuana being found in a bus. The driver claims it's the collector's, the collector claims someone seated owns the joint, and the chorus goes "I think the joint is from someone standing!"
  • The White Stripes song "Effect And Cause" has the narrator castigating his girlfriend for blaming him for their problems, and claims that she started it in the first place.
    You're like a little girl yelling at her brother 'cause she lost his ball.

  • An episode of the Show Within a Show on Adventures in Odyssey deals with a cat burglar who pleads "Not Guilty By Reason Of Temptation": "The devil made me do it!" Investigators interview several witnesses, including the above-mentioned Adam and Eve, who have also tried to shift the blame for their sins to the devil.

    Tabletop Games 

  • The second act of Into the Woods has the songs "Your Fault" (where the protagonists try to name the source of the problem) and part of "Last Midnight" (where the Witch calls the protagonists out on wasting time placing blame rather than solving the problem). It's also a Dark Reprise of the song "Ever After," where everyone had congratulated themselves on their bravery and cleverness to find their Happily Ever After.
  • The musical Titanic has the ship's captain, owner, and builder singing "The Blame".
  • Friedrich Schiller's Intrigue And Love ends like this, until the hero's father finally accepts responsibility for his actions.

    Web Comics 
  • A strip from Ctrl+Alt+Del has a team of players from League of Legends playing the blame game. When someone actually takes responsibility for why they lost, the entire game crashes due to the breaking of the blame game that powers the servers.

    Web Video 
  • In TomSka's sketch "The Blame Game", Tom's tries to get revenge on his childhood bully, but his bully was only doing it to avoid being beaten by another bully. That bully blames her Alcoholic Dad, who blames his bartender. This escalates until the blame has been placed on England, Capitalism, Lady Luck, and finally back onto Tom.

    Western Animation 
  • The Aaahh!!! Real Monsters episode "Rookie Monsters" ends with Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina blaming each other when the Gromble asks them whose idea it was to be out late at night.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In the episode "The Responsible," the Blame Game is played as Gumball is too scared of his mother to take the blame for Anais flooding the house by accident, so he blames Darwin, who in turn blames Anais, since she actually did flood the house. Anais, however, blames their mother for leaving Gumball in charge, who, in turn, blames their father for not finding a proper babysitter. Richard, not having anyone else to blame, blames the internet. Everyone else agrees.
    • In the episode "The Prank," after the prank war between Gumball, Darwin, and Richard goes a little too far and wrecks the house, Nicole angrily demands to know who caused all the damage. All three of them immediately yell "It was him!" and point at each other.
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Chase," Katara blames Toph for them being on the run for days without sleep because she never helps them set up camp when they land, Toph blames Appa for leaving a trail of shed fur, and Aang blames Toph for making Appa carry extra weight after she joined the group, leading to fun exchanges like this one:
    Toph: You're blaming me for this?
    Aang: No, she's not blaming you.
    Katara: No, I'm blaming her!
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode Nothing to Fear, Huey, Dewey and Louie get into an argument about responsibility when Nightmare!Quackenbush shows up.
    Louie: Whose idea was it not to do our homework?
    Huey & Dewey: YOURS!
    Louie: Whose idea was it to listen to my idea?
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "Last Christmas!", when Scrooge angrily asks who put up the giant animatronic figure of Santa Claus in his manor, everyone points at Louie while Louie points at Huey.
    • From "Last Crash of the Sunchaser!"
      Mrs. Beakley: "Mr. McDuck!"
      Scrooge: "Kids!"
      Louie: "Mrs. Beakley!" [Beat] "Sorry, I was just trying to keep this blame circle going."
  • In The Flintstones episode "The Astra' Nuts", Fred and Barney accidentally sign up for the army after Fred received the wrong address to take a physical exam from Wilma who got it from Betty.
    Fred: You told me to go to 75 Main Street and take a physical and 75 Main Street is the Army Recruiting Office and they give physicals there!
    Wilma: (to Betty) Didn't you tell me 75?
    Betty: Maybe it was 57?
    Barney: All I know is it's Fred's fault!
    Fred: What do you mean my fault? It's Wilma's fault!
    Wilma: It's Betty's fault!
    Betty: (turns around) It's your fault! (The camera pulls back to reveal that Betty is staring at herself in a mirror) Wait a minute...let's do that over again and I'll start it this time.
  • In Rick and Morty's Season 1 episode "Meeseeks and Destroy", a large number of Meeseeks get into an argument over whose fault it is that they all exist.
    Meeseeks 1: Why did you even rope me into this?
    Meeseeks 2: 'Cause he roped me into this!
    Meeseeks 3: Well, him over there, he roped me into this!
    Meeseeks 4: Well, he roped me into this!
    Meeseeks 5: Well, what about me? He— he roped me into this!
    Meeseeks 6: Well, that one over there roped me into this!
    Meeseeks 7: Well, he roped me into this!
  • South Park: The first Christmas Episode explodes into a violent one of these when the audience is dissatisfied with the the changes made to the yearly Christmas pageant.
    Priest Maxi: This is the most godawful piece of crap I've ever seen.
    Mr Garrison: Hey, you're the ones who made it this way!
    Priest Maxi: Yes, because the Jews said it couldn't be Christian.
    Gerald: It wasn't our idea to get rid of Santa Claus!
    Nature Activist: All you bastards ruined Christmas!
    Audience Member: Damn treehugger! [pounces activist, riot begins]
  • The 1972 Woody Woodpecker cartoon "Shanghai Woody" has the captain of a ship offering his first mate five pounds to shanghai our hero. As Woody has his way on the ship, pecking it full of holes, the captain blames his first mate for it.

    Real Life 
  • Politicians, political parties, and countries seem to love to play the Blame Game at each other for all the political problems that they have to face, even if all or even no parties are at fault. Even if it isn't political, the Blame Game can still occur whenever an argument devolves into an argument about who started the original argument. We won't list examples; that would be playing the Blame Game in itself.
  • Averted with Harry Truman, who kept a sign with the phrase "The buck stops here", a reminder that as president, he had to make difficult decisions and accept ultimate responsibility for themnote .
  • In a corporate environment, this is called "blamestorming". A Direct TV commercial even uses that phrase.
  • "Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?"
  • Everything associated with the But Not Too Black trope. Especially when concerning the lack of dark skinned models in the fashion industry, or the entertainment industry as a whole. The industry blames the agencies for the lack of hiring, the agencies blame the industry for not booking said models, thus causing the agency not to hire them. It becomes a "Chicken or the Egg" argument.
  • This happens whenever anyone complains about the types of movies being made today, whether they're arguing about unoriginal ideas, racial stereotypes, or anything else. Is it the movie industry's fault for making those kinds of movies, or is it the people's fault for making those kinds of movies popular?


Video Example(s):


Bello and Mina

Bello and Mina argue over whose fault it was over the flying bathtub kicking them both out in the middle of nowhere.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BlameGame

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