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Bystander Syndrome

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Pelican: [spotting a choking fellow pelican] Hey, hey, Nigel. Heh, would you look at that? Sun's barely up and already Gerald's had more than he can handle.
Nigel: Yeah. Reckon somebody oughta help the poor guy.
[all the pelicans murmur and nod]
Nigel: ...well, don't everybody fly off at once.

Somebody is begging for help — but no help is forthcoming. As far as bystanders are concerned, it's somebody else's problem: either a hero will swoop in and save the day, or a different bystander, one who is far more qualified, will step up and do the job.

It can be one of the reasons why the heroes are the only ones dealing with the matter, even if they don't have the adequate resources for it. It can also explain why they often grow to think that they must personally deal with everything. This can become a self-reinforcing pattern, as the presence of heroes leads average citizens to wait for them to solve problems.

Compare Apathetic Citizens. May overlap with City of Weirdos. When authorities are cursed with this, see Adults Are Useless, There Are No Therapists, and Police are Useless. See also All-Powerful Bystander and Social Media Before Reason. Contrast Samaritan Syndrome, wherein people in authority aren't cursed with this and it drives them nuts, and Who Will Bell the Cat?, where they are deeply concerned until the onus is put on them. If someone with this view is pushing it onto others, it becomes Not Your Problem as well. If they get called out for this or are punished for this, then it's Accomplice by Inaction. Sometimes this is used to demonstrate anviliciously that Humans Are Bastards.


Contrast Badass Bystander, who breaks with this trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: In the first episode, a truck crashes and everyone stands around taking photos and occasionally talking about how "someone" should call somebody. Lelouch (after contemptuously lampshading the way other people fall for this trope) actually runs up to the truck to see if anyone needs help. This is Foreshadowing for one of the defining aspects of his character; his absolute refusal to think it's somebody else's problem if there's something he can do. However, the rest of the series does not shy away from showing how much damage this otherwise admirable trait can cause, as Lelouch's refusal to accept a Crapsack World and his resistance against it gets lots of people killed.
  • Kanako Oora in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has this as her defining character trait. To her, everything else is somebody else's problem. Like, say, a huge pile of corpses in the classroom after one of Chiri's rampages. On the other hand, everybody calls her magnanimous for not judging you for your problems.
  • If it doesn't involve his little brother Mokuba, his company KaibaCorp, his position as a duelist, defeating Yugi Muto, or owning the most powerful cards (particularly ones related to the Blue-Eyes White Dragon), this defines Seto Kaiba of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! to a T. But at some point after the series ends, he starts caring enough to devote a significant part of his vast fortune into creating Duel Academia, a school intended to deal with all the magical consequences of Duel Monsters. Thus setting the stage for Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
  • Gantz opens with people in a subway watching a drunken hobo fall onto the tracks, and nobody lifting a finger to help, even though they knew the hobo could be killed by a train. One bystander, Kato, decides to jump in and help, with his friend Kurono reluctantly helping. They manage to save the hobo, but get hit by a train themselves for their trouble.
  • Invoked by Fate in Mahou Sensei Negima!, when he tries to convince Negi not to interfere with his plans to destroy the Magic World. His argument was "This isn't your world, it's just a fantasy, and you really shouldn't interfere in its affairs." This is before Negi discovers who his mother is.
  • Pokémon Adventures:
    • During their encounter at Fortree, Ruby states to Sapphire that he has no intention of helping defend Hoenn from Teams Magma and Aqua - his reasons being that A) he's only in it for the Contests, and B) he isn't Hoenn-born and raised. Cue the fireworks.
    • A similar case happens later in the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum chapter. Pearl urges Diamond to look the other way regarding Team Galactic's schemes, saying that escorting Platinum to Mt. Coronet should be their only concern. Dia stands his ground and reasons that he can't just ignore somebody evil running around.
    • Played chillingly in the XY chapter. Sure, the media is downplaying all the terrible things currently going on in Kalos as it's under Team Flare's control, but it's pointed out that even so, the average citizen should have some inkling of what's going on. The reason they're not doing anything is because they'd rather kid themselves that everything's okay as to live their lives easier.
  • Ah! My Goddess had a few instances when passerby's decided to ignore the heroes' home because they were used to strange happenings there and didn't want to get involved.
  • Cowboy Bebop: "I don't know, and I have no opinion."
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyuubey only cares about things related to his mission, and is perfectly willing to let the Earth get destroyed.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Kenshin's master Seijuro Hiko taught Kenshin everything he knows about swordsmanship and is strong enough to curbstomp every other fighter in the manga. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for the antagonists) he's just too apathetic and antisocial to be bothered to get involved. He does give Kenshin a break once, though.
    • Justified in that one of the core tenets of his school of swordsmanship is that its practitioners shouldn't get involved in wider political affairs due to the tendency of absurdly skilled warriors to singlehandedly influence the course of history, especially during times of political unrest.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth: Umi takes this attitude at first. In the anime, her sword's first evolution happens when she decides that it really isn't.
  • In A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, many people are like this. In episode 5 of Railgun, Uiharu begs for help as a bank robber mercilessly beats up Kuroko, but the people just walk past her. Fortunately, Mikoto answers her plea. Silvia does not care about any matter that doesn't directly concern her, and gets irritated whenever Ollerus helps people and drags her into it. Many of the good guys, like the members of Necessarius, seem to only do good if the problem directly concerns them, and they just don't get why Touma helps anybody in trouble even if he won't get any benefit from doing so.
  • Happens on a mass scale in Psycho-Pass when a man beats a woman to death in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses, and not a single person does anything to intervene. This was done as part of a demonstration to show that people have become so accustomed to the Sibyl System managing their lives that they no longer have any ability to do so themselves - many of the onlookers are so used to depending on Sibyl to shield them from danger and violence that they simply can't comprehend what they're watching.
  • While Dragon Ball Z's Vegeta isn't usually like this, he sits out the fight in Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon until the villain crushes his house.
  • In Is This a Zombie?, Ariel is an extremely powerful magic user, fully capable of curb-stomping nearly any Big Bad. Unfortunately, if a matter doesn't concern her students, she doesn't care about it. When Ayumu tries to call her out on this, she just sets him on fire for his insolence and leaves.
  • In Fairy Tail, when Jackal, one of the many villains capable of actually killing another character, comes to assassinate a former councilor, just about no one cares. He sets explosions off all over the town just to piss the heroes off, and when his target runs away in the next chapter, it can be seen that no one did anything.
  • The Navy in One Piece seems to have this action towards slavery. Despite it being illegal in the series, they do nothing to help stop it or even help protect any slaves that come to them. If it is a World Noble's slave, they are even tasked to get them back. No Navy officer has been shown to have a problem with this.
  • In Bleach, the Royal Guard aka Squad Zero show up only after the Vandenreich decimated Soul Society. When asked why they didn't help even though they were aware of the situation, they flat out state that their only concern is guarding the Soul King and protecting Soul Society is the Gotei 13's responsibility, not theirs. The only reason why they are intervening now is because the Vandenreich proved themselves to be a threat significant enough to threaten the Soul King.
  • Petshop Of Horrors has this this idea used frequently. Customers of the petshop have a contract, which has the person or people agreeing to accept any responsibility for their actions. Should they break the contract, then Count D and the petshop is not to blame for the act(s) of carelessness displayed by the patron.
  • In Death Parade, a detective turned vigilante refuses to lift a finger to help when he finds crimes in progress. As he callously explains to the brother of a woman whose rape he witnessed but didn't stop, his job is not to help people, but to punish the guilty for their crimes, and there can't be a crime without a victim. He seeks out and kills the criminals afterwards. He got his Karmic Death when sneaking into the rapist's apartment to kill him. The brother got there first and killed the rapist, then killed him, thinking he was the rapist's friend.
  • In The Familiar of Zero, Agnes always stoically ignores Saito's plight whenever Louise angrily punishes him for his Not What It Looks Like moments with other girls, even if she knows for a fact he's innocent.
  • Subverted in Codename: Sailor V (the manga of which Sailor Moon was spun off from): Artemis often questions Minako's Chronic Hero Syndrome, but it's because of her declared motivations (showing up cops, that she hates) and her tendency to get distracted-and possibly forget there are far bigger problems around.
  • ViVid Strike!: As is the case with most schools in real life, none of Rinne's classmates did anything to help her when she was being tormented by bullies out in the open. Some of them did give her sympathetic glances, but it was never anything more than that.
    • Possibly justified in that the bullies were members of the school's fight club, and thus had potential to harm anyone that tried to intervene.
  • Enforced by the powers-that-be of Darwin's Game. Whenever a game starts, they send a signal that affects every non-player in the area within several hundred meters which leaves them in a trance and unaware of anything happening. Move far away enough from the starting point though and a player can encounter unaffected people, which was how Kaname managed to get a police officer's help early on since he was in a moving train. For larger events, the range limit is increased to the entire event area and perhaps beyond and hypnotises all non-players into leaving the area.
  • Enforced legally in My Hero Academia. In a world where Everyone is a Super, only heroes with licenses are authorized to use their abilities to help people. Anybody else who does is either a villain or an unlawful vigilante, so most people seek to stay out of trouble. Quite a few villains are incredibly bitter about this attitude, especially Tomura Shigaraki, who despite being a child destitute on the streets and clearly in need of help no one was willing...and the one that did was All for One.

