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Callousness Towards Emergency

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Bob Parr: He is getting mugged!
Mr. Huph: Well, let's hope we don't cover him!

A scene in which someone is in mortal danger, but the one person nearby who could help that individual doesn't care, or doesn't realize the extent of the danger. That person isn't necessarily the villain — after all, they're not necessarily causing the emergency — and may very well be nothing more than a complete jerk, but either way, the endangered individual's brush with death is brushed off as unimportant by someone who has the potential to help out.

This can make the jerk be even more of a jerk, to the point of possibly being seen as evil, and can at times be far more disturbing and loathsome than a genuine villain threatening others' lives. At least the villain both has a motive (even if it's simply enjoying the suffering they're causing) and is known to be evil (at least by the audience, if not the heroes or everyone in the setting) — you're not really surprised by their antisocial behavior. But the bully who lets someone die because he doesn't care is a whole new level in itself. It's not quite a Moral Event Horizon (in most cases), but it's certainly reprehensible.

May lead to Murder by Inaction. Compare Bystander Syndrome and Refuse to Rescue the Disliked (where heroic characters refuse to save the jerk from danger due to various factors).


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  • A collection of Australian public information films discussed this with medical assistance workers being mistreated by relatives of their patients. Examples include a man knocking a tray of food away from a nurse helping his elderly father, a woman spitting in the face of a nurse right after her loved one passed away and, most harrowing of all, a man prepared to give an EMT a beatdown for taking his brother away by ambulance as the man has suffered a potentially fatal asthma attack.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the first episode of Black Butler, Ciel's guest falls down the stairs and badly breaks his leg. The other servants at least ask if he's all right, but when he crawls away from them and runs into Sebastian, the butler merely comments that he can't move as quickly now, never breaking his professional smile.

    Comic Books 
  • One recurring bystander in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns demonstrates this repeatedly, compounding it with a "not my problem" attitude.
  • Beautiful Darkness: The fairies have little reaction to seeing their fellow fairies dying. At one point, one commits cannibalism while mid-conversation with another fairy. A third party witnesses this and barely acknowledges the carnage at all.
  • Happens several times in King in Black:
    • In the first issue of her tie-in, Black Cat ignores the order to evacuate, assuming that the Avengers will be able to stop the Alien Invasion without any trouble. As a result, she's caught off-guard when Knull curb-stomps the whole team, and barely manages to escape with her life.
    • During King in Black #2, it's revealed that New York's supervillains have holed up inside the Bar With no Name, intending to wait out the war and exploit the aftermath. Blade also accuses the X-Men of this when they decide to focus on fortifying and protecting Krakoa rather than participating in the global defense effort.
    • The Daredevil tie-in reveals that Fisk was actually warned about the invasion ahead of time by Iron Man, but refused to evacuate the city, assuming that it was some kind of trick meant to discredit him. After losing several of his bodyguards to Knull's symbiotes, Fisk takes it personally and attempts to recruit the Thunderbolts.
    • After realizing that Knull's symbiote dragons aren't creatures of Chiyou, which the Sword of Fu Xi was meant to fight, Lin Lie attempts to abandon the fight. This causes the Sword to abandon him, choosing Dane Whitman as its new wielder. The Sword of Fu Xi later returns to him after Lin has a change of heart, burning Dane's hands when he refuses to relinquish it.
  • At the end of The Punisher: Circle of Blood, Frank had forced the Big Bad to confess his deeds to Ben Urich. On his way out of the villain's estate, he's confronted by the son of a mafioso he shot, and Castle did not want to kill him (said son was not involved in the family business at all). He tells the man that sometimes, the best course of action is to do nothing; the son allows him to leave without incident. Shortly afterwards, the big bad's girlfriend (who did a Face–Heel Turn and tried to kill the Punisher), sees him leaving the estate, and tries to run him down. She ends up with her car halfway off the side of a bridge, and Frank thinks about how sometimes, the best course of action is to do nothing, leaving her to her fate. Unfortunately for Castle, both she and the Big Bad return to plague him again.
  • One of the most famous examples is the titular character in the Spider-Man franchise. In most incarnations, upon receiving his powers, Spider-Man tried to figure out how best to exploit them for profit and, while walking through a TV Studio, ignored a burglar running past (and a security guard's calls for him to help), dismissing the incident as "not his problem", given that he wasn't in the business of fighting crime. In a particularly brutal instance of Laser-Guided Karma, the burglar kills his Uncle Ben that very night.