    Comic Books 
  • In Civil War the X-Men decide that the SHRA is not their problem, since they're too busy rebuilding their race. The thing is, whoever the X-Men sided with would've won then and there, and the SHRA itself is just a version of the Mutant Registration Act that keeps coming up in X-Books, so the X-Men really didn't have much of an excuse, since they've always opposed registering superpowers. Conversely, in Avengers vs. X-Men the X-Men call out the Avengers for not being more responsive to the frequent attempts at genocide mutants have to fight off on a regular basis. Emma Frost claims this stance is due to superheroes on both sides not helping with the X-Men's Genosha crisis, but Emma's not always one for doing the right thing anyway.
  • Retellings of the original Galactus trilogy often struggle to explain what The Avengers and other super-heroes were all doing while the Fantastic Four stood alone saving the world.
  • In DMZ, Wilson has kept his army of "grandsons" out of several fights and military incidents because it either isn't their fight, isn't their war, isn't something that concerns them, etc. Wilson's only concern is building up his power in China Town/among the Chinese, and working towards being the most powerful force in Manhattan.
  • Watchmen: The material used to make Rorschach's mask was intended for a dress for Kitty Genovese, the namesake of Genovese Syndrome, also known as the "bystander effect". Rorschach himself recounts the incident — in the "everyone just watched" version — and it seems to inform his view of the world and people.
  • Spider-Man's Super Hero Origin; Peter Parker let a burglar run right by him when he could have easily stopped him because he didn't think it was his problem. He would regret this for the rest of his life.
  • In The Fox Hunt, Paul tries to Invoke this Trope during a bank robbery he and his son Shinji get caught in as a means of attempting getting out of the Vigilante business. Due in equal parts to his son choosing to get into said business and his Paul's own self-dishonesty regarding the matter, however, this doesn't quite work.
  • Many comic books in the early 1970s had an advertisement for Aurora Plastics' "Monster Scene" figural kits, with models of Vampirella, a Mad Scientist called Dr. Deadly, Frankenstein's monster and a "girl victim" along with numerous torture devices. The ads have been described as "openly sadistic and even nihilistic", including Vampirella responding to the girl's screams with "Don't worry, this is New York, no one will help her." (Moral Guardians outrage caused the ads to be toned down and ultimately this type of figural model kit to be discontinued.)
  • Jonesy (2018): While Ripley is blowing the alien out of the airlock Jones is just licking himself.

    Comic Strips 
  • There's one Mister Boffo comic where all of the passengers one one side of an airplane are panicking. The passengers on the other side of the plane sit quietly and confident, because, as one of them brags, "We've still got our wing!"

    Fan Works 
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, any public act of violence seems to be accompanied by this trope.
  • Homestuck fic Unwanted Free Ugly Troll has this as the reaction to an abandoned young troll in a box on the street, even from the main character Dave. It's only when Dave is heading back through hours later, in the pouring rain and with no one else around, that he makes it his problem and rescues the little thing. The rest of the story concerns him adjusting to a life of abandoned trolls being his problem, and his attempts to make others care as well.
  • In Parting Words, this mentality is part of why bullying has become such an issue: most who witness the CMC getting bullied assume their families are already aware of the issue, so they don't get involved. Making matters worse is that Apple Bloom has come to believe her big sister flat-out doesn't CARE, as her attempts to tell her have gotten constantly blown off. Fixing the damage this has done to their relationship becomes part of the focus in the sequel, The Great Alicorn Hunt.
    • On a funnier note, when going incognito Celestia and Luna wear absurd outfits (the one we see makes Celestia look like a member of a barbershop quartet, but they both have a closet full of things set apart to assemble strange outfits) and then apply the Not My Problem Spell, that makes people unwilling to think too hard about it and thus recognize the "unusually tall fellow" as a Princess. Still, they have to take care and not be too enthusiastic about it, lest they become effectively invisible and get run over by a carriage (nearly happened).
  • In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, the Kamen Rider Club heavily blame themselves for not stopping Meteor from killing Fourze like in the original series. In the side story Tears to Shed, the resurrected (and brainwashed) Gentaro calls them out on this because they stood there while he got killed off and they never stepped forth to save him. Moreover, this trope is deconstructed with Yuki because all the antagonists will remind her on how she only cried "Stop!" just as Meteor gave Fourze the one-inch punch.
  • Discussed in Dirty Sympathy when Apollo asks himself if he had spotted Klavier's abuse wounds at the pharmacy instead of the other way around. He admits that he probably would have ignored Klavier and fled him to his fate.
  • In The Princess and the Dragon, Seto Kaiba once again embodies this trope. He lives in the vicinity of Hermos, has two fully-grown white dragons who obey him implicitly, and could have intervened far sooner than he does, but until Jou makes him an offer he cannot refuse, he is determined not to get involved. He's not a citizen of Chronas, so the affairs of the local royalty aren't his problem, at least in his eyes.
  • In Profesor Layton Vs Jack The Raper, at one point, Watari enters The London Underground, and pulls a sniper rifle on the receptionist, even firing a warning shot. Nobody else responds to this situation.
  • In The Dark Side of the Mirror Verse, this is Mirror!Fluttershy's entire worldview. She doesn't see anything as worth doing unless she somehow benefits from it in some way, and does the bare minimum required to actually get by, so ignores bad things happening she could have stopped. It's implied that this has to do with Mirror!Spitfire's treatment of anypony who stood up for Rainbow Crash. Deconstructed when Captain Goodguy points out this can have a nasty ripple effect: if it isn't your problem now, it very well could become it if not taken care of, or the problem of somepony you care about. It's also implied that Captain Goodguy used to have this, but learned this lesson the hard way.
  • The Bridge:
    • Anguirus says that he only fights to protect his own kind, the Kaiju, and doesn't care about humans. When dragons attack a pony camp, he ignores it until he realizes that since he's been turned into a pony, they are his kind.
    • When Ponyville is overrun by a swarm of Destroyah babies, Discord can't be bothered to help because the only character he really cares about is Fluttershy and she's not in Ponyville right now. After the situation is contained, Fluttershy shames him into repairing the town with his powers.
  • From 1Kids Entertainment's Death Note The Abridged Series [1]:
    L: ...and in this footage you can see various pedestrians who clearly don't give a $h!t that somebody near them just collapsed and died.
  • From Death Note: The Abridged Series (Dogface701):
    Raye Penber: I'm dying! Somebody help me!
    Random Pedestrian 1: Shut up Emo!
    Random Pedestrian 2: We have problems too, you know.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone, the G'heddi'onians and their guards appear to feel that the marauding hordes of the Black Tower and the impending death of the Pyar gods are Somebody Else's Problem—that is, these problems are there for the outworlders to fix. The four really resent being asked to do things that logically the city guards should have done (e.g., rescue a kidnapped baby), and eventually get to the point where they themselves feel that these things are Somebody Else's Problem.
  • Dominoes is a particularly ironic example. Being a superhero AU Deconstruction Fic starring the Detective Conan cast, half the characters are teenage superheroes who, despite the fact that they are being trained to be active problem-solvers in any crisis, are standing aside, permitting, and even reinforcing the psychological and emotional abuse of someone whom they once (and supposedly still do) considered their equal, friend, and family - because higher authorities responsible for this abuse have assured them it's for the best to treat them this way. For the record, the "higher authorities" in question is the teen superheroes' mentor, Kudo Yusaku, who is also the father of the victim, Shinichi, and the abuse leads to the superheroes actually impeding justice to prevent Shinichi from helping others and thus make him feel more powerless, up to and including Yusaku mindwiping Shinichi and controlling him like a puppet, having the police confiscate and then bury Shinichi's evidence of a string of 40+ child kidnappings, and then calling Shinichi's belief that these crimes occurred a "conspiracy theory." Unsurprisingly, Shinichi comes to believe that the superheroes are corrupt and impeding real justice and aid to those who need it, causing him to side with one of their enemies on account of this enemy somehow being more willing to help save these forty children. The entire time, the teen superheroes claim to be Shinichi's friends (and one even his girlfriend, who still proclaims that she loves him), but stand aside and allow this abuse and injustice to happen.
  • The fic Showa & Vampire has a very strange unintentional example. The multiple protagonists are all extremely powerful superheroes, for example possessing multiple powers that would, individually, be the hero's main gimmick in an action show. All of them have some kind of heroic lineage too, either from being the son of a powerful hero from a canon series or being the chosen inheritor of the legacy of a series of superheroes. They know an organization of supervillains and cyborgs are out to take over the world. But the thing is, the fic spends so much time on these characters' personal baggage, their love lives and their high school hijinks, it never gets around to having the heroes actually do anything about this evil organization. They only fight it when its members show up at their school, to personally attack them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Finding Nemo: Marlin and Dory find the ocean has as many helpful neighbors as it does folks who don't care about their quest and want nothing to do with it. The pelicans in the page quote are quite happy to gossip about others but only Nigel bothers to help their choking peer.
  • In The Simpsons Movie when Homer and Family escapes Springfield via Sandbox, Wiggum says that they are China's problem now.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Airplane!, fully a third of the gags are set up by contrasting the terrible things happening and the passengers' complete indifference to them. Examples include the unconscious bodies of the pilots being dragged through the aisle, a little girl nearly dying after her IV gets knocked out, and the Offscreen Crash near the end.
    • The passengers in Airplane II: The Sequel react with utter stoicism to being told that the lunar shuttle they're on is off course and being hit by asteroids. Being told they are out of coffee induces a full scale riot.
  • At the climax of All the Money in the World, Paul asks several strangers in a small Italian town for help, only to be refused every time. One baker tells him they “can’t get involved.”
  • In The Boondock Saints, a priest's sermon denouncing this attitude (with reference to the infamous Kitty Genovese murder), combined with them witnessing the Russian mob shake down the owner of their preferred watering hole, motivates Connor and Murphy MacManus to become vigilantes.
  • Big Jake: "I haven't interfered in anyone else's business since I was eighteen years old... and it damn near got me killed!" He changes his mind when he witnesses a Kick the Dog moment on the part of one of the goons.
  • Blind Chance plays it for laughs, but comes also with a subtle political undertone. The protagonist, Witek, ends up betrayed by a high-ranking Party official, Adam. In a fit of rage, he storms the office of the big-wig and starts to beat the man, right in a middle of a conversation with other Party members. Everyone present is just staring in confusion, because who would even dare to do such a thing. Eventually Adam, also confused by their stupor, shouts for help.
  • Seems to be a prominent theme in Brazil, notably at the beginning; when the wrong man is arrested and dies under torture, all any of the departments care about is that the problem doesn't trace back to them.
  • Rick Blaine in Casablanca appears this way for a while ("I stick my neck out for nobody"), especially when he seems willing to turn over a resistance leader to the Nazis because he is married to Rick's former lover. Eventually, however, we see that Rick isn't nearly as selfish as he lets on.
    • A similar situation plays out in Silverado. Paden agrees to stay out of it when Cobb tells him he's going after Emmett. When the guys Cobb works for kidnap Emmett's nephew, Paden can't sit by.
  • Several times in the German film Der letzte Zug, which depicts the six-day journey of the last Berlin Jews to Auschwitz, the eponymous train stops at stations and the imprisoned passengers beg passersby on platforms and other trains for water and food, but are ignored. It comes as a welcome surprise when trope is eventually averted by a group of Wehrmacht soldiers.
  • The Emperor and the Assassin. The entire royal court stands by while Jing Ke tries to kill Ying Zheng. After the assassin fails, the Emperor is understandably pissed and roars at everyone to Get Out!.
  • The Godfather: Exploited when Michael shoots two rivals in the middle of a restaurant, drops the gun, and leaves without the customers or staff doing anything to stop him.
  • The Great Waldo Pepper: After Ezra crashes, the spectators all rush out to look at the wreckage, but none of them move to help as Waldo tries to pull him from the wreck, even when it catches fire.
  • In Hardcore Henry, Jimmy and Henry are walking over to Jimmy's laboratory when they spot three corrupt cops attempting to rape a woman. Jimmy says to move along because they have more important things to do. Henry can't bring himself to ignore it and marches over to kick their asses. Extremely annoyed, Jimmy shoots the beaten up cops and orders Henry to stop wasting time.
  • A man on the street frantically screaming "They're here!" only to be ignored / assumed mad in most if not all versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
  • Irréversible has a woman brutally raped in an underpass. While the camera focus is on the action, the background shows someone enter the underpass, take a look at what's happening, turn around and walk away without even calling the cops.
  • Similarly, Last Action Hero has the villain, after he's transported to the real world, shoot a man in an alley to test a theory.
    Benedict: [shouting in the street] Hello! I have just shot a man and I did it on purpose! (silence) I said, I have just murdered a man, and I wish to confess!
    Citizen: Hey, shut up down there!
  • Kiss of the Tarantula: A VW Beetle full of teens in full screaming panic mode — one of whom smashes her head through the (non-safety glass) window and another ends up strangled by the door frame — in the middle of a drive-in movie, and no-one notices until the night watchman comes to shoo them off?
    Bill Corbett: So everyone at the drive-in movie just ignored the car full of dead teens?
    Kevin Murphy: Yep!
    Bill: Cool town!
  • In The Mummy, O'Connell tries to convince Evy that the end of the world is somebody else's problem, with little success.
  • The Purge: A man is running through the suburbs begging for help because a gang is after him. Mary Sandin isn't bothered by it, while James Sandin looks like he wishes he could help but he can't. The minute one of their kids lets him in is the minute it becomes the Sandin's problem.
  • In Se7en, Somerset tells Mills, "The first thing they teach women in rape prevention is never cry for help. Always yell 'Fire!' Nobody answers to 'Help!' You holler 'Fire!', they come running." After all, "In any major city, minding your own business is a science." Presumably fire is less subject to this syndrome than rape because it can quickly become everyone's problem.
    • This is portrayed directly in the scene where John Doe turns himself in. The guy is literally covered in blood with bandages all over his hands, and he has to yell for the detectives three times before anyone actually notices him.
  • In Star Wars Han Solo refuses to help rescue Princess Leia until lured into it by the promise of a reward. And later he refuses to help the rebels in their attack on the Death Star, but has a change of heart at the last minute.
    Leia: Your friend is quite the mercenary. I wonder if he really cares about anything. Or anybody.
  • The World of Kanako: Two characters are bullied throughout the film (Ogata and the narrator) and none of the other students come to help them. Neither do any teachers or officials.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: Ragnarok:
      • Loki, despite knowing that Hela has been unleashed on Asgard, adopts this attitude as he begins to forge a new life for himself on Sakaar. When Thor arrives later, Loki attempts to convince his brother to take a similar stance. However, Thor, as the hero, completely rejects this option.
      • Valkyrie (aka Scrapper-142) only survived Hela's massacre of her fellow women warriors because a loved one sacrificed herself to save her. This tragedy left Valkyrie embracing this attitude and retiring to Sakaar to drink herself to death. As Loki, she tells Thor to forget about the Asgardians, but he refuses to do so.
    • Black Panther: N'Jobu and Killmonger accuse Wakanda of being this due to the country's isolationism. According to Killmonger, by refusing to aid its neighbors for the sake of preserving its secrecy, Wakanda has allowed its fellow Africans to suffer from colonialism, slavery, poverty, and racial segregation. This sentiment was similarly evoked by his father N'Jobu who tried to arm African Americans with vibranium weapons.
  • The Woman: Brian's first scene has him witness some bullies beating up a little girl. After staring for a few seconds, he walks away to practice shooting a basketball into a hoop.