    Comic Strips 
  • For Better or for Worse: Upon coming across a terrible car accident, Michael starts snapping photos, eager to exploit the incident as a "exclusive story". He even bitterly complains about the paramedics "ruining his shot" because they were trying to save the life of one of the victims... who turned out to be his Childhood Friend Deanna.

    Fan Works 
  • After That Fateful Night: When a griffon raiding party attacks a group of servants and foals that were playing outside the castle, several guards overhear the attack... and brush it off as the kids being noisy.
  • In Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, a boy from the Apex drowned in the lake of the Fog Car because he couldn't swim and the person who pushed him into the water (Paul) couldn't be half-assed to save him. This ends badly on Paul's part as they're now tortured in isolation left alone in a state of vulnerability where no one knows he's there, slowly breaking into the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Scarlet Lady: So long as Chloé isn't directly impacted, she doesn't particularly care about the chaos caused by Hawkmoth and his various akumas. She's mostly a Nominal Heroine for the sake of getting attention as the supposed superheroine of Paris. It hardly helps that her Miraculous Cure lets her magically restore the damage done, reinforcing her incredibly flippant attitude. Even when Volpina threatens to drop her Childhood Friend Adrien to his death, Scarlet Lady dismissively declares that she'll just comfort him after he's brought back, much to Volpina's horror.
  • Tales of Karmic Lies Aftermath: In the in-universe movie Ladybug: Miraculous Journey, this is used as Felix/Chat Noir's Establishing Character Moment. Faced with a couple of civilians who are dangling precariously off of a rooftop, Chat Noir dismisses their mortal peril as insignificant, "reassuring" them that they'll be brought back to life by his partner's Miraculous Cure. Fortunately, when they fall, Ladybug swings in to Catch a Falling Star.

    Films — Animation 
  • Bambi II: After Ronno accidentally knocks Mena into a hunter's trap, she tells him and Bambi to run. Hearing the hounds of Man approaching, Ronno runs for it, while Bambi remains and tries to defend her.
  • In The Incredibles, Bob (Mr. Incredible) notices during a meeting with his boss Mr. Huph that a man is being mugged and beaten up in the alley outside his window. Mr. Huph replies glibly, "Well, let's hope we don't cover him!" He then threatens to fire Bob if he leaves the meeting to stop the mugger. Bob doesn't take it very well.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Casper: A Spirited Beginning, a bully locks a boy in the closet of a house which is about to be demolished. The bully is unaware that the house is going to be demolished, but his victim is in mortal danger. And even when he's told, his only response is "Cool!"
  • Subverted in the live-action Grinch movie when Cindy Lou Who falls onto a conveyor belt leading to a crusher and can't get up. The Grinch wants to be this trope as part of his self image but ultimately can't bring himself to let her get hurt and saves her.
  • In the first Halloween movie, one of the children Laurie Strode is babysitting does come to help her when she's banging on the door, begging him to let her in before Michael Myers catches up with her. However, he only walks to the door, and is visibly bored and annoyed with her demands, completely oblivious to the terror in her voice, albeit unaware that Michael is on the prowl.
  • In Midsommar, Christian probably couldn't have saved his friends, but he genuinely doesn't care when they disappear, and is more concerned with ingratiating himself in with the locals. This makes it hard to feel bad for him when he gets burned alive by them.
  • In Parasite (2019), Dong-ik's major Kick the Dog moment is his choice to still respond to Geun-se's smell as the latter lies dying in front of him, while Ki-jeong bleeds to death in her mother's arms.
  • In the World War II movie Sahara (1943), the tank crew abandons an Italian soldier taken prisoner in the war in the middle of the desert, citing a lack of resources. They go back for him, but not before heartlessly driving off and condemning him to what would be a painful, slow death.
  • Downplayed in the first Spider-Man movie starring Tobey Maguire, as the victim of the robbery had just screwed Peter out of a lot of money via Loophole Abuse, and brushed him off with, "I missed the part where that was my problem," when he protested... words that Peter gleefully throws back in the guy's face as the robber gets away. This Moment of Weakness still comes back to haunt him as standard, as the robber responsible would carry out Peter's greatest tragedy.