  • In K.A. Applegate's Animorphs, initially, the kids see the Yeerk war as strictly between the Andalites and the Yeerks, which is why Marco is so against getting involved. However, when Jake learns Tom is a Controller, the kids realize that the stakes are much closer to home than previously thought. By the end of the series, the kids have lost their faith in the erstwhile Andalite reinforcements, and have concluded that the Andalites think it's All Up to You.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Making Money Moist von Lipwig notes that people pay more attention to small noises than big ones, because while small noises are immediate and threatening, loud noises are 'everyone's problem, and therefore, not mine'.
  • Neverwhere:
    • Richard Mayhew's refusal to yield to this trope, when he found Door bleeding on the sidewalk, led him into London Below. His fiancee declared it someone else's problem, and so remained in London Above.
    • Residents of London Below tend not to be noticed by the Above folks in the first place. Later in the book, his fiance recognizes him for a brief moment, then is unable to even -see- him.
  • In the Gone series, 90% of the Perdido Beach kids have this attitude. An apartment is burning down with a kid inside? Sam can deal with it. We're running out of food? Sam can find more. The Human Crew is running around trying to kill the mutants? That's the Sam's problem, not ours. Caine and Drake have gotten into the Power Plant and are going to feed uranium to a monster? It's Sam's job to stop them!
  • The former Trope Namer is Life, the Universe and Everything. We're introduced to the concept of the Somebody Else's Problem Field, a sort of stealth system that automatically triggers the Weirdness Censor of anyone who looks directly at it. When it first crops up in the book, Ford tries looking at it from odd angles to get through. Meanwhile, Arthur just calmly remarks that he can see through it (which, obviously, means that it's his problem).
  • In the short story "Grotto of the Dancing Deer", the main character befriends a 20,000 year old man who says he has survived by always staying on the fringes and never volunteering for anything.
  • Hush, Hush:
    • In the first book, a particularly creepy instance happens when Patch and Nora have to take shelter in a motel, while it's raining. Patch sets up for them to get a room which the man behind the desk complies with, all while Nora continuously insists that no she does not want to share a room with him. Patch then ends up attacking Nora in the room and threatens her life. When she says she'll scream if he doesn't let her go, he invokes this trope by saying no one will care if a woman screams in a motel as seedy as this .
    • In Crescendo, Scott is able to almost flat-out abduct Nora in the middle of a crowded amusement park simply by telling everyone that she's his girlfriend and they enjoy playing a game in public where he pretends to grab her and she pretends to resist. Everyone buys this and one guy laughs.
  • In Across the Universe, Amy is nearly raped in public during the Season. When she screams for a couple of people nearby to help, one of them just smiles and tells her to calm down and stop struggling, or she'll get hurt. Given that everyone present but Amy is under the effect of very potent mood-altering drugs, it at least is justified.
  • In Stephen King's It, the heroes notice the shockingly high level of this in Derry. It's never explained if it's due to Mind Rape via Eldritch Abomination or just human nature, but Derry frequently ignores several massacres and a ×6 murder rate. It's implied that those who haven't left town are at least on some level aware of all the horrible things that happened and have decided to that they can live with it. This also overlaps with Adults Are Useless so that the kids in town have to deal with the psychotically violent bullies (to say nothing of the monster) on their own. An exaggerated and clearly supernaturally affected version happens in a historical anecdote of "what may have been the queerest mass murder in the entire history of America," where everyone else in a bar inexplicably (even to themselves) just ignores a man chopping up everyone in one table with an axe.
  • Noted in the famous poem "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, which is famous for its opening lines: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone". Effectively, the poem's message is this trope; people will willingly share joy and happiness, but will seldom listen to your troubles.
  • The premise of Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door , and The Movie of the Book. The source material is even worse.
  • The Stephen King and Peter Straub collab Black House takes this to an extreme. When word gets out that Irma Freneau's corpse has been found in an abandoned restaurant, the cops have to block off the road to deter literally dozens of people who want to come up to the crime scene and stomp all over it to have a look for themselves. One such couple demands to be allowed up so they can take home a keepsake, while another violently informs the officer that he is a hellbound sinner for daring to deny her access.
  • The vampires at the center of Twilight. On its own this wouldn't be so bad since it's clearly established that there's another group in place whose job it is to police the vampire population. But on the other hand we have the author saying that the Cullens are a lot like superheroes and the narrative telling us they're "committed to protecting human life," while again and again we only see them reacting to danger when they themselves or someone they have a personal interest in is imperiled.
  • A massive amount of fairy tales rendered by The Brothers Grimm has a notable number of examples, usually with at least one character in each fairy tale being someone who could've easily opposed the main villain but in the end, lets them do as they please before the plot/protagonist fixes the mess themselves.
  • Discussed and Defied in "Singleton" by Greg Egan. The formative experience in the protagonist's life is when he happens upon a crowd of thirty people who are watching two men methodically beat someone to death, none of them willing to do more than call the police, and realizes that he too could get away with doing absolutely nothing to help. Instead, he rushes in, spurring the bystanders to... not help, but at least get close enough to scare the assailants off.
  • Invoked in Time Out Of Time on Electra. She can only witness events as they happen, but must never interfere. Is she does, she has to return to her constellation and stay there. She untimately DOES interfere at the end of "The Telling Stone" by tripping Mr. McMorn to save Timothy.
  • Adam Appich from The Overstory is a cognitive psychologist who devotes his career to studying this, not that this stops him from having his own moments like when his professor has a heart attack and he assumes it's All Part of the Show.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jack Bauer of 24, Season 2 premiere. He's still haunted by his wife's murder, his daughter wants nothing to do with him, and he's on the verge of suicide. The reason he leaves is to warn Kim to get out of LA. Later, when seeing a mother with her child, Jack decides to do something about it:
    Mason: There's a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. We believe it's going to go off today.
    Jack: How good's your intel?
    Mason: Very.
    [Jack walks out]
  • Black Mirror: "White Bear" follows an amnesiac woman who is being chased by a man with a shotgun, and, with 90% of people having been brainwashed, most everyone is too busy filming the chaos on their phones to actually help. Subverted, however, when we find out they're not brainwashed at all and that this is all part of some voyeuristic theme park.
  • This is how most citizens of Sunnydale react to the rampant supernatural activity in their town on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • This must be the reason Burn Notice's Michael Westen gets away with so very many illegal acts in the middle of downtown Miami. Unless he wants the police to show up, people will safely ignore him when he sets off explosives, gets involved in car chases, and generally makes a mess of the local real estate. At least, until we find out that he's being specifically protected by various organizations, purposefully making it so the police don't link him to his activities.
  • In Series 23 of Casualty, Tess Bateman is impaled on a metal pole after an accident at a building site. A teenager nearby who witnesses the accident proceeds to take a photo of her as she struggles for consciousness, then just walks away. She does eventually get rescued, and gets better.
  • Doctor Who: In "Smith and Jones", after the Judoon execute the plasmavore, they claim their jurisdiction is over and leave without doing anything about an MRI rigged to overload as a deadly weapon, to Martha's considerable ire.
  • A man in Fargo is dragged out of his office by a kidnapper, in front of a cubical row's worth of coworkers who stick their heads out to watch and offer their rueful condolences when his body is found the next day.
  • Game of Thrones: Robert brushes off Ned pleading for him to spare his daughter's direwolf because his wife would be a pain to him if he intervened.
  • In Highlander, Methos has survived for millennia mostly by not getting mixed up in other people's problems.
    Duncan: Don't you want to see Robert and Gina live happily ever after?
    Methos: Yeah, but I want to see me live happily ever after even more.
  • Played for Laughs in the episode "Lucky Penny" from How I Met Your Mother. Barney has run the New York City Marathon without training and enjoys his free ride on the subway, showing off his medal. However, his legs stop working and he can't get off. Barney gets insulted for not giving up his seat for other people (an old woman, a pregnant woman and a boy with crutches). He calls Ted to come to pick him up, but Ted doesn't manage it on time so Barney is trapped there and is riding from end to end over and over. In The Tag, he's seen still riding on the empty subway. Nobody would help him.
  • Law & Order - The season 6 episode "Remand" and the Law & Order: SVU season 17 episode "41 Witnesses" are both based on Genovese's murder. Law and Order's Season 1 episode "The Violence of Summer" has Logan complaining he can't get witnesses to a rape, "It's the post-Kitty Genovese era, nobody wants to look, they think they'll get involved."
  • Discussed in one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit dealing with a kidnapping of a young boy. One of the people that was at the scene at the time even gives the normal explanation of "I thought someone else would do something."
  • Lost: In "Greatest Hits", we see a flashback to Charlie playing his guitar on the streets for money. When the show's over, he hears a woman (Nadia) screaming for help as a man tried to rob her purse. He chases him away by repeatedly hitting him with his guitar case. When she thanks him, Charlie says he did what anyone else would've done, to which Nadia replies that at least three people passes by before him and none of them even tried to help her.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Avalanche Jonah and the Bots jeer a camera crew busy filming a rescue crew trying to rescue survivors of the titular disaster and not aiding them.
  • Played for laughs in the first episode of New Tricks, wherein the climactic arrest takes place at a dinner held in honour of the main villain, an ex-gangster recently released from prison, as the main characters arrive to inform him that he's been officially exonerated of the murder he was imprisoned for all those years ago... and is now about to be arrested for a murder they can now prove he actually did do all those years ago instead. And that his wife actually killed the woman he was originally imprisoned for murdering. This, not entirely surprisingly, causes a fight between the villain, the villain's assembled friends, and the police... except for Brian, Jack and Gerry, the retired officers who caused the fight in the first place, who decide that discretion's the better part of valour and decide to stand back and offer a commentary on the fight instead. And it turns out they're not alone; as all the villain's friends and family are being dragged out yelling and screaming, it's revealed that one guy, who presumably wasn't that fond of the villain, just decided to sit and finish his meal with the chaos going on all around him.
  • A number of television series took this to heart at the time and created episodes based on Kitty Genovese's story and the "get involved" quote. The Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Silent Six" (November 21, 1965), portrays the brutal beating of a young woman whose screams for help are ignored by the six residents of her small apartment building, who later say — yep — they didn't want to get involved (although only Paul Drake uses those exact words).
  • The Four Man Band of Seinfeld is incarcerated in the finale for the many, many times they do this (as well as just being horrible), the breaking point being the four watching a man get mugged and laughing about it. Ironically, the final example of this would have been the one time it was somewhat of a good thing, as they had taped it and thus had video evidence of the crime, meaning they did something that can help the mugger be caught. Of course, that's not how the show had it turn out.
  • In the infamous episode "That's My Dog" from Six Feet Under, David gets carjacked. He suffers terribly and actually doesn't have many opportunities to ask for help because that might get him killed. However, when the psycho lets him go, he's seen going along a road, badly beaten and looking awful. He tries to stop somebody, but all cars just ignore him and keep going. Luckily, a police car appears at the end.
  • The Prime Directive in Star Trek can be considered something like this.
  • Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It calls this trope NoMFuP: "Not My Fucking Problem".
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): "A Little Peace and Quiet" is the story of Penny, who finds an amulet that can stop and start time. Penny embodies the trope as she uses the amulet to avoid situations she doesn't care about and continually ignores news reports about dramatically rising tensions between the United States and Soviet Union and even uses the amulet to bypass having to deal with protesters. In the final moments of the story, the USSR unleashes a nuclear missile strike on the U.S. which forces her to stop time and, presumably, live out the rest of her life in that frozen moment before impact.
  • The whole premise of the ABC's What Would You Do? is take a current hot-button issue, have actors play it out in public, and see if anyone steps in to help. Some topics covered in the show for example include racial or religious discrimination and seeing whether or not any bystanders step in and help speak out against such injustice. A few bystanders play this trope straight, others outright defy it.
  • In one episode of The Young Ones, the characters have stumbled across a time warp and now have a horde of medieval peasants out to kill them. They are terrified, and wonder aloud how they are going to get out of this predicament, when Vyvyan says "Who cares?", and the housemates instantly lose interest in their own mortal peril. End of episode. Considering they die on a near-daily basis...

  • The Oingo Boingo song "Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me" is all about the singer describing terrible things and expressing how he fails to see why he should be concerned if none of these mishaps or disasters affect him.
    A man broke into my neighborhood
    He threatened the family with a loaded gun
    He tied them all up and beat 'em real good
    He took everything and he got away clean
    And I can't believe that anyone would
    Wanna do such a terrible thing
    But why should I care?
  • Phil Ochs's song "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" deals with the political ramifications of this trope.
  • The Protomen's first album is a deconstruction of Holding Out for a Hero, with this as an accompanying theme. In the first song, Protoman is built to liberate an oppressed city from Dr. Wily and his robot army, but after a protracted battle through the streets, he's killed by Wily's robots while a crowd of citizens look on, none of them willing to risk themselves to save "their hero."
  • In "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath this is implied to be the protagonist's Start of Darkness:
    We'll just pass him there / Why should we even care?
  • Five Iron Frenzy describes this in the song "Someone Else's Problem":
    You want to close your eyes
    you want to make believe
    this tangled web you weave
    is nowhere near the place you sleep
    while other people’s lives are cheap
    and all of this is someone else’s problem.
  • The Clash's "Somebody Got Murdered" from Sandinista! is also about a murder nobody pays attention to.
  • Daniel Amos:
    • "My Room", from ¡Alarma!. The narrator knows that the outside world is on the path to destruction, so he deals with it by locking himself in his room. On the rare occasion that he feels really bad for everyone outside, he slips a note underneath his door.
    • "Live and Let Live", from Vox Humana, also touches on this:
    Oh no, I’ve got a broken heart
    (“We’re so sorry but we gotta run”)
    Oh no, I’m falling apart
    While you keep on floating
    Up, and up, and up, and up, and up
  • "All's Quiet on West 23rd" by Julie Budd, a rather obscure '60s tune inspired by the Kitty Genovese case.
  • The Blue Öyster Cult song Screams In The Night was written by keyboards player Allen Lanier. On perhaps his third night in New York, a woman was stabbed to death in the street beneath his apartment window. Lanier was struck by how many people just watched and did nothing - or seemed to. This may well have been the notorious Genovese murder which helped to define "bystander syndrome".