  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its many adaptations, this is zig-zagged with Willy Wonka, who is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Because the four bratty kids get into possibly-lethal danger when they disobey his explicit instructions and warnings, he has No Sympathy — as everyone else panics, he watches calmly as their fates play out, even snarking and/or laughing. And he worries more about how the smooth operations of his factory will be affected. Then again, this is his factory, so he knows how they can be rescued and/or restored to normal and takes steps to ensure that they are. Then again, he's perfectly willing to brush off the possibility that Veruca and her parents will be burned alive in an incinerator, and it's luck that saves them. Then again, the brats are all Hate Sinks, rather than the innocent victims usually associated with this trope — the reader is ultimately supposed to feel great satisfaction in their comeuppances. This is a major reason Mr. Wonka is an Interpretative Character subject to Alternative Character Interpretations, such as the 2013 stage musical portraying him as an Ambiguously Evil Anti-Hero who isn't perturbed by the prospect of the kids actually getting killed.
  • In the Frightmares book titled Bone Breath and the Vandals, a group of teenage vandals tie and gag a middle school girl and leave her in a dumpster. The dumpster is loaded onto a dump truck, and she is about to be crushed to death, but is saved through luck. Naturally, the vandals had no idea they were leaving her to her death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Drake & Josh episode "Helicopter", Josh calls Megan when he and Drake are trapped in a helicopter without a pilot, only for Megan to dismiss his call to continue discussing stickers with her friend.
  • Drives the entire plot of the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas special "A Christmas Carol": a spaceship liner is about to crash and the only device that can save them can only be operated by a rich curmudgeon who refuses to use it apparently just because he doesn't care. Cue Yet Another Christmas Carol.
  • Jayne, as is fairly typical for his character, refuses to help a group of women Mal is helping to fight in Firefly "Heart of Gold". At least until Mal says they're prostitutes. Then he's all in.
  • In Game of Thrones, Jaime Lannister points out to Cersei that should the Crown not hold up to their bargain and aid the Targaryen-Northmen alliance against the Night King and his Army of the Undead, then the South should fully expect a punitive expedition driven by righteous anger and vengeance at the lack of gratitude. And that's exactly what happens when the Battle for the Dawn is won and Daenerys and her forces unleash a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on King's Landing.
    Jaime: If the dead win, they march south and kill us all. If the living win and we've betrayed them, they march south and kill us all!
  • The Mandalorian: In season 3, the planet of Nevarro is attacked by pirates, ostensibly because the chief magistrate gunned down a few of them when they attacked him, and it calls for help. The New Republic bureaucrats ignore the call with a little prodding from an Imperial mole because, hey, Nevarro declined to be part of the New Republic. It later turns out the pirates were being backed by Imperial remnants, partly to undermine the New Republic, but also just because of spite.
  • The final episode of Seinfeld had the main characters standing by and laughing as a fat guy was mugged (even filming it). They're arrested and charged under Good Samaritan laws. Of course, in reality "Good Samaritan Laws", rather than requiring people to put themselves in harm's way or face legal penalties, do almost the exact opposite: protecting people who make a good faith effort to help others in an emergency (like trying to perform CPR without being trained) from being sued for damages if they end up doing more harm than good.

  • Bleak Expectations:
    • At the beginning of series 3, Pip Bin is abducted by Mr. Benevolent and tortured for a prolonged time (in comedic fashion). His only solace is his family are surely plotting his rescue. They're not. Well, his best friend is trying to think of a way, but as a Bungling Inventor, his efforts are hampered. His sister wants to, but her only solution is to spend hours crying. And Pip's wife... has no excuse; she's building a memorial to Pip which is an excuse to ogle the workers (after having been told going on the pull is not an acceptable form of grief). It gets worse when it turns out they had epically Failed a Spot Check, and Pip is unimaginably pissed at them.
    • In the series finale, the Prime Minister of Great Britain is utterly apathetic to Mr. Benevolent's advent calendar of evil, because he's more focused on re-election, even when Mr. Benevolent's plan starts unmaking reality. Eventually this attitude so enrages Pip he kills the man. Not that Pip has any moral highground, since he was told this could've been prevented if he sacrificed himself, but refused to mend his relationship with Ripely, who on hearing this tells him this is sweet, but also utterly appalling.

  • Finn exhibits this multiple times in Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues. When they're attacked by snake apparitions, and the other children are in a panic, he's utterly indifferent and even tells them to shut up. The next night, when Michal accidentally sets himself on fire, the other students desperately try to find a way to put him out while Finn ignores it in favour of skimming through his phone.