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Simon struggles with this mentality, being an anti-social person who'd rather leave others to deal with their own problems. When he realises that his teacher is a government agent charged with detaining superpowered people, he initially tries to distance himself from the problem, then berates himself for doing nothing whilst the other kids could be put in the danger. Ultimately he subverts the trope by warning the others of Travers' presence.
    • Jessica, the resident Jerkass, can't be trusted to help out in a situation even when she's expected to. When Zia gets involved with a fight and looks to Jessica for help, she ignores Zia and scurries away.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted:
    • The design philosophy of high level Stealth charms. Won't it be easier if people (supernaturally) ignore you doing your business of killing someone?
    • The "Shards of the Exalted Dream" supplement adds the Sidereal Firearms charm "Wearing Red to a Wedding". When in use, this power prevents observers from noticing anything wrong with the user being covered in blood, injured, or otherwise showing signs of having just been involved in violence. They can see these things just fine, but it never crosses their mind that they're something to be concerned about.
  • A major problem in Legend of the Five Rings. The general reaction of most of Rokugan to the Shadowlands is to stick their heads in the ground and pretend that they'll go away. Outside the Crab Clan (the people whose job it is to keep them out of Rokugan), it's considered dishonorable to even mention them when it's not absolutely necessary.
  • Weaponized in Demon: The Descent, with the "Bystander Effect" Embed, which specifically prevents others from interfering.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In the Baldur's Gate games, the lazy, lazy NPCs may well claim to be amazing warriors, but they'll still stand around waiting for you to reach them before they go to rescue their friend/kill rats/buy a book/retrieve something that was stolen.
  • Final Fantasy X lampshades this with a merchant charging the party when a giant monster is rampaging outside. Even though the party points out that he'll die if they fail, he simply says that he has confidence in the party and takes your money.
  • In The Legend of Zelda games, the world's gonna be destroyed if the princess isn't rescued, whether she's been kidnapped, turned to stone, or vanished off the face of Hyrule. Since you, Link, are already dealing with it, nobody's worried. It's YOUR problem now. They even charge you for equipment vital to your quest. Averted on a few occasions, like Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess.
  • Senel Coolidge from Tales of Legendia has this mindset at first. He acts as if the world revolve around Shirley, and if something unrelated to her is presented to him, he ignores them or at least tell him not to bugger him with it, pissing off many people, especially Chloe, though eventually he stopped obsessing about her completely. This one is so bad that in the Tales of the World, he gets a What the Hell, Hero? yell that he'd rather let the world be destroyed than just halting his search for Shirley, then he takes the hint (after all, if the world is destroyed, he can't even reunite with Shirley at all).
  • This trope is why nobody helps Aeka with the horrible bullying she deals with in Yume Miru Kusuri. People realize she is suffering, but don't help her for fear that they will become targets. If the player picks her route, Kohei and her get so fed up with this that they leave school entirely.
  • Soren from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance especially. His first response to finding Princess Elincia is to suggest leaving her behind, and then handing her over to the invading armies because "It's none of our concern." By the next game, He Gets Better.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, being a Wide Open Sandbox, allows you, the player, to ignore an impending demonic invasion. Sadly, it doesn't affect the gameplay by much, so you won't see any consequences of your negligence.
  • Zig-zagged in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with the Three Heroes who sealed Alduin in time, knowing full well that he will come back and someone else will have to fight him again: when you pursue Alduin in Sovngarde, they're more than happy to join the fray and help take him down.
  • At the end of the Back to the Future: The Game Telltale games, three alternate future Martys appear, begging for Marty and Doc's help in saving the future. Marty and Doc decide to just ignore them and go for a drive. In their defense, they had just finished a lengthy adventure across time and space, and it's strongly implied they'll get around to dealing with this eventually. Remember, they have a time machine and can deal with this sort of thing whenever they want.
  • One of the lyrics of Portal 2's ending song, Want you Gone, is "You're someone else's problem/Now I only want you gone".
  • Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 have this trope as their entire premise. A rogue Spectre is rampaging around space with an army of Mecha-Mooks that haven't been seen for nearly 300 years, looking for a mysterious device linked to myths of a machine race that exterminated all life? Eh, we'll send a rookie Spectre and his/her Ragtag Bunch of Misfits after him. A mysterious group of aliens abduct hundreds of thousands of human colonists for unknown purposes? The only people who care are Shepard, the second Ragtag Bunch of Misfits he/she assembles, and the human-supremacist terrorist organization that funds him/her. The attack on the Citadel was led by a member of a species of Abusive Precursors and was attempting to ensure their return? It's clearly a geth creation, and Shepard is clearly delusional. Mass Effect 3 is essentially the biggest "I told you so" in history.
  • In Dead Rising 3, Basement-Dweller Theodore "Teddy" Lagerfeld Jr. is incredibly rich, with a powerful security system and the keys to the police armory, since he's the mayor's son. When Nick Ramos asks for the keys so the survivors can be armed against the Zombie Apocalypse, Teddy decides that's too much work and tells him to get lost. When Nick persists, citing that many people could die without weapons, Teddy sets his mansion's security system against him. Fittingly, Teddy is meant to embody Sloth of the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • In Child of Light no-one does anything about the Queen of the Night until Aurora comes along; Oengus in particular pulls a Heel–Face Turn minutes after meeting Aurora despite being a powerful combatant himself. Admittedly it's implied that Aurora, being the Queen of Light's daughter, is The Only One with the power to stop her, but gameplay wise soon after the first map it's entirely viable to not use Aurora for a single fight.
  • This is Nicole's attitude to the cases of disappearances and kidnapping going on at her college. Yes, some girls are disappearing for a few days before popping up again, but she just doesn't care about it. Until the kidnapper tells her that she's next.
  • In Life Is Strange, a grand total of one person (besides Max) is shown attempting to do anything to stop Kate Marsh from committing suicide and it's the school security chief (i.e. the guy whose job it is to handle such emergencies). Every other student is just standing around watching and a couple are actively taking video of it.
  • The Central Theme of Persona 5 is examining, deconstructing, and defying this trope. The reason that the villains can get away with what they're doing is because a majority of Japanese society accepts the tragedy and injustice as a fact of life; they're too afraid, unwilling, or apathetic to do anything but keep their head down and hope that they're not next. Some are actively contributing to the injustice because it's easier than being good. One of the main goals of the Phantom Thieves is to inspire everyone to shake out of this apathy. The people of Japan briefly falling into this almost completely at the end is what causes the final boss to judge them (and humanity as a whole) as unworthy of existence and sparks the last confrontation of the game.
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, Shrimp is so focused on enjoying his vacation and not getting involved with Catie’s latest quest that he actually refuses to help her several times when she might need it. He steps back when Arianna attacks the ship in the prologue, and doesn’t help with the search for shipwreck survivors in Chapter 1. He eventually changes his tune, but it takes the literal end of the world to finally prod him into action.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/hollow ataraxia: Some characters tell a Ghost Story about a little girl who was being abused. She knocked on her apartment neighbor's door begging for help, but the neighbor ignored her even though she knew the girl was being abused. Eventually, the little girl got killed, and haunts the neighbor as a ghost out for revenge. The people listening to the story freak out before the ending can be told. In Fate/strange fake, it turns out this story actually happened, as one of the protagonists, Ayaka Sajyou, was the neighbor. She regrets not doing anything to help the girl and wishes to atone, and lives in constant fear of the ghost, though it is ambiguous if the ghost really exists or is a figment of her imagination.