    Video Games 
  • In Ambition, Yale won't help you escape from the people who just threatened to murder you because he's too busy holding a dinner party.
  • Azama in Fire Emblem Fates has this sort of nihilistic detachment as one of his main traits, since he believes everything is predetermined and that life is meaningless since everyone is destined to die someday, so he sees everything bad that happens, up to and including the deaths of himself and people close to him, as nothing but nature taking its course. In the cutscene that introduces him, his fellow bodyguard for Princess Hinoka begins sinking into quicksand in the middle of a battle, and rather than help her, he just shrugs, admits he isn't strong enough to pull her out, and stands back to watch what happens, forcing Hinoka to step in and pull her out herself. In the opening to his daughter's recruitment chapter, Saizo is left shocked by Azama's rather flippant reaction to finding out the village his daughter lives in has been overrun by enemy forces and doesn't show any concern for her until he gets to the village and doesn't see her anywhere.
  • The prologue of Max Payne has Max telling someone who just called his number to call 911 because someone has just broken into his house and his family is in danger. The lady caller's response? "Good. I'm afraid I cannot help you," followed by her hanging up. Though Max does try to save his family, it's of no use, as both his wife and his baby girl get killed by the junkies. It turns out later that the lady caller was Nicole Horne, the Big Bad of the game, who sent the junkies to Max's home for the express purpose of killing his wife to keep a major secret from getting out and was calling to ensure that the job was being carried out.
  • In Silent Hill 2, Laura, a little girl, locks protagonist James in a room with a boss monster. She has no idea that such a threat is even there, and is simply being a brat.

    Web Comics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: It's eventually revealed that the Court possesses a machine that enables them to predict the future, which foretold that Antimony would die from falling into the Annan river. Not only did they not do a single thing to try and prevent this from happening, they were left mildly annoyed that she survived... mainly because of how it impacted said future-predicting machine. Antimony is understandably upset upon learning this from the retired ex-leader of the Shadow Men.
  • Nebula: Both Mars and Uranus are extremely dismissive of Earth's steadily increasing fear and requests for help as a meteor hurtles towards her, with Uranus outright walking off and leaving her there alone as it's about to crash into her. In fairness to them, it was the first comic and there was some Early-Installment Weirdness, with Mars gaining a heart of gold later and Uranus never showing that much detachment and apathy towards other people again.

    Western Animation 
  • Master Shake of Aqua Teen Hunger Force is Comedic Sociopathy at it finest. In the episode "Super Squatter", he invades next-door neighbor Carl's house because the Aqua Teens' has no power (which is his fault, because he flushed the bills he was supposed to pay down the toilet). Carl attempts to force him out with a shotgun, but ends up accidentally shooting himself in the ankle. Shake proceeds to watch TV and order in while ignoring Carl's pleas that he call an ambulance. Eventually Frylock comes over and gets Carl to a hospital — after his foot has fallen off.
  • In The Boondocks the crew of Uncle Ruckus's reality TV film him attempting suicide because they were told to just keep filming. They only stop when their boss tells them he's the star and has to be saved. Of course they work for Black Evil Television so it's no surprise.
  • In DuckTales (2017), Gizmoducks / Waddleduck joins Waddle in hopes of providing help to more people, but is mainly called for mundane chores by people using the company app. When he sees a family about to be robbed, he is stopped from helping by his employer Mark Beaks, who wants only those that use his app to have access to Waddleduck's help, much to the hero's disbelief and frustration.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Wonderbolt Academy", Rainbow Dash's partner Lightning Dust decides to whip up a tornado to help them score more points on a cloud-clearing exercise, even though they out-score the other teams several times over. The tornado not only throws around and endangers the other teams, but also demolishes the Twinkling Balloon, sending Dash's friends (who were making a surprise visit) plummeting to their doom. After they are rescued, Rainbow Dash calls Lightning Dust out on what she did — and she responds, "Yeah, and?"
  • In the South Park episode "Pre-School", Butters begs his parents to let him inside when he's about to get beat up by Trent Boyett, but they refuse to do so, with his mom saying she will instead go upstairs so she won't hear him.
  • In Episode 233 of Kaeloo, the main four play a life-sized board game where players are subjected to whatever their square says in real life. Stumpy winds up on a "trap" square, which leads to him being trapped on a small floating piece of gameboard on a river of lava filled with traps. Stumpy screams for help as the trap is activating, and Kaeloo suggests that everyone should finish their turns quickly so the die can be passed back to Stumpy and he can roll to escape, but Mr. Cat (the next player to roll) refuses to finish his turn because he's on the "beach" square and is enjoying the warm sunny beach. At one point Stumpy stops screaming and rather than realizing that Stumpy is in serious danger, Mr. Cat suggests that it's not worth caring about anymore.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


Mr. Cat Enjoys the Beach

Mr. Cat enjoys the beach... while happily ignoring Stumpy, whose life is in serious danger.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / CallousnessTowardsEmergency

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