  • In Drow Tales, a Sullisin'rune spy is stabbed by a Nidraa'chal agent and left to die in the street. There are plenty of bystanders, but not one of them comes to her aid. Eventually, two thieves attempt to loot her corpse. Word of God says that in the past, Chelians would have given her aid expecting a reward since she is clearly wealthy, but the already cutthroat city has been traumatized by a Mass Hypnosis event.
  • This happens pretty often in Schlock Mercenary, since the main characters are generally only interested in 1: survival and 2: getting paid. Which has now been codified with a Challenge Coin available to fans of the comic, with a Polish idiom: "nie moj cyrk, nie moje małpy"note 
  • Domain Tnemrot: Morris assaults an eight-year-old girl in the middle of a crowded ballroom. No one notices. Then Angel slams his head into a table hard enough to break his nose. Nobody notices that, either.
  • Downplayed with Rose and Jake from Homestuck, who do this when Terezi is receiving an absolutely merciless and brutal beating from Gamzee. Rose initially does not interfere because, since the trolls in question were in a blackrom relationship, she's not sure if this is just some kind of highly-violent-but-normal kismesis courting ritual and is worried about interrupting it if that's the case, though she seems skeptical of this and eventually intervenes when it goes too far. Jake is the worse offender here, since he wakes up to see this beating happening right in front of him and watches without saying anything, apparently assuming that, because Terezi is wearing a scarf over her eyes, she's some kind of "masked bandit" who wronged Gamzee, and eventually only meekly asks Gamzee to stop without making any kind of move to actually help.
  • Happens a few times over the course of 8-Bit Theater to various characters. One notable example is when Thief was being brutally mauled by Berserker just out of panel while the Light Warriors did nothing to help him because they were too busy watching the ordeal, listening to his cries for help and debating the merits of helping him. These are the good guys.note 
  • Clockwork protagonist Cog Kleinschmidt is very attached to this mentality. Despite increasingly tense circumstances between his country and the other main world power (up to and including repeated terrorist attacks in his home city), Cog does his best to ignore the problems in the world outside his door, unwilling to consider anything that might threaten his peaceful life. Instead, he convinces himself that those issues are way over his head and "nothing to do with me".
  • Zebra Girl: This is how Sam goes drinking in bars and nobody even notices he has white fur and rabbit ears.

    Web Original 
  • The attitude of the general population towards demons in Demonic Symphony, and oh boy does it backfire.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • There's an knife that lets people get away with murder by doing this, implied to be the murder weapon that killed Kitty Genovese. What's really bad is that knife's "bystander effects" extend to the person who is being attacked. That is, the person being attacked will be too listless and apathetic to even attempt to defend themselves or escape.
    • There's a hat that functions as an SEP field — the effects of which are permanent if you wear it too much.
  • Fine Structure weaponizes this with a weapon that causes a person to be ignored by anyone around them. You can scream and wave and punch people and people will care so little that they won't notice any of it. Or you. Ever again.
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, in order to avoid the AI Is A Crap Shoot trope, Linkara installed a subroutine on Nimue which acknowledges that in the event Humans Are Bastards is taken too far, while she does name what she could do. She implies that the work in this Cyber Revolution would result in many unnecessary deaths and wear her down. Or in Linkara's words "Screw them it's not my problem."
  • SF Debris has repeatedly slammed various Star Trek episodes from TNG onward for using the Prime Directive as an excuse to pull this when entire civilizations were about to be wiped out.
  • In Worm 11.5 Taylor meets a girl who saw her at the locker incident but didn't do anything to help. She promptly gives the other a big chewing-out.
  • Dreamscape: Vampire Lord's flashback in "Confrnoting the Dark" reveals his empire felt this way about a Fog of Doom affacting the Underworld...until it started affecting the vampires directly, but it was too late to do anything about it by that point.

    Western Animation 
  • Most characters in Drawn Together (considering the prevalent Jerkass-ness) have done this at one point or another, but Captain Hero, a superhero whose Catchphrase is "SAVE YOURSELVES!", is probably the worst offender. His response to Bambi wailing to him about his dead mother (that he shot no less) is:
    Captain Hero: Sucks to be you!
  • Every character in Futurama has decided, at least once, that the current crisis is somebody else's problem.
    • Scruffy the Janitor may be the most blatant offender here: when asked why he didn't fix the boiler, his reply was "schedule conflict" and another flip of his porn magazine. When said boiler was getting ready to go critical ten feet away.
      Scruffy: Scruffy's gonna die the way he lived. (licks finger, turns page)
    • It was also sort of used when the characters decide they don't care that Earth will be threatened by a giant garbage ball in about a thousand years. Mostly because launching said garbage ball was their method of averting the very same crisis during the present day.
  • Invader Zim:
    • A fair bit of the humour comes from the fact that nobody ever notices all the alien spaceships and Humongous Mecha that routinely appear. Granted, this is more of a Humans Are Morons thing.
    • While Gaz is the only human other than Dib to be fully aware that Zim's an alien, but unlike him, she couldn't care less. As she points out on a few occasions, Zim's own incompetence and huge ego means that no matter how terrifyingly close he may get to actually conquering the world, he'll inevitably screw himself over anyway. Why waste her time getting involved when she can keep playing video games and eating pizza instead? She does help on rare occasions, though it's usually because she was somehow directly dragged into the center of the mess regardless.
    Dib: Don't you care that Zim is trying to destroy all mankind? Huh?
    Gaz: But he's so bad at it.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Lenny and Carl walk past a tank containing radioactive gas that's bursting at the seams, Carl remarks nonchalantly about the tank's imminent failure, to which Lenny quips "Who cares? It's Homer's problem."
    • Once Homer's job as Sanitation Commissioner predictably starts falling apart, he decides the best way to get funding is for other cities to pay him to bury their garbage. When questioned he almost responds with this trope. Later on this backfires horribly, to the point Springfield ends up becoming a huge dump and the city's buildings have to be relocated five miles away.
    • One episode has Santa's Little Helper become a star, then during one of his promos, Homer fakes drowning in the beach (in an effort to get him back). When Santa's Little Helper chickens out of swimming, the crowd furiously shame a dog for not saving the man, none of them even trying to go in themselves.
    • When Marge exposes Snake's Three-Card Monte con in front of a crowd, Snake runs away and Marge yells for somebody to stop him. Everyone just stands there, so Marge goes after him herself.
  • The Williams Street cartoons for [adult swim] specialize in this.
    • In Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Master Shake has a different (and often bizarrely random) reason every episode for not caring about what's going on - even in "Revenge of the Trees," where the Monster of the Week was looking for revenge on Shake.
    • Sealab 2021 does this a lot. In the pilot episode, "I, Robot," Quinn is trying to save Sealab from exploding — but everyone else is too busy with a Seinfeldian Conversation to help. In "Green Fever," zombies attack the station, but Debbie is too busy preparing her birthday party, Stormy and Sparks are busy chatting about steel pipes, etc. Exactly who is uncaring varies; in "No Waterworld," Quinn is too busy with his monster truck to help Debbie find out why all the water around the station has disappeared.
    • In Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Zorak and Moltar frequently get bored with Space Ghost's show, and decide their jobs on it are for someone else to do. Sometimes Space Ghost gets bored with his own show, and does the same thing.
  • The Fairly Oddparents:
    • In "That Old Black Magic", every anti-fairy escapes from prison, and Jorgen prepares to round them up. Then his shift ends, to which he responds "Your problem."
    • The world gets taken over and heavily modified in every movie (twice in one of them) and the people act accordingly. Timmy usually makes an extravagant wish and somehow either everyone doesn't notice or is too stupid to understand what is happening, or their memories have been rewritten to think that the changed world was always that way.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Wet Painters", SpongeBob is in danger of having his butt removed by his boss, and is abandoned in a moment of crisis by his own reflection.
  • Megas XLR: Coop is the king of this trope. In one instance, he makes a horde of rampaging monsters someone else's problem by chucking them into Philadelphia. In another, he blows up part of the moon, causing worldwide climatic change, and his only concern is buying bubblegum ice cream. He's destroyed several planets with (usually) no remorse, and is arguably more of a danger to the universe than the race trying to conquer it. A race that he created.
  • Adventure Time has Princess Bubblegum (in stark contrast to Finn and his Samaritan Syndrome), who just doesn't care about anything that doesn't affect the Candy Kingdom and its people. This is most apparent in her treatment of her I-can't-believe-it's-not-autism-afflicted creation Lemongrab, as she is perfectly fine with sticking him in an empty castle far away from her, and it's not until he starts sneaking into her castle and watching the candy people sleeping that she decides to help him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Princess Celestia seems to suffer from this often enough for the fans to take notice and poke fun at her for it. A grand total of five Big Bads have popped up so far, and she's only tried to help directly once. When the villain was right in front of her. And she got stomped to the curb for her effort. Word of God is that Nightmare Moon incapacitated Celestia off-screen. As for Discord's attack, it's implied she couldn't help if she wanted to (she did). She has no excuse for ignoring Sombra's attack, however. Somewhat in her defense, she couldn't have won even if she did try. She needed Luna's help and/or the Elements of Harmony to defeat three of them in the past and only managed to seal them away rather than completely defeat them.
    • The Mane Six suffer a bout of this during "Daring Don't" when they just stand back and watch as Daring Do and a bunch of thugs fight over a giant gold ring. Fluttershy even lampshades it.
      Fluttershy: Um, should we go in and help her maybe?
    • "Slice of Life" parodies this. Not only does the populace not seem all that interested in fighting or running from the Bugbear that is currently being engaged by the Mane Six, but they act as if monsters tearing their city apart is a totally normal and common occurrence (not that they're wrong, either). During their otherwise ship-tastic scene, Bon Bon/Sweetie Drops and Lyra have this to say:
    Bon Bon: (after hearing the monster growl) What was that?
    Lyra: (with complete disinterest) There's some monster attacking Ponyville or something.
    Bon Bon: (rolls eyes) What is it this time? Some creature from the Everfree Forest or something?
  • In one US Acres/Orson's Farm segment of Garfield and Friends a new rooster replaces Roy and is tasked with rescuing the chickens from a weasel. When he prefers to take cover and hide, Orson actually spends the rest of the episode trying to drag him out and make him take on the weasel, never coming to the (likely much quicker and easier) realization to do it himself.
  • Dave the Barbarian: Udrogoth could be the world capital for this.
    Candy: Happy? They're going to destroy half a continent!
    Fang: Yeah, but not the part we live on.
  • In the Mickey Mouse (2013) short "Bronco Busted", Donald Duck abandons Mickey and Goofy after a millionaire mistaking him for a real horse offers to give Mickey and Goofy the money they need to repair their car in exchange for treating Donald like a king. Once Donald leaves, Goofy asks Mickey if they should tell Daisy about this, and Mickey replies that they shouldn't.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In the first season Episode "Hostage Crisis" a senator is held at gun point by a bounty hunter. An armed senate guard passes by and does... nothing! He does not even ask where he is going. More surprisingly he is a member of the Senate Commandos, which are considered as the best of the Senate Guard, an elite security force of the Galactic Republic. But why help a Senator if there are Jedi who can deal with it?
  • Justice League: In "Fury", a woman who parked her car on the side of the road gets in and tries to drive off, but a parked truck is blocking her way. She asks the driver, who is reading a newspaper, to please move because she has a doctor's appointment, but the man says he is on his break and goes back to reading. Wonder Woman then steps in and lifts the truck into the air, allowing the woman to leave.

Alternative Title(s): Somebody Elses Problem, Someone Elses Problem, The Bystander Effect, Bystander Effect


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